As I wrote in my review of Moneyball, I have been a longtime lover of baseball. What I may have not made clear was that I happen to root for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I spend a lot of time in pain.
Last year was exciting in that the Pirates were in first place in the NL Central for a legitimate chunk of time. Young talent was meshing (and hitting), the pitching rotation was coming together.. it was EXCITING. The season fizzled into nothingness (read: finishing 18 games under .500), which is nothing new for the Buccos, but it stung a little more after hope snuck its way in.
With reservation, I have begun to pay attention to Pirates news again, most notably of late being that former Yankees P A.J. Burnett was traded to the Pirates. In New York, my Yankees-fan friends and colleagues are split on whether this is a “good riddance” or “good for the Pirates” situation. I saw Burnett pitch a few times this past season in pinstripes; sometimes he was wild, sometimes he locked games down. I had no idea what kind of guy he was outside of that (other than hearing he listens to wildass rock music). But today, I think I know him a little better.
Pirates P Daniel McCutchen (also a once-upon-a-time Yankee), is currently rostered as #34, which is Burnett’s number. It is tradition for veterans to purchase a gift for a player who is willing to give up his number (which McCutchen was). These gifts are usually nice, but I’ve never heard of this before – Burnett, instead of getting McCutchen a nice watch, is going to start a college fund for McCutchen’s (currently in-utero) daughter, who is due in May 2012.
On President’s Day (this past Monday 2/20), The American Mustache Institute (this exists!) presented their plan to hold a Million Mustache March (in April 2012) to support the STACHE Act (Stimulus To Allow Critical Hair Expenses). The STACHE Act calls for a $250 annual tax refund for the care/upkeep of mustaches (on American upper lips).
The Mustache lobby claims that mustachioed Americans earn 4.3% more money (on average, per year) than their facial hair-less compatriots. They argue that government incentives backing facial hair growth would subsequently help the economy.
No idea about that argument, but I will continue to support stache and beard growth (I was raised by a dad with a BADASS mustache. So.. yeah.). Scruff supporter or not, you might find this video explaining the Mustache Movement amusing:
The NFL Combine is underway (having begun 2/22 with a variety of arrivals). Measurements are being taken, examinations (medical and psychological) are in process, and interviews with NFL teams and the anxious media are taking place. A full 327 draft prospects will be involved in the NFL’s annual team testing over the next week. This is a chance for unranked prospects to make a statement. This is a chance for poised-to-go-early-in-the-draft favorites to prove their worth. And nearly every scout, head coach, GM, and player agent will be on site to take it all in. The first day of workouts is this Saturday (2/25) – check out a complete schedule of events and players to watch.
George Huguely, former University of Virginia lacrosse player, was convicted yesterday (2/22) of second-degree murder in the death of his ex-girlfriend, Yeardley Love (who was also a lacrosse player at UVA). Huguely was sentenced to 26 years in prison, after a jury decided that his crime was not premeditated. It is reported that Huguely, in a supposed drunken rage, kicked through Love’s locked bedroom door on May 2, 2010, and shook her violently (angered over their relationship and Love’s connection with another male student). Love was found dead by her roommate hours after the incident. The Yeardley Love death and subsequent George Huguely trial and conviction have placed a dark cloud over not just the University of Virginia, but over the sport of lacrosse itself.
On Sunday (2/19), ESPN fired an employee for the use of the racist headline “Chink in the Armor” connected to a story about the Knicks, and specifically Knicks guard and phenom-of-late Jeremy Lin, losing to the New Orleans Hornets Friday night (2/17). Lin is the first American-born player of Chinese or Taiwanese descent to play in the NBA. The headline was only up for a little over a half hour before it was taken down, but clearly (see above) a few people noticed. ESPN is not alone in their racially-driven folly when it comes to Lin – Fox Sports’ Jason Whitlock tweeted this last weekend:
If you have been scooting around the NYC boroughs via subway, it is likely you’ve seen the “falling man” posters for the upcoming season of AMC’s Mad Men (COME BACK NOW, PLEASE). What has appeared even more recently are creative revisions to these posters (Don Draper approval pending), both in the stations and online. I love them in a makes-me-snicker/devilish-grin sort of way. At the very least, these revisions rate far better than torn-out eyes on movie posters (creepy as hell) or Sharpie-fitti’ed penises.
The Super Bowl commercials maybe weren’t as funny as in years past, have been labeled underwhelming by some, and overtly political by others (Karl rove was “offended” by the Chrysler/Clint Eastwood “Halftime in America” spot… SIGH). But now that these spots are in full rotation, and I’ve gotten to see them over (and over) again (how bad are you starting to feel for tiny “Wego” having to lug all those Bud Lights in his mouth to lazy assholes at pool parties?), I have to say that the NFL’s Timeline spot featuring a visual evolution of football players through the years, running and leaping and smashing across a time-warped gridiron, is pretty damn cool.
The New York Giants are having a nice little Monday (after beating the New England Patriots 23-17 in the Super Bowl last night, capturing the franchise’s fourth Lombardi trophy). Two Giants deserve to be especially pleased – head coach Tom Coughlin and #3 receiver Mario Manningham. Coughlin became the NFL’s oldest coach (at 65) to win a Super Bowl (his second championship win in four years) and hushed the naysayers who had called for his head after a 7-7 start, a midseason four-game slump, and a Week 15 loss to (haggard) Washington. No matter of record or criticism, Coughlin stayed behind his guys, and they stayed with him to the (fruitful) end. One of those guys was Manningham, who was mostly outshined this season by fellow receivers Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Cruz was double-covered into oblivion last night, making Nicks and Manningham QB Eli Manning’s prime targets. Nicks hauled in 10 catches for 109 yards and was the go-to man for most of the night, but in a moment reminiscent of David Tyree’s ball-against-head catch in 2008 that allowed the Giants’ game-winning drive to continue, Manningham pulled in a fourth quarter 38-yard pass (with the Giants trailing 17-15), his toes inches from the sideline. The Giants were again able to keep driving, score late (albeit almost not late enough), and hold on defensively for the win.
Gisele Bundchen, wife of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady, publicly shared her postgame analysis after being prompted by a Giants fan who shouted “Eli owns your husband!” – “You (have) to catch the ball when you’re supposed to catch the ball. My husband cannot fucking throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.” She’s got a point.
In a moment I somehow completely missed (bathroom break?), singer MIA gave the world the middle finger during her part of Madonna’s halftime show. She reportedly also sang “I don’t give a fuck” during said finger-flipping. Whoops. The NFL is hastily apologizing for another halftime show debacle, and this time NBC gets to deal with the FCC — CBS was the network that had the unfortunate pleasure of broadcasting Janet Jackson’s 2004 boob revelation at the hands of Justin Timberlake.
A tear was dribbling down my cheek when Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane (General Manager of the Oakland Athletics) spoke this (DAMN good) line in the Oscar-nominated film, Moneyball. If the tear admission didn’t cover it, I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment.
Baseball, for those who have never felt any connection through playing or otherwise, is what I’m sometimes told is “incredibly boring”. I will not fight those who are of this camp; I pity them. I apologize if that sounds pretentious (I’m lying, I do not apologize), but not everyone is going to love baseball – it’s just that if you do, you get it. You get why this marathon of a sport plays on our collective flair for the dramatic, for rooting for the underdog, for wars waged between heroes and villains, for triumph of spirit or sheer talent, for comebacks, for getting to watch grace under pressure emerge in front of you. In each season, for each team, there are trends, streaks – and they read like very different chapters in a lengthy book.
As a lifelong sports fanatic and athlete, and almost-as-long romantic, Moneyball, for me, captured the intricacies of both. It brought to life the minutiae of baseball (statistics are an integral part of the story), provided characters whose lives revolve around the game, while still being identifiable humans outside of it, or at least adjacent to it. The film’s dynamo and star, Beane, searches for what it means to do anything meaningful. And your guts (and heart) get tied up in this mystifying journey with him, his team of castaways (specifically former catcher Scott Hatteberg, played by Chris Pratt) and assistant GM Peter Brand (Jonah Hill’s portrayal earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination) during the Oakland Athletics’ 2002 season, whether you know what happened or not.
Baseball lover or hater or indifferent football fan, watch this movie. And maybe find something to love. After all, how can you not be romantic about baseball?