Thursday, February 23, 2012

CJ

I write about everything and I write all of the time. Occasionally, I share my musings through blogging, a column, or a bust (rhyme) but for the most part I put my thoughts to the keyboard and then safely away to the save folder. And that is it. Last week I stopped doing that, at a time when releasing emotions should have been at an all time high. I bottled them, knowingly and also unknowingly. February 14th, 2012 I received the news that two people in my life, who I care for, had experienced a tragedy. A couple. The Rhineers.

Christian James (CJ) had been struck by a vehicle while bicycling to work and regrettably passed on from this mortal life in to the post-mortal life, temporally leaving his sweet Keri.

A hard truth. A single sentence. One which will define the lives of so many in ways previously unimagined. So why could I not put these emotions and thoughts besieged by that very sentence in to a Word document? Why could I not, the person who writes about everything, easily tap the keys to the rhythm of my emotions? And then, when I knew I could write what I felt, did I stop myself? Why did I put it off?

This column is not going to be sports related, other than the acknowledgment right now, that CJ and I shared an appreciation for the Boston Red Sox. These words you are reading, they are my thoughts, often scrambled, and shared through the use of my inner and outer dialogue. I say everything that I think and feel because I want to make sure that I say aloud that I care dearly for my friends, CJ and Keri Rhineer. My notions—especially during this time—become jumbled, and I do not want anything to become lost when expressing myself. I am done putting my feelings off. I am ready to share. And Keri, if you are reading this, I want to directly say that I love CJ and I love you.

“Stop putting this off. Stop it.”

I have thought the word “stop” a lot this past week.

“When things stop.”
“Stop for a second and be calm.”
“Stop thinking about it.”
“Makes you stop and think.”
“Stop not thinking about it” and;
“Stop feeling this way.”


“STOP!”

“I am sick about it. Sick about what happened and sick about what is happening. More and more each day I am sick—that I am sick about it.”

At first, when Brittany and I got back from California with Becca and Richelle, I felt like my emotions over the week had become this water bottle. And this water bottle, over the first five days, was being shaken up. With each day and with each shake, the input of what I saw and every tiny, strange, and foreign thing I felt became these pinches of dust and particles added to the contents of this water bottle. Always shaken up, never still. It never rested. Only when I got back home, did the shaking stop, and the particles that had been mixed in the water began to settle. They began to separate, with the heavier and more valuable pieces sinking to the bottom like gold. I could focus on them. Observe and separate the differences between each fleck. I had no idea what this meant, and whenever I do not know something… I ask the internet. Google tells me it is called ‘delayed grieving’. It can kick in months—sometimes even years—later. For me though, it took a week before it started.

“But am I allowed to grieve? I do not know what to feel, or when to feel it and if I am doing it right. With each second that I truly think about this, I hate it. Stop hating it. Who do you think you are?”

By comparison, my grieving is not the worst, not even close. “So I should stop talking about it right now.” Putting these thoughts in to text speaks too loudly “… I think,” but I need to put them here, so I do not have to keep them in and think about them. Keeping them in and thinking about them all at once is not thinking about them at all. “Get them out.” Then it will stop and I can be. “Just be.”

This being is not even about being strong or something like it. It is as if I feel like I cannot actually be sad because I have no right to feel the loss this way or this much. I deserve no such entitlement. “Accept the loss, but you are not aloud to claim it. Stop being selfish.” I feel when I am acknowledging the emotion, that it creates this stupid guilt. And I feel guilty for that too. Each emotion begets another one, like an endless spiral, going downwards and downwards, never stopping, unless I stop myself from feeling. Stupid spiral. That is why I need to stop. “Stop it, Brady.” I am good at stopping feelings. It is an ability I have strengthened like a body builder does with muscle groups. I thank life-plaguing anxiety, for once. It can stop anything. Including sad. Right now the sad feels like there is sad box for everyone and that box is filled with emotion, and I am stealing the sadness, which was put there for the use of grieving. “Do not even dare take anymore than you already have. You thief.” But you cannot put it back, once used, it cannot be returned. “But I cannot stop. I am sad.”

When I think back to the day it happened, I remember waking up in the morning. It was Valentine’s Day. We were going to make breakfast for each other. Brit and I. Per usual I was last to get out of bed. When I came in to the kitchen Brittany had just turned on the stove and was getting the bread and eggs out of the refrigerator and the toaster out of the cupboard. Spanglish. She knows I love these. I told her let me help you, but she told me we had awoken too late and that she would not have time eat, and still have time to get ready.

“Let me make you breakfast then,” I said.

No. It was her idea in the first place. Ideas like that are always from her psyche. She is sweet like that. I am—as well as anybody else is—lucky be part of her day.

After breakfast, I cannot remember exactly what I did the rest of the morning or what I wore even. I do not know what I did at work or the drive to it. I remember the phone call in the afternoon though.

She was crying. Heavily. It was not the first time I had received a crying phone call. Brit is very passionate, and a woman after all. I have listened to a few tears fall now and then. “Her sister said this, an adjunct professor did that.” This was different. It was not about her but someone we both know.

“CJ.”

CJ had been hurt while bicycling to work. Unexpectedly, and badly. He was in the hospital. This is where the ‘stop’ pattern started. She had stopped staying what had happened through her end of the phone. I thought that was the all of the news. The end of her report. This was serious, definitely worthy of uncontrollable tears. But she had stopped with the news. The news was bad, but it was not the worst. Then she unstopped. She continued. I identify this part where the water bottle of emotion began it’s shaking. She told me—what at the time I did not process fully—that the result of the accident left CJ brain dead and on life support.

“Stop.” But it had happened already.

More blank spots. We went to Shelley’s and I talked to Danny on the phone. We decided to drive to California in the morning. And I did not sleep. “I cannot imagine Keri’s sleep.” After the twelve-hour drive to Cali, there were a number of things I was driving towards, a lot of them were things that I did not fully understand or expect. Some of those things I will keep to myself, memories I share with myself, but there is one particular event that I do want to divulge. It is about the Miller family.

I did not know Keri’s family. I had briefly met them on Keri and CJ’s wedding day, and the only ones I really remember were Keri’s mom and her older sister Kaci. And the only reason I remember them is because the two of them and Keri look alike. For all intensive purposes, they were strangers to me. Had this accident never happened I probably would not have interacted with them ever again. I do not know when I would have. Maybe if Brit and I were visiting the Rhineers, maybe for some reason or another, we go there for an afternoon lunch. “Who knows?” But in this situation, of being with Keri during her trial, I walked in to the Miller household, with all the pretenses and barriers and hesitation that normally complicate and stop you from truly getting down in the trenches and loving somebody… all that was completely stripped away. It was pure family. The feeling, the acceptance, the simple existence of its being—which a family is, it is practically indescribable—was what we were thrust in to. I am so thankful for that gift of really and honestly meeting them. It was core. It was legit. I developed a love I was not expecting to be blessed with.

Also, I realized how much I care for Keri and CJ. That knowledge was unearthed. And to be frank it startled me. It is deeper than I would have given it credit for a few weeks ago. Admitting that adds to that spiral guilt, the guilt of not being able to recognize beforehand, but I am not afraid to say it now. It is a declaration I do not stop. Another that I do not stop is calling CJ my friend. CJ is my friend. It is not said out of competition or claim. It is just said. It just is. I love CJ. I am lucky he is my friend.

When I talk to people who have not met him yet, like my parents or co-workers, they have asked me to describe what he is like. The perfect grammar always escapes me, and I can never do him his full justice, so I usually share this memory:

CJ and I were walking together in Salt Lake City towards TRAX. I think we were on our way to meet Keri and Brittany at the Gateway Mall to see a movie. Warrior. “The four of us like that movie.” We hit the brick and had a few blocks before we actually made it to the train stop, where CJ would retell this story from 2002 during the Olympics when his friend stood and announced to the crowed car that they had tickets (which they did not) to that night’s biathlon (or an event like it). By the end of the story CJ was in stitches. His laugh, that belly chuckle that you could not help but love. I can hear it now. Hearing makes me feel good because I know that laugh has not changed. On the way there the subject of ‘would you rather’ came up. Guys love talking about this subject. It is in our genes. This time the question was would you rather be the best baseball player there ever was or the best golfer ever. We discussed the pros and cons of both and the subject then transformed to what we would wish for if we had seven wishes. With one of my wishes I said I would wish for $300 billion dollars. “Why not?” And this is the part where I feel pride in calling CJ my friend. CJ’s wish, was for $1000 dollars and the know-how to turn that money, through hard work and savvy business investments, in to the $300 billion dollars. Where I wanted the easy gift of the fortune, CJ wanted to be the guy who was not given one, but made one. Christian James Rhineer. The hard working, honest person, whose curiosity and drive to understand how and why things were the way there were, define him as a friend, a person, a husband and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That is how I describe my friend to people who have not met him yet.

I love him. I love Keri. I hate how my heart breaks. I love being able to find comfort to every "why" question tied to that heartbreak. I love recognizing how I will better live progressing forward. I hate the reason that taught the change. I love that with my friends passing he became—as Keri perfectly stated—a hero to six strangers. He saved their lives after his own could not be.

I know CJ’s personality and curiosity behind it all, is serving him well, as he is now serving the Lord.

Christian James Rhineer
December 18th, 1983 — February 14th, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Whine About It

You know that Geico commercial where the spokesman asks if you have been living under a rock because you do not know you could save 15% or more on car insurance? That is this column. Living under a rock, and only now, popping up in amazement to see how much has happened since last surfacing. The shock of what has happened is not even the astonishing part. The recognition of how long the column has gone silent is the shocker. And is not exactly like I have stopped writing, rather I have stopped posting. I was in a funk, what can I say?

It was not writer’s block, but more of a writer’s what-the-eff-did-I-just-write-about-no-one-is-going-to-read-this, you know, block. But then I had an epiphany that nobody reads this anyways—so why not publish and at least appear to be productive. At least I would have that going for me. Literally, I would sit down, punch the keyboard for a 30-40 minutes every couple of days and then send those 40 minutes, of whatever it was, to the save folder. Hopefully be forgotten like Tai Lung. (Weak Disney reference nobody got. Redo.) ... and then send it to the save folder to be abandoned like Christina Aguilera’s diet. (Bad fat joke. Plus nobody really cares. Plus that was a really crappy attempt at a joke. Plus you suck. Try again.) … to be swallowed up like a Christina Aguilera Krispy Kream donut. (No, don’t try another Aguilera fat joke, like, try another simil… you know what, just forget it. Don’t publish this.)

You see what I am dealing with? Poisonous self-talk. (Just stick to sports. Seriously.)

Okay…

The Seattle Mariners dealt their kickass pitching prospect, Michael Pineda, to the mother effing New York Yankees on Saturday because, that is what you do with a 22 year-old proven prospect who gets voted to the All-Star game in his rookie year. I mean, why else would you develop someone in your farm system since signing them at the young age of sixteen, unless you wanted to trade them away for… ???

(I would write their names down, but you would not recognize them, so I have omitted and replaced those names with three question marks for dramatic and illustrative writing purposes.)

But on the bright side we have learned one very important lesson here, so fear not faithful Mariners fan. The lesson being, that it if there is one thing Seattle Mariner’s know how to do better than anyone else in Major League Baseball, it is trading away a sure-thing, proven talent—for a no-so-sure-thing, unproven talent. So, as M’s fans, we got that going for us. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your 2011 season… 67-and-95 worst record in baseball… trying to shoot for 62-and-100 in 2012… Seattle Mariners. Give them a hand everyone. And then take those hands and give them the middle finger. I hate my life.

Eff word. Seriously, what the eff word? To quote Hall of Fame Mariner sportscaster, Dave Niehaus, who was often, found screaming this sentiment on various Seattle homeruns, “I DON’T BELIEVE IT!!” How do you do this Seattle?!! Or should I say, how do you do this large growth cap market Nintendo?! You are worth $17 B-I-L-L-I-O-N dollars! Spend some damn money on bats and do not trade away your pitchers to do so! Sending away the number two guy in your pitching rotation, really? For a gosh damn hitting prospect? JUST LIKE YOU DID LAST SEASON WITH CLIFF LEE FOR JUSTIN SMOAK?!@!!?!?!? I could kill somebody!! Justin Smoak hit .234 and 15 homeruns last year! Great trade.

I will never purchase a Wii for this very reason. Until Nintendo decides to dip that finger a little deeper in to the sugar basket, and stop gutting themselves (and the fans), I am boycotting their gaming platform/products. When the Supersonics were pillaged a few years back, you would think they would see this as the market opening up and break out the checkbook better. Hey, Mark Cuban, save yourself $400 million dollars and forget the Dodgers.

If the Mariners win more than 65 games this coming season, I will shave my head.*

In other sporting news, Jimmer Fredette plays for the Sacramento Kings for those of you who live outside the 801 and 435 area codes. And because I attended every Brigham Young University home basketball game for the last five years, it is safe to call me a BYU fan. If not, then I do not know why I am a season ticket holder for both football and basketball. Anyways, as a BYU fan, I can confidently proclaim that BYU fans are the worst fans on the face of the planet. I do not claim this because they do not turn out in support of their team or anything like that, but instead it is their collective idiocy in talking about any kind of sport, at any time. Any time I hear a sports statement made at a game from someone sitting behind me or in line, I want to commit mass genocide. It is the worst. Now, for those of you who have never read this column or do not know me, I am a Sacramento Kings fan and I have been since the days of Mitch Richmond. If you do not know what that means or know when Mitch Richmond played for the kings, read that as I have been a Sacramento Kings fan since I 1992 or the waning days of New Kids on the Block popularity. I think you can see where I am going with this.

When the Kings drafted Jimmer it was a bittersweet day. On the one hand I was excited to transition my Jimmer fanship in to my NBA fanship. I knew I would have to do less leg work in keeping up on his stats. In the other hand, there was that gut dropping feeling, knowing a slew of BYU fans—and more importantly—brand new BYU fans that hopped on during Jimmer’s senior season, would now become “Kings fans” or “Kings experts in every minute detail related to Kings basketball operatations”… only I did not know it would be this bad.

It is unbearable.

It is worse than when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, and you would turn on MTVs Total Request Live, and see the host (not Carson Daly, but the other dude) rocking a Sox hat, hamming it up to the crowd in a shoulder-shrugging, kicking the tires sad tone, “I’m bummed that the Sox lost today to the Yankees. We’re always getting shat on, or at least that is what I read on the internet and have heard in bars. I wouldn’t know because I’m not really a fan, but I hope that if I play the part of tortured fan, even though Boston won the World Series and can’t call themselves tortured anymore—it might help me get laid because some chick saw Fever Pitch. Go Sox.” I thought that was bad. This is much worse because the Kings still suck. We are talking about a team that went 24-and-58 and won more games on the road than they did at home last year. It is not like the Kings took home the title and all anybody has to do is like a good team. Now I have to deal with a bunch of idiots that think their crappy ideas will make this team the 1996 Bulls. It is unrelenting. This happened to me the other day.

The Boss and I were at the mall doing some shopping for her friend that is getting married next month. Another way to tell it is, we were at the mall waiting for my wife to buy an item that I frankly could care less about at Victoria’s Secret. If I am not going to be the one to wad the negligée in to a ball and throw it in to a corner on a sexy night, then I want nothing to do with the purchase. I would rather wonder in to a Brookstone and sit in one of those $5000 dollar massaging chairs for forty minutes. Which I did. This is off topic. During my search I wandered by a DirectTV kiosk and they had the Kings/Rockets game on. Naturally I watch, and naturally the sales guy walks up to me.

In a buddying tone, “Watching the Jimmer game?”

Rolling eyes and saying to myself, “No, I’m actually using my X-Ray vision to stare through this TV at the store behind it” but recognizing the obvious BYU fan that wanted to talk idiot talk, I answered, “Yeah, just watching the Kings game. I hope they trade Jimmer. If I see another person rocking a Kings jersey around town I am going to puke.”

Switching gears, to agreeing sales person mode who thinks I do not like Jimmer and probably BYU, “He’s not playing well this year. Thomas is playing much better. If they played Thomas more and got rid of Cousin’s they would do better.”

Pause. Fellow rookie, Isaiah Thomas, who I have written about before, had scored 20 points off the bench the night before. Other than that he has had a handful of DNPs. Furthermore, Jimmer is averaging 25 minutes a night and has started three games. For a rookie, that is pretty amazing, and a lot more than I personally expected this year. Anybody who thought Jimmer was going to drop 30 ppg like he did in college is high… or an idiot BYU fan. They are called rookies for a reason. Expect growing pains.

Since the Jimmer drafting anytime I hear a ‘the Kings should do X, Y, Z’ statement my immediate goal is to stab them in the neck, but seeing how that is illegal, I do the next best thing and turn in to a dick, “Mmm… I want to see more than one 20 point game before I pass judgment on either of the two rookies who have not even played 10 games in the NBA.”

“I just think he is better.”

“Why is that?”

Silence.

Me, “I’ve been a Kings fan since I was a little kid, and I like Jimmer, but I want him traded so I can go back to being a real Kings fan. That way my genuine fanship doesn’t blend in with all of these BYU fans.”

Getting defensive now (my goal is nearly complete), “Well, people can like Jimmer and support the team he plays for. I’m a big basketball fan and Jazz fan, and I now follow the Kings closely.”

“You follow the Kings closely?”

Defiantly, “Yes.”

With my trap now set, turning to homeboy and looking him dead in the eye while smiling, “Then tell me who their starting power forward is.”

By this time The Boss had finished shopping, and had been standing there for half of our conversation. She was uncomfortable, sales dude was comfortable, and I was relishing in the moment. He did not say anything because … wait for it… he did not know the answer. I told him to have a good night and we left.

Did I come off sounding like a douche. Of course, and to that guys defense, I think people can be “fans” of teams when they only know and like one player on said team. The particular problem in this case, is the vast majority of these fans that are now “Kings fans” are the terrible BYU followers I mentioned earlier. I cannot stand to be associated with them more so than I already am.

It comes down to this. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the LDS or Mormon church, owns and operates Brigham Young University. One could safely say that 85% of their fan base are also members of the Mormon church. It could be higher. Who knows? When you are talking about religion you are talking about a very personal and life defining thing, and because this thing can be so personal, individuals feel a special ownership. It literally is a part of them. Members of the Mormon church are asked to pay 10% tithing, and with this tithing the LDS church uses these funds for buildings, charity—a million different things—but also these funds go in to the operation costs at BYU. This includes their athletic department. Now you get these LDS people who are fans, and their ownership, which they feel towards their religion, now spills in to their fan ship. This pride, this imperiousness, and self-certainty, is a good thing to lay out as a foundation when talking religious faith. When it comes to sports… well, sports are way more black and white than religion. It does not mix well. By and large, most BYU fans do not cannot see it; they are too close. And you cannot tell them this, because… I just explained why.

Go Kings, go Mariner’s. FML.

* - This is on the contingency the M’s do not sign or make a deal for some blockbuster talent.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

[sigh]

[double sigh]

Yeah... Happy New Year's eve y'all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Act Together

“Liiiiiifffffffeeeeeeeee.”

My wife says this all the time. Usually it is said with the culmination of a lot positive things all happening at the same time. I use it now, as more of a lets-slow-down-I-am-tired kind of way.

Two columns in two months. Woof. If the consistency with which I have been writing lately were female and dating, then this column would be dating Buzz McCallister. And it is not like there have not been topics to talk about either. We have had topics like lockouts, rape scandals, hiring’s and firings, holiday nightmare stories, NCAA football standings, Cowboys games and all things NFL, Super Bowl commercials that feature people in my family, lifted lockouts, hilarious YouTube videos of a song made soley out of Mike Tyson quotes, Theo Epstein taking the reins of the Chicago Cubs, renting a Chevy Impala and somehow ending up with a Corvette, fantasy standings etc,. I could go on.

If I were crafty I would have intentionally created the writing absence but dropped Twitter bombs here and there, hired sexy PR majors to create tantalizing and cryptic press releases to keep my many readers chomping at the bit. Instead, I have alienated all my subscribers because I am lazy bandicoot. Even my mom has ceased reading this column.

I have gone so long without putting out a column I do not even know what to write about. Looking back at what should have been my regular writing schedule, I should have had a lamenting Red Sox column, a fantasy sports gloating column, a 3000-word article on a video game nobody cares about, and at least four columns about the Cowboys. One about being 2-and-3 with me asking, “What the hell is happening? We are going to finish last in the division and we’re one of the most talented teams in the NFL”. In the second I would have clamored about laying off of Romo because he has collapsed lung and is a champion/please let us win some games. The third would showcase me swinging in to full on positive “We got this” mode by me writing as if I had never written the previous two articles, and the fourth should have been put out on Monday night with me gloating about how we are going to win our division. Instead of getting those columns, you got the last paragraph.

I am sure I could have squeaked out a column on the NBA Lockout. You know, the one I never cared about. The lockout happened and we officially missed games. But not once did I feel like I had been bent over a wooden barrel that was the depravation of NBA action. Nor did I feel like a kid who climbed out of one of those circular shirt racks at JCPennys, only to instantly panic about the certainty of his mother intentionally leaving him at the mall so she could move to another county. That feeling of “I am forever lost”, in relation to NBA, never manifested me. I cannot honestly say that I even wanted it to. Forgive me if I offend anyone, but I wish we had missed the whole damn season. I really do, because I was never an advocate of the players should-get-what-they-want party or the owners-should-get-what-they-want group. I wanted both to lose so I could win.

There are three main groups that lose once a season is lost, but there are still ways fans can win. The list of losers are the players, the owners, and the fans—and in that order. Financially speaking, anywhere from 40-50 players would have made it through a missed season with no problems. These are the superstars of the league who signed $90 million dollar shoe deals when they turned eighteen years old (read: LeBron). The rest would have quickly begun to bleed out and turn desperate. Some actually did. Kenyon Martin is stuck playing in China until March because he did not read the fine print of the contract he signed. He has to play the whole season, at a wholesale price, while everybody else starts playing on Christmas. The owners would have taken a hit too, but as business men with other investments (I am guessing) would have made it through drought too. At the very least, they would have outlasted the majority of the non-superstar players and would have started to feel the strains of no NBA income at the same time the superstars did.

The operative phrase to notice the previous paragraph: would have.

Would have, ladies and gentlemen. That is a hypothetical because they never, actually, did. Thee would have never manifested. As fans we… wait for it… would have lost out entertainment, but that is it. If anything, while all of these players and owners went without money, we would have been M-A-K-I-N-G money. Who do you think provides the income for these millionaires anyways? We would not have—

(Scoring update: “would not have” does not garner italicization or bold font but does receive partial credit for those keeping score at home. The person who correctly tallies all of the “would haves” in this column and submits a 1-page, double spaced essay on why they actually read anything on this website, will be declared the winner and will win a year’s supply of Diet Coke… for the remainder of this year…)

—spent money on tickets, merchandise, parking, gas driving to-and-fro, food, you name it. That is money for our pockets and we still get our sports fix through the NFL and NCAA Football and Basketball.

If there would have (the phrase is now haunting this column the same way self-respect haunts the Kardashians) been a season long lockout, then perhaps owners and players would never again have these inner-dialogues that lead to NBA lockouts:

NBA OWNER: “Hmm… that Joe Johnson is a pu-ri-tee good basketball player. He is good, might be great, and certainly will never be elite. But I need to make sure he stays on my team. I should probably rape myself in keeping him here. I am going to pay him $120 million dollars over the next six years.”

JOE JOHNSON: “Hmm… I must be a pretty good basketball player. I am not the best by any means, and there are probably 20 guys in the league that are more talented than me. I just got paid $120 million dollars. This is what guys, with talents such as my own, should be making. I know this because somebody just gave me $120 million dollars”

PLAYER X: “Hmm… I am mediocre basketball player who had one semi-shiny season. I’m also old. I think that means I am good. Joe Johnson is making $120 million dollars. I think I should be making at least half of that because I am half as good as he his… almost. I should be making $11 million dollars a year. Oh wait, that IS what I am making per year right now. My name is Hedo Turkoglu.”

This had to stop, and in ways I think the lockout curtailed stuff like from happening in future, but I stand believing that an entire missed season would have been even more effective. It does not really matter. It looks like there is going to be a 50-50 split with an adjusting formula depending on if the projected revenues exceed or fall short. Happy Holidays, get ready for professional basketball games on Christmas Day. I am very much over the NBA season and it has not even started yet.

This is OK because right now I am in full fledge Fantasy Football ball mode. Both of my teams are 7-and-5, and are in 2nd and 4th place respectively. In the one league, which I have been in for almost a decade, things have been so strange this season. With my team comfortably resting at two games above .500, I have somehow had more points scored against me than points my team has scored for themselves. I feel like last year’s Seattle Seahawks winning NFC West with a 7-and-9 record. If you break it down the point spread, it shows I have won each of my seven games by an average of 0.11 points. It is beyond me. At this point, I am grateful my team is sitting in 4th with one game remaining in the fantasy regular season.

In the league I created myself, there has been a ton of headway made this year. People are trading left and right, throwing in cash considerations and what not, people are participating in the league polls, giving their input on the direction of the league and owners are coming in to their own. The league is blossoming and I am a beaming proud parent. They grow up so fast, and right under your nose. I think I will get their baby booties bronzed.

Things have been crazy in this league too. Last season, Rob finished in dead last and prior to this year’s draft, he paid $50 dollars plus—per player—to resign Peyton Manning and Andre Johnson. A week after the draft, we found out that Peyton Manning was done for the season with a neck injury. Rob was all but, officially screwed. At least he has Andre Johnson, or least that was the case until Andre Johnson hurt his hammy Week 3. Johnson just barely made it back to his first game since the injury this last week. Needless to say things did not look good for Rob.

His team jumped out to 1-and-5 start, which given the injuries sounds about right, but somehow through trades and player pickups, Rob has rattled off six wins in a row and is guaranteed to play in Championship Bracket. He could even win his division outright and be the #2 seed in the playoffs. You cannot make this stuff up.

I promise a Fantasy Football playoff preview by the end of the first week of December. If I do not come through, then I will refund your subscription fees for access to this website.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oktoba

October is one of my favorite months. In the words of my nephews, “it is one of my most favorite months.” When he told me that, I looked at him, right in his 3-year old eyeballs, and said, “You’re damn right it is.” I really think if children are going to be exposed to moderate swears, such as damn and hell, it should come from a family member. Just kidding. I just like to see their eyes light up when I say the word damn, like I am their risk taking, badass uncle. That, and it bugs my sister. It is a win-win.

However, I really do think that the English language should allow the use of ‘most favorite’ because I believe that one can posses many favorites, some more than others, and certainly one beyond all others. English professors and grammar-Nazis world-wide would correct this error, telling you, “If one is preferred above all others, than it is simply: your favorite. The ‘most’ is used unnecessarily.” They are right, technically; if you are in to that kind of thing. The definition reads:

fa·vor·ite
noun
1.
a person or thing regarded with special favor or preference; preferred above all others of the same kind


I know this definition because one of our senior editors told one of our countless peons at HITS, to go get a dictionary and look up the meaning for this article. We then did our best Brian Regan impression, and demanded the peon, “Bring us the head of a pig!” Then we had a good laugh, and spent the rest of the afternoon drinking 150-year scotch whilst congratulating one another on being billionaires. Working for HITS offers many perks, with moments like these. It also offers absolutely no pay, and zero health benefits. Health benefits are so far from the spectrum of what HITS is about, we had to have the same peon look up the definition of what health benefits were. From what it sounds like, they sound amazing. With all of the talk about word definitions and whatnot, we asked ourselves, “As the collective HITS writing team, do we care about things pertaining to the nature of grammatical correctness? Do we care what argumentum ad populum means, and support that it’s use in writing as being 100% incorrect, because anyone who says otherwise, is wrong and a dope?!”

No, we do not.

These columns are lucky to get a quick read through before publishing. That is no joke. MLA, APA, AMA, Chicago/Turabian—with their prickly rules and formats—who need ‘em? Spell check? Spel chek iz fore wusies. What were we talking about again? Oh yeah, October.

Part of the reason I like October is because just the word by itself looks cool, no matter the language. In German, October looks like Oktober. With Bulgarian it reads октомври. Spanish is Octobre—same with French. Swahili might be my most favorite: Oktoba. Looks like it would sounds gangster if spoken aloud and like things that sound gangster.

I also enjoy Oktoba because it brings my life World Series baseball and I am the kind of guy that needs World Series baseball in his life. After the sting of the Red Sox collapse, I distanced myself from the sport to almost, but not quite, extinction. It is what you do in the wake of being utterly dumbfounded from one of your favorite sport franchises. In the aftermath I was only able to physically watch one playoff game (Brewers/Cards—where my wife inexplicably became a diehard Cardinals fan). It was all I could muster. Some of those games should have been Red Sox playoff games, and they were not.

Nonetheless, I put in the bare minimum, and followed the games to see what the scores were and who was likely to beat who. My original projection was that the World Series winner would be the victor of the Milwaukee Brewers/Arizona Diamondbacks series. Well, the Brewers beat the D-Backs, and the Cardinals beat the Brewers, so logic would suggest that I think the Cards will be the team to take it. This ordered thought process pleases ‘The Boss’ because if you do not know by now, she has been a Cardinals fan since the dawn of time. At her request I was asked to put in a “Go Cardinals” if I ended up writing about baseball. She thinks they will win. And perhaps they will. But I think I am going to go for the root for the Texas Rangers because they made it back to big dance after they were dumped and humiliated in front of the whole school the year before, ya know? I mean, how about Nolan Ryan, taking his team to World Series in his first two years of ownership? This is the same owner that signs autographs of him holding a man in a headlock while pounding his fist in to the guy’s head. That is straight gangster, and as we mentioned earlier, we like things gangster. There is the gangster standpoint and then there is fact that the Rangers play in the same division as my Seattle Mariners. When one of your teams has a season, as bad the Mariners did in 2011 (a 67-95 season; besting only the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins), sometimes the only way you can cling to any sort of dignity, is to say your team played in the same division as the World Series champs. I am sure the Toronto Blue Jays fans feel like this all the time.

[Somehow, somewhere, some Jays fan is reading this and nodding woefully to himself.]

Continuing with my love of this month, besides signaling the weather to transform the air in to that brisk, perfecting chilled goodness—and the leaves repainted themselves with yellows, chocolate browns and stunning reds—October usually Usher Raymonds’ in the start of NBA action. But the NBA is in full lockout, lockdown mode. You and I should be panicked. We soberly are not.

If you lend your ear to anyone who covers the NBA for a living, you will hear them telling you this lockout is super serious—way more serious then the NFL lockout—because the problems perpetrating the lockout are completely different then the ones sports fan faced two months ago. The NFL was arguing over how the billions of dollars in profits were split up. The NBA is arguing about how the owners are not making any profits, how it is the players to blame, and how they to give in to order to fix it. The players on the other hand are like, “Look, you are the ones who paid us this money. Blame yourselves.” As a result of this back and forth, the NBA has already cancelled two weeks of the season, and could cancel the entire season if both sides do not make some headway before Thanksgiving. These are the facts, but if I am honest with you, and I think I speak for 76% of NBA fans, the urgency of panic associated with the threat of cancelling an entire season, is at a sure-and-steady low. If I were to illustrate this panic by using Smokey the Bear’s fire danger meter, we would be holding steady at blue. The role of Smokey will be played by Marc Gasol, with is brother Pau as his second.

[Dirk Nowitzki just slammed his fists on his desk after reading that last sentence.]

The NFL lockout ruined any fear the NBA lockout could instill in me. It is kind of ironic because the fear of losing the NFL season was more of a propaganda tactic, used by owners to get the players to agree to their deal, whereas the NBA threat of a cancelled season is likely a reality. Even though I know this, in the back of mind I am telling myself that the NBA will work something out in a reasonable amount of time and I will not feel any sort of loss, because that is exactly what happened in the NFL lockout. The NBA has already cancelled regular season games. I should be freaking out, but I am not. However, I will agree missing two weeks of NBA basketball is not the same as missing two weeks of the NFL, but still. We have the writing is on the wall. However, one could argue that on the flip side, even with the missing two weeks, the NBA could still put a condensed schedule together, featuring the 82 games. My NBA panic button is still collecting dust. We are still sitting at threat blue.

[Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki is furiously punching the keys of his keyboard, in a hate filled e-mail in response to his Smokey the Bear snub.]

With the NFL, World Series baseball, and college football in full force—the possibility of losing professional basketball for a year does not seem too scary. It is like a mom telling her kid that she is going to take away his Nintendo Wii for six months. It sucks, but the kid will still have his Playstation 3, X-Box 360, and Nintendo DS to tie him over. It will not be until February that the Sony and Microsoft systems begin to fizzle the lack of any new games, on then we will feel cheated. But that is February.

Right now, it is Oktoba.

.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ending Things

The answer is: no. I am not on suicide watch. I do not think that I ever was. There was a dizzying spell right after the Longoria walk-off, in the where I kind of blacked out—I think, so my mind could adequately suppress what had happened in all of Wednesday night’s game—and I came too lying in the back of car that did not belong to me (true story).

In my fantasy league, my buddy—whose team is currently 0-and-3 but was favored before the season started—texted me and said that his fantasy team was like the Sox in September. Great players that cannot get it done.

Ouch. He is a D-Backs fan. Baseball life is good for him right now.

The morning after friends and co-workers treated the situation as if there had been a death in the family. Hand shakes, consoling e-mails, and dozens of ‘I’m-so-sorries’. There were a few that directly had to ask what happened because they missed the games entirely. Those were fun, re-living the play by plays, 12 hours after the fact.

But in all honesty, I cannot really be angry at anyone, but the Red Sox. I cannot point the finger away from the team—even though I **expletive** hate the Yankees for doing exactly nothing. Gosh dammit. In the latter part of the Rays and Yankees game, I sent out the following Twitter, Google+, and Facebook updates:

 “I swear, if the Yankees get on their knees on blow Tampa Bay, and screw me over... I'll kill someone.”
 “You suck d--- Yankees, I can't stand you. What the Eff is your problem.”
 “You gosh damn effing Tankers, I effing hate you.”

The last status that containing ‘Tankers’, was the first one that I posted, but because I was updating my status on my phone, when you type the word ‘Yankees’ it auto-corrects to tankers. How poetic.

In the bottom of the ninth inning of that Tampa/New York game, when Dan Johnson was at the plate, I was watching the game on my iPad with MLB.tv app. For every game you watch, you can choose if you want to view video feed of the home or away team. I chose the Rays feed. It did a couple quick shots of the Rays dugout, showing the dejected look on their player’s faces; one strike away from almost, but not quite completing their improbable comeback and finalizing the subsequent Red Sox collapse. I felt a tinge of sadness for them. The feeling of your baseball season ending is never pleasant, it is a feeling of... ‘I just wasted so much time for nothing.’ There was a pain in my heart for what they were about to go through. (In the writing business, we call the previous sentence f-o-r-s-h-a-d-o-w-i-n-g).

No need to get in to the messy details. If you want to re-live it, Bill Simmons did a running diary of the game found here. I will share a small excerpt of that article which perfectly describes the Red Sox unbelievable and never-in-the-history-of-baseball collapse, in which he closed by writing:

“They [the Red Sox] blew basic baseball plays, botched fly balls, dropped relay throws, ended games by getting caught stealing, threw meatballs, bitched at each other, admitted to being scared … you name it, they did it. They choked away Game 162 by getting three guys thrown out on the basepaths, by blowing a 3-2 lead in the ninth, by botching a season-deciding fly ball, by letting Chris Davis, Nolan Reimold and Robert Andino beat them with two outs in the ninth. You can't say it was unbelievable, because, actually, it was totally believable.”

In regards to talking about the Red Sox 2011 season, and it’s ending—and to quote Forrest Gump—“That’s all I have to say about that.” But I do have a few things to say, elsewhere.

To start, lets talk about a game we all love, Words with Friends, and it’s social problems. Lately I cannot get enough of it, but there are too many gray areas involved that lack etiquette guidelines.

PROBLEM #1
The most glaring of these is the whole post-game, do I say, “yes I want a rematch” if I beat you, or do I decline and let you decide that? Or when I get on my phone and I have a notification that says I just lost, of course I want a rematch, but did you already start one because you found out that you beat me, before I did? What the hell is happening? I do not know what to do. Nobody does. I cannot tell you, how many multiple games I have going on right now with the same person because of this exact problem. I have four different games going on right now between myself and my sister-in-law. It needs to stop. With so many duplicate games, nobody knows which game to be the more emotionally invested in. We need to fix this.

PROBLEM #2
Words with Friends (WWF) and the cause and effect ripple of the Cheats with Friends (CWF) users. Look, we all know the difference between trying letter combinations to get that triple letter or triple word and because of this you “find” a word and the difference between people who go straight for the CWF. The CWF user problem is affecting the non-users, because the non-users remember these bogus words. I am one of those people. If I am in a game and someone plays a random word that seems totally fishy, I am certainly going to try and use that word down the road.

A prime example is the word: oxyacids. I played this word against my wife a week ago because some CWF player (you know who you are) added the ‘oxy’ when I played the word ‘acids’. My own brother refuses to play WWF with me because he thinks I cheated by playing random words I learned in other games, like ‘rotgut’. Stop using Cheats with Friends people, because you are inadvertently making me look like a cheater.

PROBLEM #3
Do not start a game with a three-letter word. Especially a three-letter words that cannot be turned in to a longer word. Words like “but”, “can”, “bit”, and “fin”—those words are fine. They can all be turned in to butter, cantor, bitten, and finish. I am talking about words like “hah” and “biz”. What the freak are you trying to do to the board? Just do a tile swap. The game has not started yet; there is not a huge advantage to be had by being the person to start the game. There certainly is not an advantage to playing “hah”. Nobody knows how to build on that, and those that do, use Cheats with Friends. You add to the problem and not the solution.

PROBLEM #4
The whole “should I” or “should I not” start a game with you because we are Facebook friends? Nobody knows what to do. We all have friends on Facebook that we have added or they have added us because the two of you went to the same high school or took the same class in college. You never actually hung out with this person. Maybe you have been to a couple of the same parties, but there were 15+ people at this party, so you were not forced to interact them. I am talking about the people that you never write on each other’s wall or message or anything like that, and you would feel weird if you wrote on their wall for their birthday. The only reason you added or accepted said person because

A) you know their face or had a class project with them, and;
B) all you really want out of the Facebook friendship is the luxury of being able to stalk them on the off chance that they should they ever get married/divorced, do something crazy, get fat or get hot, put up super skanky Halloween pictures, suddenly invent something and get mega rich, compete on reality TV, or become famous.

We are all just a bunch people gamblers, playing the numbers, waiting for some ish to go down. Period. My question is this: because we are not friends—or what friends should be—is it weird if I start a WWF game with you because all the other people that I play with on a regular basis are being lazy and not updating our games? I merely need to get my WWF nicotine fix, OK. I am not trying to stalk you, I just want to play some damn words already. We need to determine if this is a line that is copasetic to cross.

Sooo…

In an attempt to add order to the world of WWF and right the ship, the writing team at HITS has come up with the following guidelines and rules:

1) If you win a game and the program prompts you start a re-match, decline. The person you just beat, is going to get the same message. Let them say yes, and play first. Perhaps the think you cheated a bunch and do not want to play you again. Which brings us to rule two;
2) Stop using Cheats with Friends. If you really do know an ambiguous word, then use the message feature, and drop a clarifying line the person you are playing. Same thing goes for you, if you think, they cheated.
3) Do not play, short, dead-end words to start any game. Swap tiles. This is the only time that you should ever feel obligated to open the board up.
4) HITS writers are making an executive decision on this one. Start a game with anyone and everyone. Who cares? We need to burst out of our shy, voyeuristic tendencies. If someone starts a game a game with you, it is not because they love you. The want to get their words on, and that is all.


FINAL THOUGHTS
In closing, I just want to say that I love my Boston Red Sox no matter how they may historically screw themselves. Going in to the month of September, the Sox had a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs, and now they are sitting on the couch just like me. I still love them and I still love baseball.

Predictions: Whoever wins the D-Backs/Brewers series is your World Series Champion. If not them, anyone but New York.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Adrian Peterson: this generation's Barry Sanders?

Usually, I am not super big making comparisons of athletes; especially when they play within the same sport. Typically, I like to compare players from two different sports. For example, I have always thought that Grant Hill was the Ken Griffey Jr. of the NBA, because I will always wonder what might have been, if either of those guys had never encounter the nagging injuries they did. With Griffey, I think we see him smashing the home run record, which never gets touched, until late in Albert Pujols career. With grant… I am not entirely sure. Maybe an NBA title somewhere along his career. But we will never know, but those are the types of comparisons I like to make.

Breaking out of my norm, I have been wrestling with one player mirror for a couple of days. No, it is not, “Is Cam Newton the next Michael Vick?” No. Although, I do think that is the best case scenario for Newton. Only time will tell. My curiousness has lately been this:

Is Adrian Peterson this generation’s Barry Sanders?

The more I think about it the more convinced I become. Adrian Peterson is a gangster talent, super good, and is never going to miss an opportunity to be great. The Viking organization knows these facts just as well as every other NFL general manager does, and that is why Adrian Peterson will never be traded or outbid by any other NFL team when his contract is about to come up. Ever. Probably for his entire career, but most definitely for the prime of his career, Adrian Peterson is going to be in Minnesota Vikings jersey. Viking fans everywhere are rejoicing. The only thing that would put him out of Minny uniform, is if he suddenly became a Randy Moss-like head case. Viking fans everywhere are solemnly nodding their heads. But he never will be a head case. Viking fans everywhere are, again, rejoicing.

But because Adrian Peterson is so good, the chances of him playing on a Viking team that will make the Super Bowl are no bueno. No bueno at all actually. I will tell you why. It is simple really. Because of how good Peterson is, the Minnestoa Vikings will never completely suck enough in order to nail that cannot miss pick (read: QB, something along the lines of an Andrew Luck). His greatness will become his Achilles heel. It will plague him, just like it plagued Barry Sanders, and therefore Adrian Peterson will never be combined with a current Top 10 quarterback. The Donovan McNabb trade is not going to take the Vikings to the promise-land. How can it? McNabb is not the player he once was, because if he were, he would still be with the Eagles or at the very least, the Washington Redskins. You realize the Redskins told themselves John Beck or Rex Grossman were better quarterbacks. It is no bueno for a third time Viking fans. Even if he does OK, who is McNabb going to throw to?

It was hard for Donovan McNabb to do it in his prime when had a money Brian Westbrook running the football and was throwing TD passes to Terrell Owens—whose on the field prowess loomed far above any other wide out in the league. Unfortunely, Terrell Owens knew that, and it pissed people off. That Eagle team was very close, but they were unfortunate to match up against the early 2000s dynasty, known as the New England Patriots. That was McNabb in his best-case scenario and it did not get done. And that was 7 years ago.

So how is McNabb going to do it now, after the semi-washed up season we saw in Washington? And how will he do it being traded to team with ZERO elite wide outs? All of these facts do not bode well for Adrian Peterson—just like it did not bode will for Barry Sanders back in the day. The numbers do not lie when you look at Barry’s Lions team seasons stacked up next to Peterson’s Vikings team seasons. They actually paint the same picture.

The Detroit Lions seasons when Barry was on the team:

1989 7-9 3rd NFC Central
1990 6-10 3rd NFC Central
1991 12-4 1st NFC Central
1992 5-11 5th NFC Central
1993 10-6 1st NFC Central
1994 9-7 3rd NFC Central
1995 10-6 2nd NFC Central
1996 5-11 5th NFC Central
1997 9-7 3rd NFC Central
1998 5-11 4th NFC Central

The Detroit Lions won their division twice during Barry Sanders career. The 1991 first place finish came in spite of the Lions losing starting quarterback, Rodney Peete, midway through the season. With the loss of Peete, the two reasons the Lions finished so well that year, came as a result of Barry’s combined 1,885 yards rushing/receiving and 17 touchdowns. The other factor was one of renewed and unbeatable fighting spirit birthed from tragedy. In a game against the Los Angeles Rams, Lions starting guard, Mike Utley, sustained an injury at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which left him paralyzed from the chest down. Without being able to feel his arms or legs, somehow, as he was being carted off the field, Mike Utley was able to give the fans in attendance a ‘thumbs up’—forever cementing his fighting spirit that would later lead to him creating the Mike Utely Foundation which seeks a cure for paralysis. The Detroit Lions would wear his #60 on their helmets for the rest of the season and would win their remaining six games. The Lions would eventually lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champion, Washington Redskins, in the NFC Championship game.

The division-winning season of 1993, was a combination of quarterbacks Rodney Peete, Erik Kramer and again, running back Barry Sanders. Sanders was limited by injury that and only played in 11 games, yet he was able to notch 1115 yards, a paltry 3 rushing TDs, and trip to the Pro Bowl. The Lions lost in the NFC Wild Card game to the Green Bay Packers.

Now peep the four seasons the Vikings have played with AP:

2007 8-8 2nd NFC North
2008 10-6 1st NFC North
2009 12-4 1st NFC North
2010 6-10 4th NFC North

Adrian Peterson burst on to the scene in 2007 by winning Rookie of the Year, rushing for 1,342 yards, and 12 touchdowns. He would go on to the Pro Bowl that same year and win that games’ Most Valuable Player award.

The following season, when the Vikings ended up winning their division with credit being given—much like the 1991 Lions season—mainly to Peterson. Peterson played even better as a sophomore in the NFL than he did as a rookie, increasing his rushing yards by 419, to a total of 1,760. He had minimal dip in touchdowns, going from 12 to 10. The starting quarterback for the Vikings that season, was none other than Tavaris Jackson who failed to put up 2,000 yard passing and posted a 70.8 quarterback rating.

When the Vikings won the division for the second year in a row, Adrian Peterson was again solid. Racking up 1,383 yards on the ground and a gargantuan 18 rushing touchdowns. He also posted a career high in receiving yards with 436, giving him a 1991 Barry Sanders-eqse 1,819 all-purpose yards and +1 on Barry’s 17 touchdown total. The Vikings were further blessed by the arrival of Brett Favre that year, and Brett’s miracle season. For the first time in 19-year career, at the ripe old age of 40, Favre posted a 100.0+ quarterback rating on the season, with a rating of 107.2, and kept his interceptions in the single digits (7). His previous low for INTs was 13… coming from all the way back in the 1996 season. So too, like Barry’s 1993 season, Adrian had another productive rushing year, but his team was also aided by the quarterback position. The Minnesota Vikings would lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champion, New Orlean Saints, in the NFC Championship game. Hmm… didn’t the Lions do something like that?

If we are honest with one another, barring the unlikely Brett Favre formula happening to McNabb—playing whole career for city that worshipped him, only be let go and then play for a random team, only to wind up on the Vikings the following season—Adrian Peterson’s saving grace is resting on shoulders of Christian Ponder. Let’s face it. That is the cold hard truth. Somehow, Ponder is going to have to become, at minimum, a Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger or Matt Ryan for his franchise in order for the Vikings to find Super Bowl glory. Every championship caliber team needs a gutty quarterback and either a stand out half back or wide out. Minnesota has AP, so they can get by without a stud receiver. But they need the right quarterback to make it happen. If Ponder is not that guy, then it looks like Peterson becomes this generation’s Barry Sanders.

I guess all I need to do is figure out if saying such a thing, is a compliment or something to be sad about. Perhaps it is both.