Thursday, December 8, 2011

Love is in the air....

It was brought to my attention by some people that my last blog about the things I hate in sports was not only harsh, but depressing to some. I don't want people to think that I'm only about the here are some things that I love about sports, playing and watching them.....

My favorite baseball player of all time is Willie Stargell. Bigger than life (I was nine when the Pirates won the World Series, so he was even bigger) a leader and an all around nice guy. I was only two when Roberto Clemente died, so I never saw him play, but both of them have been an inspiration.

Blake Griffin - From the first shot he made as a pro, he is a joy to watch. And he seems like a stand up guy. The Clippers are lucky to have him and better do whatever they can to keep him.

Troy Polamalu - Yeah, he went to USC, but being a Steeler trumps that. Gives 100% and is a quiet, well manner thoughtful person off the field. I like Hines Ward too because he has always been a fighter, but I can see where people dislike him for dirty play.

...there is no sweeter feeling than making solid contact when swinging a bat (with a baseball or softball, not a body part). When you make that type of contact, it's like a surge goes all the way up your arms as the ball rockets off deep into the night. Also, making a three point shot or a perfect pass when playing basketball thrilled me as much as an adult as it did when I was 10.

I consider myself lucky I got to see the following players play live: Magic Johnson, Mario Lemieux, Ken Griffey, Jr., Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, John Elway (in college), Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken, Jr., Hakeem Olajuwon (college and pro), Frank Thomas, Kirby Puckett, Tony Gwynn, Larry Bird, Kevin Mchale, Jaromir Jagr, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Fernando Valenzuela, Dave Parker, Andrew McCutchen, Junior Seau, Ladainian Tomlinson, Charles Barkley, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Elton Brand and Sam Cassell (yeah, he doesn't really belong on the list, but he was so fun to watch off the court as well as on it).

Players I didn't get to see live but wish I did: Clemente (of course), Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Michael Jordan, Barry Sanders, Jack Lambert, (basically a lot of Steelers, who I would see at training camp, but I've never been to an actual Steeler game), Joe Montana, Dell Curry (he was my favorite player for a long time wow he could shoot), A lot of boxers (never been to a live boxing match), Macho Man Randy Savage (although I did see Polish Power Ivan Putski, which would make Jason Hoffman happy), Sidney Crosby, Pedro Martinez (although he gave me a piece of gum at an Angels game) and Earl Anthony (man that guy could bowl).

I've read a ton about sports When I was a kid, I would to to the library one block away from the house and get any sports books on the shelves (basketball, baseball and football basically). Some of my favorite sports books (fiction and non fiction) are:

The Breaks of the Game - David Halberstam
A Season on the Brink - John Feinstein
North Dallas Forty - Peter Gent
Ball Four - Jim Bouton
Semi Tough - Dan Jenkins
Instant Replay -Jerry Kramer
The Bronx Zoo - Sparky Lyle
Heaven is a Playground - Rick Telander
Loose Balls - Terry Pluto

And I got to read Jim Murray in the LA Times growing up. And now I get to read J.A. Adande.... :)

Sports movies - Caddyshack, Bull Durham, Raging Bull, The Natural, North Dallas Forty (again), Hoosiers, Rocky 1-3 and I'm sure a bunch more....

I got to play some sports with famous people, not often athletes, but a lot of TV and movie stars, which may be a good idea for a blog sometime, there are some good stories involved there.

I love talking about sports with my friends. Back in the day, it was a constant conversation, but thankfully, we've evolved and talk about a bunch of subjects, but we used to sit in a restaurant and talk for hours about all kinds of sports. A little sad, but fun.

I don't play any sports anymore. I stopped playing basketball about 4 years ago and softball shortly after that. I sometimes feel a twinge of regret and want to drive down to Lincoln JHS and play a couple games, but I wouldn't make it a couple trips down their much shorter court. I keep saying someday though and until then, I'll watch, and read and talk about sports until I'm old and gray, which shouldn't be too long from now.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

sometimes, it's so easy to hate....

I've said in the past the things I love, I love with everything I have and the things I hate I hate with the intensity of a thousand suns. Of course, there's a lot of middle ground out there. Hate is a really strong word and when I say I hate certain people, it's only because of their lengthy track record of self involvement and belittlement of the public that sets my blood to boil. For example, in entertainment (because if I talk about politics, all hell would break loose), when I see a press conference where Madonna gets flowers unsolicited and complains about the type of flower she gets, I hate. I see Jennifer Lopez shoot a commercial driving a car she wouldn't be caught dead in talking about going back to "her block" in NYC but the commercials were shot 3,000 miles away in L.A and I hate. I see the worst strain of the stage mom virus (Kris Jenner and Dina Lohan) pollute their older children and I know the cycle is going to repeat itself with their younger kids and I hate. But even entertainment is not nearly as black and white as hatred is in sports.

I haven't written on here in a while and the reason I was going to write was because I'm home by myself. My fiancee is visiting family in Wisconsin and I've been noodling on the computer and watching shows on my DVR. In between shows, I've seen less than a minute of the USC/UCLA game (I figured USC would win and I can't stand them). I saw two plays. When USC went up 20-0, they passed for a 2 point conversion...which is bad form in itself. Then at the start of the 3rd quarter, when they were up 29-0, their QB threw a long pass going for the end zone that was incomplete. I turned off the TV because it would only work me up. Apparently, they did the same exact thing on the next play and have kept on doing it, as the score is now 50-0 and the first string is still in throwing bomb after bomb. And their fans are going batshit crazy and cheering them on with every point they run up. The hater in me says that it's because they are all a bunch of self entitled douchebags who have a proven jackass as their coach. Lane Kiffin got into coaching football because his daddy was successful and he has failed upwards into possibly the top coaching position in college football. He is the George W. Bush of coaching, surrounded by quality assistants who hide the fact he is a socially and mentally inept jerkoff who failed on his own with Tennessee and the Raiders. Now, if the tables were turned and UCLA was winning by this much, I know their fans would be rooting for them to hit 100. That is what being a sports fan will make you do sometimes.

I am well known among my friends for hating not only teams, not only players, but fan bases as well. I hate them truly, madly and deeply. And yes, I am a hypocrite, I love players who have done things while wearing my team's colors that I would spend hours ranting against if they played for my teams rival (Ben Roethlisberger comes to mind). I was born in Western PA, and love the Pirates, Steelers and Penguins. I am also a Clipper fan. I have been so basically after Magic left the Lakers and they started bringing in players like Nick Van Exel, Elden Campbell and the loathsome Kobe Bryant. I've suffered through hard times (The Pirates haven't had a winning record in 19 years and the Clippers have had flashes, but been mostly inept). Thankfully, the Steelers and Penguins have won several times, but there are some cases where I would rather see certain teams lose than my team win. I revel in the schadenfreude that takes place when the Lakers get swept by Dallas, or when the Raiders are 2-14. I see someone who roots for Duke crying on the sidelines and I squeal with glee. I hear USC is on probation and I will actually strut. But it used to be a lot worse. As a teenager and in my 20's, I would get physically ill if bad things happened. When Neil O'Donnell threw that second interception against Dallas, I punched a hole in my bedroom door. Now I can calmly say the receiver missed O'Donnell's sign to him to run the hot route. When the Ravens came down the field and won a couple weeks ago, I didn't lose it. It didn't follow me in my interactions with people the next couple days. People brought it up at work and I was calm and said the Steelers didn't deserve to win. In the old days, I'd have bitched for an hour about the DB's or how Ray Lewis is a murderer (allegedly).

Yes, I guess hating is more of a young mans game when it comes to sports. That being said, a list of the people and teams I truly detest:

(others receiving votes - Frank McCourt (but he's out of sports now); Brian Wilson (enough already); Bud Selig (see Brian Wilson); Jerry Sandusky (there's a special place in hell for people like you); Roger Clemens (I used to love watching you pitch, but you've ruined it over the last several years);

10. Barry Bonds - I will use the words of a journalist to describe him - "if I got a phone call from Barry Bonds and he said he wanted to give me an exclusive one hour interview telling the world he did steroids, I don't know if I would do it, because it means I would have to spend an hour with Barry Bonds"

9. Duke Blue Devils - from the fans, to their ratfaced coach, to the same 12 McDonalds All Americans playing every year, yet still expecting to be called the underdog. It started with Hurley and Laettner (nobody ever liked him) and then J.J. Redick to Kyle Singler to the three Plumlee brothers who must have lived near a nuclear plant.

8. Washington Capitals - Fuck Alex Ovechkin

7. Chris Berman - You should have quit 10 years ago. You were getting tiresome then, but at least you hadn't burned out the last strand of goodwill you had with the public. You are a one trick pony whose trick wasn't that great to begin with. Yeah, Bert "Be home" Blyleven was cool when he was playing (he stopped in 1992). "He...could...go...all...the...way" was innovative, but you need to switch out your cliches every 100,000 uses. For God's sake, you used it in a Hootie and the Blowfish video (in 1995). And when someone calls you on it, you are so offended. Let some other people do their schtick, your 15 minutes was over 20 years ago.

6. Donald T. Sterling - I am a Clipper fan in spite of him. This penny pinching racist asshole will never sell the team, and he will never put in enough money to win it all. But I love players like Elton Brand and Blake Griffin who worked their ass off for him so I watch and root and he reaps the financial benefits. I got a call a couple weeks ago to ask if I was interested in Clipper seats. I told him to call me the day after Sterling dies and we can talk.

5. Raiders and their fans - At Tony P's where I used to watch football every week, one of our favorite things to do was yell out "Raiders suuuuuuuuccccckkk" when they made a mistake. It happened a lot. What I really hate is this whole Raiders mystique Al Davis tried to perpetrate. When we were 14, we went to the Raider/Seahawk AFC championship game, My brother wore his little Seahawk t-shirt and was threatened by a group of adult Raider fans. Combined with the stories of beatings that took place, I sincerely hope the Raiders don't ever come back to L.A.

4. Baltimore Ravens -The Steelers/Ravens rivalry is blowing up now. I hate the Ravens, and the fact that the Steelers knocked them out of the playoffs three years in a row tickled me. Ray Lewis (you know what he did) annoys the shit out of me.

3. USC and their fans. It's weird that one of my favorite players (Troy Polamalu) went there as he is the antithesis of a Trojan or their fan base. Loud, obnoxious and entitled sums up my feelings about the University of Spoiled Children. And there's a new breed of asshole that comes in each year. T.J. McDonald is holding up the modern USC standard of douchebaggery singlehandedly, taking the title from Bush and Leinart who took it from others all the way back to O.J. Simpson (just about the worst person on the planet). I think my hatred of USC has to do with living in Santa Monica as I was growing up. Westwood was right there, USC may as well have been on the moon. My brother, fiancee and best friend all graduated from UCLA. Basically we all pick a side and I chose not to be a douche.

2. Laker fans - Least knowledgeable fans on the planet. Who cares about the showing up late, the Staples Center is in the middle of a traffic nightmare, but when you show up, don't whine about every call or foul and for God's sake read up on the sport you are watching. Instead we have a bunch of people who watch the games in a cursory fashion because the real fans can't afford to pay for the seats in Staples. But the ones outside are just as bad. Listen to an hour of L.A. sports talk radio and you will see the levels of stupidity that coarse through Laker Nation. Once you've heard let's trade Luke Walton and Derek Fisher for Chris Paul and draft picks fifteen times or that WE are all haters because we don't give up enough love and respect to the Lakers. And anyone who is able to root for a team Vic the Brick roots for is a moron by definition. I feel terrible because I loooooooved the Showtime Lakers. But once and for all, Magic is the best Laker ever..and stop answering questions about why you are going to win because someone scored 81 in one night. Which leads me to......

1. Kobe Bean Bryant - smug, self important, puts himself above everyone else, makes mistakes but still has the balls to bitch every time something doesn't go his way, gave himself a nickname because no one likes him enough to do it. Wears out his welcome with everyone who wants to play with him. (He is a talented player, no doubt, but listening to him each day must be like Chinese water torture on the brain, he ran out Shaq and Phil twice) Not only an alleged rapist, but he broke the man code by selling out Shaq after he was caught in Eagle (dude, you got caught, don't try to take focus away from you by saying, er, um, Shaq cheated on his wife too) and then you went out like a little bitch and bought a 4 million dollar apology ring. By the way, wasn't she like 17 when you met her? And whatever you have is contagious, because I hear she's a raging bitch just like you. Just because you stick your lower jaw out when you run doesn't make you a tough competitor, it makes you look like an idiot. You will never be Jordan....


See? Hatred in sports comes so easily. I'm worked up now, I'm going to go read a book or something to calm down.