Wednesday, May 30, 2007

TBG Remembers: Cedric Ceballos the Rapper

1994 was my favorite year in music.

The West Coast was still dominating the Billboard charts on the backs of acts we all knew would never fall off like Snoop Doggy Dogg and Warren G. Meanwhile, the East Coast was prepping to reclaim the geographic lyrical crown with seminal releases from Nas and Biggie Smalls. Hell, even Outkast and Bone Thugs N Harmony were still listenable.

1994 was also the apex of the rappin' athlete.

Shaquille O'Neal was still riding the wave of his '93 debut LP "Shaq Diesel", a perfectly acceptable and inoffensive novelty album. History hasn't been kind to Shaq's rap catalog, but it's important to remember just how hot he was as an entertainment entity back then. And, when "Shaq Diesel" went platinum, it opened the door for every jock with a mic.

Speaking of which, the above video ("Flow On") is from former NBA forward Cedric Ceballos. He was part of one of the greatest "so bad, it almost doubles back to being good" music projects in recent memory: the 1994 release "B-Ball's Best Kept Secret". M'man, Nick'a Please wrote a song-by-song review for my old Bootleg column and it pulled in a ton of feedback from readers who'd remembered it well.

A few things to look for:

-The clip opens with that singular staple of '90s rap videos: light-skinned Black women with blown-out curls. Who'd have thought that the girl who gets sprayed with 40s at the end of the "Nuthin' But A G Thang" video would be so influential?

-Ceballos drops the "W" Westside hand gesture almost a full two years before Tupac "invented" it.

-The basketball shorts on Cedric seem awfully short considering Chris Webber and The Fab Five came on the scene in 1993. No one wore shorts above the knee after that. Except, apparently, Cedric.

-My favorite lyric: "It's like bop, bop, bop, bop, baahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"

-Nicka's favorite lyric: "Well, it's a Westside thang, mics I slang, winnin' battles ain't nothin' but a chicken wang!"

-Ceballos makes references to Shaq, Hammer and Jodeci. Could someone please ask Machine Gun Funk's Mathan Erhardt to explain the fall of Jodeci? 15 years ago, these guys were on top of the world. No, really…Jodeci.

-Really…whom do we blame for that ill-fated fashion trend of the vest worn over the short-sleeve shirt?

-Can you believe that Warren G. (who produced the song and provided a few lyrics) almost certainly WAS too busy to appear in the video? Hope he saved some of that "Regulate" money.

Mount up! Bankrupt!

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #7

Overall: 24-25 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 2-4 (1-2 vs. White Sox, 1-2 vs. Orioles)

Has it really been 15 years since the A's traded Jose Canseco? Through the magic and illegal copyright violation of YouTube, we can now relive the original Sportscenter broadcast that covered the story.

Trust me…this was H-U-G-E news back in the day. But, since time hasn't been kind to Canseco, let's just enjoy the five minute video for the following reasons:

It features the old "blue screen" Sportscenter intro and cheesy duh-nah-nah, duh-nah-nah theme.

And, yep, those are the dulcet tones of a young Linda Cohn!

Don't blink or you'll miss a quick highlight of then-Braves OF Ron Gant. How did he bulk up from a scrawny 155 lb. middle infielder, anyway? The world may never know.

Best thing about Canseco: The Cuban Mullet.

More "don't miss": A's GM Sandy Alderson rockin' the receding white man afro…some words from Rangers GM Tom Grieve, who is the father of failed A's phenom Ben Grieve and, finally, a shot of then-Rangers owner George W. Bush, who looks positively adolescent here compared to the withered old fool he'd become. Those 3,400+ American military corpses on his watch have sure aged him, huh?

Ah, Ruben Sierra. Who else could contract chicken pox at the age of 29, but the man who was the very definition of the word "swarthy"? He came to his first spring training with the A's with about 30 pounds of added muscle and no one really knew how. This happened all the time in the '90s, but today the media retroactively claims they knew nothing.

A Lance Blankenship reference finishes the clip, thus making this the greatest clip in YouTube history.

This Week: vs. Rangers (3), vs. Twins (3)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

TBG Reviews: Wendy's Steakhouse Double Melt

I wrote this review more than three weeks ago. Then, I walked away from the laptop and forgot about it. Is my material really that forgettable? I assumed this blog stayed with you, like the first viewing of "Faces of Death" or something. Anyways, enjoy the dated references and menu item that may or may not still be available.

So, with the wife and the boy at a Cinco de Mayo soiree, I was left to hunt and kill my own dinner. As stated in this space before, I'm a sucker for effective marketing and the good people at Wendy's have put together an interesting campaign for their new Steakhouse Double Melt. It involves the middle seat on an airplane and two hot chicks on either side. OK, maybe "interesting" is too strong of an adjective, but I was hungry and bought one today.

It's about 10 minutes from the restaurant to Stately Bootleg Manor. I'm not sure if this is indicative of all Wendy's, but my burger was still scalding hot when I pulled the foil-wrapped fat bomb out of the bag. Featuring two of their ubiquitous square patties and…"layered with crisp bacon, Swiss cheese, marinated mushrooms, caramelized onions and tangy peppercorn sauce", Wendy's latest gimmick burger entry is greater than the sum of its parts.

The bacon was nicely salted, but the complete opposite of "crisp". The Swiss cheese had nearly evaporated by the time I got my burger home and what was left had blended with the thumbprint of peppercorn sauce that appears to be doled out by a single teaspoon. The mushrooms (canned) and onions were a nice touch, though, and gave the whole thing kind of a sweet and smoky vibe.

Solid burger, but minus a pair of points for my local Wendy's and their stubborn refusal to hand out packets of ketchup unless you ask for them. The default setting for ketchup in the drive-thru should be "included". Is it wrong for me to assume that the majority of you like the tomato-vinegary goodness of ketchup? Then, goddammit, Wendy's, put it in the bag! I assume it's there, get all the way home and it's not there. Have Wendy's employees tried their fries?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The St. Louis Diaries - Day #3 (Continued)

George Brett struck the same cowardly pose as he
hid on the bench on the final day of the 1990
season, keeping Rickey Henderson from winning the batting title.

5:30 PM - The gates are opened and I make a beeline for the Gates BBQ concession stand. Even before I left San Diego, everyone was telling me that I had to "get to Gates". And, really, how much could be lost in the translation between the real restaurant and the ballpark kiosk variety?

5:40 PM - My BBQ pork (sorry, Mathan) sandwich arrives with a side of Cajun chips and an interminable conversation with the lady behind the counter. One of the greatest things about being Black is the sense of familial community that we can occasionally share with strangers. The worst thing about being Black is finding a faux family member who won't shut the fu…

5:45 PM - The sandwich is stone cold and absolutely saturated under two quarts of sauce. Meanwhile, the chips have been seasoned with the same peppers that are used to make those
novelty super hot sauces. Y'know, the kind you buy and use once before realizing that something cleverly called "Satan's Chipotle Acid" shouldn't be ingested.

6:00 PM - We're in our seats, watching the end of the A's batting practice and getting dive-bombed by these neon-green gnats. They're flippin' everywhere. Remember that episode of G.I. Joe where some of the B-Team Joes get blown into a parallel universe? It's the one where someone gets bit by one of Destro's mutated insects on his "proving ground". Yeah, it's kind of like that. Well, I guess it's not. The bugs here are more "extremely annoying" than "mutated and lethal".

6:10 PM - I've been swatting these bugs for 10 straight minutes. They're landing in my beer.

6:15 PM - No sooner do I remark on the abject absence of hotness, than a middle-aged groupie with a fresh-out-the-box boob job sits in the seat immediately in front of us. Seriously, I'd guess the face to be 45 years old and the breasts to be 5 minutes ago.

6:20 PM -
Baseball Annie has spent the last five minutes telling us all of the Oakland A's she "knows" and, completely unsolicited (for a change), she offers to get Nick Swisher's autograph for us. Isn't this the textbook child molester modus operandi?

6:25 PM - Sure enough, A's OF Nick Swisher pops out of the dugout and starts signing for the assemblage of adults still lame enough to lug Sharpies, gloves and card sheets to games. Our groupie gets up and moves in Nick's general direction, stopping to sit about 50 feet from him.

6:35 PM - Swisher (kinda not pictured, behind rent-a-cop) signs for just about everyone except the whore (bottom left, surrounded by empty seats), who then returns to let us know that, "Nick said he'll sign after the game." Never mind that none of us could avert our eyes away from this car wreck of silicone and lies and at no point did ol' Nick even acknowledge her. Wow…if you can't believe in bitches…

7:30 PM - There are only about 10,000 people here, but the fans are just as passionate, if not as plentiful, as Cardinals' fans. Very underrated stadium, too, with the outfield fountains and wide open architecture. Worth the drive? Ask me again, if we win.

8:30 PM - We went in knowing that we couldn't stay for the whole game. Two hours or seven innings, whichever came first, was our limit. And, look…here come thunder and lightning to make my decision even easier.

8:45 PM - With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the sixth, the heavens open up. From what I remember in watching CNN during the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe, this appears to be a storm of similar strength and intensity. I don't really do rain, so I'm not certain.

8:50 PM - It's starting to look like the climactic scene in that awful Wesley Snipes/Robert DeNiro movie The Fan. Did I just see a funnel cloud? Someone tell my wife and son that I…hey, it stopped raining.

9:00 PM - The Royals go down in the sixth inning and, with the score tied 2-2 and a full day of work/travel in front of us, we opt out early. It'll be the Royals radio team the rest of the way.

9:10 PM - We finally find the freeway and are about five miles down the road, when the radio feed starts to fade. Did the hamster pull a hamstring while running the generator wheel?

9:15 PM - The original plan was for me to drive to Kansas City and the other two to split the drive back to St. Louis. Three guesses who was behind the wheel on our road east. And, under the circumstances, I'd been polite long enough. I went straight to the iPod car stereo adapter, baby. Please let one of them say something about it.

9:45 PM - The Game, Redman, Crooked I, Xzibit and Mobb Deep have come n' gone. They either know I'm purposely annoying them with music they'd never willingly listen to or…

9:46 PM - …they're pretending to be asleep.

11:00 PM - I figure I'll need to gas up, both to ensure we get back to our hotel and so I can drive to work and the airport tomorrow. I pull off the freeway and find a gas station about a ½ mile down the road.

11:02 PM - You know the routine: pop the gas cap, insert ATM card, etc. Except in this instance, nothing happened when I tried to pump the gas.

11:04 PM - The pump accepts my ATM card/PIN number for the second time and directs me to "begin fueling", again. And, again, nothing.

11:06 PM - On the third try, one of the sleeping fools opens the door and says, "Dude, they're closed." How the hell is a gas station closed? Y'all know I never play the "California" card, but in California this kind of small-town Podunk bullsh*t is inconceivable. Even if the cashier has been gunned down in one of our all-too-rare robbery/homicides, the ATM access for gas is never turned off.

11:10 PM - I find an open gas station another mile down the road. Unbelievable.

12:30 AM - We reach our hotel and it's all I can do to trudge upstairs in anticipation of a whole five hours of sleep.

12:35 AM - I'm on the phone with Mrs. Bootleg, still trudging towards my room, when a door opens down the hallway. My Program Manager emerges in sweats and a wife-beater with an empty ice container. He sees me and quickly retreats, which can only mean he's hosting a hooker. I assume she enticed him with the promise of Nick Swisher's autograph.

1:00 AM - Good night, everyone!

1:10 AM - I just realized that I still don't know if the A's had won the game. The bottom line on ESPNews tells me… Ah, f*ck. Screw you,
Mike Sweeney. It was still worth it.

1:12 AM - Good night, everyone!

The St. Louis Diaries - Day #3

The above height requirement would've meant free admission for my wife and son.

7:00 AM - I've been in Missouri for two days and the weather forecast for Monday was "scattered thunderstorms". Same for Tuesday and…yep, same for today.

7:05 AM - The local news has "live, team coverage" of the rising Missouri River waters and continues to reference some "great flood" that apparently washed away the state in 1993. I found more information on this disaster right here, but you know what they say: If it's on Wikipedia, it's probably worth checking a second source. I can't be bothered at the moment, so let's assume this is true. Maybe.

7:15 AM - Fifteen minutes into the news and I've heard the words "state of emergency" often enough to seriously reconsider my planned cross-state trip to Kansas City to see the Royals play my beloved A's. Ah, f*ck it…it's the A's, I'm in a rental car and Mrs. Bootleg gets six times the insurance payout if I die on travel (ten times if my death-on-travel is due to an "act of God"). Cha-ching!

10:00 AM - After two hours of repeating meetings, speakers and the hardship of holding my head up, it's break time. I head for the head, close the stall door behind me and am shocked at what I find…or, more specifically, what I don't find. Do they not use those tissue toilet seat covers out here? I actually have to put my ass directly on the seat that everyone else's ass has assed, without protection?

10:05 AM - I finally finish…covering every piece of exposed porcelain with meticulously torn toilet paper. Now, we can poo.

10:30 AM - Outside the conference rooms, the early morning array of donuts has congealed into a collectively sticky, yeasty mess. (TBG Note: I spent the last five minutes staring at my computer in an ill-fated attempt to tie this comparison to Lil' Kim. In four years of Bootlegging, have I exhausted all my Kimberly Jones jabs?)

12:00 PM - We break for lunch and I break for my hotel room, while warily eyeing the partly cloudy skies. In California, any kind of AM cloud cover has burned off by now. Here…it seems to linger. I've got to get some local midday news.

12:30 PM - Back in my room and every station is saying the same thing: "Scattered thunderstorms". Unfortunately, since I'm in St. Louis, I'm only getting the forecast for…St. Louis. I think it's quaint how in a state that's about the size of Southern California, the meteorologists treat St. Louis and Kansas City as if they aren't just suburbs of Chicago.

1:00 PM - So, throwing caution to the rapidly increasing wind, three grown men pretzel themselves into my rental Mustang and head west on I-70. This…can't end well.

1:05 PM - I probably should mention that the car came equipped with Sirius Satellite Radio, which quickly became a blessing and a curse. One of the passengers requested "anything '80s". The other quickly spit out, "F*ck that". I briefly considered testing the white-boy waters with Backspin, but settled on Dan Patrick, instead.

1:10 PM - I learn that Curt Schilling has apparently apologized for some comments directed at Barry Bonds. Both of my guests use "douche" to describe Schilling in what I'd later discover would become a continuously running radio commentary on anything playing on my radio. (In hindsight, I should've put the dial on Backspin. If only in the hope to hear one of 'em say, "That MC Serch. Whatta douche! I hate Hammer, too, but 'Pop Goes the Weasel' was weak. Weak!")

1:45 PM - In the last 15 minutes, we've passed the following three billboards: "Embryos Are Alive!", "ADOPTION!" and "Embryos Are Babies Before Babies Are Born." That's all each of them said…and that last one literally hurt my brain.

2:30 PM - Time to fill up the ol' gas tank, so the three of us stop in scenic Sweet Springs, MO. I pull in behind a red pick-up truck that appears to be hauling small farm equipment.

2:31 PM - Two good ol' boys approach the pick-up after exiting the convenience store/diner/port-o-potty combo that all gas stations seem to be connected to in these parts. They're both eyeballin' me pretty good, which can only mean…racists. Or, as they prefer to be called in the red states: "politically incorrect".

2:45 PM - We're back on the road and passing the off ramp that leads to Louisiana. Not the state, but the city. Louisiana, Missouri. I am not making this up.

3:15 PM - And, look…now we're just a few miles from Mexico. Yes…Mexico, Missouri. I don't have a map, but I assume the whole city sits just outside of a Home Depot. (Do they only do that in California? If so, have a friend on the west coast explain it to you.)

3:30 PM - Nice try, Missouri, but "Houstonia" is just as bad as "Louisiana" and "Mexico". These aren't cities. They're new-age ethnic names. Just add a "La" in the front to change the gender.

3:45 PM - We're 25 miles from Kansas City when the first raindrops fall. Five minutes later, the drizzle has fizzled out. Wayyyyyyyy too late to turn back now.

4:15 PM - KANSAS CITY~! After three hours and 15 minutes, my original plan to drive the additional 10 miles into the state of Kansas just to add it to the 24 states I've already been to (halfway to 50!) is quickly scuttled.

4:30 PM - Stadium parking is $9.00. For comparative purposes, on-site parking in Oakland is $14.00. In Oakland! The only city on earth where you're guaranteed to get robbed whether you go to a game or not.

4:40 PM - OK, I'm not kidding: We paid for parking 10 minutes ago and we're still driving around the complex to find a parking lot that's not chained off. The traffic attendants seem to be directing us into Kansas, after all.

4:45 PM - We've now driven past the Kansas City Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium, which is part of the same complex, and we've looped back around to the same guy who took my $9.00 fifteen minutes ago. "Did you guys leave?", he asked. "Just park in Lot B.", he replied to my non-response.

4:45 PM and 30 seconds - Of course "Lot B" is about 50 feet from where he's standing.

4:55 PM - Lots and lots of A's fans are out in force, which is always awesome to see on the road. It's almost like the late '80s, back when Oakland was the choice of both casual fans and flash-in-the-pan rappers alike.

5:00 PM - The ticket windows are a little less, uh, "crowded with people" than in St. Louis the night before. Two hours before game time, we ask for three "best available" and end up with three tickets, on the aisle, three rows behind home plate. Small crowds, swarming with opposing fans & great seats always available? Quit stealing Oakland's style, Kansas City!

5:15 PM - While the skies continue to darken, I overhear one usher telling another that storms aren't expected in the area until 8:00 PM. Let's see…7:00 PM start…in the American League…that means "the top of the 2nd inning". Ruh oh.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Adventures in Babysitting

So, Kid Bootleg's been around for three years. In that time, you could count the number of "dates" that me and Mrs. Bootleg have been on with one hand. (Preemptive posting of guaranteed unfunny first comment: "And with your OTHER hand...") Anyways, the wife thinks it's time we spent more evenings out, which means we need a babysitter.

Mrs. Bootleg posted an online ad and, much to my surprise, the responses rolled in. For your review is an email from a prospective sitter:

My name is David, I am 16 years old, and I LOVE to babysit. You might think that I am a little bit too young, but I give you my word that I am very responsible, friendly, and reliable. I am CPR and First Aid certified, I have babysit for many families in the past and I have lots of contacts you can reach as references upon request. Your child’s safety will be the most important to me and I will never ever let your child out of my sight. I can babysit up to 3 kids at any age. I babysit only nights and weekends, and usually can do last-minute calls. I live in San Diego and most likely would be able to provide my own transportation if nearby. Please give me an opportunity to babysit your kids and I promise you that you will not be disappointed. I do this mainly because I LOVE kids and also because I want to show my parents how responsible I am and so I am open to babysit at any reasonable rate you prefer.

When I was 16, I collected baseball cards, wore Reebok Pumps and didn't date. It's taken nearly two decades, but at last I can abdicate the crown along with the accompanying "Kingdom of Losers" sash.

Long Live King David!

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #6

Overall: 22-21 (2nd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 3-4 (1-3 vs. Royals, 2-1 vs. Giants)

First Quarter Grades

Jason Kendall – C: Has TWO extra base hits in 144 at bats. He's hitting .188 with a .234 OBP and .201 SLG. By any metric, he's the absolute worst hitter in baseball. 15 years ago, a music video was made in honor of his swing. Anyone that tells you Kendall has "value" because he's "good with the pitchers" is an idiot. Grade: F-

Dan Johnson – 1B: Missed most of the season's first month with a torn labrum in his hip. He's put up a .358/.476/.617 line since his April 25 return. Finally producing like his promising 2005 campaign showed he was capable of. Currently the best AL first baseman none of you have ever heard of. Occasionally sports "Teen Wolf" beard. Grade: A

Mark Ellis – 2B: Finally starting to heat up after a slow start. Ellis had a fluky career year in 2005 (.316/.384/.477) that most A's fans don't realize he'll never, ever repeat, but he's well on his way to approaching his career OBP/SLG numbers. He's one of those gritty little midgets that everyone tends to overrate. Grade: C

Bobby Crosby – SS: He's been healthy all season, which is about "all season" longer than anyone expected. At 27, he pretty much is what he is: decent pop and lots of strikeouts. He's been hitting well over the last week or two and building up just enough momentum for his inevitable __________ (body part) injury that'll keep him out _______ (a number between 4 and 6) months. Grade: B-

Eric Chavez – 3B: You know why you think you hate Alex Rodriguez? All those imaginary faults you've come up with for one of the greatest players of this era? Save 'em for Chavez. Still swings at everything. Still looks like he couldn't care less. Still collecting on the ONE long-term, market-value contract the A's have handed out. Still a Gold Glove defender, too. Grade: C-

Shannon Stewart – LF: For the last two years, the A's employed OF Jay Payton and played him too much. Stewart is this year's inexplicable everyday player. OK, the explanation is "injuries to everyone else", but Stewart is clearly a 4th outfielder at this point whose defense has eroded to the point of either "awful" or "glacial". Your choice. Grade: C+

Nick Swisher – CF: Despite losing a week to a hamstring injury, he's been the A's best player in the early going. His "pretty boy redneck" schtick drives the squealing teenagers to distraction and the front office is positioning him as the face of the franchise when/if the team ever moves into a new stadium. Just 26 years old and currently hitting .275/.407/.473, he had a hot first two months of 2006, too, before struggling for the next four months. Grade: A

Travis Buck – RF: Injuries forced the A's hand with their top prospect. Buck's been up all year and contributed to several early season highlights, including a game-tying home run off Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning earlier this month. He's been ripped by A's fans who still think batting average means anything by itself. .364 OBP and .510 SLG hint that he's ready for the show. Grade: B

Mike Piazza – DH: Last year, Frank Thomas really skewed the appearance of the A's recent (shaky) record with veteran free agent signings. Piazza isn't quite Eric Karros (2004) awful, but the supposed "DH revitalization" that many thought Piazza would experience hadn't happened before an f'd up shoulder sent him to the DL. There's talk of him going back behind the plate when he's ready to go. Grade: C-

…And the Rest: All Jack Cust does is hit home runs…or take a walk…or strike out. If he was doing this (.283/.468/.848) on the EastcoastSPN, Tom Daniels would go back to writing weekly columns. Milton Bradley has nursed a sore hamstring for several weeks. He's very good when healthy, but his last full season played was in 2004. Marco Scutaro hit a walk-off home run off of Mariano Rivera, thus buying the Lilliputian Venezuelan another full season in the sun. Deserved or not.

Danny Haren – SP: That's a 1.74 ERA next to his name and an obscene 0.932 WHIP to go with it. Just 26 years old, Haren is already better than the (chuckle) "ace" he replaced in Barry Zito and the one he was traded for in Mark Mulder. Not sure why any grown man wants to be called "Danny", but whatever, kid. You just keep on winnin'. Grade: A

Joe Blanton – SP: I can't lie…I've never been a fan. His 16 wins in 2006 were due in large (pun intended) part to an insane amount of run support. His K rate was also nothing to write home about and his conditioning was what I'd call "half past Hurley". But, if I can't lie, then I've got to admit that Blanton's been solid this season in improving almost every aspect of his game. He's still fat, though. Grade: B+

Chad Gaudin – SP: 3-1 record…2.94 ERA…just 2 HRs allowed in 52 innings. He works a lot of deep counts, a la Zito, so he'll be susceptible to the occasional long inning, but he's been sent from Allah so far this season. He'll likely fade as his innings pitched count climbs, but he's averaging less than six innings per start, so they'll ride this horse until he "Barbaros Up" on us. Grade: A-

Joe Kennedy – SP: Once again, this time with feeling: spring training stats don't mean sh*t, kids. Kennedy's ERA was about a billion in March and now it's 2.70. Sure, he's not that good. His BB/K numbers are almost equal and he's always pitching with men on base, but for a fifth starter he's better than whatever corpse the Yankees are exhuming this evening. Ooh, and you can do that "Kennedy…Kennedy" thing with his name. Grade: B

Huston Street – RP: Was off to another strong start (9 saves, 2.50 ERA) before a potentially serious elbow injury shut him down. One account speculated that he could be out anywhere from two weeks to 12 months. The A's bullpen has imploded in his absence, but I'm OK with this squad getting a little uglier. All these pretty boys bring out too many girly fans in pink hats. Grade: B+

…And the Rest: Here's a good sign for a healthy, productive life after baseball: Justin Duchscherer is 29 and suffering from an arthritic hip. Fans are suffering from his 4.96 ERA. Rich Harden is hurt again. He looked good in three starts, but this is getting ridiculous. He was accused of having no heart by an anonymous teammate in ESPN The Magazine and I'm inclined to concur. Kiko Calero can turn a 1-run game into a 5-run blowout like nobody's business.

Overall: With all the injuries this team has endured, they'll have to continue to tread water against some of the AL's weaker teams this month. Still, the A's are in a surprisingly strong position to keep winning while getting healthy. A closer look at the schedule shows that the A's will avoid any sustained rough spots until a June 22-July 1 run at New York(N), at Cleveland and at New York(A). I'll be in New York to see them on June 30. I will give them strength.

This Week: at White Sox (3), at Orioles (3)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Oakland A's in Talks to Re-sign Rickey

Well, kind of.

Today's San Francisco Chronicle features an article that is built upon an idea that A's fans have kicked around for years: Bring back future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson for one game and let him "retire as an Oakland A".

"The A's would be open to the idea as long as it was workable with the roster situation at that point and if the details were firmly settled with Henderson in advance.

"We're not going to infringe on the integrity of the roster or of the season,'' Beane said."

This would all supposedly go down in September, when Major League rosters can expand from 25 to as high as 40. And, while it's not clearly stated, I'd imagine it would be a game without any playoff implications for either team involved.

I love Rickey. I love my A's. But, this is a colossally bad idea.

Rickey last played for the A's in 1998. He put up a .376 OBP and led the AL in walks (118) and stolen bases (66). All solid numbers when you correctly overlook his low batting average. Still, he was allowed to sign with the Mets a few months after the '98 season ended.

Publicly, the team cited its need to get younger (even though the A's signed IF Tony Phillips, then 39, on the same day Rickey left for the Mets). Privately, there were whispers that GM Billy Beane believed Rickey's "hot dog diva" persona was rubbing off on prized prospect and shortstop-of-the-future Miguel Tejada.

And, watching Tejada loaf up and down the baselines in Baltimore (after doing it for six years in Oakland) while moping over his decision to sign with the Orioles, does make one wonder…

Whatever the truth is, Rickey has been emphatically not welcome around the A's in any capacity since then. And, now, we're expected to believe that both sides can put aside their differences for one hugs-n-kisses night? Rickey's mouth and Beane's cold, mechanical management style are relatively inconsequential when compared to each man's mountainous ego.

Two men like that could never work together, if only for one day.

Besides, I really don't want to wait five more years to make the Cooperstown pilgrimage to see Rickey's induction and, more importantly, hear his speech.

Who's with me?

The St. Louis Diaries - Day #2 (Continued)

"Hey, take a picture of me drinking for my blog!"

5:30 PM - It's hard not to notice all of the single-level brick houses that dominate the suburban landscape. I can only assume that the pigs here who built their homes from straw or sticks have been blown down, barbecued and served by the (two) handfuls.

5:45 PM - We find a $10 parking lot just one block away from The Stadium. In San Diego, you won't find a lot for less than $20 within a ½ mile of Petco Park. Understandable, when you compare the rich history of the Padres with the mom-and-pop shop run by the Cardinals.

5:55 PM - Our search for the ticket window takes us past a scalper who bares a frighteningly frightening resemblance to Trick Daddy. I'm pretty sure my "separated at birth" would be lost on the other two members of my party. Just a hunch.

5:56 PM - The other two walk about ten paces ahead, with their backs to both me and the, uh, "unsanctioned ticket broker". It's almost like they want the tickets, but are fearful of getting arrested or stabbed or something. They appear to be giving themselves enough of a head start to run like punks in case sh*t goes down.

6:00 PM - Negotiations with the scalper collapse. The funny thing is that negotiating is what I do for a living. While I'm able to secure multimillion dollar deals with some of the largest customers in the world, I can't close on a $20 impasse for field level seats. On an unrelated note, did you know that it's illegal to resell tickets for greater than face value in the state of Missouri? If you ever come across a scalper, don't bring it up. Apparently, "applied knowledge" is frowned upon out here.

6:10 PM - We settle for $16 bleacher seats, instead.

6:11 PM - We walk into the stadium and watch, slack-jawed, as we enter a sea of pure female fire. Black and white, short and tall, hot and hotter. Isn't this the Midwest? Where are the cows? Where are the "kankles"? We continue to assess the evidence.

6:20 PM - The only beer that can bought is Bud, Bud Select and Bud Light and there are inexplicably long lines to pay $8.50 for the privilege. Losers.

6:35 PM - I finally get my Bud Light and silently swear that I'm only buying three or four more.

6:45 PM - Can't have bad beer without ballpark food. I find something called "wing bites" at a concession stand manned by a dime whose name badge says "Kari":

Kari: Y'all have good tickets?
Me: Best we could get. I'm only here for a few days.

Kari: Where are you from?

(Quick tip to help with the bitches: If you're from out of town, always play the weather card.)

Me: San Diego. Y'all are killin' me with this humidity.

Kari: Yeah…I bet it's always 72 and sunny out there!
Me: (Thinking) "I bet it's 72 in my hotel room, too."

Me: (Actually saying) "Yeah."

6:55 PM - We finally find our seats and even in the bleachers, the quality of the women is just ridiculous. Honestly, how is this not the greatest upset in American ho history? Who knew they could do this in St. Louis? I went to m'man "Nicka" for counsel and, in his words, he called them "Marvin Harrisons":

Quietly putting up huge numbers, while being overshadowed by surrounding players.

7:00 PM - No lie…90% of the crowd sings along with "God Bless America" and "The Star Spangled Banner". C'mon…even you ultra-conservative kooks have to consider this a wee bit creepy, right?

7:20 PM - Our beer man roaming the stands (which, due to state food handling laws, we don't have in California) bares a startling resemblance to this guy (on the right), right down to his fake, fresh-off-the-boat accent. He's also an absolutely terrible pour, which leads to an avalanche of unfunny "head" double entendres from the fans shouted towards the beer man. Seriously, I love these people.

7:25 PM - My sh*tty "Chef Beer-Ar-Dee" insult is met with far more laughs than it deserved, in hindsight. Not sure if everyone around me is drunk or if they just appreciated the effort. I'm officially thinking about moving out here.

7:45 PM - I go back to Kari for nachos. Oh, stop, it just happened to be the sexiest, er, closest concession stand. She hits the chips with one metric ton of jalapeños, which is akin to attempted arson at the end of my intestine.

8:30 PM - Since I haven't talked about the St. Louis women yet, let me just say that these are the most baseball-knowledgeable broads I've ever been around. During the evening, various conversation subjects included Willie McGee, Ozzie Canseco and why Cards fans hate Cubs fans. From women! Missouri really needs to do a better job of marketing its merchandise. I'm just sayin'.

9:30 PM - Oh, right…the game. The Cards scored four in the 7th in a come-from-behind win over the Rockies. Second best stadium I've ever been to (whatever the Giants are calling their home park these days is still #1) and, far and away, the best damn fans in baseball. No one's close, kids. Loud, but not obnoxious. Smart, without being insufferable. And, I'd guess all but a few hundred stayed until the final out.

10:00 PM – 1:30 AM - Get at me on IM. Kidding, Mrs. Bootleg, kidding! (Seriously, for the rest of you, get at me…)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The St. Louis Diaries - Day #2

4:45 AM - Just like every other time I travel, I'm unable to get a good night's sleep the first night. I'm awakened by the sound of someone shoving a complementary USA Today under my door, as he/she apparently banged his/her head/knee/elbow into my door by accident. It's 2:45 AM in California, right now.

6:30 AM - I'm up and down the rest of the "night", so I take my newspaper into…well, you know where guys read newspapers, whaddaya want…pictures?

6:40 AM - Has anyone else noticed that whenever a report on President Bush's declining approval rating is made public, it must follow that news of a foiled terror cell be leaked? Sure enough, not five seconds after I read about America's unhappiness with Iraq, do I find some
manufactured justification for the war in Iraq. Don't look at me like that…those men and women are "fighting for the freedom to speak my mind". They're just doing it in Iraq.

7:15 AM - After a shower, I'm afforded the opportunity for a little AM Sportscenter. I gotta say, I'm loving the show's new look. There's a grid to the right of the screen that lets viewers know which highlights are coming next. There's also an awful lot of "Schilling" on this day, so I make my leave.

7:45 AM - I'm officially lost. My customer's facility is in Hazelwood, which is about 10 miles outside of St. Louis. I got lost on a 10 mile drive. Not a personal low-proximity record, but definitely in the top 15.

7:46 AM - There are a TON of Christian billboards in this town. I mean, does He really have to advertise here in the Bible Belt? Talk about preaching to the choir. Hey, literally!

8:05 AM - I finally find my way and proceed to check-in. Everyone is assigned a laminated name badge aaaaaaand, yep…there I am. "Arron Camberon". (During introductions, the host announces me as "Err-in cam-BURRIN". I didn't correct her.

8:10 AM - Forgot to mention that my Vaseline Intensive Care lotion was confiscated at the gate in San Diego. White folk might laugh, but lotion is all the Black man has in our war against the ash. I'm forced to settle for the hotel's in-room Bath & Body Works' orange-ginger scent.

9:30 AM - The fifth of about 5,000 speakers on the day takes the stage. He's an Asian guy attired in Air Force blues and speaks with the most distinct Boston accent this side of NESN. As I jotted this down, I couldn't decide on the punch line. The finalists were "Dong F. Kennedy" and "Clam Chow Mein". We'll come back to this one.

12:15 PM - It's time for lunch. According to the agenda, we're already about eight days behind schedule for this three-day conference. I head to the facility's cafeteria, in search of ersatz BBQ. I find a guy serving up "BBQ Pork Sandwich with Fries" for $5.00. He literally takes two handfuls of shredded pig and puts it on a bun. He then takes a handful of onions and puts that on top. I assume serving spoons and other utensils are a California thing.

2:00 PM - So, with two pounds of pork resting uncomfortably on my colon, I drag myself to the first of two vitally important meetings, which are essentially the entire reason(s) why I was put on a plane in the first place. I enter a conference room and find my primary clients (representatives of a major U.S. military base) waiting for me.

2:05 PM - I'm supposed to be joined by two of my co-workers, who actually set up the meeting. Aaaaaaand, they appear to be running a wee bit late.

2:15 PM - Still no sign of my people. The guys at the other end of the table in the heavily-starched uniforms and Aaron Cameron haircuts remind me that my company was the one who set up this meeting. I'm sweating both pig and onions at this point.

2:20 PM - I'm frantically calling as many of the 2,000 employees at my company whose numbers I know in an attempt to find the cell phone numbers for my absentee teammates. Concurrently, my attempts at small talk were inadvertently inappropriate:

Me: "How's Lieutenant So-and-So? I haven't heard from him in forever."

Military Guy: "He was deployed to Iraq back in January. Haven't you worked any issues with his replacement?"

2:35 PM - After 35 minutes of awkward conversation and my own heavily-cured perspiration, our customers get up and leave. Although, not before I hand them hard copies and two CDs of my never-pitched presentation. Think of it as the equivalent of the hand stamp those trendy bars give you. Y'know how they're designed to not wash away the next day? Well, when word of this snub gets back to our management, that'll be my faded purple star on the back of the customer's hands. (Hmmm, that analogy read a lot better in rehearsals.)

4:00 PM - The walk through the parking lot back to my car has turned into an unexpected afternoon swim. I'm convinced that hell ain't this humid, but "hell" would be
East St. Louis and I'm not close to being Black enough to try'n drive through there.

5:15 PM - After a quick shower and change of sweat wet clothes, I'm on the road to Busch Stadium to see the local baseball club.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The St. Louis Diaries - Day #1

10:10 AM - We're off to a great start as I leave without my 80 pages of printed Mapquest directions and have to double back to the office to pick them up. I was 10 miles down the freeway, so the round-trip recovery adds another 20 miles to what was already a 30 mile drive to the airport. For those of us who hate flying, this sure seems like a sign…

11:00 AM - I check my bags, only to find out that my 12:20 PM is delayed half an hour. Like any good businessman with an expense account, I pull up a stool in an overpriced airport bar. (Has anyone ever developed a sitcom around an airport bar and the crazy cast of characters it would attract? Seems like a ready made vehicle for George Lopez. He's free. And bitter about it!)

11:10 AM - I always tend to pound my first beer and today is no exception. The little Asian lady tending the bar scurried over and asked if I wanted another "Sammy". I'm not sure why I still find this funny, days later, but I do. Near as I can tell, that's how I'd expect "Ashley" to order a Sam Adams before sending it back in favor of whatever white girls really drink.

12:30 PM - On my way to the gate, I see my Program Manager getting his shoes shined, as it appears we're on the same flight. After cursing under my breath, I silently wonder how the airlines have managed to maintain the last of the 19th century employment alternatives to slavery, like porters (skycaps) and shoeshine boys.

12:31 PM - I pull out the cell and hold it to my ear, just to avoid conversation with my PM. Perpetrating has never looked more professional. (Do the kids still say "perpetrating"? Has it been replaced by "frontin'"? Little help, readers.)

12:50 PM - While I managed to avoid my decrepit PM at the gate, I discover that my aisle seat is next to the withered remains of a woman who immediately makes that "eye contact/let's have a conversation" connection with me. Y'know what I'm talking about…it's that tactic us ugly guys have been using in bars for years and always ends with us asking an out-of-our-league lady, "I saw you watching me. What are you drinking?"

1:20 PM - We're in the air, so I pull out a borrowed copy of Aqua Teen Hunger Force Season One on DVD since I've never seen it before and had a few hours to kill. The crazy lady next to me looks over and calls it "cute".

1:40 PM - I make it through two episodes before I throw in the towel. Is this one of those shows that Black people just aren't supposed to "get", like Friends or anything on The CW Network that doesn't run on Mondays?

1:41 PM - Switching to my Justice League Season One DVD. And, yes, my DVD collection is almost entirely comprised of comic book cartoons, comic book movies, Dave Chappelle, Oz and about eight or nine unopened Simpsons sets. Amazingly, I'm married.

2:10 PM - It actually took two episodes before the crazy homeless lady noses in. Her words are muffled by my headphones and my intentional indifference only makes her ask more loudly, "What's Superman's name in the office?!" The guy to her right is shaking with stifled laughter. As I respond…

2:11 PM - "Clark Kent", which leads to the ubiquitous old person's anecdote. This one is about a crossword puzzle she was doing that morning featuring "Superman's secret ID" as the clue.

2:15 PM - She's still going on about it.

4:00 PM (California time) - As we're about to land, she finally turns her attention to the guy on her right. He was pretending to read the airplane magazine that no one ever reads. This one featured Houston Rocket Yao Ming on the cover, to which Miss Daisy quipped, "Orientals play basketball now?" Oh, how can I stay mad at her?

6:10 PM (Missouri time) - Because we were delayed coming out of Cali, an announcement was made asking that special consideration be given to those who had to make their connections in St. Louis. F*ck that noise. I plow right into the aisle, not wanting to sit a minute longer next to Mrs. Skinner. Besides, it's not like my selfish act would come back to bite me in the ass, right?

6:25 PM - First impression of St. Louis: It was obviously one of the unmarked off ramps on The Underground Railroad. It's like The Source Awards up in here.

6:35 PM - The middle-aged white guy at the rent-a-car counter calls me "sir". How cool is that?! How come I've never heard of this "Saint Louis" before?

6:45 PM - Second impression of St. Louis: Amazing! It's as if I can actually feel the hot, sticky outdoor air all over my body. The locals call it "humidity" and the Hertz shuttle driver swears that it'll be twice as worse in two months. Air that you can feel? Do the natural laws of meteorology just not work here or do other states experience "humidity", too?

7:00 PM - The best part of business travel is coming from the West Coast. It never fails: I arrive in town relatively late and, consequently, my reserved rent-a-car has already been given away. The result is that I invariably get to upgrade at no additional cost. This week, I lost my Toyota Corolla and get a convertible Ford Mustang in exchange.

7:01 PM - I decline the salesperson's offer to show me how to drop the top, as I find the air conditioning all on my own.

7:10 PM - Now, behind the wheel, I marvel at how the locals are eyeing me. In San Diego, it would've been assumed that I stole it. In St. Louis, the looks of admiration and envy can only mean they think I'm a rapper, a drug dealer or Preston Wilson.

7:30 PM - I check in to the Airport Marriott and begin the rat's maze walk to my room.

8:00 PM - I arrive at Room #2063. I wonder if the desk clerks intentionally direct guests to the one lobby elevator that guarantees the longest walk. And, how did I end up making six turns in what's ostensibly a square building?

8:45 PM - Dinner is a room service Portobello mushroom sandwich with goat cheese and roasted peppers. Hey…"When in St. Louis…", y'know? I tip the guy four bucks for my $14 meal.

8:46 PM - I look at the receipt and discover that every meal already includes a 22% surcharge for gratuities.

9:00 PM - Baseball Tonight is just coming on?! Raw's been running for an hour already? The Golden State/Utah game hasn't even started yet? It's 9:00 PM! I try to take it all in, but my head is spinning with all of these obvious chronological conundrums.

12:00 AM - The NBA game still isn't over. Can't wait any longer. Bedtime beckons. We've got a busy day, tomorrow.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #5

Overall: 19-17 (2nd Place, AL West)
Last (Two) Weeks: 7-4 (1-1 vs. Red Sox, 2-1 vs. Devil Rays, 2-1 vs. Royals, 2-1 vs. Indians)

A couple of weeks ago, DH Mike Piazza's shoulder was crushed under the entirety of Red Sox 3B Mike Lowell.

It was the bajillionth injury suffered by an A's player this season and, in response, Oakland traded for former farmhand and minor league lifer, Jack Cust. A former first round draft pick of Arizona, Cust had fallen out of favor with the D'Backs due to his inability to play even passable defense, his high strikeout rates and an inability to hit for average.

Cust has bounced around and even received cups of coffee with the Rockies and Orioles, but at 28 years of age, he was given the infamous "AAAA" label and left to toil in minor league anonymity. At least until this past Sunday.

His two out, three-run walk-off homer against the Indians has a few A's fans
talking crazy talk. (C'mon…David Ortiz?) Still, Cust is a "three true outcome" (home run, walk or strikeout) talent and those guys are fun to watch when they're going right. That said, Cust is still a flawed ballplayer who won't come close to maintaining his current pace.

But, the thought of A's digging up another lumbering, limited Frankenstein masher got me thinking about a few other favorites from years gone by:

Matt Stairs - Signed as a free agent in December 1995, Stairs earned an everyday OF job at the age of 29. Generously listed at 5'9", Stairs was built (and looked) like a jar of rancid mayonnaise, but the kid could hit. From 1997-1999, his OPS percentages were .968, .881 and .899. He was the face of the current "unshaven, uncivilized" A's of the 21st century long before Jason Giambi, Eric Chavez or Miguel Tejada. Traded away after the 2000 season in a money move for the immortal Eric Ireland.

John Jaha - Played 10 seasons in the big leagues, but was completely healthy for only three. Fortunately, one of those years was 1999. The A's signed him as a free agent about a week into spring training and handed him the DH job. That year, he made his first-ever All Star team at 33 and led the team in slugging (.556) and home run rate (one every 13 ABs). Plus, he used All Along the Watchtower as his theme music. Cliché, but classic. Now, Billy Beane is often overly praised for finding these diamonds in the rough, but gets too many passes when he screws them up. After the '99 season, he inexplicably gave Jaha a two-year deal and got a grand total of 132 at bats out of it.

Geronimo Berroa - Sweet Jesus, those mid-90s A's teams were awful. Amid the disappointments of failed prospects like Brent Gates, Ariel Prieto and Steve Karsay, we did have one bright spot. Berroa was pretty much the entire offense for a couple of years. He'd flamed out quite spectacularly in Atlanta, before making quick stops in Cincinnati and Miami. He signed with the A's in 1994, led the team in several offensive categories during his 3 ½ year run before being dealt to Baltimore for a fringe prospect in June 1997.

Reggie Jackson - I love revisionist history. Despite putting up the best numbers of his career in Oakland from 1967 through 1975, Jackson is most remembered for his run in New York. Understandable, I suppose, but still. Anyways, after the three home run World Series game and the cameos on Diff'rent Strokes and The Jeffersons, Reggie came home on Christmas Eve 1986 to little more than local fanfare. In 1987, he hit like a Dominican mid-'80s middle infielder, but I guess it was full circle or some sh*t. Depressingly, only one
major card company opted to include Jackson in their 1988 sets.

Dave Kingman - Despite hitting 100 home runs combined in the final three years of his career (and doing absolutely nothing else of note), Kong is most remembered for sending a dead rat to a female beat writer during the whole "should women be allowed in the locker room" debate that captivated an unenlightened nation in the '80s.

Good times.

This Week: vs. Royals (4), vs. Giants (3)

Friday, May 11, 2007

The St. Louis Preamble

Got back from St. Louis last night. Sadly, my luggage didn't make it with me. My complete recap is coming over the next few days, but here are three quick tips if any of you will be out that way in the future:

1.) If you're a tourist (especially if you're on a business trip) you MUST refer to "Missouri" as "misery", then laugh uproariously at your own play-on-words. Seriously, I was there from Monday through Thursday and heard someone drop that pun at least once a day, each time acting like he/she "just came up with it".

2.) Beware freeway on ramps. Unlike those ramps in your city, there is no "merge lane" once the ramp portion're now one with the Interstate and very likely to have an 80 mph truck up your ass in mere moments. Here in Cali, posted on/off-ramp speeds are usually 20-30 mph. In St. Louis, you'd better be doing 65 on that 270 degree circular turn.

3.) St. Louis women. Get one.

More to come...

Sunday, May 6, 2007

"I'll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missourah!"

I've got a 12:20 PM flight to St. Louis on Monday, kids. This could potentially be the best business trip of all time (the Cardinals are in town and just three hours away, my A's take on the Royals...oh, how I still remember the smug look on Storm Davis' face when he left Oakland for K.C. in 1990). Conversely, it could be the worst business trip of all time (something called "t-storms" are forecasted for the whole week. Of course, we don't get "T's" or "storms" in San Diego, so I'm hoping my rental car comes equipped with "t-storm tires" or something.

Anyways, enjoy some encore business trip Bootleg from November 11, 2005. See y'all on Friday!

Now, as I've mentioned before in these non-music intros that always irritate my eight editors…I don't like to fly. It's not one of those irrational fears, like Andre the Giant's fear of snakes (although I'm told I struck several similar poses at the airport prior to my 6:30 AM flight out of San Diego on November 1).

This time it began at check-in. It seems there's a handling fee for any excessively heavy baggage and the diminutive Indian man in front of me was clogging up the front counter by taking out one or two items at a time, then having the ONE check-in clerk working that morning weigh his bag again until it was light enough.

Once Apu was finally through (oh, come on…doesn't that read better than "diminutive Indian man"?), I checked my bags and made my way to security. I've got about 10 minutes to make my flight and this time, it's a middle-aged manatee in front of me who's bending over to peel off her hot pink high heels.

Think a pregnant Peggy Bundy…in her 12th trimester.

Well, she must've felt hundreds of imaginary eyes admiring her yak-like backside, because she suddenly stood up and turned away from me…while the cup of Starbucks in her hand slipped from her manly grasp and fell to the floor.

And, yes, her French roast found my left foot (with my shoes already off) leaving my once white sock looking like it had been through three rounds of New Orleans hopscotch.

With my five newly bold n' robust toes, I made my flight with, literally, a minute to spare. And, damned if the little Indian man from the check-in counter isn't in front of me again. Jesus Christ, has God just run out of day players in the story of my life?

But, on the plus side, it's not like he's sitting next to…Son of a bitch!

We actually flew into Manchester, New Hampshire and arrived at about 4:45 PM local time. When we landed, the sun was just starting to set and the weather was announced on the plane as "partly sunny and 69 degrees". Quite the November New England surprise, since apart from the "partly", this is pretty much San Diego's five-day forecast forever.

Ah, but not unlike the dark side of the moon, once the sun does go down, temperatures in the high 60s are nowhere to be found. Seriously, by the time I'd been through baggage claim and on the road in my rental car, the airport's outdoor digital display read: 5:15 PM…49 F.

A 20 degree drop in 30 minutes? Hell, Chris O'Donnell stayed hotter longer.

Now, I know that Blair Witch references are as played out as comic bits at Chris O'Donnell's expense, but I can't think of any other way to describe the nighttime New Hampshire scenery. Everything is trees n' swirling leaves, without any man-made blights like an occasional freakin' streetlight to keep me from maiming the random wandering moose.

Of course, I got lost on my way to the hotel in Nashua, NH, as apparently the controversial and divisive "street signs" initiative failed to find 50% of the voter's support. Just a hint, New Hampshire…they help.

After lingering in the hotel bar with m'man Maker's Mark, Tuesday melted away into Wednesday. My co-workers and I spent the next 10 hours getting yelled at in an unintelligible accent by our East Coast customers, then made the 45 minute drive into…Boston.

Uh oh.

Actually, it wasn't that bad. The race riots have seemingly quieted down in recent weeks (years?) and due to the success n' popularity of the city's decades-old "busing Blacks in" program, there were actually one or two bars where I wasn't the only African-American on hand. No…wait…upon further review, it appears those two bars were just showing the Celtics game.

Man, those plasma screen pictures are realistic.

On, Thursday, That Bootleg Guy hooked up wif (sic) the King of CT and author of Nick'a Please, then flew outta Hartford early Friday morning.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Warriors! Come Out & Playyy-yay!

So, I offhandedly mentioned that The Bootleg Family bought one of them newfangled LCD TVs last week. In the last 10 days, the biggest residual effect is that I've watched more NBA basketball in the last week and a half than I have in the last 10 years.

The reasons why I abandoned the NBA in the first place are a whole other post, but while I wonder why anyone would watch any athletic endeavor without the words "H" and "D", go read m'man Tom Daniels, who's got a new column up on Tailgate Crashers.

He goes all "running diary" on last night's George Mason Warriors vs. Dallas Mavericks playoff game. Not sold? Well, he also provided in-game updates from both the Yankees and Mets. But, you hate sports, you say? Well, then marvel at his skills as he guides a drunk, homeless friend (think "Tipsy Biscuitti") through the streets of New York and, probably, to his death.

Hurry, before Tom realizes he misspelled "Nowitzki" throughout the entire column.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Meet My Links - Baseball Prospectus

Anyone else remember when "Meet My Links" was actually a weekly feature? Yeah, me neither. Anyways, I hope that my overt pimping and shameless pluggery has led some of you to a few of those links on the right-hand side. They've got you covered from music to movies to TV to…me. But, today, we're speaking about sports.

Yes, again.

Baseball Prospectus

Synopsis: Home to a collection of self-professed "experts", Baseball Prospectus is one of the most unique, interesting and influential baseball sites around. Famous for their heavy emphasis on stats and performance analysis, BP covers the game through new-age measures, but still maintains a focus on the same in-game and historical discussions that have filled smoky bars and ballpark bleachers for generations.

Positives: Joe Sheehan's "Prospectus Today" is probably the most accessible column for both traditional and stathead fans. He'll generally look at an event or aspect that's getting a lot of publicity (the Yankees slow start, por ejemplo) and take an entirely fresh approach to it. Christina Kahrl writes my favorite regular BP feature: "Transaction Analysis". Each week, every deal made (be it big, medium or inconsequentially small) is sorted by team and analyzed. Plus, she's an unabashed A's fan. Finally, there's Will Carroll's "Under the Knife" column, which is something of a "medhead heaven" for fantasy players looking for the latest injury news (and injury translations).

Negatives: This ain't your daddy's baseball think-tank. The writers have created dozens of new stats with wacky acronyms like VORP, EqR and SNWAR that are sure to confuse new readers. For most of us, the baseball learning curve flattened out once someone clearly explained the infield fly rule. Put it this way, if you still think batting average is relevant and "clutch hitting" is a skill, then this isn't the place for you. Another occasional turnoff is the sheer arrogance that some of the writers wield, which is juxtaposed with sheer disdain for those who don't view the game as they do. The best material, unfortunately, is available by subscription only.

One Sentence Summary: Don't let the alphabet soup of acronyms scare you, because the BP team has plenty of sharp, intelligent and against-the-grain writers to make everyone a better baseball fan.

Next: Broken Dial (wait…that's not the one Gloomchen writes for, is it?)

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Eat Fresh! (Not Including Pop Culture References)

I can think of three things wrong with this commercial:

1.) It's pretty obviously targeting the skinny white demographic and borderline alienating the Black and Hispanic markets. I mean, when did big asses and thick thighs (NSFW!) become a bad thing in women?

2.) "Badonkadonk"? Come on, Subway. That word became popular with the release of Missy Elliot's Work It single, which was so long ago (2002) that me and Mrs. Bootleg played the "hot new" song at our wedding reception. Dave Chappelle mocked it on his show a year later during the excellent "I Know Black People" skit and then it went away. Help me out, people…was this supposed to be funny in one of those "June Cleaver speaks jive in Airplane" sort of ways?

3.) Who eats at Subway?

TBG Has Finally Seen…The Office

It's time for the start of an irregular new feature, kids.

Most of you already know that I'm the last person on earth to catch on to the latest technological advances (first CD purchased: 1997, first iPod: Xmas 2005, first HDTV: last week). So, before my friends and family can make fun of me for missing the bandwagon the first 400 times it stopped on my block, I thought I'd mock myself with this first look at what you've already been seeing…for the last several years.

I'm equal parts procrastinating and proactive, people.

Anyways…let's talk The Office.

While the award-winning, critically-acclaimed NBC sitcom is in its third season, I've spent the last few weeks getting caught up on the first two. And, thanks to a very rare confluence of a rainy day in San Diego with one of my 9/80 off Fridays, I was able to plow through the last eight episodes in one day last month.

Two seasons is enough of a sample size for me to feel quite the fool for ignoring The Office for so long. It's got a great ensemble cast, who display more on-screen chemistry that just about any show I've ever seen. Even the occasional and infrequent characters like Melora Hardin's wonderfully bitchy "Jan Levinson" or Craig Robinson's surly warehouse foreman "Darryl" seamlessly weave in and out of scenes.

Of course, there's not much left to be said about Steve Carell, who plays the role of "Michael Scott" with an oblivious, obnoxious charm that's ignorant, offensive and/or endearing. Yep, every adjective applies.

And, it ain't rocket science as to explaining why it all works: everyone who watches it can relate. Just off the top of my head, I know that my office has the equivalent of "Meredith the Middle-Aged Alcoholic", "Angela the Wet Blanket Vegetarian" and "Pam the Plain-Pretty Secretary". Don't tell my wife about that last one.

That said, there are a few things I don't dig. The soap operatic Jim-Pam-Roy love triangle got annoying really quickly. John Krasinski's "Jim Halpert" sometimes comes across as more "grating and smug" than "romantic and sincere". Consequently, it's hard for me to build sympathy for the guy. And, everyone knows that Pam and Roy are destined for doom based on the whole "Julia Roberts MUST end up with Richard Gere and NOT that rich snob, ably played by Bill Paxton (That's Bill Pullman, you fool!) rule".

I haven't watched any of the current season and my plan is to wait for the Season 3 DVD, then jump on board at the start of Season 4. Hope it's not cancelled before then. (Yeah, I know…see, that's the joke.)

Next: TBG Finally Sees…Sideways