Tuesday, June 26, 2007

TBG's Five Favorite American Cities

By this time next week, I will have "been n' done" New York City.

I have no doubt that NYC will soon be knocking out one of my current top five favorite American cities. This alternately excites and saddens me, because each of my current top five holds special memories. And, it's not like just any city is afforded inclusion.

For example, I've been to Chicago over a half dozen times, but it can't make the cut. That's primarily due to the fun fact that I've never once set foot outside Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Although, I can tell you the name of the only bar there that recognizes a "happy hour" and discounts their drinks accordingly.

Meanwhile, my own hometown of Long Beach, CA and my sports hometown of Oakland are also on the outside looking in…their vision most likely obscured through gang signs and prison bars.

San Diego? Meh…I live here, so the perfect climate, outdoor malls and multi-cultural tapestry of poontang do nothing for me.

And, yes, list posts are still lazy:

#5: St. Louis, Missouri - Two months ago, I'd never been there, yet after a week, I was ready to regularly attend church, vote Republican and eat my own weight in saucy pork products like all the other locals. It's also America's greatest baseball town which is fun for a fanatic like me and features some of the most underrated women on earth. I'm sure if I visited during the summer sauna, this ranking would take a hit no matter how awesome their bitches were.

#4: Washington, D.C. - I've been there twice: once in the spring of 2003 and again in the winter of 2004. Females? Phenomenal. And, for a native Californian, the sheer number of African-American professionals walking the streets, riding the subways and working the menial service positions that I always assumed were meant for Mexicans, just blew my mind. Great clubs, great bars and the city's historic sights even impressed an avowed anti-sightseer like me.

#3: Seattle, Washington - Home of the first business trip I ever took in October 1998. It's a lot like San Francisco in that the climate, culture and architecture make it a great "walking around" town. I went back last year for the first-ever Bootleg Family Vacation and, in nine total days there, I've seen about one hour of rain. It was a little seedier than I remembered from my '98 stay, but the sun stays out way late in the summer, so you can at least feel safe a little longer. Second best microbrews of any city on this list, easily the best coffee and a couple of awesome cigar bars that once played a role in my vomiting of oysters, cognac and tobacco in one night. Best business trip ever.

#2: Austin, Texas - OK, you got me. This was the best business trip EVER. How great was it? Well, I was, uh, "gently reprimanded" by my then-boss once some of the stories got back to him. Outside of the co-workers I was with, there might be a half-dozen people who know everything that went down. There's live music at pretty much every bar, the locals are nothing like the good ol' boy Republican rednecks that infest the rest of the state and it's home to the University of Texas. Full disclosure: I went during their version of Mardi Gras, but I'm just going to assume that every day is like that down there.

#1: San Francisco, California - Weak~! The Californian cops out. But, you won't find a more eclectic stretch of excellent bars anywhere. (I've only spent one abbreviated evening in Boston, but that town comes pretty damn close.) The nightlife there is like listening to Tim Kurkjian on Baseball Tonight…"You're guaranteed to see something you've never seen before". Hot women travel in packs of six or more, with virtually none of the stuck-up bullsh*t like their sisters in SoCal. Clubs get too hot? Well, it's always 50 degrees or cooler at night, so step outside, watch the sweat wick away and get back in there, Nicka! Gotta soak up that BAC? Go to any corner dive and get a cheap slice, a fish taco or a pound and a half breakfast burrito and you're OK to drive without any fear of vehicular homicide. Oh, and there's lots to do for the kiddies.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #10

Overall: 39-35 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last (Two) Weeks: 5-7 (2-1 vs. Astros, 1-2 vs. Cardinals, 2-1 vs. Reds, 0-3 vs. Mets)

From 1999 through 2006, my Oakland A's have been playoff contenders deep into September. That string of consistency had to end sometime and 2007 is shaping up to be that year.

Oakland just completed a three game series against the Mets in which our offense put up 1, 0 and 2 runs, respectively, in each game. On the season, the A's are next to last in the American League in runs scored. They now sit a season-high nine games behind the Angels who appear ready to run away with the division.

And, as long as they insist on giving four at bats a game to Earth's Worst Hitter ™ (who must be cooling off after a hot week or two, since he just had another one of "those" articles written about him to deflect his inherent offensive incompetence from fans) they'll continue to struggle.

So, here are five ways to fix the A's and save their season:

Bench Jason Kendall and start Kurt Suzuki - It might be blasphemy to those who eat the tripe that Kendall's "game calling skills" are too valuable to sit, but words cannot capture how much he's hurting this offense. Yankee fans: remember Rafael Santana in 1988? Kendall's hitting worse than that. Met fans: remember Rey Ordoñez in 1998? Kendall's hitting worse than that.

Suzuki 'The Dragon' Steamboat is only 4 for 9 in limited action with the A's, but he's clearly not intimidated by big league pitching. And, for A's fans who want to play the "too young" card, Ramon Hernandez became the everyday Oakland catcher in 1999 at the same age as Suzuki, 23. Hernandez missed a month with an injury, but was otherwise good enough to "game call" the team back into contention for the first time in six years.

Leave Mike Piazza as DH, platoon with Jack Cust - I've gone back and forth on the "Piazza to catcher" argument. From reading Piazza's quotes, it's obvious that (1) his heart isn't in a return behind the plate and (2) physically, he can't do it, either. Piazza is a career .324/.408/.592 hitter vs. lefties. Obviously, that's not indicative of his current, diminished skill set, but he did put up a 1.071 OPS vs. southpaws in 2006, while he's become barely passable vs. righties. Let Cust rake versus righties and accept his walk, home run or strikeout approach. Instant upgrade.

Trade for Houston's Brad Lidge - I hate, hate, hate when fans try to propose trades for their favorite teams. It usually involves their team giving up five or six sh*tty players in exchange for someone's superstar. I accept that I'm a hypocrite, but at least I'm not one of those idiot fans.

Lidge has fallen out of favor in Houston as fans and management don't seem to think he'll ever overcome the bomb that Allah Pujols hit off of him in the 2005 NLCS.

Therefore, I propose Oakland dealing RH reliever Santiago Casilla, 27, and catching prospect Landon Powell, 25, for Lidge. Casilla has nothing left to prove at AAA and has been very effective over the last month the A's. He's ready to be a late inning set-up guy with the stuff to close down the road. Meanwhile, Powell, who's battled weight problems and injuries, is killing the ball at AA-Midland (.391 OBP, .502 SLG).

Bring up Daric Barton - For the uninitiated, Barton was the crown jewel of the Mark Mulder trade a few years ago. While should-be All Star Dan Haren was also acquired in that deal (ditto the lamentable Kiko Calero), Barton was uberprospect that everyone was salivating over. He doesn't slug like you'd want from a first baseman, but he's an on-base machine with gap-to-gap power. Y'know, kind of like current 1B Dan Johnson's supposed to be.

Johnson's out of options and the redundancy of his roster spot means he'd have to be traded (no way he passes through waivers). This means it's sink or swim for Barton, but if he's not ready for prime time, Nick Swisher can move back to first, while playing time in left field can be split between various spare parts.

Play Marco Scutaro more - This originally read "trade for Miguel Tejada". Don't look at me like that, it was a good trade proposal, too. Unfortunately, Tejada is likely out until August or September with a fractured wrist. That leaves my old friend Marco. Note that this has nothing to do with Scutaro's imaginary "clutchitivity". In fact, it has everything to do with the fact that SS Bobby Crosby is stinkin' almost as bad as Kendall.

Scutaro has a career .710 OPS vs. RHP. Certainly not great, but loads better than the .595 OPS that Crosby has put up against righties in 2007. Crosby is better than that, but for now, he's dragging the offense down. Play Scutaro vs. RHP with Crosby playing vs. LHP (.767 OPS against in 2007).

Marco started for 2B Mark Ellis last night against the Indians and the A's lost. Do the other four things and start Scutaro for Crosby, damn it. I guarantee you'll win.

Or, just win this Saturday when I'm at Yankee Stadium. Please?

This Week: at Indians (3), at Yankees (3)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Great 1988 World Series Do-Over

This weekend, my Oakland A's make their first trip to Shea Stadium since the 1973 World Series. It's all part of the inherently unfair cash cow called inter-league play. (The A's have played the woeful National League Central teams for the last week or so, but somehow the Mets found their way onto Oakland's schedule. The league-leading Mets are not playing A's divisional rivals Anaheim or Seattle).

While I can't fix that particular inequity, it's high time someone do something about 1988.

Your baseball playoff teams that year were the Oakland A's, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. While the A's made short work of Boston, the Dodgers and Mets engaged in an epic seven game series. Despite winning 100 regular season games and being overwhelming favorites, the Mets were single-handedly defeated by NLCS MVP Orel Hershiser.

Now, for almost 20 years, I've had this inexplicable mental block about what happened in the 1988 World Series. The A's had won 104 games, swept the ALCS and were baseball's best team. Yet, everything I've read seems to indicate that the Dodgers beat them, too. That can't be right. I'll keep researching.

Meanwhile, I've always wondered what would've happened if the true two best teams met on the field that year.

Catcher - The A's featured lefty-righty two-headed hydra, Ron Hassey and Terry Steinbach. Neither was better than average on offense, while Steinbach was stronger with the glove. The Mets wheeled out the decaying remains of Gary Carter, who's only remaining skill was "veteran presence". Odd, since everyone on the Mets hated him. Edge: A's

First Base - Mark McGwire might've actually been underrated as a player in his early days. Known for his power, he also took tons of walks and played defense at a Gold Glove level for years. The Mets' Keith Hernandez was still a vacuum at first, but his best offensive days were behind him. Edge: A's

Second Base - Atlanta Braves castoff Glenn Hubbard, 59, jumped to the American League in '88 and hit like a National League #8 hitter. The Mets' Wally Backman put up a .388 OBP and hit like a top of the order talent. Seriously, we gave Glenn Freakin' Hubbard 300+ plate appearances that year? Edge: Mets

Shortstop - Walt Weiss stole the Rookie of the Year Award from the infinitely more deserving Jody Reed. On the other hand, Kevin Elster stole money from the Mets in putting up an anemic .282 OBP. These guys would go on to play about 1,000 years between 'em. On the other (other) hand, Howard Johnson moved to SS in the NLCS vs. the Dodgers. He didn't have much of a glove, but he was a 20 HR/20 SB player in '88. Edge: Mets

Third Base - The A's Carney Lansford was always a wee bit overrated by us Oakland fans. His power numbers weren't really what you'd want from a corner infielder and his on-base numbers were equally mediocre. Gregg Jefferies started at 3B for the Mets in the NLCS. Forgotten in all of that failed prospect talk was the fact that he was eight kinds of kick azz in 1988, albeit in a very small sample size. Edge: Push

Right Field - I cannot articulate how awesome it would've been to see the two best players in baseball go against each other that year. AL MVP Jose Canseco vs. the guy who should've won it in the NL, Darryl Strawberry. History hasn't been kind to either man, but long before both self-destructed into pathetic caricatures, these were the two guys who made you stop what you were doing when they stepped to the plate. Edge: Push

Center Field - Dave Henderson picked a fine time to have a career year. His .304/.363/.525 line was inexplicably lost amid "The Bash Bros." hype. The Mets trotted out the lean, pre-enhanced version of Lenny Dykstra and, on occasion, Handsome Mookie Wilson. In 1988, this one wasn't even close. Edge: A's

Left Field - Stan Javier and Luis Polonia could run (44 combined SBs), but without the designated hitter, the A's would've likely taken their chances with Dave Parker who, by this time, was a statue in the field and failed to bring much power in his first AL season. The Mets fielded the enigmatic Kevin McReynolds. Loved by some, despised by others, McReynolds slugged 27 HRs and was 21 for 21 in stolen bases. I believe he was "loved" in '88. Edge: Mets

Starting Pitching - The A's featured 21-game winner Dave Stewart, backed up by Bob Welch (17-9) and Storm Davis (16-7). The Mets rotation didn't include anyone over 30 and starred Doc Gooden (18-9), David Cone (20-3, 2.22 ERA), Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez and Bob Ojeda. Amazingly, the Mets' five starters made 156 out of 160 starts that year. Truth be told, I'd forgotten how great they were. Edge: Mets

Relief Pitching - And, speaking of greatness, the A's bullpen from 1988-90 was one of the best in baseball history. Dennis Eckersley put up 45 saves, while Greg Cadaret, Rick Honeycutt, Gene Nelson and Eric Plunk provided effective lefty-righty symmetry. The Mets had Randy Myers and Roger McDowell at the front of the pen with help coming from whichever starting pitcher (Ojeda?) didn't make the World Series rotation. Edge: A's

Manager: Oakland's Tony La Russa and New York's Davey Johnson. In hindsight, La Russa probably got too much credit for his team's success, while Johnson, arguably, didn't get enough. La Russa wasn't quite the bullpen micro-manager that he'd become in later years and stuck to a conventional approach that wasn't nearly as cerebral as George Will would have you believe. Johnson was as rowdy and incorrigible as his players and, as a result, they'd run through walls for him. Edge: Push

The Result - Stupid Dodgers. You guys ruined everything, you ruiners! An A's vs. Mets World Series could've ended apartheid, cured cancer and brought down the Berlin Wall before two of those three things happened a few months later.

The A's offense was loaded with right-handed hitters who would've been perfect for Gooden and Cone to carve up. But, any close games that became a battle of bullpens would give the obvious edge to Oakland. Most of the Mets had previous playoff and World Series experience, but that didn't help them much vs. the Dodgers. Looking back at their team stats, it's eerie how evenly matched these two teams were.

New York would've had home field advantage and it's not hard to imagine Oakland stealing one of the first two games at Shea. Going back to the Bay for games 3 through 5, I just don't see Storm Davis and Bob Welch holding down a Mets offense with a DH. Game six goes to the road team, while Dave Stewart falls valiantly to the Mets in Game 7.

So, all this writing and we still would've lost?

Well, at least it wouldn't have been to the Dodgers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Flipping Thru - Entertainment Weekly (June 22, 2007)

I think we can all agree that there's only one thing more journalistically lazy than the infamous "list column"…no matter how well-written and entertaining it is. And, fortunately, I'm bringing the sloth as I blog about someone else's list column.

Our friends at Entertainment Weekly (né "People For Dummies") have compiled their list of the 25 Greatest Action Movies of All Time! And, the exclamation point isn't mine.

To wit…the list:

1.) Die Hard (1988)
2.) Aliens (1986)
3.) Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
4.) The Road Warrior (1982)
5.) The Matrix (1999)
6.) Seven Samurai (1954)
7.) Gladiator (2000)
8.) Saving Private Ryan (1998)
9.) Hard-Boiled (1992)
10.) Terminator 2 (1991)
11.) Speed (1994)
12.) The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
13.) The Wild Bunch (1969)
14.) Robocop (1987)
15.) Enter the Dragon (1973)
16.) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
17.) The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
18.) The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
19.) Goldfinger (1964)
20.) Kill Bill – Volume 1 (2003)
21.) Spider-Man 2 (2004)
22.) Predator (1987)
23.) Drunken Master II (1994)
24.) Lethal Weapon (1987)
25.) The Incredibles (2004)

+ For me, the thing that stands out is that I've only seen 13 of these movies and just five of the top ten. Have I really been missing out on some timeless thrills and chills or am I getting just a wee bit too worked up over someone's subjective junk list? Well, I guess I'm left with what I know.

+ Too high: The Matrix…OK, I'll concede that The Matrix was one of the most influential movies in recent memory. It blazed the 21st century cinematic path for special effects, fight sequences and incomprehensibly nonsensical plots. Oh, and it single-handedly challenged Scarface as the most referenced and revered movie amongst rappers. All of these things count for something.

Now, will you concede that it's also the most overrated movie in recent memory? There are some undeniably exciting sequences…and, bear in mind that I haven't seen this flick since 1999…but, was there a DVD version released that removed the 2 ½ hours of faux-philosophical dialogue, the glacial pacing and overt pretentiousness? No? Then, I stand by my claim.

+ Too low: Lethal Weapon…I promise that this will be the only time I play the "How can _____ be ahead of _____?!" game, but how can frickin' Speed be ahead of Lethal Weapon (or, for that matter, any other movie on this list)?! I suppose Weapon owes something to Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte for revitalizing the "Odd Couple" cop formula in 48 Hours, but the chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover would rank in the top two of EW's inevitable "25 Greatest On Screen Chemistry Between Two Male Leads" list.

It's big and loud and chock full of '80s excess, but "Riggs" and "Murtaugh" are written with just enough vulnerability to avoid becoming "can't kill 'em" caricatures. (Zing, Bruce Willis!) This low ranking can only be residual blame for the Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock and Jet Li-laden sequels. "Editorial license", says Entertainment Weekly. "It's just been revoked!", I retort.

+ Why does NO ONE ever talk about the gigantic plot hole at the end of Terminator 2 when the shape-shifting villainous Terminator has Sarah Connor in his clutches and demands that she "call out" to her son, ostensibly to lure him to his death. Why couldn't he have killed Sarah Connor, took her form and then sucker the boy in to his death? I've been b*tching about this for 16 years and I can only assume that none of you are listening.

+ Speed at #11…absolutely criminal. Just a comically awful film in which the only lasting legacy was the official start of the "Sandra Bullock" era (1994-1997) in Hollywood. Has an unintentionally better bookend than Speed 2: Cruise Control ever been built?

+ On a related note, has there ever been a farther drop in quality from original to sequel than Robocop and Robocop 2? The original was wonderfully unabashed camp and depravity. The sequel featured a 12-year-old crime boss and about 100,000 f-bombs. And, that's why I don't own any Lil' Bow Wow albums.

+ EW has promised that #26 thru 50 will run on their website next week. Off the top of my head, I'd expect to see: True Lies (should've been in the top 20 for almost saving Jaime Lee Curtis' career), either The Rock or Face-Off (two of the best bad movies of recent vintage) and shout outs to Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson and Sly and the Family Stallone.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

An Open Letter to the Cast and Crew of Ocean's 13

Hey, Guys…

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably let you know that I actually watched your movie on the flat screen at my barber shop last Saturday. But, for only $5, I could've taken home my own "studio copy" bootleg DVD. It's a long story and I've probably already said too much.

Anyways…I'm not really sure why I gave up 100 minutes of my Saturday afternoon. I was at the barbershop, already, but still…

Look…I really wanted to like this film. The reviews were kinda-sorta positive with everyone pretty much in agreement that Ocean's 12 never, ever happened. This was essentially your do-over, like the way last year's Rocky Balboa washed the acrid taste of Rocky V out of everyone's mouths.

Right off the bat, though, I could tell what I'd gotten myself into.

Now, it might've been my illegal copy, but did you know that there's, like, NO first act in your movie? Call me crazy, but I've watched every episode of The Critic and I'm pretty sure that movies are supposed to be three acts. Your movie glosses over the back story and build of the plot, as well as the motivation of the characters, in about five minutes. How could I care about the health issues of one of the original eleven when you guys took him from vibrant to bedridden in the blink of an eye?

Those wheels are set in motion by the movie's primary antagonist, casino magnate "Willie Bank", played with an almost schleppy indifference by Al Pacino. You know what made 2001's Ocean's 11 one of my all time favorite movies? Andy Garcia's "Terry Benedict" was the epitome of ooze and excess. Viewers wanted to see him taken down because he was easy to hate and Garcia absolutely owned that role. Pacino looks small and weak, as if dressing in his daddy's clothes somehow empowers him with a grown-up's authority.

So, if the villain is uninteresting, I'd have hoped that the heroes could make me care.

Yeah, about that…

You could've done this movie with just George, Brad and Matt, you know that, right? No last names, since every scene they're in plays like my "everyone else is cooler than you" high school years. All of their annoying, winking "Billy Martin" and "Gilroy" schemes grew more and more grating with each inside joke. The rest of the cast is wasted as background fodder and comic relief (although Don Cheadle's gold-toofed daredevil biker riff is a hoot).

And, don't get me started on the plot.

OK…I know that they can crack the impenetrable safe, since they've done it in the first two movies. And, I know that every insurmountable obstacle can be overcome since they've done that in the first two movies. But, when Ellen Barkin's character (right-hand broad to Willie Bank) is seduced by some weird pheromone (complete with animated effect to show the scent floating to her nose), uh, yeah…

Well, like I said at the beginning, it's not like I paid to see your movie at my local multiplex. But, how about we keep Ocean's 14 from ever seeing the light of day, m'kay?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thang

So, most of you know that I'm making my New York City debut at the end of the month.

Mrs. Bootleg scored me a plane ticket for my birthday, while former Bootleg co-conspirator That Nick'a Guy is graciously offering up room n' board n' credit card points for my 3-day, 3-night stay.

The Greatest Kitchen Pass of All Time must not be wasted. To that end, I've spent the last few months in training. I've been drinking after work almost every night to the tune of a few beers (Fat Tire, Sam Adams) and a glass of Maker's Mark on the rocks, so my liver can be prepared for its inevitable abuse.

I've also started the re-introduction of heavily battered and deep fried foods into my system.

Nick's NYC itinerary includes Yankee Stadium (A's vs. the Evil Empire on June 30), Mickey Mantle's Restaurant (not a good omen) and a few famous pizza and sports bar landmarks in between. Obviously, I need to purge all of this grilled skinless chicken breast and steamed veggies crap out of my intestine so I can eat like a Black man, again.

And, as luck would have it, the San Diego County Fair opened last weekend.

The Cam Fam took the day off from their real, full-time jobs (me) and their part-time, no benefits busy work (the wife) so we could take Little Boy Bootleg to the fair today. For me, it was a chance to see if my stomach could handle the skillets and skillets of grease that I'll be meeting in a few weeks.

From 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM…God's honest truth…this is what I ate.

Krispy Kreme Chicken Sandwich - I jumped into this bad boy at around 10:30 AM, right off the bat. I had heard pretty good things about the Krispy Kreme Burger that a minor league baseball team was selling and the inclusion of chicken gives the illusion of something that's healthier, right? Unfortunately, it was mildly disappointing…as much as a fried chicken breast crammed in between two donuts can fail to meet expectations. The sheer sweetness of the donuts absolutely overwhelmed the white meat within. And, in an additional surprise, the donuts were actually strawberry jelly filled. Later, I realized that I could've ordered green chilies and pepper jack cheese on my sandwich, which would've helped cancel out the enamel-eating sweetness, but what can you do? Score: 2 (out of 5)

Garlic Fries - Mrs. Bootleg ordered a batch based on the garlicky goodness that we've experienced at the famous Gordon Biersch restaurant and in Major League ballparks up and down the West Coast. Sadly, the San Diego Fair's take on this relatively nouveau culinary classic was an insult to every fry we'd eaten before. Soggy and bland, these garlic fries couldn't hold a candle to the stinky sliced spuds that are still lodged deep, deep, deep in my arteries. And, where was the finely chopped parsley on top?! This isn't rocket science, people. You'll take your sh*tty score and like it. Score: 1

Funnel Cake - Now, we're talkin'. A county fair staple, I like mine naked save for a dusting of powdered sugar. I paid $5.00 for a moon-sized circle of fried dough and it didn't disappoint. How good was it? By the time I finished it, the paper plate that it was served on was a shiny, soggy mess. If I don't make it to see 40, I want the autopsy to find funnel cake in my bloodstream. While I'd miss my son, death would get me out of this marriage. And, I imagine the funnel cake is free in heaven and served warm atop white women. Score: 5

Foot Long Hot Dog - Isn't it standard operating hot dog procedure for foot longs to be served in buns that are a few inches too small? The whole point is for that first phallic bite to be bun-free, right? Well, apparently they're now making foot long sized buns that fit the entire tube of obscure animal parts. This one wasn't any worse than your typical ballpark dog save for the fact that I was able to find the ONE kiosk at the fair that boiled their hot dogs instead of grilling them. Bleh. Score: 2

Fried Twinkie - Not sure exactly what I was expecting, but I was definitely expecting…more. This tasted exactly like the ubiquitous Hostess snack cake, except crispy. It came with powdered sugar and some strawberry goo on top, but it was gone in three bites…just like the conventional non-Crisco variety. The same stand offered fried Snickers bars, fried Oreos and, believe it or not, fried Coca-Cola and I was left wishing I'd spent my $3.50 on one of those. Score: 2

Rattlesnake Bites - I'd actually earmarked a corn dog for my final feeding, but as luck would have it, we ended up taking Jalen on a pony ride. While he was freaking out at the untamed spirit of the tranquilized 80 year old miniature mare he rode, my attention had turned towards The Rattlesnake Grill. $12.50 for a giant basket of fried rattlesnake, French fries and fried jalapeños? Please believe it. The overused "tastes like chicken" analogy isn't really appropriate here, as the snake tasted more like an even milder calamari with chicken's texture. Seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper, it was awesome on its own despite being served with ranch dressing. (On a related note, ranch dressing and fried jalapeños is God's appetizer.) Anyways, I can't accurately articulate how great the snake was, so I'll offer up this imagery. Just pretend that Roadblock actually ate Cobra Commander after the erstwhile leader of G.I. Joe's archenemy was turned into a snake by those awful, awful spores. Score: 500

I'm ready for New York, kids.

Let's do this thang.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #9

Overall: 34-28 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 6-1 (3-1 vs. Red Sox, 3-0 vs. Giants)

For the third time this season, Oakland OF Milton Bradley is on the disabled list. In 2007, Bradley has played in just 18 of the teams' 62 games.

Acquired before the 2006 season, Bradley hasn't had the most pristine reputation, but the usual caveats about the media's occasionally manipulative, always self-serving coverage of, uhh…"certain players" applies.

Anyways, here's what I can tell you about "Milton Bradley: the player" after watching him in green and gold. He busts his ass when he's playing at 100% and won't play when he's anything less.

I suppose you could argue that this is a good thing, in so much that the team is always getting him at his best.

But, it's easier to argue that this is a bad thing, since his refusal to grit it out and play in pain means he'll never grow up to be another "Darin Erstad" in the eyes of the media.

Fun Fact: Bradley has a career .351 OBP and .430 SLG. Darin Erstad hasn't reached either of those numbers in a season since his one and only great year in 2000.

So, what's the point of all this?

Easy…Milton Bradley needs a nickname and I'd like to be the first to propose D.L. Bradley. Shut up, it grows on you after a few dozen times. It's appropriate and Afro-centric, if you know of the comedian with the similar name.

That would be D.L. Hughley.

With apologies to the equally unfunny Nick Bakay, a little "tale of the tape" is in order:


Debut - On July 19, 2000, Bradley went 3 for 5 in a loss to the Mets. In 1991, Hughley appears as himself in the educational video Math…Who Needs It?

Edge - Bradley. I'll take baseball history over general math any day of the week. How's this for historical: the winning pitcher for the Mets was Pat Mahomes and Armando Benitez racked up his 22nd save. Not sure if Mets fans had already turned on Benitez by this point. But, turn they did.

Supporting Cast - Let's see, Bradley's played with future Hall of Famers Frank Thomas and Vladimir Guerrero, while Hughley has shared camera time with Bernie Mac and the remains of Matthew Perry.

Edge - Bradley. Even his most obscure baseball teammates (think Charlie O'Brien or Karim Garcia) trump anything with the words, "Starring Bernie Mac".

Feuding with a White Guy - Bradley had a very public dust up with then-teammate Jeff Kent, while Hughley was p*ssed with ABC-TV executives (fine, let's just assume they're white) for cancelling his show after the 1999-2000 season.

Edge - Hughley. Watching the media rush to defend Jeff Freakin' Kent and his ignorant, good ol' boy ways set journalism back about 10 years.

Wife's Ethnic Name - Although they're going through a divorce, we'll give Bradley credit for marrying "Monique". Meanwhile, Hughley landed a "LaDonna".

Edge - Hughley. What can I say…I'm a sucker for that "La" prefix, plus the attributes of every "Monique" I've ever known have apparently been rolled up (and amplified) into the plus-size comedienne of the same (hyphenated) name.

Uncomfortable Connection with Rap Music - ESPN.com's Alan Schwarz penned this painfully awkward "Afterschool Special" on Bradley that quoted Tupac's universally reviled "Still I Rise" album. On the other hand, Hughley appeared alongside the Cash Money Millionaires in the video for "#1 Stunna".

Edge - Bradley. Any story that tries to humanize an angry Black athlete AND references the poster boy for conservative White America's hatred of rap had to anger more people than Baby, Lil' Wayne and Juvenile.

Well, Milton gets the surprising 3-2 win, as it appears that my "D.L. Bradley" nickname will at least survive the '07 season here on TBG. I encourage all of you to use it when you're talking Oakland A's baseball at your next social function or family gathering. And, while you're at it, just know that I'm still pushing hard for "Allah" Pujols.

That one just rolls off the tongue.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Umm...Well, It Wasn't As Bad As Batman & Robin

I finally saw Spider-Man 3 last weekend.

I even paid a ticket price I'm too embarrassed to admit for something called "The IMAX Experience". (Think of it as the cinematic equivalent to credit card protection or an extended warranty.)

So, I didn't hate the movie, but damned if Spidey and His Amazing Friends didn't do everything in their power to make me hate it. The original Spider-Man was arguably the best comic-book movie ever made, so there really was no place to go but down.

In this chapter, we get three villains…except that two of them are apparently pure of heart and, by the closing credits, they're both reformed. One of them even becomes Spidey's wisecracking sidekick during the final fight sequence, but not before he suffers a bout of temporary amnesia and becomes a grinning fool who kisses Mary Jane and can't make an omelet.


Oh, and we get "cocky" mind-altered Peter Parker who becomes a jerk. Y'know, like when Richard Pryor exposed Superman to that mutated kryptonite in Superman III and Supes got all obnoxious and straightened the Leaning Tower of Pisa?


The plot is built on the very shaky relationship between Tobey Maguire's "Peter Parker" and the lovely, misunderstood, cocaine-free Kirsten Dunst's "Mary Jane".

Will Peter pop the question?

Will Mary Jane accept?

Unfortunately, the character development of the bad guys is so shallow and slapdash that they come across as nothing more than those predictable sitcom nuisances that always keep the lead character from hooking up with his co-star.

Along the way, we get some inexplicable revisionist history from the first Spider-Man as to who really killed Spidey's Uncle Ben. That's followed by an even more out of the blue revelation from an obscure background character on the truth behind the death of The Green Goblin in the first movie.

Deus Ex Machina, notwithstanding, everything manages to stay held together with spit and chicken wire until the last 15 minutes when it all falls apart under the weight of its own contrivances.

(TBG Note: Through the magic of the guy who sells pirated movies on DVD down at my barber shop, I watched this movie again last night. It's official: I really DID hate this movie.)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

"Meltdown Averted…Good Boy!"

Thank you, Shannon Stewart. Trust me on this one, sports fans and non-sports fans alike, the apocalypse was upon us earlier today. One man stared into the self-righteous jowls of doomsday standing atop the small mountain and dared not blink.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Flipping Thru - Consumer Reports (July '07)

A couple of months ago, I wrote a post on the myriad of cheap magazine subscriptions that I'd bought through eBay. Turns out that I forgot one.

For only $12, I signed up for year-long subscription to Consumer Reports and, with apologies to Entertainment Weekly *AND* XXL, it's easily my favorite of the lot.

This month's issue features the CR reviews of the best/worst hot dogs and light beers. Now, sure...the cover hypes their rankings of digital cameras, but I'm here to violate the copyright for stuff you people actually use…not for some fly-by-night technology that's just keeping the shelves of Circuit City warm for the inevitable return of Polaroid.

First the top ten hot dogs (ranked on "flavor and texture"), according to Consumer Reports:

1.) Hebrew National
2.) Nathan's Famous
3.) Boar's Head Skinless
4.) Hebrew National Reduced Fat
5.) Boar's Head Lite Skinless Franks
6.) Ball Park Franks
7.) Sabrett Skinless Franks
8.) Oscar Mayer Beef Wieners
9.) Oscar Mayer Light Beef Wieners
10.) Applegate Farms: The Great Organic Uncured Hot Dog

· Can't argue with the #1 selection. 5,000 years of suffering has forged a fantastic frankfurter! (Feel free to use that, H.N.)
· I've never had a Nathan's Famous, but I'm assuming it's the replica of the Coney Island variety. Am I close on this, New York guys? Overrated or underrated?
· Not sure how Oscar Mayer-anything made it onto the Top 10. Does anyone over the age of eight still eat these?
· Every hot dog on the above list is listed as "beef" (wink). CR correctly sh*ts on pretty much all turkey/chicken/veggie dogs.
· Most interesting part of the article is CR's nutritional comparison of hot dogs to "other cookout favorites". Per ounce, hot dogs have almost more than thrice the fat of round steak, half the protein of hamburger and twice the calories of chicken breast.

On to the listing of light beers (ranked on "quality, taste trueness and flavor"):

1.) Michelob Ultra Amber
2.) Michelob Light
3.) Michelob Ultra
4.) Coors Light
5.) Sam Adams Light
6.) Budweiser Select
7.) Busch Light
8.) Bud Light
9.) Natural Light
10.) Keystone Light

· Right off the bat, I call bullsh*t. Sam Adams Light…#5?! I generally don't prefer light beer, but S.A. Light is pretty much the standard. It's time for my own market research.
· Yesterday, I went to the store and bought a six-pack of Michelob Ultra. I was looking for Ultra Amber, but they didn't have it. I had to try one of the beers that made the top three.
· After sampling the contents of three bottles once I got home, I can safely and responsibly declare that Consumer Reports is in bed with Anheuser-Busch (the company that produces Michelob). Straight water, people. Straight water.
· Coors Light…#4?! Obviously, they're CR's girl on the side that Anheuser-Busch knows nothing about. I admire the adultery, but still…
· Beck's ranked last at #20 and was described as "skunky and oxidized".

The Eckstein Thang

I had a couple of spirited discussions last night on IM with a pair of longtime Friends of the Bootleg regarding David Eckstein (a/k/a "Gritty Smurf"). I maintain that fans and the media have overrated the guy from an acceptably average ballplayer to a giant monolith of intangibility and grit. Thankfully, our friends at FireJoeMorgan.com have neatly collected some of the media's excessive Eckstein hyperbole right here and made it accessible to all.

You're doing the Lord's work, FireJoeMorgan, you're doing the Lord's work.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Oakland A's Monday #8

I frickin' hate this guy.

Overall: 28-27 (3rd Place, AL West)
Last Week: 4-2 (2-1 vs. Rangers, 2-1 vs. Twins)

We're two months into the season and this is getting ridiculous.

In fact, we're half past "ridiculous". Oakland A's catcher Jason Kendall has put up the following line this season:

.197 batting average

.238 on-base percentage

.208 slugging percentage

Amazingly, he has started 48 of the A's 55 games.

Now, I will (strenuously) object to those who stereotype West Coast sports fans as an indifferent, uneducated lot. But, if Kendall was similarly sh*tty in New York, Boston or Philly he'd have been run out of town by now.

For Allah's sake, he's only got TWO extra base hits this season!

Still, there's actually a sizeable segment of A's fans who support Kendall. Even the local media…the media…seem unabashedly smitten with the worst hitter in baseball. In New York City, there are idiot fans and media who bash the on-field exploits of Alex Rodriguez, one of this era's greatest offensive performers. In Oakland, these two groups support a player who is the antithesis of offense.

I couldn't come up with any good reasons for this, but I tried…

The Human Highlight Film - To his credit, Kendall is a career .298 hitter who put up OBPs of .345 and .367 during his first two seasons in Oakland. He was also involved in several memorable plays that would've been more memorable if he played on a bigger stage. His mad dash from third on a botched toss to the pitcher kept the A's in the playoff hunt in 2005. A few weeks earlier, he ended a game by recovering a wild pitch and diving to tag out the runner trying to score the tying run. Oh, and he got in a brawl with the Angels' John Lackey.

The Eckstein/Erstad Factor - Mediocre white ballplayers who get their uniforms dirty and squint a lot will always be held in high regard. The Cardinals' David Eckstein has posted a career on-base plus slugging percentage that's 60 points lower than the league average. The White Sox's Darin Erstad had ONE great season, seven years ago, and has been terrible ever since. Yet, if you "Google" their names with words like "gritty", "gutty" and "intense" and you'd think they were Ozzie Smith and Lou Gehrig.

The "Good with Pitchers" Nonsense - A's fans always fall back on this one when defending Kendall. Never mind that there's no statistical proof to measure the effect a catcher has on a pitcher…if the A's are leading the league in ERA, then it must be because of Jason Kendall. The book "Between the Numbers" does a pretty good job of debunking this myth, but for those of you who are still in denial, I ask: Why didn't Kendall's magical game-calling skillz turn those pitiful Pirates staffs into five Cy Young contenders?

And, Kendall started last night's game vs. the Red Sox…

…and went hitless…


This Week: vs. Red Sox (4), at Giants (3)

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Obligatory (Albeit Belated) "Lost" Post

Since the beginning of this blog back in December (and what took you so long to find it?!) I haven't written one word about the one TV show that I watch every week.

Last fall, ABC's Lost had finished up an uneven, mediocre six week run. After two seasons of building up the respective back stories of roughly a dozen of the castaways, the first part of the third season force fed viewers almost entire hours on the overexposed trio of "Jack", "Kate" and "Sawyer".

The hardcore Lost lemmings defended the direction, like they do with everything on the show, but when it returned this past winter it was with slightly lower ratings and a sense that the once-runaway hit show had (insert obvious pun) its way.

Flash forward (HA!) to last month's season three finale and you'd think that the show had reclaimed its crown as the most unpredictable, can't miss program in prime time.

And, I'm inclined to agree.

That's not to say the show is anywhere near the vicinity of "perfect", but the last six months have been a fascinating exercise in manipulation, damage control and how to save a show that's adrift:

The EW Non-Apology - A couple of months ago, Lost Executive Producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof gave an interview to Entertainment Weekly in which they essentially owned up to several of the primary gripes from fans (glacial plot pacing, the avalanche of still-unanswered questions and inconsistent character development, for example). The pair publicly pronounced that things would improve and cited episodic examples that "proved" they took the criticism seriously. Of course, the whole orchestrated tête-à-tête was a reactive attempt to recover the show's slight dip in ratings, instead of a proactive apology, but it kept the core fan base satiated until the show could regain momentum.

Paolo and Nikki - The "Exposé" episode where these two despised, newly-introduced characters met their demise was brilliant. On the other hand, their very introduction to the storyline was bilious and essentially forced the writers' hands to offer up a one-shot show to get rid of them. (The best part of all of this was watching all the Lost fans who can't constructively criticize anything on the show trying to retroactively admit that they never liked Paolo and Nikki in the first place.)

The Sycophantic Celebrity Blogs - TV Guide and Entertainment Weekly are two of the more popular media outlets that post weekly blogs on Lost. The authors LOVE every episode and watch breathlessly each week with all the emotional maturity of a room full of children. (Anyone over the age of 11 who still uses "OMG" should be shot. OK, flogged.) But, the Lost producers have used these bloggy blow jobs to manufacture a steady stream of positive press (bought n' paid for with the occasional "exclusive interview") even as viewers were jumping ship. No integrity in the media? Why are we just now learning this?!

The Leak - If you're reading this, then you probably know that the big "game changing" twist ending to the season finale was leaked about a week before the show actually aired. In a hilariously paranoid and self-righteous rant, Lost Executive Producer Damon Lindelof accused those who essentially "read ahead" of ruining the integrity of his work, "crossing a line" and, I think, for masterminding 9/11. Call me cynical, but this show has kept its cards close to the vest for almost its entire run and, all of a sudden, something this big gets out? Sorry, but not without help from the highest levels of the show. Can you think of a better way to get viewers back than to give up the reveal ahead of time? Insincere public denouncements notwithstanding, I'll always believe that ABC intentionally pulled back the curtain on this one, if only for a moment.

The Death - So, the "Charlie" character is killed off in the season finale. The producers have stated in subsequent interviews that Charlie's death is "proof" that even the "A-list" characters are vulnerable. Of course, it's a lie, but most Lost fans have blindly bought into it. First off, Charlie, at NO point in the show's three year run, was ever an "A-list" character. Here's your A-list: Jack, Kate, Sawyer and sometimes Locke. Charlie was part of the 3-man B-team (alongside Sayid and Hurley). Everyone else can be charitably described as C-teamers. Secondly, unless the writers get cute with the "flash forward" segments, there's NO way that Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Locke don't make it until the end. None. I guess I'm the only Lost fan who was pleased by Charlie's death solely on the basis that he's always been an annoying, one-note cliché who added little to the show.

Here's hoping the final three seasons are as entertainingly divisive as the first three.