Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Grand Finale

Today marks the end of Major League Baseball's 2008 regular season. Back in the dark winter months, Becky had the opportunity to purchase discount tickets for the Minnesota Twins' first and last home games of the year. Naturally we jumped at the opportunity but never once thought the last game would actually matter. And matter it did with the Twins having to win to stay alive for the AL Central title.

We set off for the Metrodome, crossing the recently completed I-35-W bridge, on our way into downtown Minneapolis. The environment was fantastic as 42,942 fans packed the Dome, by far the largest crowd I have ever seen a baseball game with. Each two strike count was met with applause, each Twins hit a standing ovation, and any Minnesota runner crossing home plate chaos. It was wonderful.

The Kansas City Royals spent most of this series embarrassing the Twins, taking the first two games, after the home town team swept the hated Chicago White Sox. The sweep catapulted the Twinkies into first place the last week of the season sending the town into a frenzy with constant replaces of Denard Span's huge triple and Carlos Gomez springing up after scoring the series breaking run. But the Royals had been a different story, silencing the city which had seemed so close to greatness. Yet, my beloved and hopeless Cleveland Indians kept the Twins alive by further killing the White Sox spirit, mirroring the Royals' spoiling in taking the first two from the ChiSox. As a transplanted Cleveland fan now pulling for the hometown Twins, I loved having the Indians play such a critical role down the stretch.

And so we climbed the many flights of stairs to our nosebleed seats pulling for the Twins and Indians all the while keeping an eye on the NL Wild Card chase. Text messages between JR Radcliffe at Miller Park and I in the Metrodome added to the wild baseball afternoon. The stage was set and as Gorilla Monsoon so repeatedly said, "You could cut the anticipation with a knife!"

The Twins benefited from the Royals inability to catch and throw the ball around the infield, getting out to a quick 2-0 lead. The White Sox would make short work of the Indians on this day, but hey two out of three on the road ain't bad. The Brewers struggled scoring all the way until the very end. Minnesota eventually pulled ahead on Joe Mauer and Delmon Young clutch hits, and Joe Nathan closed the door to the ovation of an uproarious crowd. Milwaukee ended up clinching the wild card after Ryan Braun saved the day with a 2 out, 2 run home run. CC Sabathia, a much appreciated former Cleveland ace who Milwaukee is desperately trying to kill with repeated 100+ pitch counts on short rest, mowed through the Cubs as Florida was completing a second straight season of New York Mets chokage.

It was a wild Sunday of baseball that put the Brewers in the playoffs for the first time ever (something like that). The Twins finished off the regular season in first place but have to wait for a make-up game between the Tigers and White Sox to see if a one game playoff against the South Siders is necessary. The day will be best remembered in pictures with CC going to the playoffs, a city celebrating, and an overachieving Twins club finishing in first without Torii Hunter or Johan Santana. As for me, I got to support my two favorite baseball clubs in a wonderfully mismatched outfit, and it made for one helluva grand finale for the 2008 regular season.

Monday, September 22, 2008

University of Phoenix revisited

Because I cannot stand to look at that brown and orange dawg - symbolizing demoralized, lackluster football - I struggled to find something else to post about. Leave it to my University of Phoenix classmates to help me out. The writing has generally improved since I last whined about it here on Wolfden V. But, this one was a winner. The assignment was to post an approximately 200 word summary about what the student did/learned for the week. I found no fewer than 5 errors in this just under 60 word horse manure. How many can you find?

"This week we discussed how companies can better serve there customers. What companies can do to keep customer's loyal. We have had some interesting conversations about what customers really want, and want companies are willing to provide. A lot of classmates believe that Classic needs to work on there customer service skills."

Just seven weeks away from me and this scholar having our MBAs.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The worst football week ever?

This time of year is a grand time for sports fans. Baseball is in the midst of the pennant run. Colleges are back in session leading to a host of fall sports. And yes, of course, football has returned.

While all are great, the fact that the Cleveland Indians gave up on the baseball season back in April meant I was especially looking forward to this football season. After all, the Cleveland Browns were optimistic for their first serious playoff run in oh, twenty years, and the Hulkamaniacs were the defending regular season, VUFSA fantasy football champions. So yeah, what's not to like about a fresh football season with so much to build on?

And with that build up, Week 1 might be the worst foootball week ever. Short of losing some key player for the season, I don't know how I could have done worse.

For starters, I participate in a Yahoo Pick 'Em league in which participants pick the winners of the weekend games with confidence points. There are no point spreads, simply pick who I think will win and rate how confident I am that I will be right. After this week one, I am 25th of 25 teams - behind a pharmacy tech who picked games based on "which city I would rather visit" and a team name of "Howdoesthisthingwork?" Super.

Then I have the fantasy component of the week, which holds disproportionate importance in my life in general. I read somewhere that an estimated $150 million dollars will be lost as a result of Tom Brady's season ending injury because of prize money in fantasy football leagues in which he plays such a critical component. I had the good fortune of playing the team with Tom Brady this week, and yet I still managed to lose by a massive margin. Not only did I lose in blowout proportions, I am dead last in the league thanks to a meager cumulative point showing.

A good reason for that poor point showing is the result of playing two Cleveland Browns, Phil Dawson and Braylon Edwards. Both were superstars last year, but in week one, they along with the rest of the Cleveland Browns took a dump in Cleveland Stadium. With the Browns on TV in Minnesota and me having off a full Sunday from Walgreens for the first time, well, ever, I sat down with the intent to watch the whole game. What a disaster.

Dallas 28
Cleveland 10

Derek Anderson completed 11 passes. This from the Pro Bowl quarterback marking his first opening day. Throw in 91 yards rushing, and I witnessed the offensive juggernaut, the mighty Cleveland Browns, amassing a whopping 205 total yards, which is far less than Michael Turner had by himself in the Falcons game. The revamped Browns defense looked like Brother Martin High School as Dallas could do anything at any time and quite frankly did. The Cowboys had 5.4 yards per rush, which was the strong part of Cleveland's defense. I could go on, but the situation is too depressing to do so.

Well, week two holds promise as there's nowhere to go but up. Phil Dawson's Dawgs, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?, and the Cleveland Browns could not have performed worse in week one, but if there's going to be a bad week might as well get it out of the way early.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A disgruntled voter

In looking at my infrequent posts over the last year while I wrap up this MBA program, I realize that a good number of them have been political in nature. While we are in the midst of a world changing election cycle, I kinda surprised myself, nonetheless, by how much I had posted about this Presidential race. I suppose I have done so because I'm older and wiser and the real world seems to matter more now that I understand it a bit better and it affects me more. Even so, I still can't get fired up about candidates and in particular these conventions.

I have seen some pieces of the conventions and generally speaking I'm unimpressed. I have a few favorites that I like and I could listen to (where the hell is Tom Tancredo, by the way?), but overall these conventions are disappointing. Record numbers have tuned into Barack Obama and Sarah Palin, but I find their handling of this big stage fairly lackluster.

At the pinnacle moment, the grand pronunciation as the greatest person this political party can offer, these candidates continue to rely on propaganda, cutesy oratory and silly name calling. One person has to bring up community organizer and then the other brings up small town mayorship, which while relevant has to be done in a spiteful manner. Why not define what you stand for, explain differences, and let the public decide from there? Is that so much to ask?

For example, let's take the Iraq War.

Pro for war:
-Freeing Iraqi people held under oppressive rule for years
-Fighting terrorism by eliminating a previous save haven for them
-Promoting democracy, a long standing ideal America fights for

Con for war:
-Expensive, driving the country into even greater debt and we've seen the effect too much consumer credit has had on the stock market, let alone things like Medicare and Social Security
-Death toll while down is still high for the overall project
-Misdirected focus where we should be fighting in Afghanistan or not at all if you are peace activist

Look, I think both sides have incredibly persuasive arguments. Presented before me, I know which way I choose and what candidate best represents what I think should happen. Is it so much to ask that the issue is presented this way instead of through black and white TV advertisements that say absolutely nothing while bashing the opponent?

Pro for abortion:
-The Supreme Court a long respected entity has ruled this to be a legal right for a woman to do as she wants with her unborn child.

Con for abortion:
-The Supreme Court ruled erroneously and that life begins at conception.

One candidate falls on one side of this argument and one candidate falls on the other. Would it be so much to ask for a little chart at these conventions that actually say (gasp!) what they believe in and what action they would take when presented with this dilemma? I mean the big American flag in the background, flowing in the breeze that for some reason is supposed to make me think the person is more patriotic (?) is cute, but how about something with substance. How about a plan? A belief? Sure there is some of that in there but the I will do this vague action (wild cheering) while my opponent will do this unthinkable counteraction (voracious booing). You know, there just might be a viable argument for both sides and disrespecting the other side doesn't make yours more right.

Pro for tax cuts:
-People keep more of their own money to spend it as they choose

Con for tax cuts:
-Needed and necessary government programs better the lives of many Americans

Is it so hard to objectively take a step back, present why you think you are for or against tax cuts, and believe that people will move to your side and vote for you because of this. Or do we need 27 speeches building up how wonderful of an American you are because you have ascended to this point. Why not have 27 speeches outlining 27 tangible, measurable things you want to do in office?

As much fun as it is to fill an arena with people who think like you and support you, are all the cross-shots necessary? Are candidates so insecure that they have to take pot shots at one another instead of selling themselves and their values?

The worst movie I have ever seen was undoubtedly Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore. I eagerly rented the film wanting to see the arguments and the reasons why the Bush regime had done wrong. I wanted to learn something. Instead, I got cheesy, way over the top presentation of some stuff that might have been worthwhile but was so condescending and immature in presentation that I turned it off halfway through. Instead of presenting facts and making an argument, I got a warped, outrageous feature that had basis in something but ended with nothing. I feel similarly about these conventions. There's so much potential and so much inspiration to be had, but these feature presentations are just goofy. I guess I'm just a black and white kinda guy.

I look at these conventions and wonder if some circumstances were reversed if they wouldn't still be tearing at one another's throats. I watched a brilliant Daily Show package courtesy of one Eli Gieryna's blog that shows the asinine hypocrisy involved in these political rumblings. In one, Bill O'Reilly defends to the end the right to privacy of Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter and how we should support her and her decision to keep the child. The next clip shows O'Reilly going to town on the embarrassing situation of Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy and that the parents are unequivocally to blame for teen pregnancy (complete with disgusted look). It's worth the click over to watch the clip.

It's pathetic these double standards. And I don't believe for a second that it's limited to Republicans. If roles were reversed, I'm sure we'd be hearing the same pandering and flip-flopping from the other side. It's this crap and these people that keep me, and I think a lot of the indifferent Americans, from getting excited about politics and getting involved. For some reason, there is this continual urge to blindly believe in whatever your guy says or does. Why can't you disagree with something that your preferred candidate believes in? Isn't it ok to be an Obama supporter an be concerned about his lack of leadership experience? Isn't it ok to be a Republican who thinks McCain overlaps some of Bush's system a little too much? Could their be some reasonable dissent at these conventions?

Dissent does lead me to a brief about the embarrassment that these crazy protesters have brought to themselves. I am all for disagreement in opinion, and I was asking for it in the last paragraph. I love a good political discussion, but why is the best way to speak your minority voice to break the law, disrespect others, and make an ass of yourself? Those getting thrown out of the Xcel Center tonight and those throwing feces on one another on the Capitol lawn the last few days are pathetic. The distorted perspective of the First Amendment is so far backwards that they have no concept of what it is or what it means. A basic civics class or better yet an Amendment law class will more than educate you on basic restrictions on the First Amendment, which yes, does include bottling your pee and throwing it through police car windows. Nothing makes a valid point quite like violence and chaos. A proud moment for you and your family, dear protesters.

And so the conventions have ended and both sides had their crazies dressed in red, white, and blue. The speeches have been filed and the "clever" remarks about the other side have been made. Vague suggestions on what the next four years should be are floating around. And perhaps for fear of turning off that oh so critical undecided voter, little to nothing definitive is said, certainly nothing we will hold our next President to. Instead, keynote speeches call out the opponent for something of some substance the other said. Maybe I'm boring, but I don't subscribe to this one-sided meandering and hollow propaganda. No, I'm not swayed by "change" and no I don't believe a "maverick" is going to make things significantly different. Why would I? Instead of saying something, anything, I hear the repetitive tooting of one's own horn and the spitting on the other.

Tom Tancredo wouldn't have stood for this shit.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Good riddance, Saturn

If we could, let's have a moment of silence for my recently departed Saturn. Ok, that's plenty.

Enter, the brand new 2008 Chevy Malibu. I have been introduced to such previously foreign concepts as "power windows" and "CD player." These luxuries are marvelous. To try out these and other new fangled contraptions (butt warmers!) Becky and I drove 2 hours to Duluth for a pretty picture of my new car with a beautiful Lake Superior back drop. Welcome to the family, Mr. Malibu. May your oil changes be far less expensive.