Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Airing of Grievances

By Baby Joe

(A note from Ryan Day: This is the first contributor piece to be published on this blog. From time to time I'll be posting pieces written by good friends/sworn enemies of mine who have something worthwhile to say. Baby Joe, take it away)

The Airing of Grievances was the inaugural event in Frank Costanza’s Festivus holiday, which as you may remember also included the aluminum Festivus pole and Feats of Strength (“Festivus doesn’t end until you pin me, George.”)  Frank always struck me as a man who did not need a holiday to air his grievances, so I found it unusual that he needed to include it as a ritual in Festivus.  But in an attempt to make Festivus a year round tradition, I am ready to unload.  As such, to the following people on this list: “I GOT A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH YOU PEOPLE, SO LET’S GET STARTED.”

The first on my list is none other than Pitbull.  Before I start unloading on him, he deserves congratulations for joining “The List of Hispanic Rappers that I Have Actually Heard of Since Big Pun Died,” which includes Daddy Yankee, Fat Joe, Lord Tariq, and that’s about it.  If you have watched football at any point in the past month, you are no doubt familiar with the assault on our ears that has been launched by Pitbull and Dr. Pepper.  In this commercial, Pitbull repeats the line “Let’s Have a Real Good Time” at least 7 times.  That’s the entire song!  It must have taken ten minutes to write, and yet Dr. Pepper has decided that he is the face and voice that will make me drink their swill.  If this were an isolated incident, I would let him slide, but if you are familiar with Pitbull, you have surely heard his ballad, “I Know You Want Me, You Know I Want You,” where, you guessed it, Pitbull repeats that phrase dozens of times to make sure you never forget it.  Recently, he released a song with Ne-Yo, “Give Me Everything,” which is actually very good, except for the parts involving Pitbull.  Despite this absolute lack of creativity, Pitbull has four platinum tracks, and doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.  Brace yourself for more real good times in the future.  I consider Pitbull to be a clear indicator of the decline of American society as we know it. 

Speaking of the delcine of American society, on to politics, where Rick Santorum proceeded to find a level below rock bottom.  Admittedly, criticizing Mr. Santorum is a bit like sandblasting a soup cracker, and I’m not exactly blazing a trail here.  Santorum is currently running for the Republican presidential nomination in the same way Eddie the Eagle was competing to win the ski jump competition at the Olympics, which is to say he has an excellent chance to win a “Try Hard” trophy when all of this is done.  Prior to this campaign, Santorum served twelve years in the Senate before losing his 2007 campaign by 18% of the vote.  And yet he is running for president.  As Don King would say, “Only in America!” 

In last Thursday’s debate, Santorum was asked a question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell by a soldier named Steven Hill.  After the boos subsided from the crowd that had apparently just finished watching Jews get fed to lions, Santorum proceeded to give one of the most non-sensical, uneducated answers I have ever heard in a presidential debate.  In his rambling, incoherent answer, Santorum said, “I think this tries to inject social policy into our military.  And the military’s job is to do one thing: to defend our country…”  Unfortunately, Mr. Santorum, American history, as well as two of our country’s greatest presidents, do not back you up on this.  Have you ever seen the movie Glory?  I sincerely doubt that Abraham Lincoln approved of African-American soldiers like the 54th Massachusetts Regiment strictly to defend our country.  Similarly, when Harry Truman integrated the military in 1948 (which helped clear the path for the Civil Rights Movement a few years later), I don’t think it was because of a shortage of soldiers.  Put simply, the military has been a place for social policy all the way back to the Continental Army.  Almost as troubling as Santorum’s statement is the fact that no member of the media has called him on this.  Come on Anderson Cooper!  I count on you and your condescending remarks to set the record straight.  In other words, Mr. Santorum has earned the definition of his last name that shows up as the top site on Google (trust me, look this up if you haven’t already.  But don’t look it up at work.)  He treats homosexuality as if it was a weaponized chemical attack unleashed on the United States by Elton John and Wham!, and then uses his religion to justify it.  I will put this in a language Mr. Santorum can understand: rot in hell, you hate-mongering asshole.

I saved my next spot for the American movie-going public, which will surely make Real Steel the #1 movie in America when it comes out this weekend.  Don’t get me wrong – I love absolutely brainless movies.  I have seen Under Siege 2 more times than I can count, believe the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of Space Mutiny should be required viewing in our schools, and feel that the following scene is a timeless piece of American cinema:  With that said, I haven’t dropped $10 on a ticket for any of these movies.  Yet I will no doubt read an article on Columbus Day that talks about how a movie that appears to be based on Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots made $50 million.  Do you realize how hard it is to get a movie green-lit?  If movies as stupid as this are making it through, can you imagine the stupid ideas that don’t make it?  It’s mind boggling.  If this country wants to shake the image of mindless consumer drones, we need to raise our standards above anything involving CGI or Red Dawn remakes.  We need to demand better.

Finally, I need to include the city of Chicago on this list.  While watching the ESPN documentary Catching Hell, I realized that Chicago might be the worst city on the planet.  The documentary tells the story of Steve Bartman, who has basically lived in seclusion since Game 6 of the NLCS in 2003.  And why?  For trying to catch a foul ball, in the process doing the same thing that every fan in the history of baseball has done.  Unfortunately for him, Cubs left fielder Moises Alou acted like a pissy asshole even though he was a terrible left fielder who never would have caught the ball, shortstop Alex Gonzalez (the worse one of the two) booted an easy double play ball, Mark Prior blew up, and the Cubs allowed eight runs in the inning.  Chicago needed a scapegoat for such an epic collapse, but surely you couldn’t hang this one on any of the choking dogs wearing the pinstriped uniforms.  Oh no, let’s blame it on the everyman in left field, the die-hard fan who would have sold a kidney if it meant a  World Series win for his beloved Cubs.  Bartman, who attended hundreds of games in Wrigley Field before Game 6, has never been seen again. 
After the game, Cubs security had to sneak poor Steve Bartman out of the stadium while bloodthirsty crowds that looked something like the Deep South during Jim Crow searched all of Wrigleyville for the guy.  Even then-governor Rod Blagojevich piled on, saying, “If the guy needs a pardon, don’t ask this governor” (funny, Mr. Blagojevich, I think you would hear the same thing).  In the heat of the moment, this may have been excusable, but Chicago won’t let this guy show his face in public eight years later.  More people owe Steve Bartman a public apology than anyone in sports history.  I like to believe that even Boston and New York fans would be more understanding that maniac Cubs fans.  Perhaps success makes that easier to say, but losing doesn’t excuse what Chicago has done.  Until Mr. Bartman is given his life back, Chicago will remain a target for the Airing of Grievances.  Given the type of people who make up the Cubs population, though, maybe Steve is better off being excluded, or becoming a White Sox fan.

That’s all I’ve got.  Hallelujah, holy shit!  Where’s the Tylenol?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yankees post-mortem

Full disclaimer before I rail against the New York Yankees (or as my brother so aptly calls them, the Stanks), everything that I’m about to write I’ve expressed at some point during the season. Don’t call me Captain Hindsight, I’ve seen this collapse coming for some time. But it could have been avoided.
The Yankees biggest flaw comes at the top of the clubhouse -- Joe Girardi. He lives and dies by statistics. If his binder tells him to make a move, he does it. There’s no intuition. And I could argue, there’s no faith either. No confidence. Don’t let his hardened exterior fool you, Girardi is the master of panic.
You know why I love Jim Leyland? He could have used Justin Verlander in Game 5 of the ALDS. Verlander was undoubtedly the best pitcher in baseball this season, and could very well win the AL MVP.
But it wasn’t Verlander’s turn in the rotation. So Leyland said he wasn’t going to use his ace, even in the do-or-die game.
Many questioned this decision. But I loved it.
Leyland had real confidence in the starter he was throwing out there -- Doug Fister. He wasn’t going to have Verlander on reserve because he wouldn’t allow himself to think that Fister would fail. The Tigers were going to win or lose behind Fister. And Fister didn’t have to keep looking over his shoulder all game to see if Verlander was warming in the bullpen.
Girardi doesn’t have that confidence in anybody but CC Sabathia.
But what the stubborn Girardi does have is a loyalty to veterans and big-money, big-name players who continually fail in the clutch.
Mark Teixeira, who plays a nice first base and hits a lot of home runs, hasn’t had a big hit in his pinstripe career. If you want Teixeira to drive in a run, it better be the first inning or the Yanks better have a seven-run lead.
Did it surprise anyone that he hit two home runs against the Rays in game 162 -- a game that meant the world to Tampa Bay but was completely worthless to New York?
Teixeira should bat no higher than seventh.
And A-Rod? I’m finally over him.
He’s pathetic. Seriously, he should go back to the ’roids, because whatever he’s doing now, it ain’t working.
Yes, the Tigers have a pretty good pitching staff. But 79-year-old Jorge Posada was the Yanks’ best hitter in the series. You’re telling me that Tex and A-Rod couldn’t get one meaningful hit between them?
They’re big names with big contracts, but Girardi simply cannot afford to keep batting them in the heart of the lineup.
And speaking of the lineup, how can Girardi not give Jesus Montero more than two at-bats in this series? He’s a rookie, but he’s also a stud. He had two at-bats and had two hits against the Tigers, but as the Yankees clearly couldn’t get anything going offensively in Game 5, why not give him an AB? What have you got to lose.
Girardi, who couldn’t make enough pitching changes apparently, didn’t make one single change in his lineup during the game. Really? Except for Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Posada, nobody was swinging the bat well. So why not give Montero a shot? You gotta do something -- can’t just sit back and watch A-Rod continually strike out.
I’ve questioned Girardi’s managerial style since he took over as the Yankees skipper. It’s too National League for my liking.
But aside from his style, his decision-making is awful.
All you need to know is that earlier in the season, Ivan Nova get demoted to Triple-A. By the end of the season, he was clearly New York’s No. 2 starter.
When I heard Nova had been sent down, I nearly had a heart attack. Here’s a young kid who I thought should have made the postseason roster a year ago, and now a year later, Girardi still doesn’t understand how great he is.
He won 16 games as a rookie! And spent nearly a month in the minors!
Seriously, Girardi is killing me.
Look, I never thought the Yankees were going to win the World Series this year. I just felt they had too many flaws -- they relied too heavily on the long ball, the bottom of the rotation was inconsistent, CC struggled in August and September.
But to go out like this, to lay down offensively in the season’s final game, it’s inexcusable.
I blame Girardi. I blame Teixeira. I blame A-Rod.
All three have a lot to prove to me and to all Yankees fans. Because they all made the offseason a little bit longer and a little bit tougher to deal with.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My new best friend, Terrence Howard

Here’s the story of my first celebrity encounter in D.C.
I was going to meet some co-workers at the Newseum last Saturday around noon. I was walking the three blocks from the metro to the museum when two middle-aged ladies stopped me to ask where Eastern Market was.
Me, being a D.C. expert at this point, informed the lovely ladies that they’d be better off taking the metro to Eastern Market, because it was quite a lengthy, uphill walk.
At that exact moment, one of them point behind me and says, “He’s famous.”
I immediately turn around and see Terrence Howard walking toward me.
At that point I realize that I’m also standing in from of The Capital Grille, a swanky well-known restaurant, and I’m partially blocking the door.
Now, looking back I’m impressed that I even recognized the man. Seriously, when I rehashed this story with all my friends, the typical response was “Who’s Terrence Howard?”
And thinking about it, it’s a fair question? Mr. Howard is clearly thought of as one of Hollywood’s best actors, but what has he actually done?
He was in that rap movie (Which after a quick IMDB search, I found was Hustle and Flow). He was in Crash, but everyone was in Crash. He was in the first Iron Man, but was replaced by Don Cheadle in the sequel.
Other than that, he hasn’t been in much I, or anyone, has heard of.
So back to the story … Terrence Howard is walking toward me, and I’m kind of stunned at the moment but realize I’ve got to do something.
So I say the only thing that pops into my mind.
“You’re Terrence Howard.”
And his response: “Yeah.”
At this point I’m flustered. In hindsight I should have taken a picture with him, or asked him something of relevance. I mean, I used to be a reporter damnit. You’d think I could think up something clever.
So, being a complete doofus, I hit him back with this gem.
“You were great in Crash.”
He said, “Thanks,” and literally couldn’t get away from me faster.
And off he went, disappearing into The Capital Grille wearing a suit worth more than I’ll make in a year.
That’s the story of my encounter with Terrence Howard.
It was short, not substantial, and I sounded like an idiot.
But it still fired me up.
Though I wish I had asked him a question, something good. Like, “Why did Don Cheadle replace you in Iron Man 2?” I’m sure it would have pissed him off, but it had to have been better than “You’re Terrence Howard.”
Oh well.