Friday, November 17, 2006

No Barkin' From the Dog, No Smog...And Momma Cooked a Breakfast with no Hog

Happier Days

Alright, and we're back. Better moods. I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed on Wednesday, although I did mean what I wrote. So, now that the nervous breakdown has subsided a little bit, let's do a little voyeurism, and talk some sports, shall we? Pull out the football, the cold brews, and the lipstick and panties. Err...just the football and cold brews'll do. First of all some sage wisdom on sports betting: don't gamble on the NFL this year. It is a tremendous waste of money. Something very odd is going on in Las Vegas this year, and something even more odd is going on with the middle fifty percentile of NFL teams. The Jets could beat the bears by 9 this weekend, or lose by three touchdowns, and frankly neither would surprise me. Conversely, the NCAA football scene has been rather predictable, aside from last weekend, where teams were letting spreads and points slip through their fingers like greased pigs. Anyway, I had a five team parlay last weekend that got tremendously botched by the Giants ATROCIOUS defense (had they kept the score under 38.5, I would be sitting at a blackjack table in AC right now, and not at my cubicle, but that's a different tragic story for a different blog.) For the sake of my marriage it is probably good I didnt end up with 1100 expendable dollars, as this will allow me to stay home and finish wallpapering tonight. For those of you who have never gotten into wallpaper, don't do it. It's a horrible, horrible thing. Somewhere on par, I imagine, with popping ludes, or tripping on bad Acid while watching In The Name of the Father (something a college roomate of mine once did, which made me permanently fearful of such activities.) I will be done bitching about condo renovations in early December, at which point I will share before and after photos, so I can stroke my man-ego for all the awesomeness I have brought into this world with a hammer, a power drill, and a paint brush.

Another thing consuming my life: MFA applications. For the sake of community chuckles, I am going to post all rejection letters in their entirety on here for us to share with delight. Some applications are already out the door, most will be out by early December. So here's the lineup, in order of desired acceptance, 1 (if I don't get in I will weep into my pillow, if I do get in, I will wonder if they didn't mix up my portfolio with somebody else's) through 9 (If I don't get in, I will scoff at their stupidity, if I do get in, I will wonder of they didn't mix up my portfolio with somebody else's.)

1. University of Houston (Advantages: Nick Flynn is a professor there, and has read some of my stuff; Tend to lean towards young, fresh, new styles; excellent faculty; good funding. Disadvantages: less than 5% acceptance rate; endless ball-sweat for three years, will need to adjust to lard being the missing block on the food pyramid. Wild Card: Was Nick's reading of my stuff positive enough to help me out? Can I live in Non-Austin Texas?)

2. University British Columbia (Advantages: Low-Res, wouldn't have to move; young, fresh, new styles; good faculty; no funding, but could work close to full-time; no move required; bi-annual trips to Vancouver. Disadvantages/Wild Card: If I was free-lancing and MFAing from home, would I really work as hard as I need to?)

3. Warren Wilson (See above, replace "Vancouver" with "Asheville")

4. University Minnesota (Advantages: Ground-breaking, definitely most willing program to take a risk on unusual styles; fantastic faculty; very good funding; if I am going to move, Minneapolis seems better than Houston or Arkansas, and they have Caribou Coffee. Disadvantages: I get cold easily; less than 5% acceptance rate; HEAVY teaching load. Wildcard: Would I like or dislike the greater reading emphasis compared to other programs? The weather in Portland depressed me...the weather here is probably worse.)

5. NYU (This would probably be tops--or close to it--except I am NEVER going to get in, so I pushed it down. Plus, I see NYU kids every week. They annoy me.)

6. Arkansas (Advantages: everyone I am reading went there; good faculty; awesome funding. Disadvantages: Arkansas. Wildcard: No, really...Arkansas.)

7. Sarah Lawrence (Advantages: proxmity; good funding. Disadvantages: Not a great faculty, more theory-based curriculum than I would like.)

8. Stone Coast (Portland, ME) (Advantages: See U.B.C., replace "Vancouver" with "Maine"; disadvantages: not very cutting-edge; lesser faculty.)

9. Stanford Fellowship* (* This doesn't really belong ninth, it is just a completely different opportunity than the rest. It does not end with a degree. However, they essentially pay you 30 Grand a year to write for yourself and extra money to teach, which is pretty amazing. Less than 1% acceptance rate. Seriously.)

So that's the deal. If I am being totally honest with myself I would say I have a decent shot at two: Stone Coast, Warren Wilson. I'd say I have an outside shot at 3: UBC, Sarah Lawrence, Houston. I'd say I have next to NO shot at 4: NYU, UM, Arkansas, Stanford. Rejection letters should be rolling in from December 1st thru early March.

You Kiddin' Me?! Some Thoughts on the Application Process:

For the life of me, I can't understand why all of these schools don't get together and have one common online application, and one common recommendation form. I understand the need for different schools to target their "statement of purpose" questions in different directions, obviously the Low-Res schools want you to talk about how independent you are, and how you would benefit from a one-on-one relationship over a workshop atmosphere, while the residency programs want you to say just the opposite. But honestly: every MFA student (9 out of 10) is seeking the degree because they just want time and space to write. That's it. Sure it makes a difference if you prefer to workshop in groups or to be a hermit and send your portfolio back and forth with a professir, but essentially, the writing sample should be (and to a certain extent is) all that matters. However, recommendations are pretty significant, which under the current system is unfortunate for two reasons. First, it favorst current undergrads over people like me...who is going to get a better recommendation? A kid who goes up to his professor after class and asks for one, or me, writing an email 3 years later, saying, hey! remember me?! wanna write me a recommendation?! And then, the fact is, the professors have to write between 5 and 10 different versions of the recommendation. It is stupid and foolish.

I understand that studying for the LSATs and the GMATs, etc. is extremely difficult and taxing. However, I will NEVER be convinced that the waiting period (between appliaction send-off, and notification) is more nail-biting for any program than it is for an MFA, whether it be visual art, or Creative Writing. I mean, with Law School, you can look at the GPA and LSAT scores of the recent enrollees, and at least get an idea of what your chances are. With MFA it is totally subjective. Most schools have a 3 person reading panel, who spend an hour or so each with between 10 and 20 pages of what you "think" is your best work, and you have to hope one of two things happen: all 3 of them think it is great or 2 of them think it is great, one of whom loves it so much he/she is willing to lobby the others for you. Say, that EVERY reader agrees on 4 or 5 writers whom they think are cream of the crop. That leaves about 10 slots open, and you have to hope that out of a couple hundred writing samples, yours is one of the ten that catches just one readers' eyes enough that they feel confident putting their judgment on the line to lobby for you. Half of these spots will be filled because 2 of the readers will be female readers, minority readers, or gay readers who read a sympathetic voice that they love (sorry to bring sex, and race into this, but it's a factor, as in all things...readers identify with writers for a number of reasons. An oversexual, drunken, hopelessly white slob of a professor, who loves boxing, and talking about women's legs might read my poetry and shit himself with glee. Lets hope.) Good, so there's five spots. Now you have a few hundred applicants to fill five spaces. And you have to hope that for WHATEVER reason, someone whom has never met you, and is reading a minute fragment of your life's work, latches on to something in your writing that they feel so strongly about that they fight to get you in. And the most grueling part? You have your sample on your desktop every day for the next 3+ months, and every day you will look at it, and think of a way it could have been improved. I'm already appalled with half the stuff I sent. And yet, the way this process works, that could be the stuff that gets me into one of the better programs, and laughed out of one of the lesser. 9 Rejections wouldn't surprise me. More than 2 would. But if it is going to be one or two? I couldn't take a stab in the dark at which 1 or 2 it would be. Depends which side of the bed my readers wake up on I suppose.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not Sure What it all Means, But Dont it all Mean Somethin'?

Brutal Fuckin Honesty Disclosure: This entry will have little or nothing to do with sports. It is much more likely to focus on personal, narcissistic concerns. File under "posts I write for myself, because the alternative would be for me to harp on them ceaselessly until my wife leaves me." Take it or leave it. Read it or don't.

I am really beginning to question whether I have it: whatever it is that allows one to make it from day-job desk jockey who writes on his own time, to someone who dedicates his life to the trade. I am not sure I have whatever Maurice Manning had when he sent away a chapbook of poetry to Southeastern MFA programs, hoping someone would take a chance on him, let alone whatever Jimmi Santiago Bacca had to make it from life-long failure, to poet icon; whatever Bill Simmons had that allowed him to struggle from an unemployed cult-web-hero to a writer so well revered that it has actually become popular now to hate him, or whatever Will Leitch had that allowed him to go from being a self-effacing so-pathetic-its-cute blogger, to being king of the Underworld, as ESPN would have it. It's not that this is the goal, per se, and in my own personal world, something more akin to what Maurice Manning has done with his life, sounds ultimately more fulfilling, and more in-line with my own goals, than watching hours of TiVo and writing about my favorite teams or finding compromising pictures of College Football QBs on the internet. In fact, I've been reading alot of Leitch's original blog and I'd venture to say if he had his druthers, he'd be doing something that requires a little more insightful creativity, and a little less rumor-milling, and humor-pandering. And judging by Simmons' recent hints at retiring from Page 2 for a career in film-writing, it seems that his aspirations reach for slightly more intellect as well. But I digress.

The thing is, I really cannot downplay the significant toll that the 9-5 takes on one's ability to create, to formulate thoughts, cohesively draw them together, and make something entirely original, or at least consciously aware of its precedents, and yet aiming for something unique. This is not to say it is impossible, nor is it to say that my job is particularly draining. It's not. There is no complaint here, but rather, perhaps unadultarated honesty. Perhaps I am just not that dedicated, or perhaps my well has been tapped. Perhaps--I am horrified to say--a reading of a prize-winning short story at an awards banquet in college, is as far as this alleyway goes. Perhaps I don't have what ever it takes to make it from that (fairly common) level of output, to the level to which I once aspired. Perhaps, I don't have what it takes to say, "sure I like my job, and sure, my office is a peaceful place, but I don't want to spend my life researching other people's accomplishments, or pretending to research other people's accomplishments while I putz around on friends' and acquaintances' blogs. I want other people to research my accomplishments." It is an ugly thing to admit, I suppose, and terribly narcissistic, that my goal is to know that I have left some kind of legacy. And I am not talking about 4 or 5 penguin classics on a shelf, or even one great poem read from obscure poetry collections by those in the know (though I wouldn't complain about these things.) Rather, I am talking about looking back at my work, or having others look back at my work, and feel that it was an actual contribution to an era of writing, that it was an origina; voice of that era, or that it at least was unique to its time, and honest to its author. I am not so sure I have what it takes to accomplish that task with sincerity. To write--and to make it a priority to write--honestly about what this is I am going through, whatever this is to be 24 in America, in this America, or at least my version of this America. To drive myself further into debt trying just to make it writing about an indebted generation. Or do I cut myself off from everything that is involved in a morning commute, a rushed cup of coffee, and headphones in the office, when really it is the commute, the coffee, and the headphones that define my entire experience in this universe right now?

I woke up today in my new condo, next to my new wife, and with my new dog. I went to my old job, stared at my old computer screen, and read through emails from old friends. I started the day within the same five minutes I start everyday, more-or-less (7:27-7:32) then checked my email for MFA info, and to see what friends had to say, and looked at the same 4 websites I look at each morning, in order:,,, I spent my day fluctuating between researching book entrants for my job (Brandon Webb, Bobby Knight, Manny Acta, Daisuke Matsuzaka) and checking my email, or looking at random websites. I ate a salad for lunch, alone. I left as soon as I could, drove home into the overcast city, walked my dog and came home to a quiet house. Wondered, what the fuck am I doing? I know. I know. I can't complain about the new house. I can't complain about being married to a woman who honestly I would have no business picking up at a bar in the city if we were strangers and met there this weekend. I have no right to complain about the dog, even though in a fit of temper he ran into the lot across the street, got a shard of glass in his foot, and is now running around with his feet in bandages and a giant cone on his head. Nah, I can't complain about all of that. And I can't really complain about my job, which at times is frustrating, but at the very least is an honest way to make a buck while reading about sports-related news half the time.

But, to borrow a phrase from 34% of broadcasted sporting events, this "wasn't the way I drew it up." I can't recall the last time I sat with a cup of coffee, or a cold beer, a pen and a journal and just threw my thoughts onto paper. In fact, most of my writing these days is done in moments of random inspiration, rushed into Word format or onto my blog (usually just depending on whether the creative output is sports-related, or intellectual) while looking over my shoulder in the office. This is the first moment I have spent on my own writing, and all I can think about is how hard it has become to write, to find inspiration, to feel the need to purge something haunting, sick, vile, wonderful, or inspiring. How--if I could just afford to, mentally, and financially, stop working--maybe I would have that time...but then what would there be to write about? I have looked to every corner for inspiration, to poetry, to music, to film. And then I found myself putzing around on Leitch's old site and came across this. First of all, it is refreshing to see someone who has made it, speaking in a voice totally lacking in confidence. I am not sure how close Leitch's mindset was when he wrote this to that of my own right now, but it sure seems like he is questioning his own motivation and determination. Secondly, it points to a much larger reality here: there are thousands, no, probably millions of people out there trying to make it in one artisistic fashion or another, and finding themselves increasingly frustrated with failed attempts at recognition, or worse: the paralysis of self-consciousness, which tells us we aren't worthy of aiming for such lofty goals. "Not quite good enough. Haven't quite got it. Try the 9-5." But what I love most about Leitch's post, is, he is willing to admit that for him the goal is a legacy, in his case, some kind of notereity, and he is willing to expose himself to all of the cynicism that is certain to garner. And yet, he doesn't give a shit, because he knows the trial he is going through is one that pushes his limits, and he wants a reward for that. And sure, with twenty-twenty hindsight, it is easy to see how this youthful arrogance is now obfuscated by his success, and these proclomations come across as noble determination as opposed to idealism at best, and self-seriousness at worst. But who cares if that is one of Leitch's faults, and who cares if Leitch exposes a desire in this post that is dangerous for the creative mind to expose. I find it hard to believe that anyone creating ANYTHING doesn't hope in their deepest heart-of-hearts, that they garnish some recognition for it. I don't think anyone writes, or paints, or creates music, for their creation to be blown away in the wind, or burned, and sent heavenwards, as some type of spiritual connection to be made eternally with and for themselves, and never for others.

I don't know what is going to become of my writing. I don't know if it is even good enough to get me into an MFA, if it is orginal enough for me to make it as a viable published writer, or if it is just crap meant to fill journals, be hashed out at my kids birthdays and weddings, read at my funeral when I die toiling away in futility. I don't pretend that my writing is anything spectacularly unique, or that I don't need a hell of alot more focus, time, and probably luck to make whatever I write any more worthy of critical success than the shit you find scribbled in any other 20-somethings journals, or on any one's blog. I also refuse pretend that I don't want it to be something bigger than it is, that publishing once or twice every few months in small-circulation poetry journals is satisfaction enough for me. I know for sure I have the stubborn pererverance it takes to try, and try, and fail, and try again. I just don't know that I necessarily have within my writers' soul whatever it is that all that trying is aiming to accomplish. I don't care in the end if I look back and say, "well I did my best and failed" because I don't want to ever admit my best is a failure. But maybe it is. Still, I don't care if it makes me cocky, brash, or a downright self-obsessed prick to believe that this can't be so. And I don't give a shit if it makes me narcisstic to want to want to end this post right now, and write something that isn't written entirely for me (and the five other people who started reading this...and perhaps two or three who have made it this far.) I don't care what it makes me, that I take it upon myself to pour a cup of coffee, find somewhere quiet and write. I don't care at all what you think about me, and what I write. Only I do care...tremendously.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

On Coaches Long Gone, and Vindication NOW!

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Well that was a little bit anti-climactic. The Jets beat the patriots for the firt time in eight tries in the quagmire that was Foxboro Stadium, today. And well, to be perfectly honest, I am not really sure how. Nobody played particularly well, outside of one great catch by Jericho Cotchery. I guess Mangini coached pretty well, but basically, I think the Jets won for two reasons: Brady's o-line left him exposed way too often (some credit should go to the Jets D line for that) and Bill Belichick sort of seemed like he was just in a rush to dry out his sweatsuit, win or lose. (Seriously, can we all chip in and buy this guy some new gear? I know the stupid rules in the NFL stipulate he has to wear liscensed team gear, but outside of wearing this I really can't imagine the dude rocking anything more obnoxious than the fupafying sweat suit.) I don't really know what I expected the firt win against the Patriots in forever to feel like. I didn't think I'd be cracking open champagne bottles or anything, but I certainly thought I would be pumped up, and I also thought it would be one of those games, as they say, where "the team with the ball last wins." Instead, I was just wondering aloud why the hell they had to lose to the friggin' Browns to weeks ago. Because had they won that game, I would be legitimately wondering on this blog, and in the ear of anyone willing to listen, if the Jets might just be a bona fide team. But they can't be. Too inconsistent. Essentially, this game was a gift from Bill Belichick. A weak after John Madden questioned where the Pats run game was, Belichick seemed determined to prove to John and others that he really didn't need it. The game started with Corey Dillon running downhill on the Jets pitiful run D, and ended with Belichick inexplicably calling pass play after pass play, despite the fact that Brady couldn't find any semblance of timing. Other than a big day out of CrazyEyes Caldwell basically nobody on the Patriots seemed interested in playing the game. If this blog is a bit boring and contrite, well, so was the game. I am still trying to figure out how the Jetties won that game. I mean, it isnt like they deserved to lose. But they didn't really dedserve to win. All in all, I am reserving judgment and/or predictions on this team until after I see what they can do with the Bears on Sunday.

Dice-K and the 42Million Dollar Conversation-Starter

It is expected that some time today the official announcement will be made that the Red Sox won the bidding for Japanese Gyroballer, Daisuke Mastsuzaka. The winning bid, just for the rights to talk to Matsuzaka's agent (Scott Boras) was supposedly 42 mil. This is absurd. I am not going to get all righteous and say that this is Yankees-baseball, and that winning this way is less satisfying than winning the way that the A's and Minnesota win (with actual talent evaluation, and trade analysis) but I am a little disappointed. I mean, I could personally care less how John Henry spends his money, and theoretically, as long as the Sox stay under the cap, they are playing "fair." But A) this is an ABSURD amount of money to change hands just for the right to talk to a guy who's never pitched in the Majors. and B) it is quite frankly more fun to root for a guy like Liriano (especially when you got him in a trade for AJ Pierzinsky) than it is to root for a guy when you team pays more than some teams payrolls just to start the conversation. I think the guy has nasty stuff (from his numbers, from what I can track down on Youtube, and from the WBC start I saw in February) so I look forward to rooting for him in a Sox uniform. I'm just not convinced this was the best use of 42 million dollars. Then again, as some poster on SoSH pointed out, that's really only Carl Pavano money, so I shouldn't complain.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Red State You Can Celebrate

I have been trying all morning to think of one of those "simmons-esque" real-life analogies, or even other sports analogies for what is going on in the great state of New Jersey right now with Rutgers Football being in the national spotlight. I need to say that again: with Rutgers football being in the national spotlight! For the life of me, I can't come up with anything. The closest I can come up with is something that is just so Jersey that I am not even sure people outside of Jersey will understand it: see, in almost every town in New Jersey there is the story of one guy (or gal) from that town who went on to make it huge. In Jersey City it is Queen Latifah. And, literally, almost everybody from that town, even though they probably dumped on and/or ignored said person, now feels vindicated that the person made it huge, and feels like they have a right to celebrate for that person, live vicariously through them, point fingers at everyone else and say "I told you so." Look, this is by no means to say that Jersey is some ghetto from which springs one or two blessed souls, who make it against the odds. That's just not the case. But it is the nature of being from a place that nobody else truly understands that we should want to celebrate when our people make it big, and are accepted and heralded by the outside world. I mean, it is odd to be from a place that is immediately outside of Manhattan (did you pick that up from last night's broadcast?!) and yet to have the rest of America treat you like you are from a different planet (and a smelly, cockroach-infested one, at that.) And it is odder still that being from this place just naturally puts one on the defensive. I imagine in a different way it is like being from West Virginia, and having to prove day-in-and-day-out that you are not the product of incest, and in fact, nobody from West Virginia really is.

What's odd is the image of New Jersey that has been broadcast by everyone from ESPN (New Yorkers don't know what a Rutgers is) to Chris "Mad Dog" Russo, proclaiming he was broadcasting from the hinterlands in the Rutgers parking lot yesterday, while offensive and annoying, really isn't all that far from the truth. People who aren't from here just don't understand what it is like to deal with the constant crap you get for it. I went to college in Oregon for a year and actually had a professor tell me she was heartened I made it to college coming from New Jersey (even though NJ has the highest graduation rate of any public school system in the country! and even though I graduated from a private school, where both of my parents were educators.) I then went to school in Pennsylvania, where 30 % of the students had to over-embelish how great Jersey is just to detract from the constant barrage of negativity being bounced off us by people from "superior" states like Connecticut, and Massachusetts. One time, in an elevator at the Boston Hyatt, I got into a screaming match with a random stranger who insisted Princeton was not in New Jersey. She was wearing a Harvard sweatshirt! And I have sat at a barstool in Hoboken and listened to a recently transplanted Connecticut girl tell me "Jersey is trash. I hate this place. I hate everyone here. I can't wait to leave." She was from the suburbs of that heavenly city to the North, Hartford. Now she is engaged to a Jersey native, Rutgers grad, and just brought property in North Bergen. Funny how people's perceptions change when they give this place a chance.

I feel the need to dispel some sports-analogies that will inevitably surface over the next few days as the sportsradio-types and the Gene Worhfbfshdskys of the world will certainly try to make parallels about this program because they don't want to actually research the program. 2006 Rutgers football is NOT:

The Cubs--the Cubs won some championships, started losing, have always been fairly competitive, and yet just can't seem to win the big games. Rutgers never played any big games before last night, never won any championships, and NEVER sold out their stadium the way the Cubs do on a yearly basis.

The 1995 Northwestern Football Wildcats-- The Wildcats were a team on the rise for a few years prior to 1995 under Gary Barnett. Their record may not have shown it, but that was due to schedule more than anything else. People saw Northwestern coming, and when they opened up the season beating Notre Dame it was the end of an era for the Golden Domers, and the beginning of an era for Northwestern. They played an annually brutal schedule, which they struggled through for a few years before rising to national prominence in 1995. Were a good team, who won some big games and lost one big game during the season And then got shellacked in the Rose Bowl. Nobody saw Rutgers coming. They got screwed in scheduling becuase nobody outside of the Big East in big conferences will schedule the Big East for fear of weakening their schedule, resulting in a weaker schedule for Big East teams. Its unfortunate, unfair, and they will not play in the championship game because of it.

The 2006 Detroit Tigers-- Heard this one on NYC radio on Tuesday and Boston Radio this morning as I was checking in on Hot Stove stuff (still no word on Matsuzaka.) Man does this one piss me off. This plays directly into the "hinterlands" image that I am talking about. The idea that poor little Jersey is in despair and needs Rutgers to put us on the map. Mularkey. The Tigers won championships, the Tigers sucked for a brief while, and the Tigers made a valiant, and lucky run to the World Series and lost. Rutgers sucked for a LONG long time, and suddenly (but not inexplicably, more on that later) are a National contender. Plus Detroit is literally in economic despair. Jersey is doing alright for itself, outside of Newark, Trenton, and Camden.

If we must make one of these stupid sports analogies, try this one: The Jamaican Bobsled team, but the movie version, where they are actually competitive. That's right, it's absurd, silly, and nonsensical for New Jersey football to win over the hearts of non-believers, it is happening suddenly and happily, and it is giving its homeland all kinds of good cheer, but soon enough, surely, it will be a footnote.

Two fabricated storylines about this game that I am already tired of hearing about:

1. The Louisville offense sputtered, the off-sides call was unfortunate because it wouldn't have affected the kick (Kirk Herbstreit) and Rutgers doesn't deserve to be taken seriosuly because their offense struggled for a half (argued by the same folks who said Louisville and WVU shouldnt be taken seriously because they were an all-offense brand of football.)
2. Greg Schiano going to Miami?

Allow me to address these people: shut up. Louisville's offense sputtered because the second best defense in the country finally got sharp, ran their LBs all over the Louisville backfield, and pressured Louisville's biggest weapon, Brohm (pronounced, BROWM, apparently.) They are a different brand of football than Ohio State, sure. They rely on solid running, rarely-utilized but effective passing, and unbelievable defense. If they were an NFL team, people would be going nuts over them. Remember when Rice got hot in the fourth quarter? That's what Rutgers Football has looked like all year. And Kirk, you have to be kidding me. Sprinting into the kickers field of vision before the snap isnt going to affect the play? A Linebacker dropping trou and taking a dump while the QB is calling an audible probably wouldn't affect the play either, but I am pretty sure you would see a flag. Off-sides is off-sides. It's a penalty. Sucks that it effected the way the game was decided, but had he blocked the kick after being off-sides, you'd be hollering injustice from the mountaintops, Kirk. And folks, Greg Schiano back to Miami?! Greg Schiano is on the way to making himself a legend in this state. Should he make Rutgers football relevant, and someday win a BCS title, he would be on par with Springsteen, Dick Vitale, James Gandolfini, and Jersey Mike's Subs. He has a chance to make his home state proud of a football program that was once a laughing stock, and is now on its way to being a National spotlight program. Why in the WORLD would he leave that for a program that was once a National powerhouse and is now well on its way to being a complete laughing stock? Take a seat at the diner booth, Greg. There's no sports-analogy for what you've given us. Others wouldn't understand. It's a Jersey thing.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Louisville Sluggers and Cliched Headlines

The often-times intriguing SI writer (and friend of that Amish, Steroid-taking, Biker-guy) Austin Murphy, had yet another one of those, "Rutgers is a cute story" columns today. And while this was a lot less smug than most stories about the Knights, and while it is hard to complain about Rutgers (finally) deserving and getting some National Media attention, I have to cringe when I read the apparent condenscion that permeates so many of these articles. Sure alot of it is about the severe bias against the Big East, and I suppose much of that bias is earned. This is not the SEC or the Big Ten. However, I can't avoid thinking that the smarmy treatment Rutgers is getting, has to do with two things: 1. Rutgers football (and its athletics, in gerneral) has ranged from mediocre to atrocious for its entire history. 2. People hate New Jersey. So, in all of my infamy, I am making an effort to act as embassador of New Jersey, home of Rutgers, reaching out to the sports media types who find Rutgers and New Jersey to be some type of feel good story, as if we are Detroit, and RutgersFootball is somehow our Tigers.

Now let me be clear about something, to avoid the inevitable "Fair-weather" fan responses, I am an admittedly partial Bandwagon Rutgers fan. But so is everyone else from New Jersey and anyone who watches Rutgers. In the past there have been three times a year when I have found myself tracking down a sports bar, which would be showing Rutgers:

  • Their first game of the year (usually a tough loss)

  • Their "big" match-up in any given year (formerly Syracuse, more recently Miami, then WVU or Louisville...usually a blow-out.)

  • Whenever I was feeling depressed about Lehigh losing to Lafayette I would track down a Rutgers game to remind myself why I chose Lehigh over Rutgers (the academic discrepancy is really overblown. The partying discrepancy is not, plus even if Rutgers would probably beat Lehigh head-to-head year in and year out, Lehigh football played that 1-AA schedule, and winning is nice.)

And I would say, seeing Rutgers play 3 times a year before last year made me as close to a die-hard as this heretofore mockery of a football program has ever had. So there is plenty of room on this bandwagon, and judging by a comment from a friend earlier today, I think should Rutgers beat Louisville, the bandwagon is going to overflow. All are welcome, we are a nation in our early stages, we can't afford to discriminate.

While it is disappointing that, growing up in NJ, I didn't have a good football team to watch, there is nothing that drives me crazier than the negative perceptions of my home state that permeate EVERYTHING that people say about this state.

Here is what the average New Englander, or West Coaster knows about NJ: the 11 miles stretch of the turnpike that takes one from Newark Airport to Manhattan. An 11-mile stretch that, admittedly, features empty shipping container lots, a power plant, a stench of rotting garbage, and more empty factories than Dresden, 1946. It is a crummy part of the state, but if those people ventured less than a mile off the Turnpike in either direction, after they get out of Newark, they would be in two of the highest-demand real estate urban-renewal meccas in the North East (Jersey City and Hoboken) surrounded by plenty of metrosexual men and women walking toy-poodles, people with bad hair-cuts and tight jeans drinking huge cups of coffee, and businessmen with loosened ties drinking at corner bars. In other words, these New England travllers or Wayward Westerners would think they were in their mythical land of Oz, MANHATTAN! Were they to get turned around and end up going West on 78, they would find themselves in Somerset County, the seventh wealthiest county in America. By state, New Jersey (9 counties) has the third most of the 100 wealthiest counties, losing to only Colorado and Virginia. As an added bonus, we don't almost elect racist morons (I can't hate on Colorado, it's a nice state, and my buddy, James, would thump me.)

What's that you say? You don't worry about things like county income, or sprawling farm-replica mansions, with Bentleys parked in the are more of the bohemian type? Let me tell you about the abundance of art galleries in Lambertville, Summit, Morristown, Jersey City, Ocean Township. And did you know that hippy-poet you really dug in highschool, Allen Ginsberg, was from Patterson, NJ? Surely you were aware that your favorite working-class liberal troubador, Bruce Springsteen was the boss of Asbury Park.

If hiking is your thing, we have mountains, if the ocean is your thing, the shore. If you are the woodsy-type we have the Pine Barrens, if you are the city type, take a "bridge or tunnel" to the greatest city in the world? Love sports? We have two NFL football teams, an NBA team, an NHL team, and even MLS. Prefer movies? More theaters per sq. mile than any state in the Union. Love women? Well, not all of them are like that.

And here is what most people know about Rutgers (or are certain to find in tonight's ESPN Broadcasr of some stupid segment distraction during the middle of a significant play) THE STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW JERSEY:

  • Located in New Brunswick, NJ (they play their games in Piscataway)
  • Originally founded by Henry Rutgers as Queens College, 1766 (yes you read that right.)
  • Played in the first-ever intercollegiate Football game (a 6-4 DRUBBING of those nerds from Princeton)
  • Famous Alumni: James Gandolfini ("Tony Saprano!! How approporiate is that?!" they will surely say) as well as Mario Batali (the fat cook with the funny shoes) and the chick that played one of the Chicks on Sex in the City. Dick Vitale once coached basketball there!

What they won't mention:

  • The most famous alumni (before HBO warped our minds) is actually Football player, activist, politician, singer, artist, Paul Robeson.
  • Top ten medical school, top twenty law school, one of the premiere agriculture schools in the country.
  • Faculty with more Guggenheim Fellows, Carnegie Honorees, Fullbright scholars, and MacArthur fellows than any in the Northeast.
  • Most of the MRE's ingested by our Troops are designed at Rutgers!
  • 1-in-3 girls has an STD...

So, while it's not quite heaven! it certainly is deserving of a little more credit than it gets nationally, particularly among sports fans. I'm not going to argue that Rutgers deserves to get to the National championship, although the unlikely road is well-mapped, here. And I am not saying New Jersey is the most glorious state in the union (I am open to arguments.) I'm just saying the anti-Jersey dogma is getting a little tired. We're not perfect, but we're doing alright here in Jersey, come on in, the water is fine...just, uhm, make sure you use the Brita.

RU 36, LU 26

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Cheered When Humphrey Was Chosen, My Faith in the System Restored

But I'm Glad all the Commies Were Thrown Out of the A.F.L. C.I.O. Board

Times like these, it's hard not to temper my excitement with thoughts like the ones that must have been running through Phil Ochs' mind when he wrote the song, "Love Me, I'm a Liberal." Don't get me wrong: I am whole-heartedly excited--no, that's hyperbole--I am tremendously relieved by the results of yesterday's elections. Yet, I can't help but balance that enthusiasm with a sense of wonderment: what, if anything, has really changed over the past 48 hours? On the one hand, the result of the midterms has, indeed, been a "referrendum" on the Iraq War, and Conservative domestic policy (in case you didn't get that idea from the coverage last night) and the message is clear: Americans are looking for a change. But on the other hand, I can't--even for a minute--fool myself into believing that the change people are looking for is a radical one. This was no referrendum to reallocate our tax dollars from shedding innocent blood in Iraq, to protecting innocent people in Darfur. The "No Child Left Behind" (because they're all being pushed back) act was not an attacking point for the Democrats. A good portion of those Democrats elected are pro-life, and suspiciously mum on Stem-Cell Research (for instance the Senate results in Pennsylvania; in congress, Indiana, North Carolina, etc...) And it even seems that a number of candidates, like maybe-Senator Webb from VA., Congressman-elect Shuler from N.C., and Congresswoman-elect Boyda from KS., are recent "converts" from the G.O.P. Some, like Boyda, openly admit, that they swithced parties because they thought the Democrats spoke to the moderates and centrist Conservatives. Boyda even distanced herself from the Democratic party by refusing some of their funding. Like many of the other Southern take-overs, the votes that carried her seem to have been as much a stamp of approval on her religious beliefs, as her politics...neither of which I can identify with, personally. Although, unlike recent Democrat-cum-lately, Tim Mahoney, she has never described herself as a "fundamental Christian."

Of course, I am excited about some huge strides in social equality: enter the first lady Speaker of the House; the SECOND-ever African American Governor in History; and the FIRST-ever Muslim Congressman (who ran the most honorable campaign of the election...turns out Muslims can fight fair, while Christians, seemingly, cannot.) I am less excited about the lack of social issues that Democrats platformed on. Is the Iraq war a significant issue? Outside of Connecticut, it obviously is. But is it so important that issues like Labor, Education, Abortion, and Health Care, get swept under the rug? Well, outside of Connecticut, apparently it is.

Lieberman campaigned on many of those "non-war" issues and won. However, even this morning as Don Imus asked him when he would realize how idiotic his stance on Iraq is, Lieberman stumbled around a bit before mumbling, well, we need to get together and think about how to approach this, but we can't just 'cut-and-run.'" Ah, no, Joe, we can't. Wouldn't want to be flip-floppers would we? I have given Lieberman grief, and while I find it unfortunate that he had to rely on the spiteful votes of registered republicans, like my in-laws, to win, I give him credit, and certainly consider it a victory for the party. I certainly don't trick myself, the way certain people do, into believing that Lieberman's victory was any less a victory for the Democrats, than a party victory for someone like Webb.

Indeed, they are both victories for a certain wing of the Democratic party--lets call them the NeoLibs--a group that wins because they are about us centric as possible, able to float between the parties, and certainly not likely to initiate radical change in policy. Will they aim to "change direction in Iraq and the War on Terror?" Sure. Will this result in an effort to change policy, and begin troop withdrawal, or to cut back the breaches of civil rights afforded by the Patriot Act? We will see about that. But you want to talk about improvements in innercity education? Pressuring the United Nations to intervene in Sudan? Talking Bush out of polarizing politics around "fringe" issues like whether or not two dudes who love each other should be afforded the same right to marry as Britney Spears and Kevin Federline? Don't hold your breath. Ironic, huh? That middle-American Christianity was powerful enough to save the sanctity of Marriage from the invasion of the gays, but couldn't seem to do anything to save it from the embarassing spoil of the Wal-Mart CD King and Queen?

I guess the point is that while The Nation, and DailyKos are able to blindly celebrate this as a huge step forward for American liberalism, and while more radically left bloggers are crying into their coffee having lost the party, I am going to wait in limbo. Speaking tempermentally, I think the results speak for themselves: Democrats, after decidedly shifting to the middle, have gained the faith of the American voter. The question now becomes: over the next two years, can they pull that center back towards the left, or are we trending towards a Lieberman/Webb ticket in '08? (update: There goes Montana, control of the Senate looking promising. AND THERE GOES RUMSFELD! A little late, but I will take it.)

On the Christian Republicans I Love

I haven't wanted to--or needed to--discuss the travesty that was the '06 Red Sox in a while, but the third best season of the four baseball seasons has started. Y' have your Spring Training season (fourth best, unless you are there with 3 or 4 of your buddies in a hotel with a bathtub full of ice and Coors Light) and you have your regular season (the best, unless it sucks completely like it did this year), your post-season (second best if your team makes it, best if they win) and lastly, your hot-stove season (consistently third best, always blown out of proportion.)

According to my thorough research and statistical breakdowns scrupulous enough for the Bill James handbook, I deduce that each HS season, the average team makes exactly 4 non-descript transactions that make minor differences down the line, and 0.6-2.6 major transactions (rounded up to 3 for upper-echelon teams like the Sox.) This being the case, I have decided to play GM ('cause that current bum hasn't won us a World Series in two years) and draw up my plan of attack for which 4 fairly average (but perhaps season-altering) moves I would make, as well as the three big-time moves that could make the Red Sox an immediate contender in the hardest league in Baseball (y'know, World Series results notwithstanding.)

Doesn't Matter if You're Minor...

1. Let the Mets overpay Loretta, Pedroia slides in at Second and RESIGN Cora and Gonzalez. Here's something I always hear, and frankly, I don't get it: "we need to get more production out of our (fill in the blank) position." Inevitably, even if the Red Sox lead the league in runs, they will have a cold-streak, and with this double-play combo in place, the automated response will be "we need more production from the middle infielders." Look, Gonzo was the best defensive Short-Stop in the Majors last year. Pedroia is an excellent defensive 2B. If there is anywhere you can afford to sacrifice production for defensive prowess, it is your middle infield. And relax, I will produce some runs elsewhere.

2. Forget Zito, forget Schmidt, and PLEASE forget Mulder, Suppan, and Wright. Let the Mets and Yankees outbid the moon for Matsuzaka, and hope and pray he isn't an interleague-switch bust. Sign "Wicked" Gil Meche, instead. He will cost you less then half of what the other guys cost, and with the right run support, will win you almost as many games.

3. Mike Lowell and money for Scott Linebrink. The Pads have shown interest in Lowell, but don't want to pay him. Eat half his salary, and get a bona fide reliever in return.

4. Post for, and sign to a two-year contract, Akinori Iwamura, a power-hitting Japanese infielder. Could be a bust, would likely be a nice bat off the bench, just might be a long-term solution at third.

Or Major...

1. Sing Free agent Carlos Lee, as a primary 1B with opportunities to platoon in the OF. Most days Lee plays 1B, Youkilis 3B. Lee is a mediocre defensive Outfielder with arguably the best bat in FA. He wants to play for a contender, and hitting behind Ramirez and Papi and in front of WilyMo, and with the staff the Sox have next year (especially under my tenure as GM) this team is a contender. He can play 1B for that chance. Some days of course, Manny will need to DH, Carlos can handle Left, Ortiz can play first. The possibilities of match-ups and resting are endless.

2. Goodbye Trot, Goodbye Foulke, goodbye Mirabelli. Hello high-risk, high-reward, high-incentives contract for Eric Gagne.

3. Sign Roger Clemens, to a one year deal for 19 Million. The amount is huge, the risk is existent, the luxury tax is inevitable. So too is the amount of money to be made on Yawkey Way selling Clemens Jerseys again. Also, I hear you make a pretty penny when you win the World Series.

Because we have a decent chance to win the WS, now that I have just built a favorite with

This Staff:

SP Co-Ace Curt Schilling
SP Co-Ace Roger Clemens
SP Ace-in-the-hole Josh Beckett
SP Young Stud Jonathan Papelbon*
SP Steady Anchor Wicked Gil Meche

Long R/Spot SP (with occasinal Six man rotation to rest older arms) Tim Wakefield
Long R/ Emergency SP Crazy Hoo-Lee-in Tavarez
Middle R Mike Timlin
Middle R Manny del Carmen
Set-Up Craig Hansen
Closer Eric Gagne*

*If things go terribly wrong you slide Papelbon back into the Closing Position and don't lose ALL that much with Wake in the Rotation.

And this lineup:

1. Coco Crisp (the OBP guys won't like this, but when CoCo gets more consistent, his speed can be damaging on base.)
2. Kevin Youklis (a defacto OBP lead-off guy when CoCo can't get on, a legit contact hitter and pitch-burner, when CoCo can.)
3. Big Papi
4. Manny Ramirez
5. Carlos Lee
6. Wily Mo (imagine going through these four in a late inning game with no outs?!)
7. Jason Varitek (batting Seventh, where he BELONGS!)
8. Alex Gonzalez
9. Dustin Pedroia

Bench: Cora, Murphy, Akinori Iwamura, George Kottaras (C), and Carlos Pena.

Is this a more expensive team than last year. Yes. Is it even comparable to where the Yankees payroll will be next year? No. And it is a team that is getting younger. Is there something I am missing here? As I see it, this makes all the sense in the world. Bring on October, it's time for an '06-Election-proportion power shift at the top of the AL East.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hear All the Bombs Fade Away!!

Alright ya'll. I am pretty sure that the five people who read this blog are all good conscious citizens. But dont forget to vote tomorrow. If you dont vote, then you lose your right to complain about our governments ineptitude, or celebrate its successes. Don't care who you vote for. Just vote. God Bless, and as Borat says: "I hope for George bush to drink the blood of every man, woman, and child in Iraq."

--Resident Proselytizer