Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things I don't like about England. And some things I do.

I want to clarify, that I have never said- and if I ever did, I take it back- that I don’t find any British women attractive.  I don’t find any English women attractive.  Except Emily Mortimer.  And at one time Kiera Knightley (though not so much anymore). 
I was watching one of my favorite guilty pleasures the other day, The Antiques Roadshow.  But I realized too late that it was the British version, and I don’t like that version as much.  It doesn’t have the little banner roll across the bottom of the screen which tells the viewers that the expert has just told the schlub that their knick-knack is worth an obscene amount of money.  That’s the most fun part.  My dad commented that their antiques just aren’t as interesting as the American antiques on the American version, which I would have to agree with, at least a little.  Finally, America does one better, with another version of the show- Pawn Stars.
There are some things that they do better though.  Emily Mortimer.  Vinegar on their deep-fried food.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a funny movie.  And I really enjoy Newcastle Brown Ale.  This leads me into the next problem I have with them, however, which is that everyone seems to need a English Premier League team they root for.  (As of now, I’ve chosen Liverpool.) But I am indignant that this is so pervasive for so many.  It’s been very hard for me to choose any single team, because, quite frankly, because I don’t feel any attachment to them.  They are six time zones away!  It might even be somewhat easier if I lived on the East Coast, but as it stands, I would rather just root for my favorite MLS team.  Yes, soccer snobs, I realize it’s a poorer brand of soccer.  And I’m sorry for calling it soccer.  Let’s settle on Association Football.  See, I even gave you guys caps.
Anyway, I like association football, I just want to root for a team that’s at least in my own country.  The other problem I have with it is that I feel like I have filled my sports-fan quota for teams-I’m-rooting-for.  I have the Packers, which is almost exactly like rooting for a Premier League team at this point.  The Twins I follow religiously and I’m even picking up the Wolves.  The next priorities for me are to follow the Wild and Gopher Basketball more closely.  So even Sounders FC, my MLS team of choice, is way down on my Yahoo Favorite Teams bar.
There is something very intriguing about AF, however.  It is a very difficult sport to follow, which makes those who do follow it feel good about themselves, while those who don’t tend to give up very easily. Unless you grew up in a country that only spoke “football”.  America is not one of them.  But I think as a whole the country is big enough for the sport.  The biggest reason I want to be a fan is, I think, that I would get a sweet scarf with my team’s name on it, which you wouldn’t even really wear as a scarf, but rather as an instrument of showing support.
The English have managed to make one thing that I never thought could be, fun: C-SPAN.  While flipping through channels one day, I stumbled upon the British House of Commons talking about the subject of the embargo on the Gaza Strip (or whatever that whole subject was about).  The protocol was such that it made for really vicious sentiments expressed in a very civil way:  There would be booing (but you could never actually see who it was from). When the MPs each got their turn to speak, they asked questions, but not in the second person (e.g., “I would ask the honorable speaker just why…”).  And this speaker had to have an eloquent answer for every single person who wanted to talk.  Amazing- I don’t even do it justice.
Sorry, England, that you don’t have Thanksgiving.  I’m going to go eat what might have been our national bird and watch a more physical version of football.  Keep driving on the wrong side of the road.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fixing Sports

There is nothing wrong with pro football.  Nothing that I would be able to fix anyway.  My specialty lies in geography, logistics and marketing.  And in those areas, I find that football has just about the perfect scheme going.  They know where their hotspots are, they have found a way to make the season the perfect length, the playoffs the perfect length and build up the appropriate amount of hype for the important events.  Maybe they could have one or two fewer preseason games, but you can’t complain about a league that has managed to bring Parity not only in the national sports dialogue, but become a word synonymous with their game.  If only they could help their college version. Go Boise.
The first sport that could use a change is Hockey.  Is the only way to get interest in the sport to make the playoffs ridiculously long?  If there is any sport that ought to change their playoff schedule it’s this one In 2002 the Wild had two of the most exciting seven-game playoff series I’ve been witness to, but they only finished second in their conference.  Just wrong.   And nobody wants to watch a winter sport in June.  And that is what Hockey has to remember, too.  It is a winter sport.  So cater to the crowds that actually know what winter is.  Atlanta, Dallas, Florida and Phoenix don’t get teams.  Give teams back to Hartford, Winnipeg, Quebec.  Even Wisconsin might want one.  Milwaukee, I guess.  Anyway, I love the Winter Classic.  That game actually makes me want to watch hockey.
Basketball has thrived on its ability to garner most of the attention in a given city. It’s worked pretty well in Portland, Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Orlando and San Antonio.  The great thing basketball has going for it is that it has a lot of games and it’s not a weather-specific sport.  If anything they need more teams in areas that don’t have enough. St. Louis.  That’s all I got.
But they could also take a page out of hockey’s book and have a Summer Classic, played outside somewhere.  And have a H-O-R-S-E competition at the All-Star break.  For any more ways to fix basketball, ask The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons.
Baseball is my favorite sport to watch, so I have to take a lot of care when trying to fix it.  Okay- get rid of the DH- for teams that want to- and that’s what you play in their stadiums.  Never mind, that would suck.  Okay, but we do need to get rid of interleague play, balance the schedule, shorten the season, add a wild-card team and have the two WCs play in a best of three play-in series.  Also, there need to be two more teams.  Now is the biggest recent influx of talent and the sport needs to take advantage.  New Orleans and Portland need expansion teams.  For a full detail of my plan for the slight realignment, I will email you the plans in five pages.
Finally, I think more teams need more nicknames to their nicknames.  Those are the coolest.  It’s what separates American sports from British ones.  The Bolts, Halos, O’s, C’s, B’s.  A’s.  M’s.  Yes, there might be a theme here.  But one thing we could take from across the pond is the way they promote/demote teams for doing better or worse in league play.  My vote is baseball.  I think we have enough teams for that…

Monday, November 15, 2010

Notes from Deer Camp

Never been too afraid of getting up early. I’ve recently discovered coffee, and before that I found naps, so even though I’m not a morning person per se, I can deal with them.  Still, it was a new experience this weekend when I found myself sitting in a tree in a driving snowstorm at about six thirty with a gun in my hand.  The idea was that if I saw one of those creatures in a buckskin coat, maybe with those little horn things, I was to shoot at it before it noticed my presence.  Deer hunting.
            It turns out there is a lot of quiet when you’re waiting for deer, and I found myself silently taking comfort in the loudest rap songs I knew, from Run DMC to Public Enemy to Snoop and Dre’s “The Next Episode.”  And then I was singing Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” (which should be made into a rap).  I wanted to say it was the bravado of that genre which was helping me deal with the doomsday-y-ness of the whole situation, but I think it might have been the shooting themes that would help me pull the trigger on a helpless creature. 
Sitting there with that gun in my hand, it kind of felt like I was a character in Smash Brothers- say, Kirby- who had stumbled upon the hammer, and the music started playing and nobody knew what was going to happen.  So I realized I would have to draw on my other, albeit minimal, video game experience in order to succeed.  The obvious one is, of course, Oregon Trail.
Now that I think of it, we often played that game in school in Computer class because it had an early form of IM-ing, and we just wanted to do that. But the next best part of it was shooting things when you got a chance to hunt.  If you went for Bison, they were easier to kill and you got more meat.  So why even go for anything else?  Squirrels were impossible to kill.  Anyway, if I’m a banker (as we all were) and I’m going out west, I don’t know how to hunt. I’ll just buy all the food I need.
(The follow-up game, Yukon Trail, might have been just as fun, if not more fun, because there was a lot more to it as far as the journey went, but there was less shooting.  One time on the way up to Canada I had to wait out a snowstorm that lasted a year or something- ridiculous!)
But this deer hunting was just an awesome idea for several reasons.  If I got one, it would totally make up for my losing to a girl in Big Buck Hunter at the bar earlier this year.  Yea, she was cute, but I wasn’t really actively pursuing her.  And even though I did beat another girl in a shooting game last weekend on the Wii at my friend’s friend’s house in River Falls, I didn’t feel good about that.  (Or did I…?)
The next reason is that I would get to go down before field-dressing it and text a picture to my friend Ryan, who’s a Milwaukee Bucks fan, with a message that said “Fear the Deer? I don’t.”  Finally, it was just kind of fun sitting up in the tree, which was peaceful, but which I don’t think I would do if I my goal wasn’t to snuff out the life of Bambi’s mom with my Thunderstick.
I had gone duck hunting with my dad earlier this fall, and I felt that was kind of like sky-fishing.  That being the case, I think deer hunting is the land equivalent of deep-sea fishing.  Commercial Fishing, that is.  Like with the Andrea Gail in The Perfect Storm.
Although, admittedly the weather did improve on Sunday morning, I still didn’t see a single deer.  Or a guy in a tuxedo eating leaves in the forest pretending to be a deer so that you buy higher-end car insurance. But I did essentially figure out all the problems of the four major sports and how to solve them.  That blog post should be coming out later.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Winning on the Road

This time of year is one of the best for a little game I like to call Padiddle.  Actually, it will only get better as the winter goes on.  That’s because nobody wants to get outside in the cold and changer their headlight.  “I have one working headlight? Oh, that’s good enough…”
            Thus the basis of the game.  It is also better and better in winter time because there is just more darkness and it forces people to keep their headlights on all season long.  For those of you not familiar with the game, it consists of yelling “Padiddle” and punching the roof of the car when you see someone who has one headlight out.  This can be headlight, taillight or foglight.  As long as only one of them is out, not just dim.
            In the past there has been a point system for this game, and it goes something like: One point for a car, two for a semi, four for a police car.  I guess that’s because police cars technically can’t be out at all with a headlight out, so if they are, that just means they’re on their way back to the station.
            But that’s an archaic system. The better way to play it, for those who are comfortable is called Stripadiddle and involves the removal of clothes.  Probably will only take place on Ultimate Frisbee team trips and the like.  Except everyone in the car (but the driver) have to be playing for it to actually be fun.  Or anyone else except me, really.
            That’s only one of my favorite road trip games, however.  I tried to play Padiddle as well as a couple more games on my way back from the family farm a couple weeks ago.  There’s also the Roadkill game, the Alphabet game and several others that can’t be played simultaneously.  It’s really hard to see whether that lump on the ground is a dead animal when you’re trying to look for the Q which you’ve been on for 20 minutes.  Fortunately Katie got a Z, which gave me some time to catch up.
            In the present day, of course, it’s less acceptable to incorporate other people into the games.  But back in the day we used to play a game called Sweet & Sour where we would do the “hang loose” gesture to others (back when people didn’t know what that meant) and see if they smiled or frowned and keep a running tally. Or you could just play the “Look over, then fall back and pass the car again with shades on, not paying any attention to them” Game.
            Finally, I made up a game of my own, which doesn’t necessarily need to be played on a roadtrip, but I think it is perfect for them.  I call it the iPod game.  You have a friend hold your iPod, put it on shuffle, and you say as much about the song that’s playing- Name, Artist, Album- as fast as you can.  Then you can even make it competitive.  Each have an iPod in, then take turns and see how fast you can get through the songs.  Suffice it to say, I’m pretty good at this game.
            But not quite as good at Stripadiddle.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Question, Part II

The sports of former British colonies, however, get really interesting.  Let’s start with India.  I guess officially, their national sport is Field hockey.  Weird.  Anyway, they definitely don’t like soccer that much, so I would have to point out that another sport they are very famous for playing is Cricket.  The Brits invented it, and it must have been coming to popularity around the time that they were colonizing India.  The thing about Britain, though, is that while they are part of Europe, they are also kind of a separate part, and that means a kind of independent thinking.  They were the first to create their own church, and they are just geographically separate.  They prefer the pound to the Euro and so on.  Therefore, it is not surprising that many of their former colonies have taken a big shine to a sport other than soccer.
That goes for the USA and baseball slash football.  The main reason for the U.S. not taking on soccer as one of its favorite sports is that it took on baseball and football first.  About the time England was starting to go crazy for soccer, the U.S. was completely ignoring it because we were still bitter about the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 (or the Second Revolutionary War, as some have called it).  The game of baseball was probably taken in part from sports like rounders, which made its way across the pond before such unfortunate encounters.  But the origins of baseball being so obscure, you can pretty much dub baseball a truly “American” sport.  And even in this country, especially after the Monroe Doctrine, American came to refer to all the Americas.  And though it didn’t catch on as quickly in the more southern Latin American countries (soccer being fully ingrained), countries like Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Cuba have become baseball hotbeds (much more so than soccer).
Football was an interesting development because the rules we play by today are more or less derived from some Canadians who invented the sport.  There was a rugby-like sport that Americans played for a while, and though we would never admit it, football was probably derived at least in part from soccer.  The question of why football developed quickly in America and not soccer, we have to ask how they are different.  Is it our differing notions of space and how it is taken over?  Do Americans see space as something to be gained one play at a time, after each side has developed a strategy for how they are going to dominate?  Do Europeans see taking over space as something that is more ad-libbed, decided upon in the heat of the moment?  Or perhaps with the Puritanical beginnings of America, we preferred to have as many rules as possible, while in Europe, with all the political revolution that was going on at the time, preferred a game with very few rules, one more of the common man.  We may never really know.  It is no surprise, though, that a country which despises Britain as much as the Irish, has taken a liking to a group of sports which are definitely not soccer.