Sorting through my email, both real and imagined . . .
• From reader Chris L.: To borrow a phrase from the late, great Pedro Martinez: Where you been, man?
Yeah, about TATB's nine-day hiatus . . . um, sorry about that. I do have a prepared list of excuses if you're ready for them. I've been working until 2 a.m. a lot more recently, which is cutting into my early-hours writing time. I've been sick as hell - I swear, my 2-year-old brings home virus strains from day care that are yet to be discovered by our finest scientists. (I'm convinced my little Leah is the Typhoid Mary of the bird flu. Whooping cough, too.) On top of that, I've been trying to go cold-turkey with my Dunkin' Donuts coffee addition, which is giving me headaches so painful, I'm pretty sure Albert Haynesworth has been playing kickball with my head. Oh, yeah, and I went to the Foxy Lady one night. Talk about viruses.
• The Foxy Lady. Nice.
Yeah, it was a blast, if only because it was a retirement farewell for one of my favorite co-workers, and let's just say his sendoff was memorable. But I have to admit, peelers aren't so much my thing anymore. Maybe it's my rapidly advancing age, but part of it is the realization that they are such a financial scam - one I went to for a buddy's bachelor party in Portland a month or so ago gave you change only in the form of $2 bills. Think about that for a minute and then tell me they're not trying to get everything in your pocket right down to the lint. (Well, okay, not everything in your pocket.) And being a dad, Chris Rock's famous line about "a father's only duty in life is to keep his daughter off the pole," strikes me more as wisdom than comedy these days. I'm all for looking. But I ain't spending, especially $2 at a time. God, I sound old.
• So I trust you paid Mo Vaughn, the Fonzie of the Foxy, his proper respects?
Nah, we hit the one in Brockton. This was Triple A version. There's no Mo-level talent here. More like a Pat Dodson kind of place.
• From reader Jon J.: You buying the Rajon Rondo hype? He's looked amazing, but you keep hearing that Kentucky wasn't sad to see him go.
The hype is a little much right now - people are talking about him like he's the reincarnation of Penny Hardaway. (Wait . . . you mean Penny Hardaway's still alive? Really? L'il Penny, too? They haven't been seen in years.) That said, his athleticism is off the charts, he always seems to make the correct decision with the ball (something Delonte West struggles with), and he's so quick that he will score even without an adequate jump shot. And don't forget, Tubby Smith is a complete nimrod when it comes to coaching guards - if I recall correctly, he kept his own overmatched kid Saul at the point for two years, at the expense of the team's ultimate success. And the knock that Rondo played no defense in college is a complete lie. Every time I saw him play, he was bounding into the passing lanes and terrorizing whomever he was guarding. He is an excellent defender now, and he always has been. I'm sure he's got some flaws that veteran guards will expose, but he sure held his own against some guy named Kidd tonight, and along with Big Al, Sebastian Telfair and Gerald Green, he's one of the kids with enormous upside who make this team so intriguing. But to answer the question, I dig the hype, even if I'm reluctant to believe it for now. Anything to get people interested in the Celtics is okay by me.
• From reader Mike J.: Curious what your take on the NFL is after this weekend. The Pats haven't looked all that great, but you have to feel pretty good about things considering what's going on in Pittsburgh, Miami, Seattle, etc. The list of contenders for the Super Bowl isn't long.
I think you have to be jacked and pumped about the Patriots' long-term chances this season. Think about it: They're 5-1, the rest of their division would struggle in the Eastern Maine Women's Football League, Chad Jackson and Doug Gabriel look like they're now studying the same playbook as their quarterback, Asante Samuel is playing like he deserves a new contract, and the offensive and defensive lines are controlling the trenches. And don't forget, this team will get better. Every Patriots team in the Belichick Era has been better in the second half than in the first. With Denver's QB and left tackle issues, Pittsburgh's Super Bowl hangover, and the reality that Colts remain the Colts no matter how many times we're assured that this is their year, really, honest, we mean it this time . . . well, like I said, I'm jacked and pumped about the Patriots' long-term chances this season.
(Quick aside: Why is it that when a player leaves for the riches of free agency the Patriots are "cheap" and "don't pay their players" but when someone such as Dan Koppen foregoes the open market to sign a perfectly fair and lucrative contract, the theory parroted by the usual suspects is that he made a mistake by not seeing if more money was out there. Seems a bit disingenuous, no?)
A few other scattered NFL thoughts: We gave Peter King some grief for suggesting we pick up Bruce Gradkowski and Damon Huard in fantasy football, but it looks like Ol' Vente Latte Face himself knew what he was talking about . . . In a related note, has Sports Illustrated printed a retraction of its NFL preview after picking the friggin' Dolphins to go to the Super Bowl? . . . I simply cannot believe J.P. Losman was ever a first-round pick. He's terrible in so many different ways . . . Ben Roethlisberger must have nine lives, and I think he's used about six of them . . . Tiki Barber, whose retirement revelation certainly came at a curious time, had better realize that the only reason anyone cares what he has to say is because he's the star running back for the New York Giants . . . How does Peyton Manning fit practice in amid all his commercial shoots? . . . Joe Theismann is going to punch Tony Kornheiser right below his combover one of these Monday nights, and then, for the first time this season, they will actually be interesting . . . Thirteen years after they rescued the Patriots together, it sure looks like Drew Bledsoe and Bill Parcells are drifting away together . . . If Bledsoe retires because he's lost his job for the moment, well, he's not the competitor I thought he was. Then again, he hasn't improved since his second season, so maybe he was never much of a competitor at all.
• Did Bill Walton ever attempt to get stoned with a killer whale?
You know, I'm thinking there's a pretty decent chance he did.
• From reader Kristin B.: Who do you like in the World Series? I need to know, so I can pick the opposite and win stacks and stacks of cash.
Oh, okay, mock me, laugh at me, and disregard my opinion like I'm an incoherent Tim McCarver craving a Metamucil fix. Fine. But after going 0 for 4 on my picks in the first round, at least I got the Cardinals over the Mets right in the ALCS. I'll have you know, if you haven't heard already, that not one of ESPN's 19 alleged experts predicted that the Cardinals or the Tigers would reach the World Series. So as far as idiots go, I'm in good company. Anyway, I took the Cardinals in 7 here, and three games in, I'm sticking to it. So bet accordingly. Oh, and one more thing: After watching this postseason, I feel a lot better about the Sox's chances for a speedy recovery next year. These days, even the best teams have major flaws.
• So what was that disgusting stuff on Kenny Rogers' hand?
My wife said it looked like cat poop, which tells you we have too many damn cats in this house. You, me, and George Brett know it was pine tar, and the only reason Tony La Russa didn't make a bigger deal out of it is because he has at least one pitcher who does the same thing. Jeff Spicoli-Weaver is my guess. It's not a major offense anyway, but La Russa's always had a pretty high tolerance for cheaters.
• From reader Kevin G.: Any sleepers the Sox should go after in the offseason? A-Rod doesn't count.
You know, I was looking over the free agent list the other day, and . . . well, let's just say I understood why they re-signed Mike Timlin. There's just not a lot out there, particular for relief help. A few names that at least made me go "Hmmmm": Frank Catalanotto, Gregg Zaun, Octavio Dotel, Miguel Batista, Mark De Rosa, Aubrey Huff, Gil Meche, Ray King, Mark Mulder, J.C. Romero, Jamie Walker and Randy Wolf. See, I told you there was nothing.
• Finally, from my buddy CJ: Finnski, one of these days were going to have to have an in-depth analysis on your infatuation with the chick from The Office.
A'ight. Is this explanation enough, punk?
Or how about this?
Yes? No? Okay, then, here's my in-depth analysis. In her sweet and subtly subversive portrayal of Pam, the good-hearted secretary, Jenna Fischer reminds me so much of a girl I once married; her voice and mannerisms are a dead-on imitation of the chick currently sitting to the left of me on the couch and insisting that Clinton on "What Not To Wear" is not gay. Yeah, it's about that simple; she reminds me of my wife. Of course, I could add that in real life she's melt-the-elastic-on-your-boxers hot, comes across on her excellent MySpace page as grounded and grateful as anyone in Hollywood could possibly be, and beneath the office-crush persona has a sense of humor that is definitely Rated R. Seriously, some stuff is so hilariously vulgar that I probably shouldn't link to it, so let me just suggest Googling her recent "10 Things You Don't Know About Women" column for Esquire, as well as her trailer for the movie she wrote and directed, Lollilove. Jim Halpert would not believe those words are coming out of Pam's mouth.
• As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:
Gotta say, I like the hiring of John Farrell as pitching coach, for reasons both logical and abstract: he's long been one of Gammons's Very Special People; everyone in the game raves about his deft touch with young pitchers; he's not named Al Nipper or Dave Wallace; during his pre-arm injury days with the Indians, he was a kick-ass pitcher in Strat-O-Matic; and lastly, in 1984, straight off the Oklahoma State campus, he helped pitch my Maine Guides into the International League finals. If those aren't attributes of a great pitching coach, frankly, I don't know what are. I'm slightly more skeptical about the Dave Magadan hiring, not only because he was described as "too intense" when the Padres replaced him as hitting coach, but because I think Papa Jack got royally screwed.