Friday, March 28, 2008

Jose Canseco: Dumber and meaner than your average idiot

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. I think we all knew Jose Canseco was a blinking moron, but his public image - or at least the way I perceived him - was that of an amiable caricature, a mostly harmless if egomaniacal doofus, the kind of guy who, I don't know, might get busted racing his Ferrari at 120 mph or let a fly ball doink off his thick coconut for a home run. Man, have I been set straight. In this this probably NSFW piece, written for Deadspin by the brilliant Pat Jordan*, Canseco is exposed beyond a doubt as an incurable scumbag, a stupid and pathetic shell of a man who seems on the fast track for an early demise. A snippet:

Jose spends his days at his house in Sherman Oaks, California, off the Ventura Freeway near the San Fernando Valley, home of the porn industry, waiting for producers to call to inform him that the time is ripe, America is now hungry for a Kung Fu movie starring a steroid-inflated, Cuban, ex-baseball player in his forties. In anticipation of that call, Jose showed off his martial arts moves to the man who choreographed "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The man watched Jose's 250-pound body spin and kick and leap into the air for a few minutes and then he told Jose that his moves "were stiff, not very fluid, and you don't kick very well." Jose told Rob, "That guy doesn't know what the ---- he's talking about."

While there's much more tragedy in Canseco's life than comedy, I have to admit the visual of that oblivious meathead breaking out the ninja moves made me laugh out loud.

* - Jordan, a famed and prolific freelancer, authored two of my most beloved books, "A False Spring," about washing out as a Braves' bonus baby in the '50s, and "A Nice Tuesday," a sort of follow-up memoir about returning to the pitching mound at age 56. Read them if you haven't. I promise you'll be glad you did. Jordan also had a memorable take on Roger Clemens in the immediate aftermath of the release of the Mitchell Report. Check it out here. And finally, yes, I stole the asterisk concept from Posnanski**. I only wish I could steal his talent. Or Jordan's.

** - Who admits he stole the concept from David Foster Wallace. So there.

2. Chris Webber limped into retirement this week, the health of his knees and the last remnants of his vertical leap sacrificed to the Hardwood Gods long ago, and I guess that makes him something of a sympathetic figure. But there will be no sentimental farewell coming from this corner for Webber, a charming, charismatic chameleon who coasted by on his natural talents and who must be remembered as one of the least clutch players in the history of the sport. He departs with some fine numbers and countless Stu Scott-voiced highlights, but I'll remember C-Webb as one of is game's great underachievers given the gifts he possessed. Or maybe I'm just bitter, since his retirement left me with the realization that the Fab Five - Michigan's high-flying, trend-setting freshman class of Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwon Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson - burst onto the scene 17 years ago. God, I'm ancient. Maybe I ought to retire.

3. And while we're here, might as well also add this to the list of things that make my pre-geezer self consider swigging a Metamucil-and-Drano cocktail: I remember watching Davidson phenom Stephen Curry's dad play . . . when he was in college at Virginia Tech, before he embarked on a 16-year NBA career. And the son definitely got his father Dell's dead-eye jumpshooter gene - his release is blink-and-you'll-miss-it quick and his form, save for a slightly low release point, is nearly as picture-perfect as his old man's. While I'm tempted to equate Stephen Curry's NBA chances with those of someone like Salim Stoudamire, the wish here is that all of his hoop dreams come true, because it has been an absolute treat to watch him work his long-range magic during Davidson's improbable, delightful run.

4. Enough with the contrived arguments that make the Patriots sound like the New England Home For Wayward Young Men And Talented Football Players. Yes, Randy Moss and Corey Dillon both have pockmarked histories, and we know they both redeemed themselves to varying degrees when given a chance by saintly Father Belichick. But Pacman Jones, for all of his talent - and he was the best player on the field when the Pats played the Titans in '06 - is an entirely more menacing case, and he doesn't exactly seem eager to reform himself. Let's put it bluntly: He's more likely to be on the giving or receiving end of a gun than current any athlete I can think of; I don't want the guy in New England, never mind playing for New England, and I'm glad the Patriots apparently feel the same way.

5. Southern Cal's Keith Rivers was my sleeper pick for the Patriots with the No. 7 overall selection, and it seems as though they do have some interest since the versatile linebacker was scheduled for a visit this week. But if reports that he scored mediocre 16 on the Wonderlic are true, I have to imagine that would send him slip-sliding down their draft board. The Belichick Pats have little use for linebackers who are in danger of redefining the term "tackling dummy."

6. One game I'm dying to see on ESPN Classic: Eddie House's 61-point performance in Arizona State's 111-108 double overtime victory over Cal in January, 2000. Sadly, the network's decision to switch to all Stump The Schwab all the time means I'll probably get to see it only if it somehow materializes on YouTube. No luck so far.

7. Yeah, Jason Varitek looked calcified during his 0-for-Tokyo performance, and I did chuckle when a Whiner Line wise guy wondered if he was somehow paying homage to the departed Doug Mirabelli by whiffing six times in eight at-bats in the series. But does this mean we should worry that Varitek, who turns 36 two weeks from now, is cooked as a hitter? Nah . . . c'mon, it's too soon for that stuff; hell, let them play a game on this continent first before making any rash judgments. Varitek's bat looks slow even when he is hitting, and I tend to think Bill James's 2008 projection for him (.253-17-70) is right about where he will end up.

8. This week's selection (yes, a new recurring feature!) from the addictive, potentially life-altering SI Vault: Jack McCallum's June 26, 1995, cover story on Chicago prep star Kevin Garnett's decision to skip college and head straight to the NBA. I thought this take on what Garnett might become as a player was fascinating and quite accurate, though I don't think anyone has compared him to Reggie Miller lately:

The buzz about this year's draft is that, yes, it's good and deep, but it's also short on future superstars. Jerry Stackhouse might be one, and Garnett might be one. That's it. Garnett's leaping ability is off the charts, he runs the floor like a sprinter, he shoots 20-foot jumpers with ease and perfect rotation, and he's the best-passing big man in the draft. Most teams believe he'll eventually be a do-everything small forward, but for now let's give him a new handle. Call him a faceup 4, a power forward who can hurt you from anywhere, a cross between Reggie Miller and a kinder, gentler version of Alonzo Mourning.

Notably, McCallum wrote this in his mock draft in which he predicted Garnett would go to Washington Bullets with the No. 4 pick:

We've long thought Washington 's youthful star, Chris Webber, has the savvy to be a stabilizing influence on other young players. Chris, you're Kevin's favorite player. Here's your chance.

There's some irony there, no?

9. Couple of quick housekeeping items: For the few of you who asked, it looks like the big move to will be happening right around April 8, which, not coincidentally, is the date of the home opener. I've seen a mock of what the blog will look like, and I really like it. Also, keep the Facebook friend requests coming. It's nice to see you suckers as names and faces rather than IP addresses.

10. As for today's Completely Random Basketball Card:

Of all the talented and intelligent players from the Lakers/Celtics rivalry in the '80s, who would have thought that the most enduring and/or successful coach from either roster would be Scott, with Rick Carlisle a competitive second? I think my money at the time would have been on D.J., though Larry was much better on the bench than he's been in the Indy front office.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

One down

Jumping to a couple of super-quick conclusions after 1 of 162 . . .

* * *
I'll refrain from becoming the 490th person you've heard today mention that Manny Ramirez is on pace for 648 RBIs - whoops, maybe I won't - but it is worth mentioning that Manny had just two four-RBI games during his subpar '07 season. (July 22 against the White Sox and July 26 against Cleveland.) So, yes, I'd say we're justified in at least hoping his dazzling season debut - which included his patented "Oh, $*%*, I'd better stop admiring my handiwork and start running" move - is harbinger of a huge comeback season to come. Do I think Manny is capable of accomplishing the improbable and rediscovering his Monster-mashing mojo in a season during which he'll turn 36? Let's put it this way: My fantasy baseball draft is Saturday, and Manny rose more than a couple of spots on my draft board at around 10 a.m. Monday morning. Hell, I was a believer before today, but it was nonetheless reassuring to see him actually deliver.

* * *

I like Dice-K, and admire him for ease in which he became one of the guys in the Sox clubhouse despite some obvious barriers. I'm glad he pitches for this team, and I believe he'll have the kind of season you'd expect from the No. 2 starter on a legitimate championship contender. Anyone who considers his first season in the majors a disappointment falls somewhere between unrealistic and irrational; not even Pedro in his prime could have lived up to that amount of hype. Now, sincere disclaimers aside, here's my one recurring frustration with him: It's maddening to watch him nibble and refuse to challenge the mediocre likes of Jack Hannahan and Emil Brown. He'll get the count in his favor, say 1-2, then throw the next three pitches just off the plate, which is how he ends up walking hitters who have no business reaching base against him. It severely detracts from the experience of watching him pitch, and I was hoping John Farrell or someone in the organization had convinced him to trust his stuff a little bit more now that he has a year of big league success documented on the back of his baseball card. But based on what we saw today - five walks in five innings - he's still intent on trying to throw the perfect pitch, even when the moment doesn't call for it.

* * *

Finally, the most interesting baseball story I read today comes from stellar (if Yankee-centric) Tom Verducci, who looks back on the 2005 amateur draft and how it provided a turning point in terms of philosophy as well as an infusion of young talent for both the Red Sox and the Yankees. I thought the following extended segment was the most interesting part in a genuinely insightful piece:

Epstein had his doubts [about Buchholz, who was caught stealing laptops from a middle school while in college]. Scouting director Jason McLeod thought that Boston should take Buchholz with an early pick, but Epstein, worried about the baggage, would roll his eyes every time McLeod mentioned him. Finally, Epstein told McLeod, "Listen, if you feel that strongly, the only way I'm going to feel comfortable picking him early is if I can meet him. Let's bring him to Fenway, have him throw and then grill him. Let's find out if this is a bad guy who got caught or a good guy who made a bad mistake."

One week before the draft, Buchholz threw in the Fenway Park bullpen for Epstein and McLeod while the Red Sox took batting practice. Says Epstein, "His stuff was ridiculous." Then the three of them left the bullpen and stood in Fenway's centerfield, while David Ortiz whacked balls off the Green Monster, over their heads and at their feet.

Asked about the theft, Buchholz told Epstein that he had been just a lookout and it was a dumb decision he regretted. "Look," Epstein told him, "we're thinking about taking you. But if we do, we're putting our reputations on the line. If you screw up, it'll be on us. We'll have a zero-tolerance policy with you. So tell us right now why we should believe in you."

Replied Buchholz, "Because all I've ever wanted to be is a big league pitcher. This is too important to me."

Funny how it's all played out. I wonder how many fans realize the Sox ended up with Jacoby Ellsbury and Buchholz as the compensation picks for letting Orlando Cabrera and Pedro Martinez depart. (They also picked Craig Hansen as compensation for losing Derek Lowe, and their own first-rounder, No. 28 overall, went to the Cardinals when they signed Edgar Renteria. St. Louis chose phenom Colby Rasmus. So not everything worked out perfectly.)

* * *

As for Today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Because sometimes it really is random.

Monday, March 24, 2008

2008 Red Sox preview capsule

Foul tips and other observations: I suppose there will be some lingering effects from the Japan trip, whether it's an extended case of jet lag for a few players or, less likely, a team-wide outbreak of the dreaded Giambi Parasites. And given their hellacious early schedule - they have five games with the Yankees, three with the Angels, three with Detroit, and two with Cleveland in a stretch from April 8-27 during which they have exactly zero days off - they'll be fortunate to escape the season's first full month with a .500 record . . . And you know what happens then: the WEEI banshees and "Francoma"-bashing morons will be screeching in all their miserable glory . . . But to anyone with a shred of patience and a dollop of common sense, it should be apparent that this is a very good baseball team - hell, it's basically the same team to a man that rejoiced in Colorado last October - and the chances of back-to-back championships (and three in five years, as you might have heard) are at the least realistic, even with a slow start . . . The key to it all? Mr. Beckett, of course . . . The new Mr. October may not have been the best pitcher in the majors last season, but he was in the argument, and there's no one else you'd want on the mound in a big moment . . . Beckett's career postseason numbers would make Bob Gibson tip his cap in tribute: 9 starts, 6 wins, 2 losses, 1.73 ERA, 72.2 innings. 40 hits (yes, 40), 14 walks, 82 strikeouts, and two World Series rings . . . But if this back injury lingers, well, let's not think about that right now . . . In some respects, Daisuke Matsuzaka remains as much of a mystery now as he was before he ever threw a big league pitch . . . The consensus seems to be that he will be better in Year 2, but it's mildly alarming that Hideo Nomo wasn't the only Japanese pitcher to peak in his first big league season . . . The expectation here is pretty much more of the same: 15-16 wins, an ERA in the high 3s, 200 or so Ks, and a maddening habit of nibbling against subpar hitters . . . I would not be shocked if Jon Lester surpassed Dice-K as the second starter. John Farrell is adamant that the admirable 24-year-old lefty can win at least 15 games this season, and I've learned it's wise to listen to John Farrell . . . A subtly crucial development that helped the Sox lock down the AL East last season: Tim Wakefield winning 17 games. I wouldn't put it past ol' Knucksie again, though he is on the wrong side of 40 and has broken down at the end of each of the past two seasons . . . Bartolo Colon should be able to collect the 8-10 wins they were counting on from Curt Schilling, though there surely is no comparison between the two when it comes to October. . . I've been watching "Bull Durham" as I write this, and the truth dawned on me: Jonathan Papelbon is Nuke LaLoosh, albeit with a more compact (okay, masculine) delivery . . . It's funny, this is the beginning of Papelbon's third full season with the Sox, yet he's such a staple now, one of the franchise's icons, that it feels like he's been around so much longer. Hard to believe he was in Single A during the '04 season. I tend to think of him as a member of that championship team . . . Count me among those who think Manny Delcarmen will emerge as one of the better righthanded setup men in the AL. The stuff is there, and his confidence should finally be as well. He's been around long enough now to know he can do this . . . It's unlikely that Hideki Okajima will duplicate his staggering brilliance of last season, especially now that the league is familiar with his quirks, but the "Hero in the Dark" will still be plenty good enough. What a find he was . . . I'm starting to think Mike Timlin will be pitching for this team when Manny and Papi's sons are anchoring the lineup. If there were a wing at the Hall of Fame for middle relievers, he'd be a lock for a plaque . . . As for the bats . . . The Sox scored 867 runs last year. Betcha they break 900 this season . . . Why? For starters, probable improvement from J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo, both of whom simply must be better in their sophomore seasons in Boston . . . Also, dynamic Jacoby Ellsbury is almost certain to be a significant offensive upgrade over Coco Crisp once the center field job officially belongs to him . . . But the biggest reason we're expecting a few more crooked numbers for the home team on the Fenway scoreboard this season? A return to form by the one and only Manuel Aristides (Onelcida) Ramirez . . . Yes, I realize he'll turn 36 in May, and baseball logic says there's a reasonable chance his .296-20-88 numbers from a season ago signify the beginning of the decline phase for one of the game's all-time great hitters . . . But Manny sure seems determined not to lose his mojo quite yet . . . He reported to camp in peak shape, and everyone who has seen him, from Peter Gammons (who picks him as the AL MVP) to Curt Schilling, says he will have a monster comeback season . . . Jason Varitek quietly had a quality offensive season - his .788 OPS ranked fourth among everyday catchers in the AL - and his importance to the team can be summed up in these four words: Kevin Cash, starting catcher (shudder) . . . A sophomore slump for Dustin Pedroia? Not according to Bill James, who projects .300-9-57 numbers for the real-life Tanner Boyle . . . How far as Kevin Youkilis come? In the 2002 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, he was ranked the 29th-best prospect in a thin Red Sox farm system, behind the likes of Seung Song (No. 1), Tony Blanco (2), and Rene Miniel (3). Gotta respect a self-made player, especially one who has become close to invaluable . . . In two seasons, Mike Lowell has gone from a salary dump in the Beckett/Hanley deal to an integral part of the ball club, on the field and off. Even if his numbers this season are closer to his '06 stats (.284-20-80) than his fat '07 numbers (.324-21-120), he'll be a bargain at his new price tag . . . For the first time since 1999, David Ortiz didn't improve upon his home run output of the previous season, dropping from 54 homers in '06 to 35 last year . . . Yet in many ways, it was his finest offensive season . . . His OPS+ of 171 was the highest of his career . . . He also set career highs in batting (.332), hits (182), walks (111), doubles (52), on-base percentage (.445), and OPS (1.066) . . . And continues to do it all with a smile . . . Please, please, please remind me never to take Big Papi - or this wonderful time in Red Sox history - for granted.

Breakthrough player:
Lester. It just seems like everything is coming together. He's healthy, he's put on 15 pounds of muscle (which should increase his durability), he must be confident after coming through in the World Series clincher, and the opportunity is there to be seized. This is his time.

Honorable mention: Ellsbury. This is where I'd usually mention Brett Butler, but I'm starting to think the prince of Pink Hat Nation's uncommon work ethic is going to lead to him hitting with more power than his minor league numbers would indicate . . .Clay Buchholz. Yes, the No-Hit Kid has a had a fairly rough spring, but he's so supremely gifted and his secondary pitches are so polished that he'll be a consistent and often dazzling contributor before the calendar turns to July . . . Drew. Because he's too damn talented to be so mediocre again.

Breakdown player: Retroactively, we'll cop-out and go with Schilling, who apparently blew his shoulder out signing his new contract.

Dishonorable mention: Lowell. I couldn't have been more wrong about him last year. Might as well make a jackass of myself again, though you do have to wonder how much of his personally unprecedented success in the second half was due to a contract drive . . . Varitek. Well, he is 36.

Completely Random Bill James stat: Varitek was fifth in the AL in batting in close and late situations (.351).

Bonus stat: Ortiz led the league with .700 slugging percentage and a .470 OBP against righthanded pitchers, and his 1.153 OPS in the second half was also an AL best. (Okay, so that's three stats. Just emphasizing what a great year he really had.)

Bonus bonus stat: Dice-K led the AL in pitches per start (108.8) and tied A.J. Burnett for the most pitches in one game (130).

Triple bonus stat: Papelbon held opposing batters to a .146 average, tops among pitchers with 50 or more innings of work.

And what the hell, one more: Wakefield threw 2,194 pitches below 80 mph, far and away the most in the AL. Next on the list was Gagne bait Kason Gabbard, with 908.

. . . and finally, the prediction: 94 wins, 68 losses, 2d in AL East, AL wild card winner, and another suspenseful and very possibly joyous autumn. (Note from TATB management: For, oh, 10 years running, I picked the Sox to win the East. They didn't. Not once. I picked them second last year. You know how the story played out. I'm sticking to the formula that gets me what I want, people.)

* * *

As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

As as I wrap this up, it's t-minus 4 hours and 17 minutes until game time. So tell me again: How do you say "Play ball!" in Japanese?

2008 Red


(Update, 5:23 p.m.: Uh, yeah, hello. The actual post, with words and everything, that belongs here will be up at some point late tonight. Contrary to current perception, it will not be about one of Lionel Richie's many catchy hit singles, but a capsule look at your 2008 Boston Red Sox. In the meantime, while I'm retaking Blogger 101, you may converse amongst yourselves regarding my bleepin' stupidity. Thank you. -- TATB Dept. of Incompetent Blogging.)

(P.S. - I could blame this on my hellacious cold, but that would be just so Simmons of me. Also, my back hurts.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cornering the market

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Loved the Pats' signing of Fernando Bryant today, not only because he's a smart, proven veteran cornerback who's an upgrade on Randall Gay at the least, but also because he indirectly inspired probably the most heartfelt column I wrote in my time at the Monitor. He struck me as a great guy then, and I was glad to learn today that my initial perception was correct. And one more thing: This transaction convinced me beyond a doubt that the Patriots will not use the No. 7 pick to reach for one of the cornerbacks (McKelvin, Talib, Rogers-Cromartie) who are more qualified to go at the back end of the first round. You, me, and Mel Kiper's hairdresser really have no idea what they will do, but I suspect their priorities looks something like this: 1) Trade out of the spot, preferably for Dallas's two No. 1s. 2) Grab Vernon Gholston if he gets past the Jets at No. 6. 3) Take someone they like who no one is considering right now. (Well, except for Mike Reiss, who might be on to something with his educated speculation that they might covet Florida's Derrick Harvey.)

2. Either Glen Taylor doesn't know the definition of the word "tanked," or he's intent on battling James Dolan for the top spot in the NBA version of the Idiot Owner Power Rankings. And given that he oversees a franchise that lost five - 5! - first-round picks for trying to circumvent the salary cap in a shady free agent deal with Joe Smith, I'd say the latter is more likely. It's a damn disgrace that he'd ever question anything Kevin Garnett did for that mismanaged, undermanned franchise.

3. Three semi-sleepers I really like in fantasy baseball this season: 1) Phil Hughes, Yankees: He has to prove he can stay healthy, but every time I have seen him from Double A on up, he's looked like a future No. 1 starter, and that future is near. 2) Jeremy Hermida, Marlins: One of the best prospects in baseball two years ago, he lived up to his talent in the second half last season, hitting .340 with a .956 OPS. 3) Dustin McGowan, Blue Jays: Seven wins and a 3.67 ERA in the second half, he's a much smarter bet than A.J. Burnett to be the Jays' No. 2 starter.

4. In case you missed it, Joe Posnanski had a Q-and-A with Bill James recently on his blog, and it was just as entertaining and informative regarding baseball matters as you might expect. But my favorite part? This:

Q: In The Office*, were you happy or ultimately disappointed that Pam and Jim got together?

Bill: Relieved. They couldn’t have kept that going any longer; it would have fallen flat. If they hadn’t gotten together it would have ruined the show because it would have turned into a cliché.

*It just so happens that The Office is both of our favorite TV show. I was skeptical about The Office because Margo and I loved the original British Office so much. More than skeptical. The first year of The Office — which was a virtual frame by frame copy — was, I thought, awful because it was so derivative. But then the American Office found its voice and took off in my mind, because of the writing, because Steve Carrell’s so great, because of the secondary characters and because I believe it is humanly impossible not to fall in love with Pam.

I tend to agree with that last sentiment, as you probably suspected. And who would have thought Bill James liked "The Office"? I love it when my little obsessions collide like that.

5. Well, looks like we can pinpoint the first time Peter King verbally fondled Brett Favre. Seriously, the Sports Illustrated archives are going to be irresistible - I can see myself losing a couple hours there in the same way that I do on - and I'm kind of amazed that they are making such a cool and valuable resource available for free.

6. Gotta figure if Sports Guy's wife ever reads one of the columns that he writes in her voice, she's going to be seriously annoyed at how vapid he makes her seem. (C'mon, the tone, the structure, the pop culture references . . . it's gotta be him, right?)

7. I'm as glad as anyone that Doug Mirabelli is gone - he's the .202-hitting personification of the arrogant jock stereotype, one of the few true jerks on the Sox - but I hope fans realize he's Johnny Bench at the plate compared to the salami bat who is replacing him. Kevin Cash is a fine defensive catcher, but he's not only a inept hitter, he's historically inept. In 359 career at-bats, he has a .167 batting average (45 points higher than the average of the pitcher he'll be catching) and a .488 OPS. Watching him attempt to hit every fifth day is going to get old fast.

8. I'm not a Bobby Knight fan - he was a brilliant coach, sure, but he's also nearly as accomplished as a bully and a hypocrite - but I have to admit, watching him break down the tournament with his no-nonsense style on ESPN has been compelling TV, and I give him bonus points for picking fourth-seeded Pitt to win it all when, from what I saw, the likes of Digger Phelps and Jay Bilas took the easy way out and sucked up to the top seeds and usual suspects. (Which reminds me . . . god, I wish Duke lost to Belmont.)

9. I had the sound on the TV down for much of the Celtics game tonight, so I have to ask: Did Reggie Miller mention anything in regard to how close he came to taking up Danny Ainge on his preseason offer join the green? While the everyone obviously has to be content with the way things worked out - especially since Eddie House has mostly been outstanding as the designated bomber -I am curious if he has any regrets now that the Celtics are exceeding even the wildest expectations.

10. As for today's Completely Random Basketball Card:

Didn't realize the former Celtic - and one of few players Red Auerbach misjudged - was one of Avery Johnson's henchmen until I noticed him on the Dallas bench tonight.

* * *

Couple of quick programming notes: 1) The long-promised Celts column should be posted sometime early next week. I'm absolutely giddy at how legitimately great this team is - after sweeping the "Texas Triangle," as Sean Grande calls it, no one can deny that they are THE favorite to win it all. And they're as fun and likable as they are good. I'm at the point where I'm bummed when they have a day off. I wish they played every day.

I'm also planning on writing division-by-division baseball preview caps in the same format as a last year, though those probably won't all be completed until the season is underway. I'll aim to crank out the Sox capsule Monday.

Finally, if you didn't notice the link on the righthand column, we're now on Facebook, so stop by and say hi. TATB could always use a few friends.

Until later . . . sayonara from TATB's favorite goodwill ambassador:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Shining moments

As we begin our annual descent into Madness, we give you a completely self-indulgent look at TATB's all-time favorite college hoops players . . .

Benny Anders, Houston: One of the most mysterious characters in recent college basketball history, his legend grows by the year. Anders (No. 32 in the picture) played with Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler on the skywalking 1983 University of Houston Phi Slamma Jamma team that beat Louisville in a dunkfest in the Final Four before falling to N.C. State in the final, and by all accounts he more than held his own with his future superstar teammates. Said former Houston guard Reid Gettys: "Clyde will concede Benny tore him up in one-on-ones. Now, Clyde won't concede Michael Jordan tore him up, but he concedes Benny would get him." While Drexler went on to become one of the NBA Top 50 players of all time, Anders's talent went unfulfilled, by all accounts due to a lack of self-discipline. He didn't last at Houston, never played in the NBA, and, sadly, hasn't been heard from in years. But no one forgets him.

Kenny Anderson, Georgia Tech: It's hard to believe the lethargic, seen-it-all NBA veteran who passed his time front-rimming 15-foot jumpers for the Celtics a few seasons ago was the same dynamic player who in 1990 earned justified comparisons to Tiny Archibald while leading Georgia Tech to the Final Four. But Anderson really was something to behold in his youth, a super-quick lefty slasher with rare creativity as a passer and finisher. Though he averaged over 25 ppg as a sophomore and played 15 years in the NBA, it's not unfair to say he peaked as player as a freshman, when he joined long-range gunner Dennis Scott and versatile Brian Oliver to form "Lethal Weapon 3," one of the most fun and memorable trios in college hoops history. If you saw him in college, you can't help but wonder what happened along the way to sap his joy for the game.

Danny Manning, Kansas: Manning carried the Jayhawks to the '88 title, and "carried" is the appropriate word there - his most notable teammates were Milt Newton, Kevin Pritchard, and Scooter Barry, whose claim to fame is being the least gifted of Rick Barry's hoop-playing spawn. In the title game against Oklahoma, Manning posted this hop-on-my-back-fellas stat line: 31 points, 18 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocked shots. For a player of such immense talents - he scored over 2,500 points in his four seasons - he also had unusual amounts of intelligence and savvy to his game, little baby hooks and touch passes and clever moves in the post. I'm not convinced he would have been a bona fide superstar in the NBA had he not blown his knee out 26 games into his rookie season with the Clippers - he was never that quick in the first place - but he would have been a hell of a second banana on an outstanding team.

Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse: Even in his one year of college ball, his game was a polished blend of Hip-Hop and Old School (I'm a sucker for that midrange rainbow jumper), and his easy charisma has always been off the charts. Solely because of him, I picked Syracuse to win it all in '03 - the only time I've had the last team standing as far as I can remember. If that's not a good reason to include him here, I don't know what is.

Chris Jackson, LSU: One of my laments as a sports fan is that I was born too late to see Pistol Pete Maravich play at LSU. For someone of my generation, watching Jackson, who averaged 30.2 ppg his freshman year (1988-89) for the Tigers, was as close as we'll come. He had seemingly limitless range, only a hint of a conscience, a dancer's balance (he always seemed to shoot on the move), and a handle that would wow even the AND1 crowd. If ESPN Classic hadn't tragically and inexplicably been converted to the Bowling/Poker Who-Gives-A-Bleep Channel in recent years, I'd like to think random games from Jackson's freshman year is the kind of stuff they'd be showing.

Chris Mullin, St. John's:
Remember when St. John's-Georgetown was an Event, Capital E? No? Well, I bet Walter Berry does.

Wally Szczerbiak, Miami (Ohio): Loved his 43-point performance against Washington during the RedHawks' run to the Sweet 16 in the '99 tourney. Couldn't stand him as a limping chucker for the Celtics.

David Robinson, Navy: Couldn't help but laugh at Red Auerbach's quote in this clip: "He's got a lot to learn . . . but not that much." In other words: The kid's unreal, but I don't want anyone knowing I think that. Classic Red.

Bo Kimble, Loyola-Marymount The lefthanded free throw still gets me.

Glen Rice, Michigan: His range extended to Kalamazoo.

John "Hot Plate" Williams, LSU: One of the great obese players of all time. How's that for a backhanded compliment?

Toby Bailey, UCLA: Ah, hell, I'll admit it: I bought the Next Big Thing hype. Should have known better than to fall for a 6-foot-3-inch guard who couldn't shoot.

(I'll add more as I think of them today. Feel free to add yours in the comments . . . )

Friday, March 14, 2008

Changes in latitudes

Just a quick note to tell confirm something you might already know, and possibly may even give a damn about (or not):

By Opening Day, TATB will be moving over to permanently, and the Blogspot version you see here will exist only as an archive. Yup, the little website is going all corporate on you. I'm fairly sure I even get to hire a cute secretary and a couple of Smithers-like yes-men. Remind me to get my agent to look into that.

(I'll pause a moment here to let my Original 6 readers howl "Sellout!" in unison.)


(Is that good? You guys done? You too, mom? Okay, good. Let's move on.)

Yeah, so . . . it is. We agreed to a formal deal a few weeks ago, and as you might expect, I'm psyched. The increased readership and an actual paycheck for pecking out this nonsense are the obvious benefits. And I'm absolutely thrilled to have a chance to be a semi-prominent voice on what amounts to the electronic wing of the Globe. In terms of prestige, I realize of course that this puny blog is not even in the same ballpark as, say, being a featured writer in the actual printed sports section. But this is as close as I'll ever come to fulfilling that boyhood dream, and you can be damn sure I'm going to make the most of the opportunity.

It's funny, when I started this thing in December, 2004, I never would have considered this as a real possibility; I had no conscious aspirations to turn this into something bigger or profitable, none at all. I just wanted to write, man. I love my desk job at the Globe, I truly do, but as I've said here many times before, after so many years of cranking out columns about the Sox when I was in New Hampshire, it crushed me not to have a venue and a voice when the they finally won the World Series. Three-and-a-half years, roughly 1.3 million visitors, and another World Series title later, and that's still my mentality. I just want to write, man.

I am glad to report that not much is changing in the transition. I mean, yeah, it will look different - it'll be on the template and will be cleaner and better organized and such - but the tone and content will remain the same. I'll still feature the Completely Random Baseball card and the Nine Innings column, live blogs and all the other staples you've come to, uh, tolerate. (Thought "love" was too strong of a word there, yes?) Even Rodney Craig, Ombudsman, is coming along. I'll still apologize for Manny, unabashedly admire KG, aim every cheap shot my tiny brain can conceive at Slappy McBluelips and Capt. Derek J. Intangibles, and pine for Jenna Fischer in an awkward and possibly law-violating way. I'll still be me, suckers. For some inexplicable reason they seem to want that. I'm as stumped as you are.

I suppose there's one thing that might change, but I desperately hope it doesn't - that's the quality of the commenters. One of the surprising joys for me is popping into the comments the morning after I post something and reading what you guys have to say. Sometimes your response is positive, and sometimes you tell me in so many words to go do something that from what I can tell is anatomically impossible. But your take is almost always well-articulated and reasonable, and often makes more sense than what I wrote. (Frankly, it pisses me off when that happens. Knock it off, smart guys.)

Seriously, what I'm saying, in my usual roundabout way, is that I hope all of you - and you know who you are - will follow me to the new address. As happy as I am to be doing this, it would not be as rewarding without you.

So that's that. I'm signing off for the night now. I look forward to seeing you in the comments in the morning. But I hope you already knew that.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Get back

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Worried about Josh Beckett? Eh, I'd call it mild concern at this point; I'd be more bothered if he had a blister. While back problems for a pitcher obviously can cause bigger problems down the road if it affects his mechanics, it sounds like this strain or pull or whatever it is will cease to be an issue with proper rest and treatment. The Sox, unsurprisingly, are being appropriately cautious with their ace. It's a long season, and they can survive without him in the short term. Maybe it's even a blessing that he misses the ridiculous trip to Japan; we wouldn't want him suffering a debilitating season-long case of Mike Mussina Jet Lag, now would we?

2. Thrilled to read that "Friday Night Lights" has, against long odds, been renewed for a third season. I've been banging through the DVD of the first season, and it has to be among the best written and acted dramas on TV. I appreciate that the writers rarely cop out with a neat, tidy, ending to an episode; even the most likable characters are complex and flawed, and the result is a rare authenticity. It's criminal that Kyle Chandler, who is spot-on as gruff, good-hearted Coach Taylor, hasn't even been nominated for an Emmy, let alone won one. And Tim Riggins is fast becoming one of my favorite TV characters of recent memory. He's hilarious, in a brooding, greasy-haired sort of way. It's not quite at the level of "The Office," in my personal TV ratings, but it's getting close.

3. All right, what the hell, might as well say it: I honestly believe the Celtics will - will - win No. 17 this season. I promise to write a longer column on this when time permits, but I just wanted to get it out there now, because I am completely convinced that they are the best team - and that's the key word, team - in the league this season. They are an absolute joy to watch at both ends of the floor, there seems to be uncommon camaraderie among the players, they just added one of the finest big-game players of his generation as a willing role player, and the kids seem to improve on a nightly basis. Detroit can't keep up with them, and I don't think the survivor of the West bloodbath will, either. It might be the most fun I've had watching this team in, oh, 22 years. Can we just skip ahead to the playoffs already?

4. My hypothetical NBA MVP ballot: 1) LeBron James (I am scared to death of the Celtics having to deal with him in the playoffs, though I remind myself that two of his key teammates are the fossilized Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West . . . which makes all that he has accomplished all the more impressive. 2) KG (The national media seems to be overlooking him now, probably because the Celtics continued to win when he was hurt. But his importance, especially defensively and emotionally, cannot be overstated. Knew that, didn't you? 3) Kobe. (If the Celts don't make the finals, I'd love to see Cavs-Lakers, just to watch him and LeBron try to one-up each other.)

5. Gerald Green, upon being traded by the Timberwolves to his hometown Houston Rockets Feb. 21:

“It’s like a dream come true. Never in my life did I think this would happen. I am on cloud nine."

The Rockets cut him barely two weeks later. Maybe that will be the dose of reality Green needs, though I doubt it. While he has oodles of physical talent - players with his ups and photogenic jump shot are scarce - he hasn't improved at all in his three years in the league, which tells you that he either has no work ethic, or that his IQ, on the court and off, is in the sub-Tony Allen category. At this point, he might as well call himself a Dunk Contest Specialist. It's funny, I've been poring through my archives the past few days, and I was shocked by how often I praised Green's "potential" last season; I think most of us knew all along that the kid was too much of a knucklehead to make it, but we were so desparate for anything to root for that we convinced ourselves that his 10.4 ppg average for a truly atrocious basketball team constituted progress. Man, I'd really love to hear Doc Rivers's or Paul Pierce's candid assessment of the kid. I bet they have some stories, and I can't imagine they're surprised he now finds himself trolling for employment with the likes of the Yakima Sun Kings.

6. I'll admit I'm no expert like Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper Jr., or Larry Johnson, but the more I look at the way the upcoming NFL Draft appears to be falling, the more I hope the Patriots find some sucker to trade a handful of picks for that No. 7 spot. There are no cornerbacks or linebackers as far as I can tell that would justify being selected in that slot, assuming workout warrior Vernon Gholston goes to the Jets at No. 6. If all the stars are aligned, maybe Jerry Jones will trade his two No. 1s - the 22d and 28th picks - along with, say, a fifth-rounder, and the Pats can get a couple of pieces they need (Keith Rivers? Dominique Rogers-Cromartie?) at good value.

7. What does Matt Walsh have in his video collection? Well, like most guys in his early 30s, he probably has "GoodFellas," "Dazed and Confused," definitely owns the "Best of Jenna Jame". . . oh, you meant his other video collection? Right. Well, here's my best - and probably wishful - guess: a couple of tapes of opposing coaches' signals from the 2000-02 seasons. And that's it. If you consider the timeline here, Walsh first mentioned possessing material that would "embarrass" the Patriots after they got busted in the Jets game, but - and this is the key - before it was revealed that there were other tapes. The suspicion here is that Walsh knew there were other tapes, had a few of them as keepsakes, and was bummed when he realized he didn't have the bombshell he thought he did once the Patriots apparently came clean with Sheriff Goodell.

8. This sure seems like the season Manny Delcarmen makes the leap and becomes a dependable and perhaps even elite eighth-inning setup guy; he's in excellent shape and certainly has the stuff to succeed in a crucial role. But first I need to be sure that he's eliminated the Schiraldi-esque "holy crap, this is a huge moment" look from his repertoire before I'm officially convinced. He wasn't trustworthy in big spots in the postseason last year, and he still needs to prove he can handle the pressure that comes with a late-inning role.

9. Let's see . . . 11 of you, my dearest readers, sent me this link today (plus one posted in the comments), and while I suppose I'm flattered that you immediately think of me when a story's subjects include Jenna Fischer, a casting couch, and, um, a synonym for pee, I'm also somewhat concerned about my public perception. But not enough to prevent me from clicking the link all 11 times you sent it. Thanks, freaks.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Because sometimes, it really is random.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Three-point stance

A couple of quicky thoughts in between naps . . .

For the first time since Eli Manning got the ball back with 83 yards to go and 2:42 on the damn clock, I'm feeling good about the Patriots. Randy Moss returning obviously has a little something to do with that, and while I was bordering on full-scale panic as he hit the free-agent market, in retrospect you have to give kudos to both the Patriots' front office and Moss for how they handled the situation. The Patriots were careful not to offend the, um, "quirky" receiver, negotiating a long-term deal in good faith rather than franchising him. And Moss deserves praise for realizing he has a good thing going in New England and signing for less than he likely would have received on the open market. While Moss's return is of course the biggest and best news, we should also be encouraged by the small but potentially significant gains the Pats have made in free agency. Tank Williams is a particularly intriguing addition; he was a helmet-cracking demon for those perennially tough defenses Jeff Fisher puts together in Tennessee, but a fractured knee cap halted his ascension to stardom. He's only 27, he's smart (he's a Stanford grad), he played well in a reserve role in Minnesota last season, and the hunch here is that he'll be regarded as a steal next season. Jason Webster and Lewis Sanders are depth signings, positioned to replace the departed Randall Gay, whom you might remember as this year's recipient of the Tebucky Jones Award, given every few seasons to the so-so Patriots defensive back who is comically overpaid by the Saints. Should the Belichick/Pioli braintrust bring in a useful linebacker or two - Adam Seward? Takeo Spikes, perhaps? - you have to feel very good about the state of this team heading into the draft . . . where, by the way, we're hoping they take, oh, a trio of defensive backs and another four linebackers, just to be safe.

* * *

And somewhere (in Afghanistan, apparently), Peter King rips his Brett Favre Fathead off his bedroom wall and collapses into sobs. Seriously, we all knew the media fawning when the beloved Gritty Ol' Gunslinger Who Just Loves To Play He's Like A Kid Out There finally hung 'em up would fall somewhere between saccharine and insufferable. But that doesn't make the over-the-top coverage from the past few days any easier to endure. And I like Favre. He was fun as hell to watch, seems like a genuinely decent guy (though there surely is some calculation behind the lucrative aw-shucks persona), and the NFL is a little less interesting without him. But c'mon now . . . he was not a "national treasure," as one heartbroken ESPN hairdo called him this morning, to solemn nods from his mourning nitwit peers. What was he? In truth, this: An extremely gifted passer who often took his physical talents for granted, played recklessly right down to the bitter-cold end against the Giants, yet rarely got called out on his flaws because A) his ability and charisma were often enough to win the day, and B) he was accommodating and savvy enough to return the right phone calls and fill the right notebooks. Oh, and mark these words: He may not play another down in the NFL, but I guarantee there will be well-placed rumors next season that he would at least consider coming out of retirement in "the right situation." I once wrote these words about Roger Clemens: "If anyone has an ill-fated comeback in him, it's Rocket, the Human Ego Trip." That was, I believe, three retirements and one Congressional hearing ago for the future Leavenworth ace. The same goes for Favre, just you wait and see. He'll realize that bucolic Kiln, Miss., (cue the banjo) isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when Peter King and the rest aren't quite ready to quit you . . . and vice versa.

* * *

My favorite moment of the Celtics' season so far, and probably their defining moment as well: Rajon Rondo's fearless posterization of Jason Maxiell Wednesday night. I'm not a big YouTube guy - I tend to skip over clips when I see them posted other blogs - but I want to put this here just so I can watch it whenever I feel like it. (Watching him blow past Richard "Phantom of the Opera" Hamilton is almost as cool as the dunk itself.) Rondo blossoming into a tough, increasingly reliable and breathtakingly athletic point guard has been one of the many great joys of watching this team.

* * *

As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

I imagine all the "he really should work for the Yankees" jokes are taken by now, right? Then I've got nothin'.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Me, myself, and I

Inspired by my wife's friend Heather's list (and with an assist from my own massive ego) here are 50 Things About Me . . .

1. Butch Hobson, who never saw a bat rack he couldn't crash into, was my favorite Sox player as a kid. My favorite player today is Manny Ramirez, who's the anti-Butch in terms of how he plays the game.

2. Eighteen years after we met at Gannett Hall at dear old UMaine, I still don't understand how I duped my wife into going out with me, let alone marrying me. And the Jenna Fischer comparison a mysterious commenter made a few posts ago? Well, hey, no argument here.

3. My two biggest fears are something happening to my wife and kids, and me failing them.

4. I used to think that had I been blessed with foresight and a trust fund I could have had the career of Bill Simmons. But I've come to realize that he deserves more credit for his talent and remarkable success than he often gets from us bitter Internet hacks. I'd destroy him on the basketball court, however, and I'd enjoy doing it.

5. I ran a 5:20 mile in high school. Nowadays it would take me twice that long . . . on a bike.

6. Five years ago, I could bench-press over 300 pounds. Nowadays I heave up 135 and can't lift my arms above my head for a week.

7. If I could have my kids' picture taken with anyone on the planet, I'd choose David Ortiz.

8. My cat, named after Otis Nixon, is 15. When he goes to the Great Kitty Carrier in the Sky, I'll be sadder than my children will.

9. I haven't played an organized baseball game in 21 years. I still miss it dearly.

10. I once hit 3-pointers on five consecutive possessions in a men's league basketball game to turn a nine-point deficit into a six-point lead (or vice versa), scored 38 points in another game, hit nine 3-pointers in another.

11. Yet my greatest basketball accomplishment is pouring in roughly 2.7 points per game for the 1987-88 Class A state champion Morse Shipbuilders. Just win, baby.

12. Twenty years ago, I played hoops against Celtic-to-be Sam Cassell. He was just as handsome then.

13. I get offended when old friends don't make as much of an effort to keep in touch as I do.

14. I wish I was sipping a coconut-flavored beverage at the Frangipani in Bequia right now.

15. I've been around athletes my whole life. But the toughest, most resilient person I've ever known is my mom.

16. The first record album I ever bought was Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall" when I was in fifth grade. The first 45 (I refuse to explain what that is, children) was John Lennon's "Just Like Starting Over." I'll argue that both were fine choices given the era.

17. When people first meet me they tend to think I'm quiet and shy; it's later on that they realize I'm primarily a vulgar smart-ass.

18. My best friend from my freshman year of college died of a brain aneurysm 12 years ago while jogging. He encouraged me to pursue sports writing when I wasn't sure I had the talent or the dedication. I keep his picture in the top drawer of the desk in my home office, and I still think about him often.

19. I refuse to read newspaper stories about people being cruel and abusive to children. I can't comprehend it, and it breaks my heart to hear about it.

20. In the past few years, to my surprise, country has become my favorite musical genre. I think it's because it's gradually losing the hillbilly twang and moving toward the mainstream. Or maybe just because in my old age I'm getting sentimental, and country is nothing if not that.

21. While I find the whole bleepfaced Parrothead thing a little much in an amusing sort of way, I'm a loyal Jimmy Buffett fan and will never grow tired of "A Pirate Looks at 40" or "Trying to Reason With Hurricane Season," among about 40-50 other songs. Got a beach bum's soul, I guess.

22. I can't help but like Kenny Chesney, too, even though he's blatantly dipping his toes in Buffett's Caribbean surf and looks like a hairless cat.

23. When I talk to my dad, the conversation always turns toward baseball, just as it did when I was 8. There's something reassuring in that.

24. The summer before seventh grade, I nearly drowned in the Kennebec River. Also that summer, I fell off my bike pedaling at full speed, tore up my forehead, elbow, and shoulder, and had to go to hospital for iodine treatments every other day. And I got chicken pox. Nope, not the best summer I ever had.

25. When I was in fourth grade, I got busted sneaking off school grounds at lunch to go to Lincoln Street Market and buy a hot dog and a couple of packs of baseball cards. (Why? Because hot lunch in 1980 sucked, that's why. A kid could only take so much Shepherd's Pie and tinfoil-wrapped pizza.) Instead of confessing, I went with the "it must have been another kid that looks like me" defense, and when that Rusty Hardin-caliber argument naturally failed, I lied and said I had the okay from my parents to do it. My masterstroke: A forged permission slip in broken cursive saying something like, "My sun Chad has permishun to by hot dogs at lunch so you can leave him alone now so he can go by hotdogs at lunch. And baseball cards also. Thanks, Mrs. Finn." Needless to say, my scam soon ended with a tearful confession in the principal's office.

26. I'd rather sing like Sinatra than play left field for the Red Sox. Maybe.

27. I love living in Maine, yet absolutely despise the winter. I'd just as soon stay on the couch until the thermometer tells me it's 75 degrees outside.

28. I haven't been to church in 20 or so years, yet I say a prayer of thanks every night.

29. In college, I saw Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler do standup, before they were both superfamous and filthy rich. Seinfeld was more polished (he rattled off about 10 one-liners when a bat suddenly flew on the stage), but Sandler was more fun.

30. My happiest moment as a Boston sports fan: the immediate aftermath of Ruben Sierra grounding out to Pokey Reese. The World Series was the icing.

31. Saddest: Finding out about Len Bias's death on the last day of school in 1986.

32. A couple of times per summer, I drive over to the dilapidated old Maine Guides ballpark, just to remember when.

33. I'm useless when it comes to working with tools. Come to think of it, my wife probably would say I am a useless tool.

34. I have no discernible talents other than throwing a nasty Wiffle Ball screwball, yet when I was young I always figured I'd someday be famous for something. Doesn't everyone?

35. I have a ridiculously accurate memory for names, faces, and details, but can't remember where I put my car keys and wallet.

36. Regrets, I have very few. One: I wished I'd lived in California for a year or two like my younger sister did. I've never lived outside of New England.

37. My hair started going gray in my mid-20s, and I'm well-acquainted with Just For Men. The damn stuff is like Ash Brown battery acid.

38. Concord, N.H. seemed like the drowsiest place on earth in the nine years I lived there - I think last call was at 8:30 p.m. - but it feels like home when I go back, more so than my real hometown, Bath, Maine.

39. I haven't eaten a hot dog in at least 20 years, and I haven't eaten at McDonald's in at least 15.

40. Being a dad is more exhausting and fulfilling than I ever imagined. What they say is true: You cannot possibly understand it until you experience it.

41. My real name is Charles, and a lot of my buddies call me Charlie, which is my old man's name. I don't mind.

42. My entrance music would be "You Could Be Mine" by Guns 'n' Roses.

43. My first semester of college, I pulled a 0.9375 GPA. That did not make the Dean's List.

44. The one CD that has never grown even temporarily tiresome: "White Ladder," David Gray. It's the unofficial soundtrack for the last 10 years of my life.

45. I know it's a cliche for a dude my age, but I can't deny it: my all-time favorite movie is "Swingers." "Boogie Nights," "Office Space," and "Almost Famous" are among my other personal Best Picture nominees.

46. During a summer when I was around 15 or 16, I had a staph infection that caused a couple of layers of skin on my face to blister and peel off. Despite my frequent public cries that I was not an animal but a human being, people still looked at me like I was the Elephant Man.

47. First concert I ever saw: Billy Joel, January 1984, Cumberland County Civic Center. Second concert: Duran Duran, a few months later. I'm fairly certain me and my buddy who roped me into going were the only guys there, including the members of the band.

48. When I was in sixth grade, my doctor told me I was going to grow to be 6-foot-6, minimum. I'm 6-3 and still waiting for that last growth spurt the stupid quack promised me.

49. I often say the most fun I had in my life was my sophomore year of college . . . which kind of annoys my wife, since we met my junior year.

50. I consider starting this blog one of the smartest things I've ever done, though I'm starting to think this post might be one of the dumbest.