Stop yelling at me!

Todd HeltonWho is Dane Cook and why is he yelling at me on my TV? And why does he sound like he has a mouthful of chestnuts? And why does it look like he spends four hours making his hair look so meticulously messy?

Worse, why is MLB using Dane Cook to sell me on baseball? I’m already watching and because the games start so late, I’m also ready to fall asleep. Putting that loud, chestnut-eating guy on between innings to yell at me about how exciting baseball is is really, really annoying.

But give MLB credit for one thing – it made me want to (kind of) find out who Dane Cook is. Apparently he’s a comic. Perhaps he’s even a comic with no material that has swiped jokes from Emo Philips, Joe Rogan and Demetri Martin. But more than that he is a humorless comedian, which is worse than being a trickless magician. David Blaine is a trickless magician, as was pointed out by the adroit Chris Rock. This is an odd thing because, as Jerry Seinfeld once observed, magicians base their entire act on making YOU look stupid.

”Hey, here’s a quarter… now it’s gone and you’re a jerk!”

Who wants to be subjected to that? Worse, who wants to see a guy just sitting in a box for a month? He’s just sitting there, in a box, in public. That’s magic? What’s the big deal with that? People do it all the time, but they don’t call it a box – they call it a couch and they’re smart enough to put it in front of a TV. Sometimes people sit in their “box” so long that they actually feel their ass grow.

Top that, David Blaine!

Note: Here’s an idea for a David Blaine’s next trick – sit through Dane Cook’s HBO show. Afterwards, if he chooses, he can hammer six nails into his skull.

So not only is David Blaine trickless, he isn’t even original… which is kind of like Dane Cook.

Anyway, I suppose MLB hired Dane Cook to yell at me because of marketing and demographics and all of that stuff. The thought, I suppose, is that someone like Dane Cook blathering on about baseball with his messy hair on the TV will make younger folks in the key demographic to watch baseball games on Fox or TBS. I wish there was more to it than that, but that’s probably the depth of all of it.

But here’s where it doesn’t work:

Baseball, to that demographic, probably isn’t cool and even a shouting Dane Cook isn’t making it any cooler. Baseball, sadly, is what it is. Making it look “cool” is a lot like putting lipstick on a pig — sure, lipstick makes ladies look pretty, but if a pig wears makeup, it’s just a pig with hues that don’t match its skin color or “season.”

And no one wants to see that.

But if I worked for MLB and they asked me what idea I had in order to pander to the kids of the demographic they want Dane Cook to speak to, do want to know what I’d do?

Well, I’m going to tell you anyway…

Here’s the idea – I’d schedule the games for times where kids could watch them. That means Game 4 of the NLCS (an elimination game) would not start at 10 p.m. Eastern time. Why not? Because even people who don’t figure into the demographic (like me), but still want to watch the game, end up falling asleep on the couch during the fifth inning. When we come to after rolling off the couch and onto the floor with spittle attached to our cheeks, there he is – Dane Cook – shouting at us.

It’s not nice.

Yes, I know there are different time zones and just because something starts at 10 on the east means that it’s 8 in Denver. But you know what? Those kids have school the next day and they are going to fall asleep during the middle innings, too. Like the rest of us, they will get yelled at and, but then they will go off to bed where they will have nightmares about a sloppy, walnut-eating freak screaming at them about Troy Tulowitzki.

In other words, not even rumpled Dane Cook and his mouth full of walnuts is going to make us stay up late to watch baseball, and that’s too bad.

Sorry, that wasn’t funny either.

What also isn’t funny is that baseball fans aren’t getting the chance to watch the Colorado Rockies win every single game they play. For the past month (Sept. 15), the Rockies have played 22 games and they have won 21 times. What’s more incredible is that the Rockies finished the regular season by winning 14 of 15 games, and if they had won just 13 of 15 games, they would not be in the playoffs. Thirteen of 15 is pretty darned good, but it wouldn’t have been good enough to get the Rockies into the playoffs.

Now, though, they’re in the World Series. Apparently Matt Holliday clubbed a three-run home run to help the Rockies sweep the Diamondbacks. At least that’s what the box score indicates… I missed it. I was asleep on the couch all worn out after being yelled at by a better demographic.

Go figure… it’s warm in Florida

Let’s start with what you are going to see in the first dispatches from the Phillies’ training camp in sunny Clearwater, Florida. They pitchers will be doing the requisite calisthenics and running along the outfield grass. They will be images of them smiling and laughing while playing catch – maybe even a whoop or holler from a hitter as the crack of the bat gives off the aurality of a shotgun report as a line drive rockets toward US-19.

It’s fun just imaging it.

But then it happens. Some TV reporter – or maybe even a coach or player – will come on the screen with a Cheshire-cat grin as they inform viewers that the current temperature is 68 degrees and the weekly forecast is only calling for temps in the mid-60s.

“Getting a little chilly down here,” someone will condescendingly spit through that grin.

Frankly, those moves are nothing more than the refuge of an ultimate hack, so get ready for it. Just resist the urge to shout back at the TV, “Hey Hack, I guess you’re trying to point out that it gets warm in Florida. Right? Gee, I didn’t know that. Guess what? It snows in Pennsylvania during the middle of February. Sometimes it even gets cold and I didn’t even have to get the meteorological society stamp of approval to figure that one out. Now get back to your 30-second ‘report’ while I sit here and wait for the 17 minutes of weather in a 22-minute ‘news’ report.”

Thanks for indulging that little rant. I do it so you don’t have to.

Anyway, here are the other stories you can expect to read (and then hear) about this week from Clearwater:

  • Pat Burrell’s health, outlook for 2007, whether he can “protect” Ryan Howard and his thoughts on Mike Schmidt’s assessment of his game. No, there will be no shortage of Pat Burrell reports this spring/season.
  • The bullpen – specifically, who is the set-up man. Will Antonio Alfonseca or Ryan Madson be able to fill that role or will the Phillies have to make a trade to get that much-coveted reliever?
  • Who is the odd man out in the rotation? Is Jon Lieber on the block or is Adam Eaton going to the ‘pen? To a lesser degree, can 44-year old Jamie Moyer continue to rack up the innings and be an effective fifth starter?

    Better yet, can 23-year old Cole Hamels continue to pitch as well as he did to close the 2006 season or is he doomed to suffer another injury? Has Brett Myers really “matured” or will he resort to his old habits when the new contract and season settles in?

  • Ryan Howard and the long-term contract issue… Let’s see if he turns out to be more like Willies Stargell and McCovey than Joe Charboneau or Bob Horner.
  • Charlie Manuel’s contract. In the last season of a three-year deal most fans would be content to let the skipper walk away. However, most fans don’t go into the Phillies’ clubhouse.
  • Who is going to be the every day catcher?
  • Who is going to be the every day third baseman?
  • Most importantly, are the Phillies really ready to challenge the Mets and the Braves in the NL East?

    So many questions and a lot of fun trying to figure out the answers.

  • Riding a high horse

    Typically, I am never one to begrudge anyone their money/salary/bonuses, etc. This is even true of professional athletes and corporate CEOs, all of who seem to be rewarded monetarily at a rate that doesn’t jibe with experience, education and impact on society.

    Besides, if all one wants to do is make money it really isn’t too difficult, interesting or legacy building. Frankly, it’s more impressive that a person leaves something than take, take, take. I’m more interested in people who create something or have an art rather than those who drive a fancy car or live in a big house.

    You can’t take it with you, folks, so it’s better to give people something to enjoy.

    Touchy-feely sentiment aside, it actually makes me pause for a minute when I read the salaries and deals supposedly being offered to the current crop of baseball free agents. I don’t know if disgusting is the correct word, but it certainly seems as if a bunch of baseball players are going to be compensated even more out-of-line than ever before.

    I’m not the only one who thinks this way, either. According to reports from the general manager meetings in Florida, the guys offering the deals are a little turned off as well. Of course there is a way to remedy their situation, but it seems as if that horse is already out of the barn. Plus, back in 1987 it didn’t seem as if collusion amongst the teams in regard to curbing salaries was too difficult to prove.

    Who in their right mind would pay $51 million simply for the right to negotiate with an unknown player from an inferior league? Is Alfonso Soriano really worth a nine-digit dollar deal? If so, will the regular baseball fan with kids, car payments and a mortgage be able to afford to go to a game without cashing in the 401K? After all, the Phillies already raised ticket prices for 2007 based on their resounding 85-victory season in 2006.

    OK, let’s not get too deep into standing up for the regular fan right now because there isn’t enough space on the World Wide Web to address all of the variables and arguments. Besides, there is no way to convince me that regular folks are not getting shafted for doing nothing other than being a loyal fan.

    They are getting shafted, but that’s nothing new.

    Let’s just stick with the righteous indignation over the fact that out-of-shape and potentially washed-up Frank Thomas just signed a two-year, $18 million deal with the Blue Jays. Or that Wes Helms, a player who was available to any team in the league for slightly more than the minimum salary as little as a few months ago, will get close to the GNP of a third-world country to be a part-time third baseman for the Phillies.

    What was most surprising to me was the report that the Diamondbacks were prepared to give Randy Wolf $21 million for three seasons.

    That’s $21 million for a 69-60 lefty… I say run to the desert, Randy, and never look back.

    Let me preface that by saying Randy Wolf is on my short list for favorite professional athletes of all time. There really isn’t anything bad I can write or say about that guy even if I tried. But $21 million…

    God bless him.

    Yet again, therein lies the problem. Certainly Randy Wolf is smart enough not to let any of the money, superficialities or other fleeting fame change anything about him, but just because someone has the right perspective is no reason for admiration. That’s basic.

    But that’s the real issue, isn’t it? I honestly believe that a lot of people have lost the true sense of what athletics really is. Often we don’t appreciate the “art” anymore because we’re paying too close attention to the bottom line. That isn’t just in sports, either. Do people go to school to learn and be exposed to new ideas, experiences and concepts or simply to get through so they can get a certain job?

    If so, that’s sad, and it reminds me of a conversation I had with someone in my profession not too long ago. It seems this other person and I were disparaging a certain other person’s body of work (I admit it… I can be shallow, too) when it was said, “Yeah, he might not be too good at what he does but he’s making $XXX,XXX.”

    I paused for a half a beat before saying, “Yeah, that might be true, but he’s still a bleeping hack.”

    Then again, I suppose that’s better than being a poorly paid hack…

    Right?

    Hacks

    ChewyWhat’s up, Yo? I’m in tha house kickin it old school to tell y’all about a few dope-assed movies I’s peeped lately.

    OK, OK. Sorry about that lede graf. I’m trying to appeal to a much younger and, as marketing reports and marketing professionals (i.e., marketers) tell me, a hipper demographic. The hipsters who use slurred and incomplete gibberish as indicated in the opening paragraph apparently have much more disposable income to spend (waste) on trivial things like CDs, equipment to soup up their Hondas and Toyotas with the latest gadgets that make them light up like the neon on a dive bar and stereo equipment that makes the bass rattle and bounce off the plastic spoilers of these Hondas and Toyotas like a baseball in a tin can.

    Yeah, it’s pretty obnoxious.

    Then again, this demographic isn’t reading books, let alone buying them so that opening bit just makes me look like a jackass and a panderer. You know, like Bill Clinton or any other self-respecting politician.

    Oh, love me! Just like me! Give me money, too! I have a mortgage, a car payment and marketers to succumb to. Please, help a brother out.

    And I digress.

    Mostly, these marketers, who just have to be up on all the latest trends and intricacies of modern culture, want to use their knowledge, research and study to separate those in that hip demographic, with their young, undeveloped minds and all, from their hard earned or begged for cash. They do this by making the mundane look cool with over-hyped ads and lifestyles that most of these kids will never affordably achieve in two lifetimes. Effective marketers are so good that they can fill the naïve and less aware heads with unrealistic dreams and goals that even the most diligent kids can never achieve.

    Don’t kid yourself. People in marketing know what they are doing. They are up on the latest trends from reading about them in People and the industry trades and know all about market research from going to Bermuda and Las Vegas for various seminars with power-point displays telling them what they have to do. The best of them are briefed and re-briefed before lunch is ordered and know how to manipulate every line of text and every action they make.

    If there is a difference between a marketer and a politician, it’s hard to find. Both are trying to get everyone to like and need all that they are selling and both are always campaigning for votes in one form or another.

    Still, getting people to buy their pitch isn’t easy even for the best marketers. Kids, and by kids I mean those between the ages of 14 and 21, aren’t as dumb as they look, act or speak. They are savvy with their cash and won’t spend it on inferior products. Just look at the price tags on their clothes and cell phones and computers. No, it’s not Versace or Ralph Lauren, but Tommy Hilfiger and P. Diddy have mortgages to pay too. They just can’t give their stuff away.

    Nonetheless, where the marketers can dupe these kids is with popular culture. They can resist second-rate designer clothes – relatively speaking, of course – but they can’t resist second-rate schlock packaged as art. How else can one explain Brittany Spears or the Phantom Menace? Come on.

    All right, all right. The proverbial can of worms is opened. Controversy, the one thing that all marketers try to avoid and jump on and snuff out like it’s an unattended campfire, is sure to ensue after a rip on the Star Wars enterprise. In fact, I’m sure they teach the avoid-controversy-at-all-costs credo before day one. Why? Because a marketer can’t smile through controversy and marketers want to smile and dot their “I’s” with smiley faces. After all, marketers are grown up cheerleaders. Sorry for not mentioning that at the top but I was trying to get in good with the cheerleaders – I guess I haven’t changed since high school.

    Nonetheless, Star Wars, at least the latest installments, suck. They are nothing more than videos for MTV with huge budgets. Astronomical. And the guy who makes them, George Lucas, is a hack. Sure, he’s a marketing genius, but a hack.

    Now imagine me calling someone a hack. What right do I have? What have I ever done? Want an answer? Well, here it comes anyway: I’ve never gotten lucky.

    There it is: George Lucas, in my not so humble opinion, is nothing more than a hack that got lucky. If you sit down and really think about and analyze his first few Star Wars movies, you’ll notice that they are pretty basic – the character development is weak at best and the dialogue… come on. My man can’t write a character and in the latest pictures, there is no soul. There is nothing human to touch. The edits are weak as well. It’s like Lucas dumbed everything down because he thinks the viewer has no attention spa… hey, here comes my dog Katie. I’m going to pet her now.

    Still, there is something to be said for eye-candy. Look at Brittany. Say what you want about her “art,” but she is still fun to look at – uneven eyes and all. Therefore, Lucas is the Red Rope Licorice of the eye-candy family.

    This makes me angry. I’m sorry I just can’t help it. I get so angry that I have to sit down and find something dumb on one of my 367 channels to calm my rage like a cultural lobotomy that keeps me from screaming at the top of my lungs on the front yard while the neighbors pass judgment and think that I’m a psycho even though they have an abandoned ice-cream truck with flat tires on the driveway and a ratty, tattered coach with weaved fabric and two cushions missing next to the dormant, above-ground pool.

    I may be a psycho but at least my yard is raked.

    Anyway, it’s a damn shame that hacks like Lucas, James Cameron and Joe Esterhaus live like sultans in Southern California while important writers like Hubert Selby Jr. collected welfare and lived in relative poverty in the Lower East Side.

    It’s a damn shame.

    I think I heard (or read) that Selby didn’t get a dime when his book “Last Exit to Brooklyn” was turned into a movie. I guess that’s his own damn fault for being an artist.

    But there are many more like Selby that I could mention but won’t. I’ll end up in front of the TV or on the front yard. I just think that Paul Auster should be getting fat in Bel Air with those other creeps. For that matter, James Welch and Ian Frazer should be millionaires too.

    It’s not just guys like Lucas either. It’s the music biz along with the movie industry (that’s funny… industry. Like it’s a raw material that is processed into something useful and beneficial by hard-working, blue-collar types.). After seeing the dinero poured into Lucas’ movies and hearing songs I used to like being sold to car companies for commercials, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should just sell out. It’s the hip thing that is desirable to the correct demographic. Who wants to be like Selby? You have to admit that the starving artist bit gets old in a hurry, but having a little bit of value isn’t too bad either. Someday we all have to sell out and compromise whatever integrity we have in some way or another, but we can always remember today’s words of wisdom:

    INTERGRITY IS MUCH COOLER THAN $$$$$.

    Hey, I’m interested in making money as much as the next guy. Why else would I write an undecipherable opening paragraph like I did? But I realize there is a limit. If by some freak of nature I draw a salary like a professional athlete, that will be good enough for me. I’m not holding out for an extra two million a year when I won’t be able to spend the three I’m already getting. No, I’m not a commie, but for some reason we are told things that just don’t jibe. We are told to be moral and just and to always do the right thing while, at the same time, we are told to get it while we can. If the world is a rat race, it’s OK to be a rat.

    Well, I don’t want to be a rat.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t pay at least one compliment to Mr. Lucas. After all, as a seven-year old I loved Star Wars and even dressed up like Luke Skywalker for Halloween. Not all of his dialogue is garbage. The character Chewbacca, known to his friends as Chewy (he’s a “Wookie”), who is some kind of Sasquatch, but unlike Big Foot, Chewy wears a utility belt like a bike messenger’s pouch across his chest and has opposable thumbs, which allows him to operate a gun, open doors and fly space craft.

    Anyway, old Chewy was in a scene when his partner Han Solo, played by the hunky baby-boomer Harrison Ford, was being lowered into a chamber to be frozen a la Ted Williams and delivered to some bad guy named Jaba the Hut. As Han was being lowered into the cryogentical freezing thing, Chewy, in his utter dismay of watching his maligned pal wigs out and utters a line that is firmly entrenched in the annals of filmdom for classic writing:

    AAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

    Genius. Pure genius.