I have no clever title for this one

Barkley Jail BasketballI certainly have been bragging enough about it the past few days, but, yes, I got to stand on the roof of the Spectrum to watch the Harlem Globetrotters play the Washington Generals on Thursday afternoon.

Apparently, it made the papers and everything.

Nevertheless, since a blog is supposed to be like the director’s cut of the DVD (at least that’s what I say it’s supposed to be), I figured to fill in the blanks from the published version(s) of the Globetrotters outing.

Firstly, it was clear this wasn’t the typical pro sporting event. Yeah, there was the whole roof bit and climbing out onto a catwalk before traversing a narrow ladder through an open hatch to get on top of the building, but I have never been asked to carry in part of the equipment for a Phillies, Eagles or Sixers game before. This time, as I was working my way up to the hatch, I was handed the net.

“Here’s the net,” someone said as I climbed. “Don’t lose it.”

The net? Yep, it was the net that had to be laced into the portable hoops already standing at either end of the roof.

A couple minutes later while just standing around and taking in the view before “Sweet Georgia Brown” started playing and all the capering began, Globie, the Globetrotters’ mascot, chucked a snowball at me.

Seriously! The damn mascot!

Worse, it wasn’t even a proper snowball… it was an ice ball. And, I bet the Globe-headed freak loaded it up with rocks before he threw it.

Needless to say, that mascot got his when he slipped and fell off an exhaust out-cropping aside of the court. The Globe Head went down like he was shot by a sniper, too. Serves him right.

Otherwise, Gonz pretty much nailed it, though there was one moment where I was laughing that obnoxious laugh of mine during the game and one of the Globetrotters looked at out of the corner of his eye with that, “What’s with this dude?” look.

Good times.

*

Elsewhere, Charles Barkley heads off for his three-day stint in jail following a night of drinking with Steve Urkel. Isn’t that the way it always happens? … A-Rod is going to get scoped and could miss six-to-nine weeks. Start your speculation about the source of the injury now. … The new Neko Case record is very good. … Terrell Owens was sent to Buffalo to finish out his NFL career. We’ll have more on that in the latest edition of the Center City column, so get ready.

Lance and some quick hits

TO! Lance! Brains! Olbermann!

Um… Olbermann?

Anyway, here are a few quick noon-time stories we’re following.

Terrell Owens (remember him? He spent a little more than a season with the Eagles a few years ago. Caught a few passes, c’mon, you remember…) has signed on to shill for something called Venom energy drink. Owned by Dr. Pepper, Owens has been named the company’s “Chief Mayhem Officer,” which, according to Andy Reid, is almost too perfect: “New Endorsement deal for TO” (The Associated Press)

Twelve athletes, including ex-NFL players, will donate their brains to science for a concussion study… no, not right now: “12 Athletes Leaving Brains to Concussion Study” (Schwarz – The New York Times)

MSNBC’s ubiquitous talker, Keith Olbermann is writing for Sports Illustrated now. Who would have guessed that his first story would be about a boner? “The Goof That Changed the Game” (Olbermann – Sports Illustrated)

Lance Armstrong will make his official return to cycling in Australia on Jan. 20 in the Tour Down Under. The seven-time Tour de France champion will ride for the Astana team as announced in press conferences today in New York and Las Vegas. The interesting part about this is the 2007 Tour champ, Alberto Contador rides for Astana. Can you say, Quarterback controversy? “Armstrong to return to racing in 2009” (Macur – The New York Times)

Meanwhile, the great Bonnie D. Ford talked to Armstrong’s directeur sportif, Johan Bruyneel about the prospects for the ’09 season. Guess what? They might be pretty good: “Whatever is on Lance’s list, the execution remains the big challenge” (Ford – ESPN.com)

On another note, I haven’t been able to pin down any rumors regarding Armstrong’s potential purchase of Team Astana or the Amaury Sports Organization’s stake in the Tour de France… yeah, imagine the fallout if Armstrong buys the Tour de France.

All the hand wringing would be a cross between awesome and totally awesome.

Finally, check out the CNN interview with Lance.

Check back for more when I get to the ballpark.

Hold on DeSean, hold on


We are big fans of showboating here at Finger Food central. Oh sure, it’s self-indulgent, silly and all of that other stuff that boils up the blood of fans and certain elements of the knee-jerk media. But at least it gets people talking.

And if people talk about it, guys like me can write about it, too.

Sometimes showboating slips past the thin line of creativity and into the realm of the absurd. For instance, Chad Johnson doing the river dance after a touchdown is creative. But Chad Johnson changing his name to Chad Ocho Cinco is ridiculous.

At the same time, Terrell Owens borrowing a cheerleader’s pom-poms to celebrate a TD is funny, but T.O. pulling a Sharpie out of his sock or dashing out to the star at midfield is the ultimate in jack-assery.

I mean really… who keeps a Sharpie in their sock? Even if you lived in a nudist colony in which you wore only long white tube socks and only had a fist full of markers to write with, you still wouldn’t stash them in your sock. Not even if you were playing nude football in the colony league.

Money is OK to store in a sock, not a Sharpie.

In the case of Eagles rookie DeSean Jackson, a little bit of showboating turned into embarrassment. That’s especially the case when the game is televised to the largest cable network audience to ever watch a football game. So when Jackson streaked away for what looked like a 61-yard TD reception only to ruin it by flippantly spiking the ball on the one-yard line, it turned into one of those plays everyone will remember forever.

And Jackson was only playing in his second NFL game.

Fortunately, Jackson’s gaffe did not cost the Eagles much more than some nervous laughter and red faces. Afterwards it seemed as if it was OK to laugh about the fact that the kid intentionally fumbled the ball before reaching the end zone. After all, who doesn’t want to keep the ball from their first ever touchdown? Instead Jackson got rid of it as if it was on fire and then moved to the back of the end zone to do a little humpty dance or something.

Talk about embarrassing.

But then again everyone who has ever played sports has done something really stupid. Sometimes those acts of stupidity are burned into the memory banks forever. Like the time I scored a goal for the other team in the final quarter of the semifinal playoff soccer game in one of my first years of playing the sport.

After the ball slipped past our goalie and nestled into the back of the net, my teammates and I fell into a state of shock. Most kids just stood at their positions on the weather-worn field and cried big crocodile tears, while a couple of others crumbled to their knees as if they had been shot by snipers.

It was a bad, dark day for a bunch of kids who took our little soccer league very seriously.

Anyway, what happened was I lightly kicked the ball to our goalie so that he could pick it up and then boot it as far as possible to the other end of the field. It’s a pretty mundane and everyday soccer tactic that even we used as little kids. Rather than play back on our heels on the defensive end, we could just the pressure a bit by kicking it far.

Simple, right?

Well…

Instead of the goalie scooping up the light little kick, the ball rolled through his legs and into the goal. The whole thing happened as if it was in slow motion and as soon as I kicked it I knew something bad was about to happen. Who would have known that the one seemingly simple play would have resulted in the only goal of the game?

So that year we didn’t get to the championship that season and we didn’t take home a trophy. Instead, all I got was this lousy story.

On another note, during a seventh grade basketball game in our ultra-competitive CYO league, my friend Paul once buried the most magnificent long-range hook shot I have ever seen. It was a shot right out of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar school of the sky hook. Paul must have been at least 20-feet from the basket when he turned without hesitation and just nailed it as cleanly as any shot ever.

The problem was it went into the wrong hoop. It was two points for the other team.

How awesome is that?

***
Finally, our old pal Doug Glanville penned another op-ed piece for The New York Times. This time Doug wrote about an event I remember well and attended with great apprehension and excitement.

Certainly anyone who was there that night will never forget the Phillies’ first game after the Sept. 11 attacks. Check out Doug Glanville’s remembrances here.

Next up: J.A. Happ, Marty Bystrom and Ryan Howard

photo from  Bryan Graham‘s “For the Record.”

And the Oscar goes to…

By now most folks have seen Terrell Owens’ post-game “act” in which he cried as if he were running for President of the United States of America following the Cowboys big choke job in their first playoff game.

For those that haven’t seen Terrell Owens’ post-game drama, here it is:

For the most part the T.O. video has been posted, talked about and then shrugged off as if it were a another bad episode in the most banal sitcom. Most folks don’t even really think it was funny or even surprising that a professional football player with diva-like tendencies would cry during a post-game press conference following a loss in the playoffs when asked about the poor play of his quarterback, Tony Romo. The reason why it wasn’t a big deal compared to when Hillary Clinton supposedly cried in New Hampshire is because there doesn’t seem to be anything remotely authentic about Owens. Owens is a drama queen so when he pretends to emote, it’s a yawn fest. Conversely, Ms. Clinton has been accused of not having a soul, so when she allegedly cried during the last days of the campaign in New Hampshire it was monumental.

TOBut as far as Owens goes his ex-teammate Jon Runyan said it best during his appearance on Daily News Live: “That wasn’t about Tony [Romo] it was about T.O. It’s always about T.O. …”

After another choke, watching T.O. was more like that crying Britney fan video that made its way through the Internets. It wasn’t funny, sad or interesting – it was just bizarre.

Really, really bizarre.

When Mike Schmidt retired and broke down blubbering and crying midway through his announcement – now that was funny. There he was with his Flock of Seagulls ‘do and up-to-the-second ‘80s style and the most composed player ever to wear the Phillies’ uniform couldn’t get through a sentence without the water works.

Douglas MacArthurBret Boone bawling after his ouster from Seattle was a good one, too, and Fred Couples falling apart following a tournament victory is spit-take worthy. Likewise, anything with the emoting Jim Mora is hilarious simply because he always tries so hard to remain as sullen and composed as if he were General Douglas MacArthur delivering his farewell address to Congress on April 19, 1951.

But instead of getting, “I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barrack ballads of that day which proclaimed most proudly that “old soldiers never die; they just fade away…” as with General MacArthur, we get “Playoffs!”

As for Dick Vermeil – that’s not even a contest. In fact, let’s just turn it over to the great Jeff Johnson and his old NFL writing for Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern:

The first time I saw Dick Vermeil cry, I thought: What a jagoff. What is an adult man doing crying about football?

The second time I saw Dick Vermeil cry, I thought: Okay, Vermeil. Calm down. And also, what a jagoff.

The third time I saw Dick Vermeil cry, I thought: The problem is with you, Johnson. You’re the one who has to loosen up. Vermeil is in touch with his feelings. Vermeil has a ring, you don’t. Let Vermeil cry.

The eighth time I saw Dick Vermeil cry, I thought: Okay, Vermeil. Get on some meds, amigo. Take a deep breath. Let it go.

The fourteenth time I saw Dick Vermeil cry, I thought: This is getting weird.

The thirty-ninth time I saw Dick Vermeil cry: I had just gotten done polishing off a bottle of Drambuie with him. We were at a golf tournament outside Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He told me he wasn’t sure if he’d ever eaten a better salad than the one we’d had at dinner. “Those farmers,” he wailed, “who are they? The romaine was exquisite. What are you looking at? If you can’t—if a grown man can’t enjoy a leaf of lettuce—”

The eighty-first time I saw Dick Vermeil cry: It was back on TV. The folks at UW-River Falls, where the Chiefs spend preseason, hadn’t followed through on a team-catering request for Rice Krispies. Vermeil was melting down. “Just how tough is it? I’m sorry. I gotta go public with this,” the waterworks were on. “My men love their cereal. And now, I don’t know what kinda season we’re gonna have.”

The three hundred and fifteenth time I saw Dick Vermeil cry: It was because of a traffic light that he thought was on the verge of burning itself out. I was on a three-speed in Locust Valley, MO, and I saw him pointing and howling from the driver’s seat of his Lincoln. “Some family’s gonna get killed!” Several cars honked behind him, but he wasn’t budging.

The nine hundred forty-first time I saw Dick Vermeil cry: I was on a cruise ship. Vermeil was at a press conference. One of his kick-returners kept an adult video late and there was a fine. Vermeil, to that day, was unaware of a phenomenon known as porn. It did not make him happy.

The 33,872nd time I saw Dick Vermeil cry: I didn’t. It was just an editorial that he wrote for USA Today about the dangers of using magic markers to write kids’ names on athletic tape to identify them on football helmets. I assumed he cried the whole time he wrote it. He thought the markers were a bit toxic, that an addiction could develop.

The 198,440th time I saw Dick Vermeil cry: It was an Arby’s. A packet of Horsey sauce dared him to open it. He could not.

The 708,814th time I saw Dick Vermeil cry: He said six words and broke down, “Oh, the majesty of a sauna.”

The 1,933,336th time I saw Dick Vermeil cry: I only sensed it. God had begun wiping out whole cities with His own vomit. Vermeil’s crying caused it. I was in Murfreesboro, TN. We were covered in slime. God had registered his disgust. Vermeil was somewhere, bawling with joy about microwave technology. He stopped abruptly and ate a corn muffin before it cooled.

The 174,999,044th time I saw Dick Vermeil cry: He was dead. Vermeil was a damn ghost and he still would not quit crying. He’d met up with Tony Franklin, the old Eagles place-kicker. “How could you have possibly gone through life so darn short, Tony? It just is not fair.”

Dick VermeilThe 12,000,000,000th time I saw Vermeil cry: I got a lousy T-shirt.

The 38,555,400,093rd time I saw Dick Vermeil cry: It wasn’t so much Vermeil as the whole world. A book had been written about Vermeil’s penchant for tears. It was called The Vermeil Approach. A religion was involved. Millions of people wept. Of course, looking down and seeing this, Vermeil wept.

Why is it that I find the crying of sports figures so funny? That’s simple – because it’s easy to laugh at things that don’t matter. No, I don’t doubt the sincerity of the sadness in dealing with a retirement, a victory or a 2-2 circle change up, it’s just that people without real problems have lousy perspective. At some point we all had to quit playing sports, but did you cry after the last game of the 10th grade JV basketball season? As far as we can tell Mike Schmidt did not cry when announcing his retirement all those years ago because he was sick or injured and forced out of the game. Nor was anyone in his immediate family facing some sort of hardship that required his immediate attention. In fact, there was no real sadness involved at all. All Mike Schmidt cried about was that he was lucky enough to have a great baseball career.

If that’s not funny I don’t know what is.

For amusement purposes only

fanWe usually don’t pick games here because that was so last year. Plus, offering point-spread picks of professional sports is de facto gambling and even though we aren’t gambling nor are we encouraging others to gambling, it’s kind of like watching a person being assaulted without stepping in to stop it. No, we didn’t dive in and rain haymakers down on some poor fella, but we didn’t do anything to stop it.

In other words, adjacent to refuse is still refuse. I was part of the problem and that’s why I stopped the pretend gambling.

Besides, professional leagues and teams have rules forbidding gambling and claim they will revoke press credentials from those who knowingly engage in professional gambling. The leagues and teams also say they will penalize players and team employees who associate with known gamblers, too. They don’t do it, but it’s a rule nonetheless.

So just to be on the safe side, I’m going to begin my prognostication with a disclaimer… Don’t gamble and don’t use the wisdom herein for gambling. Though I am not morally opposed to gambling and even enjoy partaking from time to time, I must admit that I am a supercilious snob. For my brand of snobbery, the caricature version of the gambler with his gaudy clothes and jewelry – one which gives off the image of not only questionable character, but also of one who lives his life with a personal philosophy based on Exodus 21:23 – 27 – well, that’s not the kind of person one would want to invite over for hot wassail.

Really… who can take those people seriously? And who are those folks fooling with their flashiness and hair coiffed oh so delicately with blonde highlights that is about as subtle on a man beyond middle age as a kick in the crotch?

They aren’t fooling me. A person is known by the company they keep, is what I always say.

That said (or written) lets dive into the big football games that will be held this weekend at various times suitable to nestle gently into the nation television schedule.

New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys
SimpsonI suppose this is the biggest game of the weekend. I suppose that’s the case because it features a team from the country’s largest media market and another team that supersedes such triviality as media markets. “America’s Team” is what the Cowboys and their fans refer to themselves without irony. Any group that can make such a proclamation and not stifle a laugh midway through is one to keep at a distance or trapped in a reinforced box as if they were a wolverine on greenies.

The New York-Dallas matchup is also an interesting one for folks from Philadelphia, too. One reason is that both clubs come from the NFC East, just like the Philadelphia Eagles. Additionally, the Eagles fans claim Dallas as their biggest rival even though it should be the team from New York. In fact, the Eagles’ hatred of Cowboys is a lot like a song by the J. Geils Band set on its head. Fans of the Eagles have manufactured a bitter rivalry with Dallas that goes unrequited because the Cowboys’ biggest rival is the Washington Redskins. This makes perfect sense, because if historical precedent as our guide, Cowboys and Redskins should despise one another. Moreover, everyone should hate Giants, Raiders, Titans, Buccaneers and, of course, Texans.

Since we’re doing some good ol’ hatin’ let’s add racism in there, too. If a Giant is a good thing to hate, I suppose racism is a good thing to hate, too.

It would be one thing if the game was simply a matchup between the teams from New York and Dallas and that was it. Instead, there are subplots. No, it’s nothing too interesting or odd like the little subplot involving Mike Yanagita in the film, Fargo. Instead, it’s more like a dumb reality-show subplot like, “Puck put his finger in the peanut butter so let’s kick him out of the house and cry.” In this instance it’s equally as lame…

Ohmigod Tony Romo went to Mexico during his week off with Jessica Simpson and some teammates and her dad! My world and my wife’s world are colliding!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

OK, I can understand why this is a big deal to sports fans. Actually, there are a lot of reasons why the quarterback of a football team gallivanting at a resort in a foreign country is such a big deal. For one thing to the average, factory-assembled fan, sports and women do not mix. Oh sure, they can hang around as long as they are dressed in a bathing suit and serve dead animal carcasses and other fatty food to the rest of the gang, but if they sit in the room with the other guys and watch the game and – gasp! – ask questions… oh no! Like hunting or being an elite-level chef, sports is a man’s domain. Better yet, most men only want to watch sports with other men. And yes, the notion that a bunch guys that only want to hang around with a bunch of other guys and share their turbo-charged feelings is… well… gay[1], is completely lost.

Perhaps that’s because sports fandom, by nature, is a conformist activity. All sports fans speak the same language because they engage in all of the same media. Sports seem to be the only subset of the news or popular culture in which there is no alternative media or ideology. Yeah, there are different Internet sites and all of that, but though the style might deviate slightly, the tune is always the same.

Think about what it’s like to go to a game… everyone waits in line, dresses alike, eats and drinks the same things and recites the same slogans.

“LET’S GO HOME TEAM, clap, clap, clapclapclap!”

So yeah, with everyone receiving their marching orders from the same sources it’s easy to see why a guy going on a trip with an actress during his week off is a bad thing.

T.O.The Tony Romo-Jessica Simpson thing was such a big deal that the football stuff kind of got lost in the shuffle. For instance, Terrell Owens, the ex-Eagle, is attempting to play despite a diva-like injury. I’m not saying Terrell Owens is faking the injury for a little extra dramatic flair, but let’s just say he’s probably not pleased that it’s another teammate involved in some sort of controversy instead of him. To make it worse, the controversy involves the quarterback and a model. All T.O. ever had was Drew Rosenhaus.

Oh yeah, there is Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning, too. Manning, of course, is the underachieving little brother of MVP Peyton Manning and youngest son of ex-NFL quarterback Archie Manning. He also reminds me of the little brother who cried his way into the pick-up basketball game with his older brother’s friends and followed that up by making a whole bunch of jump shots in a row. But just when little Eli pressed his luck and drove to the hoop, one of Peyton’s classmates sent the kid flailing into the shrubbery bordering the driveway with a slight forearm shiver. Crying again with his bottom lip quivering while prone in a chalk-outline position half in the bush and the driveway, little Eli shouted, “C’mon dude, I’m only seven!”

For the Giants to have any chance of winning, little Eli is going to have to stay out of the lane and bury those shots from the outside.

Take the Cowboys.

While you’re at it, take the Packers, Colts and Patriots, too.

What, do you want point spreads and statistics? Are you a degenerate?


[1] The word “gay” is being used in the fifth-grade sense of the word and is in no way being used as a term of derision or as a slur of any type. But then again if you couldn’t figure that out after reading the rest of the crap in this essay, you’re… um… dumb. Or possibly a supercilious snob.

The T.O. Circus takes its act to Dallas

The news came fast and furious on Saturday morning, and with it the not-so shocking reports that Terrell Owens had signed a three-year deal with the Cowboys.

Seriously, how apt is that? Sometimes sports really do mirror a bad soap opera, and as we all have learned here in Philadelphia, the circus that is T.O. travels with its own big top and ringmaster.

Surely, the fans in Dallas must be pretty excited to get one of the game’s top receivers, but as the folks around here now know, the honeymoon will be short. In fact, people in San Francisco went out of their way to warn us about what was going to happen.

“Sure,” they said. “Things are going really well now. But just wait. Something will happen.”

Who would have known how right they were.

So as a public service to the football fans in Dallas, we’re going to offer the same warning the San Franciscans gave to us.

Just wait. Yes, at first T.O. will look good. He’ll say all the right things and dance appropriately atop the star in the middle of the field. He’ll entertain and charm everyone right up until that moment when someone else gets an accolade or attention that shines the spotlight away from him. Really, it’s only a matter of time before the big top is blown over and all good will blows up in everyone’s face like one of those phony cigars in the cartoons.

So enjoy it while it lasts. Who knows, T.O. may even take the Cowboys to the Super Bowl and he could even last a few years down there before anything really bad occurs. But if history is any indicator of the future, it will end badly with Terrell Owens. It’s just that inevitable.

Alive (barely) and kicking
The great part about the NCAA Tournament is the notion that teams like Wichita State and George Mason can dream about going to the Final Four. Of course we all know that Villanova in 1985 is the only team seeded as high as eighth to win it all, but hey, what does it hurt to dream a little. Right?

But in the opening rounds of this year’s tournament, George Mason, Wichita State and Bradley have kept dancing long enough to at least get fitted for the glass slipper. Better yet – discounting reality and Las Vegas-type odds – there is a 50 percent chance that either Wichita State or George Mason could make it to the Final Four, and that’s really cool.

Luckily for the rest of us, the fact that the trio of Cinderellas have emerged from the opening weekend shouldn’t have much of an effect on the all-important office pool. Oh sure, there are a lot of wounds and a few, “what was I thinking” sentiments, but with 15 total games remaining in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, everyone should still have a chance.

Some more than others, of course. In that regard, we need everything to go perfectly in order to win it. In fact, if either Gonzaga, Boston College, Duke or UConn slip up, we’re done. And surely there are a more than a few Villanova fans out there that want to see that happen.