Monday, August 31, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

The regular season is winding down. Playoff spots are up for grabs. New heroes emerge each night. Teams are fighting tooth and nail for the right to be one of those eight representatives competing for the sport's ultimate prize in October. You guessed it...I'm talkin' about the WNBA. Our lovely ladies of dribble, the Detroit Shock, are trying desperately to secure a berth in the Big Dance so they can have the opportunity to defend their title. After an extremely rocky stretch following the exit of Bill Laimbeer, the Shock are finally playing ball again, winning 4 of their last 5. They are currently just a half-game out of the last playoff spot, and things seem to be shaping up perfectly for one last push toward the finish line.

Tweety Nolan is finally starting to look like the Tweety we all know and love, putting up 34 in the overtime heartbreaker at San Antonio over the weekend. The hard-nosed Kara Braxton is also making an impact, making up for the decreased production from Cheryl Ford, who always seems to be battling some kind of knee or leg ailment. Didn't the Mailman teach his little girl anything about durability and body maintenance? Rick Mahorn, in his first year as the man in charge, seems to be figuring it all out and settling on a solid rotation. In all likelihood, the ladies will not be hoisting a second straight championship trophy this fall, but it sure would be nice to at least have them as part of the mix when the playoffs get started. Otherwise, it will be a cold, hard, winter for the players, the coaches, and the rest of us Shock fanatics in Detroit.

(I wish I knew how much sarcasm there really was in that last paragraph. I'd like to say it was mostly tongue in cheek, but that wouldn't be entirely honest. I'm a WNBA fan, so sue me. No, really...please sue me. I deserve it.)

Don't Believe Everything You Hear

Came across the Oakland A's postgame show for a couple minutes (not proud of it) with the hosts talking about how unbelievable the team's defense had been that day. The analyst was praising the club for their sparkling glove work that afternoon, and how they knew it was going to be critical in a matchup of two great pitchers. They went on to show a number of nice plays. Cliff Pennington at short...Eric Patterson in left...Mark Ellis with a cute little grab in short right. These studio guys were practically giddy watching these highlights, and seemed ridiculously excited that the A's had picked up a rare road win in Anaheim. Only, next thing we know, the guy is saying, "But despite all that, the Oakland A's come up on the short end today by a final score of 9 to 1." It's not often you hear an announcer go on glowingly about a team's performance in a game in which they were basically mercied. What's the A's slogan gonna be for 2010?? "We might lose 100, and we might get outscored by double digits most of those nights, but gosh darn it, we're going to make one or two above average defensive plays every game, and that's pretty much all we're concerned with at the moment." As Jerry Seinfeld used to say...'Good luck with allll that.'

Semi-Biased US Open Prediction

We all know that Roger Federer is the most dominant tennis player of all-time. Rafael Nadal is also a force to be reckoned with, and is said to be looking sharp after some time off recovering from a knee ailment. Andy Muray is always looking to make his first mark on a Grand Slam, and there are a host of others looking to blaze through that treacherous seven-round gauntlet that is the US Open. But the HSL is staying patriotic on this one, and throwing his support behind Andy Roddick.

It's not meant to be a "gutsy" prediction by any means. Roddick is the #5 seed and is coming off a number of finals appearances in the last couple months. He got edged out at Wimbledon by Federer, and was ousted in close matches two straight weeks recently by the up-and-coming Argentine, Juan Martin del Potro. But the US Open always remains Roddick's best chance at regaining his place in the tennis spotlight. It was the site of his single Grand Slam triumph, when he smoked Juan Carlos Ferrero to take the title in 2003. He receives absurdly passionate crowd support every time he hits the court, often playing his matches under the lights in the final performance of the evening, when fans tend to be at their loudest and most vocal. Many would say that the gut-wrenching loss he suffered at Wimbledon is simply too much to overcome in such a short period of time. Some would argue that he is too reliant on his rocket-launcher serve, and that when the chips are stacked highest, he is unable to win key break points necessary to be a Grand Slam champion.

Well, I think it is Roddick's time to reenter that elite level. His draw sets up well, with his first big challenge possibly coming in the quarters against Novak Djokovic, who Roddick bested just a few weeks back. Of course it will be no picnic if he has to take on the Federer Express in the semis, but Wimbledon showed us that on a fast surface, they are near equal. With the boisterous crowd behind him in the Big Apple, it will be Roddick's time to shine once again.

Brother Sam's Un-Shining Moment of the Weekend

Flipping around, ESPN popped up and Sam took quick note of the golf tournament going on and the word "PLAYOFF" at the top of the screen. "Leave it!" he screamed at me. I sat there shell shocked for a moment, as I knew full well that this was an LPGA event. I wondered to myself, "Did Sam make his request with this knowledge at his disposal, showing a willingness to watch 20-30 minutes of women's golf, and if so, does this trump his bizarre Little League comment from last weekend where he openly compared 11-year old tikes to major league Cy Young winners?" I don't know the answer to that, but I do know this. The channel was changed immediately, and he left the room without hesitation. You connect the dots...

Down the Stretch they Come

While the Chicago White Sox continue their pratfall and the Minnesota Twins slowly creep back towards .500, the Tigers just keep finding ways to win games. Sunday afternoon was one of those days. It looked like a loss all afternoon. Justin Verlander was sharp, but not quite his usual dominant self. He was touched up for a pair of long balls in the 4th, even surrendering an oppo-zoppo blast to the previously homerless Akinori Iwamura. But as has been the case often with these Tigers in the 2nd half, they dug down deep and found their hero in the form of Placido Polanco and his high-arcing shot just over the left field fence.

In the grand scheme of things, with the Chisox and Twinkies both struggling mightily and fighting just to remain in the conversation, it wasn't the most important victory of the season. But it was a win that speaks to this team's fighting spirit and their late inning resolve that seems to be increasing with each turn of the calendar. This month alone has seen a Brandon Inge walk-off homer against KC, a pair of comeback wins against a solid Mariners team, and now this dramatic heist job against a Rays squad thirsting for a return trip to the postseason. Nobody can argue that there are holes up and down this roster. The everyday lineup routinely contains one guy with a batting average over .275. Aubrey Huff constantly looks like he just woke up from a nap. The back end of the rotation has been a mess all year long. The middle relief, aside from the suddenly dominant Brandon Lyon, has had its share of issues.

But despite all that, they just keep going out and winning ballgames. The good news is that in a division where 85 W's should be more than enough to grab a coveted playoff berth, the Tigers look to be in supreme position to play October baseball for the second time in four years (after a 19-year hiatus). The bad news is that waiting in the first round are the terrifying New York Yankees, who are playing something like .970 ball since the break. But first things first...there's a 1:05 game today. Somebody needs to go rouse Mr. Huff...

Drop a comment below, or reach the High Socks Legend at

Friday, August 28, 2009

Shootin' the Breeze with the High Socks Legend...

A few quick-hitters from the HSL on this cold, dim, fluorescent Friday morning...
  • Is there a better way to spend a half hour than grabbing some couch and watching the Pizza-Rama episode of "Unwrapped" on the Food Network? Yeah, I didn't think so.
  • Sure, globes are wonderful educational tools that can teach kids all about geography from a very early age. But the only thing I ever got out of those bad boys was the underrated game where you would spin it around real fast, then slowly apply pressure with your forefinger as it came to a stop, and wherever it landed was the place you would wind up living in when you grew up. It never really got old, either...
  • When you go outside in the summer with bare feet, and are walking on the blistering cement, you have approximately 12-14 seconds to find some cool grass before you will start to feel like you might die.
  • The Combos website tells you to "Grab your favorite cheesy, crunchy treat, and say good-bye to an unsatisfied hunger." While you're at it, why don't you go ahead and also wave goodbye to your self-respect, your pride, and any sense of personal dignity with which you used to live your life? I've said it once, I'll say it again. If you find yourself eating a bag of Combos in your cubicle at work, you're announcing to the world one of three things:

    1) I am depressed. I live in a one-bedroom apartment with my pet hamster and imaginary friend Snax. The only good part of my day is devouring this bag of Cheddar Cheese flavored Combos. Please don't judge me.

    2) I am suicidal. If you missed the previous warning signs (research of nearby tall buildings, repeated viewings of the movie Juwanna Mann), then watching me inhale this jumbo sized package of Zesty Salsa Tortilla Combos will tell you all you need to know.

    3) I am starving. Literally. I have not eaten solid food in over three weeks, and this small container of Pizzeria Pretzel Combos is all I had left in the pantry. But before I do this, I will recite a famous quote that I think applies here. It is from the shamed Lt. Col. Matthew Markinson in the classic film, A Few Good Men. "I want you to know that I am proud neither of what I have done nor what I am doing."
  • Am I the only one that used to always smack the tambourine in the exact wrong place during music class and wind up with a pretty severe pain shooting through the wrist/forearm area? Anybody else? No?? Alright, let's move on.
  • Yeah, I'll admit it. I have never seen Scarface. And yeah, I'll admit this, too. The movie Must Love Dogs...seen it maybe a half dozen times. I'll just leave that one right there.
  • I wonder how Meat Loaf wound up with that as his name. Maybe he was just having dinner one night, enjoying his entrée a little too much, before standing up and boldly declaring to his family, "I'm tired of just eating meatloaf. I want to be Meat Loaf." Gotta respect a man that loves a food that much to want to be named after it. I've often thought about making a similar move, but using it for the first kid I have. I just hope the other kids don't give him a hard time on the playground for being named "Macaroni."
  • You know that song where they go, "It's just another Manic Monday"?? That's the best song of all-time, right?? Yeah, that's what I thought.
  • How come everything nowadays has to come with "Resealable Packages"?? Can't some things just remain simple? I never knew opening and closing a bag of Peanut M&M's could be so complicated.
  • Growing up, sometimes "double buckling" was a necessary evil. There would be four kids to three seat belts, and two of you were gonna have to bite that bullet. But there was always that one guy way too eager to participate, scrunching up right next to you and strapping in tight for what was most likely the ride of his life. The best part about getting older was not the opportunity to get your own driver's license. It was the knowledge that you were breaking free from the possibility of being placed in "Double-Buckle Prison." The carpool hell where two enter, and more often than not, only one survives...

The High Socks Legend can be reached at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Overmanaging: The Unforgivable Crime of an AL Skipper

In 1973, the American League made the decision to adopt the designated hitter rule. Teams would now be allowed to place nine slugging bats in the order, replacing their weak-hitting pitcher with an aging, beer-bellied banger. The rule change was set in place largely because the AL had become worried about the pitching dominance that was taking the league by storm, and saw the DH as a way to combat this advantage and make games more exciting and fan-friendly. Whether they achieved this goal is debatable, and the pros and cons of the issue are still argued passionately to this day. (For the record, I am one of the leaders of the NO DH camp.) But one thing not up for discussion is the role of the American League manager, and how their potential impact on a game was slashed to pieces the minute that Ron Blomberg stepped in the box that night as the very first designated hitter in the game's history.

What decisions did they have to make now?

What would happen to the classic baseball conundrum when your team is locked in a tight, low-scoring game in the late innings and the starting pitcher is due up with the go-ahead run just 90 feet away? Managers no longer had to worry about that. Just scribble your best nine hitters on to a lineup card, send your hurler out to the hill, and find a cozy seat on the bench for the next three plus hours. Yet, as we saw tonight in New York, they still find a way to butcher the game somehow. I now bring to you a classic case of "Overmanaging, 101."

Overmanaging can be defined very simply. It occurs when a manager (usually in the AL, where thinking is rarely required of them) refuses to let his players simply win the game on their own and decides it is time for him to put his personal stamp on the contest so he can receive some of the credit later. Overmanaging is seen in several forms. Sometimes it's a skipper going to get a cruising starting pitcher with a low pitch count simply because it is time for the "closer" to now enter the game. Other times, a manager chooses a bizarre and completely inappropriate time to start fiddling with baserunners and gimmick plays simply because he desires a little on-air tummy rub from the Tim McCarvers and Joe Morgans of the world. Let us not forget the one game the Tigers dropped to the Yankees in the opening round of the 2006 playoffs.

Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang was on the bump, and the Bengals started getting to him early. Magglio Ordóñez belted a double to start the 2nd. With Wang now out of the stretch, he issued a walk to Carlos Guillen, putting two on with nobody out. Perfect time for the Tigers to possibly put together a big inning and take command of the series in a hostile environment. Of course, in this scenario, there should not have been much for Jim Leyland to do.

Just let your next three hitters go up, take their best hacks at a now struggling Wang, and hope you can scratch out a couple of very important runs. But Leyland had other plans. Apparently he saw this as the perfect time for a hit-and-run. To this day, I just can't see where he was coming from on this. Ordóñez and Guillen broke on the 1-0 pitch to Pudge Rodriguez, and sure enough, it wasn't a great pitch to hit, and Pudge swung right through it. Jorge Posada fired the ball down to third and nailed Ordóñez by 30 feet.

Now Wang could finally breathe. Without really recording an out, he was generously donated one by Leyland and Co. Whereas he should have been forced to retire three straight hitters to escape this early jam, Leyland had now handed him a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, via his careless and inexplicable decision to put on the hit-and-run (especially with the lead runner being the slow-footed Ordóñez ). Pudge proceeded to strike out, Craig Monroe bounced harmlessly to Jeter, and the potential rally fizzled in the blink of an eye. Wouldn't you know it that the first batter in the next inning, Marcus Thames, the man that should have been at the plate with two on and two out the inning prior, came up and laced a double off Wang, bringing Leyland's overmanaging front and center. The Tigers could have staked Nate Robertson to a critical early lead, but instead, they had a goose egg, and would go on to lose the all-important series opener. Overmanaging at its finest.

Coincidentally, the beef I have tonight also takes place in the Bronx, only this time I will be throwing my stones at the Bombers' field general, Joe Girardi. The Yankees were entertaining the Texas Rangers, and found themselves trailing heading into the bottom of the 9th, 10-5. With longtime kerosene man Jason Grilli trying to finish things off for Texas, it was no surprise that things started to get interesting. Johnny Damon poked a single to open the frame. Mark Teixeira followed up with a walk. Rangers boss Ron Washington was not messing around, and decided to go ahead and bring in his closer, Frank Francisco, though his team still held a comfortable five run advantage. It only got worse from there. Francisco came in wild, and doled out a free pass to Alex Rodriguez, loading the bases with still nobody out in the inning.

In this situation, with the world caving in all around you, the team on defense will do absolutely anything for a single out. Just one out, so we can exhale and begin to see the light at the end of this tunnel. Great rallies generally occur when the first few guys reach base in the inning, as it causes immense panic and nervousness to set in for the other team. In this case, with the Rangers fighting every day to stay near the top of the Wild Card standings, that first out could not come soon enough. Unfortunately for them, Hideki Matsui was in no mood to oblige, and rapped a sharp single to right, scoring a run and moving everybody up a base. 10-6 now, bases still loaded, and again, nobody out. Jorge Posada was next in line. He got jammed badly on a Francisco heater, but hit it so softly and delicately down the third base line that by the time Michael Young charged in and barehanded the ball, all he could do was eat it and watch the 46,511 Yankee fans in attendance dance in their seats at this furious rally that still had not seen a single out recorded. The score was 10-7 now, the bases were still jammed, and Robinson Cano was next. The lefty Cano blooped the next Francisco offering perfectly the opposite way, scoring two runs this time, and bringing the deficit to just one.

Key stat: the Yankees had sent six hitters to the plate thus far in the inning, and every single one had reached base. Whether it be a walk, a clean base hit, or a cheap roller on the infield, everything was going right for the Yanks. The Rangers had to wonder how in the world they would now retire three full hitters before the Yankees scratched out those final couple runs. After all, they'd been on defense for close to 15 minutes, and had nothing to show for it. At that point, Ron Washington and his ballclub would most likely have sacrificed a human life, or paid a large sum of money, to somehow, someway, be awarded that elusive first out.

Enter Joe Girardi, overmanaging extraordinaire.

Girardi directed Nick Swisher, the next Yankee due up, to lay down a sacrifice. In other words, he was saying "I am aware that the Rangers have been unable to retire our last six batters, that we have one of our best rallies of the year going on right now, that the momentum could not possibly be more on our side. All I really need to do is sit right where I am and watch the game like every other fan here, but ahh, screw it, let's just hand them an out."

Girardi decided to tinker with the baseball gods and make himself a hero, but a little thing called karma came up and bit him right on the backside. Swisher, with a whopping seven sacrifices to his credit in close to 3,000 big league plate appearances, feebly aimed his bat at the ball and popped it up right to Young a few feet in foul territory. The Rangers had finally notched the ever-important first out of the inning, and the Yankees had nothing to show for it. So much for making them earn each of those last three outs, especially when they had proven so very difficult to come by in the half dozen batters preceding Swisher.

Now the Rangers could wind up getting right out of Dodge with a simple double play ball. Well, it didn't come in the traditional sense, but that's exactly what happened next. Melky Cabrera sliced a hard liner to short, the runner got caught a few feet off second, and the bang-bang play that ensued at the bag saw the umpire go up with his fist, driving a stake through the heart of this once-promising rally and confirming Joe Girardi as an overmanager in the worst way.

Would the Yankees have come back and tied or won this game had their manager not intervened with his "brilliant" call for a sac bunt? We don't know.

Maybe the Rangers would have wiggled out of it anyway, but the point is, after starting an inning down five runs, and putting your first six runners on base, you must make that opposing team earn every last one of those three outs.

One of my favorite managers of all-time, Earl Weaver, absolutely hated the sacrifice bunt. He believed that the 27 outs you were given at the beginning of a game should be cherished, and not handed out for free, unless a very specific situation called for such charity. Tonight was not one of those nights.

Joe Girardi's team was rolling, the stadium was rocking, and in all likelihood, had he just sat there and minded his own business, the game's outcome would have been very different. He might be listed officially in the Yankees Media Guide simply as the "Manager," but that's not quite right. He's an Over Manager, and tonight, this power trip cost his team a game. Next time, it might cost him his life...

Sure, the end of that story was a tad dramatic, but Overmanaging is a very serious offense, and the HSL is one to hold grudges. Drop a comment below, or feel free to contact me by e-mail at

Monday, August 24, 2009

An All-Baseball Monday Weekend Re-Kap

It is pretty alarming that with Curtis Granderson now in his sixth season as a big leaguer, he is still yet to make any significant strides towards becoming even a remotely productive player against left-handed pitching. You expect the cornerstones of your team to be in the lineup and producing most every day. But with Granderson's continued futility against southpaws, he has essentially forced Jim Leyland to bench him when such a situation arises. Grandy sat out consecutive ballgames on Thursday and Friday even though the opposing lefty starters were second rate bums Ryan Rowland-Smith and Gio Gonzalez. Not exactly Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax.

This season, Granderson is hitting left-handers at a paltry .178 clip with virtually no extra-base power. Of course, he remains a very integral part of the club's success, and will need to be counted on if they expect to make any major strides in the postseason. But what do you do when you open the playoffs in the new Yankee Stadium, and the opposing hurler is the menacing mountain of a left-hander, C.C. Sabathia? (A very real possibility) In a short series, can you afford to have one of your best players riding the pine? You wouldn't think so. But on the other hand, can you really afford to stick a guy in the lineup when his track record says he is very likely to end the night 0-4 with two or three punchouts? It's an interesting situation, because for most contending teams, the leadoff hitter is an automatic. The manager fills out that spot first, and then works his way down. Would Charlie Manuel ever imagine sitting Jimmy Rollins in a big ballgame? How about Jacoby Ellsbury with the Bosox? It puts Leyland in an almost impossible situation. If he plays Granderson against a top lefty and he takes an O-fer, people wonder why he was in the lineup. But if he dares fill out a card for a big playoff game with Clete Thomas or Ryan Raburn in center, you bet he will get a lot of flak for that, too.

In order to really be mentioned with the elite outfielders in the league, Granderson must improve to at least a level of respectability when a lefty is on the hill. If he doesn't make these necessary strides, he will eventually become a specialized platoon player, only to be used against righties, and have to be pinch-hit for when managers summon lefty specialists to face him in the late innings. This is not to suggest that it is an easy task hanging in there from the left side when every Randy Johnson delivery looks like it is coming right at the small of your back. Plenty of guys have spent years struggling in this same lefty-lefty battle, much like Curtis. But when you look at the other elite leadoff men in the Junior Circuit, it becomes clear that Granderson has quite a ways to go in this department. Ichiro is a career .347 hitter against his lefty brethren, and the aforementioned Ellsbury manages to hit all hurlers at a similarly consistent rate (.299 against RHP, .290 against LHP).

Curtis Granderson is unquestionably one of the most talented players on the team. The Tigers are locked in a tight race for the division, and the combination of speed, power, and defense that he possesses will be needed every single day (and not 3 of every 4 days) in order to end the season atop the standings in the Central. He better figure something out soon. If not, he ought to get very comfortable with the possibility of watching two of five playoff games in the first round from the bench. C.C. looms...

Questionable Managing Move of the Weekend

The Tigers dropped a tough one in Oak-town on Saturday night, losing 3-2 on a Kurt Suzuki walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th. But upon further review, you have to wonder what was going through the mind of manager Jim Leyland as that decisive inning progressed. The A's got a leadoff single from Adam Kennedy. The robotic Athletics manager Bob Geren then called for a sacrifice, putting the winning run on 2nd with one out. The batter about to step in was Suzuki, the third batter in the Oakland lineup, and oddly enough, one of the few guys on the roster with a history of coming through in the clutch (6 walk-off career 7). Following Suzuki was Scott Hairston, a right handed hitter with marginal speed; in other words, a pretty decent double play candidate. Zach Miner was the Tigers hurler, and despite the bouts of inconsistency he has faced throughout his career, he still has that plus sinker in his arsenal, and would be capable of getting that tailor made ground ball needed to escape the jam.

In a simple baseball situation such as this, with the winning run on 2nd and 1st base open, it would really take an extraordinary set of circumstances not to set up the DP. For instance, let's say you're playing the Cardinals and the #2 hitter is due up...somebody non-threatening like Mark DeRosa or Brendan Ryan. With Albert Pujols waiting on deck, the cost of setting up the double play would be immense. You'd have to now pitch to Pujols with the game on the line. In that situation, you take your chances with the weaker hitter, hope to retire him, then you can put Pujols on and go from there.

But the situation Leyland was faced with had none of these little exceptions. You had Suzuki and Hairston, both middling righthanded hitters, where the only move was to simply follow standard operating procedure and put the man on. Creativity as a manger is not a bad trait to have, but it can be destructive when you try to stray from the percentages if for no other reason than to look like some kind of savant if it all works out.

The "Hey, you do realize you're watching Little Leaguers, right?" Sick Comment of the Weekend

My brother Sam and I decided to turn in for a few batters in one of the zillion Little League World Series games that aired on ESPN over the weekend. Now, watching these games can be alright, if certain rules are followed. First, you can really only watch in little five minute increments. Any more than that and you start to feel sick. Second, you have to go in with the understanding that you're watching 11 and 12-year old kids and that you cannot expect to see big league quality play. However, if you are to break down a certain play or criticize one of the tike's batting stances, it must be done with obvious sarcasm, so as to alert everyone else that you aren't taking the proceedings too seriously.

So we're watching the game, and Sam takes note of the big, bulky righthander currently firing 61 mph BB's for the California squad. Sam turns to me after a pitch, and with one-hundred percent conviction and sincerity, blurts out, "The kid reminds me a lot of Peavy." Maybe you had to be there to feel what I felt, and maybe this kid actually will one day be a Cy Young winner with the Padres, but under the circumstances, and just the way he said it, gave me immediate goosebumps and a pretty good shock to the system. If he would have said it, then burst out laughing, that's one thing. But in this instance, it was stated as some kind of fact, and the eerie silence that followed told me that Sam was now most likely daydreaming about playing catch with this phenom in an open field and then maybe heading in the house for some peach iced tea (where Chris Hanson may or may not be waiting).

Sam was a big time Little Leaguer in his day, and I know he took it seriously, but I still thought he had a solid grasp between what is reality and what is fiction. But his stone cold boy-to-Peavy comparison made me realize that he has somehow managed to combine Mustang, slo-pitch softball, and the major leagues into one giant baseball division in which the skill sets are all identical, and the only difference is the alcohol content of the postgame snack. I might check out an inning or two of another game with him in the coming days, but I'll be sure to keep a safe distance at all times...real safe.

Got a baseball related thought from the past weekend? Drop a line here or contact me by e-mail at

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In the Meantime...

The HSL returns with a brand new article on Friday, but for the time being, entertain yourself by digging through the archives (on the right) for some of the classic articles from the past....

The All-Time Basketball Movie Dream Team

Madden, NBA Live, and Not a Speck of Daylight...

Time for a Breakdown on Birthday Parties

A Fun NBA Article...and I Essentially Call for Curry's Head in February

Enjoy the Greatest Hits, and I'll see you back with some new blood on Friday...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

The Lions continued their dominant run of pre-season play by engineering a 4th quarter comeback victory against the Falcons. Matt Stafford (can't we all agree to drop this 'Matthew' thing?) looked solid in his debut, and further solidified his case to be the starting quarterback in the opener of the real NFL season. I said it once, I'll say it again. I can't understand how as an 0-16 team, with holes all over the field, you could possibly draft a player with the first overall pick in the entire draft and not have him start at his position. You were the worst team in football history, and you have your choice of any amateur player in all the can that guy not come in and play immediately?

It'd be one thing if there was already a legitimate quarterback on the Lions roster to challenge Stafford for top billing, but in this case, there is not. You have Daunte Culpepper, a shell of his former self, a man that has not experienced success in the league for what seems like a good five years now. He was undoubtedly an explosive player during his first few years in Minnesota, but it looks now like that was more a byproduct of the enormous talent surrounding him than Daunte actually being an All-Pro QB. Remember, aging vets like Randall Cunningham and Jeff George experienced similarly eye-popping seasons flinging it around to Cris Carter and Randy Moss on the speedy carpet of the Metrodome. Towards the end of his time in Minny, Culpepper became more turnover-prone, suffered a horrible knee injury, and was in essence finished as a top-tier NFL signal caller. He made his way to Miami and then Oakland, both franchises hoping he could return to his former glory, only to see that these wishes were now unrealistic. But as is often the case in this league, the Lions are last to arrive at the party, and thus somehow offered Culpepper another chance to find himself. He got his shot in last year's winless campaign, and did very little to make any Lions fan feel like he could actually be the starting quarterback for the next couple years.

Fast forward to the present. You have the top pick in camp, looking solid in his first real action, and brimming with enthusiasm on a team that normally has none. How can he not be under center on September 13 when the season opens in New Orleans? It's the first opportunity for new boss Jim Schwartz to prove that he is actually somewhat competent, unlike his predecessors that lacked any real ideas or even an iota of common sense. Let's hope he does not miss the boat on this one.

-Is there any event in sports more terrifying to watch than a pitcher taking a line drive off of his head? Hiroki Kuroda of the Dodgers took an absolute scorcher on Saturday night off the bat of Diamondbacks rookie Rusty Ryal, and no matter how many times they showed the replay, I found myself wincing in my chair on every single one. The ball was hit so hard that it ricocheted off of Kuroda's dome and flew all the way back on one bounce into the stands for a ground rule double. Kuroda was down on the field for several minutes, but thankfully, appears to be alright and wants to return to the hill as soon as possible. Strangely enough, whereas I always judged the severity of the blow by the distance the ball traveled after contact, it turns out there is more danger when the ball goes nowhere. Dr. Mickey Collins of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said of the Kuroda shot, "Typically, when the ball ricochets like that, there is a better outcome than if it drops near the mound. That means the ball was on the head for a shorter period of time." So I guess Kuroda's got that going for him, which is nice.

-Reading USA Today on Friday afternoon, I couldn't help but be intrigued by a small article on Gina Carano, touted as the best woman fighter on the planet and also a former Maxim model. Pretty interesting combination. She was to headline the Saturday night MMA card on Showtime, and even though women's boxing/fighting has never been my thing, I made a note to possibly check it out. Well, Carano ended up headlining the card all right. And in the process, she was absolutely manhandled (used appropriately here) by a very angry looking Brazilian female referred to simply as "Cyborg." Carano was knocked silly at the end of the very first round, while Cyborg gleefully celebrated her win and her place among the elite in the female fight game.

Naturally, at the same time of the bout's climax, the final scene in the movie Enough was rolling on TBS. Talk about a dominating performance. After years of threats and harassment by her psychotic husband, J-Lo decided enough was enough. She took up martial arts, sent little Gracie off for the weekend, and took up residence in Mitch's crib, ready to put an end to the madness. And she didn't disappoint. Donning an all black ninja outfit, brass knuckles covering both hands, and an unrelenting determination, she put a beating on her old man that rivals any KO in the sport's long history. It was the perfect finish for this movie, where as a viewer you built up so much anger and hostility for Mitch throughout that you could not imagine leaving the theater with his pulse still active.

(And yes, I do find it difficult to believe that Billy Campbell played Mitch when he is the same guy that once played underrated flying superhero The Rocketeer in a career-defining performance in the early 90's. I know people change...but I didn't think they could change that much.)

-Nice acquisition by the Tigers in grabbing 6'4 slugger Aubrey Huff from the Orioles. Huff is coming off a career year, where he smashed 32 homers, drove in 108, and batted over .300, all good enough for a 16th place finish in the MVP voting. This year's been a different story, however. Huff's average has sunk toward the .250 range, and his power numbers have dropped off precipitously. In fact, in Mr. Huff's last 150 trips to the plate, he has mustered just two long balls, while hitting at a woeful .212 clip. Perhaps the change of scenery and being thrust into a pennant race will do him some good, as he has spent the majority of his career wasting away on also-rans in Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Regardless of whether Huff can return to last year's top form, he will still be a dramatic improvement over the 'Raburn-Thomas-Ordonez-Thames' group that tends to provide a spark one out of every ten nights.

(It will also be nice to finally have a new Aubrey in town, as it has been years since old Aubrey Mathews was lining up in the slot for the Honolulu Blue, botching slant routes and getting chased down by overweight linebackers. Who would have thought those would wind up as the 'good old days' of Lions football??)

-I'll be the first to admit that I have some very strange dreams sometimes. But the one I had the other night had me wondering where these images came from, and why? Somewhere in my deep slumber, I began dreaming about Baron Davis. He was in the process of bolting from the Los Angeles Clippers, on his way to sign up with the Indiana Pacers. Next thing I knew, Baron was flying down the court in Pacer gold, tossing a picture-perfect alley-oop to the not so legendary Josh McRoberts. Soon thereafter, I awoke from my fantasy/nightmare in a cold sweat and pondered how my mind had cooked up such a bizarre little scenario during what should have been a pleasant, uneventful night's sleep. None of it made sense. The Baron part I could identify with, since I was briefly obsessed with the man over a 3-5 month period last winter. But Josh McRoberts?? The two-bit player from Duke that has never made so much as a whimper in the NBA?? If the dream had to include a fellow Pacer hooper on the receiving end of the dunk, why couldn't I have gone with Danny Granger? Or even Roy Hibbert? Was this a semi-racist dream? Finally, I came to four possible conclusions on why the dream happened and what it might mean.

a) I have an obsession with Baron Davis that used to be funny, and is now bordering on creepy.
b) If I'm going to continue to have dreams like this, it's probably not a good idea for me to go to sleep...ever.
c) Maybe the dream really isn't weird...maybe there are other people out there having the exact same one, but are just too embarrassed to admit it. Or maybe not.
d) There is no valid explanation or excuse. I need a full psychiatric evaluation as soon as possible.

Contact the High Socks Legend at

Monday, August 10, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

People are often known to have short memories in the world of sports. Players and coaches alike are given second chances repeatedly, their past blemishes swept under the rug in hopes that the newest opportunity will wash away whatever sour history might exist. This theory was proved to the highest degree on Friday when the Pistons inked aging warrior Ben Wallace to a one-year contract. All the talk revolved around Wallace's coming to the team as more of a "leader" than an actual on-court contributor. Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't Ben Wallace the same guy that sulked and whined his way through his final season in Detroit? The same guy that shocked the basketball world by pulling the ultimate prima donna move, refusing to reenter a game despite his coach's repeated requests? And he is being invited back to the franchise for his abilities as a "leader"?? While we're at it, why not bring back Oliver Miller to head up the team's conditioning sessions? It makes about as much sense.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not under any grand illusion that the Pistons really had much room to operate with here. I am aware that with only scraps left to dole out to remaining free agents, potential All-Stars were not being lured here at this point in the summer. But would it have killed Joe D to think just a tad outside of the box on this one, instead of just making an awkward attempt to relive past glories? Ben undoubtedly had his days as an elite NBA player. He came to Detroit, found his niche, and proceeded to wreak havoc on the boards and in the paint for the next 5-6 years. But to nobody's surprise, when Ben's odometer started to escalate, his game began to deteriorate. His success was entirely predicated on strength, energy, and athleticism. His basketball skills were non-existent, and thus his value diminished greatly with age more so than almost any other athlete in sports. There is no shame in that. It happens. Being an intimidating presence on the inside as an undersized center is not like being a crafty lefthanded hurler. You can't just keep doing the same things into your mid-40's with guile and grit. This past year in Cleveland, Ben was relegated to the role of 'cheerleader,' put mostly in charge of blow-drying Anderson Varejao's hair and massaging Zydrunas Ilgauskus' monster co...feet. It's the kind of year a guy has and then decides, "Yup, that's it for me. Time to hang it up." If we could only be so lucky.

Instead Ben will grace us with his presence one final time. With him he brings his famously handicapped free throw stroke, which enabled him to somehow play 176 playoff minutes last spring without ever once connecting from the charity stripe (0 for 6 total). He will be looked to only for insurance in the case of injury or foul trouble to one of the main big guys. But on a team where those "main" bigs are the unspectacular Kwame Brown and Chris Wilcox, chances are Ben will spend more time on the floor than people would be led to believe. This is not a good thing.

I look at the Raptors last season as an example. They had some injuries and issues with their frontcourt, so they went out and brought in former college superstar and NBDL standout Pops Mensah-Bonsu. They weren't trying to set the world on fire with that signing, but as a team looking for a spark or occasional scoring burst from an 11th or 12th guy, the youthful jumping jack Bonsu made perfect sense. He came in, impacted some games with his frenetic activity, and found a role with the squad. But the Pistons, in a similar situation this off-season, took the lazy route, and simply flipped through the archives of their media guide and settled on Big Ben.

It's not the biggest deal in the world, and one not likely to help or cost the Pistons a shot an NBA title. But it is a move that lacks any creativity, and one that makes you question the qualities that Dumars and his front office value. Wallace came to the Pistons as a tireless worker, selfless to the bone. He left the team as a malcontent, someone that was unable to maintain his team-first attitude when the personal accolades started piling up. That all seems to be forgotten, though. We thought we'd seen the last of him, but we were wrong. So whether we like it or not, old #3 will be wearing the Piston colors one final time.

But don't think the welcome mat is going to be rolled out upon arrival, Ben. And as far as the extra bedroom is concerned, it's yours. Just don't expect any fluffy pillows or premium cable. Those are for preferred guests only, and frankly, your five minutes were up about five years ago. Just do us all a favor and make this last visit a short and painless one.

Oh, and one more thing before I forget. Stay away from the free throw line, too... you're not welcome there, either.

Finally caught the 2000 Chris O' Donnell blockbuster Vertical Limit over the weekend. I'd never been too keen on seeing the movie over the years, but since it ranks in the Top-5 of my Dad's most-watched movies of all-time, I had to give in at some point (Rest of his list includes Striking Distance, Crimson Tide, Hollow Man, School Ties, The American President and semi-bizarre but completely respectable bonus entry The Devil Wears Prada). Aside from the opening sequence being ripped directly from the frames of Cliffhanger, it was an enjoyable ride with a solid cast. Really, anytime a movie centers around mountain climbing, you're in for a pretty entertaining 120 minutes (See aforementioned Cliffhanger, and forever underrated K2).

It was a bit odd seeing Billy Paxton in the role of the villain, though. He's usually likable and charming, but in Limit, he plays a conniving industrialist who will stop at nothing to save his own life (even at the expense of others). Despite the ugly character he portrays, I'm still inclined to give the edge to Paxton in the ongoing worldwide debate, "At gunpoint...Pullman or Paxton...who you sharin' a pizza with"? He just brings a confidence to the screen that says, "Like me or don't like me, I'm gonna be Paxton. Take it or leave it." I know I wasn't the only one watching Titanic and thinking, "Couldn't we use a little less Leo and a little more Pax"? With Pullman on the other hand, you always get the feeling that he's trying to appeal to everyone instead of just doing what he wants to do. I always felt Pullman was miscast in Independence Day. Here you needed a leader, someone willing to fight one of the most dangerous alien attacks in our history, and the man we are all supposed to look to is the bumbling, hair never out of place, Pullman? Gimme a break.

After an early Sunday morning wake-up/tease with playoff softball games being rained out, it was a must-nap situation when 11:30/12:00 rolled around. When I finally came to, I flicked on the Tigers, and with bleary eyes, saw a mysterious lefty working in the 6th against the Twins. My mind started wandering, and after confirming that the man was not quite unsightly enough to be Bobby Seay and was definitely not Asian enough to be Fu-Te Ni, I realized, "Ahhh, they must have taken Robertson off the DL. Didn't even realize he'd come out of the coma." But then I saw this pitcher repeatedly starting off hitters with first pitch strikes. Doesn't sound like Nate. Sometimes he would even throw two in a row. Hmm, getting colder. The delivery looked smooth and the velocity was there as well. Yeah, I am definitely mistaken. So I reached for my glasses, the screen came into focus, and I figured out why the pitcher looked so professional. It was newest Tiger southpaw Jarrod Washburn on the mound. My momentary loss of focus and memory caused me to have this wild delusion that Nate Robertson was not only alive, but also throwing actual strikes to big league hitters while simultaneously warding off the persistent Rice Pilaf Demons that have been harassing him for the last two years. Let's just say it wasn't the most coherent five minutes in the history of the High Socks Legend.

Is there any job in the world based more on appearance than that of the "Cart Lady" at the golf course? I'm pretty sure I've never seen an unattractive person holding down this position. If you get knocked out of the Miss America competition, do you just drive directly to the nearest golf course and start serving Snickers bars and Arizona Iced Teas? Is there even an interview or application process? Or do you just show up in the manager's office one day wearing a yellow polo, khaki shorts, and a big smile? Now don't get me wrong. Maybe there have been some brilliant cart girls over the years, and they also tend to be some of the friendliest human beings on the planet, but I'm just saying that intelligence doesn't seem to be the number one priority when selecting these candidates. Not that I'm complaining, though...

Other Important Thoughts

  • I think I'll step up and say what everyone else is thinking about those 15,000 Lions fans that attended the first "open practice" at Ford Field. It doesn't have to be today, it doesn't have to be tomorrow, but at some point, all of you who were there are going to need to get a life. Seriously, there had to have been a better way to spend your Saturday afternoon. Charity out your garage...spit-shining your driveway. All better options than what you did by waiting in the rain for 2-3 hours, then trudging inside soaking wet so you could watch a hapless team conduct a glorified stretching exhibition while downing a lukewarm can of Milwaukee's Best that you managed to sneak in the side pocket of your oversized camouflage hunting lush.
  • You would think that by now, after years upon years of being the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports, ESPN would be well aware of their target demographic. Why then, does Neil Everett continue to make Jonas' Brothers references on a near-nightly basis? Does he really think there are that many 11-year old girls watching the 2 AM SportsCenter, or is he just trying to tell us viewers something about himself? Either way, it's making me very uncomfortable...

"Oh, come on now. Don't be silly, Yogurt Covered Pretzels...the pleasure is all mine." The High Socks Legend can be reached at

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Trying to Find His Way Home...

Imagine Andre the Giant teaching a ballroom dancing class. Or Shaquille O' Neal instructing a group of campers on the intricacies of the jump shot. How about Screech Powers leading the way during a bodybuilding exhibition?

While all these events would be of the utmost entertainment with the irony and comedy involved, they are simply far too unrealistic to ever be thought possible. After all, why would such men, so unfamiliar with their respective activities, ever be trusted to pass on knowledge that they have never in fact possessed themselves?

Andre the Giant was a behemoth of a man and a star in the ring, but the words "grace" and "agility" were not exactly his friends. Shaquille O' Neal is a future Hall-of-Famer with four NBA championship rings to his credit, but that doesn't mean he knows the first thing about sinking an open 15-footer. Screech Powers made us laugh time and again with his eccentric personality and zany antics, but the man was all skin and bones, and thus would be the last person you would choose to symbolize muscle men from all over the world.

These examples point out the obvious. When one is looking for a coach or leader for a particular sport or position, a main criteria is always, "Have you been down that road before?" Essentially, is this something you specialize in?

Have you made so many tackles during your career that being a linebackers coach would be second nature? Did you smack so many thousands of aces on the ATP tour that becoming a "serve and volley" coach for youngsters is the only place you belong?

All of these questions leads us to one man.

A man that is looked to by professionals at the highest level for guidance on where to go, and how to get there. The only thing is, he has never been there before.

Meet Razor Shines, the Major League record holder for most at-bats ever in a career without ever scoring a run...and currently, the third base coach for the New York Mets.

How's that for irony?

Anthony Razor Shines spent parts of four seasons in the bigs, all with the Montreal Expos. The first, 1983, was an ultra-short stay. Three games, two AB's, and one hit. The fact that he never got to experience the thrill of scoring a run in the Major Leagues that year surely did not affect him. "Just a cup of coffee...I'll get one next year," he must have thought.

The '84 campaign came and went with the same goose egg in the runs scored column. This time, he strode to the plate 21 times, collecting a respectable six base hits along the way. One of 'em was even a double, the only extra-base job of Shines' career. He was halfway home after that two-bagger...but the next hitter grounded out weakly to end the inning, leaving old Razor stranded. His dream was now on life support, slowly flickering away on the lonely Shea Stadium base paths.

1985 was our hero's big chance. A career high 54 plate appearances were awarded to Razor, but his once semi-respectable switch-hitting batting stroke was now starting to desert him. He racked up a measly six hits, to go with four harmless walks. And even though that '85 Expos squad was loaded with All-Stars like Andre Dawson, Tim Raines, and Hubie Brooks, it wasn't enough to bring Razor home.

Our man was called up to the big club one final time in the summer of '87. It was a brief stay, bringing just 11 trips to the dish. But as you could expect from a man known as Razor, he wasn't going down without a fight. He was determined to score a run in the major leagues.

Shines was slated to lead off the top of the 2nd that night in Fulton-County Stadium in Atlanta. Boom! Line drive single right back up the box. Now one extra-base hit brings him in. Or even a couple bloop singles. But Razor had grown tired of counting on others to complete his 360-foot journey around the diamond. He took his lead off first, watched the pitcher go into his windup, and made a mad dash for second base. The throw was late, and with that came the first and only stolen base in the illustrious career of Razor Shines. Perhaps it was finally time for that last zero to be erased from the back of his baseball card.

He was now confidently standing on second base with nobody out in the inning. This was his time...his moment...his run.

But the baseball gods decided otherwise.

The next three Expo hitters all struck out.

Razor's final appearance in a major league stadium came on May 14, 1987. The Reds, managed by Pete Rose, arrived to the Stade Olympique in Montreal for what would turn out to be a wild affair. Cincinnati trailed throughout the night, but exploded for five runs in the 9th to take a 10-9 lead. One last chance for the Expos in the bottom half...and if Montreal skipper Buck Rodgers had a heart, maybe even one final shot at redemption for our luckless journeyman.

Cincy closer John Franco retired the first two batters in order. Down to their last out, and in danger of losing a game they led 9-5 heading into the final frame, Rodgers summoned a pinch hitter. But Shines was shunned in favor of jitterbug utilityman Casey Candaele.

As luck would have it, Candaele wound up reaching on an error. The pitcher's spot was up next, meaning another pinch hitter. Gotta be Razor this time, right? Wrong. Rodgers called on cagey veteran Reid Nichols.

The manager was proved right a second time when Nichols lashed a single to the gap in left center, moving Candaele to third and setting up the final dramatics of the evening. For a third straight batter, Rodgers chose to use a pinch hitter, and he finally had nobody else to turn was Razor or bust.

If Razor could find some way to connect on a long ball and send one over the fences, it would make for the perfect Hollywood ending. A memorable game ending on a walk-off blast...and a player with an all too forgettable career finally finding a way to touch home plate, escaping one of the game's most ignominious records.

Razor dug in against Franco and took an emotional hack, trying to end a career's worth of frustrations in one final swing. In the movies, the ball would have went boomeranging off of his Louisville Slugger, flying out of the stadium, with fireworks exploding and fans rushing the field.

In real life, however, Shines poked an innocent little grounder over to the first basemen. The pitcher covered the bag, they recorded the out, and that was that. No postgame celebration...and most importantly, no run scored.

The Mets currently rank 23rd in the league in runs scored (out of 30). They are the worst offensive team in their division, even placing behind the sad sack 36-72 Washington Nationals. There are many possible explanations for the Mets' struggles to put crooked numbers up on the scoreboard this season.

Some would point to their nightmare injury list, which has housed the likes of Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Delgado. Others might chalk it up to their new home park, Citi Field, and its vast outfield dimensions. But in this case, there is only one answer.

The Mets have trusted a man, Razor Shines, with the most critical of responsibilities; making sure runs are scored. If a hustling baserunner is unable to locate the ball and needs guidance on what to do, it is Shines' job to bring him home. If an outfielder comes up throwing on a sharp one-hopper down the line, Razor has to figure out how to make sure that run still winds up scoring. But simply put, how much knowledge and wisdom can one impart when they have never before been through such an experience?

Razor Shines sauntered up to the plate 88 times during his career, and never quite made it all the way back around. He set a record he may not have wanted, and he is remembered for something he may want to forget. Amazingly, he has now devoted his life's work to making sure others do not suffer a similar fate. He never officially scored a run, but it's time to finally put that in the past.

Go home, Razor...wherever that may be.

Reach the High Socks Legend at

Monday, August 3, 2009

Talking to Inanimate Objects...

Oh, why hello, Pair O' Wristbands. How are we doing today? You guys might feel like you always fly under the radar, but not with me. You allow me to stand out in the Sunday morning softball league where otherwise I would just be one of 100. You provide my wrist area with a sense of security, but do much more for my overall well being. When I gently slip on your stretchy cotton to my forearm area, I get that same feeling everyone gets when they get their blood pressure taken and that device keeps blowing up larger and larger, making you feel like The Incredible Hulk. You bring that feeling back to me, Wristbands. I know my pipes don't resemble those of Albert Pujols or Magnus ver Magnusson, but by wearin' you fellas, it makes me feel like I aint that far off, either. I know some of the haters out there try giving you a bad wrap.

"They hinder my throwing motion." "Why would I accessorize my wrists during a baseball game?" "It's just a much bigger watch that can't tell me the time."

These are all things you hear on a daily basis out there on the street, but none of 'em hold any water. Look at Dusty Baker, the epitome of fashion among major league managers. He's been rockin' the sweatband look his whole career, and after close to two decades of managing, it's probably still his most redeeming quality. I know it's not glamorous work you guys do, adorning sweaty wrists during ferocious physical activity. But that's what makes you who you are. You just show up, do your job, and get tossed back in the equipment bag. No complaining, no crying, just consistent performance from two of the most reliable guys I know. Enjoy the break you will have over the next couple days. Sunday morning brings the playoffs, and that means you boys take center stage...right where you belong.

Well, what do we have here? It looks like our good friend Drug Store Bouncy Ball. So nice to see you again. I'm amazed you guys are still around after all you've been through. We all remember those trips to the drug store as kids. Mom and Dad would be strolling the aisles looking for various important household items while we were left to search out our own means of entertainment. The shampoo/toothpaste/razor aisle wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs. The cosmetics area was scary and unknown. The candy aisle was fun for a minute, but it wasn't like you could eat the stuff while you waited. But then, out of the bright white light, came our savior...Drug Store Bouncy Ball. Generally, you guys came in dozens of dizzying colors and were stuffed elbow-to-elbow in giant cages with a big opening at the top. We would reach our hands in and wrestle you out of the crate, at which point all hell would break loose. The options were endless. One-on-one...first guy to three buckets. Volleyball...first one to knock over a shelf of cereal boxes. Baseball...use your arms as a bat, swing for the fences, and prepare to be scolded by the nearest Arbor employee. While many of the historic athletic achievements in our country's rich history have been achieved on courts, fields, and diamonds, just as many have occurred at your local drug store. A tie-dye colored bouncy ball and a dream was all it took.

My greatest hope is that you guys don't harbor any resentment for the events that always followed our raucous aisle-way games. Our parents would inevitably arrive on the scene, inform us it was time to leave, and that "No, we were not buying the ball." There would be a few brief moments of protest, but we knew this was the way it had to be. You were tossed back in to your cage, quickly ending your perpetual dream of one day seeing the outside world and finding permanent shelter in the toy room of a caring boy. I know you guys aren't all about glitz and fame, but a little recognition never hurt anybody, and that's why I'm here. To tell you, "Thanks." For every bounce and every dribble. For every gloomy stop at the drug store that was brightened by your incomparable work ethic and never-ending smile. Sleep well, Drug Store Bouncy Ball. You might be circular in shape, but you're a star in my heart...I love you.

Where have you gone, Corn on the Cob Holders? You were a dear friend early in my life, and now you seem to have vanished. When a tiny lad just three years of age is presented with a monstrous ear of corn, you gentlemen come to the rescue. You plant yourselves neatly on each end of the corn, and allow infants and the like to grab tightly and hold on for dear life. You turned a potentially disastrous dining situation into a pleasant and non-threatening one. Heck, you even went the extra mile and made yourself into cute, little, imitation corns to complete the charming effect. But why the extended hiatus? Am I to believe that your services are only available to the '5 and Under' crowd? If so, color me disappointed...and let down. Since your unexplained absence, I've been forced to consume my cobs of corn like a pre-historic savage. Whereas before I could look to you fellas for guidance and protection, I now go into battle empty-handed and nervous for what's ahead. Corn on the Cob has never been a food with a real place to set up shop and go to work. There are itsy-bitsy ends that you might be able to get a decent grip on while eating, but it's only a matter of time before you lose control, sending the corn into a tragic, butter-and-salt filled free fall towards your once spotless lap. You might opt to clutch the corn right on its actual body, but that never really feels right, either. You can't help but wonder if what you're doing is "appropriate," and there is also the distinct possibility that you might nibble off one of your fingers during the suddenly violent proceedings.

There are certain foods that require a location for you to place your hands before eating can commence. Pizza...the crust is there to show you the way. Hot dogs and hamburgers...the bun is your lifelong spotter. Corn dogs and Dove bars...the stick is your lifeline. Corn on the Cob Holders used to provide us this same assurance. In a world of chaotic family barbecues and stressful outdoor picnics, you little guys were always there to bring a sense of normalcy and comfort in a time we needed it most. But you managed to slip out the backdoor of my life as quickly as you entered it. I'm not gonna mince words...the last 15-20 years have not been easy. Without you, I have felt alone...desperate...and abandoned by someone who I thought was a true friend. If you can hear me, precious Corn Holders, just know that I'm still here. Waiting for that unmistakable knock on the front door, telling me you are back, and here to stay. My corn needs protection, and for that matter, so do I. Let's hit the reset button on life, Corn Holders, and start over...together.

The High Socks Legend can be reached at