Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Day That Will Live In Infamy


Towards the end of the holiday season, on a snowy late December day, my brother Sam and I experienced possibly the least productive day on Earth by any two human beings. With the rest of the world out enjoying things like family and daylight, we were holed up in his room for a good 12-15 hours, equipped only with an Ipod, a jug of peach iced tea, and most importantly, a Nintendo-64. While the rest of the world has moved on to the XBOX and PlayStation craze, we have stayed strong with the underrated '64.' We stick mainly to sports games. It's pretty much a healthy dose of 'Madden 98' and 'NBA Live 2000,' a little 'Griffey,' and when things start to get really depressing, 'Fifa 99.' Here are some highlights, or more appropriately, lowlights from that infamous day.

LIVE

At one point during our run of 8 straight 'best of 7' three-point contests on NBA Live '98, Sam realized how very useless both of us had been to society today. He said, "We could have done something good today. Did charity work...served food to the homeless." Instead, we were about to start another split-screen 3 point shootout pitting Gheorge Muresan against Gheorge Muresan. Sam thought the announcer was calling him "Parmesan" instead of "Muresan." This led to Sam randomly shouting "PAR-MIZZ-ON" at different points during the day...I don't think he even knew he was doing it.

I proposed that to make things a little more interesting, we play a full game with fouls turned all the way off. After a 5-4 first quarter score with about 25 combined turnovers from unwhistled muggings, it hit me that my suggestion was yet another bad decision in a day filled with nothing but them. On the bright side, I won the game and forced his starting Warriors' backcourt of John Starks and Muggsy Bogues into a 4-29 day from the field. Caaaaaashhhhhhhh!!

Our rule when doing the 3-point contests was that you couldn't use a player that we've already played with. Towards the end, it started becoming very difficult to find such players. Keep in mind...there are 12 guys on each team, 29 teams in the game...and we were struggling to find new ones. I don't even want to think about calculating how many contests we'd done to essentially run out of players.


MADDEN

When one of the special teams guys went down with an injury to the ribs, Sam felt a severe pain in his upper abdomen at the exact same instant. We were slowly losing the ability to differentiate real life from Madden.

During the 2nd half of our epic "10 minute quarters" game, we both swore we heard Pat Summerall announce that there was a "flag on the field." However, at the conclusion of the play, no infraction was displayed. We were both now hearing things...bad things.

After Sam scored to take the lead and go up 4 with over a minute left, leaving me plenty of time to come back for the winning TD, I asked him confidently, "Honestly, who would you rather be right now?" He replied simply, "Somebody else."


SHOULD HAVE KNOWN WHEN TO STOP

After about 8.5 hours of Madden and Live, I picked up a different cartridge (one of the hardest words in the whole world to say) and held it up to gauge Sam's interest level. He took one look, and nodded. The game was "Rampage." You know...the one where you take some crazy looking gorilla or monster and proceed to destroy various buildings in a city. At one point, this was a semi-classic arcade game, and then even a respectable Nintendo game. Now, it was 2008, and we had no business getting involved with these characters. (Speaking of which, I spent at least 90 seconds selecting the color of my beast before we started. I want that 90 seconds of my life back.) After one level of eating policemen and bringing down high-rises, we realized what we were doing and turned the game off. We knew that what we were doing at that moment was a complete waste of time...so we turned it off and took the game out immediately. And replaced it with Madden.

FINAL REVELATION

We contributed absolutely nothing to society that day. We didn't step foot outside all day long. At the end of the day, with tears in his eyes, Sam said he wanted to spend all of tomorrow just "looking at family photos." Couldn't have said it better myself...


Was the N-64 the most underrated system of all time?? Game Gear is in the discussion, but the battery power on that bad boy only lasted you about 2.5 quarters of Joe Montana Football. Drop your thoughts right after this article, or fire me an e-mail at highsockslegend@gmail.com

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

We Made a Mistake...Please Come Back


Priscilla Presley had one of the more famous quotes in movie history when she uttered "Good men don't just fall out of the sky" during the climactic scene in the final "Naked Gun." For some reason, whenever I think of this year's Pistons team, that quote comes to mind, only with a bit of a twist; 'Great leaders don't just fall out of the sky.' And Chauncey Billups was a great leader.

On paper, many people thought the deal that saw the Pistons receive Allen Iverson for Chauncey was a wash, or even a slight nod to Detroit. Not the case...at all. Chauncey has gone to Denver and taken the league by storm. Leading a collection of talent around him that is serviceable, at best, Chauncey has led his Nuggets to a 29-15 mark, good for 3rd in the hellacious Western Conference. George Karl has recently talked about his lack of nerves going into games ever since CB arrived on the scene. He no longer worries about calling timeouts or making quick substitutions (though I'm sure some fans of the 2001 Bucks wonder if he ever worried about such things), all because of his confidence in Chauncey's ability to lead the team on the floor. Without Carmelo Anthony in the lineup, Mr. Big Shot has taken to tutoring the erratic and freewheeling J.R. Smith. He has managed to turn back Kenyon Martin's clock a little bit to when he was throwing down alley-oops from Jason Kidd in New Jersey. He has also been getting to the line at an alarming rate recently, around 10 times a night, sometimes more. When you're a 90% free throw shooter, that's a very good thing.

Allen Iverson's entrance into Detroit has been the exact opposite. Whereas Pistons' brass thought this deal would bring life to a perceived worn out group of players, it has done nothing of the sort. The Pistons performance of late has been lackadaisical and uninspired. The defense, at one time this organization's staple, is non-existent. On Sunday night, in a home loss to Houston, Rafer Alston and Luis Scola ran pick-and-rolls on basically every possession of the 1st quarter. After those 12 minutes, the Rockets had 39 points, and Alston and Scola had to return to the locker room to get new jerseys with the names "Stockton" and "Malone" printed on the back. And while Allen Iverson cannot be blamed solely for this team's struggles, his addition has done none of the things that might have been expected when the deal was made. His game is simply not suited for a team with other talented players. He is most comfortable when he is dominating the ball. In his heyday in Philly, he was free to dribble out shot clocks trying to get a better look for himself. He was free to jack up 25-30 shots on any given night. He was playing with marginal players like Aaron McKie, George Lynch, and Eric Snow. These were guys that would do the dirty work and let Allen do his thing. It's the only way he can function. He has not proven in his time in the NBA the ability to blend with other All-Star talent and make something special out of it. For now, he and the other Pistons seem content to mosey on through the 82-game season, showing glimpses of life every couple weeks. I don't think that's what Joe D had in mind when this deal was made.

When you see highlights of the Nuggets crowd on their feet, enamored with their hometown boy's return, it's hard not to feel jealous. When you see a Pistons team aimlessly go through the motions for 2 straight home games, it's hard not to feel depressed. Chauncey Billups was the driving force on a team that appeared in six straight conference finals. Of course, only two of those resulted in finals appearances, and just one ended with a title, but there are very few teams in any sport that can lay claim to such an extended run of contention. And if there was ever a year to chalk it up to, "Hey, the other squad was just too good," it was last year, when the Celtics knocked off the Pistons in 6. When a basketball team can stay that good for that long, chances are there is a gifted leader at the controls throughout the journey. That was Chauncey.


Bounce Back Weekend

Wednesday night, Michigan State suffered an absolutely shocking defeat at home to Northwestern. The same Northwestern that tries to play like those old bracket-busting Princeton teams, just without the cutting, passing, and legendary coaching of Pete Carril. With a tricky road game in Columbus on Sunday, it was a chance for Tom Izzo's club to show some resolve and right the ship immediately without the hiccup turning into a week-long stumble. They did just that, playing an absolutely superb final 20 minutes, punishing the Buckeyes inside and out en route to 52 2nd-half points and a double-digit win. It was clear early in the contest that Thad Matta's club was extremely fired up for the battle with the conference leaders, jumping out to a 13-point 1st half lead. The Spartans calmly took Ohio State's best punch, and began to chip away at the lead. Durrell Summers kept things within striking distance by way of his blazing stroke from the long line. Even though Izzo and Co. had a small lead with about 6 minutes to play, you didn't get the sense that the Buckeye players really thought they had any shot to pull it out. The Spartans were just too good. The combination of Summers, Kalin Lucas, and Goran Suton would have been too much for most any team in the country to handle on this day. Ohio State can certainly attest to that.

For any team to have any chance of making a dent come NCAA tournament time in March, it must prove it can win tough games away from home during the regular season. Michigan has yet to accomplish this, but has a wonderful opportunity to do so this week. While the Wolverines still sit in solid position to make the tourney, a win this week at either Ohio State or Purdue would do wonders for the confidence of this growing program. The early season wins over UCLA and Duke were fantastic, but of course, neither was in a hostile setting. The UCLA win was on a neutral floor at Madison Square Garden with the crowd decidedly in favor of the underdog, and the Duke win was in the friendly confines of Crisler Arena. A victory in Columbus this week will be a difficult task, as the Bucks will be smarting from their beating at the hands of Michigan State. Stealing a win at Purdue will be even more daunting, as the Boilermakers have hit their stride in Big Ten play, winning 4 straight in impressive fashion. The win over Northwestern this weekend was crucial to get things back on track and bring the record to .500 in conference play. Getting a win this week in an unfriendly Big 10 setting would mean much more.


Sounds Like the Name of an Old TV Cop Show...
Afternoons in Michigan will not be the same without 'Stoney and Wojo' commanding the afternoon dial at AM-1130. They were one of the few constants in an ever-changing sports radio climate over the last decade. With almost all local programming now gone from WDFN, a pretty large void emerges for many that used to rely on 'S & W' for entertainment on the drive home. I listened to them them for as long as they were on the air, and both guys were always very friendly and inviting anytime I encountered them in the real world. Short story about Stoney. I was in a public speaking class at North Farmington High and we were given an assignment to interview anyone we wanted, in front of the class. I took a shot and e-mailed Stoney. He accepted. The day of the interview comes, and I'm all ready to go. A fresh haircut, tucked-in polo shirt, and a long list of well thought out questions for my famous guest of honor to answer. About 30 minutes before the interview was set to go down, I got a message: there's a phone call waiting for me in the office. As I made my way down there, I could only think one thing; he's not coming. Maybe I was getting bumped for a George Irvine press conference. Sure enough, I picked up the phone and it was Stoney on the other line. Only, it wasn't what I thought. "Hey, that interview is today, right? Yeah, that's what I thought. Ok, I'll be there." I met him downstairs and took him up to the class, where he entertained everyone with stories about Springsteen concerts and his days working on "The George Michael Sports Machine." My teacher loved the interview and I had myself a much-needed 'A.' That day, just like every day for the last 15 years, Stoney showed up on time...and did not disappoint.


Other Sophisticated Thoughts

Watching the Australian Open on ESPN has been enjoyable this year...as long as you don't care about who's winning or what the current score is. As usual, the score of the current match is displayed on the screen; only, this year, they have decided to post these numbers in 6-point font, making the digits impossible to decipher unless you put your face within inches of the TV. I guess the moral of that story is, "If you're still up at 3:31 AM, watching tennis, then maybe trying to identify the exact score of Verdasco vs. Murray isn't your biggest problem."

Might be a few years late on this, but I recently caught "Catch Me If You Can" for the first time, and was highly impressed. Really enjoyed the flick throughout and wondered afterward why it had taken me 7 or 8 years to finally run it down. It was a little bit like "The Talented Mr. Ripley," except that this movie was good.

I've always been a guy that has preached the importance of marriage...between donuts and sprinkles. They just seem to be made for each other. You throw a little chocolate frosting on that bad boy so the sprinkles can nestle up real cozy, and now you have yourself a real donut. The standard glazed model might command all the headlines and take all the credit, but there's one thing it will never have...my heart.

Jose Calderon hit all 3 of his free throws on Sunday, bringing his consecutive streak to 86. I predicted a slip-up around 85, but it looks like our boy is not feeling the pressure just yet. He still has some meat left on that bone to reach Micheal Williams' masterful streak of 97, but he is looking very good. Maybe I'm making too much out of a semi-obscure streak, but I'm surprised the networks and ESPNews are not breaking into their coverage when Calderon steps to the stripe like they used to when Bonds or McGwire would be at the plate chasing the home run record. I think they are probably just waiting for Calderon to get within a few, and then they will start with the live look-ins. Or there is also the distinct possibility that I have gone completely out of my mind...


Drop your thoughts on the Stones, Spartans, or Wolverines in the comments area below, or just dish me a line about sprinkled donuts at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Poorly Named Desserts, Geometrically Incorrect Contraptions, and the Most Annoying Woman on the Planet

Did you know that it is a physical impossibility to close up a pizza box again once you have opened it? What's going on here? The pizza comes, and it is boxed up beautifully. All you have to do is open up that bad boy one time and that top flap will never fit back on the bottom the right way ever again. How do they get it to close the first time?? You always try and jam it down to make it fit, but there is really nowhere for those side panels to fit into. You'd think there would be a little slit or something over there, but no sir. You just end up kinda covering the 'Za with the top part of the box, but you can be damn well sure that it will never close the same way again. There are some very smart engineers and architects in this country, but figuring out a way to ensure maximum heat and quality protection of the pizza after the package has been opened is still a mystery they have not solved. People often ask "Why do bad things happen to good people"? Just like we're wondering here with the "Why is a pizza box impossible to close after first opened" predicament, sometimes there are just no answers. Only more questions.

Angel Food Cake. Is the "food" part of the title really necessary here? When we see the word "cake," we are able to make the distinction that this is indeed going to be food. Whatever happened to things being self-explanatory? And P.S., Angel Food Cake is also the poor man's Pound Cake, which in turn, is the poor man's Sponge Cake.


Doesn't Tea Leoni just bother you for some reason? She might be a wonderful actress, immensely talented. But damnnnnn....she plays some of the most annoying characters in the history of the silver screen. Take "Bad Boys," for instance. She is lucky to even be alive after witnessing a murder by a bunch of drug lords. Finally under protective custody of legendary cops Mike Lowery (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence), she basically does the exact opposite of what they tell her to do in order to survive. "Stay in the car while we go in the club to check things out" apparently means "I will get out of said car, go into club, and try to be as noticeable as possible" in Tea-Speak. Nice move. Then "Jurassic Park III" comes along. Yes, she somehow got dumber. Not only does she intentionally land on the island where all the dinosaurs are known to be, she proceeds to use a megaphone any chance she can to grab the T-Rex's attention just in case the big fella didn't hear the big 747 touch down while he was nappin'. Wow. Just thinking about how annoying she was in that movie and the fact that she survived really tickles me the wrong way. I get it, you thought your son may be trapped on the island and you want to help him. Ridiculous, but understandable. But there was no reason to trick the great Dr. Alan Grant into coming along, and endangering his life as well. You are a horrible person, Ms. Leoni, but somehow, you were not done yet. The year was 2004 and the whole country was speaking "Spanglish." Again, you managed to take a fun-loving family with Adam Sandler as the 4-Star chef father, and turn it into an unmitigated disaster. Ok, so your daughter isn't a size 4 and your maid is 5,000 times hotter than you. That does not give you the right to cheat on Adam Sandler, break up a family in the process, and attempt to break the record for "most scenes that made viewers in the theater want to stand up, walk out, and go drive off a cliff." My only hope at this point is that she signs up for a 4th installment of 'Jurassic,' and this time doesn't emerge so uneaten. Hey, a guy can dream, can't he???


Bin Laden, Bernie Madoff, and Tea Leoni...all among the lowest forms of life on the planet. Drop a comment right here, or float me a message at highsockslegend@gmail.com.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

Gotta Love Championship Sunday

What an interesting matchup we have set for the Super Bowl. An NFL also-ran with no history of success reaching its first Big Game in the Arizona Cardinals. Meeting them in Tampa will be the Steelers, who are no strangers to the big stage and will be looking for their 2nd title in 4 years. Other thoughts from NFL Championship weekend...

-I want that jacket that Mike Tomlin wears for each game. Could that be any sweeter? It seems like it's incredibly warm, made of some of type of gortex, but also seems lightweight enough that Tomlin is able to patrol the sidelines smoothly without feeling restricted. Throw in one of the best color combinations for any team in sports, black and yellow, and you have the coolest clothing item worn by a coach since Bill Parcells donned the the extreme highwater maternity trousers for Dallas a few years back.

-You have to love the job Kurt Warner is doing. He and Larry Fitzgerald are now clearly the most feared tandem in the NFL. But I have one major beef. The glove on the right hand makes him look silly. It's just not the way great quarterbacks are supposed to look. Johnny Unitas, Dan Marino, Peyton Manning...these guys would not be caught dead playing a football game, let alone an indoor football game, with a glove on their throwing hand. Like I said, I can't argue with the guy's success. But I can call the guy a panzy and tell him to play the position like everyone else has played it for the last 75 years.

-What a creative play call on 3rd and goal for the Cardinals when they were trying to retake the lead in the final quarter. While everyone and their brother expected the ball to find Fitzgerald someway, somehow, the Cards played to the Eagles over-aggressiveness again and ran a screen pass to Tim Hightower. The blockers were stationed perfectly in front of him, he trucked it to pay dirt, and the Cardinals were on their way to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

-I don't even know what company it's for, but I do know that this particular commercial is awful. An 11-year old kid standing in his front yard when he throws a basketball over his roof, has it bounce on the driveway, and bank in for an improbable long-range bucket. First of all, it doesn't even seem like they cared about making it look real. That commercial has so much CGI that even the kid seems like a robot. And he actually might be, considering his reaction to this miraculous, once in a lifetime, shot. He lets out one lame, high-pitched "Yeah" before most likely heading back into the house for a glass of turpentine and whatever else robots consume for nourishment after a hard day's work faking athletic achievements.

-Best comment of the weekend, albeit during a pretty scary moment. Willis McGahee had been down for a few minutes, as the CBS telecast ran numerous replays of the vicious lick he'd just taken from the helmet of Ryan Clark. From the kitchen, my Mom yells in, "Oh my God, Jerry, I am freaking out!!" Now, of course it was a tense moment with a player seriously injured on the field, but you cannot pass up an excellent chance like that to quote a Jerry Maguire line in a real life situation. It was a moment of levity during an uneasy period, and perfectly timed by my Mom. Much like Rod Tidwell, it looks as if McGahee will turn out alright, making this line not only funny, but not even that inappropriate considering the circumstances. Well done, Mom!


Simply the Best

Those that know me best are well aware of my infatuation with Kevin James and his old TV show, "The King of Queens." I vouch for the greatness of the show any chance I can, trying to get anyone I know to start getting into the show through re-runs. His character, Doug Heffernan, is just so easy to identify with. He loves sports, fried foods, hanging out with his buddies...the only thing preventing me from being him is a couple hundred LB's. So it goes without saying that when the big fella makes a new movie, I will be in attendance within the first couple days. Such was the case Saturday afternoon. Joining me in the "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" experience were my brother Sam and my buddy BK. Sam is a major King of Queens convert the last few years and has taken to speaking in the same dialect as Heffernan almost all of the time now. I'm pretty proud of him. BK is also an ardent KOQ supporter and is famous for his spot-on costume when he dressed up as Spence Olchin for the final episode viewing at my crib (Yes, we actually had such a party). Now on to the movie...

I won't reveal too many major plot details, as I know there are still a handful of people out there who have not seen it yet. But needless to say, Kevin James did not disappoint. It was his first attempt to really carry a movie on his own, as he'd previously teamed with mega stars Will Smith and Adam Sandler. And he passed the test with 'frying' colors. He was doing typical Kevin James things, such as playing up his semi-obesity by spreading peanut-butter on his after dinner slice of pie. In another moment, he'd be displaying his unexpected athleticism by chasing down a bad guy or riding around flawlessly on his Segway. It was basically everything you could have wanted from a movie on another nasty winter day here in Michigan. A lot of laughs, sub 90-minute length, and a pretty good complementary performance out of the weird brother from Wedding Crashers. I even had a nice dual Grape-Strawberry box of Nerds going, which did not suck. I'd say the movie was a cross between "Mallrats," "Beverly Hills Ninja," and Die Hard." You can connect those dots and assume the movie was pretty damn good. As the three of us filed out of the theater with a host of 10 and 11 year-olds, everyone seemed to have a smile on their face, eager to re-live the film's classic moments on the car ride home. Lord knows we did.



There's No Place Like Home


The 'Ballers Representing the D' are truly feeling the dog days of the NBA season right now. That time when the initial excitement of the beginning of the season has long passed and the All-Star break is not quite here. Teams can lose the nightly drive to get up for the lesser teams of the league, and find it difficult to regain that focus when a real good squad comes calling. This is the Pistons to a T the last couple weeks. They had a home win stolen from them by the lowly Bobcats, dropped an ugly overtime game in Indy, and then got handled with ease by the worst team in the NBA, the OKC Thunder. Throw in the loss last week in Utah and the hard fought defeat at the hands of Chris Paul's boys on Saturday, and you have the worst Piston losing streak (5 games) in 5 years. Which leads us to this. The Stones are now 5th in the Eastern Conference. The Atlanta Hawks are 4th. If you remember the Pistons of the late 90's, this was basically an annual 1st round matchup, with the Hawks always emerging victorious in the deciding 5th game. I've seen that movie before, and I don't want to see it again.

Those playoff series still cause me a sleepless night every now and then. Grant Hill was one of the game's top players, just itching to finally reach the elusive 2nd round of the playoffs. Joe D was still putting up numbers, and was still so much fun to root for. Granted, he was starting to look a lot like late 90's Tony Gwynn (not a good thing), and he now needed a little head of steam in order to power his trey up to the basket, but if he got you on his big ole' hip in the post, you might as well just turn and head back to the other end. Those teams at various stages had some other nice pieces, too. Otis Thorpe was up there in years when he got here, but the man was still deadly on the pick-and-pop. Jerome Williams and Don Reid were hustling all over the court, with not a speck of offensive ability to be found anywhere in either former Hoya's game. Terry Mills was a legend. Rick Mahorn was back for his 2nd tour, and was only inserted in games to perform his patented hip-a-dope and see if he could cause some type of serious injury to the other team's best forward (You know what I'm talkin' about, Dino Radja). But somehow, one way or another, the Hawks would take us down in 5.

They had an irritating team. I'll give you Steve Smith and Mookie Blaylock. Those guys were in their heyday in the late 90's and were expected to carve you up most nights. But the out-of-body experiences by the other guys are what haunt me to this day. If Tyrone Corbin were to send those 1st round playoff tapes to the folks in Springfield, Mass., you could guarantee he would be going in on the 1st ballot. Most nights, you could watch the Hawks play and not even realize Corbin was on the team. During those playoff battles, you walked away thinking, "What's so special about this Michael Jordan character? What does he have that Ty Corbin doesn't"??? Grant Long spent a couple years looking washed up in a Pistons uniform, only to turn around and absolutely play his heart out to eliminate us in that '99 series. There was also the bizarre back-and-forth between Dikembe Mutombo and Bison Dele where each guy would dominate the other depending on who was at home. Mutombo's offensive outbursts were really tough to take, because of just how ugly his offensive "arsenal" was. Couple dribbles to the middle of the lane, stick the off-elbow in his defender's gut, and fire off a hook shot at 65 mph with zero arc that would always end up falling through the basket somehow.

Those teams were about as even as could be. The series would go 5 games, and the Pistons would never pull it out. Because the game was always on the road. In '97, the Hawks won two more games during the regular season, thus getting the all-important 5th and final game at home. In '99, same story...two more regular season wins for the ATL and a heartbreaker to end the year at their place (which happened to be in front of about 8,000 fans at the Georgia Tech court that night, just about the saddest scene possible for the legendary Dumars to make his final exit). As of this moment, the Hawks top the Stones by 1 game in the standings. I don't wanna get ahead of myself, but I'll say it; today's showdown in Memphis is a must-win game. I refuse to watch another season end in Atlanta.


Anytime a weekend involves Kevin James, Rod Tidwell jokes, boxes of Nerds, and a trip to Ruby Tuesday, I am one happpppy individual. E-mail me at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Thursday, January 15, 2009

YOU'RE INVITED!!


With my birthday checking in this past week, it seemed like a good time to go down memory lane and take a look at the parties of yesteryear. Enjoy...


The Bowling Party

This was always the go-to party for any kid growing up. Didn't know where to have the party? Simple solution; invite everybody you know to Langan's and let them fire bowling balls off the rails for a couple of hours. The atmosphere was unbeatable and all beverages were served in small, white, styrofoam cups. This was a can't miss situation.

The one major bonus about having the bowling alley birthday party was "bowling alley pizza." What is it about bowling alleys that allows them to produce such excellent Za? You'd think that most of the people working there are either bowling junkies doubling as pedophiles or teenagers looking to make a few bucks on the weekend. Apparently they also employ one more person: a 5-Star chef in charge of dishing out some of the finest pizza this side of Naples. And it might sound like an overstatement, but I think you are much more likely to find a great slice of Za at a local bowling alley than you would anywhere in Italy.

It wasn't quite thin crust, but it wasn't too thick either where it might overwhelm someone with all their baby teeth still in. It was that special kind of pizza where you could pick up a piece, see a giant bubble taking up half the slice, and not have it bother you one bit. The pizza was that perfect. That's one thing that's missing from today's pizza. When's the last time you saw a giant bubble on one of your pieces? Sure, it might have reduced total surface area for the cheese and sauce to lay, and you might have felt ripped off when you got one of those slices. But going through experiences like that toughens you up as a youngster, letting you see early on that not everything is perfect in life. How do kids of today get that important knowledge with the flawless looking pies of 2009?

Back in the day, one of the major sources of panic at the bowling party was finding an adult to keep score at each lane. This was before the days of plush automatic scoring and free massages in between frames. With 20-30 kids at a party, 4 or 5 to a lane, you were looking at needing 5-6 adults to sit, watch, and mark these games accurately. You gotta wonder, now though. Why was it so important that all these games be scored so officially? We're talking about a 7-year old kid rolling a hot pink bowling ball (sometimes 2 at a time!) and having it bounce off the bumper 11 times before it ever reaches the head pin. I'm pretty sure an accurate final tally was the least of our problems.

And the adults never seemed to be too happy doing it, did they? First of all, they were forced to keep score with a very tiny pencil. Regular pencils were not allowed in bowling alleys. The place where they kept score was also usually poorly lit, forcing them to have to flick on that little night light over the scoresheet so they could see. As if they weren't having enough fun already, they would also have to constantly alert everyone as to who's turn it was, make sure nobody was putting any part of their body into the ball return, and provide frequent reminders to "hit the reset button" in between shots. This was somehow a very difficult concept to master. Kids would stand there with the most confused looks on their faces, totally unsure of the next step in their life. Seriously, though...I know technology was not at it's peak in the late 80's, but couldn't they have found a way to reset the pins themselves without forcing young children to perform this critical task?


The Leap-Year Kid

You ever met someone that was born on a leap-year and walk away thinking anything but, "What a $%#% loser!" Seriously, if you didn't have the wherewithal to be born either a few days earlier in February or a couple days later when March came around, why do I want to go to your birthday party? The only bonus about this kid was his birthday party invitations. We would be in 2nd or 3rd grade, maybe 8 or 9 years old. Open up the mail to find leap year guy's invite. "Come Help Celebrate as Ryan Turns 2 Years Old!!" As if the kid wasn't getting picked on enough at school already. I always got out of going to his parties, but I always wondered what kind of activities were planned for this man-child's two year celebration. A round table discussion on teething? Crawling races? Snacktime consisting of formula and mashed up carrots? Thanks, but no thanks.


Eat Your Heart Out, Shel Silverstein

You wanna know the exact moment when our sacred birthday parties Jumped the Shark? When our moms decided it was necessary for all invitations to be written in poem form. We were all set with the classic, "Who, What, Where, When, Why" routine on the invite, with the 'Why' answer always being "To Have a Great Time!!" This gave us all the information we needed. No clever rhymes were necessary. And by "clever", what I really mean is depressing, uninspiring, and lacking any real rhythm or flow whatsoever. Here's a sample from every birthday party invitation sent out in 1994.

Jason's turning 10, and he can't wait,
The party is at 4:00 on January 27th, so don't be late!!!!


Games, fun, and food will be had,
23984 Westbury Lane is the place to be...that's our pad!!!!


W-O-R-S-T.

Time to Open Presents


This portion of the party was exciting for exactly 1 out of 25 kids at the joint: the birthday boy. Really, why did this have to be part of the agenda? Couldn't the kid have just opened his gifts when everybody went home? He's up there having the time of his life while the rest of us sat on the floor sitting Indian style, squirming non-stop, and hoping upon hope that he would get many long, rectangular boxes, an indication that clothing was forthcoming. This section of the party also contains one of the most embarrassing scenarios you could encounter at a b-day party. The situation where the kid opening presents opens a gift and shows it to everyone else, as is custom. Upon seeing it, you realize that is the exact same thing you got him. Shaaaab!! It's such a bummer when he gets to yours and there's that feeling inside of, "Why did my mom get him this present?? She should have known he was already getting one!!" Even though both guys brought the same gift, that first dude is always the hero while the second one goes home draped in shame and humiliation.

Of course, most of us went into the party having no idea what our mom got for the kid, anyway. It was always a shock when you would be thanked for a present, having exactly zero idea what he's thanking you for. Everybody loved doing that bit. You'd yell out to the b-day guy, "Yeah, you're welcome!" Then you'd turn back to your friends, and whisper, "I didn't even know what I got him until just now!!" Seemed like the funniest thing in the world at the time. Thinking back on it now...yeah, it really was a pretty solid bit.

And what was with the overzealous kid who always had to try and help you open your presents? "Mind your own f$%kin business, pal...this is my show." Why did this guy find it exciting to open someone else's presents, anyway? You ain't gettin' to play with any of it anyway, so why don't you go grab a seat with the rest of the misfits by the leftover Hulk Hogan cake?


Trick Candles

Simply put, the most frustrating product ever created. Does not matter if you are watching or actually trying to blow them out. Hurts all the same. It was funny once...maybe. Why did parents keep pushing this? I'm surprised more kids didn't flip out during this "hilarious" routine and fling the cake at the nearest wall. I get one legitimate chance the whole year to make a wish, and I have to sit and wait for these ridiculously strong candles to stop flickering?? No wonder the Cubs still haven't won the World Series.


The Burger King Magician

David Copperfield. Harry Houdini. David Blaine. You can have 'em all. Ask any red-blooded American male between the age of 21 and 28 who the greatest live performer of all-time is. You'll get one answer, and one answer only...the Burger King Magician. He did it all.

Unending handkerchief coming out of the mouth...check.

Having a book burst into flames, only to be completely erased when he slammed the book shut? Check and check.

Magic wand that kept going limp when the birthday kid tried waving it...timeless.

What wasn't this genius capable of? Always finished with the big bang. Dozens of pieces of candy emerging from under his silver platter, out of nowhere. He did things at those BK birthday parties that I will never forget. And I'm not even talking about the magic.



I'll be the one to say what all of us have been thinking. Ice Cream has been carrying Cake on its back for a long time. It's about time we made that clear. Share your thoughts in the comments section on the most overrated and underrated features of the childhood birthday party circuit.
E-mail the birthday boy at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap




















For the first time in a long time, the state of Michigan has two very good teams in the Big Ten. Michigan State snapped up their 9th straight win Saturday afternoon against Kansas. The Jayhawks are a shell of the championship team they had last year, but it's still a solid win over a great program. With a glance at the Spartans' upcoming schedule, that win streak could continue to grow towards 15 in the coming weeks. Michigan put away Iowa with ease on Sunday by playing some of the best defense Crisler Arena has seen from the home team in some time. Just 16 first half points for the Hawkeyes and 18 turnovers for the game tells you all you need to know about Michigan's effort on that end of the floor.

The main similarity between these two impressive in-state teams is the depth they throw at you every night. Both teams routinely play 9-10 guys, allowing both Tom Izzo and John Beilein to exploit teams with thinner rosters by having fresh legs on the floor at all times. When Izzo can go to the bench and get Chris Allen and Durrell Summers, that is serious firepower off the pine that not many teams can match. Michigan has gotten nice performances in different games by Zack Gibson and Stu Douglas off the bench. With Kelvin Grady moving to the starting lineup the past couple games, Beilein has tightened up the rotation a little bit, but will still need to utilize the team's depth come March.

The game about a month from now in Ann Arbor between the two teams will be something basketball fans in the state have craved for some time: a battle that actually has two legitimate combatants. Kalin Lucas is playing perfect basketball of late for MSU, with his 3-point and free throw accuracy off the charts. DeShawn Sims is quietly averaging 17 and 9 for Big Blue, while scoring in double figures in all 16 contests. While the football rivalry between the two schools consistently provides memorable moments, the basketball version has been dormant for about a decade. The clash on February 10th should not disappoint.


If the Pistons end up making it to the NBA Finals this year, there is only one team that I fear; the Utah Jazz. To put it simply, the Jazz own the Pistons. Saturday night's loss in Salt Lake was the 8th straight to Jerry Sloan's guys, bringing the Pistons record to 2-17 against them this decade. Yikes! I know Mehmet Okur is a very good player, but he plays like a future Hall-of-Famer when he suits up against his old squad. How about 8 of 9 shooting the other night, while going a perfect 3 for 3 from both downtown and the free throw line? Take it easy, Memo.

Their home court, the EnergySolutions Arena, formerly the Delta Center, has been a personal house of horrors for the Detroiters since the building opened in 1991. A big reason the Pistons basically never win there (2-15) is because the officials usually have a very home friendly whistle with the boisterous Utah crowd on top of them. I will never forget the atrocity that took place in the closing seconds of a game there back in 2000. The Stones had played a tough ballgame throughout, trailed by one, and needed to force a miss to have a chance to win the game at the other end. They did more than that. They didn't even allow Utah to get an attempt off, with the shot clock buzzer blaring with the ball still firmly in Bryon Russell's hands. Pistons ball, down one, with four ticks left on the clock. Not so fast. Russell still threw up a shot, albeit comically late, and had it bang off the rim and fall to Jeff Hornacek. The referees DID NOTHING. G-Hill, Stack, and Terry Mills watched the game's final seconds run off the clock with dumbfounded expressions on their faces wondering why the game had not been stopped. Hornacek tossed in a 3 at the buzzer for good measure, and the Jazz had stolen a 4 point win. It was one of the most unforgivable blown calls in NBA history. I remember trying to figure out as replay after replay was shown how in the world all three referees could fail to realize the shot clock was at zero when there was a loud, blaring sound in the arena to indicate the violation, and Bryon Russell was still just chilling with the rock in his mitts. It was one of the only times I remember Alvin Gentry really losing his cool on the court as he tried to get an explanation from the refs as they sprinted off the floor.

That will always be one of the toughest regular season losses I've experienced as a Detroit sports fan. Not that it really meant a lot in the grand scheme of an NBA season, but the grossly blatant home cooking in Utah was hard to stomach. Here's hoping that the Jazz get bounced early in the West playoffs with no chance of reaching the Finals. If they do get there, however, and we happen to meet them, I suggest simply forfeiting the games in Utah, and trying to win the series by taking all four at the Palace. Or, if we are forced to go there and play, at least send in a request to the league that the games be played without a shot clock. They aren't used, anyway.


"Practice makes perfect." Or so the saying goes. Sometimes, for no reason at all, after not playing a particular sport for more than a decade, you come back better than ever before. Such is the case recently with my Dad and bowling. He bowled in a league Wednesday nights back in the day. He was solid, but not spectacular. Maybe carried a 170 average. In the last 10 years, maybe he's been bowling a handful of times. Again, nothing really to write home about. About three weeks ago, everything changed.

He and my brother Sam trekked out to Drakeshire Lanes for a few kicks on a dreary Sunday morning. News of his scores hit the AP Ticker almost immediately. He racked up scores in the 220's and 230's, throwing strikes like I do gutter balls. In other words, very often. A few days later, they stepped out to the alley again, trying to see if this explosion of scoring was the real thing or just some fluke based on performance-enhancing drugs none of us knew about. He is a doctor, after all. Results came back...no fluke. He was a future professional bowler. This time, he'd scored closer to 240 with a run of 7 straight strikes. He said he was laughing after many of the strikes, in disbelief at what was going on. When you play a game or sport for your whole life at a certain level, and you take 10 years off, normally you do not come back infinitely better.

That brings us to this morning. I had to see this show for myself. About two hours and six games later, I was a believer. The high game was a 246, with 8 consecutive strikes. A 9-spare in the 1st, same thing in the 3rd, and a 9 on the final ball of the game. Three measly pins and we woulda been looking at a perfecto. I came to the realization that despite his being an excellent physician, his greatest talent can be found on the lanes. Later in the day, we happened upon a PBA tournament on ESPN. The two mooks in the final finished with scores in the mid 220's. My dad starts a thought with, "If I get a real good ball and start practicing..." The crazy thing is...it doesn't sound that crazy.


Just when you thought fiction could never become reality, it happens right before your eyes. I had always thought that Chubby from "Teen Wolf" was a mere creation by a writer and director that brought a written character to life. Incorrect. This is a real-life player, and his name is James Eayrs. He plays for UW-Milwaukee and is jokingly (at least I think it's a joke) listed at 6'7, 340 pounds. 340 pounds. Um, ok. Now would you like to put your other foot on the scale, Mr. Eayrs? My man is 4 bills if he's a day.

I caught this monster playing a little bit the other night and basically had the time of my life. As if the story couldn't get better, the guy pretty much lumbers around the court shooting 3's the whole time, rarely venturing into the paint. (Check out this clip from the other night, of the game I was checking out. Go to the 6:40 mark to see Big Fella knock down a game-tying trey in the closing seconds.) I've always had an affinity for big, heavier, guys who could step out and hit the 3. There's a reason I have signed up with the alias 'Sugar Mills' for any message board or e-mail in the last dozen years. Terry Mills was 'Mr. Big Shot' for the Pistons way before Chauncey came around. I'm not even kidding. T-Mills buried several game winning bombs at the horn in the mid to late 90's. I always enjoyed Sam Perkins and his "I will not be lifting my feet off the ground at any point during this jumper" technique. Now my main man Eayrs can be added to this list. I know Chubby would be proud. I sure am.


Quick update on some streaks I have been obsessively following. Since I have not written a Baron Davis article in at least 24 hours, you should know that something must have happened. No, not what you think. The streak of him failing to shoot better than 50% in a single game is still alive and well at 49 games. Baron has actually been missing in action for the last number of games due to the always "severe" "bruised tailbone." He has now sat out the last six contests, and rumors are floating out there that he is in no hurry to get back on the court. I'm stunned!! You're telling me that a guy who hasn't had a good game since last March is not rushing to suit up again??? Not exactly "breaking news."

Jose Calderon splashed home all four of his free throws this afternoon, bringing his streak to 79 straight makes from the charity stripe. The record is 97 by the legendary former Bad Boy, Micheal Williams. I think this is one of the cooler records out there. Even the slightest short arm might leave you hitting the front rim, and a little too much power could clip the back iron and careen back your way. To be perfect that many times in a row is highly impressive. I still say Calderon gets nervous around 85 and ends up about a dozen short of history.

Talk about the exact opposite of Jose Calderon. This one really deserves its own column because of how astounding it is, but a short recap will have to do for now. Bruce Bowen, the pesky (more like dirty) forward for the Spurs has now played 395 straight minutes without attempting a free throw. Now, I know that Bowen is not necessarily a "slashing" player and spends the majority of time on offense camped out in the deep corner. He is also a miserable free throw shooter, and was only 1 of 6 on the year before he began the streak. But still, 395 minutes on the court without shooting a single free throw is, for lack of a better word, sick. If he is driving the lane and sees a big guy coming to hack him, does he just make a U-turn and head right back out to the long line? If he gets his hands on a rebound in the late stages of a game with the other team trying to foul, exactly how fast is Bowen passing the ball to a teammate? He did not set the world on fire last year, but he still managed to can 45 free ones by year's end. This year, in 728 total minutes of action, Bruce has hit one free throw. If anything, opposing coaches should be aware of this and sending Bowen to the line any chance they can. Just give him a minute to get on MapQuest and find out how to get there. It's been a while.


It is never okay to actually enter your real name for the scoring when you go bowling. If you have made this mistake before, please refrain from doing so again in the future. It's your one chance in life to be creative. Don't let it pass you by. E-mail me at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Night (Not) to Remember


I had a weird feeling come over me when I was watching the National Championship game tonight. I was bored. For some reason, I just could not really get into the game. Two excellent teams, some fantastic storylines, but I found myself flipping over to the 9-Ball Tournament over on ESPN2 at any chance I could. And then I realized that I have this same feeling pretty much every year when the title game finally comes around. There is just way too much time separating the end of the regular season and the game to decide the champion.

No other sport follows such a ridiculous time line in determining their eventual top team. Every other sport, rightfully, builds up the anticipation with each round of the playoffs or tournament. In this case, when the last series or game arrives, most fans are still immersed in the sport and the teams. That's because they did not have to wait 32 days like we did for this year's title affair. Both Florida and Oklahoma last played December 6th. That's an eternity in sports. Imagine for a second that Michigan or Michigan State managed to roll through this past regular season with an unblemished record. All that is left for the starving fans is the National Championship game. Well, good luck keeping the adrenaline level flowing for what would have been 46 days for those teams between their last regular season game and tonight. That's just outrageous. It's not how sports are meant to be. Not to go all Bob Costas here, but there is a certain symmetry to the way a season unfolds, in any sport. The regular season is a marathon that goes on for months. The contenders find themselves breaking away from the rest of the pack. Then the postseason arrives, and the drama begins to build. With each subsequent game, we are that much closer to the climax. We see the teams continually, establishing a real connection during that time that culminates (possibly) in a title run. How can these same feelings of anticipation be sustained when weeks and weeks go by without the top teams so much as making a sound?

I'm not even talking about a playoff. That's another issue, entirely. If this is what we have, then fine. But why can't this at least be done the right way? People always throw a fit when NBA Playoff season comes around there are sometimes 2-3 days in between games. How about adding 30-40 days to that wait? It is why I find myself having these strange feelings of apathy during the championship game each year. It doesn't take rocket science to correct, either. College football season begins towards the end of August each year. Let me tell you, something. I have been to many early season games at the Big House and Spartan Stadium, and have the peeled skin to show for it. It is hotter than H in those stadiums. Why does the college season start before the NFL when the college season is so much shorter? How about starting the season a few weeks later? You could still end up with your precious January 1 and beyond bowl games, but there would not be this endless amount of time until they took place. It only makes sense. A couple other thoughts from the game...

Normally, announcers for a game as big as this one would have the star power to match. Somehow, I don't think that Thom Brennaman and Charles Davis fit the profile. Brennaman is a pro who has been around for a long time, but not sure the little fella is quite "top billing" material. (I'm admittedly biased because I always associate the sound of his voice with the Bartman play in the '03 NLCS that he called. I continue to harbor bitter feelings towards all parties involved six years later. "Jimmy holds grudges, Kramer!") He seems to have gone to the "Tom Hamilton School of Broadcasting." Hamilton is a voice on the Big 10 Network who has no ability to differentiate one point of the game from another. He is just screaming and flipping out the entire game. At everything. Brennaman is not that bad, but he's in the ballpark. Oklahoma found themselves trailing by 3 tonight when Florida converted a 1st down with about 7:30 to go. A three point game with half the quarter to play. Time is not the main story here. Well, following that play, Brennaman exclaimed, "First down Florida...the clock stops, but will start again on the referee's whistle!!!!!" Somehow, he was insinuating that time was now the deciding factor in the game. Once it gets inside of 3-4 minutes, maybe you could have that kind of reaction. At that juncture, I found it to be quite bizarre.

And obviously, everybody talks about it, but the announcers admiration for Tim Tebow is borderline inappropriate. When the Chosen One got a taunting penalty in the game's final moments, Brennaman and Davis both began cackling how it was "probably the first thing Tebow has ever done wrong in his whole life." I'm not buying that for a second. There is only one person I know that ever managed to be the best at everything in his whole life without ever messing up. His name was Mr. Perfect. You're a hell of a player, Mr. Tebow, but come back to me when you can throw a 90 yard pass and catch that very same ball after racing across the field. There's only one Mr. Perfect, and it's not you.

Sam Bradford looked awfully pedestrian out there tonight. Not awful, not great...just average. I know his numbers and that offense were brilliant all year, but the Heisman trophy winner came back to Earth in a big way against Florida. I saw a pretty good passer with very little mobility. What I most definitely did not see was a possible #1 overall pick in the NFL draft. The rumors earlier today on the airwaves were that the Lions might be looking to hire Jason Garrett from Dallas to be the head coach, and following that up by selecting Bradford with the top pick. Thanks, but no thanks. His performance tonight reminded me a lot of another Heisman trophy winner that looked highly unimpressive in the title game to follow, Chris "Don't Call Me Paul Blake" Weinke. Now Bradford was not nearly as bad the 42-year old Weinke in that 13-2 loss to Oklahoma back in 2000. But for a guy that led such a juggernaut of an offense all year and is thought of as a possible franchise NFL quarterback, it was a disappointing night.

I hate to seem like a disgruntled sports fan, because I'm not. I didn't intend for the whole article to be down, down, down. But I go into title games and championships with high hopes, hoping to see a historic performance. I wanted the game to be on the heels of a dramatic regular season, and it wasn't. I wanted the announcers to be the best of the best, and on their 'A' game, and they weren't. I wanted to see a future #1 pick slice up a great defense, and I didn't. But hey, at least there's always 9-Ball.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

'7-Up' Aint Just a Classic Pop
The Pistons finally got a Sunday win for the first time all season. If it didn't happen today, it was never going to happen. The Clippers had lost 6 straight, though were given a boost by the absence of Baron Davis. Not that it was easy, with Allen Iverson getting the winning bucket via goaltending with under 3 seconds to go. Finally, Mike Curry's guys have gotten into a little groove, quietly rattling off 7 straight W's. As George Blaha would say, "Don't look now, but the Pistons are only a handful of games behind the Celtics and Cavs in the East." It'll be tough for the streak to go too much longer, with tough road games at Portland, Denver, and Utah upcoming. Once this squad gets fully healthy, though, look out. They will be one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA in the second half of the season.

With the Celtics entertaining thoughts of bringing in Stephon Marbury, I'd say the Pistons chances are getting better each day. Hard to believe the Celts are serious about that. It's like when ABC added Rosie O' Donnell to "The View." Yeah, it might sell a few more tickets and create some headlines. But ultimately, the chemistry will be disrupted, feelings will be hurt, and nobody will be walking away with any hardware at the end of the season.

These five players were all on the floor at the same time for the Los Angeles Clippers earlier today. Deandre Jordan, Paul Davis, Mardy Collins, Steve Novak, and Eric Gordon. To repeat, that was not the lineup for the Bakersfield Jam of the NBDL...those guys were actually all on the court at one time representing an NBA team. If that isn't Sports Illustrated's "Sign of the Apocalypse" this week, I'll be very disappointed.

Amir Johnson is really starting to find an identity on the court. He is crashing the offensive boards hard every time down and is coming up with cheap points and second chances consistently. He's usually good for one highlight reel putback dunk every night now, too. Even on the ones he can't grab, Amir has been channeling his inner Ben Wallace and tipping a lot of balls out to the guards. Early in the year, he seemed uncomfortable and scared to make a mistake. The Pistons could have listed him as "Korleone Young" in the program and nobody would have batted an eye. Now he is playing with a reckless abandon, and really carving out a role on this squad. You never know what happens to his minutes when Rasheed and Rip get back to the lineup, but for now, it's nice to see Amir Johnson do what we have heard he is capable of doing for the last few years.

Kwame Brown should get a trademark on the play where he grabs an offensive rebound, finds himself right under the hoop, and before even entertaining the thought of going back up with it, kicking it right back out like the ball is literally on fire. And with Kwame Brown's offensive skill level what it is, I am perfectly fine with this play. Really mind-boggling that this guy was drafted #1 overall largely because of his "athletic ability" as a near 7-footer. I've watched this guy plenty over the years and his athleticism has always been much more Rasho Nesterovic than Larry Nance. That's where I think Kwame was brilliant in foregoing college and instead heading directly for the NBA. I really think if this guy went to a major school for 3 or 4 years, he would have gotten royally exposed and may never have reached the league. Instead, you let everyone guess how a dominating high school athlete will fare in the pros and you end up as a #1 overall pick and a 7-year veteran. And the brilliant executive that snagged Kwame Brown with that first selection...none other than Michael Jordan.

Hoops from the College Ranks

Very nice win for John Beilein and Michigan on Sunday afternoon over Illinois. After a lackadaisical home loss to Wisconsin earlier in the week, it was imperative for the Wolverines to come out and get a win on their home floor. And they did just that. As is the case often with Michigan and Illinois, it was a very entertaining game. It seemed like almost every basket in the 2nd half caused the lead to change hands. The thing this game really shows you is the balance that Michigan has now. On a day where neither DeShawn Sims or Manny Harris were at their best, a number of other guys stepped up and made big contributions down the stretch.

Zack Gibson was a big time spark in the last 10-12 minutes filling in when Zack Novak was in the locker room getting stitches. The versatile Gibson did it all. He had a fast break dunk when he ended up overextending himself and ultimately landing flat on his back. He rattled in an open 3 from the left wing. Came up big on the defensive end by wiping away an easy lay-up with a clean block from behind. Capped it off with a quick first step and a thunderous dunk to show the full repertoire. On a team with a lot of talented guards and swingmen, the 6'10 Gibson can serve as a pretty valuable piece off the bench.

What a nice addition Laval Lucas-Perry (above) has been. After transferring from Arizona and joining the team a couple weeks back, Lucas-Perry has scored in double figures in all 5 games. He really has the full arsenal on offense. Displaying unlimited range from deep and an ability to get to the basket as well, his presence on the floor makes Michigan much more difficult to defend. Before his arrival, this team had two consistent scoring threats (Harris, Sims) and a number of role players. With Lucas-Perry, they now have 3 dynamic talents capable of putting up 20-25 on any given night. He will only get better, too, as he becomes more familiar with his teammates and the offense. His 2nd half shooting today was much needed in getting the 1st Big Ten win of the year.

I like the stability that Kelvin Grady brings to the team at the point. The former standout running back at East Grand Rapids, Grady is lightning quick and can get the ball up the floor as fast as anybody. With the plethora of shooters and slashers on this team, having a point guard like Grady that can get out in transition and make things happen is a nice asset to have. There's one unsettling thing about Grady, though. He's a point guard and he wears #44. That aint right. Real good point guards do not wear numbers that high. Think about it. Isiah, 11...Nash, 13...even Magic only went up to #32. Then there's Greg Anthony, 50...Jason Williams, 55...Kyle Watson in the tournament at the end of "Above the Rim"...54. Which group would you rather be in? If I were Grady, I'd hand in the 44 and get somethin' with a single digit...you'll just feel quicker.

(Play-by-Play Note: Tom Hamilton of the Big Ten Network. He's a decent announcer, but this ballgame was not his best. Consistently referred to Michigan's Stu Douglass as "Meachem," and spent the majority of the afternoon whispering sweet nothings to partner Jimmy Jackson on the air, making me and the rest of the viewing public uncomfortable. Never thought I'd say this, but I could have used some Wayne Larivee today.)


Pretty impressive start to the Big 10 campaign for the Spartans. A very impressive win at The Barn in Minnesota, followed up with another road win at the 'House that Evan Eschmeyer Built'. What was with the Northwestern point guard, Juice Thompson, in that game?? Every time the guy got the ball, he would almost immediately break into a violent spin move, regardless of whether or not he was being guarded. And it was never even to improve his position, either. My man Juice never used the spin to get to the hoop or to get penetration. It was always done about 25 feet from the goal, and usually followed by a pass to a teammate. One of the more bizarre "go-to" moves in recent memory. If Thompson literally was a juice, he would have to be grapefruit juice. A lot of hype, publicity, and pizazz...but when you actually stop and take a sip, you realize it looks a lot better than it tastes.

Making the Wrong Choice

Having trouble falling asleep the other night, actually ended up catching most of "Boys Don't Cry" on TV. Wasn't ever that crazy about seeing it, but with not much else on and knowing it had an Oscar winning performance in it by Hilary Swank, I took a shot. Talk about a wrong movie to try and watch before embarking on a peaceful night's sleep (Also on that list are 'Hostel,' 'Ted Bundy,' and 'Mr. Holland's Opus'). Now "Boys Don't Cry" was not a horror movie or anything, but I'm pretty sure I smiled or laughed maybe once or twice the whole time. When I think of pleasant images to zonk out to at 3 AM, Hilary Swank looking and acting like a teenage boy while being sexually assaulted by a couple of hooligans in Podunk, Nebraska is most definitely not one of them. I mean, damn. How about some kind of warning before that last half hour? The movie was coasting along relatively incident-free before all hell broke loose in the last few scenes. Sure, it was a terrific performance by Hilary Swank (though I really don't think the role was too much of a stretch for her). Next time I can't fall asleep, I will be opting for re-runs of 'Roseanne' on Nickelodeon instead of a dramatic showing by Mr. Swank.

(You might wonder why Mr. Holland's Opus made that above list of movies to avoid before bed. Too many f'ing emotional turns in that bad boy. One minute, Dreyfuss is getting a new job and finding out he and his wife are going to have a baby. Twenty minutes later, the job is taking over his life and his kid turns out to be Marlee Matlin. Bummer. Then he turns a no-music football star into a respectable drummer. Just when you start to feel good about that, the kid goes off and dies in 'Nam. Bummer again. And just when the music program gets shut down, they put on the most amazing assembly of all-time for Mr. Holland, culminating in his old students coming back to play the symphony that he wrote years earlier. Wow. Like I said, not a great flick to check out before your head hits the pillow. When the credits roll, you never know if you should be happy or sad. To be honest, I'm usually just still crying from that inspiring final scene. I wish I was kidding...)

Questions about the NFL Playoffs

Why do the commentators on FOX and ESPN insist on calling the guy playing quarterback for the Vikings "Tarvaris Jackson?" I thought his name was Anthony Wright.

Are there any dermatologists in Blacksburg or San Diego? Yomma-Homma!! Between all the close-ups of Frank Beamer and Norv Turner in the last couple of days, I think it's about time we all took a step back and considered whether HD-TV is doing more harm than it is good.


Projected Starting Rotation for the 2009 Detroit Tigers

1) Justin Verlander (Came closer to losing 20 last year than a lot of people realize)
2) Armando Galarraga (Only guy to really feel good about)
3) Edwin Jackson (Not many guys named "Edwin Jackson" can say they were born in Germany)
4) Whatever is still left of Jeremy Bonderman's right arm
5) A side of Rice Pilaf


Other Important Thoughts

The fries at Ruby Tuesday are underrated. Usually I'm not a big 'seasoned fries' guy, but I am in this case. Normally I believe in simply frying the potato, dipping in ketchup, and proceeding with destruction. However, I call 'em how I see 'em, and the seasoned fries at Mr. Tuesday's establishment are to be taken seriously. Well done, Sir.


Happy New Year to the thousands of you reading the column at this very moment...hope it is an excellent year for all. Shoot me a line at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Friday, January 2, 2009

When Will It End??


T
his is getting ridiculous. Early in the year, maybe 10-15 games in, I noticed Baron Davis had yet to shoot over 50% in even one game for his new team. I just thought it was a weird statistical oddity that would soon vanish. After all, how hard is it to have 1 night during the entire NBA season when you make more shots than you miss? Apparently, it is impossible. Taking into account the final 19 games for Baron last year, and the 30 he has played in this season, he has now failed to eclipse the 50% mark 49 games in a row. This streak is reaching unthinkable heights.

As everybody knows, NBA players have their share of ups and downs throughout the year. Maybe there's a week where your wife or girlfriend makes you an amazing home-cooked meal every night before the game and you catch fire for 4-5 games straight. There could also be a stretch where life is just no good...kids acting up, get a flat tire on the way to the arena...maybe you can't throw the ball into an ocean for a week. But nobody should ever be able to step out on the court 49 straight times and do what Baron Davis has done. Check out LeBron James the other night against Miami: 12 of 19 shooting...that's over 50%. The guy who has taken many of Baron's minutes for the Warriors this season, C.J. Watson, put up a 5 of 7 night in LA recently...again, over 50%. How long can our man B-Dizzle possibly keep this disturbing streak going?

The other night, I expressed my fear that the streak might seriously be coming to an end. After all, Baron and the Clips were playing Sacramento, owners of the 2nd worst defensive FG % in the entire league. What better opportunity for Davis to pop this bubble than to go up against the slower Beno Udrih, an ancient Bobby Jackson, and a team without its only legitimate shot-blocking threat in Spencer Hawes? If there was ever a night for BD to put it all together and finally break out of this never ending shooting slump, this was it. Think again. 48 minutes of basketball later, our hero had mangled the box score with a ghastly 3-17 night from the floor.

To put all the cards on the table, I am well aware that Baron is playing with a pretty nasty cast of characters in LA. Consider some of his running mates right now. Freddie Jones was not even in the league until a couple weeks ago, and at this point should probably only be making appearances on All-Star Saturday night in the dunking festivities. Paul Davis recently played close to 40 minutes in a game...it's hard to even make a joke about that. Brian Skinner, Mardy Collins, and Jason Hart also complement Davis on the court. However, let us not forget that 19 of these 49 games took place for last year's Warriors, who had a multitude of options on offense. And even this year, there have been stretches where Baron has been playing alongside Zach Randolph, Al Thornton, and Marcus Camby. All quality NBA players, with whom a supposed "superstar" NBA point guard should be able to flourish. Baron...we're not asking for a season full of outstanding nights and a number of unforgettable shooting performances. We are just asking for ONE night where you go out and hit more shots than you brick. Just one night. Tonight, the Clippers visit the aging Phoenix Suns with noted sieve Steve Nash at the point and defensive stopper Raja Bell now playing in Charlotte. Will any of this matter to Baron? Probably not.


It is only a matter of time before this wildly entertaining streak is the lead story on SportsCenter. Until then, this is the place to follow all of the clanks, shanks, and missed banks. Drop a comment here or throw a comment my way at highsockslegend@gmail.com