Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Don't Stop Believin'

Just a small town boy
Living in his Brewer joy...
They took the midnight train to the post season...

I know. That's really, really corny.

But Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" was one of my favorite songs when I was a kid in 1982. (And, yes, I know--you're going to tell me that the song was actually a hit in '81, but you need to know that I was 9 and I lived in the sticks. We were a little behind on the current hits in LeRoy, Wisconsin) That song always reminds me of the 1982 Brewers and the fact they never gave up despite being down 0-2 in that glorious A.L. Series.

Before I continue, I have to explain that I really thought my next article would be about the Packer game that I attended on Sunday. The fact is, it was the greatest game I've attended since the Yancey game, and I can't begin to explain how privileged I felt to be in attendance at Lambeau when Favre tied Marino's TD record. The Packers impressive start to the season has been truly inspiring, and as we made the drive back down I-43, my brother and I decided that if the loss to the Braves proved to be the final nail in the Brewers coffin...

(They kept us updated of the Brewers' score on the Jumbotron, but Tim also frequently tapped into his cell phone/PDA/paper shredder/potato masher for updates. Seriously, the only thing these hand held devices can't do nowadays is assist the Brewers in holding on to a 7th inning lead.)

...at least we witnessed the perfect segue from one season to the other.

But I told Tim Sunday afternoon, and I'll say it again and again until the Brewers are mathematically eliminated--this race isn't over just yet.... Look, I know what the supposed experts have been saying--no team has come back from 3 and half back with only a week to play since World War II. I know hoping for the post season at this point is improbable. Highly unlikely. But you have to believe, Brewers fans. You've invested in the team for this long; don't stop believin' now.

Perhaps I am the perpetually deluded optimist. But I am a playwright--and we playwrights know that you can't have drama without conflict. In order to have your audience root for your hero, you need to give him an obstacle to overcome. And of course, you can't have a storybook ending without first having a little adversity.

And this Brewers team has certainly experienced it's share of adversity--from Verlander's no-no, to Ben "Paper" Sheets' constant crumpling, to that horrible weekend in Atlanta--the Brewers have eaten an ample serving of humbling pie...but yet each time the pundits were ready to count them out, they've gotten up off the mat and flexed their collective muscle again and again...So why not one more time?

After all, there is a history behind my optimism. I take you back to fourth grade, when little Tommy was first unwilling to give up on his beloved Brewers. His classmates at Southview Elementary School ridiculed him and told him he was crazy to think the Brewers could come back from that 0-2 deficit. "It's NEVER happened. Don't you get that, stupidhead?" they jeered. "No team has ever done it before..."

But every record comes to an end. And once-in-a-while the baseball gods smile on your team and they drop that ball off Cecil Cooper's bat into left field, just as he motioned it to do...and history is rewritten...

And there's really no way to explain the joy of a fourth grade boy who carried in the Milwaukee Sentinel the next morning and proudly displayed the paper's headline:


And so I say, you just never know. Maybe the Cubs continue to be baffled by the Marlins. Maybe Adam Dunn hits 5 home runs in Cincinnati this weekend. Or maybe, just maybe...Milton Bradley injures himself during a temper tantrum and leaves the Padres without their best offensive weapon for the final series... anything is possible...

Regardless, it's been a remarkable atmosphere at Miller Park the last two nights. I've dreamed of being able to do serious scoreboard watching during the final week of September since the day Rene Lacheman was fired. And I was so elated after Hall's home run tonight that I couldn't keep my mouth shut when I encountered Davey Nelson on the employee's service elevator in the 6th inning. Even though we're not supposed to bother the "celebrities" when we encounter them, I had to let Davey know that I won't stop believin'...

Me: So far, so good.
Davey: Yeah, it's going well...the Cubs lost...now we just gotta keep going after it.
Me: Yeah, if we keep winning, that noose around the Cubs neck is gonna get tighter and tighter.
Davey: (a smile) That's right. That's right.

Davey believes, Brewer fans. The question is: Do you?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Reality Football

(Editor's note: Although the author began this article on Tuesday night and had previously been able to write while watching sporting events, he has learned that writing during a September pennant race is next to impossible. Since the words "Brewers" and "pennant chase" have not appeared in a sentence for the past 25 seasons, we have decided to give the writer a pass on the disjointed article that follows:)

I yanked the zipper off of my khaki pants at work on Friday.

I'm not reporting this because I'm proud of removing my zipper. Actually, it's rather embarrassing when you have to let your co-workers know that you are currently unable to close up your fly. Safety pins wouldn't do the trick, and to be honest--I wasn't all that comfortable having pins in my nether regions anyhow. But I'm not trying to brag about my zipper yanking strength, and I'm not going to stoop for the easy boyish joke of having too much girth in my trousers (although...)

No, the only reason I'm sharing this embarrassing moment with you is because I had to take a drive home to retrieve another pair of khaki pants in the middle of the work day. (And since khakis are the official uniform bottoms of a Miller Park concierge, I have three pairs in the old closet.) And during that drive, I happened to catch a little of the Jim Rome show.

Now, I'll admit; there was a time when I was a pretty big fan of Jim Rome. I'll never forget when he called Jim Everett "Chris" (you know, like the tennis player), and Everett went over the table and tackled him. Ironically, Rome called Everett "Chris" because he said he was afraid to take a hit. Apparently, he wasn't afraid to give one to a smarmy sports host.

But like so many of the sports personalities of the past couple decades, once Rome became larger than the sports he was discussing--I seemed to completely lose interest in him. It happened with Madden too. I used to love to grab the remote and turn on his selection show of the All-Madden team. Now I find myself grabbing the remote to press mute just about any time he opens his mouth. Likewise, I used to think Dick Vitale brought excitement to college basketball. Now I just think he yells a lot. And Chris Berman used to give funny nicknames. Now I just think Chris Berman looks funny.

Who knows--maybe I've just grown cynical since my college years. But far too many of these sports personalities remind me of the movie Jerry MaGuire--You know, because you start out thinking that you're watching this good sports movie about an agent and his star player. You like Rod Tidwell. You even celebrate the moment he makes the winning catch against Dallas, and you laugh as he does his elaborate touchdown dance. But by the time the movie ends...it suddenly dawns on you that what you were watching may not have had that much to do with sports after all...And you feel a little foolish when it's over, just about the time you realize that Jerry had her at hello. That's how it is with me and Rome--he just seems to have crossed over the line between sports and fluffy entertainment.

Regardless, on Friday afternoon I did tune in to Jim Rome (silently praying I wouldn't have to hear him yell "rack 'em" ) and listened to a fascinating interview with Redskins tight end, Chris Cooley. (Which is the point of this whole story in the first place.) I was just about to change the channel when suddenly Cooley said something that greatly concerned me...he said, "Yeah, I play fantasy football. I have since high school."

Time out. Now, I love fantasy football. Love it. I mean, I love it like O.J. loves collectibles. It's a serious problem for me. And my wife often misses me on Sunday afternoons because I'm lost in the world of fantasy stats where I'm often found yelling at my computer to throw the damn ball to Anquan Boldin. And I even think it's cool that Ben Sheets runs a fantasy league in the Brewers clubhouse every year. (Perhaps he should spend less time running the league and more time finding ways to stay healthy, but that's another story...). But when an NFL player admits that he too plays fantasy football...well, perhaps this whole thing has gotten a bit out of hand.

Of course, it's also pretty cool (forgive me) that Cooley still participates in a league with his high school friends. It's refreshing to know that stardom hasn't changed him. After all, he admitted that he never really thought the NFL was a possibility until his senior year at Utah State.

And Cooley confessed to Rome that he never gets the chance to draft himself because others in his league rate him higher than he does. Imagine what that must be like on draft day:

Token Friend: "Yeah, uhm...with the 4th pick in the 7th round I choose...him."

Cooley: "Me?"

TF: "Yeah. I need a tight end. So I picked you."

Cooley: "Dude. That's way too high for me."

TF: "Just make sure you catch the ball. All right? I'm counting on you."

Cooley: "Whatever, man. I'm just saying--it's a reach. Especially with Heap and Watson still on the board."

It has to be awkward. And what happens when Cooley plays himself on a given week? If it's Monday Night Football and he has nobody left to play, while holding just a slight lead...well, maybe he's not getting open quite so easily.

Impossible, you say.

Oh really?

How many times have die-hard Packers fans (not naming any names) caught themselves not minding all that much when a TD pass is scored against the Pack because Roy Williams or L.J. Smith was on the receiving end? Be honest. It happens to the best of us.

After all, the Redskins are usually well out of playoff contention by the time Cooley's fantasy bowl rolls around. So you just never know.

So that's why I've decided not to draft or trade for Chris Cooley ever again until he drafts or trades for himself first. Because if HE's not grabbing the fantasy version of himself...what's that say in reality?
Since it's taken me over three days to complete this article--I have to link you to Simmons ESPN blog on Friday Night Lights. Like Simmons, I too enjoyed the hell out of FNL last year. But I didn't wait until after the season to watch it on DVD. I was right there with Riggins, Street and Crash from the opening week until the season ended. Every week I kept calling it "the soap opera disguised as a sports show," but yet every week I was right there on the couch hoping that Matt would win the Coach's approval. And if I gave Sonia the option to watch either Heroes or FNL from the saved programs on our DVR, she always chose FNL.

I had no idea that FNL was in jeopardy of being cancelled, so I'm joining in on Simmons' plea to save the show:


I don't know if I agree with him that it's the best Sport show ever. I always really liked those Scooby Doo episodes when the Globetrotters helped out.

Now that, my friends, was real.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rambling Rose, Part 4

I haven't had a lot of time to blog of late, and for that I apologize.

But you can't really blame me. Every time I've been ready to share my reaction on an important sports event, another one comes up that's even bigger and more exciting. Every Brewer game (with the exception of last night's dud in Pittsburgh) gets more and more dramatic as we approach October, and the football season kicked off with a bevy of intrigue, upsets and fantasy football disappointments (at least for me--thank you very much Mr. Johnson and Mr. Jackson). There's been an Appalachian upset, a Donovan bootleg, a cheating Belichek, a phantom offensive pass interference call (on my fantasy tight end, mind you), and a Brewers game that opened with back-to-back-to-back home runs. The fact is--I couldn't blog. I was too afraid that if I'd leave the tv, I'd miss something else. It was like the scene in Porky's when Pee Wee couldn't see any of the girls in the shower. I didn't want to be stuck behind the fat girl and miss something good. So I stayed right where I was--comfortably in front of the tv. (By the way, any man who hasn't seen Porky's and is therefore confused by the reference needs to rent it immediately. Seriously. Go right now.)

Anyhow, since there's so much to discuss, it seems like a perfect opportunity to ramble...

--I think I finally figured out what was going on with the Crew in Pittsburgh. There had to be some explanation to why every time the Brewers travel to PNC Park they play like...well...like Pittsburgh. I mean, other than Freddy Sanchez (especially considering that Bay is hurt) there is no hitter in that line-up that you would want to add to the Brewers starting 9. And with the way Rickie's getting on base, you could argue against Sanchez as well. But every year, the Brewers travel into Pittsburgh as if they were Brittany Spears heading into a spelling bee. It's that atrocious...

(Host: "Ms. Spears, your word is atrocious."
B: "Atrocious?"
H: "Yes."
B: "You mean like Super-fragi-calli-licious-expi-al-atrocious?"
H: "No. I don't mean that at all."
B: "Could you use it in a sentence, please?"
H: "Brittney's parenting skills are atrocious."
B: "OH! I get it. Atrocious. A-T-R-O-W-S-H-I-S. Atrocius."
(Bell rings.)
B: Hello?

Anyhow, I've figured out the cause of it all--Yancey Thigpen. You see, I was at that game when Yancey dropped the pass in '95. And I specifically remember closing my eyes and pleading with God to please, please, please give us the division title. You see, the last Packers division title had been in 1972. I was born in 1973. I really, really wanted that game. So I bargained with the Lord. I told him that Pittsburgh could have something else over the next few years, but we in Wisconsin needed that game.
Well, you know the rest. To this day, whenever someone drops anything (a beer that's tossed to them, a bag of peanuts, the remote control) the first thing out of my mouth is "nice hands, Yancey."
But I spoke to the Lord this evening and asked him if we in Wisconsin have indeed now paid our debt for the Yancey game. I reminded him that the Steelers recently won a Super Bowl and that, despite the Pirates thirteen consecutive losing seasons, they at least got rid of Bonds before his head grew to the size of a Steelers helmet. Besides, a 19-41 record at PNC park seems like more than enough payment for the Yancey drop.
Anyhow, to all you unbelievers who doubt--apparently God does listen. To the tune of: Brewers 6, Pirates 1.

--Speaking of steroids, I love the new video game commercial with Shawn Merriman and Stephen Jackson as they go from stadium to stadium taking on blockers and/or tacklers on their way down the field. Despite how cool the commercial is--am I the only one who finds it odd that Merriman is featured on a video game? If he ends up breaking the all-time sacks record someday, will anyone demand that an asterisk be placed by his name? I mean, sure he hit a lot of quarterbacks, but he wouldn't have hit them nearly as hard without the help of steroids. Right?

--And as far as video games go--is there a cooler name than Atari Bigby? If he even has a halfway decent year, the Bigby jersey is as good as purchased. And man, if I could find a way to brainwash my wife to the name "Atari" for our first child. Well, I'd be all in.

--In the 10 year history of our "No Sallies" Fantasy Football league, I have owned my older brother Tim. In 19 previous match-ups, I was 16-3 against him, although he did win the only time we met in the postseason. In each of the two seasons I had lost to him, my team was pretty miserable, including the only season that I did not make the play-offs. Based on the fact that I lost opening week to Tim, I'm seriously considering renaming my team to "Rebuilding Year."

--The greatest line at this year's fantasy draft had to come from our friend Jonny. As the draft completed, he sees his older brother Eric on the phone with his wife, letting her know everyone that he drafted. So Jonny yells, "Guys, guys! This is the part where the giant beer can falls on Eric's head." Classic. And appropriate. I'm already writing a rule for next year that at least 2 hours have to pass before you can share your roster with your spouse...

--Wow. Rickie Weeks. Did I or did I not say that Rickie would be a key ingredient for this team's run? It's nice to have him back. I am a little concerned about his recent yips in the field, but hopefully it's just a Pittsburgh thing.

--Houston just won in the bottom of the 11th. 1 game lead! See, I just peed a little now for the Brewers. Ain't no thing but a chicken wing.

--Finally, with my first child only six weeks from entering the world, I'm really trying to cut back on the cursing I do during Brewers games. (Like tonight when Jenkins rolled into a double play with two on and no out. By the way, the only guys I don't bunt in that situation are Braun and Fielder. If it's anyone else, they're dropping it down and I'm getting a run.) To help with this, I've recently installed a punching bag in my basement. It works pretty well for taking out my frustration. Now I just have to find a way to eliminate the cursing on my way to the bag. Ah well, baby steps...