Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Random Rant on Everything Sports

I found myself sitting at a Sports Bar on Sunday with a few friends of mine, ranting and raving about my true love. No.. not some silly boy… Sports. Most guys that meet me of course are skeptical. She’s a sham, it’s an act. They are the one’s who think that women who claim to "love sports" must be treated as spies until they demonstrate knowledge of the game and the ability to drink as much as the other sports watchers. While the second part of the equation has been nixed by my New Year’s Resolution, the first part has been proven time and time again. Anyone that has ever sat across from me at a sports bar knows this. Hell, I have actually interrupted a first date to do my fantasy baseball draft. Needless to say there wasn’t a second… but I did score a helluva’ outfielder. (Too bad I can’t say the same for my pitching. C’mon Zito.. get some frickin confidence!!!)

With baseball season in full swing and a hectic travel schedule to match… I can pretty much say that I haven’t gotten to enjoy as much time at the ballpark as I would like to. Naturally, baseball was never really my true passion (football is.. and always will be), but I have come to discover a new found appreciation for the game during my college years. There is something about college sports in general that just draws you in… the crowd, the atmosphere… the pants...:)

But seriously, I’d have to take college over pro any day. Call me sentimental… or a sap.. or just plain na├»ve, but I really do feel that college kids are the true athletes. They are the kids that are playing.. just to spend a few more days in the sun. Before there were high-roller paychecks, steroid scandals, and player strikes.. the game of baseball was America’s favorite past time. Now, the love of the game has taken the backseat to commercialism, “my paycheck’s bigger than your paycheck,” and all out tattle tale wars that would make even a kindergartner embarrassed. Getting a shot at the Bigs used to be a chance to spend every day of your playing career doing what you loved the most.. playing strictly for the love of the game: for the feeling of the leather in the palm of your hand, the grip of the bat at your fingertips, and the sound of a crowd that knew your name. THAT was what the game was all about. Somewhere, in the transition from college to professional sports, most people lost sight of this. I say… bring back the days where a trip to the ballpark meant something: where hotdogs didn’t cost as much as a gourmet meal, and you didn’t have to dip into your kid’s college fund to afford decent seats. Maybe then, I’ll give pro sports an honest chance. Until then, I’ll stick with my colors.

The other thing that has me seriously miffed this baseball season is the lack of enthusiasm for my home team, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. If I have to listen to one more stupid sports broadcaster blast my team, I might put a bat through the tv myself. In fact, one of the only smart pieces of journalism I have come across this season regarding the Rays comes from The Sports Guy himself, Mr. Bill Simmons. Simmons noted that the Rays are a young, and superiorly athletic team when compared to most franchises. If they played anything other than baseball.. a triathlon, flag football, hell.. even water polo.. they would KILL the majority of the big name franchises. Why?.. It all comes down to youth, and heart. Now, Simmons didn’t go so far as to take them over his very own Boston big leaguers, but he did say that he sure as hell wouldn’t want to see the two teams get in a bench-clearing brawl. Then again, if that wouldn’t get ratings and highlights coverage… I dunno what will. So kudos Mr. Simmons for recognizing these kids for having a trait that most teams nowadays would kill for (the heart part… not the Ultimate Fighting Championship part)… and we the people of the Tampa Bay area will continue to support our Rays… for better.. or for worse.

On a related matter, my boy Will Carroll… (and yeah.. I said “friend” - everyone that has been talking crap to poor Will.. saying he isn’t really friends with me.. ) will be on hand to talk sports, stats, and of course injuries with us in person at Tropicana Field on May 3. For more information regarding ticket specials, appearance times, check him out at www.baseballprospectus.com. Hope to see you all there.

And Will.. WHEN YOU READ THIS… I will fully understand if you chicken out on our RBI Tournament while you’re here. I understand it’s really intimidating to play someone that has learned from the best (Thanks DQ!), let alone.. how much you will hate your life should you be beaten by a girl.

Good News to Seminole fans everywhere.. the ‘Noles won their Spring football game. ::: crickets::: Yep, these are the jokes kids. If one thing was highlighted in this year’s Spring scrimmage, it was the ever so popular question of “Who will be at the helm of Bobby’s offense come opening game against Clemson?” Anyone with any knowledge of Florida State’s program knows that is has been aching for something new for the past six years or so. We don’t have to point fingers, or say what went wrong, only that measures have been taken during this past off season to ensure that things will be looking up FSU this year. The Seminoles have endured day after day of grueling practice schedules in Tallahassee’s early spring heat, so much so that our offensive line has shed an amazing 200+ lbs thus far.... Will someone get Rick Trickett in touch with the people at the Biggest Loser – Offensive Line Edition???.. I think he may be on to an amazing weight loss secret.

One of the last topics of discussion was of course poor Mr. Don Imus. At what point did his brain and his mouth agree that making THAT statement would be beneficial to his career? I understand the need to make jokes and humor, after all that is what the entertainment business is all about. It is quite another thing though, to attack someone based on their race and their heritage. Anyone who has followed my travels with SI this past year knows of my friendship with the kids from Jersey—The Scarlet Knights. Now, we may not have always seen eye-to-eye, but we have come to understand one another and find a mutual respect for each other in the sports realm. So … shame on you Imus. You disappoint me not only as a “responsible sports commentator”, but as a respectable human being as well. To the Lady Knights that endured, and defended themselves against such harsh, racist, and completely unnecessary remarks … know that this chick from Florida has nothing but the utmost respect for not only the way you conducted yourselves during the media frenzy, but your program in general. And not that Jersey needs any help.. but if you mess with the Knights.. well.. you mess with me too. I’ve got your back ladies.

This officially concludes my rant on all things sports for the moment… and sorry for all the randomness. But what can I say.. there’s so much sports… and so little time?.

Sterger. Out.

(Gee Thanks, Gary... Damn… I have been watching entirely too much American Idol.)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Not Another Teen Movie…

I’ve never been the kinda girl to like the color pink. It just wasn’t my nature. I hated everything the color pink stood for… frills, make-up, and the whole shebang. But yet, there I sat—23 years old on a Saturday night-- engrossed in one of the eighties most legendary movies: Pretty in Pink. Damn that John Hughes and his ability to suck you back into your teen world, even when you think you are long past the days of getting shoved into your locker after band class. If only forgetting the high school drama was as easy as it seems. I mean, you graduate, you go away to college, get a job, and find out that the real world is just like high school, only with a much bigger class size. The places and names may have changed, but the people are still the same. The brain, the athlete, the basketcase, the princess, the criminal…Sounding familiar yet?...

Mr. Hughes had a knack for relating to the teen experience like no other, and didn’t pretend life was all roses either. Don’t get me wrong, most teen movies of the 80’s had some serious bubble gum endings (with the exception of Heather’s of course)… but he wasn’t afraid to tackle issues that kids dealt with on an everyday basis… drugs, sex, family dilemmas, and of course… love. Now, I am not talking Romeo and Juliet over the top theatrics love, but more like your typical romantic comedy love. Anyone who knows anything about romantic comedies knows there’s always the “meet cute.” You know what I am talking about. It’s that humorous moment of awkwardness between the two main characters who are the stories’ potential love interests. Separately, these two couldn’t be anymore different (different class, different personality, and different beliefs)… but when they are thrust into each others lives by hopeless romantic screen writers… well..That’s the movies for you. Sure, the meeting is totally contrived, and almost anyone with any common sense can already predict the film’s outcome, but it doesn’t stop us from watching the rest of it now.. does it?.. Of course not.

So the story goes: Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Something (usually meddling family, friends, or the boy doing something stupid) messes things up. Boy leaves girl. Boy breaks girl’s heart.

The rest of the story is a little ad lib, but for the most part, it usually ends the same way. Real life however isn’t that simple. Real life… is downright complicated and messy. It’s not every day that two seemingly completely opposite people from completely different worlds meet one another. Life’s just not that ironic. And if those people do meet, the odds of them forming any kind of actual relationship are slim to none, especially if either of them is socially preoccupied.

Sometimes human beings have a tendency to react like sheep… and high school was no different. No one thinks anything for themselves, no one does anything for themselves… they simply follow the herd, and do what the herd dictates is expected of them. The one that doesn’t… well, they’re blacklisted as the martyr or the outcast. They give off signals that they don't want to belong, and the appointed important people will make sure that they don't. But what if they are just trying to stand out from the pack.. to be an individual.. to be noticed?.. What’s so wrong about being different, and having your own views?... Nothing - unless you fall in love with a member of the herd.

Suddenly, a once light-spirited girl-- one that didn’t care what the rest of the world thought about her as long as she knew who she was, and was understood by those around her-- is now judged by standards she had long disregarded. As I sat on the couch and watched this plot unfold, I could see the fireworks coming a mile away… maybe because of events I have experienced in my own life at one point or another.

Poor Andy! Falls in love with one of the popular boys, but she isn’t good enough for his friends or family… so they can’t be together. What complete horse-rubbish! Blane’s expression and explanation (or lack there of)… “This has nothing to do with you”… seriously irked my tater. I threw a piece of popcorn at the screen, which my bubble butt of a cat gladly chased to the floor.

Even as an eighties movie, this concept still seems like such garbage to me. I can’t fathom loving someone that didn’t think I was good enough to be seen with them, that wasn’t proud of who I was, and who acted ashamed of me… based on what everyone else told him about “girls like THAT.” What the hell is THAT supposed to mean? If two people are absolutely perfect for each other, then what the hell else matters?.. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Sometimes, you just have to be a mature enough person to think for yourself. Not everyone is going to like the decisions you make in life… but who says they have to?.. In the end, it has to be about what you want. Maybe people ought to spend a little more time trying to do something with themselves and a little less time trying to impress others. You can spend the rest of your life trying to live the life they want you to, or you can find your own path that fulfills you. Life is too short and unpredictable to not be sweet. So don’t just exist.. live!!

Flash forward to the prom. Ah… don’t ya just LOVE 80’s fashion trends. The poofy sleeves, big hair… and Dear God!!!... Look at those bangs. What WAS she thinking???..

Now the prom scene is totally predictable, yet completely unavoidable when writing a teen movie. I mean, what high school experience would be complete without a prom??? So… You’re pretty much obligated to have one. Pretty in Pink was no exception. There’s the “Do-I-Go??” or “Don’t-I-Go??” Scene, where Molly Ringwald’s character decides whether to spend her Saturday night on her couch with popcorn, her cat, and a chick flick (::cough, cough::)… or to go to the prom… and face her destiny. She of course goes with the latter.

The rest I guess you could say is history. Boy sees girl. Boy realizes he has been a “daft prick,” and has that moment of enlightenment where he realizes his true feelings regardless of what the rest of society thinks. Boy has learned to think for himself.

“You said you couldn't be with someone who didn't believe in you. Well I believed in you. I just didn't believe in me. I love you. Always.”

Atta boy Blane!... Thank you John Hughes for giving us hopeless romantics a reason to believe, even when life keeps shoving us into lockers. Maybe there will come a day when real life and love doesn’t seem so high school.

As the end credits rolled, I looked over at the clock. Hmm.. only ten o’clock.

“What do you think Vegas?”… I say to my cat, who stares back at me blankly like she could care less… (I told you she’s a b@#$!)

“My thoughts exactly.”

It’s early… Now if you’ll excuse me.. I still have an overly frilly pink prom dress to make.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

We now return to your regularly scheduled blogging…

Before my regular readers go thinking I have become a complete headcase and have fallen off the face of the planet only to resurface in a Hollywood Country Club.. ::cough:: I mean, rehab with a shaved head… I assure you this will not be like the previous blogs. Sure, occasional introspection is good for the soul every now and then, but if you are constantly analyzing your life you’ll forget why you’re on this planet in the first place… to just “live.” We all have our own ideas of what true “living” is... but for me... it’s going back to the basics that make this girl who she is.

(Cue the KT Tunstall music “Suddenly I See,” as pretty much every television show with a female protagonist uses this as her “moment of enlightenment song,” when she realizes her life is fixin’ to turn around..)

This past week was a real refresher, as for the first time in months I had some actual downtime to just take care of “me.” Sure, there was the usual work stuff to be done.. But who says you can’t mix a little business with pleasure???

I spent much of Wednesday, moseying around the city that has practically become my second home… The Big Apple. New York is a Mecca of craziness that I can relate to my life in so many ways. You never know what you will be doing, where you will be going, but you will always be heading somewhere, and even when you feel alone, you never truly are. It’s a real fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants city, and that’s what I love about it. I still have a schoolgirl crush for the West Coast, and my Southern-hospitality shows through my wannabe New Yorker facade-- as I am the only one constantly stopping to apologize to the guy that just tried to lay me out like the employee in the “Office Linebacker commercial” – but I guess that’s just the small town girl in me.

Music has always been my passion, and when New York does music, they do it big… a la’ Broadway. I’m not exactly a musical theatre dork, but there is just something about a great show that I can really appreciate. Especially if it makes me laugh. My friend Gavin is currently up in NYC working with a theatre company and even cutting his Broadway teeth working with the cast of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. So, of course we took in his show, and another personal fave of mine: Spamalot. Anyone who is well-versed in their Monty Python will absolutely love Spamalot. It has some of the best movie quotes ever known to mankind, and of course the World’s largest coconut orchestra. J (Regardless of whether an African or European swallow brought them there, or how they carried it. You can do the math.) I also took time to meet up with my friend Eric Gillin, who has recently been formulating all kinds of cool online content for Esquire. (Be sure and check it out.. because he might be the only person cooler than me when it comes to his no-beans-about-it personality.)

I also hosted a SI March Madness party Thursday night at this super cool joint called Slate. I got a chance to catch up with my buddy Will Carroll (of Baseball Prospectus & ESPN). We exchanged stories of our latest crazy endeavors in the sports world, and he offered me some pretty sound advice on some of my own drama. Who would’ve thought I would ever have to ask someone else for advice??.. I guess even the wisest of people needs a little help from their friends every once and a while. Among all the party attendees, one of the most entertaining was the one that didn’t speak at all: Rutgers Mascot, the Scarlet Knight. What can I say, I am a sucker for a Knight in shining armor—since a lot of the ones I have found have actually been idiots dressed in aluminum foil. Or maybe he was just one of the few guys I have met that didn’t bother throwing out lame pick-up lines (per the mascots “no-speaking” rule). Regardless, he and some of his buddies were an absolute blast to converse with on all things sports, but particularly the Rutgers-Louisville game I witnessed last November. It seemed I had at least won over a little piece of the Scarlet Nation, or was cool enough to be invited back for a game anyway. Maybe WVU.. who knows?..

This time, per Gavin’s urging, I utilized New York’s system of public transportation: The Subway. At first I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of riding on trains in dark tunnels (Eurotrip ring a bell??), but it couldn’t be any worse than some of my cab experiences. It took a little getting used to the swaying, and the ear popping when you’re going under water, but it wasn’t that scary. Plus every once in a while you get the pleasure of being serenaded by some of New York’s up and coming entertainers. Or even better, get to sit in on a political rally en route to your destination. It’s evident that the freedom of speech and expression is alive and well in NYC, and one ride on the subway is all it takes to appreciate the uniqueness of the big city experience.

The rest of the weekend, I spent in Tallahassee, getting back to my roots. There’s nothing better than spring time in Tally: baseball, spring football practice, and of course… early morning runs at Doak Campbell.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, FSU baseball has been doing pretty darn good this season.. They’re GOOD.. They might be the best. Ok, I won’t get ahead of myself. Regardless, the bats have sure been swinging this year. Granted, it’s only been a few weeks in actual ACC play, but already, the Noles are showing they are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were this time last year. Tony Thomas is straight up dominating at the plate, pitching is pretty solid, Buster Posey is leading the team in a grand fashion… and well… overall, they are simply kicking some serious “A.”

This weekend was the big Animals Boston Tea-quila party (formerly known as the Miami Tequila Party). If you ask me, the Boston title was far wittier than the previous, but I am not one to buck tradition. Still, tons showed up to enjoy great food, drinks, and of course who could forget… Tequila Wiffleball???,.. Make-shift styrofoam plate bases, plastic bats and balls.. and people so uncoordinated, most of us looked like we were six years old at our first t ball game. Who’s on first?.. Second??.. or Third?.. I don’t think any of us really knew.

I had an awesome time getting to catch up with old friends in T-town, but mainly just enjoying an afternoon with the Animals. If you don’t know about the Animals, then you aren’t a true fan of FSU baseball. The Animals have been around for a while now, I think almost thirty years. They’re a huge support group of Florida State Baseball and are some of the best hecklers in the game, but in a clean and classy manner. Their cheers are extremely original, as they can write a parody of any schools fight song-- that rivals pretty much everything Weird Al has ever accomplished. They always attempt to show sportsmanship, and routinely congratulate opposing players and teams when a good play is made (though not too much of course). There is the exception of the few drunks in the outfield on occasion, who take great pleasure in telling centerfielders everything they didn’t want to know about their mothers, but … at least they are witty about it. It was nice being able to spend time with them in their designated Section B as the Seminoles routed BC 10-3 Saturday night.

The highlight of my week however wasn’t what you would expect it to be. It wasn’t the parties, or the bustling city, or even baseball. It was an early morning run on the steps of my alma mater Doak Campbell. Few places have the ability to completely remove a person from the outside world and take them to a different place the way Doak does for me. Running bleachers is hardly what most would consider a good time, but for me it helps me find my “center.” No matter how crazy or hectic my life gets, I can always find a sanctuary on its steps. The run itself is pretty grueling, as Doak is all one level, from Row one all the way to the top. Eighty-four steps later though, you can’t help but throw your fists in the air with accomplishment, ala Sylvester Stallone from Rocky. On that particular Sunday morning, Doak was strangely serene, yet I could still manage to hear the crowd cheering. I could hear the whistles, I could hear the band, and I could hear… the Warchant. I was home.

Sometimes when the going gets tough, even the tough can’t get going. Life throws you hanging curves all time-- the choice to swing is yours and yours alone. Sure, you could sit back and hope the “blue” gives you a break or you can take a chance, choke up on the bat, and swing sway. Go ahead, knock the cover off the ball! My batting average has been a little sub par as of late, but it’s still early in the game, and I’m lookin’ for a rally. Everyone makes mistakes, and swings at a bad pitch every now and then. Maybe that’s why they say we’re given two lives: “the life we learn with, and the one we live with after that.” But, if you never swing, how will you ever know?

In the end, it all comes down to character. You have to allow yourself to persevere, learn, and live. Let yourself be great… Because when you believe in yourself, anything is possible. So suit up kids, and shake your hats.. it’s time for the biggest rally you’ve ever witnessed.

“And then when I walked down the street people would've looked and they would've said there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.”

--The Natural

(For more info on the Animals be sure to check out Warchant.com and SectionB.com!!!)