Thursday, April 30, 2009

We need your story by 9:45 ... and by the way, you're fired

There is a scene in the movie, "The Odd Couple," where Oscar Madison is covering a Mets game and gets called away from the action to take a call in the back of the Shea Stadium press box from Felix Ungar, who tells him not to eat any hot dogs at the park because that's what he's making for dinner.

While he's looking away, Oscar hears the roar of the crowd and learns from another writer that he's just missed witnessing a triple play.

This ranked as the worst-timed phone call ever received by a sports writer -- until yesterday.

Britain's Guardian reports, via a blog post by the Orange County Register's Bill Plunkett, that several Baltimore Sun journalists -- three writers and a photographer -- got word by phone during a game between the Orioles and Angels that they were among the 60-plus people hit by the paper's latest round of layoffs.

This is where I'm supposed to come up with a punch line. But somehow I just can't see the humor in it ...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fighting words

We don't know about you, but here at Sports Pros(e), there's nothing we love more than a good fight.

Take two guys with chips on their shoulders and tattoos on their biceps, throw them in a chicken-wire cage and it's enough to make us forget how mad we are at those AIG traders who don't want to give back their bonuses.

It's no wonder mixed martial arts is one of the few American industries not lining up for a government bailout (though maybe Elite XC should have tried that before it tapped out for the last time last fall).

But who is the next Kimbo Slice and where will he come from? For some reason, colleges haven't added this crowd-pleaser to their stable of athletic endeavors. As it turns out, though, a high school in Texas could be the breeding ground for the fighters of the future.

In an innovative take on the idea of conflict resolution, South Oak Cliff High in Dallas apparently believed the best way to resolve problems between students was to let them fight it out in a "cage" of lockers and chain-link fencing in the boys locker room.

With all the concern lately about childhood obesity, we guess it makes sense to disband the debate team and go with a more cardio-friendly method of settling disputes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A world record that may stand for awhile

Sometimes setting a world record involves years of training, loads of talent and maybe even a little luck.

And other times setting a world record just requires the willingness to stuff a bunch of live insects in your mouth.

See for yourself which category Travis Fessler of Florence, Ky., falls into. Who says there is no good news in papers these days?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The strong man of Europe

We here at Sports Pros(e) like our world leaders to be tough and strong, but are wondering if Vladimir Putin might be going a little overboard.

The former Russian president and puppet master for the guy who currently holds the job, Dimitry Medvedev, is the star of a new DVD whose title translates as "Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin."

This is apparently not Putin's first foray into the martial arts media world. Amazon is selling a paperback version of his judo guide for $18 (marked down from $20). Could be a great stocking stuffer this holiday season for that Russian nationalist/self-defense afficionado on your Christmas list.

This may point the way for other former heads of state looking for ways to raise a little cash after they leave office. We can foresee other such releases, like "Let's Learn Phonics with George Bush."

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Killer Clutch of our own

In case you missed it, the pro wrestling world is in mourning this weekend after the death of Walter "Killer" Kowalski.

"Killer" was long one of the sport's premier villains, a role he fell into after severing part of rival Yukon Eric's ear during a bout in Montreal in 1954.

Kowalski also was known for creating his signature move, a stomach cruncher known as the "Killer Clutch."

The idea of developing something to be remembered by after one's career is over, in this case, after one's life is over, is intriguing to us here at Sports Pros(e). Our own legacy will not be a wrestling move, however, as we are not the violent type.

Being writers, perhaps a new punctuation mark would be a fitting legacy (especially since I myself have been accused of overusing the ellipses, for example ... maybe I will use more guillemets instead).

Or since we live here on the Interweb, it may be more suitable to come up with a new emoticon. Something to use when you're not cheerful enough to employ the smiley face, yet not downcast enough to go with the frowny face -- something that simply says, "eh."

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Young Jeezy of sports blogs

Here at Sports Pros(e), we are looking to perform at the highest level every time we blog. That naturally requires getting in the proper frame of mind before we embark on each post.

While we are big fans of Okkervil River, especially after the band's stellar set at Lollapalooza, we are thinking that perhaps we should consider a change in our warmup music. After all, if Young Jeezy is good enough for the winningest Olympian of all time, he's good enough for us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More fun in the pool

Perhaps you have had your fill of watching Michael Phelps stockpile more gold than Fort Knox. You've already given up on the Bears and their less-than-effective offensive line.

And you can't really get excited about the pennant races on the north and south sides of town till September.

Yet you are a sports fan and you need your daily fix. What to do?

We at Sports Pros(e) understand your dilemma and offer the perfect solution. Head out to Michigan City, Indiana, Thursday through Sunday to check out the greatest aquatic marvel this side of the Water Cube.

Ladies and gentlemen, we present the amazing, incomparable, death-defying Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel.

And the best part: Twiggy performs live, not on NBC time.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Take this medal and ...

We at Sports Pros(e) don't believe in stereotyping, but it's a historical fact that the Swedes are a peaceable lot. They haven't been involved in a war since Napoleon's day, when pretty much all of Europe was up in arms.

So the whole brouhaha Thursday at the Chinese Agricultural University Gym (apparently the Chinese aren't pioneers in the field of naming rights) caught us a bit off guard.

In case you didn't hear, Sweden's Ara Abrahamian was none too pleased when his dream of a gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling ended when he lost to Italy's Andrea Minguzzi in the semifinals. Abrahamian had to be held back by teammates from going after the officials, to whom he still gave what for.

Those teammates persuaded Abrahamian to wrestle for the bronze medal, which he won. But he made clear his opinion of the third-place finish (or as we like to call it, "second place for losers") by taking the medal off and dropping it on the mat after leaving the podium.

And there was more: Abrahamian also announced his retirement, saying, "This will be my last match. I wanted to take gold, so I consider this Olympics a failure."

So do fans of real fireworks and live singing, among other things.

Meanwhile, we hear the Minnesota Vikings, having failed to land one formerly retired star, have inquired into Abrahamian's availability.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The old man and the Jets

Apparently there's a purpose to all those offseason workouts Donald Driver and other NFL players endure every summer while the rest of us are going to Lollapalooza and watching the Olympics.

They are designed, we suppose, to prevent you from getting all tuckered out while your teammates have hardly worked up a sweat in training camp.

Saying his apparently not-so-bionic right arm was "kind of dragging a little bit" after the Jets' morning practice on Wednesday, NFL senior citizen Brett Favre told reporters he would ask coach Eric Mangini if he could limit his throws in the afternoon workout.

We here at Sports Pros(e) sympathize with the future Hall of Famer. We plan to ask the boss if we can limit the number of words we type in each post because our fingers are "kind of dragging a little bit."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Trouble in paradise

As these games of the 29th Olympiad roll on, we are learning that not all is going according to plan, despite the best efforts of the Chinese to micromanage the living daylights out of everything.

For example, though the Games have been sold out forever, many fans apparently have come disguised as empty seats. This has been blamed on, among other things, the fact that scalping technology in China lags behind what goes on in Wrigleyville.

There are storm clouds on another front as well. On the heels of reports that fireworks were faked for the Opening Ceremony, now we learn that cute little girl singer was pulling a Milli Vanilli during her (not-so-live) performance of "Ode to the Motherland."

All this evidence of trickery and manipulation is distressing to us here at Sports Pros(e). The next thing you know, someone at NBC might decide to mess with the time-space continuum by showing highlights whenever they want instead of airing them live.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

(Not) live from Beijing

You may not have heard, but the hardy folks on the West Coast now have another natural disaster to cope with.

Judging by the comments on the World Wide Web, it is worse than mudslides, earthquakes and the election of a governor whose qualifications primarily consist of him being one tough dude.

The problem is -- brace yourselves -- NBC's decision not to air its primetime coverage of the Beijing Olympics live. Instead, nightly broadcasts will be on a three-hour tape delay for folks along the Pacific rim.

(That is also the scenario in the Mountain Time Zone, but because no one actually lives there, it is not considered a big deal.)

So a lot of people in La-La Land have their shorts in a bunch because they can't see Michael Phelps swim real fast in real time. Never mind that they can watch it live on NBC's Web site and, in any case, one Michael Phelps race pretty much looks like every other one.

No, these people are absolutely outraged about NBC's decision to deny them their inalienable right to watch the U.S. lose in sports they've never heard of (team handball, anyone?) as it happens.

But if they want live TV from NBC, they'll just have to chill till the weekend. Oh wait, "Saturday Night Live" is in reruns till Aug. 30. So much for that idea ...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Going green -- large and green

We here at Sports Pros(e) are not just sports geeks who sit around all day trying to figure out which one of the Cardinals' closers by committee Tony La Russa will hand the ball to tonight. (Though if you have any inside info on that, please let us know.)

We also are music geeks and are basking in the afterglow of Lolla (as well as three days of sun and not enough SPF 45 in the right places). Besides the awesome sets of Okkervil River, Bloc Party and many more, we were impressed by the fest organizers' commitment to going green with all the recycling containers and whatnot.

So in that spirit, we now dust off a gently used joke and offer it up again ...

The White Sox on Wednesday hosted an appearance by a baby T-Rex to hype the show, "Walking with the Dinosaurs: The Live Experience," which opens an 11-day run at the United Center on Thursday.

Hearing this, we couldn't help but wonder what Carl Everett, who had several tours of duty on the South Side, would make of the whole spectacle. Might it actually turn him into a believer at last?

Carl, the truth is out there. Go find it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Solzhenitsyn and stolen bases

We may be mostly concerned with fun and games here at Sports Pros(e), but we are writers after all.

As such, we would be remiss if we did not note the death over the weekend of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, a Nobel Prize-winning author of novels and non-fiction works that exposed the moral bankruptcy of the Soviet state.

Solzhenitsyn's name comes up in any discussion of the giants of 20th century literature. But that is not our concern here; rather, his passing gives us a reason (or an excuse, take your pick) to recall a great bit done years ago by the former ESPNer Roy Firestone.

The premise was that all minor league baseball announcers sound pretty much the same and neither they, their employers nor their listeners realize how surreal their patter can be.

So that's the setup: Firestone's announcer is calling just another game on a night when there's a perhaps not well-conceived promotion and a celebrity visitor in the booth:

"Welcome back, folks. Just a reminder that it's Hard Liquor and Handgun Night here at the ballpark ...

"Fastball low, 1-0.

"And we've got a special guest with us ...

"Curveball, swung on and missed, evens the count at 1-and-1.

"Alexander Solzhenitsyn ...

"There's a grounder up the middle, it gets through for a base hit."

"So Alex, congrats on your new book ...

"There's a throw over to first, the runner's back in time."

"Which I was looking through during the break ...

"Fastball, just caught the outside corner, 0-and-1.

"Yes, folks, it's called 'Gulag Archipelago.' And, if you don't mind my saying so, Alex, it's pretty grim stuff."

"Changeup way outside, 1-and-1."

And so on.

The routine predates YouTube, unfortunately, so we can't link to it in all its glory. But it was funny, trust us.

Maybe not Nobel Prize-winning comedic, but good enough to make us Sports Pros(e)rs laugh. And we are a tough crowd.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Junior achievement

A lot of people, myself included, who aren't crazy about Barry Bonds being the all-time home run king like to take solace in the fact that A-Rod should eventually claim the record for himself.

But whenever I hear someone go on about the inevitability of this, I have to shake my head and think of the guy who is coming to the Cell.

Step into the time machine and dial it back to late 2000. Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water" tops the charts and no one in America knows what a chad is -- hanging, dimpled or otherwise. Ken Griffey Jr., who will turn 31 in a few weeks, has 438 career home runs. Barry Bonds is more than five years older at 36 and just 56 homers ahead of Junior.

Obviously, Griffey is on his way to overtaking Bonds and eventually passing Hank Aaron for No. 1 all-time, right?

Well, no.

Bonds goes out and belts 73 dingers in 2001 while Griff begins a run of injury-plagued years, hitting just 22 in 111 games. Bonds goes on to deposit dozens more baseballs in McCovey Cove, break the record and eventually head into an unplanned retirement (Position Wanted: DH. Will supply own body armor, prescriptions).

Junior, meanwhile, just keeps plugging away when he's healthy. Earlier this season he passed the 600-homer mark and his next long ball will tie him with another guy whose stats are, shall we say, a bit suspect.

The morale of this story is there are no guarantees in life for Griffey, A-Rod or anyone else. But baseball is a funny game. Though this is his 20th big league season, Griffey still is just 37. In the five years after he turned 38, Bonds hit 149 homers; if Griffey can manage to stay healthy, be equally productive and wants to play that long, he could catch Bonds after all. It's admittedly a long shot, but the odds don't seem much longer than they were on Griffey enduring one injury after another once the new millennium rolled around.

But the remote prospect that he might make that kind of history isn't the only reason to roll out the welcome mat for Junior. His stats are all-natural, honestly achieved in an era of whispers and doubts, and he always has played the game in the moment -- crashing into outfield walls to make a catch in a 6-0 game in September rather than dialing it back a bit to make sure he doesn't get hurt.

The Sox have brought in a few future Hall of Famers late in their careers; sometimes it works out well (Tom Seaver won his 300th game in a Sox uniform) and sometimes it doesn't (Steve Carlton was so-so).

But this deal has tremendous upside potential written all over it. Griffey is a class act, a considerable upgrade in center field and a still-dangerous hitter. Someday he'll be in Cooperstown. But for now, he looks pretty good on the South Side.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Zen and the art of managing

Someone famously said once it's not easy being green, but it's never been an issue for Major League Baseball ...

Big league teams have been in the forefront of the environmental movement for years, recycling players and managers like no one's business ...

White Sox fans fondly recall the annual summer ritual of trading for Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carl Everett, the noted amateur paleontologist ...

Then there was George Steinbrenner, the eco-friendly Yankees owner, who employed Billy Martin as his manager no less than five different times (when Martin wasn't off managing the Twins, Tigers, Rangers or A's) ...

Hiring a slightly used manager doesn't always work, but every once in a while teams catch lightning in a bottle by picking up someone off the scrap heap ...

Take Jerry Manuel, who has taken the previously dysfunctional Mets to the top of the NL East in the few weeks since he was promoted from the coaching staff to replace Willie Randolph ...

White Sox fans recall Manuel as the horn-rimmed glasses-wearing guy who won the division in 2000 only to be swept out of the playoffs by some fella named Lou ...

He is also remembered for his surreal state of calm, which is why the Google search "Jerry Manuel Zen" produces 1,970 hits. Many reference his somewhat opaque explanations of garden-variety baseball situations, like this one ...

It's hard to maintain that attitude in the City That Never Sleeps, which might explain why Manuel has already threatened to "go gangster" on temperamental shortstop Jose Reyes ...

But the smart money is on Manuel maintaining his serenity now and forever ...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Pack up your stuff, we're moving

Happy Monday morning, everyone. You're probably not wondering why the updates have been coming with Ron Karkovice-like speed around here lately. But I'm going to tell you anyway.
Sports Pros(e) is jumping right from the Double-A ball world to the big leagues.

Soon -- maybe even this afternoon -- we're taking this show to the Sun-Times Web site and never looking back. Updates to come as details become more readily available. Feel free to continue your patronage as we promise we won't get too corporate.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Believe it or not, George isn't at home

Back on the Sun-Times Full Court Press board today. Everyone loves a Samuel L. Jackson reference, right?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday's Signs of the Times

This feature will give you three must-clicks from the Sun-Times each morning. It will take, on average, four minutes to write:

Of all the headaches that come with riding the 'L', a so-called controversial ad campaign certainly ranks pretty low on the list.

Let's make sure we jinx this Cubs-White Sox thing.

Something tells me there's going to be lots of comments on this story.

Weight, really?

I don't care what you planned to talk about today, but you can go ahead and forget it. There is absolutely no way it's as interesting as a man bench-pressing 645 pounds. I'm no mathemagician, but that sure seems like a good deal of weight. Heck, even Pat Robertson probably finds this impressive.