Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stupid Movies [Major League Guest Blog]

The truth of motion pictures, is that reality holds as much weight as gravity in space. It’s an idea that can be used and not used at a moment’s notice, to further the plot by any means necessary. This concept is not new. James Bond has avoided being shot by dozens of guards with automatic weapons for years. However, in recent years, the entertainment industry has somehow tried to use “scientific reasoning” to explain the absurdity of its premises. Long gone is the climax of a movie being a filibuster, or a gambler losing everything (Please go see The Hustler, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, or the Great Escape before tossing down $15 on the Smurfs in 3D). Not saying that the golden age of movies didn’t have its share of stupidity, it just seems like unrealistic plots are rewarded at an alarming rate by today’s movie-going public. Before I delve into some of the lessons I’ve learned from recent blockbusters, please note that I didn’t even dare touch on Superhero movies. Outside Keaton’s Batman, there is no realistic superhero movie (Possible exceptions: Kick-Ass, though outside the title character, the plot makes absolutely no sense, and the more I think about it, the less I like the movie). Oh, and wizards and vampires are left out of this too, since I sure as hell hope none of you think they are real either. I wanted to include some tidbits about Twilight, but that would involve me learning something other than the absurd plotlines I pick up from my friends that are forced to see it with their girlfriends/wives.

Now this whole post was inspired by me reading, and seeing, the new Planet of the Apes trailer. How is this movie being made? It’s ridiculous. There are about 115,000 gorillas (the movie's main focal point of ape classification) in the world, with 100,000 mainly being in Africa (Congo). Even with human-caliber knowledge, we could still take them out. Easily.  Say all non-African gorillas were in the U.S., in one city. That’s a military of 15,000. To further put that in context, in the U.S., there are over 350 million people. Say 50% are men, and 50% of those men are in relative fighting condition (Ages 14 – 50). That makes the odds 5,830 men for every one gorilla / ape. Ummm, how do we lose? Even the Persians didn’t have as good of odds. I just don’t get it. (Editor's note: Major League would be taken out so fast by a baby ape, it's not even funny)

Without further ado, some life lessons I learned while at the movies:

Independence Day / Bad Boys I & II / Men in Black I & II / I, Robot / I am Legend: Don’t f* with Will Smith.

Transformers II: Yes, there is a robot heaven, and yes, people are able to visit.

Read that again.

Wanted: Bending bullets and jumping building to building (approx 150 ft away) can be done, with the right adrenaline.

Avatar: If you are a good person, and fight against ecological annihilation, you die and get reincarnated into the race you are saving. Bonus good guy points: You get the hot blue chick too! (Editor's note: Zoe Saldana so hot in real life, too)

Pirates of the Caribbean IV: Acting like you are retarded from drug abuse makes you funny and likeable.

Hangover II: Adding a monkey makes it a fresh movie, not a complete rehash. (Editor's note: and it's in a new city, and don't forget the boat)

Live Free of Die Hard: Sliding on your back for a minimum of 75 feet  down a collapsing expressway overpass doesn’t cause even a mild case of road rash.

National Treasure II: Kidnapping the POTUS is a logical and accomplishable plan.

Fast Five: Actually, all this stuff can happen in real life. It’s the most realistic movie franchise ever created. Take note future drivers of the world!

-Major League

Monday, July 25, 2011

Where's Our CBA? [Mondays with Gus]

As sports fans, most of us love to complain about who is doing what completely wrong. The players aren't playing with enough passion, the GM isn't smart enough, and the owner is too pompous to let the experts do their work without him breathing down their neck. Yet, we never sit back and look at ourselves.

We've sat back and let the owners and players really screw us over without much of a fight at all. Want to listen to an NBA/MLB/NFL game on the internet? Even though you have access to that radio station's live stream, you still can't listen because those leagues all have a monopoly on radio rights. Want to watch one of your favorite teams via the internet without coughing up hundreds of dollars? Ha! Want to buy your favorite sports channel without paying for 6,000 other ones to go along with it? Good luck.

While the owners and players are going at each other over the billions of dollars they make off of us fans, I say it's time we put our voices in on this as well. Here's a few things I would like to see fans start doing:

Protesting Pricing: Start to demand that teams let you purchase certain games, or segments of a season instead of paying for an entire year of packages like NFL Sunday Ticket. Why should I pay for an entire season of NBA basketball when it's common knowledge that bad teams tank the end of the year so they can get a better pick? Call or write teams and the companies involved and tell them what you want. Better yet, write to other members of the media and force these companies to have discussions in public about the matter.

Eliminate the Monopoly: There should be at least two or three companies fighting for the same customer. None of this “we own the radio rights so deal with it” garbage. Give the radio stations a chance to broadcast and charge customers to hear the games. Work with groups like Hulu and Netflix and see what alternatives these companies can offer.

End PSL Sales/Purchases: Really? I have to pay for my right to purchase something? It's like sports franchises have hit the idiot lottery, and us fans are the cash prize. Maybe someone should start doing this to the owners and the players. The owners will have to pay a fee to be able to negotiate with free agents, while players will have to pay a fee for hiring an agent during those negotiations. Sounds like a stupid idea that just complicates things, doesn't it? That's because it is.

If us fans can start getting together and making demands of the players and the owners, we'll end up teaching these rich folks to stop biting the hand that feeds them. They didn't listen to us when we said we hated the lockouts/strikes/shortened seasons of the past 20 years, so now it's time we start speaking a language that they're used to: Money.

-Gus Rafeedie

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Competitive Eating: Is it a Sport?

Annually peaking in popularity just a few short weeks ago, competitive eating has been in the public's eye the last several years since Kobyashi brought the gun show to Coney Island. Prior to him, the record was in the teens, it wasn't televised on ESPN and not many people outside of the borough knew it happened. Kobyashia Phelps'd it before Phelps and changed the game.

Like Tiger did with golf, you started seeing guys in better shape competing. Additionally, there were more entrants, a real audience and other records were discussed outside of hot dogs and buns (HDBs). The sponsorship dollars rose and personalities like Crazy Legs Conti, Eater X and Joey Jaws started to crop up as K-List celebs.

There is a decent amount of money being tossed around and Joey Jaws made more last year than about two-thirds of the MLS. Sponsorship, viewers, sustained exhilaration and high effort, vigorous training schedules and rivalries are all things that point me in the direction of calling it a sport. Heck, the main sanctioning body is even called Major League Eating. 

However, calling these guys athletes makes me cringe and when the main goal of the competition is being gluttonous, I can't do it. Sure, I'll watch the Hot Dog eating contest, I'll cheer for Joey Jaws keeping the Mustard Yellow Belt stateside, but that's the only time all year I care. Just doesn't have all the elements to call it a sport.

The Verdict: Not a Sport.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Unions and Sports [Mondays with Gus in your Grill]

Often times in this country, when things go bad conservatives and corporations go after the unions. I could go on about how this means that the right wing is out of touch with mainstream society, but the fact of the matter is that they do this because unions don't vote conservatively. Democrats defend the unions just as strongly because unions do vote for them. That's just how the political game in the two-party system works. You divide society in half by telling everyone “If you ain't for me, you're against me.”

But when we look at sports, we have an avenue for eliminating a lot of the politics involved in decision making. Yes, athletes are political and they supported Barack Obama heavily in his presidential bid. However, you'll never see right wing conservatives go after the athletes themselves – and more importantly the players unions – because they're just too damn popular to mess with. Because of that, the NFL and the NBA give us probably the best way to discuss unions without making it a giant political issue based on party lines.

First, let's start with the bad with these unions. They hurt the customer when management and employees can't get along. The NBA will almost definitely be locked out for this entire season. Players have found an alternative income source, while scabs will not be brought in without a huge fuss from the union, players, and the media. By giving the players such great pay and benefits (I believe NBA players are overpaid, as are NBA owners), it also hurts the cost to the fans. The games are wildly expensive to go to.

Regardless of how they contribute to the bad, however, they also provide the NBA and NFL with opportunities to grow that just wouldn't exist without them. By paying the players huge salaries, the talent pool continues to grow around these leagues. The NFL is constantly expanding, while the NBA now has a developmental league. If the pay for these sports were anywhere close to the average American, athletes just wouldn't bother spending 8 or 9 years working on their game after school and during the summer for a chance to make average money. Face it, without the huge salaries, these two sports just wouldn't be as fun to watch because the talent wouldn't be the same.

So, while in a more political situation (like the Ohio or Wisconsin teachers union debates, that have hit a little too close to home for me personally) we would likely take a side and make demands of the people we don't agree with, I think the NBA and NFL give us a great chance to just see the debate for what it is: good in some ways, bad in others. I hope more people use this opportunity we've been given as fans, and in a broader sense as Americans, to sit back and watch closely a situation which most of us frankly don't understand. It's just another great way we can use sports as a platform for understanding how our society works. Or, at the very least, learn to blame and give credit to both sides instead of picking one.

-Gus Rafeedie

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Women's Soccer: Is it a Sport?

People are going crazy about the Women's World Cup match from the other day, when the US had a miraculous goal to tie Brazil in Extra Time. They eventually won in Penalty Kicks.

Typing that sentence makes me so mad about Soccer. Extra Time? No one really know's exactly how long it's going to be, which is stupid. What if every time a baseball player fouled a ball off his leg or tweaked a hammy stretching out a double, they laid on the ground for 45 seconds...should we add a random number of extra outs to the game in the 9th inning? Or what about if it's tied after 12 innings, should each team have to send five guys to the plate for a Home Run Derby? It's one thing to allow this in regular seasons, but in big tournaments, it's straight clowntown.

Back to the matter at hand. We'll call Soccer a sport, albeit one of the more boring ones invented, so that's official. BUT, by law, any sport, when played by women is inherently less interesting than when it's played by men. I might say something else here if I was inspired to write this after hearing about any other non-World Cup game, the bottom line might be different. However, if you know the Meatballs, you know we're massive fans of America. So there's no way I can't call it not a sport after getting pumped when the one girl kicked the ball far to the other girl who used her head to hit it into the massive net against Brazil.

VERDICT: It's a Sport

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New MLB Fight Rules [Mondays with Gus]

I'm sick and tired of baseball players charging the mound only to see two guys swinging like third graders. So, here are my suggestions for new rules.

Bring The Bat With You: This is only to be used in a very specific circumstance. You must have been hit by a fastball above the waist that was obviously done on purpose and not because of retaliation. If your pitcher beaned someone the half inning before, it's your pitchers fault you got hit. Illegal use of this rule will result in a negotiated amount of Freebies (see below) to be given against that batter, as chosen by vote of all MLB players.

Get The Catcher First: If you decide to charge the mound, it should be acceptable to ensure the catcher doesn't get involved in slowing you down. A push should be the standard operating procedure, unless it's obvious that the catcher was involved in the decision to hit you. If the catcher was involved, you should be allowed to kick him in a way that only attempts to knock him down (i.e. kicking him lightly in the chest protector so he falls over but doesn't get hurt). No kicking in the junk or the face.

Suspension Based On Injury: If a pitcher beans a batter on purpose (It's almost always obvious when it's on purpose), his suspension should be based off of the players injury. For example, if you hit a guy in the face and he's out on the 15 day DL, your suspension should be 15 days. If you break his eye and he can't ever play again, you should get a suspension that is significantly longer (but not permanent) than if he doesn't get hurt.

Freebie: The freebie rule is designed for batters that claim to have gotten hurt when they weren't even touched by the pitch. I'm talking about situations where you see the ball hit the bottom of the bat and nothing else, and the batter cries bloody murder and acts like he broke his wrist. In this case, a pitcher is given one free bean ball attempt with no consequences to be used only against the batter faking the injury. Using this on any other player will result in the legitimate use of the “Bring The Bat With You” rule.

First Base Or Nothing: If a batter runs for first base, in an attempt to make it look like he's actually trying to play baseball instead of attacking the pitcher, his charge of the mound will result in allowing all infielders to join the pitcher without suspension. If the pitcher talks trash (or throws a bat) while the runner is going to first, this rule becomes void.

I don't consider this the definitive list by any means. I'm certainly open to adding or subtracting rules. But, I think it's a good starting point for discussion. Because come on, baseball fans. You know we're all kinda jealous of the NHL and that we're sick of people saying that baseball is boring. Spice it up, MLB!

-Gus Rafeedie

Friday, July 1, 2011

New Wednesday Special: Is it a Sport?

Hoping this new series will be like Metamucil for this blog and keep me posting something regular on Hump Day. It was somewhat inspired by the spirited blog battle between Gus and I regarding Rock Paper Scissors. The first sport up for debate is Bowling.

At first thought, I want to say no, but let's talk about it before casting judgement. It requires very little athleticism, but a lot of coordination. Definitely much more physical activity than Rock Paper Scissors or Chess, but not nearly as much as say, Fencing or Golf. Here's a big strike against it: you can't play defense. Now, every endeavor that I'll consider a sport doesn't require defense, but it's a huge, huge part of it. 

Bowling requires slightly more motion, less coordination and about the same level of fitness as surgery...and I'm not calling Dr. James Andrews an athlete. As I mentioned earlier, bowling just doesn't feel like a sport to me. It's on ESPN, but so is the Spelling Bee and billiards, that doesn't validate those activities as sports. You move your wrist a little and take a few steps forward, which is less movement than is required in dance. Bowling is more fun with some beers and playing it in jeans and a tee for small bets than it is for real competition. Yeah, that's in my opinion, because it's on my blog, so regard it as a fact. 

I lettered in Bowling in High School, mostly to wasted time and meet chicks from other schools (note: HS bowling teams aren't usually stocked with hotties, I learned). I didn't consider it a sport then. and I don't now.