Wednesday, April 28, 2010

BEAR DEAD

That was the (blunt) headline of a recent London Free Press story. On the one hand, at least there's no mistake of what the story is about --- brevity is truly the soul of wit, in the Freeps' mind. On the other hand, this goofy headline is just the introduction to one of the more witless stories I've read in some time.

A bear on the loose in London has been killed.


Oh no! Well, the plot already thickens. The bear in question isn't just dead, it was killed. Was it MURDER? MURDER MOST FOUL?! /British accent

After being shot by authorities, the wounded bear was found dead behind the CPRI grounds near Byron.


Police were led by David Crockett, 3, who brought down the mighty animal with one keen shot from his trusty rifle. "Shucks, t'weren't nothin'," mumbled Crockett, as he tried to hide his face between the tail of his coonskin cap. The youngster then returned to his regular schedule of attending the John Dearness daycare facilities.

Police had advised parents not to let their children walk alone in west London after several sightings of a large black bear.

Authorities had shot the bear, which was reportedly wounded and on the move toward Byron.


As an (almost) lifelong resident of Byron, I wonder what was in our sleepy side of town that so motivated this bear to spend his last ounces of energy in a vain attempt to make it there. Did he have a reservation at JJ's Bistro? Perhaps he was supposed to pick up his cubs from Storybook Gardens. Maybe it was a craving for Byron Pizza. If I in the BP advertising department, I'd whip up a promotional campaign post-haste. "Byron Pizza: The First Choice Of Dying Bears."

Police were in the area looking for the bear, last seen cross Oxford St. west of Commissioners Rd. shortly before 7 a.m., apparently headed south.

“We’ve had four sightings that began around 4 a.m. there are officers in the area looking for it,” Const. Amy Phillipo said earlier Tuesday morning.

Businesses and schools in the area were notified, said Phillipo.

A police officer did see the bear, Phillipo said.


The constable's quote is either a weird fragmented sentence that should've had a clarifying bracketed word thrown in, or else the crack LFP editorial team simply failed to properly punctuate her two-sentence quote. This concludes today's meeting of the grammar police. And, duh, obviously one of the cops saw the bear. Who else could've shot it? I was just kidding about Davy Crockett, so surely the bear was brought down by police fire, not an armed infant. Also, was the bear properly mirandized before the cops opened fire? Did they book him on one count of being a bear? Or a count of being an accessory to being a bear?

A Ministry of Natural Resources official could not immediately be reached for comment.


"Hey Jerry, the London Free Press is on the phone. Something about wanting a quote for their story about a dead bear."
"Ugh, I have better things to do. Tell them I'm at the dentist."
"Heh heh, good one, J-Bird."

Thus concludes the opening scene of my one-act play, Jerry Tannenbaum: The Naturally Resourceful Minister.

However, in the past, wildlife biologists have said young male bears will often wander hundreds of kilometres searching for its own territory. Officials have said sightings north of London the last few years were young males coming down from the Bruce Peninsula.


Bears from the Bruce can be identified due to their distinctive mullets and green John Deere caps.

There have been several bear sightings this year in Huron County and, in 2008, there were also sightings in Middlesex County, including Strathroy and Exeter where a bear dined on several bee hives at an apiary.


I love the use of the word 'dined' in this context. Doesn't it make you picture a bear in a top hat and monocle, politely being led to a tree stump table by a beaver maitre'd, and then the deer waiter unveils a tray of hives d'oeuvres?

Bears usually flee when they hear or smell humans, unless they become used to scavenging in urban areas and associating food with humans.

Black bears rarely attack humans unless cornered, threatened (especially while protecting cubs) or wounded.


"Good work, officer! Your shot clearly wounded that bear."
"Thanks, constable. Say, did we just wound that bear and greatly agitate it as it makes its way into the heavily-populated Byron community?"
"Son of a...."

Any bear sighting should be reported to the 24-hour Bear Hotline at 1-866-514-BEAR or local police.


The definition of a shit detail is being the poor officer assigned to an eight-hour shift on the Bear Hotline. Also, I made one reference to the Simpsons episode where a bear wanders into town already, but man, the Bear Hotline just invites more comparison. Are my tax dollars going to fund this Bear Hotline? Let the bears pay the bear tax. I pay the Homer tax! I mean, home owner tax.

PROTECTING YOURSELF

- Do not approach a bear and, if you encounter one, ensure it has an escape route. Back away slowly and, if it doesn't flee, try making loud noises, either yelling or banging and wave your arms.


Ok, it said just a couple of sentences ago that bears rarely attack humans unless threatened. I'd say that yelling and waving your arms like Animal from the Muppets just might be interpreted by a bear as a threatening motion.

- Make sure trash is kept in secure containers bears can't open.

- Keep grease traps on barbecues clean and pet food indoors. Bears will also feed on tree fruit and bird feeders.


Ironically, my bear feeder is constantly overrun by birds. Ah, the mysteries of nature!

- Farmers should keep land clear of dead animals.


Cut to a shot of an in-denial farmer pouring feed in front of a dead cow in a vain attempt to prove the animal isn't dead. Y'know, like this.

- Campers and anglers should keep food away from tents and vehicles.

For more bear information, visit the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources website at ontario.ca/bearwise


SCENE: An elegant, black-tie cocktail party. A ravishing brunette sidles up to Jerry and whispers in his ear.

BRUNETTE: "So, I hear you know a lot about bears, Mr. Tannenbaum."
JERRY: "You could even say I'm.....bearwise."

Cut to stock footage of a train running through a tunnel and a rocket ship taking off. By the way, I've moved on to the script of the film version of my one-act play. The role of Jerry Tannenbaum is being played by Paul Giamatti. Christina Aguilera is the brunette. Jerry's co-worker at the Ministry is Stone Cold Steve Austin. The Byron bear is played by Alan Rickman. To be honest, I expect disappointing box office returns.

ABOUT BLACK BEARS

- Black bears range in colour from blond to black and can stand up to seven feet tall. Males are about one-third larger than females and can weigh up to 270 kilograms while females will weigh up to 180 kilograms.

- Diet includes mostly twigs, roots, berries, nuts (acorns), young plants and buds, insects (especially bee larvae with honey), although they will feed on the carcasses of dead animals, small mammals and fish, as well as small livestock such as sheep, goats, calves and pigs.


Not included: the delicious contents of pic-a-nic baskets. That is, unless those picnickers in Jellystone Park were dining on twigs and goat carcasses. Fun fact: they're making a live-action/CGI Yogi Bear movie with Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake as the voices of Yogi and Boo-Boo. Speaking of disappointing box office returns....

- Bears usually flee when they hear or smell humans, unless they become used to scavenging in urban areas and associating food with humans.

- Black bears rarely attack humans unless cornered, threatened (especially protecting cubs), or wounded.

What the..? These two exact sentences were used in the story itself. God, the laziness.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

LOST Stuff



There's no new LOST episode tonight, as this is one week break before we head into the home stretch of episodes in the series. To fill the void, here's a bunch of Lost-related stuff from both my brain and from around the web.

Firstly, there's this epic spread of LOST-related stuff in the latest issue of Wired. It has all sorts of material about character connections, an interview with Lindelof and Cuse, some behind-the-scenes tech stuff, etc. But the topper is the big photo of Lindelof and Cuse in their office with that wonderful whiteboard of information. Now, I wouldn't put it past these two to put some fake stuff on the board just to psych everyone out, but you'll notice the list of episodes on the left side. You have the episode title and centric character listed underneath, as we can tell from the first three. The last two episodes are the next two episodes, one of which is titled 'The Candidate' and looks like it'll be centered around Jack and someone else (Claire?). The other episode is titled, apparently, 'Across The Sea' and the main character's name ends in '---ey.' We had a Hurley episode just a couple of weeks ago, which leads me to believe that this is going to be an episode about Smokey himself, the Man in Black. Great day in the morning, I cannot wait to see that episode.

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Theory #1! Ok, well, if we're getting to know who the Monster is, this theory may be blown apart pretty damn quickly, but I'll take a stab at (sort of) answering that now. The big question about the alternate reality universe we've seen all season has been what exactly it is. It's not a world without the Island at all, since we've seen it at the bottom of the ocean and we know that Ben and Roger Linus did indeed temporarily join the DHARMA Initiative and visit the Island in the 70's, like they did in the real timeline. But is the alt-verse a world without Jacob? A world without the MIB? Or maybe a world where the MIB has been able to leave the Island? This last one is my running theory, since we know that Eloise Widmore (who's totally in on it) revealed to Desmond that his situation in the alt-verse was created specifically just for him. Methinks that all the characters had their so-called deepest desires fulfilled by the MIB in this alternate world, perhaps to confuse them into thinking the world would be better off if he had been freed. Sayid gets Nadia alive again, Desmond is Widmore's best pal, Jack has a son, Sawyer isn't a criminal, Locke is with Helen, etc. Now, what's interesting is that some of the characters are in pretty deep shit (Kate is still a fugitive, Jin and Sun are living in secret), so one wonders why their alt-lives aren't as improved as the other Losties.

But, whatever, the bottom line is that Desmond knows about both realities, and in the alt-verse, he's trying to bring everyone together to awaken them as well. He appears to have done so with Hurley by getting him together with Libby, and his hit-and-run on Locke was probably an attempt to induce a similar kind of traumatic event a la Desmond's underwater car crash with Charlie. (By the way, sucks to be Locke. Des is like, "Ok, let's see, I can get Hurley to remember by having him make out with an attractive woman on a beach. But for John, hmm, let me think, yeah, I'll have to run him over with my car.") Once everyone is awakened, then I guess the choice becomes as to whether or not the alt-verse characters choose to keep these lives the way they are, or reject this reality and somehow force the MIB back into captivity in the real reality. Eloise, by the way, is going along with the MIB since in this reality, she gets her son back.

Ok, so that's my basic take on what the sideways-universe is. But one question remains...if the MIB is free in this reality, where is he? Here's what I think is going on. In the Island reality, we've seen the MIB troubled by the visions of that creepy kid following him around in the jungle. This kid looks all the world like a young Jacob maybe somehow regrowing (like a phoenix?) to torment his nemesis. This got me to thinking, what if the MIB is similarly regenerating himself in the alt-verse? Perhaps by giving himself the childhood that he never had in the Island-verse under his self-described "crazy mother"? And, whereas most changes in the alt-verse have been the same characters in different situations, the only brand-new character we've seen has been Jack's son, David. So that's it, David is really the MIB, hiding in plain sight as a younger version of himself and implanting himself in this reality as Jack's son. It's kind of a page out of Buffy's book, when Dawn ended up being not Buffy's actual sister, but rather a key of mystical energy who was implanted in person form into the character's memories. (If this plotline sounds goofy, hey folks, we all watch LOST. Who are we to judge?)

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Theory #2! Okay, so if we learn who or what the Monster is, then perhaps the other major question looming over the final episodes is who will the new Jacob be --- who's the final candidate? My idea is that we don't have to wait to see if it will be Hurley, Sayid, Sawyer, Jack or Sun/Jin. We've been seeing the Candidate in action for a while now, since the new Jacob is Christian Shephard. In the same way that the Man In Black took Locke's appearance when his corpse landed on the Island, Christian's body was given the same power. The catch is, however, that the nature of the MIB's power is that he usurps the dead for his own purposes. In Jacob's case, his power is all about life --- so the revived Christian wasn't Jacob in a new body, but actually the original Christian Shephard, with his original memories but perhaps with an added sense of what his duties are on the Island.

The Christian we've seen wearing the dark suit has, indeed, been the MIB since the Monster can only pose as the dead in the clothing that they died in (Alex, Yemi, etc.) So MIB wasn't lying when he told Jack that he was posing as Christian in 'White Rabbit.' MIB is able to do this since Christian's original body is still somewhere on the Island, and thus is within the realm of his powers. But Christian in his casual wear, when he appeared on the boat with Michael or in the donkey wheel chamber with Locke, is actually the Candidate Christian.

The 'Shephard' name that's #23 on the lighthouse wheel is actually Christian, not Jack. Remember that the lighthouse mirror showed images of where Jacob touched his candidates (Sun and Jin's wedding chapel, the church where Sawyer's parents funeral was held), and for Shephard, it showed Jack's childhood home. Well, we know that Jack was touched by Jacob in the hospital corridor, not at this house. This home was where CHRISTIAN was instead touched by Jacob. He's been the chosen candidate all along.

This, in a nutshell, is Jacob's own loophole against the machinations of the Monster. We know that the 'rules' prohibit the MIB from harming the candidates himself, so what Jacob did was make his choice early, thus leaving the rest of the candidates (the Lost characters) all around to interfere in the MIB's plans. The MIB is busy trying to figure out which candidates are left and which ones he has to try to eliminate, but little does he know that the candidate was chosen long ago, so his big plan to fly away with all the candidates in his thrall is for naught. Oh, and I'd say for that matter, it's a very big long shot that the MIB actually intends to take everyone along with him on a plane that may or may not even be able to get back up in the air. I'd suspect the MIB will try to get his gang of Others or Widmore's people to kill the rest of the Losties so he can (falsely) assume that there aren't any candidates left.

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This guy Nedroid draws little LOST-related cartoons on Twitpics. They are funny. That's basically the only introduction I can muster up. Here are a few of the funnier ones, and click the link to look for more.







Saturday, April 24, 2010

Swartzwelder

If you were in the Richmond/John Chapters the other day and noticed a large bald man hunched over a book and giggling like a schoolgirl, that was probably me. It was due to this passage....

I remember distinctly one time being a young comedy writer, and Swartzwelder just happened to be sitting there, smoking a cigarette on the lawn. And I though, Man, I’m just gonna ask John Swartzwelder a random question and see what he says in return. And I said “John, what would you do if you had all the money that you could spend?” And without a moment’s hesitation he said “I would buy a battleship and the Empire State Building. With the Empire State Building, I would just let it run down and get decrepit. Because people would say, ‘You can’t do that! That’s the Empire State Building!" I would say ‘No, I can! I own the Empire State Building!’

"The battleship," he said, "I just think it would change people’s conversations with me if they knew that I had a battleship."


--- Brent Forrester, from John Orvted’s "Unauthorized Oral History of the Simpsons"


John Swartzwelder, by the way, wrote these Simpsons episodes. If you remember my list of the 92 best Simpsons episodes from last year, Swartzwelder wrote a whopping 23 of them, plus contributions to the Treehouse of Horror. He also reportedly bought his favourite booth at his local coffee shop so he could continue writing in said booth at home after the diner passed a no-smoking law.

In summation, John Swartzwelder is pretty awesome.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Random Nonsense

I didn't realize until recently that the Drake Hotel was actually a hotel. Now, before you go busting out the #MarkIsDumb hashtags, I had a valid reason for this. For those non-Torontonians out there, the Drake is a well-known bar/nightclub/concert venue in town and while I figured the building was once a hotel, I thought the name had just been retained as part of the club's overtly hipster vibe. But no, in fact, you can still rent rooms at the Drake. Man, I almost feel like staying there for a week as a social experiment. I can work on a novel (or claim to be working on a novel), grow a soulpatch, take up smoking, start wearing one of those dumb-ass Castro hats, and suddenly become a really big Yo La Tengo fan. It'll be great.

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While I'm on a Toronto topic, let's talk about the intersection of Strachan and Wellington, a.k.a. possibly the current worst-designed intersection in the city. I imagine that this was once rather a sleepy little corner, but with all of the condos on King West and the Liberty Village, traffic is zooming down Strachan at all hours. Ergo, if you're on Wellington, trying to find a window of space to get past Strachan is very difficult. Turning left onto Strachan from Wellington takes bloody forever. Even turning right onto Strachan while traveling east on Wellington is a pain due to an inexplicable curb extension that juts out and cuts Wellington from a two-lane street (through the right lane is basically a parking lane) into a one-lane street. So, if you just want to make a simple right turn, you have to get in line behind what may be a number of cars looking to go straight along Wellington, thus trapping you in their web of waiting.

In summation, this intersection needs a four-way stop ASAP. Maybe even a set of lights.

Also, "hey Mark, did you write this simply because you were caught for an ungodly amount of time at this intersection the other day?" Yes. What's it to ya? For that matter, what's up with the construction on Bloor between Avenue and Yonge? What's the matter Toronto, was Bloor Street not quite congested enough for your liking? It started out as a rebuild of the Yonge/Bloor corner, but now it's spread like an infection all the way down the street to the ROM. I can't help but think that this is somehow a Ghostbusters II-esque scenario here. Is the ROM's ugly-ass extension really just mood slime that is slowly growing over the original building? Did the ROM recently unveil a creepy-ass painting of a European warlord?

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I wish I could buy stock in things like "while I think 'Waving Flag' is a pretty good song now, I know I will gradually come to hate it after hearing it about 7,000,000 times on the radio over the next couple of months."

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Peter of Man Vs. Clown checks in with this hilarious recap/analysis of the impossible-to-describe new Insane Clown Posse song and video. I was thinking of doing my own breakdown of this instant masterpiece of unintentional comedy, but Peter's take on it was too good to top. SNL tried their best to spoof it last weekend in a sketch with Bobby Moynihan and host/mannequin/professional Larry Mullen impersonator Ryan Phillippe, but the original is spoof-proof --- it's just too funny on its own.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Opening Day In Minneapolis

Very cool series of baseball-related time-lapse videos on this site, particularly the one from the first game at the Twins' new Target Field. Still can't figure out why they built a stadium in Minnesota without a retractable roof, but the park looks pretty nice regardless. Obviously Minnesotans are used to the cold and don't mind. I picture Bud Grant sitting behind home plate in his t-shirt, insisting it's balmy outside.

Thanks to Erika for the find!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

NBA Playoff Predictions




What the hey, we did the hockey playoffs, might as well cover the NBA as well. This piece was written in advance of this afternoon's games, so if LeBron broke his leg in the first quarter and the Bulls won by 45, so be it. Though even on one leg, LBJ is probably good for a 20-5-5 game.


Los Angeles over Oklahoma City in six
Should be fun to see the old superstar (Kobe) against the up-and-coming superstar (Kevin Durant), but overall the Lakers have way too much for the "Zombie Sonics." The Thunder's existence bothers me since had they stayed in Seattle, I'd likely be on their bandwagon right now. I've always wanted to cheer for a Seattle franchise (I attribute this to lingering 'Frasier' fandom) and since my MLB and NFL dance cards are filled, the Sonics would've been perfect. Damn you, Thunder ownership!

San Antonio over Dallas in seven
This is a big upset on paper, but the Western Conference is deep enough that the seeding is basically a crapshoot. The Spurs are probably the best #7 seed in NBA history. They were also (don't laugh) my preseason pick to win the NBA title, so I have to stand by them for at least one round, right? The Duncan/Parker/Ginobili triumvirate adds yet another series victory to their resume and the Mavericks can take solace in the fact that they're going to be a capital-p Prime destination for free agents this summer.

Phoenix over Portland in six
The Blazers are missing Brandon Roy for at least the first few games of the series, though they've succeeded in the face of so many injury problems this year that it would be par for the course if they were to win a round despite missing their best player. But, then again, I'm too much on the Steve Nash bandwagon to pick against the Suns in this case.

Denver over Utah in seven
Both teams are battling injuries and are pretty equal on paper, so I'll just give it to the Nuggets based on home-court advantage. It'll be an inspirational 'win it for George Karl' type of victory. Jerry Sloan wonders when the %&#(*&% his players will win it for him after decades of coaching success.

Cleveland over Chicago in four
Congratulations, Bulls! You topped the Raptors in a competitive...er, hard-fought...uh...well, at least it was some sort of contest for the last playoff spot in the East. As your reward, you get to be ritually slaughtered by the Cavaliers. The only way this series isn't a sweep is if LeBron decides to take it easy on a team he might be joining in the offseason.

Orlando over Charlotte in five
Interesting historical footnote: when Michael Jordan made his first NBA comeback, his Bulls were knocked out of the playoffs by eventual finalists Orlando. The Bulls then went on to win the next three titles. Now that Jordan is 'back' in the sense that he's Charlotte's lead owner, the Bobcats will surely lose here, but does this mean that the 'Cats will win the next three championships? Sounds like a sure bet to me! I wonder what kind of odds I could get on Charlotte pulling a threepeat? 5000-1? 10,000-1? If there is a bet to be made, no doubt Jordan is already all over it.

Atlanta over Milwaukee in six
Milwaukee's "Fear The Deer" slogan is possibly my favourite thing about this past NBA season, narrowly edging out Rasheed Wallace accidentally scoring on his own basket. Unfortunately for the Bucks, without Andrew Bogut (leader of the incredible Squad 6 movement and, oh yeah, their starting center) they're going to be short work for the Hawks. Forget the Sonics, maybe I should jump on the Bucks bandwagon. Maybe I just like the idea of supporting a totally random NBA team. Seriously, how many other Milwaukee Bucks fans do you know?

Miami over Boston in six
I may be biased by reading Bill Simmons' columns, but the Celtics aren't going to be worth much this postseason. They're running on fumes, whereas the Heat are a top-defensive unit and have Dwyane Wade to just run wild. The Heat are moving on.



Los Angeles over Denver in six
As I noted earlier, Denver is banged up while L.A. is relatively fresh. Gotta take the Lakers in this one. The Nuggets' window as a contender in their current form might already be closed, strange as it sounds.

Phoenix over San Antonio in seven
Ride that Nash train, baby! The Spurs simply run out of gas.

Cleveland over Miami in six
James vs. Wade, man alive. It'll be a nice preview if and when these guys end up as teammates next season. (Honestly, that's doubtful, just because Wade is just too good to be a second fiddle. Chris Bosh, on the other hand....) This will be a very tough series for the Cavs but they'll pull it out. I mentioned Bill Simmons earlier, so I'll just ask what the vengeance scale rating of the Shaq vs. Heat matchup here. Does it even crack a 1.1?

Atlanta over Orlando in seven
Upset! Why am I picking against Orlando? Simply put, I can't help but feel they got lucky last year with Hedo Turkoglu suddenly shooting out of his mind against Cleveland in the Eastern finals. Unless some other player steps up to fill that void (and subsequently getting an absurdly ill-advised contract from Toronto), I just don't think the Magic have enough. Atlanta are sneaky good and Joe Johnson is perhaps the most underrated star in the league. Dwight Howard may be Superman, but Johnson is Doomsday.



Los Angeles over Phoenix in six
You might notice that the Lakers have gotten a pretty smooth ride in my imaginary bracket, facing banged-up and mild Cinderella teams as opposed to Utah and Dallas (the two West teams who match up well against them). That's because everything always seems to work out in the Lakers' favour. They're not a perfect team and could be beaten with the right combination of factors, but I've learned that those factors rarely come together before the Finals (if even there). I attribute this to Phil Jackson's one-ness with the universe. He's like Jacob from Lost.

Cleveland over Atlanta in six
You know who could also be an interesting free agent second banana? Joe Johnson. I'm just saying, is all. I guess he could re-sign with Atlanta, but....well, c'mon. Anyway, go Cavs go.



Cleveland over Los Angeles in six
The NBA finally gets its dream Finals matchup in LeBron vs. Kobe, and the city of Cleveland finally gets its first major sports championship since 1964. The Cavaliers' loss to Orlando last year seemed to light a fire under LeBron and he's been taking it out on the league ever since. I can't imagine what he'd do in 2010-2011 if the Cavs didn't win this title --- average a quadruple-double over the regular season? Hit a half-court shot per game? Maybe Cleveland fans should secretly be hoping for a loss, since an angry LeBron might re-sign just to take care of business and bring a championship home. Now, I've mentioned LeBron's impending free agency a lot here and ultimately, I think he'll just end up staying in the Cleve (and if he does leave, I see him going to Chicago or even Dallas before I see him joining the Knicks). But man, wouldn't that just be par for the course for that cursed sports city to finally break their title drought, only to see their biggest star immediately leave town? That would be the worst title defense since the 1998 Florida Marlins. On the bright side for Cleveland sports fans, there's always the Brow....um...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stanley Cup Predictions

Washington over Montreal in five
Let's give the Habs one win out of pity. Even though the Maple Leafs and Canadiens have a much longer and more storied rivalry, for some reason I have a bit of a soft spot for Montreal. Maybe it's because I could've just as easily been a Habs fan as a Leafs fan, whereas to become a Senators fan, I would've had to start kicking puppies. Anyway, the Capitals bury the Habs with so much of an offensive onslaught that it drives Carey Price to drink....wait a second...

New Jersey over Philadelphia in six
The Flyers had to win on the last day of the season just to squeak into the playoffs, whereas Jersey has been sitting pretty for a while now. Philly's big weakness all year has been in goal, whereas the Devils have Marty Brodeur....yeah, minor edge to NJ on that one. Overall it's hard to see a way that the Flyers can steal this one.

Buffalo over Boston in seven
Toughest series to call in the East. In spite of Boston's good record against Buffalo this year and the fact that the Sabres are banged up, I just feel that in the end, Ryan Miller will once again step up big and outduel the two-headed Thomas/Rask monster. It's also hard to see Miller losing to a team that finished (I kid you not) dead last in the NHL in goals scored this year. Seriously, Boston scored just 196 goals. Marco Sturm led the team with just 22. The Bruins can at least take solace in the fact that the player they draft with Toronto's 2010 first-round pick will go on to be a Hall of Famer. Is there any doubt that this is going to happen?

Pittsburgh over Ottawa in four
I dislike the Senators so much that if Sidney Crosby happens to score the goal that eliminates Ottawa from the playoffs, I will consider Sid's Olympics-winning goal to be his second-most noteworthy patriotic act of the year. No amount of motivational songs from 30 Rock's Danny Baker will save the Sens against the defending champions. This one might possibly be over in three, provided that the Sens just wuss out completely and throw in the towel, Bob Backlund-style after the third game.

San Jose over Colorado in six
As usual, the Sharks give their fans reason to sweat by letting the Avs make it to a Game Six, but this San Jose team really should be good enough to dispose of Colorado without too much trouble.

Chicago over Nashville in six
A lot of people have the Hawks as the trendy Cup pick, but boy, don't sleep on any team that has Pekka RInne. Chicago should still win this based on sheer firepower alone, but Nashville makes it at least interesting.

Los Angeles over Vancouver in six
Upset special! Am I picking this just because I haven't picked an underdog seed yet? Yep...wanted to pull the trigger on Nashville over Chicago, but didn't have the heart. I'm going to be a moron and make my prediction here based on nothing but exterior factors. Namely, it would be a bit too much for the city of Vancouver to have both an Olympic Games and a long-awaited Stanley Cup in the same year. C'mon Luongo, you have a gold medal, don't be a hog. It's for that reason I'm taking L.A. to win and for the Canucks to suffer yet another early playoff exit. Stay tuned for next time, when I rely on tea leaves and horoscopes to pick the NBA playoffs. Oooh, the Orlando Magic have a lot of Capricorns, watch out Lebron!

Detroit over Phoenix in seven
The Wings decided to take a page from the early 2000's Los Angeles Lakers and phone in virtually the entire regular season before getting serious around playoff-time. The Red Wings are 17-3-2 in their last 22 games and thus vaulted up to the #5 seed after piddling around the postseason cutoff line for most of the campaign. It's hard to pick against a team that's clearly peaking and has made the finals for the past two seasons, especially when their opponents are playoff newbies like Phoenix. Seriously, as much as the Tampa Bay/Carolina/Anaheim Cup trifecta angered Canadian hockey fans, would there possibly be a more galling result than to see the Stanley Cup go to friggin' Phoenix? I'll say the 'Yotes extend it to seven out of respect for their surprising season, but the Wings invite Jim Balsille to the Joe to throw the octopus on the ice before a game, and that just jinxes the Coyotes all to hell.


San Jose over Los Angeles in five
Battle of California! Will Arnold show up at a game? (Answer: maybe, it's not like his state is going bankrupt or anything.) The Sharks finally show off their top-ranked form by more or less squashing the upstart Kings like they're yesterday's news.

Chicago over Detroit in seven
Talk about an epic series. This could be one of those seminal series that is talked about for years --- two Original Six rivals, the classic up-and-comers against the wizened veterans, the team with the longest Cup drought in the league against the most successful U.S. team in history, etc. The Blackhawks put themselves on the map by beating their rivals and avenging their loss in last season's Western finals.

Washington over Pittsburgh in seven
Speaking of epic series, these two teams will get it on again in another brain-buster of a seven-gamer. It remains to be seen if the Varlamov/Theodore combo can hold up in the postseason (Varlamov acquitted himself fairly well last year), especially against the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury, but I dunno, I think I just favour the Caps winning this coin-flip of a series this year. Also, if Ovechkin comes up short in both a Cup quest and the Olympics, he may be horse-whipping by a shirtless Vladimir Putin. Why does Putin insist on not wearing a shirt for such activities? He claims that his pores are helped by the screams of the terrified. Huh.

Buffalo over New Jersey in six
Miller vs. Brodeur, the rematch! Will Marty play as poorly as he did in the Olympics? No (ye gods, how could he?), but the Devils will still come up short. Needless to say, this series and the Sharks/Kings tilt will both be vastly overshadowed by the other two quarterfinals. That's alright, it's not like Buffalo and New Jersey don't have experience being seen as second-rate.


Washington over Buffalo in six
After making it all this way, the Caps take that final step and reach the Stanley Cup final. I, er, have no follow-up points. A team coming off an epic series can either a) carry that momentum into the next round or....

San Jose over Chicago in six
....b) get knocked out because they ran out of gas in the previous round. Yes, that's right, I just made a big deal out of the fact that the two options facing a team are that they can win or lose. This is some grade-A hockey analysis here, folks. The young Blackhawks still need one more humbling loss before they can truly break through to be Cup contenders, and San Jose (who knows a thing about humbling losses) deals it to them. Also, in picking the Hawks, I'd also be dooming the Maple Leafs to take over as the team with the longest Cup drought in the NHL. That can't happen.


Washington over San Jose in six
They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well, my Stanley Cup finals pick last season was, you guessed it, Washington over San Jose. I was, uh, just slightly off. But surely I couldn't be wrong twice in a row, right? My pick of the Seahawks and Patriots for the 2008 Super Bowl paid off when both teams made the 2009 game, right? Right? My stubbornness aside, this will be the season and both of these underachievers manage to square off for hockey's greatest prize, and one of them will finally reach the mountaintop. The other will....well, still technically underachieve, but underachieving by losing a Cup final is still better than a first or second-round ouster. Partial credit! I'll even be nice to the Sharks and say that Joe Thornton makes it all the way to Game Three of the finals before doing his usual postseason disappearing act.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Random Nonsense

The battle between the Raptors and Bulls for the last playoff spot in the NBA is like watching an arm-wrestling match between two of those wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube men. Both teams are just SO BAD. I received a coupon for discounted Raptors tickets from my cell phone company a few months back, but honestly, even at a reduced price, this team isn't worth watching. The virtual playoff game against Chicago on Sunday is tempting, but.....y'know, Masters Sunday and all....and Bosh is out of action....and, apathy....etc.

Of course, for the best analysis I turn to the biggest Raptors fan I know, my 89-year-old grandmother. Her take on the team is that Hedo Turkoglu "just seems to disappear most of the time. It's like he's not trying!" My basketball coach uncle also could've provided analysis, but he was too busy screaming last Sunday when DeMar DeRozan made one of his 86 unsuccessful drives to the hoop. So just as long as Chris Bosh can overcome these weak teammates, the Raptors should, oh what's that, Bosh is out for the rest of the season? God.

As a show of support, here's a blog dedicated to Michael Buble being stalked by a velociraptor.

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I'd like to thank my friend Nicole for passing along the link to this video of the 'Mad Men' cast and crew drunkenly singing (or, in the case of noted killjoy January Jones, lip-synching to) Ann-Margaret's 'Bye Bye Birdie' song. Now that damn tune will be stuck in my head for the next several days. Lousy catchy 50's musical numbers.



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I was going to write up my picks for UFC 112, but I forgot the event was tape-delayed this afternoon. So when I clicked up Yahoo to look at the full card, I got all of the results splashed in my face. Curses. Just presume I picked every fight correctly, since I so often get a perfect score on my UFC predictions. Er, a good score. Er, an over .500 score. OKAY, FINE. Sears catalogue.

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Amateur dream analysis!

DREAM: I'm playing a game of Scrabble against (get ready for this) Daniel Radcliffe, Dustin Hoffman and Rupert from Survivor. The game is taking place in what looks like a public park, in the style of those old men who play chess in parks. Radcliffe is inexplicably dressed like James Dean. Hoffman is basically dressed in his Willy Loman outfit from 'Death Of A Salesman,' except since Hoffman is now an old man rather than a youngish man playing an old man, he isn't wearing any makeup. Rupert is of course wearing his obligatory tie-dyed tank top and jeans. The game is going reasonably well, but a big argument flares up over some word that Hoffman believes Radcliffe has improperly played. We check the dictionary and it's a valid word. Hoffman gets upset, flips the board over and leaves the table. Radcliffe shrugs. Rupert just sits there throughout the entire dream dumbfounded, not saying a word.

ANALYSIS; "Daniel Radcliffe, Dustin Hoffman and Rupert" sounds like a set-up for one of Johnny Carson's old Karnak routines. I have no idea why these three popped up together in my dreamscape. Radcliffe is used to palling around with Rupert Grint (a.k.a. Ron Weasley) so maybe I subconsciously paired him another Rupert here. Though, that theory has some holes since it's not like Hoffman is a close fit with Emma Watson. It's possible that maybe in 30 years Watson might look a bit like Hoffman-as-Dorothy Michaels, but yikes, I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

As to the game, it may be due to a recent article I read about how the United Kingdom edition of Scrabble is changing their rules to allow proper names and places as eligible words. This, of course, opens up a big pandora's box since almost anything can be a name. You can tell me that 'Gwosdz' isn't a word, but then I can just point you in the direction of Doug Gwosdz, whose nickname, hilariously, was 'Eyechart.' I don't remember what the specific dispute was in my dream, but it's likely that Radcliffe tried to play some inane Harry Potter term (muggle or diggory or silencio or whatnot) and Hoffman wouldn't have any of it. Attaboy, Dustin. Don't stand for that nonsense. Maybe the figures were there to represent the symbolic changing of the guard in the Scrabble world; Radcliffe representing the UK's way of thinking, Hoffman the American sticking to his guns, and Rupert the American....uh, sitting there doing nothing. Then again, I don't think I did anything either, so I'm hardly one to criticize Mr. Boneham. Oh man, does this mean that if I ever played Survivor, I'd end up being the new Rupert? Egad. My desire to be on the show just dropped from 100 percent to...well, still around 95 percent, but still. Also, if I'm going to dream about a Survivor, shouldn't it have been the guy whose nickname was actually Dreamz? Or, even better, one of the women?

Re: the clothing choices. Rupert's outfit was a no-brainer, since I have literally never seen him in anything but that damn tie-dyed shirt. Can you imagine seeing Rupert in a tuxedo? It would be mind-blowing. Hoffman could've dressed as any of his characters, but this particularly garb best seems to fit with my old vs. new theory, plus the fact that 'Scrabble' is the kind of million-dollar idea for a product that Loman would've killed to come up with. Hopefully Radcliffe's Dean costume doesn't mean that Radcliffe is in for an untimely death. I wish no ill will on the lad, and also, I'd rather not see his pasty British face on university dorm room posters for the next 50 years.

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Today's iTunes playlist....
* Raise Your Hand, Bruce Springsteen
* Save You, Pearl Jam
* Around The Bend, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
* When It's Good, Ben Harper
* Don't Look Back, The Remains
* Low, Cracker
* I Need To Know, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Friday, April 09, 2010

Kandid Kamara

There's good sideline reporting, there's bad sideline reporting and then there's Chris Kamara's "cutting-edge" sideline reporting for Soccer Saturday. This is just priceless.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

2010 Baseball Predictions From Will Leitch And Myself



That's right, the former Deadspin guru and I have joined forces to look at the 2010 baseball season. Will's picks are right here, along with links to his always-interesting (if not necessarily relevant to this season) essays about every club for Deadspin. My predictions are outlined below. Now, you might wonder if Will Leitch has never heard of me and if this post isn't really a collaboration so much as it is me just linking to Leitch's material in order to get extra pageviews. You'd be quite right. Join me next week when I team up with Roger Ebert to review Iron Man 2!


National League East
Philadelphia will win, and the only question is how many games between 25 and 30 will Roy Halladay win. I don't think I've ever rooted for a former Blue Jay as hard as I'll root for Halladay this year. I'm not crazy about the Philly staff after Halladay and (a presumably revived) Cole Hamels, but still, those two in a short series? Good night. Atlanta is my wild card pick in spite of the fact that I thought they missed out on not getting a big hitter to compliment their great rotation. Instead they dealt Javier Vazquez and added complimentary parts like Melky Cabrera or Troy Glaus. However, if Chipper Jones comes back to form and Jason Heyward continues his Roy Hobbs-like monster hitting, that'll take care of the Braves' hitting woes right there. Florida will continue their sneaky-good run but not really come too close to contention. The Mets can't possibly have as many injuries as they did last year but even at full health, I don't see them rebounding much. Washington will be improved in the sense that they'll lose fewer than 102 games for the first time in three years. Stephen 'Silver Lining' Strasburg will be in the majors by July, so get fired up, Nats fans!


National League Central
If the Cardinals don't win this division, then something has gone horribly wrong. They have the first and fourth-best hitters (Pujols and Holliday) and two best starters (Carpenter and Wainwright) in the division, plus a decent regular core and promising youngsters like David Freese and Colby Rasmus. Ryan Franklin will assuredly come back to earth after his inexplicably great 2009 season, but still, he's a decent closing option. St. Louis has far fewer question marks than, say, trendy pick Milwaukee. The Brewers have two big bats to watch the Cards, but nowhere near the pitching. The Reds are still too young to reach their full potential. The Cubs have talent, but I worry they're in a Mets-esque spiral of treading water due to the fact that the pieces they've assembled just don't fit. The Astros and Pirates will be battling it out for fifth place. Seriously, St. Louis should win this division by a minimum of 10 games.


National League West
You could make a case for anyone but San Diego winning the West, and even the Padres aren't all that bad (they managed 75 wins in a season when everyone expected them to lose 100). Of the bunch, however, Colorado has the fewest question marks. The Rockies have quietly made the playoffs in two of the last three years...well, maybe just last year was quiet, since unlike 2007, they didn't go an insane hot streak to end the season. Compare the Rockies' offseason to that of their rivals. You've got the Dodgers adding nobody and basically being torn apart from within due to the McCourt divorce/ownership struggle. The Giants have elite pitching and were only an impact bat away from being the favourites, but management added Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff and then inexplicably dusted their hands off in triumph. The Diamondbacks could definitely be challengers if their young talent picks this year to all blossom, but their pitching staff is pretty dicey outside of Dan Haren. Colorado takes first and leaves everyone else doomed to their struggles.


American League East
The Yankees are simply too good to not win this division. Their pitching staff has a few question marks, but it's hard to see this team winning fewer than 90 games unless A-Rod suddenly into the tank without the calming influence of Kate Hudson. Some folks aren't too impressed with the Red Sox lineup, but geez, talk about being spoiled. When Mike Cameron is the worst hitter in your everyday lineup, that's pretty damn good. Tampa doesn't quite have the arms to challenge the big two, and they'll need at least one of Pat Burrell or B.J. Upton to bounce back from lousy 2009 seasons. Baltimore will surprise a few people and will have at least one month next season when they're just on fire, but their youngsters still need at least one more year to mature. And then we have the ol' Jays. I can't be all cynical since they've made some moves that have convinced me the team is going in the right direction (today's news about the Adam Lind contract extension is fantastic), but boy, in the short-term, this season is going to be some bad medicine. I called their 75 wins last year, so I'm going to predict 70 victories in 2010.


American League Central
Well, what the hell, let's pick the Tigers. Surely they won't have another epic collapse like last season, right? Right? This might seem like a dicey pick given that a lot of folks have Minnesota slated for not just the division but maybe the AL pennant as well, but I think that's far off. Who's to say how this team will perform in the X-factor of Target Field rather than the Metrodome? The Twins' rotation is full of #3 starters, whereas Detroit at least has Justin Verlander to anchor things. Even Minny's big bullpen advantage over Detroit has been neutralized thanks to Joe Nathan's season-ending injury. So overall, Detroit just has more going for them. The White Sox actually have as much chance of finishing first as Minnesota does since a healthy Jake Peavy helps their staff immensely, but I dunno, something about this team doesn't seem quite like a title contender. Chicago finishes second, Minnesota third, Cleveland (whose young talent coming up could make them contenders by as soon as 2011) in fourth and the Royals will finish last again. On the bright side, there's always Joe Posnanski's blog posts to look forward to, Royals fans!


American League West
Throw a tarp over these four teams and do a blind draw, since any of them could win. Oakland is a big longshot with a poor lineup, but if their young pitching all coalesces at the same time they'll be scary. Of the bunch, I'll predict the Angels to once again finish on top, since as much as the loss of John Lackey hurts their rotation, Jered Weaver is a pretty good backup ace and their lineup is still full of tough outs. Texas finishes second since their rotation, like Minnesota's, has a lot of decent pitchers but no true ace -- they have Rich Harden, but that guy could injure himself from taking a stiff breeze the wrong way. This leaves just Seattle, who were everyone's winter darlings after the Cliff Lee trade and the Chone Figgins signing, but I'm still not sure they have enough depth either in their rotation or in the lineup to contend. I know the Mariners specifically are building themselves on pitching and defense, but they could actually have a lineup without a 20-homer hitter this year. They'll need to pull the trigger on a midseason deal for a bat if they want to get into the playoffs.


Predictions at a glance....
AL West: Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Athletics
AL Central: Tigers, White Sox, Twins, Indians, Royals
AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays
NL West: Rockies, Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres
NL Central: Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Pirates
NL East: Phillies, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals
Wild cards: Atlanta, Boston


Playoffs....
* St. Louis over Atlanta
Philadelphia over Colorado
Boston over Detroit
New York over Los Anaheim
* Philadelphia over St. Louis
Boston over New York
* Philadelphia over Boston


NL MVP: Albert Pujols (if it ain't broke...)
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay (after breaking Old Hoss Radbourn's record of 59 wins in a season)
NL ROY: Jason Heyward (after breaking 59 car windshields in the Turner Field parking lot)
AL MVP: Evan Longoria (Tampa's consolation prize for getting hosed out of a playoff spot)
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez (F-Her Mania sweeps the nation, leading to criticism from NOW)
AL ROY: Michael Brantley ("Mark, do you have a fantasy team riding on this pick?" Yes)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Spring Training Memories



My first spring training trip came about on the spur of the moment. Spring training '95 was pushed into April due to the recently-settled baseball strike, and maybe it was due to that odd circumstance that my father suggested that we head down to Florida to catch some baseball. Since we couldn't go during March Break, I simply skipped a week of school in April. Hey, it was the last semester of eighth grade, we were all just running out the clock anyway. The only thing of consequence I missed was our class speech competition, or 'oral presentation' competition thanks to a rule change that allowed us to suddenly recite poetry, do sketches or anything else that helped the class dullards get over the fact that they couldn't speak in public. With my being away, my buddy Trev and I didn't have a chance to reprise our legendary recitation of Who's On First that should've (in a just world) earned us a slot in the city-wide competition, but NOOOO, instead we were beaten out by a pair from the other grade seven class who did the EXACT SAME routine except FAR inferior and...

....I probably shouldn't still be dwelling on this 16 years later. So anyway, my dad and I went down to Dunedin to see the Blue Jays get ready for the season. This was still in the era when I had hopes that the Jays would be competitive. After all, thanks to the strike, they were still the defending World Series champions, and that 55-60 record in 1994 was just an aberration. (Final record for the Jays in 1995: 56-88. Eeep.) But really, seeing my favourite team was just the icing on the cake of the spring training experiment in and of itself. I implore any baseball fan to head down to Florida or Arizona at least once in their lives to enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of spring baseball. Imagine the grassroots splendor of minor league baseball, except with major league players. Imagine being 13 and seeing your baseball heroes literally just a couple of feet away from you. Imagine seeing your team's TV broadcaster sitting shirtless behind home plate...well, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

The drive to Dunedin was planned by out by me, or at least was "planned" in the sense of my father humouring me and pretending to closely follow my road directions. This was in the days before Google Maps, so I felt like quite the big-shot upon discovering that this I-75 highway went ALL the way down to Florida! Our trip would be just that simple! *dusts off hands triumphantly* My route broke our trip up over two days, with an overnight stopover in Kentucky. The thing I hadn't taken into consideration is that my father is a not a man, but a remorseless driving machine. We made it from London to Macon, Georgia in about 13 hours, bypassing Kentucky like it wasn't even there. We were entertained on the drive down by the inimitable sounds of Cleveland's all-sports station WKNR, which had a surprisingly wide-ranging signal and a great lead host by the name of Geoff Sindelar (who, I was sad to learn, just passed away). WKNR split its time with about 48 percent Browns chat, 48 percent Indians chat and a small sliver devoted to everything else in sports. That includes the Cavaliers, if you ever wondered just how much of a non-entity this team was before the Lebron era. Our stopover in Macon was notable from a pop-culture standpoint in my life, since it marked the first time I'd ever watch an episode of 'Friends.' (I think it was the one where Chandler goes on a blind date with Janice.) My dad's reaction to the episode was that there didn't seem to be much to the show and he didn't think it'd last long. Good call, Pops.

We made it down to Dunedin by the next afternoon, just in time to catch the last couple of innings of a Jays-Phillies matchup* that the stadium ticket guy was kind enough to let us in to see for free. See? There's some of that laid-back spring training vibe for you. Thanks again, random ticket guy! Dunedin Stadium, if you've never been, is pretty nice by spring training standards. I believe it's undergone a renovation since 1995, but even back then it was a good place to catch a game. The only downside was that the overhang above the seats were too short, so only the last five rows were in constant shade. This is a big deal when you're dealing with the Florida sun. You could go to a game and see a grandstand dotted with fans, but the last five rows were packed to the gills. We quickly learned that the only bit of intensity needed during spring training was to get the park early enough to get one of those last-row seats.

* = I'm pretty sure the Jays played the Phillies roughly 64 times during spring training. Aside from one game against Baltimore that I'll discuss later, my on-field memories of the trip are just one huge blur of Toronto-Philadelphia games. The Phillies played in nearby Clearwater so it made for easy scheduling, but still, I presumed the Phils were still upset over the 1993 Series and had challenged the Jays to a best-of-41 spring series to settle the matter once and for all. So, since my memory can't prove otherwise, I'll just say that every spring game we attended was against the Phillies.

We didn't book a hotel room in advance, figuring we could just find something down there given that the whole area is a spate of beachfront hotels. And sure enough, we found a little motel less than five minutes away from the stadium and just a road crossing away from the ocean. My dad negotiated a rate of $20 per week, which would've been a great bargain were it not for the fact that the rooms were, well, the kind of rooms that you would expect for under three dollars a day. The bathroom was tiny, the hot plate was a fire hazard, we were visited by more than a few bugs and the carpets, oh my lord, the carpets. If you stood at the front door wearing a fresh pair of white socks straight from the package, by the time you walked from the entrance to the bed, your socks would be darker than Batman's boots. It was that trip that began my lifelong love affair with moccasins. That motel room ruined my stocking-footed innocence, much in the way that the innocence of many a Dunedin high school kid was probably ruined in that very motel on prom night.

In our week in Dunedin, our time was filled with baseball, going to see the Blue Jays whenever they were playing at home. It worked out to be an even split of four home games and four away games, and on the four days without a game, Dad and I played some golf, drove around a few of greater Dunedin's malls and gorged ourselves at the trough of freedom that was a local Italian restaurant that offered two all-you-can-eat pasta nights per week. Glorious. Also glorious was how we targeted our drives in the van to coincide with the Fabulous Sports Babe's radio show. You might wonder why sports talk shows stick in my mind after all of these years, but keep in mind that back in London, the only radio sports talk we got was 95-percent hockey-centric. It was a rare breath of fresh air to hear people discussing baseball, or football or topics other than Felix Potvin's five-hole.

But really, back to baseball. That was the main event. Whether it was seeing Cal Ripken stand in the blazing heat for an hour signing autographs or seeing a shirtless Buck Martinez lounging in the fourth row behind home plate,* spring training was outstanding. But to a young ball fan, it was all about the autographs and the ease with which one could acquire said autographs. My autograph book picked up many a notable Blue Jay, none more notable than that of Domingo Cedeno. That's right, little-used utility infielder Domingo Cedeno. Not that he was big name or anything, but for his autograph itself. He didn't even pretend to go through the half-assed motions of signing anything resembling his name. Imagine two capital L's written in cursive and laid on their side; that was the Cedeno signature. It was more like he was monogramming one of Laverne's sweaters than giving a kid an autograph. It was just weak.

* = I'm half-Ukrainian and thus know a thing or do about body hair, but even I was desperately looking around for a tarp to throw over Buck. Maybe this is how he eventually got the job as Toronto's manager. "Well, I dunno Buck, I'm not sure if you're really quali...ARGH! Button your shirt up! For the love of god! Fine, fine, you can have the job, just keep that thicket under cover!"

So that was the Dunedin adventure in a nutshell. Also of note was the ride home, when my dad decided to drive the whole 23 hours straight and by the end, thought he was some sort of a hummingbird. I kept him awake through Cleveland by listening to the NFL draft on the radio and discussing each pick with the intensity of a young Mel Kiper Jr. Jr. It may have been the only time in recorded history that discussing NFL draft picks was used to prevent insomnia, rather than cause it.

Postscript: during a spring break trip to Florida in 2003, my pals and I tried to recreate a bit of the spring training vibe by driving to Lakeland for a Tigers/Dodgers matchup. The Tigers had just opened their lovely new spring facility and the mayor of Lakeland himself (and, oh yeah, Hall of Famer Al Kaline) were on hand, and our group all settled in for a nice afternoon of mercilessly heckling Bobby Higginson and getting into a subsequent arguing war with the woman in front of us who was, inexplicably, a huge Higgy booster. Unfortunately, our day was cut short by a downpour in the second inning that canceled the game. We were so upset that my buddy Trev loudly exclaimed that he was putting a curse on the Tigers, and sure enough, they went on to lose 119 games that season. Trevor, of course, went on to become world-renowned curser and voodoo master Papa Shango. You can acquire his services at the rate of $10 and/or one goat's heart per hour.