I feel like writing, so will invent topics by musing on this hilarious world of ours and making jokes to keep me sane. And since I'm on a work/pleasure trip to Buffalo tomorrow and intend to have too much fun with the pleasure portion of my visit - i.e. anime porn, if you're interested - I won't be available much, and today it must be.
Bills training camp started, so a huzzah and merry almost football to you and yours. Professional catch and run ball is pretty great, except when it actually starts and we find ourselves enveloped again in an existential crisis of suck.
BUT THIS COULD BE THE YEAR. So they tell me; "they" being pretty much anyone willing to forget the past and start fresh, though for them it happens every year and EJ Manuel, by implication, sits in the same storied and shit-upon position as Trent and Fitz and JP and Robbie J and Bledsoe and even Levi Brown for a quick minute which tells you all you need to know about what it takes to be a Buffalo quarterback and ride the wave of foolish optimism that is being a fan of a Bills team with the shittiest wagons making the shittiest circle.
Related: when the Bills circle their wagons, rumor has it, a parallel dimension of this world is invaded by Cybermen and it's all really terrible until Rose Tyler appears and remains smoking hot as she saves the motherfucking day.
Whatever, have at the hope if you want to. It's sports. Have fun. EJ, jokes aside, is certainly less saddled with the cursed history of Buffalo football than the rest of us, so maybe he'll be fine. He's looked seriously good in these first few days of camp, if Buffalo sports writers are to be believed (they're not), but the stark contrast of his game when set against Kevin Kolb may be distorting everyone's perspective.
Calm down, and as mentioned, supra, Go Bills.
So we got drunk at a Mets game last week. They lost. We recorded banter.
Honestly, we talk about enough bullshit with no real direction that I should probably give you some sort of road map but absolutely have no desire to be of such assistance. You'll love it all the same.
Appearances from, as usual, the Barrister
and the Apologist
, and guest spots from our friend who is a Red Sox fan and my buddy JB who split sometime in the 7th inning. Musical interludes from Jefferson Airplane, The Beastie Boys, Ozomatli, Walk the Moon and Radiohead.
Oh, and we talk about my homie Rabbi Darkside
(from Buffalo, by way of Brooklyn) who just came out with an album. Order that shit on iTunes now!
For the podcast, bitches, download here
(choices!), hit the iTunes button below, or the stream from the player. Booyah.
Checking out Jeremy White's twitter feed. Considering just quitting.
What a busy week it has been at DGWU Sports! Between news of the NHL Lockout and our battles with the various personalities at WGR for refusing, as is their custom, to engage with viewpoints other than (a) their own, or (b) those of the mouthbreathers who call into WGR and make it their mission to express their vehement disdain for everything in the world, there was a LOT to discuss when we gathered Wednesday night. More shots were fired and kindling put onto the world of Buffalo sports media so that we can continue to watch it burn. Heh. Sports.
Oh, and there are those Buffalo Bills, too, which is actually where we started in segment one as we recapped the shit show that was Sunday with the Deeg. Bills @ Cardinals was by no means an enjoyable time, but recapping the fun times we had and the trainwreck of a game ended up being pretty fun/depressing/rage-inducing.
In segment two we welcomed Colin Bruckel, one of the founders of TheHosers.com
, a site we have linked to for a while and which provides stellar insight about the legal issues surrounding professional hockey and, in particular, the CBA. Colin's assessment of the current CBA negotiations was as interesting and well-presented as any I've heard, and it is an understatement to say that we were lucky to have him on. I would note, however, that since our discussion took place before the NHLPA presented its own offers to the league (and before Bettman rejected them immediately), you'll want to keep an eye on his site for more hot legal takes. Or you could continue being ignorant and just keep listening to the superficialities of sports talk radio.
Segment three brings it back to our wheelhouse of inappropriateness and ill-conceived sports takes as we talk the USMNT's win on Tuesday, the NBA's new policy restricting pre-game celebrations, Apologist's suicidal ideations following the Orioles' elimination from the playoffs, and our predictions for the Bills/Titans game this weekend. I must add that we had intended to talk more about (read: make fun of) Shawne Merriman's return to Buffalo, but had to toss that to the back burner so we'd have time to talk about the more pressing issues of gloating about our intellectual superiority over talk radio hosts. It's a burden, really. In any event, I'm hopeful that Merriman's second tenure in the 716 will give us plenty of opportunities to point and laugh.
Musical interludes this week are provided by Broken Bells, Gov't Mule & REO Speedwagon, as well as - of course - The Jambrones.
and stream below, or check out our Libsyn
page or iTunes button below where you can get all of our archived podcasts and subscribe for future hot, aural takes.
Are you fucking serious?
Lost in the haze of last night's epic USMNT win at the Azteca was the circus, clown shoes shenanigans of Dusty Baker, as the Reds manager chose gamesmanship over common sense, and gave Mets fans another reason to hate his stupid, fat face.
Up 1-0 in the second inning against my lowly Mets, Baker successfully prodded the umpire to instruct RA Dickey to remove two bracelets from his wrist. Two bracelets that had been given to him by his daughters before he climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro last winter, and which he has worn in every one of his magical starts this season - not to mention his All Star Game innings earlier this summer. Dickey complied - how couldn't he - later conceding that, well, rules are rules. Dickey would go on to give up three homers and the Mets lost 6-1.
Advantage DB, I guess.
One of the many things I missed while I was out.
Cue the milquetoast opener:
Well gosh darnit, fans of the Deeg, I know you've been eagerly awaiting content from the Kings of Fresh Takes and like the degenerates we are, we've opted to tend to our real world lives instead of bloviating about the latest in bread and circus sports entertainment. Why the lull? Well, personally, my answer to that question has three parts: (1) it's July and I've been getting viciously hamzoed more often than I should admit (hooray anonymous internet monikers!!); (2) I've been traveling a lot over the past 10 days, aforementionedly (not a word?) drunk for 70% of it (not true... not not true either), and I've simply been too drunk and/or hungover and/or distracted to sit down for a little chat; and (3) the only bright spots in my sports world are a surging team in a still ignored league (for now) and an utterly unproven team in the best league in America (for now). Forgive me if I don't jump for joy at the prospect of dwelling on shit that makes me contemplate a swift union between my fist and Fred Wilpon's balls.
But more on those Mets in a few. I can't lead of this trainwreck with that much heartache.
Can't you tell this is going to be FUN??? I'm bored and drunk on a train and you all get the fruits of my labor!
Wait... we need music.
A day removed from taking LeBron to task for being a gigantic shit burger (despite also being an incredible player), it seems fitting that I'd get to stay up for a late, west coast Mets game and watch the antithesis of that on the mound. In a league with no cap, there's this guy who makes $3.9 million a year - less than Derek "Tossed Salad Roy" and Ville "The Finnish Rusty Trombone" Leino - and who is, inexplicably, right now, the best at what he does. He's so dominant that hitters laugh when they swing at his stuff. Laughing, somehow, an appropriate response because the only other logical reaction would be a temper tantrum. And no one really wants that.
I kind of fell out of love with baseball during the steroids era, as many did, and when I got brought back in to watch my family rejoice at the 2004 Red Sox win, only to find some of its heroes - Curt Schilling, for example - to be humongous dicks, I grew wary again. Sure, the Mets have been an exception, but even that has been a marriage of convenience in a sense, offset by their awful play, sometimes tough to take fan base and felonious ownership.
I was tempted to title this post "The Hero Baseball Needed?" but thought against it because it probably would have shown my ignorance to many great stars across the league - ones who perform at a high level while also being eminently likeable. Dickey, though, is certainly the hero I needed in baseball. I said it earlier this season, and it's only becoming more true - this Mets team has got me going all in.
And Robert Allen Dickey is reason #1.
He's 12-1, his ERA is 2.15, he averages just under 9 strikeouts a game, and four years ago, few of us had ever heard of him.
Unlike some stars who get pulled into the hype machine of the Network, almost forcing us to despise the guy at the center of it all out of principle, there's nothing to not like about what we're getting out of R.A. He's, comparably, vastly underpaid, he's well-liked by anyone and everyone, and he licensed his image to be on one of the best tshirts ever made.
So, if you're on the fence about baseball and need a reason to watch and have, apparently, been living under a rock during his recent dominance, start watching the Mets every five games and see the best hitters in the game get straight up befuddled at what this 37 year old knuckler does.
Last Sunday I was lying on my couch, generally incapacitated from the type of Sunday hangover that comes but a few times a year ... or whenever your girlfriend leaves town for a weekend to visit family and you suddenly become indifferent to the amount of vodka you’re consuming during pre-gaming. My credit card was at the bar so my attempts to order pizza had failed, and my car was still at a bar from Friday so until after dinner I was stranded in the house. Luckily the Red Sox game was on, so I stared at it in the way negligent parents will throw on a Pixar movie to keep their kids quiet and distracted for a couple hours. From the start, something was different. On his first at-bat Youkilis got a standing ovation, which the TBS broadcast team referred to as “bizarre,” but I found completely logical in the context of trade talks heating up and Will Middlebrooks’ emergence at third base, and the resulting possibility that any game could be Youk’s last in a Sox uniform.
That David Wells passes for a television broadcaster in today’s pathetic media landscape is bizarre. The crowd reactions on Sunday were not. But I digress.
After a couple more standing ovations and a triple that could easily have been scored an error, Bobby Valentine lifted the former all-star to give him a chance to enter the dugout with all the Fenway cheers for himself, punctuated with a couple of curtain calls for good measure. While the broadcasters once again could muster nothing more than confusion, any reasonable fan could discern that Youk either had been traded or was about to be traded, but was nevertheless done in Boston. I knew I was supposed to feel something for a player that had been one of the best hitters in the league for so many consecutive years; certainly I knew my friends that rooted for the Yankees were happy to see him go after I spent years hearing how much they hated his “stupid face” in the way I hate Teixieira’s stupid horseface. But really all I could muster as he sank into the dugout and disappeared down the tunnel was one thought: It’s over already?
Don’t get me wrong, I loved his intensity, I loved his hustle and believe me, when you cheer for someone nicknamed the “Greek God of Walks,” you gain a certain affinity for watching four pitches land outside the strike zone. Sure there were injuries, yet he was dependable despite them in a way, where you knew if he was in the lineup, you would be getting his best. Maybe he was cursed by the era he played for the Sox, arriving just as the fan base started expecting a dynasty, just as anything short of a World Series championship became a massive disappointment for a city that was already beyond spoiled. He was clutch in his own way, coming alive in the final three games of the 2007 ALCS, hitting a bomb off CC Sabathia in game five, but still, those three games are remembered by me for JD Drew’s only big hit as a Red Sox and the Indians’ collapse. Sure, he played seventy-some games in 2004 but I think few fans would think of him as a member of that team. Which again leads to my bewilderment at how fast the time went.
In the movie High Fidelity
, John Cusack’s character "Rob" is left by his long time girlfriend for another man. After a period of soul searching they get back together and while there is no longer that excitement, that crazy head-over-heels feeling, he describes things as “just…good.” In the end, for Rob, that was enough.
To me that was Youkilis. He never did anything that left me in awe, he never made me feel like the team couldn’t survive without him, but he got the hits, sparked the clubhouse, and - mercifully - never drove me to such frustration that I wanted to drive my car over a cliff. He was just…good. There’s nothing wrong with good. I loved Manny Ramirez, for instance, as he would do things that I still think about to this day. But I can also picture him having two errors in one inning of Game One of the 2004 World Series, leading me to unleash a torrent of obscenities from my mouth that gets me angry typing this eight years later. Now that - that’s love, with its highs and its lows. Youk, on the other hand, was dependable. Never flashy and never had moments that endeared me to him in that same, intense way, but I’ll always be thankful that he was on my team during that time. That - that’s comfort, complacency. But after being in that place with crazy highest-highs and lowest-lows love, one can really appreciate comfort and complacency. One can really appreciate just…good.
In a way, maybe he got screwed by 2004. If Dave Roberts gets tagged out in Game Four, the Yankees complete the sweep and, assuming the Red Sox get it done in 2007 as they did, Youk is remembered as one of the heroes of the organization, the guy with the clubhouse intensity that pushed the team over the Indians to reverse the curse after 89 years.
Instead you’ll have fans unable to remember his name 20 years from now, while at the same time will roll off “Mark Bellhorn” without difficulty. That sucks for him. And it's what sucks about feeling that feeling I had on Sunday about the time passing too quickly. I still wanted him to be able to do more, to get another ring, to hit that walk-off in the playoffs. To have that twilight, legacy-cementing moment that would ensure he wouldn’t be forgotten. Instead he’s in a White Sox uniform and now I’m left to define his career around one World Series and a myriad of relative disappointment, especially 2008 and 2011, years when those around him should have put the finishing touches on a dynasty and instead faltered against teams that never approached them in terms of talent.
Is that unfair to Youk? Of course it is. Fans, especially those who root for Buffalo teams, should appreciate great talent even when it comes on a team that doesn’t win it all.
Fair or not, watching him walk off the field on Sunday left me wishing, for a moment, that there was more time for Youk. There's no question he deserved it, but eventually time decided for him, assisted by a young third baseman hitting the ball all over the place and demanding a spot on the field, just like he did eight short years ago. And even if I never loved this player with the kind of passion - both highs and lows - with which I have loved the Red Sox greats of the past decade, part of me wanted Youk to have a chance to bring me there. A chance to prove that "just... good" can sometimes be more than enough.Follow me on Twitter @MattyRenn
This is going to be a fun night.
I can't claim to have anything major to say these days. I'm not inclined to get too worked up about the endless conversations about what blogging means and what it means in the Buffalo sports universe in particular. Shit, most of what I've written here in the past few months is far from relevant to the Buffalo sports scene, what with my general disdain for speculating about drafts and free agents and teams that are a few months away from playing games that count. By the time the Sabres season comes around, I'll have a baby boy to dote on and, I imagine, far less time to dwell on these bizarre loves of mine. So, needless to say, I'm having my fun now.
And that fun, right now, is New York Mets baseball.
Last night, the DGWU Sports crew hit Citi Field for game two in this series against the Orioles. Game one, if you happened to be under a rock yesterday, was RA Dickey's second straight one-hitter. The former Buffalo Bison is pitching as good as anybody in the league right now, and better than the team's "ace," Johan Santana. As for Johan, he followed suit with a gem of his own last night, leading the Mets to their second straight shutout against Baltimore. Santana was in complete control through his six innings last night, and it was good to see following two less-than-inspiring outings which, in turn, followed his epic no hitter on June 1st
The Deeg had an absurdly fun time last night as we were thoroughly over-served and unsurprisingly giddy to have a chance to hang out again. Yachtsman stepped on a homeless guy on the subway, Scizz threatened the same guy with a round of old-timey boxing, and Apologist got over the loss of his Orioles by watching Lebron "Pool Boy" James pull off some heroics of his own. And me? I pretended to not know any of those clowns while barely containing my laughter.
We're really good at this.
Needless to say, live-blogging tonight seems to be an appropriate follow-up to those shenanigans since I'm probably still drunk and since these live blogs usually end up being an excuse for me to find infantile pictures on the internet and giggle like a moron.
Again, we're good at this.
Click through "read more" for the fantastic voyage.
I believe that bear was part of Jeter's gift basket.
If I'm being honest, my feelings on the Subway Series typically fall on the "hate it" side of the fence. A twice annual reminder of why my team isn't as good as their team is usually not my idea of fun, and even those seasons where the Mets have come out victorious against their cross-town rivals, it's usually set against the overaching reality that the Yankees have a shot at playoffs and beyond, and the Mets just don't. Like in 2008, when the Mets won the season series 4-2, including a sweep at Yankee Stadium...and the Mets were eliminated from wild card contention on the last day of the season by the Marlins. Again. Or 2004, when they swept at Shea and won the series, only to go 71-91 that year.
Living in New York, the Mets are the team you root for if you don't really mind a dark cloud over your head. They're who you root for if sports don't have to be easy for you, if you want to feel a sense of fulfillment by earning success through years of despair. That is, if you think your being a fan has anything to do with anything, which - as it happens - I narcissistically do. Being a Met fan means that, even when you win, you gotta be ready to hear it from the Yankee fans in the room when they remind you of their many titles and how Jeter is God and how they don't even like A-Rod, as if that lends them more credibility (it does).
This season smells a little different, though. The teams step up the Subway Series in remarkably similar circumstances - the Yankees in third place in the AL East, a half game back of the surprising Orioles; the Mets in third, back a game and a half from the surprising Nationals. They each also sit in divisions with powerhouse teams in last place, further complicating their own prospects at an eventual postseason berth with the chance that the Red Sox and Phillies could suddenly remember how to play baseball again.
And, lest I forget, they each have teams owned by rich men who made money by swindling middle-class investors.
What's that? Only the Mets are owned by dirty crooks? Oh. Bummer.
/cries in corner over Wilpon crimes
/considers argument that all sports team owners are crooks who swindle the middle-class
Despite the similarities of circumstances, the Yankees and Mets of 2012 are still very different teams. The Yankees are squeaking by despite fielding a team of proven winners and more than their fair share of perennial All Stars, while the Mets are exceeding expectations with a team of nobodies and top guys on the DL, leaving a roster seemingly held together with duct tape, naive ambition and the magical, high-pitched tone of Terry Collins' voice. Add in a guy coming off the franchise's first no-hitter, and suddenly this series doesn't just seem like an opportunity to show up the big brother club from the Bronx, but a chance for the Mets to establish themselves - in the context of a very strong season - as the NYC team to watch this summer.
No matter what happens this weekend, I'm optimistic about the Mets this season, insofar as I had previously expected to give up on them in May and now actually think there will be meaningful games come August and September. But, if I have to walk into work on Monday to find a gaggle of cocky Yankee fans gloating about beating up on the Mets this weekend, things may get violent. You may disagree, but I don't think I'd do well in Manhattan Central Booking or Rikers Island ... so, if only for that, Let's Go Mets!
I'm the cute one on the left.
Maybe in the end, it won't matter much - as most Inter-League play most certainly does not - since the Yankee fans will still have those rings to point to with a disgusting level of arrogance and hair grease, and since the Yankees themselves will likely remain the darling of the NYC sports world until the Mets make an actual run at World Series again (and that, despite my optimism, is a long way off). But, for these few days, just maybe the Amazins can put together some solid wins and shut the knuckle-dragging front-runners up for a little while. In a City that seems to live and breathe baseball for the summer months, and is overflowing with Yankee fans falling over each other to pat themselves on the back for the good sense at following one the most successful teams in all of sports, that's certainly a nice thought.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the New York Yankees. Deep down, in our heart of hearts, I think we all do. Whether you’re a true fan or an eternal enemy, part of you doesn’t totally commit one way or the other.
For people that hate the Yankees, part of you loves them (or at least loves hating them). You want to see them succeed, if only so that you can laugh at them when they fall from grace. Face it, if the Yankees weren’t any good, who would really care? It’s only when they’re making their 16th playoff trip in 17 years that we all have enough fuel to hate them properly. And the season is made better for everyone when the Yankees are there to be hated in all their successful glory.
And if they don’t succeed (a.k.a. anything less than a World Series trophy)? Well, then fans of the Yankees will turn their love to hate in a heartbeat. Their players & owners have built a level of expectation that’s only met by the most unrealistic of EPL clubs. Only in New York, it’s reasonable to expect it. When your team spends three-quarters of a billion dollars in a single off-season, you expect to see some return on that investment.
For me, my hatred of the Yankees only goes so deep. As an Oriole fan, obviously there are nights when I curse every last one of them (and you too, Jeffrey-fucking-Maier
). But as I’ve said before, I watch sports for entertainment and inspiration. And few teams have been more entertaining in my lifetime, for better or worse, than the New York Yankees.
Love them or hate them, there’s a certain level of respect you have to maintain for the Bronx Bombers. For the all-time greats who wore the uniform, their greatness didn’t appear out of thin air. They seized it. And one Yankee proved again this week why he's among them. I’m speaking, of course, about the man who passed Trevor Hoffman for the most games saved in a career with 602: Mariano Rivera.
There have been many up’s & down’s for baseball over the last decade. But one thing that has been as consistent as anything in the sport is this: If you’re the away team playing baseball in the Bronx and you hear “Enter Sandman” come over the loud speakers… you’re probably not winning today.
(Admit it. Even the most rabid Yankee-hater knows that Mo's entrance is one of the badass moments in baseball.)
For 16 years, the man known as the Hammer of God has been overpowering some of the best hitters in the game. Plenty of pitchers, from starters to relievers, have had careers build up and fall apart in the same time it’s taken him to amass one of the most consistent and historic careers in the sport’s long history.
While Mo got a few opportunities as a starter in ’95, his journey truly began in 1996, when the Yankees decided to make him their set-up man to then-closer, John Wetteland. With that combination in place, the Yankees were 70-3 when leading after 6 innings and Rivera finished 3rd in the Cy Young vote. (Oh, and Yankees won the World Series... and three of the next four... damnit.)
From that season on, he has been as dominant as any single player in sports. In over 1,200 innings, he’s only given up 65 home runs while striking out 1,108. In his 16-year career, he holds an ERA and WHIP (for my money, still the only pitching stats that matter … sorry sabermetricians) of 2.22 and 0.999. And when he enters the postseason, it doesn't get better. It gets absurd. In 139 innings of playoff baseball, Mo has a 0.71 ERA, a WHIP of 0.766, 109 strikeouts, and has given up only 2 (TWO!) home runs. This has all lead to a trophy case that holds 12 All-Star appearances, 5 World Series rings and a World Series MVP trophy.
And of course, he’s done all of this with just one pitch.
Think of the closers who have come and gone in the 16 years that Mo has been dominating with one cut-fastball. Just in the last few seasons, I can think of four off the top of my head that have risen quickly and flamed out just as fast. Jonathan Papelbon was supposed to be the next Mariano Rivera. Now he’s part of a bullpen that’s gagging away the Sawx’s postseason hopes. Joel Nathan has been dominant during the regular season for years, but injuries and lackluster postseason success leaves him well below Mo’s otherworldly level. Brian Wilson and Brad Lidge both had perfect postseasons in their respective World Series-winning years. And both men quickly wound up on the DL the following season.
Oh and did I mention during these last few seasons, Mo has been right there with all of them among the league-leaders in saves during the regular season? Did I also mention he’s 41-years-old? Imagine someone slightly younger than your father closing playoff games at Yankee Stadium. That’s Mariano Rivera.
Every year since 2004, the year ‘the curse’ was broken, sports writers have been leaping on any bad stretch in a season of Mo’s so they can be the first to declare his downfall. But since that year, in 30 postseason innings, he’s given up two earned runs. Two. Name another closer who can hang with that and I’ll buy you a house in the Bahamas.
Now I know what some of you are thinking. And yes, part of the reason Mariano has these unbelievable numbers is because he plays for the Yankees. No other closer in baseball has had as many opportunities as he has to reach these levels of greatness.
But the reason I find this argument to be a bit hollow is because it’s also an argument for calling him one of the greatest pitchers ever. Yankee Stadium, old and new, is a bandbox. Their fans are as callous and fickle as it gets. The pressure to win never leaves for one moment. The expectations are higher than for any other team in any other American sport. (I’ll give a slight nod to European soccer fans. Those dudes are crazy.) And Mariano has met and exceeded those expectations time after time after time. Yes, he has gotten many chances to be great because he plays for New York, but he has capitalized on those opportunities like no player before him.
Not to mention that a big part of the reason the Yankees have been so successful over the last 15 years is because they’ve had the Sandman. How much comfort has the team taken from knowing that Mariano is waiting in the bullpen? How many managers besides Torre & Girardi have had the luxury of knowing as long as they can hold a lead for 8 innings, the 9th one will probably be a matter of routine? And think for a moment about how much the Yankees have struggled to develop the rest of the bullpen. Of all the needs the team has had over the years (as much as a team that's missed the playoffs once in 17 years has needs), the one area GM Brian Cashman has struggled to maintain most is the relief corp in front of Rivera. To be fair, every team struggles in that department, but that’s exactly my point. Year after year, game after game, the only position the Yankees haven’t had to worry about in the last 15 seasons is the one many teams start from scratch on every year: their closer.
Look, I know plenty of people reading this are saying to themselves, “Dear Lord, Aps, stop jerking off Yankee fans and give me a reason to care.” And that’s fair. It’s hard for most Yankee-haters to allow themselves to root for or respect anyone in pinstripes. I don’t expect many of you to climb on board this Mariano love train. But I do believe greatness should be recognized and appreciated. A player of Mariano’s caliber doesn’t come along very often. And when they do, only those who are fooling themselves can believe that what they’re witnessing is anything less than incredible.
So if you must hate, go ahead and hate. But at the very least admit that seeing one man with one pitch playing for one team for sixteen seasons and amassing a career such as this is a special thing.
You don’t have to like it. But you’re only cheating yourself to ignore it.