Sunday, June 27, 2010

Buzz Lightyear — a lot shorter in person

I thought my Crazy Toddler was fairly smart — until I watched him attempt to shove a chocolate-chip cookie down 2 1/2-foot-tall Buzz Lightyear's gullet.

Don't worry; it wasn't the real 2 1/2-foot-tall BL. The real space ranger resides in Boca Raton. This is a stuffed version that I picked up for CT. Much more humane.

But I digress. I sincerely hope CT realizes this isn't the real Buzz. Because if he does think the toy is B.L. in the flesh, then he's a sadistic monster. He's been tossing this squishy adventurer around the room, sitting on him, shoving a milk cup in its face and generally violating its personal space.

Perhaps more important, though, is the newly hatched intra-crib politics between Lightyear and the Thomas the Tank Engine stuffed toy that previously claimed the territory in the name of Sodor Island. Now CT's wooden prison is pretty crowded with him, BL, two blankets and a whole lot of imaginary tension.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review of a Debut

Apparently my son is a singles hitter already, at the tender age of 22 months.

Upon my arrival at the abode this afternoon, my wife said Crazy Toddler (CT) made contact with the toy baseball about four times this afternoon. As with any highly anticipated rookie's debut, it's time for a serious breakdown.

The pitches were: A) from my wife, who's no Vida Blue (no offense, if you're reading), and B) from about 1 foot away. Considering those factors, it's basically like he was hitting against Dontrelle Willis, circa anytime in the past few years.

I also don't want to underplay the home-field advantage he enjoyed. Being familiar with the field/living room, CT absolutely knew he couldn't put one over the uncommonly deep left-field wall/couch cushions (It's 4 feet to left, 6 1/2 to straightaway center and 3 to the short porch in right.). Plus, his struggles going to the opposite field have been well-documented. So, he played it safe and poked it through the considerable holes stemming from the fact that his Mommy was the only fielder. And she's no Brooks Robinson, if you know what I mean.

Then again, you can't forget the steroids factor, either. In fairness to my lad, my wife's performance-enhancing drug history is a huge question mark. No one really knows. But I know without a doubt that CT is clean, because he gives me a urine sample every day.

Overall, what his baseball debut lacked in Stephen Strasburg-infused buzz it made up for in Bad News Bears-drenched innocence.

Monday, June 21, 2010

If Barkley was right, world may end

If current events are any sort of indicator, I should probably rethink the whole "raising my kid on the principles of sports" technique.

I used to assume teamwork, integrity, hard work, dedication and grace were principles that could be fostered by playing and watching athletics. I may have been wrong.

1) A nation's soccer team is boycotting practice and possibly actual competition during the freaking World Cup. 

2) Golf fans are cheering wildly for a sex monger making his "comeback" — acting like somehow it would be the feel-good story of the year for this guy who was 100 percent responsible for his actions to win a golf tournament INSTEAD OF his many co-workers who have worked hard and not ruined their lives. I understand wanting to see Tiger emerge from the muck of a life gone wrong, but explain to me why I should be rooting for him more than all these other guys.

3) Basketball players at the highest level are rewarded time and again for falling down when no one touches them. So how am I supposed to explain to my son that this isn't lying, it's acting? Is there a difference?

4) Activities as benign and genteel as small-time high school girls basketball elicits fan ferocity that would make Christian Bale blush. Forgive me for not wanting to take my son to a community event where "30-year-old Former Varsity Athlete at a Tiny School" screams at players on the opposing team — we're talking about 15-year-old girls here — because he thinks they're traveling. Or fouling. Or faking injury to save a timeout (I actually saw this one with my one eyes.).

There's an endless supply of valid reasons to keep my son away from competitive sports — both on TV and in person. And don't think I won't feel bad when I turn a blind eye to all of them, idealistically hoping to steer my him away from the bad (the French soccer team, Tiger Woods, Vlade Divac, high school sports ridiculousness and the like) and toward the good (Nolan Ryan, tee ball, March Madness and such).

Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Father's Day gifts WAY outside the box

I'm guessing my Crazy Toddler isn't going to pick out a gift for me this Father's Day (if he did it would be Toy Story paraphernalia and Thomas the Train stuff). Still, a guy can dream. Here's my wish list, filled with sports-related goodness.

  • The Brett Favre Tough-As-Nails Waffle(r) Iron. This preseasoned utensil makes delicious, fluffy waffles with a hint of that great Wisconsin cheese taste.
  • Landon Donovan Hair Relaxer. When my hair gets a little too long wavy, I'd like to hit it with whatever makes the U.S.' "best" soccer player always seem -- even in the middle of matches -- like Rip Van Boring Athlete.
  • Impala, R.Bush Class. Though this high-powered car isn't the sexiest around, it comes with untold amounts of cash in the trunk, seats, glovebox ... really anywhere where cash will fit.
  • Manhood, by Calvin Klein/Kevin Garnett. The formula for this award-winning scent was simple: Pinpoint the aroma of Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic, then find the exact opposite odor. Bottle it.
  • C.C. Sabathia's Weight Enhancement Program. This sterling Yankees pitcher has put together a truly great eight-week plan based on five doughnuts for breakfast, three footlongs for lunch and a seared wildebeest haunch for dinner. That's the type of dieting I can get behind.

But I guess I'd settle for a garish necktie.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tools of engagement

In the famous words of Samuel L. Jackson, "Hold onto your butts."

My Crazy Toddler (CT) is finally getting to the point I've been waiting for since I initially found out my wife was pregnant: the point where he can communicate in ways I can actually understand and respond to.

It's awesome being a dad, but I don't think it really becomes over-the-top fun until the young'n in question starts doing expressive stuff like this:

— Hugging you without asking. There is no greater earthly feeling —this includes sports-based highs such as watching your lifelong favorite team win the World Series or seeing Kobe Bryant fall flat on his face — then coming in the door at 5 p.m. and finding a sweaty little human running toward you with arms extended and smile spread. It's a kick.

— Tickling you. Toddlers are the all-time worst ticklers. They basically just hit you over and over again, all the while expecting you to laugh heartily. That's what's so stinkin' funny about it.

— Choosing sleep. It's surreal — and quite pleasing — when you get to the point where you son or daughter can actually tell you it's time for bed. Sometimes CT will just lead me into his room and point at his crib. This, my friends, is a boy who has run out of options.

— Offering comfort to those who need it. It was awesome the first time CT offered me aid. I had accidentally slammed my thigh against the table, or something like that. Noticing my anguish, CT had the presence of mind to come over and gently touch the injured area. It still hurt like heck, but it was freakin' cute just the same.

There are many, many ways CT can now communicate with me. And while I've loved him at every stage of the past two years, I've never been more this excited to see him each and every morning.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The ice fan cometh

My friend Ross took umbrage with my short yet strong remarks against professional hockey, so below is a quick rundown of some of my major problems with the sport. Keep in mind that I actually respect these guys a lot, as they are tough, highly skilled competitors.

1) Much like soccer, hockey is a game marred by constant disappointment. Fans are constantly getting excited about their team advancing toward the net, then having their hopes dashed as something as small as a unsuspecting foot minutely throws the puck off course.

Then, when you turn your back for a half-second, you just might miss one of the few goals of the contest.

I don't have the attention span for this. It's probably why I don't enjoy hunting or fishing.

2) Goals seem plain lucky. It's weird to hear hockey announcers and analysts dole out praise to guys for shots that often seem to go like this: off the skate, through three players' legs, off another skate, off the boards, into the air, off a guy's grill, nothing but net.

I don't watch enough hockey to know this with any certainty, but I'd venture to guess that more than 50 percent of goals make it into the net in a totally different way than the shooter intended.

I can go to Vegas to see dumb luck.

3) It's difficult to pick out the good players. I'm sure longtime hockey enthusiasts can pick up on certain nuances, but for the average guy, how can you tell who the great players are — other than by hanging on ESPN analyst Barry Melrose's every word? Hockey is a fast-paced amalgam of flubbed passes, missteps, tripping, checking and blind-folded goals.

Every one of these guys is a great athlete with incredible stamina. The problem is that the average sports fans wants to know who the great ones are. They want to know when these megastars are lighting it up and when the underdog is playing above his head.

They don't want to watch a socialistic group of soldiers/players.

Oh yeah, and the names are difficult to pronounce. So THERE.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Every sport has its thorn

Soccer is getting a lot of flack right now, and for good reasons: the scoring is as rare as a well-done Cuba Gooding Jr. movie, the players feign injury at every turn and its nearly impossible to separate the good players from the lower-tier guys.

That said, every sport — even the "major" ones — has problems.


  • Streaking: No one wants to see that. Plus, no one wants an already excruciatingly long game prolonged even more as the security guards try to restore order.
  • Rituals: Is there another sport with as many completely unneeded yet time-consuming habits as baseball. This category includes but is not limited to furiously rubbing the ball, stepping out of the box, keeping a runner at first and coaches visiting the mound.


  • Overtime: Is there a more antiquated way of settling something than flipping a coin? The only thing I can think of is putting an apple on one captain's head while the other tries to shoot it off with an arrow. If the former gets hit, he receives possession of the ball and free health care. Let's work on this for the 2011 season, OK Roger Goodell?


  • The refs: The quality of officiating in the NBA has deteriorated to the level of BP cleanup engineers. Makeup calls used to be few and far between; these days they're a common occurrence. And the art of flopping has made marginal players such as Derek Fisher into NBA legends. Kudos, zebras. You're changing history, one blown call at a time.


  • Everything.

You can find flaws in any sport. Still, no blemish rivals soccer's No. 1 pimple: the insanity of shootouts to decide important matches. It's ridiculous to watch grown men decide crucial athletic events based sheerly on guessing whether they should dive to the right or dive to the left to defend a given kick.

Rolling dice would be just as fair.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

'From Here to Paternity: The Shawn Kemp Story'

"From Here to Paternity: The Shawn Kemp Story" — just one of many sports movies that never should be made.

Here are nine more:

9) "Smoak Floats" — A Texas Rangers phenom ponders the meaning of life atop a life raft in the middle of the ocean after the cruise ship he was vacationing on sinks.

8) "The Crying Game II" — It's about the Clippers. No explanation needed.

7) "Paid in Manhattan" — Rated R for extreme horror to anyone outside New York, this suspense film delves into the inner demons of a group of players who sold their souls and self-respect for, well, money. Eddie Murphy eagerly plays the lead.

6) "Surviving the Maim" — A harrowing journey of one NBA basketball player's seven-game series against Derek Fisher, Ron Artest and the rest of those tricky Lakers.

5)  "The Sum of all Rears" — Four successful professional athletes with ample posteriors — C.C. Sabathia, Prince Fielder, Maurice Jones-Drew and Glen "Big Baby" Davis — crusade against the cruel jokes that have haunted them their entire lives.

4) "Blazing Paddles" — An elite pickle-ball duo strikes back against rampant steroid use and blood doping within their beloved sport, fighting their way to a tense international championship game against a pair of intriguing newcomers, played by Barry Bonds and Floyd Landis.

3) "Never Ben Kissed" — Disgraced NFL quarterback Ben Roethlisberger leaves behind his penchant for partying — joining an exclusive group of monks. Jesse James makes his acting debut as the troubled signal-caller seeking answers in a tumultuous world.

2) "Not in a League of Their Own" — This raucous romp follows the hilarious happenings of the Notre Dame as they transition from distinguished lone wolf to run-of-the-mill Big 10 pup. (At least one good thing will come from conference realignment.)

1) "LeBron With the Wind" — Watch King James go from revered NBA superstar to revered Euroleague superstar as he decides to campaign to become King of England. Sadly, no one tells him it's not an elected position. Even so, he inquires.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

True thespianism lives — in NBA players, my son

The NBA is the league of many faces.

Not unlike my Toddler Son (TS), who makes up for lack of discernible words with his demonstrative demeanor, professional basketball players are becoming more and more concerned with their reactions than actually playing the freaking game. 

Turn on an NBA Finals game this week to see what I mean. Kevin Garnett snarling like a rottweiler whose tail has been stomped on. Kobe Bryant doing that pained look that he must practice in the mirror for hours. For a guy with absolutely no personality to feign true emotion like that is true thespianism. I guess there's a reason he plays in L.A.

Still, TS can rival these guys' expressiveness any day of the week. His patented "double hammer" move is the envy professional wrestlers everywhere. It's a simple move at its core: 
1) Get good and ticked off.
2) Arch lower back while extending both fists above cranium.
3) Approach soft inanimate object, such as couch or ottoman.
4) Lambast aforementioned object with downward blows.
5) Amid ruckus, commence guttural screaming.
6) Repeat as needed.

My son is good, but Rasheed Wallace might just be better. He routinely employs the "This foul being called is worse than my mother being killed in a car accident" tactic  — a move once popular in Romanian gymnastics. If he could learn to squirt out some actual tears on command, he could easily land a role in the hit cable TV series "The Closer."

Still, the king of the ridiculous reaction is Derek Fisher. It's not even a contest. If you asked Fisher, I think he'd tell you he's never committed a foul in his life. He knows it's untrue, but he'd still say it.

Fisher's act is more nuanced than most, though. He has perfected the "light as a feather, stiff as a board" maneuver, in which he's called for a blatant foul, then he simply stands still — ball on his hip — for what feels like 10 minutes while he stares off into nothingness. It's brilliant, as well as the most annoying thing the hard-core sports fan's eye has ever beheld.

My son is not yet 2 years old. What is Fisher's excuse?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Creating backdrop, one Seinfeld episode at a time

If you've ever written a finals paper amid back-back-back TBS showings of "An American President," "Back to the Future" and "Sleepless in Seattle," you are familiar with Comfort Views.

A CV is comfortable. It's the show or movie you put on when you're too busy to watch intently but unwilling to let a perfectly good television sit around unused. Whether it's to allay the awkward silence between you and your toddler as he plays with trains or distract you from the malaise of a pending essay test, the CV is always there for you.

Well-made, highly entertaining programs can be great CVs. But so can middling, cliche fare. CV status is in the eye of the beholder — not unlike a newborn baby's cuteness ("He sure does have, um, eyes!) and Miley Cyrus' talent.

Here's a short list of some of my favorite CVs (remember, quality doesn't matter):


  • "Giant" — This classic was the incomparable James Dean's final offering, but more importantly to the CV checklist, it moves more slowly than a 103-year-old hip replacee at a break-dancing competition.
  • "A Few Good Men" — The dry humor in this underrated drama will keep you smiling throughout whatever you're trying to concentrate on, yet it won't make your head snap up in shock.
  • "Music and Lyrics" — I guess I have to add this one, only because it just came on TBS a few seconds ago as I continue to struggle this through post. This is what I get for writing past midnight.
  • "Top Gun" — This is a great CV for a few reasons: 1) General awesomeness. 2) I know every line, so there are no surprises. 3) The various appearances of Sundown — played by Clarence Gilyard Jr. of "Walker Texas Ranger" uh, er, fame — make for built-in work breaks. ("Mav, you could have had him!")
  • "Pretty Woman" — My man card just spontaneously combusted. Don't worry, though; my tears put the fire out, so we're good.


  • "The King of Queens" — Sit back and allow the angry musings of Jerry Stiller to stir your creative juices.
  • "ESPN News" — Sometimes nonfiction is the best medicine. The CV construct gives "boring" new life; somewhere, the creators of "Nova" are smiling.
  • "Seinfeld" — Don't be scared off by the hilarious nature of this masterpiece. The everyday conversational script creatives a nice backdrop to, well, everyday stuff. Plus, Kramer's hair is captivating, so that's a plus.
  • "The Nanny" — I honestly don't know how this works as a CV, but it does. At least for me. Fran Drescher's voice could and should be used as a precursor to waterboarding. Still, there's something pleasant about the unequivocal certainty that whatever project you're embroiled in isn't distracting you from anything important.
  • Local news — I would never, ever recommend local TV news broadcasts to anyone other than nasty dictators, death-row inmates and Colin Cowherd — except when a CV is needed. If you can get past the conjured-up reports, spray-on hair and syrupy banter, you can employ local news the same way elevators utilize muzak.

Comfort Views — the muzak of our lives.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Childhood, 27, dies peacefully

With the distribution of a single press release from the Seattle Mariners, the Childhood of Jacob Jeremiah Alger, 27, died Wednesday at his Idaho home.

The Childhood — affectionately well-known for its glut of sports memorabilia, wasted hours on a basketball court and affinity for smart-alec comments — is survived by boxes and boxes of useless rectangles of cardboard; a brutally short attention span; and a disdain for many foods that most adults enjoy.

The Childhood was born in 1982 and truly flourished when the world of athletics entered its life — beginning with Montana to Taylor in the Super Bowl's waning moments. But perhaps nothing spearheaded its youthful vigor as much as a brilliant young center fielder named Ken Griffey Jr. This lefthanded, smooth-fielding power hitter captured the Childhood's attention with his demeanor, excellence and penchant for dramatic performances.

Wednesday, after 22 seasons, Junior retired from Major League Baseball. The impact was too much for the Childhood's heart to bear.

Some of the childhood's many acquaintances were recognized at a joyous celebration Thursday, including Bubbly Yum, pogs, Trapper Keeper, L.A. Gear shoes, merciless mockery from mean-spirited school mates, turnovers, fruit roll-ups, G.I. Joes, sports almanacs and summers with nothing but time to spare.

The Childhood was preceded in death by its best friend, the Option of Selfishness.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The boys of bummer

My Crazy Son could go either way.

The good way to go — the way that will save me heaps of bail money over the next 30 years —is to channel that intensity into something positive. Hopefully the rampant screams, kicks, throws and grunts that are flung my way each and every day will turn into gritty determination on the hardwoord, devoted work in business and dogged efforts as a dad.

Think Nolan Ryan. Now there's a guy who had strong ethics but also would have put his grandmother in the dirt if she had crowded the plate. Ask Robin Ventura, who was the impetus for the phrase "nuggie punch" entering the American sports fan lexicon.

The other way for CS to go — the way that leave me reaching for the Maalox — is the way of the sluggard. We all know this dude. He's lazy in everything except drinking, watching porn and trashing people. He makes fun of guys who he was more popular than in high school — before he gained 40 pounds of fat and 250 pounds of despondence. He mocks family guys in public, then wrings out his tear-soaked sheets every morning.

Think David Wells — or, for that matter, the guy who's watching one of the "Saw" movies with his 12-year-old son right  as we speak.

CS could go either way. Too bad I can't keep him at 21 months forever.