Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Taking my talents to this blog post

I'm officially taking my talents to ... this blog post.

I realize that's already a fairly played-out cliche, less than two months after LeBron James originated it. Now I hear variations of this line — from his announcement to sign with the NBA's Miami Heat — all the time. "I'm taking my talents to the living room, with a Dr. Pepper in hand." "I'm taking my cooking talents to the church potluck." "I'm taking my pick-up basketball talents to a junior-high 'B' team."

This isn't the first time a sports saying has taken the U.S. by storm. Here are some of the best:

—— "Bo Knows." Back when Bo Jackson was the absolute man — a hulking, blazing-fast running back/center fielder — he also was a white-hot pitchman. And his "Bo Knows (fill in the blank)" ad campaign was huge.

In the early '90s, I heard enough variations of this saying to last a lifetime. Luckily Bo doesn't seem to know fame in 2010.

—— "I'm a man! I'm 40!" Some think Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy was admirably defending his player. Others say it was pure arrogance coming to the forefront.

But everyone agrees it was hilarious. The fact that Gundy raged on a reporter regarding a story about one of his quarterbacks isn't funny by itself. It's the way he said it that stands out — like a hungry man yelling at a particularly arrogant slab of steak that he can't afford.

Three years later, you can buy T-shirts, buttons and mugs making light of the rampage (http://shop.cafepress.com/i%27m-a-man-i%27m-40). And I'll buy one if I want to — because I'm a man! I'm 28!

—— "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee." Muhammad Ali was part man, part quip machine. This saying in particular has developed a solid foothold in U.S. culture.

Even Niles from the TV show "Frasier" once uttered a version of this phrase — albeit far, far over my head. When this spindly twirp character pays you homage, you know you've hit it big. Well played, Ali.

—— "They ARE who we THOUGHT they were!!!!!" Arizona Cardinals head coach Dennis Green's tirade in 2006 is legendary. After outplaying the Chicago Bears in virtually every way, yet somehow losing, DG went nuts, understandably.

Then the nation went nuts with the line, uttering it in reference to everything from mothers-in-law to smug professors. It's a fun line nonetheless.

By the way, this blog is what you thought it was. I'm really sorry.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fantasy Parenting League

Fantasy sports leagues — most notably of the football variety — are wildly popular as is, but I think there's room to broaden the scope.

For instance, a Fantasy Parenting League in which we draft and track the success of our children. It would take some doing, but it could be a great way to get apathetic adults more invested in children's progress as humans. Imagine how much more they'd be willing to look up from their magazine and actually engage in a kid's development if a $150 pot and a year's worth of bragging rights at the local Gymboree were on the line.

Now to the details.

First, it would have to be a straight-up, round-by-round "snake" draft. An auction setup wouldn't work; there's something about bidding on kids that seems inappropriate. Maybe it's just me.

The draft itself wouldn't be quite the raucous, sarcasm-engulfed get-together that you normally see in fantasy football leagues. Everyone would have their kids with them, plus you'd have to stay quiet because inevitably somebody's kid would have to be put to sleep early in the spare room.

The good news is that, unlike at pigskin drafts, you'd have the "players" front and center to review before and during. If you see a young punk hitting girls in the face and smoking cigarettes in the back corner, that's an obvious "stay away." You can't do that with Laurence Maroney, unfortunately.

The points system would be delicate. It could get tricky because, as opposed to sports, parenting doesn't involved a lot of statistics — at least, not easily tracked statistics. Here are a few ideas to get the process rolling:
  • 4 points for every toy put away in the correct place. The only question is how to determine "the correct place." My Crazy Toddler would argue that the right spot is right behind the couch, right where I walk in the dark when CT wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. Perfecto.
  • 2 points for a successful trip to the toilet. So obviously this puts a premium on post-toddlers.
  • To offset the advantage older children have in the toilet category, I'd hand out 2 points for every time someone stops you in the grocery store to get a better look and say "Oh my gosh! A-dorable." SIDE NOTE: Each adult male receives 5 demerits (not in the league, just in life) if he says "A-dorable." Even if a newborn puppy is present. Leave your man card at the nearest exit. But the word adorable is all right, as long as you don't pause after the letter "A."
  • 2 points for every hug, and 4 points for the ever-elusive kiss. Another wrinkle to this: If a young one can manage a kiss and it's been at least 10 hours since the last nap or sleep, that's 8 points. In fact, even if a child simply refrains from poking you in the eye with a sharp stick and it's been at least 10 years since the last nap or sleep, that's 4 points.
This is just a start, but you get the idea. Of course there would be kinks to work out.

For example, it would be awkward to root for your own child to act up all the time just because you didn't obtain the rights to he/she in the draft. "Jimmy, could you be a dear and throw that Go-Gurt against the wall? I need you to be worse than the Johnson kid this week, or else I won't make the playoffs."

Hey, every fantasy league has its drawbacks.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Parenting Thought of the Day:

Don't give a 2-year-old any sort of drink with a straw. It's like giving Pacman Jones a night of relaxation in Vegas. No good can come from it.

He left his legacy at Leavenworth

A lot of people wouldn't want to point to Eagles backup quarterback Michael Vick as an example for their kids. On the contrary, I wish my son were old enough to study and recognize the effect egregiously wrong actions can have on someone's life.

More specifically, I want him to realize what it means to waste an amazing, God-given talent — and a golden situation.

OK, so Vick isn't exactly destitute. After missing the 2007 and 2008 NFL football seasons during his 19-month prison stretch stemming from dogfighting crimes, he rebounded to haul in more than $1.5 million last year. This year he'll make at least that much.

Still, consider what he has lost:

— Millions upon millions of dollars. The man who once signed a 10-year, $130 million contract with the Atlanta Falcons filed for bankruptcy a year ago. He lost everything his blinding speed and rocket arm had gained him.

Also, what will he do upon retirement? Don't expect to see him on any jaunty TV commercials or as part of an ESPN panel of football experts. No, he'll have to find a completely new profession. I guess that elusive college degree would have come in handy after all.

— His status within the history of the game. As ridiculous it sounds, analysts used to talk about him as potentially one of the best players ever. He was the fastest quarterback anyone had seen, and he had an incredibly strong arm. And he was still in his prime.

I always thought he was overrated — his statistics were average to slightly above average — but now everyone is off the bandwagon. Vick is more likely to land a job as a hall monitor than  to enter the Hall of Fame.

— His physical domination. Once upon a time out, Vick was the kind of athlete who comes along once in a generation — a guy who could throw the ball farther than almost anyone. A guy built like a running back. Heck, he was faster than most running backs — not just straightaway speed, but breathtaking elusiveness in spades.

Turn on an Eagles game these days, and you quickly realize he's a sideshow. In his prime people excused his rampant inaccuracy because he made spectacular plays the likes of which few had ever seen. Now 30, Vick is a very nimble quarterback, but he's no threat to score a touchdown. Those precious years of premium athletic ability died deep in a Leavenworth prison cell.

This weekend Vick's line against the Cincinnatti Bengals read: 1 for 5 passing for 6 yards, 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. And you know what? No one was surprised. That says it all.

---- His free pass. Vick used to get away with whatever behavior he wanted to, based mostly on his status as a superstar. At this point he's done a 180-degree turn. He can't go anywhere or say anything without being second-guessed.

My son is 2 years old, so I really have no idea whether he possesses any spectacular talents. Maybe he'll be a math whiz. Or a phenomenal writer. Or the best dancer (gulp) this world has ever seen.

Whatever gifts my son has been blessed with, I'll make it my mission to help him utilize them. The Michael Vick story might just be one of my go-to tools.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sports Notion of the Day

Sports Notion of the Day:
This afternoon I saw a store window that read, "Sandwiches and Turnovers." Sounds like a midday meal atRyan Leaf's house, if you ask me.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The last confusing birthday

Yesterday my Crazy Toddler (CT) "celebrated" his last confusing birthday.

I say that because while he probably didn't have any clue why we were trying to do fun things with him, it didn't stop his mother and I from treating Aug. 19 like a very special day.

Truth be told, I could have thrown a rag onto the floor and he would have been happy. Still, we did our best:
—— We gave him presents from his grandmother and aunt. I'm sure he has no idea why he was handed cool gifts including a kiddie drill set and a Buzz Lightyear backpack this afternoon, but he definitely enjoyed them. I liken it to opening up a workplace fridge and finding a 12 pack of Dr. Pepper — and not knowing how it got there.

Guzzle first, ask questions later.

—— CT posed for photos at Portrait Innovations. He was wearing his seersucker suit, so he had that extra swagger that can't necessarily be mustered by the henley onesie/pleated jeans ensemble. He was really working it with his jostled-hair look, big blue eyes and muscle-man poses (I made that last one up.).

—— We sang "Happy Birthday" several times at different junctures; I can only imagine what he must have been thinking: "Don't they know any other songs? What about some of Bowie's earlier work? This happy-go-lucky stuff was all right when I was 1, but I'm 2 now. Expand the songbook already."

—— We enjoyed dinner at Sonic. His watermelon slushie was supposed to be a special treat, but it proved to be nothing more than a strange-tasting impediment to what seemingly is his first love: Running into the street or busy parking lots without a care in the world.

I guess that's what you get when you eat outdoors. A padded cell may have been a better choice.

—— We went to the park. At this point I'm too old to remember thinking of the park as a fun treat, but CT likes it more than Keith Olbermann relishes being the lowest common denominator.

After about an hour of swinging; trying to climb up dangerous steps; and inching down every slide in his unique, scared way, we called it a day.

Actually, we called it a birthday — but something tells me he wasn't savvy.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not even Margot Kidder

At 5 p.m. today, I became self-aware.

Self-aware, that is, of how little I wanted to spend any more time with my Crazy Toddler (CT). Not tonight.

Of course if felt bad writing that. But sometimes parenthood takes you to a dark place — a location where breakables live up their name, food and sippy cups become projectiles, and crying is the only form of communication.

At 5 p.m. today and thereafter, I wanted nothing to do with kids. Not just mine, but any kids. Not my own, not friends' kids and not neighborhood kids.

Not Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba." Certainly not any of Kid 'N' Play's "House Party" movies; in fact, write this rule down for the rest of the time, not just this evening. It's a pretty decent credo.

Tonight I want nothing to do with baby goats. Or Margot Kidder movies (she was awful as Lois Lane, don't you think?).

Ken Griffey Jr., also known as "The Kid," is one of my favorite athletes. But right now I'd push him into a ditch without a second thought.

Not even Nicole Kidman gets a second look from me on this day. Look what you did, CT; you made me   reject the explosive female lead from "Days of Thunder," which is easily one of the top 5 best stock-car racing movies of all time.

I hope you're proud of yourself.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The foot cream was an inappropriate gift

Reggie Bush's feelings of guilt aren't anything new.

The glut of steroid and drug use, irresponsible gunplay and overarching violence that festered in big-time sports for the past several years has also brought about a great deal of apologies -- usually after a many years of lying about the indiscretions in question.

This week Bush, a former Heisman Trophy-winning running back at USC, reportedly called the school's new athletic director to express how bad he feels about his purported illegal acceptance of money leading to USC's extensive sanctions from the NCAA. He even said he would give back the Heisman Trophy if he could. Still, the AD said Bush said technically admitted his mistakes during their conversation.

He will. Someday, maybe 10 years now, he'll spill the beans to a reporter -- once the dust has settled and his conscience can no longer be held back. He'll do exactly what Mark McGwire. And Alex Rodriguez. And Andy Pettite. And Pete Rose. And Chris Webber.

Others undoubtedly will join Bush in their half-hearted apologies. Here are a few to look for in the next decade.
  • Jimmy Johnson, ex-coach, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Hurricanes -- Someday he'll finally admit to using performance-enhancing hair products for the duration of his career. If his upcoming stint on "Survivor" ends up being his low point, the press conference will come sooner rather than later.
  • John Stockton, ex-point guard, Utah Jazz -- This all-time great distributor owes everyone an apology for the obscene rump-hugging shorts he in which he displayed himself throughout 19 NBA seasons. Disturbing.
  • Old people, shuffleboard -- Don't act shocked when a rash of elderly southern-state inhabitants/amateur shuffleboard competitors come forward to say they accepted  under-the-table funds from rogue marketing reps for Ensure, Tommy Bahama and various foot-cream giants.
  • Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova -- These well-known tennis stars took in-match grunting to new heights. Now, unfortunately, their guttural screams have been copied by more and more newcomers. One day Seles and Sharapova will say sorry for starting this trend that has greatly injured the watchability of women's tennis.
  • Tim Lincecum, pitcher, San Francisco Giants -- Someone has to take responsibility for that long, greasy, stringy mane. It might as well be the guy who grew it.I
I have just one request: When Bush comes clean, probably after his retirement from the NFL, don't forget the years and years of bald-faced lies.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Puke in the car, not on the plane

What good are life experiences if you don't learn from them?

Here are some helpful nuggets I gleaned from my first flight/weekend trip with my Crazy Toddler and without my Less Crazy Wife.

  • Getting the puking out of the way on the ride to the airport is a good way to stave off puking on the plane. (Sample size of this study: 1.)
  • Arriving at the airport a bit later than expected when you have a small lad in tow is quite helpful. 15 fewer minutes in the gate waiting area was 15 fewer minutes of apologizing to people whose hair had just been pulled.
  • Coffee is good.
  • Fatigue is bad.
  • It's easier to feel like a man when you, your dad and your son are getting dusty, riding tractors and ATVs, discussing machinery, surveying a wood mill, and eating barbecued elk and salmon.
  • It's more difficult to feel like a man when you come home to an increasingly yellow lawn, an iPod and wireless throughout the house.
  • Grandpas, even tough guys, don't mind a go on the swing set when a grandson's affection is at stake. Digital cameras exist to prove it.
  • Tray tables were made to be overturned — especially when stuff resides on them. 
  • Bags of chips were made to be overturned — especially when a father's sanity is hanging by a thread.
  • Airports are made for business travelers, not dad/son tandems. (POP QUIZ: Out of ChilisToo, a gourmet pizza joint and Quiznos, which one is most suited to a toddler's needs? Answer: If forced to pick one, I guess Quiznos, even though a simple meal is $11.46. Shameful selection, if you ask me.)
  • The ability to double-team a toddler is vastly underrated. Kudos to those who have to play man-to-man.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

'Retiring Minds Want to Know'

How is that Brett Favre hasn't yet landed his own reality TV show?

Don't even try to tell me you wouldn't watch "Retiring Minds Want to Know," a weekly hour-long ESPN drama pitting Minnesota Vikings head coach Brad Childress against Favre's wife, Deanna, with the eventual winner either retaining the 40-year-old quarterback's services or bringing him back home to Hattiesburg, Miss., for some peaceful retirement years.

Considering the prolonged uncertainty that Favre puts his employers through year after year, it's no stretch to put him in the category of "Overly Dramatic Narcissist Who Secretly Craves a Reality Show to Showcase Said Narcissism."

The weekly challenges practically write themselves. In Week 1 the contestants would race up the top of Mount Ego and pin a pair of cool yet comfortable Wrangler jeans to a flagpole at the summit.

I don't want to give everything away (I probably need to keep some leverage for when the TV execs come calling), but let's just say Week 2 would involve jousts, a large pool of Gatorade and the Oak Grove High School football team from Hattiesburg singing Salt N Peppa's "Whatta Man" amid the ruckus.

By Week 3, the game of football would start to be incorporated into the challenges. Maybe Childress and Deanna would battle to intercept the most errant passes from the strong-armed, bravado-ridden QB in a span of 30 seconds.

My money's on the better half. She's been receiving his wishy-washy decisions for years.

Other challenge ideas:
— A mock press conference, evaluated by the show's foursome of celebrity judges: hyper-snoopy ESPN reporters Ed Werder and Rachel Nichols; former pro-wrestler and hyper-emotional Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura; and hyper-moussed NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

This challenge wouldn't be about deftly answering a barrage of questions, but instead about tearfully supporting Favre while sitting by his side while HE answers a barrage of questions. Natural-looking waterworks earn the contestants extra points.

— A 14-hour nonstop flight, to simulate several trips back and forth between Minneapolis and Mississippi as Favre changes his mind over and over. The pair would receive scores in four areas: stamina, conversation skills, tractor knowledge and unconditional support.

— A playbook quiz. The twist? It's not a book of football diagrams, but of acceptable apologies to Brett for insubordinance and lack of understanding when he leaves hanging.

If Favre hasn't considered a reality show like this, he really doesn't understand the marketability of his complete lack of respect for his employer and wife.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Pretzel mix ... or else

Can you carry a snake-bite kit onto a plane?

This is the paranoid type of questions I've been asking myself since I first planned my three-day-weekend trip to Grandpa Alger's house. No, I'm not that stupid or that paranoid. My fear stems from the fact that my nearly 2-year-old Crazy Toddler (CT) will accompany me on this trip —without his Mamma.

Not only must I face the pressure of caring for CT without any adult supervision, but I must do so at an airport — the place where my happy thoughts go to die.

Can you get arrested if your baby's in-flight crying surpasses a predetermined level? 

It's difficult enough putting oneself through the rigors of an airport. First there's the pressure to get the little info tags filled out while the luggage loader's patience wanes by the second. Then you have to practically strip so the security workers will let you through. There's even more pressure at this juncture. Loading all of one's belongings into a half-dozen of those gray bins isn't unlike fleeing a fire scene: "Leave it behind! Just go! We can't go back now!"

By the time you're spit out onto the other side of the security gateway, you've just praying you didn't leave anything important behind.

Will a soiled cloth count as one of my carry-on items? 

Now add a toddler to the mix — a potentially screaming pile of slobber and mischief. You can imagine why I'm planning to make the trek completely naked and without paraphernalia of any kind. The fewer belts, shoes, hats, watches, laptops and portable DVD players to contend with, the better.

Traveling with CT isn't too bad when we double-team him. But what am I supposed to do without backup? How can I be expected to keep track of him, carry a diaper bag, listen to my iPod, appease his hunger and mood swings, change his diaper in the ridiculously unsuitable men's bathroom AND utilize the free airport WiFi on my laptop? Perhaps I need to cut one of those action items out. I guess he won't get changed.

Even if I can get all the way through to the plane, other issues frighten me like John Edwards at a marriage-counseling session.

Will CT rifle the pretzel mix at an unsuspecting attendant's head upon realizing assorted nuts was a pipe dream?

Will a kind-hearted grandmother take pity on a dim-witted young father and watch the lad while said father drowns his frustrations in a Dr. Pepper?

Will CT's mother ever let CT's father have any responsibility of any kind after this trip?

This dearth of uncertainty is why I'm going to start packing three days early.