Monthly Archives: May 2011

Basketball Confessions and Twitter Prognostications…Why Do I Do This To Myself?

I want to preface this post by saying that I am not much of a basketball player and never really have been. I had two poor attempts at organized basketball as a youth and it rendered me pretty uninterested in the sport (namely the NBA) in-between the ages of 12 and 19. My dad, on the other hand, was pretty good at it (6’0” athletic dudes were hard to come by in all-white Ridgewood, N.J. in the 1950s) so he had a grand time picking up the game and shooting skills in his youth and in high school. This was in stark contrast to my Norwalk, CT upbringing, which was not only in a surprisingly diverse Fairfield County public school system (which I’ve always appreciated), but a 90,000+ person town littered with pretty damn good athletes. Thusly, most of my youth was spent loving sports, playing sports and never being all that good at sports.

My dad's youth basketball experience...

My first experience in organized basketball was in a youth league at age six, seven or eight. You see, I don’t remember much from this brief time frame mainly because my skills were atrocious. In addition, I was a sub par athlete until high school and I’m pretty sure something happened in the course of the first game (like being the slowest kid on the court and missing every shot…) that propelled me to black the whole experience out. Honestly, I only know that I played on a team because of a team picture I used to have. Needless to say, from this point forward the only organized youth leagues I became involved in were soccer and baseball.

...My youth basketball experience.

My second experience was in an after school basketball club when I was in the 7th grade. I’d frequently messed around on the playground or played horse with friends and figured “this doesn’t seem so bad, I’m slow but I like to run, let’s give this a try.” I lasted one afternoon. Scratch that, I made it maybe 30 minutes. I never matured into an overwhelming physical presence for a college athlete (I’m a generous 5’11” now and probably weighed about 185 lbs at my most “in-shape”) and in 7th grade I was an awkward 5’6” white kid with baby fat to spare. Meanwhile all the black guys (and a couple of white dudes) were either mature 7th graders or 8th graders that had actually, you know, played organized basketball for years. Needless to say I got my ass handed to me (somebody definitely pulled a Dwight Howard in there somewhere by blocking my shot into the bleachers) and was pretty much done with any attempt at playing or following the game seriously for years.

It was totally worse than this...

Pick up games got better in high school when all I had to do was be out on the break and out run everyone for lay-ups (a 50/50 opportunity at best…). Still, I didn’t watch much of the actual game (occasionally I got into the NCAAs with a bracket, and I paid serious attention to the Nets in ’02 and ’03), and pretty much wrote off the NBA entirely. Remember I was 11 for MJ’s second retirement. My general impression of the league (which was admittedly skewed) was that a few teams dominated, everyone played selfish ball, there was zero defense and no indisputable superstar to follow after Jordan. By the time I reached college I got heavily into University of Texas basketball (mainly because my family consists of a lot of UT alumni), Durant’s emergence and the NCAAs in general, but still largely ignored the Association. 

Three years later and I’m sitting here gobbling up the NBA Finals like I’m Charles Barkley at a southern buffet. Part of it is that my dad passed away in 2009 and I decided I wanted to better understand his love of the sport. I also got into reading ESPN’s Bill Simmons regularly, forcing me to not only pay attention to the NBA but transform my understanding of its history by reading his Book of Basketball. The final push towards NBA fandom was that I timed my interest perfectly. The Association is in a massive talent boon right now and has a foreseeable future (barring a lockout) that includes the primes, and in some cases entire careers, of a bunch of young superstars. I’ve also still gotten to witness a few seasons from great superstars like Kobe, Dirk, KG, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Duncan and even Shaq. It’s because of this effort that I now have something of a feel and understanding not only for how the league works, but for how it’s worked in the past. I’ve read up on its evolution (although I still have a ways to go) and I finally have some opinions on the state of the league and where it is headed.

The beginning of the end...

So with the playoffs in full gear I’ve been tweeting quite a bit about the developments in Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant is far and away my favorite player and it’s been fun to watch a young team gel as quickly as this one. Unfortunately their collapse in the Western Conference finals left me somewhat perplexed with their other young super star (point guard Russel Westbrook) and I tweeted as such. Like a lot of people I thought he was playing selfishly, taking too many risky shots while subsequently taking away scoring opportunities for Durant (the two time defending NBA scoring champion). I had also tweeted before how impressed I was with point guard James Harden’s performance in OKC’s game 2 victory (their only of the series). When I tweeted this morning about Westbrook’s 39% field goal shooting in game 5 (the clincher for the Dallas Mavericks) I got a saavy response from an old high school friend Mike Eaton.

After googling "Russel Westbrook passing" it took my 3 pages to find this.

Mike simply tweeted that instead of playing the point guard spot Westbrook should move to the 2, or shooting guard position, allowing Harden (whose a better decision maker with the ball) to start at point guard. This would effectively give Westbrook the scoring opportunities (and large amount of shots) he craves without the added responsibility of having to run the offense. After I countered that Westbrook’s career shooting numbers (44% on field goals) weren’t terrific, he stated that a singular focus on shooting (and not all that comes with cohesively running an offense) would get Westbrook into that near 50% range that’s needed out of the team’s best shooter. Durant could stay at the forward spot and get his numbers every night while still starting alongside Westbrook and a point guard that would distribute without focusing on his own “shots.” It puts OKC’s three best young players on the floor and gives them (potentially) an added shooter dimension. Somewhere in there our buddy Andre stated how much he hates Miami and L.A., probably referenced a Knick’s dynasty and called us “cute” for discussing this OKC juggernaut. It was an awesome back and forth 144 character conversation and we were done, right? Wrong.

I want to take it a step further, because OKC started to eerily sound like a West Coast version of Miami. Only in this version the team logically built a team through the draft, surrounded it with good role players and handed the keys to competent young guys while not completely killing their payroll, cap space and trading abilities. Admittedly Miami’s in a better position right now (they’re up 3 games to 1 on the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals) but this conversation was always more about the long term possibilities than the 2011 post season. With two great, athletic, hard working young shooters that have relatively good chemistry and have already proven their ability to compete with anyone in the league OKC has an amazing foundation. Add a young point guard who has now proven himself in two Western Conference finals games, and they have an amazing team.

The beard allows him to see the floor with excellent it just looks badass.

Not only that, but Harden gives them something that Miami won’t have; a pure point guard whose first job is to distribute to the two great shooters. Coach Spoelstra and Miami have done a great job getting Lebron to essentially play this (selfless) role while still getting him his stats. Still, it’s the kind of arrangement that can become untenable or alien to someone who is not doing it full time and then has to do it in a tight playoff situation. James Harden has already proven he’s capable and willing, now it’s just a matter of getting him the experience a guy like Lebron has without the added weight of carrying the team in other ways. After all, he has Durant and Westbrook to do that. KD is still the “alpha dog” as Bill Simmons and many others like to put it, but at least this way Westbrook feels like he’s sharing that limelight too.

All I know is this; while I’m going to love watching these playoffs (and these careers) play out, I’m very grateful I’m not the NBA’s ManBearPig to Kevin Durant or Russel Westbrook. I’ll leave that to Brendan Haywood.

Ahahahahahahahaha, facial Haywood!

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “Ichiro Update: .281 BA, 57 hits, 17RBIs, 18 BBs, 11 SBs and 8 2Bs,” “Maybe if OSU diverted some of Tressel’s millions his players wouldn’t feel the need for ‘extra-curricular activities,’” “I know it’s a crazy thought Auburn but Russell Wilson actually went to class at his last college…and graduated!,” and “Joakim Noah handled himself with class after a serious flub. That’s c-l-a-s-s Andrew Bynum.”


Bad Predictions Gone Worse, Brief Semi-final Prognostication and Holy Crap I’m Rooting for Salisbury

Let me start by apologizing to anyone who might’ve taken my predictions seriously and in some way went with the chalk during the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Quarterfinals over the weekend. I had a pretty abysmal Saturday and Sunday after I predicted only 1 of 4 games correctly going into the weekend. This all happened while I ignored some pretty indicative statistical numbers, instead choosing to go with my gut. In the end it all means embarrassment for me and hopefully an entertaining and informative breakdown for you.

This is what happens when my predictions don't go as planned...

First, Virginia beat Cornell in sound fashion on Saturday. Cornell’s Rob Pannel was held mostly in check while fellow junior Steele Stanwick of UVA stole the show with 7 points (giving him 15 through 2 games this post season). If that sounds like a lot, it is. Pannel, whose been touted as the runaway national player of the year (and he should be) had 3 goals in the game, but it was unfortunately on 10 shots. In lacrosse, like basketball, you still want your shooters up in the 40% to 50% range, particularly when your entire offense runs through that one shooter. Rob will get another opportunity next year (this is his first season missing the NCAA Final Four) but it’s a stunning end for what had been a great season. It also shows that Cornell needs some more guys. Pannel’s proved that he can replicate great seasons (two time Ivy League player of the year), but now the Big Red have to step up around him to make a serious 2012 run. They obviously had a solid year, but by their recent standards it was a missed opportunity.

Lots of things were superfluous about Steele Stanwick this weekend: his 3 goals, his 4 assists, the extra 'e' in Steele...

Next, after talking up Johns Hopkins’ well rounded game last week both the Blue Jays and I fell flat on our faces Saturday. In the one game I actually got to witness live (no TV is the one, and I mean one flaw of Annapolis’ Mexican Café) Hopkins largely had no answers for Denver’s offense while the Pioneers did enough to stymie the JHU attack. Denver under Bill Tierney (who made Princeton the force of the Ivy League and the lacrosse world for a number of years) has had a complete resurgence, bringing in a combination of American no names and Canadian no names to craft the only men’s west coast Division I juggernaut we have. Oh yeah, and he’s done it in less than two seasons at the helm. It’s not like Tierney hasn’t had help. His offensive coordinator Matt Brown drew up a ton of complicated offensive sets that had a usually heady JHU defense on its toes the whole game, and Bill’s son has done an exceptional job with Denver’s defense. Even when Hopkins was mounting a come back in the third quarter that brought them within a goal (8-7) of tying it, it was largely due to the Blue Jay’s face-off crew and offensive ability to possess. Hopkins was robbed of at least one goal because of the new “diving in the crease” rules, which are murky at best. Still, while I may disagree with the rules (I think it robs the game of some of the most athletic and exciting plays in the sport) a 5 goal loss can’t be blamed on the rules or the refs.

This just about sums up our Saturday.

Finally, Duke knocked off Notre Dame 7-5 (in the one game I predicted correctly) in another NCAA snooze fest match-up between these two, while the Maryland Terrapins nudged past Syracuse. To say that the UMD-Syracuse game was akin to the “tortoise and the hare” would be a disservice to the latter. The two combined for one less goal than Duke-UND, and needed most of an overtime period to finally end the game. Still, there was a bit of personal excitement. Not only does the state of Maryland have a team in the Final Four (after a rare year without one in 2010) but 1/3 of the Terps’ goals came from senior Scott LaRue. I worked under Scott’s mom for my first year and a half at my current job before she moved on to another position elsewhere in the government. She’s a great boss and person, so it was no surprise that her sons (there are three) were the same way when I met them all as a family back in 2009. Congrats to him and the rest of the Maryland senior class for getting a storied program back to the Final Four for the first time since 2006 (and first time for the seniors ever).

Neon Syracuse? And here I thought Steele was superfluous, no wonder you dudes lost.

I’m almost afraid to make any predictions here, but I’m going to do it because none of you have called me out on it anyway. Maryland over Duke and Denver over Virginia, and don’t ask me why (mainly because I don’t feel like having to justify it).

In other lacrosse news, Tufts and Salisbury are set to do battle again in the Division III final. These teams met in Baltimore last year with the Jumbos coming away as 9-5 victors. They overpowered the Gulls with tremendous defensive pressure, but frankly just looked more excited (not shell shocked) to be there. It was Tufts’ first national championship of any kind, and a relatively innocuous end for the Gulls, who are used to taking home the gold. In fact, not only did Salisbury win the whole thing five times from 2000 to 2010 but they also appeared in the championship game eight times in that same time frame. In those 11 years they lost a total of 17 times (I was on the sideline for one of them and in the stands for another) with 3 of those losses coming in the national championship game. Salisbury has been more vulnerable in the last couple of years (mainly because of tougher in-conference competition and the continuing explosion of talent at the Division III level), but they’ve still maintained a level of excellence that almost any other athletic program anywhere at any level only wishes to have.

Caption: Something along the lines of; this guy, 8 national championships and 358 wins.

Now, I’ve seen the team swoon a bit, but I’ve also seen this team go on a run before (you know, seeing as how I was in the path of one of those runs for the better part of four years). I think they are on an absolute tear now, and thusly I’m going with them in the national championship on Sunday. In addition to feeling like they are the best team left, I know they are extremely hungry for a championship. It’s not often that this team feels like it underperforms (they’ve gone undefeated four times in the last nine seasons) and it hasn’t been often that they go multiple years without a national title. Three classes on the roster do not know what it feels like to be on top at the end of the year, so it’s with this knowledge that I go with the Gulls. Call it a “gut” call…

Marc, if you're reading this and you win on Sunday; the drinks are most certainly on you my friend. Good luck.

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “Wait, I’m rooting for Salisbury?! I think I just threw up in my mouth a little,” “Teixeira hit a walk off as I’m typing this…so yes that was me yelling,” “Kareem wants a statue of himself in Los Angeles…it will look like Magic Johnson,” and “Bernard Hopkins doesn’t think Donovan McNabb is black enough. I’ll abstain from touching this one other than to say that ‘Bernard, I don’t think you’re Muslim enough.’”

I don't know Bernard, he looks pretty black to me...

Hungover Synopsis: JHU – Hofstra, The Blue Jay’s Helmets and a Brief NCAA Quarterfinals Preview

I only got to watch one of the eight NCAA Division I Lacrosse Tournament First Round games live this weekend. I was in New York with my sister (think of the female opposite of my hairy, often sweaty mess of ManBearPig self) and after a light jog to sweat out maybe 1/50th of all we drank the night before we were seated at Hop Devil Grill for the now infamous beerunch (you know, because we needed more excuses to drink cheap booz). Luckily the Hop Devil not only believes in great beers (and mimosas…and bloody mary’s) but they believe in ESPN2’s glorious propensity to show NCAA Championship tournaments not named basketball or football (wait…). My sister and I hunkered down for some much needed food and the first round game between Hofstra and Hopkins, a game I had circled as a surprisingly tough 3 seed versus 14 seed match-up coming in.

Why was the ManBearPig so hungover this weekend? Let's just say it something to do with seeing the rockstar on the left ^.

You see, in a 16 team tournament you usually have good team records across the board, but a 13-2 Hofstra squad at the 14 spot was still surprising. Hofstra’s record was a bit deceiving coming in, as they didn’t play anyone in the top 10 (before Hopkins) and went 3-2 against top 20 teams (going 0-2 against the one NCAA tournament team they played in Delaware). When you consider that ACC champion Maryland had to go on the road in the first round (to play another ACC team no less!) it may not be so crazy that the 13 win Pride got such a low seed and subsequently tough draw. Still, I was expecting a nice little blood feud between the pre-eminent powers in their respective lacrosse hot beds (Hopkins from Maryland, Hofstra from Long Island).

After 30 minutes this game was knotted in a pretty low scoring 4-4 draw and had the potential to be one of the better first round games (there would be two close games on the weekend with the rest being 3+ goal routs). Hofstra was doing just enough to reasonably keep up with a Hopkins offense that has been resurgent this year (they’ve scored in double digits in 12 of 15 games and are undefeated in all of them; 1-2 in the others) all the while against the 8th toughest schedule in the country (according to The difference in the second half became a JHU defense that embarrassed the Pride’s offense and created all kinds of transition opportunities down the stretch. The Hopkins defense by the way, not to be outdone by their slick counterparts, have allowed double digit goals only 3 times this season yet are actually unbeaten in the games where they’ve allowed more than 9 goals (go figure).

The guy in the gold? You don't want to be the guy in the gold.

Still, while great defense (particularly under coach Dave Pietremala as both a coach and player) has been a staple of Hopkins teams for decades they haven’t always had this many prolific scorers at one time. Don’t get me wrong, the Hop has produced some great offensive players at the midfield position with guys like Kyle Harrison, Paul Rabil, Stephen Peyser and Mike Kimmel in recent years. They’ve even had a couple of great attackmen in guys like Conor Ford and Kevin Huntley. But I doubt they’ve ever had a group this unbelievable at the attack position all at the same time. It starts with Chris Boland (2 goals, 3 assists against Hofstra), who after an injury last year is living up to the billing he came into JHU with back in 2007 (he also led the team in scoring in 2009).  He leads the team in scoring with 48 points but is closely followed by another attackman in Zach Palmer, a Canadian product with 46 points (24 of which are, surprisingly, assists). Finally, Kyle Wharton (their captain) rounds out the stellar attack crew with 39 points, giving the group 135 points on the year through 15 games. That’s nine points a game combined in a balanced offense that complements the traditionally stingy defense.

I'm guessing scoring 135 points is the least of their worries when being yelled at by that guy.

Well, the boys did it again on Saturday against Hofstra. After being stymied a bit in the first half by a physical Pride defense (more on that later…) JHU came out firing in the third quarter, quickly mounting a nice lead. Meanwhile the Pride could only generate one more goal on offense…for the entire game.

The third quarter heavily featured a nice display of the third and final key to the Jay’s resurgent season. The Hop took 14 of 21 faceoffs on the day, but the 5 of 6 mark at the faceoff X in the decisive third quarter was quite possibly the biggest part of the day. It helped Hopkins keep pace with a gaudy 65% team faceoff percentage on the year, a stat mostly attributed to the success of Matt Dolente. Those possessions led to a lot of opportunities for the three stellar attackmen mentioned before, who combined for 6 goals and 5 assists on the game.

"Oh am I winning? Yeah, I'm winning."

Lastly, I have to talk about the awesome uniform work done by whoever works on that kind of thing for Johns Hopkins. The schools colors (black, white and, I’m not kidding, blue jay blue) already lend themselves to some great color combos to work with but my focus this time around was on the helmets.

Many of us may look like complete jackasses off the field, but we'll be damned if we look bad on it.

Is that not the baddest set of helmet decals you’ve ever seen? The powder blue helmets are already a hit in my opinion (although the black is always nice as well…) but the wing design is the best I’ve ever seen by far. When I saw those on the high def TV screen Saturday the vain lacrosse player in me (we pretty much all have insane obsession with on-field fashion) went bonkers. Tell me the Philadelphia Eagles won’t be trying to rip off that design (done by Zima Gear) when and if this lockout ever ends? If my alma mater (the Seahawks) doesn’t make a move on it in the next couple of years I will be sorely disappointed.

Perfunctory lacrosse hit photo (and my personal championship game match up prediction) right about here ^.

With the win JHU moves on to face the University of Denver (who got their first NCAA tourney win ever) in Hempstead, New York this weekend. While the Pioneers have been awesome under Bill Tierney (who has revived his career after massive success at Princeton) I think their run ends here. All those pieces of the Hopkins puzzle just fit too well together. Plus I have allegiances, sorry Denver. The other three games are Syracuse – Maryland (historical heavyweights), Notre Dame – Duke (2010 national championship game rematch) and Cornell – Virginia (look up Rob Pannel). I’m going to go with Syracuse (senior laden team and Joel White wants his third Final Four), Duke (ND already got their 2010 revenge, doesn’t have the offense and hasn’t been nearly as tested) and Cornell (Rob Pannell just wouldn’t let it end this soon…). Regardless of what happens, its shaping up to be yet another great Memorial Day weekend.

Prove to me this wasn't made by Volkswagen...seriously, prove it.

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for; “Skid in the Bronx? Sounds like something you’d find on the bottom of your shoe,” “You think German engineering had anything to do with this stat line: ‘48 points on 12-15 FG, 24-24 FT, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks and a whole lotta moxie!’ (I added that last part),” and “The NFL…there’s still nothing to really report here.”

A Heavenly Deal at Hop Devil Grill (NYC)

“We love our craft beer and we love our boozy brunches, so this is a marriage made in heaven. This E Village beer bar recently launched what it’s calling a “BEER-unch!”.  Every Saturday and Sunday $20 gets you unlimited craft beers (24 different taps) plus an entree. And if someone in your party would prefer more traditional brunch cocktails like mimosas, bloody marys and sangria, well they can have those, too, unlimited. Choose from craft beers like Lagunitas Lil’ Sumpin Sumpin, Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA and Troegs Nugget Nectar with no limitation on the number or type of beer.”

The 24 drafts in all their glory

Sounds good, right? It is. Recently, my sister-Bird, a friend and I headed over to this East Village bar/gastropub/beer café to check out this amazing deal. After sitting down in a cosy but mostly empty bar, we immediately poured over the list of twenty plus craft beers and placed an order. Food? Oh, we’ll figure that out later. Beers first, please! Our first round included a pair of Olde Saratoga Lagers and a Magic Hat Howl. Upon receiving said beers, we sent our waitress back with an order for a triumvirate of huevos rancheros, which had been recommended to us by my sister-Bird’s coworker.

Olde Saratoga Lager: Crisp, refreshing golden lager. Not outstanding or memorable in any particular way but was a solid beer that I could drink a few of in one session.
Magic Hat Howl: Advertised at Hop Devil as a black lager, but upon further investigation is actually more properly called a “schwarzbier” meaning black beer in German. Tasty roasted malt, nut and cocoa flavors were unfortunately offset by slightly overwhelming bitterness and a bit too much carbonation in my opinion for a dark beer.

Magic Hat Howl

Next round brought a Captain Lawrence Smoked Porter, North Coast PranQster and Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA as well as the orders of huevos rancheros. These met with far more mixed reviews…

Captain Lawrence Smoked Porter: By far my favorite of the beers we tried. It is this kind of beer that is making beer tasting as complex an art as is wine tasting. The beer was dark brown with a bit of light brown and tan in the fluffy head. As the name indicates, this porter has a strong smoky flavor with your typical hints of roasted malt, coffee and chocolate.I feel like it would have paired extremely well with a burger or BBQ.
North Coast PranQster: Fruity Belgian-style golden ale that had an in-your-face banana bread flavor with suggestions of lemon and citrus as well as a bubbly carbonated finish. Definitely a tasty beer, but not something that I would drink more than one of in a session. The sister-Bird absolutely loved this one.
Otter Creek Alpine Black IPA: Black American-style (and by this I do not mean that this beer was made by a black man from America) Indian Pale Ale. This was the first dark IPA that I’ve ever had, and I had actually never seen a black IPA before. I am definitely used to seeing pale to dark golden IPAs, so it was pretty cool to see this take on the traditional IPA. I am admittedly no IPA fan as the hoppiness and resultant “cotton-mouth” taste is not to my liking, but this beer’s hoppiness was not at all overwhelming. Unfortunately, however, Otter Creek was way wayyy too bitter for me. It was almost lambic-like in its acidity and red wine-like in its sharp bitterness. All in all, not for the Bird (or his sister-Bird for that matter).

North Coast PranQster

Huevos Rancheros: Meh. I expected more after the glowing recommendation that we had initially heard, but they weren’t good. Nor were they awful, but after a few bites it became apparent that this meal was going to serve more as something to sop up the beer in my belly than as any sort of gastronomical experience. The salsa, rice and beans were generally bland but the eggs were delicious and ultimately the meal’s saving grace. I wouldn’t recommend it nor would I order it again, though.

Since, as I mentioned earlier, the bar was mostly empty on this rainy Sunday, service was fast and the wait staff was extremely personable (let’s just say they put Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark on the TVs for us). They were also nice enough to extend what is normally a 1.5-2 hour open bar to about 3 hours. The other spattering of patrons at the Hop Devil Grill were sociable if not a bit eccentric (But what do you expect? It’s right on the border of Alphabet City). I don’t think I will ever forget the one-legged (yes, one-legged) NYU student who came to our table and explained, in detail, the plot of her work-in-progress film script which centers on a bullrider who sounded like a cross between Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler and Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. Sounds interesting, but you know what? I think I should write a script about a bar-hopping (too soon?) one-legged NYU student who is struggling with writing a film script about a bullrider. Now that’s a movie.

Final Verdict? I would 100% come back to Hop Devil Grill for Sunday beer-unch or even as part of a night out. It has a very cool and laid back atmosphere and coupled with the great beer selection and warm wood and copper decor, is just my kind of bar.

Interior of Hop Devil Grill

Hop Devil Grill
129 Saint Marks Place
New York, NY 10009
(212) 533-4468

P.S. I consider myself a man’s man and you will never find me ordering anything at a bar but beer and whiskey. That being said, I am certainly not opposed to tasting different varieties of spirits if someone else orders them.
Queue sister-Bird with Hop Devil Grill’s Cinnamon Apple Pie Martini and Spiced Pumpkin Pie Martini. I tried both of them; they both tasted just like they were named and they were both absolutely delicious. Highly recommended.

“Buzz”-word of the Day
[beet-nik] –noun
A person who rejects or avoids conventional behavior, dress, etc. Originated as a slang term for members of the 1950’s countercultural Beat Generation.
“The NYU student who joined our table was just one of the many beatniks that inhabit the East Village.”

Post Mother’s Day Update: Ice “Dancing” Clarifications, The Capitals Collapse and How To Make $9 Million/Year and Still Ruin Mother’s Day

I must say that I think I did a great job on Mother’s Day this year. I showed up at 10am on Sunday at my mom’s house with a bouquet in hand, I was ready to help her plant numerous pots of flowers on the back deck and I was financially solvent enough to take her out for a nice meal in downtown Annapolis (plus I wasn’t too hung over from the night before!). Contrary to what you might have guessed my mom looks nothing like her relatively big, hairy and constantly hungry son (I got all of that from my father) so the lunch bill wasn’t too astronomical…at least on her end.

I'm gonna get so much crap for this...

Now, this was a stark contrast to Mother’s Day of just a few years ago where yours truly not only locked his keys in the car the night before, but left the keys in the ignition with the car running. Needless to say, I did not make it to my parent’s house the next morning and topped it off by first calling my mom for help and then shorting my car battery when I incorrectly tried to jump start my car with hers. This ended with an expensive tow to a local Toyota dealer where we discovered that we had to pay an absurd amount of money for a circuit about this (            ) big. So, while we weren’t coming into this thing with infinitely high expectations, I still managed to greatly exceed her pretty low ones.

The ManBearPig Mother's Day 2007...

Now, why does my Mother’s Day matter to you Halfwits more than other Mother’s Days? Because after reading my “hockey-cherry-popping” post of last week my mom, in perfect motherly fashion, had a few clarifications for my (few) regular readers. Don’t get me wrong, she did a great job of complementing my work and got a kick out of both of my parent’s cameos, but she still thought it needed a little extra depth. For one thing she doesn’t like Tara Lipinsky. This is not done in a “she looks like a tight faced b**** with pursed lips” (my first reaction after looking at some photos…) kind of way, but in a “she specializes in the jumping and less creative aspects of ice skating and that’s why she won the gold in ‘98” kind of way (go figure).

For another, she doesn’t like ice “skating” competition nearly as much as she likes ice “dancing” competition. You see, ice dancing pairs two people together on the ice and doesn’t allow things like tossing or jumping (we’re talking double, triple and, in the men’s case, quadruple axel point whoring here) and instead requires the skaters to be more creative in what they do with at least one skate on the ice at all times. This means your music has to be great, your choreography better and your execution flawless because you can’t make up for it with a bunch of nifty jumps that distract from your otherwise imperfect routine. Lipinsky’s tiny frame lends itself to jumping into the air and twirling. In ice dancing the pair of skaters have to battle to be more perfect (I know that doesn’t make total sense, just go with it) in other areas to make up for a relative lack in exciting axels.

Seriously, try doing this WITHOUT the ice skates.

Lastly, there is more to male ice skating than Brian Boitano’s more masculine routines of the past. In fact, the relative “progressivism” of the modern world (and those helping to set standards in men’s ice skating/dancing) has led to more “flamboyant” (I just can’t come up with a better word) and dancing-centric routines amongst the men. Recent famous American competitors like Johnny Weir and even 2010 Olympic Gold winner Evan Lysacek have shown that wearing tight, colorful outfits and focusing on more dance-centric routines won’t detract from your ability to win big and in some cases can even enhance it. To clarify, it’s not like Boitano didn’t strap on some leggings on occasion, and its certainly not like Lysacek and Weir shy away from the axels on occasion. Still, I doubt if Brian ever looked like Natalie Portman’s double in Black Swan either.

Seriously? Seriously...

I’ll probably get filleted by the other halfwits (and all 8 of my readers) for posting another article on ice skating, but I think I can finally look at my mom and say “that really awful Mother’s Day? Yeah, I think I’ve finally made up for it.” If I have to catch some extra crap at Kenny’s Castaways in Manhattan this weekend (Kevin Rath goes on at 10PM everyone), so be it.

Will Kev Rath do something like this after some serious face melting? We can only hope.

In other news, I’m not quite sure what to make of the Capital’s collapse yet. I feel like a lot of factors played in to an epic sweep by Tampa last week, and I also feel like I don’t know nearly enough about hockey to feel fully confident in dissecting what happened. I do know that these early exits (i.e. choke jobs) have been a theme of the last four years with the combination of Ovechkin as the star and Boudreau as the coach. I know that each of those years they’ve been at or near the top of the conference in the regular season. I know that against the Lightning they looked ridiculously slow overall and I also know that this team is still relatively young (Ovechkin just wrapped up only his sixth year in the league and he’s one of their big veterans). What does all that mean? I’m not sure, but I’m going to spend some of the NHL off-season actually focused on the NHL.

Ovy will spend the offseason perfecting his "skills"...

Lastly, while I’ve spent most of this article commending myself on being a great son this Mother’s Day (you can all stop gagging and writing me vicious e-mails already), I can only imagine how the grandmother of Lamar Odom (his mother died when he was young) and mother of Andrew Bynum must feel right now. It’s not enough that they participated in the outright destruction of the Kobe Bryant era (regardless of what you think of him he’s an all time great) and ignominious end to Phil Jackson’s coaching career. No, they had to dole out ridiculous cheap shots late in a 40+ point blow-out at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in game four of a sweep (the first of Jackson’s career…ever) in the Western Conference semifinals. They didn’t do much of anything to stave off elimination (Bynum had a 6-6-1 with 3 turnovers while Odom had a 10-2-1 on the night) and decided that, instead of sucking it up and taking the gut punch like men, they’d try to take out a couple of Mavs players before the final whistle. Odom at least admitted as much about his crappy and dirty play, while Bynum tried to actually justify his douchiness (yeah I said it) with a quote I won’t even bother to include in here. To top it all off he took his shirt off to show his decidedly out of shape physique. Well done Andrew, you sure did your mama proud on her day.

“Blah blah blah, blah blah blah, I’m an a**h***.”

 That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “The Heat have officially earned back their full nickname. Here’s hoping Chicago or even Hotlanta will be able to cool them off where the Celtics largely haven’t,” “I haven’t been this excited about a Derek Jeter home run (let alone two) in May since, well, ever,” and “If the Mavs can do it maybe the Caps can too…in 2018.”

Hello, old friend…

When I was just a wee-sasquatch my mother got me (after much begging and pleading) the classic Green Day ‘Dookie’ cassette under one condition: I could only listen to “When I Come Around”, the least explicit track on the album.  I abided of course as I was but 800 years old (7 human years), however only underneath my own roof!  LOOPHOLE FOUND.  #BABYSASQUATCHWINNING

It didn’t take long for me to burn out my ‘Dookie’ cassette, I listened to it non stop for probably a year.  I was the master of popping it in and out of my walk-man and into my gigantic boombox.  Now that the age of the iPod is upon us, it’s gotten lost in the shuffle of my hundreds of albums and been lost for quite some time.  I’m in that ‘I need new music’ phase when you can’t find anything you want to listen to on your iPod but luckily I stumbled upon my old friend a few days ago and have had a hard time turning it off since.

Check it out... my guitar hides my dong.

For me, what sets Green Day apart is the signature Billie Joe Armstrong songwriting style.  His lyrics off ‘Dookie’ are those of a punk teenager but his melodies are of a seasoned musician.  For a three piece punk band to make radio waves must mean there was a reason for it, and it’s Green Day’s ability to write mind wrapping hooks.  “She”, “Welcome to Paradise”, “When I Come Around” are just a few of those examples.  The album is chock full of hits, here are some of my favorites below:

“She” is possibly my favorite Green Day song ever.  Watch Billie Joe as he freaks out a bit before the song with his classic ADHD ramblings.  Listen, I understand even rock stars have to grow up sometime, and I know Green Day has come out with some amazing albums since ‘Dookie’.  But I miss this Green Day.

“Welcome to Paradise” is surf rock after it got its ass kicked by three kids with spiky hair.  The descending melody in the chorus is classic and been covered by countless bands, none of which who can do it with the attitude of Billie, Trey and Mike.  Once again… I miss this Green Day.

I think a little under appreciated fact about Green Day is Mike Dirnt’s (bassist, vocalist) contribution as a singer to the band.  Not only does he have some pretty unique and defining bass lines, but in “Pulling Teeth” he sings pretty much the whole song in perfect harmony.  For a three piece band, any musical addition can help and Dirnt basically adds a fourth instrument in a lot of these tracks with his harmonies.

Go give it another listen.


Dear Rashard, Shut Up.

I’m going to try to keep this from sounding too preachy or coming off as to gratingly patriotic. After all, I don’t particularly like “patriotism” just for “patriotism’s sake” and I certainly don’t buy into the notion that we as Americans have to tow the nationalistic “America is infallible” party line 24/7. There are many reasons this is a great country. Speaking out about the ways in which it may not be is one of the freedoms that make this place so great. Still, I have one thing to say to Steeler’s running back Rashard Mendenhall and that is; “shut the hell up.”

This f***ing guy...

The thing is, I’m going after Rashard for reasons that a lot of you may not be. I don’t mind what Rashard tweeted about objecting to celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden. He has every right to try and make us pause about doing the very thing we condemned some Middle Easterners for doing when they received word of 9/11 many years ago (they celebrated in the streets, burning effigies of Americana while shooting AK-47s into the sky). Don’t get me wrong, I personally think it’s a great accomplishment for our soldiers and for our nation as a whole that we finally killed a man responsible for so much loss and turmoil. I also understand why celebrating a death in the streets may come off as objectionable to some.

With a Bears jersey on dude? Seriously...

So no, my issue doesn’t lie with Rashard’s tweets about Osama’s death, my issue lies with Rashard’s tweets about 9/11. You see, lost in the flood of outrage over his condemnation of the revelers is the fact that he basically sided with 9/11 conspiracy theorists. That, fellow halfwits, is something that I just can’t stand.

 I admit that as a foolish youth I was curious about these conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11. As someone who grew up despising George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, fake WMDs and the mess that was the Iraq War, I was always looking for more reasons to hate on that administration. The thing is I should have just been happy with the irrefutable mistakes they made, instead of entertaining the crazy notions of a wild goose chase that was not only dumb, but unbelievably insensitive.

You have to admit; this guy just looks dickish...

9/11 happened right before our very eyes on live television. We know that those towers fell that day, we know that planes flew into those towers and we know that planes also crashed into the Pentagon and a field in the middle of rural Pennsylvania. We also know that thousands of people died because of  the events of that day, and we know that those families who lost people have been struggling to cope ever since. We also know that Osama Bin Laden went on international television and declared that he had not only coordinated and designed these attacks, but that his terrorist organization had been the group responsible for carrying it out. Or at least, according to many conspiracy theorists, we think we know that.

Rashard, that other side you were talking about? Right here ^

You see, according to these people Osama Bin Laden and his band of merry terrorists weren’t to blame at all. In fact, according to them, the United States government blew up the towers as part of an elaborate scheme to get us into war in the Middle East. They believe the United States government coordinated a bunch of planes to fly into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and, just for kicks, a field in the middle of Pennsylvania (you know, for believability) just so we could get our rocks off invading various parts of the Middle East. Huh? Are you serious? Not only are these people blatantly accusing the United States government of committing mass genocide on its own people, but they’re saying it was an elaborate way to get us to do something we’d already been doing (for far less elaborate reasons) for years! Really Rashard? Really conspiracy people?

You know, because this guy could totally mastermind mass genocide of his own people in order to start a war his Dad already proved was immensely easy to do...

By the way, for the most part I think conspiracy theories are harmless. You don’t believe in the moon landing, fine. You think we have aliens living among us, great. Biggie and Pac are sipping daiquiris on a remote Mexican beach, awesome (can I get a “long lost” callabo album?). But what these people are claiming happened on 9/11 goes entirely too far. The United States government has been responsible for some pretty shady shit, I understand that. But to accuse it of coordinating the mass murder of thousands of its own civilians in an effort to send thousands more to their death in war is pretty ballsy…

They're totally daquiri guys.

Actually it’s just dumb, and a real slap in the face to those who lost family members as a result of these events. They don’t deserve to deal with this added bullshit. 9/11 was master minded by the tall bearded ass-hole our Navy Seals shot in Pakistan the other day and a bunch of his cronies, not the United States government. Some day your god, Osama’s god or somebody’s god will judge him for what he did. In the mean time, if the worst thing these revelers throughout the US ever do is celebrate the mortal death that led him to that judgment, then I’m perfectly fine calling myself an American.

F*** yeah

That’s all for now folks. Tune in next time for: “If you don’t feel like celebrating Osama’s death because even that seems too good for him, spend the time instead thinking of ways you can exercise the freedoms he so dearly wanted to take away from you (like voting, or watching porn…but please only the legal kind).”