Saturday, February 21, 2009

My email to Rick Reilly

(Note: this is the actual text of an email I sent Rick Reilly regarding his latest comments on blogs)

Dear Mr. Reilly,
I noted a Newsday interview you did recently, where you talked about bloggers as guys who are holding down couch cushions, or something along those lines. This was the latest in a series of quotes you gave that criticize the blogosphere.

Now, it's cute to talk about bloggers and use the same old criticisms, evoking images of guys in their mom's basement, eating pizza rolls and furiously stabbing at a keyboard. The fact is, though, that it's wrong.

Now, there's no doubt that there are some poorly-written blogs out there. It's just the odds that, with that many blogs, there will be some run by people who can't write, or people who have their own issues.

However, how is that any different from some of the journalism that's out there? Is it different than Mitch Albom's plagiarism? Skip Bayless' consistent slamming of Lebron James? The cases of people like Jayson Blair?

Another classic criticism of blogs is that they allow for commenters to post hateful and sometimes racist and sexist comments. Now, while that may be true, have you had a chance to read the comments lately? They're not exactly a symbol of fair and pleasant discourse.

Now, here's the truth about blogs. There are many that are run by intelligent, productive members of society who just happen to love sports. Friends of mine who run blogs include lawyers, investment professionals, teachers, policy analysts, law students, MBA students...the list runs long with smart, interesting people with intriguing things to say.

I know that this email won't change your mind on blogs, and I'm not expecting you to write some long, powerful ode to the talented bloggers who are out there. That said, you're fairly popular with the American sports public, and it would make quite an impression if you were to at least stop slamming the bloggers out there.

Whether you actually read this email, or if it ends up deleted by some intern, who knows. But, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.

All the best,
Law student, classically-trained journalist, and proud blogger

The biggest cheaters in the A-Rod scandal? Not who you'd think...

As the only Yankees fan posting on this blog, I feel ethically obligated to at least post something about the A-Rod saga. Now, I have to admit I'm a bit disappointed by the revelations. I've always been a big A-Rod fan, and it's disappointing to me that A-Rod's legacy is now apparently compromised by steroid allegations. I'm also disappointed by the way the press conference and softball interview with Peter Gammons were handled; apparently his press people are the WORST PRESS PEOPLE EVER. Maybe it's the former reporter/PR professional in me, but I think there were probably about one million better ways A-Rod could have come out ahead of the story.

That said, to me, A-Rod isn't even the biggest "bad person" in this story:

1) Whoever leaked the information: So, let me get this straight. Someone tells the players that they'll be tested for performance-enhancing drugs, tells them that the information will be kept secret, and then, names are leaked. Does anyone wonder why the players don't trust any treatment program put forth by MLB?

2. The media: Now, as I've noted quite a bit on this blog, I used to be a member of the media, both for a local newspaper and for a college publication. So, in that time, I've been in a couple of locker rooms, and interviewed a few athletes pre and post-game.

That said, even with that limited experience, it puzzles me a bit when the media hides their heads in the sand as to their own culpability in the "steroid era" (which is a ridiculous term as is), but are ready to burn at the stake any athlete who used, or (as discussed on "Mike and Mike in the Morning" this week) any athlete who didn't turn themselves into the players' version of "Deep Throat."

I'm sure everyone remembers when AP reporter Steve Wilstein spotted Andro in Mark McGwire's locker and asked him about it, and the ensuing fall-out. Whether he did the right or wrong thing isn't the point; the point is that, with that "access" that the baseball writers are always so willing to trumpet, there's no doubt that there are reporters who saw evidence of steroid use and didn't report on it, or didn't mention it to managers or other supervisory personnel for that given team. I'm not advocating that they should have been tattle tales, but it's a little odd that those same reporters are now ready to crucify the players.

Finally...there's a lot of talk about putting some sort of sign in the Hall of Fame about the "steroid era." There are a couple of problems with this. First, there's already a sign in the Hall of Fame that talks about steroid use, and how it may or may not have affected the numbers of the era. Second, and most important, if we're going to do that, shouldn't there be a sign talking about the "greenie era" that preceded the "Steroid era?" All questions for anaother day I suppose.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Weirdest. Week. Ever.

I'm not sure I can really absorb all this, so let's just count down the crazy crazy crazy that happened recently:

1 - NOT AROD. Nope - not when Roberto Alomar might have full-blown AIDS n (and it might cost him $15 million). Holy balls.

2 - ARod admits to steroid use within the friendly confines of a Peter Gammons interview . . . not that I don't love Gammons (it's borderline creepy) but it wasn't exactly a hard-hitting interview. Still, it makes perfect sense with ARod's purported personality defects - however, it's just one more unfortunate data point that shows Jose Canseco's giant, empty head might have been more right than wrong. Sucks.

3 - Marvin Miller totally flips his shit about the leaked "confidential" samples . . . dude's older than Utahraptor but he's still out kicking, and he's totally correct. Just unreal to hear the only voice of reason from a 91-year-old guy, who probably heard the news on the latest wax grammophone pressing that he picked up on his way home from getting a phosphate at the lunch counter.

4 - In a new book, Manny's wife blames the 64-year-old Red Sox clubhouse attendant for their altercation . . . apparently, the old guy was rude to poor ol' Manny. I mean . . . seriously?

5 - BP's early PECOTA standings have the AL East as the best division in the history of the Planet Earth, with the Sox winning 98, the Yankees 96, the Rays 93, the Jays 81 and the lowly Orioles outhitting every team in the league with a team OPS of .780. The Angels, meanwhile, project to finish sub-.500.\

6 - David Berman breaks up the Silver Jews for no apparent reason, then goes on an absolute tirade against his father, who is apparently a big-time tobacco/fatty foods/other unhealthy shit lobbyist. Wow.

7 - Chris Brown beats the shit out of Rhianna. Note to self: don't beat women. Additional note to self: don't tank career on aggravated misdemeanors . . . rob a bank or something, shoot heroin into a child's eyeballs, whatever. If you're losing (potentially) tens of millions of dollars, go big, you know?


453 - This is totally awesome.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Great Grunts in Rap History

As part of my ongoing lecture series on Great Moments in Rap History, I thought I'd introduce one of our advanced courses: non-language in rap songs. Rappers, at least ostensibly, rely on colorful language (by which I mean n-bombs or, in the case of recent Mos Def, condescension) to make their living, which is apparently one often saturated with marijuana, cocaine, purple lean, and various large-assed women with a preternatural gravitational attraction to the floor. However, the English language cannot constrain the rap - aw hell naw. Often, a great rapper must fill in the blanks of the language with something less erudite and more guttural. With that in mind, I now present Five Great Grunts in Rap History.

5 - Juelz Santana, "There It Go (The Whistle Song)"
Juelz Santana blows the ass off the grunt (literally, kinda/sorta) at about the 1:04 mark, with the epic line "Sit it down, back up/ Bring it on back up/ Move it til you feel something hard in your back, HYUPP" . . . a true tour de force of using nonsense tones, as it even carries the "back up" rhyme into effect. Top down and back at it again, indeed - I run the whistle when I'm truly bombed at the bar. So far I'm 0-for-life, but that's not far from my batting average with every other method, so I'll blame sample size.

4 - Master P, "Make Em Say Uhhh"
A retard rap Odyssey so epic that there's absolutely no need to include times or anything, Master P's all-time dipshit marathon is more than notable for its use of two different nonsense intonations: the titular "UHHHH" and the follow-up "Nanana, nanana." The fact that cadence seems to actually go against the beat of the music, added to the knowledge that Mystikal actually earned money making music even though he sounds like a meth-head Vietnam vet who I'm trying to avoid at the liquor store, brings a somewhat depressing quality to pouring some out for our homeys. Thank God Cashmoney Records decided to produce . . .

3 - Lil Wayne, "A Milli"
. . . the self-proclaimed Best Rapper Alive, and truly the evolution of nonsense excess noise. Sure, we're stretching a little on this song, but the giggle after "Damn I hate a shy bitch/ Don't you hate a shy bitch?/ Yeah, I ate a shy bitch/ She ain't shy no more/ She changed her name to my bitch" (about the 2:07 mark) adds an ethereal quality to a spectacularly promethazine-fueled line that actually makes me giggle along with the manchild just about every time. The fact that he backs it up with giggles both before and after "and I'd rather be pushing flowers/ than be in the 'pen sharing showers" just adds to the surreal quality of the sizzurp-addled mind of a very rich pothead. We'll file it under great grunts because there's no WAY it was supposed to be in the mix until the producer (Bangladesh) heard it and laughed his ass off just like I did.

2 - Clipse, "Trill"
Another amazing 2-fer, this track starts with a very poignant "UH" before exploding into ray-gun synths that kind of remind you that, at one very bizarre point in time, Pharell Williams was an important human being. However, fuck that one - the better one is the absolutely astounding, off-beat "WHUT" thrown into the first line of the chorus (by Pharell, of course - he had to be in the track by contract), followed by "WHUT WHUT" after the next line of the chorus (starts at 0:34). Absolutely the most fun part of any rap song to sing in history - and even better, the song involves multi-tracked "uh" and "whuh" noises throughout, seemingly randomly. The Kings of VA's best song, and a worthy contender for the best grunts ever, save for likely the most important rap grunt in history:

1 - Notorious BIG, "Juicy"
On the shortlist for the most important rap song, period, two vital grunts have propelled "Juicy" onto the must-play list for virtually every DJ that plays to a crowd of predominantly white people (as, clearly, every white kid ages 32 and below are more than likely to know the majority of the words to this track - up to and including the shared wince at the "Blow up like the World Trade/ Bomb center" bit). First, the subtle beginning of the track, with "All good baby, baby, UH" gets the party started, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone not say that line as the track begins. Truly, a masterful beginning, topped only by the chorus-introducing "and it's still all good/ UH" - the song is broken into easily-digestible chunks differentiated by grunts. A grunt fires the listener into the track right out of the gate. BIG wields the grunt like a weapon, not unlike the one his posse used to kill Tupac years later, with similar posturing but markedly fewer awful airbrushed t-shirts or misguided celebrations of Tupac as a "poet" (not even considering "Poetic Justice" - I mean, holy fuck). With that, I don't think there is any doubt about the Greatest Grunt in Rap History.