Retro Relapse: The Impact of Goonery On the Modern Game

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2016.

At this point, everyone should be aware of the Dennis Wideman incident from the other night.

If you aren’t, in a nutshell, he took a hard hit, which was missed by the refs. He responded by violently knocking down linesman Don Henderson. Now while Wideman says it wasn’t intentional, the video evidence is pretty damning. And whether or not he was dazed and meant to hit an opposing player, he still struck a referee and it was still a massive illegal hit even if he did strike a player.

Between this incident by the Calgary Flames, often times aggressive, defenseman and the recent sucker punch thrown by the Los Angeles Kings’ Milan Lucic, which also hit a ref, there has been a recent trend of Slap Shot style goonery.

The thing is, Slap Shot is a slapstick comedy movie and it is also about 40 years old. The NHL isn’t a backyard wrestling federation and has evolved significantly since those days. But some players still seem to draw inspiration from the fictional Hanson Bros. and the Charlestown Chiefs.

And sure, all the hockey purists, myself included, love a certain level of aggression in the sport. I will always defend fighting as part of the sport’s tradition and heritage. I’ve also seen the negative effects of what happens when you don’t allow fighting in hockey by witnessing ridiculous hits in the college and junior levels of the game where players have no real outlet to blow off steam other than smashing a guy into the boards more violently than necessary.

That is the point of fighting. It is to blow off steam or to let two men on the ice settle their beef with a bit of gentlemanly fisticuffs instead of an all out war on the human bodies of everyone in their vicinity.

At the end of the day, however, you never, ever hit an official.

But everything I am saying here is agreed upon by most, except for Neanderthals and pacifists.

I fully support the hefty suspension on Wideman and I think most people do. In fact, I may even say that it is too light. But that is up to the League to decide and they have.

If the NHL doesn’t make examples out of guys like Wideman and Lucic, things like this will become more commonplace. If that were to happen, there’d be a lot more push back by those opposed to hockey violence. More of these situations would add credibility to their argument. And even though these incidents aren’t true examples of what fighting in hockey is, it won’t matter. If the game is perceived as too violent, it is only a matter of time before the NHL has to crackdown.

If the NHL does feel as if its hand is forced to crackdown, we are looking at a league without fighting or a very diet form of fighting. The effects of that will create more violence in how the game is played on the ice. There will be harder hits and more injuries. This will have a bigger negative impact on the sport and be truly counterproductive to the solution pushed forward by those with these biases and criticisms. It’s like politics, some big change is born with good intentions but finds itself plagued by unintended consequences. Although, it doesn’t take a genius to see the writing on the wall.

The game is already evolving away from fighting anyway. I think it will always exist, to a degree, unless it is completely banned. But the old school giant goon of yesteryear is having a much harder time finding a job in the modern NHL. Teams would rather fill their rosters spots with snipers and d-men that can actually play defense. Also, the game is getting faster each year and big thugs can’t keep up with the action. And all this is reflected in the fact that fights have been decreasing each year.

Unfortunate things happen in hockey but it’s the same in all sports. Regardless, if it is caused by a few knuckleheaded individuals doesn’t matter to the busybodies. And that is why examples have to be made.

I just hope other players learn from incidents like these and have more respect for the game, their livelihood, the players and the officials on the ice.

Retro Relapse: Making ‘May Madness’ A Thing

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015.

May Madness! Or should it be June Madness? Or maybe May-to-June Madness, as it plays out in two different months? Well, it starts at the end of May and goes into the end of June, so most games are played in June.

Regardless of what to officially call it, I love the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, which culminates into the College World Series. In fact, I love it in the same way that I love March Madness a.k.a. the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament (I like the Women’s one too and the NIT Tournament).

The thing is, every time March rolls around, people all over America print their brackets, fill them out and duke it out with their friends over who knows the sport best. Truthfully, most people only watch the sport during March Madness and really don’t know as much as they think they do. But that is the cool thing about it, playing some stupid bracket game sparks a lot of interest in college basketball: ratings soar and everyone is glued to the television come Final Four time. College baseball could certainly use a similar spark and people could use some good summertime fun.

The thing that makes March Madness so exciting is the insane amount of teams that are in the tournament. College baseball is similar in that there are 64 teams in their tournament (out of 298 Division I programs), the same amount as the basketball tournament before they expanded it to 68 just a few years ago (a change I still don’t get). Additionally, like the basketball tournament, the conference winners get automatic bids and the rest of the field is selected by an NCAA committee.

However, there are a few things that make the baseball tournament different than the basketball tournament.

In March Madness, the basketball teams play in a “one and done” scenario. You lose once, you’re out of the tournament and that’s it. In the baseball tournament, it is a bit more complicated although more interesting.

In college baseball, teams don’t find themselves in a “one and done” situation. They are divided into sixteen regional brackets with a double-elimination format. Regional champions then face each other in eight Super Regionals. The eight winners of those contests then go on to be the participants in the College World Series, which is essentially baseball’s version of basketball’s Final Four, except there are eight teams instead of four.

In the College World Series, teams are split into two groups of four and play a double-elimination format. When it gets down to the final four teams, they play in a best of three series in the semifinals and finals.

It is harder for the average Joe to follow but those of us who follow collegiate baseball, don’t find it that difficult and like the fact that it is a more complex playoff system. Although, it isn’t perfect and for the betterment of the sport, I’m not opposed to some changes to make it more accessible to the masses. Besides, with more accessibility comes more viewership and hopefully, a lot more excitement which will only better the sport of baseball at the collegiate level.

The “one and done” style of college basketball and the large number of participants is what makes it really unpredictable and exciting. Upsets happen on a pretty frequent basis but no one seems to have a problem with the system, as it is. Well, the vast majority of people, anyway.

College baseball could benefit from getting rid of the double-elimination format and go for a straight up 64 team bracket. However, to make it more balanced to what currently exists, I would propose making each round a best of three series, which would still require a double-elimination (or two-loss) scenario.

Where this would make May Madness more exciting than March Madness is that people filling out their brackets could have the option of picking the winner and the amount of games played – a good way to determine tiebreakers.

I’d also like to see the baseball Final Four expand to at least a best of five series: seven would be better.

I’m just a fan of college baseball and a fan of March Madness and think that the energy surrounding the NCAA Basketball Tournament could carry over to another great sport with a similar playoff system already in play. Besides, it’s not like you can do this with college football, which just started a playoff system that is only comprised of four teams. And I love NCAA hockey but they don’t have enough teams to have anything bigger than a sixteen team tournament.

College baseball is the only thing that could provide the world with a proper spin-off of the mega successful March Madness monster. Besides, what else is going on in sports this time of year? Football, hockey and basketball are in their off season and Major League Baseball is in the long drawn out middle of their regular season: gearing up for a joke of an All-Star Game.

Well, I guess I’ll watch the third and final game of the College World Series tonight and continue to dream of a sport that could grow much larger and potentially open the doors of bracketology pandemonium during the summer.

Retro Relapse: Fighting In Hockey

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

There are a lot of busybody nobodies out there bitching about fighting in hockey. I get it though, we live in a much softer and politically correct society than generations prior.

However, in our neutered societal state, hockey is a safe haven, where men are still men (except Sidney Crosby) and we can find solace in the fact that some things never change and that if you start trouble, someone will be there to punch you in the face. It is called retaliation and it is a major part of hockey.

Now there are a lot of good arguments out there for the banishment of ending fighting in hockey and I get a lot of the points made. I understand that concussions are horrible, especially in the long-term and if a player receives multiple. I also understand that a player can have a longer career, if he isn’t getting his teeth knocked out. Additionally, hockey players would have better smiles. There are plenty of realistic negatives that can happen to a human body that gets pummeled on a regular basis.

Many of these people though, are the same people who want to ban boxing and mixed martial arts. Some of them even think that American football is too dangerous for the athletes that participate.

Here’s the thing. These athletes are adults. These adults know the risk of the sport that they play. They still decide to play these sports anyway. Sure, one could point to them being motivated by seven-to-eight figure salaries but the fact of the matter is, you have to be one of the best in the world to earn yourself that millionaire status. So what does that say about the millions of athletes who participate in these sports that never make it? They certainly aren’t getting pummeled for huge contracts.

These critics of fighting in hockey are missing the point. For the most part, these men are tough as nails and they certainly don’t need a bunch of pansies who never played the game speaking for them. They are adults that make their own adult decisions. Again, they know the risks and they still play. That is their choice. If you find hockey too dangerous, don’t play it. If you find it too “barbaric” to watch, then don’t watch it. These men don’t need nannies and would probably punch one in the face.

This isn’t some alpha male rant, this is reality. And the reality of this situation is that fighting is ingrained in hockey culture. It is a part of the sport, an important part.

Yes, you could argue that the game would be better if it were more of a skills showcase than a land of thugs but those who make that argument apparently don’t watch the sport. For the most part, each game is a showcase of elite skill and prowess on the ice. There is more finesse in the game today than there has ever been. However, there is still that fighting element that exists because in the heat of battle, it is necessary. Is it a land of thugs? Certainly not.

A hockey enforcer (or goon, as many call them) is the sport’s version of the retaliatory pitch in baseball. And like in baseball, it is employed to send a message and to protect the team’s star players. It shouldn’t be used to intentionally hurt or maim another player and for the most part, it doesn’t. Things can get out of hand, in hockey and in baseball, but in this day and age, fines, suspensions and other punishments are handed out pretty quickly when a player crosses that line. There are checks and balances in the system.

People can get hurt pretty badly in a hockey fight, as they can with a retaliatory pitch, but serious injuries aren’t as common as the sensationalist sports media would like you to assume. Players can also get hurt pretty bad just falling on the ice or hitting the boards. Are you going to remove the ice and boards too? Maybe they’ll just play field hockey on a field made out of pillows, sticks made out of pool noodles and a lemon as a puck.

This growing anti-fighting coalition wants to constantly point out how barbaric humans are, especially men. It shares and promotes similar ideas that have been espoused by those embracing extreme feminism. You know, those people out there who see manliness as a sort of primal Neanderthalism that has no place in our prissy modern world.

What this faulty idealism fails to realize and accept is that men (and all humans, actually) need to work out their aggression and angst in a healthy way. When the hunter-gatherer way of life ended, men needed new ways to express their manliness and feel bad ass. Thus came sports, which weren’t just games but physical competitions against one another to see who was the best and the king of the tribe.

Many can point to ancient gladiatorial sports and their bloodshed but we have evolved way passed that. Besides, men were usually forced to fight each other and didn’t participate in those gladiator games voluntarily. Many were slaves or captured enemies forcibly thrown to the lions for the entertainment of their captors.

Hockey is not that same sort of barbarism and shouldn’t be compared to it. Yet that is one of the most common arguments, as those criticizing the sport’s violence like to paint a picture of men, who they perceive as victims of an outdated barbaric system, being sacrificed for the entertainment of the savage-hearted spectator. When you really look at this argument, it is bullshit.

Unfortunately, we live in a very reactionary world and if a player were to get hit and killed, whether from a punch or a hard smack to the ice or the boards, the nanny police will come out in full force, the media will provide them their soapbox and the sport will probably be forced to ban fighting. While I hope this never happens and I never want to see a player get hurt, especially killed, I could see this happening.

In the end, banning fighting in hockey would kill the spirit of the sport and probably cause more problems on the ice than what people perceive there to be now. There is a reason for an enforcer and retaliation. Without it, you open the door to greater danger and a dirtier game.

More of this, please:

Retro Relapse: Umpires Are Sensitive Egomaniacal Bitches

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015.

I hate baseball umpires more than the officials of any other sport. While baseball is and will always be my favorite sport, the men (and I use “men” lightly) that officiate the game are overly sensitive, power hungry, egomaniacal bitches.

Last night was just another example of this.

After what was perceived as a bad call, Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins started arguing with the umpire. He was actually fairly calm about it. But within just a few seconds, the home plate umpire lost his cool and ejected Hunter. He also immediately ejected Twins manager Paul Molitor who walked out to backup his player, as a manager does in these situations.

Hunter then lost his cool in a tantrum that saw him strip off his uniform and yell until he walked off the field in disgust.

Some people may think Hunter overreacted. I don’t, I think the umpire was a big bitch that needs to toughen up, grow some fucking balls and put his ego in check. Besides, if you eject a player for getting mad about a call, once he’s ejected, what is to then stop him from escalating his tirade? A fine? A suspension?

A guy like Hunter is a multimillionaire and he doesn’t care about some bullshit fine. He also probably doesn’t care about a suspension either, as the monetary hit isn’t going to come close to breaking him and he may benefit from a few days rest.

Rewind back to a few weeks ago. Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals was ejected twice in one week under similar circumstances, although he was visibly more heated than Hunter. In a press conference following his second ejection, Harper hit the nail on the head when he said:

I don’t think 40,000 people came to watch him ump tonight. Plain and simple, I really don’t think they did. Especially when we’re playing the Yankees. The Yankees are a good team, we’re a good team and we’re rolling. I don’t want to get tossed. There’s no reason for me to get tossed in that situation. I don’t think I did anything bad to get tossed. Maybe he just had a bad morning or he didn’t get his coffee.

Bryce Harper is right, the fans didn’t buy a ticket to watch an umpire putting on a show.

The thing is, power is a fucked up thing. Some can handle it, some can’t. Umpires have always been cantankerous jerks throughout baseball’s century and a half of history. That doesn’t mean that they have to abuse their power. And it certainly doesn’t mean that Major League Baseball has to coddle their officials, as if they can do no wrong.

Look, I get that an umpire has a tough job and that there is a high level of stress in the position but if anything, that should make them relate to the pressure a Major League Baseball player is under. And more often than not, when a player gripes about a call, it is because the umpire didn’t just make a bad call once, he made several over multiple at-bats. Sure, some players have unjustifiably lost their shit but not as much as umpires have unjustifiably lost theirs.

These umpires remind me of the asshole cops out there who overstep their bounds and use their power and their badge to justify horrible behavior. Many think that they are above the law and thrive on that high. They have a god complex and anytime someone challenges that, they can toss them out of a game, just as a shitty cop can toss someone in jail (or worse) for expressing displeasure.

It has gotten to the point in baseball, where if you even question an official, you’re out of the game and that’s that.

While Major League Baseball is so focused on protecting the integrity of the game in every way it can, their attitude that the umpire is always right is foolhardy and ridiculous. People make mistakes, umpires are people. And many of these people don’t have great track records.

When an umpire, like the one last night, throws a player out of a game over nothing and then walks away, as other umps try and get the irate batter off of the field, that umpire looks like an overly sensitive bitch and someone with a severe ego problem.

In other sports, athletes get in referees faces all the time, more so than in baseball. How often do they get ejected from a game though? There is just something with these baseball umpires that needs to be checked and this is an example of the archaic culture surrounding Major League Baseball.

I also get that this is part of the sport and part of the show. But when it comes to the pure competition of what is happening on the field, shit like this is a distraction and hurts the essence of the game itself. This is baseball, a sport. This isn’t World Wrestling Entertainment. People aren’t paying to see the Authority screw over Daniel Bryan day after day. What happens within the confines of the contest itself is the story that should be told. The umpires aren’t the stars, nor should they be, and their overreactions make baseball look like an episode of Jerry Springer.

Now I’m not calling for umpires to be replaced with computers, as some have suggested, but something needs to be done. I’m also not saying that all umpires are egomaniacal bitches but there are certainly many who fit the bill. Maybe they need psychological evaluations on a regular basis.

And sure, the sport has always been this way but it does seem as if the tolerance of umpires is at an all-time low.

Then again, maybe they are just rejected wannabe ballplayers that never amounted to anything and this is their way of getting revenge. Kind of like the bullied kid in high school who goes on to become successful, only to use his success to punish those who wronged him. Even though those being punished aren’t the same people who wronged him.

Is this situation fixable? Yes. Will it be fixed? No. And that folks, is baseball.

Retro Relapse: Fix Your Fucking Hat

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015.

I’ve watched baseball for a long time – 36 years to be exact. Now while I might not have understood it as an infant, I was certainly in the room when my grandma was watching the Chicago Cubs when I was that age. I was brought up a sports fan and loved baseball as far back as I can remember: collecting baseball cards and all the mini batting helmets and team ICEE cups from my local K-Mart.

Growing up, I also listened to a lot of hip-hop, heavy metal and punk rock. I embraced the whole counterculture thing and always strived to be an individual against the establishment, even though I didn’t realize I was conforming to the trendiness of nonconformity. I was a kid, it’s what kids do before they grow up and experience life and reality. And yes, I still like those things but I’ve become more of an individual as I’ve gotten older and understood what that actually means. Or I’m just older and stopped giving a fuck so much.

But as I got older, I had to join the workforce. As a teenager, I wasn’t satisfied with my allowance and got a job because I wanted to buy shit. In fact, I had several jobs in my teens and early twenties. Many of those jobs came with wearing a uniform. Sure, I loved the jobs that didn’t require a uniform but we don’t always have that luxury when it comes to having to make money. I’d wear my ugly khakis and my collared shirts and sometimes a hat with my employer’s logo on it. It comes with the job and that is the image the companies who paid my salary wanted to convey. Whether I liked it or not, I was a member of a team and I had to be a part of that team if I was going to work there.

In Major League Baseball, like all professional sports, uniforms are required. Being a paid player in the MLB means that you have to wear the uniforms provided by your employer. Some teams have strict rules, other teams are a bit more relaxed. For instance, the New York Yankees require you to shave and you cannot have your name on your jersey. Other teams let you have bodacious beards and they print your name on your back so the world can see who you are when you make an amazing play or when you fuck up on the field.

A part of the uniform in Major League Baseball is wearing your team’s cap. Why do you think they call them “baseball caps”? It’s because the hat style was invented for baseball players way back in the 1800s. It is not only a required part of the uniform in baseball but it serves a function, which is the real reason why it became the norm in the sport. That function is to block the sun out of the player’s eyes while on the field.

Culturally, baseball caps have evolved and become the badge of honor for players on their various teams. As sports breed tribalism, the logo and the cap is the flag of that tribe. It should be respected and cherished by those who wear it and those who follow the team. Hell, it should be respected by the opponents and rivals of each team, as it is a part of the sport’s history and heritage that has provided everyone on that field with a place to ply their trade.

Besides, there aren’t very many jobs out there better than being a Major League Baseball player. That alone should be enough for these players to want to honor the tradition and heritage of this great sport. But many players today, don’t.

From Fernando Rodney to Michael Pineda to Felix Hernandez to my Chicago Cubs’ Pedro Strop and others, they prefer to wear their hats crooked. While they may think they look cool and are taking fashion liberties in expressing their individuality, they look like assholes and are just following a crappy trend.

Someone who came from being a kid with nothing who now has millions, still looks like a child. Fernando Rodney is 38 years-old and he looks like a teenage clown with an old man’s face. It looks out of place and bizarre. The whole thing is just weird. The fact that their teammates don’t slap them in the back of the head is baffling to me.

Whether or not they think they’re rock stars or not is a moot point. The fact remains that they are employees and they have a uniform that should be worn correctly with pride. Some could point to these players being Latino and saying it is part of their culture. Regardless, they are still uniformed employees of a company and they are putting their own touch on something that is supposed to be held to a higher standard.

As a member of a team, you are just that – a member of a team. Sure, teams are made up of individuals but the individual should never put the spotlight on themselves over the team. Deliberately wearing a uniform incorrectly states that the player really doesn’t give a shit about the tradition, heritage or pride of the team that they play for.

Don’t even get me started on the guys who wear their Mr. T starter kits over their jerseys. We know you’re rich asshole, now put your big gold chains away and throw the fucking ball.

But staying on point here, the hats serve a function. If it is worn incorrectly, it can’t correctly serve that function. I can’t necessarily say that wearing a crooked hat has cost a team a game but it does present the possibility of it being a disadvantage.

The baseball cap is gear and a player should never wear gear incorrectly. They wouldn’t put their protective cup on crooked would they? They wouldn’t deliberately put their shoes on the wrong feet, right? I mean, maybe they would if they wanted to follow a trend and show their uniqueness.

Besides, when does it stop? How far does a player have to twist their cap before a team says “no”? In a few years, we may have players other than catchers wearing backwards hats or even turning them inside out like rally caps. Where is the line drawn here?

Lastly, I suffer from a bit of OCD. It was much worse as a child but it still exists. Whenever I see one of these self-obsessed idiots wearing a crooked cap, it sends me into a frenzy. How does it not drive them crazy? I guess looking cool (or like a clown) is more important than having functional gear and looking like a proud member of the team that pays you millions.

Retro Relapse: Jerry Jones Is A Piece of Shit But We Already Knew That

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015.

Fuck Jerry Jones. Fuck his Dallas Cowboys. Fuck the fucking NFL too.

I’m sick of this bullshit.

While I do feel bad for the Cowboys fans who want Greg Hardy (and Jerry Jones) gone for good, I have no respect or kind words for the fans who support the way their beloved football club is ran.

Truthfully, if I was a Cowboys fan, I would have either denounced the organization, at this point, or be banding together with other Cowboys fans that want to see their team no longer represent reprehensible shit.

But we live in a world where sports is a religion and football is God. There are sick people out there who don’t seem to understand that life is rich with so many other things and at the end of the day, all of this sports stuff is just a game anyway.

This Greg Hardy situation is disturbing and just adds to the pile of garbage that is the Dallas Cowboys’ and the NFL’s image. If football is God, Jerry Jones is the Antichrist – enchanting cultish fans with his evil deeds that are paraded around as noble actions for the greater good. The culture of the NFL has become a cancer to American culture.

Greg Hardy is a coward. He beats women. He beats them to a pulp. While he has seemingly gotten away from it from a legal standpoint and while the Cowboys claim to not have seen the photos of Hardy’s victim, giving this guy a shot on a team that coins itself as “America’s Team” is beyond insane. It goes to show how out of touch Jerry Jones is with reality. It proves that he has no morals and is willing to sign all the scum of the Earth to contracts, if it somehow helps the Cowboys win.

Jerry Jones is enabling a horrible person and rewarding them in the process.

Since that time, Hardy has gotten into a physical altercation with the Cowboys’ special teams coach and star wide receiver Dez Bryant. That should be grounds for his firing or at the very least, a hefty suspension handed out by the organization. Did the Cowboys do anything? No. Did they even fine him? Fuck no.

So Jerry Jones will let his own employees be assaulted by this maniac. I guess winning is that important. Especially when your star quarterback Tony Romo is missing for half the season and you’re most likely not going to come anywhere near the playoffs in a season that is already halfway over. The Dallas Cowboys are currently 2-6.

The thing is, Greg Hardy hasn’t even proven himself to be that great this season. He’s not an uber-talented megastar that the Cowboys should feel that they need to fight for and justify their actions over. Does he contribute? Sure. Can they live without him? Again, they’re 2-6!

Jerry Jones claims he was giving Greg Hardy a “second chance” and a “fresh start”. I’m sorry, but it is a little too soon for second chances. He has shown that he can’t control his rage since being given a fresh start and there are no signs that he’s going to change.

But this is that same Jerry Jones that allowed a bunch of players from his successful ’90s team continue to be employed after a bunch of criminal activity, which saw some of them do real prison time. Jones only cares about the bottom line: money. I don’t think he even cares about winning, other than winning leads to more money. Jerry Jones is the vile, sinister, evil businessman that is the epitome of every liberal college kid’s greatest fear.

Hey woman-beating Ray Rice is available and the Cowboys need a running-back. Why not give him a “second chance” and a “fresh start”, Jerry? If you’re going to go full Palpatine, embrace it.

Realistically, the National Football League is in a tough position, as Greg Hardy pretty much got away with beating up a woman. Even though there is a mountain of evidence against him, I understand their inability to not kick his ass out of the league. And the only reason he is free to walk around today, is because the victim didn’t defend herself in court. She wasn’t there. That certainly makes me wonder what kind of shit went down to stop her from following through.

But despite the legal outcome, the NFL needs to change. It needs to take these things a lot more seriously. Roger Goodell needs to not pussyfoot around these issues and lay down the law. The NFL cannot have tolerance for domestic violence or any violence, whatsoever. We have Neanderthals running wild, ruining the game and the League’s image. Their behavior proves they have no respect for themselves, their loved ones or the heritage and history of the National Football League – the place where they ply their trade. Well, the NFL shouldn’t respect them either. It’s time for some tough love. Sometimes you’ve got to kick the kid out of the house.

The NFL is a business. If an employee of any other company put a woman in the hospital, more often than not, that employee wouldn’t have a job. If that employee remained employed and people knew about it, that company would be in a lot of hot water, publicly. And what company is under a bigger microscope these days than the NFL?

Team owners and the League, need to get together and write a constitution. One that serves as a code of conduct that their employees must obey while employed. One that makes the League and team owners accountable and responsible for that player’s employment status if they can’t follow the rules. Every other company, especially ones the size of the NFL, has this.

Sure, I believe in second chances. But not immediate second chances. Players like Greg Hardy need to get help and help takes time. They need to show that they aren’t going to do these horrible things again. They need a good amount of time off to think about their situation and how they got there. Look at how long Michael Vick was out of the League after the dog fighting scandal. Did he eventually deserve a second chance? It’s debatable but I say “yes”.

The thing is, people make mistakes and some are haunted by those mistakes to the point that they change for the better and deserve a chance at redemption. Greg Hardy hasn’t shown that he deserves anything. At least not in the immediate-to-near future. He hasn’t even apologized.

Greg Hardy deserves prison time. Greg Hardy doesn’t deserve a multi-million dollar job.

But we can all thank Jerry Jones for that.

Retro Relapse: The Durham Bulls Solution to the Tampa Bay Rays Problem

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015.

Let me start this post off by saying that there is no way that this will ever happen.

That doesn’t mean that I cannot dream though. And frankly, this idea is great and it was born from a conversation a friend and I had about what to do with the Tampa Bay Rays.

By the way, I still prefer to call them the Devil Rays because that name was infinitely more bad ass than Rays. What the shit is a ray? Even Stingrays would be better than Rays. But enough bitching about a dumb name, let me get to the point here.

The Tampa Bay Rays have major attendance troubles. This also stems from the fact that they play in a shit hole, they are located in Florida (a state with horrible sports fans) and most of the attendees that do go to the games are usually there for the road team. If you don’t believe me, go to a Rays game. I have and each time I saw more jerseys and caps for the opposition. It didn’t matter if it was the Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Twins, Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles or even the foreigner poutine-fueled Blue Jays.

Florida sports fans suck a bucket of balls. I live in Florida and I witness the antics of my state mates on the reg. Look at Miami Heat fans. Oh, that’s right, you can’t anymore because LeBron James left and they ceased to exist.

Florida is also made up of a lot of tourists who buy homes and become part-time residents. Even though they melt down the side of our planet every autumn and settle in on Florida during the winter months, many stay longer or become permanent fixtures in the state. With them, they bring their love and affection for their own team from their northern place of origin. This is why teams from the Northeast and Midwest are always represented en masse at Florida sporting events. This is also why the Tampa Bay Lightning decided to not sell playoff tickets to non-permanent Florida residents and banned all team apparel that isn’t Lightning apparel. God forbid those Red Wings fans have the freedom to express themselves in Tampa Bay’s house!

When it comes to Tropicana Field, the home of the Rays, I can’t even begin to express my frustration with that abomination: sitting like a gargantuan cyborg choad, wedged between I-275 and downtown St. Petersburg. The ballpark is impractical, balls get stuck in the rafters and it is just a drab and awful sight to see. The concessions are also below average. However, that Latin American fair I went to back in 1996 resulted in me getting a handy in a toilet stall while on a high school field trip, so I do have one fond memory of Tropicana Field.

But lewdness aside, there isn’t a month or even a week that goes by where it doesn’t seem like there is some story or report about how the Rays aren’t going to survive in the Tampa Bay area or that they are going to move somewhere else. A lot of it stems from their insanely lengthy lease at Tropicana Field and the fact that people just don’t want to go there but there are a multitude of things going on, most of which I’m not going to waste time on because I don’t feel like writing a novel and the problems aren’t what this is about – this is about the solution.

So I propose that you let the Rays just fade away. Unfortunately for the American League East, this leaves them with four teams in their division: everyone else has five. So what can be done to bring balance to the AL East?

You take the Rays Triple-A team since 1998, the Durham Bulls, and make them the new Major League Baseball franchise to represent that fifth spot in the American League East division.

Crazy idea? Well, hear me out.

The Carolinas do not have a major league baseball team. However they are represented in the NFL, NBA and the NHL. They have great sports fans and a pretty successful minor league history. The Durham area is also next to Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Wake Forest and not too far from Winston-Salem and Greensboro. Charlotte isn’t far either. Also, the Carolina Hurricanes already play in that area and do pretty well for a team not even located in the biggest city in the Carolinas.

By selecting the Durham Bulls, I’m not just picking some random Carolina-based team, I am also not picking them just because they are already associated with the Tampa Bay Rays, even though that does play into this. There are several reasons for this idea but the main one is that the Durham Bulls are already an internationally recognized brand.

Since the hugely successful and awesome 1988 film Bull Durham, there has been a mystique around this team. That film starred Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and “the Clown Prince of Baseball” Max Patkin (look him up). It is a classic and probably always will be. It is by far one of the greatest baseball movies ever made and it made the Durham Bulls a household name.

Because of that, a team that would come and go throughout history, became really popular, expanded, and went from a Single-A team to a Triple-A team when they left the Carolina League and joined the much larger International League in 1998. The Rays recognized the Durham Bulls’ value as a brand and thus, made them their premier minor league affiliate after their lengthy run as a lowly team in the Atlanta Braves system.

This does hurt the actual real Rays fans out there and for that I am sorry but this would be better for the sport in my opinion and would inject a much needed boost into the AL East and MLB, in general. And being that I live in Florida and love going to as many MLB games as possible, this would be a blow to me, even though these contests take place in the worst venue in Major League Baseball.

Fans would also miss out on the growing division rivalry between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Boston Red Sox, which only intensifies and strengthens with each season. This could certainly evolve naturally if the Rays whole roster moved to Durham though.

But then again, despite all the troubles the Rays have and all the reports about them hightailing it out of Tropicana Field or completely out of the Tampa area, one fact remains true: they are really friggin’ profitable.

As of right now, in April of 2015, they are valued at $625 million dollars. This is a huge jump from the $451 million they were worth in 2013 and an even bigger jump than the $200 million they were bought for in 2004.

Realistically, could the Carolinas match or exceed the value the team has built up in the Tampa Bay area over the last decade? It is tough to say but it would be an interesting experiment, nonetheless.

And truthfully, maybe them staying put, albeit in a better venue, is the right solution.

Either way, something has to change.

Retro Relapse: A Miles Davis Sunday Experience

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

Technically, I guess this could be considered a review of two things and not just that but how these two things come together. Really though, it is a reflection on an experience more than anything else.

My football team has a bye week and I really don’t care about any other team enough to turn on the television. So I am left with not much to do. Then I came across the bottle of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew from Dogfish Head sitting in my fridge – waiting for the right moment to crack open. Without any plans other than having planned to sit down and write today, I figured I’d open the bottle and enjoy it while listening to Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” album, the great work that inspired what I have been told is a pretty great beer. Then I figured, I’d kill two birds with one stone and that I would write about the experience while indulging in the experience.

First, the beer is an American stout. Being a fan of stouts, this dark and mesmerizing brew is right up my alley. It has a roasted coffee essence but it is pretty minimal. The beer is rich and robust and has some nice maltiness to it. I pick up other flavors, such as caramel, molasses and some light fruitiness. Physically, the beer itself is very dark, kind of like black coffee. It has a dark caramel-colored head that almost bubbles similar to a good root beer but not as quickly. It isn’t a highly carbonated beer and it is almost, in body and in flavor, pretty close to being a perfect stout.

As far as the album, “Bitches Brew” is one of the most complex and original jazz albums of all time. It is a departure from what the general public expected from Miles Davis and is deemed more experimental and primal compared to what many perceive as his more refined and traditional works. Well, I really wouldn’t consider this unrefined and the fact that isn’t considered “traditional” by many in that time, just goes to show the versatility Miles Davis had as an artist. He was one of the greatest musicians that Planet Earth has ever had and “Bitches Brew” not only solidifies that fact, it shatters the mold Miles himself made and goes on to transcend the incalculable level of greatness he had achieved before this unique album’s release. Sorry if I am selling this hard but I am a huge Miles Davis fan and this album is a vital piece of work not just in Miles’ catalog but in American music history.

When Rolling Stone’s Langdon Winner reviewed Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” album in 1970, upon its release, he stated something so profound that it sums up the album and the experience of listening to it perfectly. He said, “Whatever your temperament, “Bitches Brew” will reward in direct proportion to the depth of your own involvement.”

So what is it like to merge these two things: the album and the stout?

Well, the attitude and complexity of the album is only rivaled by the attitude and complexity of this meaty and potent jazz juice. Upon my first sip, this beer has risen up into the upper echelon of the brews that Dogfish Head offers. I’ve drank a lot of their stuff and there isn’t anything I haven’t liked. They are a brewery that does their own thing and strives to surprise the public, even though they have grown to a position where they could just sit comfortably and collect their profits. Dogfish Head goes way beyond that and continually creates some of the best brews in the world. With Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, they have created one of the finest stouts that I have ever had.

Going beyond that, they have created a stout that from a flavor and body perspective, captures the essence of the “Bitches Brew” album. Throughout history, there have been many products that have tied into other products. This is one of the very few tie-ins that makes a lot of sense and is truly complimentary. The people at Dogfish Head just get it and luckily for us, they also have the palates and knowledge in how to create a perfect compliment to something that in and of itself is already a near flawless piece of work.

Well, the album is nearly over and my beer is nearly gone. I’ll have to do this again some time. I’m sure it won’t be as majestic as this initial experience but it is an experience that I would welcome at anytime. Dogfish Head’s Bitches Brew is a beer that Miles Davis would have been proud of. For the rest of us, it is a beer that we can relish in and enjoy with Miles’ most uncommon yet most interesting album.

Retro Relapse: When ‘The Code’ Goes Too Far

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2014.

There are several unwritten rules and codes in baseball. They have existed for generations and even though they are kept pretty secret, there has been a lot of transparency in the last few years.

It is kind of like professional wrestling, in that no one knew how exactly they put their show together and how the behind the scenes mechanics worked but with the Internet and instantaneous media at people’s fingertips, that game changed. What they referred to as “kayfabe” (their code and secrets of the business) has come out into the light.

Baseball has evolved in a similar way and between websites, blogs and even books, commentators and ex-players themselves coming forward to shed light on these things, the general public understands “The Code” much better than they did a generation ago.

I respect The Code, it is part of the sport and every other sport or industry in the world has its own unwritten rules. The problem is that sometimes this code goes too far. For instance, when it leads to maiming another player intentionally and possibly shortening or flat out ending their career, there is a real problem.

This past weekend we saw an example of this in the series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

During the first game of the series, Pirates relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri threw a fastball that struck the hand of Diamondbacks first baseman and superstar, Paul Goldschmidt. It was an accident and not intentional. When pitching, sometimes the ball slips or a pitcher doesn’t hit their target. In this case, Goldschmidt’s hand fell victim and was broken by Frieri’s fastball. Goldschmidt was put on the DL for 15 days. But this is the risk of playing a sport. Injury is an everyday thing and the players know this when they step on the field.

Sure, it is a setback for the struggling Diamondbacks but being that the season is two-thirds of the way over and that they’re 14.5 games behind the first place Dodgers and 12 games behind the second place Giants in the NL West, there really isn’t anything short of a miracle that can even get the Diamondbacks close to a wild card spot. But Paul Goldschmidt is their star player and any student of the game knew that despite this being an accident, retribution from the Diamondbacks would be coming. Hell, in regards to their batters getting hit by pitches, they warned of retribution before the season started.

The next night, very late in the game, the Pirates top player Andrew McCutchen took the plate. McCutchen is a serious contender for the National League MVP this year and is hands down one of the best players of this generation. He is also leading the Pittsburgh Pirates in their tough fight to make the playoffs for their second straight year. Right now, they are 2.5 games behind the first place Brewers and just 1.5 games behind the second place Cardinals. The Pirates have a real chance at making the playoffs again, which is awesome considering that last year was their first postseason appearance in two decades.

When Andrew McCutchen took the plate however, their hunt was seriously threatened when Diamondbacks pitcher Randall Delgado intentionally threw a fastball at McCutchen, which struck him hard in the spine. McCutchen immediately hit the dirt and writhed in pain. The result: lots of tests, lots of worry and a broken rib in a pivotal time for the Pirates to rally and push for a spot in the playoffs. This revenge pitch may have cost the entire city of Pittsburgh another real run at postseason glory.

A lot of opinionated analysts and experts are pointing a finger at Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson. Many believe that he has created a headhunting culture within his ball club. Did he give the order like a mob boss putting out a hit on a key member of a rival gang? It’s possible but we’ll never know because ballplayers pretty much keep their mouths shut on such matters. Regardless, these mob-like tactics are a blight on the game.

Remember last season when Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster threw a fastball at Alex Rodriguez’s head? Yes, he did what many wanted him to do, as the Yankees star was public enemy number one in the world of baseball. That doesn’t excuse it though. Worst-case scenario, it could’ve killed the guy or ended his career had it connected the right way. Severely hurting someone intentionally isn’t the same thing as simply beaning a dude to send a message.

In hockey, they fight and they fight hard. But when Marty McSorely of the Boston Bruins went too far and hit the Canucks’ Donald Brashear in the head with a stick, ending his career, he was charged with assault with a weapon and given an 18 month conditional discharge. Hockey and the law took care of business and did the right thing.

There is a fine line and accidents happen. However when someone is intentionally harmed because it’s just the way things are done and have always been done, that’s a bullshit excuse and completely fucking asinine.

Baseball is a sport of class and a sport of men. The players need to start acting like it and carrying themselves as something higher than barbarians.

Retro Relapse: 30 MORE New Taglines For Popular Beers

RETRO RELAPSE is a series of older articles from various places where I used to write before Talking Pulp.

*Written in 2015.

I already did a previous version of this but after covering thirty beers, it dawned on me… there are even more shitty popular beers in heavy circulation out there!

You see, I’m a beer snob. I’m fine with that, as I can’t stomach the mass produced swill that many seem to also not enjoy, other than getting a buzz while watching their pigskin team on Sundays.

Every time I go to a party or a bar that is in the midst of pigskin game watching, I am usually offered up one of these choices. When in Rome, drink swill.. or something like that.

Anyway, I figured that since I am in advertising and marketing, I could use that skill in an effort to come up with new taglines for these really popular brews. Some aren’t even beers but they’re marketed as alternatives for those sissies out there.

So here we go! Thirty MORE!

1. Michelob Amberbock – “Look at me! I only had one dollar. Hey, free Chex Mix at the bar!”
2. MGD (Miller Genuine Draft) – “For the lifelong Rusty Wallace fan.”
3. Schlitz – “Robot saliva.”
4. National Bohemian – “The Oriole fan’s sleep aid.”
5. Stroh’s – “Detroit rain water runoff.”
6. Lone Star – “Everything’s bigger in Texas – even failure.”
7. Old Milwaukee – “The white bread of white bread beers.”
8. Milwaukee’s Best – “If compared to Old Milwaukee, it is TRULY Milwaukee’s Best.”
9. Landshark – “Sharks are cool. These beers are not.”
10. Shock Top – “Proudly sporting the worst logo in the beer industry.”
11. Simple Times – “The hipster socialist’s capitalist lager.”
12. Steel Reserve – “Like staring into the void for millennia.”
13. Rolling Rock – “It comes from New Jersey.”
14. Goose Island IPA – “You think it’s craft but they’ve got your soul now!”
15. Sam Adams Boston Lager – “Must be consumed to Dropkick Murphy’s. No exceptions!”
16. Leinenkugel Summer Shandy – “Refreshing! Like Pixy Stix in water!”
17. Mike’s Hard Lemondade – “Mike’s hard realization that he’s not like the other men.”
18. Twisted Tea – “Mike trying to be harder than hard.”
19. Smirnoff Ice – “The linoleum tile of alcoholic beverages.”
20. Narragansett – “Passable on a really hot day watching baseball outside.”
21. Blue Moon – “The frat bro mimosa.”
22. Killian’s Irish Red – “McCoors.”
23. Carlsberg – “Soccer Budweiser.”
24. Molson Canadian – “Savage goon juice!”
25. Amstel Light – “The wife thinks you’re boring. You’ll show her!”
26. Hoegaarden – “Not pronounced ‘hoe-garden’ and just as disappointing as that realization.”
27. Peroni – “Not brewed with pepperoni.”
28. Tsingtao – “Chinese beer for sushi lovers.”
29. Sapporo – “The Mr. Miyagi of mediocre beer.”
30. Kirin Ichiban – “Dragons, bro.”