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.”

Retro Relapse: 30 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’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.

So here we go!

1. Budweiser – “‘MERICUH MOST PURE! YEAH! FERTBALL!”
2. Bud Light – “The renewable resource – piss that makes you piss.”
3. Bud Light Platinum – “High class white trash you can drink.”
4. Bud Light Lime – “I want my Corona, AMERICAN!”
5. Bud Ice – “Wait… there is no ice in this piss? Can you even freeze piss?”
6. Busch – “The St. Louis Cardinals of beer.”
7. Busch Light – “The Memphis Redbirds of beer.”
8. Miller Lite – “That ’70s beer.”
9. Miller High Life – “Goes good with those deviled eggs that have been sitting out since yesterday.”
10. Coors Light – “Magic blue mountains to tell you when it reaches maximum sucktitude.”
11. Mic Ultra – “Perfect for those Gossip Girl reruns.”
12. Natural Ice – “Why am I Hulking out? ARGH!!! HULK SMASH!!!”
13. Natural Light – “SHE-HULK SMASH!!!”
14. Keystone Light – “For those who have a light appreciation for Pennsylvania.”
15. Pabst Blue Ribbon – “It’s a Gainesville Saturday night, up in here!”
16. Yuengling Lager – “Craft beer that doesn’t taste like craft beer.”
17. Labatt Blue – “Tastes like watered down hockey sweat.”
18. Labatt Blue Light – “Tastes like water with a bit of hockey sweat.”
19. Heineken – “Doogie Howser approves!”
20. Becks – “German Budweiser.”
21. Stella Artois – “Whoa! At least I got a good buzz and it’s not horrible!”
22. Foster’s – “Australian for “ass juice”.”
23. Dos Equis – “The most interesting marketing lie in the world.”
24. Corona – “The Taco Bell of beers.”
25. Corona Light – “So good you have to fill it with sixty limes.”
26. Modelo – “Corona in a pretentious bottle.”
27. Tecate – “Premier lucha libre advertiser since 1890.”
28. Pacifico – “It’s like a salty ocean with an “O” at the end of it.”
29. Red Stripe – “Jamaican me not like this beer!”
30. Guinness Draught – “Actually, quite good! The Irish win!”

Retro Relapse: Top 30 Manliest Sandwiches

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

*Written in 2015.

Men like sandwiches. We like meat. We like sandwiches with meat.

Lettuce wraps are for hippies and baby rabbits.

The other day, my ex-girlfriend’s uncle, a true manly man, and I were debating manly sandwiches. One thing led to another and now, I have a list!

There’s nothing open-faced on this list!

1. An American as fuck burger!
2. Muffuletta
3. Italian beef
4. Porchetta
5. BBQ pork sandwich
6. A very large B.L.T.
7. The Primanti
8. Chicken biscuit
9. Cheesesteak
10. Chili dog (fuck you, it counts because it’s my list!)
11. Croque monsieur
12. Lobster roll
13. Italian sub
14. Monte Cristo
15. Fried alligator sandwich
16. Sausage & peppers sub
17. Fried oyster po boy
18. Cuban
19. Meat loaf sandwich
20. Frisco melt
21. French dip
22. Meatball sub
23. Reuben
24. Grilled cheese with bacon
25. A Thanksgiving leftovers sandwich
26. Beer battered fish sandwich
27. Hot pastrami
28. Gyro
29. Fried balogna
30. Tuna melt

Retro Relapse: The Potential Overkill of Outdoor Hockey

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

*Written in 2014.

Note: This was written six years ago but I still stand by it. However, now that we live in a COVID world, this might all be moot.

With the announcement that my Chicago Blackhawks will play the Washington Capitals in next year’s NHL Winter Classic, I am fairly ecstatic. Why? Well, my team will be featured in the biggest and most awesome regular season game of the year. While the Blackhawks storm Washington on New Year’s Day, millions will watch in awe, as real men take to the ice and level each other while fighting the elements and trying to score goals in much harsher conditions than playing in some random indoor arena. If the weather is anything like it was during the last Winter Classic, we are in for something special.

And that’s the thing, the Winter Classic is special. It isn’t a championship game and it really doesn’t mean anything to the record books other than a regular season win or loss for the teams involved. However, it does mean bragging rights for whomever wins the most watched game of the year. And even though bragging rights isn’t anything as big as a championship, this game does have a championship feel to it. Nothing vital is on the line but the Winter Classic still feels like the Superbowl of hockey.

As amazing, as successful and as watched as this event is, the NHL’s commissioner, Gary Bettman has taken the ball and ran with it: expanding the idea to what has become known as the NHL Stadium Series.

This passed year, due to the Winter Classic and the Stadium Series, we had 6 outdoor NHL events. We had the Winter Classic itself between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Then there was the Blackhawks hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Solider Field. The New York Rangers had two games at Yankees Stadium, one against the New York Islanders and the other against the New Jersey Devils. The Vancouver Canucks hosted the Ottawa Senators in what is known as the Heritage Classic. There was also the most bizarre of any hockey game I have ever seen, which saw the Los Angeles Kings play the Anaheim Ducks at Dodgers Stadium. It was steamy, sunny and just a strange sight to behold.

Truth be told, six of these things is way too many. The last Stadium Series game played was Vancouver and Ottawa and by that point, I didn’t give a shit. I think I watched about five minutes of it and I’m a pretty hardcore hockey aficionado at this point. Granted, the Blackhawks and Penguins matchup from Soldier Field took place the night prior but even though that one featured my team, it felt less special, as I had already watched four of these games in the two months prior. Luckily, the Chicago game had insane weather and a dominant performance by my team because that made it more than worthwhile and an incredible experience.

The problem here, is that there is just too much of this Stadium Series shit. The NHL and Gary Bettman should put all their eggs in the basket that is the Winter Classic. That should be the focus and should feature great match ups. Call me an old school hockey whore but I think it should always feature at least one Original Six team. I’d say it should feature two Original Six teams but I wouldn’t want shitty markets like Nashville and Columbus crying that I’m being unfair.

The thing is, stadium hockey in the NHL has already reached overkill, at least for me. It probably isn’t that far behind with others. It is a unique experience but if you shove it down our throats six times a year, it isn’t unique anymore. If the Superbowl happened six times a year, most people wouldn’t care as much about the big one in February. And at least the Superbowl is contested for a championship. I’m not saying that the Winter Classic should be a championship game, that’s kind of hard considering the time of year and the 7 game series in the Stanley Cup Finals, but it should have that Superbowl feel and maintain it. Watering down the stadium concept by having a half dozen games in two months is going to kill it. Which sucks, because hockey doesn’t thrive in America and the Winter Classic could change that.

Additionally, college hockey has caught the bug and are now having a bunch of high profile outdoor games as well. Outdoor hockey hasn’t been uncommon at the college level but it is a different ballgame when you see collegiate teams battling it out on the ice in front of the Green Monster at Fenway Park. As a fan of collegiate hockey, this is great for their game. It is bringing interest to one of the most ignored collegiate sports in America. On the flip side, this probably cuts into the glorious pie that is the NHL’s Winter Classic because the more outdoor hockey we get, the less special it becomes.

Will the NHL get rid of all the stadium games other than the Winter Classic? I seriously doubt it, at least in the near future. These games bring big money, big TV deals and lots of advertising revenue. I get it, they are making hockey a big business but like the housing crisis a few years ago, this is a bubble that can burst.

As far as regular season hockey goes, I’m talking about the hundreds of indoor games, what does this do to them? If we have a half dozen outdoor rock stadium-like games, does this kill interest in the casual viewer watching the other 99 percent of hockey games because they are played in some lame indoor arena? I could see this stadium overkill having that effect and that would be really bad for the sport. At its essence, hockey could become ignored, as casual fans only tune in for the dog and pony show portions of the season.

The NHL, as I’ve already stated, should focus on the Winter Classic. Put everything into that one special game and grow it over time. It is an amazing concept and experience that will sell itself and grow year after year. In this case, striking while the iron is hot will be good for the short-term but dilute the effects over the long-term. I’d prefer the sport to grow and thrive, not explode and quickly fizzle out.

Retro Relapse: That NFL In London Project

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

*Written in 2014.

Today was another day where we got to watch an NFL game in London. Sorry, I am just not impressed.

Look at that photo there (*now replaced by an unrelated GIF). That is a photo taken of the crowd at today’s game. Today’s London game was between the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons. You wouldn’t necessarily know that though by looking at this picture as almost every person is wearing gear from a different team.

I’m not criticizing the Londoners per se but this just feels like a group of people that went out and bought a ticket to see this strange sideshow and out of respect and wanting to embrace the experience, they ran down to the closest sports store that just happened to sell NFL shit and they bought whatever jersey was available in their size. Kind of like when I see some random American person going to watch a soccer match in a bar for the first time in America, only to stop off and buy any random British football a.k.a. soccer shirt that they can find.

The American sports media has a tendency to piss me off. This is really no different, as the idiots in my idiot box love pimping out this NFL in the UK idea. I mean if you watch a game, they spend more time selling the idea of the UK than actually calling the action in the damned game. And why? Well, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made it no secret that he wants an NFL team in London. This project is an experiment leading to that eventual goal.

I think that goal is a pretty asinine one. As far as I can tell, the British people really don’t give two shits about the National Football League. In fact, most of the ones I have ever met or talked to, hate the fact that Americans call their big barbaric sport “football” and refer to true football as that weird word “soccer”. To every sports-loving Briton that I have met, they love their football. Again, their football. Sure, some may casually watch our football but you aren’t going to get the passion you see at a Chelsea game embody the fans at a Jaguars game.

I use the Jaguars as an example because that is the team that has been most rumored to be the one to eventually relocate to England. Yes, what a gift that Roger Goodell wants to bestow upon the United Kingdom by giving them the worst team in the National Football League! How mighty generous of you, sir!

And while this NFL brand building in the UK is being pushed down the British people’s throats, as well as ours, the league can’t sell them on how awesome the product is if they keep sending them teams like the Jaguars, the Dolphins, the Raiders and the Falcons. At least the Lions and the Cowboys have had good seasons thus far. If you want to sell the game to the Brits though, send them really good match ups. Send them the Broncos and the Seahawks. Hell, just send them a real rivalry game – not just some random match up.

This year they played three games in London. Next season they are expanding it to five. This is ludicrous.

To start, it isn’t fair to the teams that participate. Now, I know that many teams and athletes are game for the adventure and the chance to play in London because it is a new and unique experience but what happens when it is no longer new and unique. Honestly, like the overabundance of outdoor stadium hockey, the novelty will wear off.

And why is it not fair to the participating teams? While like today’s game, the Atlanta Falcons, even though they are on the road in London, were considered the host team and thus, lost one of their eight home games. While the game counts as a home game, they are really playing seven at home and nine on the road, giving them a disadvantage to the other teams in the league. To Detroit, it is just another road game, as had they played in Atlanta, they still would have been on the road and they still get the even eight at home, eight on the road schedule. To a team like Atlanta, who are struggling so far this season, this is a big wrench in the machine that could prevent them from squeaking into the playoffs if they are able to pull a good run together to end their season.

Both teams are also effected by the travel. London is across the ocean. While you could look at an east coast-based team and compare it to a New York team flying to California for a game, it is much further than that to any team not located on America’s eastern shoreline. How long would it take the Seattle Seahawks to get there and once they got there, how tired and jet-lagged would they be?

Now imagine putting a team in London permanently. How tired would the London-based team be after having to travel back and forth to the United States every other week for eight road games over the course of the season? How fair would that be to teams on the west coast of the U.S.? There are several reasons why no professional sports leagues have expanded worldwide. This is probably the biggest of them.

With a schedule like the London team would have to have, who the hell would want to play there? Sure, if a player gets drafted, he doesn’t have much choice but why would he ever re-sign? How would they build a franchise and develop franchise players? Maybe the press should really ask the players about their thoughts on this but ultimately, I can’t see anyone wanting to voluntarily sign-up for this task.

Now imagine if there is a team to pop-up in Hawaii or further out than the west coast. As a team, you’d have to practically fly half way around the world and back to play a hard-hitting game just to rush back home for the next one.

I mean, the NFL could send the London team to America for three or four games in a block and then send them home for three or four, to lessen travel but the point is, they would still be on the road, far from home and not near their own practice facilities. Plus a schedule with big chunks of games at home and away, also isn’t really fair to a London team.

Remember NFL Europe? That shit crashed and burned and the league held on to it for way too long. No one in Europe really supported it and no one cared. And that is the thing. If the United Kingdom really wanted an NFL team, then let’s talk about it. I just don’t see anyone in the UK that really cares, at least not on the level of justifying a team to move there.

Now you could counter and say that the games in London attract more fans than any other American team that isn’t Dallas. While that fact is true, no American stadium other than Dallas is as big as London’s Wembley Stadium. It has the advantage of having more seats. Secondly, games are much rarer there but now that it is expanding to more games per season, it won’t be as unique of an experience as it has been to the British. Thirdly, despite the huge crowds for just one-to-three games per year, the London-based sports press never gives it more than a small blurb in their sports section. Reason being? Because it doesn’t care about the sport en masse. Don’t let the American press and the commentators selling you on the idea fool you. In fact, SB Nation’s Kristi Dosh had a great article about this last season (see here).

You know what they care about in London? They care about football. The kind of football where helmets and pads aren’t required and they aren’t subjected to a Taco Bell or a Bud Light Lime advert every twelve seconds.

Retro Relapse: The MLB to 7 Innings Idea

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

*Written in 2014.

Recently, an unnamed high-ranking baseball executive discussed trimming MLB games down to 7 innings (story here). Homeboy is probably unnamed because he doesn’t want millions of boots up his idiotic ass.

It seems that this executive feels that limiting games to 7 innings would enhance the sport. He pointed out that MLB’s audience is aging and that younger people want shit faster and faster.

Well, fuck that argument. The executive is assuming that baseball is boring and slow. It is a common argument usually broadcasted by baseball naysayers because they have the attention span of mallards in heat. The fact of the matter is, there are other ways to speed up the game, as opposed to shaving off two innings. Additionally, if kids today don’t care about baseball because the pace is a bit more relaxed than basketball or football, it just means that their parents failed them. These kids should have had certain things instilled in them like the fact that baseball is the greatest thing America has ever produced.

He also talks about how teams are having a hard time finding good pitching and that pitchers are getting injured more frequently. Okay, well how is a 9 inning game to blame? Major League Baseball has always consisted of games that went 9 innings (or more in the case of a tie after 9). The problem here is obviously something else other than the game being 9 innings. That’s like saying, more car accidents are occurring so it must be this 70 MPH speed limit, even though it has always been a 70 MPH speed limit. Yeah, ignore all other factors and single out the one thing that has always been a constant. Additionally, haven’t they already altered the game, on numerous occasions, to benefit the hitters? So bad pitching means better batting. I guess logic and consistency are in short supply.

With two less innings, games would finish at around two and a half hours as opposed to three hours. This executive is high up on that idea. Personally, I think this guy is stupid as hell. Maybe I’m a true baseball purist because I want three hour baseball! Hell, I get really fucking excited when games go to extra innings. Granted, 17 innings are probably way too many but extra baseball means more bang for your buck! Why would you want less? And why even watch baseball at all if you want short ass games? Just watch highlights like a fucking tool.

However, apart from all of that, what would this do to the history of the game? Every record from this day forward would have an asterisk because to compare records over 7 innings against records over 9 innings just won’t work. It’s as if you would have to close the book on baseball history and start the record books over from scratch.

For instance, it’d be much easier for pitchers to pitch no hitters, as there are less innings. It’d be easier for batters to maintain higher batting averages, as they’d be taking less at bats. This would also effect on-base percentages. Additionally, it’d lower the amounts of strikeouts a pitcher could get. It’d also lower the amount of homeruns a player could get over the season considering games are now 7 innings instead of 9, which for a whole season of 162 games adds up to 1,134 innings instead of the current 1,458. The same issue arises for stolen bases, hits, RBIs and everything else you could think of, really. Furthermore, it’d be damn near impossible for anyone to ever beat Barry Bonds homerun record of 762. Same goes for all-time records in hits, strikeouts, stolen bases, RBIs, innings pitched and so on. This is why we couldn’t compare new stats and records to old stats and records.

Being a traditionalist for the most traditional sport, the thought of this 7 inning idea is beyond baffling. Truthfully, this idea is fucking madness. Fortunately, this most likely will never happen. It is a horrible proposal but that doesn’t mean that this idiot exec couldn’t convince other idiot execs and thus, gain some traction with this insane weirdness. Still, I doubt enough people would be this crazy but at the same time, enough people had to think that the DH rule was a good idea.

Retro Relapse: The Death of Chinese Food

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

*Written in 2015.

Chinese food is dying a slow and horrible death.

While it is probably still okay in bigger cities, real Chinese restaurants have been run out of most towns by massive buffets and the overabundance of Chinese take-out cubbyholes.

Sure, the Chinese cuisine in China still exists and always will but I am specifically talking about American Chinese food or New York style or whatever you want to officially label it.

If you don’t know, we don’t make the same stuff as China. America’s Chinese food is a Western bastardization of real Chinese cuisine but it fits our sweet-obsessed palates better and we probably wouldn’t be super keen on the authentic food. Besides, from what I hear from Westerners that have gone over there, it really isn’t something to write home about.

This shit is pretty tragic though.

When I was a kid, I had a few different Chinese restaurants near my home to choose from. They were nice sit-down establishments that served high quality cuisine. You got hot tea, those little fried strips of wonton, that spicy as hell hot mustard, some nice egg rolls, fried rice that was actually fried rice and a nice big meal of some crispy fried chicken bits covered in a stellar sauce – usually sweet with a touch of spice. Yes, there are several types of entrees but they are all just slight variations of a handful of dishes.

Somewhere along the line, corners started to be cut, ingredient quality went down the shitter and we were bombarded with Chinese buffets almost everywhere. Many were good in the beginning. Who could resist the allure of all-you-can-eat Chinese food? Plus you just walk up and make your own plate. No looking over menus, no ordering, no special requests, no waiting! Just straight up instantaneous Chinese food orgy for a few bucks! It was like getting a hand job while smoking a joint under the bleachers before fourth period algebra. To a Chinese cuisine connoisseur, such as my thirteen year-old self, we were able to try a little bit of everything, not break the bank and leave in an MSG-laced coma only to be hungry for more in two hours.

As time continued to pass, the quality kept dropping. In a few short years, we were all eating shit but we kept doing it. Truth is, many people still fall victim to the phantom pull of the Chinese buffet. Hell, it still grabs me sometimes when I’m hungry, lazy and just need a spontaneous romp through crappy food, overeating and hours worth of dehydration and self-hatred.

I convince myself it is good because I am nostalgic for what Chinese food used to be. It isn’t good and I’m an asshole lying to myself. The problem is, I have a need and that need can’t be fulfilled. So a craving that should be squashed in one meal becomes a craving that hasn’t been quenched in years. I really love Chinese food. Damn it, writing this fucking article is making me hungry.

Anyway, as these Chinese buffets took over American culture like some sort of edible Beanie Babies, they still felt the need to produce food cheaper and faster. As some Americans grew exhausted of the buffet experience, these Chinese take-out hole-in-the-wall joints started popping up in every suburban and rural strip mall. Now you could walk in and walk out in less than five minutes with a $6 dinner combo or a $4 lunch combo. And now, these places are everywhere.

The Chinese cubbyhole take-out takeover compounded with the buffets has pretty much changed the American Chinese food industry’s business model so much that the really good quality mom and pop restaurants got ran out of town. Where I live, the best of these restaurants shutdown a few years ago and my relationship with Chinese food has never been the same. It has dissolved into a horrible marriage full of drinking, heavy drugs, spousal abuse and absolutely no sex – the kids moved in with grandma.

Recently a restaurant that appeared to be a legit high quality Chinese joint opened near my house. I went in, I was disappointed. While it was better than a buffet or a cubbyhole, it was still pretty shitty and just a small step above its cheaper counterparts. I pretty much paid double the price for still crappy Chinese cuisine.

There is still one place that is okay in my town but it only exists because it is a “fusion” of all Asian styles and American as well. And that’s the thing, there is still a big market for Asian food but people now want sushi, hibachi, Thai and Vietnamese. The average American probably thinks all this shit is under the same umbrella but it isn’t. Traditional American Chinese food has become the bastard child of these multi-Asian eateries.

Then there is PF Chang’s but they mix up their cultural selections too and although I really like their Mongolian beef, Mongolia isn’t China and they are essentially the Asian Olive Garden. I hate Olive Garden, minus the bread sticks and high caloric salad – high caloric because I eat a shit ton.

I guess I’m going to just have to book a flight to New York or San Francisco. I’m certainly not going to stop this hunger outside of a major city with a large Chinese population.

Well, off to Panda Express at the mall, because it is now the best Chinese food in town.