A Really Great Review of “Eyes in All Shadows & Other Stories – A Barbarians of the Storm Anthology” – A book that’s as terrifying as it is entertaining.” by Riverotter85

Sometimes, we have to look to darkness in order to see the light.

No better is this exemplified than within the Horror genre. At its best, a good Horror story can truly embody what it means to experience emotions such as pain and loss, along with the elation that comes from ultimately facing your fears. It should be no surprise, then, that Horror has often been intermingled with the Fantasy and Swords-and-Sorcery genres for as long as we can remember. Classic tales told by the likes of Robert E. Howard, HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and more show that something exceptional can truly be made when your protagonist is likewise made vulnerable and tested by something they don’t quite understand.

It’s a tale as old as pulp storytelling itself; and in many ways, I would venture to say that Fantasy and Horror go together much like peanut butter and jelly. They are both an inseparable pair, and when done right, they can be the uncontested cream of the crop for the entire medium.

I am glad to say that Eyes In All Shadows, penned by author Rob Rimes, belongs right alongside this set of venerated classics. Now being the third canonical release in the Barbarians of the Storm anthology, it’s not only a brilliant collection of Horror-themed short-stories, that thrills as much as it entertains, but I also believe it’s his best work yet, and a testament to the revival of pulp as a renewed art form.

check out Riverotter85’s Substack Downstream Pulp for the full review and give a sub, as well.

Barbarians of the Storm books are available HERE.

A Really Great Review of “Dan the Destructor – Barbarians of the Storm, Book I” – “Dan the Destructor – Conan: Isekai Edition” by Katharine Frances

I would like to begin this review by posing a question to the reader; “Does the idea of watching a barbarian warrior operating a minigun mounted to the back of an SUV being driven by a man in chainmail and a Hawaiian T-Shirt pique your interest?” If the answer is yes, then Barbarians of the Storm’s first entry, Dan the Destructor, may be of interest to you. If the answer is no, I am sympathetic to the fact that life has beaten the joy out of you and distanced you from simpler times. If you can still recall the clattering of your action figures as He-Man and GI Joe joined forces to rescue Barbie from Skeletor and Megatron, Dan the Destructor is a time-capsule back to a purer form of action and adventure.

As I purchased this pulp novella as a physical product rather than an ebook, I’d like to first spend some time speaking on its presentation. With its dimensions being roughly 4 by 6 inches, it’s a compact little volume that can easily be slipped into a purse or coat pocket. Though unillustrated, the cover art is striking in its simplicity, and with other volumes in the series having aesthetically similar covers, I imagine the entire collection would be quite pleasing to look at once it’s completed. Of additional note is a morsel of hidden extra value; once the main narrative is concluded, the volume also includes a short story set in the same universe, one of fairly significant length as well. …

check out Katharine Frances’ Substack for a full review and give her a sub, as well.

Barbarians of the Storm books are available HERE.

The Genesis of the “Barbarians of the Storm” Book Series

Part I: From Idea to Comic Script to Book

*Originally posted on the Talking Pulp Press – Substack.

The final version of Dan the Destructor is very different from what it was originally intended to be and with that, the Barbarians of the Storm series is a bigger and much more refined vision of what I initially set out to do.

For those who have already read the book and know the characters, the original story that I had in my head revolved around Frank Murdock. There wasn’t a Dan, and Fenrik only came into it about halfway through, as an ally that was actually a king and married to a warrior queen (Vasilia).

For those who haven’t read the book, Frank is an important but fairly minor character in it. He’s also a decade or two older than what he would’ve been in my original idea. Although, a much closer version to that original idea is in the pipeline, as I am planning either a short story anthology or a separate series that will focus specifically on Frank’s time between his arrival in this strange world and the events of Dan the Destructor. Let me get back on topic, though.

The original concept came from my love of Italian rip-offs of the Mad Max and Conan the Barbarian movies. I was high one night, having a marathon of these sort of films, when a friend and I started discussing their origins and how we both thought it would’ve been neat if the Italians had combined the two things together in a sort of Mad Max meets Conan flick. It would have been a strange blend of those worlds but they are very similar, apart from some technological differences. However, both are barbarous, take place in a desert expanse and feature a badass hero, against all odds, doing battle with an enemy force that is much larger than himself.

The idea became something that I wanted to do in a comic book style. Initially, I wanted a four-issue miniseries, drawn in a late ‘70s/early ‘80s style and printed on newsprint, unlike comic books these days. I wasn’t sure how I was going to achieve this, as I wouldn’t be the artist, but I started to bullet point out what the script would be.

I sat on this idea for about a year but new things popped into my head and I ended up having more focus on Fenrik and a new character, Dan. I didn’t even know what to call Dan but I like alliteration and wanted something that worked with “Destroyer”, which itself was an homage to 1984’s Conan the Destroyer, a movie I adored as a kid.

When the COVID shit kicked off and I had a lot more free time on my hands, I cranked out the script for what was then called Dan the Destroyer. In the time since I started that script and got the final book out, though, another novel had come out with that title, so I switched it to Dan the Destructor. I actually have some press proofs of the book with the original title on them.

Getting back to the comic book script, I figured that I’d write it out as a four-issue miniseries of traditional floppy comics. I was also toying with the idea of doing it as a graphic novel, as it was my first attempt at a comic book project professionally and that seemed like a lot less of a headache.

The problem came when I was trying to find the right artist and nothing materialized and the few artists that did respond, fell off the face of the Earth or had such shitty correspondence that I knew that I didn’t want to work with them.

So, I sat on the script for another year and I’d periodically re-read it. However, each time I did, I got new ideas and I realized that it would serve the story better to flesh out some sequences, get a lot more action heavy and to speed up the pace of the storytelling. And really, this got me thinking of the pulp novels I loved as a kid, whether they were all the cool Conan and Tarzan paperbacks I’d check out at the library because of their badass covers or those Louis L’Amour western novels (also with badass covers) that my grandfather would let me read from his collection.

Through that lens, Dan the Destructor came to life for me in a way that it hadn’t before and I decided that it would be best for the story if it were written as a short, fast-paced, action-packed, buddy adventure that stayed focused on the main plot.

However, many of my ideas grew beyond just this story, so some minor world building had to be worked in. I didn’t want that to overpower or dilute the story, and based off of feedback I’ve gotten, I think I succeeded in that. Most people who have discussed the book with me, are already pretty eager to see where certain things are going to go. Honestly, as a writer, that makes me happy, as I obviously want people to enjoy the book and be left wanting more.

So this is how everything came together in regards to reaching what became the book, but I do plan to write more about this, as I wanted to discuss other influences I’ve had over the years that also contributed to what became Dan the Destructor. I figured I’d address this part of the book’s creation process, though, as it’s the question I seem to get the most.

Part II: Discussing Influences – Television & Film

*Originally posted on the Talking Pulp Press – Substack.

Just as I was turning 5 years-old, there was one thing that was released upon the world that was bigger than everything else combined. That thing was the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon. To say that it captivated me, is the understatement of the century.

I watched the show constantly and I wanted every single toy, which wasn’t possible on my mother’s budget. However, she did buy me a lot more Masters of the Universe merchandise than she could probably afford.

So, while I already discussed how I came up with the concept for what became Dan the Destructor, I can’t dismiss all the other things that had a large enough effect on me to actually influence and seep into the creative process of developing and writing the book and its future sequels.

Masters of the Universe was huge for me, and even though I moved on to G.I. JoeTransformersStar Wars, and other franchise that weren’t too close to the sword & sorcery aesthetic, it still served as the foundation to a lot of what I would like in entertainment, going forward.

Other animated shows that I loved, that were also very fantasy based, were the Dungeons & Dragons animated series and ThunderCats. Additionally, He-Man had a spinoff featuring his sister called She-Ra: Princess of Power, and even though that was geared more towards girls in how the toy line differed, I still loved the show and I also had some of those dolls “action figures”.

As I got older, though, I was completely engrossed by the badass action films of the time. I discovered Conan the BarbarianThe Road WarriorBeastmaster, and so many others that blew my little kid mind. Many of them I probably shouldn’t have seen at the age that I was, but the ‘80s were a different time and for a parent to deny their ‘80s kids these cultural landmarks would’ve exposed them to the other kids as “pussies”, “dorks” and “dweebs”.

Besides, we always found ways to watch the things our parents didn’t want us to. For me, I had my friend Brian, a few doors down, and when I was staying with my dad, there was Greg, across the street, whose father dubbed every movie the video store had.

By the late ‘80s, my dad was pretty cool about letting me watch a lot of R-rated action flicks. This is when I discovered the greatness of the Cannon Films library from the American Ninja movies, the Ninja trilogy of films, all the Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme epics, and so many others. My dad also showed me cooler, hipper and funnier action flicks like the Lethal WeaponBeverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. franchises.

While action films like these might not seem like they influenced Dan the Destructor on the surface of what they appear to be, it was their fast-paced style, witty dialogue, and in the case of the ‘80s buddy cop action/comedies, it was that buddy element that worked its way into the relationship between Dan and Fenrik and how it evolves over the story.

I also have to talk about my general love of adventure stories and how spoiled I was with those in the ‘80s from the Indiana Jones movies, their many knockoffs, and also a lot of the cheaper sword & sorcery flicks that were pretty prevalent and not just the ones from Italy, Spain and Argentina. Some of this influence also came from my mom, as she loved watching things like Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile.

This probably all seems like a lot, but as I wrote the book and these things subconsciously worked their way in, I wasn’t initially aware of it. It wasn’t until I started proofreading the book, as a full body of work, that I could see these specific influences and where they were coming from, which I found to be kind of neat.

I initially set out to make a mash up of Italian Conan and Mad Max rip-offs. What I ended up creating was a smorgasbord of a lot of my influences, but I do like how it all came together. It wasn’t what I intended to do, it just kind of happened. At the same time, I don’t think that Dan the Destructor is overly derivative or overstuffed by pulling bits and pieces from so many very different things.

The reason I even share all of this, is that I want to be transparent about where my ideas and influences come from. I think it’s important and writers should probably share these things with other writers (and their fans), especially for those who are younger and who really want to take a crack at creating their own worlds.

Plus, I always hate when successful writers pretend that everything comes from them when it’s clear that something specific inspired them at some point. Plus, our influences should be celebrated because they are the foundation we pull our inspiration from. They’re the things that shaped us into the creators that we are.

Part III: Discussing Influences – Comics & Books

*Originally posted on the Talking Pulp Press – Substack.

While I have already pointed out how the initial concept for Dan the Destructor came from the idea of what it’d be like to see Italian rip-offs of Conan and Mad Max blended together, there are a lot of other things that have helped influence me over the years.

I talked about the movies and television shows that inspired parts of the book (and budding series), but I also wanted to continue to give credit where credit is due in regards to other forms of entertainment that did their part. In this installment, I wanted to discuss comics and books.

Similarly to how the Frank Frazetta book covers for ConanTarzan, and the Pellucidar series blew my little mind when I saw them on bookshelves, so did the painted covers for the comic book magazine The Savage Sword of Conan. In fact, it blew my mind so much that I own about half of the comic’s 235 issue run from 1974 to 1995.

While I also dug the hell out of the regular Conan the Barbarian and King Conan comics, it was Savage Sword that really spoke to me because of the painted covers and how it was also much more adult in content and boasted exceptional black and white art inside. I especially loved the issues done by Barry Windsor-Smith.

When I was writing Dan the Destructor and decided that I needed to beef the story up with a few more monster battles, I found myself flipping through my issues of The Savage Sword of Conan, where I found inspiration. In fact, many issues gave me some ideas for encounters in the next few books.

Beyond my adoration for Savage Sword, I also loved the Solomon Kane and Red Sonja comics that Marvel put out in their original runs. The Solomon Kane material that was printed in black and white magazine format is incredible and frankly, some of the best stuff that Marvel Comics ever produced, especially outside of their standard superhero material.

As for Red Sonja, more than seeing her in a chainmail bikini, I always loved her spirit and how badass she was. There was something believable in her ability to fight bigger men, bigger beasts and find ways to survive through her drive, fierceness, savagery and cunning. Even at about seven years-old, I’m pretty sure I was saying to myself, “Damn, that’s wifey material, bruh.”

There are other comics that used to peak my interest in a similar way as well. I liked whenever Marvel did their Weirdworld stuff, and I wish that they would’ve explored that territory more. I also liked those ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons and Dragonlance comics.

One specific character that captivated the hell out of me is Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik of the New Mutants. My love for her was born out of the cover of the fourth issue of her original miniseries, Storm and Illyana: Magik.

The story and art in that miniseries was just so cool and I reread the four-issue miniseries almost quarterly for several years. My love of Magik and all the things hellish that were tied to her character, propelled me into being a massive New Mutants fan. I also loved everything that led into and was tied to the X-Men mega crossover event, Inferno. Illyana’s influence will probably be felt greatly in a character that is debuting in my second book.

Moving beyond comics, if I wasn’t reading Find Your Fate books for G.I. Joe and Indiana Jones, I was reading a lot of fantasy. In many cases, these books were the sword & sorcery novels that featured Frazetta art, be they books by Robert E. Howard or novels from a plethora of other authors.

It was always Frazetta’s art that sold me on books, though, as I honestly was too young to really know how much of the art I saw was from one guy. Anything that kind of captured that same sort of energy, usually meant that I was going to give it a shot, though.

It was this kind of art that inspired me to pickup a Kull book for the first time, and even though it was written by Howard and featured a character that one could easily mistake for Conan, Kull was very different and it made me realize that not all “barbarian” characters had to be the same. One thing that I wanted to make sure with my barbarian character, Fenrik, is that he wasn’t a carbon copy of Conan or what people assume is a somewhat generic archetype.

In more recent years, I’ve found myself influenced by authors who themselves were influenced by Robert E. Howard. Yet these are writers that produced very different heroes and with that, inspired me as well. These are authors like Michael Moorcock, Charles R. Saunders, Karl Edward Wagner and Fritz Leiber.

I should also point out that I was greatly influenced by other writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, H.P. Lovecraft, Andre Norton, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Jules Verne. I’m pretty sure all of them have already influenced things that have come out of my brain and made it into print.

Part IV: Discussing Influences – Pinball & Video Games

Growing up when I did, it’d be hard to not be lured in by the flashing lights and cool electronic noises of the pinball machines and video games of the time. Whenever my mum went shopping at the mall, I was in the video arcade spending her money, one quarter at a time. However, I made a pretty good friend in the arcade manager and he used to give me quarters after I ran out. While he probably wasn’t the best manager because of that, he’s had half a lifetime’s worth of appreciation from me, whenever I look back on his kind and awesome deeds.

Honestly, though, I think he knew that my mum didn’t have a lot of money and he was a bit smitten with her. But whatever, he was cool and he constantly gave me great movie recommendations, as well. I hope he’s still alive, well and happy.

There were three pinball machines that I remembered playing all the time, and funnily enough, they were adorned with badass sword & sorcery style art, which is what drew me to them in the first place. They were GorgarLost World, and Catacomb. The only one I’ve played in recent years is Gorgar, but I would actually like to own all three machines if I’m ever financially able to. Plus, I need a house but the current real estate market in Florida is making that exceptionally difficult, right now.

I think that Gorgar had the biggest effect on me, though, as it has given me inspiration in the book I’m writing now. Plus, I own a replica of the scoreboard, which sits next to me at work, along with the scoreboard from the Creature From the Black Lagoon pinball machine.

Beyond pinball, I played video games and I leaned more into them as I got older and they got better.

When it came to arcade games, there were truly awesome ones like the Golden Axe series, the Gauntlet series, Altered Beast, and this bizarre fantasy fighting game I liked called Hippodrome. Man, I sucked ass at Hippodrome.

As far as console games at home, I was captivated by the first two Legend of Zelda games. However, it was the Dragon Warrior series that consumed most of my time, overall. And there are definitely things about the Dragon Warrior games that stuck with me, especially in regards to long, epic adventures and monsters.

These are just a few of the fantasy games that I played but they’re the ones that stand out the most and that I still think about. When I started writing the chapter that featured the dragon-men in Dan the Destructor, in my head, they resembled the dragon form that the player can take in Altered Beast. And since my brain settled on that physical look, it’s kind of hard to shake. Although, I did give them golden scales like King Ghidorah from the Godzilla franchise, so they are an amalgamation of those two things.

Part V: Conclusion

In the end, I honestly don’t mind sharing what my influences are and I wish more authors would do the same, instead of just acting like it all just came from them or in some cases, flat out denying that they borrowed from something obvious. It’s impossible not to be influenced by things you love, especially when writing pulpy fiction.

I think that the real magic of writing is how these things are processed and eventually come out on the page in a way that works. Besides, if things create wonder in your mind and your spirit, why wouldn’t you want to let it inspire you and hopefully others through your work?

The 30 Greatest Acting Performances In “Bad” Movies

I had the idea to compile this list after a conversation a friend and I were having about actors cast in bad movies but still giving it their all and providing those films with performances that far exceed what should have been expected.

By “bad” movies, I don’t mean films that I personally deem as bad, as I like many of them, but I mean “bad” in the way that they were looked at critically at the time of their release or how the general public views them, whether or not they’re right or wrong. Often times, I disagree with the public consensus.

Anyway, this list isn’t something that should be quantified by ranking these performances. I just wanted to list out many that I thought were damn good in spite of the popular opinion about the movie’s overall quality.

With that, many of these are obviously going to be low-budget “genre” films. Some are also probably considered “exploitation” by various people. Then some are just goofy comedies or drama movies that probably actually were crap. Point being, I’m just looking at performances here and great ones exist in everything, regardless of genre, budget or a lack of surrounding talent.

So here we go!

-Raul Julia in Street Fighter
-Frank Langella in Masters of the Universe
-Michael Fassbender in Prometheus
-Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad & Birds of Prey
-Tim Roth in Planet of the Apes 2001.
-Josh Brolin in W Jonah Hex
-Tobin Bell in the Saw sequels
-Eva Green in Dark Shadows
-Stephen Lang in a lot of his films
-Michael Parks in Tusk
-Viola Davis in a lot
-William Fichtner in Drive Angry & What’s The Worst That Could Happen
-Thomas Haden Church in Spider-Man 3
-Jasmine Guy in Harlem Nights
-Tim Curry in It
-Ben Affleck as Batman
-Bill Moseley in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
-Walter Matthau in Dennis the Menace
-R. Lee Ermey in Saving Silverman
-Jeremy Irons in Dungeons & Dragons
-Martin Landau in Ready to Rumble
-Octavia Spencer in a lot
-Matthew McConaughey in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4
-Will Smith in Suicide Squad
-Henry Cavill as Superman
-Charles Dance in Last Action Hero
-Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending
-Alan Rickman in CBGB
-Christopher Lee in a lot
-The ENTIRE cast of the Hobbit trilogy

If there are some that you think I missed, please feel free to list and discuss in the comments.

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.