Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What I've Noticed Since I Quit the Daily News Cold Turkey

1. The night terrors are in gradual remission.

2. The sun.

3. I'm getting boners again.

4. Laughter is still a thing, somehow.

5. I can have a conversation just about baseball.

6. The lesions on the back of my neck are healing after week-upon-week of subconsciously clawing at my skin.

7. I have new neighbors (hi, Pam and Emmet—I’ll shovel the sidewalk soon, I promise).

8. I haven't overstepped the data limit on my cell phone plan this month.

9. Hot damn! Did I mention the awesome boner resurgence?

10. There's a knee-high pile of junk mail (mostly Comcast Triple Play deals) on the porch.

11. The tail of a dead squirrel is sticking out of my gutter.

12. Jesus, how long has the downstairs closet smelled like a tire fire?

13. Wait, what the hell are these Facebook posts referring to?

14. Why does everyone I respect intellectually look so glum?

15. I'm sorry, but did I overhear you correctly? Please tell me I didn’t just hear that Trump’s fucking budget proposal eliminates funding to…

16. AAAHHH!!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Old Stall Game

The crack of the bat, the smell of the grass…the taste of pine tar.

Baseball is back.

For those who revel in the history, strategy, and romance of America’s greatest game, springtime reigns…as does all of summer, and a hefty chunk of fall. Yes, one of baseball’s most beloved virtues is that it serves as a soundtrack to, literally, more than half a calendar year. Simply having play-by-play on the radio in the background—every single freaking night, for 182 straight nights—is a pleasure.

What’s more, the games themselves are long. Too long. Intercontinental wars have been declared and concluded before the first pitch and the final out of a twilight double header. Ideas abound about ways to shorten the length of a game, so fans can stay abreast of the unfolding on-field spectacle without sacrificing a hearty slice of their waking hours. (Ask the otherwise devoted father who lamented neglecting too much of his only son’s preteen childhood to catch a meaningless late September Mariners-Twins extra-innings affair.)

Recently, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that intentional walks will be granted without a pitcher tossing four wide ones. Some old-schoolers have derided the decision as baseball treason. Moreover, math suggests the average length of a game would thus be lessened by a grand total of 13 blessed seconds. Surely, one might think, there must be better suggestions to truly abbreviate nine (plus) innings in a way that would enliven the drama without sacrificing baseball’s purportedly precious legacy.

There are! Behold.

-Limit batter walk-up music to the first three notes of the player’s chosen song. As is, a batter’s stroll from the on-deck circle to the batter’s box is akin to the spectacle of a WWE wrestler walking down the ramp during Wrestlemania. Do fans really need to suffer the latest Drake or Keith Urban chart topper, just because the seven-hole batter in a blowout game needs to get pumped-up enough to flail at three consecutive breaking pitches? If the batter doesn’t reach the batter’s box before the conclusion of the third note of his walk-up song, the batter is out. Furthermore, the batter’s contract is voided, and he will be deported to an undisclosed island where Godsmack’s entire music catalog will be played loudly, on repeat, 24/7, forever and ever.

The only music that should be a part of the game is chin music. 

-Brave’s pitcher Bartolo Colon—46 years old/290 pounds—must use a bullpen cart in lieu of walking a single step farther in a Major League baseball park. This includes all trips on and off the field, trips from one base to another (i.e. station-to-station), trips to the clubhouse urinal, etc. As a general rule, any major leaguer whose baseball card is both too old and too heavy to put in the spokes of a bicycle, will only be allowed mobility via bullpen cart.

-Mandatory amphetamines…for fans. Details to come.

-The pitching coach will “visit” the pitcher to discuss strategy, not in person, but via Facetime. This will eliminate the need for a pudgy, decrepit man in stirrups to shamelessly waddle from the dugout to the hill as thousands, if not millions, die of boredom. Instead, said coach will communicate with the pitcher via the most recent version of the iWatch (National League) or iPhone (American League). Caveat: Although abolishing the slow crawl of mound visits should reduce playing time by about, oh, an hour and thirty seven minutes per game, admittedly half of that time will be added back by the endless stream of plugs for Apple: official sponsor of the “Visit to the Mound.” 

-Any foul ball that reaches the second deck is an automatic out.

-Any regular season game involving the Chicago Cubs will be forfeited to whichever club that is not the Chicago Cubs. Not only will this altogether eliminate 162 games off the schedule and thwart a Cubs’ dynasty, baseball fans worldwide will be spared the vomit-inducing brutality of weathering night-after-night-after-night of Joe “faux hipster glasses” Maddon’s pretentious and insufferable postgame press conferences.

Fuck the Cubs and fuck Joe Maddon, too.

-A sharpshooter stationed in the cabin of the overhead Met Life blimp will maim the right knee cap of any fielder who commits an error. The omnipresent possibility of being forever rendered wheelchair-bound via the dreaded “MLB sky sniper” after booting a routine double play ball should limit inning-extending errors. Plus, consider the added tension…“Routine fly to left. Holt barely has to move. Can of cor…uh-oh, the balls clanks off his glove. There’s the little red light below the thigh. Holt looks up in horror as Jackson rounds second. Jesus! Holt crumples to the ground in unimaginable anguish as the Cardinals take a 3-2 lead in the fifth.”

-Clone the 2015 post All-Star break version of Jake Arrieta so that only the 2015 post All-Star break version of Jake Arrieta can pitch every inning of every game. At the conclusion of each season, all MLB position players will undergo full frontal lobotomies to avoid making future adjustments to the 2015 post All-Star Break Jake Arrieta.
-All 25 players on each MLB roster must play the field during the opposing teams’ at-bat. This will cut back on bloop hits and seeing-eye singles, while increasing the chances of rollicking/embarrassing Keystone Kops-type collisions among fielders.

-The typically longwinded National Anthem will instead consist of the singer/singers simply walking up to the mic and shouting “Make America Great Again,” punctuated by an enthusiastic fist pump. (The accompanying fighter jet flyover will be executed by a squadron of heavily-armed military aircraft en route to a classified bombing raid on a foreign state.) Furthermore, the tedious singing of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” will be replaced with “something terrific.”

-A left-handed and a right-handed batter must bat at the same time. This will allow two batters to strike out at once, and should lead to less solid contact—or, in the event of a hit, suspenseful hesitation among fielders trying to determine who hit it and where.

-Whenever a batter is hit by an errant pitch and charges the mound to confront the pitcher, a steel dome will be lowered via helicopter onto the combatants. Several weapons will be attached to the bars of the dome: oversized iron mallets, rusty chainsaws, a Berretta DT-11 shotgun, 2×4’s with a nail sticking out, Bartolo Colon’s “lucky” unwashed undies, a slingshot with a single rock blessed by God himself, a novelty boxing glove on one of those accordion springy hickeys, and a Godsmack CD in a boom box—just hit play. Ok, so, basically this is the Thunderdome. But to avoid copyright litigation, the steel cage will be called the Murder Crate, and fans, in unison, will chant “Two men enter. One man gets literally killed by the other man, and the dead man’s team forfeits the game.”

-First team to show up at the ballpark wins. Live coverage of teams roaring up to the clubhouse and charging in to register arrival will thrill millions.

Now PLAY BALL, and hurry the fuck up.