Saturday, March 31, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Final Four

No matter which way you slice it, today is a journey into a wilderness of mirrors with the OSU v Georgetown game. This game can go either way, and I have no bright insight to trick you into going one way or the other. Or do I... Fact: Greg Oden is frequently in foul trouble and this is the first time he's gone up against a quality big man his own size. Advantage Georgetown, let's bet the farm! But wait...Fact: The line opened with OSU a one point favorite, and heavy Georgetown action has moved it to Georgetown +1. As we know, The Public is always wrong. Advantage OSU, let's bet the farm! But wait...Georgetown is the "hot" team, and that emotional win over North Carolina will get them on a roll to win the whole thing! Everytime I put on ESPN, I keep seeing more and more compelling information on why this team is going to do it! Yes! Let's get some action down on the Hoyas! But wait... ESPN is East Coast based, so they spend an inordinate amount of time covering teams from the East Coast. They've already used up the OSU stories when the Buckeyes were #1, so maybe all that press is just a clever trick to change my perception about this OSU team that has knocked back 21 straight wins. Call Antigua! Gimme the Buckeyes! But wait...

It just goes on and on. There's only one piece of information that I think has any relevance. Artie Lange from the Howard Stern said he was going to put 15 large on Georgetown. Anyone that listens to the Stern show knows that Artie is (and always will be) "The Iceman". As long as he doesn't change his mind at the last minute (which unfortunately, he has been known to do), OSU is a lock. The problem is there's just no way of knowing which way he went at the last minute. (By the way, he also likes the over in the Florida/UCLA game.) Take that for what it's worth...

Random Notes: Th' Legendary Shack Shakers latest release "Pandelirium" is really good. Horton Heat plays guitar on a few tracks, and his authoritative guitar tone takes the tracks he plays on up a notch. That's not to say that David Lee doesn't shine on the gypsy stuff they do so well. The songs overall are creative and have some depth past a first listen. I especially like "No Such Thing"... Bob and I went to see buzz band of the moment "Of Montreal" at the Beachland last week. It was like seeing the Human League mixed with early Pink Floyd. I don't know if that's a good thing or not. For me it's not, but the capacity crowd of 17-20 year olds sure liked it. The weird thing was the heavy psychadelic presentation with the crowd not appearing to have injested any drugs. It's like when that Peter Maxx look was co-opted by Madison Avenue to sell toothpaste in 1970. The one thing Bob and I agreed on is that some giant record company is going to swoop in, take the front guy, replace the entire band, and make some money. This time next year there will be a HUGE push in Rolling Stone/Spin/Entertainment Tonight/People/Popular Mechanics/Field and Stream/etc with that guy in a new $700 haircut. And they'll "move some units".

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Hate the Buckeyes

Now we're really getting down to it, and there's not much separating the teams that have advanced. OSU opened at -1.5 against Memphis State, but the public likes the Buckeyes and have moved them out to -2.5 at tipoff. It's a bleak rainy March Saturday in NE Ohio, so it seems the only thing to do is bet against the lemmings out there and take Memphis State. How else am I going to kill time until driving to Youngstown to play a rock show at the Royal Oaks? (Please note, The Royal Oaks isn't very "royal", but it is located on Oak Street. It is unlikely anyone would go to a club called "The Surrealistic Fun Oaks", so The Royal Oaks is probably a much better name.)

It's hard to root for OSU after making a trip to Columbus. "Columbus Guy" loves OSU sports more than anything, and is such a homer it's sickening. You know "Columbus Guy", right? He's the one in the Dockers and golf shirt, has a Buckeye vanity license plate, is very Caucasian, and enjoys nothing better than having a few light beers with the fellas before heading home to his equally Caucasian wife and 2.5 kids named something like Audrey or Kyle. After treating the kids to a delivery Donatos pizza, he'll pop Shrek into the DVD player as he retreats to his "Man Cave" while the little lady tidies up. After putting the kids to bed, there might be some efficient lovemaking to the sounds of the Dave Mathews Band playing softly from the Bose clock radio next to the bed.

It may be a major character defect in myself, but I love to see "Columbus Guy" disappointed. He is just so sure that the Ohio State Athletic program is squeaky clean despite my belief that it may be the most crooked organization outside of Cosa Nostra. Just because Jim Tressel wears a sweater vest doesn't mean he's a castoff from Mayberry. Open your eyes. That sweater vest is a costume. He's from Youngstown. John Gotti wouldn't have lasted 20 minutes there. HBO would have shot the Sopranos in Youngstown, but no one wants to tune in on Sunday nights to see James Gandolfini eating a buffalito at the BW-3 downtown and ordering a hit on a used plumbing supply owner.

When OSU loses, "Columbus Guy" has to briefly re evaluate his entire belief system. It's just a flickering moment that even little Audrey and Kyle can sense. Maybe this white bread world we have constructed isn't the best way after all...Maybe all this poorly designed OSU crap I have hanging up in the house and my workspace at the soulless industrial park is just a way for the institution to keep the cash flowing in...Maybe the school shouldn't make millions of dollars on the labor of unpaid college athletes...Maybe their victories on the court/field have nothing to do with me at all...Sure, I got a business degree at The Ohio State University in 1989, but it turns out that may be totally unrelated to a seven foot 18 year old from Indiana blocking a shot in 2007...But then the band strikes up "Hang On Sloopy", and all is right in the world again.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hate St Pat's: Part II

This morning finds the old reliable "What To Do About a Hangover" stories in the paper that those lazy turds in print media across the country clipped and fast edited from their January 1 editions. Do we really have to endure the same stories at the same times every year? It's like clock work, isn't it? Here's your checklist for creating a major city newspaper...Dec> Year end lists. The most important thing here is to emphasize the things that happened in the last three months as in most cases everyone has already forgotten about what happened prior to September. Jan> The aforementioned hangover article MUST run on Jan 1, quickly followed by a week or two of the always captivating New Year's Resolution articles. Yes, this really will be the year you become thin and interesting. Don't worry. You won't fail. Again. Feb> How to cure the Winter Blahs kills some time until the political correctness of Black History Month washes to shore a wave of George Washington Carver peanut articles. This just in...If we really want to get serious about minimizing our differences, maybe the past is just "history". We could feature items of note in any month as opposed to February. But then again, February is a slow news month and it might be tough for Harriet Tubman to get press around Thanksgiving and the "How to Prepare a Turkey" articles. March> "March Madness Causes American Business $625 Trillion In Lost Productivity" is always a killer article. The real key to this one is to set it up with a week of Bracket talk, enthusiastic praise for the tournament itself, and then deliver this knock out blow on the Thursday morning edition to serve as a major buzz kill to everyone. Of course the dollar figure in the headline is just a created number by some guy that was floated out on the wire services without anyone checking to see if it made sense, but don't get caught up in that. Just blindly go along with the premise that The Economy (and AMERICA) is losing countless dollars because the Regional Functions Director spent an extra hour at lunch watching the Stanford vs Louisville game as opposed to sitting on a conference call with the software trainers. I would say it's just too depressing, but there is a certain comfort in knowing what is coming next.

OK, we split them yesterday because that Freshman kid at Louisville decided to freak out and chuck up that 3 pointer from the parking lot instead of running the play they painstakenly drew up in the timeout. Freshman will do that to you. I hated that little punk yesterday, but I cooled off and feel bad for the young fella today. He's going to be "That Guy" for a whole year (at least). Do you want to be "That Guy" in Louisville every time you go out for a soft serve sprinkle cone this Summer?

Xavier should have won outright in regulation, but still sacked up and didn't foul with 12 seconds left in overtime to stay within the 7.5 in OT. When people ask what was the most exciting play of the tournament so far, I'd have to say it was OSU dribbling down the last seconds of the overtime with a seven point lead while Xavier did nothing.

Today you gotta love UNLV with the six. Wisconsin will slow it down and that will lead to a close game. If you look at the season, Wisconsin tends to play very low scoring games when faced with a solid opponent. That's why I like the points and will maybe take a flier on the under. Is there any reason why Kansas won't blow Kentucky out again? I don't see one, and that's why the 7.5 makes me nervous. Someone must know something I don't. In fact, I'm positive a lot of people know a lot more than I do. This troubles me if I dwell on it too long. I think I'm going to take Kansas, but I'm going to consider it carefully while I polish off the leftovers from my General Tsao's Chicken from last night.

Random Notes: Karl Lawrence makes an ass kicker of a cabernet, but it seems to be much better young than with a little bottle age. Sure, none of you have ever heard of this little winery, but maybe one day you'll be faced with the dilemma of reaching for the 2005 or the 2000. Let me weigh in and suggest the 05...There's only two weeks until Opening Day and the inevitable Sports Staff predicts the baseball season section! Their minds are racing now. "Do I try to curry favor with the hometown readers and predict a high finish for the local team? Or will that make me look like a suck ass? Maybe I should play the Contrarian and take a pot shot at the owners/GM. Hmmm....What to do...."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

NCAA Tournament: Hate St Pats

Things start to get interesting now in the NCAA Tournament as the pretenders are beginning to get washed out. There is a full day of wagering ahead of us despite the allure of St Patrick's Day. I ask of you, who wouldn't want to be smashed into the humanity at Darby O' Shanahans Olde Towne Irish Pub drinking Miller Lite produced from a tap system that hasn't been cleaned since the place opened 26 years ago? Who would want to miss the green dye staining the sides of your 12 oz plastic cup as you stand next to a sloppy overweight girl in a flashing beer company shamrock blinky button to accent her green and white striped tube socks, Notre Dame sweatshirt, and green plastic derby? Do you want to risk missing "Paddington's Irish Rovers", which is actually three guys that usually play Jimmy Buffet covers in places with names like Cabana Jack's/Rookies/Scalpers? Right now you could watch as they stumble their way through the Pogue's "Dirty Old Town" and other traditonal "Irish" songs like U2's "With or Without You" resplendent with drum machine backing?

Or you could play it smart...Me? I'm going somewhere the Rubes won't be today. (I wonder if there's any Chinese Restaurants showing the games?) While I'm there I'm going to strictly play a hunch that Xavier will keep it close vs the Buckeyes today. The Public (which is always wrong) are heavily on OSU. Result? I'll be heavily on Xavier. I also like what I see out of Louisville. With three points, they're a good play today as well. I just don't believe in Texas A&M, and with Louisville essentially playing at home it's a nice edge with the points. The big question is if I'll have the stones to give up eight and take Georgetown later tonight. I suppose it will just depend on how many spring rolls and Tsing Taos I have at Hunan House.

Random Notes: We split them yesterday with UNLV winning outright, and Arizona dropping by 10. Arizona always chokes in the tourny, but to Purdue? That smarts...A couple things you should go buy today. 1) The new Thermals CD. I put this in my car three days ago, and can't take it out. Catchy tunes with good basic hooks with an urgent guitar sound that has a wise ass vocal sitting on top. Once again Portland shows up with a good band. Who knew they had more than microbrew, salmon, and Pinot Noir? 2) A sweater. It's fucking cold out there.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

NCAA Tournament: Hate the Chumps

It's the time of year when everyone is suddenly an expert on NCAA basketball. That dipshit down the hall from human resources who couldn't spell UCLA is suddenly waxing poetic on how Weber State's backcourt is a great match up for the Bruins as long as they don't get into early foul trouble. Thanks to ESPN, USA Today, and a bunch of other "experts" looking to create an angle on these first round games, there is a whole lot of misinformation out there. The savvy wagerer will look to two key components as they head into the abyss this weekend.

Take a look at the road record. A bunch of these low seeds in the tournament have losing records on the road, and got fat playing poor competition at home. If they didn't win on the road during the regular season, how do you think they're going to sack up on national TV without their a-hole home fans doing their special little cheers? That's right, they're going to look like deer in the headlights like George Washington and Stanford did today.

Look at the free throw percentage. A bad free throw shooting team can't put teams away (and therefore cover spreads) while good free throw shooting teams can just sort of hang around. How many times have you seen a 7.5 point spead that seemed easy just sit at around single digits for the entire second half? Next thing you know the favorite misses a couple free throws at the end, plays weak D to prevent 3 point plays, and they win by 5 (and you lose).

With that in mind, I've got a couple winners for you tomorrow. Take UNLV +2 over GA Tech. Ga Tech is attrocious on the road, and UNLV looks like they could be for real. Oregon at -7.5 doesn't seem like enough points to me. I saw Miami of OH play twice last week, and it's not a very impressive team. They are a team of grinders, but that's not going to be enough against a superior team athletically like Oregon. By the way, Oregon has quietly become the Miami Huricanes of the Pacific Northwest. I bet half the guys on that team can't even read. Every other week a guy from the football team gets arrested for shooting up Eugene while high on crank. Sometimes they even have to sit out a game afterwards too. You think Miami of OH can run with that kind of program? I don't.

Big Wins: Virginia Commonwealth...I told anyone that would listen that Duke was going down in flames. With 7.5 points, this one was a no brainer. Louisville...Stanford had no place in this tournament, and they sure showed it. What a pathetic showing! The school should make those kids pay their own airfare home. Butler...when those spindly white guys hit their threes they're tough to beat. However, he who lives by the three will die by the three. When they run up against someone that can play defense on the perimeter, they're done.

Big Losses: The overrated Maryland came up with a couple big turnovers down the stretch to cover the seven vs Davidson. That one stung. I was ready to strut around like a Prince with that winner.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Nurse the Hate: Germany

I have been remiss in getting back on line with my fabulous insights into all the things that matter due to getting crushed by a cold after returning from Germany Tour 2007. It’s shocking that your health could be compromised after 12 consecutive days of screaming in smoky beer halls and then relaxing on short sleep in often dodgy accommodations. Ah, but no matter. Life is for adventure.

As I consider Germany, I hope some of you might find it useful to learn the following reasons why Germany is, and is not, better than the United States. This comes first hand, and isn't some wimpy Rick Steves drivel. I'm going to give it to you straight on a few minor points. I could go on, but you'll get the idea.

Why is Germany Better than the United States?

1) As far as I can tell, all of their public toilets are clean. Example: I’m at a run down Shell station in an inner city somewhere in Northern Germany. I enter the bathroom (with entrance on the side of the building, so patrons are not monitored all that well by the business owners) and I expect the worst. I am pleasantly shocked to find that bathroom was so clean, you could have sat down on the toilet and eaten a spaghetti dinner and not have been grossed out. If you dropped a cupcake on the floor, you would have picked it back up and eaten it (assuming no one else was watching of course). If your girlfriend walked in that bathroom barefoot, you would have gladly given her a foot massage afterwards.

I’ve been in Shell stations in the States to take a leak, and felt like I needed to chop my legs off just to try to get clean afterwards. I don’t know what Americans are doing in public restrooms. Maybe it’s just a question of people not understanding the equipment in there, or basic techniques. I can say confidently that the Germans understand how to run a nation’s restrooms.

2) Bread is made fresh each day with natural ingredients. Even at the most lowly gas station, you can buy a delicious sandwich with crusty baguette, fresh hard roll, or maybe specialty black bread. Here we line up at Subway to chew on one of six styles of “bread” that are all exactly the same save for different food color options. In Germany corner family owned bakeries, and even national chains do a brisk business of people spending two cents more on something that enhances your life substantially. Here we go get a loaf of Wonder that’s been sitting on the shelf so long it still has a “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby” promo sticker on it.

3) People are on time. If someone says to you in Germany they’ll be there at six o’clock, there is no way in hell they will be any later than 6:00. If some horrific turn of events happens (like they are struck by a car, rushed to the hospital, and have their crushed femur reconstructed) and that causes them to get there at 6:03, they will apologize profusely for the inconvenience. Here? I’m still waiting for the Direct TV guy I called in October.

Why is the United States better than Germany?

1) We never close. Try buying anything over there on a Sunday. Everything is closed. They even have regulations on what time stores are allowed to be open on weekdays. Let’s say you’re an enterprising young man that wants to have his shop open past 6:00pm (when everything closes every weekday) to take advantage of the flow of pedestrians congregating in the town square until 9pm. You can do it, but will be forced to pay for a permit that is priced in such a way that you can’t hope to make a profit by staying open the extra 3 hours. These guys have to get in the game! I can’t even tell you the number of times I was unable to buy clean tube socks because it was after 6:00 pm. Where did I wind up spending my hard earned tube sock dollars? That’s right, right here in the U.S.A.!

2) Our showers kick the crap out of any European plumbing. This is a huge issue, and why 72% of all immigrants come here. No matter where you go on the European continent, when you take a shower you will be confounded by the most confusing apparatus stored in what looks like an all glass phone booth. No need to panic, that’s the shower. Why does it not have one simple control for hot/cold water? I dunno. Each shower you will encounter will be more confusing than the last. The temperature of the water generally falls on either scalding or freezing with no in between. By the time you do manage to figure out the array of levers, pumps, and control arms, your chance of enjoying a carefully balanced weak spray of “not too hot” water will have eluded you as the ½ gallon hot water tank will be empty. This explains why Americans bath more frequently than Euros, as it is just too goddamn complicated to mess around with more than once or twice a week.

3) The United States has a much larger array of choices in the beverage category. In Germany they drink beer, coffee, beer, Coca Cola Zero, beer, plonky white wine, and Mezzo Mix. That’s about it. Oh, they drink beer. No matter what the circumstance, you can count on being offered a beer. Beverage of choice on the Autobahn oasis exits? That’s right! Have a cold one, and then go drive on a road with no speed limits! They'll even open it for you at the register. Don’t want a beer? Have a Mezzo Mix…It’s a 50/50 split of cola and orange soda that appears to outsell other sodas 3-1. Some of the folks are a little more adventurous, and enjoy Mr. Brown Iced Coffee, but that’s rare. But after you finish your Mr. Brown, wash it down with a beer! Hey, I like beer as much as the next guy. (Truthfully, probably much, much more than the next guy.) However, it would be nice to have an honest to goodness iced tea or water without carbonation once in awhile.

Random Notes: Man, did Akron blow it this weekend! Those guys were 6.5 seconds away from realizing their dream of playing in the NCAA basketball tournament. Then they miss a free throw, give up a three, and lose while 10,000 of their fans were in sprinter’s stances to storm the court. The next day, they don’t even get an invite to the NIT Tournament much less the NCAA. If I’m not mistaken, the winner of the Cleveland Athletic Club’s Thursday Night “B” League picked up a road game against Coppin State in the NIT. What a crushing defeat…