Monthly Archives: May 2013

Sugar, We’re Going Down Swinging

I just came in from playing my first round of golf since Thanksgiving.

Oof.

The last couple springs and summers, I played a lot of golf.  This is worth noting because I.  Am.  AWFUL.  Golf is an expensive habit, but there is a public “club” with two courses that is about a 10-15 minute drive from both home and work.  If you go after 3:00 p.m., there is a discounted rate; plus, you can buy a discount card at the beginning of the season that shaves another five bucks off the greens fee, and earns you free rounds the more you play, essentially paying for itself if you play with any regularity at all.

A couple buddies and I would go pretty much whenever we had an mid-week off day that coincided, plus either a Saturday or Sunday almost every weekend.  Seriously, a lot of golf.  You’d think I would improve.  And I do, but at some point, you are what you are.  And what I am is a bad golfer.

Even better, though, is the fact that despite being so atrocious, we like to gamble while we golf.  In addition to the simple “whoever has the fewest strokes” thing that is, like, the point of the game, we also track match play results, a putting contest, and a game that awards points for being the first one on the green, the closest to the pin, and the first to hole out.

In English: we have a problem.

But if you think about it, it makes sense.  How can you possibly feel good about going out and shooting a 124?  Well, when you walk away with 30 extra bucks, essentially getting a free round of golf out of the day, it certainly eases the pain.

Most people don’t like doing things they’re not good at.  But golf is one of those things where once the bug bites you, it’s terminal.  When I walk up to the first tee, I bring my 3-hybrid, not my driver.  Why?  Because if I take my driver, the ball is going about 50 yards before careening into the nearest forest, regardless of what side of the fairway it’s situated on (I’m an equal opportunity ball-donater).  But with the hybrid, there’s a 50/50 shot that the ball actually lands relatively close to where I want it to go.  This sequence plays itself out on every hole, 18 times a day, every weekend, all summer.

I always describe my personal opinion like this: despite the fact that I just swung out of my shoes, drove my club into the ground, and chunked the ball about eight yards down the fairway, the next shot could be the best shot I ever hit.

And that’s the thing: when you’re as bad as I am, you don’t know when you might hit a fantastic shot.  But if you don’t pick up the club, you’ll never know.

In some ways, golf is a metaphor for life, isn’t it?

(For the record, I shot a 134.  Worst score I’ve posted in a while.  Early rust.  Good putts lipping out.  Great tee shots that hit an invisible wall and plummeted from the sky.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

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Workin’ at the Car Wash

This story is presented without comment.

Okay, no, I can’t not comment on something this stupid.  I have written before about the overall lack of institutional control at the NCAA.  I have absolutely no love for the organization, and will not hesitate to tell anyone who asks.

But this…this is ludicrous.

I’ll let you read the story, because summing it up without using expletives seems pretty bleeping impossible.

“Using university water.”  Oh.  Well, what about those student-athletes who shower after practice?  Are they entitled to that water, or is that an improper benefit?  And if they are, why is this poor young lady not entitled to use her allotment of “university water” as she sees fit?

If that sounds ridiculous, well, it’s because it is.

The NCAA very well may not exist in a decade.  If you ask me, that’s about 12 years too late.

What’s Worse, the Pain or the Hangover?

If you have not seen The Hangover Part III, then stop reading.  Or continue.  As always, I don’t care, but don’t blame me if you see something you don’t want to.  Then again, if you did see the movie, you probably saw some things you didn’t want to, so…yeah.

* * *

I don’t really know how to “review” The Hangover Part III.  I mean, I don’t actually know how to review any movies, really, but this one in particular is tough.  Like I’ve mentioned before (I think), I generally have a pretty good idea what to expect from a movie when I sit down.  When I go to a comedy like this one, I don’t expect to walk away thinking what an epic piece of cinema it is.  I expect to laugh, and laugh hard, and often.

As you may have seen some critics say, that didn’t exactly happen.

That’s not to say there weren’t laughs in the movie; there were.  But if you expected rip-roaring antics and side-splitting sight gags, well, sorry.  This movie actually had a plot.

To sum it up: Phil, Stu, and Doug are driving Alan to a treatment facility in Arizona (for his unnamed mental illness) when they are run off the road by drug kingpin Marshall.  It turns out that before he was arrested, Chow stole $21 million in gold from Marshall.  Chow broke out of prison, and Marshall knows that Alan has been exchanging emails with him.  Marshall kidnaps Doug (poor Doug) and gives Phil, Stu, and Alan three days to bring Chow to him or he will kill Doug.

So there’s no piecing together of the previous night’s events.  No one is missing, per se.  It’s simply a movie featuring the same characters that has plot elements that recurred from previous installments.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, really.

Others have said that this was more of a “Chow” movie – he is in it constantly, and while Ken Jeong plays the part well, part of the appeal of Chow was his random appearances.  Him being around constantly kind of detracts from that.  I agree.

But my bigger problem is the focus on Alan.  I found his character in the The Hangover to be funny, for sure.  But there is a point of saturation with a character like that, and I think I reached it sometime during Due Date.

(Side note: I feel like Zach Galifianakis essentially played “Alan” during the film Due Date.  You probably figured that out by now.)

Once The Hangover Part II came around, I was kind of tired of Alan, even though Galifianakis’ performance in the franchise is a highlight for many.  Part III focuses way too much on Alan for my taste.  If there ever was, for any reason, a Part IV, I would consider staying away if Alan is involved.

Oh, who am I kidding?  I’d go watch the movie and then complain about him afterwards.

The Hangover Part III has its share of shield-your-eyes comedy, and it actually has a little bit of action and drama.  But if you’re looking for a(nother) rehash of The Hangover, I’d suggest re-watching the original instead.

Can You Hear Me When I Call Your Name?

The Washington Redskins have been in the news as of late due to a suddenly resurgent (surgent?  Has there been one before?  I don’t know) movement to get the team to change its name since it also doubles as a derogatory term for Native Americans.

I have no dog in this fight; I am not of Native American heritage, nor am I a fan of the team.  That being said, while I’m not a fan of using words that carry those sort of connotations, at the same time, I’m even less of a fan of opportunistic politicians and activists that will essentially create a cause simply to get their names in the news.  And frankly, that’s what this seems like at this point.

Should the team change its name?  I don’t know.  Should this issue be a political one?  No.  And since Daniel Snyder has made it abundantly clear that he isn’t changing anything, should it just go away at this point?  Yes.

Besides, Snyder has proven to be about as detrimentally stubborn as an owner can be.  All you’re doing is steeling his resolve.

When You’re in Texas, Look Behind You

How about those San Antonio Spurs?

Despite being the second seed in the NBA’s Western Conference, most folks thought they’d lose to the Memphis Grizzlies in five or six games in the Conference Finals.

Well, the Spurs just won the series.  In four.  Swept ’em.

How does a team that sports the best coach in the league plus possibly the greatest power forward in the history of basketball keep getting dismissed like this?  “They’re too old,” they say.  “The run has to end at some point.”

No they’re not!  No it doesn’t!

Have you ever heard the adage, “don’t work harder, work smarter?”  Well, I don’t mean to say that they don’t work hard, because I have no doubt they do, but the Spurs organization is just smarter than almost everyone else.  It’s the only answer, really.  From the front office to the head coach to the players, the Spurs organization just does it, whatever “it” is, better than anyone else.

I’m not a Spurs fan, but I tip my cap.  Neutral sports fans will be in their corner if they face the Heat, and I hope that people really appreciate what they’ve been able to do in the past 15 years.

We don’t often see dynasties in sports anymore, and when we do, we generally don’t like them.  While they haven’t won the championship every year, the Spurs certainly count as a dynasty out West, and personally, I can’t bring myself to hate them even just a little bit.

Checking It Up Until the Pot Hits the Sky

I used to like playing poker.  Really like it.  I used to play with my friends over the summer while we were in college.  We’d play a five-dollar buy-in, re-buy all you like, from around 9:00 until 2, 3, 4:00 in the morning.  Then two days later we’d do it again.  We had nothing better to do for a few months, and if you think about it, even if we lost, bought in again, and lost again, it was still cheaper than going to a bar or to the movies.

We used to organize tournaments where 10-12 people would play at two tables for six to eight hours, and in the end, I always finished second.  Always.  Yes, that was frustrating, but hey, it was a sign of something good, right?

Soon some of us graduated to playing in casinos.  I played some $2-$4 limit hold ’em (if you don’t know what any of these terms mean, I’m not going to explain them here.  Sorry), which was kind of a culture shock; we had been playing no-limit hold ’em with nickel and dime blinds back at home, so the structure of the game, and the stakes, were significantly different.  But I soon got my bearings and figured that the best way to avoid the pitfalls that came from terrible/drunk/terribly drunk players playing too many hands was to play with (slightly) smarter players.  Instead of buying in at a $2-$4 table for $200 and leaving with $60, I was buying in at a $5-$10 table for $300 and leaving with $305.

That’s right; on multiple occasions I spent in excess of six to eight hours playing poker and ended up making between one and eight dollars profit.  But it was cool, because I liked playing.  I liked the game more than the money.

Despite playing for higher stakes at the casino, we still played at home.  We settled into a routine (Sunday nights, so as not to hamper any Friday or Saturday night weekend plans), and the buy-ins escalated.  Most recently, most people were buying for $40 at the start of the night.

A funny thing happened, though.  About a year ago, I just flat-out stopped liking poker.  It may have been a result of some horrible beats I took at the casino and in the home game.  It may have been partly due to the fact that it was the same four or five people that continued showing up, so there was no growth to the game, and people were sick of everyone else’s crap.

You see, gambling in most forms, and poker in particular, brings out the worst in people.  I had always been pretty good at keeping my mouth shut and letting other people’s battles affect their game, but when some of the worst players at the table started talking about odds and using poker jargon (often incorrectly, I might add) all the time, that bugged me.  Like, get over yourself.  You are not Phil Hellmuth.  Stop talking about what so-and-so did wrong when you called a bet pre-flop with jack-seven.  Oh, wait, it was suited?  Shut up.

Given enough time, any poker game will turn into a proverbial spitting match (not the phrase I actually wanted to use there, but let’s keep it clean).  Eventually, as others started bickering all the time, I started bickering.  The poker wasn’t interesting, and I didn’t have very good cell phone reception, so there was nothing else to do.

Eventually there came an instance where I had a long day at work, and that night decided not to play.  It turned out there weren’t enough people, so there was no game.  I realized I didn’t miss it, and had no need for it, and stopped playing altogether.  The game dried up and since the Christmas holiday, we haven’t played.

Until now.  Tonight, we ride again, I guess.  I have not played poker in any form, at home or in a casino, in close to half a year.

Apparently there will be six people there tonight.  We’ll have some drinks, probably some snacks, and hopefully some fun.  But if my history with the game, and this game in particular, is of any relevance…well, two out of three ain’t bad.

These are the Champions

I thoroughly enjoyed today’s UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund this afternoon.  Fox aired it on its main network, as opposed to Fox Soccer, and I hope it led to casual soccer fans – or, even better, non-fans – sitting down for a couple hours and watching.  It was a fantastic match that featured an underdog taking it to the favorite, late-match tension, and a hard-luck past loser (as much as one can call one of the world’s biggest clubs “hard-luck”) getting a monkey off its back.

Bayern Munich has now won five Champions League titles, tied with Liverpool (yes, believe it or not, they used to be good) for third all-time.  More famously, however, Bayern took a 1-0 lead into stoppage time before Manchester United scored two goals in stoppage time (of course) to take the 1999 Champions League final  In 2010, Bayern lost the final to Inter Milan, and last season, an 83rd-minute Bayern goal was canceled out by an 88th-minute goal from Chelsea’s Didier Drogba to send the final, held at Bayern’s home ground, to extra time.  In extra time, Bayern star Arjen Robben missed a penalty that might have won the match; Drogba then converted the clinching kick in the shootout to give the Blues the title.

So when Robben slotted home today’s winner in the 89th minute, the emotional release was genuine; one of the world’s top players erased some pretty painful memories for both himself and his club.

I felt like Dortmund missed its opportunity in the first half.  Both keepers played out of their minds, and the underdogs dominated the run of play.  It reminded me of this year’s NBA playoffs, when Golden State maybe should have won game one in San Antonio; even though they won game two, it certainly seemed like they missed their chance, and San Antonio went on to win in six.  Same thing with Indiana; they blew game one in Miami, and even though they won game two, it still feels like an opportunity was lost.  Dortmund had its chance to win the match in the first 45, but couldn’t do it.

Then Robben struck in the 60th minute with a pinpoint pass as he was heading out of bounds that set up Mario Mandzukic for a goal.  In retrospect, it was offside, but nonetheless, when it happened, I thought, “well, there you go.”  But Dortmund battled back and earned a penalty eight minutes later; rather, Marco Reus earned a penalty by getting kneed in the chest and kicked in the groin.  Ilkay Gundogan converted, and things were level.

Until the 89th minute.  Until Arjen Robben.  It always had to be Robben.

If every soccer match was like this one, maybe Americans would catch up to the rest of the world.  Then again, for those of us who already love the game, it was a fantastic little gem that I personally have no problem keeping for myself.

It’s out there, people, and it’s grand.  Ignore it to your own detriment.