Monthly Archives: November 2006

Blue Collar Guy

It seems as though everyone, excluding Brian Cashman and George Steinbrenner realize that in no sport can you have a championship team composed entirely of superstars. The New York Yankees have, for a number of years, had t;e largest payroll in baseball by a considerable margin without winning a championship since 2000. Attributed to this issue have been a number of causes, most popularly the idea that manager Joe Torre has lost “it”; that Steinbrenner, Cashman and co. have overvalued mediocre starting pitching, that the Yankees have lost interest in bullpen depth, that Joe Torre is now killing his setup men, and the list can go on. After all, it’s New York, and the Yankees are not to be taken lightly.

Mr Thursday, however, holds to a different theory. Namely, the Blue Collar Theory of Champions which notes that the Yankees have abandoned the Scott Brosius’ of the world. Their 2000 team possessed, in addition to a number of perennial all-stars, guys like Scott Brosius as their primary hot corner defender, Ricky Ledee playing more games in left field than anyone else on the squad, and similarly Shane Spenser taking a bulk of the designated hitting duty. In 2001, Brosius remained, and though still productive at 34, battled injuries throughout the year. David Justice, a perennial all-star had taken over as number 1 DH, Ricky Ledee wandered off to Texas, and was replaced Chuck Knoblauch, a perennial all-star. His former position, second base, was taken by future perennial all-star, and current Chicago Cub/gazillionaire, Alfonso Soriano. The Yankees no longer had players who could be relied on to do the little things, whether it was leaning into a fastball in a tight game, trying to break up a double play, or laying down a bunt. They were a collection of all-stars, and this was the beginning of the end for them.

Now, while all-star games are, mostly, meaningless exhibitions, Mr. Thursday came across a cause worth backing, thanks to Deadspin today. A number of lovely hockey fanatics have taken up the cause of getting Rory Fitzpatrick, a Vancouver Canucks defensemen, voted into this year’s all-star game. You’ll have to trust our judgment, Rory is hockey’s version of Ricky Ledee. He’s the kind of guy who never sees glory, hardly ever makes headlines, and while playing he doesn’t dazzle anyone with anything but his work ethic. That said, he does the little things–backchecking, making outlet passes, etc. He’s the kind of player every winning team needs. We don’t contend that he’s a secretly phenomenal player, but every team needs at least one guy like him.

So, everyone here at Mr. Thursday will be going to Vote For Rory, every day, and doing what we can to close the 200,000 vote game between Rory and Scott “Douchebag” Neidermeyer, up there in first place in the voting so far.

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The Orange Revolution Reversed

Former KGB agent and government critic/super hero Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned and killed recently by using polonium 210, a favorite killing method among Cold War spies, at the Itsu sushi restaurant in London. Mr.Thursday condemns the public poisoning of ex-KGB agents active in the robust years of the Cold War. Not only do such acts deter such “whistle blowers” from revealing secrets (although possibly damaging to a state’s reputation) that the public has a compelling interest to discover, e.g. the war in Chechnya.

However, Litvinenko’s polonium 210 poisoning is not the first to occur in an Eastern European state. In fact, poison has long been the method of choice for offing political rivals. President Victor Yushchenko of Ukraine’s Nasha Ukrayina (Our Ukraine) Party was poisoned with dioxin, which left his face deformed and destroyed his intestines. Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident who expressed his criticism of the Bulgarian communist regime through radio, novels and plays, was poisoned with ricin in 1978 (also by the KGB) with the poison injected into his system through the tip of an umbrella.

So why is it that Eastern European states, many working together with the KGB, employ poisoning as an effective means of eliminating political opponents?

Perhaps it is the old world flair of a good, covert poisoning that unearth’s memories of Rasputin, Dostoevsky and collective farming. Maybe it’s a lingering derivation of the Cold War mentality to prefer secret murders to avoid public embarrassment and controversy rather than democratic transparency advocated by Mr.Thursday. The KGB and Eastern European block are not alone in this trend, even if the methods of other worldly powers receive less attention in the press.

Perhaps it is derived from the bleak nature of Eastern Europe. Not only does a secret poisoning create an agonizing death for the victim, but it also provides intimacy for the killer reflecting the tumultuousness of nature and weather. They’re a fatalistic people anyway.

However, Mr.Thursday holds the position that Eastern European political poisonings are based out of a desire to kill the political opponent without directly involving the sponsoring government.

The late Litvinenko now continues a long history of poisoning by European war lords leading back to the days of Socrates. Eastern Europe is proud to be sponsoring autocratic regimes and military coup d’etats in Her states for years to come. It’s quite a distinguised tradition; however, we will not be eating at Itsu sushi restaurants for some time.

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Ultra Deep Field

Hubble's Ultra Deep Field

Space, is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.

Scientists decided last week, thanks to the help of this fantastic picture (even better if you get one with higher resolution), that approximately 96% of the universe is Dark Matter and Dark Energy. You see, this picture is looking at about a 10 billion year span of time.  For reference, each of those little bits of light is not a star, but rather, a galaxy containing millions upon millions of stars.  And by looking at the stuff in the picture that’s oh-golly-gosh really old, NASA saw different things than when they looked at the stuff that’s, well, middle aged in galactic terms.

So, it’s definitely there, but what is it? No clue. It works as some sort of anti-gravity, taking up the spaces between objects that have gotten so far apart their gravity isn’t affecting them anymore. But, the while the opposite of love isn’t hate but rather apathy, this is not true for stars. When they get far enough apart, they’re not content to just continue drifting aimlessly away from one another. Oh no, indeed, they invoke the Dark Matter and Dark Energy and send their frigid former star-friend flying away at dizzying speeds.

Scientists will just tell you the universe is expanding faster, but that’s no fun, now is it?

Incidentally, Happy Thanksgiving all. Mr. Thursday, for one, is looking forward to the mashed potatoes, and is thankful for the Ultra Deep Field, the daily insanity of the MLB off-season, Aldaris Porteris, and you, interweb.

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If Uncle Sam Wants You, He’s Going To Have You

In a move considered shocking to those who do not watch C-Span, Democratic Representative Charles Rangel (NY) wants to reinstate the draft.  The Congressman is a Purple Heart veteran of the Korean War.  The link there will take you to the story as told by The New York Times, but Mr. Thursday would like to note that we learned of this story through Fox News’ show Hannity and Colmes, which is an impossibly entertaining show for such a surfeit of reasons that we can’t possibly get into them now.  But fear not, we’ll get around to that eventually. 

Regardless, Congressman Rangel has long been outspoken against the Iraq War.  Upon hearing this story, Mr. Thursday’s initial reaction was that Mr. Rangel had done a 180 and decided that not-war was not the answer, and shared John McCain’s unpopular opinion that the war needs more troops so it may be won. 

As it turns out, he’s introducing the bill in an effort to get Congress to take the war more seriously.  He believes that if Congress were sending their own children to Iraq, they would have done a better job of fighting the war, and they certainly would have not gone to Iraq on such flimsy evidence (it’s worth noting that Rangel has consistently voted against the war from the very beginning). 

It’s reassuring that of the 535 United States congressmen, at least 1 is feeling the effects of this war on some sort of personal level.  Every time we here the term “re-deployment” and, in earlier, simpler, happier times, “shock and awe”, we couldn’t help feeling as though the government thinks war is a video game.  The victims are empty dogtags and another notch on some statisticians chart. 

 Mr. Thursday doesn’t presume to know what the right course of action is in Iraq.  The commission gave three suggestions, entitled: Go Big, Go Long, or Go Home.  Go Big refers to adding thousands of more troops–we assume 400,000 troops big.  Go Long means keeping present troop levels in Iraq for a long long time, essentially “staying the course.”  Go Home is just what it sounds like. 

Go Home is the most appetizing option.  If Iraq is merely part of the War on Terror, consider it a battle lost, and go shore up Afghanistan.  Protect non-Arabs in Sudan and Chad.  Go Big is a frightening concept, but it makes sense.  Go Long… Well, Mr Thursday has yet to understand the argument for that. 

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Identity Crisis: The NFL and Nation-States

Juliet Capulet once famously asked, “what’s in a name?”  She remarked, precociously (she was, after all, only 14 at the time), that the value of a thing is not found in its name, but in the thing itself.  The fact that she is saying this to justify a crush on her family’s mortal enemy is immaterial.  Imagine any 14 year-old girl.  The first adjective Mr. Thursday is prepared to assign to the image we’ve conjured is “hysterical”.  Now, if a girl who, if alive today, would not have been born until 1992, has enough maturity and intelligence that a name only has meaning in pretentious literature, we wonder why football players, and more importantly, government officials cannot realize the same.

This little quandary stems from two recent events: first, Will James played his second game as a Philadelphia Eagle on Sunday.  Will James is a cornerback, who is known for being very good, albeit injury prone, but he formerly played for the New York Giants under the name Will Peterson.  Second, Bangalore, a city of 7 million people–and the city to which you are connected when you call Dell’s service numbers–no longer exists.  The powers that be have changed the name.  Ladies and gentlemen, we give you “Bengalooru”, the City of Cooked Beans. 

At the Curious Mechanism, we were stunned to learn that anyone, anywhere-outside-of-Texas, would intentionally rename their city after the Musical Fruit.  Upon some quick research, we’ve come upon an explanation.  Bengalooru is short for Benda Kaluru, which means city of cooked beans.  The name is based on a myth that a starving king was fed beans by an old woman on the site of what would become Bangalore/Bengalooru.  It’s a mildly interesting story, but we can’t help but wondering: what’s the point?

Bangalore is one of the most well known cities in the world.  Probably  the most well known in India, and behind Tokyo and Beijing for its recognition throughout Asia.  It’s a massive city and, by Indian standards, a prosperous one.  It is the “global village” that pundits write about.  Bangalore is a place to meet people from anywhere throughout the world.  Bangalore has become Bengalooru as part of a desultory effort by Indian authorities to de-Anglicize their country, since Bangalore was the British name for the place.  India has been doing a lot of this lately–Bombay has become Mumbai, Calcutta is Kolkata and so on.  In a ridiculous maneuver, they’ve given Kamptee its “aboriginal” name, Kampthi, despite history showing that the place was named for Camp T, a trading post owned by Britain’s own East India Company.  India isn’t trying to recapture a lost or Anglicized history, they’re merely trying to whitewash over the obvious influence of the Western world.  Mumbai is still the giant city Bombay was, with all the same history, and problems.  Same for Bengalooru. 

 So, we wonder about Mr. Will James, and others.  Tra Thomas, also of the Eagles, decided during the offseason that he only wanted to be known as William, which has given him the nickname on Philadelphia sports pages as William “Don’t Call Me Tra” Thomas.  Both cite the same sort of reason: they’ve made personal changes, and as part of the New Person that they are, they’re taking on an appropriately new name.  This strikes Mr. Thursday as a similar sort of white-washing.  We don’t know the Williams’ James or Thomas, but outside of injury problems for James and holding penalties for Thomas, we don’t know what they’re trying to escape from, and we don’t see what they’ve changed to.

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Not All Bad

Boosters, largely, have a bad reputation in the United States. The perception–one which may or may not be accurate–is that boosters have turned college sports into Big Money Business, and the purity of sport has been lost in a tide of money, gifts, and new equipment. Apparently, not quite all boosters, however, are just turning their cash over to schools in hopes of winning.

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale told the University of North Texas to rename their practice facility after fired football coach Darrell Dickey. Dickey was fired last week after having a heart attack on October 12th. If U of NT fails to rename the stadium, McIngvale redirects the money to the One O’Clock Lab Band, the music school at the university.

McIngvale believes, and Mr. Thursday is inclined to agree, that it’s wrong and, well, asinine thing to fire a coach three weeks after having a heart attack. While its true that Dickey doesn’t have a winning record at North Texas, it doesn’t seem as though they’ve had one in a while, anyway. And even if the coach did deserve firing, its disgraceful to kick someone who’s already on the ground. Let the guy finish out his contract after recovering from the heart attack, already.

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The Fifty-one Million Dollar Man

Those who follow baseball probably already know: The Boston Red Stockings just offered up $51.1 dollars to talk to a player who has never thrown a Major League pitch. There’s a lot of speculation as to why General Manager Theo Epstein would do this, especially considering last year’s talk of “rebuilding the farm system” and how they can’t afford to spend big money on free agents so they can “win every year” and a lot of other completely reasonable nonsense from the head of the second largest payroll in North American sports. Either Epstein has blown up the “we’re not big spenders” plan of action, or that plan never existed in the first place. Or, of course, the plan could be so nuanced that Mr. Thursday’s obsessive following of baseball hasn’t yet picked up on it.

Regardless, the Crimson Stockings spent a ludicrous amount of money to sign an excitingly unproven player. The Curious Mechanism is already giddy anticipating the Japanese wunder-baller’s first time getting lit up, in Fenway, by the Yankees, and hearing Bill Simmons and others lose their minds–don’t forget, Boston is the center of the sports universe, or at least ESPN thinks so, so that kind of excitement will not be lost under a bigger story.

There’s a conspiracy theory circulating that this is all a canard and, throttling the Genius Switch, Epstein and his merry band of pitching evaluators and check-writers are doing this merely to keep Matsuzaka away from the dreaded Yankees. They’re going to offer a joke of a contract, Matsuzaka will take it and get paid very little, or he’ll go back to Japan and Boston and New York still can’t pitch. This theory is delightfully insane, but if there’s a kernel of truth to it, Mr. Thursday has a number of suggestions for future Boston actions:

  • Spend only 48.83 million to get: Johan Santana, Brandon Webb, Roy Oswalt, Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter, Scot Shields, Joel Zumaya, Aaron Heilman, Scot Linebrink, Juan Rincon and Felix Rodriguez. (from ESPN)
  • Give the Phillies, Tigers, and Giants 17million dollars each to NOT trade Cole Hamels, Justin Verlander and Matt Cain to the Yankees. (from Goose)
  • Have “Rolex Night” for all fans 14 and up, at Fenway.
  • Have “Free Beer” night at Fenway on the first Friday of every month.
  • Give the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Devil Rays $17 million to tank their games against Boston, but play “extra good, and stuff” against the Yankees.
  • Buy 127,753 XBox 360’s to test the managing acumen of half the fans the Boston simultaneously.
  • Get some really good anti-blister cream for Josh Beckett.
  • Get David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez on effective diets.
  • Replace all the seats in Fenway with ones that face the field.

There’s certainly a great deal more that the Red Sox could spend money on in their on-going to justmiss the playoffs every year, and stealing all the attention for it, when the Phillies have really mastered this art–being eliminated in the final weekend 3 of the past 4 seasons. So here’s to you, Boston Red Sox, enjoy coming up short when Curt Schilling’s age catches up to him, Papelbon’s shoulder blows, Josh Beckett leaves 35 more curveballs hanging, and Matsuzaka, though fine, is not Jesus Christ with a gyro-ball.

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