Sunday, September 28, 2008
Throw in some undesert-like humidity -- 22 percent right now, had to be higher earlier today -- and it's about as uncomfortable as I've been all summer. And it's fall!
The girls had back-to-back soccer games spanning the noon hour today, so I was camped out in the sun and humidity from about 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. And naturally, both teams drew the sideline facing the sun, so it was beating down on my face that whole time. I had grand plans to get to the club and pound out some cardio later in the afternoon, but once I got back to the car, I swore I wouldn't set foot outside the house the rest of the day.
Fortunately there was some decent college football on the tube, and we got to see the White Sox gag away another game and give the Twins yet another reprieve before we settled in to watch a couple episodes of the great HBO miniseries "John Adams" on our DVR. We've got one episode to go -- can't wait to see how it turns out! I hope he doesn't die in the end.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Kings of Leon -- Only By the Night
Genre: Whiskey-drenched arena rock
For fans of: loud guitars, Pentecostal revivals, My Morning Jacket, skinny jeans, burgoo, The Strokes on hillbilly heroin, facial hair
Download it: "Sex on Fire," "Crawl"
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
If you watch The Biggest Loser, you know that the dreaded Week 2 Plateau is the bane of the dieters' existence. This is the middle of Week 3 for me, so I'm not surprised that I haven't lost weight this week. First of all, muscle is more dense than fat, and I'm adding muscle while losing fat, so the only numbers that really count are measurements right now. And with Nora at home the last couple of days, I wasn't able to pound out any cardio during the day, which limited my caloric deficit.
Anyway, we celebrated my success today by pounding the crap out of my body again. Actually, it wasn't anything excessively brutal -- just a good, solid workout, three times through a circuit that included 3 minutes of running, then some squats and some shoulder work. I got on the bike afterwards for a quick 12-minute workout and am feeling great.
Baker was just massive last night -- and in winning his 10th game, he became the 5th Twins starter to win 10 this year (including the departed Livan) -- first time in team history that's happened. Other positives:
- Gotta pat Gardy on the back for playing the hunch on Kubel. Let's see what Cuddy does tonight against Buehrle.
- Nice to see nine runs with Span and Casilla going 0-for-10.
- The crowd was really into it. Standing on every two-strike count, curtain calls, and just generally maintaining a buzz throughout.
- It was fun to see small-ball driving the Sox crazy with bunts and stolen bases and getting the runner over and taking the extra base.
- It was also fun to see three HRs.
- Delmon's bomb was a blast.
But that's a minor complaint after watching a nearly perfect victory. One down, two to go.
As recently as two weekends ago, the entire mid-’90s lineup of the band (Louris, Olson, bassist Marc Perlman, keyboardist Karen Grotberg and drummer Tim O’Reagan) reunited for a full concert at the Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria, Spain.
“It was great,” Olson said of the performance. “We rehearsed two days, although we all worked on the songs prior to that. We did basically everything from the ‘Hollywood Town Hall’ and ‘Tomorrow the Green Grass’ albums,” the 1992 and 1995 recordings that solidified much of The Jayhawks’ international fan base.
Man. Just ... man. Too giddy to form complete sentences. Hope it happens. Can't believe after all these years ...
Monday, September 22, 2008
Pink-Eye Sucks. I'm at home with Nora today, because she woke up with one eye nearly swollen shut and the other eye starting to get gunked up too. The doctor's office can't see her until 4 p.m. but I made the executive decision to keep her home and not jeopardize the rest of her classmates.
But this really throws off the old workout plan. I was supposed to get beaten down by Valerie at 9 a.m., but that's off the table now. And since Kris is leading a bible study group at church tonight, she won't be home until 9-ish, making a visit to the club seem rather unlikely today. All I can do is eat right, get some sleep, and do some crunches, pushups and the like. Oh, maybe I'll swim some laps too -- in our pool, one lap is about 10 meters, so if I go back and forth 15 times, it's almost like a workout.
Old Man Yells at Cloud. Sherman Fredrick is the publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He's a reliable water-carrier for right-wing politicians and causes, but even for Sherm, yesterday's op-ed piece was beyond the pale.
He slimes the Obama campaign by saying that its emphasis on the importance of technology is "asinine" and that Obama likes to "poke fun at a hero's war injuries." Because, you know, McCain was a POW, and the physical damage he suffered while in the hands of his captors now prevents him from using a computer.
It's a typically dishonest political screed from Frederick -- we're supposed to accept that McCain's not physically capable of using a computer, but he's healthy enough to run the country, so don't you worry about his neophyte VP choice ever having to assume the Presidency. Note that McCain has never used his war injuries as an excuse for his technophobia -- he never says, "Gee, I wish I could e-mail more, but I can't sit at a computer for any length of time." Nor has he, apparently, explored voice recognition technology or other methods to overcome his very real and very permanent injuries.
Of course, that's not really the point of Sherm's smarmy rant -- he just wants to throw a little blood in the water before he gets to his main point, that just because technology has passed you by, that doesn't mean the world has done the same. And that's true ... to a point. Nobody is suggesting that people who don't use e-mail or cell phones or the Google are worthless to society. And yes, it's often helpful to "get off the grid" for a time, to shut off the BlackBerry and take time to smell the roses.
But at the same time, the leader of the world's only remaining superpower needs to be at least conversant in the basics of 21st-century technology. He (or she) cannot be defiantly proud of his (or her) technological ignorance. It really does matter. And we can't afford to spend four or eight more years with a President who will surround himself with people who will tend to those minor little details while he focuses on the big picture.
Meanwhile, Sherm, I hope those kids get off your lawn.
Rebel Nation. Heady times for the UNLV football program, which stands at 3-1 after a thrilling 34-31 overtime victory against Iowa State on Saturday. The Rebels were coming off an upset win at then-No. 15 Arizona State (over-rated!), and stormed out to a 21-0 halftime lead against the hapless Cyclones. But ISU stormed back in an entertaining second half, eventually tying the game on a 28-yard touchdown pass with 3 seconds to play.
Now, I've been down this road many times before with the Gophers, and in every such game, the Golden Rodents would curl up in the fetal position and let the opponent run away with an easy win. So you can imagine how disorienting it was to see the Rebels catch their breath, then reassert control over the game.
Iowa State opened the OT session with the ball, and three plays later kicked a field goal after an impressive defensive stand by the Rebels. Then, on its first offensive play of OT, UNLV went for the jugular and got it, with quarterback Omar Clayton throwing a beautiful fade to the corner of the end zone, where freshman wide receiver Phillip Payne used every bit of his 6-foot-3 frame to stretch for the ball and haul in the winning touchdown.
Now, with the Rebels 3-1 and my Golden Gophers 4-0, is it any wonder I find myself checking the rear-view mirror frequently, looking for four horsemen on my tail?
30 years and still gut-wrenching. Today's must-read article is from noted journalist Jeff Pearlman (yeah, the guy who exposed John Rocker and recently published a bawdy account of the early-90s Dallas Cowboys) of ESPN.com, who examines the death of Lyman Bostock 30 years ago this week. I think this one will merit an entry of its own, but do yourself a favor and read this article if you are at all interested in baseball, crime, or humanity.
Friday, September 19, 2008
So with that in mind, here's the 5-team parlay for Week 3:
- Redskins -3.5 vs. Arizona -- Team Zorn righted itself last week against New Orleans, and the Cards haven't started 3-0 since the first month of the Ford Administration.
- Redskins-Cardinals over 42.5 -- Three of their last four have gone over, all of them in D.C.
- Panthers +3.5 at Minnesota -- I can't see the Vikings stopping Steve Smith. Maybe Gus can keep it close. Ideally, the Vikings will win by a field goal.
- Eagles-Steelers over 44.5 -- Two great offenses will be on display in the Keystone State.
- Jets +9.5 at San Diego -- The Chargers are hurting. No Merriman, gimpy Tomlinson, Norv Turner still the head coach. Favre will find a way to keep the Jets in the game if not win it outright.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Trump Endorses McCain on Larry King
And I thought, "Jeez, when will these celebrities ever get it through their thick heads that we just don't care what they think? Somebody had better tell the McCain campaign to get these celebrities to shut the hell up, because they're doing him more harm than good!"
Well, not really. But that's exactly what I hear from my friends on the right whenever another actor, musician or professional athlete speaks up in support of Barack Obama. Cuz, you know, just because they're celebrities doesn't mean they know what they're talking about.
However ... just because they're celebrities doesn't mean they don't know what they're talking about, either. Many of these people have devoted significant amounts of time, energy and money in educating themselves about the issues of the day, and many are legitimate activists for their pet causes. To remain silent when they have a platform to speak out (don't blame them because our society is infatuated with celebrities) would be to turn their backs on those causes.
So when Don Cheadle endorses Obama because he thinks an Obama administration would do more to end the oppression and genocide in Darfur, the knee-jerk Republican reaction to be dismissive reveals a lot more about them than they'd care to admit.
As anybody who watched the Republican National Convention coverage can attest, the righties hate the celebrities. Hate 'em. Think they're anti-American. Use 'em to rile up the base and get the money flowing to the campaign coffers. Heck, they even make clever campaign commercials comparing Obama to such celebrities as Paris Hilton (whose parents are major McCain donors) and Britney Spears (who famously backed George W. Bush in his re-election campaign).
However, if the celebrities are on their side, then they're welcomed with open arms. Oddly, they don't seem to mind if actors, musicians or athletes speak their mind and offer their opinions, as long as they're opining in favor of Republican candidates and causes.
So the next time you hear a right-winger complain about celebrities offering their uninformed political opinions, just nod your head and say, "Yeah, I hate that Chuck Norris guy, too."
Genre: Tex-Mex alt-psychadelia
For fans of: Iron & Wine, jalapeno poppers & tequila, Herb Alpert, snakeskin boots, peyote, Sergio Leone movies, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Download it: "Victor Jara's Hands," "Slowness"
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Where were you in summer of 1984? That was a big year for me -- I was deep in the throes of puberty, listening to a lot of Van Halen, riding my moped around town to my first real jobs (umpiring little league baseball games and working at a drive-in restaurant), and parting my hair on the side again after an ill-fated, follow-the-crowd experiment with the center-part-feathered look. Ugh.
Anyway, in the summer of 1984, the Minnesota Twins made their first serious run at a division title in my 10 years of following the team. Powered by a dynamic young lineup that featured emerging stars Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, Tom Brunansky and a rookie center fielder named Kirby Puckett, the Twins entered the last week of the season 81-75 and tied for first place with the Kansas City Royals.
Even after dropping a pair at Chicago, the Twins still trailed the Royals by only two games with one series remaining -- a four-gamer at Cleveland, a team they had just swept at the Metrodome a week earlier and that was 16 games below .500 entering the final weekend.
Now, I had just entered 10th grade that month, making the big leap from junior high to high school, so I was rather caught up with ... uh ... my studies, as well as trying to impress the ladies with said moped (verdict: unsuccessful), so I can't recall the details of that series chapter and verse. Thankfully, a wonderful site called Baseball Almanac is out there on the Internets, a great resource for baseball dorks like me.
On Thursday night, Mike Smithson took a 3-0 lead into the 8th, gave up a couple of runs and yielded to Ron Davis, who gave up tying run before getting out of the 8th. Then, with two outs in the 9th, the great Jamie Quirk took RD deep and the Twins lost 4-3.
But the Royals lost to the Angels, leaving the door open for the Twins -- two games out with three to play. On Friday night, the Twins took a 10-0 lead after two and a half innings. Staff ace Frank Viola gave back two in the third, then blew up in the sixth as the Tribe scored seven more times to cut the lead to 10-9. (Meanwhile, the Twins were getting blanked by the Indians' bullpen duo of future Twin LeRoy Purdy Smith and the immortal Tom Waddell.)
Once again, RD was the scapegoat for the loss -- the Tribe tied it off him in the 8th, and he put the winning run on in the 9th before the immortal Ed Hodge gave up two hits and allowed the winning run to score. I wish I knew who had the hits but that's not part of the box score.
Meanwhile, the Royals won in Oakland and that did it for the 1984 Minnesota Twins. One aside -- at least they didn't completely roll over. On that Saturday, they took a 3-0 lead in the first inning off Neal Heaton, but John Butcher couldn't hold it and they lost 6-4. And on Sunday, they scored twice in the top of the first off (wait for it ...) Bert Blyleven, but they didn't get another run until the 8th, by which time the Indians had tuned up Ken Schrom en route to a 7-4 win.
Of course, the AL West title that year was pretty much a consolation prize because the Royals were steamrolled by the juggernaut that was the World Champion Detroit Tigers. But still, it was a nice, unexpected run for the Twins, and it set the stage for their 1987 World Series season, with many of those young stars from '84 providing the backbone of the '87 team.
Anyway, this is a round-about way of saying it was a good run this summer, and maybe the Sox will still fall flat on their faces, but it doesn't look like it. If they play .500 ball the rest of the way, the Twins will have to go 9-2. I don't see them getting out of Tampa with fewer than two losses this weekend, and that doesn't even account for their game against 22-2 Cliff Lee tonight.
I just hope somewhere in Minnesota there's a 15-year-old kid stinking of Clearasil and Old Spice, driving a moped around town and clinging to the last dying hope of a flickering Twins season. Dare to dream, kid.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Today's training session included crunches, leg lifts, shoulder presses and lunges -- lots and lots of lunges. They're not fun -- but they do the job.
Oh, and I ran yesterday for the first time since the Reagan administration (I kid ... but not much). It was on the treadmill, and I was pretty much just dipping my toe into the water by running for one minute (5.7 mph), then walking for two minutes, and repeating the cycle for 30 minutes. It went well enough that next time I'm going to try one-minute intervals for both walking and running. Then I'll just extend the running periods while continuing to walk for a minute on each "break" until I'm feeling good enough to run 3.1 miles.
Or that's the plan. Anybody have tips for a beginning runner? Fire away.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Now, on 3rd-and-5, most teams are going to pass, because it's tough to get five yards on a running play when the defense is pretty much stacked between the line of scrimmage and about seven yards downfield. However, the Vikings figured all they needed was three more points -- to stretch their lead to 11 -- so they ran Chester Taylor into the line, figuring he'd at least keep them in field goal position.
Taylor gained a yard, and Ryan Longwell trotted onto the field to attempt a 47-yard field goal. The fact that he missed it didn't make the 3rd down play a bad call -- it was a bad call regardless of what happened on that play or on the field goal attempt. Because by running Taylor into the line instead of giving T-Jax a chance to make a play to keep the drive alive, chew up some more clock and maybe actually put six points on the board instead of three, the Vikings coaches were saying, "We don't trust our quarterback to be able to convert a 3rd-and-5 midway through the fourth quarter as we're protecting an 8-point lead."
And that's just sad. If they don't trust Jackson enough to give him a chance to throw (or scramble) for a first down in that situation, then he has no business being on the field right now.
It's too early to jump off the Vikings bandwagon -- yeah, they're 0-2, but they've played arguably their two toughest games of the year, at Green Bay and home against the Colts, and look at the other teams who are 0-2 today (San Diego, Jacksonville, and Cleveland all had major playoff aspirations going into the season). But the quarterback and coaching staff have done little to ease the concerns of Viking Nation with their performance through two weeks.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
In this case, a 5-team parlay involves five picks each week, and all five have to win. But if that magic happens, I get paid back 23-to-1. It's my own little office pool, and I only have to hit it once a year to make money -- which is exactly what I did in 2005 and 2006. But I was shutout last year -- I went 4-for-5 in three different weeks, including the first and the last weeks of the regular season (not sure what that means). So while the goal is still to hit it once this year, I'd happily take two ... or more.
Last week, I went 3-for-5, hitting with the Bills, Broncos and the Panthers-Chargers over, and missing on the Lions (I know, fool me once ...) and the Cowboys-Browns over. So we're off to an inconspicuous start. Time to get conspicuous.
Week 2 NFL 5-team parlay:
- Chiefs -3.5 vs. Raiders -- This is more a pick against the Raiders than for the Chiefs, although I do think the boys from KC were plucky against the Brady-less Pats last Sunday. But the Raiders just stink out loud.
- Packers-Lions over 45 -- One thing Detroit will do this year is score. Another thing they'll do is let the opposing team score. Watch their totals climb every week until they reach the realm of last year's Patriots, although that phenomenon was due to the respect for New England's offense; with the Lions, it's all about their defense.
- Colts-Vikings over 43.5 -- This should be a shootout. The Colts will pass early and often, aiming for the Vikings' weakness. And I like how Minnesota's offense played in the second half last week, once T-Jax shook off some of the rust he gathered while sitting out the last 2.5 games of the preseason.
- Pats-Jets over 37 -- Breffarve's first home game for Gang Green -- you think he's going to be content to hand off to Thomas Jones and manage the game? He'll throw at least two TDs to the Jets' receivers and maybe one to the Pats' secondary. And the Pats will move the ball fine under Cassell.
- Texans -4.5 vs. Ravens -- Houston was everybody's sneaky preseason pick but the Texans laid an egg against Pittsburgh last week. Now they get to open their home schedule against a rookie quarterback making his first road start. Hurricane or no hurricane, I've got one word for that scenario: Giddy-up!
Friday, September 12, 2008
Yes, my trainer has introduced me to about 32 different varieties of crunches in our two sessions. We did them with a medicine ball, without a medicine ball, laying on one of those big bouncy balls, etc. And I have to say, the variety keeps it from getting boring. They're still painful, but it's not the same, repetitive motion, which means I'm working my upper and lower abs ("Hello down there, abs -- I haven't seen you in awhile!") and reducing the stress on different ancillary body parts. For example, some crunches make my neck sore, some make my hip flexors burn, some cause the old back to ache. But mixing up the routine seems to balance out the strain on the rest of my body.
So, the lesson for today is, "Crunches: They're not just for breakfast anymore."
(p.s. I promise I will get to some other topics soon. Like football gambling -- we'll post the 5-team parlay tomorrow.)
Thursday, September 11, 2008
You see, many of the people on whom I rely for these interviews are professional athletes and coaches. And I don't have to tell you that they are Very Important People whose schedules cannot be disrupted. Thus, when a PR flak tells me that a coach or player is going to call me "sometime today," I can't disappear for two hours to go to the gym. Or even for an hour. I have to be sitting by the phone, recorder in hand, interview notes ready to go, on the off chance that one of these Very Important People will actually follow through with his promise and call me back.
Sigh. That's why I've always preferred to cover women's sports. Not only do most female athletes -- collegiate and professional -- offer better quotes, even in quick-hitter soundbite sessions, but they actually appreciate the attention that the media gives their sports. Title IX may be 35 years old, but these women still see themselves as ambassadors of their respective sports, and thus they're more than happy to do the media dance with any schmuck holding a microphone or notepad.
And in case you're wondering why female athletes offer better quotes, it's not necessarily because they're more personable. My theory is that they're actually smarter than their male counterparts. That's because most women who push themselves hard enough to become an elite athlete also have the drive to succeed in everything else they do. Thus, they're usually good students -- the WNBA and US women's soccer team, for example, are filled with college graduates -- so not only are they motivated to promote their sports, they can string a few sentences together without tripping over their tongues.
So whether it's been Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Sue Bird, A.J. Mleczko or Shannon Bolden, I've always been impressed with the level of thought and consideration that these women have put into their interviews with me. Suffice it to say, I never got the same sense from Randy Moss -- although Matt Birk is pretty darn good.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
We started on Monday with core-strengthening exercises -- crunches, step-ups, and a lot of balance-type drills that focus on keeping your core muscles tight. So, of course, I'm sore today. Very, very sore. But it's a good kind of sore -- the kind that you get when you've used your body in a different way than you're used to, and in the way that it was meant to be used.
I'm sure it'll eventually abate -- probably just in time to get drilled again on Thursday. But that's just part of the process. I'm not a big "no-pain-no-gain" guy, but I accept the fact that there will be plenty of discomfort in my immediate future. And that's OK, because too much comfort is what got me here in the first place.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I'd coasted along throughout most of my adult life, working out with decent frequency, eating pretty much whatever I wanted to, and maintaining a healthy weight of 175. Then my life went through a couple of drastic changes. I became a father, and I started a new job that was nowhere near my health club.
Suddenly, I was no longer free to use my time as I saw fit, and I couldn't swing by the club before or after work to get in 45 minutes of cardio. Plus, I turned 30, and my metabolism began the slow descent toward flatline. All this added up to a slow, but steady, weight gain.
Still, I topped out at around 190, then started watching my diet and figured out ways to fit in a little more exercise, and I settled back in the low 180s.
Then all hell broke loose. In 2000, I started another new job, this one requiring extremely long hours. Fun, but long, and many of them stretching into the wee hours of the morning. I "retired" from playing baseball after that summer, thus eliminating my one incentive to remain in decent shape. (Please keep your John Kruk comments to yourselves.) And my metabolism -- once fueled by decent sleep and regular exercise -- slowed to a glacial creep.
And the pounds came.
My goodness, did they ever. Before long, I was buying new pants, wearing baggy clothes and generally living the sad lifestyle of the fat guy. My eating habits went to hell ("Hey, I'm already fat -- might as well eat that donut") and ... well, if I were a little more touchy-feely, the phrase "shame spiral" might be invoked right about here.
By the time I tried to grab the reins the first time -- two years ago -- I had ballooned to 240 pounds. I signed up with the local LA Weight Loss chapter, because I liked their no-nonsense approach. It boiled down to this: write down everything you eat and drink, control your portion sizes, weigh in three times a week to encourage accountability, and watch the pounds fall away!
And it worked ... for awhile. I got down to about 225, then hit a wall that I just couldn't break through. I still don't know why it didn't click for me. My guess is that I still wasn't exercising enough and I wasn't sleeping enough (do a little research on the correlation between sleep and weight loss if you're skeptical about this), and as my frustration mounted, I just sorta gave up. A year and a half later, I was back up to 240.
Fast-forward to a month ago. I was back in Minnesota, reconnecting with my roots in my hometown. I noticed that my old baseball club had a home game that night and figured I'd swing by the ballpark to watch a few innings. When I got there, I discovered that night's opposing starting pitcher was ... my age! He was an old teammate and opponent of mine, and he was still out there getting it done. While I was sipping a beer and eating popcorn in the stands, he was battling "kids" 10 and 20 years younger than us in the heat and humidity of an August night.
And that's when it hit me. I had to do something, because there was no way I could have gone out there and even run out a grounder, let alone play three games a week like I used to -- and like my old friend and foe was still doing.
So, the day I got back to Nevada, I got online and signed up for a sprint triathlon. For the uninitiated (like me about a month ago), a sprint triathlon is like the junior version of the big event -- it's a 5K run, a 12-mile bike ride and a 150-meter swim. The one I chose -- the Tinsel Triathlon in Hemet, Calif. -- is actually held in reverse order. Usually you swim first, but I guess because their swim takes place in a pool instead of a lake or ocean, they have to swim last to stagger the number of people in the water at the same time.
I've long been interested in triathlons, because they seem like a great test of general athleticism, as opposed to marathons, which just seem twisted and cruel. I always said that I'd sign up for one "as soon as I lose a little weight" because of course 240 pounds can cause a lot of pounding on the old joints.
But there comes a time in life when you've got to put the cart before the horse, so to speak, and this is one of those times. So I'm signed up for a triathlon that will take place on Dec. 14 -- you can refer to my handy-dandy countdown clock to see just how much time I've got left before my Day of Reckoning. And the fact that it's three days before my 40th birthday ... well, I'm a sucker for symbolism.
Along the way, I'll tell you all about my goals, how I plan to get there, what this process will entail, who's going to help me get it done, and everything else related to this journey of self-improvement. And of course you'll still get the same riveting discussion of sports, music, politics and gambling on football that you've come to know and love from What Happens in Henderson.
T-minus 98 days and counting ... let's get it started.