Monthly archives: October 2007
The 20 Candy Bars that Should Be on the Shelves
Following up my latest Please Explain piece, here are the 20 that I think should be in your candy bar aisle. They are in no particular order because sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.
Added notes: Anything made by the NECCO company is most likely going to be really bad. See Clark bars and NECCO wafers, for best proof.
Whatchamacallit and Zero bars should be pulled off the shelves by Hershey.
Hard to find now, but the Zagnut bar was a staple on the shelves up until the 90's. When Eddie Murphy is bitching about being hungry in 48 Hours and Nick Nolte gets him a Zagnut bar from the vending machine, there is no better way of demonstrating your disgust with a person. A Zagnut for dinner is something that should be a torture technique used at Gitmo, if waterboarding doesn't work.
The Marathon bar (see comments about Curly Wurly), is the candy bar that should still be on the shelves that is not in production in America, today. The only other candy bar that I liked that doesn't exist anymore was the Milkshake. It wasn't usually that fresh, since it was not a big seller, but the malted flavoring made it worth getting, occasionally.
The Cadbury Mini egg should be made year round, because it is the best little piece of chocolate which is made on a mass scale. It blows away the Hershey's kiss.
Halloween Edition of Please Explain: Some Candy Bars
Just like the fat that it is them, the candy bar market is completely oversaturated. When there should be at tops, 20 different low-end candy bars, there are 100's. Truthfully, I don't get why many of them still exist, taking away more space that should go to the Snickers or M&M's that are constantly being bought up.
There are lots of different variations that work in the candy bar, but marshmallows should only be connected to chocolate in a smore. Oh and just because a fresh smore is delicious doesn't mean that it can be duplicated in a wrapped candy bar, which Hershey's S'more proves. Have you ever had a Goo Goo Cluster? Not a good choice. Or how about the Mallo Cup? The concept behind the Mallo Cup is let's take all the perfect deliciousness of the Reese's and replace the key ingredient, its creamy peanut butter filling with the completely artificial sponge which is packaged marshmallow.
As perfect as the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup is, let me mention that there is no need to mess with the original. Currently, you can get reformulated versions with Caramel (surprisingly disappointing), Crispy crunchy (another weak Butterfinger pretender), ReesesSticks (wafers are never good with real chocolate poured over them, except for Kit Kat's), Fast Break (no 2 people ever accidently got their peanut butter and nougat mixed and thought it was good), and Whipps (a peanut butter version of 3 Musketeers which is really awful). While E.T. dug them, even Reese's Pieces can't compete with an M&M. While it is the best Reese's spin off, the product's name, Nutrageous creates an image to me of an all male version of Oh Calcutta. It comes down to the simple fact that you can take the best chocolate and the best peanut butter, mix them, and they will not reach the level of delight which is already contained in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. So don't waste your time experimenting with their other products, stick to the original. Oh and when you do, pronounce it Reese's, not Reesie's, like my wife and some other people I've heard refer to them.
The number 1 candy bar in America is the Snickers bar. Now as much as I love baseball, the Baby Ruth and O'Henry bar cannot compete. (Yes, I know neither were named after Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron, but they have connections with them, as Aaron even did ads for O'Henry during his Home Run King days. Don't get me started on the waste that was the Reggie bar.) If you are craving chocolate, caramel, nougat and peanuts, Snickers has the best flavor. I just don't see why anyone is going for an inferior product, especially since the Snickers has to be fresher, considering that I would guess they sell 20 to every 1 of the it's direct competitors.
A candy bar should be rectangular in shape, unless it is the glorious Reese's Cup. The Chunky bar features a thick brick of chocolate, which doesn't texturally work, especially considering that raisins shouldn't be in a candy bar. Raisinet's work, but they aren't a candy bar. Another shape that doesn't work is the rounded glob, which is the Bun or Nut Goodie made by Pearson's. Not only do these products have a bad shape, but they feature maple, which is only good on pancakes.
Pearson's does produce one quality offering, the Salted Nut Roll. Here is the one candy bar that is an exception that chocolate should be involved. The Payday bar is different enough that I think you could make an argument that it is better, but just like RC Cola, this isn't enough to justify it's existence. There is not a large enough market for chocolate-less candy bars and the Salted Nut Roll has won the battle. On the subject of chocolate free candy bars, the Chick-o-Stick is the worst named, weirdest looking candy ever created in America. A mix of peanut butter and coconut. Who the hell is buying this candy?
On the subject of coconut, it is a strange flavor which seems like just an occasional treat to desire. It kind of reminds me of Dr. Pepper, as I see why there is a demand, but not to the extent that it's sales demonstrate. Why there is enough of a market that both Mounds and Almond Joy exist is beyond me. Why not make just the Almond Joy and for the people who don't like almonds, pick them off the top. Hey, it's not that difficult.
Sure its size is Lexington Steele-esque in dimension, but the Charleston Chew's flavored nougat is more artificial tasting than munching between a Real Doll's legs. If you were the Walton's during the depression, maybe it made economic sense to purchase a Charleston Chew, but not now.
Some candy bars served their purposes, but just like 1000 Island dressing*, they have been eclipsed by better options at your local convenience store in 2007. I'm talking about the candy bars which make up the miniatures that Hershey sells. Leading this list is the Mr. Goodbar. When you take a bite of a Mr. Goodbar, it tastes like you are munching on something from the 1950's. Krackel is not much better, as the Nestle Krunch bar is the superior choice. I know this will be controversial, but do you really want to eat a Hershey's Chocolate bar anymore? Drop a couple more quarters and go for a Ghirardelli's or a Dove bar.
While I do think the Hershey's basic chocolate bar is second-rate, I'm not a snob about candy bars. I just don't understand why the likes of the 5th Avenue bar and its compadres are still as prevelant on the shelf. Please Explain to me the existence of the second-tier candy bars?
(*1000 Island dressing should only exist for Reuben sandwiches. My guess is that within 20 years, it will be off of the menu at most restaurants, as most of its fans are over 70. The only way you could buy ranch dressing was in seasoning packages, until the 1980's, thus senior citizens never learned to accept it as an option.)
Will the Rockies Go Down as a Great Trivia Question
A couple weeks back, I spitballed the idea of has there ever been a World Series participant who didn't wind up with a Hall of Famer in their dugout? I went through the history of the modern game (1903-present), with the help of baseballreference.com, and found only a few potential teams that could fit this description.
Two teams that did make the World Series, the 1945 Cubs and the 1944 Browns, are the guaranteed answers at this point. It is hard to look through their lineups and find 2 worse teams that played in World Series history. The reason they even made it this far was that so many of MLB's top players during 44 and 45 were serving their country in WWII. So let's put an asterisk* on these 2 teams, exclude them from our list and see what other World Series clubs might fit this description.
The first club that I could find without a current Hall of Fame player is the 1984 Tigers. Hopefully, the travesty which is Alan Trammell not being part of the Hall will be rectified, but for now the only person in the dugout for this team who is in Cooperstown is Sparky Anderson. There is still an outside chance that Jack Morris will make it, as well, but I'm going to include Sparky, so they pass the test. One interesting note about them is the 1984 Tigers were arguably the best team of the decade, as only the 1986 Mets won more games and outside of the Red Sox tripping all over themselves, the Mets wouldn't have even won that Series.
The next team on this list is the 1989 San Francisco Giants. I suspect that during the next few years, they will go off the list, as Goose Gossage is catching steam with the voters. The 14th best first baseman according to Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract (2001) was the leader of this team, Will Clark. Clark is right there with Don Mattingly, just barely out of reach of the Hall.
A lot of teams during the 1990's don't have a current Hall of Famer, but it is just a matter of time for most of them, as the Maddux, Glavine, Alomar, Larkin, and Sheffield inductions which happen in the future will guarantee. The only one possible question mark is the 1993 Phillies, but I suspect that the big game dynamics of Curt Schilling will get him a plaque in upstate New York.
So if Gossage and Schilling make it to Cooperstown that means that every World Series team during the game's first century will have one player or manager on it's roster. Looking at this decade, all the teams so far seem to have 1 future Hall of Famer, with only 2 exceptions.
The 2002 Anaheim Angels are a team with some possibilities, but no guarantees so far. Troy Glaus is on pace to hit over 500 homeruns, but his low average and constant injury issues make him a real question mark. Now this one is scary, but at the age of 35, Garrett Anderson has 2205 hits. If he makes it to 3000, you know they will vote him in, despite his incredibly dubious career. The 2002 Angel that I believe is the best bet for Cooperstown is Francisco Rodriguez, as he is on pace to break all records for a closer. While betting on a 25 year-old closer for this type of immortality is very risky, but of the currently active only Rivera, Hoffman, Smoltz, and maybe Wagner are better bets at this point.
So now we come to the 2007 Rockies. Sure their roster is filled with a lot of young, promising players, so who can really know, but let's speculate. On the surface, Todd Helton would seem to be a slamdunk, but his home/away splits are so wildly disparate that he's going to have to reach 3000 hits and keep his Road OPS around where it is at to get my coveted HOF vote. I would put this at a less than a 30% chance of happening. Considering the time period and home park factors, I rate Will Clark and Don Mattingly over Helton, but he has time to change this perspective. Troy Tulowitzski is off to a great beginning, but his splits are pretty shocking, showing a major Coors Field effect.
So we come down to the 2002 Angels and 2007 Rockies being the 2 World Series teams* without a pretty clear-cut current or future Hall of Fame member(s). According to my standards, managers are eligible. I've got to take Mike Scioscia over Clint Hurdle in that particular futures game, as if Scioscia wins a couple more championships, he probably will make it in. (Let's say if a certain free agent was to join the team, don't you think this might help his chances.) It will take quite awhile until we know how these will ultimately play out, but my bet is on Rockies being the first team to hold this dubious destinction, when we look back 25 years from now.
Football Picks are at a Medium Heat
California (+3) Arizona St. (4-star)
Hawaii/New Mexico St. (under 80)
Texas A&M (+3) Kansas
Michigan (-23) Minnesota
USC (+3) Oregon (4-star)
This week features my Pac-10 parlay of the year! Cal needs this win to have a chance at going to a major bowl, while ASU hasn't played anyone that good, until now. I don't do college unders, well unless I'm given 80 points. First 79 points and I'm winning! Kansas hasn't played anyone outside of the state of Kansas besides Colorado. Minnesota is as bad of a BCS school as there is in the US. I know the Trojans have struggled, but to give this type of talent points, I will take Carroll to get it done. College Picks are 24-18.
Detroit (+5) Chicago
Indy (-6.5) Carolina
Washington (+16.5) New England
Buffalo (+3) NY Jets
Minnesota (+1) Philly
Detroit has one of the top 5 receiving crews in the NFL, while the Bears are still beat-up in the secondary. Indy is a lot better team than the Panthers, especially with Freeney and Mathis speed rushing around the corner on AncientTesterverde. The Pats have been killing the spread all year, but with the Colts on deck and a really solid defense from DC, they finally win by less than 2 TD's. The Bills are better than the Jets. The Vikings are a playoff team with a Division 2 QB and a head coach who doesn't seem to know what he's doing. If they run Mr. Petersen enough, they will still beat an Eagles team which I think has started to quit on the season. Look for the Philly D to be yelling, Yo Adrian, a lot as he runs by them. NFL Choices are 14-16.
There Is Only One October
It's hard to think of one person that would be more unpopular to defend than the guy I'm going to attempt to explain. Meet Dane Cook.
Let me start by saying that I'm not defending Dane, the actor. I couldn't really tell you how good/bad he is, as I've never seen one of his starring role flicks. Considering that his co-stars have been Jessica Simpson and Jessica Alba, it would appear like Cook chooses his roles like a male porn start does. Is my leading lady incredibly f-able? Then that is the movie I want to do. I will offer up that the only time I've ever really watched him act was on an episode he hosted of SNL in 2005 and he was really good.
I've weighed in here before about Dane, the comic. Not my favorite for a host of reasons, but I'm the first to admit the guy has brought rock and roll comedy to a whole different level. Sure Kinison and Dice Clay had rock stars coming to their shows, but Cook is the first comic who performs like he is the sexy lead singer of the band. Cook is so dynamic on-stage that he can make women pee their pants from laughing and these same women don't even know it because they were already wet for other reasons. (Hey, I know it ain't the most classy description I've ever offered up here.)
I've never met Dane, the person, but I do know a couple people who have. From that I do know that he is very loyal to his friends and the people that have helped him on his recent off-the-charts success. He is not an overnight sensation, as he has been doing comedy since the mid-90's. Cook pioneered a self-promotional method on the internet, through first his website, then free clips on Napster, and finally through Myspace.com. Even other comics, who are are the leaders of the hate Dane Cook fanclub, use many of these same methods now to promote themselves. Yeah, it isn't the most artistic concept to say marketing is the biggest factor in your career, but in standup comedy you still have to make people laugh. Cook's style over substance ways are lost on a lot of people over 30, but he found a way to really connect with the 15-29 age range. Since these are the people that advertisers most want to reach, he has become an incredibly hot commodity to Hollywood.
With this bit of background, let's get to the point of this piece. Defending Dane, the baseball pitchman. Slamming his promo spots for Fox is a sport in itself for baseball bloggers. My question to you haters is "what do you want, instead?" I'm guessing that most who come to this site have the attitude that "who cares about marketing the game to non-fans." Well, I care, as the sport I love so much I want more people to embrace. If it takes Alyssa Milano writing a blog or Dane Cook overemoting a bit to help bring a younger audience to the game, so be it.
Baseball has been behind the curve for a long time trying to market its game versus the NBA and NFL. While I think it is the best professional sport to watch, it is not a sport that lends itself to the ESPN highlight reels that the NBA and NFL do so well. The clips that feature Cook have him passionately discussing the merits of why the game is so great. I know many of us think Major League Baseball doesn't need these type of promotional pushes, but even though the attendance figures are at record highs, the game is being ignored by much of the younger generations. Just because you play it or not, doesn't determine if you are going to view it on TV. If so, professional soccer would be competing with the NFL for ratings. The dwindling participation rates in Little Leagues does hurt the growth of the sport. If some 12 year-old thinks Dane Cook is cool and gives MLB a closer look, than the commercials have been a positive for the game.
Finally, I'm not saying that this means that continuous viewings of these clips don't start to drive me a bit insane, too. I'm not a guy who likes a rerun (except for on What's Happenin'). I thought the short promo clips for Frank TV on TBS were hilarious...in the beginning...but even they started to get to the point of making me feel a bit uneasy. I know how oversaturation can create a backlash against a person and the person in question happens to be one of my best friends. Considering all the people that Frank inhabits so amazingly, I thought the only problem he would have with this topic would be oversaturated...fats.
I'm not sure what my final stance is on this one, but I guess I'm saying that when it comes to these Fox promo pieces, I don't think they deserve the venom they have received. Dane Cook was never as great as he was being sold by the media on his way up, but he definitely isn't as bad as he being portrayed by the hipsters on his way down. The Juice Blog has gotten some notoriety for its Please Explain topics. From the beginning, Dane Cook has been the number 1 requested celebrity for me to do a Please Explain on. While I'm not a big fan, I've always understood Dane's charm and respect his hard work and dynamic stage presence.
Let the punches fly my way. I suspect I will be cowering in the corner of the ropes for the next 15 rounds.
World Series Pick and More
I like the Red Sox to win in 6. Yes, once again agreeing with my buddy, Cliff Corcoran. My playoff picks so far would tell you that this makes the Rockies a lock, but I will stick with my pre-season champ, the Red Sox. I just can't see the Rockies starting staff being good enough.
My favorite post-season blog has been the one Scott Raab has been writing at Esquire.com. It is loutish, profane, and completely entertaining, which is how I remember Raab as my freshman Rhetoric T.A. at the University of Iowa. A rabid Indians fan, Raab was destroyed by the Red Sox comeback. He is the kind of person that becomes more interesting when things are going badly for him. Oh, the tortured artist at work. His take on the Rockies religious fervor is eye-opening and has given my Agnostic heart a rooting interest in the Series.
The Greatest Sports Broadcaster
In my continuing series on the best behind the mic, the easiest category for me to fill is greatest sports broadcaster of all-time. To be the best broadcaster just in one sport is a great achievement, but to be the all-time best in 3 different sports is mind-blowing. Who is the greatest play-by-play man in NFL, College Basketball, and Tennis history? Hands down it would be Dick Enberg.
Enberg hit the national scene in the late 60's, doing college basketball for the old TVS network. (which meant he did a lot of UCLA games) To me there is a bigger separation between him and the second best college baskeball play-by-play announcer of all-time, than the gap that exists in any other sport. While most point to the Monday Night Football group of Cosell, Gifford, and Meredith being the best 3-man booth, I believe Enberg's work with Al McGuire and Billy Packer with NBC was far superior.
There have been a lot of quality NFL play-by-play men, but Enberg sits on top of the list here, as well. His ability to express the joy he felt from the action, without ever being shrill is completely infectious to listen to. Enberg never seems to overhype the event he broadcasts, as he portrays the enthusiasm of a fan, without coming off like a homer. He has worked best with intelligent, non-macho football analysts like Merlin Olsen, Bob Trumpy, and Bill Walsh, who helped show that you don't have to be brutish to succeed in a brutal game.
Many of you might forget how tennis was a major sport from the 70's until the early 90's, as some of the world's biggest pop culture stars appeared regularly on center court. The mix of charismatic stars like Connors, McEnroe, Agassi, Navratilova, Evert, King, and many others meshed with the poetic way Enberg presented the broadcasts. This was a time before Tiger Woods, when tennis was the sport that could get ratings like the Big 4.
While he never did much college football outside of the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, I have little doubt Enberg would have been right near the top when it comes to that sport, as well. The pure passion that he exudes fits perfectly in college football, as the only college football play-by-play man I've heard that I would rate above him is Keith Jackson. And there is no one who would rank higher in a poll of his sport's best than the Old Hoss, Jackson.
Outside of SoCal, few know that Enberg was a top-notch baseball announcer for the Angels and that his first major professional gig was doing the Halo games. Personally, I've only heard him do a few baseball games for NBC, but I do remember thinking he was really good at it, as well.
Enberg also hosted the only sports game show I ever really liked which was called Sports Challenge. Syndicated during most of the 1970's, Sports Challenge used former athletic greats to compete against each other answering trivia questions. As a young sports nerd, it was thrilling to see some of my idols off the field and at the same time be able to do better answering the questions than most of them could.
Dick Enberg is the best all-around broadcaster in sports history. It's hard to even come up with someone as a number 2, though I guess it would be between Curt Gowdy, Al Michaels, and Bob Costas. Gowdy was a great football and baseball announcer, but I don't remember caring much for him doing college sports and like Michaels, I never liked him at all doing basketball. Michaels was part of the greatest sports broadcast ever, the Miracle on Ice, and I rate him as the best NFL play-by-play man next to Enberg, but he is not the greatest in any sport, unlike Enberg who I rate at the top of 3 different sporting fields. Costas might have had a chance to be right there with Enberg, if he would have stayed with a network that had baseball, but between that problem and mainly doing studio work, he is a distant second, at best. Costas is the greatest studio host, hands down, but many of the great moments in sports history will have Dick Enberg featured prominently in the background.
I still feel he is one of the best around, even at the age of 72. Whenever you hear an Oh My proclaimed by Enberg, you realize that he is young at heart. My ultimate sports moment was Larry Bird versus Earvin Johnson. The 1979 NCAA Championship. Big Conference Michigan State against small school Indiana State. David and Goliath on the hardwood. The 2 most versatile players to hit the college ranks since Oscar Robertson. And Dick Enberg behind the mic, handing out assists to McGuire and Packer as effortlessly as Magic did for Greg Kelser and Jay Vincent. I hope Dick Enberg continues on for as long as wants to.
Football Picks for the Weekend
So my college picks finally struggled last week, going 2-4. Victory for my only NFL selection, with the underdog Vikings winning outright.
Alabama (PK) Tennessee
Cincinnati (9.5) Pittsburgh
C. Michigan (+17) Clemson
Colorado (+4) Kansas
Michigan St. (+18.5) Ohio St.
Minnesota (+9.5) Dallas
Detroit (-2) Tampa Bay
San Francisco (+9) NY Giants
Chicago (+5.5) Philly
Arizona (+8.5) Washington
(All picks are 3 stars)
The Juice Blog's Top 3 Baseball Broadcasters (Current)
I offered up my Top 3 of all-time list, so now I will list the broadcasters I would use for a national telecast today.
Play by Play
All 3 of these broadcasters bring intelligence, wit, and are willing to bring a more modern (sabermetrical) approach to the booth.
McDonough was a big-time broadcasting star for CBS in the 1990's, but his national role has been diminished over the past decade. I think he has become better over the past few years, as his tone has become more biting.
I know Lewin wears the dreaded Fox scarlet letter around his neck, but I really like the mix of knowledge and irreverence he brings to the booth.
Schulman has the best voice to my ears in baseball. He does a great job of getting the best out of whoever partners with him.
As I have mentioned before, I believe the best analysts were former pitchers, as they can explain the reasoning for what is happening on the diamond, pitch to pitch.
I have never been more surprised about a broadcaster as I was when I first heard Hershiser. I always perceived him as being a religious dork, as someone who sings hymns in the dugout could be stereotyped as. My guess was he wouldn't be tough and analytical about players he competed against or coached. Not the case. Best national baseball analyst I've ever heard, as I learn something it seems every time I listen to him.
Steve Stone was held back by working with a senile old drunk for the first half of his career. When Skip Caray is an improvement on who you worked with...well do I need to say anymore. Since the Cubs dumped him, he has become even better, as his critical eye is improved when not having to worry about the wrath of the Tribune Company.
I agree with what others said about the work of Leiter. It is kind of sad that he could be number 3 on my list, considering he hasn't done the job for even a full season, but baseball has had a paucity of top-notch broadcasters.
NOTE: Ed Farmer would be ranked 3, if he didn't violate my favorite team rule. When he worked with John Rooney for the White Sox, they were considered the top duo in baseball. Farmer has an acid wit, a brilliant knowledge of the game, and is unafraid of taking on players who are not giving 100%. I'm not sure these qualities would wear well with a national audience, but he is really superb.
Christ Scott, Just Let it Go
Since my thoughts on the Rockies/D-backs series being bad for baseball were almost universally slammed, I have been in a more defensive crouch than a homophobe at a bath house. I thought I was over the topic, but the TV sports media critic at USA Today, Michael Hiestand had an article that summed up what I was afraid was going to happen in the NLCS.
Hiestand breaks down a lot more of the particulars in his piece, which I recommend reading in full. Here was his final conclusion.
I realize this doesn't prove my point that this series was bad for the overall game of baseball, but it's hard to see what part of the NLCS was good for the game, except that a few young players on the Rockies received a little more attention. The Indians versus the Rockies will continue this virtual ratings boycott. I know, I know...it's ESPN and Fox's fault. I'm just bummed that I can't talk about the games with anyone I know, as they are all watching football. Where is a Goliath when you need them?
Rating the Top Announcers in Baseball
One of the things that makes me crazy are bloggers who rip sports announcers, without saying who they think are actually good. I would agree that other sports seem to have more quality of depth in their booths, but I would suggest that a large reason behind this is that baseball is the toughest sport to broadcast. Considering how much slower the action is than the other Big 3 team sports, baseball broadcasters can't rely on emotion to help push the telecast along. Statistics and strategy are a much larger part of the fabric of the game than they are in other sports broadcasts.
So here is your assignment. I want you to list your current Top 3 play-by-play men, your Top 3 analysts, and the ultimate broadcasting duo you would hire for your World Series telecast. Keep in mind that this is for a national telecast. Some guys are good doing a local game, but wouldn't translate well to a national audience. The only rule I have is that you can't use your own team's broadcasters. (So if you are Dodgers fan, no Vin Scully or if you are Yankees fan, no Slobberin' Susan Waldman.) Since it seems like a universal notion among the blogging universe that every broadcaster Fox, ESPN, or TBS uses is dismal, I want to see who you would employ. Time for all the haters to put their balls on the line. I will post my current list on Friday, as I will wait to take the shrapnel until then. So you have an example of what I'm looking for, I will post my all-time Top 3 in each category. You can list your all-time list as well, but I'm most interested in who you would hire now.
Top 3 All-Time Play by Play Men
Top 3 Analysts
Gowdy had the voice of the big event, when you grew up in the 70's. Game 6 of the 1975 World Series between the Reds and Red Sox is the ultimate baseball game for many. During this historic game, the broadcasters were just as good as the action, with Gowdy and Kubek the maestros behind the mic. It's been a long-time since he did baseball play-by-play, but Costas brought a modern style to the game, while still maintaining a baseball purist attitude. Uecker is seen by some as a bit of a buffoon from pitching Miller Lite or playing the part of Harry Doyle, but he is really a joy to listen to do a game.
Many of you don't remember the former Yankee shortstop Kubek's days as a broadcaster, but he was the first ex-jock I ever heard who wasn't afraid to be honest with his criticism. I'm partial to pitchers as analysts. Stone and Drysdale are/were consistently strong with their takes on what players were doing on the field, despite it putting them occasionally in the team's doghouse they worked for.
From 1983 to 1989, Costas and Kubek were one of the 2 broadcast teams that did the Saturday afternoon NBC Game of the Week. They played off each other beautifully, as they brought a real intelligence to the game, without the sing-songy vocal inflection that so many baseball broadcasters use.
(Note: my list is post-1974, because I don't remember much before then.)
Please Explain: Kenny Chesney
When it comes to country music, I'm not a hater. While my tastes generally go for artists that aren't played on the radio like Lyle Lovett, Dwight Yoakum, and K.D. Lang, I do have a weakness for a lot of popular female country artists like The Dixie Chicks, Miranda Lambert, and even some songs from Sara Evans. While they don't do it for me, I understand why Rascal Flatts are so popular, as they know how to write really hooky songs, with just a hint of a twang. What I have no understanding of is the massive popularity of Kenneth Chesney.
While most non-country fans have little knowledge of the guy, the argument could be made that Chesney is currently the most popular musical artist in the US. During 2007, only The Police sold more concert tickets than him. Every one of these shows was a sell-out. His records not only dominate the country charts, but they wind up in the Top 10 on the pop charts, as well. It is all one big mystery to me.
If you are not familiar with his work, Chesney conveys this Jimmy Buffet-type vibe...if it was recorded by Nashville session players. This doesn't sound too promising, does it? Well, it isn't. The music is dismal, the lyrics are hackneyed. The same can be said for Buffet, but I kind of understand some of his success, as there is a sense of humor in most of what he does. Chesney has a lot of that weird Garth Brooks-like intensity on-stage that comes off very unnatural. (Let me note that Brooks has written a dozen songs better than the best of Chesney's, so I understood most of his appeal.)
Another guy that I have little understanding of his music's popularity, Tim McGraw, at least has a great backstory, as being the love child of former baseball star (Tug) and being married to a gorgeous country music star (Faith Hill) definitely helps the marketing of his career. On the other hand, Chesney is a small in stature man, with a mysterious dating history and a predilection for wearing puca shell necklaces. Not the list of factors that you would think would make you a Country music sex symbol. Don't tell this to his female fans, though, as they swoon for the guy. Not for a second do I have any idea why Renee Zellweger would bounce from one of the great musical artists on the scene today (Jack White of the White Stripes) to marrying Chesney. Not surprisingly, the marriage was anulled after a few months, as the bride and groom must be first class loons to have gotten hitched after knowing each other for less than 4 months.
Honestly, I just don't get the career of Kenny Chesney. His most famous song is titled, She Thinks My Tractors Sexy. Here is a guy that has won the American Country Music Entertainer of the Year Award for the past 4 years. Sure most of what is played on country radio is crap, but how is it that a guy whose best quality is that he looks good in a sleeveless t-shirt can own this award? If having a good tan was the key to success in life, don't you think George Hamilton would have been in all of The Godfather movies, instead of just 3rd one?
Please Explain Kenny Chesney.
NLCS Ratings Reach New Nadir!
Screamed the AP headline on SI.com. Here is the rest of the story.
I don't usually do news stories around here, as Bob Timmermann does such a great job at the Griddle, but considering it makes my point even stronger...
Once again let me reiterate that the Rockies are a great story and deserve to be congratulated. Unfortunately when so few have interest, the story gets lost. This series could be as thrilling as the Yankees/D-backs World Series and so few would ever know. Let me repeat: The Rockies and D-Backs making the NLCS are not bad for baseball, but them playing each other in the NLCS is bad for baseball. My guess is the ratings will get even worse, with the Rockies seemingly on their way to the Series.
Now the Rockies versus the Red Sox is a wonderful David and Goliath match-up. As someone who loves the game and wants it to grow as a sport, I sure hope this is the match-up we get.
Another Winning Week as College Picks are 20-12
No in-depth analysis this week, but this is the worst NFL slate I've seen in my whole gambling career. I usually have 5-6 games, but I can only pull the trigger on one. All picks are 3-stars, except where noted.
Arkansas (-2.5) Auburn
Iowa (+4.5) Illinois
Baylor (+27) Kansas
Michigan (-5.5) Purdue
Wisconsin (+7) Penn State (4 star)
Texas A&M (+10) Texas Tech
Minnesota (+5) Chicago
I can't ever recall not watching a playoff series in my lifetime, but I have no interest in the NLCS 2007 edition. Look, I don't begrudge the 2 teams achievement, but this series just doesn't engage me. I really don't like the D-Backs, as they are an expansion team which has already won a world championship. Phoenix is a city which has a dubious interest in their club, since so many of its residents are snowbirds who follow their past home first. The Rockies are a better story because of the mile high air battle which has been at the center of the team's history. I hope they win, but this series is bad for baseball, as 2 small market, expansion teams are going to bring little interest to casual fans who know nothing about them.
In the comments section, please offer up what you are doing or watching instead of the NLCS. Are you watching The Office, Survivor, or Grey's Anatomy? How about catching up on the new season of Dexter which is in your DVR? Maybe you are hitting basic cable going with AMC's Mad Men, Bravo's Top Chef, or the Travel Channels' No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain? Strange as it might sound, you might not even be in front of TV, but instead reading the latest Chuck Palahniuk's latest novel or catching Springsteen on tour. I will be doing comedy for a bunch of animals in Rockford, Illinois, so I will try to live blog that as well.
Oh and if you are really into the game, go to Bad Altitude, as Mark's site is one of the best baseball blogs on the web and deserves your traffic.
I have gotten quite a few emails in regards to Frank Caliendo's spots during the baseball playoffs. I am still a writer for the NFL on Fox sketches, but I had nothing to do with the promo spots for his new sketch show. I thought the spots were really funny, but even constant commercials for Jessica Alba in a new movie can get old after too many viewings. Oh and if you got tired of watching so many spots about the Frank show, just think how maddening it could have been if they were for the Frank Thomas show. Big Hurt not good in studio. If you want to read Frank's thoughts on the subject, check out his blog.
College Picks are 16-9!
Last week was a great week for my selections, as all 5 college dogs covered, with 4 of them winning outright, including big upset winners Auburn (over Florida) and K-State (over Texas). I had a winning week in the NFL, as well, with my big 4-star play on Arizona (over Pittsburgh) winning outright, also. Hard to top last week, but I will give it a try. Following last week's example, below are 7 more underdogs I like as 3-star choices in the NCAA. The NFL picks are 3-stars.
Central Michigan (+13) Ball State
Bowling Green (+20) Boston College
Wisconsin (+3) Illinois
Florida (+9) LSU
North Carolina (+7) Miami
Cincinnati (+3.5) Rutgers
Iowa St. (+24.5) Texas Tech
St. Louis (+3.5) Arizona
Baltimore (-3.5) San Francisco
Seattle (+5.5) Pittsburgh
Buffalo (+10.5) Dallas
Chicago/Green Bay (under 40.5)
Yeah, I Know It's Hard to Believe, But An Actual Baseball Post at the Juice Blog
I know if's been covered ad nauseum, but I do have a couple points that I haven't heard discussed about the Rockies/Padres play at the plate.
Just when I didn't think the National League could drop any lower, we get the 2007 Playoff class. Sure the Cardinals won the Series last year, but can anyone make an argument that the Top 4 teams in baseball aren't the 4 battling it out in the American League? Usually I make my predictions here, but I'm going to pass on 2007, as I have no idea who will win any of the playoff series. At the start of the season, I thought the 2 best teams in baseball were the Red Sox and the Angels. I still believe the champion will come out of this series. I suspect they will play the Yankees, as the Borowski bullpen of Cleveland is no way to close games. I guess I would lean towards the Phillies winning the NL, but it has more to do with me being big fans of guys like Utley, Rowand, and Rollins. I also like their bullpen better than their NL competition. I lean towards them beating the Cubs, as the North Siders falling just short of another World Series is a adolescent pleasure that I can't rid myself of.
Ok, I guess I do have a pick. Angels over Phillies in 6.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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