Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Greatest Innovations in Sporting Equipment History

 I’m sure I can only speak for myself when I say that studying sports equipment is really interesting. See, I know most sports fans out there aren’t thinking about what kind of resin Justin Verlander powders on his hands before hurling a 90 mph heater. And there aren’t many fans, like me, who see a boxer laid out on the canvas and wonder what kind of mouthpiece it is laying beside him in a puddle of his own drool.

It’s this hazy attention to details that causes many of us to take these seemingly innocent innovations for granted. We fail to see the important roles they play in the lives of our athletes and rarely think about how things would be different without them

Therefore, I feel it is my duty to present to you the most important innovations in sports equipment history.

Honorable Mention – Nerf Footballs
Ok, so these flashy globes of foam rubber aren’t really pieces of equipment used by the professionals, but they sure make your Uncle Harry look like Johnny Unitas.  Maybe he was telling the truth when he told you he would have went pro if not for that damn alien abduction. Either that Nerf ball is scientifically designed to soar 90 yards with a flick of the wrist, or your Uncle Harry’s stashed some performance enhancers in that six pack of brew he’s got dangling from his belt loop.

5. Football Helmets with Facemasks
Just think, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that the modern football helmet and face mask were mandated in the pros. Before that, guys pretended to be tough while wearing the same leather helmet worn by Snoopy in his exploits as the Red Baron. Could you imagine how many teeth must have littered the turf by game’s end? It must have looked like closing time at the Chic-let factory. I guess on the bright side, however, not having facemasks would have eliminated pretty-boy smile guys like Tony Romo and Tom Brady from the game. Of course, I’m sure it also eliminated any chance of having the ability to produce rational thought after an average playing career.

4. Batting Helmets
The original batting helmet, used from the mid 1800’s all the way up into the 1950’s, was portable, fit like a glove, and was incredibly inexpensive. That’s because it was the human skull. Apparently no one thought it was a priority to protect the most vital organ in the body from whizzing, rock-hard projectiles. That is until the Major League death toll from wild pitches tallied six players by 1951. Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates took notice of this scary statistic and began wearing protective helmets. Of course, the rest of the league immediately branded them as pansies… until 1954, when Joe Adcock was knocked unconscious by a wild pitch for a full 15 minutes. After that, the league decided to mandate the helmet rule for all players. Now you couldn’t catch a ballplayer standing in the on-deck circle without a helmet.

3. Hockey Goaltender Masks
You have to be either extremely brave or extremely stupid to stand in front of a blazing slap shot and stop a puck with your face. Until Jaques Plante of the 1960 Canadiens finally donned a protective mask, hockey goalies were a little bit of both. Since then, the goalie mask has progressed from the full plastic variety, made famous by Jason Voorhees in the slasher flicks Friday the 13th, to the modern version of a helmet and a protective metal cage that we commonly see today. Both varieties have allowed goaltenders to escape their playing days without losing an entire row of teeth or winding up with a face only a mother could love. 

2. Protective Cups
There’s really not much to say here. To even provide a reminder of sports without the trusty walnut shell would be an exercise in barbarity to anyone who’s ever taken a knee to the groin during a game of rough-touch football. But, yes, the forefathers of sports didn’t think twice about leaving the little guy open to injury. Makes you wonder how we all came to be, doesn’t it? The first cup was actually just a rolled-up piece of leather. Yeah, that gives you peace of mind. Thankfully, a wide variety of lightweight and sturdy materials now exist to protect you from the ultimate manly mishap.

1. Baseball Caps
There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t sing the praises of the baseball cap. I mean, I where a cap so often it’s become my hairstyle, and that’s the way it is for millions of hat-dependent Americans each day. Don’t feel like combing your hair? Baseball cap. Don’t want your hair to get wet in the rain? Baseball cap. Don’t have hair at all? Baseball cap. It’s the answer to most head-related issues…at least in my book.

But one thing that can’t be disputed is the modern ball cap has become an American staple, like the cowboy hat or apple pie. Thankfully, the original straw hat worn by the 1860 Brooklyn Excelsiors has come a long way. It’s been updated to the modern 59-50 style worn by current major leaguers. Otherwise I’d be sitting on a porch with a goofy straw hat and a corn cob pipe trying to whittle something right now.  

 And, really, who wants that?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

At the Table With...Baseball Legends

We’ve all heard the obligatory conversation starter before: “If you could have dinner with an influential person, who would it be and why?” Ah, the sounds of a high school history class…except without all the snoring and with only half the amount of drool.

Believe me, I’m not asking you to relive it with me because, seriously, those conversations usually turned out to be as exciting as a Florida Marlins home game.

Personally, I always thought it’d be more interesting to think about what you’d actually say to these people as they were huddled around your kitchen table. What would you serve them? What in the hell would they say to you?

Ok, so maybe I think about pointless stuff a little too much. But I only do it so you, the faithful readers, don’t have to.

I’m a baseball guy, so let me share with you the top five ballplayers throughout history that I’d dine with. But I’ll even take it the extra mile for you. I’ll let you in on our conversations.

5. Alex Rodriguez
The Meal: An assorted tray of creams, jellies, and exotic antler sprays
The Conversation: 
CG: I’m glad you decided to stop by, A-Rod. Hey, you tired of that name yet? I know I am.
A-Rod: Big time. Thinking about starting a movement to change it. Maybe something like #50Cent_aur or #Lil_Shrink_Rod would work. Gain a little street cred , you know?
CG: No. I don't. But speaking of do you see the whole Biogenesis thing shaking out?
A-Rod: Does it really matter? There's a pretty good chance I nailed Madonna. 
CG: What does that have to do with anything? I mean, you're facing a pretty stiff suspension.
A-Rod: You said stiff. 
CG: Yes, Mr. Centaur, I did. Try to stay with me here. Don't you think this scandal will leave fans with a pretty grim outlook on your entire career?
A-Rod: Once again, the Madonna thing. Plus, don't tell Cashman but I'm about to cash his ass out over the next four years. I don't even have to play. I can just sit back, visualize the next six posters I'll have printed with my head attached to the body of a mythological creature, and collect my millions.
CG: Weird. Very weird. But hard to argue with you.
A-Rod: You know, you're starting to sound a lot like Bud Selig.
CG: Ok, I think this dinner's over.

4. Joe DiMaggio
The Meal: Veal Parmigiana and a pack of Marlboro Reds
The Conversation:
CG: Joe, I’ll always be in awe of your 56-game hitting streak. How’d you deal with the pressure?
Joe D: Trust me, it was easier than being married to Marilyn.
CG: High maintenance?
Joe D: You don’t know the half of it.
CG: Was it worth all the trouble?
Joe D: NO!!!  Well, yes.
CG: Shocking.

3. Pete Rose
The Meal: Bread and water
The Conversation:
CG: Sorry about the skimpy meal, Mr. Rose. You know, economy’s not all too good these days.
Rose: Don’t mention it. Besides, it happens to be one of my favorites. I used to refer to it as the after-parlay special back in Cincy.
CG: Sounds, um, healthy. Speaking of health, what’s your take on the whole Biogenesis scandal?
Rose: I’d be willing to bet more than half the league was using performance enhancers.
CG: Uh, are you sure you wouldn’t like to rephrase that last statement?
Rose: Why?
CG: Never mind….So how 'bout those Phillies?

2. Ty Cobb
The Meal: Fried chicken, collards, biscuits, and gravy
The Conversation:
CG: It’s an honor to have you, Mr. Cobb. I’m a huge fan. I celebrate your entire body of work.
Ty: I don’t know where you think this dinner is headed, boy, but you best leave my body out of it.
CG: What?
Ty: You know what I’m gettin’ at, you yella-bellied pretty boy.
CG: Actually, I don’t.
Ty: Look, just eat your damn chicken and zip your lip.
CG: …
Ty: That’s better. Now finish all your vegetables before I sharpen my spikes on that big old nose of yourn.
CG: Mr. Cobb, it’s been real.

1. Yogi Berra
The Meal: A bowl of Cap’n Crunch
The Conversation:
CG: Boy am I glad to be sitting here with you, Yogi…a man known for his dialogue.
Yogi: Well, they say a man’s dialogue is his treasure.
CG: Who says that?
Yogi: Well, it ain’t us, so it must be them.
CG: Of course it ain’t us, but who is “them?”
Yogi: All the people who think a man’s dialogue is his treasure.
CG: But I never heard anyone ever say that.
Yogi: What do you mean? I just said it two minutes ago.
CG: Are you sure you weren’t just reading random stuff off the back of the cereal box?
Yogi: Uhhh….ummm…It ain’t over till it’s over!
CG: What the…? Oh, forget it. Where’s Ty Cobb when you need him?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lost in Translation: NBA Finals Game Six Remix

"I need to play harder."

"It was a team win."

"They're a tough team. We had to keep fighting."

Guaranteed you can find these generic quotes, or some derivation of them, in any morning sports page in the universe. But players in the NBA are different, right? Guys like Metta World Peace have no trouble speaking their minds. They're walking sound bytes.

So, why can't we cut through the rah-rah tram crap during one of the more entertaining NBA Finals of the past decade?

I know, I know. Let the play on the floor speak for itself. Blah, Blah. Blah. The guy who coined that phrase probably invented every recycled sports quote in history. But if you want to be all holier than thou about it, fine. I'll let it slide.

But first I'm translating the mundane into the meaningful...because we're all doing it in our heads anyway. Admit it.

Chris Bosh on stopping Danny Green’s reign of terror in the land of three:
“We’ll see how he shoots it when somebody’s always on him.”

“There’s no chance we’re stopping this kid. I mean, this is the plan we’re sticking to after five games? Cover him? Uggh.”

Lebron James on how the Heat will push the series to a seventh game:
“I have to come up big, for sure, in Game 6.”

“Would any of y’all be able to identify a basketball if I didn’t play in this league? Seriously, it’s not complicated. I dunk on them.”

NBA front office on Game 6 officiating:
“Joey Crawford will lead the crew of officials in Game 6.”

“Joey Crawford will eject Tim Duncan early in the fourth quarter for something arbitrary, like creeping him out with his Eddie Munster smile, thus creating a controversy that will ruin the integrity of the NBA for years to come.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on his team’s strategy in Game 6:
“Can we put together our best game on both sides of the floor in Game 6?”

“Can we put together our best game on both sides of the floor in Game 6? No, seriously. Can we? I don’t know. You can’t expect me to do everything. Already spent my whole day coming up with the Danny Green defense. Cover him. Beautiful. I came up with that. I was the guy.”

Dwyane Wade on facing the Spurs in Game 6:
“I mean, this is the kind of team that I feel capitalizes on any mistake you make.” 

“Can I get a little help? Chris? Lebron? Mario? Anyone?”

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Golf's 20 Most Hilarious Quotes

The green of the grass. The cool, fresh air. The sound of grown men insulting their friend’s sisters as a small white ball bounces aimlessly off surrounding oaks. This is golf: the sport of gentlemen.

But for a sport that is so civilized, how can you explain why a private course would allow a buffoon like myself to take huge chunks out of its fairways with my meat cleaver of a wedge?  It’s because golf is the sport that takes an uncivilized lump of coal like myself, and molds him like clay into a refined young man of substance. Ok, maybe not.

That’s why I’ve compiled a list of golf quotes that exposes the game for what it truly is: an excuse to light a few cigars and talk a bunch of smack with the boys. So stuff a fat Macanudo between your teeth, throw on a pair of goofy, plaid knickers, and enjoy some of Golf’s most hilarious one-liners. Take as many mulligans as you’d like.

Golf’s 20 Most Hilarious Quotes

20. "I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father." - Greg Norman

19. "I know I'm getting better at golf because I'm hitting fewer spectators." - Gerald Ford

18. "Golf is a game in which a ball - one and a half inches in diameter - is placed on a ball 8,000 miles in diameter; the object being to hit the small ball but not the larger." - John Cunningham

17. "I had a wonderful experience on the golf course today. I had a hole in nothing. Missed the ball and sank the divot." - Don Adams

16. "After hitting two balls into the water, by God, I've got a good mind to jump in and make it four." - Simon Hobday

15. "Some have psychologists, some have sportologists. I smoke." - Angel Cabrera

14. "Pressure is playing for $10 when you don't have a dime in your pocket." - Lee Trevino

13. "Golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at." - Jimmy Demaret

12. "Golf is a fascinating game. It has taken me nearly forty years to discover that I can’t play it." - Ted Ray

11. "Give me the fresh air, a beautiful partner, and a nice round of golf... and you can keep the fresh air and the round of golf." - Jack Benny

10. "The first time I played the Masters, I was so nervous I drank a bottle of rum before I teed off. I shot the happiest 83 of my life." - Chi Chi Rodriquez

9."Golf appeals to the idiot in us and the child. Just how childlike golf players become is proven by their frequent inability to count past five." - John Updike

8."If a lot of people gripped a knife and fork the way they do a golf club, they’d starve to death." - Sam Snead

7. "I don't need to know where the green is. Where is the golf course?" - Babe Ruth

6. "You can make a lot of money in this game. Just ask my ex-wives. Both of them are so rich that neither of their husbands’ work." - Lee Trevino
5. "It took me seventeen years to get 3,000 hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course." - Hank Aaron

4. "The reason the pro tells you to keep your head down is so you can't see him laughing." - Phyllis Diller

3. "I'm not saying my golf game went bad, but if I grew tomatoes they'd come up sliced." - Lee Trevino

2. "After all these years, it's still embarrassing for me to play on the American golf tour. Like the time I asked my caddie for a sand wedge and he came back ten minutes later with a ham on rye." - Chi Chi Rodriguez

1. "Hockey is a sport for white men. Basketball is a sport for black men. Golf is a sport for white men dressed like black pimps." - Tiger Woods

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lost in Translation: The Baseball Remix

With a veritable smorgasbord of drama being served up this week in the bigs, I figured some in-depth reporting would become the cherry on top of the sundae. I said to no one in particular, "Wow. A PED scandal, a brawl, All Star balloting, trade rumors, coaches on hot seats. If questioned, one of these guys might actually say something...that, you know, means something."

But I was wrong. So, I guess that puts my nose back to the old translation grind stone. I will not rest unless every scrap of meaningless drivel that serves as a quote in a morning sports page is eradicated. Until then I'll just help you get the true essence of these ready-made pieces of MLB drivel:

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel on moving Ryan Howard out of the cleanup spot after hitting one homerun in his last 111 at-bats:

"What the %$#*@ are you getting at? I'll do the managing. Whoever hits there, hits there."


"In my day, we used to walk five miles....wait, who am I? Why am I here?"

Kirk Gibson on Donnie Baseball's fisticuffs during Tuesday night's ugly brawl between the Dodgers and D-Backs:

"Donnie was mad."


"Donnie really whipped Trammell's ass, didn't he? Don't let the Just For Men mustache fool you. This guy can still throw down."

(According to  Bob Nightengale of USA Today) Office of the MLB commish on the fallout from the brawl:

"Suspensions will not be handed down until at least Thursday"


"Donnie really whipped Trammell's ass, didn't he? We'll need to examine the video a few more times. Bud, pass me a beer."

(According to David Lennon of Newsday) Mets front office on the possibility of a coaching change:

"There's absolutely zero chance of Wally Backman being a replacement."


"Please join me in welcoming the new manager of the New York Mets, Wally Backman!"