Nick's Knacks Nick's Knacks

  • How Could You Be So Hart-less?

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    It’s roast day for Corey Hart of the Milwaukee Brewers - otherwise known as arbitration. I hope he’s got thick skin, ‘cause it’s gonna get ugly.

    Baseball arbitration is sort of like a character witness trial. Each side gets 60 minutes to present their case – the player’s group will argue that he’s worth more than the figure tossed out by the team…the team will argue that their offer is more than fair. Each side will present stats and graphs and comparative analysis to other players in the league. Then each side gets 30 minutes to discredit the other side’s case.

    It will get personal, which explains why many teams employ the services of outside firms to do the dirty work. The Brewers have hired a team from New York to smoke Hart. After all, this guy’s going to be playing for you this year.

    Statistically, the edge belongs to the owners in these negotiations. But let’s not kid ourselves, the players are the overwhelming champions of the salary arbitration process. The mere possibility of a ruling in favor of the player forces the owner to inflate his initial offer beyond what the player is truly worth.

    But the biggest hit comes not in the year of arbitration, but in the negotiations to come. Player X’s pumped up salary establishes a new baseline. And if player X underperforms, that foundation becomes an insanely inflated financial standard of mediocrity…across the league.

    Let’s look at Corey Hart’s situation. At $3.25 million in 2009, Hart was wildly overpaid. But here we are, going to arbitration in 2010 because Milwaukee’s offer of $4.15 million falls short of Hart’s desired $4.8 million.

    No matter what happens this afternoon, Hart grabs (at least) a $900,000 raise for a .260 season.

    Pathetic.

    Don’t you wish the process allowed teams to call fans as witnesses?

    “The Milwaukee Brewers call Bill from Green Bay to the stand.”

    “I drove 110 miles to watch Corey Hart go 0-4 with 3 strikeouts and a pair of runners left in scoring position. He fanned on the same pitch every time – low and away. I knew it was comin’. My kid knew it was comin’. The whole stadium knew it was comin’! But he couldn’t lay off it…AGAIN! Down by 1 with runners on 2nd and 3rd and the loser doesn’t even make contact. And that’s just the one time. The way I figure, that bum owes me $945 for a new flat screen since mine is all spidered after the Cardinals game back on the 18th…”

    If I were a member of the Brewers’ representation, I don’t think I would say a word. I would simply pop in a 60 minute DVD of lowlight after lowlight after lowlight of his 2009 season. For my rebuttal, I’d grab another 30 minute reel. That’d be it. Just 90 minutes of stuff like this:

    P.S. – Corey, you have too much ink, and your entrance music sucks.  I think that should be taken into consideration, as well.

  • JUXTAPOSITION

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

    Night and Day

    When we make the Super Bowl, we get CWA:

    When New Orleans makes the Super Bowl, we get X-Man, Bigshott, Big Rec, & Kuniqua:

    Dang.  If that didn’t give you goosebumps, check yourself for a pulse.  That’s freaky-good …not to mention original.  Here are some other gems from The Crescent City: 

  • “Not that there’s anything wrong with that…”

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

    House Divided

    Fans of the Packers and the Vikings can get along after all. Quite well, it seems. At least that's what mancrunch.com would have us believe. The gay dating site submitted this spot for Super Bowl XLIV:

    But you won’t be seeing that ad featured during the Super Bowl. CBS issued the following rejection (in letter form):

    “CBS Standards and Practices has reviewed your proposed Super Bowl ad and concluded that the creative is not within the Network’s Broadcast Standards for Super Bowl Sunday. Moreover, our Sales Department has had difficulty verifying your organization’s credit status.”

    Naturally, mancrunch.com has issue a statement of its own:

    “We are very disappointed that in 2010 such discrimination is happening especially given the fact that Focus on the Family is allowed to promote their way of life during the Super Bowl,” a rep for the site told FOXNews.com.

    Touché.

    Here’s the thing, though. The ad sucks. The old “hands meeting the community bowl of snacks” deal is more played out than…I don’t know…something that’s really played out. CBS was absolutely right in trashing its absence of creativity, and absolutely within their right to reject based on that criterion.

    But it seems CBS couldn’t leave well enough alone. They had to close with a “moreover...” Why? You guys had an airtight defense in the fact that the ad itself is crappy. End of story. No more explanation needed.

    I hate the discrimination play here. It’s a crutch. But that last, superfluous jab does leave a bad taste, doesn't it?

     

  • WHERE’S PARDVILLE NOW?

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    Gumby's

    When is it time to hang it up in the name of diminishing returns? Yeah, yeah, Brett Favre…blah, blah, blah. I’m not talkin’ about Favre. I’m talkin’ about Chris Lukawski – die-hard Packers fan and, as it turns out, die-hard binge drinker, as well.

     

    Another memorable trip to the steam room begins now. Click Here.

     

    Like a good movie, the more you watch, the more you pick up. Brilliant Gumby’s Pizza reference within. If you’ve never sampled Gumby’s Pizza, do yourself a favor and drive to Madison. I think Madison is the closest one. Gumby’s Pizza…home of the Pokey Stix.

    Gumby’s is pretty much a University phenomenon, and for good reason. It’s really not that good. It’s basically Domino’s with a better mascot. Although the Noid was all right. Domino’s did well with the Noid.

    Not that Domino’s is a bad pizza. After all, they’re new and improved! It’s just…you know what?...I’m sure you get it. No need to belabor the point.

    Now that I’ve worked through this a little, don’t drive to Madison. It’s not worth it. But if you’re ever in Mad-Town, maybe for the hoops tourney in March, stop in to Gumby’s. At least you can say you did it. For whatever that’s worth.

    You know what? Never mind. Just forget I ever championed the cause of Gumby’s, because you might be going through Madison, and you might be hungry, and you might think to yourself, “Hey, Nick said I should try that Gumby’s place.” So you might go, and you might eat, and you’ll likely think to yourself, “That kinda sucked.” I don’t know if I want that kind of heat.

    So if you’ve had Gumby’s before, you probably enjoyed this blog. If you’ve never sampled Gumby’s, you probably found this blog useless. A lot like you’d probably find Gumby’s Pizza.

    They do have great deals, though.

     

  • GO GOMEZ GO!

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    16

    Sixteen days until pitchers and catchers report.  Sixteen more days of unsubstantiated prophesy. 

    The off-season is a great time…in any sport.  They are the days of endless optimism – when a guy will bounce back from injury; when the team will be deeper and more experienced; when the rookies will not only make the team, but make an impact.

    The off-season is hope for a better tomorrow.  In the case of champions, the beginning of a dynasty.

    The Milwaukee Brewers have made a number of high potential, low risk acquisitions this off-season.  One of those is Carlos Gomez, formerly of the Minnesota Twins.  I don’t know how Gomez will produce.  But I do know this:

    Three guys + a Casio + a ukulele = magic.

  • SNL Sports Extra

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    I missed the SNL tribute to their best sports sketches past and present.  I can only hope that this one made the cut.  It remains one of my favorite bits ever:

     

  • TIME TO COLLECT

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    On Friday, Z and I “wagered” on-air on the Kurt Warner retirement press conference. Would there be tears? Z was a confident yes. I was a self-assured no.

    My reasoning was this: Kurt Warner does not define himself as a professional football player. For Kurt Warner, professional football is what he does, not who he is. So unlike Emmitt Smith and Brett Favre and others we have watched sob uncontrollably at the retirement podium, Kurt Warner would stand confidently and appreciatively, and eagerly embrace the next chapter in his life. For Kurt Warner, there would be no identity lost, merely a story yet unwritten.

    That’s how I saw it unfolding.

    Now I will admit, there was a sniffle as he thanked his family members one-by-one, but I’m pleased to announce…boom, whoa, st-stamp:

    nICK oWNS z

    Not a tear, baby!

    You can watch the entire presser HERE.

     

  • Paul Shirley, humanitarian. And by humanitarian, I mean donkey.

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    Unless you’re a die-hard NBAer, you probably don’t remember Paul Shirley the player. The undrafted member of the Bulls (’04) and the Suns (’05) has a made a substantially bigger (and it still isn’t that big) name for himself as a freelance blogger for ESPN. Until today.

    ESPN has cut ties with the now member of Unicaja Malaga in the Spanish ABC, releasing this statement:

    "He was a part-time freelance contributor. The views he expressed on another site of course do not at all reflect our company's views on the Haiti relief efforts. He will no longer contribute to ESPN.”

    Sounds pretty juicy. I wonder what he expressed on that other site? Oh, here it is (buckle in for a long and bumpy ride):

    ===================================================================================

    (From www.flipcollective.com)

    If You Rebuild It, They Will Come, by Paul Shirley

    Published: January 26, 2010

    Posted in: Paul Shirley

     

    I do not know if what I’m about to write makes me a monster. I do know that it makes me a part of a miniscule minority, if Internet trends and news stories of the past weeks are any guide.

    “It”, is this:

    I haven’t donated a cent to the Haitian relief effort. And I probably will not.

    I haven’t donated to the Haitian relief effort for the same reason that I don’t give money to homeless men on the street. Based on past experiences, I don’t think the guy with the sign that reads “Need You’re Help” is going to do anything constructive with the dollar I might give him. If I use history as my guide, I don’t think the people of Haiti will do much with my money either.

    In this belief I am, evidently, alone. It seems that everyone has jumped on the “Save Haiti” bandwagon. To question the impulse to donate, then, will probably be viewed as analogous with rooting for Charles Manson, John Wayne Gacy, or the Spice Girls.

    My wariness has much to do with the fact that the sympathy deployed to Haiti has been done so unconditionally. Very few have said, written, or even intimated the slightest admonishment of Haiti, the country, for putting itself into a position where so many would be killed by an earthquake.

    I can’t help but wonder why questions have not been raised in the face of this outpouring of support. Questions like this one:

    Shouldn’t much of the responsibility for the disaster lie with the victims of that disaster?

    Before the reader reaches for his or her blood pressure medication, he should allow me to explain. I don’t mean in any way that the Haitians deserved their collective fate. And I understand that it is difficult to plan for the aftermath of an earthquake. However, it is not outside the realm of imagination to think that the citizens of a country might be able to: A) avoid putting themselves into a situation that might result in such catastrophic loss of life. And B) provide for their own aid, in the event of such a catastrophe.

    Imagine that I’m a caveman. Imagine that I’ve chosen to build my house out of balsa wood, and that I’m building it next to a roaring river because I’ve decided it will make harvesting fish that much easier. Then, imagine that my hut is destroyed by a flood.

    Imagining what would happen next is easier than imagining me carrying a caveman’s club. If I were lucky enough to survive the roaring waters that took my hut, my tribesmen would say, “Building next to the river was pretty dumb, wasn’t it?.” Or, if I weren’t so lucky, they’d say, “At least we don’t have to worry about that moron anymore.”

    Sure, you think, but those are cavemen. We’re more civilized now – we help each other, even when we make mistakes.

    True enough. But what about when people repeat their mistakes? And what about when they do things that obviously act against their own self-interests?

    In the case of mistakes and warnings as applied to Haiti, I don’t mean to indict those who ignored actual warnings against earthquakes, of which there were many before the recent one. Although it would have been prudent to pay heed to those, I suppose.

    Instead, I’m referring to the circumstances in which people lived. While the earthquake was, obviously, unavoidable, the way in which many of the people of Haiti lived was not. Regrettably, some Haitians would have died regardless of the conditions in that country. But the fact that so many people lived in such abject poverty exacerbated the extent of the crisis.

    How could humans do this to themselves? And what’s being done to stop it from happening again?

    After the tsunami of 2004, the citizens of the world wailed and donated and volunteered for cleanup, rarely asking the important – and, I think, obvious – question: What were all those people doing there in the first place? Just as important: If they move back to a place near the ocean that had just been destroyed by a giant wave, shouldn’t our instinct be to say, “Go ahead if you want, but you’re on your own now.”?

    We did the same after Hurricane Katrina. We were quick to vilify humans who were too slow to respond to the needs of victims, forgetting that the victims had built and maintained a major city below sea level in a known target zone for hurricanes. Our response: Make the same mistake again. Rebuild a doomed city, putting aside logic as we did.

    And now, faced with a similar situation, it seems likely that we will do the same.

    Shouldn’t there be some discourse on how the millions of dollars that are being poured into Haiti will be spent? And at least a slight reprimand for the conditions prior to the earthquake? Some kind of inquisition? Something like this?:

    Dear Haitians –

    First of all, kudos on developing the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Your commitment to human rights, infrastructure, and birth control should be applauded.

    As we prepare to assist you in this difficult time, a polite request: If it’s possible, could you not re-build your island home in the image of its predecessor? Could you not resort to the creation of flimsy shanty- and shack-towns? And could some of you maybe use a condom once in a while?

    Sincerely,

    The Rest of the World

    It shouldn’t be outlandish to hope that we might stop short of the reactionary word that is so often flung about after natural (and unnatural) disasters. That word: Rebuild. Thus, the tired, knee-jerk cycle of aid/assist/rebuild would be replaced by a new one: Aid/assist/let’s-stop-and-think-before-we-screw-this-up-again.

    If forced to do so through logic-colored glasses, no one would look at Haiti and think, “You know what? It was a great idea to put 10 million people on half of an island. The place is routinely battered by hurricanes (in 2008, $900 million was lost/spent on recovery from them), it holds the aforementioned title of poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, and it happens to sit on a tectonic fault line.”

    If it were apparent that Haiti would likely rebuild in an earthquake-resistant way, and if a cure could be found for hurricane abuse of island nations, then maybe one could imagine putting a sustained effort into rebuilding the place. But that would only be feasible if the country had shown any ability to manage its affairs in the past, which it has not done.

    I can tell, based on my own reaction to that last sentence, that it might strike a nerve. The reader might be tempted to think, “We can’t blame the people of Haiti for their problems. Surely it’s someone else’s fault.” A similar sentiment can be found in this quote, from article on the geology behind the quake:

    “Unfortunately, [Haiti]’s government was not in a position to really do much to prepare for the inevitable large earthquake, leaving tens of thousands to suffer the consequences.”

    The sentiment expressed is one of outrage at the government. But, ultimately, the people in a country have control over their government. One could argue that in totalitarian regimes, they do not have much control, but in the end, it is their government. And therefore, their responsibility. If the government is not doing enough for the people, it is the people’s responsibility to change the government. Not the other way around.

    Additionally, some responsibility for the individual lies with that individual.

    A Haitian woman, days after the earthquake:

    “We need so much. Food, clothes, we need everything. I don’t know whose responsibility it is, but they need to give us something soon,” said Sophia Eltime, a mother of two who has been living under a bed sheet with seven members of her extended family. (From an AP report.)

    Obviously, a set of circumstances such as the one in which Ms. Eltime was living is a heart-wrenching one. And for that, anyone would be sympathetic. Until she says, “I don’t know whose responsibility it is.” I don’t know whose responsibility it is, either. What I do know is that it is not the responsibility of the outside world to provide help. It’s nice if we do, but it is not a requirement, especially when people choose to influence their own existences negatively, whether by having too many children when they can’t afford them or by failing to recognize that living in a concrete bunker might not be the best way to protect one’s family, whether an earthquake happens or not.

    Ms. Eltime’s reaction helps define what is the crux of my problem with the reaction to this and to other humanitarian crises. I recoil at the notion that I’m SUPPOSED to do something. I would like to help, but only if I feel that my assistance is deserved and justified. If I perceive that I am being told to feel a certain way, and if I can point to a pattern of mistakes made in similar situations, I lose interest.

    When I was young, the great humanitarian crisis facing our world – as portrayed by the media, anyway – was the starving masses in Africa. The solution found, of course, was to send bag after bag of food to those people, forgetting the long-understood maxim that giving more food to poor people allows them to create more poor people. (Admittedly, it’s a harsh truth.) At the time, my classmates and I, young and naïve as we were, thought we had come up with a better solution. “They should just go somewhere else,” we said. Our teacher grimaced, saying, “It’s not that simple.”

    It still isn’t. And I’m not as naïve as I once was – I don’t think the people of Haiti have the option of moving. But I do think that our assistance should be restricted, like it should be in cases of starvation. It simply does not work to give, unconditionally. What might work is to teach. In the case of famine-stricken segments of Africa, teaching meant making people understand that a population of people needs a certain amount of food, and that the creation of that food has to be self-sustaining for the system to work. In the case of earthquake-stricken Haiti, teaching might mean limited help, but help that is accompanied by criticism of the circumstances that made that help necessary.

    In the case of the Haitian earthquake, it’s heartening to see people caring about the fates of their fellow men. What is alarming, I think, is the sometimes illogical frenzy toward casting those affected by the earthquake as helpless, innocent souls who were placed on the island of Hispaniola by an invisible force. In the case of some, this analogy might well be accurate; children cannot very well control their destinies. And as far as sympathy goes, much of it should go to those children.

    But children are brought into the world by their parents. Those parents have a responsibility – to themselves and to their kids – to provide. They have a responsibility to look around – before an earthquake happens – and say, “I need to improve this situation, because if a catastrophe were to happen, we’d be in bad shape.”

    The people of whom I write are adults. Functional, human adults with functional, human adult brains. It is not too much to ask that they behave as such. That they stand up and say, “Yes, we screwed this up the first time. We are forever indebted to you. Now show us how we can do it right. So that, next time, we won’t need your help.”

    ====================================================================

    Wowza! A simple “No, I haven’t donated” would have been fine, Paul.

     

  • BERMUDA TRIANGLE

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

    bRETT-ELIN-TIGER

    What do Brett Favre and Tiger Woods have in common? Okay, that could go any number of ways.

    Brett Favre and Tiger Woods share an intriguing media thread: no matter how played out their respective scenarios seem to be, something new always pops up. No matter how hard they try to escape them…no matter how tired of them we may be…Brett and Tiger keep landing in the headlines.

    And just when you thought the gratuity had been exhausted – the two land in the same story, with Elin caught in the middle. HEY! Get your mind outta the gutter. This isn’t some Britney Spears “3” video shoot.

    Apparently, while Tiger “rehabs,” Mrs. Woods has been shackin’ up with the Favres.

    Maybe Ryan Longwell can come over, too – make Elin feel more at home. Deanna will make hot cocoa and everybody can stay up late watching cable. I call the pull-out sofa!

     

  • SUDDEN RUSH OF COOL AIR

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

    M.C. Hammer

    I’m not sure how this run ended up, but you’ve got to be pulling for Jill Cook to make it Vancouver – definitely all she’s cracked up to be:

    Get that girl some Hammer pants!

  • SHARE THE HAPPINESS

    Posted by Nick Vitrano

    Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

    cOKE mACHINE

    Remember the ad campaign that had the hidden camera in the fancy-pants Italian restaurant where the unsuspecting customers were served Pizza Hut’s Tuscani Pasta? All the people were like, “Wow this is amazing.” And then the manager says, “I have an announcement. All of your entrees were actually prepared by Pizza Hut!” And then the customers are all, “I can’t believe it!”

    I always found it strange that the customers were surprised. Weren’t they a little suspicious when the restaurant required a suit a tie, but offered bacon mac ‘n cheese on the menu? That didn’t clue them into something being askew?

    It’s stuff like that that makes me leery to buy into hidden camera claims.

    I still don’t know where I’m at with this submission from Coke, but it’s pretty good stuff. I’m not sure I could trust the food, though. I mean, seriously. When was that pizza prepared? Where was that pizza prepared? By whom was that pizza prepared? I know you’re poor college students, but you’ve gotta have some self respect, kids!