July 28, 2009 question – Grimm Reality

Will EA Ever Learn?
Luring geeks to girls like showing Superman kryptonite
EA’s latest video game shocker is called Dante’s Inferno, and they have resorted to their standard publicity tactic: intentionally offending people to get in the news. Congratulations, EA, your game made trivia.

The big marketing stunt was a promotion during last weekend’s ComicCon, where sci-fi geeks, Star Trek lovers, and comic book aficionados were told to take pictures of themselves committing “acts of lust” with EA spokesmodels.

Obviously, EA expected the outrage over the offensive and suggestive and degrading ploy (garnished with a tiny legal disclaimer saying “don’t you dare do anything untoward or we’ll sue your pants off”). What they weren’t expecting was the class-action lawsuit accusing EA of exposing hordes of nerds to uncontrolled cooties.

Lesson to all video game makers: don’t anger the geek squad. They know how to end you.

Today’s Question
Fairy Tales
In the tale of the Frog King by the brothers Grimm, how does the princess transform the disgusting frog into a handsome prince?

Previous Answer
And the people who knew it
Pyongyang is the capital of North Korea, and here’s who knew: Karen M (the M stands for Mother Goose), Heather M (the M stands for Mary Q. Contrary), Steve T (the T stands for Thumbelina), Micaela, Charles, and Tonia. As they say in North Korea, “Your genius has saved your life . . . for now.”

The View From Below: How the Cubs Look to the Rest of the NL Central

Obviously, I’m excited about the Cubs being in 1st place. I am by no means content, as the Cubs will have to play a few teams superior to the Reds, and the Cardinals will have to play a few teams inferior to the Phillies as the season winds to a long, unforgiving close.

But I’ll take it. Still, to add some perspective to where the Cubs stand right now, I thought I’d look at things from the point of view of the other NL Central teams and their fans. When they look up at the Cubs, what do they see (besides my shaking, taunting booty)?

1. The St. Louis Cardinals

I honestly and truly believe the St. Louis fanbase is not at all worried about the Cubs. They view Chicago’s recent foray into first as a mosquito sneaking a bite—it hurts a little now, and it will continue to itch the rest of the season, but they think their newly remodeled Cardinals are poised to swat the Cubs into oblivion. I wish I could dismiss their beliefs with certainty, but they have made some good moves. Still, their pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired, and I don’t see those desires being met in time to stop the Cubs from running away.
2. The Houston Astros
No matter how out of it the Houston Astros seem to look each and every year, no matter how late, they seem to find a way to become the hottest team in baseball at just the right moment. That moment came much earlier this season, and it’s brought them right back into the thick of a very thick NL Central divisional race.
To them, the Cubs are just the hill standing between them and the boys and girls in the valley who can’t wait for their toys and dolls and after-dinner treats. They aren’t afraid of the Cubs, the Cards, or anybody else. This is a team that makes a living out of playing the Underdog, and they do a much better job than that joke of a live-action movie ever could. Carlos Lee: Cub killer. Jason Lee: cartoon killer. Hopefully, though, the little engine that could will run out of steam before completing too many homer-celebratory laps around the Juice Box outfield.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
Really, Milwaukee, I am your father. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. Bug your eyes out and yell, “Noooooo!” all you want, but the Cubs = your daddy.
Call it a psychological edge. Call it a big-brother complex. Call it Cecil to your Prince. Call your sons, call your daughters, call your neighbors. The Cubs kind of own the Milwaukee Brewers. There will be plenty of times that the Brewers get the best of the Cubs, but they will all take place too long before the end of the season for any of them to matter all that much. They can go ahead and acquire whatever big name pitcher they want, the superstars will leave at the end of the season, and they’ll take the Brewers hopes of vanquishing their nemesis with them.
Luke never kills Darth Vader, fellas. He lives on as the single most marketable character in the history of licensing. Sound familiar, Bernie?
4. Cincinnati Reds
Reach in there and find my wallet. It’s the one that says ‘Bad Fukudome.’
Say ‘what’ again. I dare you. I Fukudome double-dog dare you. Say ‘what’ again.
Sewer rat might taste like pumpkin pie, but I’ll never know, ‘cuz I ain’t gonna eat the filthy Fukudome.
Oh, you play for the Reds? Then I’m superfly TNT. I’m the guns of the Navarone. I’m a mushroom cloud layin’ Fukudome, Fukudome.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Heaven help me, I just don’t have it in me to make fun of these guys and their fans. The only view the Pirates have of the Cubs is the vain hope that the Cubs will acquire one of their favorite players and give them a sentimental rooting interest in the playoff hunt.

Is It Time for Curt?

Ted Lilly’s hurt. Could be awhile before he’s able to start again. And Curt Schilling’s not doing anything.

It’s been a long time since I said I wouldn’t mind seeing the guy who redefined Red Sox try to break some curses on the North Side. And I’m thinking it might be time to revisit the idea.
Adding Curt Schilling would give the Cubs a lot of versatility as to how they use their starters, especially as Ryan Dempster and Ted Lilly work their way back to their normally rugged and dependable selves. It would allow Sean Marshall to stick with his role as the stellar situational lefty. Curt could pitch those extra days here and there when Rich Harden tries to avoid the daylight. And financially, the move could make sense, too.
As Bob Brenly probably remembers all too well, Curt Schilling was willing to take a back-loaded contract with the Diamondbacks when they were hurting financially. Would he do the same with the Cubbies for a shot at winning the most elusive championship in American sports?
Oh yeah. Would it work? A boy can dream.
Ted Lilly is now on the DL with an inflamed shoulder and, in a case of surgical schizophrenia, is slated for arthroscopic knee surgery. He’s likely to miss 4-5 starts (Cub-anese for three months). I hope Kevin Hart has a dynamite start today, but the Cubs need some help. Somebody get Schilling on the phone and get the turkey dinner ready. It’s time to bloody up some socks, people.

Stat of the Week: Mark Buehrle Works Fast. Real Fast.

Normally I don’t like to focus my attention on guys who grow up Cardinal fans and become White Sox. But I have to make an exception just this once.

Obviously, Mark Buehrle faced the minimum today. That’s why they call it a perfect game. It’s common knowledge he’s a guy who likes to work quickly (he only spent 31 minutes on the mound in this game; Steve Trachsel has gone that long in between pitches). His fastball might be slow, but his games go by like blinks. But never in history has there been a pitcher who has been able to work this quickly through so many games. Sure, it’s Buehrle’s 1st perfect game. It’s his 2nd no hitter. But facing the minimum is old hat for the Missouri native.

This is the third time Mark Buehrle has thrown a complete-game shutout and faced the minimum 27 batters. Check it:
July 21, 2004. White Sox over the Indians 14-0. Buehrle 9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 SO, 27 BF (Batters Faced)
April 18, 2007. White Sox beat the Rangers 6-0. Buehrle 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 SO, 27 BF
July 23, 2009. White Sox defeat the Rays 5-0. Buehrle 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 SO, 27 BF
And, although it must have seemed like a marathon outing, here’s one more just to make us jealous Cub fans squirm:
August 3, 2001. White Sox best the Devil Rays 4-0. Buehrle 9 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO, 28 BF
I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to find a list of 9-inning games where the minimum 27 batters were faced by a pitcher or pitching staff. A comment on the latest baseball-reference blog claims that no other pitcher has duplicated Buehrle’s feat, but I can’t verify the fact.
Right now, I’m simply holding firm to the idea that it’s a pretty safe bet. Buehrle is in a league all his own. Congrats.

Day-Off Reflections: Carefree Fans

A lot of people have given Milton Bradley and Lou Piniella much grief for (among other things) saying they weren’t aware of how intense Cubs fans were until arriving here. The consensus criticism is that they should have known that in a top-3 media market and a national fan base, only a complete stranger to the baseball world would be caught unawares by the rabid Cubbie Faithful.
I hate to get all contrary on you (no, I don’t) but I’m surprised by the intensity of Cub fans, and I’ve been one for three decades.
Cub fans weren’t always like this. We didn’t always demand good baseball. Don’t get me wrong, there have always been drunken jerks at the games (just ask Lee Elia). But by my faltering recollection, the most vocal Cubs fans were usually confined to . . . well, inside the Friendly Confines.
Historically, the Chicago media has rarely held this team to any kind of high standard. Before the era of blogging and twittering and the rise of sports talk radio, Cub fans weren’t all that vocal. Or demanding. Or entitled.
Granted, the above video might be the pinnacle of Cubbie achievement in the modern era, but did you look at the fans in those pictures? Guys wearing nothing but the shortest of shorts, standing on dugouts? It looks more like Woodstock than the Cubbie-blue saturated sea of solemn faces. Today, Cub fans look almost corporate.
Ever since the recent pre-playoff success, Cubs fans have expected far more than ever. They’re more vocal, less joyful, and less fun than they’ve been in a long time. I don’t blame anybody for being surprised. I just hope they can win enough to turn the tide.

July 23, 2009 question – Kim Jong-il Wants To Be Your Friend

International Name-Calling Brouhaha
Did Secretary of State Clinton Unfriend North Korea

Hilary Clinton said North Korea was acting like unruly teenagers. Then North Korea called her a schoolgirl. They even called her a “funny lady,” which goes to show how little the North Korean government knows about A) Hilary Clinton and B) humor. How junior high is this?

It’s so bad, Hilary and Kim Jong-il are no longer Facebook friends. No word on who unfriended whom. I’m just worried they’ll make me pick sides. Drama!

Today’s Question

What is the capital city of North Korea?

Previous Answer
And the people who knew it
“Earth Song,” by Michael Jackson somehow became a mega-hit in the UK, despite its tragic theme (suckiness) and unreleased status in the states. Even more shocking: none of you knew that. My world is collapsing.

July 22, 2009 question – Too Crooked for Iran?

Ayatollah to Ahmadinejad: VP is Creepy
The brutality and oppression I can live with

Things are getting testy in Iran. Okay, Iran is pretty much neck-deep in testiness for the foreseeable future, but there’s another drop in the bucket.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (and where was the fuss about democracy when he was elected Supreme Leader, anyway?) has rejected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pick for Vice President.

Said the Big ‘Tollah, “The view of the exalted leader is final and unwavering: I just don’t think Satan was the best choice for a running mate.”

The Lord of Darkness took the news in stride, expressing his intentions to get more involved in his role of president of the NCAA Bowl Championship Series committee.

Today’s Question

What Michael Jackson single became his all-time top-selling hit in the UK, despite never being released as a single in the US?

Previous Answer
And the people who knew it

In a perfect game, a bowler records a score of 30 in each and every frame (a strike earns the bowler 10 points, plus a point per pin on the next two balls bowled), so the final score recorded in the 7th frame is 210. Here’s who knew:

Nancy K (the K stands for Kingpin)
Steve T (the T stands for Tenpin)
Steve J (the J stands for Just Perfect)

Well struck. That question was right up your alley. Spare me. Will you print this out and frame it? I’ll stop now.

The ’09 Cub Fan Manifesto: I Want Ugly

I’m asking any Cub fan who will listen (and any Cardinal or White Sox fan who will mock) to join me in a sign of solidarity and pragmatic desperation. Just . . . repeat after me.
I want ugly.
I want the Chicago Cubs to go limping into the playoffs.
I want things to look bad.
I want the National League Central to be known as the worst division in baseball.
I want the Cubs to be forgotten.
I want baseball purists to question the validity of allowing any team from this division to play in the postseason.
I want as many Cubs as possible to perform below expectations.
I want the Cubs to ride the wave of midwest mediocrity straight into October.
I want the Cubs to stay out of first place until the very last day of the season.
I want ugly.
I don’t want to feel good about the Cubs’ chances in the playoffs.
I don’t want to draw a favorable matchup.
I don’t want the lefty-righty advantage.
I don’t want to hear Joe Morgan, Joe Buck, or Joe Mama telling me the Cubs have what it takes to win.
I don’t want the Cubs to play in a way that inspires us fans to cheer louder.
I don’t want respect.
I don’t want admiration.
I want ugly.
I want the 2009 Cubs to go down in history as the worst team ever to make the playoffs.
I want to hear boos cascading (and see booze cascading) down upon Cub outfielders.
I want to hear ESPN analysts dismiss the Cubs as the team everyone wants to play in the opening round.
I want the Cubs’ division clinching win to air in the second half of Sports Center.
I want shame.
I want low expectations.
I want the world to know just how overpaid this Cubs team is.
I want Triumph, the insult comic dog, to poop on the Cubs.
I want ugly.
I don’t want to be able to imagine the Cubs winning it all.
I don’t want to hear anyone tell me, “This is the year.”
I don’t even want to hear the question, “Is this the year?”
I don’t want Jayson Stark picking the Cubs as his dark horse.
I don’t want the insults from Sox and Cardinal fans to stop.
I don’t want walk-off homers.
I don’t want come-from-behind wins.
I don’t want any of the crap that made past Cubs seasons enjoyable.
I want ugly.
I want the Cubs to win it all, and I want to hate every step on the path that leads them there.
I want ugly.