Oct 24, 2006

No Joe

MLB News today:
Joe Girardi takes himself out of the running for Nationals job, saying "In the end, I realized that no matter where they play or what they call themselves, they're still the Montreal Expos."

Swell, I guess he's keeping his options open to coach for the Chicago Underachiever Bud-light Society in three years? Perhaps four if Lou exercises his option for the fourth year?

Perhaps he thinks there's a shot at the Yankee pinstripes when Torre's run is over?

Looks like Baker's got a job offer in 3...2...

Oct 23, 2006

The Right Spin

Frankly, I don't think they do it because it's really all that much more effective at knocking down pins. I just think they do it because it looks cool.

Like a mediocre bowler determined to develop that nifty little hook on the end of his roll, George W. Bush and his administration --a.k.a. "Spanky and Our Gang"-- keep re-re-redefining their rationale for invading Iraq. They are looking, you see, for juuust... the rigghht... spin.

Originally, "we" invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction. Specifically, "nukuler" ones.

Mmmmm... gutter-ball.

...Time to meet the other players in the match. In addition to Spanky, we have North Korea, Iran and Iraq-- the so-called Axis of Evil. "Axis" is a word that Our Gang borrowed from World War II, because polls show that it is still America's most popular war-- more than sixty years and still toppin' the charts. "Evil," on the other hand, is a word tailored to this President's sensibilities and world-view: It's short, it's easy to pronounce, and it paints an overly simplistic picture with a nice, big brush-- right up Spanky's alley. It also has religious overtones, which is a major plus, and it connotes a certain absolutism: "We" are totally "good"; "They" are totally "bad." No gray area, no middle ground, no complications.

So, let's take a look at the scorecard: Pyongyang has the Bomb, Tehran is trying to get the Bomb, "we" invaded Baghdad, and Washington is spinning in his grave.

North Korea's Kim Jong-il is talkin' some smack:
"Economic sanctions are an outright attack!
So, put up your dukes--
I got
me some nukes
your troops are bogged down in Iraq."

Heh, *smirk*, Maybe we oughta try that ag'in...
Okay, the real reason "we" invaded Iraq was because Saddam Hussein was an all-around Bad Guy and "we" were going to liberate the Iraqi people from his oppressive rule and bringeth unto them the Great Gift of Democracy.

Never mind that it's really none of our [fornicating] business to run around knocking over Bad Guys without provocation. A foreign sovereignty, being sovereign, has a right conferred upon it by fate and circumstance to at least some degree of self-determination, whether we like their chosen form of government or not. Had the Iraqi people risen up against their particular Bad Guy, and asked us for help, then perhaps this rationale would have some merit. But they didn't.

And never mind that toppling Saddam Hussein created a big ol' suckin' power vacuum right smack-dab in the middle of (arguably) the world's most unstable region.

And never mind that "liberating" the Iraqi people from the frying pan of Hussein-ism sent them plunging into the raging gas fire of civil war.

And never mind that we don't even have a true democracy, here. Whether you call our form of government a democratic republic or a republican democracy or a vast, ever-merging corporation in which we are all minority stockholders with a periodic opportunity to unseat a handful of board members... No matter what you call our form of government, it works --ostensibly-- with the consent of those it governs. Or, all too often, with their tacitly approving apathy. It does not work when you shove it down a people's throat like a cold helping of Brussels sprouts and tell them that they have to like it because it's good for them. It especially does not work when you throw the framework of the new government together like an assembly-required toy in the last few hours before daybreak on Christmas morning... without having bothered to read the instructions.

Mmmmm... gutter-ball.

Wait. Did I say we had no "business" invading Iraq? Hmmm... I guess the old boys at Halliburton would disagree. They like to think of all this as a "hostile takeover."

Bowlin', bowlin', bowlin',
let's keep those tanks a-rollin',
tollin', tollin', tollin'... ji-HAAD!

Heh. Lemme, lemme spin that puppy ag'in... *smirk* ...I, heh, I-I think I'm gettin' the hang of it...

Okay, the real, real reason "we" invaded Iraq was because it is the Central Front in the War on Terror.

First of all, Mr. President, it is syntactically impossible to wage a war on terror. "Terror" is an emotion: Intense fear, horror, panic. As such, it occurs almost exclusively within a person's mind and/or soul. Not coincidentally, that is how and where it must be dealt with: By each individual who experiences it, and within their own mind and/or soul. You cannot squelch terror from without. You certainly can't do it with bombs and bullets. Bombs and bullets used in abundance and in anger have a tendency to inspire terror, not stop it. See below.

What you really mean, Mr. President, is "War on Terrorism." I realize that the word "terrorism" doesn't roll off the tongue (especially yours) quite as easily as does the word "terror," but that bald fact of marketing doesn't make my point any less true. Terrorism is a strategy, a set of tactics-- ones that are geared toward inspiring terror. You can wage war on the strategy; you can wage war on the tactics; more to the point, you can wage war on the people who engage in those tactics; but you cannot wage war on the emotion itself... so stop using sloppy rhetoric.

About half the time, Mr. President, that mush-mouth Texas accent of yours makes it sound like you're saying "War on Terra." Now, I know you don't like facts, Spanky, but hear me out: "Terra" is the Latin (Roman) word for "Earth," as in Mercury, Venus, Terra, Mars, Jupiter, et cetera, insert your favorite Pluto joke here. So, when you say "War on Terra," I might know that you mean "War on Terror" and you might know that you mean "War on Terror," but there are some people who might think you mean "War on the Whole Wide World" ...especially since you're juuust idiotic enough to really say it.

Secondly, you cannot have invaded Iraq because it is the Central Front in the War on Terror(ism). True, Iraq is the central front in the War on Terror(ism) ...now. It is the central front because "we" invaded. So, while the effect has become the cause (in one sense), it can never have been the cause (different sense). Stop using sloppy logic (my two cents).

Mmmmm... gutter-ball.

As of Monday at noon, Eastern Daylight Time, there will be 820 days left in George W. Bush's second term as President of the United States. If the conflict in Iraq continues as it has so far, the number of American Service-men (and -women) killed in those 820 days will approach 1,750... bringing the total number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq to more than 4,500.

Juuust... the riighht... spin.
Okay, okay, okay: So, the real, real, real reason "we" invaded Iraq is because "it's a struggle between good and evil."

Ahem. Hmm. Uh, I've already commented on Spanky's use of the word "evil." A discussion of his use of the word "good" --at least in this context-- would be pretty much the same. For those of you who have already forgotten and are too lazy to scroll up the page, I'll quickly recap: Short, easy to pronounce, overly simplistic, religious overtones, absolutic undertones. Ready? Break!

As part of the whole Good v. Evil campaign, Vice President Dick...

Wait a minute. You know what? I'm not going to give Dick Cheney an "Our Gang" nickname. Instead, in a patently transparent ploy to generate written responses, I'm going to let you, dear reader, post your nickname-of-the-week for the Veep. You see, sometimes --not often, but sometimes-- One F laments the scarcity of comments here on our little whine and cheez party. So, for his sake: Tell us which of the Lil' Rascals most reminds you of Dick Cheney.

Now, then, where was I? Oh, yeah: As part of their Good v. Evil campaign, Vice President Dick Cheney says, "The hopes of the civilized world ride with us."

Just as I thought: We're doomed.

Whenever you see or hear or read a quotation, clip, or sound bite, be it on television, on the radio, in a newspaper or magazine or even right here on this, uh, blog... thingy, you should always ask yourself questions regarding context. What was the sentence before the one quoted? What was the sentence after? Was anything ... edited [out] of the middle? Because virtually always, somebody, somewhere, has done some editing. See below.

Personally, I can't help but wonder if Cheney's full quote wasn't this: "The hopes of the civilized world ride with us... and I'm calling 'shotgun'."

Mmmmm... gutter-ball.

This past week, Spanky signed into law the Military Commissions Act.

"...and the suspension of habeas corpus for all." --Killre 6/14/06.

Bud "Hey, Now, Imagine That: A Whirled Series,
Sponsored By Chevrolet And Budweiser,
Featuring Teams From Detroit And Saint Loo...
Now, What Are The Odds Of That?" Selig must go.

Loopin' Ella



...f-f-f-F-F-FUCK 'EM !!

I mean it: I've had it. To hell with them.
I am sick, sick, sick and tired of bashing my head against the nearest door jamb over every plot twist in the Greek play that is the Chicago Underachievers and Bud-lighters Society.

The time has come, brothers and sisters, to rise up and take a stand.
Fed-up fans, unite! You have only your own naivete to blame.

I, too, was once like you: I thought that those upright, uptight, Bud Light Fat Cats at Tribune Ink and their hacky, tacky, smack 'em on the backie lackey, Jim Hendry, could never, never, never be so unutterably stupid as to fail to see what a bona fide bonanza, what a jacked up jackpot, what a sweet-corn-fed cash cow it would be if ye olde Chicago National League Baseball Club were to make a serious run at the 2008 pennant.

Obviously, I was wrong, for they have gone and hired Lou Pinella to be their new field manager.

The only promising gleam --the one, tiny, golden nugget in this whole, vast, stinking, rancid pasture of [male bovine manure]-- is that at some point, Pinheadella is going to go Mount Saint Helens in a way that is sure to surpass Lee Elia's famous tirade: "Eighty-five percent of the people in this country work. The other fifteen percent come here and boo my players. They oughta go out and get a [fudging] job and find out what it's like to go out and earn a [fudging] living!"

My greatest regret in all of this is that I'll have to hear about Loopy's meltdown second-hand. You see, I won't be paying much attention, by then.

Next season, I am officially switching my allegiance to another team. I haven't decided which one, yet, but it won't be these Chicago [Smegma-heads]. I will not be making any of my regular pilgrimages to Wrigley Field; I will not be buying no two or three Overpriced Styles and a bag of peanuts; I will not be purchasing any hats, jerseys, or other merchandise; and I will definitely not be watching anything, anything at all, on WGN-- which, by the way, Mr. or Ms. Programming Department, is not a sacrifice at all, but rather a blessing for which someone deserves a great big smooch.

No, I won't be doing any of those things: I won't be flushing any more of my hard-earned, disposable income down your toilet, Tribune Company, so go [coitate] yourself.

Instead, I'll be buying some other team's hat, some other team's jersey, tickets to some other team's ballpark, where I will gripe about their prices as I spend, spend, spend and, if I happen to think about your ball club at all, Tribune Company, I will whoop and cackle with glee over the few extra drops of red ink you'll have to use because of my economic boycott. What do you think of that, you Pinella-headed prigs?

I'll tell you one thing I won't be griping about next year: Losing.
No, this time I think I'll try something different, something revolutionary. Something like, oh, I don't know, rooting for a [conjugating] WINNER. Judging by my prognosticational performance over the years, the odds are about 3-1 in favor of my picking a playoff team to root for. So, while you and you and Lou are chasing your tails like a badly booted grounder, my happy [donkey] will be jumping and stomping and fist-pumping and cheering full-throated for a real baseball team, as it charges toward a division championship and/or a playoff berth.

Fed-up fans, unite! Join me on the anti-Cubs bandwagon. Root for a real team. Root for a winner. (Stay tuned to find out which one.)

That high-pitched whine you hear is the worn-out fan belt on the Tribune Inkum Thinkum, the computer (manufactured by Uni-vac) that is trying to come up with just the right combination for the Chicago [Smegma-heads] to offer to the Yankees for shortstop/ third baseman Alex "A-Rod" Rodriguez.

Try this one on for size...
The Pinstripers ship A-Rod to Wrigleyville in exchange for Carlos Zambrano, Jeff Samardzija, the Los Angeles Times, the planet Pluto* and dibs on hiring Joe Girardi as their next manager.

...and speaking of the Yankees next manager...
Rumor has it that Yankees owner George "I Was Trump Before Trump Was Trump, Dammit" Steinbrenner wanted to fire manager Joe Torre because he "only" won the division this year, and not the whole ball of wax. Not only that, Big George wanted to announce the sacking on the same day that the Mets opened the National League Championship Series against those Poo-holes from Saint Loo.

Why? Because he's petty.

Rumor further has it that it was the Yankees players who, uh, went to bat for Torre and convinced Steinbrenner to not fire him. Steinbrenner, of course, wanted to announce that on the same day as Game One, too.

Why? Because he's petty: Big George likes to stick it to the Mets for air-time and column inches, just for the sake of being a prig. It's a wonder he doesn't slip his chauffeur a bonus and tell him to get into a minor "accident" in the parking lot at his private club. Even something as innocuous as that would bump the Mets off of the front page of the sports sections, simply because it happened to the chauffeur of the owner of the Goliath that is the New York Yankees.

Ultimately, it was Torre himself who announced that he would be back as the Yankees skipper next season. He made the announcement on the day before the NLCS was scheduled to start. Rumor has it that Bud "I Keep My Salary Cap In The Closet" Selig --showing far more pluck than usual-- ordered Steinbrenner to make a decision, one way or the other, before the day of Game One.

I can just imagine the players asking Big George not to fire Torre, and Steinbrenner saying, "All right, I won't fire him. Now, you have to do something for me..."

On the day the Mets were scheduled to open the NLCS, Yankees pitcher Corey Lidle crashed his single-engine plane into an apartment building on Manhattan's upper east side.

Chaos ensued, of course. CNN went commercial-free for a couple of hours so that they could tell us, non-stop, that they didn't know anything: "Details are sketchy. We can't really tell you very much at this time. Apparently, some kind of aircraft --we don't know what kind-- has apparently crashed into an apartment building on the upper east side. We don't know who the pilot was, we don't know what he was flying, we don't know where he came from, we don't know where he was going, we don't know why he crashed into a building, we don't know exactly how this all happened, but we're going to stay live and keep finding new ways of saying nothing at all for as long as it takes to ensure that we're still in the ratings race. Fortunately, we have about two dozen stringers in New York and several of them are at the scene. We're going to go to one of them right now, because I sure as hell don't know what's going on. Anderson, what can you tell us?"

"Well, Wolf, I can't really tell you very much at this time. Details are still sketchy. Apparently, some sort of aircraft --we don't really know what kind-- has apparently crashed into this building that you see behind me. We don't know who the pilot was, or why he crashed into the building. We don't know how many people have been injured or killed. We do know that there are an awful lot of fire trucks and ambulances here and there are a lot of emergency personnel hurrying around, uh, but we haven't had a chance to talk to any of them, yet, uh, because they have more important things to do than talk to us, uh, but other than that, Wolf, uh, we don't really know anything. Details are, uh, sketchy, uh, at this time..."

That night, the Mets game was rained out.

A few days later, while the Mets were in the midst of a rousing, seven-game series, a private jet over-ran its landing strip in Burbank, California.

One of the passengers was Alex Rodriguez.

*Pluto's current status is uncertain, pending a full physical
and a ruling by an arbitrator. This portion of the agreement
may eventually become "a planet to be named later."

**The answer is 'Foghorn Leghorn.'

Bud "I Just-- I Say I Just Know That Marble-headed
Mongrel Is Backa All This**" Selig must go.

Oct 18, 2006


There is this great article on ESPN. Apparently Bill Buckner was wearing his Cubs batting glove during the "play."

Check it out.

Oct 17, 2006

BOM: Blasphemer of the Month

I waited and waited for Killre. A brilliant plan hatched in his demented little mind over this past summer was going to add a special monthly nugget to this blog's bowl. But, alas, I could not wait any longer. The idea sat on the shelf like a package of Twinkies. Calling to me. Pleading with me to eat one. Just one. Twinkies don't go bad; they have an amazing shelf life. But just to wrap my lips around the tasty little pastry-like treat was too much for me to resist. And here I sit. Guilty and not as full or as satisfied as I thought I would be. And yearning for one more.

I had forgotten about Mike Tyson. It had been a while since he had eaten the young or molested a pigeon. No new schemes or incidents seeped out of his tattooed head and into my media. Nothing. Until I came across this. Mike Tyson is getting his own TV show! Mike Tyson's World Tour in true boxing fashion will be a pay-per-view event. Or as I call them, a wait-a-day-for-YouTube event. Seems the old chap is going to cruise around the country and fight people. Anyone really.

In his press conference he interrupted his promoter to claim, "Maybe we will end up in Iran, it's all messed up over there." In fact, according to ESPN.com he plans to fight in Europe and Asia as well as the Middle East. I must admit, I'm listening.

And doesn't want to fight just men either. In true Tyson fashion, the old boy wants to take a few swings at women as well. When he was asked if fighting women was a joke he replied, "I'm very serious." Hot damn! I'd watch that too. Could he fight a woman in a burkah? That would be a fight night. Loser gets an ear bitten off. Let's see EA make a game about that. If it's in the game . . .

I would like to end with a few choice quotes from October's BOM so that you can all enjoy your chicken dinners and stare in awe that he is aware that the word "quagmire" exists. We have a president that may need help.

  • "I was a little overweight, smoking too much . . .Once I started training, the stress left. I can't believe I'm not slurring. I'm not angry. Life's lessons are priceless."
  • "I think I'm useless to society, I don't think I'm worthy of the people who come out to see me, but they do."
  • "If I don't get out of this financial quagmire there's a possibility I may have to be a punching bag for somebody"
  • On how many events there will be: "One hundred. One hundred times 4 (rounds) is as many rounds as I fought my whole career."
Here is his web site. Enjoy!

Oct 13, 2006

Notes from the Blasphemous Side

  • Holly Would could you explain this to me . . . 61% of all Egyptians have never heard of an opinion poll.
  • From the Tribune:
    Defensive tackle Tommie Harris stuck around after practice Thursday to take a few handoffs from offensive coordinator Ron Turner. Could Harris carry the ball? "Tommie has a lot of different talents," coach Lovie Smith said. "You could say he is a skilled athlete -- Tommie would definitely say he's a skilled athlete. But he won't be doing any of that, I can tell you."

    Can anyone say "Refrigerator" Harris? Does this mean he gets the Superbowl TD and not Jones?
  • What is it with everyone blaming alcohol for their own stupidity? Mel Gibson - not an anti-semite, the alcohol was. Foley - not a gay pedophile, the alcohol was. And now Ney, not a corrupt politician that accepted and gave bribes, an alcoholic. I am not a bad blogger.
  • My bad. Gibson's alcohol is anti-semitic because critics critiqued a movie.
  • There is trouble in Disneyland. There is video footage going around that shows Goofy having sex with "either Chip or Dale." First of all, is anyone really surprised that a character who took his name from Chippendale's is gay? Secondly, and I will type this slowly, Dale has a red nose and Chip has the black nose. Now, which one was it and were they certifiably insane or literally fucking Goofy?
  • Who was surprised?
Have a good weekend. Next time, at last, the picture of a three-toed dog.

Oct 11, 2006

Da Perfect Storm

There has been, in my humble opinion, way too much talk about the Chicago Bears having "the perfect season." It was brought to a head last Monday night when Tony Kornheiser claimed that he could imagine the Bears doing anything but going 19-0. If it were the Cubs he was talking about he would be either killed or linked to a curse. Hell, if a goat can cast one why not old TK? Anyway, with all this talk, I opted to do my research and give my prediction for the final win-loss record of our 2006 Chicago Bears.

First of all, this is a very easy schedule. Of the remaining teams only 3 were in the post season last year, New England, New York (Giants), and Tampa Bay. Of those 3 only New England is leading their division and TB has yet to win a game. Outside of NE only Minnesota has a winning record and we already beat them once in MN.

The forte of this team is the defense. So far this year, they have allowed 36 points. Only three teams come close to that number. Baltimore (46), San Diego (36), and Denver (34). Our newfangled offense has put up a league high 156 points. The closest competitors here are Philly (155), Indy (135), and Jacksonville (118). Denver, by the way has 49 points all season. The 1985 Bears were at 163-88 after 5 games. Just an FYI.

Finally, the terrible outings on Monday Night. The only loss of the '85 season coming on Monday Night against the Dolphins. The Bears have a 16-32 franchise record. But that was when they were on ABC. A Bears Curse. Now they are on ESPN for which I have no acronym.

An undefeated record is almost impossible in any sport. Injuries, suspensions, hangovers all play a part in the modern athlete missing games. But the Bears are extremely deep. When Ogunleye went down, Mark Anderson stepped up against Pro-Bowler Walter Jones and got 2 sacks and a fumble recovery. We got Griese, Benson, Bradley, Gilmore, Davis all ready to step up in case of injury (some already have (Gilmore 2tds)(Davis 1td).

So can they go undefeated? The answer is clearly yea. Will they go undefeated? There is always the bad game. Miami was not great in 1985. It should have been a W, but it was not. Things happen. I predict a 14-2 season. Don't worry, we have the defense signed for at least two more years. That and the ring takes away the sting of the two losses.

In other Bears news, check this out.

Oct 9, 2006


[1] *ahem*
There once was a man named Mark Foley,
who turned out to be a lot more
thou than holy.
He had a taste for the pages
(especially the under-ages)
as a place to plunge his little pink poley.

[2] Do you see what I see?
Hey, look at that: Your gas prices have been getting lower...

[3] Pickin' and groanin'.
On April 2nd, I posted "Pickin' and Grinnin'," in which I tried to predict this year's National League standings and playoff picture. With the sweat and stifle of summer now past, and the crisp, earthy air of autumn filling our lungs, the time has come to assess those predictions. You can review the original post by clicking on the title, "MLB NL Central Predictions," located on the right side of the screen. If I were you, though, I wouldn't bother... I don't intend to gloss over my mistakes.

[4] Welcome back, Howard.
Have you been making your list?
Have you been checking it twice?
Do you know who's been naughty or nice, you nosey little prig?

[5] Slim pickin's.
Alas, for the first time this century, I failed to correctly predict the winner of the National League West. Clearly, I underestimated the Padres-- particularly their pitching and their ability to win on the road. And I don't think anyone could have envisioned how streaky the Dodgers (my pick) turned out to be: Lose 13 out of 14 here, win 17 of 18 there. Now, some may say, "Aha!... but the Dodgers and Padres actually tied for first place, and San Diego was awarded the title by dint of a tiebreaker," but I'm not going to hide behind that. I underestimated the Padres; I'll take my lumps. Besides, San Diego beat L.A. 13 times in 18 head-to-head meetings, so I really don't have a problem with Bud "I'm Making This Up As I Go Along" Selig naming San Diego division champions.
My forecast was........ LA, SD, SF, AZ, CO.
The actual standings... SD, LA, SF, AZ, CO.
Footnote: I disparaged the Rockies. I said it'd be a toss-up between them and Florida for the title of worst team in the League. As it turned out, the worst team in the League was... well, you know.

[6] Do you hear what I hear?
Your gas prices have been getting lower... just in time for the mid-term elections. Now, let's all be good little boys and girls and say to ourselves, "Hey, maybe those [certain to be cast into a fiery pit of Hades by the very Jehovah they so like to pose next to] Republicans aren't so bad, after all. Let's all drive down to the polls, right now! I'll take the Suburban. Honey, you take the Escalade. Jenny, you take the mini-van. I know you're only sixteen, Jenny, but if you promise to vote the "right" way, they'll overlook the technicalities... They're good at that."
If you're really, really good, you might even manage to convince yourself that you actually thought your own vote through, all by yourself, instead of simply responding to the programming that was imbedded deep in your brain by Exxon-Mobil when you had that "illness" as a child.

[7] *ahem* (again)
There once was a man named Mark Foley,
who engaged in a wee too much, uh, tomfoolery.
The man liked them young
and --oh, yes!--
even if only for some pocket poolery.

[8] Pick a card, any card.
I'd love to be able to tell you I was wrong. Really, I would. I spent six days out of every seven, all summer long, rooting against my own prognostication, but it wasn't to be: Those Poo-holes from Saint Loo won the Central division again. Houston made a late charge, but they waited too long before kicking in the afterburners and fell short (both of the division and, you might note, the wildcard). Aside from that, my biggest failure in forecasting the Central was probably my pipedreaming the Chicago Underachievers and Bud-lighters Society into third place.
My forecast........ STL, HOU, CHI, MIL, CIN, PIT.
Actual standings... STL, HOU, CIN, MIL, PIT, CHI.
Footnote: I said, somewhat ambiguously, that the road to the National League Championship would go through Saint Loo. By now, of course, you already know that those Poo-holes are, indeed, in the NLCS.

[9] Do you know what I know?
Your gas prices have been getting lower... but they still aren't as low
as they were before Halliburton invaded Iraq.

[10] Pickled tink.
Why, yes, I did pick the Mets to win the East. Yep, that was me, alright. Buy me a congratulatory drink: A decent sour mash on the rocks, with a splash of Coke. And make it a double, because they won the division by, like, 16 games or something gaudy like that. What's that? I said it would be closer? Much closer, you say? Hmm. What was I thinking?
Okay, here's what I was thinking: The Braves, you might remember, had won 14 straight division titles coming into this season. Many people, over the last several years, had picked against them and been wrong... Atlanta always seemed to find a way. In fact, I had picked against them and been wrong a few times myself. When I assessed the East this past spring, I couldn't get that of my head. So, I verbally hedged my bets: I picked the Mets, but then I wished my washy (or, uh, washed my wishy) and said, "But watch out for Atlanta, they'll make it close," or words to that effect. It was never close, of course: The Mets ran away with it. So cancel the sour mash. I'll just have a Natural Light straight out of the can, please.
My forecast........ NY, ATL, PHI, WAS, FLA.
Actual standings... NY, PHI, ATL, FLA, WAS.

[11] It's just a jump to the left... and then a step to the right.
You were in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago, Georgie. I was there the next day, but you had already left town. Last week, you were in Stockton, California, of all places. I was there the next day, but you had already left town. Are you avoiding me, you Smirking Marionette?

[12] Pick me up and dust me off.
The wildcard race was, as usual, wild... which is precisely as it should be. You heard me. Some of the more blasphemous among you have tried to advance the ridiculous, silly, absurd and downright crazy notion that I have some kind of a problem with Bud Selig as Commissioner of Baseball. I have absolutely no idea whatsoever where such a wacky and ludicrous rumor started... All kidding aside, though, the wildcard was and is a great idea and, believe it or not, I have always thought so. I really have. Reason: It keeps more teams in contention later into the season, thereby keeping more fans interested in baseball right through September (a key time, when it's competing with football for attention) and into the playoffs. Anyway, my forecast for the wildcard race went something like this: Houston would outdistance Atlanta and San Diego (the "first tier" of contenders), with (in no particular order) the Cubs, Phillies, Brewers and the Bay Area Retirement Home All-Stars also giving chase. Of course, that assessment presumed that the Dodgers would win the West. Instead, the final wildcard standings were: LA, PHI, HOU, CIN, ATL, FLA. Lastly, I concluded my season predictions with the summation that the playoff field would be "the Cardinals, Dodgers, Mets and Astros." The order in which I mentioned those teams was not random: It was a subtle prediction of the playoff seedings. The actual seedings were: Mets, Padres, Cardinals, Dodgers.

[13] P.S...
Bud "Let Us Pray To the Almighty Nielsen" Selig must go.


The fire started Saturday afternoon, the 7th, just south of the business district. The Chicago Fire Department --a mere 185 dedicated men, trying to protect a city of nearly 350,000-- acted quickly to contain the blaze.

They had to act quickly. To say that the city was a proverbial tinderbox would be a gross understatement. Chicago was made almost entirely of wood, which was bad enough, but worse still the overwhelming majority of that wood, from buildings to sidewalks to even the streets, the overwhelming majority of that wood was pine, which burns remarkably quick compared to its harder, denser cousins. On top of that, the city was incredibly dry-- dried out by a long summer with virtually no rain. The tail end of a two-year-long drought had intensified, and barely an inch of rain had fallen since the Fourth of July. Now, in the first week of October, 1871, all of that quick-burning pine was warped and parched by the strong, hot prairie winds.

The fire department battled the blaze for seventeen long hours, until just after daybreak on Sunday morning, October 8th. Beleaguered and bone-tired, hair seared from their faces, soot-blackened, red-eyed, sweat-stained and heat-swollen and cinder-burnt, the firemen trudged in seeming slow-motion back to their station houses. Most of them were sent home to relax, clean up, spend some time with their families. They deserved it: It had been the worst fire in the history of Chicago...

...but it was only a prelude.

Watchman Matthias Schaffer stamped his feet on the wooden floor of the courthouse tower. He lifted his shoulders and tried to hunch his neck a little deeper into the collar of his heavy overcoat. Not even nine o'clock, yet, he thought, and already I'm cold. The long, hot summer hadn't really broken, yet, but within the last two weeks or so, the nights had turned uncomfortably chilly-- especially up here in the tower, with the wind whipping in through the windows.

Schaffer may not have had anybody to talk to, but he wasn't alone in his vigil. This was, after all, 1871, and a sophisticated system of fire alarm "strike boxes" webbed the whole city. They were locked against false alarms, with trustworthy citizens in every neighborhood holding the keys. Additionally, every fire station had its own observation tower. None of them, however, commanded the view as could be had by the courthouse tower. Here, with his back to the big lake, a watchman could sweep the entire eighteen square miles of bustling Chicago-- the fastest-growing city in the world.

Schaffer picked up his spyglass and leaned out, his belly against the window sill. Maybe it's this job, he thought. Just standing around up here in this damned tower, hour after hour. Watching and waiting. Watching and waiting for something to happen, praying it never does. Schaffer swept the glass to the north, far beyond the river, beyond even the residential neighborhoods of the North Side, focusing on the brand-new Lincoln Park, out on the edge of town. His job certainly seemed simple enough: Sweep the horizon, end to end, then change the angle and sweep around again, a little closer-in from the horizon. Keep looking closer, closer until you can stop using the spyglass and then check the downtown area, looking for smoke and/or flame. When done, repeat... until it was somebody else's turn.

Of course, it was nighttime, which made spotting smoke tricky and, besides, there was smoke everywhere-- innocuous smoke from cooking fires and fireplaces in nearly every building. Tonight, too, curls of smoke were still rising from the vast mountains of coal waiting to be shipped or sold along the south branch of the river, where last night's Big Fire had been driven and finally beaten.

Schaffer panned the horizon in slow motion, pausing often to make sure he wasn't really seeing what his mind too often told him was another big fire. As he scanned to the southwest, he stopped... stared... stared... and felt the bottom fall out of his stomach.

Hurriedly, he pulled himself away from the window and turned to the voice box, a simple tube that connected him with the central fire alarm telegraph office on the first floor. Connected by telegraph wires to every station in the city, this was the Chicago Fire Department's dispatch center. Unable to control the rising tone of his voice, Schaffer told the operator that he'd spotted a fire near the corner of Halsted and Canalport, near strike box 342. Telegraph operator William Brown acknowledged the call.

Schaffer returned to the window. He turned his head and quickly scanned the rest of the city, hardly even seeing it. Then he raised the glass to his eye and trained it on the rising plume of smoke to the southwest. As he watched, he both heard and, because he was so close to it, felt the enormous tower bell begin to toll the alarm. Down in the control center, Brown had pulled the lever releasing the gears and pulleys...

Schaffer pulled the glass away from his eye, put it back, pulled it away. His brow furrowed into a frown, then shot up in horror. He heaved himself away from the window and stumbled to the voice box. In a rush, he told Brown he'd made a mistake: He'd mis-located the fire. It was closer in than he'd first thought, nearly a mile closer in, near strike box 319.

There was a long pause. Then Brown asked, "Are you sure?"

"Yes! Tell the station houses it's at 319!"

Again, there was a pause. Then Brown said, "I don't think that would be best."

The two argued for several minutes. Schaffer urged Brown to tap out the correction. Brown refused, saying that a second message would only confuse things. He further reasoned that since the new location was actually on the way to strike box 342 for most of the fire companies, they would see the actual fire and stop there. Brown may also have wondered silently whether Schaffer's second report was any more reliable than his first. In any case, he never sent out the correction.

Unbeknownst to Brown or Schaffer, one local fire company was already at the scene. The key holder of strike box 319, a local storekeeper, had already sent out the alarm. The strike box system was supposed to alert the operator in the central office (Brown), but had failed somehow. Brown had only Schaffer's panicked and spotty report to go on, with no confirmation.

Down on the southwest side, in an Irish neighborhood of shanties, sheds and stables, neighbors pounded on the door of Patrick and Catherine O'Leary. They and their three children had already turned in for the night. Patrick was a Civil War veteran. Catherine was trying to make a little extra money for her family by selling milk out of her barn. Bleary-eyed, they answered the pounding at their door and found a small crowd of their neighbors, shouting excitedly that their barn was on fire.

In all, seven fire companies responded to the blaze on the north side of DeKoven Street, between Jefferson and Clinton Streets, a few blocks north of Roosevelt Road. It took most of them the better part of an hour to get there, however. By that time, the fire had already consumed the entire block to the north and east of the O'Learys' barn. Strong prairie winds, twenty to thirty miles per hour, drove and fueled the blaze. Virtually everything in its path was combustible, extremely so, and the fire quickly became an inferno. It was a live thing, a nightmare hell-beast unchained, gorging itself and wailing its banshee wail, the impossibly tall flames dancing frenzied and wanton, Satan's fiery harem had come to Chicago to celebrate the Apocalypse, writhing with abandon to the white noise of speed metal not yet invented.

And, like a live thing, it began to breathe. Before being forced to abandon his post, the official in charge of the U.S. Weather Signal Office on LaSalle Street reported his anemometer registering winds of sixty miles per hour. That wind was created by the inferno itself, a confused, swirling vortex of updrafts, downdrafts, backdrafts, spawned by the blast-furnace heat and fueling that same heat in an ever-increasing cycle. The Great Chicago Fire roared with full-throated rage and burned in its very soul: Before the night was over, its temperature would far exceed 2500 degrees-- hot enough to melt steel.

The surging, swirling winds drove the inferno forward, and cleared its path: Entire timbers were sucked into the fiery pit of the beast and spit flaming high and far, as if shot from an ancient catapult. A continual shower of sparks, embers, cinders fell on the panicked and fleeing people: A rain of fire. The air grew to hot to breathe. Clothing burst into flame a quarter-mile away or more. Tree trunks exploded, tearing themselves apart from inside, their sap virtually flash-boiling, the shrapnel splinters bursting into flames before they hit the ground.

The firefighters, steadfastly trying to battle the blaze, found themselves caught in a pincer: The flaming timbers hurled up and out of the heart of the inferno landed hundreds of yards behind them, igniting more fires and trapping those who were in between.

By quarter after ten, sawmills and factories along the south branch of the Chicago River were ablaze. Soon after, the grain elevators lining the riverfront became the world's biggest Roman candles. By eleven-thirty, a horse stable and the South Side Gas Works caught fire... on the east side of the river. Hell had officially broken loose. (Before too much longer, the river itself would be awash in flames-- even in 1871, it was that polluted.)

The Hell-spawn was now in the heart of the city... and it drove straight toward the courthouse, where the great bell still tolled. Mayor Roswell B. Mason ordered the courthouse --the symbol of civic pride-- evacuated. Most of the prisoners being held in the basement were released outright. Those considered too dangerous were put in chains and led away under guard. The inferno swept into downtown, consuming the commercial district. The courthouse bell continued to toll --a barely-heard death knell, now-- until sometime after two o'clock in the morning, when it finally came crashing down through the gutted ruins of the courthouse. The cacophony of its passing could be heard a mile away. Afterwards, only the screams of the fleeing crowds and the mad cackle of the beast itself could be heard.

Now a wall of hellfire more than a hundred feet high, more than a thousand feet wide and shrieking mad, the beast bore on. Just minutes after the great bell had tolled its last, the roaring inferno hurled a flaming mass over the main branch of the Chicago River. It landed on an Illinois Central rail-car... loaded with kerosene. Bulls-eye.

Now loose on the North Side, the inferno tore like a mindful thing directly toward the last enemy it had, the last thing that had any chance of stopping it: The city Waterworks. This, the city's main pumping station, drew water from deep in Lake Michigan and supplied pressure to the water mains. It was, stategically, in these early hours of Monday, the most important building in town.

The importance of the Waterworks to fighting fires had not been lost on its builders. Constructed of thick, heavy stone, it occupied a large, open plat of land that kept it far from neighboring buildings. Although the roof was wood, it was covered in a layer of slate.

On this night, however, they needed a thicker layer of slate. Again the great beast of fire shot a flaming missile, this one landing on the roof of the pump house. Within minutes, the Waterworks became a raging furnace and the great pumps ceased. Chicago was now utterly defenseless.

Free to roam, the Great Fire now ran in every direction, chasing citizen all the way to the edge of the hinterland, or driving them --literally-- into the lake, where they huddled or stood neck-deep and tried to breathe without searing their lungs. Throughout the day on Monday, the refugees crouched, or stood, and watched the ghost that had been Chicago burn.

Late Monday night, a cold rain began to fall.

Almost as soon as it had started, the story began to circulate that the fire had been ignited by Catherine O'Leary's milking cow. Either startled or simply clumsy in that way that milking cows so often are, surely it had kicked over a lantern and set the hay-strewn barn ablaze. In truth, there is very little to substantiate this story. Recent, speculative tests and theories have targeted the vast stack of hay itself: A case of spontaneous combustion. It would fit.

The O'Learys' house, mere yards from the original blaze, but to the south of it, was virtually untouched.

All the credit in the world goes to my source and inspiration for this post: Donald L. Miller's City of the Century; the Epic of Chicago and the Making of America. Miller did a phenomenal amount of research on nineteenth-century Chicago, covers a lot of ground and does it well. Unfortunately, much of that ground is rather dry, making for a rather dry book, overall. That isn't the fault of Miller's writing, it is the fault of the material. It is the kind of book that had to be written --the world is better for it-- but is best left to be cataloged by someone with not much else to do, and used for spot references.

P.S... Bud "Hmm, Things Are Looking Grimsley" Selig must go.

Oct 4, 2006

Supremely Dumb

"Nobody thinks your client is really, you know, abstaining from tequila down in Mexico because he is on supervised release in the United States."

~Antonio Scalia