Happy November, Crashburn Alley readers. If you’ve been displaced or been otherwise relieved of your access to power and/or water because of the hurricane…well, you’re probably not reading this, but if you know such people, let them know that the thoughts and prayers of the Crashburn staff are with you.
But I personally deal with disaster and hardship through escapism, by not taking anything seriously, so that’s what we’re going to do today. I’m going to talk to you about something near and dear to my heart: facial hair.
This week, we kicked off two dueling traditions of facial hair growth: No-Shave November and Movember. These are undertaken (for charity, I understand, in the case of Movember) by men who view facial hair as a novelty, something to be worn for 30 days and then put away for the rest of the year, like a green Phillies t-shirt in mid-March. These are small-minded men, men of little courage and even less manly essence, who are either unwilling or unable to let the light of their manliness shine upon the world for all to see. I participate in No-Shave November religiously, but not because I think it’s funny. I participate because it follows No-Shave October and precedes No-Shave December, No-Shave January, Fu Manchu February and Mustache March.
I reject many of the tenets of traditional gender roles in our society. Men don’t need to be aloof, domineering beer-swilling simpletons with a thirst for physical violence and a disregard for women as anything but household appliances and sexual objects. I aspire to a more evolved manhood, an enlightened manhood where we act as thoughtful creatures and not as the ape-men society expects us to be.
But men are, biologically and historically, hairy. To deny oneself a beard, or at least a full, well-groomed Jay Jaffe-style mustache, is to deny one’s own identity. Worse than that, it is to scoff at the very thing that makes you a man. Well, I guess a beard doesn’t make you a man in and of itself, but you know what I mean.
We revere beards. We depict our gods as having beards, and with good reason. A beard is a symbol of wisdom, of power, of compassion. Zeus had a beard. Poseidon had a beard. Even the important figures of the world’s popular religions today have impressive beards: Mohammed, Moses, Noah, even Jesus Christ. Jews, Muslims and Christians have been killing each other since there have been Muslims and Christians, but they all agree that beards are God-like. Shouldn’t that be persuasive enough for everyone?
In fact, why is it that some of our society’s proudest institutions–the military and most paramilitary organizations, and the New York Yankees–forbid the men among them from having beards? You ask a young man to put himself in harm’s way for strangers, many of whom are unworthy of the protection he provides, and then deny him the first outward signal of his manliness? Shame on you, U.S. Army. If you want men, let them be men. Don’t make these proud people parade around the world like naked mole rats in digital camo. Support our troops. Don’t denude them of their manliness.
So to you who participate in No-Shave November or Movember only, who think it’s a joke, a novelty, you spineless cowards, you ignorant flock of poseurs–you disgust me. Either sack up and wear the beard or mustache year-round, as a man does, or shave it off entirely. You scorn greatness because you don’t understand it, you worthless, malodorous, childlike fools. You want to know why that beard looks stupid on you? Why your girlfriend doesn’t like that mustache? Because you don’t have the pride to wear facial hair as the hood ornament of consequence that it really is. Stop pretending to be better than you are. Either embrace the beard or get out of my way.
Now on to your correspondence.
@JakePavorsky: “The entire 40 man roster gets trapped on a completely deserted island with no food at all. Who gets eaten first and why?”
Michael Martinez is no longer on the 40-man, so they can’t eat him. Ryan Howard is meaty, but for some reason I don’t think they’d kill and eat him. I feel like keeping Howard alive would be good for morale. Likewise Phillippe Aumont, who could feed a family of four for weeks, but his arm would be necessary for killing passing birds with stones.
Probably Antonio Bastardo. He’s not big, but one of the biggest, most muscular parts of the body is the butt, and ain’t nobody got a bigger booty than Tony No-Dad.
@fotodave: “Okay…. your take on the NFL’s rule of 3 years in college before being drafted?”
I think that, like almost every negotiated labor provision in organized sports, from free agency restrictions to salary caps to international signing bonus limits to the draft itself, it represents an illegal restraint of trade. If we viewed sports labor unions like normal labor unions, or sports business like normal business, the stuff that the leagues and unions do would make your hair stand on end.
But setting that aside, I like it. Football in particular, with a short shelf life for players and with such horrific physicality, is not a place where you want 18-year-olds straight out of high school to have to dodge Patrick Willis. In baseball and hockey, at least, you get some time to sort it out the minors if you need it.
My favorite system (the recent bonus restrictions aside) is baseball’s, by far. The Rule IV draft is open to high schoolers, junior college players and players who have been in four-year colleges for three years or more. Unlike in football and basketball, a drafted player can opt not to sign and return to school, and unlike in hockey, a drafted player’s rights don’t stay with the team that picked him the first time.
I like this system because, more than others, it keeps the player’s options open. If he’s ready for pro ball out of high school, he can go. If not, he has time to develop. To use basketball examples, LeBron James had nothing to gain by going to college, but only one year of college did wonders for Kevin Durant’s game. Mike Trout made his major league debut last summer, when, under NFL rules, he’d still have been playing out the string at East Carolina. By the same token, David Price was a 19th-rounder out of high school, spent three years developing at Vanderbilt and went first overall in 2007.
The MLB system also allows players like Mark Prior, Gerrit Cole and Chase Utley to get drafted high out of high school, pass if the money isn’t right and go to college. The long lead time for player development in baseball, compared to other sports, might make this system uniquely suitable, but I’d like all four major sports leagues to be more flexible.
@cwyers: “Which Dylan Thomas poem best exemplifies what we currently know about the 2013 Phillies?”
I know you don’t think I have a book of Dylan Thomas poems on my shelf, but I do.
He does have one called “Poem in October,” but that’s a little presumptuous, given the events of the past year.
But after careful consideration, I present to you the last stanza of “When I Woke.”
“I heard, this morning, waking,
Crossly out of the town noises
A voice in the erected air,
No prophet-progeny of mine,
Cry my sea town was breaking.
No Time, spoke the clocks, no God, rang the bells.
I drew the white sheet over the islands
And the coins on my eyelids sang like shells.”
@Cody011: “Seeing how this is a phillies blog and all, who are some potential Philadelphia eagle coaching candidates for next year?”
Probably still Andy Reid. If not him, Ryne Sandberg.
@pinvert: “why do we insist on putting pumpkins into every freaking food this time of year?”
I have no idea. I like pumpkin pie just fine, but pumpkin muffins? Pumpkin beer? Pass. If you must make seasonal food, there’s got to be a better way to do it than dumping gourd flavoring into it. When I go to Starbucks, I want coffee with milk and sugar, not a pumpkin spiced latte because it’s November, or a Peppermint la macchina verde because it’s about to be Christmas. I’m not sure how we got to this arbitrary, facile and yet universal understanding that pumpkins taste like autumn, and that EVERYTHING should taste like autumn, but here we are.
More than anything, it makes me feel bad for Linus. If only he’d come around 30 years later, he wouldn’t have been able to avoid the Great Pumpkin.
@brendankeeler: “what’s your favorite word…in a sentence that also includes “Freddy Galvis“, and any line from a Queen song?’
A challenge. Very well. (cracks knuckles) A scouting report!
If Freddy Galvis showed even a modicum of hitting ability, he’d be guaranteed to blow your mind.
@SoMuchForPathos: “Is your biggest concern with Star Wars VII also how it’ll probably disrupt the canon created by books/video games/etc.?”
Yeah, in case you haven’t heard, Disney has bought Lucasfilm and intends to release a new Star Wars movie in 2015. This is very important news. I have seen the movies original trilogy probably upwards of 1,000 times in total. I own two toy lightsabers. I’ve read many of the expanded universe novels, and I own reference books based on the expanded universe novels.
Here’s what I know: the new Star Wars won’t involve George Lucas in a creative role, and the expanded universe continuity, which is impressive considering how many novels there have been in the past 20 years, is gone. That’s disappointing, because my best-case scenario included an adaptation of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy, the first and best expanded universe series, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role and Robert Downey Jr. as Talon Karrde.
I’m not scared of what’s going to happen, because my two biggest fears are that we get a movie that either 1) has horrific dialogue, a clumsy story and an overreliance on special effects or 2) is so excited that it’s reviving the beloved franchise that no one bothers to see if the story passes the laugh test. And you know what? I’ve lived through both, the first with the prequel trilogy and the second with the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. And both were terrible, but neither really diminished my affection for the original.
Here’s my wish list for Episode VII.
- Bring in new characters and tell a new story. I said Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy was the best of the expanded universe novels, but my favorite was the X-Wing series by Michael A. Stackpole and Aaron Allston. That’s because any story that centers on Han, Luke and Leia seems like a poor facsimile of the original, but introducing new heroes and villains within the familiar universe not only allows the writer to make the story his own, but you get to see more of the galaxy far, far away. This way, we also avoid the hairy problem of re-casting entirely iconic roles. The Star Wars characters aren’t as fluid as, say, Batman is, and I’m not sure I could take a new Star Wars seriously if it starred Nathan Fillion playing Malcolm Reynolds playing Han Solo. Better to just wipe the slate clean and start over.
- Know what you’re shooting for. This is not going to be a Great Movie, and whoever directs/writes/produces it needs to recognize that we love Star Wars not because it aspires to incredible storytelling, but because of its earnestness and imagination. We’re looking for wide appeal here above all else. Which brings me to the next point.
- Don’t Nolanize it. I love Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but after the success of that series, it’s like every superhero movie needs to be dark and gritty and explore complicated emotional and moral space. Star Wars is bright, big and uncomplicated–let’s keep it that way.
- Don’t cheap out on story and dialogue. The acting in both the original and prequel trilogy was terrible not because Mark Hamill and Hayden Christensen are bad actors, but because Lucas handed good actors (Alec Guinness, Harrison Ford, Samuel L. Jackson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson) just profoundly awful dialogue. What the hell is Liam Neeson supposed to do with “Patience, my blue friend.”–it’s like giving someone a bowl of ice cream and a steak knife. Make sure the story (as in the Star Trek remake) and the dialogue (as in the prequel trilogy) pass the laugh test. It doesn’t have to be Sorkin-level snappy, but it can’t be distractingly bad.
- Give it to a writer and director who know what they’re doing and leave them alone. Big projects like this get ugly when two or three directors and nine or ten screenwriters work on it. Hire good storytellers and let them tell a story. My original dream team involved Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine, Never Let Me Go) writing and Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class) directing. Vaughn’s Stardust, I think, is the best-case scenario for this movie–a big, earnest, bright, funny, action-packed epic. I’ve heard other people wish for Joss Whedon, who’s worked for Disney before (co-writing Toy Story) and directed a super-sized blockbuster (The Avengers) with great success. Much has also been made of David Fincher having worked on Return of the Jedi as a twentysomething cameraman.
Most of all, I want whoever directs this movie to love and understand Star Wars and not just see it as a cheap way to cash in on a beloved franchise with some new faces, flashy special effects and, frankly, only a passing interest in telling a good story. That’s what J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek and, frankly, what Lucas did with the prequel trilogy. In terms of great sci-fi/action movies, it doesn’t have to be Alien or Inception, but it’s got to not stink on ice.
Sorry I got so worked up about that, but it’s important to me.
@elkensky: “Gold gloves will probably get Jimmy Rollins into the Hall of Fame and keep Chase Utley out. Thoughts?”
I don’t think that’s true, actually. It’s a shame that such a good defender as Utley was never so honored, but whatever. He was never elected prom queen either. I don’t think either is getting into the Hall of Fame given their current career paths, and I think that’s more of an injustice to Utley, who stood with Albert Pujols head and shoulders above the rest of the National League for five years and was never given the respect he deserved. I think part of that–his high OBP, his underrated defense and his historically great baserunning–isn’t obvious, and part of that was that the 2005-12 Phillies were so full of other good players getting more press. It was Howard who hit 58 home runs in a season, Rollins who guaranteed the division title and went 30-30, Victorino and Pence who were entertainingly zany, Halladay who threw the two no-hitters, Lidge who went a full season without blowing a save, Lee who won over the city, left and came back and Hamels who put the team on his back en route to a World Series.
Never mind that Utley has actually been the best player on the team, but he’s never been particularly colorful (in fact, his most famous quotations are the result of an unfortunate combination of profanity and open TV microphones). And we tend to focus more on the low batting average and the injuries than his having been the best Phillies position player since Mike Schmidt.
In a way, Chase Utley is kind of like a poor man’s Mickey Mantle–a great player who had a great career on great teams, but with a pocketful of nagging injuries that still leave us wondering what could have been. If Utley hadn’t taken that John Lannan fastball to the hand in 2007, and if his hips and knees were sound, I have in my mind that he’d have been some freakish hybrid of Roberto Alomar and Joe Morgan. I’d still vote for him for the Hall because I think his peak was good enough, but I’m kind of a big Hall guy with an obvious bias. I don’t think he makes it.
Rollins, on the other hand, doesn’t have anywhere near the on-field credentials. He’s been good for a very long time, but to me he’s a Hall of Very Good type of player. I think the Phillies should retire his number (in fact, that’s the topic of my first-ever Crashburn Alley post), but I don’t think he’s a Hall of Famer, Gold Gloves or no.
@wzeiders: “Toronto cliamed Herndon off waivers and then released him a few days later. What happened? Should we get him back?”
I would like to. I thought Herndon was trending up through the end of 2011–in 2010 he was a sinkerballer who completely sucked because he couldn’t miss bats. But in 2011, he went to the minors, made a couple adjustments to his fastball and all of a sudden no one could hit him, much like Kyle Kendrick did this year.
Waivers are weird. I don’t completely understand them, particularly at this point in the season. From what I understand, it’s kind of like getting a girl’s number at the bar–you’re probably going to call, but you might not, and even if you do, nothing might happen, but maybe you call her and meet up and really hit it off start dating and so on.
Or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I’m a baseball blogger–I’ve never gotten a girl’s number at a bar.
@GoGoNinjaGo: “I came across a Ruben Amaro Jr. Baseball card in my collection the other day. Suggestions on what to do with it?”
Do whatever you like. He was kind of unremarkable as a player–in fact, the most interesting thing about him as a player might be that he became a GM. Of the 30 current GMs, only Amaro, Jerry Dipoto and Billy Beane actually played in the major leagues.
I used to have a massive baseball card collection, not so much because I ever thought I’d make money off them, but because I loved baseball and numbers and pictures, so it made sense. I remember being very proud of a mid-90s Topps card that had Darryl Strawberry‘s name spelled wrong. I had both the original and the one with the corrected spelling.
Anyway, a couple years ago, my dad stumbled across those old binders–which I hadn’t looked at in probably more than 10 years–and we found some interesting ones–minor league prospect cards for Scott Rolen, Derek Jeter, Ken Griffey Jr., Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu, about a billion Greg Maddux and Barry Bonds cards, an Albert Belle card from when he went by “Joey” and a Raul Ibanez card from when he was still a catcher, among others. It was very cool. So don’t destroy the Ruben Amaro card–cherish it for the bit of nostalgia and history that it is.
@tigerbombrock: “what candidates are the crashburnalley staff voting for?”
I’m sure Bill has no desire to pursue a blogwide partisan agenda, so I’ll pass on your direct question. Besides, I believe that people of all faiths, genders and political persuasions can come together under the great ecumenical force that is baseball. We can’t be divided by our petty differences anymore–we will be united in our common interests, and the belief that Chipper Jones is a less-evolved form of human life.
I will say that I got my New Jersey sample ballot this week, and the minor-party labels are…quite something, and this coming from someone who’s used to seeing N.J. Weedman on his ballot.
Among the more interesting submissions for president and U.S. Senate (and all of these are true):
- American Third Position: A ballet platform, perhaps?
- NSA Did 911: Which raises the question, even if they did, how would your election to the presidency change that?
- Socialism and Liberation: Sounds like a West African guerrilla army
- Responsibility Fairness Integrity: That’s not a party–that’s just a list of adjectives.
- Totally Independent Candidate: The official political party of Merritt Butrick.
You know, we fight the Brits for the wonderful gift of independence and democracy, and we disrespect the sacrifice made by our forefathers every day. What would George Washington say about “NSA Did 911″? I mean, apart from “What’s the NSA?” and “What’s 911?”
@pinvert (again): “how many times do I have to tell my friend Hamilton is a bad idea for the phils before it sinks in?”
At a certain point, your words stop meaning anything and you have to resort to hitting your friend across the face with a monkfish.
@pinvert (again): “if the phils flounder again next year, this time w/o significant injury, what are the chances charlie gets the boot?”
You ask a lot of questions, dude. What are the chances the Phillies can The Cholly next year? Almost nil. The stars seem to be aligning in such a way that he’s going to retire next season, and why not? He’ll be pushing 70, having enjoyed great success managing two different teams, including a World Series title and sports folk hero status in a city where that’s an extremely difficult thing to do. Charlie Manuel has almost nothing left to prove, and while I’m sure he’d rather go out on top, as Tony La Russa did, even if the Phillies stumble next year, I think the front office will let him play out the year and go out with dignity, on his own terms.
We end with perhaps the most important question of the entire offseason.
@ChasingUtley: “what the hell sport am i going to watch for the next 5 months?”
A very important question, for sure. This underscores the importance of being a sports omnivore–I like some sports more than others, but I like a ton of them, and it sustains me throughout the year. I can do this because I don’t have many friends and while I’m in a relationship, my fiancee lives several states away, so I follow sports in lieu of a social life. I recognize that this lifestyle might not be for everyone, but it’s pretty nice. Certainly when the Phillies are off, the Flyers are locked out and the Eagles are ass.
Anyway, here’s my list.
- The NBA. It’s on all the time, and I’m writing at Liberty Ballers this season, so I feel like I should pimp it. The nice thing about basketball is that you can immerse yourself into it entirely, with a level of statistical analysis for public consumption that’s on par with baseball’s, but if you just want to follow it casually, it’s easy to just tune in for the last couple minutes. Plus the Sixers are set to be more relevant this year than they’ve been in a decade, so it’s a good time to jump on the bandwagon.
- European soccer. Lots of early day games, a real novelty of culture and a level of athleticism and artistry unparalleled in any other sport. And with half a dozen top pro leagues, plus the Champions’ League and World Cup qualifiers, the quantity argument has to be considered. As well as MLS playoffs, which are already underway.
- College football. I’ve been of the opinion for years that NCAA football is far superior to the NFL from an entertainment standpoint. The lower quality of play actually helps, because the offenses are more creative, the standout athletes stand out more, and most importantly, it’s on all the time. There’s at least one game on Thursday, at least one on Friday and a billion on Saturday, of which at least a dozen are televised nationally. That’s why it seems like college football games are always closer and more exciting than NFL games, because instead of 16 chances every weekend for an insane finish, you get 50 or 60. Plus the fan culture is insane. I’m fortunate to have built-in allegiances, both through blood (to Virginia Tech) and my own education (to South Carolina), but if you didn’t grow up with a team and you went to a liberal arts school with no team, just pick a team and hop on the bandwagon. It’ll be the best decision you make as a sports fan.
- College baseball. For as many times as I’ve said this, I’m shocked more people haven’t listened. College baseball is phenomenally entertaining, and it’s completely out of whack schedule-wise with MLB. You get meaningful baseball in February. You get playoff baseball in June. So your five-month dark period is only three and a half months for me. And while it’s not on broadcast or basic cable until the NCAA tournament, you’ll probably get half a dozen games a week streaming on ESPN3. And if you’re looking for a bandwagon to jump on, I might suggest my South Carolina Gamecocks, who have been to the College World Series championship series three years in a row, winning twice, and playing a very exciting brand of baseball. Or you could pick the Clemson Tigers if you’re an illiterate redneck. Or the Florida Gators if you’re an illiterate redneck who enjoys really good baseball players with awesome names (current or recent Gators with awesome names: Hudson Randall, Nolan Fontana, Vickash Ramjit, Karsten Whitson, Austin Maddox) who suddenly turn into pumpkins come College World Series time.
College baseball has a lower quality of play than the majors, sure (probably somewhere around high-A in the major conferences), but that lower quality of play, plus teams usually playing only three or four games a week rather than six or seven, brings up some interesting tactical patterns. You get Tim Lincecum starting on Friday and closing on Sunday, ace pitchers like Danny Hultzen and Michael Roth DHing on their days off and insane multi-inning reliever stints. Plus, routine fielding plays aren’t always that routine in college, which spices the game up some.
The final upside to following college baseball is that you get to get your prospect knowledge smugness on and have strong opinions about the draft (founded or not) when it happens. Prospect knowledge smugness is a big deal.
The point is, college baseball is the great uncharted northern expanse of sports fandom. It will become populated, and soon, but we’re barely scratching the surface of its wonders. Get on board and pan the river for gold before all the good spots are taken.
Okay, I think that’s been quite enough. Have a good weekend.