shaken, not slurred

ToewsThe Chicago Blackhawks started doing business back in 1926, which happens to be the same year Pontiac and Route 66 were born. The Tampa Bay Lightning started doing business in 1992, which happens to be the same year Euro Disney and Mall of America were born.

Two weeks ago, those were the only facts I needed. I had little use for any professional hockey team coming out of a football state. Never mind that the Lightning actually won a Stanley Cup back in 2004 and never mind that they finished with the best record in the league this season. As far as I was concerned, the only peeps who were going to get away with rooting for the Bolts in these finals were the ones born in the Post-Clintonian Era.

I had my ‘Hawks winning this series in five games, easy. It took all of twenty minutes of Game 1 to change my mind. Because the Lightning had more game than Bob Barker, and it was apparent from the first drop of the puck. They ran a fast break offense . . . in hockey. They went six games deep- in spite of all the injuries- and they played the lights out of every faceoff, every period, every game. They didn’t shrink inside the moment, they grew up.

Which only makes this Chicago win that much sweeter. To beat a club that was every bit its equal for much of this series, and to close out the series at home for the first time since 1938? That’s what I’m talking ’bout.

Make no mistake, last night was Game 7 for the Blackhawks. Because if this series went back to Tampa tomorrow night, well . . . I love my team and I’m never, ever gonna count them out, but it would have been like letting Joe Frazier get one more round. Never a good idea.

So now the Blackhawks have three Stanleys in the past six years, and I’m not gonna bother myself with the semantics of all this dynasty chatter. Alls I know is that Chicago is the new Hockey Town (Take that Detroit!) and that my team knows how to close the toughest deals. The chances of Chitown getting back this way again are looking mighty friendly at the moment. They have two of the best players in the world, they have a goalie who will always carry a chip on his shoulder, they have youth, and they have a coach who is working up his Hall of Fame resume with each new summer party.

None of that matters once next season rolls around. Injuries, departures and clubs like the Tampa Bay Lightning are gonna have plenty to say about what happens next year. Which is why Chitown- as great a sports town as I’ve ever seen- is gonna stay chill all dog day summer long. Because they’ve got the best damn answer to any sports argument you can muster.

We win.

 

 

We SuckThe last time I played an organized game on a baseball diamond, Ronald Reagan and the Cleveland Browns were still alive, and if you didn’t know what ‘doing the nasty’ meant, then you probably weren’t doing it.

I turned back the clock last weekend when I took the field for a charity softball game, because I feel that if you’re gonna make an ass of yourself, you might as well do it for a good cause. Never mind that first pitch was at six in the morning. Never mind that we were pitted against a team of  Amish and Mennonite dudes who looked as if they’d just come from church . . if church had last call. Never mind that I hate softball. It was all about a good cause. Making an ass of myself was the bonus round.

There are times in your life when your body ignores the high mileage on your odometer and gifts you a pass to a time before ibuprofen became a daily supplement. Saturday morning was not one of those times. It took all of, I don’t know . . twelve and a half minutes? . . for my imaginary athletic prowess to be introduced to forty eight years of age. Let’s just say they didn’t hit it off.

I was batting third in the order when we came to bat in the bottom half of the first. In the majors, the third place hitter plays a pivotal role, as he is the table setter for the club’s cleanup hitter; oftentimes, he’s the difference between a big inning and a quick one. In the majors, they don’t just let any schmuck bat third in the order. Softball is a little bit different because as it turns out? They do let any schmuck bat third in the order.

The first pitch wasn’t so much an arc as a dry hump, listing aimlessly as if a retarded hamster in search of a place to die.

“Strike!”

I could have clocked its speed with an hourglass, while making fudge. Nonetheless, I let the morbidly obese rawhide nestle inside the catcher’s glove with a cool glare, as if to say Ain’t no thingThe six million degrees of separation between myself and a legit ballplayer is undeniable, but for the called strike. I look pretty damn professional taking a called strike. It’s the only comparison I can rightly muster, but it still counts.

When the next dead hamster came hurtling in at four and a half miles an hour, the shit got real. My bat went medieval as I crushed it deep over the shortstop’s glove before it bounced safely into left center(ish) for a hit. I would’ve left Willie Mays in the dust with my sprint up the first base line, seeing as he is eighty four years old. The crowd was screaming as my foot pounded first base, and that’s when it hit me. There was no crowd. The screaming was coming from my quad muscle, and it was banshee-like. I contemplated asking for time. Then I thought about calling for a stretcher. I really wanted to be airlifted back home, but I thought that would be a little too dramatic. Especially for a softball game.

I manned up, remaining in the game despite my very real desire to curl up into the fetal position and become a mute who only communicated through signing- specifically with my middle finger. The more I stretched it, the more I realized it was just a tweak. This was a horrible fucking turn of events, considering how tweaks aren’t taken seriously the way tears and pulls are. A tweak is like a muscle sneeze. Big whoop.

The game was moving right along and we were down 4-0. Or was it 5-2? Let’s go with 8-1. If you weren’t aware, the Amish and Mennonites take their softball very seriously, and they’re really good at it so there was no shame in losing to them. The fact that they probably thought we were the charity, yeah . . there was shame in that. So I took to praying for a tornado to spare us this reprise of the Bataan Death March when a funny thing happened. We rallied. I singled and scored as we pushed six runs across to make it a ballgame.

In the face of insurmountable odds, we had forged a new destiny through sheer determination and a steadfast belief in each other. The sum of our fledgling parts gave way to a beautiful symmetry of pluck and might and defiance. We took the field as a team now, no longer content to just give them a game. This was our field, this . . was our time. I snatched my glove and jogged to right field as my brain jammed to the theme song from Rocky. 

After which they scored like three runs, maybe five . . let’s go with eight. I pulled my hamstring when I misjudged a fly ball so badly you would’ve sworn I was deathly allergic to leather. We stopped hitting, as if our bats had morphed into Tibetan monks. As the game wore on, we began keeping score (theirs) with Roman numerals . . . and that’s why Rocky is a fucking movie.

To the victors might have gone the spoils, but I got a lot out of those couple hours on the diamond. I was reminded of the joys of a simple game of catch and the rolling banter of a restless bench, and the visceral connection you achieve with the dewy grass as you sweep the outfield grass in giddy anticipation of the batter’s next swing. Most of all, I got pain . . lots of pain.

Next year, I’m just gonna write a check and sleep in.

 

To charity softball games that leave you aching and bitching and most of all, laughing your ass off all the way back home . .

To the lessons you carry with you, the ones that warm you when life gets colder . .

To Tim Tam slams. If you ain’t done it, you gotta . .

To fraps with the most beautiful girl in the world. She will always be that little girl I used to sing to sleep with Stevie Wonder songs . .

To another deep run by the Chicago Blackhawks, the best show on ice . .

To going to see Pitch Perfect not once, but twice. And for not being the least bit ashamed of it . .

To a Father’s Day hike that went away for a while but is coming back for good . .

To Ash. For telling it like it is, every single time. There are friends who tell you what you want to hear, and then there’s Ash. She is my consigliere- a trusted voice who offers wise counsel and a strong presence when the day is giving me nothing . .

To summer. What took you so long? . .

Middle FingerIt’s a sad fact of life that bad things happen to good people all the time, with fresh examples daily. And no, I’m not talking about the fact that Caitlyn Jenner has gone and ruined cougars for eligible young bachelors everywhere.

I’m talking about the marriage of bad things to good people. Like the lovely and talented Mila Kunis being stalked for years by a batshit crazy asshole in a beard (Not the one named Ashton). Or what about the story of Della Curry? A kitchen manager at Dakota Valley Elementary School in Aurora, Colo; Curry abided by the audacity of nope when it came to school policy by giving students a free lunch. She knew the risk she assumed when she did wrong by school policy by doing right for some kids. The school rewarded her amazing deed with a termination notice. And let’s not forget the saddest example of bad things perpetrated on good peeps- Cleveland Browns fans. They haven’t sniffed a Super Bowl since it was created almost fifty years ago. They watched as their team hired Bill Belichick before he was Bill Belichick. They mourned when their team left town, but then it got even worse . . they came back. They have gone through more quarterbacks in the last fifteen years than the Green Bay Packers have gone through, like, forever. After all that shit, what do the Browns gift their long suffering fan base? Yep, college football jerseys. To go along with the play on the field . . .

This isn’t to say that bad things don’t come around for people who suck. I got some examples of that too . . .

The Duggars- Holier than thou met Holy fucking shit when it came to light that Josh Duggar molested his sisters as well as a family friend. After which Mr and Mrs Duggar presumably consulted God- for close to a year and a half- before contacting authorities. Understand, I’m not bashing faith. I am bashing peeps such as the Duggars who profess to have an abundance of it. They possess soooo much faith, in fact, that they become wholesalers; selling it for pennies on the dollar and keeping the change. The only thing these modern day bible merchants love more than proselytizing is profiting. Welp, now comes the hard part for them. Now the Duggars have to answer to a higher power- the media. There are gonna be a bunch of pious in the face moments for these two as more facts come to light. I’m thinking God would’ve been plenty fine if the Duggars would’ve practiced some birth control, but that’s just me.

Sepp Blatter- Hyman Roth was a scumbag gangster who would’ve sold out his lovely wife for a bigger piece of the family pie, and yet he is lovable compared to the former FIFA President. Blatter resigned his post just days after winning re-election when it became evident that the hush fund that had allowed a corruption ridden governing body to do business for too long a time had finally run dry. The Department of Justice isn’t going to let this ass clown slide any longer. This guy is so dirty, even the Swiss want a piece of him. If nothing else, he threw one hell of a party. One story has it that Blatter ensured his re-election in 2011 by ‘hosting’ a party (he wasn’t there, of course) in which a coffee table was stacked with envelopes- each containing forty thousand dollars in cash. Whatever happened to coke, pills and hookers? Anyways, that was only the tip of Blatter’s iceberg-sized balls. The DOJ is looking into myriad allegations of a Presidential tenure that has burned through more than a hundred and fifty million in good money gone bad. His parting gift to soccer fans? Awarding the 2022 World Cup to that champion of humanitarian rights, Quatar.

LeSean McCoy- Okay, maybe he’s not a bad person so much as he is an asshole. How else to describe a guy who claims his former coach was a racist and then proceeds to ‘no comment’ his way out of the hole he dug? Never mind the fact that we’re living in a time where charges of racism carry powder keg potential. Never mind that his former coach, Chip Kelly, has been coaching in the college and pro ranks for twenty five years and he’s, yanno, recruited and signed a ton of black players in that time. Never mind that Chip Kelly replaced McCoy who happens to be black, with another star running back (DeMarco Murrary) who happens to be black. Never mind all that, because LeSean wants us to never mind that. Because in LeSean’s world, you get to say really stupid shit without ever having to be accountable for it. Well, in my world, that makes him a pussy. In the end, McCoy got what was coming to him. He’s relegated to playing out his prime seasons with the Buffalo Bills.

I could go on, but I’m gonna catch me some Stanley Cup. Did you know that the Tampa Bay Lightning ban the sale of tickets to out of state residents? And to make matters stupider, they placed a ban on opposing jerseys in the premium seats? This is what happens when you give Florida a hockey team. They turn it into college basketball.

Here’s hoping the good people of Chicago get down with their bad selves in FLA and flood the good seats should there be a need for a Game 7.

Go ‘Hawks!

SchoolThe best way to show your age? Tell people you pine for the days of proper grammar.

I’m just kidding. You don’t want to use the word ‘pine’ in mixed company unless you’re willing to move off the grid, buy a cabin in Montana and retire to a lifetime of talking to whiskey bottles and having meaningful sex with inanimate objects.

Everyone curses India for being smarter than us and taking our jobs, but that’s only because it’s true. As I watched the Scripps National Spelling Bee the other night, I couldn’t help but feel as if my proper grammar had been kidnapped, held for ransom and then murdered, brutally.

Vanya Shivashankar carved through a list of words that included bouquetiere, thamakau, tantieme, urgrund, myrmotherine, zimocca, hippocrepiform, scacchite and bruxellois. Co-champion, Gokul Venkatachalam, was no less impressive, nailing words like caudillismo, scytale, cypseline, filicite, sprachgefuhl, nixtamal, paroemiology, pipsissewa and pyrrhuloxia.

Spell ’em? I couldn’t even pronounce them! Sitting there, flubbing words I didn’t even know existed with my bag of nachos and a bowl of salsa . . . I felt like a true American. Not the fools who blanketed social media after the Bee wrapped up and railed on about Indian kids hijacking OUR contest, no. Those people are blathering idiots who wouldn’t be able to spell out the letters of the network that aired the Scripps Bee (ESPN). They don’t give a fig about their ABC’s, until they no longer end in USA.

These kids are my heroes, because they get it. They don’t have to have things spelled out for them. Not when they can handle words like scherenschnitte without missing a beat. They appreciate the infinite power of the written word the way most American kids appreciate Taylor Swift’s latest single. That kind of dedication shouldn’t be hated on, it should be celebrated. It should be an expectation, rather than a wish.

Lets Eat GrandmaThe truth is, grammar ain’t proper no more (told ya). It’s a bastardized version of the Canterbury Tales, more intent on pose than prose. The basics have been damned to hell in favor of a grammar whose method is all about instant gratification. Put this way, proper grammar is like tennis. You have lines and rules and sequence. To achieve mastery within this rectangular struggle of Kings and Queens is a legendary exercise in strength, discipline and sheer will. Contemporary grammar . . is handball.

Check out the latest installment of the Merriam Webster Dictionary. Photobomb, emoji and meme are now a part of the American vernacular, which just goes to show that they’ll let anybody in the place. Merriam used to be a classy dame, but now? She’s just a ‘ho. (Yes . . ‘ho is in there too.)

I’m not crying about it (It’s more like a long, agonizing whine, really). Proper grammar had a better run than the San Antonio Spurs or Larry King’s sex life. Plato opened shop on the best ideas of the written word by marrying structure to symbolism and fathering a prodigious boom of timeless pens. From Homer to Alighieri, Shakespeare to Wilde, Rand to Lennon.

Then the internet came along and bludgeoned it.

Cayman’s Dumbed Down History of the Internet

In the late ’60’s, with the escalation of the war in Vietnam and increasing unrest at home, the U.S. Government decided they didn’t have enough shit on their plate. So they went in their tax payer funded garage with the intent of creating a telepathic communications system that would render the Kremlin and the KGB into muppets. After a decade of zero results and billions spent (U.S. Govt translation: Progress), they let the academics have a couple swings at it. Information became data, professors became divorced and cocktail parties became networking events. It was in July of 1987 when some guy in parachute pants and High Tops uttered the famous refrain “Holy fucking shit! This is gonna make us rich!”. By the early nineties, with the commercial possibilities of an uber-connected computer system obvious to anyone with half a brain, Al Gore visited a sperm bank in the middle of the night and nine minutes later, the internet was born. Bill Clinton is considered the crazy uncle of the internet, thanks to his contribution: online porn.

Sadly, grammar in its most exalted form had no place in this brave new computerized world. The internet was a bullet train whose mission was to provide results in the blink of an eye. The pivot points were volume and mass, and all this crazy science experiment did was change the world. So really, the omission of a few rightly placed P’s and Q’s was never going to be as important. Luxuriating in the written word became a quaint trespass. Sorta like watching PBS with the sound up.

Knowing your shitThe thing about the internet, is that it not only tolerates fault, it embraces it. It’s probably the only charming quality it possesses. But inside that organic testimonial lies the inevitable truth that the need for speed killed syntax. Don’t take my word for it, read a circular or a magazine . . hell, even the New York Times- the Church of our Daily Word- has gone rogue, or as they spell it . rouge.

You have a better shot of convincing people that Brad Pitt is a virgin than of talking them into the idea that words should be revered; and as such, they should be buffed and polished to detail. I’m just thankful Oscar Wilde wasn’t alive in the time of emojis. No doubt he would’ve been epic in his use of the things. Problem is, The Importance of Being Earnest probably would’ve been a comic book.

Words, correctly spelled and (this is important) used in context . . they still matter to me. I’m not a stickler about it, just stubborn. Don’t confuse my agonized whine as that of a soulless dictator of words. I don’t need no stinking rules, and I really love to color outside the literary lines. But . . I respect the rules and more than that? I remember a time, not that long ago, when they actually counted for something.

I won’t give up my inner spell check to an app, because I think when you start giving up on the little things, you’ve got no chance with the big picture. Words matter to me, because words are times and places to me. They remind me of spelling bees, glass bottles, first kisses, Stevie Wonder and summer days that promised more of that good thing.

The written word isn’t asking me to be perfect. It’s just asking me to give a shit enough to try.

Things that ran through my mind this week . . .

. . Tossing a crunched up piece of paper into a wastebasket doesn’t mean you could have made an NBA squad. Which is a shame, because I have been Stephen Curry-like in my epicness, when it comes to the wastebasket toss.

. .  How can you fuck up pizza? Oh, just ask Pizza Hut. They know how . .

. . If your ringtone is Bad to the Bone, you’re probably not.

. . Microwave popcorn will never be satisfying as long as movie theater popcorn is around.

. . Vera Farmiga was born on August 6th, same as my mom. That has to mean something.

. . I’ll miss Letterman. Even if I haven’t watched any late night since I became an old guy.

. . Commmunism sucked, but it sure did make the Olympics more interesting.

. . And speaking of the Olympics, it used to be that you couldn’t find a professional athlete in the games (outside of the soviet bloc countries). Now? You can’t find an amateur.

. . The Black Keys are my favorite band right now.

. . And I still want those little Five Seconds of Summer douchebags dead. Okay, horribly maimed will do.

. . Why am I so ashamed about my iZombie habit?

. . It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes when you watch C-Span, you’re gifted a brilliant payoff like this one. When I think about this call, it makes me laugh hysterically, wherever I am.

. . Which reminds me. I need to buy a Bluetooth so I can laugh hysterically AND talk to myself in the middle of the street. I’ll never turn the shit on, no need.

. . God knows I’ve tried to decipher the meaning of that Viagra commercial with the couple bathing in clawfoot bath tubs at the top of a hill. I’m pretty sure it has some vaginal significance, but I can’t be certain. Alls I know is that the dude in the bathtub ain’t impotent. His hernia simply ate his penis after he decided to lift a five hundred pound cast iron basin up a hill. And one more thing? Why would you consult a doctor if your erection lasts longer than four hours? The shit is giving you extra innings for the same ticket price! There’s no need to consult a doctor unless she’s wearing fishnets stockings.

. . In the movies, why do the Romans all have British accents?

. . The term ‘team player’ was invented by people who don’t know how to manage.

. . People who play video games sixteen hours a day do not deserve a cool moniker like ‘gamers’.

. . If the league really wanted to punish Tom Brady, they would make him play for the Jaguars this season.

. . You know you’re in America when you’re standing in a checkout line and the person in front of you is accessing an app from a six hundred dollar phone in order to save twenty seven cents on their bill.

And one more thing. I love this song.

Roger GoodellOkay, I get it. Tom Brady cheated.

The only way I’m gonna trash him for cheating is if he’s running on Giselle. Because the only way you’re justified in cheating on Giselle is if you got Aphrodite on speed dial. The only way.

Outside of that, I can’t fault Tom Brady for doing what just about every athlete who’s ever laced up has done. A competitive advantage only works if you use it. And oh by the way, you still have to possess world class talent and incredible smarts to win the biggest games. If the Jaguars deflate their footballs, they’re still the Jaguars.

Jerry Rice and Don Shula have much in common. They’re both Hall of Famers who revolutionized the sport. They also happen to be full of shit when it comes to their take on Balls-Gate. Rice railed on about the Patriots gaining an unfair advantage while conveniently leaving out the fact that, oh yeah, he used stickum when he was playing. Shula talked about how his Dolphins always carried themselves with class and dignity during his tenure. I’m guessing class was out when Shula decided to flood the Orange Bowl field before the AFC title game against a speedy Jets team back in ’83; a game the Dolphins won 14-0. I would never have called these men to the carpet for doing what most players and coaches consider a part of the game . . until they opened their mouths and got all sanctimonious about the shit.

Listen, people cheat at different things, it’s just a fact of life. They cheat on income taxes, spouses, golf, diets, workouts, homework and the most callous offenders cheat at Trivia Crack; which really pisses me off, considering how tough it is to score the top spot in a weekly ranking. Point is, everybody cheats at something, and if they tell you they don’t, they’re lying- which is called cheating with your lips.

Tom Brady cheated with the inflation of a football. The inflation of a football. I know it’s a rule, and I also know it’s such a loosely enforced rule it may as well have been written in Las Vegas. At Happy Hour. The only reason the Colts happened to notice the rule was being tweaked is because they were busy losing the AFC title game. Do you really believe if the Colts would have been winning that game at halftime that they would have noticed the politically incorrect feel of said balls? Hells no! You only bitch about something when you’re losing. That’s why losing teams always pull the referee card after a loss. You know what a referee looks like to winning teams? Neither do I, because they’re invisible.

For me, there’s no worse sporting fate than having to defend a team from New England; a team that has owned my Dolphins for the past fifteen years. But I know what’s going on here, and I know it has absolutely nothing to do with football and everything to do with a league office that desperately wants to look tough. The draft picks and money are window dressing; all show and no real effect on a team with plenty of front office smarts and more money than the Kennedys. And let me ask you something. How is giving Tom Brady a month long vacation considered punishment?

“Tom, you’re gonna have to spend the first month of the season at home with Giselle . .” 

“Bonus! Oh . . I mean, aww shit!” 

The penalties handed down ain’t gonna prevent the inevitable smack down the Patriots are gonna give to the division (again). They won’t prevent Brady from going all Luca Brasi on the Colts when the teams meet in Week 6. If anything, the penalties just gave the Patriots an inspirational theme with which to attack the season.

Thanks NFL!

Cayman Thorn’s Top 5 Deflate-Gate Penalties:

5- Make Tom Brady throw with his left hand all season.
4- New England has to go back to the Pat Patriot uniforms. It’s not so much a penalty as it is a gift to the fans, cause those threads were classic.
3- Bill Bellichick has to wear a suit if he wants to enter the stadium.
2- The team’s pre-game meals to be catered by Denny’s.
1- Don’t give Tom Brady a month long vacation with Gisele in the first place.

Seriously though, the four game suspension really pisses me off. And oh here’s why . . .

Tom Brady- 4 games for being ‘generally aware’ of deflated footballs.
Ray Rice- 2 games for knocking out his fiancee.

This is why I hope the Patriots fight this. Hard. They’ll have to pay the money and they’ll probably have to fork over the draft picks, but there’s no way in hell Tom Brady is gonna lose four games if they challenge it. There’s no way he should. I’m generally aware that he cheated. That doesn’t mean the league is allowed to play catch up for all the shit it hasn’t done in the name of preserving its ‘integrity’.

How can they judge a person’s balls when they don’t have any?

 

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