Gronk, Can We Talk About Last Night?

Stop the press. Rob Gronkowski was partying after the Super Bowl.

Our overly media-saturated world was turned upside down this week with reports of a 22-year-old, porn star befriending, touchdown celebrating, “yo soy fiesta”-ing, superathlete took off his shirt and fist pumped with a bunch of bros after losing the Super Bowl.

And we’re shocked?

Gronk took his shirt off? You don't say!

The guy has built a national fan base for sounding like a Neanderthal on camera, possessing Neanderthal strength on the football field, and dancing like a drunken Neanderthal in clubs. And suddenly we’re going to crucify him for keeping strong and carrying on?

If anything, the outrage over “DanceGate,” just speaks to the disconnect with fans and professional athletes. Our buzz wore off as we departed Super Bowl parties and headed home miserable. We’re sick to our stomachs for the next 24 hours, barely able to keep down saltines after a crushing Super Bowl loss, and he has the audacity to party after actually playing in the losing effort?

It doesn’t seem right, but it’s not a new occurrence. None of this is exactly new.

Athletes have always blown off steam after successes and failures on the playing field, except now we have fans with camera phones who want to see their footage on TMZ and Deadspin. If you don’t think players in the 1970s resorted to a huge mound of blow after blowing a huge lead on the mound, you’re naïve. Hell, the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s shared a mansion for throwing insane parties and cheating on their wives after games and practices.

Oil Can Boyd was wasted for more than half of his starts. Ever heard of Dock Ellis? The parties these guys threw during the game, blew Gronk’s brofest out of the water.

We’re just bitter because we couldn’t drag ourselves anyplace other than bed Sunday night, and Gronk dragged himself to the players’ party and started ripping shots. We had the difference between us and the pro athletes we idolize thrown in our faces the day after the Super Bowl and we couldn’t stomach it. Imagine if he had partied the week before the game? (GASP!)

Other members of the team had been at the party too, by the way. In fact, many members of the team were there. They had a bad day at work and needed a drink. Gronk just drank too much.

If you’ve never needed a drink after a crappy day at work, then you aren’t human. And if you’ve never started dancing erratically after throwing a few too many back, then you aren’t drinking with the right people.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted (Football) Fantasy

Arian Foster shared his distaste for fantasy fanatics

“It may just sound all whack and corny, yes it’s awful, blasted, boring. Twisted fiction, sick addiction. Well gather ’round children, zip it, listen. ”

– Dark Fantasy by Kanye West

Fantasy football is an addiction. An awful, twisted, sick addiction. And is often a lot less of a fantasy than we all hoped for.

Let me get this out of the way, I don’t like fantasy football. I’m a lightweight. A couple roster moves and I start feeling a head buzz. I take a couple hits to look cool, but I’m really not inhaling.

To me, fantasy football sounds beautiful, but always ends up on the dark and twisted side. I appreciate the idea of learning more about the athletes and playing a faux NFL season where each “GM” controls his/her team. It gets us more involved and raises the general football IQ of the country.

But at some point fantasy football stopped being a fun, gentle game, and went the way of a dark, dingy, kinky dungeon. Probably around the time I watched three quarters of an NFC West showdown because my kicker was playing.

Everyone knows how fantasy has changed the way we watch a game. We don’t root as whole-heartedly against rivals because there is a good chance their star player is on our fantasy team. The fact that the Jets’ Shonne Green is my fantasy running back makes me sick to my stomach.

But my biggest bugaboo with the fantasy world is the way we talk football these days. Instead of discussing the finer points of our hatred of Peyton Manning, I now find myself talking with fellow Pats’ fans about his trade value. We both still hate him. But not in the “I hope Albert Haynesworth breaks his neck” kind of way anymore, but more of the “I can’t believe I traded him for Ray Rice!” kind of way. There’s something inherently wrong about that. We don’t talk about our favorite team’s weekly match-up at the bar, we talk about our fantasy match-ups.

Will 2 touchdowns be enough for your fantasy team this week?

I’m willing to bet you my fantasy QB (Michael Vick) that instead of watching the entire Ravens – Steelers game this Sunday (which is probably the best game of the weekend) someone asks to check the Cleveland – Cincinnati game because “I need Peyton Hillis to score two touchdowns!” And watching any amount of the Cleveland – Cincinnati game does not constitute a fantasy, no matter how sadistic your tastes are.

Each week at work we’re cruelly subjected to the fantasy musings of the office genius who can’t figure out who to start at the flex position. “Mike Williams against the Chargers or Kenny Britt against the Jaguars?!” Seriously dude? I have my own terrible fantasy roster to watch, and I don’t care how hard your brother-in-law dropped your baby nephew when Graham Gano missed that chip-shot field goal. Other people’s fantasy teams are awful to hear about. But we keep hearing about them. Every. Week.

One final note. The NFL Redzone station is a product of fantasy football. And flipping between games just to see which WR gets credit for the TD is, well, twisted.

I long for the wholesome days of yesteryear, when a Drew Bledsoe to Ben Coates touchdown connection meant six points for the Patriots, not six points for (insert terrible pun) fantasy team. But that innocence is gone. That fantasy habit started harmlessly enough, one toke at a party. You said you’d just play one season, but now it’s full-fledged addiction.

After just one game in 2011, my football season has been anything but fantasy. And if your fantasy involves fantasy football, we might run in different circles.

*Bonus points if you understood the Kanye reference in the title.

The Worst Sportscaster in Baseball: Not Who You Might Think

I never thought I would say this, but Tim McCarver is not the worst announcer in baseball.

I know, shocking. Tim McCarver is miserable. He butchers names, goes off on wild tangents and honestly, I don’t think he knows much about the game of baseball (sadly, I’m only half kidding). If you placed him in a lineup of senile septuagenarians and had them recall a play from the 1960’s, nine out of 10 times you wouldn’t be able to pick him out.

But as bad as McCarver is, he has been replaced as the worst sportscaster currently calling MLB games.

Bobby Valentine has quickly etched his name atop the list of terrible baseball announcers. Of course, this is the same man who wore a fake moustache and sunglasses as a disguise in the dugout after being ejected from a game – so we really shouldn’t be that surprised.

Maybe my players will absolve me of all decision making if I wear this moustache

Several weeks ago, Valentine mentioned that he would routinely ask his players, who had just been hit by a pitch, if they’d like retaliation against opposing hitters. Instead of making the decision himself, he’d ask recently plunked hitters for advice. Because why should the manager make the decision, right? After getting hit with a 95 mile-an-hour fastball, the player is probably thinking most rationally.

This week he defended Carlos Zambrano (which is in itself insane), after Big Z went off on his teammates for blowing a lead. Valentine said Zambrano was speaking the truth; his teammates weren’t performing. Well let’s think back to your managing days Bobby. You think you’d want your players calling each other out in the media, rather than holding a closed-door meeting? You don’t think that would cause any headaches for the man who’s only job is to manage his players?

Fortunately for us, the season is only two months old. We still have five months or quips and musings from the once immortal manager of the New York Mets and the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League.

I think adding former players and managers to sports booth is a brilliant idea. Dennis Eckersley, Aaron Boone, Orel Hershiser (who coincidentally broadcasts with Valentine, and routinely saves his ass) and Nomar Garciaparra all do a fantastic job of comparing experiences with the situation at hand. Valentine tries to do the same, and you quickly realize why he no longer manages.

He may not have as many career flubs as the infamous McCarver, but Valentine certainly has left me scratching my head quite a bit this season. As long as the two are never paired together I think we’ll be okay. Not even Orel Hershiser would be able to save that mess.

Did he really just say that? -Hershiser

Baseball’s Leisurely Pace? Get Used to It

You know that annoying friend you have who always complains that baseball is too boring, too slow and too outdated? Well if that friend is as annoying as some baseball pundits, then he or she has probably mentioned the idea of a “pitching clock.”

Apparently some people think it’s a great idea to set a time limit in between pitches. If the pitcher takes longer than, say 15 seconds, charge the pitcher with a ball. That speeds up the game and leaves us without those 4+ hour marathons.

When your annoying friend says, “sounds great in theory right?” just respond, “no, you’re annoying me,” and refer them to this list of why a pitching clock won’t work.

Brian Wilson should take as much time on the mound as he wants

1) Why stop at a pitching clock?

Hey if you’re going to add a pitching clock, you can’t just stop there. Let’s throw in a batter warm-up/step-out clock. An umpire brushing-off-the-plate clock. Hey we can even time the relief pitchers running in from the bullpen! Not on the mound in seven seconds? That’s a walk, buddy!

Pitchers aren’t the only ones delaying the games.

2) Rushed pitchers = longer innings

You know what takes longer than Daisuke Matzusake taking 25 seconds between each pitch? Daisuke taking 15 seconds between pitches, giving up 3 hits, walking two batters and having the manager visit the mound. Rushing the pitchers will only lead to hits, runs and more at bats. Give the Red Sox and Yankees a chance to bat around the lineup a few more times, that’ll speed up the game.

3) Less time between innings

Do outfielders need to lazily throw the ball back and forth for six minutes between innings? Does the relief pitcher need all 12 of those half-hearted warm-up tosses?

Manny didn't always just warm up in the outfield

4) Start the games earlier

Most people complain about game length, as it’s becoming common for playoff and World Series games to carry on past midnight. Here’s a bright idea: start the games earlier. Sure you might miss out on a few viewers if you’re not scheduling games during the primetime slot, but considering MLB’s ratings are less than stellar anyway, it shouldn’t offend too many viewers. Maybe if the games are played earlier, younger fans will get a chance to watch.

Baseball’s pace is a major part of the game, and is important for a lot of fans. There’s something fun about going to the ballpark and knowing this game could last well into extra innings. I understand updating a sport (ear flaps on batting helmets and padded outfield walls are perfect examples), but don’t change its rules entirely.

Taking the slow pace out of baseball would be like taking the hitting out of football, the fighting out of hockey, or the trash-talking out of basketball. Not everyone may like it, but it’s a part of the game.

And seriously, who cares what that annoying friend thinks? Ask him about the NFL’s CBA that he can’t hear enough about. I heard it’s going really well.

Because The CBA Won’t Go Away

If you’re like me, you’re probably very sick of hearing about the NFL labor dispute. I’m trying to get my spring training/baseball season buzz going and the news from the NFL keeps dipping its dirty fingers in my beer. I want the news to go away – settle, don’t settle, I don’t care. Let me enjoy my beer while it’s still cold.

But, you’ve probably also noticed that avoiding a new CBA news story is harder than escaping a Charlie Sheen reference right now (see how I worked that in there?).

The CBA: no one is "winning"

With that being said I guess it’s time to saddle up, get ready for months of non-stories, and root for the NFL players over the owners – from a distance. If it seems unAmerican to cheer for Tom Brady or Peyton Manning to get more money, then how can one possibly root for Jerry Jones? Siding with the owners is impossible.

Lebron ditches Cleveland for a more attractive city. The owner finds a more attractive city and brings the entire franchise with them.

Players “make it rain” in the clubs and spend their money frivolously all the time. Owners take money from tax payers, build extravagant stadiums and charge more for parking than most tax payers can afford.

Can you really want to see this guy win?

Players charge fans $0.99 to download their new iPhone app. Owners charge fans thousands of dollars for “Personal Seat Licenses,” which give fans the right to purchase season tickets – for thousands more.

Rooting for the owners is like rooting for the uber-rich Yankees. So I guess rooting for the players is like rooting for the almost-as-rich Red Sox. See, it really is easy to root for the players. (Only four more weeks until Opening Day!)

Paying Albert Pujols

The greatest-of-all-time? It's likely

I should preface this writing by telling you that I have little knowledge of the economy. I don’t invest in a 401K and I’ve never purchased or sold a stock. Generally speaking, I have a pretty tenuous grasp on common financial concepts.

That being said, I know for a fact that the St. Louis Cardinals should pay Albert Pujols whatever ridiculous amount of money he wants. Recent reports have suggested that this machine-of-a-human could be looking for as much as a 10-year, $300 million contract.

Absurd? Yes. Worth it? You can bet your finance degree it is.

Let’s say the Cardinals were to give Pujols the $300 million over 10 years. That means that over a 20-year career he would have averaged roughly $19.5 million a season. Crazy numbers. But the crazier numbers are his statistics.

In a 162 game season, Pujols is averaging .331, 42 home runs, 128 RBIs and an OPS of 1.050. If Pujols were to continue those numbers for the next four years (putting him at age 35, when most sluggers start to see a decline) he would be sitting on 576 home runs. 576 home runs. By age 35. Read that again.

Just to put that in perspective, Barry Bonds averaged 41 home runs, 108 RBIs, OPS of 1.051 while hitting .298. Oh and Barry Bonds cheated has been the topic of undying steroid rumors for years.

Even if Pujols hits some sort of wall at age 35 and only hits 30 home runs (only?) a season for the remainder of his contract, he’ll still be in all-time home run territory. And what’s to even say he will start to decline? He hasn’t shown any signs of decline yet, and he’s put up numbers unlike anyone before him. I could keep spoon feeding you stats, but your head might explode.

Getting back to the Barry Bonds thing, this is when the Cardinals organization will really see the benefits of signing their man. Major League Baseball (specifically Bud Selig) is dying to move past the steroid era. But that’s kind of tricky when the most important statistic in a statistically-revolved sport is held by a known suspected steroid user.

Think of the marketing campaign the MLB pushes once Pujols gets to number 600. Remember when McGwire and Sosa were battling for the single season record? It will be that times 100. A phenomenal talent, never suspected of steroid use, who is a genuinely nice guy and plays for a storied franchise? Pujols is MLB’s dream spokesman.

The Cardinals have an estimated value of $500 million. Without Pujols...?

His face will be everywhere (isn’t it already?). The entire country will be rooting for him to crush the record. Pujols is the white knight in a sea of huge-foreheaded, veiny bicepted, small-cajone having steroid users who have hijacked baseball’s records and the innocence of baseball fans.

Think Pujols merchandise, ticket sales, promotions, national media attention. The entire sporting world will fix its eyes on The Cardinals’ prize possession. I’m getting sick of the story already and he’s still years away from the record.

Needless to say, Pujols-mania will be an unstoppable force, and the Cardinals better not miss out on it. Or the GOAT may enter the Hall wearing a different baseball cap someday.

Putting the Pro Bowl out of its Misery

No defense, average players... the 2011 Pro Bowl!

When it comes to the Pro Bowl, it’s time the NFL went the way of “Old Yeller,” and put the damn thing out of its misery.

NFL executives have tried to revive the dying spectacle by moving it ahead of the Super Bowl, changing it’s location to Miami and moving it back to Hawaii (maybe next year’s can be played at the Jersey Shore?). Nothing has worked, and it’s painfully clear to everyone outside of the NFL that nothing will work.

Sorry Pro Bowl, your time is done. Follow Roger Goodell behind the barn. Trust us, it’s for your own good.

My first gripe with the game is the number of players invited. Due to injured players withdrawing, a total of 95 players were invited. Consider that each team has just 27 starters (11 offense, 11 defense, 5 special teams) that could potentially make the game. That means 11% of the league’s starters got the nod this year. Factor in how many starters miss a good chunk of time each season due to injury/holdout/suspension/having-Mike-Shanahan-as-a-head-coach, and the number of players to choose from is much lower.

Secondly, because the Pro Bowl is now a week before the Super Bowl, neither the Packers nor the Steelers will send any players. The two best teams in the league are not represented in a game that highlights the best in the league. But hey, the Titans are sending four players, so that makes me want to watch.

I met Jake Plummer in Hawaii after the Pro Bowl one year. He was shocked he made the Pro Bowl too.

It’s also not very encouraging that many players simply decline attending. If you’re going to turn down a free vacation in Honolulu with your pals, there has to be an excellent excuse. And having to play in the Pro Bowl might be that excuse.

Finally, (and this is my argument with all All-Star games) the fans get to vote. Have you ever talked sports with a random guy at the bar? Well that’s the guy who votes 25 times, because naturally Brandon Meriweather deserves a spot.

At one point I may have flipped on the Pro Bowl to help soothe my post Super Bowl hangover, but I can’t even do that this year. Well maybe I’ll flip it on to watch Tom Brady one more time this season.

Oh wait, he isn’t going either? Looks like more Jersey Shore reruns then.