Sunday, January 31, 2010

Writing of Doom

The Octagon of Doom.

It's a nickname for Kansas State University's Bramlage Coliseum that has suddenly gone mainstream. Much like the notion that Vin Diesel has discernable talent, no one is sure exactly where the nickname originated, but signs point to a K-State sports message board. Since Bramlage has taken a new national identity, it seems like now is a good time to examine the name and determine whether it is a good fit for the arena.

First, there's "Octagon." For those who don't appreciate geometry, an octagon is a polygon with eight sides. Bramlage is a coliseum with eight sides. Using fancy algebraic equations*, we know that 8=8. Therefore, we can deduce that the term "Octagon" is an appropriate one in this instance.

*I haven't taken a math class since high school. This is about as fancy as my equations get.

Next up, "of doom." In this case, the preposition "of" means "having" so for this phrasing to be accurate, we need to determine whether or not Bramlage has doom. The best way to figure this out is to compare Bramlage to something that we already know has doom; something like the temple from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Think about that temple. In it, a person some people fear and other despise tears out the hearts of innocents with a bare hand. Sounds a little bit like what Sherron Collins did the other night, no?

Prior to arriving at the temple, Indiana Jones and friends take part in a banquet that features extravagant dishes like monkey brain stew. Odds are that PETA's annual meeting wouldn't feature a catered meal with that dish. PETA also doesn't approve of the idea of live chickens being thrown onto the Bramlage Coliseum court.

In the Temple of Doom, Indy, his lady friend, and Short Round take a ride in a mine cart on a track that features more ups and downs than most rollercoasters. What do you know, this sounds like a bit of Saturday night's game, too. Standing in Bramlage, I was pretty convinced K-State had lost the game a few times. Then I was convinced they had won a few other times. Then I was pretty convinced Dominique Sutton should have been shooting a couple free throws to break a tie at the end of regulation. Then, after Collins hit his shot and was fouled (according to the refs) near the end of overtime, I was pretty convinced that I should push myself down the Bramlage steps... Sounds like a roller coaster to me. 

Outside the Temple of Doom, folks think they're safe, but then a bridge collapses and those who previously felt comfort in the fact that they were supported by a bridge were eaten by vicious crocodiles. Outside Bramlage, folks who leave the arena get to the comfort of their cars in the parking lot, only to soon discover that the parking lot empties so slowly that they may not see an actual road for another 40 minutes. By that time, one might be wishing they'd been eaten by starving, razor-toothed reptiles.

Heart removal, animals, roller coasters and situations that make a person wish for an end to suffering... It seems that "of doom" is an accurate description for The Octagon.

Octagon, check.

Of Doom, check.

Yup, the name fits.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What They're Saying - Basketball Announcer Edition

I enjoy watching basketball. Those close to me realize that statement is akin to saying "as a child, my head was too large for my body and I'm still working on growing into it," or "I have the balance of a one-legged yak." In other words, it states the blatantly obvious. Unfortunately, there's one thing that can foul up a televised basketball game pretty quickly. No, I'm not talking about an appearance by Drew Gooden (though that doesn't help). No, I'm referring to shoddy game commentary. Though one might think it would be difficult to clib the media ranks to the point that your calling a nationally televised game, a number of announcers seem to do their best to make it seem like all you need for the profession is the ability to put together complete sentences now and then.*

*Unfortunately, this requirement eliminates me from applicants for this job pool. I'm fairly confident that if I were tasked with speaking on live television, my "commentary" would consist of continually repeating the word "ball" and maybe occasionally saying "OOOOOOOHHHHHH" in surprised manner.

With that in mind, it's time to introduce the inaugural installment of What They're Saying - a look at the drivel passed off as worthwhile commentary.

"I've never heard an arena this loud."
The sports announcing equivalent to "You're the prettiest girl I've ever seen." Rarely is it an hoest assessment and certain folks use it all the time.

"I've always thought that what you want to do on your opening possession is give yourself a good chance to score."

Insightful. I've always thought that scoring helps a team win basketball games. Where's my check?

"X takes it to the hoop."
"X goes to the basket."

X is short for Xavier- a player's first name in this instance. Please, Mr. Musburger, I find it difficult to believe you're in Xavier's five. With that in mind, it might be time to ditch the nicknames.

... This series will be continued in the future. Alas, while I do enjoy watching basketball, there is one thing that can foul up the broadcast even worse than shoddy announcing. It involves a certain team to the east grabbing a big lead. I can't watch this.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Facts of Life - Taking the Good and the Bad of the Royals' Offseason

Each November, I approach the baseball off-season with cautious optimism. After all, this could be the year that the Royals decide to make a move or two that could really help push the team in the right direction. By the time January rolls around, I'm usually trying to convince myself that Kansas City's signing of a washed-up player will be just what the team needs. (Reggie Sanders? We can't lose!) The Royals' 2009-2010 off-season has certainly not been short on activity thus far, but has the activity been worthwhile? Only time will tell. Sure, I could detail my own personal verdict on each move, but such opens the door for me to really look like an idiot in the future, and that's already guaranteed to happen for a variety of other reason. Nevertheless, I can't ignore the transactions entirely. What follows is a quick rundown of both the good and the bad relating to each move. Judge for yourself...

Royals trade 3B/OF/1B/2B/Radio Personality/Security Guard/Hot Dog Vendor Mark Teahen to the Chicago White Sox for 2B Chris Getz and 3B/OF Josh Fields.
The good - Getz is a better defensive 2B than the incumbent Alberto Callaspo. Fields hit 23 home runs in 2007. Teahen has never developed into a consistent offensive force.
The bad - As you can see in the details of the deal, KC loses a player with a load of versatility. In Teahen, they also lose one of the team's most likable players. (And if you're going to lose, you at least want your players to be likable.... Sorry, Jose Guillen.) In return, the Royals got a 2b and a 3B, filling holes at... well, nowhere. The team already had Callaspo at 2B and ever-ready-to-breakout Alex Gordon at 3B. Trading for a SS, C, CF or pitcher might have made more sense.

Royals sign C Jason Kendall
The good - Kendall is a three-time All Star who has caught in the postseason four times. He fills a hole behind the plate.
The bad - He's 35. His last All Star season was 10 years ago, when folks were trying to sell off the rations they'd previously collected for Y2K. The Royals fought logic and signed him for two years when they could have kept a younger catcher for a cheaper salary. He once did (warning: sickening photo ahead) this to his ankle.

Royals sign OF Brian Anderson
The good - They signed the outfield version of Brian Anderson rather than the pitcher version, who allowed 23 earned runs in just 30 innings pitched in his last season with the Royals.
The bad - Anderson is a 27-year-old that can play CF, but has never really proven himself at the Major League level... Sounds an awful lot like Mitch Maier, who the Royals already have on their roster. This is kind of like buying a season of LOST on DVD when you already have recorded all of the episodes on your DVD recorder.*

*Sorry, I have LOST on my mind. Just over a week until the new season starts...  (This footnote brought to you by ABC.)

Royals sign P Noel Arguelles
The good - A Cuban defector, Arguelles was one of the top pitchers on the Cuban national team.
The bad - Believe it or not, my knowledge of the Cuban national team is limited. His arm could be attached with three twist ties and I would not know any different.

Royals sign OF Scott Podsednik
The good - Posednik once stole 70 bases in a season. He was an All Star in 2005. That same season, he hit two triples and a home run to help the White Sox top the Houston Astros in the World Series.
The bad - He'll be 34 when the season starts, meaning much of the speed he once had could have vanished like Brett Favre's chance at another Super Bowl*. He's not particularly strong when it comes to getting on base and certainly not when it comes to hitting with power. Also, much like David Dejesus, he's a better fit for left field than center.

*Sorry. I know this is a baseball Writing, but it's tough to contain the glee that comes with knowing that something aside from Brett Favre coverage will be on television over the next two weeks.

Royals sign OF Rick Ankiel
The good - This. As you can see, Ankiel, a former pitching phenom, is able to make good use of his arm in the outfield. He hit 25 home runs in 2008; good news for a club that ditched two of it's top power hitters from a year ago.
The bad - He hit just 11 home runs last season and batted .231. He walks about as frequently as a 799-lbs. man. His range in the outfield leaves much to be desired and the Royals' roster already features so many outfielders that one wonders if they're going to field an infield at all.

With Spring Training still over a month away, it's possible the Royals could still make another move. Will it be worthwhile? Only time will tell. (Though sarcastic opinions help pass the time.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hooked 'em

Though a former president (or at least his SNL portrayl) warned against it many times, on Monday night the K-State Wildcats messed with Texas. With a national audience and an arena packed so full that students were standing in the aisles, the Wildcats out-hustled, out-fought, and generally out-played the Texas Longhorns - the No. 1 team in the nation. Not bad for a team that finished 6-10 in conference play just four years ago.

Though they are ranked in top 10 by both nationally respected polls*, The Writings have yet to really delve into what makes the 09-10 Wildcats a team to talk about. You can probably chalk to that up to two-parts laziness, one-part fear of causing some sort of jinx. No, I'm not really superstitious and I haven't read Pedro Cerrano's Guide to Voodoo, but sometimes a person is just overly cautious. (I often push over ladders just to avoid the possibility of accidentally climbing and then falling off of them.) Nonetheless, some combination of my journalistic instincts (of which their are few) and my sheer excitement about what this team could potentially accomplish (of which there is much) has made this a topic The Writings can no longer ignore. If you're prepared to attempt to follow a rambling diatribe hitting on all things Wildcats, keep reading. If not, keep reading anyway. Maybe you'll learn something. (The Writings: We're here to teach.)

*That's the AP and the ESPN/Coaches' poll. Estimated date of the Derek Larson poll also being nationally respected: Nov. 4, 2342.

An aside, as I watch the replay of the game as I type: nice work by the ESPN camera crew on zooming in on a college student wearing a cross on his neck while the crowd serenaded the referees with a chant that rhymes with gullspit... Yes, he was an integral part of the chant.

If anything was made evident by last night's victory, it was that this team's true identity lies in sweating the small stuff. When the team is grabbing offensive rebounds, beating the opposing squad down the floor and making hustle plays is when it's at its best. Before last night, the argument could have been made that the Wildcats would stand no chance in games where guards Jake Pullen and Denis Clemente (the team's top two scorers) were not hitting shots. The fact that the Pullmente duo combined to shoot 4-for-24 on Monday night should help obliterate such theories.

Bob Knight - who was an excellent coach, by the way... seriously, a legendary coach... I hold great respect for his coaching ability - referred to K-State center Luis Colon (pronounced like "cologne" - a pleasing thought) as Colon (pronounced like the part of the body - a not-so-pleasing thought).

Unlike teams from the past few years, this Kansas State squad is assembled in such a fashion that it can recover when its top scorers are rendered ineffective. Two years ago, in Frank Martin's inaugural campaign, if a team was able to negate Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, the scoring load fell to a freshman Pullen (who was not yet ready to be a go-to guy) and senior Clent Stewart (who averaged just under 7 points per game). Last year, Pullen and Clemente led the Wildcats in scoring, but beyond that pair, K-State depended on Darren Kent (whose best sport was golf) and Jamar Samuels (who a year ago was so skinny he was nearly invisible from a profile view).

This year, even when Pullen and Clemente are putting up enough bricks to build a new practice facility, the Wildcats have options. There's the sophomore version of Jamar Samuels, who tracks down offensive rebounds as if he's using GPS and is able to somehow complete shots after absorbing crushing contact from players like Dexter Pittman - a man so large he seems destined to one day battle The Undertaker at Wrestlemania. There's Curtis Kelly, who may not be well versed in consistency, but who is one of the top low-post scorers in the Big 12 when he's on his game. There's Rodney McGruder, a freshman whose playing time has varied, but who has made the most of the opportunities he's been given and has shown versatility in doing so. Against Texas, McGruder scored 11 off the bench with most coming around the rim. Earlier this season, McGruder showed off his long-range game, connecting on four 3-pointers and scoring 20 points in just 22 minutes.

Reason #3,271 why sideline reporters are not necessary in basketball: by the end of the game, in-depth reports concern electrolyte jellybeans.

It's a shame that the ESPN announce crew couldn't do enough homework to realize that Big 12 North teams only play those in the South once during the regular season... and one of them even coached in the conference.

While the 2009-2010 season has shaped up to be far more than anyone (other than those that sit on the Wildcat bench each game) might have hoped so far, it is true that not everything is perfect surrounding this team. Depth in the post is questionable. The offense lacks movement. The team is prone to fouling. (A lot.) The freshmen are raw. All told, there's plenty of improvements this squad can still make. There are plenty of reasons to think that things could go awry.

Guess what... I don't care.

I once convinced myself to be optimistic about a K-State team whose top player was named Phineas and ended up winning a whopping 11 games. Annually, I talk myself into thinking the Kansas City Royals have a chance to compete in their division, only to wonder what in the world I was thinking by the time the calendar reads June. (Still working on that for 2010... Give me time.) My favorite NFL team has won a combined 10 games over the last three seasons. Based on my rooting history, you could almost argue that I'm a foul-weather fan. You will have to excuse me if I take a little pride when one of "my teams*" actually ascends to national prominence. Each Monday I'm going to wait impatiently for new polls to be released like a kid waiting to open Christmas gifts. After each victory, I'm going to watch Sportscenter solely to see K-State highlights. After each loss, I'm going to feel like someone just kneed me in the kidney. I'll continue to wear more purple than most people own think about K-State basketball far more than any person should.

I've always liked purple Kool-Aid.

*To the extent of my knowledge, I hold no actual legal ownership over any of the aforementioned teams. Despite the fact that a lot of my money has gone to the university throughout the years, administrators assure me that this is still the case.

Who's No. 1?

You can bet that The Writings cannot ignore K-State's huge win Monday night. Look for a writeup tonight.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Quality Customer Service

Typically, when one calls a publicly advertised number for a hotel, they expect to get the front desk. Today, I got a woman's cell phone.

Typically, when a hotel employee takes your call, they are near a computer so that they can easily look up reservation information. Today, the employee was on the second floor; far from her front desk computer.

Typically, in such cases, the employee might take down your phone number and volunteer to call you back once she has returned to her computer and is ready to handle data entry. Today, the woman said "wait a minute" and began walking.

Typically, someone in my position would be able to get on with other tasks while the hotel employee returned to her work area, knowing that a return call would be coming soon. Today, I overheard the clip-clap of every step she took as she walked down the hall, down some stairs, and to her workspace.

Sure, the end result was the same: the rooms I needed to book were booked. Nevertheless, I can't help feeling discouraged that I'll never get back those three minutes I spent listening to a woman's footsteps. Maybe technology isn't so great.*

*The irony of saying technology isn't great - despite the fact that: 1. I'm typing this on a computer that fits on my lap and 2. with the click of a button I'll "post" it to a "website" that can be immediately read by anyone in the world - is fully realized and appreciated.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Rantings - Quick edition

Have you seen the Degree deodorant commercial where the guy jumps out of the plane with a shopping cart, soars down through the clouds, sticks a perfect 10 landing on a freeway and then, riding the cart like a grocery shopper on meds, zips between two semis? Have studies shown that this type of advertising works for deodorant? Honestly, I don't care if my sport stick makes me feel like a suicidal shopper. I'd just like to make sure it doesn't smell like moldy burritos.


The Black Eyed Peas' song "I Gotta Feeling" seems to be everywhere right now. It's on commercials. It's played on football game broadcasts. It's played on basketball game broadcasts. It's taught to school children instead of the Pledge of Allegiance.* The song is everywhere, yet it's not even a good song. Sure it's easy to learn. (Repeat the phrase "tonight's gonna be a good night" approximatly 437 times and you pretty much have it nailed down.) Sure it has the creepy computer-modified singing that is so popular these days. (If I wanted to hear robots sing, I'd take Mickey Mouse hostage and have my only demand be that I get to ride the "It's a Small World After All" ride until I fall over dead from the overbridled joy that can only be induced by animatronic children of the world uniting in song.) And sure, it debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. (a list that I'm fairly certain is determined by deaf bush babies that are sleep-deprived.) But the fact remains that any song that states something like "tonight's gonna be a good night" is guaranteed to be played during some of the worst moments of people lives in very ironic fashion. (See: It's a Great Day to be Alive.")

*I may have made one of those facts up. Try to guess which one.


There's plenty more to rant on, but I'm typing this while as tired as a sleep-deprived bush baby. The Rantings will return.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The People's Post

As snow blows with the force of a behind-schedule UPS truck outside my window, "celebrities" appear on my television reading corny jokes from teleprompters and shouting "what's up" in effort to draw crowd reaction. This can only mean one of two things: either I'll soon see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse galloping through my parking lot or it's time for the People's Choice Awards.

Millions of people all over the nation vote to determine the winners of these awards. How do my opinions stack up with those of the nation at large (or at least those that actually care about the People's Choice Awards)? How out of touch am I when it comes to what's hip*? There's only one way to find out. It's time, once again, to pay entirely too much attention to pointless television and comment about it in a location that few will ever read it. Sounds productive to me.

*Case in point: who still uses the word "hip"?

Favorite Comedy Movie
The People's Choice Award nominees for Favorite Comedy Movie are He's Just Not that Into You, Bride Wars, 17 Again, The Proposal, and The Hangover. I consider myself a huge fan of comedy motion pictures, yet I have seen just one of these movies. Why? Because I'm not a 13-year-old girl. If our society has any chance of surviving much longer, The Hangover must win.

Winner: The Proposal
Folks, this is not a good start. Granted, I may have spent most of 2009 dateless (cue sympathy from reader... followed by pity) and therefore avoiding date movies completely, but even if I had company, I would have a hard time placing that movie in my DVD player without first ramming a toothpick into my retina. Something tells me that might end the evening early.

Either my DVR just had a glitch or the CBS profanity censor just bleeped out the second syllable of Cate Blanchett's last name prior to a preview of the new Robin Hood film. Holy chett!

Favorite R&B Artist
I have no opinion whatsoever in this category. I only mention it because the folks in charge of this whole program decided that the country group Rascal Flatts should present the award. This makes about as much sense as having me present an award for tightrope walking.

Winner: An awkward speech by Mariah Carey.

Favorite TV Comedy Actor
Nominees: Alec Baldwin, Skinny nerd from Big Bang Theory, Emilio Estevez's brother, Steve Carell, Doogie Howser
Time to redeem yourself, people. Pick Steve Carell as The Office's Michael Scott.

Winner: Score one for Derek, as Mr. Carell wins it.

Jeff Probst comes out to announce that the next season of Survivor will be heroes versus villains. For a moment I get a little excited to see people like Hulk Hogan, The Joker, Michael Corleone and Benjamin Linus battling to be the one true survivor. Then I watched the preview. Titles are misleading.

Favorite TV Comedy
Nominees: The Big Bang Theory, The Office, Desperate Housewives, Two and a Half Men, How I Met Your Mother
Apparently the nominating committee was comprised of my sister and my sister alone, as three of her favorite shows are listed. I make it a point to watch exactly one of them. If The Office doesn't win, it's a crime against humanity.

Winner: The Big Bang Theory
I've discovered that when it comes to the word "comedy" I apparently interpret a much different definition than most people. You see, I expect to laugh at a comedy... Crazy idea, I know.

Christian Slater appears, but it's not to announce a sequel to the cinematic masterpiece that was The Wizard. I've lost interest.

Favorite Drama Actor
Nominees: Well, they have this one wrong from the start. Matthew Fox is the nominee from Lost, even though he's not the best actor on the show. Michael Emerson or Terry O'Quinn should have been the pick, and either would win. Lost is the best show on TV, after all*. Nonetheless, of the options given, if Matthew Fox doesn't win, Kiefer Sutherland should.

*This is not a debatable point.

Winner: Hugh Laurie's British accent that he doesn't use when acting.
This travesty falls on the nominating committee.

For a category I'm not mentioning as I have no vested interest, Sandra Bullock just won an award. She's been on stage twice tonight. If there was ever a time to greenlight Speed 3: The Rickshaw Rolleth, this is it.

Favorite Action Star
Gerard Butler, Vin Diesel, Shia Labeouf, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman
I'm fine with any pick as long Diesel doesn't find his way to the stage in fast or furious fashion.

Winner: Not Diesel.

Wolfboy* from the Twilight film wins Favorite Breakout Movie Actor. He says his People's Choice Award wouldn't have happened without "the people." He also wins the award for Most Obvious Statement. Congratulations!

*Is his character's name really Wolfboy? I have no clue. Will I bother finding out? Nope. He's just living in Teen Wolf's shadow, anyway.

Because DiGiorno is apparently "the people's pizza," slices are now being delivered to folks in the PCA audience. This show is about to earn the award for Loudest Collective Shout of "Oh Sweet Mercy!" After Burning the Roof of One's Mouth on Molten Hot Cheese.

The evening ends with Johnny Depp winning awards for Favorite Actor and Actor of the Decade. Apparently I missed the category for Favorite Blog Containing the Words "Writings" "Derek" and "Larson." Stupid TV.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Catching Up

It's time to play catch-up.

I'm not sure what the official rules of catch-up are, and odds are that I'm not very good at it. Nevertheless, The Writings have been without a fruitful* update since seemingly the Carter administration, so it's time to address a few things.

*What does a "fruitful" update on The Writings involve? Probably some combination of sarcasm, cynicism, absurdity, and self-deprication. Fruit is optional.

Away we go...

- It seems far too many interesting events in my life take place at Burger King. Whether it's simply because I've lived just a block down from the fast food eatery for the past 2.5 years or it's because I'm destined to act as The King in future commercials, I'll never be sure; all I know is that I have left the aforementioned restaurant with more interesting stories than most roaming minstrels. Though the most recent occurrence took place weeks ago, it's still fresh in my mind.

Seeking food morsels to assuage the hunger pangs brought on by a night of K-State basketball, my brother and I headed down to the land of royal burgers. Upon walking in, we took spots in line behind three college kids. While two listened, the third told what seemed to be a never-ending tale about how he planned to walk on to the university's football team. The story sticks in my mind because of the absurdity that came packed with each additional sentence. The kid was probably 5'9 and weighed close to 160 lbs., so he certainly didn't have size in his favor. It's true that many football players have overcome a lack of size on the gridiron, but those players normally do so with uncanny speed. (That, or they're played by Sean Astin in a non-hobbit role.) The wannabe walk-on did brag to his friends about his quick feet, but I did not find his argument to be that convincing. After all, how much clout can be put in claiming to be "probably the fastest guy in my dorm"?

Rudy Jr.'s tales of wishful glory carried on and on. They carried on to the point that I realized something was wrong - and it was just this guy's sense of reality. You see, from the start of Mr. Imagination's tale to the point where his buddies were showing far too much interest in the fictional reality, the BK line never moved. In fact, as time passed like a cooling french fry, no store employee ever even stood near the register. There was a flurry of activity back in the kitchen, with employees piecing together sandwiches and discussing their favorite Whopper ingredients*. Employees were everywhere; everywhere but at the register to take orders and actually make money. After what seemed like a burgerless, delusion-filled eternity, I finally asked the three guys in front of us in line if there had been anyone at the register in the time they had been there. The answer: no. After a thoughtful conversation ("Want to go somewhere else?" "Yes."), my brother and I evacuated the premises and moved on to a place that would actually provide us with some food upon request.


Just another night at the neighborhood BK.

- I saw the nerdically* acclaimed motion picture Avatar. Upon viewing it, I learned three things:

1. Though it may initially sound cheesy to say you're going to a 3D movie, the picture quality is borderline-beautiful. It's really a film that needs to be seen in the theater to full appreciate.

2. My head is too large to be able to comfortably wear the new generation of 3D glasses. The film was good, but watching it without feeling as if my head was in a vice would have made it a bit better.

3. If this documentary is meant to be believed, the Blue Man Group is actually comprised of aliens from the future.

- In lessons learned from a 17-month old:

1. No matter what you're eating, you should always try asking for a cookie. Be sure to hold the second syllable of "cookie" for much longer than necessary, making your request undeniably cute. ("Cook-ieeeeeeeeeee?")

2. If your request for a cookie goes unheeded, you should approach another person and place the same inquiry.

3. If this request is also disregarded, continue asking other individuals for a cookie until you get your wish.

4. When you aren't focused on food, a good hobby is checking to see if your dolls have dirty diapers. Naturally, you do so by holding a doll upside-down by it's ankles and saying "poopy doll."