Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Just (-2) Shopping Days Til Christmas

As Christmas approaches, I'd like to take this opportunity to revisit a Writing concept I've addressed before: horrible gifts available on eBay. Yes, the online home to everything auctions contains some legitimately useful items, some great things you might not find anywhere else, and some... -Wait, what's that? Christmas was two days ago? Gifts have already been opened? Thousands have already consumed enough eggnog to embarrass their families? I haven't composed a Writing since December 5? And I still have not ordered a replacement handle for my oven? Good grief.

It seems that the month of December has snuck by me in a manner typically reserved for underlying messages from the fairer gender (e.g., "You are not funny. Never speak to me again."). I feel like I should blame this on something. I could lay it on the Grinch, but - as I understand it - he's having some sort of medical procedure completed to help resolve some health issues related to exponential enlargement of his heart. I'd go after Father Time, but his son - Hammer - seems a bit aggressive when it comes to contact with his family.

Jokes aside, a recent hospital stay for my mom did seem to accelerate the holiday season. An infection in an arm left on antibiotics for days and added a new event to plug into the Christmas letter. Thankfully, things cleared up and she made it home the day before we celebrated our family Christmas. In her life, she's jumped some incredible hurdles, including a car accident that left her in traction for two months, multiple bouts with cancer, and having to tote around my obese toddler form 27 years ago, so there was confidence that she'd leave this infection in her tracks, as well. But, as with any hospital stay, even the slightest hint of uncertainty can be terrifying. It's good to have her home... It's also good that the folks at the hospital have yet to set up an automatic withdrawal from my parents' bank account every month.

With Mom back at home, the holidays moved forward, all underlined by the unrelenting excitement of a three-year-old mind. From naming the nativity camels (Blueberry, Buzz Lightyear, and Woody, if you're curious) to refusing to watch any movies that did not involve a snow-adorned setting, my sister's daughter approached the holiday season like a kid waiting for Christmas. (Note to self: This is why you need to write more. Your simile-crafting has eroded to a tear-drawingly pathetic point.) Though just three, she became college-roommate-familiar with the phrase "Santa's watching," and left out cookies and milk for Mr. Kringle and food for the reindeer the night before their family celebration. She may still have some things to learn (at one point she told her Dad that he could not sleep outdoors because the reindeer would eat him), but - from patiently waiting for her next turn to open gifts to kindly thanking the gifter of each present - she seems to have a good grasp on the holiday. Alas, I did not receive any Legos from Santa, as she said I would. I suppose there's always next year.

With Santa now in the midst of his annual post-toy-delivery bender (so I assume), the holiday season will soon close with the arrival of the year 2012. I suppose this is notable, since some folks believe it's the last year that our world will exist. Whether the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride down our streets at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1 (which will be tricky, even with separate times zones across the country) or the whole Mayan calendar issue was just a mix-up since the folks making it were too lazy to go further than 2012, only time can tell.

Sorry, time AND Miss Cleo.*

*This Writing brought to you by The Foundation Determined to Make Miss Cleo Relevant Again. Call her now for vague predictions for your future that might seem kind of correct in the distant future!

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Junk Drawer

So much to do, so little time.*

*Please note: For the author's purposes, items in the "much to do" category include watching shows on the MLB Network that would put even casual baseball fans to sleep, watching clips of live footage from Ben Folds concerts on YouTube, tracking down some tree sap that is apparently extra special on Skyrim, wondering why so many bugs die in my basement, and watching the handle fall off of my oven door. Yes, I'm swamped.

With all that's gone on in the world of sports lately, there's certainly plenty to write about. Alas, certain topics certainly deserve due diligence, rather than something hastily tossed together with a few cheap jokes mixed in. (AKA, The Writings' Special.) Thus, we won't touch on K-State football and the team's bowl bid in this Writing, other than to say that the match up with Arkansas has the potential to be the best bowl game of the year.

We won't yet dive into the fact that bowls are, in reality, a bit of a joke anyway, other than to say that the way college football determines a champion has to be something that Russian judges everywhere applaud.

We certainly will not yet dive into the ridiculous nature of the entire BCS, as my computer should not be subjected to keystrokes that pointed and angry on a Monday.

Instead, we'll do a bit to empty out the junk drawer, touching on topics that need some attention, but - due to important time constraints detailed above* - have not garnered any recently from The Writings.

*If there's a hotline for addiction to video games that happen to embellish Scandinavian accents to a near comical extent, please pass the number my way.

- The Chiefs -
If I ever have less confidence in a quarterback than I do in Tyler Palko, I'm going to personally call the head coach and ask him to consider kneeling the ball every single play. Yes, he's that bad. It's a shame, too. As his story is one of those great underdog pieces that local media could beat into the ground until it popped up through an anthill on the other side of the globe. He was undrafted. He's played all over. He was even cut by a team in a league whose acronym half the country would probably mistake for a cable television channel. He had something, though; something coaches saw and appreciated enough to consider him good enough to be a quarterback in a league that contains some of the greatest athletes on the planet... I wish I knew what that something was, as Palko does not seem to have a clue.

While Palko has been busy trying to decipher which team he is supposed to throw the ball to, the Chiefs' defense has been playing strikingly well. Despite the fact that they've been without safety/best-defensive-player-on-the-team Eric Berry since the season opener, the Chiefs held the Pittsburgh Steelers to just 13 points two weeks ago and then allowed just a lonely field goal* to the Chicago Bears on Sunday. With Tamba Hali attacking quarterbacks and Derrick Johnson making plays all over the field, the Chiefs defense has looked like a playoff-caliber unit recently.

*Fact: Lonely field goals often try to mask depression. If you know a lonely field goal, please encourage it to seek help.

Alas, then there's that whole offensive problem. With starter Matt Cassell out for the season, the Chiefs seemingly tried to address the issue at quarterback by recently signing Kyle Orton, who was cut by Denver once Tim Tebow began his quest for global domination. (Heaven help us.) Orton saw his first action as a Chief on Sunday, entering the game in the second quarter and flinging a pass on flea-flicker (hand-off to running back, who pitches back to the QB*). The pass fell incomplete and Orton fell to the ground paying an odd amount of attention to his finger. Turns out he dislocated it on the play and did not return to the game. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 Chiefs!

*Aptly named play? I've never seen a football leave someone itching for days.

Palko returned after Orton's extensive playing time, avoiding handing the football - in a nicely wrapped gift basket - to the Bears, and even had the luck of every Irishman who has ever lived smile upon him when he threw a hail-mary touchdown pass at the end of the first half. The Chiefs scored 10 points to the Bears' three, earning a victory in a game that they probably had no business winning.

What does it mean?

I assume it means we'll see more Palko... Does anyone have Todd Haley's phone number?

- The Royals -
On the player acquisition side of things, I love what the Royals have done so far this off-season. They traded outfield Melky Cabrera who, coming of a career-year, will never be valued higher by opposing team, and landed Jonathan Sanchez - a starting pitcher with immense talent (he threw a no-hitter in 2009) in return. They brought back starter Bruce Chen who (oddly, considering his mediocre career prior to arriving in KC) has been the team's most consistent pitcher over the last two seasons. Just last week they signed relief pitcher Jonathan Broxton, who was a multiple-time All-Star for the Dodgers before suffering an injury. The Broxton signing further boosts an already-strong bullpen, giving the Royals flexibility and possibly the opportunity to deal strength for weakness (e.g., relief pitching for starters). The lineup is young and potentially dangerous meaning that the Royals bandwagon I've been attempting to steer for 20 years might finally pick up a few passengers.

Alas, those passengers will not be impressed by the PR side of the KC ball club. The Royals managed to turn genuine excitement into outright hatred when they recently fired 8-time Gold Glove-winner Frank White from his position as television color analyst. Whether the move was justified or not is not my call. I have virtually no knowledge of the situation, other than what I've heard on the radio, read on Twitter and in a Sam Mellinger column. I have no clue who made the decision. I don't know why the broadcast producer Kevin Shank was also fired. I don't even know if play-by-play man Ryan Lebfevre will now be forced to chuckle at his own jokes. What I do know is that KC botch the announcement of it all. If you're canning a team legend, you ought to be prepared for backlash. Offer to move him to a different position with the team. Release information that supports the decision. Show up on Frank White's doorstep with a box of chocolates and a stereo playing "Why Can't We Be Friends." Hand out puppies downtown the day after the news breaks. Whatever you do, just don't (allegedly) tell the guy he's jobless because he offered constructive criticism of the team on occasion during his time in the job* and then let the situation fester. The man is a team legend. His number is retired and is plastered on the team's Hall of Fame. He even has an annual team award that bears his name. Unless he's involved in something truly scandalous in nature, he should not just be told goodbye and good luck. Fans could be outraged.

*I watched many, many, many of those games. There was plenty to be critical of. They want the guy to lie?

... Oh, wait. Too late. Fans are ticked. Your move, Royals. (I'm not sure whether or not it's too late for the puppy thing to work.)