Monday, April 30, 2012

Steelers get a head with draft (a big one)

Steeler fans have spent the last four days micro-analyzing No. 1 draft pick David DeCastro, an offensive guard from Stanford.
They want to know if he’s agile in picking up the blitz, if he can pull to block on the sweeps, and if he’ll protect the quarterback’s blindside.
My question has more to do with wardrobe: where will they find a helmet to fit him? His head appears big and durable enough to, with proper modifications, serve as an actual helmet for other professional football players.
I swear, I can’t recall seeing a larger tusk-less head in my entire life. I’ve lived in less spacious apartments.
News reports say he’s 6-5, 316 pounds. Judging from the pictures I’ve seen, that’s just from the neck up.
The average human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds. For those of you who’ve never seen or picked up a severed head, try to imagine a lop-sided bowling ball with ears and two extra holes to stick your fingers in.
DeCastro’s head reminds me of Abraham Lincoln’s, the cement one on the monument in Washington.
He’s spent the last few days answering questions about his work ethic, his goals and his eagerness to be a Steeler.
If I were a sports reporter, I’d ask how many years his mom walked funny after he was born.
Having witnessed the births of two dainty-headed daughters, I have a vicarious inkling of the physical difficulties involved in delivering a child. That’s why I always congratulate expectant mothers with the salutation, “May your pregnancy be tranquil, free of hormonal insanities and may you be blessed to deliver a healthy child whose head is no bigger than a baseball.”
This doesn’t always go over as well with first-time mothers as you’d think, but the more children a woman has delivered the more grateful she is for my concern.
I think part of the problem is some women, many of them in the throes of hormonal insanity, confuse small heads with lack of intelligence.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is no correlation between a child’s head size and how intelligent he or she will become.
That the majority of children, indeed, grow up to be adult morons is beyond my explanation.
A small-headed child is truly a blessing for a mother, especially the earthy ones who foolishly shun epidurals.
I tried to persuade our OBGYN to administer a second epidural, this one to me, and the only pain I was feeling was from my wife squeezing my hand too tightly.
It would be a lot easier for the prejudicial among us if all the stupid people did have baseball-sized heads. Imagine how much more efficient it would be for an employer to weed out unqualified applicants if all he or she had to determine was cranial capacity.
“All right, I want the first 50 of you try and fit this barrel hoop over your heads. If you can get it comfortably down to around your neck, please remove the hoop and you can be on your way. I understand they’re hiring down at the car wash.”
Some very cursory research reveals that most of our presidents would have failed the barrel hoop test. In fact, if his nose were just a bit less prominent, you could have played ring toss with Andrew Jackson’s post-like head.
One of our most cerebral presidents, William Howard Taft, had a huge head and there was lots going on inside of it. He’s the only man to have been elected president (1909) and then be appointed Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
And here’s something the historians won’t share: Taft would have made an outstanding Steeler lineman. At 335-pounds, he was our country’s largest president and had served as U.S. Secretary of War from 1904-08.
Those are the kind of credentials draft experts find impossible to ignore.
All this overlooks one fact that leads me to believe big-headed DeCastro is, indeed, super-intelligent. He attended Stanford, one of the top schools in America, and studied management, science and engineering. 
In fact, it’s not impossible that a man imbued with his combination of brain power and brute strength will be propelled to national popularity that one day might lead him into politics and a legacy even larger than that of ample old Taft.
But that, for now, is wild speculation.
Despite the topic, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Re-Run Sunday: Horsin' 'round in the ol' breed barn

In honor of Derby week, I'm re-posting this 2009 piece about the randy fate that awaits all champion horses. They are used for base reproduction purposes. Sounds like it beats what Michael Jordan's been doing since he retired.

For what it's worth, I like Bodemeister for his eye-catching win at the Arkansas Derby.

Enjoy your Sunday!

I admit this is going to sound sexist, but when I learned what was planned for Rachel Alexander’s future, my first thought was, “That slut!”

I don’t know why I’m surprised. It’s the way of the world. Already, the girl really gets around. She got around Pimlico on Saturday in 1:55:08. She’s the first filly to win the second leg of the Triple Crown in 85 years and only the fifth in the 134-year history of the Preakness Stakes.

Those are the kinds of numbers that get pulses racing. Jess Jackson is the filly’s owner. One report described him as the Kendall-Jackson “wine magnate,” a term they left undefined. I know it's a different spelling and all, but I still like to think the description bottles of Cabernet and Merlot fly off the shelves and bond to the 79-year-old entrepreneur whenever he strolls down the aisles of the liquor store.

Despite his advanced age, he spends a great deal of time thinking of horse sex and this in no way means he’s deviant. The fourth most famous race in the sport is tastelessly called The Breeder’s Cup.

How the refined men and women who dabble in what is renown as The Sport of Kings aren’t lumped in with common pimps must be just another exception of privilege.

That’s what struck me when I read that Jackson is eyeing a breeding jackpot with the filly. He also owns the stallion Curlin, winner of the 2007 Preakness, and insiders say it’s a sure thing he’s going to usher the pair off to the breeding barn.

As a romantic who’s always eager for new techniques to please the missus, I decided to research what goes on behind the big doors of the breeding barn.

You can check it out at this highly entertaining segment from Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs show on the Discovery Channel.

There are no roses. No sonnets. No sweet nothings. It’s all very clinical. The stud comes in, does his business and, I guess, leaves behind an insincere note with a made-up phone number for the spent mare.

Then there was this disturbing passage that could have easily applied to me and any unfortunate date from back when I was about 24. Try this: whenever the paragraph mentions the “stallion” or its male pronoun, just substitute “Chris” and read on:

“Make sure the stallion mounts the mare in a controlled and reasonable fashion. Too many overenthusiastic or fresh, young stallions will be so anxious to start copulating that they will try to mount from the side and/or thrust with no rhyme or reason. This can frustrate both the stallion and the mare, and neither option is particularly desirable. A frustrated mare can start lashing out at the stallion, and a frustrated stallion will only perform worse as he allows his frustration to cloud his mind.”

Boy, does that take me back. It might have risked ruining the mood, but I’ll bet my dates would have been thrilled I’d have brought along a squad of white smocked veterinarians to show me what goes where.

Not all the research was so grim and sterile and, yes, I realize that’s a poor word choice when dealing with story about horse fertility. I found there’s a sporty-looking human supermodel named Rachel Alexander and she’s often topless.

I’m going to start trying this research thing more often!

I’m unable to reconcile why I feel the equine Rachel Alexander is such a cheap slut for her role in the breeding process when I always feel I should congratulate the male counterparts with cigars and bourbon toasts.

I guess it’s just the primal differences between men and women, stallions and fillies. I’ve been a bystander to enough Lifetime movies to know that women who wind up like Rachel Alexander always come to a moment when they realize what they’ve become. It destroys their self-esteem.

They say they feel used.

And I know what most men will do if we ever find ourselves in the stud role and in a moment of clarity realize we’ve been used for the most base reasons.

We’ll say thanks!

Friday, April 27, 2012

It's time for human Swiss Army Hands

We were sitting there in a packed assembly hall awaiting the beginning of the 5th and 6th grade music extravaganza. It’s where parents and loved ones revel in a sometimes off-key performance and pretend not to notice any perceived flaws.
In my lap was our 5 year old who from up close was examining parts of me like she was determined to catalogue every flaw.
She pushed facial moles like they were elevator buttons, ran her fingers along proud old hockey scars, and parted hairs in my bald spots the way ambassador Robert Thorn did in “The Omen” when he was trying to divine if Damien’s skull bore the mark of the beast.
She was curious about the big callous on the upper palm beneath my ring finger. As it often does, it had a jagged edge to it I rarely notice.
She wanted to know about the tough skin anomaly.
“It’s a can opener,” I said. “When I’m hungry I use it to open a can of oyster stew. It’s always very satisfying.”
Looking back, I should have said it was very “handy.”
I don’t know at what point in the show -- which was perfectly entertaining and without evident flaws -- but I remember thinking how I wished I had a can of oyster stew in my coat pocket.
I sat there thinking about how under-achieving our hands are. Shouldn’t they be at least as functional as our phones?
Really, our hands need to evolve to suit modern demands.
I understand the romantic pleasures of walking hand-in-hand along the beach, but why can’t one hand be a sort of Swiss Army Hand? It could have a can opener, nail file, knife, scissors, screwdriver, and a wine corkscrew.
Those are the hallmarks of the iconic Swiss Army Knife, a device nearly everyone in the world’s heard of. Funny, the equivalent number of people probably can’t name a single military victory or hero who’s served in the Swiss Army.
Maybe the Swiss would have been more feared had they put their energies into inventing a Swiss Army Bazooka.
Still, human trajectory seems to indicate our hands ought to become more functional. For instance, how come we don’t have a fork for a finger?

People talk about ours becoming a paperless, cashless and keyless society. Smartphone innovations are slowly eroding the need for that jingly sort of pocket miscellany.
My sense is the next evolutionary step is we become a pocketless society. We won’t need pockets because everything we need will be accessible through our hands.
We should draw the line there, too, as no one wants a pantsless society.
But clearly, the next step in smart phone technology needs to be the elimination of the phone itself.
I’ve seen studies that say one out of every five people admit dropping their pricey smart phone in the toilet. This happens to careless men, in particular. Urinal time is the perfect opportunity to check the scores and social media.
I’m guessing some men are so startled to learn that Suzie changed her Facebook status to single that -- kerplunk! -- they drop the phone into a place where the old Tidy Bowl Man will the one most likely to answer the “Can you hear me now?” question.
That kind of thing practically never happens with our hands.
I predict we will soon be using our hands to do many of the things for which we today use our phones -- and more.
Besides the finger fork, we might insert a telescoping back scratcher or maybe a golf ball retriever for when the approach shot gets dunked in the drink.
Some attachments could help ease road rage. An angry motorist could angrily react and instead of the finger, one of those novelty magician carnations might pop up, a mollifying gesture.
One finger could be a laser pointer if a power point meeting was planned. If the meeting was fruitful, the presenting team could set off pre-loaded bottle rockets from finger launchers.
Anyone else think this is a good idea?
Let’s see a show of hands.
And by show of hands, I’m talking a real show.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

James Cameron & a different kind of 'roid rage

News that some of our most prominent and wealthy men are planning a deep space venture to obtain precious minerals found right under our feet shows that even balding men can act hair brained.
And, take note grammar snobs, the Oxford English Dictionary says “hair” brained is now accepted along with its more sensible predecessor, “hare” brained. 
In fact, what James Cameron and Google execs Larry Page and Eric Schmidt and Planetary Resources are planning sounds like a Bugs Bunny sketch.
They are intent on spending billions of dollars to fly robots into outer space to mine from asteroids a substance that any kid with a shovel and a little luck can find right beneath their sandbox.
They believe the 1,500 or so asteroids that pass near earth contain gold, platinum and other precious metals that are one day bound to wind up in the shafts of pricey sporting good equipment for the country club set.
Planetary Resources co-founder Eric Anderson said he is confident the venture will be profitable. 
“Before we started launching people into space as private citizens, people thought that was a pie-in-the-sky idea,” he said. “We’re in this for decades. But it’s not a charity. We’re going to make money from the beginning.”
I only wish the groups aim’s were to retrieve a big slice of asteroid pie. At least that would benefit someone hungry.
They know if guys like Trump will pay $1,600 an ounce for gold, then they’ll pay five times that to boast of buying a gaudy bauble minted from space gold.
Is anyone wealthy doing anything to help humanity these days?
As noted in this August bash, “Steve Jobs: American iCon,” we live in a time when the people most capable of helping mankind are becoming the least likely to try. They tinker with their toys and fritter away their riches on selfish pursuits.
In this regard, no one’s gone more off the deep end than Cameron, and by “deep end,” I’m referring to his recent jaunt to the bottom of the 6.5 mile-deep Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean and the last place to puddle if Earth ever runs out of water.
That’s where Cameron recently went for what he said were research purposes. He brought back floor samples from depths scientists say no living being has ever trod.
I’d like to hear what the scientists have to say if the samples include a perfectly preserved Titleist and a bent putter.
I don’t have a problem with rich people living adventurous lives. In fact, I encourage it. I think all mankind benefitted when men like the late Steve Fossett would attempt to balloon around the world.
I know I felt better watching the news and learning violent storms forced Mr. Fancy Britches to ditch in the Indian Ocean and that, at that very moment, he was dodging maneater sharks while I sitting at the bar enjoying a fish sandwich.
It’s not self-indulgence to which I’m opposed. It’s boredom.
Men like Cameron need to stop hiding behind the tedious guise of research and just have their audacious fun. Trust me, we’ll all watch.
Cameron and the profit-minded sages at Planetary Research ought to announce plans to by the year 2020 -- destined to be a great year for visionaries -- lasso an asteroid and personally crash it into one of our many godforsaken square states out West.
Thousands of common treasure hunters would pay Planetary Resources big bucks for prospector rights that would allow them to search for sizzling space bling splashed all across the desert.
Best would be the live feed of Cameron trying desperately to make a safe exit from the asteroid before it cratered into the desert.
That’s one flick I’d pay the premium to see in 3-D.
I know what you’re thinking, “What a hare-brained idea.”
Maybe, but no less hare brained than using the pretext of an earthly jewelry shortage as a silly pretense to play a billionaire’s version of “Lost in Space.”
Lost in space?
We can only hope.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Roll Tide: The Last Winter Day

One day after reading climate change means that Pennsylvania will in 50 years resemble Alabama it snowed like Alaska and left me in a state of confusion.
As recent snows go, this one had catastrophic aspects. We got about a foot of the heavy stuff. Trees and power lines were downed, schools were closed, all our lives disrupted.
And I felt euphoric.
Talk murky climate change statistics all you want, but when a guy like me is cheering for winter, chaos really reigns. Me rooting for winter is like Mitt Romney rooting for $2.15 a gallon for unleaded.
In advance of our Alabamian atmospherics, let’s call it cotton-pickin’ crazy.
I summed up my all-consuming hatred for winter in the midst of record snowfall from February 2010 when I wrote this post, “All Snowmen are Abominable.”
What’s odd is we didn’t get winter until spring. And it’s gone in 24 hours.
I’ve had hangovers that have lasted longer than this winter did.
I’m reluctant to opine on global warming for fear of instigating the mercurial hot heads who contend against all reason that nothing weird’s happening with the weather. They are Global Warming SCOPEtics, people who believe we can still use fossil fuels with reckless abandon and everything will still wind up all green and minty fresh.
I’m not so sure and I’m starting to feel nostalgic for something I used to hate.
I fear Monday was the last day of winter. And by last day of winter, I don’t mean this winter season, which was non-existent. We had maybe three snows since October, none of them at all consequential.
I mean the last day of winter. The last day of snows. The last day of closed schools. The last day of snowball fights, snowmen and snow angels. The last day of sled riding.
As an optimist, I try and think of the bright side of climate change -- and by bright side I mean SPF 451.
You’d think year-round summer should improve my golf scores, but I’ll likely spend more time tending to the non-native kudzua overtaking our dogwoods so it might be a wash.
Worst of all, I’ll spend a lot of time regaling youngsters with my recollections of what the world used to be like.
And I’ll think of yesterday.
Thanks to the most efficient school closing announcement system in history, I knew something was up at 5:15 a.m. That’s when all three phones in the house started going off like the government was warning of a hostile alien invasion.
It’s like the Greater Latrobe School District wants all the parents of the children they teach to die from pre-dawn heart attacks so we won’t be around to meddle with their mission.
I see a lot of sense in that.
It wasn’t like that when I was a kid. We’d huddle around the radio and listen to long listings of school closings the way I guess Vietnam-era 18 year olds would listen to the war draft lottery.
It would be a mistake to conclude I equate surprise childhood radio announcements that school would be closed with the same emotions as when I learned I was going to become a father.
News of pending fatherhood leads to mixed feelings. Learning school is closed leads to pure jubilation.
We try to preserve that sensation for our daughters. We awoke them yesterday like it was every other school day. They marveled at the snow outside and watched the morning news rapt to see if their school was listed for delay or closure.
“There’s no way they’re closing schools today,” I lied.

Our kindergartner’s never had a snow day. When she saw her school listed “CLOSED,” her face bore the same expression it did December 25 when she came out and saw all the presents under the tree.
If it was our last winter day, we made the very best of it. We had snowball fights, built snowman, made popcorn and snuggled in front of the fire while we watched The Muppet Movie, the vintage 1979 one.
The high today will again be in the 50s and the once stout snowman is stooped and assuming the consistency of tears.
Our one-day winter is over.
Now, if experts are correct, it’ll won’t be until the year 2050 when my lawn is once again shaded white.
Only the white won’t be from snow.
On that day I’ll look back at the days of my youth and wish I wasn’t in the land of cotton.
Look away. Look away. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Boning up on lost limbs

We had some unsettling local news last week that had us all contemplating ghoulish fates. A young man was riding a motorcycle that hit a pole and sliced his leg off below the knee.
Everybody read all the papers and asked all the questions: how will he cope? Will he persevere? How will he react to the grueling rehab?
In essence, everyone wanted to know if a de-foot would lead to defeat?
I think not. It’s a terrible result, but he’s lucky to be alive with many productive years ahead of him.
My question was less existential: what did they do with the foot?
I’m vicarious about everything that happens to anyone else. How would I react if the same thing happened to me?
So when I hear that someone loses a foot in a mishap, I put my feet in his shoe.
First of all, I’d want a proprietary say over its disposal.
The assumption is they incinerate it as medical waste, a terribly callous judgement of a body part that’s been with a man or woman every step of the way. Well, I guess every other step.
The thought would have infuriated Capt. Augustus McCrae from “Lonesome Dove.” He woke up after a difficult ordeal in Indian country to find a drunken sawbones had removed and disposed of his blood poisoned leg. 
McCrae was angry because he fancied using the bones for a walking stick, which when you get right down to it is a rather redundant mission for old leg bones.
I’m thinking more in the lines of jewelry.
I think I’d make a necklace out mine. I imagine it would help me win a fortune in bar wagers about my yoga-like boast that I could put my foot around my neck without getting up from my bar stool.
But I could see my family objecting to me showing up at things like church and school assemblies with my neck adorned with my foot.
So that would leave the burial option. I’d find a shady place down by the creek and have a solemn little ceremony praying my foot gets to heaven enough ahead of me that it could save the rest of me a place, assuming, that is, my sole has some soul.
Then for the rest of my life I could commune with it like Union Major General Daniel Sickles did with the amputated leg he lost to a Rebel cannonball at the battle of Gettysburg. After the war he presented the leg bones and the destructive shot to what is now the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. He’d visit them both every year on the anniversary of the amputation and make what I guess would be fascinating small talk.
It’s a pity those visits pre-dated reality TV by about 140 years.
It must be the organ donor in me that brings life to these morbid thoughts. When I die, my entire body -- eyes, heart, kidneys, liver -- the whole shebang will be up for grabs.
(Note: informing friends that they may one day help themselves to one of your vital organs doesn’t make them any more likely to loan you $20.)
I’m hopeful that one day they’ll even be able to reanimate parts of me so that my limbs will be grafted onto the needy.
In fact, this isn’t as far out as it seems.
A friend of mine said body part disposal was no longer what I guess you’d call a knee-jerk reaction among medical professionals. In fact, she said there are more medical donor banks than much of the public realizes.
Besides common blood banks, there are tissue banks, organ banks and even bone banks.
She said bones from accident victims -- spare ribs? -- are being preserved for worthy research purposes.
So now I’ll know not to snicker if I ever hear someone say they’re going make a late night withdrawal from the old bone bank.
My curiosity was piqued and I momentarily thought about calling a bone bank to learn just what kind of ground-breaking work they’re doing.
But I decided against it. They’re probably too busy to deal with my silly questions.
And it’s a sure thing our nation’s bone banks are staffed with skeleton crews.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Time for Bucs to bury the great Vince Lascheid

I got about halfway through this and thought, hmmm, this is probably how I’d write if I was paid to wear a tie to work. I thought this had the heft to deserve consideration for publication at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which sometimes runs my stuff on the Sunday Forum pages.
So I wrote this without silly asides, odd tangents or stabs at humor.
If you came here today for fart jokes, this is bound to disappoint.
But if you love Pittsburgh sports and remember the great Vince Lascheid, you might enjoy this. As a small consolation, I do include a mild profanity which I’ll delete before submitting, but swearing’s always fun.
Big home stand at PNC Park starts tonight. The Pirates are playing the world champion St. Louis Cardinals. Forecasts call for decent weather. Gangbuster crowds are expected.
That’s good. I love baseball and I want the Pirates to succeed.
So I hope to see everyone there at the ballpark.
All but one.
That would be Vince Lascheid.
Never heard of him?
A two-sport protege, it could be argued he’s the greatest -- and only -- player to earn cheers at PNC Park, The Civic Arena and Three Rivers Stadium.
In the last three years, he’s become one of the greatest comeback performers in city history. He died in March 2009 and he’s still coming back, a JumboTron Lazarus resurrected every seventh inning.
The Pirates play a film and audio clip of Lascheid, the beloved game organist for the Pirates and Penguins for more than 38 years, playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” for the seventh inning stretch.
They do this, they say, in tribute.
As a long-time cynical observer of Pirate ownership, let me offer another motive.
These bastards are cheap.
Rather than hire a talented and creative organist to embroider the game with snippets of musical wit, they prefer to nightly conjure Lascheid’s ghost and try and fool people into thinking the gesture is noble.
In fact, the recording only diminishes a legacy that’s best measured in just four or five notes.
That’s all it took him to engage and delight discerning fans who were alert to Lascheid’s deft and devastating humor.
When a player’s name was announced, Lascheid would, sneak in an often subversive little ditty that added so much subtle sparkle to a day at the ballpark.
Benny Ayala would hear “Tie (Ayala) Ribbon 'round the Old Oak Tree.”
Future Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith got “We’re Off To See The Wizard.”
Padre catcher Chris Gomez heard the theme from “The Addam’s Family.”
After Met Bobby Bonilla split our Bucs for bigger bucks, he was greeted with a lickity-split version of Steve Miller’s “Take The Money and Run.”
The week pretty boy Dodger Steve Garvey was tabbed by a national magazine for being one of America’s most beautiful people, he’d sashay up to the batter’s box listening to the same iconic song they play for Miss America. Garvey complained. He said it was insulting and demanded Lascheid cease playing it.
Fair enough, Lascheid said, and next time Garvey came up to bat, Lascheid played “Isn’t She Lovely.”
He had free reign to musically editorialize on every on-field situation.
An opposing player striking out heard a jiffy little blast of Queen’s “Another One Bite’s the Dust.”
When a dangerous Astro hitter named Jesus Alou hit into a inning-killing double play, Lascheid played the musical hallelujah, “What a Friend We Have In Jesus.”
A huddle of umpires gathering to discuss a controversial call was sound-tracked with “Three Blind Mice.”
“Send in the Clowns” filled the ears of opposing managers who strolled to the mound to change pitchers. The same situation involving the Pirates inspired a more encouraging melody, the theme from the Alka Seltzer commercial: “Plop! Plop! Fizz! Fizz! Oh, what a relief it is!”
When brawls broke out, he’d appeal to gentler natures by serenading the bloodied combatants with “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
His contributions to Penguin lore are no less indelible and earned him induction into the club hall of fame in 2003.
That such genius is irreplaceable doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Beloved Cubs icon Harry Caray was considered irreplaceable, too. He’s honored with a statue outside of Wrigley Field, but his signature moment, his drunken slurring of the “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” is vanquished, replaced by a great tradition of various celebrities taking the mic.
The Pirates should consider a similar move. They should audition lively local organists to fill the Vince Lascheid Bench.
It would add buoyant atmosphere to an event that, like so many others, is numbed by high-decibel pop hits played because teams mistakenly believe the familiarity will lure young fans whose access to that very music is now without limits.
No one needs more Selena Gomez. Everyone needs a little more novelty.
We can best honor Vince Lascheid by giving a talented organist a chance to be Vince Lascheid.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Throwback re-run on throwback jerseys

Check it out: Steeler Tike Redman modeling the ugliest jersey known to man. Fans are buzzing over the most hideous jerseys in history. It's so egregious I feel compelled to do a mid-week rerun of my bashing the phenomenon that first ran in Oct. 2010.

Prediction: the game they wear these unis will set listener records for radio stations where fans will flock so they don't have to see these things in hi-def motion.

My life curse is that I, a man who can’t even earn a dime for himself, sees how the already filthy rich can grab even more loot.

Take this past weekend. I spent $75 to attend a professional football game between my hometown Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.

Now, when it comes to brazen money-grubbing organizations, the National Football League has few rivals. Already awash in billions in profits, the ownership continues to find new and creative ways to squeeze money from their diehard fans.

They think nothing of charging attending fans $50 to park, $7.50 for 12 ounces of lite beer, insist we pay full price for meaningless pre-season games, and hold entire cities hostage by enforcing cruel TV blackouts if the stadiums don’t sell out.

They showed their contempt for fans on Christmas when they scheduled an 8 p.m. game between the Tennessee Titans and the San Diego Chargers. Fans in Nashville had to choose between leaving home and hearth on the holiest day of the year or sitting outside in near freezing temperatures to watch professional football.

So the stadium was about half empty. More and more fans with better and better big screen TVs are wisely opting to stay home.

That’s why an increasing number of games are being broadcast on the premium cable channel, The NFL Network. If fewer people are going to attend the games, they need to make money off those who like to watch it at home.

Pay-per-view professional football, brought to you by The NFL Network, is already here.

So why would I bother trying to make such a greedy, nefarious organization even more money? I guess I just can’t help myself so here goes:

The NFL needs to start selling replica Throwforward uniforms.

That’s a term you’ve never heard before. But most fans have certainly heard of the obnoxious Throwback uniforms.

Once nearly every fan in America had purchased for about $250 an authentic replica NFL-issued jersey of their favorite team, the NFL realized the apparel market was saturated.

So in a greedy panic they turned on a time machine and began forcing teams to wear throwback jerseys from the olden days. That way the truly obsessed fan would need to spend another $250 for a jersey that represented their team in, say, the 1930s. Then the 1940s. Then the 1950s, and so on.

And here’s the thing: the uniforms are uniformly hideous. I’ve seen plenty of archival pre-1970s footage of professional jerseys. In faded black and white photographs, the uniforms appear drab.

It gives the impression that our ancestors grew up in a time when no one smiled and everyone wore hand-me downs from folks with the fashion sense of bitter Pilgrims.

But when our favorite teams raced out onto the field wearing their throwback jerseys we were stunned to learn we were wrong.

Our ancestors weren’t boring. They were insane.

The jerseys had psychedelic stripes, odd insignia and bewildering color schemes that jarred the senses. It’s a shameless marketing ploy that interferes with the enjoyment of the game.

The genius of the Throwforward jersey is that NFL flacks could unveil jerseys that will be worn by the home team in, say, the year 2029.

It would let daffy fans of teams like the perennially hapless Miami Dolphins delude themselves into thinking that maybe by then -- cross your fingers -- the Dolphins will be competitive.

And the best thing from the NFL perspective is that they’ll be able to justify charging $1,250 per jersey because that’s what the actual price will likely be in the year 2029.

So there you have it. Throwback. Throwforward. For an increasing number of disgusted fans like me, there’s only one direction we feel like throwing any more.

And that’s up.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Secret Service agents have balls; maybe shouldn't

The romantic in me is hoping pending investigations reveal the Secret Service agents and their Columbian prostitutes have all fallen in love and are planning to open an ice cream parlor in Cartagena.

I’d like to hear testimony that the girls were, yes, prostitutes, albeit reluctant ones, but were also great admirers of America, President Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.

For parochial reasons, it’d be cool if they said they were Pittsburgh Steeler fans, too.

And that it’s all just a big misunderstanding. They weren’t in those luxury suites for party sex.

They were there for civics lessons and things got way out of hand. That’s what can happen when enthusiasm for constitutional checks and balances is unleashed.

Given the trajectory of society, I fear that won’t be the case.

If there were any stalwart bastions of integrity and discipline left, I figured they had to reside in elite branches of the federal government.

Geez, let down by the Secret Service and the General Services Administration both in the same week.

A compelling argument’s been advanced that this couldn’t have been a first-time thing, that this sort of behavior is woven into agency lore.

That simultaneously dismays and titillates.

The service part has enjoyed a stellar reputation that seemed authenticated by the secret part.

Now it looks like we have a one in 11 shot at finally getting a good tell-all book from a former Secret Service agent. And those of us who savor randy entertainment can all hope he served as far back as the Clinton presidency.

I can only recollect three good portrayals of the secret service in action and all of them coincided with Clinton’s presidency.

The first was Clint Eastwood and John Malcovich from “In the Line of Fire” from 1993. It’s highly entertaining but seemed contrived. Eastwood didn’t have any real relationship with the president, choosing instead to have one with fellow agent Rene Russo.

Good call, Clint.

A really great movie, also from 1993, featured an interesting and warm relationship between a stoic secret service agent and a friendly body double who assumes the presidency when the real thing has a stroke while screwing an underling.

Yes, there was something about Clinton that really ignited Hollywood imaginations.

Anyway, that film is one of my favorites. It’s Kevin Kline’s “Dave.”

The third wasn’t a film, but a Saturday Night Live sketch and one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. It starred Phil Hartman as Clinton and Kevin Nealon as a secret service agent who accompanies the then-tubby president elect on a morning jog that detours into a McDonald’s.

Here’s the opening dialogue:

Bill Clinton: “Alright, boys, let’s stop here for a second. I’m a little parched from the jog.”

Secret Service Agent: “Sir, we’ve only been jogging for three blocks. Besides, Mrs. Clinton asked us not to let you in any more fast food restaurants.”

BC: “I just want to mingle with the American people, talk with some real folks, maybe get a Diet Coke or something . . .”

SSA: “Fine, but please don’t tell Mrs. Clinton.”

BC, erupting in buddy-buddy laughter: “Jim, let me tell you something -- there’s gonna be a whole lot of things we don’t tell Mrs. Clinton about! Fast food is going to be the least of our worries!”

It’s absolutely uproarious. Check it out here.

Twenty years later, we have a Clinton in Columbia under Secret Service protection being photographed dancing and guzzling beer and the visit results in a huge scandal involving, not the Clinton, but our most vaunted security forces.

I guess that’s progress.

Of course, we may have to go back to the future for real progress.

Ancient history reveals rulers once insisted on castrated guards because they were unlikely to trifle with the harem or engage in thoughts that distract men imbued with testosterone.

It’s something to consider. This is a potentially catastrophic breach and the bi-partisan condemnation means our legislators are taking it seriously.

Best part of this eunuch solution is it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime and no one ever need know it’s even been done.

I’m sure wives of the straying agents will be happy to keep the service secret.