Archive for October, 2011


Dear Mayans:

First, got to be honest – I’m not sure if you exist anymore. But if you do, I hope you are well, have Web access and track down this entry. Why? Because I think you made a miscalculation in that whole end of the world thing. Hear me out before you go and cast a spell or throw me in a snake pit or whatever it is you do to infidels. (You do have infidels, right?)

Clearly, you’re pioneers in the rapture-prediction business – there’s no denying that. There have been a bunch of false alarms lately, and you had the gumption to predict that things would end in 2012, well, a long time before that. Plus, you don’t seem to have any sort of financial stake in the situation unless there’s some sort of “I went down in 2012″ clothing line that we don’t know about. So you get extra credit for integrity.

However, I feel like you’re going to come up about two months short. See, there’s this group of Internet hackers (look it up) called Anonymous, and they claim to be preparing to take down Facebook (again, Google it – after looking up Google) on Nov. 5. Pretty sure that will bring an end to us all one way or another.

I mean, how would we be able to tell people what we were planning to have for lunch? What would we do with those pictures of dogs wearing sweaters? Develop them? Bo-ring. No more Farmville? That chaps my hide. Without a forum for making vague, passive-aggressive complaints about my life, I’d probably have to, you know, talk to family members and stuff. No thanks.

Of course, it remains to be seen if these Anonymous folks can be trusted. I mean, they’re also planning some sort of cyber-attack on Fox News the very same day. That seems pretty ambitious. Plus, there have been plenty of other doomsday prophecies (ahem, Harold Camping) and Facebook hoaxes (it remains a free service, unless you count the time it sucks out of you).
On the other hand, they do have a cool Web video – and if that doesn’t lend itself to credibility, nothing does – and a “V for Vendetta” vibe. That was a pretty sweet movie even though Natalie Portman had a shaved head.

So, again, pretty sure God’s green Earth is going to explode or implode or maybe melt in a mess of emotional rants, animated jokes and digital pictures that have no where to go. To be clear, I hope that’s not the case because life is cool. So is Facebook. So are you guys. I mean, my oldest daughter is named Mya, for crying out loud. That’s a fairly solid endorsement, no?

In closing, maybe you’ll be vindicated yet. Perhaps the world will fall to pieces sometime in 2012 just as you predicted. That would be rad, although a bit unfortunate since you would be unable to hold the best “I told you so” ever over the heads of the Incas or the ancient Greeks or those jerks you went to high school with. Fingers crossed. Good talk, Rust.

Sincerely,
Uncle T-Bone.


Tim McCarver the player screams after listening to Tim McCarver the announcer.

Exciting World Series, huh? Close games, big bombs, good pitching performances, awful fielding, bizarre managerial decisions, a well-received national anthem, presidential sightings, series-saving triples, series-extending home runs, borrowed home run calls. And one game to go.

Plus, we’ve had Tim McCarver, saying…Tim McCarver type things.

The Fox analyst is taking some heat this postseason for his often bizarre, occasionally incorrect blatherings, which have led millions – or at least thousands – of Americans to violently hit the mute button. And that doesn’t even completely solve the problem because the closed-captioning text forces you to read McCarver, which is somehow even more depressing than listening to him. Already during this series, McCarver announced that strike is a five-letter word and then spelled it correctly with all six letters. My favorite line remains his pronouncement that Game 3 would resemble a rodeo more than a baseball game. He said it with no further explanation.

A rodeo? Was Nolan Ryan going to ride in on a bull? Would clowns sprint onto the field and make children laugh and adults squirm? Would ESPN Classic broadcast the game at 2 a.m., following an AWA wrestling card from 1986 featuring Nick Bockwinkel and Jerry Blackwell? Would Tony La Russa end up hog-tied in the Cardinals’ dugout? Those exasperated with La Russa’s obsession with pitching changes could only dream.

McCarver can still make outstanding points. He can still anticipate action as well as anyone. And, as his critics always point out, back in the day he was one of the best analysts ever.

But I can say with certainty that McCarver has been saying odd things for at least 20 years.

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Topless in Calabasas

Posted: October 27, 2011 by terryvandrovec in Uncategorized
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It’s hardly a revelation that unemployed receiver Terrell Owens has done something unusual.

But he of driveway sit ups and press conference tears and hyperbaric chamber slumber may have taken weirdness – or at least following bad advice – to a new level this week with his public private workout.

It was public in the sense that NFL teams were invited to attend. It was private because none of them did. Yep, all that showed up were two TV stations.

But it gets better (and not just because ESPN gave the assignment to softballer extraordinaire Rachel Nichols.)

At one point, the 37-year-old Owens ditched his shirt, running routes in just a pair of shoes and some spandex pants, the kind that are pretty popular with people at my gym … women people. I mean, I think capri pants look comfortable, but I’m not going to wear them (in public).

To be fair, Owens remains a physical specimen. Dude is jacked, yoked, ripped, jail big – whatever muscular term you prefer. What’s more, he’s had a tremendous career, maybe even Hall of Fame worthy.

That said, he’s not only inept at making decisions that don’t involve his physical health, he’s apparently not good at hiring people who are capable of doing so.

A quick backstory: I cover a NCAA Division I football program, South Dakota State. Each spring the school hosts a pro day where NFL scouts come and test standout juniors and seniors. Despite being located essentially in the middle of nowhere and often having few legit prospects, scouts always show up. Always. And most of them RSVP (or whatever the football equivalent is) with somebody on the coaching staff.

How does this apply to TO? For starters, it means that although scouts are willing to go pretty much anywhere on God’s green earth to see even marginal talents, none of them thought it was worth their time to go to Calabasas, Calif., to see how Owens looks coming off knee surgery. Secondly, either nobody on Team TO saw this coming or they did and still thought the workout was a good idea. In either case, holy mismanagement, Batman.

It’s one thing to be confident in your client even if he’s not in his prime anymore. But it’s another to risk unnecessary public humiliation. Why not just work things out behind the scenes? Find out what teams – if any – are interested and then quietly bring him to a closed portion of practice to run some routes? Owens is hardly some undrafted rookie with no credentials, no game film. Knee injury or not, he shouldn’t need to be made to look so … desperate. Even if he is. That’s another story entirely.

Will a team take a chance on him at some point this season, say, if a rotation receiver goes down? Maybe. But it won’t be because of anything that did or didn’t happen while wearing a shirt or not on that awkwardly empty field in Calabasas.


Every college kid – OK, a vast majority of them – loves beer, right?

Well, South Dakota State students Luke Rensick and Tom Strubel have taken their love of brew to another level, founding a craft brand called Heist Brewing. They got off the ground thanks in part to some student competitions and are now one of just three breweries in the Rushmore State with availability in Brookings and Sioux Falls.

Rensick is the guest on this week’s podcast, talking about the ups and downs of chasing a dream and having a never-ending supply of taste testers. (I hopped on board – get it? – this week, as the pale ale is now available in Sioux Falls. It’s legit.)

Here’s the link.

 

I still love you, Netflix

Posted: October 25, 2011 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
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In the past few months, Netflix has garnered the type of publicity Goldman Sachs received after the financial crash and BP received after the oil spill.

Little ol’ Netflix, the company that started in 1997 and has delivered more than a billion DVDs since and angered nearly that many people this year.

A few months ago, Netflix raised prices and split its DVD and streaming services. The announcement led to outrage and rioting in the streets – or at least the 21st century equivalent of those things. People vented on Twitter and Facebook. They left nasty online comments. They raged on blogs. And they canceled their subscriptions.

On Monday, Netflix announced it lost 800,000 subscribers in the U.S. in the third quarter.

The whole thing confused me, although maybe it shouldn’t have. People don’t need much of a reason to express displeasure with a service, especially one offered by a media company. Check in with a circulation department at a newspaper when the paper decides to eliminate a comic. You can do a lot of things with your newspaper – eliminate staff, which weakens coverage; shed news space; eliminate photographers; cancel road trips for sports writers. It’ll all be met with a collective shrug, if not cheers from the locals who are fed up with biased coverage from the area rag. But cut back on Beetle Bailey or eliminate the unreadable bridge column? Watch the complaints roll in by the hundreds. Listen to the angry calls. Tabulate the canceled subscriptions.

The customer’s always right, so I suppose those 800,000 who left Netflix were right, even if they seem so wrong-headed.

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A rare sight: Joe Posnanski...not writing.

It’s time for another edition of The Fury Files, the semi-regular Q&A where I ask questions that end up being longer than the answers. Fortunately, those handling the A part of the Q&A are always entertaining and insightful so people don’t notice me droning on.

If you want to stick around and browse, please check out previous editions with Tom Linnemann, John Millea and David Brauer.

This week’s guest is Joe Posnanski, a Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated, a job title that retains a magical quality for anyone who’s ever written a sentence about a game or an athlete.

When people draw up lists of the best sportswriters working today, Posnanski’s name inevitably ends up on it, often near the top. And it’s been like that for a long time. Before taking a dream job with Sports Illustrated in 2009, Posnanski worked as a sports columnist for the Kansas City Star for 13 years. He also worked at the Cincinnati Post, the Augusta Chronicle and the Charlotte Observer. The Associated Press Sports Editors twice named him the top sports columnist in the country and he’s won numerous other awards for feature and project writing. He’s got the kind of resume that would need two pages.

Posnanski is also a prolific and popular blogger. All told, on any given week, he probably types up a word count that equals that week’s New York Times.

And while Posnanski – a Cleveland native – broke in with newspapers and made his name there and has now expanded his national reputation with his feature work for Sports Illustrated, he’s also a successful author. He wrote The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O’Neil’s America and The Machine, the story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds. There’s also a collection of his columns called The Good Stuff, which you should buy if you love great writing and big cover pictures of sports writers. Plus, he runs occasional podcasts – Poscasts - with everyone from Al Michaels to Hollywood’s Michael Schur, though he is likely working on 500-word blog posts while talking to guests.

Joe Posnanski will always be linked to the late, legendary Buck O'Neil.

He’s now working on another major project. This fall, Posnanski is in Pennsylvania, researching and writing a book on Penn State legend Joe Paterno. Paterno’s been the subject of numerous books – that happens when a guy’s at an institution for 60 years – but those who read Posnanski know he’ll offer a unique take on a well-known subject. It’s what he does.

Countless people write about baseball but Posnanski is among the best. Countless people have written about LeBron James’ departure from Cleveland, but Posnanski’s takes were among the best. Countless people wrote sports columns but Posnanski was one of the best – and, according to the APSE, the best. Several authors have written about Joe Paterno. Posnanski’s book? It’ll probably be the best.

Here, Posnanski talks about the differences between writing a column and a book, some classic Sports Illustrated stories, Joe Paterno, the managerial struggles of Pop from The Natural, an alternative history of Cleveland sports, and more.

Thanks a lot for your time, Joe.

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The Tapes might be catching on. Heard the phrase used on the B.S. Report when Bill Simmons was interviewing broadcaster Al Michaels. It caught my attention like when you hear your name from across a crowded room. Were they talking about these tapes? In my mind they were. In my mind, they were:

* A 14-foot trailer filled with 300 cases of energy drinks was stolen in Brookings, S.D. A friend suggested that I might be the culprit given my propensity for super-caffeinated beverages. But, alas, it’s not true. I only wish I was that creative and/or deviant. The best part of the story is the timeframe. The owner is pretty sure the crime took place sometime over the last 11 weeks. How do you not notice a 14-foot trailer packed with energy drinks is missing? Do you have that many of them laying around?

* Sioux Falls is hosting a film fest this week – the second Reel Dakota Film Festival. I didn’t attend the first and I won’t make the second. But it’s not for lack of desire. To me, this qualifies as one of those rare events that gives a medium-sized city a sense of importance and culture. It’s like when an Andy Warhol exhibit comes to town or food trucks gain popularity. For one weekend, we get to pretend that we’re as hip and enlightened as the folks in Tribeca or Park City.

In fact, I’ll argue that the idea is as important as the product in a situation like this. On second thought, maybe that’s a bad idea; it probably breeds posers rather than genuine art and appreciation. Still, I applaud the effort … even if I won’t have an opportunity to applaud any of the films.

* Fury here. This is a nice story courtesy of Michael Rand and his Star Tribune blog Randball about Minnesota Lynx center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who took the time to visit one of her biggest fans who lives in the small town of Ortonville.

* Here’s a story that’s as depressing as the Taj story is uplifting. It’s from ESPN and is about pro wrestler Scott Hall, whose life has – well, fallen apart seems like such a mild way to put it. When your life is compared to Mickey Rourke’s – whether the real, living Mickey or a character he’s played – you’re not doing well.

* I admit: I really like Rex Ryan. This week he got into more trouble when he said he would have won a few rings if he had been hired as coach of San Diego a few years ago, when the job went to Norv Turner. Cue faux outrage, apologies, explanations and now, lectures from the media and former players who don’t understand why Ryan doesn’t just shut up.

In a league filled with coaches who are so boring it seems like they’ve actually taken four years of classes to learn how to be so dull, Ryan, to me anyway, remains entertaining and a refreshing difference. But columnists like Ian O’Connor write that if he doesn’t win a championship Ryan will be nothing but a joke. And I suppose that’s true. But then, if winning is the ultimate thing, isn’t every coach who doesn’t win a joke? What’s it matter if one talks a lot and another doesn’t? The media hates cookie-cutter answers until they actually get something different, then use it to tell the coach or athlete they should be more…boring. The facts are Ryan has led the Jets to four playoff victories in the past two years, all on the road. By comparison, Bill Belichick has won…zero playoff games the past two seasons. And Ryan’s Jets have won those four games despite having an offense that has apparently not learned that the game has evolved since 1931. The guy can coach. And he can talk. It’s okay to do both.

* Courtesty of The Onion: New Decoy Website Launched to Lure Away All Moronic Internet Commenters.


Are you hungry? You will be after listening to this week’s podcast.

TV has been borderline obsessed with Queen City Bakery, a unique shop in downtown Sioux Falls, since his first visit this summer. Scones, quiche, brioche, cake – it’s all made fresh, from top-shelf ingredients (many of them either locally grown or ordered from far-away lands) and served up in a great building with a unique first-name-basis culture.

Co-owner Mitch Jackson sat down (between customers) with TV to talk about the story behind the restaurant, the decision not to advertise and the future of unique businesses in medium-sized markets.

We also talk food, of course. Jackson’s wife, Kristine Moberg, has a background as a celebrity baker in New York and has gotten love from the likes of Oprah and Martha Stewart (pre-jail). Going to Queen City Bakery is like going on a food vacation without leaving Sioux Falls.

Here’s the link.


Christian Ponder’s new role as the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings became inevitable about the time the team blew a 20-0 halftime lead against the Detroit Lions in the third week of the season.

Since that debacle – the third time the Vikings squandered a double-digit halftime lead to start the season – fans have clamored for Ponder to replace the fossilizing Donovan McNabb, a once-great quarterback who hasn’t been good for a couple of seasons and now just looks bad. When people compare a quarterback’s throws to Magic Johnson’s bounce passes instead of Dan Marino’s spirals, he’s not long for the starting role.

Now Ponder gets his chance, against the defending champion Green Bay Packers in a game that many people expect will use running time in the second half once the score gets out of hand. If Ponder survives that game, he could be the starting quarterback for the next decade. Or he’ll prove over the final 10 games that he doesn’t have much of a future in Minnesota and the Vikings can again look for another new young – or old – quarterback next spring. But unless Ponder grows into a Pro Bowl quarterback who leads the Vikings to numerous playoff seasons and the Super Bowl, chances are he’ll never be as popular as he was during these first six weeks of the season.

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There are plenty of ways to rank cities, but Men’s Health seems to have come up with a new one.

On Monday, the mag came out with its list of the luckiest – and unluckiest – places in the U.S. and A. The criteria: lottery success, holes-in-one, lightning strikes, deaths by falling objects and betting gains.

My interest is not so much at the top of the list (San Diego, go figure) as the bottom. Fargo, N.D., comes in at 91st out of 100 and Sioux Falls is 96th. Yes, the two places I’ve lived during my adult life are amongst the most cursed in the country.

What to make of this aside from wondering if this might be might fault …

For starters, let’s not take this too seriously considering how well both cities – the largest and most progressive in their respective rural states – grade out in more important studies like best places to live and best places to conduct business. Plus, it’s hardly any wonder that the Dakotas would score poorly on a test conducted by a publication that’s all about abs.

But it is an interesting talking point in that it’s not something I’ve put a lot of thought into. Has my lot in life been negatively impacted by living in Fargo and Sioux Falls? For example, might my middle daughter not have died – the only real tragedy in my life – if I lived in a luckier place? I don’t buy that, especially given the level of health care available here. But I have often wondered if I’d be a happier and/or more productive person if I lived in, say, San Luis Obispo, Calif. Then again, that’s science, not luck.

More to the criteria, I’ve never won any money gambling and I haven’t lost any either. I’ve never had a hole-in-one, despite being (at one time) a serviceable golfer. I’ve also never been struck by lightning and haven’t been killed by anything let alone a falling object. Frankly, I’m don’t even know anyone who fits into those last two categories.

Upon further inspection, weather probably factors into the results in the sense that we play less golf than San Diegans due to the lack of suitable conditions and the smaller population base. So it stands to reason we’d score less aces. Same idea with the lightning storms – we have a limited lightning season.

As for the falling objects – maybe that has to with farm accidents? Because we certainly don’t have many 20-story buildings here.

Ultimately, the validity of the study boils down to this: How do you define luck? For example, I don’t bet or gamble. Ever. Hence the lack of gains and losses. Not because I’m morally opposed to it, it’s just not my thing. I’m not much of a risk-taker period. I think there’s something very Dakotan about that. We’re hard-working, God-fearing people, for the most part. We like to think that we have a certain amount of control over our lives, that’s we’re not just pawns in the universe, man.

So maybe that’s the real takeaway from this survey – the good people of Fargo and Sioux Falls aren’t as lucky in part because they put less stock in the concept of luck.

Then again, maybe people just weren’t meant to live on these frozen plains. My opinion on the matter is apt to change come January.