Archive for March, 2004

Rick O’Shea the Gambler

The coffee shop door swings open and my old friend Rick O’Shea bursts in, waving a piece of paper over his head.  I think people are starting to get used to Rick, because no one notices as he swaggers over to my table and plants his blue jeans in a chair.  He slams the mysterious paper onto the table and smiles at me with a gleam in his eye.

He points to the paper and declares, “I love the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  There is nothing like it.  It is the single greatest gambling event of the year.”

Good morning to you, too, Rick.  Are those the picks that are going to make you rich this year?

“I stayed up all night staring at this bracket, and my big upset this year is Vermont over Conn…wait…have you finished your picks yet?”

I don’t think I’m going to fill out a bracket this year.

“What?  How can you not fill out a bracket?  You always fill out a bracket.”

Have you noticed me winning any of those pools?  Last year I lost to a guy who flipped a coin to pick his games.

“That was just a fluke.”

I also lost to someone who picked winners based upon which team’s mascot would win in a fight.

“Maybe you aren’t the luckiest guy I know.  Look, if you don’t fill out a bracket, you won’t enjoy the tournament as much.”

I don’t want to gamble just for the sake of gambling.  I have proven time and again over the years that I know less about NCAA men’s basketball than I do about Sponge Bob.  Besides, I’m usually eliminated from the pool after the first weekend.

“At least you’re not like those people on television.  They wink at the camera and say that they are filling out brackets for ‘entertainment purposes only’.  What a crock.  Why don’t they just come out and say that they’re gambling?”

Well, unless I’m mistaken, it is technically illegal.

“Illegal?  How can it be illegal?  Cops do it.  Lawyers do it.  Judges do it.  Everybody does it.  The brackets are the only reason why anyone cares whether Vanderbilt beats Western Michigan.  Who do you like in that game, by the way?”

I like Vanderbilt, so you should probably take Western Michigan.  I think that the rule of thumb is that if the government can’t find a way to tax something, it is probably illegal.  Didn’t the University of Washington football coach get fired for winning a basketball pool?

“That’s ridiculous.  It’s perfectly legal for me to blow my entire paycheck on scratch tickets, but if I get involved in a little pool with my friends it’s illegal?”

Life is all double standards.  Is it at all possible that you could enjoy the tournament without having money riding on the games?

“I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tried.  I’ve gotta go turn this bracket in before the games start.  Are you sure you don’t want to fill one out?”

Maybe I will try it again this year, for entertainment purposes only of course.  Let me ask you, could a Panther beat up a Golden Knight?

Sports Tim 12 Mar 2004 No Comments

Hot Flashes

There are important things going on.  Gay marriage, terrorism, the war on terrorism, and movies with religious themes are some of the big and important issues of today.  I was thinking that if I was a real journalist, I would take a stand on one of these important issues and write a column about it.

I then realized that writing a column about any one of those issues would immediately alienate at least half of my audience.  I also realized that I’m just a hack columnist.  So, rather than risk the ire of my loyal readership, I jotted down a few ideas about a variety of things.

  • Is there anyone besides me who is not watching “The Apprentice” with Donald Trump?  People I barely know keep telling me that I’m fired.  It’s unsettling.

  • Speaking of people who need to get fired, every party has someone who is a black hole of conversation.  Getting trapped while this person talks about work is an hour of the party that you can never get back.  To avoid this person without being rude, use my time tested method.  Catch black hole’s eye from across the room, preferably while they are busy boring someone else.  Smile at them, mouth the word, “Hi,” and escape into a different room.  Then, when the black hole begins to stalk a new victim, they will think that they have already spoken to you.

  • Are most movie producers from France?  If not, why do they keep making movies about battles that the United States lost?  First there was Pearl Harbor, then Black Hawk Down, and now The Alamo is coming to a screen near you.  I understand that each of these battles featured incredible feats of bravery, but please, give us one that ends on a positive note.

  • What are those little lumps in tapioca pudding?  I’m told that they are little grains of rice, but I have my doubts.  I keep glancing back at the bowl in case anything is moving.

  • Automatic hand dryers should be outlawed.  Any restaurant or bar that with a dryer instead of paper towels immediately loses two stars in my book.  An automatic hand dryer might as well be replaced with a sign that says, “Please, dry your hands on your pants.”  Is anyone happy to be standing around rubbing their hands vigorously under a lukewarm stream of air with bacteria blowing everywhere? 

  • I’ll be the bad guy and say it:  Girl Scout cookies have gone downhill.  Girl Scout cookies used to be the perfect example of a win-win situation.  I would get delicious cookies, and Girl Scouts of the USA, a wonderful organization by all accounts, would get my money.  Everybody was happy.  This year I gladly shelled out the dough for a box of Peanut Butter Patties, but I’m sorry to report that they were, in a word, blah.  Run of the mill cookies.  I won’t go into specifics, like the amount of peanut butter per cookie, but it was obvious that the quality has gone way down since they were called Tangos.  I don’t begrudge the Girl Scouts my money.  I just hope that any costs saved in the production of the cookies are going to the Girl Scouts and not to the cookie company.

I just realized that despite my desire to avoid controversy, I complained about Girl Scout cookies, of all things.  My niece, a proud Girl Scout, will now stop taking my calls.  It probably would have been safer to write about the election, but as your hack columnist, I am not going to shy away from the important issues facing all of us.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 12 Mar 2004 No Comments

And the Winner Is…

It’s the 76th annual Academy Awards Show!  In the next 4 hours or so, watch a bunch of favorites win Oscars for their roles in the movies of 2003.  I will be your guide, jotting down my thoughts as the minutes speed past.

8:30pm:  I’m at my in-laws house when the show begins.  There is a funny montage of Billy Crystal pretending to be in the different movies of 2003 while cracking jokes.  This bit is far better than the normal award show skits, especially when Crystal is dressed like the elf from Lord of the Rings.

After five good minutes, Billy Crystal makes a huge mistake by trying to show the world that he can sing.  I admit that it’s funny, but I’m not sure it’s supposed to be.  Mid-song, my wife and I decide to drive home from my in-laws’ house.

8:49pm:   I have arrived home in time to see Timothy Robbins win Best Supporting Actor for his role in Mystic River.  Robbins begins the Academy Awards ritual of thanking a list of obscure people.  While he is droning on, the camera focuses on his girlfriend, Susan Sarandon, seated in the crowd.  She is essentially bursting out of the top of her dress.  Just as the camera is moving in for a close-up, the image is switched back to Robbins.  The producer is obviously a little gun-shy after the Super Bowl.

8:59pmThe Lord of the Rings, the Return of the King wins its first Oscar of the night.  When the winner is announced, the camera focuses on director Peter Jackson.  The ample Jackson is spilling out of his chair and looks very uncomfortable in his suit.  His large expanse of white shirt is clearly unhappy and is begging to be un-tucked.  Just watching him is making me uncomfortable.  Someone get this guy a pair of shorts and a torn white t-shirt.

9:18pm:  Renee Zellweger wins Best Supporting Actress for her role in Cold Mountain.  Black eye makeup must have been on sale the week before the show.

9:31pm:  Two guys win the award for Best Live Action Short.  One of the guys thanks everyone in his family and takes up all of their acceptance speech time.  The other guy, who was just shafted out of his Oscar moment, stalks angrily off the stage holding his unused speech.  I wonder if they’ll work together on the next project.

9:40 – 10:39pm:  And the winner is…The Lord of the Rings!  This happens about 4 times in forgettable categories, and each time we are treated to a view of Peter Jackson’s shirt begging for mercy.

10:42pm:  Naomi Watts and Alec Baldwin present Best Documentary.  What are the Vegas odds on Naomi Watts’ whole body weighing less than Alec Baldwin’s head?

10:46 – 11:23pmThe Lord of the Rings wins again…and again…and again.  I think I see a mustard stain on Peter Jackson’s shirt.

11:28pm:  Sofia and Francis Ford Coppola take the stage to apologize for The Godfather Part III.  Ok, they didn’t apologize, but they should.

11:41pm:  And the Best Director Oscar goes to….Peter Jackson for The Lord of the Rings.  With all of his crazy hair, the glasses, and the unkempt beard, he could be Whitey Bulger and no one would know.

11:45pm:  Charlize Theron shocks no one by winning the award for Best Actress for being ugly in the movie Monster.  What is shocking is Theron’s tan.  She is almost glowing.  For you James Bond fans, think the painted woman in Goldfinger.

11:57pm:  Sean Penn wins Best Actor in a mild upset over Bill Murray.  Penn uses his acceptance speech to take a shot at George Bush.  Isn’t this the man who tried to use his celebrity to influence Saddam Hussein and solve the Iraq conflict?  How did that work out for him?

12:03pm:  Guess who?  The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King wins Best Picture and ties a record with 11 total awards.  This movie wins because of the quality of the entire trilogy, and not because the movie itself was great.  Director Peter Jackson finally looks relaxes as he accepts the award with his shirt unbuttoned and his tie loosened.  Just before I switch off the television, I think I hear him inviting everyone back to his place for a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 05 Mar 2004 No Comments