Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bad to Worse

Time for another round of "Smack" talk. This time, we revisit the topic of "look alikes" - switching from pet owners with an eye for the unusual, to people with an eye toward the hidden star within...and with whom we'd rather spend eternity.

Please feel free to weigh in by posting a comment, and enjoy.

Smack: Here's another look alike comparison...

Ed note: Photos reprinted from


Within Reason: Okay - What is worse, these people, or the pet people? - because some of these are pretty bad. My personal favorites are the folks with the Glamour Shots, which let you know that they are convinced that they're either 'dead ringers' or some one who looks enough like a celebrity to be one themself.

S: The pet people are worse. I agree some are bad but unless they think they look like Benji or Rin Tin Tin then they’re not as bad as the guy that thinks his poodle looks like the cookie monster.

WR: This is a tough one. With the pet people, at least their delusions are focused on the animal.

Are you telling me you'd rather be stuck on an island with the David Beckham look alike below than with a crazy cat lady?

That's a tough call. Think about it - if you were on a sinking ship, about to be marooned with the Beckham look alike, you'd both be scavenging for a mirror (among other things). You, to signal planes overhead, him to make sure "his hair don't get all messed up."

S: Point taken, but…Would you rather be stranded with the person who thinks their German shepherd looks like Ben Affleck, or any of the Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, or Gwen Stefani lookalikes?

WR: You're missing the point - these (for the most part) aren't people who look like celebrities, they are people who THINK they look like celebrities.

I think I'd rather wake up every morning to some one crying out for their beloved 'Yoda' than some one re-enacting scenes from 'Along Came Polly' - "okay, okay, you're Ben Stiller, right, and oh my God, he is sooo germophopic! Okay, Okay. Now you say 'Hi Polly...oh my God! Wash your hands!!'"

See what I mean?

S: No, I don’t. With the kid that thinks he looks like Beckham, yes. But for the girl that is really a dead-on Marisa Tomei, she probably just gets it all the time and thought it would be cool to send it in.

The pet people are just on another level. I mean, that guy or girl probably looks at his dog and actually sees Ben Affleck. To me, that’s scarier.

WR: Sure, but maybe the pet people would just start chasing around an iguana yelling "Dustin!!! Dustin!!! I loved you in 'Rain Man'!!!"

The pet people probably keep to themselves, and if you've got a cat lady on you hands, chances are you'd receive knitted seaweed goods occasionally.

I'll give you that some of these people just "get it all the time" that they look like so and so - just like some of the pet people were kind of being cutesy...but I'm saying if there was a drawing to determine with whom you would be stranded with, and there were 2 hats to pick names out of, one full of celebrity lookalikes and one full of pet people - both running the gamut from 'normal' to 'crazy' - I'm reaching for the pet hat.

S: Ok, so you reach for the pet hat, and what’s your best case scenario? I’m reaching for the celeb hat and hoping for one of the Jennifer Anistons. Worst case I get the Beckham kid, the Russell Crowe guy or one of the Nick Lacheys, and I just have to banish them to the other side of the island.

WR: Best case is I get the person who thinks their parrot looks like Sean Connery, and we play "Dr. No" all day long.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Anybody Listening?

Word came down yesterday that WBCN, one of the longest running stations on the FM dial, will be signing off the air for good next month - and becoming an 'internet only' entity. In light of this news, we turn to our friend "Smack" for some feedback.

Please feel free to weigh in by posting a comment, and enjoy.

Within Reason: So down comes word from "The Man" that WBCN will be taken off the air - and become internet only - on August 13th. Thoughts on this?

Smack: Yeah I heard that yesterday. It sounded like they’re changing the call letters and keeping their morning show on the new station, and still playing the Pats games and stuff.

WR: If you ask me, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

A) You're taking one of only 2 AOR stations off the air in the 'greater' Boston market (I do not count 101.7 WFNX, because that signal drops about 15 miles outside the city).B) You are replacing WBCN with an FM sports station. In some cities, this may make sense, but there's a little station called WEEI in Boston, which is not only the #1 radio station in the Boston market now, it's near the top nationwide. B pt.2) Past attempts, by other stations, to compete with WEEI have failed miserably. Perhaps WEEI is down, following their loss - 2 years ago - of exclusive broadcasting rights to The Red Sox, but there's a problem with that reasoning, too. Anyone south of Boston can already get FM sports talk and programming - including The Red Sox - on 103.7 FM, WEEI's Rhode Island affiliate.C) 104.1 - WBCN's frequency, will now be occupied by the 'mix' station, currently Mix 98.5. The new sports station will move to Mix's vacated 98.5 spot on the dial. I question the logic of retaining a 'mix' station, where you are directly competing against Kiss 108 (107.9) Mike FM (93.7) Jam'n 94.5 (which plays mostly hip hop and R&B, or about 30% of your top 40 'mix' material) and a handful of other stations already established in this market.

This leaves mainstream rock audiences with 107.3 WAAF (also broadcasting on 97.7) as the only choice on the dial.

So, if I get this straight, media companies like CBS would rather try to squeeze another 50,000 - 100,000 in sales out of a Kelly Clarkson record than to develop any sort of rock audience in Boston. That would be Boston, Massachusetts. I guess former Spinal Tap manager Ian "I wouldn't worry about Boston, it's not much of a college town" Faith has landed at CBS Radio...

S: Just a couple of points:They do still have the exclusive rights to the Patriots live broadcasts which is big.Mix has a pretty good market share despite all the competition in their format. Don’t see why that would change much.WEEI’s share has been down over the past few years.

Graphic from

WR: Those are some interesting figures, but I do still find it odd that CBS is choosing to take on the top 2 stations in the market.

I would be interested in seeing exactly how the producers of these charts are defining "Boston" - as, again, there is an FM affiliate to WEEI in Providence that reaches much of Southern New England.

The main point, I think, is that every time a rock radio station goes off the air the devolution of music as a whole advances.

S: Do you think AM/FM radio will eventually go the way of the newspapers as people get more and more options for real time news, music and sports talk? (e.g. iPod, Blackberry, XM, Sirius, HD radio, streaming internet radio)

WR: It's an interesting parallel. Where the issue facing newspapers is 'what was once $0.50 a day is now available for free' - the issue facing radio is 'there are less and less free outlets for music.'

You can look at the issues facing Sirius/XM as an example of this. As of yet, it doesn't appear that there are that many people willing to pay for radio. Just as is happening with information, actual media (in this case, music) is available from such a wide assortment of formats that audiences - or consumers - are divided and sub-divided over and over. What ends up happening is that monetizing this market becomes increasingly difficult. As a solution, larger media companies are forcing consumers to migrate towards 'fee for service' music. If I want to get turned on to a new band, I'll have to come up with some way other than terrestrial radio.

We've touched on this before, but a singles market (as opposed to an LP market) is bad for music. Record companies push out bands like Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, etc in the hopes that they'll get a few million $0.99 downloads - sort of like the new 45s. The problem is, the 'new' (post 1967) music economy was built on sales of the LP - not singles. This was especially the case in the 1980s and 1990s, when sales records were being set, and groups like 'Nsync, Brittany Spears and Pearl Jam could expect to sell 1 million copies of an LP in it's first week of release. Nowadays, 1 million in sales would put you in the top 10 for a calendar year. The problem with this new model is that there is no artist development - both because the 'artists' themselves are not strong enough to establish long term careers, and - as it turns out - even the 'big time' acts like Beyonce Knowles don't have the clout to maintain long term success on the level of past predecessors (see Beyonce vs. Madonna or even Brittany, Coldplay vs. U2 or Pearl Jam, heck - even Creed put up numbers that are, by today's new standards, astronomical).

Music will just get more and more homogenized, the quality will continue to diminish, and it will get more and more expensive.

S: Did music have these same issues pre-1967, when singles were the norm?

WR: I don't think they would be characterized as "issues" pre-1967 - it was just the market. It's becoming the market again, but this time it is doing so without the benefit of free promotion - commercial radio. I was discussing this with a co-worker earlier. ALL radio programming is commercial - even the songs themselves. The songs are commercials for the artists, and the records they produce. If you are some one who does not buy a lot of music, but you listen to the radio, you are the equivalent of some one who watches The Food Network, but shops and eats like any average consumer - thanks for watching, and now a word from our sponsors.

Downloading music for free, or "illegally" is not the culprit that it is made out to be by the media (of course, the same media that is suffering through this "music recession"). What you've got with downloading is a replacement for the radio. There are a few angles to this: First, if downlaoding was THAT big a problem, it could be stopped. Am I to believe that my cable company can block certain channels, my employer can block certain sites, and I can encrypt a personal data disk, but music companies cannot protect THEIR content? I doubt that. Second, downlaoding came about just as the 90s boom was beginning to fade. Through the 80s and 90s, record sales were exploding - and the bubble had to burst at some point. Whereas the hold-over between the hair band 80s and 'alternative/grunge 90s was brief, the post 90s rock scene has been slow to rebound and develop substantial artists to replenish the rosters of music labels. No offense to 3 Doors Down, but I wouldn't know if I were standing next to them a Home Depot - they're just that uninteresting. Third, there was a failure to acknowledge, on behalf of the labels, that along with this natural decline in sales was the advent of decreased music programming AND the availability of free music online. The current climate is the result of a perfect storm of poor business planning, a frustrated consumer base, and poor product.

In my opinion, music companies need to embrace free downloading, and rebuild their business model around incentivizing customers to spend their money. I understand that this is not easy in an environment where all of your product may be available for free - but what about sites, sponsored by the label - that offer free downloads (and not just some promotional single, but additional content) to their customers? Like it? Well, buy the album here, too. Again, I know it doesn't make sense on the surface, but it's exactly how radio used to work - if you replace "downloads" with "air play" and "website" with record store."

Record companies need to remember that the radio is their advertising. Any company that said "Uh, we're going to essentially stop advertising, lessen the quality of our product, and make it available in fewer and fewer places" would eventually run into this brick wall.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Wild, Wild South

As some one who does not own a gun, I, like many in my position, have mixed feelings about our Second Amendment rights. In theory, I strongly support our right to arm ourselves as a means of defense. However, when that theory becomes a practice, things can get complicated.

Especially when alcohol is involved.

What's more frightening than the prospect of inebriated gun owners acting as unofficial "deputies" is the unspoken precedent this law sets - which is "take the law into your own hands."

Again, as some one who does not own a gun, I'm in no position to dispute Ms. Goesser's implied statement that, in the hands of a trained owner, a gun can be used to disable a perpetrator - not simply kill them. The real problem is that gun training alone does not substitute for law enforcement training.

The Democratic sponsor of this new legislation, State Senator Doug Jackson, states "People are fearful about tomorrow. They feel insecure. And the Second Amendment right is something that they cherish and it's a means of protecting themselves and their family and defending what they have. It provides security in troubled times."

Well, as of July the 14th, you're going to have plently more fearful citizens on your hands, Mr. Senator.

Triple Play

Time for another first on Within Reason: a three way conversation. Well, sort of. Today I spoke separately with our friends "Smack" and Randy; identical questions, unique responses. As always, feel free to weigh in by posting a comment, and enjoy.

Within Reason: Okay, here are the players who have hit 30 or more home runs prior to the All-Star break since 1998 (the year it got out of control):
1998 - Greg Vaughn, Ken Griffey, Jr., Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire

1999 - Jose Canseco, Sosa

2000 - McGwire

2001- Luis Gonzalez, Barry Bonds

2003 - Bonds

2006 - Jim Thome, David Ortiz

2007 - Alex Rodriguez

2009 - Albert Pujols

In light of the names on this list, I think this feat can now be described as almost a 'dubious' accomplishment. Yet today,'s lead story is "Albert Pujols: The Perfect Player?"

Of course, this piece was written by Tim "I would have no problem with cyborg outfielders" Kurkjian. Can it be agreed upon, though, that the sports media has turned a corner, and is now just setting these players up for falls? Prior to this spring's "bombshell" about A-Rod, he was 'the great hope.' He (A-Rod) was bestowed this honor after the shaming of McGwire and Sosa (the 'saviors of the game') and the downfall of Ken Griffey Jr, who put on 25 pounds and blew out every ligament in his body beginning around 2001 (hmmm...).

So, how many months until Pujols is A) named as one of the remaining 103 "names on the list" B) is linked to the physician who prescribed Manny Ramirez his PEDs, or C) both?

Smack: Everyone is just scrambling to find one player to cling to in the aftermath of all the PED outings. Your notion that it’s only a matter of time before Pujols’ name gets dropped is one that is likely shared by a lot of fans, and it’s a sad commentary on the state of MLB. This notion won’t go away until the rest of the list gets out. (I’m not necessarily arguing for its release but I think that’s the way it is.)

Randy: So while I am a Griffey apologist (I think his body changed with age more "normally" than most), I totally agree with the premise.

I don't get how for the past few years I have heard that we were all guilty for glorifying Bonds, Mac, Sosa, A-rod, etc...and now it is even worse for Pujols! If it's too good to be true, it usually is!!!

Some Doctor (or more likely a "best" friend) will hold Pujols hostage for millions...

WR: Do you think that, like NASCAR with wrecks (and, to a lesser extent, women's sports with sex appeal), MLB is playing up the 'you can't look away/disaster waiting to happen' side of their sport in order to compete with an NFL that gets more and more popular every year?

R: not sure...

I think it's funny that people believe him (Pujols) because he speaks out on steroids! hahahaha
Can you say Rafi (Palmeiro)?

They are in a tough position in that they need to market players and God only knows who is clean or dirty. I mean...I would not suspect Pedroia or Lincecum given their body sizes, and yet I would not be shocked if I heard some link to PEDs.

S: I hope not. The optimist in me thinks this is a legitimate attempt at finding a hero among cheaters.

WR: It does make one wonder why the Pedroias, Lincecums and Brauns of the world are not taken up by MLB as "The New Faces of Clean Baseball." Could it be, that in the world of Mammoth Sluggers and Raging Texan Hurlers, that these more diminutive, "everyman" players should be under at least as much suspicion?

S: Wouldn’t you agree that no one is above suspicion?

R: I ran into (Peter) Gammons at Best Buy once, and if I were to see him again, I would ask why the lovefest of Pujols given how the story ended for Arod, Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, Mac, etc.

WR: I think we just have to acknowledge that "The Steroid Era" has given way to the "Age of Suspicion."

R: Well said. See Raul Ibanez...

I would rather be JD Drew. Predictable stats, nothing crazy. $14 M a year! Nice gig if you can get it!

S: At the same time, though, we should be careful not to veer into “everyone is guilty” territory.

WR: Well maybe I'm just jaded, but I think that everyone - the fast, the slow, the injured, the healthy, the singles hitter, the slugger - everyone - is under suspicion, and will remain so until MLB institutes a thorough, plausible and transparent testing and punishment policy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

We Don't Need Another...

The wait is finally over - more "Smack" talk. This time, Smack and I reminisce on g'days gone by...

Feel free to weigh in by posting a comment, and enjoy.

Within Reason: Alright, random question that hit me driving home the other day: Has any definable entity, i.e. a person, place, object, etc, had a bigger pop culture decade than Australia did in the 1980s?

Smack: Let’s start with a list of their 1980’s pop culture phenomena:

Fine Young Cannibals
Crowded House
Men at Work
Air Supply
Rick Springfield
What else are we looking at besides music?

WR: A few tweaks to your list - Fine Young Cannibals were British, and I would put AC/DC in the 1970s pop culture category.

Your list alone is impressive, but let's throw in:
All of the Mad Max movies - especially Beyond Thunderdome
Crocodile Dundee
Midnight Oil
Jacko (best known for the "Energizer! Oi !!!! Commercials)
Yahoo Serious (of Young Einstein "fame")

It got to the point that, by the late 80s, it seems that the idea - "just do (X), and make it Australian!" was the key marketing pitch of the times. I mean, Yahoo Serious was pretty much Australia's answer to Weird Al, or Pauly Shore. When a pop scene is at the point of lifting C-list ideas and making them their own, you are at a saturation point. America inventing The (curiously fronted by a Brit) Monkees as their 'answer to The Beatles" is one thing, but coming up with Jacko as you answer to Hulk Hogan PLUS Max Headroom is quite another.

S: Well now that we’ve established Australia’s credentials, we need to address whether that’s ever been topped.

Since you bring up the Beatles, how about England in the 60’s? You had countless big name bands, i.e. Beatles, Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Rolling Stones, The Who, Bee Gees. Then you had the whole mod subculture, free love, etc. Figure in James Bond and I think we might have Australia beat.

Britain had a competitive 80’s too, music wise.

WR: Touche with Britain in the 60's - I had figured they'd be Australia's toughest opponent. (Side note - The Bee Gees are Australian)

I think the knock on Britain would be that a good deal of their pop culture impact was summed up as "The British Invasion." Well, maybe that's not a knock, because it points to a similar sort of 'just make it British' marketing in the 60s that was became (to a lesser extent, maybe) the 'just make it Australian' by the late 80s. Perhaps Australia can be given a nod, since they had made major inroads into pop culture prior to the 'sell out' point of Jacko and Yahoo Serious. It took about 9 months for "The Second Wave of the British Invasion" to come about, while Australia was just consistently churning out pop culture dynamite for several years before it veered off into C-list land...

Look at it this way - the Austin Powers franchise acts as a sort of synopsis of the entire British cultural phenomenon of the 60s. Not that it's complete - but if, in 10 years or so, some one tried to do the same with Australia in the 1980s, would the main character hunt crocs in the outback, hunt post-apocalyptic petrol bandits, and play the didgeridoo in a strange, quasi pop band who sings about famine and equality?

It was a pretty diverse, yet strangely identifiable 'scene.'

S: I like it. Let’s get this movie made. Sponsored by Vegemite.

I think The British Invasion wins. Australians are just British vagabonds anyhow.

Do you think we can include in this discussion Microsoft in the late 80’s – mid 90’s or Apple in the 00’s? I think the iPod has become a substantial pop culture icon. iAnything for that matter.

WR: Ooooh - good call. I say Macintosh gets the nod there. The 'i' prefix has totally consumed the tech / branding segment of pop culture. Sometimes I feel as though I should spelling my name iAN.

As far as Microsoft, not so much, I think. To say that Microsoft had a pop culture presence in the 80s/90s is kind of like saying the CIA had a presence in Central America in the 50s - the 80s. Sure it was around, but the point wasn't necessarily to grow brand appeal - not that there was a choice.

Back to the movie: It's growing on me, too. What could we call this, and how could we avoid having this become a rip-off of The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Accross the Fifth Dimension (which is about a near apocalyptic scientist/stuntman who hunts aliens in the American West, and sings in a Culture Club-meets-that band playing at the fair in The Lost Boys) - which, now that I think of it, is another example of 80s Australian influence...

S: Well I think the Austin Powers movies did a good job encapsulating the British Invasion. It would have to be something like that.

I found our main character:
It will be called “Joe Bloggs, Bonzer Bloke.” All we need is a premise.

WR: Hmm...I'm struggling with the idea of incorporating humor into the post-apocalyptic outback.

How's this: It's called "The Super Bonzer Mates" - and it's essentially a live action remake of Super Mario Brothers, but Australian. Bindi Irwin gets kidnapped by some bonkers Aborigines, and a couple of Aussie Rules footballers are 'ired by The Croc Hunter's wife to gather 'er up. They 'op in the ol' Leen Rovah, cruise the outback - jam out at night to groups of atomic orphans, and when they finally encounter Bindi, she's turned into a younger version of Tina Turner's character from Mad Max: Beyond ThunderDome. They return the secret boomerang to it's rightful kangaroo owner - and BLAMMO! No more global warming!

S: Good on ya, mate. There would have to be a high speed dune buggy chase scene, and a tussle with rabid koalas and/or dingoes. But the rest of it sounds good.

WR: Too bad it will only ever exist in Tomorrowmorrow Land.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Head to Head

For the latest round of banter on Within Reason, we'll be checking in with our friend Randy again, to talk a little NFL, a little MLB, and for a quick round of "Over rated, Under rated, Spot on."

As always, feel free to weigh in by posting a comment, and enjoy.

Within Reason: Alright Randy, let's get to it. If The Steelers win the next Super Bowl, and The Patriots and Steelers end this decade with 3 Super Bowl wins a piece, who would get the nod as 'the team of the decade'?

Randy: So let me set the record straight about my allegiance first. I'm a Seahawks fan first and foremost. Ever since the Mayflower moving van moved the Colts from Baltimore, the Hawks are my team. But when I moved to Boston in '01, I did get swallowed up in the whole hoopla. My issue with the Pats is their fans and their blind allegiance (see Spygate - though I think this was far overblown).

With that said, in my opinion, the Pats would be the team on this decade. My four main reasons are:
Only 1 year of 8-8 or worse (Steelers had two years)

16-0 in a year that they did not even win the Super Bowl (but were clearly the best team)

They have the best QB of the era

They have the best coach of the era

And the "Bettis" Bowl still haunts me with all those brutal calls against my Hawks!

No knock on the Steelers, but they just aren't the team when I think of this decade.

WR: Absolutely agree. There is only one kink that could potentially arise - and that's if The Steelers go through The Patriots to win next year's Super Bowl. That would still put the Pats ahead in head-to-head AFC Championship showdowns (2-1) - but in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of sports opinions, it would be a big step towards The Steelers laying claim to the crown.

The other, uglier side of the debate is Spygate. Regardless what you think of the events that transpire, you cannot ignore the fact that - if we encounter the scenario of a third SB title for The Steelers - Pittsburgh fans will by crying at how their team won "fair and square", etc. I personally think it's hooey - but it would be an interesting debate nonetheless.

Let's move on to a related topic and play a little OUSO: Ben Roethlisberger.

R: Big Ben, huh.

Ok, here is my take. Unlike Brady and Manning (the two best QBs of this era), Ben is a truly a system guy. I honestly don't think he is all that different from a lot of QBs out there. I think he is solid, but given the praise he has received of late, I would say he is overrated. I dare anyone to watch the "Bettis" bowl over again and tell me that he is as good as Brady or Peyton.

Straight up, with all things equal, I would take Brees, McNabb, and even Rivers over him. May sound crazy. To be fair, I did think Ben took steps forward last year. So this year will be critical in how I look at him in terms of the all-timers of this day and age.

WR: Once again, we agree - but would use different examples to illustrate our points.

I certainly place Roethlisberger in the second tier of NFL QBs, just below 'elite' status. The way I determine 'elite' is as follows: If you took QB 'X' and placed them on a bottom level team - we'll use St. Louis as an example - would the addition of the QB instantly turn the team into a contender?

I think there are only a few QBs who can be placed in the "yes" category. First on the list is Tom Brady, slightly ahead of Peyton Manning. Reason for Brady getting the nod is his record of performing well not only when surrounded by a very good to great offense - as Manning has for nearly all of his career - but also doing well when surrounded by average, to slightly below average offensive talent. While Manning might be the best pure QB in the league, Brady tops my list for his ability to elevate those around him. I'm going to reserve judgement on Drew Brees until he puts up solid numbers for 1 more year. While I think Reggie Bush was over-hyped, he is certainly a QB's best friend - a la Marshall Faulk (see Kurt Warner and Peyton Mannin) - in that he is such a threat to receive the swing pass out of the backfield. McNabb has consistently been the most under appreciated QB in the league, but I think he's past his prime, and has fallen from the ranks of the truly 'elite.'

Roethlisberger fits somewhere in here. I don't think if you placed him in St. Louis, the Rams would contend - at least not any more so than if you placed Philip Rivers or Matt Hasselbeck there. Even on his own team I don;t think Big Ben is irreplaceable. When Byron Leftwich got snaps last year, The Steelers looked fine to me.

Trent Dilfer is probably the best analogy I can cone up with. When people call Dilfer the worst QB to ever win a Super Bowl, I always think "How was he any different than Big Ben? The 2000 Ravens were, essentially the model upon which the Steelers of this decade were built - and both Ben and Trent are game-managers with pedestrian stats who's best attribute is avoiding catastrophic mistakes - they are virtually the same to me..."

I think we both agree that Ben is a fine QB, and if we weren't lucky enough to have Brady, we'd be happy to have him. The problem with calling some one over-rated is that it's perceived as a knock on their ability - but when Michael Wilbon, or any other talking head calls Roethlisberger "the best QB in the league right now" - it can't be taken seriously.

One more OUSO: Derek Jeter

R: So I agree with your comments below, but be careful about burying McNabb. I think the 2009 season may be his final shot...and I am rooting for him in a weird way (yes, Westbrook went to Villanova, and that may be the reason!).

Jeter? Really? This may sound like sour grapes coming from Boston, but here goes.

First off, he is a smart, heady player who I respect for the way he plays the game and carries himself.But the gushing over the almighty Jeter is to quote Lee Elia "sickening". It's not that I can't see past pinstripes either. I mean I think Mo is the best closer ever (even with a blown World Series on his record). It's just that those 90s teams were STACKED. I am left wondering if Michael Young played in the Bronx, would he be destined for Cooperstown?

Well you are looking for a rating right...I would have to say overrated. But I would take him on my team in a second...just like I would with Paul O'Neil.

Back to Jeter, can we agree that he has a sub-par arm and limited range. Only some of that goes away with his ability to "read" the game. And while HRs are not the end all, he is a singles/doubles hitter. Personally, I think Ichiro is far less appreciated for having more talent.

But seriously, I am not bitter...

WR: Here goes; well, first a disclaimer: Where I consider myself a rational enough football fan to feel comfortable that there is concrete reasoning behind my giving Brady a nod over Manning, when it comes to the Yankees, an intense dislike for the organization has occasionally blurred my judgement. That said...

I think Derek Jeter is the single most over-rated athlete of all time. In 15 seasons - on the STACKED teams you mention (come to think of it, The Yankees are still stacked now, they just don't win titles...) he has cracked 100 RBI once. He has cracked 20 HR only 3 times. I agree with you, HR are not the be-all, end-all, but still...

Here's an interesting view of Derek Jeter: According to (using Bill James' system of similarity scores, basically the most statistically similar batters to any given player), here are the 10 players to whom Derek Jeter most closely compares (in order): Barry Larkin, Alan Trammel, Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar, Ray Durham, Lou Whitaker, Julio Franco, Joe Torre, Johnny Damon and Bobby Doerr. While that's certainly a decent list, it's not chock full of Hall of Famers (only 2, Sandberg and Doerr) like you would expect to see if you believed all of the Jeter-buzz.

If you took Jeter and put him in any other market, he toils in relative obscurity - unless you put him in Boston, they'd just trade him.

R: Like the list of comparable players. I think Trammell is a perfect comparison. SOLID player, just not a lock for the Hall. Nevermind their own wing for God's sake!

Straight-up, and I have no issue saying this, Robbie Alomar is a much better all around player than Jeter. The eye-test does not lie. Just don't ask Susan Waldman!

So how much do his looks play into his appeal? If he looked like Lugo (not picking on Julio, just the first SS I thought of...sadly enough), would he have the same appeal.

p.s. Why didn't Jeremy Giambi just slide??? Just saying!

WR: We could go on and on, but he's a New York pretty boy who's managed to find himself on several champions over a 15 year period.

To draw one more analogy - Troy Brown is not one of the great wide receivers of the last 15 years, but if he played in New York, and The Giants or Jets had played in 5 Super Bowls since 1996, and won 3 - he would probably be a Gatorade sponsored Hall of Famer.

Again, just saying.

R: I really don't like that he is baseball's version of Federer and Tiger. They are all-time greats and he is not even close! Then again, he is from NY and with limited power comes less steroid noise.

WR: And here's the other thing - you know that The Yanks will coronate his successor as soon as he has his tearful who is next in line to be 'Mr Yankee'? Should we be preparing ourselves for the onslaught of "Brett Gardner is among the greatest outfielders in the game" era?

R: Or Joba the putz?

WR: Man, I really do hate The Yankees.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What's My Age Again?

The time has come, yet again, to check in with our friend "Smack", and address what is always a hot-button issue with the key demographic of this website: Aging drivers.

Please feel free to weigh in by posting a comment, and enjoy.
Within Reason: Alright, Smack, what have you got?
Smack: It might be overblown but it’s a hot topic… How about delving into the elderly driver thing?
WR: Sure. Here's my opinion: Instead of looking at this as a case of "Old drivers need to be tested every 'X' years" just have everyone tested every 10. That way, no age-ism, no discrimination - and as an added bonus, you're more likely to get other, younger dangerous drivers off the roads as well.
S: This might get lengthy, but here goes…

This call for elderly driver testing is a knee jerk reaction to the ridiculous amount of media coverage the topic has been receiving lately. It’s definitely an issue, but it’s hardly a new one. Old people have always mistaken gas pedals for brake pedals. The stats show that as life expectancies improve elderly drivers are becoming a larger demographic, so this does deserve attention but not the kind that it’s been getting.
This is a suit designed to give the wearer a firsthand experience of what it’s like to be an elderly driver. It makes your legs heavy, your hands arthritic, and your neck stiff. It reminds me of the “beer goggles” that your high school health teacher had that were supposed to show you what it’s like to be drunk. Give me a break. Goggles can’t give you the same sensation that a fifth of vodka can. To be accurate they would have to make a simulator that drops 20 lbs off of female frames, makes Wendy’s taste exponentially better and makes your jokes at least twice as funny. Likewise, a suit can’t give you the same sensation that 85 years of life can. If they really want to take this route I want to see them add loose dentures, loose bowels and an inability to open jars of pickles and/or spaghetti sauce. It really wouldn’t be any more ridiculous.

Exhibit B: is an online “senior driving simulator.” If you don’t have time to try the suit in person you can simply surf your way to an elderly driving experience on the web. You’ve got to try it to believe it. It starts off with an overhead, 3rd person view where you control the vehicle with arrow keys and there’s no button for a brake. Seriously. Then in level 2 you get the 1st person view. You don’t get the luxury of mirrors or the ability to look side to side, and the outer range of the vision you don’t get is totally blurred. As you drive, animals, pedestrians and other vehicles just appear in front of you and you hit them. It’s just asinine. This isn’t even made by the DOT or the NHTSA; this is an insurance company with elderly customers! How do you not alienate people with this crap? Unless they’re under the assumption that old people don’t use the Internet…

You and I are in agreement about testing across the board. It’s best to avoid the ageism and just test everyone every so often. The under 25 demographic has to be a huge percentage of accident-causers as well. How about a driving suit that gives you growing pains, acne, and an erection? How about a driving simulator where you have to drive to cheerleading practice while bumping the new Black Eyed Peas song and simultaneously txting your BFF about the new Twilight book?

I also feel that the vision testing at the RMV is an absolute joke. I have personally seen an RMV employee give someone 4 or 5 chances to pass the test. Why even administer it if you’re not going to do it seriously? I mean, that was one opportunity right there to force a driver who couldn’t see to get corrective lenses.

WR: Okay - we are in 100% agreement on the "simulator" examples you give. There is no way to accurately simulate anything - there is always an 'X' factor.

Where I start to disagree is when the focus shifts to the 'challenges' facing younger drivers. Apart from the basic learning curve - so say, a year at most to "get the feel" of driving (and even this, I would think, would account for more dings in the parking lot and "I'm going, NO I'm not, YES I'M GOING, WAIT...I'll just stop in the intersection and look scared...why are you beeping at me...?" incidents than it would true wrecks), I think the problems you list - loud music, txting, heavy petting, etc. - are all behavioral in nature. A 37 year old soccer mom who's trying to load Harry Potter and the Clearasil Curse into her Dodge Durango's DVD player while on the phone with a more-than-a -little-stoned 17 year old pizza shop employee trying to secure food for the softball team cookout, all while asking little Emily in the back seat "Sweetie, which one is your street?" - is just as dangerous as the little Black Eyed Peas fan you reference. The common thread is that all of the extraneous activities can be avoided.

There is nothing behavioral about senility. My general rule of thumb is - if the world starts moving too fast, you are moving too slow. Old Mr. Jenkins, on his way to open up the same hardware store he's run since 1951 - when bread cost a nickel and those dang kids weren't trying to commit dang suicide by rolling on their dang skating boards on the sidewalk - can't just say "Hmmm, for this ride to work, I'm going to put my aging brain on 'vibrate' and not let my deteriorating reflexes affect me until I get to work."

Where I really disagree is where you contend that this is a knee-jerk reaction to recent events. Calls like these have gone out before, and - if this bid is unsuccessful - they will go out again. I agree that the flutter of recent news attention focused on this issue has served to escalate the debate - but as some one who worked in a pharmacy for years, I can tell you - as long as there have been old people and cars, there have been people who are too old to drive.

S: I think we’re both uniquely qualified to opine on this. I’ve been dealing with auto accident claims for at least 7 years now and I have a good feel for who should and shouldn’t be driving. I’ve seen plenty of accidents where old drivers have hit the wrong pedal. Sometimes they’re serious accidents; sometimes they’re dings. Young kids cause big wrecks, too. At a certain point the old folks need to call it quits. But there are plenty of old drivers who are still sharp and have no trouble behind the wheel. I do think, though, that however avoidable the behavioral issues may be, young drivers are still more susceptible to fall into the bad habits. And some drivers never grow out of them which is why you see the Volvo-driving-soccer-mom-phenomenon that you so vividly describe. Distracted drivers, old drivers and drunk drivers can be equally dangerous. At least you can test people’s BAC, vision and reaction time. What can you do about the teeny boppers; endorse their licenses with a Ritalin requirement?

This is by far the biggest uproar I’ve ever experienced with this. When I say knee jerk, I’m talking about the driving suit and the online simulator. It’s way over the top and unnecessary. Something does need to be done but a lot of people seem to be too quick to want to pull everyone over 85 off the road. Just test everyone.

WR: Well, it is a bit over blown - but this whole idea of ours behind testing everyone sort of points to why: It would be fully expected that the vast majority of those failing their re-tests would be older drivers. Just think of the scenario of the test itself. If you are a younger, easily distracted driver - what are the chances you'll be texting with a Statie in the passenger seat (and if you do: FAIL) - and if you're a soccer mom (or dad, I guess) - you're not going to have the kids in the car with you - it will be Officer Timilty. But older drivers will stil have their aging retinas, their atrophied arms and legs, and - most importantly - their diminished mental capabilities.

Obviously, I'm not pointing to all older drivers - just like I'm not pointing to all Moms. I still do think the focus needs to be on the older drivers, whether that fact ends up at the forefront of any solution or not. Testing everyone is just a nice compromise - with minimal downside - that achieves this objective without being 'agist.'
S: I think it’s important to be fair regardless of who the real target is. If you’re going to have physical requirements to be on the road then they need to be universal.

And unless Liberty Mutual comes out with a “female driver suit” and an “African American driver suit” or a "white businessman driver suit", etc… They need to cut it out. Side note: I’m finding it hard to resist the temptation to imagine these suits.

WR: I agree. If we're going to treat driving like a de facto right, we need to apply equal protection to all drivers. Not that I think that driving is a 'right' - but convincing folks otherwise gets increasingly difficult as we all become more and more entitled.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Drunken Style

North Korea launched something other than a missile last week: Their first beer commercial.

A translation is not yet available online, so we'll just have to guess at what is being said. Probably something along the lines of "Reward youself for best duty to North Korea! Manufacture confidence! Imbibe thorough beer ration at the request of this advertisement! To do any less will ensure defeat! Refresh your taste for beer by showing respect to your ancestors in the fields! Pyongyang is full of the pride and carbonation of beer! Taedonggang beer is a victory mountain!"

This mildly offensive commentary has been brought to you by
Mr. Sparkle Dish Detergent.