Sunday, June 30, 2013

There Are at Least Eight Types of RISK Players

One of the joys of fatherhood is that you can return to those childhood activities you love, but can't do as an adult . . . because doing them as an adult-- alone, unaccompanied by your own children-- would be weird and creepy. Things like going to the zoo. Sledding. Snow ball fighting. Riding a Ripstik. Hanging around elementary school playgrounds in a windowless van. And playing RISK.

I played a lot of RISK as a kid, and I played a lot of RISK in college. As a kid I played the traditional board game, but in college I was lucky enough to have a fraternity brother who possessed  a super-computer. Which looked like this:

It was 1991.

And this fraternity brother was willing to lend out his super-computer just to get it out of his room, because where ever the computer was, the RISK players would soon congregate. And why not? This was so much better than the board game. This was the future. The screen was nine inches on the diagonal; the colors were black, white, and gray; and you often had to squint, BUT you didn't have to worry about sloppy dice, lost pieces, klutzy players, or a sore loser knocking over the board. It looked like this:

Notice the heart pattern in North Africa and the swastika pattern in Venezuela.

I am always looking for holes in the Internet that need filling (insert mom joke here), but when I searched "types of RISK players" I was disappointed to actually find a post on this topic. Once I read the post, I realized that this particular gap in the internet still needs serious filling. 

Andy Brownlow -- and that's very unfortunate if that's your real name -- you may know some things about politics, but I don't think you've played much RISK

Brownlow, in his post "The Politics of RISK," lamely divides RISK players into the following categories:

America represents this player. If the Diplomat proves timid and refuses to retaliate after individual opponents attack, they will soon be the feasting ground upon which all other players seek to expand their territories.

America is currently being tested by the four other types of Risk players. I call them:

  • Eurasia Dominator (Russia)
  • The Behemoth (China)
  • The Vassal (Venezuela)
  • Australasian Death Marcher (Iran)
Then, after he lauds the merits of being "The Diplomat," Brownlow denigrates all these other methods of Global Domination. I'm not sure he realizes the object of the game of RISK. The object is not diplomacy. It's global domination.

I am on vacation with my family in Chatham, which is a town on the elbow of Cape Cod, and we are having some genuine Cape weather. Foggy and rainy. So I am mired in a game of RISK with my family (though my mother nearly overturned the board last night and we nearly bit her head off).

Despite Mr. Brownlow's hard work on this topic, I'd like to take a shot at categorizing the different kinds of RISK players, but I promise not to be condescending towards the different strategies, as I realize that everyone is trying to win the game

The Lucky Roller: this is my wife's role in the current game, and she is controlling Europe simply on the merits of her hot dice. She doesn't even like RISK, and rarely plays. She barely knows the rules. She doesn't know that no one controls Europe this early in the game! The rest of us are a bit sore about this. My eight year old son, a grizzled veteran of exactly two RISK games, said to me: "I think mommy is having first timer's luck." I have to agree with him, but this is a surefire way to win the game, because it all comes down to the dice.

Some pundits say America succeeded for similar reasons; Tyler Cowen calls America's good luck "low-hanging fruit" and I highly recommend his e-pamphlet The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better if you are interested in politics (Mr. Brownlow!) but if you are interested in RISK, then you can skip it. All you need to know is: hot dice defeat all the strategy in the world.

The Juggernaut: this guy keeps his armies very close together and tries not to bother anyone -- he simply wins one battle a round, and collects a RISK card. Once he has enough cards, he finally turns them in and forms one massive army, which he uses for a one-shot attempt to knock someone out of the game for good, thus stealing the defeated players RISK cards. I have used this strategy, which looks a little like a suicide-rampage, and it makes people who are biding their time -- playing diplomatically -- very very angry when you destroy all their handiwork with one death march -- because whether or not you are victorious and wipe out the other player and capture their cards, you have weakened them entirely and set them up for defeat by someone in the next round. It is an all-or-nothing strategy, but it can work. More on this later.

The Dude Who Hangs Out in Australia Amassing Armies and Chastising the Other Players for Not Policing the World:  the master of this strategy was a dude named Bobby C. Once he'd conquered Australia -- and no one fights that hard for Australia -- he'd hole up there, win a quick battle in SouthEast Asia, get his two measly bonus armies, collect his RISK card, and pass his turn. Then he would say, "Hey, you guys better do something about Clarence in Africa. He's going to control the continent if someone doesn't do something." This is a brilliant strategy and I've adopted as my own. I have found it to be very effective, Mr. Andie Brownlow. In fact, I'm wondering if you were often defeated by a player using this tactic, because your tone is unnecessarily demeaning towards this style of play:

The Australasian Death Marcher is a weakened player, similar to the Vassal. He's the one who "kicks the board over" in defeat and ruins the plans of other players. Instead of doing the bidding of another player, he worms his way over to the smallest, easiest to defend, least rewarding territory on the board (Australasia) and builds his army.

Just as other players start to make their move, he combines his reinforcements into one big army and leaves a line of destruction across the board to disable players from earning troop bonuses for holding whole territories. He ensures his own defeat when doing so because he expends all troops in this last, vengeful act.

Brownlow, you confuse what you call "a vengeful act" with a valid tactic. I've never had to "kick the board over" when using this strategy, and I never saw Bobby C. kick over the Macintosh. In fact, he often dominated the globe and won the game. Which is the point, whether you like the method or not.

Yellow Fever: The seven bonus armies for controlling Asia is a tantalizing reward for a difficult task, but in all my years of playing, I've never seen anyone shore up the multiple borders of the largest continent early in the game. My college roommate Jason was close -- he was doing a phenomenal job of fighting off five other players, all encroaching on his empire, and he looked so happy and comfortable doing this -- he was set up in front of the little Apple monitor, wrapped in a heavy comforter, a plate of cheese-fries in his lap, settled in for what he thought would be three hours of tactical fun, and I just couldn't stand it -- plus, I wanted to go for a run -- and so I piled all my armies into North Africa, and ran a juggernaut suicide mission through his carefully placed troops. My self-immolation was well worth it, as his tirade towards me was prolonged and wonderful: he insulted my intelligence, my attention span, my upbringing, and my mother. 

My younger son Ian has a case of the yellow fever, and he's spreading his armies thin, desperately trying to control Asia . . . despite the fact that I flat-out told him: it leads to insanity. Think of the some of the rulers that have come out of that continent . . . Genghis Khan, Hideki Tojo, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot, etc. 

Vizzini says it best:

No One Will Notice Me Over Here: this player attempts to "hide" across the Atlantic in North or South America, and the borders of these countries are fairly easy to shore up. My son Alex is taking this route, but these players often forget about Kamchtka (and who can blame them). To play RISK, you've got to remember the words of Sarah Palin: "I can see Russia from my house."

Out of Africa: Mitochondrial Eve came storming out of Africa, and in the ultimate underdog story, a tiny population of homo sapiens burst through this population bottleneck and globally dominated the world. Our species is the ultimate RISK player, and you can mimic our virally global success by hiding your own tribe down in Madagascar, and then bursting into Europe, Asia, or even South America. This strategy works especially well if you're black, because people will let you alone in Africa, for fear of being called prejudiced.

The Pact-Maker/Pact-Breaker (Betrayer/Backstabber) My son Ian approached me after dinner last night, out of earshot of my wife, and said, "Let's gang up on mommy." I agreed to this pact, but he's going to learn a valuable lesson once he's finished knocking her out of Europe.

Mr. Brownlow might not agree with my tactics, but they have been used in RISK games and realpolitik for time immemorial.

The Guilt-Ridden German: eighty years ago, Germans were great at RISK. They were naturals. Now they have trouble bringing the noise. Use this to your advantage. If you are playing someone of German descent, say things like: "Wow, you stormed right through Southern Europe. Do you want to put those conquered armies in the microwave and melt them?" They will fold up inside of themselves, pondering past national crimes, and no longer be a threat in the game.

That's enough of this for now, but if anyone knows any other RISK player types to add to the list, please feel free to describe them in the comments. Unlike Mr. Brownlow, I embrace all types of players, strategies, and tactics. And if you have a problem with this, Brownlow, then I challenge you to an on-line game of RISK, as Richard Loxely has resuscitated the Mac version with what he calls a "Mac Plus emulator."

We'll see how well your diplomacy works against my aboriginal juggernaut.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Love Wins

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Upside is the Best Made Up Word Ever

It’s been some time since I contributed anything useful to this blog. Which makes me like most of the other members of G:TB. We all have our excuses, and they’re all crap. We’re busy and we’re lazy and by the time most of sit down at night we’d rather pour ourselves a drink than type up a blog post. I wish this wasn’t the case for me, but it is. Now that I don’t work in front of a computer screen, my ability to (semi) consistently churn out mediocre content is significantly hindered. But, its summer so there’s next to nothing on TV and not a single sport I want to invest 2+ hours of my time in. So, maybe I’ll write some more stuff that you guys won’t read. Or maybe I won’t. I’m not here to make promises, or talk about the past, or even fully read Summer Dave’s long winded posts. Yet, despite my obvious attitude problem, I wasn’t willing to let the NBA Draft pass without putting something together.

The NBA Draft is great. Easily my favorite non-sporting sports event of the year. It’s got the Jay Bilas drinking game, Stephen A. Smith eating Cheez Doodles , guys coming out of the stands to hug David Stern and, when we’re lucky, ridiculous outfits from guys like Samaki Walker. For all of these reasons, and plenty more, the NBA Draft also happens to consistently be one of the better nights of the G:TB year. Plenty of boozy participation, tons of comments, some of which are mildly humorous.

And, as always, in anticpation of this event, I’m going to give my opinions on some of this year’s potential draftees.

Quick aside before I get started: You’ve surely heard pundits refer to this year’s draft as the worst draft in 20 years. That’s pure crap. It will be a long, long time before we see a draft worse than the 2000 Draft. Just look at this. I forgot half those guys even existed.


Victor Oladipo: The Dwayne Wade comparisons are obviously a bit much. He’ll never be the type of impact offensive player that Wade was in his prime. He can, and will (IMO), become the same level of impact defender off the ball. On top of that, I believe Oladipo will be a much better on ball defender than Wade ever was. Some have compared him to Tony Allen defensively. Allen’s only the best defensive guard in the NBA. I think that’s a fair comparison defensively. However, I think Oladipo will be a much better offensive player in 3-4 years than Allen ever will be. Oladipo didn’t even average double figures during his senior year at DeMatha, and he became a 14+ ppg scorer (and 40% 3 PT shooter) for one of the better college teams in the country this past season. He has plenty of room to grow offensively, is said to be an insanely hard working, competitive guy and despite being a junior just turned 21 last month. Will Oladipo ever be the second best guy on a NBA title team? No. A top four player who’s an offensively efficient double digit scorer and First Team All-Defense while also being the type of high character individual organizations build around? I think that’s definitely possible. (Side note: This may be the Magic’s pick at #2 if GM Rob Hennigan is building the franchise using the San Antonio/Oklahoma City model as it appears he is. It’s either Oladipo or Ben McLemore in my opinion.)

Nerlens Noel: We’ve all heard everything that’s wrong with Noel. Skinny with a frame that doesn’t look like it will support significant weight gain. He’s coming off an ACL tear and he’s possibly surrounded by some shady characters. And all of this is at least partially true. Should that give GMs pause? Sure. Is he still one of the best prospects in the draft? Without a doubt. Noel is a force defensively. Jay Bilas has gone so far as to call him a “defensive savant”. He averaged over four blocks and two steals a game last year. Four blocks is obviously impressive but the two steals per game stand out just as much. That’s an absurdly high number for a Center and evidence of the tremendous motor Noel has. Energy and enthusiasm are a skill in basketball. A skill that many big men lack. Furthermore, Noel is a better shot blocker than last year’s #1 pick, Anthony Davis, and history has shown that shot blocking almost always translates from college to the NBA. Finally, I don’t see Noel’s frame as being as big a deal as others. The NBA is changing. The Heat just won a championship playing Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen at Center. Not exactly the Natural Disasters. Noel’s athleticism, motor and mobility actually should be an advantage in the new pick and roll heavy, drive and kick NBA. He may get beaten up by a few centers but not enough true centers exist to scare me off from taking him due to concerns over his weight. And his ability to move laterally will be a major advantage in defending high screen and rolls. He’s going to be very, very good defensively early on in his career and having one great skill is often what matters most early in a player’s NBA career.

CJ McCollum: I don’t buy the Damian Lillard comparisons. They’re lazy and based largely on both guys being small school guards who shoot the ball well. McCollum isn’t a pure PG like Lillard. He’s a combo guard who can play some point. On a really good team he’d be the third guard who provided instant offense off the bench and could team with either the starting PG or SG depending on the matchups. He’s somewhere between a better creating Ben Gordon and a better shooting Rodney Stuckey in my mind. One thing we know about McCollum is his one defining NBA skill, he can shoot extremely well. That and his creativity off the dribble should make him a contributor in the league for a long time. (I heard a comp that I like for McCollum today. George Hill. Personally I think he can be better than Hill, but its not far off.)

Otto Porter: I love Otto. But enough about our favorite prophylactic eschewing Twitter personality. I love Otto Porter too. He’s your prototypical small forward in that he’s good at everything without being great at anything. This is in no way a criticism though. He possesses an extremely well rounded, cerebral game and should be able to contribute immediately to an NBA team as a result of this. Also, the basketball nerd in me loves that his family is largely responsible for turning the high school in his small Missouri hometown into a dynasty of historic proportions. I doubt Otto Porter will ever be an All-Star but I’d bet my house on him playing a decade in the NBA (barring injury) and being a major contributor to a title contender at some point in his career.

Gorgui Deng: He’s probably not a starting center on a good team but he’s a great rotation guy off their bench. He’s a fantastic shot blocker and a really underrated shooter from 15-17 feet. He’s dramatically improved as a passer in the past few years as well. If you can grab Deng in the early 20s, I think he’s a steal.

Dennis Schroeder: I’ve only seen him play once, during the Nike Hoop Summit, but he was very impressive in that game. Schroeder is 19 and a really good athlete who showed natural PG instincts and shot the ball well in the game and, reportedly, the practices for the Hoop Summit. On top of all that, he’s this year’s captain of the Troy O’Leary All-Stars. (Pic)


Steven Adams: Big men always rise around draft time. And there are always some very regrettable decisions made on these late rising big men. Adams is my pick for this year’s biggest bust. He has all the physical tools GMs look for in big men. Here’s the problem: He averaged 7.2 ppg and 6.3 rpg as a freshman at Pitt. I don’t care how bad his guards were or what his cultural adjustment was like…I have no interest in a 7-footer with great physical tools who can’t average double figures in college. His apologists will tell you he’s extremely raw and has a huge upside as he’s new to basketball having grown up in New Zealand and (presumably) spent most of his childhood watching Flight of the Conchords. I don’t’ care. I want nothing to do with him. Speaking of Flight of the Conchords, remember when TR’s name around here was Rhymenocerous? What a tool bag.

Kelly Olynyk: I said it during the NCAA Tournament and I’ll say it again here. He’s soft. I’m less concerned with his slight frame than I am with his unwillingness to mix it up inside.

Shabazz Muhammad: This hurts because I’m always in favor of guys named Shabazz. But there are just too many red flags with Shabazz. His Dad is a crazy sports Dad who lied about his son’s age and when that came out, among other things. When the news of Muhammad's real age came out, he didn’t really own it and essentially blamed his Dad. Weak, you know how old you are. If you’re caught lying about your age, just admit it. So despite being older than most of the top prospects, he’s not any more mature. Did I mention his Dad (Ron Holmes) gave him his name because he thought it was really marketable? Well, yeah, that too. It doesn't really matter but it's fucking weird. He's supposed to have a great work ethic but he spent much of last year out of shape and, from what I can tell, has no right hand (not literally). All that is bad. Do you know what’s worse? He had 27 assists last season. As in, the entire season of his freshman year. Oh yeah, he doesn’t seem like a super awesome teammate either.

Cody Zeller: After falling down draft boards, Zeller’s stock has recovered over the past couple months. Thanks in large part to his really impressive athletic testing results. He measured nearly 7 feet tall and has a 37” vertical, which is really impressive. My problem with this is I never felt like he was that kind of athlete at Indiana. It didn’t show up on the court. Remember him getting rejected at the rim multiple times during Indiana’s NCAA tournament loss to Syracuse? In every sport, there are guys who aren’t able to effectively translate their athleticism to game situations. Zeller feels like one of those guys to me. If he develops a reliable jumper he could become a nice high post power forward but I can’t see him scoring on the block in the NBA.


Anthony Bennett: He’s a bit of a tweener. He measures at 6’7” but is a good enough athlete and strong enough to get away with that as a power forward. The problem is that he fancies himself as a bit of a small forward, a position where he doesn’t have nearly the lateral quickness to keep up on defense. For a player who isn’t exactly an enthusiastic defender to begin with, this is problematic. If he can be convinced that he’s a power forward, learn to embrace defense just a little and continue to develop then he’s got a chance to be really good. I’m just not sure that’s happening.

Ben McLemore: McLemore is probably the player best equipped to become an All-Star in this draft. He has everything you want from a shooting guard from a physical standpoint with his size, strength and leaping ability. Unfortunately, there are major questions about McLemore otherwise. He’s reportedly not been in great shape for his workouts and has some less than stellar people advising him. Now, McLemore is young and in the right situation could easily mature and clear up these issues. By all accounts he’s a good kid, if somewhat naïve and immature. Personally, what worries me most about McLemore is his inability to create off the dribble. Surely you’ve heard talk about how passive McLemore was in many big games for Kansas this year. Some of that can be attributed to the mental side of things but just as much is a result of his inability to put the ball on the floor when defenses close out on him. If McLemore matures and develops a good handle, he’s an All-Star. If not, he’s probably at the end of someone’s bench for most of his career.

Trey Burke: This has as much to do with where he’s being projected as anything. I like Burke and think he can be a decent NBA PG. I don’t think he’s ever making an All-Star team or becoming one of the three best players on a title team. He’s small, just an average athlete and a streaky shooter. In an NBA filled with elite PGs, that’s an awful lot to overcome. In my opinion, Burke’s a lot closer to Jameer Nelson (though he’s much better defensively than Nelson) than Chris Paul.

Giannis Adetokunbo: He’s 6’9”. He’s a fantastic athlete. He’s 19 and he handles and passes the ball unbelievably well for his size. One problem: From what I can tell, he was playing the Greek equivalent of Division III basketball last year. If he’s going to be a good NBA player (and I think he might) it wont be for a few years.

Glen Rice, Jr.: You and Sarah Palin recognize the name. Like Palin, you may not have heard of him. He’s spent the past year in the D-League after being kicked off the team at Georgia Tech during his junior year. He averaged nearly 15 a game in the D-League and didn’t have any of the problems that caused his unceremonious exit from Atlanta. More importantly, he was fantastic late in the D-League season and led his team to the championship while averaging 29/11/4 in the Finals. He’s not short on ability but has to prove he can continue to mature if he’s going to be a contributor in the NBA.


Ricky Ledo: Lots of talent, possibly the best shooter in the draft. Never played at Providence due to academic issues and attended four high schools in four years. Obviously he's not a sure thing but it speaks to his talent that he's projected to go late in the 1st round.

Ray McCallum: Good size for a PG (6’3”). He’s a coach’s son who attended University of Detroit to play for his Dad despite being a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school. McCallum has NBA skills but has played a lower level of competition.

Pierre Jackson: I made my annual “time to file for your passport” joke about Jackson on Twitter earlier this year. I was wrong. Jackson’s a freak athlete who really improved his jumper during two years at Baylor. He’s tough, runs a team reasonably well and can score enough to be a backup PG and sparkplug off the bench.

Nate Wolters: I know the Teej loves him. I can't decide if he has a meaningful NBA career or he's in Europe within a year or two and dominates Spain for a decade. He's got decent size and is talented creator for himself and teammates. Can he defend anyone in the NBA?

Tony Mitchell: He should probably go in the 50/50 section. Originally a Missouri commit, he ended up at North Texas due to academic issues. If he would’ve left school after his freshman year he would’ve gone in the top 15. Instead he went back to school and was worse in every statistical category this past season. He’s 6’9”, 240 with a 38” vert. If he goes to the right team and is convinced by his coaches to focus on rebounding and running the floor for dunks he could be a steal in the mold of Shawn Marion. Or he could end up sucking dick for crack.

Garfunkel and Oates!

You're hooked now, aren't you?  We bring you the latest brilliant video from this very funny (and cute) pair of ladies, titled "Loophole". It is pro-God, pro-sex and pro-anus.  Enjoy.

Don't give up on the song. Give it a good couple minutes, if only because it's original title was "Fuck Me in the Ass Because I Love Jesus".

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Levels of Subjectivity and Deception in Sports

Some sporting victories are unequivocal. There is no debate. There is no question over who won and who lost, and there is no further discussion on strategy, tactics, rule interpretations, and/or alternate outcomes. The winner is the winner, and the loser is the loser. For example, there is rarely any discussion over the shot put. Whoever throws the giant iron ball the farthest wins. You can't even complain about the wind, as a gale-force zephyr would not alter the arc of a sixteen pound lump of metal.

But not every sport is like the shot put. Compare the images . . . synchronized swimming is not like the shot put. It's more subjective. You need to evaluate a lot of subjective criteria. You can't just vote for the hottest chicks in the most revealing swimsuits.

Or maybe you can.

You see the problem here. There is a continuum of objectivity/subjectivity in sports. Some sports are inarguably true and some sports are completely subjective. And I believe there is a correlation between the amount of deception (or "gamesmanship," if you like euphemisms . . . or "cheating," if you don't) and the amount of subjectivity in the sport. I'm certainly not trying to put together a comprehensive list here, nor am I completely confident in my rankings . . . but I'd like to open the discussion.  I did my research, and I could not find a single article on the internet that ranks sports from subjective to objective, and neither could I find an article which ranks the corresponding levels of deception -- and so I will give it my best shot, and you guys can do the hard thinking in the comments.

Obviously, the most truthful and objective sport is the shot put. There are a bunch of rules for throwing the shot put, but I think those were created just so shot putters had something to say about their sport. Can you really throw the thing any farther if you break the rules?

Target sports: archery, darts, jarts, corn-hole, bowling, skeet-shooting, etc. These are mainly dead on. The only reason they are slightly below the shot put on the continuum of objectivity is because of the one-on-one nature of the matches. You might be able to mention something about a tail-wind or the oil on the lanes or the lack of friction on the corn-hole board and slightly change the way your opponent approaches the target, but this isn't going to work for long, as empirical evidence is going to override your poor attempt at gamesmanship rather quickly. Also, if everyone is drunk enough and can't see straight or do basic math, then you can pad your score in darts.

Running. The clock doesn't lie . . . but you can! But I don't think telling the rest of the folks in the pack that you're not even a little tired as you ascend Heartbreak Hill has much effect on anyone's time (other than your own, because you've depleted your oxygen levels trying to trash-talk). You can draft a bit and work in tandem to box competitors out during the longer running events, but if you do this in the 100 meter dash, then you're disqualified.

Golf. Fairly clear cut. If the ball goes in the hole, there's not much to talk about. There is some deception as far as clubbing goes . . . but it's subtle. You can't actually club your opponent with a seven-iron, though that would boost the ratings exponentially, nor can you act as if you are in da club and dance around your opponent as he addresses the ball, while your caddy plays trap music from a Say Anything boombox. What you can do, however, when your ball goes flying over the green and into a sewage ditch, is say, "I should have hit a six iron," even though you actually hit a four iron. This will make your opponent think you can skull a seven iron 210 yards, and perplex him into submission.

You can also lie about how the green breaks -- it's good to use classic aphorisms, such as: "this one always breaks towards the water" and then point towards the Caspian Sea. And if everyone you're playing against is three-sheets-to-the-wind, and you're in a deep pot-hole bunker, then you can chuck your ball out and no one will be the wiser.

Tennis. Tennis mainly is makes sense. If it goes over the net and stays within the lines (or hits any part of them) then it's in. The only major elements of deception are spin and wearing a really short skirt that shows off your incredible legs -- but the latter only works if your opponent is a lesbian. Aside from those tactics, however, there isn't too much subjectivity and deception, except that most of us don't have a Hawk-Eye line calling system at our disposal, and so we have to call our own lines. I'll let you in on a secret . . . if you play me in tennis, I'll give you the first questionable call, and then I'll call the next sixteen in my favor.

Basketball. As much as it's fun to complain about the refs in basketball, each team gets a LOT of possessions. Things actually have a chance to even out. Everyone walks. And there's nothing more unequivocal than the sound of a swish. It's the sound of truth. A team can get a few good calls and a few good rolls, but statistically, there's no such thing as a streak shooter. Despite the amount of subjectivity in any team sport refereed by humans, the numbers are big enough in basketball to let the better team prevail.

Baseball. Yikes. Called balls and strikes. Spitballs and corked bats. Pine tar. There is a certain truth to catching the ball before it hits the ground, or knocking it out of the park, but there's a lot of deception in between. Calling pitches is artistic deception, but giving (and stealing) signs is pure prevarication (my friend Kevin is a varsity softball coach, and I am assuming none of his rivals read this blog, so I'll reveal something deceptive that his team uses: ALL his hand signals are fake . . . the coaches sign continuously and preposterously, but none of it mean anything, because all their actual signs are verbal, so when the third base coach touches her cap, pulls her hand across her breasts, and then grabs her crotch, none of it means a thing (although it's very sexy), but when she tells the runner to "be smart" then it means she should steal).

Football. We all saw what happened last year when the real referees went on strike.  Without a team of people who know the rules really well, you can't even play this game properly. There are so many ways to cheat at football, that it's not even worth listing them.

Soccer. Good lord. I coach soccer, and the main thing I try to teach children is that soccer is lying. You pretend to go this way . . . and then you go that way. You pretend to pass . . . and then you dribble. You pretend to shoot . . . and then you get fouled. Or maybe it wasn't a foul. But you fall down and hold your knee anyway. You yell and scream. Then you get a penalty shot, and your team wins and you are the hero.

The incentives to deceive in soccer are so far beyond the incentives to deceive at shot put, that the two sports might barely be in the same category of activity.. No matter how much I pretend that my shot put is going to go really far, or my bowling ball is going to knock all the pins down, no matter how much I sell it, people are going to know the truth soon. But with soccer, there are times when you'll never know, even with a replay. Did he hit him hard enough to knock him off the ball? Were his studs up? Was that from behind, or from the side? Shoulder or arm? Did he take a dive or was he actually fouled? If the player is deceptive enough, you'll never know. And then there is offsides . . . the penalty that is literally and scientifically impossible to call.

The histrionics of coaching soccer are extraordinarily different from the quiet logic of helping someone with their golf swing, or even the frantic tactical play-calling of basketball. I have coached all three, and I love the totally fucked up nature of soccer. I am working the referee from the moment I meet him, because the referee really matters in soccer. Even if it's a U-8 game. Especially if it's a U-8 game. That's disturbing. I am also constantly mentally manipulating my players -- including my son -- because that's the only way to get children to continue to play a game that is futile, impossible, random, and unfair. There is also the problem of the law of small numbers (also known as the Poisson distribution) which makes sports like soccer and hockey incredibly specious, and then when you add in the high levels of subjective refereeing and the even higher levels of deceptive play -- the flopping and faking and diving -- then you have to consider that the entire sport is suspect . . . which is not to say that you can't be incredibly skillful at it, but half the fun is cheating.

Diving, gymnastics, surfing and figure-skating. These sports are beyond the pale. They are so subjective that no one except the judges know the criteria . . . even the commentators are often baffled by the decisions. The nice thing about these sports is that they are so skillful and graceful, that no one actually cares who wins. Everyone is impressed that anyone can achieve these feats. But, of course, when people just gawk at your ability, but no longer relate to it, then you are something of a freak. Your best bet in these sports is to simply pay off the judges. Or get involved in a parlay.

Obviously I haven't mentioned a number of sports. Curling, for example. The sport looks fairly straightforward to me, but Wikipedia makes this claim:

"A great deal of strategy and teamwork goes into choosing the ideal path and placement of a stone for each situation, and the skills of the curlers determine how close to the desired result the stone will achieve. This gives curling its nickname of Chess On Ice."

And so Summer Dave -- who, ironically, hates the heat -- is off to Bemidji, Minnesota. Bemidji is one of the coldest places in the continental United States, and it is also home of the renowned Bemidji Curling Club, which has produced a long line of champions. I hope to come back with a greater knowledge of the sport, and I especially hope to interview this beautiful curling babe.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Dropping Science

High school senior Jessica Lee dropped a little science in her yearbook quote:

Our readership does not include any chemists (sorry Mark, your bathtub crystal meth operation doesn't qualify you) so you likely don't have the periodic table memorized, making the joke hard to discern.

Still don't get it? Here's a Muppets-style cartoon mashup (featuring NSFW lyrics) to jog your memory.

"Tattoo on tittie sayin' B.I.G." gets me every time.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Music Maelstrom

Out of nowhere, this has turned into three days of action packed live music for me.

Saturday night I went to Norfolk's Town Point Park, a grassy downtown knoll that overlooks the Elizabeth River, for the annual Bayou Boogaloo.  If not inherently obvious, it's a New Orleans themed festival that runs for three days.

Upon entering the grounds, I caught the tail end of Amanda Shaw. (Awww, yeah.) I first saw her at JazzFest when her band played the Fais Do Do stage about 10 years ago.  She was 14.  She came directly from school that day to lead her band at the Fest. Unbelievable.  Our late great friend Flynn went up and chatted with her after her set.  I think he hit on her.  Believable.

Highlights, as usual, included Amanda's renditions of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia."

The Rebirth Brass Band followed, delivering their same brass funk soul beat that they have for years.  Always great.

And Trombone Shorty followed.  The offstage Troy Andrews is a phenomenal trombone (duh) and trumpet player who has been part of Tremé's music scene since we was a little kid; we first saw him onstage at JazzFest as a guest for his brother James Andrews (don't go to him if your knee hurts) and the All-Stars around the turn of the millennium, when Shorty was 13.  These days he adds a whole lot of guitar rock funk to the brass, and it's a crowd pleaser.  Saturday night he closed, and he crushed.

But I only saw the first half of the show.  At that point stepbro Ian called a water taxi, and a few minutes later a 20' outboard number pulled right up the the bulkhead about 30 yards from where we'd lucked into VIP section free beers at Trombone Shorty.  For $6 a head, the water cabbie rode us across the river to Portsmouth, right to the nTelos Pavilion.  From drinking an Abita at Shorty to drinking some nameless domestic light at The Avett Brothers in about 12 minutes.  The Avetts walked onstage about two minutes after we walked into the general admission SRO pavilion floor.  Well played, Ian.

The Avetts offered up their each-and-every-time-I've-seen-them frenzied energy and great sound.  They simply bring a level of effort not generated by most bands, plus they've got more talent in their whole body than I have in my pinky finger.  As Willy said, strike that, reverse it.

The Avetts cranked through excellent numbers new (Live and Die, Geraldine, Paul Newman vs. The Demons) and old (At the Beach, Murder in the City, Paranoia in Bb Major) with seamless vigor.  I'm a fan. They bring it.  They brought it.

So, a big night for music for me.  Sunday did not relent.

We're friends with the singer and guitarist of an Asheville, NC bluegrass outfit called Town Mountain, and they played last night at the Taphouse in Norfolk -- for $10 you got a great gig in a tiny watering hole plus all the pulled pork and fried chicken you could eat.  Not bad.  Check out these cats if they hit your town.

[They do many originals and lots of more traditional tunes, but this one has great appeal to me.]

. . . and then there's tonight.  This afternoon I'm headed up to DC.  One of our Virginia Beach friends is cousins with keyboardist Chuck Leavell; for those not in the know, he was with the Allman Brothers in the 70's and has played with Clapton, the Crowes, etc. . . . and, since the early 1980's, the Rolling Stones.  So our friend asked for four VIP tix to see the Stones tonight, and we got 'em.  Giddyup.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Wu-Tang is For the Children

But seriously, take a look:

And they're for sign language too!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

This Week in Tigerball: Quinn to Win

When last we saw Quinn McDowell, W&M's do-everything small forward was closing out his terrific collegiate career in disappointing fashion, scoring 6 points in the Tribe's 57-49 first-round CAA Tournament loss to Northeastern. The loss ended a desultory 6-26 campaign, not exactly the valedictory McDowell might've hoped for or deserved.

If his first 18 professional games are any indication, he's gotten over it.

The 6th-leading scorer in W&M history, McDowell suits up now for the Willetton Tigers in Western Australia's State Basketball League. The Tigers are solidly ensconced in the middle of the SBL table at 10-8, but McDowell's one of the league's premier players. He averages 28.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists on 47.5% shooting. He's second in the SBL in scoring and three-point percentage (43.4%), and leads the league in total points and free throws made.

McDowell tallied a season and career-high 42 in a 112-105 road loss to the Wanneroo Wolves (who feature former ODU guard Trian Iliadis), and scored 34 with 15 boards in a 95-90 home win over the East Perth Eagles.

The SBL is a second-tier league, with players aspiring to Australia's top division. Our Aussie sources are bullish on the young American's character and commitment, so we're hoping to hear good news from down under. Until then, tune in here for your stateside SBL news.

(If you've got some time and want to watch an entire basketball game filmed via fisheye lens, the Willetton/Wanneroo game is available in full below. McDowell opens the scoring at 1:22 - you'll recognize the little hop as he gets set for the pure three-pointer.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Chronicles of teh Crazy

The fine Americans in our readership will be pleased to know that the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has taken a break this week from casting pointless votes to overturn Obamacare. Apparently 37 of those were enough. For now.

Fortunately, the House has moved on to more important things. Like jobs, growth, national security, civil liberties, and taking another run at making certain types of abortion illegal. In this case virtually all abortions post 20 weeks of fertilization.

That's illogical, you say. There's no way that'll pass the Senate, and even if it does, there's no way President Obama would sign that legislation into law. Silly you, with your common sense and your cute outside-the-Beltway (metaphorically, given the geographic breakdown of our audience) simple little life. This is the United States House of Representatives we're talking about. Very Very Important People with a clear understanding of our nation's most vital priorities.

As we've said before, we're not here to debate a woman's right to choose. Not really this blog's oeuvre. But if we were going to do so, we'd be hard-pressed to find an adequate response to Rep. Michael Burgess' (R-TX) scientifically-reasoned position. According to Burgess, abortion after 15 weeks should be illegal...because fetuses like to jerk off.

“Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful,” he says. “They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?”

Burgess, it should be noted, is an OB/GYN, and should probably be aware of the fact that major medical bodies in most of the developed world have refuted the notion that fetuses feel much of anything before the third trimester. I think Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) puts it better than I could when she says, “Well, I think all the members are cognizant of the fact that this is not a Congress that cares much about science."

I get honest political disagreement. I think it's critical to the function of a democratic society. But I agree with The Washington Post's Ezra Klein, who wrote yesterday, "The GOP’s' problem isn’t that it insults the intelligence of the voters. It’s that it insults its own intelligence."

I know a lot of intelligent Republicans. (Well, I know one. Two, maybe.) I wish their voices were the ones that got heard in Washington.

Instead, we get wankery about babywankery. Poor hairy-palmed little fellas. And that's just the Congressmen.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My new favorite television commercial

This bumps the Wendy's "Raaaaaaaaaaanch" and Starbucks "Glen's the man...going to work" ads as the new personal favorite (though it still does not top Geico's "Tiny House" spot):



Monday, June 17, 2013

Just in Time for Summer: New Mayer Hawthorne and Other Funky-Ass Stuff

If you're looking for new music to enjoy in your backyard this summer, go cop "Modern Vampires of the City." The album is more evolutionary than revolutionary, despite my previous concerns to the contrary--it still sounds like a Vampire Weekend joint. Working this album into your summertime musical evening rotation will serve you well.

Kanye West's new album "Yeezus" (which is a portmanteau of Yeezy, Kanye's nickname, and Jesus, the name of the son of God ... Jay-Z previously did something similar when he called himself "Jayhova the God MC") comes out on June 18 (i.e., tomorrow) and recently leaked to the world through, of all random things, the internet. Kanye gives no fucks at all about this potential copyright misappropriation. I, however, have a long-standing respect for copyrighted material so I haven't listened to the album. You will doubtlessly hear it banged hard this summer at the beach, from the windows of luxury cars driven by the owner's children, and eventually during TV timeouts at sporting events. Get it now so that when the beat to the big commercial jam drops you can nod your head and say "Aw yeah" in synch with the people around you who are at least a decade younger.

Speaking of copyrights ... Mayer Hawthorne's new album drops July 16 and his label must've spent oodles clearing the copyrights for the video trailer:

I remember when musicians had to clear samples, not video, but I'm old. The new album promises to continue Hawthorne's tradition of funky-ass-white-boy-ed-ness but with more of a 70's sound and less of a Motown vibe. For example, Her Favorite Song will doubtlessly remind you of Herbie Hancock's Chameleon (or in Mark's case, Digital Underground's Underwater Rhymes):

And "Reach Out Richard," written for Hawthorne's father, unmistakably sounds like Steely Dan:

"Designer Drug," which may or may not be on the new album, reminds me of MJ's Off the Wall:

I predict that it will be an excellent album for grown-ass-but-funky-ass-old-men like us to tastefully rock in public and in group settings. The album is at least partially produced by Pharrell, who recently played a similar role in Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and its preposterously NSFW video. If "Blurred Lines" doesn't sample Michael Jackson's "Whew!" and rip off Marvin Gaye's Got to Give it Up then I'm Quincy Jones. Regardless, it's a decent summertime confection for the aforementioned grown-ass-but-funky-ass-old-men demographic.

Now go forth and musically dominate your neighborhood block party. But please remember to wear sunscreen.


If you really want to pull some grown-ass-man-shit at your next BBQ, Mayer Hawthorne did the legwork for you and put together the following hour-long mix titled "Soul With A Hole Vol. 1."

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday At The Open: Open Thread

What do the following five people have in common, other than never having been in my kitchen?

That's right, they're all Dicks.  Unfortunately, you will have to listen to one blather on all day.   Enjoy the wicker baskets, Notah Begay's awkward commentary, and FIGJAM's moobs.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Portrait Saturday

We're nothing if not supporters of the arts. And goofy shit. So when we heard about Wes Naman's latest work, we were naturally excited.

You may know Naman from his Scotch Tape series, in which volunteers allowed him to cover their faces and heads with tape and photograph the results. The portfolio quickly went viral, both overwhelming Naman and inspiring his next project.

For Naman's Rubber Band series, subjects wrapped themselves, creating grotesquely silly masks. As offhandedly notes, "Some went crazier than others, because rubber bands hurt a lot more than tape. That said, there’s still a whole lot of nose and ear warping, and the rubber bands do an even better job than tape when it comes to forcing skin and hair to stick out in awkward and painful ways."

We think this one's our favorite, but it's close. The Wu-Tang Financial t-shirt pushes it over the top.

The best/worst thing about this series? The Teej does this kind of thing just for kicks. If only he'd known he could get Internet Famous for it.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hipster Trifecta: You Can Feel It (It's Electric!)

For those of you who live/work in/near urban enclaves and enjoy silently mocking everybody you encounter on your daily sojourn, I offer up a fun game I like to call Hipster Trifecta.  In this game, you seek out hipsters with beards, flannel and visible tattoos.  These are the three tenets of the incredibly specific uniforms worn by our fine youth who like to think they are expressing their individuality by dressing like everybody else.  It makes for fun viewing.  You can tally them on your commute, mall trip, night out, etc. When you find one, you can throw him away. It makes the world a better place.

(h/t to Mark for providing this photo of himself)

A similar game started when I went to Aspen to visit a friend and learned to snowboard in 2002.  I was amazed at the number of dudes who rocked one-piece ski suits and fanny packs on slopes.  I spent the whole week looking for my own trifecta (one-piece, fanny pack, mustache).  I finally spied one my last day and took a picture of him. Not sure if he was psyched about that.  An obnoxiously wealthy co-worker of mine at the time told me that he didn't understand the mockery of the one-piece because his dad wore one that was custom-made for him.  Made me feel even better about indirectly making fun of his dad. 

If you really want to do some elephant hunting, you can further refine your search to the Quadfecta (note to readers: we are still working on that name), which counts hipsters with beards, flannel, visible tattoos and big round-rimmed glasses.  If you do find one of these rare creatures, please take a picture and email it to our web site ( We will post it.  Do not fear the reaction of the creature you photograph.  They are timid and feeble by nature and will do you no harm. 

Happy Friday folks.  More fotos de testiculos next week. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Senhor Testiculo

Full story here

(sorry to bump down those images that you geriatric foot-fetishists have)

Rational Exuberance

Sweet socks, GHWB!
Yesterday marked President George H. W. Bush's 89th birthday, and I almost failed him.

Turns out ol' 41 has a predilection for fanciful hosiery, and encouraged like-minded Americans to help him celebrate his birthday by donning exuberant socks of their own. I didn't get the memo until it was almost too late, and so I spent most of the day wearing this only modestly exuberant (soberly silly, perhaps) pair.

But when a former Commander in Chief asks me to do something, like most patriotic Americans, I listen. (Obviously, when Clinton calls and wants to go clubbing, I listen and then hang up.) And so, in the President's honor, I came home and changed. A few times.


God Bless America, and Happy belated Birthday, Mr. President.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

For Greg...

...who is now the World's Biggest "Tango & Cash" fan:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fashion is Dumb: Galactic Empire Edition

What are the monstrosities below, you may ask? Well, they're apparently robot leggings. Seriously. Long gone are the days of Olivia Newton John as leggings leader, replaced by the C-3PO, Stormtrooper and Vader looks coming to a runway near you.

These are not the robot leggings you're looking for...

[h/t Tumblr, of course]

Monday, June 10, 2013

Don't Just Stand There (Strike a Pose)

While picking up some photos at the CVS this afternoon I had a few minutes of wait time. So I walk down the aisles to see what the latest is in drugstore retail. My attention was gotten in the magazine aisle. The pretty little number to the left, specifically. Kate Upton typically doesn't do it for me believe it or not (I'm sure there will be some banter about this. That is fine) Well this cover did. I didn't recognize her at all despite the super-sized KATE UPTON right there in print. I didn't see any print, just the picture nor did I acknowledge the magazine. And I continued to stare in an effort to determine who it was. This went on for close to 30 seconds, maybe 45? Don't know really. Once I finally came to and realized that I had something to do I looked up and and noticed that I was in the path of an older woman who wanted to get by me. She must have been standing there for at least 10-15 seconds. There. Looking at me. Looking at me gawking at Kate. Once the lady and I made eye contact she just smiled and chuckled. Felt a little creepy. Smallish. But it was worth it. That's my story.

Worst Superhero Ever?

Common squirrel by day, some sort of low-budget superhero by night:

Maybe rob, Clarence and/or Summer Dave can let us know the origin story of this character in the comments...

Sunday, June 09, 2013


40 years ago today, Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by 31 lengths in what most experts agree was the most dominant performance in the history of horse racing. I'd never actually seen the entire race until a few minutes ago. It's worth a watch.

Listen to the crowd as the great horse separates from Sham in the middle of the backstretch, and then again when he nears the finish line. Pretty cool stuff.

Secretariat ran the mile and a half distance in 2:24, breaking the existing record by 2 and 3/5 seconds. Consider this, though: he also broke the track's record for one and five/eighths miles, even though he was pulling up after the Belmont's finish line.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Everybody Wave Hi To The NSA

Alternate title: "A Very Special (Monitored) Edition of The Ghoogles"

Hey, would you look at that, the government is spying on us, and apparently with extreme prejudice. (As an aside, that's the best PPT presentation the NSA could come up with? Really??) I saw "Enemy of the State" a decade ago, I know what's up. James Caan's kid has been secretly creeping on the American public for a looooong time, no one should be surprised by this latest "revelation". (Meme alert: Captain Jean-Luc Picard is certainly not surprised)

That being said, this news got me thinking about the poor intern at the NSA assigned to monitoring high-profile blogs such as this one...which is really just a forced segue into a super duper all-inclusive version of The Ghoogles, in which I've selected those terms which likely either entertained, frightened, confused or plain scarred those at the NSA monitoring G:TB.

Time frame of search (Apparently, I only signed us up for Google Analytics in 2005. Or that's when it started. Who knows):
To the Ghoogles...the cherry-picked selection of terms below have all been used 10 or more times to end up at our little slice of the blogosphere in the past 8+ years:
  • circus peanuts
  • alfonso ribeiro shirtless 
  • ron zacapa swim 
  • cameo tattoo 
  • kari wuhrer remote control 
  • zooey deschanel thighs 
  • lady spartan soccer wax 
  • nasal polyps 
  • sexy highschool girls 
  • tiny dictator 
  • awesome possum 
  • can white men jump ethnicity genes culture and success 
  • would you like some making fuck 
  • thursdays with maury 
  • brazilian pussy 
  • vajazzling 
  • you guys playing cards 
  • military squirrel 
  • right meow 
  • flux capacitor fluxing 
  • steve mcnair cinnabon 
  • short definition of internet 
  • fernando valenzuela rookie card 
  • whitesnake video girl 
  • putana da seatbeltz 
  • tom brady effete 
  • jamarcusian 
  • kato my little yellow friend 
  • christmas eve in washington 
  • a-rod jerk 
  • shoe fuck 
  • quaid total recall 
  • every halloween the trees are filled with underwear
  • icelandic women 
  • lemmy kilmister 
  • comedy rhombus 
  • houston oilers zubaz 
  • philly fans are the worst people on earth 
  • ogie oglethorpe 
  • real tomato ketchup 
  • cauc hop 
  • jerry stackhouse eight day rental 
  • stromile swift 
  • wiz khalifa blog 
  • dante calabria 
  • disgruntled goat 
  • squirrel haters 
  • what happened to rutger hauer 
  • judy tenuta 
  • muffet mcgraw
  • ryan atwood fluffer 
  • stan kasten email address 
  • battle mace 
  • cyclist boner 
  • eddie money heroin 
  • giant sturgeon 
  • i'm the damn paterfamilias 
  • mike love beach boys 
  • q: are we not men? a: we are devo! 
  • cake vector 
  • dave winfield herpes 
  • fashion is dumb 
  • kevin kline italian flatulence 
  • nut shot 
  • tracy morgan small nipples 
  • ebirt og 
  • funny lawnmower 
  • patriotic bikini 
  • pyongyang golf club 
  • prince markie dee 
  • robert plant package 
  • succubus
And, in a casebook example of burying the lede, as if all of the above search terms weren't enough, the Ghoogles below might be the ones that lead to a knock on the door of G:TBHQ in the near future:

Thursday, June 06, 2013

I bet rob could've lived here for 4 more years

Tiny Dictator demanded some filler while he is attending a middle school graduation for one of his daughters (non-parent question: is there a graduation after EVERY grade in middle school?). He left this rather interesting link in drafts, and since I am a lazy second banana, we're just going to run with it.

Apparently some "artists" in providence, RI not only built a secret apartment in a mall, but lived there for the last four years.
The apartment had no running water (they used mall bathrooms), but it did include “a sectional sofa and love seat, coffee and breakfast tables, chairs, lamps, rugs, paintings, a hutch filled with china, a waffle iron, TV and Sony Playstation 2,” according to the Boston Globe.
I think this is supposed to be what the "secret" apartment looked like. Hard to say, given the Zapruder-esque quality of this image.

Pretty cool, I guess. I mean, it's not the real-life visualization of Geico's "Tiny House" that I have been wanting for years, but this'll do.

Also, Providence Paul Blart, your detective skills are an insult to Lenny Briscoe.