And with that the Labour Day weekend is upon us. I hope like the Barnstormer crew, y’all are wearing the good goddamn out of your whites for the next three days before we pack those bright slacks up until Victoria Day. I’m gonna miss my eggshell chinos something fierce.
This week the intrepid Andrew Forbes is on a scouting trip to the Eastern seaboard, so he won’t be with us today as we discuss the coming NFL season, the huge Red Sox-Dodgers trade, something called tennis, and lament the end of summer.
We are joined, as a special guest, by Dave Jaffer. Mr. Jaffer is a writer, teacher and social/digital media content strategist and problem solver. He’s also known in many circles as the Fantasy Pool Whisperer.
On to the Bus…
THE NFL KICKS OFF ON WEDNESDAY. WHAT SAY YOU OF THE COMING SEASON?
Ibeas — I desperately hope Tim Tebow actually is moved to running back, and then goes on another magical run. Or rather, a magical run of magical runs. Because he’ll be a running back. I want this to happen not because I believe he’s empowered by God, mind you – I’m a pretty raging atheist – but because the idea of it amuses me greatly.
Orti — If Hatem Ben Arfa, with his newly earned starting spot, and Demba Ba can the player he was for the first 2/3 of last season, I like Newcastle United’s chances. Chieke Tiote is one of the most underrated midfielders in the game and odd as he is, Jonas Guttierez is a solid two way player. Across the board NUFC looks solid. They’re likely not going to dethrone ManCity but I see a top four finish, albeit a bloody hard-fought one. Also, I think if you don’t come from Barcelona or Manchester, you should not be allowed to be Barca or ManU/City fan.
Spry — I think if the NFL can get through a season without Mike Vick killing any dogs or winning a Super Bowl, we all win. The best part about the return of the NFL is I have something to do on Sundays. And Orti makes jokes, but I’ve seen him six gins into a Monday night game, begging for Drew Brees to go for it on fourth down so that the Saints cover the spread and Orti could get his laptop back from the pawn shop.
But, I do believe this will be an intriguing season. I’m really curious about how the Saints play, post-Bountygate. I think that if they Jets can control the hyperbole, Tony Sparano can do really revolutionary things with their offense with Tim Tebow involved. I think Peyton Manning comes back as good, if not better, than ever and gets the Broncos to the Super Bowl. I think the Giants will tank, and NYC will call for Tom Coughlin’s head. Again. And then they’ll come back and win it all in 2015.
What I really want is for Tom Brady to stop wearing Uggs. That does weird shit to some of my boot-related fantasies.
Jaffer — Ian, your joke would only work if the question explicitly had the word “football” in it. But I’m prepared for it not to have been a joke, and, regardless of whether it is or isn’t, I want to respond to it.
People who aren’t from Barcelona or Manchester and support their front-running teams are just like Yankees fans who wear the iconic cap because it’s iconic (and maybe because of the sun). They should all be killed.
Moving on, I think this year is going to be interesting for a variety of reasons. Many of those reasons are quarterback-related. Indianapolis, Washington, Miami, Cleveland, and Seattle will be starting rookie QBs in Week 1. Jake Locker, starting in Tennessee, is basically a rookie. Peyton Manning is back. Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford will be trying to follow up 5,000 yard seasons, and Brees will be trying to do it without his play-caller and hetero life-mate Sean Payton. Aaron Rodgers will be trying to follow up one of the greatest statistical seasons—and playoff disappointments—in recent memory. And so on and so forth.
The NFL season is always exciting, in theory, because unlike baseball or basketball, you really don’t have any idea who the dominant teams are going to be. The Vegas favourites are obvious: Green Bay, New England, San Francisco, and, sigh, I suppose I have to include the Giants. And yet football is just so weird sometimes. How good is Green Bay if Aaron Rodgers gets badly injured in Week 1? Same question for New England with Brady, or San Francisco with Alex Smith?
Okay I was kidding about Smith. His coach has a better arm than he does.
But seriously, for all the talk (and there’s a lot of it) about parity, etc, the NFL really does do it very well. I like the fact that the Giants won the Super Bowl even though no one thought they’d make the playoffs partway through the season. I like how everything really can rest on one game. It’s dramatic. It’s fun. Not to shit-talk the seven game series, or its little brother, the best-of-five, but it’s like the difference between a good movie and a good TV show. A movie is potentially a one-shot bit of goodness; a TV show has a longer narrative and as such, you follow it and you bond with it and you have longstanding emotional ties to it while it’s on, or while you’re watching. You can never fall in love with a movie the way you can fall in love with a television show because the emotional investment is necessarily greater. Also, television is almost always something you do alone, or with only a few other people, whereas movies exist as things to be large, social experiences wherein value is derived at least slightly because of it being a social experience and therefore dependent on other people to fill in some of the value blanks/unknowns. I know that will sound fucking stupid to people so I’ll put it another way: A goalie can have three terrible games and your team can still win a Stanley Cup, but if your holder makes a tiny mistake, you lose the Super Bowl and then Jim Carrey has a movie career, which means that Cameron Diaz has a movie career, which means that some asshole friend of yours makes the spunk-in-Ben-Stiller’s-hair joke, like, a thousand times in first year because he’s got limited social skills and hasn’t watched a lot of movies, and also because he masturbates a lot. And is that something you fucking want? Of course it’s not. Cameron Diaz is terrible and Jim Carrey won’t talk to Jenny McCarthy’s autistic kid, which is probably going to fuck up that little guy’s life, which just isn’t fair. All because of you, Dan Marino. Laces out, Dan, you chump. Sean Young should have stalked and murdered you.
I think it’s only responsible to say that I started drinking in the middle of that last paragraph. It was a legitimate drink and yet my body didn’t shut that whole thing down. Oh wait. Yes it did. My liver just stopped working. I want you all at my funeral dressed like Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony, and I want you to sing “Tha Crossroads” for me. (And Orti, please tell you-know-who that my only regret was not living long enough to see her reach the age where people stopped finding her pretty. Also, I didn’t really get parts of your book L. Can we discuss that when we meet at Tha Crossroads?)
Spry — Seriously, though Jaffer. How bad do you think Harbaugh wants to break both of Alex Smith’s arms, and get on the field himself? And, sir, I will sing Bone-Thugs-n-Harmony for you on any occasion.
DODGERS AND RED SOX COMPLETE BIGGEST WAIVER TRADE EVER
Ibeas — I haven’t been paying attention much this season but I’ll say this much: if this trade is the first in a series of transactions that will ensure the Red Sox will be junk for a while, I’m all for it. Not because I think their fans are insufferable when they’re a good team – although they are – but because, storyline-wise, the Red Sox make for pretty good underdogs.
As for the Dodgers, I’ve always considered them the New York Knicks of Major League Baseball: a team that historically assembles good-on-paper talent with little regard for chemistry, resulting in middling records and much schadenfreude. So by default I’m skeptical of any claims that this trade will push them over the top. You just keep on carrying on, Dodgers.
Jaffer — A few days after the trade went through, I was sitting at a bar talking to a friend of mine who’s not that big into North American sports. He asked me to explain a waiver trade, and I did my best. In doing so, the the trade was overshadowed by baseball’s rules regarding waiver trades. I thought I understood them but had to consult the internets to make sure. (Turns out I had most of it right. Still, it’s worthwhile to brush up on things from time to time.) Anyway, I had a few thoughts on what this trade meant and then Jonah Keri wrote this piece and expressed more or less everything better than I ever could. But that notwithstanding, I do have a few thoughts, and make no claim as to their originality.
This trade looks better for LA than it will turn out to be. It makes them look like they have a better lineup than they do. According to Keri, and others, Gonzo’s bat is in decline, and he’s leaving a hitter’s park for a park that’s not much better to hit in than Petco was. Beckett is nonsense. Crawford is the X-factor. At his best, Crawford is a .300 hitter who can swipe 50+ bags and slots into the 1 or 2 hole. You can’t walk him because you’ll be leaving him on base for a run producer like (on LA, right now) Hanley Ramirez, Gonzalez, Kemp or Ethier. And if you pitch to him, he can battle, and/or take you deep. Can Crawford get back to being that guy? I don’t know, but if he can, he’s a $20m/year guy (in today’s baseball economy I think that means .300, 100+ R, 15+ HR, 85+ RBI, 50+ SB and decent fielding). Mark my words: In the middle of next season there are going to be a ton of articles saying that Crawford is the make-or-break player in this trade. They’ll be called “The Forgotten Star” or “Comeback Carl” and will be about how Crawford really wanted to perform in Boston but that the change of scenery that LA has afforded him really has inspired him to take it a bit easier, and to earn his monstrous contract a day at a time. He’ll be happy to be playing for a contender, and will say things like, “going through Tommy John surgery really made me wonder if I would still be able to play the game at a high level anymore.” One of these stories will invariably out John Lackey as an asshole, but I’m hoping and praying that Crawford will say something mean about Tampa because seriously, fuck those RNC-holding dickholes.
This trade looks worse for Boston than it will turn out to be. Sure, they’re going to suck for a few years now, but they have the money to buy themselves out of Sucksville. That said, with Boston essentially writing themselves out of the story for a few years, we’re probably seeing the last bits of David Ortiz’s career. He won’t play anywhere else, and he is probably thinking about retiring soon because Boston’s not as committed to winning as they were a year ago (did you notice Papi’s resurgence when the Red Sox got good again?).
Management in LA is sending a “watch the fuck out”-type message to the NL, the NL West, and all of baseball — in that order.
The fact that LA put in waiver claims on Gonzalez and on Beckett is telling, and a bit scary — Beckett is a terrible pick-up, especially with his salary, so what does it mean that the Dodgers wanted him in the first place? It means that it was Beckett’s name and not his game that mattered. Is this irresponsible? Sure. Is it stupid? Sure. But if you turn around to your fans and say, “Hey, we are doing everything we can to be competitive” and you wave a formerly good-to-great pitcher in their face as proof, they have to shut up. It’s the kind of thing a really savvy evil person does before they start, you know, tearing the insides of something apart. Think of a hamster going at a Quaker Oats box or 15-year-old-you going at your…favourite hobby. That kind of tearing up.
Boston shed salary for a reason, and that reason is Josh Hamilton. Can you think of a team better suited to make a run at him, even with the obvious concerns surrounding prospectively signing him? A white superstar outfielder in Boston? Gee, I wonder if they’re trying to continue some kind of legacy…
I know schadenfreude is bad, but I like the idea of Boston selling off some players and having to suck for a while. I hate Boston. I hate all their teams. I don’t even like people from Boston. Fuck them. I hope the world opens up and swallows all of them fuckers whole.
As a Jays fan, I also like the trade because it removes Boston from Legitimate Threat territory for a few years. I truly believe that Buck Showalter’s greatness is without question, and also that the Orioles will suck again next year. That leaves New York and Tampa as obstacles in the AL East. This means, in theory, the Jays are two teams closer to the second AL Wild Card spot (assuming one goes to whichever of New York and Tampa doesn’t win the division). Remove Baltimore and Boston and the only legitimate threats to that spot are: Whichever of Detroit or Chicago doesn’t win the Central; whichever of Los Angeles and Texas doesn’t win the West. And the A’s, I guess, but whatever voodoo magic horseshoe-up-the-ass thing they’ve got going on this year won’t last, and people still don’t want to sign there, and if they do, they’re really just trying to nail Brandon McCarthy’s babely wife.
Orti — First off I want to say what a pleasure it is to be roundtabling with Dave Jaffer. When there were still trees left to be cut down in Quebec you could read his awesome writing about music in a paper called The Hour. I would like to see Vancouver traded for Detroit. I shit you not, I think this would be a great trade. We’d lower the border a few degrees and scoop up Motor City and lift it a degree or two so Washington State could rightfully take what ought to be theirs. Detroit’s a fixer-upper but climate-wise we have the same climate and same appreciation for music and culture. Plus Canada would get the Pistons, Lions and Red Wings. Hell, there’s already a bridge there. In exchange America would get the most Americanized city in Canada, a slew of Starbucks, and an urban drug and gang problem that rivals any great American metropolis. I’d even be willing to throw in the Canadia side of Niagara Falls to complete this deal.
Jaffer — Thanks, Ian. The pleasure’s all yours.
Spry — Jesus Christ, Jaffer wrote a novel. My thesis was shorter than that answer. Look, I’m with Ibeas on anything that leads to Red Sox suck. And as a part-time Jays’ fan, this trade shows what the Jays lacked this season: the balls to take a chance, make a big trade.
But on a more serious note, I think that for the sport to be truly great, for it to truly thrive above the PEDs and the Royals third jerseys, the Dodgers need to be the Yankees of the west. Personally, I’d love to see a Yankees-Dodgers World Series.
Also, let’s take a moment to recognize how amazing it is that Magic Johnson owns part of the Dodgers. I remember watching the press conference during which he retired from the NBA because he had contracted HIV. That was November 7, 1991, which means that this November I can begin dating girls who were not alive when Magic retired, guilt free.
LABOUR DAY AND THE END OF SUMMER
Ibeas — I don’t have any white in my wardrobe and I don’t drink gin and tonics. Labour Day is nothing but a long weekend to me. Take that, genteel sensibilities.
Spry — I don’t even know what a long weekend is anymore I’ve been freelancing so long. And why is it called Labour Day if we don’t work? Shouldn’t it be called “Get Drunk on the Summer’s Leftover Booze and Text Your Ex at 3am Day”?
What Labour Day does mean is the we’re coming down the stretch drive in baseball. Last year we saw the best last day of the season ever, and one of the best postseasons ever. I’m disappointed that the Jays aren’t around, but the new expanded Wild Card should make for some interesting days headed into October.
But, this time of year is when I miss working at or attending a university the most. Fall, especially in Montréal, a city born for autumn, is most spectacular season Canada has. The mountain changing colours, the Habs training camps, new undergrads…
Jaffer — I hate Labour Day, and not only because I have a lot of white in my wardrobe. I hate it because people treat it like — as you put it — the end of summer. Labour Day is not ever — not ever — the end of summer. Summer is a frame of mind, a place that transcends the tyranny of your fucking calendar. This sounds nuts and over the top, but it’s not. Not really. Canadians are weird about our seasons, and in being weird about them, we ruin them.
When I lived in Montréal, I used to notice this more than I do now. I used to notice people’s outward attitudes change as the weather got colder. When winter finally hit, people retreated inwards, and stopped being themselves. This amounted to more elbows on public transit, more disapproving, impatient tsks when you didn’t get your coffee order in four tenths of a second after you were asked for it. And then, a few months later, when spring was about to break in and cheer people up, you’d see these attitudes melt. People would become people again. And when spring finally did spring, people were overnice all of a sudden, as if to say, “Yeah, I know I was a fucking prick there for a few months, but hey, it was winter.” I never got that. I mean, the entire city wasn’t suffering from seasonal affective disorder, so what was the deal? Are we that boring and basic that we let the weather tell us how to feel, and how to feel about each other? And if so, what’s the weather that makes redheads feel less inhibited and more attracted to me?
You don’t need a PhD in Weatherology to know that people enjoy warm weather more than they do cold weather, but what’s the sense in having such visceral, borderline petulant reactions to when seasons change? Zero. But we’re going to see a ton of people trying to “enjoy the last bit of summer” in some boring way and it’s going to feel normal because it’s become common.
Also, a few more things:
Very little of what I just wrote is meant to be taken seriously;
The parts that are should be obvious to you;
If they’re not you may be stupid, and, if you’re stupid, could I borrow $200?
“Summer” will last into October because global warming is the best, sometimes;
The only things I’m preparing to mourn the end of is baseball season and the small amounts of fabric the women in Toronto have been adorning themselves with since, like, May (oh, and those same girls riding bikes everywhere, which is the best thing ever)
Lastly, and most importantly, I have no set plans this weekend. save for a fantasy football draft at 2:30 pm Eastern on Saturday. Does anyone want to hang out and do stuff? Summer’s almost over, guys. Let’s gather some motherfuckin’ rosebuds, and wear white while we do it.
Spry — I’m on the road all weekend, Jaffer. Otherwise, I dig rosebuds and shit.
Jaffer — You’re on the road? You’re drafting in my fantasy league. You damn well better show up for that, at least.
Spry — Oh, Imma drafting, sir. Don’t you worry. I’m tethering my MacBook Pro to the Innerwebs through my iPhone. We live in the future, sir. Driving will prove interesting.
Orti — I agree with Jaffer here. That whole white after Labour Day shit was invented by unhappy southern socialites with nothing else to do in their lives but whine and criticize others. Do you know when that rule was invented? I’ll tell you. When a cleaning lady showed up in mid-September to clean out a yacht club. Her beauty was undeniable, as though a million sunsets and still meadows in gardens had converged to produce this woman and every husband at the yacht club mooring their boats for the winter could not for a second steer their eyes from her. Do you know what she was wearing? You guessed it: white. When the wives of these crooked politicians and slave-owners saw this, and the attention she garnered, they decided then and there that it was socially unacceptable to wear white after Labour Day. Expect my white fucking tennis shoes deep into fall. They’ll be the brightest things going in November when a desire, spawned by summer’s end and the inevitability of winter, to just kill myself is at its apex.
THE US OPEN IS ON. WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH TENNIS?
Ibeas — This is why tennis is awesome. Because it’s a one-on-one showdown between individuals with different physical attributes and different methods of getting the job done. In terms of spirit, it has more in common with the combat sports that it does with individual sports or team sports. Except, and here’s the best part: nobody gets their face broken. It’s a battle analogue for the cowardly. What’s not to love?
Orti — I’ll tell you what the deal is with tennis and maybe why people are so excited about it again. You see, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away there were tennis rackets made of wood, and later, metal. No matter how hard you tried, there was only so hard you could hit the ball, which meant winning came from skillful precision, intense conditioning, and an ability to out-think your opponent. That’s only part of the beauty of tennis, that you can win more points than your opponent but still lose the match. The only other sports which are like this – volleyball, squash – suck hard. Then one day they switched the racket composition to graphite. This was fine, all it really did was take the vibration out of the metal rackets and provide a steady smoothness and more ball control while adding only slightly more power and reducing legions of tennis-elbow sufferers. The one day some asshole decided to widen the frames of these graphite rackets and it appeared tennis was destroyed forever. This was around the Clinton era and big servers like Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, and Goran Ivanisevic dominated the game and the thinkers and hustlers like McEnroe, Edberg, Chang and Connors were ushered out of the sport for the big servers. In short, men’s tennis got boring because no one could return the big serves. The only ones who survived this era of server-take-all were people like Andre Agassi who could actually return these serves. But then all that changed, and soon people started being able to return these big serves. Soon everyone could do it. And they could run. And they could think. And they had stamina. Players like Roger Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and now even Murray. In the past you were a baseline or a serve-and-volleyer. Agassi had no net game. Lendl never won Wimbledon for the same reason because Wimbledon used to be for the serve-and-volleyers. The slow clay courts of the French Open were for the baseliners and thinkers like Wilander, Lendl and Borg. To be a champion now you have to be a complete player and that’s what these top dogs are, and this is why men’s tennis is at a new pinnacle. I’m not sure about women’s tennis—I believe it’s awaiting its next era of Navratilovas, Grafs, Sabatinis, and Everetts. Right now it still remains dominated by power hitters, though it is getting better. When men’s tennis was in a slump a decade ago, women’s tennis was the place to be.
Spry — Tennis. I hate that band.
Jaffer — I used to think tennis was a sport for pussies, like golf is (I’m sorry I’m not sorry Dad, you sissy). Then I started playing it a little and in doing so, gained a big respect for it because it’s harder than doing calculus while writing a unicycle on a tightrope, or bedding an attractive woman when you look like Spry. That respect grew slowly into an enjoyment. A close friend, Brian, got me into tennis in a big way by explaining it kind of like how Orti did. Brian was never a Sampras fan; he preferred skill, grace, cunning and hustle. Seeing him, in his 50s, play squash clued me in as to why — as his athleticism was waning with age, his cunning was what would get him through games against younger and fitter opponents. In essence, that’s why I like tennis. It’s a thinking man’s sport that still requires a fuckload of physical ability — and cunning. As opposed to, say, basketball (which I love), which is very much about athleticism and, where it’s not, it’s based largely on strategy altered by a coach away from real-time (while being at least a little bit about intelligence and cunning, but then again, only in limited ways, such as a ball-fake, or that “we’ll sign Delonte West so that if we meet the Heat in the playoffs LeBron will have to think about his mom getting plowed” way), tennis is about the brain and the body working, hard, in tandem, very quickly. Tennis is like a kinetic art form, like action painting or really good sex, while certain other sports (not naming names) are akin to finger-painting or doing it with a microwaved melon with a hole cut into it.
Spry — Ohhhh, tennis the sport. Well, Andy Roddick announced his retirement (more on that in next week’s Round Bus) at 30. What’s not to like? Jesus. I hadn’t left school by 30, and ARod-dick is hanging ‘em up three decades in? Like Ibeas and I were saying offline, there’s much we can learn from Roddick. For example, I will only date model/actresses with a good handfuls of cleavage, and named after cool American boroughs.
Spry — We’ve been so fortunate to have great guests on the Round Bus during its short existence. Thanks, Jaffer. You were awse.
In closing, let me just say that Kelley O’Hara has yet to call, write, email, or text me. Kelley. I’m still here. Kelley?
Ibeas — Blatant self-promotion: I’m collaborating on a new online fiction project at hoorayforthefuture.com. Check it out.
Orti — I shit you not, a wheel of Camembert in Berlin is €1.29. And a six pack of Guinness? €4.99. That’s all I have to say.
Jaffer — I lost my job today.