Monday, August 20, 2007

Sorry folks, park's closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya.

Over the next couple of weeks the updates will be sporadic at best. It's time for the annual late summer extravaganza to the West Coast.

Things started out really well last night when Northwest Airlines decided to cancel our Rochester to Minneapolis flight because the flight was undersold. The wonderful folks at NWA were kind enough to re-route us through Detroit. On Tuesday. And, they acted like they were doing us a favor.

I kind of feel like Clark Griswold right now and we haven't even left yet: "I'm making out a check for $1000, all you have to do is give me $300 in cash and keep the $700, all for doing nothing more than acting like a total creep. "

Instead of taking the airline up on its generous offer of sending us out a day late through a city that's well east of our final destination, we are hopping on a shuttle bus up to Minneapolis so we can catch the flight we already paid for in Minneapolis.

The best part of the story? We found out about the cancellation at 9:30 p.m. last night when we went online to check in. And, because we are choosing to not take the route NWA chose for us through Detroit TOMORROW, we won't be getting any money back for our cancelled Rochester to Minneapolis flight, even though it wasn't caused by weather, but rather by the airline because they couldn't make money on the flight and God forbid they actually provide the customer with what they paid for or what they expect/deserve.

If there is a business out there run worse than Northwest Airlines, I don't want to ever know about it. Wally World better not be closed when we get there or I am punching that moose in the face.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Santana strikes out 17.

If the Rangers would have kept Sammy Sosa on the bench where he belongs, Johan Santana might have thrown a no-hitter today to go along with his 17 strikeouts.

Early on, you could tell Santana had his good stuff. He cruised through the first few innings and then gave up the no-hit bid in the 4th inning when Sosa lined a single to right.

Santana had a career day at the Metrodome anyway, giving up just two hits (both to Sosa) and striking out 17 Texas Rangers batters.

He set a Twins record and came within 3 K's of tying the major league mark for strikeouts in a nine-inning game (20.) Oh by the way, the Twins won 1-0. Yes, the offense continues to dominate opposing pitching. Too bad Santana can't hit and pitch full time, the Twins could get back in this thing.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Buddy the pug says: "I approve."

The new Michael Vick chew toys have hit ebay and well...Buddy the Pug wants a piece of the dog fighter.

Get yours here:

Waiting on Francisco Liriano

There has been a lot of talk nationally about the Twins dealing Johan Santana sometime during the off-season in order to make sure he doesn't walk without the Twins getting some kind of value in return for him.

The Twins will not trade Santana. They won't. They can't. With Francisco Liriano on the mend (he's now playing long-toss on flat ground from 120 feet) the Twins will have an outstanding rotation next year with Johan, Liriano, Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, and Boof Bonser. Not too shabby.

Who cares if Santana has been pissing and moaning about the lack of commitment from ownership. We all do it. He isn't going to walk away from this team if Liriano is back. The Twins shouldn't blink. They should fix up that anemic offense however they can during the off-season and then let that pitching staff make some hay.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Witty banter with Simon Cowell not included. Hopefully.

I like American Idol and I love football. I don’t enjoy thinking about these two things ever mixing together, but it looks like FOX plans to make that happen when Ryan Seacrest hosts the Super Bowl pre-game show next year.

Not even sure what to say about this.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ramon Ortiz is barely worth a 25-year-old role player.

The Ramon Ortiz experience is over and I have to admit – it didn’t go nearly as well as I thought it would. I figured Ortiz was good for at least 10-12 wins and would be a solid end of the rotation addition kind of guy. I was wrong.

The Twins dealt Ortiz to the Rockies for something called Matt Macri. Macri was originally drafted by the Twins way back in 2001, but instead of signing with Minnesota he decided to play at Notre Dame. The Rockies then nabbed him in the 4th round on the 2004 draft, but a broken wrist and Tommy John surgery made Macri trade worthy. He plays some shortstop, some second base and some third base. He doesn’t really hit for power and isn’t a stolen base threat.

Matt Macri…don’t bother getting to know him.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

This better not be a trend.

Would you play a golf course designed by Tiger Woods just because it was designed by Tiger Woods? If you have the means to do so, you will get your wish soon because he is designing his own course in South Carolina, his first such effort here in the U.S.

Unfortunately, there is a huge downside to the announcement -- he won’t allow golf carts on the course.

For many of us, riding in the cart is one of the highlights of golf. I personally can’t think of anything better than sitting in the passenger side of a golf cart, fidgeting with the GPS system, and drinking a bloody Mary while trying to figure out how I am going to get the ball back into the fairway.

Still… it’s a course designed by Tiger and I would play it if I had the chance. It’s a bit haughty to not allow riders – but I guess Tiger can do what Tiger wants to do.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's Madden Day.

The new John Madden football is out. Wow -- it has great graphics and incredible gameplay for the Nintendo Wii. More to come related to the new game, but in the meantime, here's a blast from the past with an old entry from 2005.


August, 2005


It’s that time of year again. Shut the shades, turn off the lights, and fire up the PS2 – Madden 2006 was released on Tuesday and of course, as usual, I was there.

I lost count sometime in the late 90’s, but I think this is the 13th or 14th straight year I have purchased the Madden title. And every year, I ache a little more for the past. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game. It really revs my engines (copyright Brian Fantana.) But it is starting to get a little…stale.

When did video games become such an obsession and when did it become okay for a 31-year-old man to be this excited about a toy? I don’t have the answer to either question, but I know I am not alone in saying that Madden has become a staple in the fall/winter downtime diet.

The newest version has all the old features. Franchise mode, owner mode, mini-games, and online play basically come standard now with Madden -- and all of this is fantastic. But somewhere over the last 3-4 years, the lines have been blurred and the “video game” aspect of Madden football has taken a turn and it has become a very close replica of the real-life version of the NFL.

Every time I get the latest version, I am always amazed at how far games like this have come. I remember playing Intellivision football when I was a kid and there was no rhyme or reason to the game. It wasn’t football at all - it was basically five red blocks against five blue blocks and you hoped you could run your blocks into your opponent’s blocks with enough force to move forward. But back then, it was the coolest thing we had ever seen and we couldn’t believe the technology was so advanced. If we had a chance to play that old school version of football now, it would look as basic to us as Pong did ten years ago.

My buddy Bert and I spent days, hell – we probably spent months -- playing Intellivision. And a few years later, Nintendo finally came out with RBI baseball and we didn’t leave my parents house during the summer months. The only time we went outside was to play real baseball on our traveling Babe Ruth team. We rarely left the cool, comfortable darkness of the basement, only going upstairs for bathroom breaks, Mountain Dew/Funyon runs, and every once in awhile, to watch Harry Carey and the Cubs on the big TV in the living room.

There was a hidden beauty to games like RBI baseball. Every player looked alike, every pitcher had the same motion, and every hitter had no chance of hitting the ball the other way. Once in awhile, the game would freeze up, you would hit the reset button, and you moved on with the fun. The point is - you knew you were playing a video game and life was good.

In today’s version of Madden, unlike the golden era of Nintendo, sometimes you can’t tell what real life is and what a video game is. You don’t even need to play the game to know this. If you have seen the commercials on TV, what you see is what you get and it isn’t too difficult, especially from across the room, to mistake the video game pictures for real-life football. The graphics are that true to life.

The football players actually look and move like real NFL stars. During games in cold weather stadiums, you can see the frosty breath of a player. On sunny days, the glare coming off the helmets is eerily real. The crowd reacts to a good play with cheers and even boos a coach’s decision to punt on 4th and inches from the opponent’s 40-yard-line. It’s as close to feeling like Denny Green as I ever want to get.

Madden doesn’t necessarily feel like a video game anymore – it’s more like an NFL simulator. But, there are some great aspects of game. The best part for dorks like me is that I no longer have to track statistics on my own – you can save up to 30 seasons for one franchise, which allows you to go back and compare seasons state. Plus, this allows you to have debates with yourself on whether the player you created had a Hall of Fame career. (Not that I ever do that or anything). This feature has saved me countless hours of frustration because I actually used to keep track of season to season stats in a notebook. But that was back when I was a kid. Okay, I wasn’t a kid - I was in high school. Let’s just move on.

All of these features are great. You can’t ask for a better looking football game. The problem I am starting to run into is that the game play is too complex. A new feature this year is something called vision/precision passing. I can’t for the life of me figure out how this helps improve game play. Even worse, I was once an offensive genius in the Madden world. I could rack up hundreds of yards passing with Chad Hutchinson at QB for Christ sake. I mean come on, I was unstoppable. Now I can’t complete a 10-yard curl or a screen-pass. Not good times, bad times.

The gist of the new feature is that some quarterbacks have better field vision than others. Peyton Manning, for instance, has a better awareness and feel for the game than someone like Joey Harrington. Let’s be honest, we all have better field awareness and feel for the game than Joey Harrington. But, in this game, Manning can see the entire field. Harrington can only see a small part of the field and locks onto the receiver he is throwing to, which makes him a complete liability. Hey, just like real-life!

And, I guess that’s the point, EA Sports has made a game that is almost too lifelike. You can’t just sit down and play this game. It takes a lot of time to figure out how to master the offensive controls. Some people love that and some people --like me -- want a game where you can sit down and throw for 400 yards and score 73 points per game. That’s just how I roll.

There are people who are going to love this game. I am afraid to even allow my buddy Wide into my house at this point. He will master the precision passing in about three minutes and our heated rivalry will turn into a lopsided ass-kicking the same way it did last year when his Eagles abused my beloved Vikings with the PlayMaker feature. I couldn’t figure that thing out either.

Long story short is, I will keep plugging away at this game and keep trying to get better at it. We don’t have a better option this year and in fact, we won’t have a better option for the next five years, since EA Sports signed an exclusive deal with the NFL for gaming rights.

Plus, the old-school Nintendo Entertainment System I bought on Ebay doesn’t really work very well and I can’t for the life of me find a working copy of RBI Baseball. So, until I do – it will have to be Madden.

When that’s your dilemma, things are working out okay, huh?

Want to get a group of lawyers to smile for a picture? Say "Fees!"

The first law firm (of what will no doubt become many law firms) wants to conduct its own investigation of the 35W bridge site because it can, in fact, make more money that way. Can you think of a better reason?

According to the story, the state’s liability is limited to only $1 million, so you can bet there will be lots and lots of lawsuits against other insured parties. Construction crews, contractors, motorists, and probably even the Mississippi River will be targets for the vultures if they can figure out a way to do it.

Sometimes it’s okay to admit you just aren’t very good.

Torii Hunter seems like a bright guy. He’s also a great defensive center fielder and can, at times, hold his own on offense. With another loss last night – this time to the Mariners – the Twins are now two games under .500 and are officially dead in the playoff chase. Hunter can’t seem to figure out what went wrong.

This from today’s Strib:

"I don't know what's wrong, don't know what happened. Don't know if it was [trading] Luis Castillo, or the comments from Johan, or what. But something negative has hit this clubhouse. Something's not right."

Well…what’s wrong is that the Twins aren’t very good. They should have done something positive at the deadline to help the offense and they didn’t. They are what they are right now – a .500 or so team with 3-4 good hitters and a leaky bullpen that can’t get from the 6th inning to the 9th without falling apart.

It was fun while it lasted; they made us watch for a couple of months but now… it’s over.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It’s the beginning of the end for “catcher” Joe Mauer.

A year ago at this time, you wouldn’t have been able to find a Twins’ coach or front office guy willing to discuss the possibility of Joe Mauer moving to a spot in the infield.

Now, he's taking grounders and working without the tools of ignorance.

How long before he’s moved full-time to third base and becomes a more consistent offensive version and less consistent defensive version of Nick Punto?

Erin gets the rock of love boot.

There is speculation all over the internets that the woman on Brian Urlacher’s right is none other than Erin from Rock of Love. Erin just got kicked out of the house for, among other things, being labeled as a “star bleeper” by her housemates.
Now, I just got turned onto this show a couple of weeks ago and I am no expert – but she does indeed look like Erin.
Brett Michaels has made it clear that he won’t be played because he is the player.

What does that make Brian Urlacher?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Troy Williamson might not be terrible this season.

Yes, it was the first preseason Vikings game and yes, we don’t really know what we have with this Vikings team. But, you have to be happy about Troy Williamson and his three catch, no drop game on Saturday night.

The Twins are dead, the tree toads are singing, and Troy Williamson not dropping a pass is big news. It must mean fall is right around the corner.

Tastes like tap water.

Okay, so this is probably old news to some of you (most of you?) but apparently Aquafina bottled water is made from tap water.

File this under “not all that surprising” but still “kind of unreal” in my mind.

Still, tell me again why it has an expiration date on it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Hey Fred, we didn't have much fun either.

According to Fred Smoot, he “just wasn’t into” being a Minnesota Viking and was depressed during his time in Cold Omaha.

I think this makes some sense.

If I called myself a “shut down corner” and then proceeded to intercept just 3 passes over the course of 2 seasons while being implicated in the sex boat scandal and never really living up to any of the expectations people had for me when I signed my multi-year contract with an $11 million dollar signing bonus…well…I guess I might not be into my time here either.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

It might be time to get what you can for Joe Mauer.

Okay look. The Twins aren’t going to make it to the playoffs. Just trust me – they aren’t going to be there – not with that weak lineup they continue to put out on the field. So…where do they go from here?

Sign Johan Santana to a long term deal. Sign Torii Hunter for three years -- max. Give Justin Morneau his money.

Trade Joe Mauer.

Get a third baseman for him. Find a DH. Suffer with a weak hitting catcher, someone who can play some defense, hit eighth, and give us some power in the middle of this lineup. I will take other suggestions, but at this point – I am frustrated with another 1-0 loss and something has to give.

Simpsonize me

I am not sure if it really looks like me -- but I am also not sure what more you can ask for when you want to be a Simpsons character.

You can go turn yourself into a cartoon at:

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Great, he got the home run record. Now let's agree to never mention this again.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Road Tripping

Minnesota to Philadelphia to Delaware to Pittsburgh and back to Minny again --all in the span of three days. Good times. You asked and you shall receive; here are a few highlights from the road trip…

Because I didn’t want to check any luggage, I became “that guy” who couldn’t fit his carry-on into the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of him. The AA flight attendant was understandably less than happy about helping me find a spot for my carry-on. It’s not like it is part of her job or anything. I mean, she’s obviously got enough on her plate perfecting that annoyed look on her face. And with all the “put your tray table up and turn off your ipod” speeches, how could she possibly find the time to help a passenger find a safe and secure spot for a carry-on bag? She shouldn’t have felt the need to help me and luckily for her, she didn’t.

While rolling her eyes and exhaling loudly, she told me to find a spot for my bag “in the back of the plane” which was both amusing and confusing. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to get off the plane and find some room in the trunk, or head back to talk with somebody who might have some space under their seat. I ended up going to the back row and asking a couple of teenage kids if I could perhaps put my bag behind their seat since there seemed to be enough room for it. They were confused and I think a little afraid of me, but they let me put my bag back there, so it was all good. In my defense, this plane was tiny and my carry-on has never not fit into the overhead before. Still, I probably should have checked a bag instead of jamming everything into the carry-on.

Ever see a large black bear cross all four lane of interstate traffic in less than 5 seconds? We saw it happen on the Pennsylvania Turnpike just west of the mountains. Coolest black bear related thing I have ever seen – this bear was moving fast and cleared a five-foot concrete dividing barrier like he was clearing a hurdle in the 100-meter. I have seen deer, raccoons, even possums cross the road, but never a black bear. Wow, I hope I am never being chased my one of those things – talk about big and fast.

The people who take tolls for a living can be either the nicest or meanest people in the world. We met all types of toll-takers. There was the woman who yelled at us when we asked her for change for a dollar “I’m not a bank” and the woman who couldn’t have been nicer about the change request, practically running after our 1990 Chevy S-10 Blazer when we asked if asking for change at a toll booth was out of line “no not at all -- you all need some change?!”

Because my flight from Minnesota was delayed 40 minutes, I was running from the arrival gate in Chicago to my departure date so I wouldn’t miss my plane to Philly. As I got to the gate, the door was closed and nobody was around. It was 1:50 p.m. and my flight was set to take off at 1:55 p.m.

An AA ticket taker popped out from behind the fake wall and looked at me in disgust. I love flying these days, the airline employees are the nicest folks around. Two other guys came running up to the gate behind me. Because I was connecting from another flight, the woman said I might be able to get on if they haven’t already closed the door to the airplane. She dialed some magic number on her phone, the gate door popped open, and I was on the plane.

I did the walk of shame from the front of the plane to the middle of the plane toward my seat, pushed my giant carry-on into the overheard compartment (bigger plane this time) and sat down next to a woman who couldn’t have been more disappointed because she just downgraded from having an open seat next to her to having me next to her in the span of 30 seconds.

The people of Pittsburgh love the Steelers but they couldn’t care less about the Pirates. I had no business getting box seats to a relatively new stadium, but there couldn’t have been more than 15,000 people at the game. Well…it wasn’t a game, it was more of a “let’s eat and drink and wait for the rain to stop” event…but still.

They never even threw a pitch.

I had a chance to see PNC Park in person on Sunday afternoon. The Pirates were scheduled to play the Reds that day, but of course steady rain and lightning cancelled the game. It was the only rainout in the Majors over the weekend and I was there to see it.

The stadium is nice, we had great seats, and the city of Pittsburgh isn’t nearly as much of an armpit as I have heard. My buddy Bert and I made it from the Steel City to the Minnesota border in less than 11 hours. So, a stop in Toledo to see Disstraktor was out of the question.

But, I would love to make that trip again soon because the drive was pretty easy and I really kind of like paying the tolls in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Go ahead, pour salt in the wound.

Yeah, that's KG and David Ortiz yukking it up at Fenway Park last night where Garnett threw out the first pitch. Wonder if they were trading old Minnesota stories or making fun of the fact that neither the Wolves or the Twins will see the post-season any time soon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

If by criteria he means “anyone who would take me” then I believe him

Daunte Culpepper is a Raider.

We hate to toot our own horn, but we told you this was going to happen way back on June 6.

Culpepper says that when he became a free agent, he “created and ranked eight criteria that I used to evaluate potential teams that were interested in my services…based on my criteria, the Oakland Raiders are the best fit."

Nobody else wanted him, so it’s probably safe to say he’s telling the truth.

Johan Santana has never been more correct.

This is not going to be good for business.

The best left-hander in the game isn't happy with the Twins because the team shipped out Luis Castillo and Terry Ryan didn't do anything positive before the trade deadline.

Quotes from Johan in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today:

"I'm not surprised. That's exactly how they are. That's why we're never going to go beyond where we've gone. It's not just about hope. In a realistic world, you have to really make it happen and go for it."

Santana wasn't done:

"You always talk about future, future. ... But if you only worry about the future, then I guess a lot of us won't be part of it....Why waste time when you're talking about something that's always going to be like that? It's never going to be beyond this point. It doesn't make any sense for me to be here, you know? I've been here for eight years, and I've seen a lot of those kind of things...I've seen a lot of those guys [like Castillo] come in and leave. [The decision makers] don't care. They always talk about caring about it; I don't think they care.

And finally Santana finished:

"Because if you're always talking about having young players -- that's the philosophy the team has, and I respect all that -- but it's been proven that it's not enough to go all the way to the World Series...They protect their young players. They protect their organization, their roots, everything. But I guess I won't be a part of it. A lot of guys don't feel like they can be part of it, and they have to move on....Every time I'm out there, I'm trying to win...And from seeing that we're not even trying from the top to the bottom -- I don't think it's a good sign. I don't think it's good at all."
Um yeah - so maybe Terry Ryan should have done something to get a hitter or two in here, huh?