May 8, 2008

A few thoughts on te Beantown Nine a little over a month into the season:

* Manny Ramirez is one very bad dude at the plate. Now that he’s come out of his homer drought (thanks in no part to Terry Francona sitting him down for a couple of days two weeks ago while he was en fuego), expect his homers to come in bunches and him hitting his 500th on the present road trip. You could see Manny being just-this-much-away from pure during the weekend series with the Rays.

* Even though he had a rough outing tonight, I love watching Craig Buchholz pitch. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be a phenom.

* Alternatively, I can’t stand to watch Daisuke Matsuzaka games, which seem to take freakin’ forever. The good news is that when he’s on the mound at the start of an inning, I can vacuum the house, do the rabbit cages, and wash my car all and still be done to see him go 3-2 on the fifth batter of the inning just before he strikes him out, leaving the bases loaded without being scored upon.

* I can’t wait for the Julio Lugo era to end. Yeah, yeah, the Sox became World Champions with him at shortstop last year, but he does nothing for me.

* On the other hand, watching centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and 2nd baseman Dustin Pedroia in the 1-2 positions in the lineup is a treat. Just as it is to watch both of them field their positions. The day is coming in the not-too-distant-future that both will be All-Stars.

* Doug Mirabelli? Doug Mirabelli? ‘Nuff said…

* That new camera angle on NESN’s Fenway Park broadcasts right behind the pitcher’s right shoulder is fantastic. You can really see the movement and rotation on the ball.

* Speaking of NESN: it’s hard not to take the broadcast team of Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy for granted, but they are the best in the game. Don’t believe me? Listen to some of the other broadcast teams out there. The guys who do the Florida Marlins are very good, as are the ones who do the Tampa Bay Rays. But the clowns who do the Diamondbacks broadcasts really bug me – they call every ballplayer by their first name as if they were one of the family. And don’t even mention the Yankee broadcasters.

* Speaking of NESN: I love Dennis Eckersley on the pre- and post-game shows. He calls it like it is, is not afraid to admit when he’s wrong about someone (Dustin Pedroia, for example), and he still talks and thinks like a ballplayer. But Ken Macha does nothing for me. And I love Jim Rice’s ties.

* Speaking of NESN: OK I’m missing Tina Cervasio on the NESN broadcasts, but, like Red at Surviving Grady, my eyes are more than willing to give her replacement Heidi Watney every chance in the world to succeed. And I’m guessing fellow Goodboy Ben “The Funny Guy” Andrusaitis feels the same way…

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:32 | Comments (2)
May 7, 2008

It’s been a true marathon for the Democratic nomination for President; seems like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been slogging it out for years – actually, come to think of it, they have. Hard to believe that less than six months ago, Hillary Clinton was not simply the de facto Democratic nominee, but plans were being prepared for a Democratic national convention in Denver that would be more of a coronation than anything else.

And why not? Hillary had the so-called White House experience, the name recognition, the backing of the party base, the money, and a clear road to the nomination. Given the relative inexperience and lack of name recognition of her competitors, while not impossible, it was difficult to imagine any scenario where Hillary! wouldn’t be the nominee. (Note to readers: I’ve written enough about her candidacy and its inherent dangers to be a virtual Nostradamus – just search for “Hillary” in the archives.) The race for the nomination was most certainly hers to lose, and to do so would require serious missteps politically on her part – something fairly unlikely given the Clinton’s past political track record.

But her ill-advised comments supporting, then not supporting, then er, somewhat supporting then-NY governor Elliot Spitzer’s plan to give illegals drivers licenses in that first debate began a series of hiccups that cast the first doubts on both her and her campaign’s political chops. When Barack Obama went on the attack, both she and her campaign seemed slow to respond; it was as if they truly believed in her “inevitability” as the nominee. And her campaign wore that badge of inevitability like a cloak and then got stupid, spending an inordinate amount of cash to win the Iowa caucuses when they would have been better off paying it lip-service and allowing Obama to win by default so they could focus on the Super Tuesday primaries.

They say a campaign staff and strategy reflects a candidate’s personality. And the Hillary! campaign wore her personality like a cheap suit in its arrogance and lack of honesty. Having never dreamed that she’d be in a battle for the nomination after Super Tuesday, the campaign clearly had no strategy. It ran out of cash. She used her cheatin’ and philanderin’ husband to make a series of ill-advised attacks on Obama when things got tough, pulled him back when those attacks proved to infuriate African-American voters, then ran both him and daughter Chelsea out to pimp for votes at the last minute – all of which served only to diminish the actual candidate running for President. When Hillary! got caught embellishing a trip she had taken to Bosnia as First Lady, it not only made voters question her honesty, it reminded them of the many problems she and her husband had telling the truth during their White House years.

More than anything, however, what killed Hillary’s campaign in the end was the shocking discovery that the puppy-dog love affair the liberal mainstream media had for her husband didn’t extend to his spouse. Once Obama showed he had the chutzpah to run a solid and effective campaign, all that was left on the Hillary bandwagon were hacks and flacks left over from the Clinton White House years. Obama became the MAN, larger than life itself, and Hillary! was now intruding on the left-wing’s hopes and dreams for the 2008 election. And with her unfavorable ratings never dropping below 48-50 percent, there simply was no room for her to either reinvent herself or go negative on Obama.

Tonight, with North Carolina solidly in the Obama column and Indiana barely in Clinton’s, she finds herself further behind both in terms of the popular vote and delegates. She can talk all she wants about continuing her “fight for the American people” (I’ll hurl later), but you can bet there are more than a few Party faithful pushing behind the scenes to have her concede the nomination. The math is against her more than ever, Obama’s victory in North Carolina proves that he has put (at least for Democrats) the Jeremiah Wright controversy behind him, and the uphill climb she already faced before tonight only gets steeper.

So it’s a time to rejoice. The Hillary! campaign for the Democratic nomination is done like dinner, and I have to admit I’m enjoying every minute of it. Couldn’t happen to a more unlikeable, arrogant, unqualified, and phony (not to mention Socialist) candidate. It was already satisfying to know that a Bush wouldn’t be occupying the White House for another four years – I’ll get to him another time – but knowing that a Clinton won’t be there either is a reason to celebrate.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:31 | Comments (0)
May 6, 2008

A few things that have been nagging at my cranium lately…

Bad enough the flying experience is awful these days, but now airlines want to keep you in the skies longer to cut costs.

…And if they ever allow cell phone use on planes, count me completely out.

Question: who’s the biggest sleazeball – Madonna or Roger Clemens?

Maybe it’s just me, but this endless weeping and gnashing of teeth by conservative cable and radio talk show hosts like Hugh Hewitt and Sean Hannity, not to mention bloggers of a similar political stripe over Jeremiah Wright’s overheated rhetoric smacks of racism to me. These priviliged white breads have never walked in the latter’s shoes (no matter how fancy those shoes might be) and should therefore stick to what they know from their own caucasian perspective.

Put me down as a new devotee to the Dave Ramsey Show on Fox Business Channel. As someone who has spent too many years drowning in debt and paying the minimum on credit cards, Ramsey is like a breath of fresh air – for him it’s all about getting debt free (house included) and Tracey and I are starting to breathe some of that rarified air. We’ve still got a long way to go, but at least the ship is finally pointed in the right direction.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 01:10 | Comments (0)
May 5, 2008

Big Brown was magnificent in winning Saturday’s Kentucky Derby and should be a strong contender for the Triple Crown. Of course, the colt’s victory was overshadowed by the tragedy of filly Eight Belles breaking down after crossing the finish line and having to be euthanized right there on the track.

As much as I love the sport, I’m afraid the AP’s Richard Rosenblatt is right – the sport of big-time horse racing has a image problem right now, and it’s hard to see what can be done. For example, this past Saturday my wife watched the race with me but she was more concerned with seeing all the horses finishing safely than she was about her pick actually winning. And to see Eight Belles go down as she did, it’s not likely she’ll watch another race again. I’m sure she’s not alone in that regard.

But what to do? Spread the Triple Crown qualifying races further apart? Enforce standards that require a certain amount of down-time for horses in order to qualify for Triple Crown events? Perhaps the synthetic tracks they’re trying out at tracks across the country is the answer – who knows? As far as the Derby itself is concerned, I suppose you could reduce the chances of something happening by reducing the size of the field – after all, twenty is a lot of horses, and in a field that size you’re just increasing the odds of something happening.

But I don’t think it has anything to do with training or how the horses are treated – after all, this is a big-money sport where a lot of dough-re-mi is invested, and my guess is these horses are treated in accordance with the investors in mind. Once they’re through racing, that’s another matter, but in preparing for a stage like the Triple Crown that these horses are treated pretty darned well if not like gold. After all, these horses have been bred, born, and trained for this very thing.

At any rate, it’s certainly a complex issue, and without a doubt something the industry as a whole has to take a good hard look at.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:15 | Comment (1)
May 3, 2008

My good pal Jerome sent me this e-mail today:

FRET NOT, oh Shank of the west, for the gods of DirecTV are not ripping you off!!

Check it out … The sole reason that you are able to see the game on NESN as well as on the MLB Extra Innings channel is because you have the MLB Extra Innings package. If you were a subscriber like me (I have the sports package, but not the Extra Innings package) the game would indeed be BLACKED OUT! The reason is actually quite simple … The programmers at DirecTV may be very controlling and entirely paranoid, but they do things that offer some nice flexibility.

Yes, you can watch EITHER channel to watch the game because you have subscribed to BOTH!!!

And indeed, I have confirmed what Jerome says because I can also get the YES Network (one notch up the dial at 622) and watch all the New York Yankees games I want.

Like that will happen, right?

But a big “thank you!” to Jerome for making me feel so much better about myself! And he’s right, that is some nice flexibility DirecTV offers. Now if I only didn’t have to work so hard to get all my promised rebates…but that’s another story for another time.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:07 | Comments (0)
May 2, 2008

(Part 2 of a two-part post)

Last Thursday – I don’t remember the team the Sox were playing – Cleveland? Anyways, the Sox were losing and I put my glass of Bolla Chianti down and grabbed the flicker. The MLB “Extra Innings” channels are up in the 700 series, so I lazily began working my way down towards my intended destination of 359 (the Fox Business Channel), planning a brief stop along the way at 370 (EWTN) to see what was going on in the Roman Catholic universe.

So there I am, flicking…flicking… and all of a sudden, I’m watching the damned Red Sox game on 623. “That’s strange…”, I say to no one in particular (after all, Tracey’s still at work, Cosmo the rabbit is in the next room vegging out, and the other rabbits Marble Junior and Half-Pint are in the rabbit room/office down the hall doing likewise), “I shouldn’t be getting this game.” I flick up a channel, and there’s the same 623 number again, but this time with the “Not a subscriber to this channel” screen I had gotten that first time I checked to see if the NESN games were still blacked out as they were when I had Dish Network.

I reach for my glass of wine, take a sip, another sip, then sit up straight. I flick down, the channel shows 623 and the Red Sox game. I flick up, the channel shows 623 and the “not a subscriber” message. Down. Up. Down. Up. The same thing. “Well this is freakin’ weird”, I think to myself. I make a mental note to check what happens the following night when the Sox play Tampa Bay.

The next night, it’s game on, and I’m ready with the flicker. And the same thing happens – I punch in 623, and I get the “not a subscriber” screen. I flick up one channel, and it’s 623 and the damned Red Sox are playing – not well, but playing still. And it was then I began to realize just what had been going on. I walked down the hall, past the rabbits, and go into the spare bedroom where we have DirecTV but on a regular (i.e., non-HD) box (the TV there is our ancient-but-still-working-fine Sony). I turn on the TV, punch in 623…

..and there are the Sox, playing in living color.

“Son of a bitch!”, I say to no one in particular, “I just blew $170 bucks!”

(It was then I was reminded of that great scene in “The Sting” where Robert Shaw discovers that the horse he had just placed $500K on to win was actually going to finish second. He ambles up to the window and starts shouting to the teller, “There’s been a mistake. I want my money back!”)

You see, it was then I realized just how much of an idiot I am, for three – no, four – absolute truths all of a sudden became apparent to me:

1. For those with HD receivers, there are two NESN 623 channels, one in HD (available when one orders DirecTV’s HD package – which I don’t have), one not. If you have a HD receiver and punch in 623, you’re automatically directed to the HD channel; if you don’t, you just go to the single non-HD channel provided.

2. Unlike with Dish Network, NESN’s Red Sox games are NOT blacked out on DirecTV. Don’t ask me why this is so or was so, it just is… Or was.

3. That first time I checked to see if the Sox games were blacked out on NESN, I got the NESN HD channel; that message saying I wasn’t a subscriber meant just that – I wasn’t a DirecTV HD package subscriber. It never occurred to me there might have been two NESN channels with the same channel number.

4. I had wasted $170 on a sports package I never needed in the first place.

Ah yes, The Great White Shank truly is an idiot. Or maybe I’m being too hard on myself. After all, how was I – or anyone, for that matter, supposed to know there were two NESN channel 623s? How does that make sense?

In the meanwhile, I don’t really consider myself out $170 – after all, I’ve paid for the privilege of being able to really enjoy those Tampa Bay Rays or Milwaukee Brewers broadcasts. Sigh.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:27 | Comments (0)
May 1, 2008

Hi. My name is The Great White Shank, and I’m a doofus. Allow me to explain….

Two years ago when I was a Dish Network subscriber, and Major League Baseball’s “MLB Extra Innings” sports package had yet to be made available only to DirecTV subscribers, I purchased the package because the Red Sox games on New England Sports Network (NESN) were blacked out. For me, to be able to watch 2/3 of all the Sox games was worth the $140 subscription price.

Last year, after MLB decided to make “MLBEI” available on satellite only to DirectTV subscribers, I suffered through a year of MLB.tv. It wasn’t all that bad, but watching baseball on a 17″ computer monitor just didn’t cut it for me, so it was decided to make the move to DirecTV.

(Before I go any further here – and this is crucial to the story – you must know we have a HD big-screen TV and a HD receiver for that V. Just keep this in mind as the story unfolds…)

Springtime blooms and the major league baseball season begins to unfold. Like I had with Dish Network, when I ordered DirecTV I also ordered the regional sports channel package so I could get NESN for the pre- and post-game programming they run before and after the Sox games. So far, so good – the DirecTV guy comes, I click on channel 623 for NESN, and voila! I have NESN. I’m a happy guy.

We come to the night of the first Red Sox game of the season (actually it was their third after returning from Japan). Just to be sure, I click 623 and sure enough, I get a screen that says I haven’t purchased the channel. Figuring that’s the screen one would normally get because the game was blacked out, I think nothing of it and get my checkbook out and order the “Extra Innings” package at $170 clams. The next couple of Sox games are all featured on “MLBEI”, so I content myself with the privilege of once again being able to watch most of the Sox on my big-screen TV. And, like that Beatles’ song, I feel fine.

That is, until last Thursday…

To be continued…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:49 | Comments (0)

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