They pulled a 1000 lb. squid out of a New Zealand sea last week, and that wasn‘t even in the Bass Masters Classic. It is not my habit to keep track of the major achievements of outdoorsman, but I confess this got my attention. Half a ton of squid? I cannot vote for that. I am in every possible sense a nature lover, but this is completely revolting.
Close observers of the media may have noted a worrying trend last weeks. Just as many of us working in the humiliating ghetto of 'fringe science' have long predicted, animals are making now moving aggressively against mankind and with a will to total power. Consider the unfolding in rapid succession of the following events:
are now hunting with spears.
are officially running most of the fast food restaurants in town.
And finally, the squid
You don't exactly have to be Wooodward and Bernstein to follow this harrowing trail of secrets and lies, people. This is not a drill. We are officially under assault by a consortium of devious and lethal wildlife and very shortly will be enslaved property of bears, cougars and penguins.
And honestly, what do I care? How much worse can things get for a sports fan than early March, no matter who is running the show? We are now headlong into the fallow late winter, with football dormant, golf and baseball pending and other mild amusement of the sports world in taking center stage in our consciousness. One could argue that there is always some element of suspension of disbelief when persuading ourselves that sports really means anything, but that process is never more difficult than in the first two weeks of this month, when not even the mostly trivial seems to segue into the utterly pointless and illusory. Consider:
MLB Spring Training
There is of course an endless reservoir of literary discourse on this most fetishized of March rituals, but setting aside for a moment the nostalgic plaudits of alcoholic novelists, precisely what of any interest is actually going on in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues? Far be it from me to cast aspersions upon the physical preparedness of your average Major League first baseman, but watching the Sportscenter
highlights of these split-squad exhibition games does not exactly bring to mind the first hour of Chariots Of Fire
. The inspirational drive to athletic excellence should not be confused with playing “Fungo.“ Pitchers may need several weeks’ work to prepare their arms, but how long does it really take for AJ Pierzynski get his stroke back? And why do I have the feeling that this process largely takes place at a “Gentleman’s Club” called “The Extra Bases Cabaret”? I’m as game as the next guy for decamping someplace warm, drinking beer and goofing around in order to run out the clock on winter- in the music business we call that "SXSW." But we don’t call it “training.” And yes we are all, without exception, using performance-enhancing drugs.
NFL Rookie Scouting Combine
I will confess that I am complicit in the rise of the NFL draft in our society from the sort of back page news typically reserved for harness racing fanatics, to the sort full-scale, two-day pillar-to-post coverage now featured by ESPN and their colleagues. You might even say that during an extended period in the early 90s I lobbied heavily for it with an aggressive letter-writing campaign to all elected officials within a three-state radius. And yes, I have perhaps on occasion purchased a “draft guide” at my local newsstand — and apprised myself of the exciting revelation that the Redskins might select a raw but promising left tackle from Weber State in the 6th round. However, even I have my limits. And I simply cannot take seriously the annual NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. For one thing, the actual participants don’t really seem to care. Leery of being downgraded or revealing some flaw or injury, many of the top prospects refuse to participate in a majority of the drills. Running backs do not run, quarterbacks do not throw. Vaunted Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn attended the event, but refused to do anything but hold press conferences. He was given high marks for his easy-going way with the media, but then so was Fuzzy Zoeller, and we know how that turned out.
Meanwhile, the scouts themselves seem befuddled as to how to gather useful information. Teams continue to issue the very weird Wonderlic
test, which by a total consensus of both football insiders and outsiders has been proclaimed utterly meaningless. In fact, everything about the combine has the slightly avant feel of a Harold Pinter comedy: a large, antic event with no discernable meaning. On the NFL Network and “NFL Live” experts break down the 40 times and weight room performances of the prospects who do participate, and then invariably emphasize that none of this should be taken overly seriously. Power lifting maniacs don’t make for great football players, track speed doesn’t necessarily translate into quickness on the field. Why are we having this thing again?! Is it April yet?
Like everyone else, I enjoy the NCAA tournament. But I do not like filling out those brackets.
That is because the very process grates against what I enjoy about college basketball in the first place: the liberating feeling of openly confessing that I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. This is a far preferable state to, say, the inglorious process of making NFL prognostications — a grueling witch’s brew of certain defeat that I nevertheless enter into year after year owing to a certain alleged expertise I feel myself to possess with regard to the game. Who amongst us, I would like to know, predicted the New Orleans Saints, 3-13 in 2006 with a first-year coach, a new quarterback coming off surgery on his throwing shoulder and a stadium one step removed from rubble would win their division and make it to the NFC Championship game? The small pool of demented psychotics who might actually have expected
that turn of events are probably all the same millennial fetishists who interpreted the book Book Of Revelations to mean that we wouldn’t even see a year 2006. There was no way I could have ever guessed this would occur, but looking back at me foolish preseason predictions I still feel like something resembling an utter failure.
By contrast, here is a list of teams who have qualified for the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament as of this writing: Belmont, Central Connecticut State, Davidson, Oral Roberts and Niagara. Does anyone know who starts for these teams? Do the coaches even know? Why would I even try to conjecture how they will fair in a 64-team tournament? I could have filled out an infinite number of brackets last year and still never put the 11 seeded George Mason in the Final Four. Attempting to turn this into any sort of science is truly the ultimate fool’s errand. I’m depressed enough as it is. Let’s just dispense with the paperwork and concentrate on getting Duke out of there.