play ball.

Uncle Crappy’s affinity for college football is pretty well documented here. Those of you who’ve known me for a long time know that I grew up in a bedroom with freaking Ohio State wallpaper. That when I was in school I would often leave OU home games early because Ohio State was on TV. That me and the Coochie Doctor wore identical scarlet and gray rugby shirts in our fourth-grade class pictures. That I now ignore all reason and common sense to host, with The Wife and my folks, ungodly tailgate parties at every Ohio State home game, foregoing sleep to start drinking in a parking lot at 8 a.m.

Ohio State’s football team is off this weekend. It’s their bye week. The Bobcats and Browns are both off as well.

No meaningful football. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

I’ve also been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, it was the Cincinnati Reds, for two reasons: 1) The Cleveland Indians didn’t even have a radio affiliate in Columbus, from what I can remember; I was had only a vague sense that there was a Major League team in the hometown of my beloved Browns. 2) The Reds of the early and mid-1970s were one of the best teams in baseball history.

My dad let me stay up to watch every game of the 1975 World Series against the Red Sox. And, years before I learned to really hate the Yankees, I somehow knew that sweeping New York in the 1976 series was extra-cool because of the opponent.

In the off-season after that series, the Reds did something a 10-year-old like me couldn’t understand: They dumped Rose, Perez, George Foster, Don Gullett and a few others who made of the core of the Big Red Machine. I knew nothing at the time about the business of the game; I only knew that we had one of the best teams ever, and we just shit-canned a bunch of those guys for no good reason.

For the next couple of years, I was done with baseball. It didn’t make any sense to watch when you knew stupid shit like that could happen again.

It changed somewhere around 1980. The lineup for our cable system changed, and WUAB from Cleveland was added to the list. Somehow, I got hooked into watching the Indians, even though they were horrible at the time. And for most of the time in the next dozen years, I kept watching, even though they were just as bad.

For what I endured — a relatively short stretch for someone who’s been a lifelong Indians fan, I admit — I got to enjoy the success of the 1990s honestly. Even with the World Series losses in ‘95 and ‘97, I had some serious fun with the swagger that being an Indians fan gave us license to enjoy.

(I’ve never watched the end of Game Seven of the ‘97 series, by the way … but I do know that if Jose Mesa ever stepped out in front of my car, I’d be tempted to do something that society generally frowns upon.)

And when Mark Shapiro, the Indians’ current general manager, told us in 2002 that the Indians were going to rebuild, and that we’d be back in playoff contention in three years, I swallowed hard and believed him.

It’s three years later. And although the White Sox just clinched the AL Central title this afternoon, I still get three more games, with the AL wild card berth at stake. Wow.

Despite the long history with the game, I feel like I’ve become a real baseball fan just in the last few years, and the personal change has mostly been thanks to the personnel changes in Cleveland during the same time. I had no idea who Travis Hafner was, or who Grady Sizemore was, etcetera, and I wanted to find out. Research into my new guys turned into a broader knowledge of the game, and a greater appreciation for the game across the board.

Even if I wasn’t an Indians fan, I couldn’t help but start to vibrate over this weekend in the American League. Indians-White Sox and Red Sox-Yankees head-to-head with one division championship and the wild card on the line? Are you kidding me? I love the NFL, but there’s an intangible thing about baseball this time of year, and it can make baseball more exciting than any other professional sport I spend time with. And since my team, my boys, are in the midst of it, it’s even better.

No football this weekend? No problem. Somehow, I think I’ll be OK.

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my tail has been gated.

I haven’t been doing such a hot job at regular posting lately. I’m choosing to blame football, which kind of sucks a big chunk of time and energy from The Wife and me every week: Sunday is tailgate recovery, and for me, work. Monday is kind of an autopilot day, mostly because we’re still both recovering from the weekend. By the middle of the week, I’m trying to get caught up with my big Sunday story, and we’re starting to talk about when we head to Columbus for that weekend’s game and what we’re doing for the pre-game festivities. Thursday is a mad scramble — I’m finishing the Sunday story and everything else that’s piled up on my desk before I’m done for the week; I also try to pack for the weekend and get some of my housewifely duties done before we drive on Friday.

Saturday: Up early to make coffee for The Wife. Loading the truck (If I could find employment as a tailgate party truck packer, I’d be fucking golden, folks). Setting up outside the College of Pharmacy, mixing the morning’s first bloody marys… It makes for a looooonnng day.

Understand: I’m not complaining, at least not much. There have been plenty of highlights in the first three weeks of the season, especially during the 11-hour Texas party:

  • The county cop who motioned to Fred and Uncle Crappy as we headed over to St. John’s around 10:30 a.m. to watch a bit of College Gameday: “Guys. Please. Just take it easy today. The game isn’t until 8 tonight…”
  • The state liquor cops who showed up in our lot for the first time since Ohio State started its tailgate drinking crackdown two years ago. We gave them food and water and chatted for a while, and the only potential problem was MY FATHER, THE MAN WHO IS SUPPOSED TO TEACH ME ABOUT RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY, WHO KEPT MUTTERING GIVING THEM DONUTS…
  • Miraculously producing enough food to feed like 25 people, after brother-in-law-of-Uncle Crappy showed up with a horde of drunken, hungry friends…

For Iowa this weekend, I know we’re having shrimp cocktail and mimosas, because that’s what mother-of-Uncle Crappy wanted to have. I’m a little sketchy on the other menu items, but I’m sure it will all become clear in the next couple days.

And after that, there is a two-week break. Next weekend, The Wife and I will do something to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary, which is actually this Sunday. We’re not sure what that’s going to consist of, except it won’t consist of driving to Columbus. And the following weekend will be busy, but it will be busy in Pittsburgh: A special thing I’ve arranged for The Wife on Friday — more about that later — and a trip to Sharp Edge on Saturday night to watch Ohio State play Penn State with a bar full of Pennsylvanians — not too many knuckleheads, but right in the middle of the enemy’s den nonetheless.

I’ve been lovin’ the tailgate parties so far. And I’m going to be lovin’ the break just as much.

developing.

We interrupt college football season for this important announcement:

HOLYFUCKINGSHITTHEINDIANSHAVEPULLEDWITHINTWOANDAHALFGAMESOFTHE WHITESOXFORTHEALCENTRALLEADANDTHEYSTILLHAVEFIVEHEADTOHEADGAMES LEFTINTHE2005REGULARSEASON!

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

the cat ate my homework.

Apologies to Anne, who tagged me for this last week. I was serious about that distracted-by-football thing.

Five years ago: I had been working at my current newspaper for about six months, and was thinking that the decision to change jobs was a bad one. It’s gotten better.

Five songs I know all the words to: “U.S. Blues.” “Roses Are Free.” “Sweet Jane.” “Buckeye Battle Cry” (there’s that football thing again). “Hello Dolly” (which I can sing in a Louis Armstrong voice that sounds so close to the real thing it’s scary…). There are many others.

Five snacks I enjoy: Hostess Cupcakes. Doritos. White Castles (five or fewer is a snack; six or more counts as a meal). Apple slices dredged through a tub of that peanut-butter caramel dip. A big bowl of fresh pineapple.

Five things I’d do with $100 million : Be debt free. Ensure that my sister and brother-in-law have enough money that the don’t have to worry about sending my neice and nephews to Florida’s horrible public schools. Give my mother-in-law the opportunity to retire. Do something nice for my parents (but, Jesus, they already have everything…). Buy The Wife and me a nice house in the hills near Athens, Ohio.

Five places I’d run away to: Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii. Northern Wisconsin. Aspen, Colorado. Any Grateful Dead tour. Athens, Ohio (see above).

Five things I would never wear: Piercings. Mesh tank tops (think Right Said Fred). University of Michigan apparel. Speedo bathing suits. Matching white belts and shoes.

Five favorite television shows (tough, because I don’t get to see much TV while I work so many evenings. So this is kind of an all-time list.) Northern Exposure. Duckman. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Any programming that appears on The Weather Channel. The Simpsons.

Five favorite toys: (current) Our computer (Anne, it totally counts!). My digital camera. My official Wilson NCAA football. My skis. My iPod (which, technically, I don’t actually own yet, although my birthday is coming in just under a month). (30 years ago) Mattel Football. Silly Putty. My Frisbees. That big vibrating football thing with the plastic players that rattled around. Our old Atari game system.

Five greatest joys: The Wife. Our cat. My family. My friends. Music.

Five people I’m tagging: Tough, because I don’t know enough other bloggers well enough to throw this at them … so I’m tagging Juan, HP, DD, Kewyson and B. Discuss.

crappity. crappity. crap.

The fact that OU beat Pitt helps me deal with the fact that Ohio State should have beaten Texas pretty easily. And the fact that the Browns are going to be as bad as I expected. Kewyson: If you don’t get that chip removed by the time you’re 25, it’s permanent. I checked with specialists during the last couple years of John Cooper’s reign.

i’m sorry. what?


Uncle Crappy is a little distracted this week. Partly because it’s a short week, and I still have a ton of shit to get done in three days instead of five. Mostly because of the Ohio State-Texas game on Saturday. We’re planning an 10-hour tailgate party that will wrap up an hour before the game starts at 8 p.m. Why? This is like a freaking bowl game in September, and we have to be ready.

Remember this picture of Jim Tressel after the 2003 Fiesta Bowl? The Texas game is almost that big. Almost.

Actually, the Ohio State game is the one I’m most certain about. There are two others of importance: OU has a good shot at beating Pitt in Athens Friday night, mostly because Pitt is still reeling from getting stomped by Notre Dame last weekend. And the Browns might even beat Cincinnati on Sunday.

But I’d trade both of those for a win on Saturday.