Thursday, November 29, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? No. 5

(Yet another installment of my jocular column from The Love of Sports. Last week, my fantasy basketball team - "The Centerfolds" - celebrated Thanksgiving. But no Pilgrims, or Native Americans, or Typhoid, or starvation. Instead, they slam-dunked, blocked shots, and all-around dominated the opposition.)

Week 4 of the fantasy season, and a real resurgence was in the works.

Higher shooting percentage than last week? Check.

Higher free throw percentage? Check.

More rebounds and assists? Check and check.

More hustle and camaraderie? Check that.

Higher level of winning attitude, peace on earth, and good will towards men? Check, maybe, and yes please.

That's just a cursory rundown of how The Centerfolds performed during the past week – a week of giving thanks both on and off the court. My team returned to its early season form, dominating in several categories including total points, rebounds, and blocked shots. We’re back at the top of the standings, with only two points separating The Centerfolds from the number one spot.

A couple highlights from the week:

- Caron Butler’s triple-double on Friday night, and his monster 39-point performance on Tuesday. Don’t call him “Karen.” It’s pronounced “Kuh-RON.” He’ll politely correct you if you make the mistake once, but he may feel obliged to gently hurt your feelings if you do it a second or third time. Super nice guy, so the least you could do is pronounce his name correctly.

- Also, the emergence of baby-faced Andrew Bynum (C, LA Lakers) has only served as an inspiration for the rest of the team. The second youngest member of The Centerfolds (Kevin Durant is younger by a year), the kid was born in October, 1987. I think I was shaving by then, and by that time my level of physical fitness had already begun its irreversible decline. Please keep in mind that I was born in 1976, as a point of reference.

Anyway, Andy Bynum, or “Big Baby Bynum”, as I like to call him, is a monster on the boards. He seems to be grabbing 12 or 13 rebounds a night. Not too shabby for a guy who can’t even legally buy himself a beer during pre-game warm-ups.

I gave my fantasy players the day off for the holiday, and they gave some serious thanks. Now, I don’t consider myself a particularly demanding fantasy manager. We hold fantasy practices four times a day, 3 hours at a time. The players are prohibited from smoking, drinking, or socializing with women at least 12 hours before any game. I keep the players’ fantasy passports locked in my glove compartment to make certain they don’t skip town, and start playing fantasy basketball in Italy – or worse, the CBA.

So maybe I am just a bit draconian. But it’s all in my players’ best interests. They’re good guys to a fault. And I want them to stay that way. Otherwise, if they slip up, commit a crime, attack a fan, or produce an obscenity-laden hip-hop album, they’ll be hitting the highway. “One strike and you’re out,” as I’ve posted on everyone’s fantasy locker, and on every single door and window in our fantasy clubhouse.

Along with other warnings, you'll find this sign above and below every single door and window in our fantasy facility. Smoking stinks!!

Additionally, this sign instructs women not to litter. They're also located throughout the fantasy clubhouse. We want to keep our area smoke-free and trash-free.

In any case, none of my fantasy players really had anywhere to go for the holiday. It’s not like they have fantasy wives and fantasy kids with which to spend their free time. So I decided it was time to have a real family-style Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of the fantasy locker room, right between the showers and the training room.

I put together a great spread, catered by Boston Market. And let me tell you, these guys can eat. I encouraged them to grub down on all the turkey, stuffing, creamed spinach, candied yams, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce they could handle. Don't hold back, I told them. But at the same time, I asked my team to think about the less fortunate, and give thanks for being able to enjoy what they’ve been given. Also, I asked them to give thanks for having Yao Ming as a teammate.

Yay! Everybody loves Yao no matter what! This picture was taken right after they LOST the game by 20 points.

He truly is a blessing…..and a veritable eating machine. I think one of his immense legs is hollow. Yao put away about 5 pounds of turkey, an entire tray of creamed spinach, and pretty much all of the stuffing. There wasn’t much left for anyone else. But no one was angry - and besides, Yao agreed to buy everyone dessert to make up for the fact that he ate all six of the pies I had purchased.

I only hope that your Thanksgiving was as full of joy, kindness and brotherly love as that of The Centerfolds.


Monday, November 26, 2007

A Karaoke Hope - Part One

(I'm trying something new here. This is the first part of a short story I'm writing. It may or may not be wholly or partially autobiographical. That information is of little consequence though. The fact is, everyone enjoys karaoke but many are embarrassed to admit it. It's a real problem, and something I'd like to address.)

I have this friend who likes karaoke. He would never admit this to those outside his circle of karaoke friends, so for the sake of anonymity, let’s call this friend of mine, this very close friend, “Steve Songmill.”

Steve really enjoys the occasional trip to the karaoke bar with a few friends (myself not included, of course). Steve is particularly fond of singing hip-hop songs from artists such as 2-Pac, Fat Joe, Ludacris, and Jay-Z. He doesn’t shy away from performing Whitney Houston, Mariah, or Beyonce. Even the occasional Billy Idol, Madonna or Tears for Fears makes its way into the mix.

In other words, Steve has an astoundingly broad vocal range. He also possesses an implausibly detailed knowledge of karaoke technique. He is, however, not a purely technical karaoke performer. Rather, he finds a way to imbue his performances with raw emotion and shocking physicality. What I’m trying to say is, Steve likes to pour beer on his head and stand on a table while he sings. Sometimes he’ll pour sake on his head as well. One time, he used soy sauce, as it was the only liquid within reach. He’s irreparably damaged countless wireless microphones (by submerging them in beer), and ruined quite a few karaoke shirts (similar to Hawaiian shirts).

The owner of the local karaoke bar knows Steve by name, and by credit card number. The bartenders request songs from Steve, and never the other way around. “Is it getting hot in here?” they’ll say. That’s Steve’s cue to put on his do-rag, knock back a shot of hot sake, and jump up on the bar - all in one fluid motion, if you can imagine. The wireless microphone is already in mid-air by the time Steve’s feet touch down on the slick countertop. The mike invariably lands in his hand with the precision of a Peyton Manning pass. We can thank Rick the bartender for his microphone-tossing accuracy. With that, the karaoke machine fires up the intro to Nelly’s mega-hit “Hot in Herre.”

This is one of Steve's classic acts. His rendition is flawlessly authentic. His rhythm is perfect. The cadence, the perfectly-timed movements, everything is amazing. His performance is simply unimpeachable. The bar crowd erupts as the song reaches its climactic chorus. Steve is on top of the world.

But Steve knows that as soon as the song is over, and once the bar closes for the night, the real world awaits. It's a depressing thought, and a bit too much to bear. So he buys a karaoke machine for his home.

The machine is like a DVD player, and connects directly to the TV and stereo system. It plays discs known as CD + G (short for CD plus graphics). It is nothing short of a godsend.

Steve is now able to practice at any time of the day or night. In the comfort of his own home, and in the comfort of his underwear. He orders numerous karaoke discs from a website that burns them to order. He finds all of his favorite songs, and requests them to be burned in a specific order. These discs are to provide the basis for the most ambitious karaoke performance ever attempted. 1,000 songs. Non-stop. No cover charge. Ladies drink free from 9-11pm. Half price Bud Lights the rest of the night.

To be continued......

Listen to this post.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? 4th Edition

(My weekly column from The Love Of Sports. Follow along as my team, The Centerfolds, attempts to navigate the dangerous world of fantasy basketball, utilizing only their raw talent, wits, and my flawless leadership abilities to fantasy-manage them. No guns, knives or drugs allowed.)

Week 3 of the fantasy basketball season was witness to a strange reversal of fortune. I’m not talking about the Jets shocking the Steelers in the Meadowlands. After all, we’re talking basketball here, not football.

I guess I’ll just jump right into it. We got our butts handed to us this past week - on a platter. With a side of wasabi. And a bit of the wasabi just got in my eye. Yeah, that’s why I’m crying all over the keyboard right now.

The Centerfolds lost 7-2, ending our early season ride along the tip-top of the standings. We’re now in the middle of the pack – elbow to elbow with the likes of Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant. Not good company for my team, or any team for that matter. As I’ll explain, it took me a while to figure out what went wrong. On the surface, we simply didn’t get it done this past week, and the problem couldn’t be isolated to just one or two players. Poor performance spanned the entire lineup.

It all came to a head late in the week. You should have seen the look on Yao’s face after a 12 point, 6 rebound performance on Saturday night. He shot a miserable (and very un-Yao-like) 23.5% from the floor. This guy can dunk while standing flat-footed in a six inch hole, so he usually makes the majority of his shots.

But that look on his face…..I could see it in his doleful brown eyes; in his slightly labored movement up and down the court; in the way he sipped his Gatorade during timeouts. It was almost as if there was a slow leak inside - an internal hemorrhaging of confidence, if you will, which evaporated into the heavy Houston air along with the sweat and tears pouring off his body.

“Yao, buddy. What‘s wrong?” I asked him after the game, in Mandarin.

“I do not know for what exactly is this problem, Chief Badass leader of dogs and men,” said Yao, loosely translated in my mind back into English, “I think it is my heart which is broken hard into bowls of rock by that which makes me smell angry.”

With that, he hung his head as low as it would go, and traipsed back to the fantasy locker room.

Of course, I’m still learning Chinese, and it’s a very difficult language. Still, upon further reflection, Yao’s seemingly senseless comments were not the result of temporary insanity. I may never know exactly what he meant, but the gist of it was this: I am sad.

Yao’s a leader of this team, and his example is invariably followed by the other players, young and old alike. His feelings of sadness had spread through the fantasy clubhouse like tuberculosis - and by that, I don’t mean it rode through the air on tiny globules of mucous or saliva. Rather, Yao’s grief was airborne, in the sense that it traveled in and around every fantasy player, fantasy coach, fantasy towel boy, fantasy trainer, and fantasy manager (Me) with no discrimination whatsoever. We were all feeling blue.

The sadness had persisted for most of the week. But the melancholy vibes reached a peak on Saturday night, during the ride back to our fantasy ranch in Crawford, Texas. Kevin Durant was in his seat, huddled with his knees to his chest, sobbing quietly. Ray Allen was humming a funeral dirge, tears streaming down his face. Shane Battier was locked in the lavatory, burning incense and reciting Druid prayers. It was all too much to bear. I needed to get to the bottom of this.

I slowly approached Yao’s seat, near the back of the tour bus, and sat down next to him. He stared out the smudged window as the rain fell in heavy sheets against the glass. He breathed slowly, fogging up the window along its entire length. It struck me that his eyes were bone dry and bloodshot. This giant of a man had run out of tears.

I reached up and put my hand on his shoulder. I asked him what was wrong, in English, and implored him to confide in me, in English. The Centerfolds don’t keep secrets from one another. This fantasy team shares the triumph and the tragedy. And so he answered freely, and I learned the source of his pain.

Earlier in the week, and after a lengthy illness, Yao’s hamster had passed on to the great activity wheel in the sky. I think it made him feel a little better when I told him that there was plenty of shredded newspaper in heaven. Also, his furry friend would have all the oat pellets he could eat, and would never want for fresh seeds and grains. Yao smiled at this thought – his fat, happy hamster waddling around in heaven without a care.

And with that smile, a bright warmth spread through the fantasy tour bus. The players dried their eyes. The time for grieving had ended. The board games came out, and we all enjoyed a raucous round-robin of fantasy Hungry-Hungry Hippos, into the wee hours of the night.



Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Mill's Refer-A-Friend Drive - Win a Totally Sweet T-shirt!!!!!!!

I've got some exciting news. Please sit down. If you're already seated, please slouch, or sit on the floor. You'll need to be as low to the ground as possible in case you faint from all the hubbub. I also recommend you go ahead and lay pillows on the floor all around you. Additionally, use duct tape and styrofoam to cover the exposed corners of any furniture, doors, baseboards, radiators - anything that you could potentially strike your head on as you lose consciousness, your legs buckle, and you drop to the ground. Once you've adequately head-injury-proofed the room you're in, you may continue reading this post.............

I'm giving away free t-shirts!!! Of course, I can't possibly afford to simply give these things away without expecting something in return. I want you to refer your friends, families, co-workers, and friendly acquaintances to this blog. Here's the idea: You tell your people to visit my site, read some of my stuff, enjoy themselves, and leave a quick comment on this post. All they need to do is tell me who referred them, and maybe a "Hi, how ya doin'?" or something along those lines. At the end of the week, I'll count up all of the folks who commented, and whoever referred the most people will win a shirt of their choice. Here are some samples of the designs you'll have to choose from. Also, several other colors are available:

A shirt like this could be all yours. Just send your friends to my blog, and have them leave a comment at the end of this post telling me who referred them. Not kidding!

Disclaimers: The shirts are made out of cotton. Cotton is flammable and vulnerable to strong acid. They are hypoallergenic except to those allergic to cotton - if you're allergic to cotton, I can send you a poncho made from a plastic garbage bag, but it won't say anything on it. These shirts will not insulate your body from sub-freezing temperatures nor can they be worn in the depths of space. That being said, the shirts will wick away perspiration during light to moderate physical activity. White shirts will become see-through during periods of heavy rain or rowdy horseplay with a garden hose. Additionally, I should mention that brown gravy will stain all non-brown shirts, whereas mustard will stain all non-yellow shirts. If you stain a blue shirt with mustard, the stain will appear green. No refunds, exchanges, complaints, etc. It's a free shirt. What the hell do you expect?

Also, you'll have a choice of what you want the back of the shirt to read. Here are a couple examples, but I won't limit you to the following two choices. It's your shirt, after all.

If there's a tie, then I guess you'll each get shirts. I don't know. I reserve the right to hold some sort of tiebreaker, but it might be easier just to send out an extra shirt. Whatever.

I expect that you won't need to refer too many people in order to win, but the more the better. Also, each of the people whom you refer will receive a virtual hug from The Mill. This virtual hug will be fully clothed and purely platonic, so feel free to refer wives, girlfriends, husbands, boyfriends, sisters, brothers and grandparents. I do not discriminate.

I'll post results next week, on November 26th. If this succeeds, I'll be giving away a Hummer H2 next time! Or perhaps another t-shirt!



Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? #3

(My weekly column from The Love of Sports. Can my fantasy basketball team keep winning, without any felonies or embarrassing strip club incidents circulating through the fantasy locker room?)

The stock market’s in turmoil. Pakistan is in upheaval and under martial law. The New Orleans Saints got their asses handed to them by a previously winless St. Louis Rams team.

These are just a few examples of the madness which surrounds us. Everywhere we look, another surprise. Around every corner, the proverbial masked man is waiting to attack. But through it all, and amidst the chaos, The Centerfolds remain at the top of their game.

Perhaps it’s the calming influence of the massive Yao Ming, or the support of Shane Battier off the bench. Ray Allen continues his stellar play as a perennial pro, and Kevin Durant overcame a miserable shooting performance early in the week and has emerged as an early season candidate for Rookie of the Year.

But individual honors aside, my team continues to develop its own unique personality. Even as I sit here in the fantasy clubhouse, just out of view of the fantasy locker room, typing away on my fantasy laptop, I can hear Ray Allen singing to LaMarcus Aldridge, It’s a beautiful, soulful lullaby - with lyrics about candy-coated basketballs and chocolate referee's whistles. You see, LaMarcus has had trouble sleeping this week, what with the change from daylight savings time and what not.

So Ray thought he’d try something that’s worked for his three young children, especially when they were infants. And guess what? LaMarcus is sleeping like a giant baby right now, right there on the locker room floor. Ray stops singing, his voice trailing off like a velvet mist. He tiptoes towards me, flashing a smile that could stop your heart with its brilliance. Luckily, I'm used to it - mine keeps beating. I give him a silent high-five as he glides past.

“Great play Ray,” I whisper.

This is what it’s all about. It’s a crazy world outside, but in this place, The Centerfolds home base, all is calm and quiet.

As I mentioned earlier, we remain at the top of the league statistically. Our record for week 2 was 5-3-1, and we’re a half game out of first place. We tied our opponent in three-pointers, but dominated in points, rebounds, shooting percentage, free-throw percentage and blocked shots - overall, a very solid performance.

I’m as proud as can be. But I find one piece of statistical data rather vexing. There’s one category in which we’ve been lacking during the first two weeks, and you’d think it would be the one category at which The Centerfolds would excel.

That category? Assists.

The entire team is composed of guys who live for the chance to lend a helping hand. The Ray Allen lullaby story is but one small example. So, how can it be that this team doesn’t pass the ball in order to give others the opportunity to score?

I guess part of the problem lies somewhere along the fine line between fantasy and reality. Each of my players exists in something called “the real world” and plays for something known as an “NBA team.” Apparently, quite often on these NBA teams, there’s no one to pass to. So, for example, in those cases, Yao just dunks it or Ray squares up and fires a three. I continue to work on ways by which my fantasy managing can affect real-life game play, but so far to no avail. I’ll keep you posted on this.

All that being said, I really believe my team continues to improve. We made a significant free agent acquisition this week, with the addition of Yao’s countryman, Yi Jianlian (PF, Milwaukee). He’s only 6-feet 11-inches, but is a bit more agile than Yao, and therefore gets a few more steals.

When their teams played each other last week, the game drew an estimated 200 million viewers worldwide (I believe 199 million of them were in China). Luckily for me, they’re both on the same fantasy team (mine) and compliment each other quite well.

Yi and Yao, together again. A thing of beauty. So until next week - just remember we’ve got a ton of beautiful basketball left to be played this season, and The Centerfolds are just warming up.



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Google Yourself - A Means To Measure Personal Success

I perform a Google search on myself almost daily, in part, to make certain I actually exist. Google’s 200,000 servers CANNOT be wrong. But even more than that, Google results can give you an accurate idea of how your personal success stacks up against others. The more Google entries, the greater contribution you’ve made to society. Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not bragging here. My feats are not all that substantial, in any sense of the word “substantial.” Or the word “feats.” Or even the word “my.” Even so, it’s quite fun to see my name on the computer screen sprinkled across more than a handful of web pages.

Typically, searching for my name yields information about where I went to school, some Chemistry publications I wrote in grad school, and numerous entries from this here blog. But occasionally, (and this is another reason I check regularly) I’ll find a new entry - a new search result that seemingly sprung from the froth of the internet ocean. Is that really me? When was I quoted by that small town newspaper in Kentucky? They were asking me about why I’m picketing in front of a Laundromat? In nothing but a top hat and jock strap? While wearing roller skates? And then it all comes rushing back.

So Google is useful for occasionally jogging one’s memory. It’s also great for investigating the background of a potential blind date. But perhaps it’s most useful function is to make you feel better about yourself by Googling people you went to grade school with. If you haven’t done so recently (which I find difficult to believe) you should really give it a try.

Ever try this Google thing? It's pretty neat. Use it to see if your nemesis from kindergarten is now in jail.

How about the bully who stole your lunch money in 2nd grade? Go ahead and Google him. Chances are he’s been arrested for writing bad checks, or was involved in a conspiracy to defraud little old ladies. Maybe his name doesn’t even appear in Google’s search results. That’s equivalent to never being born. Why even bother? The daily drudgery of life - a never-ending waterfall of frustration, boredom, loneliness, and pain. AND you have no Google results to show for it? That would be far too much to bear.

Now what about the prettiest girl in 6th grade – the one who wouldn’t let you buy her French fries or carry her books because you were an integral member of the “Nerd Herd.” So what if you never stopped staring, and followed her around after school and on weekends, at a distance of usually around 50 yards or so. Big deal. Anyway, type her name into Google. Don’t worry about her having a different last name now. She’s most likely never married, or is thrice divorced and has reverted to her maiden name. If you can even find anything amidst Google’s definitive database of everything mankind’s ever done (that’s worth a shit), then it probably refers to the girl’s record-breaking weight gain. Or some type of crime spree. Nothing makes you feel better than the knowledge that those you dislike are safely stowed away in prison.

Go ahead and satisfy your curiosity. Google a few people whom you suspect haven't done shit with their lives. Even better, Google those jerks from your past whom you pray haven't done shit. I'm confident you'll be satisfied with Google's search results. Also, throw in a Google search or two just to make sure that you yourself exist - and aren't just a part of the Matrix, or a figment of my imagination.

Just be careful. All this Googling can be addictive.

Listen to this post.



Sunday, November 11, 2007

Secrets Of The Magic 8-Ball Not Revealed

I plan to include the Magic 8-ball as an integral part of my decision-making process at home and in the office - much more so than I do right now. Why not? It’s easy, reliable, unbiased and makes tough choices for you. Plus, it’s always right - because it can predict the future. A claim which I defy anyone to dispute. The only caveat is that you have to ask a yes or no question. Otherwise, you’re likely to be confused. For example, “Magic 8-ball, do I turn left or right at this intersection?” You give the 8-ball a brisk shake, and it replies, “Reply hazy, try again.” The intersection is now in your rearview, and you’re utterly lost. Thanks a lot, stupid Magic 8-ball.

It's not stupid though. Don’t blame the 8-ball! It’s the user who must learn the secrets of this powerful, mystical and ancient (invented in 1946) liquid-filled device. You need to know the proper way to phrase your questions. Remember, yes or no questions. That is the key.

As a small child, before I learned any science, I believed the Magic 8-Ball could actually predict the future. Although there are twenty possible answers the 8-ball can give, they all boil down to yes, no, or maybe - which can be rather frustrating for a child still learning the complex nuances of the English language. I wanted so badly to ask the Magic 8-ball all sorts of questions. Will I have ice cream for dessert tonight? Will the Phillies win the World Series this year? Who stole my bike out of the garage? Did my brother sell it to the neighbor's kid? How much did he get for it? What will happen if I stick a G.I. Joe in the dog's ear? And so on and so forth. The Magic 8-ball performed flawlessly with some of these questions, but results were miserable and completely unreliable with others. I just couldn't count on it. And after 5 or 6 years of asking the 8-ball question after crucial question, I stowed it away in a shoebox, under the bed, in the closet or buried in the backyard. Not sure exactly where it went. In any case, I've been looking and I can't find it now. But here's a new Magic 8-ball I'm itching to purchase:

The Perfect Pink Prognosticator

Yes, it's a designer 8-ball from Juicy Couture. And yes, it's sleek, chic, and pink. Perfect for a man's man such as myself. And only $35 retail here. Not bad. I'm hoping the new Juicy model will offer more options for question-asking. I mean, I have to assume that this specialized 8-ball will be able to help with important day-to-day dilemmas, like what to wear and what to eat (or not eat), etc.

For example:

Me - 8-ball, do you like me in these jeans?
8-ball - From this angle your ass looks huge.


Me- Yo 8-ball, what should I order for dinner. Pizza or Chinese?
8-ball - Neither. All signs point to your fat gut, and it disgusts me.

And even:

Me - Dear Magic 8-ball, I've been having chest pains for the last 2 weeks or so. Along with these pains, I've felt a tingling sensation down my left arm. What should I do?
8-ball - Stop being a pussy.

All helpful answers, and all similar to the advice you'd receive from a professional. Seems to me that the Magic 8-ball could replace doctors, lawyers, personal trainers and financial/fashion advisors. Not to mention teachers, government officials, and law enforcement. At the very least, the 8-ball's always been great entertainment for cocktail parties, and cold lonely nights in graduate school. And if you crack one open, the blue liquid inside actually tastes quite nice with a twist of lemon and a splash of vermouth. However, the little tumbling icosahedral fortune die is rather difficult to chew, and tastes like a refrigerator magnet. I can’t recommend you try it.

So go ahead and dig up that old Magic 8-ball. If you can't find it, you could also buy a new one from Neiman Marcus, or your local Church of Scientology. Put your faith in its powers, and see how well it can predict next Sunday's football games. If you need proof, my Juicy Couture 8-ball picked the Rams over the Saints, AND the Broncos over the Chiefs. But it mistakenly thought the Steelers would cover the spread against the Browns. Not bad, Magic 8-ball. Nobody's perfect. But I'll always abide by your advice.

Me: Should I drink this milk even though the expiration date was 3 months ago?
8-ball: Signs point to yes.
Me: Whatever you say my spherical sidekick.

Listen to this post.



Thursday, November 08, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? #2

(Another installment of my column from The Love of Sports website - I'm trying to field a successful fantasy basketball team with exactly zero criminals or philanderers on the roster)

The first week of this young fantasy basketball season is behind us. And I must say, the future looks very bright. My team, The Centerfolds, are playing well, and have quickly melded into a cohesive unit of good will and brotherly love, so to speak.

We were off to a rocky start though. Last week’s draft was a little touch ‘n go, especially with the technical difficulties that disabled my internet during rounds 7 through 15. The system automatically picked players for me while I was gone. I’ve never heard of a few of the computer’s choices, but after a quick FBI background check, I’ll decide whether they stay or go. Here’s a quick rundown:

Round one, the ninth pick overall, brought Yao Ming (C, Houston Rockets) into my life. What a nice guy! He’s learning English, but never feels the need to trash talk in any language. He’s 7 feet 6 inches tall, but never scares small children….purposefully. Plus he’s appeared in some rather funny commercials. That’s what I call a gentle giant, and exactly the kind of guy I want as my team’s anchor. This guy can block shots all day long, and he’s a monster on the boards. But when I say “monster” think Shrek, and not Frankenstein.

Next pick for The Centerfolds was Ray Allen (SG, Boston Celtics). A dazzling smile, silky-smooth jumpshot, and easygoing demeanor are just a few of Mr. Allen’s credentials. Why doesn’t this guy have endorsement deals with every consumer goods company on the planet? Not to mention, he hits three or four 3-pointers per game and is lights-out at the free throw line – a great compliment to Yao’s gutsy game. We’re not just looking for nice guys to fill up the roster. There’s a little strategy involved here, believe it or not.

Moving right along, The Centerfolds drafted Kevin Durant number 3 (nice, young kid out of Texas, and recent college player of the year), Caron Butler 4th, and LaMarcus Aldridge number 5. We then added a nice little point guard named Andre Miller from my hometown 76ers with our 6th pick. All nice guys, all happy to be on the same fantasy team.

Everything was going swimmingly, and, of course, it was at this point that my computer crapped out. I spent the next 30 minutes in a panic, trying ANYTHING I could think of to fix the problem. I turned the computer off, and turned it back on. I shut down, and booted up again. I unplugged the power supply and plugged it back into the wall. I ordered a pizza. I called the computer a bad name and threatened to injure its hard drive. In other words, I tried absolutely everything. No luck. Nothing worked. I began to think my season was star-crossed from the outset.

Then I turned my wireless router back on. That’s right. In my excitement, or during a quick bathroom break, I must have jarred loose the power supply. It was a real nightmare. But I have a fantasy team to manage, and I don’t make excuses. We’ll just have to make the best of an unfortunate situation.

So the draft didn’t go exactly as planned. It probably wouldn’t surprise anyone if I immediately performed some serious restructuring of my fantasy organization. But wait, what about the team’s performance during week 1?

We’re in a head-to-head league, meaning you play against one team each week, competing across nine categories – one point per category. So the best you could do in a week is 9-0. And guess what? My team didn’t do that. But we came pretty darn close. A 7-2 win was the final tally. And just like that, we’re sitting on top, looking down on the thugs, hotheads, and domestic abusers sprinkled throughout the rest of the league. But we’re not ones to gloat. No sir.

As a form of celebration, we took a ride in The Centerfolds fantasy tour bus, and I treated my team to a round of fantasy golf – miniature golf, that is. And a few games of fantasy Skee-ball. Kevin Durant can fit about six of those balls in his hand at once. He won like 10,000 fantasy Skee-ball tickets!! And he traded them in for a Shetland pony – a live one. It was insane.

Kevin Durant's new pony. 10,000 tickets from fantasy Skee-ball, but the look on his face was priceless when the pony curled up in his lap.

Anyway, I plan to delight my team with many more fantasy reward excursions this season. Hell, even if they have an off week, I’ll still take them to fantasy McDonald’s for some fantasy French fries. Also, Yao Ming’s mom baked fantasy cupcakes. They were delicious.

Tune in next week for more fantasy baked goods. Oops, I mean basketball.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A Letter Of Affirmation To My Fantasy Football Quarterback

Drew Brees had a rocky start this season, to say the least. As his fantasy football manager, I sure let him know how I felt about it. Boy did I let him have it in my last letter. And if you'll recall, I benched him several weeks back. It appears as though he's taken my vicious scolding to heart. He's been on fire as of late. Enough so to earn him another chance at the starting job. Congratulations are in order:

Hi Drew!

What's up big buddy? How's the shoulder feeling?...Strong? Supple? Laser-accurate? Yeah, I thought so.

Before I go any further, I'd like to say, "You're welcome." Yes it's official - you're back to your old Pro-Bowl form. Welcome to the land of touchdown passes and high-fives. You're having fun again. And I take a lot of credit for that. Rightly so. Sure, you practiced hard and studied the playbook. Probably spent hours and hours watching film of opposing defenses, trying to determine what went so terribly wrong during those first few games of the season. But think about the real impetus for your dramatic turnaround. Who benched you five weeks ago, after a horrendous start to the season? Drew, you threw for one touchdown and NINE interceptions in your first 4 games. It was gruesome. I still feel a bit of pain in the deepest darkest depths of my soul when I think about it. And that's a pain I'll have to live with for the rest of my fantasy football career. Maybe longer.

I recommended that you sit back and contemplate your god-awful early-season performance. You used the bye week, and took the time to figure things out. But I wasn't about to let you bust back into my starting lineup. You seemed to take the hint - If you wanted to rekindle The Mill's love for Drew, then Drew would have to give the Mill something to love. How about 1,246 yards passing, 11 touchdowns and just 1 interception in your last 4 games? And this past week alone? 445 yards and 3 touchdowns! Spectacular. Yes Drew. I love it. You have re-arrived on the scene with passion and fury, power and glory.

I knew you could do it. I've said it several times in previous time-stamped blog postings, so I can prove that I'm not just hopping on your Mardi Gras float of a bandwagon. Here, at long last, is your reward for four consecutive weeks of rock-solid Brees-ian football - YOU MAY HAVE YOUR STARTING JOB BACK.

But please restrain yourself for now. Allow your excitement to simmer. Mix it with your rage towards me for benching you the past 5 weeks. Bottle that potent concoction (two parts excitement, three parts rage), stick a rag in the neck of it, light it on fire and throw it at your opponents this weekend - the woeful St. Louis Rams.

I can only guess what the future holds for you. You've clawed and gnawed your way back into my heart, and back into the most important role on the fantasy team (besides the manager, of course). It's like you can do anything you set your mind to - things never before accomplished, really monumental things. I bet you could conjugate nouns if you wanted to. Or bake the most delicious sugar-free cake ever known to mankind - one that tastes better than a fully-sugared one. What I'm trying to say, Drew, is you're an extraordinary man. And I'm proud of your recent performance.

Please try to keep it up. You've been named the starter, for now. Just remember, with the click of a mouse, I can take it all away.

Thrilled by your return,

Wishing you the best,

Don't forget my threat of re-benching you,

But mostly you're the best ever,

And as always,

With affection,

Your devoted, kind and fair, steadfast and faithful fantasy football manager,

- The Mill

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

I Want a Panda

These things are pretty cute and cuddly. They’re like three-hundred pound stuffed animals, with sharp claws and strong legs. But nevertheless, I want one. A baby one, preferably. Just take a look at this little cuddly puppy-monkey:

Awww. Holy shit, this thing is cute.

Technically, the panda is neither puppy nor monkey. I’ve been considering panda ownership for the past two or three days, and during that time, I’ve learned a tremendous amount about this remarkable species. The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca, “black and white cat-foot”) is a mammal, in the bear family. Its native habitat is central and southwestern China, but seems to enjoy and gravitate towards small concrete holding pens in American zoos. Through my intense studies, I’ve also learned that the panda likes to build nests out of shredded newspapers and empty soda cans. This is where they lay their eggs. The female panda is usually the one who lays the eggs, about a dozen at a time. The babies hatch after six months, and slither into the mommy’s pouch. The tiny, bald, pink, blind panda will remain there for six to eight weeks while feeding on meat regurgitated by the mother.

After this initial period of development, the baby panda will become very playful and terrifically cute. All the baby wants to do is cuddle with its mommy, and perform cute tricks for humans. The period of time in a baby panda's life, from eight weeks to eight months of age, is known as “The Golden Time,” during which the baby panda neither eats nor defecates. But rather, the fuzzy darling simply plays with everything and everyone in sight, and generally acts as adorable as panda-ly possible.

At the age of nine to twelve months, the panda resumes eating, and quickly grows to weigh one-hundred pounds or more. It is at this point that the animal becomes dangerous and difficult to control. The simple solution is intravenous tranquilizers, which causes the panda to revert to its former docile and more adorable state. If, however, local, state and/or federal laws prohibit the purchase and distribution of IV tranquilizers to pandas, then you’re shit out of luck. You’ve got a wild animal on your hands, after all. Generally speaking, two or three large dogs will be able to help you corral the juvenile panda into the back of your S.U.V. or pickup truck for transport to local Animal Control authorities.

Doctors administer tranquilizers to this unruly, wild monster before it hurts someone.

In any case, pandas are great fun for the first nine months of their lives. They seem like they’d make super-fun pets. And yes, baby pandas would make great pets. That’s why I want one so badly. But the important point I’d like to make is that adult pandas are rather temperamental, and could rip a man’s arm clean off if given the opportunity. So leave the care of older pandas to the professionals down at the zoo. If you’re currently caring for a baby panda, you’ll thank me for this advice. Get rid of it as soon as its cuteness begins to fade. Also, don't get your baby panda wet. And whatever you do, do not feed it after midnight.

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New Look Template - Do Not Be Shocked

Sorry to be so shocking. I decided to change the background and general look of the website. Really though, it's not such a big deal. You can still expect the same spectacular content, razor-sharp wit, and laser-accurate insight to which you're accustomed. My ninja-like blogging skills are what I like to refer to as 'Mill Kwon Do', or 'Mill-jitsu.' And that hasn't changed. If anything, I'm getting better, and learning more advanced techniques with each passing day. It's an ancient Asian martial art, mixed with modern day technology, beaten with bamboo shafts, lashed with reeds, and entered into my computer keyboard with lightning-quick finger taps. Just like a ninja with a poisoned dart or throwing star, I could very easily kill my enemy with a computer. I'd probably sneak up behind him when he was super drunk and, using my laptop as a sort of hand extension, push him in front of a bus or taxi cab. Yeah, that's right. I'm that much of a bad ass.

Anyway, there should be more changes to come. And with any luck, nobody will get hurt.


The Mill's Podcast - Ready for Primetime

I spent the better part of the day getting it set up, but I think "all systems are go," as they say in the military. If you'd like to hear my deep, velvety voice reciting my posts (I've been told I'm a cross between Axel Rose and Barry White) then you have two options. Either download the mp3 file from the link provided at the bottom of the post - only the 4 most recent posts have been recorded so far, not including this one (After all, how could you listen to this post, when the whole point of this post is to tell you about how I'll be recording other posts?). Or you can subscribe to my podcast. You heard me right. I have a podcast now, and you can subscribe. For free. I only ask for your everlasting gratitude and devotion, and 4th or 5th-born child in return (whichever one was more of a mistake). To sign up, just open your iTunes, and look under the "Advanced" menu for "subscribe to podcast..." When it asks for the url of the podcast, type:

Then enter your credit card number, date of birth, SSN, mother's maiden name, and location and combination of any safes in your house. Oh, and the address of said house.

Kidding, of course.

But really, it's that easy. Then sync with your iPod, and enjoy my material as it was meant to be enjoyed - by having someone else read it to you. You probably don't have the time or the energy to read it to yourself. I agree, reading is exhausting. One of the most tiring things ever invented by mankind. During the course of a normal day, it's almost impossible to avoid some modest amount of reading. But I'm not gonna be the guy to increase your workload or "readload." Thus, The Mill's sweet podcast was born. I hope you like it.