"Totally coup, yo."

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While the mainstream sporting press focuses on such trifles as the quarterback controversies in Washington, Tampa Bay, and San Diego, the BEAST has had its deformed eye on the more important fan issues still developing this preseason. Here’s an overview of some of the trends worth watching as we head toward the regular season:


capers.jpgThe rookie crops of the last four or five years have sharply changed the NFL name dynamic. The “Terrell/Terrelle” skill-position player craze appears to be
petering out, while a whole host of new name trends has been taking hold. Of these, none seems more explosive than the new emphasis on the unnecessary first-name apostrophe. Five years ago, there wasn’t a single player in the NFL with a silent, auxiliary apostrophe at the end of his first name. Now, there are nearly a dozen, including cornerbacks Andre’ Goodman (Lions) and Dre’ Bly (Rams), tight end Daunte’ Finger (Rams), wide receivers Andre’ Davis (Browns) and Donte’ Stallworth (Saints), linebacker Andra’ Davis (Browns; not to be confused with teammate Andre’) and guard Tre’ Johnson (Browns), among others.

In Stallworth and Andre’ Davis, both of whom have been clocked in the 40 at under 4.3 seconds, the NFL now probably boasts the world’s two fastest silent/meaningless apostrophes. There must have been some good weed being passed around in the football breeding grounds about 20 years ago. Keep an eye on this trend, it’s booming…

Another name trend that went from pervasive to completely out of control between last season and this one is the AttenTion-GrabBing capital letter in the middle of the first name. While veterans like LaRoi Glover, LaVar Arrington and Je’Rod Cherry have given NFL fans an opportunity to warm up to the secondary capital letter on a gradual basis, the uninitiated this year might find himself overwhelmed because of newcomers like LeCharles Bentley (Saints), DeShaun Foster (Panthers) DeVeren Johnson (Cowboys), and over a dozen more.

In the pantheon of secondary capital-letter NFL names, Buffalo’s own second-year linebacker DaShon Polk might be one of the tamer entries; on the other hand, the amazingly named DeMarkis Faggins (Texans) looks like an early favorite to win the fourth annual Earthwind Moreland/Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila NFL Name of the Year Award. If he makes the team, that is. Stay tuned for the FiNal TalLy…

Last but not least, it’s time for the yearly update on the spiraling Antoine situation. Three years ago, there were only two or three different spellings of the name “Antoine” on NFL rosters. This year, there are a total of seven. Some examples: Antuan Edwards (Packers), Antwaan Randle-El (Steelers), Buffalo’s own traditionally-spelled Antoine Winfield, Twan Russell (Dolphins), and New England Patriots Antowain Smith, Antwoine Womack, and Antwan Harris. You need 22 to field a full game; at this rate, the NFL will make it by about 2005. Keep an eye on the free agent wire this summer to see if the number gets up to eight or nine before the first kickoff.


All the major NFL cliches have had excellent off-seasons. Just a few games into the exhibition schedule, we’ve already had a player sidelined with “Flu-like symptoms” (linebacker Peter Sirmon, Titans), had “thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family” (numerous coaches and players around the league following the spinal injury to Houston’s Leomont Evans), and seen a strong resurgence in the “and things of that nature” interview sound byte.

SpurrierIn the latter case, the arrival in Washington of Steve Spurrier–who was a notorious “things of that nature” sound-byte baron while at Florida–has triggered a boom in cliche-mongering among new coaches. Here’s Spurrier on Shane
Matthews, in what appears to be his inaugural NFL cliche: “He’s not been real diligent in the weight room and things of that nature.”

Here’s another new coach, Tampa Bay’s Jon Gruden: “We’ve been on the field working our foot work, the terminology and things of that nature.”

San Diego’s Marty Schottenheimer: “You can’t walk in and effectively change 40 percent of the personnel group and add new coaches and things of that nature and expect that after four preseason games, you are going to step in line and start off where you think you can be.”

This being the preseason, other coaches are opting for the more traditional exhibition game cliches. To date, only one, however, has opted for the “bullets flying” phrase, use of which traditionally surges in weeks three and four of the exhibition season, as the real season approaches. “I like what I’ve seen from our new corners,” Carolina coach John Fox said, “but until we get out there and the bullets start flying in game conditions and the preseason and training camp, the jury’s still out.”

Oddly enough, not a single “dreaded high ankle sprain” has appeared in the news yet. Bills left tackle Jonas Jennings went down shortly before press time with a high-ankle sprain, but team officials have declined so far to say whether or not it is dreaded. More updates in the following issue on cliche usage this year…


Never before has such utter hair chaos ruled the NFL. In a year in which the sporting world’s most famous haircut repulsively belongs to a soccer player (Brazil’s Ronaldo donned a much-imitated “unicorn shave” for the World Cup), and in which, following Warren Sapp’s amazing decision to shave his cornrows, the most recognizable NFL haircut belongs to draft prognosticator Mel Kiper, Jr., an utter vacuum of personal grooming inspiration now reigns on the gridiron.

What’s next in hair, following last year’s explosive ascension of rows and braids (coupled with black see-through hair-nets)? There’s scarcely the faintest glimmer of a hint this exhibition season. One of last year’s most outstanding hair choices, the braided ponytail of Cincinnati’s elaborately-named seventh-round draft pick T.J. Houshmandzadeh, appeared in the preseason opener to be longer than ever.

warrensapp.jpgPerhaps not coincidentally, Houshmandzadeh looks like’s he’s making a serious run at a starting job over Peter Warrick and Michael Westbrook… And while Sapp has shaved his braids, the other major braid-wearers all seem determined to hold on to the look for at least one more year: Plaxico Burress, Troy Brown, Willie McGinest. Green Bay Packers corner Mike McKenzie even explicitly stated his intention to keep his braids for the immediate future.

“I had the braids back in college,” McKenzie said last month. “The braids were pretty good to me. I did the Afro, the braids and the low fade. I kind of naturally grew into the new look. Chances are they’re going to be with me for a little while.”

Meanwhile, white quarterback hairdos, after the brief scare brought on by the Jon Kitna phenomenon a few years back, appear to have settled back comfortably into anchorman mode.

Only Lions newcomer Joey Harrington offered a whiff of intrigue when he answered a question about his preference between Star Wars princesses Leia and Padme Amidala. “Princess Leia,” answered the former Ducks star during camp. “You’ve got to love the cinnamon-roll hairstyle.”

Could an experiment be in the works? And will Riddell design the helmet to fit the buns? We’ll see as we watch the rest of this preseason.

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Iraq or Arachnophobia?




Iraq or Arachnophobia? Iraq or Arachnophobia?

  • Invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, to worldwide condemnation
  • Released in theaters July 18, 1990, to commercial success and modest critical acclaim
  • Operation Desert Storm cost the U.S. military an estimated $61 billion
  • Ticket prices cost U.S. moviegoers an estimated $51 million
  • Evil dictator Saddam Hussein fears secularism and the “poisons” of Western culture
  • Bright young doctor Jeff Daniels has a paralyzing fear of spiders
  • Hussein has 6 children by two different wives
  • Never spawned a sequel
  • U.S. resumed air attacks on Irag in December 1998
  • DVD version released in June 1999
  • UN inspection team head Richard Butler faced Iraqi resistance in his attempt to uncover Saddam’s chemical and biological weapons facilities
  • Friendly local exterminator John Goodman forced to use dangerous chemicals to battle the deadly spiders

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There’s a phenomenon you’ll see take hold of the national media sometimes. You can call it the New Terrible Thing.

Inevitably the New Terrible Thing pops up during a slow news cycle, very often during summer. Winter is a time for important international summits in places like the Hague and Oslo, for icy plane crashes off the coast of Newfoundland, for elections, and for scandals forced into the open by the reality of reporters staying indoors and near their telephones. In summer the whole world takes it a little easier, including the journalism priesthood, and yet, there’s still all that airtime to fill…

hack1.jpgWhat’s easier: filling your front page and the top of your newscast with a new story every day, or filling it every day with the same story? Every editor in the world knows: the effort-to-copy ratio is at its ideal lowest when there is a running drama to cover. The travel expenses are lower, too. So in the absence of real recurring news–when there are no rudder-failure 737 crashes fortuitously occurring within a few weeks of each other to get the public worked up about–the only option left is to make something up.

hack2.jpgWhat you do is send an army of reporters to some random location to hammer the shit out of some story that’s always been there, and then juggle the presentation a little bit to turn that story into something new, into an exploding trend that threatens our very way of life, into the New Terrible Thing.

Last year at this time, the major networks and dailies were sending hordes of reporters to Florida and the Carolinas to cover one of the most ridiculously artificial mass-media events of all time: the so-called “Summer of the Shark.” Anyone who’d ever been bitten by a shark, anyone who’d ever seen a shark, anyone who’d ever thought about taking their kids to a beach was transformed instantly into a national celebrity, as reporters sought to cast prehistoric aquatic predators into the gravest current threat to American national security. Not many people remember this now, but one of the most unintentionally funny aspects of the press’s reaction to 9/11 was how quickly it dropped the whole “shark thing” as soon as the towers went down.

The whole “Summer of the Shark” phenomenon was set in motion after a single isolated news story with a compelling dramatic narrative–one involving an innocent child and a rescue effort–briefly captured the imagination of the soon-to-be-shark-fearing public. Eight year-old Jessie Abrogast had his arm bitten off by a bull shark in Florida, only to be saved by his uncle, who subdued the shark and eventually retrieved the arm, which was heroically reattached by surgeons.

Within about eight minutes, savvy editors at Time magazine had cooked up a feature story to hang on the coattails of this news, entitled “Summer of the Shark.” The Time cover accompanying the feature not only showed the wrong shark (they used a Great White, a species which did not figure in any serious attacks in America last year), but incorrectly argued that shark attacks were “on the rise.”

In fact, as The Baltimore Sun and a few other papers quickly pointed out, the number of shark attacks worldwide had actually decreased nearly 20% from 2000 to 2001, and this despite a mathematical expectation that they would increase: with the world population larger and more people swimming, there should have been more attacks, not fewer. Furthermore, any number of other phenomena remained clearly more serious; even Time magazine had to note that faulty Christmas tree lighting claimed more fatalities every year in America than shark attacks.

Nonetheless, the coverage inspired official government reactions, the forming of state commissions, and a wave of fear-mongering news reports that included sidebar features (for consumption even by landlocked readers) like “Ten Tips To Avoid Shark Attacks” and “How to Choose a Safe Vacation Spot.”

Fast forward a year. Fueled by a single isolated news story with a compelling dramatic narrative–one involving an innocent child and a rescue effort–the entire national news media dives headfirst into an exhaustive examination of the phenomenon of abductions of children by strangers. Once the Elizabeth Smart case was followed by reports of similar cases in other areas of the country, networks and dailies far and wide concluded, incorrectly, that child abductions were on the rise.

In fact, as The Baltimore Sun (in the person of columnist Gordon Livingston) and a very few other papers reported, the number of child abductions by strangers remained ridiculously small and actually was on the decrease (about 200 to 300 a year, with some 50 resulting in fatalities; the FBI reported decreases in such cases in each of the past two years). Furthermore, this particular type of abduction paled in seriousness next to other safety hazards for children; as The Sun noted, more than 3,400 children die in car accidents each year.

Nonetheless, the coverage inspired official reactions all across the country, with President Bush even announcing a White House summit on the issue on September 24. And there were the same fear-mongering news reports, in some cases with exactly the same shark-era headlines. “Ten Tips For Avoiding Shark Attacks” has been replaced in 2002, in the same slot, by “Ten Ways to Protect Your Child.”

Sharks have been eating big animals for millions of years. One ancient species called Carcharodon Megalodon was cheerfully eating innocent warm-blooded creatures all the way back in the Pliocene period. They are not exactly news, and we don’t exactly need Time magazine to tell us to stay the fuck away from them.

The same holds true for child kidnappers. In a genetic sample 250 million units strong, there are always going to be and always have been some malfunctions. We don’t need Peter Jennings, for Christ’s sake, to tell us to keep our kids away from strangers. All of this news and advice-giving is, on its face, quite obviously useless.

Both the shark story and the kidnapper story were clearly driven at least in part by the peculiar economics of television, in particular cable television. When a network like NBC can have affiliations with the Discovery Channel, Court TV, and MSNBC (which in turn has affiliations with Newsweek and slate.com) it naturally seeks out material that can be used on each of its satellite organizations. Why throw excess footage from the two and a half-minute NBC Nightly News shark piece away, when you can recycle it and make it into a 23-minute mini-documentary on sharks for Discovery?

TV journalists these days frequently cut pieces for two, three, even four networks at once when reporting from this or that location. Though this probably began as an opportunistic cost-cutting procedure, there’s no doubt that in recent years conscious efforts have been made to send reporters on stories that have multiple media applications.

The child abductions story had obvious opportunities on this front: it was good for Court TV (broadcast coverage of the Danielle Van Dam trial), the Today Show (interview with Stanley Greenspan, author of “The Secure Child,” who gave parents tips on how to prevent kidnappings), Newsweek (just one example of many: “He Will Strike Again,” Andrew Murr’s story about the Samantha Runnion abduction), Hardball (Aug. 6 talk show segment w/disgraced ex-columnist Mike Barnicle), even Buchanan and Press (Aug. 2 segment).

As was the case with the shark story, the op/ed sectors of the news conglomerates often approached the child abduction topic by leading with the question, “Isn’t this bullshit?” And even when the answer was “Yes,” they just plowed right on ahead. Here’s how Barnicle led off his show:

“But how real is the threat to women and children? Must kids distress every adult? Last year, child abductions were down five percent, and this year the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children say there are no more kidnappings than usual.”

After a brief visit to this island of sanity, Barnicle two minutes later could be heard playing up the child abduction threat in an interview with ex-detective/jovial media whore Bo Dietl:

“Bo Dietl, let me ask you, now let’s take out you know what everyone regards to be really high crime areas. Let’s take that out of the question and let me ask you what do you think is more dangerous for children today…”

The print media took the same schizophrenic approach. Take USA Today, for instance. On July 18, it ran a completely sensible story by reporter Martin Kasindorf (“Experts: No abduction ‘epidemic’ Saturation coverage of recent incidents feeds parents’ fears “) which argued against the need for intense coverage. Nonetheless, the paper continued right on playing up the story, even running a number of features of the “How To Avoid” genus (e.g., “Preventing Child Abductions,” Jul. 30).

One of the easiest ways to gauge the desperation of this or that news organization to terrorize its readers is to see just exactly where it places, in its “Summer of Child Abductions” story, the (usually) inevitable paragraph reporting the inconvenient fact that kidnappings are actually on the decline. Here are a few examples, broken down in order of relative irresponsibility:


John Higgins, Akron Beacon-Journal. “Abduction Spate Worries Residents” (Aug. 7)

Higgins buried his call-to-reason passage 12 paragraphs down in his piece, and even then he got it wrong: “Recent horror stories around the nation have created the illusion of an abduction epidemic,” he wrote, “although child snatching by strangers is still extremely rare, statistics experts say.” While this is technically correct, it would have been more accurate to say that cases were decreasing. Then again, that wouldn’t have made for such an interesting story. Higgins also used the phrase “A summer of child abductions,” recalling last year’s “Summer of the Shark.” Language like this begs the question: if this is a “summer of child abductions,” what was last summer, when there were more abductions?


Christina Almeida, Associated Press, “Parents Fearful Following High-Profile Abductions.”(Aug. 9)

The wire-service coverage of the kidnapping phenomenon has consistently reflected the way that self-serving commercial motives color coverage of news stories in this country. Kidnappings are the kind of stories that are made for the wires: they happen in remote places, and they are often the kinds of stories that develop in several different directions in the course of a single day, requiring frequent bulletins. As a result, the wires have consistently played up the legitimacy of the kidnapping coverage while electing to take the most sensational route possible in their approach to it.

Like Higgins, Almeida buried the statistical detail twelve paragraphs into her piece, although unlike Higgins, she got it right (“Law enforcement officials say abductions by a stranger are actually on the decline”). But what was worst about her piece wasn’t her sloth to tell the real story; it was the hysterical, horror-movie-trailer tone of the lead-in:

LANCASTER, California — Izabella Sahakian had her 4-year-old daughter fingerprinted by police this week, just in case. She also has tried to scare her two girls for their own good.

“I tell them that if they are alone, they’ll take you and kill you,” said Sahakian, a receptionist in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale who also is the mother of an 8-year-old.

A flurry of abductions of girls in Southern California and elsewhere around the country this year has filled parents with fear and prompted them to take precautions.

One should always be suspicious of the wire services when they lead with a personal anecdote. The easiest way to color a statistical reality in the desired direction is to present a dramatic individual story. Out of a nation of parents who mostly are taking this thing in sensibly, the AP here chooses a hysterical weirdo to lead off the story by telling a tale of frightening her daughter with visions of homicidal maniacs.

I saw this kind of thing a lot while I was overseas. A wire reporter would visit a Russian city that had been decimated economically by capitalist shock therapy, with huge sectors of the population unemployed and starving. Out of all of these people, the wires would pick a single resident who had received small amounts of funding for some international pilot project to open a private bakery cooperative. They’d lead in the story with an image of this person rolling up his sleeves to go to work in the morning, end with him counting his proceeds for the day, and conclude: “American-funded reform is working.” Meanwhile, two blocks away, residents who haven’t been paid for their work at the local factory for eighteen months would be eating each other out of boredom. This is journalism in its most vile form, without a doubt.


Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times. “Shaken Parents Taking More Child Safety Precautions” (Aug. 3)

Despite the panic-button headline, Rivera put her qualifier about as high as it can go in this kind of piece: in the second graph. It reads: “Officials warn against panic, saying that such crimes actually have declined in recent years. Some experts question the usefulness of various anti-kidnapping measures and speculate that they may be scaring children needlessly.”


KGTV (San Diego) “Child Abductions: Are There Really More?”(Aug. 13)

Typically it is a small local media outlet that has the wherewithal to get it right. Here, instead of calling themselves responsible by placing the qualifier high up (i.e. The LA Times), KGTV in its segment makes the qualifier itself the story. The station reported right away that the number of cases was actually down, and asked aloud if the coverage was needlessly scaring children and the population at large. It also put forward a damning quote from Court TV reporter Beth Karas:

“I think one reason is once one or two stories get covered, the other newsrooms start following each other.”

It’s a common cliche of media criticism to say that the press is only interested in the lowest common denominator. This kidnapping stuff is about two miles below the surface of the lowest common denominator. If you were to pick up a phone, call a number at random, and tell the person who answered, “Your children might be abducted today,” well, that would land you a nice stint in jail, and for good reason.

Kidnappers prey on children because they’re mentally deranged. Reporters do it for a temporary boost in ratings. You tell me which is worse.

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BILLS DIARY:THE ROAD TO SAN DIEGO 2002 Drew Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman

bills_logo_small.jpgI felt a need to write this column because I have something important to share with sports fans in this city. That is this: aside from Drew Bledsoe himself, I probably know Drew Bledsoe better than anyone in this city.

Why? I’m from Boston and for the past ten years or so was one of the most pathologically desperate New England Patriots fans on the planet. In that time I have followed Bledsoe’s career with the kind of insane attention to detail normally reserved for stalkers or organized crime investigators.

I moved to Buffalo in April. Less than two weeks later, Bledsoe was traded to the Bills. It was the purest demonstration of fate I have encountered in my life. From that moment, it was obvious that I would need to switch my allegiances.

The recurring theme of Bledsoe’s career in New England was that he was never able to catch up to his critics. After his Pro Bowl sophomore season, there was a lot of hand-wringing in Boston about Bledsoe’s interceptions. That year he threw 25 touchdown passes, but 27 picks. It didn’t seem to matter at the time, since he was putting so many points up on the board, but Bledsoe’s tendency to try to score touchdowns on every single play and throw the ball through defenders—not through their coverage, but physically through their bodies—really had New England fans nervous.

So what does he do? The next year he throws just 16 picks, but only 13 TD passes. A year later, he breaks out with a great season, throwing 27 TDs and only 15 interceptions. The following year, he was even better, with 28 TDs and 15 interceptions. By then, no one is talking about his field judgement. Instead, they have a new criticism: that he “has no heart” and doesn’t win big games (a gruesome 7-6 playoff loss against the Steelers is the chief evidence against).

So what does he do then? In his next season, he wins two spectacular games with a broken finger on his throwing hand, one against the Dolphins and one against the Bills (in the notorious Hail-Mary interference games). Bledsoe in these games can’t even grip the ball with his index finger: he has it in a splint. Suddenly no one is questioning his heart and his leadership.

But soon after, a new set of criticisms has hit him. Critics suddenly notice after all those years that Bledsoe is not mobile and can’t get himself out of trouble. What has really happened is that Pro Bowl left tackle Bruce Armstrong has torn his ACL (and kept playing) and is no longer able to keep people from hitting Bledsoe’s blindside.

Worse, Bledsoe in 1999 has the very worst starting running back in the league, the miniature Kevin Faulk, handling his every-down back duties. His receivers that year are the clearly insane Terry Glenn and the aging Shawn Jefferson. Pro Bowl tight end Ben Coates that year also suddenly decides to stop blocking.

In a crucial game against the Dolphins that season, an uncovered Coates drops a perfectly thrown pass on the final drive, ending the game and beginning a long losing streak. Soon after, Bledsoe begins to be accused of “not being able to win games on his own,” like a Brett Farve or a Steve Young. The following year, Coates, Armstrong, and Jefferson are all gone, and Bledsoe is left basically alone to shoulder the blame for a miserable season in which the Patriots field 20 rookies on their roster.

Bills fans probably think the Buffalo media is tough, but no sportswriters in the country are as mean and exacting as the Boston contingent. Spoiled by the experience of sports gods like Larry Bird and Bobby Orr, writers continually hounded Bledsoe for not being able to take his team to the promised land all by himself. He entered the 2000 season hounded by press criticism, and was even booed after the Patriots were pounded in the season opener against Tampa Bay—despite the fact that the Pats’ starting offensive line in that game featured two guards (Joe Andruzzi and Sale Isaia) who had not even been on the team two weeks before.

Enter Bill Belichick. He’s a great coach, but his offensive strategy clashes violently with Bledsoe’s skill package. Belichick favors ball control, smashmouth football. Bledsoe likes to air it out and look for the big play, risking the occasional mistake. At times under Belichick, it was clear Bledsoe simply refused his orders and looked down the field when there was nobody there. He took a lot of sacks and looked very bad at times during the 2000 season. Belichick refused to deflect criticism from his quarterback. He had another kind of guy in mind, as was dramatically demonstrated last season.

All of which brings us to this season with the Bills. I went to the game against the Bengals last week and can report: Buffalo has Drew Bledsoe at his best.

Bledsoe has always seemed to throw better to big receivers. Maybe it’s because he’s big himself, but when there’s a big target to hit, he always seems to ram it in there, while he sometimes can’t seem to find the little guys. Even a great receiver like Terry Glenn never caught more than 6 touchdowns in a season from Bledsoe. On the other hand, Bledsoe threw 45 touchdowns to Ben Coates in his career. When Coates went down, Bledsoe had nobody over six feet to throw to for years.

That said, he clearly already has a thing going with Eric Moulds. He was looking at Moulds first on almost every play. He hit him on a slant, on a nice blitz read, and on a strike down the sideline. In three possessions, Moulds had 4 catches for 64 yards. I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t catch a hundred balls this year.

Another Bledsoe feature: he likes fullbacks who can run deep routes. Keith Byars and Kevin Turner had huge seasons playing with Bledsoe. Here again, he clearly has a thing going with Larry Centers. The 25-yard fade route to Centers in the Bengals game was classic Bledsoe: looking out over the pocket and flicking a deep route to a secondary receiver over coverage.

Bledsoe is an odd character. His press conferences sound like introductory speeches at political fund-raisers. They’re filled with cast-iron cliches lobbed out in an obligatory manner one after the other, and steeped in a sort of neutral, military tone. He can be amusing, but never funny. He is smart and aware, but hard to warm up to. In Boston, that mattered for some reason. Here, who cares. The guy can throw the hell out of the football. I’m through with the Pats. Go Bills!

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By Slidell Montgomery

MuckdogsIn 1969 a black nineteen-year-old pitcher from Los Angeles reported to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ single-A affiliate in Batavia for duty. He had had a couple of problems in rookie training camp in Florida with some of the good old boys that were still taking their cues from Ty Cobb and Cap Anson. Their casting of anachronistic epithets toward Ellis landed him in a few fistfights before he got out of there. After arriving in Batavia he was starting in his first professional game against Geneva, when some clown in the stands shouted something about “Stepin Fetchit.” Ellis went after him with a leaded baseball bat. Batavia’s manager and couple players had to go into the grandstand and get Ellis off the redneck.

Ellis went on to enjoy an exemplary big league career, most of in Pittsburgh. Pitching for the National League in the 1971 All-Star game in Detroit , he served a fatty to future Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson and Jackson hit the ball into the stratospherically high right field lighting rig for what has became a legendary home run.

That humiliation Ellis suffered in Detroit was evidently still smarting five elliscard.jpgyears later when he was pitching for the Yankees in a game against Jackson’s new team, the Orioles. Jackson shouted a challenge at Ellis from the dugout over a play they hadn’t even involved Jackson. When Jackson came to the plate later Yankees’ catcher Thurman Munson came out to the mound to make sure Ellis hadn’t missed Jackson’s slight. Ellis told Munson to get his fat butt behind the plate, not to bother with any signals and to him watch him work. Then Ellis threw a pitch at Jackson’s face that put Jackson on the disabled list for 28 games. Ellis claims there were three $100 bills taped to his locker after the game.

Pitching for Pittsburgh against Cincinnati one game, Dock Ellis, in what is likely still the record, purposely hit the first three Reds’ batters just because he wasn’t happy with the passive attitude of his own teammates.

ellis_acid.jpgMakes the Piazza/Clemens rivalry sound like Bobby and Peter Brady fighting over the last Popsicle.

Surely Ellis’ most impressive feat occurred in San Diego, June 12, 1970. Ellis had been in his hometown of Los Angeles during a Pirates’ West Coast road trip. He had lost track of day somewhere and woke up in Los Angeles the morning of the first game of a series in San Diego. It was Friday, the day of his next scheduled start. Ellis, thinking it was Thursday, took at hit of acid. Somewhere in route to San Diego Ellis came to the realization that he was working that day. He went on to throw an eight-walk no-hitter against the Padres. Something he didn’t admit to having accomplished while on LSD until years later.

What this has to do with today’s Muckdogs is clear. They offer a grand opportunity for us see future big league greatness before the players are tainted with the stain of greed and extortion at the expense of the loyal fans.

I asked Muckdogs’ starting pitcher Lee Gwaltney if he thought he could throw a no-hitter under the influence of a powerful hallucinogen, “I don’t know. I’ve never taken acid,” he announced. Then he turned and ran to the team’s clubhouse.

Muckdogs’ PA announcer Wayne Fuller, who used to do radio play-by-play for Buffalo’s indoor soccer Stallions, remembers the Ellis era in Batavia, “That was before the drug days,” said Fuller. Then he switches on his mike and smoothly reads an ad for a Batavia tavern, T.F. Brown’s: “For Fun, Fantastic, Food, it’s T.F. Brown’s. You can also see the girl give head to a bottle.” Only he had switched his mic off for the last part of that. Then he described, off-mic, a recent, fairly innocent impromptu performance by a young lady at said tavern. I asked him if he ever fucked up and left his mic on for one of his sidebars. He laughed as if to say “yes” but said, “No”.

Fuller also used to work for Trailways Bus lines and affirmed the authenticity of Tom Sartori’s Greyhound ticket to Indiana. “Did you guys really pay fifty bucks for that?” I admitted that we had and he squinted and said, “That’s nonrefundable.”

The Dwyer Stadium press box usually accommodates about six people, working the scoreboard, the sound system, covering the game for the local paper. They have more fun than most of the paying customers. While watching a 12″ TV they come up with alternate applications for T.F. Brown’s FFF theme, like Fabulous Fake Felatio. The sound guy, Paul Bisig, plays classic George Carlin routines over the PA when there is an unusually long delay in the game. When the other team changes pitchers mid-inning he’ll put on Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady”.

When the Pope was in Toronto recently, Fuller was watching a TV news clip on the visit and said, “You know that movie “Weekend at Bernie’s”? That’s what the Pope is like now.”

Despite the party vibe in the press box the ‘Dogs of the field can’t get their groove back of late. They seem tethered to .500 territory. They’ll take off on a four game win streak here or there but the bottom line is that they’ve lost 12 of their last 17.

Carlos Cabrera (7-1, 2.64 ERA) and Erick Arteaga (3-1 2.57ERA) continue to flourish on the mound. The offense has been here today and gone tomorrow for several weeks with notable consistency coming only from catcher and utility fielder Mark McRoberts, who leads the team in batting with a .313 average and HRs with 4.

The ‘Dogs are now three games below even and ten games behind the league and division leading Auburn Doubledays.

Upcoming Home games:

16- Jamestown (Florida Marlins’ Affiliate)
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How to spot still more BEAST-written letters to Artvoice

They must not get a lot of letters to the editor at Artvoice. Of the six we’ve written so far, five have now been published [see here, here, and here]. That’s a pretty decent batting average. Even master prank letter-writers like Flann O’Brien and Don Novello usually struck out about half the time. Then again, they were penetrating much thicker armor. We got two more letters in last week:

avletter1.jpgExhibit A

Of all the material featured recently in Artvoice’s increasingly incoherent front section, none has been weirder than its apparent recent marriage with local raging asshole/eighth-rate Walter Winchell wannabe Dick Kern, whose psychotic and baldly libelous e-mailings have left even 1st amendment poster children like the staff of this newspaper tempted to endorse the castration and/or summary execution of obnoxious journalists. A few weeks ago, Artvoice put a smiling Kern on the cover and let him rant at length in the inside pages about James Pitts’s relations with white women. Given that Kern had already blasted our newspaper in his e-missives for our practice of writing fake letters in to Artvoice, we felt fairly sure that the latter’s editorial page editors would be on guard for a phony letter in praise of Dick Kern. No such luck. This one breezed through; read in sequence the first word of each sentence in the body of the letter.

avletter2.jpgExhibit B

One of the goals of this whole exercise was to change the makeup of the Artvoice letters section. We figured that after getting through enough times by writing phony blowjob letters, Artvoice might eventually become paranoid about printing ANY positive letters at all; and would, instead, eventually print nothing but negative letters. Which, of course, was great for us. Anticipating this, we decided to start sending nasty letters in the belief that they would probably now sail on through unedited. This first one, in which we posed as a black woman blasting cycling enthusiast/liberal columnist Michael Niman for being a racist, did.

To see the hidden message in this one, you just had to delete a few words here and there. The message reads, “This letter was written by a much funnier newspaper across town.”

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