Monday, March 31, 2008

Anyone Seen This?

I’ve been watching the HBO miniseries “John Adams” for the past few weeks. If you haven’t seen it and you have the slightest interest in history, I definitely recommend it. I’m not gonna do a full fledged review here, but the acting is superb and the production values are incredible. This is one of the best period pieces I’ve ever seen.

It’s based on the David McCullough biography of the same name, which I haven’t read yet. I just got around to starting 1776, which came free with my Sony Reader well over a year ago.

Anyway, Part Four premiered last night and I missed the early showing so I had to stay up till midnight to catch the next one. I’m pretty sure I didn’t make it. I remember the Previously on John Adams… part and the opening credits, but the rest is a little fuzzy. I know my eyelids were heavy and I was exerting great amounts of effort to keep them open while I was watching, and I thought I was following along, I could see and hear what was going on, but then every few minutes I realized my eyes were actually closed. So then I’d open them and try to catch up with what was really going on, and that was difficult because what I had thought was going on was really a half dream I’d been having. And being somewhat groggy, it took a couple minutes to determine that no, Thomas Jefferson hadn’t floated away in a hot air balloon on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan only to have a xenomorph pop out of his stomach at the last second and ruin everything. And by the time I figured that out, everyone was in England and my eyes were closed again. So I’m gonna have to watch the rerun tonight, just to make sure Mr. McCullough didn’t start smoking crack halfway through his book. If anyone can confirm there were no xenomorphs in last night’s episode, I would greatly appreciate it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Say Goodbye To Your Families

I was just gonna play one game too. That was four hours ago.

(This is probably the last one since these don't seem to be working.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tour Guide Troll – Destination: Busch Gardens

We took the kids to Busch Gardens last week while they were on Spring Break because about a year and a half ago we bought annual passes that were good for two years. Our rationale for buying the passes was: Hey! Two years for the price of one? What a deal! It’s only an hour and a half away. We could go maybe once a month and ride roller coasters!

Last week was only our second trip.

Savvy Marketing Department: 1, Blogless: 0

Don’t worry though. We’ve got another three trips planned before the end of July when our passes run out. We’ll get those bastards yet.

Anyway, if you don't know, Busch Gardens is an Africa-themed theme park in Tampa, owned by Anheuser-Busch. As a native Floridian, it takes a lot to get me down in the trenches and battle the mindless tourists all day long, but free beer, roller coasters, and animals in captivity does it for me every time.

Actually, of all the theme parks that detain wild animals, Busch Gardens is probably the best. They’ve been open for almost fifty years, and in that time they’ve dedicated a huge amount of time, money, and resources to animal conservation and rescue, habitat protection, and education. I know they’re owned by a cold-blooded corporation, but the people who work there really do care about the animals, all animals really, except maybe pigeons. If you’re a pigeon flying north or south or just out and about on a pleasure trip, and your wings get tired and you get the idea in your little pigeon brain that you’re going to land on a flat comfortable-looking surface inside Busch Gardens that’s above human head level, then you’re met with: The Shish Kebabs of Doom!

© 2007 Bird-B-Gone, Inc.

I guess they figure eagles, lorikeets, and roseate spoonbills are all worthy of protection, but your average weary pigeon deserves death by impalement.

Alright, on to the roller coasters. First up, Scorpion:

It’s a twenty-eight year-old steel looping coaster, the second roller coaster built in the park, and one of the first in Florida to feature a vertical loop. When I was a kid and this was the best roller coaster around, I’ll admit I rode Scorpion time after time after time. But now that I’m older, and I’ve been spoiled by advanced roller coaster technology, this thing sucks. You can feel every day of all twenty-eight years of wear and tear in its jarring, back injury inspiring track. But the first time we used our passes, our almost-seven year-old daughter (who is a coaster freak) was only five, and this was the only roller coaster she was tall enough to ride. So we rode it. And rode it. And rode it. Eight or nine times, I shit you not. She’s an adrenaline junkie in the making. This time though I managed to escape with only having to ride it once, since she’s now tall enough for several other coasters.

Scorpion is located in the Timbuktu area of Busch Gardens, which also houses Cheetah Chase:

This is your basic wild mouse kiddie coaster featuring sharp turns and a dramatic braking stop at the end that causes adults to fly forward into the lap bar, like a punch in the gut. Fun for the whole family.

Since there were two roller coasters there, we spent a while in the Timbuktu area, and most of the time we were there the whole place was inundated with the most rank, most horrible smell I have ever encountered. It was like someone took a dump on some roadkill and cooked it inside a septic tank and served it with a side of rotted cadaver. Naturally, every five minutes or so, Blogless Jr. would raise his head high, take a big whiff, cover his nose with his T-shirt, and point accusatorily at me. And since I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression, I had to do the same back at him. It wasn’t until later we realized Timbuktu backs up to Rhino Rally.

©2006 Busch Entertainment Corporation

Actually, it backs up to the enclosure building where all the rhinos sleep at night, and since they’re not there during the day, the perfect time to clean the enclosure building is apparently quarter till lunch, so in fact what we were smelling all morning was rhinoceros shit. If you ever visit Busch Gardens, please do not rob yourself of this experience. Next time we go, I’m bringing a case of glass vials, inside of which I plan to capture the essence of rhino butt and sell it on Ebay. I’ve done some research, and there’s already a market for this kinda thing.

However, when we were there, before I came to my entrepreneurial senses, I was so distraught that my family had spent the better part of an hour inhaling microscopic feces particles, that it almost ruined our entire day. But in the end we were saved by two beautiful words: floorless SheiKra.

Alright, I was saved. By the time I got off this one, I had completely forgotten what rhino ass smelled like. I’d ridden SheiKra a few times when it first opened, before they made it floorless, and I liked it then, but the Gs coming out of the first dive were way too intense, even for me. Remember Spies Like Us? When Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase were in the centrifuge? That’s what it used to be like at the bottom of that first drop. But now that it’s floorless, I guess it weighs less or some technical engineering explanation like that, and it’s perfect. If you’re like me, and you broke your arm when you were six because you stood on a swing in your grandmother’s backyard, got going really high, and then jumped off in attempt to fly, then I would definitely recommend sitting in the front row, in either the far left or far right seat. You’re like five feet away from the track, dangling two hundred feet above the ground. Here’s a video:

One of the cooler elements of SheiKra is the splash down area at the end of the ride. The riders don’t get wet, but as you can see below, onlookers are given that option. Anheuser-Busch (who also owns Sea World) demonstrates once again they possess a keen grasp of human nature. Mindless tourists at theme parks will push, shove, and stampede their way inside if it rains, but tempt them with some warm highly-chlorinated water infused with roller coaster axle grease and the occasional splash of rider vomit, and they will come running like lemmings to get drenched.

(I’m sure the parents of those kids later regretted their decision to let them get soaked, because the kids probably bitched and moaned and complained the whole way home about being wet and cold and sticky, and tried to convince the parents that the only way to remedy the situation was stopping for ice cream, which, of course, the parents probably did. Idiots.)

Anyway, I’m not what you could call a coaster enthusiast. Actually, that’s not true. I could be called a coaster enthusiast. It’s the people who call themselves coaster enthusiasts who need to pick a different word— nut, fiend, maniac. These are all much more accurate. In order to be a true coaster enthusiast, you have to be infatuated with wooden roller coasters, and I am not. I mean, I like ‘em. They’re okay. I can handle the rough rides, the bone rattling vibrations. What I can’t get past is the fact that several tons of coaster train and human flesh are being supported by a patchwork of two by fours. The coaster enthusiasts can have their nostalgia. I’m perfectly happy with that new fangled steel stuff.

This is Gwazi, a dueling wooden roller coaster. I convinced our daughter that “two” was the perfect number of times to ride this one, though “zero” is closer to the truth. By the way, a good tip when you find yourself on a wooden coaster: Don’t look at the two by fours as you pass them to see if they move or shake. They do. A lot.

Here are the other two coasters at Busch Gardens.

Kumba - Steel sit down looping coaster

Montu – Inverted coaster

We didn’t get to ride these this time because 1) the kids weren’t tall enough, and 2) I didn’t feel like waiting in line. Both, like SheiKra, are made by Bolliger & Mabillard which means the ride is super smooth and they kick ass. B&M is the BMW of roller coasters.

Alright, that’s it for now. We’re going back to Busch Gardens in a couple of weeks for the opening of Jungala, a new area featuring tigers and orangutans. I know. Sounds pretty lame. At least there won’t be any pigeons.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lunatics In The News

1. What do you do with a 150 year-old building that used to house abject human anguish and the cruelest medical techniques ever employed? You turn it into a roadside attraction. Obviously, they went with the “historical” name just so this article would be written and attract attention. Brilliant marketing strategy.

Check out the photos from the official website. This building really is beautiful. In fact, if the Psycho Path races and Hospital of Horrors haunting tours don’t pan out, they could always turn it into the Governor’s mansion, or even a college campus. They wouldn’t even have to change the name.

2. And remember when Spring Break used to be about getting shit faced and trying to get laid? Kids today, I tell ya... But I couldn’t help wondering, if these idiots were from the Middle East instead of the Midwest, would they be terrorists?

3. Wow! A group of big time movers and shakers get together on a private Caribbean island to brainstorm strategies for saving the planet, and a reporter just happens to be there to write a puff piece? What luck! The real reason they’re there is revealed in the last two paragraphs on page two. Hey, the elite like Spring Break too.

By the way, I think it’s awesome that Branson makes ‘em all wear life preservers on land. Now that’s power.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Original Digital Goddess' Lesser Half

I couldn't get the babe with the bow on her head to work, so here's her bland hubby instead. I had a great joystick joke too. What a waste.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Troll's Guide To Madness, Part 7

If you haven’t signed up yet, pacatrue is hosting a Yahoo Pick ’Em March Madness contest. Yahoo’s paying $5 million to anyone who picks a perfect bracket. You only have until tomorrow before tip-off to get in. The play-in game (which I picked correctly) is already history, but it doesn’t count toward your official picks, so you still have time.

First the bad news. The odds of picking a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. That's nine quintillion and change. You have a better chance of doing just about anything else imaginable, such as winning the lottery, getting struck by lightning, and finding a politician who isn't full of shit, all on the same day. What’s worse, even though most of your March Madness office pools use some kind of point system to determine the winner, odds are you'll screw up a first or second round game, which will throw off your entire bracket, and you'll be kissing your twenty bucks goodbye. The good news is that by the time this whole thing shakes out, the dollar will have been devalued even more, so it'll be like only losing seventeen, and with that extra three bucks you can almost buy a gallon of gas. See? There’s always a silver lining.

I was glad everyone said they were going with their own picks. I didn’t actually think anyone would use mine, but it’s nice to know there are at least five people out there who still think for themselves. I was really just trying to see if I could sound as authoritative as the rest of these clowns who do this for a living. In the past year, I’ve watched a total of 30 minutes of college basketball, and 20 of those were the second half of last year’s championship game between Ohio State and Florida. I think I’ve mentioned before that college basketball sucks.

Incidentally, my favorite authoritative clown of all time is not a sports analyst, but William Gray of Colorado State University who every year makes predictions about how many hurricanes will form and strike the US, and then revises his picks every three weeks until the beginning of November when everyone is so relieved their lives weren’t destroyed that they forget how totally wrong the jerkoff was. Why anyone still listens to him and his staff is beyond me. Professor Gray ranks slightly above the idiot clown Jim Cramer of CNBC only because Cramer is on TV every day, and anyone with half a brain can see he’s a lunatic. Unfortunately, those with less than half a brain continue to base their financial futures on his ego trips.

By the way, any of you lurkers (and I know who you are) planning to use my picks to enter and win the $5 million, it’ll be UCLA over North Carolina 86-79 in the championship game on April 7th. My fee is a modest 33%.

Okay, no more college basketball. Next week we’ll talk about something that really matters: roller coasters!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Troll's Guide To Madness, Part 6


The West region is by far the most difficult to pick. I'd like to say I saved it for last on purpose, but it just worked out that way. There are three teams with a legitimate chance of escaping with a ticket to the Final Four: #1 UCLA, #2 Duke, and #3 Xavier. But we'll get into that later.

First, let's take a second and give a big round of applause to the 17-16 Georgia Bulldogs who won a mind-boggling four games in a row! to steal the SEC Conference Tournament Championship and secure an invite to the Big Dance. No, really. What they accomplished this past weekend was nothing short of amazing. That they did it under controversial and bizarre circumstances makes it even more so. That they did it at the end of a controversial and bizarre season makes it even more amazing still. The players, the coaches, the school, the fans all should be proud. But… let's not get carried away. Living in the south, I'm used to hearing the wild-eyed semi-coherent rants of drooling crazy persons who preach the Good News of the Gators or Dawgs. You get used to it, like the mosquitoes. But in the past 24 hours, the amount of sermonizing on how far the Dawgs will go this week reached Biblical proportions. "Dawgs'll go far, you'll see." "No tellin how far they'll go." "Dawgs are gonna go a long way, you just wait." At first I laughed at them. I should know better than that. They only double their efforts at converting you. But then I thought about it, I mean really thought about it, and honestly, I can no longer disagree. MapQuest reveals it is a full 593 miles from Athens, GA to Washington DC where the Bulldogs will lose to Xavier. That's 1,186 miles round trip. That's a long way by any standard. So enjoy the Big Dance you silly Dawgs you. You've earned it. And you'll have great seats for the Purdue-Xavier game.

First Round

I know everyone likes to throw Arizona under the bus and shit on their shoelaces, but I'm calling it. They will upset West Virginia in the first round, if for no other reason than to prove a mediocre Pac-10 team is still way better than a mediocre Big East team.

Second Round

Cinderella candidate Drake will fall to UConn and save anyone who's still paying attention after Sunday the trouble of saying, "Who's Drake? Who's this Drake team? Where are they from?"

Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight

Like I mentioned above, any one of the top three teams in this region has a shot at the Final Four. A bad call here, a missed free throw there, that may very well be the difference. The only thing making this pick easier is that one of these three teams is Duke. With Duke there are only two possibilities: either you hate Duke, or you're retarded. Even the Dukies can understand that. So it's Xavier over Duke (out of spite), UCLA over Xavier.

That's it. I've got a Part 7 wrap-up I'll post Wednesday, and I'll probably just tell you who's gonna win it all while I'm at it. But it's pretty obvious now, isn't it?

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Troll's Guide To Madness, Part 5


First Round

No matter how many basketball games you’ve watched throughout the season, no matter how closely you’ve paid attention recently, no matter how much of a college basketball expert your are, inevitably you will be blindsided by an unexpected upset in the first round. And, also inevitably, someone in your March Madness office pool, who knows nothing about basketball, will have picked this upset correctly, and the reason she picked correctly, the reason she picked the underdog was because she thought the school’s colors were pretty. No college basketball loving expert will tell you this, but in order to prevent this phenomenon from invading your bracket and derailing your chance at victory, it’s always wise to choose at least one first round upset based solely on the Pretty School Color (PSC) criteria.

This year’s South region provides such an opportunity in the #10 Saint Mary’s vs #7 Miami game. Now, St. Mary’s sports your basic red, white, and blue color scheme, which is patriotic enough in its own right, but what makes this pick even easier is the Miami Hurricane freakish orange and green cornea polluting ensemble. Look, I like green, and I have nothing against orange. They’re both perfectly fine colors. However, the combination of the two sets off in me a Bruce Banner-like rage that I cannot fully explain. Plus, ‘Canes fans are assholes. So it’s St. Mary’s with the first round upset.

The other upset in the South region’s first round is #12 Temple over #5 Michigan State. Temple is another one of those Atlantic 10 Conference teams with a nonchalant indifference toward math, so while everyone else may know they’re a #12 seed, they think they’re a #8, and playing like a #8 seed is all it will take to beat the Spartans.

#9 Oregon vs #8 Mississippi State

Vizzini Analysis predicts Oregon will prevail.

Second Round

By the numbers.

Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight

The big question here is whether or not Memphis can finally break into the big time and make it to the Final Four. They’re 33-1, a few free throws and untimely errors away from a perfect season. Sure, they’re in the mediocre Conference USA, but they have freshman phenom Derrick Rose and a highly talented supporting cast. They beat USC, Georgetown, Arizona, and UConn during the regular season. Can they beat Texas less than two weeks from now? No. They can’t. In fact, they might even lose to Pitt, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt on that one.

The Troll's Guide To Madness, Part 4


First Round

If you’re actually going to watch these games, then the Midwest region undoubtedly has the most exciting first round matchup of the entire tourney: #11 Kansas State vs #6 USC. Both teams have future NBA All-Star freshman leaders in Michael Beasley (Kansas St.) and O.J. Mayo (not as gross as it sounds). It should be a great game with USC coming out on top.

The Midwest also has a potential Cinderella team in #10 seeded Davidson. A Cinderella team is a team that spends its days scrubbing cobblestone floors and talking to comical rodents. Davidson is pitted against a schizophrenic #7 Gonzaga team, and I’m predicting this minor upset in the first round. The driving force behind Davidson is sophomore guard Stephen Curry, son of former NBA sharpshooter Del Curry. The driving force behind Cinderella was that weird looking carriage that turned back into a pumpkin and left her stranded on the side of the road. So the only question is: when will Stephen Curry turn into a pumpkin? Answer: Second round against Georgetown.

#8 UNLV vs #9 Kent State

Alright, I promised to reveal my proprietary method for picking these #8/#9 games. What I do is I write the names of the two teams on separate pieces of paper. I’ll take the #9 team, in this case Kent State, and place it in front of me. Then I’ll take the #8 team, UNLV, and place it front of the person sitting across from me. Since I’m alone at my computer, I’ll pretend you are sitting across from me, so I have theoretically placed UNLV in front of you. Now we’re ready for Vizzini Analysis (patent pending).

All I have to do is divine from what I know of these two teams: is UNLV the sort of team who would win a first round game, or is Kent State? Now, a clever man would say UNLV has the higher seed and they’ve won a National Championship in the past, so I can clearly not choose the team in front of me. But as we’ve already established, the seedings in these games are meaningless and UNLV’s Championship occurred in the ancient past (1990), so I can clearly not choose the team in front of you. Kent State is in Ohio, as everyone knows, and Ohio is entirely peopled with buckeyes, and “buckeye” is a nickname that derives from a species of tree that stinks, so I can clearly not choose the team in front of me. But UNLV is from Las Vegas, and Las Vegas is full of whores, and whores cannot be trusted, so I can clearly not choose the team in front of you.

What? I’m stalling? You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you?! UNLV’s beaten BYU, twice, which means they’re exceptionally strong, so I can clearly not choose the team in front of me. But Kent State got their ass kicked by BYU, and in doing so they learned humility. Humility is a virtue that should never be underestimated, so I can clearly not choose the team in front of you.

You don’t think this will work? BUT IT HAS WORKED! I KNOW WHICH TEAM WILL WIN! And it’s—

What in the world can that be? ------------------------------>

Second Round

USC will also beat the defensive minded Wisconsin.

Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight

And the defensive minded Georgetown. But will ultimately lose to Kansas, who has the best shot, on paper at least, of going all the way.

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Troll's Guide To Madness, Part 3

I've been trying to figure out the easiest way to do this, so here's what I'm gonna do. I'll separate this into four posts, one for each region (East, Midwest, South, West) and give you my picks and explanations where necessary. I'll get you to the Final Four, but after that you're on your own.

I'll start with the East because 1) it's the most straightforward, and 2) it's where the play-in game is.

Play-In Game

Mount Saint Mary's and Coppin State play an opening round (play-in) game to decide who gets to lose to North Carolina in the First Round. As you can see from the bracket below, this one's a no brainer. Mt. St. Mary's all the way. I may be a stupid American, but even I know that Coppin is not a state. I don't know who these clowns think they are. Plus they've lost 20 games.

First Round

No upsets in the first round of the East. (That means all the higher seeded teams beat all the lower seeded teams.) The #9 Arkansas vs #8 Indiana game is the only exception. But honestly, these #8/#9 games are usually the toughest first round games to get right and it's not really an upset either way. For the other three regions I'll share with you my proprietary method for picking the winners of the #8/#9 games correctly, but I didn't need to use it for this one. This one was easy: Indiana's playing like crap for an interim coach they don't believe in. Sorry Hoosiers. You should've hired Gene Hackman.

Let me also take a moment to point out that #11 St. Joe's is in the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Big 12 Conference has twelve teams. The Pac 10 Conference has ten teams. However, the Atlantic 10 has fourteen. It's always risky betting on a team that doesn't understand simple math. When they're down 14 (and they will be against Oklahoma), they'll think they're only down 10. You just can't win games that way. However, the opposite is also true, and you can use it to your advantage. When Atlantic 10 teams are UP 14, they'll think they're only up 10, and as a result they will play harder, and you can win games that way. Remember this for later because there are two other Atlantic 10 teams in the tourney.

Second Round

Again, no upsets. #5 Notre Dame will beat #4 Washington State, but that's not an upset. It's just a fact of life.

Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight

The rest of the East bracket plays out like you would expect, or even like a kindergartener would expect, with North Carolina making it to the Final Four.

You can click on this bracket to make it bigger. I'll post the other three tomorrow (Monday). They're much more entertaining.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I was trolling for March Madness widgets when I happened upon the mother lode of classic arcade games. I dumped more allowance into Burger Time than any other game except Ms. Pac-Man (she’ll be here next Friday). Feel free to post your scores, though we probably won’t believe you. And watch out for the wieners.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dolphin Update

Here we go again. Now it’s being reported that a dolphin has actually rescued a pair of pygmy sperm whales, a mother and calf, on the coast of New Zealand. If you haven’t heard about this yet, the official PR spin is available here(AP), and here(Reuters).

My first reaction to this, as I’m sure was yours, was: what a shoddy piece of reporting. In fact, it’s so bad it can’t be anything but yet another prefab puff piece courtesy of the worldwide dolphin PR spin machine.

First of all, they assume these whales wanted to leave the beach. We can’t communicate with them though, because apparently they’re not as smart as the goody goody dolphins, so we don’t know for sure. The experts like to say whale beachings are accidental, but no one has any proof. Maybe they were on the run. Maybe they were playing hide and seek, and thanks to human busybodies and this fucking dolphin, now they’re gonna be It. It has also been suggested that human beings are somehow responsible for beachings around the world because our cell phone signals interfere with whale echolocation. Maybe that’s true. Maybe not. Maybe it’s the dolphins screwing with whale echolocation, a dolphin practical joke, like when someone’s about to sit down and you pull the chair out from under them. Who knows? We may never know because there is currently no research being done on this phenomenon.

Second, while it appears this dolphin, Moko’s her name, did in fact lead these two whales to and through a channel out to sea, there is absolutely no confirmation as to what exactly happened once they got there. As far as I can tell, the reporters didn’t even try to follow them. If a mother and child were stranded on the side of the road, and a stranger appeared and led them away somewhere, never to be seen or heard from again, would we consider that a rescue? Or the first five minutes of “Without A Trace”? I’m not saying this dolphin whacked them, but you never know. Maybe Moko had a prearranged deal with a hungry tiger shark who was laying in wait to ambush them once they were “out to sea.” We just assume these clever bastards are benevolent.

Actually, it goes way beyond that. You may have noticed the quote from one expert claiming dolphins have “a great capacity for altruistic activities.” How you say this with a straight face, I don’t know. But these are the kind of delusional people we’re dealing with.

Here are more quotes designed to convince you that dolphins superior:

Moko, who had been visiting the beach at Mahia on and off over the summer… Like she’s a fucking tourist on holiday.

”…it's the first time I've heard of an inter-species refloating technique.” Now they have fucking techniques. Techniques that we humans are too stupid to invent ourselves.

"The dolphin managed in a couple of minutes what we had failed to do in an hour and a half." Let us prostrate ourselves and bow. Let us kneel before the mighty dolphin.

Being a keen observer of dolphin chicanery, I suspect what was really happening here was Moko saw these two whales as a threat to her beloved limelight, and she got them the hell away from there so she could have all the attention for herself. Fucking dolphins.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Troll's Guide To Madness, Part 2

Last time I tried to hype you up on March Madness, get you excited about the Big Dance. I even tried to pander to your writerly sense of romanticism with a silly ass poem. But I’m not gonna lie to you. College basketball sucks.

The shot clock’s too long, resulting in low scoring games and/or a ton of fouls to stop the clock at the end, which causes the whole damned thing to drag on and on and on forever. The three point line’s so close to the basket a kindergartener could drain treys all afternoon. And let’s face it, most of these kids are only a couple years removed from high school, and all the talented ones go to the NBA after their freshman year anyway, so you’re pretty much watching a buncha nineteen and twenty year-old scrubs, who will never make it anywhere, trying to impress you with crisp chest passes and their inability to dunk in an entertaining fashion.

March Madness is all of that compressed into a single over-hyped ratings extravaganza that peters out almost as soon as it begins. The best way to describe it is with a quote from the late great Mitch Hedberg:

As a comedian you have to start the show strong and finish the show strong. Those are the two key elements. You can’t be like pancakes: All exciting at first, but by the end you’re fuckin sick of ‘em.

March Madness is like pancakes. If you follow this thing through to the end, trust me, you’ll be fuckin sick of college basketball.

Why am I telling you this? Because there are only two exciting things about March Madness, and I want to make sure you don’t miss them.

The first is the week beginning this Sunday, Selection Sunday, and ending the following Sunday after the last game of the second round. The atmosphere during this period is electric. From Selection Sunday when the bracket seedings are announced until the first tip-off on Thursday, everyone is scrambling to complete their picks, guessing who’s gonna upset who in which round, and trying to convince themselves they actually know what they’re doing. Then, Thursday through Sunday, the first four days of the tournament, everyone is glued to the TV, trying to watch seven games at once hoping they picked all winners. Some of my fondest March Madness memories are from these first four days, when, in high school, we’d all skip class and gather in the AV room to watch the afternoon games with the football and basketball coaches and other right minded teachers who were also skipping class. Goooooood times, good times.

The second exciting thing about March Madness, as you can probably guess, is gambling. There aren’t many things in this world that can bring such a disparate group of individuals together for brief, yet intense, shared experience and camaraderie. But amateur sports gambling is one of them. And the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament exemplifies this phenomenon like no other sport. I mean, c’mon. In what other sport, at the end of the regular season, do sixty-five teams have at least a theoretical chance at being crowned champion? Okay, maybe hockey. But that’s it. And that feeling of hopefulness that all these teams have washes over you, the gambler, as well. Enjoy it. Savor it. Cause it ain’t gonna last long. On Thursday morning the players and coaches and fans of these teams will be filled with optimism and delusions of grandeur, and by Sunday evening, forty-nine teams will have had their hopes and dreams flushed right down the toilet, along with your twenty bucks. So please, don’t take the first four days of the tournament for granted, and whatever you do, never ever pass up a trash talking opportunity. It may be your only one. Or, you might make a new friend.

Last time I mentioned something about bracketology, but really, that shit is pointless. Bracketology is the method of predicting, by scientific means, which teams will get into the tourney, which ones won’t, and what their seedings will be. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of websites devoted to this crap. For those of us with a life, we can wait till Sunday.

I also promised to explain Dick Vitale. Here’s what you need to know:

PTP = Prime Time Player


If that’s all you ever understand about Dick Vitale, then you understand as much as 95% of the population. However, if you plan to spend some Q.T. with a Surf and Turfer fan during a Knee-Knocker, there’s an advanced course available here.

I probably won’t post Part 3 until next week, a day or two after Selection Sunday, and that’s when we’ll get down to the nitty gritty of picking the correct teams. But for those of you itching to fill out your brackets, here are a few statistical March Madness tips to get you started:

1) A #16 seeded team has never beaten a #1 seeded team.

2) A #1 seeded team has never lost to a #16 seeded team.

3) In the 22 years since the tournament expanded to include 64 teams, at total of 92 games have been played between #1 seeded teams and #16 seeded teams, and in all of those 92 games neither has a #1 seeded team lost to a #16 seeded team, nor has a #16 seeded team beaten a #1 seeded team.

With those three tips, I just gave you four correct picks. You're welcome.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Troll’s Guide To Madness, Part 1.5 (Spring Training Interlude)

I had planned to have Part 2 up today, but I didn’t get it finished because I sustained a neck injury at a spring training game. Some friends had extra tickets to the Cardinals-Braves game yesterday, and Blogless Jr. and I met them early to watch batting practice. Behind the left field fence there’s a grassy embankment where people can sit during the game. During batting practice though, you can stand in this area and all the kids get to chase after homeruns and keep the balls. The embankment has a pretty steep incline, not quite forty-five degrees, but it’s close, and it was still a little wet and slippery.

We had been standing out there about twenty minutes when one of the last batters, I don’t remember who it was, hit a shot right at us. I took one step forward, mostly reaction, but then I saw a kid about eight to ten feet in front of me who looked like he was going to catch it. He had his glove ready and the ball was coming right at him, but he missed. The ball flew right past his glove and it landed about three feet in front of me. It bounced a little to the right and I bent down and reached out my hand to grab it.

That’s the last thing I remember for several seconds.

Next thing I know, someone had either pushed me or taken me out from behind and I was on the ground at the bottom of a dogpile. To give you an idea of just how many reckless unsupervised children we’re talking about, I’m 6’3” and Blogless Jr. later said he couldn’t see me at all under there. And let me just state for the record, I had no intention of aggressively pursuing a baseball. I have plenty of baseballs. Blogless Jr. has plenty of baseballs. We didn’t need any more. But once I got laid out, there was no way in hell I was coming up empty handed. So I found the ball, still unclaimed, grabbed it, and tried to stand up. I made it about halfway to my feet before I realized there were still a couple of kids hanging on to my back, like some evil giant fighting off an attack by brave townsfolk. Anyway, one of the little fuckers must’ve stepped on my neck, because about the third inning it started getting stiff, and it got progressively worse the rest of the day.

I’m sure I looked like the asshole, robbing sweet innocent children of their chance at a souvenir. Maybe I was, I dunno. But I can tell you my neck would be hurting a lot worse today if I didn’t get that damned ball.

More Madness tomorrow.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

No More Monkeys—Please!!!

Yesterday I had to take my two year-old daughter to the office with me for a couple of hours in the afternoon, because we were stuck without a babysitter. No big deal. She’s well behaved, and she spent most of the time talking on her invisible phone. That’s her new thing. But then we’re driving home, and five minutes into the commute, she’s got her hand to her ear and I hear her say, “Heh-whoa? Mommy? Ess. Da-dee guckkk. Out. Now. Okay. Bye.” If you need a translation, it’s: “Hello? Mommy. Yes. Daddy’s truck. Out. Now. Okay. Bye.” Then she had the same conversation with her two older siblings, then my in-laws, then my parents, then various aunts and uncles and friends.

I know Mommy’s got the comfortable car seat, and I wasn’t upset or anything. And insulted isn’t the right word, because how can you be insulted by a two year-old? But I couldn’t accept the fact that riding with me was such a traumatizing experience that she needed to contact our entire extended family for help. So I resorted to distraction. She had her Five Little Monkeys book with her, and she’d been looking at it in the office too, so I started singing the song with her. I realized my mistake at once. If you don’t know the monkey song, here it is:

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.

One fell off and bumped his head.

Mommy called the doctor and the doctor said:

“No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”

Four little monkeys…

And it goes on and on, each time another monkey falls, each time the Monkey Mommy calls the Monkey Doctor, who apparently only practices preventative medicine, and you’d think once you got to zero, it would be over. Right? No. Because, “Mo gock-keys Da-dee? Mo gock-keys?” And I had to think: What’s worse? Being mocked by my two year-old talking on her invisible phone? Or singing the friggin monkey song? I’ll admit, it was a toss up. But then, “Peas, Da-dee? Da-dee peas? Mo gock-keys?” And I’m a sucker for peas. So we sang the friggin monkey song, for thirty minutes, all the way home, just so she wouldn’t beg to be rescued from her personal car ride hell. But that was okay, because I thought maybe one day when she’s older, while she may not remember our monkey singing session exactly, she might have warm fuzzy memories of simpler times when she had some laughs in the car with Daddy. But then we got home, and my wife asked her if she had fun. And she says, “No, Da-dee guckkk. Out. Now. Peas?” It’s a good thing she’s cute.

Later on, my wife and our six year-old daughter, The Comedienne, were in the living room practicing cheers. Our daughter recently signed up for first grade cheerleading at school, and while my wife swears she won’t volunteer to coach, I know she’ll end up doing it anyway. Mostly because all the other parents will take a collective step backward and volunteer her by default. But that’s alright, because I know she’s the only one who gives a shit, and if she doesn’t do it ten little girls won’t get to cheer.

Anyway, my wife was teaching The Comedienne some of the cheers she remembered, so I thought I’d join in the fun and throw out the classic, always funny:


You ain’t got no alibi!

You ugly! Hey! Hey! You ugly!

The Comedienne thought this was hilarious, and I should’ve known right then, because I saw the sparkle in her eye. I thought it was a sparkle of appreciation for Daddy, for imparting to her a bit of classic comedy. But, no. In fact, her little six year-old mind was spinning with the possibilities of talking smack with spelling cheers. It didn’t take her long to come up with her first:




This got me A Look from my wife, because she knew from that moment on it was pointless to try and teach The Comedienne anymore “real” cheers. And I had giggled, just a little, but all our daughter needs is the slightest bit of encouragement and she’s off to the races. So, a minute later, she performed this one:





This time she added some choreography, such as jabbing her index fingers at the imaginary opposing team in cadence with the spelling. And once again, more laughing from me. But now my wife was laughing too. So our daughter continued:







This one’s a little difficult. It took me a couple minutes to decipher, but it translates to: Your Pet Monky Is Ded.

And this is where I lost it. I don’t know if it was the previous monkey delirium I had been subjected to, or fatherly pride that my sweet little girl had come up with such a simple, yet ruthless, smack talking phrase, or the image of her leading a group of first graders in this cheer at a basketball game, because I know, left unsupervised, she would. I think I laughed for ten minutes straight.

And it went on and on, though her follow up cheers were mostly variations on the above themes: Your Butt Stinks, Your Monkey’s Butt Stinks, Your Monkey’s Butt Is On Fire And It Stinks Really Bad, etc. Anyway, I don’t what was with all the monkeys yesterday, but I’ve had my fill.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Troll Poll #1 - Results

Thanks to everyone who took to the time to vote, especially those who were honest and said you didn't know him, because this really wasn't about the guy's looks (I'm not that shallow), but about his attitude when interviewing people. So maybe I should've posted a video of him instead of a picture, but too late for that now. The votes have been tallied and the results are in:

According to 100% of the people who know him, Terry Moran is a wiener.

The people have spoken. Tough shit, Terry.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Troll Poll #1

So I was flipping through channels last night and I caught part of the interview/behind the scenes coverage of the Barack Obama campaign as presented by Terry Moran. And as I was watching it, a thought occurred to me. In fact, it’s the same thought that always occurs to me whenever I see Terry Moran on TV, no matter who he’s interviewing, and that is: Terry Moran’s a wiener. There aren’t many grown men you can describe as wieners, but, in my opinion, Terry Moran is one of them. You know what I mean: the uppity know-it-all types with perfect teeth and perfect hair, who are generally well-liked, but you can see in their eyes a ferociousness that says they would just as soon slit your throat as smile at you, even though you know, deep down, all it would take is one punch to bring the snot wad to tears.

But then I thought: Maybe I’m being too hard on him. Maybe he’s really not a wiener. They say TV makes you look ten pounds heavier. Perhaps the rule applies to wienerocity as well. So I Googled his name and discovered he has a news blog, and I figured this might be a good opportunity to gain some insight into his character without the added wienertude that may or may not be the result of a television camera. But his fucking blog froze my browser, and I had to reboot my computer. But, because I have journalistic integrity, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and tried it again. Same result.

So since I don’t have any unbiased data to prove whether or not Terry Moran is, in fact, a wiener, I thought I’d get your input.

I’ll leave the poll up for a day or two. Please take the time to vote, as it is of the utmost importance.

(If you don’t know who Terry Moran is, here’s a picture of him.)

(See? I’m telling ya. One punch. That’s all it would take.)

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Troll's Guide To Madness, Part 1

Well, it's that time of year again. The Super Bowl's history, spring training is just getting started, and the five and a half months of NBA Playoffs are still seven weeks away. And that can mean only one thing: tax season. Whether you prepare your own, roll the dice with a twenty-five year-old from H&R Block, or hire some fancy shmancy CPA, no other annual ritual drives us more bonkers. Thank God there's college basketball to keep us sane.

The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, also known as "March Madness," or "The Big Dance," or "Yet Another Opportunity To Gamble My Money Away," begins on March 20th. If you have no current plans to enter a March Madness office pool or other technically illegal endeavor, Pacatrue is hosting an online Yahoo Pick‘em contest (details available on his blog, sorry weblog), and while there’s no actual money at stake, you will get the chance to suffer devastating humiliation at the hands of the rest of us who know what we’re doing.

The first couple of weeks in March will be dominated by conference tournaments and the usual jockeying for favorable Championship Tournament seeding. Once the dust settles and the dance card is officially set on March 16th, I’ll be offering expert advice and inside tips so you’ll have supreme confidence in filling out your brackets, and, incidentally, I’ll have supreme confidence that I can beat you.

In the meantime, I thought it might be beneficial to relay some of the history and highlights of March Madnesses past, to instill in you a better appreciation for the significance of this event. Today though we’ll start simply by exploring the origin of the term “March Madness.”

While Brent Musburger is credited with associating March Madness with the NCAA Basketball Tournament in the early 80s, its origin goes all the way back to 1939. Henry Van Arsdale Porter, a coach and athletic administrator within the Illinois High School Association, wrote an article called “March Madness” for an in-house publication. It reads pretty much like an article written by a coach and athletic administrator for an in-house publication, wherein he waxes nonsensical about high school basketball, but it also has that added informally formal charm of an era when people still dressed up to attend sporting events. (If you’re interested, you can read it here.) But nevertheless, March Madness was born. Porter followed up this article with a poem, written in 1942, titled “Basketball Ides of March.” And as a treat for all of you writers-not-sports-fans who managed to make it this far, the poem has been recreated in its entirety below, without the express written consent of anyone.

Basketball Ides of March

The gym lights gleam like a beacon beam
And a million motors hum
In a good will flight on a Friday night;
For basketball beckons, "Come!"
A sharp-shooting mite is king tonight.
The Madness of March is running.
The winged feet fly, the ball sails high
And field goal hunters are gunning.

The colors clash as silk suits flash
And race on a shimmering floor.
Repressions die, and partisans vie
In a goal acclaiming roar.
On a Championship Trail toward a holy grail,
All fans are birds of a feather.
It's fiesta night and cares lie light
When the air is full of leather.

Since time began, the instincts of man
Prove cave and current men kin.
On tournament night the sage and the wight
Are relatives under the skin.
It's festival time, sans reason or rhyme
But with nation-wide appeal.
In a cyclone of hate, our ship of state
Rides high on an even keel.

With war nerves tense, the final defense
Is the courage, strength and will
In a million lives where freedom thrives
And liberty lingers still.
Now eagles fly and heroes die
Beneath some foreign arch
Let their sons tread where hate is dead
In a happy Madness of March.

Stay tuned for part two of this series, wherein I explain such oddities as the Gonzaga Flex Entry, bracketology, and Dick Vitale.

Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or other use of this post, without the express written consent of the NCAA, is strictly prohibited.