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3-28

About Last Night:

-The Los Angeles Dodgers have been sold for a record $2 billion to a group that includes NBA legend Magic Johnson. Almost everyone agreed this was great news for baseball, but sources indicate that Karl Malone is upset he can no longer attend a Dodgers game without getting AIDS.

-Andrew Bynum was benched in the Lakers’ 104-101 win over the Warriors for taking an ill-advised three-pointer in the third quarter. “”I don’t know what was bench-worthy about the shot, to be honest with you,” said Bynum. “I made one [against Memphis], and I wanted to make another one. I swear. That’s it.” He paused, took a long sip of water, and sighed. “And I wanted to make this one by bouncing it off my ass. It’s never been done before. Sue me.”

-Sources reported that LeBron James may have dislocated his finger in Monday’s loss to the Pacers. Either that, or he’s covering up the new Game of Thrones tattoo he got on his finger because he’s embarrassed. But that seems crazy; why would you be embarrassed about something so awesome, mom? I know you’re reading this. My Game of Thrones tattoo is awesome.

-Despite reports that he was on the hot seat last week, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro received a vote of confidence from owner Donald Sterling, and is likely to at least finish out the season. “The only reason Vincent was on the hot seat,” Sterling explained, “was to amuse my friends at one of my weird Hollywood sex parties. Oh how we love to see them squirm.

-In his first interview since the NFL handed down a one-year suspension, Saints coach Sean Payton said he is still deciding whether or not to appeal, but will name the next Saints coach in 2-3 days. He’s considering a few different people, but said the leader right now is a man named Jean Payton, his French cousin who looks exactly like him except that he wears a beret and smokes.

-The rest of the women’s Final Four is set, with Notre Dame defeating Maryland and UConn defeating Kentucky. If you’re keeping track at home, that means the no. 1 seed beat the no. 2 seed in every region in the Elite 8. I haven’t seen a lack of competitive balance like this since Dominique Moceanu fell off the balance beam in the ’96 Olympics, am I right, women’s sports fans?

-Sources indicate that Ohio coach John Groce, who led his team to the Sweet 16 this year, is in negotiations to take over the head coaching job at Illinois. When he heard the news, Groce’s uncle Jim called him with a very important message: “You don’t tug on superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off that ole Lone Ranger, and seriously, don’t take the Illinois job. It’s a bottomless pit.” And then John Groce was like, “wait, aren’t you dead? And isn’t your last name Croce, with a C?” And Jim was like, “yeah, but fuck you, because there really isn’t time to rewrite this whole joke.”

-Court documents obtained by the Chicago Tribune indicate that Dennis Rodman’s alcoholism has prevented him from staying current on child support, and he now owes $800,000 in back payments. In a last desperate move, Rodman phoned up Karl Malone and told him he’d be really annoyed if Malone paid his child support for him. “I know you think you’re in my head, but those days are over,” said Malone, as he smiled smugly and began writing out an $800,000 check to Rodman.

-The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants will open up the 2012 NFL season by hosting the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 5. When he heard the news, Giants owner Wellington Mara called up Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and was like, “hey Jerry, isn’t this the 20th anniversary of the last time you guys won a Super Bowl? We should totally do something.” And Jones was like, “18th anniversary! Arrrrgh! Jerry Jones never goes 20 years without winning a Super Bowl!” And then he thought for a moment and was like, “wait a second, aren’t you dead?” And Wellington was like, “yeah, but it’s getting late, and seriously, there’s no time to rewrite this joke. But fun fact: my granddaughter was in that Swedish sex crime movie. With the tattooed dragons.”

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emails

The e-mail from Simmons came Wednesday at 3:53 pm. “Shane- meet my friend JackO,” it said. “I want you to exchange e-mails after Game 5. It will be funny.”

Funny, sure, but funny for who? It felt like a set-up from the word go. But what could we do? I checked with my editor, and she gave the okay. JackO and I, we’re both Yankee fans, and they used it against us. What follows is four hours of frantic, illogical, desperate, and disjointed emailing. And I’m telling you, we never had a choice.

7:30 pm. Email #1. Shane:

Mr. O’Connell,

I’m a bit confused as to what I should call you in these emails. I know Bill calls you JackO, but I wanted to wait for the green light from you on that one. John? Jack? Stick with Mr. O’Connell? Mr. October? Steinbrenner?

We’re about 35 minutes away from game time. I’m nervous as a subway rat, and I have five questions for you:

1- Bill wanted us, complete strangers with only our Yankee fandom in common, to email back and forth during tonight’s Game 5 against Detroit. Do you think he had the interest of Grantland at heart, or do you think he secretly hopes the Yankees lose and he can read a chronicle of our mutual pain tomorrow morning? You know him better than I do, so I thought I’d leave this one to you.

2- Do you have any playoff game-day superstitions? I’ve been wearing my Robbie Cano #24 t-shirt all day, but that’s as far as I go. I’m thinking I should have done more.

3- Will you be drinking this evening? I had two lovely Full Steam lagers with some friends about an hour ago, and I think I’m done for the night. But on the other hand, my fridge is empty and I’m thinking I might regret that if a disaster happens.

4- Nova?

5- Over/Under on the combined hits this evening of Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, A-Rod, and Cano?

7:56 pm, JackO:

Please, there’s no need for formality, I’m a man of the people- Sir or Your Eminence will be fine, Sean…err Shane.

1.) There is no doubt that Bill wants to read a chronicle of our collective devastation, much like I savored his running diary of the Red Sox collapse like a fine wine. When one’s team collapsed like the Hindenburg (too soon?) the only enjoyment left is to wallow in the potential misery of your most hated rival. Let’s hope the Yanks come through for us so that Bill continues to weep quietly in the fetal position in his Carl Crawford jersey.

2.) I’m EXTREMELY superstitious. I still blame myself for changing my “Boston Sucks” T-shirt before Game 4 in 2004. Accordingly, I’m wearing the same faded Yankees shirt that I wore on Monday for Game 4 even though it’s stained with my daughter’s baby formula (it’s my personal tribute to the parenting skills of Mark Teixeira).

3.) I stopped at the package store on the way home- it’s important to be prepared for any eventuality. I’m two beers in and if things go south, I’ll be drinking like Jon Lester on an off day.

4. ) I feel good about Nova which makes me very, very nervous. I’m pessimisitc by nature and I find that the worse I feel about the Yanks’ chances- the better they do. I am pessimistic about Teixeira, A-Rod and Swisher coming through in the clutch though so maybe I am pessimistic- which IS good…playoff baseball is soooo confusing. I think I’ll crack open another beer

5.) See my answer to #4, but if I have to put a number on it- I’ll say 2, both by Cano.

8:09pm, Shane:

Your Eminence,

I’m on the same exact page about Nova. I have no idea why I’m feeling so calm about a rookie. I guess it’s partly his second-half success, and partly his game two performance, but my native pessimism should really be winning out right now.

I followed your example and bought a 6-pack of Carlsberg just in case. Also, “package store”? Sounds like you might be embedded in Red Sox territory. Which reminds me of 2001, when somehow my entire dorm was occupied by Red Sox fans. That’s where I watched Game Seven, when Luis Gonzalez worked his black magic on Baseball Jesus. I can still hear the cheers, and I can still see my friend look in my door as he was running down the hall, point, and continue running. If he had come into the room, I might have killed him. Did your friendship with Bill ever go through hard times around 2003 and 2004? Do you have special rules on how you interact when things get tense?

First pitch about to be thrown. Think I’ll go vomit.

As a pessimistic person, I imagine you might share my tendency to get a little big angry during tense games. I’m not above screaming at the television or throwing non-breakable objects. Which player makes you angriest? It’s Teixeira all the way for me.

Nova strikeout!

8:27pm, JackO:

Unfortunately by the time I received this, things took a decided turn for the worse. Don Kelly whose name sounds like he should be the bartender of someplace called “The Blarney Stone” and the newly christened Yankee-killer Delmon Young went back-to-back. Troubling. Where’s that bottle opener?

Simmons and I always maintained a respectful silence with each other during big series- kind of like The US and USSR during the Cold War. I remember watching the 1999 ALCS with him and a long, silent car ride after the Yanks beat the Sox. I was gracious in defeat in 2004 however. After 86 years of the Yanks kicking the Sox’ ass I felt it was the least I could do.

Oh, I’m definitely a yeller and thrower of objects and I’m not as discerning as you- I dont care if the object is breakable or unbreakable. I’ve numerous remotes through the years covered in duct tape after impacts with various walls. After this first inning, my wifely wisely moved our remote farther from me. Teixeira does it for me too- his repeated o-fers in big situations and seeming nonchalance just drive me crazy.

How about the stat shared in the pre-game that the Yankees haven’t had a starter win an elimination game since 1962 and they never had one win at home? My God. I may graduate from Lester on an off day to Lackey. Is it possible to slur words in an e-mail?

8:41pm, Shane:

Believe me, it is most definitely possible to slur words in an email. Just ask any girl I dated or wanted to date in college.

Nova just got out of the second inning after giving up a lead-off double to Magglio Ordonez. I’m going to keep the quickish responses coming, but don’t feel obliged to follow. I just have the sick feeling that I’ll feel less like writing as the night goes on. Quick thoughts:

-I’m disgusted by the fact that I have to share my misery with that f***ing guacamole commercial. “You, back to the store! You’re outta here!” I can’t believe they brought that one back from last year. Did the ad agency feel like they’d really nailed it the first time, and there was no need to come up with anything new?

-Ron Darling was just so adamant about how difficult Game 7s were that I decided to look up his record. He pitched two Game 7s for the Mets. The second one was in the 1988 NLDS against the Dodgers. He gave up 6 runs in a single inning and was yanked. The Mets lost 6-0. The first one? Somehow, I didn’t know it was the infamous 1986 World Series Game 7 against Boston. Darling gave up 6 hits and 3 runs in 3.2 innings. Obviously, the Mets won.

-I just called my stepfather, a HUGE Yankee fan, and he’s eating dinner in a restaurant and not watching the game. To be fair, he and my mom are on an expedition to Bar Harbor, Maine, but still, what the hell? I imagine he’ll be in front of a tv shortly, but I’m a little stunned.

Holy hell, Mark Teixeira just hit a ground rule double. I told you not to doubt him!

On Carlsberg #2, drink #4. Also, is it me, or does Nova actually look…pretty solid? Maybe that sounds ridiculous, but other than the home runs and the double and…no, I’m just an idiot. Carry on.

Posada strikes out, stranding Teixeira. End of 2, 2-0 Detroit.

9:03pm, JackO:

I think I missed the guacomole commercial because I was so disgusted by the Uncle Fester lookalike on his cell phone waving emphatically in the background during Posada’a last at-bat. Hey, buddy, you have great seats at a nationally televised sporting event, you shouldnt be that shocked or excited that you’re on TV. The director must HATE those people because it distracts from the close-ups showing the tension and drama on players’ faces. If Bud Selig were more like David Stern, that guy would be removed with extreme prejudice.

I agree that Nova was pitching well, which is why I was even more confused to see Phil Hughes come in. Total panic move by Girardi! I hate it (please ignore this if Hughes pitches great and gets the win).

Has there ever been a worse base-runner with blazing speed than Bret Gardner? God, he frustrates me. I think that’s my second use of “God”. Apparently, it’s true- in times of crisis, one turns to God and alcohol…not necessarily in that order.

9:19pm, Shane:

I hated the panic Hughes move too, but I have to say, I loved the way he looked in the third. Speaking of which, I was hoping for a chance to link this picture, which I believe came from the hilarious Yankee blog NoMaas. And that chance has arrived.

I missed Fester, thank God. I like to think I’d never pull those antics if I had great seats. But I think it’s a little bit like war- you never know you’ll react until it happens. I once went to a Yankee game on Cinco de Mayo, and held up a sign that said “CinKo de Wang-o.” Chien-Ming Wang was pitching, and he took a perfect game into the 8th against Seattle. They didn’t show us on tv.

By the way, did you like how Hughes threw strikes two and three to Delmon Young last inning, both of which were called balls, before Young hit one off the wall? I just got a text from my friend Erik saying “this ump is a blind tool.” His strike zone has been erratic, but he’s nowhere near Gerry Meals in game three. And here’s where I’d like some confirmation of a pretty strong conviction: if the Yanks go on to lose this game, I will place this series loss on Meals. That’s only slight hyperbole. I’m dead set on the idea that he completely screwed CC in game three, leading to a high pitch count and more runs than he would have conceded otherwise in a 5-4 loss. I don’t remember ever being more enraged after a game.

ANOTHER pitching change by Girardi. He’s on full tilt. Boone Logan in, and I can’t imagine why. Hughes looked fine. And Logan gives up a hit to Ayala. WHY THE HELL IS BOONE LOGAN IN THIS GAME RIGHT NOW????? Also, do you think this means CC later?

As for Gardner, the guy steals bases at a 79% rate, yet somehow he’s afraid to go against Fister, a righty. This is not how you make up a lead in a win-or-go-home game.

Logan out of the fourth! I told you not to doubt Joe.

9:22pm, JackO:

Things I would never do even though I’m a huge Yankees fan: 1. wear Spike Lee’s hat with the years of Yankee World Series victories all mashed together. I dont like to buy Yankee items that will hopefully be obsolete in a few weeks but then again, I dont get residuals from “Do The Right Thing” so Spike’s hat budget is probably a little bigger than mine; 2. make a sign that says “Hughes The Man” and bring it to the game with me. I might mkae a sign that said “Hughes Your Daddy?” but…no actually I wouldnt do that either.

And with that Girardi takes out Hughes and bring in Boone Logan. Please someone, take his binder away from him (please ignore this part if this strategy works out). I dont know if you have any medical training, but what’s an ulcer feel like?

9:42pm, Shane:

Brett Gardner just flew out with the bases loaded to end the bottom of the fourth, and it’s still 2-0 Detroit.

That inning, absolutely devastating at-bat by Russell Martin. With the bases juiced and one out, he flew out to first, and that’s the biggest missed opportunity of the game so far.

Spike’s hat is a monstrosity, but seeing Jay-Z reminded me of something. Didn’t it seem like “Empire State of Mind” made 2009 seem like a year of destiny? Somehow, that song was the spirit of the team. Derek Jeter used it as his at-bat music, they played it live before a World Series game, and IT WAS THE MAIN REASON WE WON THE SERIES.

I barely know what I’m talking about right now. However, I need to tell you: Doug Fister looks just like my friend Nick, who had his first article published in Popular Mechanic today. Terrible omen.

And even though these are troubled times, let’s not forget that Jorge just put together yet another incredible at-bat that inning. And now: CC!

9:44pm, JackO:

Apparently CC warming in the bullpen didnt inspire the offense like Darling or smoltz suggested it would. I fear that we’ll be remembering those pop-ups by Martin and Gardener all through the winter.

I dont like bringing in CC right here (I wrote that before Austin Jackson led off with a double- I swear.)

9:52pm, Shane:

Victor Martinez gets the two-out RBI single, and this is starting to feel like the beginning of the end, isn’t it?

9:57pm, JackO:

You’re filled with bad omens- your stepfather not watching, “Doug Fister” appearing in Popular Mechanics and no symblic anthem this year. Now I’m bummed. Any chance we could get word to Jay-Z? He might be able to write and record a song in the final four innings. He better hurry- it’s now 3-0. Fitting that Austin Jackson scored while Granderson was bobbling the ball-it’ll will give sportscasters an easy meme to mention how they were traded for each other when doing the replays.

And yes.

10:06pm, Shane:

Thank God for Robinson Cano. That looked like it was about to be a depressingly quick inning for Fister. Instead, a bomb from Cano makes it 3-1 after 5.

Let me put this out there to the universe: the perfect ending to this series would be for Valverde to blow a save. After his guarantee, that’s the best-case scenario.

Good news on the bad omen front: stepfather is watching the game. Still no anthem, and nothing to be done about Popular Mechanic.

10:16pm, JackO:

If the Yankees had 9 Cano’s, they would have already won this series. How is science doing with cloning humans? Any hope for next year?

Your scenario would a dream ending. I would love to see Valverde be the goat. I realize that there’s an anti-Yankee bias but when Joba pumps his fist, we have a national debate about it for several weeks but when Valverde does an imitation of the Thriller video on the mound after a save complete with pulling his jersey out, America reacts like it’s watching a video of kittens on the internet- “Oh isnt he cute?” I tell you, it’s hard to be a Yankee fan.

10:26pm, Shane:

In the category of things that make it hard to be a Yankee fan, I would add the severe depression experienced by any national announcer when the Yankees do well, and the manic elation when they fail. They don’t even try to disguise it anymore.

Teixeira drives one to the warning track in deep center, Swisher grounds out, but Jorge singles. Let’s see if Russell can make up for his killer pop-out in the fourth…

Nope. Instead, he takes the ugliest swing of the year. If Montero doesn’t pinch hit for Martin next time around, something’s wrong. This game is like watching a sunset. The ending feels inevitable.

10:38pm, JackO:

Sorry for my slow response, I was working on Jay-Z’s game-winning rap. There’s a lot of words that rhyme with Cano- show, know, though, C’mon HOVA, there’s stuff to work with there!

We still have hope- Phil Coke may yet become involved in this game.

I know that fans get excited and they can be forgiven, but when Tex works the count full, they shouldn’t cheer quite so loudly- I think it makes him nervous.

10:49pm, Shane:

As Scherzer leaves the game with Jeter on first, I’d like to take this moment to point out that the run differential in this series is +10 to the Yankees.

Girardi just made Benoit, the new reliever, take a bandage off his face. Classic head games from Joe. Bandage-gate might turn this series around!

10:50pm, JackO:

Could the removal of the band-aid be like Joba and the midges a few years ago???

10:54pm, Shane:

THE BANDAGES, JOHN, IT’S THE BANDAGES! BASES LOADED, 1 OUT, A-ROD UP!!!!!!

10:55pm, JackO:

The bad news for Benoit is that he had to take the bandage off, the good news is that thing on his face is going to get him an endorsement deal with Clearasil.

If this goes right, Girardi will be signing band-aids at card show for years!

11:00pm, Shane:

Unbelievable. Strike out for A-Rod. Teixeira up next, and I think we know what to expect there.

It occurs to me now that Simmons’ dark plan is coming to fruition. We’re playing right into his hands. This is like in the Movie 7even when Brad Pitt can’t help but shoot the guy at the end. We’re pawns.

11:03pm, JackO:

Too true. Too true. Damn him!

11:06pm, JackO (after Teixeira gets an RBI walk and Swisher strikes out to end the inning):

Swisher’s going to have a lot fewer movie roles and cameos when he goes to play in Cinncinatti next year.

11:08pm, Shane:

I don’t understand what happens to him. He’s such a selective, careful hitter in the regular season, and then the playoffs come and he flails at any diving curve a foot out of the zone.

That being said, Teixeira picks up a HUGE walk, and now it’s 3-2 going into the eighth. Again, I will put this out to the universe: a walk-off win against Jose Valverde would be the best possible outcome. We’re one step closer. Please hold the fort, David Robertson.

Also, I like to imagine you sent that last email from your phone because you couldn’t stop pacing long enough to sit in front of a computer. That’s about where I’m at right now.

11:14pm, JackO:

Exactly. I’m working the laptop and the phone depending on the situation.

11:18pm, Shane:

For what it’s worth, I don’t buy TBS’ “turning point of the game” when A-Rod didn’t try to score on Posada’s hit in the fourth. I think it was a great call by Thomson. A-Rod would have been toast at the plate.

11:26pm, JackO:

Totally agree with you. Hes got a bad knee, he would have been toast.

11:27pm, Shane (after Gardner’s 8th-inning base hit):

Brett Gardner has been fantastic all series. Hats off. He must steal here. MUST. With 2 outs, getting caught is no big deal.

11:29pm, JackO (after Jeter’s deep, deep fly-out ends the 8th):

Where was Jeffrey Mayer (sp?) when we needed him?

11:31pm, Shane:

We were *that* close to being 3 Mariano outs away from the ALCS.

Okay, here we are. Top of the ninth, trailing 3-2. Mariano needs to hold them, and then the offense needs to score at least one against Jose “this series will not go back to New York” Valverde.

In your heart of hearts, do you believe it’ll happen? Or are we doomed to 6 months of the what-if game?

11:33pm, JackO:

I’ve got a funny feeling that the Yanks come back right here.

…of course that funny feeling could just be my new ulcer.

11:35pm, Shane:

Ditto. I’m inspired by Mariano treating the Tigers like little leaguers. Here we go. Score or die. Baseball is wonderful.

11:42pm, Shane:

Fuck. The world is a cauldron of suffering. Go Brewers.

11:43pm, JackO:

Ugh. Baseball is awful. Hey, the Yanks made it interesting. Got the guys up that they wanted and couldnt come through. That’s baseball. See you next season everybody. Does anyone know an ulcer specialist in CT?

The Most Depressed Fan Base: October Edition

“September, I remember…a love once new has now grown old.”

That’s not just the final line in a lovely Simon & Garfunkel song, and it’s not just the latest anthem for Red Sox nation. It also signifies a brand new month, and a brand new chance to christen the saddest, most lowdown fan base in America. (And the relevant parts of Canada.) The good news for the schadenfreudists out there is that with winter threatening to descend, the October edition is extra depressing.

Here’s how it works: the aristocracy of Grantland gathers (at a round table, I believe) to submit their individual lists. These are collected by a sort of hunchbacked, silent man with a somber face and an unnerving forehead scar, and he brings them to my cramped cubicle for compiling. At the same time, he also delivers my slice of bread and a bowl of discolored, lukewarm water that the editors call ‘soup.’ Anyhow, a first place vote is worth eight points, a second place vote is worth seven, and on and on until one. You get it.

Please note, the voters are concerned with cities that are currently the most depressed. Past history is relevant only if the ancient woes haven’t been remedied, as with the ongoing Chicago Cubs drought. If a long dry spell is broken, a la the Boston Bruins, it ceases to matter.

Last month, Cleveland won a thriller over Seattle. This month, 28 cities were represented in the voting. Some of the lesser-knowns included Durham, Jacksonville, Syracuse (this voter must have stopped reading after “most depressed”), Columbus, Edmonton, Tampa Bay (a city so depressed that fans didn’t go to the ballpark even before things got bad), Denver, and San Diego. And just to give you an idea of how serious the October edition was taken by Grantland, here are some other fun facts:

-One voter submitted three cities. One submitted seven. One submitted five. One submitted ten. I think they were supposed to submit eight, but I’m not even sure.

-For the second straight month, over half of the voters to submit ‘Minneapolis’ referred to it as ‘Minnesota.’ Jacoby actually used the “Twin Cities,” which I thought was a gentlemanly touch. I’m sure St. Paul appreciates it.

-It took the better part of two weeks to receive everyone’s vote. Time to put my spin doctor hat on: That’s how hard they were deliberating!

-The entire justification for the one voter who chose Durham, NC was as follows: “fuck you, Shane.” (I went to school there.)

-Sarah Larimer indulged in some anti-Buffalo glee at the top of her list: “How hilarious is it that Buffalo whined about not making this list, and now the Bills are awesome. Suck it, Buffalo! You will never appear on the Most Depressed Fan Base list. NEVER.”

Time for the list!

Best Line About a City That Didn’t Qualify

From Bill Simmons:

Hartford:

What a slap in the face to Hartford that the NHL is returning to Winnipeg, which is really the Canadian Hartford.

After this comment, Hartford and Winnipeg stared at each other suspiciously, unsure which of them had just been insulted.

Honorable Mentions

Sacramento (8 points), Dallas (10 points), Washington (10 points)

Buffalo, if you can believe it, didn’t get a single vote. Here was Mr. Joseph House, the clown prince of the depressed fan base cabal, on Sacramento:

Cancellation of NBA games means fewer opportunities for Kings to lose.

“I’m in TOTAL agreement!”
-Enthusiastic Paul Westphal

Ms. Larimer:

It was hard enough to get behind a team owned by Dan Snyder. Now Washingtonians have to root for a team that is owned Dan Snyder and has Rex Grossman at quarterback. Awful fate.

It could be worse. The situation could be reversed, with Grossman as owner and Snyder as quarterback. Oh wait…that’d be awesome.

The Top 10

10. New York – TIE – 11 points

Jay Kang had New York second on his list:

New York- Yankees are doing fine, I guess, but who, but the criminally depressed, start “occupations,” without stated goals? And why Wall Street? It’s like starting a protest next to a beached Orca. Yes, at some point, it was probably a dangerous animal. But now it’s fucking dead. And this is the time you choose to protest the Orca? And if I get one more gleefully stupid message in my newsfeed from some 30-40 year old fellow MFA grad/”occupier” who wants to pretend like he’s in fucking Egypt or Libya or Tehran (followed by the requisite “be careful out there” comments from other morons), I’m going to seriously plotz all over my computer.

For the sake of full disclosure, we are required to tell our readers that Jay Kang is sponsored by Citigroup.

(Also, what does ‘plotz’ mean? I’m not sure, but everyone at Grantland just slowly backed away from Jay’s computer.)

10. Toronto – TIE – 11 points

Simmons:

At least hockey is starting.

Toronto:

Was there something else?

8. Miami – 18 points

From Katie Baker:

Miami: The Hurricanes are 2-2 including losses to Maryland and Kansas State; the Florida Panthers had to actively work in the offseason just to spend up to the NHL salary floor; the most entertainment anyone is getting out of Dwyane Wade is his fight with David Stern (although that was some pretty substantial entertainment) and hahaha the LOLphins.

For effect, picture this innocent dolphin smiling at everything Katie Baker says, not understanding that he’s getting TOTALLY PUNKED.

7. Atlanta – 23 points

Back to the Baker:

The Falcons are 1-2, but hey — at least Braves fans can distract themselves with the start of the upcoming Thrashers season … oh, wait.

And Larimer, who put Atlanta second, with a similar theme:

Right now, the NBA is gone, the Braves just imploded and the only thing Atlantans have to look forward to is…nothing, right? Wow. For like an hour there I forgot the Thrashers left, but yep, that definitely happened. Sorry, Atlanta! This marks the second time in a row we have forgotten about an NHL franchise in this feature. Well done, Grantland.

We’re like the Winnipeg of websites. Am I right, Simmons?! (He refuses my high five.)

I mean Hartford! Hartford! (He refuses again, and I realize I’m talking to my Bill Simmons poster, not Simmons himself.)

6. Cleveland – 24 points

Ladies and gentleman, I can confirm that WE WILL HAVE A NEW CHAMPION!

(Hold for cheers.)

Cleveland had just three votes this time, but they were all first place votes. Here’s Jay’s take:

Who realized, with the rest of the country, that they are trotting out a midget quarterback, no wide receivers and Peyton Hillis?

Almost makes you want to plotz on your computer, right Jay? RIGHT?!

5. Seattle – 27.5 points

Joe House:

I can’t figure out whether trying to turn a “tarvaris” into a “luck” is alchemy or a shrewd business plan.

Simmons:

I’ve decided these are my top-3 every month (Cleveland, Seattle, and Minneapolis) unless a borderline sports catastrophe happens to another city. Like, a meteor hitting one of their stadiums or something.

Buffalo PR executives are now having an emergency meeting to determine if it’s worth staging a meteor accident for the free publicity.

4. Kansas City – 35.5 points

Chris Ryan:

Todd Haley.

Simmons:

The good news is that KC barbeque is fantastic, so depressed KC fans can just eat and eat. I’d like to thank the Chiefs and Royals for contributing to America’s obesity problem.

Baker:

The city recently hosted a sold-out preseason hockey game between the Penguins and the LA Kings that had to have been a bit of a sad reminder that Kansas City was once oh-so-close to getting an NHL franchise and instead they have a nice arena just looking for love in all the wrong places.

And just for the hell of it, here’s the only literary reference to Kansas City I remembered offhand. It’s from the story “Car Crash While Hitchhiking” by Denis Johnson, and yes, it’s pretty appropriate:

Under Midwestern clouds like great grey brains we left the superhighway with a drifting sensation and entered Kansas City’s rush hour with a sensation of running aground. As soon as we slowed down, all the magic of travelling together burned away.

3. Indianapolis – 36.5 points

Cho:

About to lose an NBA franchise?

Simmons agrees:

If I lived there, I’d be more worried about losing the Pacers to contraction than losing Peyton Manning for a season.

Baker:

Notre Dame won last weekend but they’ve still had a disappointing season, and something tells me Curtis Painter ain’t gonna be no Steamin’ Willie Beamon.

And Joe House, with what might be the line of the week:

The next Indy 500 is over 300 days away. The next 300 yard passing performance out of a Colts QB seems over 500 days away.

2. Boston – 41 points

I know what you’re all wondering- where did Simmons put Boston on his list? Well I’m here to tell you that he did not. Whether he was just exercising a sort of soft control on his underlings, or he’s truly at peace with himself and his city (perhaps because its current title drought stands at a devastating three and half months), it was a legitimate abstention. Not so for seven others, who nearly put Boston over the top. Lets’ start with House, saying what we all feel:

Is it too much to ask for the Red Sox historic collapse to portend a resumption of the mediocre ways of New England we knew & loved for almost 15 years in the late 80’s thru the 90’s? We could all blame ESPNtheMagazine.

Baker:

I was going to leave them out on principle, since so many Boston fans were so quick to get super sour grapesy about the Sox and it’s also not fair for Boston to win THIS too, but I guess they’ve earned the token shoutout. And also I wanted to link to this because it gives me great joy.

Cho, who had Boston second:

They’re not number one to me just because they still have too much going for them and too many recent successes. It’s like you can’t feel bad for a rich kid who happened to have dinged his Porsche. He still has a Porsche.

Chris Ryan:

Boston- There’s something incredibly sad about people backing away from the mess they made with a, “It wasn’t me!” expression on their faces. Nobody is going to lose any sleep over Ray from Needham losing any sleep; but watching Francona leave and Epstein flirt with the Cubs is really like a pound of Morton’s poured on a gut shot.

1. Minneapolis/Minnesota/Twin Cities – 42.5 points

We have a winner! Minneapolis was on all but two lists in some form, but it didn’t get a single first place vote. Chris Ryan had them fourth:

Delmon Young just sent you a postcard from scenic DETROIT. Also? Donovan McNabb is going to cost Leslie Frazier his job.

And for the parting shot, we turn back to Ole Faithful, House.

Can’t be #1, the Lynx are in the WNBA Finals! Is it Donovan McNabb’s fault that he continues to do Donovan McNabb things anymore?

And that is that. Congratulations to Minneapolis, the saddest city on the sporting landscape. Come back next month if you find yourself feeling too happy for your own good.

Co-Czars

CFB Recap 1

Gordon’s Left Foot: A College Football Recap

There was a time, when I was young, when I rooted for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. You can blame the influence of my stepfather, or my Catholic roots, or the musty books I found in the school library with their tales of Knute Rockne and the Four Horsemen. It certainly didn’t hurt that starting in 1991, every Irish home game was on television. In any case, one of the greatest moments of my young life came in 1993, when they beat #1 Florida State and their fantastic quarterback Charlie Ward 31-24 on the second-to-last game of the season. All that remained was to knock off Boston College at home, and Notre Dame would have a shot at the Fiesta Bowl and a national championship.

Things didn’t go as planned in South Bend, though. The Eagles jumped out to a huge lead, and it took a furious 22-point fourth quarter comeback for Notre Dame to reclaim a 39-38 lead. But David Gordon, BC’s kicker, had a 41-yard attempt with five seconds left to pull off a stunner. Gordon was left-footed, and, ironically enough in the “Holy War” between the nation’s two highest-profile Catholic schools, Jewish. Tom Hammond had the call for NBC, and summed it up thusly: “the left-footed kicker David Gordon…41 yard attempt to win the game and end the Irish national championship hopes…”

The kick wobbled, and appeared to be heading right. I still remember a tiny swell of hope, letting my mind map out the ball’s trajectory as it veered wide…

David Gordon had ruined the season. It only took a couple more years before I realized there was no good reason for me to root for Notre Dame. In college football terms, I became a man without a country. That’s continued to the present, and it’s honestly quite a nice break from the usual stress of affiliation. But the melodic strains of those two weeks in 1993 have persisted, reemerging in my personal sports landscape. Charlie Ward played parts of ten seasons for my New York Knicks, including the ill-fated 1999 trip to the finals. After his role in one of my worst sports moments, Boston College coach Tom Coughlin managed balance his karmic output 15 years later in one of the best, a Giants super bowl win against the hated, undefeated Patriots. And 17 years to the day after his kick, David Gordon married my elderly Aunt Rosa.

Just kidding on that last one. Nevertheless, the connection lingers. That’s the origin, and this is Gordon’s Left Foot.

On to the Week Two features!

The Best Finish

Appropriately enough for the installment, this goes to a devastating Notre Dame loss. After dominating for three quarters in Michigan’s Big House and establishing a 24-7 lead, it all went to hell. Denard Robinson, Michigan’s electric QB, led his team 28 fourth-quarter points and a go-ahead touchdown with two seconds remaining. There were two really incredible moments here that stand out above the other moments, which were merely unbelievable.

1 – After Michigan scored its third touchdown, Notre Dame looked dead. They’d get the ball back with 1:12 left, trailing by four, and counting on their sophomore quarterback, Tommy Rees, to drum up some magic in a rabid and hostile atmosphere. The Michigan fans, silenced early, were pouring four quarters worth of emotion onto the field. They smelled blood, and the blood smelled Irish. Which makes it so remarkable that Rees moved his team 61 yards in less than a minute for the go-ahead score. It was as cool a performance as you could ask from a young quarterback, and it would have been a legendary road win had it held up.

2 – With 30 seconds left and 80 yards ahead of them, Michigan was dead to rights. Only a total breakdown could bail them out, but that’s exactly what Notre Dame handed them on a green-and-gold platter. Somehow, Jeremy Gallon swung free on the right side, receiving a 64-yard pass. Michigan won the game a player later, and I’ll be amazed if we see a situation bungled so badly by any Division 1 defense this season.

Boldest Fashion Statement

The refs for that game wore poor-boys!

Over the holiday weekend, ten of the ablest minds at Grantland.com briefly stopped typing their own names into a Google search bar and devoted themselves to a question of sadness: Which city’s fan base is currently enduring the roughest stretch in sports? Where should the sympathetic among us direct our pity? Or, for the cruel at heart, our schadenfreude?

Each member of the Most Depressed Fan Base Committee selected their top eight cities, based on factors known only to them, and point values were assigned on a 1-8 scale (most depressed earns eight points, least depressed earns one). The individual lists were then compiled into an overall ranking, which is presented below.

Before we get there, though, some clarification. This is not an historical exercise; we’re concerned with which cities are suffering now, at this exact moment in time. As William Faulkner once wrote, “the past is dead.” (I’m reciting that one from memory- hopefully I nailed it.) For example, the Red Sox World Series drought from 1918 to 2004 is irrelevant because it ended, while the Cubs drought holds weight because it’s ongoing. You get the idea.

When the voting concluded, 31 cities were represented. Among those who earned just one vote and didn’t make the final list were Lubbock, South Bend, San Diego, Baltimore, San Antonio, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Phoenix, Long Island, Vancouver, Denver, Tennessee, and St. Louis.

In case you were curious, Lubbock came from Chuck Klosterman, and it came without explanation. But his email signature is a picture of Mike Leach as God in a parody of the “Creation of Adam” painting, so maybe that explains it. (In the painting, Chuck replaces Adam.)

Hey, what do you say we get to that list?

Best line about a City that didn’t qualify

Toronto only got two votes, none of which came from Joe House. But he did have this to say:

“Not Applicable: Toronto.  Best strip clubs in North America (according to reports); who cares about their teams?”

Can you really call it a ‘report’ if it comes from a personal diary you keep in a locker at the airport? Also, quick idea for the editors on a future post: Most depressing city for strip clubs. Could be a hit-monster.

Honorable Mention

Washington, D.C. (10 points), Buffalo (10 points), Portland (11 points)

I was particularly surprised not to see Buffalo in the top ten, because man, the place is sad and cold. They have just one (bad) professional sports team, terrible weather fronts constantly attacking from Lake Erie, and a failing economy that even Detroit respects. Or, as Katie Baker put it, with Buffalo fourth on her list:

Buffalo: because Buffalo.

As a final thought, do you think Buffalo citizens are annoyed that Lake Erie is named after Erie, Pennsylvania? Doesn’t Buffalo deserve it more? And while we’re here, why is the Mississippi River named after a state that doesn’t contain its source or mouth? Who’s naming bodies of water in this country?!

10. Kansas City – 12 points

Only three voters had K.C. on their list, but Jay Caspian Kang boosted it to the top ten with a 2nd-place ranking. Now, I hate to introduce controversy in the first installment of The Most Depressed Fan Base, but I can’t ignore this: an anagram of Jay Caspian Kang is “I C Jay. Gasp! Kansan!” (I used an extra ‘s’ there, but it’s still worth checking out.)

Anyway, the Royals won a World Series in 1985, but they’ve finished the season above .500 just once in the past 17 years. The Chiefs have been mostly disappointing since the franchise’s only Super Bowl in in 1970, though they did make the playoffs last season. A worthy number ten.

9. Miami – 13.5 points

Our fearless leader, Bill Simmons, put it concisely:

Miami – Canceled NBA season, The U scandal, 9 people at Marlins games + Chad Henne

I hope he’s happy; we just lost nine readers. Wait, no, my mistake. If those fans owned computers, they’d be able to check the standings and avoid Marlins games. We’re okay.

8. Columbus – 16 points

Back to Mr. House, who had Buckeye Central second on his list:

Columbus:  Life-lesson that most folks learn once & never forget but apparently needs to be repeated in central ohio: never never NEVER trust a dude in a sweater vest.

Between this and the strip club habit, remind me never to ask Joe House about his childhood.

7. Los Angeles – 16.5 points

Of the four committee members who included the city of Angels on their list, three live there and the other grew up there. Who says people in L.A. are egocentric? Jonathan Abrams put them at the top of his list, with this justification:

Los Angeles—USC is playing another season of only exhibitions, people are scared to go to Dodger Stadium, the Lakers were ousted early from the playoffs and the city still has no NFL team.

David Jacoby concurs:

No football team, Lakers a mess, Dodgers broke, Angels have a fucking monkey for a mascot and there are barely any sports fans to share your depression with.

Fair enough. Seriously, though, if I were a Buffalo fan, I might punch a wall at this point. Or at least write an angry tirade about Kobe Bryant on a message board. And that takes some effort in Buffalo; the Internet hasn’t caught on, so they have to use actual wooden message boards in the town square.

5. Sacramento -TIE – 17 points

From Chris Ryan, who ranked the city fifth:

If a cowbell rings in an empty Arco Arena, do you still hear it?

The sad part is, that cow is next year’s starting power forward.

5. Indianapolis – TIE – 17 points

It only made three lists, but enjoyed passionate support from Chris Ryan and Sarah Larimer, who each ranked it first. When I pressed Sarah for comment on g-chat, this is what I got:

my uncle chuck is the weatherman there
on the tv.
pretty weird little larimer fact.
people come up to him all the time
and talk to him about the weather
someone named their cat after him
She claims this is true, but it could easily be a bit of dialogue she stole from a creepy David Lynch film. You have to be careful with her. Chris had a more pointed take:
Peyton’s neck, no Pacers (a nation mourns) and Notre Dame got tagged by South Florida, at home, losing to the son of their last good head coach. I know South Bend isn’t Indianapolis, but I think when Notre Dame cries, so cries the state of Indiana.

4. Minneapolis – 27 points

Now we’re getting into the heavy hitters. We had some golden material here. From Simmons, who ranked them first:

Mauer/Morneau + Kahhhhhhhn + they’re on a 2-year streak of getting stuck with washed-up All-Pro QB’s + five decades of Vikings heartbreak + LA is building a new NFL stadium. Not a lot to work with.

David Cho:

For the same reasons as Seattle, but the weather is worse and sadder.

House:

When Donovan McNabb is in charge of the one team in town that everyone really cares about, that means that Donovan McNabb is in charge of the one team in town that everyone cares about.

Out of the four ballots to include Minneapolis, three labeled it “Minnesota.” Chuck Klosterman was the only to get it right. Doesn’t that make it a few points sadder? And just in case the folks across the Mississippi River (there it is again!) thought they were immune, let’s add insult to injury; in 1942, when author Vladimir Nabokov was touring U.S. colleges, he wrote this back to his wife:

St. Paul is a stupefyingly boring city.

Keep in mind, though, that was before Ron Gardenhire lit up the town with his electric personality.

3. Cincinnati – 31 points

Cincinnati made all but two ballots, but it was consistently ranked low. Only Jonathan Abrams put the Cincy in the top 3.

Cincinnati—Reds aren’t making the playoffs and the Bengals will be lucky to win four games.

House:

Because the Bengals are the worst team in the NFL, by A LOT.  Silver-lining: This year’s dirty-diaper-of-a-season means Andrew Luck could be in town next year.

Simmons:

We should have just made Ohio its own entry.

THAT DIDN’T STOP YOU WITH MINNESOTA, DID IT, YOU GROUPING SON OF A BITCH!

2. Seattle – 43.5 points

Seattle made the most ballots – nine- of any city on the list. Jacoby:

The only thing they have going is the NBA lockout and Tavaris Jackson interception over bets.
David Cho:
The long-sufferingness is still going on and has no end in sight. Right now they’re trying to rally around a Seahawks team led by Tavaris Jackson. There’s nothing sadder than no hope.
Simmons:
Seattle – slowly becoming known for its MLS team.
This last take was inadvertently confirmed when I told my friend Spike, a lifelong Seattle fan, that his city had placed second. His reply:
Here’s the thing;  the Sounders could actually quad trophy. MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield, US Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League. They could also get no trophies, but a quad would be a game changer.
You’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s a valid argument, or the sports equivalent of a beaten-down alcoholic praying over a lottery ticket.

1. Cleveland – 45.5 points

The city on the flaming Cuyahoga won in a squeaker. Which is more than any of their sports teams can say, am I right?

That’s the great thing about Cleveland; its tremendous pain paves the way for easy jokes that require very little intellect. That’s convenient for me, because I am the proud of owner of a very little intellect. Our panelists, on the other hand, bring significantly more brain power to the operation. Let’s see what they say, starting with Katie Baker:

Cleveland: because someone wrote into the Bake Shop with this: “LeBron certainly squashed any chance of the Cavs winning it for at least 5 years, the Browns look to be on the up and up but thats the same thing my Dad said when Paul Brown started the franchise, and the Indians just signed a 41 year old Jim Thome to save our playoff hopes.” and it broke my heart.

By the way, the Bake Shop is Katie’s new write-in feature, not an actual bakery she steals mail from. Jacoby had this to add:

Cleveland: still butthurt over Lebron. Are the Indians still in the American league? I forgot. Browns trainers just still around with 9-1 dialed just waiting for Colt MCCoys inevitable MCL snap. On the bright side, it is a fitting place to be depression drinking.

That’s one hell of a bright side. Also, I love the idea that Browns trainers respond to player injuries by dialing 9-1-1. Somehow, I can believe it.

So: congratulations are in order for Cleveland, the saddest sports town we know. Come back next month to see if they can defend the heavy crown.