Thursday, March 30, 2006

Moving the clocks forward. Dateline: Indiana.

At 2 a.m. Sunday morning, Indiana is going to explode. You can already feel the tension as you walk by people on the street. "Oh man, the clocks are going to...MOVE FORWARD! Or is it backward? No, I'm pretty sure it's forward. What am I gonna do?" There will be mass chaos, all right. There is a certain hilarity in revelling in the shock and horror of Hoosiers who are utterly terrified of the clock moving ahead an hour. Afterall, they have been trying to avoid this moment since 1966. Whenever there is a small snowstorm approaching, the newscasts go on high alert warning of "WINTER BLAST, (insert year here)." In this case, all you have to do is replace that with, "APPROACHING CLOCK APOCALYPSE, 2006! WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!"

Of course, this is all happening before the eyes of out-of-staters who are in town for the Final Four. Surely, it will be a hilarious episode for them to watch as frightened residents take to the streets in horror, turning cars, setting fires and looking to the sky for the Four Horsemen.

Once the terror has ended, there are good things that will come out of this ordeal. Because we are the westernmost state on EST, there will be 10 p.m. sunsets in June. What this means for four-year olds who have to go to bed when there is still daylight and their parents who have to endure the screaming, who knows? But aside from small children and parents of small children, it is a good thing. Of course, by winter, we'll have 4 p.m. sunsets, which will bring forth a record number of people with seasonal affective disorder, but you take the good with the bad.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Death of a Racehorse" by W.C. Heinz, 1949

As in literature, in sports journalism there are masters who came before who a person can look to for inspiration in style and craft. W.C. Heinz is one such individual. During his newspaper career, Heinz worked for The New York Sun, The New York Daily News and later wrote for various magazines and authored several books. Heinz was a pioneer in sports journalism, as he was one of the first to move away from the flowery, overly dramatic prose that for decades before defined sports journalism. He proved that clean, simple writing could be powerful writing. His 1949 story that appeared in The Sun, Death of a Racehorse, is possibly the greatest deadline story ever to appear on the sportspages of a newspaper. When you read a story in the newspaper, all too often, the ending is weak. The writer is in a hurry or tires at the conclusion. One of the defining characteristics of Death of a Racehorse is the ending. It's haunting, in a way. While reading it, it is easy to imagine Heinz sitting in the press box and writing on his typewriter with rain pouring outside. A Google search showed the text is only available in a couple places, so I'll post the story here.

# # #

They were going to the post for the sixth race at Jamaica, two year olds, some making their first starts, to go five and a half furlongs for a purse of four thousand dollars. They were moving slowly down the backstretch toward the gate, some of them cantering, others walking, and in the press box they had stopped their working or their kidding to watch, most of them interested in one horse.

"Air Lift," Jim Roach said. "Full brother of Assault."

Assault, who won the triple crown ... making this one too, by Bold Venture, himself a Derby winner, out of Igual, herself by the great Equipoise. ... Great names in the breeding line ... and now the little guy making his first start, perhaps the start of another great career.

They were off well, although Air Lift was fifth. They were moving toward the first turn, and now Air Lift was fourth. They were going into the turn, and now Air Lift was starting to go, third perhaps, when suddenly he slowed, a horse stopping, and below in the stands you could hear a sudden cry, as the rest left him, still trying to run but limping, his jockey -- Dave Gorman -- half falling, half sliding off.

"He broke a leg!" somebody, holding a binoculars to his eyes, shouted in the press box. "He broke a leg!"

Down below they were roaring for the rest, coming down the stretch now, but in the infield men were running toward the turn, running toward the colt and the boy standing beside him, alone. There was a station wagon moving around the track toward them, and then, in a moment, the big green van they call the horse ambulance.

"Gorman was crying like a baby," one of them, coming out of the jockey room, said. "He said he must have stepped in a hole, but you should have seen him crying."

"It's his left front ankle," Dr. J.G. Catlett, the veterinarian, was saying. "It's a compound fracture, and I'm waiting for confirmation from Mr. Hirsch to destroy him."

He was standing outside one of the stables beyond the backstretch, and he had just put in a call to Kentucky where Max Hirsch, the trainer, and Robert Kleberg, the owner, were attending the yearling sales.

"When will you do it?" one of them said.

"Right as soon as I can," the doctor said. "As soon as I get confirmation. If it was an ordinary horse, I'd done it right there."

He walked across the road and around another barn to where they had the horse. The horse was still in the van, about twenty stable hands in dungarees and sweat-stained shirts, bare-headed or wearing old caps, standing around quietly and watching with Mr. M.A. Gilman, the assistant veterinarian.

"We might as well get him out of the van," Catlett said, "before we give him the novocaine. It'll be better out in the air."

The boy in the van with the colt led him out then, the colt limping, tossing his head a little, the blood running down and covering his left foreleg. When the say him, standing there outside the van now, the boy holding him, they started talking softly.

"Full brother of Assault." ... "It don't make no difference now. He's done." ... "But damn, what a grand little horse." ... "Ain't he a horse?"

"It's a funny thing," Catlett said. "All the cripples that go out, they never break a leg. It always happens to a good-legged horse."

A man, gray-haired and rather stout, wearing brown slacks and a blue shirt walked up.

"Then I better not send for the wagon yet?" the man said.

"No," Catlett said. "Of course, you might just as well. Max Hirsch may say no, but I doubt it."

"I don't know," the man said.

"There'd be time in the morning," Catlett said.

"But in this hot weather --" the man said.

They had sponged off the colt, after they had given him the shot to deaden the pain, and now he stood, feeding quietly from some hay they had placed at his feet. In the distance, you could hear the roar of the crowd in the grandstand, but beyond it and above it, you could hear thunder and see the occasional flash of lightning.

When Catlett came back the next time he was hurrying, nodding his head and waving his hands. Now the thunder was louder, the flashes of lightning brighter, and now rain was starting to fall.

"All right," he said, shouting to Gilman. "Max Hirsch talked to Mr. Kleberg. We've got confirmation."

They moved the curious back, the rain falling faster now, and they moved the colt over close to a pile of loose bricks. Gilman had the halter and Catlett had the gun, shaped like a bell with a handle at the top. This bell he placed, the crowd silent, on the colt's forehead, just between the eyes. The colt stood still and then Catlett, with the hammer in his other hand, struck the handle of the bell. There was a short, sharp sound and the colt toppled onto his left side, his eyes staring, his legs straight out, the free legs quivering.

"Aw, ----" someone said.

That was all they said. They worked quickly, the two vets removing the broken bones as evidence for the insurance company, the crowd silently watching. Then the heavens opened, the rain pouring down, the lightning flashing, and they rushed for cover of the stables, leaving alone on his side near a pile of bricks, the rain running off his hide, dead an hour and a quarter after his first start, Air Lift, son of Bold Venture, full brother of Assault.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A letter urging Vice President Dick Cheney that he eat Trader Joe's chicken noodle soup because I like it and I think he would, too

Dear Mr. Vice President,

You don't know me, but I know you. Well, I don't really know you, but I know you through the TV and the various articles I've read about you. You might say I'm quite the admirer. The scrapbook I made of your accolades would support that. Some say I'm obsessed, but no, no I'm not. You're my vice president, and my hero. I had sympathy pains when you shot that man. I mean, I, I really felt bad. For most lesser mortals, it might have ruined their careers, but you've managed to become untouchable. That's what I want to accomplish: to be untouchable in my quest for world domination. I'm sure you'd understand.

But my ambitions are not the point of this letter. Rather, I would like to suggest to you Trader Joe's chicken noodle soup. Not only does it have chunks of chicken, egg noodles, diced carrots, celery and onions mixed in a hearty chicken broth that is a meal in and of itself, Mr. Cheney, Trader Joe's chicken noodle soup has a full-bodied flavor that will leave you satisfied. I think you'd like it. Nay, I KNOW you'd love it. Dick, if I may be so informal, you've had some health problems that scare me everyday. I can't bare the thought of our country losing you. I can't bear the thought of me losing you. So if you would, try some of this soup. Not only is it good, but it is nutritious, unlike the regular grocery store brands like Campbell's that are full of salt. You have to watch those things at your age. But regardless, just try some of this soup. After you eat some of it, you'll be tempted to pull out a huge "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED...I HAVE FOUND AWESOME SOUP" banner to hang on the White House. But please try some. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Warmest regards,

Daniel Bradley

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Applebee's Shrimp Sensations commercials are our punishment for the bad things we do as a society and as a human race

EDIT: When I wrote this last night, I didn't realize the one with the guy drinking the sauce was a Friday's commercial. Am I really supposed to know the difference between Applebee's and Friday's? They're basically the same themed restaurant based in suburban hell. One is a neighborhood, while at the other, it's a "Groundhog Day" type environment where it's always Friday. Neverending Friday. I prefer Thursday.


If I see the two Applebee's Shrimp Sensations commercials that feature the Gilligans Island spoof and the stupid guy drinking the freaking sauce one more time, I am going to be tempted to go down to my neighborhood Applebee's and raise some thunder. For 12 hours at home and at work, I was surrounded by the NCAA Tournament on CBS. Seemingly on every single commercial break, one of these two spots ran. Sometimes, both. Sometimes back-to-back. And even sometimes, the same commercial repeated right after it just showed. Make it stop, please? I'm pleading with CBS to stop showing those commercials. I might lose my mind.

Some research of the Gillgan's parody shows that Applebee's executives wanted to produce commercials with two people who are now known as "The Applebee's Guys." The fact that these spots were thought up by human beings, then approved by their bosses, then approved by Applebee's clients, then approved by focus groups who thought these would be positive things to foist upon the viewing public and then approved by CBS to show them is an amazing fact of nature that will probably never be surpassed. It's inconceivable that anything so retched and annoying could exist over and over and over again. It's a never ending circle of hellfire and insanity.

The problem is that it's going to happen all over again on Friday. It's going to be 12 hours of two idiots pimping seafood with a Gilligan's Island spoof song followed by a jerk WHO DRINKS THE SAUCE! OH MY GOD, HE DRANK THE SAUCE! HE THOUGHT IT WAS A SHOT OF ALCOHOL, BUT HE DRANK IT! STOP THE PRESSES, FOLKS! HE DRANK THE SAUCE! THE JERKTRAIN HAS ARRIVED, AND...HE...DRANK...THE...SAUCE!!! Stupid Applebee's. If it weren't for your chicken finger and riblet basket, I'd abandon you.

But while we're particularly annoyed, let's have a sing-along!

Just sit right back and grab some tails
The tails of some tasty shrimp
Sensations now at Applebee's
Are really worth the trip

Sauteed, crisp fried or fire grilled
Served on a handy skewer
So many shrimp you'll want to plan
A three hour touuuuur
A three hour touuuuur

So join us here this week my friends
It's time for eating good
Shrimp Sensations now at Applebees
In your neighborhood

Well, now that we're all feeling homicidal, it's time to sleep. Goodnight.