The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

Jerry Manuel: Mets Make the Switch

Randolph (left) with Manuel (right) discussing life, liberty and the pursuit of some wins in New York.

Five years ago, I walked into my new dorm room at Biola University more scared than savvy. I didn’t know what to expect. And frankly, I was a little embarrassed that my parents waited there with me. Soon, a body walked into the room––Travis. He was on the baseball team, something that I had hoped to achieve in the next coming months, but would opt out for the game of Lacrosse, instead. To say that Travis was quiet would be like calling an air horn loud. He was one of the most unassuming, easy-going guys on the face of the planet and remains that way today. As I looked around the room, I saw various family pictures of the two current tenants and wondered if there were any space for me––a freshman––among the artifacts of these 20-something Juniors. As I surveyed the desk of the other unidentified roommate, I noticed a familiar face. A face that I had partially grown to hate, but in some ways…appreciated. It was the face of a rival. A famous rival, but a rival nonetheless. There on the desk lay a picture of Jerry Manuel, the coach of the Chicago White Sox (at the time) and a rival of my gloriously over-preforming (at the time!) Seattle Mariners. As I heard a voice behind me, I turned around to see Anthony, my second roommate.  He had about as much fat on him as a Pez dispenser and after introducing ourselves, it became apparent that he was simply Jerry, minus 25 years.

In the year that followed, I got to know the in’s and out’s of growing up in Major League Baseball and the more we talked, the more I felt as though I needed to go out and buy a White Sox hat. We had some great discussions––Anthony was anything but normal, with an upbringing that rivaled the Kardashians, but in many ways, he seemed to see his childhood as memories in the same way I did. My quality time in the backyard, his at Dolphin Stadium. I remember watching Griffey round third in 95’, he rushed the field in 97’.

I got a chance to speak with Jerry a number of times, mostly colloquial baseball chatter, but always with a sense of wonder on my end. When I visited their home a couple years back, I got the chance to speak to Jerry on a little different platform. We talked baseball, of course; steroids, Bonds, expansion, etc, and I tried to convince him to take the Manager position in Seattle, but he maintained that he was, “…done coaching for a while.” At the time, he was really considering taking the Bench Coach position for the Mets and I pleaded with him, “Why the Mets?!” He said that he loved the Mets and that New York was a great city to play in and since his playing days were past tense, it was the atmosphere and the guys that kept it fun. He told us all that if Willie Randolph didn’t last, he wouldn’t be opposed to the Manager’s role, but that Willie would do a terrific job. He signed off by saying, “If ever you’re in New York, and you just need a day off, come on down to the ball park.”

Well, Willie-days have come and gone in New York and June 15, 2008 marked the beginning of Jerry’s interim coaching tenure in New York.

I couldn’t be happier.

Oh, the pains of being a dedicated fan.  Looks like I need to go out and buy a sicky Mets hat.

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June 19, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Sports | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2008 US Open

Tiger Woods, during his playoff round Sunday at the 2008 US Open championship.

2008 US Open: Tiger Would

We’ve reached a new level of insanity here in the High Countries. What once was an unabashed impartiality towards the game of golf has now––upon conclusion of this year’s US Open––become something so much more lethal: full-fledged fun.

As I opened my office door this morning, the only thought I had was the balancing act between productivity and full out, final-round-watching insubordination. I know, I know, its hard for me to admit to myself that I sat there updating a live web blog (courtesy of Jason Sobel over at ESPN), only to write him and express the same thing I am to you now; that as much as I hate to say it, I’m having a great time. I can’t say that the play-by-play was minute-by-minute, but it was…five-minute-by-five-minute, so what’s the big deal? It was like baby-back rib relay race: slow, but genuinely exciting at its finale. As Tiger thought back on his rounds, I thought back on my short-lived journey to this moment…

I’ve only recently began playing consistent golf. A friend and I found an appealing super-twilight rate at a nearby course that allows us to get in about 15 holes 2-3 times a week for a staggering $8 a round. While I boast a ’90 something’ as my best (recent) score (cough…on 17), its suffice to say I can use all the cheap golf I can get. My golf game wasn’t something I really enjoyed until about three months ago and golf on TV wasn’t appealing until about 3 years ago––when I first saw Tiger induce Phil Knight’s screams of delight as his brand rose and fell with the resounding ‘clinkle-clunk’ only a billion dollars could make. Its true, the genius of the 2005 Masters brought me closer to the actual game than anything else. Tiger Woods swung life into a dusty pastime and I found his charisma to be just the medicine I needed.

I can’t say that I saw any of this coming. I can’t say that I had any predictions today other than what Dan Patrick said: “There is a 1-5 chance at the beginning of any given tournament that Tiger will win.” I can’t say that I even watched every round of this years Open. Granted, I am a fair weathered golf fan (I listened to Lakers-Celtics game 5 last night on radio though, gasp!) Lefty’s Pooh Bear-esque moobs are the only reason I recognized him for the first half decade of my fanship. My tenancy in the PGA has been nothing short of short-lived, but one thing is true: I can no longer say I don’t care. No longer am I simply… impartial. I am anything but impartial, in fact, I am…partial. I want only Tiger to win. Even when he’s wearing purple or only half-tanned, its always Tiger. Call me crazy, call me anything but unique. I was alive when Tiger Woods was playing.

June 16, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Sports, Television | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

NCAA Tournament Moments: Elite Eight

The Bruin Issue

Josh Shipp Foul Ucla Blows Texas A&M Hosed

The Tournament has begun. In my respective pools, my bracket is performing like Hillary in front of a microphone; leading me astray with every game it plays. Nonetheless, my spirits remain high, and three out of four Final Four’s remain. If those dill weeds from Duke would have decided to play basketball and not sit on their hands like a home-schooler at a strip club–I may have a chance in this thing. But alas, with no one over 6’8, I should have known. My chances were slim.

With the Terrific Twelve squarely in place, and the Elite Eight being rounded out later tonight, I want to recap on the shenanigans of the last week. Top five moments of the the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament through 2.5 rounds of play:

5. The Belmont Foresight: I should have known, I know, I know. It was all I could do not to put Duke as my winners. My ex-roommate (who has since moved to SC, and is a terrible human for it) is a raging, die hard UNC fan. Hailing from the Northwest, I’m a fan of Washington teams, but really couldn’t bring myself to put Washington St. past UNC–so I compromised. I went with my next favorite team, Duke, because I knew, somehow, that my Zags would piss it down their leg like an overheated 6 year old after too much hot chocolate. However, I didn’t think the Dukies could win it all, so I put them to the next closest thing: playing in The Championship Game. Fact: Duke, I hate you. Coach K, I still want to be you. Go Memphis.

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4. Puke-on UCon:
Whowould have thought that such a big UCon team could literally, physically, mentally and emotionally fold once their best player got hurt? Besides that, what’s a Torero–a bullfighter? Who cares. Here’s the deal: At college, I played lacrosse. And every time we played USD, we got our anuses handed to us on a rusted-out platter. One time we were pretty amped because we were leading at halftime, but and in the second half, once we lost the lead, we just started swinging our sticks at anything that moved and drilling players at random–USD still won the National Title, vis-à-vis, UCon had it coming. Go USD. Go Lacrosse. Go Memphis.

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3. Bobby’s Brain, and Mouth, and Charisma: I have never enjoyed pre-game and post game charades more in my entire life than when I get to watch, listen and stare at Bobby Knight in his V-neck sweater get up. His Mohave-dry take on each Tournament saga is like listening to Dante tell a fairytale. Combine that with Digger Phelps’ increasingly noticeable resentment and blithe hatred, and you have on-screen genius. Pure Joy.

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2. I want Curry! Stephen Curry at, let’s be honest, 6’1 (maybe) 170 lbs soaking wet, has taken not only the tournament by storm, but also the weight room. I guaranteed you, here in West LA, across the street at our little Park-le-gangster, there’s a dozen middle and high school kids spray painting their t-shirts red and adopting an anorexic lifestyle, in hopes of becoming The Next Great Under-165lbs-Kinda-White Hope.

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1. The UCLA Plague: I wish that UCLA never existed. Not because it would be doing all mankind a favor, but because their history is tainting everything we know. Yes, Kevin Love looks like my uncle Craig after 14 beers, a nine course buffet, and in training for a role in Meet the Klumps IX. But besides the fact that he’s bra-less, can we address the brewin’ (pun) issue? UCLA is infecting the world. Its like they have a weird strain STD and every time they play, they infect those around them. Its not Mojo, its…like…athletic syphilis. I don’t want to comment on the foul at the end of the Texas A&M game (see top). Nor do I want to speak on Kevin Love’s 9 foot Halo of Death, where upon entering, a whistle will blow faster than at the start of a co-ed mud wrestling match. The fact of the matter is that we all need to use protection, we need to get something to fight it. Turn to what wins: USC. And not just anything USC … USC Football. Get out there and buy yourself a jersey. Then, come game time, you’ve got protection. Be prepared, be responsible, wrap your rascal. Go Memphis, I think it all makes sense now.

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March 28, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Sports, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tourney Time: Only a Flip Away!

Many Shining Moments…

North Carolina Duke

Tourney time has arrived and my food intake has now officially gone on sabbatical in hopes of breaking that hiatus with chips and salsa for the next two weeks.

First things first, we all know its a crying shame that Jon Brockman rolled his ankle in the University of Washington’s ‘basketball Apple Cup’, thus severely weakening UW’s hopes for a championship. But we must face facts: the Dawgs are not in the tourney. I know, I know its ridiculous and the world won’t be the same without them but — OJ ain’t in jail neither — so I suppose this world still upholds various, mind-blowing atrocities.

The sports world is wrought with the woes of a poorly-filled bracket. Each piece of advice claiming supremacy above the rest. Then it dawned on me: what if I threw my proverbial bracket into the hands of George Washington? No, not the team (they didn’t make it to this year’s tournament), I mean the President. More precisely, the President on the quarter. Yes, let’s do it. That is my stance. That is my advice. Before you fill, before you scribble and scratch and rant and rave; flip a coin.  Flip two coins. Flip till there’s a victor –– this is the President of the United States speaking.

Round 1:

The flips began much more smoothly than I had imagined the first round going with all my #1’s and #3’s squeaking by with wins. I noticed that I had suffered devastating loses by two #4’s, three #5’s and…all my #2’s. Who would have thought in round one Austin Peay could present itself as a clear favorite?! With my #1’s still in tact, the next toss rose high…

Round 2:

Soon I found that this game didn’t allow for as much control as I thought it would. Each flip causing new emotion as if the coin was speaking fact and no longer rose as a game. Surprisingly, all my #1’s made it through round two sprinting headlong towards round three.  I’m sweating…

Sweet Sixteen:

UNC faced off against a blazing Winthrop team who had just taken down Washington St (my father’s Alma Mater) in the first round only to slip by George Mason in the second. Kansas would have to defeat Villanova for their chances for National Title to stay alive. Memphis would face off with Michigan St and UCLA will play the LDS boys from BYU, respectively. As the Coin was flipped, in true Presidential form, our Elite Eight held three of the four #1’s (what?!), with the only loss coming to our Midwest buddies, Kansas.

Who has the stamina  to overcome President George? Up until this point, it seemed nearly feasible. Outside of UMBC, San Diego and my boys over at Austin Peay, this could happen…maybe. My Elite Eight was as follows:

Louisville over UNC
UMBC over Villanova
Austin Peay over Michigan St.
Purdue over San Diego

Sometime between the Michigan St.––Austin Peay game, I drop my quarter in toilet. I was sitting there doing flips and — bloop! — there it went. I’m finishing this out with a Penny.  Generally, rules are rules and I would have to go after George, but this is flippin’ basketball folks, and Lincoln knew better anyway.

The Final Four:

Apparently Lincoln didn’t know squat either because Austin Peay pulled out the upset…again.  Lucky-to-be-there Purdue didn’t show up and got smashed, whereas Louiville came to play — simple as that.

My Championship: Austin Peay vs. Louisville.

As I sit here thinking of the implications of this flip, nothing is going through my brain except, “Come on Louisville, come on Louisville.” If Louisville wins, there’s still hope for this to come true. Without thinking, my thumb released. As it turns over in air, my eyes read its high looping arc, all fate resting on its descend.

Louisville wins!

If I were a gambler, I would be out a lot of cash right now. I’m not, I’m a blogger. I’m a blogger that takes back everything he said about flipping a coin. Don’t do it. Never do it. To be forced to watch your teams fall to the wayside and get played like black/red Roulett is far too painful. I feel like the guilty middleman, forced to deliver the news. As I sit there in their locker-room, I look into the player’s eyes and slowly begin. “I’m sorry guys, it wasn’t your day. That terrible, under-performing UMBC team brought a lot of talent into this gym tonight.” Devastated, they look at me, hoping for answers. I open my mouth and say the only thing one could. “I know, its like, I mean, what are the chances…”

March 20, 2008 Posted by | Sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment