Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Nice Monday Morning Diversion

Odds are good you're checking this blog at work because you just don't feel like responding to your email inbox that you successfully avoided all weekend. Or you just don't feel like returning that one voicemail. I hear ya. Honestly, I don't know how people ground through an 8 hour work day in the pre internet dark ages. Without, I can't get through lunch. And I don't even have a job right now.

So I thought I would contribute this little gem to the cause of killing time. Perhaps you're already familiar with this website. I'm really not on the edge of online trends, so this could be old news. But I certainly entertained myself for an hour or two sifting through this baby.

The website is called Pretty self explanatory site, really. Just check out that group of badasses on the top of the page teasing us with the seductive and symmetric back pocket pose. Yeah, they may be a nice family but that doesn't mean they can't be sassy. You'll note the blue and white vertically striped Gerbeaus on Nike kid in the middle. I didn't have a pair of those things particular pants back in '91, but I sure wanted them. How much do you want to bet they were listening to the Saturday's Warrior Soundtrack as they drove to the Olen Mills Studio in The University Mall? As sure as the Nike kid has a tag on his crotch, they were. In fact that is a fun game to play. Sift through this site and guess which families are Mormon. Unless my radar is off (and it isn't) there are quite a few.

Though I gotta say was relieved when I first saw this site. None of my direct family is featured. I can think of a couple of extended Westenskow family photos circa 1983 that would definitely qualify. And just about every back to school picture of me featuring my immaculately combed hair (the secret is moose). As well as every elementary / junior high school photo. And the Thanksgiving line up of the cousins. Yeah, this site hits pretty close to home. But in the absence of actual self esteem, it's nice to be able to point your finger and scoff at people only slightly more derelict than yourself.

Here are a few highlights:

This poor kid. I bet his name is Ralph. And his dad regularly yells at him in public. But man I love that sweet half dissolve, double photo technique. I need to get married just so I can have some classy wedding photos with my spooky profile floating in the middle of my own head. In fact, I think I'm going to have a profile of Ralph here floating in the middle of my head. Like my buddy here, I proudly played the clarinet in 5th and 6th grade. I wanted to play the saxophone but my folks craftily convinced me to go with the old licorice stick and then move up to the saxophone. I'm pretty sure the clarinet was much cheaper to rent. But I was a friggen prodigy. I could have been the next . . . . (thinking of any clarinet player in history) . . . . . . guy who played on "When I'm Sixty-Four".

"I'm not gay! See?! I have a wife and kid! I just like to work out. A lot. It was a sunny day, figured I'd pop the top off and blast my nips. No big deal. And yes I naturally don't grow hair on my nipples. So what? Nothing wrong with a hairless man nipple every now and again. It can be a beautiful thing. But seriously, I'm not gay."


I can't confirm this one, but this is a possible Mormon family. Maybe. Nothing says "families are forever" like a big old pile of denim. Every family has done the "denim shirt photo shoot". In the Westenskow version, I'm doing a Rico Swave squat in front of everyone. Pretty sure you can see two well defined balls in it. I see these particular folks opted for the pig pile over the human pyramid. Good choice either way.

Somehow the nebula background seems to fit. Look at that poor woman. Her spirit is broken. She's been a single mom for a long time and she's just worn out. Her kids are a couple of shits. She gets a weekly call from the Junior High principal of Nosferatu in the bottom right corner, informing her of the latest fire he set in shop class. When she confronts him about, he just tells her to f*ck off. And instead of kicking out the dirtbags that sleep with her daughter in her own house, she just quietly cries in her room. But today they're getting their picture taken. She's using that coupon for a family photo she cut out of the Pennysaver no matter how black her son's lipstick is. "Damn it, we are going to be a happy family for one afternoon! Is that too much to ask?!"

This guy's got it all figured out. I would guess this baby was taken about 1988. Which means by now this kid is either a dotcom millionaire who is broke all over again or a registered sex offender. Or both.

These folks right here are the reason Glen Beck is as successful as he is. God bless America.

There's a lot of ways you could go with this one, but I'm gonna choose to focus on the dad's glasses. You like the splits kid? Nope, I'm sticking with Sensei of this dojo. The damn paterfamilias. Why? Because perma tinted glasses and a mustache always demand respect. It turns out this man was the real life inspiration for John Kreese. "OUT OF COMMISSION!"

If you look in the right corner, you will see that these are indeed genuine Glamor Shots. Not that fake crap. Nothing but the finest for this girls' day at the mall. Filtered lens. Denim Jacket theme. Matching poses. Denim looking backdrop. What looks to be a ten year old girl in full make up. Classy top to bottom. Now let's go get an Orange Julius.

The old Mexican Standoff. Except in this one, everybody wins. Also, I would be interested in seeing any concrete data on the mustache to mullet ratio. There are plenty of mulletless mustaches out there. But if a guy is sporting the old Kentucky Waterfall, odds are good he has a Magnum to match. And really why wouldn't you?

See the touchy feely kid on the top right? I had those exact same glasses from 1st to 5th grade. The thing is, it wasn't like I made one bad decision in first grade and got stuck with them. I broke those things all the time. Which meant I kept buying more of the exact glasses frames. That also means that in 5th grade, I wore those sweet brown framed classes while playing the clarinet. Like I said, there are no shortage of Westenskow family photos that would be a hit on this site. Also, what's up with the angry kid on the left? He doesn't look like the others. Is he a bastard brother who has yet to earn his pink and black sweater not to mention his mother's love? By the way, I like how one of the legitimate kids (the nonbastards) is wearing a pink shirt to compliment his sweater and the other is wearing a teal shirt. Excellence is found in the details. Although it's possible the angry bastard child is of no relation at all. Perhaps it's an option the studio offers. For an extra 3.99 you can have an pissed off stranger pose with your family. Either way, feather haired glasses guy accepts him. We brown framed glasses wearers are a compassionate bunch.

So there you go. A quick starter but by no means the best of what this website has to offer. I totally ripped this whole post off from, so please visit them. You'll find yourself laughing because it isn't your family on there. And crying because it could be.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Defense of Real Football

I have documented my love of football several times. Not a terribly original sentiment. This is America, damn it. Home of football, barbecue and Bill Murray. All of which undeniably kick ass. Have you seen Zombieland yet? But now that we're into the '09 season a solid month, let me get a niggling little football related irritant off my chest. Not the stupid football playing robot on the Fox broadcasts. Or the BSC. Or Lou Holtz's inability to pronounce a clean "s". No those are all a little obvious. Instead, I'm going to gripe about something that the vast majority of football fans love. Fantasy friggin football.

What can I say. I'm a rabble rouser. I rouse rabbles.

First, let me get a cosmetic complaint out of the way. Fantasy football is a stupid name. I get that alliteration is cutesy poo little way that make something catchy. And both words "fantasy" and "football" indeed start with "F". But the word "fantasy" has exactly three connotations. This one. This one. And this one. Primarily the first one. And I don't think I'm being too big of a dick to suggest that football in all it's majesty should have no common ground with dragons and wizards. You can like dragons and wizards and still love football. It's a big world. Room enough for everyone. But the two should never have any incidental association.

But here's my real problem with it all.

I know I’m in the minority on this one. But I am against Fantasy Football. It's not that I don't like it. I am against it. It is morally wrong. (Sarcastic sanctimony. But not that sarcastic.) I believe football is a glorious enough sport to be appreciated and savored on its face value. You shouldn't need to invent a little game within the game to make it interesting. If you do need some supplemental diversion to interest you in the actual competition, then you’re not a football fan. I'm sorry. If last Sunday's epic battle between Denver and New England (some seriously ugly throw back unis Denver has) was nothing but a means to update Tom Brady's QB rating for your crappy fantasy team, then you do not qualify as an actual fan of the sport of football.

That douchy little nerd on ESPN that gives you fantasy hints? Not a football fan. The guy in your office that can't talk about anything else other than the awesome rushing attack from his cleverly named team "Sex Panther"? Not a football fan. He and his ilk, exploit the mighty sport of football for their make believe victories that have no direct correlation to the NFL. Or reality. If that description applies to you at all, then you are not a true fan of football. You are this guy.

"But it makes the games more interesting. This way, I care about the whole league." If that's honestly your response, then shame on you. Football is the greatest form of human competition ever bestowed to mankind from above. That's not enough? I'll say it again. You should not have to invent a little game within the game to enjoy football. Yet you reduce the fullness of that competition to a list of numbers on a box score. Sacrilege.

I think that's why I'm so bothered by fantasy football. Football, more than any other sport, is an emotional game. Statistical analysis has its place but in no way should they ever become the focus of any fan's appreciation of the sport. Every football game has two or three plays that decide the outcome or act as the turning point. Sometimes it happens in the fourth quarter, sometimes the second. Sometimes it's something dramatic like a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. But most of the time it's a three yard run on third down in which the running back breaks a tackle in the backfield to get a first down to preserve the drive. That play does not show up in the box score. And more importantly, the collective will, emotion and momentum of a team does not show up in the box score. Call it synergy, magic or just plain teamwork, football has an elusive quality that can't be duplicated by any other sport. And minimizing a game to a stat sheet neuters the sport of that elusive quality and its defining feature.

Any football player's success is entirely dependent on the performance of his teammates. You cannot assess the value of a receiver based on his receiving yards from any given game. Those receiving yards are a reflection of the quarterback's accuracy, the o-line's pass protection and the running back's ability to keep the defensive secondary honest and the other receiver's ability to demand attention. No individual performance can be separated from the performance of their ten teammates on the field. And fantasy football is built upon isolating stats of individual players. And it ain't right.

I say all this in my self righteous tone and yet, the majority of people who live and die with the NFL are all over fantasy football in every office and classroom in America. They are the ones that are loudly obsessing over their line up options in the cubicle next to you. They assault you in the break room with unwanted conversation as they brag about their GM wisdom or curse Jay Cutler's underachievement. Are they all phonies? Of course not. Most people who have been swept up in the fantasy bull crap are legit, die hard fans of the game. No question. Bill Simmons for example. I read that guy's column on regularly and I wouldn't dare second guess his devotion and understanding of football fandom. And yet he never shuts up about fantasy crap. The world is big enough for fantasy fans and purists like myself. But let me offer a reason for the fantasy GM's out there to mend their ways.

Let's say you're the commissioner of three different leagues that wastes an average of 18 hours a week of office time researching and coordinating your little imaginary world. If that is who you are, I've probably pissed you off a bit with this diatribe. That's fair. There are plenty of counter arguments to most of my points and I suppose questioning a fan's love of the game cuts to the heart of the passion that makes following sports so irrational and compelling. But there is a point where I think we can agree. Fantasy Football messes with your loyalties. And is there anything more sacred to a sport's fan than their loyalty to a team?

If, for example, you love the Eagles that means that you also must hate the Cowboys. It's the law. But let's say you drafted Tony Romo for your fantasy quarterback. He was the best QB remaining in your draft and there's a thousand dollar pot for the winner of this league. You want to win the thing and at the moment you felt that overrated pantload gave you the best chance. How are you going to feel this Sunday when the Falcons have a four point lead inside of two minutes, but the Cowboy’s are driving? If you love real football more than fantasy football, then you’ll hope Romo fumbles away yet another big game. (I love watching the Cowboys lose. It never gets old.) But if you love your fantasy bullcrap more than your beloved Eagles (and reality), then you have sold your soul to the stat geek, nerd world of pseudo fandom. So instead you actually want Romo to pass for another 30 yards to salvage his QB rating. And then you hate yourself just a little bit. There should be no conflict. There should be no upside of your hated rival's success. (The same applies to gambling.) This is when you know your head is screwed up in this fantasy nonsense.

It's time to walk away. Just walk away.

One more thing. If you are one of these die hard fantasy GM guys, please keep it to yourself. No one cares about your fantasy football team. Ever. No matter how brilliant your substitution may have been, unless someone specifically asks you about it, just shut up. Seriously, it's the most nauseating conversation you can force onto the guy in the next cubicle. Well, I guess second most nauseating behind the one that starts out, "So my college buddy and I were at the strip club last night . . ."

It’s like talking about your blog. Nothing wrong with having a blog (I hope), just don’t talk to everyone about it. If someone else brings it up, fine. But don’t ever start a sentence, “So have you read my blog? I wrote yesterday about how SSSSSSHHHHHH” See that’s what happens to the person listening. Your voice turns into white noise at that point. “So I drafted both Reggie Wayne and Andre Johnson, but I could only play one of them. So I decided to SSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHH” Buddy, no one else cares. Now if you want to talk about the actual game, let’s shoot the bull. I love talking football. But the game actually happened. It was a documented event witnessed by thousands of people. You’re brilliance in managing your fantasy team exists only in the world of the hypothetical and therefore is of no value to anyone outside of that same land of make believe.

So to all the people who love the game of football but have allowed themselves to morph into a fantasy nerd, walk away. Come home and renew your original love of the greatest sport of all time.

*I recycled a few paragraphs of this from a post from last year. If you spotted it, then you need to spend your time reading something more worth while. Like say, Steinbeck. Or the back of a Cheerios box.