Don’t Buy Into the Negativity Surrounding Stadium Food

ESPN, on their website today, has an article warning everyone of the things you may find in the kitchens at ballparks across the country. Mice, roaches, grime, and other nasty collateral ingredients that may end up in your ballpark meal. Guess what, the 5-star restaurant down the street has this too. Of this, I can assure you. Let’s break this down and really look at what we’re getting into here.

First of all, if you’re headed to a baseball game with culinary quality in mind, you’re insane. It’s all about hot dogs and beer for the most part. Throw that heat lamped wiener on a stale bun and give it to me. I’ll chase it down with this absurdly overpriced room temperature beer and be the happiest person in the park. Now, don’t get me started on the helmet nachos. I want to meet the guy who decided to take a replica batting helmet, throw some nachos in it, add some cheese, ground beef, and jalapenos, only to be topped by more of the same in multiple layers and shake that guy’s hand. God bless you sir; or ma’am. That, my friends, is the kind of exquisite dining I can relate to.

Ballparks across the country have their own local flavor as well. We’ve all seen the stories that come out at the beginning of each season boasting a ridiculous combination of grub with an outrageous caloric level that we just HAVE to try. One of the favorites at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati is the SkyRosa. For the unaware, this concoction is a must for all foodies and stadium goers. You take a slice of LaRosa’s pizza and place a Skyline coney on top. You fold it up and chow down. Shortly thereafter, you realize that this wonderful, glorious mesh of local favorites is pure heaven. You realize that, yes, God really does love us and wants us to be happy. About 7 innings later, you want another one.

Every team, every stadium, has their own version of the SkyRosa. It’s ridiculous, it’s unhealthy. It’s wonderful. It turns a simple baseball game into more of an experience. You’ll see complete strangers bonding over a 3,747 calorie lunch while watching a game in 94 degree heat, totally unaware that a visit to the ER is just a few more calories away. But damn, that stuff is good. One more cold beer to wash it down and we’re all set, right?

MLB Moves

As the MLB winter meetings heat up, some teams are starting to define the direction they are heading in for the 2019 season. Along with a few sellers/rebuilders, we have teams that are signing key players to fill holes currently on their respective rosters. There were no huge signings yesterday, as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado remain unsigned, but we still saw teams vastly improve.

Lance Lynn signed a 3 year, $30M contract with the Rangers. Lynn has been solid since he came into the league and will definitely help bolster this rotation. It seems to me that they maybe paid a little too much for him, but that could also just reflect the market. We’ll see how that goes as these meetings go on. Charlie Morton is another pitcher that reaped the benefits of teams needing starting pitching. The Rays signed him to a 2 year, $30M contract. Morton has been good at times, unreliable at others, throughout his career. This seems like a very risky move; one that could backfire. If he stays healthy and can harness the success we’ve seen at times, then the Rays will look pretty smart.

The Cincinnati Reds added a much needed pitcher to their rotation when they traded for the Washington Nationals’ Tanner Roark. He’s an innings eater, has a good strikeout percentage, and an ERA just over 4.00. How he fares in hitter friendly Great American Ballpark will be interesting to watch. J. A. Happ was added to the already impressive New York Yankees staff. Although there are rumors that the Yankees plan to move Sonny Gray, this rotation is still top notch. Jeurys Familia returned to the Mets on a 3 year deal. I’ve said it here before, I’ll reiterate it now; closers are largely overrated and teams pay too much for them. There are exceptions, but I feel most teams could find someone to get 3 outs without emptying their bank accounts.

Andrew McCutchen is looking to find the success he’s had in the past, but this time in Philadelphia. Watch out for the Phillies this season. They made a lot of noise last year and will look to improve on that as they have their eyes on the postseason. This team is young, they’re talented, and they’re hungry after tasting success last year. McCutchen will give them that veteran with a good locker room presence that this young team needs.

In a couple minor moves, Jordy Mercer signed a 1 year deal with the Detroit Tigers and Justin Bour signed with the Angels. Mercer brings versatility and experience to the Tigers. It’s not a superstar signing, but it’s a good move for this team. Justin Bour, let’s face it, is there to take over for the aging Albert Pujols. As much as I hate typing that, it’s true. We never like to see the greats on the downside of their Hall of Fame caliber careers. Pujols’ numbers have been on the decline and the Angels brought in Bour to share time with him and ultimately take over. I don’t know how many more seasons or games Pujols will play, but I know I’m going to watch him every chance I get. He is truly one of the greats.

We have so many more trades and signings to look forward to before the season begins. Harper is looking to contend, so he will be picky where he signs. Machado was born for the bright lights, so expect New York, Chicago, Los Angeles; a city where he can be on the grandest stage of them all. I’d be surprised at anything less.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside, Rudolph, and More Pussification of America

Aahhhh, here we are again. We’re at the crossroads of normal, American traditions and those uptight people who can’t wait to wake up each morning in order to invent something to be offended about. The latest victims in this laughable ‘atrocity’ are Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the song Baby, It’s Cold Outside. If you haven’t heard these stories yet, I promise you I’m not making them up.

I’ll start off by saying this, and I mean it from the bottom of my heart; if you’re offended by words, you need to fix your life. You need help; serious, medical help. There is no one on God’s green earth (odd saying since it’s mostly blue) that is good enough to offend me with words coming out of their mouth. No one. Much less a song or a children’s Christmas cartoon.

Here’s the beef with Rudolph, as these offended ones have professed. The cartoon promotes bullying and verbal abuse. I’m dead serious, that’s their take on this Christmas classic. I’ve watched this show so many times I can’t count. I watched it as a kid, I watched it with my kids. Not one time have I ever thought it promoted bullying. Not once was I suddenly worried that I may be bullied because of it. Not once did I think that bullying others was an option. Want to know what I got out of it? I saw a reindeer, albeit an odd one, rise above the opinions of others, succeeding, and gaining confidence along the way. And guess what, in the end, he gets the girl. This is a story of coming to terms with who you are, accepting yourself, and rising above all the critics to toot your own horn. It’s beautiful, it’s wonderful, it’s inspiring. It’s not about bullying. Trust me.

Let’s talk about a wonderful Christmas song now. Baby, It’s Cold Outside is a song about the flirtatious endeavors of a man trying to gain the affections of a girl. The song even won an Oscar for best original song in 1949. Now, in 2018, the Pound Me Too movement has decided that we’ve been listening to a song promoting date rape culture for almost 70 years. Yes, they really think that. Right when I think we couldn’t stoop any lower on an intellectual scale…….boom, there it is. Radio stations have even pulled the song under pressure. Who the hell listens to radio anymore? Alexa, play Baby, It’s Cold Outside. I win.

It has gone too far, guys. Way too far. I’ll say this, and stand by it too; if you believe this song should be banned, or if you think Rudolph promotes bullying, I’m better than you. I’m better, I’m smarter, and I’m one hell of a lot more fun at parties than you are.

Merry Christmas!

The Crosstown Shootout: Xavier vs UC

This Saturday, December 8th, the Xavier Musketeers and the Cincinnati Bearcats will face each other for the 86th time. This game is one that has the entire city of Cincinnati buzzing each year. City pride is on the line, national rankings are often affected. The 2 schools, just 3 miles apart, harbor a hatred towards each other that quite often spills onto the court. Punches have been thrown, coaches have angrily engaged each other; it’s a beautiful rivalry.

UC currently leads the series 50-35. This is largely due to a stretch from 1957 through 1979 where they won 22 of 24. In more recent years, Xavier has won 15 of the last 22 games. You can throw rankings out the window when these 2 teams play. Throw aside expectations and speculation because this becomes an all out war on the court. It’s a can’t miss type of game for the entire Cincinnati area.

In most years, these teams face each other with both teams being nationally ranked. That’s not the case this year as they will both be more along the lines of a middle of the pack team. Cincinnati lost some key players after last season while Xavier saw Chris Mack pack his bags and head to Louisville. Not to discredit Travis Steele, I think he will be great for the program. As we all know, it takes a season or 2 for a new coach to get his guys in and get them to adapt to his style of coaching. Xavier will be fine long term.

So what does this mean for the city? It means a lot of conversation, a lot of excitement. It also means smack talk on social media along with an unbelievable amount of ridiculousness thrown in too. Most of the banter I see comes from the UC crowd. They seem to think they have an edge over Xavier because they’ve been to a Final 4. Right, it happened over 25 years ago, but they seem to forget the details. They have been, are, and will continue to be irrelevant until changes are made. They play in a weak conference and have an incompetent coach. This is coming from a fan of both teams, by the way.

Xavier has been on the rise over the last several years. The coaching change will stall that for a year or so, but I believe the pieces are still in place for them to make a difference going forward. For this season though, they’re every bit as irrelevant as UC is. Both teams may make the tournament, but I see an early exit for both. With that in mind, this game becomes even more important. This is the game that matters, the one game that will give some semblance of bragging rights to this season.

This game is sponsored by Skyline Chili each year and they do an absolutely incredible job of promoting it on the local level. They usually have Crosstown Shootout merchandise available in their restaurants. And really delicious food, I might add. As a matter of fact, I think I’ve already talked my self into my lunch choice today.

The game will be on ESPN2 at 2:00 this Saturday. If you’re a fan of college basketball, especially rivalries, you want to tune in to this one. It rarely disappoints. Go Bearcats, Go X.

 

NFL Playoff Hunt & MVP Race

We are currently 13 weeks (12 games) into the 2018 NFL season. With 4 weeks left, there are still quite a few questions that need to be answered. Who finishes strong? Who fades? Does anyone make a late push to surprise everyone? We will see the playoff picture take shape slowly each week going forward. We’ll also see players emerge in the MVP race. In my opinion, it’s still wide open with 6 valid candidates and a couple dark horses. Buckle up down the stretch, folks.

In the AFC, the current division leaders are the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans, and Kansas City Chiefs. The Pats, it would seem, should cruise to another division title. In the North, the Steelers and their very suspect defense, are being chased by the Baltimore Ravens. The Texans are riding a 9 game winning streak right now with no sign of slowing down. Out in the West, the we should see a tight race with the Los Angeles Chargers chasing the Chiefs. The Chargers are giving the Chiefs no breathing room while they attempt to re-establish their running game after the Kareem Hunt fiasco. They have an explosive offense, but the running game was out of sync last week.

As for the AFC Wild Card, the Chargers and Ravens are currently holding those spots. The Chargers are all but mathematically in as long as they don’t collapse. There are 4 teams sitting at 6-6 that need a late push to try and knock the Ravens out. The Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, and Tennessee Titans will all be looking to do exactly that. The next 4 weeks should provide us with some great football as this unfolds.

The NFC has its share of races as well. Current division leaders are the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, and the Los Angeles Rams. The Cowboys will be in a fight with both the Eagles and the Redskins for division dominance. The Eagles have seemed out of sync all season. Super Bowl hangover? The Redskins are down to their 3rd QB. Dallas just needs to stay focused and keep winning. The Bears have a small cushion in the North while the Saints and Rams are on cruise control in their respective divisions. The Rams have already clinched the West and now look to lock up home field advantage.

The NFC Wild Card has us looking at the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings. Both teams have been hot and cold all season. They look like a playoff team one week, then a rebuilding team the next. The Seahawks have been more consistent of late though. With 3 teams right behind them at 6-6, they’ll need consistency over the next 4 weeks. The Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins are all looking to disrupt the playoff picture and trying to slide into one of the spots. I don’t see it happening for Washington though, not with their injuries. The Eagles’ best bet may be to overtake the Cowboys and win the division.

In the MVP race, I see 6 players that stand out. Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Jared Goff, Philip Rivers, Todd Gurley, and James Conner. Each of these players have been vital to their team’s success and have put up astounding numbers. If I had to pick one today, it would be Todd Gurley, with Mahomes, Rivers, and Brees right behind him. You can’t count out Conner and Goff though. What happens over the next 4 weeks could throw the proverbial wrench into this whole race. I also see 2 rookies who are making a splash and may get some votes. Saquon Barkley and Philip Lindsay are both putting up incredible numbers. I highly doubt they have a chance to win, but the future is bright for these guys.

Each year, it seems the football season goes by too fast. The college game is already heading into bowl season while we’re preparing for the playoffs in the NFL. As we near the end, it’s best to just make sure we can watch as much of it as possible. Once the clock runs out in the Super Bowl, we have to wait almost 7 months to enjoy football again. Yes, I know, that’s really sad.

And Then There Were 4

Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma. I feel the committee got it right. Social media has been buzzing with opinions since the playoff teams were announced yesterday afternoon. Angry Ohio State and Georgia fans threw their 2 cents into the ring. UCF fans continued to voice their disdain over the decisions made by the committee. Fans of the 4 teams that made it rejoiced, both in real life and on Twitter. Oh yeah, they started the smack talk too. To say that all of it wasn’t classy or just fun and games would be a gross understatement.

How does it all break down? It was largely an easy decision, if we’re being honest. The top 3 seeds were a given. Each of them was undefeated, 2 of which did so in a Power 5 conference. Notre Dame, an Independent, is an historical program that never really plays an easy schedule. They belong as well. The controversy came when deciding who the 4th team should be, or, as most of us assume, who gets the opportunity to be trounced by Alabama on national TV.

You had Ohio State, Oklahoma, Georgia, and UCF all getting attention here. Let’s start with the easy one to toss aside, with all due respect. UCF has had 2 undefeated seasons in a row now, albeit in a weak conference. Going undefeated in any conference is impressive, regardless of strength. I just don’t see how anyone could put them in the 4 spot with a clear conscience though. If we had an 8 team playoff, they’re in, no doubt. Not under the current system. If they beat LSU in their bowl game, like they beat Auburn last season, then the argument goes next level and the NCAA would have no choice but to push for an 8 team format.

Georgia is automatically out too, and here’s why. The playoff is designed to find out who the best team in the country is. Bama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and Ohio State have not played each other this season. Georgia has played Alabama. They lost. It is already clear to everyone that they are not the best team in the country. I think they are better than Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Oklahoma, but it’s irrelevant when you know they’re not the best. That outcome was settled on the field, as it should be.

That leaves us with Oklahoma and Ohio State. These 2 teams are essentially the same team. Both have explosive offenses, both have a sieve for a defense. They also both had only 1 loss this season. That’s where the similarities end. Where Ohio State got trounced by a mediocre Purdue team, Oklahoma lost to Texas, a loss which they avenged in the Big 12 Championship game. When you consider that, Oklahoma gets in over OSU by a slight margin. Beth Mowins had a great idea that I saw her post on Twitter. Let those 2 play a play-in game for the 4th seed. Imagine how many would tune in. And if the NCAA is paying attention………imagine the money that could be generated. The almighty dollar would win again, but so would the fans.

After the bowls are played, the 20/20 hindsight hot takes will be flooding social media. Armchair experts will tell you that they told you all along even though they never really told anyone all along. Prepare yourself for the ‘I must have deleted the tweet’ excuses from these hacks. These are the same people that use ‘we’ when talking about their team, at least until they lose. Then it becomes ‘they’ fairly quickly. Unless you’re on the field making plays, just root for your team and try not to become the keyboard warrior that we all loathe.

Bowl season starts in less than 2 weeks. Let’s enjoy the last of this beloved game, prepare ourselves for the Super Bowl, and before you know it, pitchers and catchers will report. Life is beautiful, folks.

The NFL and Domestic Violence

Here we go again. Another NFL player is caught on tape beating a woman. When does this stop? Why is it even happening? Although we’ve seen many cases of this over the last few years, I’m going to talk about the ones that seem to be at the forefront; the ones that people are comparing to each other. Despite their similarities, each of them have their differences as well. Kareem Hunt, Joe Mixon, and Ray Rice.

Some of the things I’ll bring up may not be something you agree on. I’ll also talk out of both sides of my mouth at some point. Issues like these are not easy to talk about, nor is there a right or wrong opinion on some of the finer points. One thing is clear to everyone though, or at least I hope. Don’t hit women. It’s that easy. While you’re at it, don’t put yourself in a position where you think that might be an option. Live your life in a way¬† that removes this type of controversy.

Kareem Hunt was captured on video in an altercation that took place in a hotel in Cleveland this past February. The video was originally described as brutal. It was bad, but I think that’s exaggerated a bit. The worst hit she took was when another man was shoved into her. Why Hunt kicked her when she was on the ground is something I’ll never understand. Was he asserting his dominance or is he just stupid? Hunt’s side claims she dropped ethnic slurs and hit him first. There is no video or audio proof of that though. The NFL, upon seeing the video, immediately put him on the exempt list. They are now also investigating an incident from June where he punched a man in the face. The Chiefs released him as soon as they saw the video. Most critics of the handling of this entire fiasco are blaming the Chiefs because they knew about it when it happened. In their defense, they tried on 2 occasions to acquire the video. The hotel refused to release it to them because they weren’t law enforcement. The Cleveland police refused to let them view it as well. The Kansas City Chiefs’ hands are clean, in my opinion.

On to Joe Mixon now. Right before he was drafted, a video surfaced that showed him knocking a woman out. What was clear in the video was the woman arguing and then hitting him. According to witnesses, she also spit on him and called him an ethnic slur. Unlike the Hunt incident, Mixon’s was a reactionary response by a teenager. I’m not condoning what he did, I’m just saying it’s different from leaving a hotel room and deliberately kicking someone. The similarity here is the use of the almighty n-bomb by the victims. Hot take alert, I hope you’re sitting down. The black community tosses this word around like it’s a common noun. If you use the word, you simply cannot be offended by it. That’s called being a hypocrite. If you want the word to go away, stop using it yourself. It’s an ugly word, a hateful word. It has no place in society. I don’t care if you use it as a reference to a friend or if you’re singing a song; stop using it. No defense you could muster can possibly sway me on this.

Ray Rice was all but officially banned from the NFL after his video surfaced. I doubt many are complaining about it either. It was brutal, it was savage, it was disgusting. He severely physically abused his fiancé and dragged her down a hallway. There is nothing he could say that could defend his actions. Nothing. This is also where the NFL initially dropped the ball on these matters. They had seen the video and simply did nothing. Strides have been made since then to clean up the league regarding domestic violence, but this was a bad look.

Here’s the bottom line, like I mentioned earlier; stop putting yourself in these situations. Now to play devil’s advocate, what if Hunt or Mixon had punched a man? Would we still be talking about it? If I put myself in Mixon’s shoes, and someone spit on me and hit me, I’m swinging regardless of what plumbing God has bestowed upon you. You don’t act like that, men or women. Yes, you shouldn’t hit women, you shouldn’t hit anyone. But there are lines that get crossed where all of our social mores get thrown out the window. In Hunt’s case, whether the person was male or female, he had every opportunity, or so it seems, to remove himself from the situation. He didn’t, though. He engaged, and therein lies the problem.

We’ll see in the next couple of days whether or not any team claims Kareem Hunt. It would be risky and the team would get dragged through the media mud. You can rest assured that more details will come out. How they affect Kareem Hunt and the whole case in general remains to be seen. This much is obvious; Kareem Hunt has some issues that he needs to deal with. He needs to get help if he wants to play football again. But more importantly, he needs to help himself on a personal level.