I'd like to say that I have something special planned for you today, given that this is the final blog entry of 2006, but unfortunately all I have is the usual end-of-the-week collection of random, relatively useless links that come along with no real redeeming value. Enjoy!
As odd as this sounds, I have mixed feelings about the latest pictures of Jessica Biel in a bikini. On one hand, she's clearly extraordinarily attractive and the fact that she's playing paddleball on a beach in the shots somehow makes it approximately 14,256 times better. On the other hand, her working out has gotten to the point that she's bordering on too muscular/manly. Of course, she could lift weights 24 hours a day for the next 10 years and still look just slightly better in a bikinithan Tara Reid.
I'll probably never be accused of being too muscular or too manly, but after losing 90 pounds this year I can only assume I'll be on the male version of this list once it's released. Or this one.
Music tends to take a backseat to about 50 different topics in this space, but here are five random albums from 2006 that I really enjoyed:
There are a lot more, of course, but those are the five albums I find myself listening to over and over again. After far too much internal debate I'm going to give Morrison's Undiscovered my album of the year, which is interesting (to me, at least) given that I was turned onto his music after reading one of Mayer's blog entries.
NBC's new late-night show, Poker After Dark, premieres on January 1. I'm already more than busy enough between baseball and football writing, shooting video reports, and doing various other work for NBCSports.com and RotoWorld, but my goal for 2007 is to somehow become involved in the poker coverage. In fact, if NBC told me I had to choose between football and poker as the second sport I'll be covering in 2007, along with baseball, I'd go with poker and not even think twice about it.
Whether or not I ever get a chance to meet the lovely Shana Hiatt or even the not-so-lovely Mike Matusow, I'm genuinely excited about a late-night poker show airing six days each week, all year long. And yes, I realize I sound like a complete shill for NBC saying that, but it's true. I am able to keep my infatuation with poker relatively quiet because there's not much money in writing about it and I'm not all that good playing it, but I'd be glad to bore you with bad-beat stories if given the chance.
I'm waiting to make an official announcement until after the calendar flips to 2007, but (extremely not-safe-for-work) evidence like this goes a long way towards convincing me that Keeley Hazell is the right choice to become the third Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com. The door remains open for a late charge from Jenna Fischer or past title holders Jessica Alba and Elisha Cuthbert, but Hazell is definitely the leader in the clubhouse at this point.
Every once in a while I learn something so extraordinary that I can't fathom how the information has avoided being common knowledge. Soon-to-be NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson's wife is named ... wait for it ... LaTorsha. That's right, LaDainian and LaTorsha Tomlinson. Seriously, what are the odds? Given the staggering amount of useless information television announcers bombard viewers with, how does this not get mentioned at least a half-dozen times during every Chargers game?
Oh, and here's the kicker: According to LaTorsha, "The girlfriend before me was LaKeisha."
Even after watching a series marathon this week I still have no idea who the star, Rob Dyrdek, is and the show does a better job of being about nothing than Seinfeld, yet for some reason I find MTV's Rob & Big absolutely fascinating. I've only seen a half-dozen episodes or so, but I'm convinced that Christopher "Big Black" Boykin is among the greatest handful of characters in the long and storied history of reality television.
I'm generally of the opinion that Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune does a good job, especially compared to Minnesota's other sports columnists, but I had to laugh when I got to the end of his column about Tarvaris Jackson's first start. After going out of his way to paint Jackson's outing as disastrous--when in reality he had little chance to succeed and made just one major mistake--Reusse concluded by saying he "played the worst game a Vikings quarterback ever has played."
Jackson's final numbers were indeed ugly, but there's just no way that's possible. He went into Lambeau Field in horrible weather, played a team with a relatively good pass defense while having perhaps the league's worst receivers at his disposal, had defensive linemen in his face all night, and still committed exactly one turnover. I understand that newspapers and their columnists feel the need to write controversial things, but I typically think of Reusse as beyond that kind of silly hyperbole.
Speaking of the Star Tribune, it was announced this week that it's been sold to "a private equity firm" called Avista Capital Partners. The thing that stood out to me about the sale is that the Star Tribune was purchased for $1.3 billion eight years ago, yet was sold for $530 million this week. I've made my thoughts on the newspaper industry clear here many times in the past, so suffice it to say that it doesn't surprise me one bit that a major newspaper is worth a fraction of what it was less than a decade ago.
My initial reaction to the news was to gloat a bit, which I tend to do when the subject of print media's decline comes up around here, but the truth is that I find the situation far more intriguing than gloatworthy. I know quite a few people involved with the Star Tribune, both on the writing and editorial levels, and my impression has always been that it was among the few truly successful newspapers in the country financially.
If that's true--and I'm just going by what I've been told by people who seemingly should know such things--then it says some awfully damning things about the industry as a whole that the sale price has plummeted so far in eight years. I have no idea what direction the new leadership will take, but I'm not confident that they'll be able to reverse what is now a pretty steady decline in readership, profits, and influence, both at the Star Tribune and in the newspaper business overall.
In fact, unless and until the people running newspapers cease clinging to their out-dated, misguided beliefs about the industry, I think the decline will continue to pick up speed. I've said that before plenty of times, in any numbers of different ways, but one of the Star Tribune's articles on the sale quoted the president of a merger-and-acquisition firm named Robert Broadwater, who summarized my position better than I typically do:
News stories are available for free online, so why would anyone pay for a newspaper subscription, Broadwater said. The Internet has also fragmented the newspaper audience, setting the industry on the course taken by television 50 years ago when the nightly variety show was slowly replaced by a plethora of channels and programs appealing to individual tastes, Broadwater said.
"You no longer have this monolithic claim of all of the news that's fit to print comes in one package to your doorstep," Broadwater said.
I read the Star Tribune each day online, scanning the front page for interesting items before diving into the sports section, but I haven't read a physical, paper copy of the newspaper regularly for years. To me, the Star Tribune isn't the news delivered to my doorstep in a plastic bag, it's just one of countless websites with stuff that's worth reading. That's an important distinction on a number of crucial levels, and one most people in the newspaper business need to discover before it's too late.
All this time I figured I was being smart buddying up to the Star Tribune's LaVelle E. Neal III by naming him the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, but perhaps it was the other way around. After all, if things get really ugly there under new management, I'm pretty sure I can get LEN3 an interview with the decision-makers over at NBCSports.com. Luckily for Jim Souhan, he can always go back to doing his Shecky act while telling a half-empty comedy club to enjoy the veal and tip their waitress.
My RotoWorld column earlier this week included a mention of how much I enjoyed Dwight Smith's quote about whether or not he's happy to see the Vikings' disappointing season come to an end, but many of you probably don't read that regularly and it's worth repeating anyway:
I'm never glad for a season to end. That means no more checks, and I can't be violent without getting in trouble.
For those of you wondering, Smith was arrested for allegedly having sex in a public stairwell earlier this season, has been benched several times for disciplinary reasons, and has a history of problems with guns. That admittedly sounds bad, but I believe he qualifies for sainthood in coach Brad Childress' "Culture of Accountability." (Thank you! Enjoy the veal and tip your waitress.)
Last but not least, I can't possibly let the year end without saying thank you to everyone who has supported this blog over the past 12 months. I can honestly say that 2006 was the best year of my life, and this blog and the people who read it are huge reasons why. I have little idea what 2007 holds in store for me, although I already know of some very exciting possibilities, but at the very least I know that if 2007 is anything like 2006 I'll be one happy blogger come next December.
Thank you for giving me a life in writing. It's all I ever wanted and it's all I'll ever need. See ya in 2007.
While we were discussing Brad Radke's retirement last week, Will Young tipped me off to the fact that Radke once appeared on Howard Stern's radio show. Being perhaps the single most rabid Stern fan in the state of Minnesota--he hasn't been on the radio here for at least a half-dozen years and only lasted a couple years when he was on locally--I looked up the date of Radke's appearance and found the CD of that month within my vast collection of shows. Seriously.
It turns out that Radke appeared on August 1, 1997, along with backup catcher Greg Myers and the team's assistant athletic trainer (whose identity was never revealed beyond "Jimmy"). The Twins were in New York to play a three-game series against the Yankees, which explains Radke's presence, and Radke was 11 games into a historic 12-game winning streak, which explains why Stern had a relatively unknown pitcher from a small-market team on the show despite having almost zero interest in sports.
After announcing that "the Minnesota Twins" were about to stop by--not such a stretch, given that Radke won 20 games for a team that went 45-82 when he didn't start--Stern tells sidekick Robin Quivers that perhaps the players will help offset the number of women who get undressed in the studio by showing her "their athletic asses." Stern then says Radke and Myers asked to come on the show because they're big fans, despite Stern's show being relatively new in Minnesota at the time.
When the three guys come into the studio, Stern incredulously asks the trainer, "You're a ballplayer?" When told that no, he's a trainer, Stern responds, "Yeah, you didn't look like a ballplayer to me." He then clarifies the situation by saying, "You're the guy who gets the towels, right?" After unsuccessfully trying to convince Radke and Myers to undress for Quivers, Stern informs the audience that they are "a couple of good-looking jocks" who "look like male models."
After Radke and Myers meekly introduce themselves, producer Gary Dell'Abate informs everyone that "Brad is on a major roll right now ... he's one of the first 15-game winners and he's won 11 games in a row." Dell'Abate then opines that Radke "will probably be a 20-game winner," to which Stern responds, "Gary, man, you're so homo for both players." Dell'Abate responds that it's "my job to know" before Quivers asks if seeing Radke and Myers in person is "as good as bare breasts for you, Gary?"
In an effort to break the ice, Stern tells Radke, "You should see me pitch, man, I suck." He goes on to tell a story about how the only time he ever played catch with his father as a kid resulted in Stern's first throw "hit[ting] him in the nuts ... and that was it." Stern tells Radke that whenever he tries to play catch now, his shoulder hurts, and then asks, "Doesn't your shoulder hurt after you pitch?" Radke replies, "You better believe it does." Nearly a decade later, shoulder problems ended Radke's career.
When told Radke is married and Myers isn't, Stern asks if there are "a lot of groupies, especially when you're on a roll?" The trainer says, "Nah, not really," to which Quivers yells out, "Not really?! Not for the assistant athletic whatever!" Stern adds in, "Yeah, look who's answering!" Stern then tells Quivers she should "date a baseball player" because "it's like a modeling agency in here." Always nose-obsessed, Stern then asks if they've "had nose jobs or something?"
Stern asks how they're in such good shape, at which point Myers says it's because they have good trainers. Stern quickly turns to the trainer and says, "Then how come you don't have a good physique?" After Stern asks again about how much his arm hurts after pitching, Radke says, "Oh yeah, I pitched three days ago and it's still killing me." He then laments that he has to spend "about six months" each year like this. As expected, Stern then turns the discussion to sex, leading to this exchange:
Stern: Seriously, when you're with your wife, on top of her, doesn't it hurt? I'm talking about your shoulder.
Radke: I try and stay off of it.
Stern: Oh, you try and stay on your back? Is your wife a stripper or something?
Garnering little response from Radke, Sterns tries a slightly different line of questioning:
Stern: You met a nice girl, a Christian girl?
Radke: Um, yeah. She's pretty nice looking.
Stern: She does everything?
Radke: Yeah, everything I say. [laughter]
Quivers changes the topic, asking, "How are the Minnesota Twins doing this season?" Myers chimes in to say that "we're like in fourth, fourth place ... about eight games back." Stern briefly discusses the Yankees' playoff chances and then says, "I mean, I wish you guys luck too, but it doesn't look so good for you." He tells them "there's always next season" and then asks Radke, "Isn't it a bitch, when you win 11 games in a row and the team can't even follow through on it?"
Stern, Quivers, and Dell'Abate then have a discussion about Radke's contract situation, with everyone marveling at how little a third-year player makes ("who negotiated your contract, Jackie Martling?"). Stern tells him it might be best "not to play so damned hard" and advises him to avoid hunting, gardening, and various other activities involving the use of his arm, showing he has some semblance of sports knowledge by evoking the names Monty Stratton, Bob Ojeda, and Brien Taylor.
"Well, I do a lot of fishing," Radke offers. Noticing that Radke and Myers are doing little besides adding a random "yeah" or "uh huh" to the conversation, Stern says, "You guys are like hypnotized by me, you can't even talk." They then have the following exchange, which involved the most talk from Radke during the entire interview:
Stern: Brad, you seem kind of young to be getting married. How old are you?
Quivers: And how long have you been married?
Radke: Almost three years.
Quivers: Good lord.
Stern: Oh man. Getting a little itchy, are we?
Radke: Uh ... I don't know about that. [laughter]
Stern: I say he's got another year on his marriage. Got kids?
Radke: Yep, one.
Stern: Boy, you're roped in. What, did you meet her in college?
Radke: No, one of my sister's best friends. She's about a year older than I am.
Stern: When you're a great ballplayer, don't you know that there are going to be plenty of fish in the sea? I got married at 24, but I didn't know I was going to be anything. I just figured I'd be a big ugly guy the rest of my life. [laughter]
Quivers: Where are you from?
Radke: From Florida.
Stern: Oh, that's why. Back there, you boys take a while to grow up. You don't realize what's out there.
Radke: Yeah, I guess.
Stern: You marry the first good-looking girl you see.
That train gets derailed when Myers tells Stern that he's divorced after eight years of marriage. Stern asks how he broke the news to his wife, but Myers says he "found out a few things ... found out a few things here and there." "Really?" Stern asks, presuming that Myers meant his wife was cheating on him. "Good-looking guy like you?" The conversation quickly turns to the sexual exploits of Mark Whiten and Luis Polonia, both of whom had been in the news recently.
Stern asks Radke if he's pitching in New York and, after being told that he's not, says, "So you just sit there and watch the games?" Myers confirms that, saying, "He's only a starter. He doesn't do anything." The interview then wraps up with this exchange:
Stern: Just watch your arm, man.
Radke: I'll be laying on my back most of the time. [laughter]
Stern: Oh, excellent. You brought the wife with you?
Radke: Yeah, she's here.
Stern: Is she here today?
Radke: She was going to come in here, but she might be a little hungover. [laughter]
Stern: Oh, that's nice. It's good to get her drunk. When you go cheat on her, she won't know anything happened.
As Radke, Myers, and the assistant athletic trainer leave the studio, Stern continues to marvel over how good-looking they are, saying Radke looks "like a manly man" and Myers looks "like a marine," but "I look like a woman." Offering the final word on the interview, Quivers says, "When guys like that leave, women say, 'You know there was a man here.'" Eight days later, after Radke beats the Blue Jays for his 12th straight win, the Yankees snap his streak with a 4-1 win at the Metrodome.