Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Greatest Sports Movies in the History of the World (Part 1)

When I think of sports movies, I often times think of the absolutely atrocious ones first.  Any Given Sunday, The Replacements, and Balboa are a few stink bombs that I can think of off the top of my head.  I know if I spent a little more time on it however, the list would be far greater.  The reason for this is that Hollywood is not composed of sports minded people.  Think about it, how many athletes at your old high school were also the leads in the school play?  How many of the movie industry’s leading men top 5’7 or weigh in over a buck seventy-five?  How many of the best directors watch Pardon the Interruption on a daily basis?  How many starlets could tell you the difference between a wide receiver and a tight end without thinking about what goes down in San Fernando Valley?  I’m going to guess the answer to all those questions is somewhere between zero and very few.  As a result, we have to suffer through movies like The Scout and Sunset Park in hopes that we find that rare needle in a haystack like Hoosiers.
All hope is not lost though.  On rare occasions, someone strikes gold and restores our faith in the sports genre.  In these instances, I am like a kid in a candy store because two of my favorite hobbies, sports and movies have perfectly combined into one.  What follows is my take on the greatest sports movies of all time.  It is supported by personal opinion, childish ramblings, and gratuitous use of not so good analogies.  Box office numbers, script analysis, awards, film critic reviews, and other facts were not taken into account for fear of sounding biased.  You’re Welcome.     

10.  Rudy

Good Despite Notre Dame Factor
I can’t believe that I am putting this in my top ten due to my proclivity for hating everything about the Notre Dame mystique and for how much most Domers annoy me.  Yet the story of Rudy, if you take the University of Notre Dame out of it and sub in say…………any other school, is a good one.  An undersized, un-athletic, and unintelligent kid beats all odds to play (well, mostly run scout team) for one of the most storied college football programs of the 20th century.  He does this through sheer guts, determination, and his magic hobbit powers (Wait no, that’s a different Sean Astin flick).  In doing so, Rudy is able to inspire all white, 5’8, hundred and nothing linebackers, that their dreams of playing D1 college football could in fact be a reality for a solid thirty seconds, if they are able to get enough people to feel sorry for them and if they are willing to let their brains get beat in on a daily basis.
The Hollywood FactorFrom what I heard, Dan Ruettiger was a typical, annoying, overbearing walk-on, who everyone on the team actually despised.  Even Joe Montana (a key member of the team that Rudy played on), claimed that Rudy was considered a joke, as opposed to the inspirational figure that the movie makes him out to be.  Hollywood decided to portray “Rudy” in a different light, but we all know what the real Rudiger must have been like.  He is the guy who probably went one hundred and ten percent during half-speed walk-throughs to make the starters look bad.  He is the type of guy who would dive after a ball that he had absolutely zero chance of getting (mainly because he is a half step too slow) in hopes of having some praise dropped on him from a coach or two.  And he is most definitely the guy who wore Notre Dame Football gear EVERYWHERE he went both during his college years and forty years after so that everyone would know that he played for the Irish.

The Vaughn and Favreau angleWithout this movie, John Favreau and Vince Vaughn (who had a small role) may have never met and we would not have the privilege to see one the greatest comedies of all time, Swingers.  We also may be without one of the most underrated comedies of all time, The Break-Up.  Who knows, maybe without this chance meeting on set and without the success of Swingers, the career of Vaughn takes a completely different path, leaving him as a slightly coked up extra in LA as opposed to an extremely coked up leading man who gave us Old School and Wedding Crashers.  Both the movie and narcotic industry just wouldn’t be the same without Rudy, and thus why it was able to sneak into the top ten.

If you like football, improved race relations, and thirty-year old actors playing high school kids, than this is the movie for you.  Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Herman Boone is one of the greatest fake coaching performances in the history of the Cinema, just behind Gene Hackman in Hoosiers and the late James Gammon in Major League.  Avon Barksdale (better known as Wood Harris), ranks right up there with Charlie Sheen for his performance as Julius on the “Wow, I bet that guy could actually play in real life” list for actors.   An added plus to this movie is that I think most men who watched it at the time struggled mightily with their desire to be a prophetic versus their aversion to not wanting to sound like total creeps.  Let me put that another way.  I guarantee that if you watched this movie with a group of guys in 2001, the following conversation took place at least once. 

Creep or Prophet #1:  “I know this is going to sound weird, but in about ten years, Coach Yost’s daughter is going to be sooooooooooo hot.”

Creep or Prophet #2:  “Dude, I was thinking the exact same thing, but thought you guys might think I was a pedophile if I said it out loud.”

Creep or Prophet #3:  “Well, we still do think that, but the thought definitely crossed my mind as a well.”   

As it turns out, the transformation of Hayden Panettiere from child star to Hollywood’s latest “it” girl in a matter of seven years, made all of you look like modern day Nostradamus’s.  But that doesn’t take away from the fact that you still look like poor mans’ Roman Polanskis as well.
Struck by Lightning Twice?:  The thing that always bothered me about Remember the Titans was the fate of star linebacker Gerry Bertier.  Towards the end of the movie, Bertier gets hit by a car and is paralyzed from the waist down.  You end up feeling absolutely sick to your stomach, even as his team rallies around him to win a state championship.  Then, a bombshell is dropped on you in the “Where are they now?” portion of the credits.  Not only was he paralyzed in high school from a car accident, but ten years later he was in another car accident and was killed by a drunk driver.  Talk about a guy who couldn’t catch a break.  That’s kind of like getting the chicken Pox twice or following up kidney disease with a dose of Pancreatic Cancer.  Pretty sure he would have traded in that Virginia state football championship for a chance to walk again and surely for a chance to live again.

This is the ultimate guy cry movie.  If you can honestly say that you did not shed a tear during this movie, then I can honestly say that you have no soul.  Brian’s Song is the story of the relationship between the late Brian Piccolo and legendary Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers.  This movie does not get a whole lot of fanfare, but it definitely belongs in the Top Ten.  If you have not seen it, I suggest you do so immediately.  If there is one thing I know, it’s that I love Brian Piccolo, and after watching this movie, I’d like to think that all of you would love him too

Am I HomerI used to think that my affinity for Brian’s Song was due to my love for the Chicago Bears.  That statement is partially true, because in all reality, they could have made a movie about the life of Bears punter Brad Maynard, staring Corey Feldman, and I probably would have thought it had Oscar potential (both for best picture and a best actor nod for Feldman).   After I forced my college buddies who had never even heard of the movie to watch it though, I realized that my biases did not get in the way of my judgment.  Their laughter, tears, and praise indicated to me that it was truly an upper echelon sports movie.

This movie taught us two things.  One, we learned to love the phrases “Show me the money”, “You’re my ambassador of Kwan”, and “You had me at hello.”  Two, we realized that Tom Cruise was not a complete wack job yet (yet being the operative word) and that he had at least another four years before completely falling off the deep end and earning that title.  While technically, this movie doesn’t  belong under the category of sports movie because let’s face it, it’s more of a love story with some sports mixed in. It is included on the list because of the true to life character that is Rod Tidwell.  Cuba Gooding clearly did his research before filming, probably spending quality time with the likes of Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, or whoever their mid-nineties prima donna wide receiver equivalents were.  Like Ocho Cinco of today’s real NFL, Tidwell was able to straddle the line of being hated and being adored better than anyone the real or pretend sports world has ever seen.  While audiences hated everything that Rod stood for, they couldn’t help but pull for him and in the end, he finally gets rewarded and shown the money, leaving moviegoers walking away happy.

Who was the Casting DirectorKi-Jana Carter made the most famous “we thought this guy was going to end up being a whole lot better than he really was” cameos in the history of sports movies.  While I understand that he was a big name at the time, the Matt Millen like foresight looks pretty funny watching the movie fourteen years later.  It would be like seeing a guest appearance of twenty year old Tiger Woods on an re-run of 7th Heaven with Revrend Cambden trying to teach his kids the importance of family values or it could maybe reach the ironic status of your son or daughter watching a sixteen year old Brittney Spears speak about the importance of saying no to drugs in an outdated video that they saw in health class.  Each of these, in hindsight, would pale in comparison to Ki-Jana being the poster boy for “star in the making” that he is made out to be in Jerry Maguire. 

Tom Hanks may have won back to back Oscars for his roles in Forrest Gump and Philadelphia, but it was his character of Jimmy Dugan that earned him the most respect from me.  Surprisingly, the baseball scenes of this movie were really well done and the whole concept of women’s baseball intrigued me throughout.  The national pastime paired with attractive women in short skirts had me wishing I was a draft dodging beer vendor or club footed Rockford Peach scoreboard attendant during the war.  Even man hating Rosie O’Donnell played a solid third base and was a perfect complement to Madonna’s less than ladylike approach to the game and the nightlife.
I pretty much enjoyed everything about this movie and thought it was both highly entertaining and educational.  It falls under the My Cousin Vinny and Shawshank Redemption category of movies I can’t turn off if I see them on TV.  Considering the fact that I think My Cousin Vinny is in the top five comedies of all time and Shawshank is a top five overall movie of all time, only ranking this movie number six on my list may seem a little low.  However, my argument would be that movies 6 through 3 are somewhat interchangeable.  Having to put them in order would be like Snoop trying to rank his favorite Hos or Drew Peterson trying to assign a grade to his best premeditated murder.  It’s impossible.  Therefore, League of Their Own comes in at number six for no other reason than it provided a perfect and unforced segue to a much needed and long overdue Drew Peterson joke.
IMDB flipped my world upside downFrom 1992 until about 2006, I thought both Dotties (old and young) and both Kits (ditto) were played by Geena Davis and Lori Petty.  I figured that they just had really good make up on to make them look old, because if you looked closely, they looked identical to the younger versions of themselves.  When I discovered IMDB (International Movie Database), I was absolutely shocked to find out that older Dottie was played by actress Lynn Cartwright and older Kit was played by actress Kathleen Butler.  Never before, during any other movie was there a similar situation in which I got duped in such a way.  While earlier, I took a shot at the casting director for Jerry Maguire for their Ki-Jana Carter gaffe, the casting director of A League of Their Own should be rewarded and recognized for finding such great matches for Davis and Petty.  What better way to do that, then give her (ELLEN LEWIS) a shout out on a world-renowned, globally read, and award winning blog like THE SOX MARKET.  Congratulations Ellen, and thanks to IMDB for providing me with this little nugget of information and also for helping me find Ellen Lewis’s name.

Stay tuned for movies 5 through 1 next week and don’t be afraid to vote on your favorite sports movie in the poll to the right.  If you are smart, you might be able figure out what will be in the top five.  If you aren’t smart, I hope you continue to eagerly wait in anticipation.

Friday, September 24, 2010

College Football Blows

Most sports fanatics are in heaven every Saturday during the months of September to early January.  Starting with an 11:00 am SEC clash pitting Arkansas vs. Georgia and ending with a late-night Stanford-Wake Forest west coast shootout, college football took over the lives of millions of Americans last weekend, as it does on most weekends during the intercollegiate season.  Whether it be because of alma mater pride, an unresolved gambling addiction, the party atmosphere, or simply the love for the game, stadiums were sold out, bars were packed, and couches were occupied all across the country to watch a bunch of “college” kids battle it out on the gridiron.  I on the other hand, chose to pass, like I do on most weekends, because quite frankly, college football simply doesn’t do it for me. 

Don't get the Angelina Craze
Does that make me less of a sports fan?  Maybe, but I’d argue that it speaks more to my selectivity and picky nature than my reputation as a sports enthusiast.   While most full-blooded American straight males between the ages of 0 and 100 are highly attracted to someone like Angelina Jolie, I can’t get over her awful tattoos, mediocre face, and her overall creepiness.  Even her phenomenal body can’t overcome her imperfections that permeate my thoughts every time I see her on the cover of US weekly with Shiloh, Maddox, Pax and the rest of her crew (By the way, I think we can all agree that her choice of names does little to help her on the creepiness front).  Similarly, while there are definitely some attributes of college football that I find appealing, I simply can’t bring myself to watch it because of all the inherent flaws that ruin it for me.  Just like your Billy-Bobs and Brads of the world have been blinded by Jolie’s assets, college football fans are lost in their own sport’s paradise.  Luckily, I’m here to help them learn the error in their ways and get them to realize that they could be doing much more productive things with their Saturdays.

Don’t get me wrong, I love pro football.  Each Sunday, I am glued to the TV set to watch my beloved Bears and coach up my fantasy roster to the best of my ability.  It’s probably my third favorite sport to watch, just behind pro baseball and college basketball (In case you were interested, here is my list: MLB, college basketball, NFL, NBA, NHL, ATP, PGA, college baseball, FIFA Worldcup, PBA, Gymnastics, college football).  So for those of you who thought my beef with college football was based on a lack of interest in the sport itself, you just got got to the degree of Wallace in Season 1 of The Wire (By the way, if you have not already done so, you should watch every episode of The Wire.  If you are disappointed, contact me, and I will write you a 3-page personal letter of apology).

The Gator Mugshot
One of the biggest reasons that I hate college football is because of the lack of name to face recognition of the players.  Of course most of the Heisman candidates are recognizable by casual fans, but for the most part, an overwhelming majority of the other guys couldn’t be picked out of a police line-up.  Unless, you are a Florida Gator, in which case, you’ve proven yourself to be easily identifiable in a police line-up.  For all the other non-delinquent “student-athletes” however, you’re hidden by the tool that is meant to protect you the most, but serves more to shield you from society; your helmet.  While college basketball fans could identify the location of Kyle Singler’s latest pimple or which team leads the nation in total squiggly lines in their hair, the only way you’re going to be able to differentiate between a linebacker from Tennessee and a tight end from Nebraska is by their name and stat line.  It’d be like if Hollywood was strictly in the business of producing animated features.  What would separate Halle Berry, Scarlett Johansson, and Penelope Cruz from the likes of say…………Kathy Bates or Queen Latifah?  Nothing would, besides skill, talent, and the quality of their voices.  What fun is that?  I want recognizable faces in my actresses, just like my athletes.  College football doesn’t give me that.

Another thing that I find less than appealing about college football is the playoff system.  While millions of other people complain about the BCS, they still continue to watch.  I, on the other hand, have chosen to boycott it all together in hopes that I can have a Rosa Parks-like ripple effect on the BCS.  Problem is, people cared about the Civil Rights movement and what her decision stood for.  My plea will fall on deaf ears, as the NCAA will be unable to hear my voice due to it being drowned out by the CUH-CHING of their cash registers.  Nonetheless, their system still sucks and I will continue to write about it and hope that the millions and millions of followers that THE SOX MARKET has accumulated by the year 2020 will march on NCAA headquarters and demand a playoff system.

Pop Quiz time.  What do figure skating, gymnastics, diving, and college football have in common?  They let judges and voters decide which athletes or teams are crowned champion of their respective sports.  This is fine for figure skating, gymnastics, and diving because the nature of the sport does not allow you to compete head to head, so a judge is the only way to determine winners and losers.  In college football however, the opportunity to compete head to head is available, therefore using voters to decide your national championship game is luda (short for Ludacris for those not up on hip-hop culture).  Instead of taking the logical step to do what is right, smart, and fair, the NCAA would rather take the money and run.  When you think about it that is kind of like when a young, good looking, and talented model marries an old, ugly, wife-beating billionaire.  Sure, the money and fame must certainly be appealing for the woman, but the bruises, black eyes, and general contempt that she must have for both his looks and personality should be enough to sway her towards divorce.  Yet for some reason, even though everyone in her life is telling her otherwise, she stays with the guy.  Just like the NCAA sticking with the current system, she sticks with guy because the cash flow is too appealing.  I mean, the guy is bound to die sometime right?  If only the BCS was like the gift of life, which ultimately results in death, then I might be more willing to watch things play out.  But college football seems more Hindu-istic (not a word, but you get the meaning) in its approach.  When one bad idea dies, it reincarnates into something worse.    By the year 2046, the powers that be, may go with an American Idol audience voting system to decide who will face a 52-year-old Justin Bieber (Pop Singer turned football coach)-led Crimson Tide team in the Twitter/Facebook/Google/Apple Orange Bowl National Championship Game.

Finally, the third thing that  I don’t like about college football is the fa├žade given off that the guys playing on Saturday are student-athletes representing their schools.  Come on.  Even the guys who go to school with the intent of getting a quality education quickly learn from their coaches and time-consuming practice schedules that they are there to do one thing and one thing only, play football.  Instead of all the shadiness by coaches, street agents, and boosters paying guys under the table, why don’t we just call it what it is, minor league football, and start treating the guys like professionals?  Hell, I wouldn’t even mind if you gave guys diplomas, in the major of their choice, for their services on the field (We all know that in today’s economy, a college degree is equivalent to a high school degree ten years ago, so what harm could be done?)  Please though, don’t insult my intelligence by displaying the words student-athlete in the college football handbook.  In college football, those words go together about as well as Tom Cruise-heterosexual.  If you had anything in there though, I’d prefer it to say ATHLETE-student.  That would give anyone who read it a more realistic view of who they are watching every weekend.
What about college basketball you may ask?  Wouldn’t this argument make me not like that as well?  No, because the awesomeness of filling out a bracket each year and watching the greatest sporting event on earth for three weeks in March causes me to overlook this minor setback.  Similarly, if college football got rid of the BCS and created a playoff system that Brent Musburger dubbed December Delirium, I’d be like a jury member at the OJ trial who would easily overlook the student-athlete argument due to a well played tournament-card by the defense. 

Until then, college football will have no appeal to me and I will continually find negatives to keep me away.  While it is a simple solution, I don’t see college football going to a tournament format anytime soon.  Year after year, there will be undefeated teams who never get a chance to say their number one.  The best team in January may be playing in the Outback bowl, while another team who peaked mid-season walks away with all the hardware.  And I’ll be there to witness none of it, because I refuse to watch sports that let judges and voters decide who get to call themselves the best.  If I wanted to see something like that, I’d rather watch Dancing with Stars.  At least  I could live with Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman, Bruno Tonioli, and America deciding the champion of that, but I can’t live with the BCS screwing up year after year.  If I want to watch football, I'll do it on Sundays.      

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What I Hate About the US Cellular Experience

On average, I attend about 15 to 20 White Sox games a year.  I’ve been doing this through three different eras; the Old Comiskey era, The New Comiskey Era, and the revamped US Cellular era.  Over the course of my fan-manship, I have seen a lot at the ballpark, both good and bad.  While I could go on and on about what makes the US Cellular experience great, being a glass is half-empty type of guy, I’d rather focus on the bad.  Besides, praising does not bring about change, and if the election of Barack Obama means anything, the people of this country both want and deserve change.  White sox fans are no different.  They deserve change as well.  So if you’re reading this Jerry Reinsdorf (which I’m sure, as a loyal Buzznews follower, you are), what follows are the gripes that I have with "The Cell" (awful nickname by the way) and my suggestions for what could be done to make it better for all of your loyal customers, especially me.

1.  The “Everyone gets a trophy” home run challenge

Each game, one young fan is chosen in between innings (can’t remember which one), to compete in a contest on the Fundamentals deck which is shown to all via the jumbotron.  The kid is given three chances to hit a whiffle ball off a tee over the fence on a mini-field for the opportunity to win some sort of inconsequential prize.  On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this.  Everyone roots for the kid to touch ‘em all and the youngster gets an opportunity to show off his skills in front of thousands of people.  Fine, I’m good with that.  In fact, I love the idea.....if it is done right.

The Problem:  Regardless of whether or not the kid hits the ball over the fence, the White Sox marketing people decided that, so as not to hurt the kid’s feelings, the young slugger take a home run trot even if he or she is unsuccessful.  Call me a grouch, but this is the stupidest thing ever and is a microcosm of what is wrong with our society today.  It annoys me every time I see it, and I make it a point to share my disgust with whoever is sitting next to me.  

First of all, I’m guessing that any self-respecting kid with any sense, if they don’t hit a homer, would much rather put their head down and sulk back to their seat, then take a “we don’t want to damage your self-esteem” sympathy home run trot.  Secondly, what does it teach all the other youngsters in the crowd?  So Dad, even if I don’t hit a home run, I still get to run around the bases anyways?  Does that mean if I miss the last second shot at tommorow’s game, everyone will still rush the court and we can celebrate like I made it?  How about if I ask little Susie Smith out, even if she doesn’t want to go on a date, will she still allow me to get to third base?  And what if I get a 14 on the ACT, can I still graduate with honors from Harvard?  No, No, No, and No will be the answers, but you can understand the child’s confusion because of the mixed messages that are being sent to him.  Please, instead of worrying about feelings, can we please use sports as the great metaphor for life that they are? There are winners and there are losers and in order to get what you want, you have to work for it.  

This "everyone is a winner" culture that has been created is exactly why China is going to overtake the US as the world's largest economy by 2015, because in China, if a kid fails at their version home run challenge, he is much more likely to be disowned or cained by his family, then given an opportunity to run the bases.  If we want to continue to compete globally,  we must stop confusing kids, starting with the home run challenge. 

The Solution:  If you don’t hit a home run in three tries, you don’t get to run the bases, pretty simple.  Instead, you walk immediately back to your seat where you can make a vow to yourself that you will practice harder and longer than anyone around until you become the greatest ballplayer who ever lived.  Only then will you make peace with your failure today at the “Everyone gets a trophy” home run challenge.  You may get booed for not jacking one, but at least you won’t feel like a complete loser with everyone feeling sorry for you and allowing you to do your best sympathy trot.

2.  The Balk call by at least one fan per section of the stadium on the first to third pick-off move by the opposing pitcher

The Problem:  No matter where you are sitting or what part of the game it is, whenever the opposing pitcher does the ‘ole first to third pickoff move (Side Note:  The only person that I have ever seen successful at this move was Black Jack McDowell in the early nineties), there will be at least one fan in your section who angrily screams “BALK!!!!” at the top of his or her lungs.  The trouble with this is that it is not a balk, has never been a balk, nor will it probably ever be a balk.  Yet, there is always some idiot who hurts the eardrums of intelligent fans in the ballpark with this verbal nonsense.

The Solution:  Just like fans who touch balls that are in play are removed from ballpark, the same should hold true for the false “Balk” callers.  If this is not feasible, although I don’t see why it wouldn’t be, then any fan who is found to have done this, should be forced to give a verbal disclaimer to all fans in their section prior to the next game they attend, which goes something like this “I, state your name, apologize in advance for my lack of baseball intelligence.  Although I have been told time and again that the first-to-third pickoff move is not a balk, I simply cannot help myself.  I am a baseball idiot.  Please ignore any baseball related things that I happen to say. For that matter, ignore everything that I have to say regardless of it is baseball related or not.  Thank you for your time and god bless.”   While our eardrums will still probably hurt at the inevitable verbal diarrhea of this fan, instead of wasting the 2 seconds of our lives that it takes from the time “Balk” is screamed to coming to the conclusion that the guy who said it is an idiot, we will have already tuned the guy out thanks to the pre-game disclaimer, and thus be able to use those two seconds for something far more productive.  Does this seem like an unreasonable request?  If you think so, I’m guessing you’re probably the person I’m complaining about or his or her significant other.

3.  Outrageous Beer Prices

The Problem:  You have already taken advantage of us with ticket, parking, and food prices; do you really have to get us on beer too?   Paying seven dollars for a beer is ridiculous, especially with the harsh economic times that people are facing.  I could get a 6-pack at the local liquor store for less, and yet you expect me to pony over that much for one Miller Lite?  No thanks.  I’d rather sit through an episode of the Rachel  Zoe Project than splurge that much cash on a cold one.

The Solution:  Cut beer prices in half to $3.50.  You’ll still have a mark-up way above market value and I think because of the lower price, the number of sales would skyrocket.  I think most people would be more likely to spend twenty-one dollars on six beers than buy only one beer at seven dollars.  Just think of all the untapped revenue that could be had from people like me, who wouldn’t spend seven dollars on a dose of anti-aging syrum, let alone, on a Miller Lite.

4.  Shameless Plugs and Advertising Everywhere

The Problem:  Everywhere you look; there is some sort of advertisement or sponsorship.  If the McDonald’s logo on the scoreboard weren’t enough of eye sore, we have to sit through an entire half inning of White Sox players talking about their memories of going to Mickey D’s as kids.    We also have a section of the stadium called the Jim Beam Club and a group of annoying cheerleaders (using the word annoying to describe cheerleaders seems kind of redundant doesn’t it?) who go by the moniker of the Chevy pride crew which coincidently, serves only to make me want to drink anything but bourbon and ashamed to own a Lumina.  While I could live with giant billboards above the concourse, making the fence look like a minor league ballpark classified paged outfield is inexcusable as well.
Katie Ramoley
To me, baseball is the purest American sport.  There is something sanctimonious about the game, but all the sponsorships and advertisements are taking away from that, particularly at US Cellular Field.  While all the shameless plugs may bring in revenue, it leaves me completely turned off.  It would be like if in my next column I wrote how my sister Katie Ramoley is one of the best real estate agents around, and how if you would like to buy or sell a home in the Chicagoland area, you should contact her at 1-708-612-1848 or  To take the point even further, what if I put a picture of her at the bottom of the page of my next column with a link to one her listings like the one to the right ?  Wouldn’t that make me a complete hypocrite and wouldn’t it be annoying for anyone who read it?  Absolutely it would.  That’s why I would never even think of doing something like that.  I believe that the written word is far too sacred, just like baseball park should be, and I would not want to sacrifice my personal integrity, just like the Sox organization shouldn't want to either.

The Solution:  I understand that advertising brings in money which is then used to create a better on-the-field product, but there must be a better way.  Couldn’t the White Sox do some sort of profit sharing with their television and radio networks and completely flood each broadcast with as many advertisements, sponsorships, and plugs as humanly possible?  I’d much rather watch or listen to something like that, then have to see or hear it at the ballpark.  Besides, it might be funny to hear Ed Farmer sarcastically stating that "Gordon Beckman's latest slump buster iscourtesy of the day shift at the Pink Monkey, located at 750 South Clinton" or Hawk Harrelson say something like “that last AJ Pierzynski ball scratch was brought to you by Gold Bonds baby powder."  I think it’s a great idea (probably because it’s mine) and one that I expect to see by the 2013-2014 season if the Sox have any sense.

5.  The Pre-determined Kiss Cam

The Problem:  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some kiss cam.  It is one of the few between innings gimmicks that I actually enjoy.  I just hate the predetermined kiss cam when two fans have a camera directly in front of them and have agreed to let their kiss be displayed on the big screen.  The lack of surprise robs us of everything that is great about the kiss cam, and lessens the odds of seeing one of the following three best scenarios that the random kiss cam has to offer.

a. The “we did not come together, my wife is actually on my right” scenario

I love this scenario, especially when the woman is attractive, because you can usually see the man contemplate, even if just for a split second, if he should just kiss her and suffer the consequences later.  You can read the thoughts in his head in that quick moment about how he could justify it to his wife on the car ride home.  Honey, it’s the kiss cam.  You have to do it, otherwise the whole crowd will boo you.  You wouldn’t want that would you?   Usually this scenario ends with the wife either slapping the guy in the chest because she sees what we all see or she grabs her husband, claims her territory, and kisses him herself.  Either way, the crowd gets a kick out it and the kiss cam serves its purpose.

b. The “first date” scenario

Similar to the “we did not come together, my wife is actually on my right” scenario, you can read exactly what the woman is thinking in the “first date” scenario.  If I kiss him now, that sets a bad precedent for the end of the night.  If I don’t, he may think I’m not any fun.  But then again, if I do, he is going to be expecting much more than a kiss later.  On the other hand, not kissing him may make him want me more.  This scenario is pretty funny because it usually ends with an incredibly awkward peck on the cheek, a head shake “no” by the woman and a visibly disappointed guy, or the woman still contemplating in her head as they decide to switch to a different and more willing couple.  While not quite as funny as the first scenario, it usually gets a chuckle from the crowd who knows exactly what is going on.

c. The “till death do us part awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww” scenario

The couple has to be at least seventy and clearly married.  The man sees himself on the screen, turns, looks into his wife of 40 years eyes and gives her a sweet, yet passionate kiss.  Everyone in the crowd lets out a long, loud, and collective “awwwwwwwww” and feel good about that fact that true love and a long marriage are possible.  While this scenario is much more well received by the female portion of the crowd, the great part is that even the most alpha of males is usually touched by the “till death do us part awwwwwwwwwwwwwww” scenario even if they don't want to admit it.

The Solution:  Get rid of the predetermined kiss cam completely.  It’s not fun, nobody enjoys it, and it gives us one less chance of seeing one of the above scenarios.  The predetermined kiss cam is like CBS telling one of their live look in bubble teams at selection Sunday that they made the tournament ten minutes before the show began and  how they should try to act worried, nervous, and then ecstatic during the actual show.  That would be stupid and rob all of us of watching them go through the full gauntlet of human emotion that makes the live look in so great.

While I have much more to say about what I hate about the US Cellular Experience, I decided to save that for a Part Two because this is getting far too long and any normal person probably stopped reading about 600 words ago.  Also, if no one likes what I have to say in Part One, I can conveniently forget to write a Part Two  and move on to a topic that is a little more interesting.  But that may be harder to determine than it seems because in the "everyone is a winner society" people will probably tell me how much they enjoyed it, even if it they thought it sucked.  So......look for part two by the end of the week.  I'll be busy soaking in my sympathy praise in the meantime.