Aug. 22, 2007

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been fascinated by sports teams that score a ton of points in a single game. For example, last October, I wrote at length about the most lopsided college football game ever, in which Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland by an absurd score of 222–0 back in 1916.

Well, a new modern-day scoring record was set in Major League Baseball, and it took place earlier tonight. Behold the following box score:

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
Texas 0 0 0 5 0 9 0 10 6 30 29 1
Baltimore 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 9 1

Imagine you’re an Orioles fan watching the game, and your team is holding a healthy 3–0 lead after three innings. Could you ever imagine that the visiting team — a club that’s 16 games under .500 and in last place in their division — would proceed to score 30 unanswered runs, including a pair of grand slams, in the remaining six innings of the game?

With their 30–3 victory, the Rangers set an American League record, and no professional baseball team had scored that many runs in a game for 110 years! The all-time major league record was set on June 28, 1897, when the Chicago Colts (the present-day Cubs) defeated the Louisville Colonels, 36–7.

Other fun facts: the Rangers also set a franchise record for runs scored in a doubleheader before the second game even started, and crossed the plate more times than they were called out (27, of course).

(The Phillies have come close to the Rangers’ mark of 30, and it took place not long ago. On June 11, 1985, the Phils jumped out to a 16–0 lead after just two innings before setting their own team scoring record with a 26–7 rout of the Mets. Interestingly, the game featured only two home runs, and both were hit in the first inning by Von Hayes — the first and only player to do just that.)

[ No. 367 ]

Aug. 20, 2007

It’s fairly easy to get bogged down in the mundane details of life and forget about the big picture, especially when it comes to your legacy and how people will remember you.

But here’s a simple rule of thumb. Make sure to treat others well, or you may wind up like Leona Helmsley, who left this earth earlier today with the phrase “Queen of Mean” in each of her obituaries. (She certainly earned that title with the infamous line, “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”)

[ No. 366 ]

Aug. 16, 2007

According to the first campaign ad released this week by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton:

“If you’re a family that is struggling and you don’t have healthcare, well, you are invisible to this president. If you’re a single mom trying to find affordable child care so you can go to work, well, you’re invisible, too.”

I’m not terribly moved by Hillary’s predictable platitudes — criticizing Bush’s performance is like shooting fish in a barrel. But I was impressed by one clever comment that was posted under the video on YouTube:

I wish I was invisible at tax time.

You and me both!

(By the way, I was amused to learn that Karl Rove, who recently announced that he’ll be leaving his White House post at the end of this month, still felt compelled to attack the commercial, describing Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy as “fatally flawed.” Um, Karl, look around you — doesn’t that phrase describe the Bush administration as well?)

[ No. 365 ]

Aug. 15, 2007

These days, I rarely see a movie at the theater more than once. But since I thoroughly enjoyed The Simpsons Movie a few weeks ago, I joined my dad and two sisters for a second viewing last night. (Totally worth it, by the way.)

I also rarely sign up for membership discount cards at retail stores, even ones that I visit often. Not only do I fear having my contact information added to yet another mailing list, but I also have a strong aversion to filling out lengthy forms that ask for my home address, phone number, Social Security number, credit score, blood type, religion, and favorite color.

That said, as I stood in line to buy a ticket to see Homer on the big screen last night, my dad asked me if I had a Regal Crown Card. He explained that it’s a free membership that allows you to gradually earn points toward free movie tickets and popcorn.

I hesitated for a moment, but here’s what convinced me to sign up. The registration process required me to provide exactly two pieces of information: my first name and my last name. Nothing more than my printed name on a clipboard entitled me to a new membership card and a coupon for a free small popcorn, right off the bat.

Now there’s an offer that’s hard to pass up. If you can make the process easy and throw in a generous offer up front, then I’m your newest club member.

[ No. 364 ]

Aug. 13, 2007

According to a friend of mine (who does not work with me and will remain anonymous), the following is a verbatim conversation with his receptionist from last week:

Friend: “Hello. [Name deleted].”
Receptionist: “I have Prince on the line.”
Friend: “Who?”
Receptionist: “Prince.”
Friend: “Prince who?”
Receptionist: “I’ll check.”
Receptionist: “It’s Jeff Bridges in the Bridges case.”

My friend continues:

Turns out it was my client, [first name deleted] Bridges, on the phone. I guess it would have [been] more interesting if Prince or Jeff Bridges was calling. I guess if you are interrupting your reading of Us magazine to answer the phone, things get mixed up in your head.

Who says you can’t find good help these days?

Also, that’s almost certainly the first time that Prince and Jeff Bridges have ever been mentioned in the same sentence.

[ No. 363 ]

Aug. 9, 2007

Well, the stock market certainly went through another one of its crazy mood swings today. Thanks to continued concerns over subprime mortgages and credit woes, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted 387 points on its second-worst day of the year, and the broader S&P 500 index fell nearly 3%.

I won’t move a cent of my financial assets as a result of this latest plunge, and quite frankly, neither should you. The markets have produced huge gains over the last four calendar years, so we’re probably due for a breather. And personally, given that I still have about 30 years until retirement, short-term fluctuations in the market, however large, mean very little to me.

But still, the sheer volatility in the market (both positive and negative) has been a bit strange. Looking at recent activity in the S&P, I found that the index moved up or down by at least 1% on 10 of the last 15 trading days. In fact, four of those 10 seismic days closed with a net change of 2% or more, which is a huge (and typically rare) shift in one day of trading.

Given that subprime mortgages play a very minor role in the health of the overall economy, it’s unsettling to see the stock market in panic mode. Can we please get through a few days with modest changes to the market indexes?

[ No. 362 ]

Aug. 8, 2007

So, unless you’re living under a rock, you know by now that Giants outfielder Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run last night, surpassing Hank Aaron to become the all-time career leader in homers. Bonds may have broken the record, but his feat hasn’t changed my opinion that he’s a cheater.

Given Bonds’ controversial ascent to the home run title, I’m disappointed that such a huge achievement can feel so unsatisfying. Integrity is everything, especially when you’re in the limelight. It’s incredibly unfortunate that Bonds, who now holds one of the most cherished records in any professional sport, represents the game of baseball so poorly.

By contrast, Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik, who surrendered No. 756 to Bonds, demonstrated true sportsmanship during the historic game. Bacsik refused to pitch around Bonds (as many other pitchers have done), and after the record-breaking home run, Bacsik tipped his hat to Bonds, congratulated him in person after the game, and even commented that he felt “lucky to be part of a really special moment in sports history.”

In fact, Mike Bacsik showed more dignity and class in defeat than Barry Bonds has ever shown in victory. In the shadow of Bonds’ home run record, I hope Bacsik will also be remembered for his gracious acceptance of his unexpected role in baseball history.

[ No. 361 ]

Aug. 7, 2007

Perhaps it was only a matter of time, but ATMs in church lobbies, of all places, are starting to catch on.

One apparent driver of this trend is a new IRS regulation, effective this year, that requires taxpayers to provide documentation for charitable contributions under $250 — a rule that I hadn’t heard about until now. (As if paying one’s taxes wasn’t complicated already.) Also, some argue that parishioners simply don’t carry cash or write checks very often anymore. As one religious Web site editor observes, “It seems that everything else has gone electronic; the church will follow.”

Now, I’m no Luddite; I work with technology for a living. But a debit card machine in the house of God still seems tacky to me. How difficult can it be to bring some greenbacks to church? (And didn’t Jesus set an example by overturning the tables of moneychangers in the temple?)

[ No. 360 ]

Aug. 2, 2007

A true Renaissance man, Gilbert Arenas not only plays point guard for the Washington Wizards, but also writes some observational humor on his prolific blog, Agent Zero.

For example, here’s the majority of one of his recent posts, ostensibly about Shark Week on the Discovery Channel:

There are these things called shark attacks, but there is no such thing as a shark attack. […]
We’re humans. We live on land.
Sharks live in water.
So if you’re swimming in the water and a shark bites you, that’s called trespassing. … That is not a shark attack.
A shark attack is if you’re chilling at home, sitting on your couch, and a shark comes in and bites you; now that’s a shark attack.

His argument sounds somewhat familiar — didn’t George Carlin say that once? — but I totally agree with his logic. (Predictably, when Arenas’ blog entry came up as a topic on both Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption on ESPN, the commentators referenced the absurd Land Shark skit from Saturday Night Live circa 1975.)

And at the early age of 25, Arenas wisely knows that his basketball career is finite, so it’s encouraging to see him already working on a comedy routine for his post-NBA career.*

* Update: My friend Tony, who lives in Washington (where Arenas plays his home games), shares a few fun stories about the NBA player:

When [Hurricane] Katrina forced a bunch of people to relocate to the D.C. Armory, a call went out to area residends to bring supplies. Gilbert loaded up his SUV with a bunch of stuff he randomly bought at some store. With no cameras, he just rolled up to the armory and asked where he could dump the stuff.
He also randomly plays in summer leagues in D.C. One of them is the Barry Hills league. Just shows up, and plays with locals.
He seems to be the real deal…

I’d have to agree. Nice to see a professional athlete who is willing to help his fellow man and interact with everyday people.

[ No. 359 ]