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By Phil Bausk

Few things have helped shape my own life more than baseball and The Simpsons. Speak to anyone who has had one conversation with me and after they sift through the horrifying jokes and flatulence references, they will realize that I had navigated the conversation about either baseball or The Simpsons. Though five year-old Phil wasn’t really sure what was going on when the infamous “Homer at the Bat,” episode aired, 12 year-old Phil had a much better grasp of its concept when he saw a syndicated rerun of the 22 minute masterpiece.

If you are unfamiliar with the episode then I will give you a little bit of a background to familiarize you with the next few hundred words of ramblings. Homer and his coworkers begin another season of company softball for the Nuclear Power Plant. Now normally, the team is pretty awful even with the extremely athletic Carl Carlson and the always pensive Lenny Leonard. This year, however Homer has a secret weapon, a bat that was made from wood from a tree that was blessed with a bolt of lightning. Homer goes onto to lead the team to the finals against the Shelbyville Power Plant. Mr. Burns, the plants owner, makes a wager with the Shelbyville plant owner of $1 million on the championship game. In order to assure his victory, Mr. Burns wants to acquire top tier talent. Once finding out that all of his childhood heroes have been dead for decades, he decides to USC-style recruit some of the early 90’s most popular and most talented players. At the end of the day, 8 of the 9 players have to miss the game for some odd reasons, and Homer pinch hits for the MLB all-world talent Darryl Strawberry (whose nickname should really be Mr. Plow). Homer, after hours of groin scratching, gets hit by a pitch and wins the game, as his team carries his limp and motionless body to first base in celebration.

The players Mr. Burns recruited were as follows: Wade Boggs, Darryl Strawberry, Roger Clemens, Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, Ken Griffey Jr., Jose Canseco, Ozzie Smith, and finally Mike Scioscia. Jonah Keri, Grantland.com’s most active baseball contributor, wrote an article about the modern day “Springfield Nine” and their possible replacements.  This is a concept I have been toying with for quite some time and I figured now was the best time to write something with my own opinion of who would be the modern day “Springfield Nine”, only the starters, and why they would ultimately miss the big game.

Pitcher: Justin Verlander

He is the best pitcher in the game, much like Clemens was at the time of this episode. Verlander was seen during softball practice, blowing a hole through Homer’s Wonderbat, much like Clemens did. This would also make for a great Simpsons cameo for Kate Upton, which would put her 2nd behind Marge as the sexiest yellow cartoon character. Verlander is at the elementary school the day before the game speaking to the kids about vapor lock and its dangers when he runs into Edna Krabappel. Edna convinces (or forces) Verlander back to her motel apartment where he is handcuffed to her bed. Unfortunately, Edna leaves to for a late night rendezvous with Principal Skinner and Verlander is stuck there for the duration of the game.

Catcher: Joe Mauer

This one is pretty easy for me. Mauer, being one of the more commercialized baseball players because of his hometown boy looks and his easy going nature, would be cast as Dr. Tad Winslow on the hit soap opera “It Never Ends” immediately upon his entering of Springfield.  On the day of the game, Mauer confesses to his Mr. Burns his love of the theater and that the only reason he hasn’t moved out of Minnesota was for its underground theatrical network. Mauer leaves and spends the next 20 years of his life in the daytime limelight.

1st Base: Miguel Cabrera

Miggy, who has recently said to have been sober for quite some time, runs into a surly Barney Gumble at the Pawn-Shop, trying to get extra beer money for whatever he’s found on the sidewalks of Springfield. With his multi-million dollar contract, Miggy offers to buy Barney a drink, as he has been down on his luck as well. Upon entering Moe’s, he buys Barney a beer and Moe asks Miggy what he is having. Miggy declines, leading to Moe whipping out his infamous shotgun, ordering him to order a drink, or leave in a body bag. After one sip, Miggy goes on a Barney type bender, ending up back at Comerica Park in the trunk of a 2006 Honda Odyssey. Perhaps Miggy should listen to some of Homer’s smartest remarks.

2nd Base: Robinson Cano

With a haunting past that none of us known about, Robbie Cano manages to finally meet his maker. At channel 6 for an interview, Cano runs into bumblebee man. They exchange shifty eyed glances and we are flashed back to the Dominican Republic. Bumblebee man was romantically involved with Cano’s mother, and left her to pursue his career in television in the US. Since then, Cano has promised to avenge his mother’s broken heart and accepted this offer from Mr. Burns solely to deal with bumblebee man. They get into a tussle that ends up with Cano defeating bumblebee man and quickly fleeing the country back to the DR.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter

Keri and I agree here. It has to be DJ. The question is, how does Derek miss the game? He never misses games unless he is brutally injured in one fashion. I think he follows the route that Mike Scioscia took in his go around in Springfield. DJ would obviously love to be a part of the power plant’s every day team. But unlike Scioscia, he wouldn’t be lethargic in his work ethic and accidentally get radiation poisoning. I see more of a Frank Grimes ending for DJ. After a week or so of working with Homer, he would begin to lose his mind and compare him to a real life Jason Giambi! One day, Jeter snaps and ends up eating a spoonful of toxic waste, which only Homer can handle drums of, and the next scene pants to his tombstone. Homer obviously buys a hotdog at the funeral and gets a t-shirt from the inevitable t-shirt cannon salute.

3rd Base: David Wright

Wright couldn’t just let the NYY boys have all of the fun! He is known in real life for his easy going ways and being one of the least controversial athletes in sports. However, once he gets to Springfield, he just lets loose! Wright meets Snake and they find that they are kindred spirits. They rob the Kwik-E-Mart together but their attempt is thwarted by Apu’s uncanny ability to take a gunshot. After being hit with lasers by both Snake and Wright, Apu manages to put some pop rocks in a can of buzz cola ala Homer at the candy convention and sacrifices part of his store to save it. After the rubble is cleared, Wright appears alright and heads to practice. After arriving, he listens to Mr. Burns’s speech and realizes he has gone deaf! This leads to Wright chasing a pop up into the open street where is mowed down by a truck driving Hans Moleman.

Left Field: Ryan Braun

With all of the bad press swirling around his not too over sized head, Braun agrees to play for the power plant, hoping to gain a bit of positive PR, and also to show he can hit a softball 600 feet while “not” on steroids. Unfortunately, Mr. Burns may be all for cheating, but makes sure he screens all of his players for drugs because it seems like one of those unbalanced things that he would do in a scenario like this. He chastises Braun for failing his test, who claims he just had too many poppy seed bagels (Jewish joke) and is clean. Two weeks later we find Braun back in the majors, on his way to another 50 home run season, void of any punishment, just like real life.

Center Field: Adam Jones

The Google machine, as Montgomery calls it, is how he came across Adam Jones. However, he was expecting Pacman to show up and constantly questions why Adam Jones looks like a human and isn’t devouring the competition like a bunch of blinking ghosts. Every practice it was another Pacman reference and that infuriated Jones. Before the game he quits, slamming his glove in disgust saying he’d rather play for Peter Angelos (Mattingly reference) and as he leaves he makes the classic Pacman chomping noise and swallows up an entire bundle of cherries STILL ATTACHED TO THE VINE.

Right Field: Manny Ramirez

Now I know this one is a bit dated, but who else could take Homer’s place in the lineup and be the modern day Darryl Strawberry, with nothing but a positive attitude and the quintessential teammate qualities. Manny shows up to practice early, hustles more than anyone, somehow manage to pass his drug test, and hit a ton of homers in the actual championship game. He plays in Homer’s spot until the last inning when he comes up with the bases loaded. The Shelbyville power plant brings in a sinkerball softball pitcher and Burns decides that Homer gives them a better chance of NOT hitting into a double play, which may actually be true. Instead, Homer still gets hit by the pitch, rolled over by one of his co workers so they can touch home plate, and carried off the field a lifeless, numb hero.

 

Batman’s True Message?

Posted: July 30, 2012 in Introduction

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By Phillip Bausk

 

Athletes make too much money. We all know this. We all talk about this. And while it may bother us to a certain extent, we have come to terms with statements like, “it’s okay that Keith Van Horn will be worth more money than I will ever smell.” Well fine, I am not really okay with that particular fact, but maybe something more along the lines of, “JD Drew can pay me to sleep with a live animal and he would still have enough money to make me do it again.” Either way you get the point. A lot of overrated athletes have gotten huge contracts and this is something that we will never be able to avoid, unless we get rid of white athletes in general. Sure you have Jerome James and other African American athletes who make too much money, but let’s face it; we kind of owe them…

Moving on, I just saw the third Batman movie this weekend and really enjoyed it. It had action, some witty quips from even the stolid Christian Bale, and of course Anne Hathaway in a body suit. All of these things considered, there was once scene that did bother me. The football stadium scene made me think of a few things that I just need to try and explain to myself here. First of all, why was Hines Ward returning a kickoff? I understand they wanted a familiar name, but that fact that he is the recognizable name, while he would mainly only be recognized by football fans, just makes me head explode because us football fans know that Antonio Brown returns kicks, and even back in the day it was the infamous Antwaan Randle El.  Yes, this is useless, but at the same time I get paid whatever my salary is to pay attention to detail on a ridiculous email to hundreds of attorneys, but making something that is going to be seen by roughly 50 million people, you’re allowed to just pick a famous name. Why not have Ben Roethlisberger return the kick? I am sure people will recognize him from his Judge Joe Brown appearances…

I keep getting away from why I am writing this article. My main issue is what kind of professional athlete wants to go play in the city of Gotham. There are so many reasons why an athlete wouldn’t want to play there, let alone live in such a virile city. If you were getting offered a 4-year, $12 million contract from let’s say the Chicago Bears, and then Gotham comes at you with that same deal, but a 5th year player option for an addition $4.2 million, is that enough to really want to play in the most dangerous city in this alternate world that has been created? Odds are you won’t retire, because frankly, you’ll be paying off your insurance premiums forever!! The city is in constant fear, and even if you signed during that “8 years of peace” that is discussed, you would probably still be walking on egg shells.

We can go to the comics and see that Gotham is consistently under attack from crazy terrorists, such as The Joker, who by the way, never stays locked up for long so you know you can bump into him on public transit. Others include Bane, Poison Ivy, Ra’s al Ghul, the Riddler, Two-face, frankly the list is so long, I am surprised the city is still around at this point. Do you think it’s in a duty-free state? I would imagine the police officers there have huge salaries based on the fact they can get murdered in any way possible on any day possible, so the taxes for the city must be through the roof.

Side note here, being a police officer in Gotham, could be the worst job of all-time. I am sure you don’t get paid that much, you are always dumber than the common person based on the decisions you make in both the movies and the comics. You are usually led by an even dumber individual who constantly puts your life in jeopardy when something drastic occurs. You are always among the first to be killed in some sadistic way that I wouldn’t even wish upon my worst enemies and your weaponry is always out of date compared to some of your opponents. And can you imagine the paperwork if you do survive?!?!?!?!?

Anyway, is that player option really worth having to tread lightly everywhere you go in the city? Clearly your home games aren’t safe, so 8 times a year, not counting preseason and potential home playoff games, you can be buried alive under thousands of tons of the earth’s surface. When you go to and from practice, some type of gas can leak into your 2011 Range Rover and knock you out. The gas will also affect you in your 5600 square foot loft, so you aren’t safe there either. Family and friends that you fly in for games will be under the threat of their plane being hijacked, or their cab being torn to pieces by some explosives. You are putting yourself and everyone you know and love in harm’s way just so you can decide if you want to test the free agent market or not in 2017.

I understand why Pedro Martinez and Johnny Damon left Boston, but I can’t imagine why anyone would leave a city to go play for Gotham, except for maybe Dirk Nowitzki, he could be in on the next hostage situation. I think this is what Christopher Nolan was going for the entire time. He wasn’t worried about finishing a trilogy, or portraying a deep, social satire or meaning about how to live our lives. I think he was just making his point of how selfish athletes can be and wanted to show that they should be loyal to their hometowns and not leave their teams just for that fancy player option…      

One of These Days Alice…

Posted: July 26, 2012 in Introduction

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By Phillip Bausk

Everyone has their own boiling points. Some people get mad immediately, seeing red whenever something happens that doesn’t sit right with them, whether it is inconsequential like being cutoff walking on the street, or life altering, such as not being chosen for that promotion they have been working on for years. Others are able to things in stride, but eventually, reach a point of frustration that may cause them to abuse others, either with obvious words or actions, or through the classic passive-aggressive standard of having seething meanings behind innocuous comments. Frustration, as much as some of us would hate to admit it, is part of our everyday life, even more than perhaps our closest friends and lovers would care to be.

While I can go into a diatribe about how mind-bending a simple subway ride can be, I don’t care to bore you with my insights on the matter (though I am sure some of you would be oddly interested in that). Nor am I here to discuss the frustration I saw in a friend’s face dealing with issues taking the Bar exam, knowing that he still had a full day left of what most people may deem as “pure hell.”

While normally being a safe haven of built up sexual tension, sports have recently become a source of frustration, resulting in three different episodes of me screaming at toddlers (not true….maybe). In the past 30 days or so, even without any Tony Romo 4th quarter losses, or any Akron Scammer interviews/celebrations/stupid t-shirt slogans, I find myself becoming easily riled up when reading or discussing certain sports topics. The reasoning is something I am incredibly unsure of. Perhaps I am going through early menopause, or maybe the bouts of boredom at work are causing me to go slightly insane, either way, I am due for screaming at toddler number 4 on the train ride home from work.

Let’s start with the first sport that is ravaging my hairline, baseball. My Boston Red Sox can’t seem to get their poop together and we are roughly 100 games into the season. While there have been a ton of injuries, it seems that no one on the team wants to be there, and I feel a lot of that has to do with Bobby Valentine. Some may like the way he manages both clubhouses and games, but I do not think this team ever wanted a guy like Bobby V in there. Were there some issues last year in the clubhouse? Yes. Did something have to change? Yes. However, there are other managers different from Bobby V and from Terry Francona, and based on the results so far this season, it seems that Sox ownership took a bit of a detour away from their 3rd World Series ring. This team is more than capable of what they are doing right now and while they aren’t out of it yet, something has to change quickly, otherwise an early fall vacation is in store and all of New England will go back to focusing on Rob Gronkowski’s dub step hobbies.

Pedroia isn’t hitting, Ortiz goes on the DL at an awful time. Lester looks like a joke every time he goes to the mound. His curveball is flat, he can’t locate any of his 4 fastballs, and his body language is screaming that he wants to get out of Boston and start banging chicks outside of Dodgers Stadium….just not with Magic Johnson. Beckett has been decent lately, and Buchholz and Doubront seem to be the only guys who give a damn when they get on the mound. Even Vincente Padilla would be a better starting option than Jon Lester, and we can actually think about doing that is Lester gets moved for 2 mid-level prospects, though I see Lester staying and hopefully turning it around faster than a Charlie Sheen commercial can ruin someone’s evening of primetime television.

Then we get to fantasy baseball. Sure, it may not be real, but it’s very real to me. I have been saddled with 3 mediocre teams that seem to be slowly deteriorating. So what do you do when you think your team has leveled out? You make trades, roster additions etc…And while it seems that I am getting the better end of 90% of the trades I have made, all 3 of my teams are still hanging out on the 5th floor, scratching themselves and waiting for the top floors to crash on top of them and pancake them 2-3 floors outside of the playoffs. Basically, the only question is I have is why couldn’t I have Mike Trout in all 3 of my leagues? When it comes down to it, there are still 40-60 games left, depending on the league, and maybe by the season’s end, my latest addition of Ben Sheets will be comeback player of the year, or shipped to Iraq for medical testing and disposal.

Finally, the last sports related topic, or man I should say, that has been eating at me for weeks is Stephen A. Smith. I do not understand how a man like him has a job, and no that is not a racist joke, but seems to have been the perfect spot for one. His articles are terribly written, and convey arguments that are distorted from the original point he is trying to make. On television, he gains parody because he is a caricature of himself, and of a real person. He is a walking stereotype, which allowed him to be on SNL because frankly, I am sure you can go through SNL history and find that same character with other names. He is very strong opinioned, and doesn’t ever waver on his argument, which is one thing I do like about him, it is just how he gets to those opinions and his tactics in defending them. He repeatedly argues his way away from the question or point he was being interrogated about, often leading to a ridiculous conversation. I really hope it is not for ratings. If ESPN needs ratings, let Erin Andrews talk about anything she wants in a two-piece, hula hooping on the beaches of Bristol. Quite Frankly (get it?!?!) it is time for ESPN to move on and let Steven A. talk his way out of why he doesn’t have tip the cab driver who takes him from Bristol to Crackton.

     

By Phillip Bausk

Perception. There are few things more important in our lives than the power of perception. Everything we do, everything we see, and everything we feel is directly related to how we physically and emotionally perceive it.

A man I once knew once told me something along the lines of, “Your perception of yourself is how others will perceive you. You can shape the kind of man you become, and do not have to be fearful of what others may think of you.” That man was my father, who I have previously written about on this site. If it were only that easy…

Life takes over. Before you know it, you are working in an office for most of your life, leaving little time for your personal desires, and in some cases, suppressing important issues that arise in your everyday life. By doing this, you are accepting a reality that is not yours, but rather what is expected from you.

Over the last few months, work, life, sports, and other things have become a proverbial jambalaya. Everything has been simmering in one place, without much room for me to grasp certain realities in my life. This has led to me neglecting an outlet of mine I have used for years, stunting my own reflection of my life and leading to emotions that I haven’t been fully able to understand.

Fortunately, I do not have many friends who have lost parents at, or around, the same age as me. I will tell everyone that losing a parent at a young age, assuming your relationship with said parent is a good one, is the hardest thing one will have to encounter in their young-adult life. While I can’t speak for those who suffer from debilitating illness, terminal illness, or other physical or emotional ailments, I can speak for those who I know and those who shared that same relationship with their mom or dad that I got to share with mine.

13 months later and here I am, at my desk at my mind-numbing job, still unable to face the harsh reality. It has created a conflict within me that I do not fully understand, but am taking the necessary steps to piece everything together. It hasn’t completely occurred to me that I will never see my father again, or that I will never hear his voice. I can’t go to him for advice, nor can I tangibly show him my latest accomplishments and achievements. Growing up in a house where I was praised for anything that I did, specifically because at times I was such a massive screw-up, makes the last two aspects of him being gone the hardest.

This brings me back to my point about perception. I didn’t perceive the new reality in front of me as real, but rather as something that I could avoid and deflect, and continue to go on as if not much had occurred. For those 13 months I was able to do that until recently, when all of these misunderstood emotions and feelings hit me. My perception had changed dramatically, and much later than it should’ve.

Before, I viewed myself as someone mentally strong, able to withstand anything that the world could throw at me. If you saw me some time after my father’s passing, you wouldn’t have thought anything was wrong, which wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I didn’t think anything was wrong. I believed I could rise above it, become the Superman of emotional stability. But I had my kryptonite, which in this case was just time. Time slowly caught up to me and forced me to being to perceive life differently. I feel as though the weight of the world is on my shoulders, but my enforcer-type frame isn’t nearly strong enough to keep myself upright.

I turn to the Secret Diary to help me deal with these feelings occasionally, and to also help me vent my frustrations not just about life, but about both sports and entertainment. This battle with perception in my world has brought me back to my true calling, which is something I know my father would be proud of, because its a sign that I am taking his life lessons to heart and helping his memory live on through my own actions.

By Phil Bausk

“The Cold War isn’t thawing; it is burning with a deadly heat. Communism isn’t sleeping; it is, as always, plotting, scheming, working, fighting.”- Richard Nixon

It is kind of weird to think that the late Richard Nixon’s words referring to Communism bare such an eerie resemblance to the current events of the National Basketball Association and its 2011 Trade Deadline.

Over the past couple days, both the Knicks and the Nets have made Rasputia (First Norbit reference!!) type splashes at this year’s deadline. The Knicks were first to dive in by trading a sizable amount of their roster (Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov, and a few picks and cash) for Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Corey Brewer, and others. Usually after such a big splash, there are ripple affects, and these were expected to occur throughout the league over the next few days. Instead, the Nets made an even bigger splash, sending Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, 2 first round picks, and cash to the Utah Jazz for disgruntled PG Deron Williams, among other smaller pieces.

While both of these deals are good for each franchises on an individual level, it is hard to ignore the idea that the Knicks and Nets are going to now be in direct competition with one another, not only on the court (maybe a year or two down the road), but also in the war rooms, fighting for players to help fill their respective rosters. This is all assuming that Deron Williams agrees to some sort of an extension, keeping him in NJ/Brooklyn for the next few years.

While the Knicks are helped by their location and the team’s history, it has been let down over the past decade by management, and rumblings that Isaiah Thomas was involved with the Carmelo Anthony trade only further proves that perhaps the culture in the front office, while shifting, isn’t completely out of  the woods quite yet.  On the other hand, the Nets have Mikhail Prokhorov, as Bill Simmons calls him, the “Russian Mark Cuban,” or as I will refer to him from now on, RMC.

RMC has struggled in his first full year as the NJ Nets owner. He was unable to lure any big name name free agents this summer, though The Akron Scammer said his presentation was one of the best he saw. Along with the Scammer, RMC whiffed on Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh, and ended up paying Travis “Where’s my GED” Outlaw $7 mil. a year over 5 seasons, perhaps one of the worst contracts in the league. He was then unable to get Carmelo from the Nuggets, even though his Nets had the sexiest package to offer to them.

This has a  remarkable parallel to the first half of the Cold War. While post-World War II Europe was being both reprimanded and reassembled, Russia and The United States proposed different approaches on how to go about this process. Russia wanted to spread its Communist influence, while the U.S. wanted to rebuild the democratic governments in Europe. This caused much tension between both parties, resulting in roughly a decade of speculation, with many skirmishes along the way, including the Koren War and the Warsaw Pact, which were significant moments, but in the long run, were ultimately unsuccessful, much like the Travis Outlaw and Anthony Morrow signings.

It was at this point that RMC duped us all and pulled his own version of the Cuban Missile Crisis, by swooping in out of nowhere and acquiring Deron Williams. By doing this he has moved his artillery in position, much like Khrushchev did in Cuba, and is pointing his ammo right at the heart of Manhattan. The next question is whether RMC will push the proverbial button, by signing a Dwight Howard type, or if he’ll emulate Khrushchev again, and become unsuccessful not only in signing another free agent, but in retaining Deron Williams.

It would be harder pressed to make James Dolan and Co. into looking like John F. Kennedy and any other U.S. presidents, but if I am going into this analogy, I really don’t have much of a choice. Dolan and GM Donnie Walsh have done a good job putting NYC basketball back on the map. Much like the American presidents, they have done well, but still have their critics, though I don’t think anyone is going to be gunned down at a state school over the ‘Melo trade. Their next task is to bring in one more piece to finalize the NBA trend of having 3 All-Stars to fill out a starting lineup, and banking on someone else to step up and play well (There will never be another Rajon Rondo, or at least a man who can capture my heart like he has).

As of right now, RMC and his Nets have the upper hand in managerial/political decision making, but the Knicks, much like America at the time, has a better product on the court. They have history on their side as the NBA superpower, and will use whatever resources it may take to keep it that way. We all know how the Cold War turned out, as things in Soviet Russia dissolved, and America was back on top of the world. Does RMC have what it takes to make this Cold War end differently? Or is he going to be remembered as that crazy Russian owner whose money meant nothing in a league where the salary cap is going to be at an all-time low?

Only time can really tell us how this NBA feud is going to conclude, but one thing is for sure, there is a renewed hatred of those over in Jersey, and you can be the feeling is mutual. Better yet, does this Cold War turn into a Civil War when the Nets make their way over to Brooklyn, and start referring to themselves as the Brooklyn New Yorkers.

There is so much left to be answered, and so much time for it all to be answered in. This tension between both clubs is going to last for a few years, and it is going to feel like a few decades. Perhaps Russia would still be the Soviet Union if RMC were around 50 years ago.

By Phil Bausk

All-Star weekend in Los Angeles and all eyes are on an LA Clipper?!?!?! Donald Sterling is rolling over in his grave…Well maybe not yet,but I am sure a lot of Clips fans have already combined funds to buy him a cemetery plot as far away as LA as possible.

Blake Griffin will be the main attraction this weekend in Saturday night’s Slam Dunk Contest, though the buzz around Justin Bieber’s Celebrity game debut may overshadow all news, including that revolution going on somewhere in Africa. (I say the over/under on “Never Say Never” commercials tonight is 8.5.)

Griffin, who has been spoiling fans with highlight reel dunks all season long, will be going against himself Saturday night. Serge Ibaka, Javale Mcgee, and Demar Derozan do not offer much competition (though maybe someone can sneak a W past him), and Griffin is expected to perform a one man show, as The Akron Scammers of the league continue to shy away from the Dunk contest (Lebron, remember when you said you guaranteed you were going to be in it? We should’ve seen “The Decision” coming from that point on.)

While the Dunk Contest has struggled in recent years, mainly because Gerald Green is playing somewhere in Russia now, there is still a certain amount of excitement that surrounds it. While odds are nothing crazy is going to happen, there is a certain theatricality that we hope to experience when it comes in each Saturday night of All-Star weekend. Dwight Howard offered us with some excitement for a bit, but then he claimed he was done with the contest as well, yet he still contends he is a better dunker than Blake Griffin. So let me ask you Dwight, How are you NOT in  this year’s contest to prove your point? I don’t care about the dunk counting graphic ESPN throws up once every few weeks. I would much rather see you prove your point on the floor Saturday night. Sure you have won a dunk contest, but again, the competition wasn’t too stiff.

Either way, our expectations as fans for Blake’s performance tomorrow night are extremely high. Will he meet those expectations? Who knows, but the fact that there is enough excitement to generate interest in this year’s dunk contest is definitely a step in the right direction. Maybe Blake will ask Timothea Mozgov to come help him with a dunk, where Blake ends up breaking Mozgov’s face and spirit, and Griffin is standing triumphantly on top of the backboard being showered with roses. Either way, now that the spotlight is off of Kobe Bryant in La La Land, I am sure he can cheat on his wife without any repercussions. (Does that huge diamond ring he bought her in Colorado a few years back count as a repercussion?)

Outside of the Dunk contest, there are a few other intriguing events that will take place this weekend. Tonight, there is the Celebrity basketball game followed by the Rookie-Sophomore game. I think the time line of events for those things unfold pretty predictably. Jimmy Kimmel and Bill Simmons, the two coaches for this game, will get thrown out for being super annoying, while Justin Bieber brings in the 12-17 year old demographic to cheer him on every time he touches the ball. Michael Rapaport will do his best Brian Scalabrine impersonation, missing corner three pointers, and annoying everyone who comes within 20 feet of the basketball court. The final score of the game won’t matter, but the fact that we will get to see Jason Alexander stand right next to Bill Walton will give the older crowd a flashback of that Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger flick, “Twins.”

Moving forward we have the Rookies against the Sophomores. This game is a pick up game with some of the most athletic guys in the league and has created some exciting moments. I remember Jason “White Chocolate’s” Williams’ elbow pass to Raef Lafrentz, and no Nuggets and Celtics fans, Lafrentz didn’t dunk the ball, and I am pretty sure he never has dunked a ball in his adult life. Kevin Durant’s performance a couple of years ago was memorable, as well as David Lee’s 14-14 from the field exhibition. I expect to see a lot of nice alley oops with the amount of talented big men in the game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if John Wall doesn’t break a few ankles on the way to the MVP award for the game.

Saturday night is really where the fun beings. Due to the fact that the team shooting competition is really just a time filler, I am going to move on to the Skills Competition, brought to us by the classy people of Taco Bell. I love this event because it tends to have the most overall talent than all of other competitions. Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Derrick Rose, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook will square off against one another, going through an obstacle course that would probably take players like Sebastian Telfiar and Howard Eisley the entire weekend to complete. I believe Stephen Curry is going to come out on top of this one because his team has the nicest jerseys, and his eyes can make you forget all about life’s troubles (It doesn’t hurt that he could be mistaken for Miles Austin’s son).

Up next is the 3 point competition, where defending champ Paul Pierce will try to fend off teammate, and new 3-point King, Ray Allen and repeat, which would put him in a class with the infamous Jason Kapono, something I am sure Pierce has been spending his entire career trying to do. Also participating is Kevin Durant, along with James Jones, Dorell Wright, and Daniel Gibson. Gibson may be auditioning for other teams this weekend, while Wright and Jones may just be looking for a little more cash to spend at the strip club. At the end of the day, I think Ray Ray will take it, as this has been his year so far, and in a year where he passes Reggie Miller for the most 3-pointers of all time, how can he not win this event?!?!?

Last, and certainly not least, is the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest. Now the easy thing to do would be to just pick Blake Griffin, put the bet in on sportsbook.com, and forget that you even made that simple of a bet. Well I think Blake, who has everything going for him, is going to LOSE tomorrow night’s contest. I think Washington Wizard’s Javale Mcgee is going to pull off the upset, and be the Justin Morneau to Blake Griffin’s Josh Hamilton in the 2008 Home Run Derby.  Mcgee plays for the Wizards, a team that clearly doesn’t spend much practice time going over plays and defensive assignments. Mcgee, an athletic 7 ft Center out of the Dwight Howard mold, has probably been practicing a few dunks, and will have John Wall there to assist him. I think Mcgee will surprise everyone by  taking this contest, and then much like past champion, and former high school crush Gerald Green, he will be forgotten about as soon as March rolls around.

By Phil Bausk

Football is a game of inches, Basketball is a game of egos, Hockey is a game of white people, and Baseball is a game of numbers. No sport’s outcome is determined by statistics as much as America’s past time is, and men (though not many) like Bill James have sculpted Hall of Fame careers out of analyzing the numbers over and over, transforming the game into what it has become today.

While I am not expert at Sabermetrics, nor am I relatively competent when it comes to them, I find that through my years of watching, playing, and obsessing over baseball, I have concocted some decent forecasts about how a season might unfold. During this time of sports limbo, where professional basketball and hockey reign supreme, at least until the Big East Tournament starts,  baseball fans and restless football fans are filling their brains with the countless Spring Training articles, hoping that this year will be the year their team makes it to October.

I was at work today when someone sent me an outrageous GChat telling me that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson had come back to wrestling. While his life changing movies, such as The Tooth Fairy and Doom, led me to become the man I am today, I was more excited to see him back inside a WWE (World Wildlife Fund should be extinct at this point) ring. In addition, this past week’s episode of Glee was titled “Comebacks,” as Rachel Berry, Will Schuster, and Sue Sylvester all were attempting to makes separate comebacks in their personal lives. Now, I understand if no one really knows what I just said, and if you don’t, read this piece I wrote earlier this year, and perhaps your life will become that much better since watching Glee, as mine has  exponentially improved.

This inspired me to make somewhat of a comeback of my own. While I have made predictions in the last year or so in conversations with friends and such, I have never put these predictions down on paper, or the World Wide Web. This year it will start with the upcoming MLB season, running through each division, giving you the order of which the teams will finish, the All-Division team by position, and which three prospects that will make the biggest impact this season with the big league club. Due to the fact that most people I know are New York Mets fans and can always use some sort of an emotional pick me up, I will start this year’s set of predictions with the distorted mess that is the National League East.

National League East 2011 Projected Finish

1. Philadelphia Phillies

2. Atlanta Braves

3. New York Mets

4. Florida Marlins

5. Washington Nationals

NL East All-Division Team

C: Brian McCann, ATL

1B: Ryan Howard, PHI

2B: Chase Utley, PHI

SS: Hanley Ramirez, FLA

3B: Ryan Zimmerman, WSH

OF: Jason Bay, NYM, Jason Heyward, ATL, Mike Stanton, FLA

SP: Josh Johnson, FLA, Roy Halladay, PHI, Cliff Lee, PHI, Tommy Hanson, ATL, Johan Santana NYM

RP: Drew Storen, WSH, Francisco Rodriguez NYM,  Ryan Madson PHI

3 Impact Prospects: Logan Morrison FLA, Dominic Brown PHI, Jenry Mejia NYM

A lot has happened in this division in the past few months. Cliff Lee spurned the Yankees and the Rangers, and decided to rejoin the Phillies, a team that didn’t really need his “talents.” Lee makes the Phillies rotation almost unbeatable in a playoff series, though I think Roy Oswalt is going to be in for a tough season. However, the trio of Halladay, Lee, and  Cole Hamels will be enough to stifle the bats of the NL East, and most of the entire National League. Their offense, though not as explosive as they were a couple years ago, will score enough runs to win around 95 games, and take home the NL East crown.

However, while many are handing the NL East to the Phillies before opening day, I do think they will be in for a dogfight with the always consistent Atlanta Braves. The Braves sport a very respectable rotation and a well rounded lineup, though questions in the bullpen may ultimately derail their season. The New York Mets are the most intriguing team in this division.

We have a fair assessment of how the Phillies and Braves  respective season’s will shake out, but the Mets season can go any which way. Johan Santana is coming off surgery, Jose Reyes is in a contract year and trying to fight the injury bug, David Wright is a male model, Carlos Beltran doesn’t want to keep getting yelled at on the 7 train, the new stadium is a treasure trove for child molesters, Mike Pelfrey’s bipolar disorder on the field could lead to interesting antics off the  field, and K-Rod can choke someone out on 2nd base and no one would be surprised. Though I do think Jason Bay will have a really solid season at the plate, I do not think everything will pan out for the Mets this season, and if all of that young talent in Florida meshes well, the Mets could be fighting off the Nationals for the cellar in the division.

Speaking of those Marlins, it seems as if they are in the same spot every single year, almost like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day,” only without Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You, Babe” on repeat on the stadium’s sound system. Young outfielders Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison will provide some quality production, as well as some highlight reel plays to amuse the 400 season ticket holders down in South Beach. Josh Johnson returns from a Josh Beckettesque back injury, and if healthy, I think he will be the best pitcher in the division. An added bonus for the Marlins would be if The Akron Scammer shows up to any games. I am sure his entourage alone can fill up the seats behind Home Plate, but Lebron isn’t the kind of guy to create any distractions away from the game, so he”ll probably just watch the  Celtics-Lakers NBA Finals from his couch in June. I wonder if Jim Gray will be invited to watch with him.

That leaves us with the Washington Nationals. They spend over a hundred million dollars to bring in a plus 30 year old outfielder in Jayson Werth. It was a good decision on Werth’s side, and a necessary act of desperation on the Nats side. Werth will get his numbers, and muddle through Washington until Stephen Strasburg is healthy and Bryce Harper hits puberty. Werth may be 34 at that point, but who cares, they took baseball out of Canada, and brought it back to D.C. That has to count for something right?