Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nice On Ice

ESPN's Paul Lukas came to town last week for a sports filled weekend that included pond hockey, curling, and watching the Vikings at Bunny's. He also got a generous dollop of Minnesota nice. The opening:

As it turned out, the weather did present some challenges, but not the ones I expected. And pond hockey was just the tip of my sports weekend iceberg. Here's how it went down:

Thursday, Jan. 21, 6 p.m.: I board a Minneapolis--bound flight out of LaGuardia and find myself sitting in the middle of two extremely sociable pond hockey teams. As I chat with them, two things become apparent: They really, really love hockey, and they really, really love beer. Not necessarily in that order.

"Pond hockey is, like, the essence of pure hockey," says Ryan Equale, sitting behind me. "We all started playing on ponds, we're all brothers out there, and at the end of the day everyone's together sharing a beer." I laugh and nod approvingly, not realizing I'll be hearing this sentiment repeated about 17 dozen times over the next two days.

The close:

Sunday, 9:25 p.m.: Garrett Hartley kicks the game-winning field goal for the Saints. I'm expecting some sort of a negative reaction, but there's no booing, no cursing, not even a collective groan. Instead, people quietly put on their jackets and shuffle out the door.

As I walk out, a woman gives me a glum smile and says, "What a bummer, eh?"

Minnesotans: the nicest people in the world, even in defeat. And even in late January.

Maybe next time he's in town Lukas should watch a game with Atomizer.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Check Your Batteries

I have a friend that I'll call Cocoa. I don't think he'd mind if I shared this story about him.

Unfortunately, Cocoa had a bad marriage. His wife divorced him and they share joint custody of two children who are now pre-teens. The ex-wife is a foreign national and has threatened to take the children back to her homeland when she gets angry at him. This threat obviously concerns him and gives her a degree of power over him.

Because of her threats, Cocoa has hidden the fact that he's been dating a new woman for the last few years. He doesn't want his wife getting angry and taking the children. He doesn't want his children to know either, because they might tell his ex-wife.

Recently, the joint custody arrangement has led to the need to lend his cell phone to his children. Because his current girlfriend calls a lot, he was nervous that she might call when the kids have his cell.

Cocoa has always been a smart guy. His nightmare situation has one of his kids talking to their mom while a call from his girlfriend comes in. Cocoa got around this by changing the name of his current girlfriend on his cell phone to "Low Battery." So when the girlfriend calls, the kids tell their mother that they have to go because dad's cell phone battery is low.

The arrangement worked like a charm until a Tiger Woods situation where the girlfriend got a hold of his cell phone. As background information, the girlfriend is probably pretty angry about dating a guy for the last few years who still won't tell his children about her.

Anyway, she gets his cell phone and sees that he's got hundreds of calls from someone called "Low Battery." She assumes that he's hiding the fact that he's seeing another woman and starts giving him the business. When he explains that she is, in fact, "Low Battery," she snapped and dumped him.

Poor bastard.

Friday, January 29, 2010

NFL Admits Screwing Over the Vikings

Not that it matters, but the NFL has admitted that it missed calling an illegal hit on Brett Favre's first interception. If they had gotten the call right, instead of an interception, the Vikings would have had the ball first and ten on the New Orleans 19.

This is three months after Major League Baseball admitted to screwing over the Twins by incorrectly ruling a Joe Mauer ground rule double a foul ball.

If Jesse Ventura had any sense (he doesn't) he would be investigating these obvious conspiracies.

We Like It Here?

The NIGP hepped me to an excellent piece by Bill Simmons on tortured teams. The whole thing is well worth reading, but one aspect that Simmons nails is how much worse it is to be a fan of a tortured team in a cold weather region:

Back to the Vikes for a second. Imagine being a die-hard living in Minnesota or South Dakota after Sunday's loss. It's three degrees outside, you have one year left with Joe Mauer, your basketball GM choked with Ricky Rubio, you have a .500 hockey team, and your football team is coming back nine months from now with the same bumbling coach and a 41-year-old QB...and that's before we get to the fact that God might legitimately hate your team, or that it's going to be 20 degrees or colder for the next two months, or that everyone around you is just as depressed as you are. How do you get out of bed? How do you function that Monday? So much for spiritual optimism.

Simmons also is spot on with the "sucker punch" aspect:

Two days before Vikes-Saints, I wrote the following: "Jets/Bills/Vikes/Browns fans expect to get punched, contort their faces into a giant wince, wait for a punch that never comes, say to themselves, 'Cool, I'm not gonna get punched, it's gonna be OK!'...and then they get clocked." That sequence usually leads to a Level 1 loss. What's amazing is how many fans know this and lower their guard anyway. On Wednesday's podcast, I asked my buddy Geoff (die-hard Vikes fan) whether he actually thought Minnesota was going to win on the final drive of regulation. This is someone who started rooting for the Vikes at age 6, the year of the Hail Mary play, and spent the next 35 years getting kicked in the teeth. What was his answer?


First down, New Orleans 33, less than a minute to play ... Geoff thought they had it. He dropped his guard. The rest was history. He spent the rest of the night kicking himself for dropping his guard. That's an essential emotional sequence for Level 1: self-loathing.

I was watching Sunday's game with the NIGP. Like Geoff, we can both recall the pain of the '75 push off and have become thoroughly jaded Viking fans by all the suffering that has followed. But we too succumbed to the tempation that this time would be different. This time the Vikings would get it done. The NIGP even uttered the words "Super Bowl" a couple of times, which no doubt played a role in the drive's ultimate failure.

The only quibble I have with Simmons is that he ranks the Cubs ahead of the Vikings in his list of tortured teams. Other than Bartman, how much have Cubs fans really suffered through over the last forty years? Hardly enough to compare with the Vikings four Super Bowl and five NFC championship game losses (three of them gut wrenchers).

Beer of the Week (Vol. XL)

Another edition of Beer of the Week brought to you by the shiny, happy people at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can help you throw your love around and remember that there is no time to cry.

Cynic--Definition and More from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Main Entry: cyn•ic
Pronunciation: \ˈsi-nik\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle French or Latin, Middle French cynique, from Latin cynicus, from Greek kynikos, literally, like a dog, from kyn-, kyōn dog-- more at hound
Date: 1542
1 capitalized : an adherent of an ancient Greek school of philosophers who held the view that virtue is the only good and that its essence lies in self-control and independence
2 : a faultfinding captious critic; especially : one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest

During some period of our misspent youth, I can clearly recall our mother expressing surprise at how cynical my brother and I already had become considering our tender age. At the time, we regarded the cynical labeling as a badge of pride. What else could we be but cynical?

Today, I don't consider myself cynical per the traditional definition. Rather, I'd say I'm what Chesterton termed a "happy pessimist." Pessimist about the nature of man and the prospects for this temporal world. Yet happy about the eternal salvation available to all mankind through God.

Not that there aren't plenty of things to be cynical about these days, especially in these parts. Following the local professional football squad certainly lends one to take on a more cynical worldview. In the depths of winter, with spring still nothing but a distant hope, it's hard to be anything but cynical about the weather. On a national level, watching this week's SOTU address with anything but a cynical gaze would have been foolhardy.

Leave it to the crew at Surly Brewing Company to come up with a beer bearing the name that captures that mood. This week's beer is Surly's Cynic Ale.

Light tan can with standard Surly graphics. You can see why the bottom half of the drinker ying/yang is cynical. Definitely the pint is empty kind of guy.

Beer Style: Saison

Alcohol by Volume: 6.7%

COLOR (0-2): Gold, slightly cloudy 2

AROMA (0-2): Malty, sweet and a bit peppery 2

HEAD (0-2): White, not much retention or lacing 1

TASTE (0-5): Mostly malty and sweet with spice and light citrus flavors and a touch of hops. Medium body and thinner mouth feel. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Dry finish and pleasant follow through 2

OVERALL (0-6): Although this is not one of my favorite varieties of beer--and one that I probably would enjoy more in warmer months--it's another solid effort from Surly. They don't hold back or play it safe with any of their offerings and if you are a fan of the saison/farmhouse ale style, this would be a great choice for you. It's very drinkable and after knocking back a couple you might just find yourself taking a slightly less cynical view of the world. At least the world of beer. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Thursday, January 28, 2010


The next you want to go off on a rant about the shoddy and dangerous products that we import from China, consider the junk that we send their way (WSJ-sub req):

His New York fans may have deserted him, but Stephon Marbury is already winning new friends in this grimy coal city in northern China.

"Ma Bu Li," as he is now known, on Wednesday began an unlikely career with the Taiyuan Shanxi Zhongyu Professional Basketball Club, one of the worst teams in the league. He is the biggest National Basketball Association star ever to have played professional basketball in China.

Back home, Mr. Marbury's run-ins with coaches and teammates at the New York Knicks and other teams battered his reputation. After terminating his contract in New York early last year, Mr. Marbury played briefly for the Boston Celtics, and according to Zhongyu, he accepted an offer to move to China after he didn't get a satisfactory offer in the NBA.

But his falling out with the Knicks was not publicized as much in China as it has been in the U.S. Though die-hard Chinese fans say they are aware he has had less playing time in recent years, Mr. Marbury's reputation as a top-notch point guard is still relatively untarnished here.

The 32-year-old posted a greeting to Chinese fans on his blog Tuesday, attracting more than 4,000 subscribers within hours. One user posting under the name JohnLee7125 wrote a response to Mr. Marbury that said: "I think you can do better in China, because we love you."

Mr. Marbury is hardly a China hand. "I really didn't know that much about China other than what I've seen on TV" about Chinese NBA star Yao Ming, Mr. Marbury told reporters Tuesday night when he arrived at his hotel. "I thought this was the right place to be."

Definitely. I mean what could possibly go wrong with a stand-up guy like Marbury dropping into a completely foreign culture? Other than everything. This has disaster written all over it and may set Sino-American relations back a decade.

By the Numbers Part Two

In the interests of fairness and balance, here's a tally of how often words which we predicted would not appear in the SOTU were uttered by President Obama.

11) Freedom 1 time

10) Liberty zero times

9) Constitutional zero although Constitution was used twice

8) Victory 2 times although not in regard to Iraq

7) Bootstraps zero times

6) Surplus 2 times

5) Cut 16 times (usually in relation to claims of tax cuts)

4) C-SPAN zero times

3) Ted Kennedy zero times

2) Jalapeño poppers zero times

1) Mea culpa zero times

By the Numbers

Those of you did utilize our list of Top 11 Words To Drink To During the State of the Union Speech may wonder just how many drinks you ended up putting away last night. Here's our official tally based on the transcript.

11. Inherited zero times

10. Predecessor zero times

9. Legacy zero times

8. Green zero times

7. Investment 18 times

6. Clear 4 times

5. Wall Street 4 times

4. Reform 13 times

3. Fight 8 times

2. You lie! (from the gallery) technically zero although we think it was whispered often

1. I 86 times

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Top 11 Words You're Least Likely to Hear in Tonight's SOTU Address

Those playing a drinking game to tonight's SOTU address should be looking ahead to a wild night, if they drew the names listed in Chad's post. For those of us poor saps who drew the words below, a dry sobering night is on the horizon. The top 11 words you're least likely to hear in tonight's SOTU address.

11) Freedom

10) Liberty

9) Constitutional

8) Victory

7) Bootstraps

6) Surplus

5) Cut


3) Ted Kennedy

2) Jalapeño poppers

1) Mea culpa

And Keep Blood Between Brothers

The bloodmobile made a stop at work on Monday and I was able to find time to make a donation. In the past, giving blood meant having to endure a series of invasive screening questions delivered by a bloodmobile worker who was often obviously anxious about doing so. I recall one particularly uncomfortable instance when a matronly older woman struggled to maintain her sense of propriety and decorum while asking me if I had sexual contact with a prostitute or anyone else who takes money or drugs or other payment for sex. It was like being interviewed on your sex life by your grandmother and neither of us was happy about having to go through it.

Fortunately the wheels of progress keep on a turnin' and today no such personal interaction is required to complete the screening. Instead, you sit alone in a tiny room and answer the questions on a laptop. It's a much better process and one that even provides for a bit of humor.

Since we are so accustomed to visual stimulation these days, each of the screening questions is accompanied by an appropriate picture. For example, when you are asked "Have you ever had Chagas disease?" you see a picture of the critter responsible for its spread:

The smiles come when you get a question like:

"Have you ever had sexual contact with a person who has hepatitis?"

Paired with a stock photo of a happy couple doing something innocuous.

Or this:

"Have you ever had sexual contact with a person who has ever used needles to take drugs or steroids, or anything not prescribed by a doctor?"

Which one was on 'roids?

I wonder what it would be like to see your picture show up next to a question like:

"Have you ever paid to have sexual contact with a tattooed hemophiliac pygmy?"

However, I think the most unusual and interesting of all the blood screening question/photo pairings is this one.

"Male donors; have you ever had sexual contact with another male, even once?"

Even once?

Top Eleven Drinking Words In Tonight's State of the Union Speech

Political speeches are much easier to swallow if you make a game out of them. A drinking game to be precise. One that requires you to drink every time you hear the politician in question mention a specific word. Here are the Top 11 Words To Drink To In President Obama's SOTU Speech Tonight.

11. Inherited

10. Predecessor

9. Legacy

8. Green

7. Investment

6. Clear

5. Wall Street

4. Reform

3. Fight

2. You lie! (from the gallery)

1. I

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This Too Shall Pass

Now that the finality of the Vikings season ending in New Orleans on Sunday has sunk in, it's possible to look back at what was and ahead to what be might (and stop obsessing about what might have been).

We have to start of course with Mr. Favre. Much of what I said about Favre when he signed proved to be almost completely wrong:

The other group of Viking fans are cool-headed and rational enough to realize that while Favre once WAS a great quarterback, his best days are long behind him. Now, he's nothing more than a washed-up, egomaniacal prima donna whose brain is writing checks that his arm can no longer cash.

Favre clearly proved me and the other skeptics wrong by having a great regular season and leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship game. I have no problem eating crow and admitting that I was wrong. I just wish I had been proven 100% incorrect:

The idea that he's going to calmly and carefully help quarterback the Vikings to the Super Bowl with deliberate style is absurd. Even if he wanted to take such a measured approach to the game, he couldn't. It's not in his nature. He's still Brett Favre and even if he manages to contain his urge to improvise for a good part of the season, you know that at some critical point in a key game he's going to try to do too much.

Say with nineteen seconds left in a tied NFC Championship game for example. But as awful as that throw was, I can't blame Favre for the loss. If his teammates hadn't fumbled away scoring opportunities and given them to the Saints and if the Vikings had a head coach who knew how to finish a game, he wouldn't have had to be in that position to begin with. Favre is Favre. You have to take the good (getting the Vikings to the brink of the Bowl) with the bad (making a bad decision in crunch time). If he decides to come back next year, I (and I imagine almost all Viking fans) would welcome him back with open arms. Next year, the Vikings just need to make sure not to let the game come down to one Favre gamble.

Next up, how do you solve a problem like Adrian? Having Adrian Peterson on your team is like having a beautiful girlfriend given to incurable bouts of explosive diarrhea. When she's strutting around looking smokin' hot, you couldn't imagine wanting anyone else. But when that diarrhea flares up, you want nothing to do with her. The question is do you stick with her and hope she figures out a way to control her problem or trade her in for a less hot but more regular gal? In the case of Peterson, that might mean the Vikes opt to try to make another run with Chester Taylor and see what they could get for Peterson in a trade. Personally, I think he's got too much talent to let him go and you rarely get back what you give up talent wise in NFL trades. Get somebody to work with him on holding on to the damn ball this offseason and see what happens next year.

Speaking of trading talent, assuming that Favre comes back and AP can hold on to the ball, the Vikings offense should once again be potent. But to make it even more so, the Vikings should discretely inquire whether the Patriots have had enough of Randy Moss. He's inked through next year with them, but after this year's shenanigans I wouldn't doubt if the Pats would be willing to move him. I have no idea what they would want or what the Vikings could give them, but the idea of Favre having Moss as a potential target is an intriguing prospect. Hell, it might even help convince Favre to come back.

Even if the Vikings don't get Moss back in purple, they appear to be positioned pretty well for next year. There are definitely positions that could be upgraded, but no glaring deficiencies. Among the players at least.

My number one concern continues to be the coaching. On the surface, Childress' record of success is hard to argue with. 6-10, 8-8, 10-6, 12-4 is an impressive four-year improvement and it seems that he played an instrumental part in getting Favre on the team. You can't deny him credit for that. But like Denny Green, I wonder if he's one of those coaches who doesn't know how to get it done in the clutch. Even before the inexcusable 12 men in the huddle fiasco, it didn't seem as if he had a clear plan for how they were going to win the game. As Vox Day has astutely noted, as soon as the Vikings got inside the Saints forty, Childress started to tighten up. I was watching the game with the NIGP and neither of us could understand why the Vikings called that first time out. And then to follow it up with two obvious running plays that gained nothing, another timeout, and then the penalty that will live in infamy call Childress' game management skills into serious question. I can't imagine other NFL coaches who have had success at the highest levels making those same series of mistakes.

Unfortunately, Childress had his contract extended this year so Vikings fans will have to hope that he learned something from Sunday night. Yes, the Vikings should be fine next year. As long as they can overcome Favre's nature, Peterson's dropsyness, and Chilly's command skills. No worries, right?

Finally, let me say that I am not one of those Vikings fans who's now wishing the Saints well in the Super Bowl. They had the NFC Championship game handed to them and they almost let it get away. While it's to their credit that they did win the game, they hardly looked impressive doing so. The Colts are not going to be nearly as generous as the Vikings were and if the Saints are going to become Super Bowl champs they're going to have to go out and win the game themselves. Frankly, I'm still not sold on the idea that Brees is a quarterback who can do that. We'll find out in a couple of weeks. Watching the Super Bowl as observers from the outside. A position that Viking fans are all too familiar with.

The Nihilist Chirps in: For me, the least favorite part of every Viking season is the week or so spent dissecting exactly where the team failed. The closer to the big game, the more unpleasant the exercise is. So I'm going to change the subject by informing readers that the AL Central Champion Minnesota Twins just signed slugger Jim Thome to an incentive-laden contract. He should see at least 80 games as DH, as well as providing valuable insurance in the event that Justin Morneau's back injury is still impacting him. It's time to look forward.

Grading On A Curve

As the NIGP noted, the company that we've used to host Fraters Libertas for years was recently bought by another hosting company. That company is now migrating all of the sites previously hosted by the old company to their new servers. That migration will take a week and during that time we are not able to update our sites.

A week in internet years is like six months and the idea that we'd be shut down for that long was not acceptable. We attempted to get the hosting company ( to change their plans and allow us the ability to post updates, but we were rebuffed with the explanation, "Sorry, it's in your contract." Gee, thanks for the support.

Anyway, until the transition is complete, the NIGP has suggested that post anything that we would normally put up on Fraters here and that's what we plan to do. Rumors that we were all in alcohol-induced comas following the Vikings loss were greatly exaggerated. That's only true in the case of Atomizer and he's often in such a state regardless of how the local eleven twelve perform.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thy Brother's Keeper

An administrative announcement: due to hosting issues, Fraters Libertas will be down. Emergency posts will be available at this blog.

Here's one now, from our own Atomizer:

F*#@ing Vikings

F*#@ Adrian Peterson and his Brent McLanahan f*#@ing fumbles. F*#@ Percy Harvin too. Brett Favre can s*#@ my d%#@, just like Fran Tarkenton. Hey, Childress! Having too many men in the f*#@ing huddle is even worse than taking a f*#@ing knee at the end of the game. F*#@!

Editor's note: while the final paragraph of this post meets the mainstream media standard of "fake, but accurate," as endorsed by 60 Minutes, we want to assure readers that the opening paragraph is in fact true.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Scott Baio is 47 and Racist

Scott Baio recently received death threats for his latest Twitter post where he accused Barack Obama of waking up each morning to something that resembles the love child of the title character from "Predator" and Aunt Esther from "Sanford and Son":

As you may remember, Baio sat next to Lady Margaret Thatcher at Ronald Reagan's funeral. I think that means the racism charges of him are likely untrue. It's not like he was ever a grand wizard in West Virginia.

Since when is calling someone ugly racist? I can see if he was calling Tyra Banks or Halle Berry ugly. Unfortunately, the beast on the wing of that famous "Twilight Zone" episode is objectively better looking than that picture.