Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who are the ad wizards ... ?

Back in the halcyon April of aught-five, when I was about to graduate from college and spring had just sprung and the Orioles were tearing up the league, having gone 16-7 for the month and even sweeping the Yankees in a four-game set — in short, when all seemed right with the world — I chanced to come across a local-TV ad for the lowly Kansas City Royals.

Because I was in school in Providence, R.I., at the time, I figured I'd try out this crazy newfangled package, which allowed the user access — grainy, choppy, largely unsatisfactory access — to whatever out-of-market game his baseball-besotted heart might desire. Using an S-video cable, I'd Bogart the downstairs TV of our senior-year house, watching my then-surging O's intently and shouting drunkenly at what I thought were blatant bad calls and generally bugging the shit out of my roommates.

Anyway, one of's side-benefits (or -drawbacks, depending on how you tend to look at these things) is that you never really know whose broadcast the service is pulling from, your team's or the opposition's. So on one of these fine April days — I believe it was a game in which Geronimo Gil keyed a late rally, if you can believe that ever actually happened — during one of these broadcasts I caught an ad encouraging ... no, beseeching ... no, begging Royals fans to come out to Kauffman Stadium. In this endeavor — I thought shamefully — the spots employed the voices of various little kids, who talked about playing on the fun slides and monkey bars in the park's jungle gym or hanging out with Slugerrr the Lion or, you know, tweaking out on cotton candy — in short, any- and everything not having to do with Royals baseball itself.

Now, at the time I found myself tsk-tsking. How sad, I thought, for an organization to find itself reduced to selling the experience at the ballpark over the product on the field. My Orioles, as bad as they'd been since '98, were surely on the upswing now; we had our coterie of flashy free-agent signings (Miggi, Raffy, Javy, Sammy) to lure folks back into Camden Yards; no way would we ever hit the bottom Kansas City had.

Ah, but fate, as Morpheus once put it so eloquently to Neo, is not without a sense of irony. Because today I find myself praying ... no, imploring ... no, begging the Orioles brass or MASN execs or ... whoever to please get these infernal "Defining Moment" ads off the air.

Look, MASN broadcasts are already plenty painful. To say nothing of the actual play on the field (I'll let the 3-16 record suffice), we have to put up with Gary Thorne, who in another life was a fine play-by-play guy — for professional ice hockey. When Thorne's out, we get the pleasure of Jim Hunter licking Jim Palmer's ballsack for nine innings at a time. Then there are the constant fuck-ups: the wrong counts, the wrong number of outs, a three-run homer against the Birds that was actually a grand slam against the Birds.

Long story short, the commercials should offer a reprieve between bouts of prime, grade-A suckage — suckage infesting everything down Oriole Way, from the field to the booth to the truck. Instead, we get these ridiculous, unwarrantedly braggy ads in which Orioles fans, huddled together on a Baltimore rooftop, mitts on and all, taunt an opposing pitcher, daring him to throw the heater. "The faster it comes in, the farther it goes out," one guy says, shit-eating grin splayed across his mug.

These spots wouldn't even be cool if we were, say, the Phillies or Rays right now; wouldn't we want to be more magnanimous in victory? But let's not get ahead of ourselves. We're not the Rays or Phillies or Yankees or Cardinals. We're 3 and 16. Three and sixteen. Can't we film a quick series of ads that play up the charm of the warehouse or the cheap Natty Bohs or the Bird's killer blow jobs?

Still, I guess it could be worse. At least it was the Nats who got the worst of this series of ads. Um, yeah, we do know who Wil Nieves is — by your own admission, a guy who will never, ever do this again:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Let's stay together

Dearest Orioles,

Let me preface what I have to say here by telling you I love you. Always have, always will. It's not going to be easy to write what I have to write to you today, but just know I'm doing it for the sake of our relationship — for the sake of salvaging this beautiful thing we once had, and could again.

The truth is, things haven't been the same between us of late. Of late, hell — not for the past 12 seasons (and counting). It's like you just stopped trying after 1997. Sure, you'll say I changed around that time, too, but mostly I just couldn't support what you were doing: how you'd come into all that money; the lavish spending sprees that ensued; your flirtations with bad boys like Albert Belle, staying out all night. I know I started to lose my cool, what with the constant bickering, the shouting at you, that time I got drunk and told you I'd been fantasizing about the Blue Jays. And I'm sorry for all that. But you know and I know that you stopped taking care of yourself and your true needs. You lost your Oriole Way.

But we had it so good before that, baby! Remember those wild early days? The pennants, the playoffs, the lineups chockablock with future Hall of Famers? God, I was so smitten with you. And you, for your part, truly reciprocated. Lately the best I can get out of you is Matt Wieters T-shirt night; time was, the Bird would blow me in the back of a cab.

Maybe I was just young and naive. I was the new kid on the block in October of '83, all green behind the ears at 1 month old, and you were this sexy, experienced team ready to usher me into a world, and a World Series, the likes of which I'd scarcely know again. You showed me what it was to live.

And based on that promise, I stayed with you through the thick and the thin — through '88, the first time we almost broke up; through '89, when all of a sudden we made it work again; through the lean years of the early '90s and the heady vintage days of '96 and '97. That's why I'm still with you now, girl: We've weathered it all, you and I, and I know we can get back to that good stuff. You're my soulmate.

But I need you, please, to stop doing these things to torture me. You've made me walk to work every fucking day this week — and I wouldn't mind that; in fact part of me likes doing it, if for no other reason than to show the world my devotion to you. But yesterday you knew I was coming up on two consecutive days of hockey games, and you picked that day of all days to get totally smoked, 9-1, including a whopping 21 negative events, such that I'd have not only to walk downtown today, but also to nearly cripple myself lifting weights before doing so.

That's just cold, baby. Still, I'm willing to forgive and forget and move on with you; to grow old with you; to die with a love for you and you alone in my unwavering heart.

Just please, for the love of God, win a couple ballgames.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Opening night

All right, Mike Gonzalez, I'm willing to forgive and forget — so long as you don't make this a regular occurrence.

Turns out a nice long walk was just what I needed: the sun beating down, the a.m. temperature already a breeze-free 75°, packs of tourists like wild Nikon-wielding beasts skulking around the steps of the Lincoln Memorial — forerunners, all, of what'll doubtless be a long, hot, sticky summer.

And of course that reminded me of all the games yet to take place — 161, to be exact (I'm assuming the Orioles won't be playing any more than that, but prove me wrong, kids!). So while this one smarted, especially since it was opening night and the other pitching performances were so stellar and all the young dudes (Wieters, Jones, Markakis) were hitting the ball on the nose, I'd decided, by the end of my meditative five-mile jaunt, that Mr. Gonzalez deserves to be judged by his work over a full season, and that comparisons to Jorge Julio* or Armando Benitez are premature at best.

(By the way, that's a rather pleasant catch-22, eh? Gonzalez's performance, and his performance alone, undoes all the hard-fought at-bats, all the wriggling-out-of-jams of earlier in the game, is itself the sole reason I had to walk to work today — and yet, by very virtue of that walk to work, he's forgiven.)

Shifting gears ... I'm seeing the Arctic Monkeys in Baltimore tonight and thus felt it'd be appropriate, over the course of the walk, to revisit the band's debut LP, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not.

The verdict? Despite the title (which, like the band name, is shockingly awful, especially viewed in light of Alex Turner's considerable gifts as a lyricist), the album holds up fairly well, though I think I'll go and take a piss or hit on that bartendress with the lip-ring if they decide to play "Riot Van"** or "Perhaps Vampires is a Bit Strong But ..."*** or "Still Take You Home." Happily, on the other hand, "The View from the Afternoon" and "When the Sun Goes Down" still rock like all hell, the latter of the two, in this author's humble opinion, offering a sign of things to come once Turner turned his penetrating gaze away from the public house's bathroom mirror.

That said, if they don't play "Cornerstone," I'm demanding my money back.

And finally ... I'd like to apologize to whoever was in the adjacent stall in the office bathroom when I used mine as a personal changing station****, proceeding to strip, wipe myself down with paper towels (and then, having run out of those, with wads of toilet paper) and re-dress in the work clothes I'd portaged in my backpack. I can see how it'd be weird to look beneath the divider and see bare feet — weird enough, possibly, to stop an otherwise-pleasant bowel movement midstream. Part of me hopes you'll see this just so you know I'm not a homeless.


* Speaking of Jorge Julio, I was surprised, a couple of days ago, to find myself in a conversation with a fellow bar patron in which the subject of his conceding a home run to Jack Wilson — yes, that Jack Wilson, the sure-handed shortstop who hadn't homered since 8-year-old league, probably — came up. Mostly I was surprised that any non-Orioles or -Pirates fan (and let's face it, there aren't many of either, or at least not many who'll admit to it) would remember this moment, being as it happened on June 7, 2005. But I remember, mostly because that was the death-knell of the Baltimore season, which had gotten off to a rollicking start (16-7 in April) but was bound to fall back to earth at some point. Anyway, to that guy at the bar, I just want to say: So glad you remember.

** The only good thing about "Riot Van" is how perfectly it segues into "Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secure." Which doesn't justify the Arctics' trotting either out in Baltimore tonight.

*** That track was never as winning or lovable as, say, Eminem's early stuff in its prediction of the undesirable trappings of future success — success that itself had yet to be attained, mind you — namely the press shitting all over you, which, it should be noted, never really happened to the Arctics.

**** Ordinarily, when I use a stall for this purpose, the bathroom is otherwise empty. I'd've used the back stairwell, except then I would've had to close the door to said stairwell behind me, and I happen to know that the doors in this building lock from the outside, which nugget of wisdom I gleaned when, early in our then-covert courtship, I spirited a certain lovely co-worker back there for some thrillingly dangerous making-out but then, less suavely, found that I'd gotten us both locked out and that we'd have to descend nine flights of stairs to get to the lobby and take the elevator back up. (By the way, if you're a boss or a building manager and you're reading this, I totally made the whole thing up. Poetic license.)