Friday, August 29, 2014

How Awesome Are Collisions? (An Appreciation of Bumper Cars)

Humans love collisions, and the world constantly feeds into that fascination. Our prevailing theory of the beginning of the universe involves a "big bang" in which an impossibly tiny, hot, dense...thing expanded to form our world. Presumably, that event involved some collisions.

At the atomic level, shit* is constantly bumping into other shit* to cause all the world's natural phenomena. How does ice melt? Something causes the water molecules to bump into each other faster and faster until the water returns to liquid form. Why do telephone wires sag during the summer? Because heat causes the atoms in the wire to vibrate more quickly, causing volumetric expansion.

*Apologies to Ms. Stevens, my high school science teacher.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How Awful Is the Accidental Shotgun?

While coming in from work today, I was carrying a bunch of different things, including car keys and a can of soda. As I shuffled with all that stuff, I accidentally smashed the keys into the soda, spraying myself and everything I was carrying. That's right: the Accidental Shotgun.

Now, I'm usually all for shotgunning, the act of siphoning a beer down your throat by punching a hole in the side of the can. But this Accidental Shotgun was the pits. Not only did I lose most of the soda, but I also ended up as a sticky man with an armful of wet.

It got me to thinking about other things that are normally cool but become horrible when done accidentally.

Monday, August 18, 2014

How Underrated Are These Baseball Plays?

Earlier in the week, a rabbit hole of baseball articles led me to one written by Mike Fast in 2011 about the value of the hit-and-run. It got me thinking about the many underrated plays we see in the course of a baseball game. These plays are ones that make me say "You just don't get it" when people call baseball boring.

We all love a good home run robbery, bare-handed catch-and-throw, or inside-the-park homer. But I want to focus on subtler plays that elicit "Did-I-really-just-see-that?" murmurs from spectators at the ballpark. The utility and wonder of these plays usually cannot be quantified by statistics. Rather, they reflect baseball's creative, artistic side. In no particular order, here are seven of my favorite underrated baseball plays...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How Little Love Is "Hook" Getting?

I've read a bunch of Robin Williams tributes over the past 36 hours, many of them moving and insightful. But I have also noticed a disturbing trend in those eulogies: None of them makes more than a passing reference to Hook.

Most Williams appreciation articles have placed Hook into a "family-friendly" box with movies like Toys, Jack, and Jumanji. (Unfortunately, Flubber has been mostly ignored in these tributes.) But Hook was so much more, at least for those of us born in the mid-1980s.

Hook provided my generation a seamless bridge from cartoons to live-action films. For those who don't know, Hook is an adaptation of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan that made the story fresh for millions of kids who had already seen the Disney version. The special effects, the focus on the Lost Boys, and Williams' unique sense of humor all made Hook a seminal movie. No 31% rating from snooty viewers on Rotten Tomatoes can change that.

Friday, August 8, 2014

How Come I Just Cried on My Couch?

Yeah, it starts out a little slow, but you'll be tearing up by the time the trumpeter hits the scene.

(Here's a link to the video.)

I've been thinking a lot about World War II lately, partly because I'm reading Ken Follett's Winter of the World.

On the anniversary of D-Day, I took my students to the Statue of Liberty and we watched as helicopters dropped one million roses on the Statue. We also stopped in front of a small ceremony, which an active-duty soldier told us was a gathering of New York City's World War II veterans. When I told my students that my late grandfathers had fought in the war, they were amazed. "History is mad interesting!" one girl exclaimed.

But the group of World War II veterans seemed notably small to me, forcing me to remember that most of the men who fought are now about 90 years old. As there are fewer and fewer World War II veterans around, it's so important to see kids engaging with history. Forgive my use of a cliché, but let's never forget.

How Do the Yankees Look for the Pennant Race?

I know I've written a lot about baseball recently. I love it, and I can't get enough of the pennant race. So sue me. Actually, that's the opposite of the point I'm trying to make.

Today, let's tackle a few interesting questions about a Yankees team that just took three out of four games against the Tigers and their fully-loaded pitching staff.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How Surprising Is Each MLB Team's Top Performer?

On Sunday night, America* watched as Brett Gardner completed a torrid week and led the Yankees to an 8-7 win over the Red Sox. Gardner slammed his fifth homer of the week, bringing his season total to 15 dingers.

*By "America," I actually mean "people who enjoy staying up until midnight to watch mediocre baseball." 

Gardner's superb recent play has unquestionably left him with the best stats among Yankees regulars. The left fielder has been 30 percent better than the average MLB offensive player by park- and league-adjusted measures. When you factor in Gardner's stellar defense, he's been one of the main reasons the Yankees have remained in semi-contention throughout this injury-riddled season.

Friday, August 1, 2014

How Poor Was My July Blogging?

I normally compose a few blogposts a week, and by the end of each month, I aim to average a post every other day. In June, for example, I squeaked out 11 posts of varying length; in May, I wrote 16. Some months I post over 20 times, and others I barely crack double-digits.

Well, in July, I managed just five posts. Horrible, I admit. But just how poor was that output?

My total of five posts in 31 days averages out to .161, or 16.1%. For context, that's worse than...
  • ...newly-enshrined Hall of Famer Greg Maddux's career batting average (.171). In my defense, my July average was better than Dan Uggla's historically-bad mark at the plate this season (.149).
  • ...the winning percentage (.250) of the 1962 Mets, who went 40-120 in their expansion season. That's right, my July production was worse than a team that inspired a book titled Can't Anybody Here Play This Game?.
  • ...the 76ers' winning percentage last season (.232). I couldn't beat out a team whose mission statement has been edited to read: "We apologize for any wins we accidentally stumble into." I hope my July failures allow me to draft an injured center that won't play until at least 2015.
  • ...Manute Bol's career 3-point percentage (21.0%). I did post a better mark than Shawn Bradley's career 10.3% from beyond the arc, though.
  • ...the percentage of Trouble with the Curve I managed to stay awake for (19.54%). That's an estimate, but I'm pretty confident in it. 
  • ...the percentage of Americans who believe in ghosts (45%), according to The Huffington Post. I guess How Blank has been one of those ghosts for large chunks of July.
So in August, I hope to perform better than a pitcher at the plate, a center shooting threes, or a person trying to stay awake through a horrible movie. And since I broke my foot playing in a grown-ass men's softball league last week, I should have plenty of time to do so.