Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gringotts, Revisited

When I used to live in a relatively questionable neighborhood in Ypsilanti, there was a crazy stretch where the Bank of America a few blocks down the road got robbed three separate times over a period of about six months. My initial thought after learning about this string of robberies was, “Wow, you don’t really hear much about a good bank heist anymore.” After enjoying its heyday in the Roaring Twenties, this method of crime has become so obsolete in today’s world that it carries a Laura Ingalls Wilder-esque quaintness to it. However, my second (and more important) thought was this: I would still feel better leaving my money at the Bank of America down the road than deposit a single sickle at the Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Allow me to explain.

Ron: Look, here’s the stuff Mum got for you in Diagon Alley. And she’s got some gold out of your vault for you.
Harry: Excellent! Tell your mum I say—wait a second…what?      

My first piece of evidence bad pointing to Gringotts’ awfulness is the disturbing fact that Molly Weasley seems to have unrestricted access to Harry’s bank account. Before the start of the school year in Goblet of Fire, Mrs. Weasley is somehow able to make a moderate withdrawal from Harry’s vault, no little gold keys, no photo ID, no signed authorization, apparently no questions asked by the goblins. I guess stealing from Gringotts isn’t exactly as difficult as Hagrid would have it sound. All you have to do is name-drop someone completely different with no evidence that you even know them, head into their vault without their knowledge, and take what you please. Now in this particular case, Mrs. Weasley was just doing Harry a favor, so no harm done, right? Well, all I can say is that I can’t be the only one who found it a bit dodgy that the Weasleys are somehow able to buy an entire year’s worth of school supplies for their four children enrolled at Hogwarts, when their own vault at one point had one galleon in it. On a side note, I also wonder how pleased Harry was to find that his hard-earned trust fund was being used to buy expensive green dress robes that he would wear one time ever.

Griphook: Weasley, what were you doing down in the vaults earlier?
Bill: Uhh…an important client asked me to uh, check their vault for curses. Yeah.

            Next you have Bill Weasley, who also seems to have carte blanche when it comes to the Potter gold, under circumstances somehow even more suspicious than Molly’s. In Half Blood Prince, Bill uses the excuse of the Voldemort panic to justify another unauthorized withdrawal from Harry’s vault. “I got it out of your vault for you Harry, because it’s taking about 5 hours for the public to get their gold at the moment, the goblins have tightened security so much.” On the surface, it makes perfect sense that Bill could get into the vault; he works for the bank as a cursebreaker, and presumably knows the ins and outs of the underground tunnels, as well as the internal security measures in place. He’s in the perfect position to bypass the long lines and help out a family friend. On the other hand, I’ll quote Chris Tucker from Friday by asking, WHAT KINDA SHIT IS THAT??
            Are the goblins also allowed to leave work with their pockets full of their clients’ gold, or is Bill Weasley the only one with that privilege? It’s well-documented that the goblins don’t exactly consider wizards to be trustworthy, so I don’t think that policy would fly with them. This makes me believe that Bill went into Harry’s vault and retrieved some funds without his employer’s knowledge. Notice that he says, “I got it out your vault for you Harry”, instead of “Gornuk took me down there right in the middle of a work day that was so hectic that it caused delays of five hours.” If Bill can get into Harry’s vault undetected, he can probably get into other vaults as well, just saying.
            Before you jump all over me with how great of a guy Bill Weasley is, let me remind you what the guy’s job is: Cursebreaker, for the single richest institution in the entire wizarding world. While in Egypt, his mission was to break through millennia-old curses in tombs and artefacts and retrieve the treasures inside. The Gringotts wiki page claims that Cursebreakers are analogous to muggle archeologists, but that’s not what I see. It seems to me that Bill is more of a magic grave robber who defiles sacred burial grounds and splits the profits with his bank. After all, “The goblins don’t give a damn about my hair, just as long as I bring home plenty of loot.”  With this perspective, I’m actually kind of glad that JK Rowling spared us the full details of Bill’s exploits over the course of Philosopher’s Stone, when he was “in Africa doing something for Gringotts” (Magical blood diamonds, anyone?).
Sirius: I used your name, but told them to take the gold from my own Gringotts vault.
Harry: And that worked?
Sirius: There’s Gringotts for you.

            I’ll lay off the Weasley family for a little bit now and go into some depth about the Holy Grail of shady Gringotts transactions: the infamous Firebolt purchase. For those of you who haven’t had the chance to brush up on Prisoner of Azkaban for a while, here’s a recap of what happened: Harry received a new Firebolt broomstick as a gift after his Nimbus 2000 got wrecked by the Whomping Willow. For the rest of the year, no one had any idea where this new broomstick came from, though there was suspicion that Sirius Black had sent it. At the end of the book, when Harry is learning the truth about Sirius and Peter Pettigrew, Black also reveals that it was him who sent the Firebolt broom after all. He filled out a mail-order form from Quidditch Warehouse magazine or something, and “I used (Harry’s) name, but told them to take the gold from my own Gringotts vault.”
            To have any kind of credibility and fraud protection whatsoever, there would need to be some kind of communication, either parchment or magical, between the bank and the broomstick dealer. Upon reviewing the order form, the reviewer would undoubtedly notice a discrepancy between the buyer’s name and the vault number used. When looking at that order form, there would be a few reasonable theories that can be drawn:
Sirius Black is buying the broom, (poorly) concealing his identity by using Harry’s name.
- Harry is trying to buy himself a broomstick, attempting to steal funds from the Black family vault. 
-Harry and Sirius are working together to buy a broom, either for Harry, or possibly as a means for Black to further elude the Aurors.
-  An unknown third party is defrauding the bank, and using both of their names.


Any of these scenarios would raise serious red flags for any self-respecting bank, leading to an immediate investigation. I guess under the first scenario, it’s possible that the goblins, who tend to separate themselves from wizarding affairs when possible, simply wouldn’t bother to alert the Ministry. However, if they were to believe that any of the other three scenarios may have taken place, it would be in the bank’s own best interest to uphold its proud reputation of excellent security by performing a full investigation. In any case, Gringotts’s inactivity in the midst of a highly suspicious transaction—involving the most famous wizard on earth, and the 2nd most wanted fugitive in the wizarding world—makes me conclude that Gringotts sucks. Badly.

Unauthorized third-party access to certain vaults? Check. Turning a blind eye to extremely fishy transactions involving some of your highest profile clients? Check. Adding funds to your endowment by methodically desecrating the burial sites of ancient cultures? Check. No effective policy to prevent your own employees from sneaking funds from clients’ accounts in the middle of a Ministry coup? Check. Gringotts bank certainly has it all, with the exception of morals, ethics, security, and common sense. As far as convenience goes, let’s also remember that Gringotts has no branches or ATMs, so even Chinese wizards probably need to go all the way to London every few weeks just to galleon their paychecks or grab a few bucks for quidditch tickets.  All I know is, if I was a wizard, I wouldn’t be  taking my galleons anywhere near that goblin-managed travesty; I’d instead keep my gold at home, employing my own gemino and flagrante charms to keep it safe. Or just take it to the Bank of America in Ypsilanti.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Case for the Seattle Scozzhawks

The Bromolyte Interviews

It's safe to say that out in Seattle, they've caught a pretty strong case of championship fever, the likes of which us Bromos have been vaccinated against since 1957. In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, we're sending this one out to the Pacific Northwest for an exclusive interview with Bromolyte and die-hard Seahawks fan Scozz.

Honolulu Bromothymol: First off, credit where credit is due, congrats on the run to the Super Bowl. Take me through the inside of your head for those last five minutes of the NFC Championship game.

Scozz: Stressful to say the least, my heart was pounding. I was standing on my couch half the time yelling at the D and it seemed like a repeat of not too distant year's past, where we might let the game slip away in the closing minutes; but this time it was different, the Legion of Boom helped seal the deal.

HB: did the fact that it was San Francisco make things that much more intense, or was the stage set either way?

Scozz: Playing San Fran definitely set the stage for an epic matchup. There is definitely a dislike that goes both ways, this incorporates everyone from the coaches and players to the fans. We know that Harbaugh and Carroll aren't big fans of each other dating back to the Stanford/USC days, Sherman and Crabtree have beef since an offseason charity event went awry, and even our 12th man and San Fran fans are always one-upping each other. Even better than this is the great games that usually result on the field. Close games, big tackles and hits, young rising quarterbacks, strong run games. Both teams have similar strengths and it's always a battle to the end of the 4th quarter.

o an outsider, it seems like this whole rivalry jumped up and took over the NFL pretty much out of nowhere. Is there some deeper history, or is it just since Harbaugh got hired that it all started?

Scozz: I'd say it's been in the works for a bit, but with Carroll and Harbaugh taking over the head coaching jobs, it's definitely gone to another level. Seahawks rivalries aren't a new thing, though. If anyone remembers, before we switched to NFC west from the AFC in 2002, we had a pretty heated rivalry with the Broncos.

HB: I remember when Seattle was in the AFC, had never heard a thing about a Bronco rivalry though, interesting.

Scozz: Oh yeah, I remember growing up never cheering for John Elway for that specific reason. There were Seahawks t-shirts with the slogan "Bronco-Busters" and the Bronco X'd out in a red circle (Editor's Note: me and my brother call that "Getting Terry Stanselled", after what we used to do to our old band director's face in our school yearbooks)

HB: Those shirts are awesome.

Scozz: If you get the chance, look up Steve Largent's hit on Mike Harden. I'd have to say that he might have been one of the founding members of the Legion of Boom, dating back to good ol' 1988.

HB:  You've been around Ann Arbor for plenty of Michigan/OSU and Michigan/MSU games, compare this heated Seahawks-Niners NFL rivalry to a college one. Is there any comparison?
Scozz: When cars get tipped and go up in flames, as they do in Columbus, I may upgrade that intensity, but I don't ever see that happening. And I make sure to say in "intensity". College rivalries have such history that span decades, some centuries, that this hasn't touched. I think Michigan and that school down south, UM/MSU, FSU/Florida, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State, Duke/North Carolina and a whole lot of other rivalries have such history that a Seattle/San Francisco can't touch.

HB: This next one has confused me for a few years, so forgive me, but growing up, even in Michigan, I would always hear about an incredible football fan section known as 'the 12th Man'. The Texas A&M 12th man, that is. Had no idea that it was even a thing with Seattle until that famous Saints playoff game after the 2010 season. Elucidate me here.
Scozz: To tell you the truth, I don't know the exact date or time the 12th Man came into being. If you look it up on the Wiki, they say the University of Iowa published something about it first, then Texas A&M, blah blah blah. It became more media-centered around 2006 when Texas A&M sued the Seattle Seahawks for trademark rights. It looks like they settled out of court, we paid them $100,000 and now pay an annual $5,000 fee to use their trademarked "phrase". All in all, who really cares?

HB: Texas A&M, maybe.
Scozz: If Texas A&M had a 12th man like ours, maybe Johnny "Football" Manziel (also trademarked I believe) and WR Mike Evans would stay another year. The 12th Man is a great source of Pride up here in the Pacific Northwest. With the Guinness World Record for Loudest Outdoor Stadium Crowd Noise, numerous false start penalties on the opposing offense, we feel connected and a part of our team. The best part yet is the 12th Man flag raising: Before each home game we have a flag raiser to get our Team and 12th Man going. 12th Man Flag raisers include Seattle's favorite legends, all-time greats, residents and stars,Ken Griffey Jr, Steve Largent, Walter Jones, Shawn Kemp, Bill Russell, Ichiro, Apollo Ono, Fred Couples, Kasey Keller, Gary Payton, Jay Buhner*, and more. It's nice to see support from our local legends. A truly special event.

*Editor's Note: I remember a previous conversation I had with Scozz where he proudly recalled how Mariners fans used to refer to the former outfielder as "Jay Boner". I'm surprised my friend Bitts never pulled that nickname out when he would be the Mariners in our games of MLBPA Baseball on Sega.

HB: I think now we need to tackle the elephant in the room.
Scozz: Sherman.

HB: BINGO. As an impartial observer with very limited points of reference…you're going to give me a reason to not dislike Richard.
Scozz: Lots of reasons. Football-wise: Richard Sherman is the best cover corner in the game. He is responsible for every opposing offense's #1 receiver and shuts them down. Sherman led the NFL this season with 8 interceptions. He is a student of the game, but most importantly Sherman plays with passion--and this is where the critics are divided. He's called out Tom Brady in the past and most recently called out Michael Crabtree. While he could have gone about this better in hindsight, this motivation, energy and attitude is what helps set him apart and helps make him elite. Do Gary Payton, Deion Sanders, Shaquille O'Neal, Terrell Owens, Charles Barkley, Floyd Mayweather, Reggie Miller, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan ring any bells? These guys talked mad trash and I believe it probably helped elevate their game against their toughest rivals. It made them push themselves to elevate their game and Sherman does this as well. 

HB: There have been plenty of trash talkers, but relatively few of them then try to totally deny that image and act like this victim when some people react negatively to it. Just the opposite for Barkley and Deion. On one side, I get the aggression, and "that's part of the game" type of motivation and intimidation…on the other side, I don't buy the "I went to Stanford, so that must mean that I'm not a total dick out there" excuse. 
 Scozz: Most definitely aggressive. But if you ever watch an interview with him, he's a very composed smart conversationalist. He definitely didn't handle the NFC Championship situation as good as he could, but what can you do, people make mistakes. Hopefully he learns and lets his play speak for itself.

HB: In the wave of opinions floating around about the guy, and definitely amplified by the NFC championship interview, I fall somewhere in the the middle. I don't think the guy is a "Thug", but it's definitely an easy label to attach to the hyper-aggressive persona that he plays up.
Scozz: As for Richard Sherman being a "Thug": total garbage. No one talks about the Straight A student from Compton who graduated from one of the best universities in America. No one talks about work he does off the field in the community or with his "Richard Sherman Family Foundation" and "Blanket Coverage Program" supplying blankets to families and children that are in need. Sherman is a very smart, educated and kind person, but it all gets bypassed for his show of passion. Given, it could've been dealt with more appropriately, but in the heat of the moment, I don't blame him. He admits and apologizes for detracting fron the team's win, but still feels the same way about Crabtree. There's a lot more to #25 than meets the eye. You can't always judge a book by it's cover. If we're just talking about football, the guy is exceptional.

HB: No debate there. He's a great player. However, he brings up this bravado and ego that is still far beyond what most athletes do (most fans hated T.O. for instance), and then tries to play the "but I made it out of the ghetto and am smart, so how could anyone dislike me" card and then generates a whole new wave of discussion and attention towards himself. If you don't want to be seen as the villain, then don't act like one.
Scozz: Agreed, you reap what you sow. Just throwing out the bigger picture. He is only one player on the #1 Defense in the league. Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Chris Clemons, Red Bryant and others make this defense elite as well. Let's not detract from the team.

HB: Give me a ranking of how much the city of Seattle supports/loves/identifies with/is crazy for its pro sports teams. You can include the Sonics if you wish. For example, in Boston it's all Red Sox, with Celtics in distant 2nd, followed by Bruins, then Patriots. In Detroit, it would be Lions (if they were ever even somewhat good), followed closely by Wings and Tigers, and then Pistons in distant 4th.
Scozz: 1. Seahawks 2. Sounders 3. Tie between the Mariners and Supersonics 5. Storm. Then there's the Seattle Metropolitans, the first American team to win the Stanley Cup. Look it up.

HB: Does it all just go based on wins?
Scozz: Not exactly, but having a losing team gets demoralizing.

HB: Would the Seahawks be a 10 in the early 90s?
Scozz: No, they probably wouldn't. But as a younger generation, I only have so much perspective. In those days the rankings would have been different. The Seahawks would've been down a little bit, the M's and the Sonics up. I'd say it's fluctuated a bit because we've seen success, we've had playoff fever and in the case of the Mariners it's been missing for so long. Since Paul Allen bought the Hawks in 1997, him and the organization have worked hard to make them competitive, we realize that and appreciate it. In turn, the support has skyrocketed. The 12th Man arose.

HB: The final score of the Super Bowl will be...
Scozz: 34-24 Seahawks. (Editor's Note: It's been brought to my attention that there's an ape living in Utah who has correctly predicted the winner of the past 6 Super Bowls. This ape is also picking Seattle.)

HB: The Super bowl MVP will be...
Scozz: Russell Wilson

HB: Bromo readers should be cheering for the Seahawks because...
Scozz:  because of their captain/quarterback that's "too short for the NFL", their star Beast Mode RB, cast away by his former team for late round draft picks, and a young Legion of Boom that have made it here against all odds. An exciting story for an exciting team. Go Hawks! #12thMan.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Top 5 Stadium Fan Accessories

One of the greatest agonies of being a sports fan is the feeling of helplessness that often goes along with watching a game, and the urge to do something, anything, to give your team an extra boost. Fans need to feel like they're Part of It, which is where all the extra accessories come in: team gear, orchestrated chants and songs, all kinds of noise-making devices, foam fingers, beer-dispensing plastic helmets, you name. Does any of this stuff actually make a difference? Who knows, but we'd all sure like to think so, which leads me to the criteria for my list of the best of the best in this field. I decided that the four main factors in determining the quality of these stadium accessories are as follows: audio effect, visual effect, the impact it can make on the actual gameplay, and the originality of the idea. I've rated all the accessories that I can think of on a 10 point scale, and was able to narrow it down to a final Top 5 list.

Let's start off with the best ones that couldn't quite make the cut:

Honorable Mention

Hat Trick Hats
Is it cool to celebrate an NHL player's rare individual accomplishment? Yes. Is it awesome to see hundreds of hats rain out onto the ice from behind the plexiglass? Yes. Is witnessing someone who happens to be doing their job better than they normally do it worth losing your favorite ballcap over? Not in my book.

K Cards 
Sure, K-cards can be awesome, when a pitcher gets 15 or more strikeouts in a game. However, seeing as this hardly ever happens, and most well-intentioned K displays end up looking more like racist bathroom stall graffiti than a monument to virtuoso pitching, it can't crack the Top 5. Also, even though Sports Illustrated for Kids explained it to me a long time ago, I still don't really understand why strikeouts are known as Ks.

Now this is just ridiculous. I won't be convinced that Felix Hernandez had upwards of 700 strikeouts in this game.

Apparently, the Michigan student section used to smuggle thousands of marshmallows into the Big House and go all Oregon Ducks on each other during football games. That tradition unfortunately went extinct before I ever arrived on campus, but i would have loved pelting Rich Rod with some Kraft Jet-Puffeds during one of his famous late-season collapses. I would have given this an easy 10 for originality, but my further research shows a bunch of other schools, including Notre Dame and Northwestern, used to do this too, so I guess that was just the thing to do in the late 80s.

Dishonorable Mention

Before diving into the Top 5, I think it also bears mentioning that for every awesome sports stadium fan accessory, there's about three pretty crappy ones as well.

Atlanta Braves Tomahawks
Without entering a discussion on just how offensive these may or may not be, I'll just say that the Braves foam tomahawks are completely unnecessary. Atlanta's version of "the chop" is inferior to Florida State's in every way, and the fans at Doak Campbell accomplish the exact same visual effect just by using their arms to make the chopping motion. As you can see below, these cheap-ass things are so flimsy that they wouldn't even make the proper motion when you try to chop with them anyway. They probably have the TBS logo on the opposite side too.

Artificial Hand Clappers

"Hey guys, I'm too much of a wimp to clap my real hands today. Don't worry though, I'll still be able to cheer on the team with these nifty Artificial Hand Clappers!"

The only justifiable reason for somebody to use these things is if they're a double-hand amputee. You know what, scratch that, a double-hand amputee wouldn't be able to grip the handle anyway. There is no justifiable reason for somebody to use these things.

Central Michigan Foam French Fry Things

There's nothing like a struggling mid-major football team trying to inject some manufactured stadium atmosphere into their program. At a CMU game once, as my family walked past the ticket gates, some ushers handed us what looked like big foam french fries with logos of local businesses printed on them. They didn't make any noise, you couldn't really wave them around and have it look cool, and the stadium was about a third of the way full anyway. I can't find any pictures of the foam sticks, but that's probably for the best.

Now, the time has come to unveil the Top 5 Stadium Fan Accessories in all of sports.

5. The Cadets Section
Audio Effect: 4
Visual Effect: 8
Impact on Gameplay: 2
Originality: 8
Total Score: 22

This exclusive club consists of only the three service academies, and also Texas A&M for some reason. While Penn State seems to think that they invented the idea of everyone wearing the same color t-shirt sometime around 2006, the cadets have pulled off the look for nearly a century now. Penn State's little "White Out" looks positively quaint in comparison to the Cadets all wearing the same jackets, hats, boots, haircuts, and even waking up at the same time as each other every morning. However, service academy football has sucked in the post WWII era, so the Cadets must not be doing that great of a job in the Impact on Game category. Either way, unless you're part of the militarys, you'd have a tough time duplicating this at your stadium.

4. Little, Yellow, Flayygs
Audio: 5
Visual: 10
Game Impact: 6
Originality: 2
Total: 23

Started by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1975, LYFs remain the yellow standard when it comes to visual effect, creating a wonderful organized chaos look in the stadium. This transfers well to TV also, just as long as the color is bright enough to stand out. The towels themselves don't make any noise, but when they're out twirling in full force, it always seems to be accompanied by a heavy increase in volume from the participants. There's a reason why most stadiums will only bring these out for the really big games: those games are the only ones where some dopey corporation is willing to blow thousands of dollars to advertise on a bunch of linens. However, I'd like to think that somewhere deep down, one of the suits in Marketing understands that a home team's chances of winning marginally improve when said team's supporters have a bunch of dishrags to wave around while they cheer. As far as originality goes, Pittsburgh's "Terrible Towels" were the trailblazer in the Little Yellow Flayyg industry, but the sports world has since then seen countless copycats, including the DTLs from time to time. I still love the effect though, and hope they pull them out at Ford Field this weekend in their must-win game.

"It would have been a good day to invest in Little, Yellow, Flayygs."--Thom Blanck

3. The Free Throw Missing Apparatus
Audio: 4
Visual: 9
Gameplay: 8
Originality: 4
Total: 25

Clutch free throws are hard enough to make to begin with, and the Free Throw Missing Apparatus certainly can't help things. I'm sure most players will tell you that they just "block it out" or that they're so used to it that it doesn't matter, but how many other situations in sports are there when you can literally disrupt an athlete's field of vision right as they are trying to perform? I would love to see the concept of this adjusted for Olympic archery competitions. For the desired visual effect, the amount of variation here is pretty much endless. You can go for the hypnotic effect, the optical illusion, put Dwight Schrute's face up there, just bluntly tell the shooter your desired result for the shot, appeal to Larry Bird's taste in women, I won't go so far to say that the possibilities are endless, but there are quite a few. No matter what, it usually looks pretty cool. From the pro levels all the way down to high schools with large enough gyms, these things are everywhere. However, most places do a decent enough job of putting their own unique spin on the theme to keep it from going completely stale. For my money, Indiana's Assembly Hall wins best in class as far as the FTMA goes.

2. Vuvuzelas
Audio: 9
Visual: 5
Gameplay: 4
Originality: 10
Total: 28

Nobody in the western hemisphere had ever heard of them before June 2010, but now at least 95% of the 2 billion or so viewers of the last World Cup not only has a strong opinion of these polarizing fan accessories, but also mispronounces their name in a wide range of equally hilarious ways. Like fake Cubs manager Sal Martinella trying to say Henry Rowengartner's name, or Spongebob Squarepants talking about "the Hash-slinging Slasher".

When blown in unison, the vamooshimas sound like a relentless swarm of billions of angry hornets. It's beyond me why every sports team in the world with a bee-related team name doesn't hand them out at all home games. As far as the visual effect goes, I suppose i could go either way on this one. I guess it depends on how much you're feeling the whole "Whoville Christmas Celebration" vibe. While aurally shocking at first, most World Cup players seemed to get familiar with the vuvuzela as the tournament went on, not really even noticing them anymore by the end. They're not for everyone, but I think they would make for a great niche accessory for a team to build up a unique home field advantage. Georgia Tech would be perfect for this. "Oh crap, we have to go to Georgia Tech this year, that place is gonna be rocking, everyone with those stupid Kazoozulas going!"

This was an accessory a little bit ahead of its time back in 2010, and Americans weren't quite prepared to handle the vesuvius back then. I think they might be ready now.

1. Oklahoma State's Orange Paddles

Audio: 8
When the wooden paddles are all banding on the foam padding of the wall, it gives off that ominous feeling of 40,000 bloodthirsty Orcs marching in to get their asses kicked by a dwarf, an elf, a wizard, and a few hobbits. It seems to work better for the Pokes than it does the Orcs.

Visual: 7
With the proper camera angle, this looks awesome. The problem is that it's only in the front row and only in the student section. This goes up to a 9 if they get the entire front row in on it, and it goes up to about a 16 if they got the entire student section doing it, with everyone just absolutely wailing on the person directly in front of them. This would be one of the few conceivable scenarios where being in the top row would be the best seat in the house.

Gameplay: 6
It goes back to my previous point--how much of a difference does any of this stuff actually make? With the large orange clubs beating against the wall, it definitely at least seems like it's doing something. As a defensive lineman, how could you not rush the QB just a little bit harder on a big third down while being urged on by that delightfully barbaric atmosphere?

Originality: 10
The first time I saw them in the background on TV, I almost didn't believe my eyes. It just seemed way too awesome that the stadium ushers would let people bring large orange clubs past the front gates and smash them against the walls for 3 hours. I mean, at my old high school, the athletic director kicked out just because he let off an air horn during a timeout--and it was the athletic director's own son! This is just a perfect match for Oklahoma State, so much so that I thought to myself, "Oh yeah, because their team name is the Cowboys", without even realizing that Cowboys with wooden paddles makes about as much logical sense as the boys at your local AEPi chapter. For these reasons, the Oklahoma State orange paddles conclude this list as the #1 Stadium Fan Accessories in sports.

Total: 31

"It's where the SENIORS find Freshmen, and NAIL them with paddles!"-- Joe Swanson

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Honolulu Blue and Silver Linings Playbook

Ravens 18

I've heard that the movie Silver Linings Playbook is supposed to be pretty good. I don't know exactly what it's about, but I think to some degree it's about a Philadelphia Eagles fan who has some type of  psychotic meltdown and goes into therapy, and over the course of the movie he makes some progress and sees the bright side of life and makes amends with his loved ones or something. Anyway, that sounds pretty fitting right now, so if that's not actually what the movie is about, don't bother telling me. Let's try to find some positives from last night.

Silver Lining #1: This isn't the most demoralizing DTLs game of my lifetime.

Does it rather easily crack the top 3? Yes. When the dust settles and I have some more time to ponder it, will it sneak up to a solid second place? I see no reason why it wouldn't. Actually, I think I'm seeing a new article topic for the near future developing as I think it through. For the time being, last night's ______________ (noun, preferably hyperbolic and in no way an accurate descriptor for the undesired result of an athletic contest) of a game still doesn't quite approach the emotional abyss that the 28-27 loss to Dallas in the 07' game sent me into. However, it passes the Barry Sanders "negative one" playoff game, the Philadelphia 58-37 playoff game,  the Calvin Johnson "process of the catch" game, the Dom Suh extra point game, Sinners vs Saints part one, Thanksgiving 2012, etc, etc, etc.

I've said it before, but I think it's worth repeating, any serious fan of a sports team constantly tightropes on a fine line between fun/entertainment/cheering on whichever team you feel some sort of connection with, and an unhealthy, illogical, and entirely one-sided emotional attachment to a bunch of strangers who play sports better than you.

I'll freely admit it, I've gotten in a little too deep this year. Generally, I care far more about my own sports games than any team that I'm a fan of. I'd say that remaining a lifelong athlete has always been my healthiest obsession and remaining a lifelong fan might be just the opposite at this point. I don't care if it's Rec-League Tiddly Winks, playing sports has always been a major physical and emotional outlet for me. When school/work became overwhelming, family issues, relationship issues, whatever, we all have our own separate sets of problems, my escape has always been watching, and much more importantly, playing sports. Unfortunately, I've had an unlucky streak that has left me injured for 9 of the past 12 months, so I haven't been able get that competitive release that I crave. Not even pickup hoops. At times like this, for better or worse, the Lions games mean significantly more to me. It got to the point where last Tuesday I could barely concentrate during the afternoon because I was so excited and nervous about this stupid Monday Night Game that was still a full 6 days away. That was what the second half of the 2007 season was like for me also, but for different reasons.

Last night was not a pleasant one for me, but then again, it wasn't quite the worst.

Silver Lining #2: When I go to the Giants game this Sunday, the Lions won't yet be officially eliminated from playoff contention.

It's been an entire year since I've set foot in Michigan, and now almost 2 1/2 years since I've lived there.  In the unformulated life plan that's sitting in the back recesses of my mind, I've always imagined that I'll end up back in Michigan someday, but that I still have a lot of things to take care of on the outside first. Nevertheless, the homesickness has been more intense over the past few months or so, so I wanted my too short return to the mitten over the holidays to be triumphant.

My brother got us some tickets for the Giants game a few weeks ago, and despite the staggering weight of history telling me otherwise, I had really convinced myself, "We're going to be in the building on the night that the DTLs win the division".  I was completely ready to forgive the fake field goal, and the drops, and the penalties, and all the turnovers in the mud, and in the dome, and in the snow, because all those preceding events were going to set the stage for this magical evening at Ford Field on December 22nd, when Matthew Stafford leads the boys back to the promised land.

As it now stands, if Chicago and Green Bay both win on Sunday, it's all over; but at least the Bears aren't playing until later that night, so the Bromos vs Giants game will at least still matter at the time, however fleetingly.

Silver Lining #3: That wasn't even the longest game winning field goal that's been kicked against the DTLs. 

One Sunday when I was about 9 or 10 years old and bored to the point of delirium while sitting through church, I suddenly started paying close attention because I heard the priest mention something about football. The topic of Father Frank's sermon for that day was an ex-football player named Tom Dempsey. Being a compulsive stat geek even at that age, I recognized the name and knew that Tom Dempsey had once kicked a 63 yard field goal, the all-time NFL record. Until then, I'd never heard the full story though.

Father Frank went on to talk about how Dempsey was born with only half of a right foot and with no fingers on his right hand. The 1970 New Orleans were off to a horrible start to their season, winning only one of their first seven games. In this particular game, the home team Saints had blown a late 4th quarter lead and let their opponents score to take the lead with with only 11 seconds left in the game. The Saints had one final chance to get in field goal range, but they couldn't even get the ball to midfield, and they were down to the final play. Instead of attempting a hail mary pass, the Saints sent their deformed field goal kicker out onto the field. No one in NFL history had ever made one from farther than 56 yards out, but this kicker with half a foot was going to try one from 63. To the absolute shock of everyone in the stadium, Dempsey blasted his kick just over the goalposts to miraculously win the game and set a new NFL record. The sermon was all about belief in God to do the impossible and all that type of stuff, and Father Frank ended things with a final punchline: "Oh, and guess which unfortunate team they happened to be playing?… the LIONS." Everyone in the church started laughing except for me.

Dempsey's record stood for over 43 years, until last week when Matt Prater made a 64-yarder. He now also has some company in the exclusive "Kickers who have made game-winning 60+ yard field goals in the final minute to beat the Lions" club. I think I'll leave it to John Starks to sum up that final Justin Tucker field goal:

Silver Lining #4: It doesn't look like I'll have to worry about rushing to the airport and possibly missing my flight back to Boston after the Lions playoff game.

I specifically planned out my vacation days and my flight time to come back to Boston with one thing in mind: if the DTLs had a home playoff game, I had to go to it. They obviously weren't going to get a first round bye, so as recently as two weeks ago, there was what seemed to be a very large possibility that it was going to happen. I booked my return flight for the night of January 5th, knowing that the playoff game would likely be on Sunday afternoon, or better yet, on Saturday the 4th. Nevertheless, I was also mentally preparing for the chance that it would be the 4:00 game and how disappointed I would be if I had to leave and miss this 0 times in a lifetime chance to watch the DTLs play at home in the playoffs. I was pondering whether I'd just purposely miss my flight and call in sick to work the next day.

Is there still a slim chance that these plans can come to fruition? Well, mathematically I guess there is, but I'd say the odds of it actually happening at this point are about as slim as Packers chance of coming all the way back from 23 down in the second half without their starting quarterback. Wow.

Silver Lining #5: My Bromolyte Interview with Worm next week should be interesting.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Nitch's Tale

The Bromolyte Interviews

Somewhere along the dozens of texts that fly back and forth during a typical DTLs game, I decided that it might be a good idea to offer a glimpse inside the minds of some of the most loyal H-Bromo supporters. The following conversation with Nitch is the first of what I hope becomes a series of many Bromolyte Interviews. It's mainly the truth, but then again, as Huck Finn famously noted, of course there are a few stretchers here and there. Here's what he has to say...

On Matthew Stafford:
Honolulu Bromothymol: To start things off, I'm interested to hear more about your change of heart with Stafford. Where we left off, you were the villain for inexplicably hating the guy, now you tell me you're back on the Staffwagon...
Nitch: I'm not sure my hatred was inexplicable...plenty out there had the exact same opinion. On the other side, I think a lot of people out there were ready to accept mediocrity. I heard, "Hey, he's better than Shaun Hill...and at least he's not Jon Kitna".
HB: Both true.
Nitch: Yeah great, you're right...he's also got higher expectations than those guys did. Through his first few years, I don't feel he met them.
HB: But there was a turning point for you.
Nitch: The man leads the DTLs to a playoff berth, becomes more dependable, and starts SLINGIN that skin all over the place.
HB: What was the specific moment you realized you'd changed your mind? I imagine the process was gradual, but there must have been a final tipping point.
Nitch: Not really sure I can pinpoint a specific moment...most likely happened over the offseason. The only real moment I can think of is the 80 or so times I've Googled his girlfriend. When it came time for Staff's contract negotiations, I knew for a fact that SHE needed to stay in Michigan.

Realizing that Nitch was in for a lonely night and a probable 81st Googling of Stafford's girlfriend, I changed the subject.

On Jim Schwartz:
HB: True or false- Jim Schwartz is a good coach.
Nitch: I'm going to go against the grain here and say TRUE.
HB: If I showed you a list of the 32 NFL head coaches, can you find 15 that Schwartz is better than?
Nitch: Coach success is so dependent on having an elite, dependable QB (see NFC North 2013). Now could I find 15 QBs better than Staff9? Not a chance.
HB: I'm undecided on whether I think Schwartz is a comparatively 'good' head coach, but my main knock on him is that he frequently let's his emotions get the best of him, sometimes even affecting the on-field play. 
Nitch: Remember, we watch 15 to 17 DTL games a year, we see Schwartz every week...couldn't tell you how Mike Mularkey or Jimmy Harbaugh are acting. I don't necessarily agree with all of Schwartz's calls or statements to the media, but I actually think the Lions' new style of aggressive, borderline dirty play is somewhat refreshing. The Bromos played patty-cake and rolled over for far too long. That style of play/attitude had to go if the losing culture was going to change.
HB: Which was a worse coaching decision, Schwartz's fake FG, or Trestman kicking a 47-yarder on 2nd down in OT?
Nitch: I listened to a fair amount of commentary on the Schwartz call and 99% of it was negative. I'm not totally against it though. Obviously wish it could have been executed, but if the D makes a stop, all is forgotten. Trestman, on the other hand, seems to have no clue how to handle himself or the clock down the stretch. I don't understand that call at all, no matter how good Robbie Gould was feeling during pregame boots.

Forecasting the Future:
HB: True or false- Jim Schwartz will have more success with the Bromos than Brady Hoke at Michigan.
Nitch: I've made it well-known that I fully echo Dave Brandon's sentiments on King Brady. I think he is the right man for the job and will have wild success in the coming decade. I think the Lions will have some sporadic success, but it will pale in comparison to what Brady and the boys put together.
HB: With an NFC Championship game appearance as equivalent to a Big 14 championship, who gets there first?
Nitch: Michigan. The DTLs haven't shown me anything to suggest that they are capable of  a) playing consistently enough in the season to get home field advantage or b) winning one or two playoff games on the road.

HB: What was your predicted win-loss for the DTLs at the start of the season?
Nitch: Pegged them at 10-6, median scenario.
HB: But if they win 9 with a division title, you're not disappointed, right?
Nitch: Not at all. Could win 6 and the North and it would be all good in my eyes.
HB: After that Tampa debacle, it didn't look like only winning 6 was out of the question. How confident were you leading up to the Green Bay game?
Nitch: Wasn't too intimidated or worried. Did I imagine the Lions were going to put on the show that they did? Notta. But was I worried that Flynn would repeat his 2011 performance. Not. One. Bit.
HB: Even so, you must have thrown up at least a little stuffing or cranberry sauce when it was 10-3 with yet another bad turnover.
Nitch: Only thing I'd consumed up to that point in the day was some sharp cheddar cheese and beer.
HB: It wasn't Wisconsin cheddar, I hope.
Nitch: Wouldn't think of it.
HB: It wasn't Wisconsin Beer, I hope.
Nitch: No.
HB: After dismantling the Pack, we've gotta be confident leading up to the Philly game, right?
Nitch: I mean, how long can Nick Fools keep up this charade?
HB: I wouldn't think for very much longer.
Nitch: He IS, who we THINK he is!

On Ford Field:
HB: You were at Ford Field for the Cincinnati game, what's the atmosphere in the stadium like these days? Is it positive for the Bromos and intimidating for opponents, or is there still the "here we go again" groans every time they make a mistake?
Nitch: I had pounded my fair share of Coors Lights before the game, so I thought the energy and atmosphere was positive--but it was never outright nuts in there. The whole thing just seemed like a spectacle to me. Like 'business'...hard to explain the feeling, but it was nothing like I feel at the Big House.
HB: You would if Dave Brandon had his way.
Nitch: I'm not prepared or willing to head down that road! We'll save that one for another H!
HB: Hopefully before the stadium is renamed the "Domino's Big House of Flavor".

HB: I never went to a game at the Silverdome, but watching old games in there, it sure didn't feel like 'business'. I get what you mean about Ford Field, the business feeling leaks through the TV too. The soft lighting, huge windows, comfortable acoustics, even the end zone art underachieves tremendously (can we please get this back?)
Nitch: Not really sure how to explain it. The Silverdome was old, it had character, the Lions had won there. Ford is new, ticket prices are sky high...but the place really is immaculate. Made extra sure that I aimed straight at the urinal and didn't even spit on the floor at my seats.
HB: I want to believe the place will be completely rabid when I go for the Giants game in a few weeks. How can it not be, especially if they can clinch the Division?
Nitch: Well, we have seen the place rocking before (Bears '11), I'm sure it will happen again.

HB: Favorite Lions memory of all time.
Nitch: Outside of an actual game, I'd say one of my favorite memories was finding out who the consensus 'Most Annoying Punter in the League' was.
HB: Can't argue with that one.

(editor's note: I'll explain. In college, two of Nitch's housemates, Bloom and Jimbo, happened to be Bears fans. This made for a few touchy situations whenever the two teams played each other. In the 2007 season, with the DTLs on the verge of a season sweep over the Bears, Jimbo was all out of snide comments to make about our team. With the Lions setting up for a late game punt and nursing a comfortable lead, all Jimbo could do was shake his head in disgust and say half-heartedly, "Nick Harris. That guy's gotta be the most annoying punter in the league.")

Nitch: Or the football Sunday where Bloom threatened the cable guy's life and punched a few holes in our walls. Was that before the Bears played the Bromos?
HB: I don't remember that ever happening.
Nitch: Dude spent six hours on the phone with the cable company, while cooking Pauly some fffuckin wings, trying to get our cable fixed before the game. Wasn't pretty.

It shouldn't be pretty be for Nick Foles tomorrow either.