Issue #197 – “Throne of Games” – November 14th, 2011

-Flat screen televisions have gotten bigger as their prices have plummeted. At the same time, both the length of a typical sporting event and the cost of tickets have increased. All of this adds up to one thing: it’s become more enjoyable and economical to follow your favorite teams from the comfort of home than it is to schlep to the stadium and stand in the cold. I’m as big a sports fan as the next guy, but I prefer to do my rooting from the sofa. Between HD, DVR, and ESPN, my couch has become a throne of games.

-What impresses me most about football players is not their speed, agility, or toughness, but the fact that they know exactly where the first down marker is without an animated yellow line emblazoned on the field like we see on TV. I just assume any player with a tinted visor in his helmet has a Terminator-style readout that tells him where to run.

-I appreciate baseball’s idiosyncrasies – like every stadium having a different size playing field or that the American League and National League don’t even have the same rules. But the fact that some dude crouching behind the catcher calls balls and strikes is ridiculous. ESPN’s K-Zone shows you exactly where the pitches cross the plate, rendering the umpire obsolete. Sorry, but if you’re a grown man who wears gray slacks and a chest protector to work, it’s probably time to look for a new profession anyway.

-When infrared thermal replays were introduced during the World Series, it reminded me of the last time Fox tried to improve the home sports viewing experience: the infamous “glowing pucks” the NHL used in the 1990s to make the puck easier to follow onscreen. Unfortunately, that experiment failed to take into account the real reason more viewers weren’t tuning in to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs: no one cares about hockey.

-There is a tear in my couch right where I like to sit. It grows a bit whenever I have a spasm of frustration – like when Eli Manning throws an interception or Herm Edwards speaks. I have tried every remedy known to man to repair the tear, to no avail. I finally just bought a roll of black duct tape but can’t bring myself to use it to cover the hole, knowing one day I’ll have to explain to a prospective Craigslist buyer why my sofa looks like it was kidnapped and held for ransom.

-Sometimes, though, there’s no substitute for getting off the couch and into the arena. Such was the case a few years ago when I was in Spain with my family and I insisted we go see a bullfight. This, I said to my reluctant sister, was true sport. Here’s the thing, though: call me naive or just plain stupid, but at the time I had no idea that (spoiler alert) the bull dies at the end. Like, every time. I was horrified. Basically, the matadors are the Harlem Globetrotters and the bulls are the Washington Generals – except the Globetrotters kill the Generals at the end. So, yeah, bullfighting: not a sport.

-Ultimately, being a sports fan means being part of a community linked by television and connected online. When Nelson Cruz misplayed a catchable fly ball that would have clinched the World Series, I wracked my brain for the perfect way to sum up the moment. The Rangers reminded me of TV’s most famous Texas team: the Dillon Panthers of Friday Night Lights. So I combined the Panthers’ rallying cry with the Rangers’ inability to seal the deal in one poignant tweet: Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t close.

-As always, here are some random things I’ve been ruminating about lately…

-I’m starting this week in LA, then crisscrossing the country on tour before ending up in New York. All this travel will highlight a crucial weakness in my wardrobe: after living on the west coast for six years, I no longer own a single item of warm clothing. I have to improvise because I don’t even have a coat. When asked to remove my jacket at airport security, I’m forced to ask, “Does wearing two hoodies over four t-shirts count?”

-My parents are celebrating their 37th wedding anniversary next week. Meaning exactly thirty-seven years ago all of their friends hated them for scheduling their wedding the night before Thanksgiving. (Yes, they really did that.)

-Every year, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, me and my high school buddies gather at Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn for our annual holiday dinner. We also vote on “man of the year” honors. Last year I took home the award on account of my Comedy Central special. A repeat victory is unlikely for me though as this year one of my buddies got engaged, one got married, and another had a kid – or as I like to call it: “pandering to the voters.”

-So Facebook announced a complete overhaul of its user profiles…and then didn’t change anything. I got all mock-outraged for nothing.

-I’m not a huge fan of the new parking meters in LA that allow you to pay with a credit card. It’s nearly impossible to dip your card without your fingers or knuckles touching any part of the meter, which I’m convinced is infested with some type of communicable disease. It’s like the game Operation except if I hit the sides the penalty is SARS.

-I’m confused as to what the “plate warmer” setting on my dishwasher is supposed to do. So that’s, like, if your dishes aren’t dirty but you just want them to feel toasty for your dinner guests? That doesn’t seem like a very environmentally friendly option. I saw “An Inconvenient Truth;” I can deal with cold plates.

-And, finally, if you want the atmosphere of watching a big game with fellow fans but don’t want to stay cooped up at home or try to score tickets, the next best thing is heading to a bar. This year I watched two crucial games at my local sports bar: the Women’s World Cup final and Game Seven of the World Series. Sure sitting on a wobbly stool is way less comfortable than cozying up on the couch, but nothing beats the camaraderie of sharing a national – or international – event with a bunch of soused strangers. I couldn’t believe how many Cardinals and Rangers fans there are in Los Angeles – and how many people actually own women’s soccer jerseys. I came to realize that, at the end of the day, your sports throne can be any place that makes watching a match-up between two teams you don’t even follow bearable. In other words, it’s not important who wins or loses, but where you watch the game. Fuck me.