Saturday, October 18, 2008

I owe J D an apology. Thanks for being there when it has counted.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Potty Mouth Commando

I grew up on the mean street of Lynn Massachusetts and in the profane laden Spillane household. Profanity, alcohol, drugs and violence are an acceptable way of life, right? Well that’s what I thought anyways. As I get older I am beginning to mellow and see things a lot differently than I used to. I quit drugs 5 years ago, quit drinking 20 months ago and I haven’t stomped anyone out lately, now I need to work on the potty mouth. I didn’t see the profanity as being an issue until recently. A couple weeks ago my 3 year old called my 11 year old an “f’ing a’hole”. I will admit that at the time I found it quite humorous. I want my daughter to talk like a lady not a truck driver. It’s not her fault, it’s 100% mine. Profanity is not just vulgar it’s classless, so why is it so acceptable? I for one am going to break the cycle in this family and work on being a better father and human being.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fusion frenzy

If you watch allot of tv you must have seen all the gillette fusion commercials. so i had to try it. If you shave everyday the Gillette Fusion is the razor for you. I used it for the first time the other day and it was great. I used it the next day and I liked it even more. However I am going back to the mach 3 today because the hair gets stuck in the fusion after going without a shave in a few days.

Back Stabbing Fans?

Ben Watson was disgusted with the fans at gillette when they left early in the forth quarter. He must've forgot that if it wasn't for the fans he wouldn't have a job. Fans have the right to boo and cheer. I found Ben's and the pats performance disgusting. It turned Joey Porter's smack talk into fact instead of fiction. It sounds like Ben should be focusing on the field and not in the stands.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Secret Art of the Wiffle Pitch

by Christopher Reardon

I'm not the most athletic person in the world, and in most sporting ventures would probably be that sad fat kid that gets picked last, but I do fancy myself a decent Wiffle Ball pitcher of all things. Pitching a Wiffle Ball is not as easy as it should be - it's a soft piece of plastic with holes in it and tends to move a lot even if you don't want it to - but if you learn its secrets you'll be striking batters out in no time. Keep in mind that I am right-handed and most of the tips here assume the user is also right-handed, but they can be adjusted for a left-hander if necessary.

Getting to know your Wiffle Ball

First things first, you've got to learn a thing or two about the ball you're trying to throw. Those holes are not cosmetic. They allow for air to move around and through the ball in different ways depending on grip and delivery, and thus allow for a Wiffle Ball to break, sink, or float much more drastically than possible with any baseball. There is also a seam on a Wiffle Ball, just below and parallel to the line of holes, that is useful for finger placement, and the bottom of the ball has a logo that is also useful. Just like in baseball, a slightly used (or "mudded") Wiffle Ball is actually preferable to a brand new one. Some people even go so far as to scuff the surface of their ball with sandpaper or a knife, but I like to simply throw the ball around and let nature take its course in aging the ball. Finally, use an official Wiffle Ball. Those knock offs are different and probably require totally different mechanics and grips to be thrown effectively.


Delivery mechanics in Wiffle Ball are not as important as they are in baseball, but there are a few things that any budding pitcher should keep in mind when fine-tuning their delivery:

1. Avoid throwing across your body - Pitching is an unnatural motion, and pitching correctly is even more-so. When throwing your right arm will naturally want to move toward your left hip, which will negate a lot of the effects of pitch rotation and throw off your command. When throwing over-hand, keep your arm in line with the right side of your body. When throwing from a 3/4 angle or sidearm, move your arm downward toward the end of your delivery. Remember to rotate your hips a bit and this step will come more naturally.

2. Bend your back knee - At the very start of your delivery, bend your back knee in preparation for the push-off. This small step will add a lot of power to your repertoire as you will now be using the energy in your legs as well as your arm to throw.

3. Eyes on the prize - It seems pretty simple but this small step will help you get a good look at your target and stay in command of the strike zone. It may help to use an open stance in your delivery - that is, starting with your front foot a little off line of your back foot (to the left if you are right-handed). This way you will have to turn your head less to keep sight of the zone even as your lift your landing foot.

4. Land with your front foot pointed at the target - At first it may seem natural to keep your front foot pointed in the same direction your back foot started, that is toward third base if you are right-handed. This is a big no-no, as you will always be throwing across your body and you will never generate as much power as you are capable of. If you land with your front foot pointed in front of you, guess what? Your pitch will move in front of you.

Basic Pitches

Straight Fastball - Hold the ball like you would an egg; very lightly and with your thumb directly below your index and middle fingers. Don't cover any holes with your fingers. Keep your wrist straight but snap it downward at the end of your delivery. This pitch can be thrown from any arm angle; I suggest you master it from every angle so that you can use it to set up any pitch.

Slider - Cover three holes with your middle finger and keep a little space between your index and middle fingers, keeping a tighter grip with your index finger than with your middle finger. Cock your wrist slightly to the right and snap it downward at the end of the delivery, letting the boll roll or snap off your index finger. The movement on this pitch can be altered depending on grip and delivery. If you point the tip of your index finger closer to the seam of the ball the pitch will have more downward movement. Also if you throw the slider over-hand it will break down and slightly away, but if you throw from a 3/4 or sidearm angle it will break more away from a right-handed hitter. Mix it up to give the batter a few different looks with one pitch.

Curveball - Cover three holes with your middle finger, but keep your index and middle fingers close together and tighten the grip on the middle finger. Keep your wrist straight but at the end of your delivery turn it over so that your fingers roll off the bottom of the ball and the the pitch has topspin. At this point your palm should be pointed more or less upward. A good curveball will have a huge 12-6 or even 12-5 break. This pitch is best thrown over-hand, but a good sidearm pitcher can use it as a sort of frizbee slurve pitch.

Straight Changeup - Don't cover any holes with your fingers, but hold the ball deep in your hand and use a tight grip with your wrist straight. It can be thrown from any angle, but try to use the same delivery you've been using for your fastball to fool the hitter. Don't hold back on your delivery too much either, this will tip the hitter off and most likely result in a big hit. Trust that the grip will slow the pitch enough to fool the hitter.

Advanced Pitches

Sinker - Grip the ball tightly along the seam with the holes pointed upward and your ring and pinkie fingers curled around the logo on the bottom of the ball. Keep your wrist straight and snap it down on release. This pitch must be thrown from a sidearm or 3/4 angle in order to let air into the top of the ball and push it downward.

Riser - Grip the ball tightly along the seam with the holes pointed downward and your ring and pinkie fingers curled around the space just below the holes. Keep your wrist straight and snap it downward on release. This pitch must be thrown from a sidearm or submarine angle to effectively rise through the strike zone. It's hard to master but it's also a hitter's nightmare, so I suggest you give it some practice.

Cutter - Grip the ball just as you would a fastball, but cover one or two of the holes on the right side of the ball and use a very slightly tighter grip. This should cause the pitch to move like a cross between a fastball and a slider.

Watch this vid and weep because you'll never be this good (but it's ok because neither will I):

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NORMAL is back! and Top Ten Movies

by Christopher Reardon (with contributions from Matthew Jupin and Matthew Reardon)

Well it's been a while friends, but NORMAL Blogazine is back in action and better than ever. In order to celebrate our grand reopening, the NORMAL editors and myself have done the impossible. The unthinkable. The unimaginable. We've put together top ten lists of our favorite movies of all time. Now I don't know about you but I love movies and I personally thought I could never put together such a list, but it's done and I'm pretty happy with the results. If you can brave the sacrifice and tears it takes to shun some of your favorites in order to make a list of just ten movies, please show us the results in the comments section. Now onto the show.

Christopher Reardon's Top Ten Movie's of All Time:

10. Fargo (1996) - I've long been a fan of the Coen brothers', and behind the Academy Award winning performance of Frances McDormand as Marge Gunderson, this movie tops my list for the sibling filmmakers. In my experience people either loved or hated this movie, but I can't understand why anyone wouldn't want Margie to be their friend as much as I do, and the almost thrilling detective story is no slouch either.

9. Juno (2007) - As a huge fan of the short-lived TV show Arrested Development, I almost flipped when I learned that stars Jason Bateman and Michael Cera would be in a movie together. After the disappointment I felt when I realized they didn't even have any scenes together, I realized that it didn't matter because the aptly named movie is all about one thing: Juno. Ellen Page stole the show and my heart as a pregnant teenager and the lovesick back story is sweet enough to make Lucille Bluth smile. Oh yeah, the soundtrack is pretty amazing, too.

8. Rent (2005) - Ask Kelly, my best friend and upstairs neighbor in college, how much I loved this movie and she'll probably groan about having to hear me sing the soundtrack at the top of my lungs from all the way upstairs. It's her own fault though, because she's the one who introduced me to this masterpiece. Any movie thats inspires me to laugh, cry, sing, dance, and scream in anger (when a fire drill interrupted my third viewing) deserves to make this list. I've yet to see the broadway show, but I'm kind of afraid to because I'm worried it won't live up to its Hollywood counterpart. By the way, the screenplay was written by Perks of Being a Wallflower author Stephen Chbosky, a definite favorite of mine.

7. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) - My friends and I can sit around and quote this movie for hours if necessary. I mean, come on: "We want... A SHRUBBERY!" or "There are some who call me... Tim." Hell, I even have a t-shirt that says "I fart in your general direction!" Something about mindless humor that takes a genius to write really appeals to me, which is why The Holy Grail makes this list. If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and rent it as soon as possible.

6. Beautiful Thing (1996) - There was a two-month period of my life in college in which I watched this movie every single day, often multiple times per day. Granted, my love for British movies is pretty well known, but this movie so far surpasses the British appeal as to have something to offer to every single gay youth and many heteros throughout the world. The story of Jamie and Ste's love for each other is so simple and so heart-wrenching that one just can't look away. The soundtrack is almost 100% Mama Cass, which never appealed to me before watching but which is now a mainstay of my iPod library. Brokeback Mountain has nothing on this gay love story.

5. Superbad ( 2007) - Michael Cera makes the list again, and with good reason. Superbad is so funny, so classic, so quotable as to belong in any top ten comedy list. My love for fat kids, bad singing, and homo erotic buddy flicks puts it in my top ten of all time list. Not only is Superbad written well, but the design of the movie (especially the costume design) is fantastic. When Evan warns the girl of his dreams to be careful with his vintage sweater because it has sentimental value to him, I suddenly understood the whole concept of this movie: vintage comedy with a modern twist that has something in it for everyone. I could watch this movie every day and not get sick of it, and you should too.

4. The Dark Knight (2008) - It's a good thing they decided to take the name "Batman" out of the title of this movie, because it's really not about Batman at all. The Dark Knight is all about the Joker. At once the scariest, funniest, most surreal and yet most human of all movie villains I've ever watched, and I could never take my eyes off of him. What a way to leave the world, Heath Ledger, and trust me there will never be another Joker like yours. Besides Ledger's huge performance, The Dark Knight is a thrilling action movie that everyone in the world should go see. Now. Why are you reading this? GO SEE THE DARK KNIGHT NOW!

3. Silence of the Lambs (1991) - As a kid I hid in the hallway while my family watched this movie because I was so scared. As an adult I can hardly take my eyes off of it. Hannibal Lecter goes down as one of the best movie villains of all time, and Clarice Starling as one of the best not-so-helpless heroines. Meanwhile, while Hannibal plays on the human side of villain-dome, "Buffalo Bill" Gumb plays with the anti-human, totally psychotic side. It's scary but fascinating. If you love a thriller (and I do), then this movie is definitely tops in the genre.

2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman put together possibly their greatest performances of all time in this instant classic. A prison movie is a prison movie, but "The Shank" is the second best movie ever. An epic story with human characters, clever twists, and one of the most cathartic escape scenes ever. It's so cool, so touching, so unforgettable as to make everyone who sees it a fan. Even if you hate prison movies this one has something to offer for you.

And Christopher Reardon's Number One Movie of All Time is...

1. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) - The first time I saw this movie I said to myself (and everyone around me) "That was my favorite movie of all time" and I have yet to sway from that stance. Though the rest of this list was agonizing to organize, I never had a question about what number one would be. In putting this list together I have come to realize my love for charming female leads (see: Juno, Fargo), but Little Miss Sunshine is about so much more than the Academy Award nominated performance of Abigail Breslin. While Juno would have fallen apart without Ellen Page as the lead role, Little Miss Sunshine would never have survived in the absence of any single member of the Hoover family. It's rare for an ensemble comedy to be so singularly touching, but Little Miss Sunshine succeeds with gusto. If you haven't seen this movie, it's in your best interest to go see it now. Because I will punch you in the face if you don't.

Honorable Mentions:

Most Quotable - Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Best Classic - Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Best Family Movie - Finding Nemo (2003)
Best Action Movie - 300 (2006)
Most Fantastic - Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Others - Hot Fuzz, 28 Days Later, Pulp Fiction, Memento

Matthew Reardon's Top Ten Movies of All Time:

10. Tommy Boy (1995)
9. Super Troopers (2001)
8. Rambo: First Blood (1982)
7. The Dark Knight (2008)
6. Silence of the Lambs (1991)
5. Pulp Fiction (1994)
4. Goodfellas (1990)
3. American History X (1998)
2. Shawshank Redemption (1994)
1. Forrest Gump (1994)

Matthew Jupin's Top Ten Movies of All Time:

10. Airplane (1980)
9. Forrest Gump (1994)
8. Training Day (2001)
7. Seven (no pun intended) (1995)
6. The Departed (2006)
5. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
4. Braveheart (1995)
3. Pulp Fiction (1994)
2. The Dark Knight (2008)
1. The Godfather (Part One) (1972)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

MLB Preview '08: AL West

by Christopher Reardon

The AL West is a bit of a crap shoot. There's a lot of talent out there, and a number of winning teams, but it's a small division with no large market teams and it can sometimes be forgotten amidst monster clubs in the East and Central divisions. The fact that just one Western team (Oakland, which was swept by Detroit in the 2006 Championship Series) has made it past the first round of the playoffs since the Angels won the World Series in 2002 doesn't help matters.

1. Los Angeles Angels, 92-70
Or the California Angels of Anaheim Which is Located Somewhere Near Los Angeles, whatever they're called these days. This team has quite a bit of talent, and like the Twins are known for developing young players who know the game of baseball and play as such. The rotation features the right mix of veterans and young guns, with a perennial Cy Young contender in John Lackey, two veterans who have shown flashes of brilliance in their careers in Kelvim Escobar and newly acquired Jon Garland, and a couple young guys who have already proven themselves at the major league level in Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver (who, if you remember, forced his own brother Jeff out of the rotation a couple years ago). The offense received a boost with the addition of Torii Hunter, but this does create a logjam in the outfield with guys like Vlad Guerrero, Garret Anderson, Gary Matthews Jr., Juan Rivera, and a number of prospects ready to burst onto the scene. Still, the Mariners greatly improved their rotation with the addition of Erik Bedard, which is why I have the Angels winning two less games than last year.

2. Seattle Mariners, 90-72
Few major league teams can claim to have two bona fide aces manning their rotation and an elite closer at the back of the bullpen. The Mariners, however, have just that in Felix Hernandez, Erik Bedard, and J.J. Putz. After those names, though, the pitching in Seattle is a bit questionable. Carlos Silva is a decent pickup from Minnesota, a durable guy who will win ten or twelve games, and Miguel Batista won sixteen games last year, but these guys aren't going to blow anyone away. The Mariners' offense is made up of one of those typical B-List lineups you see a lot in smaller market teams, with the only consistent producer being Ichiro Suzuki. Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson have been spectacular at times, but not so much since joining Seattle. Beltre got a huge contract after his monster 2004 season with the Dodgers in which he led the league with 48 home runs, but he hasn't hit more than 26 dingers since and his on-base percentage has taken a huge dip as well. Meanwhile the always strikeout prone Sexson's declining batting average would be an easier pill to swallow if his power numbers didn't go right down with it. The Brad Wilkerson pickup from Texas is looking kind of... well... medium. There's some talk of Seattle signing Barry Bonds, which would definitely add some runs to the offense, but no one knows if the Mariners want that kind of circus in their clubhouse and media events. Overall I think Seattle is a better team than it was last year, but not quite good enough to overcome the Angels.

3. Texas Rangers, 75-87
This team, while not quite as bad as Oakland will be this year, is just not very good. The pitching is somewhat up in the air, there's no clear ace on a staff that includes Vincente Padilla, Kevin Millwood, Kameron Loe, Brandon McCarthy, and Robinson Tejeda. Combined these guys won 32 games last year (just twelve less than Cy Young runner-up Josh Beckett). Other names that may pop up in the rotation in some point are Jason Jennings and Kason Gabbard. While my roommate (still bitter over the Gagne trade) seems to think Gabbard will win the Cy Young one day, I'm not quite as impressed. The fact is this pitching staff is little more than a joke. The offense shows a little more promise. Michael Young won a batting title a few years ago and Ian Kinsler is turning out to be one of the better second baseman in the league. Jarrod Saltalamacchia might be one of the best young catchers out there, but he'll have to split time with Gerald Laird. The Josh Hamilton pickup from the Reds is exciting, as at times in his career he's been one of the most promising hitters around. His comeback from drug problems last year was successful until he spent two stints on the disabled list, but the Rangers are high on this five-tooled player. Shortstop Young even compared him to his predecessor Alex Rodriguez. On paper this Rangers team simply doesn't stack up against others in the American League, but behind the run-scoring strength of that offense they will manage to overtake the Athletics into third place in the AL West.

4. Oakland Athletics, 72-90
It's official. The A's, like the Orioles, have thrown in the towel and are accepting their status as a rebuilding team. This is why Dan Haren is now a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Nick Swisher has landed in the Chicago White Sox lineup. A quick look at the Athletics roster and you might be hard pressed to find a name you recognize. Okay, so Huston Street still anchors the bullpen and Joe Blanton... well, he's still in the rotation (for now). Offense? Maybe Jack Cust will have another decent season. Maybe. Eric Chavez was once one of the premier third baseman in the league, but he's been somewhat injury prone of late and his numbers have been down as a result. Besides Cust who had 26, no member of the A's current roster hit more than twenty dingers last year, and none of them had more than 85 RBI. This team is going to have a tough time scoring runs, and they may have a tougher time preventing them with that pitching staff. Barring the occasional baseball miracle, there's no way this team does any damage in this division.

Monday, March 3, 2008

MLB Preview '08: AL Central

by Christopher Reardon

In recent years it seems as if the balance of power in the American League has shifted a bit from the eastern division to the central, and with some of the moves that were made this off-season the East will be hard pressed to prove that wrong.

1. Detroit Tigers, 97-65
Simply put, the Tigers will feature perhaps the most fearsome offense in all of baseball, from top to bottom. Last season Detroit has some weak links at first and third with Sean Casey and Brandon Inge, respectively. So they go out early in the off-season and acquire Edgar Renteria to play shortstop, which frees up incumbent shortstop Carlos Guillen to play first base (and also frees up Casey to move on to the Red Sox to back up Kevin Youkilis). And if that wasn't enough to improve the lineup, the Tigers go out during the winter meetings and pull of the second biggest trade of the off-season by acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins for a package of prospects. Now Cabrera, one of the most talented and feared hitters in the majors, will man third base and Inge will become one of the more talented back ups in the bigs. Then there's a few guys like Magglio Ordonez (who came in second in MVP voting last season behind the monstrous A-Rod), Curtis Granderson (a superstar center-fielder with a very high ceiling still), Ivan Rodriguez (consistently one of the best catchers in the league even at 37), and Gary Sheffield (still one of the most feared hitters around, though he's the oldest member of this team's offense). Meanwhile, the pitching staff remains one of the most talented around with names like Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Willis if he can find his velocity and regain his 2005 form. Essentially, the entire team is stocked with talent and enough veteran presence to help everyone click. If I weren't such a fan of the defending World Series Champions, I'd say the Tigers are the team to beat in the American League in 2008. As it stands I wouldn't be surprised to see Detroit make its second appearance in the Fall Classic in the last three seasons.

2. Cleveland Indians, 95-67
Two years ago, experts said that 2008 would be the season of the Indians. Then came 2007, which saw the tribe tie the Red Sox for the best record in the American League, despite a lack of production from their usual heavy hitter Travis Hafner. So now comes 2008, which should see a return to form of Cleveland's formidable offense (also featuring guys like Victor Martinez, Grady Sizemore, and Ryan Garko) and a scary rotation anchored by reigning AL Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia and by the man who came in fourth for the award, Fausto Carmona. Put all of that together, and no one would be surprised if the lofty 2008 predictions for the Indians came true... that is, if the tigers hadn't acquired Miguel Cabrera. So now it looks like Cleveland will be back in the number two slot in the their division, fighting it out for the wild card with New York and Seattle. In that battle, with some of the names on their roster, I'd take the Indians to make the playoffs despite not winning the division.

3. Chicago White Sox, 80-82
Last year was a bit of an enigma. Some of the biggest names in baseball experienced relative down years (like Manny Ramirez and the aforementioned Hafner) while some guys that were previously unheard of dominated (like Carlos Pena and Ryan Braun). Into the former category fell Chicago's Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye. Konerko, the captain of the Sox, saw a drop off of 54 points from his 2006 batting average and lost 23 in the RBI category. Dye, an MVP contender in 2006, dropped 61 points from his batting average, sixteen homers, and 42 RBI. That was a severe enough decrease in production to see the White Sox fall completely out of contention last season, and it wasn't helped by some poor performances by veteran pitchers Jose Contreras and Jon Garland. For 2008 Garland has been shipped off to the Angels and Konerko and Dye will be joined by Orlando Cabrera and Nick Swisher. This (coupled with the likelihood of the two incumbent big bats improving on last season's performance) indicates an upgrade on offense, but the pitching staff will be run by a lot of young prospects who don't have much major league experience, leaving some questions there. On paper this team is not good enough to overcome the fearsome Tigers and Indians, but crazier things have happened in baseball. Still, a betting man would find it hard to put the Sox above third in this intense division.

4. Minnesota Twins, 77-85
Well, Johan Santana is a New York Met now. That's quite enough to spell disaster for a small market team such as the Twins. True, Minnesota has always had a strong minor league development system, meaning that most of their players are ready and quite able to play at the major league level. This, however, will not be enough in 2008 to help them move forward in their division. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are quality players, to be sure, but the loss of Torii Hunter to the Angels stings and there simply isn't enough talent in the lineup to allow Minnesota to compete in this division. The addition of Delmon Young from Tampa Bay helps, and Francisco Liriano could return at some point in the year, but it will only stave off the inevitable fall from grace of the once great Twins.

5. Kansas City Royals, 70-92
Poor Kansas City fans. There hasn't been very much to get excited for in recent years. And now former captain Mike Sweeney has signed a minor league contract with the Oakland A's. That's not an indication of bad things to come... right? In this division, in this league even, Kansas City will never be able to compete. Alex Gordon and Mark Teahan perhaps have bright futures ahead of them, but they haven't proven very much at the major league level yet and still they will be depended upon to anchor an offense that won't score very many runs against American League pitchers. As for the pitching staff? When Gil Meche is your ace, you know you've got problems. He did OK last season by posting a 3.67 ERA, but still only managed a sad 9-13 record with that offense behind him. Joakim Soaria might do good things at the back end of the bullpen, though save oppurtunities in Kansas City may be at a premium.

Friday, February 29, 2008

MLB Preview '08: AL East

by Christopher Reardon

If there are any holdovers from my old blog The Baseball Beat still reading NORMAL, then you know that every year I run a series of entries previewing the upcoming baseball season and all my picks thereof. Because The Baseball Beat and most of my other blogs have sort of been absorbed by NORMAL, I figured I would run my MLB Preview for the 2008 season over here at the old blogazine, and what better way to start things off than by taking picks in NORMAL's home division, the American League East. Just bear in mind while reading my previews that injuries, trades, and various other baseball miscellany can make huge waves in the leagues, and things can change with the drop of the hat. That said, let's get on with the show.

1. Boston Red Sox, 97-65
At the risk of sounding biased, I really do think my Sox will win the division again this season. In my defense, I haven't always chosen Boston to be number one, although I did last year and I was (ahem) right. The fact of the matter is that when it comes to post-season play in the AL East, you're talking about two teams: the Sox and the Yankees. And the Sox, returning most of their players from the World Series winning 2008 campaign, are the best set up to make a repeat. In the rotation, Josh Beckett will again be a Cy Young contender, John Lester and Clay Buchholz will prove that they are both more than ready for a full year in the bigs, and Curt Schilling... well... Curt Schilling remains the biggest DB in all of sports. I believe we'll see an improvement in the lineup as David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez bounce back from "down" years and the young studs continue to show that they are the future of Boston's title contentions. Most of all, though, I think some of the players in their second years with Boston will show huge improvements. History (and Beckett) has shown us that it can take an entire season to adjust to the added pressure in Boston, which bodes well for J.D. Drew (who really came on at the end of last season and in the post-season), Julio Lugo (who will be out to prove the Red Sox front office right in coveting him all these years), and especially Daisuke Matsuzaka (who won't be hounded quite so thoroughly by the Japanese media in his second year in the states). Remember, Boston won the division and the World Series while a handful of their stars were not playing to their full potential. If they can get 100% out of their full squad this season, chances are the Red Sox will run away with the division in '08.

2. New York Yankees, 94-68
As I said, it's basically a two-horse race in the AL East, and the Yankees aren't quite ready for pasture yet. They still have the most potent offense in the sport (with the possible exception of Detroit) and they have a few young guns on the pitching staff who are primed to do big things in the majors. Chien-ming Wang will always be a stud in the Bronx, and Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina are veteran arms who will probably eat a lot of innings, but the real meat of New York's rotation comes in the form of a handful of young men who will have a lot of pressure put on them as the Yankees seek to return to the World Series for the first time since their loss to the Marlins in 2003. Phillip Hughes showed he can compete at the major league level last year by going 5-3 with a 4.46 ERA in his thirteen starts, while Joba Chamberlain blew everyone away with his bullpen stint, throwing in nineteen games while allowing just earned run while striking out 34 hitters. Chamberlain may start the season back in the bullpen, but he may also compete for the fifth starter's job along with Ian Kennedy, who impressed last season by allowing just four earned runs and striking out fifteen hitters in his three starts. Still, there are simply too many questions and too little experience in the Yankees rotation for it to really compete with Boston's, yet New York's offense will always be one of the most revered in the league. The only questions there are who will get the bulk of the time at DH, right field, and first base as Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Wilson Betemit, and Jason Giambi platoon those positions. Powered by their offense, the Yanks may again have the stuff to win the wildcard, but they'll see some tough competition from the Indians and the Mariners.

3. Toronto Blue Jays, 88-74
Playing in the AL East just isn't fair. The Blue Jays have come close, taking second place from the Red Sox in Boston's injury-addled 2006 campaign, but that's about as far as they'll go. They do feature perhaps the most underrated pitching rotation in the bigs with names like Roy Halliday, A.J. Burnett and Dustin McGowan. And their offense isn't too shabby either with sluggers like Vernon Wells, Frank Thomas, Alex Rios, and Scott Rolen in the mix. In fact, if all cylinders fire early and often for Toronto, they may indeed have what it takes to reclaim the number two spot in the AL East. But that's a gigantic "if." These guys are simply not winners. Toronto's roster is built for some success in the regular season, but when your team is in the same division as the Red Sox and the Yankees, it must be difficult to really prepare a team for the post-season every year, knowing that it will take a miracle for it to happen. Who knows, 2008 may be that miracle season, but I wouldn't bet on it.

4. Tampa Bay Rays, 77-85
Every year I pick the Rays to finally make it out of the AL East basement, and every year the team manages to disappoint me, often tallying the worst record in the major leagues along the way. They simply do not have the mind-set needed to win. That said, this team features too much talent from top to bottom not to make some things happen this season. Pitcher Scott Kazmir has perhaps the most talent of any left hander in the American League (especially now that Johan Santana is in the NL), James Shields won twelve games last year, and the addition of Matt Garza will only help the rotation. On offense guys like Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Akinori Iwamura, and B.J. Upton should make some pretty big waves in a tough division. I look for the Rays to surprise just about every year, and they do just about everything but, but I really think 2008 is the year they finally move up in the AL East standings.

5. Baltimore Orioles, 72-90
Apparently the brass in Baltimore has finally come to accept the fact that they are not going to win anytime soon, so during the off-season they unloaded some of their big names and picked up a few quality players in return. Gone are Miguel Tejada and Eric Bedard, and it looks like Brian Roberts may be next. The Tejada and Roberts moves make total sense to me as the team rebuilds as these are two big names (with big contracts - especially Miggy's exorbitant thirteen million each of the next two seasons) who are soon to be mired in controversy over their involvement in performance enhancing drugs. The Bedard trade I'm a bit more skeptical about, as he is the kind of pitcher you build a team around, but chances were the Orioles would lose contractual control over him before they for a winning squad, and so it would all be for naught unless they signed yet another huge contract that will only hurt them in the end. So the Orioles go into the 2008 season anchored by names like Daniel Cabrera and Aubrey Huff, with absolutely no chance of winning. I give them the benefit of the doubt (and three more wins than last year) because a team made of a lot of young talent (like all the prospects they Os pulled from Seattle and Houston) tends to mesh well together and surprise a lot of people.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Waxing Potential

by Christopher Reardon

So a couple weeks ago I walk into Salon Lola, my normal style haunt which is owned and operated by Sasha Putney, a good friend of NORMAL and the stylist for many of its contributors. Sasha's the only person I let do my hair, and she does a fantastic job every time.

On this particular occasion, while working near the front of my head, Sasha looks at me and frowns (never a good sign when you're getting your hair cut). Nervous, I ask her what's up and she tells me I should let her wax my eyebrows.

I don't know whether to be relieved or even more anxious. I mean, my hair's fine (I knew I had nothing to worry about there anyway), but apparently below my hairline I'm a furry caveman and she wants to rip it all off with hot wax and strips of cloth. Is there really anything wrong with having unkempt brows? I mean, waxing is for girls, right?

I've never been one to fret too long about personal gender issues, so I let her do it. And it gets me thinking about other men who get waxed, and the ones who should but won't. I figure Sasha, who's been ripping people's eyebrows off for ten of her twenty-seven years, would be an excellent authority on the subject. And as it turns out, I'm right. "About twenty or twenty-five percent of my clients are men," she tells me (with some bookkeeping help from her assistant Cody), "and almost all of those get waxed."

So apparently I'm not alone. But isn't getting waxed for the girlies? "Waxing is not a feminine activity. It's not necessarily metro, you just want to look presentable." She brings up a good point. Ever since the advent of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," the idea of guys looking good has been brought to the mainstream. You don't have to be a rich snot to be fashionable and well groomed. I myself am neither rich nor a snot (well, I'm certainly not rich at least), but if Sasha tells me I should get my eyebrows waxed then dammit that's what I'm gonna do.

But I definitely don't want to end up looking like Joey Lawrence with the pencil thin lines atop my brow. As I learn, there's something of an art to waxing eyebrows correctly. "You want a natural look. A good waxer knows how to do this." I'm convinced at this point that Sasha's a good waxer, but what about all those guys who are afraid of looking too sculpted? "At the very least they should do the middle to get rid of the uni," she says. I can't agree more. I can't even bring myself to look into the eyes of someone with a uni-brow, never mind take him (or her) seriously.

And the pain? The anticipation is the most painful part, like when you're getting a shot. And after she's done tearing my face up, she rubs this stuff on there that makes it all better. "It's after wax cooling gel. It has cucumber and aloe in it, and it's essential. This will cool your eyebrows down and get rid of redness." I'm really glad there's such a thing. Not only do I not have to spend the rest of the day in burning pain, but I also don't have to leave the place looking like some kind of perfectly groomed raccoon.

So I actually feel good about the waxing. Sasha soothes my masculine insecurities and the gel soothes my freshly waxed (and rather stunning, might I add) eyebrows. But still, won't people think it's weird that I get waxed? "People who do it don't think it's weird," Sasha says. And there it is. I get my eyebrows waxed, and I don't think it's weird. In fact, I text a friend of mine (a fellow waxer) about my adventure and she actually texts me back "Yay!" Apparently I really needed to get my eyebrows waxed.

Check out Salon Lola on Myspace and then go check it out for real. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's not About "Weight-Loss" it's About "Healthy Living"

by Christopher Reardon

In the past three-four weeks I've undergone a bit of a transformation. In that period of time, I have not smoked a cigarette, I've been waking up early (just look at the timestamps on my posts for proof of that), I've exercising everyday, and I've been eating healthier. I started doing all these things at the same time, and I must admit I've never felt this healthy in my life. I've been skinnier in my life to be sure, but I've never felt this healthy. Now it's only been a few weeks and I am still losing weight, but my point is that even if I didn't lose another pound, I'd still feel good about these changes.

Notice I said that I've been eating healthier, not that I've been dieting. We hear it from a lot of sources, but people just seem to refuse to believe that diets do not work. Depriving yourself may help you lose a few pounds quickly, but it will only negatively impact your energy levels and your attitudes.

I read an article today on Dumb Little Man by Craig Harper called "Overcoming Weight Loss BS." The piece exemplifies the changes in my life, as they are not simply means of losing weight, they are a new way of life aimed at staying healthy.
"Many people don't want to hear this message because it's too fundamental and obvious. And it requires real effort, sacrifice, work and self-control. “Whatever you do Craig, don’t mention the ‘D’ word (discipline) and please don’t talk to me about self-control again.” No, we'd rather talk about weight-loss theory number ten million or the latest 'breakthrough' pill, powder, potion, product, gizmo or gadget. Or that amazing new weight-loss book. 'Cause we need another one of those. We want quick, easy, convenient and painless. We are soft. We are precious, lazy and lack self-control. We are the quick-fix society. And the instant-gratification generation. And the fat generation."
The article is a well-written piece with some good advice about maintaining the right attitude
while increasing your personal health. If you have something you'd like to add regarding your own health routine, let us know in the comments!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bring Back Prohibition

by Scott Spillane

Before reading this please bare in mind that my thoughts are directed to people that ABUSE alcohol.

These people are obnoxious, mean, violent, and generally a danger to anyone around them, I know because I use to be one of them.

I grew up around alcohol so it seemed perfectly normal to take up the habit.

I also was a bouncer for a few years so I got to see the abuse from both sides.

I was a member of S.A.D.D. in high school yet I drove drunk for years. Thankfully I never hurt anyone.

After getting married and having a daughter I decided that enough was enough.

Being sober and observing inebriated people has really opened my eyes. What good comes from drinking? How many people have to get hurt, or killed before something is done about it?

We even make buildings called bars for people to go to specifically get drunk. Some of these people start meaningless fights and many of these people then jump into a car which places anyone on the road in grave danger.

I ask again, how many people have to die?

I’m sick and tired of reading how innocent people are MURDERED by these drunks.

Then the justice system calls it involuntary manslaughter. Killing someone while driving drunk or fighting is no accident.

These people get lighter sentences. I ask why? Does the person or people this person killed get to come back to life after this sentence is served?

Prohibition should be brought back; drugs are illegal which kill less people a year than alcohol.

I’m about freedom and all, but not when thousands of innocent people have to die each year because of alcohol.

New Poll: Does Clemens Belong in the Hall of Fame?

by Christopher Reardon

In the wake of congressional hearings and the damning (absentee) testimony of Andy Pettitte - who when deposed about his own use of Human Growth Hormone testified that Roger Clemens spoke with him on several occasions about using performing enhancing drugs himself - it's getting harder and harder to believe that the Rocket was indeed clean throughout his entire career. Still, Clemens has refused to admit his use, maintaining that his former trainer Brian McNamee (who told the Mitchell Report that he injected Clemens with HGH and steroids) is a liar and that Pettitte "misremembers" any conversations they supposedly had regarding PEDs.

Meanwhile it appears that the Rocket's pitching career is over, as he's all but begun duty under the service contract he signed with the Houston Astros which comes into effect when Roger's finished playing. This means that in five years, the Rocket will be up for a Hall of Fame vote. History shows that shamed players (*cough* Mark McGuire *cough*) will not receive the necessary votes for a plaque in the Hall, and many writers who have votes have already claimed that they will not vote for Clemens when his time comes.

So here's the question: if you had a vote for the Hall of Fame, would you send Clemens in?

You can find the poll and give your answer in the side-bar to the right, and the poll closes in about a month. Let us know what you think!

Super Powers that Be

by Michael Weisburg

Over the past few weeks I have been talking to my friends, co-workers, relatives and most importantly my girlfriend. I have asked them all the same questions… If you could have any one super power what would that be?

Of course being a guy, I have seen all the superhero movies that have come out over the past couple of years, and of course my favorite is still Spiderman. I honestly don’t think they could make them any better, but when the next installment comes out, it always blows me away.

Yet if you could sling web from your wrist, would you use it for good or for your own personal gain?

I have heard some of the weirdest, dumbest and most interesting things people would love to have for superpowers if you could have only one. I hear them all, whether they are the most obvious ones such as X-ray vision, or superhuman strength. But then I think of what I would want for mine. Here is what I have come up with. I would want the ability that when I closed my eyes, I could see how everybody dies.

I know that you are thinking that I will probably never sleep again with a power like that, but to your disbelief I would so love to have that. I would be the one people would love to see so that they could ask that simple question that I know a lot of people wonder: "When and how am I going to die?" I would be able to warn so many people and save so many more lives then any superhero could ever do. I could tell people that they shouldn’t go on vacation because something is going to happen, and I could tell people not to on the subway.

There I am using my super power for the good of mankind. Saving people from dying is exactly what the real superheroes do right? So if I had that ability then I would be the Ultimate Superhero. In fact, I would call my Dr. Ultimate. Not that I am a doctor of any sort (though I try telling my girlfriend that I AM a gynecologist).

So as I end this, please take a minute to think what your super power would be. Think long and hard, and come up with a good reason why. Because after all, you only get one super power.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Congrats Matt and Amanda!!!

We at NORMAL want to extend our sincerest congratulations to contributor Matthew Jupin and his wife Amanda, who gave birth to a beautiful baby boy last night. Connor Matthew Jupin came into the world at 6 lbs. 7 oz. and I could swear I've never seen a just-born baby more aware of his surroundings. He will surely be a great addition to the Jupin family and, of course, the NORMAL community. ;-)

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Worst Month in Sports

by Christopher Reardon

I can't believe it. I mean I cannot effing believe it. The Patriots, formerly 18-0, are now 18-1. And that lonely, sad little one is the biggest one there could have been. The Superbowl. And you wanna know the most messed up thing of all? I pulled Pats 4 - Giants 7 on my Superbowl squares, so Pats losing and their final score of 14-17 actually made me money. For the last thirty seconds of the game I was actually rooting against myself winning money so that the Pats could pull off a miraculous win, but it just didn't happen.

So my first thought in consolation after the Superbowl was "hey, I'm a few bucks richer now." And my second? "At least pitchers and catchers report to spring training in eleven days."

I must admit, even though the Celtics are drastically improved this year and the Bruins seem to be getting better, my sports are really just football and baseball (and MMA, but that's a year-round event). That's why I always dread the end of the Superbowl, for good or for bad, because the month of February is woefully void of interesting sporting events. I mean the Pro Bowl is a joke, and the first game of the baseball exhibition season isn't until the end of the month. What's a guy to do?

I'm not the only one out there who see this lack of sports intake. You'll notice the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue come out during this month, assuredly because if there's no interesting games to cover you might as well throw girls in bikinis throughout your magazine. ESPN will spend a week reviewing the Superbowl and a day reviewing the Pro Bowl, then fill in the remainder of the time with a lot of golf and tennis. Me? I'll be catching up on some reading and preparing my annual MLB preview.

So I am really upset and disappointed that the Patriots were unable to put their name squarely in the history books as perhaps the best team of all time, I might be more distraught by the fact that I have almost nothing to watch for the next month. Gosh I can't wait for baseball season to start.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

The UFC from a Woman’s Point of View

by Celia Gomes

If you missed the last pay-per-view of The Ultimate Fighting Championship from January 19th, then you missed out on one of the best Main Event fights in my opinion. If you have no idea what I am talking about, then you really need to read on.

The UFC started back in 1993 and the goal was to find “the Ultimate Fighting Champion”. Skilled athletes in various disciplines of martial arts including jiu-jitsu, grappling, wrestling, karate, boxing, kickboxing, and other combat sports compete to be crowned the ultimate champion. Known as a “no rules” competition in which there were no weight classes, the UFC drew its share of controversy and was banned in a number of American states. In response, the UFC cooperated with state athletic commissions and redesigned its rules and introduced weight classes.

After a long battle and on the brink of bankruptcy, the UFC was purchased by Station Casinos executives Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and boxing promoter Dana White in January of 2001 for 2 million and Zuffa, LLC was created as the entity which controls the UFC.

The UFC has been growing in popularity since then. A reality television show “The Ultimate Fighter” has emerged in which up-and-coming MMA fighters compete to win a contract with the UFC. It was also announced that an agreement had been reached in which the Fertitta brothers would be purchasing the PRIDE Fighting Championships. UFC has graced the covers of Sports Illustrated and ESPN The Magazine and many of its fighters have lucrative endorsement and promotional deals.

Now that you know a little bit of UFC history and what it’s about you may ask yourself, “How does a girl get interested in the UFC?” Well, for me it started out with my husband channel surfing one Saturday night 5 years ago and we happened to catch one of the UFC events. I was intrigued by what was going on. These men weren’t just boxing, they were wrestling, karate, kickboxing and what I later learned was grappling. As my husband patiently explained about the Gracie Family and their jiu-jitsu legacy, I found myself curious to learn more. These MMA fighters had not only knock out power but submission moves also. After watching some more of these events and getting to know the arm bar, the guillotine and the kamura (all submission moves), it became apparent to me that there is absolutely no shame in tapping out. After all, the fighters’ health and safety are the number one priority in this sport.

I think one of the best parts about watching the UFC for me is that there are so many talented fighters involved and as I get to know the fighters and their different styles I have found myself having a few favorites. I love the fact that these men come from different backgrounds and countries, the wide range of ages and their different personalities. Let’s just face it – I love everything about the UFC and I look forward to watching their events. The fact that these fighters are in the best shape and don’t look so bad in their shorts doesn’t hurt either... (hey, this is from a woman’s point of view).

Now as for the last pay-per-view… Let’s just say that B.J. Penn proved once again that he is a force to be reckoned with in the Octagon when he beat Joe “Daddy” Stevenson to become the Lightweight Champion. Penn has the most amazing flexibility that I have ever seen and he joins “Randy Couture as the only two men in UFC history to win titles in two different weight classes”.

The next live event will be on February 2nd and Frank Mir will be taking on Brock Lesnar in the main event (you may remember that name from the WWE). Should be interesting to see Lesner’s MMA skills and what he brings into the Octagon.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pats in, Pack out

by Christopher Reardon

Well the Patriots continued to tear the turf up in today's game, stretching their record uh... record to 18-0. Mercury Morris has nothing to say now. Phillip Rivers has no more trash talk left. All that's left is to beat the Giants in the big show, and while Eli and his crew put up a good show during the regular season, it still went down as a notch in the Pat's win column and there's nothing to make me think that it won't happen again, particularly in a playoff setting.

Speaking of the Giants, they surprised a lot of people on their way to the Superbowl, upsetting Brett Favre and the Packers in an edge-of-your-seat overtime showing. Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes, after missing his previous two attempts from shorter yardage, managed to nail a 47-yard field goal and also to nail the lid on Green Bay's season.

So February third will be Brady versus Manning (Eli, that is). Belichick versus Coughlin. Patriots versus Giants. Not quite the show stopper everyone was hoping for in a Green Bay/ New England standoff. Let's face it: whomever the Patriots would have played would likely have turned out the loser. It just would have been much more satisfying for us New England fans still stung by New England's loss to Green Bay back in '97. It would even have been more satisfying for Favre and his fans, who have been looking to see a Superbowl berth since the 1998 loss to the Broncos.

But I guess this game will be okay. It'll still be nice to see the Pats win for the fourth time in seven years. Parity has been the name of the game since the NFL went with a salary cap, but the Patriots have overcome that and become the only modern dynasty in the league due to their great coaching, fantastic scouting, and that golden arm attached to Tom Brady. It'll also be nice to see the Pats go 19-0, a feat never accomplished by any team, ever. Holy cow, the Patriots HAVE NOT LOST THIS ENTIRE SEASON! That's unreal. I hope, nay, I KNOW that they will finish it all. They've come too far to fall now to Archie Manning's lesser son.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Fame Isn't All it's Cracked Up to Be

by Scott Spillane

There have been endless accounts of over zealous people with cameras aka “paparazzi” harassing and invading famous people’s personal space.

A famous person can’t fart without a paparazzi smelling and reporting it.

I still can’t believe peoples reactions to famous people exploding on these paparazzi. How would you like 50 people flashing cameras in your face? I mean they are right in their faces!

I don’t care how much money they make, they are still human beings with feelings and emotions.

Take Britney Spears: is she a good mother? Hell no! She clearly has issues and what do these people do? They continue to harass her. She can’t even get in her car and drive somewhere, and then they get mad at her when she runs their feet over. I say if you don’t move, you are road pizza.

On occasion a celebrity fights back. Woody Harrelson, Alec Baldwin and Sean Pen have all fought back. I say kudos to them.

I’m sure many of you that are reading this are saying “they make millions of dollars so tough petunias for them” well I leave you with this;

On Sunday, August 31st 1997 Princess Diana was killed while being chased by the paparazzi. All she wanted was some privacy with her boyfriend.

So I guess using the logic above its ok she died because she had a lot of money.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Green Dots on Quarterback Helmets?

by Christopher Reardon

I've been watching a lot of football with other contributors to NORMAL this season, and one question has come up a lot: What's with those big green dots on the backs of all the quarterbacks' helmets? A number of theories arose, like it was a way for the cameras to track the player or that it was somehow involved in the radio system the quarterback shares with the sideline (given that only the quarterback has the green dot on his head, this seemed the more likely scenario). The real answer, as provided by, is a bit more complicated:

"It signifies that the player has a radio helmet and the NFL will put the stickers on the helmets themselves each week. Only a QB can have a radio, and only one green dot can be on the field at a time. So, if a 2nd string QB comes in for a trick play, he has to have a different helmet to wear."

Good answer! Thanks EMQB.