Yes, it's another notes blog. As seems to be the case with me, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. So is the case with me and this blog. I really did have the best intentions of updating it a bit more regularly, but something often keeps me from doing it. Perhaps if I don't plan on updating it regularly, I'll do so more often. Reverse psychology on myself? Why not?
Anyway, there's a lot to get to, so I'll start with... Big Ben.
- Yes, Big Ben is back at practice after Pope Roger allowed Ben to play with his little friends again. Look, you all know my feelings on Ben, but at the same time, he did exactly what the Commish asked him to, and he should have been allowed to practice sooner than this week. That all said, by all accounts, Ben has actually lost some weight (gasp!). My uninformed theory? As part of his rehabilitation (read: punishment), Ben has to lay off the beer and booze. And since he's on the wagon and actually, y'know, working out, much of the weight he's put on has suddenly gone away. Ben's never going to have Troy Polamalu's physique, but I do think losing a few pounds might actually help him avoid those rushing linebackers he's had trouble running away from lately. Am I implying that Ben was fat and lazy last season? Bet your ass I am.
Do I think he's 100% serious and sincere with everything he's done and is going to be doing going forward? Well, that's hard to say. He's pretty much hit rock bottom, so maybe the suspension was the wake-up call he needed. Then again, I wonder if anything will get through his thick skull. Remember, this is the guy who survived a horrific motorcycle accident (a life changing event to be sure) and kept right on with his reckless behavior. I'm willing to give Ben the benefit of the doubt, but this is the last time for me.
- Moving on to more mundane topics, I bought a bike last week and rode it in earnest for the first time today (Summer of Me experience). While riding said bike, I discovered something - I am so incredibly and woefully out of shape that it's a wonder I'm able to walk from the living room to the kitchen without getting winded. Oh. My. God. I might have ridden the bike for a good 10 minutes (15 tops) before I had to slowly make my way home, feeling like I'd just competed in a triathlon. Kids, this is what happens when the most physical activity you've had in 3 years is 9 holes of golf the Saturday before Memorial Day (this Memorial Day). On the positive side, at least I got out there and rode the darned thing. Baby steps...
- The first season of WWE NXT ended on Tuesday with Wade Barrett winning the competition. After Daniel Bryan was eliminated, it was pretty obvious that Barrett was going to win. And that's fine by me. He has the best overall package - good size, decent in-ring skills, pretty good on the mic and a unique look. I expect Barrett will be in the hunt for either heavyweight title within a year. Thank goodness David Otunga didn't win. The guy may have a good look (though I'll gladly debate that), but he's not only not that good on the mic, he's a terrible wrestler. Of the 8 wrestlers in the competition, he was definitely among the bottom 3 in terms of in-ring ability. I'm sure he'll be kept around because he's married to Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, but I really hope he gets some more seasoning before being brought up to RAW or Smackdown full time.
As for Daniel Bryan, he's proven the old axiom that you don't have to have a title (or win NXT in this case) to be over. I fully expect that new RAW GM Bret Hart will announce that he's signed Bryan to a contract in the coming weeks so Bryan can continue his feuds with Michael Cole and the Miz. It's hard to believe that Michael Cole is suddenly relevant, but his feud with Bryan has been the best thing on WWE TV for weeks now. I only hope this doesn't lead to Cole actually stepping into the ring because that's something no one needs to see. I could see the Miz asking for a rematch with Bryan to prove that Bryan's victory on Monday's RAW was nothing but a fluke. Or maybe, Hart will announce that if Bryan beats Miz again, Bryan gets a contract to wrestle on RAW. That's just me fantasy booking, but I'll be shocked if this is the last we see of Daniel Bryan.
- Season 2 of NXT starts this coming Tuesday, and it features a pair of third generation wrestlers: Husky Harris, who is the son of Mike "IRS" Rotunda and the grandson of Blackjack Mulligan and Michael McGillicutty, who is the son of Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig and the grandson of Larry "The Axe" Hennig. Now, you may be wondering why the WWE in its infinite wisdom has decided to saddle these two young men with some of the worst ring names ever. I mean, they didn't change the names of Randy Orton or Ted Dibiase or Cody Rhodes so why change the names of Windham Rotunda and Joe Hennig? Well, I think it has something to do with having a name that they can trademark, but it really doesn't make a lick of sense to me, especially after they acknowledged each wrestler's family ties while introducing them on Tuesday night's show. Then again, what do I know? I'm using logic and common sense, and we all know how rarely WWE displays either.
I don't know much about the 8 competitors except for Kaval, who some of you may know as Low-Ki (as he was called on the indy circuit) or Senshi (as he was known in TNA). Do yourself a favor, go over to YouTube and look for Low-Ki matches. I guarantee you that you'll be blown away. His combination of stiff kicks, amazingly athleticism and a move set that rivals Daniel Bryan has made him a star on the indy circuit. I hope that his size won't be a deterrent because this guy is the real deal. Of course, he's been paired with Team Lay-Cool (Layla and Michelle McCool), so I wonder where that's going to go. Anyway, I'll be back next week with a more in depth look at season 2 of NXT.
- So how many of you out there either saw or have seen the controversial ending of last night's Tigers/Indians game? If you haven't seen it by now, you've probably been living under a rock, but here's what happened in a nutshell: Armando Galarraga of the Tigers was one out away from the third perfect game in the last month in MLB. He got the 27th batter to ground to first baseman Miguel Cabrera. Galarraga hustled over to first and beat the batter to the bag by about a half step. First base umpire Jim Joyce called the runner safe (replays showed that the play wasn't even that close) and has set off a firestorm of debate over the past 24 hours about whether or not baseball needs an instant replay system and if Commissioner Bud Selig should overturn the blown call and give Galarraga the perfect game he deserves. I think every sports talk show from coast-to-coast has debated the issues, so I figure I'll weigh in, too.
First of all, Selig should absolutely change the decision and give Galarraga the perfect game. MLB took away Harvey Haddix's 12 inning perfect game and added an RBI to Hack Wilson's RBI record after the fact, so why not do the sensible thing this one time only and change the call. Hell, if you want to put an asterisk next to it in the record book, go ahead, but just do it. It's not going to hurt anyone.
Secondly, Joyce showed some major class by admitting that he blew the call and then apologizing to Galarraga, Jim Leyland and the Tigers organization. I guarantee you that most umps would not have done such a thing, and I have great respect for Joyce because of this. So, those of you out there who threatened the guys family need to get a fraking life. Geez. It's only a baseball game.
Finally, baseball absolutely needs instant replay for all plays that don't involve balls and strikes. My idea? Each manager gets one (and only one) challenge a game. If the manager doesn't use his challenge in a given game, then he loses it. The challenges do not roll over. This will force the manager to use his challenge only in a situation that he thinks will affect the outcome of the game and not challenge a close play at first in the third inning of a 6-1 game. Every other major sports league uses instant replay, so why not MLB? Heck, last night's Stanley Cup Final game had 2 goals that were changed by replay. Yes, the system (whatever they decide to do) will have inevitably have kinks in the beginning, but I really think it's time baseball stepped into the 21st century and make instant replay a part of the game.
- The Pirates finally made a decision that actually makes sense when they named Neil Walker the full time second baseman and sat Aki "How do you say 'Mendoza Line' in Japanese?" Iwamura on the bench (where he belongs). I'm not saying that Walker is the second coming of Ryne Sandberg, but he's got to be an improvement over Iwamura. Now if the brass will finally promote Jose Tabata, Brad Lincoln and Pedro Alvarez, then maybe, just maybe, the Pirates will actually be watchable. Time will tell. I'm skeptical. Of course, I'm skeptical of everything the Pirates say or do, so you'll have that.
- I close on a sad note, offering a heartfelt rest in peace to 80s TV legends Rue McClanahan (of Golden Girls fame) and Gary Coleman (Arnold on Diff'rent Strokes) and acting legend Dennis Hopper (too many credits to mention) all of whom passed away over the past week.