The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Kramer likens sports to Two and a Half Men, music

One of the most well-worn leitmotifs of the sports column is to compare teams, players or even leagues to various artifacts of popular culture. The New York Jets are Steve Miller Band’s “Jet Airliner” because I can make the lyrics “Don’t take me too far away” relate to their road loss to the Raiders! It’s that easy. To paraphrase my favorite “Parks and Recreation” character, Jean-Ralphio, one need only quote from “Love Actually” (National League Wild Card St. Louis Cardinals are like Liam Neeson’s character!), hold back tears, drop the mic and end the column. An effective strategy for quickly meeting The S&B’s stringent deadlines if there ever were one. The only question for me this week, then, is not how best to craft a novel critique of something from the world of sport. Rather, it’s what sort of pop culture references I can most rapidly manufacture so that I get to include lots of lyrics in my word count. You get pithy if obvious sports commentary sandwiched between beloved references and I get $30 from SPARC.

What’s that, Paul Scheer of The League and guest from the finale of my last column? (Next time I will call him a “friend of the column,” kind of like Steve Martin is to SNL.) Shall I, to again borrow the immortal words of SMB, take the money and run? All I do is references anyway—it’s how the manatees write my column. Maybe you’re right, P-Scheerz. Maybe you’re right. … I’ll do the tired old bullet-point sports column, but I’ll make it fresh and original with some awesome-ass references. Leitmotif on!

CBS’s rebooted “Two and a Half Men” is the MLB Playoffs

This one works on a few levels. First, both maintain their respective massive popularity without me ever watching a minute of them. Second, neither features Charlie Sheen. Third, I have no idea why they work they way they do. I’ve very publicly staged the battle against my own baseball apathy before in this column, so I won’t reopen old wounds now (though I have to point out my Royals). I vowed to make a concerted effort to follow the MLB’s interminable regular season with at least a fraction of the interest I devote to sports that are actually interesting. It didn’t really work out. I tried a few times over the summer, but baseball announcing combined with the heat and humidity of [iasummer] is a recipe for a nap. Many things are recipes for a nap to me—recipes, for one. Now the playoffs, the most exciting time in any professional sport, are set to start Friday and even if they added Ashton Kutcher and his corporate shill laptop, I still wouldn’t care.

Part of the reason for that is baseball’s wonky playoff system, which allows only six teams to compete to play in the World Series. The introduction of the wild card playoff spot in 1995 was a good move for the typically stodgy MLB, which seems to cling to its past with more unwarranted nostalgia than any other league. But the playoffs still leave out teams that are not just good, but pretty great. The Boston Red Sox won the exact same number of games as the St. Louis Cardinals, with both teams boasting matching 90-72 records. Admittedly, the Cardinals did it in “thrilling” (for baseball) fashion and got in by the skin of their teeth, coming from behind the Atlanta Braves to seize their spot in the postseason by a single game. The Cardinals posted a very respectable run differential of +70 for the season, but the BoSox managed to nearly double that with +138. Yet Boston will not play in the postseason this year because the Tampa Bay Rays beat them out by a single game for the AL wild card. The Cardinals, playing in the less top-heavy NL, are apparently more deserving than the Sox, despite the latter ranking first in the league in runs scored, second in batting average, first in on-base percentage and first in slugging percentage. Sure, their pitching was pretty bad this year (22nd in the league in ERA, though 9th in batting average against), and if they had won a single additional game, they’d be in the playoffs. In that case, I would just be talking about the Rays getting screwed out of a playoff spot instead of the Sox.

Six teams out of 30 is not enough, and it’s a shame that the MLB playoffs don’t showcase all the teams that have a legitimate chance at the World Series. Wild card selection, as I’ve outlined above, is fairly arbitrary. Yet nine wild card teams have made the World Series and four have won it. Doesn’t that indicate that a few more teams deserve a shot? I propose allowing two wild cards from each league to make the playoffs along with division winners for a total of 10 teams. The wild card teams would play a preliminary round against each other, then the playoffs would proceed as usual but with more legitimacy since all the teams capable of winning it all got to compete. All right, enough about baseball. I’ve saved my favorite references for my favorite athletic endeavor!

Lana Del Rey’s gangster Nancy Sinatra indie heat-seeker “Video Games” is LSU’s defense

The Tigers of Baton Rouge are my number one team in the nation after dismantling a talented but inconsistent West Virginia Mountaineers team in Morgantown, 47-21. The Tigers have already played one of the toughest schedules in the nation, with a neutral site victory over Oregon and road wins against Mississippi State and WVU. Les Miles’s always-stout defense has thrived against top-tier competition, ranking 14th in the nation in points allowed and picking off six interceptions in their four victories, including drubbings of Heisman hopeful QBs Darron Thomas of Oregon and Geno Smith of WVU. Stud CB Tyrann Mathieu also scored a defensive touchdown against Oregon to seal the win at Cowboys Stadium. LSU’s defensive is dominant like my MU Tigers team in NCAA Football 2011 for the PS3. I don’t think scores like 49-0 against lesser SEC foes is unreasonable if the Tigers keep playing like they have so far. “Get over here and play a video game” against Kentucky this week, LSU.

Courtney Stodden’s vampy and vapid “Don’t Put it on Me” is LSU QB Jarrett Lee

Senior QB Lee was thought to be the Tigers’ most damning liability but has been an extremely proficient game manager for LSU. The Tigers’ strengths are their defense and ground game, but Lee hasn’t been too shabby either, throwing six TDs and only one interception. Miles hadn’t out it on Lee, and Lee has been able to work well within his limited role. Simply letting running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford carry the load is probably a BCS National Championship caliber game plan. As for teen bride and hilarious television “personality,” Stodden is of a lower caliber, as we see in the following tweet: “Tastily trotted through such a delicious day as the sun sweetly shined upon my body & kissed it like a piece of chocolate-coated candy! ;-)”

Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” is Alabama RB Trent Richardson

Both are ubiquitously hyped but pretty worth it. While the indie dance ditty grows increasingly annoying with each excessive play (it is rapidly becoming this year’s “Kids” by MGMT), Richardson’s play has been more low-key. And kind of in a bad way, if he wants to be the Crimson Tide’s second Heisman winner in three years after fellow feature back Mark Ingram won it in 2009. He would also make it the third year in a row the Trophy has gone to a player in the state of Alabama after Auburn Phenom and current Carolina Panther Cam Newton (a.k.a The Camchise) won in 2010. But Richardson will have to step it up on the field and show that he can “run faster than a bullet.”

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