The other night millions of people across the world joined together, united as one in a way not seen ever before, as they watched, full of anticipation, as the BCB Fantasy League III season drew to a climax. Warring tribes crouched in harmony in front of ageing transistor radios, long-time rivals buried the hatchet and, lo, even the very lions and lambs lay down together. No, not in that sense – but you get what I mean. Indeed, the world truly stopped as they awaited the final results. Well, I didn't so much await the final results as others might have given that I was on a hellish trip to London that involved me returning home on Friday having got completely and utterly lost, having to catch a later train and missing my connection meaning three hours of rubbish sleep in a heavily overgrown garden at the front of some office in the centre of Edinburgh which I could only access by almost breaking my ankles undertaking a drunken jump down an underpass. I like to keep it classy. I'm seeing it as an experiment in seeing what it is like to live in St Louis.
Bringing Home the Bacon (500) lost to More Than A Feeling (601)
It was probably all the time I spent in my parents' car being fed an unending diet of Radio Two, Britain's biggest radio station aimed at people who appreciate wry humour (code for "unamusing humour") and middle-of-the-road nostalgic pop that gave me such a distaste for The Beatles. I was reminded of my complete dislike of the Liverpool foursome by a number of things the other day. Firstly, seeing footage of Curtis Mayfield, a man with more sensitivity, soul and feeling than the four of the Beatles put together. Secondly, seeing Paul McCartney embarrass himself on breakfast television by waffling on about his new ballet. Even if you really like The Beatles it'd be a bit like watching Stephen Hawking play baseball – sure, he's talented at his day job but why on earth is he trying to do that? Thirdly, seeing archive footage of leaden Geordie rockers Lindisfarne and the comment appearing saying that they were known as the “70's Beatles”. Now, that was obviously meant as a bit of a criticism of Lindifarne and how ridiculously over-rated they were, but in my mind they were so dreadful that comparing them to the equally over-rated Beatles is a fair and accurate comparison. Nowadays Lindisfarne are best known for having their biggest hit covered by English footballer Paul Gascoigne at the height of Gazza-mania in the early 90s (kinda like Fernando-mania except with a fat, unfit native of Newcastle as the subject of adulation rather than a fat, unfit native of Mexico). Its not one of my favourite claims to fame (that would be the fact that friend of my ex once mopped up the vomit of monocled-idiot boxer Chris Eubank's nephew) but somehow huge proportions of Gazza's lyrics are, to this day, lodged in my brain. And if you watch this video you'll know that is in no way a good thing. Equally lodged in everyone's brain will be MTaF's majestic run to the BCB Fantasy League III title as they made all the early-running and survived a change of coach to take the title. BhtB made this one an awful lot closer than it looked as MTaF only really sealed it up in the last few days. BhtB had 56 from James Loney but ultimately the pitchers he tried to stream didn't manage to do enough to back up Ricky Romero's 35 points. Ultimately, if your team includes Longoria (68), Pedroia (65), Damon (50), Carlos Lee (54), Bautista (39), Ian Kennedy (51) and MadBum (38) you'll take some beating. Even poor weeks from Oswalt (-19) and Hamels (7) couldn't stop him taking the title. Congratulations to MTaF for taking the title and well-done also to BhtB for putting up such a fight across the season.
MSKM (612) lost to Stinky Cheese (683)
Everyone knows about the world championship hot dog eating competition held at Nathan's in Brooklyn every year where various competitors compete to gorge themselves with hot dogs at an incredibly rapid pace. Of course, the event has become even more infamous in recent years as legendary champion Takeru Kobayashi has been banished from the main event due to legal and contractual wranglings meaning his Ali-Frazier style rivalry with homegrown talent Joey Chestnut has hit the buffers. Much as boxing has been riven with splits, easy money, match-fixing and legal circuses so has the great sport of competitive eating. However, much as heavyweight boxing's true home now lies perhaps in Ukraine with the Klitschko brothers so competitive eating has to look to the same Eastern European country. If you are looking for the true spirit of the sport of competitive eating you will find it in the news that a Ukrainian pensioner took part in a dumpling eating competition in his home town of Tokma and won after eating ten dumplings in thirty seconds (given the size of Ukrainian dumplings that seems no mean feat). Of course, pride comes before a fall and the pensioner rapidly became ill and died afterwards, with organisers being hasty to claim that his death had nothing to do with the competition. However, the best part of the story is that rather than competing for worldwide stardom as Kobayashi and Chestnut do Ivan Mendel laid down his life in the search for the ultimate prize – a large jug of sour cream. Of such stuff, indeed, legends are made. Having said last week that the most coveted prize in international sport is the BCB Fantasy League III third place finish I am obliged therefore to say that Stinky Cheese has achieved legendary status too. Well, this might sound slightly suspicious but I've spent the last 48 hours re-examining my spreadsheets and having ironed out a couple of minor data entry errors I'm actually having to re-evaluate that claim as the mathematical evidence now suggests that the most important finish in sport is actually the fourth-placed finish in our league which, coincidentally, has been secured by yours truly. Indeed, what possible other reason could there have been for me “forgetting” to play Clayton Kershaw for one of his starts and therefore not getting his 25 points from that match? Ultimately Brandon Phillips (64), Hunter Pence (50) and Kershaw (43 in the two games I remembered to play him) did well but without sufficient support. True, on the last day it looked like streaming five starters could pay off when Miguel Batista's complete game shut out gave me 30 points but it was always unlikely. SC deserved his win with Fielder (67), Carlos Santana (64), Erick Aybar (52) and Feliz and Verlander (both 49) scoring heavily.
Little Lebowski Under Achievers (399) lost to Poughkeepsie Footpickers (666)
One of the all-time classic meltdowns in Scottish sport was the complete humiliation that Heart of Midlothian FC went through in 1986. Despite being supposedly the third biggest team in Scotland they'd won nothing for about 30 years, a stretch possibly worse than the Cubs streak given that there are three trophies to play for each season. Hearts had been battling with Celtic at the top of the league all season and, as if God himself had blessed the maroon half of Edinburgh, they came to the final day of the league season needing just a point against a mediocre Dundee side to win the title regardless of Celtic's result against a dire St Mirren team. Needless to say St Mirren lay down and died as Celtic went on their way to a 5-0 thrashing of the Paisley team while Hearts were 0-0 against Dundee. However, the TV was full of pictures of grown Hearts fans crying on the pitch as little-known Dundee player Albert Kidd scored not once but twice against them to send them to a 2-0 victory and give Celtic the title. The following week Hearts got thumped 3-0 by Aberdeen in the cup final ensuring they'd have to wait another decade or so before finally winning a trophy. Anyway, the best bit of the story is the reaction of one of the Hibs supporters clubs. For the few of you who don't watch the regular US coverage of the Scottish Premier League it is worth pointing out that Hibs are one of the few teams that can rival Hearts both in claiming to be the third biggest team in Scotland and having a recent history similarly filled with futility. As both teams are from Edinburgh they really don't particularly like each other. Suffice it to say that the Hibs supporters club in question sat down a week after the league ended in 1986 to select their player of the year and, given the paucity of talent in their team at the time, pretty unanimously voted Albert Kidd of Dundee as their Hibs player of the year, so delighted were they with Hearts' defeat in the league decider. However, fast forward to one year later and the members of the same club were supposedly still so happy that their city rivals had been thwarted the previous year that they voted Kidd their player of the year again, despite the fact he didn't play for Hibs and hadn't even done anything particularly memorable in the last 12 months. In fact, to this day Albert Kidd will probably never have to buy a pint again in the green-and-white areas of Edinburgh. Which is a very roundabout way of saying that after events of the last week I'd still be sorely tempted to vote for Jason Motte as my Brewer of the year. Even with his meltdown though Motte still managed 37 points for LLUA but his team struggled overall with Scutaro (55) and Heath Bell (50) being the only notable scorers. In comparison, PF got a majestic 78 points from the entire Red Sox team (by which I mean Jacoby Ellsbury), with Texas pitchers Holland and Harrison (58 and 55) and up-and-coming, young, non-PED user Albert Pujols adding a further 53 as PF cruised home
Social Anxiety All-Stars (655) beat Bumpin' Ugglas (467)
As someone who likes nothing better to do for a good 30 minutes or so than sitting down and looking though an atlas (its either that or speak to someone...) there's nothing better than a geographical oddity. I remember the excitement at finding out that there was an enclave of Russia called Kaliningrad which was, as is the nature of enclaves, entirely separate from the rest of the country. Seemingly it is a fairly lucrative arrangement as it enables the Russian mafia to smuggle goods into their country more easily. However, unless I really think about it, it never really strikes me as odd that Northern Ireland, a bit of the UK, is effectively stuck onto another country. I suppose if I was of the Irish Republican persuasion (I don't really have a strong view on the matter) I'd take that as evidence of the insidious nature of British culture that leads people to accept the weird and strange partition of Ireland as if it were normal and I suppose there might be some truth in that. But equally there's some truth in the other perspective that, I think, for most British people Northern Ireland isn't really viewed as part of the rest of the UK, but rather as some sort of sixth finger would be, a strange appendage that isn't really normal yet somehow you have to live with. Its only recently after having read a couple of books on the Troubles that most of it has struck me as completely barbaric and with no redeeming feature whatsoever. That should have been utterly obvious, but somehow the backdrop living in the UK of the news of loyalist and republican tit-for-tat killings depressingly made the depraved seem somehow understandable as senseless killing followed senseless killing. While I've been to Northern Ireland before I think the more I read and hear about the times the less likely I am to visit – not out of any sense of fear (God knows that Friday night in Glasgow is incomparably more dangerous than Belfast) but out of a desire not to have to think too much about what the Troubles tells us about ourselves. Still, every time I get too dragged down I look to the other stereotype of Ireland and consider the fact that when Ireland got into trouble in the 70s over not applying the European Economic Community's guidelines of sex equality legislation they rapidly put out an advert for an equal pay enforcement officer providing clear salary information that a successful male applicant would get more money than a successful female one. No affirmative action at all was necessary for SAAS as he clinched 5th place with two monster pitching weeks from Javier Vazquez (85) and Gio Gonzalez (88) with Beltre (75) and Josh Hamilton (61) doing almost as well. BU slumped a bit and was never really looking like winning although Drew Storen (80), Melancon (51) and Starlin Castro (47) were pretty decent.
The Braun Supremacy (384) lost to Gold Glove Gamels (648)
For a while I worked in market and social research, a job that I quite enjoyed and kinda suited my basic skills at school in that I was pretty handy both at maths and English. Well, my maths was a bit behind my English, but while there were a few people who really excelled at just one of the subjects I managed to be fairly decent at both. As a result, a job where I had to interpret data and make it intelligible using words seemed to make sense. Its odd though, because in all the talk these days of multi-disciplinary learning and “cross-fertilisation” (or whatever the buzzwords are at the moment) there's not really a clear connection. OK, maths tried to be all cool and introduce letters via algebra but that didn't really fool anyone into thinking that it actually had anything to say beyond the introduction of a few odd letters. I was pondering the lack of relation between the two subjects the other day after it was pointed out to me that if you start counting from zero upwards and leave the word “and” out of any number in which appears then you have to wait until you get to “one thousand” before you say any number which has the letter “a” in it. Weird. But not as weird as TBS managing to finish ahead of six team despite the biggest KittenMittonsing since KittenMittons first began to KittenMittons. Kinsler (59), V-Mart (57) and Tim Hudson (46) continued to roll, but GGG mashed everyone into submission, taking his wrath out on the rest of the league for ultimately missing out on the promotion play-offs. His performance this week was one of sustained high-quality performance, with high scores from Putz (59), Berkman and Zobrist (both 53), Napoli (52), Greinke (47) and Cliff Lee (45). He might only have the 9th place trophy to show for it, but its been a very very good year for GGG and TBS has shown us that we can all live the ultimate dream of managing to muddle through and appear respectable while truly not giving a toss and for that we should all thank him. Perhaps.
Chin Music (511) lost to Phoenix Fire (656)
Baseball is as American as apple pie, death row, Death Row (Suge Knight, baby!) and world domination. Its so intricately worked into the psyche of the nation that you probably couldn't vote for a President if he claimed not to watch the sport. Of course, George W Bush was an owner of the Rangers (it being recounted in “Lords of the Realm” how one of the other senior guys at the club was adamant that no-one should tell Bush that he didn't actually make the decisions). However, if you're looking for the most likely President to have been a ballplayer you'd probably have to go with George Washington who, legend has it, used to impress watchers with his ability at throwing stones huge distances. Plus he'd get a fairly decent KRUG score too. Everyone knows that Washington had a set of false teeth, but not many know that he lost his teeth through cracking nuts in his mouth. I could just about understand how you try to crack nuts in your teeth and lose one tooth and perhaps can see how you might try it again and lose another tooth but I can't really believe that he was stupid enough to lose all his teeth through cracking nuts in his mouth. Ultimately, what he gains in KRUG he loses in having any semblance of intelligence. Still, intelligence has never been a prerequisite of being a world leader so that's not necessarily a huge problem and he is a man who, during the American revolution, would still find times to spend hours throwing a ball around with his friends so its not all bad. Given his team's woeful pitching performance (a mere 64 points over 17 days – most of which were due to Chris Carpenter's 69 points) CM could have done with the decomposed corpse of a long dead politician to harness up with some decent hitting from Braun (69), Reyes (56), Weiters (54) and Moustakas (53). PF, on the other hand, had some damn fine pitching from Fister (74), Valverde (60), Kuroda (51) and Halladay (47) with YadMol (as no-one calls Yadier Molina) leading the hitting with 54 points. Only two teams outscored PF on the last week of the season so perhaps a final finish of 11th feels a touch low...
Never Gonna Give You Upton (416) lost to Harvey's Wallbangers (519)
The one subject I really hated at school was physics. I wasn't so stupid that I felt the subject was useless but rather that I just found it the most boring subject possible. What right-thinking teenager wants to spend valuable time pondering how much a spring can stretch or about setting up parallel circuits. Even a few months ago I was prepared to write off the large Hadron collider (or “large Hardon collider as I just typed) as a bit of a waste of time. Why spend billions searching for the mythical Higgs-Bosun when there's the more pressing need of finding a mythical decent-fielding shortstop for the Crew? Of course, now the people at Cern have discovered the possibility that there's a particle that can travel faster than light physics suddenly seems slightly cooler as the chance that everything we assumed was fixed and solid in our world melts into air. However, there's the very strong possibility that the whole thing is merely the result of botched calculations and will be looked on with the same derision as Pons and Fleischmann's claims to have made “cold fusion” over 20 years ago. Mind you, at least Pons and Fleischmann's claims look more realistic than the repeated statements that the Boston Red Sox were World Series favourites and that there's no way the Cards could catch the Braves. And more realistic than any chance either of these two teams had of being realistic contenders. NGGYU had 77 from Justin Upton but only a mere 33 from a pitching staff “led” by Pavano (23) and Kevin Gregg (16), the most fearsome pitching tandem in the world (discounting every other either currently existing or hypothetical pitching tandem). HW deserved to clinch 13th place with 75 points from MVP runner-up Matt Kemp and 61 from Mat Latos. Also contributing were Matt Axford (43), Texas's Mat Young (also 43) and Angel's outfielder Matt Hunter (42).
Craig Counsell's Steakhouse (439) lost to The Team That I Refuse to Name (466)
There's something to be said for being elderly and the opportunity it gives you to be curmudgeonly and go so far your own direction that you're ludicrously out of touch with modern youth culture. My Dad, for example, has been looking forward to retirement for years due to the opportunity it will give him to complain that things aren't as good as they used to be and how today's young people don't know how easy they have it. To be honest, I think its a pretty decent approach to take and the more you can get your practice in before you hit old age pensioner status the better. That's why it was so amusing to hear of local Irish farmer Alan Graham who agreed to let Rihanna film her upcoming video in her field and then, on catching her prancing about in just a bra, was suitably disgusted and demanded she stopped filming and refused to let filming continue. OK, so he's a grump and a prude who agreed to let someone film a pop singer film a video without knowing who she was or asking what type of video it might be but for sheer bloodymindedness he deserves encouragement. Similarly, CCS deserves maximum praise for continuing to try to improve his team week-in-week-out and not KittenMittonsing in week four or five. Unfortunately, he's the lanterne rouge or Mr Irrelevant of the league, due mainly to having four hitters with massive weeks in Miggy (73), Cano (53), Vlad (44) and, errr, Nolan Remold (53) but the rest of his hitters scoring merely 43 between the eight of them. Chen (55) and Wade LeBlanc (44) didn't do too bad on the pitching side. The difference between the two teams was Ted Lilly's 71 points, although JJ Hardy (53), Vogelsong's 46 and Corey Hart with 41 helped out too.
More Than a Feeling
Bringing Home the Bacon
Little Lebowski Under-Achievers
Social Anxiety All-Stars
Gold Glove Gamels
The Braun Supremacy
Never Gonna Give You Upton
The Team That I Refuse to Name
Craig Counsell's Steakhouse
And, ladies and gentlemen, that has been your 2010-11 BCB Fantasy League III Championships. Thank you one and all...