Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer Baseball Heats Up in the NWL!

It's almost mid-season for the Northwoods League and the races are really getting interesting now. Unlike most baseball leagues that you may be familiar with, the NWL has division winners for the first half as well as the second half of the season. Those first half winners are granted a bid in the playoffs at the end of the season. So, with just a shade under two weeks left before the All-Star break, it's starting to feel like end-of-season baseball.

In the North Division, the Manakto Moondogs have been in the lead pretty much since the season began. The still lead with a 19-12 record, but they have company at the top. The Rochester Honkers are right behind them at 18-12. The St. Cloud Riverbats are within striking distance with a 16-14 record, but they've won 7 straight, so they could make things interesting.

The South Division has been a tighter race all along and suddenly, it's a traffic jam at the top. The Wisconsin Woodchucks (Wausau) have been up at the top most of the season and now find themselves tied with the red-hot Madison Mallards for the division lead at 20-10. A strong La Crosse Loggers squad is right on their tails at 19-11.

If I were to pick an early, first-half MVP for the NWL my ballot would go for Eric Stephens of the Rochester Honkers. The junior infielder from Cal-State Fullerton is hitting at a .377 (tied for 1st) clip with 5 home runs (also a tie for 1st), 31 rbi (2nd), 11 stolen bases (tied for 3rd), 11 doubles (tied for 1st) and a .642 slugging percentage (1st). He's not just a stat stud, he's a big reason that the Mankato Moondogs are looking at Rochester in their rear view mirror as the Honkers are charging up. Honorable Mention: Derek Melton, 1B, La Crosse Loggers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Blinked...What Happened in the Northwoods League?

Okay, I got off to a slow start this year. I've been so busy hitting the party deck at the Lumberyard (Copeland Park in La Crosse) that I plum forgot to sit down and get my blog going. Now, as we finish up about three weeks of play, it's time to update everyone on how things are going for our college guys trying to make a splash. (Ooh...speaking of a splash...Waterloo's stadium is has a better chance of seeing a bass tournament than a Bucks game anytime soon. It's completely underwater.)

At this point there are two teams in the NWL that just seem to be way ahead of the pack. In the North Division, the Mankato Moondogs are dominating with a 14-4 record. Behind them is Rochester with a respectable 11-6 tally and then the rest of the pack just sort of follows along. In the South Division it's Jim Gantner's Wisconsin Woodchucks leading the way at a dominant 15-3 clip. Madison and La Crosse are tied behind the Chucks with 12-6 records each.

Since the College World Series and the Team USA tryouts are still going on, a lot of teams are still waiting on some of their top signees to arrive, so things can turn around in a hurry. I know I was stoked to see Brian Morgado (104 strikeouts in 80.1 innings pitched at Tennessee this spring), but he's still trying to land a spot on Team USA. Bummer. (Well, not for him!)

So who are the players that are whoopin' up so far? Here's the short list of early NWL studs.

Derek McCallum - St. Cloud River Bats - .439 avg, 17 runs, 15 RBI (That's a solid contributor.)
Carlos Ramirez - Mankato Moondogs - .422 avg, 17 RBI, .641 slugging (a doubles machine!)
Eric Stephens - Rochester Honkers - .350, 3 hrs, 20 RBI. (This guy puts runs on the board.)

Phil Haig - Rochester Honkers - 2-0, .038 ERA in 24 innings pitched. (There are some 3-win pitchers...but .038 in that many innings? That's a stud.)
Aaron Varnum - Wisc. Woodchucks - 6 saves, 10 K's in 10 innings. (6 saves in 15 wins? Nice.)
Chris Sale - La Crosse Loggers - 2-1 with 31 K's in 25 innings. (Tall, lefty...keep and eye on this guy.)

I started out my season by hitting Madison, La Crosse, and Rochester on opening weekend and then put back-to-back-to-back games together in La Crosse this past weekend. Not a bad way to start my summer. Keep checkin' in and I'll keep giving you updates and some insights into the coolest baseball league around.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Northwoods Baseball is Here at Last!

Finally, the Northwoods Baseball season is upon us! I feel like a nervous college kid knocking on a stranger's door. I've heard about her. I've listened to others give their opinions. But a blind date is still a blind date. You just don't know what you'll find when you open that door, no matter how much you try to figure it out before hand.

By the time the Major League season rolls around in April, we all have a pretty good idea who are the "haves" and who are the "have nots." Sure, there are some surprises here and there (can you say "Rays?") but over all, we know who will be contenders in the end.

The Northwoods League is nothing like that. No matter what kind of numbers these kids put up during their college season, you just don't know what they'll do with with (or against) wood bats. Plus, you get to add the drama of players showing up days, even weeks, late for the season because their college program made it into the College World Series. Every team can legitimately believe that they have what it takes to win it all.

I love the league. Make no mistake. But at heart, I really am La Crosse Loggers fan, so now I need to go, put on my best outfit, grab my corsage (beer) and open that door to see what blind date looks like this season.

Please don't be ugly. Please don't be ugly. Please don't be ugly!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The important things

So, I'll call Liriano's return a tentative success, but we learned something even more important from Sunday's game: Bert Blyleven is a swinger.

(I hope someone put's that comment up on YouTube. Anyone with a TiVo?)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Inside the Mind of a Batting Practice Ball Hawk

Barry Bonds’ 762nd – and possibly last – home run generated a mad scramble for the baseball. In the middle of that scrum was Jake Frazier. Frazier, a notorious Bay Area ball hawk who claims he missed out on the Bonds ball because he was “stoned to the bone”, had this to say about his technique:

If I hip-checked that guy, he wouldn't ****' be standin' up...it's a baseball, man, it's a prize. You have to be aggressive. If you're not aggressive, you won't get it. You're out there playin' in a metal and concrete jungle, and there's people competing, so yeah, you know, you get little scrapes and bruises."

I sat down with Jake Frazier and got inside the mind of a batting practice ball hawk.


My first moment with one of Major League Baseball’s most notorious ball hawks took my breath away. No sooner had I introduced myself than Jake Frazier slipped inside my handshake and delivered a short, powerful uppercut to my stomach.

“Sorry about that, dude,” Frazier said, helping me to my feet. “Had to establish dominance.”

Meet Jake Frazier, a twenty-six year old San Francisco Giants fan who works in the medical marijuana business when he is not gobbling up batting practice balls at AT&T Park. His remarkable ball hawking success – Frazier has captured thousands of baseballs over the years – is as unusual as his fierce enthusiasm for a pastime most men leave behind in their pubescence. Frazier has denied so many a chance at a baseball over the years that his name has become an anathema to the dispossessed. They will tell you that when Frazier’s beaten you to a baseball, and possibly beaten you with a baseball, you’ve not just lost the scramble for a souvenir.

You’ve been Jaked.


Frazier first spotted his opportunity a few years ago when he arrived at the ballpark early. Kids hustling for batting practice home runs caught his eye.

“Anytime I see a crowd of little dudes going after something, I’m like, ‘I’m a big dude. I can have that.’”

Frazier grew even more excited when he recognized that the youngsters’ poor hand-eye coordination made for some exceptionally weak competition.

“I mean there were balls bouncing off their gloves, balls bouncing of their heads. Boink! Little dudes were clueless. I knew I could do better.”

It was only after wading into the youngsters that the 6-4, 240 pound Frazier realized he had his work cut out for him. His lack of a ground game often meant his aggressive checking worked against him.

“Yeah, someone hits a baseball my way and – boom! – little dudes flying left and right. Looks like a keg of dynamite going off in a Popsicle stick factory. But then the ball lands, and if I’m not right on top of the spot the ball’s rolling around on the ground. Little dudes are down there already. They move fast. Advantage: little dudes.”

Frazier realized that if we wanted to dominate the ball-hawking game, he needed a technique that would put the ball in his glove in the end, even if it didn’t start there to begin with. A television program about the interrogation of suspected terrorists led to an epiphany.

“I'm watching this show and suddenly I’m like, dude! So next time I’m at the game and a little dude beats me to the ball, I pin his ankles together with one hand, lift him off the ground, and waterboard him with my cup of Pepsi. Little dude drops the ball real quick. But I’m out a Pepsi. Not cool, man. Money doesn’t grow on trees in the medical marijuana business. “

Eventually, Frazier abandoned the technique for one he had mastered long ago while prowling the halls of his junior high school. It was while discussing this move with me that Frazier decided a demonstration was in order.

It was a demonstration I would regret.

“Let me show you what I do,” Frazier said. Displaying a quickness that belied his tremendous bulk, Frazier snaked around behind me and reached inside my belt. Suddenly I was jerked off my feet.

“Little dude picks up ball. I pick up little dude by the undies. If he doesn’t drop the ball right away, I’ll bounce him. Like this.”

Frazier began working me like a yo-yo.

“At some point, he drops the ball.”

I did not doubt that. The pain was excruciating.

“Before I let little dude go I’ll turn him around, get up in his grill, and say, ‘Congratulations, little dude. You’ve been Jaked.’”


I asked Frazier if he thought he might be taking his pursuit of batting practice baseballs too seriously. What was another baseball, when he had thousands already? Wouldn’t a baseball mean more to a youngster who didn’t have a single one?

Frazier insisted I was missing the point. For him, the bleachers represent a metal and concrete jungle. Frazier sits on top of the food chain.

“Dude, when a lion sees a monkey walking down a path in the jungle, does he tap the monkey on the shoulder and say, ‘Pardon me little monkey dude, do you mind if I eat you?’ No way dude. Monkey gets eaten, no questions asked. Circle of life, man.”

Frazier did admit that having dominated the ball-hawking game for so long, he was looking for another challenge. He thinks he might have found one in autographs.

“I see these little dudes lined up for autographs. What if I get in that game? Man, those little dudes stand no chance."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Sage Of Minneapolis: An Ode To Dan Barreiro

A few days ago Twins Geek made an interesting post about paradigms. To summarize, paradigms are the lenses through which we view the world. Through our paradigms, some aspects of our environment are drawn into sharper focus while others are obscured. The larger point is that the reality behind the paradigm does not change: a paradigm-free perspective would perceive an unfiltered reality, whereas a paradigm-generated perspective shades things.

So far so good. But now we toe contested ground. Some would have it that there is no such thing as a paradigm-free perspective. For instance, those who allege a "liberal bias" in the mainstream media claim that media members’ liberal paradigms inform everything they report, including what issues they choose to cover. Stepping outside of those paradigms and reporting objectively is not possible, the claim contends. Others believe that we can step outside of our paradigms long enough to view and process reality objectively.

As an old philosophy major I'm aware that the above was a gloss on a controversy loaded with complexity. Nevertheless, I think the positions at stake are clear enough. I also believe that the paradigm-centric assumption has a profoundly negative effect on our discourse. Not only does the position discourage people from attempting to stake out objective perspectives on issues; its prevailing status as conventional wisdom discourages us from criticizing those who broadcast ostensibly "objective", but evidently agenda-driven, points of view. Why challenge the intellectually dishonest if all argumentation is paradigm driven and thus biased in some way?

I do believe that we have the ability to mostly shed our paradigms and consider the world from a mostly objective point of view. I don't believe that to do so is easy. A paradigm simplifies the world by setting reality into a pre-configured mold. In addition, paradigms allow for a community of paradigm-sharers to find solace in the company of others who have predictably similar perspective on things. To step outside of one's paradigms is to step away from the security of those paradigms and to face a world full of frustrating nuance and complexity.

But with what values, one might ask. Shed the paradigms and don’t you shed the value systems that are the product of them?

Not entirely. Leave behind the paradigms and one is left with a commitment to taking the world as it is without “spinning” it so that it will fit into a paradigm. The paradigm-free make a virtue of intellectual honesty.

For reasons I won’t get into so as not to make a long post longer, I do think the world would be a better place if we were quick to brand the intellectually dishonest with a Scarlet D. And I think more would be inclined to think critically and with a healthy independence if we celebrated the intellectual honesty of those who attempt to process the world paradigm-free. Which brings me to former Star Tribune sports columnist and current KFAN radio personality Dan Barreiro.

As a columnist, Barreiro's contrarian spirit and his willingness to savage the eminently savagable raised faint echoes of H.L. Mencken. That echo has grown even louder as his radio personality has evolved over the years. Barreiro doesn't suffer fools lightly, and his willingness to take a hatchet to purveyors of ignorance, intolerance, and fraudulence rivals Mencken’s own motivations in tone and tenor if not in the quality of the resulting criticism. When I listen to Barreiro, I am greeted with the same thought that visits me when I read Mencken: here is someone who both values and practices intellectual honesty, who desires nothing more (and nothing less) than to view the world objectively.

I believe his body of work supports this interpretation. As exhibit A I’d point to the befuddlement with which a certain segment of his listenership greets his program. The frequency with which his callers and e-mailers accuse him of being, alternately, liberal and conservative, is both laughable and distressing. Laughable because the accusations see-saw as conclusions arrived at without the assistance of a paradigm driven-agenda take on an alternatively liberal or conservative hue. Distressing because the comments demonstrate that some accustomed to paradigm-driven, intellectually dishonest talk radio don't know what to make of someone who is intellectually honest. These listeners seem troubled that you cannot approach Barreiro’s show with the same confidence you can approach so many shows up and down the AM dial. In fact it is not possible to predict how Barreiro will respond to any given subject by holding that subject up against an agenda. After fifteen years listening I still don't know exactly where his politics lay. I offer that as a form of tribute.

Before you suggest he and I get a room, I’ll mention here that I don’t believe that Barreiro is above criticism. His fondness for creating, and then destroying, argumentative straw men can make his criticism gratuitous at times. His “Done as a Society” segment, for instance, which features bizarre or troubling news items, is related with an incredulity that suggests he believes he is the last sane man in America. Likewise, on the subject of local sports, his tendency to find a cloud behind every silver lining draws him perilously close to paradigmatic-blinkered thinking: at times Barreiro seems programmed to see the negative to the exclusion of the positive.

Still, even these tendencies can make for colorful, entertaining radio. And I don’t believe they detract from his accomplishment, which has been to carve out in the competitive drive time slot a radio program that has managed to remain intelligent, eclectic, and above all, intellectually honest. Barreiro may not be another H.L. Mencken. He’s the closest we have to him in this market however. For that I believe he has earned our respect.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jim Souhan's Lazy Journalism

Jim Souhan devoted his Sunday column to cataloguing local reaction to epochal events in Minnesota sports. The public’s supposedly unanimous responses -- “Minnesotans hated these deals”-- to moves that worked out well served as a refrain that lent the piece a satisfying cohesion, stylistically speaking.

That the refrain also painted a misleading picture did not seem to concern Souhan. How else to explain his decision to include among the "hated" moves the decision to draft Joe Mauer over Mark Prior in the 2001 draft? No doubt some observers felt that the Twins were choosing the lesser but more affordable talent in Mauer. But to suggest that Minnesotans in general hated this deal? Didn’t the excitement surrounding that pick suggest that most took pride in the selection? I suspect that Souhan decided to include the Mauer pick near the end of his list because the pick turned out so spectacularly well, and the suggestion that Minnesotans hated the pick served as a fine exclamation point to his contention that Minnesotans react with knee-jerk and ultimately myopic unanimity to sports related events.

Of course the obvious problem with that contention is that it is wrong. Turn on sports talk radio or enter the Minnesota sports blogsphere and you’ll discover a diversity local opinion on most any local sporting subject you’ll care to name. To remain ignorant of, or possibly ignore, that diversity for the sake of thematic and stylistic integrity of a piece is to engage in lazy journalism.

Souhan is the Crown Prince (or rather the Court Jester) of lazy journalism in that his pieces are loosely constructed and typically favor glib humor over analysis. That approach makes for entertaining, but rarely informative, pieces. As someone who relies at least as much on humor as analysis in his own writing, I’d be a hypocrite to suggest that there is no place for his style of writing in the sports page. I will suggest, however, that Souhan ought to recognize where his contribution rates among those who elevate substance over style.

Certainly that substance is out there. There are local bloggers who write some very informative stuff. For instance, Nick Nelson, Aaron Gleeman, Ubelmann and company over at SBG, the crew at Twins Territory, Kyle Eliason, John Sharkey, the inimitable John Bonnes (aka Twins Geek), and a host of others frequently featured at MNGameDay.com and whom I do a disservice by failing to mention often write posts steeped in detailed, research-driven analysis.

Which brings me to a throwaway line in Sunday’s throwaway piece:

“Gentle readers – and bloggers who remain ever-hopeful of gainful employment – hate everything about the (Santana) deal…. And they remind me that I must be wrong, because Minnesotans’ gut reactions are always right."

The implication in this line – and indeed in the entire piece – is that bloggers base their opinion on their gut, whereas Souhan bases his opinion on informed argument. Certainly one might argue that this should be the case. With the exception of Gleeman, the bloggers I have mentioned are not full time scribes. They are college students and business men and women and blue and white collar professionals who shoehorn their blogging into crowded lives. Indeed, it is precisely because bloggers are gainfully employed by organizations that don’t pay them to write that one would expect to discover in their works a species of lazy journalism. Likewise, it is precisely because Jim Souhan is gainfully employed by a newspaper that pays him to research and to write that one would expect much research-backed analysis.

That this is not always the case -- that Souhan’s Sunday column stands as an exemplar of his loose, style-driven approach while MNGameday.com is loaded with links to research-driven blogs -- suggests that, at the very least, when Souhan tars the purveyors of relatively uninformed sports commentary, he feathers himself in the process.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Mocked NFL Draft: The First Ten Picks

So we only know baseball, you say? Bah. Gameday projects the first ten picks of the 2008 NFL Draft.

1. Miami (1-15)
The Pick: Bill Germanokos, OL, Winner of NBC's "Biggest Loser"
The buzz: In Germanakos, NFL’s biggest loser lands a proven winner already accustomed to humiliating himself on national television. Should have no problem regaining dirigible proportions; elephantine buttocks could anchor O-line for a decade.

2. St. Louis (3-13)
The Pick: Paul Douglas, QB, Meteorologist
The buzz: Consensus number two a supremely talented backpedaller who always manages to avoid being exposed when fronts collapse. Polished, cerebral improviser has mostly dodged concerns over accuracy. Toolset includes spectacular Doppler Unit. Needs to bulk up a bit.

x - 3. Atlanta (4-12)
The Pick: Steve Irwin (deceased), QB, Animal Planet’s "The Crocodile Hunter"
The buzz: After the Vick debacle, Falcons must rate character over physical ability. Strong commitment to animal rights will offset Irwin's figurative, literal lack of pocket presence.

x - 4. Oakland (4-12)
The Pick: Pat Robertson, RB, Host, The 700 Club
The buzz: Al Davis and company looking for battering-ram type back. Robertson, who believes the earth is 9000 years old, comes with rocks in his head.

x - 5. Kansas City (4-12)
The Pick: Rachael Ray, OL, Celebrity Chef
The buzz: Chief's once dominant O-line in need of some help. Ray is a pancake machine. A no-brainer here.

6. N.Y. Jets (4-12)
The Pick: Fox NFL Robot, DT, Fox NFL Pregame Show
The buzz: Robot tumbles all the way to six after disappointing Super Bowl showing against the Terminator. Jets enamored with jumping, knee bending, finger pointing abilities.

7. New England (From SF (5-11))
The Pick: Cloverfield monster, DE
The buzz: Monster has size, strength to dominate the edges. Performance in East River puts to rest doubts concerning swim technique. Patriots love proven track record against New York.

8. Baltimore (5-11)
The Pick: Michael Jackson, RB, Pop Superstar
The buzz: Shifty and elusive with plenty of dazzle. Scouts agog over unusual "moonwalking" gait, which can make him seem to go forward even while he's losing ground. Nose for football, nose lacking.

9. Cincinnati (7-9)
The Pick: David Blaine, WR, Street Magician
The buzz: Dynamic performer with great hands and magical skills. Signature levitation move will make him unstoppable in end zone fade routes.

10. New Orleans (7-9)
The Pick: Dennis Kucinich, LB, U.S. Representative
The buzz: New Orleans in desperate need of Douglas and his Doppler but may have to settle for Kucinich instead. Tenacious but undersized, inability to range to his right limits his appeal. Probably a reach here.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tim Tschida's Neighbor Questioned: The Shocking Transcript

Yesterday, Major League Baseball was accused of sending investigators into umpires’ hometowns to ask neighbors “ill-contrived questions”, a form of background checking that some likened to the actions of a secret police. Gameday's crack investigative team has secured the transcript of one such conversation between major league baseball investigator Tom Christopher and a long-time neighbor of St. Paul native and MLB umpire Tim Tschida.

Hello ma’am. My name's Tom Christopher (TC) and I'm with Major League Baseball. We're talking to neighbors of our umpiring crew. Just want to make sure we have the right people for the job. Mind if I ask you a few questions?

I don't have a lot of time--

TC: Won't take but a few moments. Here, let's just get started. How long have you known Mr. Tschida?

Well, since he and his wife moved in next door. That was quite a while ago. Ten years?

TC: Are they nice neighbors?

Oh yes. Very nice.

TC: No disruptive behavior? Wild parties? Visits from the police?

Oh no. Just normal people.

TC: Have you been in their basement?

Their basement? I don't think so.

TC: Bear with me now. Has Mr. Tschida ever offered you a “poop sack"?


TC: A spliff? A doobie?

I don't—

TC: Marijauna, ma’am.

Marijauna? They're not growing marijuana, if that's what you're asking.

TC: Fine. Has his wife ever stopped by with a swollen, bloodied face and said, "I can't see nuthin. You gotta open my eye. Cut me, Mick."

What? My name's not Mick--

TC: That's a Rocky reference, ma’am. Victims of domestic violence will often use humor to cover up incidents of abuse.

But he doesn't abuse his wife --

TC: This wife of his, has she said that Mr. Tschida regurgitates his food? Stamps the ground while she's folding red towels? Moos plaintively, or possibly with window-rattling violence, during lovemaking?

What on earth --

TC: Side effects of certain performance enhancing injections. Steer hormones, specifically. Doesn’t ring a bell? Fine. Does Mr.Tschida believe in reincarnation?

I haven’t the slightest. Why?

TC: Their's not to reason why. Their's but to do and die.

Excuse me?

TC: A bit of Tennyson, ma’am. The sort of thing that a reincarnated member of the 19th century planter class might drop into casual conversation. Ever hear Mr. Tschida say something like that?

I'm not following you.

TC: I'll cut to the chase then. What are the chances that Mr. Tschida owns slaves?

Um, about one in a billion?

TC: So, you're saying there's a chance?

That's not even funny.

TC: Wasn't meant to be. Has Mr. Tschida ever flown a passenger jet into a building?

A passenger jet? Wouldn't he be dead if he did that?

TC: Technically speaking, yes. We'd be dealing with a zombie then.

A zombie?

TC: A zombie. Your arm. Has he eaten it?

Eaten my arm? You mean, actually eaten my arm?

TC: Yes.

Does it look like it?

TC: Could be a prosthetic.

This is a joke, right?

TC: Ma’am, I wish. Have you heard of Tim Donaghy? He's an NBA referee who bet on games he officiated. We can't allow a Donaghy into our umpire crews. So we're covering all the bases, if you'll pardon the pun.

But -- a zombie? Zombies don't even exist.

TC: Maybe not. Can't be too careful, though. Now then, crop circles. Have they appeared in his backyard?

He doesn't have any crops--

TC: Bright lights? A cigar-shaped craft?

You mean a UFO?

TC: Is Mr. Tschida a pod person?

(stunned silence)

TC: I need you to focus, ma’am. Is Tim Tschida a pod person?

No, he’s not a pod person. What's that helicopter—

TC: Never mind the helicopter. Nothing to see there.

I think I have to go now.

TC: Please don't make me waterboard you, ma’am.

Waterboard? What? What are you doing?

TC: Henderson, secure the witness!

Who's that? What's he doing in my bushes? Wait! Isn't that -- that's Bill Johnson!

TC: No, that's Jim Henderson, ma’am. He's been surveiling the area.

But he's been my mailman for four years!

TC: Deep cover, ma’am.

Now hold on! You can't do this!

TC: Ma’am, I work for a man with the power to contract entire franchises out of existence. I can do anything.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Truck Commercials: Like A Crock

Televised football with its frequent breaks usually finds the sun of my intellect partially eclipsed by a fast-approaching, truck-commercial induced brain aneurysm. On Sunday, I fear that aneurysm struck as the cognitive equivalent of a global killer. For today I feel compelled to go out and buy a pickup truck.

Not so long ago I believed that I lived in a nation of paved roads. Not anymore. Pickup truck commercials have convinced me that I'll have to drive up and over the Ozarks to get to the grocery store. Probably I'll be hauling something -- a bunch of rocks, or possibly a disabled eighteen-wheeler. Somewhere along the way I'll find myself braking at the maw of a bottomless crevice, that after navigating a gigantic, erector set obstacle course that threatens me with plunging, skyscraper-high steel beams. Carhartt-accessorized men in hardhats will look on. They will cheer me.

But not only men. Admiring women will recognize the strong correlation between the size of my truck and the size of my genetalia. What's more, the wholesome manliness of my vehicle will send my pituitary gland into a compensatory overdrive, flooding my testicles with testosterone-producing hormones. Probably some will gaze at my suddenly splendid physique and impossibly strong chin and mistake me for Fox NFL analyst Howie Long. Of course I will set them straight. Guys capable of slamming shut with authority a door on the bed of a truck hardly require the security of a contrived identity.

It’s pleasant to imagine myself rolling up to my place in a shiny new truck. That rusting Mazda 626 always parked on the street will remind me that some would sacrifice their manhood to the false idol of a superior fuel efficiency. "Poor bastard," I'll mutter, forgetting for the moment, and probably forever, that I drove that car once. And as the sun sets on another star-spangled day, I'll lay my head down pondering a question that has troubled me since the first telecast of this NFL season : am I really getting everything that I need from my cell phone plan?