Do the trivia!

I’ve got a doctor’s appointment (not the ‘rona) and some stuff to take care of today, so in lieu of text content, hey, why not check out the online debut of The Quad-A Baseball Quiz from last month?

I am doing another quiz tomorrow, May 14, at 8:30 p.m. ET, thanks again to the tech guidance of real-life baseball-trivia mainstay Cooper Lund. There’s no cost to play, you probably don’t have anything else to do, and you might have fun. You can register here today and tomorrow.

I’m sorry to say that tomorrow’s version will feature less of my face, but the upside to you is that this time around, the video should feature a significantly higher ratio of baseball trivia to me learning how to share my screen.

Q&A: Favorite ballpark food

I had three holdover questions from last week I wanted to get to, then I spent 1200 words on the first of them. So I guess I’ve got content already mapped out for next week!

Devon with a locked Twitter account asked me to list the “five best things I’ve eaten at a ballpark.”

This is a surprisingly complicated question to tackle, as I’ve done quite a lot of special-event eating at ballparks. In San Diego for the All-Star Game, I sat at a table as one of Petco Park’s chefs brought me all the stadium’s best foods so I could eat them on Facebook Live. I’ve been to five or six of the Mets’ annual food previews, which are incredible, and I attended MLB’s inaugural FoodFest in New York. I even once got the Legends Suite experience at Yankee Stadium, which goes a long way toward explaining why no one’s ever in the seats behind home plate during Yankees games. They’re back in the dining room, eating ridiculously good food, and probably trading hedge funds or something.

I say this not to call out Citi Field or the Mets in particular, only because it’s the place where I’ve (understandably) most often witnessed this phenomenon: The food presented to media, at events specifically created to generate positive press around a ballpark’s food, is never quite as good when you try it in the wild. When I sampled the Fuku chicken sandwich at the Citi tasting event, I figured it would become my go-to meal there. The first time I got it while actually at a game, it was disappointing enough that I never got it again.

Also, for context, I always tried my best not to eat at ballparks while traveling for work. Maybe somewhere in Wrigley Field there’s some astonishingly tasty specialty sandwich (though I kind of doubt it), but in a city that eats as well as Chicago does, there’s no way I’m wasting a meal on ballpark food unless it’s an absolute necessity. I’ve got something of an iron stomach for greasy food, but when you’re spending the entire month of October on the road watching baseball games, you need to take care to eat a salad at some point or the World Series is going to be awfully unpleasant.

OK, here we go: 

5) Dante’s Inferno Pizza, Progressive Field: So you know that thing I just said about trying not to eat at ballparks while traveling for work? It’s more or less impossible to pull off in Cleveland if you don’t have access to a car. Downtown Cleveland, at least as of 2016, has one stretch of sports bars, a takeout pizza place, and, I want to say, a Blimpie. The best places I found to eat in that area were actually inside a casino, but entering a casino to eat pre-game lunch is a risky proposition when you’re a degenerate like myself. 

It’s all good, because Progressive Field is quietly an excellent food park. I’m not even sure the pizza is the best thing I’ve had there, but I remember that it’s cooked to order and that the Dante’s Inferno namesake pizza was spicy and delicious. I also remember a sandwich with pierogi on top, and thinking that the pierogi didn’t actually add anything to the sandwich but appreciating that I could pull them off and eat them as dessert.


A Torchy’s Taco

4) Torchy’s Tacos, Minute Maid Park: You’re going to notice a theme here. The ballpark foods I like the best are rarely those made specifically for ballparks, because foods made specifically for ballparks these days seem more focused on generating internet buzz and Instagram likes than actually tasting good. A bacon-wrapped chicken-and-waffle fried pizza lobster donut may sound intriguing, but I guarantee it’s not as good as tacos from a good taco place. Torchy’s is an excellent, Austin-based fast-casual taco chain, worth eating at even if you’re not in a ballpark. But the Minute Maid Park location is incredibly convenient to the auxiliary press box.

3) Mama’s Special, Citi Field: I already know Devon’s with me on this one. After years of dallying in Blue Smoke and Box Frites and Two Boots and all Citi’s other good options, I concluded that the best, most consistent, and most convenient meal to eat there is the one carryover from Shea Stadium. An Italian hero is a perfect ballpark food for a ballpark in Queens — it’s a full meal, it’s regionally appropriate, it’s easy to eat with your hands without making a mess, and it’s salty and porky and cheesy and fantastic. The turkey and mozzarella sandwich from Mama’s is also a go-to for me. Why am I going to kill three innings waiting on like at Shake Shack when I can get a really good deli hero in 10 minutes? Makes no sense.

One of the big keys to eating at Mama’s in Citi Field, I think, is making sure to also get a packet of Italian dressing. They have them on hand for salads, but they don’t default to giving you one unless you ask. Really makes the sandwich sing.


It’s for the belly, not the ‘gram

2) Chili Half-Smoke, Nats Park: Trust that it kills me to put anything related to the Nats this high on the list, but this ranking isn’t about the Nats so much as it’s about Ben’s Chili Bowl. If you’re unfamiliar, the original Ben’s location is a D.C. institution and one of my favorite places to eat in the whole world. It’s a place that brings tourists and locals together to bond around the deliciousness of half-smoke sausages (a D.C. delicacy) drowned in soupy chili, I almost never go to D.C. without getting there, and I envy the heck out of Nats fans for their access to its ballpark location. A Chili Half-Smoke is a mess of a thing to attempt to eat at a baseball game, but whatever. Love Ben’s Chili Bowl. Save Ben’s Chili Bowl!

1) Corn on the Cob, Chiefs Stadium: Maybe this is a cop-out. In 2005 I worked in a high school, meaning I had the whole summer off. I drove from New York to Minneapolis (via Canada and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan), met some friends there, and set out on a ridiculous baseball road trip. In the course of maybe 15 days, we hit games in Minnesota, Milwaukee, Chicago, Detroit, Chicago again, Peoria, St. Louis, Kansas City, D.C. and Baltimore.

If I remember it right, the Peoria Chiefs game almost happened on a whim, like, “hey you know what would be a funny thing to do on our one night without baseball during this absurd baseball road trip? Go to a different baseball game!” And at that point, I had been on the road a while (I took three days just getting to Minneapolis), and almost exclusively eating fast food and ballpark food. Oh, and it was in the midst of a brutal heat wave.

Out in the right-field pavilion in Peoria in 2005, they were grilling up corn on the cob. I assume it was local, because why the heck wouldn’t you have local corn in Peoria, and after exclusively eating greasy, processed food for the prior couple weeks, it ranked among the single most delicious things I’d ever eaten. It didn’t even need butter! And I know corn’s not even particularly healthy, but it’s definitely better than, like, your fourth straight meal at Jack In The Box because there’s  Jack In The Box in your hotel parking lot.

So it was that. The corn. Pretend it was wrapped in bacon, I guess.


Bonus Q&A: Picking a KBO team

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Photo by Anastasia Zhenina on

Hey. there’s baseball going on! My body happens to wake up around 5:30 a.m. most morning for reasons unclear, and so I caught most of the KBO action on ESPN the last two days. It’s real, live baseball, on my TV. It’s fabulous.

I got an email from reader Nicholas this week asking, “Do you have a KBO team picked out? Which team should a Mets fan support? I’m hearing LG Twins and Lotte Giants? Would love your thoughts.”

My initial thought was that it doesn’t matter much, because it’s so freakin’ great that there’s baseball to watch that you can just root for dingers. Then I decided to dive into some English-language KBO information so I could at least caution people against rooting for the Yankees of Korea, which seems to be the Bears. Bears suck!

The baseball Twitter-sphere en masse seems to have adopted the NC Dinos, so I knew I didn’t want to pick the NC Dinos. Not trying to root for the craft beer of Korean baseball teams.

I know very little about South Korea, if I’m being honest. But I know its movie industry churns out some truly badass horror movies because my old roommate used to watch them all the time, and because I caught a particularly awesome one in a bar in Austin at a bachelor party a couple years ago and wound up totally sucked in. That one, a zombie movie set on a train, was called Train to Busan, and the Lotte Giants play in Busan. But the Lotte Giants went 48-93 last year, and while I’m not trying to be a bandwagon Bears fan, I’m also not trying to jump on a wagon that apparently did not survive the zombie infestation.

I totally judge books by their cover, so I next thought that maybe I could pick a KBO team based on uniforms. But it turns out the KBO, just like MLB, has a pretty narrow range of color schemes, and most of them are just blue or red or blue and red. I fell pretty hard for the Kiwoom Heroes, because they have the temerity to wear burgundy and silver (and because they play in an awesome looking dome that I’d love to someday visit if such things are ever allowed again).

Then, while trying to find someplace to sell me a Kiwoom Heroes hat, a Google Image search for “Kiwoom Heroes” hat returned a familiar face: Brandon Knight, who made two starts for the 2008 Mets, pitched for the heroes from 2011-2014 and is now their pitching coach. I remember what Knight looked like because he was one of my first-ever on-camera interviews at SNY, which we did because I was interested in his itinerant baseball lifestyle even he spent six years in the KBO.

Ready to go all-in for the Kiwoom Heroes on account of their association with one random dude who threw 12 innings for the 2008 Mets, I went to the ESPN broadcast schedule and learned that the Heroes aren’t on there at all. So nuts to that idea.


Park Yong-Taek

Finally, I texted a Mets-fan friend who lived in Korea until he was 11. He offered a definitive answer: The LG Twins. I know this guy to be a man of distinguishing taste, and he said the Twins were his favorite team as a kid. He compared them to the Mets, in that they’re the perpetual “younger brother” team to the Bears, with whom they share a stadium.

And when I thought about it, I already kind of felt for the Twins. In the first KBO game I ever watched — way back on yesterday morning — they got torched by the stupid Bears. But I found a bunch of their players especially appealing. Their starter, Song Eun-Beom, kept cracking wry smiles on the mound, which struck me because pitchers in the U.S. almost never smile when they’re anywhere between the lines. One of their relievers, Kim Dae-Yu, wears No. 69. Their first baseman, Roberto Ramos, is the classic type of Quad-A masher I will be insisting the Mets pick up in a few years when they need a lefty bat for the bench. And their DH, Park Yong-Taek, is Korea’s all-time hits leader and, based on his Wikipedia photo, looks like a dude who might adjunct at Pratt and hang out at my friends’ bar.

So I’m all in for the Twins.

Also, for what it’s worth: I don’t want to beat up on ESPN too much because a) I realize the people in charge of putting together these broadcasts have presumably been rushed into them, b) it doesn’t read well for a dude who couldn’t hack it in baseball media to be doing baseball media criticism, and c) at least they don’t have a stupid K-Zone overlay, but I really wish they’d shift the focus to the games and away from… everything but the games. It’s obvious they’re doing everything they can to make live KBO baseball appeal to American audiences, but what really appeals to me is live baseball.

There’s a school of thought in media — and I can’t say if they’re guilty of this — that says you should never admit to not knowing about something, and I’ve always thought it kind of dumb even if I understand why it exists. In this particular situation, I feel like no one at all would judge the ESPN broadcasters if they just said, “We’re new to this, too, we’re doing our best to learn the players and their stories just like you are.” Right? Who’s expecting Karl Ravech to come in as a KBO expert? I’m sure there are countless desperate, bilingual 24-year-old baseball fans who’d kill to make $20 an hour translating Korean baseball articles for Eduardo Perez. I want to hear more about what I’m watching, not what I’m not watching.

A-Rod, buy the freakin’ Mets already

arod-boatWe have to agree to mostly leave J-Lo out of all this whole thing. She’s too good for this world: Too indisputably successful, and too widely beloved. And I don’t want to diminish her in any way — I recognize that her net worth is perhaps greater than A-Rod’s and that she undoubtedly maintains more earning potential, but I feel like we all can agree that J-Lo would certainly not be in the market for the New York Mets were she not married to Alex Rodriguez. Right? This is clearly A-Rod’s thing.

And I don’t think there’s a realistic chance A-Rod winds up owning any part of the Mets. I think a lot of non-rich people tend to put all famously rich people in the same rich-person bucket, but A-Rod’s $400-plus million career earnings would be a decent week for Jeff Bezos.

A-Rod’s not pulling together enough cash to buy the Mets unless he crews up with a bunch of significantly richer people, and if all those richer people wanted to own the Mets so badly, I don’t know why they’d need A-Rod involved as a figurehead. Derek Jeter he is not.

Also, an ownership group fronted by A-Rod would, like any other, need to be approved by 29 other MLB owners, and it seems difficult to imagine the 29 other MLB owners letting A-Rod and his friends into their very exclusive club.

There’s just definitely some exorbitantly rich hedge-fund guy out there who’s a way more palatable choice for them. Steve Cohen, for example. Does Steve Cohen have some shady financial machinations on his resume? Heck yeah. Do you really think that disqualifies him in the eyes of MLB owners in the same way as, say, buying HGH gummies off a fake doctor in a South Florida tanning salon? A-Rod is Jay Gatsby and MLB teams are exclusively owned by Tom Buchanans. He’s trying his best to fit in, but he’s never going to fit in.

But all that said, no two forces in the baseball world have quite the capacity for gobsmacking absurdity as the New York Mets and Alex Rodriguez, and the potential marriage is too perfect to ignore. Both the Mets and A-Rod have had a lot more success than their reputations suggest, but the Mets are that team that can finish within three wins of a world championship and still come out of it a punchline, and A-Rod is that guy who can hit 696 Major League homers and marry freakin’ J-Lo and still somehow seem dorkier than anyone I hang out with.

To be clear: I don’t think A-Rod would be an especially good owner for the Mets, in terms of their on-field performance. He’d probably represent at least a mild upgrade over the Wilpons, in that at least his personnel meddling would presumably come with a better eye for baseball talent, but there just seems no way an A-Rod-led conglomerate would help the Mets to more championships than a ruthless, shrewd, bored guy with infinite wealth, like Steve Cohen.

But to love the Mets, and to love A-Rod, is not to love championship baseball so much as it is to love chaos and ludicrousness and sublime self-sabotage, and to appreciate the full meaning of humanity in way you never could by loving the Yankees and Derek Jeter. A-Rod needs to buy the Mets not because it’d be good for either party but because it would be fucking hilarious, and we are here to be entertained.

Friday Q&A

Here we go. First, a couple from the inbox.

Josh writes:

You mention in today’s post that you recently ordered a Cheesy Gordita Crunch with Flamin’ Hot Doritos Taco inside – this leads me to wonder:  is Taco Bell’s original Double Decker Taco their greatest ever food innovation?  (Per the Wiki, the Double Decker Taco dates back to 1995 and was, as far as I know, the first time they offered an item with a hard shell taco inside a less fragile soft shell of any kind.)

So, it depends on how you look at it. Many credit Taco Bell founder Glen Bell with the invention of the pre-formed hard-shell taco, but it turns out pre-formed hard-shell tacos existed long before Glen Bell entered the Mexican-inspired American fast food game, and that he may have just totally ripped off the idea and claimed it as his own.

But there’s little doubt that Taco Bell played a huge role in the dissemination and proliferation of the pre-formed hard-shell taco. The logical parallel here is Elvis Presley. Elvis Presley absolutely did not invent rock and roll, but for better or worse, he was responsible for a whole lot of people finding out about it for the first time.

So if you want to credit Taco Bell for the pre-formed hard-shell taco, it’s impossible to argue that the Double Decker Taco is a bigger innovation — it wouldn’t be possible or necessary without the crunchy taco inside. But failing that, yeah, I think shoving a crunchy tortilla inside of a soft one is probably the best and most important of many incredible gifts Taco Bell has provided us. Once upon a time, there was no way to eat a crunchy taco while driving. Then someone came up with one, and they used it as a way to put Shaq and Hakeem Olajuwon on a tandem bike for the commercial.

The Double Decker Taco is not currently on menus, a great shame. But the Cheesy Gordita Crunch obviously stands on the shoulders of that giant.

Via email, Steven writes:

Where do you stand on the DH in the National League? I like the idea that I can watch more older, limited players hit and my Mets have a handful of candidates.

This is the mildest take: I like the DH rules as they currently exist, even though they make no sense. It’s fun to me that there’s this slight difference between the leagues, and though I think it does give AL teams a mild advantage in interleague and postseason play, it’s clearly not an insurmountable one. Some pitchers hate hitting, but others love it, and at so many levels below the professional ones, the best pitchers tend to be the best hitters on their teams.

But the universal DH is pretty clearly coming. Pitching is so difficult and requires so much preparation that it makes sense to protect pitchers from the batter’s box and basepaths, the union loves it because it helps prolong veteran players’ careers (and the union is always kinder to and more protective of veterans than young players), and I suspect in 25 years, no one will miss the era of pitchers hitting.

A good argument I’ve seen in favor of the universal DH is this one: It gives AL teams more flexibility in free agency than NL teams have. If an NL team thinks a guy only has a couple years left of being a capable defensive player, it’s going to be reluctant to ink him to a four- or five-year deal. AL teams get the comfort of knowing they’ll be able to find use for him as long as he can still hit, and a means of periodically resting his legs while he’s still regularly playing the field.

I thought about this one at great length and concluded that, in pretty much all cases, I’d rather have quality fillings over quality bread. And I don’t mean to diminish bread’s importance in the quality of a sandwich, at all. Bread is important and good!

But how many times in your life have you had bread that you’d truly call bad? If the bread is fresh, it’s fine even if it’s bland. There’s a lot of truly gross stuff one might put inside a sandwich, but not that many truly gross things you could build a sandwich on. Perhaps nothing turns my stomach as reliably as the thought of slimy old lunchmeat, but bread that’s a day or two too old is just unpleasantly dry.

I’ve had sandwiches with great bread and underwhelming filling, and I’m rarely convinced they’re an upgrade over bread alone. What is this, France? Get out of here with that single-slice-of-ham nonsense. Meanwhile, several of the sandwiches I’ve presented here in the past few weeks have featured quality fillings and sub-standard bread, and most of them were really good.

Oh, here’s a nice little minefield!

It’s very hard to imagine Jesus being any good at baseball, miracles notwithstanding. Unless Judea had some sports I’m not aware of, I doubt He ever did much overhand throwing in his youth, and people who did not grow up with that motion tend to be pretty terrible at it in adulthood. Also, I’m not sure Jesus ever said anything to suggest he had the type of competitive drive necessary to excel in sports. Right? Blessed are the meek, but they bat ninth.

The obvious answer here is that Jesus should be your head trainer. Anyone who can cure leprosy with his hands could presumably work wonders on a UCL.

Jason Statham, obviously. No shame in dying by Statham’s hand or drop-kick.

I have no idea what’ll happen, but I thought the idea of splitting teams into Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues for one year made sense. It would suck for the handful of teams that still have lousy spring training facilities, but every team would at least have its own facility, and — as I mentioned last time it came up — lots of players have homes near their club’s spring training bases.

But obviously every proposal is pointless until we know they can pull one of them off safely. Baseball rules and I miss it very much, but baseball is a frivolity and not worth risking lives for. This whole Q&A is fraught with complicated topics and I’m not trying to start fights online when I know my kid will wake up and command my full attention in 45 minutes.

It’s obviously trampoline. I want to dunk. And I know you’re about to tell me about all the potential drawbacks and dangers in having every surface I step on magically transform into a trampoline, but did drawbacks and dangers stop King Midas? I’m going to dunk, folks.


Trivial pursuits

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There’s really never a bad time to share a photo of yourself and the legend Trebek.

Back when we could go out and see people and do stuff, I hosted a bunch of baseball and general trivia nights at my friends’ bars in Brooklyn. It’s weird to me now, in retrospect, that I never used this space to promote or discuss it, but I very much enjoyed it, and I think most of the people that came out to play had fun, too.

Writing trivia questions is entirely unlike any other type of writing I’ve attempted, and there’s definitely an art to it. I suspect that even a lot of hardcore Jeopardy! fans don’t consider just how good the show’s writers are at coming up with 61 new questions for every single episode, or how well constructed every one of those questions is.

Go to a bunch of bad bar trivia nights and you’ll start appreciating it: Jeopardy! questions are rarely a straightforward test of whether you know something or not. They’re way more often a test of how well you can use the clues presented to come to a quick, educated guess.

I keep that in mind as a goal when I’m writing trivia. Like every other trivia writer not employed by Jeopardy!, I’m not Jeopardy! caliber. But I got good enough at it that people had just started to hire me to do events outside the bar when events stopped happening. I even got myself business cards:

On Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. ET, the Quad-A Baseball Quiz will make its online debut. The estimable Cooper Lund, a regular player at the real-life baseball trivia nights, set up all the technical elements and coached me through my end of it. He and similarly estimable Quad-A trivia teammate (and my fellow former Jeopardy! contestant) Ami Li will help me tally the scores.

If you’ve got nothing else to do — and you’ve got nothing else to do! The NFL Draft is bad! — you can and should register here. At the bar, teams play for money, but because it’d be impossible to police cheating, there’s no money on the line online. Dan Lewis, of the excellent Now I Know newsletter, has offered up a signed copy of his book to the winner, with the caveat that you’ll have to wait until he’s willing to go to the post office (which seems reasonable).

Thursday night’s quiz will include five rounds of eight questions, with some sort of closest-to-the-pole tiebreak question if necessary. The first two rounds are themed rounds, the third round will be a visual round (i.e. identifying photos), the fourth round is Before & After, and the fifth is general baseball trivia. Barring technical difficulties, it should take about an hour and a half.

To help you decide if this is something you want to do, I’m going to screencap some Google Slides from recent events and turn them into two rounds’ worth of trivia here. Whether or not you want to play online, you should consider coming out to the analog versions of the Quad-A Baseball Quiz and/or The Executive Game whenever they do return. And if you’re planning to do that, you should consider buying a Barry Bond, laying out some money now to help the bars weather the pandemic and getting your interest paid in extra booze.

OK, here we go. I’m going to put the answers in a comment, so DO NOT CLICK THE COMMENTS IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE THE ANSWERS. SPOILER ALERT! HELLO! CAPS! The first round here will be a general baseball-trivia round, and the second will be Before & After.

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Next, Before & After. You know how these work, right? Good.

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Again, the answers are going to be in the first comment below. Chime in and say how you did! Or don’t. But do join me tomorrow.

Friday Q&A: Robots, foodstuff, quaran-time

Less talk, more rock. Via email, Steven writes:

Now that the Rakuten Monkeys of the Taiwanese Baseball League have bought hundreds of robots to dress as fans when they begin the 2020 season, will this be the setting of the first robot rebellion, with them storming the field and killing the players?

OK, so I’ve seen a bunch of clips of Rakuten games, and for the most part it seems like the robots in the stands are more mannequins than anything else. I don’t understand how the droids improve the baseball experience for anyone playing or watching unless it so happens they’re into extraordinarily creepy things — and more power to ’em — but these robots also don’t seem at all like the type of robots we need to worry about moving on humanity.


In any case, I feel that a baseball game is actually the safest place to allow robots to congregate. They will be lured in by its angles and its numbers and its logic, then tortured by its general senselessness, and either their circuit-boards will fry the first time they see the Taiwanese Joe McEwing go deep off the Taiwanese Randy Johnson, or they’ll be so entertained that their batteries run out before they get around to enacting the Singularity. All the smartest people I know chose to watch a lot of baseball instead of trying to take over the world.

On that topic:

I think, if it happens, it’ll be awfully weird. I’ve only seen highlights from the CPBL games, but I suspect they’re very weird. I remember watching when the Orioles played in front of an empty stadium during the Freddie Gray protests and thinking that it seemed extremely weird.

This is why I’ve suggested surrounding the playing fields with green-screens and staging the games against bizarre and hilarious backdrops, like, top of my head, outer space, underwater, an Old West desert scene, or the Himalayas. Heck, it wouldn’t even have to be so literal. Look, the Dodgers are playing the Padres inside Monet’s Water Lilies. Stare at the magic-eye backdrop of this Marlins game long enough and a real baseball team pops out. If it’s going to be weird, you might as well go full weird.

All that said, I’d happily tune into games in empty stadiums every night if and when that proves a safe way to bring baseball to 2020. The presence of baseball means I don’t have to figure out what to watch on TV, and right now I’m struggling with that. I know there’s plenty of great stuff I could be binge-watching, but it’s like I’ve gotten so bored that I no longer know how to handle boredom. Usually boredom is the exception, now it’s the baseline.

Pretzels. But you’re asking the wrong guy. I think I have about a lifetime .200 batting average at getting yeast to work.

I did play football! I loved it. I coached football, too, and loved that too. And I loved watching football for a very long time, until a couple of things happened:

1) I started spending the entirety of my Octobers on the road covering baseball, meaning that I’d come home after having spent some 30-40 consecutive days working and watching sports, the Jets would already be out of contention, and I just didn’t find myself in the mood to figure out what was happening in the NFL and start watching more sports.

And, mainly, 2) We learned that professional football somewhat regularly scrambles players’ brains, and that the NFL either actively covered up that information or at the very least put on some incredibly large blinders to avoid acknowledging it.

I try not to be too holier-than-thou about not watching football anymore because I understand that it’s exciting and because I recognize that millions and millions of people still very much enjoy it in spite of having seen and read all the same things I’ve seen and read about CTE. But I’ll say that having Sundays free turns out to be pretty amazing, and it turns out I can find other excuses to eat Buffalo wings.

Also, I find the NFL Draft especially frustrating for a variety of reasons, and don’t think it’s compelling television. Down with sports drafts!

I am vaguely interested in seeing what the inside of Mel Kiper Jr.’s house looks like, which presumably viewers of this year’s NFL Draft will get to do. But I’m forgoing that opportunity because the same night of this year’s NFL Draft — Thursday, April 23, or a week from yesterday — I’m hosting the online version of the bar baseball trivia I was doing monthly until all bars closed.

It was probably not the best idea to schedule it against the only sporting event in months, but the NFL Draft is not actually a sporting event.

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At times when I am not quarantined, I am actually terrible at this. I generally have pasta, butter and parmesan cheese on hand, and that’s kind of a meal, but it’s not a very good one. We almost always have yogurt and granola, and that’s a solid breakfast. Living across the street from a supermarket allows me to be pretty irresponsible about keeping food stocked.

So instead of an actual answer, I’ll share my go-to quick meal when I need to make a fairly fast, delicious, inexpensive dinner (and then some — it always feeds my family at least twice). You will need:

  • One box of pasta, preferably something like rigatoni or fusilli
  • One pound spicy Italian sausage with the casings removed
  • A large head of broccoli
  • Four cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. In one pot, boil some salted water for pasta. When it’s boiling, add pasta.
  2. Set another, larger pot over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom, garlic and sausage meat, stirring occasionally to brown all the meat.
  3. After the pasta’s been cooking for a few minutes, throw in the broccoli. You can use a separate pot for the broccoli if you want, but then you have an extra dirty dish to deal with. Screw that. Just use the pasta pot.
  4. When the pasta and broccoli are cooked, drain them, then dump them into the pot with the sausage and lower the heat.
  5. Stir so the olive oil and delicious orange sausage grease coat the pasta. If the pasta looks dry, add a little more olive oil.
  6. Mix in about 2 ounces of Parmesan cheese. Two ounces is an estimate based on looking up the standard size container of Parmesan cheese, which turns out to be 5 ounces. I use a little less than half of that.
  7. Give it a healthy hit of black pepper.

Sprinkle some extra parmesan cheese on top to serve. It’s very good, and you can feed six people for like nine bucks.

Via Twitter, Kevin (who has a private account) asks:

What is the ideal age and living situation for this whole shitshow shut down?

I got at this a little bit a couple weeks ago, but I think it’s something that a lot of people are thinking about it. And I think a lot of people are thinking about it because everyone’s certain their own shutdown situation is something far less than ideal.

And I suspect, to a lot of people, my own situation for the shutdown might seem somewhat optimal: I don’t have a job so I don’t have to worry about working from home, and I was already out of the job long before this started, so I’m not stressing about the loss of income. My wife’s job is pandemic-proof, my apartment has a backyard, I’ve only got one kid and he’s too young for proper school so I don’t have to worry about home-schooling him in calculus or whatever. But still I keep finding myself like, “ugh this sucks, this would be so much easier if…”

Obviously the ideal circumstance for any situation is “eccentric billionaire,” but assuming that’s not an option, my first instinct was to say: Middle school. Remember how much middle school sucked? God, it’d be great to get out of middle school. But wait! You’re not just getting out of middle school to play sports with your friends and flirt with classmates you run into at the movie theater. You’re getting out of middle school to do nothing at all besides stare at various screens, and that sounds largely unsatisfying.

High-schoolers tend to think anything bad that happens to them is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone, so high school is out. College kids have had their minds warped by people telling them “these are the best four years of your life,” which isn’t at all true but puts them under all sorts of pressure to make the most of those four years, so that’s out too.

I’d say, of all the living situations I’ve ever seen up close, the best for riding out a quarantine would be one that belonged to a friend of mine in Brooklyn when we were in our mid-20s. He lived in a huge apartment with four other dudes and all of them were musically or creatively inclined, so I imagine they could’ve rode out a hypothetical quarantine just jamming and making music and broing down, and there were enough other people around that you wouldn’t get sick of each other. But then, in retrospect, I can’t remember what any of those guys did for work, or whether they’d still be able to cover the rent in circumstances like this one.

I think this pretty much sucks for everyone except profiteering politicians. It obviously sucks way, way more for some people than for others, but I don’t know that anyone reasonable is satisfied with the terms under which they have to stay inside all the time.

Bang on a can

black plastic trash bin beside metal railing

A garbage can (Photo by ready made on

A week ago, I referenced that I wanted to write something about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal but changed my mind. I thought at the time that it seemed pointless to tackle something that is, at this point, so very un-topical (atopical?). But the site’s called TedQuarters, so whatever’s on my mind counts as topical here. If you’re sick of reading about the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, I don’t blame you, and please come back tomorrow.

I saw this tweet this morning:

I don’t know the person or people behind the @AsteriskTour twitter account, and I don’t begrudge them or anyone else their right to enjoy baseball however the heck they want to enjoy baseball. If the WWE has shown us anything, it’s that the presence of a clearly established villain can make rooting for the good guys more fun. And I take no issue whatsoever with anyone who looks forward to booing the Astros relentlessly when baseball returns: The Astros cheated, and booing is fun.

Based on the stats, the above tweet obviously resonates with a lot of baseball fans, and as such, it embodies a big part of what frustrates me about the response to the scandal. Again, I don’t really blame anyone if they want to get so mad as to insist the Astros “did something horrible to this game we all love” so much as I can’t bring myself to be nearly that mad.

And if you tuned in to the reaction from fans, media and other players in the wake of the Astros news, you’d know that the tweet above represents more or less the going sentiment in the baseball world. People threw around words like “disgraceful” and “disgusting” and “despicable,” and my inability to gin up that sort of outrage only further convinced me that I was always a poor fit for sports media.

I can’t often put jokes aside, myself. And here, we’re talking about baseball. Just baseball. Stupid baseball. If the Astros really did something horrible to baseball, who among us can argue that baseball didn’t have it coming? Baseball has done horrible things to my soul and my psyche on an annual basis for more than three decades running.

Also, we’re talking about dudes slamming a metal garbage can with a bat to relay signs stolen via a clubhouse video feed. It’s so damn silly! The Houston Astros, of all teams — so celebrated for their innovation and their technological savvy — found no more advanced method of communication than going H.A.M. on a trash can with a baseball bat. And when all the videos came out to expose it, it only seemed funnier. “Oh yeah, that’s definitely the sound of a baseball bat banging twice on a metal garbage can right before Alex Bregman jumped all over that curveball.”

Plus — plus! — I don’t believe for a moment that the Astros were the only team in recent years using technology to steal signs. We already know the Red Sox did something, we just don’t know exactly what because the commissioner’s office insists it has anything else to do right now. People who worked for the 2017 Astros now work all over the league. You’re telling me the only two instances of anything like this happening are the two we know about, perpetrated by two teams that happened to win World Series? C’mon. Some crappier club definitely pulled some shady stuff last year, too; we’ll never know because it didn’t help that much.

And that’s another thing! I’m not convinced it helped nearly as much as everyone assumes it helped! Obviously that doesn’t make it OK — cheating is cheating — but how often did anyone calling the Astros “a disgrace” and acting like their championship was purely the product of their cheating even mention that the 2017 Astros hit better on the road? Go look for yourself. They scored more runs on the road, with more hits, more doubles, more triples, more homers, a higher batting average, higher OBP, and higher slugging. Did everyone forget, in the months following the 2019 World Series, that the visiting team won every game in the 2019 World Series? It was a whole thing!

Finally, and by far the most frustrating aspect of the scandal, is that everyone got so busy wringing their hands and shaming the Astros that no one seemed to care that there’s a fairly easy way to ensure nothing like it ever happens again. By outfitting pitchers and catchers (and perhaps pitching coaches) with wireless earpieces or, heck, officially sanctioned buzzer systems, MLB could make sign-stealing impossible (and shave about 15 minutes’ worth of pitcher-catcher conferences off every game). Make clear that any effort to hack into the earpiece or buzzer system is grounds for an immediate lifetime ban, and maybe someone still tries it, but definitely most people don’t.

I understand that good, old-fashioned analog sign-stealing from second base has long been a part of baseball and I’ve participated in it myself. But it’s not like it makes the sport any more compelling or entertaining for fans, since we’re so rarely aware of it happening. And not that long ago, a guy losing a perfect game in the 9th on a clearly blown call at first base was “a part of baseball,” and no one seems to miss that part of baseball all that much now. We move forward.

By the time I get to Arizona

two green cactus plants at daytime

Photo by Yigithan Bal on

There is no real sports news to be found. When that’s the case, members of the sports media understandably latch on to any fodder they can find for takes and perspectives because they’re paid to make sports content and there are only so many stories you can write about what some bored ballplayer Instagrammed. (I’m not even a member of the sports media and I’m doing it now, but I’m acknowledging it up front so I seem cooler than I am.)

At yesterday, Jeff Passan published a report detailing an MLB proposal to restart spring training as soon as next month, with real games starting in June in empty stadiums in Arizona. Passan’s an excellent reporter, and I have no doubt that such a plan has been discussed among MLB officials and MLBPA brass.

But if you’re wondering why nearly every baseball writer in the world has come out and dismissed the plan as wrongheaded and absurd, it’s because a) again, no one has anything else to do and b) it’s totally wrongheaded and absurd.

First and foremost, it assumes it’s going to be safe to put all the players up in Arizona starting in one month. Here in New York, we’ve already been sheltering-in-place for three and a half weeks, and yesterday set a new high mark for COVID deaths. Even if the rate of infection and death drops off starkly starting today, I assume we’re still going to want to keep people separated for at least another month to make sure the virus doesn’t come surging back. Right? We keep waiting on apexes and plateaus, but it’s not like once we hit peak disease it’ll immediately be safe to throw parties.

Also, the plan calls for quarantining players in Arizona hotels and motels for the entirety of their season, outside of the times they’re playing baseball. No family contact. Basically minimum-security prison, except instead of golf you play baseball.

Furthermore, have you ever set foot outside in Arizona in the daytime in May or June? You can’t do it, because it’s way too hot. Phoenix’s entire existence is a scam orchestrated by Friedrich.

Now I’m doing the same thing everyone else just did and telling you why the plan is dumb and unlikely to happen, but the point is only that the plan is dumb and unlikely to happen, and you probably already knew that by now.

The parts that seem especially nefarious, I think, are that includes the adoption of automated strike zones — purportedly to protect umpires — that it eliminates mound visits, and that it calls for “regular use of on-field microphones by players” to make the televised product more compelling.

I actually think all three of those changes would be good for baseball in the long run. My issue is that I suspect Major League Baseball thinks so, too, and that it seems kind of slimy to use the cover of a global pandemic to sneak them into the game at a time when the umpires union and players union would look petty for objecting. Also, it’s at least a little alarming that the details of the so-called Arizona plan should so closely follow Donald Trump’s conference call with sports commissioners over the weekend.

In any case, it’s almost certainly not happening, and every statement MLB has put out since the story broke and uproar followed has made clear that it’s unlikely. I wish it could happen, and I imagine you do too. A lot of us are saying things like, “I’d kill to watch baseball right now,” but we mean it metaphorically, and until we have more information about the virus and how it spreads and how to treat it and how to stop it, carrying out such a plan might mean literally killing people so we could watch baseball.

I’m going to hit you with a Venn diagram for the second day in a row:

Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 12.18.10 PM

“It’ll be safe to have Major League Baseball next month” falls exclusively in the green circle on the left. “We need to prioritize shit besides Major League Baseball” goes in the red circle on the right.

This song remains a banger:

I’ve got nothing

My kid likes the music of Raffi, as many kids do, but if I put any Raffi song on Spotify, the auto-generated playlist that follows inevitably includes a bunch of songs off an album called Bible Beats (For Little Feets) — songs like “The Ten Commandment Boogie,” “Fruit of the Spirit,” and, of course, “The B-I-B-L-E.”

I will happily listen to Raffi play religious and spiritual songs — his “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” is quite lovely — but the songs on Bible Beats (For Little Feets) are so, so bad, and there is nothing I can do to convince Spotify that I never want to hear them ever again. I’m convinced the lead singer is the son of Spotify founder Ron Spotify.

The easiest workaround I know of to play Raffi tunes and avoid atrocious children’s Christian rock is to just play Raffi’s entire catalog on shuffle. And so it was that on this lovely spring day, as I happened to be staring out the window, I learned Raffi has a cover of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame,” and that, in the context of right now, it’s fairly heartbreaking:

I intended this post to transition here into something about the Astros’ scandal, and how big a deal it seemed to so many people a couple months ago, and how very not-big-a-deal it seems now.

Then I decided that would be a stupid post, and that I should write about how I used to always say here that I’d quit my job if I ever started taking my access to free baseball games for granted, and how, in a roundabout way, that exact thing happened. But there’d be no way to do that without further whining about my old job, and I just did that on Friday.

Next, I decided I should write about the coolest baseball events I’ve been able to attend, and those still on my bucket list. That’s a much better post, I think, and I will make it here in due time. But by the time I came to the idea, I was already an hour deep into a two-hour naptime, and I’ve got other stuff I need to take care of before the kid wakes up.

All of which is to say: I’ve got nothing. It was bound to happen at some point. Thanks for checking in, and I’ll try to do better tomorrow. I’ve got my eye on scoring a Triplelupa this afternoon, which ideally will provide some fairly easy #content.

In the interim, I will go back to a well into which I’ve dipped plenty of times before, and one that never fails to cheer me up. Here are some waterskiing wipeouts: