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Monday, April 05, 2004

The Boys of BALCO
Despite the frigid temperatures here in New York this week, springtime officially reared its welcome head as baseball teams across the country took the field Monday to mark Opening Day 2004. Or was opening day last week in Tokyo? Or was it Sunday night in Baltimore? To some, the tradition of Opening Day was forever besmirched when the Yankees and Devil Rays kicked things off last week at the Tokyo Dome, but traditionalists be damned – baseball is here, and that’s all that really matters.

Baseball has been through a difficult offseason, lowlighted by the spiraling accusations of steroid abuse amongst its premiere players. Not to be deterred by all the scandal talk, a pumped up, hairless and somewhat effeminate-sounding Barry Bonds promised to hit 217 homeruns this year – by the All Star break. While MLB may eventually have to slap many an asterisk on the plethora of records set in recent years, it will continue to thrive as America’s favorite pastime. The game has survived scandals aplenty during its 150-year history: The Black Sox of 1919. Gaylord Perry’s spitball. George Brett’s Pine Tar. Pete Rose. The '94 Strike. Sammy’s cork. The 1962 Mets. Despite these difficult times, baseball has always emerged to recapture the imagination of the American public, and it will this time too.

The baseball season officially began last week with a 5 a.m. first pitch in Tokyo. The Spankees, with all their superstars and ego, landed in the Land of the Rising Sun carrying with them the immense expectations their endless legion of fans places upon their shoulders every year. Yankee fans are spoiled, everybody knows that. Expectations are always high. If the season doesn’t end with a pinstripe pileup celebrating a World Series victory then the season is a failure. That’s how it is around here, year in and year out, but particularly this year. With the addition of the game’s flashiest, wealthiest and perhaps best player Alex Rodriguez, Yankee fans expect big things.

The local press illustrated this fact perfectly after the Yankees dropped the first game of the season to the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Tokyo. Panic set in. Yankee fans were visibly worried. Red Sox nation was ecstatic. The papers looked to The Boss, Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, for reassurance. Surprisingly, George didn’t fire anyone. He put on a bold face and pretended as though he hadn’t expected his team to go 162-0 on the season, but he was still clearly irked. Game 2 of the Tokyo series was crucial. The next day, the Yankees righted the ship and beat the D-Rays on native son Hideki Matsui’s homerun. The Daily News headline the next morning read: Matsui Magic Saves Season. Yankee fans exhaled. Joe Torre held on to his job. And The Boss purchased the entire Japanese League for insurance. Only 160 more must-win games to go boys, breathe easy.

Baseball stateside kicked off Sunday as the Red Sox were unable to erase the bitter taste left in their mouths last year courtesy of the hated Yankees, losing 7-2 to the Orioles in Baltimore. In the second inning, all of New England could be heard universally screaming, “pull Pedro now!” Monday, 18 teams hit the dirt with all the pomp and circumstance Opening Day deserves. In St. Louis, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch; St. Louis then proceeded to lose to Milwaukee. In Cincinnati, W’s #2 Dick Cheney threw out the first pitch; Cincinnati lost to the Cubs. Man, does everything these guys touch turn to disaster?

My beloved Mariners open Tuesday against Anaheim. As usual, my heart trumps my head and tells me the M’s are going all the way. That’s the beauty of baseball – in April, everyone has a shot to win it all. Hell, even the Tigers are in first place. Play Ball!

Condy, Come on Down!
Yep, this week we will finally see Condoleeza Rice address the 9/11 Commission in Washington. In honor of Condy’s much-anticipated appearance, the Maxim Magazine website named Rice its "Girlfriend of the Day" last week, a high honor indeed. So, as horny teenage boys searched for the latest photos of Britney Spears riding a mechanical bull in a thong, they were greeted instead with the hotness that is our esteemed National Security Adviser. Oh baby. While many an adolescent boy was probably left disappointingly clutching his dry Kleenex that day, they should remember to be thankful that Madeline Albright isn’t still in the White House.

Going Out In Style
You don’t read many stories about people falling from airplanes that elicit a giggle, but last week in El Cajon, California 88-year-old Joseph Frost, recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, went out with a thud. Apparently not content with passing peacefully in a hospital bed hooked up to tubes and wires, Frost celebrated his 88th birthday by renting and then leaping from a vintage biplane. I know it must’ve been horrifying to watch, but you gotta salute a guy who goes out on his own terms. Grandpa Frost certainly did. I am still the only one giggling?

There’s Gold On That There Rock!
A territorial dispute erupted last week between Canada and Denmark as both countries claimed sovereignty over tiny Hans Island, a small, frozen rock in the Arctic Circle. Both countries claimed ownership of the island, with an official from Denmark’s Foreign Ministry saying, “in our opinion Hans Island is part of Danish territory, but the Canadiens seem to hold the view the island is theirs.” The reason for the dispute? Both countries see the remote island as a potential bounty of natural resources, particularly oil. Upon hearing this, President George W. Bush quickly called for the, ahem, "liberation" of Hans Island. Begin bombing immediately.

Can You Feel My Love Buzz?
Ten years ago this week, I came home to my college apartment in Pullman, Washington after a long, hard day of skipping classes and was stopped cold by none other than Kurt Loder. Kurt Loder? Yes, Kurt Loder. The MTV “newsman” stunned me, my roommates and my generation with news that Kurt Cobain, lead singer of seminal Seattle grunge band Nirvana had been found at his Seattle home, face-up on his greenhouse floor with one too many holes in his head. Cobain pumped himself full of heroin and then said goodbye to the world with a shotgun blast to the face. It was enough to make me drop my bong. This was tragic. We listened to Nirvana every day. This was huge. This was Lennon. It's been repeated so often it's become almost cliche, but Kurt Cobain was a twisted genius and Nirvana was a legendary band. They really did do everything the writers wax poetic about. They were a powerful band. They changed the landscape. Prior to Nirvana, the music charts had been overtaken by r&b pop artists like Whitney Houston and hair bands like Poison and Warrant. Sadly, I too was a casual, misguided music listener in the early-90s. At the time, my most prized CD had been the soundtrack to The Bodyguard (Whitney, Lisa Stansfield, Kenny G -- I shudder at the thought). And then, one night, packed into the back of a van with a bunch of friends, I heard Smells Like Teen Spirit come through the radio. It was electric and raw, it was catchy, infectious. Shortly after that, Even Flow by Pearl Jam. I never looked back. Today, I still have that first copy of Nevermind sitting on my shelf, and Whitney is nowhere to be found. Thank you Kurt... (no, not you Loder). Thank you Kurt Cobain, you sick, fucked up bastard you. Smells Like Digital Nirvana.

Speaking of Music…Check out great bands in NYC this month!
This Thursday, get your Cusack on with The Cooper Vane at Acme Underground!
On the 22nd, check out Nikki & Dara at Acme Underground.
And every Sunday in April, enjoy Kate Fenner at the Living Room.
Catch them all on Harris Radio!

Fly the Partisan Skies! Check out this hilarious Op-Ed by David Brooks at the New York Times. Don't worry, he manages to skewer left and right equally.

Most ballplayers today are taking homeopathic hgh oral spray because it's safe, undetectable, and legal for over the counter sales. As time goes on it seems it might be considered as benign a performance enhancer as coffee, aspirin, red bull, chewing tobacco, and bubble gum.
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