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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

An All-Star All-Star Lineup

First, a quick Braves bit over at Bugs & Cranks:

Elevator Baseball — The Braves go up; the Braves go down. Do they go up again?

And now, more baseball-inspired tomfoolery.

I’m sitting here watching the artificially engineered spectacle that is the MLB Home Run Derby. This is the hypefest that started it all in the other sports. Without this event, we might never have been blessed with the NBA Slam Dunk contest or Three Point Shootout, the NHL Skills Competition, or the NFL’s Strongest Man, Fastest Man, or Best Hands Pro Bowl events.

Okay, maybe ‘blessed with’ is going a little far. How about ‘burdened with, to make the sports television fat cats a few million more bucks of walking-around money’? That’s probably closer. But I’m not interested in disparaging these contests. Instead, I’m here to help. As usual.

“The dunk contest gets some attention, but honestly now — how many ‘open-court’ dunks are there in an actual NBA game? One? Three? None? I mean, assuming Golden State isn’t on defense. Obviously.”

See, the reason the Home Run Derby has been so successful and lasted so long is that it represents the crucial, most intriguing matchup in the game of baseball — the battle between pitcher and batter. Then, it bastardizes that battle into an unrealistic, lopsided farce. The pitcher is told to soft-toss fat easy pitches over the plate, like a father chucking meatballs to his kid at a Little League practice. Then the batters swing themselves out of their jock straps, trying to launch the ball four hundred feet or more. And why?

Because we’ll watch it, of course. At least, enough of us will watch it to justify selling the ads for car insurance or home computers or whatever the network decides to shill between swings.

And the reason you may not have heard of some of the other ‘skill-fests’ above is that they haven’t yet found the true essence of their respective sports. The dunk contest gets some attention, but honestly now — how many ‘open-court’ dunks are there in an actual NBA game? One? Three? None? I mean, assuming Golden State isn’t on defense. Obviously.

Clearly, the non-baseball sporting diversions need a bit of advice on how to plan their All-Star festivities. So here are a few suggestions for how our various pro leagues can better represent themselves:

NHL Hockey: The current skills contest is okay, I guess. But who cares if a guy can go top shelf and break a plate with a slapshot at twelve paces? Hockey’s still all about the fights — so let’s have a competition for the enforcers, already.

How’s this: Pick the meanest, brawliest, thuggiest guys in the league. Each one gets three punches to the jaw on some schlub from the audience. Most teeth knocked out wins the prize — and a new house (and medical expenses) for the volunteer. Everybody wins!

NBA Basketball: What’s the truly crucial skill in hoops? Not dunks — too rare. Ditto three pointers. Hell, most guys only shoot a handful of times per game. So what, then?

Dribbling. There are thousands of dribbles every game; you practically can’t play basketball without them. But can Jason Kidd dribble on broken glass? Can Tony Parker crossover past a nest of live cobras without travelling? How long can Allen Iverson dribble while walking over hot coals? I for one would like to find out.

NFL Football: In football, it’s the chess match between the quarterback and defensive players that offers the most intrigue. Let’s take a cue from baseball and make things a little lopsided — but this time, let’s throw the defense a bone.

The scene: a lonely QB in the backfield, with none of his pesky lineman friends around. Each defender gets five hits, with a five-yard run-up. Whoever knocks a piece of equipment the furthest down the field — the ball, a helmet, a protective cup, whatever — wins.

And the Pro Bowl is in the offseason, so those quarterbacks have all kinds of time to heal up. Sweet.

NASCAR Auto Racing: One word: Chicken.

Three more words: High-speed. Oval. Chicken.

Now we just need to find somebody on the circuit who knows how to turn right, so we can get the cars pointed at each other. This one’s a work in progress.

MLS Soccer: I have no idea what really drives this sport. They could do ‘jogging down the field’ competitions, maybe. ‘Best hooligan fans’? ‘Most creative drawing an offsides technique’?

Seriously. No idea whatsoever.

IFOCE Competitive Eating: They don’t really have an ‘All-Star’ competition, so far as I know. But that Nathan’s hot dog chowdown between Kobayashi and Joey Chestnut on the 4th got me thinking. Cramming your gob full of food for twelve minutes is one thing. But can these guys eat a marathon, the way they swallow a sprint?

I’d like to know. So here’s my proposal: if Kobayashi and Chestnut remain one-two atop the IFOCE standings, with no other real challengers, I say they should have a one-on-one faceoff, to settle things once and for all:

Eat Sonya Thomas, currently ranked number four in the world in the IFOCE rankings. At a slender 105 pounds. Or roughly the weight of Eric ‘Badlands’ Booker‘s left foot. Those guys could totally eat her, in twenty minutes tops.

Okay, so maybe they shouldn’t actually eat Sonya Thomas. She probably wouldn’t go for it — and anyway, she’s in the top five; she’s kind of a celebrity now. People would probably notice when she stopped showing up to eat her own weight in dill pickles or whatever.

So how’s this — make a mold of her body. Fill it with SPAM. Give the top two guys a fork and let them dig in, one on each end. Whoever reaches the navel first wins. Who wouldn’t watch that? I know I would.

Hell, if it’s anatomically correct, I’d probably even TiVo it. Two guys chowing down on a life-size tinned-meat mannequin with lady parts in all the right places? Even Joe Morgan commentary couldn’t ruin that.

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