Tuesday, February 21, 2017

101st Anniversary of the Battle of Verdun

Today marks the the 101st anniversary of one of the events that changed the world forever. On February 21st in 1916 - the Battle of Verdun began. The battle was to change the course of Western Civilization. 

The idea for the battle was from German Chief of Staff, Erich von Falkenhayn. He believed that if he could take-out France with a major set battle and discourage England to a point that Germany could be in a position to negotiate very favorable terms. To accomplish his goals - Falkenhayn proposed unrestricted submarine warfare to starve Britain and a knockout blow against France at Verdun. With this major battle at Verdun, Falkenhayn hoped to "bleed France white".

It was an ambitious plan - an aggressive plan. Falkenhayn knew that to attack at Verdun he'd have to take resources away from the Eastern Front and that unrestricted submarine warfare ran the risk of bringing the U.S. into the war. Falkenhayn reasoned that Russia was on the brink of revolution and internal civil war in Russia would allow them to take those resources from the Eastern Front and that the decisive blow to France would come before the US was dragged into the war. He was right on the former but wrong on the latter.

Verdun seemed the perfect place to attack. It actually jutted out into the German lines - so it could be attacked from three sides. It was also of historical and psychological significance to Frenchmen (somewhat akin to what the Alamo is to Americans).

The job of attacking Verdun fell to German Crown Prince Wilhelm. He planned to assault the town from both side of the surrounding Meuse River but that plan vetoed by Falkenhayn. After coming up with a daring, aggressive plan - Falkenhayn was suddenly cautious. Falkenhayn ordered the attack to be confined to one side of the river. Similar to a poker game, Falkenhayn was beaten on the river. Falkenhayn had pocket Aces of a plan but he failed to put enough chips at risk to drive the other player out. By not being aggressive when he should have he gave France free cards and allowed himself and Germany to literally be beaten on the river.

With so many people who eventually died in the battle, a poker analogy may seem flip but the fact is the Germans had one million troops against 200,000 defenders. They did hold Aces before the battle.

When the attack finally began, the Germans bombarded Verdun with 1,400 guns that rained Verdun with 100,000 shells every hour. The Germans failed to immediately follow up the bombardment with an full-scale infantry attack and what resulted was a stalemate which was to last for months and months.

The dead and wounded from both sides piled up so that both countries were being "bled white". The French begged Britain to open up a diversionary attack elsewhere on the Western Front to drain resources and men away from Verdun on the German side. Thus the Battle of the Somme was born. 

By the time the battle of Verdun ended almost one million casualties had been inflicted in roughly equal numbers for both sides. The Battle of the Somme resulted in about 1.1 million casualties (about 400,000 British, 200,000 French and 500,000 German). The unrestricted submarine warfare resulted in the Americans being dragged into the War (remember that President Woodrow Wilson was elected on a peace platform). The American joined the fight just as both sides were literally exhausted from being "bled white" from Verdun and the Somme and the rest is history (including the harsh terms imposed on Germany that led to the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party).


Monday, February 20, 2017

Homer at the Bat Turns 25


Today marks the 25th anniversary of The Simpsons episode Homer at the Bat. Below is a parody of that episode I wrote in 2005. I think it still holds up.

The Curse of the Simpsons

Hello, my name is Bob Ley and welcome to Outside the Lines. Tonight we look at what is being called “the Curse of the Simpsons.”

On February 20, 1992 the Simpsons’ episode “Homer at the Bat” aired and featured some of baseball’s brightest stars but the question now comes up – what did these stars have to do in order to be on the show and what price did they pay for that momentary bit of extra fame?

According to the Official Simpsons Website the episode’s plot was the following: 
Mr. Burns makes a million dollar bet with his arch-rival Aristotle Amadopolis that the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant team will beat the Shelbyville Nuclear Power Plant team in the softball championships. To ensure victory, Burns hires a number of ringers, including pro baseball players Darryl Strawberry, Ken Griffey, Jr., Steve Sax, Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco, Don Mattingly, Ozzie Smith, Wade Boggs and Mike Scioscia to replace the plant employees he cut from the team. But as game day approaches, the pros all succumb to various strange ailments and accidents that prevent them from playing and it's up to Homer and his teammates to beat the Shelbyville team. With bases loaded and the score tied in the ninth inning, Homer is sent to bat and wins the game when the pitch hits him in the head and accidentally scores a homer."
Most of the stars were at the top of their game before agreeing to appear on the show but after the show most started hitting the skids. Coincidence – Outside the Lines thinks not.

In studio we have one of the stars of the show – Homer Simpson. Homer, welcome to Outside the Lines. You get many big name stars on the show – is there any special arrangement to get these stars? What about the baseball players featured in “Homer at the Bat”? 

Homer: To answer your question Kent – normally guest stars work for scale to be on our show because it is such a status symbol to be on the Simpsons. However, in this case the boss wanted something extra.

Who is your boss? What was the something extra required of the baseball players?

Homer: Well I report directly to Satan or as we like to call him – Ned. In order to be on the show the baseball players had to sign over their souls. You know standard stuff.

Wait a second are you saying that Ned Flanders is Satan and that the baseball players had to sign over their souls to be on the show?

Homer: Yep. You deaf or something? All the players really wanted to be on the show and Ned made them pay. 

Darryl Strawberry?

Homer: Hmmmmmm strawberries……….Oops – sorry. I felt bad about Straw. He was such a good kid before he came on the show. I’m afraid we introduced him to a little too much of the Hollywood lifestyle. You know constant drugs and hookers. I guess it made quite the impression on him.

Ken Griffey Jr.? 

Homer: Yep. Satan is still screwing with him. I guess Griffey has become sort of a hobby for Ned.

Steve Sax?

Homer: Oh boy! That was a good one. You know the throws to first were my idea. 

Jose Canseco?

Homer: Do you even have to ask on that one? The guy slept with Madonna. I guess he figured he was doomed anyway.

Don Mattingly?

Homer: You know Don started off as a really nice guy but working for so long with Steinbrenner just sorta wore him down. I still remember watching Mattingly’s last game on the set of the Simpsons. Ned comes over - sees Don on the TV and says, “Next year the Yankees win the World Series" and then he starts with that laugh of his.

Mike Scioscia? 

Homer: Well Mike was sorta of a charity case. He sold his soul to get into the major leagues. 

Wade Boggs? You can't say Wade Boggs sold his soul - I mean he was just elected to the Hall of Fame.

Homer: Actually Wade Boggs was the only one that wasn’t asked to sign away his soul. If you remember - in the show Wade gets beat up by Barney Gumble. Ned had Wade Boggs on as a favor to all the cast. We all wanted to beat him up but Barney won the lottery.

Wait a minute Homer. What about Ozzie Smith? I grant you all the other stars did seem to rapidly dim after being on the show but Ozzie was also voted into the Hall of Fame. You can’t ask us to believe that Ozzie sold his soul.

Homer: Well - you know how we all thought it kinda funny to portray Ned as the devil knowing full well that he really was the devil. Who knew that Ozzie really was a Wizard? The Wizard of Oz! We all thought it was just something people called him. That summersault he does before all his games is really a kind of counter curse you know.

Roger Clemens has over 300 wins and has won multiple Cy Young Awards. Surely he didn’t sign his soul away.

Homer: Roger was the first to sign. That guy is as dumb as a post. The funny thing is that by signing with Toronto – Clemens proved that he didn’t have a soul so the deal was null and void.

Please hold on just a second. I understand from our producers that joining us via a telephone hook-up is Ned Flanders. Mr. Flanders on this show tonight Homer Simpson has alleged that you are in fact the devil and that in 1992 you required a number of all-star baseball players to sign away their souls in order to be on the show the Simpsons. Can you comment on this?

Ned Flanders (aka Satan): Okily dokily Bob-arino. All that Homer said is as right as rain. Baseball players are some of my best customers next to SportsCenter anchors of course but you know I wasn’t going to take their souls until my boss insisted.

Your boss? Who would that be?

Ned Flanders (aka Satan): James L. Brooks of course.

Well that makes sense. I’m Bob Ley and this has been Outside the Lines. Please join us tomorrow night when our topic will be “Are we ready for an openly gay football mascot?”

Saturday, February 18, 2017

In Color - Jamey Johnson



Great song.

Sports Media Doesn't Get It

Before I go on this rant let me state for the record I did not vote for Donald Trump. Anyone who wants to accuse me of being a "Trumpkin" can suck a long brown snake out of my ass.

Yesterday of RealClearSports top two stories one was by Bryan Curtis of The Ringer titled "Sportswriting Has Become a Liberal Profession - Here's How It Happened" that "explained" that sportswriters inserting their liberal political opinions into their sports reporting is not just a good thing but a very good thing. He uses the example of Lester Rodney an avowed communist from the 1930's whose (according to Bryan Curtis) "moral clarity was keener than just about anybody's." Did I mention that Lester Rodney was an avowed communist? Communism is the most evil invention ever cooked up by the mind of man and at the same time Rodney was exhibiting this superior "moral clarity" millions of people were being exterminated in Communist Russia.

Lester Rodney might have been a useful idiot but Bryan Curtis with the hindsight of history available to him is just an idiot. (RealClearSports rightly labeled the link to the story "How Liberals Hijacked the Sportswriting Profession")

The second story was labeled by RealClearSports as "ESPN Pays for Becoming Social Justice Warrior Network". The link goes to a story about how ESPN is losing 10,000 subscribers a day from people "cutting the cord". If cable channels were to be unbundled - ESPN would completely implode. There are many, many people out there who resent being forced to pay $7 per month just to have Screaming Steven A. Smith and the WNBA jammed down their throats. I cut the cord more than 3-years ago and I don't miss ESPN one bit.

What Bryan Curtis and The Ringer doesn't understand (and ESPN for that matter) is their "we're right and you're stupid if you disagree with us" when it comes to politics attitude is not the way to win friends and influence people and certainly not the way to gain or retain customers. When I go to a sports site - I expect sports. Not a lecture on veganism or an Occupy Wall Street retrospective and especially not a fawning interview with Lena Dunham. I'm removing The Ringer from my blog list. Pretty sure I can do without Mr. Curtis and The Ringer's obsession with the TV show The Bachelor. I've also stopped following Deadspin on Twitter because only one in  five Tweets seem to be about sports these days.

History has proven communism to be a giant mistake. History will also prove that inserting your liberal politics into people's sports was a bad business decision.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Heh Heh


Even Patriots fans find this funny.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Miscellaneous thoughts and observations.

A sitcom about a relationship between All-State's Mayhem mascot guy and Progressive's crazy girlfriend Flo would actually be pretty fun to watch... Heh heh... Women complain that men don't understand "that time of the month" or remember six months out when their cycle will fall but in defense of men - most guys still don't understand why when we were kids the doctor grabbed our balls and told us to cough... Congratulations to Robinson Cano... Would Jack from the movie Titanic have survived if he knew the Wim Hof breathing method?... Lascivious Banabos would be a good name for a band... Good for them... Flooring store sign that says "We will come to your house and measure your kitchen" always seemed like a Mafia-style threat to me... There was a reason they called him Larry Legend...

I Can't Get Next to You - The Temptations



A song you don't hear nearly enough.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Claude Julien

So last week the Boston Bruins fired head coach Claude Julien, then this past weekend under new interim Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy Boston beats the Montreal Canadiens 4-0, and then yesterday Montreal named Claude Julien their new head coach. What a long short strange trip it's been!

When Julien was let go by the Bruins I wished him well in his next coaching job as did many. But we didn't know that next job was going to be with the Canadiens! Even still I wish Claude nothing but the best (unless Boston meets Les Habs in the playoffs then I wish him an awful stomach flu).

When I was a kid the Bruins were kings and the rivalry between the Bruins and Canadiens was as big or bigger than the rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees. Over the years that rivalry has dulled to the point where I'm guessing not many Boston sports fans were even aware the Bruins were playing the Canadiens last Sunday.

Here's to hoping Claude Julien helps rekindle that spirit of rivalry. I miss it.

Good luck coach!