On Fire

“You are the kindest country in the world. You are like a really nice apartment over a meth lab.”

— Robin Williams on Canada

Disclaimer: Your On Fire correspondent once spent some significant time up North. No, not like Tennessee North, but a magical land known as Michigan North, a strange place where sunlight is forgotten and life goes on when it snows more than a quarter of an inch. Thus, when your On Fire correspondent was asked by a Southern student whether or not there was such a thing as professional hockey league, it took immense strength and poise not to gag in horror.

“Yes,” your On Fire correspondent responded, eloquently choosing to vocalize the sole non-expletive word that came to mind. At a school in the South where many students cannot differentiate between a Kaldi’s line and a blue line and think icing is what you put on a cupcake, your On Fire correspondent should not have been surprised at such ignorance. Nonetheless, hockey is the greatest gift from our Canadian neighbors that isn’t named Robin Scherbatsky, and it deserves more respect than it’s currently being given.

The truth is, hockey is the least Canada could do after the long list of painful exports it’s forced across the border. Nickelback, Sarah McLachlan’s voice over commercials of abused dogs, old Justin Bieber and an Odyssey-esque siren allure of universal health care are all serious crimes against the World’s Greatest Country we all know and blindly adore like sheep led to the slaughter. And it’s not as if Canada really has anything else to offer. Perhaps Drake, but, in times like these, Meek Mill needs all the support he can get. Maybe the maple syrup supply is nice to keep in reach, but really that’s what we have Vermont for, so honestly Canada better be on its best behavior. Otherwise, the Mexico border won’t be the only one with today’s most advanced border technology — walls — right after we finish the walls around the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, of course, because Fox News is bound to show “Sharknado” sooner or later.

Hockey combines grace and grit, and puts it on ice. Imagine The Nutcracker on ice but with body checks and goals. Name a sport that wouldn’t be better on ice — oh wait, there isn’t one. Hockey is a fast-paced, full-contact sport that allows each Stanley Cup-winning player to spend a day with the championship trophy to do whatever their heart pleases: like Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Desjardins, who ate Lucky Charms out of the goblet. Can you imagine what would happen if the National Basketball Association (NBA) just let J.R. Smith roam around with the Larry O’Brien Trophy for a few days?

Let’s be clear: The United States is objectively superior when it comes to assertiveness, gross domestic product and sheer world domination, but the U.S. can learn a lesson or two from Canada’s national sport.

Flopping in American sports culture is far too prevalent. Athletes like Draymond Green and LeBron James are all-too celebrated for faking injuries. This wussification is nowhere to be found in hockey: Dallas Stars forward Rich Peverley literally died on the bench, came back to life and asked to be put back into the game. That’s the sort of passion that’s missing in American sports culture.

Maybe most critical to hockey’s status as an elite sport is its stance on fighting. Charge the mound in baseball? Receive a fine and suspension. Hit a player after the whistle in football? Fine and suspension. Chuck knucks in hockey? Receive a standing ovation and spend five minutes in time out in the penalty box. Instead of spending $100 to stream Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor, save your money and watch a hockey game, where the fighters actually land punches and simultaneously balance on ice skates.

Although Atlanta has been the failed host of two separate National Hockey League (NHL) franchises (moment of silence for the Thrashers and the Flames), one should not turn an eye to the glorious sport of the North. Even if you think zamboni is a type of pasta, hockey is for all. So, freshman friend who does not know about the existence of the NHL, hockey is in fact real — and it is glorious.

“There is not a lot of school pride.” — Ari, a freshman

(Found in comments section of the first result when searching “Emory School Spirit” on Google)

Withdraw that transfer application to the University of Michigan to join your best friend at Alpha Chi Latte where you get sh*tfaced every Saturday for game day: Emory University might finally have school spirit. The dearth of school spirit that surrounds our Division-III athletic scene has never been a point of pride, but maybe — just maybe — there’s reason for hope.

This past weekend, men’s soccer advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, tying their best postseason finish in school history. Emory volleyball dominated in their home regional, refusing to drop a set on the way to the Elite Eight of the NCAA D-III tournament. What’s surprising here is not that these teams found success. Emory has won 23 NCAA championships in its storied history. No, the real shock came from what filled the stands: people.

For the first time in your On Fire correspondent’s tenure at Emory, some noise disturbed the aching silence that has traditionally been Emory Athletics’ No. 1 fan, and it wasn’t the faint reverberations of frat stars slamming barbells to the floor after completing their first rep in 15 minutes. Hosting the NCAA South regional tournament, Emory volleyball drew living, breathing fans to put on an absolute show that would have put “Hamilton” to shame. In the three-game, single-elimination tournament, they didn’t lose a single set. In the championship game against Berry College (Ga.), not only did the team defeat another school with ease, but there was an actual student section. Your On Fire correspondent was flabbergasted.

To be fair, the fanbase was about the size of any given high school’s student section minus the presence of vapes, angst and whatever else high schoolers are into these days. Nonetheless, people actually showed up to watch Emory Athletics — a feat as unlikely as beating Emory’s most popular team: our undefeated football program. So for perhaps the hottest take in On Fire history — hotter than suggesting steroid use be mandatory or that the 2018 FIFA World Cup is a ploy to brainwash impressionable American athletes with Soviet propaganda — Emory finally has school spirit.

It’s time to shake off the dust on that bookstore Emory shirt you ordered back in high school when you were naive and cared about things, because school spirit is kind of trendy now. And while it’s not likely you will approach an Emory athlete (only recognizable by the blue powerade bottle they carry like Drake’s relationship baggage) for their autograph, it is finally socially acceptable to casually watch one of their games.

Believe it or not, your On Fire correspondent was voted most school spirited in high school and has long since contemplated whether that $485 Emory enrollment deposit might have been better spent toward football season tickets at a state school. That deposit decision has haunted your On Fire Correspondent throughout the years of Saturday mornings spent in the confines of the Robert W. Woodruff Library rather than in a football stadium densely packed with 100,000 drunk, screaming fans. Thanks to Emory volleyball, that long-desired release of school spirit has finally been achieved.

With basketball season underway, the WoodPEC likely won’t offer quite the same experience as that of Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke. However, if just a hint of what was experienced at the match against Berry is present at basketball games, then perhaps Emory can finally be considered a top-20 school.

“Steroid use will be be more common than Botox is now.” — Jose Canseco

No World Series in Major League Baseball (MLB) history has produced as many home runs as this year’s Fall Classic between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros. The spike in home runs is a bit suspicious with pitchers including the likes of former Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel on the mound. In fact, several players have claimed that the baseballs themselves are to blame. Supposedly altered to have slicker leather, the baseballs are giving hitters an advantage. MLB has long sought ways to make the game more entertaining, and it seems they may have found a solution.

The manipulation of America’s most sacred game for the purpose of increasing entertainment is absolutely … genius. How have they not thought of this before?

MLB’s alleged actions are admirable and should inspire other leagues to follow suit. So without further ado, here is a comprehensive list of suggestions for MLB and other leagues to make their sports more entertaining.

First, another suggestion for the MLB: In addition to manipulating the baseballs, the MLB should mandate that players use the same metal bats that are used in the Little League World Series. Replacing that Americana crack of the bat with the cacophonic ping of imported aluminum would have easily doubled the number of home runs hit in this year’s series.

National Basketball Association (NBA): Establish a dunk quota and ban bounce passes. Hypothetical: There are 20 seconds left in the game and the Golden State Warriors are up 120-70 over the Sacramento Kings. But the Warriors haven’t met the required number of dunks, which will result in an automatic Kings victory. You better believe that everyone will be tuning in to see Steph Curry lob the perfect buzzer-beating alley-oop to Draymond Green in the paint.

National Football League: Ban penalties. Enough said.

Major League Soccer (MLS): Shrink the size of the field, freeze it, equip players with skates and sticks, shorten the game to three 20-minute periods and permit fighting. OK, so it’s just hockey. At least a team of this league’s best players would qualify for international competition.

National Hockey League (NHL): With the MLS replacing the NHL in its current format, this league could play its games on a rink that is a frozen 20-foot deep pool. Plot twist: The arena temperature is sauna-like, no flotation devices provided.

Professional Golf Association (PGA): Unbeknownst to the golfers, the ball is actually manipulated by a controller. Its movement is dependent on the fans at home, who are able to vote for the result. One par 5 drive may be a hole in one, another drive on a hole with no pond in sight may still end up in the water. Then again, it will turn out to be one retirement home capable of determining who wins the Masters.

While those recommendation may not be implemented in the near future, one suggestion can improve sports everywhere: mandating steroids for all players. It’s just synthetic Popeye spinach and would lead to more home runs, more dunks, more par 5 hole in ones and, most importantly, more entertainment. Take out the ethics and bring in the juice.

“Everyone, red state, blue state, supports space exploration.” — Bill Nye

Last night, the Los Angeles Dodgers took on the Houston Astros for Game One of the 2017 Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series. Those hoping for an underdog to win this year’s World Series were in for as much disappointment as an Emory student opening OPUS to find their entire shopping cart of classes closed. The Dodgers and Astros were clear favorites throughout the year, both with more than 100 wins in the regular season.

However, before your On Fire correspondent can give his or her expert prediction, one road block regarding the whole matter remains: Why the hell is this called the “World Series”?

There is only one non-American team in the MLB, the Toronto Blue Jays, and they have not advanced to the World Series in nearly 25 years. While the National Football League (NFL) uses an apt adjective to describe their championship — “Super” — the MLB fails to find an adequate description. To be clear, your On Fire correspondent is not suggesting that the league downgrade its championship to the “Continental Series” or some other non-overtly-superior name. Rather, why settle for “World Series” when “Universal Series” is still available?

With Venus and Jupiter contributing as much to the Dodgers-Astros matchup as say, Lithuania or Micronesia, it makes no sense for the MLB not to expand its scope. With both baseball and mass consumption serving as pinnacles of American culture, why not try to tame outer space and claim its namesake for the championship series? Broadcasting the games on cosmic airwaves may give MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred the spike in viewership he has forever desired.  

There is truly no better time to make this change than right now. Hell, the team representing the American League in this year’s matchup is the Houston Astros, a team whose entire identity is based upon employing Monroe Doctrine-esque policies upon the non-gravitational sublime. If Neil Armstrong could stick our flag in the moon, there’s no reason we can’t stick our flag into the entire concept of the extraterrestrial for the sheer sake of attaining the most grandiose adjective for our baseball championship.

With the Houston Astros’ core identity intertwined with that of universal domination, they should have no problem defeating a Los Angeles team whose name evokes imagery of obstruction or “dodging.” Baseball experts all agree that team mascots are the single most important determining factor when it comes to championship success. Just look at the New York Yankees. Obviously a team embodying American greatness as its mascot would have the most championships; the real mystery is why they don’t win every year.

To support this claim, it’s worthwhile to compare stars from both the Astros and the Dodgers. On Houston’s end, they have designated hitter Evan Gattis. If you were to play a game of pictionary and were assigned the word “girth monster,” a picture of Gattis would be an automatic victory. Gattis is the type of dude to get in the shower and then turn on the water — cold. He’s the type of guy who wouldn’t use oven mitts. He is the epitome of American grit.

On the other end, the Dodgers have pitcher Rich Hill. This crafty left-hander has the body type of a dad throwing spirals to the neighborhood kids at a barbeque, not loopy curveballs to MLB hitters.

To your On Fire correspondent, the prediction for this year’s Series is simple: the Team that aims to conquer space with a contemporary Paul Bunyan should have no problem routing a team whose eluding identity is paired with a Wrangler-wearin’ man going through a midlife crisis.

Astros over the Dodgers in four games.

“I already won the lottery. I was born in the U.S. of A, baby.” — Creed Bratton

Last week, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team (USMNT) failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. We lost to Trinidad and Tobago. Our country lost to an island composed of about 1/323rd of our population — and your On Fire correspondent could not be any happier. What could be more patriotic than not only denying Russia the honor of our presence but also proving our complete and total apathy toward the sport most beloved by our former colonizer and arch nemesis, England?

Our team, composed of fourth-tier athletes too Anglophilic to play a true American sport like football, baseball or basketball, said “No thanks” to the opportunity to tramp around on commie soccer fields. Following in the footsteps of President Donald J. Trump, who rescinded a White House invitation to athletes who had already said they weren’t going, the USMNT said “no” to an event to which they were never invited. It’s the American way. Sure, while the White House may be unofficially located in Moscow, it is still a defiant American strategy to avoid excelling at a sport that would place over a dozen fine men behind the red line. The late Joseph McCarthy would roll in his grave if he knew that young, impressionable Americans were being exposed to Marxist ideas abroad. Fortunately, the national team’s prioritization of American ideals is strong enough that the players decided to avoid even the chance of being within the same borders of the shirtless, horse riding Vladimir Putin.

But that failure to qualify is more significant than a simple Cold War victory. Your On Fire correspondent believes that not qualifying for the World Cup is another battle W for a ceaseless Revolutionary War. The best way to break off from British influence is by surprise attacking them with presents in the form of artillery on Christmas morning of 1776 and protesting their favorite sport in the form of losing in qualification rounds.

When Lady Liberty and Uncle Sam consummated their love, they gave birth to a country free of a hegemonic soccer culture. Our best athletes are playing real football in the NFL, completing 360-degree dunks in the NBA and hitting 400-foot tanks in the MLB. Hell, our best athletes north of the Mason-Dixon Line are dangling, sniping and cellying in the NHL.

It took the leadership of a true patriot like Bruce Arena to coach the USMNT to glorious defeat. When the team qualified in 2014, it was all thanks to Jurgen Klinsmann — a German. Arena recognized that it would be close to treason to formulate a truly competitive American team at the international level. It simply wouldn’t be fair if the United States dominated in football, baseball, basketball, both World Wars, gross domestic product and soccer. Thus, Arena’s resignation following the loss to Trinidad and Tobago holds parallels to George Washington’s decision to refuse a third term: Both provided a grand service to their country and should be recognized for their incredible efforts.

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? — Freddie Mercury

After a one-week hiatus due to Irma, your On Fire correspondent has spent the past two weekends in the comfort of his or her room. Given the absence of adequate wifi, he/she has had little choice but to keep a close eye on the inaugural weeks of the NFL season. Instead of having real experiences — say, losing your friends at Music Midtown and wandering Piedmont Park for hours trying to find them — your On Fire correspondent has been engulfed in the world of fantasy football.

Sure, cheering for your favorite team is fun for the few hours they play any given week, but investing in nearly every game makes the weekend so much more exciting. Plus, there’s no better way to escape the horrors of being a fan of some crap team like the Jets or the 49ers than to literally escape your sad reality into the universe of fantasy.

So without further ado, here’s a crash course in fantasy football so far this year. To begin, one player has jumped out ahead of all others: Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. With three touchdowns and more than 200 yards, Hunt has been the top scorer in fantasy. Really, this shouldn’t be a surprise because he played in the best collegiate conference for future fantasy success: the MAC. Blessing the fantasy world with Antonio Brown, Randy Moss, Greg Jennings and Ben Roethlisberger, the mid-level conference produces extraordinary fantasy talent in spite of its lack of collegiate reputation. Your On Fire correspondent says, just give the MAC champion an automatic bid to the NCAA playoff and see what happens. Can’t be worse than watching Alabama steamroll every other team.

The biggest bust so far has to be Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson, whose wrist injury brought the most middle-aged male tears since Optimus Prime died in “Transformers.” Your On Fire correspondent hasn’t been this devastated since he/she got a Migos tattoo in preparation for Emory’s spring concert. The Cardinals’ running back is not expected to return until the Dooley Dollars of your least frivolous friends run out (around November/December unless they’re getting turnt at Twisted Taco on Tuesdays). Sad for fantasy owners, good for the taco combo.

In case you haven’t drafted a team yet, here’s your On Fire correspondent’s biggest advice (besides obviously drafting every MAC player available): use your last pick on Brett Favre. No one can be 100 percent sure that the man will not trade in his Wrangler jeans for a pair of cheese-colored pants for just one last time. In spite of being older than Dobbs Hall (probably), the 11-time pro-bowler may realize that there aren’t any great quarterbacks left in the league, and just unretire … again. After all, the only real criteria for making an NFL roster as quarterback these days is standing for the national anthem, and Favre’s cozy Wrangler jeans make standing just delightful.

Although fantasy football naysayers may say it is as far away from reality as thinking the president of the United States is Coors Light, fantasy football’s weekly commitment is at least less of a fantasy than an Emory football game.