On Fire

There’s nothing more American than grabbing a hot dog, heading to the ballpark and watching nine guys from the Dominican Republic make magic on the field.” — Will Ferrell

With the conclusion of March Madness and subsequent desire to bet on all things sports-related to win back the $10 buy-in you lost after Virginia fell first round, have no fear: a new sports season is fully underway. Baseball is back and ready to be the source of all your disappointments as you follow a team for 162 games that last three hours each, just to find out your favorite team has no chance at making the playoffs.

Regardless, your On Fire correspondent is ready to give you an all-encompassing season preview so you can be prepared to make small talk with that one relative who is oddly obsessed with the game.

As much as it is fact that Wednesdays follow Tuesdays, carrots are healthy, Emory is better than Oxford, etc., nothing has changed with the long-held practice that the New York Yankees will spend every possible dollar to build a superteam. Instead of taking strong analytical efforts to develop young players, the Yankees have continued to be the Alpha Chai Latte Brads from Long Island, N.Y., who simply buy their way to the top. By acquiring GQ poster boy Giancarlo Stanton to guarantee the team even more home runs, the Yankees are once again ready to be the most hateable team.

While the Yankees did everything they could to improve, the Miami Marlins did everything they could to tank. By selling every star player, including the aforementioned Stanton, the Marlins sit at the level of a student who flunked out of “baby bio” and are now taking full pass/fail classes on the basket-weaving track. Most shocking with this Marlins development is the divorce between the organization and the “Marlins Man.” Laurence Leavy (78C), the Emory grad turned successful lawyer, became a fixture at all top sporting events by rocking a bright orange Marlins jersey at prominent seats at the World Series, Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby, etc. Now, by not renewing his season tickets, he is the biggest free agent in baseball willing to take his talents away from South Beach, Fla. Maybe, just maybe, he will next be spotted as the sole fan at Chappell Park for an Emory baseball game.

As a change in the game this year, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has led the charge to pick up the pace of baseball play. By shortening the amount of mound visits and considering instituting a pitch clock, Manfred may in fact speed up the game so much that games will be more short-lived than your freshman-year desire to be pre-med (still improbable).

The 2018 season should ultimately be one of no surprises: Yankees will be good, Marlins will suck and top-down decisions will ruin the national pastime.

However, if the owner of Maggie’s can take an active role in campus elections, then I guess anything may be possible this season.

“If you ain’t first, you’re last.” — Ricky Bobby

In the annual lull between the the regular football season and the start of March Madness, the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea briefly turned every American into a self-proclaimed ice dancing expert. But your On Fire correspondent’s heart is broken not for the termination of the all-too-quick Winter Olympics, but for the United States’ dismal performance.

Before I criticize my beloved country, a few notable victories are worth mentioning.

  1. Red Gerard won the United States’ first gold medal in the men’s snowboard slopestyle. Maybe just as importantly, his family won my heart by shotgunning beers at 8:30 in the morning in celebration of his performance. Few things are more American than claiming supremacy in a sport as arbitrary as sliding down a mountain on one fat ski, but beer for breakfast with your kin is definitely one of them.
  2. The U.S. men’s curling team took gold. A team that looks like a group of dads who finished last in fantasy football and had to join curling as punishment defied all odds and trounced Sweden, a heavy favorite leading up to the event.
  3. Shaun White is still alive? Apparently. White earned us another gold medal, but wow, I haven’t heard of this guy since he starred in the 2007 American Express commercials.
  4. Women’s hockey won gold. In a glorious shootout victory, the women’s hockey team defeated our northern neighbor Canada in a test of whether universal health care covers broken, maple-shaped hearts.

In spite of the glorious performances, the U.S. finished fourth in the overall medal count, falling behind Canada, Germany and wait, that can’t be right Norway?! (To be honest, your On Fire correspondent probably could not locate Norway on a map.)

The U.S. has 64 times the population of Norway, and they nonetheless destroyed us in the medal count (39 medals against our 23) and pushed us off the overall podium, which is absolutely unacceptable. Don’t even get me started on Iceland, which qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup despite having a population smaller than Wichita, Kansas. The United States didn’t qualify for the World Cup on purpose, but if we were trying to earn a spot in the field, that would have been a huge embarrassment. Regardless, Norwegians probably enjoy winter and going outdoors or something freaks. Fortunately, the 2020 Summer Olympics (the only Olympics that actually matter) in Tokyo, Japan, are only two years away. Hopefully we garner 64 times the medals of Norway.

While your On Fire correspondent is forever quick to criticize the United States’ lack of even a bronze overall medal, he or she is just as quick to advocate for stomping some probably socialist Scandinavian country into the snowless ground.

“One: Is this or is this not the XFL? Yes it is. Two: Do I or do I not currently have a pulse? Yes, I do. Let’s play football.” — Former XFL Quarterback Jeff Brohm on playing six days after a concussion.

With the post-Super Bowl flames in Philadelphia reducing to an ember and Kevin Hart’s celebratory drunkenness turning into a treacherous hangover, a world without football is starting to feel like a sick joke. In Super Bowl LII, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated Tom Brady and the Patriots — thank God and all felt right in the world. But now, a week and a half later, the abyss in the hearts of football fans everywhere is gaping. The next games of either collegiate or professional form won’t be played until late August.

But the football lull will soon be a thing of the past: WWE chairman Vince McMahon announced Jan. 25 that the XFL will return in 2020. Yes, the anti-establishment football league that operated for one season in 2001 during the NFL’s off months is returning. Without an official name, it can only be hypothesized that XFL stands for Xtra-Fun-League, contrary to the NFL colloquially standing for the “No Fun League.”

The XFL supposedly seeks to make football a fast-paced, easy-to-understand entertainment league that reinforces family values. Truly, patriotism is at the forefront of the league’s priorities and player safety is at the back — and your On Fire Correspondent is more pleased than Ron Swanson at a free breakfast buffet. It is rumored that players will be mandated to stand for the national anthem and respect the flag in all capacities. After the anthem, which will most likely include bald eagles circling the stadium, the league uses the “scramble” to determine possession, in which two opposing players fight to gain possession of a loose football rather than simply engaging in a polite coin toss. Furthermore, if the league follows its tradition of deregulated football as it did in 2001, the fair catch during punt returns will be banned, thus permitting all returners to become first-team Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) candidates.

The NFL has become the epitome of sports adulteration in America, where it can only be foreseen that Commissioner Satan/Roger Goodell will cover all players head-to-toe in bubble wrap and resort to two-hand touch competitions (No pushing, guys! Gosh!). The return of the XFL’s near-anarchic form of football is sure to restore the sport to glory. With provocatively dressed cheerleaders, hard hits, less rules and more patriotism, this is the league that reinforces all stereotypes of American sports culture. Rumors have it that former Heisman winner and most frat quarterback of all-time Johnny Manziel will be launching a return with the XFL — ensuring that every Brad in Alpha Chi Latte will order a fake Money Manziel XFL jersey shipped from a sketchy website from China that only accepts PayPal or Bitcoin. It’s #comebackszn, y’all.

With the revamping of the XFL, the no-fun monopoly of the NFL that limits player celebrations and unpatriotically cares for player safety will finally have viable competition. While critics may say that the XFL will simply lampoon the sport, your On Fire correspondent says give America what it wants. Are you not entertained?

We care about people’s feelings, we’re respectful when anyone is offended, but we have this 80-year name that we love.” — Lanny Davis, Washington Redskins lawyer

In an unforeseen act of non-idiocy, the Cleveland Indians announced Jan. 29 that the team planned to finally abandon the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms by 2019. The logo, first developed in the late 1940s, depicts a Native American chief with red skin, huge teeth and nose and a large feather sticking up behind his head. With the logo serving as the Robert E. Lee statue of sports logos, the removal is a win for non-racists everywhere.  

However, your On Fire correspondent is a bit shocked by the change. For the longest time, he/she anticipated that Cleveland management would address the predicament by altering the logo with maybe a less offensive shade of red. Perhaps even the Washington Redskins will finally respond to criticisms about their team name, perhaps to something like “D.C. Redskins.”

Some Cleveland baseball purists believe this is the first battle in a war towards changing the name to something other than the “Indians.” The audacity. It would be utterly unfair for the team change their name to something — dare your On Fire Correspondent say it — politically correct. Absolutely nothing is more American than using the national pastime as a platform to market stereotypical imagery associated with the people whose culture and very way of life it completely destroyed! I guarantee you that loyal subjects of ‘The Land” are more than ready to go to battle covered in war paint purchased from Hobby Lobby as they march to the beat of their tribe drum bought at Guitar Center.

Obviously, “Indians” captivates the culture of the the city; Native Americans comprise 0.3 percent of Cleveland’s demographic makeup. It’s about the equivalent of the Los Angeles Lakers bragging about all nine of the lakes that their storied NBA franchise glorifies.

While a total rebrand is far from happening, it can be hoped that Cleveland fans can swallow their loss of the Chief. Why not rally around the letter “C”? No one else in baseball is doing it.

All kidding aside, it is truly commendable that the Cleveland organization is taking a step towards progress in spite of backlash from some of its fans. Although it has not fully eradicated its race-based image, the organization is finally starting to become aware of its controversial mascot.  In a city where pollution is so bad its river has caught on fire (no pun intended) 13 times, the removal of Chief Wahoo is a positive move  towards cleaning up Cleveland’s image.

“The team’s fans are known for being passionate and are still remembered for pelting snowballs at a man dressed as Santa Claus during a losing game in 1968.”

—- Jacey Fortin, The New York Times, on the Philadelphia Eagles

Your On Fire correspondent has been anxiously awaiting the world’s greatest sporting event and America’s single greatest invention, the Super Bowl. However, following the conference championship weekend, your On Fire correspondent could not be more disappointed in the matchup. As an unabashed fan of small-market sport teams, we came so close … so teasingly close to a Super Bowl matchup between respectable teams. The Minnesota Vikings, hailing from a city that blessed us with the deals of Target, the music of Prince, and the beauty of Marshall Erickson, almost became the first team to host and play in the Super Bowl. The Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that has been in the NFL for a shorter time than that super-senior who never passed QTM, almost achieved the impossible in their matchup with the monstrosity commonly referred to as the New England Patriots.

Rather, this year’s Super Bowl will play host to two brute east coast football organizations, the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, both with reputations for cheating and destroying everything in sight, respectively. The New England Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl by the grace of God, and more importantly, the grace of the referees. Guilty of “Spygate” in 2007 and “Deflategate” in 2015, the mere 10 yards of penalties called against New England in the AFC championship may as well be “Penaltygate.” Who knows what surprise bit of fortune the Patriots will see in the Super Bowl. Will it be as simple as stealing their opponents’ signs, or as complex as planting an informant on the other team who has been destined to help the Pats’ cause? Could “The Departed” actually be Mark Wahlberg’s way of warning us about the Patriots’ future plans? Who knows: only the Pats, the officials, Robert Kraft, probably Roger Goodell and intelligent football fans everywhere. So a few football fans.

On the NFC side, the Eagles absolutely embarrassed the Vikings in the conference championship. With two weeks to go before the Super Bowl, Philadelphia may have just enough time to rebuild everything in their city before destroying it on Super Bowl Sunday. Despite measures taken by city officials to deter rioting, Crisco-covered street poles could not stop the most loyal Philadelphia fans from demolishing their very city. Maybe try peanut butter next time. After witnessing fans throw beer cans at the Vikings bus, light fires in the streets and drive a dune buggy up the Rocky Balboa stairs, we can officially confirm that the brief government shutdown, paired with an Eagle victory, equals pure anarchy. Fortunately for Eagles fans (and unfortunately for their cars and anything flammable/softer than diamond) the recent budget passed by the government is only temporary, which could easily result in a full blown post-Super Bowl purge.

The last time the Pats and the Eagles faced off in the Super Bowl, former President George W. Bush was just re-inaugurated and “The Office” was yet to be released. The Pats came out on top then, and 13 years later, your On Fire correspondent predicts that they will win again. Marked by an improbable 28-3 comeback last season in the Super Bowl, it can only be assured that the NFL is fully ready to commit another inside job to ensure a Pats victory. Given that the probability of the referees inventing a rule just for Tom Brady’s protection (*cough* tuck rule *cough*) is greater than the probability of Nick Foles appearing remotely competent, one thing is for certain: Philly cannot buy enough Crisco.

“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.