Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Santana Roundtable

By now most of you, our loyal readers, know about the monster trade of Johan Santana to the Mets (contingent on a contract extension) that went down yesterday. An emergency TKOT Roundtable was summoned (much like when the Batman symbol is shown in the sky to let the Dark Knight know that his services are needed). So as soon as it was realistically possible, the three of us and a shocked, virtually speechless Nic Marx convened at a local coffee house to warm up from the sub-zero temperatures and hash out this mega deal. We’re sure you’ve been reading about it all day, but what follows are the only opinions that matter…

Q—Alright boys, with the news of Johan Santana's apparent trade to the Mets announced late yesterday afternoon, I figured it would be a good idea to give everyone the night to vent, analyze, and sleep on the deal. Now that we are all refreshed, I think we can better sort out our thoughts and analyze this trade from all angles. For me, like 99.9% of Twins fans, my initial thought was FUCK! When you see that the best player on your team is dealt and you don’t get a proven, Major League ready player, nor do you get the other team’s best prospect, the reaction isn’t going to be good. Luckily, rather than listen to the devil/homer on my shoulder, the angel/logical mind popped up on the other like a bad television sitcom to help me rationalize the deal.

I thought about the contract demands (including the rumor that Santana turned down a 5 year/$100 million offer), how little leverage we had, and how much more upset I’d be if we lost Johan to free agency and got nothing for him. I wouldn’t say that made me like the deal, but I’m trying to accept it. What was your first reaction when you heard about the deal yesterday?

FUZZ—Well another super duper star is out. If you’re interested in sports franchises trading, this state is perfect for you. Our sports market runs like a fantasy team. We make a move about every six months. This one hits the hardest to me because Santana was the best at his position. Peter Gammons, the hall of fame baseball journalist called Santana the best pitcher in the 21st century. He’s awesome and we all knew it. Now he’s a goner because of the stupid way baseball is set up. We couldn’t pay the guy.

My first reaction to the trade was pure crazy. I had so many feelings that it's hard to put it in one sentence. I thought they blew it completely but more information has leaked. Like I found out this morning that Santana put a Tuesday deadline on the trade to the Twins, which just pisses me off. The Twins are at fault also, since those winter meeting trades were a hell of lot better than this one, but giving them an ultimatum? Fuck you Johan. He told them if this doesn’t happen now, I have a no trade clause that I will stick to the whole season and become a free agent. The players have all the power these days…

NIC—I can't figure out what direction the Twins are taking. They lose two high quality players (I use that term loosely for T. Hunter), but they lock up Morneau and Cuddyer to big long term deals. The players they received for Santana are clearly players of the future, so are we trying to win now, doing just enough to appease fans, or building our team for the new stadium in a couple of year? Personally, I think they are caught trying to do all 3, which probably isn't going to work unless every young player has a career year.

DOGG—My first reaction was positive because at this point I just wanted to deal him for something. The last thing this organization needed was to hold onto him this year, have another .500 type season and lose him to free agency. I don’t follow the minor leagues or prospects for that matter because there are so many of them to begin with and you don’t really know who’s going to pan out and who’s not. This is a situation that we have to let play itself out for 3+ years because the top prospects we got in the deal are young and it’ll take time for them to completely develop or completely flop. Honestly, I think Bill Smith did a great job with this whole situation. I know the Phil Hughes and Cabrera trade from the Yankees was the best offer and he declined but his thinking was perfect in my mind.

He thought the Red Sox and Yankees would fight each other for Johan and in the long run include more guys than anticipated to get the best pitcher in baseball. Why not think that? Both teams have done that with every other major prospect out there so there was no reason to not believe they would act the same for Santana.

Bottom line, he got prospects for Johan so it’ll take time to see how they pan out. In my mind though, we didn’t lose anything except 16 more wins this year which only puts us closer to the postseason but still short. We weren’t going to have him after this year no matter the situation so this was the safe play. Bill Smith should be acknowledged for this move.

Q—I’m with Dogg here. The fact that the guys we got are so young demands that we wait at least a few years before we can accurately analyze the deal we got. But we can talk about the (alleged) deals we didn’t get. We’ve all heard that Hughes-Cabrera-Marquez (NYY), Ellsbury-Lowrie-Masterson (BOS), and Lester-Crisp-Lowrie-Masterson (BOS) were on the table at the winter meetings, but we balked. Now we get no major league ready players and didn't even get the Mets top prospect. People are going to blame Billy Boy for this perceived mistake; did his waiting cost us some major talent?

FUZZ—He kind of blew it. I can’t say 100% that he blew this deal given the circumstances. Looking back, you can say he did because of what we got and what was offered before. However, I wasn’t sold on the deals that were on the table back then either. We’re talking about the best pitcher in the game bar none. Yet, not one guy offered was on Johan’s level. Not one experienced player was offered. It was a bunch of up and comers. I don’t know if I would have pulled the deal either.

Q—That’s what I was thinking too. If we would have taken one of the deals during the winter meetings, everyone would have complained that we didn’t get enough for him and that we traded him too quickly. The more we find out about this, the more it looks like a lose-lose situation.

FUZZ—You know, I’m now starting to shift some of my blame to Santana. Last year we heard that he loves the Twins and all this shit. Never believe that people! We offered him $20 million a year and he declined in a second. He’s asking for $130-$140 million dollars!!!! We can’t pay him that! But, not many other teams could pay him that either. So his contract demands limited the teams we could deal him too. That’s bullshit in my mind. Only like 3-4 teams could handle a contract like his so our leverage went down the shitter once he came out publicly with that demand. Maybe that’s more baseball’s fault. You can look at it that way also. He knows someone will pay that so he went for it. But in the end, he showed no loyalty to the Twins, which he claimed he had.

DOGG—I don’t think it’s a problem at all. We signed the guys that we could absolutely afford and our payroll would’ve been relatively large if we had signed Hunter and/or Johan with Cuddyer and Morneau. We kept the right guys in my mind. Paying Johan $150M, Hunter $90M or Cuddyer and Morneau for $115M combined? I think it was the best scenario by far actually because paying a pitcher that much money is downright stupid and paying an aged CF who is going to be on the downside of his career within a year or two is even more stupid. I of course want the prospects we got in the deal to pan out but don’t think we lose much even if one of them pans out to be an above average MLB player. Johan was gone no matter what and Bill Smith knew that since day one. He was trying to get more from Boston or NY but had to accept this deal after both teams pulled out of the sweepstakes. I think Bill gets an A with the Johan situation.

FUZZ—I think an "A" is a little strong. Johan and agent gave him a Tuesday deadline and he took the best deal. But, the other deals were better at the winter meetings and he rolled the dice hoping he could get more. I said before, I probably would have done the same thing, but I'm not a GM--he is. Instead of taking a good deal (not great) he played a little poker hoping Boston, New York and mystery team would outbid each other for him. That didn't happen. Boston and New York pulled back their offers and he was stuck with the decision he had to make.

You could have called Johan's bluff with him saying he wouldn't waive his no-trade clause during the season, but I wouldn't have done that. That's where I applaud Billy boy. Either trade him now or sign him. Billy had to get him out by Tuesday or the situation would have gotten worse. Johan didn't want to sign here and the Twins waited a little too long. They got an alright deal but I don't know how you can't look back to the better offers back in December for criticism on not pulling those.

DOGG—Do we really know those deals were better at the winter meetings? I agree that the deals looked more pleasing then with Hughes and Cabrera but this Gomez kid could turn into a stud for us. The 3 pitchers we got are question marks but all prospects are question marks. Yeah, it’s great to get the “top prospects” but remember, they are “prospects” for a reason and reason is that they haven’t proved anything at the big league level. I think Hughes is dirty and Cabrera is serviceable already but maybe Billy and our scouting staff saw things they liked more from the Mets prospects? This trade can be re-evaluated in 3 years. The pitchers we claimed should have proven their worth by then and Gomez will hopefully be the “top prospect” we thought we’re getting in the trade.

Q—We keep talking about how everyone has to calm down and wait to see how these young guys pan out. But what about the upcoming season? Are these guys going to have any sort of impact this year? I’d say that Humber has a real shot to be our 5th starter. The only reason for that is he’s 25 already and we need to find out now if he’s going to be legit. We don’t have a few years to decide like we do with Gomez and Guerra. He has to prove himself right away. I’d like to see Gomez get another year of seasoning in AAA, but get called up later in the summer if/when we’re out of the race.

DOGG—I think Gomez should make his debut before the other three players acquired. Hell, I think he should be our opening day CF the way it looks right now. Run him in CF, Cuddy in RF and Delmon in LF. That is going to be a very good outfield in my mind. You got some speed, good arms and youth. Start Gomez, let him take his lumps throughout the year and watch him become a star in next 2-3 years.

FUZZ—The Twins don't have a history of rushing prospects. They usually have to put in time in the minors before they crack the majors. Saying that, I think you have to put Gomez in center immediately. Everyone's favorite coach Gardy wants to put Cuddyer out in center! I don't like that and think Gardy was 14 Bud Diesels down when he said it. Gomez may be out of the Wesley Snipes version of Willie Mays Hayes, where he runs like Mays but hits like shit but you need to put him out there. He's a 5-tool projected player that is our only viable centerfielder at this point.

Q—I just don’t want to rush him and stunt his growth as a player. Like you said Fuzz, we don’t rush our prospects through the minors. The Mets, on the other hand, do all the time. They’ve even been criticized by the media for pushing guys like Lastings Milledge through too quickly. Just because New York gave Gomez some time doesn’t mean that we should. Humber and Mulvey on the other hand, I wouldn’t be upset if they get a shot this year.

DOGG—We get nothing out of Guerra or Humber this year. Guerra sounds like he has the potential to be a legit front of the rotation pitcher but by being so young, there is no way the Twins organization rushes him up this year or even next year. We are the slowest at developing guys from the minors to the majors. We develop them well in my mind but hesitant to pull the trigger early on young players. We’ll get nothing out of Humber ever.

Mulvey will be in our rotation this year. All I know the guy by are his numbers from college and the minors but sounds like a guy Rick Anderson will develop. Get another pitch in the repertoire and he’ll show signs of being a middle of the rotation starter by year’s end.

Bottom line, we got a stud CF, one potential stud young pitcher and one potential pitcher who’ll contribute this year

FUZZ—I think all three pitchers start in the minors this year with the big timer Guerra not seeing the majors for 2-3 years. The middle prospects Humber and Mulvey could be up at any time this year, especially with our young and inexperience staff. Our rotation could be a revolving door.

NIC—Humber will begin the year as our 4th or 5th starter. Gomez will start the season in the minors along with the other 2 guys.

Q—Speaking of pitchers, how does this trade affect Joe Nathan? Is it possible that he gets moved for someone that can play this year? I don’t know what kind of guy we might be looking for considering we have brand new players at 4-5 positions (2B, SS, 3B, LF, CF), but is he going to be with this team long term? He’s already said he wants big money and we’ve committed to two pretty big contracts this winter already—two more than every other off-season.

DOGG—How much can we really get for Nathan? I know he’s a damn good closer but closers are dime a dozen these days. If we can actually get a player or players that we are interested in, then fine. If not, just keep him so we can close down games we have a lead 99% of the time. I’m sure Billy Smith has had enough of this trade crap for about the next 10 years so I see him staying patient for now.

FUZZ—Billy Smith seems like a wheeler and dealer. I wouldn’t be surprised if he packages Nathan with more pitchers for another impact player before spring training. You can find closers in this league especially if your minor league pitching is deep. Ours is, so I expect to move Nathan at some point before he becomes a free agent. We are obviously rebuilding, so I don’t see paying him top dollar worthwhile.

DOGG—I can see why you would move Nathan but lets win the games we’re actually leading going into the 9th. You don’t want to disappoint fans either with moving that many impact players in any given year. Billy has to show that he’s here to win games now and in the future.

Q—Again, my biggest concern is if we could get fair value (whatever that is) for him since teams know we probably aren’t going to pay him and that he may want out. I’m all for keeping him, but is he worth the money considering we might not win a hell of a lot of games over the next 2-3 years? Or am I selling this squad short?

FUZZ—We’ll finish around .500 or just below. Our offense will be better but our pitching will take a giant hit---obviously. Scott Baker is your opening day starter. Say that line to yourself again and tell me if we’re making the playoffs this year.

DOGG—I actually see the Twins having a strong year. I like Harris and Young in the starting lineup with additions Everett and Lamb as well. A lot of new faces but most of which are young which usually means good team chemistry. I have Young having a huge year: .280, 25+, 100+.

Q—I love Delmon Young, but I just think the staff is way too young and inexperienced to win any more than 80-85 games. I do think the offense will be improved and that you won’t see as many “quality losses” as we’ve had in the last few years, though that will also be because we won’t have as many quality starts. Liriano is the key to success this year for sure.

As much as I don’t want to talk about it, how good does this make the Mets? Are they the favorites in the NL?

DOGG—I got Johan going down with a monster arm injury after breaking off a changeup that drops 4 feet. He’s done and Mets miss the playoffs once again.

FUZZ—I can’t predict truthfully how the Mets will do as a whole but Johan is going to be awesome. He’s on the big stage now, which he always wanted. I think the NL Cy Young is a lock for him. I see him winning 25 games this year. I don’t see why he’s not going to be great. He’s the best pitcher in the game going to the National League where lineups are weaker. The Mets have a pretty good offense so he’s Cy Young for sure.

The main point that I’m sick of is in the last 3-4 years, we’ve traded Randy Moss, Kevin Garnett and Johan Santana. Three absolute studs. But since we’re in a mid-market, since some GM’s don’t know what they’re doing and since it just seems like a Minnesota thing, we lose our stars. It blows. Start preparing for an Adrian Peterson departure…

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Goodbye Jo-Hizzle

Johan is gone and another MN sports star has been traded. TKOT is gathering thoughts and will be coming out with a roundtable tomorrow. Not in the morning but more late afternoon/early evening so have a little patience pissants. See you tomorrow.

Type rest of the post here

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Monday, January 28, 2008

NBA Randomness

With the NBA All-Star break looming in the near future, and most teams having played roughly half of their games, now seemed like a good time to update everyone on the state of the league. So here are some news, notes, likes, dislikes, and other randomness devoted to the NBA.

Everyone knows that Boston is really good. But did they wear themselves out with that amazing 29-3 start? The Celts are 5-5 in their last ten games (and should be 4-6 if the Wolves don’t blow that game on Friday night). Granted, it’s not realistic to expect them to pull off a Bulls-like 72-10 record, but they have been losing to some very average teams lately (Charlotte, Washington, Toronto). Additionally, both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett have missed time due to nagging injuries. Is it possible that playing a couple of 30-something year old guys over 40 minutes a night isn’t the best idea in the world? Jeez, you’d think a stellar coach like Doc Rivers would know that.

You know who’s really good? Chris Paul. He might be the most complete point guard in the league. The kid can seriously do absolutely everything at an amazingly high level. And his play, along with David West, Tyson Chandler, etc., has the Hornets with the best record in the Western Conference. This doesn’t appear to be an aberration either. New Orleans is very balanced at all positions and, barring a major injury, could make a nice little run at the end of the year.

You know who sucks? The San Antonio Spurs. Not in a win/loss type of way—obviously 28-14 is pretty darn good. More in an “I can’t stand anyone on their team” way. I really don’t think there is one player on the Spurs that I like. From Tim Duncan’s ho-hum, another bank shot game to Manu Ginobili’s flip-flopping, Euro-trash style of play, I think I hate them all. Even a guy like Tony Parker, whom I didn’t mind before, bothers me: you’re married to a famous actress, we get it.

The other night San Antonio was on and even perennial bench warmer Brent Barry managed to piss me off. Quit jumping out of your seat cheering about a first quarter jump shot. And don’t cock off because you hit a wide open three—that’s the only reason you’re still in the league. Even whiskey nose Popovich bugs me. I simply cannot stand this team.

Jason Kidd apparently wants out of New Jersey. I can’t say that I blame him, but for a guy who is yearly mentioned in trade talks, now seems like an odd time to demand a trade. Also, coming out publicly that you want out absolutely kills any leverage that your current employer could have in the trade market. Way to throw the Nets under the bus. That said, I’d love to see him go to LA to play with Kobe and Co. Having a guy like him to run the offense and distribute the ball would make an already good Lakers team very dangerous come playoff time.

The 8th seed in the Eastern Conference right now, the Indiana Pacers, are seven games below .500 at 19-26. Yuck. By comparison, the 8th seed in the West, the Utah Jazz, are eight games above .500 at 26-18. So much for that power shift over to the East creating a balance between the two conferences, as many NBA “experts” predicted at the start of the season.

From the Kevin McHale is a genius file: Brandon Roy is averaging roughly 17 points, 4 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game for a Portland team that is in the playoffs as of right now. But hey, Randy Foye played 15 minutes in a half-assed scrimmage the other day and “felt great”. So we got that going for us.

Speaking of the Wolves, they are absolutely on fire lately. The local squad had won 3 of their last 4, and would be on a 4 game winning streak if they could have held on to the ball at the end of the Boston game the other night. And we’re talking good teams here—Golden State, Phoenix, Boston, and New Jersey (ok, they suck). Looks like that rebuilding is starting to take form. The leader of this resurgence is Big Al Jefferson. He has been simply unstoppable as of late, capped off by his 40 point 19 rebound performance against the Nets the other night, including four monster free throws at the end to seal the victory.

One last Timberwovles-related note. If any of the following players are on the 08-09 roster, I’m going to find Glen Taylor and Kevin McHale and personally beat the piss out of them: Greg Buckner, Michael Doleac, Theo Ratliff, Antoine Walker, and Gerald Green. I’d rather JB Bickerstaff traded in his coaching suit for jersey than watch any of these scrubs play on this team anymore.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Live look in

We’re coming at you with a new feature we hope to do more often than not. It’s nothing groundbreaking but a good read we think. We’re calling it “Live look in.” It’s pretty much TKOT on the town. We sit bar top and talk about our evening. Like Q says; “The whole point is to scout out some local establishments and either criticize them or sing their praises. That and tell of our drunken adventures.”

First stop: “Bonfire”- Eagan, MN

Q: We talked about this a little last night, but why exactly haven't we gone to this place more often?

Fuzz: Because Yahoo maps just told me it's .49 miles away from our house. Why should we go to a good atmosphere bar that's less than a half a mile away? Oh wait.

Q: Yeah, it's not your typical "sports bar", but it has good beer prices, a number of flat screen TV's with sports playing at all times, plus trivia. Really it's just like Champps, but with a darker atmosphere and pricier food--oh yeah, and Cougars prowling all over the joint...

Fuzz: I think you phrased it: "Cougar City." It should be expected though. We live in the burbs and not in the city. Single mothers, unfaithful wives and every other older woman that wants to be seen in this neighborhood---Bonfire is the place. What's funny is that we were just planning on staying for the Gopher hoop game and heading somewhere else. Then when other plans either fell through or weren't as appealing, "cougar city" started to sound alright for the night

Q: I'd been there a couple of times before just to grab lunch or a quick beer and I had noticed a large amount of good looking older ladies. What I didn't know is that they're always there. I'd much rather have that kind of scenery than the annoying bachelorette parties and collar-popping frat dudes that you find in every single bar Downtown. We weren't looking for that kind of party. We just wanted a place to drink a couple beers and watch the Gopher game. Of course, the bartenders apparently thought we were there to get wasted, didn't they?

Fuzz: Definitely! Most people are in nice restaurant clothing and we're in "T's" sitting bar top looking about 6-7 years younger than anyone else in the bar. After about two drinks apiece, two waters magically appeared in front of us. Neither of asked for them but the woman bartender pretty much said: "Drink these mother fuckers because you ain't puking here tonight." I thought that was really funny. Two twenty somethings sitting at "sniffers row" with nothing but a cocktail in front of them. Word was sent in from the manager---two waters pronto! Of course Joe was on our side...

Q: Ah yes, "Joe". I don't know if other people do this as often as we do, but we had to give the guy a name before we knew his name. So he officially became known as Joe, even after we found out his real name. He was all about us ponying up and getting after it. He was quick to see if we were ready for the next round, and I believe he made your whiskey-water's a little bit "better" than the female bartender, yes? No doubt about it, that guy was a cool dude, and that's a very important factor in picking a place to become a regular. For me, there are a few things that I look for in a bar of choice. In no particular order, they are: fair prices, decent happy hour deals, quality televisions (emphasis on the plural) with sports playing at all times, friendly/cool bartenders, and a decent selection of beers. The CC had all of those things, and that is why we are leaning towards becoming regulars there.

Fuzz: Regulars seem to be in our cards after our little trip down the street. Saturday night probably wasn't the best night to pick for $$$ wise. No one has deals on Saturday night. We confirmed with Joe on some other nights that would suit us better so Cougar City is still in the cards even after the $110 bill we rang up. That's before tip. Personally, I spent $70. It doesn't help that I had the "drunk & dirty sirloin" (the real name of a steak there and the exact way I like my women), seven whiskeys and a late night woodfire pizza before I left. Yeah partner, we need to pick one of those happy hour nights next time. They did have a band though, they weren't bad, were they?

Q: I almost forgot about the band. Visually, they had a very odd look to them. As they were setting up, I noticed that there were a couple of older gentlemen getting ready to rock out the guitar and keyboard. I made a comment that a band like this needed a hot female singer. Not even 5 minutes later, up on stage is just that--an attractive female lead. They still looked weird with the old balls on the guitar and keyboard (Joe thought he might be the organist from the local church--now that's funny), as well as the guy on the fake drums with a microphone, though he never sang. But I have to give credit where it's due, they were pretty good, the girl had a great voice (she rocked a Carrie Underwood song), and they covered popular songs that everyone in the bar was digging. As an added bonus, the guy sitting next to me at the bar said they weren't even as good as some of the other bands that frequent The CC.

Fuzz: Ok, that's a softball that I'm about to hit out of the park. You set me up perfectly here. Speaking of that gentleman next to you---100% queer. He sits down directly next to Q and I told him I see that chump at Lifetime Fitness all the time. 30 seconds later he's tapping on your shoulder. The first line out of his mouth was: "You look like you workout, do you workout at Lifetime?" Floored me. Q continued to flirt with him for 3-4 minutes while I tried my best not to laugh hysterically. It's amazing what you see bar top. I think it's one of the best people watching/interacting venues in life. You always walk away with some story when you're on the front line. Anyways, after the lovefest ended the guy went on to eat three hard-boiled eggs, which they provide free of charge. They stunk up the whole joint. The whole scene just killed me. If that wasn't weird enough another regular not cute cougar sat next to me and read the personals from the Citypages. Not joking. I felt like we were being tested.

Q: I knew you were going to mention this story eventually, so I figured we'd get it over with. Yes, the guy seemed to clearly be hitting on me. No, I did not flirt back as Fuzz is suggesting. I politely answered his questions because I'm not an asshole and that was that. How about the fact that after hitting on me, the guy had a pretty nice looking Cougar interacting with him for the rest of the night. Not sure if that was a cover or not, but it was a bit odd. Almost as odd as a bar having free hard-boiled eggs just sitting out for your eating pleasure. I've been to bars that have popcorn, pretzels, and peanuts sitting out for us on, as Fuzz called it, sniffer's row. Eggs though? How is this a good idea? I'm even a fan of hard-boiled eggs, but at the bar? Not good. The smell was really bad. At least they did have some pretty solid peanuts also available. Fuzz was eating them like they were going out of style, so he's probably the one who should shout their praises.

Fuzz: Out of all the cats on the prowl last night, only one really intrigued us, wouldn't you say? I think if you're going to go home with a 40 year old that they better have the goods. That could be just me, but what's the point of taking home a rough around the edges 40-some? Maybe we should write a column called "cougar rules." What do you think? We could even get actual quotes from actual cougars on what they look for too.

Q: Not only is that a great idea, but it would be a great conversation starter for us to use at the CC. Obviously before we write the cougar rules, we'll have to do a lot more research. And if that means sitting at the bar at least once a week drinking with, chatting with, and generally observing cougars in their natural habitat, then that's a sacrifice we'll have to make...You are right about there only being one that would have been worth the effort. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, she was with what looked to be a beast of a woman who may or may not have been a man at one point in its life.

Fuzz: Her friend was a softball player in high school, no doubt. I like the research idea. We need to put out a code to follow by when hunting and bagging cougars. Bonfire is an ideal place for this research too. Joe told us Friday nights are good for specials and for a better crowd. Of course the "bar back" who looked like Donnie Brasco warned us about bagging cougars.

Actually he told the guy next to us, but we listened attentively to his words. He was talking about the Citypages woman that happened to be sitting across the bar now and was giving Donnie the eye. He told us, you go home with her, and she’s here every night stalking the shit of you. Cougars like her are crazy. So we need to find a sane cougar.

Q: Couldn't agree with you more. This isn't something that you rush into, unless you want to deal with a Glenn Close/Fatal Attraction type of thing. We also can't have tunnel vision and just do our "research" at Bonfire. We'll need to stake out other locations so that we can be well informed and prepared before undertaking such an important task. So let's give the readers a little heads up here. When and where are you thinking for the next “Live Look In?”

Fuzz: Don't have a set date yet but it will be soon. Our readers could even do a “Voices from a Stranger/Live look in” from another bar in the Twin Cities region. Sniffer row stories and Cougars are everywhere. I'm out but it should be noted that next “Live look in”; I'll be bringing a notepad because I know I missed a lot. The seven whiskeys will do that. I would like to leave with the first cougar rule being: If cougar bounces around between multiple places on bar top, stay away. She's desperate and crazy.

Q: That is a great first rule that we witnessed first hand. Also, I want the readers to understand that the “Live Look In's” aren't going to just be about attractive older women, we’ll report anything we see. The clientele at “Bonfire” were older women. Well partner, that should about do it until the next time we're saddled up at the bar. Seacrest, out.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fuzz's Stew

You know that girl that you meet in a bar, a coffee shop, a whatever and is putting out the good vibes to you? You’ve all been there. Let’s use the bar setting. At the bar she gives you a smile and a come on the dance floor with me wave while you practically run towards her. On the dance floor she’s all over you grabbing whatever she can get her hands on giving you all sorts of hope. When it comes to closing time you’re thinking… her place tonight at the best or coffee on Tuesday at the worst. Then out of nowhere she takes off with a boyfriend, her girlfriends, herself... anyone except you. You’re standing there with a “what the fuck?” look on your face confused as hell what just happened.

That girl is the Gopher’s basketball team this year---a tease.

A new sheriff was hired in the off-season and boy has Tubby flipped the program around. Last year I went to a conference game and I left 25 minutes before the game. I live 20 away and I was walking into the arena at tip-off. I went to last Sunday’s game against Michigan State and left 45-50 minutes early and we just caught the National Anthem. Huron Blvd was even backed up on I-94, which is a true sign that Gopher basketball has returned to a hot ticket in town again.

The Gophers ended up losing to Michigan State by five, which was three days after a truly heartbreaking five-point loss to Indiana on national television. Two ranked teams on our court and we lost them both. We should have one at least one of those games. Or should we have? Maybe the fast start in that cupcake non-conference schedule has blinded everyone to what we really are.

To go back, we were 12-3 heading into the Indiana game with a bunch of average basketball players, which had nine total wins last year with pretty much the same Motley Crue. Still, we had hope and we had Tubby. He’s like a magician the way he’s getting this team to play. We haven’t seen this type of in your face brand of basketball in years and already at 12 wins in mid-January had people thinking “big dance.” But I’m afraid we’re going to fall short of this “big dance” dream that we’re all secretly holding out hope for.

Now, the Gophers are 12-5 after losing two great opportunity games at Williams arena. We have 13 conference games left plus the Big Ten Tourney. You win just over half of those and that puts you at 19 wins. You win eight of those (a big feat for this team) that gets you to 20 heading into the Big Ten tourney. You’re still going to need help unless one or two of those eight wins comes against a ranked opponent. That’s the other big issue…we haven’t beaten one ranked team yet. A gigantic negative for bubble teams.

Personally, I think they blew their chance. Yes, we have a lot of games left but winning one of those great opportunity games would have been so huge. You can put it on whatever you want--- not enough talent, not used to playing close games, coaching, all of the above, etc... Whatever you think it is, it boils down to the talent level from top to bottom in my opinion. We do have depth but that depth is below average. We have to play 10 deep because the starters aren’t these magnificent stars that deserve to play 35 minutes so we have to play these shitbirds. For example, I made a mental note during the Michigan State game when our five players on the court were: Hoffarbor, Westbrook, Damian Johnson, Abu-Shamala, & Jonathan Williams. I looked at one of my brothers and told him it’s not a good sign when your best player on the court is Hoffarbor, who I love, but can’t carry a team at this stage. He’s a freshman that hasn’t figured out how to create his own shot yet, but he was our best player on the floor against the #10 ranked Spartans. No wonder we lost. It finally came to my realization at that exact moment that I was teased into believing we had a chance.

Look, I love where this program is headed and I love that we compete in almost every game. Some people say that we should have higher expectations for our sports teams. Maybe so, but not with this team and the talent that’s on the roster. We’ve been abysmal for a long time that competing every night is good enough for me and with a bleak sports market right now, I love that Tubby has the Gophers as the talk of the town again. But like everyone else, I was sucked in to that 12-3 record. I started believing and believing and believing and then two heartbreaking telling losses came. Now, I’m standing here with the “what the fuck?” look on my face confused on what the hell just happened.

You guys have that look or do you still believe?

Five other Ingredients-

I’m a big ran of It’s one if not the best high school sports recruiting sites out there. I was doing some digging the other day and noticed a certain team popping up multiple times for 5-star basketball recruits, the highest grade you can get. Many of these are verbal commits but those usually hold unless your name is Eric Gordon. The 5-star rating doesn’t guarantee success for a player but it’s likely. Anyways, the University of North Carolina has six 5-star recruits total in the classes of 2008 & 2009. If you’re not familiar with the star recruiting scale let me tell you that number is off the charts! The #1 team in the country, the Memphis Tigers, has one 5-star player on their team. Kansas the #2 team does have four 5-star recruits, but that’s the whole team! UNC is getting six in two years! Duke brought in three McDonald’s All-Americans in this years class with Singler, King and Smith, which comes down to one 5-star and two 4-star recruits. The Gophers have had two 5-stars in the last 20+ years---Humphries and Tollackson. UNC is getting SIX in two years!!! I can’t get over this. Get comfortable saying “UNC in the Final Four” with this years team and the next 3-4 years. By the way, Spence dog was far from a 5-star, I think he actually recorded the first ever “–5-star” rating.

Could this be the year that both Memphis and Kansas make the final four? Both have been knocking on the door for the last couple years but have always come up short. Now, both squads are a little older and are winning at an alarming rate. Julian Wright left for the NBA yet I like Kansas’s chances more this year than I did last year. I can’t figure it out.

Butler is #15 in the country with a 17-2 record but I can’t name you one person on that whole team. Players, coaches, trainers, etc... I have no idea what their team name is! I know absolutely nothing about that team. Yet, they’re 15th in the land. I love college basketball! See, a team like Butler has a chance come March to show how good they really are no matter what conference they play in. Those kids get an opportunity to play for something. I love that and this is probably the same reason why I’m not a big college football fan.

For all the Arizona basketball fans that read TKOT that have been complaining for the lack of print they get… your team blows. That about covers it.

Finally, a Michael Beast-ley update: 16 games, 24.6 pts, & 12.6 boards. TKOT loves him and wants him to play next to Big Al next year. Al plays a straight post game and Beast-ley plays a little bit of both. He’s talented as hell and would help the T-wolves immensely.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Territory Talk

As we sit here in the middle of January in Minnesota, people tend to fall into a brief period of depression. It could be because it gets dark so early in the afternoon/evening, or the blanket of snow that has been covering our world for months, or possibly the sub zero temperatures that we have been dealing with over the last week or so. Whatever the reason behind it, there are many ways to fight off the winter blues. You can take a trip to somewhere warm. You can turn up the thermostat, put on a Kenny Chesney cd, and sit in a kiddie pool in your basement. Or if you’re like me, you can focus on the fact that the Minnesota Twins start spring training games in roughly five weeks. With that thought in mind, here are some recent Twins notes.

•The Twins avoided arbitration with three prominent players the other day, signing Justin Morneau, Juan Rincon, and Jason Kubel to one year deals. Morneau received $7.4 million, up from the $4.5 million he made last year. Rincon got a significantly smaller raise, signing for $2.475 million, a slight increase from the $2 million he was getting in 2007. Kubel finally got paid, signing for $1.3 million—almost a million more than he made last season. While it’s nice to get these guys taken care of without dealing with arbitration, I think most Twins fans would like to see Morneau get a much longer deal to ensure his future with the team.

•On the flip side, the team will go to arbitration with two other players, Michael Cuddyer and Matt Guerrier. Cuddy is seeking $6.2 million; the Twins are offering $4.7 million. I’d guess the arbitrator will rule something closer to Mike’s number than the teams’. Guerrier and the Twins are much closer: he’s looking for $1.15 million, and the team is offering $750,000. Both cases will be settled sometime in the month of February.

•What would a Twins article be without mentioning a Johan Santana trade update? Obviously if you’re looking for breaking news on this front, TKOT might not be your first stop. Nonetheless, we can give you the basics in a nice, neat format (with opinions) just in case you are not up to speed on the latest rumors.

There are still only three teams that could be considered serious contenders to acquire the best pitcher on the planet: the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, and the New York Mets. The Yanks may or may not still be in it, depending on what Hank Steinbrenner feels like saying to the media on any given day. Their offer has not wavered, as they are still going with a package of Phil Hughes, Melky Cabrera, and a couple of minor leaguers (though not the ones Bill Smith wants, namely Ian Kennedy). The Red Sox have multiple offers, one surrounding Jacoby Ellsbury and minor leaguers Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson, and the other involving Coco Crisp, Jon Lester, and the same minor leaguers. The Mets are throwing out a plethora of minor league players including Carlos Gomez, Fernando Martinez, and Phil Humber.

Personally, I don’t like any of the three/four deals on the table. It doesn’t seem to me like we’re getting equal compensation in any of them. For the time being, I would rather the Twins keep Johan for the start of the season and take their chances. If he starts out hot (which is not normal for him) and/or one of those teams falter out of the gate (or have injuries), they might be much more willing to part with a bit more talent to acquire the 2-should be 3-time Cy Young winner. That said, if I had to pick one of the deals currently out there, I like the Yankees trade the best. It fills an immediate need in center with Cabrera, and gives the team a frontline starter in Hughes who isn’t a prospect that might work out.

•Lost in all of the will they or won’t they talk surround the team and Santana is the status of closer Joe Nathan. The original thought was that once Johan was traded that Nathan would be the next to go. Well, with the Santana saga dragging on and on, there’s been very little talk about Joe. At one point this winter, a rumor popped up that the Twins and Cubs were discussing a trade that might send a couple of youngsters, including the speedy centerfield prospect Felix Pie, to Minnesota for Nathan and a low level prospect. However nothing ever came of that. It would be my guess that if the Twins start the season with Santana on the roster, then Nathan will also still be here. Keep in mind that this wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I know that both guys would be free agents at the end of the year, but with both of them on the roster and the additions the team has made in the lineup (Young, Lamb, etc.), this team could very easily compete for a playoff spot.

•Normally I pay very little attention to anything that Charlie “Shooter” Walters of the Pioneer Press has to say. He spends most of the space in his column throwing out asinine predictions without any reason or logic to them or talking to little birdies. However, a little note in his Sunday column caught my eye. It briefly mentioned the possibility of Cuddyer playing centerfield for the team this year. I would have blown it off as the usual hot air that he is allowed to put in print, but he had quotes from Ron Gardenhire that actually backed up his claim. Gardy says that he is going to talk to Cuddy about the move once they see where they’re at in spring training. This seems outrageous to me. For years Mike couldn’t get a regular position as the team bounced him around from third to second to outfield. Finally the last two years he has been given the everyday right fielder’s job and has flourished. His hitting has improved and he has one of the strongest and most accurate arms in baseball. I’m not saying he couldn’t do the same in center, but what is this organization’s fascination with moving him around? You’ve found a place that works and now you’re going to try and change that? This sounds like a potentially terrible idea to me.

•One last note, pitcher and catchers report on February 17th. That’s less than a month away. Buckle up.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Giants 23- Packers 20

Fuzz: Brett Farve. Freezing cold. That freezing cold statistic we all know. Playoff game. Lambeau field---no chance in hell the Giants win this game.
Q: 0% chance the Giants win. Yeah, I said it. It's going to be butt fucking cold in Green Bay this weekend and Elisha has no shot of winning this game. It's going to be a route.
Dogg: I liked the Packers since day 1 and I’ll stick with them against the Giants. I don’t see GB losing at home this time of year. I think the chances of NY playing well for a 3rd straight game is about 5%.

Yeah...our bad.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Bucket List

With the new movie “The Bucket List” that just came out, I thought it would be good to take a look at some sports people and what their personal bucket list should look like. If you haven’t seen a promo, “The Bucket List” is about two older gentleman (Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) who make a list of things they want to do before they “kick the bucket.” It looks OK from my view but is a 100% guarantee that my parents see it. It’s a parent’s movie all the way. Anyways, below is my list right now. Thinking out loud, this could be a running column...

For Sid Hartman to write an informative/news breaking column. He’s 114- years old so he might want to rush this one a bit. Instead of re-writing what Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press said two days prior or re-working an story, maybe a little inside info from the so-called “King of Minnesota sports” would be refreshing. One of Sid’s column headings dated 1-16-08 read: “Yankees officials disagree over asking price for Twins' Santana.” Hmm, no shit! Hank Steinbrenner came out in public at the winter meetings and said the Twins were asking too much. That was over a month ago! Either write something worthy Sid or kick the damn bucket!

For Bill Belichick to dress like an adult male. He’s three weeks away from winning his fourth Superbowl and will be in the conversation for “best coach ever” yet he dresses like the guys taking your used grungy clothes at the Goodwill. Actually, I'm pretty confident that’s where he got he clothes. He used to work those loading docks and dig through bags of 4th & 5th graders clothes and pick out his favorite cut-off hoodie. Now he’s the front man for the best NFL team ever and he hasn’t changed his style. It’s not working Billy.

For Dwight Smith to have one public clean off-season. You can’t expect Mr. Block E to moral up behind close doors in his own privacy but in public isn’t a daunting task to ask is it? Smoke the broccoli, eat a bowl of schroom cereal and rip as many white powdery lines off a broken mirror as you want, but do it in your own house stupid. Christ, invite “too young for you” girls over if you want too. Ok, that’s bad, but he’s going to do it anyways. Just don’t do this stuff in a blacked out Escalade on First Avenue. You get in trouble for that kind of horseplay Dwight.

Staying with the Vikings, for Troy Williamson to catch 100% of the passes thrown to him. I’ve tried to find stats to make sure that he’s not caught every pass thrown his way in a game but I couldn’t find anything. I’m going to go ahead and assume he hasn’t because he blows. My friend Moe after 13 talls can see better than this guy can dead sober. Note: No way he plays for the Vikings next year. NFL Europe here comes another first round bust!

For Spencer Tollackson, Dan Coleman & Lawrence McKenzie to graduate. This one has a very good chance of happening but it can’t happen soon enough. As a trio they are OK Big Ten players. Individually, I don’t really like them. No one really says much about them because they're seniors and this team is lacking in talent so they get a free pass for their average play. Spence dog can’t hit a free throw to save his life. Bank them in tool if you have too---just make a few. Coleman hasn’t gotten better and something is wrong with McKenzie this year. I can’t pinpoint it exactly but the three of them represent the so-so Minnesota athlete that has frequented our roster far too often. Time to go bye-bye.

For the PGA tour players not named Tiger Woods to starting giving Tiger Woods a run. Just one---that’s all I’m looking for. I’m the biggest Tiger fan you’ll find out there and I expect him to win 25+ majors but can one of these guys be a rival? I don’t care who it is, just one polo wearing chump to compete with Tiger in Majors on a consistent basis. Phil? Was late to the game to begin with, won three and then the infamous driver on the 18th at the US Open has set his career back light years. Vijay? Too old. Ernie? Also too old and plays in about eight US tourneys a year. Adam Scott? Young enough but hasn’t broke out. The list goes on & on & on! I thought fruity pants Sergio had the best shot if he would have won the British but he had his hands around his neck on the 18th. Anyways, there are a handful of younger golfers that have some serious talent that it would be great for the game of golf if one of these guys emerges as Tiger’s main competitor.

For Coach Crean of the Marquette Golden Eagles to pull his head of his ass. Stop playing a four-guard front when not one can hit a 15- foot jumper. Maybe dabble in it for five minutes but not for the whole damn game. Case in point: Losing by 20 to Louisville with that special four-guard non-shooting squad you played the whole game. Keep those shooters on the bench floppy top, this isn’t a game about putting the ball in the net or anything...

For Corey Brewer to morph out of a Flamingo and into a homo sapien. That would be a nice change for the Minnesota Timberwolves. It would have been nice if Kevin Mchale and the rest of the scouts would have done a little sizing up of Mr. Brewer prior to the draft. Yeah, it’s a little gay but when you’re doing your sizing up of the fella you would have realized he walks around on chopsticks. If you've been to a game you know what I'm talking about.

For Nick Punto to lay down a successful bunt. You’re a 5 foot nothing professional baseball middle infielder. I think “bunting well” was in the job requirements when you applied for the position. Was that not asked in the interview? I hope we don’t find out in the future that he’s Carl Pohlad’s grandson and we have to suffer through the botched bunts because of this.

Finally, for Randy Moss to never stop talking to the media. I really hope this is on his bucket list. I hope after he retires he makes it a point to speak to a media outlet and say something asinine just to keep us happy. Hearing him talk about the battery charge this week was too good. It doesn’t beat this quote though.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

TKOT Live from Target Center

A few days ago, Fuzz told you all that a real live professional basketball team is still alive and playing games right here in the Twin Cities. While the three of us here at TKOT are fans and followers of the Timberwolves, we kind of got the feeling that many of our readers simply did not believe that there was still an NBA team in town. So with that thought in mind (and a pair of absolutely ridiculous tickets thanks to TKOT reader/contributor Fitzy Fresh), Fuzz and I headed down to Target Center on Tuesday night to take in the Wolves-Warriors game. The following is what transpired (Note: Fuzz will be coming in with the occasional “game break” from the studios in New York so that he can add to/correct what I said and provide a bit of his own perspective):

I’ll be honest, I was extremely excited to go to this game. It’s not every day that you get tickets to an NBA game that read “Row A, Seats 1, 2”. Personally, I’ve never sat that close in any major sporting event in my life. But my anticipation paled in comparison to Fuzz’s level of excitement. As soon as he was approached about the tickets, he tried calling me. And then text messaging me. And then text messaging me again (in fact he might have worn out the exclamation point button on his phone). With no success on that form of communication, he took to calling my work number. Answering machine. So he went a step further and actually called my school and had me paged over the intercom system just so I would answer the phone and he could ask me if I wanted to go to the game. Yeah, the kid was a little bit amped up.

Once it was decided that we were going, all that was left between us and “Row A” was the trip downtown. The entire time, we couldn’t help but feel big time. We were both giddy as we rolled down 35W. I believe the phrase “our bad” was uttered roughly 48 times. After parking, we walked into Target Center, showed our tickets, and headed into the game—through the VIP/Courtside entrance, of course. Before we sat down, we decided that we needed a beer in hand to make our grand entrance. As we waited in line, who should appear right behind us, but this guy…

You know him, you hate; the one, the only Sid Hartman. Now I knew for sure we were big time. Game break: It should be noted that Sid is senile and out of control as ever. There were maybe 4-5 people around us yet he was yelling like he was in a manufacturing plant. He wanted to make even this slight crowd know who he was. So we mosey our way to our seats, looking incredibly out of place. We sit down and, yeah, they are as ridiculous as they sound. The game looks like this from our vantage point:

Truthfully, it took me at least a quarter and a half to get used to sitting where we were. I spent most of the first 30 minutes there just looking around at my surroundings, checking celebrities (or quasi-celebrities since this is a Wolves game after all), and staring in disbelief at the sheer size of the men playing basketball right in front of me.

Eventually I got over the initial shock and just started watching ball. During the course of the game, Fuzz and I got into a discussion about playing time. We both agreed that Randy Wittman might be one of the absolute worst coaches ever to lead our rebuilding. We’re already on pace to be one of the worst teams in NBA history, so what’s the reason for playing guys like Greg Buckner and Antoine Walker? How is taking minutes away from younger players like Corey Brewer and Gerald Green helping anything?

Those guys might suck, but you have to give them a chance to see what they can do. Maybe with a bit more playing time they could become key parts of this team. But we’ll probably never know because those guys play like 7 minutes a game. On the Warriors side, we watched Brandan Wright sitting at the end of the bench without ever getting even a sniff of getting into the game. This is what they got with the 8th overall pick in the draft? Way to come out early genius. You could be dominating on the #1 college team in the country, and instead, this is your life…

You’ll notice that there hasn’t been much talk of the actual game in this write up. That’s because there isn’t much to say. We’re 5-32 for a reason: we’re absolutely brutal. It’s to the point where it is almost painful to watch in person. Sure there are moments where we go on a nice little run or have a couple of highlight reel plays, but more often than not it’s terrible passes, and missed easy shots.

Game break: The game was so “exciting” that Q & I spent a good 10-15 minutes talking about Gerald Green’s headband. He wears it like a Yamaka. It’s about four inches above his forehead and it looks mightily gay.

Unfortunately, the Timberwolves staff knows this too and has decided to do everything in their power to try and keep everyone’s attention. There are more gimmicks between quarters and during timeouts than a St. Paul Saints game. It would be borderline embarrassing if someone from another city came to watch a game. Luckily no one does because, well, it’s the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Side story: Ok, I wasn’t really sure how to fit this into the article, but since we’re talking about the lack of action in this game, this seems like the appropriate time to tell a story. When you’re in the big time seats like Fuzz and I were, you don’t look around for a vendor to sell you a beer or a dog. And you definitely don’t need to get up and get it yourself. You have servers that come around and take care of that kind of thing for you. So I get a couple of dogs from Jenny the waitress and life is good. I put one down and I’m starting to spread the mustard on the second when the mustard packet gets a mind of its own and shoots straight sideways. It’s all over the arm of the sweatshirt of the guy next to me...

I froze. For a brief moment I thought about not saying anything. But then I realized that he might eventually notice it and I’m the only person around with mustard. So I apologize and offer him all the napkins I have to help clean it up. I couldn’t have felt like a bigger jackass. Of course, Fuzz found the whole episode absolutely hilarious.

Game break: Easily the funniest moment of the night. Q couldn’t have been redder and I couldn’t have been more tickled by the whole situation. And yes I just said tickled. Trying out new words.

Eventually the game was coming to an end, but not without one last mini-spurt by the Wolves to make it marginally close. With about a minute and a half left, there were some “big” free throws being shot by Golden State. That prompted the scoreboard operator to put up the Howl Meter on the big screen in hopes of getting the crowd to help distract the shooter. Unfortunately, there were about 378 people left in the building, and this is as high as the Howl Meter would go:

Now that’s depressing. It also shows what it’s like to be at a Wolves game in a nutshell. Anyways, we head out as I leave the evidence of one of the most embarrassing moments in my life and we head to the tunnel to leave.

This tunnel is the same tunnel where the players enter and exit the court. Fuzz tells me that the guys usually run off the court pretty quickly, so we decide to hang out to see these guys up close and personal. It sounded like a pretty fun idea at first, but I didn’t realize that 5th grade Fuzz was going to show up. As soon as the guys started running by us to the locker room, I look to my right to see Fuzz right up against the ropes, low-fiving and calling to every single player on the team. “What up Al…What up Randy…Yo ‘Toine, good game man…What up Brew…Hey what’s up Shoddy.”

It was absolutely ridiculous. I kept waiting for him to ask one of the guys to sign his pennant that he could tack up to his bedroom wall. I was speechless. It was the perfect ending to a rather interesting evening at Target Center.

Game break: I want to set the record straight and say I don’t do autographs. I don’t get it. I was in no way going to have them sign a poster like Q mentioned. I was a little juiced up and just wanted to give the fellas a few hand slaps. What’s wrong with that?

So what can you, the reader, take from this long, drawn out story? The fact that we now have visual proof that a real, live NBA team does still actually exist down in Minneapolis. If it is something you’re interested in, head on down to Block E; plenty of good seats are still available.

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