Category Archives: Skitch Hanson

Skitch Hanson: Vick of it All

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book Mr. November: How Derek Jeter’s Home Run in the 2001 World Series Healed a City I Don’t Particularly Care For. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Opinions! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

vick.jpgLike many football fans, I couldn’t help but be amazed by Michael Vick this season. I thrilled as he wrested the starting quarterback job from Kevin Kolb. Marveled as he regained the form that once made him the game’s most dynamic player. Was floored when he engineered an improbable comeback against the Giants. I had hope that Vick could put his sordid past behind him.

Unfortunately, his collapse in the playoff game against the Packers shows that he still has a long way to go in order to redeem himself for what he’s done.

In the regular season, Vick was an explosive power, a one-man dynamo, one for which few teams were prepared. His arm seemed to finally catch up with his legs, and his mobility threw opposing defenses for a loop all year long. He singlehandedly guided Philadelphia past the Giants into first place in the NFC East and a home playoff game.

But then he squandered that opportunity with a less-than-stellar performance against Green Bay. The numbers speak for themselves–three sacks, only eight rushing attempts, and a defeat-sealing interception in the game’s final moments. Such a lackluster outing dashes all hopes that he was fully rehabilitated for his heinous crimes.

When training camp opens next summer, Vick will find himself back at square one. He will still have to prove that he is the kind of field general who’s capable of carrying his team deep into the playoffs, and is therefore a changed man. Otherwise, he’ll just be the prototypical flashy QB who is all style and no substance, which would also mean he still needs to atone for his misdeeds.

If Vick wants a role model, he need look no further than another player with a checkered past who played on Sunday: Ray Lewis. Eleven years ago, Lewis was involved in a fight that resulted in a man being stabbed to death, and the linebacker found himself indicted for murder. Some thought Lewis would never be able to make up for his role in such a deadly encounter, but he showed them wrong by remaining a defensive force to be reckoned for the next decade.

On Sunday, Lewis captained the Baltimore defense and stifled Matt Cassell all day, resulting in a dominant 30-7 Ravens win. One can only hope that Vick someday learns how to show such remorse.

Jets/Colts Preview by Sean from Massapequa

Frequent Scratchbomb contributor Sean from Massapequa offers his thoughts on this weekend’s playoff game between the Colts and Jets.

seanfrommassapequa.jpgI am so pumped for this game, you would not believe it. Trust me, even if you think you know the insanity that is Sean, you are not prepared for the brand of crazy I am about to dispense in thick, rich, heaping scoops. I’m wearin my Chrebet jersey for the 53rd day in a row. I bought an airhorn with a loudener attachment to fire off every time the Jets play an offensive down. And I painted the neighbor’s dog green.

Get this: my yuppie killjoy nextdoor busted my balls about it! He was all like, “Hey, my dog can’t breathe with his pores clogged up with Sherwin Williams!” Listen buddy, your dog once barked at me while I was standin on my own property. That means I can do whatever I want to him. Look it up, it’s the law. I saw it on an episode of CSI: NY. You know, the one where they busted that thrill-killing improv group.

By the way, I got a friend who’s on the lighting crew for that show. Says Sinise is a good egg, but Sela Ward’s a total bitch. Keeps givin him the stink-eye just cuz she walked in on him trying to take a swivel chair outta her trailer. The thing was barely bolted down!

But I digress. The Jets are gonna DESTROY the Colts on Saturday. No ifs, ands, or buts, unless those prepositions are immediately followed by the words, “DESTROY EM SOME MORE!”

I wish I could be there in person, but my buddy Frank, the Jet Blue baggage handler, couldn’t come through with a “Samsonite Discount.” That’s where you hitch a free ride in someone else’s luggage. Airport security’s tighter than ever, plus he kept gettin written up for throwin out other people’s clothes. Friggin Obama, am I right?

This is what’s gonna happen. The Jets are gonna score 37 points in the first half, on three touchdowns, four field goals, five safeties, and a little known scorin play called the Hambone. That’s where the refs award you extra points just for bein awesome. The Colts, intimidated by The Sanchize and the fearless leadership of Rex Ryan, don’t even bother comin out for the second half, and the Jets win by default. And also they burn down Lucas Oil Stadium, because why not? That’s what I would do.

Remember last year in the AFC Championship game, when the Colts zipped ahead of the Jets in the fourth quarter? Ryan let em do that, just to set up this game. The man is a genius. I don’t care if he’s got some weird hang-up about feet. He’s eccentric, like all geniuses. My friend Paulie’s like that. He’s in craft services. The guy only eats orange food. Swear to god. So it’s basically just tangerines and Cheetos for him. But nobody else coulda snuck me into the gifting suites at the People’s Choice Awards. I got a coat made outta emu.

The Jets are winnin this game. They have to. Because if they don’t, I got nothing. What the hell else am I gonna root for now? The Islanders are a hot mess, and the Nassau Colosseum is a dump–you couldn’t pay me to sneak into that place! The NBA? I wouldn’t watch it if you paid me. All them guys with the tattoos and the guns and the violence, what kind of example is that for kids? Plus I heard they let Eastern Europeans play now, and I don’t approve of that.

I’ll be goin down to Port St. Lucie in March to scream at Jose Reyes for a coupla days, but that’s way down the road still. So Sanchize needs to come through, or it’s gonna be a long two months for me. But even more so for him, cuz I’m gonna wait in the bushes outside his house with a bottle of chloroform and a tire iron. And I may not use them in that order.

J-E-T-S! JETS JETS JETS!

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Skitch vs. The Fact Zealots

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry: How Winning Lots of Football Games Made Them Good Human Beings. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Mouth-Talkers! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

blyleven.jpgEver since I published my Hall of Fame column last week, I’ve been getting tons of email, and I’m heartened to know that many of you support my decision to keep the likes of Jeff Bagwell and Bert Blyleven out of Coopersville. However, many more of you disagree. About seven times as many, according to my math. Granted, math was never my strong suit in school. Same goes for science. And English. And shop class. And homeroom.

First of all, I want to apologize if I’ve been slow to respond to your letters. Back in 2005, while checking my work email, I clicked something bad or pressed the wrong key, and it caused a server meltdown at my newspaper. And when I say “meltdown,” I mean that the paper’s servers literally liquified themselves. The IT guys said they’d never seen anything like it. Several of them wept openly.

After that, my boss has tasked one intern with printing out all of my email and reading it out loud to me. I tried to convince my editor that I could read a printout all by myself, but he didn’t want to take any chances. I also told him that doing this every day would leave me a lot less time to write, and he said he was perfectly fine with this.

For the last few days, I’ve had to sit in my office while a 19-year-old college student recites extremely insulting emails. Needless to say, this made me very uncomfortable. Not so much for myself, but for the delicate sensibilities of the young man doing the recitation. Some of the language you people used was so vile, it almost caused him to retch. At first I thought he might be covering up laughter, but the intern assured me he was merely trying to contain his nausea.
Continue reading Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: Skitch vs. The Fact Zealots

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: My Job as Hall of Fame Executioner

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know Skitch as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may have read his best-selling book I Wish They All Could Be David Eckstein. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show Mouth-Talkers! You can follow Skitch on Twitter here. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.

bagwell.jpgI always hate the very end of the year. It’s so bleak and depressing. You have to put away the Christmas decorations and box up all the
packages your presents came in. The ground is covered with huge banks of dirty snow. The guy who usually plows your driveway can’t do it anymore, because he ran off to Cancun with your wife.

But one thing brightens my day during this season: Hall of Fame voting. It is truly an honor and a privilege to decide who will be enshrined in the hallowed halls of Coopersville. To know that those immortal plaques that hang upon the wall hang there because of you. It’s an amazing thing to behold. At least it will be when I actually get to visit. I tried to go once, got off at the wrong exit, and accidentally spent three days in York, Pennsylvania. Had a great time, but my editor was not pleased by my 5000-word column on the majesty and grandeur of the Weightlifting Hall of Fame.

There’s some truly deserving candidates on this year’s ballot. I think Roberto Alomar is a shoo-in, and I have no problem voting for him now that he’s had a year of eligibility to think about what he did.

I’m hoping this is the year Jack Morris finally gets in, since he was inarguably the greatest pitcher of the 1980s. Of all of his accomplishments, perhaps his biggest is keeping his greatness confined within one decade, rather than straddling several like Bert Blyleven did, which makes it much easier for me recognize said greatness.

Speaking of Blyleven, I always struggle about whether I should vote for him or not. He did have some fantastic years with the Twins and some other teams (can’t remember which ones, exactly). But according to the BBWAA rules, we can only vote for him or Morris. A bit unfair, perhaps, but rules are rules. If I vote for both, they take away my $10-per-flight per diem, and I can’t be caught off guard if I get on a place without complimentary Nutter Butters.

Morris and Alomar are the only people I feel comfortable voting for. We are now at the point where these Hall of Fame ballots include so-called players whose careers flourished in the infamous Steroid Era, which will forever be known as the most sinister, unspeakably dark time in baseball history. Sure, there were decades when black people couldn’t play the game and players were little more than chattel to the owners. But all those things happened many, many years ago, which automatically makes them not as awful as the era of performance enhancement.

So I can’t vote for anyone I suspect of having done steroids. Who do I suspect? I can’t tell you. Why do I suspect them? I’m not sure. What exactly did they do? The answer to that is murky. Where was I when I began to suspect them? Probably at a Perkins, since that’s where I do most of my serious thinking.

Call me old fashioned, but I think the Hall should only welcome in the purest players. And by “pure,” I mean completely unsullied by accusations of PED use. I realize that’s difficult, because nearly every player who ran on a major league field in the 1990s and 2000s has been accused at one time or another, even if in only the most cursory way.

For instance, I once heard Buster Olney say in the press booth, “Hey, I heard Jim Edmonds did steroids…ha ha, just kidding!” Kidding or not, I have to take every accusation seriously, and that’s why you will never see me vote for Edmonds for the Hall. In fact, if I see him walking down the street, I will cross to the opposite side and spit while I do so.

That’s how seriously I take this. I’m sure Buster would agree, if he were still speaking to me. (We’ve been on the outs since we roomed together during the All Star Game one year. He didn’t appreciate giving up his bed to accommodate my vintage white noise machine.)

Certainly, some players are more guilty than others. I’ll never forgive Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for putting on a phony home run show back in 1998. Back then, we were so much more innocent. At the time, I was a mere 20-year newspaper veteran! Mark and Sammy’s longball contest made me feel like a kid again.

When I found out it was all a scam, that made me feel like a kid again, too, but more like the time Tommy Flanagan down the street stole my GI Joe doll, wiped himself with it, and shoved it under my nose. Some wrongs you can never erase from your memory. Some smells, too.

And don’t get me started on Rafael Palmeiro. That fraud lied in front of Congress about taking steroids, and he still wants us all to believe that he never did them. I can’t believe he would think we’re all so gullible, just because we in the press didn’t catch on to him for several decades.

Now, I’m not completely doctrinaire in my opinions. You won’t find a bigger Andy Pettitte fan than me, except perhaps for his mom, and Yankee fans, and Astros fans, too, I guess. But after all those people, there’s me.

I’m fully aware that Andy Pettitte initially lied about steroid use, then said he only used them to recover from injury. Normally, I think there’s no excuse that can pardon steroid use, and yet I believe and forgive him. The deciding factors for me were the fact that he finally came clean after nearly a decade of lying, and he also won several World Series, which I believe proves his character is above reproach.

I admit I had a long internal debate about whether I should vote for Jeff Bagwell. I did my usual Internal Debate ritual, where I lock myself in my study, with only a notepad and seven boxes of Mallomars. I make sure my study does not have any reference materials or internet access, because I don’t want stats or detailed facts to interfere with my arguments. Then I make a quick list of pros and cons. In Bagwell’s case, here’s what I came up with.

PROS
Amazing offensive production for an extended period of time

CONS
Vague, undocumented whispers of PED use
The goatee

Because of this, Bagwell did not get my vote. The case against him as a steroid user is far from airtight. In fact, I can’t remember any serious evidence against him, really, just little rumors here and there. But the fact of the matter is, someone somewhere sort-of and perhaps not entirely seriously accused him. It may be vague and completely unfair, but it’s enough for me. Well, that and the goatee.

I’m aware that Bagwell has denied using steroids many times. But I’m also pretty sure that’s exactly what someone who used steroids would say. I won’t believe him until he says he used them. And then I’ll be forced to never vote for him, because he did steroids.

Are flimsy accusations enough to convict someone of cheating? Certainly not in a court of law. But in the court of Hall of Fame, all players are guilty until proven innocent..Because if you think about it, putting someone into the Hall of Fame is like giving them a death sentence. If you are not absolutely sure they are deserving of such a fate, you can not in good conscience vote for it. And in my book, only the purest of pure deserve 50,000 volts of bronze.

Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: I’d Like to Know Where You Got the Potion

We welcome back Skitch Hanson to the Scratchbomb pages. You may know him from his nationally syndicated sports column, “Up the Middle”. You may have also seen him on the ESPN roundtable discussion show, The Loudeners! Or you may have read one of his 107 books, such as Everything You Know Is Right. Without further ado, here’s Skitch to talk about Derek Jeter’s free agent talks.

Thumbnail image for jeterhero.jpgI’m not an excitable person. Just ask anyone who knows me–my kids, my editor, that one guy at the newsstand where I get my USA Today and orange Tic-Tacs. It takes a lot to get me riled up. If I get the wrong order at Taco Bell, I roll with the punches and just eat whatever’s in the bag, even if I get a hard-shell taco. (Crunchy foods make me uncomfortable.) I didn’t even raise a fuss when that strange man showed up in my house and said I couldn’t sleep in my own bed anymore. Oh, I thought about making a scene, but then my wife said he was with her and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Boy, my face would’ve been red if I’d tried to kick him out!

But when I heard about what the Yankees were doing to Derek Jeter, that was enough to send me off the deep end. I’ve been quite cranky and snapping at people all week. Although it may also have to do with the small amount of sleep I’ve been getting lately. The Barcalounger in the den is not too comfortable to sleep on, and it’s hard to nod off with all the noise coming from my bedroom upstairs.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, or sleeping on a recliner, here’s the latest chapter in the Derek Jeter Free Agency novella. (Presumably, it will soon be a saga, but I think only qualifies as a shorter work of literature right now.) Word leaked out on Monday that the Yankees think their beloved shortstop is asking for too much money and needs to “drink the reality potion” before negotiating with them any further.

Derek, let me give you a piece of friendly advice: Don’t you dare drink that reality potion! Or truth serum, or factual elixir, or any other sort of mystical beverage that will alter how you perceive this universe. I don’t think we could bear it!

Instead, keep quaffing deeply of that heady brew that makes you think you’re worth a $25 million/6 year deal. As for you, unnamed Yankee front office person, perhaps you’re too quick to drink that Reality Potion. This isn’t reality we’re talking about. It’s baseball, where men get paid millions of dollars to hit balls with sticks. If we all dealt in reality, we’d all be horrified that the Jeters of the world are billionaires and teachers are on food stamps. Do you want to live in a world where we are cognizant of this terrible truth? I sure wouldn’t!

Sports are so wonderful because they keep us from having to drink Reality Potion. Potion? Yuck, sounds too much like medicine. I’d rather eat a big bowl of Hero Sauce, which I imagine looks and tastes a lot like rocky road ice cream. (One of my weaknesses! That and collecting vintage airline pillows.)

If I drank too much Reality Potion, I’d know Derek Jeter is not as quick as he used to be and he’s coming off one of his worst offensive years ever. But that potion’s not the kid of late night snack I crave when it’s 3am and I have to turn the fifth rerun of SportsCenter up extra loud to drown out certain sounds.

I prefer the tasty, calorie-rich Hero Sauce that tells me Derek Jeter is forever young, making spinning catches and getting clutch hits and rescuing a kitten from the Yankee Stadium rafters. I’m not sure that last part actually happened, but as long as I stay away from Reality Potion, I can believe it did.

Reality Potion must also be avoided whenever it looks like Brett Favre is on his last legs, or Michael Jordan might retire. Some might say Favre is already finished, and Jordan has really been retired for years. To those people I say, Why would you want to know what’s really happening? If you want a sour spoonful of Reality Potion, watch the news. If you want the delicious taste of Hero Sauce, you read me.

I found out long ago that when you write a nationally syndicated sports column, reality is usually not your friend. That may seem silly to you, but I didn’t wind up in the same number of newspapers as “Funky Winkerbean” for nothing!

For instance, the Yankees offered Derek Jeter a three-year contract at $15 million a season. Now, if I had Reality Potion with every meal, I might think that this was an insane amount of money, and that paying a baseball player that kind of money when so many people are starving borders on the obscene. And then I might also remember the time my son brought his own special friend named Steve home for Thanksgiving.

That’s why I feast on Hero Sauce, so I can remember that time Jeter flipped the ball to Posada. Hero Sauce tells me he’s worth every single penny the Yankees can spare. He’s worth every penny all of us can spare, and more! I have an old plastic water cooler tank filled with pennies in my basement, Derek. Sometimes I count them to distract my mind when it’s filled with too much Reality Potion, like my wife’s special friend walking through my house wearing only a towel, but you can have it, Derek. You’re worth every single penny in that bottle, which was 7,493 the last time I counted.

Don’t get me wrong: Reality Potion’s fine in small doses, like when I’m doing my taxes or writing a very special column about the dangers of t-shirt cannons. But sometimes you want to curl up with a big bowl of Hero Sauce and forget your troubles. Of course, sometimes “sometimes” turns into a potentially unhealthy length of time. If that ever worries you, you know what the best cure for worries is? More Hero Sauce! Works for me, as far as I know!