Friday, December 30, 2011

Year in Review: Stamos, Galifianakis attempt to solve Greece's financial woes during drunken party conversation

Hollywood, CA--Comedian Zach Galifianakis and actor John Stamos talked for more than three hours at a party of a mutual friend in the Hollywood hills earlier this year about the economic crisis in Greece. The two were visibly intoxicated but fairly confident they solved the major financial issues plaguing the European country. "They talked for hours and were wildly animated at some points, but shook hands afterwards and really looked like they had gotten to the bottom of the problem for Greece. They even looked like they had come up with a solid plan for the country moving forward," said one anonymous partygoer.

Year in Review: bin Laden had stockpile of American snacks under compound

Washington, DC--The Navy SEALs that took down Osama bin Laden earlier this year claimed that the 54-year-old leader of al Qaeda was not armed when they swarmed the terrorist's compound with high tech military gadgets. This is true to a certain extent. Bin Laden may not have been armed with assault rifles, grenades or hand guns, but he was packing a different kind of killer ... a silent killer.

For a man that displayed a clear disdain for anything that represented the West, he had one unshakable habit that was clearly very American--almost too American.

"Bin Laden was addicted to American snack foods," said CIA agent Francis Cooke, a 30-year veteran of the agency. "We didn't learn this until [the day after the raid]. That's a serious breakdown in intelligence on our part. How did we not know that this guy was washing down Three Musketeer bars with Dr Pepper?"

Until May, it was common knowledge that the only western tradition that bin Laden cared for was soccer and the the World Cup. He was a huge European football fan and, based on photographs recovered from the compound (and a vuvuzela in the corner of his bedroom), attended several games in South Africa last summer. But his other passion--only known by a handful of his most trusted messengers--was Cool Ranch Doritos and all its salty, addicting relatives.

"Oh, once he popped he couldn't be stopped," said the manager of the only 7-eleven in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the town outside of Islamabad where bin Laden was discovered. "He only came in once, but he bought most of my inventory--every last can of Pringles, Cheetos, Bugles, Ritz Bits, everything. I'm assuming he had couriers come in during the other times. He was much taller than I thought he would be."

Below the compound was a tunnel leading to a safe house/underground bomb shelter with snack supplies to last roughly ten years. Bag after bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos, Pringles, Twinkies, Butterscotch Krimpets, Ruffles (ridged and plain), Devil Dogs, Cracklin' Oat Bran, cheddar popcorn and barbecue corn chips, to name a few.

"I think if we had known this disgusting little habit that he had going on we would have been onto him a long time ago," said Becky Sawchuk, a high-level CIA official. "When we found him he had orange fingers, but there was no bag in sight. Tests confirmed that he was chowing down on cheese curls just before our boys arrived."

The CIA confirmed that had bin Laden kept up these deplorable eating habits, the snacks themselves would have taken the terrorist out of commission within five years. "That is, had the SEALS not found him first" said Sawchuk.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

NHL Winter Classic: Players, coaches to sit in dugout during game; line changes to be very complicated

Philadelphia--Despite the baseball dugouts being more than 30 yards from the rink at Citizens Bank Park, the Rangers' and Flyers' players and coaches have all agreed to sit in the below-field level benches during the NHL Winter Classic on Monday. "The dugouts are far from the action but we wanted to honor the game of baseball during this great outdoor game," said Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers' Swedish-born goaltender, who became overly embarrassed when he was informed that there was no such thing as a 'walk-off first down' in baseball (or any sport for that matter). Coaches will have to overextend their voice boxes (larynges) in order to communicate effectively with the athletes on the ice. Meanwhile, players making line changes will need to run or briskly walk more than 30 yards to the rink gate from the dugout on a rubber mat for each substitution. "It'll be exhausting, but I've aways wanted to visit the Phillies dugout," said James van Riemsdyk, Flyers' left winger from Middleton, NJ. "They should make a little ice path from the dugouts to the rink ... but I know they won't." The NHL may permit the two clubs to each use a golf cart to shuttle players back and forth from the dugout to the ice.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Year in Reveiw: Photo album confiscated at bin Laden compound reveals a very busy ten years

Above: Bin Laden, posing as an ice cream vendor, visited West Point, NY in 2004 where he made plans to build a concealed compound--identical to his Afghanistan compound--on the grounds of the United States Military Academy. His plan fell through, but bin Laden "thoroughly enjoyed [his] four days in this lovely little town that overlooks the Hudson River."

Above: Bin Laden attended the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He wrote: "I attracted a lot of attention in the stadiums in Johannesburg and other cities. Lots of fans asked to pose with me saying that I looked like bin Laden. Lots of good football. Some hotty Dutch fans distracted me from cheering for North Korea."

Above: Winter in Niagara Falls, January 23, 2006. Bin Laden wrote on the back of the photo: "I had no idea that the Maid of the Mist didn't operate in the winter. What a disappointment. I was sad in the photo. But, the ice that forms from the mist on the railings made me the opposite of sad."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Risky Phanatic appearance at Kim Jong-il viewing a huge hit

Above: The Phillie Phanatic makes a surprise appearance at the funeral of Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, North Korea on Monday. The lovable green mascot greeted Kim Jong-un, the successor and son of Kim Jong-il, with his signature smooch and shirt over-the-head move. The new leader, and countless army generals watching, could only laugh at the Phanatic's antics. North Korea has been mourning the loss of their longtime ruler and so an anonymous member of Jong-il's staff felt the "fury green guy" could turn frowns upside down. Even the new leader was touched. "I was feeling really sad because my daddy had just passed away, and all the sudden this green guy, the great Phanatic, comes out of nowhere and gives me a big hug and kiss. A hug and kiss I so desperately needed," said Jong-un through and interpreter. "He didn't have to pull his shirt over my head because it messed up my hair. But, his heart was in the right place and it's one of his more popular moves."

Notes: The Phanatic's hot dog gun launcher was confiscated at the airport in Pyongyang and U.S. officials are mildly concerned that the technology could be copied and used for military purposes.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Year in Review: City tells Occupy 'there's a really cool park just down the street, honestly. Grab your gear and follow us, c'mon. It'll be great'

... where is that other park? It can't be much further. Oh, I remember, just a few more blocks. I am really turned around here. Let me just double check this map. This is really embarrassing. Do we have everybody? You know what, it might be back the other way. Oh, here it is ... cuff 'em boys.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Academy announces they will recognize North Korean people at upcoming Oscar ceremony

Los Angeles--Hollywood took notice of the acting taking place in Pyongyang yesterday and today after news of the death of Kim Jong-il, the country's longtime ruler, spread across North Korea. The Oscars would like to honor the citizens of the communist ruled country at their annual ceremony in February. "Obviously, we can't have any of [the North Korean residents] actually attend the awards, but we'll come up with a great little compilation of their classic 'mourning' scenes for our worldwide audience. Their acting needs to be recognized," said Gifford Benjamin, president of the Academy of Motion Pictures. "Like, the uncontrolled sobbing, how did they do that at such a high level? Crazy!"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nation's cheese supply likely to be interrupted this week

Kansas City, MO--The Packers lost their first game of the season today to the struggling Chiefs in cold Arrowhead Stadium. The dream of an undefeated season for the Pack--a forgone conclusion to almost every cheesehead throughout Wisconsin and the upper Midwest--is done. Why should a person eating a cheeseburger in, say, Flagstaff, AZ care about what transpired in Missouri today? Wisconsin produces over 70 percent of the nation's cheese; a place where dairy cows outnumber people 32 to one and 2.98 workers out of three are connected to the industry in some fashion. With today's heart-wrenching Packer loss there could be an interruption in production. "There's no way I'm making cheese this week," said Robert Tennen a die-hard Green Bay fan and Appleton, WI resident eating a small piece of cheese. "I can't even think about cheese today." Other fans/cheese workers echoed Tennen's feelings. "'Cheese!? You want me to wake up at 5 a.m. tomorrow, drive 25 minutes to the factory and make cheese? You got some nerve,'" said Gail Trudeau of WiscoCheese, jokingly rehearsing what she would say to her supervisor. "But seriously, I'm not making cheese tomorrow."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Financial crisis: City to close all outdoor pools over the winter months

Philadelphia--In an effort to cut costs that will save the city millions of dollars, City Council voted unanimously on Friday to close all outdoor pools over the winter months for the first time in 30 years. "We can't afford to spend absurd amounts of taxpayer money to keep outdoor pools open during months of frigid temperatures and ice and snow," said Mayor Michael Nutter. "The pools were never used ... by anyone from December to March. It was silly to keep them open in the first place. Times have changed, we can no longer spend frivolously in an uncertain economic climate."

Report: Number of babies named Pippa hasn't changed

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

California's latest landslide wins November 2011 Best Landslide by a landslide

Los Angeles--The votes are in: Landslide Magazine's November award winner for Best Landslide is California's latest landslide, which occurred in San Pedro last weekend. "Usually the voting is close," said the magazine's senior editor Jeff Galbright. "It's been a while since I was able to truly say that the contest winner won by a landslide. But, the second-place finisher received 43 fewer votes. That's a landslide for us!" Galbright reiterated that the contest included landslides that occurred in the continental United States from October 25 through November 25. "Including Alaskan and Hawaiian landslides would be unfair."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dessert-minded Occupy faction breaks away to form Occu-pie

Philadelphia--Wayne O'Brien took two big whiffs of the freshly-baked apple pie resting in his chafed, raw hands. Then, slowly looking skyward, and with a sharp yell, declared, "Occu-pie has now officially begun." The twelve or so people circled around O'Brien began clapping and hooting loudly in support of the announcement. The Ambler, PA native and Philadelphia Culinary School graduate is the leader of a splinter group formed out of the Occupy Philadelphia movement. "We cannot agree with our brothers and sisters concerning the importance of desserts, especially pie, to our nation. It was a difficult choice, but one that had to be made. We are the one percent of the two percent of the 99 percent who realize that pie is what makes the world go 'round. Somehow, pie can create jobs. It has to, it's so good and delicious. We're a small group but a damn strong small group. Stop cutting pie making funding ... if there is such a thing." The city has granted Occu-pie, who plans to leave Dilworth Plaza by Tuesday, a permit to set up inside of the La Columbe cafe across the street.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Reid putting positive spin on Vick's latest injury: 'It reminded me of the sandwich in my bottom right desk drawer'

The mobile quarterback broke two ribs versus Cardinals

Eagles head coach Andy Reid told a room full of reporters at Monday's weekly day-after-game news conference that his quarterback's broken rib injury is not all bad. "Yesterday, soon after the game ended, a trainer came into my office and told me that Michael [Vick] had sustained two broken ribs during the second half," explained Reid, in his signature raspy voice, a trace of dried red sauce on either corner of his mouth. "I started to get up from my chair to go check on Michael when I just stopped and smiled. I told the trainer that I would be along in a minute and to go along without me. I said to myself, 'ribs? Think, Andy! Compose yourself.' Then it just all the sudden clicked. 'Andy, you beautiful, glorious genius; there's a McRIB sandwich in my desk. The bottom right drawer if my memory serves me correctly.' And there it was, as was there one in the top left drawer as well. From two broken ribs came two intact McRIBs."

Friday, November 11, 2011

U.S. Coast Guard officially changes old nautical saying: 'Red sky at night, sailor's just might'

The popular sailor's adage, "Red sky at night, sailor's delight," has officially been changed by the United States Coast Guard to, "Red sky at night, sailor's just might." There was no explanation given for the modification other than, "it was time for a change." The monthly publication Coast Guard Digest announced the news with a 4-page article in the November issue. One unnamed sailor offered this take: "It's definitely more 2011. Without a doubt it makes me more pumped to see a red sky. Before I was just delighted, now I just might fully commit to my fellow crew members to sail the next day." The second half of the saying, "Red sky in morning, sailor's warning," is now, "Red sky in morning, sailor's must get a hold of the latest weather report before leaving the docks."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Netflix CEO cancels subscription to Netflix

Los Gatos, CA--Reed Hastings, CEO of movie streaming and dvd-through-mail provider Netflix, after endless wavering, has finally decided to cancel his longtime subscription to Netflix after the company altered popular plans and raised prices. The company has lost over 800,000 subscribers since the policy change in September. "Back when I received word that prices were rising and plans were changing I put my account on hold to really put some thought into whether I wanted to remain a subscriber or not," Hastings told the San Jose Times Sentinel. "I am extremely bitter over the rise in price and have decided to end my consumer affiliation with Netflix." The CEO expressed regret that he was losing yet another customer, but said he may try to lure himself back by lowering prices in the near future. "If I decide to offer the old plan options I may return as a customer. Probably not though, I'm really upset with myself for raising prices."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Report: FOX begged Nowitzki to throw first 4 innings for Rangers

Network offered basketball star appearance on Bones

Above: Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki throws the ceremonial first pitch before game three of the 2011 World Series in Arlington, TX to a sustained standing ovation. Before the 7-foot NBA all-star came off the field, FOX Sports Network officials quickly approached Nowitzki. There have been reports that the conversation centered around a large cash offer if the power forward returned to the mound and pitched at least four innings for the Rangers. "It wouldn't surprise me," said one anonymous reporter about the alleged deal to have Nowitzki pitch. "FOX is desperate to boost the ratings for this year's Series. Some witnesses said one FOX exec was on his knees begging Dirk to play. They apparently offered a guest appearance on Bones." The deal breaker was Nowitzi's demand for a minor role in the series House.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Braves feeling less pressure to change name now that Thrashers are gone

Atlanta, GA--The NHL season is finally underway and there is no team more thankful than the Atlanta Braves. Huh? Say what? Before the Thrashers decided to flee to Canada this past summer, three of the four professional sports franchises in the Peach State's largest city shared something in common. No, not their futility. The Thrashers, sadly, share that in common with themselves.


What about birds? Well, three of the four teams here were bird mascots: Falcons, Hawks and Thrashers. And, the community frequently and loudly voiced their desire to complete the grand slam of bird teams in one city. The hockey team is now north of the border in sunny Winnipeg, which takes a lot of pressure off the Braves to become a feather-coated mascot.

For years, MLB's Braves and Indians, the NFL's Redskins and countless collegiate mascots have been put under, in some instances, enormous pressure to change the names of their teams out of respect for Native Americans. The Braves front office recently admitted that "they never much cared" about Native American concerns, but often lost sleep over the mounting pressure to become, perhaps, the Atlanta Emus, Atlanta Robins or, even worse, the Atlanta Swallows.

"The franchise has been the Braves since 1912 and that's a long time if you really stop and think about it and subtract 1912 from 2011," said Dennis Bilash, a former infielder and current Braves ticket salesman. "Now that the Thrashers are gone, we don't have to change our name. I think we were about to become the Atlanta Barn Swallows had the Thrashers stuck around. I don't know ... maybe it would have been cool to have four bird teams."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rival Mummer clubs unite after prostitution scandal, promise to quintuple alcohol intake on New Year's Day as a gift to parade revelers

Philadelphia--Rival Mummers clubs have come together after the recent prostitution scandal by well-known club the Downtowners to assure their fans that the "reckless and irresponsible debauchery" on 2 Street was an isolated incident. Many Mummers quietly admitted that they hope the scandal increases attendance at the annual New Year's Day parade up Broad Street, but, in an effort to guarantee bigger crowds, promise to increase their beer intake fivefold as a gift to the public. The clubs, as a sign of solidarity, also promise not to substitute 'hookers' for 'slippers' in the popular Mummer song 'Oh, Dem Golden Slippers.'

Phillies say disappointing playoff run 'has totally dampened' trip to Fiji

Fiji--The team, visiting this paradise island in the Pacific for three weeks, says the early playoff exit has made the tropical drinks here less fruity, the sun less bright, the snorkeling excursions less snorkely, the water skiiing less watery, the wet t-shirt contest judging less wet, the parasailing less dangerous, the late-night karaoke less funny and the horseback riding less clippity clop-ish. "Paradise just isn't quite paradise when you exit the playoffs in the wild-card round," said one Phillie. "But, I got a tee time in five so I gotta run."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cardinals seriously mulling Quint's offer to find, catch, kill stadium squirrel

St. Louis--He appeared out of nowhere, startling the Cardinals distraught front office members who had gathered late-night in an empty Busch Stadium conference room to rectify an embarrassing situation. A squirrel (yes, a squirrel) has been disrupting MLB playoff games in this city of 320,000, and the team desperately seeks to put an end to the furry critter's reign of the chalk-outlined diamond. The he is Quint, a famous shark hunter that feels he can transfer his aquatic tracking skill set to the grass and dirt of a baseball field. The team is seriously considering the shifty local's offer. "He wants $3,000 just to find him and $10,000 to catch him and kill him," said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak. "I don't know, he's a strange guy. He's always hanging around the docks on the Mississippi River." Quint feels it's a fair price: "Good chum doesn't pay for itself, chief."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vick to wear mini Beebe helmet on injured right hand

Philadelphia--In an effort to protect his injured right hand, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will wear a miniature Don Beebe helmet during this week's home game against the San Francisco 49ers. Vick nearly broke his hand in Sunday's game against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field. The helmet was custom made by Don Beebe's Helmets for Tots, Inc. for Vick and will allow the Virgina native to grip a football (for snaps from center) through carefully positioned holes in the crown of the protective device. "It feels so good that I may wear a Don Beebe helmet on both of my hands," said a grinning Vick at a NovaCare news conference earlier today. "The grip-ability is awesome."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Will the single shell coxswain soon be joining the dinosaurs?

The shouts from the middle of the slow moving river glide over the water startling the Canada geese fertilizing the lush parkland that lines the iconic waterway. "Stroke. Push right. Left side, give a rest. What'ya say now right side?"

The coxswain is often described as the steering wheel of competitive rowing. Since the late 1800's this usually small, frail-looking outsider (often shunned by most of society) sits at the back of the narrow shell and valiantly attempts to get the individual rowers to work as a single unit.

"My job is to make many ... become one," said John Sedinski, a 4'11", 87-pound coxswain from Andover, MA, eating the second half of an Uncle Ben's rice cake he had saved from a lunch earlier in the week. "I steer, I guide, I yell ... I do everything but row."

The coxswain has climbed aboard every quad, double, single and eight scull race since 1871. Yes, that's correct, a coxswain also sits aboard a single-rower scull.

Sadly, and somewhat surprisingly, the United States Rowing Administration (USRA) has proposed eliminating the coxswain from single shells in an effort to save money, make the event faster, and, they emphatically claim, to "lighten the load of totally unneeded baggage."

"If their job is to make a team into one cohesive unit, then why are coxswains needed for single rowers? It seems unnecessary and ludicrous. I realize this is a difficult economy and we would be reducing the number of coxswain jobs significantly but this is the right move," said Diane Chalmers, a USRA official.

The news hit many rowing communities across the country very hard. Philadelphia relies on the rowing industry to provide thousands of jobs and the city is home to 70 percent of the sports coxswains.

"What am I supposed to do?" yelled Harry Clinton, 41, a professional coxswain based in Philadelphia. "All I know are single sculls. That's my life. My coxswain career probably has five good years remaining and that's too short of a time to learn double or eight rower sculls. What the hell am I supposed to do? What in God's name will I do with my life?"

"I'm a single rower and I would be lost without a coxswain," said Barbara Martinelli of South Philadelphia. "I can't seem to get in sync or steer the shell without one. Plus, we always have great conversations and they offer great advice ... about any aspect of life."

"It is a sad day but I will be joining the rally on Kelly Drive," said Burt Thomas, a longtime single rower on the Schuylkill River. "Hopefully we can influence the USRA's decision."

Thomas is referring to Saturday's Coxswain Rally near Boat House Row on Kelly Drive. If hundreds of rowing jobs are to be saved, this gathering may be the determining factor.

"I'm asking everyone to come out and support the cause. Together we can do this. Let's go! Also, there will be free t-shirts and hot dogs. We're working on free drinks as we speak."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Report: More than half of Brewers players dabble unsuccessfully in home brewing

St. Louis--Ryan Braun turned red with embarrassment when a local St Louis reporter asked the All-star outfielder if he brewed his own beer. The Mission Hills, CA native was unmistakeably caught off guard, hesitated a bit before finally confirming that, yes, he did brew beer in his suburban Milwaukee home. "I do brew but it's really a shoddy set up that I got going on. I play for the Brewers and I am completely ashamed of my brewing apparatus (pictured above). I use an old Igloo cooler for the fermentation process. Hey, the important part is that I have a blast doing it," said Braun. A recent report by Saint Louis University (another big brewing city) showed that nearly 56% of Brewers players are involved in home brewing in some capacity. "It's fascinating," said Dr Carol Von Hahn, head of the sociology department at this university in the Gateway to the West. "Brewers players are, in real life, brewers. They make beer. Albert Pujols can't be a Cardinal in real life and fly all around the country, but the Brewers are actually brewers. I was floored. I mean, I got teary-eyed. Foget the fact that most were horrible at it." The study was made possible by a generous grant from Professional Athletes That Home Brew (PATHB).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Small Pennsylvania town convinced that lone British resident is voice behind Geico's Gecko

Lumberton City, PA--Residents of this sleepy, tucked-away town in, ironically, Pennsylvania coal country have been buzzing over a new arrival for the past several months. Lloyd Howerton, 47, and his family of four relocated to this Allegheny Mountain village from Cherry Hill, NJ for the civil engineer's rapidly advancing career.

The community has warmly welcomed the family with visits, handcrafted pies and social invitations; however, there are quite a few suspicious souls that make their home here.

The majority of the town (yes, a poll was administered by the mayor) is unconvinced that Howerton is a civil engineer. In fact, they strongly believe that the Crowton, England native is the voice behind the gecko of the Geico Insurance television ads.

"The other day I intentionally bumped into him on the street while I was holding a toasted muffin with butter and jam. I tried to get him to say what it was I was holding so I could compare the accent to the tv commercial," said Don Wilson, 71, a retired coal miner. "When I asked, 'Look at what I'm holding, what do they call this in your country?" he just laughed off the question. It was an uncomfortable kind of laugh. Something's not right."

"He claims he's an engineer or something," said Debra Chambers, 59, of Hoit Street. "I mean, I feel like the accent is a perfect match. I know he's the voice, but I don't want to just come right out and accuse him of it. Ya know?"

"Oh, he's the voice," said Donna Billingsly of Cameron Street. "He's the voice. He's no civil whatchamacallit. He's the gecko guy. I can't say it any more plainer."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Concussed Utley recovering slowly, remembers being hit by pitch but has 'no recollection of hitting .262 this season'

Chase Utley sat quietly behind a tabletop podium responding to queries from a small gathering of local press members seeking information on his playing status after suffering a concussion last week. ".262? Who's hitting .262 this season?" barked a usually soft-spoken Utley at a confused reporter who had asked the second baseman for thoughts on his struggles at the plate this season. "Yeah, I'm hitting .262, that's a good one. We got a prankster in the press room everybody." After being hit on the helmet by a pitch on Wednesday night against the Braves, the dazed player trotted down to third base--instead of first base--then asked third base coach Juan Samuel why he was coaching first base. "He was totally out of it," said Samuel, trying to hold back a smile. "I mean, my man's cranium was whacked. He even took a lead off of third toward second. We had a saying in the Dominican Repulic after a player suffered a concussion: your cerebellum ain't quite right."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Brewers would love to forget inaugural season when they were known as the Fermentationers

Milwaukee, WI--Jake O'Neil, the original owner of the Brewers, can (sort of) laugh about it today when asked to reflect on the club's name during its inaugural season in 1970. "Brewers seemed too obvious and generic to me at the time," said O'Neil, 102, in between breaths assisted from a nearby oxygen tank. "I was looking to pay respect to Milwaukee's dependency on the beer industry when choosing a name. I guess I got a little too clever when I picked the Fermentationers. I smile now, but it's still a little embarrassing." That's correct, the Brewers were not always the Brewers. After the franchise failed miserably in Seattle for one season, the club moved to Wisconsin's largest city and became the Fermentationers. The public outcry was so enormous and filled with such vitriol that halfway through the year O'Neil vowed to change the name before the start of the 1971 season. "We settled on Brewers," he said. "I guess that's better than Hoppers, my second choice in 1970."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Should MLB umpires have whistles?

(This is the first part of a 32-part series on umpires using whistles in Major League Baseball)

Cincinnati--In 1893, on a lush green pitch in the English countryside, the whistle, the size of an obese child's fist, was first used to keep the peace during a soccer match between Bracknell and Crowhorn. Reports from that day's contest, over 100 years ago, describe how the athletes were "in shock and awe" of the ear-splitting sound that was, up until that day, used only by the London Police Department.

One newspaper summary of the day read: "Behavior yesterday day on the soggy pitch was the best I had ever seen up to that point. The whistle device turned the normally rough footballers into perfect English gentlemen. Honestly, they could have played the game at Wimbledon."

Before the whistle was a common sound at athletic events, referees would clap, or yelp loudly to signify the starting or stopping of play or when a foul had been committed.

A century later, the whistle, now the size of an obese child's fingernail, is a common sight at most sporting events, well, that is, except for the American pastime of baseball. Why did the whistle never takeoff in the diamond sport, and why, considering the game's commitment to tradition, is there a relentless push by umpires (old and young) to utilize the sound devices in the near future?

Actually, if the whistle were to become a fixture in the MLB (umps are shooting for 2012), it would be a return and not an entirely new concept for the league. The whistle made a brief appearance in 1901, lasting only 25 games at the beginning of the season before being eliminated by Commissioner Gelding Stevenson after receiving over 1000 death threats.

Now, the push is on to bring it back. "When I call a third strike I want to be able to blow a whistle to add that extra kick to my signature shout," said 21-year veteran umpire Jack Burrows. "NHL, NBA and NFL officials have them, why not us? I'll blow the &*^% out the whistle when I throw a whining manager out of the game. You can count on that."

"I think I would blow the whistle whether [players] were safe or out," said second base umpire Tim Bauer, a Huntingdon Valley, PA native. "If they were out, I'd do my normal fist pump, arm bent at 45 degrees, and really blow that whistle. I'd blow it when someone called timeout, as well."

It appears most players hold the belief that umpires would improve accuracy in calling plays or balls and strikes if they had whistles. "Let's face it," said Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman, "whistles should be a tool of the trade. I don't even think we would need instant replay if umps had whistles."

But could the whistle disrupt the flow of a game? Thirty umpires were asked if they would use the whistle to let the pitcher know he could throw a pitch ... every time. That would mean the whistles would be used, for pitching alone, over 100 times per nine innings. That's a lot of whistle!

Tomorrow: What are whistles made from?