Monday, April 11, 2011


Hey All,

Just a heads up...

We've moved My Sports / Complex to the Chicago Tribune's blog site In short, we pitched the idea and they liked it. Here's why we think this is a good move:

-Increased readership in an established online magazine format, run by pros.
-Better interaction with other sports enthusiasts, bloggers and sports fans.
-Greater visibility
-Easier commenting and feedback on articles.
-Maybe the chance to trashtalk with other fans. Which is nice...

In the future you will potentially see new posts such as short stories, book excerpts and other pieces that don't fit the format of an online sports columnist.

But for now, you can connect to the new blog at either of the URLs below.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Excerpt: "Single at 36, Expired at 40"

Below is an excerpt and a portion of a chapter from my upcoming book, with the working title, “my sports complex”. It is a fiction piece about Tugg Woodward, a newspaper columnist preoccupied with single life, women, and anything remotely linked to sports.

At age 18 men are long since out of puberty. You're a man. Or at least that’s what you tell yourself.

At 19 men realize they're not as “man” as they think they are. You can get a gun license and be drafted to war. You can open up a checking account, and eat as much White Castle as you want without your parents’ permission. But no beer.

At age 21 you get shitfaced and brag about it for a couple weeks. Then you get a summer job; maybe bartending, hopefully not washing dishes or gutting fish.

At age 22 men exit college or have been in a job for a few years. You either begin to hate your crappy job or catch an uppity primadonna’s syndrome called “Senior-itis”

At age 23 men start doing their own taxes, since it’s expected that you no longer rely on your parents to handle this sort of thing for you. If you're 23 and one of those guys who likes to do your taxes, and always has, then you're probably not getting out enough.

At age 25, you're starting to get “serious” about things. Or at least that’s what you tell yourself.

At 26 men are supposed to have some semblance of a meaningful job. Respectable furniture, a career maybe, and a car that isn’t totally falling apart. Maybe a few ties and some decent socks too.

At 28 men start to get invited to a lot of weddings. It’s a function of the fact that you’ve got a girlfriend (hopefully) and that she is getting invited to a lot of weddings. In short, her friends are getting married, and her sisters are married, so then you're next.

At 29 men worry about what soon being 30 means. Just like women do.

At age 30 men start to lose touch with popular music. And men’s music-listening repertoire encompasses what music they owned from age 15 to 30. So for me, the collection (some of which is an actual record collection) spans The Smiths and NWA to The Strokes. Which is better than the older single guy next door, whose record collection (all records, that is) spans Foghat to Falco.

Age 33, men shed a sport or give up a habit, maybe two. Or, at least that’s how it’s supposed to go if you're doing what you're supposed to, being married and being responsible. If you're 5 foot 4, you’ll probably give up watching the NBA first. And within a year you won't even know who boxing's Heavyweight Champion of the World is.

At 35 men start to grow unsightly hair from their ears. That’s about it, really.

When I turned 36 I did the usual sports nut thing and took to trying to identify --in my head— any legendary or even prominent athletes who wore number 36. There are a few but not tons.

First and most notable, there’s Jerome Bettis, who wore number 36 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, ending his career with a Super Bowl trophy at age 34. I know a lot about Bettis since he’s a fellow Notre Damer and also because I'm a Steelers fan when they're not playing the Bears. I even had the pleasure of meeting him once at an NFL promotional event. Nice guy.

Other top flight athletes who wear or have worn the 36 are Cliff Lee before he came to the Phillies; Dave Bolland of the Blackhawks; and Brian Westbrook, who wore number 36 over several NFC Championship seasons, a Super Bowl and two Pro Bowls with the Philadelphia Eagles. There’s also Jered Weaver, the All-Star pitcher for the Angels; as well as Shaquille O’Neal, who wears 36 now for the Celtics. Shaq originally wore his favored 32 for the Orlando Magic, and then number 34 for the Lakers, only because they had retired number 32 for Magic Johnson.

There’s also Rasheed Wallace, the wily on-court wildman who wore 36 for the Detroit Pistons after wearing number 30, only to change it back again to number 30 from 36. Wallace even broke 36 technical fouls in a season a couple of times, setting his high in 1999 at 40.

More gentlemanly 36s are pitcher Gaylord Perry, the San Francisco Giants legend, along with Robin Roberts of the Phillies, both of whom had their 36 shirts retired long ago. More obscure, there’s Ohio State’s Chris Spielman, who played for the Lions and now commentates for ESPN. Spielman is also one of football’s great humanitarians. He’s is a consummate class act, a better 36 than Wallace for sure.

On the subject of my hometown Chicago Bears, I was pretty dismayed to find in some internet research that there’s no distinguished Bear who wore 36, not in ’85 during the Super Bowl year, not ever. But an interesting thing happened. What I stumbled upon while trying to find a noteworthy 36 was the score of Super Bowl XX which I kinda sorta had in my head within a couple of points or so. I remember watching as a kid, but forgot the scoreline, just remembering that the Bears won handily. I was reminded, in fact that the Bears beat the Patriots 46 to 10, winning by the Super Bowl by 36.

There are other things that some wouldn’t care about regarding 36 and my 36-year-old’s fascination with #36. Such as the fact that Dennis Rodman was 36 when he won his last NBA title with the Bulls. Or that likewise coach Mike Tomlin won his first Super Bowl for the Steelers at age 36, making him the youngest NFL coach ever win the big one. Or that Wilt Chamberlain’s 36 field goals in a game stands, even today, as a long time NBA record.

Numbers may just be incidental to sport. I think what it is, is that some of us sports enthusiasts have an autistic quality of being able to collect the little pieces of what interests us; it’s an autistic quality that we’re proud of, and one that helps us figure out the patterns of life.

Always terrible with numbers, I am one who is able to remember a player’s shirt number like his face or his stats in a way that suggests that I should have been good at mathematics. For example, if I was given an address to a cookout somewhere, at, say 3144 High Street, I would –knowing that I can’t juggle numbers on their own—translate this address to shirt numbers of notable players, while most normal people would write it down. But me, I‘d pack it away as something like Reggie Miller / John Riggins. That’s #31 for Reggie Miller, a perennial All-Star who played with the Indiana Pacers; and #44 for John Riggins, a Super Bowl champ runningback with the Washington Redskins. Sometimes, this practice pains me, because, dammit, I hate the Redskins.

But maybe it’s not just us fans that catch on to such useful devices. A big deal is made about numbers by the players and clubs too, and even media when they're paying attention.

I remember back in 1995 when Michael Jordan came out of retirement the first time. Since his jersey bearing #23 had been retired by the Bulls, his new number upon his return to the Bulls roster was #45. Number 45 had been his older brother’s high school basketball shirt number, and as the legend goes, the whole reason Jordan took 23 was because he wanted to be “half as good” as his brother was. Certainly, as we saw, #45 wasn’t simply just half as good as #23 was a few years earlier. In fact it seemed like, within a game or two that old #23 was back. In March of ’95 Jordan scored 55 against the Knicks in New York. And later in the fall, a few games into the ’95-’96 season Michael took back shirt #23, and picked up his old, blistering pace.

I could go on for hours Jordan, his stats, and other notable NBA shirt numbers. Eventually though, the irrational sports lover reluctantly comes to terms with the fact –at some point-- that, to the rest of the world, there are more important things than Saturday night’s game.

While some say sports obsession itself is a gender-linked, hard wired obsession, most say age is just a number. Which is true. Age is a number, and a state of mind. So, at age 36 my state of mind must be that you start noticing cool things about the number 36, and little else.

But sports obsessed men are not the only ones who put stock in numbers, using them to their liking.

There’s a theory I’ve recently discovered that seems to be universal in the minds of women, or at least the women that I talk to, and my discovery of it could have something to do with the fact that I'm now just north of age 36, as are many of my own social contacts. Most of my women friends, plenty of whom are single too, have this dangling obsession, like my sports jersey obsession, just the same about a man’s age. Particularly a single man’s age, if “still single”, plays a part in whether he is marketable in the world of eligible females. The difference in this case is that women descend heavily on one particular number, the number 40.

I'm not making this up. I’ve heard plenty of women talk about expiration at 40, and once I first heard about it, I started asking questions.

“What do you think of men who are 40 and never-married?”

And I got feedback. Plenty of it. From the ones that I've polled, the thought is that men over 40 are expired produce. I might even call this whole idea the “40 Year Old Single Rule”, which according to women applies only to men, but not to women. Specifically, the theory goes that all 40-plus still-single men are like bruised fruit at the market, spoiled milk, or skunked red wine. Damaged goods.

But loopholes, albeit small ones, exist. Sure, you might date a single guy at 40 if it was just for fun, for regular easy-access sex. Or maybe you're in Punta Cana with your girlfriends and you meet some nice lad at the tiki bar, who’s nice to look at, has a good personality. Besides, you're only here for another couple days, so who cares. Otherwise, back at home, maybe if you need a date for a double date with a girlfriend, or a stag for a holiday party --especially the dressy kinds where it’s best not to go alone— then, yes, maybe a single 40 guy could have some use. Supposedly a divorced man is a better catch though, as is one who can at least claim a broken off engagement, since each imply at least a semblance of competence and a track record of moving in the right direction.

But according to Cat, Tess, and some of the other female brains I trust, 40/Still-Single men are not the kind of man you set up with your friends or seriously consider yourself.

Sure, the theory hasn’t been officially tested in a controlled environment, or quantified by scientists or gerontologists that I know of. But along with things like the Kennedy Assassination and The Bermuda Triangle, the idea of expiration at 40 is a generally accepted rule. Moreover, The 40 Year Old Single Rule is accepted practice, just like tax accountants use GAAP.

Based on what I have heard, women’s main rationale has mostly to do with one of two things. Specifically, 40 or being almost 40 and always single warns of a couple key things that women consider a major problem:

1)Commitment-phobia. The age-old thought that a man does not want to ever be married or “tied down”. And it is assumed that this specimen, Male #1 let’s call him, is still single because he would rather be a player than a serious mate, or would continue to be a player even if he were to accept the role, officially speaking, as your serious mate.

Paradoxically though, despite the caution advised, one friend suggested her vantage point that flings are OK, since, she says Male #1, is probably good in bed.

2)The second kind, which we’ll call Male #2 is one that is totally, irreparably socially inept.

Male #2 is never-married at 40 because he’s too attached to his mother, has childish hobbies, or focuses on trivial things that demand full saturation of his mind and all of his limited emotions. Hopefully he’s moved out of mom’s house physically, but if so, it doesn’t make much difference. Or maybe he’s just a tad geeky, Quasi Modo-like. Sure, you don’t want to be mean by judging him, but you definitely don’t need to date him, and nor do your friends, even the most hapless and hopelessly single of them.

Then again, at best, he’s married to his job, one to which any woman will always play second fiddle.

He can't hold a conversation and risks boring, nervous, tedious company. He could be prone to temper tantrums or have major unpacked maturity snags that you just don't have the time or energy to deal with. And, I'm guessing, as other women would note, that this one’s probably terrible in bed. Like you even needed a deal breaker.

Beyond those descriptions there are possibly a few legitimate reasons why a man might be 40 and still single. Maybe he’s a poor, lost poet finding himself. Maybe he’s busy taking care of his elderly mother and has a heart of gold. Or maybe because he’s legally a bound slave or serf, beholden to the beck and call of some Roman-style emperor-dictator, witch doctor, or female monarch in a distant, off-the-beaten-path country. Any of which makes him no more attractive to a single girl than either Male #1 or Male #2.

Sounds like a tough rap, being 40ish and single. If you're a man and you have put yourself in this position, you'd better damn well enjoy it or at least not be bothered by the stereotypes about you, right or wrong. Because according to everyone else, unmarried women mainly, it’s like you’ve dropped out of high school and since then have barely held down a pizza delivery job. Or like you’ve done time. Or both.

But that's all according to the prevailing logic. Anyhow, don't ask me, I'm only 36. I've got a few years until they start looking at me with suspicion.

Andy Frye writes about sports and life, and tweets throughout the day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex. All the thoughts and opinions expressed are that of the character, not necessarily the creator. And this is all you’re getting about the book for a while.

Written words © 2011 Pics courtesy of the store "customize your jersey" tool.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Book Excerpt: "Comic Moments Following Me"

Below is an excerpt, and one of the shorter chapters of my upcoming book. The working title, “my sports complex” is a fiction piece about a preoccupied sports writer.

“Gay Gadgets for Guys is now following you on Twitter!”

That was the first email I got when I woke up this morning. I don’t usually get accosted by such things before 8am.

I’ve got this Twitter account as an extension of my life as a professional sports writer and as an unofficial extension of my newspaper column. Just about every journalist has one except perhaps for that quintessential complainer Andy Rooney. And I'm glad Andy Rooney doesn’t have a Twitter account, because he’d only go onto to 60 Minutes and say “Ya know, maybe it’s just me…” and then bitch and moan about his Twitter fix.

Technically speaking, the account by which I am known as @TuggTweets is mine and only mine. But even though it is not affiliated with the Philadelphia Globe, I do have to watch what I say, not only keeping it clean (for the most part) but also keeping what I put out there strictly about today’s game or tomorrow’s sports world, in line with what’s happening in sports. Not my haughty opinions or flippant hourly obsessions.

Sure, social media had changed the way we interact with each other, and it has probably even pushed the boundaries of what we’re comfortable saying. Much of the feedback or “tweets” as they call them come in the form of fan responses; some who agree, some who think my daily diatribes are full of it, and some who just want to shout out as loud as they can digitally about the Phils, Giants, Cliff Lee, LeBron, Tiger Woods or whatever else. Likewise, every time a new user or fan decides to follow me I get an email informing me of it.

This morning’s blurb on my BlackBerry was a special one though, because it’s not every day that I get notification that gay men with toys are “following” me, albeit following me on Twitter, not literally following me, but virtually following me. Hey, I’m all for gay rights and for the community, so that’s no issue. I just think that there’s a chock full of comic value laden in almost every little thing that comes your way. Later, when I took the time to read the email, I found the email’s corporate disclaimer about my right to report Gay Gadgets for "abusive behavior" or “spam” a bit hilarious too. I guess if I am afraid that Gay Gadgets is spamming my account then I can just go ahead and block them. I suspect though that in some quarters that could be considered digital cock blocking.

But it made a little more sense when I read the info within, which took a second to tell me where this came from.

“@GayGadgetsXO follows a user who follows you:
* Tess Morgenstern -”

It makes a lot of sense that this early morning charm came directly by way of my stand up comic friend, the potty-mouthed Tess, as her online moniker, @TessSaysF_Alot, aptly describes her humor and the potency that goes with it. The link to, or the “follow” by the gadgets guys probably isn’t an intentional joke, nor do I think she put them up to it. But it just demonstrates the odd way by which we all cross-pollinate in the digital age. I tweet the same way I write, about the same old things. About sports, day in and day out. Every once in a while like today, the boomerang comes back to me with a big dildo attached to it. Such is the life of a full time writer and semi-professional smart ass.

But the mention of Tess, serendipitously name-dropped by my new friends in the gadget business, brought to mind a funny episode that happened the same day I saw her last, a week ago. My cell went off and I heard what sounded very clearly like a kid’s voice, and then it went like this…

“Hello, this is Tugg.”
“Hello,” says the little voice.
“Who’s this?”
“Doug? Who…Who’s this?”
“No. It’s Tugg.”
“Who’s Doug?”
“I think you got the wrong number, kid.”
“Who are you trying to call?”
< Click. >

Then a minute later the phone rang again. I ignored it and then it rang another time, and I ignored that too. Because I was eating lunch and reading up on what the sports page over at the Inquirer had to say today, I had my attentions occupied. I didn’t feel like answering and I wouldn’t have answered again no matter what, not right now, even if it was my editor, a friend or god forbid, my mother. Later, after finishing my Thai, I checked my voice mail to find the sounds of the same anonymous kid.

“Hey you! I’m gonna kick your butt!” < Click. >

For a minute I felt my wise guy inside jump up, ready to spew a comeback comment. Either that or it was just the 14 year old I used to be, who occasionally rears his ugly, petulant head that awoke me from my grown-up workday grumble. I wanted to say “bring it on” to this kid since, you know, I could totally take him and probably kick his dad’s ass too.

It is the little comic moments like these that, at least in my days, make the stale air fresh again, and this was one of those privately side-splitting things that you want to tell somebody about back at work, like, “Guess what… I just got threatened by an 8 year old.” This little kid who should have been at school or daycamp just called to tell me, some stranger, that he was gonna kick my ass. And in a way he did kick my ass or at least knock me off my serious grown-up perch. Oh, if I only coulda thanked him.

But I was in for more as the day moved along. Tess and I have this ritual about once every other month, and once a month in the summertime, of blowing off our respective work to cut out early and grab some margaritas at, say 2 or 3pm in the afternoon. Much of her gig, besides the drama teaching, is at night and mine is whenever, so mid day on a Tuesday or Wednesday just makes sense for alcohol as long as there’s nothing pressing to do. And when you get to make your own schedule, as I do and she does, then you take it as one of the best perks of the job and use it wisely. I figured it was time for us to catch up; me on her latest life antics, and her getting into my business and the details she loved about the women I'm chasing.

But better yet, this day I got to drop in early on her, to check out her improvisational comedy classes at the mini mecca of comedy on the East Coast known as The Tableau Theatre. Tableau is housed in a majestic old bank building, one of the kinds you often see in Philly that I love, bearing the name of an old and now defunct financial institution up on the frieze above the doorways. I think Tess teaches the class because she loves it and it is some nice extra pay. It probably keeps her fresh in between the local shows she does and her cross-country stints that happen twice a year, when she hits the big clubs like Zanies in Chicago and Mitzy’s in LA. But behind the stoic marble doorways was a boiling comic cauldron, one that looked as though it was a nutty gameshow shot out of the bowels of hell onto a stage. As a spectator I’d get a closer glimpse of what makes a comic mind work, and maybe what Dante was onto.

“Okay. Sandy. Mitch. Mike. You're up. And…and you're at work along the shore on the dock, bitches. Go”.

That’s what I hear as I peer in and plop down in a seat in the back row, as I let myself in, acknowledged by a winky smile and a Marine Corps salute from Tess. But before letting the three players get on with it, Tess interrupts the moment with some coaching about commitment, going into the scene.

“Remember guys: whatever is happening, commit to your character, the character you're choosing. And remember, it only sucks if you don’t commit and decide it sucks.” They nod. “So don’t let it suck. Have fun with it.”

Tess doesn’t really know anything about sports, and she’d tell you herself that she doesn’t care about sports. Or as she put it to me once, “I don’t give a camel’s cock about sports, my friend”. I don’t know what makes her comic mouth so rough, or rough to some people that is, yet I'm just as humored by every word that comes out of her mouth as I think she is. In truth, she’s really a nice person and someone who can disarm you. But she likes to put you on the spot –you, me and everybody—and that’s part of the fun of it. But like the most committed and intense athletes I’ve known --both pro and everyday amateur-- she’s got a thing, a hang-up maybe, that demands performance. And she’s got an energy that brings it out of you. It makes me think Tess instructs these up-and-coming actors because it gives her a chance, just a little bit once in a while, to mess with people but make them witness, maybe force-feed themselves the comedy in life in the same way that little kid made me feel it on the phone that day. What Tess was instructing was something pretty simple. That is, when you get an idea to stick with it, push it and make it work. If you're on stage and your character is sweeping then floor then sweep with enthusiasm. In improv, it turns out, if you stick to what you’re doing you’ll find the scene and so will the others in the scene with you. Otherwise, if you drop your initiation in lieu of something else, then you're confused and confusing the audience, looking like an asshole.

The scene, as it turned out, was pretty entertaining. Somehow, from that simple instruction that “you're at work at a dock”, the mini-show that morphed out of it was a silent one in which one longshoreman yanked a rope and the other two bounced, back and forth, totally silent. And for about four minutes I was entertained by a silent tug-of-war that could have been crafted by classic Buster Keaton or the Keystone Cops, but with a script. After the skit, a few more words about commitment came out.

“If you don’t like something at first, what you discover in the scene, then take your face and rub it into that bitch, until you love that shit. Whatever happened up there you guys found what was going on and worked with it. Nice one.”

And I agreed to, nice job. But that was honestly the first time I had ever heard the topic of commitment described that way: as something you'd enjoy if only you’d rub your face in it more.

For a moment it sounded like words an angry Vince Lombardi would have rambled to his Packers on a lazy day of bad practice. Or something that your wrestling coach says when you're puking after the day’s block of sprinting, conditioning, jumping rope, and rolling around on a mat with other sweaty wrestlers, only to be told you need to step it up. Then again, this sentiment --if you don’t like something in life, rub your face in that shit-- is kind of a statement you’d find in a manic, over-caffeinated version of a Deepak Chopra day calendar. Still it makes sense.

The best stand up greats like Tess, and others like Eddy Izzard, Patton Oswalt, Bruce, Belzer, and Wright, and even less blue-humored types like Bill Cosby and the great Robert Klein can pull off a great comic masterpiece on their own, on stage for a good hour or so, creating their own space and filling it solely from their own mania and the creativity inside that drives them. But the comedy, the best comedy I think comes out of great group sketches I’ve seen --and that we’ve all seen-- in movies, Saturday Night Live, etc. Maybe that’s why I came today. Nothing against solo stand-up, but I think sketch comedy is such a feast, and when it really works that’s when it resembles a family style meal. It’s like everyone takes a slice of this, a scoop of that and everyone passes it around until we’re all served, making a mess together. Meanwhile, someone else breaks bread while someone else pours wine, another spills the wine, heightening the experience. The kids jump out of their chairs, peas hit the floor, and grandpa’s dentures slip out and get stuck in a corn cob. All of this makes it an enjoyable and laughable meal together. And comedy, like eating together, is real life.

In another sketch scene, four of them went up on stage standing tall, arms out, acting like trees. The fifth player, catching onto this scenery, picked apples one tree at a time, breaking into monologue, talking about his trees, naming them one by one. The first tree he called a “Japanese Maple” keeled over and committed a hari kari ritual suicide, and then when he plucked the fruit from a “Palestinian Delicious” as he called it, the tree, in politically incorrect fashion just blew up.

Suddenly we had a scene about trees killing themselves. Could have been just in my mind, but it dawned on me that same week the news reported the poisoned oak trees at Auburn, and someone blamed Alabama football fans. So it looked like I just got an unscripted version of the day’s news and social commentary, just for stopping in. Rather, these open eared, witty comics just switched their brains on the high notch and took each others subtle cues, rolling with it, producing something impromptu that at least I thought was funny.

There was no script, and with improv there never is a script, yet it all worked, just like much of what happens in the moment of the day, day in, day out. I get that improvisational comedy is about taking an idea, agreeing to it, heightening it, and even making a repetitive game out of it. The question that always comes up is about what creates comedy. What makes funny funny?

There isn’t an easy answer, or at least not an answer that is easily articulated. I know when something is obviously funny, we all do. Maybe some people have it and others just don’t, which would suggest that funny is a personality trait, but I don’t think that it is. But I’d just observe.

In another scene, a lanky, perky redhead was on stage with a grey and tubby, unshaven middle aged buy bearing his ubiquitous smartass smirk. I forget what the Tess’s suggestion was, but suddenly we were at a singles bar. I was not surprised that the talk converted its idle chatter into a commentary about sexuality.

“We have a lot in common you and me,” the guy said, like he was hitting on the girl at a snazzy nightclub. He goes on to stammer on about how much he loves Italian girls, and that his mother is a lesbian. The quippy redhead responded, “As an ethnic half-Italian I find it so sexy that you're ethnically half lesbian.”

I laughed as did the rest of the small crowd. Ethnically half lesbian? I don’t quite understand the mechanics of what made that comment funny. But it is funny, when you think about it, that someone, somewhere out there might actually describe himself as being ethnically half lesbian. Hell, I wish I was at least half lesbian
“Allright. Scene.” Tess called, ending it on a high note. “Nice work. See what happens when you let it flow and just enjoy the fucking ride?”

I think for one that Tess had a way of pumping us up with her off beat instructional style and her cussing encouragement. I had a gym teacher in high school who once told me to “get my shit together”, but had never had a professor to tell me to enjoy the ride or to “get off hard” in Journalism 101 the way Tess advocated her students to get off on stage. That freedom and encouragement to say “yes” to the idea that comes up first, is what I heard Tess call the “Yes And” concept. And it seems to be what makes it work every time. Whatever you’re given you say “yes” to, and then add something else. Yes and.

Though I’d never taken an acting class or a comedy workshop in my life, and I probably wouldn’t make time to, I thought for a minute that maybe “Yes And” was something I needed a little bit more of in my life, here in the grind.

Comic class cleared out, and Tess gave me the usual hug hello and a kiss on the cheek, stating “See, people who get high can get things accomplished.” I never doubted her will to get things accomplished. And high or not I wouldn’t think her weed is what makes Tess and everything around her funny.

Like the end note at the end of that email said, “You do not follow Gay Products Gadgets. What's Next?” I wasn’t sure what was next to follow, but I’d be ready.

Andy Frye writes about sports and life here and tweets throughout the day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex, trying to keep up with Andy Rooney.

Written words © 2010 Pics courtesy of Kaleidoscope Isle of Wight.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Who will replace Fergie?

For those of you who were hoping I had something to say about the Super Bowl Halftime Show, I’m sorry. Or, if you were hoping to find pics of the gyrating curves of Stacy Ann Ferguson, aka “Fergie” of the Black Eyed Peas, again my apologies, but you’ve got the wrong Fergie.

Sir Alex Ferguson has lots of bling for an avowed socialist.

You may know very little about soccer abroad, or at home. It may even bother you that most of the world calls soccer “football”, not to be confused with the kind that just engulfed our entire Sunday. But chances are that if you know anything about sports, you know that Manchester United is arguably the biggest sports club on the planet.

Bigger than the Dallas Cowboys, bigger than the Green Bay Packers. Bigger than the LA Lakers, bigger than the Chicago Bulls in Michael Jordan’s heyday and bigger than any hockey team, even with Wayne Gretzky. Their supporters are everywhere across the world, their reach stretching farther than Steelers fans, Ohio State Football crazies, and probably Catholic missionaries too. Only the New York Yankees or perhaps their Spanish soccer rival Real Madrid, primarily in the Spanish-speaking world, venture to come even close.

You may hate Manchester United or soccer as a whole, and may have stopped reading by now. But if not, it’s important to notice that besides the millions of fans, fame, money, 11 championships in two decades, and world titles, there is one solid factor that has remained a constant in the 25 years of success for Man United. That is their coach and manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who has been at the helm for 25 years.

José Mourinho (l) wants Fergie’s job, but his mouth gets him in trouble with media and club owners.

But Laurent Blanc aka “Larry White” (middle) seems to be a favored front runner, while Martin O’Neill (r) is a possibility.

A coach with a 25 year stint at any organization is a rarity in big money sports. Within English Football, Newcastle United, a cross-country rival has had 13 managers since the arrival of Ferguson at Man United.

In college basketball, Jim Boheim has stayed at the controls at Syracuse almost as long since the late 1980s, along with Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Maryland’s Gary Williams. But in pro sports Phil Jackson’s six championships and total dominance of the NBA in eight years bought him nothing more than a open door leading outward from the Chicago Bulls. Even Billy Martin’s spotty decade with the Yankees didn’t occur without Martin getting fired several times.

United has hosted some of the world’s biggest footballers, both acquired and home grown, often watching them excel to greater heights. Legends like Paul Ince, Eric Cantona, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham have all come and gone, while others like Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney have stayed. Like it or not though, perhaps no player, no matter how famous, no matter how excellent, is bigger than the club and its manager.

Nonetheless, United’s training academy appears to continue morphing crafty 13 year olds toward becoming world class players; and the coffers are rife with money to acquire new talent from other clubs bent on cashing in on United’s check writing skills.

While the on-field talent has remained constant, many of United’s past legends such as Mark Hughes and Steve Bruce have had marginal success in managing clubs. Meanwhile, other legends like Roy Keane and Bryan Robson have had, at best, short and rocky careers running clubs into the ground.

'80s legend Robson, left, has been a managerial flop and Roy Keane, right, hasn’t fared much better.

Other legends who want the job and won’t get it: Paul Ince, Steve Bruce, Steve Coppell, Mark Hughes, and Eric Cantona.

My joke about this is that while sharing a history at Man United, former United stars share one common coaching skill: the ability to drive a busload of footballers downhill, fast.

Some predict that Ferguson, age 69, will step down fairly soon. His eventual retirement, whether voluntary or forced by Father Time, may possibly signal and end to Manchester United’s unfettered dominance. United haters, of course, hope it will herald the eventual demise of the club.

David Moyes, left, has done wonders at Everton with scant money and fair talent. Another possibility could be Gordon Strachan, right.

But with its reputation, past success, and large sums of money, it would be hard to think that Manchester United would make a careless choice in putting in place the next manager of the world’s biggest club. And if their first choice, whoever that may be, among managers is not available at the time of the next position opening, it’s likely that at least Steve McClaren, who got fired again this weekend, will be available.

Andy Frye writes about sports and life here and tweets throughout the day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex.

Written words © 2011. Pictures courtesy of The Daily Telegraph, UK