The Sideshow, a film by Ryan McCord featuring Steve Mortimer

From spring training in Florida through an entire professional season in Fargo, filmmaker Ryan McCord shadows minor league personality Steve Mortimer, 27, in his last ditch effort at making it to the Big Leagues.

This portrait gives the audience a truly intimate and unparalleled view of professional baseball-a timeless subculture essential to the embodiment of the American spirit.

Enjoy part 1 here:

America the Beautiful, Nauseating Gauntlet

Pols were stunned to see Doug Williams win a Super Bowl MVP award in the ’80’s-let alone take a snap. This was also around the time one lobbyist predicted Eastern Washington would go on to become a wine-industry capital.

‘Nam stun-gunned us. Booze and Mad Science are bringing Mighty Kong to his knees. Here comes a sample of how the Reagan-era brainstorming for Morning Again in America went down: Picture a suburban D.C. bar on a December school night if you can…it’s 20 degrees, blustery and the current time of six ‘o clock looks and feels more like 10 pm. Good scotch-sipping weather to work with, while half-watching anyone but Greta Van Susteren read you the news…

Politician: So how do we make this happen? Feasibly?

Lobbyist: China, India…and we’re working on a few others. We move our headquarters to Switzerland with long term protection and we’ll make sure to send you back some cheese.

Politician: And you say I’ll be able to take a picture of my chest and send it to any broad in the world?

Lobbyist: Within a minute. And she can send you a shot of her yams right back. But the Chinamen think you’ll need a good sized mirror to do it in front of. That way it’ll look straight, sharp. You’re a congressman for God’s sake. You can’t be sending crooked pics of yourself…(laughs)…I don’t care how old she is!

Politician (his head now even further into the gutter, thinking, “Of course that’ll work, but don’t ask him about it! How’s he gonna know if the picture will do it justice?”)

Lobbyist (imbibes, then begins thinking after signaling for another round of Bushmills, “I know what this ‘ol sailor really wants to take a picture of. No, no, don’t joke about it. I got this one in the bag. Riggo’s already got his hundy. Just take a knee.”)

Politician: Anything else?

Lobbyist: (What the hell?) What do you think about wine?

Politician: I think my mother-in-law drinks it.

Lobbyist: (laughs casually) Boxed wine in the ’90’s, Jon? We have areas in the Northwest that share the same latitude and altitude as France.

Politician: (Gives a bitter-beer-face in response before asking the barkeep to bring the phone over.)

Lobbyist: Easy money if you can get border patrol down in the desert to bury their heads in the sand for a few years. (He then winks at the corner end of the bar. It’s a brunette with a perm, smoking a Virginia Slim.) It will explode, I assure you.

Politician: Yeah and a DeAndre is going to quarterback the Redskins to a Super Bowl ring. Stick with technology kid. You may have something there.

What I had, even before Occupy Wall Street began, was my first American epiphany: it reminded me that life still isn’t fair and that postwar 1945 through the 1950’s, the days when everyone who wanted a slice got one, are never, ever coming back. Goodbye yellow brick road. Hello old bedroom.

Occupy Times Square, 1945.

The overall complexion and outsiders perception of the Stars & Stripes has flip-flopped. America is no longer a proud, bulletproof democracy, but rather a great big con job-a business, a used car; with liberty and patriotism being used as bullet points in the sales pitch. Ask any congressman what our priorities as a country are and they’ll say, “Creating more jobs.” That’s business.

Thanks to what Princeton professor Cornell West often refers to as “warped priorities,” poverty along with obesity and woe is now at a pandemic state. This is a byproduct of the little guys’ once very reliable babysitter, the American Dream going kaput (or when it opted for early retirement post Vietnam). The elite decided we needed a new babysitter, so Reagan’s people did what all lousy parents/supervisors do: handed us a bottle (it practically rains booze in America to the point where we’re no longer a land of functioning alcoholics like Korea) and stuck us in front of the tube (advent of cable TV has evolved to the point where Cheers reruns can be viewed from a cellphone in a Greyhound station occupied by mostly winos).

In the end, nobody is a winner. If watching highlights of a political rally gives any indication what kind of people whom our country is comprised of-schemers, clowns, pigeons, the poor and the poorest-then I fear for the kindergarteners of today.

Speaking of schemers, politics no longer function as a public service, but stands first as the world’s campiest rivalry; pinning the Donkeys and the Elephants. Each side will tell you they have the right formula. Meanwhile, party brass on each side is out looking for their next puppet. Advisers are conjuring up a clever counterpoint to spin wheels with, and the male poly-sci intern is assigned to Google Map the golf course with the finest cocktail lounge.

Limousine Liberals spit on and mock the bible (the same book that gave us a B.C. head start, when it warned us that money is the root of all evil) and cheerlead for social progress and human rights all while confirming to stand with the status quo on Roe v. Wade. Conversely, when you think of Republicans, you think of disparities such as shotguns, pro-life, the death penalty and along with the real kicker: christianity and capitalism? Bible thumpers with (bloated) bank accounts, huh?

When you start to talk about how humanity’s current state reached a crisis level in the United States of America, the touchstone element one should closely examine before taking a side should rest with the human condition itself-which really isn’t all that complicated: for every man who eventually rises to a seat of power, at an early pivotal point in his life when he knew he could, someone in position to help engineer his progress went ahead and told him no. So then the individual typically proceeds to react in a emotional, compulsive fashion, and eventually that leads to self-demonization (that can go as far as Hitler) or even organized malice by those he associates with (that can go as far as John F. Kennedy).

Then there’s the guys who turned out okay, he who gets drunk the very evening of rejection. He’ll sleep it off, and in a few days kept doing whatever it was the authority figure already rejected, with limited feelings of resentment. These are the good guys. Prolific, resourceful and not overly sensitive. Know any like this anymore? Go ahead, be honest with yourself and name 10 men that you know whom you would feel perfectly comfortable running the country for the next eight years, let alone babysitting your kids. Most of us thought Obama was this guy. I’m still holding my breath.

So who can you trust to help further advance society in America?

We’re going to have to learn to trust and depend in ourselves. Participants of Occupy Wall St. are on the right track, but you can’t be down there with a chic phone in one hand and a Pumpkin Spice Latte in the other. Action speaks louder than words, and if I may use one more cliche, all protesting on Wall St. does is remind me of this old expression, “The ass looks at the well, and the well looks at the ass.”

Protesting is commendable. But in the end, its loud noise that only finishes half the marathon. Men with deep pockets aren’t losing lunch money or sleep because of Occupy Wall St.

The only solution as this point is to declare war against corporate America and its bedfellows, the political parties. Starve the beasts to death. Don’t look, don’t touch. That goes for everything. For one year: No NBC of any kind, no Fox News, no newspapers, certainly no attending the campaign trails, no new shoes, and may I even suggest you don’t vote in 2012?

Ancient Chinese philosopher Sun-tzu once wrote, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

We will be at war with each other again. Imagine how powerful a statement it could be, if most of us across this land ignored our government along with its hired guns and talking heads from now until 2012.

No more wants, only needs. I’m not asking you to give up beer or wine, I’m asking you to brew your own or support locally while still paying your taxes. Democracy thrives when obligations to citizens are being met. So until that is happening, let’s just freeze ’em out. We need roads fixed. We need to shed weight. We need students to become booksmart again. We can get this done by outwitting the Mitts of the world.

We may never get these jobs back. Let’s face it, America is already overpopulated, and even if half the jobs that are outsourced come back home, technology is still more dependable and practical for any business owner to work with. That’s an undeniable, sobering formula that anyone who is running for president wouldn’t bring up on the back end of a pickup truck.

Think of all the manual labor jobs that’ve been lost due to an insecure U.S.-Mexican border over the years. Those are jobs American-born teens should be occupying in order to save for college with. What’s the alternative look like? Video Games!

Having recently spent a year outside the country, I couldn’t wait to get back. I still love it here, even if it is the Titanic. Pigpen America is the only America I know. So strangely, the day it gets easy to succeed in the pursuit in finding happiness and daily comfort is the day I know longer want to live here.

Halloween Special ’11: Trick or Treating With Tito and Hoody

Long before the days man discovered deviled eggs even, artists of the written word have continuously passed on the idea that debt harbors a gloomy cycle of resentment, greed, insecurity and hyperbole, until ultimately, someone gets squashed.

After his 90 win team channeled the South Bend Blue Sox for the month of September, Terry Francona reached a mutual agreement to step down as manager of Boston’s own Red Sox last week. Judging from the media and fan reaction to the historic meltdown, the old skipper sure owes Red Sox Nation an explanation-or does he?

Papi was the October hero. But when Francona got the axe last week, it also symbolized the end of the greatest Sox era.

Before he won his first World Series championship in 2004, he was known as “Fran-Coma” by the millions of diehards. Since October of that year, he was often referred affectionately as “Tito.”

With Christmas of ’04 fast approaching, Santa Claus’s phone bill had suddenly begin to parallel A-Rod’s gentleman’s club tab. In order to keep up with the growing demand to deliver Red Sox trinkets for good kids from Bean Town to Seattle, St. Nick had no choice but to hire more and more elves from out of eastern Asia.

By late 2007, Boston no longer had just a professional baseball organization-they were like revolutionaries passing out something reminiscent of “I Voted” buttons that instead read, “Red Sox Nation” with “Tito” as its spokesman.

But now, October 2011, it’s all over. And all that’s left is an aging DH, a knuckleball pitcher, and some smaaaught kid whose responsible for handing out more dollar bills to Carl Crawford than the amount of times 81-year-old Willie Mays has ever blinked.

So the kid gets a fresh shave today. He’ll wake up in his “Rain Man Suite”, scan his closet for the right match of Tommy Bahamas and Hush Puppies, splash on some Banana Republic, think about spinach for lunch and soon send a few joshing texts to his Northwestern cronies about his thoughts on The Windy City.

Meanwhile Fran-Coma, the unemployed manager briefly known as Tito, most likely starts his day scrolling through text messages from veteran journalists seeking confirmation that pitchers did indeed drink beer during games.

The day cats and dogs get along is when the skipper of the Red Sox isn’t scrutinized around the clock.

“Throw me one name for whose responsible in reporting this to begin with, and I’ll give you publishing authorization to my bio, I promise ya” Francoma replies to Joe, an ESPNWorcester-AL East blogger.

“If I don’t protect my sources,” the blogger replies, “I’m doing a disservice to my profession, Terry.”

Now Francoma hobbles over to his bathroom-not because he has to go-but because he’s in need of the patch, located in the medicine cabinet, in order to calm his annual Autumn craving for a Lancaster wrapped in Dubble-Bubble.

After a bowl of Captain Crunch with the kids, he drives them to school, then its over to the city to pick up his paycheck. After today, the cashflow will cease, but the yellow journalism never takes a day off.

Text #2 comes from a female television personality whose known to brake for clichés, pinot grig and flamethrowers. Ms. Thunderlips wants to get Fran-Coma’s thoughts on his former captain Jason Varitek, along with an assortment of other teammates, popping late-night bubbly in a Boston club upon returning from the season-ending loss in Baltimore.

Fran-Coma immediately says a four-letter noun to himself. But ever the diplomat, he reminds Ms. Thunderlips that a.) they don’t have to play tomorrow and b.) finishing a 162 game season is merit enough for a little cough medicine outside the clubhouse keg-erator.

“Jeesh!” Fran-Coma said, hours before Bigelow Tea will send an email to his agent passing altogether on moving forward with contract negotiations. “Eight years of dealing with nincompoops. When will this debt be paid already?”

Finally, while he was picking up the wife’s dry-cleaning, his most respected local counterpart, Bill Belichick, head football coach of the New England Patriots, leaves a voicemail from his desk in the Ivory Tower of Gillette Stadium out in Foxborough.

In the NFL, a head coach is only as good as his quarterback and vice versa. Hoody had the benefit of winning with Tom Brady early, but where his shrewd intelligence shines through is his ability to continuously give the media nothing but nuggets of coal.

Foxborough = Winter Wonderland

When hired by the Jets post Parcells in ’99, remember how Hoody instead ran a go-route in under 4.3 out of the Big Apple? Patrick Ewing probably reminded him that the press in that town has the longest winning streak in sports.

For pro sports in Boston, there’s rarely a delay in traffic; where a baseball game is more important than parent-teacher conferences, it’s the Red Sox taking the top two spots, with AAA Pawtucket a very distant second, of course. For the common sports lover in New York has more teams that they can-and certainly do-choose to invest their time with. New Yorkers’ favorite teams are the Yankees followed by the Democrats and the Mets.

Yawkey Way = Chop Shop

Once his lunch has settled, Fran-Coma finally collects enough fortitude to listen to Hoody’s voicemail a few hours later.

Belichick says, “Terry you’re a good guy and a better representative of the game of baseball. Someday you’ll be re-admired in Boston, I promise you. Just remember when you go to Chicago, like any big city, the media uses its own beauty to destroy. Good luck and keep in touch.”

So the media told you someone had to go, and you, Red Sox nation, choose to cut loose the meat and potatoes manager instead of the egg-whites and ricotta general manager.

Job well done, Tito. Debt paid and you were a model spokesman for years in New England.

Job well done, Hoody. You just may have the best job in pro sports.

NFL ’11: 32 Teams in Under 5 Minutes

Any positive guarantees for Broadway Joe's J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets in 2011?

Here’s what the sports media stars have and have not been handicapping for the 2011 season. They support families for being good at making blanket statements about “The National Football League.” Well we try it once a year-with no cover charge. So here it goes: All 32 teams, in ABC order, read in under five-minutes. Teams with asterisk adjacent to record make the playoffs. Enjoy the season.

Arizona Cardinals: 8-8

McMedia Outlet: Speculation surrounding QB Kevin Kolb’s ability to flourish in ’11.

Fish Food: Kolb will struggle to get wins this season by forcing too many passes in All-Pro WR Larry Fitzgerald’s direction.

Atlanta Falcons: 10-6*

McMedia: Let’s put Rookie WR Julio Jones into Canton already.

FF: QB Matt Ryan and Roddy White show even more progress. RB Michael Turner gets no more than 300 carries.

Baltimore Ravens: 11-5*

McMedia: The best offensive ensemble collected during QB Joe Flacco’s era.

FF: Chamois road schedule with stops in Tennessee (week 2), Cin, Cle, Jax, Sea, Stl.

Buffalo Bills: 6-10

McMedia: This team must improve on defense in order to compete.

FF: In a sport where injuries add up on every roster, there’s just no depth for this team anywhere on the chart.

Carolina Panthers: 3-13

McMedia: Cam Newton is just not accurate enough to be successful.

FF: Cam Newton will start five or fewer games in 2011 because he embraces contact past the line of scrimmage.

Chicago Bears: 6-10

McMedia: Last season was a fluke, and QB Jay Cutler isn’t a leader.

FF: RB Joseph Forte and WR Johnny Knox both have 1,000 yard seasons, respectively.

Cincinnati Bengals: 5-11

McMedia: The worst team in pro football.

FF: With four tries, the “Bungles” still manage to get a win against either Baltimore or Pittsburgh.

Cleveland Browns: 6-10

McMedia: Colt McCoy looks great this preseason!

FF: McCoy, the size of a grid-kid, is too fragile to play an entire season in the NFL.

Dallas Cowboys: 11-5*

McMedia: Is Tony Romo a Super Bowl caliber QB?

FF: Tashard Choice will get more carries at halfback than current eggshell starter Felix Jones in ’11.

Can the Cowboys surpass the Mavs and their own cheerleaders to once again be the best team from Texas in '11?

Denver Broncos: 7-9

McMedia: Tim Tebow?????????

FF: New Head Coach John Fox fools his team into believing in themselves just enough to earn seven wins in a sorry division.

Detroit Lions: 7-9

McMedia: Sleeper team! Stafford great in preseason!

FF: The Lions get a chance to show the nation they’re legit on Turkey Day vs. the Packers.

Green Bay Packers: 13-3*

McMedia: Back-to-back Super Bowl Champs!

FF: What else is there to talk about? The Packers don’t see themselves as the hunted when QB Aaron Rodgers still owns a hunter’s mentality. He’s poised to help the Pack make history in ’11.

Houston Texans: 8-8

McMedia: Finally, the class of the AFC South.

FF: It’s not easy to overcome the perception of being a soft team.

Indianapolis Colts: 5-11

McMedia: Can Peyton Manning recover in time?

FF: Indy has made the playoffs in each of the last nine seasons. That’s why Peyton deserves “All-Time Great QB” accolades.

Jacksonville Jaguars: 5-11

McMedia: Quarterback controversy!

FF: Jacksonville plays small ball well, but they still haven’t figured out how to make the opponents QB nervous on a regular basis.

Kansas City Chiefs: 8-8

McMedia: Jamaal Charles is a game-changer at RB. Draft him in your fantasy league!

FF: The putrid playoff performance by Matt Cassel against Baltimore could have shaken his confidence to start ’11.

Miami Dolphins: 8-8

McMedia: Can Reggie Bush finally breakout?

FF: QB “Checkdown” Chad Henne throws for over 20 TD’s.

Minnesota Vikings: 7-9

McMedia: Can QB Donovan McNabb rebound?

FF: Vikes need RB Adrian Peterson, WR’s Percy Harvin and Bernard Berrian all to start 16 games, respectively.

New England Patriots: 12-4*

McMedia: The Pats defense no longer intimidates.

FF: D-linemen Vince Wilwork, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter will cause enough QB pressures and hits to bring the defense back to respectability.

New Orleans Saints: 12-4*

McMedia: Quite possibly the most balanced team in the NFL.

FF: In the playoffs, they won’t be able to put enough pressure on the QB.

New York Giants: 9-7

McMedia: One too many squeaky wheels to compete for the playoffs.

FF: If they can win in Philly in week 3, that should give them enough confidence to skip along with contenders going into December.

New York Jets: 10-6*

McMedia: It all begins and ends with Mark Sanchez.

FF: Plaxico Burress will help make the Jets one of the more efficient “$-Zone” offenses in ’11.

Oakland Raiders: 5-11

McMedia: Al Davis makes so many dumb moves.

FF: The Raiders simply don’t execute the passing game in pressure spots, or let alone when defenses least expect it.

Philadelphia Eagles: 10-6*

McMedia: Dream Team, nightmarish o-line.

FF: The only guarantee for this team is Andy Reid’s gifted ability to prepare and motivate on a weekly basis.

The best head coach to never win a Lombardi Trophy?

Pittsburgh Steelers: 11-5*

McMedia: This team is impervious to the Super Bowl hangover.

FF: They are doomed if QB Ben Roethlisberger suffers a major injury.

St. Louis Rams: 10-6*

McMedia: This is a team on the up-and-up.

FF: QB Sam Bradford is only a franchise receiver short of becoming a perennial Pro-Bowler.

San Diego Chargers: 10-6*

McMedia: They need RB Ryan Mathews to perform to his first-round potential.

FF: QB Philip Rivers will lead Charger offense to a top five league ranking in time of possession.

San Francisco 49ers: 6-10

McMedia: New Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is changing the culture.

FF: They will play defense with swagger and emotion, but they can’t afford to be average in both the passing and running game.

Seattle Seahawks: 4-12

McMedia: Pete Carrol decides to go out with the old QB (Matt Hasselbeck) and bring in a new QB, Tavaris Jackson.

FF: No alpha dogs/franchise players on this roster.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 6-10

McMedia: Young team, led by future stars both at head coach and QB, respectively.

FF: Some NFC team has be the one who loses too many close games in ’11.

Tennessee Titans: 9-7*

McMedia: Who blinked: Chris Johnson or Titans ownership?

FF: If QB Hasselbeck plays 14-16 games, that should be enough to predict the Titans a winner.

Washington Redskins: 4-12

McMedia: Starting quarterback battle!

FF: Will not win a division game.

MVP: Matt Ryan, QB-Atlanta Falcons

Comeback Player: Jerome Harrison, RB-Detroit Lions

Coach of the Year: Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

SUPER BOWL: Jets 22, Packers 24

The last fist held high will belong to Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rogers once again this February.

Bronco Fans Enjoying ESPN on the Rocks

Certainly you’ve heard of a slow news day. We had one here in the Great Northwest earlier this week, when a daily newspaper’s front page headline read, “Man Spots UFO Near River.”

The alleged close encounter was between 5-6 AM. There were no other eye witnesses. The FAA just shrugged their shoulders in apathy. Some young, go-getting reporter still managed to get 550 words to print.

Sources couldn't confirm or deny whether or not the UFO spotter lived in a van down by the river nor did they disclose what football team he roots for.

ESPN has had slow news days this August. When that happens, its time for a good ‘ol summer cookout with some team’s irrationally hopeful fanbase having to pay the price for the network’s desire to share its insatiable hunger for pigskin theatre.

The Worldwide Leader has been feeding Broncos fans a daily heap of cow manure disguised under a glaze as if it were a juicy entree of pulled pork. And the herd of Bronco fans has been all too happy to “moo” in that direction in order to eat it.

I’m not here to say Broncos faithful must be the dopiest crop around, but they’re certainly one of the flakiest. I would rather be known as a crazy Raider fan with a picture of Al Davis in my wallet any day.

There’s a chosen narrative coming out of Bronco camp this preseason that I don’t think enough of us are saying out loud: Tim Tebow, a novice professional quarterback, should be starting over veteran Kyle Orton.

Dinner is served! Come and get it!

The Broncos no longer have one of the stingiest defenses in the NFL. Can the layman NFL follower name anyone on the Broncos defense besides cornerback Champ Bailey?

As a team, they have one offensive player who has ever been named All-Pro, in offensive tackle Ryan Clady. The NFL.com’s “Top 100 Players of 2011” list has journeyman wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (No. 58) as the only Broncos offensive player to appear at all. You can’t even pronounce their fringe starting running back’s full name (Knowshown Moreno) without saying “No” twice.

So why, Bronco fan, do you want a vulnerable Tim Tebow to bypass another year of learning a trade so complex and potentially unnerving that it owns a success rate comparable to that of reeling in an afternoon smallmouth bass with a gummy worm not dressed in stink bait?

Tebow Nation has about as much patience as Kramer did after five cafe lattes.

Tim Tebow cannot even successfully execute half of the Broncos playbook 100 percent of the time. And since the former Heisman Trophy winner just doesn’t have the personnel backing his lead like Ben Roethlisberger once had, the Broncos should continue focusing on nursing his development.

Yes, Tebow’s a winner. He’s also a man of integrity; and in the USA in 2011, quarterback or garbageman, that says a lot.

But being a scholarship-backed winner and being ready to lead your million dollar troops through war each Sunday are two completely different entities.

If you’re still thinking about having your No. 15 jersey dry-cleaned for Week 1, consider this nugget of wisdom from Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military leader, who said this in his famous military treatise, The Art of War:

“To be near the goal while the enemy is still far from it, to wait at ease while the enemy is toiling and struggling, to be well-fed while the enemy is famished:–this is the art of husbanding one’s strength.”

The enemy, in this case is the Broncos fanbase; enjoying daily summer cocktails with Ed Werder and Co.

As long as he’s the backup, Tebow’s job prospects as someone ready to start and lead the Broncos will have fans on the edge of their seats in red-zone-like anticipation.

But we all know that red zone opportunities, for the very average franchise such as the 2011 Denver Broncos, often yield more field goals than touchdowns.

If you want Tebow to take you all the way, for that’s why you drafted him in the first round, ask yourself if he’s polished enough in his trade first.

If you say yes, enjoy another year trading touchdowns for field goals.

Jeter, Reyes are Measuring the Cost of Greatness

Everybody is capable of greatness. Helen Keller earned a BA. Einstein, synonymous with “genius”, was probably just a bad decision away from becoming a hobo in his 30’s. Stephen Hawking defies so much logic that he must be from outer space.

The late bloomer of all the late bloomers.

And performing in a city such as New York, a longstanding farmland of success stories in every walk of life, Derek Jeter is the only person in the history of the five boroughs to assemble 3,000 baseball hits. Jose Reyes, Jeter’s relatively young, hotshot New York counterpart, will be asking for-and certainly receive-over $100 million dollars this coming winter.

This has to have all of us all wondering, just how much is greatness worth? Only God knows what exactly is wrong with a world that will overpay for a performer’s potential to earn 3,000 hits TWO or more contracts from now.

Jeter is probably the most decorated athlete to ever dress in New York City. Yet strangely, he had to Tap Out to the Yankees and take a major pay cut in this past off-season just so he could continue to be a role model in a community of roughly 15 million as well as wear the letter “C” on his chest to co-manage a clubhouse full of strutting and scratching boys. The Yankees could have done the right thing and just offered Jeter a guaranteed $100 million dollar lifetime contract with the club. But apparently, being the face of the world’s most famous, prestigious and most profitable sporting franchise wasn’t worth that.

It was probably not the first time Jeter dealt with professional and public humility, but at this point of his life, for a five-time World Series winner, it has to be as maddening as ever.

Reyes has been nurtured by the Mets as if he were a singing and dancing frog since signing in ’99. And since, he’s had a nice career; for a Mets fan he’s the kind of athlete that makes you want to Tweet about to your friends while taking in a helping of SportsCenter. Nobody scoots from home to third quite like the Dominican native. Watching the ball fly off his Marucci bat then beam to the gap in right-center, all while he jailbreaks to third, may even look better than a Springsteen hit sounds. Of course, he’s not much of a situational hitter, and his baseball IQ is certainly not over 140 like Jeter’s, but he’s got a Superhero quality that cannot be taught.

Jeter's flip: poetry in motion.

But is a circus freak entitled to more than an actual institution? Drawing from baseball’s past, there may be nobody to compare Reyes to. But there will certainly be another one. In Jeter’s case, how many baseball players can we truly identify as winners first?

What has to bother baseball purists, or anyone who can understand the Law of Nature or scruples in general, knows there’s something a little confounding about the brilliant season Reyes is now putting together. Sure he’s on pace to win a batting title, something even Jeter has never done, but it just so happens he’s also going to be a free agent at the end of this season. For a guy who’s spent more days on the disabled list than any owner shelling out over $100 million would like, Reyes might as well be a campaigning Barack Obama (circa 2008) wearing Met pinstripes in ’11.

It’s not that Reyes is doing anything immoral, it just makes you wonder what has been going on all these years underneath the bubbly demeanor that complements his play in ’11 and attainable services to be in ’12. Or at 28, has Reyes simply reached his athletic prime? Because if he can hit and field like this for five to seven more years, we’ll certainly be projecting the number 3,000 for another shortstop. That, of course, is worth $100 million in jersey and autograph sales alone.

As I was leaving my cousin’s pool party last evening, he walks me out to the driveway and utters, “What are you driving?”

“The Corolla,” I nodded in its direction down at the street.

“What year?” He asked.

“Uhh, ’94,” as I glance to the sky for accuracy. “But you know what? If I won a million dollars tonight, hand to God, I would still be driving that car a week and probably even a year from now.

“It starts without hiccups, it handles my satellite radio, gets great gas mileage, and it makes slick U-turns.”

My cousin then smeers at the look of the surrounding Land Rovers and Beemers. “Dude, shiny cars are overrated.”

I woke up this morning believing that owning a Jose (Mercedes) Reyes, is too.

The real Jose Reyes will stand up after he gets paid, no doubt about it.

Healthy is the (NCAA’s) Dangled Carrot

Throwing money in order to stifle the kicking and screaming coming from out of a social issue will only create exterminator-like results: problems won’t actually disappear, the cockroaches and termites just pack up and move elsewhere.

There is one sure way money can be used pragmatically. I’m reminded of the oldest trick we all learned in psychology 101: Incentive based classical conditioning. Remember Pavlov’s dog? But I’m not talking cookies, biscuits or atta boys. I’m talking signing bonuses, 401k’s, and even college scholarships.

Hold on-college scholarships!? But this is 2011: a time when fortune cookies just straight up tell us “You are smart,” and everyone under 30 gets what they want or they pack their marbles and go elsewhere. Free knowledge, rodent free shelter with hot water, internet, books, athletic facilities and equipment, access to a trainer, dibs on the cheerleaders and A-list treatment to all the best parties-its already compensated for NCAA’s athletes on scholarship. And that’s no longer good enough.

If only Darth Vader instead could have opened a suitcase full of bundled cash to tempt Luke with on that wild night in Cloud City. But because it was so darn windy, Darth could only offer Luke a shared control of the galaxy.

This sure wasn’t enough for former Ohio State Buckeye star quarterback Terrell Pryor. Once a cornerstone of the program, Pryor reportedly decided one or two cars wasn’t good enough for such a demanding lifestyle (where sweatpants in public 5-days-a-week is acceptable) so he reportedly drove up to eight during his time in Columbus. He was last seen in a Nissan 350z.

I know a recent college graduate up to his nostrils in student loan debt; a talented, honest guy trying to make an honest living, last seen in a ’94 beige Corolla. I believe it was a four door.

First Bush for TWO terms, now we are considering paying kids holding an 11-lb. Butterball turkey under one arm, the loaf of bread they cry about not having under the other. Who will dupe us next?

My first car was an '84 Oldsmobile we called "The Hooptie." It had a tape deck, velvet seats, and smelled of maple syrup.

Boys with access to free toys like the Ohio State football program will be boys. If you’ve ever been a teacher, you know how just one boy can disrupt the rhythm and harmony of your classroom. Put yourself in Jim Tressel’s shoes, if he were hired at Ohio State now as opposed to when he actually signed on 10 years ago. As told by the rich President behind a mahogany desk in an elegant office-let’s call him President Wormer:

“Jim I need you to manage the X’s and O’s, of course. But more importantly, we have a growing image to live up to here at The Ohio State University. We expect you to be the internal leader for the 90+ on our roster, to be the public spokesman of the program, and ideally, earn BCS bowl game reservations at least two out of every three years.”

President Wormer gets up and heads over to the mini bar, places a few cocktail napkins down. He then reaches for the glasses. The tongs and ice from a bucket soon follow. Then comes the sobering question. The one that fools Tressel into thinking his boss is in touch with the common man’s world. (When in actuality, he paid his secretary time-and-a-half to do weeks of private investigating so that he could frame such an inquiry.)

“Oh, and just out of curiosity, Jim…have you ever baby-sat a boatload of boys whose minds yearn for nothing but fast food, Playstation 3, skirt, poor music, even cheaper grass and Facebook for the 14 hours they’re actually awake on a daily basis? Well, when you sign with us, we’ll pay you $3.5 million-a-year to figure out how to make our young brain-bashers the best in the country. Would you like a splash of Evian in your scotch?”

Tressel’s annual salary sounds fair to some. To others, it sounds as if Tressel, a devout Christian, made a deal with the devil. Some say brutal timing. After all, Tressel was coming into The Ohio State when Bob Knight, a legend synonymous with high winning percentages and graduation rates alike, was burning out trying to identify with today’s kids whose idea of inspiration is the poster hanging next to their beer-pong table reading, “C’s get Degrees.” Sure we must hold the coaches ultimately accountable, because that is what we do in America. And that is what Tressel signed up for in the beginning. But better coaches have done far worse and made it back to the sidelines. Former Washington State University head coach Mike Price not only kept Ryan Leaf free from mugshots and fingerprints on one of the most notorious party campuses for nearly four years, but he lead the Cougars to two Rose Bowls during his tenure. When Alabama came calling, a program that needs no introduction, Price got the marquee job he deserved. Soon after, he made one of the single poorest decisions anyone over 50 and not diagnosed a geriatric could ever make: he spent an evening at a strip club with some of his Alabama players. Price was 0-0 as Alabama’s head coach. He is now the head coach at UTEP.

Mike Price managed to win a Pac-10 Championship with Ryan Leaf as his leader in the huddle.

Jim Tressel, a championship-winning head coach at two different collegiate levels, will surely become a head coach again. When he does, let’s hope the NCAA has instituted the Reserve/Trust Bank, heavy on checks-and-balances, for all its athletes to have access to on a yearly basis.

It would go something like this:

*The NCAA develops a trust of sorts for all its athletes. Each University would be responsible for developing their own office, appointing their own treasurer to satisfy the needs of such a movement as well.

*Let’s say when a player signs his/her NCAA scholarship contract for the year, they can mark an “X” in the box to become eligible for a contract severance bonus.

*$2,500 of tax-free money would be paid to the athlete after successfully completing his/her first year of eligibility-academics including. In the second consecutive year, remaining academically eligible all the way through, the athlete’s pay would double to $5,000.

*A third-consecutive year would only yield $5,000 more. We’ll call it the cap. Upon completion of a fourth and final consecutive year of eligibility along with graduating, the athlete could earn the standard $5,000 along with a $5,000 graduation bonus. Did he or she graduate with honors? Throw in an extra grand. Academic All-American during any of those seasons? That warrants a bonus as well.

So it’s pretty simple: If the athlete has a good year on campus, assuming they use up a year of eligibility, they get paid. The NCAA’s golden carrot is dangled.

The Fab Five story is something out of the Old Testament. We all enjoyed watching them for various reasons, especially the bar they set on and off the court. They were poor young artists riding around in a Dodge Dart, wearing plain navy Hanes t-shirts during pre-game intros of Nationally Televised games and cutting down regional nets. Sometime along the way though, Webber allowed the serpent to deceive him, and they all paid for it.

Paying the athletes who are enrolled at various universities throughout America, kids who are given everything they need to survive comfortably, is taking the easy way out.

Sure it’s unfair that billions of dollars are being made off of them, but that’s all this really is–unfair. It’s not inhumane.

Nothing in this life should ever come easy-unless, of course, you already have God-given athletic ability.