Saturday, April 29, 2006

Makes You Want To Heave

March 5th, (Fourth day of the trip) - Plan is to go the MVC title game (beginning at 1:00 PM), then sprint to Tulsa, OK to hopefully catch the 8:00 men's quarterfinal for the Mid-Continent Conference. It's a 6-hour drive, so this blog was really just hoping to make it by halftime.

In St. Louis, a cool part of the Bradley vs. Southern Illinois game was that it would be broadcast on CBS. It was the first game (other than NCAA games) broadcast nationally for the MVC in over 15 years. Getting in to St. Louis was a breeze as usual, punctuated by having made it out unscathed the night before. A bummer the night before was the UNC-Duke game, which was a UNC win and not very close.

Had eaten at Jack-In-The-Box before the game, that's a good spot, and a review will be coming in the near future.

Anyway, headed to the MVC title game, and there were a surprisingly large number of Bradley fans. While the stadium was still 75% Southern Illinois fans, the 25% Bradley contingent was concentrated in this blog's immediate vicinity. This was a slight bummer because this blog was sporting its SIU jersey. This wasn't a huge problem, especially when Pun City found an empty second-row seat that was out of most BU fans' range.

The Savvis Center had only 13,969 fans, so over 4,000 less than the semi-final games the day before. This is probably about right, since there were 2 teams remaining as opposed to 4 the day before. Additionally, there was a sizeable downpour that may have kept some fans away.

A contest this blog had entered, the Toyota Half-Court Heave, was underwhelming. As is often the case with these contests, a very inept woman who had clearly not even seen a basketball in the last 5 years was selected as the contestant. As expected, the absurd two-hander landed at about the free throw line. This site is sorry, but you have no business shooting a half-courter with both hands if you aren't strong enough to get it to the rim. There's also no excuse for not knowing your half-court shooting capabilities ahead of time. If she would have gone with a one-handed baseball throw and still come up short, this blog could have only faulted her for entering the contest in the first place. (It should go without saying, but don't enter a half-court shot contest if you cannot physically propel a basketball the requisite length). This blog can understand shots that are off line or long, but missing short is inexcuseable.

Some notes from the MVC game:

-Early on in the game, this blog was able to catch a different Army National Guard t-shirt from a giant inflatable National Guardsman, so that was a cool bonus.

-MVC fans showed their appreciation with a standing ovation for Dick Enberg and Clark Kellogg, CBS's broadcast team.

-Total tournament attendance of 63,739 set an all-time record for the MVC tournament.

-This was the Kristi Yamaoka game, lost in the shuffle was that Bradley went on a 6-0 run coming out of the delay, pulling within 6 of the Salukis.

-The Braves then fell apart and were not close again.

-Bradley fans often chant "BU! BU!" when in large groups. Saluki fans responded with "PU! PU!"

After the game, this blog headed toward Tulsa for the Mid-Con game. Would Pun City see any of the game? Would this blog successfully navigate out of St. Louis in a rainstorm? Would this site go off the beaten path and end up on a one-lane road in the process? All this and more coming up Tuesday!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Pun City Gets China Syndrome

Alright, once again the time has come for this blog to live up to its name. Last week this blog recently became aware of the fact that China's President is Hu Jintao. Because the Chinese are either out of touch, or just morons, their first names are treated like American last names. This means publications will often publish headlines like "Hu Visits United States." (Lots of people). Anyway, this blog figured it could just riff some puns off on the head Chinaman, with all the grace of a bull in a China shop. Ridiculous "Hu Let The Dogs Out," and "Who's Hu?" puns need not apply. So here go some seriously bad potential headlines:

Hu Tang Clan: Chinese President Sponsors Higher Beverage Allotment For Astronauts

Hu Done It? Chinese Probe President's Involvement In Recent Caper

Hu's Son: "We have a problem."

Hu-ville: Chinese President Visits Today

Hu'da Thunk? Jintao Scores Improbable Political Upset

Finally, what this blog thinks is it's best work on the subject:

Hu Sure, Daddy. One-Child Policy to Remain Intact

Based on the mild response to the trip diary, this blog has postponed those indefinitely. Leave a comment if you want those back. There's still 7 days left that PunCity could post on, including some stories of flying ice cream.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A Post "Four" Decadent Major Leaguers

This blog is going to take a little break from the trip to talk about a cool subject: 4-Decade Players in Major League Baseball. To date, there have been 26 players who have accomplished the feat. A surprisingly low amount of these players has entered the Hall of Fame. To date, only 8 of the 26 are enshrined, with Rickey Henderson likely to join them once he becomes eligible. (Tim Raines could make a reasonable case for admission as well). Here's the list of 4-Decade players for your reference:


(Player, years played)

-Dan Brouthers (1879-1896, 1904)
-Bill Buckner (1969-1990)
-Eddie Collins (1906-1930)
-Rick Dempsey (1969-1992)
-Carlton Fisk (1969, 1971-1992)
-Kid Gleason (1888-1908, 1912)
-Rickey Henderson (1979-2003)
-Tim McCarver (1959-1961, 1963-1980)
-Willie McCovey (1959-1980)
-Deacon McGuire (1884-1888, 1890-1908, 1910, 1912)
-Minnie Minoso (1949, 1951-1964, 1976, 1980)
-Jack O'Connor (1887-1904, 1906-1907, 1910)
-Jim O'Rourke (1876-1893, 1904)
-Tim Raines (1979-1999, 2001-2002)
-John Ryan (1889-1891, 1894-1896, 1898-1899, 1901-1903, 1912-1913)
-Mickey Vernon (1939-1943, 1946-1960)
-Ted Williams (1939-1942, 1946-1960)


-Nick Altrock (1898, 1902-1909, 1912-1915, 1918-1919, 1924, 1933)
-Jim Kaat (1959-1983)
-Mike Morgan (1978-1979, 1982-1983, 1985-2002)
-Bobo Newsom (1929-1930, 1932, 1934-1948, 1952-1953)
-Jesse Orosco (1979, 1981-2003)
-Jack Quinn (1909-1915, 1918-1933)
-Jerry Reuss (1969-1990)
-Nolan Ryan (1966, 1968-1992)
-Early Wynn (1939, 1941-1944, 1946-1963)

As far as this blog sees it, there are several keys to becoming a 4-decade player.

1. Begin your career late in a decade. This is crucial. Only 4 of the players started their career in the middle part of the decade, and only 1 (Deacon McGuire) began in the "early" part of the decade. One's chances of playing in 4 separate decades decrease exponentially when beginning a career in a year ending in a number lower than 7.

2. It helps to be good. This may seem self-evident, but there aren't too many marginal players on this list. John Ryan is probably the worst of the group, having only played a total of 616 games, batting only .217 on his career. Being somewhat of a specialty player as a catcher helped Ryan's cause, but also getting a pair of "promotional stunt" games in 1911 and 1912 went furthest toward his envoy into 4 decades.

3. Pitchers have better longevity these days. Even though only 9 of the 26 players were pitchers, the 34.6% of the group is a sizeably larger proportion than that which pitchers have historically represented on Major League rosters. While today's rosters usually are composed of about 50 percent pitchers, this is a recent phenomenon and the percentage of pitchers on the roster has grown just about every decade. Because of the lightened demands on pitchers, there has been a rise in 4-decade pitchers over the last few decades. Prior to 1980, through over 13 decades of baseball, only 4 pitchers had competed in 4 decades. Since then, 5 pitchers competed in their 4th decade. Of those 5, all but Nolan Ryan ended their career as relief pitchers (though Jerry Reuss did start once during his last season).

4. Everyone Loves a promotional stunt. While Minnie Minoso's 4th and 5th decades were garnered on the most celebrated promotional stunts of all 4-decade guys, he was not alone. Nick Altrock batted once in his 5th decade after pitching in the previous four; John Ryan played 1 game a year in his 4th decade, and Tim Raines, while still well-qualified as a player, came back to play in 2002 primarily to play alongside his son. (While the promotional stunt intended was not the 4-decade angle, this blog's still counting it in this category).

Needless to say, this blog takes particular interest in this unusual topic, and even had to correct this purported "encyclopedic" site to give it accuracy. (They were missing Brouthers, Gleason, McGuire, O'Connor, and Jack Ryan). So if you've got questions or comments, fire away.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Saint Lou-ness

Getting Back to the trip. March 4th, 3rd day in. As you probably imagined from the previous post, this blog got a chance to head out to Sonic. On the way over, this blog was able to find a McDonald's to use the free cheeseburger and fries coupon later. Also passed Westfield Shoppingtown, a really awesome mall. Was able to score some sweet deals there, including a St. Louis Cardinals hat for 3 bucks and a Missouri Tigers hat for 2 bucks.

St. Louis Cardinals tickets went on sale at 9:00 AM this day, and by noon, only individual tickets and standing room only tickets remained for the entire season. The Cardinals have a new stadium this year, but that was nonetheless very impressive for any team.

So it was a cool morning, and then this blog decided to head into St. Louis for the MVC Semifinals. First up was Wichita State versus Bradley. Wichita State was the overwhelming favorite, and being relatively close to St. Louis, they brought a huge fan contingent. Bradley, clinging to slim post-season hopes, did not bring a huge fan base, though the group was quite spirited.

In a very cool pre-game ritual, WSU's fans sang Archie's rap classic "We Ready." In a stunning turn of events, Bradley's smaller contingent drowned out their chant with shouts of "Go BU, Go, Go BU!" At this point Wichita State fans then crowded that out with "Let's Go Shockers." So those were some cool pre-game festivities.

The Bradley Braves scored the upset in the first game, earning a spot in tomorrow's final. In the second game, Southern Illinois took out Northern Iowa to set up an all-Illinois final.

Some not-as-cool pre-game festivities were the riverdancers and polka band performing separately in the concourse. So, try as it did, PunCity was unable to avoid culture while on the basketball trip.

Also of note was that Darron George performed the national anthem, as well as Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" preceding the second game. No clue as to who he is, but he did a good job with both songs.

The bands played some old favorites, though this blog hasn't heard bands play them in a while. WSU played "Johnny B Good," and BU played "Proud Mary."

In the less-cultured section of the concourse, the Army National Guard guys started up the NASCAR they had on display. (Greg Biffle's 16 car). While very loud, this blog has heard louder.

During the second session, Southern Illinois's band played "Take Me Out" by Franz Ferdinand, and "Hey Ya" by Outkast.

The crowd of 17,772 was the largest single-session crowd in MVC Tournament history. On the 2nd-last day of the tournament, with total tourney attendance of 49,770, the MVC already had the 4th-highest total tourney attendance.

Dick Enberg and Clark Kellogg were in the house preparing to broadcast tomorrow's game on CBS Sports.

After the games, this blog headed over to McDonald's to get the free food, then Jack-In-The-Box to get an Oreo Milkshake. Another pretty solid day.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Drive-In Excitement: Sonic Proves Super

Sonic Drive-In is a somewhat national chain of restaurants based in Oklahoma City, OK. The first Sonic opened in Shawnee, OK in 1953. It has expanded to 30 states, though its reach exceeds these boundaries thanks to a national television advertising campaign. While on its vacation, PunCity decided to check out this intriguing franchise.

Pros: Burgers are very good. Special orders don't upset them. At the 3 locations this blog visited, there were no issues with taking off some undesirable condiments. French fries were well-salted. Service is friendly. A huge plus is Sonic's soda. One would be extremely hard-pressed to find a better soda situation in fast food. First off, beverages are served in styrofoam. This is awesome for a few reasons. The styrofoam keeps the beverage cold better than any other disposable container this blog has come across. Beyond this, the styrofoam keeps the beverage cold without the drinker's hand even noticing. All this, plus the added bonus of getting environmentalists mad. Another advantage to Sonic's beverage setup is the amount of options. Because Sonic offers "flavor shots" for any of its beverages, in combination with having both Dr. Pepper and Coca-Cola on the menu, customers effectively have around 20 dark soda options (roughly 10 flavor options, including cherry and vanilla, x 2 "base" dark sodas). Ice cream was pretty good, somewhere between a Blizzard and a McFlurry. Two of the three locations had drive-thrus in addition to the drive-in spaces. One of the three had outdoor seating aside from your car.

Cons: Biggest con is the near-obligation to tip the carhops. It took this blog a couple visits to realize tips are the norm. After paying in exact change at the first location, this blog paid about 7 cents extra at the next location. This blog thought it was weird that the dude didn't give this site any change. So that "tipped" this site off that gratuity was standard. The suspicion was confirmed with another carhop, and from that point on this blog tipped its waiters and waitresses. A good way to avoid having to tip is to use the drive-thru, if provided. Unfortunately PunCity went to a drive-thru-less Sonic after coming to this realization. French fries don't detract from the experience, but aren't up to the very high standards Sonic sets for itself. The lack of indoor dining options is annoying, but as long as you know what you're getting into, it's not so bad.

Overall Ranking: 8.5 out of 10 Fryers. Tipping at a fast food place is not too cool. High marks for styrofoam and soda options. Burgers very good. Offering indoor dining options would raise this score. This would also probably eliminate them conditioning customers to tip. Could also improve ice cream, though the styrofoam ice cream containers are a bonus.

Burger-only Ranking: 8.5 out of 10 Fryers. Very tasty burgers, maybe the meat could be slightly better. Also starts out with onions, mustard and lettuce on it, which is a bunch to ask to remove. Still very awesome burgers though, probably the best this blog has come across besides off-the-scale White Castle.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Peeks of The Valley

March 3rd, second day of trip. 3/2's total cash spent: approximately $40.25. This was good because the mandatory conference shirt had been purchased, so this blog wouldn't be needing any shirt budget for the duration of the St. Louis leg of the trip. PunCity did go to the Gateway Arch in the morning.

Let this blog first say that it seems infinitely easier to get into the city of St. Louis than to get out. While it's probable that going in during the day and leaving at night makes it a lot easier on the entry leg, there's also a bunch of One Way streets that lead into the downtown area, and seemingly far fewer "exiting" One Ways.

The Arch was pretty cool, fairly convenient parking, and the staff and a couple school groups were nice enough to allow this blog to skip in front of them so PunCity could get through quickly. This blog was able to get some decent pictures of the new Busch Stadium from the Arch, which provided a cool vantage point. Looked like they had quite a bit of work to do though, their home opener is against the Brewers 4/10.

Also somewhat cool in the Arch was the tram that carries people to the top. Because of the curve in the structure, a regular elevator doesn't work. So engineers created a system that is part elevator, part escalator, and part rollercoaster. (This blog is paraphrasing the tape they play when you go up). Conveniently enough, the Arch was close to a train that takes you to Savvis Center. Because parking is fairly expensive near the stadium, this blog just figured it'd stay parked at the Arch all day and not have to worry about Savvis parking for the day. This meant PunCity begrudgingly used public transportation, but it turned out alright.

The way St. Louis's Metro works is that you buy a ticket at the vending machines at each station, then have it validated with a time stamp (at some point, this blog wasn't paying attention as to when and where). Some types of tickets come pre-validated, and this blog grabbed a 1-way pass that was of the pre-validated variety, with a timestamp of 10:45 AM. No one checked tickets though, so this blog thought it was a little weird. This site later found out that from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, riding the distance this blog did was free. So that sucked. Public Transportation strikes again, right?

Oh well, big day of basketball on the slate with 4 games to be played and the best 8 teams in the tournament all in action. Picked up a rubber wristband from the outdoor Army National Guard stand, also won a State Farm flashlight keychain. A new stand was up, this one for the Missouri Valley Conference, conducting an economic impact survey. Since this blog's major was Economics, it was kind of cool to be part of some base data, but especially cool was the free MVC pen that they gave this site for taking the survey. It goes well with a Big West Conference pencil this blog won last year.

Indiana State's band, playing in a loss to Wichita State, entertained with some cool songs. "Takin' Care of Business" by BTO, "Vertigo" by U2, and "Another Loser Anthem" by Good Charlotte were some good ones that this blog hadn't heard from a band as yet.

Some additional game notes:

-Wichita State's mascot, Wushock, looks pretty cool. Wichita State fans take full advantage of their team being named the Shockers. The "shocker" hand gesture is used by cheerleaders for the "Lets go Shocks!" cheer, and also appears on independently produced t-shirts. This beyond the fact that multiple WSU fans were seen with the "Shock 'em" foam hands. On a completely unrelated note, WSU's cheerleaders were very good. Probably the best squad of the trip.

-Saw WSU's Karon Bradley, transfer from Marquette, play. He would be the first of 2 Marquette transfers playing in the conference tournaments.

-Savvis Center french fries were very good. Cheeseburger was alright, but mainly because this blog was starving.

-Some good names for cheerleaders: Bradley's team is the "Bravettes," and Evansville's is the "Acettes." Probably the best of all is Missouri State's "Sugar Bears."

-More band reports: Creighton played "Knock On Wood" featuring a cowbell; both Bradley and Creighton played the Black Eyed Peas' "Mass Hysteria." Bradley's band played "Wipeout," but the cool part was that they brought a remote-control shark fin which they had "swim" around the court while it was playing.

-Got a free Army National Guard towel from the stand, plus another MVC pen.

-Randy Mayfield sang the national anthem for session 1, to start off session 2, he sang "God Bless America. He was introduced as "internationally known," which this site is dubious of despite it probably technically being true.

-Evansville's road jerseys (sorry, not the greatest picture) look like the old-school Phoenix Suns jerseys.

-All of the Savvis Center's beer/soda/candy vendors have extremely annoying, ear-piercing calls, but it very rarely failed to get this blog's attention.

-After this blog told a soldier at the Army National Guard stand that PunCity was from Wisconsin, his reply was "What, are you lost?"

-The Southern Illinois dance team was very attractive. SIU's band played "We Will Rock You," at which point the Northern Iowa mascot, TC, did the motions of Dodgeball's Globo Gym Purple Cobras.

-There were 2 one-armed dudes in the building at the same time. Probably the first time this blog has noticed that anywhere.

-A couple fans were using the zoom feature from their digital camera as a binoculars substitute.

-Northern Iowa's band played "Danger Zone," "Enter Sandman," and the song that Packer fans cheer "Go Pack Go" to. The Enter Sandman rendition came with choreography, so that was kinda awesome.

-Near the end of the 4th game of the day, a pair of clean-up crew members came out of the tunnel next to this site's section. Here's their conversation:

Dude #1: "What'd they go? 3 games today?

Dude #2: "4"

Dude #1: "4??!! Fuck, man! Fuck!"

Apparently cleaning 4 games' worth of mess was not an enjoyable prospect.