Thanks for Nothing

At some point, my attitude about Thanksgiving shifted from acceptance--even, on occasion, anticipation--to discontent. That probably had a lot to do with my cousin Dave, who, sometime in the early '90s, began telling the same dreadful stories at Thanksgiving dinner every year--stories that we'd heard hundreds of times. No one really likes Dave, but he's part of the family, so what can you do?

The negative feelings about Thanksgiving were cemented a few years ago when I was forced to spend the day at Texas Stadium, sequestered in the press box with a bunch of mental patients and a mayo-less, cold turkey sandwich. Brutal. That's not nearly as bad as what happened to my buddy Wax, though. His stepmother had cooked Thanksgiving dinner but neglected to make mashed potatoes. This was unfortunate because mashed potatoes are Wax's favorite food. An argument ensued between the two and ended with Wax choosing to leave early. Before he rolled, he asked his stepmother to fix him some food to go. Rather than using a plate, she threw everything--turkey, cranberry sauce, roll, stuffing, etc.--in one Ziploc bag and thrust it into his hands like a quarterback handing off a football. It looked like a bunch of mush. We called it the Bag O' Thanksgiving.

Which leads me to the point, however belated. By the time you read this, I'll have fled the country for Europe. That's where I--along with Wax and six or so similarly disenfranchised friends--am spending this holiday. Before I go, I'm contractually obligated to write one of those ubiquitous Thanksgiving pieces that shoehorns sports and the spirit of the season into one saccharine story.

Nuts to that. I'm thankful all right, just in a more perverse way than you'd generally expect.

I'm convinced the ongoing calamity out in Arlington has been orchestrated for our amusement. It's just too entertaining to be accidental.

The day that Alex Rodriguez won his first MVP award, the talk among the media wasn't complimentary. Instead, it focused on why he isn't getting along with manager Buck Showalter. The word is that the two parties aren't speaking, which probably has something to do with the trade rumors. (Who knows, before you even get to make a sandwich out of the leftovers, A-Rod could be under the employ of another organization.)

Rodriguez told various journos that the Rangers approached him about shipping him elsewhere. The ballclub, predictably on the backpedal, released this statement from General Manager John Hart, which began: "Since the end of the season, the Texas Rangers have specifically stated that we are not actively seeking to trade Alex Rodriguez. However, we have received inquiries from other clubs regarding Alex."

Uh-huh. The truly awesome part about the whole thing was that they issued that bit of nonsense four hours after A-Rod won the award. And only at the end of the statement did they congratulate him on becoming the MVP. Sound like a happy family to you?

Apparently, at least part of the fallout between A-Rod and Showalter stems from Rodriguez's desire to call pitches, which is a bit strange, since he's the shortstop. During Jerry Narron's tenure, A-Rod called pitches from time to time, a policy Showalter immediately vetoed, much to the chagrin of his best baller.

"Two coaches with Anaheim told me about it during the 2002 World Series," says a longtime baseball writer. "They said A-Rod thinks he is smarter than everyone else, but in truth he was terrible at calling pitches and even hiding the mere act. The coaches said they had every pitch he called.

"This is, by far, the most dysfunctional organization in baseball. It's hard to say, but the Cowboys may be the model of Wharton-like efficiency in this town."

It's kinda funny how the Rangers are much--much--more entertaining during the off-season. If only Hart and owner Tom Hicks could figure out a way to keep these guys off the field, they'd have a serious moneymaker on their hands.

Sadly, this past year I separated from my one true love--professional wrestling. The story lines had gotten a bit absurd, even gross, like the necrophilia bit. Then, just when I thought there was no hope, a man-boy named Mark Cuban brokered our reconciliation and renewed my appreciation for elbows from the top rope.

World Wrestling Entertainment was recently in town for a pay-per-view event called "Survivor Series." Cuban, a lifelong fan, was sitting front row for the show at the American Airlines Center. A friend offered me tickets, but I decided not to go. Big mistake. What I missed was greatness.

During the show, one of the WWE characters, Eric Bischoff, began talking trash about Cuban, who then hopped the barrier (as per the script) and made his way into the ring, much to the delight of the crowd, which cheered him wildly. Cuban and Bischoff jawed at each other before Cuban shoved him down and out of the ring. The congress ate it up. Alas, it was short-lived, because a Bischoff crony came running down from backstage--a classic, well-timed ploy--entered the ring and laid the smackdown on Cuban with a move called the RKO. Cuban executed his end, called taking "a bump," beautifully. The whole thing was quite fun--the kind of old-school mayhem I remembered so fondly.

"I loved it," Cuban says. "I got to train with some of the guys in the afternoon, but didn't know exactly how it was all going to work out. So when he started to take me down, I had been trained how to hit the mat. Which saved me a lot of pain."

So I'm hooked again, and all because of Cuban. I'm praying, too, that he pulls a Ted Turner and starts a rival wrestling faction that will compete with the WWE. I know a wannabe wrestler/announcer named Gonzilla who could be his first hire.

At first, I was a bit pissed when I'd heard that KTVT Channel 11 had run a piece on underground poker, partly because I thought it was stealing my material (I wrote a story about that scene months ago), partly because I still play at those kinds of shady places and I don't need some overzealous cop busting up my game. The Internet version that accompanied the television package even masked the identity of the guy who ran the game by calling him "Chip"--the exact same alias I used in my column. Curious, to say the least.

But what the hell, why be so territorial? Share and share alike is what I always say. Besides, Sarah Dodd, the reporter in question, got into far more detail and did more investigating in her story than I did. My column was more anecdotal, more innocuous. Hers dealt more with how unlawful these games are and the penalty we, as players, might suffer. Which, in turn, made a lot of people nervous and upset. On the flip side, it made me happy because I'm no longer Public Enemy No. 1 in my card room. Now they're all looking for "that TV chick."

You rock, Sarah. I owe you one.