I’ve Never Been as Sure of Anything as I am that the Sonic Guys Hate Each Other in Real Life

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Think of the greatest entertainment duos to ever grace the Earth: Abbott and Costello. Penn and Teller. Mike and the Mad Dog. All of them changed the show business game, and all of them absolutely despised each other. The same can undoubtedly be said about the Sonic Guys.

I don’t know why I thought of this the other night, but I did. Yet another Sonic commercial came on, and one of my friends asked if I thought they liked each other in real life. At first, I didn’t really have an answer. After all, how should I know if they like each other? I don’t know them, I don’t know their lives. But then it never left my mind. Like a bit of popcorn stuck in your teeth, the thought got lodged in my brain and started to fester. I went deep into Sonic Guy lore. I learned the complex cannon inside and out. And the more I watched, the more it became clear: these two would murder each other if they could get away with it. I mean, watch some of these:

I don’t know how you could film these and remain civil. If I had to do a million takes of one of these commercials once I don’t think I would ever speak to my co-star ever again. And these guys have been doing this for YEARS. Wikipedia says they’ve been together since 2004. 13 years of doing commercials together. Just the two of them every time. Every 30 second spot is a two-man play. How the dark-haired straight man hasn’t snapped and called out the other guy for all his stupid antics and bullshit is beyond me. How the lighter-haired one hasn’t tried to forcefully remove the stick out of the other guy’s ass is incomprehensible. If the next ad doesn’t have them coming to blows I might think about boycotting Sonic (not really). I’ve never seen a pair with more built up tension. They need some release. They need to brawl. They need to kiss. They need to do whatever it takes to relieve some of this stress they have built up. I’m actually worried about their mental health. Sonic is torturing these guys by continuing to force them to work together. Sure, they probably have gotten millions of dollars out of it, but at what cost? How much of themselves have they thrown away in pursuit of fame? Sonic has been there every step of the way, whispering sweet nothings in their ears and enabling this self-destructive behavior. They’ve turned two star-crazed men into angry, sexually frustrated zombies, all to sell a few more delicious burgers and tater tots. For shame, Sonic, for shame.

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Game of Thrones is Officially Back Tonight

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Winter is here, bitch!!!! Feels like it’s been 8 years since the last episode aired. I can barely even remember what happened anymore. Oh, yeah, 60% of the relevant characters died. Gonna be tough to top that.

As someone who’s been on the GOT Express since season 1, I’ve experienced every off-season, and, as is natural for what is now the most popular show in the world, the hype surrounding this season is at an all-time high. Literally everyone in the world is talking about it. From the fantasy geeks cool people like me to the trendiest socialites. It’s pretty much the only show left with such a massive following. It’s probably the most culturally-important thing on TV right now, and, naturally, people are excited for its return. And this season is going to be awesome. It has to be. There’ll be dragons and White Walkers and Sam reading books and lots of death. What else could you want? But, deep down in places I only talk about in my Safe Space (www.briansden69.com), I’m a little disappointed. For a show that prided itself on re-writing all the classic fantasy tropes and blurring the lines of morality more than Robin Thicke, I can’t really see a scenario where the series doesn’t end with a pretty standard “good vs. evil” final battle. It’s already taking shape: Jon Snow will inevitably join Daenerys when she arrives in Westeros, which will mean literally every good guy will be on the Targaryan side while every bad guy is either with the Lannisters or a White Walker. Doesn’t that feel kind of cheap? In the earlier seasons there were no good guys or bad guys (outside comic book villain Joffrey), just people whose unique circumstances surrounding them shaped their actions and outlook on the world. The whole point was that you had no control over your life and viewing morality as just “good” or “bad” was pointless because anyone could become the hero or villain. Now it’s going to end with all the good guys teaming up to fight the bad guys? I mean, it’ll still be awesome and I’m going to love it, but I can’t help but feel a little cheated. I don’t even know how I’d end it. Maybe George R.R. doesn’t either, and that’s why it’s taking him so long to finish the books. Either way, I wish the show writers hadn’t just taken the easy way out. I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, though. This is Game of Thrones, after all. And as the old saying goes, anything can happen on Game of Thrones.

Pablo Sandoval Designated for Assignment

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Oh, what a wondrous Day! What a lovely day! Oh, Frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Ding, dong, the witch is dead! Insert any like saying I might have missed, for the Heavens are shining down upon us today! Pablo Sandoval, the biggest waste of money since the Maginot Line, has finally, mercifully, been designated for assignment.

The nightmare is over. We’ve made it through the hellish, never-ending night. The Panda Era will undoubtedly go down as one of the worst periods of Red Sox history. He went from a lovably fat, clutch, key contributor to three championship teams in San Francisco to a fat piece of shit who made the team worse every time he thought about putting on the uniform in Boston. Only played 161 games in three and a half years. Managed to accumulate a -2.0 WAR, which is almost impossible. Put up a .646 OPS and a 71 OPS+, which is like if you pulled some scrawny kid off the freshman baseball team in high school and put them against a AA pitcher. I say things like this all the time for hyperbolic effect, but I know for a fact I could have played better defense at third base than Pablo. HE WAS SO FAT HIS BELT EXPLODED WHEN HE SWUNG THE BAT! He admitted he was complacent and didn’t care anymore. He’s the worst player in the majors and might hold the title of worst current professional athlete. Red Sox just flushed $95 million down the drain. Good thing there’s no salary cap. I know this wasn’t the most insightful post, but I’m so high on natural endorphins after this news I can hardly think straight. Now, someone cue the music!

2017 MLB Mid-Season Awards

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It’s the All Star Break for a major sport, which means it’s time to give out the Official Brian’s Den Mid-Season Awards. This is the MLB edition, and, though I was tempted to throw this into the next edition of MLB Thoughts, I figured this needed a full breakdown. Luckily for me and the Brian’s Den Research Department (also me), most of these are pretty clear cut. Got to start with the two easiest calls on the board.

AL Rookie of the Year- Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

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Come on, I’m not that much of a homer.

Apologies to: Andrew Benintendi, Jordan Montgomery, Mitch Haniger

NL Rookie of the Year- Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers

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I mean, he’s second in the National League in homers and didn’t play the first month of the season. You do the math. I know I’m an established Rockies guy and am discounting Kyle Freeland a bit, but home runs excite me. Deal with it.

Apologies to: Kyle Freeland

AL Manager of the Year- A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros

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I always find it a little hard to judge managers. There’s some that are clearly good and know what they’re doing and some that are clearly clueless (*cough* John Farrell *cough*), but the rest are all kind of there. I still don’t know how much a manager can really impact a team over the entire season. So I thank my lucky stars when one of the managers who is clearly good is leading the best team in the league, because that makes this a lot easier.

Apologies to: No one

NL Manager of the Year- Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks

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Oh, look, a clearly good manager who used to be with the Red Sox. Weird. If only they could have, I don’t know, ditched Farrell and just gone with Lovullo. Wishful thinking, I guess. Lovullo’s turned last year’s biggest disappointment into this year’s biggest surprise. He’s got the D’Backs solidly in the first Wild Card spot with mostly the same roster. Bud Black gets strong consideration, and probably would have won if Lovullo hadn’t been right under the Red Sox nose for years, for taking a bunch of rookies and making a serviceable rotation in Coors Field.

Apologies to: Bud Black

AL Cy Young- Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox

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He leads the majors in strikeouts and fielding independent pitching. He leads the American League in innings pitched, strikeout to walk ratio, opponents’ OPS against, and WHIP, and is third in the AL in ERA+. He’s the best big-time Red Sox acquisition since Pablo Sandoval Carl Crawford Adrian Gonzalez Manny Ramirez. He’s been the best pitcher in the American League, and is certainly helped by Dallas Keuchel and Corey Kluber missing significant time. If you think Jason Vargas deserves Cy Young, you’ve probably never left the state of Missouri.

Apologies to: Dallas Keuchel, Jason Vargas, Corey Kluber, Marcus Stroman, Ervin Santana

NL Cy Young- Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

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Put it this way- Clayton Kershaw is having a typical Kershaw season: 2.18 ERA, 159 strikeouts and 22 walks in 132 innings, 189 ERA+, 14 wins. And he’s still clearly the second best pitcher in the league. Scherzer has been absolutely out of his mind all year. Leads all pitchers in WAR. Has one fewer strikeout than Sale. He’s allowing 5.12 hits per 9 this year, which would be the best ever. Like, in the 500 year history of the MLB. He’s got a 208 ERA+, which would only be the fourth 200 ERA+ season in the last ten years. He’s a maniac competitor and he never misses games, and, right now, he’s the best in the business.

Apologies to: Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Zach Greinke

AL MVP- Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

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There’s really no one else it could be. In the absence of Mike Trout, Judge leads the league in pretty much every player value stat. He leads the league in homers, on base percentage, slugging percentage (and, naturally, OPS), and OPS+. He’s second in the majors in runs and third in the AL in average. Literally the only thing you can say negatively is that he strikes out a lot, but that clearly hasn’t had too much of a negative impact on his performance. I won’t guarantee he’ll win the award at season’s end just yet, since Trout is coming back, and, if he continues the ridiculous pace he had going before the injury and Judge hits anything like a rookie wall, the race might be back on.

Apologies to: Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Chris Sale, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer

NL MVP- Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

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There’s four or five legitimate candidates for this. You could go with the aforementioned Scherzer, the best pitcher in the league. You could go with Justin Turner, the NL’s leader in batting average and on base percentage who continues to get better with age. But, he’s missed 25 games. You could go with Nolan Arenado, the game’s best defensive player who’s having another great season at the plate. You could go Joey Votto, long the league’s most misunderstood superstar, who’s finally answering his critics by adding a ton of home runs and RBI to his typical .315/.427/.631 slash line. But I’m going with Paul Goldschmidt. He leads NL position players in WAR and runs scored, has an elite .312/.428/.577 slash line, plays gold glove defense, and leads all first basemen in stolen bases. I don’t really like using a team’s record to look at MVP, since in baseball you can have the greatest season of all time and still be stuck on the worst team in the league (i.e., Trout/ A-Rod with the Rangers). But, considering how disappointing the Diamondbacks were last year and how they’ve turned it around this year, I’m going to use that as just a small bit of a tiebreaker here. Goldschmidt’s been one of the best players in the league for years now, and it’s time he got the recognition he deserved.

Apologies to: Joey Votto, Justin Turner, Nolan Arenado, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Freddie Freeman (too many missed games), Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper

It’s Time Someone Asked the Important Question: Is Aaron Judge a True Yankee?

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In case you missed last night’s Home Run Derby, Aaron Judge won. Actually, just saying he won doesn’t really do it justice. He won so dominantly and so effortlessly that it makes me wonder why anyone else even showed up. He hit three balls over 500 feet, which seems impossible until you remember he’s 6’8″ 280. He appears to be the ultimate home run hitting machine, built in a lab (hmmm….) for one purpose only: to hit baseballs into orbit. Yankee fans have naturally embraced him, calling him the new Face of Baseball, the Best Player in the League, and the Future of Sports. I guess all these Red Sox titles recently have shaken the Yankee fans a bit, because they’ve apparently forgotten how all this works. Before all the accolades, one question needs answering. If they’re too afraid to ask it, it looks like it’s up to me: Is Aaron Judge a True Yankee?

What is a True Yankee? Well, don’t ask me. I’m just a lowly Red Sox fan. I can’t wrap my mind around a fanbase actually holding serious debates about whether a member of the team is really a member of the team. I can’t understand the inherent pomposity required to view being on a specific baseball team as a solemn privilege that has to be earned every day or else you’re just a coward who could never hack in the Big City, anyway. To be a True Yankee, you must be a perfectly boring classy, clean cut, All-American, only-wants-to-play-for-the-Yankees-because-why-would-you-want-to-ever-play-anywhere-else, never-even-thinks-about-getting-what-he’s-worth-on-the-open-market (unless he’s signing with the Yankees from another team, of course), no-personality stick-in-the-mud. And win, too. That should go without saying. Any player that won a title, regardless of their individual skill level, is infinitely better than one who hasn’t. Luis Sojo is a better Yankee than Alfonso Soriano, everyone knows that. All for a team that has won one championship since 9/11. I recognize that there’s a lot of similarities between the way people outside the New England-New York area view both Yankees and Patriots fans: arrogant, overly serious, overly sensitive, and just plain annoying. But at least us Patriots fans are spared the weight of history. Before Belichick and Brady there was nothing to be proud of, so why bring it up? Yankees fans, though, can’t escape it. That’s why they’re so married to the “True Yankee” fantasy. Everything always has to be tied back to the “good old days,” when men were men and free agency didn’t exist yet, or in the “good old days” when everything was built around Derek Jeter, the Textbook Yankee (and future Miami Marlins owner) who should be treated as an extreme outlier, not the baseline. I mean, these are people who seriously asked if Alex Rodriguez, the multi-time MVP and one of the two or three most purely talented players of all time, was a True Yankee and if he was worth the money. The phrase has died down a little bit, and I’m not sure if it has more to do with the passing of George Steinbrenner, the gatekeeper of True Yankees, or the aforementioned Red Sox success and subsequent bad Yankees teams.

But on to the matter at hand. Is Aaron Judge a True Yankee? Most Yankee fans I talk to seem to think yes. I mean, he’s had one amazing half a season of baseball, so he’s clearly headed to the Hall of Fame. New York fans haven’t overreacted before about a young player. But, I wouldn’t be doing my job as a journalist if I didn’t investigate. First, the obvious: he hasn’t won a championship. He hasn’t even been in the playoffs yet. What a loser. How can that guy be a True Yankee? Second, his outfit last night spoke volumes:

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Clearly he’s wearing regular white pants because he’s yet to Earn His Pinstripes. And those socks? So flashy. No True Yankee would ever call attention to himself like that. It’s about the front of the jersey, not the back. True Yankee Reggie Jackson, who most clearly defined the selflessness and team-first attitude we all cherish so much, knew that. And what in the world is that bat he’s using? Respect the game. You think Babe Ruth, the original True Yankee even though he started with the Red Sox, would ever swing that? Hell, no. He’d throw it into a fire so he could cook up more hot dogs. He did it all on hot dogs and beer, you know. True Yankees respect the physical grind this profession calls for and are always in top shape. Don’t get me started on those huge cleats, either. We all know your feet can swell when you take steroids. I know for a fact that True Yankees Andy Pettite and Jason Giambi both wore size 8 cleats all throughout their careers. Don’t know if I can really trust someone with feet that big to carry on the True Yankee tradition of fair play. Lastly, see the look on his face? Like he’s exerting effort? Yeah, we can’t have that kind of emotional outburst from True Yankees. True Yankees keep their cool through everything, never rising or falling, never calling attention to themselves. I liked to call True Yankee Paul O’Neill Cool Paul because he was always so cool out there, never showing whatever emotion he dared to have underneath the robotic facade that Yankee fans crave so much.

Lastly, I’m looking at all these pictures of Monument Park and can’t see number 99 anywhere. How can he be a True Yankee if he number isn’t even retired yet? How will anyone remember Aaron Judge if he doesn’t have a plaque to commemorate him? I know I’ll forget his countless mammoth blast and exciting play the second his bum, non-True-Yankee ass finally retires if he doesn’t have his own wing in Monument Park. How can I consider him a True Yankee if the organization itself clearly doesn’t?

Look, I know there’s a lot of Yankee fans out there who are excited about their team’s future. They have a lot of good, young players and, surprisingly, very few over-the-hill veterans with massive contracts. But, I’m warning them to be careful. Don’t get too attached to some of these guys just yet, because the evidence doesn’t lie: Aaron Judge is not a True Yankee.