Bake Shop Mailbag: NFL Training Camp, Proper Pregnancy Etiquette, and the Fate of the Mets

Elias Stein

Curious about your thoughts on daily NFL training camp coverage. For me, it’s torture. “Nice catch by a professional football player during practice.” “Potential football player makes play, might become professional football player.” I do find myself addicted to anxiously browsing for the words “injury” “hurt” “not getting up” or ”helped off.”  

Personally, I would love for training camp coverage, save for Hard Knocks, to disappear. Then right before Week 1, teams release an injury report. Now, checking that injury report would be terrifying, but that terrifying moment would be consolidated into one occurrence instead of a daily experience.
—Rami L.

It might at least save us the ongoing guessing game about how many fingers Jason Pierre-Paul has left. You know how during the NBA lottery they sequester reporters and take away their devices? I think the NFL should do something similar, but for the entirety of training camp. It would be like the O.J. jury, except instead of Lance Ito telling everyone that “we will try to make this something less than … an experience of incarceration, but it won’t be a picnic,” it would be a smirking Roger Goodell.

Hard Knocks could devote a whole episode juxtaposing NFL team-building activities with the deteriorating conditions inside the media bunker: Twitter-starved professional communicators slowly melting down; Peter King subsisting on hotel breakfast buffet berries and turning into Richard Hatch; Adam Schefter running down a hotel hallway screaming “I can’t take it anymore!” like one cooped-up juror did during the Rodney King trials. Back at home, fans would rediscover their families and save themselves from actually tuning in to watch the Houston Texans practice with/against the Washington Redskins. Winners, all.

We would time everyone’s release to take place a few days before fantasy football drafts, and those first few minutes of freedom would look like the running of the Supreme Court media interns. Seriously, somebody please make this happen. I can’t think of a single downside.

Career Renaissance Power Rankings:

1. McConaughey
2. Eli Manning
428. Vince Vaughn

Discuss…
—Greg B.

Speaking of Matthew McConaughey, praise be to Juliet Litman for tweeting this photo of tha god, shown here switching outfits with his son to throw the paparazzi off their trail.

But wait, where is Tony Romo on this list?! I’m frightened by how much I would totally watch a spinoff weekly dramedy about Arts & Craftsy Man. Dude owned the role. I’ve decided to believe he modeled the character after some weird hanger-on uncle in Jessica Simpson’s camp.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dun9MGPTFWk

I haven’t seen True Detective Season 2 because it’s kind of more fun to follow it on Twitter without context, like a Kobe Bryant basketball game, but I have spent a lot of time Googling the beef between Nic Pizzolatto and Cary Fukunaga. First of all, you can’t convince me this isn’t just the same dude except for the glasses, like Clark Kent/Superman. Second of all, any feud that can be summed up as “Could the bold writer with the raging soul of Hemingway simply have gotten annoyed with the chillaxed snowboard dude?” is a feud I appreciate. But TEAM CHILLAXED SNOWBOARD DUDE, no question. Pizzolatto not only sounds ridiculous — Vanity Fair’s paean to him is out of control — he has managed to do the opposite of what he’s been going for and made Fukunaga look even more talented in retrospect.

Is Henrik Lundqvist the Patrick Ewing of the New York Rangers? My husband says yes but I hold out hope he’ll get the ring he deserves.
—Elizabeth B.

[Silent weeping.]

[Tries to cheer self up by opening this photo.]

[Remembers the Rangers couldn’t afford to keep Carl Hagelin, stupidly negged Anton Stralman, and don’t have Victor Hedman.]

[Full-scale Claire Danes crumple-face-cry meltdown.]

My wife and I are having a hard time agreeing on a name for our first child due in September. (It’s a boy!) My heart is set on Beauregard but she will have no part of it. Can you give us the names far enough down on your list that you won’t use?
—Drew C.

Congratulations on le bebe! I’m having a boy also, in November, so please write back sometime in mid-October during the depths of your sleep deprivation to give me some unfiltered real talk about what to expect. As my dear colleague Corey saw fit to remind me: Never forget that we’ll one day have a teenage boy going through puberty living in our home. Aren’t you excited? In fairness, I contend that having a teenage girl has got to be worse.

I wish I could give you name advice, but one of the things I’ve learned over the past few months is that the first rule of baby name club is you do not talk about baby name club. Your friends will try to remain straight-faced when you tell them what you’re thinking, but you’ll see they’re wrinkling their nose. Your grandma will flat-out say your ideas are awful. (It’s cool, she’s an old lady and she’s earned this right.) Your mom will cry. Your neighbor kid will suggest going with “Spike.” The easiest way to avoid this is to wait until the kid is born, when people are forced to fake their enthusiasm about both the name and the little-old-man-raisin-creature being cute.

(That said, I’m kind of into how bold the name Beauregard is — any name that literally translates into “handsome gaze” is A-OK in my book, and it’s a hell of a lot better than like 90 percent of the names on this list. I do think you should write in to one of my two favorite baby name nerd blogs — Appellation Mountain and Swistle — to see if they have any ideas.)

That’s right, I have favorite baby name nerd blogs. Pregnancy opens your eyes to so much, from terrifying Pinterest recipes for “padsicles” to the 700 shapes of synthetic nipple on the market to the life-changing existence of maternity jeans. If I’d known I could procure pants held up by a panel of stretchy, chest-high, flesh-toned spandex in lieu of muffin-toppy waistbands, my twenties would have been so, so different. Of course, the Bridget Jones Granny Panties Paradox would definitely have applied.

As I write this, I’m looking out a café window, taking note of all the strollers that go by and judging their pushers based on Consumer Reports–style reviews that I’ve read. “Ah yes, the BOB Revolution. I bet she’s never even used it to jog.” I can’t enter an airport bathroom anymore without gazing in horror at the decrepit state of the Koala Kare baby-changing stations therein. I recently experienced my first unsolicited stomach touch: My landlord’s random girlfriend fondled me like I was some bronzed Buddha statue there to give luck. I’m contemplating withholding next month’s rent.

The biggest danger to pregnant couples, though, aren’t handsy strangers but well-meaning friends who have kids of their own. These people are like frat boys who haze you because they were once hazed themselves. It is impossible to make small talk with them, because there are zero things you can say that aren’t immediately responded to with the words “just you wait.”

Innocent pregnant person: Great win by the Cavs last night!

World-weary parent friend: Just you wait: The only dribbles you’ll be seeing soon will be spit-up.

IPP: I’m heading to lunch, want me to grab you some soup?

WWPF: Just you wait: You’ll be so tired once you have a kid, your BRAIN will be soup.

IPP: So nice to meet you, I’m Katie.

WWPF: Ha! Just you wait: I haven’t used my name in years. Everyone from my husband to the girl bagging groceries just calls me “mama” or “mom.”

IPP: I am fully aware I should get my rest now because I’ll never sleep again and 2 is sooo much harder than 1 and vacations are a thing of the past and so are restaurants and the baby years are nothing compared to raising a teenager and even if I say I’ll never raise them on iPads I totally will and those shopping carts shaped like cars are more valuable than liquid gold and kids are the greatest blessing that the world has ever known but all I’ll be able to talk about is how they’ve ruined my life.

WWPF: [Opens mouth to speak; spontaneously combusts.]

Anyway, good luck with the name.

What’s your vote for the new North Dakota nickname?
—Kevin H.

UND did what Dan Snyder will not and shelved its “Fighting Sioux” logo and nickname in 2012. Since then, the saga around a new one has included a two-year “cooling-off period”; comparisons to the Russian “mad czar”; an official university blog with a pop-up window featuring links to lawsuits, “key documents,” and “the Honoring History and Traditions Task Group”; and two nickname suggestion long lists that span a cumulative several hundreds of pages.

If you ever need some joy in your life, or are stuck on a cross-country flight, I highly recommend scrolling through those official lists of every name suggestion (and each one’s rationale), which were released in the spring. Picking out highlights is almost too overwhelming, but just know that the university administration doesn’t appear to have censored anything, which makes the documents a glorious romp through the twisted minds of the citizens of our great nation.

One page on the “non-consideration list” alone includes nine variations beginning with “dick,” a vote for “Democrats” (“Because thanks Obama”), six votes for some form of “Dire Wolves,” two for “Desolate Wastelanders,” one for “Dirty UNDies,” and a vote for “Dem Boyz” (“Wiz Khalifa is from North Dakota, and one of his popular songs is Dem Boyz”). This thing belongs in the Library of Congress.

That’s right, the new UND nickname sweepstakes has officially gone on so long and featured such absurd entries that it’s basically a proxy for the GOP primary. (One suggestion, for the Flying Aces, even had the following rationale: “An Ace is a person of daring, accomplishment, heroism, competitive, a trump card, that also reflects on UND’s great aerospace program.” Sounds pretty much like a typical tweet from The Donald.) And just as with the GOP primary, the front-runners leave us with pretty slim pickings. As of today, the five finalists are: Fighting Hawks, Nodaks, Sundogs, North Stars, and Roughriders.

I’m personally Team North Stars because I believe in trolling Minnesota whenever humanly possible, but the best outcome would be UND president Robert Kelley following up on his recent announcement that he’ll consider the reinstatement of a no-nickname-nickname. Truly, the North Dakota No Resolution is the only fitting way for this circus to end.

What are the odds on Phil Kessel scoring 50 now that he has Gary Roberts training him this offseason? I say 5 hot dogs to 1 great centerman in Pittsburgh.
—B.

He is looking pretty svelte!!!!

There’s an excellent chance that Kessel’s work with fitness and lifestyle guru (and too much man!) Gary Roberts will go a lot like Michael Del Zotto’s stint in 2010:

Michael Del Zotto, a good Italian boy used to his lasagna and chicken parm, struggled the most.

“Michael was the pickiest,” says Roberts with a chuckle. “He’d text me and say, ‘Holy Crap what was that green stuff in my sandwich?’. I said, ‘Those are sprouts Michael.’ One time I got him excited telling him he was getting spaghetti. I didn’t tell him it was actually zucchini, shredded like spaghetti.”

The question is what healthful foodstuff Roberts will use to trick Kessel into thinking he’s chowing down on those infamous Front Street hot dogs. Squash? Tofu? Something tells me ol’ Phil the Thrill will not be easily fooled. Whatever he shovels into that frowny face, though, please just let him win the Art Ross and have to deliver a speech. Preferably while wearing this T-shirt.

If only one of your wishes could come true: A-Rod wins a World Series MVP or Tiger wins another major. Both would be great sports stories. Who ya got?
—John E.

For as much as I’m enjoying the Summer of A-Rod, I’d rather see Tiger win a major, for two reasons:

1. Part of what makes the A-Rod resurgence so fun is that it’s fun to see the Yankees exposed as Mean Girls. If A-Rod and the team were to win a World Series, that comedic tension goes away. Plus, if you’re not a Yankees fan, this scenario means having to stomach the attendant annoyances that come along with them winning another championship: the smug fans; the schmaltzy trips down memory lane; the overheated arguments over whether they’re the greatest franchise of all time, etc. 

That said, him winning a World Series MVP would be hilarious because the team would have to single him out specifically, and so would Major League Baseball, which is always the true villain in any situation. Also, the NYC tabloid columns would be off the charts.

But …

2. The thing about televised golf is that it gets super personal. You get the sense that you’re snooping in on someone’s tortured psyche. It’s a lot like tennis this way — some of those more painful rounds on the golf course bring Richie Tenenbaum’s on-court meltdown to mind. He’s taken off his shoes and one of his socks and … actually, I think he’s crying.

Tiger’s incessant swing-tinkering of late only exacerbates this: Every step into the tee box, every overly calculated flick of the wrist is like listening to some sad sack read a bad self-help book out loud. You know no premeditated step-by-step process can save him now. Which is why it would be so fun to see Tiger win: Maybe, at the same time, we’d be watching him relax.

Also, the crowd support would be epic — as it is, people approach the absolute pinnacle of botched-high-fiving golf fan dorkiness when the guy hits one good chip. Imagine if he were in contention late into a Sunday. It would all feel communal in a way that an A-Rod homer might not.

Ugh, now I’m talking myself into Tiger having a shot at the PGA Championship, even as I know there’s almost no chance. But look, he’s planning on the simple red shirt! I’ll try not to be too worried that the outfit lineup doesn’t appear to include shoes and socks.

San Diego Padres v New York MetsMike Stobe/Getty Images

Can you settle a ten year old argument for me.  

Is life (and everything you do in it) a game of adjustments or a game of consistency?

Less important question:

Would you rather eat only at a truck stop for the rest of your life, or wear clothes only from a truck stop for the rest of your life?
—Eric S.

Hey, thanks for totally messing with my head via an unanswerable cosmic query that has already plagued you and your friends for a decade! This is how horror films start. I’m afraid to go to sleep now. The next stop from here is pretty much Roko’s Basilisk.

My gut answer is that adjustments are more important than consistency. This is because I know people who are constitutionally unable to ever go with the flow, and their lives seem like hellscapes. The slightest change in scenery or alteration of plans not only sends them reeling, it brings down everyone else in their orbit. Being able to absorb and react to the unexpected seems like a much more tolerable path.

But I can see the downsides of being all super-whatevs all the time. You risk complacency and put yourself in danger of being walked all over or taken for granted. By being consistent, you’re defining who you are and what you’re about. You’re setting your own terms, not having the universe dictate them to you. There are a lot of people out there who take this concept to its extreme and do things like wear the same outfit or drink the same sludge every day: Some of them are just your garden-variety annoying techbros, sure, but others are Steve Jobs.

Maybe the “it’s a trick question!” answer is that adjustments are a form of consistency, though: consistency of outcome, rather than of process. (Even Jobs, his turtlenecks notwithstanding, stood down sometimes.) Trainers at the gym love forcing you to do those instability exercises where you, like, do biceps curls while standing on one foot on a wobbly inflatable disc. The biceps curl does standard biceps curl things, but the inflatable disc totally replicates the reality of unexpected movement. It engages your core, man. Life isn’t YOLO, it’s BOSU.

(Oh, and totally the truck stop clothes over the food, because as much as I love diner slop, I’ve never seen a Chipotle at a truck stop and I also don’t think they serve soup dumplings. Dealbreaker right there.)

Are you all in with the Mets in an “I’ve already experienced countless collapses, another one won’t faze me so might as well enjoy this” kind of way? Or are you holding out?
—Rami L.

The pitcher nicknamed Thor; the whirlwind Wilmer Flores whiplash; the Twitter banter between Jerry Seinfeld and Yoenis Cespedes; the hangry agony of Keith Hernandez; the existence of Bartolo Colon in general; the on-air Joe and Evan late-game meltdown; the slow rehab of David Wright; the fact that every time they show Terry Collins chewing on his pen I think for a brief moment that he’s vaping … you better believe I’m all in!!!! This can only end well. The Mets know the key to ruining lives is being consistent.

I have two close friends getting married in the Caribbean next summer (islands TBA), but also a trip to Hawaii with my wife scheduled for February. Should I cancel the trip to Hawaii (no tickets bought yet) to ensure I can make it to both weddings, or try to roll the dice and make it to all three?

Also, what are the wedding gift rules for destination weddings of friends over 30? Isn’t making the trip itself enough of a present?
—Brian M.

Making the trip is definitely enough — the etiquette experts like to use the cheesy mantra “your presence is your present” — but if you want to give them something that won’t break the bank but that they’ll use a hell of a lot more than those precious decorative hand towels they registered for, what about a pair of some wedding-locale-themed Tervis tumblers with a note cheersing them on their upcoming Caribbean nuptials? (If the destination is a ski resort, an island off Maine, or Ireland, you’re covered there too.)

As for your own adventures, that’s a tough one — that Hawaiian vacation in February sounds pretty vital for the soul, especially if you live in a cold winter clime. I wouldn’t want to cancel that unless I really had to. Tell your close friends to get their ish together and firm up these weirdly nonspecific wedding plans pronto. Destination weddings and last-minute planning do not mix.

If you can at least get some dates out of them, that would clear up a lot: a week or two apart and you could swing one long vacation out of it. (Keep in mind, though, that even in an El Niño year there’ll still be hurricane season.) If the two events are awkwardly spaced and you have to choose one, I’d go with whichever is finalized first. Or whichever will have the better food/bar/party boat situation. Either way, don’t skimp on the dark rum or the sunscreen.

So let’s hypothetically say one were to be taping an episode of Sports Jeopardy! in a few weeks and one wished to have a gag answer in their back pocket in case they had no clue of the Final Jeopardy answer. Should that person (a) give Rembert a shout-out, (b) stick it to the man by writing “Roger Goodell Sucks,” or (c) leave it to you to come up with something.
—James K.

TOM LIED, JESUS CRIED, SWEET RIDE, ROLL TIDE.

Filed Under: NFL, Bake Shop, mailbag, MLB, New York Mets, Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez

Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes