Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Opening Ceremonies update

Michael, Scott and I purchased championship rings on Saturday. And by "championship rings", I mean that it's going to be a surprise to what they are, and I don't want to ruin it for any Ninjas reading this blog. I can give a few hints, though:

- Chinatown
- Plastic
- Awesome

The model rocketry exhibition is...going OK? I mean, Scott did a great job with the actual rocket, and it looks great. The problem is that none of us have ever launched a model rocket before. This is either going to be lame or set the place on fire. But even if it's lame, it will be lame in a completely awesome way, so I'm not too worried.

Also, Ashley needs ideas for Theme Nights this season. For example, we play a game on June 19, which also happens to be:

- World Sauntering Day, which is so appropriate that I don't even know that we need to acknowledge it within the Division. We generally are pretty good at not jogging, running, etc. while we play, so perhaps we shouldn't encourage it even more.

- Garfield the Cat Day: players could eat a huge plate of lasagna each time they come to bat. And then I could punch everyone in the nose who participates in Garfield the Cay Day for having any association at all with the orange, flea-ridden menace of the cartoon pages.

- Juneteenth: while I'm all for celebrating the end of slavery in the United States (the official Ninja position: slavery is bad; working as an servant while learning secrets from your Master is, however, acceptable), I don't know that a Division that had three black players out of about 150 total players last season is really the best forum for it.

Although June 19th does fall on "Appreciate You Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Professionals Week". I wonder what a Ninja plumber is like. It must be tough to bill people,since you move so quickly and stealthly that they never know that you were under their sink fixing that clogged drain. Also, how would you wear a tool belt with a ninja outfit?

July is National Eye Injury Prevention Month. We should have a Theme Night where everyone is encouraged to wear their favorite type of protective eyewear. Which for me means one word: RecSpecs.

Pick up game

Because it was Memorial Day, we didn't have an official game yesterday. Instead, we had a leaguewide pick-up game. And by "leaguewide", I mean, four Ninjas, two Valley Girls and a couple of the Bookhouse Boys. Basically, the pick-up game turned into 30 minutes of kicking practice, followed by myself, Ashley, Michael and Scott going to El Torito for dinner. Yay margaritas!

So basically, I'm very disappointed in the Division's dedication so far. We had 40 people at a pick-up game on President's Day last season, and that was a) before the actual season began and b) in the dark, so we had to bring our own flashlights and candles to play.

I hope that the Opening Ceremonies is more enthusiastically welcomed by the rest of the Division.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rain out

Yup, we were rained out last night, despite it having stopped raining at 1 p.m. Apparently, Orion (our WAKA rep) called the park early in the morning when it was still raining to check if the fields would be open that night. Michael did go to the fields later and report that they were pretty muddy and unplayable. However, the blessing is that we now have two extra weeks to plan our Opening Night crap (admittedly, we were too busy celebrating our Division Title to focus on the next season.) Needless to say, not one but two model rockets are being built as we speak.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Rain update

The rain is gone now. It's sunny outside, and I don't think it rained so much that we couldn't possibly play on the fields (perhaps needing to reconfigure the bases, but still very possible). I have a feeling that the games are getting cancelled, though, because Parks and Rec are lazy and will close the fields out of habit rather than actually checking on the actual condition.



If anyone didn't believe me on how awesome THE PLAY was, I now have film evidence:

If you want to see more Awesome Helicopter Ninjas videos, schedules, or other AHN related crap, check out the Official Awesome Helicopter Ninjas home page.


After surviving the Winter 2006 season, with its four rainouts, how does the Spring 2006 season start? Looking out my window, it's grey and wet. Weather.com does say that it's supposed to be sunny this afternoon. The only question is if the field will be too wet to play on. Grrr...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Japanese are weird, Part I

In Japan, there's something called The Hello! Project, which is sort of an umbrella group for a bunch of all-female J-pop groups recording for the Up-Front Group label. Every year, they have the Hello! Project Sports Festival, which involves members of The Hello! Project competing in different sporting events. I'm not sure what the point is of all of it, or who they are competing against most of the time, but it's held at the Tokyo Dome and shown on TV in Japan.

Last year one of the sports was kickball (or as they call it, kickbase). Their team went against a team of grade school girls and got smoked. Here's some video of the HP team scoring their first run.,,

I don't know what any of this is all about, and if anyone knows more about this, please jump in with the info. My point is that if there's a way that we can go to Japan and play kickball against a bunch of Japenese girl pop groups and get on national TV, we shold explore it.

Things we need for Opening Night - a checklist

- Illegal fireworks
- A boombox with a CD of the National Anthem(s) - I have the US national anthem on CD as well as the O Canada if we have any Canadian players. Are there any other countries represented that we need to acknowledge?
- Patroitic Bunting (I mean this kind of bunting, not the type of bunting that leads to me kicking someone out at first base...)
- A "Winter 2006 Studio Division Champions" banner to hang from the rafters/top of the backstop during our games
- Championship rings to hand out to our team in a ceremony before the game starts (this means a trip to Chinatown this weekend)

What else?

2006 Spring Season...

starts this Monday, which means that we have to start planning opening night ceremonies. For the third out of three Studio Division season, we have a Ninja as President, as Ashley "Soul Train" Love-Smith is the new Division president. Which means that you can expect the same amount of wacky crap as before, plus our "kickball mafia" gets to control everything and rig things in our favor.

Not really, but some people in the Division have claimed that in the past. People that don't join the Board or get involved with leadership, but would rather complain out of ignorance, but I digress...

A better Championship Game recap

Now that some time has passed, I think it's time for a more detailed report on Monday night's activities:

I arrived at the park at about 6 p.m., where I met Michael and Scott to start testing the pyrotechnics. Specifically, we wanted to see a) how much smoke the smoke balls and grenades would produce, b) if that smoke would be enough to cause the fire station next door to send firemen out and c) if there was a chance that we would somehow burn down the entire park with these things. We decided to take our various smoke-making materials down to the Los Angeles River canal alongside the park. (Of course, being the Los Angeles River, it's completely dry and just a big cement channel. Like where the Rodriguez Brothers had their car chase with Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton in "Repo Man".)

We started off with a small smoke ball and threw that into the channel. There was smoke, but it wasn't overwhelming. However, from the other side of the channel in the trees, some homeless guy asked us very nicely to not do that, since it was disturbing "his camp". I certainly didn't want to argue with a homeless guy about where we could test our probably illegal fireworks, so we moved further down the channel. (Actually, Scott did. Michael and I had stayed up above the river bed because a) it was pretty steep to get down there and b) there were lots of briars and thorn bushes along the way, as we found by having to spend 20 minutes picking themout of our shoes and socks.)

Eventually, we did test the smoke grenade, and it looked to be just the right amount of smoke to create a cool effect for us to come running through before the start of the game, but not enough to make the fire department come out. The package on the smoke grenades promised "up to 25,000 cubic feet of smoke" each, but although we're not really sure how large 25,000 cubic feet of smoke is, what the "smoke grenade" put out didn't seem to be that much.

Of course, the irony is that for all of the planning, we wound up getting too busy ACTUALLY PREPARING FOR THE GAME to pull off our big pre-game entrance. Specifically, Scott went into his zone about 15 minutes before the start of the game where he was trying to put everyone in the best position possible in the line-up, and when he does that, basically you can't talk to him. You can, and he'll respond, but it's complete auto-pilot. Plus, we had to fill out two copies of the roster (one for us and one for the other team), and for some reason we had to include first and last names.

We did manage to get a small piece of shenanigans into the pre-game ceremonies. When we traded rosters with Redrum, Scott and Michael came out with four flutes of champagne (actually sparkling cider) to share a toast of good luck with Redrum's captains. It was a sporting gesture, especially so since we obviously DID NOT POISON THE OTHER TEAM. Which might have been easy to do, but we CERTAINLY DID NOT LACE THE OTHER TEAM'S DRINKS WITH POISON. If you want clarity, look at the two flutes we used to give them their "champagne":

See? Clearly NOT POISON at all...

Before the game started, Scott gave a really firey and passionate speech. Well, not really, but it was very sweet, and he did copy a few things directly from "Miracle", which had been watched several times the night before. Basically, he reminded us that we really had no business being in the championship game, but all things being said we actually had played better than Redrum in the playoffs, and had every right to think we would win. Plus, Redrum wasn't hiding the fact that they were completely overlooking us.

Backtrack: Redrum beat us 12-1 in the regular season. It was the low point for our team, perhaps ever, and brought about a lot of changes. Most significantly, we started practicing every week, and I moved from pitcher to catcher. Basically, we were getting bunted to death, and having a strong-fielding catcher can stop a lot of that bullshit. That loss was the turning point for the season, since that's when people started to realize that if we actually played well and won, it would be more fun than losing. Which is not to say that you can't have fun while losing, but all things being equal, it's more fun to win.

Before the start of the game, Redrum was being pretty cocky. Which is what they are to begin with, but they're cocky in a fun way, not in a douchebaggy way like some other teams I've come across before. Redrum's pitcher, Dave, basically was bragging that umping his games is hard "because my curve ball is different than anyone else's", while their captain offered us a draw to save us the humiliation of getting whomped again.

We were the visiting team for the game (as the No. 6 seed going against the No. 1 seed, they had home-field advantage), so we kicked first. Which I actually like, because I felt like if we could get a lead early, they might start pressing. Scott lead off with a single, I followed with a single, and then Scott was able to score from second on Eugene's ground-out. (Scott is very fast, and also greedy.) We were up 1-0 after a half-inning, and it set the tone that it we weren't the same team they thumped in the regular season.

What REALLY set the tone was when they came up in the bottom of the first. Their lead-off kicker is Clark, who is probably one of the two or three nicest non-Ninjas in the Division - everyone loves Clark. He's also very fast, and basically can get on base at will when he bunts. However, our whole strategy is to use me to eliminate the bunt option. It involves bending the rules as far as it can go.

Here's the thing - even though I'm the "catcher", I don't even bother to concern myself with catching the pitches. I just line up at the back of the backstop, and as the kicker is planting his/her foot to kick the ball, I break into a dead sprint alongside them towards the field. I can time it right so that I am usually right alongside them or just behind them when the ball is kicked, which is all the rules say you need to do (the restriction is to "not be in front of the kicker"). By doing that, I can make a play on the ball with all of my momentum going towards first base.

Clark laid down a pretty decent bunt, but towards the middle of the field. When I got to it, I realized that it was going to be almost impossible for me to get the ball of the ground and make a strong enough through to get him out. So, I just reverted back to my days of youth soccer and kicked the ball to our first baseman, Other Scott. And it was a beautiful kick - hard, and right at Scott's chest. Clark was out by a half-step, and the crowd (all 30 or so of them) went nuts (as nuts as a kickball crowd gets). Needless to say, our team was absolutely pumped after that, and it set a tone that there were no free bases to be had in the championship game.

Of course, the next batter also bunted, except more down the third-base line, and I was forced to attempt and awkward, left-footed kick that almost caused me to fall. But, Scott bailed us out by making a juggling catch in right center field (coming over from shortstop) and firing to second to double up the runner for a double play. Scott was so pumped up that he left me bruised by punching my chest in excitement.

The next four innings were just really well-played. We had a few chances to break things open but couldn't capitalize. Redrum for the most part never threatened on offense. Everyone on our team made every play they possibly could. I was able to get at least three or four more outs on bunt attempts (either pop-ups I caught or grounders I could field and throw to first on), which really started to get in Redrum's head. Basically, they got so frustrated that they were spending more time complaining to the head ump about me "crossing the kicker" (which I didn't) than they were worrying about trying to score a run.

We get to the bottom of the fifth, and we're still up 1-0. I go out to catch, and I think to myself "Boy, this would really suck if they came back." Which is awful to think, but I've been snakebit so many times on teams coming back on my team, that it's only human nature. All I really wanted was a quick 1-2-3 inning, with no one getting on base and no reason to panic.

Amazingly, that's what we got. Three fly balls, three catches, and just like that the game was over. The Awesome Helicopter Ninjas were freakin' Division Champions! I didn't know that ESPN was broadcasting the game, but I saw this image on my Tivo later that night...

I swear to God, I didn't know what to do. I ran towards our bench, then the field, and basically was like Jim Valvano looking for someone to hug after NC State won the 1983 NCAA Final Four title. Scott came bounding in, grabbed two smoke grenades, and quickly lit and threw them onto the field for proper "atmosphere". I took my shirt off, a la Dennis Rodman,  and attempted to throw it into the crowd. I was aiming for Sara, who was completely awesome and skipped yoga to come watch, but my throw didn't clear the fence. Which is odd since it was absolutely drenched with sweat (I sweat a lot).

Afterwards, we went to the bar to celebrate. I felt completely ridiculous being that excited about winning a kickball championship, but you know what? I still am excited, two days later. As Scott said yesterday, we took a group of people who really couldn't care less about winning and losing and made them care enough to really give everything they had. A lot of people improved how they played multiple times over through the course of the season, and for a lot of people, that's probably the highlight of their sporting lives. Plus, we proved that the wacky, lovable goofball team COULD win a championship (we're sort of the Rick Vaughn-led Cleveland Indians of kickball).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

That thing we did last night

The best part was when we won the friggin' championship. It was pretty sweet.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Game Day

It's absolutely ridiculous that I should even be in the ballpark of getting nervous about a kickball championship game. Yet, I was up half the night, staring at the ceiling thinking about strategy. Actually, I was mainly thinking about the smoke bombs, and if we were going to get arrested/kicked out of the park for using them. I still think it's highly unlikely, since Tispy McStagger (the Parks and Rec. guy at the park/the local town drunk) is probably too many sheets into the wind by 8 p.m. to notice a smoke bomb (or any subsequent fire). I'm actually more concerned about the fire station right next door to the park. Although if they show up, I'm claiming that "some skater kids came by and threw them at us". Everyone else should do the same as well.

As Sara pointed out last night when I asked her if it might be a good idea for one of us to have a fire extinguisher just in case:

"With your team, I think that's probably a good precaution all of the time."

Sara is very smart.

If anyone who is not on my team already is reading this - please come to the game tonight (a map is here). The atmosphere is always a lot better when there are a lot of fans in attendance. There's also a pick-up game happening after the championship (next season = next week), and it's free. Even better, bring a camcorder, because this could be a "Maximum Exposure" worthy moment.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Certain rules are certains in kickball:

- If you are nice guys and decide to secretly "waive" the forfeit rule because the other team's fourth girl is running late, you are going to lose
- If you walk someone, they are almost always going to score
- Players that complain about every call are typically the ones that have no fucking clue what the rules are

July in Miami

If we win on Monday, we get an automatic berth in the WAKA Founders Cup, which is the World Kickball Championship for the Winter and Spring seasons (they have two world championships per year, which is yet another example of WAKA not quite getting something right). The question is, after we win the championship, can we convince at least four guys and four girls to pay out of their own pocket to fly to Miami for a weekend in July.

I think we can.

Also, if anyone reading this is a millionaire kickball-lover who wants to sponsor our team, please contact me to work out payment options.

Update on the smoke bombs

Ordered by Scott Jones yesterday. He's going to call to make sure that they can get them to us in time for Monday's game.

This is an example of having your priorities straight.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Awesome Helicopter Ninjas: A recap

It occured to me that some words of recap about us might be in order.

We are the Awesome Helicopter Ninjas. We play WAKA Kickball in the Studio Division. The Division is coed, and open to any 21 and over. Games are every Monday, followed by visits to our Division bar, which in this case is the Sportsmens' Lodge.

What does the name mean? Hell if I know. It's a team name that Scott Jones, our team captain, came up with when launching the team two seasons ago. It does combine several cool motifs:

- Ninjas
- Helicopters
- Things that are awesome

Basically, we're about having fun first. Not that we're not competitive people, but we'd rather be ridiculous than ultra-competitive meatheads. (If we wanted that, we'd join an adult soccer or softball league.) So, we definitely lead the league in the following categories:

- Trick plays used during games
- Injures faked in order to "sell" trick plays to opposing team members/roommates
- Props used during games
- Other theatrical bullshit

I would say that to be an Awesome Helicopter Ninja, you basically have to a) have complete and utter self-confidence (bordering on being delusional) that what you are doing or are planning on doing is completely awesome; b) constantly ask yourself "Is there a way to make this more over the top?"; and c) again, like props.

On a related note, we are so getting smoke bombs to integrate into our "Grand Entrance" before next week's Championship Game. I hope Tipsy McStagger (the parks and recreation guy at the park who is always a little sloshed and doesn't like us) doesn't get too upset.

Welcome to the Championships

Is there a better way to christen the Awesome Helicopter Ninjas blog than with a recap of our semifinal playoff game? Probably not, unless I could somehow convince an A-List celebrity to come in and make the first post. But, that's not happening (although I could probably find the director from the last season of Project Greenlight somewhere in Silverlake at this very second).


We're awesome.

More specifically, we were awesome to the tune of 7-2, giving us a date with Redrum in the Studio Division championship game next Monday. We took a 2-0 lead after a half-inning, and threatened to gag it away after giving up two quick runs of our own. But, everyone settled down and contributed, and by God, here we are in the Championship game.

Based on the level of shenanigans and "theatrical bullshit" (to quote another team) we tend to pull during normal games, and the fact that we tend to do the same thing for Championship games we AREN'T in, I can't imagine what we're going to attempt next week. Scott mentioned the term "model rocketry exhibition" at the bar - I think this would be considered "just the tip of the iceberg".