Grantland's Katie Baker is helping out The Triangle (and you!) by answering your questions in our new mailbag. In this edition: snapbacks, cookie consumption, advice for incoming freshman, and New York Times weddings.
Q. What are your thoughts on the recent popularity of snapbacks, especially for defunct hockey teams like the Whalers?
— Daniel R.
Bakes: Obviously, I could not possibly be more pro. They're the like gaudy "Super Bowl Champions!!!!" T-shirts that are mass-produced for both teams in advance — except for your dome. Between snapbacks and the re-rise of Zubaz I'm just hoping that Starter jackets will one day reign again. Grantland's resident culture carrier Amos Barshad recently wrote a piece for The Daily on the very subject of the snapback comeback:
"The last two years have seen demand skyrocket; particularly popular are caps for teams that owned the ’80s and 90s, like the Oakland Raiders and the Chicago Bulls. The Milwaukee Bucks, no great juggernaut, have proven to be a surprisingly great seller, too. Connors theorized that’s because the green and purple of the Bucks logo goes well with certain Prada and Gucci shoes."
This got me to thinking: what's the snapbackiest snapback there is? I welcome your thoughts. My vote's for this Mighty Ducks snapback, I think, though there's a lot to be said for defunct teams like the Whale. (Breakfasts come and go, Rene.) The embroidery on this long-lost Sonics hat is a particular gem of the genre.
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Q. I'm wondering if I'll be able to adjust — a long time Ranger fan and one of about six on all of Prince Edward Island, and now local god Brad Richards signs with the Blueshirts, and there will be hundreds if not thousands of NYR sweaters being worn here. Aside from totally sneering all the time, any advice?
— Bob G.
Bakes: This is tricky because these probably aren't your everyday bandwagon fans, like the guy at work who hasn't uttered a word about the Jets until Week 13, when he starts strutting into the office each Monday pumping his fist to the rhythm of J-E-T-S, or the girl at the bar in the San Francisco Giants jersey who asks you if Brian Wilson is "the one who was in 'Dazed and Confused.'" Dealing with those types is straightforward: you are condescending to them, you embrace them, or you endure them because they're hot and you want to make out. It's an occupational hazard of being a sports fan, the price you pay for your team's fleeting success.
The Richards thing requires more nuance, because it's at least based around legitimate local pride. For all you ugly Americans out there, the province of Prince Edward Island is roughly the size of Delaware. (For all you ladies out there, it's where Anne of Green Gables was set.) Richards' hometown of Murray Harbour has less than 400 residents and is, with its farmland that stretches to ocean, an incredibly soothing stroll down Google Street View if you're into that sort of thing. Richards' hometown hero status is well-earned: In 1999-00 he was the greatest junior league player in all of Canada. In 2004, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy when his Tampa Bay Lightning won the Cup. More than 10,000 people filled Murray Harbour when he visited with the award.
I can understand the psyche of the nouveau-Rich-e, in other words, though I fully dislike and distrust them on your behalf. They don't know what it's like to deal with Glen Sather year in and year out!
So, here's my advice: on WFAN last month Richards was asked about his favorite baseball team. "I grew up around the east coast of Canada, where it’s either Red Sox or Blue Jays," he said. "I hated both of them, so I went to the Yankees.” The Yankees! Next time some superfan raises your ire, just relay that factoid. If you're lucky, they'll rip that brand new no. 19 jersey right off in disgust.
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Q. Isn’t it amazing that a 21 year old is miraculously able to shoot par after suffering what golf commentators have deemed the most horrible golf injury in the history of the sport? The gritty performance that required a trainer (whose job prior to this moment was rushing Alka-Seltzer and Visine to John Daly and Rich Beem) to look at the injured appendage and say “Looks good to me. Better put an Ace bandage on it. I guess ".
Truly one of the great dig deep, gut check performances of a generation. When I’m coaching my 9 year old girls soccer team this weekend I won’t tell them about Ronnie Lott’s finger, Willis Reeds knees, Jack Youngblood’s broken leg, Jordans’ Flu game or Magic Johnson’s fake AIDS. I will tell them the story of a courageous young golfer and how he overcame his ouch.
— Phillip H.
Here's how I know this is spot on: After spending four days watching the PGA Championship and absorbing the breathless, up-to-the-minute assessments of Rory's condition, my grounded-in-reality-meter became so out of whack that I didn't fully realize this e-mail was all bitter sarcasm until I got to the words "9 year old girls soccer team." I think I've been brainwashed by Jim Nantz. Oh, and that trainer would like you to know that he prefers to go by the golf-ier "physio." Thanks.
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Q. What is the best piece of universal advice you could give for the incoming college student: Male or Female?
— Mike H.
Bakes: Here are five pieces of advice, in descending order of goody-goody-two-shoesity:
5. Whenever possible, turn in rough drafts. You'll automatically get a better grade on your final paper without putting in much more additional work. And you'll feel smug around your panicking, procrastinating friends. I wish I had figured this out before my junior year, because I probably would have graduated with honors and had a better chance of getting my someday wedding into The New York Times.
4. Your college most likely wants to give you free money to do cool things. Do them! I had one friend who got a motorcycle ride through Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam paid for because he took photographs during the trip and "displayed" them the next fall in a classroom building basement stocked with wine and food, which were also covered by these funds. I never came up with any proposals myself out of laziness. I'm now filled with searing regret.
3. Don't make fat jokes or otherwise be a dick to any offensive linemen who aren't NFL prospects. After the season ends many of them will shed 90 pounds in three weeks, become instant catnip to the ladies, and get hooked up with a sweet job via some football connection. You want the non-NFL bound offensive lineman to be on your side.
2. Remember that relationships are as much about timing as they are about compatibility, and that playing the last man standing game in a frat house basement is not what I mean by either. (Oh, that reminds me: Girls? Try to bring the guy back to your place on Halloween. It'll save you the Sexy Snow White walk of shame.)
1. With apologies to Jack Donaghy: In college, you should ALWAYS go with the hippie to a second location. It's where they keep the six-foot bong.
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Q. The knowledge of our own mortality: blessing or curse? Thanks!
— Noah C.
Q. After reading all of the stories recently about artist/singers/people dying young: Why is 47 considered old when you're alive, but young when you die?
— Stephen D.
Bakes: Hey, thanks for the uplifting questions, you two! This is precisely what we had in mind for The Triangle mailbag. The chipper "Thanks!" on the end of that first one is like a sinister clown. I can't wait to get to bed and fire up some anxiety dreams. I just had a flashback to the first time I learned I would die: I was 5 years old, my friend Christina shared the news with me, and I cried for the rest of the day. Here's an Onion video on the subject you all might enjoy! I think I'll read the Under Toad portions of The World According to Garp next time I'm on a plane, just before I perish in a fiery crash.
But here's a tangential question: if someone handed you an envelope that contained the date of your demise (or the circumstances, whatever) — what would you do with it? I honestly can't decide if I would open it on the spot, set fire to it, or tell them to come back when I'm 75. After watching this montage of every death in the first four Final Destination movies, though (warning, it's a montage of every death in the first four Final Destination movies) I think I'd almost rather not know.
Now, as for the second question: did you know people who are 47 are part of Generation X, or that Chris Farley would have turned 47 this year? :( Or that Trey Anastasio, Salt of Salt-n-Pepa, Adam Carolla, Michelle Obama, Barry Bonds, and both Run and DMC were all born in 1964?
Feeling out of my depth at age 28, I turned to an expert on the subject. As part of a project about turning 50, writer Rob Trucks has interviewed 225 49-year-olds, ranging from athletes to astronauts, on the brink of their 50th birthdays. (Trucks' was last week.) It may not be 47, but it's damn close. Here's what he had to say:
Maybe somebody can argue that Joe Strummer's best work was ahead of him, but I think that would be a rare and romanticized (and incorrect) view. He was in the fucking Clash. In a lot of ways he was the fucking Clash. And the chances that he would ever do anything to surpass that, no matter how long he lived, are the proverbial slim and none (I mean, you know that Mark Spitz' obit will begin, Mark Spitz, 7-time Olympic gold medalist, died today no matter how long he lives), but that doesn't mean that 50 isn't much, much, much too young for your life to be over.
Certain jobs — football player, rock and roll singer, astronaut — are such that you make your mark early and then you live twice as long as it took you to achieve whatever it is that you're most known for (making the too old/live/too young/die an easier case to make). Supreme Court justices and college football coaches in western Pennsylvania, of course, operate of a different career arc.
(slow clap, and happy birthday to Rob!)
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Q. Why do I watch preseason NFL? It only makes me sad. The lockout tricked me into this. <3, ScaredColtsFan.
— Bethany R.
Bakes: Did someone say preseason? (Bows head in a moment of silence for Jason Sehorn's career.)
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Q. What Nuptials combination/point total would make you self-combust? In your hall of fame of announcements which one came the closest? Have you ever seen someone wearing a monocle in their NYT announcement picture?
— Allen G.
Bakes: All great questions, and really hard — it's like you're asking me to rank Blake Griffin's dunks, three years from now. However, a quick browse back through the archives reveals some good blasts from the past:
- This couple's announcement included all of the following phrases: " Columbia, from which they both received master's degrees in Italian and doctorates in comparative literature;" "magna cum laude from Princeton;" "Fulbright fellow at the University of Vienna, where she studied Austrian history and German;" "Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Medieval Latin at Harvard and the director of Dumbarton Oaks;" "Fulbright fellow in Rome, where he studied Dante and Petrarch;" and "assistant professor of Romance studies at Duke."
- This picture.
- A GROOM CALLED PICKLE.
- "The bride is a granddaughter of the late Ridgely W. Harrison Jr., who lived in Palm Beach and whose face was used in the 'Mr. Jenkins' advertisements for Tanqueray gin in the 1990’s." Great grandpa or the greatest grandpa?
- Don't you love it when you find out you have something random in common with someone? "Only when they were planning their wedding did they learn that their families did have a connection — during the American Revolution, an ancestor on the bridegroom’s side arrested an ancestor of the bride’s."
- This announcement contains the following names: D. Taylor Stevens, Peter Tredick McIntire. Loring Low Stevens, G. Bickley Stevens II, Elisabeth W. McIntire, W. Tredick McIntire III.
- "For their first date, they went to the Fogg Museum at Harvard, where Mr. Platts greeted Ms. Gray with a red rose and had arranged a special viewing of 'Goldsmith's Designs,' a drawing by Michelangelo." Man, I usually just get really hammered at a dark bar.
- A guy who rollerbladed to class at Princeton snagged a girl with "a Latin style with very big and unusual types of earrings." OK!
I have to stop. Doing these wedding announcements makes me sympathize with crazed postal workers. The announcements just never stop coming
No monocle yet, though. I think.
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Q. I've recently been trying to learn more about business/economics/wall street/stock market. Given your background with banking and the current state of the stock market, coupled with my new knowledge of short selling, my question is: Isn't now the perfect time to short sell with the stock market plummeting the way it is? I know it's a fundamental question and I've most definitely oversimplified the circumstances, but what's keeping people from doing it? If i had money I know I would. Sounds like easy cash to me.
— Sloan G.
Bakes: As with all things that seem too good to be true, there's a rub. The logistics of and regulations around selling short make the process costlier and riskier than it initially appears.
Buying a stock is straightforward. You buy it, you own it, you sell it whenever, you make or lose money, the end. When you buy a stock, your downside is limited to your initial investment. Say you buy 10 shares of Grantland (ticker: BILL) at $10 a share: you've spent $100, and that's the maximum you stand to lose if, say, Simmons finally ascended to that coveted Timberwolves GM job and pulled the plug on our whole writerly enterprise, causing BILL shares to plummet. On the other hand, if the stock rises forever, so will your account balance — there's no limit to the amount of money you could theoretically make.
Short-selling is also just more of a hassle. Because you don't already own the stock, you must borrow it from someone who does, which carries a cost. And ultimately you're on the hook for buying it back at whatever the current market price is so you can deliver it back to the lender.
The payoff profile of shorting a stock is exactly the reverse of going long. Your upside is capped: if you short 10 shares of BILL at $10 a share, you'll earn proceeds of $100 on the sale. If the stock falls to zero your profit is, in a fictional world without fees, that same $100. If it only falls to $4, you're still making money, but less: you'll have to spend $40 to buy the stock back, leaving you up a net $60. On the other hand, if the stock moves to, say, $15 you're now $50 in the hole. And so on, and so on.
I'm being simplistic in these examples — but there are a few other quirks of shorting can that make matters worse. Because you've essentially taken a loan (of stock) in order to sell it, you're required to post collateral in what's called a margin account as a safeguard to the lender. As the stock moves up and against you, you could be called on to post additional money to satisfy margin requirements — money you may not necessarily have. Or you may find yourself in a short squeeze, which can happen when a widely-shorted stock has a modest upward move that causes everyone to start buying-to-cover en masse, driving the share price up even more. In a volatile market like this one — down hundreds of points one day, up hundreds the next — this can be a particular problem.
So did that answer your ques— Hey! Wake up!
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Q. Where would you set the over / under for the amount of oreos you can eat in 5 minutes?
— Brendan W.
Bakes: I'd be bad at Oreos, because I'm a twister by nature. So, I dunno, maybe 10? Mint Milanos on the other hand, or that nursery school snack-time staple, Keebler Fudge Stripes? The over/under on those would have to be denominated in packages. (1.5 and 1, respectively.) But the down-the-hatchiest cookie would have to be Chewy Chips Ahoy. Nuking four of them at a time on a plate in the microwave for 30 seconds is my strategic equivalent of a competitive eater soaking hot dog buns in water. Try it sometime! You can practically swallow all four at once without having to chew. Having only one microwave would certainly limit my consumption, but if multiple appliances were allowed there's no doubt in my mind I could break 40.
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Q. I am curious about a contradiction in Katie Baker's writing.
In her column about what she will miss about living in New York, she writes, "The weekly bleary-eyed Monday morning process of nearing the newspaper guy by the subway stairs and trying to remember without breaking stride whether it's the Post that has that guy you hate or the Daily News? You really don't want to risk guessing wrong so you buy both which means just a coffee at the cart outside the office instead of a coffee and a croissant."
One could safely assume from this stanza that she, like many 9-to-5 grinders is a daily coffee drinker.
However, in her sabermetrics column, "Matrimonial Moneyball", she has this paragraph: “But then people would start to wake up. "What are you doing?" some girl I'd met only once would ask as she walked by the dining room table where I sat with the wedding pages scattered before me, circling keywords, underlining Ivy League degrees, and drawing stars next to names. I'd watch her eyes travel from my laptop, to my wine mug (I don't drink coffee), to the marked-up newsprint on the table, before finally settling on my ringless left hand.”
Now, I have been very impressed with her exceptional writing, but either she drinks coffee everyday or (more impressively) she drinks morning wine as a hangover antidote.
Which is it?
— Brian N.
Bakes: Congratulations, Brian N: I can't think of a time when I have simultaneously loved and hated anyone more. I saved this question for last in the hopes that my parents don't read this far, because the hand-to-god truth is this: If I ever had enough spare change to afford both a coffee and a croissant at the cart outside the office, I'd buy two croissants instead.
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If you have a question for Bake Shop, send it to Triangle@Grantland.com. We will try our best to help. Or at least Katie will.