Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I was reading an article on the Pirates today when this quote from Ryan Doumit jumped off the page and nearly crushed my skull: "Dude, there’s a buzz here. I don’t know, there just is. I’m telling you, it’s a positive buzz. "

God I love his optimism. But I wonder what he's taking?

Then there was this statement from Freddy Sanchez:“To be totally honest, this is the most fun I’ve ever had in a spring training.. I mean, there’s always an attitude of being optimistic and wanting to win, but I’ve never felt it like this…this atmosphere.”


That’s when the thought occurred to me that the guy pictured below must have recently paid a visit to McKechnie Field.
Isn't it true that today, anytime somebody is speaking nonsense or sounds as though they’ve been somehow hypnotized, that we tend to immediately blame it on a certain powdered drink mix? In researching this trend further, I found that this verbiage tends to be most pervasive in sports and political references.

So what about "Drinking the Kool-Aid"? Do you younger readers out there really understanding how it came to symbolize blind devotion to an idea, a feeling, or a person?

Above: The man who ruined Kool-Aid's reputation and the lives of 95 people, the "Reverend" (term used loosely) Jim Jones. This guy reeked of charisma and even "DRANK HIS OWN KOOL-AID"!!! Now that's delusional!

Any mention of Kool-Aid drinking can only be attributed to the “Reverend” Jim Jones who led a group of oppressed people out of America and into French Guyana where they established a “tropical paradise”…well that was the original idea anyway.

Jones’ followers were mostly poor blacks from California. Once they got to Guyana, however, reports began filtering to relatives back home in the states that abuses were going on in the jungle “haven”. A California congressman and two of his aides went to "Jonestown" to investigate the reports. After meeting with Jones the three were then assassinated before they could return home to confirm their findings.

Fearing that his heaven-on-earth was unraveling, Jones instructed his assistants to mix a giant batch of grape Kool-Aid into which he then mixed strychnine, a powerful, fast-acting poison. He instructed his followers that they were soon going to have their world come to an end.

So on November 18th, 1978, all of the adults drank the poisoned Kool-Aid and incredibly the parents even gave it to their innocent children who had been born there!

Above: This was suicide on a scale never before seen.

It was one of the largest mass suicides in history and even sullied the heretofore pristine reputation of a powdered drink manufactured by General Foods.

Today, 30 years later, the anachronism “Kool-Aid Drinker” survives although the drink itself has fallen dramatically in popularity…probably because the original recipe called for about five pounds of sugar per pitcher.

This was such a mind-numbing event when it occurred, that today, people who are delusional, incoherent, or just plain “full of it” are still said to be “drinking the Kool-Aid.”

I wonder if a few hundred years from now when Kool-Aid has long-since disappeared as an everyday commodity, if people will still refer to “Drinking the Kool-Aid” as frequently as they do today, or if the reference will fade away in history as no doubt many other commonly-used phrases have disappeared over the centuries.

While “Drinking the Kool-Aid” has a horrible origin for sure, today it has strangely morphed into more comical usages with few references to its' gristly beginning, thus the “Pittsburgh’s Black and Gold” pictorial study that now follows:

The Kool-Aid Pictorial Primer

Above: Few drinks have ever been held in the high esteem that Kool-Aid enjoys. This guy apparently likes the cherry flavor which was always better, I felt, for making popsicles.

Above: The iconic packet of grape Kool-Aid. I always enjoyed this as a kid, now I particularly relish drinking it during Pirates spring training season (right now, coincidentally).

Above: Evil Kool-Aid Man. A Jonestown inspiration, no doubt.

Above: Part of the outfield wall in Bradenton. Yeah, he's been there alright, just ask Ryan and Freddy!

Above: Since the ratio of Black to Caucasian athletes has risen so dramatically over the last few decades, this character was created to further inspire black athletes without raising suspicions over "the man" being involved.

Above: Pundits on both sides of the aisle seem to love flinging around the Kool-Aid logo.

Above: Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan was said to prefer grape flavor.

Above: In the eyes of the media and bloggers everywhere, these guys both drink heavily apparently from the trough of the cherry variety.

Above: The creator of this sloppy photo shop chose to change the popular "Kool-Aid Drinker" appellation and instead make Barack Obama Kool-Aid Man himself! In this reference Obama has mutated from the popular "drinking" to "passing-out" the Kool-Aid, an obvious Jim Jones comparison.


How ironic is it that the actual predecessor to Kool-Aid was a product called "Fruit Smack"? Had this product survived, today we'd be saying things like, "You know, Ryan Doumit and Freddy Sanchez must be 'Drinking the Smack'." Even looking at the product, it's far easier to imagine something evil coming out of this bottle than from an innocent-looking packet of Kool- Aid!


That was some onslaught that the Pittsburgh Penguins layed on the Florida Panthers last night as they pummelled goaltender Tomas Vokoun with 50 shots, 47 of which he stopped. But when the game morphed into overtime and finally a shootout, the exhausted goalie succumbed to two of the three Penguins shooters, first Kris LeTang and finally Evgeni Malkin. As usual, Marc-Andre Fleury was impeccable in both the overtime and the shootout as he slammed the door on the Panthers.

The Penguins had one of those games where even though they were thoroughly dominating play, but they were having difficulty finishing against Vokoun and were tied at one following the first period. In the second, the Panthers managed two tallies and held a 3-1 lead going into the third period.

Not to be deterred though, the Pens kept up the pressure in the third. First they scored on a shot that was deflected while in the air by Jordan Staal. Then, not to be outdone on the "weird goal" scale, a deflection off the goaltender by Sidney Crosby dropped to the skates of Vokoun and rolled in slow motion into the net. The final ten minutes saw intense, playoff-style hockey played by both teams with the goaltenders both standing tall in the nets.

Above: Some said last night that Malkin's parents came back to America to look for Evgeni's brother who was separated at birth, Nick Jonas, right.

In the first period, Evgeni Malkin scored on a shot that brought both of his parents, who are visiting from Russia, out of their seats. Malkin was looking very dominant last night with deft stick handling, skating and his usual booming slap shot.

The entire contest was an example of how important confidence is in the game of hockey. The Pens never panicked after falling behind and kept up the unrelenting attack that Penguins fans have long been wondering would ever return to Mellon Arena this season. In fact, not once last night was any fan heard yelling, "SHOOOOOT!!!"

Apparently the new system being employed by "interim coach" Dan Bylsma is one which places a far greater emphasis on putting the puck on goal versus setting up "the perfect play". In the last few years it had become almost routine for this team to be outshot while generally scoring more goals.

While there are many different ways to "skin a cat", this new plan of attack, though infinitely more entertaining for the fans may possibly backfire come playoff time when teams tend to focus on defense. But for now though, it's propelling them towards the playoffs.

But in the meantime, who can argue with Bylsma's results: an 8-1 record since taking over the team? The Pens currently occupy 6th place in the conference.

GAME NOTES: The Pens newcomers, Bill Guerrin and Chris Kunitz, continued their intense hitting while maintaining a presence in front of Vokoun... For the second year in a row it appears that Ray Shero may have struck gold at the trading deadline...Former Penguin Gary Roberts, 42, retired yesterday.

TV NOTES: Tonight, Robert Morris takes center stage as the Colonials vie for the Northeast Conference Championship and a trip to the NCAAs. The game will be shown on ESPN 2. Tomorrow the Pens visit at Columbus while Pitt will begin play in the Big East Tournament against either Notre Dame or West Virginia.