Trolling The All-Star GameSure, it matters now. But does anybody really care?

AS MUCH AS IT PAINS ME TO ADMIT IT, I watched every minute of Major League Baseball’s All-Star festivities. This isn’t a reflection on the quality of the event so much as the absolute dearth of other sports options. Aside from the first few weeks after the Super Bowl, there is no worse time on the professional sports calendar than early July. The resurgent NBA just wrapped up a stellar championship series, leaving major sport diehards to sift through the athletic dregs. I would sooner watch a Mob Wives marathon than sit through another week of Wimbledon highlights, Dwight Howard trade analysis, and Bounty-Gate.

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Cigarettes & Sentimentalism: A Changed Man?Don Draper and the fickle nature of happiness

CERTAIN TRAITS HAVE come to define what it means to be an alpha male in American society. In a culture chiefly driven by competition, success is judged not only in terms of results, but how those results are achieved. A successful man has to remain in firm control of his situation at all times—and no one exudes a sense of control more than Don Draper. On Mad Men, he dominates every room, every conversation, and (usually) every person he comes across. His dapper, refined persona easily conceals the whiskey and women swimming around in his head. The practiced stare reveals nothing except a man firmly rooted in confidence.

The character has achieved a sort of folk status in pop culture. Sure, the public has admired characters before, but rarely in such a sweeping, pervasive way. A fictional ad man from a show set in the 1960’s has become an influential style icon and public figure. This is chiefly because the image of the ideal American alpha male remains more or less the same. We expect the truly admirable men to juggle a career, family, and a parade of women without breaking a sweat. Moreover, they’re supposed to do so with sophisticated swagger—smoking a cigarette, sipping a strong drink, and firing off witty one-liners to whoever is lucky enough to be listening. Draper possesses all of these traits in spades.

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Brawl Buster: Pens-Flyers vs. Lane Pryce-Pete CampbellA comparative analysis of the weekend's two biggest scraps

Pens-Flyers or Lane-Pete?

HERE IN AMERICA, a few things are certain. We are going to eat fast food until we feel sick, we’re going to elevate talentless losers into reality stardom, and we’re going to stare if a fight breaks out. Something about two or more people abandoning logical discourse and settling a debate with their bare hands is just infinitely entertaining. Even better, the rise of this thing we call the interweb has given us the chance to engage in nonsensical comparisons of these brouhahas. This past weekend, sports and pop culture fans alike were treated to two of the best scuffles in recent memory. Here’s my take on which of these fights was more worth your time.

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Cigarettes & Sentimentalism: Mad Men Season 5 PreviewWelcome back to the '60s

BEFORE YOU READ THIS, you should know that I’m a pretty skeptical person. I’m the guy who subtweets insults at the #Kony2012 campaign and expects to see Tim Tebow on TMZ. Once a particular topic reaches the saturation point (townies are talking about it on Facebook), consider me a lost cause. Don’t even get me started on The Hunger Games.

I mention all of this for two reasons. First, I was latecomer to the Mad Men bandwagon. The first four seasons of the critically acclaimed series managed to fly under my radar, mostly because I had heard “you just NEED to watch this!” so many times. Eventually, the positive reviews and the show’s premise overruled my cynicism. Second, after multiple viewings of every episode, Mad Men revealed itself as that rarest of all commodities: a cultural phenomenon that lives up to the hype. I was blown away by the unwavering quality and depth of every character, every storyline.

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Big Game Breakdown: Quarterback QuandaryThey arrived in the league with opposing prospects, but someone called an audible on Eli and Brady's careers

This week, Handlebar‘s sports staff will be examining all the storylines, angles and developments in the lead-up to Super Bowl XLVI. To kick things off, Tom Barrabi takes look at Tom Brady and Eli Manning’s meandering paths to greatness. 

FOR A LEAGUE THAT PRIDES itself on parity, the NFL really has a hard time keeping the Giants and Patriots out of the Super Bowl. The combined buffoonery of Ravens’ kicker Billy Cundiff and 49ers’ punt returner Kyle Williams doomed fans outside the Northeast (and a few within) to yet another battle between the overexposed franchises. This is not to say that Super Bowl XLVI won’t be exciting—in fact, given the alternative of watching Joe Flacco and Alex Smith misread coverages for three hours, we should probably be celebrating our good fortune.

Simply put, despite all their talent and respective accolades, fans are sick of the Giants and the Patriots. They’re sick of the endless replays of the Helmet Catch. They’re tired of hearing about Gronk’s ankle. And they’ve definitely had enough of the Tom Brady/Eli Manning interviews. The two quarterbacks have rarely left the spotlight since emerging onto the scene, and eight combined Super Bowl appearances have a way of taking the edge off a sound byte.

Yet amid the media circus and hoopla surrounding this game, we have a classic example of life imitating art. Hollywood presents us with two archetypical quarterbacks. On one hand, you have the underdog—the self-made, team-first competitor, whose effectiveness continues to be questioned even after he’s won it all. On the other, you have the superstar with the football pedigree, the model wife, and the talent to match. To put this contrast into mediocre football movie terms, you’re either Shane Falco or you’re Eddie Martel. But it wasn’t always this way. 

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