How to fix 5 big problems

I’ve been thinking a lot about the problems we’re facing as a nation. No, not the biggest problems, such as the war, the forthcoming depression or the broken health care system; I’ll leave those for President Barack Obama to deal with.

Instead, I’ve been focusing on the issues closer to home, problems that are easier to remedy. And I’ve come up with solutions on how to fix five of them.

PROBLEM: Starbucks is in an economic tailspin. The coffee giant’s stock has fallen more than 50 percent in the past two years. The Bush economy is forcing the company to cut costs and close stores.

SOLUTION: Stop playing such shitty music in their stores. Unlike some, I prefer the dark-roasted, full-bodied flavor of Starbucks coffee. But I end up buying beans at the grocery store and grinding them at home because going to a Starbucks store is such an unpleasant experience. From the second I walk in, I’m bombarded with shitty music from every genre that embodies crap. If I have to listen to another 30-minute Grateful Dead jam or a Jack Johnson love song, I’m going to throw boiling coffee at my barista. Instead of focusing on hippie music, the stores should play classic soul, reggae, ‘80s alternative music and folk recordings from the 1950s. Maybe then I’ll stay in the store more than a minute.

PROBLEM:  The Indiana Pacers are in crisis. The city’s original major-league franchise is in trouble, with declining attendance, player turmoil and reports that the team’s executives are leaving.

SOLUTION: Bring back Larry Bird as coach, Ron Artest as a player and the pre-2005 uniforms. Things have basically sucked for the Pacers ever since Artest stormed the stands in 2004. The team hasn’t won a playoff series in three years and none since the team’s ugly new uniforms were introduced for the 2005 season. Bird was the man who led the team to the NBA Finals in 2000. Bring all three of them back. Trust me, it couldn’t hurt. Even if they still lose games, at least they won’t be wearing the eye-cancer uniforms that have doomed them. And fans will return to see just what Artest does next.

PROBLEM: Hardees is a failed restaurant. Proving that Angus beef does not a delicious burger make, the franchise has been in a steady decline for some time, stuck with restaurant prices and a fast-food setting.

SOLUTION: Bring back Burger Chef. The Indianapolis-based hamburger chain grew to 1,000 stores nationwide before being absorbed by Hardees in the 1980s. Since then, we have been deprived of the Big Shef, the Super Shef, the Works Bar and all of the wonderful entrees that Burger Chef offered. If ever there was a time in which we needed Burger Chef and Jeff, the ambiguously-gay cartoon duo that served as company spokesmen, it is now.

PROBLEM: Baseball is a boring, scandal-plagued sport. With drug scandals and an antiquated rules system that excludes all but the elderly and the very young from enjoying it, baseball is a sport desperately in need of a makeover.

SOLUTION: Shorten the game to seven innings, introduce a clock limiting the pitcher to no more than 20 seconds between pitches, legalize the sale of marijuana in ballparks and tell the batter that five foul balls and you’re out. Problem solved. America, meet your new national pastime.

PROBLEM: Spaghetti-Os With Meatballs and Spaghetti-Os with Franks actually have neither. Once a luxury food item for lazy moms and alcoholics who have to eat something, anything, before they engage in their next bender, rising costs have led Franco American to reduce the number of meatballs and franks contained in their canned pasta products.

SOLUTION: Add more meatballs and franks, dammit. The Spaghetti-Os I ate as a child were chock full of flavorless pieces of meat. They tasted like cardboard, but dammit, we loved them. Use brand name meat, such as Ball Park franks. Jack up the price a quarter if you have to. It’s not like the moms using food stamps or the drunks stumbling through Kroger at 3 a.m. are going to notice or care. When I open a can of Spaghetti-Os I want to see pieces of cut-up franks bobbing in the tomato sauce.

Jesus Christ, do I have to do everything for you people?