Thursday, December 31, 2009

Three Sheets to Epcot Center - A Picture Essay

In this photo essay, we go Three Sheets to Epcot Center.  We drink grape wine, rice wine, glauwein, Morrocan slushies, tequila and of course, beer.

Da da dum. Da da dum. Da da dum bum bum bum.  Every night in every city around the world it happens.  People poor into local watering holes to well...drink.  It's our mission to traverse the globe getting to know these different people and their drinking customs, bellying up to the bar, and with any luck, making some new friends. [For copyright protection purposes, I thank Zane Lamprey, et al for this introduction.  Thanks, Zane.]

6PM.  Orlando, FL.  We're on a limited budget.  Our staff was playing ISpy with their Grandmother and couldn't help us produce our essay.  What easier way to experience, in a technologically disadvantaged way, the local drinking customs of several countries within feet of each other than at the cultural melting pot of Disney World?  Armed only with our trusted camera (I forgot to bring the video camera), we scurried past the lines at the GM Test Track and Soarin' and made our way to the Countries of the World Pavilion to sample the delights from 11 countries around the world.  The theme park's late hours, however, were not tonight and we only had three hours to get in and get out.  Man and woman versus drink, so to speak.  Join us, as we go THREE SHEETS TO EPCOT CENTER!

MEXICO.  Our first stop on our suddenly quick journey through the pavillion was La Cava De Tequila.  You don't need to know Spanish to know that that loosely translates to "Tequila Cave."  MM started quickly with a margarita from Jose, our bartender.  And I had a cheap generic beer called Sola that was served in the same type of clear bottle as Corona.  Hmm.  Is Corona just the Mexican equivalent of Milwaukee's Best?
To be honest with you, I'm not sure that was his name.  All I know is that he was from Miami, Florida. 
To our surprise, we also met the foursome below who were experiencing the Countries of the World Pavilion along with us.  After looking at the Tequila shot plate in front of the guys, we asked whether they did all those shots.  "Really?" my wife questioned when they said they hadn't.  Then, uh, who did?  Whereas this was our first stop, obviously this was their last.  The woman on the left was doing a tequila shooter.  Luckily for us, we backed up after we took this photo, since she was a little "shaky" with the whole salt, lime and tequila shot sequence.
NORWAY.  The girls at the Akershus Royal Buffet at the Norway Pavillion were not amused by my question of whether there was a bar inside.  Even charming Norwegian accents didn't make the angry words "No sir, we don't." sound any less harsh.  Why couldn't the Tequila Foursome tell us to skip Norway?
CHINA.  No luck with a bar here either, but we could order a couple of Tsing Tao with our eggrolls and dumplings from the Nine Dragons cafeteria.  This guy was pretty psyched to have his picture taken.  He also was insistent on taking our picture.  When I looked at it the next morning, I just shook my head.
GERMANY:  Our first stop was to taste the Gerstacker Gluhwein outside of the pavillion.  It's spicy wine made somewhere in Germany.  More than one person told us to try this wine, so we were excited to taste it.  Knowing that we still hadn't hit the "Biergarten," we tried just one between the two of us.  What our bartender didn't tell us though, was that it was spiced wine served HOT.  I suppose if you are living in a cave in the black forest this might be an appealing alternative to freezing, but when its 66 degrees in Florida?  No thanks.  Needless to say, I will have a discussion with those who fooled me into trying this concoction.  The bartender's smirk says it all...another American tourist fooled.
So we moved on to what I truly thought would be the highlight of the experience.  A liter stein at the "Biergarten."  Wait, what, they don't have a bar and worse yet, they don't serve beer?  But its called the "Biergarten!"  Was I wrong to think that "biergarten" means garden of beer?  I'm told that they serve beer during Octoberfest, but that I need to go over to the kiosk over here
to get Paulaner Octoberfest.  Shouldn't Octoberfest happen everyday in Disney World?  Doesn't New Years Eve happen every night at Pleasure Island?  "They don't do that anymore." I'm told.  Oh.  So I begrudgingly order two beers.  The girls wouldn't let me pour my own, so I didn't (as far as they know), but my wife was still choking down her glue wine, so I had two beers for myself.  The guy behind me, who we started talking to while waiting in line, looked thirsty so I gave him my extra beer, so long as I could take his picture and make fun of him in my blog if I so chose.  Prost!
ITALY.  My bewilderment over the lack of beer in a place balled the beer garten was quickly replaced by excitement.
"Can you take my picture with that Disney cast member in the funny clothes hanging out by the fountain?  The kids would love that picture." I request as we make our way to try some Italian wines and Peroni in the Italy Pavillion. 

"I'm from Wisconsin, I don't work here." The guy answers as I put my arm around him. 
"Can we take a picture with you anyway?" my wife inquires.  Just imagine if this happened in Faneuil Hall?
We end up missing any beer but try some white and red wines from a very nice lady named Maria.  She was very subdued when her boss was around, but very outgoing when the boss went out to the back room.
UNITED STATES.  Just a beer at the Fife and Drum take out stand.  We enjoyed the choral concert at America Gardens, but how can you have much to say about a Budweiser?
JAPAN:  Another situation where neither of the restaurants had a bar or served any beer or sake.  Everyone pointed us back to the same kiosk that we had left minutes before.  "You see, I told you you'd be back." the nice lady admonished.  May I just pour my own sake and drink peacefully?  Thank you.
MOROCCO.  We missed Mo'rockin' but did have a Casa Beer and a "Sultan's coloda," which was a Pina Colada with orange juice in it.  The best part was that my wife could make her own drink.  Well she got behind the bar for the picture below, and I assume she made her own drink, but I was too busy reading the receipt that said we just bought a "refreshment" and a "slushie."  If your spouse comes back from a work-related trip and you find a bunch of receipts that say "refreshment" and "slushie," well you know what was going on on that trip.  Mmm.  That's one good slushie!
  
FRANCE.  As we moved on, to the last part of our journey, we discovered that were running out of time.  Luckily we were going to France next, so I knew that this would be a quick trip.  Either I wouldn't be able to take them or they wouldn't be able to take us for very long.  Surprisingly, we all had a great time.  We must have been their last customers of the day, since everyone was helping us.  Either that or they wanted to be a part of our Photo Essay. 

My tasting notes from the wine tasting were predictably scant, but I did note that the Beaujolais Nouveau was "a little sour with some cherry and rasberry."  It must have been sitting in that box for too long.
ENGLAND.  Finally, a bar to sit and have a beer.  I wish we could enjoy this more, but the bartender was getting tired (of us) and didn't want to make any more suds shamrocks on our beers.  He dispatched us to the restaurant to eat dinner.
 
Instead, we made our way over to the Canada Pavillion.  Thanks for the beers, my man.
CANADA.  Similar to Norway, there was no beer to be had, although we just assumed that since it was getting to be closing time, and nothing appeared to be open. 
So back to England for that potato leek soup which was a truly forgettable dining experience.
THE NEXT MORNING.  I had forgotten that the family was going to be up early the next morning to head over to the Magic Kingdom.  Because the sun was shining a little bright this morning, we needed to find a hangover cure.  And fast.  Luckily the line at Splash Mountain wasn't too bad because of the cool weather and we thought that the 50 foot plunge into ice cold water would be a great way to get rid of our headaches. 
Mission Accomplished.  A great time was had by all.  Perhaps some of the folks we encountered will remember us and our adventure around Epcot.  I can assure you that we will never forget (most of) it.

Check back with us on Saturday as we go "In Search of Tiger Woods."

JMR

Monday, December 28, 2009

Orlando Magic Now Know that I Am Because We Are

When I booked our family trip to Orlando this December, I promised myself that part of the itinerary would include the Christmas Boston Celtics game with the boys against the Orlando Magic.  I love watching sports live to soak in the atmosphere and the sounds.  It was Santa's present to me - a reward for a grueling week of theme parks in and around Disney World.  Okay, I had just as much fun as the children on the rides, including It's a Small World, but it was still grueling.  I also wanted to bring the boys to their first NBA game for some male bonding.  Anyway, despite being awake since 4am because Santa foolishly bought all three of my children electronics for Christmas, we headed to downtown Orlando for what promised to be an exciting Christmas afternoon.  Maybe, just maybe, we could experience our own Ubuntu, just like the Celtics, and start chanting it at little league games.

Orlando, FL.  1pm.  Alright, I have just listed to "Just Dance" and "Fire Burning" ten times each.  Not the standard radio versions.  No.  My 5 year old's version of these songs, singing along at the top of his lungs with his Ipod.  I have to admit that he knew 75% of the lyrics, and the words he made up for the other 25% were amusing the first couple of times around.  But, the garage attendant knew I wasn't kidding when I told him that I would like to go around the cones instead of going around the block for another 15 minutes and gave me the "look around and hesitant nod" to go ahead.  By this point you might be asking why Santa got a five year old an Ipod.  Frankly, Santa is shaking his head in regret as I'm writing this.  In Santa's defense, his 7 year old brother also got one, and Santa figured that they wouldn't fight if they both got one.  Santa's stupid.

Thank God that I decided to take the electronics away as we parked because we were so early for the game that we had to wait for the doors to open.  I guess I've grown accustomed to the hassle of getting to professional sports games in Boston.   The wait was worth it though as we get to our seats and score three Dwight Howard Superman T-Shirts (great to wipe your popcorn mouth on), three sets of candy cane thunderstix and three programs.  Not to mention the 3 dollar hot dogs and 5 dollar beers.  This is great.  I love cheap food and drinks and swag.



As warm-ups began, I was debating trying to get closer to the Celtics bench since we had good seats, but on the other side of the arena from the benches.  As people began to file in and the boys were knee deep in popcorn and hot dogs, I felt that my decision was made for me.  Stay in the seats.  That turned out to be a mistake, though as two "fans" sat down in their seats right in front of us with their thunderstix already blown up and paddles that the guy next to me calls "Rally Racquets."  They were determined to enjoy their experience.  "Do you need those rally things because Orlando is always losing?" my seven year old asks.  Ha, that was a good one.  And people in Florida are too nice to be smart back so it was win-win.  Sadly, those words would be the last ones we all would utter without having to scream over the din of thunderstix and the Rally Racquets.  These racquets looked like the paddles that all the people in the climatic scene of Karate Kid II were beating when Daniel was about to put the beat down on Chozen. 

"Are they going to do that the entire game?" my seven year old asks.

"I hope not."  I look at my five year old for his reaction, but he's asleep at this point.

After a couple of more tidbits about the new Amway Arena being built down the street, and a couple of more laughs over Rasheed Wallace and the paddle people, the game starts.  Ugh.  Two minutes into the game we say goodbye to Kendrick Perkins until the second quarter as he draws his second foul of the game less than two minutes in.  This is just the beginning of some hurt feelings on both ends.  I'd be pissed too if I had to work on Christmas afternoon away from home, I suppose.  The game is also marked by poor passing and shooting, as well as rough physicality.  The Magic end the quarter leading by a point.  On the bright side, my 5 year old did wake up.  Good morning!

The Second Quarter looks eerily similar to the First Quarter, except that the Magic are not making any of their shots now.  The Celtics begin to pull away with four consecutive lay-ups by Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo (a personal favorite) and the aforementioned Kendrick Perkins.  The Celtics roll into halftime with an 11 point lead.  38-27.

"Will that person stop beating that drum, Dad?  Can you ask her to stop?"  My seven year old now has his hands over his ears.  I tried to explain the Golden Rule of sports etiquette.  I figured he was in CCD now so he might understand.  It goes like this.  Unless someone is using foul language or being destructive, let him or her do and say what they want, so they will treat you likewise when you do and say what you want.  If they ask you to stop, then you can legitimately give them a sideways look and say "Make me."  Just kidding about that last part. 

While I was explaining the "Golden Rule" to him, the lights dimmed for the entertainment we are about to experience at halftime.  Unfortunately, the halftime show was disappoining to say the least.  The game before, the show included Christmas themed slam dunk guys.  These guys led the local 11pm news!  And we were supposed to be entertained by six people trying to figure out a credit card puzzle faster than six people were to make 10 free throws?  I think my 5 year old would have fallen back asleep if the Magic's mascot hadn't swished a behind his back, three quarters court shot.  Now that's a highlight!    

Back to the game.  The phyicality that was bubbling in the first half started getting out of hand.  A hard foul on Rondo was followed by a right forearm to a beleaguered Kevin Garnett.  Even my kids were screaming that he was fouled.  The best part of this ugly game?  "Superman," midway through the third quarter has two points and four fouls (and a technical foul).  This must have been the Superman who gave up his powers to be with Lois Lane in Superman II.  Orlando cuts into the lead at the end of the third quarter, though, 61-53.

The paddles are now starting to drive me crazy too, so I furiously try to blow up the thunderstix we were given so I can slam them together everytime something good happens with the Celtics.  Points, rebounds, fouls, steals.  It doesn't matter to me.  My seven year old however is now fading into sleep; he must be since he's not the least bit embarrassed by Dad at this point.  They couldn't fall asleep on the car ride to the game?  So with 10 minutes left in the game, reluctantly, the male part of the clan begin the slow travel home. 

As we thank our parking lot attendant, get back onto the highway, and prepare for the torrential monsoon about to hit us, my seven year old pulls off his headphones and thanks me for taking him to the game.  We then talk about what his favorite part of the game.  "Well there were a lot of cool things, but it definitely wasn't that person banging the drums!"  My five year old realizing that we are having a conversation then pulls off his headphones and smiles his toothy grin.  "Thank you Daddy for taking me to the game!"   We all then keep looking for the scores on my phone, since I couldn't figure out how to get a local station to listen to the game on the Sirius Radio in our rental car.  Satisfied that the Celtics pulled out the win, we set our sights on Christmas dinner with their grandmother, thinking about the just-concluded adventure.

Oh yeah.  The title of this story - "I Am Because We Are?"

Ubuntu!

Check back on Wednesday as we go "Three Sheets to Epcot Center."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Can the Five of Us Enjoy the Third Fours?

I've spent numerous nights at the Fours in Boston before Celtics games, always leaving happier than when I came in.  I consider the Fours in Quincy to be a pretty good duplicate, despite its strange location in the back of a municipal parking lot.  As a result, high expectations abounded for the newest location in Norwell, Massachusetts.  The Fours in Norwell opened up a couple of months ago in an even stranger location - the former home of a failed TGIFs on a main street dominated by nursing homes, professional offices and eclectic small shops.  Desperate for new places to take the kids on Saturday afternoons, though, we've been to this rendition numerous times.  Luckily for these guys, I don't care about the food (or price, ultimately) that much.

Norwell, MA.  2pm.  On a rainy Saturday afternoon, we took the kids for their usual grilled cheeses, french fries and ketchups.  After a particularly harrowing experience with a boating Santa and a cranky lawnmower, we were looking forward to a little relaxation, where the din of a busy restaurant drowns out the kids' screaming.

GROG.  I can only describe The Fours as an Americanized version of an Irish Pub mixed with strange sports memorabilia, so the beer selection had to be good.  With Guinness, Smithwick's (I think...no I'm just assuming), Sam Adams Brick Red, Harpoon, blue Moon and all the light beers you can think of on draught, the Fours delivers here.  Oh yeah they also have wine and spirits.  Yawn.  I can't give them 10 Happies though unless they have Murphys or they are a microbrewery, but they get the best score without serving those.  9.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

KIDS CRAYONS AND OTHER ENTERTAINMENT.  The kids got the usual assortment of crayons and paper, but the boys and I were instead transfixed by the college football games on TV - oh fine, it was just me transfixed leaving Mom to fend for herself.  There had to be at least six TVs in our vicinity, and we were in the dining room.  I don't think that my daughter had anything to watch though, since Barbie and Wow Wow Wubbzy does not go with the aforementioned sports decor.  We were also entertained by one of the busboys trying to scrape off some foreign substance off of the table next to us.  The grossed out "ewwwws" from seven year old were progressively getting louder as the busboy was chipping away at the glob of gunk, which made us all chuckle - except for the unfortunately busboy. 7.5 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

SPEED.  Being an old pro of all of the locations, I knew that our food would be hot and served in about 2 minutes and 30 seconds.  I ordered my second beer when I got my first beer thinking that would be the case.  Doesn't make sense though does it?  Just work with me here.  As expected, the food came in lightning quick speed.  No time for restlessness.  9.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

DESSERT TIME.  Hoodsies with whipped cream, hot fudge and cherry on top.  My seven year old wanted to get another lunch so he could eat the second dessert.  When I told him that I could easily make that at home, he wasn't impressed.  "You say that now Dad, but you won't make it when we get home."  He's right.  A couple of games of Sorry and then straight to bed!  7.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

WHO'S PAYING?  Uh oh.  This is where the trouble began.  A grilled cheese with potato chips was 7 bucks?!?  That was ridiculous, especially since I was still wiping off the burnt grilled cheese bread crumbs off the coat that my five year old had thought made a darned good recepticle.  But not nearly as bad as the $6.50 beers.  I didn't send them back, but $13 for a couple of pints is a little steep, unless I was paying for beer that was charged in Pounds or Euros.  The appetizers and sandwiches for the adults were moderately priced, however, which moderated the score a bit.  3.5 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

The Fours is obviously meant to be a sports bar/Irish Pub and not a place to entertain children.  That being said, we enjoyed ourselves despite having a much lighter wallet at the end of the day.  36 Happies out of 50.0 Happies.  Not perfect, but better than bad.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Who Can Beat Jmann Review? NFL Game Blog #4

In NFL Game Blog #3, I had indicated that division games are always difficult matchups even when one team is good and one team is mediocre or worse.  That theory was proven when the heavily favored Cowboys barely eked out a 7-6 victory over the Zornskins at home.  It might also be that Dallas is mediocre itself.  I also picked against that theory by taking the Patriots at home over the lowly Jets even though they were giving 10.5 points.  That game was such a blow out that I left the stadium at halftime.  And I'm sticking to that story.

This week will really test our handicapping ability as several games fall into the handicapping netherworld of pick 'ems and spreads between 4 and 6 points.  These are the toughest games; particularly the games with 5 or 5.5 point spreads.  I mean who wins by that many points?  To assist in our endeavor, I have also recruited my three year daughter (DLG) to help the three of us.  Believe me, I tried to ignore the "Daddy, can I help?" whines, to no avail.

9am.  We are all excited to begin, particularly when I told C and G that they don't have to help me rake the leaves if they help me pick the games.  Home teams are in capital letters.

FALCONS (+5.5)
Eagles

C:  Eagles.  "I like the Eagles because they are faster than Falcons."
G:  Eagles. "Because there are two birds on the team!"  Perhaps he thinks that they are playing together?
DLG:  Falcons.  "Because..."  "Because why?"  I ask her.  "Because why." she answers with a Coach K smirk on her face.  Let's just go with the Falcons; I don't have a chance.
JMR:  I like the Falcons in this game.  Matt Ryan hasn't been Tom Brady this year, so the difference in QBs is negligible.  I think between Mcihael Turner and their other skill players, Chris Redman will be just fine.  If Turner doesn't play either though, forget this pick.

DOLPHINS (+4)
Patriots

C:  Dolphins.  "Because Dolphins, when they come up for air and then go back down into the water, they hit people in the head with their tails."  I like the physiological approach, if not the reasoning for why they would win.
G:  Patriots.  "They are the best team in the whole entire world.  At least you know he didn't stay up late with his uncle to watch the Saints game.
DLG:  Patriots.  "Because..." "Because why?" I ask her. "Because why. Hahahahahah!!!" she answers. "Thank you sweetie for your help.  Can you find Mommy for me?"  I tell her, knowing that Mommy is hiding in the bedroom closet trying to stay away from us.
JMR:  Patriots.  I think the Saints game demonstrated that the Saints are just a well-coached, talented team, and not that the Patriots are falling apart.  Also, Chad Henne does not strike fear into anyone's heart like Drew Brees does.

BENGALS (-13)
Lions

C:  Lions.  "Lions can kill tigers and are more restless [N.B. I'm told restless means aggressive to him].
G:  Bengals.  "Tigers are faster than Lions." He looked at me quizzically when I asked him if he liked the Bengals.  Then I explained a Bengal is a type of Tiger, and the resulting excitement was off the charts.
JMR:  Lions.  I picked the Lions to win this game in my preseason review of the Lions team.  I'm not backing off now.  In fact, I like the Lions winning outright.

BROWNS (+13.5)
Chargers

C:  Browns.  "I like eating brownies.  Do we have any brownies, Dad?"  No you can't have a brownie at 9am in the morning.  Unless you get Dad a diet coke too while you're in there.
G:  Chargers.  "Because Drake and Josh live in San Diego."  He's used that one before, but he's also winning at a 75% clip, so I'll go with the kid on this one. 
JMR:  Chargers.  They are peaking at the right time (for the Patriots and the Colts, that is, well before the playoffs begin).  I see this game finishing with a Chargers 31-6 win.

I also like the BEARS (-9) (has there been a worse 9 point favorite in the history of the NFL?  Oh yeah, the Seahawks last week), Raiders (+14.5), Titans (+7), CHIEFS (+5), Saints (-9.5), PANTHERS (-5.5), Jaguars (Pick 'em), GIANTS (+2.5), 49ers (Pick 'em), Vikings (-3) and PACKERS (-3).  A three team tease with the Saints, Patriots and Giants is a sure winner. 

Last Week 8-6
Season 26-18

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Duke is the Real Evil Empire

While the State of Connecticut was usually split between New York and Boston when it came to sports allegiances, where I grew up (outside of Hartford), we usually could agree to root for two teams - the Whalers and the UConn Huskies Men's basketball team.  Ever since I witnessed Corny Thompson play back in 1979, college basketball to me meant UConn.  With the NIT Championship in 1988, Tate George's "Shot" after Scotty Burrill's "Pass" in 1990 and the two National Championships in 1999 and 2004, the school has had a nice run for the last 20 years.  By the way, we'll talk about the Whalers some other time.

Unfortunately, one of the worst days as a fan occurred just a couple of short days after the "Shot."  Christian Laettner's little runner to push Duke past the Huskies to reach the Final Four, 79-78.  I still remember Mike Krzyzewski looking around with that smug look on his face as the Dukies ran around like chickens with their heads cut off.  I still remember where I was when I watched that game, and I still remember that smug little smirk that Coach K had that day.  Never mind that Duke has only sent underachieving players to the NBA (Bobby Hurley, Jayson Williams, Cherokee Parks, Alaa Abdelnaby, the list is simply too long).  Even its most celebrated player, Grant Hill, has underachieved due to his fragile personality and feet.

All the information above was disseminated to my children when UConn and Duke met for the ninth time in the Preseason NIT Tournament finals last night.  My daughter quickly retreated to the toy room as I was speaking, somehow knowing that Daddy was going to be "talking" to the TV a lot.  The boys, however, ate it all up.  My seven year old started calling Coach K "stupidhead" (the one day I would let him say the word "stupid" over and over again) and my five year old, when I told him that Duke was the "Evil Empire" asked whether Coach K was really Darth Vader and if he was why he wasn't wearing a mask.

5pm.  My kids keep asking when they are going to show Coach K/Vader so they can see the smug little smirk he always has on his face.  Thatta way boys.

FIRST HALF

18:30.  After a sequence where a couple of Dukies flop trying to get fouls (what, are they all European?) and Jerome Dyson goes in for an easy layup, Dickie V., a notorious Blue Devil lover, shrieks "UConn's playing in the rafters baby!"  This is going to be a good game.

16:25.  The camera has a picture of Kyle Singler standing next to Coach K.  "Wow the Dukers are really tall." No Coach K is just 5 foot 2 inches tall.  He makes everyone look tall.  Okay the kid's 7 feet tall, but tonight's not about Kyle Singler.

9:30.  After a jump ball, I tried to explain the college system about the possession arrow after a jump ball.  This is proving difficult as my seven year old doesn't see the arrow and can't understand why no one is jumping for a jump ball.

6:45.  I excitedly point out to my kids that one of the new Huskies, Alex Oriahki, is from Lowell, Massachusetts, but I see that the boys are playing with their DSs and my 3 year old is asleep.  Oh well, maybe I'll have to entice them in some way to keep them watching.  I'll probably have to buy a book from the book store that they set up in the living room.  And in trying to figure out how to spell Oriahki's name, I discover that one of the players is from my home town.  He can't possibly be that good; he must be one of the towel wavers.

0:02.  A dubious non-call when a UConn player grabs the rim as a Duke player tries to cover a lay up.  The pro-Duke ESPN crew was completely up in arms - Joe Buck style.  I thought they were going to call the referee over to show him the replay.  Hey guys - I know you don't like to admit it, but ESPN is based in CONNECTICUT!  Duke is leading 37-28.

SECOND HALF

16:05.  After another curious non-call of goaltending favoring the Huskies, I am lead to believe that maybe the Huskies will get a fair shot in this game.  Not 30 seconds later though, a Duke flop leads to a Huskies' foul.  Even my boys scream that it wasn't a foul, that he wasn't even touched.

11:30.  My kids go nuts when the Duke player flops into one of the ESPN cameras after a Gavin Edwards put back.  Actually, its pretty funny to see that camera during the play.  I always like seeing the cameraman's viewpoint when something like that happens.

9:00.  John Schuyler has the ball bounce off his head into the 10th row.  I'm trying to decide if the UConn player meant to hit that punk in the head.  If the game were out of hand I may have fired it off his noggin myself.  Why does Duke always have at least one player that you love to hate?

7:25.  An intentional foul is called on Gavin Edwards when it looks like he's just trying to go for the ball.  At this point Duke is leading by 16.  I'm debating turning the game off anyway, since it's getting increasingly difficult to explain how a famous athlete, like Tiger Woods, can get into a one car accident at 2:30 in the morning after Thanksgiving and alcohol was NOT involved.

2:00.  UCONN starts making a little bit of a comeback, but the dearth of three point shooters is now a glaring weakness when you're down by that much.  Despite some excellent play down the stretch, UConn ends up succumbing to the Empire 68-59.  The Huskies' first loss of the season.

Despite the game not turning out the way we wanted, I was able to convert a couple more kids to the UConn way.  And the Duke anti-way.  My seven year old, turning his attention back to the game when UConn made it close at the end, turns to me and glumly states, "Coach K likes to brag, doesn't he, Dad."  I didn't notice it, but it certainly sounds right.  My five year old then asks if Coah K will put his mask back on now that the games over.  "Not until the camera goes off."  I explain turning the station to SpongeBob, as I had promised.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"CopaMLS 2009" Just Sounds a Little Strange

"I'm just indifferent right now."

"I hate it, even when our kids are playing it."

"Can we turn the station or are you trying to get me to fall asleep?"

You'd think I was torturing my wife when I turned on the 2009 MLS Cup.  For those of you who are new to the scene, the MLS is the soccer (football) league that David Beckham keeps trying to escape to play for AC Milan, even though he's being paid $25 million dollars a year by the Americans.  Even my promise that the said Beckham was going to be prominently involved only stirred mild disinterest and a yawn.  I guess I was the only one who grew up in the 1970's so desperate for sports (pre-cable) that I would watch English soccer (football) on PBS on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Well personally, I like soccer.  And the MLS desperately wants to be liked.  With names like DC United, Real Salt Lake, Houston Dynamo, one gets the sense that it tries to emulate Champions League soccer, but comes across as a bastard stepchild instead.  And what the hell is Club Depotivo Chivas USA?  Well, the MLS caught a huge break when Beckham's L.A. Galaxy made the final game, the CopaMLS 2009 against Real Salt Lake.  We decided to watch.  For as long as I could before I had to turn the station.

8:30pm.  Julie Foudy, the soccer analyst who broke down the unfortunate Elizabeth Lambert situation by explaining that soccer was rough and hairpulling was a part of the game, started the telecast by explaining that she'd rather "live on her feet, than die on her knees."  I suppose she's right about that, but it doesn't make me any less scared that she might pull a knife on me if I say a cross word to her.  The other pregame highlight was watching my wife swoon over Beckham.  "They should just have a camera on him all game to keep my interest," "Hi David.  That's what the sign said, not me," "It's probably too cold for Posh Spice, but he shouldn't be left alone with those metallic girls."  I mean she's talking gibberish now she's so feverish.   Luckliy for all of us, the game begins.

14'  Oh my.  Beckham, going for the tackle, runs headlong into Javier Morales' knee.  He starts writhing around in pain.  As is usual with soccer, it took us about 10 minutes for us to finally believe that he's actually, really hurt.

28'  It took 28 minutes for a real scoring chance to emerge as Beckham bended a corner kick to one of his teammates who proceeded to head the ball on to the top of the goal.  Now this reminds me, one thing that drives me crazy about soccer is the complete disregard for possession.  Whenever a goalie has a goal kick or kicks it with possession, he always appears to be more concerned about getting it downfield as far as possible, rather than trying to get the ball to a teammate.  Now I've only coached 6 year old soccer, but I've never seen a real scoring chance from the goalie kicking the ball as far downfield as possible; throw the ball to a teammate 20 feet away!

41'  YEAH!  The first goal by some guy named Mike Magee.  Assists go to Beckham and the league MVP, Landon Donovan.  I'm rooting for LA to do well, just so I can keep this on rather than Desperate Housewives.

47'  After what was called a 50/50 challenge (whatever that means), the Galaxy's goalie and a Real Salt Lake Forward dive into each other and fall to the ground.  I remark (to myself as it turns out) that this guy got kneed in the nether region, but it turns out that he hurt is hand (Are you kidding me? It looked like he got shot!).

63'  The Goalie, still reeling from his devastating hand injury, lets in an easy goal to Ronnie Findley of Real Salt Lake.  We learn that Findley was traded to Real Salt Lake by the Galaxy a couple of years ago and that this is a perfect revenge goal.  On another note, is there a city in the United States that could be less suited for a name like "Real" than Salt Lake City?  Names like "Fundamentalists" or "Teetotalers" would have been more appropriate than "Real."

79'  We see our first shot of Victoria Beckham.  She looks cold and miserable.  Insert your own joke here, you don't need me.

The next 45 minutes of play included a lot of unremarkable and sloppy play.  After regulation and overtime, the score remained 1-1.  Now comes the interesting part - Penalty Kicks. 

After the requisite announcer build up, Beckham scores the first goal quite easily and in fact the first 4 goals were scored pretty easily.  I just wish the goalies came out of the net screaming at the kicker to throw him off his game.  But wait, just as I'm thinking that, the goalies come through as Rimando and Saunders both make thrilling diving saves back to back.  Then Donovan, again the MVP of the league, kicks it over the net.  Beckham meanwhile, we learn later, wanted to go first so he could spend the rest of the time sitting on the bench brushing up on his Italian.

The tension builds as Saunders needs to make a save against Real Salt Lake to continue the season...and Yes, he dives to his left and makes the save!  Ah, but it wasn't meant to be as Real Salt Lake scored on their seventh chance after the Galxy missed their 7th chance.

Pigpile ensues.  After I turned the game off, I felt that everyone left reasonably happy.  I saw a pretty good game, my wife saw her stud and the MLS got its best ratings ever.  Maybe she'll even go to a Revolution game next year.  Or maybe she'll tell me to go to a game on a Friday or Saturday night, since she has to work those days.  Either way, I think we'll end up going.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Who Can Beat Jmann Review? NFL Game Blog #3

10-4.  Week 4 was kind.  In fact, taking my advice about the three team teases would have netted the wise bettor numerous wins.  But that was Week 4.  By now the lines have adjusted to the truly putrid teams, and as a result the games are getting harder to pick.  C and G don't think so, however.  As soon as I pull them away from Icarly and The Troop, our quest for a perfect week (as explained below) will begin.

8:30pm.  Luckily my pickers are eager to help out this week, particularly when I explain that we could win a million dollars if we pick all of the games correctly.  Even more so when I told them that they could each have a thousand dollars if we win.  It was either that or the possibility of staying up later than their bedtime with Dad.  Probably the cash. 

"Does the money come out of the computer?  Where do you pick it up, in Boston or at your work?  Will you give any money to Mommy?"  All right, enough questions!  Don't make me compound my lies, kids.

Redskins
COWBOYS (-11)

C:  Redskins.  No need to go into the reason.
G:  Redskins.  "Because the Cowboys are letting them score 11 points."  I don't think he fully understands point spreads.  Or does he?
JMANN REVIEW:  Redskins.  I never like giving up this many points for a divisional matchup.  The Cowboys looked awful against Green Bay, and frankly they have not blown anyone out all year.  I see the Cowboys winning 17-16.

Jets
PATRIOTS (-10.5)

C:  Jets.  "Because they're starting with 10 points."  Heresy, child!
G:  Patriots.  "Because they are the best team in the whole world."  Now that's more like it.  "Actually, I like the Jets, too." 
C:  "Stop copying me!"  Ugh.  Maybe I've talked about Fourth and Two a little too much this week.  I will just say this - I liked the call.  If the call worked, it may have broken a Colts team right there with a rookie head coach.  Either way, it may be just a prelude to Belichick's decision making in the AFC Championship Game.
JMANN REVIEW:  I like the Patriots.  Of course I am going against my own advice from the Redskins pick.  But honestly, there's no crying in football, Rex, unless you're Michael Irvin.  Add that to the team's record in revenge games, and I see a score like 38-7.  Maybe more.

Eagles
BEARS (+3)

C:  Eagles.  "Because the eagles can fly and automatically get touchdowns."
G:  Bears.  "Because they're called the Bears and they are good at running.  Hey Dad, look at me running!"
JMANN REVIEW:  Bears.  I have no confidence in Jay Cutler, but I have even less confidence in an Eagles team without Brian Westbrook.  Hey Jay!  I'm hanging on by a thread here in my fnatasy football league.  Instead of Maurice Jones-Drew, I wish I could get an apology from you for owning your sorry ass.  Can I get a start from you that does not include errant and/or random throws into double coverage?  Devin Hester is NOT Reggie Wayne, or Randy Moss. 

Falcons
GIANTS (-6.5)

C:  Giants.  "Because giants can stomp on the people trying to stop them and when those people get away and still try to stop them, all they can touch are the giants' shoes and giants won't even feel them."  That's how I felt in the 2008 Super Bowl after "the Helmet Catch," except they usually call it holding or chopblock on the offensive line.
G:  Falcons.  "Because they sound like a cow."  Huh?
JMANN REVIEW:  Falcons.  Sorry Giants fans; they just aren't that good.

Browns
LIONS (-3.5)

C:  Browns.  "I don't know why I like them, so don't ask."
G:  Lions.  "Because they can run really, really, really, really, fast."
C:  "No, the fastest animal is the cheetah.  A lion can only run 10 miles per hour.  Did you know that a cheetah can run 70 miles and hour?  I wish a team was named the "Cheetahs.""  Sounds like a new WNBA franchise nickname, no?  Or what the Irish-Americans in Boston called the French after Thierry Henry's "hand of God" goal.
JMANN REVIEW:  Lions.  They go for their second win of the season against possibly the worst team ever, oh the irony.  I'm not even sure they call him "Mangenious" in the Mangini household.  But I could use someone to glare like that at my children when they forget to take out the garbage.

My other picks include: Miami (no, really), Packers (-6.5), Steelers (-10), Bucs (+11), Colts (-1.5), Vikings (-10.5), Raiders (+9.5), Broncos (+3) and Titans (+4.5).  If I had my druthers, I might look into a three team tease that includes the Patriots, the Steelers and the Vikings.  Now about Icarly and The Troop.  Probably not the best shows for impressionable children to watch, but then again, I showed them the fight in the stands after the guy tries to give his hockey stick to the little kid after the Anaheim Mighty Ducks game.

Week 4:  10-4.
Season:  18-12. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Can a College Basketball Team Win on a Neutral Court?

Earlier this fall, I had a golden opportunity.  I could pick a couple of Boston College basketball games to go to during the 2009-10 season.  "I'm not giving you Duke or North Carolina, but pick any other games."  I was told.  I didn't want my children to hear me hurl expletives at the opposing teams anyway, so I was thankful that the temptation to take those two games were taken away from me. 

I couldn't take UMass because I was going to be in Florida that week.  Florida State?  Virginia?  I couldn't decide.  Finally, wth four tickets at my disposal, I chose the Eagles' opening night game against Dartmouth.  Being a UConn guy, I was luke warm on BC to begin with, but against the school that rejected my college application 20 years ago despite the seven essays that I wrote?  Hell yeah.  I would relish the opportunity to shove it back in their face, even though the "Big Green" and their fans would have no idea who the hell I was.  Plus, my wife was going to be at work, so I had the kids cornered.   

6pm.  Chestnut Hill, MA.  Even though I have been to Conte Forum at least half a dozen times in my life, I couldn't for the life of me find the place.  Was the "Dartmouth curse" coming back to haunt me?  Not a real curse, just what I coined a harrowing evening at the school's baseball frat back in 1992.  Driving back and forth on Beacon Street, I was looking for a right to take.  I asked three guys for directions and used my GPS on my phone (yeah, you're right, I should be keeping my eyes on the road).  Finally, I relented and took a left instead and parked at the Alumni Stadium garage exactly where I should have parked; in fact, when I showed the parking attendants that I had a parking pass, they were as surprised as I was that I had no idea where I was going.  "Right this way" they said, as if I was Matty Ice or Doug Flutie.  I'm still not sure how I got there.  Luckily, I had fed the kids into a comatose state (tw fthem were assleep by the time I parked) so the only problem involved an unfortunate barbeque sauce issue that could only be remedied with winter hats and "blankies."

Well our problems finding the place didn't stem from traffic jams or a tremendous demand for tickets  We walk in a couple of minutes before tip off and the Forum, usually able to accommodate about 8,500 fans couldn't have more than 1,000 people in the building (and that includes the volleyball tournament going on in some other nook and cranny of the building).




Despite the lack of a crowd, I was still apprehensive, since my daughter had expressed a fear about both loud noises and people dressed up as characters (in this case, the BC Eagle).

But the question I posed to myself was this - can BC, in front of a sparsely populated home court, still use that home court to their advantage?  The study isn't as compelling as if they were to play, oh say, Kansas, but after watching numerous UConn butt kickings against the Sacred Hearts and the Central Connecticuts of the world in front of packed Gampel Pavillion or Hartford Civic Center (nee XL Center) crowds, I am convinced that it can make a difference versus playing the same team in Hawaii or some other neutral site.

Well, after about 10 minutes of play, and numerous questions from my boys about what I was taking pictures of (I was trying to get either a clear shot of how empty the Forum was, so my camera was constantly pointing away from the action, or I was trying to get a picture of this 45 year old guy in his BC student T-shirt hugging all of the other regulars like it was Thanksgiving.), the "crowd" had encouraged the Eagles to a fifteen point lead.  These guys Tyler Roche and Reggie Jackson (seriously) led the Eagles throughout the First Half and most of the Second Half.  Despite the lack of support through most of the game, I could tell that the Big Green weren't going to have it tonight.  During the pregame warmup, I was impressed by the complicated four way passing drill they were executing - and frankly from an Ivy League school I would expect nothing less - they were missing jumpers and layups of every sort.  The crowd was also buttressed by a loud PA system that was constantly blaring music, amidst requests to clap and chant "Defense." 

To a certain extent, I don't think the crowd mattered as much as the timing of the loud noise.  Sort of like a football crowd being particularly loud when the opposing offense is backed up against its own goal line, the music played the loudest during Dartmouth's offensive possessions.  How do I know?  My daughter always asked me to turn the music down when Dartmouth had the ball, never when BC had the ball.  Given that the place was otherwise silent when BC had the ball, it had to be jarring.  I concluded that maybe, just maybe, home court advantage had more to do with technology, than human causes.  Wait, is it a conclusion to say "maybe?"

Ultimately, after all of the popcorn, Doritos and M&Ms were eaten, it was time to go home.  BC was winning handily halfway through the Second Half, and we were all getting tired.  I think even Dartmouth was ready to leave, as they were just dragging their bodies up and down the court, biding time until the final whistle.  My beliefs were confirmed as we walked out of the stadium with BC up by 25 with 10 minutes to go in the game.

"Look guys, there's the bus that Dartmouth took to come down here from New Hampshire."  I relay to my boys (my daughter I asleep in my arms at this point).

"If that's their bus," my oldest one asks "then why is it on like it's leaving?  Do they wanna get dinner at home?"

"Good question." I say as I slap him on the shoulder.  "Good question."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Son Needs A Lot of Tinkering

One thing that we're trying to accomplish with this blog is to educate parents about which restaurants are actualy worth taking their children to.  Can the kids be entertained and the parents get a decent pint of beer? Can this all happen without the parents searching for credit cards with a high enough limits to pay the tab?  It's as simple as that.

When we first moved down here, one of the places that our friends told us to check out was Mount Blue, literally walkingistance from our new home.  It was restaurant and bar that occasionally had some good live music playing.  At that time, about ten years ago, it was owned by a couple of Aerosmith guys, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.  Except for being forced to buy Joe Perry's crappy hot sauce and a strange siting of Steven Tyler cleaning the windshield of his red Mercedes in the parking lot, I didn't have many memories of the place.  A couple of owners later, Mount Blue was recast as The Tinker's Son.  An Irish Tavern with authentic music and furniture (including authentic imported church pews where the live music would be playing), run by an authentic Irish restauranteur.  Together with the promise of my favorite beer on tap, we decided to go the weekend that it officially opened for business.

Norwell, MA.  After a grueling 3 hour soccer marathon, the five of us hopped in the car and drove to the "the Son."  It was quiet, and we were informed that they were still serving brunch.  My seven year old immediately decides that he wants waffles at 2pm.  How did he know what the meaning of brunch was anyway?

GROG.  The best beer I've ever had was a pint of Murphy's Stout in a Kinsale pub back in 2007.  The chocolate and caramel flavors followed by a smooth finish puts the Guinness commercialization machine to shame.  Frankly, I'm not even sure what my wife had, or what other beers, wines or specialty drinks the place had.  Probably Guinness, Smithwicks and Harp, I imagine.  Two pints of Murphys were all I needed, though.  10.00 Happies out of 10.00.

KIDS CRAYONS AND OTHER ENTERTAINMENT.  Things quickly fell apart from there, however.  First, no crayons, no paper to write on, no games to play.  Then the only things on TV were horse racing and college football and they had to "specially make" chocolate milk for the kids in giant red soda cups.  I think they went across the street to get a couple of bottles of Nestle myself.  That would explain why it took our waiter 15 minutes to serve our drinks even though we were sitting about 10 feet from the bar.  It was either that or the pot the guy was smoking made him forget that we were there in the first place.  Jesus.  On top of all that, they didn't have a band playing at Saturday brunch, just a jukebox left over from the previous regime. 

At the end of the meal, the three kids ended up climbing all over the authentic church pews, despite our protests.  Oh well, now the pews are authentic American, too.  2.00 Happies out of 10.00.

SPEED.  Don't even get me started on this one.  There is one thing I can't stand about restaurants.  Waiting.  I don't like to wait to be seated, wait to be served or wait for the check.  Come on.  In a business like this, I expect and down right appreciate being herded in like cattle, thrown some food and herded right back out.  I don't mind subpar food, surly service or expensive meals, so long as I don't have to wait for it.  Well, our guy was just getting used to balancing work and smoke breaks, because we found ourselves waiting an eternity through every stage of our meal.  Even the other waitress on the floor was helping us, sympathizing for our plight. This is not going well.  2.00 Happies out of 10.00.

DESSERTS.  Not a good sign when I have to promise to take the kids to ANOTHER restaurant for dessert.  Even my dessert of another Murphy's wasn't enough to drag this score past 1.00 Happies out of 10.00.

WHO'S PAYING?  The prices were reasonable.  It was Saturday brunch so grilled cheeses and waffles were fairly inexpensive.  But it felt like we were paying for everything, like the extra ketchup we had to get and the cup of water we had to order.  5.50 Happies out of 10.00.

20.50 Happies out of 50.00.  Yikes, was it really that bad?  No, but remember, I'm rating a place based on whether parents can bring their children.  Despite satisfactory food,  Tinker's Son got hurt for beng child unfriendly.  I'm not a restauranteur, but in the suburbs, places should either cater to families or be too fancy to bring children, period.  Norwell isn't Boston, and here there is no in-between.  I suppose I understand the attempt at authenticity as a selling point that might dissuade children, and if the kind of clientele they want is the 50 year old twice-divorced bar flies, then they have made some shrewd decisions.  But I will tell you one thing, I will spend four times as much money bringing my family to a place they enjoy than I will spend on myself having a couple of beers with the "flies."  Steer Clear of This Place.   

Friday, November 6, 2009

An Afternoon with the Breeders' Cup

Friday afternoon sporting events are tough.  Work, of course, usually gets in the way; but if I'm fortunate enough to be home from work on a Friday afternoon, some of the smaller folks in my life would prefer that they be in charge of the house.  Snack-eating, friend-entertaining and TV-watching folks, and you know what?  That's okay with me on Fridays.  So with four children wrestling, yelling and talking about school (oh yes, one of them had to have a friend over), I tried to watch the Breeders' Cup 2009 at Santa Anita Park.

3:30pm.  Damn it!  For some reason I thought the races started at 3:30 instead of 2pm.  The Breeders' Cup is in California and since when did anything in California start before noon (Pacific Time)?  No matter, I had Races 3-9 to attempt to make racing history.  My online account (it's free and it's legal) was a little low in funds, so I had to pick and choose my spots, but I was confident in my hadicapping.

Race 3

Jmannreview:  Father Time (3-1)
Favorite:  Mastery (7-5)
Winner:  Man of Iron (6-1)

This race is what they call the "Marathon," even though 14 furlongs is approximately one and three quarters miles.  My horse didn't have much run and faded around the quarter pole.  Luckily, I couldn't pull a trigger on a wager, so nothing lost.

Race 4

Jmannreview:  Lillee Langtrey (3-2)
Favorite:  Lillee Langtrey (3-2)
Child #2:  Lillie Langtrey (3-2)
Winner:  Tapitsfly (9-1)

I was able to corral my middle child into making a pick (get it?).  It was clear that he was still bummed out that we didn't go to Foodfest at Suffolk Downs a couple of weeks ago.  We both liked the same horse (note to reader, I gave any younger pickers just a couple of horses to choose from, just so I don't have to wager on some 90-1 stiff because the horse's name was cool).  Unfortunately, the Irish horse was a non factor.  Why choose horses that had to be shipped across the Atlantic and across the country?

Race 5

Jmannreview:  Negligee (9-2)
Child #1:  Blind Luck (7-2)
Favorite:  Blind Luck (7-2)
Winner:  She Be Wild (7-1)

I didn't want to give my oldest child a reason to ask "What's a negligee?" so I didn't even give it to him as a choice.  I picked her despite my review of past performances because all of the TVG guys liked her.  What a washout.  Crowded out in the homestretch and ended up missing the Board.

Race 6

Jmannreview:  Forever Together (2-1)
Favorite:  Forever Together (2-1)
Winner:  Midday (2-1)

There goes my theory of the European horses.  I also lost my first wager of the afternoon.  Hooray!

Rave 7

Jmannreview:  Informed Decision (3-1)
Child #1:  Ventura (4-5)
Child #2:  Ventura (4-5)
Friend #1: Ventura (4-5)
Favorite:  Ventura (4-5)
Winner:  Informed Decision (3-1)

Child #1 explained his pick (Ventura) by declaring that it was almost Veterans' Day and they sound the same.  Good, logical response for a child.  Child #2 and Friend #1 picked Ventura because Child #1 picked her.  Kids, don't be followers.  Be leaders!  This was my pick of the day, evidenced by my "tweet" on October 10.  "RT @jmannreview Informed Decision is the best horse I've seen on turf this year."  I should have wagered a lot more than I did.  But I didn't want to frighten the children if I lost. 

Race 8

Jmannreview:  Music Note (2-1)
Favorite:  Careless Jewel (9-5)
Winner:  Life is Sweet (8-1)

Careless Jewel came out like a shot and had an 8 length lead down the back stretch.  With the possible exception of Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont, this kind of lead doesn't hold up.  And, there goes a fleet of horses to pass her down the back stretch.  Faded late to at least 6th.  I lost track as the pizza was arriving, and I just missed on my win/place wager. 

Not bad.  I ended up winning about $50 even though I only won one bet.  Not only that, but the children seemed enthusiastic about watching this with me.  Just wanted to see if you were still reading about horse racing.  Except for the couple of times that I could pin them down for a pick, they were playing video games or follow the leader.  Like I said though, be a leader, not a follower, kids.       

Monday, November 2, 2009

Will you Sign My Daddy's Book? Simmons Signing, Part II - Redemption

To reread our first attempt to get Daddy's book signed, go here for Part I.

Luckily, Hurricane O'Reilly's is just up the street from a restaurant that I knew wouldn't be that busy - even on a game night - Boston Beer Works.  Still worried, however, as I look over my shoulder at 40 more people join the line that we had just departed, I implore my little princess as gently as I could to "make it quick."

I forgot though that she was still dressed up like a ghost, and she was now trying to scare passersby with not only her jarring "woohooooohooo,"  but also a frightening hand wave.  The bouncer at the front door seemed refreshingly amused.

"We're not too young for this place?" I ask as I gesture at my two boys wrestling over a balloon and my daughter now dancing to some Britney Spears tune that we can hear outside of the bar. (But wait, never mind, when she has the mask on, I can't see her. I forgot that she explained that to me earlier).

"No, no, no."  He must have kids because he can't be this genuinely entertained right now as patrons sidle up behind us, because I love my kids more than anything and I'm the opposite of entertained - antitained.  "Do you guys want handstamps?"  "Yeahhh!!"

As we walk into the restaurant with new stamps smeared on our hands, my daughter now tries to scare the four girls tending to the hostess station by jumping toward them while simultaneously whispering "wooohooooohoooo" and continuing with the menacing hand wave - then she turns to me.  "Daddy, I don't have to go to the bathroom, anymore."

WHAT?!?!?  "Are you sure, sweetheart, it might be a long, long time before we can go again?"  Little white lies, I determine, are fully biting me in the ass so I try to be as honest as one can be with children.  And really, all I want to do is take you into the men's room at 6pm on a game night while making sure that no one spills beer on her pink "blankie."  "I have to go!" my boys chirp almost simultaneously.  Way to come through boys.  Maybe you guys wrestle and talk back more than normal kids probably should, but if I need a well -timed bathroom break, you fellas always deliver.  Long story short, my new plan of action was to try to wait out the lines and get the book signed toward the end.  I doubt THAT many people want to get this book signed.

As we walk out of the restaurant, I see that Plan B might actually be working.  The line is short; it'll probably only take a couple of minutes before we're inside the next bar.  I proceed to point out the Sports Guy through the window to my kids.  Unfortunately, they are not as impressed as I am.  Although, I'm more impressed by the number of security personnel and people in suits surrounding the table.  A long way from the bartending days in Charlestown, I suppose.

I can't help but notice the ten Celtics fans screaming at each other, as we walk into our second bar in 45 minutes.  Pub crawls start earlier and earlier I jokingly explain to this bar's bouncer.  I continue to tell myself that this experience will only toughen the kids up as they draw closer to each of my legs with every scream.  Now who's scared little ghosty-ghost?  I'm just kidding, my little girl was just soaking it all in, realizing she didn't have to work very hard to elicit laughs from this crowd.  No more "boos" or handwaves for her, and the mask officially came off for good. 

The line moves very quickly now.  I'm told that he will only sign names and no special messages.  "I love your blog, it's the first thing I read in the morning!" I guess is out.  Just so I don't feel like a complete dork, though, I write down the kids names instead of my own.  Real gutsy, I know.  I use the tecnologically advanced post it note to write everyone's names and as we inch closer with book and kids in tow, I crack a joke to one of the Sports Guy's handlers about seeing Isiah Thomas in line behind us with a couple of books.   I thought it was funny, but not this woman.  "Keep moving, sir." she says to me sternly, giving my children the once over.  Don't worry, despite the hand stamps, I promise they won't buy any beer.

Finally to the end of the line, my boys are satisfied to stand behind me but my daughter takes matters into her own hands, jumping behind the table.  I ask Simmons if I can take a picture of my daughter and him.  I can see the look of slight frustration with me and my entourage.   But just as I'm thinking that my request was not a good idea, my little girl belts out a quiet "wooohooooohooo" to him and asks him "Will you sign my Daddy's book?"  Sensing that he was warming up a little bit, I get my camera ready as he nods to one of his handlers and proceeds to lean over.



Success!  It only took three and a half hours, three bathroom breaks, a crappy dinner and countless scary images and hand waves, but we just survived our first book signing.  Now let me find a scalper and get four tickets to the Celtic-Bulls game.  Yeah right, we're going to stay for another three hours.  We were home about 10 minutes later.  And it's a 35 minute drive home.

*****

About half way through The Book of Basketball, I must say that it is thoroughly researched.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Read it and find out for yourself.  The chapter with Isiah Thomas was a classic story, so there's that.  I think ultimately though, I will forget all about his book, but I'll always remember the night the four of us got that book signed.
 

Friday, October 30, 2009

Will you Sign My Daddy's Book? Simmons Signing, Part I - The Prelude

It was 1998.  I had just graduated from finishing school and I was working 18 hour days on the 26th floor of a Boston highrise.  One day, while I was toiling away in a windowless office, a friend sent me a link by email.   Maybe it wasn't even a link at that point, since it was 1998.  So maybe he called to tell me to go to Digital City to read a column called "Grading the Wimbledon Babes" by some guy who called himself the Boston Sports Guy.  Looking back on it now, it's still the funniest thing I had ever read, and I wish that that column survived his move to ESPN.  Alas, after an hour of searching, this column still does not exist.

Now 11 years later, and despite 11 years of enjoying his columns, I was skeptical when I heard he was working on a basketball book.  I mean, his baseball book was merely a reprinting of his old baseball columns with very little original content.  In fact, I think my daughter now uses that book plus the Sum of All Fears to reach the toilet when she goes to the bathroom and the sink when she brushes her teeth.  Despite this apprehension, I decided to spend the $25 to purchase his new book The Book of Basketball.  As the nearest bookstore was half an hour away (seriously - a half an hour away, my kids will end up being semi-literate), I had to justify the drive by also getting my wife the latest Dan Brown novel too. 

While beginning to plow through his 600+ page opus, I discovered he was going to be in Boston signing his book before the Celtics game at a bar called Hurricane O'Reilly's.  Strangely excited about the possibility of a Leona Lewis incident involving Isiah Thomas, Gus Johnson and Bill Simmons (You can read more in the book, but Thomas threatened "trouble" if he ever met Simmons on the street because of a couple of scathing columns over the years), I decided to bring the kids into Boston and get the new book signed. 

Note to Readers. A couple of issues to address right away.  First, yes I could have gotten the book signed at a book store in the Back Bay a couple of hours earlier instead of at a bar 100 feet from the Garden right before a game, but the chances of "trouble" happening at 12pm in a book store were infinitesimal compared to a bar where people were partying right before a game.  Second, yes, my kids were with me, but I thought the experience might toughen them up a little bit.  Especially, my three year old daughter.

4pm.  Boston, MA.  I should have known that this was not going to be easy when I started haggling with the garage attendant.

"I'm not going to the game, I'm just going to be 15 minutes."  I say glancing at my 7 year old to make sure he keeps his mouth shut.

"Don't you know that there's a game tonight - 20 dollars?" the attendant asks me in some sort of unidentifiable accent. 

"What did he say?" my daughter asks me. 

"I have no idea."  I direct to her.  "I know that there's a game, but I'm not going to the game. I just have to drop off some paperwork with my accountants; I'll be right back." I direct to the attendant, believing that if I just make no sense, speak really quickly and throw in a little white lie, he'll just let me go.

"It's 20 dollars."  All right, fine.

As we walk down Causeway Street from the garage, teaching my children how to jaywalk when one has somewhere to go in a hurry, I notice a line queueing at the intersection of Causeway Street and Canal Street (where we have to go).  Oh shit, I think to myself, since I know this bar is halfway down the street.  Yes, this line 300 people deep was waiting to get this book signed.  "Well this line is longer than I thought it would be." I say aloud to no one in particular as we get to the end of the line.  I only mutter this sentence since stating the obvious was not going to endear us to anyone.  Additionally, as we get in line, thinking that there might be a sense of camaraderie similar to any lines you have to wait in with numerous others, I ask the guy in front of me "Is this the line for the Simmons book signing?"  Without a word and obviously not understanding my use of irony (or maybe it's me who doesn't understand it), he gives me a smirk, like I'm some sort of shmuck, and shows me his copy of the book we're both getting signed.  Thanks, man. 

Despite my seven year old's statement that that man was not very nice, and my five year old now SINGING about how hungry he was, I decided that we would wait in line until the bitter end.  It can't be that bad, I decide.  Further, I've driven an hour in traffic, probably risked getting my car keyed by the garage attendant and fended off numerous "I'm hungry" cries (and melodies as it's turning out) from the troops.  I'm not going anywhere.

Not so fast.  After thirty minutes in line and while watching dozens of smiling people walking out of the bar with their signed copy of the book, sometimes multiple copies, my daughter (Did I explain that she was dressed up as a ghost?) taps me on the leg.  "Daddy," she says beginning a little recognizable dance "I have to go to the bathroom..."  I let the words trail off pretending not to hear them, while hoping that she was just bored.  By this time, she was entertaining everyone around her dancing in her ghost outfit and scaring them with her teeth-chattering "woowoowooooo."  "Dad, I think she really has to go to the bathroom" my seven year old volunteers, trying to be helpful for the first time all afternoon.  "I know."

"Seriously, sweetheart, are you sure you can't hold it for 15 more minutes?" I acknowledge after a couple of minutes.  I've been shooting white lies all over the place, so what the hell.

"No, Daddy.  I have to go to the bathroom right now."  She says to me sweetly. "Damnit damnit DAMNIT", I scream to myself as we walk out of line in search of a bathroom.  At least we kept a dozen people entertained when they otherwise would have been pissed waiting in such a long line.  As we walk by the line and I count the hundreds of people behind us, I now begin to worry that we spent all of this time and energy trying to get this freaking book signed, and it's not going to happen.

Tomorrow:  Part II - Redemption.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

KG IS Walking through That Door - Celtics 2009-10 Preview

Depending on whom you ask, the 2009-2010 Celtics are either the first, second or third best team in the Eastern Conference sharing the top three spots with the Cavs and the Magic.  Opening the season tonight against one of their rivals, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Celtics' position will immediately be tested.  Can the men of Green repeat the performance from 2007-2008, or will it be an injury-riddled year similar to 2008-2009?   

7:30pm.  Actually a beautiful view of the City of Cleveland, athough its amusing that Jacobs Field is lit up in the middle of October.  Please, those days are over, but thanks for wasting the natural resources to keep the lights at the baseball park on during the basketball game.  Also, I like Shaq.  I really do, but it's clear that the Real Shaq tweets from one of two places - Burger King or McDonalds.  The restaurants in the Flats better order some more supplies for after game dinners.  Oh my God is he large.

First Quarter.  Yes!  KG starts strong in the low post to get the first points of the season for the Celtics.  Looks quick for a 43 year old.  Unfortunately, the Celtics collectively look old and slow as Cleveland begins the game on a 13-2 run  The Celtics call a timeout to stop the momentum.  It may have been a technical foul, I don't know with this team.

In the span of one minute, we see what the Cavs are all about in 2009-2010 if LeBron ever gets injured.  Anderson Varejao flops in the paint and pops up crying, and Shaq scores his first points pushing Perk out of the way as he banks in a four footer.  Oh and by the way, that was a foul on Lebron James when he block Rondo's dunk attempt 8 minutes in.

Rasheed and his enormous afro takes his first of numerous ill-advised threes reminding me what it was like when Antoine Walker was jacking up his bricks ten years ago. Cheryl Miller immediately proceeds to tell us about Big Baby's problems with his injured thumb after he punches a former teammate.  What I don't understand is that Davis is going to be suspended, but Delonte West beats his wife, gets arrested on gun charges, fails to go to practice or to games and apparantly is just generally crazy, but they show him hugging some sycophant on the bench as Miller speaks in the background.  What's wrong with this picture?  Cavs 28 Celtics 21.

Second Quarter.  LeBron is on the bench and it shows.  The Celtics tie the game at 32 as LeBron daydreams on the bench about whether there will be enough cap space in Los Angeies next year.

I like the story of Doc Rivers instituting the 30 minutes window of silence on the team at practice yesterday because the players were getting too chirpy.  We institute silent time for our children when they get chirpy too.  Oh and by the way, in case you couldn't hear the guy on the Celtics bench...THREE SECONDS!  THREE SECONDS!!!

Wth three minutes left, we see our first in game interview with Shaq expressing his feelings about playing with the King.  Shaq acts humble about once being the best player in the world, but having to cede that title to LeBron James for the good of the team.  What a guy.  By the way, what the hell was that thing spinning in the background of his interview?  It looked like one of those insects from Starship Troopers.  Technical Foul Number 1 on the Celtics as Paul Pierce is called for an awkward looking travel/foul call.  Seriously, Doc needed a timeout for that play call?  Regardless, the Celtics rally from being down 19-5 in the First Quarter to being ahead 51-45 at halftime.

Third Quarter.  I probably was not the only one cringing when Shaq treated KG like a rack of Babyback ribs.  Nothing a couple of chest bumps can't sure.  I wonder what Danny Ainge was nervously laughin about after that exchange.  And please no more alley oops to Kevin Garnett.  Umm, please?

After seeing Shaq miss yet another bunny while LeBron is calling for the ball, I wonder how long before his minutes get reduced - Shaq's minutes, not LeBron's.  Celtics 72 Cavs 65.

Fourth Quarter.  I have to be honest, when Rasheed Wallace was on the Pistons, I hated seeing the random three point field goal with a hand in his face, despite the fact that he was a non-factor the majority of the game.  Now it's not so bad.

With seven minutes left, we have now entered the time of the game when LeBron spreads the floor and then drives to draw a foul - over and over again.  I love watching this kind of fundamental 1 on 5 basketball.  Oh wait!  Here comes Shaq with his first two free throws - "clang" "bam".   Misses both of them.  Almost as painful as watching Shaq's performance at the All Star Game last year with Jabberwocky.  In any event, the Celtics pull away from the pesky Cavs despite not employing the Hack-a-Shaq method of defense.  Celtics 95 Cavs 89.

Overall, considering Cleveland lost two games last year at home, this was a strong effort.  I was encouraged by the play of the big three - perhaps we'll see another Celtics-Lakers Finals?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Maine Beer Snobs Exist If You Know Where to Find Them

Columbus Day Weekend usually signals the end of many things, the end of Summer, the end of the Red Sox season and the end of half days at the golf course.  It signals many beginnings though - children's whines about when Halloween and Christmas were coming, fairs and festivals so boring that they would depress even the most optimistic person, geriatric leaf peepers enthralled by the colors orange and red, and of course, the hallmark of all child rearing experiences in New England - apple picking.

Weekends for me are usually reserved for pizza and kids parties as my significant other works on the weekends.  But the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend meant that neither one of us had to work the next day.  Coupling that with an overnight babysitter, meant that we were FREE.  What to do?  We had to drive to Maine to drop the kids off, so our immediate thoughts were to go leaf peeping and apple picking for the day.  No, just kidding.  After some deliberation, since Octoberfest was occurring in Newport the same weekend, we ultimately decided to go to Portland to drink beer, watch the Red Sox and Patriots and bar hop. 

The last time I was in Portland, we had encountered the Maine Beer Festival.  Although we were out of place with all of the crunchy, dirty do-gooders, we had a great time drinking beers with friends, making new friends and pretending that beer snobs actually exist.  Although I remember having a good time there, I didn't necessarily remember liking or disliking specific beers.  I decided that this would be my chance to review these quality beers and truly become the beer snob I pretended to be all those years ago.

We did exhaustive research on Maine brews.  We were generally familiar with the larger brands, having both lived in Maine for a period, so knowing that we only had one afternoon/night to taste test, we stuck with these larger brands:  Shipyard, Geary's, Allagash, Casco Bay and Gritty McDuffs.  The lesser known brands would have to wait until next year.  Trying 4 beers each was our goal.  Well that and not having too bad of a hangover the next day.

1pm.  We venture from our hotel room to Gritty McDuffs.  Ah, the same smells I remember from 15 years ago, the frying oil probably hasn't been changed since then either.  Undeterred, I order the homemade potato chips and the black fly stout.  MM orders the Halloween spooky beer.  The stout has good coffee and caramel overtones, but seems a little bitter for a stout.  The spooky beer as always goes down nice and easy as a nice ale should with nutmeg and cinnamon flavors dominating.  I try to decide between the Best Bitter (another beer I remember from 15 years ago) and the 21 ale.  I figure that I would order the 21 Ale and have MM order the Best Bitter.  I guess I should have done more than discuss the fact that we should order different beers, because she proceeds to order another Spooky Beer.  "I liked this one more than the Best Bitter."  But she didn't order the Best Bitter!  Anyway, the 21 Ale was rough on the lips and the throat.  The flavors were overcome by a very cereal hoppy and malty aftertaste which just didn't do it for me.  I guess I have to give them 66 snobbies out of 100.  Sorry guys; I was pulling for you.

3pm. We look around for a couple of the breweries to tour.  Not a good sign when no one we ask knows where our next destination, Shipyard Brewery, is.  Worse still, we find out that Geary's doesn't have a tour, and Casco and Allagash are both closed on weekends.  As you'll see later, I'm not even sure Casco Bay still exists.  So much for our crack research.  But the Shipyard is open for tours, so we walk in.  Now these breweries always crack me up.  Noone really cares that much how the beer is made.  Yeah we get it, barley, yeast, water and hops - blah, blah, blah.  Bring on the free tasting.  Our guide must have sensed our growing dissatisfaction with the one hour tour when the 8 year old in our group asks his Mother when they are going to the bar so he can have some more homemade soda.  But, finally, we get to the back room to taste.  The Blue Fin stout was dissappointing - it seemed like the CO2 cartridge was dislodged and had no taste.  The Pumpkinhead was tasty, I guess I'm very feminine with my affinity for nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin flavors.  The Chamberlain Ale was also very good, with a nice refreshing hoppy finish with believe it or not a banana bread flavor.  The Light and the Export Ale were boring lagers that had "Shipweiser" stamped on the label.  The IPA was also refreshingly hopped. 52 Snobbies out of 100.  I have to admit though that they get points for pouring a lot of free beer.

3:55pm.  We're walking to our next bar when we hear a number of groans coming from open windows on the street.  I turn on my phone and find that Paps just gave up (what would ultimately be) the winning runs in Game 3 of the ALDS.  But they were winning 5-1 when we left the first place, no?  We head over to another corner bar to forget that the Red Sox suck.  This is where we will have to get our Geary's fill, since they are so SECRETIVE about their brewing process (or maybe they actually don't brew beer in Maine?) that they don't provide tours.  The bartender loves it when I order a sampler.  "F-ing tourist leaf peeping crap eating wharthog"  I'm sure she's thinking to herself as she throws the Autumn Ale, Hampshire Special Ale, London Porter, and regular Geary's Ale at me.  I liked the Autumn, London Porter and the HSA.  The Regular IPA was just ho-hum - almost a true banquet beer.  75 Snobbies out of 100.

5pm.  After a brief sojourn to Bryan Boru's so MM could have a car bomb in an Irish Pub (interesting irony) we could watch the Patriots game, and I could talk to a Cincinnati Reds fan about the 1975 World Series, even though I was only a toddler at the time, we head back to Bar X to try the Allagash.  We have had several beers at this point so I'm thankful to hear that the only Allagash that they had was the White Ale.  Two sentences sum up my tasting notes for the White Ale:

 "Allagash White is as bad as the popcorn.  Bitter and not in a good way." 

I don't remember my exact beef with the popcorn at this bar, but I do remember that I didn't want to finish the beer, it was that bad.  0 Snobbies out of 100.  That score was at least better than Casco Bay Brewing Company, who could only muster an "Incomplete."  Did they close? 

Congratulations Geary's.  The 2009 Snobby Beer Award goes to you.  Ultimately, MM and I had a good time tasting beer and acting like we were from the Beer Advocate.  Now back to reality.  Maybe we can do this again during the next long weekend.  When's Veterans Day this year?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tim Wakefield's Revenge - 2009 ALCS Review

I remember that night back in 2003.  Sitting in the beer stained pub down the street.  Grady Little letting a 160 pound Dominican wrap him around his finger like a little girl.  The hits from Jeter and Matsui.  The tense 9th and 10th innings.  Then, the inevitable home run by Aaron Boone against Tim Wakefield.  Wakefield had pitched beautifully in this series, winning Game One and Game 4.  And these memories are still burned into my brain like fluttering demons.  In 2004, I tried to talk my friends into going into same bar we were in the previous year to exercise those remaining demons.  Same with 2007.  We never made it there that night or any night for that matter, and perhaps that's why this is still an important series to me, even if the rest of the country couldn't care less.  I want to exercise those demons still.  And so does Tim Wakefield.  It didn't happen in 2007 because Joba had those darn bug problems.  2008 was a washout because the Yankees were eliminated in the ALDS.  Wait, what, they didn't even make the playoffs that year?  Oh that's right, I was trying to remember the last time the Yankees won the World Series and I lost track. 

Fast forward to 2009.  The Red Sox won the first 8 games and the Yankes won 9 of the last 10.  Yankees fans will say that the 8-0 mark was a result of new guys trying to "chemie" one another.  (And A-Roid's secret one month drug ban).  Red Sox fans will say that the last three games didn't matter and besides the Yankees cheat. 

In their respective ALDS, the Yankees swept the Minnesota Twins. The Red Sox just handed the Angels their third consecutive defeat. The series that always seems to get more hype than it should is taking shape before our eyes. Yankees vs Red Sox IV.  What's going to happen?

October 16, 2009.  New York, NY.  Jon Lester, with his 2.84 ERA in Yankee Stadium in 2009 (No, I don't count the game where Melky Cabrera intentionally hit Lester in the knee with a baseball) dominates the Yankees' line up for 7 innings, giving up 1 run with 9 strikeouts.  CC Sabathia, on the other hand, remembering that the team is really counting on him now, takes a break from the cheeseburger and fries to throw up respectable numbers (for him and his 7.92 post season ERA) - 5 innings, 6 earned runs.   This game is over before it starts.  RED SOX 6 YANKEES 1.

October 17, 2009.  New York, NY.  Jose Molina and Jorge Posada start scratching each other's faces trying to catch AJ Burnett.  Ladies, please.   Meanwhile, Josh Beckett dominates in the playoffs, period.  Alright except for last year, got it.  AJ Burnett gives up 20 runs in 20 innings against the Red Sox.  J.D. Drew and David Ortiz hit home runs into the night.  AJ Burnett gets so melancholy he wants to punch Derek Jeter's permasmirk off of his face.  RED SOX 8 YANKEES 2.

October 19, 2009.  Boston, MA.  Clay Buchholz, the manchild, is in way over his head.  After a third shaky start in a row against the Angels in the ALDS, Bucholz proceeds to give up four home runs.  One to Damon around the Pesky Pole, one to A-Fraud into the Monster seats, one to Robinson Cano into the bullpen and one to Tex Mex (he gives me heartburn everytime I see his ugly mug, the jerk) to straight away center field.  Meanwhile Andy Pettitte continues his recent mastery over the Red Sox and throws a gem.  Get tickets to this game if you want to try to get a souvenir home run ball.  YANKEES 9  RED SOX 4.

October 20, 2009.  Boston, MA.  This is even worse.  Even though CC Sabathia's Fenway Park split is mediocre (4.61 ERA).  He can certainly out pitch Daisuke Matsuzaka.  When the year started, I had Dice learning the system and pitching 215 innings and winning 18-20 games.  Instead, we got this.  YANKEES 8 RED SOX 3.

October 22, 2009. Boston, MA  Jon Lester hits Melky Cabrera in the third inning and everyone outside of New York cheers.  I wish it were Johnny Damon, Jeter, Posada, A-Rod, etc., but I'm still pleased.  He then masters the Yankees again to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.  Dustin Pedroia finally comes through with 3 hits and 2 RBIs.  RED SOX 4  YANKEES 2.

October 24, 2009.  New York, NY.  This is the best game of the series so far.  Jeter leads off with a double and gets driven in by a Tex-Lax single.  These are the only Yankees base runners until the 6th inning.  Meanwhile, Andy Pettitte, who never has great post season statistics or games specifically against the Red Sox, pours it on.  1-0 into the top of the ninth.  Mariano Rivera comes in.  I throw Bill Mueller and Dave Roberts hand made dolls at him.  I start singing "Tessie," anything to get this guy off his game.  AND IT WORKS!  Mike Lowell hits a single.  Joey Gathright pinch runs for him and of course steals second.  This kid has just gotten himself a job for life in Boston (See the aforementioned Dave Roberts).  JD Drew, 3 for 24 in the series, with 7 called strikeouts, hits a grounder between stone hips (Jeter) and no hips (A-Roid).  TIE SCORE!  Not a fairy tale ending in this one, though, as in the bottom of the ninth, Billy Wagner gives up the walk off to Texeira.  I hope we get a couple of good players from the draft for this stiff.  YANKEES 2 RED SOX 1.

October 25, 2009.  New York, NY.  Clay Buchholz vs. CC Sabathia.  This is what playoff baseball is all about; and for the 3rd time in seven years, the Red Sox and the Yankees are going to play Game 7.  I'm watching the game hunkered down with a couple of friends.  I don't remember 2004 or 2007 at this point.  I remember Bucky Dent and Ray Knight and Aaron Boone (Beep, beep, beep).  I thought I forgave Bill Buckner when he came out at the ring ceremony a couple years ago (although we all forgave him when he came back to play at the end of his career, no?), but I had the same look of disbelief that Buckner had when Johnny Damon hit the grand slam against Buchholz.  Really, is this bizarro Johnny?  A grand slam at Yankee Stadium in Game 7 of an ALCS?  I could hit a home run in that band box, but that's not the point.  This is not the Red Sox of old.  They haven't been for 5 years.  Although the Yankees lead by 6 in the third inning, five straight hits from Youk, Papi, J-Bay, Mikey and JD Drew (I don't know a good nickname for him except for "Called Strike Three" or "CST" for short) cut the lead in half.  And then an opposite field home run by Youk in the fourth ties the game.  Francona needs to get Buchholz out of there as he gives up a couple of more runs and begins to openly cry. 

I had forgotten that Wakefield was put on the roster because his back had finally responded to treatment (I think he had both hips replaced, but that's just me), so I was surprised to see him come out of the bull pen to start the 5th inning.  One, two, three inning in the 5th.  Maybe this could be it!  The innings get later and later.  The Red Sox tie the score at 8 in the 7th inning and take the lead in the 8th when the most maligned player of the year, David Ortiz, hits a towering home run near the Utz sign.  We are in euphoria!  We all hug each other in manly ways.  Papelbon comes in the 9th to finish the game and the RED SOX ADVANCE!  Wakefield comes waddling out slaps a couple of guys on the back because he's too old and fragile to dive on the pile.   RED SOX 9  YANKEES 8.

Wakefield was able to exercise some demons this night.  Game 7, Yankee Stadium. I cringed when Pedro came out in Game 7 against the Yankees in 2004, because that seemed forced.  The Red Sox needed Wakefield to save a spent bullpen and he came through this time.  Was this the reason why he wouldn't retire event though he had plenty of money and two rings?  It was inevitable that these two teams would face each other again, while he was still able to pitch.  Maybe.

By the way, these hugs and cheers when the game is over take place at the same tavern that I was in on that fateful night 6 years earlier.  I had come here in the 6th inning when Wakefield came out.  A lot of the same people were here, too.  And it was comforting to see their faces.  Maybe now I can talk rationally with my children about the Red Sox, now that I've been able to settle this remaining debt.  We'll see when the Sox play Manny and the Dodgers in the World Series.