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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.