Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Is it Really Better to Watch Football on TV?

The crowds at the urinals, the traffic, the obscenely expensive ticket prices, parking fees and beers. I've been bombarded with generalizations about how much better it is to watch football games on TV. Is it really true? Can football be more enjoyable with HDTV, a six pack and a couple of actual kids, rather than live action, $7.50 beers and several thousand "kids?"

Foxboro, MA.  8am.  September 27, 2009.  I readily admit that I was watching the Weather Channel radar this morning when I heard the rain outside my window.  I continued to watch the Weather Channel update station (where no one talks, its just a continuous loop of the doppler radar) while marinading the steak tips with my special Jameson's marinade.  I just don't have a good record with weather at football games.  Rain at the Jets game, Snow at the Jaguars game.  A couple of Dolphins games that swore me off of live football forever, or at least temporarily, as it turns out.  But it's difficult to turn down an opportunity to go to a game, even though I am so woefully unprepared for weather at football games.  Contrast with...

Home.  5pm.  September 14, 2009.  It's the first game of the season.  Tom Brady is playing his first game in months, and the Patriots have the early 7pm game of a Monday Night Doubleheader.  This is set up for a perfect TV experience.  But wait!  I find out that my wife has to work until 6pm tonight.  I'm not sure who's more bummed out, me or the kids, since they are going to have to fend for themselves for dinner and bedtime.  I figure that the 7 year old can make his younger brother and sister waffles - it is the Patriots opening night after all.  They can also get themselves some goldfish, I left the packages where they can reach them in the pantry.  That's okay, I think to myself.  Waffles and goldfish just this one time.  Besides, I was teaching Daddy's Little Girl (DLG) to say on command "Are you ready for some football?"


Foxboro, MA. 9:30am.  We get to the parking lot a little late and park near the far corner.  I'm told that we're parking dangerously close to this group of very sensitive 50 year old guys who claim that corner as their own.  We park in this lot because of the proximity and ease of the HOV lane.  They park in this lot (and this corner of the lot specifically) because that is the best spot for their Bose stereo and tent placement.  They kind of look like a poor man's Sons of Anarachy.  In fact, I see one guy pay the parking attendant an extra $20 (at least) to save spots for their buddies, and park other cars at an angle to maximize their tent coverage.  Seriously?  Yes, seriously they answer as we're told six times that their buddies are coming and we need to move the tent we're setting up.  And NOW.  "Can you just wait until our tent is locked in?" my buddy asks.  "No, you see they're in line up there, they'll be here in 5 or 10 minutes." they answer.  These guys are really worried.  Luckily, I brought some cupcakes to settle everyone down.  Otherwise they really might have gone after that Falcons fan.

Home.  5:30pm.  I get a frantic call from my wife.  The gift cards that my wife so generously gave me for a couple of free rounds of golf were actually meant to be donated to her charity tournament.  "You didn't give one to my Father did you?"  "Well yeah, you told me to."  I answer.  "Damn it!"  She shrieks.  I'm not sure if she's saying this because of all of the times I picked to actually listen to her, I picked this one.  But no matter because she has to race home and then race to Hanson to get the charity golf cards and then drop them back off.  6pm is out of the question now.  "Do you mind taking one of the boys?" I, er, ask myself when she comes home to pick up one of the cards.  I'm pretty sure she didn't hear that question because it followed my question of whether she knew how to get back to the Club she just came from. 

7pm is OK, though, because I'll just crack open one of the Bud Lights I left for myself and sit...what the Hell happened to the beer I left?  Oh great.  "Daddy, I'm thirsty." DLG sweetly says to me.  "You and me both, cutie.  You and me both."


Foxboro, MA.  12:55pm.  I have to admit that the 3 sausages, 10 shrimp, 8 steak tips and the three beers have made the half jog to the Stadium a little difficult.  P90X doesn't teach you fitness when you fill your stomach with toxins.  When we get to the stadium, my buddy has a great idea, that I can't help but think has been implemented before.  Although our seats are in the 300 level, let's just start the game in the 100 level, he explains.  Interesting concept, maybe just for a couple of minutes.  "Just wait until the usherette is busy helping someone and just slip in with the crowd."  Wait, this sounds a little too nefarious for my taste, but I capitulate because at this point it's easier going down stairs than up ramps.  We settle into the seats below.

To make us pay for our transgressions, the football Gods put us next to a guy from Los Angeles who is vigorously rooting against the Patriots - not for the Falcons - but against the Patriots.  Before I knew he was from L.A., I asked this tool who quarterbacked the Falcons when they went to their only Super Bowl a couple of years ago.  I couldn't remember the answer either, but who cares, I'm the one ASKING the questions here.  Finally, after the First Quarter, when it was clear that these seats weren't going to be taken away from us, I mentioned that we should go.  I had to go to the bathroom anyway.  "Come on let's stay, these seats are ours.  Just go take a leak, and when you come back, just act like you own the place."  Too tired to debate, I come back from the bathroom (with no line in the 100 Section), go the the aisle and proceed to point to a couple of people I didn't know and said "What's up!" and gave the usherette a knowing nod.  I'm not sure I know what "acting like I own the place" actually means.  My kids own my house.  One observation, I love painted faces.  My wife would kill me if I embarrassed myself in that way, but painted faces are just plain cool.  Patriots 26 Atlanta 10.

Home. 7pm.  The game starts.  I tell the boys that if they watch the game, they can stay up past their bedtimes.  I know bribery is not a good parenting practice.  "Are there going to be fireworks or muskets," my 5 year old asks, clearly still scarred from the preseason game we went to a couple of weeks before.  "Not if you sit down and don't make a sound." I gently explain to him.  I then wink at my 7 year old, who seems to get the joke.  If I'm going to bribe my kids, I might as well manipulate them into being quiet too.  Finally, my wife comes home at 7:30.  She asks me why the kids aren't in bed yet on a school night, I ask her if she got any beer to replace the ones she drank the night before.  My question didn't go over well, so I just sat back down, while she graciously put the boys to bed.  As she goes up stairs I defiantly tell her that DLG is in bed.  "Good job."  She mutters.  I proceed to watch an awful game until the last 5 minutes, but you know how it ends.  Patriots 25 Bills 24.


Foxboro, MA.  4:30pm.  It's still early and everyone is happy.  A couple of the sensitive types are lying on the grass/mud near their Bose speaker.  I'm not really sure if they went in to the game or just got drunk and listened to their Snoop Dog/Lynyrd Skynyrd mix tape.  Experienced some traffic, then drank some more beer and a celebratory shot of Jamesons, then swent home a couple of hours later.  Have to go to work the next morning.

Home. 10:15pm.  Everyone is in bed.  So I go to bed, too.  Have to go to work the next morning.

Attending games in person is an expensive adventure.  These tickets are scarce (I know being on the wait list for years) and so they come with a premium.  However, there is not substitute for a football game live.  The camaraderie, the smells, the excitement just can't be duplicated no matter how many guys are in front of the TV and how clear the picture is.  I give the edge to live action.  Maybe when I get my tickets, my 5 year old won't be so afraid of the muskets and fireworks.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Flashforward: Where Kangaroos Might Be Important

The first time I saw the preview for the new ABC series Flashforward, I tried to draw parallels with one of my favorite TV shows, Lost.  Unfortunately, I was also obligated to draw parallels with one of the most intriguing shows to come out in the last couple of years which would only suffocate by its own weight, The Nine.  Which would it be?  Welcome to the third installment of the JMann Review Television Review.

At first, I was excited to learn that ABC was deploying its Lost corollary - have one of the stars of Lost become one of the leads of a new show.  It started with Michael last year with the Unusuals and continues with Juliet in V (I hope the red dust and fear of water continues with her new show).  I was no longer excited when the Lost character getting her own show was Penny, who in our current show plays Olivia, the do-good judging doctor.  Just as long as she's not hopelessly sailing around the world bungling every chance to meet up with Desmond, I guess it will be okay.

Six months prior to April 29, 2010.  Of course, I forget to watch it when it premieres, but I had a feeling that I was going to have another opportunity to watch, so I wasn't worried.  And of course, it was replayed the following night.  The premiere starts with our heroes waking up to mass destruction and devastation in Los Angeles.  It's interesting to see how blacking out for two minutes caused everyone to run over pedestrians precisely at the right time, accelerate into parked cars at the wrong time, fly helicopters into buildings and so on.  If I blacked out, I would probably just slump over and stab myself with my pen.  Our heroes later find out that the destruction wasn't just relegated to Los Angeles, it happened in San Diego too.  Oh well, if it happens in Los Angeles and San Diego, then it MUST be a global event, they think to themselves (or was it just me sarcastically acknowledging California's importance to the world?).

Improbably, the FBI starts piecing the mosaic of mayhem together; they discover that they all were not sleeping but actually viewing themselves six months into the future and that they all were taken to the same date (April 29, 2010).  The FBI characters include Mark, one of the above named heroes who is clearly a loose cannon and recovering alcoholic.  Mark listens to everyone's irrelevant predictions and then declares that his premonition involved looking at all of the leads while in an alcohol fueled rage (I will no longer wear any friendship bracelets that my daughter gives me) .  One must wonder though, if he is so drunk, how can he have a flashforward of himself being blacked out drunk?  What would he actually remember?  Wouldn't he just remember sleeping in his work clothes with a nasty hangover in the morning, but nothing of the night before?  Well he's doing better than the poor sap who doesn't have any flash forwards, thus leading him to the conclusion that he was dead six months later.  Did he ever stop to realize that maybe he just won't be on the show in six months? The poor sap comes up with a good line though "This is crazy.  So we're running point just because he had a premonition that we were running point?"

The show began very strong in my view.  It did not try to cram the characters down our collective throats.  The special effects and the mystery will keep those interested in that sort of thing (like Losties) hooked for the foreseeable future.  And despite the fact that I find it hard to believe that a key character and possible bad guy would be attending a Detroit Tigers game during the black out, this was a strong effort.  What did you see?  90 out of 100.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Can Courteney Cox Redefine Cougars?

Going out on the prowl for guys on Thursday nights in their best leopard print outfits, drinking cosmos by the bucketful and leaving their teenage children at home with the barely-hidden liquor cabinet keys defines your typical Cougars.  Cougars are such a well known breed that now the term is applied to any group of 30 and 40-year-old women going out together.  It's an unfair moniker...

Courteney Cox, who makes me feel old even defining herself as a Cougar, tries to redefine this genre in her new show "Cougartown".  Sensitive, timid and awkward, Cox attempts to tell us that underneath it all, Cougars are just like you and me, and not the jealous, man-eating and aggressive women you and I see at the swanky bar at happy hour.  All this despite the fact that she figuratively "licks" a high school kid's chest while the boy' mother is within earshot, has a cleavage-baring real estate sign marketing her business and flashes teenagers on their bikes.  (Seriously, that never happened to me, not even remotely close to happening.)

9:30pm. My first assignment is to determine whether we'll see the annoying Cox (from "Friends;" admit it she smacked Chandler around to such an extent that I was actively rooting for him to leave her) or the interesting and smutty Cox (from the underrated "Dirt").  The first scene includes Cox looking in the mirror at the flab on her body - I can't help but think that the producers used a body double as Cox looks pretty toned in her flashing scene - this makes me believe that she will portray this character with subtlety.  Being only a half hour show; right now it's tough to make an exact determination of whether she'll be shrill or not.   However, I didn't hear any fingernails on the chalkboard in the background, so I am encouraged by that.

Despite my optimism, things begin to disintegrate quickly into standard formulas outside of Cox.  The show centers around Cox's character and the fact that after 5 months of being divorced, she's unwilling to have fun again.  Guess what? Her "fun" friend talks her into going out on the town, where her insecurities begin coming to the surface.  No worries though since she meets her boyfriend after spilling a drink on him.  The producers obviously want us to suspend disbelief though because the boyfriend stays at the bar despite the red drink spilled on him.  Not that I'm a fussy sort of fella, but I would have split - after she paid for my shirt, of course.  They immediately hit it off, so the formula dictates that the relationship goes into the dumpster, probably around episode 2.

Having even less fun is her son, Travis, who walks in on her Mom having sex with the said twenty three year old boyfriend, has to beat up the school bully with the aforementioned real estate sign and must eat dinner chips with, and acknowledge the existence of, his loser Dad.  Things are tough for the poor kid.  Besides the teenangster, the rest of the characters seem shallow stereotypes needed for a half an hour comedy.

Cox puts on a brave face so far.  However, the writing is thin and the characters need to be developed a lot faster than they have been so far.  No matter how you cut it. I don't see this one lasting more than one season.  I read that Scream 4 is in production, so don't fret for Courteney.  She'll be OK.  78 out of 100.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Trying to Debunk a Baseball Myth

It's that time of year my eyes and ears are telling me.  I feel the winds start turning to the North, my allergies are kicking up and newspapers, Internet columnists, TV and Radio hosts and fans, having run out of ideas to debate at the end of a long baseball season, start arguing about some very inane topics.  I guess I am just as much to blame for reading and listening to the self important blowhards in the first place, but the issue that rears its ugly head over and over, year after year, is the concept of resting players for the playoffs.  "If we can just rest our players and set up our pitching staff and rotation, we'll be all set for the playoffs."  The thinking goes something like that.

This is not completely true in the context of a small sampling of recent playoff performances.  I have reviewed the performance of playoff teams from the last six years (hey give me a break, I have a full time job, too, you know) that could not afford to rest their players because they were fighting to even MAKE the playoffs.  While true that, of the 14 playoff teams that could not rest their players before the playoffs only seven of those teams could reasonably be deemed to have been successful in the playoffs, an overwhelming number of those teams were successful or unsuccessful based on one factor - who started Game One of the Division Series.  It is irrelevant, Messrs. Rodriguez, Damon and Texeira if your everyday players and relief corps rest, so long as you have CC starting Game One.  Although ask the Indians fans how relying on the big fella has turned out.  All that really matters, though is that you set up your staff so that one of your best pitchers pitch Game One of the Division Series.  That's it.

2003.  The Red Sox edged the Mariners for the Wild Card.  However, Pedro Martinez was still able to start Game One of ALDS for the Red Sox.  While he lost that game to the Athletics in a well pitched game, the Red Sox ended up moving on in thrilling fashion until losing in Game 7 of the ALCS.  Great memories, I tell you.  Similarly, the Cubs won the NL Central in a tight race over the Astros.  Kerry Wood, their second best pitcher that year after Mark Prior, won Game One of the NLDS, right before Steve Bartman's mother shot his and Prior's right arms off. (2 quality Game One starters, 2 series wins)

2004.  The Angels that year overtook the Athletics in the last couple of weeks of the season.  However, for their efforts, Jarrod Washburn, a mediocre pitcher who continues to pitch because he's lefthanded, was thrashed by the Red Sox.  In the National League, it was a tale of two different teams.  The Astros and the Dodgers fought San Francisco for the last two playoff spots.  While the Astros had Roger Clemens dominate in between cycles and in his first post-Yankees post season start, the Dodgers started Odalis Perez who not surprisingly got shelled by the Cardinals. (2 awful starters, two series losses, one quality starter, one win)

2005.  Matt Clement.  Ouch.  In the National League, Houston and Atlanta overtook Philadelphia to win the Wild Card and the NL East, respectively.  The Braves started Tim Hudson, one of their best pick ups, who lost.  Andy Pettitte, presumably the third best pitcher on the Astros that year despite 17 wins, a 2.39 ERA and the fourth most HGH in his locker, ended up winning over the Braves. (two quality starters, one series win; one awful starter, one series loss)

2006.  The Tigers lost 5 in a row to end the regular season and settled for the Wild Card.  As a result, they started (journey stopping man) Nate Robertson (See Jarrod Washburn above).  Not a good selection as the Tigers got handed the loss; however, they got the last laugh as they ended up beating the Yankees on the way to the World Series.  Both the Dodgers and the Padres had to struggle to enter the playoffs (in fact the Dodgers had to win their last 7 to secure their spot).  Derek Lowe (#1 Starter) and Jake Peavy (#3 Starter, in an injury riddled campaign) both lost their Game One assignments.  (Two awful starters, one series win; one quality starter, one series loss)

2007.  The Rockies amazing run through the National League to the World Series started with a Mets collapse and a tiebreaker with the Padres.  Jeff Francis, their number 1 starter, started and won game one. (One quality starter, one series win)

2008.  Javier Vazquez started the first game for the White Sox after the White Sox defeated the Twins in a tiebreaker.  Vazquez demonstrated why the Yankees got rid of him three years before by getting shelled by the upstart Rays.  Derek Lowe again was the featured starter for a Dodgers team that barely won the pennant over Arizona.  Lowe pitched a solid game en route to leading the Dodgers into the second round.
(One quality starter, one series win; one awful starter, one series loss).

Again, my theory is quite complex, yet very simple.  If a team must scramble into the playoffs, 11 out of the last 14 times, a good Game One starter means a Series win and a bad Game One starter means a series loss.  So go ahead Messrs. Jeter, Cano and Ms. Posada, keep piling on those statistics, just keep AJ and Joba away until Game 2. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Who Can Beat JMann Review? NFL Game Blog #1

I have reviewed the NFL picks of others for years.  Whether it be for my fantasy football teams, my Streak for Cash, or to bet points for entertainment purposes on little white cards, I have poured over numerous articles and columns from writers purporting to know more than the next.  Inevitably, they all end the season within a couple of games of .500.  Why spend $500 for a picking service when the best you can hope for is a 50% win rate?  It's cheaper to have an amateur like me pick the games for you.  I promise to be within a couple of games of .500 too.  And I will prove this point with my sporadic NFL Game Blog.  I think any one can pick games, including myself; I mean, it's like picking heads or tails, really.  This week's edition features two of the finest athletes I know related to me, C and G. 

7pm.  With much hesitation, and a promise that if they pick every game right they'll win ten dollars, my assistant pickers sidle up next to me.  They figure this a good way to avoid cleaning their rooms, I hear them whisper to each other.

New England
New York Jets (+4)

G:  NE.  "They are the greatest team in the whole entire world."  What more can I add?
C:  NE.  Wanting to pick against his brother, err other picker, C instead decides to go with the obvious choice.  "Tom Brady is the best quarterback," he declares as I glare at him to pick New England.
JMann Review:  NE.  Expect a score like 31-10.

New York Giants
Dallas (-3)

C:  Dallas.  "Because Cowboys are tough..." he says,  " keep out of jail," "to keep away from the cheerleaders," I start thinking to myself.  I have a million of them.
G:  Dallas. "And because New York are the Yankees, and I hate the Yankees."  I ask G why he didn't say the same thing for the Jets game.  They're in New York?"  I guess technically, but no one cares about them.
JMann Review.  Dallas.  I call it right here. No one is hitting the scoreboard this year.  A punter who makes his punt coverage cover a punt a second time because he hits the scoreboard might get his pencil-neck broken.  My other call:  Dallas will not win the Super Bowl with Tony Romo as the starting quarterback.  After the muffed field goal attempt against the Seahawks a couple of years ago, I concluded that Tony Romo can't lead a team to a big win, he's just to much of a nervous nelly.  I don't call too many people that, but its the best description I can think for him. 

San Diego (-3)

G.  San Diego. "Baltimore played the Red Sox and they lost, when we saw them.  Drake and Josh live in San Diego, may be they will be on the Chargers."
C:  San Diego.  "I like the Chargers because you are charged up and you'll push people over."  I guess its better than one team beating another because of the ferociousness of the team name. 
JMann Review:  Baltimore.  It seems like everyone on the Chargers is hurt.  I think we'll stop now to listen to "San Diego Super Chargers, San Diego Chargers!"

Chicago (+3)

G:  Chicago.  "I like their name.  Bears will crush them!"  I guess there goes that theory about picking winners from their team names.  Although I'm surprised that he didn't go with the Steelers because there is a Pokemon character with a similar sounding name.
C:  Chicago.  "Teams don't win two Super Bowls in a row."  Except the Patriots, and the Cowboys, and the Steelers, and the Packers back in the 1960's.  I like the logic, though.
JMann Review:  Steelers.  Jay Cutler sucks.  Absolutely terrible.  I have him on my fantasy football team, and I chose not to start anyone at quarterback and keep Cutler on the bench.  Coach Dale would be proud of me. 

At this point, the new ICarly starts, so I've lost my assistants.  They were kind enough, however, to give me the rest of their picks.

C:  Philadelphia, Minnesota, Washington, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Kansas City, Buffalo, Seattle, Denver and Miami.

G:  Philadelphia, Minnesota, Washington, Carolina, Jacksonville, Green Bay, Tennessee, Kansas City, Buffalo, San Francisco, Denver and Miami.

JMann Review:  New Orleans (-1.5), Minnesota (-9.5), Washington (-10), Jacksonville (-3.5), Carolina (+6), Cincinnati (+9), Tennessee (+7), Oakland (+3), Tampa Bay (+4.5), Seattle (+1), Denver (-3) and Indianapolis (-3).

The journey toward 10 dollars begins.

Monday, September 14, 2009

WNBA Expect Great Halftime Shows

My daughter (Daddy's little girl or DLG for short) looked up at me recently after playing basketball with her in the driveway.  "When can I go to a game, Daddy?"  "A basketball game?" I asked, not understanding that she wanted to see REAL basketball being played, not Daddy's version of basketball to which she's grown accustomed.  Thinking about it, I looked at the Celtics schedule for the 2009-10 season.  I decided that telling her we can go in three months wasn't going to work for DLG.  Rec basketball?  That couldn't possibly cut it either.  I started thinking long and hard about viable alternatives.  The Red Sox? NASCAR? Candlepin Bowling?  Definitely not Candlepin Bowling.

Then the idea struck me - the WNBA!  Looking at the schedule, I see that the Connecticut Sun is playing its last game of the season a couple of weeks away.  It's at a casino too!  Could this be the perfect Father-Daughter get away?

Uncasville, CT.  3pm.  The afternoon doesn't start well.  First, we get stuck in traffic taking my patented Mohegun Sun shortcut and we arrive late - straight past the craps table directly to the game, I suppose.  Then, I find out that I can't bring DLG into the casino, anyway.  Even my promises that she'll be in my arms the whole time and I won't let her throw the dice doesn't convince the security guard.  Such sticklers; I guess she won't become a gambling degenerate like her Dad until we go see horse racing next month.  To add salt to my wounded gambling streak, the ticket lady tells me that I can't use my Mohegan Sun dream card to buy tickets.  Either that or I'm such a poseur that I don't have enough points to buy even the cheapest seats.

After avoiding a couple of scalpers (Did you not just see the ticket line I was in?), we make our way into the arena.  It sounds like March Madness inside - not what I would imagine the WNBA would be like -  and it was extremely exciting.  It might as well have been scary monsters, gunshots and thunder and lightning to DLG, though, as she immediately puts her hands over her ears and starts screaming that she wants to go home.  I cringe too when I hear the Indian war cry as the teams rallying cry.  How can the PC Police ignore this?  It's kind of loud.  To try to calm her fears, I show her the Connecticut Boxing Hall of Fame, which consists of a dozen plaques, a blank tv screen and a little bust.  Great idea, Dad.  "You see Marlon Starling?  He used to live in Daddy's home town!"  I explain to her.  With her hands still over her ears she shakes her head even more violently and now demands "I want to go home now, Daddy!!"  I didn't have the heart to tell her that after driving two and half hours we weren't going anywhere, so I told her we would leave in a "little while," and we proceeded to our seats. 

Phew, just a couple of sideways glances from some spectators as DLG continues to be freaked out.  "Are the Sun going to make the playoffs?" I ask the guy behind me.  "No, because they lost Friday night.  Do you think your daughter wants to go home?"  Thanks, dude, I wasn't sure what those exact words meant until you said them to me instead of DLG.  Anyway, DLG finally settled down and started eating her popcorn, just like I thought she would, and we began to watch the game.  It wasn't long before it was half time with the Connecticut Sun leading Indiana 40-39. 

We just sat down, so we stayed for the show.  The half time show started with the Senior Sun Dance Team dancing to Beyonce.  "Senior" meaning "Senior Citizen."  Oh my God, were they dancing to settle gambling debts with the Sun?  The show then moved on to a guy who could hit 80 golf balls in 50 seconds.  More impressive than the guy hitting the balls was the guy putting the balls down for him.  How did he not get hit by the flying club?  Finally, a game of musical chairs on center court followed by pin the tale on the donkey.  I'm only kidding about Pin the Tale on the Donkey.  Somewhere, Jackie Moon was smiling, though.  In my opinion, professional sports should not be about the swag, but about the game.  A foul ball, loose puck or randomly tossed equipment should be the only items that fans should be getting.  Besides, we were too high up to win or catch anything.

As the Third Quarter started, the person next to me says that all of Indiana's starters have been pulled out to rest for the playoffs and that one of their stars looked like she got a knee injury.  It doesn't matter to DLG and I, we were having a great time now and the basketball fundamentals being executed were refreshing to watch after years of watching the one on one style of modern day NBA.  We decided to leave at the end of the Third Quarter with the Sun up by 7 or 8.  In a complete turnaround, DLG now DIDN'T want to leave the game, so we stay a little longer. 

As we're walking out of the Arena toward the end of the game, DLG asks "When can we go again?"  "Next year sweetie, its the last game of the season."  I tell her.  "Ohhohh" she says when she's not happy "Can we go again tomorrow?"  Thank you, WNBA, you just made two new fans, tonight.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

CBS Scene Hopes Football Season Starts Soon

My curiosity is always piqued when I read the latest review of a new restaurant with a lot of positive buzz.  The exquisite food, the stiff drinks from the bar, the surly staff...everything that I love about big city dining, without fail, makes me say to my wife, "we should go there next time we have a babysitter."

The babysitter.  Now there's the rub.  95% of the time when we go out to a restaurant, three kids come along.  As much as I want to pay for that $30 customized pasta dish for my picky 7 year old ("Eww, what's that green stuff?" he asks.  "Parsley." I respond), usually the new restaurant has to wait, if it is visited at all.  By contrast, my reviews will include places that we take our kids, and my scores will focus on the important dining factors when bringing children.  I don't care as much about the quality of the service or food when I have the kids with me.  The atmosphere also takes on less importance when you're spending 20 minutes hunting for more ketchup.

Foxboro, MA.  CBS Scene opened up last year with the ballyhooed Patriot Place near Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.  The first and only of its kind, its hulking four story structure immediately scared my daughter.  "Are we visiting someone in jail, Daddy?" she looks up and asks.  "No, we're going to a dinner place."  I say on the outside.  On the inside, I wonder how she knows what jail is.   

Tips of the day.  The two times we went there, we parked down by the Patriots Pro Shop.  Even though the bottom floor door was open both times, we were told that we had to go to the front desk to check in, eight flights of stairs above us.  Don't park down there with small children unless you plan on carrying them on your back halfway up the stairs. Additionally, the place is enormous.  The first time we visited it was 90 degrees outside and they chose to forego $10,000 per day air conditioning that afternoon.  I would forego this place in the Summer.   

GROG:  Some fair choices on tap, including Sam Adams, Harpoon, Stella and Guinness.  I order a Guinness and am asked whether I want a 16 ounce or a 22 ounce beer.  Look at me.  We have three young kids with us.  Do you really need to ask that question?  "Well let me go upstairs and get that for you."  He grumbles. My wife notices some unique offerings as well, a Coffee Nudge martini made with Starbuck's Coffee Liqueur and a Viognier late harvest dessert wine.  "We should try these when we don't have the kids with us."  She tells me.  Sure.  7.0 Happies out of 10.

KIDS' CRAYONS AND OTHER ENTERTAINMENT:  I'm sure I don't have to explain myself here.  Many establishments believe that a sheet a paper, 4 crayons and a 13" TV can pass for entertainment.  On the other hand, CBS Scene barrages you with multiple TVs on multiple platforms in multiple rooms in addition to the paper and crayons.  My two boys are immediately mesmerized, and they don't even care when the hostess said that she has to walk all the way upstairs to get more crayons.  We proceed to walk down a couple flights of stairs ourselves to our booth, which is equipped with a personal TV.  This being CBS, the choices of stations are of course reduced.  I tried to talk them into college football, How I Met Your Mother (the jokes would go way over their heads) or 60 Minutes.  We settle on The Price is Right.  This is a highlight show, so literally everyone who plays wins a car.  My 5 year old asks me when he can go on that game show and win a car, too.  9.0 Happies out of 10

SPEED:  I'm skeptical when orders arrive too fast - are these meals just microwaved - but food also serves as an excellent diversion from yelling and screaming.  It took literally 5 minutes from our order being taken to our order arriving.  No walking up and down the stairs for our food, I assume. Overall, we were in and out in under an hour, and I was nursing my beer so the kids would forget about the promise I made to them in the next paragraph.  9.0 Happies out of 10.

DESSERT TIME:  Their choices were ice cream, pudding and jello for $3.  They came with whipped cream, so there's that, I suppose.  Seriously, desserts need to be included in a kids meal, guys.  I had to promise the kids a visit to the Patriots Pro Shop to talk them out of securing for themselves a sickly scoop of $3 ice cream.  Thanks, CBS.  3.0 Happies out of 10. 

WHO'S PAYING:  Not out of the ordinary for places like this.  $5 grilled cheeses, hamburgers and hot dogs are mostly the norm these days.  Similarly, adult meals were around $10 to $20.  The beers were higher than usual; it's not surprising though since this place caters to Patriots fans and Revolution fans (if there are any out there).  6.0 Happies out of 10.

Final Tally:

34.0 Happies out of 50.0.  Not perfect but better than bad.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Melrose Place - Dr. Mancini is Back!

The original Melrose Place (1992-1999) introduced one of the greatest moments on TV. After Dr. Michael Mancini nearly kills her in a drunk driving accident, Kimberly Shaw returns to California seemingly normal and healthy. She doesn't seem herself, however. And at the end of her first episode back we see why. With Michael Myers music playing in the background, we see Kimberly rip off her wig and reveal an 8 inch scar on her scalp. She caresses the scar like its a new born baby. Soon after, anytime anyone wigs out, the joke becomes "so how long is the scar on YOUR head?"

While off the air for only 10 years, the promotional spot for the new Melrose Place wants the viewer to think that the original Melrose Place actually took place thirty years ago. Los Angeles, and particularly 4616 Melrose Place, has changed a lot, they promise. We'll see, but I hope not.

9pm. The opening credits roll with frenetic camera work quickly moving through a night club to a couple making out. The guy (please forgive me that I have not committed their names to memory yet - neither have you - I'll call him Chump) reads a text from a mysterious woman. He proceeds to tell all of his buddies that the woman needs help. No one really cares that much; where the hell are Billy and Allison, they would have helped!

We soon find out that the mysterious woman is the landlord of the new Melrose Place, Sydney Andrews. Of course, my first question is - wasn't she run over by a car and killed in the original show? I can't wait to hear the explanation. Will they ignore the fact that she was killed? Was her original death faked? Was it her sister Jane with long red hair and bad plastic surgery? It could be anything, I decide.

Never mind, her resurrection didn't last long, as the next morning she's found dead face down in the pool in a pool of blood. I guess Melrose Place needs a new landlord. Do you think Heather Locklear is doing anything these days?

Quickly, even for a nighttime drama, the Chump who went to see if she's was all right is questioned by the police, until another one of his friends comes to the station and gives him an alibi. The Chump's Father also comes to the "rescue" while driving up in the new Mercedes SLS. Wait, that's Dr. Michael Mancini! All right, now we're talking, although now I'm distracted by figuring out who the Mother is. Figuring the Chump is 25 years old, he was born in 1984. Michael got Taylor pregnant in the in 1998; it's not her. Perhaps it was Jane? If the storyline follows the new 90210 when we found out Dylan was Kelly's kid's Father early last year, we should find out who the Mother is shortly. I think this remains a mystery even throughout the first episode. I think Michael is talking to Jane on his phone, but it looks like he's sleeping with Jo. Or is Sydney his Mother? If it was Sydney or Jane, though, then the Chump was sleeping either with his Mother or his Aunt...maybe. By the way, Sydney's original death was staged with Michael's help. Same writers, I see.

The story then focuses on a couple of other storylines, a marriage proposal (Did she not notice he was filming her at strange times?), an aspiring filmmaker filming a movie mogul's family birthday party (What was he filming inside the house for anyway, all the kids were outside?) and a resident at the local hospital selling herself for sex so she can afford medical school tuition. (What Medical School has $5,000.00 tuition - even for a semester? Is it in Panama or something?)

Ultimately, it was a satisfying hour of television. Was it drastically different than the original MP? I'll let you decide after seeing these similarities - marrying couple that seems way to sweet to last, a guy on a bike, a creative type (writer vs movie maker), and a doctor with a bad side. So far, take away the cell phones and the references to Twitter, exactly the same. I still can't figure out Ella yet. And Ashlee Simpson. What can I say, except that I hope she lasts as long as Sandy did in the original show. Can't remember her? Exactly.

Review: 89 out of 100.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Simba or Nala, Detroit Lions 2009

Coaching is one of the most important factors in a football team's success or failure. Especially in a league that values and encourages parity, coaching, whether good or bad, can make the difference between the playoffs and the playouts. Bill Belichick took a reeling Patriots team that didn't want to sing "Lean on me" with Pete Carroll to the Super Bowl two years later. Bill Walsh exerted his genius to take the 49ers to the Super Bowl shortly after a 2-14 season. That being said, what do the following quotes have in common?

"But this league is about winning..."

"I don't look into the future...I'm going to get up and go to work."

"But overall, I feel that the progression of this team was a good one."

"Am I discouraged? No way, I'm not."

"The record doesn't show it, but I have great belief in myself."

Perhaps you were stumped -was it a Pop Warner coach? - until you read that last quote. Former head coach Rod Marinelli offered those post-game quotes when the Lions were sitting at 0-2, 0-4, 0-6, 0-10 and 0-12, respectively, last year. There is a symmetry with the games I picked for quotes, as there was no shortage of delusional quotes from the beleaguered coach after odd-numbered games, too. I still shake my head when I reread that Marinelli thinks the NFL is about winning. (Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones may still say its about $10 beers and sausages, and not about winning.)

Lions fans were of course hopeful when the pathetic Matt Millen was fired after the third week of the season last year, but the Lions just could not turn things around. The benchings of both Daunte Culpepper and Dan Orlovsky DURING GAMES must have led some to bring the paper bags out. I tried to see during the Thanksgiving Day game, but I was asleep about three minutes after the Turkey was eaten. Besides, its difficult to come up with a pithy name for a bad Lions' team like the "Ain'ts" back in New Orleans in the 1980's. It was hopeless.

Contrast the above with the following quotes from earlier this year:

"But it's going to be our decision here and its going to be based on the information we have at hand...not from taking a poll and not from an 'ask the audience' lifeline."

"But there were a couple [of players] that probably took themselves off the bubble, maybe more in a negative way rather than a positive way..."

Short of Barry Sanders taking over the head coaching position, these are the most refreshing thoughts to come along Lionland in while, and they are from the new head coach, Jim Schwartz. Except for the fact that Coach probably didn't know that "Who wants to be a Millionaire" is on only in the daytime now, I am encouraged that the Lions have finally righted the ship. Remember good coaching can make a mediocre team decent, just as easily as bad coaching can make a team, well, 0-16. Starting a football career working for Bill Belichick can't hurt either?

Presuming Matthew Stafford does not supplant Daunte Culpepper until week six of the season, the Lions have brought in a lot of young players whose immediate impact is questionable. However, offensive stalwarts Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith are each one year older and the defense won't give up 517 points again, right? Review: I'm predicting home wins against the Redskins, the Rams and the Browns and an away win against the Bengals (long rest after Thanksgiving). 4-12. Eh, could be worse.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

P90X is Ridiculously Dificult Review

P90X is supposed to give you the beach body that you always wanted. In fact the firm's website is Why don't they use Anyway, the testimonials are striking. No finger in the loose waistline demonstrating that you lost maybe 5 five pounds max using the "Diet Clear" or "Oxyclean" diets that you read about in Parade magazine. These people were ripped!

I finally decided to give it a try myself when friends got it the program from friends of theirs. The program is so damned expensive that these DVDs are shared; I'm convinced that no one actually buys it. I was also skeptical that I could find a place to support my weight doing pull ups, forget about about finding a pull up bar some where in the house. (That's the one item that does not get shared, the pull up bar.) So my journey to P67X has begun. I did the first dvd - chest and back, and am pretty sore even in my legs. Now I'm on to plyometrics. Plyo-x. "Jumping" for an hour is more like it.

7:30am. 10 minutes in. We're introduced to Tony's crew. The first guy is Erik. He has a prosthetic leg and is being required to perform a routine where you are supposed to jump up and around for an hour? You've gotta be kidding me. But, maybe this won't be so tough if a guy with one leg who really doesn't look that buff can do it. Probably not the reaction P90X was hoping for. The final member of the crew is a woman named Pam the Blam. I later find out that she's a PI. Uhh, I hope that she got paid handsomely for this appearance because a million people knowing that you are a PI is NOT good for business.

45 minutes left. After some stretching (the stretching routine is administered and timed by Beachbody's lawyers. "Hey don't blame me for that blown hamstring, you should have stretched!"), we start doing swing kicks, which requires you to swing your legs over some tall object for a minute. I choose to swing my legs over the seat of the chair. Snickering abounds, but hey, my quads are tightly strung and prone to exhaustion.

37 minutes left. I'm starting to tire as I hear the instructor say "Do your best to forget the rest" Is that really what he said? I ask my 3 year old daughter if that's what he said, and she agrees with me. Good girl.

25 minutes left. I'm getting extremely tired now, just in time for guitar hero jumps and Russian squat dancing. I have to admit, these sucked.

9 minutes left. Start shadow pitching right handed and left handed and shadow basketball shooting left and right handed. I never expected that practicing sports left handed and right handed would come in handy like this.

4 minutes left. Finally, I'm done. A couple of minutes of "cool down" that was lawyer-approved followed. Overall, I'm sweating profusely and I feel accomplished very early in morning. I have a favorable review of this program overall. I will not post my before and after pictures when I'm done, though. I think I'm gaining weight.