Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Boston Yanks and Their Tuesday Night Game

There has been a decent amount of talk about the NFL's first Tuesday football game since 1946. 64 years ago.  Many critics of the timing point to the fact that Tuesday is usually an off day for teams and players - after the game and the following day’s walkthrough and film review.  Everyone who reports on it likes the idea that these rich football players have to play on a Tuesday night, but not many talk about the circumstances behind and the results of that last Tuesday night game played on October 1, 1946.

Courtesy of Bowman
 Boston, MA. 1pm.  After heavy sustained rains in Boston the day before, the originally scheduled football game (which was to be the season opener for both teams) between the Boston Yanks and the New York Giants was postponed because the field (to be played at the Boston Braves field) at what is now Boston University’s Nickerson Field, was considered unplayable after those rains.  The original game was scheduled for a Monday night instead of the usual Sunday scheduling.  It is unclear why a game back then was going to be played under the lights on a Monday in the first place.  Our research shows that Monday games were rare back then, and obviously TV was not much of a consideration to the timing of the game.

Well, in any event, it ended up not being much of a game. The New York Giants truly dominated the Boston Yanks, winning the game 17-0 before about 16,000 dreary and wet Yanks' fans. Giants' running back, Merle Hapes scored on a 3 yard rush in the first quarter and an 8 yard run in the fourth quarter to account for the game's only touchdowns. Ken Strong accounted for the Giants’ remaining points after a 36 yard field goal in the second quarter. The game was not even that close, however, as the Giants outgained the Boston Yanks 271-139.  To add further humiliation, the Boston Yanks' quarterback Paul Governali could only muster 27 yards passing after only completing only three of 18 attempts. To his “credit,” quarterbacks for all teams in 1946 only completed 46% of their passes. (Mark Sanchez was truly from a different era!)

By all accounts, really, this was a lousy game for the Boston Yanks; and as a precursor to modern day complaints, the Boston Yanks' owner, Ted Collins (who wanted to have the team in New York so badly that he still named the team the “Yanks” despite Boston being the team's home. (Imagine rooting for a football team named the "Boston Yanks.")) regretted having to move the game to a Tuesday night as fewer fans showed up and team lost a "boatload" of money.  In the end, the opener for the team was a portend of things to come in that 1946 season as the Boston Yanks that season managed only two wins, only besting the lowly Detroit Lions who went 1-10 that year to finish in last place in the NFL West Division. Despite only tying the lowly Yanks later on in the season, The New York Giants wound up 7-3-1 and lost to the Chicago Bears in the 1946 NFL Championship game.   Despite his good fortune in that Tuesday night game, Hapes was prohibited from playing in the Championship Game as it was discovered that he was offered a bribe to throw the NFL Championship game. He never played another down in the NFL. The issues surrounding Hapes also led to the institution of teams having to report their injuries to the league during the week so that gamblers would not be able to pay for inside knowledge – everyone was playing from the same deck.

Incidentally, the Boston Yanks franchise moved to New York after the 1949 season and then became the Dallas Texans in 1952. Although through team and player transitions the teams were not mirror images of one another through their myriad of cities and nicknames, the original Boston Yanks in 1953 became – aghast! – the predecessor to the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts. I’m sure if Bill Polian were running the team back 1946, the rules for that game would have been changed to benefit the Yanks.

Personally, I wish the NFL were on every night during the season.  Not just on Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

C's 2010 Christmas Blog

This year was a lot different in the JMR household than last year.  Last year at Christmas, between Disney and the Nick Hotel, we tried to find Tiger Woods and attended a Celtics game in Orlando.  And as we're sitting watching the blizzard outside, cleaning up the house from flattened candy, ripped cardboard and wrapping paper, we're reminded of why a Florida Christmas was so enjoyable.  But for the kids, Christmas here this year was just as enjoyable as sun and fun last year.  Here is C's version of A Christmas Story.

At Christmas I got up at 2am to see the presents and I saw that I got an XBox 360 Kinnect.  Then i woke up my brother and we woke up mom and dad. Then we went to our stockings and dumped them out and me and my brother got gift cards for Dunkin Donuts and Burger King. Then we opened all of our presents under our Christmas treee and after a little while we went to our Grampy's house and opened more presents and saw our cousins. I felt really happy when I saw my cousins and all my family members.

I got a really cool football from Caity and Cassie, my cousins, and a basketball hoop and snowboard from my wicked awesome parents.  My favorite present of the whole entire day was the XBox 360 Kinnect.  You can control it with your body.

When we were riding home we played a little bit with our presents and my sister fell asleep.  And when we got home, I played with the XBOX and Wii.  The End.

[under duress:] To me, Christmas means giving and being with your family.  It means spending time with my family -- esepcially Grayden and Sumner and Mom and Dad.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Washington D.C. for Children Who Get Bored Easily

Going to Washington D.C. for our family vacation seemed like a good idea at the time.  I had gone once when I was in school and again a couple of times for work.  The City was interesting and vibrant, or at least that's how I remembered it.  I figured that my children would like it just as much as I did, although they are just 7, 5 and 3 years old.  But who doesn't like watching how money is made or going 50 stories high in a giant pencil.  Who doesn't want to see where the President lives?

The first mistake we made was to drive down there.  When I had driven those previous times, it didn't seem that long.  But this time I was the parent and the driver.  Before I was the child and someone drove ME.  Well with young children, even leaving at 3am didn't stop the complaining about being hungry and having to go to the bathroom.  But you never have to go to the bathroom at 4am at home!  I countered when my 7 year old stopped me as we were barely out of Massachusetts.  My first word of advice - fly down there.  Dulles and BWI might be expensive, but believe me its worth it.  I really didn't have an excuse as both Southwest and Jet Blue fly there pretty cheaply.

The second mistake we made was to stay at a hotel that had attractions of its own.  In our case, it was a hotel with a rooftop swimming pool.  (At this point, I'd like to confess that we did this during the summertime, I'm just getting to this now, though.)  We also booked adjoining rooms, and for some reason the kids got a big kick out of it.  Even after they went through the double doors a couple hundred times.  I would advise that you stay the Hilton or the Westin - both are in the Capitol area

The third mistake was to decide to walk around the city although it was around the Fourth of July holiday.  Washington D.C. is really, really hot in the summer and there is hardly any relief in site - unless you count the Capital City Brewing Company restaurants that dotted the D.C. landscapes (or at least did when we were down there).  I would suggest driving around to the outskirts to go to Georgetown, the Washington National Zoo or the Washington National Aquarium.  Otherwise, if you're staying around the historic downtown, consider the Metro and cabs.  I regret all of the sweating that we did.  Although if we didn't walk around, we never would have seen MM's favorite "Lost" Character, Desmond jogging around our hotel and the capital area.

Washington D.C.  Day 1 Itinerary.  I suggest going around the Mall on the first day.  My kids really enjoyed the Washington Monument (I would suggest that you take the elevator to the top, but you have to wait in line forever to get tickets, so get there early and wait for a later time), the U.S. Capital building (to meet our U.S. representative - but stay away from the tour, that's a real snoozer) and the Smithsonian Museums.  Our favorite Smithsonian Museums were the Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum.  The other ones we visited were a little dry for our tastes.  Unfortunately, I could not convince anyone to go to the National Museum of American History.   While you're at the Monument, I would suggest pointing to the White House and talking it up.  If you have time, try to go see the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to witness how money is made.  It's pretty cool for children who don't understand the value of money.

Washington D.C.  Day 2 Itinerary.  This is the day that I would put on your walking shoes, or some extra money for cabs.  Figure on starting with the more historical sites north and west of the Smithsonian Mall.  Travel past the Monument to the reflecting pool.  Here you can go to the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial (this is a must see) and the Lincoln Memorial.  Walking east, you then can stop at the White House.  Try early to get into the White House through your U.S. representative.  You will be hard pressed to get in there though unless you are part of a large group or you have connections (neither of which we had).  You can still get pretty close to take some pictures. 

Then start walking further east into the Foggy Bottom area.  Here you can go to the International Spy Museum (great for older kids, but NOT teenagers.  Teenagers will hate this and you so don't bother paying the steep admission), the Newseum (we liked the glass walls that have the headlines from all of the world's newspapers), Ford's Theater (although all we could do for some reason was walk around the lobby and the gift shop on the day we went) and the National Museum of Crime and Punishment.  After a long day of walking, you can take the kids to one of the many restaurants in the Foggy Bottom Area.  Incidentally, we went to the ESPNZone and we hated it.

Washington D.C.  Itinerary Day 3.  This is when you should take a sightseeing tour.  The kids will be done with walking (and perhaps with you) at this point, so I would suggest that you go into one of the open air buses, like Open Top Sightseeing.  This way you can visit the outlying areas like the National Zoo, Washington Cathedral, Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon and the Jefferson Memorial.  Skip the Aquarium here and go to you local one instead.  The kids will likely be more interested in the bus they are riding in than the sites, but they are in an enclosed space, so you don't feel that you have to keep a leash on them.

Overall, you can do most of Washington D.C. in three days, so long as the family doesn't mind long days.  I know after a couple of our days, those beers at dinner tasted awfully good.  It made me forget that really weak chair gimmick that ESPNZone had in their restaurant. 

Oh crap.  Now we have to drive back!  Pass me the Nintendo DSs quick.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Boxing Hall of Fame's Most Interesting Induction - And It's Not Iron Mike

The Boxing Hall of Fame has really outdone itself this time.  In a year that features Mike Tyson as one of the inductees, the Hall of Fame may have actually shot itself in the foot with its most controversial inductee.  Similar to putting Paul Newman into the Hockey Hall of Fame for starring in Slapshot or Oliver Stone for directing Any Given Sunday, The International Boxing Hall of Fame has chosen Philadelphia's own Rocky Balboa to its 2011 class being inducted in June 2011. 

Well you say its not really Rocky Balboa, but actually Sylvester Stallone, who has become even more of a cartoon character than the one he's played in six movies since 1976.  He even parodied himself AND his character by coming out of retirement in 2006 after an upstart title holder made fun of him in a video game recreation.  While mostly critically acclaimed, it was clear that Rocky Balboa was just a much needed payday for Stallone - I guess he has a lot more in common with fading boxing superstars than I thought.  Interestingly, the justification for his induction was the great contribution he made to the sport of Boxing with his Rocky series.  Did the Hall of Fame committee forget to watch Rocky V while making their decision?

Maybe Stallone is being inducted instead for being one of the executive producers of The Contender?  Just kidding, that show did nothing to contribute to the sport of Boxing.  But I guess I can't blame the International Boxing Hall of Fame on this one.  Boxing has lost significant market share to the UFC and MMA over the last couple of years as the octagon has become more mainstream.  The Boxing Hall of Fame must also be hurting as a result.  Located about 30 miles east of Syracuse, the IBHOF's board must have thought that the combination of a little bit of Hollywood and little bit of controversy would only bring people into the turnstiles.  In fact, I might even go to Canistota, New York during the induction ceremony in 2011 because you know Hall of Fame visits are a staple for JMR.

My oldest son was listening to me talk about how ludicrous the whole Rambo idea was when we started talking about Rocky IV, one of his favorite movies (believe it or not).  I'm sure that he realizes that Stallone's not really boxing in Rocky IV. (In fact a couple of the punches in the movie were so bad that I cringe now just thinking about it.  I'm convinced that I could throw a better punch than Dolph Lundgren.) 

After explaining what Rocky was being honored for, I asked him what HE thinks about Rocky being enshrined:

"Well he beat up a Russian guy because that guy killed his best friend."  All right, I like the sound of where this his headed.  I ask him to continue.

"I remember that they fought in Russia and that the Russian guy was really tall and Rocky was really small.  And the Russian guy could lift a bunch of weights in a gym while Rocky had to pull horses and run up mountains to train."  Meanwhile, in real life, Stallone was probably shooting himself full of steroids to get jacked up for the role.

Listening to an 8 year old talking about it, Rocky IV was really a ridiculous movie, but still a lot of fun.  But C isn't done.

"I remember that everyone hated Rocky in the stands, because the Russian guy could lift 300 pounds.  But then they started liking him once he began to beat the Russian up."  Real front runners those vodka-sipping commies! 

Seriously, the original Rocky was a classic sports movie, with a plot that was retread four times by Stallone and his production company.  Rocky Balboa, the last installment of the franchise, was grittier and more enjoyable, but that was barely a sports movie.  It really had nothing to do with Boxing.  Inevitable questions are now going to be made about other boxing characters - Raging Bull, Ali and Million Dollar Baby come to mind.  And imagine Kevin Costner being inducted into both the Golf Hall of Fame and the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

The funny thing?  We're talking about this (and I'm writing this) while watching the UFC 124 Countdown on Comcast Sports.  I guest the International Boxing Hall of Fame has a long way to go to regain my interest.

Photographs courtesy of imdb.com

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Can You Tell the Difference between Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth?

The news of the day, which will be replaced by even more startling hot stove news tomorrow, was the Red Sox' secret meeting with Carl Crawford and his agent in Houston earlier today.  The usual media outlets are fighting it out over whether the Red Sox should pick up Carl Crawford or should they sign the Phillies' Jayson Werth for the seemingly vacant Outfielder's job in 2011.  Mike Cameron and his kidney stones are probably doubling over in pain at the thought that 25 games into his Red Sox career there is already a clamor to replace him.  But nevermind, who would you rather have Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford?

Crawford is a speedy leftfielder who has absolutely killed the Red Sox over the last 7 years, ever since his 2003 rookie campaign in Tampa Bay.  He would be good complement to Jacoby Ellsbury, who would tickled pink to be moving back to Centerfield despite his mysterious broken ribs.  The concern, of course is that Crawford already joins a lineup that showcases numerous 15 - 20 home runs and 75-90 RBIs guys, including Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and JD Drew.  The Red Sox do not necessarily need another 2 or 6 hitter, they need a clean up hitter who could hit 35 home runs.

Werth seems to make a little more sense when you simply look at his place in the lineup.  He would make a good fit in the 4 or 5 hole sandwiched between Ortiz, Youkilis and whomever the Red Sox get to replace Beltre at Third/First Base.  He has slightly more power than Crawford 27 vs 19 in 2010.  But his numbers suffered considerably from his breakout 2009 season.  Considering he is 32 years old, is this a signal that he is slowing down in this post steroids era?  Further, he plays RIGHTFIELD.  Notwithstanding Werth's agent Scott Boras proclaiming Werth as the next coming of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, Werth is still a Rightfielder.  Where is J.D. Drew going to play (I can't believe I'm asking that)?

As I listen to the radio arguments, I couldn't decide who I would want either.  So I asked the boys who they would take.  I merely extracted Crawford's statistics and Werth's statistics and had them choose without knowing what players they were choosing from.

Player 1:
2010:  184 hits, 30 doubles, 13 triples, 19 home runs, 90 RBIs, 47 stolen bases
Career:  1480 hits, 215 doubles, 105 triples, 104 home runs, 592 RBIs, 409 stolen bases

Player 2:
2010:  164 hits, 46 doubles, 2 triples, 27 home runs, 85 RBIs, 13 stolen bases
Career:  684 hits, 138 doubles, 15 triples, 120 home runs, 406 RBIs 77 stolen bases

After careful inspection, I was able to elicit the following brief responses from the boys (who were annoyed that I wouldn't tell them who the players were in the first place)

G: "What does career mean?  Whatever, I like Player 1 because he has 184...ummm...what do you call them?  Oh right, hits.  And he had 215 double in his career.  I only had five in my career."  (and those were grounders between the three second basemen and the four shortstops in his little league game)

C:  After pushing his brother out of the way.  "I like Player 1.  He would lead the Red Sox to the World Series.  He has a lot of home runs, hits and stolen bases, especially 1480 hits in his career.  And Dad I know who you're talking about.  He's on the Marlins isn't he?"  He was proud of himself, although he got the team wrong.

As you can see both of the boys, simply looking at the statistics, both like Crawford.  As I'm writing down the statistics, I have to admit that the numbers are tough to argue with.  Crawford has been consistent for years compared to Werth and the comparison of their career stats bears that out.  Despite Werth being a character (see Werth's beard) and the Red Sox could use some interesting character in the clubhouse to loosen things up, Werth could easily turn into a seven year contract that the Red Sox regret two years in.  Meanwhile, Crawford would likely flourish in Anaheim/Los Angeles or in New York.

And with Crawford in the fold, that's one less player to steal 5 bases a game against the Red Sox.

The verdict is in.  There is a big difference between Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth.  Their slugging and other power statistics are not so much different that Crawford would be seen as a liability in the Red Sox lineup.  But Crawford fits the Red Sox need in Left Field and adds dimensions of speed and defense that that management also appreciates.  I'm in the Crawford camp.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hartford Colonials - Do We Have to Listen to Muskets?

Earlier this year, the kids and I went to Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut to attend the Hartford Whalers Fanfest.  It was a nice little field complete with luxury boxes, hot dog vendors and beer lines.  Waiting in the aforementioned beer lines, I noticed a couple of advertisements for the UFL's Hartford Colonials amid all of the UConn paraphernalia.  I banked that information for a later date.  These games probably aren't as rowdy as Patriots games, I thought, so it would probably be a good idea to go to one of their games later in the Fall with the family.

But our own football got in the way.  So instead of attending a game where the weather was conducive to sitting on cold metal bleacher seats, the only Hartford Colonials game we found we could go to was the Colonials last game against the Las Vegas Locomotives at the end of November.  I mistakenly decided not to bother with tickets or to read any news that week about the UFL, and determined to plow ahead.  Luckily that decision of laziness ended up not harming us.  See, while the UFL is considered a minor league to the NFL's major leagues, the league decided to charge an NFL team $150,000 transaction fee for any player they plucked from the UFL - despite the transfer occurring AFTER the season.  As a result, UFL players were seriously considering boycotting the last regular season games.  Oh jeez, and I rode two hours to a game that might not happen?

East Hartford CT.  After a quick sojourn to Starbucks where everyone was so friendly to us, especially the lady telling my wife that she was driving the wrong way down a two way street (Thanks lady!), we get to the Rentschler Field.  Not too busy, I thought, as we parked the car about 100 yards from the stadium.  The first thing we are confronted with was literally 10 guys coming up to us one by one trying to sell their tickets to the game "Less than the ticket window!  Get them before their gone!"  Are the Colonials folding after the season, I thought?  But after smartly purchasing 5 $20 tickets for 60 bucks, we march toward the field, not thinking that this might be the Colonials' last game.  I was too busy dissuading the kids from falling for the various hawkers selling programs and hot dogs, with the promise to get them sick with junk food throughout the game.

We walk toward our seats, while I start fishing for my junk food money.  I observe that we're behind one of the end zones, so immediately I feel compelled to talk my sons into thinking that these are good seats because we might be able to catch missed field goal attempts and keep the footballs.  I don't know if that's really true, but I figured the chances of us catching a football were much less than Dad being caught in a lie.  And I am about to pat myself on the back when I'm struck by a little sign on the back of the seats.

"Family Section - No alcohol permitted beyond this point." 

The scalper was awfully kind to give us family section seats, but what the Hell is this all about?  A nice usher, seeing the looks on our faces as the wife and I continue to look at the sign and mutter to each other, came over and told us that we could sit anywhere except the blue seats along the 50 Yard line, that no one checks tickets.  Let's sit in the sun the girls decide.  I'll get some beer, I decide.

Beer lines!  Finally, with beer and food in hand, and as we're walking to our newly found bleacher seats on the 20 yard line, I notice a couple of guys milling around the field, wearing period clothing.  And they're carrying what looks like muskets, and they're standing near what looks like artillery cannon.  We're sitting 50 feet away from the ACTUAL colonials!  Oh no, this is not going to end well, I can already tell.  My younger son G is still scarred from the Patriots game I took him to and his first experience with musket firing after scores.  He's still afraid of these things and I constantly have to explain that there are no muskets at the Basketball game, or the movie theater or Cape Cod.  But they're here!  So when he asks me if there are any guns, I figure that if I tell him nonchalantly that they are here, maybe he won't even notice that I confirmed his worst fears.  All of a sudden those end zone seats don't seem so bad.

"They shoot guns, Dad?"  He asks with a slight quiver in his voice.

"Yes, but maybe the Colonials won't score."  I explain, and not three minutes after I say that the sound of Cannon fire fills the stadium as the teams are introduced.  I never noticed that the Hartford UFL team's name was an ode to the New England Patriots who just 12 years ago were going to be playing football here.  Nice "scorned wife" touch.

After drying tears on two of the kids, we finally settle in our seats to watch the game.  I can't tell the teams apart since the home team rarely wears white jerseys anymore, so I figure that they're wearing their home blues.  My wife doesn't care.  She decides to scoff at the cheerleaders wearing outfits that belie the fact that its windy and 40 degrees out and snicker about the minutemen staring at the cheerleaders.  (In fact, she tells me later that they were "lecherous" and should not be holding any sort of fire arms - even if they're shooting blanks.  But they're from the 1700's!)

After the First Quarter, the Colonials are winning 10-0 after an incredible interception return for a touchdown by Danny Lansanah.  Only two children have cried over the musket and cannon fire.  My oldest son is snickering when the cannon goes off looking at his siblings, so I figure he's not going to make it 3 for 3 in the crying department.

As the Second Quarter starts winding down, we all start huddling closer together.  The sun has gone down and the wind has started picking up.  I had forgotten how cold it gets around here and I hadn't realized how warm beer makes you at football games until you go without it.   The Locos had just scored to make the game 13-7 and we were all starting to get the "if we leave now what time will it be when we get home?" looks on our faces.  At the same time, the Colonials are stringing together a couple of nice plays to get to the Locos end of the field as the clock starts winding down.  Then Colonials' quarterback Josh McNown (or Cade, I'm not sure which McNown it was) heaves up a mini hail mary.  We all stand in unison as the ball flies toward Colonials receiver Tyson Devree (who made up for dropping two TD passes in the half).  It's a well thrown ball...maybe this can be caught...and it's CAUGHT FOR A TOUCHDOWN!  We all start yelling.  I'm high-fiving the guy sitting next to me even though he's wearing a Yankees hat.  My daughter looks around wondering what just happened.  Muskets and cannons are being fired.  No children screaming.  It's great.

We decide to stay.  About four minutes into the Third Quarter, the Colonials nab another interception and take that one back for a touchdown too.  It's now 27-7.  Aren't the Locomotives supposed to be good?  Aren't the Colonials playing against the defending champions who are going to be playing for another championship next week?  Well no matter, all of the kids start talking about leaving because they are so cold.  I can't blame them, I'm cold too.  So toward the end of the Third Quarter we decide to leave with the Colonials winning by 20 points.  They go on to win their season finale 27-14.

*   *   *   *   *

We're all still talking about the pass that ended the First Half.  C starts to analyze the great pass blocking that led to McNown to have enough time to throw the ball in the first place and then declares that HE could have caught that pass too.  Thatta boy!  My younger son, mimicking his older brother also states matter of factly that he could have caught the ball too.  My daughter is asleep.  Judging by their reactions, I think we'll have to make this an annual trip.   It's a great place for a family to watch a game and is about 25% of the cost of an NFL game (well except for the $10 Guinesses, those are the same everywhere).  See you next year.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Greg Wiggle Vs. Sam Wiggle: Let the Rumble Begin!

I was always a fan of Greg Wiggle of the Australian kids' band The Wiggles; he was my favorite compared to Jeff, Anthony and Murray Wiggle, that's for sure.  He was clearly the talented Wiggle, being able to sing, play guitar and dance about as well as you could expect an Australian man to dance.  It even looked like yellow was his natural color - he owned it that much.

But then in 2007 Greg Wiggle got sick with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and as a result was unable to move on as a Wiggle anymore.  It was a life long condition that "flared" up after a grueling World Tour  Were the Wiggles going to dissolve?  Would they stop touring?  But what would my kids do?  Luckily, and not surprisingly considering the money that was involved, instead of breaking up the Wiggles, the remaining members (and their handlers) determined to REPLACE Greg Wiggle.  They looked far and wide and settled on Sam Wiggle, a dancer in the Wiggles Troupe and understudy to Greg for several years. 

Now I haven't watched the Wiggles in years since my oldest son outgrew the Wiggles when he was 3 years old.  So I hadn't seen any of the new Wiggles episodes.  Was Sam Wiggle any good?  Could he sing, we already knew he could dance?  I didn't know the answer to that question as my daughter (who at 4 years old was able to talk old dad into watch their recent show at the Orpheum) and I rode the train into Town to see the Wiggles afternoon show at the Orpheum.  She didn't care and perhaps she didn't even know that Greg Wiggle existed.  Al we knew was that it was a cool train ride to see an even cooler show. 

As we walked toward the theater, I could tell that we were close given the increasing number of children and harried parents milling around.  I hadn't seen so many strollers, Baby Bjorns and Diaper bags in years.  My daughter, who outgrew all of that stuff almost immediately upon birth was curious about all the gear that all of these kids and their parents had.  She even asked if we could get a diaper bag like the cool colorful bag that the Mom and son sported next to us as we took our seats. 

"But you don't wear diapers"  I reasoned.  She looked at me diffidently about to yawn and moved on to the paper games that were left on our seats as swag.

As the show began, we were struck immediately by the a couple of Wiggles trying to do some acrobatics, since this was a circus themed show.  "Stick to the singing and dancing, boys" I was thinking to myself as Anthony Wiggle and Jeff Wiggle were attempting to do some hand stands (and failing miserably)  Murray Wiggle and the aforementioned Sam Wiggle didn't even bother to try their hands at the acrobatics.  Murray looks about 55 years old so I could understand that, but Sam's only excuse appeared to bet that he was a little overweight.  My daughter snapped me out of my cynicism though when she sat on my lap and started clapping her hands at the their first recognizable song, Rock-a-bye Bear.  I can't tell you how many times I had heard that song in my life, by the way.

As the show wore on, it was evident that I had hadn't watched these guys in a while since I didn't recognize most of the songs.  What made it even more discombobulating was that Anthony's voice was hoarse so it appeared that he couldn't make most of singing cues and had to be picked up by the other guys.  Again, DLG didn't care that much she was too busy clapping with Henry the Octopus.

Finally, after some interesting acrobatics on a fence and gate prop (thankfully by professional acrobats), they got down to their recognizable songs.  My son, after picking us up outside the show, started rattling them off.  Fruit Salad, blah blah blah.  Maybe I should have obtained three tickets...

Despite C stealing all of her thunder, my daughter enjoyed it so much that she didn't feel the need to yell at anyone.  And I guess our vote is for Sam Wiggle.  Fruit Salad, Yummy, yummy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

I Guess We Have to Like Liverpool FC Now

Last month, I think we were all a little surprised to hear that Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner were attempting to purchase the Liverpool Football Club from the nearly bankrupt Tom Hicks.  One of the most venerable football clubs in the English Premier League had recently fallen on hard times as the Texas businessman did to English Football in Liverpool what he did to the Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars - overspend and undermanage.  Now the Fenway Group's high powered machine was taking over.  Besides not having enough money to sign any free agents for 2011 and 2012, I suppose this is my reward for enduring the bridge years with the Red Sox.  It's also my opportunity to reintroduce Soccer to the boys since they haven't played soccer in months (at least the kind that didn't start with holding a Wii remote.)

8pm. TV.  We were lucky enough to catch Liverpool play the English Premier League's first place team the Chelsea Football Club in Liverpool this past weekend.  Lets go to the action.

"Hey C - look Liverpool is on TV.  Did you know that the Red Sox bought these guys?"

As he studies the screen, trying to decipher what I was talking about, he remarks "Dad, what are you talking about?  Where are the Red Sox players?  Why aren't they playing baseball?"  I guess I shorthanded my remark a little too much although admittedly, I still wasn't sure if Liverpool was in Blue or in Red.
As I'm explaining that the Red Sox OWNERs bought Liverpool and the Red Sox aren't actually playing the game, C and G both ask why the players are standing next to each other holding their hands over their private parts.  My 8 year old having grown accustomed to wearing a cup for football asked why the players didn't wear cups.  The conversation then took a turn toward why soccer players didn't wear cups because they run too much.  "But we run a lot in football too!" 

Before we started debating this strange topic, Fernando Torres scored Liverpools first goal.  It isn't lost on us that Torres is a leader on the Spanish National Team and a favorite of our on FIFA World Cup on the Wii.  "Hey Dad!" My six year chimes in, "that's the guy who kept scoring goals against you when C and you were playing against each other."  Thanks.

"Ole, ole ole ole" starts from the stands.  Needless to say noone in the JMR household is excited to hear all of the singing "Why don't they stop singing?"  Not being able to come up with a good answer, I return to my pat answer for questions.  It's because they're British.  Without singing, they'd be so unhappy.

MM, looking up from her phone at my xenophobic comment then talks about how she played goalie when she played.  "I thought you played Volleyball in High School?" I questioned.

"Oh maybe it was Junior High School, I hated it so much that I've blocked it out of my memory."  She confesses.

"You didn't really play soccer, did you?" I finally accuse.
While agreeing with me, she then goes on "It's funny that I don't like soccer because the boys are so cute.  They're so athletic. Not like the lazy pitcher who play baseball or the "Refrigerator" player in football.  Ooh, even the referees are cute.  Not like football, that's for sure."  Jesus.

I was concerned that the impressionable boys would hear us, but I don't think anyone was listening to our conversation though, as the boys had since retired to the nerf basketball hoop on the other side of the room.  They don't even see that they're superhero Fernando Torres scored another goal in the 44th Minute to give Liverpool a 2-0 lead.  It's probably time to put them to bed at this point.

I think it will be tough to get the boys excited about football in Liverpool, but if I can't watch Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre because John Henry doesn't have any money, at least I can watch the EPL on Fox Soccer Network.  Go Reds.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Wish Providence Had a Sports Hall of Fame

It was all about Dave and Buster's again.  The pressure was on me to provide blinking light and ticket redemption entertainment again for the kids.  Again, they were bugging me about going to Dave & Buster's down in Providence.  Given my penchant for Hall of Fames, I negotiated a deal.  Dave & Buster's in exchange for them going to a hall of fame in Providence nearby.  I figured a little culture wouldn't hurt them.

Upon arriving on a deal, I then started my search.  There was the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.  Nah, we had gone there the last time we were in Newport but I wanted something different.  I saw the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, too.  But its credo of "any individual who has brought credit to Rhode Island, brought Rhode Island into prominence and contributed to the history and heritage of the state.  I imagine that would have inclded Buddy Cianci before his convistion for Racketeering back in 2002 that landed him in Federal Prison.  I couldn't even find where that hall of fame was, was it out of a trunk?  They talked about a riverfront hall of fame in Providence, but it was just talk.

No sports hall of fame?  In my research, I was astounded.  Seriously, no sports hall of fame in Providence?  With its rich history of professional sports?  Did I have to go to Dave & Buster's without any cultural return?

*   *   *   *   *

Back to the State's rich sports history.  Forget about the Tennis Hall of Fame.  Forget about the America's Cup Hall fo Fame too.  (Denis Conner's sole gig these days is presiding over sailing opening day, I can only imagine.)  But what about these accomplishments?

Providence Grays.  The Grays played in the National League back in the late 1800's.  In fact from 1878-1885, the Grays were one of the power houses in the National League (I guess before salary caps and luxury taxes that is)  They came in first place in 1879 and won the inaugural Baseball Championship in 1884 when they defeated the American Association's  New York Metropolitans.  In fact, the Grays had an astounding winning percentage in 1884, with an 84-28 record giving the team an unbelievable .750 winning percentage, a mark that still stands to this day.  Unfortunately, the Grays folded after the 1885 season due to lack of support.

Providence Steamrollers.  Originally formed as a semi pro team prior to the formation of the NFL, the Providence Steamrollers were a charter member of the NFL in its first season back in 1925.  The Steamrollers enjoyed a few winning seasons, even winning the NFL Championship in 1928.  Back then, there was no championship game, the league just named the team with the best record champions.  The Steamrollers won the championship despite playing four less games than the Frankfort Yellow Jackets and securing three fewer wins.

The Providence Steamrollers also ushered in the original Monday Night Football when they played the first night game in NFL history back in 1929.  The Steamrollers' home stadium was actually a cycling arena located in downtown Providence.  The Cylodome was flooded out due to heavy rains earlier in the week leading up to the game.  As a result, to make sure that the dozens of fans with tickets wouldn't be disappointed, the team fashioned flood lights out of trains and automobies and played nearby in a deserted park.  I think Al Michaels called that game, too.  Ultimately due to the lack of funding and interest, the Steamrollers folded after the 1933 season.

Providence Steamrollers.  The namesake that played in the NBA (also known as the Basketball Association of America back before David Stern started ruling the roost, the Steamrollers played for three mostly sorry seasons.  The Steamrollers one feat was to post the lowest victory count in one season in NBA history when they won a measly 6 games during the 1947-48 campaign.  Fortunately, they have managed to avoid the worst winning percentage in NBA history (that distinction belongs to the 1972-73 76ers, which posted a worst winning percentage despite winning three more games that the Steamrollers did).  Not surprisingly, the NBA version of the Steamrollers also folded due to lack of interest in 1948-49.

In addition to the professional teams that Providence has supported, the state also boasts two top level minor league teams in the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Providence Bruins.  Further, the X-Games and the Gravity Games were each conducted for the first time in Providence. 

After all of this, Providence still boasts no Sports Hall of Fames?  Maybe I'm wrong, or maybe it's time for JMR to take matters in his own hands.  Be on the look out.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade Aren't Villians in this House

In perhaps the most anticipated regular season game in NBA history, The Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics are tipping off tonight in the Opening Game of the 2010-11 NBA Season.  A lot of people are rooting against the Heat tonight.  Mostly because of the new Big Three.  But are Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh really villians?  They are a couple of young kids who wanted to play together and win a championship.  I think if I had the same choice, I would want to play with my friends in the hope of winning a championship too.

Tonight, we are going to see what everyone has to say about the Big Three except for me.  I think you already know how I feel about this.  The score doesn't really matter tonight.

Craig Sager: "This is the most anticipated game in NBA history...they had to cut off the press passes at 500 which is twice as many as usual for opening night games."

Marv Albert:  "This is the hottest regular season opening night ticket in Celtics' history."

G: "Who's playing again?"  Are you kidding me?  Although now he's asking who everyone is.  Apparantly, everyone is Paul Pierce to him.

C:  After a wayward pass by KG nine minutes into the game: "He is the worst player ever!"

G:  "How big is Chris Bosh?  Is he bigger than you Dad?"  Yes.  He is much bigger than me.

Mike Fratello:  "Pat Riley said this was a work in progress.  You can't bring in this many new faces and expect them to be as good as three or four months down the road."  Unless they include three possible MVPs

Jermaine O'Neal is following up on his putrid NBA playoffs with a brick from 15 feet.  Sorry, I said I would talk.

G:  "Big Baby has a mohawk.  Can I get a mohawk?"  I then tell him not until the summer, hoping that he doesn't remember that I did not say no.

Steve Kerr:  "Both of these teams are going to be outstanding by the time you get the midseason it will be tough to get a shot off them!"  Miller exudes this as the First Quarter ends 16-9

Craig Sager:  "How is the experiment going?"  Sager asks Eric Spoelstra this as his team scores 9 points in the First Quarter.

C:  "They've only gotten 13 points in 17 minutes?  I thought they were going to be good."

G:  "LeBron James commercial is pretty cool, Dad."  Should I accept my role as a villian...should I just disappear?

Marv Albert:  "There should be a rule that head coaches should not be able to stand.  You block the views of announcers."

Stated the dimunitive Fratello:  "That usually wasn't a problem when I was coaching."

G:  "Oh the mini guy just got a slam dunk.  The mini guy is good!  Oh look Kevin Garnett got the steal and then he passed it to the mini guy and the mini guy just scored."

Marv Albert:  "Miami's big three - James 2 of 7, Wade is 2 of 9, Bosh 1 of 7."

G:  "What happened to Bosh's hair?  He used to have hair down to here [pointing to his shoulders], now he has it to here [pointing to his forehead]."

G:  About Shaq... "He looks old!"

Steve Kerr:  "The one thing the Celtics hasn't done well tonight is take care of the basketball."

Craig Sager:  "That half was atrocious.  With this kind of talent this offense is unheard of."  Perhaps LeBron indeed left his talents on South Beach.

C:  "Rondo looks young compared to everyone else on the team out there."

Steve Kerr:  After a questionable blocking call..."You almost give him the call because of his reputation."  Wouldn't that mean that James doesn't get the call?

C:  "Don't be a ball hog!"  Who do you think he's talking about in this game?

G:  About Lebron James "What's on his tooth?  Meatballs?

JMR, G and C:  After watching the baby in traffic commercial "[Giggles]"

Marv Albert as Pierce comes back into the game: "Pierce always has a flair for the dramatic."  And we're reminded when Pierce came back into a playoff game after leaving the game in a wheelchair.  Garbled stories there, I think.

Steve Kerr about Pierce after hitting a three pointer "He just mouthed the words get me open."  Here we go, it's time for the truth!

G:  "Why am I so excited?"  Is it because its a close game and you're staying up late? "Oh yeah because it's almost time for my halloween party!!"  We were close.

The Crowd:  "Overrated!  Overrated!  Overrated!"

Oh yeah, the Celtics win.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Baseball Instant Replay Needs to go to the Challenge Flag Rule

Baseball instant replay is a perfect complement to the game itself. With so many calls being made every game that either require split second decisions or inch by inch judgments being made from hundreds of feet away, baseball is begging for expanded instant replay.  Get the challenge flags ready.


We were watching Game 4 of the Yankees and Rangers ALCS when two unbelievable calls were made on back-to-back hitters. First Robinson Cano hit a deep fly ball into right field at the NEW Yankee Stadium. As the Texas Rangers’ Rightfielder, Nelson Cruz, was jumping up to catch the ball, a couple of Yankees fans reached over the wall and interfered with Cruz. They did’nt touch the ball, but interfered with Cruz’s glove in such a way that he couldn’t make the catch. As soon as I saw it I started pointing at the TV and yelling “Jeffrey Maier, Jeffrey Maier” Why weren’t they using instant replay on this call? Isn’t this one of the reasons why instant replay was introduced – to decide if a home run was caused by fan interference?

“Who’s Jeffrey Maier?” my 6 year old asked. “Is he someone you work with?”

“How do you know that guy. It looked like he gave people the finger” my 8 year old asked quizzically. I then started to explain about an identical play that happened in the 1996 ALDS where the lowly Orioles were on their way to victory when a Derek Jeter (Interesting that Derek Jeter is involved in every controversial call – maybe I’m too hard on ARod…) fly ball was caught by Maier as he reached his glove out into the field and gave the Yankees a home run, the lead in Game 1, and ultimately the ALDS win. Not surprisingly my 8 year old was stunned that the Orioles were ever in the playoffs.

As I was explaining the Jeffrey Maier “non-home run,” Lance Berkman launched a drive down the Right Field line. Despite the fact that the playoff games include about 15 umpires, they still got the call wrong. I think I was scaring everyone when I yelled at the TV “That was foul! Christ!”

After giving each of my sons a quarter for swearing, I noticed that the umpires were actually going to look at this home run on instant replay. Thank God because that was at least three feet foul and there was no question that it wasn’t high enough to be OVER the foul pole. After weighing the options of getting the call right and being pelted with batteries and beer bottles by the Yankees’ fans, the umpires finally emerged from the dugout area and called the Berkman shot a foul ball. At least they got one call right. Although I have to wonder, the same umpire called both Cano’s and Berkman’s home runs. I didn’t explain to anyone what I was thinking at that moment.

But as I was explaining what I thought the rule was to the boys, I was asked why they didn’t look at out calls and strikes. I then started wondering what the rule really is.

According to Major League Baseball, In 2008, instant replay was introduced to look at three things: fair or foul home runs, whether the ball actually left the playing field and whether the ball was subject to spectator interference.

Wasn’t the Robinson Cano Home Run at least subject to review under these rules? Why didn’t they review it?

When introduced in August 2008 (nice of Bud Selig to change the rules midway through the season), Selig stated that video technology had improved to the point that instant replay would be helpful in limited circumstances. Selig must have turned on his TV one day and wondered aloud what “Blue Ray,” “HDTV” and “DVR” all meant, finally figuring out that he didn’t need to review grainy video tapes anymore. I guess he hadn’t realized that digital and HD cameras have been around for several years and may actually improve the game.

Ever since then, numerous calls have been overturned, leading to correct calls ultimately being made. But is the current instant replay rule in baseball enough? Numerous calls that would otherwise be reviewed would not be reviewed because of the Limited Instant Replay Rule. I think baseball instant replay would be more meaningful if they created a challenge rule similar to the NFL. Each Manager gets two replay challenges per game. They each receive an additional challenge if the game goes into extra innings. I guess until that happens, I’ll keep yelling at my TV.

Visit my baseball calls that would have benefited from instant replay page at Squidoo.

Photographs courtesy of Newark Star Ledger and Fanhouse.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Welcome to the Portsmouth, NH Beer Tour

We wanted to try it again.  Last year, as described in my Portland Beer Blog, we had an opportunity to spend some time in the Old Port of Portland, tasting some beer and try out the local scene.  This year we had a similar opportunity - but this we time tried Portsmouth, New Hampshire and all of the wonderful beers brewed in this State. We would try Red Hook, Tuckerman, Woodstock Inn and of course Smuttynose in the heart of bohemian NH.  Sounds funny to say it I know, but its true.  There is no place in New Hampshire quite like Portsmouth.  Let's take a tour.

After dropping the kids off (they wouldn't enjoy hanging out with Mom and Dad on this trip), the first place we tried was over by the airport.  Certainly a drive from downtown, but still in Portsmouth proper, was Red Hook Brewery.  It was in the middle of industrial and commercial Portsmouth.  Essentially begging you to get buzzed and then go drive somewhere.  Nice.  We signed up for a tour of the brewery for a two bucks and enjoyed an Autumn Ale while we waited with literally fifty other people.  On the tour, we discovered that it was Alumni Weekend at UNH, so apparantly everyone wanted to get buzzed and then drive half an hour.  We tried the Autumn Ale, the Old Ale which did nt taste very good and their Barley wine. 

Over all we enjoyed our experience, especially with the tour guide who looked like Santa Clause but talked about the former Mrs. Claus like she was the devil.  It was mildly entertaining, and highly awkward and silence-enducing.

Driving back, we tried to get into the Smuttynose brewery thinking that on a Sunday of a holiday weekend that we would be able to get in even though it said it was closed.  But our friendly valet attendant motioned toward the river and explained that the two of us should just go to the Portsmouth Brewery, because they serve the same beers and have food too.  We're in!

But first, we went on a couple of sojourns looking for other NH beers.. First we tried the Gaslight Co. Tavern.  We were disappointed that they had not NH brews.  I order a specialty beer thinking that it may have been from NH, of course forgetting that a beer that said Long Trail was not made in NH, but in Vermont.  Close enough? I asked the bartender.  Failing that, we went across Market Street to the Fat Belly Bar.  Again no New Hampshire beer (other than Red Hook), but it did have an interesting ice strip across the bar length.  The waitress was not psyched to constantly answer our questions about how she cleans the ice bar every night and why it was there in the first place.  On to Portsmouth Brewery.

The first thing we discovered was that we made ourselves honorary members of the Imperial Pint club and got our pictures taken for a pint club license card that would get us intot he Christmas Party in December (looking back on it, how the Hell would I get back for the party?).  The card indiciated that it was not to be used for ID purposes.  Our heads were transposed into an emperor's clothing.  And they really needed to explain that?

Anyway, the pumpkin beer was delicious with some hoopy charaacter and strong hints of pumpkin, cinnamon, and brown sugar, although as I'm drinking it from our sampler, I'm reminded of the joke that every thing in New England in the Fall was made of Pumpkin (I won't go any farther with that joke).  I enjoyed the Old Brown beer and the Porter as well.  What made the experience especially enjoyable though was the pub itself.  Every one was very friendly, obviously happy to get away for a little while like us.

We then made our way around the Town to try to walk off our beers and food.  One memorable moment was when we came across an old couple trying to take pictures of each other.  My wife offered to take a picture of them and after preceding to do so was summarily insulted by the old lady.  if the lady were a little older, I'm convinced that there would have been a rumble.  She wanted to mix it up she was that mad.

Thinking that the only thing that would soothe our hurt feelings would be to enjoy a nightcap, we went to the Irish pub at the head of Market Street called Ri ra .  It was there that we were able to taste the final two NH beers that we would try - Tuckerman and Woodstock Inn.  Unfortunately, the beers were not memorable.  From Woodstock Inn, we tried bottles of Red Rack Ale and Pig's Ear Ale, which tasted virtually the same as one another.  We also tried the Pale Ale from Tuckerman.  It was nicely hopped and flavorful with a little bit of caramel characteristics.  However, one of the bottle that we got tasted skunked, which is never a good thing.

Overall, we had a great time.  Very reminiscent of an Irish village like Killarney or Dingle (a small town that seemed much like a larger city with pubs and interesting things to do and see), Portsmouth has always been a favorite of ours.  Now that we know the beers, we'll have even more reason to come back. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

0-0 is not a Scoreless Tie

It was a crisp Fall day in October.  There was a buzz in the crowd as Saturday afternoons are reserved for Pop Warner games in our hometown.  Usually the young kids start off first; eager 3rd graders looking for some validation after a long week of practice.  C is one of those kids.

They were facing a tough team, or so I heard, in Bridgewater, a town about an hour away.  They were wearing blood-colored uniforms that bespoke of their intensity.  It seemed like every one of those kids had been kept back, since this a third grade league and not an 8 or 9 year old team.  But our team would not be denied their second win of the season, it seemed.

They had a couple of tough games in the two weeks prior, losing to Hanover 16-0 two weeks ago and 22-0 last week.  I blamed a late night for that Hanover performance as all of the kids were introduced at halftime of the High School game.  With all of his friends around, it was a long night.  Marshfield, on the other hand, there really wasn't much of an excuse, although C played a good game with a couple of tackles and almost recovering a fumble.

"That was the best game you played!" I gushed at the end of the game as we were walking back to the car.

"No I didn't.  We lost, Dad." that's not the point, if everyone does their job and everyone tries hard, the team will always win.  I'm even creeping myself out with this rah rah BS.

But this afternoon was different.  I could tell that he was a different kid.  He seemed focused on the task at hand, even as he was downing waffles at a high rate of speed.  My wife also inspired C by telling him that he should imagine that he was tackling his Brother.  As he was sizing his brother up in the car on the way over, I thought it was ingenious, really.

The game started with little fanfare.  The teams kept trading blows and "three and outs" through most of the first half, but toward the end of the first half, things changed for the JMR household.  It was first down and the Bridgewater halfback started down the right side toward C.  Usually, C would engage the blocker, not move and clogg up the lane.  But this time, THIS TIME, he through the tackler out of the way, caught up to the runner and threw him to the ground.

"Tackle by #17, C!"  The PA announcer shouts as the couple hundred of people in the crowd cheer wildly for a great play, even if they don't know who the player was.  I wonder aloud if he could hear his name called.  On the next play, the now transformed nose guard made another tackle.

"Hey nice play, 17!"  I heard the coach yell.  Holy shit! Two plays in a row!  Now I hear a couple of murmurs in the crowd about the kid who was a head taller than everyone else on the field.  I forgot for a second that our team hadn't managed any plays for positive yardage yet in the game.  But who cares?  Bridgewater wasn't going to score either this game.  Naturally, the first half ended 0-0.

The second half played out the same way the end of the first half did.  Four more tackles, two more P.A. announcements calling his name out for the tackle.  And a couple of parents witnessing their child try hard and succeed.  Thankfully, his Grandmother saw the game too since she probably wouldn't have believed this kind of game (and she's kind of biased).  Maybe this was just an anomaly.  But for one of the few times that it can happen, it happened.  Sports mimicing and perhaps even transcending life for a little while.  At the end of the game, which ended up a 0-0 tie, we again found ourselves walking back to the car.

"Dad do you think I played good today?" He asked.

"You played great.  The best game I've seen anyone on your team play this year!"  I told him.  What I didn't tell him is that I had never been so proud of anything or anyone in my life. 

I can't wait for his next game.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

2010 Ryder Cup - Rickie Fowler and the Rain Delays

Since Justin Leonard hit the 45 foot putt at The Country Club over 11 years ago, the Ryder Cup has always piqued my interest.  It was manufactured nationalism, but but nationalism nonetheless - even though every other match is played at absurdly early hours.  And who on Earth is Rickie Fowler?

The 2010 Ryder Cup is no exception.  Playing at the incredibly long (and increasingly wet) Celtic Manor Golf Club at Newport, Wales, the U.S. Team looks particularly strong.  Although Tiger has done nothing this year since the most famous fender bender in sports history and Phil has struggled, Jim Furyk recently won the FedEx Cup and Stewart Cink, Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar have all been playing lights out recently.  I do have to admit though that the Ryder Cup doesn't have as many of the European's that we love to hate - Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Sergio Garcia and especially Colin Montgomerie (although he's the coach).  Ian Poulter is still in this though, so that is all I need to root hard for the U.S.  And don't forget about the Molinari brothers from Turin. 
The U.S. is winning 6-4 right now after the first two sessions, featuring four man better ball and four man alternating ball, the first that time Europe has lost both of these sessions on its own "home soil" in the Ryder Cup history, but Session 3 is proving to be very difficult for the Americans as they are currently behind in ALL 6 matches.  (Note that Session 3 consists of 6 matches, and not the usual 4 matches - don't ask me why they kept these naming conventions - they're European).  That's actually incredible, Lets go to Wales for the beginning of play (the end of Session 3).  Maybe I can even see the young Rickie Fowler - the third youngest player ever for the U.S. team - even though he's won as many PGA tournaments as I have. 

To mark the occasion, I have set up camp here at 4 in the morning to watch the first 3 or 4 hours of the play. When I first mentioned that I was going to do this, all of the kids wanted to come downstairs with me. Guess how many are with me right now? Zero. They all wanted to woken up "later."
4am.  Home.  Well it's awfully early in the JMR household, and everyone should be glad that they didn't get up with me.  When ever you see the first picture of the broadcast as a far off look at torrential rain and flagsticks flapping in the wind, it's not a good sign.  That's OK, I guess, so long as the coffee is hot.  But how can we hate Johnny Miller if golf is delayed because of rain? Maybe I'll take a little nap.

It is now 6:30am and golf still hasn't begun.  I've watched the afternoon matches with little interest.  The only thing that snapped me out of my half sleep was the test of the emergeny broadcast system at about 6am.  That really freaked me out, actually.  This means that the Ryder Cup will have to finish on Monday for the first time in Ryder Cup history.  Interestingly, the Captain's Agreement signed by Montgomerie and the U.S. captain, Corey Pavin read that if play is not completed by the end of the day on Monday, then all the unfinished matches will be stopped, and these points will be halved.  So if the rain continues into Monday, the U.S. wins by default since they will receive 15 points total.

I'd rather see golf.

photograph courtesy of zimbio.com

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Who Can Beat JMR? - NFL Picks for Week 3

We're back.

After a so-so showing last year, including laying the points to the eventual Super Bowl loser Indianapolis Colts, JMR and crew are back for the 2010 NFL Season.  Because of the impending 2011 lockout, I figured it was best to get the kids as interested in football as early as possible so when football returns in 2013, they still remember what it was.

The first two weeks showcased a couple of intriguing teams - the sudden rejuvenated Chicago Bears, the frisky Houston Texans (what a game last week to take the victory from the Redskins), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who's 2-0 start might be the most improbable record so far.  Our goal this year is to finish with a .600 winning percentage.  Today, I am joined by DLG, who took time out from Blue's Clues to help Dad, and G, who had to be pried away from his IPod long enough to spend 5 minutes with me picking a couple of games.

Atlanta
NEW ORLEANS (-4)

G:  New Orleans.  "They have a cool name and they won the Super Bowl last year." 

DLG:  New Orleans.  "Because I like their heads and their legs and their arms and their EARS and their..."  OK I get it.

JMR:  Atlanta.  Always dangerous taking a road underdog, but the Saints haven't really shown much this year.  The Super Bowl hangover is evident with these guys and they were fortunate to face a couple of lousy teams to start the year.

Buffalo
NEW ENGLAND (-14)

G:  New England.  "Because they have Tom Brady and Randy Moss." Agreed, and just don't have them drive your kids around town.

DLG:  Buffalo.  "I like their legs and arms and..."  I stopped listening as she started naming different body parts.

JMR:  Buffalo.  Lets face it.  The Patriots are a good team, but the big blowout days are long gone.  Couple its awful second half game plans with its porous defense and I see the Patriots giving up a garbage touchdown at the end of the game to win 38-28 or 38-31.

Indianapolis
DENVER (+7)

G:  Indianapolis.  "I want the Indians to win...oh wait that's the Cowboys.  Can I change my pick?"  Nope.

DLG:  Broncos.  Can you pick a different reason why and not just because you like their arms or legs or feet.  "OK, because i like their ELBOWS!"

JMR:  Colts.  Not surprising to see the Colts lay a smack down against a pretty good Giants team.  I don't think the Colts Week 1 loss was a Colts issue, I think the Texans are that good.

New York Jets
MIAMI (-2.5)

G:  Dolphins.  "Dolphins swim fast and so they'll catch up and score touchdowns."  At least he's consistent; that was the type of answer he gave me last year.

DLG:  Dolphins.  "Because they swim and I Swim."

JMR:  Miami.  I think the Dolphins will squeak this one out by between 3-7 points.  Incidentally, I think Darrelle Revis would have been the difference in this game.

My other picks include SF, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Detroit, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, Houston, Washington, San Diego, Oakland, Chicago.  The picks of the day include Houston and Pittsburgh.

Simply Football.  I'll see you later.   

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dave & Buster's Only for Kids? Chuck E. Cheese Review

Earlier this year, I reviewed Dave and Buster's to understand whether a seemingly sophisticated restaurant/bar with video games and other games of chance could truly be enjoyed by a family with a seven year old, five year old and three year old.  I had compared it to an adult-friendly version of Chuck E. Cheese.  After all, its commercials touted how fun it was for adults during happy hour, but I'm sure I saw a couple of families in the background blurred out in a corner, so we had to try it.  Surprisingly, Dave & Buster's was able to muster a 35.5 Happies out of 50.0 Happies despite the fact that it took literally an hour to have someone take a hundred bucks for our simple little table order (with a couple of beers).  Don't even ask me how much money was dropped for those silly little tickets so they could be redeemed for Pokemon Cards, Silly Bandz and bouncy balls.

But I had compared Dave & Buster's to my memory of Chuck E. Cheese from back when I was a child and teenager. I had honed my skill in skee ball at my local Chuck E. Cheese and always remembered having a good time, but to truly make the comparison, I had to relive my younger days with my children.  I realize that bringing kids to a place like this is a much different matter than just reliving the good ole days.  I mean I had to twist my wife's arm just to accompany us; she was much more hesitant about this experience than I was. 

Natick, MA. 2pm.  After a morning and early afternoon dominated by Pop Warner Football and Fall Baseball leagues, the boys were already exhausted.  This might be a good thing at Chuck E. Cheese (not a good thing at dinner time when they're overtired and whiny).

GROG.  Let's just say that my wife was smart to bring her flask with her.  Could a place require beer and spirits for its workers and patrons more than an enclosed area full of screaming kids?  0.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

KIDS CRAYONS AND OTHER ENTERTAINMENT.  This Chuck E. Cheese certainly had plenty of entertainment for the kids.  Video games, games of chance (for tickets of course) and playhouses dominated the restaurant area.  Of course you would expect that coming here.  The kids were happy going around the game room until they found a machine that promised at least 5-10 tickets every time - in this case a football game played with ping pong balls.  This area however was devoid of TVs, music or any other diversion for adults.  It was as if they were saying "Adults, you shall enjoy none of this experience, and we couldn't care less.  Better you than us."  The only entertainment I got was listening to my four year old try to leave without her parents.  More on that story later. 9.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

SPEED.  You get your ticket, put it on a stand at your table and walk away with your kids.  When you get back, your nasty pizza is usually waiting for you.  Although this category discusses how fast your food arrives and not the quality of said food, I must say that I have never seen a nastier pizza in my life.  And I would eat that before I got something from the "Salad bar."  They lose points since I could have hoisted up nasty food like that in a hurry too - nothing special about that.  6.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

DESSERT.  Similar to Dave and Buster's, the kids were redeeming their tickets long before we got to this point.  Cinnamon sticks and some sort of Apple Pie concoction were the choices.   The reason points are granted at all was that trying to 5 bucks for those two options deserves points for having balls.  3.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

WHO'S PAYING?  We got food and game tokens to satisfy the kids for less than 70 bucks.  That is a reasonable price if it entertains the children for three hours right?  Uh, right?  Well, in any event, 70 dollars was a fraction of the cost that I paid at Dave & Buster's.  6.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

Overall, Chuck E. Cheese receives a 24 Happies out of 50.0 Happies.  Awfully mediocre as an overall experience, but since the children were bummed out to leave, does the score really matter?  Well does it matter to anyone besides us parents?  Overall, given the choice between Dave and Buster's and Chuck E. Cheese, I would rather spend a little more money for a better overall experience.  Dave and Buster's wins!

One cautionary note.  Do not rely on their security system and protocols - one line in, one line out and identifying stamps for parents and children.  I dropped the family off while I had to park in the back of the building and walked in by myself.  I did not receive a stamp.  Neither did my wife who walked in with the kids.  And the kids received stamps that were smudged (Who was at the door, some sort of stoner?!?).  As we were leaving and they were checking our stamps, none of us matched.  Secretly, I was thinking this was my chance to run away.  The new guy at the door was very nice about it and asked my 4 year old daughter if I was her Daddy.  Thinking he was kidding, she said "No."  Getting a little nervous, and seeing the gatekeeper get a little upset, we told her to stop kidding around.  Luckily, the guy realized that only her real parents would react like that and let us go.  Make sure when you walk in that you walk in together and everyone's stamps can be identified. 

photograph courtesy of chuckecheese.com

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Jets, Mark Sanchez, Revis Island and You

"Did you know guys that the New York Jets are the best team in the NFL?  They're even better than the New England Patriots!"

"What?!?"  Both boys cried out as I extolled the mighty virtues of this year's Super Bowl Champions, the New York Jets.  All of the other teams are just fighting to make the AFC Championship Game (in the AFC) and the Super Bowl (in the NFC).

"Are the Jets going to win the Super Bowl?" my 8 year old asked. 

"They think already won it.  Didn't you watch Hard Knocks?"  I was only half kidding.  The half that believed that my 8 year old would watch something on HBO that HAD to air after 10pm.  Honestly, I had listened to Rex Ryan for so long that I started believing that the Jets had already won it, too.  I mean who cares if the Jets' Quarterback is mediocre on his best days, or that the Jets running game consisted of an untested young player (Shonn Green) and a washed up veteran (Ladainian Tomlinson) or that the Jets defense was anchored by a guy playing on one leg (Kris Jenkins) and a cornerback who didn't arrive until the last day of camp (Derrelle Revis).  These Jets are going to turn their magical 9-7 season from a year ago and become the beasts of the AFC.  They might even challenge the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots as the only teams to go undefeated during the regular season.  I think Mercury Morris is already warming up the RV and checking out his "neighborhood."

"Dad, can we watch the game now?  Seriously?"  They got tired of me blathering on about the best team in the history of football.  Despite my personal feelings, I do have to admit that I have Shonn Green and the Jets Defense on my Fantasy Football Team, so I was rooting for them in this game no matter what was coming out of my mouth.

But I definitely don't have Mark Sanchez on my team.  Unfortunately, he has the weight of the entire city of New York on his shoulders and despite him being the biggest media darling for the Jets since Joe Namath, this guy had a very pedestrian season last year. 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions?  A completion percentage of 53.8 percent and a passer rating of 63.0?  Ugh.  I'm not sure how long the Jets will stick with them if they start the season losing three or four games in a row, but if continues with these kinds of numbers, he'll shoulder all of the blame.

And Revis Island?  For someone who has accomplished relatively little in the National Football League, he certainly has gotten a lot of media attention.  One of the best corners in the league?  Yes, absolutely.  But is he so good that you center an entire TV show around him?  No.  Let's look at the stats.  Commonplace tackles for a Cornerback, although I will say his solo tackles have dropped from 74 in 2007 to only 47 in 2009.  That's alarming.  Also, his interception numbers have not jumped off the stat sheet (14 in three years).  Some backers will say that teams just don't throw his way and that stat is all that matters.  Come on!  He's matched up against the best receivers in the league - Randy Moss, Chad Ocho Cinco, Andre Johnson.  They are going to be thrown the ball no matter who is covering them.  Teams will call plays designed specifically to get the ball to these guys.  I'm sorry, I just don't buy this argument as the reason for the ordinary statistics - and that's goes the same for all elite Cornerbacks.

Back to the game.

Because storms caused a slight delay in the opening kickoff, we only watched a couple of series before everyone went to bed.  I continued to watch until the end of the First Half.  In that time, we saw the aforementioned Sanchez look tentative on the first two drives, managing a field goal however, after a crushing sack of Joe Flacco led to a turnover on the Ravens 20 yard line.  A couple of more turnovers and the Jets defense looked as good as advertised.  They lost, however, 10-9 after some ridiculously bad penalties gave the Ravens first downs two different times and eventually led to the lone touchdown being scored.

Don't get me wrong.  Maybe the Jets will win the Super Bowl.  But I'm not even sure they'll get into the playoffs.  Remember the Patriots and the Dolphins both improved from last year, too.  In any event, I'm just happy that Football is back!

Photograph courtesy of newyorkjets.com

Monday, September 6, 2010

Canton-Lite: The Hall at Patriot Place

A friend recently suggested that we rent an RV and take a road trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  My wife was horrified at the thought of riding in an RV.  I was horrified that my kids might treat an excursion to Cooperstown like I did all those years ago - flying through the exhibits so quickly that we drove back four hours later that afternoon.  The kids were horrified of spending three days with their parents.  At least we were all consistent.

Regardless, when it is suggested that we treat the kids to something new, we always try them out on a much smaller scale.  Baseball at Fenway?  Let's go see the Pawsox.  The Patriots?  Let's take them to a preseason game.  Dinner out at a nice restaurant?  Let's take them to Burger King.  Halls of Fame are no exception.  Before we drop hundreds of dollars triaveling to New York without knowing what kind of reception we would get to staring at busts and watching videos, we decided to bring them to Foxborough and try the New England Patriots Hall of Fame (sponsored by Raytheon - can't forget that).  We figured for $50 we can test their Hall of Fame mettle.  All those years ago, I know what it's like to have an attention span of three minutes when watching and reading about history.  I think the hstory of ice cream, the beach and chocalate milk would be boring to them without interactivity.  "Hey guys," I start, "You know you can play football here like a real game."

"Really?"

"Yes, really."  (Crossing my fingers since that's what I remember from someone's description when it open a couple of years ago).

2pm.  Forborough, MA.  After eating lunch at the CBSScene, we slowly trudged down the stairs to the Hall of Fame entrance.  Walking right through the Pro Shop on the way in AND the way out?  Nice; I get two opportunities to fend the children off from Patriots helmets, jerseys, gloves and playing cards.

After talking all three kids from Patriots winter hats, we finally get to the top floor where the experience begins.  The kids love the interactive math game while trying to score a touchdown.  I tried to throw it so my four year old daughter (DLG) would win, but I got distracted and my six year old ended up winning.  Damn it!

Unbelievably, the kids also enjoyed looking at the old time football memorabilia from the early days of the NFL and College Football.  The movie about the history of the Patriots, that we saw on the way down to the second floor, also was an emotional experience for the family - well just me, I suppose.  "I don't like the guns!" my six year old exclaimed, still scarred from the preseason game last year when he was startled by the muskets being fired after the Patriots scored a touchdown.  "Just keep watching, buddy!"  The Third Floor also featured a lot of Boston Patriot history from the AFL.

As I survey the layout of the second floor, I can already tell that the kids will like this floor.  The Super Bowl Trophies, the "kick a field goal screen" and the duck boat.  We pass by a display of the hall of famers, including a newly inducted Sam "Bam" Cunningham, and a display of the footballs from the Patriots 21 game winning streak (yawn).  I'm tempted to kick a field goal after watching a couple of replays from the Snow Bowl.  But I'm beckoned to help as the kids scatter in the next room.  One wants to jump as high as they can with Laurence Maroney (and yes MM has a 24 inch vertical leap).  DLG wants to be weighed next to Vince Wilfork. And my eight year old wants to test his reaction time hitting Tedi Bruschi from a three point stance (I bet there are Dolphin fans whow would love this exhibit).  My six year old tried the same exhibit and if Dan Koppen says "Oh, you jumped offside, please try again" one more time, me and the Patriots personnel guy trying to help him might bang our heads against Tedy's chest.

Then the highlight for the kids came up.  I first thought that they were psyched to see the three Super Bowl Trophies.  It didn't take long to figure out exactly what got them excited - trying to catch ticker tape flying out of the wall every time the Patriots won the Super Bowl on the screen above.  All three of them stuffed red and blue pieces of paper into their pockets from catching them out fo the air.

"I'm going to throw these up in my room every time I wake up." My six year old excitedly tells me.

"Uh, no you're not..." I gently explain. "and if you do, you're going to pick them all up off the floor."

But that's ok.  They had a great time.  As we walked throught he turnstile into the Pro Shop, they wanted to go through again and catch the ticker tape and play the football math game.  This afternoon served two purposes, really.  I know that they're ready for Cooperstown, but more importantly, they're ready to try to beat me in the 2010 JMR NFL Picks.  I suggest you bring your kids to this Hall of Fame.

"Hey Dad!!  When can we play football here?" My six year old asks.

Shoot!  Except you don't play real football in here.