Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Worst Team in NBA History

You already know how this turned out. 

5-52.  The New Jersey Nets are the worst team in the NBA this year, no doubt about it.  But are they the worst team in NBA history?  The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, just a couple of years removed from winning the NBA Championship and trading Wilt Chamberlain, finished that year 9-73 - severely outclassing the tanking teams of the lottery era we see today.  Nine wins is an astounding amount NOT to win.   

But the New Jersey Nets are undaunted by this feat.  "Led" by a guy named Brook and a point guard who was outclassed in a famous you tube video last year, the Nets began the year with 18 losses and didn't win their first game until January 27, 2010, a full three months into the season.  Brook Lopez is leading the team averaging a 19-9 this year, but he really has been the lone bright spot.  What's worse, no matter how many losses they rack up, they will still only have a 35% chance of landing John Wall this summer.

A much needed remedy for the Boston Celtics you say?  With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett nursing injuries, the Celtics could use an easy win after blowing a double digit lead a couple of nights before against the Cleveland LeBrons.  Pierce would be sitting and we're told that most of the locker room is fighing the flu.  That's okay though because this is quite possibly the WORST team in the history of the NBA.  Somewhere M.L. Carr is jealous.

1pm.  Boston, MA.  My 5 year old is really wait in line for popcorn and Sprite.  He willingly goes to games with me because I become "The Most Generous Dad in the World" when the kids are with me at games.  College or pro, exhibition or regular season, it doesn't matter, the food and drink take about 5 minutes to start flowing.  Luckily, he only started with popcorn and a hot dog, because this game would make both of our stomachs upset by the end.

It started well.  12-2 in the first 2 minutes.  I tried to ignore Kendrick Perkins and Ray Allen looking completely disinterested in warmups and the beginning of the game, because the Celtics had the early lead.  My son didn't notice yet because he was still knee deep in his bucket of popcorn.  "Are the Celtics winning, Dad?" he asks me as he finally looks up.   Not for long, I think.  A friend tells me that he has the Celtics -3 in the First Quarter.  I didn't even know you could bet on quarters.  "I think you might be in trouble."  I write back to him as the lead dwindles throughout the First Quarter.  In fact, that lead disappears into a 29-27 deficit.

You know how this turned out.  There were a couple of moments where the Celtics made the game close, particularly in the Fourth Quarter.  Even the crowd valiantly tried to make some noise, but really to no avail, as the Nets won their sixth game of the year, 104-96. 

This could dissolve into a "What's worng with the Celtics?" story, but my original question has nothing to do with the Celtics.  The original question is whether the New Jersey Nets are the worst team ever?  My eyes don't lie, the Nets looked hungrier than the Celtics, and they played with passion and determination.  They certainly weren't playing like the worst team in the NBA.  The fact remains though that the Nets have a couple of decent young players, but other than that, the team is devoid of value.  A lack of bench scoring, spotty outside shooting and weak reboundng usually don't lead to wins much less success in the playoffs.  I've witnessed some poor Celtics teams over the last 15 years in the aforementioned race to win the lottery.  Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant aren't walking through that door.  Sorry, this isn't dissolving into that conversation.  I never saw the 76ers play in that fateful season.  I've now seen the Nets play.  Are the New Jersey Nets the worst team ever?  No, they aren't the worst team in the history of the NBA. 

If you don't believe me, as we're walking out, my son asks me to buy a hat from some guy selling them in the snow outside the Garden.  He poured over the choices of hats - mostly Celtics hats, but some other sports and other teams too.  He ended up choosing a gold Bruins hat.  I think that tells you everyting you need to know about the Nets and the Celtics in 2009-10.  Sorry, I keep going back to that problem.

You already know how this turned out.  6-52.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

USA Hockey and The Resonators Looking for Another Miracle

United States 5 Finland 2.

I'm writing this at 2:45pm on Friday, February 26th, 2010.  15 minutes before Team USA plays for the chance to go for the Gold Medal in Men's Ice Hockey against Canada...Yes, I will probably change the score above if I am WAY off base, but if it's close, I'll keep it like that.  If it can beat Finland in the Semi-finals, the U.S. Men's Hockey Team will reach the Gold Medal game, presumably against our hated Northern neighbor, the Canadians.

I've jumped on the bandwagon this time.  Like 2002 and 1980 before it, the 2010 U.S. Hockey team is again capturing the hearts and minds of sports fans.   The U.S. Team this year was too young and inexperienced, they said, and it was given very little chance to succeed in Vancouver, particularly in contrast to the stronger national teams coming out of Canada, Sweden and Russia.  Instead, Team USA has become one of the best stories coming out of the 2010 Winter Olympics for the United States, as many of its top athletes have faltered or failed to live up to expectations.  After a stirring 5-3 victory over the Canadians in group play last week, Team USA has picked up where the bicker sisters Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso and the underachieving Apolo Ohno and Women's figure skating left off.

3pm.  The First Period begins with Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk setting the scene.  Finland, Team USA's opponent, has been very stingy on defense and making the most out of the few scoring opportunities it received.  The Americans have also been playing very well through group play.  The "sideline" reporter, obviously very Canadian, described Team USA as looking a little tight in warmups.  I'll remember that when we see you on Sunday buddy.  About five minutes in, Phil Kessel hustles after a loose puck slowly heading toward the Finnish goalie Miikka Kiprosoff.  Bruins fans are cheering for Kessel for the first time in years, happy that he is finally skating with some passion.  Apparantly, Kiprosoff wasn't expecting this hustle by Kessel either as he gingerly passes the puck to a nearby Finnish teammate who skates by it, only to be picked up by Ryan Malone for what amounts to an empty net goal.  Interestingly enough, Kessel stands by the goal trying to tip it in even though it was clearly going to be goal...Oh Phil.

The high fives in the JMR household continue as Team USA scores five more goals in the span of 15 minutes of play.  "The United States is really good in this game," my seven year old exclaims, ostensibly comparing this team to Team USA in one of his EA Sports video game.  I predicted five goals, and they are scored with 7 minutes left in the First Period.

In 1980, similar to the 2010 team, the Americans were too young and inexperienced to win a medal, much less beat a formidable Soviet team (a team that it lost to a month before 10-3 in a blow out in New York City). After achieving a miraculous tie with Team Sweden to even have a chance in the medal round, Team USA headed into the semifinal game against the Soviets as underdogs.  ABC, realizing the importance of this game, tape delayed it so it could be watched by millions later that night.  We all know the details of this game and how important it was to the American Psyche.  The U.S. was in economic doldrums, and the cold war was brewing to a boil with the U.S.S.R.  Looking back on it, we needed to win this game.  After this stirring win, Americans were able to rejoice if even for only a couple of moments.

The Second Period is much less of a one sided affair.  The teams skate to a scoreless period, but at least the Finns don't look like they are playing continuously shorthanded.  After the Second Period, Team USA is still leading 6-0.  The only thing of interest is finally realizing that the game is being played in "real time" with limited commercial interruption.  Thank you, Subway!

While still being classified as an also-ran, the 2002 Olympic Hockey team had old age as an excuse rather than youth and inexperience.  Led by older (and some would say washed up) stars such as Brett Hull, Mike Richter, Chris Chelios and Brian Leetch, Team USA was destined to finish 5th in the tournament, a finish not unlike their 1998 finish.  Could the 1980 Olympic team, who lit the torch to start the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games, inspire a new generation of Olympians?  The Gold Medal game between the Canadians and the U.S. was the highest rated hockey game in generations.  Americans, still reeling from 9/11 and the economic turmoil that followed were again buoyed by Team U.S.A.'s strong run toward the medal round and were as much stirred by some run of the mill hockey players.  Unfortunately, we had to settle for the Silver Medal in these games as those hated Canadians took the Gold away from us.  Cheaters.

The Third Period displayed a lot of the same characteristics as the Second Period.  Some chippy play by the Finns, together with some outstanding goaltending by the Americans, confirmed the 6-0 score.  Unfortunately, Team USA's second straight shutout was thwarted by the insertion of Tim Thomas as goalie.  This is not 2008-09 unfortunately.  Relegated the back up status, Thomas showed his rust giving up a goal on just a handful of shots.  Still Team USA won 6-1 to face off against Canada or Slovakia in the Gold Medal game on Sunday afternoon.

Not a coincidence, the 2010 version of Team USA is playing along a backdrop of tough economic times and unfortunate status as a non-factor.  Playing against seemingly stronger rivals, Team USA has shown a lot of grit and determination in going through to the final game without a blemish.  Things have been tough for all of us, and we're again in a position that, forget about wanting our guys to win, we NEED our guys to win.  If we can just forget about our problems for a couple of moments...

I remember a story about Al Michaels agreeing to voice over his play by play of the 1980 U.S.A-U.S.S.R. game for the Kurt Russell Schmaltzfest, Miracle on Ice.  He agreed on one condition, he would never repeat those famous words again "Do you believe in miracles?  YES!"  I agree that it wouldn't be a miracle this time around, but I wouldn'tmind hearing those same words come from Michaels' mouth as 1980 team was running out the clock against Finland in the Gold Medal game.

"five seconds to the gold medal, four seconds, three seconds, an American Dream come true."

Here's hoping I hear Al Michaels on Sunday.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Boys Are More Destructive - The Danica Patrick Story

"OOOhhhh!" my son groaned.  "Girls are racing?  Boys are more destructive!"  Those were the words echoing in my head as we were watching one of the 25 college basketball games this afternoon.  Really, a seven year old chauvinist?  I'm not perfect myself, but I don't want my bad habits to rub off on my kids at that early an age.  In between action on ESPN, pictures of Danica Patrick would be shown.  I explained that she was the only woman to race cars in NASCAR.  "But boys are more destructive.  Will she crash just like them?"  Now the boys are at a fever pitch, even foregoing dessert to watch auto racing in the hopes of watching of all things car crashes.  I suppose I used Danica Patrick as a pretense to get excited about auto racing myself - like I needed a reason to watch cars spinning out of control somewhere else beside out of my driveway on Friday and Saturday afternoons. 

5:30 p.m. My first thought is that it was charming that a country music act, the Statler Brothers, was now sponsoring a race on the Nascar Nationwide Series.  But actually it's the The Stater Bros. 300 that gets started with the (what I assume is) usual invocation praying that no one gets hurt.  Cue the pictures of the wives and girlfriends holding on to their guys for dear life.  I'd be making sure that my insurance policy premiums were paid up myself.  I go on to explain that Danica Patrick used to race in open air Formula One type races.  Since she did so well in Formula One, she is now trying her hand at NASCAR, which is a different type of racing.  "Aren't all cars the same?"  I'm asked.  Well, that is true; you know what, I don't know why the racing is that different. 

Some girl named Kate Voegele follows the invocation by belting out the national anthem.  I've never heard of her, but I assume that she is a trending topic on Twitter right now, just like Justin Bieber.

"I want to see some crashes!" my seven year old states expectantly, like I had the power to make cars spin out of control with just a mere thought.  "I want to see that Go Daddy Girl crash too, I don't like the color of her car."  (By the way, in my boy's defense, Patrick isn't helping by being the face of the Go Daddy Girls.)  You'd expect a catty comment like that to come from my daughter, but no, it was my five year old as he sits himself down next to us.  As I'm about to explain that it is inappropriate to be rooting for car crashes, Kate Walsh of Private Practice screams "Gentlemen, start your engines!"  At least we have a doctor in the house in the event anything happens.  Although isn't she a pediatric surgeon?  Right.  Forget about that. 

The pole position went to some fella named Joey Logano, or as my kids like to call him the "Mario Kart Guy."  His lead sponsor appears to be Game Stop, and his hood is adorned with the cover of Mario Kart.  The boys start going nuts now, cheering wildly for their new athletic hero as he quickly takes the lead when the green flag is waved to begin the race.  Unfortunately, Patrick looks uncomfortable from the outset, dropping to 41st out of 43 entrants.  The other two entrants in 42nd and 43rd didn't bother starting. 

In fact, she starts getting lapped by the leaders around lap 18.  Patrick has a fiery temper, so we were all on the edges of the couch to see if she was going to give any of the leaders a problem as they went by.  "OOOHHHHH!"  She almost takes Kyle Busch out as he tries to pass her.  The announcers defend her by saying that she probably didn't see him trying to pass her over the top - isn't that what your crew chief is there for?  She knew he was there.

During her first pit stop, we are treated to one of the most ironic penalties in all of sports.  As Patrick pulls out of Pit Row, she gets tagged with a speeding ticket.  A SPEEDING TICKET?  The sle reason this sport exists is to see which car speeds faster than the others, and now you get a ticket if you go too fast?  I understand the reasoning behind the penalty, but it's still ridiculous.  At Lap 82, Patrick gets her 2nd ticket.  Now she's pissed; I would be too.  My seven year old doesn't get it.  "I thought only bad guys got speeding tickets."

After watching for an interminable amount of time so we could witness a crash, on Lap 119 we get the first crash due to spilt oil on turns one and two.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gets lost in the smoke generated by another driver's exhaust system and flails into the wall.  Meanwhile, we see Patrick creep up to 30th, then fall behind, then creep up, then fall behind.  The announcers keep explaining to us that Patrick is just getting used to the new car and needs to get some laps and repetitions.  If that is the case, then I could do this too.  All anyone needs are laps and repetitions. 

Anyway, thanks to the crash and a couple of other caution flags, the front runners go from caution flag, to the last lap.  The Mario Kart Guy, leading the entire way, goes up to high on Turn 2 and gives up the lead to fall to fourth.  The race is on now.  Kyle Busch takes the lead, and, with a pack of four jockeying for the checkered flag, wins the race!  The Mario Kart Guy, in a last ditch effort to win loses control of his car.  He spins out at the finish line and comes in fifth.  Patrick is right there at the end, except she is 4 laps behind when it happens.  She finishes 31st.

It didn't work out quite the way I wanted.  The borderline chauvinistic but certainly uninformed statement coming from my seven year old's mouth was a little difficult to take.  I was hoping to get them excited about something new and show them that even a five foot one inch woman could win a race of automobiles.  Despite being told that she did well, I agree with her body language, as she stomped out of the raceway.  "I stunk."  But at least the boys are interested in seeing auto racing live now. 

Get me some ear plugs.  Laconia here we come.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

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

A 7 year old's nirvana?  5 year old's utopia?  3 year old's paradise?  A parent's worst nightmare?  Opinions, of course, run the gamut when Dave & Buster's is the topic.  Growing up, Chuck E. Cheese was the "go to" kids restaurant; what with its skee ball and rudimentary video games like Pacman and Galaga.  But today's kids are a little jaded.  They obtain their Nintendo DSs, Wiis and IPods at an absurdly young age now, just so they don't fall behind their friends.  Chuck E. Cheese is still fun, but the kids are looking for something more exciting, and frankly the food at Chuck E. Cheese is disgusting.  Dave & Buster's promises something a little more.  The place is larger, the games are louder and the food is edible.  Maybe even the parents can enjoy themselves here too.

12pm.  Providence, RI.  Driving an hour out of the way to go to a restaurant seems a little absurd to me.  But everyone is excited and that's the point after all.  We park our car and make our slow trek up the escalators (remember, kids can be entertained for hours on escalators, especially if they go both up AND down).  Surprisingly, I can't hear the restaurant from 500 feet away like I thought I would.  Then we walk inside.  Oh the games are in the back.  All of the adults are in the front of the restaurnat watching the games at the bar.

GROG.  A lot of choices for beer.  Guinness, Stella and Bass are mixed in with the typical domestic light beers.  Numerous fancy drinks ar on the menu too.  The place gets points simply for having Grog in the first place, like they knew that parents would need to have a drink to survive the Ticket Redemption Room at the end.  8.0 Happies out of 10.0.

KIDS CRAYONS AND OTHER ENTERTAINMENT.  A perfect score!  You have pool, basketball hoops, Rock Band, Dance Dance Revolution, Skeeball and other games of chance all in one place - next to our table.  The first time the helicopter game next to us went off, it literally shook the ground to the point where my daughter grabbed the table and asked "What the?"  The real treat, though (for the kids, not really for the parents) is the ticket redemption room where you can redeem your 400,000 tickets for prizes.  Kids go crazy for this room at any amusement park, but this one seems different.  Numerous video games for the Wii, Play Station and the XBox adorn the walls.  My kids end up getting Pokemon cards and 10 bouncy D&B basketballs.  That's alright, this stuff will all end up in the trash a couple of weeks from now. 

Really, can a place ge more entertaining than this?  I think I even played a couple of games myself sneaking them in while pretending to go to the bathroom.  I know my wife was playing some games too, even hough she would never admit it.  11.0 Happies out of 10.0.  Yes, 11.0.

SPEED.  One of the wheels just fell off.  We sat near the bar in the game room.  Numerous waitstaff walked by us, admittedly with those "Better you than me" looks as I'm wrestling the jacket off my 3 year old daughter who's running toward one of the bouncy balls that she won on the way in from the claw game.  It took 20 minutes to flag someone down to take our drink order; that is just not right.  We just want a couple of beers, 3 Grilled Cheeses and some Edamame. I'll even pay you extra if you don't forget about us again.  One of the good things about the lack of attention is that we didn't feel rushed to leave our table, which was a good thing since my daughter fell asleep on the heap of jackets under our table.  4.5 Happies out of 10.0.

DESSERT.  Who cares?  The kids are all in the Ticket Redemption Room at this point anyway.  I think there was some ice cream or brownies or something.  7.0 Happies out of 10.0.

WHO'S PAYING.  Over a hundred dollars getting 3 power cards.  (Did you know that they make you pay $3 to obtain a power card?  Keep them if you go more than once.)  Over a hundred dollars on food and drinks.  Holy crap!  And all we come back with are 4 stuffed animals, 5 bouncy balls and tired kids?  I'll take it!  But that is a lot of money.  Add in the fact that Providence is an hour away and this is a once a year journey. 5.0 Happies out of 10.0 Happies.

Overall, this is more of a kids' paradise than a parent's worst nightmare.  Kids are growing up fast these days and to be able to make them smile and getting them excited about anything is a big deal, and I think this experience is worth it.  I wish the rating was higher because we all ended up having a good time, but in the end, 35.5 Happies out of 50.0 Happies.  Not perfect but better than bad.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

NBA All Star Game - Effort with a Lower Case "e"

After getting home from my 7 year old's Saturday morning basketball game - a game in which he asked out of the game for a break because he couldn't breathe from running so hard - he asked me to play basketball with him.  Looking at my swollen knee from the last time we played basketball (I completed a beautiful spin move and dunked it over his head - fine, it was an 8 foot hoop and maybe he IS 7 years old, but the move was still the move), I suggested that we WATCH basketball instead.  My hope being that he would watch some desperate college teams hustling after loose balls and playing tough denial defense and learn good fundamental basketball.  That lasted for about 10 minutes until his buddy came over - all of sudden I was relegated to watching the Winter Olympics with only passing greetings from all of the children.

Later that night came the renewed request to play basketball outside.  Looking at the thermometer reading of 28 degrees and the lone lightbulb illuminating our driveway, I passed on that request as well, but with a compromise - go to bed early tonight and we can all stay up to watch the 2010 NBA All Star game tomorrow night.  If my boys were going to learn good fundamental basketball consisting of crisp passes, strong rebounding and strong team defense, the NBA All Star Game would be the place.

8:30pm.  Convincing my 5 year old that we are not rooting for the Celtics tonight is proving to be difficult. 

"But there's Rajon Rondo and KG!" he tells me.  "I want the Celtics to win! Do you Dad?"  "Why are they wearing blue instead of green?  Did they change their uniform colors again?"

"No the Celtics didn't change their colors.  Yes.  I want the Celtics to win."  I gave up trying to explain what an "All Star Game" actually means.  I'm too distracted by the Eastern Conference All Stars trying to dance in sync with one another during the player introductions.  I hope that he doesn't ask me about what just happened there or the fact that it's 8:40 and the game still has not started...too late.

My seven year old just tells me that Ray Allen should be in the game too.  "I'd put Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo on the team, but not Paul Pierce."  He's a tough judge.  Later on, he continues, "He's putting baby powder on?" about LeBron James' pregame ritual.  I don't bother touching that one either.

As the game starts and the Western Conference All Stars take the early lead, I hear the boys say things like "Bad pass!" "Why isn't he playing defense?" "East is doing horrible!" and the best one "Why isn't that guy running very hard?"  I don't have a very good response when they ask me why they don't want to win.  East takes the First Quarter, 37-34.

As the Second Quarter starts and continues, the teams trade interesting plays - no-look passes, fake passes that turn into keepers, alley oops and a strange bounce alley oop attempt by  Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo - all punctuated by my seven year old proclaiming "Why aren't they playing defense?  There are two guys standing right there!"  It makes for entertaining, if not fundamentally sound, basketball, I suppose.

In an open mic moment, we hear Lebron James exclaim that Paul Pierce is the best shooter in the history of basketball.  I know Pierce won the 3 point shot contest and all, and I put him in the top 10 of all time Celtics, but the best shooter of all time?  LeBron, sensing a playoff battle in Round 2 of the Playoffs, apparantly is amping up the hyperbole.

While the teams trade baskets and leads for the majority of the Quarter, the Eastern Conference goes into half time leading 76-69.  Craig Sager and his shimmering red tie approve.

As I explain Shakira's appearance (the TV channel couldn't be changed faster) and I break up a wrestling match, the Third Quarter mercifully starts.  A lot more of the same.  Alley Oops, uncontested coast to coast lay ups, bad passing and awful defense.  By this point my 5 year old falls asleep and my seven year old and I are getting bored.  Even a thundering dunk by LeBron James  at the 8 minute mark doesn't stir anything from us but a couple of sniffles - and that might have been the fake fireplace kicking on more than anything the all stars did.

Halfway through the Third Quarter, he exclaims after yet another LeBron James dunk, "They aren't playing any defense.  They're like, you're gonna get it in so whatever."  Do you sense a theme of this game and our reaction to it?  Even Kobe admits that this is "The greatest pick up game in the world."  I wonder what the schmoes who paid $5,000 a ticket think about his assessment?  The East ends the Third Quarter ahead 118-109.

Fourth Quarter.  While lasting longer than I thought they would, both boys have finally fallen asleep.  I think they will both be saying "shoot it!" and "block it!" in their dreams tonight.  While watching the Fourth Quarter by myself, I do have to admit that the quality of play has improved.  No more ridiculous bounce pass alley oop attempts (one was enough, Rajon) and players actually started going to the floor.  The intesity level reaches new highs as well, particularly when Chauncey Billips makes a little 15 footer to tie the game at 137 with 45 seconds left in the game.

After a couple of spotty fouls - come on it's the All Star Game! - the West has the ball with 5 seconds left trailing by 2 points.  Carmelo Anthony takes the inbounds pass and clangs a 3 pointer off the back of the rim, giving the Eastern Conference a 141-139 win.

Looking back, the three of us decided that the All Star Game was not an appropriate venue to learn basketball basics.  Defense was lacking, effort and hustle were sporadic at best and rebounding consisted of whomever picked up the ball from the ground after a missed shot.  Personally, I'd rather watch my seven year old's team battle it out on Saturday mornings.   They don't know alley-oops and behind-the-back passes, and I hope they never learn.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is Ice Fishing an Official 2010 Winter Olympic Sport?

Except for the most diehard of fans, the Winter Olympics consists only of athletes in parkas and funny looking hats, Bob Costas, figure skating battles and the U.S. Olympic Hockey team.  In fact, when I asked my significant other whether she could name the 15 categories of sports represented at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, she answered only 10 out of 15 categories correctly.  Four of her other five guesses (Basketball, Volleyball, Tobagganing and Ice Fishing, ICE FISHING?!?!) are not Winter Olympic sports, unfortunately.

This is not a sport, in case you were wondering

Fortunately for you though, JMR is here to briefly guide you through these 15 categories of sports ranked in order of least interesting to most interesting.  Luckily, the 15 sports are easily categorized into three groups - Senseless, Tedious or a combination of one Senseless and one Tedious sport, what I will refer to as "Tediless."

15.  CROSS COUNTRY.  Classical or Freestyle, it's boring to do, and even more boring to watch on TV. (Tedious)

14.  SPEED SKATING.  Watching men and women circle around an oval made of ice is grueling.  I do have to admit that this sport introduces us to not only the charitable stylings of the Stephen Colbert All-Stars, but also of the first athlete to secede from his Country (Shani Davis).  Oh yes, that dude is that crazy. (Tedious)

13.  FIGURE SKATING.  Except for the excruciating story of Tonya Harding, this sport has been devoid of suspense for decades.  Sorry Dick Button and Peggy Fleming.  (Tedious)

12.  CURLING.  In doing research for this post, I found out that the Canadians dominate this sport that was invented by, and that once belonged to, the Scots.  Their best player was some guy nicknamed "the Owl."  Then I discover that the Owl was actually the best skipper for the Canadians when they won the Scottish Cup (Curling World Championship) in 1966, 1968 and 1969.  Oops.  As a side note, behind The Americas Cup, can the Scottish Cup be the second championship named after a country that no longer dominates the sport it invented?  Too bad the World Baseball Classic isn't named the U.S. Baseball Classic. (Tedious)

11.  BIATHALON.  There are few things that can be combined with cross country skiing that would bring the sport out of the "Tedious" category.  Combining the sport, however, with shooting, does the trick.  This has to be the strangest combination of skills in sport, unless you are some sort of hunter-gatherer in Siberia or something.  Plus, with heightened security at the Olympics, isn't this sport the perfect way to sneak in real fire arms...what's stopping some Bulgarian from going crazy on the crowd because he's unhappy with his marksmanship?  "Hey, I'm a biathalete!  Give me back my high powered air rifle!" (Tediless)

10.  NORDIC COMBINED.  Seriously, cross country is so antitaining that they combine it with not one, but two different sports.  This one is with ski-jumping.  This is extremely unrealistic as a pursuit.  (Tediless)

9.  ALPINE SKIING.  Although this is one of the most recognizable sports with some of the most memorable Olympic Champions - Jean-Claude Killy, Bill Johnson, the Mahre Brothers, Picabo Street, and Alberto Tomba, let's just face it, between the Downhill, the Slalom, the Super G and the Combined, there is a whole lot of the same going on for weeks on the ski slopes.  I will admit though that Alpine Skiing gets bumped up to this position since two of the most compelling stories so far in the lead up to the 2010 Vancouver Games are whether Bode Miller has finally grown up (No) and whether Lindsey Vonn is milking her shin injury to increase her marketing potential post olympics (Yes). (Tedious)

8.  SNOWBOARDING.  To give the Americans and Western Europeans a chance to pad their medal stats, the X Games were added to the Winter Games' calendar a couple of years ago.  Fine by me.  The Half Pipe is one of the most interesting competitions. 

The parallel giant slalom just reminds me though of celebrity skiing at Vail that was on Fox Sports New England 10 years ago.  Marilu Henner always seemed to be available for those celebrity ski parties.  Snowboard Cross just appears to be a snowboarding version of the Super G.  Snowboarding does get the nod from my 7 year old for coolest Winter Olympic Sport. (Tediless)

7. FREESTYLE SKIING.  Yet another example of Senseless activities muddled up with Tedious competition.  Moguls?  I challenge you to name a retired Moguls competitor that does not have either a serious and chronic back problem or at least one knee replacement.  Aerial Skiing, on the other hand, brings me back to the days when I used to play the Winter Olympics video game on my Commodore 64.  I can't remember the name for the life of me, but I remember holding the record for best aerial ski score.  Good stuff.  Another possibility for the Americans to get some more medals. (Tediless)

6.  SHORT TRACK SPEED SKATING.  Two things of note - Apolo Anton Ohno and spills, lots of them.  500m, 1000m and 1500m sprints on a small oval means fast times and bodies flying across the ice.  Strangely, this sport has been dominated by the South Koreans.  Except for the inevitable newspaper headlines using wordplay on Ohno's name, there is no downside to this quirky sport.  (Senseless)

5.  ICE HOCKEY.  Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!!

4.  BOBSLED.  Let them play.  Let them play.  Let them PLAY.  This will be a movie 4 years from now - "Kangaroo Runnings?" (Senseless)

3.  SKELETON.  The second sport on this list to be held at the Whistler Sliding Center.  I like the name of that venue.  This competition is virtually the same as the Luge, but athletes slide down the hill face down.  The sport got its name because the original pioneers of the spot used to slide down the ice in metal sleds that looked like skeletons.  I would not have guessed that as the origin of the name. The Canadians dominated in 2006 and expect to do as well this year on their home turf. (Senseless)

2.  LUGE.  This gets the nod over the other childhood sledding pasttime at #3 for one reason:  the odd two man luge race.  That just engenders some strange images. (Senseless)

1.  SKI JUMPING.  It is the sport with one of the most iconic videos ever made of the Agony of Defeat.  Jm McKay is somewhere smiling about this interview and the line "He thinks about that jump as many times as we've shown it on Wide World of Sports."  The words of course echo in every kids' head who grew up in the 1970's "The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat...Look out!  Look at him go!!  Oh Baby, What a terrible Fall! Dah, Dun, Dun, Dunnnn!  Combine the sheer thrill of flying through the air for more than 400 feet with the sheer fear of flying through the air for over 400 feet, and this is one incredibly crazy sport.  They will jumping off a short hill (90 meters) and a long hill (120 meters), along with a team competition.  Sadly they don't all jump together as a team.  Don't hold your breath waiting for an American medal, either.  The Americans are not really good in this sport.  Incidentally, after showing him a couple of the crashes, my 5 year old's favorite Winter Olympic Sport immediately became Ski Jumping. (Senseless)

I have now given you the perfect primer on the Winter Games.  See you this weekend.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Kicking and Screaming - The Culture Experiment, Part 2

The weekend between the AFC and NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl creates a sports wasteland for me.  Still not ready to settle for some uninspired NBA and NHL games and six weeks before March Madness, this particular weekend fills my soul with an unimaginable void.  All right, it's not that bad, but my Sunday afternoon had to be filled with something, anything to get over the loneliness.  My thought was to treat this weekend as an anti-sports weekend, Sunday included.  Boston has a vibrant arts scene; we used to partake in all of activities years ago when we lived in Town.  A little bit of culture wouldn't hurt the kids...probably.

It didn't start out as I had planned.  Saturday afternoon consisted of watching Dangerous Dan and Oh Cosmo lead the Boston Blazers in Major League Indoor Lacrosse.  Originally, I was thinking about taking my seven year old to the ICA in South Boston, but when he asked me if we were going into Town to see the Celtics or the Bruins, I decided on the fly that we had to see sports, not modern art.  I couldn't bring a disappointed child to see Modern Art, that could lead to catastrophe.  I guess the full weekend of the Culture Experiment would have to wait until the beginning of August, when the next sports wasteland emerges.  But Sunday was a different day.  After carefully considering our options, we decided to drag, er voluntarily escort, the children to the Museum of Fine Art. Would we take a wrong turn or two? (Yes.)  Would it take 20 minutes of driving around the Fenway to find parking? (Yes.)  Would there be screaming, crying and general crankiness from the long night the night before? (Yes.)

12pm.  Boston, MA.  After pissing off the valet attendant by driving up the valet parking lot not once or twice, but three times, we hopped out of the car to make our way inside.  I have to admit, the giant creepy baby heads adorning the back entrance of the MFA scares children and adults alike.  What the hell is going on here? 

A couple of jokes later, all 5 of head finally inside.  Wait, it costs $20 bucks to get inside?  I remember when it used to be free admission with a (not-so-subtle) request to make a donation - similar to the request for a donation I receved when we moved into our North End apartment 15 years earlier.  We look at each other and telepathically decide that the children will enjoy themselves for at least two hours - whether they like it or not.

The MFA is currently undergoing renovations, so the back entrance was a makeshift labyrinth of white walls and hopeful photographs of what the MFA will look like when the renovations are complete.  Just like law school, my money is going to the enjoyment of others in a new building.  That's okay though because the children immediately go nuts when they are told of the game where they look for and match up the ancient Greek coins from the fake plastic coins they are given.

"Can we keep the coins when we find them?" my 5 year old asks me as he examines the fake plastic replicas.  How charming that he knows the value of money at such a young age - perhaps I should alert his grandparents.  Well at least that permits us to go to the ancient world exhibits, which includes a room with Egyptian artifacts.  Perhaps I will gain some insight into the Lost mythology if I can spend some time studying the mummies, hieroglyphics and ankhs.

Well that ended up taking all of 5 minutes.  The coins were all in the same display case before we even walked into the ancient Greek art exhibit.  We looked at the coins, answered a few questions and moved on to the Early American Period. 

Noting that we had three young children accompanying us, guess where we spent the most time in this Exhibit?  Right - at the painting illustrating a naked man getting eaten by a shark.  After answering a multitude of questions - "Where is that guy's clothes?  Why aren't they pulling him out of the water?  Will sharks eat us when we go the beach?  I ask why none of the boats in the immediate background of this painting are lending any assistance.  "If they are so smart, let those stupid Yankees figure this out for themselves." I decide the men in these other boats are thinking.

A little bit more walking around after the American Exhibit and here we are to the highlight of the trip.  The escalator ride up to the second floor!  The kids start running and screaming.  The children are delighted (I would be more descriptive, but we ARE in a museum).  As we walk down the Second Floor corridor, we stop to watch an ingenius exhibit - 50 TV screens stacked in an array with different people all singing the same Madonna songs.  We hear Borderline, Lucky Star and Crazy For You.  The adults were thoroughly entertained, that's for sure.  In fact, I would have stayed until they sang "Into the Groove," but with kids growing up to Beyonce and Black Eyed Peas, this is absolutely trite.  We had to move on to the last exhibits.

Impressionism really isn't my thing, but that's where we can find Monet, Cassatt and the other famous European artists.  The MFA has an impressive collection.  The kids are interested as well, they have to learn about Van Gogh and Cassatt in school, and it reinforces their learning if they actually see some of the works that they are studying; at least that is what I think. 

After 20 minutes in there, we finally have to leave for the obligatory meal.  And we only had to be spoken to once by a security guard?  Fantastic!

In the car on the way out, we ask what their favorite parts were.  We hear the search for the coins, Madonna and of course the naked man getting eaten by the shark.  We still talk about the ginat baby heads.  The Culture Experiment, while cut in half, was a success.  Pass me a beer.