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