Saturday, July 31, 2010

From Orlando, Florida - Cam's View

One thing I pride myself in is that my kids enjoy writing as much as we do.  I finally had my 8 year old complete his Summer Challenge - write about something that he cared about and put it on my report.  What follows is his story, in his words...

One day I went to Florida. I saw lots of cool rides and foods. I went on Space Mountain. Do you know that my friends dad lost his glasses and it almost hit the person behind him.  I went on the Pirates of the Carrabian ride it was pretty scary, dark, wet and fun. I also went on the Star Wars ride. It was bumpy and felt like we were in space.  My friends across the street just went to Florida yesterday.

I also went on a Indiana Jones ride.  The actress almost got hit by a real boulderr.  We were also at Splash Mauntain.  I was sitting next to my screaming Mom.  She always thought the little hills were the real big one.  Her face on the picture looked like a real mean, horrible, scary looking cat. 

We also went on a kid roller coaster and we screamed.  It felt like we were going to fall off.  We also went on a Magic Flying Carpet ride.  I got to control it and my Mom would scream.  She actuilly said don't go too high, Cam.  I said it desn't matter.  When the ride was over, My Mom said "Tyoot!"  I also went on a kid oppstakel course.  My Sister got stuck so somewone but not me had to carry her out.  I also did a basketball game.  I won a prize.  I also did a car racing ride.  My Brother did better than me, just barely.  I kept bumping and he didn't.  But at first I was doing great.

I also did Soarin'.  It felt like we were flying.  We shouldn't have gotten 3D glasses.  I also did It's a Small World.  I did not like it at all.  It is for babies.  So is Handy Manny.  I tasted a lot of good popcorn and lemonade.  I brought back a Pirates of the Carrabien fake gun. 

I also went to a Celtic basketball game.  The score was 62-74.  THe Celtics won.  It was the Boston Celtics vs. the Orlando Magic.  The only people wh went were me, Dad and Gray.  After we went to our Neena's house in Florida.  We wrapped presents for our Mom and Dad.

The next day was Christmas.  I was so exiceded.  First I woke up at 5am in the morning.  I saw that I got an Ipod Nano.  I listened to music in my bed when I got it.  It had 14 songs on it.  And now it has 35.  Then I went to my Neena's.  I got benderoos and a video camra.  At the SpongeBob hotel I got a bunch of cool things like an invisible ink.  First when you squirt it in your hand it's black but when you rub it in it's gone.  It doesn't smell very good either.  When we went home we still had presents at home.  I had a scooter and a helmet.  It took three hours to get to Florida and back.  It hurt my ears when we were coming up and done.

There you have it.  In his own words.     

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Welcome to the Wipeout Zone - JMR's List of 6 Favorite Game Shows

Listening for some music in my car one Saturday afternoon, I came across a fascinating piece on WBUR about Michael Larson, who "cheated" his way into winning more than $110,000 on Press Your Luck back in 1984. Not a lot of money these days, but back 25 years ago, $110,000 could go a long way.  In fact, when asked about his plans for the money, Larson's brother commented that he was going to invest it in some real estate projects.  Although real estate isn't what it once was, $110,000 is not going to get you that much these days.

How did Larson do it?  By watching, taping and rewatching show after show until he figured out that the Press your Luck board was lit in patterns.  Once you learned the patterns, I'm sure he thought, you could land on the squares that didn't have a Whammy.  Ingenious, really.  Watching the special on the Game Show Network on Youtube the other day, it was funny watching his precision by landing on the same two squares dozens of times in a row; finally passing his remaining spins when it appeared he was about to keel over in his seat.  I was talking to the computer (as I usually do) when the boys came up to me, asking me what I was watching.  They didn't seem that impressed as I was explaining the show and his strategy to them, but as they continued to watch Larson land on the same square time after time with the host Peter Tomarken incredulously asking Larson if he wanted to continue, the questions began.  What's a whammy?  Why is he passing his spins?  Why are their clothes so weird?  Then it occurred to me that these kids love game shows.

Which ones you ask?  Based on a review of my TV's DVR listings, the following are the six most popular game shows with six and eight year olds.

6.  Wheel of Fortune.  I'm not sure when the last time this show was watched, but there are 30 of these shows taped.  Pat Sajak and (I guess) Vanna White still host this show.  Ridiculous gimmicks make this show virtually unrecognizable to someone who hasn't watched in 15 years.  I can't put this game show any higher.

5.  Family Feud.  J. Peterman now hosts this game show.  Which is an improvement over Louie Anderson and the unfunny sidekick from Home Improvement, I suppose.  I still like this show if only to test my clicker reaction time if a double entendre or suggestive question requires me to mistakenly - yet quickly - fast forward the show past the offending question/answer. 

4. Brainsurge.  I don't know what this is.  But it's on Nickelodeon.  That's all I need to know.

3.  America's Got Talent.  The boys both HATE Piers Morgan.  "Why does he always buzz everyone?  He's so mean!"  I tried to explain that he's there to create tension - and that's he's English.  They didn't really understand what I was talking about except to know that I was saying "Dad" things again.

2.  Minute to Win It. We watched breathlessly this evening as the bartender from California was playing extreme quarters for $1 million - trying to bounce a quarter off a table and get it in a 5 gallon water bottle 15 feet away.  This isn't even the game show part; this is audience participation.  I know a couple of guys who could give that game a go, though. 

We watched the actual game show portion tonight and I can confirm (after watching, taping and rewatching) that the last guy, when the Diners and Dives guy asked him "Blueprint or Greenbacks?" He said "Greenbacks."  (They went to the next blueprint anyway.)  All-in-all, this is a great show because it gives us game ideas for our son's next birthday party.

1. Wipeout.  The Mother of all gameshows.  Ripped off from a foreign gameshow? Yes, absolutely.  But still the sight of out of shape non-athletes flying off of obstacles into the water at all angles entertains us.  We watch the same show over and over until the following week, when a new show appears on our DVR. 

The show is simple.  24 contestants are put through an obstacle course in the Qualifying round.  This round usually includes contestants who clearly don't care about winning (who are quickly whittled down) and contestants who are serious about winning the $50,000 grand prize.  The highlight is the obstacle known as the "Big Balls," which requires contestants to bounce across four red large rubber balls to the other side of the platform.  If anyone hesitates, he or she is moved onto the obstacle by the "Motivator."  Why these people don't know it's coming is beyond me.  The 12 fastest then move on to the next round, whittled down further, and then sent on to the final qualifying round.  Usually three people make it though the final qualifying round into this final round - known as the Wipeout Zone.

Needless to say, we are all enthralled with this show.  Between me laughing at all the poor saps who twist awkwardly into the water and mud, and the true athletic competition that begins in Qualifying Eliminator Round 2, we are all sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see what happens next.  The Wipeout zone usually includes the contestants literally being launched into the pool.  From there, they must manage their way through a number of difficult contraptions, usually trying to avoid the shaving cream and suds that cover each obstacle.  They don't listen to our pleas to figure out the Gauntlet, which includes a puzzling Crank Shift and the Blade of Fury.  Why?  Why don't they listen to us?  Ultimately, we end each show cheering everyone on, asking each other who we think is going to win.  It certainly beats sibling fights.

I'm sure the Top 6 will increase as we go along this Summer, but I wonder who's going to win the Blind Date Wipeout episode that we're going to watch tomorrow morning, again?

photographs courtesy of and (via ABC)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Josh Beckett and the Minor Leagues

It had the makings of a really long afternoon.

Josh Beckett was probably thinking the same thing we were on this particular day.  The weather was hot and steamy, the Pawsox were a mirror image of their major league brother - gutted - although instead of injuries, the Pawsox were afflicted with a case of the callhimupitis.  It seemed that the Triple A team had taken over the Red Sox roster, what with guys like MacDonald and Nava and Brown and Richardson and Nelson as so on playing "pivotal roles" in Boston.  Even worse, Beckett was caught up in some disgruntled sportswriters vision of a utopian Red Sox team (i.e. the kinds of teams with problems); it seemed that he was milking his injury just like Jacoby Ellsbury, or so it seemed.

It was a recipe for disaster.  The kids were hot, and when I say hot, I mean whiny.  The beer and ice cream lines were wrapping around the concourse with no relief in sight, and the Pawsox were playing a good Triple A team.  I don't remember who, but I do remember someone remarking that they looked "strong."  Everyone agreed though that seeing Josh Beckett pitch for a 45 minute drive and a $5 general admission seat was pretty cool.

It got me thinking.  Which Josh Beckett were we going to see?  The one that was leading the league in Home Runs allowed before landing on the disabled list, or the one that went 20-7 in that magical year in 2007?  Even my son knew that Beckett had a lower back issue, but when healthy, which Beckett were we going to see?  I just hoped that he comes out  of the start healthy.  I've had enough of Tim Wakefield.  And if only Beckett could play catcher, too.  He's definitely a better hitter than Kevin Cash.

1pm.  Pawtucket, RI.  The crowd was buzzing.  It was sweltering, but people still stopped what they were doing to watch Beckett throw in the bullpen and saunter out to the mound for his warm-up pitches. 

"Is that Josh Beckett?" My six year old asked me expectantly. 

I was sweating bullets, so I only half muffled by condescending tone when I joked "Ah yes, that is why we're here big G.  Do you remember seeing him while we were waiting for tickets?"

"But is that him walking out to the middle of the field?"

We moved on from that little discussion because we finally reached the beer line after the 20 minute wait for hot dogs I knew noone would eat.  His questions would have to wait for those couple of seconds as I take that first sip of ice cold beer.

We barely get back to our place in the left field berm when the top of the first inning ends.  We hear some oohs and ahhs as Beckett mows them down, probably in order.  We settle in as best we can under our shade umbrellas (such tourists!).

We watch a couple of more innings sweltering on the surface of the sun.  Beckett takes care of business in the second inning; nad we dirnk our second beers.  The third inning rolls around and it appears that Beckett begins to labor a bit.  We move to Right Field and I notice that Beckett begins mixing in some off speed pitches.  Before we move, MM predicts that a home run will be hit.  Of course, it was Beckett that gave up the home run as we begin our slow move.  I'm disappointed that Beckett gives up the home run, but I don't think anyone else notices.  My boys are starting to angle for foul balls (even though we're sitting in fair territory)  and my three year old daughter may have passed out on her Mother's lap. 

An hour and a half later, I decide that it's probably time to leave.  Beckett pitched four decent innings giving up only that one home run.  The Pawsox are winning 2-1.  My shirt has now completely changed colors from sweat and the kis drinks spilling on me.  Who knew I'd be the one wanting to leave a baseball game?  We hear that the kids can run the bases at the end of the game, so I begrudgingly agree to stay.  Ultimately, everyone had fun running the bases with the Pawsox mascot giving everyone high-5s. Even Mom got into running the bases. 

Which Beckett are we going to see next week?  I just hope one in a Red Sox uniform.

Photo courtesy of NESN

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The 2010 World Cup in 30 Easy Minutes

The 2010 World Cup is just about finished.  Tomorrow afternoon, Spain's National Team takes on The Netherlands in the biggest international sporting event in four years (of course, everywhere but the U.S.).  We're attending a different sporting event tomorrow afternoon, and frankly 90+ minutes in front of the TV to watch soccer is little too much to ask of the kids.  Instead of intently watching my phone in our seats to catch a score, we decided to determine the winner of the match the American way - by playing the game on the Wii.

The rules are simple.  Spain vs. the Netherlands in a three game series.  My two boys and I would alternate playing for the same team in a three game match against the other team in 2010 FIFA Soccer (EA's in the Game!).  Spain was rated 85.  The Netherlands was rated 80.  So of course we had to be Spain.  We would play at the medium level in 5 minute halves. 

8pm.  Home.  I thought the comedy involved with having the two boys be teammates would entertain my daughter and me in the first game.  Unfortunately, I had to talk my oldest son in playing with his little brother in the first place.  I alternately had to convince my younger son that the medium level wasn't that hard.  He knew better and started to talk about "not playing."  Oh, you're playing little buddy...  I had to fight their urges to fight one another and complain about one not passing to the other a litlle too much to enjoy this game.

Game 1.  Spain includes G and C.

What a debacle.  Spain, by far the best team in EA Sports (and thus my top pick in reality World Cup soccer), was no match for the computer Dutchmen.  I stopped counting yellow cards and fouls once my 6 year old committed his fourth Red Card offense leaving Spain with a mere 7 men left to play.  11 players on 7 is very difficult (and ridiculous; stop slide tackling little man!); and the score reflected the fact that my boys were playing 4 men down.  Netherlands wins 8-1.  After a good scoring opportunity at the 4th minute, goals were pouring down on my boys.  We could hardly contain our excitement - err - our sadness.

Spain - Goals: David Villa 58';  Red Cards: Cap de Vila 26', Sergio Ramos 35', Marchena 55', Alonso 56'.  Yellow Cards:  Puyol 40'.  Missed Penalty Kick - David Villa; 9 shots.

Netherlands - Goals:  v. Persie 6', Van der Voort 15', 47', 68', 89', de Jong 22', Kuyt 30', 54'; Made Penalty Kick - Van der Voort; 25 shots.

Game 2.  Spain includes JMR and C.

Unlike the first game, this was a real nail biter.  The two of us were playing with real focus, as if our lives depended on it Escobar-style.  Yes, this game was real important to the two of us since my son knew that if Spain loses this one, Spain will lose the big match, too.  After getting out to a 3-1 lead, Spain had some defensive lapses (all right Dad had some defensive lapses) and had to hold on for a 3-2 win as the Dutch robots were attacking at the end of the match.

Spain - Goals:  Torres 2', 50', David Villa 67'; Red Card: Marchena 38'; Yellow Card:  Sergio Ramos 35'; 13 shots.

The Netherlands - Goals:  Van der Voort 35', Kuyt 78'; 8 shots.

Game 3.  Spain includes JMR and G.

I had a little pep talk with my 6 year old.  His older brother was getting in his grill about sliding and tackling too often and leading to inevitable yellow and red cards.  "Just use the B and C buttons" I implored.  "OK Dad, I promise."  Another tight match.  Back and forth.  The groans and screams in exultation were numerous.  Unfortunately, Spain came up short as the Netherlands scored in extra time to win 4-3 and take the three game series 2-1.  We were all a little disappointed.

Spain - Goals:  Xavi 10', Torres 56', David Villa 79'. Red Card: Puyol 22'; 8 shots.

The Netherlands - Goals:  Robben 52', v. Persie 70' Van der Voort 84', Kuyt 90'; 12 shots. 

MVP - Although the Series winning score went to Kuyt, Van derr Voort, with his 6 goals takes home the MVP software.  Unfortunately, our series match demonstrates that the Netherlands is going to win in overtime 2-1.  The boys didn't care though, they just wanted to keep playing Wii Soccer.  I'll join them as soon as the blister on my thumb and my broken wrist heal; I promise.

Photograph courtesy of

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Getting Lost in the LeBron James Shuffle

I was so sick of hearing about the LeBron James saga.  No, not about "The Decision."  And, of course that was where he was going to go, I would go to South Beach too over Cleveland - in a "Hearrrrtbeeeat."  I'm talking about all of the media outlets screaming and crying about how much of a narcissistic fool LeBron James was for starring in The Decision in the first place.  You can read all about the following points of view - that it has been a ridiculous circus, Lebron has an enormous ego, LeBron's entourage and ESPN are to blame and of course the expected comparison to Art Modell, who hightailed it out of Cleveland in 1995 to Baltimore of all places.  Even MM used social media to express her opinion that LeBron was a "Narcissistic crybaby."  Curiously absent from the James-bashing was ESPN, probably because they were the media outlet that conceived of this plan almost 2 years ago and got the exclusive rights to show the James decision.  I agree that this spectacle is ego-massaging at its best.

Amid all of the name calling and sweating, one thing has gotten lost though.  LeBron isn't here for you, sports reporters.  He's here for me and all of the other fans of the Cavaliers and the NBA in general.  He's here for my three kids, who buy the hot dogs and jerseys and bug their parents until they buy tickets.  After all, you sports reporters get your tickets for free; I have to pay for my tickets.  I indirectly pay for LeBron's salary, just like I pay for all of the Celtics' salaries - well except for you Sheed, I would like to get my money back from you - and you sports reporters don't.  I would even go so far to say that I pay for sports reporters salaries too. 

As an example, I was listening to 98.5 the Sports Hub in Boston earlier this afternoon before LeBron made his decision.  The bile coming out of the mouths of Tony Mazz and Mike Felger (even more than usual!) was astononishing considering the LeBron James story meant that they didn't have to do any work for the last two days since their content was fed to them on a silver platter.  I don't blame them for their feelings, but guys like these have lost touch with their audience.  We don't care if LeBron James has created a circus or had his entourage stroke his ego.  We just don't care.  What we care about is finding out what games we're going to next year, because my boys favorite player is King James.  And if we're going to games next year it will be against the Heat, because of HIM.

8pm.  Home.  The kids will get to stay up later than usual tonight.  This was the biggest sports story of the year and they would pissed if they missed it because of an imaginary deadline like "bedtime."

"Where do you think LeBron is going to go?"  I ask the boys.

"Heat" they both say simultaneously.  Then my 8 year old pipes in "Or the Bulls, because they are so bad."  I'm not sure where they got this information.

"Why does he always dunk? He's such a show off!" I then hear as they show a montage of his 2009-2010 highlights.  I gently explain that LeBron best game is when he drives to the basketball and does fancy things wiht the basketball.  I then have to ward off requests for the game show "Wipeout."  I hope this starts soon, because I'm in for Wipeout if this doesn't start moving a little bit.

We then watch the cities' reactions and latest buzz.  It amuses me to see Knicks and Bulls fans think that they have a chance; the Sportsnation Poll even suggests that fans from those states still think that LeBron is going there; how charming.  I don't have time to comment further before my 6 year old asks me (after seein Chris Bosh picking up his third banana t-shirt)  "Is Chris Bosh is better than Ray Allen?" No.  "Is Chris Bosh better than Paul Pierce?"  NO!  He then moves on to yelling at his Mother to watch the TV lest she miss the "Decision."

"If he goes to the Heat, I'm rooting for the Heat.  What about you, Dad?"  "If he doesn't stay with the Cavaliers they'll be the worst team ever.  Is your favorite team now the Heat?" 

"I'm not going to root for the Heat.  I love the Celtics."  I explain.  It's clear that ESPN has orchestrated this so well that my kids think that the Heat is the only team in the NBA.

9:30pm.  Finally, we are on pins and needles.  Even my 6 year old rouses from his sleep long enough to hear LeBron say that he is taking his talents to South Beach.  I'm not even sure what that means; I assume that he has picked to play for the Heat.  My wife and I are disappointed.

"I can't believe he taught all of those youngsters sitting in the background about how to stab a bunch of people in the back."  I guess you have to get them used to it early on so they know what to expect when they become adults.

Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk.  I don't care what you have to say, Stu.

My 8 year old and 6 year old then go on to ask me when they can go to a Heat game next year - presumably in Boston.  They then ask if there will be tickets available when they come to Boston.  The inevitable jersey requests soon follow.  "OK, these are the two teams that I'm going to root for, the Heat and the Celtics."  The requests are coming fast and furious now. 

After the kids settle down a bit, I remark that LeBron and Dwyane share the same jersey number.  "No, Dad, Dwyane Wade is #3 and LeBron James is #6;  Mario Chalmers is #6.  You're so stupid!"  Great.  They just gave me an excuse to send them to bed for being fresh to Dad, not before looking at the boys with pride that they are sports trivia nuts.  And not before I record the rest of the special for the boys at their request.  You see, this is about us - the fans.  We have a new team to watch, and even more importantly a new team to boo.  We don't care about anything else tonight.  Bring on the Heat!!

photographs courtesy of

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Where in the World is Jacoby Ellsbury?

We were watching the game last night.  The camera panned the Red Sox dugout during a time of lucidity and focus of the boys and myself.  Upon seeing Josh Beckett in a Red Sox warm up jersey, my 6 year old shrieked "Josh Beckett!  I didn't know he was still on the Red Sox!"

My 8 year old then inquires about Jacoby Ellsbury, who is noticably absent.  "Dad, is Jacoby Ellsbury still on the Red Sox, too?"

I find it strange that Josh Beckett is with the team on a night like this, but noone has seen Jacoby Ellsbury.  "Yes he's still hurt.  He broke his ribs."

"What has it been, Dad?  4 months?  I think he's just being lazy and he's just faking!"  My 8 year old states.  I can't say I blame him for feeling this way.  It seems as though Ellsbury has been on his own schedule for the last six weeks, probably at the direction of his super agent, Scott Boras.  Incidentally, I don't point out to the boys that he returned for a couple of games at the end of May before landing back on the disabled list.  They seemed to be enjoying all of the Ellsbury-bashing.  "He's so stupid!" my six year old concludes.

But exactly where is he, and why is he not with the team?  The answer is Athletes Performance Institute in Arizona.  Does he have cracked ribs or is looking into cryogenics or retirement communities?  Ellsbury has always made an impression that he is a little soft - good or bad - that's our impression.  My 8 year old thinks he's faking his injury for crying out loud.  He should be with the team and rehabbing his injured ribs in Boston.  So what's really going on?

The answer might be in that very-telling ESPN article referred to above.  As the story goes, The Red Sox Team doctor, Tom Gill diagnosed cracked ribs.  After discomfort continued, Ellsbury received a second opinion (on the advice of Scott Boras thinking about arbitration eligibility).  What was discovered was a nother crack in the posterior side of the ribcage.  While everyone was saying the right things, the quotes from the ESPN article suggests that Dr. Gill missed the posterior injury.  Because of this, Ellsbury will end up missing at least half of the season.  Boras and Ellsbury, upset that the team's doctors misdiagnosed the injury, just as Ellsbury's earning power was increasing, took the dog and pony show to Dr. Lewis Yokum and API.  Now Ellsbury won't show up until he is perfectly healthy.  We'll see if it's the right move.

Because the Red Sox are playing well.  Despite numerous injuries in the Outfield, unknown players such as Darnell McDonald and Daniel Nava and career bench players Bill Hall and Eric Patterson are putting up numbers that are not dissimilar to those that Ellsbury would be producing.  I hope Ellsbury gets healthy, but I agree with my 6 year old's assessment. "We don't him, Dad, we have good outfielders already!!"  The Red Sox win-loss record would suggest that that's right.

photograph courtesy of