Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Solving the Boston Blazers 2012 Arena Problem

You remember the promise that I made to the kids when they wanted to see the Boston Blazers play again last year?  You probably don't, but the kids did; and when they asked me to go to a game in January 2012, I "happily" obliged.  I mean who could resist taking impressionable children to watch lap dances, cocked teenagers vomiting everywhere and Dan Dawson and Oh! Cosmo?  But when I went to the Blazer's website to purchase tickets, I read the bad news.  The Boston Blazers have suspended operations as they continue to look for a new arena to play in.  The Boston Blazers have folded!?!  You mean the team isn't playing at all next year?  Are you telling me that the team folded over the Summer of 2011 and I'm just finding out about it now?

Is this the last Blazers game we're going to see?
So the Blazers, negotiating with TD Banknorth Garden officials in the midst of the NBA Lockout, couldn't come to an agreement on leasing the Garden for a handful of home games this Winter?  I honestly find that surprising.  While neither of the games we went to were sell outs, the team brought in 8,000-10,000 fans a game - not bad for a sports that is barely burgeoning out from the shadow of Soccer.  And a lot of the fans that attended the games were teenagers or younger, all wearing their Dawson or Powell jerseys.  How did this get screwed up?  Judging by the lack of clarity of the team's actual status (look at the Team's official Twitter feed and Facebook pages and you wouldn't know the team folded, except for a couple of fan's acerbic comments) and the fact that the entire team's website is just an undated message from the Team's President Doug Reffue espousing the virtue of Blazers' lacrosse with no forwarding information, the reason was all too apparent.  It's a real shame.

But I have an idea that may save Blazers Lacrosse, puts a little life into a struggling venue, and provides a fan base desperate for professional sports to root for an outlet.  Not only that, but the venue's name is a perfect match for the team's name.

Uncasville, CT.  Mohegan Sun.  While the team struggles to partner with a local arena that doesn't serve beer like Conte Forum or is in a slightly undesirable location (think Worcester Centrum or Tsongas Arena), Mohegan Sun Arena is there waiting for another money-making enterprise.  Amidst a struggling economy that has reportedly resulted in a 20% drop in revenues at "the Sun," trying something like the NLL would make a lot of sense.  And with the team out of running for a 2012 schedule (The team's dispersal draft was in September 2011), the arena could juggle its entertainment lineup in 2013 to accommodate 8 home games during a notoriously slow time of year.  Of course, Friday and Saturday nights are popular nights at Mohegan, but games can be scheduled for late afternoon, or early evenings on Saturdays or even on Sundays.

And Connecticut and Rhode Island are lacrosse hotbeds similar to Massachusetts with successful high school lacrosse programs along the Connecticut coastline. Southeastern Connecticut, and all of Connecticut for that matter, is desperate for some professional sports to root for.  One can just tell that UConn's basketball programs are headed for a downturn (scandal for the Men's team and backlash for the Women's team) and these sportsgoers will need another team to cheer.   And while the Connecticut Sun's attendance is below the WNBA average, a professional women's basketball league serves a demographic that doesn't go to a casino on Saturday nights for some shenanigans; it's not a great fit.  Lacrosse would fill that void that the WNBA has created.

A team based in Connecticut may also start drawing interest from metropolitan New York.  Teams based in Rochester and Buffalo just are not going to draw interest from someone living in Queens or Westchester County.  A team, however, based at a casino in Connecticut may draw interest from New York City, particularly if the team conducts some marketing activities in the City.  It will work.

And did I mention the coincidental naming conventions?  The Connecticut Blazers playing at the Sun.  I can just hear the PA announcer call for Dannnnnngerous Dan Dawson and Oh!!! Cosmo.  It's just too perfect.  Contact me when you're ready to find out more, Mr. Reffue.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tim Tebow Meets the New England Patriots - Pats Fans Rejoice

Tim Tebow is finally going to play with the big boys.  After games against the pitiful likes of the Vikings, Chargers and Cutler-less Bears, Tebow is meeting the "bend but only kinda break" defense out of New England.  Sure, the Patriots start a wide receiver at Safety and have another wide receiver come in on passing downs.  And yes, I would pound the over and the Broncos in this game (Brady not only has a losing record against the Broncos, but he has a 1-6 record against Denver, lifetime).  But every Patriots fan I've spoken to is calling for a rout.  I'm not sure about it myself.

First Quarter.  Tebow keeps the ball for two of Denver's first three plays.  Apparently, Denver's strategy will prominently feature "Tebow up the middle," "Tebow left" and "Tebow right." And not three seconds after I write that, I hear boom, bang, boom, McGahee and Johnson both break 20 yard runs; maybe the Broncos don't need Tebow, dammit.  But after Tebow breaks a couple of tackles for the Touchdown, I realize that maybe the Patriots' defense is just God-awful.  To make matters worse, Tebow sends a prayer up to the heavens, teammates surround their savior and Denver fans start taunting the Patriot Defense.  Great.  I can't wait for Simms and Nantz to start telling us how awful the Patriots' defense is.  CAN'T WAIT.  Now I'm wondering how into this game the Patriots are as they try to run a missed PAT back.  Uh guys, you can only do that in college.  My seven year old told me that.

Way to shut the Broncos' fans up as Aaron Hernandez goes for 45 yards on a third and long situation.  Tebow kneels down in prayer.  Chad Ochocinco then catches at 40 yard bomb for a touchdown!  Tebow then kneels down with both knees.  Ochocinco celebrates like he just caught his first touchdown pass, oh right - better late than never.  My screaming and yelling prompts C to come down.

"You're so loud when it comes to that stuff, Dad."  He has a smile on his face, too.  He hates Tebow, just like me.

But literally before I can retort, Tebow leads the Broncos onto another score to make the score 13-7.  This is going to be a long game if we can't stop these guys.  But if they keep up with the wide receiver option, we'll have a chance.

Second Quarter.  After a Denver Field Goal (I would have gone for it on fourth down, myself there) made it 16-7, New England answers with a Hernandez touchdown after Wes Welker's diving catch for a touchdown was overturned on the subsequent replay.  And after a Ninkovich recovered fumble on the ensuing Denver possession, Belichick confounds us all for not challenging the Hernandez non-catch and goes for the field goal to make it 17-16 Patriots.  I would have risked the time out there, but a lead is a lead.  And the Patriots have gone on for 10 unanswered points.

Another takeaway!  Tebow fumbles the ball on a poorly executed pitch and gives the Patriots the ball back again in Denver's territory.  A couple of plays later Brady scores on a keeper to make it 24-16, throwing his shoulder out with his emphatic ball spike (Tom, leave the exaggerated ball spiking for the meatheads.).  I can barely keep up with the back and forth action.  And after a muffed punt for the third second quarter turnover, the Patriots kick the FG and take a 27-16 lead into halftime.  Dare I say that Tebow has us right where he wants us?

Third Quarter.  The Third Quarter is much quieter.  The highlights were a scrambling Tebow running right into Mark Anderson for 10 yard sack coming from his backside.  I openly cheered when that happened, Like this guy gave me the finger at a stop light or something.  And Danny Woodhead (with a big assist from the offensive line) scampers in for a 10 yard touchdown.  Patriots 34-16.  27 unanswered points.  Tebow wishes Jesus was REALLY in the locker room now.

Fourth Quarter.  I don't know how the game can get any more exciting, but here we are in the middle of Tebow time.  Will he be able to lead the Broncos to the comeback?  Well, the First play of the Fourth Quarter is an almost sack for a safety, an almost fumble for a touchdown and ultimately an incomplete pass from Tebow. Denver Punt.  The Patriots seem complicit in the Tebow show though as Tom Brady gets pummeled into the ground by Elvis Dumervil for an 8 yard sack.  New England Punt.

And right on cue, here we go again.  Tebow completes a couple of long passes just before he scores on a QB keeper to pull the Broncos within 11 points.  Jesus Christ, this is killing me.  He's not really going to do this, is he?

Thankfully, my prayers were answered.  as Rob Gronkowski starts to Hulk up on his 38 yard catch and run to put the Patriots immediately back into field goal position.  Hernandez with a couple of long catches and runs himself leads to BenJarvis Green Ellis 2 yard touchdown run.  Tebow is shown on the sideline with a bewildered look on his face (this isn't supposed to happen to me!?!).  Welcome to the Belichick show, prayer boy!  And things are looking really bleak for Tebow as he scrambles himself into a 29 Yard sack!  Welcome to the big time you poor-passing Jesus freak!  Game is finally over.  We have the ball with 4 minutes left and an 18 point lead.  I think this game is over.

Annnd, I'm right.  Mercifully for Broncos fans, the game ends with the Patriots winning by a lopsided margin, 41-23.  Always the one able to summarize things quite succinctly, G, who was asleep during the entire second half, rouses himself at the end of the game, looks at the score and declares very simply:

"Tim Tebow stinks."

And Denver fans all start to shudder at the thought.

photo courtesy of broncostalk.net

Thursday, December 15, 2011

We've Seen Tim Tebow Around Boston Before

This Tim Tebow guy is something else, isn't he?  Most people revile him, everyone else just can't figure him out.  For instance, don't ask my nine year old about "Tebow Time," he'll come after you - he hates Tebow that much.  What we all can agree to is that he's all the NFL is talking about.  Even Peter King, who is never at a loss for words, can't pigeon hole this guy - calling last week's win over the Bears "weird."  And although Tebow holds many of the SEC's Quarterback records (over Peyton Manning and Eli Manning), accounted for 145 touchdowns in essentially three seasons, won the 2007 Heisman Trophy, led the Florida Gators to two NCAA Championships and was a First Round draft pick, hardly anyone can believe what's happening in Denver right now.  Maybe it's the way he wins or the condescending way he believes God has something to do with his football prowess but no matter what, Tebow is the hottest property in the NFL.  Just like I said.

This pass is sailing high and wide, just a hunch...
His professional career started inconspicuously.  He was pegged as a back up when he was drafted in 2010 and management clearly wanted nothing to do with him.  This was especially true when Broncos Coach Josh McDaniels was fired in 2010.  John Elway could barely contain his disdain for the young pious dude.  He was just going to be a role player on a team that was expected to compete for the AFC West Division title. When circumstances led to him being thrust into the starting role, he started winning.  No one expected much from him, as he was just a placeholder - a bridge - to a higher profile player.  But as the wins started piling up, particularly during the recent winning streak, people started taking real notice.  He even revived Willis McGahee from his drunken stupor (or whatever was afflicting him).  Tebow was leading some people to think his presence was divine intervention or Magic.

Magic.  Yeah, we've seen this before around Boston.  Maybe instead of a Heisman-winning Quarterback who no one seemed to like, our Tim Tebow was instead an aging bullpen coach from Walpole, Massachusetts whom everyone liked.  He was management's 342nd choice to manage the Boston Red Sox, though, and was just going to be a bridge until a higher profile manager became available.

But then the winning started.  After Manager John McNamara was fired right before the All Star Break in 1988, this Manager led the Red Sox to win 19 out of 20 wins after the All Star Break, and 24 straight wins at Fenway.  They started calling what was happening "magic" and although the only Gods involved here were the baseball gods, they were Gods nonetheless. He impossibly made Todd Benzinger an important piece to the baseball puzzle, revived his flagging career that seemed to have been stuck since rising through the Sox farm system.  And even though his boss, John Harrington, didn't have big teeth and a Hall of Fame pedigree, he still was not the boss' first choice.  Our Tebow's name?...Joe Morgan.

Led by Mike Greenwell, Bruce Hurst, Roger Clemens and of course Wade Boggs, the Red Sox team that was underachieving all season, was now the darlings of baseball.  And Joe Morgan was given a lot of the credit.  He was able to stoke the stars into playing and eke out some decent performances from role players and aging veterans.  Even Dennis Lamp and Jim Rice showed some signs of life.  And that streak in July? It propelled the 1988 Red Sox to the ALCS, where they lost to the Oakland A's in 4 games.  

After that streak ended and the team finished the year 26-30, no one was talking about Joe Morgan anymore.  He had become just another name associated with the fruitless pursuit called the Boston Red Sox.  He was never able to duplicate that magic.  He led the Red Sox to the 1990 ALCS, again only to be swept by the Oakland A's and his managing career was finished in 1991.  After being let go, Morgan never managed again and retired in his comfortable Walpole home. Morgan Magic is now just a figment of our imagination.

The point being that the magic will eventually end - maybe even this week against the vaunted Pats defense.  Don't get me wrong.  Tebow isn't a bad guy, but he's also not going to remind anyone of the Manning brothers, Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, so yeah, the magic will end, it always does for these guys. 

photos courtesy of orlandosentinel.com and manginphotography.net

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Latest on the Braintree Dave and Buster's Outpost

We've been down this road before.  Yes, the orange and blue road known as Dave and Buster's.  While Dave and Buster's in Providence is usually on our New Year's Day agenda, the full court press was put on us by the children when the Braintree, Massachusetts outpost finally opened last week.  And after the kids brought home some pretty good report cards, we finally relented to their pressure.  We thought the place was going to be opening tomorrow, but when a friend indicated that they were there earlier this week, we thought it would be a good idea to take them for the soft opening.  Plus, it's a great time to be going to the mall - two Saturdays before Christmas...this could be really fun...

Braintree, MA 2pm.  The JMR party mobile was exactly that.  Screaming, excited kids.  Parents with splitting headaches.  In between basketball games 2 and 3.  We were a party on wheels, I'll tell you.  40 bucks in each of the kids' hands and off they went.

We walk up the stairs and the first thing I notice is that the parking lot is not that busy.  Strange.  I thought this place would be teeming with teenagers being adjacent to the mall and all.  The next thing I notice are all the doormen, greeters and managers milling around the front entrance helping customers.  I think it was one manager per child.  I'm not sure if they think we're all stupid, or if the City of Braintree was really cracking down on some of the issues that we took for granted in Providence.  Who knows what a couple of games like Skee Ball and Trivia might do to these teenagers.  Particularly creepy was the Secret Service-like headgear the managers were wearing. 

OK.  We finally power up our cards and sit down in the bar to drink.  The lady I was talking to explained that the City wouldn't let them put a bar in the gameroom area - one of my favorite parts of the Providence restaurant.  We thought we would be ok with that when we were told that we could sit in the bar and play games too.  OK.  Let's try that.  Hmm, they got that one slightly wrong as we spot C seemed to be scolded by one of the Managers with the CIA gear as he's pointing at us twenty feet away.  The manager beckons us over to tell us that we had to accompany our children around the games.  See, in Providence, we could go shopping or see a movie while the kids were playing games and no one would care - although it is Rhode Island I suppose.

But the food was good. The beers were tall and the games spit out tickets, two at a time.  We would be ok.  Some brief reviews from the kids.

C:  Enjoyed the Wheel of Fortune game, especially when his numerous swipes of his power card resulted in hitting the 1000 ticket jackpot.  Enjoyed the french fries.  Disappointed that his lava lamp didn't work.  I wish I could have just bought the lava lamp at the mall, myself.  Also won a huge three pound watch that only a grandmother could love and a life size teddy bear.  I'll be throwing those things out in a couple of weeks.

G:  Spent most of his money allotment on one of the bounce-the-ball-in-a-hole games.  I think he was gone for about 10 minutes when he found me looking for more money.  Jesus.  He had a lot of fun going through the ticket redemption island.  He ended up picking up an Angry Birds stuffed animal and a kickball.

S:  Another bling winner.  I kept trying to talk her into playing the games that spit out the tickets rather than the grabber or coin games, but then i thought that it really doesn't matter as long as she is having fun.  She ended up with some candy and a candy squirt gun.  That Squirt Gun didn't survive the night before Dad threw it out.  Sorry.

Overall, a very good experience.  I was disappointed that the kids couldn't roam around on their own (my 9 year old was more than happy to play the games by himself).  But the kids were entertained, my throwing shoulder aches, and the beers were tall.  Even the manager who scolded C came over and started to talk to S.  She looked at him like he was the Easter Bunny (that's not a good thing), but at least he was pleasant and helpful.  We'll be back.  I don't really have a choice, I think.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Watching the 1984 NBA Championship in 2011

OK, I finally found one good thing about the NBA lockout. The local sports station that owns the TV rights to Boston Celtics' games now had to scramble around to fill in the holes created by the Celtics not actually playing any games.  Tonight, the space filler includes the the Classic Game 7 of the Celtics-Lakers 1984 NBA Championship featuring Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Magic Johnson and the venerable Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Not quite Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett.  But C seemed excited when he came downstairs to watch the game with me.  Join us as we dissect this game.

"They are wearing girlie shorts, shorty shorts!" C chuckles.  "Why are they wearing such shortie shorts, Dad?"  I change the subject as I don't have an adequate explanation. 

I'm not sure what this is all about
Luckily, in the next moment, Larry Bird comes off the bench back into game.  "Hey that's Larry Bird!!"  C is legitimately excited.  I regale him with stories of Bird's magic - the Dominique game, the 60 point game, etc.  "Larry Bird was the best player ever, wasn't he?"  Why yes, he was.

"And is that Magic Johnson...and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.  The Lakers were awesome!  You can't stop the Sky Hook unless you triple team him."  Cam yells as Jabbar scores over Robert Parish with a four foot skyhook.  Hey buddy who are you rooting for - the Celtics or the Lakers?

We then begin to compare Hall of Famers on the teams.  (And no, not the Hall of Fame hair that McHale, Scott Wedman and Danny Ainge had).  The Celtics had Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Dennis Johnson.  The Lakers countered with Magic Johnson, Jabbar, James Worthy and Bob McAdoo.

After a hard foul by Kurt Rambis, we both have a nice chuckle as Tommy Heinsohn discusses the "No lay up rule." A double foul and a three for two foul rule?  Even on national TV Tommy could not be less impartial.  No Tommy point for him.  Dick Stockton earns one though for not laughing at Heinsohn after that ridiculous sequence.  That sequence demonstrates that the quality of basketball back int eh 1980's was much more exciting.  In fact both teams scored at least 100 points in all 7 games.  Seeing the fast breaks up and down the court, I can see why.  Maybe Tommy was just getting confused or something?

After G comes downstairs, we have to start all over again.  yes that Larry Bird.  Yes this is from 1984.  "Is this 1823?"  G asks me.

"No it's 1984" I answer, wondering if he was even listening to my answers to his questions. 

"So who wins Dad?  I'm waiting for him to remember what I said earlier when I turned this show on.  "Just keep watching, the game's almost over." I actually answer.

And as the game ends I keep rewinding the end to show the boys Larry Bird throwing a couple of haymakers trying to get off the Court as the crowd storms the Court.  This is a funny sequence as CBS alternates between Lakers guys dejectedly going the wrong way toward the Celtics locker room as they enter the clubhouse and this ugly dude with his shirt off, wearing cut off shorts and standing on the rim like a jackass celebrating with a couple of women with enormous hair. 

Man I love the 1980's...or the 1820's as G would have you believe.

photo courtesy of ioffer.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

Are the Indianapolis Colts the Worst Team in NFL History?

For the last 13 years, the Indianapolis Colts game has always been one of the highlights of the Patriots' season.  Piped in noise, the AFC Championship comeback, Fourth and Two - almost all of the games have been memorably decided by less than a touchdown.  Not this year, though.  Peyton Manning is hurt and the Suck for Luck Campaign has gained steam as the weeks of futility have piled up.  Even C asked me why the Colts were so bad.  The question is, are the Indianapolis Colts the Worst Team in NFL History?  Are they New Jersey Nets bad?

Fur Coat guy cracked us up.
Another question to consider is whether Peyton Manning is the MVP of the last 10 years.  All the media types were saying that the Colts still had pro bowl-caliber talent - Saturday, Wayne, Freeney, Addai, etc. - they should not be winless.  Did these guys ever think that the aforementioned players are pro bowl caliber because Manning made them that way and in actuality they just suck?  Remember how bad the Patriots were when Brady got hurt?  Oh yeah, I forgot, never mind.

Foxboro, MA 1pm.  It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in December.  Although I might be the only one to think this, I'm glad that the game got flexed to 1pm.  I'm getting too old to be getting home at 2am on a work night.  Besides, who wants to tailgate in the dark?  C came with me - his first regular season Patriots game  - so I was interested in getting his take on the Tailgate and game crowd, as well as how bad the Colts really were.  There would be questions, too.  Was the drunk 55 year old lady who always sits behind our usual seats going to get all fired up?  Will the guy in the old fashioned football helmet fall down the stairs again?  Will we see the guy in the half fur coat, again?  The options are limitless.  But, so long as the McDonald's near our seats is still open, we'll be all set.

The game started inauspiciously as Belichick went into conservation mode early.  Seeking to exercise some sort of demons, I guess, Kevin Faulk was getting the majority of the carries in the First Quarter.  Even after a Faulk fumble was overturned, he continued to get carries.  Green-Ellis, Ridley and Woodhead were all standing there wondering if they had some sort of escalation clause in their contracts that would have been triggered with carries or yardage.  The crowd started to get restless. (Although C would tell you that that was just me; everyone else was fine).  Meanwhile Dan Orlovsky led the Colts to an unsuccessful First Down on the Patriots one.  Manning would never let that happen.  3-0 after the First Quarter.

After an Adam Vinitieri field goal made it 3-3, the Patriots ended  the half scoring two touchdowns, one by Benjarvis Green-Ellis and the other by the Patriots' 2011 MVP Rob Gronkowski.  The one interesting thing about the Second Quarter was the reception that Vinitieri received.  Who cares that he was booed?  He'll get into the Patriots Hall of Fame.  Look at it this way - if you're wife gave birth to three wonderful children and then a couple of years later left you for a guy with more money, how would you feel?  I booed him, too.  Patriots 17-3.

The Third Quarter played out similar to the Second Quarter.  Two more touchdowns by Gronkowski to make it 31-3.  Some more ineptitude ensued every time the Colts touched the ball.  They can't move the ball at all against the Patriots' Bead Curtain defense.  My cover is looking good and C has only asked me for McDonald's twice.

Ah, but the good time didn't last.  The Fourth Quarter saw three touchdowns unanswered by the Colts, including a miracle 33 yard touchdown by Pierre Garcon with just 30 seconds left.  My cover went to concern after the first touchdown, to praying for a miracle garbage touchdown after the second touchdown to outright despair after the third touchdown.  The game all of a sudden was in doubt until Deion Branch recovered an onside kick with 20 seconds left to bring the game to an end.  Final score 31-24.  Pretty good for the worst team in NFL history.

As we were leaving, I asked C if he thought the Colts were the worst team ever.  He looked at me, after getting over his distress after having to leave early, and said "They looked OK to me."

They'll be even better when they trade Andrew Luck for some team's entire draft next spring.  No matter what I might think, the Colts aren't going to be the worst team for long.