Monday, December 31, 2012

How to win Double Dare at the Nick Hotel

It all started with a relaxing afternoon at the pool, I thought.  We were sitting at the Lagoon Pool at the Nickelodeon Hotel in Orlando, and we were trying to think of something to do with the kids that night.  During some sort of sliming experience at the pool, we learned of Double Dare Live at the studio that night.  We were too late to register this afternoon, but we vowed to register the next day.  Because they only required one adult and one child per team, I gracefully bowed out and let LC take the fall.  On the other hand, DLG was too young and C wanted nothing to do with slime or playing a game show, so G stepped up to fill out the Sliminators' roster.  We were ready for registration.  LC and G would represent team JMR!

7pm.  Orlando, FL.  It had been 25 years since Double Dare actually aired on Nickelodeon, and I guess that means that I forgot the rules.  Our team actually consisted of four people.  On our team is another Mother and their son.  We were going to face two Dads and their sons, all wearing blue.  The crowd, numbering around 200, starts to buzz.  Make the Pie Fly.

Now Double Dare's rules are simple.  Trivia questions are asked and if the answers are not given, the responding team may "dare" the other team.  If that other team can't answer, they may "double dare" the first team.  If the answer is still unknown, then the first team must perform a physical challenge which usually ends up with messiness and slime ensuing.  Presuming this is the same as the TV show, there will be a couple of absurdly hard questions that purposely lead to the physical challenges, as that is the best part of the show.  Who ever wins with the most points then gets to the play in the final challenge.  I asked DLG not to yell out any of the answers.  She nodded in bewilderment.

Three consecutive strikes is known as what?  Those are the kinds of questions these teams will get.  I guess we as Americans are really stupid.  By the way...the answer is Turkey.

Mark Summers, the original host of Double Dare, also makes a video cameo asking about The Hobbit. 

I miss an answer about U.S. Presidents, so I guess I am a stupid American, but at least I don't have to dress up like a human hot dog, complete with full starch bun and Nickelodeon "mustard."  C continues to look at me in embarrassment as I actively root for team Red.

"Will you stop yelling, Dad" C asks pleads.  The embarrassment is written all over his face.

Despite my encouragement, Team Red is losing 80 to 40 as we start Round Two.  G finally gets to start the round and say something.  He has to pick a video featuring either iCarly, Victorious or Big Time Rush.  G has seen every episode of iCarly and Victorious so this is a shoe in for him.  Unfortunately, he picks Big Time Rush!  Nooooooooooo!?!!  Now I can't get the song out of my head "Oh you're such a turd.  You smell like like a turd..."  Team Red now trails 100 points to 60 points as they can't answer the question.

Double Dare Winners Emerge
As we move forward, the Blue Team must also perform the second physical challenge as they cannot answer the next question correctly.  Even I knew Florida became a state in 1845.  I sense that the game is coming down to whether the Blue Team can complete this Physical Challenge.  If the Blue Team complete this ring challenge in time, they win.  If they miss it, the Red Team wins.  The tension builds.  And....the Blue Team fails; TEAM RED wins!!  Onto the Double Dare Obstacle Course!  I'm so excited!

8pm.  The Obstacle Course begins nicely as G solves the plastic ball game and finds the first flag and hands it to Mom.  After the other team members find the other flags in a plate of Nachos and a big giant nose nostril, G then finds the second flag in the bathtub.  When Mom finds the last flag among a gaggle of balloons, Team Red wins and the two kids win the slime reward.  Thanks Brian and Brad.

After the show, as he's picks the green slime from his sneakers, G asks me excitedly. "Dad, what did we win?"

"Nothing.  Congratulations!"

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Celtics' Last Christmas Day Game Ever?

Since the Boston Celtics won the KG Sweepstakes back in 2007, the Celtics have been a fixture on the NBA's Christmas Day slate of games.  And ever since, we've been eagerly waiting for the games.  We open presents on Christmas morning, and then wait for the presents in the afternoon from KG, Ray Allen's traitorous body, and Paul Pierce.  One year we even traveled all of the way to Orlando to watch the game in 2009.  Ubuntu was strong back then, even if Doc Rivers believes that it happened "4 or 5 years ago".

The NBA showcases its best players and teams on Christmas Day, it even featured the Providence Steamrollers back in 1947.  The Celtics have been one of those teams now for 6 years.  But with a paltry 13-13 record leading up to this year's tilt with the Brooklyn Nets, the most intriguing thing about this game might just be whether this is the Celtics' last game on Christmas Day for a while.  Well, unless you like fights and ejections in the NBA, then you might like this Celtics-Nets games...for entirely different reasons.

Before Rondo yelled "Fight!"
See, the Celtics are mired in 8th place in the Eastern Conference, just one game ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers for that final playoff spot.  And things are just going to get worse, before they get better.  Even though KG is signed for two more years, he's on his last legs in his hall of fame career.  Rajon Rondo is such a head case, that he might be unloaded for a first round draft choice next year.  Paul Pierce has a player option for the 2013--14 season and is expected to exercise his option to stay, but after 15 seasons, he's ready to hang them up.  The rest of this team, while featuring some nice complimentary pieces like Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, don't really have a Plan B when Pierce and KG are done.  And no, Fab Melo is not the answer.  Suspicious signings like Jason Terry, Leandro Barbosa and Courtney Lee only serve to underscore the free fall the Celtics actually appear to be in.

And the NBA doesn't want mediocre teams on its marquee day, so the League might be moving on after the 2012-13 season.

Justin Bieber singing Little Drummer Boy before the Celtics-Nets game?   Add to that the fact that ESPN only wants to talk about the fight in that game last month.  Yep, things are getting pretty iffy in here.

Welcome to the Barclays Center!  We pick up the action in the middle of the Second Quarter with the Celtics leading the Nets 48-34.  Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger are leading the team in scoring with 7 and 9 points each.  The Nets seem to have come out flat and the crowd appears restless.  The Celtics take the Second Quarter by 16 points after a slow First Quarter (Apparently) and lead the Nets at halftime, 56-42.  Sullinger and Rondo both lead the team with 10 points and KG has 8 points.

The 3rd Quarter is much like the Second Quarter with the uneven pace continuing.  The Celtics go up by 21, then a brief run from the Nets leads to them only trailing by 8 midway through the Quarter.  Another run by the Celtics then pushed the game back to 15 by the end of the Quarter.  The Fourth Quarter also features some more pushing and shoving as Gerald Wallace puts on his thug mask yet again and tries to de-pants KG after a foul under the Nets hoop, with the lame excuse of trying to keep his balance.  Some pushing and shoving only led to a couple of silly Technicals and nothing more.  Ultimately, the Nets don't put up much of a fight as the Celtics prevail 93-76 in a fairly easy walkover.  Worse yet, Kris Humphries decides to keep the skirt on and registers a DNP.  Hmmph.

The Celtics may not be Christmas Day material much longer, but they sure are fighting for every last chance at remaining a marquee team.  And it can't be any worse then the Rockets and Bulls later tonight.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Sports Museum of Boston is here?

I walked by the Sports Museum of Boston at least a dozen times in my life.  I've sat in the club seats to see the Bruins and Celtics numerous times (By invitation of course).  I've sat in the luxury boxes here and there over the last 10 years.  In fact, I've walked by the Sports Museum many times over, without ever really noticing that I was in the midst of New England Sports history.

I had always wanted to go to the Sports Museum - even when it was housed in Cambridge.  I thought it would be interesting to see the history of Boston Sports - including the Marathon and the Beanpot tournament - without some of the fanfare that one got at the Patriots Hall of Fame, or even in Cooperstown.  I was looking for something that focused on history and not on flash.  So when we ventured to North Station the other day, I thought I would be going into the catacombs of the Garden into a room or two of Boston history, just like I thought in my mind.  I even said to C and G that we were going to a place that is off limits for most people unless you get a ticket to the Sports Museum.  Maybe even Paul Pierce hadn't been here!  The kids were intrigued.

Little did I know that I was right.  It is for the few privileged, but for reasons different than what I thought.  We purchased tickets at the box office and then were told to go around the corner and someone would meet us to let us in.  LC investigated a door like structure that looked like a secret doorway.  It was an early Saturday morning and no one was around the Garden or in North Station so it was a little disconcerting.  Were we in the right place?  But when someone greeted us at the door that actually leads to Legends, I did a double take.  Are we going one level above the luxury boxes?  Is there some sort of room behind concessions that I had never noticed before?  The kids were excited but also a little wary.  Museums are not really their thing, so if I showed any apprehension, that was going dampen spirits and raise the stress.

When we got to the 5th Floor Luxury Boxes, the woman told us that we could go around the fifth floor and sixth floor and not to go anywhere else.  Use the giant picture of KG as your guide.  So you mean I have walked by this museum all these times without noticing a thing?  I then took notice of all of the jerseys behind glass cases and all of the pictures hanging on the walls.  I never noticed these historical items before.  The kids started to run around, maybe stopping and seeing a Gronk jersey or a picture of David Ortiz, but just soaking up enough to answer my quiz after we were done.  I have never seen the Garden like this.  Except for this one woman and a janitor, we were the only ones in this place...the entire place.

I look around and enter one of the sections to see what the Garden looks like when it is COMPLETELY empty.  C follows me and immediately yells "Hello" to hear his echo.  I see a stair case that could take us from our spot all of the way down to the floor.  Maybe LC could distract the "curator" while I take the kids down to the floor to take a picture at half court.  That thought was fleeting however as the woman looks up a couple of times at us (mostly for all of the noise that the kids were making chasing each other around).

So we start to look more closely at all of the artifacts.  The Museum is currently undergoing some renovations, but most of the artifacts are still behind the glass cases on these two floors.  They are split into each of the four major teams, then the Museum also has exhibits on the Boston Marathon, the Beanpot (and other college athletics).  I think C's favorite part was sitting in the obstructed seat that is adjacent to the group of seats from the Old Boston Garden.  G's favorite part of the tour was seeing the empty basketball court.  He was psyched to see that point of view.  In about an hour we were out of there and on with our day.

Then G caps it all of really nicely as we were waiting at the KG elevator to leave. 

"I'm going to have my jersey hung up here too, Dad." He states matter-of-factly to me in a hushed tone.

Maybe...you never know.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Basketball Glory Days

Below is G's description of his rec basketball league and team.  He has been asking me for a couple of weeks now to write another journal entry.  Tonight is his lucky night.

In G's words... 

Avery Bradley - His favorite player?
I am playing REC basketball. It is like everybody from my home town comes to the High school to play basketball. There is five teams in my league. The five teams are red, dark green, gray, dark blue and brown.  My teammates are Brendan, Christian, Michael, Johnny, Ryan, Andrew, Sam, Justin, Willie, and Quinn.

Our first game we won 22 to 2. The gray team won their game 24 to 4.  But I think dark green is the best team.  The red team had a buy week.  I got 4 points,2 reabounds and 1 assist. We play on 10 feet hoops. We play in the big gym.  Last year we played in the small gym with 7 feet hoops.  Michael got 6 points. Christian got 4 points. Johnny got 2 points. Brendan got 4 points.

My mom and dad and brother and Mr. Kinsley are coaches. We do layup drills. We  have to put our right knee up and right arm up and you have to make it to do it right.

That is why basketball is so important.

There you have it.                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sports Illustrated Football's Greatest Plays Reviewed

Another book fair at school means another 30 bucks wasted...usually.  We usually fork over our hard earned money so DLG can buy a shark book that she's too scared to read at home, or so C can buy a basketball book, a copy of which is already in his room.  This year, G actually purchased a book that was interesting to read.  Sports Illustrated Football's Greatest.  A picture coffee book.  Yes my 8 year old son just bought a coffee table book.

Now the book is chock full of lists like footballs greatest wide receiver and teams.  But one list really stood out.  Football's Greatest Plays.  This afforded us a great opportunity to look at some of football's history (which interests me) and perhaps will get G excited about football even more.

Immaculate Reception.  G loved this play.  Franco Harris catches a ball at his shoe tips after it ricochets off of the primary receiver.

"It looked like he was out of bounds right before he scored."  Not even close but I liked his thinking (he's not a big Steelers fan). 

David Tyree's Catch.  No need to dwell on this.  "How did he catch that?"  Luck.  "He caught it on his helmet."  "Is David Tyree still playing?"  No, because he's terrible.

The Catch.  How is Montana a great quarterback he had three interceptions in that game.  When you watch that play, it's certainly iconic, but not one of the best plays of all time.

Miracle at the Meadowlands.  That was cool.  "But why didn't he just take a knee?"  Even my 8 year old son called out these guys.

Santonio Holmes catch in the Super Bowl.  Yawn.

Music City Miracle. Paul Maguire and Joe Thiesmann and Wade Phillips were all involved in this play?  Outstanding.  I loved how the entire stadium surrounded the referee as he was under the hood reviewing the call.  G thought that the quarterback made a great throw.  And by the way, that was a LATERAL!

James Harrison's Return for a Touchdown.  Seriously, 2 of the top 10 plays of all time are from the Steelers-Cardinals Super Bowl?  Could they not get rights to any other games?

The Tackle.  Dyson was involved again on another play involving the 1999 Tennessee Titans.  Mike Jones made a great play in this super bowl

Lynn Swann's catch.  Meh.  I do notice though that the Steelers are involved in 4 of the top 10 plays of all time.  Where is Adam Vinitieri's field goals.  What about Wide Right?

Drew Pearson Hail Mary.  That was offensive pass interference, but that's OK.

Now where will that book be in December?  Yes, you're right.  It will be in a drawer somewhere collecting dust.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Mike Napoli is the Red Sox Best Option?

Is Mike Napoli on the way to Boston?  Jeez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia cannot catch a break.  C and G both think that he strikes out way too much, the Red Sox bring it yet another catcher to share duties with him (David Ross), the Red Sox highly touted prospect always seems to be Ryan Lavarnway, even though he has been highly-touted for about 8 years and now, the Red Sox are seriously courting Mike Napoli to takes some catching away from him and to play some First Base.

But What's wrong with Saltalamacchia?  Or more importantly, what's so great about Mike Napoli?  Consider these 2011 statistics...

24 HRs 56 RBIs .227 BA .343 OBP 110 OPS+

Saltalamacchia didn't have that bad of a year did he?  Except that these aren't Saltalamacchia's statistics, they're Napoli's playing in a batter friendly Rangers Ballpark.  The Rangers didn't even bother extending Napoli a contract for 2013  meaning that if Napoli signs somewhere else, the Rangers won't get any compensation.  Now Napoli is reportedly trying to squeeze a fourth year from the Red Sox while Saltalamacchia is left twisting in the wind.  But how can a guy be so important if his own team won't even offer him a deal?

Don't get me wrong.  Napoli is a decent, if not outstanding, player.  He's a pretty good clubhouse guy.  He has hit 9 home runs in 24 career games at Fenway Park, and his swing is tailor made for the Green Monster.  And the Red Sox do have a huge hole at First Base now that Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez have both been shipped out of Town.

But is Napoli the Red Sox's best option for replacing Gonzalez' bat?  Are things that bad in the free agent market that the Red Sox are seriously considering giving 40 million dollars to someone like Napoli believing that will solve a lot of their problems?   

And is Saltalamacchia now going to be the next one shipped out of Town?  With Lavarnway, David Ross and Jonny Gomes in the fold already and Napoli perhaps joining them, the Red Sox are rich in no-field, big hit hitters at catcher/first base.

It's going to be a long 2013 campaign at Fenway, unfortunately.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Celtics Now Have The Brooklyn Nets to Hate

It wasn't that long ago that the Celtics only major rival in these parts was the New York Knicks.  Yes, I know about the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers, but those aren't geographic rivals, they are rivals of convenience, almost made up for television.  Geographic rivals, especially between New York City and Boston, take on a new dimension.  There is hatred amongst fans, players and media alike.  The games just meant a little more when the opponent was New York City.  I really don't fee that with LA or Miami.

Before this year, it was just the Knicks.  Now there are two teams in New York City that can fight each other and fight the Celtics.  When the Brooklyn Nets were in New Jersey, they were every bit as futile as their poor record would indicate.  We went to the Celtics - Nets game a couple of years ago, right when the Nets were challenging the 76ers record for fewest wins in a season and determined that indeed they were the worst team in the NBA.  Things have changed a lot since that cold, winter night back in 2010.  The Nets were purchased by Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov back in 2010 and he immediately made wholesale changes, using his vast oil resources to change a moribund franchise into a go-to basketball destination.  One of those changes was to move with Jay-Z to Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn from NJ.  New York State of Mind and all. 

More importantly, the personnel has changed as well.  Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez now lead a team that is 4-2 in the Atlantic Division, percentage points ahead of the Celtics.  No longer are the Brooklyn Nets the Celtics' little baby, they are a legitimate team looking to compete with the Celtics and the New York Knicks for the coveted Atlantic Division spot in the playoffs (meaning the third seed).  I mean this team was 22-44 last year!

C and G are even fascinated enough to join me for this game.  And LC joins in if only to see some drama with Kris Humphries and the Kardashians (They split up a long time ago, sweetheart, I don't think any of them will be there - no matter where Dash might be).

7:30pm.  Welcome to the Barclays Center.  Nothing like a European Bank sponsoring an arena in Flatbush.  Welcome to the USA! 

Rajon Rondo is out with a bad ankle, meaning Leandro Barbosa takes the starting spot.  Immediately I think he will have a bad game since he can't come in in the Fourth Quarter and light things up, he will probably end up with 10 points on 3-12 shooting.  The Celtics are also playing a second game in two nights, which is not good for an old franchise like the Boston Celtics. 

Brooklyn, itself comes out in the most drab Black and White home uniforms.  They definitely don't look like they will light anything up.  The drabness is almost to the point that the simple design is brilliant.  I guess it's an ode to the old Brooklyn Dodgers?  The funny thing is, is that they show the banners up in the rafters and they all have the Nets colors.  Not many championship banners hanging there, by the way.  And no I don't really care about the ABA Championships.

I love the pre-game analysis about the Celtics once having the biggest team in the league with Shaq, Jermaine O'Neal and Kendrick Perkins - uh...they never played together...But in listening to Marv Albert, I'll let Steve Kerr go.  It's ok. 

The crowd seems a little more subdued than one would expect though.  I guess, for a new franchise, situated just a couple of miles from the home of another team, the team has to generate some new fans.  I'm curious whether Brooklyn-ites actually root for the Nets, rather than the Knicks.  Welcome to the new New York.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Not Everyone Can Win the Super Bowl

G now knows how the Patriots feel.  And the Vikings and the Buffalo Bills, too.  Anyone can MAKE the Super Bowl, but not everyone can win the Super Bowl once they get there.

It all started back in the end of July.  I had just got done doing double duty coaching little league and summer baseball for C and G.  I was also an assistant for DLG's Tee Ball team (Mom was going to coach that team, thank you very much).  I had coached G last year as a 2nd Grader in football, but only in an assistant's capacity.  Because of that "experience," I was named head coach of the 3rd Grade team this year the last week of July.  My first thought was that we needed to improve on our 0-7 campaign last year.  Well my first thought was actually how I was going to pull this off while busy at work.  My second thought, was improving our record.

What followed was three weeks of intensive coaching and league requirements.  I felt like I was on a job interview when I first met the League President on a warm summer afternoon at the field.  I grabbed the roster and the equipment bag and started doing some game and practice planning in my head as he was explaining the dos and don't of coaching in this league (Had my reputation from baseball proceeded me?).  That job interview turned into a full time job, I soon found out.

And as the days turned into weeks leading into our first game, I had a feeling that we were going to be pretty good.  Maybe even a playoff team.  We had a good QB, a good running back and a lot of aggressive kids who wanted to play defense.  G was our starting Right Tight End, and for those of you who know youth football, that's the position that the kid who can catch a pass plays.  And G can really catch a pass.  And while 87 was unavailable (Gronkowski's number is popular in our league), he was just as psyched to get 83, Wes Welker's number.

Not even an uneven performance in our first game could deter my confidence.  That game turned out to be the only game we lost in the regular season, going 6-1-1 over our 8 game schedule.  We ended up winning the coin toss to be the 1st seed and went into the playoffs as the 1st place team. 

In our first playoff game, we played probably our best game, beating a tough East Bridgewater team 26-0.  But did we peak too early?  The week before the Super Bowl was met by a Nor'easter, practices in gyms rather than our normal field, a pasta dinner the night before the game and a police escort for our team bus the afternoon of the game.

I think we probably did peak a little early.  We looked flat during the pregame warm ups.  Even our pregame speeches fell on somewhat deaf ears.  But our kids found a way to stay in the game.  After scoring a touch down in our first series, we could not get anything else going as we went into the half tied at 6.  When our opponent came out and scored a quick touch down to start the second half, I knew that we were going to be facing a tough up hill battle.  The team ended up losing the Super Bowl 12-6.  The kids made a valiant effort, we just ran out of time.

So now off season planning has begun.  Off season work outs will be instituted.  I want to do some weight training as well, but that just sounds psychotic.  I won't go that far.

Until my kids get into the 5th Grade, that is.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Post-Ray Allen Celtics Don't Look So Hot

Who knew that Ray Allen was the glue that held the Ubuntu together?  Who knew that Ray Allen's faulty ankles would actually be akin to gold in our fair city?  Who knew that, without Ray Allen, there really isn't anyone on the Celtics who can actually shoot the basketball?  (Well actually I did.)  Who knew that we would miss Ray Allen so much.

And now the Celtics, one year older and one more year removed from their great NBA Championship in 2008, just look old and tired.  And in their first game, they have to play the reigning Champions, the Mimi Heat.  The same Miami Heat that brought Ray Allen in as a free agent over the off season. 

8pm.  I'm watching to make sure that the players get their butts in gear so that they can start the game within the 90 second rule instituted to stop LeBron James from his ridiculous chalk throw..

"Dad?" C asks me as he flipping through his Encyclopedia om Immaturity Book, "Do you like LeBron James?"

"No." I deadpan.

"Do you like Dwyane Wade?" he continues.

"Nope." I answer.

"What about Chris Bosh?"  I'm incredulous at this point.

"No!  Do you like Chris Bosh?" I counter.  When he gives me a look of disgust, I figure that he has seen the same pictures of Bosh crying like a schoolgirl that I have over the last 12 months.  Case closed.

The Celtics start well.  A couple of blocks on Brandon Bass leads to a transition 3 pointer by Shane Battier.  Perhaps some Heat fans can just spit on Lucky Leprechaun.  Interestingly enough, Courtney Lee is in the starting lineup.  I would have expected Jason Terry or Jeff Green in the starting lineup.  But after that, a couple of big buckets from Paul Pierce leads to a 10-5 Celtics lead.  A Courtney Lee Three pointer gives the Celtics a 17-14 lead.

At the 2:45 mark in the First Quarter, Ray Allen comes in.  He hits a 3 pointer right after KG gives him the cold shoulder (Ubuntu!) and then hits two free throws while the Heat crowd starts to chant "We love Ray, We Love Ray!"  Great.  Heat leads 31-25 after 1.

The Second Quarter starts with Jeff Green, Jason Terry, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa.  On paper, the Celtics seem to have a decent bench.  On paper.  Unfortunately, I doubt any of these guys are going to be playing at the end of the year.  And unbelievably, the Celtics are leading the Heat in fast break points midway through the 2nd Quarter, 10-4.  Notwithstanding the Celtics's play they continue to trail after at the half, 62-54.

As C goes to bed for the beginning of the Second Half, the Celtics roll out to a 7-0 start to cut the lead to 3 points.  And the Heat counter punch to push the lead back to 11 with 4 minutes left in the Quarter.  Rondo gets called for a technical foul screaming at a referee for failing to call a foul on Dwyane Wade.  Even Rashard Lewis gets in the action and Miami ends the 3rd Quarter on an 11-2 run.  Heat 93 Celtics 76.  Ugh.

Even Leandro Barbosa's hot hand and LeBron's "cramps" can't stop the Miami onslaught.  But wait! With 2 minutes left, the Celtics shave the lead down to 4.  Ultimately, teh Celtics can't close any further.   Rondo gets all feisty at the end and gets a Flagrant Foul called against him.  Celtics lose 120-107.

Welcome to post-Ray Allen Basketball.  Ubuntu!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Surviving Hurricane Sandy with Pumpkins

A little bit of a change is due.  Sports and Pop Culture takes a back seat on days like this.  I am writing this while hunkering down in the basement as Hurricane Sandy barrels into Atlantic City - some 300 miles away.  They are calling it a hurricane within a Noreaster.  A Category 2 Hurricane a couple of days before November?  That really bums me out.  And no matter what you call it, it is just a pain in the neck. 

Hurricane Sandy from the Back Door
The kids are home from school, the trees are blowing menacingly outside, blown by a South Wind that threatens our house with giant trees that I never liked in the first place, and the Weather Channel has been on more in the last 12 hours than the last 12 months.  I'm closely monitoring the water levels here in the basement and I'm searching for batteries, candles and flashlights that work.  Damn these corroded batteries!  Oh - by the way -  no more Governor Cuomo and no more Jim Cantore and Mike Siedel! 

But when you live in a seaside community like we do, just three miles from some of the most famous beaches in the Northeast, these kinds of inconveniences are the cost of doing business here.  And it's not like this is the first rodeo.  The Blizzard of 78, the No Name Storm, Hurricane Gloria and Hurricane Bob - even Hurricane Irene last August all caused the same consternation in these parts.  So much so, that weathermen and reporters alike come to our Town to report on the flooding and the waves.  I see the same old salty seamen interviewed on these stations with every storm.  Just like clockwork.

But back to the kids.  They just got done playing football games the day before (as the storm was just starting to kick up) and were excited for the day off from school.  A lot more excited than we were.  But after about 3 hours of watching TV and playing video games, their excitement turned into boredom.  Thankfully, with this "Frankenstorm" came some pumpkin carving.

Even a window blowing in didn't stop the carving activities.  It just freaked them out until Dad repaired the situation.  (Cue This Old House music)

Now Pumpkin carving means something a little bit different for everyone.  For us, pumpkin carving means some nasty pumpkins and kid free for all as the little pumpkin carving knives are wielded like little gremlin people knives.  And it occupied them while the wind was blowing and the power was flickering on and off. 

Another storm that they'll remember for the rest of their lives.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Life in the Celtics' Luxury Box

After a long day of football, I was looking forward to just sitting on the couch.  But I had forgotten that G was invited to a buddy's 9th birthday party after his football game.  Now it wasn't any old party at the place down the street, this party was going to be at a Celtic preseason game, and G was so pumped that he wouldn't stop talking about it all weekend.  I wasn't sure what to expect myself as one of the chaperones.  G was telling me we were going to get autographs at halftime.  He also told me we were going to go down on the floor after the game and shoot baskets.  Both time I just shrugged my shoulders.  OK, big man - whatever you say.

And G was convinced that we were going to do this.  He even started to look around for a "autograph" book; finally settling on a little notebook that LC used to write notes down during the day.  It was a rag tag, makeshift little notebook.  He was so determined though to find something to write autographs on, that I vowed, if were actually going to go somewhere at halftime, to buy him a basketball or program.

Boston, MA. 7pm.  As we drive into the players parking lot, past the huge SUVs and the security guards, I couldn't help but notice that the kids were a rag tag mix of green Celtics shirts, green beads, green face paint and green pom poms (really).  I wasn't sure if this was a basketball game or "Bring it On 3."  We walk in a secret passageway (OK, the side door) and go up the stairs.  I soon realize that we are heading up to the club seats level.  Maybe we're hitting a luxury box or maybe we're going to the club seats.  G looks around and starts to talk about how he recognizes where we are.  Despite the fact that I haven't been up here since I stopped working in Boston 10 years ago.  I'm not sure when G-Hollywood was here, but I play along.

"Dad, remember those seats from the last time we were here?" He tells me as we walk by some old seats presumably from the old Boston Garden.

"Yep."  (Nope)  "Pretty cool, G!"

Luxury Box it is.  We arrive - all 20 kids and a handful of parents.  The staff helping us looks a little worried.  And I frankly don't blame them.  We're a loud, intimidating bunch.  But the kids soon settle down as the food arrives.  And we actually start watching the game - the Patriots game as it has gone to Overtime against the Jets - so we are living large right now.

To the boys dismay, we find out that Lucky the Leprechaun was in China right now, but the Celtics Cheerleaders come to cheer us up.  They too look downright frightened as 20 8 and 9 year old boys start getting together to take a group picture with them.  Then the individual pictures ensue.  Everyone forgets that Lucky is in Asia.

Now we finally start watching the game.  It's the Celtics last preseason game against the 76ers.  I have to be honest, I'm not sure who some of these players are after the starters.  Jason Terry was out.  Courtney Lee, Fab Melo and Jared Sullinger I recognize.  Other than that, who the Hell are Kurz, Joseph and Downs?  Needless to say, the Celtics took most of the game off and ended up losing to the Sixers 88-79.  Thank goodness there are cupcakes to take the boys minds off of the loss.

But even the day after the game, G still talks about the awesome game with his buddies.  Not bad.  Now we actually do have that memory of the Luxury Box.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Essence of a Youth Football Tailgate

We are in full swing of football season.  When one has two boys (ages 10 and 8) that need to have their fall afternoons filled with some sort of activity, football is a natural reaction.  And a reaction (not a selection) it really is.  Football practice three days a week.  Two football games during the weekend.  And add the fact that I am coach of my 8 year old's team, it makes for a busy season.  We barely have time to breathe.

One of the few things that is football-related that does not require me to spend too much time in thought watching film, managing the team or working within a league system is the proverbial tail gate.  I want to have it be an annual tradition for my team.  We don't have to do it every game.  We simply pick a late afternoon game, and plan the day around it.  I let others take the lead and bring the food and drinks.  I am secretly hoping that someone will bring a bottle of beer that I can hide in my car for after the game.

Our Tailgate did NOT look like this!
Now our "tailgate" has a different connotation than it does at a place like Foxborough.  We aren't parked behind a liquor store playing corn hole in the mud, like we would be for a Patriots-Jets game.  We aren't dodging the drunk 55 year old guys who revolve their entire lives around the Sunday morning and afternoon tailgate and piling our cans of beer on the light stanchion right before you cross the underpass - like we would at Foxborough. Instead we drive up in our cars, put out tables and food and watch the kids play.  I wouldn't let them (the kids that is) eat too much food - I mean we have a big game this afternoon, against one of our hated rivals.  I don't want any kids puking on the practice field because of an array of cupcakes, pizza and Jolly Ranchers.

So we continue to watch the kids.  Perhaps the soda and candy has gotten them hyped up because not they are jumping up and down playing a unique form of leap frog.  I'm just happy that I can talk to people and not have to talk about football.  I love it, but I like to talk about other things too once in a while.

And this is actually my second tailgate of the day, tailgating after the morning game with the Junior Varsity team.  My stomach is full of bagels and Diet Coke.  I think my belly hurts more than any other.

But after a little while, I lead the kids up to the practice field behind the school so we can get our warm ups in.  We'll be ready for this game.  Jolly Ranchers, pizza and all.  We leave the tailgate to the field and I see the other parents and kids continue the revelry.  Mission accomplished (although no one brought me a bottle of beer for after the game).

This is a tailgate I would gladly bring my kids to.  More to come.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Natural Doesn't Have Any Fans Here

I kept talking about how the Natural was the best baseball movie ever made.  It was about a player that time passed by who took one last stab at baseball stardom at the ripe old age of 35 (although Redford is about 55 in this movie) and became one of the most prolific hitters in fake baseball history.  It's a story of redemption, lost love and America's pastime.  How could the boys not love it?

"Is it even better than Major League, Dad?" C asked me in reference to the "edited for content" version of the Charlie Sheen barnburner that he considers his favorite movie.

"Yes, of course it is."  Major League was a good movie, but come on.

"Dad, I thought Field of Dreams was your favorite baseball movie."  I then explained to him that Field of Dreams was my favorite movie, not baseball movie - it's really not a movie about baseball.  Hey wait, why don't the two of you boys sit down and be quiet?

We arrive at the 30 minute mark of the move, just as Roy Hobbs (Redford) joins the New York Knights during a dreadful stretch in which Bump Bailey is throwing the games so that the nefarious owner can move the team after the season and freeze out the Manager who had to give up a portion of his ownership in the team.  I guess this movie is a lot like Major League.
  • Nefarious Owner
  • Player who is way too old to play baseball (Roy Hobbs and Eddie Harris)
  • Bad Team that turns good after new player (Roy Hobbs and "Wild Thing" Rick Vaughn)
  • Annoying Love Interest (Glenn Close and Rene Russo)
  • Questionable Baseball execution (Tom Berenger's 500 Yard run to First Base and Knocking the cover off the ball)
But C immediately picks up on the baseball playing "That wasn't really a home run, Dad" "That wasn't pitched that fast"  I know, not everything can look like Major League.  Now be quiet and watch the movie.

And this is the slower part, after Roy Hobbs is shot, but before the epic playoff game against the Pirates, so I am trying to intrigue the boys.  Hobbs was shot!  Does Robert Duvall actually know Hobbs from somewhere?!!? That bat is made of wood struck by lightening!! Hmmm.

But unfortunately, after about 30 minutes, I started losing the boys.  G starts eyeing the Wii like he usually does when there is a piece of candy left unattended on the table.  C starts to fidget around thinking that there is a football game on somewhere - even a repeat from over the weekend.  Even Mom is starting to talk about watching "The Voice" upstairs.  I can't win.  Doesn't anyone like this movie, it's so good.  Seriously, can't anyone sit down with me and watch this movie?  Maybe I should wake DLG up to watch this movie with me.

After about 35 minutes, I relent and turn the movie off.  I guess I'll try some other day.

Funny thing is, though, when I asked the boys if they liked the movie, they both answered yes.  Resoundingly.  I think they were doing that for me, honestly.

Well, we still have Major League, I guess.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wait...Who's Tiger Woods Again?

So this is what it has come to.  As I'm watching the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club outside of Chicago, G sits next to me.  Presuming that he wants to change the station to Jesse or to Victorious, I brace for the inevitable questions about changing the station.  But he surprised me today.  He wants to watch golf with me!  Come on over.

We're watching the afternoon Best Ball format on Saturday afternoon, paying particular attention to the match between Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker for the USA and Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia for the Europeans.  Although the US is ahead 10-4 as we start to watch, I'm most interested in this Woods' match.  Down by 4 shots at the turn, the Americans are storming back just as G sits next to me. 

"Who are we rooting for Dad?"  G asks me as he jumps on the couch.

"The Americans."  I answer as I pick up my drink right before he spills it on me.

"Are they the ones with the ugly pick shirts?" G asks me.

"No those are the Europeans.  They always wear terrible clothing.  I think they are either color blind, or fashion in Milan and Paris is all out of whack."  I explain to him.  I'm a true definition of a homer, I guess.   And on top of that, he doesn't really get my poor excuse for a joke.

"Well I'm rooting for who ever you are rooting for."  Sounds good.  Go USA!

So we start watching together.  Just as Tiger Woods does his patented point and walk toward a putt that he knows is going in, G asks me a startling question.

"Who's that guy?"

"You mean Tiger Woods?" I look at him with a weird look on my face (I'm sure).  He's playing really well and the Americans might pull this game out."

"Wait...who's Tiger Woods again?  I mean, is he making a come back?  Didn't you say his career was over and that he was never going to golf again?"  Jeez, it's been a long three years since that fateful Thanksgiving night back in 2009 when Tiger Woods life changed forever.

Yeah, it's been a long time and I've forgiven him.  I think we all have.  That's just the nature of our society.  And now as he's growing a little older, he is not as dominant as he once was.  In fact some of us might consider his an underdog.  Flashes of brilliance from Woods are few and far between.  He's won some tournaments in the last three years, but in the Majors, except for one amazing front Nine performance at the 2011 Masters, Woods is no longer the most dominant golfer on the PGA.  And that's OK with me.  It's more fun this way.

I keep this in mind as we watch that point and walk this afternoon from Woods.  He's sticking his approaches, his drives are long and mostly straight and he has that look in his eye that we haven't seen in 4 years.  Although they came up short (as did Johnson and Dufner in the last match of the afternoon against Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter), I'm optimistic about the Singles matches tomorrow morning.  And with a 10-6 lead, I don't even think NBC can jinx the US team into images of the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline Country Club.

Maybe G won't know Tiger Woods as well as we do.  And maybe Woods will never win another Major again.  But watching this match makes me remember why watching Woods is so fascinating.  The Ryder Cup brings this out in everyone.

Oh yeah.  I can't stand Ian Poulter either.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I Really Want the UFL to Succeed

Who doesn't love professional football in Las Vegas?  I know, we have to endure professional football in the middle of Virginia, Sacramento and Omaha to see Las Vegas Football, but who cares?  Who doesn't love cringing when you think about the referees who are covering these games when all of the good low level officials are in the NFL right now (or at least they were yesterday)?  Who doesn't love the fact that the biggest name in this league is Jim Fassel, the former Giants head coach and the Las Vegas Locos head coach?  Welcome to the United Football League.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now you may think that I gave up on this developmental football league after the Hartford Colonials and Jerry Glanville were taken from us die hard fans in New England with the disbanding of the Hartford Colonials for the 2011-2012 season.  But as I'm watching the Mountain Lions' "to do" checklist for the 2012-13 season during their season opener vs the Locos, I can't help but get sucked back in.  This little league that could may actually make it.  And I see that one of their top players to watch is Josh Johnson - I mean we are steps away from a Doug Flutie sighting for Christ's sake!  Bring on more UFL has beens and never-will-bes!

Back to the game.  Adam Archeleta and Brent Stover are calling the action for the CBS Sports Network (I didn't event know that this television station existed!!) and Lauren Gardner is the sideline reporter, just like NFL Football.  That's where the on-field similarities with the NFL ends, but I cant help but wonder though, if this is really a chance at big time football.  They are excited, and so am I.  So really who cares if the brand of football is mediocre and that the Crimson Tide could easily handle any one of these four teams?  I say, what can we do to help.  Well, if you're asking me, my suggestions can be boiled down to about three suggestions.

1.  Bring on the XFL.  While the fake story lines don't cut the mustard, some of the personalities are memorable and should be implemented here.  I mean who doesn't remember "He Hate Me?"  If we include more personality in this game, more people would turn in and watch Omaha vs Sacramento.

2.  Amp up the sex and violence appeal.  Similar to some of the wrestling associations that came up to fight it out with the WWE, increasing the sex and violence appeal would go a long way into keeping eyes glued to the screen.

3.  Open up the scoring.  I love flea flickers, long passes, reverses and gadget plays.  If the scoring were to increase then the eyes would start looking at the screen.  Call pass interference tightly and crack down on defensive schemes.  Open up the holding penalties and interference calls to exploit a greater passer attack.  When this gets opened up, the the gadget plays will work.

And if the referees come back?  The UFL will be hiring new officials left and right.  And I doubt any of them have a UFL team down on Facebook as their favorite team.  But maybe they will.

Someday.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Flashback: Calhoun's 1988 UCONN NIT Team

With Jim Calhoun announcing his retirement from the UCONN Huskies (just before the hammer comes down on the program - even harder than the lack of post season play would suggest), what better way to celebrate the Coach who brought three National Championships to central Connecticut in 12 years than to celebrate where it really all began.  That fateful season in 1987-88 where the Huskies started its post season 25 year run with an NIT Championship.

1987-88 was Jim Calhoun's second season at the helm, after several seasons as Northeastern head basketball coach.  The 1986-87 team was a disaster for Calhoun, as Dom Perno left the team in shambles.  There was no Corny Thompson helping this team.  Calhoun could only lead the Huskies to 9 wins all season.  Not really the way to set the stage from a championship the next season...

1987 began quietly enough.  As with every UCONN season under Calhoun's reign, the early season schedule in 1987-88 was filled with patsies and cream puffs.  The likes of Morgan State, Hartford (who gave UCONN a close game as it turns out), Yale and Central Connecticut, sandwiched two ignominious losses to Virginia and Villanova.  Nothing really special had started happening.  Even wins against Pepperdine and Princeton later in the season were nothing special.  The only thing that really stood out was the play of the team's two stars at the time Tate George and Clifford Robinson.

Despite big wins at Syracuse (which was ranked in the Top 10 at the time) and against Georgetown, the season was marked by fits and starts and the team could not manage to string more than a couple of wins in a row (and never cracked the AP Top 20).  In fact, as the season wore on, the Huskies could only manage a handful of wins in the Big East and ended the season in last place with a conference record of 4-12.  Despite a 20-14 season overall, the Huskies did not join Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Georgetown and Villanova in the Big Dance and instead was relegated to the little bastard championship tournament, the NIT.  The NIT also featured Boston College, who was second to last in the Big East and Ohio State that had finished its year off with a 20-13 season.

Connecticut would need to win 5 games in a row to win the NIT, even though it couldn't string more than two wins together more than once (and that 5 game streak was against the creampuffs above).  But wins against, West Virginia, Louisiana Tech and VCU brought UCONN to the brink of the NIT Championship.  The only thing standing in the way was the tough Boston College team that had split the season series with the Huskies.  Boston College was focused itself as it had defeated three strong teams to face Connecticut.  Undaunted, UCONN, led by Clifford Robinson and standourt guard Phil Gamble, the Huskies defeated the Eagles 73-67 to reach the Championship game.

The improbable win against Boston College then set up the interesting NIT Championship final with the Ohio State Buckeyes.  After defeating Colorado State, the Buckeyes were determined to bring the title home thmselves back to Columbus.  After trailing most of the game, UCONN behind Tate George and Phil Gamble, stormed back to beat Ohio State 72-67.  Phil Gamble is named the tournament MVP and Jim Calhoun is annointed the next up and coming star of the Big East to follow John Thompson, Lou Carnesecca and Rollie Massiminio.  Calhoun's ascension to the top of the Big East really began on this night at Madison Square Garden.

Which brings us back to today, 25 years later.  Calhoun has endured coaching challenges, players stealing computers, an iffy bar in downtown Hartford, broken bones, cancer and an academic scandal that has saddled the team going forward.  Despite all of this, Calhoun is a beloved figure in Connecticut and beyond.  And now he has retired with the legacy - beginning on that cold night in March - squarely in tact.  Good luck with your future, Mr. Calhoun.

Monday, September 3, 2012

JMR's 2012 Fantasy Football Extravaganza!

It took three years of begging and pleading.  It took three years of talking Mom into creating a team.  It took three years of the boys watching the NFL Network and ESPN SportsCenter to convince me that they were ready.  And after all of that, we have finally created the JMR 2012 Fantasy Football League Extravaganza.  Four teams - Camalama, Mommy Fearest, the Sharks and Pass Play Gray will vie for the first annual JMR Football Championship.  Sponsors appreciated.

The negotiations started early.  To talk Mom and DLG into joining the league, the three of us boys had to agree to an autopick draft instead of a live draft.  I suppose that was the best thing, since the boys would probably just go with the player that would have been auto-picked anyway, and then they would have been upset at getting the same player that the autodraft would have given them anyway.  Got all of that?

We play 14 weeks, with Weeks 15 and 16 being the playoffs.  Head-to-Head format with fractional points that this league website is known for.  So the kids will learn a little bit of math along the way?  This is educational!  So here are the teams with my expected Win-Loss record.

Camalama (6-8)

Camalama has a very strong team at WR and RB.  Players include Jimmy Graham, LeSean McCoy, Andre Johnson, DeMarco Murray, Ahmad Bradshaw and Jordy Nelson.  A lot of points will be put up by the skill positions.  Camalama is anchored by the Chicago Bears defense.  A good pick by the computer.  The big weakness I can see in the team...QB.  Michael Vick and Peyton Manning as the two starters?  If points were awarded for games missed, the points would be stacking up.  In our league, it may be a long season at that position.
The MF'ers are psyched!

Mommy Fearest (9-5)

When you have the best QB (Aaron Rodgers), best Tight End (Rob Gronkowski), best defense (San Francisco 49ers) and the best Wide Receiver (Calvin Johnson) on your team, you are expected to win a lot more games than you lose.  I was debating whether to go to 10-4 or 11-3, but every team has a bye week, so we all have a chance against this powerful team.  This is a cautionary tale of how being last in the draft is not a death knell in a snake draft.  While the individual defense positions are weak, the MF'ers are the early season candidate to take home the first championship.  I wish we could have done a real live draft just to try to bore her into bad roster decisions.  Instead, this way, the girls get the best team.  Of course!

Pass Play Gray (8-6)

Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Patrick Peterson, and stud Arian Foster lead the charge for the Grays.  Although not made up of anyone at the top of the any one position, the Grays are strong in every position.  They even picked up Maurice Jones Drew right after he agreed to report to the Jaguars.  They seem like a lock to play in the Championship Game against the MF'ers.  A big weak spot would definitely be individual defense.  The computer didn't even bother picking a second cornerback for the Grays apparently in a move to create controversy since JMR set the draft up.  Wink, wink.

Sharks (5-9)

Ugh.  This team does not look any good.  When you are relying on Trent Richardson and Adrian Peterson to do something for your team, you are in definite trouble.  I do have Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Wes Welker, so I have that going for me.  I hope that they can score 200 points a game, because that is what I'm going to need to win half the time.  Anyone want to trade?

One thing I noticed is that the computer seemed to have forgotten how to draft defensive players.  It's like there was a fifth team that drafted all defensive players.  Half of our defenses are on the IR or unavailable to play.  The first games start on Thursday.  Football season is finally upon us.  Thank God.

Go Sharks!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

James Loney is the Forgotten Man

In the blockbuster trade that sent Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers - of yeah Nick Punto too - and three very good prospect to Boston, the forgotten man in all of this is the Dodgers' First Baseman (and now Red Sox First Baseman) James Loney.  When I announced this trade to the boys when it first broke, the common answer I received was "Who's James Loney?"

That's a good question.  He's been in Matt Kemp's shadow for the last 3 years in Los Angeles, so his profile has been low ever since coming into the league in 2006.  The trade now gives him a chance to hit in the middle of the batting order of a high profile team.  Even though said team is putrid and out of the Playoff hunt.  This begs the question though.  What is James Loney going to do when the season ends?

It was not that long ago that Loney had back-to-back 90 RBI seasons despite hitting behind RBI machines in Los Angeles, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.  Hell, even his 162 career averages are pretty good (.284/.341/.763), so this guy is not just a throw away in this deal.  And while he is arbitration eligible after the season, the question again is whether Loney should be kept around after the 2012 season concludes. 

The Free Agent Pool for the 2013 season is iffy at best.  There are no First Basemen free agents for the 2013 season, so the Red Sox might be better off keeping Loney around for another couple of seasons.  I wonder if the Red Sox are regretting moving both Josh Reddick and Lars Anderson in 2012.  I guess we are all set next year when the Red Sox play in the National League next year at First Base without any controversy as Papi will be able to play all of the games.  Oh wait, David Ortiz is moving on after this season too, I forgot.

It's a good question.  Loney is hitting modestly so far in Boston.  Maybe the Green Monster is suited to his swing.  Maybe the change of scenery works both ways and Loney will flourish in Boston.  I do know that Mauro Gomez is not the answer and neither are any of the "prospects" in Portland.  Loney might be it.  Has John Henry finally succeeded in turning the Red Sox into the Florida Marlins he used to own?

Welcome to the Boston Red Sox 2.0.  So how's Liverpool doing?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mt Sunapee's Not Just for Skiing Anymore

So we were invited to our friend's Condo up at Mt. Sunapee earlier this week.  "Oh no!" I thought to myself.  Not more skiing!  Although it was about 90 degrees outside as I was thinking about skiing again, I was afraid that the mountain somehow figured out how to make snow even in this heat.
But not this time.  We were invited to eat some barbecue, go do some swimming and generally enjoy some beautiful scenery with the kids and their friends.  So what would our three day weekend look like up at Mt. Sunapee?  I did read that the Mount Sunapee Adventure Park opened up recently and it looked like something that all of the kids would enjoy.  A good start already. 

No Skiing today!
Treetop Obstacle Course.  At the Mount Sunapee Adventure Park, this looked really cool.  The obstacles included ziplines, rickety bridges, rope walks and (amongst some of the children) horror.  Sounds like a good time for the kids.  Even G, who generally has to be talked into things like this, ran down the intermediate zipline.  He would have done the advanced zipline down the mountain, but Mom was not having any of that.  At 65 bucks a pop, no way were we going to allow 5 minutes of yelling and screaming (and that was from Mom).  Overall though, I think everyone had a great time.  Even now the kids keep talking about it.  Three and one/half stars out of four.

Boating Down Lake Sunapee.  On a lark, our friends decided to see if a boat was available to rent so we can go cruising down the lake from Sargent's Marina at the north end of Lake Sunapee to Sunapee Harbor.  It fit the 10 of us and on a beautiful day this was a perfect activity to take on.  we checked off all of the boaters dreams.  We did a cruise to Sunapee Harbor, some tubing and some football on the sand bars down the East side of the Lake.  I think the kids started getting tired though since we had to start break up some fights toward the end.  Still it was a beautiful day and a perfect activity.  Three stars our of four.

The Falls at Pollards Mills. This was the best thing for the kids.  It was our last day and we wanted to try something a little different.  One of our friends who spent a lot of time at Sunapee growing up suggested we got to the Falls.  When we got there it was a very peaceful surrounding.  Although "falls" is a misnomer since the highest falls that we saw was maybe 10 feet.  It was a beautiful setting though.  Even campers were sleepily waking up to morning coffee.  The kids ended up going to a rock formation slide, and jumped into the pool from a 6 foot cliff.  After two hours and a lot of fun, they were all disappointed that we had to leave.  Another sign of a good time four stars out of four.

Overall, we will never look at Sunapee (or any mountain for that matter) the same way again.  I think there is more to do here in the Summer than there is in the Winter.  We'll be back and that's not soon enough for the kids.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Usain Bolt, Oscar Pistorius and the Summer Olympic Superstars

OK.  The Summer Olympic in London is in full swing and we are trying to set a record for most nights of odd sports in a row we can watch.  Tonight it was track and field.  Even though we are on tape delay here in the States, the evening Olympics coverage has been pretty entertaining.  Not only that, because its tape delayed, the fact that we are watching it on our DVR makes it seem almost fitting.  Anyway, two of the most intriguing athletes in this, the second, week of competition have to be South African Paralympian, Oscar Pistorius and Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt.  While Bolt is certainly recognizable to the kids at this point, I have to admit that Oscar Pistorius is only recognizable because he scares the bejesus out of DLG.  She DOES NOT like the biotic robot man.  Anyway, we sit down to watch the coverage.

8am.  Oscar Pistorius will race first in the 400 meters.  Here let me hid DLG somewhere away from the TV before she starts to really freak out.  As I suggest that we go upstairs to watch a quick show, she can tell what I'm up to and tears start to well up in her eyes. 

"I don't want to see the robotic man." She starts to scream.  I shuffle her upstairs.  Oh by the way, Pistorius is up against stiff competition in this 400M semifinal, including favorite Kirani James from Grenada.

Uh oh, he got a bad start, got lapped immediately by some shmoe.  Not looking good.  The announcer chimes in that Pistorius usually has a faster back half of the race.  But unless that includes some sort of bionic Steve Austin-type move, he's not going to win tonight - or even advance for that matter.   In fact, he ends up in last place.  I'm really bummed out.  That was a great, uplifting story that the kids really got into.  Good for him anyway.  In the aftermath interview, he came across as a humble, kindly gentleman.  I'm rooting for him in Rio De Janiero in 2016.

And on to Bolt. 

The boys didn't want to watch the heats and DLG was not budging from her perch several yards away from the robotic man.  So I fast forward to the Finals.

There is electricity in the air at the Stadium as the buzzing grows louder for Bolt against the rest of the World.

"Go Bolt Go"  C starts to chant as he awakens from his baseball-induced coma just in time to watch the race.

"He's so fast!" G says as we watch the 2008 Olympic race he won back in Beijing.

DLG looks out from around the corner of the couch to see if the robot man was running.  He's not.  But she quickly disappears again.  I guess history is not too important to her.  But it will be.  Someday.


I asked the boys who they were rooting for.  The boys both answered Gatlin, Gay, Bailey and Bolt.  That's a lot of guys.  I think they want one of the American to win and then they want Bolt to strike them down with some sort of super human, magical lightning bolt and take the Gold Medal away from the winner.  I'm secretly rooting for Usain Bolt, myself.  Call me a bad American, but at least I don't want anyone to get hurt.

Asafa Powell with his fu manchu and mean glare at the camera scared DLG, just as she was feeling more comfortable with the race.  Back upstairs she goes.  Honestly, he's sprinting in the Olympics, why all the growls?  In DLG's defense, I just don't think track and field is her thing between the bionic man and the scary guy.  Nevermind, the race is about to start.

"Still the King of the 100!"  The announcer shrieks as Bolt wins the race handily, edging out Gatlin to take home the Gold Medal.

"I would love to be Usain bolt right now.  I want to do that lightning bolt pose too Dad"  You aren't really that fast I told him.  Blessed with his Dad's speed and all.  He goes on as he grabs the clicker to rewatch the race.  "What happened to Asafa Powell?  He pulled  up short at the end of the race?  And Dad, look, it looks like someone threw something from the stands!"

We then rewatched the short dude chuck some sort of Evian bottle (isn't that the way?) toward the starting line.  Maybe he thought they were thirsty?  Maybe he was a Powell Henchman?

In the end, Pistorius and Bolt both proved their mettle.  We're all proud of them.   

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympic Water Polo: Soccer with Hands in the Water

The 2012 Olympics are in full swing by now.  And despite promises to show a variety of strange Olympic sports this time around, we have instead seen a lot of swimming, gymnastics, basketball and European Football.  We're not complaining mind you, but there are only so many complaints I can field about swimming before I start to agree with the kids' assessment that swimming is REALLY boring.  And don't get me started about whether the U.S. team has any members on it other than Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

But this morning, we were finally treated to some different sports.  First it was Equestrian, with some cousin who was 40th in line to the British throne winning some sort of medal.  That didn't really pique any one's interest, but then one of my favorite sports came on - water polo. According to FINA, the quick rules are as follows. Teams try to score against a goal keeper, there are a bunch of small, ordinary fouls and players can only use one hand on offense and defense.  Mostly the rules revolve around not mauling players, particularly the player in front of the goaltender - the hole set, I believe his or her name is.

The game we watched didn't even feature the United States, instead it was a classic grudge match between Hungary and Montenegro.  As I was about to confirm that Hungary is a world power in men's water polo (How exactly does that happen?), the boys start asking me questions about this new sport.

"Dad, this looks like Soccer with hands in the water!"  G exclaims as the players start the match swimming after the ball at half court (Is that what they call it?)

"It's not, dumbo!"  My 10 year old chimes in.  Please hold on while I send the 10 year old to his room.  Too bad its 7 in the morning otherwise it would be bed time.

OK, we're back.  I'm personally confused about the green line and the red line.  Not because I don't understand what the meter lines mean, but that they couldn't figure out how to make it un-wavy - isn't there some sort of Physics that they could have performed to make this better.

"I'm just glad that Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte aren't swimming.  Wait Dad, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte aren't swimming on this team, are they?"  I honestly think that my 8 year old would leave the room if Phelps' mug showed up on our screen against.

"Dad, actually it looks like Serbia is the Olympic favorite, not Hungary."  Whatever.  I did mention - since I read it - that Hungary hadn't lost in water polo since 2000.  They are like the Harlem Globetrotters in the water, except that this is real sports.  Interestingly enough, Serbia is also fighting this same Montenegro team for the Gold Medal.  So the favorites for the Gold Medal are Serbia, Hungary and Montenegro?  Seriously?  Three landlocked countries in Eastern Europe are the favorites for the Gold Medal?  The boys look at me like I have two heads as I ask these questions to myself under my breath.  Sorry.

Ultimately, Hungary lost to Montenegro 11-10.  One of the perennial powers in the sport is now 0-2 and in danger of not making it pas the First Round. Off with their heads!

For more information about water polo, I found this site about fan-friendly water polo to be especially helpful.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

JMR's Guide to the Strange Summer Olympic Games

One thing that the Olympic Games always bring, beside the usual Olympic heroes that swim or run really fast, is a showcase on sports that I don't think are even played outside of the Olympic Games much less televised in the United States.  The kids expressed an interest in the 2012 London Olympic Games, much more than the Beijing Games from 2008.  So I decided to challenge them in an academic sort of way.  I gave them a list of real games that are being played in London later on this month and asked the kids what their thoughts were.

Trampoline

C:  Trampoline is an Olympic Sport?  It is probably where you jump on one and do tricks and see who wins.

G:  You jump on a bouncy thing.  It goes really high.  It is really fun.  Everybody likes the trampoline sport in the Olympics.

S:  Flips on a trampoline.

Cycling Sprint.  I did indicate to them part of the strategy of winning was to go slow and even stop so the other biker has to go first and then you are cycling on a draft

C:  Why would you stop trying not to be first? What is this?

G:  Cycling sprints looks fun too.  But you run really fast.  Everybody likes it.  Even the runners.  (I don't think G fully understands what kind of sprint this really is).

S:    Ride on a bike and stops halfway.

Synchronized Swimming

C:  I think synchronized swimming is when 2 people dance around in the water and see who wins.  I think I want to watch this to see if the U.S.A. can win.

G:  2 Dancers swim in the water to dance moves.  It is really fun.  It is fun for them too.  It is really cool.

S:  Doing the same thing at the same time.

Table Tennis

C:  It is where you hit a ping pong ball around and whoever it gets passed the most loses.

G:   In table tennis, it is tennis but you play on a table.  It is very fun.  Everybody likes it.  You play with a ping pong ball and ping pong paddles.  Table tennis is ping pong.

S:  Ping Pong.

Badminton

C:  Badminton is where 2 people have like tennis rackets and they have like a ball with wings or something.

G:  Badminton is where you hit something over a net.  You play with a birdy.  This sport is very fun.  Everybody likes it.  The people who play love it.

S:  Hitting a birdie back and forth.

We are really getting psyched for the Olympic Games...I think.  I guess we still have Michael Phelps.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Scituate White 14, Plymouth Gray 13

The JMR Journal takes a quick break from the Evolution of Sports Fans to provide a Game Report from the South Shore 8 Year Old Friendship league.  Come back next week to read about how many sports G and C are able to identify from the 2012 Summer Olympics and how many of those sports they actually care about.

Scituate White 14, Plymouth Gray 13   

July 17, 2012.  Plymouth, MA.

Despite trailing 9-1 and again 13-6 late in the game, the Scituate White Friendship League Sailors (3-3-1) showed its grit and determination yet again by riding an 8-run sixth inning to roar past the previously undefeated Plymouth Gray Eagles (6-1), 14-13.

The comeback started in the bottom of the fifth after a masterful job of coaching from Scituate White's head coach who, after observing a Plymouth Gray batter miss First Base by more than 6 feet, coached his players on executing a perfect appeal play.  To the Sailors' great fortune, the umpire immediately responded that he also saw the error leading to brief conference near the mound.  A perfectly executed appeal play from Connor S. at catcher, Jake S. at pitcher and Gray H. at First Base turned an inside the park home run into a very loud out.  And the comeback was on!

And it was an epic Sixth Inning that saw clutch hitting, base running and fielding that sealed the win for the Scituate White Sailors.

The top of the Sixth started innocently enough as a 13-6 Plymouth lead diminished to 13-8 after 5 consecutive walks by Plymouth Gray Pitcher Cam L.  Forced to bring in the team's star closer in what suddenly became a tense save situation, Plymouth Gray was clearly on the ropes. Plymouth Gray's pitcher Matthew M., feeling the pressure of upholding his team's perfect record, proceeded to hit his first batter and give up clutch two run hits to Johnny K. and Nick T. that upended a 13-9 deficit to a 13-13 tie.  A ringing 2 out single past the Plymouth Third Baseman by Evan N. put Scituate up for good.

The bottom of the Sixth was just as tense as Scituate closer J.J. Rivera forced a couple of hard hit ground balls to shortstop and two strike outs to earn his first save the season.

The Scituate White Sailors' 10-hit attack was paced with two hits apiece by Keegan S. and Gray H. as well as multiple RBI games from Gray H., Keegan S., Henry G., Johnny K. and Nick T.  Strong pitching performances from Johnny K., Gray H, Jake S. (1-0) and J.J. Rivera bolstered a tired rotation that managed to keep a strong Plymouth Gray lineup in check for most of the game.


The Scituate White Sailors season concludes with a rematch at home against the Hanover Gold Indians (2-4-1).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tennis at Wimbledon is Difficult to Learn

C and I were watching the Men's semifinals at Wimbledon yesterday afternoon.  It was a match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic and it promised to be a good match.  Even C was interested in watching this.  And as we were watching, C was immediately fascinated by the score at the top left of the ESPN box.  Showing the names, the game score, and the set score, it seemed to be just a jumble of numbers that made little sense to a mind that was used to seeing baseball scores.  He grew so curious that he started to ask me questions.

"Dad, who do you want to win?"  He asked, obviously priming me for more difficult questions later on.  Without hesitation, I answered that I wanted Roger Federer to win the match.  He was the underdog and the elder statesman of the tournament.  Of course I wanted him to win.

"Dad what does the score 40-15 mean at the top of the screen there?  What does Ad mean when it replaces the score?"  I then talked to him about how games in Tennis were played.  I think that it just got him more confused.  "So if a player has zero, they call it love?  That's stupid!"

"So if Federer wins this game, then he goes on to the Championship?"  Not quite, I tell him.  If he wins a game, that is merely one game in one set.  They have a lot of games to play.  I go on to explain that these guys are trying to win sets by being the first to 6 games while still winning by two games.

That answer really didn't help since he now quizzed me about sets and how those are scored.  "So they they are trying to win the Set?" I tell him that tennis players try to win sets and that they need to win three sets out of 5 in order to win the match.

"But wait, Serena Williams only won two sets and she went on to the championship."  I explain that women have to win 2 sets and men have to win 3 sets.  I pretend that all tournaments work this way even though most men's tournaments go the best of 3 sets too.  We won't be watching that tennis though.

C then examines the results from the previous day.  This is when things get interesting. "Dad, why did that guy win a set by winning 7 games, I thought he has to win 6 games to win a set?"  I explain to him that to win a set you have to win by 2 games.  "But that guy won the set 7-6, Dad..."  Shaking my head at this point I try to patiently explain that if two opponents are tied at 6 then they play a tiebreaker.  I cross my fingers hoping that he doesn't ask me about the rules pertaining to tie breakers.  I think it will make my head and C's head explode.  But instead he asks me an even better question.

"But Dad, what about that time two years ago when those two guys played that set that you talked about where one guy beat the other 61-59?  Good one.  I tell him that at Wimbledon and certain other tournaments, the last set has to go until one player wins by two and that there is no tie breaker. 

C looks at the TV screen and continues watching the match.  Federer is leading.  "You know a lot about tennis, Dad.  Were you good before you got old?"

"Do you want to go to the baseball field"  I finally say.  There, the rules are a lot easier to understand.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nathan's Hot Dogs on Surf and Stillwell

Was it already a year ago when we watched the Mt Sinai of Mastication?  It was in front of our TVs of course, but the kids and I were still thoroughly disgusted by the sopping wet buns and the half eaten hot dogs.  They were all in again for the 2012 version.

As we tune in, we are first greeted by Renee Herlocker discussing the history of the Women's tourney.  No seriously.  The last time I saw Herlocker was this time last year so she must not be taking over for Erin Andrews at ESPN.  The women's tourney ends with Sonya Thomas breaking the record with 45 hot dogs to win the contest.   Juliet Lee comes in second with an so-so 40 hot dogs eaten.  I'm gaining weight just thinking about it.

But we came for Joey Chestnut and his bid to win his 6th win in a row.

My sentiments exactly, Joey
Official weigh in.  For god's sake why are they doing a weigh in?  Badlands Booker is 360 pounds for Christ's sake!  Then they show Thomas and Chestnut with hot dogs in their hands and they couldn't look more disgusted.  They looked like they did not want to see any more hot dogs.

Undaunted, and with chants of "USA, USA" in the air, competitive eating has reached its apex with the Hot Dog eating contest.  Are you ready to ride the tornado and make love to the dragon?

Pete "Pretty Boy" Davekos is back from our jaunt in Foxboro last year.  Same with Tim "Eater X" Janus, Eric "Badlands" Booker and "Crazy Legs" Conti.  But we are watching to see if Joey Chestnut can break his record of 68 hot dogs eaten, set back in 2009.  We also want to watch to see if Takeru Kobayashi makes a surprise appearance, just to later get arrested.

The boys and I are getting pumped as Joey Chestnut comes out to Baba O'Reilly.  The boys are practically dancing around waiting for the contest to start.  Well either that or they really want to go play video games somewhere.

Let's get a refresher on the Hot Dog Eating Contest rules:

1.  Competitors must eat the hot dog and the bun.
2.  10 minute time limit
3.  Dunking must not exceed 5 seconds
4.  Automatic DQ for "reversal of fortune"

And they start!  Stonie the Megatoad and Eater X came out fast, but Chestnut easily takes the lead at hot dog number 8.  The boys and MM all throw up in their throat looking at the dunking of the bread.  By the way, Bertoletti is freaking disgusting with his red hands.  It looks like he is killing the cows (and pigs and horse) himself instead of eating hot dogs.

"Come on Chestnut, don't cry"  The boys both start to say.  They are riding the favorite, just like their Dad. And at the 5 minute mark Chestnut has a 5 hot dog lead over Eater X.

As the contest comes to a close, Chestnut easily beats Eater X and Bertoletti.  He only ties his record of 68 and expresses disappointment that he couldn't give his fans a world record (Note to Joey, we don't really care that much).  It wasn't a contest as it turns out.  At least the kids stayed through the entire contest.  Now that's the real contest.

photo courtesy of popcrunch.com