Saturday, March 31, 2012

Harlem Globetrotters - 2012 Special Edition with Tiny and TNT

It has now been three years in a row that we have seen the Harlem Globetrotters at the Garden.  The 2010 edition featured ridiculously long lines to purchase basketballs and the 2011 edition featured a Globetrotters thrashing by 30 points.  They were both memorable in their own ways, but both made the family excited.  So what will the 2012 special edition of the Harlem Globetrotters tour bring our way?  We originally got excited this year when we saw highlights of Tiny the 7 foot 8 inch behemoth dunk the basketball without jumping (My nine year old was especially looking forward to seeing this circus freak), and the girls were excited about TNT who was the first woman to play for the Globetrotters in at least a decade.

Unfortunately, we were to be denied like a Generals' jumpshot in the Fourth Quarter when the Globetrotters are losing.

2pm.  Boston, MA.  After several minutes of moving the bike ramps around the driveway, we finally get on the road and hit the Garden with thousands of other people.  We're old pros at this by now.  So much so that the boys are looking forward to Big Globie and the skit with the water and paper confetti (both of which we saw the preceding two years).  G also asked me about the four point shots.

First Quarter.  As a new gimmick, the Globetrotters are playing Global Select.  While these guys look like the Washington Generals in different uniforms, it is an interesting gimmick that they were playing for the world touring championship with the loser prohibited from touring in 2013.  Seriously. 

I swear the short, balding white guy on the Global Select is the same guy sharpshooter who keeps the Generals in THEIR games against the Globetrotters.  No one else seemed to notice, so I let it go.  I also noticed that they brought back the same court gimmicks from last year.  The Penalty Box and the aforementioned 4 point shot. After an obligatory four pointer from Too Tall and Flight Time, the Globetrotters lead after the First Quarter 28-27.  Pretty close so far.

We both notice as the quarter rolls along, however, that neither Tiny nor TNT are in the lineup.  What happened to them?  I scan the bench and the crowd for any sign of Tiny.  But none was to be found.  Damn it!

Howard Johnson is a sponsor.  Do you think they actually stay there, or do they stay at the Ritz or at Copley Place?  You decide.

Second Quarter.  We finally get to see Big Globie!  The kids stand up and watch him like he's a freak.  Although he brings out the same Chumbawamba song/fall down act, it still elicits giggles from even the most skeptical of us (I mean me.).  Despite trailing by six with a couple of minutes left, the Global Select make a run and lead at halftime 57-49.  That's ok.  I am positive the Globetrotters will make a game of this and perhaps even win.

I'm not really sure what the half time show was.  It was a bunch of kids doing some fancy dribbling through their legs and around their backs, which is definitely NOT the best way to teach basketball fundamentals to kids.

Third Quarter.  I love it that the clock starts even before they start to play and then stops while the action is going on.  It's like my daughter is playing with the scoreboard depending on the mood she is in.  Putting aside the WWE nature of the proceedings, the Globetrotters come back to make it 80-75 after three quarters.  A couple of guys go into the penalty box, a couple of four pointers are made and Special K performs the steal the lady's pocketbook trick (just to give it back to her in the form of a huge birthday gift).  It's a win-win for all of us.

Fourth Quarter.  A couple of three pointers by the Select team steams the crowd a little bit.  The murmurs grow as the Global Select's lead grows to 15 points with 8 minutes left (and I'm not sure if it is running time or not).  Not a twinge of doubt enters my mind, though, but I am worried that the outright game-fixing will start to be a little more obvious.  Even the PA guy stops the rally music as the Select guys keep draining their jumpers.  Missed layups, obvious fouls, lack of hustle are going to start soon (oh wait, that's the Celtics against good teams).  Don't they know they are supposed to miss these shots, anyway?  I don't think these guys are going to be at the 7pm game tonight if they keep this up.

But just like clockwork, after a couple of cool alley-oops that gets the crowd to stand on their feet, the Globetrotters finish their rally to win 99-94.  Even at the end the balding, short white guy makes a four pointer to a smattering of boos.  Man, tough crowd.

But another successful time at the Harlem Globetrotters for the JMR crew.  Thank God they won the World Championship.  We'll see you again next year!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Finding Wally the Green Monster Amid the Fenway Park Tour

This all started over a week ago.  DLG was frantically digging in her sand box with tears in her eyes.  I could hear her mumbling from the driveway - while I was fiddling around with the bike ramp around the basketball hoop - about looking for "him."  Wondering what she was talking about, I naturally walked over to her to see what was up.  It all started right here, over a week ago.

"I can't find Wally."  She blurts out.  I'm thinking who the Hell is Wally?  One of her arts and crafts projects?  Clearly, I'm not helping because she looks at me with the slightly pissed off look that is normally reserved for her Brothers.

"Can you help me dig?" she asks me as she hands me one of her sandbox shovels, "I can't find Wally the Green Monster."  And then the tears start to flow.

I dig furiously in vain for 10 minutes.  I find matchboxes, spoons and toys, but no stuffed animal.   I don't where she buried Wally, but she didn't bury him here.  But wanting the crying to stop, I told her that I would buy her another one during the weekend.  We would go into Boston, just me and her, and buy her a new Wally the Green Monster.  Over the course of the coming days, she reminds me that we were going to Boston to get her a new stuffed animal.  45 minutes into the City for a new stuffed animal?  Yep.

9am.  Boston, MA.  One thing I didn't tell her though was that we were going to do something I wanted to do, too.  See, I always wanted to do the Fenway Park Tour, and in fact we had plans to do it a couple of years ago.  It's the 100 year anniversary of the ball park after all - see the banners, maybe walk on the field, talk to some old time ushers.  Yeah, that's what I wanted to do, and if she wanted her stuffed animal, she was going to have to do it, too.  Sorry, sweetheart.

So we walk in to the Red Sox Store on Yawkey Way to take care of our first task.  Good, it's not too busy.  And naturally she leads me to the wall of Wallys.  We peruse Wallys big and small and settle on the little Wally the Green Monster for her and then tickets to the tour for me.  A little bit of good to go with the bad.  (Just seemed like the right thing to write.)  I think that she's having a good time, though judging by how hard she's hugging Wally right now.  She was literally hugging the stuffing out of him.

10:15am.  Boston, MA.  Soon we got our tickets (handwritten because they had a power outage the night before, of course) and walked in to Gate A.  Brilliant idea to walk us in while they were spraying heavy duty paint on one of the ramps near us.  I was tempted to cover DLG's face from the fumes, at the risk of being called a baby smotherer.  The guide stops us 15 feet away from the painters.  Seriously, guy, can we stand and listen to you somewhere else?

Undeterred, the guide starts making fun of the Yankees and talks ruefully about the good ole days.  No one asked about Bobby Valentine vs Ben Cherington, Daniel Bard as a starter or chicken and beer, unfortunately.  Even though there were Syracuse fans amongst us going to the Eastern Regional Final later that night. 

We head out to the left field grandstand on our first stop.  We learn about the Ted Williams red seat and the history of the ballpark, including the Morse code on the scoreboard dedicated to the Yawkeys, the ladder to nowhere that could have resulted in a ground rule triple and other history from the last 100 years.  Most of it you could read about in the Curse of the Bambino, but it was still interesting.  Uncomfortable in the baby seats they call the Grandstand, but interesting still.  It was short enough for DLG to make fun of my height in the lilliputian-like seats.  Very funny, little girl, I'm going to ask you to help me remove my knees from my ribs, honestly.

We then make our way up the full six flights of stairs to the Press Box.  We learned a little bit more about the team and its history, how we beat the Yankees in the first game at Fenway "and we've been beating them ever since."  We discovered that they moved the retired numbers back to the original cursed position of 9-4-1-8.  It took me a while to remember who's retired number 6 that was.  I guess it had been a while since I had been to Fenway.

View from the Green Monster Seats
Our final stop was the Green Monster seats.  Priced at $190 per seat, I was always wondering what the view was like, but never bothered to fork over the dough to find out.  The guide told us that during batting practice, a home run ball comes flying into these seats every 90 seconds.  I then asked him if we could come up here for BP even if we didn't have any tickets.  He just shook his head no and laughed at me.  Come on, guy.

And then just like that we were done.  It seemed so short that even DLG wanted to stay a little longer.  But when I told her that we had to leave for the next tour, she just hugged her new Wally a little tighter, put her coat on and took my hand that I offered her back to the car.  I'm glad we couldn't find her old Wally, frankly.  Now can someone help me find new Wally?  She's lost him, too...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Are the Lakers-Celtics Relevant Anymore - in Quotes?

I was just as surprised as you were to see that the boys wanted to take time out of their busy social engagements to watch the Celtics and Lakers battle out this afternoon.  The Lakers are 8 games over .500 and the Celtics are just a mere 21-18 and we are still in the middle of the season.  In other words, there isn't anything on the line here.  These teams figure to be in the bottom halves of the playoffs this year.  It's a lot different than back in 1984.  That's for sure.  But is this rivalry still relevant?  Doesn't it seem like several years ago when the Celtics and Lakers played that infamous Game 7?

But they sat down to watch anyway.  If I asked them what these team's records are, they would probably say something like 31-11 and 35-9.  This is still an important game for THEM.   Not wanting to interfere with their good time, I left the room and recorded it for later.  I decided instead to sit down in my office and listen to their reactions to the game. 

G:  "Oh my God, they're losing 2-0."

G:  "Oh my God they're losing 7-0!"  With even more urgency in his voice.

C:  "Oh my God, stole it from Rondo!  He pushed him down!"

C:  "Dad, does Ron Artest have a nickname called World Peace?" And after I answered him, he had a very confused look on his face and declared "That's horrible!  I would never change my name to Metta World Peace."  I hope not, son...I hope not.

G:  "Look at that dumb face guard on Kobe's face.  He looks like a monster."

C:  "I can't believe he changed his name to Metta World Peace.  That is so stupid!"  I grew up with a guy named World B. Free so there is precedence for this tomfoolery, I suppose.

C:  "See, I told you he was awesome at blocking!"  Is he talking about Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum?  No - Greg Stiemsma.

G:  "Oh, Paul Pierce is so bad.  Why can't he make a shot!  Dad, why can't Paul Pierce make a shot"  When I don't hear him immediately, I hear the word "Dad" three more times.

C:  "Andrew Bynum is my favorite player."  No, he's not.

C:  "The Lakers aren't very nice..."  I believe that Kobe and Bynum have both been hit with Technical Fouls.  I peek over to see Kobe ripping his mask off like it's a big reveal.  Perhaps that he's an Asshole?

G:  "Is Tom Brady on the Lakers, now?"  I have no idea what that means.

G:  "Rajon Rondo is awesome!!!"  I believe that he swishes a three as time in the half expires with the Lakers leading 44-42.  After halftime, I hear "I want to see Rondo's half court shot."  Was it a half court shot?

G:  "50-47, Dad.  They are like falling apart...Yes!"

C:  "Fight, fight, fight, fight!"  Even I get up to see what's going on.  Guess who.  One guess, only.

G:  "Dad why did he change his name?"  Wait, didn't I already answer this question?  Oh no that was the other boy.

G:  "Shoot it.  Shoot it.  No don't shoot it!  Oh come on!" 

C:  "Don't go innnnnnnn...yes!"  Metta World Peace misses a three pointer as time expires in the Third Quarter.

C:  "Oh chicken nuggets?  Come on, I want something else for dinner!"  Oh wait, that has nothing to do with the game.  Never mind.

C:  Skipping ahead... They had the lead by 12 points and then they lost.'  Just like 2010.  Unfortunately.

C:  "Well, Paul Pierce had a chance and missed it, then KG and he missed it too but they go the offensive rebound and Ray Allen missed the last shot (after the fact, it seemed like Ray Allen's shot was the most likely to go in.

Oh well, the Celtics lost, but the boys had a great time watching the game..  Maybe it's not so irrelevant after all.  (Except to the girls, right?)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Peyton Manning Will Not be Going There

In one of the worst kept NFL secrets over the last six weeks, Peyton Manning has finally been released by the Indianapolis Colts after 14 years (well thirteen if you consider he didn't suit up in 2011).  Jim Irsay must need some more material to tweet about.  And Rick Mirer is somewhere shaking his head at the possibilities.  So now what for Manning?  Will Manning go to the Jets where his former OC Tom Moore currently holds down a job?  Will he go to Miami, close to his off-season home?  All I know is that wherever he goes the "winning" team will have retained a broken 36 year old quarterback who still can't throw the football with any velocity.  Or as I like to call him, Matt Hasselback.

Could they be playing together next year?
But the rumors are flying everywhere.  In addition to the Jets and the Dolphins, we have reports that teams like the Seahawks, Titans, Broncos, Redskins and Cardinals all lining up to take a chance on him.  It's easier to name the teams that don't need his services, actually.

Patriots.  Come on, we have Tom Brady.  After thinking about it, though, I hope Manning goes to the Jets just so our young speedy defense can whip his sad, slow butt two times a year.  Definitely not.

Steelers.  Unless Big Ben spends some time in jail, and that is still a possibility with this jackass, Manning will not be spending anytime in the Steel City.  Probably not.

Chargers.  What has Philip Rivers done for this team, exactly?  Why do the Chargers always seem to get decent quarterbacks who fail to win anything of consequence (Dan Fouts, Philip Rivers), or are just plain fat, stupid and unathletic (Ryan Leaf)?  Everyone blames Norv Turner, and it's easy to make the head coach a scape goat, but has Rivers EVER led the Chargers on 2 minute drill to win a game...ever?  This is a shaky probably not.

Giants.  Although it would finally answer the question of which Manning brother is more valuable, I doubt Mara and Coughlin would dump one Manning just to get an older broken version of the same thing, and although Eli is kind of a twit - or half wit, your choice - the Giants aren't switching.  Definitely not.

Packers.  Aaron Rodgers will continue to wear his Championship belt, no worries Packer fans.  And no, to make me say this I didn't buy shares of worthless Green Bay Packers stock so I can frame the certificate in my basement bar - I would only do that for the Hartford Whalers.  Definitely not.

Saints.  In what is quickly becoming a bummer of an off season for the Crescent City Dodgers, the Saints are facing a bounty scandal AND the very tenuous business relationship with their star Quarterback, Drew Brees.  I'm afraid that this is not going to end well.  Definitely not.

Lions.  Matthew Stafford is a stud.  Definitely not.

Panthers.  Cam Newton is another stud.  Although, scrambling quarterbacks never win any big games.  In fact, they usually get their heads handed to them when they face a good team in the playoffs.  On the other hand, Newton has shown some flashes of brilliance in a really crappy offense.  Give him someone other than the decrepit Steve Smith to throw to and this guy could get 5,000 yards, too.  Are you hearing me Michael Vick?  Definitely not.

There are some other quarterbacks who are probably safe, but you have to wonder for how long and more importantly, why?  Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Sam Bradford, Matt Schaub, Joe Flacco and Ryan Fitzpatrick are all safe, but they all still suck.  So there are only a handful of teams that don't need Manning.  It kinda makes me want to have my boys start throwing the football around.

My guess?  Peyton Manning is going to the Dolphins, probably in a package deal with Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison's collection of handguns.  Leaving the Jets at the alter, yet again.  Honestly, who would want to throw to Santonio Holmes 100 times a year?  Me neither.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Jason Varitek is Gone, so Who's Captain Now?

Jason Varitek became the second high profile Red Sox player to retire in the last couple of weeks - joining aged knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the sidelines.  Varitek's retirement earlier this week left a gaping hole at the Captain's position.  In fact, Varitek held the position for so long that even my seven year old was flummoxed by the question of who the new captain was going to be.  Because of the folly that is known as beer and chicken gate, the Sox don't have a lot of candidates for the position that the general fan base would agree with.

In any event, here are the candidates for the position:

Kevin Youkilis.  Universally hated inside and outside of the clubhouse, it seems like a long shot that Youkilis would actually be named captain of the Red Sox.  A captain would really need to be a leader who other teammates respected and followed.  That is the exact opposite of how Youkilis commands the clubhouse. While intense enough to be the captain, I think there would be a mutiny if he actually had that title given to him.

David Ortiz.  He would be one of our first choices, as his personality and charisma is a great match for the position.  Ultimately, Ortiz is only signed for one year.  In this post steroid era, Ortiz may only have one or two more years left - whether it be with the Red Sox or some other team.  I don't think Ortiz will be around much longer.  In fact, if the season starts to go south, Ortiz might be on the trading block come July 2012.

Adrian Gonzalez.  While the slugger will be with the Red Sox for the next seven years, Gonzalez moans and groans about "all of those night games" last year very likely put a bad taste in Henry's Werner's and Lucchino's mouth. Would Gonzalez receive the okay from management?

Josh Beckett.  Just Kidding.

Dustin Pedroia.  Another great candidate.  While perhaps only under the Red Sox control for another couple of years, the Red Sox almost certainly have to resign Pedroia to another long term contract.  His hustle and grit, coupled with his natural baseball talent, is another natural fit for the position of Captain.

What do you think?