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.