Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Celtics' Reunion Week Doesn't Matter Anymore

Doc Rivers doesn't matter anymore.  He tries to make himself relevant by talking about himself in the days leading up to the game against the Celtics tonight.  He describes his acrimonious split with the Celtics as "his fault" that he walked out on them.  His regret is palpable.  But he knew the score.  In this year of Wiggins, Smart and Parker, it made more sense for mediocre teams to trade down in order to get a better lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.  Rivers didn't want that anymore.  It's just that after all these years, he didn't have to be such a putz about it.

Now the Celtics are in full tank mode and the Clippers are 14-8.  Fast-forward to the question I posed to the boys earlier this morning when I began a recording of the Celtics-Clippers tilt.

"Guess who the Celtics are playing tonight?"

With less than full excitement, "Who, Dad?"

"The Clippers."  I answer.  When C asks me why that's important, I tell him about Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but more importantly, Doc Rivers.

Doc River Doesn't Like You Either
"I hate Doc Rivers." C explains, without really knowing why.  Perhaps he saw one of his Instagram followers say that, now he echoes that same thought.

But in any event, in this lost season where the Celtics might tank all the way to the Third Seed in the Eastern Conference, this game has meaning.  First it was the woebegone Nets yesterday, now the Doc-led Clippers.  Can the Celtics embarrass themselves in front of all of the their 2012-13 players and coaches during "Reunion Week.  Too bad Lawrence Frank is still employed by the Nets.

7:30pm.  Tommy Heinsohn starts eulogizing Doc Rivers at the beginning of the broadcast.  Give me a break.  I'm more pissed that he didn't win 3 Championships.  That one Championship, while sweet, was disappointing in that it was the only one.  You can blame KG's injury in 2009 and Perkins' injury in 2010.  I blame the coaching.

Sullinger, G's favorite player starts out the scoring with a little runner for a 2-0 lead, then gets stuffed by DeAndre Jordan on his next shot.  Yup, this is going to be a long night, no matter how points Sullinger scores.  But wait.  Lob city arrives as Jordan Crawford alley oops to Avery Bradley for a 17-12 Celtics' lead.  The Celtics take a 23-20 lead after the First Quarter.  Maybe Rivers' tears are about more than Boston.  Like Tommy Heinsohn's osession with Chris Paul palming the ball.

During the Second Quarter, we were reminded about how much Rivers meant to the team.  Even he admitted that they were the best team int eh league in 2009 until KG went down.  The only thing of note was to see this interesting stat - DeAndre Jordan is first in the League in FG percentage but is last in the league in Free Throw percentage. Celtics lead at halftime 45-39.

Another Quarter and another free throw adventure for DeAndre Jordan.  He even air balled a free throw for crying out loud of his 5 misses.  And Doc Rivers is third all time in coaching wins for the Celtics?  That graphic is quite startling.  Clippers take a 66-64 lead after 3.

At this point, both boys tell me that they have to go to bed.  It being a school day and all.  I guess Doc Rivers has made a couple of other kids not care.  Clippers win 96-88.

Good riddance!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Great Baseball Card Draft Part 2

It was a long time coming.  The Baseball Card Draft was finally upon us!  G had won the first pick not for lack of record but for pure dumb luck in the classic game of "pick a number between 1 and 10."  This was like the 2003 NBA Draft.  Everyone knew that Jackie Robinson 1953 - Like LeBron James after him would be the first round draft pick.  The question was who would 2-10?

We had the day planned, we just needed to pick a day that worked for everyone.  In other words, we just had to get Mom and DLG out of the house so they wouldn't complain about being bored and then we could commence the DRAFT...

Home.  2pm.  The first pick wasn't so much a pick as it was a coronation.  There was no ceremony involved.  G just simply put out his hand and told me.  "I'll take Jackie Robinson, Dad."  The smile on his face led me to believe that he would not fling that card around in his bedroom three weeks from now.  I handed it over to him.  I told him the story of how I bought that card for 5 bucks from a kid 5 years older than me when I was 9 years old just like him.  He thought he got enough to buy a six pack with his fake ID.  I thought I got one of the coolest cards ever made.  It was a win win.  G looked at me with a glazed look.

2nd Pick.  It was a tough one.  A lot of decent cards to choose from.  C finally looked around at all of the old cards and settled on the Yogi Berra 1953 Topps Card that I have had since I was 12 years old.  I bought that card at an auction some where in the middle of Connecticut.  My Father would take me to these auctions and he would give me some money (and I would use some of my own too) and I would try to buy baseball cards.  It was pretty exciting to me.  My Father must have pulling his hair out in retrospect.  There were some real winners in these auction crowds back then.

3rd Pick.  1968 Tom Seaver Topps.  Even though he had a little trophy on his card saying All Star Rookie, this was not his rookie card.  It was in mint condition and looked pretty cool.  C was excited about that one, because I told him that was favorite card, even though not the most valuable.  I remember my Dad surprised me by taking me to a random baseball card shop in Kennebunk, Maine when I was just 10 years old when we were on vacation.  I looked around for hours and when I spotted that Tom Seaver card, he gave me 20 bucks to buy it even though I had already blown by my budget.  I bought that card and a couple of other random cards.  But that one was still my favorite.

4th Pick.  Gil Hodges 1952 Bowman.  This was another of the auction specials.  I still remember this was the auction with my Dad when the kid in front of me threw up an entire can of Slice soda (remember that nasty crap?).  I still have trouble drinking lemon lime sodas like Sprite and 7up.  Yuck.  C and G had no idea who this guy was, so they just believed me when I told him he was a great home run hitter.  That seemed to have done the trick.

5th Pick.  Johnny Bench, 1969 Topps.  As with the Seaver Card, it had the big rookie trophy on the card, but it was not actually his Rookie Card.  This was a baseball card store purchase.  I made this one on my own when I was 16 years old.  I'm sure the guy didn't take me for a ride since I was a tough looking 16 year old kid.  I actually drove to the shop myself this time.  The deal was not that great, but still a great looking card. 

6th Pick.  Hank Aaron, 1967 Topps.  Another great looking card.  This was another auction purchase.  This was the auction where I tried to complete my 1964 Topps set (sans Mickey Mantle), but another guy kept outbidding me.  Every time he won a bid, he would just have this weird satisfied smile, like he was passing gas and was proud of it.  Now maybe it was just my paranoid 14 year old self, but I felt like Barry Weiss out there from Storage Wars as I kept getting the short end of the stick. 

7th Pick.  Ernie Banks.  1956 Topps.  I honestly have no idea how I got this card.  No story to tell on this one.  I don't even know this guy well enough to talk the boys into thinking that they got a real cool baseball card.

8th Pick.  Cal Ripken 1982 Topps.  Our first real rookie card.  I remember when Ripken was the reason that people still watched baseball (before McGwire and Sosa that is) and this card was one of my valuable.  Now it is a middling card and most people remember his brother's baseball card with the vulgarity more than this rookie card.  This was also the first card that was drafted that I got just from opening up packs of baseball cards.

9th Pick.  Warren Spahn, 1956 Topps.  Another card, the receipt of which I have no idea.  Nice pick still

10th.  Ryne Sandberg, 1983 Topps.  This was the first of two that were drafted.  Another "get" from baseball card packs.  I remember when this card, Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs all had rookie cards in 1983 and my friends and I would gamble with these cards as the center pieces of most wagers.  Instead of money!  We used to play pool at a friends house - 9 Ball - and we would each put up a card.  The winner got to keep both cards.  A lot of games ended on the break when the 9 Ball fell in.  It seemed like I always lost on the break, but could never lose once we started playing.  I'm sure that's not how it went down, but it seemed that way to a 12 year old.  It seemed innocuous at the time, but these cards were valuable even back then, so I was a pre-teen betting $50 on a pool game.  I'm glad I turned out all right.  That was actually kind of stupid.

We continued on for another three hours until we picked through the first 60 cards.  My back and head were killing me.  The boys started to fight over whether C or G actually picked a 1975 Nolan Ryan card first.  (They hadn't heard of the man before today)  Yes, we spent four hours divvying up my baseball cards that I spent most of my child hood collecting.  It brought back a lot of memories for me.  And I couldn't think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

One 2013 Boston Parade I Can Get Behind

The Red Sox Won the 2013 World Series!  The boys and I were watching every minute of the game (the girls went to sleep well before us) and we all celebrated like it was 1918.  This was the year of it being our city and every little thing was going to be all right.  It was the year of beards and no beers.  It was the year of Papi and Lackey.  And it was the year of another sports parade in the City of Boston.

It was just a year and half ago when the boys talked me into going to the Boston Bruins Parade after they won the Stanley Cup.  Now that was excruciating.  A bunch of fair weather fans celebrating like they were waiting 100 years for the Cup.  They couldn't sell out the Garden until the playoffs, but then 2 million people come to watch the parade?  Hogwash.

But it was a pretty good time.

So when the World Series, which was never in doubt, ended in a Red Sox victory, I was hopeful that the parade would be on Saturday or Sunday so we could go.  G would ask me too. "Are we going, Dad?" was the refrain on Thursday and Friday.

"Go where?" I ask knowing that that is just going to cause trouble.

"To the parade!!"

"What parade?" I quizzically ask in return.

"Dad, you're not that funny."  C chimes in as he walks into the kitchen.  I guess 11 year olds don't get Dad's sense of humor.

So on Saturday morning, we started making our plans.  We ignored Mayor Menino's admonition to take the train in and drove.  We scooted right in drove into Kenmore Square and parked right on Beacon Street.  It was actually tougher getting the kids out of the car with no injury than it was to drive in.  And the problem was S's scooter which she insisted on bringing for some reason.

We walked down Brookline Avenue and took a left onto Yawkey Way.  Thousands of people were in front of us and behind us.  Even though it was just 9:45 am, the mood was celebratory.  The bars were open, people were chanting.  Kids were dancing.  G was asking for baseball cards at the Souvenir Store.  Everything was right with the world.

After a brief stop to take some pictures with the 2013 World Series Banner, we continued down Yawkey Way onto Boylston Street and then walked as close as we could to the corner of Boylston and Ipswich where the parade began.  Unfortunately, we were about 20 deep in our spot and had to really stretch and squint to see anything.  But honestly, who cares?  We are celebrating the freaking Red Sox winning the World Series. 

The duck boats started coming around the corner at around 10:15.  A couple of duck boats would be followed by a confetti machine rocketing red white and blue confetti into the air.  The celebratory mood turned into anticipation as the kids were waiting for Big Papi and Dustin Pedroia.  The team doctor, owners and the rookie scrubs were nice, but not as nice as seeing the players responsible for the win.

Finally, the Ortiz's duck boat came around.  Well at least it looked liked Ortiz' boat, but we were so far away that it could have been anyone really.  I took pictures and lifted G up to get a better view.  My back was also asking to be strained so it made sense to lift 95 dead pounds.  The crowd was going nuts and confetti was everywhere.

And just like that it was over.  We were back in the car at 11am.  A lot different than the 4 hours we spent waiting for the Bruins to come to the corner of Boylston and Tremont.  And as we were walking back to the car, I was bombarded with requests for Red Sox shirts, cards, baseballs, everything.  They wouldn't be asking for this stuff in November unless the Red Sox played deep into October.  So although I still said NO to them, I still appreciated the sentiment.

Indeed.  Don't worry, 'bout a thing.  Cause every little thing is going to be alright.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Red Sox Return to the 2013 World Series

No one expected it to happen.

They lost more than 90 games last year with most of the same crew toiling away.  Bobby Valentine swore that he got everything he could out of the then beardless Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz.  Management claimed that it was not their fault, they brought in a GM who was ready to clean house and bring in new players.  They all said that 2013 was going to be different.  The memories of 2011 and 2012 would disappear.  No one expected it to happen.

2013 began with a whimper.  Instead of going after big free agents like Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke, the Red Sox went after the likes of Shane Victorino, Koji Uehara and Mike Napoli (remember when the Red Sox almost voided Napoli's contract because of his hip?).  They relied on comeback years from Jacoby Ellsbury and John Lackey.  They were hoping youngsters like Jose Iglesias, Will Middlebrooks and Allen Webster could play big roles in the Red Sox resurgence.  But no one expected it to happen.

Even as the Red Sox were winning games early in the season and staying with the Yankees, Orioles and the Rays in the AL East, we were looking at the likes of closers like Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, asking if this was the shape of our bullpen. The Marathon bombing happened and the Red Sox became a galvanizing force in those weeks afterward, punctuated by David Ortiz's heartfelt speech and Daniel Nava's clutch 3 run home run at the first home game after the bombing.  The Red Sox became the thing that pulled us all together as we were grieving for those that we lost and those that go injured.  Still, no one expected it to happen.

When the Yankees and the Orioles started to fall behind and only the Rays were keeping up with the Red Sox over the course of the Summer, we were all convinced that the Rays would overtake us and we would be shut out of the Wild Card by either the Angels, Rangers or A's.  We have been trained by this particular crew that they look good on paper, but can't come together when it matters.  No one expected it to happen.

When the Red Sox started growing those ridiculous beards and made the playoffs, we were convinced that the Rays had better pitching and could take us in 5, especially if Price pitched two of those games.  We didn't believe in the power of the Beard at the time.  When we won that series to play the Tigers, many pundits thought that the Tigers big three would pitch right past us.  And to a big degree, they did.  When we won game 6, that was a huge moment for the Red Sox.  As Victorino won Game 6 with his huge home run, Napoli singlehandedly won Game 3 with his home run and Uehara won the ALCS MVP, I think all of started to believe it could happen.

Now the Cardinals stand in the way of the Red Sox's third world series in 10 years.  And I hear echoing in my head is Joe Castiglione's call "Stabbed by Foulke. He underhands it to first and the Red Sox are the World Champions.  For the first time in 86 years the Red Sox have won the World Championship.  Can you believe it?"

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What I Learned from the 2013 ALCS

When I was able to score two tickets to Game 1 of the ALCS between the Red Sox and the Tigers, my first thought was who to take.  I knew if I took C, G was going to pout and possibly start to cry.  If I took G, then C would beat the crap out of him until he was too injured to go.  The fairest way to handle this was the same way that we handled the draft...by having them pick a number between 1 and 10.  When C won that round, I began to see the tears.

Boston, MA.  7pm.  Fast forward 6 hours to Fenway Park to watch Game 1.  We got in pretty early for the game and saw the Tigers take some batting practice.  It was pretty cool to see batting practice being taken by some guys who can crush the ball.  As we stayed through the next 5+ hours, here is what I learned.

1.  People at Fenway sing at the silliest things.  Hey I get the whole crowd frenzy and sing-a-longs.  But the newest just makes me snicker.  Shane Victorino's at bat music is Three Little Birds by Bob Marley.  It stops right before "cause every little thing is going to be all right.."  Guess which 35,000 people sing that in unison.  Yup you guessed it.  Sweet Caroline, move over.

2.  David Ortiz does not hustle on ground balls.  C actually yelled at Papi to run after one particularly slow ground ball to second base.  But C really enjoyed someone yelling, "Papi, run you lazy bum!!"  He still talks about that.

3. Ice Cream is not a Good Food Choice in the Fall.  C goes one minute freezing to telling me that he wanted an ice cream.  I got him the soft serve in a helmet.  He immediately throws his helmet away.

"C, I paid an extra buck for that helmet!"  I ask with an exasperated tone

"Sorry, Dad, I was done with the ice cream and the helmet got in my way." C responds like he does not appreciate the value of money.

4.  Sweet Caroline is the Anthem of the Drunk.  C is 11 years old.  Two drunk people in front of us started to serenade C.  It did not go that well.  "I'm done with him, the 55 year old woman said to us as we started to look around the park looking around for help.  The girlfriend of the drunk 25 year old singing to C, actually fell asleep during the song.  It could not end soon enough.

5.  Terrible Towels Don't Work Here.  In Pittsburgh, yes.  In Minnesota, yes.  Red Terrible Towels for the game?  It doesn't work.  The towels started to fly around the park like beach balls.

6.  Nothing like October Baseball.  When I told C that this was the first game I had ever seen in October (meaning I had never seen a playoff game), he was astounded.  Even in 1986, he asked?  No not even then.  There is nothing like baseball with the crisp air and the electric atmosphere. 

7.  Go to these Games with your Children.  They will always remember this experience.  If you can ever take some tickets to a playoff baseball game, I encourage you to go.  It's worth it.

Go Sox!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Great 2013 Baseball Card Draft - Part 1

The latest craze in the JMR household is Baseball Cards.

Now, one of the hobbies that I enjoyed when I was a kid was collecting baseball cards.  Starting in 1978, I used all of my allowance money to buy those glossy Topps brand cardboard pieces.  I used to beg my Father to buy me baseball cards from the local store that was near his shop.  I used to bug my brother to give me his baseball cards that he never looked at.  I used to sort my baseball cards by team.  It was an obsession for me.  I went to baseball card stores.  I attended the local baseball card conventions and I tried my luck at baseball card auctions.  When I was a little older, I even tried my hand at this baseball card pyramid scheme to make some money (that went great!...!).  Steve Yeager should be proud that he suckered someone.

Over the years, I had collected some interesting baseball cards.  Nothing that special, but I had some old baseball cards from the 1950's that were worth hundreds of dollars.  It represented a time in my life that I wanted to remember.  And I was not going to part with them easily, or so I thought

Fast forward to a year ago when the boys started bugging me about baseball cards themselves.  Now my boys had gotten interested in other things previously (coins, cars, etc.) and every time they lost interest just as quickly.  My house is littered with their failed hobbies.  One day I saw them going through my baseball cards (not taking any, they insisted) and in a fit of paternal love, I told them that if they were still interested in baseball cards a year from now, I would split up my cards between the two of them.

"Dad, can we have your baseball cards, now?"  G asked me almost one year to the day that I promised them that I would do so.

"Yes, let me figure out how to do it in as fair of a way as I can"  I remarked, without a tone of stalling at all.

Who will get this card??
"I really want your Jackie Robinson card, Dad."  referring to the 1953 Jackie Robinson card that I've had forever.  Oh, G.

"Me too, Dad.  And I'm the oldest!"  C explains thinking that being the oldest means anything more than a free babysitter when he turns 12 years old.

Finally, on a random weekend afternoon when the girls went out to do their nails, I gave the boys their chance to share in my childhood memories.  But first, we had to figure out who was going to go first.  I had the day before decided on doing this in a draft format.  Whoever got the first pick got Jackie Robinson.  Then the other one got the next two picks, and so on.  So I figured out that we would pick numbers 1-9 to see who goes first.  Best out of 5.

It was nerve wracking to say the least.  Even LC was interested in this as the boys were hopping around as the number would fall in each series.  To make it as fair as possible, I chose the number and had LC keep them in a hermetically sealed envelope (well not that far, but she was the gatekeeper of the numbers).  Finally after 20 long minutes of angst, G won the first pick 3-2.

After C was finished pummeling his little brother, we retired up to the little couch room to begin the draft.  I promised 2 hours of entertainment and story telling of how I got the cards.  They promised not to beat the crap out of each other.

Come back for Part 2.  The storytelling.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Scicoh Football Week 1 - Hingham and Duxbury

SCICOH 4TH GRADE FOOTBALL SWEEPS WEEKEND; COACHES REJOICE

September 7, 2013.  Hingham, MA.  After 4 weeks of intensive practices in the New England Summer heat, the SciCoh Sharks opened the 2013 season with an impressive away game win against the always-mighty Hingham Raiders, 32-8. 

After losing to the Raiders two times in 2012, the White Sharks were ready for a measure of revenge in the 2013 series.  "We were ready for them this year.  I felt good about our chances," remarked Coach Dunn.  

But that confidence was shaken early - despite protests from the SciCoh coaching staff on a missed holding penalty - as the Raiders opened the scoring with a 60 yard touchdown on the second play of the game.  But that would be the last play of the day for the Raiders as SciCoh's stellar defense recovered four fumbles, led by standouts Q. Gannon, F. Agostino, C. Coyne, H. Dionisio and N. Tierney.  L. Fernando led the team in passes defensed with 1.  Truly a team effort on defense.  It appeared that the hot dogs and Gatorades provided prior to the game by Hingham native, Coach Dalicandro, had little effect on the defensive unit.

Not be outdone, the Sharks' highpowered offense, led by J. Cannon and S. Morley, rumbled for over 300 yards rushing and four touchdowns.  D. Stanley paced the outstanding blocking from the frontline, springing Cannon for two touchdowns (65 yards, 55 yards) and Morley for 1 touchdown (53 yards).  SciCoh QB, C. Pitten punched his own ticket with a 1 yard TD scamper.

September 8, 2013.  Duxbury, MA.  Looking for the weekend sweep, SciCoh Blue came into Duxbury looking to avenge their only regular season loss from 2012.

"I still remember that JV game here 2 years ago when the Dragons tore us apart," said happy-go-lucky Coach Harris as he walked onto the field before the opening coin toss. "The coaches and I still talk about that game like it happened yesterday."

Led by a stifling defense that allowed only 2 first downs the entire game, SciCoh Blue came away with a 20-0 win over the Dragons.  K. Sullivan (44 yard TD, 25 yard TD) paced the SciCoh attack with 76 yards rushing on 3 carries.  QB J. Kinsley added his own touchdown with a 1 yard QB sneak.  S. Morley also paced the offensive attack with 34 yards of his own.

"It was a good effort, but we have a lot of things that we need to work on."  Coach Kinsley remarked.  Coach Losordo nodded and added.  "I personally don't remember even playing Duxbury two years ago.  I think Coach Harris made that up to motivate himself."

Photographs courtesy of Michael Jones and Nolan Jones.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Should Will Middlebrooks Be on The Red Sox?

It was just a couple of weeks ago that G and I went down to see the Paw Sox play down in Pawtucket.  It was his belated birthday and his choices were one friend at Fenway or many of his friends at the Paw Sox game.  Anyone who knows G know which he picked.

We went down tot he game, got to our seats and I immediately noticed that Will Middlebrooks was in the line up for the Paw Sox.  I had forgotten about him with Jose Iglesias' torrid start for the Red Sox.  But there he was ignoring the buckets in front of the Paw Sox dugout.  As we moved around the ball park in hopes to get a foul ball, everyone always stopped when Middlebrooks came up to bat.  He seemed uncomfortable at the plate and the groans from the fans after the 2 strike outs and the two groundouts indicated to us that he was not ready to come back to the big leagues.

In other words, his 0-4 game in the Paw Sox loss was all I need to see.  He was not ready to come back.

But after Iglesias was traded to the Tigers in the 3 way trade that brought Jake Peavy to the Red Sox, Middlebrooks was soon called back up to the big club.

But the question remains.  Does he belong here?  Granted he has hit in 11 of his last 12 games since being called up, including a monstrous home run in a 12-1 drubbing against the Giants earlier this evening.  And since being called up, his batting average has climbed from .192 to .228.  His OBP has gone up from .238 (really that low?) to .279.  And his slugging?  From .395 to .431.  He has started his second stint with the Sox fairly strongly.  But the Red Sox need more than 11 good games from their 3rd baseman. 

So the question remains.  Middlebrooks is a good hitter and will make a good complement to Xander Bogearts who will be the Red Sox shortstop.  Give him another chance.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

An Evening in the Amazon with Brian Regan

If I have to watch Brian Regan's Stupid in School or Little League one more time, I might throw G's iTouch out of the window (a really high window).  Not that it wasn't funny, but that it was on so many times that when the boys would start imitating the jokes, I knew the words too.  Come on.

But then, the South Shore Music Circus' line up came out for the Summer.  Sure enough, Regan was playing under the tent.  Who cares if it gets buggy and oppressively hot under the tent in the Summer?  We can watch Stupid in School live and the boys would go nuts.  And there's beer.  All is good.

Blurry because C is tapping my shoulder
So C and G escorted me to the show.  As expected, it was hot and steamy under the tent.  We had been in the middle of an oppressive heat wave, so when I say hot, I mean it.  Luckily for me, a fellow patron, obviously hot himself, apparently tried to cool me off when he elbowed my arm spilling three quarters of my beer on my shirt.  I thanked him profusely and went under the tent.  The venue was made especially amazonian by the 800 people under the tent with us.  Even this 10 dollar beer wasn't helping me keep cool on this night.  But the boys were excited. 

The show started with a warm up comedy act.  Some guy I had never heard of.  But he was very funny.  C would whisper to me that he didn't get any of the jokes.  I did not sympathise with him.  I just continued to laugh.  The warm up act finished his gig and then told us there would be 30 minute intermission.  Really 30 minutes.  The stage was bare, what did Regan need that much time for? Oh I get it, more time for us to get that cold beer.  Except now it was raining and I could see lightning in the distance.  I'm staying under this metal-infested tent!

So we waited.

And we waited some more.

C and G at this point were both looking at the digital clock facing our seats.  Counting the 30 minutes down.  33 minutes later, the opening guy comes back out to introduce Regan.  I'm fanning myself off with the program so I don't bother checking to see what this guys name is again.

Regan comes out in jeans and flannel shirt to huge applause.  I immediate start laughing at this ridiculous over dressing.  This is going to be good.  His first jokes start about his family.  While his act is clean and TV ready, I'm afraid that these jokes are going to go over the kids heads.  When C whispers to me again that he doesn't get any jokes, my fear is realized.  Now after every joke, I start glancing over at the boys to see if they are laughing.  They are not.

When his act finally ends, he doesn't do any of his "famous bits."  Although the fig newton bit was hilarious.  He does come out for an encore and takes audience suggestions.  The audience comes through with some lame bits.  Regan doesn't even recognize one of the bits that some college-aged kid screams out.  Nice job, sonny.

When we get to the car, C and G both thank me for taking them.  G then musters up the courage to say that he didn't get any of the jokes.  But he then says thank you again.  I apologize to him (as if it was my fault he talked about his job and wife the whole time).  At least we were all together.

And I haven't had to see those youtube videos since.  So at least I have that going for me.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Brendan Shanahan's Whalers Legacy

"I'll take Keith Primeau over Shanahan any day."  This was a typical Hartford Whalers' fan's reaction that day on October 9, 1996 when Shanahan's request for a trade was finally granted.

Naturally, that was said in the heat of the moment shortly after Brendan Shanahan essentially shot his way out of Hartford at the very beginning of the 1996-97 season.  I had Hartford Whaler season tickets that year (the last year they were in Hartford) and the vitriol that the fans had for Shanahan was striking. #94 jerseys were burned.  People in and around Hartford stopped naming their children "Brendan" or "Shanahan."  The friend of a friend who swore that he dated Brendan Shanahan didn't come around as much anymore (although I never believed her story that she actually dated Shanahan, she was a little cra-cra).

And this hatred was from a fan base that Peter Karmanos deemed to be too apathetic to support a NHL franchise. 

Now, after a 21 year career that netted him 656 goals, Shanahan has been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.  And I'm happy for him. 

He only scored 45 of those 656 goals in a Whalers' uniform, but those 45 goals gave us Whalers fans hope.  Back in 1995, when the rumors were that the Whalers were looking to trade their defenseman stud Chris Pronger for some scoring punch, the Whalers were little moribund.  And that showed in the dwindling attendance and the nonchalant attitude that many of us had.  Chuck's Steak House was not very busy in those days and the Civic Center was a half empty shell of what it used to be.  We needed some excitement.

And when Pronger was traded for arguably the most exciting player in the NHL - certainly the most dynamic goal scorer - we went crazy.  Even though the Whalers' owner wanted to move the team, Shanahan brought excitement back to the franchise.  I got my tickets to the usual 10 games, the fans started returning and Chuck's Steak House was buzzing again.  Even LC, who was my girlfriend at the time, was interested in hockey.  Although the Whalers missed the playoffs that year, we were all excited about what Shanahan was going to do.  We were excited for the future, too.

And shortly after the season ended, Shanahan started to make some noise about leaving.  At this point, I really don't blame him any more.  The team was subject to intense speculation about moving.  There was a desperate call for getting 11,000 season ticket holders, otherwise, the team was moving.  No one was really sure where the team would move, but we thought maybe the hockey hot bed of North Carolina.  There was a lot of uncertainty.

And then, just like that, Shanahan was gone.  Traded to Detroit for Keith Primeau and Paul Coffey and a First Draft Pick in 1997 (who turned out to be Nikos Tselios - I don't know him either) Shanahan was forever gone. 

And now, Shanahan is going to the Hall.  If this were baseball, my question would be whether he was going to be wearing a Hartford Whalers cap.  Nah, probably not.  Yeah, I'd say I'm happy for him.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Brandon Workman - Who on Earth is He?

What on earth is going on here?  The Red Sox are 4 games in front of the AL East.  John Lackey seems to be regaining his Cy Young form that we have never seen on a Red Sox uniform.  John Farrell has his piecemeal bullpen working some magic on the mound.  Jose Iglesias is making a case for American League Rookie of the year batting close to .400 through the end of June.  Seriously what the Hell is going on here?

Workman needed a friend in the 7th
And then we sit down to watch the Red Sox play the Oakland Athletics and the portly Bartolo Colon right before the All Star break.  The Red Sox and the A's (I still don't like saying the name "Athletics," it's too much work).  I didn't take much notice at the fact that some kid named Brandon Workman had mowed down the first nine Athletics, three by strike outs.  I like to consider myself up on the Red Sox minor leaguers - Xander Bogaerts is one of C's favorite players - but I had never heard of this kid. 

Workman has actually been quite impressive in Pawtucket and Portland in 2013.  Compiling a 8-2 record in 16 starts, Workman has been quite Workmanlike.  With Alfredo Aceves on the shelf after some hurt feelings (actually I don't know what's wrong with him), Workman is now the fifth starter until Clay Buchholz is back in the Rotation.  Who knew?  Not me.  And even G and C didn't know this guy, so he must not have a baseball card either.  Workman has actually been in the Red Sox system since 2011 after being drafted out of the University of Texas.  With a career record of 24-17, almost 9 strikeouts per 9 innings and an ERA of 3.50, Workman is actually a decent prospect.

We pick the game up in the bottom of the 7th.  Coco Crisp is up as the Red Sox nurse a 2-0 lead.  The only baserunner was a John Jaso walk who then got thrown out in a strike him out throw him out.  Wakefield and Schilling both got into the 9th inning in Oakland over the last couple of years.  Can Workman break this bad streak of almost no hitters?  Crisp stand at the plate with two strikes on him.  And then hits a weak grounder to second.  Pedroia dives to stop the ball, throws to First andddddd.  HE'S SAFE!  Everyone yells "OHHHHH!!" as Crisp beats out the grounder by a step.

"You scared me" DLG tells us after we stop.  Sorry pretty lady.  C then goes on to tell me that he knew Workman was going to give up a hit this inning, but didn't tell anyone.  Huh.  Funny he didn't say anything before the hit.

And then Donaldson hits the big fly over Jacoby Ellsbury's head.  The no hitter is gone.  The shutout is gone.  And I think we are gone too since nothing good has happened since we came to watch the game. 

Maybe we'll see Workman in Pawtucket later this year...

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Red Sox and Birthdays Strike Again

It took me a little while to figure this one out.  See, the boys birthdays are next to one another and they always asked me to take them to a Red Sox game.  In trying to find tickets, I finally decided on the Rockies-Red Sox tilt on a random Wednesday afternoon.  I thought that that would be a good option; they wouldn't be home too late on a school night.  And besides, I like watching the Sox take on a National League team - even if this Rockies team won't make you think back to the 2007 World Series.  It seemed like a win-win situation, in any event.  Well for everyone but the Red Sox as John Lackey was going, still trying to find his groove after spending last season on the shelf with a Tommy John.

I get to the park first.  I find a $50 parking spot (being careful to avoid the street since I hadn't had any time to get my car inspected, I didn't want to risk a $50 ticket plus street parking).  I went to the Boston Beer Works and ate lunch.  I people watched (and watched the thunderstorms) for a while until C and G (plus one of the C's friends) came to the restaurant to get me.

Oswalt preparing for the onslaught
Because of the afternoon rain, neither team took batting practice, which took away one of the features of arriving early.  So we went to our seats in "foul ball alley" and watched the teams warm up.  A couple of random Rockies' players were signing programs and balls, so C and his buddy went down there to get autographs.  When they got back, I studied the signature to see if I could figure out who it was.  "No idea" was my final answer.  In the meantime, the teams retreat back into the dugouts to prepare for the beginning of the game.

As John Lackey takes the field, C wonders if he is actually going to pitch well.  He hasn't pitched badly this year, despite having just a 4-5 record heading into the game.  And as he pitches in the First inning, it looks like his fastball is popping.  He strikes out Todd Helton and Michael Cuddyer in an impressive first inning.  Although he gives up a run on a single, stolen base and single, his fastball is clocked at 94 and 95 MPH.  It seemed like he was going to have another impressive outing.  And although the Red Sox were down early, they got that run back and then some.  After Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz doubled, the Red Sox took the lead in the first inning, 3-1.

Lackey continued to pop his fastball as he mows down the Rockies through 5 innings, including two innings where he strikes out the side.  The Red Sox, meanwhile take a 5-1 lead in the 3rd inning as Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava both drive in a run.  And the boys would be remiss without telling me that no foul balls have come our way.  Not even close.

The Red Sox end up holding onto the lead (despite two home runs from Michael Cuddyer) and winning the game 5-3.  Lackey ends up striking out 12 on his way to his fifth win of the season.  It seems that he is readying himself for a big year, after three disappointing years to start his Boston years.  The boys statistics include two hot dogs, two large fries, two drinks and about 5000 sun flower seeds.  And good times were had all around. Maybe next time all three will come with me to a Red Sox game.  I already have her collecting baseball cards.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Scituate 9U Baseball Team Travels to Sandwich

Scituate 9A Summer Travel Baseball team traveled to Cape Cod in its annual Sandwich Summer Blast Tournament.  Scituate tried to reverse the trend of challenging performances that previous 9A teams faced in the annual Cape Tourney over the past couple of years.

June 27, 2013.  Scituate 13 Cohasset 3.

In a game held under the lights at the Sandwich AL1 field, Scituate's J. Garrett and J. Kinsley combined to toss a no-hitter as Scituate easily handled its cross town rival, Cohasset 13-3 to start its run in the Sandwich Summer Blast Baseball Tournament.  Garrett struck out 8 in just 4 innings of work while Kinsley saved the game in a tense 5th inning.  Scituate's pitching was not the only story though, as the mighty Sailors smashed 9 hits including ringing doubles from G. Harris (2 hits and 2 RBIs) and C. Smith (1 hit and 1 RBI).  With the win, Scituate immediately put itself in prime contention for a high seed in the Tournament playoff. 

Game balls.   Garrett, Harris, Kinsley.

June 29, 2013.  Falmouth 9 Scituate 3

After rain dampened the Sailors' game against Martha's Vineyard in the morning session (a tie that ruined a 2-0 lead in the process), Scituate gathered itself together to face a tough team from Falmouth in the afternoon session at Sandwich AL2 Field.  Despite some rough seas through the first 3 innings that saw 6 walks and 3 errors, Scituate staved off a mercy rule ending through the final 2 innings with exceptional pitching from H. Gates.  Faced with an uphill battle in the 6th inning to get back into the game, the Sailors made the game interesting with RBI singles from J. Adams and J. Sannella to close the gap to 6 runs.  Unfortunately, it wasn't enough as Falmouth beat Scituate 9-3.

Game balls.  Gates, Sannella, Sullivan.

June 30, 2013.  Norwell 6 Scituate 5

After garnering the 6 seed in the tournament with a 1-1-1 record, Scituate faced a feisty team from Norwell to open the tournament playoffs.  Dodging storms throughout the weekend, the day appeared to brighten as Scituate made it way down to the Cape.  After jumping to a quick 4-1 lead through 4 innings, Norwell battled back with 5 runs in the 5th and 6th inning to win the game 6-5.  J. Garrett again sparkled as he threw 5 innings and struck out 9.  The Sailors were paced with 2 hits a piece from J. Kinsley and J. Adams and a 2 run double by C. Smith. 

Game balls.  Garrett, Kinsley, Adams, Smith.  

For box scores of the three games, check here.  Regular season play starts on Sunday in Rockland!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blackhawks, Bruins and Conflicts

It wasn't that long ago that I declared, after the Hartford Whalers stole any joy that I derived from hockey, that the Chicago Blackhawks were going to be my favorite team.  But that was back in 2011, and I have to admit that I have not really been keeping up with the Blackhawks since then (Before the Stanley Cup Finals I could only name Kane and Hossa as Blackhawks); I have been content letting hockey disappear from my life.

And I took this tact for the first 5 games of the epic Blackhawks-Bruins Finals.   I didn't really care that much, only watching snippets of highlights if I happened to catch them on Sportscenter the next day.  Meanwhile friends have been up in arms about this series, even more so than back in 2011, when I didn't care that much then. But now, after Game 5 in which I was forced to watch the game with Bruins fans, I am now interested in this series.  I'm not going to be rooting for the Bruins, mind you.  You gotta be kidding me.  But I will root for an exciting game.

To get me into the series, G has been secretly whispering to me "Here we go Blackhawks."  He likes the Whalers even though he was born 7 years after they left Hartford.  While I laughed with him, DLG and C looked at me with serious looks.  Neither of them like hockey (probably because of me) and didn't like the inside jokes.

In the aftermath...

I started writing about the game.  I went period by period hoping for an epic collision between two long time teams.  I laughed at Jaromir Jagr and wondered if Patrice Bergeron was really hurt.  And then the last 90 seconds of the Third Period happened and I deleted all of that.  It just made me nostalgic for some good hockey in the Nutmeg State and I was not going to go there.

So I erased that recap.  Instead, I simply say "Nice job.  Good effort." 

Time for baseball anyway.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Vince Lombardi By the Quotes - A Message

"You are a confident person and with the right tools, the right attitude and the right focus, you can do anything you want and succeed." 

Sounds like Vince Lombardi, right?  But its actually me channeling Lombardi with my message to you.  In honor of Lombardi's 100th birthday celebration on June 11, I have compiled a list of my favorite Vince Lombardi quotes for you.  Now I have never seen Lombardi's sales movie from the 1960's - and trying to buy the DVD now will run over $1,000.00 - but my favorite Lombardi quotes really have nothing to do with football.  They apply to everything you do.  The roots might be sports-related, but winning, confidence and internal strength have applications in everything you do - on and off the field.

“If it doesn’t matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score?"

My favorite quote.  Kids always look at me and cheer when I say that.  Now the baseball league we belong to dictates that winning doesn't matter, everyone makes the playoffs and everyone should play every position.  I agree that everyone should try every position, but winning and losing is very important, because if you lose every game, yeah you make the playoffs, but the kids are demoralized and you end up facing the team with the two best players in the league.  The result -you get your butts kicked.  How is all of this good for your confidence?  What good habits do you form from this?  If a score is kept, you have to try your hardest to win because that will lead you to practice the good habits that will allow you to succeed.  If a score is not being kept, then you have to relax.  Once you realize the difference, you can have fun and be successful. 

"Winning is not a sometime thing…it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while…you don’t do the right thing once in a while…you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit."

Winning takes a lot of forms.  It might be winning on the field or on the court when you look at the score board.  What I think this means though is that to be successful, you have to try your hardest and practice everything you do to get into good habits - because good habits only lead to success and good things.  I could be in sports, definitely.  But this also means winning in school and at work.  If winning at a pursuit becomes a habit, it's a tough habit to break.  

“Confidence is contagious and so is lack of confidence, and a customer will recognize both.”

Clearly a quote from the Lombardi sales movie referred to above.  But it applies everywhere you turn in life.  You are trying to win in everything you do.  It might not be a win in the conventional way, but it s a chance to succeed.  Maybe its sports, but its more likely in school and at the workplace.  If you are confident (or you lack confidence), it will be recognized and remembered.  You can succeed in life if you believe in yourself.  But just as easily, you can fail if you don't believe in yourself.  

“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”

One of the worst things that you can do is to quit.  But giving up and quitting is not a simple concept to understand.  Giving something a try and failing to succeed no matter what you try is not quitting if you decide to move on.  Simply stated, not matter what you try, work as hard as you can and if you cannot get it to work, then find something else that you can succeed in.  Confidence is not built by trying as hard as you can to do something that you cannot do indefinitely.  Once you learn the difference and know your limits, the better you will become. 

“The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel – these are the things that endure and these are the qualities that are so much more important than any of the events that occasion them.”

An over-arching theme of Lombardi's entire life.  Another way to look at it is thinking about it using a different metaphor.  Success is derived not from the destination, but from the journey getting there.  Habits leading to excellence and practicing the right things to increase your will to win are so much more important than the individual win.  And it leads to more success.



“Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence.”

No one is perfect. And there is nothing you will ever do that will require perfection.  It is the essence of being human to be imperfect.  The interesting part about life is figuring out a response to the imperfections you will face in your life.  But if you practice good habits and you practice willing yourself to succeed, you have a great chance to be successful at whatever you try to do.  That's all I can ask.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tepid Tim Tebow Joins the Patriots

Tim Tebow has joined the New England Patriots!  I was flabbergasted when I heard the news, what with Bill Belichick calling Tebow out as a terrible football player just days ago. Really, Tim Tebow seems like a curious choice to join the three time champions.  Some in the family would agree with me.

"Really, Dad, he stinks!" My 11 year old texted me.

"Why did they sign him, they have Tom Brady!"  My 8 year old stated.

"Who's Tim Tebow?" DLG asks me, not really sure what all of the commotion was about.

Huh?
Now over the last 24 hours, pundits have theorized why Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Robert Kraft signed this guy.  It was a favor to Urban Meyer.  It was a favor to Josh McDaniels.  It was a ploy to increase interest in the team prior to camp starting next month and to increase sales and attendance at preseason games.  It was a shot at the Boston Herald for reporting that Belichick hated Tim Tebow just a couple of days ago.

Who cares?  The simple reason the Patriots signed Tebow was because he comes without risk.  He signed a non guaranteed contract.  He's a hard worker and will likely be motivated to excel in any capacity that the Patriots find for him.  Personally, I think that he would be the third string quarterback but will also play a lot of special teams with his religious teammate Matthew Slater.  A good, hard-nosed player playing special teams is what every team is looking for.

All-in-all, I think it is a good signing.  We might not agree with it using the playing field as a barometer.  And all of the local columnists are crying that the signing will bring the circus to town.  But so what?  If there is a team that is adept at dealing with circuses, it's this one.  Remember, Albert Haynesworth, Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco were also considered side shows when they came to Foxboro.  Some succeeded some did not, but they all managed to fall into the Patriot way.  It was not that big of a deal then, and I doubt this will be a big deal now.

So let's hope that this works out.  I like the heady play and the leadership that Tebow can bring.  I like the spirit and locker room presence he can lend, and I like how he can take some of the media pressure off for a Patriots team that is entering is 9th season of the Brady era without a Super Bowl.  Maybe Tebow will win that elusive starting job somewhere after he leaves the Patriots.  I think it is worth a shot to see if he can do it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Lackey's Coming Around for the Red Sox

Amidst the Bruins playoff chances (yawn) and all of the little league and AAU baseball games (hello sunburn), one thing that has got Red Sox fans excited is the re-emergence of John Lackey as a force on the Red Sox starting rotation.

It's not a reach to think about Lackey's comeback.  He was a 19 game winner back in 2007, finishing third in the Cy Young Award balloting.  But after a forgettable 2011 campaign that was marked by controversy and Budweiser, and a 2012 season spent on the shelf, it was still refreshing to see Lackey come out somewhat strong to open the 2013 season.  Despite his 1-4 record.  I was so confident in Lackey's come back that I even picked him as my player to watch in my preseason journal.

Fast forward to today's game against the Minnesota Twins.  The threat of rain was present and it would have have been nice if Lackey could finish off the sweep and bring the Red Sox to within half a game of the Yankees.  Lackey started strong in the First

After Middlebrooks' Home Run made the game 1-0, I was starting to get my hopes of a sweep.  I wouldn't vocalize my thoughts, however, as C and G were milling around while I was watching the game.

As the second and third innings passed by and Lackey still hadn't given up a hit, I started to think more than a win.  I started to think about a no-hitter.  Still the rain was coming, and Lackey hadn't given up a hit through 4.

As Napoli hits a bloop single to Center field to make it 3-0 in the fifth, I wanted the inning to be over so we could get in a complete game.

And just as I think it, the rain starts to come down.  Maybe, Lackey can get this no hitter shortened by rain.  He can join Buchholz and Lester as the Red Sox starters who have thrown no hitters.  Lackey comes out with a determined look on his face as he starts the fifth inning.  And just like that the no hitter is over, as Trevor Plouffe razors a double to left field.  Lackey, unflustered then gives up a hit batter (that did not look like a hit batter) and then an error by Pedro Ciriaco brings in the Twins first run.

Now in Lackey's first two years, I would have expected him to start blowing up, barking at his fellow players and generally let his body language speak for itself.  But this is the new John Lackey.  The one who is confident and not a dolt.  He gets out fo the fifth with no more damage and mows the Twins down in the Sixth.

And then the rains came.  2 hours and 55 minutes of rain.  Why do they insist on resuming this game almost three hours after it was stopped for rain? I don't get a say, however, as the game restarts at 7:30 in the bottom of the 7th inning.

I look at C and G who rejoin me before they go to bed.  I think at this point I'm going to bed too.  I hope the Red Sox and Lackey win this one.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Jackie Robinson Story for Modern Times

The Jackie Robinson story as told in modern days.

Almost immediately after the first trailer was shown, the boys wanted to go see "42 - The True Story of an American Legend."  The story of Jackie Robinson's entry into Major League Baseball (or as C calls it, the MLB) was intriguing to the boys.  They didn't quite understand why it was intriguing, they just knew that it was.  The questions were endless.  It was actually refreshing to hear the boys being so naive and asking questions like this.

Whenever I hear of a reboot of a historical event, I can't help but think of that urban Romeo and Juliet with Claire Danes or "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter."  Ugh.  Even history tends to be a product of modern times, and I was afraid that the Jackie Robinson story was going to be a watered down, feel-good affair.  At the ripe old age of 12, I learned of Robinson's plight.  Not that I could ever understand it, but  I picked up his school-age appropriate biography to to a book report and learned of the hatred and abject prejudice he faced.  I didn't understand it then either.

It was with this as background that we went to see 42, the story of Jackie's first year in the Major Leagues in 1947.  I was apprehensive about what we were going to see.  Either it was going to be unrealistic cheese, or it was going to be a brutal indictment on American culture that many living people still remember.

My prized possession
Hingham, MA.  7pm.  It was not long that I realized it was going to be the latter.  The game was crude and ruthless back in the 1940's.  Forget that this was post war America.  This was pre-business America.  No one really thought about how to wring the most out of American sports, particularly baseball which was at its zenith in the post war baby boom.  People would sacrifice making money for personal vendettas and personal causes.  It's astonishing to think that this was the case since people of my generation and the kids' generation is all about making the almighty buck.  Amidst this general ignorance (both to race and to dollar signs), Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey decided to call up Robinson to enhance the sales of tickets to Blacks who were coming to the game.  Now I'm sure he had some other type of notoriety (and his legacy) in mind when he decided to break the color barrier, but that was never developed in the movie.  Although he was a very complex man, he was somewhat one-dimensional in the movie.

The movie focuses on Robinson's career after he gets called up from the Negro Leagues in 1945.  Robinson started with Brooklyn's affiliate, Montreal, in 1946 after being signed by Rickey and immediately excelled in the Minor Leagues.  His charisma, skill and grit were too much for the Dodgers to ignore though, and the Dodgers called him to start at First Base in 1947.  Teammates hated him.  Opposing Managers and players hated him.  Most fans - both in Brooklyn and in opposing cities - hated him.  He was subject to segregation and outright calls for him to no play in certain cities close to the Mason-Dixon line.  Throughout all that, he still managed to play well and avoid leading the league in HBP (despite what the movie said).  I looked at the boys during these scenes and they were both transfixed.  Not bad.   

The story was inspirational, actually.  All the odds were against him and he still played well enough to win the 1947 Rookie of the Year Award and come in 5th place in the MVP voting (He would later win the MVP award in 1949).  Even though his manhood was challenged, he did not fight back.  He knew the score and wanted to make this a successful transition.  He would pave the way for other African American standout players like Roy Campanella, Satchel Paige and Larry Doby.  This had to work, the movie was telling us.

And it did.  As we walked out, all three kids started asking me about my 1953 Topps Jackie Robinson that I obtained right after that book report that I did when I was 12.  My prized possession.  They wanted to learn more about that card and the player whose picture was found on that card.  Maybe they don't understand the historical significance, but they understand the significance of the man and the player. 

And that's the point, I think.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Thoughts and Advice

Boston, MA.  The 2013 Boston Marathon.

I was sitting at work when my Mother called me on my cellphone.  It was 3:30 on Monday, April 15, 2013.  At the time, I thought it curious that my Mother was calling me on my cell phone.  She sounded concerned.

"Hi honey.  I just wanted to make sure that you, LC and the kids were OK."  What the Hell is she talking about?  "Did you hear what happened at the Boston Marathon?"  I hadn't.  We just got home from a tournament in Providence and I went to work to get some clean up items done.  We were nowhere near Boston today.

I stopped what I was doing and went on Boston.com as I was talking to her.  The website wouldn't load and gave me an over capacity error message.  The last time that happened was on September 11, 2001.  That is isn't good, I thought to myself.  So I went onto NECN.com.  The front page story told me that there were bombings at the Boston Marathon.  Details were scant, but the reports were saying that there were two blasts on Boylston Avenue right near the Finish Line at the Boston Marathon.  The lone video available at the time showed the Finish Line timer at 4:09 and among the runners trying to finish was a fire bomb that filled up the screen on the right hand side of the screen.

It was an eerie, scary scene.

"No we didn't go into Boston today."  I told my Mom.  But I knew other people who had.  And those blasts seemed to be at the time that they may have finished...right at the 4 hour mark.

As I was talking, LC texted me asking what happened at the Marathon.  I told her what I knew, which was not much.  My thoughts drifted to getting the boys who were at a friend's house.  Some of it was to make sure they were OK as a parent is wont to do, and some of it was to talk to them about a part of History they were witnessing.  One of LC's best friends had attended the Marathon that day.  When you have hundreds of thousands of people go into Boston, stories like that will come out.  We all know someone who was near the Finish Line four hours and nine minutes into the Marathon.

But we all know what happened by now.  Three people dead.  172 people injured, some grievously.  The boys started tiring of the coverage about an hour in since no new information was coming in.  I answered their questions for a little while, but then their questions centered more on wheat was for dinner.  We decided to shield our 6 year old daughter from the coverage since a lot of the pictures and video showed massive amounts of blood on the streets.  Why does she need feel sad on a nice day like this?  I have a feeling we'll be talking about this for the next couple of weeks and then next April.  That's enough coverage for me.

And as I write this, I want to be realistic about my thoughts.  I think this was done by a gutless person acting alone.  This is too crude for an Al Queda attack or some other terrorist attack.  This was too random for a coordinated nationalistic attack.  This struck me more of a Boston attack from a Boston native, than a international attack against the United States.  In fact, this reminds me more of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic bombing or the Oklahoma City bombing, than a coordinated terrorist attack.  Nothing surprises me about the last 24 hours, but I guess what surprises me the most is that no one has come forward saying that they saw some strange guy leaving back packs near the Finish Line.

And some words of advice from a citizen of Massachusetts.  Next April, this has to go on.  The terrorists have won if we cancel the Marathon, right?  I have two tweaks to next year's race that I personally would like to see instituted.

1.  What needs to happen next year is for people to be near the Finish Line with tickets only.  The Marathon is a "soft target" because people can easily come and go, so make it so that that can't happen.  Barricade the Back Bay along the Public Garden, the South End, Kenmore and Newbury Street.  If you want to be that close, you need to have a ticket and be subject to search.  The grid like pattern of the streets lends itself to barricade and ticketing. 

2.  This part is what hurts me the most.  Part of the chaos that occurs at the Marathon at the four hour mark has to do with the Patriots Day Red Sox game.  hundreds of thousands of visitors line the streets and then when you add 38,000 Red Sox fans who may or may not be drunk adds to the distraction.  I did the walk from Fenway to the Public Garden back in 2011.  It took 2 hours to walk 10 blocks.  Unfortunately, I think the game has to go.  This will alleviate pressure at the Kenmore part of the Marathon.

I'm saddened by the events in the Back Bay yesterday.  Things will never be the same and nor should they be.  We would be doing a disservice to those who lost their lives and limbs and to those who risked their lives trying to help.  I'm not going to pretend to pray for Boston because that's not me.  But I am going to hope that this is the last time this ever happens. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Harlem Globetrotters in 2013 - An Essay

Here we are again.  Ceelo has left The Voice to Emcee the proceedings.  Reggie Harrison is back because he can't find a College coaching gig.  Global Select is back trying to redeem itself after a poor showing in 2012.  That's right.  Welcome to the 2013 Harlem Globetrotters Boston Journal!  For the fourth year in a row  (Read the 2010, 2011, and 2012 editions here), the five of us travel into Boston to watch the Harlem Globetrotters and their entertaining version of basketball.  Who cares if the kids completely disregard fundamental basketball to do the tricks that they see the Globetrotters do?  It last only for a couple of weeks before I shut them down on the court from trying their own version of the Magic Circle whistling Sweet Georgia Brown. 

Everyone was waiting for my vote
When we arrived for the latest edition of the Harlem Globetrotters, the first thing we noticed was that this year's theme was a little different.  We could use Twitter to decide which of the gimmicks would be in play for each quarter.  Our choices were the four point shot and the penalty box (which we had seen in other editions of the globetrotters), the two balls in play rule (which was my favorite), the 6 on 5 rule and the double the points rule.  I immediately went on Twitter to cast my vote for the two balls in play rule.  That was a new one to me.   

As the team comes out for Sweet Georgia Brown, I notice that Big Easy is the star of the team, rather than Special K (Thank goodness, Special K was kind of boring last year), but that Tiny was not here either for the second year in a row.  Seriously why does Providence get this guy and we don't?  It's Providence!

But back to the voting.  Because Wonderful Pistachios were sponsoring the 4 point shot (which were in the corners between the three point line and midcourt), I was not surprised to see that the 4 point shots were the First Quarter gimmick that people "voted" for.

1:15PM.  Boston, MA.  The game started as it usually does.  The Global Select team came out shooting, immediately hitting three 4 point shots to take an early lead.  However, both teams were shot happy and refused to try to score anything but 4 pointers and the occasional three man weave.  the score after one was 17-16.  I make a comment to G that the loser of Last Year's game was prohibited from touring 2013, but yet Global Select was still around.  I guess just an oversight.  G didn't seem to mind.

As I ponder that question, Big Globie comes out next to entertain the kids, with his still funny Chumbawumba imitation of getting knocked down and he gets up again.  That still cracks me up as we enter our third straight year of this.  The kids still like it too.  At least that's what it looks like to me.

The scoring in the Second Quarter increases substantially.  Not because of fundamentally good basketball, mind you, but because the crowd voted to make double the points as the Second Quarter gimmick.  Every free throw is worth 2 points, every basket is worth 4, you get it.  The teams, relieved of the pressure to hit obscenely long 4 point shots, now start shooting medium range jumpers or collaborating on easy three man weaves.  The teams' field goal percentage rises and, as expected, the Global Select takes a half time lead of 53-44.  Only DLG thinks that the Globetrotters might lose at this point (She's only 6, after all) so I gently tell her that she might be the reason the Globetrotters will lose for the first time in years.  She's a jinx!  No not really, I just play along telling her that the Globetrotters are a good team so don't worry, they will mount a comeback.

The Second Half opens with the 2 basketball gimmick for the first two minutes.  I admit that this is pretty impressive since now the Globetrotters complete the three man weave with 2 basketballs instead of one.  This was quite a feat of choreography.  Great job by the guys (and the Curly Neal of the team, TNT, who was female.)  The Trotters also entertain the crowd with the bucketful of water routine that makes the kids go nuts.

The Fourth Quarter brings out the two basketball routine again that is decided by live fan vote in the arena.  The Globetrotters start to pull away as the team starts to execute on all of its shots, including a fantastic half court hook shot by Bid Easy.  The crowd goes crazy when he makes it!  The Globetrotters win 96-82.

As we walk out of the Arena, I reflect on another successful day in Boston with the Globetrotters and wonder to myself how many more of these we can go to before the kids aren't interested anymore.  Until then, I still enjoy these days.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

John Lackey's Comeback is Almost Complete

You read it here first.  John Lackey will lead the Boston Red Sox to the 2013 American League Playoffs.  That's right.  John Lackey.  He of the 5.40 ERA in Spring Training this year.  He of the bum right arm who was shelved for 2012.  He of the 26-23 record for the Red Sox since joining as a highly touted free agent signing after the 2009 season.  That John Lackey. 

The Red Sox have a slew of new players this year - Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, one of the Drew brothers.  In fact, only 5 players remain from that moribund 2009 team that was swept by Lackey's Angels in the ALDS.  But the most important piece of the puzzle is and will continue to be the mysterious John Lackey.  Pegged to be either the 4th or 5th Starter for the Red Sox in 2013, Lackey has the ability, if he regains the form from his stellar 2007 season, to be the most valuable Pitcher in the Red Sox organization.

And that's where my review starts...John Lackey winning 15 games as a Number 4 starter.  I figure that the Red Sox will need to win 92 games to make the playoffs in 2013.  And to achieve that, Lackey is going to have to win 15 of those games.  For every game fewer that Lackey wins this year, the Red Sox will win 3 games fewer.  Now I get it.  It has to be within reason and not a direct correlation.  So if Lackey wins just 10 games or fewer, the Red Sox will win 77 games and finish below .500 for the second consecutive year.

How about that spectacle while you're sitting in those $100 box seats - a second straight losing season?

Now if Lackey wins 15 games or more?  The Red Sox are going to the Playoffs.  It might be that questionable one game playoff that began in 2012, or it might be as the Number 1 seed after winning the AL East.  Rest assured, the Red Sox will go to the playoffs if Lackey wins 15 games or more.

How do I know? 

Pitching.  Lester, Buchholz and Dempster are all projected to win 15 games this year.  Based on his Spring Training performance, Jon Lester is looking at the prospect of winning 20 games.  No team has ever had 4 15-game winners and failed to make the playoffs.  OK, I'm lying about that statistic, but you get my point.  The relievers, led by Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey, might be one of the strongest groups in the league.

Stars Realign.  Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia are coming off of subpar seasons.  Pedroia is poised to pick up where he left off in 2011.  Ellsbury might be one of those Brady Anderson types after his break out 2011 season (if you know what I mean), but he is in a contract year, and he seems like the kind of guy who will put up monster numbers in the hopes of garnering a massive multiyear contract in 2014.

Character Guys.  The Red Sox, after the double debacle of "Chicken and Beer" and "Bobby Valentine," have figured out that bringing in solid chemistry team-first guys is good for the club.  In fact, the Red Sox would be smart to duplicate the success of the 1996-2000 Yankees, who built a team of blue collar workers around a small core of good to great players.  Scott Brosius was a decent player.  Not great, but he fit in great for that Yankees' club.  Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli both fit that profile.

AL Least.  Believe it or not, the AL East is weak this year.  The Yankees are old and hurting, using two Red Sox cast offs as their corner infielders for the foreseeable future, a 43 year old closer and an ace that has never turned down seconds or thirds at the Dinner Table.  The Blue Jays are relying on one hit wonder RA Dickey and oft-injured Jose Reyes to lead them to the playoffs.  The Rays have no hitting to match their solid rotation.  The Orioles will fail to win more than 75 games.  On paper, the AL East looks strong, but in actuality, is dancing on the head of a pin.  I can see the Red Sox squeezing out a Division title, honestly.

But the key remains Lackey.  If the Red Sox don't have a reliable 4th starter, they are going to be pounded in every 3 and 4 game series at least once.  That starts to wear down a team during a long season.  John Lackey will either catapult the Red Sox to the top of the league (if he's healthy and serviceable) or will lead to long lines at the Beer parlors that Lackey knows so well on Yawkey Way and Brookline Avenue (if he duplicates his 2011 campaign).

Prediction.  Lackey wins those 15 games.  The Red Sox win 93 games and make the Playoffs as one of the the AL Wild Card.  Play Ball!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

We'll Miss Mayor Menino in Boston

Today is the day that Mayor Menino has been dreading for almost 20 years.  His decision to not seek re-election for another term as Boston's Mayor.

A lot of good things have happened in Boston since Mayor Tom Menino became mayor of Boston back in 1993.  The Convention came to Town in 2004.  Major construction projects and urban renewal projects were proposed and approved.  But most importantly, Mayor Menino will be remembered for completely butchering the names of sports figures in Boston.  I mean, the guy was so unaware that I question whether he ever played sports in school.

Let's take a look at some of the most controversial ones.

1.  Jason Varitek did not "Split the Uprights."  Back in 2001-02, The New England Patriots became the darling of the Boston Sports Scene.  Robert Kraft, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady took a moribund franchise and transformed it into the most profitable and one of the most valuable franchises in all of sports.  Some of the most iconic videos from that 2001 season was Adam Vinitieri's winning field goals in both the Snow Bowl and in the Super Bowl.  In 2010, with a crowd of hundreds in the audience, Mayor Menino thought that Jason Varitek actually kicked those field goals.  I note that neither the Patriots nor the Red Sox have won their respective championships since this infamous blunder.

2.  Weckler and Grabowski.  Apparently believing that Tom Brady can throw to anyone and be successful, the Honorable Mayor Menino believed that Wes Weckler and Rob Grabowski would help Brady to victory in the 2012 playoffs.  It was a heated rivalry.  And the 2011-12 season was no exception.  The Ravens and Baltimore's erstwhile Mayor were talking some smack before the 2011-12 AFC Championship.  Menino, in an attempt at throwing back in their face, challenged Baltimore with his notorious line about the the great Patriots' receiving core - the aforementioned Weckler and Grabowski.  Note:  I can't remember, this might have been before the Broncos playoff game too.

3.  Gonk and Wilcock.  In an effort to out do himself, Menino again took to the airwaves to discuss the Patriots' team.  Again in a fight with the Ravens, Mayor Menino ripped off a couple of excellent zingers at Baltimore.  He espoused the virtues this time of Gonk and Wilcock. Seriously, he screwed up Gronkowski's name again, twice in one year?  More importantly, how does one interpret Gronk's nickname as Gonk?

4.  KJ and Hondo.  In perhaps the blogosphere's most notorious example of name bungling, Mayor Menino was championing the Celtics run toward another Championship run.  But instead of KG and Rajon Rondo leading the charge this year, Mayor Menino believed that Danny Ainge picked up a couple of new players, nicknamed KJ and Hondo.  These guys weren't going to help the Celtics, Mayor" I said to noone in particular when I read this back in June 2012.  At least he had the good sense to use his Twitter feed to make light of the whole situation.

Good luck, Mayor.  We'll miss you.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

2013 NCAA Brackets for Life and Death

It took a lot of cajoling to get us to this point.  The brackets for this year's 2013 NCAA Championship was shaping up to be interesting, and I wanted to play in one that didn't involve home equity loans and escrow accounts (if that were legal, which it isn't).  As a result, I decided to resurrect the great Bracket challenge.  JMR, LC, C, G and DLG would all fill out bracket pools and the winner would pocket 20 bucks.  Both boys were reticent to even participate since it was taking away from their video game time, but I was able to finally convince them with threats of going to bed.  Family time has never been so sweet.

The Rules

This is easy.  First Round wins would be 1 point.  Second Round wins would be 2 points.  Sweet Sixteen wins would count for 4 points and Elite 8 wins would result in 8 points.  Final Four wins would be 16 points.  And if you picked the winner?  32 points!

Because this year's NCAA season didn't really have a consensus #1 team, all #1 seeds were shaky at best.  The two seeds were even shakier.  Given this, I thought that upsets would be plentiful (Gonzaga a 1 seed??  Yikes.).  To emphasize this, every time an upset was picked, double the points would be awarded.  If you picked Duke to lose in its First Round Game against Albany like I did, you get 2 points instead of 1.  You pick Gonzaga to lose in the Second round like I did?  You get 4 points instead of 2.  Honestly, I believe that I am in the driver's seat.

But that's the way I always think.

The Picks

UConn ain't playing this year
JMR:  I picked a Final Four of Louisville, Wisconsin, Kansas and Miami.  I then picked Louisville to beat Miami in the Championship team.  Yes, I actually picked a Rick Pitino team to win it all.  Sue me.  I would have picked UConn to win it all, but they can't play with the big boys this year because they got in trouble with the principal.

C:  "I hate Duke."  That was all he said.  When his Mom asked him why he hated Duke, he didn't have a good answer, he just answered that everyone hated Duke.  That's my boy.  Anyway, his Final Four consisted of Louisville, Gonzaga, Kansas and Indiana (and Kansas beating Louisville in the Championship).  All 1 Seeds going to the Final Four?  I guess I won't end up in last place no matter what happens...

G:  "Gonzaga is 31-2, Dad.  I think they are going to win it all!"  Oh.  Maybe I'm going to finish in the middle of the pack at worst.  His picks?  Louisville, Gonzaga, Kansas and Indiana with Gonzaga winning it all.  This is going to be easier than I thought.  Yes!

DLG and LC:  Wow.  I really have a chance to win this year.  With Mom permitting DLG to make the first round picks, a couple of interesting teams came out of the woodwork.  When I asked DLG what her strategy was in picking teams, she replied "I picked the team that I thought was tougher."  Their Final Four teams?  Louisville, Kansas State, Florida and UNLV (and KSU beating UNLV in the Championship).  UNLV?  Obviously a Mom pick since that pick was straight out of 1990.  Jerry Tarkanian is biting his towel nodding is head.

The Predictions

Based on my careful studying of the teams, I now believe that I am going to win the whole thing. C will come in second (by default).  G and DLG will fight it out for the basement and first overall pick in next year's rookie draft.

Follow us to see who wins the Great 2013 Brackets Challenge.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

2013 World Baseball Classic Signals the Spring

Usually you hear a March meet up between the Americans and the Canadians and you think, is this an Olympics year?  Are we seeing some sort of Hockey Summit?  No, not this year.  This year is the Third Installment of the World Baseball Classic.  Where many pundits and general managers hate the WBC because it throw players into intense baseball early in March (Think Daisuke Matsuzaka's herculean effort in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, which earned him the most wasteful contracts in the history of the Boston Red Sox), I enjoy it because Spring Training is too long and drawn out.  I see if the boys want to watch.  They look at me befuddled.  They don't want to watch Spring Training baseball.  No it's more obscure than that.

Now the rules are a little different in the WBC, mostly to ensure that managers don't go crazy with their pitchers at the expense of  the teams that need them during the regular season.  The pitch count rules remind one of little league, but that's OK.  65 pitches maximum, 50 pitches requires 4 days rest and so on.  I wouldn't want a pitcher getting hurt for this.  Question:  why isn't this played in a warm location AFTER the season?  The mercy rules are also quaint.  I guess these guys have to be treated like 10 year olds? 

But this game is an elimination game.  Both the United States and Canadians are 1-1 in Pool play and the winner will move on to San Diego.  This is about as intense as baseball is intended to be in early March.

Joey Votto and Justin Morneau are on the Canadian Team?  I had to go onto Baseball Reference to double check and yes, they are both Canadians.  Who knew?

Second Inning.  After an uneventful 1st inning, the Americans put runners on 1st and 3rd in the second inning.  After a terrible contact play decision by David Wright, the Americans fail to score. To make matters worse, the Canadians light U.S. pitcher Derek Holland up with a double and then a long two run homer by Michael Saunders.  The Americans don't actually record an out until Pete Orr grounds out to third base.  Canada leads after 2 innings, 2-0.

Fourth Inning.  After an error and a sacrifice fly, the Americans tie the score up at 2.  Chants of USA start to ring around the stadium.  Wherever they're playing.

Sixth Inning.  As the crowd gets anxious (remember if the United States loses, they finish last in their pool), Team Canada scores the go ahead run on a dinky single by Adam Loewen.  The Canadians are winning 3-2.

Eighth Inning.  ADAM JONES!  With runners going from First and Second, Jones screams a line drive into the Left Field gap for a 4-3 lead!  The crowd shows signs of life for the first time all game.  So what if the centerfielder took a bad route to the ball.  The Americans add an insurance run to take a 5-3 lead in the top of the 8th.  Good thing since the Canadians score a run in the bottom of the inning to cut the score to 5-4.  A real nailbiter.  It's about this time that I would start to count pitches.

Ninth Inning.  The Americans break it open with 4 runs in the top  of the inning, highlighted by a three run double by Eric Hosmer.  As the Canadians go down quietly in the bottom of the Ninth, I yell down to the boys that the United States was moving on in the second round after winning Pool B.

"What's the World Baseball Classic?" C asks me. 

Exactly.