Monday, January 28, 2013

Winter the Dolphin Steals the Show

Now you would think that a trip to Disneyworld would require that DISNEYWORLD would be the highlight of the trip for the kids.  And to a certain extent, it was for C and G - they of the roller coaster ilk.  But for DLG, the trip at the end of our vacation - to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium - was the real highlight.  Winter the Dolphin in all her glory (I assume it is a "she") was just a mere 3 hour drive from our location.  Of course we had to go there!

A quick recap of Winter's life.  As a baby dolphin several years ago, Winter became entangled in some fishing nets and became stranded on a Clearwater beach.  Discovered in time to rescue her, but not in time to save her tail, Winter was brought to the animal hospital that was facing its own issues.  Eventually, to save her life a prosthetic engineer was brought to the marine hospital to fit her for an artificial tale to help her swim.  Despite numerous trial and tribulations, Winter finally accepted the artificial tail.  As a result, both the Aquarium and Winter were able to survive.

Not Winter
Now the interesting thing was what the Aquarium would look like after those formative years.  Now I know that movies fictionalize a lot of these "Based on a true Story" type movies, but I was aware from watching the closing credits that the aquarium was a rescue hospital for stranded marine life.  What I was worried about was that despite DLG's stated intention of becoming a veterinarian when she grew up, watching distressed dolphins and turtles (her two favorite types of animals) might just dissuade her from living that dream.  I guess I was interested to see what it was like.

Well, Clearwater is a very nice area (once you get to the ocean).  The first thing that you actually see when you drive down the hill is the Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure.  This adventure, which contains artifacts, props and information about the movie - and acts as an auxiliary part of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium - is actually housed in a separate building on the mainland.  You must go over the bridge to get to the original aquarium.  Once there, you see that the shoe string budget the hospital/aquarium survived on (as demonstrated In the film) was no joke.  A very modest parking lot gave way to a trailer that housed the bathrooms, which gave way to stairs leading up to a rickety building housing the marine life.  My Mother was horrified.  The kids were fascinated.

Like I said, a requisite wall through the gift shop and up the stairs led to the exhibits.  There numerous dolphins and turtles that were still recovering from catastrophic injuries (usually caused by man) were swimming with trainers in their individual pools.  Winter was among them, but she was being fed at the time so our view of her was obstructed.  What I noticed though was that the artificial tail was not fitted.  The guide explained that Winter was still not that excited to have the tail on so they kept it off most of the time except when training her.  Hmm.

After viewing the animals, we then headed to the dolphin pool to watch a couple of the rescued dolphins perform with their trainers.  DLG was mesmerized.  The boys just wanted to know if we were going to get splashed (a result of our cold appearance at SeaWorld the day before).   Sadly, no splashing.

After the show, we headed back to Winter's pool and we were treated to a show that really was more of an educational segment about Winter.  Hundreds of children were transfixed by the Dolphin with no tail, and I had to admit I was too.  But it was time to go see the Dolphin Tale Adventure.

Actually it was Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure that we visited.  An auxillary part of the CMA, the highlights of the adventure were that you could walk around and watch various scenes from the movie and play the carnival games that were featured in the fundraising portion of the movie.  The kids' favorite part though was to walk through the hurricane zone, where you could experience what it's like to live through a hurricane.  It was a little nerve wracking the first time through since you didn't know what the strong winds and rattling noises were going to lead to, but by the 10th time walking through, we were all experts.  What a great experience.

As we sped home, I asked DLG if she liked the CMA and the Adventure.  Without blinking an eye she asked when we could go there again.

"Not for another 3 years." Mom and the boys told her.  "At least" said the guy holding the cash.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Maybe Tom Brady Isn't a Big Game Quarterback

I have heard this song before.  I have listened to sports radio over the last couple of day regurgitating all of the poor results from the Patriots 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship.  My favorite of the week was "if Bernard Pollard hadn't hit Wes Welker so hard with the helmet to helmet hit, then Welker would have caught the next pass for a first down and then the Patriots would have gone on to score and so on and so on."  Seriously?

Better Days
Unfortunately, I have another theory.  It pains me to even think about it, much less write it.  Here goes.  Tom Brady is not a very good big game quarterback.  His statistics for the Ravens game weren't awful, but his completion percentage was a paltry 53.7% and he threw two costly interceptions.  You know how I know these things?  C told me.  Some will blame Gronkowski being out, even though he was out for 5 games with same injury during the regular season.  Some will blame the play calling that accentuated the Patriots best player (Brady) and abandoned the running game.  Some will blame the weather (warm, yet extremely windy).  The bottom line is that the best QB in the league (so many of us say) needed to rise above the problems and score more points than his opponent.  Was it me, or did you believe the game to be over once the Ravens went up by 15 in the Fourth Quarter?  You're shaking your head just like me.

And this isn't the first time.  In the 2012 Super Bowl, while Brady did throw 2 Touchdown passes and at one point completed 16 passes in a row, he also could not drive the ball against the Giants in the second half, culminating in a poor third down throw to Wes Welker, where if Welker caught the ball, the Patriots would have been in field goal range and in range for a possible win.  And remember that unbelievable intentional grounding penalty in the First Quarter that resulted in a safety? And I'm not the first one to write about Brady's struggles after this game.

2011 wasn't any better.  Against the Jets, Brady again could not get anything going.  A late touchdown drive (late as in garbage time) in the Fourth Quarter to make the score 28-14 was the only thing that stopped this game from being a horrible game for Brady.  He looked shaky all day, constantly hopping around rushing his throws.  Things got so bad that Patrick Chung called a fake punt that had no chance of succeeding.  I can still hear the obnoxious drunken Jets fans after the game.

I will give Brady a pass in 2010 since he was still hobbled by his surgically repaired knee (and the loss of Wes Welker in the last game of the season was a real game changer).  The Patriots were never in that game against the Ravens.  Brady did not have a good game though with three interceptions and a devastating fumble that led to the Ravens jumping out to an early 14 point lead.  That year was not our year.

And the perfect season?  Remember that Brady broke the record for most touchdown passes in a season with 50.  Against the Giants, Brady was merely average.  While leading the league in QB rating (117.2) and completion percentage (68.9%) during the season, his completion percentage dropped to 60.4% in the Super Bowl and his QB rating fell below 100.   Teams don't win the Super Bowl with sub par games from the star players.

All in all, Brady is one of the best Quarterbacks in the National Football League.  I just don't know if we're going to see a Super Bowl win again with him at the helm.  Brady is 35 years old with a model wife and two kids.  He's in the twilight of his career, and we're looking at the wrong side of the mountain.  It's still better than watching the Jets and Bills, though.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Live Story of James Harden and Jeremy Lin

It was a foggy, rainy night in the middle of January.  The small of amount of snow that we had left was slowly dripping away.  It seemed electric in the air.  I suppose I should have known that something special was going to happen when it's raining and 50 degrees in January.  And something special was happening.   A limo into the City, dinner paid for at the Courtside Club, yeah it was going to be a good night.  And we haven't even gotten to the interesting match up yet.  The Houston Rockets, and the Thunder castoff, James Harden.

Yup, James Harden, Jeremy Lin and the new and improved Rockets were coming to play the Celtics.  The Rockets haven't been relevant since Hakeem Olajuwon was on the team (and Yao Ming does not make a team relevant, it just makes them awkwardly tall).  Besides, Lin and Harden haven't appeared in Boston as Rockets this year and I have to admit that I'm excited about the prospects.  These are two of my favorite players who don't wear green.

And with the seats that we were fortunate to have, it was going to be a great night.  Some Courtside Club buffet food, some Harpoon beers, some funny stories from the other coaches and some KG vulgarities were in store for us; we were in for a great night.  Harden himself was in for a long night as Avery Bradley was primed to stop his streak of 25 point games and Rajon Rondo was looking to stop Jeremy Lin his tracks.  (Get it, or is the joke too old now?).  When this game is over, I will now have seen as many games from Courtside as my 8 year old son.

Houston started off strong, but the Celtics took the First Half , leading 53-45.  The bench again was on fire as Jared Sullinger, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green led the Celtics offense in the half.  Harden and Chandler Parsons (I don't know the guy either) led the team in scoring in the First Half. 

Harden and Lin couldn't stop us from going to the Courtside Club with Jo Jo White, Jason Varitek (although on second thought maybe Varitek was just in the stand next to us) and Brandon Lloyd.  Despite being in the midst of athlete celebrity, all I could think about was whether we could hold off Harden and Lin in the second half.  They were both notorious second half players and the lead was only 8 at the time.

The second half started off slowly as the Rockets closed to within 1 point.  The Celtics looked flat and seemed to be relying on their outside shot too much.  Tommy Heinsohn would not be happy.  But strong second halves by the elder statesmen Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would make the difference for the Celtics.

As I slap Varitek on the back after a great win (see the name dropping?) I look over to the guys went to the game with and celebrated a hard earned win.  The Celtics have won 5 in a row and appear poised to come storming back in the Eastern Conference.  It may be one of the last times we see this kind of game so we might as well enjoy it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What Is It with Adrian Peterson and his 2,097 Yards?

What is it with Adrian Peterson?  Now we all know that Peterson is the starting running back for the Minnesota Vikings.  He tore up his knee at the end of last year and managed to comeback for the start of the season, we know.  And not only that, he ended the year leading the league in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage (2,314 yards from scrimmage?).  A guy running with one knee! 

Now he has become the boys' hero.  Even though the Vikings otherwise suck in Madden 2013, G withstands Christian Ponder's wayward throws so that he can be Adrian Peterson, if only for 60 minutes using a controller.  Similarly, C is now the proud owner of not only a Vikings hat, but also an Adrian Peterson No. 28 jersey.  Size Adult medium so he can wear it for a couple of years.

I rush for 500 Yards in Madden
What you may not know is that we don't live in St. Paul or Minnetonka.  We live just outside of Boston.  Instead of talking about Stevan Ridley, Gronk and Tom Brady, I am now hearing about how AP scored 7 touchdowns and gained 500 yards in a Madden 2013 game, and G knows the Viking Go pattern better than the Vikings receivers.  Seriously.

Now, thanks to a great game at the Metrodome last Sunday, the Vikings are heading to Green Bay to take on the Packers in the late Wild Card Game.  Even though Christian Ponder is not expected to play because someone hit his funny bone a little too hard (Jay Cutler is breathing a sigh of relief now that he is not the only QB to be too afraid to play in the playoffs), we are all excited to see what is going to happen with the Vikings and our favorite player.

BOSTON.  8pm.  Joe Webb's last start was over 2 years ago.  Can the Packers put 12 men in the box?  The first drive yields no passes until a weak pass over the middle to Kyle Rudolph.  Webb literally threw a short hop to Rudolph who was about 7 yards away at the time.  Yikes.

"Are the Vikings ever going to pass it?"  asks G who ran Peterson 54 times in our most recent Madden 2013 game and threw the ball 3 times.  Yes. But 33 yards on the first series is a good start for the NFL MVP.  At the end of the First Quarter, thanks to a successful challenge for a touchdown, the Packers lead 7-3.

The Second Quarter is not much better for the Vikings as they look really tentative.  I recall fondly the  days when Ponder was the Vikings' Quarterback.  The Vikings are losing at the half 17-3.  Both boys are getting a little bored by the game as Joe Webb is terrible and as a result, Peterson is getting stopped by the 11 man front.  G goes to bed and C states that he is going to bed in 10 minutes.  And now, they don't even want to DVR the game. 

Do you guys want to talk about Stevan Ridley yet?