Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas in the JMR Household 2015!

It's that time of year again.  Time for the annual (or semiannual) Christmas Journal featuring C, G and DLG.  It was a banner year in the JMR household as I think we got presents that all three of them enjoyed and actually smiled about.  Usually our Christmases feature complaining, whining and general unhappiness at the prizes that we get for the kids, but this year things were different.  And I only had to go to sleep at 1:00am in the morning to put everything together.

Presents for all 3.  It was Santa's turn to take a front seat this year.  The presents that Santa brought for all three kids were pretty good if not size appropriate.  A ping pong table that was too big and a table pool set that was too small.  Their Mom thought that the ping pong table would fit where she thought it would (I measured the table and it fit!), but she didn't measure around the table to make sure that humans could fit around the table.  So far, I just have a couple of bruised fingers from banging my hand into the wall making a shot. Despite our obligatory fight during the set up process we all enjoyed the game on Christmas day.  Everyone got to play the game. 

But the real winner was the table top pool table.  The fraction of the size of an actual table, with balls the fraction of the size, the table made me laugh in a pathetic way.  I felt sorry for the table as it was destined to take its place in the trash within 6 months.  But it was actually a bigger hit than the ping pong table.  My bad back and visions of balls bouncing out of the corners demonstrate how much DLG loved the game.  Although I was down and out for the two of the three days with the stomach flu, I was still able to play 15 games with her.  Maybe 20.  I don't remember.

C.  Of course he got sneakers and Vineyard Vines clothing from Mom and Dad.  The real win was the TV for his room.  And of course, Comcast can come the next day to hook everything up.  I just need to get rid of our subscription to HBO and Cinemax.

G.  Despite warnings of fires and falls, the hover board was an inevitable choice for G.  Starting on September 1, the echoes of getting this fire trap for him was constantly heard in the JMR house hold.  Despite its cost (Grandma shared in the cost, to our delight).  We of course got the thing for him.  It matched his sneakers and his clothes.  Hopefully Mom won't try to ride it again as I think she sustained a concussion on her first attempt to ride it.  She may have fractured her arm too.

DLG.  Although she did not get a spectacular one gift, she did get this cool robot that dances and moves around with a phone app.  Only a year or so before she starts demanding a phone, I suspect.  The funniest thing was that every time it lost its balance, it made this sound of "Uh oh!" Like a funny child.  A telescope was also hers, although I do not plan to watch the stars in the sky with 30 mph winds shipping across our backyards.  Maybe in the summer sweetheart.  Clothes were hers to have as well.

LC.  I ended up getting Mom tickets to see Adele in September.  Although she was excited by the tickets, I think she was more excited by the prospect of selling the tickets to some schmuck for 4 times face value.  Hey, it would save me from hearing "Hello" for the 7 millionth time.

Yours truly got a beer making kit.  It had been 15 years since I last made beer.  Imperial Stout for all when it's ready.

Maybe, I'll age it until next Christmas.

photo courtesy of Mashable

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Is Odell Beckham Jr to Blame for His Hysteria?

It all started with a take down by Josh Norman.  Or maybe it started with that black bat that the Panthers bring on to the field pregame to intimidate the opposition (er I mean honor a fallen teammate).  Maybe it started with the homophobic slurs that the Panthers allegedly lobbed Beckham's way before the game.  Maybe it all started with that "Catch" last year.

When I would throw the football around with C, G or DLG, all three of them have at one time or another asked me to throw them an "Odell."  What is an Odell, you ask?  It is a pass that makes the receiver contort and catch the ball over his head while falling backward.  It is a pass that I have had to throw so many times that my arm hurts.  Hey I get it.  Odell Beckham Jr. made one of the most famous catches in football history and ever since that catch has become bigger than the game.  I am reading that after Tom Brady, the biggest selling jersey in the Boston area is Beckham's Number 13.

Seriously?

With that as a back drop, I can imagine a cornerback like Josh Norman, viewed as one of the cornerbacks in the game, taking umbrage at Beckham's notoriety.  His thought process is that someone like Beckham, who is as brash as his skill should dictate, will not be a factor in the game.  One way to a take a receiver out of his game is to physically dominate him and mentally take him out of his game.  It takes a certain type to be WR in the NFL, and one of the stereo types is that they are soft and diva like - right Dez and TO?  Further, team's philosophies are often dominated on a game-to-game basis by the belief that you don't let a team's best player beat you.  Eli Manning is shaking his head at that thought somewhere - why aren't they trying to take me out?

On one of the first plays of the game, Norman immediately started with the physical confrontation to take Beckham out of his game.  Couple that with the "where there's smoke, there's fire" belief that the Panthers were taunting Beckham before the game even started and you had the makings of a diva-like split from reality.  It has happened to Britney Spears, Whitney Houston and to Mariah Carey.  If the stress becomes too much, the diva loses his or her shit.  And that's what happened here. 

Beckham, frustrated by his play and by the dominating defense, snapped.  Punches were thrown and Beckham speared Norman in a blatant escape from reality.  He wanted to hurt Norman and that was his response.  Should Beckham be suspended?  Yes.  Should he have been thrown out of the game?  Yes. But can you blame him?  No.  When you are a diva, when you have kids emulating you day after day, you start to believe that no one can touch you.  But Beckham is not talking to his cleaning staff or his producer.  He is taking this attitude out on the field with tough guys who don't mind hurting colleagues to gain an edge.  Guys with egos the size of New York.  I'm just surprised it didn't happen earlier.

Ultimately, everything will be alright.  Beckham will apologize (or not) and we will all go on until the next controversy comes along.  Meanwhile, I will ice my arm getting ready to throw some more passes over my kids' heads.

Incidentally, C on our way home from basketball practice tonight, out of the blue tells me "Josh Norman is jerk. He should get suspended.  Beckham didn't do anything!"

All divas have their fans...

photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Punta Cana Dreaming With Jose, Drake and Anibal

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Our first vacation in almost a year!  Not since our adventure to Disney World in December 2012 had we actually flown anywhere on vacation.  LC and I both were thinking somewhere warm - and despite our original thoughts of the Turks and Caicos or the Bahamas; but we ultimately decided on the Dominican Republic - Punta Cana to be exact.  While the weather was basically the same, the price was a fraction of the cost of Atlantis or the Turks and Caicos.  It was a non-decision to me.  On to the DR we go!

San Pedro de Macoris anyone?

Saturday.  We arrive late afternoon after perhaps one of the most harrowing tax rides I have ever taken.  Swerving into oncoming traffic? Check.  Dodging mopeds going the wrong way? Check.  Indiscriminate passing and light flashing? Check!  LC and I were holding on to dear life barely noticing that we drove by a hard Rock and the Coco Bongo Circus nightclub.  Forget about the fact that our ride from the airport was life altering, the attention on check in made up for it.  I was half expecting someone to try and sell me a time share or a condominium, but instead we got hit with a bunch of deals and gold keys from our on-site concierge.  I thought this was all-inclusive?  Well to a point.  Dinner on the beach, you must pay.  Leave the grounds, you must pay.  After we get to our room, weary from our travels, we go to the steakhouse for a late dinner.  By the time we get out of there, we are all exhausted and crash in the rooms.

Sunday.  The kids immediately go to the Core Zone, or the Sports zone.  That is when we first meet Drake, who is a friendly guy that takes an immediately liking to C and G.  Saddled with Ping Pong, Pool, Archery, Foosball and basketball, we leave them to get some time in at the beach.  Although we are bombarded by guys trying to sell us crap, the beach is beautiful despite the warnings of rampant seaweed.  I hang out with LC and DLG biding time until the sports bar opens for football.  Free drinks and football?  Count me in.  When I arrive, I am already a couple of drinks in and I proceed to have a couple of more drinks.  I make some friends with guys from Chicago and Denver but ultimately leave a little "loaded." So loaded, unfortunately, that I fall asleep during the magic show later that night.  We eat lunch, have drinks at the preferred club and dinner at the Hibachi, pan Asian restaurant. A lot of fun was had by everyone, especially as a result of the guy who named himself "Super Waiter."  We watch (and when I say watch, make fun of) some salsa dancers at the outdoor bar.  OK, then.

Monday.  Rinse and Repeat.  Breakfast at the buffet, lunch at the buffet and drinks at the preferred club.  Instead of the beach, we head to the pool.  And instead of Asian Food though, we get some Italian food and are treated to one of the nicest guys we run into - Jose.  Perhaps one of the most attentive guys ever to help us out. Shortly thereafter, we watch the Patriots on Monday Night Football on a big screen at the beach.  We also found out exactly how many New Englanders there are at this resort.  There are about 100 people of the beach with us.  Maybe they were there for the nachos and hot dogs?  Who says this isn't Americanized for crying aloud!

Tuesday.  More beach, more pool, more sports zone and more buffets.  The kids are having a blast, playing in the kids zone (for DLG) and the Sportszone (for C and G).  So much so that LC and I try to get away to have a night to ourselves.  Even though the sickness is starting to take hold of my insides, we spend some time with Anibal at the Preferred Club and we take a stroll around the various bars and restaurants.  We come back and watch the kids play pool and ping pong, even partaking and showing off our respective skills.  It was a great night.

Wednesday.  More pool.  Forgetting about the guy who was pissed at us for taking his reserved lounge chairs, we had a great time going to the buffets and to the Sportszone.  I talk to Ramon, Drake's sidekick and the overall theme was that the kids made things interesting.  The best part was the garbage/septic smell that always permeated that area took the emphasis off of our own children who thought swimming in a pool was the same as showering.  While I tried to rally to go to the Hibachi and the circus show, things were not working out for me.  The kids seemed to love everything about the Hibachi.

Thursday.  Although it was our last day and it was Thanksgiving, we still enjoyed ourselves at the beach and buffets (who knew?).  We also were able to watch a borderline offensive show where staff dressed up as turkeys, pilgrims, chefs and Indians and everyone was chasing the Turkey around.  Huh?  After that though, we said goodbye to Superwaiter, Ramon, Anibal and Drake (who according to his Instagram is actually named Jesus), and started our slow journey back to the States.  Even C was sad to leave.  Never mind LC, DLG and G.  I was also sad to leave but also grateful to have an opportunity to get some drugs to fight off the "Revenge."

Although we are back home, the memories of that trip will always be with us.  Just don't drink the water, or eat the ice cubes or have undercooked food...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Super Bowl 2015 - The Brief Look at Prior Years

Ah, the Gridiron Game.  Football is a special sport when we're talking about youth sports.  The kids learn teamwork, perseverance, character and other traits that you can't get replicate in any other setting.  And while injury concerns hover over the sport, I can't help but think that everyone should play this sport if even for a year.

This season marks the 5th year that I have coached G's team.  Ever since the boys were 2nd Graders, struggling to score touchdowns and preventing the other team from doing the same, the boys learned a lot about teamwork, dealing with frustration and perseverance.  That was a defining year though because, in addition to the character goals that we have always had, I was determined to help the kids with their stated goal - the Super Bowl.

3rd Grade was what we were hoping would be the first year of a dynasty.  Armed with the kids who learned a lot from the year before, the team added a couple of handful of kids who could play and were aggressive.  Going 6-1-1, we waltzed into the Super Bowl after beating one of our rivals in the semifinals 26-0.  We even took a police escort and a bus to get to the site.  We had a "carb-loading" party.  Ultimately, we were unsuccessful in falling to a tougher team 12-6.  While some of the kids were crying after that game, other kids started to look determined. 

4th Grade was a tough year.  We struggled all year in every aspect.  Coaching especially.  Thinking that we were going to get better and beat the same opponents that we beat the year before, we actually struggled against all of them.  We ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs, 22-6.

5th Grade had the same end result, despite the fact that we had a better season.  The team fared better with an increased emphasis on the passing game.  We ended up losing in a literal nor'easter 8-0 to the same team that we lost the Super bowl to in 3rd Grade. The boys worked hard though, harder than they ever had.  Although we lost in the first round, the boys measurably improved over 4th Grade.  The JV team experienced a renaissance of sorts finishing the year undefeated, 7-0.

Through these years, a lot of players came and went.  But the same core remained through those 4 years and it lead me to believe that we were finally going to be seeing a real success.  When I met with one of the coaches before this year - 6th Grade - I declared that this was going to be our chance to win the elusive, broken, trophy.  We had a couple of laughs about it, but I truly thought that that was attainable this year.

The 6th Grade year was successful.  The boys, including an injection of new players, really seemed to be clicking.  Despite a couple of stinkers in the Metro South area, we were in a good position to finish 2nd or 3rd place in the league.  Either way, were going to have a favorable match-up in the semifinals to advance to the Super bowl.  In one of the most exciting games I watched, the boys held strong (including a game ending sack that actually caused me to jump for joy) to advance to the Super Bowl.  the team we were facing was a behemoth though and we were unlikely to win.  We wanted to keep the score close and work hard.  My goal was to win one quarter at a time.  If we did that, who knows what could happen.  Unfortunately, we turned the ball over 5 times and ended up on the wrong end of a 34-0 score.  Although we were unsuccessful, the boys performed at a high level, stood up against tougher teams and demonstrated a significant amount of intestinal fortitude.  It was great to see.

Now those 2nd graders have become 6th Graders.  Ready to take on the world.  I just hope that I have had a positive influence over them these past 5 years.  Good luck, boys!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Night 19-0 Ended - I Hate Joe Buck Edition

It was a sleepy, rainy Veterans' Day in the JMR household.  DLG was with friends of her's while the boys were busying themselves with video games.  Having decided to take the day off and after cancelling football practice for the 6th Graders, I was now the one looking for something to do.  What better way to waste an afternoon on the couch than to watch some reruns on TV?  And oh what a rerun I found.

Super Bowl XLII was the culmination of what was supposed to be an historic season for the New England Patriots.  On a run unlike ever seen, the Patriots blew through the regular season at 16-0, the first team to ever accomplish that feat (no matter what Mercury Morris might try to tell you).  They faltered a little int eh playoffs as they secured unconvincing wins against the Jaguars in the Divisional Round then the Chargers in the AFC Championship Game.  This would set the scene for the rematch with the New York Giants who took the patriots tot he wire in Week 17 just a few weeks earlier.

We pick up the action in the Fourth Quarter with 8:30 remaining and the Giants leading 10-7, for no other reason than that is when I turned it on...

On a 2nd and 9, Manning escapes the sack (a recurring theme sadly).  The cornerback covering Plaxico Burress must have misjudged the LOS because he went after the QB instead of staying with the Receiver.  Fortunately, Manning missed a wide open Burress.  This led to a punt to give New England the ball back on their own 20 yard line.

Nice story about John Johnson.  Trainer for the Giants since 1948.

Catches by Wes Welker and Randy Moss gives the Patriots the First Down.  The graphic shows that the Patriots had only scored on 1 of its 7 drives.  The Giants' pass rush was "relentless."  Welker ties the record for most receptions in a Super Bowl with 11.  Funny not to see Gronk out there.

On this drive, now at the 10 yard line just demonstrates that the Giants are a bunch of pansies - 3 guys come off with injuries.  On third and goal, Moss catches a quick slant to for the TOUCHDOWN!  Fortunately, the Giants CB slipped as he was running backwards leaving Moss by himself in the End Zone.

Giants start on their own 16 yard line with 2:42 on the clock.  After an incompletion to Burress, Joe Buck ominously starts talking about Burress only having one catch on a couple of targets; that he was note really a part of the game.  I hate Joe Buck.  Giants convert on a 4th and 1 on a very favorable spot on a Brandon Jacobs Left Dive.

That was not a fumble.  Manning's knee was down.  I didn't think so when I watched this game live.

Assante Samuel needs to make that catch.  The target of that wayward pass?  David Tyree.  Even more ominous.

In the Grasp!  In the Grasp!  In the Grasp?!?  Followed shortly by That ball hit the Ground!  That ball hit the Ground!  The ball hit the Ground!  What's funny is that Buck and Aikman did not make a big deal about that catch.  Hum drum for these guys.  Harrison should have had the interception there.  Hey Tyree, I'd like fries and Vanilla Frosty too.

I forgot that Manning was subsequently sacked by Adalius Thomas.  This is a joke.  And another missed interception from Brandon Merriweather this time.  On a third and long, Steve Smith gets just enough for the first down.  I know where this is going.

"Manning lobs it, Burress, alone, Touchdown New York." squeals Joe Buck. Man I hate Joe Buck.

I would love to know why Randy Moss walked out of that huddle while being yelled at by Brady.  Incompletion, Sack, Incompletion, Incompletion.  Giants win 17-14.  1 second left, I mean.  I shut the TV off as Burress starts to cry and Joe Buck goes on to call it the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.  Don't like either of those guys.

In retrospect, going 19-0 is tough.  Every team is coming after you.  Every team gauges their season on how they did against you.  You have a bullseye on your back.  Forget about the pressure of an historic season.

Friday, September 25, 2015

SciCoh Week 2 - Raynham and Rockland

Marking the first real weekend of Fall - a football doubleheader - the 6th Graders get ready to take on the teeth of its schedule.  The White Team begins its 7 game journey in Raynham, while the Blue Team looks to continue its winning ways in Rockland on Sunday.  Two tough games for the boys this weekend. 

Raynham, MA.  10:30am.  The First White Game of the 2015 season.  After coming off of an undefeated season in 2014 - and winners of 11 games in row - the SciCoh White Team was looking to stay on a roll against a hungry Raynham Giants team.  Never having played them before at any level, the SciCoh coaches didn't know what to expect.

First Half.  The White Team came out fast as long runs from N. Brown helped gain 2 first downs.  While not scoring, the offense was hitting on all cylinders.  LG R. Switzer takes the Raynham RDT down field numerous times to help the power running game

L. Najjar ready to slay a Giant
"Taken to the Woodshed!" remarks Coach S after one particularly tough downfield block. 

Raynham's first drive didn't fare much better.  Tough tackling from F. Agostino, N. Tierney and L. Najjar highlighted a 4 and out for the White team defense.  And buoyed by the strong defense effort, the offensive proceeds to score two plays later.  N. Brown scampers around the right side for a 20 yard TD.  The two point conversion from P. Sullivan running through a giant hole off the Right Tackle is good.  SciCoh takes an 8-0 lead.  More of the same on Raynham's succeeding drive as H. Gates recovers a fumbled handoff to give SciCoh's offense the ball back in Raynham territory.  While the offense could not score, the half ends with SciCoh winning 8-0.

Second Half. Oh no!  Raynham's first play of the second half is a 50 yard touchdown up the gut from Raynham's Left Halfback.  The 2 point Conversion is good to tie the score 8-8.  But the boys are resilient.  An 11 play drive, highlighted by long runs from L. Najjar, N. Brown and H. Dionisio, as well as a 23 yard pass from C. Pitten to J. Lyons, puts the White team back in front, 14-8.

The lead would be short lived though, as even a shoestring tackle from C. Nicholls on a QB sneak can't stop the Giant barrage as they regain the lead 16-14.  Despite a last ditch effort on a long kickoff return, the White Team falls to the Giants 16-14.

Rockland, MA.  2:30pm.  Sunday.  In the second part of the weekend doubleheader, the Blue Team was looking to continue on its offensive roll against a very tough Rockland Bulldogs team.  As 4th Graders, the Blue team lost to the same Bulldogs team 20-0.  Zero losses later, the Bulldogs were looking to continue on their winning streak. Old school football would be the order of the day, replete with a game played on a baseball diamond.  Takes me back to 2nd, 3rd and 4th Grade football practice, I suppose.

First Quarter.  In this epic struggle, Rockland came out firing.  Despite holding the Rockland offense in its first drive after a fumble on the opening kickoff, two 3 and out drives marked the majority of our First Quarter.  Rockland took a bad snap on a Blue Team punt all the way in for a touchdown to take the 6-0 lead.  SciCoh showed some signs of life toward the end of the Quarter, however, with a generous Pass Interference call and pass from J. Kinsley to S. Morley led to a couple of first downs.

J. Fox with the Painful First Down
Second Quarter.  The Blue Team continued to march down the field and knotted the game up 6-6 on a 7 yard floater from J. Kinsley to G. Harris.  The kids' confidence seemed to grow with every strike as Rockland's defense was put back on its heels.  Looking to strike right back, Rockland's QB drops back, starts to scramble and tries to hit his FB out of the backfield, but...INTERCEPTION!  K. Sullivan steps in front of the pass and takes the interception to the house with a 44 yard Pick 6.  The sideline starts jumping around as the Blue Team takes the lead 12-6.  Rockland's 12 play drive toward the end of the Quarter to tie the score 12-12 doesn't detract from the team's stellar performance in the First Half. 

Third Quarter.  The Bulldogs can't take the Second Half kickoff for a touchdown as their fullback fumbles on the SciCoh 9 yard line.  FUMBLE recovered by K. Sullivan.  The Blue Team, energized by the defensive stop, continues with the offensive firepower as long passes to S. Morley and G. Harris help the Blue Team gain large chunks of yardage into Bulldog territory.  One of the longest drives in Blue Team history is capped by a 5 yard TD pass from J. Kinsley to S. Morley.  18-12 Blue team takes the lead. The lead disappears quickly, however, as Rockland takes the ensuing kickoff down the right side to the SciCoh 5 yard line.  3 plays later, Rockland ties the score at 18-18.

Fourth Quarter.  Back and forth drives mark the majority of the Fourth Quarter.  After the Blue team turns the ball over with a minute left on a questionable non-interference call, the Bulldogs march down the field with two long pass plays of its own.  With no time left on the clock, the Bulldogs convert the 3rd down play from the 1 yard line.  Bulldogs, unfortunately, win 24-18.

Despite coming out on the short end this game, the result was a lot different than two years ago. An exciting back and forth game was all that we could have asked for in this non-division matchup.

Next week's games:

Saturday.  White Team at East Bridgewater
Sunday.  Blue Team vs Hanover    


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

SciCoh Week 1 - Duxbury Dragons

SciCoh Game Day!

The rain has more or less held off.  While the drizzle was present through our first baseball game in Hull, looking up toward the sky, it seemed that the clouds would break enough to get a football game in under dry field conditions.  Today was Week One for the 6th Grade SciCoh Sharks.  As with every season, Week One featured just the Blue Team in action. Coming off a 5-4 season as 5th Graders, the Sharks were looking to graduate into the top of the Division 1 standings.

Scituate. 2:30pm. Phew.  The rain is continuing to hold off.  Nothing worse than playing in the rain.  Coaches don't mind it, I'm talking about the kids, here.  It's curious that it only rained when we were on the road playing on a "grass" field, so I was confident that it would hold off.  After warm-ups, play walk through and hitting drills -  and watching the 8th Graders play for what seemed like two hours - the team runs out onto the field to the cheering home crowd.  Great to be back.

Pleasantries aside, Duxbury gets the ball first after winning the toss and electing to receive.  Often lining up in a twins set, they would be able to take advantage of our aggressive defense - that was still getting the butterflies out - by throwing to their strong side tight end in the flat after our corner and safety were run off the ball by the twins.  I think I have identified one thing our defensive coaches are going to work on in next week's practice.  In any event, Duxbury fails to score on its first possession.  Taking the ball over at our own 40 for our first offensive series, we manage to gain 40 yards in offense to get into the Duxbury red zone. Unfortunately, the drive stalls inside Duxbury's 10 yard line and we turn the ball over on downs.  0-0 at the first commercial break.

We weren't so lucky on Duxbury's second drive, however.  Taking a hand off from the Power I formation, Duxbury back X proceeds to gain 55 yards in 2 plays (including a 3 yard touchdown run) to take the lead, 6-0. Not to be outdone, the Sharks strike right back.  Powered by strong running from J. Fox, and a strong push by the O-Line, the Sharks knot the game up at 6 on a 22 yard scamper by A. Bossey as he bounces out to the right sideline, while avoiding a couple of defenders diving to push him out of bounds.  The two point conversion failed spectacularly as Duxbury takes the conversion attempt the other way for an 8-6 lead.

The Sharks control the second quarter, though.  K. Sullivan comes on as QB to give J. Kinsley a breather and proceeds to march the team down field in 5 plays.  A. Bossey is sprung on a great block from S. Morley and runs for a 44 yard Touchdown down the left side.  J. Cannon converts for 2 more points and the good guys take the lead 14-8.  The defense shuts down Duxbury for the remainder of the half.  The sterling effort is highlighted by a B. Dalicandro interception with 0.1 seconds on the clock.  Oh wait what's that?  The refs say never mind what the clock reads, it's really "End of the First Half."  I had a 0.1 seconds left on the clock play left to run!

The second half starts strong for us as we score on a 38 yard pass from J. Kinsley to K. Sullivan.  K. Sullivan also scores on the 2 point conversion attempt, as I forget about the fact that he just sprinted 60 yards on the previous play.  Oops. 

The defense continues its strong showing as Duxbury can't get anything going on offense.  The end of the Third Quarter features another strike from J. Kinsley to K. Sullivan to make the score 30-8. 

The Fourth Quarter features the regular season debut of R. Stanton at QB.  Deftly handling the signal caller duties for the final 10 minutes, the Sharks hold on for a 30-8 win.

Saturday's game is at Raynham, Sunday's game is at Rockland.  This will prove to be two very tough matchups for us.  Raynham is a team that we have never faced before, and Rockland is a team that defeated us two years ago, 20-0.

Leading Tacklers

Dalicandro (6), Schwartz (5), Bossey (5), Thompson (4)

Leading Rushers

Bossey (74), Sullivan (68), Kinsley (38), Fox (33)

Leading Receivers

Sullivan (49), Harris (17), Bossey (5)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Opening Night for the Pats - 2015 for Us All

The 2015 Patriots.  Opening night!  Between Bob Costas, Train and Ellie Goulding, I had grown tired of the pre game festivities.  An hour of looking at people in California dancing to crappy songs was enough to almost put Mike Felger on.  Almost. 

After all of the suspension talk, after all of the hype surrounding whether Edelman and LeFell would play, after all the talk about whether the Patriots were going to win the AFC East, it was finally to put up or shut up on the field.

Patriot Hall of Famers Troy Brown, Willie McGinest and Ty Law brought out the first three trophies; I have to admit, those red jackets still look pretty cool.  Tony Eason and Drew Bledsoe were unavailable to bring out the runner-up trophies for some reason.  T-Pain was rapping (T-Pain?).  The boys and I wondered who would bring out the 2014 trophy.  Insert stupid joke here.  I thought it would be Darelle Revis.  The boys had no idea.  Suspense builds...and, of course, Bob Kraft brings out the 2014 Trophy.  With his sweet kicks.

The 2014 Banner is raised.  All I do is win, screams T-Pain.  And of course Cris and Al try to squash the excitement with Deflate gate talk.  Although Al Michaels does talk about "Us against the World," which gets me fired up for some reason, maybe it's my belief that Al Michaels will still talk about believing in miracles.  I'll be OK.

From 2013, but still!!
First play is a little wrong as there is no contain on the right side.  Second play gains 9 yards.  Third play for a first down.  Both boys start crying about how the Patriots were not going to be as good this year.

"After three plays you know this?"  I incredulously ask.

"Yes, Dad.  They lost all of their good defensive guys!" C shouts back at me.  Missed Field Goal is all they could muster during his rant though.  Patriots ball!

A lot of back and forth and a lot of punts.  Don't forget about the headsets not working.  0-0 at the end of the First Quarter.  I do like what Dion Lewis is doing and makes me think that the patriots knew what they were doing when Jonas Gray was released.

Gronk!!  With the Seam Pass and then a little pass as he was uncovered down the right side for a touchdown.  7-0 Patriots with 11 minutes left in the Second Quarter.

Gronk!!  A little seam pass from the 5 yard line and now it's 14-0 with 4 minutes left in the first half.  C asks me how tall Gronkowski is.  That should tell you all you need to know.

14-3 Patriots at the end of the First Half.

Gronk!!!  No, no wait, that was Chandler with the 2 yard TD pass to make it 21-3 with 10:30 left in the Third Quarter.  Although with no TDs or big plays, Julian Edelman is having a huge game, catching 6 passes on Third Down for First downs.

The Steelers then come back with a TD of their own to make it 21-11.  Big Ben seems to have gotten hurt on the pay before.  We'll keep an eye out on that one.  Never mind, he's back out there to lead the Steelers to another field goal, making it a 7 point game.

Gronk!!  He recovers a Dion Lewis fumble to score the touchdown.  What can he not do?  I know, he was at the right place at the right time, but still, I would have been on the opposite side of the field running my Cornerback off.  Nevermind, not a touchdown.  Fantasy players deflate all at once.  Wait...Gronk!! Third Touchdown on a little fade pass to the left.  28-14.  4 Touchdown passes from Tom Brady, all to the TEs.

Chants of "Where is Roger?" start echoing through the stadium.  I think I know where he isn't.  Security and all.  It doesn't matter as time expires on the Steelers, 28-21.  Patriots win!

See you next week. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Day at Fenway - Johnny Cueto Edition

Maybe its the dreadlocks, or maybe the Luis Tiant-style hesitation in his windup, but the boys love Johnny Cueto.  Do they know that he won 20 games, led the league in strikeouts and came within a hair (no pun intended) of winning the Pitching Triple Crown in 2014?  Probably not, they just know that he dreadlocks and funky windup.  In either event, once they found out that we got tickets to go see the Red Sox and the Royals play, and that Cueto was going to be the starting pitcher, the boys were in.

DLG was ambivalent "Do I have to watch another baseball game?" she tells me picturing more AAU games in her head.

"We'll buy you ice cream." I answer back.  Although I stop short of allowing her to bring her stuffed animal snake, she seemed satisfied that it was actual baseball being played.

"Who's Johnny Cueto?" She asks.  Of course she would not have spelled it correctly, but in either event the boys groan

"You don't know who Johnny Cueto is? G asks startled.  He did answer the Reds when I asked him his previous team, so maybe he does know a little bit.

Boston, MA.  6pm.  We finally arrive in stadium to watch the Royals take batting practice.  Everyone is getting antsy, but the security guard tells us to wait 30 minutes because the Red Sox will come out to stretch.  He mentioned that Brock Holt signed autographs the night before so we might be lucky.  David Ortiz and Xander Bogearts elicited a response from everyone, but it was Johnny Cueto walking to the bullpen in the distance that caught C's eye.  Too far to get an autograph from him and too close to the protective net to get BP foul balls, we returned to our seats in the RF Roof Deck.  These are our favorite seats when we come to the ball park.  It's generally not as busy and the field perspective from perched high above is breathtaking.  The tickets are more expensive than in past years, I guess it's not our secret any more.

Once we sat down, we finally started talking about the Red Sox.  Henry Owens was going to be starting.  The lanky lefty was still finding his way through a major league order, but he showed enough in his previous 3 starts to earn more time, event though Rick Porcello and Joe Kelly were coming back (and coming back strong!).  Owens was going to have his hands full tonight since the Royals were one of the top hitting teams in the American League and riding a 5 game winning streak.

The Red Sox were looking a little stronger themselves.  Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. were both hitting the cover off the ball.  Rusney Castillo and Blake Swihart were slowly getting the averages and OBP up.  There was less emphasis on Ramirez and Sandoval too which I think was part of the reason that the Sox showed some signs of life.

Tonight was no different.  Utilityman Jeff Rutledge hit a home run, Betts had three hits and Swihart has 4 hits in a 7-2 drubbing.  Cueto was chased after giving up 7 runs in 6 innings in his worst start as a Royal.  On the other hand, Owens only gave up 1 earned run in 8 strong innings.  We left as rain drops started hitting us, but it was another great game at  Fenway.

We stopped at the souvenir shop of course after the game, event though we left with the idea of beating traffic home, and spent hundred bucks on some meaningless trinkets.  I think I've already thrown out the things that G bought.  But everyone was still excited and DLG found her stuffed Wally the Green Monster animal.  There you go.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Thoughts on Pedro Martinez

1999 was a special year.  The Red Sox, despite three appearances since Bill Buckner, had not won a play off game in 12 tries over 3 playoff series.  The Indians and the Red Sox were facing each other in the ALDS and in a normal year, I would not expect anything different.  The Indians were led by a (still normal) Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Roberto Alomar and Harold Baines.  The Red Sox had Nomar, and really not much else.  It seemed so long ago.

The difference this year was palpable.  One thing, I mean one Pitcher, slighter than my 13 year old son made this all different, all special.  Pedro Martinez won 23 games, had an ERA of 2.07 and led the league in Strikeouts with 313.  He won the Cy Young that year and was second in the MVP only because a couple of sportswriters decided not to put him on the MVP ballot (Thanks George King!!).  He was the difference this year that we did not have in 1986, 1988, 1990 or 1995.  Yes we had Roger Clemens, but he usually shrunk in the playoffs.  Not Pedro.

His Game 5 appearance, while hurt, while on fumes after leading the team this far, was one of the greatest performances in big league history.

That's what I was thinking while watching his Hall of Fame Speech and number retirement 16 years later.  He's a little pudgier.  He's a little more humble.  But Number 45 was still his huge personality self.  He was speaking off the cuff.  People hated that he didn't seem prepared.  He was still pissed about that 1999 vote and people were pissed about that.  But he was being himself and that what most of us loved.

Although he was only with the Red Sox for 7 years, they were 7 ELECTRIC years that we will never experience again.  Not many righthanders could do that.  And that is when the boys perked up.  All of a sudden, they were interested in Pedro.  The best righthander in Red Sox history?  All of a sudden, 1999 doesn't seem so long ago, when the boys are interested.

More importantly, he is a Red Sox for life.  And that is what's important to me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

2015 Home Run Derby Recap - Who is Todd Frazier?

I got tired of the Home Run Derby.  So many players taking pitch after pitch.  So many players complaining that the Derby was ruing their swing.  Way too much Chris Berman yelling "back, back, back."  There was very little drama and very little excitement.  Everyone would go in turn, the first round took an indefinite amount of time.  We rarely got past the First Round before everyone fell asleep. 

But this year promised to be different.  It would be head to head, rather than against the field.  Order of play was based on some random seedings (but who cares).  It would be timed, rather than based on outs (which led to 20 minute at bats for the more patient hitters).  Runner up last year, Todd Frazier would be in the groupings along with Josh Donaldson (one of C's favorite players), Prince Fielder and the honorable (yet steroid free) Albert Pujols.  We also had Kris Bryant, one of G's Favorite players.  We still had Boomer to listen to, but there seemed to be more excitement based on the fact that the timer makes things more needy for the hitters as time gets long. Mom and DLG almost immediately left the room, although to her credit, she did ask about how many home runs you had to hit to win.

The new format was immediately a hit, as the urgency was palpable and the interminable at-bats were long gone.  So what if Fielder and Manny Machado were gone?  Joc Pederson and Frazier were still in.  And the home runs were flying out of the park.

In the second round, it would be Frazier against Donaldson and Pederson against Pujols.  C was particularly excited because his favorite player was now flip-flopped to Pederson.

Joc
"Dad, have you heard a name like "Joc" before?" C asked me, clearly excited about his new hero.  I had never heard of the guy before, so my answer is "No."

G was not as excited about the Derby as C and I were, particularly when Pujols, one of his favorite players was knocked out by Pederson.  As Frazier beat Donaldson on a walk off last second wall scraper, the Derby became fun again.

Pederson went first and clubbed 14 home runs, including some of the longest home runs hit that night.  What was funny was the pro-Frazier crowd booing every home run and cheering every out.  Wow.  Frazier then came up.  He struggled at the beginning and took his time out.  After the time out ended, his roll began.  Although he needed extra time to do it, his first pitch in bonus time led to his win.

C and I were disappointed since we both wanted the other guy to win, but we were still interested.  Can't wait for next year, Hanley...

Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 New England AAU Championships - The Lost Weekend

Free baseball!  I guess I wouldn't call it free baseball since I pay through the nose for this stuff, but it was free in that both boys received at least 4 more games of baseball without me having to pay for it.  In our neck of the woods, playing AAU baseball meant playing some division games, some out of division games, and then if you are good enough at the end, playing in the New England Regionals. 

We were lucky because both of their teams made the playoffs.  Neither of the boys' teams last year made the playoffs, so it was exciting to see that BOTH of them made it this year.  The format was round robin with 4 teams in each pool.  The best four teams would then go on tot eh Championships the following weekend.  Although we could never afford going tot he US championships, it was fun to talk about Kansas as the next stop if either team won the New Englands.

Welcome to Connecticut!
U10 Team's Path.  I watched the first game at Little Fenway in Freetown, MA on Saturday afternoon.  We played the Lakeville Cardinals earlier in the season here and it was fun to see all of the same angles and the Green Monster.  Although we did not play at the Little Fenway park for the first game that I saw, it was still interesting to walk around the complex.  I Game 1, we played one of the tougher teams, the Northeast Gators.  We split with them in the first doubleheader earlier in the season so despite being the #1 seed, we thought we could take them.  Our ace was out of gas, though, almost immediately and gave up 8 runs in three innings.  G pitched and gave up one run and didn't do anything at the plate, himself.  Sunday was a different matter though, while Mom was with him, the boys won their second game on a walk off Grand Slam in extra innings.  G hit TWO home runs that game to keep it close.  Game 3 was won in a walk over.  It appeared that we were going to be a wild card entry.

U12 Team's Path.  Mom took C on his doubleheader on Saturday to Mansfield, MA.  Only a couple of miles away from the local Buffalo Wild Wings.  They split their doubleheader so they had to win to move on.  C pitched in Game 2 and while garnering the win, had to struggle to get there.  I took C to his final make-or-break game on Sunday.  It was against the Mass Hurricanes, the team that swept C's team in the regular season.  In what has become known as the telephone pole game, C and one of his teammates both hit home runs to left field striking the telephone pole that sat behind the fence.  Behind some strong pitching, we took that game 4-3.  C's home run was an absolute bomb that probably would have traveled 280 feet if not for the pole.  It was a tense game throughout and it was great to see the boys step up when they had to with big hits, big fielding plays and big pitching.  With that win, C's team won their pool and was moving on to the New England Championships.

Mound where G's HR landed
U12 Championship Game.  This was a tough one against the New England Storm.  We got slaughtered ignominiously.  C gave up a grand slam.  The other team's pitcher pitched a perfect game (although to our credit, it was only a 4 inning perfect game because of the slaughter rule).  It was tough.  To top it all off, we were in Brooklyn, Connecticut, which is in the middle of nowhere.  Oh well, it was still a great season.

U10 Championship Game.  G's team played much closer to home in Hanover, MA.  our first game was against the East Cobb Expos - a team from North of Boston.  G topped of a great playoff run with a bomb of a home run and 3 RBIs on two hits.  G's team won the first game to make the Championship Game.  Unfortunately, the run ended their as we again lost to the Northeast Gators.  Even though we had our other ace going, it was a tough row.  G's team kept it close but things fell apart in 4th inning as the Gators scored 9 runs to again defeat G's team by a slaughter rule.

Still a lot of fun.  Forget about how both Championships ended, we were both very proud of the boys.  Yes, it would have been nice to win the whole thing, but they learned a lot about where they are in pecking order.  Not a bad experience at all. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

2015 Diamond Nation And The Seadogs

12U baseball.  Williamsport, Cooperstown Tournaments, District play.  Baseball at this age is busier than anytime until you reach high school (and only if you play Legion ball at the same time).  C is no different.  He's an old 12 year old baseball player so a lot of Town baseball activities are over for him, but in AAU, he was still eligible for the 12U tournaments.

We were desperately looking for tournaments to go to.  He was recruited to play for on in the town next door, but it interfered with our plans for the Summer - not including our plans for that $1,000 that it would have cost him to play.  but there was one tournament we knew he would play - Diamond Nation's Memorial Day Tournament in Flemington, New Jersey.  We had 4 games - 2 on Saturday, 1 on Sunday and 1 on Monday (Monday?) and if we won our pool, we would keep playing into Monday night.

It was an interesting ride down.  8 hours, 5 stops (including an epic stop for Frank Pepe's Pizza in New Haven) and 250 text messages to his teammates later, we arrived at our hotel in Franklin Township.  Of course, he immediately tells me that he wants to go to Diamond Nation 30 minutes away to watch the games.  Seriously?  Seriously.  It was good to figure out how to get there though since our first game on Saturday was going to be 8am.

Game 1.  We played a team from Long Island, New York to begin our tournament.  The Long Island Sharks they were called.  All of a sudden I felt bad wearing my Sharks T-Shirt (me football team).  C was playing CF and batting 3rd.  We were smoked, losing 13-2.  C had an infield single for an RBI in the First Inning, walked and struck out. He made a great play from CF to throw out a runner on a single up the middle.  I guess we aren't going to play late on Monday.

Game 2.  C was starting and batting 3rd.  This was going to be an interesting game since we saw this team (Bucks County, PA) decimate the other team in our pool on Friday Night.  C hadn't pitched much this year because of arm troubles, but he seemed ready.  He gave up a run in the First on a walk, 2 stolen bases (don't get me started about our catchers) and single.  He struck out the side otherwise.  And struck out the side in the second and third inning.  Pretty impressive.  The Fourth inning featured a pop up and two walks.  Again, the catcher had some issues and let the first walk steal second and third and the second walk to steal second.  Runners were now second and third with one out.  Things started to get uncomfortable.  At the point that I started thinking that he was tiring, a passed ball led to a throwout at home.  And then another.  So the catcher being unable to catch a baseball may have actually helped C.  We were still down 1-0 in the bottom of the Fourth.

We started our half of the Fourth with a single from our 2 hitter.  He made it to second a steal.  A duck for C to help himself with and help himself he did with a single over the third baseman's head.  Tied 1-1!  C was left stranded at Second, however.  Fifth inning was like the 2nd and 3rd - K, K, K.  The Sixth Inning started harmlessly enough with a pop fly to center field.  And he drops it!  Leadoff Runner for Bucks County.  Not surprisingly, he steals send and third.  A walk and steal had runners at second and third.  While the coach was going to leave him in because it was his game.  but he came out as his arm was sore.  The next pitcher promptly gave up a three run homer.  We ended up losing that game 6-1.  C gave up 1 Earned Run and had 12 Ks.  Not bad.

Game 3.  Under the lights against Tri-Town, another team from Pennsylvania.  C was out most of the game with that sore arm, but stayed in as the extra hitter.  He had an infield single, hit-by-pitch and groundout.  We ended up losing on a walk off home run after blowing a 4-2 lead int eh Sixth Inning.  0-3 for the tournament.

Home Run Ball
Game 4.  This was the game on Monday afternoon.  The boys were playing for pride and to try to wake up the bats as we only scored 7 runs in the first three games.  The game didn't start well, though as we gave up 10 runs in the first inning.  Errors, walks, dropped third strikes, infield singles.  Ugh.  Although I was thinking about getting an earlier start on the road home.  That 10-0 lead disappeared within 2 innings though as the Seadogs made the score 10-7 highlighted by C's towering 3-run home run over the RF wall.  We were losing 15-7 in the fifth when another explosion occurred, again highlighted by C's tie breaking two-run ground rule double.  At this point at 250 people were watching the game (most of them pissed) as we went over our time allotment. We ended up losing the game in the sixth inning 18-16 despite having the lead going into the sixth inning.  A single finished of a 3 for 4 game. 

So we went 0-4.  We were in three of the games, blowing leads in the last inning of two games and being tied in the sixth inning of the third.  Not too shabby for a small little team from Southeastern Massachusetts.  C had a great tournament and had a lot of fun with his buddies.  On the way home C falls asleep in the car.  He wakes up briefly with a smile on his face.  "Remember when..." and he goes on to tell me a couple of stories.  I'll take it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Are the Golden State Warriors Taking Over the World?

"Draymond Green is a beast!" C tells me as he grumpily gets up before school.

"Did you see Stephen Curry's fall?  It looked like he got killed!"  G tells me as he walks downstairs before school.  "One of the Splash Brothers went down."

"Is LeBron James still playing basketball?" DLG asks me.  Wrong team, I know, but she is still excited for the NBA playoffs.  Even if she doesn't know who is playing or what we're talking about.

"Do you know where my pocketbook is" Mom asks me.  She not worried about the NBA Playoffs, unfortunately.

Beast Mode
The Golden State Warriors are taking over the world!  C and I were listening to Game 4 on the radio on our way home from baseball Monday night.  Even though the Warriors played terribly, particularly in the First Quarter of Game 4, Curry was still raining threes.  Draymond Green was still hauling down rebounds.  Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson started amping up the defense after horrendous First Quarter.  Curry hits a couple of threes and C actually perked up.  It didn't matter that James Harden was on fire shooting and driving to the basket.

"He's a monster!  Did you see that?" No.  I am a part of the "We Believe" group though.

G can name everyone on the team, including Andrew Bogut and Leandro Barbosa.  After 67 wins, dominant, if not exciting, playoffs series wins, the Warriors are on the verge of the NBA Finals for the first time since the age of World B. Free.  The boys can't wait for the series to be over so the Lebronnies and the Warriors can play for all of the marbles.  If I could go to Oracle Arena tomorrow, I would.

But the Warriors' phenomenon is different.  In the age of Social Media, Curry and the Splash Brothers are an easy sell.  The Warriors play the pace and space game and kids hauling up 3s glom onto like flies on honey.  They even call themselves splash.  Do they realize that we live in Boston Celtics' country?  It also has a lot to do with the front runner status.  Kids like winners more than anything else.  And because the backlash by adults (and the kids who write sports columns) hasn't started yet (Hello LeBron!), the Warriors are the new home team.  Just like the Cowboys and the Steelers were the "home" team back when I was growing up in the 1970's.

It's human nature for a likable group to start taking over the world.  better them than ISIS, I suppose.

Oh yeah, I like the NBA Finals ad music.  Can't wait to listen to more of it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Thoughts on Walt Anderson, Brady and Deflategate

Yes, I've read the Wells Report issued by the 40th largest law firm in New York City, Paul, Weiss.  I personally think that this was shoddy investigative work.  The Wells' team dismissed tangible evidence that the NFL, Baltimore Ravens and the Indianapolis Colts had conspired against the Patriots.  The Wells team determined not to investigate anyone's electronic communications or their devices except those on with the Patriots.  The Wells team took all of the science that existed and all of their consultants findings and determined everything against the Patriots and Tom Brady.

All this being said, I think Tom Brady is guilty.  I think that Brady told McNally and Jastremski to deflate the balls as much as they could get away with.  Unfortunately, McNally, in true Chowderhead spirit went to extremes in the Ravens' game and was caught with the proverbial needle in the Colts Game.  I think that common sense dictates that the Quarterback knew what the Dunkin Donuts boys were doing with the footballs since ever since the Brady Manning Rule was passed Brady has talked about what his needs are football-wise.

But I have some additional thoughts after reading the Wells Report...

1.  According to the Wells Report, Walt Anderson, the Head Referee of the 2015 AFC Championship Game, was informed prior to the game (and prior to pregame ball check) of the possibility that the Patriots were tampering with the footballs, likely from the Ravens.  His testimony was that he would keep an eye on the balls and the Patriots.  Yet, he permitted McNally to take the footballs out of the pregame officials room in a move that he had never seen in 19 years of officiating.  If he was going to keep an eye on this, why would he let the balls leave the room in such an unusual move.  I'm really troubled by this part of the report because if Walt Anderson did his job, nothing would have come from this because the balls would have been inflated per his specifications.  Where is his punishment for breach of pregame protocol?

No matter what Tom still Wins.
2.  It is clear from the 2006 Brady and Manning Rule - went into detail beginning on page 34 of the Wells Report - that Quarterbacks across the NFL liked the idea of having control over their own footballs - either on the Road or at Home.  The implication, since we are working on circumstantial evidence and conjecture, is that Quarterbacks wanted the ability to manipulate footballs in any way they see fit and that Brady is not alone in this preference.

3.  The penalty for violation of Rule 2 and its regulations was discipline, including a fine of $25,000.  I see the ambiguity of the language of the rule, but I really don't see much of a coverup here.  How did the NFL make the jump to $1,000,000, loss of two draft picks, and a 4 game suspension for Brady?

4.  Since every team employs individuals to get footballs (up or down) to the Quarterback's liking, the fact that McNally was known as "the deflator" could have easily meant that he was the guy responsible for deflating the footballs to Tom's liking.  Considering the fact that separate measurements came back with substantive PSI variations, Brady more probably than not, would tell McNally to get his footballs to 12-12.5 PSI.  I also note that 3 of the 4 Colts footballs measured below the allowable limit.  Probably regression to the mean or some crap like that.

5.  It was not a coincidence that the Wells Report's made an allusion of the needles, money and equipment, that smacks of a Colombian cartel.  Again, troubling and subjective commentary from supposedly an objective investigator.

6.  NBC paid almost $1 Billion per year for the right to air only 16-20 games per season.  The Patriots' first game in 2015 is on NBC against the Steelers.  Brady's first game back is also scheduled to be a Sunday Night game against the Colts.  Sunday Night Football on NBC!  Don't discount TV rights (and the exorbitant price paid by NBC) as a motivating factor at least for the number of games that Brady got.  These contracts are up for renewal in the coming years.

So you know that I think Tom Brady flouted the rules.  But I also think the NFL - more probable than not - conspired against the Patriots to taint their legacy, but more importantly made the Patriots the villain that causes ratings rise.

The Patriots will still make the playoffs.  And then watch out.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Red Sox Opening Day Means the Mookie Show

I told you.  Mookie Betts was my pick for the most important player for the 2015 Red Sox.  Needing a legitimate Center fielder to replace the departed Jacoby Ellsbury, the Red Sox tried Jackie Bradley Jr.  The JBJ era last all of 140 games before he was dispatched to the bench.  Now 2015 was going to be the beginning of the Mookie Betts era at Fenway Park.

Opening Day was no exception for the Mookie Show.

No...not Ho Jo's too!
We managed to snag tickets to the game from friends who would invite 30 friends to enjoy the game.  What I didn't know was that we would be provided a psychedelic bus for the ride into Boston.  Although I left my mushrooms and LSD in the car, we managed to have a good time with all of our seatmates who took the day off to enjoy the 70 degree sunny weather at the Fens.  A lot of beers and mimosas appeared to be consumed.  I don't know for sure as I was half falling asleep having gone to work early to get half a day in.  A brief stop at the Baseball Tavern rooftop ensued where we had a great vantage point of one of the strangest marketing ploys I've seen in a long time.  A large picture of a hippie giving the peace sign can only mean that the trendiest hostel has taken over the old Howard Johnsons.  The Verb.  I don't get it.  I asked LC what "The Verb" actually meant - was this supposed to be a funky throwback to the Californians?.  She didn't have any idea.  No one else seemed to care, so I dropped it.  I will be looking into this more though.

Anyway, after a couple of beers and a couple of laughs with our friends, we head on over to our seats in the Right Field Box.  We take a pit stop at the meatballs stand in the Right Field concourse first on our way to our seats.  I Strongly recommend getting a couple of homemade turkey meatballs if you are over at Fenway.

The opening ceremony was interesting.  Ramirez, Pedroia and Big Papi all received equally loud ovations when they were introduced.  Betts was given a loud ovation too.  People are starting to recognize the Mookie Show has come to town.  To make us forget that the 2014 Red Sox absolutely sucked, we instead celebrated our successful football team (I didn't mind though).  The four Super Bowl trophies (and a couple of guys names Belichick, Brady and Kraft) headed out to the Pitcher's mound to a standing ovation.  I think Ray Bourque in his Colorado Avalanche jersey was out there too, but I wasn't sure.  After some joyous waves and some knowing smirks, Tom Brady proceeds to use his first pitch to demonstrate how he throws the ball away when he is under pressure.  Big Papi was not going to try to catch a ball that was not close but he didn't even flinch as Brady's throw sailed into the dirt.  Pete Frates and his family was then honored punctuated by Frates signing a Major League contract and accepting a big hug from Pedro Martinez.  Great moments.

The game gets started promptly at 3pm.  The Mookie show started two weeks prior, we just happened to catch the show on its stop in Boston.  A couple of highlights from his first 2015 game in Boston:
  • First Inning leaping catch against the Right Field wall to rob a Bryce Harper home run
  • First Inning steal of Second and then steal of Third Base which was left uncovered
  • Second Inning three run home run off a shaken Jordan Zimmerman
Not even a replay challenge on both the plays at second base and third base could stop the Mookieplosion.  I was debating whether the tag was applied at second base with a buddy of mine when I finally decided that it didn't matter, it was the year of Mookie.  And in the year of Mookie, Mookie enjoys you, not the other way around.

Anyway, Betts ended with four RBIs on two hits in a 9-4 romp.  The Red Sox go 18-5 in their last 23 openers and move to 5-2 on the season.  Interesting start.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The 2015 5th Grade Basketball State Champions!

It was coming down to the wire.  The Head Coach of G's basketball team was trying to decide whether or not to accept the invitation to the State Championships in Danvers.  Last year, we were invited and declined because the games were at the same time as our district championships.  No one would deny G's team of that District Championship in 2014.  This year the 5th Grade State championship would have taken place during the first round of our districts.  With the Semifinals the following weekend it seemed like a no-brainer this year.  The decision was made to go.  Danvers, here we come!

It was a snowy weekend when we traveled to the Danvers Indoor Sports complex for our first game.  We were matched up against a tough Franklin team that was one of the best teams in the Metrowest league.  We were still a little sleepy as I led the teams in their pre-game routines.  As an assistant coach, I'm able to sit on the court and tell everyone to box out, but I don't have to worry about coaching a kid up when his shot isn't going down or he is suffering from mal-defense (my unique term for the lack of defensive toughness).  Franklin's interesting strategy of 2 minutes in, 2 minutes out was wearing us down.  They would just flat out sprint for two minutes and then go to the bench.  It was an interesting strategy.  Ultimately, we were able to pull that game out by 5.  I can still remember the squeaky voice on the Franklin Head coach.

2015 Champs!
The second game would be tougher.  We were playing a physical Canton team that had gone undefeated in its Metrowest league.  Led by two bigs who were 6 inches taller than G (who is our tallest player), we knew we would be in for a tough match up.  It was made even tougher when G had to sit out because he thought he was going to throw up (Ah, he could have told me before the one hour car ride to Danvers that he wasn't feeling well).  What I didn't expect was that the Canton team was a little weak-kneed.  Crying about fouls and non-calls, I thought we were playing a team from Hingham.  Especially when they got down in the game; tears were literally flowing.  The two big kids both went out in foul trouble and started swearing up a storm.  The referees actually had to talk to both of them.  No technical fouls in this event, though.  Jesus.  We pulled out another 6 point win.  With a 2-0 record in our pool, we received a bye and moved on to the top of the Winner's bracket.

Onto Sunday.  Our first game in the Semi Finals was against our fierce rivals, Braintree.  Despite being three times as big, we were always giving them a good fight.  This would be the same type of game.  Low scoring through out (They had a kid who just played a one man zone who would block every shot like he was Manute Bol), we were able to beat the bigger team by 10 points in a low scoring 29-19 game.  Thank God we hit a lot of our free throws because we could not get anything going offensively.

We knew our opponent in the Championships was going to be Canton again as they staved off a smaller but quicker team from Lawrence in their Semifinal Match-up.  They looked like they were ready to play as their parents were too.  They were circus-ready.  On top of that, this was the culminating game as 5th Grade was the oldest group and we were in the most high profile bracket.  It was a loud and noisy gym as the two teams began the tip.  It was clear though from the first couple of minutes that the Canton team was going to run out of steam.  They seemed fired up and could not get anything to go down.  Their two bigs were again stymied by our guys and had to come out.  One for crying, the other one because he fouled out.  Our lead grew to double digits in the Second Half and we cruised to a State Tournament victory by winning by 15 points.  What a great success!

The kids were celebrating, the parents were celebrating, the Coaches were shaking hands.  We were jubilant.  Alright I used that word like I was tilling the ground in the 1950's Indiana.  Don't mind me, we're just celebrating a great performance.  Good for them.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

2015 March Madness is Too Tough

Another year, another March Madness showdown in the JMR family.  For the past five years, I have been pitted against C, G and DLG/Mom.  Without independent research, I am confident that i won the first four so I am now defending my crown to win the JMR for the fifth year in a row! 

This year looks fairly easy to predict.  Easily the two best teams in the brackets are Kentucky and Duke.  Don't get me wrong, i detest both of those programs, but a victory is a victory and victory at any cost tastes just as sweet.  When the teams were announced a couple of weeks ago, I started my challenge with a Championship Game of Kentucky over Duke.  I would then back out my teams from there.  To add some extra pressure on me, Mom declared that she would use my picks as her picks in her work pool.  I asked her if she was going to share her winnings if my picks won.  The answer was not startling to hear.

But little did I know that C has watched more basketball than I have this year.  Apparently, all of the Instagrams and Vines have taught him a little bit about College Basketball this year.  He was ready for the challenge.  Or so he thought.

Can 2015 Be Their Year?
The first couple of rounds (we always disagree about whether the first four games are actually the first round of the pool) were not so kind to the JMR pool.  My South bracket was decimated when Iowa State and Davidson both lost in their respective first games.  I had Davidson going all the way to the Elite 8, in a fit of Stefan Curry overload.  I was not going to get any extra points from that part of the brackets since all four of us had Duke advancing.  Coupling that with a couple of upsets that did not materialize - Buffalo, Albany and Ole Miss come to mind - and I was mired in a tie with DLG and Mom for second place after the first week.  C was winning with 48 points and G was stuck in last place with 37 points, 2 behind us.  I never gave up hope.

Despite being berated by an angry Mom who declared that she should have just made "her own picks" in her work pool, I kept the faith.  All of my Final Four teams remained in tact, and I had a couple of late round upsets that could vault me into the lead.  We will see at the weekend ends.  Below are the standings after the Sweet Sixteen Games were played along with the teams still in:

C:  68 points (Kentucky, ND, Wisconsin, Arizona, Duke)
JMR  67 points (Kentucky, ND, Wisconsin, Arizona, Louisville, MSU, Duke)
DLG/Mom 57 points (Kentucky, Arizona, Louisville, MSU, Duke)
G:  55 points (Kentucky, ND, Duke, Gonzaga)

Points will be updated later this weekend.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Biz Markie Rules the World

Ask DLG what her favorite song is.  Go ahead, I dare you.  You might expect a song from Frozen, one of the theme songs from her Nickelodeon shows, Taylor Swift or one of the Disney movies that seem to be playing incessantly in the house.  You would never guess.  And it was inspired by yours truly.

Nope, her favorite song is that classic from 1989, "Just a Friend" by Biz Markie.  Yes, that song, from that rapper.  Bad matching beach ball attire and all. Strained lyrics that stretched the boundaries of acceptable rap music at the time of N.W.A.  Her favorite song in 2015 is the same song that delighted immature teenagers in the early 1990's.  Who knew?  Although I had an inkling that her favorite song would be an older song since one of her favorite episodes on those Nickelodeon shows is the Victorious episode that is based on The Breakfast Club.  Tacos substituted for pot, of course!

It all started when we watched the Jimmy Fallon/Brian Williams/Lester Holt mash up of Rapper's Delight on the Tonight Show.  A classic sketch that grew funnier to DLG when she heard the original song from 1979.  We, or course, then went through my teenage years listening to LL Cool J, Run DMC, Big Daddy Kane, Young MC on YouTube.  I happened to stumble upon "Just a Friend," and a hit song was born.  The hook was contagious and despite the fact that it was borderline comedic music, DLG loved the beat and what lyrics she could understand (See adult themes below).

Forgetting about the fact that I wore a Georgetown sweatshirt at a Halloween dance and called myself Biz Markie,  this song held a lot of great memories for me and my friends from high school.  I was actually happy that DLG liked the song and reminded me of good times.  While I like the beats, we really liked the chorus that implored "Youuuuu, You got what I nee-eeed..."  The memories.

DLG loved the video even more than the song.  Which was problematic, right?  Singing about a girl that Biz Markie was trying to get with had thematic elements that were a little strong for an 8 year old, but I thought if I didn't say anything that it would just go over her head.  Thankfully, it did go right over her head.

"What was your favorite part of the video?" I asked, not really knowing what to expect coming back at me.

"I liked it when he wore the wig and played the piano.  And when that little guy was dancing behind him!"  Powered wig?  Sounds good to me.

Next, we will breakdown the entire 8 minute video for Rapper's Delight, especially the determination of whether that guy's yellow t-shirt is too tight.


Friday, March 6, 2015

My Ode to Heady Topper (The Beer)

I don't often write about beer.  I like to enjoy it.  I like to enjoy 3 or 4 of them with LC or my friends.  It's rare that I would actually sit down and write about a beer.  That's how special the Alchemist Brewery's Heady Topper is.  It has inspired me to write it about it.

The story is now a part of drinking lore.  Located in Waterbury, Vermont, Heady Topper was born out of this idea that canned beer made with quality is a great thing that should be enjoyed. A hoppy canned beer was actually the way to brew these kinds of beer to preserve the flavor and aroma.  Starting as a tavern, the Alchemist as a restaurant was destroyed by Hurricane Irene a couple of years ago.  Only the small brewery remained.  Pumping out a couple of hundred cases every day was not enough to meet demand, thus a legend was born.

People stand in line for hours at local central Vermont corner stores waiting for that days delivery of Heady Topper.  The closest one to me is the Hunger Mountain Coop in Montpelier, three hours away.  And yes, I have tried to plan going up there to wait in line like everyone else.  I have had a taste of these beers before; a friend of mine was given one can (ONE CAN!) by his uncle and knowing that I was a beer maven, he decided to bring it down to share with me.  ONE CAN!!

Who cares that you wait in line for a four pack of beer for 3 hours when it really comes down to it?  It's the experience and the journey in getting the beer that is more important than the beer itself.  I think they like it that way.  My story will be told with more detail some other time, suffice it to say though that I was able to score a case of the wonderful suds.

Which leads me to my review.  It's the number one rated beer in Beer Advocate.  Ratebeer.com has it in the top 10.  But how does it taste?  How does it match up to some other imperial IPAs that are de rigeur around New England?    

The drinker is implored not to pour the beer into a glass and to drink it from the can.  I surreptitiously ignore that plea, look around to see if anyone is watching, and pour the heavenly beer into one of my favorite drinking glasses.  It pours out a bright cloudy orange, just like a good imperial IPA should.  You are immediately hit by the hop aroma as the beer comes out of the silver bullet can (the real silver bullet).  I throw the empty can into the recycling bin - it's a Vermont beer after all - and swirl the beer around.  The first taste is full of hoppy flavor, with some notes of citrus.  It's a classic Northeast IPA.  Not too bitter either.  It tastes like a wonderful ray of sunset sunshine attached to it.  And at 16 ounces, there is always an extra bonus of 4 ounces of beer when you think that it has gone away.  A truly wonderful beer.

Now don't get me wrong.  There are numerous beers that match up nice to Heady Topper and don't require you to sit in line for 3 hours to enjoy it.  But this is my ode and I'll enjoy it if I want to.   Three hours in line to sip a little sunset sunshine?  Count me in.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dean Smith, UNC and the Carolina Way at the Heights

I've always liked North Carolina Basketball.  Although they enjoyed the same kind of success as the hated Duke Blue Devils, UNC always seemed like a nicer, more benevolent alternative to ACC Basketball.  UNC had Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Vince Carter.  Duke had Christian Laettner and Cherokee Parks.  Enough said.  I always liked North Carolina.

That's why Dean Smith's passing saddened me so much.  More than Roy Williams, Dean Smith was an icon.  He made North Carolina Basketball.  Jesus, they named the Tar Heels home court after the man, instead of after some tobacco company!  You can read a lot of better obituary-type odes to Dean Smith.  He was the first Deep South program to recruit a Black player.  He was the catalyst that gave us the shot clock (Because of his 4 corners offense). And he was the believer of the "Carolina Way."

Which made it somewhat ironic that we saw the Boston College game versus the Tar Heels just hours before he died.  The Tar Heels, still ranked No. 12 in the Country despite losing convincingly to the Virgina Cavaliers earlier in the week, was looking for an easy win as they went into their showdown with Duke in a couple of days.  Boston College, mired in the bottom half of the league with a losing record (1-9 in conference) was checking out how Billy Curley's (Take that Tar Heels!) students were doing down in the South Shore.  Similar to our Duke game last year, we were looking forward to the opponent more than the home team.  Although, Roy Williams doesn't have the same cache as Coach K, we were still interested in seeing how Dean Smith's successor works his 5.

Chestnut Hill, MA.  3pm.  We enjoyed great seats, right next to the BC band in Section C.  Close enough to see the action but so close that the annoying drunk college students were getting in our way because they wouldn't sit down.

It was a great game to begin.  For a Saturday afternoon, the crowd was pumped up considering the enduring legacy of Conte Forum is that they don't sell beer at the games.  A little bit had to do with the fact that the Tar Heels were making one of their first appearances at the Heights (and brought all of their fans with them), a little had to do with the fact that it was Saturday afternoon in the middle of 4 feet of snow.  What else were we going to do?  The boys were just as pumped up too.  Although they couldn't name anyone on the current roster, they did know Harrison Barnes and Michael Jordan, and that made it better than BC.

Now BC was led by a high scoring guard named Olivier Hanlan, BC's 6'4" Junior from Puerto Rico.  He's really the only Eagle who has a chance to go to the next level.  It wasn't a fair fight, when you think about it.  But that didn't stop BC from making a game of it.  At the end of the First Half, the game was tied at 36.

The Human Slinky was our halftime show.  What the Hell was that?

North Carolina comes out in the Second Half ready to take over.  They break out a run at the beginning of the half to take a 13 point lead.  North Carolina's strategy of playing all of its big men together seemed to finally be working.  Even Justin Jackson, the Freshman who runs like he's 50 years old got in on the action.

At the end, despite a couple of mini runs by the Eagles, The Tar Heels prevailed by 11 points, 79-68.  North Carolina even broke out some of the 4 corners delay tactics at the end as they were drawing the shot clock down.  The Carolina Way, indeed.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Brady, Butler and Edelman - Super Bowl Champions

Super Bowl XLIX - Patriots 28, Seahawks 24.  Super Bowl Champions!

The first thing I thought of after Tom Brady's second kneel down is that the Patriots have to build a new room at the Hall of Fame for this Lombardi Trophy.  At first glance, this game set up a lot like the Patriots last two Super Bowls.  A tough match up against a strong, stout defense.  A QB that people were hyping up because no one knows what a good QB looks like any more.  A lot of talk about "legacies," "history" and "gates."  The game featured a miraculous play, big come backs and questionable play-calling.

Only the game was flipped on its head.  While some would say that Jerome Kearse's fumbling and bumbling catch on the Seahawk's last drive was miraculous, the real miracle came when Malcolm Butler jumped the quick slant on one yard line to intercept Russell Wilson's pass to seal the game.  While some would say that the Seahawks almost drove down the field in 2 minutes to wing the Super Bowl, the real big comeback was the Patriots erasure of a 10 point deficit in the Fourth Quarter to score 14 unanswered points.  And while I was certainly questioning Belichick's decision not to call time out when the Seahawks had the ball on the one yard line, the real questionable call was that pass on second and goal.  Why not run the ball on second down, call the timeout and then pass if you don't get in?

A couple of fleeting thoughts:

1.  C told me after the Seahawks took the 24-14 lead that "That's it.  The Patriots lost."  I actually told him that I would not be able to handle it if he talks about that again.

2.  G went over a friends house with his cheesy nachos.  While I did most of the work, he actually did chopping and other prep as well as the cheese topping.  He texted us after the game about whether we watched the game.

3.  DLG was pretty sure that the Patriots won the Super Bowl, she was too busy working on her Minecraft mansion.

Carroll took a Dump, I agree
4.  Pete Carroll's explanation for why they called a pass on that last play of the game was non-sensical.  Way to step up and take the blame for the Offensive Coordinator who called a terrible play.

5.  On that subject, I am convinced that the Seahawks were Hell-bent on making sure that Marshawn Lynch was not going to be the star of the game, the MVP of the Super Bowl or the face of the franchise.  At the time of the interception, Russell Wilson had 2 TDs, but did not look dominating.  Lynch had one TD and a second may have put him over the hump for the MVP award.  Not only should they have run Lynch one more time, but when you see the overhead view of the play, Lynch was open in the flat for an easy touchdown on that Butler play.  He could have waltzed into the end zone.  Carroll just hates these kinds of guys who don't believe in his "ra ra" motivational voodoo.

6.  I think Carroll wanted his guy, Wilson, to win the game.  It would have been sweet for Carroll to show Robert Kraft what was what after all those years ago when Carroll was fired.

7.  If Kearse's catch at the end of the game would have led to a Seahawks' victory, would we be calling the last 8 years the curse of Spygate?

8.  I don't think Edelman suffered a concussion on that hit by Kam Chancellor.  It was just a big hit that staggered him for a couple of moments.  I think he also hurt himself on that play right in front of the goal line.

9.  Who allowed Mark Mark out on the field at the end of the game?

10.  Why were the commercials trying to get people to cry?  Nationwide and dead children.  Budweiser and a lost puppy.  Nissan and an absent Father.  #likeagirl, Toyota and sad Fathers.  What the Hell was this all about?

In any event, to coin a term from Bill Belichick, We're on to Baseball season.