Sunday, April 23, 2017

When Did Rajon Rondo Become the Villain

Rajon Rondo was one of the keys to the Celtics' 2008 Championship.  He was the de facto captain of the Celtics after KG and Paul Pierce were exiled to Brooklyn before the 2013-14 season.  During his Celtics' tenure, he was a troubled but transcendent star.  He would fight with coaches, and then lead the team in points rebounds and assists.  Even after he was traded to the Mavericks, we fans celebrated him because his trade brought Jae Crowder and a first round draft pick.    I personally have not thought about him for quite some time and when Rondo showed up on the Bulls this season,  had no idea how.

When the Bulls were struggling mid-season, everyone in Chicago wanted to trade Rondo (although they wanted to trade Butler too.)  Rondo was floundering, blaming Wade and butler and generally looking disinterested.

But then the 2017 Playoffs started and things changed.  Really changed.  After the Bulls raced to a 2-0 lead, all the credit was given to Rondo for playing like his old self.  Danny Ainge even lamented that they were seeing "Playoff Rondo."  People were comparing this Rondo to that of the 2008 and 2009 Rondo.  Huh?? 

Look, My Thumb is Fine
Then for reasons I still don't understand, Rondo broke his thumb and he was out of the series.  Oh well, I thought.  I really didn't think he was the reason for the Bulls winning or losing anyway.  I thought that his involvement int eh series was over.  Put on a suit, Rajon!!

And then during Game 3, after Jae Crowder was celebrating a made 3 in front of the Bulls bench, you could see Rondo stick his leg out as Crowder was walking by.  All of a sudden, he was vilified in this area.  C and G both remarked to me how much they hated Rondo.  And int eh span of about 30 minutes, they both asked me if I had seen Rondo trip Crowder.

And after Rondo was fined $25,000 by the league for the "Trip" everyone seemed glad that he was caught and punished.  Forget about the fact that he is saying that he plans to appeal that decision even though he really didn't deny doing it

To go along with this, the intensity of the games seemed to ratchet up.  Watch Game 4 with G and DLG, they are both wondering why the teams seem to be playing so hard.  Even Mike Gorman was saying that things were crazy. 

All this because of little Rajon.  Ray Allen is somewhere shaking his head.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Joe Kelly is the Key to the Red Sox 2017 Season

Would you believe me if I told you that Joe Kelly had a 19-8 record in his 57 games with the Red Sox since he was traded along with Allen Craig and a bag of donuts from the Cardinals for John Lackey.  Now his ERA and his WHIP are not that great, but at the end of the day, those statistics don't win games.

Kelly had spent his first couple of years as a starter trying to parlay his plus curveball and straight 95 MPH fastball into lasting success.  That success was not forthcoming and he was relegated to the bullpen at the end of last year.

As 2017 rolled around and Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith remained laid up (of course guys named Tyler and Carson are not the toughest), Joe Kelly's role went from after thought to genuine set up man.  Koji isn't here anymore and Matt Barnes is really not that good when the game is on the line, so Kelly inherited the set up role for Craig Kimbrel.  I'm here to tell you that Joe Kelly is now the key to the Red Sox 2007 season.

Now the Red Sox have not been know for having lights out set up men in their most successful of seasons.  2013 saw Junichi Tazawa set up Koji.  Where did Tazawa go anyway?  2004 and 2007 both say Mike Timlin as the set up man - For Keith Foulke and Jonathan Papelbon, respectively.  Now, he was a nice addition to those teams, but he was not a lights out reliever by an stretch of the imagination. He seemed like a guy you could get a beer with, but not the kind that you could have a stress free beer with.

But times have changed.  Set up men are becoming more important these days.  In fact, you'll see a team's best relievers be set up men who come in with the bases loaded in the 7th inning.  Andrew Miller is a perfect example of this in Cleveland.  Oh yeah, he used to be with the Red Sox...

This is where Joe Kelly steps in to be one of the most important players on the team.  The relief pitching is thin, and we need someone to come in in the 7th and 8th innings. Kelly has been on successful teams in his 6 year career.  He just needs to sustain his confidence and throw strikes.  I for one think he's going to do it.  And the Red Sox will make the playoffs because of it.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Dave and Busters Redux Part 2

I will be the first one to admit that Dave and Buster's is one of the worst money-suckage enterprises in these parts.  You put cash upon cash into a machine and get points on a power card.  You then swipe the power card into various games and try to win tickets.  Since the first time I went to Dave and Buster's in Providence, I have seen them go from paper tickets to tickets held on your card, from a sports bar to an after work place to an everyman's bar and restaurant.  I've seen the games change and get more expensive, but it is still one of my daughter's favorite places.

When we found out that DLG was going to get all As for the semester, I decided that I would treat her to Dave and Buster's since it was only going to be the two of us for the weekend.  That and she had reminded me that I owed her one too since I picked up the boys from a half day at their school and brought them here a couple of months ago.  The deal was that I gave her 20 dollars for every A (80 bucks!) and let her have at it.  It was a quiet Friday afternoon at the Braintree location.  We practically had the place to herself when we got in there.

Personally, I wanted to see if she could actually win a prize that I would not be throwing in the garbage in the next couple of weeks.  Would 80 dollars be enough to get us there?  Probably not without a jackpot or two.

I tried talking her out of the claw games (Those never win!).  I tried talking her out of the games where you shoot coins to try to make them fall into slots that are then pushed into a bigger pile of coins (You know which one I mean).  I tried to move her into games that allowed you to play a little more, like Deal or No Deal or Monopoly.  To no avail.  We used optics strategy to get the stuffed dolphin out of the big claw game, and decided which watch to go for in the little claw game.  And I helped her by shooting coins simultaneously with her in that push the coins game.  We even played the jumping rope game which never turns out well for anyone.

The one prize I will not throw out in two weeks
She showed me her basketball prowess on  a couple of games.  I even swished a couple of long range shots (after the timer was you think she would let me shoot when it counted?  I also faked her out by showing her her report card and said that she only got 3 As; she owed me 20 bucks.  That went over like a lead balloon...

After all that, we ended up with 2500 tickets.  Too bad.  More crap galore.  Maybe some cheesy stuffed animals and some terrible candy was awaiting us since we did not win enough tickets to win any electronics.  Maybe some water bottles or some mini basketball hoops to go with the countless other ones that I've hidden from everyone.  I even tried to talk her into saving the tickets for the net time we came so she could get something really nice.  In retrospect, it is funny to think I could get out of the 30 minute shopping spree in a room the size of our kitchen.  This is her favorite part!  And I was not going to be able to cajole her out of that room any faster than she was ready to go.

34 minutes later (I'm guessing, I wasn't actually timing it).  DLG settled on some trinkets.  I thought we would be done quickly since she picked up a large stuffed dog for 2400 tickets, but then decided to put him away.  I was this close (pinching fingers together)

We walked out of there with a big smile since she was clawing at her new toys.  We grabbed some pizza since I gave her almost all of my cash.  Maybe next time she can use her own money?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Miami Beach Dreaming for Our 2017 Vacation

It started off as a Christmas Vacation to Tampa or to Mexico.  But life got in the way and we had to postpone to February vacation.  And the destination changed too.  Just a couple of hours south and east to Miami Beach.  Let's get started judging the days and nights of our 2017 vacation!

Saturday.  Our Allegiant flight from Portsmouth was uneventful.  And when I say uneventful, I meant long and uncomfortable.  The airport was small - but we didn't have to pay for parking - and there was really nowhere to go for eats or drinks, nor were there any places to sit.  That affected Mom more than me since she could not drink her fear away and her bad back was not cooperating with the floor.  Not to be outdone, the sight of all of the military personnel returning home was unnerving to me.  After a three hour flight of trying to read/sleep, we finally arrived in Fort Lauderdale.  Even though it was midnight, we did like our hotel in Oakland Park.  This night was a success.

Welcome to Miami...I think it says.
Sunday.  We drove our rent a car from Fort Lauderdale to Miami Beach to see our hotel.  It was a beautiful spot, the Fontainebleau on the mid beach.  Situated on Collins Avenue and 45th Street, the hotel was instrumental to many movies, TV shows and music videos.  Scarface, Frank Sinatra, Miami Vice, the Bodyguard and the Miami Sound Machine all filmed here.  The hotel elevators reminded us every time we took one to our room.  Now the Fontainebleau is our home away from home.  But first things first, we check in and immediately take our rental car and go see the University of Miami play a baseball game.  While this game is subject to another journal entry, suffice it to say, it was a good time seeing what life might be like for C or G if they go here.  We return for the first of our dinners at Pizza and Burger, quite frankly the only restaurant that we could afford.  This night was a success. 

Monday.  This was the first day where we were able to enjoy the pool and the beach.  I started the day walking along the boardwalk toward South Beach while Mom and the kids hung out at the pool; we decided that we would go to the Keys for dinner.  It was a relaxing day, although it seemed that G was relaxing a little too much.  To our chagrin, his temperature was high too.  The flu?  We weren't sure, but we decided that the Keys were a little too far, so we would drive to a restaurant nearby.  Or would we?  We walk over to the valet and after a 15 minute wait, we start getting uncomfortable.  I see our car, but everyone seems to be buzzing around.  "Sorry, we can't find your keys.  Do you need a ride somewhere while we continue to look?"  Jesus, really?  C and DLG are excited to drive around in the hotel's house car (remember, G is in bed sleeping his flu away), but I just worry about the fantastic prices were going to have to pay to Hertz.  We get back from dinner and the keys still were not found.  Jesus, really?  This night was not a success.

Tuesday.  DLG and I go for a walk to get breakfast and carpet cleaner (unfortunate Gatorade accident from the night before) and we come back to find out that the hotel still has not found our car keys.  And the elevation begins.  First to the Valet manager, then to the front desk, then to an account manager.  Finally, one of the staff gives us the COO's email address.  Email written!  Granted we were sitting by the pool sipping on cocktails while we were fighting the hotel, but still.  They lost our car keys.  And even though we were not going very far since G could not really get out of bed, it was still painful to be stuck in paradise.   Finally, during our second dinner at Pizza and Burger, the Hotel Manager comes to meet us and gives us the moon and the stars.  I guess their Yelp and TripAdvisor ranking would suffer?  This night was a success.

Sunset after the 5 inches of rain
Wednesday.  Mom and I go for a 5 mile walk down to the Lincoln Street shops to get Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts - there are only 2 Dunkin Donuts on all of Miami Beach for God's sake - sadly, we get back in time for the heavens to open up on us.  Monsoon rain and 40 mile an hour winds.  (Shaking my head).  We go to a place farther north to eat lunch and watch the kids play pool.  We then let the hotel drive us around to get some souvenirs and drugs.  By this point, G just has a cough, but can get out of bed.  We bide our time at the beach when the sun finally comes out toward sunset and go to Pizza and Burger one more time.  But this time, Mom and I just had a drink and watched the kids eat.  We were going out on the town.  To Havana 1957 for some Cuban Food.  Two Uber rides, 4 sangrias and two meat and rice meals later, we can say that we had our Cuban food.  This night was a success.

Thursday.  Long flight home.Zzzzz.

So of our 5 nights in Miami, we had 4 successful nights and 1 unsuccessful night.  Not too shabby considering we lost our car, had a sick child and lost an entire day to the weather.  And the hotel told us to come back again and they would take care of us.  Anyone want to go back?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Why is Kevin Durant a Cupcake?

Cupcakes are a lovely treat.  I like chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting myself.  I also know that these soft, delicious treats are also used to denigrate soft athletes.  Think:  That running back is s such a cupcake going down without getting tackled!

That brings us to Kevin Durant.  New flash, Durant left Oklahoma City last year to join the Juggernaut Golden State Warriors, presumably to try to win an NBA championship.  Newsflash, Russell Westbrook was really upset about it.  Now who knows how much is overblown media frenzy, and how much is legitimate.  All we know is that Durant's homecoming was coming up.  Even the boys wanted to watch the game.  I wanted to after hearing that Durant hired extra security detail for the game.

How do Cupcakes work into this narrative?  Well, when Durant left for Golden State, Westbrook posted a picture of a bunch of cupcakes, in a thinly veiled shot at Durant's "softness."  The cupcake nickname has floated around Oklahoma City for years as a way to call out teammates who were acting like crybabies.  The cupcakeKD moniker took off from there.  Honestly, I don't know how the cupcake picture took off, but here we are. 

As game time approached, cupcakes were becoming THE thing.  Cupcake T-Shirts were handed out with large cupcakes on them.  Guys dressed up like cupcakes started popping up.  Guys painted their chests into cupcake colors.  T-shirts were being made and sold.  The home crowd started chanting "Cupcake, cupcake"  Particularly when Durant and Westbrook started to trash talk each other were the chants alarmingly loud.

It wasn't much of a game though.  Golden State took the lead in the middle of the first quarter on their way to a 130-114 victory.  And oh yeah, Durant scored 34 points to overshadow a 47 point,  rebound effort from Westbrook.

Take that cupcake-hater.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Patriots Coming Out Party

It was 28-3 with 2:05 to go in the Third Quarter.  Super Bowl LI seemed like it was over.  I was figuring out if I wanted to stay up to watch the new episode of 24; I was not figuring out if this game was going to get interesting at any point.  I already knew the answer.  The kids went to bed and Mom started to get comfortable on the couch.  I was wondering if I should avoid talk radio, and the sports blogs that I read in the mornings and the TV pundits who troll fans like me to no end.  Even diehard Pats fan friends of mine were joking that the Falcons would cover the over themselves.

And then The Comeback started. 

James White Had a Day
James White (the real Super Bowl MVP) caught a 5 yard pass from Brady halfway through the third quarter to make the score 28-9.  My relief that the Patriots finally got a touchdown was tempered by Stephen Gostkowski's doink off of the right upright on the extra point.  I said to no one in particular that that might be the difference in the game.  Yeah - I chuckled too at the absurdity of that thought.

After holding the Falcons to a 3 and out to end the Quarter, the Patriots were down by 19 points to start the 4th Quarter.  Another drive into the red zone stalled after a couple of Brady sacks in the red zone.  Gostkowski FG made the score 28-12.

Shortly after the FG was converted, the Falcons' coaching staff began hatching one of the largest turkeys in NFL play off history.  On a 3 and 1, when Devonta Freeman was seemingly running at will, Ryan dropped back to pass.  Freeman, trying to take on a edge rusher (Dont'a Hightower) whiffed and the strip sack was achieved.  Patriots had the ball on the Falcons 25!  C screaming from his bedroom made me think that he was watching the game.  I myself was wondering if Ryan's arm was moving forward.  Brady proceeds to throw a couple of short passes to White and Amendola, culminating in a 6 yard slant to Amendola to make it 28-18.  A direct snap to James White was converted and now we had a game.  28-20.

Atlanta's coaching staff, continuing to hatch up a really terrible game plan decided to pass after converting a Julius Jones 28 yard tippy-toe to New England's 23 yard line.  Three rushes and the game would be over.  Somewhere Marshawn Lynch is nodding his head in agreement.  A sack and an Atlanta holding call - similar to the previous drive - took them out of FG range.

Similar to the start of the Second Half, I knew this game was over.  Just not in the way I thought.  Edelman's miraculous catch, Amendola's finger tip catch and James White's run up the middle highlighted the final TD in regulation.  Danny Amendola's 2 point conversion tied the game.  I thought that Gostkowski's missed extra point would be the difference.  I was wrong about that too.  Shaking my head, I was confident that the Patriots would win the Super Bowl.

And after winning the coin toss, the Patriots went 75 yards in 9 plays.  James White, just like Dion Lewis before him scored his third TD to win the game.  LaGarrette Blount could be seen in the picture running toward White to tackle him in the end zone, when no one on the Falcons could do it.  Malcolm Mitchell started running in the opposite direction to God knows where.  Tom Brady still had the look of someone who thought the call might be over turned.  Come on Tom!  Patriots 34-28

Now bring on Roger.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Brady is Frustrating Like No Other

It always seems to be this way.  Tom Brady shreds teams during the regular season.  We are on that page together. 11-1 record after coming back from the four game suspension.  Yup.  28-2 Touchdown to Interception ratio.  Yup on that one too.  Highest completion percentage since 16-0 to boot.  He is the greatest regular season quarterback of all time.

But then you get him into the playoffs and things change.  With the 34-16 drubbing of Houston a couple of days ago, Tom Brady has played in 32 playoff games.  The math is easy now because that is two complete seasons.  His record turns to 11.5 and 4.5.  His TD/Int ration goes to 29/15.  His completion record drops by almost 3 percentage points.  What's the deal?

A couple of things are at work causing Brady to go from regular season MVP to Phillip Rivers.

1.  Teams Finally Execute the Game Plan.  We all know the best way to stop the Patriots' defense.  Getting to Tom Brady.  Now sacking him is too easy.  What I really mean is hitting him every chance one gets.  This takes patience and a lot of hard work.  During the regular season, team defenses struggle to execute that game plan because teams are too banged up and conserving energy.  Once the playoffs come around, teams put all of that aside and go after him with reckless abandon because they don't have anything else to lose.

2.  Patriot's Meta Schedule.  This is one that has been dragged around for years.  The Bills, Jets and Dolphins all suck.  Now not every year, but you can generally count on 2 of the 3 teams to suck every year.  This leads to an easy 5-6 wins every year.  What also is at work is that the AFC has a lot of bad teams, not just int he AFC East.  The Raiders and Browns have been bad for years.  Same with the Jaguars and Titans.  The Chargers and Bengals, while making the playoffs, are always soft.  Really, except for the Ravens, Steelers and Broncos, the entire conference is soft and the Patriots get 2 games against them.  Its not a division thing, its a conference thing.

3.  Brady Isn't Clutch.  Now this is a red herring, but this stands to reason.  He does have the third most game winning drives in history with 49 (only Manning and Marino have more).  But the Houston game is a perfect example of the clutchness issue.  He never seems to have good games int eh playoffs.  He always seems to do just enough to win most games, but you never say that Tom Brady was the reason that the Patriots won the so-and-so game.  The 2007 and 2011 Super Bowls are other good examples of this phenomenon.  Some players are just not as good when it counts.

So as the Patriots enter into the AFC Championship against the Pittsburgh Steelers (and their own shaky QB), it will remain to be seen if Brady can look like the Brady that will win the MVP.