Thursday, March 30, 2017

Just how we drew it up. Again.

Your bracket is not good. Don't for a second try to convince me that your bracket was even close to the reality this March. Yes, I know, this is not an unfamiliar refrain for this time of year, and sure, there are probably a few dozen people among the millions who filled out brackets on ESPN, Yahoo or CBS Sports that somehow predicted the Final Four of UNC, Oregon, which hadn't reached the Final Four since winning the national title in 1939, Gonzaga, which had never reached the Final Four, and South Carolina, a team that hadn't won a tournament game in 44 years. But a) those people must have predicted this Final Four by accident given how bizarre it is, and b) the odds of that person actually reading this blog right now are pretty virtually nil.

So yeah, your bracket is a late victim of the perils of March just like mine is every year. This month can be brutal, as it was for me in 2006 when my entire Final Four reached the Elite Eight and lost, or as recently as this past weekend when I was eliminated from my survivor pool because Arizona somehow blew a seven-point lead in the final two and a half minutes gainst 11th-seeded Xavier. Or perhaps the lucky folks of Kentucky can speak to their pain following a totally wild last-minute loss to UNC that bizarrely mirrored last year's national championship game.

I also managed to see the carnage first hand this past Friday when I was fortunate enough to be in the stands at Madison Square Garden for the Sweet Sixteen matchup between Florida and Wisconsin. Those who know me know I have a soft spot for the Badgers as it is the alma mater of my sister, grandmother and numerous friends. And so it was with a heavy heart that I watched as the Badgers rallied with a three-pointer in the final 10 seconds to tie the game, battled through a rough night at the charity stripe for Nigel Hayes only for Hayes to hit two free throws with seconds remaining in overtime to give Wisconsin a two-point lead and then painstakingly avoided fouling Chris Chiozza, who then hit an off-balance three at the buzzer to send the Gators to the Elite Eight.



Of course, at this point in the tournament, I had emotionally moved past Northwestern's all-too-brief stay in its first ever dance (and aren't you impressed it took me this long to mention it? I know, I'm impressed with me, too.) The Wildcats' first trip to the March bonanza taught me just how cruel a mistress this tournament can be. Before I complain here, I will offer the disclaimer that I am not claiming, nor do I actually think Northwestern had a better team than 33-1 Gonzaga this season. That would be objectively silly and Gonzaga's 22-point first-half lead would seem to bear that out. But holy smokes the Cats put on a show in the second half, scoring 51 points, more than I've ever seen them put up in 20 minutes, and closing the gap to three points with 4:54 to go before finally losing.

Wait, did I say three? That must be because it should have been three had the refs not missed a glaringly obvious goaltend that not only denied NU a basket, but also set in motion a series of events resulting in Gonzaga being up seven with the ball. The Cats never got close again, the NCAA quickly admitted the error and weeks later the moment is still fresh in our minds. But hey, maybe goaltending will be reviewable next season just in time for it to bite Northwestern in the ass. Anything's possible.

My point is this. You don't know who's going to win. Even down to four teams, you don't. Really! I mean, if you think you do, go nuts. Covers.com currently has UNC and Gonzaga as favorites Saturday night, albeit by single digits, so feel free to test your luck. If you're right, I guess it means you know more about college basketball than I do.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Gift horses, mouths and the NCAA Tournament

Today is a day many said would never happen. It is a day science said couldn't be done. But, despite all this, today is a day that is happening.

On March 16, 2017, Northwestern University, stewards of a basketball tradition that includes hosting the first ever national title game and then promptly knocking the building down, will play in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament for the very first time. I have already covered what brought us here, and in the interim the Wildcats flirted with something truly special, dominating Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament with a 31-0 run and upsetting the favored Maryland Terrepins before bowing out ....not so gracefully to Wisconsin in the semifinals, all but assuring NU's first ever berth in the Big Dance.

And then it happened.



Now, surely you saw the title of this post and thought, "Dave, you've waited your entire post-high school life waiting to see Northwestern finally reach the NCAA Tournament. You made a point to instagram the moment and spent most of the past three days watching various reaction videos of Welsh-Ryan Arena during the exact moment this was announced. You've watched coverage ad nauseum. Why would you somehow be unsatisfied?"

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Let's buy some goddamn dancing shoes.

The most important forums for civil discussion and the advancement of society -- the internet and Twitter specifically -- were turned upside down this past Sunday night when the Oscars ended in the quizibuck to end all quizibucks, an announcement of the wrong film as Best Picture of the year. This televised conflagration of all we hold dear came to pass when "La La Land" producer and Northwestern alum Jordan Horowitz, whom I have on good authority once went on a date with my friend Amy, accepted the Oscar for Best Picture after a bizarre and confused envelope opening by non-matriculated Northwestern alum Warren Beatty, whom I have on good authority once hit on my sister's best friend Lily in an elevator, only to be informed moments later while making his acceptance speech that "Moonlight" had in fact won the award and Beatty's envelope mistakenly contained a card declaring "La La Land's" Emma Stone as Best Actress.

Naturally, the shared bond between these two Wildcats, albeit some five decades apart, has been examined ad nauseum by the purple community with one of the more peculiar perspectives being that the Northwestern connections to Sunday night's Oscar flub portends the end result of the eternal struggle that is NU's hunt for its first ever elusive NCAA Tournament bid.



This seems on the surface to be a crazy notion. How on Earth could these two disparate events be linked or at the very least correlative? The most logical response is that they aren't, and if you want to get all Occam's Razor on me, well, sure. But if we take a broader view we may be on to something. After all, La La Land was a heavy favorite to win Best Picture as it tied the record for most overall nominations with 14. Things, largely appeared to go smoothly including that Best Picture win, until the confusion and chaos ensued. Ultimately, though, the rightful victor was awarded and Horowitz's grace under fire left him smelling like roses despite having his dream snatched away from him. You might say, in a strange way, the course corrected and everybody won.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

I heard there was a football game tomorrow

Don't jinx it, don't jinx it, don't jinx it, don't jinx it.

Do not jinx it.

Yes, folks, that's right. As the biggest sporting event/entertainment bonanza/advertising expo of the year approaches tomorrow, there is one thing at the forefront of my mind. And that is that we can not jinx it.

Many of you, I assume, have little care for Northwestern men's basketball, but we few that do are a tortured lot. I need not recap the situation for most of you, but I will. There are five men's basketball programs that have been a part of NCAA Division I since its inception and not reached the holy land of the NCAA Tournament. Of those five, one of them plays in a power conference. That Northwestern has never reached the Big Dance seems at times both obvious and improbable. Hell, even Rutgers reached the Final Four once upon a time. The Wildcats' history has no bright lights beyond a retroactively awarded national championship in 1931.

So, while many in the sporting world have focused on the Falcons or Patriots over the last two weeks, with the Giants out of the mix, my focus has been singular. For the first time in a long time, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. Northwestern began this week 18-4, third in the Big Ten and nationally ranked for the first time ever in February. To miss the tournament at this point would require a disastrous finish. Even a 4-4 record in the final eight games should see the Cats through, and there are winnable games to be had on the schedule.

This was is so momentous that it's almost enough to make you forget that Super Bowl LI is this weekend.

But much of that optimism took a steep dive Wednesday night. As many of us let our heads run away with preliminary plans to book flights for the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, Northwestern went into West Lafayette and got positively walloped by Purdue. Now, like so many other Wildcat fans I am pulling my hair out and agonizing, wondering if I was too overzealous to look up flight times in and out of Buffalo on the same day.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

But on the plus side, Spring Training is around the corner

In these dark times known as "The Giants didn't make the Super Bowl," I have little to keep myself hopeful. This is particularly resonant as the Devils and Knicks both appear to be in the midst of middling seasons, the weather outside is gray and in the awful temperature range where it is too cold to be pleasant and too warm for the rain to turn into snow and I continue to cope with the fact that my country is now being led down the sewer drain by an incoherent rambling tangerine who never has his tie at the proper length.

So what am I to do? In a dramatic shift from, pretty much everything I know to be good and true, Spring Training is just 17 days away in Port St. Lucie. I know, I know. The Mets are my salvation? What kind of world am I living in? And yet the Amazins are coming off consecutive postseason appearances for just the second time in their history with unfinished business remaining on the docket.

The Mets have not won the World Series in 31 years, which is the vast majority of my life, but somehow that doesn't seem quite so interminable now. After all, if the greatest championship drought in sports history can fall, surely one not even a third as long is peanuts. The Mets managed to reach the playoffs last year despite losing three members of the starting rotation and half the opening day lineup. With a healthy roster in tow, what could they accomplish? The answer is probably "inevitable disappointment," but at least let that slow-burning pain unfold gradually like it's supposed to. I'll figure it out.

Meanwhile, there's even more hope across the Atlantic, as Southampton FC, enduring something of a frustrating League campaign of its own, completed an unlikely sweep of Liverpool by an aggregate 2-nil score in the English Football League Cup semifinals yesterday, earning them a trip to Wembley for the Feb. 26 Final and me many curious looks when I jumped up and pumped my fist after Shane Long's late goal sealed the win. This is just Southampton's fourth berth in a final of one of England's two major Cup competitions and its first appearance in the final of the League Cup since 1979. The Saints' last appearance in any major cup final was in the 2003 F.A. Cup Final, which happened during my first year following the team, prompting me to think, "Oh, man, this is going to happen all the time!" Southampton's only win in a major cup competition was in the 1976 F.A. Cup, still considered the greatest achievement in the club's history.

Friday, January 6, 2017

When your family creates a Giant problem

Football is family. Surely you've heard that. It's all the rage as the NFL would like you to know. After all, the league has been beating that drum for about two years now, and despite some noteworthy dissent, I'm not really going to argue all that much. After all, I was an unrecognizably sports-free child until I stumbled upon my father watching a Browns-Broncos game on Monday Night Football in 1990. Even then I wasn't won over until I saw the end of the Leon Lett Game when Pete Stoyanovich lifted the Dolphins over the Cowboys in a hail storm on Thanksgiving, this time with both my father and my uncle sitting nearby. Outside of my father, however, my immediate family tends to be somewhat oblivious to the goings-on of the NFL unless the Super Bowl is around the corner or the Giants happen to be playing particularly well.

The exception to this may be my sister, whom I visited in London this past October when I saw the Giants play the Rams at Twickenham Stadium back in a world where we still thought the American people actually had the good sense not to elect a thin-skinned narcissist to the White House. What a special time it was. But I think my sister would be the first to admit that she is, perhaps, not the biggest football fan I know or even in her own home. I did attend the game with her husband, after all.

I have, of course, sought to change this with the next generation, and that includes my oldest nephew, whom I have showered with an overabundance of paraphernalia in an attempt to brainwash him to root for the same teams as me. Apparently he is quite fond of his Giants stuffed football that plays noises when it feels impact, all of which signals some impressive progress considering I think my brother and his wife find football to be (not without some cause, it should be said) a morally bankrupt enterprise.

They are entitled to their opinion of course, but my nephew's interest is of great importance this week because for the first time in five years, which is to say, the first time in his entire life, which at the moment has lasted three years and six days, the New York Football Giants will be playing a playoff game this Sunday.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

David Kalan as it happened! 2016 edition

Look. I get it. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to notice that it's been a while since I've written here. I have been neglectful -- and even moreso than usual. It has been nearly two months since I last bothered to scribble my thoughts, an unfortunate consequence of life getting in the way. Work, travel and the progressive onset of aging have gotten in the way, which is a shame considering it's not as if nothing has happened.

In the past two months since I last wrote, the Chicago Cubs ended the drought of all droughts, the Kremlin appointed a demagogue-ic narcissistic manbaby to be President of the United States, the Mets locked in Yoenis Cespedes for the 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 World Series championship teams and, perhaps most notably, I went to Cleveland with my pal Mike to see the Cavaliers and Browns, making what was my only trip for a new sports team this year, and doing the one thing this blog was supposed to track.

To say I have dropped the ball would be kind.

But that's ok. Much like the rest of us, 2017 has provided an opportunity to turn a new leaf. Of course, I began this new year by dropping my iPhone on concrete and cracking the screen, but one imagines it can only improve from here, right? Right.

I am pretty optimistic for 2017. I have reached that point in life where formative changes can happen on a nearly daily basis. Friends are getting married with frequency, others are having their first children and I, too, am moving toward those grownup milestones by possibly moving out of an apartment I've shared with two roommates for nine years at the young age of 31. Much lays ahead of me. But that's not why we're here, right? We're looking at what lays behind me, even with a year considerably less busy in the sports world for me, but plenty busy nonetheless.

Here is my 2016 in review. Hopefully my next post isn't 2017 in review, but at the pace I've established, it's possible.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Hold your loved ones dear and settle in. We could be here a while.

We knew it had to be this way. For two such perennially-maligned franchises as the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians to meet in a World Series, we knew the drought for each side had to be dragged out just a teensy bit longer. When this Series was set and we knew the World Series would be contested between two teams currently enduring a combined 176 championship dry spell I had multiple operating theories on what it meant for me, society at large and the perpetuation of the species in general. This wasn't supposed to happen. We weren't supposed to be in this corner, forced to steel ourselves for the end times as two curses ran head on into one another.

And yet here we are.

I often joked before this series began that I was predicting not a Chicago or Cleveland victory, but rather an apocalyptic event. After all, these are not teams that win the World Series. These are teams that raise their fans' hopes only to dash them incomprehensibly. These are the teams of a 100-win Indians team in a 144-game season coming up short against a historic rotation, or of a 3-1 NLCS lead against an upstart Marlins team vaporizing into thin air. These are the teams of Jose Mesa's blown save and Alex Gonzalez's booted ground ball (because, let's be frank, Steve Bartman was not really at fault).

These are two teams that only win the World Series if it happens on the big screen, but Henry Rowengartner and Pedro Cerrano aren't walking through that door. And Rick Vaughn definitely isn't walking through that door. Or at least not the bullpen doors.



Simply put, the reason we have reached Game 7 is because, somehow, we have two World Series participants that are fated never to win a title, and with no third option, the universe is stretching this thing out as long as possible until it discovers an exit strategy. That doesn't simply mean tonight's game was guaranteed to exist, it means that we may be in for 30 innings of baseball until the cosmos have sorted everything out.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

In which I keep a promise and New York's team becomes London's team

Some of you that know me personally, or that have read this blog, may recall that I have a sister currently residing across the pond in London, England. Many more of you probably know that this weekend, the New York Giants are following her so they can take on the Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham Stadium. Lastly, there is a specific cross-section of you that know two and a half years ago, when my sister moved to London, I made her one promise.

"If the Giants play in London while you live there, I will fly to England and visit you the weekend of the game."

Some of you (probably none of you) may remember 10 months ago when I detailed the complicated and uncomfortable ("Fly Eagles, Fly?") process that led to this point, but the gist of it is, on Wednesday morning, I arrived at London-Gatwick International Airport, and on Sunday afternoon (though I suppose it'll be morning for the rest of you), I will be in the stands at Twickers watching Big Blue take on whatever team the Rams feel like being this week. I was never really sure that this day would come considering I thought me rooting for the Eagles last December was a sign of the apocalypse -- at least until I realized the apocalypse was still 10 months away.

It should certainly be an interesting weekend and I've heard rumor of how bizarre these matchups can be. My brother-in-law, who is a Giants fan and will be attending with me, has been to a few of these London games before only to find that the crowd is strangely unenthused as they view the spectacle with more curiosity than intensity, and they also wear whatever NFL jersey they happen to have lying around. That is to say that the Giants and Rams may be the only teams on the field, but I will almost certainly see Jaguars and Seahawks paraphernalia popping up in the crowd.

That is to be expected, however, I have a feeling the Giants will have a better showing than the average London visitor. For one, New York being as close as it is to London, the flight is a relatively quick jaunt compared to other past London participants like San Diego, New Orleans or, in this year's case, Los Angeles. By comparison, I've seen the Giants play in both San Francisco and San Diego, two locations that are only marginally closer to New York than London despite being in the same country. For another, New York has a significant number of ex-pats in London and Giants games are typically played at times that aren't too inconvenient for a New York transplant in the UK to watch, 6 pm or 9 pm local time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Writing the pages

The Mets' 2016 season ended last Wednesday in a heartbreaking one-game playoff against the San Francisco Giants, who, in turn, had their own heartbreaking denouement last night against the Chicago Cubs. When we experience trauma, it is a common human response to bury ourselves in work or other preoccupations so we don't have to face our own pain. I'm not sure fi that is exactly what I've been doing for the past week, but as my mom will be selling her house in the next few weeks, and I must clean out my childhood in the process, that outlet for keeping one's head in the sand is certainly available.

I have been at this, on and off, for several months now, and each trip uncovers a new bevy of new gems, be they a fantastic unused homework organizer that features Bill Pulsipher, a Devils championship and Bryan McCabe, Wade Redden and Todd Bertuzzi in Fisherman jerseys, an inside look at your artistic skills when you were nine or your nuanced grasp of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. The true gems, however, are the ticket stubs. My obsession with pristine ticket stubs is a curious quirk to many, but I feel quite strongly about their utility as record keepers. As I like to say, "Our lives are a book and ticket stubs are the pages." Of course, I didn't really feel this way when I was younger, but the idea must have been percolating, as I've discovered stubs dating back as far as a circus I attended in 1991.

I was hoping to find more ticket stubs over the course of this search than I have, but the few I've come across as well as references to games I attended in letters to and from my mother while I was at summer camp, have helped me color in my sports experiences more than I would have thought. On my most recent trip this past Monday, I found one of the true white whales of my youth. Late in the afternoon I was sifting through papers and tests from my middle and high school years, much of which would head straight to the recycling bin. It's astonishing that my attic has so many old algebra testss in it to go along with the occasional paper examining Catch-22 from Mr. Pedulla's sophomore-year English class. Lost in the muck of those old papers and Five Star Notebooks, however, was one of the white whales of my youth.

On Monday, I found the ticket stub from my first hockey game.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

NFL Picks Week Four: The possibility of missing those special moments

Last weekend did not exactly go according to plan. The very first part of it, a 5:30 am wake up on Friday morning so I could watch Geelong play Sydney with a spot in the Grand Final on the line. What I got in lieu of slumber was an opening quarter so brutal and unpleasant that I was reminded why I try to sleep as late as possible on Yom Kippur every year. The Cats showed up and put on a display by a team of mine in a big spot so poor that the only parallels that come to mind are Tom Glavine's meltdown on the final day of the 2007 season of Super Bowl XXXV. While the rest of the weekend had its positives, a Mets sweep of Philadelphia as the Wild Card race reaches its climax, a resounding win by Southampton against West Ham on Sunday morning, losses in a winnable game by Northwestern and a should-have-been-won game by the Giants left me with a bad taste in my mouth come Monday morning.

Fortunately, the Mets came to the rescue during the week, setting up what could be a postseason berth tomorrow night. Yes, the Mets lost handily on Monday. That came in an uncomfortable position, as New York faced the Miami Marlins in their first game following the tragic death of pitcher Jose Fernandez. I will not go into detail on my thoughts on that right here -- at least not now -- other than to say the weight and pain felt by the Marlins in that first game back must have been so deep that to mention it in the context of these silly games we watch trivializes its magnitude. But putting that topic aside, after the Mets lost a game in which the baseball was clearly secondary, they rebounded to win two straight as the offense becomes more and more potent as well as supplemented by, dare I say, Jay Bruce? Those victories, as well as a poor week from the Giants and Cardinals has allowed the stars to align just such that the Mets might be able to clinch a postseason berth tomorrow night for the second-consecutive season. That's something the Mets have accomplished just once prior in franchise history, and not in 16 years.

There's just one problem. If it does happen, I won't get to see it.

I had an emotional crisis last October when the Mets held a 2-1 lead in the NLDS against the Dodgers with an opportunity to clinch on their home field and the three hours of game play happened to coincide almost exactly with a plane flight I was taking from a wedding in Montana, via Denver. It is, of course, sometimes impossible to plan these things or, at least to expect others to plan their major life events around you (though I strongly feel that fall weddings are a crime against nature). Still, I try the best I can to avoid those uncomfortable scenarios. And yet, here we are.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's been 12 hours and I still can't believe this happened

Over the past 26 years I know that I have definitely been to at least 156 New York Mets games either in New York or elsewhere. The true number is almost certainly higher by a handful, but that is the number I can track through ticket stubs, mental photographic research or records in old letters, such as two games I was able to pin down after finding a record of them in a letter my mother wrote to me at summer camp in 2000 just a few weeks ago. I have seen the Mets lose at least 73 times. There is a good chance it is a few games higher (though somehow I've actually seen them win more than lose).

Last night was one of those 73. Some of those 73 losses have been comical blowouts such as a 15-2 drubbing at the hands of the Cubs and the immortal Cory Patterson on opening day in 2003. Others, such as Ryan Church's flyout to end the Mets' season and close down Shea Stadium in 2008, were of a far more brutal variety. But never, ever, ever, in my life, have I experienced a loss that inspired the particular brand of disillusioned funk-inducement that I found myself trapped in last night. Fans of famously hard-luck teams like to say their clubs continue to discover new ways to lose.

Well, the Mets pioneers on that frontier. Last night, they proved they just keep learning new things.

To appropriately paint the scene for which we found ourselves, one must understand the circumstances revolving around the team at this moment. The defending National League champions were, if not the most popular, certainly not an unpopular World Series pick this spring, largely on the backbone of a superb, young pitching staff that was coming into its own and likely to be bolstered by the return of Zack Wheeler from Tommy John surgery sometime this summer, as well as a competent lineup with one or two superb pieces (Yoenis Cespedes) or savvy additions (Neil Walker).

By mid-September the Mets have had three of their four highly-touted starters miss significant time, with only one, Steven Matz, returning at any point this season. Wheeler, meanwhile, never pitched a game and is hoping to be ready for Spring Training 2017. Cespedes, despite a superb season, has had nagging injuries, while Walker and David Wright are both done for the season with back issues, Lucas Duda has missed significant time with a spinal fracture, and several other players have spent time on the DL in an almost comically endless series of lineup crippling injuries.

And yet, somehow, the Mets, with 10 games left to play, through the sheer might of moxie, an ageless 43-year-old overweight pitcher, a blast from the past at the top of the lineup whom many thought they'd never see in a Mets uniform again, and a surprisingly large contribution from a farm system that was thought to be barren after last season's trade deadline, the Mets are tied with the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants in a Wild Card Bermuda Triangle in which one of the three teams will disappear in, at most, 11 days time. No team should be able to survive what the Mets have gone through to this point, and even with their favorable schedule and odds, there are still those head scratching moments that make you wonder where this team could be if it hadn't had so many inexplicably slip-ups. The prime example of this is the Braves, to whom the Mets have lost 10 of 19 games this season and been swept by twice at home. Twice! These are the same Braves who have played 133 games against the rest of Major League Baseball and won just 51 of them. The same Braves who are the worst team in the National League and second-worst in all of baseball.

Monday, September 19, 2016

NFL Picks Week Two: Hello, Hat Trick Day! It's been a while.

If I had a nickel for every time I started one of these blog entries by discussing how I've not held up my end of the bargain in writing regularly, I would continue to write about not holding up my end of the bargain so I would earn enough nickels to actually make the process worth while. It's a self-sustaining cycle, really. That, however, is not the case, so you should all feel lucky that I'm still doing it. This screed about missing my mark, you guys get for free.

So yeah, typically during football season I write every Thursday (or occasionally Friday) so I can give you the lowdown on how bad my picks for this weekend's NFL slate will be. This weekend, I assume, was no different (I honestly haven't checked them yet), but I really don't care. Why don't I care, you ask? Because, NFL picks aside, this was a pretty sweet weekend, culminating in a pretty sweet, much-needed Hat Trick Day as the denouement.

To wit: On Friday morning, that irksome Aussie Rules team we all know to hate -- the Hawthorn Hawks, duh -- had its incessant threepeat championship run snuffed out in an elimination final defeat to Western Bulldogs that made virtually everyone in Australia and approximately five people in the United States overjoyed that their reign of terror is done.



That night, the Mets kicked off a three-game series against the Twins with a shutout win and my grandmother met my girlfriend for the first time and, as far as I know, approved/was grateful I had a serious girlfriend.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

NFL Picks Week 1: We've got a Wild start to the 2016 season

Friends, I'm feeling wild these days. No, no, not simply because the Mets have erased a 5.5-game deficit and climbed into a virtual tie with St. Louis for the National League's second Wild Card spot. I've got a different kind of "wild" on my mind -- a Wildcat if you will.

I'm not speaking of any current Wildcats, obviously, not after their latest debacle. Instead I'm speaking of a Wildcat who has moved on to greener pastures, or, well, at least higher ones, both literally and figuratively, though given that it's Colorado I suppose we should be careful about saying that. Tonight, Trevor Siemian, perhaps the sixth or seventh best player to fill the role of quarterback for Northwestern since I began my freshman year there, will be the starting quarterback for a defending Super Bowl champion in its season opener.

Why is this interesting? Well, it's been a while.

Let me take you back to 1955, when an actual Wildcat legend by the name of Otto Graham was playing his final season with the Cleveland Browns. Yes, I know. Cleveland is not exactly known for its champions considering this year's Cavaliers were the first to call the city home in 52 years, but for a decade-long stretch the Browns were actually pretty good at that whole football thing, winning four AAFC championships, three NFL championships and appearing in the title game for the respective leagues for 10 straight seasons.

That's a pretty remarkable record, and throughout that entire run, the signal caller for Cleveland was the Hall of Famer with the number 14, a fact I only mention because it is my favorite number. Why this matters is because, like Siemian, Graham was a graduate of Northwestern University. While other NU alums have made appearances at Quarterback in the six decades since (Mike Kafka, anyone??), Graham is the last Wildcat to be an NFL team's No. 1 starting quarterback.

Until tonight.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Thank the sweet, (maybe) merciful lord. College football is back.

It's been a while since I've graced these pages, and I will chalk some of that up to my annual summer jaunt outside the United States. This year's winner was a 20-day excursion through England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and then back to England, and while some of you might have visited this blog and assumed the lack of updates indicated a waning interest in sports, allow me to calm your fears.

1) I still love sports
2) I didn't update because of a brutal combination of busyness and laziness
3) The joke is on me because no one is actually visiting this blog

Not only has my interest in sports remained constant, but I've spent a chunk of August preoccupying myself with football. No, not that normal football we Americans are familiar with, but the Australian variety (Geelong is pretty good this year!), the English variety (Why can't Southampton win a game??) and, during my weekend in Dublin, football of a whole new variety. What is this zaniness, you ask? Why, that's Gaelic Football, a sport mostly played in Ireland that is totally bizarre looking, totally off the wall and totally awesome in just about every way.

When I travel I often try to expose myself to new experiences both sports-related and not, and this time around, that experience was standing in the middle of 'Hill 16' at Croke Park for a doubleheader of the All-Ireland Senior Gaelic Football quarterfinals. I originally bought these tickets because they were the only ones remaining at 5 am when I woke up early to buy them online only to fall right back asleep. As I sat through the first quarterfinal, between Tyrone and Mayo, more and more Dublin fans slowly began to file in until it became apparent to me that I was actually standing in the middle of Dublin's main supporters section.

If you squint really hard you can see me.