Saturday, January 30, 2010

Good One, Mr. President

I'm not sure how many of you out there are watching the Georgetown-Duke men's college basketball game on CBS right now -- I'm sure most of you are waiting for the big showdown between Northwestern and Michigan State later tonight -- but if you were watching you may have caught this amusing exchange between Verne Lundquist and President Barack Obama, who took a few minutes away from governing to take in this afternoon's game and sit down with Lundquist and Clark Kellogg.

Barry has made it very clear that he is a big sports fan, and doesn't appear to be afraid of throwing his weight around on the topic. The three watched a clip of Obama practicing with UNC earlier this year and after watching the President miss a layup after driving the lane Lundquist asked him, "It's obvious that you're lefthanded, but can you go to your right, Mr. President?"

"Well, I met with the Republican House Caucus yesterday."

Say what you will about his governing. At least he's got a sense of humor.

Friday, January 29, 2010

So Here's An Interesting Tid Bit

One of my most shameless attributes is that I will miss no opportunity to glorify my favorite teams. Given that I like the Mets and the Knicks, these opportunities are sometimes quite rare, but today I came across this piece of informations which, somehow, I had never realized.

The New York Giants are the only NFC team to make multiple Super Bowl appearances in the last decade.

Did anyone realize that? I, and I pay more attention to this team than is healthy, somehow had absolutely no idea. Fortunately, though, even in a brutal season like this one, I will still have this fact to fall back on. Of course, dubbing the G-Men the "Team of the 00's" is probably foolhardy. For those who remember, 2003 and 2004 were painfully brutal campaigns, and the Giants only made the postseason six of the ten years of the decade. This is a good clip, but by no means on the level of, say, the Patriots, Colts or, well, Eagles.

Given that the Eagles still haven't won an NFL Championship since 1960, however, it'd be hard to give them that title either. Unless Chuck Bednarik comes out of retirement that streak is probably sticking.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Team No. 31 is Officially On the Docket

I've got some exciting news for all of you, and no, it's not the Blackhawks-Sharks Preview I have up this morning.

Yes, that's right. The next step on the journey is officially scheduled for Feb. 8, 2010, when I and the painfully coerced Bert Wyman will drive down to Philadelphia to see the Flyers face off with the Devils at Wachovia Center.

After all, I figure it's the least Bert owes me after I froze my ass off at the Jets-Bengals game earlier this month with him.

The showdown will be the 31st different team I've seen play a home game and so I'm officially calling it the "Mike Piazza Game", though I'm not sure how comfortable I am associating a hero of my teenage years with Philadelphia. I'll find some way to manage.

It will be my first new team of the year, which is good progress since I'm trying to get to six or so new ones before 2011. Of course, that will all depend on how my schedule breaks down. 2010 is already looking like an awfully expensive and busy year.

Stay tuned, though, a full update and a story will be up.... eventually.

In other news, I think we're going to get a pretty strong indicator of just how powerful Sports Illustrated is soon. And by that I mean the New Orleans Saints officially have no chance of winning the Super Bowl. Yes, the SI Cover Jinx doesn't always come through, but after knocking off the two teams featured on regional covers on Championship Sunday, this irrational superstition looks like it's on a roll. Fortunately for Drew Brees and company, there is still another issue set to come out before Super Bowl XLIV kicks off. I would expect a lot of people in the Bayou to hope their native son, Peyton Manning, gets some cover love before the big game.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Goodbye College, Hello Cleveland

Originally written January 14, 2010

The last few days of college are a bizarre time, particularly for those of us who are without a job or any real idea of where they’re going in life. I had no job lined up and prospects were pretty scarce. I applied to 100 or so over the final few weeks as I wrote my last papers and began packing up. Most of the calls had come from news clipping organizations I had little interest in working for that would have required me to be in the office by 4:30 a.m. on some days. Beyond that the ways to find a job writing in sports in New York without having ever actually interned for a major newspaper seemed few and far between.

I believe it was my stepmother, Audrey, who asked me what I wanted to do for a living the day I graduated. The latter of my two commencements ended at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston and as we went through the obligatory picture taking session by Ryan Field, Northwestern’s football stadium, she posed the question.

“I want to watch baseball,” I said. “For money.”

It was always good for a laugh, and yet I wasn’t particularly sure where I’d go. I had tried my best to balance mailing out resumes, packing my things, and squeezing in all the necessary goodbyes and drunken memories that the final two weeks after finals provide you with. Those goodbyes are tricky. You’re not sure which of the people you’ve spent the last four years with you’re going to still be in contact with and who you need to say goodbye to for good.

And there are some.

But you can’t afford to be too schmaltzy or else your life will never get where it’s going. You just have to take it in stride. And it ain’t easy. But you manage.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The SI Cover Jinx Lives

I think it's hard to be surprised by the fact that the Saints and Colts will be facing off in the Super Bowl. And no, that's not because both the Jets and Vikings were on the cover of Sports Illustrated in their respective regions this week -- though I wouldn't entirely discount that I suppose.

New Orleans and Indianapolis were simply the best teams in the league for most of the year, even if both slowed down near the end of the season. Regardless, I do have some sympathy for the Jets, who, after they had taken a 17-6 lead late in the first half, I really started to believe they were going to win the game. But in an eerie similarity to their last AFC Championship appearance in 1998, one big pass play by a future Hall of Fame quarterback turned the tide for good.

As for the NFC, this was a great game marred by a drawn-out, booth-review and penalty-flag filled overtime that was fairly unsatisfying. For me, however, the highlight -- beyond Brett Favre throwing another pick on a potential conference-winning drive -- was when Joe Buck pointed out that the Vikings hadn't won an NFC Championship Game since their last Super Bowl appearance.

Keen insight.

So who's going to win Super Bowl XLIV? Hell, I don't know. Give me 13 days to think about it.

In the meantime, I hope you all can stand the wait. I'll have a full-fledged story up for you all tomorrow.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

It's Championship Sunday

As the Jets and Colts battle for AFC Supremacy, and the Saints and Vikings do likewise in the NFC, it is important that we remember and honor something that football simply wouldn't be the same without.

That's right.

Today is the 75th anniversary of the beer can. Few things have changed humanity quite so profoundly.

Oh, and I'm taking the Jets and the Saints. Everyone enjoy your football.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Working In the Madhouse on Madison

Originally written July 2, 2009

At the front of the United Center on Madison Ave in Chicago, there is a statue of Michael Jordan making one of his legendary dunks with the ball palmed in his right hand. It’s a truly remarkable statue, and one that I’m particularly fond of, partially because it reminds me of an Arena that I wound up spending a profound amount of time at during my senior year of college, and partially because the innocent defenders Jordan is dunking over don’t look so much like basketball players as they do hellish demons.

It is peculiar and yet a reasonable metaphor, as it presents Jordan not so much as an athlete but as a god-like figure commanding his kingdom and those beneath him. In a sense, this is exactly what Jordan was. He was the single most dominant basketball player ever. Yes, there are those that would argue for players like Wilt Chamberlain or perhaps more legitimately, Bill Russell. I was not alive to see those legends of the hardcourt, but for my money, his Airness was king. He was a brilliant and unstoppable force while his Bulls took six NBA titles in eight seasons, and while those titles wouldn’t have come without the quality supporting cast around him – players such as Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, Luc Longley, B.J. Armstrong, Dennis Rodman – there was no man in the history of the game that you’d rather have on your side with a Championship on the line.

One of my great regrets as a sports fan is that I never saw Jordan play in person. The closest I would come was seeing the building that might not have existed without him. For decades the Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks called the ancient Chicago Stadium home, but in the mid-1990s, the outmoded building was replaced by the sparkling new United Center, or the UC as I would come to call it. Reaching the arena by car is somewhat confusing if you don’t do it every day, and it’s not in the greatest neighborhood in the city, but those issues aside, it is a spectacular place to watch basketball or hockey. It is deceptively large, with capacity reaching well over 22,000 seats, and it is filled with the sports bars and luxury boxes that have come to dot the landscape of the modern basketball or hockey arena.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

When You Desperately Want to One-Up SI

I'm not a particularly superstitious man, but my first thought when I saw this week's Sports Illustrated with a screaming Mark Sanchez on the cover was, "The Jets are not winning the Super Bowl."

Though it should be noted that Sports Illustrated released regional covers this week, the SI cover jinx is a long-known old wives tale, and as the Jets shoot for an unlikely berth in their first Super Bowl since the last days of the Johnson administration, this could factor into their heads. Well, actually, the likelihood of that is pretty slim. But either way, for a group of fans as anxious as Jets fans are, it was just about the worst thing they could have seen ahead of this week's AFC Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Just about.

At least that's what I thought until my buddy Bert, who had been trying to convince me to take a spur of the moment trip to Indy this Sunday, showed me an e-mail that was sent to him and, presumably, other Jets fans today containing the image to the right. Now depending on what you read both teams have done this, and yes they are actually selling this already, but how on Earth could any of them feel comfortable tempting fate this way?

I know I wouldn't.

This is just asking for trouble, and with the second-biggest game in franchise history fast approaching, I think most Jets fans wish the NFL Shop could show a little less hubris. If Rex Ryan and company can't knock off the Colts on Sunday, I think they know where to place the blame.

I guess what we can assume from this is the Colts and Saints will probably be facing off in Miami on Feb. 7th.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This Won't Excite the Rest of You...

Nearly as much as it excites me, but I hit a tremendous groove writing today and the result is that I've zipped through and finished the chapter I'm writing in my book about when I went to Jacobs Field with my mother in 2007.

I'm not sure when a condensed version of it will pop up on here, but for now I'm very satisfied with how the long version that will, theoretically, show up in the eventual book turned out. I get the feeling that this blog is really giving me the impetus to start getting through my writing at a solid rate, though I do have concerns about what happens when I catch up to the present and start running out of things to put up here regularly.

I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. In any event, my New Years resolution was to spend part of every day writing or researching one of my independent book projects and so far, for the most part, I'm sticking to it.

Lastly, for those of you who are keeping track of my sporting ventures, there will be a Dave sighting this Friday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. when the Devils host the Montreal Canadiens. This is hardly a major trip for me. I've been there several times. But if anyone out there is going to be at the game, don't be afraid to say hi.

Have a good day everyone. A new story will be posted in the coming days.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Frozen Tundra

Originally written January 2, 2010

The Peters are a tall family.

To a person modest in stature such as myself, this is the most readily apparent fact about them. Kyle stands somewhere in the neighborhood of 6’4”, his father is in a similar range and his brother, whom I didn’t meet during my stay at their home in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, is apparently somewhere in the neighborhood of 6’7”.

Just to make things clear about how much larger they are than you, their television is a 73-inch HD flat screen which took up the entire wall of their den.

Their distinct height advantage is somewhat intimidating. Ironically, Kyle is anything but. He is confident and sure of himself, but also one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. I first met Kyle during an ill-fated flirtation with Northwestern’s club Ultimate Frisbee team my freshman year of college. I wouldn’t get to know him well until the next year when we took multiple German courses together.

By the time senior year came around, Kyle lived down the block from me on Foster street between Maple and Ridge, and we would occasionally get together to watch football. That said, Kyle and I ran in different social circles, so outside of German classes we didn’t socialize all too often on a regular basis, which left me somewhat surprised at the beginning of senior year, when he called me to let me know that he was going home to Wisconsin to see the Packers-Saints game on September 17, 2006 and would I like his extra ticket.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Giants Have Some Fans Down Under

Some of you may have become aware that in the last year I've developed a bizarre interest in Australian Rules Football, with particular affection being reserved for the Geelong Footy Club.

Yeah, I know, it's easy to like the team that's won two of the last three Grand Finals, but I'm willing to bet you, the reader, didn't even have the slightest clue that that's the case.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Aussie Rules or how it works, you probably will still be after watching this video of Geelong winning the 2009 Grand Final in a thriller over St. Kilda, but if not perhaps it'll spell things out. The sport is actually pretty easy to get the gist of and once you've watched it a few times, pretty damn exciting.

I bring this up to all of you because AFL is slowly but surely starting to have a fairly significant impact on American football. Some of you may recall the punter for the Arizona Cardinals is a big Aussie named Ben Graham. But you probably don't know that Graham made his bread for well more than a decade as the captain of Geelong FC. Graham isn't the only one either. This afternoon Dallas' special teams will hang heavily on the performance of former-Aussie Rules Footy player Mat McBriar. Philadelphia's punter, Sav Rocca, used to troll the ground for Collingwood FC and North Melbourne, and his brother Anthony, also a former footballer for Collingwood, is currently training to follow Sav to the NFL.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Let's Kill Some Time

I don't have much interesting stuff to tell you all today, though I'm planning on posting a story tomorrow, so hopefully that will keep all of you interested.

In the meantime, I wrote another preview, which I'm much happier with than the last one. As well, my friend Crystal turned me on to America Bowl, a dedicated analysis of every President and every Super Bowl. If you love football and happen to fancy yourself a history nerd, it's worth a light-hearted gander.

I'll have something actually worth reading for you all tomorrow.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Mecca of American League Baseball

Originally written June 15, 2009

It bothered me for quite some time that the Cubs were out of town on my first major college visiting trip. When we first had decided to take a jaunt to the Midwest, seeing a game at Wrigley Field, the legendary home of old National League baseball with its ancient grandstands and ivy-covered outfield walls was my biggest priority.

Those priorities had to be reordered after glancing at the schedule, but fortunately, a year later I would not be in a similar spot when my mother and I made a college tour in Boston. Yes, the point of the trip was, ostensibly, to look at universities like Tufts or Harvard – the latter of which I never seriously considered applying to – but for me the entire purpose of the drive to Beantown was to get out to Yawkey Way and make my first visit ever to Fenway Park.

My mother and I checked the schedule after planning our trip and found the Sawx would be hosting the highly mediocre Tampa Bay Devil Rays that week. In a building so rife with history and so low on capacity the seats were appropriately overpriced, but there are only so many opportunities an out-of-towner has to see a hallowed part of baseball history that is mostly unaltered from the day it opened. My mother bought tickets for the two of us as well as her high school boyfriend Richard, who now lived in Massachusetts, and two of his children. For the two of them it was a reunion. For me it was a religious pilgrimage.

We arrived well in advance of our guests and, as I always do when given the opportunity, I stuck along the baseline in the outfield during batting practice in hopes of snagging a baseball. That we, as rational, thinking, complicated psychological creatures go so gaga and go to such desperate lengths to grab a piece of cow hide that is easily purchased at a sporting goods store is always something of a mystery to me, but as I have spent countless hours attempting fruitlessly to snag one, I am in no place to criticize.

On this particular day I came as close to finally bringing a ball home as I ever had before when former light-hitting Mets utility infielder Jason Tyner stepped into the cage for some BP. While I remember Tyner because I enjoyed his scrappy play and quick start when he came up with the Mets, I’m fairly certain that the only people who remember that Jason Tyner ever played Major League Baseball are me, Tyner and my friend Adam Litterman, who could never grasp why his beloved Twins batted Tyner at DH when he had no discernible power stroke whatsoever.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some Vague Updates

I don't have much to tell you all about today. Well, I could post another story, but I figure I'll give it a few days before I do that.

Meanwhilst, I figured I'd post a preview I wrote that's online today. I'm pretty sure it's not one of my better ones, but I can handle that for now. Go nuts.

Also, I appreciate the large swath of invitations I've suddenly gotten from people to go see their favorite teams in different places. The couches, I assure you, are greatly appreciated. One of these people, Jeff Goldberg, is determined to, at some point, pull me in for a trip to see his Carolina Panthers. We'll get there when the schedule works out, and speaking of schedules, Jeff happens to have turned me on to this site, which will be dramatically helpful for future planning, assuming the NFL continues it's schedule on the same rotation that it has been doing for the past eight years.

Given that there has been no expansion or realignment, this would seem a safe assumption.

I'm sure there are a slew of these around the web, but if I'm going to base most of this on following the Giants around, this could be extremely useful for knocking out the 20-some NFL teams I've got remaining...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tales From Citi Field I

I know I keep saying updates will be sparse, but I figure for the first few days I should put some stuff up just so you all have something interesting to read and so it looks like I've actually written enough entries to fill up the page.

I feel the most appropriate place to start is with my first regular season game at Citi Field, the Mets new home earlier this year, when I ran into one of a number of colorful characters I have met during this journey. I note that it was my first regular season game because I had attended both of the Mets' exhibitions against the Boston Red Sox a few weeks earlier, which basically served as cash cows taking advantage of anxious fans like myself eager to see the building.

It is a beautiful stadium, with good sightlines, an intimate feel inside and all the exciting amenities newer, modern parks provide. Unfortunately, my first few times there it didn't quite feel like home. It was, without a question, far nicer than Shea Stadium, but when you went to Shea you knew it was the Amazins' home. Citi Field didn't quite feel that way. Perhaps the best thing about it was that, since I and my father attended the first game there, it was the first time in at least a decade when I went to a baseball stadium and was certain that Kris and Anna Benson had not yet had sex in it. Beyond that, I also made a point to use the rest room as soon as I walked into the gate, because, as I told my father, they would never be that clean again.

Alright, Let's Lay Down a Few Ground Rules Here

So with some more free time on my hands and that visitors counter going to the extremely exciting number of 20, I figure I should explain some things before I head to bed.

Because I have already made roughly a quarter of my way through this long and difficult journey of mine, there is already a hefty amount of stuff that has been written. I will not put it all up here at once, however. I will spread it out from time to time, maybe once a week or so, to keep it all from coming out at once and to keep you coming back for more. As well, the chapters I have written are not always brief and concise. To those of you who know me, this is, I'm sure, not surprising at all. In fact, some chapters are fairly long -- the one of Shea Stadium because it is the stadium to which I am most attached for example -- and I will not be posting all of them.

The posts will get unwieldy and boring to say nothing of the damage that could be done to your eyes by reading the whole thing start to finish -- as if we don't already spend our entire days sitting in front of a computer screen.

For those particularly long chapters, I may post bits and pieces of them over time as they include multiple stories. Hopefully each of them will be fairly easily digestible. With that in mind, old stories from Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium (I), two places I attended baseball games at for nearly 20 years, will probably pop up from time to time. Along that same vein, stories from Citi Field and Yankee Stadium (II) will begin to pop up as they happen. I'll leave the messy business of condensing them all into a book for a few decades down the line when I've got more patience for it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

And So It Begins

Some time ago I decided that I wanted to be one of those crazy people who made a point to visit every Major League Baseball stadium. I think part of my inspiration might have come from a Mastercard commercial in the late 1990s, as part of their "There are some things money can't buy" campaign, which two friends spend a summer driving around the U.S. in an old VW Microbus seeing every Major League team.

Well, I don't own a microbus. And I'm not doing this in one summer.

But some time later, after making a few stops in my late teens, I decided on something bigger. This wouldn't just be baseball. It would be baseball, hockey, basketball and football.

Moreover, this isn't necessarily about individual arenas. I need to see every team play at home in the four major sports leagues regardless of whether or not they share a building. And if they move into a new building, I need to go back. The goal is to see every team in their current buildings as of the time I complete the whole trip. Since there are 122 teams, it will take a while.