Friday, December 30, 2011

NFL Picks Week Seventeen: Getting Ready for the Last Year of Earth

Oh yes, people, 2012 is almost here, and if you're one of those people who truly understands the significance of the impending Mayan cataclysm next December then, well, surely there are better things you could be doing with the last 11 1/2 months you've got here than reading this drivel.

But here you are! Thank you for your readership!

So while we wait for the end of days to come, I suppose that means I've got one more year with which to see the last 88 teams on the list, a trek which would be, uh, exhausting to say the least. I don't think I'm going to be able to make those 88 trips before the year is off if I'm going to balance my time between traveling and maintaining a job. Theoretically, I suppose I have enough money saved up to make it through the last year of life without employment, but I'm going to keep my gig and hedge my bets.

You know, just in case the world doesn't end next December.

If it does, though, I did manage to have a pretty decent 2011 as far as taking advantage of my time is concerned. It wasn't quite as busy as 2010, which wound up being a surprisingly hectic year with its international vacation and three cross-country trips in the month of August alone. Some of you may recall that I encompassed all of this in one particularly large entry on December 31, 2010, which recounted the total number of plane flights, airlines and other great things I tallied up over the previous 12 months. Well, we'll get to that list here in a second -- I wouldn't want to deprive of reading my obnoxious bragging -- but first I should talk about my personal sports fortunes over the past 12 months and as I look at them they're, uh, not particularly inspiring.

In fact, 2011 was actually one of the worst years I've had in sports as a fan. Looking at my big four (that's the Giants, Mets, Devils and Knicks if you aren't aware) a grand total of one of them played a postseason game this calendar year and in a bizarre twist of fate that was the Knicks, a team I'm so used to being bad that when they finally started being good this season I was so confused I likened it to when I first realized I was attracted to women and didn't know how to handle it. None of those teams won a playoff game. My college team had an uninspiring Bowl loss and then failed to make the NCAA Tournament yet again. The Chicago Blackhawks squeaked into the playoffs through the back door on the final day of the season, nearly got swept in the first round of the playoffs and then after rallying to force a Game 7, lost in overtime because of an inept giveaway in the defensive zone by journeyman defenseman Chris Campoli. In fact, the two teams I do like that actually had major accomplishments this season (Southampton FC and Geelong FC) don't play in the same hemisphere that I live in and I've never seen them in person.

So yeah. As far as on-field/ice/court accomplishments are concerned, 2011 was not one of the better years that I've had. In fact, it was one of the worst, and it's a far cry from ten years ago when the Mets, Devils and Giants all made their respective championship rounds (and the Knicks actually made the playoffs) in a 12-month span.

On the plus side, 2012 isn't looking half bad so far. The Devils are playing pretty good hockey of late and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. The Knicks, despite their slow start, are likely poised to be one of the top teams in the East this season. The Blackhawks have the best record in the Western Conference. Southampton is off to a great season and appears poised to gain promotion back to the Premier League after a decade-long drought. Geelong, the reigning champions, will be gunning for its four Grand Final win in seven seasons. The Giants, with a win in Sunday night's massive de facto NFC East title game, can snap what has been a more-painful-than-most two-year playoff drought, and finally, the Mets, well, the Mets haven't been forced to fold financially yet. Considering the year they've had off the field, that's a victory in and of itself.

So we'll see what the New Year brings for my sports fortunes, starting with Sunday night -- though I should note that with Northwestern's Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas showdown tomorrow afternoon, 2011's chances of improving are not done yet -- but for now, with a grand total of 34 hours left in the year, it's time to take a look back on what happened to me in 2011.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

NFL Picks Week Sixteen: In Which A Friendship Endures Its Greatest Test

See everybody? This is Bert (or Birt to Starbucks baristas). You have seen Bert before in such fantastic moments as the U.S.'s dramatic win over Algeria in the 2010 World Cup, the last game ever played at Giants Stadium, our trip to see the Flyers nearly two years ago and, of course, that time we both wore bags over our heads at a Knicks-Cavaliers game because we were too embarrassed to be seen at the Garden. Bert also made a spur of the moment trip with me and our friend Deek to see Barack Obama's inauguration in 2009, and he's generally a fun guy -- one who really likes to cut a rug sometimes.

Bert's a good guy. I like Bert. Really I do.

But here's the thing. This Saturday, our friendship which has lasted well more than a decade will be tested in ways it has never been tested before. That is because we will be attending the Giants-Jets game this Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Now, this in and of itself is not a terribly crazy development. Bert and I have been to several football games together, and I have already been to three Giants games this season alone, but here's the catch. I don't know if any of you readers have become aware of this yet, but I happen to really like the New York Football Giants. Like a lot.

This is all well and good, but they are a team that has a tendency to break your heart from time to time, the notable exception of Super Bowl XLII aside. Bert doesn't have a great deal of Giants-related heartbreak, but boy oh boy does he have a lot of Jets-related heartbreak. Bert might follow the Gang Green more intensely than anyone I know does in regards to any team, and his fandom ranges from fear of jinxes, to robust spontaneity as seen in a trip he and I had planned for the AFC Championship Game last year that were botched by my own ability to manage my work schedule, costing me $300 in the process.

So knowing that the Giants and Jets will be facing off this Saturday and that we will be in the crowd together clearly lends itself to some potential anxiety and certainly some disagreement, but that alone isn't a particularly contentious point. We're both mature responsible adults -- sort of -- and we know that in the end we will live and we have, in fact, see the Giants and Jets face off in person before as we did in 2007.

On that day, an unseasonably warm afternoon at the old Giants Stadium, we witnessed Plaxico Burress turning the Jets secondary into his own personal rag doll as Big Blue went on to a 35-24 win over their intracity rival, capped by this pick six by Aaron Ross. Bert was disappointed, sure, and while I was excited about the win, I was also disappointed by the pretty unfortunate behavior by many of the fans there from both side, but it was an odd kind of victory. Not in that it was unenjoyable, but the Giants-Jets rivalry may be the most unnecessarily forced one in the NFL.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

NFL Picks Week Fifteen: So Let Me Talk About Hockey For a Few Minutes

In the midst of all your holiday parties and your fervent non-hockey watching, some of you might have missed last night that the Devils made Scott Niedermayer the third player to have his number raised to the rafters at the Prudential Center. I know to many of you the name probably sounds strange, and even for the die-hard hockey fan, Scott Niedermayer was about as unassuming as a superstar defenseman of his caliber could be, but for a Devils fan who grew up watching the brilliant dynasty that brought home three Cups in nine years, seeing Niedermayer's number retired is an appropriate and special moment.

Yes, Niedermayer left the Devils for the opportunity to win a Cup with his brother in Anaheim, which he did four years after defeating his brother and the Mighty Ducks in seven games for the Devils' last championship, but that move is in many ways not only one that both sides have since said didn't mean to happen, but one that was a rare divorce for New Jersey and a star player that did not involve malice. Everyone seemed to acknowledge that Niedermayer was hoping a move west would bring a championship home for his brother, and actually took less money to do so.

Niedermayer, who is arguably the finest defenseman of his generation, is still always going to be a Devil for many of his fans however. His remarkable coast-to-coast goal against Detroit in the 1995 Final is the stuff of legend in New Jersey, and may have been the singular moment that transformed the organization from Mickey Mouse to NHL dynasty. And perhaps more noteworthy, he is one of just five players who was in uniform for all three of New Jersey's Stanley Cups along with Martin Brodeur, Ken Daneyko, Scott Stevens and Sergei Brylin. Daneyko and Stevens have already had their numbers brought up to the rafters. Brodeur's will join them some day.

To understand Niedermayer's greatness, his use of speed, his smooth skating, his offensive ability and his shut down defense is to understand how the nuances of the game when perfected by one individual can be a remarkable display of hockey brilliance. Niedermayer's amazing career will land him in the hall of fame one day, but even that may not quite do justice to just how good someone who spent most of his career out of the media spotlight was. Niedermayer won four Stanley Cups, the last of which with Anaheim gave him a Cup as a captain as well as a Conn Smythe Trophy, but even that doesn't show just how winning followed him wherever he went. In addition to his Cups and his Conn Smythe, Niedermayer was a Norris Trophy winner and is the only player in hockey history to win every single professional or amateur high level hockey championship in North America. In addition to his Stanley Cups Niedermayer has won a Memorial Cup, a World Junior Championship, an IIHF World Championship, an Olympic gold medal and the rarely played World Cup of Hockey (nee Canada Cup).

The list of accolades is simply astounding, and no coincidence whatsoever.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Girl, Eli's Coming. You Better Hide.

I suppose that after last night's game I could have also given this entry the title of "I'm down with JPP", a common thread running on the twitters last night, but considering that I like Three Dog Night more than Naughty By Nature and that song is far more inappropriate -- and you all know how I'm a stickler for propriety -- I've made my bed and I'm sleeping in it. Also, to put it more finely, Jason Pierre-Paul has never been the object of scorn for not getting angry enough on the sidelines after a missed tackle. He's always been considered an athletic freak who is always a project that needs time to develop -- and has managed to develop much quicker than anticipated with room still to grow.

And don't get me wrong. JPP looks every bit the tremendous stud defensive end GM Jerry Reese envisioned when he was drafted and more. His athleticism is nearly unparalleled among men at his position, he had an almost obscenely good game last night and when he learns how to play the run he may very well be the best defensive end in the League.

But this is about Eli, a player who was dogged by criticism and unreasonable expectations throughout the beginning of his career and even after he led a stunning Super Bowl-winning drive -- perhaps too early because people assumed greatness had arrived when it was still marinating. But now, after his game-winning drive against New England earlier this season, and his near late-game rallies against San Francisco and Green Bay despite having little healthy talent to help him on both sides of the ball, and finally after last night, there can no longer be any doubt.

Eli has arrived -- and he is among the greats in the NFL.

As the Giants trailed Dallas by 12 points with less than four minutes to go last night at Jerry World with their season on the line, Manning led a late touchdown drive in the fourth quarter like he had done so many times before, and then after a tremendous three-and-out forced by JPP and the defense, he did it again. One drive went 80 yards and lasted 2:27. The second went 58 yards and lasted 81 seconds. And that drive might have ended sooner were it not for a dropped touchdown pass by Mario Manningham that was as perfectly thrown between a cornerback and a safety in a clutch situation as any pass could be. On the night he had two touchdowns, one interception off a tipped pass and 400 yards passing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

NFL Picks Week Fourteen: You Know, Nassau Coliseum Is Kind of Fun

Don't get me wrong. Let me state clearly that Nassau Coliseum, for all its history, is not a nice building. It is old, it is crumbling, it feels like the concourses are part of a disused bowling alley from 1987 and it is a woefully inconvenient place to get to if you have no car to take you there. But you know what? Sitting in a seat and watching a game there is really a pretty good time. I won't lie, it helps when stubhub enables you to get seats with a view like this at half the price, but despite the fact that the place is, in many ways, highly decrepit, it's actually a pretty good time. The place has character, it's intimate, and it's kind of cramped in that "just like Fenway Park but without the charm and still somehow good" kind of way.

Don't ask me how it works. It just works.

I've only been there twice now, but I'm starting to like it a little more than I did the first time, though I wouldn't mind it if the pulled pork sandwiches were served a little quicker. I ended up missing most of the second period while waiting for the enormous line of five people to trim down. It did enable me, however, to talk to a charming group of 18-year-olds who decided to call the ice girls "sluts" as I walked by. This led me into a long half-sober dissertation to them about how if they want to go pursue women sexually, how can they criticize women, in principle, for doing the same thing. This stumped them for a half second, but then they eagerly told me that they were "sluts" because they worked for the Islanders, not because they were dressing scantily. This ignores the fact that a) they are wearing outfits required by their job, not by choice and b) it is completely different from their previous argument of, "Yeah, but they're sluts because... you know, look at them, they're sluts."

Once I realized a moment later that they were not yet alive when Wayne's World and Jurassic Park came out I decided the conversation was over and happily took my sandwich back to my seat. This was also after the woman behind me in line asked me if she could have my pickle when I asked them not to put one with my sandwich.

So my point is, the game was really pretty fun, and it had a particularly awesome end when the Blackhawks won in overtime despite blowing a two-goal lead in the second period. That particularly satisfied me of course considering I consider myself something of a Blackhawks fan after working for them (though the Devils are still my team) and living in New York rather than Chicago does not afford me very many opportunities to see the Hawks. This year I am fortunate enough in that they play in all three New York-area arenas during the course of the season, and with the NHL's impending realignment for the 2012-13 season that will continue.

Monday, December 5, 2011

So This Is Like The Opposite Of A Hat Trick Night, Huh?

Some of you who know me may have noticed that a few years ago I started taking note of what I liked to refer to as "Hat Trick Nights". They are an obnoxious concept to be sure, but they're pretty fun, and essentially the idea, which you could probably piece together if you know what a hat trick is, is that on any given date that three teams you root for all win, you have a hat trick night. Bizarrely, I've found that hat trick nights happen both more frequently and less frequently than you expect, though it is easier when you like two different teams in a particular sport as I do in the NHL. The New Jersey Devils are my primary team with no equivocations, but given my brief internship with the Chicago Blackhawks in college, I have a soft spot for team No. 2.

That makes it easier to have a hat trick night in general, but without a doubt, the easiest night to have one is on a Saturday in the month of October or November. Why? Because on any given Saturday during that span I might have the Devils, Blackhawks, Northwestern football, Knicks, Mets or, hell, even Geelong FC or Southampton FC playing. That's a lot of chances to get three wins.

However, I've noticed lately that Hat Trick Nights have been in short supply. The Devils have been a streaky, mediocre outfit, the Mets did not make it to October (again), Northwestern forgot how to win for a solid month of the season and the Knicks, well, I can at least say they didn't lose any games even if they didn't win any either. So despite the fact that Southampton is off to a superb start in the nPower Championship and Geelong won its third Grand Final in five years, this has been a rough season for cumulative victories -- particularly if we choose to limit it to just North America.

But this Sunday something truly special happened -- and by special I mean "awful". This just my have been the denouement of Hat Trick Nights as I know them because while it isn't uncommon for multiple teams I root for to lose in a day, nor unusual for three of them to lose in a day, it is unusual that I have three sports-related events happen to me in one day that all quite so awful.

Allow me to count the ways.

Friday, December 2, 2011

NFL Picks Week Thirteen: All Just A Little Bit Of History Repeating? Maybe?

So, some of you, or more likely, anyone who actually bothers to read this, probably knows that I've been experiencing a bit of angst over the last few weeks. No, not for anything that's actually happening in my life -- that's going along just fine, more or less, even if I haven't made any progress on the whole marriage thing, for which I will apologize to my grandmother when we see this play tonight. No, no, this cause for angst is almost entirely the result of three awfully frustrating weeks for the New York Giants, two of which I got to witness up close in person.

See, after that super duper win over the New England Patriots a month ago, Big Blue was 6-2 and looking like a surefire bet to take the NFC East and possibly challenge a Green Bay team that is the clear class of the League for conference supremacy. Then San Francisco happened. And then Philadelphia happened. And then this week New Orleans happened. Now the Giants basically have to beat the 11-0 Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon or, come January, absolutely nothing will happen.

So facing the top team in the League when they're undefeated and it's do or die time is pretty much a death sentence, right?

Well.... maybe not. See, Green Bay is just the second defending champion in NFL history to start its title defense with wins in its first 11 games, which has got everyone talking about the prospect of the League's first 19-0 season. The only other team to complete that feat was the 1998 Denver Broncos, and while the Broncos were clearly the best team in the League that season and took a second consecutive Super Bowl title, a funny thing happened in Week 15 on the way to perfection. That week the Broncos came to the Meadowlands to face a New York Giants team that was in the midst of an otherwise unremarkable 8-8 season -- and at one point they were four games under .500 that season.

The Broncos, meanwhile, were coming off the emotional high of saving their perfect season a week earlier with a wild 35-31 win over division rival Kansas City, and facing the Giants seemed a minor quibble on the road to history. After all, the Broncos had John Elway, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Davis, Rod Smith and Steve Atwater. Ten Broncos would be elected to the Pro Bowl that year. The Giants had Kent Graham, whose biggest claim to fame is sounding like the love child of Superman's alter ego and a delicious breakfast cereal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NFL Picks Week Twelve: My Night As A Sideline Photographer...'s Assistant

So there was an amusing bit of irony last week in that I said I was not, in fact, following Eli Manning wherever he goes around the country. This was because my plans for the Giants game, for the very first time this season, involved sitting on my couch with a beer, wearing quite possibly just my underwear, and relaxing in front of my HDTV.

Then on Saturday night, something unexpected happened. My friend and fellow Israel travel buddy Brian Garfinkel, who accompanied me and some friends to see the Knicks and 76ers last year back when they actually played basketball, offered a particularly exciting proposition. See, Brian has a pretty exciting Sunday occupation in that he's a sideline photographer for the Philadelphia Eagles. Every week he gets to be one of those guys on the sidelines with a tan vest on taking one picture after another through an absolutely enormous telephoto lens, and sometimes when he travels he can scrounge up an extra press pass for an assistant. Approximately 22 hours before kickoff, knowing that I am bigger Giants fan than is healthy, he sent me a text message and asked if I wanted to be his assistant for the night. I found a way to make it work despite having to be in the office Sunday, and when I arrived at (ugh) "MetLife Stadium" there was Brian waiting for my with my press pass.

I have one previous experience working at an NFL game, a Bears-Seahawks game in Chicago five years ago where I was exclusively in charge of setting the play clock after each down (side note: don't ever trust that play clock when watching on TV), and spent the entire game in a truck where the production was happening. Never before had I spent a night working on the sidelines. I figured it would be a pretty wild to see the players that up close and indeed we were close. As you can see from this shot I took on the first offensive play of the game, we were only a few yards from the action at any given time.

The interesting thing is that watching from such a low angle makes football, well, very difficult to watch. As people who generally watch from the stands or on television, most of us are used to seeing the players spread out rather than bunched together. As a result, what we can see from the naked eye at that angle can look sort of like a total visual cacophony. Brian's a little better than I am, however, what with him being good enough to get paid for it and all. As a result, while my pictures, at their best, looked like this, his pictures look like this. He's really good, you see. And if I learned anything Sunday night it's that the job is not easy. Not even a little.

Most of my help involved carrying around cameras for Brian, and periodically running memory cards to the photo room for him, though, amazingly, most cameras were equipped with the ability to transmit those photos directly to another photographer in the photo room for uploading and editing, so if the stadium you're in happens to have a properly function wi-fi network or G4 or something else technological that I really didn't understand, transmitting photos is a snap. Amazingly, when I asked Brian after the game ended if it would take him a while to get the photos up on the site, his answer was, "They're already up there."

In addition, these guys are in pretty good shape. My entire lower half has been sore for the three days I've had to walk around since being on the sidelines. In addition, my knees were absolutely killing me 30 minutes after we started kneeling on the sideline. Brian always does his job while wearing a set of knee pads he bought at Home Depot for, he says, $10 or so. It looks kind of goofy, but it doesn't take long for you to realize why the extra padding is necessary.

Friday, November 18, 2011

NFL Picks Week Eleven: I'm Actually Staying In New York This Weekend

I know that the past two weeks might have given you the indication that I'm just a traveling road show intent on trailing Eli Manning to whatever he chooses to go. I suppose, considering that the Giants are home this weekend, it doesn't really break that trend, but I assure you I'm done traveling. At least for the forseeable future. I'll prove it next week when the Giants go to New Orleans. In any event, I am back from San Francisco and while the Giants couldn't pull out a victory for me, I still had a good time, managed to knock two more teams off the list, saw several old friends and met some very interesting characters in the airport while waiting for my redeye.

They were, in order, the 45-year-old Giants super fan who traveled around the country to see them each weekend even though she lives in Florida. She was easily the most sane and easy-going of the bunch. Next was the 26-year-old from Florida, who was already drunk when she sat down, told us about her pseudo-ex-boyfriend and geriatric next door neighbor who brought her cookies at the most inconvenient times and who offered to give me xanax and aderall for the ride home. I declined. Finally, there was the girl who told us about how her ex-boyfriend once sent her a lifesize ice sculpture of Buddy Christ because he once accidentally called her "Jerry" during sex and then tried to cover it up by calling her "Jesus".

So yeah. Those are the fun people you meet when you're waiting for your redeye.

Also, there was a football game and a hockey game, which were a pretty good time, and at some point I'll have a more succinct and fully thought out writeup of those two events, but if I can give you any advice on attending either a San Jose Sharks or a San Francisco 49ers game in the future, it will be these items.

A) Go see the Sharks. San Jose was shut out 3-0 by Phoenix the night I was there which was a bit of a drag, but it was still a great atmosphere and the building is really tremendous for one that is almost 20 years old. Also, even the zambonis have fins.

B) If you ever plan on going to a 49ers game while they are still at the Stick, I suggest, urge, caution, warn, scream from the tree tops, etc, that you do not drive a car to the game. If there is a mass transit option available to you, and there are some, do not under any circumstances not use them. The reason for this is two-fold. The first is that you won't have to pay the $30 it takes to put your car in a vacant dirt-and-gravel lot. The second is that getting out of the Candlestick parking lot, given the stadium's location, takes about two hours, to say nothing of the pain in the ass that is parking their in the first place.

It's almost as if the city of San Francisco said in the late 1950s, "Let's find the most remote, worst possible location in our city for 80,000 people to shuttle in and out with ease, and let's put a football stadium there." And true to form, they did just that, putting the stadium on a relatively small parcel of land that juts out into the bay and basically has only one exit point. Getting out is just plain super.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NFL Picks Week Ten: So I'm Just Following The Giants Around the Country Now

Alright, I must be honest and admit that I may have dropped the ball on you kids. When I say I dropped a ball, I of course don't mean literally. I'm as sure handed as Rey Ordonez circa 1999. Instead I didn't plan my time out too well and as a result I have very little time to appropriately write a blog entry in anticipation of my trip to San Francisco this weekend.

Yep, that's right. I'm on the move again. A week after jetting up to Boston for the unbelievably exciting adventure that was the Giants at the Patriots, I am now taking a slightly longer route to see Big Blue as I head to the Bay Area to watch them visit the 49ers Sunday morning. Of course, one of the keys to doing all of this relatively quickly is to do multiple teams in one trip if at all possible -- and this weekend it's possible. Not only will I be checking the 49ers off the list Sunday morning but I will also be in the stands for Saturday night's game in San Jose between the Sharks and the Coyotes, my first ever visit to HP Pavilion, also known as the Shark Tank.

The Niners play in Candlestick Park, which apparently is also known as "awful", but I'm still pretty excited for it, the Sharks, and the surprisingly large number of friends I'll be able to meet up with over a trip that amounts to about 55 hours.

It's all about planning.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

So, Uh, That Might Have Been The Best 30 Hours Of My Life

Suffice it to say that I did not make it any secret that I was pretty excited about going to New England this weekend to see the Giants face the Pats. It's a game I had been looking forward to for about four years and not only did it cross a team off my list of 122, but it wound up being of pivotal importance for both New York and New England. It would have been high demands to expect this game to deliver on absolutely every way that you would want it to, and it certainly couldn't live up to the last time these two played a serious game of football, but I had high expectations.

Unfortunately, the scheduling of this weekend's game came with one unfortunate catch. Saturday was the first time ever that Northwestern would be visiting it's recently anointed Big Ten brethren in Nebraska, and I was oh so interested in watching -- and possibly attending -- the game. But these two games being on the same weekend presented some challenges. For one, attending a football game in Nebraska and then immediately flying from Lincoln to Boston before heading back to New York would be exhausting. For another, it would be crazy expensive. As a result, I resolved that a reasonable solution could be worked where I simply stayed in New York to watch NU vs. NU with my friends before taking a bus to Boston either Saturday evening or Sunday morning.

But then the New York marathon just had to happen on the exact same weekend. And NU-NU had to be put in the afternoon time slot. Grumbles all around. In the end I accepted that the best answer was to take an early bus on Saturday with my friend Frankie, who would be attending the game with me, and simply watch Northwestern at a sports bar or Frankie's friend's apartment upon arriving in Boston. This was scuttled when Frankie and his friends wanted Chinese food and his friend didn't have cable.

After a flurry of text messaging and ESPN iPhone app reloading, I made it abundantly clear that not only was Northwestern somehow leading No. 10 Nebraska on the road but that I needed to find some way to watch somehow. Eventually, an online stream filled the void, and while I was wistful that I wasn't there in person or watching at a bar with any NU alums, I was bouncing off the walls most of Saturday night after the Wildcats stunned the Huskers 28-25 in their first ever conference visit to Lincoln. It was a hell of a start to the trip, and all I could think to myself was, "I don't know that this could really get better."

Silly me.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NFL Picks Week Nine: I'm Reliving The Greatest Night Of My Life Sunday

My friends, the date was February 3, 2008. Justin Bieber was not yet legal, Michael Jackson was not yet dead and the United States was still under the "leadership" of President George W. Bush. We were young. Naive. We didn't know just how good life could be.

And then it happened.

I sat in my basement on that incredible night with 10 close friends and watched as the New York Giants, the first team I ever cared for, the first love I ever had, the team that had broken my heart with one painful loss after another over the previous 15 years, pulled off the greatest upset in NFL history, against the greatest team in NFL history in the most dramatic fashion humanly possible. Super Bowl XLII was everything I thought it could be and more, and if you read this blog with any frequency you know just how amazing a moment it was for me. Congratulations came in from old friends -- and exes -- ranging as far away as California and Australia.

Any bad memory I ever had related to the Giants was forgotten. Gone was the 1997 postseason collapse against Minnesota. Gone was Emmitt Smith's brilliant division-clinching win in overtime with a separated shoulder. Gone was the brutal postseason drubbing to San Francisco in 1994. Gone was the blown 24-point lead against those same 49ers in the playoffs eight years later. Gone was Jay Feely's three missed field goals against Seattle. Gone was Mathias Kiwanuka's missed sack of Vince Young and a 21-point lead that evaporated in less than 10 minutes. Gone was Super Bowl XXXV.

All of it had been superceded, overwhelmed and replaced by the greatest win in the history of the franchise. The pain was worth it. The joy was that good. There was nothing that could replace the moment that was Eli's thrilling last-minute drive, David Tyree's helmet catch, Plaxico Burress' end zone touchdown. Nothing could replace 18-1.

I bring this all up now because, some of you might have noticed, that there have been a lot of Super Bowl rematches this season. In fact, a shockingly large amount. Of the 45 Super Bowls that have been played 20 of them will be rehashed this year. Given the amount of Super Bowls that have been played, some rematches are inevitable, but 20 is an awful lot. And none of them will be bigger than this Sunday's showdown at Gillette Stadium between the Giants and Patriots.

Friday, October 28, 2011

NFL Picks Week Eight: So I Was Watching Baseball Last Night

Now, before I say anything about whether or not we might have been witness to the greatest baseball game ever played last night, I should note, as I did earlier this week, that I'm pretty partial to this one, and I probably will continue to be so until the Mets win the World Series again. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Mets' last World Series championship, and it was curious to note that that World Series ended on October 27, the same date that saw the conclusion of the 2004 World Series and the 2006 World Series. The running vein through those two games is that both of those World Series were the last two to be played in St. Louis.

And as Texas had a chance to clinch the World Series last night, guess where we were?

So that was one of the curious tips that I figured we might be in for the end of the baseball season last night, and as the Rangers pushed the Cardinals down to their last strike in the bottom of the ninth inning, I assumed I was right. But then something crazy happened. Dave Freese hits a two-run triple in the ninth to tie it, Josh Hamilton hits a two-run homer in the 10th to put Texas back on top, Lance Berkman ties the game in the bottom of the 10th, Dave Freese clocks a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th, and we'll see you tomorrow night.

As I said earlier, I don't want to necessarily say this was "the greatest baseball game ever played", but seriously, given the stakes, the craziness, the multiple storylines and potential heroes, the fever-pitch-level drama, and the fact that leading up to the ninth inning this was still a pretty damn good game in what has been a great series, and, well, calling this the greatest game ever played wouldn't necessarily be the dumbest thing anyone has said this week.

To put it plainly, this was one of the greatest games I've ever seen in any sport at any time. Granted, that is a large category of events, and I would hesitate to call this the greatest, but sweet lord what a game it was. As I sat there I couldn't help but think at how absurd it was and how I could never imagine a team battling back from the last strike of the World Series in consecutive innings, nor could I imagine seeing a team score in the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th innings to stave off elimination.

That's because it had never happened before. Ever.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Fun Little Experiment I May Never See The Results Of

If you love sports as a child, and, well, I kind of did, then your lifelong dream is to play for your favorite sports team. If you're a Jewish child like myself, then some might argue that you have a slightly different dream as Arn Tellem did when he told Sports Illustrated in 2002, "Bar mitzvah age is when a Jewish boy learns he has a better chance of owning a professional sports team than of playing for one." But failing the chance of playing for your favorite sports team or of owning it there is always that dream of simply getting to watch your team in person whenever you want.

That is, to say, owning season tickets.

Now, when I was 20 I put myself on the Giants season ticket waiting list and expected to get my number called sometime in 2025. As I wrote about earlier this year, it didn't quite turn out that way, and when given the opportunity to buy in 15 years earlier than I expected, I eventually declined due to the enormous cost and my own muted desire to bother selling all of the tickets. However, New York has tons of things to do what with it being the greatest city in the world and all. Some other cities may lack the comparative excitement.

This brings us to Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Green Bay Packers are the essence of everything that is great in the NFL. Their tradition is rich and fundamentally steered the game for decades, their legacy permeates all aspects of American football right down to the Super Bowl Trophy, and, as I've said before, seeing a game at historic Lambeau Field just might be the most incredible game-day experience in American professional sports. Also, the football team is pretty good these days.

So naturally, any youngster growing up in Wisconsin would hope and pray for the chance to have season tickets one day at Lambeau Field, but if you aren't aware, much like so many other fanciful aspects of childhood, the dreams of getting those tickets any time soon is pretty much nil. The waiting list for Packers season tickets is roughly 55 years depending on who you ask these days, which prompts many parents in Wisconsin to put their newborn children on it so they might get the chance to enjoy season tickets by the time their children are out of school and they can begin dipping into their IRAs.

Friday, October 21, 2011

NFL Picks Week Seven: The Bye Week Rears Its Ugly Head. Again.

Should I even bother watching football this weekend? It's a plausible question considering the Giants are on their bye and as I've said before, I utterly detest the bye week. But it exists, such is life, and let's be frank. There's pretty much no shot in hell that I won't be dedicating Sunday to watching NFL football even if the Giants aren't going to be playing. I mean, after all, they're guaranteed not to lose, which means it'll be a pleasant Sunday. So at least I've got that going for me. And in addition to that the rest of the weekend isn't half bad considering that Northwestern is playing Penn State Saturday night and there's this other thing going on called the "World Series of professional base ball".

That World Series is starting to shape up like a good one, too, considering that both Games 1 and 2 were decided by one run and Game 2 featured a ninth-inning comeback for the Rangers, the first in a World Series game in 10 years. Even more notable is that the Rangers' rally Thursday night has put them in the driver's seat as far as home field advantage is concerned. Of course, for this to really take impact, they'd have to sweep Games 3 through 5 at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington this week, which I don't really anticipate happening. The first two games have been too close for this series not to come back to St. Louis -- after all, when has a series opening with consecutive one-run games not gone longer than five and therefore given the impression that the series was a total blowout even though every game was obscenely close? That never happens. And fans of the losing team certainly won't hear misplaced, ill-defined bragging for the next decade as a result.

But I digress.

I'll take Texas to win this series because I simply think they're the better team in general, but I also think there's an accountability factor evident in the fact that the entire team spoke to the media after their tough Game 1 loss, while the Cardinals apparently did not do the same after Game 2 slipped away. Perhaps I sympathize with the World Series-covering media, but baseball players make quite a bit of money. Speaking to the media in both good and bad situations is a requirement that comes with said money. So, in other words, I think the leadership and good ethics evident in the Rangers' behavior will lead them to victory.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Of All The Annoying Losses I've Experienced This Is The Most Annoying

See everyone, the wording here is key. Annoying doesn't necessarily imply heartbreak or devastation, because as I watched Northwestern's 41-31 loss to Iowa Saturday night, I wasn't heartbroken or devastated or even surprised really.

But I was annoyed.

The reason for this is that this was not a game where Northwestern ever held a lead, nor was it a game where you ever got the feeling they were going to win or on the brink of doing so, unlike last week's loss by the Giants to the Seahawks. No this was a loss of a different sort, because in general the Wildcats never looked like they were going to pull it out. I never convinced myself that it was the case and I never felt overly confident that it would happen.

But holy lord it should have. And here's why.

Yes kids, that's the boxscore for the game, and I don't really expect you all to look through it like I have because it's an irritating and tedious process, but if you actually bother to take the time you'll notice some pretty remarkable discrepancies, and said discrepancies will leave you with the remarkable impression that Northwestern actually didn't just play better than Iowa, but the Wildcats pretty much dominated the Hawkeyes in nearly every metric you can find.

To wit: Northwestern had nearly doubled up Iowa in the following categories by the time the game ended: first downs (29-17), total offensive plays (92-50), and time of possession (38:23-21:37). NU outgained Iowa by 116 yards, had 15 more pass completions than Iowa had passing attempts, converted 16 third downs to Iowa's one third-down conversion and had more scoring opportunities in the red zone. By just about any way you want to look at it, Northwestern had the advantage in just about every facet.

So, uh, how the hell did the Cats lose?

Friday, October 14, 2011

NFL Picks Week Six: So I Took A Little Time Off Because I'm Famous

Six or so of you out there actually read this junk, and as a result, you might have noticed that I didn't write at all this week, something I'll attribute to the increasingly hectic schedule I live in because of the fame I've gotten as a result of my recent TV interview. This fame is, of course, a total nonsensical figment of my imagination. I am, in fact, not famous at all. Even though I was on TV. If you're looking for an actual cause of the fact that I did not write all week, it probably has far more to do with the fact that I crawled into a hole for a little while after the Giants' irritatingly frustrating loss to the Seattle Seahawks this past Sunday.

Perhaps you didn't see it, but let's look at a few statistics here. For one, the Seahawks have the notable disadvantage of being a West Coast team that endures exhaustion, travel, and the treachery of time zones whenever it comes East. This disadvantage seems particularly pronounced for the Seahawks, so much so that they hadn't won a game in the Eastern time zone in some four years or so before this past Sunday. To boot, the Giants have sort of owned Seattle in the past few years, and by owned I mean, beat the utter crap out of them last year in Seattle even though the 10-6 Giants spent the playoffs at home while the 7-9 Seahawks got to the second round, which, you know, makes a lot of sense.

Add into that that the Giants played pretty poorly through most of the game and caught a few bad breaks, most notably on the fluky interception that sealed victory for Seattle, and it was a bit frustrating. That frustration is only partially salved by the fact that Philadelphia lost again, which is complicating for me because a) it was a golden opportunity for Big Blue to take a three-game edge in the standings and b) if the Bills are actually good, it makes me antsy that the Giants have to play them this week. Those are words I never thought I'd ever say.

But hey, it's cool. Because even though the Giants wasted a totally awesome catch by Victor Cruz and any number of other myriad botched opportunities, sometimes you just don't win. Because come on, the Seahawks are good. After all, they got to play half the game with this guy at quarterback. Just look at that mustache. It's almost as bitchin' as the fact that he only has three career interceptions. IN HIS ENTIRE CAREER. That's almost as small a total as his career touchdown passes. Because, you know, Charlie Whitehurst has three touchdown passes. In his entire career.Three. In nine games. In six seasons. He's played in nine games in six years. And he beat the Giants.

Friday, October 7, 2011

NFL Picks Week Five: So Basically I'm A Huge TV Star Now. In Canada.

I'm not sure how many of you noticed yesterday, but with a doubleheader on VERSUS and a third game in Toronto, the NHL season kicked off yesterday. As many of you have been made aware, I rather like hockey. Quite a bit. So as many of you can imagine, I'm pretty excited about the prospect of seven months of regular season -- and then two months of postseason -- hockey kicking off last night. Of course, the two teams I am partial to, New Jersey and Chicago, don't get the party started until Saturday and tonight respectively, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth watching, and indeed, Vancouver and Pittsburgh delivered a thriller last night that went to a shootout.

Now, those types of thrilling matchups are to be expected, but what is sometimes unexpected is that if you write a story like this, you might get an e-mail from a producer at CTV News asking if you can go on TV to do an interview. Now, I'm not entirely sure how anyone could think I'm really an expert on these things, either hockey or TV, but having never been on TV before, I figured it was worth a go, and so there I was at 3 o'clock yesterday at ABC News headquarters in New York waiting to do a live interview with a Canadian cable news channel to talk about hockey for three minutes.

The whole adventure started off pretty uncomfortably as I went over my answers several times in my head before arriving at the studios and going into not one, but two incorrect lobbies before finally finding my way to the correct studio. Other fun included staring awkwardly off to the side throughout the interview because the white dot they told me to stare at was off center, appearing as stiff as could possibly be partially because I was sitting in an awkwardly high chair and partially because I was nervous as all hell, accidentally calling the blue line the d-line because I watch too much football and having my earpiece that I needed to hear the questions fall out of place 10 seconds into the interview.

Rockin' right?

Otherwise, the whole thing didn't turn out so bad for a first-time television interviewee. If I ever do it again, hopefully it'll run a little smoother, but regardless of how you feel about it, you can see the final result right here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

This Might Be What Christmas Is Like

Being that I spent this week celebrating Rosh Hashanah, on Friday night I will be observing Yom Kippur, and that today is the 13th anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah, or as I am calling it either my Bar Mitzvahversary or my Bar Mitzvah's Bar Mitzvah, those of you who don't already know me can probably figure out that I am, in fact, not Christian. In reality, I am very, very Jewish -- or at least neurotic -- and as such, I have never celebrated Christmas nor understood the joy that is opening up presents on December 25th.

That said, I have a hard time believing it could feel any better than the random combination of events I saw today on gridirons across America. Those events involved three teams in three cities with remarkable outcomes. For the first one we go to Philadelphia, where the Eagles, playing in front of their home crowd in what was, arguably, a must-win situation for the "Dream Team". Philly responded how you might have expected, by jumping out to a 20-point lead against the lightly-regarded 49ers. And then they did what the Eagles historically have done fairly well and proceeded to give up 21-second-half points to San Francisco, handing them a 24-23 loss and sending Philadelphia to a 1-3 record that leaves them in the NFC East basement.

This was the first great thing to happen to me on Sunday.

Meanwhile, at the same time the Eagles were doing their best New York Mets impression, Dallas had jumped out to stiff 27-3 lead against the undefeated Detroit Lions. I know what you're thinking. "The words 'undefeated Detroit Lions' make no sense to me in that particular order.'" It's ok. That's the natural reaction. But sure enough they are, in fact, undefeated. Regardless, the Cowboys, with a 24-point lead in the second half seemed to have all the cards in their hands, but then they realized that when quarterback Tony Romo didn't have the cards in his hands it was because he was too busy putting the football in the hands of Detroit defenders. Romo threw three picks in the second half, two of which were returned for touchdowns and one of those run back by linebacker Bobby Carpenter who was a groomsman at Romo's wedding. Suddenly there was a game in Dallas, and at that point, Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson decided to show up and lead the Lions to an eventual 34-30 victory.

As a lifelong Giants fan, it's easy to imagine the relish with which I viewed both of those collapses, but then with the clock striking 4:05 ET, it was time for my team to put on their own display in Glendale, Arizona. University of Phoenix Stadium is a special building for the G-Men in that it's a place they've never lost and have one particularly noteworthy victory, but despite stretches in which the Giants dominated the Cardinals, with time running down in the fourth quarter, it appeared New York was going to go home with a sour taste in its mouth. But then, Big Blue and Eli Manning did something that they have an underrated knack for doing and rallied to score two touchdowns in the final four minutes to erase a 10-point deficit and turn it into a four-point lead. Of course, as I noted to one person, when the Giants scored the eventual winning touchdown with 2:39 remaining I couldn't help but think, "too much time is still on the clock". Fortunately for me and all the Giants fans out there, the defense held strong -- and we may have caught a lucky break or two, also -- and New York held on for a big 31-27 win in the desert that leaves it tied for first place with... the Washington Redskins? Sure, whatever.

So let's recount what happened today, shall we?

Friday, September 30, 2011

NFL Picks Week Four: I'm Oh So Excited For The Football Down Under

I have spent much of the last 48 hours trying to come to grips with the fact at 10 p.m. Wednesday night I resigned myself to Boston and Atlanta's postseason future and wound up missing, arguably, the single most exciting, dramatic night baseball has ever seen. For someone who utterly loves baseball, this is a tough pill to swallow. I've managed to survive somehow and I attribute this to a few factors.

A) Fortunately, as exciting as this was, it wasn't the World Series. So at least I didn't miss out on seeing the final champion-crowning moment, something I prize each season.

B) Northwestern is back this weekend, with a little something extra, against No. 1 rival Illinois, which I will watch as part of a football-palooza with Wisconsin-Nebraska Saturday night.

C) I'm still pretty jazzed by the Giants' win over the Eagles on Sunday, and excited for their game in Arizona on Sunday.

D) Perhaps most importantly, there's one more football game Friday night, well Saturday morning technically, that I'm more than a wee bit excited for even if none of you care.

Yeah, that's right, kids. A mere 14 time zones ahead of New York City, the Geelong Cats and the Collingwood Magpies are about to go head to head in the 2011 AFL Grand Final, the championship match of Australian Rules Football. Now, my adoration developed over the past three years for Aussie Rules Football is well documented here, as is my particular affection for Geelong FC. But since I started this blog in January of 2010, a mere 20 months or so ago, Geelong has endured an almost unbearable championship drought. I say unbearable only because I'm in my infancy with the game and I may need a championship inspiration to keep my interest.

Then again, knowing that I kept up with Southampton FC for the past decade despite a financial collapse and not one, but two relegations, perhaps I'm stronger than I think.

Regardless, Geelong is taking on the defending-champion Pies in search of their third premiership in five seasons, and I can't wait to get the party underway. The Cats are coming off of a fairly impressive win in the Preliminary Final last weekend against West Coast, and seemed primed to take it to Collingwood tonight, a team that lost just twice this season.

Both of those losses, however, came against Geelong.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Best Playoff Race I'm Not Paying Attention To

Last night a friend was talking to me online and hanging on every pitch of the Red Sox game against the Orioles, with great anxiety and discomfort. When this happened an odd feeling struck me as I, as a Mets fan, haven't felt this feeling in three seasons, and I miss it. There has been nothing whatsoever meaningful about the Mets after August 15th since Shea Stadium existed and as a result, I have had a tendency to be largely checked out of baseball by the time September 30th rolls around. That doesn't mean I don't pay some attention. I check the scores and watch the postseason enthusiastically every fall, but I have probably only watched two Mets games in the past six weeks and as a result had almost no idea until 48 hours ago that two things were happening. Given how much I love baseball this might be the second most unbelievable conclusion I've come to this week.

A) The Braves and Cardinals and the Rays and Red Sox are wrapped up in two of the wildest postseason races in modern baseball history.

B) Today is the last day of the regular season. On a Wednesday. Huh?

The peculiarity of baseball's regular season ending in the middle of a week as opposed to its traditional Sunday end date is a query for another time, but this all means that tonight we're going to be set for an absolutely crazy night of baseball score watching which I will probably miss out on because I'm going to be eating apples and honey instead. But still this is a fun, fun experience that I'm pretty much stunned I haven't been paying close attention to.

For what it's worth the Red Sox' collapse should, it come all the way through, could be on par with some of the greatest collapses in baseball history, a pain that my friend Katie informed I could not possible understand last night before I pointed out that I have experienced exactly that. Twice. Still, it's worth noting that the Sox, apparently, have been some 7 games or so worse this September than the Mets were in 2007, an almost unthinkable feat, while the Rays have managed to blaze through the AL East this month and tie the Sawx going into the final day. It'd be an amazing feat in and of itself, but is doubled in remarkability by the fact that the Cardinals are doing the exact same thing in the NL with one game to play.

The Mets, meanwhile, have other plans.

Friday, September 23, 2011

NFL Picks Week Three: See, Marlins? This Is How You Fucking Do It

Surely five or six of you read my long screed yesterday about the disastrous new Marlins logo that was leaked this week. It is with cognizance of that catastrophe that we get a breath of fresh air as another leaked logo came out today that is about as brilliant a recognition of a team's roots as the Marlins switch isn't. This morning it got out that the Toronto Blue Jays, who have struggled over the past decade or so with forging a brand identity (just look at all the different word marks), are going to be returning to a slightly modified version of their classic pre-1997 logo. It hasn't yet been announced what the uniforms will look like -- or even that this is in fact the new logo, though there are strong indications that it is -- but with a return to this slightly more stylized version of the Jays' old logo, one would have to assume that some variation on their early 1990s home unis and maybe the 1980s powder blue road unis that were brought back as alternates a few seasons ago might be in the mix.

Unlike our friends in Florida, who, really, can never seem to get anything important right anyway, this is a tremendous job by the Jays to bring back a logo that is not only aesthetically pleasing and universally loved, but also brings with it the weight of history and accomplishment as it presided over Toronto's two World Series Championships in the early 1990s. This is how it's supposed to be done.

On a side note, Joe Carter's walk-off home run to win the 1993 World Series, since you were wondering, is the earliest baseball moment that I vividly remember watching.

A return to this logo just might be the most exciting thing to happen in the Rogers Centre (nee SkyDome) since Carter touched 'em all, although there have been some other highlights like Jose Bautista's power stroke, Roger Clemens' Cy Young seasons or the numerous times some couple "accidentally" had sex in the outfield hotel without realizing they could be seen inflagrante delicto by about 55,000 people, which are artfully recounted, along with whether or not the Jays actually won the game, here.

This is phenomenal news on the whole and it brings with it even more phenomenal news in that we're almost at the weekend, and that means what? Yeah. Football. Now, granted, this Saturday's college bonanza will be less exciting for me than usual, because a) I'll be working and b) Northwestern has its bye this week. Now that could be good news considering it gives an extra week of rest before what appears to, at long last, be the impending return of quarterback Dan Persa, but it also allows Northwestern to stew for a bit and think about what it did last weekend when my highly anticipated Sailgate to West Point went, uh, not as planned.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dear God, the Marlins Can't Possibly Be Serious Can They?

Now don't get me wrong. I enjoy the exploits of Crockett and Tubbs as much as the next guy, and I'm sure those delightful pastels were really in in Miami when it was 1983, but I don't think I'm alone in thinking the Florida -- soon to be Miami -- Marlins may have overreached a wee bit when they developed the new logo that was leaked this week. The Marlins have been fairly mum on whether or not the logo is real and all will be answered in about six weeks when the team unveils its new branding strategy on Nov. 11 in preparation for the franchise's move into its new baseball only facility next season. I can understand wanting to make a bruhaha over the whole thing. After all, a new ballpark means a new era, and considering the Marlins' usually quite tepid attendance they really can't be faulted for wanting to rebrand the organization and start anew.

But let's look at a few things. Firstly, let's look at that new logo. You may say that the first thing you notice is the new color scheme or the interesting use of perspective in its color shading or the subtle marlin-esque shape emanating from the top left. But really, the first thing you're likely to notice, above all else, is that it is terrible. Like, seriously. It's really really bad, and if you glance at the official logo for the new ballpark, which has the same blue, orange and yellow, it seems fairly clear that the new Marlins logo is probably real because of the cross-branding opportunity.

Here's the next thing. The current Marlins logo, is actually, one of the better ones in Major League Baseball in my opinion -- at least among teams that came into existence in the last 30 years. It gets the point across, it's not overly complex, the colors make sense for a franchise named after a fish in southern Florida, and the marlin itself actually looks pretty dignified. Even the word mark is solid. There's no reason to dramatically change any of this. Logic would seem to dictate that the only thing you'd really need to do is replace the F with an M, kind of like this. See? Problem solved. The uniforms themselves are also pretty solid, considering the color scheme and the eloquent design.

Lastly, however, and most importantly, while there have been minor tweaks, like the addition of black as a major accent or even dominant color in the early 2000s, the uniforms have been relatively unchanged in the franchise's existence. And this is worth noting because in the franchise's existence the Marlins have won two fucking World Series Championships. The owners may think a rebranding is necessary to signify the new ballpark, but your old uniforms have history to them. If you have a history of winning in a certain design, you don't make changes, or at least not ones this drastic. See the Yankees, Red Sox or Cardinals if you need any clarification.

Friday, September 16, 2011

NFL Picks Week Two: Set An Open Course For The Virgin Seas

That's right people. I'm breaking out my finest Styx album (That's Edge of the Century, in case you're wondering) to tell you that this weekend, or more specifically, tomorrow, I am sailing away. (Get it?). Of course, I'm not sailing away along the river Styx nor am I going to be gone for any extended period of time -- it's only about 14 hours that I'll be gone and only about six of them will be set at sea, but I will be sailing. And tailgating.

One might just say that I'll be sailgating. Anchors aweigh.

For the two of you who read this that don't really see what I'm getting at, I will spell it out pretty clearly. I will be part of a four-boat, 600-person armada that is drunkenly sailing up the Hudson River tomorrow morning as we go to see our beloved Northwestern Wildcats meet the Black Knights of Army. This isn't part of the professional sports team journey that this blog is supposed to chronicle -- and really doesn't -- but it's one of the trips I have been most excited for, well, probably ever. In fact, the only thing I can think of that comes close in excitement and novelty for me is probably last November's trip to see the Wildcats at Wrigley Field in Chicago, which had a multitude of exciting aspects.

This one is a little different, it's really just a brief day trip, but the sheer novelty of it all, a floating tailgate up the hudson to see a game at what is supposed to be one of the most beautiful settings in college football -- that would be Michie Stadium -- is just too cool not to be excited about. Wouldn't you be? I'm pretty pumped up, even if I am about as sour on college athletics as can be after reading this masterpiece of investigative sports journalism, but it's going to be fun, damnitt. It might just be the second greatest thing I've heard of in the past few months, (or the third), and for that I can thank the wise people over at Lake The Posts for putting the whole thing together.

I'm going to bring a camera along with several cases of beer to make sure I have some rational way to document this whole thing -- my memories may get hazy after a while -- but out of respect for our armed forces I'll probably try to maintain a stable sense of decorum between when we arrive and when the cadets march in three hours later. It should be a grand time had by all and I'll try my best to document and report the goings on to you next week, as well as more details about the Wildcats (hopefully) 3-0 start even without starting quarterback and Heisman hopeful Dan Persa, who still hasn't been announced as able to play on Saturday. Of course, in the non-conference schedule, why risk it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wait, They Were Still Technically In The Race?

I know what you're thinking. I was shocked, too. Yesterday afternoon I received what would otherwise have been the potentially devastating news that the 2011 New York Mets were officially eliminated from playoff contention.

It's ok. We know it hurts. Let it out.

Ok, I'm good. And actually, like most of the human race, I had no idea that the Mets technically could still have made the playoffs. Of course, we have to use the term "technically" pretty prominently here, considering making the postseason would have required the Mets to run the table for the rest of September, and for the Braves and about five other teams to lose out, which -- and I'm not doctor -- probably isn't going to happen. Just a guess.

And so we write the final chapter of a year that started with so much promise and so many possibilities. So much promise, in fact, that at the time of its beginning I actually forgot pitchers and catchers had reported that week. Yes, it was an ambivalent six months or so in Flushing this season, and right on cue the Mets celebrated their early offseason with their fifth-straight loss, a 2-0 whuppin' from the world beaters that are the Washington Nationals, and the news that the best person the pitching staff, for obvious reasons now that any chance of a playoff berth has been snuffed out, will go the entire year without stepping on the mound at Citi Field.

This is all a pretty tragic development considering there was so much uplift Tuesday when the Mets hosted Star Wars night at Citi Field, a tremendous display of cancer-fighting nerdery. That the good vibes coming from wookies and storm troopers traipsing around the stadium should be sullied by the Amazins' tremendous ineptitude is a shame for everyone who lovingly wears the blue and orange. On the plus side, we can get cheered up slightly by the fact that Dr. Sean McNamara was walking around the field for some reason before the game. I imagine he was there to help the Mets players change their appearances in case they were too embarrassed to be seen with the uniform on.

But even in this torrent of the Mets letting down their fans, Dr. McNamara and George Lucas in one week is the optimism that comes with a new season, and almost like clock in hopes of distracting dismayed Mets fans from the fact that one season had just ended, Major League Baseball released its preliminary 2012 schedule yesterday morning in a flurry of team-specific e-mails which, as someone who has bought tickets from multiple teams I got about six of them. Of course I was only interested in one of them, and if there's one great way to stop thinking about the 2011 season, the first on in years in which I didn't see the Mets somewhere on the road, it's figuring out how to get back on the horse and see what city I want to follow them to in 2012.

So, people, where am I going?