Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Well This Throws A Wrench Into Things

Surely if you're here and you have the patience to read the header of this blog, you know what the whole point of it all really is. This is a running account of my adventures and journeys to see all 122 teams in the NFL, NHL, MLB and NBA play a home game. The goal is to get it all done by the time I'm 55, and with 41 teams down, I've made some significant progress in my years, but there are still some outstanding issues. I get asked a number of questions about my plans and my adventures and there are two that show up more than any others.

1) If a team builds a new arena, do you have to go see that team again? Yes, I do.

2) What happens if a team moves?

That second one is slightly more complicated. Well, the answer isn't really all that complicated -- yes, I need to see them again -- but for record keeping purposes will I have to assume that there is suddenly 123 teams to keep track of? If I haven't seen that initial franchise, well, I guess not, and it appears I won't have to answer that question just yet, but it appears I may have my first test on question No. 2 today, with the announcement that the True North Sports Group has agreed to a deal to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers. While the franchise is not officially on the move to Winnipeg, Manitoba just yet -- that can't be formally done until the board of governors approves the deal on June 21 -- most parties involved seem to expect that that will be the case from the NHL, to the Atlanta Thrashers, to even the more comically social media savvy players.

So, with a team likely moving to Winnipeg and out of Atlanta, I'm sure the big concern for all of you is, "I wonder what this means for David Kalan." Don't worry, I'm going to tell you. I've thought about this often because earlier this year it appeared painfully obvious that I was going to have to account for a team moving this summer, although I didn't expect it to be a hockey team. Of course, that move wound up not happening, and possibly do to some, uh, outside resistance. But that move wouldn't really have been so bad because a) I've been to Sacramento before and feel no real need to go back, and b) a cluster of three NBA teams in the Los Angeles/Anaheim metropolitan area would have made for a convenient and fun little swing through southern California.

This move is completely different because Winnipeg isn't near, well, anything really, but it does actually excite me somewhat because I now have a reason to go there, and I like being able to see new cities. It is somewhat unfortunate in that had the Thrashers stayed in Atlanta, I have several friends I could stay with whereas I know no one who currently lives in Manitoba. There is the chance however that I could try to tack Winnipeg onto the beginning of a Western Canadian hockey tour that I am planning on doing at some point, one that would take me from Calgary to Edmonton and then to Vancouver via a train that goes through the Canadian Rockies which are supposed to be, you know, gorgeous. It's worth noting of course that Winnipeg is some 824 miles from Calgary, roughly the same distance from New York City to Chicago, so taking it onto that trip could be ill-conceived, but how often am I in Western Canada anyway?

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's a Subway Series!

So yeah, the Mets and Yankes play tonight. For those of you who don't know or care much for New York baseball perhaps you can understand that these are incredibly fun games to watch or attend, even if they are all a painful reminder of the dark angst that can happen when you're 15 years old. Still, with that fateful series some 11 years in my rear view mirror, I'm willing to take these biannual matchups as what they are.

Baseball games.

That's really all they are, and people can talk about "bragging rights" all they want, but all things considered, they're really no more significant on the calendar than any other.

Why is this?

Well, to be completely blunt, as much as people want the Yankees and Mets to be rivals, they really aren't. They play six times a year, a whopping 3.7% of their 162-game schedule. They don't play after early July, they don't compete directly against each other in their divisions, or or any playoff spot at all for that matter, and for the most part, at least for me, once these games are over it's out of sight and out of mind.

But like I said, that doesn't mean they aren't fun, and it's certainly enjoyable to have one of those rare times during the baseball season when a Mets fan and a Yankees fan can go to a game together and each have a vested interest in the outcome. And so it is with that in mind that I'm particularly keen to be headed up to the Bronx tonight for the opener of the 2011 renewal of the rivalry. This was made possible yesterday when I noticed that tickets had dropped precipitously on stubhub and decided, "What the hell? I'll pay $28 to sit behind home plate in the upper deck."

It'll be interesting to see if tonight becomes one of those great memories I have of Subway Series games past that I've attended, memories that include:

1) Being taken out of school by my mother to attend the rubber match of the first ever Subway Series in 1997.
2) Seeing Mike Piazza hit a massive grand slam to dead center field off Roger Clemens at Yankee Stadium in 2000 in an eventual 12-2 win.
3) Seeing numerous fights break out in the upper deck during that game, as well as seeing one Met fan stand up and repeatedly smack his ass because the Mets were winning by such a large margin.
4) Seeing Shawn Estes miss his opportunity to bean Clemens in 2002 in misguided vengeance for beaning Piazza in July of 2000.
5) Seeing both Estes and Piazza hit home runs off of Clemens anyway.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Now That's An Entrance. And An Exit.

Let's assume for a second that last night, Friday, May 13th, you were actually watching the Mets-Astros game. No, I know, no sane, rational person would be doing that on a nice Friday night in the spring time, but that's not the point of the exercise. Let's assume that you saw fit to watch to baseball teams that are probably going nowhere duke it out for three hours.

Although, as I point that the Mets are going nowhere I should also note that aside from an interminable 2-12 stretch earlier this season the Amazins are actually 16-8. And their four-run eighth inning last night did show off some rather exciting moxie.

But I digress. These are not good baseball teams. And given that we know that already in May, it's pretty clear that this game is not worth watching when you could do more productive things with your Friday night like see friends or stare at a wall.

However, one of the great things about baseball is that every game gives you the opportunity to see something you've never seen before, and while a late comeback to win a baseball game, or even a Mets victory, are things I've seen before, I had never seen something like this.

Yeah, that's a crazy fan running onto the field, something that has happened numerous times before, and while this particular incident won't inspire a silly debate about the necessity of tasers, or point out just how dumb Philadephia sports fans are, it's easily the greatest attempt to evade the authorities that I've ever seen from a stands jumper. That's what the Astros get for having that stupid hill in center field. And the best thing about it, beyond the acrobatics shown by the fan in question, is that, seemingly, no one really got hurt. It was just a fun-loving fan livening up the crowd.

Steve McQueen would be proud.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Redemption in England

Alright, y'all. Most of you have noticed that I have a penchant for following sports teams that none of you care about in countries you don't live in, and I have noticed that all of you who notice this have a penchant for not caring about them one iota. And that's fine. You don't need to get quite as gripped by Matthew Scarlett's brilliant toe tap in the 2009 AFL Grand Final nor do you really need to know that the Johnstone's Paint Trophy exists. But regardless you kids do know that one of those two teams I follow is the bedraggled footballing outfit on England's southern coast known as Southampton F.C.

When I began following Southampton in 2002, all was well in the Saints' world. Southampton was up in the Premier League with a top notch keeper in Antti Niemi (though ironically not this Antti Niemi) and a marvelous striker named James Beattie, to say nothing of the talent coming down the pipeline such as Theo Walcott and Gareth Bale.

Things only got more exciting for the Saints when they made an impressive run to the 2003 F.A. Cup Final before losing to Arsenal, and they were pegged by many to finish in the top five of the Premier League during the following seasons. But almost immediately the troubles came. The Saints had managerial instability that contributed to a precipitous collapse and relegation at the end of the 2005 season, ending a 27-year run at the top flight of English Football. After a middling 2005-06 season the Saints nearly got back to the Premier League in a playoff in the Coca-Cola Championship, but a wayward penalty by Inigo Idiakez ended their hopes and things only got worse from there. Aside from a brief interlude in which Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen made a preliminary offer to buy the club and give it a dramatic cash infusion, which he later denied, the team struggled on the field, saving itself from a second relegation on the final day of the season and selling off most of its top players to avoid going into administration -- a process that requires relegation due to financial insolvency.

Avoiding that bug wouldn't last for long, though. Southampton went into complete financial disrepair a season later, forcing relegation which would have happened anyway due to poor performance on the field and suddenly, seven years after I had begun following the team, the Saints had dropped two levels from the Premier League and were virtually invisible on this side of the pond.

But after this week that could, at long last be changing.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Waiting On A Sunny Day

I was telling dirty jokes in my study hall with Brian Caliccio when the planes hit the towers on September 11th. It's truly bizarre years later to look back at that exact moment, to know what was happening and not have had a clue. In fact I didn't even get a whiff of the attacks until I walked to my fifth-period English class when on the way there, Harry Shuldman stopped me to warn of concern that a plane might crash into the school. I was blissfully unaware, and being my snarky self -- and in a big Manchurian Candidate phase -- I told him to "play a little solitaire" continued to class, and at that moment my friend Mike Wong told me the news.

I was naturally baffled and incredulous to it all, as was another classmate, Anoosh Montasser, who like me refused to believe this was feasible, but I soon found out it was and then found that the entire school was being released at noon though, for some reason, we were never told why.

The details of that day are permanently etched in my brain and will be until I die or Alzheimer's gets the better of me some decades down the road, and while I was fortunate enough to lose no one personally connected to me that day, it was and still is impossible to think that anyone in the New York area didn't lose something, be it a loved one, their innocence or their naivete. This was a day no one who lived near this city will ever forget for better or worse.

Last night it was impossible not to have my mind go back to that day when I heard the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed in a firefight with U.S. forces. There is an immediate part of me that wanted to relish vindictively. After all, this was the man who orchestrated the greatest horror our country had seen in my lifetime, and anyone who has lived in New York knows that it is a weight that sits on our shoulders -- always -- even if we don't realize it.

I first became aware of the news, like any good Mets fan, while I was in the middle of watching the Mets play the Phillies on Sunday Night Baseball. The game itself wasn't where the news came from, a friend IMed me to tell me to turn on the news, but watching it through that lens was as interesting a picture of the American reaction as any. In no uncertain terms, the visuals of fans chanting U-S-A as the word spread through the crowd was highly surreal, and it took me back to a Mets-Braves game I attended on the first weekend that baseball was back in New York after the attacks. Throughout the game, montages of first responders were shown on the jumbotron and jingoistic cheers rippled through Shea Stadium.

If the hair didn't stand on your neck, you weren't human.