Monday, August 29, 2011

The Joy Of Cheap Plane Flights

For the first time in a long time I haven't spent chunks of the summer following the Mets around the country, which means two things. The first is that 2011 is likely to be the first year I haven't seen a Major League Baseball game outside of New York in, oh, 11 years or so. The second is that it's been a surprisingly long hiatus for me without seeing a sporting event of any kind outside of the New York Metro area. Since April, in fact.

Now that doesn't mean I haven't traveled at all. Most of you know that I spent nearly three weeks traipsing around Europe. But something has been lacking in the sports travel department since I saw the Red Wings host the Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena on April 8. My goal is to make up for all of that this fall with several jaunts to see pro teams around the country -- and by several I mean three.

Putting all of that together is still up in the air, but I know that one of those trips isn't because I managed to book myself a flight to San Francisco for the second weekend of November this year, which puts me squarely in the stands for a showdown between the Coyotes and Sharks on Saturday, November 12 and even more excitingly for me, the Giants and 49ers on November 13 at Candlestick Park. I rather enjoy trips to the Bay Area where I have several friends and at this point know that city at least mildly well, but I'm particularly intrigued to see my Football Giants and the building that stole away the baseball variety.

But what makes this even better? Part of the trick to doing this whole cockammamie thing is finding ways to cut costs, preeminently the need double up sporting events in the same trip and if possible stay with friends for free. I'll have both of those taken care of but the last crucial fixture is to get transport as cheaply as you can do it, and managing that trick on a cross country flight is not the easiest thing.

Generally if you can get from east coast to west coast and back for $400 or so you're shooting par, so when I found that I could make my way from Newark to San Francisco for the grand sum of $253, I knew I had won. It make require a transfer in Atlanta on the way there and a stopover in Detroit following a redeye on the way back, but every little penny counts. I can stand one day of work with sleep deprivation in the name of pushing the journey forward.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So Last Night Counted Right?

Anyone who has seen a lot of sporting events with me would know that I have a tendency to get antsy during blowouts. Don't get me wrong, they're fun. And I'd rather be on the long side of one than the short one, but whenever I see the Mets pile 11 or 12 runs on some unsuspecting team I can't help but wish they were saving some for the next day. Particularly considering that 2006 is really the only year I've ever seen the Mets have an offense that seemed somewhat relentless.

When it happens in football the scoring doesn't seem quite as effortless and I don't get quite so nervous that the offense is being wasted, though as New York's big blowout in Seattle last season proves, the effectiveness of an offense from one week to the next can really be meaningless. But it was a special breed of uninteresting meaningless when the Giants absolutely walloped the Chicago Bears last night to the tune of 41-13 at New Meadowlands Stadium. Sure it was fun, and I never mind seeing the Giants reach the end zone, but it was also, you know, the preseason. And wins in the preseason and a quarter will give you 25 whole cents.

As the Giants ran up the score, I watched with a pretty mild strain of apathy, which certainly wasn't helped by the other fact that makes the preseason unbearable, you guessed it, injuries. And boy did the Giants get a fun one last night. The secondary is going to have to do some reshuffling after lynchpin cornerback Terrell Thomas tore his ACL last night in a flukish collision with Jason Pierre-Paul with all of 22 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Giants season isn't over, but Thomas' injury far outweighs the specter of victory, which was noted by one columnist who pointed out that Chicago left embarrassed, but they also left healthy. I would have taken that gladly. Such is the nature of the curiosity that is preseason football, an utterly meaningless affair that we still watch with full dedication because we are just so damn football deprived. In some senses I feel like an addict.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Zach Parise Has Been One-Upped

As I wait patiently for the Giants' next preseason game to come around -- and it's still five days away -- there is very little to hold my interest. At least not with the Mets' season being pretty much done midway through August, although they did have some exciting news this week. More on that later.

Because of the dearth of interesting stuff going on I struggle from time to time to focus on all that the world of sports is presenting me with, though the impending start of Northwestern's football season, which is just 17 short days away, does give me something to get excited about. Unfortunately, though, that's pretty much all of it. Or so I thought.

Thank the lord for Jeremy Roenick.

Roenick is one of the greatest American-born hockey players of all time and a man who is known for his emotion, honesty and, I can assure you, a pretty good quote just about any time you talk to him. Also, he was really good. And in video games he was really good. Anyone who wants to get an idea of just how good Roenick was in NHL '93 need only troll around on YouTube for any number of clips of his electronic prowess. But more than his abilities on the ice, his abilities in the virtual world are immortalized by two phrases:

"It's not even so much me as it's Roenick. He's good."

And:

"There it is, Mikey. Check it out, his head's bleeding."



Both of these of course come from the indie film classic Swingers, starring the underrated Jon Favreau and an astonishingly thin Vince Vaughn. One of the most famous scenes from the film involves the main characters playing NHL '93 and after Vaughn displays Roenick's electronic prowess, he then checks Wayne Gretzky from behind to make him bleed on the ice.

So why bring this up now?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

ATTENTION EVERYONE FOOTBALL IS BACK

Yeah, I know. The NFL preseason actually started two days ago and whether or not you consider preseason football to actually be "football" is a debatable concept.

Whatever.

The New York Giants are strapping on their helmets tonight in Charlotte, North Carolina to play the Carolina Panthers and for at least seven minutes of game action or so, there will be an actual NFL football-like substance on the TV, and after going eight months without seeing Big Blue on the tube, I'm pretty excited. Not break out my jersey for the occasion excited, but excited nonetheless.

Tonight will be a spectacular 7 minutes in which some of the Giants' starters will sort of play halfheartedly against a Panthers team that is doing the same thing despite being sort of a minor league outfit to begin with. The final score will be irrelevant and the last 50 minutes or so of game play will feature people that won't even be on the roster come opening day, but it's still professional NFL football, damnit. No one can take it away from me.

The Giants do have some interesting things tonight such as get their first looks at a few players in new positions, namely Mathias Kiwanuka, who is moving back to linebacker. Linval Joseph and Jason Pierre-Paul will also be getting some time on the defensive line that should be worth noting, but on the whole, yes, this game will be utterly meaningless and less than entertaining. But if the Giants want to hear Barack Obama make subtle jabs at the debt ceiling negotiations next summer at the White House, this is where it all starts.

At least at the White House, we can probably comfortably assume the Giants players would all know who the chief executive is.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Everyone look. A Hockey Player Is Showing Personality.

I think one of the unfortunate things about Americans and Canadians is that many Canadians have a relatively easy-going, dead-pan sense of humor. As such, we, as Americans, don't always get the joke. We don't have patience for subtlety. As a result, hockey players don't have the same ease of marketing themselves in this country as they do in Canada, but it's not their fault. It's ours. Often we don't want to take the time to find them funny. We want something loud and obnoxious like Penny Hardaway yelling as a marionette or LeBron James pretending five different people.

Those commercials are, well, really stupid, but the unfortunate thing is that you never get to see hockey players in them because we just don't find them as funny. But today we got a reprieve from the totally amazing in every way Zach Parise. Now, it's odd that I bring up the whole bit about us not understanding the Canadian sense of humor because Parise, who just might be my favorite player in the NHL these days, is, as any hockey fan would know, American. But he grew up in Minnesota, which may as well be Canada, has a Canadian father, played hockey at the University of North Dakota, which I kind of assume is what Canadian prairies are like, and having spent so much time playing organized hockey at a high level for most of his life, he almost certainly has cultivated that Canadian sense of humor to relate to his teammates.

But in addition to Parise's barrier from making some headway into the American market, he plays for the Devils, a team that I have loved dearly since I was eight years old, but that has built it's entire era of success around a team-oriented game that can sometimes have superior talent lost among the smoothly-functioning machine. Parise is not as famous in this country as he should be. Granted, the appetite for hockey players being marketed wildly may not be the same here as it is for, apparently, the class act known as Stephon Marbury, but Parise is a brilliant and remarkable athlete, despite missing most of last season due to a torn meniscus. Aside from last season his injury history has been nearly impeccable while he's put up offensive numbers that, in the Devils' system, are truly remarkable. Factor into that his two-way play and you've easily got one of the top ten and maybe top five players in the game. That right there should mean his face should be plastered all across TV, but for some reason it's not.

In this country.

But thank God for Canada's insatiable appetite for hockey in all things, and thank God for the creative marketers at Easton who decided that the best way to pump up the Parise marketing machine is to make a Starsky-and-Hutch-esque detective parody with the highly skilled forward.



Apparently this video came out in March, but somehow I didn't actually come across it until today. I don't know what took so long, though I feel better knowing the Devils apparently didn't find it until yesterday, but thank goodness I've seen it now, because it's not brilliant, but, well, it's pretty funny. And it's way less awkward than some of the other commercials some of my favorite hockey players have been in.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This Is Pretty Wonderful

The football world was rocked yesterday by the announcement that Randy Moss was announcing his retirement, which sparked the reaction from most of "he was still playing?" and the reaction from me of "What will NBC do during the Triple Crown now?"

I kid.

Randy Moss was the most physically gifted receiver I ever saw -- and maybe in the history of the game -- so seeing him walk off into the sunset is a) a bit strange and b) a sign that I'm getting older. Anyone who remembers how much he lit up the NFL during his rookie season in 1998 could not possibly forget what it was like to watch a phenomenon like that, and over the course of his career he put together a first-ballot Hall of Fame resume that included both his record-breaking 23-touchdown season in 2007 and some of his lesser, but hilarious moments as you can see to the right.

Also, he had some great hair.

But in one of the bizarre aspects of the modern game (and also to help make the segue to what I really wanted to write about today) Randy Moss hit up several stops in his career even though he will primarily be associated with Minnesota and to a lesser extent New England. Moss was a Viking, a Raider, a Patriot, a Viking again for four weeks and a Titan. If you forgot that he was a Titan and a Raider, it's ok. So did he apparently. What's interesting to note in all of this however, is that Randy Moss had three different numbers in his career, 84, 18 and 81, a peculiarity because as my old college roommate Pat Dorsey has noted on ESPN.com, taking your uniform number with you at whatever cost is a time honored tradition in the NFL, with numerous players cutting lucrative deals to give their number up when a star who wants it arrives in town.

Moss, who must not have been interested in dealing with the petulant Jerry Porter, didn't do this, but yesterday his former team got in the mix in one of the best, most fun videos I've ever seen between two professional athletes, as Vikings punter/rock star/total nerd Chris Kluwe made an official deal with new quarterback Donovan McNabb to surrender over his No. 5 jersey.

Now, I have made fun of Donovan McNabb before, a casualty of his epic, underappreciated career with the Eagles, and his inability to know basic NFL rules, but he generally comes across as an affable, dedicated, talented, professional quarterback with a pretty good sense of humor. But given his relative star power and track record, it's a safe bet he would want his No. 5, and Kluwe knew it, so pre-empting any controversy, he laid out his terms on twitter.