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.

2011 In Review

-- I saw 7 new professional sports teams (Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Capitals, Detroit Pistons, Detroit Red Wings, New England Patriots, San Jose Sharks, San Francisco 49ers)
-- I saw games in 7 new stadiums both college and professional (Palace at Auburn Hills, Joe Louis Arena, Gillette Stadium, HP Pavilion at San Jose, Candlestick Park, Alumni Stadium (Boston), Michie Stadium)
-- I saw sporting events in 14 total venues (Wachovia Center, Prudential Center, Citi Field, MetLife Stadium (nee New Meadowlands Stadium), Madison Square Garden, Nassau Coliseum, Verizon Center, Palace of Auburn Hills, Joe Louis Arena, Gillette Stadium, Yankee Stadium, HP Pavilion at San Jose, Candlestick Park, Michie Stadium)
-- I did one Sailgate
-- I saw four Giants games, the most I have ever seen in a season. I saw them on the road three times, though of of them was "on the road" against the Jets.
-- I saw one Giants game from the sidelines
-- I did not see a Major League Baseball game outside of New York City all season, the first time that has happened since 2000
-- I visited 19 different cities (Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Boston, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Foxboro, San Francisco, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the Hague, Antwerp, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Munich, Aachen, Brussels)
-- I spent time in 6 countries (United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria)
-- I dragged a 25-pound bag of chocolate through four different countries in a span of 24 hours via three different modes of transportation (train, bus, plane)
-- I flew on a plane 16 times
-- I had one transatlantic plane flight aborted 90 minutes after it had already left the east coast of the United States
-- I stayed in 2 hotels, one of which expected two people to stay in a room that could not not have been more than 10 square feet
-- I stayed in one party house looking over the city of Colorado Springs
-- I passed through 10 airports in 3 countries
-- I saw one thrilling national sports moment in an airport bar as I walked off a plane
-- I saw one disappointing national sports moment in a bar of internationals in Berlin
-- I attended two weddings
-- I saw one cousin and one high school friend get married
-- I ate at one In-N-Out Burger
-- I did not eat any Giordano's stuffed pizza. This was, by far, the worst part of the year.
-- I won 0 fantasy leagues, though I did make the considerable accomplishment of drafting Cam Newton with my last pick in my keeper league. I only got my money back in one of those leagues.
-- I wrote 76 entries in this blog
-- I branched out a little

Whew. It wasn't as hectic as last year, but it wasn't terribly light either. I'm not sure what 2012 will have in store, but given that my five-year reunion at Northwestern is coming up this October, I can guarantee that, if nothing else, my consumption of Giordano's stuffed pizza will absolutely increase. In addition to that, potential plans for the new year include a visit to Dallas in March to see the Stars and Mavericks, a trip to Pittsburgh in April to see the Pirates and Penguins (and PNC Park at long last), a trip to Toronto to see the Blue Jays, a trip to Cincinnati to see the Bengals, a trip to Baltimore to see the Ravens and maybe, just maybe, a trip to Australia to see the sights down under and catch Geelong FC at the MCG.

It should be a packed 12 months. And given that it's going to be the last 12 months according to the Mayans, well, it better be. If not, though, that's fine. I'll just have to make myself even busier for 2013.

Here for the last time in 2011, are my weekly NFL picks.

Last week: 7-8-1
Season: 106-111-12

GREEN BAY (+4) over Detroit
San Francisco (-11) over ST. LOUIS
NY Jets (+3) over MIAMI
MINNESOTA (-1) over Chicago
NEW ENGLAND (-11) over Buffalo
NEW ORLEANS (-8) over Carolina
PHILADELPHIA (-9) over Washington
Indianapolis (+4) over JACKSONVILLE
HOUSTON (+3) over Tennessee
ATLANTA (-12) over Tampa Bay
Baltimore (-3) over CINCINNATI
Pittsburgh (-8) over CLEVELAND
DENVER (-4) over Kansas City
San Diego (+3) over OAKLAND
ARIZONA (-3) over Seattle
NY GIANTS (-3) over Dallas

Fingers crossed that that last one turns out how I want it to. Happy New Year, everyone. Bring on 2012.

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