Thursday, April 24, 2014

An open letter to my alma mater

To whom it may concern:

Yesterday a Chicago institution celebrated its 100th birthday. Wrigley Field, a stadium so steeped in lore, tradition and beauty that it's easy to forget its primary tenant last won a championship six years before it opened, is a landmark that holds a unique and rich position in the culture of Chicago. As I read through the series of articles praising this historic structure, many of my thoughts went to my own experiences within its walls. While a student at Northwestern University I attended my first of many games at the Friendly Confines. That first one came during New Student Week my freshman year, when I rode the L down to Addison by myself to watch a meaningless game, as the Cubs had clinched the division the day before. In October of my freshman year, my high school buddy Josh and I stood on Sheffield and Waveland during Game 7 of the NLCS to watch whether it was misery or joy that ensued (it was misery). I went to every game the Mets played at Wrigley while I was in school, with the lone exception being a series that took place while I was back home in New York that coincided with my 21st birthday. I once saw the Mets nearly get no-hit at Wrigley, still one of my most vivid baseball memories. I attended several NU day at Wrigley student events as an undergrad, and my favorite memory in the building came in 2010, when Northwestern played Illinois in football at Wrigley in a game that brought out thousands of alums, was the scene of ESPN College Game Day and prompted Wrigley's famous marquee to be painted purple.

There is a common thread here.

I associated many of my experiences at Wrigley with my alma mater, an institution of its own impressive stature that I am all too willing to brag about to friends and coworkers who have no interest in hearing it. I have an exorbitant amount of purple shirts, Northwestern football jerseys and formal purple and black shirt and tie combinations because of my alma mater. I spend every Saturday in the fall watching Northwestern with my fellow alums, and over the course of my undergraduate education and the nearly seven years since I graduated from school, I have traveled to Madison, Wisconsin (twice), Minneapolis (twice), Iowa City, Iowa, Boston, West Point, New York, back to Chicago (thrice), to Champaign, Illinois and Berkeley, California to watch Northwestern's football and basketball teams play. My fandom and dedication, I feel, is not up for debate.

However, as my thoughts of Wrigley meandered over to my thoughts of Northwestern yesterday, my school made news of its own -- as it has been wont to do over the past few months -- that left me unsettled. I am proud of my school, and never was I more proud than in January when Kain Colter became the public face of the fight to unionize college athletics.

There are times when we can be proud of our teams and cheer them on for one solitary year of potential greatness. Anyone who has walked through the arch at the corner of Sheridan and Chicago on a daily basis knows all about Northwestern's miracle run to the Rose Bowl in 1996 for instance. But what Colter's movement presented was not the chance to win a championship that one school gets to hang a banner for and cling to. This was something different.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are so damn boring.

Did you watch hockey last night? You did? You might have. Anyway, I watched hockey last night. It was fine, I guess. On Wednesday night I missed the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs because I was out celebrating my mother's 60th birthday. It didn't look like I missed out on very much though.

There were three games on Wednesday. In the first game of the postseason the Tampa Bay Lightning and Montreal Canadiens traded goals for three periods, including a nutty coast-to-coast job by Steven Stamkos, before the unheralded Dale Weise beat Lightning goalie Anders Lindback for a game-winner in overtime. At nearly the same time the Pittsburgh Penguins found them down 3-1 to the underdog Columbus Blue Jackets, in the playoffs for just the second time in their history, and then rallied with three goals to win the series opener 4-3. In the late game, which I actually did watch most of, the Anaheim Ducks jumped out to a 4-0 lead against the Dallas Stars and appeared set to coast to an easy win until the Stars scored three times to make them sweat it out.

One day of playoff hockey, three one-goal games. Total snoozers.

Surely last night had to be more exciting than that. Well, at least have. We got a taught 1-1 game between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers that hung on the knife-edge until New York broke out with three goals in the third period to put its hated division rival in a 1-0 series hole. Meanwhilst, in St. Louis the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks dropped the puck on Game 1 of their series. All that happened was three goals in the first period, a late goal to force overtime, a desperate save by Blues forward Maxim Lapierre in the first extra period and Alex Steen netting the winner in the first triple-overtime game in franchise history. This after Chicago had numerous chances stoned by Blues goalie Ryan Miller and St. Louis killed off multiple power-play opportunities.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

From now on I get to pass over Los Angeles

חג שמח, everyone! As many of you know last night marked the beginning of Passover (or Pesach if you want to sound conservative), and much like Moses leading the Israelites on an exodus out of Egypt (and with the exact same stakes), I made a frantic exit of my own on Saturday night. I spent this weekend in my favorite city, Los Angeles watching the New York Mets embarass themselves in Anaheim against the Angels, who will hence forth be referred to as the Anaheim Angels because, damnit, that's really what they are, and as the innings began to dwindle Saturday night it started to become very clear to me that perhaps I had packed my schedule just a little too tightly.

See, I have a tendency to be fairly lax with my travel plans these days, which is to say that I generally ignore all the hogwash about arriving at an airport three hours early or whatever they say it is these days. This is the product of years of arriving at the airport early and having absolutely nothing to do for two hours. While it's nice to get some reading time done, I always figured that maybe it wasn't necessary to kill time by the Gate for hours on end and dine on a $17 cheeseburger. This has occasionally gotten me into some trouble, but by and large it's been a more efficient use of my time.

There is a certain uncertainty that creeps into your head, however when you find yourself sitting in an airport bar watching the end of a Mets game being played 35 miles away that you were in attendance of just an hour earlier. Suppose, however, that is mostly Jose Valverde's fault.

I can explain.