Friday, January 30, 2015

Hey, who wants to check out a museum or something Sunday night?

I feel distinctly out of the loop lately. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it's because I'm planning my impending trip to London or maybe it's because I'm just too damn confused from trying to figure out upgrading my iPhone, but there's apparently a professional football game on Sunday night and it kind of snuck up on me.

I love the Super Bowl. Since the age of eight, making a huge deal out of the NFL's annual championship showcase has more or less been my annual raison d'etre. This coming Sunday is basically a national holiday for me and I pretty much count down the minutes until I can watch football, stuff myself with wings and try to explain to people (again) that punting on fourth down is almost always a stupid strategy.

This year, however, Super Bowl XLIX just isn't doing it for me. It's not because I'm angry with out of touch athletes who won't do the media's bidding (Ed: He's actually a nice guy), disillusioned with a League that is rampant with violent criminals (Ed: It actually isn't), concerned about the NFL's lukewarm response to a very real head trauma epidemic (Ed: But it's getting better!) nor is it because the media is hyping up one of the lamest scandals I've ever heard of (Ed: The Pats may not be wrong). I'm mostly just not all that hyped up for this reason:

A matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots is super boring.

Seriously. These are two teams with zero collective history, come from cities that have no cultural rivalry and are almost as geographically far apart as two Super Bowl participants can be, and I have no strong feelings about either team one way or the other. Yes, I realize I live in New York so I'm supposed to hate any team from Boston, but let's be honest. I root for the New York Giants, New Jersey Devils and New York Mets, all of whom have major geographic rivals that play in Philadelphia, rather than Boston. In fact, the only times the Giants have played the Patriots with anything significant on the line that might foment a genuine rivalry, the Giants have won each time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The toughest ticket in town

There are a lot of things about ticket-purchasing that are internecine and complicated. When to buy, where to buy, how much is reasonable, what secondary vendors are most likely to provide the best deal, where to buy from if you want actual hard tickets, etc. It's a complicated dance, but at least when it comes to buying said tickets in the United States, I think I've got it more or less down.

England, on the other hand, is a whole new ball game literally and figuratively.

As you might have noticed from that handy sidebar I've got of future planned trips, I will be in the UK to visit friends and family in early February. As this will be my first time in jolly old England since I was 13 (and I practically remember nothing about the place), I'm extremely excited for a variety of reasons, but paramount among them will be my first-ever Premier League matches. My visit spans Feb. 5-14, a stretch in which my Southampton FC is both visiting Queens Park Rangers in London and hosting West Ham United at St. Mary's. This, obviously, was not an accident.

I've been following Southampton for some 13 years now through both thick and thin, and right now times are thicker than Louie Gohmert's head (Topical State of the Union joke!). Just four seasons ago, Southampton was toiling in the third division of English Football with the likes of Dagenham & Redbridge and Oldham Athletic. This season, following consecutive promotions and a potentially devastating sell-off last summer the Saints are in the midst of their most remarkable season in decades. Southampton is currently third in the Barclays Premier League after a huge wins away at Manchester United and Newcastle United and is one win away from the fifth round of the FA Cup.

That is an astonishing rise for a club that was bankrupt, in the third division and has the popularity, budget and brand efficacy in England the Sacramento Kings have here. It may also not last if rumors of major sell-offs coming this summer are to be believed, so, damnit, I'm going to see the magic while I can.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Patrik and Me

I have mentioned before that my first Devils game was on Dec. 7, 1995. I won't claim this was when I became a Devils fan. That had already happened 18 months earlier and by this point nine-year-old me had already freaked out in my parents bedroom as I watched the Devils seal their first Stanley Cup championship some six months earlier. As I noted in that chapter when I looked up the game story, as a peculiar footnote, the Devils, dealing with injuries, had called up several prospects including a young winger named Patrik Elias, who was making his NHL debut. My dad and I drove to the game. Elias, apparently, got a private jet. There was no reason to remember this -- Elias wouldn't even score his first NHL goal until the next season -- but it's always fun to know I was there.

In many ways, it's unfortunate that nearly all of Elias' career has been eclipsed by sharing a locker room with, arguably, the greatest goalie of all-time. Elias is not exactly in the same rarified air as Martin Brodeur, and at this point his membership in the Hall of Fame is probably a borderline prospect, but the quiet Czech has managed to carve out one of the most unsung, impressive careers in the last two decades. He's been an elegant offensive weapon displaying skillful quick hands and a penchant for big goals. Elias never really seemed to demand the spotlight. He always seems understated with the media, which, as someone who has interviewed him before, I can verify.

But much like Teddy Roosevelt, Elias has spent his career wielding that big stick and probably getting less attention than he should for it, both because he plays for a team that, too, prefers avoiding the spotlight and because he often has played in the shadows of hall of famers. Even on the night Elias became the Devils' all-time leading scorer he played second fiddle as Brodeur became the winningest goalie in NHL history the same evening.

Then again maybe not. It was St. Patrick's Day after all.