Wednesday, November 11, 2015

NFL Picks Week Ten: Off to see, among other things, Team No. 68

Earlier this summer I had a trip back from Japan that lasted roughly 30 hours, beginning with a massive bowl of ramen at Narita International Airport and ending at my work cubicle after a hastily-taken shower and approximately two hours of sleep. It does not actually take this long to fly back from Tokyo, but I had the foresight to schedule a 14-hour layover in Chicago that I foolishly thought would be shortened by catching an earlier connection. I would not have done this in any city that wasn't Chicago. For one thing, there are 20 flights per airline per day between Chicago and New York, and for another, should I somehow not be able to move to an earlier flight, at least I knew several people in the city with whom I could have dinner or drinks to kill those 14 hours. Unfortunately, I was not able to get on an earlier flight, and proceeded to find myself too tired to drag my luggage downtown and then back again. What followed was four pleasant hours chatting with an ex I had randomly bumped into in the terminal, and then 10 interminable hours of intermittent napping and general misery.

I deeply regret being too lazy and/or tired to leave the airport. Tomorrow, I will be flying to Chicago again. This time I will leave the airport. I'm excited about that.

I haven't yet decided if I'm going to make going to Chicago to see a Northwestern game an annual tradition, but I'm starting to think it's a good idea. Beyond the numerous friends I have in the city and the fact that it is a relatively easy trip, something just feels good about walking around campus again. I assume this is a pretty common bit of nostalgia across all college-educated Americans, and I assume I will keep this up for at least the next two years considering I already have a Chicago fall wedding on the books for 2016 and 2017 will be my 10th (holy fucking shit, 10th) college reunion.

The thing is beyond those milestone raison d'êtres, there are only so many excuses to keep flying back that sound more reasonable than "a desire to feel young again." And in my experience, not everyone thinks what you find reasonable is actually reasonable. Oh well. The only other legitimate cause I've had to return to the upper midwest, or at least within a 90-minute drive of Chicago, is to see the lone major professional sports team in Illinois or Wisconsin that I have not yet crossed off my list of teams seen. This Saturday night, however, that will come to an end.

That's right. After much delay and national panic, I will finally see that mysterious holy grail known as the Milwaukee Bucks.

I know what you're thinking. "Dave, the Milwaukee Bucks? How do you have the courage to aspire to such greatness?" I know, the city of Milwaukee is a rare dame indeed, and dare to see a basketball game is to dare to dream. But am I not a dreamer? Am I not a man who does what he can to make the impossible happen? Am I not a man who is way too excited about this Saturday night's Bucks game also being "Bucks logo history poster night"?

I am indeed all of those things (and also somewhat disappointed that the poster is kind of lame looking, but it has this guy on it, so I'm satisfied). Also, the Bucks are playing the Cavaliers that night who are pretty good and have some guy named Lee Bron on the roster that everyone is crazy about, so that should be fun.

All of this begs the alluded-to question of once this trip to Chicago and Milwaukee is done... what reason will I have left to force me to return? I will go back to Chicago somewhat regularly, of course, considering I have so many friends there to see and so much food there to eat, but it still feels like I will be closing a door in some sense. There is no more sports-related cookie to pull me out to the heart of the midwest (though Minneapolis, St. Louis and Cleveland still provide a few reasons). The Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Packers and Brewers are all done. The Pacers, perhaps are the only other thing that might be drawn within that Chicago-centric circle, but Indianapolis is a different world (in that it is super boring). The Bucks were all I had left, and unlike Philadelphia, Boston, D.C. or Detroit, Chicago and Wisconsin are places I have a genuine love for that is deeply rooted in personal history and nostalgia. In a big (neurotic) way (that only I will understand), Saturday night will be a wistful capstone for a certain period of my life.

Then again, considering the food I plan on eating and that I will be seeing Northwestern play basketball on Friday, Northwestern playing football on Saturday morning and possibly seeing the Devils visit the Blackhawks on Thursday, some combination of exhaustion and clogged arteries may kill me before than anyway.

Perhaps I should be more worried about that than imagined nostalgia.

Last week: 6-7-0

NY JETS (-2.5) over Buffalo
GREEN BAY (-11.5) over Detroit
Carolina (-4.5) over TENNESSEE
ST. LOUIS (-7) over Chicago
Miami (+6) over PHILADELPHIA
PITTSBURGH (-4.5) over Cleveland
TAMPA BAY (-1) over Dallas
New Orleans (-1) over WASHINGTON
Jacksonville (+5.5) over BALTIMORE
OAKLAND (-3) over Minnesota
DENVER (-6) over Kansas City
NY GIANTS (+7.5) over New England
Arizona (+3) over SEATTLE
CINCINNATI (-10.5) over Houston

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