Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: The year the road went international

The turning of a calendar is a painfully arbitrary thing. I say painful not because it actually physically hurts to hang up a new calendar, though I suppose it could if you've pulled a muscle, but because it is a date that comes with extreme pomp and pressure to be celebratory, become reborn or reflect. Why couldn't we just as easily do this on, say, September 1 is the start of the Christian Liturgical calendar and has been celebrated as New Year's in the past?

The answer is, I guess, that we could. After all, this day largely just serves as an excuse to drink a lot, which is kind of funny considering there's one of those every three weeks or so on most office holiday calendars. But somewhere along the line someone decided January 1 would be the day we all started writing the wrong years on checks out of habit, so here we are.

If nothing else, like I said, it gives us an excuse to drink. As if most people needed one.

So, as the calendar makes its annual flip, I'm going to do what I always do and recount what a busy, wild year it's been -- and boy has it ever been both of those things. It all started with a bold, aggressive entirely non-serious prediction on Dec. 31, 2014, it continued in February when, for the first time, I saw a sporting event outside of North America, it included very nearly witnessing the prophecy coming through in October and now it all comes to its thrilling conclusion on Dec. 31, 2015, which I will spend, well, I honestly don't know yet. Maybe sleeping?

Considering everything I've done this year, I could probably use it. You'll see.

My 2015 year in review:

-- I saw eight new professional sports teams, though only three of them (Buffalo Sabres, Buffalo Bills, Milwaukee Bucks) were within the continental U.S. Three (Hanshin Tigers, Yomiuri Giants, Rakuten Golden Eagles) were literally on the other side of the planet.
-- After 14 years of following them, I finally saw Southampton FC in person when I attended my first two English Premier League matches.
-- I saw a sumo tournament in Japan and three Japanese baseball games.
-- I saw professional sports teams in eight new venues (First Niagara Center, Ralph Wilson Stadium, BMO Bradley Center, Loftus Road Stadium, St. Mary's Stadium, Koshien Stadium, the Tokyo Dome, Miyagi Stadium).
-- I saw one professional sports team (New York Islanders) play in its new home (Barclays Center).
-- I saw one college football game at Ryan Field.
-- I saw my first Northwestern home basketball game since I graduated eight years ago.
-- I saw sporting events, professional or college in 21 different venues (Citi Field, Madison Square Garden, Prudential Center, Barclays Center, Yankee Stadium II, United Center, O.co Coliseum, AT&T Stadium, Ralph Wilson Stadium, First Niagara Center, BMO Bradley Center, Ryan Field, Welsh-Ryan Arena, Loftus Road Stadium, St. Mary's Stadium, Koshien Stadium, the Tokyo Dome, Miyagi Stadium, Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, MCU Park). This may be a new record.
-- One of the four major league sports teams I call my favorite reached the playoffs.
-- That one team, somehow, by the grace of God, reached the World Series for the first time since I had owned a cell phone or an iPod.
-- I caught a baseball at a Major League game for the second consecutive year mere weeks after a ball had been hit directly to my chest and a schmuck in the row in front of me jumped up to spoil the catch.
-- I attended one baseball game that lasted 19 innings.
-- I attended a no-hitter for the first time in my life.
-- I turned down tickets to the Belmont Stakes only to miss out on the end of a 37-year Triple Crown drought.
-- I had some slightly awkward elevator conversations with Mets manager Terry Collins.
-- I turned 30 years old and had an existential crisis.
-- I hiked in national parks in two separate continents.
-- I climbed Mt. Fuji.
-- I saw the Mets play in the World Series in person for the first time.
-- I ran a half marathon during which tendinitis made my right foot useless with seven miles to go.
-- I ran a marathon for the first, and almost certainly last time. Between the marathon, Mt. Fuji and seeing the Mets in the World Series, the last one was almost certainly the most satisfying.
-- I watched the Mets lose the World Series the same day I ran a marathon.
-- I watched one college football game on my iPad while driving across Montana.
-- I visited 24 different cities (London, Southampton, Paris, San Francisco, Oakland, Kirkwood, Philadelphia, Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya, Osaka, Himeji, Nikko, Sendai, Hiroshima, Nara, Buffalo, Bozeman, Missoula, Kalispell, Big Sky, Chicago, Evanston, Milwaukee).
-- I stepped foot in three different countries other than the United States (England, France, Japan)
-- I flew on a plane 14 times and passed through seven different airports.
-- I spent two nights sleeping in Chicago's O'Hare airport.
-- I stayed in 0 hotels, two AirBNB apartments, four hostels and nine friends' apartments or houses.
-- I found out at 4 a.m. while I was on vacation that I was likely going to have to get a new job.
-- I attended six weddings. At the first one, I split my pants at three in the morning while trying not to get sauce from a halal meat cart on my suit as I waited for the subway. At the second one, I got a concussion on the dance floor.
-- I ate at In-N-Out Burger once.
-- In a tragic turn of events, I never ate at Culver's.
-- I had one Giordano's stuffed pie which I ate frantically while driving a rental car to Milwaukee and nearly spilled hot grease all over the cars interior as a result.
-- I reached the final of my keeper fantasy football league for the first time after a wire-to-wire run in first place, only to have my team turn in its worst performance of the season by scoring just 73 points in the championship. In the semifinals I scored 168.
-- I wrote only 35 entries in this blog, making me wonder if perhaps writing was not the best goal for a career.
-- I acquired a second nephew.

As for what 2016 has in store, well, I can't really say. I know it will involve at least five or six more weddings because I already have the save the dates, it will hopefully include a trip to the British isles this summer, it juuuuust might involve a trip to London to see the Giants play the Rams in October, it will probably include a trip to Cleveland to see the Giants play the Browns, it definitely won't include me running another marathon and, God willing, it will include me finally seeing the Mets win the World Series.

Or it might start another 15-year drought until they return to the fall classic. Who knows? Either way, I can only guess that it will be busy. After all, that seems to be how these things go.

But maybe it's time for a nap first. I got exhausted just reading all that. Or not. I'll nap in 2016.

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