Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Day 275: 2013 Boston Sports Stories Thrilled and Chilled

What a year, what a year! For us Boston sports fans, 2013 both thrilled us and chilled us. There were things that happened that we'd like to forget... and things we want to hold onto as long as we can. There were things that happened that made us cry, laugh, cheer and cringe. 2013 ran the gamut of emotions—from the darkest of days with the Boston Marathon bombing to the highest of highs with the World Series Championship. 

The year began on a somewhat low note with the New England Patriots losing to those annoying Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game. A low point for sure since there's nothing worse than having to watch that douche bag murderer, Ray Lewis, celebrate. 

The year only got lower when tragedy struck at the Boston Marathon finish line where three were killed and countless others horribly maimed. And then things got even lower as the terrorists responsible for such a grisly act shut down the city of Boston while law enforcement searched for them and subsequently killed one and caught the other surviving monster. I don't remember ever seeing photos are eery as those of empty Boston streets.

And then some more bad news. After the Patriots sadly let Wes Welker go to the Broncos, tight end and key member of the offense, Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder. Well... shit. DUI is one thing...assault is little more serious...but murder is a whole different ball game. The Patriots promptly released him and he still sits in prison awaiting his trial, most likely in late 2014. I know there's that whole innocent until proven guilty crap, but I'm going out on a limb and saying Hernandez won't know life outside the prison walls for a long, long time...if ever.

Boston was in need of some good news... 

The Boston Bruins were inspiring in 2013. From the thrilling seven game series with the Toronto Maple Leafs that the Bruins won in overtime...to the four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins, many thought they were a team of destiny. But unfortunately, the Chicago Blackhawks had other ideas. Not even the valiant play of Gregory Campbell and Patrice Bergeron, both skating injured, could boost the Bruins to their second Cup in three years. But man...it was a fun ride to watch!

And while the Bruins were skating their asses off, the Boston Red Sox were quietly putting together a respectable season of their own. Not much was expected from a team that had such a disgraceful previous year and then didn't really make any huge off-season moves. They signed a couple of "good clubhouse guys" to short contracts and hoped for the best. And BEST was what they got! That group of bearded men surprised us all with gutsy performances and some clutch hitting to with the World freaking Series! There was a time when I wasn't sure I would ever see my beloved Sox as Champions and now it has happened three times. Yay!

What would the World Series win be without the Duck Boat parade. The season came full circle with the team pausing at the Boston Marathon finish line for a quick moment to remember those who were affected by the bombing with the World Series trophy, the 617 Red Sox jersey and of course, an emotional rendition of God Bless America. A perfect ending to an amazing season that was so deeply impacted by the tragedy back in April.

So long, 2013... and here's hoping that 2014 is filled with more thrills than chills! Happy New Year!!

PS: I now enter the final quarter of my Balls of All Sizes quest—just 90 days left!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Day 274: Tim Tebow Finally Lands a Job

When the New England Patriots signed Tim Tebow this past June, I almost crapped my pants. This is a guy that I had made fun of and despised since I saw him cry after Florida lost to Alabama in the SEC Championship game back in 2009. Dude... crying? There's no crying in football! I'm pretty sure Bill Belichick isn't a fan of cry babies so I was really surprised he was getting a chance with the Pats.

Luckily, Bill Belichick came to his senses and cut Tebow at the end of August, just before the start of the season. It made sense, there really wasn't a place for him—even after months of speculation about whether or not the Patriots could mold Tebow into a slot receiver or tight end. I'm sure many thought another team would snap him up in a heartbeat, but that never happened. The 2013 NFL season started and Tim Tebow was team-less.

And then a couple months went by and Tebow still had not landed back in the NFL. Could this be the end of a very short and very unimpressive career for the 26-year-old former Florida Gator? It's hard to imagine that a college quarterback who passed for over 9,000 yards and rushed for nearly 3,000 yards in his four years in Gainesville was sitting idle while the football season moved forward.

But finally, there's some good news for all the Tim Tebow fans out there. (Are there still Tebow fans out there?) The 2007 Heisman Trophy winner has been hired by the SEC Network (an ESPN-owned channel) as an analyst for its Saturday morning "SEC Nation" show that debuts in August. He'll be making his first ESPN appearance on January 6th before the BCS Championship Game—SportCenter in the morning, College Football Live in the afternoon and College GameDay before the Auburn vs. Florida State game.

I've never been more thankful in my life for not giving a shit about college football...because I'm not sure I could stomach him as an analyst!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Day 273: NFL Week 17... Depressed.

The end of the regular NFL season always depresses me. Sure... the Patriots will have at least one more game in the postseason, but if they screw that up, it's over. Those 17 weeks of football seem to fly by faster than any other sports season out there. Those precious 17 weeks...

Most years (present season included) week 17 can be a crazy collection of if/then scenarios for lots of teams on the postseason bubble. If this team wins and this team loses than this other team will make the playoffs but only if they win too. Or, like with the Pats, the outcome of their final week could mean either a first-round bye or a fourth seed. Thankfully, the Patriots beat the Bills 34-20 on Sunday to take the #2 seed in the AFC and earn that first-round bye.

Normally a Patriots game during the final week is pretty boring. They've usually wrapped up their spot in the playoffs and it's not even worth watching. But today... today was fun. The weather was horrific—torrential rain, puddles on the field, slippery pigskin. You couldn't have paid me enough money to sit in those stands in that weather. I was quite comfy wrapped in my blanket on the couch!

LeGarrette Blount made that last game even more fun by putting on quite a show. He rushed 24 times for an astounding (and career high) 189 yards and two touchdowns. His longest rush of the day was 36 yards. And if that wasn't impressive enough, the 250 pound running back added another 145 yards on kickoff returns. His 334 all-purpose yards set a new franchise record—and put him 12th in NFL history. Bill Belichick even said he was "the best player on the field."

Tom Brady's day was just ok—14-for-24 for 122 yards, one touchdown and a bullshit interception that wasn't his fault. But with the weather like it was, who can blame him for relying on the running game to get the job done. Good thing that running game didn't let him down! And Stephen Gostowski, who is having quite a season himself, made four field goals to add to the scoring.

So now it's on to the playoffs. With all the injuries the Patriots have had to endure this season, I don't have high hopes for much success in January. But that's how I like to handle it... if I get too cocky about the Pats' chances in the postseason (*cough*2008*cough*), I think it's bad luck. If I'm more of a glass-half-empty fan, things tend to work out a little better. Let's see if this theory holds true this time around.

Good Luck, Patriots! Kick some ass...

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Day 272: Shaun White's Amazing New Trick!

Ok... call me obsessed but I'm afraid it's going to be this way from now until the Olympics are over. There will most likely be lots and lots of posts about Sochi. Especially because I love it when athletes decide to use the worldwide stage of the Winter Games to launch a new trick.

Snowboarding is one of my favorite events to watch—probably because I've tried it, completely sucked at it and am jealous of those who do it well. But since I've turned into a giant sissy in my old age, it's best that I leave the speed and craziness to those brave youngsters. I'm always in awe of the advancements made in the sport and how the half-pipe just seems to get bigger and bigger, therefore making the air they get that much more gigantic.

As if Shaun White didn't dominate the world of half-pipes to begin with, he's going to be rolling out a new (and somewhat crazy) trick at the Sochi games. In the 2010 Vancouver Games, White blew minds everywhere with the "Double McTwist 1260"—and Sochi could prove to be even more insane. He plans to take his original trick even further with the "frontside double-cork 1440." I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds and looks pretty freaking awesome.

GoPro built a custom half-pipe for Shaun White to practice on and he revealed the trick on YouTube this past week. If this doesn't blow your mind, I don't know what will...


What.... WHAAAAAT?? Watch out Sochi!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Day 271: 10 Things to Know about Curling

There are 42 days until the Winter Olympics in Sochi. I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty freaking excited about the games. For two weeks in February, I'll become more of a couch potato than normal and I will be obsessed with just about everything Olympics. Even the curling.

If you've never given curling a chance, I highly recommend it. I really have no idea what the point is or how a team wins, but there's just something about the big stones and big brooms and the special shoes and the sweeping that sucks me in every time. Fortunately for us, Yahoo! has put together a list of the 10 things you should know about curling. Now we'll know about the big stones and the brooms!!
1. Curling originated in Scotland in the 15th century and was played on frozen lakes. It debuted as a demonstration sport at the first Winter Olympics held in 1924 in Chamonix, France. After a 50 year absence, it was included in the 1988 and 1992 games again as a demonstration. 
2. Curling wasn't named an official Olympic sport until the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan. The US has only earned one medal—a bronze in 2006. 
3. Like just about every other sport, the events are separate for men and women. 
4. The curling surface is 150 feet long and 16.4 feet wide. There is a bullseye target known as the "house" at each end. 
5. Special shoes are worn with one slippery sole for the slider foot and one gripper sole to provide traction on the ice. 
6. Curling stones are 44 pounds and granite with a handle on top.  
7. The sweeping... the thing that is most confusing for me. The two sweepers use the brooms to sweep in front of the stone and create a layer of water allowing the stone to hydroplane across the ice. Sweeping can control the curl of the stone and direct it into position. 
8. Each game has 10 "ends." An end involves a four-player team playing eight stones, two per player. 
9. Only one team can score in each house per end. A point is scored for each stone with any portion inside the "house" that is closer to the center bullseye than the opponent's stones. And you can knock the enemy stones out of the way!
10. Curling will run from February 10 - 21 at the Ice Cube Curling Center during the upcoming Sochi Olympics.
Now do you want to watch? Curling just got a whole lot more interesting for me... I can't wait to cheer on the sweepers!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Day 270: A First-Hand Look at Winning the World Series

Not many of us will ever have that first hand feeling of winning something as big as the World Series. But in this day and age of social media and video cameras on phones, we can get the next best thing to that first hand feeling—we can get a look at what those who were there experienced. And even better, how the athletes themselves saw it.

When the Red Sox won the World Series, Shane Victorino had his GoPro video camera ready to capture every piece of it. From that last strike to clinch the Championship... to the celebration in the locker room (does anyone else wonder how much all that booze on the floor was worth?)... back onto the field and then on to the Duck Boat Parade sharing that special win with the city of Boston.

It's fun to get a glimpse into the happiness of a Championship celebration that meant so much to so many. Thanks, Shane for allowing us that peek.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Day 269: Merry Christmas From Balls of All Sizes!

Tonight's ball of choice is a Christmas ball of course. I had all sorts of ideas about writing something heartfelt and intelligent about today and the joys of spending time with my family. Or writing about what a delight it is to watch a two and a half year old open presents, one by one, while giving each her undivided attention for a short time before moving on to the next. Or seeing the excitement on her face when she opened her gift from Auntie Stac to find the big, stuffed, red dragon she had coveted only weeks before.

But alas... I am too exhausted to form coherent thoughts. Chasing that same two and a half year old around the house with that same giant dragon does that to an old gal. It was totally worth it. It was worth it if only to hear the giggles and squeals and screeches as she bolted from room to room trying to escape the gaping mouth of that fire breathing beast. It was worth it if only to hear her say, "Come get me!" and then sprint away to hide under the Christmas tree.

So here's to hoping everyone had a fantastic day filled with as much love, laughter and loot as mine was! Now I plan to gorge myself on more cookies and egg nog before I doze off on the couch and drool on myself.

Merry Christmas to all... and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day 268: It's Icy... So Let's Talk About a Butt Goal.

It's icy. That's what happens after two full days of freezing rain with the temperatures never getting above freezing. Everything is coated in ice. Sure, it's beautiful but it has also turned my driveway into a skating rink. Every time I leave the house, I feel like I should be wearing skates and a helmet. I risk falling on my ass before I even get off the porch. And the poor dogs... they're having a hell of a time doing their outside business.

So...because there's so much ice in my life right now...I figured what better time to talk about hockey than now. And what better hockey item to talk about then the "butt goal." Remember "butt fumble?" Well now we have the "butt goal"—yet another embarrassing mishap caused by the posterior. I think Mark Sanchez is happy for the company.

It all started with a Buffalo Sabres flurry around the Phoenix Coyotes' net. The puck bounced straight up in the air and the Coyotes' goalie Mike Smith lost sight of it. As a matter of fact, everyone seemed to lose sight of it. Smith ended up backed into the goal as everyone frantically poked and searched for the puck. Come to find out the puck had somehow lodged itself in the back of Smith's pants and because he and his pants ended up in the net, so did the puck. Sabres goal... and win.

You see the worst part about this play for Smith and the Coyotes was that it happened in overtime. It turned out to be the winning goal for Buffalo. Tough luck for a goalie who had a pretty good game until that point.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Day 267: Pats Win Big. Now That's More Like It!

It's something I've been longing for this entire football season—a dominating win where I didn't feel like I was going to throw up throughout the whole game. The New England Patriots beat, no walloped, the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday to improve to 11-4 and holding tight at the #2 seed in the AFC. The final score was 41-7 even with Tom Brady having just a mediocre day going 14-for-26 for 172 yards and one touchdown.

The real story in this game was the Patriots' defense—a defense that has been decimated by injuries but rose to a level we haven't seen much of this season. A defense that made Joe Flacco look like a college freshman. The Ravens were shut out in the first half and never even made it into Patriots' territory until the first play of the third quarter. Flacco was just 22-for-38 for 260 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions that both went for scores the other way.

The Ravens brought in back up quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, to take a few snaps. He promptly fumbled on the first play resulting in a Patriots touchdown. On the next series, Taylor moved the ball down the field and into Patriots territory... aaaaand then he tossed a pick that the Pats ran back for a 74-yard touchdown. Ooops.

LeGarrette Blount led the rushing attack with 16 runs for 76 yards and two touchdowns. While his numbers weren't outstanding, it just seemed like he always had the ball and he was just pounding through the defensive line like it was butter. I expected those numbers to bigger.

It was one of those games that was just plain fun to watch. There wasn't a point where I felt nervous or anxious that the Patriots didn't have the game completely under their control. Something that hasn't happened much this season. And although they had clinched their fifth consecutive AFC East title earlier in the day when Miami lost, they played like they had something to prove.

I just have one question for the Patriots... why couldn't you have beaten the Ravens like this back in last year's AFC Championship? Huh?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Day 266: Major League Baseball Has a Bit of a Spending Problem.

Major League Baseball needs a salary cap. It's just that simple. Until some restrictions are put on the amount of obscene money that a team can spend, the contracts are going to continue to get more and more ridiculous. Sure, there's that luxury tax but who actually takes that seriously?

Essentially the purpose of the tax is to prevent teams in the bigger markets with high incomes from signing all the talented players and buying a championship. It destroys the competitiveness necessary for the sport to remain attractive to fans. The money obtained from the tax in Major League Baseball is used by the league for other stuff.

Big market teams like the Yankees certainly don't take it seriously. In fact, the New York Yankees have paid the most in penalties since the tax began in 2003. They were just hit with a bill for $28 million to bring their overall total paid to just over $250 million. A lot of good those big payrolls have done them, winning only won the World Series once (2009) since the luxury tax's inception.

The Red Sox have been hit with the tax in the past, but 2013 was the second consecutive season they've come in under the salary threshold. The LA Dodgers weren't that lucky—they were just tagged for $11.5 million.

Not many teams seem to be shying away from those big money, long-term contracts either. With all the free agent activity this winter, teams are quickly approaching the $2 billion mark in offseason spending. Sick, I tell you. Have these teams not learned anything from shitty contracts and frivolous spending? More often than not, these repulsive multi-year, big money deals don't pay off.

What about the Albert Pujols deal? The Los Angeles Angels signed the then 32-year-old to a 10-year, $240 million deal after the 2011 season. And have they been rewarded with kick ass play? No... in fact, just the opposite. Pujols has had the two worst seasons of his career in LA. In an injury-shortened 2013, he managed just 17 home runs. A far cry from his time with the Cardinals where he never hit fewer than 32. And he's not getting any younger...

I can't even discuss you with the contract 'roid-boy Alex Rodriguez penned with the Yankees. Even though it was signed way back in 2008, no team has even come close to that sort of revulsion. You know it's bad when the team that signed him even wants him gone. And let's not forget Josh Hamilton and Barry Zito and Ryan Howard... or the horrible signing of Carl Crawford by the Red Sox.

I'm always thankful that Boston has taken on a new way of thinking when it comes to not signing guys for more than three years or so. It seems to be working pretty well for them so far...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Day 265: Football at Friendly Fenway!

Here's something pretty cool... Fenway Park will host its first football game in over four decades on November 21, 2015. The game will pit hometown Boston College against Notre Dame under the lights and NBC will carry the match. Football hasn't been played at friendly Fenway since the Patriots (then the Boston Patriots) hosted their last contest there in 1968.

Fenway isn't just for baseball these days. Many a concert has been held there over the last several years including Bruce Springsteen, The Police and Aerosmith to name a few. But the real draw during the baseball offseason is the hockey.

In 2010, the third annual NHL Winter Classic was held on the grounds of Fenway on New Years Day. The Boston Bruins beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in overtime. The Winter Classic has now morphed into a college-based series called Frozen Fenway. Each year this annual series features hockey teams from local and regional colleges and universities, including many Hockey East teams.

Some one of these days I'm going to make it to a concert and Fenway or this Frozen Fenway thing—although sitting in Fenway during the winter months seems like it would be a tad chilly. I guess if it's not chilly, there will be no ice! Regardless, I bet it's a ton of fun! For all you Maine alums, the Black Bears will be playing Boston University on January 11th at 6:30pm.

I attempted a concert once... The Police played the day after my birthday in 2007 and I desperately wanted to go but I just couldn't pull the trigger on the tickets. How do tickets sell out so damn fast? It boggles my mind!

With so many weird corners and support posts in Fenway, I have to wonder how much of the hockey rink (or football field) will be obstructed from view. Still... it's Fenway and that in itself is reason enough to go!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Day 264: Most Touchdown Celebrations are Stupid

Let's just get this out in the open right now: I am NOT a fan of touchdown dances. I'm not a fan of sack celebrations or a player calling his own first down. But the TD jigs must go. I'm not saying a touchdown shouldn't be celebrated, I'm just saying it doesn't need to be obnoxious and offensive.

I prefer a nice clean forceful spike. Rob Gronkowski does it right—spike the ball as hard as you possibly can. The spike is a celebration everyone can understand. Although there was that one time early in the 2012 season where he tried a dance. It was bad. He should most definitely stick to the spiking.

Sometimes the spike can go horribly wrong. When Danny Amendola played for the St. Louis Rams, he spiked the ball and it bounced up into a guy's face. I guess he wasn't accounting for the angle the oblong-shaped ball would take once it left the ground. Oops. And in 2011, a NY Giants player didn't even bother to spike the ball, he just chucked it right into the face of an unsuspecting intern standing outside the end zone. I'm sure that left a mark.

It's almost as if some players spend more time practicing their stupid end zone dance routine than they do on bettering themselves for the actual game. Or maybe they don't even think about it and they just go with the flow. In 2000, San Francisco's Terrell Owens scored a touchdown and sprinted to mid field to perform his celebratory actions on the Dallas star logo. Dallas took offense and a melee broke out as a Cowboy's defender shoved him in anger. Not that he didn't deserve it. It was a pretty big douchebag move.

Then there are those that surely send coaches into violent fits of rage. DeSean Jackson was so interested in getting to his celebration that he let go of the ball before he crossed the goal line. He got credit for a fumble. You would've thought after the great Thanksgiving Leon Lett debacle of '93, players would be more careful of those types of miscues. When Lett ran back a Buffalo fumble and began his celebration just a tad early, Buffalo Bills' Don Beebee came up from behind and knocked the ball out of his hand and through the end zone for a touchback. Dumb ass.

Acrobatic flips are pretentious. Gyrating dances are flamboyant. Goal post dunks are just moronic—especially when the dunk is rejected (ask SF's Vernon Davis about that.) And pretending to moon the opposing crowd *cough* Randy Moss *cough* is just plain pompous. I hope there was an angry mob was waiting for him outside after the game. He deserved a pummeling for that shit.

But nothing is worse then the dances where you just shake your head and wonder what the hell just happened. Aaron Hernandez's touchdown dance always confused the hell out of me. Now I think it was some sort of gang sign for "I'm going to kill you if you talk to the wrong people." Or I could be wrong.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Day 263: Stephen Drew Still Remains Unsigned... Tick Tock.

After the Red Sox won the World Series, they immediately started preparing the team to defend their title in 2014. That meant trying to wrap up some of their free agents—making offers to the guys they wanted to come back, and letting the others go. They made $14 million qualifying offers to three guys: Mike Napoli, Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew.

We all knew Ellsbury wasn't coming back to Boston. That was pretty much a sure thing since last spring. I remember going to see the NESN traveling show in March—a kind of open forum where fans got to ask Don, Jerry and Jenny questions—and that's one that came up. Even then Jerry was certain Ellsbury would be gone after the season (much to the dismay of several young female fans in the audience.) I'm sure some folks thought after the World Series win, he might want to stick around for more of this winning thing, but the lure of the big contract took him away.

Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew also turned down their offers. Napoli had a contract offer from his former team, the Texas Rangers, that was rumored to be around four years. He turned it down. In the end it was a two-year, $32 million deal that he accepted to return to Boston. It's what he had wanted and luckily it worked out for everyone.

Stephen Drew's agent, Scott Boras (the douchebag), was positive that grass was greener on the other side. Drew turned down the one-year, $14 million deal to test the market. Boras convinced him that teams would be knocking down the door for his talents. The door has been left untouched. The problem with the players who have turned down a qualifying offer is that the team who eventually signs them, must forfeit their highest unprotected draft pick. For a mediocre offensive player, that's a lot to ask.

The Red Sox have been patient. They're not going to make some ridiculous offer to Drew to get him back. He's just not worth it. The Sox have a shortstop so it's not like their desperate. Xander Bogaerts is more than capable of playing on the big stage—as we learned this past October. And the Sox just acquired Jonathan Herrera, an infielder from the Colorado Rockies, in a trade involving Franklin Morales and minor league pitcher Chris Martin. Herrera will sure up the infield as a back up and reduce the need for the Sox to resign Drew.

This was probably pretty bad news for Drew because as of today, offers aren't just rolling in for him and the Sox might not need him. But that's par for the course for a Scott Boras client. This is what happens when your agent blows sunshine up your ass and makes you think you're better than you really are. Kind of like what he did with free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. He turned down a seven year, $140 million contract from the Yankees because Boras thought he deserved a contract closer to what Jacoby Ellsbury received. Boras countered and the Yankees ended up signing Carlos Beltran instead. Oops.

Drew and Choo will be two names to follow as the off-season continues... I can't wait to see what they end up with after what they turned down. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Day 262: San Francisco 49ers Take Feud to Next Level

Growing up in New England, I know a thing or two about sports feuds having witnessed years and years of the Boston vs. New York hostility. I was born to hate the Yankees. At an early age, I was introduced to the heart wrenching conflict. *cough* Bucky Dent *cough* And I'm still wondering what possessed me to marry a Yankees fan. (Haha!)

For most of my life, the New England Patriots never did anything to cause strife between them and another team. They just plodded along in a sea of mediocrity, embarrassing themselves a couple times on the big stage of the Super Bowl. When Bill Belichick took over and they started winning, that's when the tension became noticeable. I would hear non-Pats fans talk about how much they hated the Patriots and Tom Brady and it surprised me.

I had no idea that these types of feuds happened outside of the Northeast... but they do. The hostility between the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks has reached a new level. One that I have never seen before. And it's pretty freaking awesome. The teams are #1 and #2 in the NFC West with the Seahawks holding a two game lead with two games to play. Shit is getting real in that division.

The teams are trying anything to get a leg up on the other. Something to get under the other guys skin and knock them off their game just a little bit. Earlier this season, the Seahawks paid to have a "12th man" banner flown over the San Francisco game referencing the immense noise that the 'Hawks' fans generate in support of their team. So in response the 49ers bought a billboard in Seattle touting their five Super Bowl wins to none for the Seahawks.

The billboard might look a little like this.... well played, 49ers, well played.

Photo from: gofundme.com/Seattle-Billboard-Fund

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day 261: The Crash Reel: The Ride of a Lifetime

Do you remember what happened four years ago? Do you remember hearing that a snowboarder from Vermont had suffered a horrific halfpipe crash in Park City, Utah and was fighting for his life? Do you remember that this snowboarder was destined for greatness—less than two months away from the Winter Olympics in Vancouver where he promised to be the biggest competition for Shaun White.

Four years ago Kevin Pearce's life changed forever. In the specially built halfpipe in Park City, Pearce missed the landing on a trick and landed on his head. His friends watched as he was carted away on a stretcher and to the hospital where it was determined that the 22-year-old had suffered a traumatic brain injury. The Olympics forgotten—Kevin's family and friends watched as he fought for his life.

Now as the the Winter Olympics in Sochi approach, Kevin has dramatically switched focus. No longer is he the reckless trickster in the halfpipe. He still snowboards casually but has to be ultra careful since just one fall, one tiny bump to his head, could be serious. Kevin now spends his days with his outreach campaign called Love Your Brain. With this campaign, he aims to educate the public about traumatic brain injuries and those who are living with one.

While the campaign is still in its early stages, the goal is to inspire and educate about the human brain. Traumatic brain injuries have been in the forefront a lot lately due to the recent findings with NFL players who have suffered multiple concussions over their careers. And in general, TBIs have been on the rise with the advancements in equipment allowing athletes to do everything faster and bigger and harder.

This past Friday, The Crash Reel, a powerful documentary chronicling Kevin's accident and life before and after the incident, made its official theatrical release. The footage follows Pearce's life using more than 200 different sources to weave a tremendously personal story. It documents his struggles with his injury and learning to live with it. This film looks amazing and heart wrenching and inspiring. I can't wait to see it. There's even some Oscar buzz surrounding it.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Day 260: I Really Don't Want to Talk About the Patriots.

The last thing I want to talk about tonight is that hideous loss by the New England Patriots on Sunday. I don't want to talk about how their last-second luck has finally run out. Or about how on paper, they played a pretty good game offensively. But once again, they can't seem to play the defense necessary to hold back even a mediocre team. This type of play is going to get them ousted from the postseason pretty quickly if they can't pull it together.

This game against the Dolphins was one of those trap games. It was a game the Patriots should've won handily if they could just get out ahead of a team and actually hold the lead. The Pats could've clinched the division with a win. The 'Phins needed the victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. I guess we know which team wanted it just a little more.

My guts were in a twist the entire fourth quarter. I had that bad feeling, deep down, that this was going to be that game, kind of like that game against the Panthers, where fourth quarter heroics would fall short. Where the curse of the midget receivers would haunt Tom Brady. Where the absence of Rob Gronkowski would be as obvious as a neon sign flashing "free beer." Anyone who things the Pats are going to get past the AFC Championship game without that giant target called Gronk is delusional.

Tom Brady's stats for the game weren't bad—34-for-55 for 364 yards and two touchdowns. The one miscue happened on the last play of the game when the Dolphins intercepted #12 in the end zone to put the game out of reach for New England. And the Pats had two 100+ receivers for the day—Julian Edelman had 13 catches for 139 yards and Danny Amendola pulled in 10 catches for 131 yards.

Brady was visibly disgusted after the loss. In a short and not so sweet post-game interview, he said, "We had plenty of chances all day. We made some good plays and we made plenty of shitty plays."

He should be disgusted. A win against the Dolphins would've have kept the Pats atop the AFC and get them one step closer to home field advantage throughout the playoffs. I bet the Broncos were pretty happy. I know I wasn't.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Day 259: Big Drama in Big Waves on the North Shore

I'm currently sitting on my couch, wrapped in blankets, as the snow continues to fall in the first official Nor'easter of the season. It's a blustery 10˚ outside and there has to be at least 10" on the ground after blizzard conditions pummeled the area overnight and into the early morning hours. The whirr of the furnace has been nonstop since the wood stove died out shortly before bedtime.

So what better than to talk about something warm and sunny and tropical on a day like today. Something that takes place in the 80˚ weather in the bathwater-like Pacific and the giant waves on the North Shore of Oahu. This weekend was the Pipeline Masters surfing competition in the Triple Crown of Surfing. I bet no one was wrapped in a fleece blanket at this event!

I went to school for a semester in the early '90's at the University of Hawaii and one of the highlights of my time there was a trip to the North Shore to see a Pipeline competition. I'm not sure I had ever seen waves that big in my whole life. Frightening, really. I'm not big on water sports since I'm not a great swimmer. The mere thought of being pounded by a 15 foot wave makes me claustrophobic.

The conditions on the North Shore were perfect for a competition and the results were dramatic. I'm not going to lie, the only name I recognized was Kelly Slater and that's only because he's close to my age. Slater had a good chance to take the ASP World Title for the 12th time—possibly a number that he would be happy enough with to consider retirement. But that wouldn't be the case.

Australian Mick Fanning had other ideas. He needed to advance through just two rounds of the Pipe Masters to clinch the ASP title and infuriate Slater. And it was touch and go for 28 minutes of a 30 minute heat where he experienced wipe out after wipe out, slowly killing his chances. But with two minutes to go, a perfect set came rolling in. Fanning dropped in, perfectly navigating the wave, and emerged from the tube with a flawless ride. The score was enough to secure the title.

Kelly Slater, while reeling from the loss of what would've made a cool dozen ASP titles, still had something to prove with the task at hand. He handily defeated young surfing phenom, John John Florence to win his seventh Pipeline Masters. Florence, however, didn't leave empty-handed. He came away with his second Triple Crown of Surfing championship.

Somehow all this talk about Hawaii and sun and sand and surfing has sort of made me feel warmer. Or maybe I just have too many layers on under my fuzzy blanket. I can almost see the palm trees swaying in the breeze—as long as I don't look out my window.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Day 258: Jacoby Ellsbury Bids Farewell to Fans

On the same day the New York Yankees offically introduced Jacoby Ellsbury, the former Red Sox center fielder bid farewell to the city he's called home for the past seven years with a full page ad in the Boston Globe. The sentiment was nice... the ad was sort of lame.

I've always perceived Ellsbury to be a pretty self-centered individual. I could be totally off-base with my assessment of his personality—but if I was, don't you think he'd still be in Boston? It's all about the money for him and with that fancy and completely inflated contract he just signed, I guess he can afford a full page ad in the Globe. (I wonder if John Henry gave him a discount?)

He had a full page ad—that's roughly 11.5" x 21"—more than enough space to offer up a more heartfelt departing message to the fans that have had his back through injuries (and there have been a lot) and slumps and errors. The same fans that cheered him on when he was bashing home runs, but never turned on him when he wasn't. Instead, all those fans got was a giant picture of Jacoby holding up the World Series trophy (see? self-centered), and a couple of lines of copy containing little emotion.

Maybe Ellsbury's not very good with the writing thing or maybe his public relations person sprung this on him at the last minute so he didn't have time to come up with something really creative and meaningful. Salty's message was much more sincere...

Now let's see what type of reception Jacoby gets when the Yankees visit Fenway on April 22nd.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Day 257: World Series MVP Not Looking to Retire Anytime Soon

David Ortiz is 38 years old and doesn't appear to be slowing down in his role as the designated hitter for the Red Sox. At an age when a lot of baseball players are starting to suck a little bit and maybe thinking about moving on to a new career, Ortiz is still kicking high and hard. (That made me giggle a little bit because try to picture Big Papi doing a Rockette-style high kick... Right?)

In 2012, Ortiz signed a two-year, $30 million contract that will keep him in Boston through the 2014 season. But it's obvious that he would prefer to stay in Boston—this is his "f$%#ing city" after all. And after coming back to the lineup sooner than imagined, then shocking the world with numbers no one expected, it's only natural that Big Papi would like to secure a contract extension sooner rather than later. I think I would feel better too.

Ortiz was a machine last season. He missed just a couple of weeks early in the season while recovering from the achilles injury and reentered the lineup like it was no big deal. He batted .309 with 30 home runs and 103 RBIs with a .959 OPS in 2013. Not bad for a guy some thought was on his way out. And that's not even mentioning the postseason. He hit a pivotal grand slam in game two of the ALCS and then went on to be named the World Series MVP winning his third ring with the Red Sox.

It makes sense that he would want to try and get a deal done for 2015 now. Both he and the ball club are still riding the World Series high and visions of Big Papi bashing home runs are still fresh. Get that contract extension inked before there's any chance of an April slump in 2014. Not that I think that's going to happen... but you never know. Ben Cherington wouldn't talk about it much saying he didn't want to take the spotlight away from Mike Napoli and his shiny new contract.

I'm all for it. Nothing would make me happier than keeping the heart of the Red Sox clubhouse secured in Boston hopefully until he's ready to call it a day. His smile makes me smile.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Day 256: In Case You Didn't Know, Peyton Manning is the Ultimate Multitasker

Peyton Manning might not be very good at playing in frigid weather conditions. And he might have trouble beating the Patriots after being staked to a 24 point lead. He might even have difficulty moving around these days due to a bit of a bum ankle. What he doesn't have a problem with is multitasking.

There's a photo floating around the internet this week of Manning soaking his foot in a cold tub, looking at an iPad while wearing his helmet. Last I checked neither foot soaking or iPad watching seem dangerous enough to have to wear a helmet. So what was Peyton doing?

The easiest thing to figure out is the foot. Everyone knows Peyton's been dealing with some ankle issues so that makes sense. So maybe he's watching a movie to pass the time? No... he's watching game film on the iPad.

And the helmet? I could see wearing a life jacket... you know, in case he falls into the pool by accident. But a helmet? Evidently, the offense was out on the field running some plays so Manning wanted to listen in on the play calling and strategizing. He was also lecturing his tight end, Julius Thomas, on the game plan and repeating the calls as they came in.

Sounds like a classic case of a brown-nosing overachiever to me. We'll see how all this multitasking helps when they take on the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Day 255: MLB Takes Steps to Ban Home Plate Collisions

Major League Baseball announced at the winter meetings in Florida this week that they are working to ban collisions at home plate. Not only is the runner not allowed to hurl their body into the opposing catcher, but that catcher will also no longer be allowed to block the plate. The players' union will still need to approve the change so it's not set in stone just yet.

The league is trying to make the game safer—reduce the number of injuries and lower the risk of concussions—especially with the prevalence of head injuries over the past several years. They argue that intentional collisions are not allowed at other bases, so why are they allowed at home? Errr... maybe because it makes the game a little more exciting? And don't players sliding into second to break up a double play go after the guy taking the throw? Is MLB going to ban that too?

I understand the dangers, I've seen catchers sustain serious injuries or get knocked out. I've seen some get twisted up like a pretzel, bending in ways not meant for the human body. And I'm not trying to be heartless, but I sort of like the play. Maybe it's the same ferocity that draws me to football. Or maybe I think of it as a battle of wills—the will to make the out vs. the will to score the run and who wants it more. Or maybe it's just reinforcing the fact that maybe baseball players aren't a bunch of pansies and they can take a lick or two.

Some players are taking issue with the impending rule change. Pittsburgh Pirates' catcher, Tony Sanchez tweeted, "Nothing better than getting run over and showing the umpire the ball. Please don't ban home plate collisions. @MLB" And this is the guy the league is trying to protect afraid that they're trying to take away his badge of honor. Josh Reddick likened it to the strict rules the NFL has instituted on where you can hit quarterbacks and receivers.

The interesting part about this whole ban might lie in the ways that runners will attempt to reach home without getting tagged. While it's exciting to see a catcher emerge from the pile preserving the out by holding on to the ball, it will also be pretty cool to see what types of acrobatics are used to reach the base safely.

In the end, most rules involving contact are put into place for a players safety and I understand that. You never like to see a guy's career cut short on a play that didn't need to end violently... maybe they could just put restrictions on the hitting rather than ban it all together. But then again, I'm not the one facing the possibility of being bowled over by a guy running full speed.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Day 254: Sochi Olympics—Good News and Bad News for US

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics are officially less than two months away and that makes me ridiculously happy. I love the winter games so much more than the summer games and one huge reason is the timing. After the Super Bowl is over, other than hockey, February is a virtual sporting wasteland for me. But for two plus weeks in February, I'll be wrapped up in my fuzzy blanket, obsessed with everything Olympics.

There have been a few recent events that I think deserve to be mentioned. A couple good, one not so good. Bad news first?

US Figure Skating champion, Evan Lysacek, announced Tuesday that he would not be able to compete in the Sochi Games. Lysacek, who hasn't competed since winning the gold medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, has been battling a nagging torn labrum in his left hip since August. After months of recovery and rehab, the pain in his hip has not subsided and he now may need surgery to repair the injury. So even eight more weeks of practice won't do him any good and doctors have told him if he competes, he'll risk permanent damage to his hip. Bummer... he was so much fun to watch in Vancouver.

The good news is on the slopes. Lindsey Vonn suffered a catastrophic ACL/MCL injury back in February. I saw that gruesome tumble and I thought there was no way she would compete in Sochi. I guess I was wrong. Vonn has proven she's possibly super human. Less than six months after her surgery, she was cleared to get back on skis. It was exactly 176 days—beating both Robert Griffin III (195 days) and Adrian Peterson (226 days) who had similar injuries, back to her sport. Pretty amazing... Check out this infographic documenting her recovery. This is a determined athlete that is poised to kick some major ass in Sochi.

More good news for us Mainers. Seth Wescott, who also suffered an injury earlier this year in April, is also planning to be ready for Sochi. The 37-year-old two-time Olympic Gold Medalist in Boardercross has just released the first of a four part video series titled "Surgery to Sochi" which documents his recovery and rehab as he pursues his third gold medal in February. The first part of the video series can be seen here. Three more episodes will be posted on December 24, January 15 and February 5, just days before the Games start.

I'll be counting down the days until the Opening Ceremonies. And is it just me or are the Winter Olympics a lot easier to justify watching than the Summer Games? It's cold and dark out—what better way to pass the winter days.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Day 253: Salty Says Farewell to Boston

Jarrod Saltalamacchia has the longest name in baseball. It curves around the back of his shirt with a couple of those letters almost getting lost in his armpits. I feel like I just learned to spell it and now he's gone and I feel indifferent. He wasn't my favorite player, but he was tolerable—all except for the hair. He possibly had the worst "moss" in all of the world. It's like he invested in a lifetime supply of Soul Glo.

Salty spent the better part of three seasons in Boston and grew to love the city, the organization and the fans. But now the hair is gone. The long name is gone. Both now members of the Miami Marlins. The 28-year-old Floridian has returned home.

He couldn't leave without sending Red Sox fans a special message... a very well-said, much appreciated message. (From Boston.com)
I was going to say that I’ve made the decision to take my talents to South Beach but I heard that someone took that line already. Seriously, I wanted to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the city of Boston, its fans, the Red Sox and especially my teammates for providing me the best three-plus years of my baseball life. 
When I was first traded to the Red Sox in the late summer of 2010, I was thrilled and humbled to be able to join such a storied franchise in such a great city. But honestly, I never in my wildest expectations thought it would be the tremendous experience it turned out to be. This Southern boy became absolutely amazed at the warmth and hospitality that a New England town’s fans provided me and my family.  
It's pretty obvious that this past season was one that was special in too many ways to count. Walking to Fenway Park every day to go to battle with teammates I loved, in front of the world’s greatest fans was something that I’ll cherish long after my playing days are over. 
But I am now starting another chapter in my baseball life in a place that is actually and in reality, home. I’m very grateful for the opportunity the Marlins have provided and extremely excited to bring with me the lessons learned from my Boston experience. 
So I close with once again thanking all of you for the opportunity to be small part of Boston Red Sox history. It was an unbelievable experience.
See ya, Salty... best wishes in Miami with your new team.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Day 252: Dear Patriots, Just Stop with the Nailbiters.

The New England Patriots came dangerously close to losing to the Cleveland Browns. The 4-8 CLEVELAND BROWNS! There was a point where I actually thought to myself, "holy shit, they Patriots are going to lose to this team." And I sunk deeper into the couch as time ticked off the clock and the Browns lead still stood.

But then I remembered I was watching the New England Patriots. The Patriots who come from behind, pull off impossible comebacks and beat their opponents into submission. For the fourth straight week, the Patriots trailed at halftime, again posting dismal first half numbers. Tom Brady looked like a nervous rookie with a case of the yips.

After posting a goose egg on the score board through two quarters, Brady finally found his groove and finished the game 32-for-52 for 418 yards and two touchdowns—both coming in the second half. Shane Vereen became Brady's favorite receiver connecting on 12 catches for 153 yards. He needed someone he could count on after Rob Gronkowski went down in the third quarter with a reported torn ACL and Vereen stepped up to the plate.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Patriots had closed the deficit to 19-14 on a nearly six minute drive that ended in a field goal. The Browns answered with a score of their own on a quick three minute drive highlighted by a big pass to Josh Gordon. They were up 26-14 with just over two minutes to go in the game. The Pats needed two touchdowns to win and I wondered if even Tom Brady could bring his team back from this one.

And then again, I remembered I as watching the New England Patriots. Brady and company drove down the field in 1:38 to score on a short pass over the middle to Julian Edelman. Score: 26-21. There was a personal foul on the play giving the Patriots a kick off from mid-field instead of the 35. There was nothing left to do but attempt an onside kick—something the Patriots hadn't been successful in doing since 1995. A long, long time ago.

Kicker Steven Gostkowski dribbled the kick down the middle of the field, running next to it as it bounced onward towards the magical 10 yard mark. As it reached the 40 yard line, the ball bounced off a Cleveland player and was covered up by the Patriots, giving them the ball back with 1:01 left to play and great field position. I couldn't believe my eyes.

After a short pass to Danny Amendola, Brady launched a pass to Edelman in the end zone which he missed but the Browns were flagged for pass interference giving the Patriots the ball on the one yard line. It was a total bullshit penalty because the Cleveland player barely touched Edelman, but after some of the crap calls the Pats have fallen victim to, it's about time one of those calls went their way. Brady threw a short pass to Amendola for the score and after a failed two point conversion attempt, they had a slim 27-26 lead.

Now is when the sweating started. They left just over 30 seconds on the clock—more than enough time for the Browns to get into field goal range. Lucky for the Patriots, they fell just short and their kicker booted a 58-yard air ball to end the game.

Patriots pull off another miracle comeback while giving me a heart attack. No big whoop. Bad news about Gronk's ACL—pretty sure his season is over. But they'll find a way to win without him. Maybe next week will be an easy blowout.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Day 251: Best Beard in Baseball is Returning to Boston

“The beard is coming back to Boston!!! Couldn’t be happier!!” Mike Napoli posted on Twitter at 9:09pm on Friday. That's good news for Red Sox fans. They guy who grew the best beard in baseball is coming back to Beantown. Let the beard tugging continue!

Mike Napoli signed a two-year, $32 million deal with the Red Sox—which is a bit of a raise over last year and even the original contract he signed in the offseason last year before concerns over his hip caused the Sox to renegotiate to a one-year deal. He also earned bonuses for the number of games he played in over the 2013 season.

The 32-year-old made it clear he wanted to stay in Boston, and rumor has it he left a three-year, nearly $42 million deal on the table from the Texas Rangers, a team he had played with before. That right there speaks for his love for playing with the Red Sox and this great group of guys.

Napoli provided important protection for David Ortiz in the middle of the order and in 139 games he batted .259 with an .842 OPS, 23 home runs and 92 RBIs. The .259 batting average is right in line with his career average so I'm happy with that. Although he set a team record with 187 strikeouts, he also led the majors by seeing 4.59 pitches per plate appearance—definitely a skill the Red Sox placed much value on and they were pretty good at too.

The catcher turned first baseman showed good range in the field despite his hip problems which were controlled with medication. And he also displayed an amazing ability to grasp facial hair of any length in a celebratory beard tug.

I think the only problem with Mike Napoli is his inability to keep his shirt on during celebrations.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Day 250: Whoa, Cano! That's a Nice Nest Egg...

When the New York Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury for some ridiculous amount of money that he's totally not worth, I'm assuming after that deal a lot of NY fans were getting a little nervous about the resigning of their free agent second baseman, Robinson Cano. Especially since Cano was pretty much the only guy on the team that had any production last season. And guess what? Now he's gone.

So because they spent all kinds of cash on Ellsbury and a good chunk on a new catcher, Brian McCann, they lose out on who is probably their best player. The Seattle Mariners won the Robinson Cano lottery with a 10 year, $240 million contract. Basically this ties up the 31-year-old catcher for the rest of his career. Smart move by him and his agent, not so smart move by the Mariners.

When will teams learn that long-term contracts are not a good decision? Do they put the blinders on when it comes to these past ridiculous, high money deals? I can't even name one contract longer than seven years that made sense or has worked out for the positive for the team.

Oh wait... my mistake. The Alex Rodriguez deal—a measly 10 year $275 million contract—was a such a great choice.

I'm still so disgusted with all these foolish deals. I'm glad the Red Sox have opted for shorter contracts.

Happy Friday!!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Day 249: Seattle Seahawk's Seismic Activity

I've been to a couple of NFL stadiums and I'll agree... shit can get real loud, real fast. I've also been to NFL stadiums where the crowd was so rowdy that the concrete beneath my feet was literally shaking. Neither of those stadiums was Gillette. Sometimes I just don't think the New England Patriots' fans get quite rowdy enough.

The Seattle Seahawks fans might be the most lively bunch I've ever seen. In this past Monday night's game against the New Orleans Saints, the Seahawks crowd was so loud and raucous that they actually caused an earthquake. The event occurred after the 'Hawks recovered a Saints fumble early in the game and ran it back for a touchdown. A nearby seismometer used by the Northwest Seismic Network picked up the activity reporting that is measured between a magnitude 1 and 2.

This isn't the first time the Seahawks have caused the earth to shake. The last time was also against the Saints and happened in the playoffs back in 2011 when Marshawn Lynch scored a 67-yard touchdown to clinch a playoff victory.

In addition to moving the ground around them, the Seahawks fans have also set a new noise record for the loudest outdoor sports stadium. An official from the Guinness World Records recorded the crowd noise at 137.6 decibels on Monday night. They had initially set the record back in September but lost it to the Kansas City Chiefs fans in October. Now the Seahawks fans own the record once again.

No wonder Drew Brees couldn't pull anything together that night. He probably couldn't even hear himself think. I'm still having a hard time believing Seattle is 11-1.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Day 248: Jacoby Ellsbury: From Beantown to the Big Apple

I've never been a big Jacoby Ellsbury fan. I don't know him personally, but he always appears a little douchey to me. He's like a personality-less lump banking on his looks to make him appear charming. Sorry dude, even good looks don't make you likable. So needless to say, I'm not sad to see him go.

Now he's someone else's problem—and that someone just happens to be my favorite big-money-multi-year-epic-fail-contract team, the New York Yankees. Ellsbury signed a mega deal on Tuesday for seven years and $153 million. He just turned 30 and 30 + 7 = 37 and we all know the older you get, the more ouchies you get. And this is a guy who has had quite a few ouchies over his seven years in the bigs. So the Yankees have just agreed to pay nearly $22 million a year for a guy who most likely won't play seven full seasons.

Jacoby Ellsbury, when he's healthy, is a great asset to any team. His speed and ability to get on base make him a hot commodity. He has a career batting average of .297 and has lead the American League three times in stolen bases—three years that he actually played, that is. I'm not going to lie... if the Red Sox found a way to sign this guy to a short-term contract for less than ridiculous money, I would've been happy to see him back in center field. I'm glad Ben Cherington was able to show restraint and not spend money for essentially a part-time player.

The Yankees will find out real fast that this is a guy who won't play hurt. He's not a Pedroia-type player who works through injuries and really needs to be broken to sit out. He's a milker. Ellsbury needs to be 125% sure he's better before he'll risk going back in the game. We shall see...

I can't wait to see that classic Boston welcome back the first time he steps back onto the field at Fenway. I'm guessing there might be some booing. Maybe.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Day 247: And I Was Just Learning How to Spell 'Saltalamacchia!'

In 2012, Men's Journal did a poll amongst about 100 major league baseball players regarding a few topics—most hated man in baseball, most obnoxious fans, etc. AJ Pierzynski was voted baseball's most hated player by 34% of those surveyed. One pitcher said he talks a lot of shit and is rumored to be a bad teammate. These results concern me. Why, you might ask?

Well, it turns out that Pierzynski has just been signed by the Red Sox to a reported $8.25 million one-year deal for the 2014 season. Huh? They just won the World Series with a team full of nice, pleasant guys and then they go ahead and sign this meany? I don't get it.

The nearly 37-year-old Pierzynski's numbers are not bad—last year with the Texas Rangers he batted .272 with 17 home runs and 70 RBIs in 134 games. His numbers are very similar to Jarrod Saltalamacchia's, but he has about a decade on ol' Salty. The Red Sox will be the 6th team in AJ's 16-year career where he's batted a respectable .283 with 172 home runs and 800 RBIs. Probably not Hall of Fame numbers, but enough to get him paid.

But word on the street is he's kind of a douche. How's he going to react to the camaraderie that has been established in the club house? How's he going to react the first time Jonny Gomes tugs on his beard... if he agrees to grow one? I fear his ability to play as part of a team and not bitch and complain the first time he thinks he's not getting his fair share of playing time.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe Pierzynski has changed. Maybe he's seen the error of his ways and has seen the light of a positive work place. I can only hope that's the case. There have been too many pretentious assholes on this team in the past couple of years and there's no room for that anymore.

And shit... I just learned to spell "Saltalamacchia."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Day 246: Dog Vomit and Cheaters

This was the first time in 246 days I actually thought my streak was going to end. That's what non-stop dog vomit will do to a girl. Both dogs. Gross. It was almost as gross as the accusations made by Houston Texans defender (and obvious Rhodes Scholar) Antonio Smith that the New England Patriots could only have beaten the Texans by cheating.

According to Smith, it's really the only explanation as to how Tom Brady and the Patriots managed to come out after half time, erase a 10 point deficit and go on the handily beat the struggling Texans. Or could it possibly be...ohhhhh...maybe some adjustments made by Bill Belichick and crew to find the weakest part of the defense and exploit the shit out of it? Nah, clearly the Pats were cheating.
“Either teams are spying on us or scouting us . . . I don’t know what it is,” Smith said after the loss. “We had some ways that we were going to play this week that just got put in this week, and it was just miraculous that they changed up some things that they did on offense and keyed on what we put in this week to stop what they were doing. It was things that they had never done before out here. It just seems miraculous to me.”
Smith couldn't give any specific examples of plays where he believed trickery was taking place. I guess he just assumes that any team that could come out and erase the Texan's 10 point lead had to be pulling a fast one. In fact, maybe he should go back and look at the last 10 games straight that they've lost...there must be a hell of a lot of cheating going on. Let's not even mentioned that Houston has blown five straight first half leads... that seems miraculous to me.
“You would have to be a descendant of Tonestradamus [Nostradamus] to know what we put in this week to be able to change that fast,” Smith said. “It is a specific thing that was important to what we were going to do today, to how we would call the defense. They changed it up in a way to where you were in in-decision in calling the defense that way. There’s no way . . . we have not done it ever before and they had never changed it ever before. So it was just kind of fishy how it got changed. It just let me know that something just ain’t right.”
Obviously this guy has never played for a team where a coaching staff is observant and crafty enough to make the proper adjustments to win. Yeah... that's real fishy, genius.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Day 245: Week 13 and the Playoffs Loom Large for Many.

December might be my favorite time for football. With just four weeks left to the regular season, the playoffs loom huge in the not to distant future. Some are still struggling to secure a spot, while other teams are battling for position—division wins, first round byes and home field advantage. Entering this week, there are 24 teams that are either in a playoff spot or within one game of a playoff spot. The entire AFC East, AFC North and AFC West are all in the mix, and the Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks can all clinch a playoff berth this week.

After the events of the off-season with Wes Welker leaving, Aaron Hernandez murdering someone and Rob Gronkowski recovering, I wasn't sure what to think of this Patriots team. Would it just get written off as a "rebuilding" year? At 8-3 I think the Pats have surprised a lot of people and some of the things Tom Brady has achieved with very few weapons is pretty astonishing. With last week's historical comeback win over the Broncos, I'm beginning to now think they can do anything!

The Patriots are traveling to Houston to take on the 2-9 Texans. On paper New England should have no troubles coming away with a win, but these are the games that scare me. The Pats need to be ready for some serious heat on Tom Brady—the Texans blitz almost more than any other team in the league. And with a win today, New England will guarantee their 13th straight winning season.

When I was making my picks for this week, I noticed some real great match-ups. Denver at Kansas City? I'm almost looking forward to this game most of all. Both teams coming in at 9-2 and both teams coming off a loss. The Chiefs looked defensively lost in their loss to the San Diego Chargers and maybe now they're coming back down to earth after jumping out to a stunning 9-0 record. The Broncos have something to prove after that colossal upset in chilly Foxboro last Sunday night. With a high of 54 degrees expected in KC today, Peyton should do ok... his little hands won't be cold like they were last week.

New Orleans at Seattle—another tough pick. I initially picked the Seahawks but just changed it (which will most likely come back to haunt me.) Is anyone else wondering how the hell Seattle is 10-1 riding the best record in the NFL? Well, if you go back and look at the teams they've played, you kinda get the drift. The Saints will be the first real challenge since they played Carolina and San Francisco early in the season. Plus... really? Can the universe really let the 'Hawks go to 11-1?

I'm having a hard time accepting that there are only four weeks left until the playoffs. I'm not ready for the season to be winding down... but I am ready for a Pats win and we've got some crappy weather outside today that's perfect for hunkering down on the couch!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day 244: Here's a Movie I Can't Wait to See!

Last Monday, the Boston Red Sox were in the spotlight yet again. Less than a month removed from their stunning World Series Championship win, the Sox were given the red-carpet treatment at the Wang Theater in Boston for the premiere of 2013 World Series movie. This film "brings Boston's latest baseball championship to life with thrilling images and poignant sound that captured the drama of a special season."

I know there wasn't much I missed throughout the postseason, but having the World Series win documented always makes me happy. I have a box set of DVDs from 2004 that covers both the ALCS and the World Series and I'm not going to lie, it's kinda fun to go back to watch that fateful game on October 17, 2004 that catapulted the Sox into postseason history. Not so much for the Yankees fan in the household, but lots of fun for me.

Maybe it's the specialness of this 2013 season that makes me need to have it chronicled—the memorable season put forth by a bunch of underdogs who where just trying to rebuild a team. Maybe it's because Boston suffered such a tragic attack early in the season and this win was for the city. Or maybe it's because the World Series was won at Fenway for the first time since 1918. Whatever the reason, this Championship will hold a special place in my heart.

The 2013 World Series movie, narrated by Ben Affleck, chronicles the season starting early in spring training and follows the team throughout the season in into the playoffs. We get to see interactions between players, what they went through after the Boston Marathon bombing, walk-off highlights and an in-depth look at the postseason. And best of all we get to see a group of players who enjoy each other on the field and off.

Looking for a Christmas gift idea for me? I think I might have an idea...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Day 243: What About Ridley's Fumble-itis?

New England Patriots' running back, Stevan Ridley, has a horrible disease. For the past few months he's been struggling to overcome a bad case of fumble-itis. This disease strikes many a young running back and it's often difficult to find a cure. Fumble-itis, while infecting just one, can have a very bad effect on the whole team. Those afflicted run the risk of becoming permanent bench warmers or worse.

Ridley is a promising young running back. In 2012 he rushed for over 1,200 yards, scored 12 touchdowns and averaged 4.4 yards per attempt. He fumbled four times last season. Overall, a pretty respectable season. The Patriots had high hopes for Ridley to have similar numbers this year—minus the fumbles of course. 

That's not the case. Though 10 games, Ridley has four fumbles and it's not looking good for him to come close to matching his numbers from last year. His miscue in the first game of the season against the Buffalo Bills got him benched. And then he had a pretty good stretch... but in the last three games, things have gone down hill. He lost fumbles against Pittsburgh, Carolina and Denver.

The fumble-itis has become so bad that former Patriots' running back Kevin Faulk actually reached out to Ridley with some words of advice
"Don’t think about not fumbling, think about, how can I hold onto the ball? This isn’t college, this is your job. You have to figure out what’s going on, because if you don’t, you’re going to be out of a job."
Hopefully that will help cure this dreadful ailment. If not, Bill Belichick will continue to bench him which does nothing to boost his confidence. On the one hand, you want him to get back out there, back on that proverbial horse. But on the other hand, if he can't hang onto the ball, it's more detrimental to the team to have him on the field.

Stevan Ridley has great potential. The 24-year-old moves quickly and agilely and could become a real threat if he can get this problem under control. Defenses can smell fumble-itis a mile away and if all it takes it a helmet or fist to the ball to make Ridley cough it up, they'll continue to do that until every ounce of confidence this kid may have had at one point is gone.

And one other thing (and yes, I'm looking at you, Stevan)... when you have a good rush, please refrain from waving to the crowd for more cheers. Karma hates that kind of shit and so do I, so please just stop. You don't get to celebrate anything unless you're in the end zone with the ball.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day 242: Happy Thanksgiving, Sports Fans!

I would like to be able to say that the best part about Thanksgiving is the endless supply of football games... but then I'd be a liar. The best part about the fourth Thursday of every November? Spending time with my family and eating my face off.

My predictions for the Thanksgiving games — I'm going home teams all the way:

- Detroit over Green Bay

- Dallas over Oakland

- Baltimore over Pittsburgh (this was a toughie, but I feel good about my pick.)

Best wishes for a very Happy Thanksgiving to all... and enjoy your food coma!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day 241: Amazing Game-Winning College Basketball Shot

On this eve of Thanksgiving, I'm incredibly exhausted.... I've been cleaning literally all freaking day and I barely have the energy to chew my dinner. My brain has completely shut down and the probability of me actually coming up with a witty or intuitive post tonight is pretty low. Maybe I've been breathing in too many cleaning chemicals today or maybe I'm just lazy, but tonight you get to watch a video of a really amazing game-winning basketball shot.

Remember in school when there was a substitute teacher? Remember how often times that sub would push in the TV cart and cue up a movie? Well think of me as a sub and I'm offering up a (really super short) movie tonight instead of clever sports banter.

The scenario: Huntington University vs. Marian University. A game that had no meaning except to the two teams playing. With one second left on the clock, Marian sunk two free throws to take a one point lead. Huntington would need a miracle to win the game... with just one tick on the clock.

That was some shot... and some miracle!

Safe travels as you head to wherever it is that you plan to eat your weight in food on Thanksgiving! Gobble, gobble.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day 240: Brady Gives Manning a Pat.

Sometimes you just need a giggle... sometimes when life is swirling around you like a category five cyclone and you're so busy you can barely remember your name, let alone where you parked your car at the Whole Foods. Sometimes you just have to say screw it... screw the piles of paperwork sitting on your desk or the enormous proposal you've barely started. Just screw it and look at funny shit on the internet.

When I'm feeling down or swirly or overwhelmed by life, I normally turn to The Oatmeal for my yucks. This guy is the biggest friggin hilarious genius the earth has ever produced. His cartoons are nothing short of brilliant. And hilarious. Read about the undead parrot, I guarantee you won't be able to stifle your giggles. He brightens my days.

But there's something else that is good for a few yucks. The ever popular sports meme does wonders for your stress level. (It was a long time before I had any idea what the hell a meme was, and I'm still not quite sure if I know for certain.) This one showed up on my Facebook timeline today and, well, it kinda set the tone for the week.

Yes... I know... I suck because I fell asleep and never saw Tom Brady and Patriots make their historical comeback. But, yeah... this.

Oh Peyton... I know it's hard to throw the ball with mittens on. Even harder when you're wearing a skirt.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 239: Biggest Comeback in Franchise History and Guessed Who Missed It?

I have a confession to make. I fell asleep just after halftime and missed the thrilling comeback victory the New England Patriots pulled off over the Denver Broncos. I am an epic failure of a football fan. I let the busy day get the best of me and by halftime, I was asleep on the couch, drooling on myself. Damn those Sunday night games! The last thing I said as I made my way up to bed was, "Watch, I'm sure the Pats will mount some amazing comeback and I'll miss the whole thing." Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket.

Basically, I suck. When I woke up this morning to texts like, "Are u still up?" and "OMFG!" I knew I was in trouble right away. I've honestly never felt so physically sick for missing a game until this one. Stupid me didn't even think to hit record on the DVR... 

So here's what I saw...

• Stevan Ridley coughs up the ball. Well there's something new and different. Denver runs fumble back for a touchdown. Crap.

• Tom Brady gets creamed and coughs up the ball. Denver recovers, eventually scores another touchdown. Crap CRAP.

• LaGarrette Blount coughs up the ball. What the hell? Is fumbling contagious? Denver recovers yet again and turns the Patriots' misfortune into three points. At least it wasn't a touchdown.

• Broncos score another touchdown for a 24-0 lead and I sink further into a sleeping position on the couch. 

• Oh wait, the Patriots have life—they take the opening second half kickoff down the field for a touchdown. They played like the Broncos were still in the locker room. Oooh, see what happens when you don't give the ball away?

And here's what I missed... clearly all the good stuff.

• Denver fumbles! Yay! Looks like they caught the fumblitis! And the Patriots convert the turnover into another touchdown. 24-14

• Denver fails to score on their next possession. Patriots get ball back and score another TD... this time highlighted by a 43-year pass, Brady to Edelman. 24-21... boo-yeah!

• Denver gets the ball back and Peyton Manning promptly thrown an interception. It takes the Patriots just three plays to score yet another touchdown! Patriots now lead 28-24. Exciting!! (Surely more exciting than the sheep I was counting.)

• Denver goes three and out and the Patriots march back down the field and score a field goal to extend their lead to 31-24.

• Uh oh... Denver ties it up on a touchdown. Boo-hissssssss.

• Overtime! And back and forth we go and now no one can seem to score. 

• With just over three minutes to play in OT, the Patriots are forced to punt. Wes Welker is back to receive but opts not to catch it. The ball hits one of his guys... live ball... Patriots recover!! Field goal is good. Game is over. Patriots are victorious!! 

What a game! (I imagine, of course.) I can't believe I missed all that excitement. Although it may be a good thing because I most certainly would have peed my pants!! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day 238: Patriots Host Broncos and Old Friend, Wes Welker Tonight!

After a disappointing and controversial loss last Monday to the Carolina Panthers, Sunday night's game against the Denver Broncos looms pretty big for New England. For the entire season, this is the one game I've written off as a "hell no, they can't win" for the Patriots—especially after the Broncos burst out of the gate so strong and Peyton Manning looked virtually unstoppable. But now... my feelings have changed and I really think the Pats have a chance to take this game.

If you look at the AFC East standings, you'll see that the Patriots' lead over the the second place Jets and Dolphins isn't that sizable. If the Pats were to lose and either the Jets or 'Phins win this week, that lead gets just a little too close for comfort. So a win over the Broncos would be huge—huge for their hold on the division and huge for their confidence.

We also get our first glimpse of old friend Wes Welker in orange and blue. Welker is coming off an injury last week against the Chiefs where he left the game with a concussion. Most would have thought he was a definite no-go for this game but surprisingly he's been cleared by the medical staff and is confirmed to be playing Sunday night. I'm pretty sure a broken leg wouldn't keep Welker off the field against his former team.

As a side note, why is it that a hockey player is out weeks and sometimes months with a concussion but a football player comes back the next week? Seems fishy to me... I would think the chance for helmet-to-helmet collisions is much higher on the football field. This should make things interesting.

The Patriots do have some concerns within their secondary with four of the top five defensive backs listed ad questionable for this game. But Sunday night's weather could dictate the type of play and limit a high-flying passing attack with temps dropping into the 20s or lower and high winds expected. If both teams take to the ground, weaknesses in the secondary might not make much of a difference. Although the Patriots will need to step up their run defense since the Broncos are #4 in the AFC in rushing averaging over 90 yards a game.

On paper, it looks like the Patriots don't have a snowball's chance in hell to win this game. But honestly, especially this year, no game is a sure win. Maybe Bill Belichick should just plan to say something really mean to Wes Welker to throw him off his game. I mean, that is why he left New England, isn't it?