Monday, September 30, 2013

Day 183: First Half Recap: 6 Months Down, 6 Months to Go!

The Balls of All Sizes quest for 365 consecutive days of sports blogging is half over as of today. For six straight months, I have (surprisingly) stuck to my goal and it has been a blast doing it. I've learned a lot about sports I don't normally watch and blogged about some that don't really involve balls. A lot has happened over the past six months—some pretty awesome stuff and some pretty awesomely bad stuff. 

Just in case you're new to Balls, here are a few of my favorites:

What better way to honor my dad on his birthday than to write a post for him. He's the reason I love sports so much—it's his fault I care so deeply about every win and loss.

It just wouldn't have been fair to honor dad without giving mom her day in the sun. She also has a lot to do with my sports addiction. She allowed it.

Even though I'm not a Dodgers fan and really don't care what they do, I fell in love with this story and Matt Kemp's selfless act of kindness making a young man's day.

This post totally cracked me up to research and write and it was one of my most successful with 122 views. (For me, that's a banner day!!)

Even though there were a couple Hernandez posts that precede Day 88, this one is by far my favorite. Not only because I got the chance to rant about a completely ridiculous situation, but also because the damn post got 251 views. Must've been the title!

Just because I love Fenway Park so much... if anyone ever tears this ballpark down, I'll be forever broken. Baseball season is the only time of year I sort of wish I lived in Boston.

I actually got to the point of hating the Red Sox towards the end of last season. I went to a game in August and wanted so badly to throat-punch each and every guy on the field. It was just to nice to love this team again.

I've never been so disgusted with a publication as I was with Rolling Stone for glorifying that asshole who was responsible for the Boston Marathon Bombings. 

I love this post for many reasons, but mainly because I was half in the bag when I wrote it. And I still think I managed to write a pretty mistake-free post that actually made some sense!

This post was a favor for a friend who loves sailing. Who knew that I would become so caught up in the America's Cup, I would write not one, but three posts about the oldest trophy in sports. It was fun doing the research and learning all about this rich man's race.

Of course this one is on my list... I've never been to a division clinching game before so this was so much fun. What a season for the Sox!!

Well, I think that's probably enough favorites for now. I just hope the next six months provide as much material as the first six did. Minus murderers on my favorite teams... I've had enough of that. 

Do you have a favorite?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day 182: And That's a Wrap for Regular Season Baseball

Well folks... the 2013 MLB regular season is officially ends today and for the first time since 2009, the Red Sox will see some October action. It makes me happy and nervous all at once. While I love October baseball, when the Sox are involved, I spend the entire playoffs in a severe anxious state. Please pass the Xanax.

The results looks a little something like this:

American League:
East—Boston Red Sox are Champions of the East after completing a magical worst to first turnaround. They also clinch home field advantage with the best record in the AL.
Central—Detroit Tigers win the Central for the third straight season.
West—Oakland A's also repeat as West winners and prove there's something to that Moneyball.

National League:
East—Atlanta Braves finally win the division after finishing the last three seasons in second place.
Central—St. Louis Cardinals clinch not only the Central, but also the best record in the NL and home field advantage.
West—Los Angeles Dodgers made a miraculous about face earlier in the season. They were dead last at the end of June and looking pretty bad.

American League: This gets tricky. There are three teams tied for the two wild card spots—Tampa Bay, Texas and Cleveland. So Tampa will play at Texas tomorrow and the winner of that game will face Cleveland on Tuesday. The winner of that game will face the Red Sox on Friday.
National League: The surprising Pittsburgh Pirates will play the Cincinnati Reds in a one-game playoff on Tuesday, October 1st.

AL Divisional Playoff Match-ups:
Detroit at Oakland
Tampa, Texas or Cleveland at Boston

NL Divisional Playoff Match-ups:
LA Dodgers at Atlanta
Pittsburgh/Cincinnati at St. Louis

So here we go! This is where the fun (and my prescription drug abuse) begins!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day 181: What happens when you get doinked in the head with a punted beer can?

Last Friday night, the Red Sox clinched the AL East for the first time since 2007. And then they celebrated. And celebrated... and celebrated some more. They donned their new "We Own the East" t-shirts, goggles, and in some cases, army helmets, and let their hair (and beards) down. Unfortunately, we left Fenway before the booze-soaked team emerged from the clubhouse, but as with everything, there's a video.

The video showed a group of guys that had come into the 2013 season with something to prove. They had a score to settle... they needed to wash away the disgrace of 2012's finish. And with a team of "good guys" and "clubhouse guys," they did just that. I'm not sure there was Red Sox fan around that didn't question at least one signing over this past off-season. But now... I'm guessing no one is questioning anything.

Part of the celebration included Jonny Gomes, sporting an army helmet and goggles, punting Bud Lights into the stands. Clearly, Jonny has a fondness for punting things. He punted his own helmet during a walk-off home run back in June. I hope his cleats have steel toes.

But the beer can punting went slightly awry. One doinked a 74-year-old fan in the forehead and left a gash that required stitches. This could've been a PR nightmare for the Red Sox... but honestly, if you're hanging around Fenway Park that long after a game to witness the celebratory activities, you must be a big enough fan so that you're not going to slap a lawsuit on your favorite team. Hopefully...

Jonny Gomes felt horrible about the incident and reached out to the fan. Turns out the fan was pretty upset about the whole thing, but not because of the beer boinking episode. WEEI's Rob Bradford caught up with Gomes recently for an update on his conversation with the fan in question, Greg Hanley.
“I’m definitely bummed out that it happened. I reached out and talked the guy, Greg, for a while,” said Gomes. “He was actually mad that it did hit him because he played third base in high school and he played on the grass and he really does have good hands. He doesn’t want people to think he has bad hands. He’s taking it hard. He was like, ‘I used play third base. I used to play on the grass. I never played back.’”
Gomes made sure Hanley was well taken care of. Not only did he give him a jersey signed by a number of the Red Sox players, but he also is hooking him up with some playoff tickets. Crap... if I knew that was in the cards, I might of stuck around and thrown myself in the path of a flying beer can.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 180: Happy Birthday, Virtual First Down Line!

Today is a day for celebrating... For one, it's my seventh wedding anniversary. It's also my mother-in-law's birthday... Happy Birthday!! And she shares a birthday with two pretty cool things: both Google and the virtual first-down line turn 15 today. If you asked me how long either of those things has been around, I would've guessed longer. I can barely remember a day when I couldn't turn to Google for the answers to all of my questions!

I know Google doesn't have anything to do with sports specifically, but if you get the chance, check out the Google Doodle today. You get to whack a pinata full of virtual candy. I may or may not have replayed it three or four times. Like I thought some candy was going to shoot out of my computer or something. It didn't.

But the real celebration here is for the virtual first-down line. Any football fan knows how difficult it is to tell if your team has gained enough yardage for a first down. The invention of the yellow line, seen only on the television screen, has made armchair referees out of all of us. What? Why do you need to measure for that first down? That running back clearly made it past the yellow line! I bet the referees on the field wish they could see that line. And the players too.

The virtual first-down line was invented in 1998 by SportVision who basically took existing technology that was invented 20 years prior and worked out a lot of the initial bugs and started shopping it around. ESPN was the first to buy in to the technology, introducing it in a Ravens-Bengals game in Baltimore. They were even smart enough to negotiate a year of exclusivity which really pissed off Fox who wanted to use the yellow line during that year's Super Bowl. ESPN said no.

Over the past decade and a half, the technology has improved and now you can't imagine a game without that line. At least I can't. Some folks often wonder where the line is when they attend their first live football game!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day 179: Is it possible I kinda feel bad for the Yankees?

Something rare happened Wednesday night in New York. The Yankees were officially eliminated from the 2013 post season after losing to the Tampa Bay Rays. It's only the second time in 19 seasons they will not play October ball. And it's the first time since the new Yankee Stadium opened in 2009. It will be weird to not root against them this fall...

There was nothing they could've done about it. Even if they won, it didn't matter. They were actually eliminated before their game even ended when the Cleveland Indians beat the White Sox to officially thwart any slim chance New York may have still had.

Do I feel bad? Sort of. I feel bad for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. I feel bad that their careers are going to end with a fizzle. That these last outings are all for nothing. I don't feel bad for Alex Rodriguez. In fact, I think he was a pinstriped curse. He's a greedy, egotistical piece of shit whose only concerns in life revolve around money and how and when he's going to get paid... I bet he tries to spell TEAM with an I. The best thing that could happen to this team and the game of baseball is that A-Roid gets suspended for a long, long time.

The Yankees never really had a chance this season. The injury-plagued roster often featured names no one recognized, or names you knew but you probably thought they had retired long ago. They spent a large portion of their season without names like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Kevin Youkilis. And as if to add insult to injury, Yankees pitching lacked its usual pizzazz, and while CC Sabathia had the most wins with 14, he also racked up 13 losses.

With the oldest roster in the Major Leagues, the Yankees will have some serious off-season decisions to make with regards to their future. The biggest being whether or not to resign Robinson Cano whose .315 batting average is about 40 points higher than any other starter. Then there's the issue of what to do with the 39-year-old Jeter, who now looks like that gimpy, aging shortstop you sort of feel bad for because he just doesn't cover the ground like he used to.

Like any decent Red Sox fan, I will admit that, while I hate the Yankees with every fiber of my being, I still respect the rivalry and alway hope for a 2004-like playoff battle.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Day 178: Holy America's Cup, Batman!

The 35th America's Cup is officially over and the Auld Mug is unbelievably staying on American soil after a stunning Oracle Team USA victory over Emirates Team New Zealand Wednesday afternoon. For just the third time in the Cup's history, it came down to a winner-take-all race and Oracle took that race by 44 seconds after trailing at the start.

But that's almost not the real story here. The USA team began the America's Cup behind after a two point penalty for "juicing" their boat. So in a first to nine wins contest, the Oracle team needed to win 11 races. After the first 11 races, the Team USA crew found themselves in a deep hole trailing the Kiwis 8-1. It was starting to look as if the Cup was making a long trip down under.

And then something miraculous happened. Something that's never before happened in an America's Cup contest. In its 162 year history, no team has ever overcome a deficit so large to win... and no team has ever won eight straight races.

This collapse by the Kiwis has to be the biggest of all time in any sport. Bigger than the New York Yankees losing a 3-0 series lead to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS. Bigger than the New England Patriots losing in the Super Bowl after an undefeated season. Bigger than Phil Mickelson's failure at Winged Foot in 2006. Huge.

Oracle Team USA deservedly erupted in celebration after their win with hugs, high-fives and champagne showers for the team members and owner Larry Ellison aboard the winning yacht. Nineteen days is the longest the contest has lasted since its inception in 1851.

I would like to say I cozied up to a bar somewhere and watched this miracle unfold, but I didn't. You see... I didn't watch a single race live. If you know me at all, you know of my severe sports superstitions. I couldn't be the jinx that stymied this historic comeback.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Day 177: Moose Hunting is a Sport, Right?

Ahhhh... fall. My favorite time of year. But not a favorite time for Bullwinkle. For it is late September when the moose hunt starts and the large, spindly-legged moose gets just a tad jumpy. With the arrival of crisp air comes a surge of hunter orange and pick-up trucks to the Maine woods. So break out your .308, site that baby in, and make sure your freezer is empty.

Maine's moose hunting season runs for three weeks each fall—one in September, October and November, and permits are issued through a lottery system. The moose population is currently estimated to be about 76,000, according to state wildlife biologists. In 2012, the overall success rate for the three weeks came in at 79% with 2,937 moose killed out of a possible 3,725 permits issued.

This year, 4,110 permits were issued—and one of them went to my household. Not me though. I've been picked in the lottery once before, and despite the nearly 80% success rate for permit holders, we came home empty handed. Alas... I've been deemed moose hunting bad luck. I'm okay with that. Driving around in the woods for 10 hours a day, desperate to spot the tall, dark and delicious, really can screw with your mind. Every single thing in the woods looks like dinner. No joke.

According to Quigley's Outdoor in Fort Kent, Maine, as of 2pm Tuesday afternoon, they had tagged 63 moose. One bull tagged had an antler spread of about 60 inches and weighed in at just over 1,000 pounds—one of several plus-1000 pound animals already harvested. Not sure you want that one coming over the hood of your car. The majority of a moose's weight is carried in their body and they're long, skinny legs don't hold a chance in a vehicle collision, most likely sending that giant body through your windshield.

Personally, I'm not much for killing the furry animals... I leave that to men-folk. But I pity the ill-fated, unsuspecting partridge that wanders out into the road. I'll shoot the feathers right off that poor bastard.

Hopefully a moose lasagna is in my future. And moose chili. And moose stew... you get the idea.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Day 176: Ok, Patriots... You're Getting a Wee Bit Better.

Honestly, do you remember the last time you felt so squeamish watching the Patriots? I think maybe the 2008 season when Tom Brady went down with that knee injury in the first game and we had to watch Matt Cassel every week. Although they didn't make the playoffs that year, they still surprisingly finished with an 11-5 record. This year, I'm on the verge of nervous vomiting for four solid quarters every week.

But as nauseous as the 2013 Patriots make you feel with their lack of dependable receivers and shaky running backs, they've still taken advantage of the first three soft weeks and have a 3-0 record to sit atop the east tied with the Dolphins. Tom Brady is starting to get his groove back but there were times in Sunday's win where even he looked a bit wobbly.

Long gone are the days where he can flub a pass, throw in at someone's shoe tops, and have them grab it just before it hits the ground. Brady has been spoiled for nearly his whole career with Pro Bowl caliber wide receivers and big, sure-handed tight ends. That's not the case right now and he has had to work on his relationships with the young newbies, teaching as the season progresses. And this week he was rewarded with some great catches.

The un-drafted Kenbrell Thompkins finally caught a touchdown pass. Make that two. Overall, he caught three passes for 41 yards. Aaron Dobson was targeted the most catching seven passes for 52 yards. The running game heated up too with both Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount combining for 28 rushes and 151 yards. And more importantly, no fumbles.

This was definitely a better all-around performance than the past two weeks by both offense and defense. Only three points allowed... I'll take it. But they also haven't faced any team with some real fire power—just a bunch of rookie or no name QBs. They won't have the luxury of facing insignificant teams for the whole season. If they can't pull their shit together, Peyton is going to eat them for lunch.

Word on the street is that Gronk will be back on the field for the upcoming game against the Falcons. He will be a welcome addition.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 175: Yaz Gets a Statue.

The Boston Red Sox honored one of their greats before Sunday's game with a statue outside the right field gate. Carl Yastrzemski, a name synonymous with the Red Sox, played in Boston his entire 23-year career. And today, he was honored with a bronze statue which replicated a tip of the cap—a gesture that Yaz gave the crowd after his final at bat in 1983.

I wasn't born when he had his Triple Crown season in 1967, but as a kid, he fast became one of my favs. Two key moments stand out in my memory: hit #3,000 and his retirement.

On September 12, 1979, he recorded his 3,000th hit and became just the 15th major league player to achieve this feat. He also became the first American League player to reach 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. The hit came against the Yankees (fitting) and South Portland High alum, Jim Beattie. I hung the newspaper story on my bedroom wall where it remained for years.

When he retired in 1983, it was like someone stole my best friend. (Although I'm pretty sure Yaz was definitely not BFF material.) It was the first time I experienced one of my favorite Red Sox players retiring. Sure... some had left for other teams... I'm looking at you Rick Burleson and Fred Lynn... but this was the first time one actually stopped playing baseball. I was devastated.

Looking back, Yaz had such an amazing career. He was an 18-time All-Star and a 7-time Gold Glove winner. He won the Triple Crown in 1967—an accomplishment that didn't happen again until just last year when Detroit's Miguel Cabrera won it. Yaz was also named MVP that year.

Yastrzemski, not known for being emotional, was obviously touched by the gesture.
"It means tremendous importance to me," he said, standing at the base of the statue after a 30-minute ceremony. "This is as important to me as being elected to the Hall of Fame and having my number retired. It's a tremendous honor."
I wonder what Yaz's beard would look like if he played on this team?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Day 174: Red Sox Clinch AL East... And I WAS THERE!!

It was a gorgeous night to be at Fenway Park and even better, the magic number was one! My dad and I embarked on a trip to Boston with hopes of getting to be a part of the division clinching celebration. All we needed was a win!

When I got the tickets for the Red Sox vs. Blue Jays game on September 20th, I figured the game would mean nothing. I figured it would just be another in-division game that the Red Sox would most likely win seeing as the Blue Jays have taken up permanent residence in the AL East basement... and, well... the Sox just find ways to win this season. I honestly had no idea how special the night would turn out to be.

The Blue Jays made the Sox work for their win. Boston scored early, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, and then added another run in the third. Toronto scored one in the fifth and kept the game close until the Sox broke out for three runs in the seventh. With a 5-1 lead going into the eighth inning, it was pretty evident to most in attendance that this game was in the bag. The ballpark was alive. Barely a single soul departed early. You could see the Sox owners make their way down to the seats next to the dugout in anticipation.

Junichi Tazawa replaced Jon Lester in the top of the eighth. Lester managed to hold the Jays to just one run on five hits while striking out eight over seven innings. Tazawa struggled a bit giving up a two-run homer to pinch hitter, Adam Lind. And now we're looking at a 5-3 lead and a lot of fingernails got a lot shorter. With one out, John Farrell called upon Koji Uehara to come in and complete a five out save. I'm pretty sure he was trying to give me a heart attack.

I think Koji is even more dynamic and fun to watch in person. He did give up a couple hits in his outing, but he struck out the final batter of the game swinging to empty the dugout and turn the pitchers' mound into a sea of jumping, bearded kids. They traded game jerseys for We Own the East t-shirts and donned ski goggles in preparation of the champagne attack.

We stayed until the end. We witnessed that final strike and that mound mosh pit. There's just something about being there in person... to hear the whooping and yelling and back slapping. Experiencing first hand the love these guys have for each other and the hugging and beard tugging. We left when the celebration moved into the clubhouse so we weren't around when the booze-soaked team emerged from the dugout. 

We missed Mike Napoli and David Ortiz spraying beer on fans above the dugout. We missed an army helmeted Jonny Gomes punting beers into the stands (and nailing some guy in the face... oops!) Even Koji got in on the fun, sneaking up on the fans with a spraying champagne bottle as they chanted his name. He even hopped up on top of the dugout to high five the remaining fans. In case you missed HERE.

The Red Sox complete the only worst-to-first turnaround in the club's history. All I know is this year... I believe in magic!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Day 173: A Movie Review: 42

It's no secret, I love me a good baseball movie. I have my favorites, and now have another one to add to the list—"42." I'll just say this... even if you're not a baseball fan and you feel like it's almost more torturous than watching paint dry, you must see this movie. (When I underline and bold something, you know I mean business!) The number 42 is synonymous across baseball with courage, bravery and determination.

The movie is the story of Jackie Robinson. In 1947, after approximately 60 years of segregation, he broke the color barrier in major league baseball and left the Negro league for the bright lights of Brooklyn and a Dodgers' uniform. Robinson overcame more obstacles than probably any other player and paved the way for men of all races to play professional baseball. To honor what he did for the sport, on April 15, 1997, Major League Baseball retired Robinson's #42, throughout the entire league—the first time any number had been retired across an entire sport.

IMDb synopsis of the movie:
In 1946, Jackie Robinson is a Negro League baseball player who never takes racism lying down. Branch Rickey is a Major League team executive with a bold idea. To that end, Rickey recruits Robinson to break the unspoken color line as the first modern African American Major League player. As both anticipate, this proves a major challenge for Robinson and his family as they endure unrelenting racist hostility on and off the field, from player and fan alike. As Jackie struggles against his nature to endure such abuse without complaint, he finds allies and hope where he least expects it.
Jackie Robinson played just 10 years in the majors, but made every second count. He was Rookie of the Year in 1947 and won the MVP in 1949. He played in six World Series and won in 1955 with the Dodgers. He was a six-time All-Star from 1949 to 1954. For a man that was persecuted and mistreated, and at times bullied, he did well to put it all aside and just play ball. And he played great ball.

My hat goes off to Branch Rickey for seeing a special baseball player and human being in Jackie, and for changing the face of baseball for generations. In this day and age, it's so difficult to watch how he was treated, not only by some of his teammates, but by fans, opposing players and even managers. Imagine if there were still Ben Chapmans in the game...

See the movie. Trust me.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Day 172: Finally... A Hockey-Tough Baseball Player

Remember back in the NHL playoffs when Boston Bruins' forward, Gregory Campbell, fell victim to a Pittsburgh Penguins slap shot rocket that broke his leg? And remember how he continued to play almost a whole minute to finish out his shift with the broken leg? You think to yourself... holy shit, that's one tough hombre, right? Cleary, hockey players are just born tough.

But then you flip over to a baseball game and OH MA GAWD, the pitcher has a hangnail and ends up on the 15-day DL. Call the whaaaaaambulance! Red Sox pitcher, Clay Buchholz, missed over three months of the season with a crick in his neck. But lo and behold, I have found a baseball play with hockey toughness. It's a Christmas miracle!

The New York Mets' shortstop, Ruben Tejada, might be the biggest bad ass in all of the Major Leagues. For real. During the ninth inning of the Mets' 5-4 victory over the Giants on Wednesday night, Tejada was chasing down a pop-up into short left field and collided with the left fielder. Both of these guys were sprinting to the ball and when the left fielder went low to try and get out of the way, their legs got tangled.

The 24-year-old infielder got back up on his feet, shook it off and headed back to shortstop. It wasn't until later he learned he broke his right fibula in the collision. What the...? When you watch the video in regular speed, it looks like no big deal. But when you slow it down, you can see when the break occurs. Take a look... and don't worry, it's definitely not Joe-Theismann-bad.

Check out the video HERE.

Lucky (I guess) for Tejada there will be no post season play for the Mets so he'll have plenty of time to heal up before the start of the 2014 season.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Day 171: Red Sox closer Koji Uehara is human...but at least he doesn't suck.

The Red Sox have slogged through closers since Jonathan Papelbon left the team after the 2011 season. Over his seven years with the Sox, Papelbon was pretty awesome with 219 saves and a 2.33 ERA. The 219 saves makes him the Red Sox career saves leader. And in August of 2007, he recorded his 30th save and became the first Boston pitcher to ever have two 30-save seasons—he ended up with six straight 30+ save seasons.

There was not much that got the stands at Fenway rocking like the gravelly opening notes of Dropkick Murphy's "Shipping Up to Boston" as he trotted in from the bullpen. I miss those days. Things have been... shall we say... somewhat painful since Paps departure.

In the two seasons since, the Sox have seen numerous bodies toe the rubber with the game on the line in crucial late inning situations. Up until now, none of them has done anything earth shattering. For a fleeting moment, Daniel Bard seemed to be the obvious choice as Papelbon's successor. And then Bobby Valentine broke him—tried to make him a starter and completely ruined a young pitcher's career. Bard never recovered and is no longer with the team.

Andrew Bailey was acquired before the 2012 season to fill the roll, but suffered a thumb injury in spring training and basically did diddly-squat the entire season. Enter Mark Melancon who ended up getting shelled in April, was shipped off to Triple-A Pawtucket and never saw action in Boston again. And then there was Alfredo Aceves... he butted heads often with the manager and felt he deserved more credit than his stats (5.36 ERA and 25 saves in 69 relief appearances) warranted.

The 2013 season started with a presumably healthy Bailey and newly signed Joel Hanrahan. All set, right? Nope. Hanrahan injured his elbow early in the season and Bailey just plain sucked. So now what?

John Farrell was forced to look deep into his bullpen for a reliever sturdy enough to last and poised enough to stay focused with the game on the line. Enter veteran right-hander Koji Uehara. The 38-year-old, in his first year with the Sox, had just 14 total saves in his previous four seasons split between Baltimore and Texas. And you want to do what, Mr. Farrell?

But Farrell must have seen something special in Koji. Since being handed the closer role in late June, he has 19 saves. But even more impressive is the 37 straight batters he has retired since July 9th. That streak ended on Tuesday night against the Orioles but Koji didn't let it distract him. He came back and got the next three batters but allowed a sac fly to drive in the go ahead run and give him his first loss of the season. Still...color me impressed.

So we find out that Uehara is not Superman, but he's still a super closer. I love his energy, his fire, his intensity, his high-fives and his fierce fist-pumping. Just one more guy picking up the slack, like so many players have done during this amazing season!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Day 170: America's Cup Update: These Guys are INSANE!

Retaining the America's Cup trophy, the Auld Mug, is looking bleak for the Oracle Team USA. They currently trail the Emirates Team New Zealand 7-1 which means the Kiwis need to win just two more races to swipe the Cup and take it Down Under.

In watching these races, I've come to one conclusion. The guys manning these catamarans are freaking insane. The boats look like they're almost floating, only touching the water on thin, underwater daggerboards which reduce drag and increase speed. Like they need to be going any faster. While doing research for my first sailing post, I discovered that just six years ago, the average top speed of these yachts was 10 knots. This year, it's 40 knots.

What I failed to understand was how the equipment evolves over the years and that the Cup's defender gets to determine the race rules, including what types of boats are used. Billionaire Larry Ellison of Oracle Team USA chose the new AC72 catamaran over the heavier, single-hulled boats used in the past. These new boats not only hydroplane on the water at speeds of almost 50 miles per hour, but they are the fastest, most expensive and most dangerous ever built. Nothing like adding a little peril to your day.

The USA team really had an uphill battle and the chances were slim they can come back from the two point penalty they were given for illegally weighting their boat. And some of their tactics have come back to bite them in the ass. In race five, Oracle attempted a sharp tacking turn with the hull out of the water. When the maneuver failed, the sailboat stopped almost dead in its tracks, and the New Zealand team won the race. Ooops.

The Kiwis nearly had a tragedy of their own on day five. And this is were the title of the post originated from because if you watch this video, I think you'll agree that this is some insane shit. I most certainly would've soiled my draws had I been on this boat. But then again, I'm pretty sure you couldn't pay me enough to participate in one of these races.

Crazy, scary shit. I will admit, I'm not much of an adrenaline junkie so reaching ridiculously high speeds while skimming across the top of the water doesn't much appeal to me. Plus, I'm not a very good swimmer. Golf is more my speed.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Day 169: Red Sox Bid Fond Farewell to Mariano Rivera

The scene—Fenway Park. Sunday night baseball. Red Sox versus Yankees. What more could you ask for on a crisp, mid-September evening. The Red Sox were going for the three-game sweep, to continue to expand their division lead. The Yankees were just trying to save any chance of making the post season.

Normally a game like this would have a whole lot of meaning. The rivalry demands it. But this year, the Yankees, a team plagued by injuries, are struggling to stay in the wild card race. And the Red Sox have got the pedal to the metal, not letting up on their quest to win the AL East pennant for the first time since 2007.

Sunday night was also about saying farewell to an old friend. Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera, retires at the end of this season and has been on a sort of good-bye tour throughout MLB. Each team greeting him with the same class he has displayed over his 19-year career. Each team presenting him with a special momento... the Cleveland Indians gave him a gold record of Metallica's "Enter Sandman"—his entry song. He got a surfboard from the Oakland A's inscribed with the #42. The Minnesota Twins presented him with the "Chair of Broken Dreams"—a rocking chair made of broken bats.

The Red Sox display of gifts was one of the biggest so far. They began with a painting of Rivera's reaction that Opening Day in April of 2005 when he was greeted with a standing ovation from Boston fans as they raised the World Series flag. He also received the #42 green placard that would indicate he was pitching on the Green Monster—it was signed by every member of the Sox team and served as a reminder that no one will ever wear that number again.

But that's not all... he was given a Fenway Park seat from 1934 with the #42 on it. It was blue, of course. And a bullpen rubber inscribed with the following that appeared to make Mo a little misty: "We tip our cap to the great Rivera, a real gentleman, a fierce competitor and a most worthy opponent." The organization finished off the ceremony with a donation for Rivera's charity work in Panama from the Red Sox Foundation.

Sure, the Red Sox may have rubbed in the 2004 Yankees' collapse just a bit too much, but it was all in good fun and Mo didn't seem to mind, he was all smiles throughout the short ceremony. In case you missed it...


Good luck, Mo! By the way, you're going to need a whole new room in your house for all your new stuff!!

PS. The magic number is four!!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Day 168: A stressful Sunday of football... and the Patriots weren't even playing.

Normally a Sunday afternoon, lounging on the couch, watching football games that don't include your team is pretty relaxing. Normally I wouldn't care who won and lost... except when I have money on the line. Money makes every game an important one, even if I do have to root for teams I hate. Do you know how painful it was to be pulling for Tony Romo this afternoon? I almost made myself vomit.

Every early game except one was decided by at most one score. And the crop of late games are starting off on the same foot. There was just one blowout when Aaron Rogers led the Packers over RGIII's Redskins. Lead changes were plentiful and teams I thought were going to suck this year are showing serious signs of life. A couple of those teams are in the AFC East and will most certainly give the Patriots a run for their money.

Both the Buffalo Bills and the Chicago Bears won their games in the closing seconds. I picked Chicago... I did not pick Buffalo. And then Houston came back from eight points down to tie up their game with Tennessee in the final seconds and went on to win in overtime. The Miami Dolphins held out for a win over the Colts—Andrew Luck was unable to orchestrate a game winning drive in the final minutes. Thanks a lot, Luck... I lost that one.

And now we're on to the Manning Bowl... Denver Broncos vs. New York Giants... Peyton vs. Eli. At the half, it's a close 10-9. I've got to root hard for Peyton *gag* and Wuss Wes Welker, but that's not as bad as rooting for the Giants. If you're the Manning parents, who the hell do you cheer for?

So I spent the afternoon staring at the football pool standings and the constant shuffling of players as the real-time scoring updates kept happening. The number of lead changes today was staggering. After the crop of early games, I found myself rather close to the bottom of the pack—not somewhere I enjoy residing. I've got no chance to win this week. *sobs*

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Day 167: The Magic Number is 6.

Today is September 14th... the Boston Red Sox have just taken the first two games in the final Yankees series of the season—including a spectacular performance this afternoon by Jon Lester. They currently have a nine game lead in the AL East (pending the outcome of the Rays game.) And the magic number is six...

I can't believe I'm actually talking about the "magic number" and the Red Sox in the same post. Since their last trip to the post season in 2009, there have been mostly not-so-magic numbers—painful and disturbing not-so-magic numbers.

In 2010, the not-so-magic number was seven. The number of games they finished out of first place behind the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. In 2011, the not-so-magic number was one. All they needed to do was win the final game of the season and they would've made it to the post season. They didn't. Instead, they were ridiculed for the infamous "chicken and beer" September where they went 7-20 for a complete season implosion.

And then there was 2012 and the not-so-magic number was 26. That's a number is last place where the Sox finished the season. Alone. In the basement. Or how about eight? The number of games they lost to finish out that season. Or one? The number of ridiculously moronic managers who steered this team to the worst year since 1965. But there was at least one magic number in 2012... four. The number of overpaid and underwhelming players they unloaded in a trade with the Dodgers.

So it's fun to be able to talk about an actual magic number this season. For a team that was said to be "rebuilding" and was not expected to win much more that 80 or so games, this year has been nothing but magic. With just 12 games left, a combination of six Red Sox wins and/or Tampa Rays losses will clinch the American League East title for the first time since 2007. Remember what else happened in 2007? Yup...

I will continue to try not to think too much about this magic number—especially with the way the tables can turn so fast in baseball. But I have a hard time imagining this Sox team, who is 10-3 so far this month, will miss the playoffs this year. If they do... well, I can't talk about that right now.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Day 166: Who are you and what have you done with the real Patriots?

Wait... what? These are the real Patriots? Well that sucks.

We've all learned some very important lessons over the first two games of the infancy of this NFL season. First, Tom Brady is actually human. I know it's hard to believe that after all these years of super-human-quarterbacking, but holy shit people, the guy can't do it all himself. Although I'm sure after the hideous display put on by the depleted receiving core last night, he probably wishes there was some way for him to do it alone.

Another lesson learned is that depth on a football team is really, really important. When the Patriots let Wes Welker go to the Broncos earlier this year, I'm sure Bill Belichick thought it was no big whoop. He had two solid tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez who had the potential to combine for about a gazillion catches. And they were on the verge of signing Danny Amendola who was supposedly just a faster, younger Wes Welker.

But no one seemed to plan for injuries and murder charges. Gronkowski struggled with infection on his surgically repaired arm in May and then it was announced in July he would need back surgery, making him questionable for the start of the season. And in June, well, we all know what happened to Aaron Hernandez. He was arrested for murder and will spend this NFL season, and possibly life, in a cage.

That leaves Tom Brady with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman as his primary targets. Amendola is an excellent receiver—if he can stay healthy, and Edelman caught just 21 passes last year, spending most of his time as a punt and kick off return man. And then Amendola goes down with a groin injury in the first game now leaving Brady a crop of rookies as targets.

This is where shit goes bad. Last night's game against the NY Jets was quite possibly the worst football game in which I've ever seen Tom Brady participate. It was hard to believe the Pats were 13 point favorites because it was a freaking miracle that they didn't get completely eviscerated. Tom Brady was 19 of 39 for 185 yards—less than a 50% completion percentage. Both rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson dropped more passes than they caught. The Patriots could muster just nine first downs and converted just 4 of 18 third downs.

I bailed out early in the fourth quarter. I'm quite certain a root canal would've been less painful than watching that train wreck. I figured if the Jets were going to make a comeback, I didn't need to be around to see it. So needless to say, I was shocked this morning when I saw that the Patriots held on for the 13-10 win. I'm wondering how many idiots out there actually thought New England would cover that spread?

If something isn't done before their next game on the September 22nd against Tampa Bay, I might freak out. Mainly because right now, this team is absolutely no fun to watch. Football season is too short to be pissed off at your team.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Day 165: End Zone Dancing: Why... Just Why?

I'm a football purist at heart. When a player scores a touchdown, I'm a fan of a good ol' fashioned spike. Rob Gronkowski knows how to spike that football—and some say he may make them go flat. What I can't handle are these ridiculous dances in the end zone. Some of them are so absurd that you have absolutely no idea what it means. I never understood Aaron Hernandez's thing where he would make it rain. He should've been jailed for that stupid celebration long before he was jailed for murder.

The original touchdown "spike" was first performed in 1965 by New York Giants' wide receiver Homer Jones—it is said to be the origin of end zone celebrations. But it's gone all down hill from there. In 1988, we were introduced to the Ickey Shuffle. The early 90's brought about Desmond Howard's Heisman Trophy pose which I alway found so pretentious. The Atlanta Falcons invented the Dirty Bird during their 1998 NFC championship season.

When a player has clearly planned out and choreographed his end zone dance, it loses some of its meaning. It's no longer a genuine spontaneous celebration and, most of the time, it appears contrived and just plain stupid. In the past the NFL has frowned upon "excessive celebrations" and anything considered offensive and has either fined or penalized players. In 2004, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss was fined $10,000 for pretending to moon Green Bay Packers fans at Lambeau Field. Terrell Owens pulled a Sharpie out of his sock and signed the game ball earning him a $20,000 fine by the NFL for defacing the ball.

It always amazes me that despite the fines and penalties, players continue to do stupid-ass things that often times have negative effects on their game. But you know what is funny and acceptable? When Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake make a video called the "Evolution of End Zone Dancing." Although I think they may have made up some of their own original dances!

This season, the NFL has but some very strict (but not new) rules into play with regards to end zone celebrations. NFL officials have been told to buckle down on unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, especially those who throw, spike or spin the ball after the whistle is blown. This is in addition to the usual foolish dances. Well... there goes the Gronk Spike. That makes me sad.

Source: Wikipedia (because Wikipedia is so smaht!)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day 164: Amazing Termite Football TD Run

Sometimes here at Balls of All Sizes, I like to take a break from the professionals and feature kids making awesome plays. And this particular play was so amazing that it was featured on SportCenter's Top 10 Plays on Tuesday... in fact, it was #1. So I think John David Taylor, who basically left carnage in his path during a 43-yard touchdown run, deserves some recognition here too.

Taylor plays quarterback for a Goshen, Alabama termite football team consisting of 9- and 10-year-olds. In a recent game against rival Ariton, Taylor's dad called the play, "wishbone fake 36, 18 flats" and the kid took it from there. He ran right through a defender at the line of scrimmage, sending the poor kid tumbling to the ground like the ran into a brick wall. He then turned the corner right at the sideline, causing a cluster of would-be tacklers just randomly all fall to the ground—probably saving themselves from Taylor's fury.

But my favorite part of the run happens about 20 yards up field when the last guy with a chance to take Taylor down fell victim to a stiff arm that would make Adrian Peterson proud. The stiff arm casualty tumbled easily to the turf and John David comfortably cruised into the end zone for the score. If you ask me, #4 in the video (really the last hope to catch the QB) was only running at half speed, clearly afraid for his life.

Imagine what this kid must be feeling after being featured on national television. Despite his recent fame, John David says all he really wants to do is win his league's Super Bowl so he can celebrate with his teammates. Too cute!

So what college coach already had the Taylor family on speed dial?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Day 163: In Tennis, Love Means Nothing.

When I was a kid, I lived just a stone's throw from the tennis courts in Payson Park. So you'd think perhaps I know how to play. I don't. I've never even tried to play even though it's always interested me. The one time my dad took me to the courts, I knocked his second serve over the fence for a home run. Yeah... that's how I roll.

But just because I can't play it, doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good tennis match. However, lately I just can't stand to watch anyone playing that insists on making annoying noises every single time they hit the ball. For example, I might have watched about 8.3 seconds of the women's US Open final between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka. That Azarenka chick was just too freaking noisy. The shrieking is just too much for me to handle. I can hear it inside my head.

As usual Serena Williams won the match for her fifth US Open and 17th Grand Slam title, beating Azarenka 7-5, 6-7, 6-1. This was the second straight year Serena beat Victoria. Williams served nine aces with her fastest serve checking in at 126 mph (faster than Nadal's fastest!) Show off. For me, seeing Serena Williams in the final of any tournament is boring, mainly because she's just there so much. But don't tell her that. I'm pretty sure she would crush my skull without a second thought. That girl is jacked.

I have the same feelings for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. If I hear either of those two has been ousted from the competition, I'll be more inclined to watch. I'm sorry, I'm just weird, I guess. It seems like, at least with Nadal's case, that he rarely loses in the finals. And the US Open was no exception—he beat Novak Djokovic in four sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to win his second Open and his 13th Grand Slam title. And he's only 27. Only Pete Sampras with 17 and Roger Federer with 14 stand in Nadal's way of becoming the best ever.

I equate it to some folks hating Tiger Woods because, for a while, he seemed to be winning every single golf tournament he entered. So I will continue to boycott tennis matches featuring greedy stars and grunters. And I won't feel guilty about it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Day 162: Red sky at night, sailor's delight.

Let's just get this clear before we go any further together: I know nothing about sailing. Nada, zilch, zip, zero, diddly-squat. I've been on a sailboat exactly one time and it was one of the least fun things I've ever done. I'm pretty sure the fact that we were racing and I was expected to actual work didn't help the matter any. And feeling slightly seasick was a real pisser. Oh and almost getting hurled over the side of the boat sort of sucked.

Photo from HERE.
But it's America's Cup time and this shit doesn't happen that often—less than the Olympics, in fact. The last Cup was held in 2010. Because I'm not a sailor or a wealthy entrepreneur, I really didn't know what exactly the America's Cup was (besides an expensive boat race)—but Wikipedia is wicked smaht and gives a great quick and concise explanation of what this prestigious competition is all about.
The America’s Cup is a trophy awarded to the winner of the America's Cup match races between two sailing yachts. One yacht, known as the defender, represents the yacht club that currently holds the America's Cup and the second yacht, known as the challenger, represents the yacht club that is challenging for the cup. The America's Cup is the oldest active trophy in international sport. 
The trophy was originally awarded in 1851 by the Royal Yacht Squadron for a race around the Isle of Wight in England, which was won by the schooner America. The trophy was renamed the America's Cup after the yacht and was donated to the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) under the terms of the Deed of Gift, which made the cup available for perpetual international competition.  
Any yacht club that meets the requirements specified in the Deed of Gift has the right to challenge the yacht club that holds the Cup. If the challenging club wins the match, it gains stewardship of the cup.  
The 34th America's Cup finals are happening right now in San Francisco with the Cup's defender being the Golden Gate Yacht Club. The GGYC's racing team, Oracle Team USA defeated a Swiss team in 2010 to take the Cup. They are being challenged by the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron's racing team, Emirates Team New Zealand.

But the race finals have been overshadowed by death and controversy. Wait... what? This sounds interesting... almost like one of my television stories. Add in some infidelity and you've got yourself a daytime soap drama. Some say the race is cursed... Back in May, a sailor with Sweden-based Artemis Racing, died when a large catamaran capsized on San Francisco Bay and trapped the man under the boat for 10 minutes. And then US was accused of "juicing" their boats and got caught. Oh and the whole race is costing San Fran a butt-load of money.

The 72-foot catamaran style boats used for this race are some of the fastest boats on the planet. In 2007, the average top speed of an America's Cup yacht was 10 knots or 11.5 mph. The boats this year are averaging 40 knots or roughly 46 mph. At 43 knots, the 72-foot catamaran will sail its entire length in one second. So that explains why these guys are wearing freaking helmets! If you're wondering how the America's Cup qualifies for "Balls of All Sizes," now you know—these guys must have giant balls of steel.

As it stands right now, the Oracle Team USA is down three races to one to the Emirates Team New Zealand. But with the two point penalty assessed prior to the race start for boat doping or "making illegal modifications to its boats during exhibition races in 2012 and earlier this year," the USA team needs to win 11 races to New Zealand's nine. But there's still time!

The racing will continue as needed through September 21st and the races can be found on NBC Sports Network afternoons from 3:30-6pm ET. Now I definitely have to watch.

[Source: Billionaire death race]

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Day 161: Hello, New England Patriots... Oh How I've Missed You!!

I love both baseball and football, and it's hard to choose a favorite—I'm not sure I could even if someone was holding a gun to my head. Let's hope it never comes to that. So today was difficult with the Patriots AND the Red Sox on at the same time. I chose the Patriots.

There's just something about football that makes it so much more appealing. Maybe it's the season itself. With baseball, sometimes you could watch seven games in a single week—if you miss one, no big whoop. But football... football is stingy. Having only one game a week makes each one an event. So needless to say, I was happy for the return on Sunday afternoon football featuring my New England Patriots.

The Pats opened their season in Buffalo and heavily favored. I guess no one told the Bills that because they really put up a fight and made this a real nail-biter. Although the Patriots ended up winning 23-21, they trailed for much of the second half and often looked shaky. The depleted receiving core is obviously still an issue and the rookies played like, well, rookies. And all I kept hearing in my head was all those sports radio guys saying what a joke this game was going to be and how the Patriots were really just playing another preseason game. Shut UP!!

Tom Brady looked a bit wobbly in the first half despite the 17-14 lead at the half. There weren't a ton of spectacular plays and Danny Amendola re-injured his groin so that was sucky—especially since he's one of those guys who, every time he gets hit, you hold your breath waiting for him to get up. A couple fumbles by Stevan Ridley, one recovered and returned for a Bills TD, landed him on the bench for the rest of the game. I didn't think it could get worse.

I was wrong. The Bills took the second half kickoff, marched down the field and scored the go ahead touchdown. I'm pretty sure most Patriots fans were in shock right about that point. The Pats managed to score a field goal to bring the score to 21-20 Bills early in the fourth quarter and then had to go all Incredible Hulk on defense to keep the Bills and their rookie QB quiet.

And then the Comeback Kid did what he does best and has done 36 times in his career. Tom Brady needed 12 plays to go 49 yards to set up a Stephen Gostkowski 35-yard field goal with just five seconds left to secure the win. Brady finished 29 of 52 for 288 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. This is their 10th straight season opener which ties them for the NFL's third-longest streak.

Danny Amendola led the receivers with 10 catches for 104 yards—including several key and at times, acrobatic grabs in the game winning drive. Julian Edelman caught seven balls for 79 yards and two touchdowns. With Ridley on the bench in a time out, Shane Vereen got the majority of the work carrying 14 times for 104 yards. For the complete details in case you *gasp* missed the game, click HERE.

It wasn't pretty, but in the end it's still a notch in the win column... But holy crap, if all the games are this stressful, I might not make it through the season in one piece!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Day 160: Now THIS is Fun Red Sox Baseball!

Didn't I say just a few days ago what a fan I was of pitchers' duels? Just kidding... I think I like these big offensive attacks much better. They're waaaay more fun to watch. And the come from behind wins are even better! After that 20-4 drubbing of the Tigers last week, I thought for sure the Red Sox would hit a dry streak. I was petrified that they used up all their runs for the week in that one game. 

I was wrong.

In the past four games, the Red Sox bats have been hot... so hot, in fact, that my Aunt Jean says you could fry an egg on them! I would have to agree. The Sox have scored 54 runs in the last four days—34 runs in the first three games of their current series with the Yankees. But none of these wins has been easy.

The first game of the series with the Yankees on Thursday night was a bit of a challenge. The Sox had a 7-2 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning when the Yankees exploded for six runs and took an 8-7 lead. When I went to bed, it was the top of the ninth, Mariano Rivera was on the mound for the save and I felt pretty confident that the Sox would lose. Last year, they would've have lost for sure. So imagine my surprise when I woke up and I found just the opposite had happened. Boston tied it up in the ninth and then won it in the 10th, 9-8.

Friday night, the tables were turned. The Yankees were up 8-3 going into the seventh inning. This is about the time I awoke from my couch slumber. So Mike Carp walked to load the bases and Dustin Pedroia singled to cut the deficit to 8-4. And that brought up Mike Napoli who floated one out to right field that looked easily catchable, but just cleared the fence for a grand salami and a tie game. The Sox scored four more in the eighth to put the game out of reach and win 12-8.

I think today's game was the most stressful of all. After five innings, the Sox bats had staked John Lackey to a 12-3 lead—the most run support he's gotten all year. But the Yankees chipped away and cut the deficit to 12-9 with four runs in the sixth and two in the eighth. I couldn't bare the thought of Lackey not getting this win after the string of shit luck he's had this season so I almost couldn't watch. With an insurance run in the ninth and an uneventful last at bat for the Yanks, the Sox squeaked out game three, 13-9.

As it stands right now, the Red Sox now have an eight game lead in the AL East. The Tampa Bay Rays' game is currently in progress so this can go a half game either way by morning. Ohmygodohmygod I'm totally hyperventilating at the prospect of the Sox finally making it back to the post season... I just don't want to jinx it so I won't get too excited just yet. But you've heard that song and dance before.

This team has been so much fun to watch, I hope I get to do so right through the month of October.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Day 159: Football is Back, Bitches!

Football, football, football! It's that football time of year. Fall is right around the corner, the air is crisp and cool... well maybe it wasn't exactly crisp or cool in Denver last night, but crisp air is coming soon! The first game of the NFL season customarily features the reigning Super Bowl Champs as hosts, so Thursday night saw the *gag* Baltimore Ravens *vomit* take on the Denver Broncos.

There was just one problem. The game wasn't in Baltimore. Seems the NFL... the king of all sports... couldn't strong arm the Orioles into moving their scheduled night game back a few hours, and the city of Baltimore wouldn't allow the two teams to play at the same time due to their close proximity. What a shit show that would've been. But really Orioles? This is football—they play one game a week.

So the NFL moved the game to Denver and then plastered the stadium with giant Joe Flacco faces. If there was ever a reason for the Broncos to go out and kick some Raven ass, this was it. Fans were incensed. Peyton and the boys needed to show them exactly whose house they were in. Plus, they were looking for revenge from the loss the Ravens handed them in the divisional round of last year's playoffs. The cards were stacked against Baltimore from the get-go.

After a 33 minute weather delay due to a lightening storm in the area, the two teams took the field. Baltimore struck first about halfway through the first quarter and surprisingly the Ravens held a 17-14 lead at the half. The Broncos opened the second half with a touchdown to take a 21-17 lead and never looked back. The final score: 49-27. *whip cracking sound*

As much as I hate to admit it, Peyton Manning was awesome. His stats were astounding—he went 27-for-42 for 462 yards, seven touchdown passes, no interceptions and a QB rating of 141.1. That seven touchdown performance ties a league record and hasn't been done since 1969. Of the six quarterbacks who have ever accomplished that feat, Manning is one of just two that did it without a pick.

Our old friend Wuss Wes Welker held his own last night. He caught nine passes—the most of any Broncos receivers—for 67 yards and he scored two touchdowns. However... Welker did muff a punt at his the Denver four yard line which lead to an easy Ravens score. So that made me snicker a bit. And it also raised the question as to why he even attempted to catch the ball and didn't just let it bounce into the end zone for a touchback. Maybe he thought *twitch* Bill Belichick would *twitch* yell at him if he didn't *twitch* try to catch it. Snap out of it Wuss Wes...

Now it's time to bring on the Patriots! Bring on Tom Brady and Danny Amendola and Vince Wilfork. Bring on the snacks and beer and comfy spot on the couch. And bring on a rain shower at about 1pm so I don't feel guilty about not being outside on a beautiful day. I can't wait for Sunday!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Day 158: Boston Bats Come Up Seriously Big.

I totally was going to write a post about football tonight with it being the opening night of the season and all. And about how ridiculously excited I am to have a valid reason to lounge around on the couch all afternoon on Sunday and eat food that's really, really bad for me. I was going to write about being in a football pool which makes every single game of the weekend critical and intriguing... not just the Patriots game.

And then last night happened.

Wednesday night's rubber match between the Red Sox and Tigers exploded into a storm of runs. Twenty, to be exact. Yes, 2-0. No pitcher on the Tigers' staff was safe. If you didn't read yesterday's post, I mentioned that while I love a nice pitchers' duel, I also love it when "balls are just flying out of the park and the bases are always busy." DO THE RED SOX HAVE MY HOUSE BUGGED? MY COMPUTER? It's like they knew... Oh. Em. Gee. Are they reading this blog?

So much happened in the 20-4 ass whooping that I'm not sure where to start. It's hard to believe that the Red Sox actually trailed in this game... for like a half a second. What's a better way to summarize than with a few bulleted highlights.

  • The Red Sox scored in every inning except the first, with their most production coming in the sixth when they scored eight runs.
  • David Ortiz had a monster night going 3-for-5 with two home runs, three runs scored and four RBIs and also hit his 2,000 hit.
  • Will Middlebrooks also had a helluva night going 3-for-5 with grand slam, two runs scored and four RBIs.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, Daniel Nava, Mike Napoli, Ryan Lavarnway and Stephen Drew all hit home runs.
  • The eight home runs for the Sox ties a franchise record.
  • Ten different players drove in runs for the Sox.
  • How pissed must John Lackey be that they can't score all those runs for one of his starts?

I'm sure I wasn't the only one yelling at the television for them to stop scoring runs and save some for the weekend series against the Yankees. I swear if they get shut out at any point over the next four games, I'm going to blame their greedy run scoring against the Tigers. And I'm going to be super pissed.

But damn, it was fun!! Let's do it again soon... like tonight.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 157: Jon Lester Shows Up Max Scherzer in Classic Duel.

If you had asked me to predict the outcome of this three-game series between the Red Sox and Tigers, I would definitely have anticipated a loss in the game two Lester v. Scherzer matchup. Max Scherzer has been nothing short of brilliant this season, coming into Tuesday night's game with a Major League leading 19-1 record — a shoo-in for the AL Cy Young. Lester has been good, better lately, but clearly in over his head in this matchup.

Well, it's a good thing I'm not making predictions for a living. I'd be living in a box under a bridge because I suck. It's also a good thing that I didn't have any money riding on this one. We actually got just the opposite — a classic pitchers' duel between the top two teams in the American League. A preview, perhaps, of the ALCS?

Jon Lester's last 10 games have been an improvement over the first half of the season. He has given up more than three earned runs just once and his ERA since July 13 is a pretty skimpy 2.59. Scherzer, on the other hand, has been nearly unbeatable with a season ERA of 2.88. And when the Tigers struck first, scoring a run in the second, I thought that was all it would take.

In the bottom of the fifth, all that changed. After Mike Carp led off the inning with a strike out, Jonny Gomes followed with one of his two hits of the night. (He was the only Red Sox batter to have multiple hits.) Next Stephen Drew bashed a ground-rule double into right-center forcing Gomes to stop at third. David Ross struck out, but then Will Middlebrooks slapped a single up the middle to score two and take the lead.

And then the nail biting starts... with four frames left for the Tigers to attempt a comeback, I nearly chewed off the entire tips of my fingers. But both Lester and the bullpen thwarted any and all efforts by the Tigers' bats, and then it was time for closer Koji Uehara's. I'm loving this guy. I love his fire and enthusiasm, and of course, his strikeouts. He put down the Tigers 1-2-3, striking out the last two guys, for his 17th save of the season.

I love a game when balls are just flying out of the park and the bases are always busy, but a pitchers' duel like this one is just as fun!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Day 156: Everything's Bigger in Texas... Including High School Football Finishes!

Remember the television show Friday Night Lights? This show was a great mix of football heroics with a dash of steamy romance and a heaping spoonful of high school angst. So naturally it's one of my all-time favorites and I often miss watching the Dillon Panthers of West Texas with their fiery leader, Coach Eric Taylor and the rugged yet boozy fullback, Tim Riggins. Thank heavens for Netflix, that's all I can say. (FYI: All five seasons are streaming on Netflix...)

High school football is just getting started around the country and already in this young season is a play worthy of one you could only see on a television show. It could've been Brian "Smash" Williams ducking and weaving through a sea of opposing players, all of whom just wanting to crush him. But it wasn't made for television... it was, however, made in Texas.

"Everything's bigger in Texas." Isn't that the saying? Evidently that saying pertains to high school football plays—and this play is going to be a hard one to beat! Yahoo! Sports Prep Rally did a pretty damn good job of setting up the scenario.
The video you see below, which was brought to Prep Rally's attention by the good folks at Bob's Blitz, comes from a game between Copperas Cove (Tx.) High and A&M Consolidated (Tx.) High, a highly-ranked grudge match between well respected Class 5A Texas squads. With Copperas Cove holding a 41-38 lead with just one second left on the clock, the Bulldogs decided that the best way to seal a huge early season home victory was to use a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff.  
That was an enormous mistake. 
Instead of a clean, quiet conclusion, what ensued was the freak kickoff return to end all kickoff returns. Tigers running back Brandon Jackson fielded the squib cleanly and cut up field ... then cut back again and eventually appeared cornered. That's when he shoveled the ball off to fellow running back Derrick Dick, who had no problem taking the ball the rest of the way to the end zone.  
No time left, six points A&M Consolidated, 44-41 victory, Tigers.
Watch and just try not to be in awe of this play... and try not to think of what the coach of the losing team had to say in that locker room after the game. Special teams might be doing a few more suicide drills in the next practice.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Day 155: Red Sox Complete Weekend Sweep of White Sox

I love a nice weekend series sweep. Especially when the team breathing down your neck in second place is having some troubles, falling farther behind in the standings. But that's none of my business and I won't talk badly about them risking some sort of jinx. It's no secret the Chicago White Sox are struggling this year—they're 23 games back, dead last in the AL Central so the Red Sox needed to take advantage of their woes.

The Red Sox never trailed in the three-game series, scoring early and often to give themselves the best chance possible of taking all three games. The pitching was excellent with the starters combining for nine earned runs total. This needs to continue to happen as the head into the final stretch.

Friday night's game was Ryan Dempster's first start since he was suspended for rightfully plunking Alex Rodriguez on August 18th. It appears the extra days of rest were just what he needed for his seventh win of the season. He gave up just three earned runs on five hits over 6.1 innings. And while the bats were relatively quiet—only six total hits in the 4-3 win—hitters were patient and drew seven walks. Koji Uehara remains steadfast in the closer roll pitching a 1-2-3 ninth for his 15th save.

Jake Peavy continues to prove his worth by allowing just two runs in the 7-2 win on Saturday. The Sox bats exploded for 15 hits with seven of the nine starters having at least two hits. It could've been a lot worse for the White Sox—Boston left 11 men on base. I love games like this when the base paths are busy and the pitching is stingy.

The series finale on Sunday was a real back and forth see-saw battle, and although the Red Sox never fell behind, Chicago nipped at their heels for most of the latter half of the game. Luckily, Boston held on for a 7-6 win and now enjoy a five and a half game lead on the second place Tampa Bay Rays. This game was a real nail biter and the Red Sox needed six pitchers to get the job done—including another 1-2-3 ninth from Uehara for his 16th save.

The Red Sox have 24 games remaining, including today's game which is still in progress (and not looking very promising.) Nineteen of those games are within their division and include a three-game series in Tampa. So needless to say, September is going to be a challenge.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Day 154: Ding, Dong, Tebow's Gone.

Well... the great Tim Tebow experiment of 2013 is finally over. And guess what... it failed. But then again, we kind of all had the feeling it would, didn't we? At least if the Patriots insisted on keeping him at quarterback—a position he clearly has no business playing judging from his career 47.9% completion percentage. To give you a point of reference, Tom Brady has the 6th highest completion percentage among active QBs at 63.7%.

Tebow is a pretty solid guy. I mean at 6-2, 236 he's not a lot smaller than former Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez... and we know he's not going to be catching any passes this fall. So why didn't they try to groom him into something other than a third string quarterback? He has rushed before, he could probably catch a pass... so was it Tebow's decision to continue down the path of QB? Or did he ask Coach Belichick to give him a chance somewhere else on the field?

The former Heisman Trophy winner and National Champion from Florida just had too much going against him. His ball release is too slow which makes him an easy target for hungry linebackers. When he does get a pass off, it's wobbly and incredibly inaccurate, often times falling short of the intended receiver. And sure, he can scramble his way out of almost any situation, but most scrambling quarterbacks can also throw too.

Seeing Tebow's troubles makes me really appreciate what Tom Brady does. The way he drops back for a pass, and within a matter of seconds, sees the field, his options, the coverage, makes a decision and either throws to a receiver or throws it away. If the great Bill Belichick couldn't fix this kid, I'm not sure anyone can.

So where will Tebow end up? Does he try his luck north of the border? Arena league? At 26, is his short career in the NFL kaput? Like with all he's done in the NFL and his life leading up to this point, Tim Tebow took his release with dignity and class. He posted the following tweets(s):
"I would like to thank Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, Coach McDaniels and the entire Patriots organization for giving me the opportunity to be part of such a classy organization. I pray for nothing but the best for you all. I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback."
I've never been a big Tebow fan, but I wish him well in his pursuit and hope he finds a home somewhere. I'm just glad it won't be with the Patriots.