Friday, January 31, 2014

Day 306: Budweiser's Gone and Done it Again {{SOB}}

Each year as the Super Bowl approaches, we start to hear about the commercials advertisers are planning to run during the big game. And nowadays, with that whole internet thing, we even get to preview the spots before they air on television. With a national price tag of around $4 million for a 30-second commercial, it's imperative that the creative teams but their best ideas forward. Some products fail miserably while others keep raising the bar higher and higher every year.

Budweiser is one of those companies that continues to up the ante each February, putting forth commercials that make me cry every damn time. Each year, there's another installment featuring the ever popular Budweiser Clydesdales and each year, the commercials tug just a little more at the heart strings. Who can forget last years' Bud spot titled "Brotherhood"? Still to this day, I can't watch this one without the tears.

I honestly didn't think they could top the 2013 ad. It was a perfectly crafted story wrapped up in a 60-second commercial. I was anxious to see what the masterminds responsible for thinking up these tales would come up with for Super Bowl XLVIII. Let's just say that I am in awe of the genius minds at Anomaly, the agency responsible for the spots. Get yer tissues ready for "Puppy Love"—the only thing better than horses is puppies and horses. This might be my favorite commercial ever in the history of commercials.

I thought Bud only bought one spot in the game. I was wrong. They're running two 60-second commercials in the Super Bowl. The second spot is titled "A Hero's Welcome" and features a soldier's return home to a giant celebration. The only thing that would've made this commercial better is if the woman at the airport had a puppy with her. Puppies make everything better. 

Remember earlier in this post when I mentioned how much the 30-second spots were? I think you can do the math. But I don't blame them for spending such a huge chunk of dough. These commercials make me want to buy cases of Budweiser. 

Bravo, Bud... you just get it.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 305: Boston Marathon Bomber Will Face Death Penalty

Do you remember what you were doing at 2:49pm on April 15, 2013? I do... I had the day off because it was Patriots Day (yay!) and I was doing yard work (boo-hiss!) I remember coming into the house, checking my phone and seeing an alert that simply said there had been an explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. There was nothing simple about what had happened.

What followed over the next five days stunned and horrified the whole country and put the city of Boston on high alert. On Friday, April 19th the entire city of Boston shut down. The internet soon was filled with images of empty streets and freeways and popular gathering places. The images were eery and strange. Residents were asked to stay home while law enforcement and military personnel scoured the city, looking for this piece of shit. 

We were glued to the television that Friday evening, waiting for the word to come that they had found the younger bomber. When it finally did, the city of Boston erupted into a celebration and rightfully so. When, if our lifetime, has any one douche bag shut down an entire city the size of Boston? He deserves every thing that comes his way... and it sounds like none of it will be pleasant.

I'm not going try to sugarcoat my incredible glee for the news that was published today. If Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is found guilty of planting bombs that killed three and wounded 264 people at the Boston Marathon last April, he will be put to death. The only thing I have to say about that is good riddance, pond scum.

This decision is for Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu... and while it won't bring these three back to their families, at least those families won't be paying for that piece of turd to rot in prison for the rest of his life. This decision is for Jeff Bauman's legs and everyone else who lost limbs and suffered injuries—both physically and mentally. It won't change what happened, but it will hopefully give these victims some piece of mind that the monster responsible will pay.

I can only hope that when the Boston Marathon happens in just a few short months, the crowds are even bigger and more supportive as the city of Boston extends a big, giant middle finger to any would-be terrorists who would dare try and take down this city again.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 304: David Ortiz, Your Contract Threats are Not Cool.

Dear Mr. Ortiz,

Let me begin by telling you how much I've enjoyed watching you play for the Boston Red Sox over the past 11 years. It's been fun seeing your smiling face celebrate three World Championships and there's nothing more entertaining than a Big Papi home run. You have really become one of my favorites in the way you lead this team.

With that said, I'm also incredibly disappointed in you right now. I'm disappointed that you consistently bring up your contract and your wish to negotiate a multi-year deal at the most inopportune times. In case you've forgotten, there is still another year left on your current contract. And while your 2013 was amazing, what happens if you suck in 2014? Can the Red Sox add an "if Papi sucks" clause?

Everyone in Boston knows your history. We all know you're the greatest designated hitter to ever grace the game of baseball and easily one of the most clutch hitters in the history of Boston sports. Your digits in the 2013 playoffs where off the charts—a .688 batting average in the World Series, a grand slam that completely changed the AL Championship Series—and this after hitting .309 with 30 home runs and 103 RBIs during the regular season at the ripe old age of 38.

And therein lies the problem. You're 38 now and by the time your current agreement has ended, you'll be 39. You realize that in baseball years, that's pretty close to dead, right? I'm not sure if you've noticed, but long gone are the days when teams are willing to pay a guy a hefty salary to just bat four or five times a game. Teams are placing less and less importance on the position of designated hitter, paying the big bucks to the more multi-faceted players who can contribute both offensively and defensively.

If you're feeling disrespected, if you're feeling unloved, passive aggressiveness is not the answer. It's not attractive. Just have a little faith in the team from the city you've called home for so long that they'll make you a fair offer so you don't end up living in a cardboard box under the bridge. Also, it would be nice if you could stop with those ugly "maybe I'll go somewhere else where they appreciate me" threats. Or maybe you should look at taking a page out of Jon Lester's book—a guy that wants to stay in Boston so much, he's willing to take that dreaded "hometown discount."

I want to continue to cheer you on, Mr. Papi. I want to continue to watch you blast home runs and maybe even celebrate another championship. But please... just knock this contract shit off.

Yours Truly,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Day 303: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #2 - The Catcher

You know that guy that crouches behind home plate at a baseball game? The guy with the mask and shin guards and chest protector? The guy with the ridiculously large thighs and the funny looking mitt that makes you wonder how on earth he catches with it? Not the guy in black, he's the umpire. The other guy, in front of him... he's the team's catcher.

I have a soft spot for the catcher. At one time in my Little League softball career I attempted this position, but scooching for that long is really painful. But my grandfather was a catcher—and a really good one too. So... yeah... I have great respect for the guy squatting behind the plate for three plus hours with foul balls constantly bouncing off him.

The catcher is the battery mate of the pitcher. If you missed Lesson #1 about the Pitcher, stop reading this post immediately and click HERE. His primary job is to catch the ball from the pitcher. He also has a lot of say in what type of pitch the pitcher throws. The catcher is just as responsible for knowing the batter as well as the pitcher. He's gives the pitcher a sign to tell him whether to throw a fastball, a curveball, a splitter, or whatever type of pitch they think will best fool the guy at the plate.

Because of where the catcher is positioned, he can see the whole field so he leads the defense. He directs the other players and typically will signal to other infielders (who'll you'll learn about next week) if a special play is needed because of the base running situation, or the tendencies of the guy currently up to bat. A catcher is one of those guys who can be on a team purely for his defense, even if his offensive skills are sub par. But ideally... it's good if the catcher can hit too!

The catcher usually has to be the toughest guy on the field. Not only is he constantly peppered with errant foul balls, but he also can be involved in home plate collisions. It's the one base where the runners can throw themselves at the catcher to try and dislodge the ball—at least it was until Major League Baseball outlawed these collisions for the 2014 season. Catchers also find themselves defending the pitchers quite often. If the pitcher has just hit the batter with a pitch and that batter takes offense and charges after the pitcher, it's the catcher's job to tackle that a-hole before he gets to the mound.

If you're still confused about the catcher and what he does and how important he is to calling the game and how dangerous it can be for the pitcher to not follow his instructions, please watch thes highly educational video clips. The handsome guy wearing that funny blue chest protector—he's the catcher.

I recommend watching the entire movie instructional video... it's very helpful for understanding the relationship between pitchers and catchers.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Day 302: Good News, Sox Fans! Jerry Remy will Return to Broadcast Booth.

Today is a happy, happy day! Jerry Remy has officially announced he WILL return to the broadcast booth for the 2014 Red Sox season. Yippeeeeee! (Picture me doing the Snoopy dance in my living room. But picture it with Snoopy actually doing it, not me... that way it won't look too trainwreck-ish.)

I remember so vividly driving down to Rhode Island on that bright, sunny morning of August 16th, listening to the Dennis and Callahan Show. Quickly, the news turned dark with reports that the long-time Red Sox broadcast color man's son Jared killed his girlfriend, stabbing her several times in her apartment after a struggle. Jennifer Martel, the victim, had obtained a restraining order just a few days prior but unfortunately, it couldn't save her life.

I just knew at that moment, we were going to lose Jerry Remy from the booth for some time as he dealt with this horrible tragedy. First that evil cancer stole him away... then the equally cruel depression... and now, his murderous son. While I was incredibly saddened by the news of Jerry's absence, I knew it was the right thing for him to do. Little did I know, it would keep him away from baseball for the rest of the 2013 World Series Championship season.

Even as recent as a couple weeks ago, I was talking to someone at NESN who said his return wasn't looking good. I was totally depressed. One of the things I love so much about watching the Sox games every night is the banter between Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy. No one else quite compares to the Remdawg although many have tried to take his place. I honestly couldn't handle another season of listening to Dennis Eckersley talk about pitchers throwing the "cheese." (Although I will say he has grown on me recently.)

From the article I read today, even as recent as New Years, Remy said he wouldn't return to NESN for the 2014 season. But then a few of his close friends and his wife finally succeeded in talking him into getting back to his job. It's what he knows... it's what he's good at... and it would be the thing to keep his mind busy as they prepare for his son's murder trial later this year. You can read the full article here and Remy's statement and question/answer session.

It's a sad, sad story... there's a little girl who has been left parentless and Jerry and his wife are currently trying to get custody. And then there was the question of his health—but that looks after a recent clean CT scan. After his recent period of basically being a hermit, Remy is ready to come back to Red Sox baseball and that truly delights me. Although I do see his dilemma... going back to life as usual must be incredibly difficult after such a horrifying event.

Welcome back, Remdawg... welcome back. And a heartfelt thanks to those who talked him into getting back in the booth!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Day 301: Olympics Shrouded in Fear of Terror Attacks

They Olympic Games are no stranger to terrorist attacks. It's bound to happen when you get so many different nations together in one venue—nations that may not otherwise get along. Some radicals find the world-wide stage to be a perfect setting for getting opinions and demands noticed.

In the 1972 Munich Games, a Palestinian group demanding the release of prisoners held in Israel took 11 Israeli athletes hostage and eventually killed them.  The 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta fell victim when former US Army explosives expert, Eric Rudolph, went off the deep end and placed a knapsack bomb under a bench, killing two and injuring over 100 who had gathered for a public concert.

Even the 2012 Summer Games in London dealt with rumors of possible al-Qaeda attacks. There was speculation they were planning a cyanide mixed with hand cream type of strike. Luckily, the rumor never came to fruition and the games were played without incident.

The 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia have also not been without problems. Back in December, two bombings a day apart in a city 400 miles from Sochi killed 34 people and injured dozens more. The radical Islamic group claiming responsibility for the attacks warned of more to come so naturally, many nations have been cautious as the games approach. And there have been recent rumors that Russian security officers are currently searching for potentially three female suicide bombers.

The US, who boycotted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow to try and keep the Soviets out of Afghanistan, entertained the idea of keeping athletes out of these games as well, but instead decided to send security with the team. They've also warned family members traveling in support of their athletes and many have opted to stay home instead. But still, there will be an estimated 10,000 US spectators traveling to Sochi.

The US State Department has also issued a warning to Team USA athletes about not wearing their Ralph Lauren-designed Olympic uniforms outside of Olympic venues. While there will be security within the designated areas of the game, it's unlikely that detail will follow the athletes outside of these locations. And it's not like they'll be able to blend in with those uniforms either. If you haven't seen them yet, they're anything but inconspicuous. It's sort of like going to a Sox/Yankees game in the Bronx. If you value your life as a Red Sox fan, it's best not to flaunt your Boston colors in Yankee Stadium.

So... just 11 days until the Olympic Games begin. Let's hope for a peaceful and competitive couple of weeks!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Day 300: Red Sox Flush with Prospects

It's that time of year for baseball fans... the anticipation of the impending season... spring training starting in the not-so-distant future... and the arrival of the 2014 Prospect Rankings. Living in an area that is home to the Red Sox Double A affiliate Portland Sea Dogs, it's always exciting to read about the up-and-comers in the organization and keep an eye on the the guys that come through Portland.

We've seen a lot of stars come through Hadlock Field. Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon to name a few... the list is long. Wikipedia has a pretty comprehensive list of the guys who played and the guys who rehabbed in Portland if you're curious. This season, the Red Sox lead the charge with their young talent with the most players listed on the Top 100 Prospects. They have nine players, including Xander Bogaerts, who ranks #2.
#2    Xander Bogaerts, SS
#30  Henry Owens, LHP
#33  Jackie Bradley, Jr, OF
#46  Allen Webster, RHP
#57  Gerin Cecchini, 3B
#61  Blake Swihart, C
#62  Mookie Betts, 2B
#86  Matt Barnes, RHP
#96  Trey Ball, LHP
Xander Bogaerts spent 18 games during the 2013 season with the Red Sox after Will Middlebrooks was injured. He showed versatility, performing well at both short stop and third base. He also showed veteran-like poise at the plate, especially under the pressures of the postseason. We'll most certainly see him in Boston this season, it's just a question of where. If no shortstop is signed between now and the start of the season, that's probably where he'll end up.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Allen Webster both also spent time in Boston last season but didn't fare as well as Bogaerts. While Bradley started the season with the Sox, he was quickly moved back to Triple A Pawtucket to keep him from losing his rookie status. He showed quickness in the outfield and made some amazing plays, but his offense left something to be desired. In the 37 games played, he managed to bat just .189. A far cry from his numbers in Triple and Double A.

I really don't have much to say about Allen Webster. He wasn't that great in the handful of games he pitched with the Red Sox, but he showed potential. And he did have a pretty respectable season in Pawtucket, going 8-4 with a 3.60 ERA so I'm expecting bigger and better things from righty in 2014.

So there's your list of guys to keep a look out for this summer. I'm not sure just yet who's going to end up where but I'm sure one or two might land in Portland and maybe even show us something special. Pitchers and catchers report to JetBlue Park on February 15th.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Day 299: Bad Lip Reading: NFL Part Deux, Hello Little Piggy.

What better way to finish off the week than with a few laughs. Ok, maybe more than a few... seriously, I nearly wet my pants through most of this latest installment from the Bad Lip Reading folks. Even if you don't have an ounce of interest in sports of any kind, I guarantee you won't be able to keep a straight face during this video. I'm not sure what it is about the Bad Lip Reading stuff, but man, it's just brilliant. Brilliant, I tell you!

Many of my posts lately have been pretty long and wordy so I'm giving you a break tonight. Not much reading necessary, which is good if you had a brain-draining week like I did. Just give me three and half minutes of your time and you won't be sorry. I'm pretty sure Jim Harbaugh was custom-made for this shit. If you missed the first NFL edition of Bad Lip Reading, click HERE.

He crushed his cape! He crushed his fozzy cape! TGIF x 1000, peeps!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day 298: Wait... A Baseball Player Willing to Take Less Money?

My biggest problem with professional sports—particularly baseball—is the exorbitant contracts handed out. It's really starting to get out of control. A guy has one good year and all of the sudden, he thinks he's worth a gazillion dollars. And then he and his agent will stop at nothing to squeeze as much money as possible out of some desperate team who thinks this guy is the answer to their problems. More often than not, that's not the case. More often then not, that once amazing player catches a case of the Big Contract Blues and ends up being more of a hinderance than a help.

We see it over and over. By the time a baseball player has made a name for himself, his ship has usually already sailed. Or—and here's the worst possible scenario—that player used performance enhancing drugs to increase his value and get the big pay day. Then Major League Baseball starts cracking down on the drug problem and we find out that this once heralded player is just run-of-the-mill. The team that just robbed a bank to pay this guy is now burdened with a major disappointment.

Many of these money-grubbing players are in it strictly for the bucket loads of cash—no longer is it for the love of the game. They show no fire, no desire to be on a winning team if it means they won't get paid as much. The goal is to be showered with riches and long-term contracts so they can just get fat and slow and sucky and still guarantee that paycheck is going to keep on coming.

Sometimes, it's refreshing to see a guy who just loves playing the game. Someone who loves playing for a particular team so much that he's willing to negotiate contract extensions before free agency. And sometimes, he's willing to take less money and less time to make it happen. Look at Dustin Pedroia vs. Robinson Cano. Both play the same position, both have similar career numbers (Cano has a little more power, but Pedey has a better on-base percentage) but their contracts couldn't be more different.

Dustin Pedroia chose not to test the free agent market and negotiate his seven-year, $100 million contract with the Red Sox before his current commitment ended. Cano, on the other hand, hit free agency with a vengeance and teams battled for his services. His final deal came from the Seattle Mariners and weighed in at 10 years, $240 million—nearly $10 million more a year than Pedroia. But Pedey loves Boston and he was willing to take less if it meant staying in the city he calls home.

Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester is in the final year of his current contract and will be looking for some of the same love from the Sox front office that Pedroia got. He knows better than anyone that in order to stay with the Red Sox, it's not going to happen with a free-agent deal. The Sox just don't play that way anymore after being burned by too many deadbeat deals.

Lester needs to work closely with the team and his agents to get an extension done before he reaches free agency, ideally before the 2014 season starts. And he knows there's a very good chance he'll be taking a pay cut to stay in Boston. As long as the deal is fair for both sides, there's a very high likelihood that Lester could finish out his career in Beantown.

I mean... after a most surprising World Series win, who wouldn't want to stick around to see what this club can do next?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Day 297: Super Bowl Sunday Snow? I Hope So!

For the first time ever, the Super Bowl will be played outdoors in a cold weather city. A week from Sunday, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks will meet at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. In case you're not up on the current weather, MetLife is currently buried under over a foot of snow after the most recent winter storm.

There has been much speculation whether or not the NFL was smart to plan the Super Bowl for an area that could easily be engulfed in a blizzard, making it difficult for both fans and players to make it to the stadium. If the players can't get there, that makes playing the game rather hard. Since the 2014 Farmer's Almanac was releases late last year, there has been talk about whether or not its predictions for a major winter storm during Super Bowl weekend will hold true.

As it stands right now, 11 days before the big day, is forecasting a high of 40 degrees with a chance of precipitation and the night time temps dropping to around 20. Doesn't sound so bad right now, but that's a week and a half away... so much can happen between now and then. And so far, the Almanac has been pretty spot on for the month of January.

Personally, I'm hoping for a snowy game. Please, please, please let it snow! The weather can play such a huge part in a football game—making it difficult to do just about everything so it makes it extra fun to watch. It's almost like the whole game is happening in slow motion with everyone slipping and sliding around. We've seen what happens to Peyton Manning when the weather goes bad and something tells me the Seahawks won't fare much better. Plus, Commissioner Roger Goodell is planning to sit outside and brave the element.

Remember week 14 and the Lions/Eagles game? I'm looking for something along those lines. Honestly, what's better than a snow angel touchdown celebration? Although Wes Welker was penalized and fined $10,000 in 2008 for doing just that... I say take the risk. It's way better than stupid dance.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 296: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #1 - The Pitchers

As far as I'm concerned, the football season is over. Super Bowl Sunday will be for eating and critiquing commercials. The Olympics start in two and a half weeks, and then baseball is back. Red Sox Truck Day is February 8th and pitchers and catchers report a week later on February 15th. It's right around the corner and it fills my heart with glee!

But with the impending start to the 2014 baseball season, comes a rather sad occurrence. It will mark the end of my Balls of All Sizes quest for 365—a quest that is looking pretty attainable at this point in time. There are just ten Tuesdays left in this journey and in that time, I'm determined to make some unsuspecting non-sports loving reader a baseball fan for life. Yes, there are people I've threatened who don't like sports but still read this blog. Expanding horizons, or something like that.

Honestly, there are so many posts I can write about the rules and plays and nuances in baseball, I could probably concentrate on just baseball for the rest of my days, but some readers might get a tad bored by reading shit they already know. I figure if you know the players and what they do, that's half the battle right there. All the rest will fall into place. Maybe. If not, you know where to find me.

So without further ado, I bring you the first installment of Baseball for Beginners. I'm going to start with the PITCHER mainly because (a) he's a pretty integral part of the team, and (b) he's known on the score card as position #1 so it's a natural place to start. He stands on the mound in the middle of the infield and throws (or pitches) the ball to the catcher (more about him next week) and those pitches are judged by the know-it-all umpire (who stands behind home plate) as either balls (four balls are bad) or strikes (three strikes are good.) His goal is to get the batter out and keep the opposing team from scoring runs. Runs are bad. Outs are good. Strikeouts are even better.

Pitchers also control the pace of the game. When a pitcher is on his game and retiring batters, the game just flies by. But get a couple guys on base and he becomes preoccupied with those base runners. This is when baseball gets tedious and makes you want to throw your full $8 beer at the pitcher's head. You want a pitcher who gets the ball and throws the ball. You don't want a pitcher who stares down his catcher, shakes off signs and steps off the mound too often. He's obviously uncomfortable with his situation and often times, nothing good comes of it.

The pitcher can also be a whiny bitch. If things aren't going his way, if the umpire has a strike zone the size of a quarter, it can send him over the edge. He can be fiery. He'll roll his eyes, throw up his hands and be generally two-year-old-ish if he's not getting his way. Pitchers have also been known to throw shit, knock over water coolers or worse, sulk. And don't talk to him in the dugout, especially if he's flirting with a no-hitter. Men have been killed for just thinking about a no-hitter.

He's also responsible for avenging his teammates. If someone gets beaned, it's the job of the pitcher to retaliate. Throw a couple high and tight, back the batter off the plate, make him uncomfortable in the batter's box. And then, KAPOW, a high fastball smack in the middle of the back. It's not uncommon for a play like this to end in a bench-clearing slap-fight brawl with the pitcher at the epicenter of the melee.

Pitchers are complex beings with intricate routines and even more elaborate superstitions. When Roidger Roger Clemens played for the Yankees, he touched the Babe Ruth statue before every start. Charlie Kerfeld, a Houston Astros pitcher from the 80's, wore a Jetson's t-shirt under his uniform—coincidently, the character of choice was the Jetson's dog, Astro. And then there was Turk Wendell—Google him, I don't have enough time to list all of his bizarre superstitions, but this dude would brush his teeth between innings. Seriously.

Stop yawning... I think I've pontificated enough on the position of pitcher. Next week, we'll learn about the pitcher's batter mate, the catcher. I know you're all breathless with anticipation. Try to contain yourselves.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Day 295: Why I'll Be Rooting for Denver on Super Bowl Sunday.

There's nothing worse as a football fan than to have your favorite team denied a trip to the Super Bowl in the final hour. I would almost prefer they just lose in the first round—if my hopes are going to be dashed, make it quick, like ripping off a band-aid. Quick and relatively painless. But losing in the AFC Championship game is a slower pain for me...

Growing up, it was always my first instinct to root against the team that just beat my guys. But my dad always told me that I should actually cheer for that team because if they're good enough to beat my favorite team, then obviously they should be good enough to win it all. So I'm putting on my big girl pants and putting my pom poms behind Peyton and the Broncos.

Seattle Seahawks defensive back, Richard Sherman, had a little bit to do with that decision too. For a really smart guy, Sherman can be ridiculously stupid. I didn't realize he finished second in his high school graduating class and also graduated from Stanford with a degree in Communications. Something tells me that maybe he should be a little smarter about what he says and does on the football field.

Sherman is one of the best DB's in the NFL... and don't think he won't tell you that every chance he gets... modest is not a word used to describe this guy. Everyone knows you're good, Richard. There's no need to scream it on national television—you're actions in the closing minute of the NFC Championship were enough to prove that point. So why do you insist on doing things that make you the other kind of DB?

Sure, he was fired up after making the game saving play in the end zone. So why the horrible lack of sportsmanship? Was it really necessary to pat San Francisco's wide receiver, Michael Crabtree's butt after breaking up what could've been the game winning touchdown pass to him? Because I'm sure he doesn't feel awful enough without you swatting his ass or calling him out as a mediocre receiver in your post-game interview.

But what really bothered me was the choke sign he gave to the San Francisco team. Last time I checked, SF has five Lombardi trophies—more Super Bowl wins that Seattle has trips to the big game. Even if that wasn't the case, I really can't think of any gesture quite as classless as the choke sign... except maybe that Seattle fan that threw food at the injured 49er being carted off the field.

I have several Seattle friends and originally thought I would root for them. Russell Wilson seems like a nice young man. But this could possibly be Peyton's last chance and well, Richard Sherman says I should root for the Broncos.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Day 294: Well... Maybe Next Year, Patriots.

Since the launch of my Balls of All Sizes quest back on April 1, 2013, there has rarely been a shortage of topics on which to reflect. I've been lucky enough to pick a year where lots of newsworthy stuff has happened—some really amazing and some really bad—and I did my best to give attention to all of it. Even when I didn't want to.

From the Boston Marathon bombings, to the Bruins in (but losing) the Stanley Cup Finals, to the Aaron Hernandez murder charges, to the Red Sox winning the World Series, it's been a flood of subject matter. So after what the Bruins and Sox did, naturally I wanted the trifecta—the Patriots at least making it to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Peyton Manning and the Broncos had other plans. Curses!

I'm not here to make excuses for the Patriots. They played a shitty game—it's as simple as that. I don't want to hear about the injuries or their lack of weapons because they've had to deal with those deficiencies nearly all season long and ended up with a 12-4 record and the #2 seed going in to the playoffs. They were just plain outplayed. Unfortunately, there would be no magical comeback today.

While I'm sad about the loss and as much as I hate doing it, I must give props to the Denver Broncos for coming up with a game plan based on the obvious weaknesses of the Patriots and sticking to that plan. Back in November, they exploited the Pats' lack of run defense by rushing for over 250 yards. In the AFC Championship, the Broncos took advantage of New England's weak secondary and Manning picked them apart for 400 yards passing.

That's all I can muster tonight... Now pardon me while I go cry in my mac and cheese. Until next year...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Day 293: Why Do I Have the Pre-Game Jitters?

It's been a long week waiting for AFC Championship Sunday to arrive and now that it's almost here, I find myself a bundle of nerves. Why? I'm not playing in the game, I'm not coaching the team (well...maybe a little from my couch) and I don't own the Patriots either. I'm just a fan...a very nervous (and ridiculously superstitious) fan.

I've been incessantly listening to sports talk radio this whole week. Listening to the Boston stations talk about how much Tom Brady owns Peyton Manning and that we have nothing to worry about. Listening to them talk about the postseason records of each quarterback and using those stats to make an argument for how it's virtually impossible for the Patriots to lose this game.

All I can think is: SHUT UP, YOU'RE GOING TO JINX THEM!!

Yup, that's how I think...but if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how irrational I can be when it comes to my superstitions. I did notice that the jeans and Pats t-shirt I wore during their win over the Colts still sit in the bedroom unwashed. That's a good thing, right? I didn't wash any good juju out of my outfit.

I'm not going to lie...I was nervous wearing this particular t-shirt last week because the only other time I wore it was during that horrible game against Carolina—and we all know how that one ended. So you probably can imagine my relief when they won. I really like the t-shirt and I would be sad to have to burn it. Although if bad things happen on Sunday, it's curtains for that thing.

But now I'm trying to remember what socks I wore. Mom? Do you remember? And I'm wondering if the change in the viewing location will work against me? Last week we watched the first half at my parents' house and the second half at home. This week we're planning to watch the whole game at home. And what about my dinner choices? Do I have to eat a meatball sub exactly as I did last Saturday night, or can I stick with my previously planned crock pot mac and cheese?

My brain can't handle all the questions and second guesses floating around in it! I guess I shouldn't over think it too much... Go Pats!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Day 292: Twelfth Man Blues for the Broncos

The all-important 12th Man is something most professional football teams count on. Really... what's the sense of home field advantage if your fans can't do their part to help you win? If you're not quite sure what I'm talking about, think about the loudest cheering you've ever heard. That's the 12th Man. It's that extra something that makes it difficult for visiting teams to communicate plays and it generally throws (or is supposed to throw) them off their game.

Some stadiums are louder than others—I'm guessing it depends on the configuration of the field. If a field has overhanging canopies or aluminum bleachers, shit gets real loud, real fast. I've been to Gillette Stadium for a Patriots game and one end of the field is open and I swear, all the sound flies out that end. It never sounds really loud in that place and it kind of bums me out a bit.

But then you have places like CenturyLink Field in Seattle and Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City. These two arenas lead the way as the two loudest crowds in the NFL and both held the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd noise at some point this past season. And Seattle's rowdy fans actually registered on the Richter scale during one game.

Other teams need to go a step further with their home field advantage because maybe they don't trust their 12th Man to show up. Understandable in Denver where they're probably all stoned. The Broncos organization is so nervous that their fans will be out-cheered, they've limited the ticket sales to exclude certain states—Massachusetts being one. Basically they want Sports Authority Field at Mile High to be a sea of orange with not a Flying Elvis or Tom Brady jersey to be seen.

An article by Mark Kiszla from the Denver Post referenced the 2006 AFC Championship when the Broncos hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers. Swarms of Terrible Towel-wielding Steelers fans descended on the stadium, essentially negating home field advantage for the Broncos and shaking up veteran sissies players. In the article, former defensive back, John Lynch recalls walking out for a pre-game warm-up to a sea of yellow and being ruined for the entire game.

Now here's where I call bullshit. Are you telling me that Denver Broncos' psyches are so fragile that they need to limit what fans can attend the game? Sounds like a conspiracy to me. Sounds like Tom Brady and company need to march in there and kick some of that orange ass. Sounds like poor wittle Peyton Manning and Wuss Wes Welker need their blankies to comfort them in the big, bad football world.

Get over yourself, Denver.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day 291: It's the Road Trip of My Dreams!

I've been a baseball fan pretty much since I stopped wearing diapers and I've only ever been to two major league ballparks. It's tough when I'm stuck up here in the northeast corner of the country where even my Boston Red Sox are still a two-hour drive. If it wasn't for my Yankee-lover husband, I probably would only ever have visited Fenway Park. I'm not much of a Yankee Stadium fan.

There are a couple ballparks on my bucket list—just a couple because if I try to think about going to more than that, even those that I most want to visit would feel out of reach. Camden Yards in Baltimore is tops. Since the day that park opened in 1992, I've wanted to make the trip to watch the Sox play the O's. It has that same closeness that Fenway has and it has all the features new stadium with an old stadium feel.

Of course, Wrigley Field is one of those on the list. For starters, the ivy covered walls have always amazed me. Do balls get lost out there? Also, because it's the second oldest stadium in operation—just two years younger than Fenway Park. Having to wait so many years for a World Series victory makes me feel a sort of kinship with Cubs fans... at least I did until 2004. Sorry.

I read an article today about a guy who has always dreamed of the ultimate baseball road trip. He finally took it upon himself to put the plan down on paper and even go so far as to price the whole thing out. Some fans dream of taking the summer off, loading up the car and setting off for three months of cross country driving and ballgames. This guy is much, much more ambitious.

Will Leitch writes The Ultimate: 30 Stadiums, 30 Days. It's a fabulous "dare to dream" piece where all you need is a month off and a boat load of cash. Because it's only 30 days, careful planning and lots of flying are involved. The challenge for him was finding stretches of days where teams in the same state or general area were all playing at home. For instance, he couldn't do all the California teams in one west coast swing, which kind of sucks but he deals with it.

The whole schedule sounded both exhausting and exhilarating all at once. There's even a stretch where he plans a 36-hour stretch of no hotels when the trip takes him from Seattle to Minnesota to San Diego. He says, "Yes, that's right: You just went from a game to an airport to a game to another airport without ever stopping at a hotel to sleep. You're a gamer." At least he gives you the chance to save a little on lodging along the way.

Once you make it to the northeast, it's a little easier to get around. There are more train rides than flights. The baseball stadiums are a bit closer together—so much so that if you were really motivated, you could probably rent a car and drive it. Although by this point, you might need you're own personal driver since I can only imagine that severe fatigue is starting to set in right about now. This trip might have officially just catapulted to the top of my bucket list. Who's with me?

Now all I need is a month off from work and a quick influx of cash. The estimate for just the travel, game tickets and lodging is close to $11,000—that doesn't include food or booze so now I've got to add another couple grand for that. But just think of the book a trip like this could fuel.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Day 290: Red Sox or Love Connection?

NESN, the home television network of the Boston Red Sox, has always employed a really pretty woman as their side-line eye candy reporter as part of their broadcast team. There was Tina Cervasio, Heidi Watney and their most current on-field babe, Jenny Dell, to name a few.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny last spring when she and Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy visited Portland on their tour of New England in an attempt to reignite love for the Red Sox after a dismal previous season. She was really nice and little—my height actually (5'2"). I liked her. It's a real gift to sound genuinely interested in some random person you're forced to make small talk with, and she never once made me feel like I was bothering her in the five minutes we spent together.

There's always that stigma, where female sports reporters are concerned, that they're in the business to land themselves a man. I remember the rumors that Heidi Watney broke up Jason Varitek's marriage. I've never found any solid evidence to the contrary, but even Tek's current wife came to Heidi's rescue on Twitter back in 2012 when she was being accused of having an affair with the former Sox captain.

After Heidi left and Jenny took over, I never heard anything about her chasing jocks. Evidently, I was completely wrong and Jenny Dell is the ultimate ninja jock chaser. It turns out that not only is she dating Sox third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, they're living together! That tells me that this relationship has been going on for some time now... either that or she's just easy. About a week after the Boston Globe reported that the two were an item, they tweeted out a happy New Year's Eve photo.... looks like a love connection to me!

Hmmmm... what do I think about this development? Part of me thinks, hey, good for you. But the other part of me is all like, errrrr... is that really professional? The guy you're supposed to be reporting on is sleeping next to you. This is a guy you might have to ask about a recent sucky slump or how his obstruction play nearly cost the Red Sox the World Series. How do you do that?

Now word on the street is that Jenny is entertaining an offer from Fox Sports 1. Probably maybe a job she should consider taking. Now that the jig is up and the whole world knows she's shacking up with Middlebrooks, there could be quite a backlash for NESN and lots of questions to answer.

Could be worse, I guess. Middlebrooks could be in prison awaiting a murder trial.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Day 289: Adios, A-Rod.

Nothing makes me happier to see that grimace on Alex Rodriguez's face when something doesn't go his way. You know the look... that "what? I didn't do anything wrong" look. It's a look he's perfected. It's a look he uses often because frankly, Rodriguez rarely thinks he does anything wrong. He has spent his entire adult life so many lips on his ass, it's a surprise he can even sit down anymore.

It's sort of the same look he had on his face in game six of the 2004 ALCS when he slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove and then tried to argue that was his normal running style. He was called out and as he stood on second, arms flailed out to the side, he refused to accept his mistake and leave the field. If you still don't remember that look, click HERE and go directly to 33:46 of the video. I can't help but smile each and every time I watch that crybaby.

This week something happened that you may have heard about that brought A-Rod back down to earth. The 211-game suspension for violations of the sport's drug agreement and labor contract that was handed down by Bud Selig last August was overturned. What? Have no fear though. Baseball's independent arbitrator, Frederic Horowitz, shortened the suspension to 162 games plus all playoff games in 2014.

So now A-Rod is suing Major League Baseball and the player's union. Um... isn't he in the player's union? Doesn't that mean he's suing himself? I'm going out on a limb and saying this guy isn't the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. Why can't he just accept that the jig is up, Tony Bosch has enough evidence about their PED relationship to fill Yankee Stadium. There's a lot of other stuff going on in this case that you can read about HERE if you really want to give up five minutes of your life you'll never get back.

Part of me is so happy this piece of shit will not only NOT be playing baseball this upcoming season, but he's also losing out on about $25 million bucks. But there's also a part of me that's mad the Yankees dodged that bullet of having to pay him for probably being injured or just plain sucking.

It makes me sad that baseball has been defaced by the suspicion of performance enhancing drugs. Players have to constantly battle with the public's perception of what is true talent and what is injected talent.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Day 288: Julian Edelman: Star Wide Receiver or Smoothie King?

Most know New England Patriots' wide receiver Julian Edelman for his sure hands, quick feet and fearlessness on the football field. With the departure of Wes Welker this past off-season, Edelman was thrust into the spotlight as a main target for Tom Brady. He stepped up to the challenge and had the best year of his career catching 105 balls for 1,056 total yards and six touchdowns.

What you might not know is that he possesses some culinary talents as well. It has come to my attention that Julian Edelman might also be known as the Smoothie King. In the video below, JE11 is seen making a Cake Batter Supreme smoothie—and it looks deeeee-licious! He's also wearing a florescent green fanny pack but I'm going to let that slide because it seemed to be serving as a storage place for some of his ingredients.

I'm not sure of a few things... first, why he felt the need to shed his t-shirt when it was time to add the protein powder? Second, does the sexy, icy stare while blending help make the smoothie taste better? And why, for the love of all that is holy, does he still have that hideous fanny pack on while skateboarding?


Care to follow Chef Julian on Twitter? You can... click here. Who knows what flavor smoothie he'll come up with next?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Day 287: Patriots are Headed to the AFC Championship Game!

Well, that was fun! The New England Patriots are going back to the AFC Championship game after beating the Indianapolis Colts 43-22 Saturday night. The Colts put up a pretty good fight for a good portion of the game and at one point were down just six points. But the Patriots were all like, I don't think so, and put a foot to the throat of the Colts early in the fourth quarter and never let up.

If the Colts had been playing anyone else, I would've been rooting for them. I like Andrew Luck. Out of the core of good, young quarterbacks in the NFL right now, he seems to have the best head on his shoulders. He's not as cocky and mouthy as some of the others—like the two who played Sunday afternoon. With Andrew Luck at the helm, Indy is capable of of great things... but the interceptions will get ya every time. And throwing four INTs against the New England Patriots is not advised. They will make you pay.

Tom Brady didn't really factor into this game much—he went 13-for-25 with 198 passing yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was basically on the field to keep the defense honest and mix in a passing play here and there. He did connect with Julian Edelman six times for 84 yards. The real story here is the running game. After LeGarrette Blount exploded for a career day in the final game of the regular season, I'm sure I wasn't the only one wondering if it was a fluke. Or is this guy really that good?

I think at this point in time we can say Blount is really that good after his second consecutive spectacular game. And this time, it counted just a little more. He rushed 24 times for 166 yards and four touchdowns. FOUR! His longest run was 73 yards which of course, was for one of his TDs. Normally I'm more of a high-flying passing fan but this kid is seriously fun to watch.

There was a bit of sadness over the Patriots' game on Saturday though. Remember that post I did back in October about the Foxboro teenager, Sam Berns? He's the kid battling a rare, rapid-aging disease called Progeria who had befriended Robert Kraft. Well, just a day before Sam was to serve as honorary captain for the Patriots in their playoff game against the Colts, the 17-year-old passed away.

Robert Kraft, who had a special relationship with the young man, issued a statement following Sam's death on Friday night. (Click the link to read the whole thing.)
“I loved Sam Berns and am richer for having known him. He was a special young man whose inspirational story and positive outlook on life touched my heart. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend time with him and to get to know his incredible family.”
I'm glad the Pats won this game for Sam.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Day 286: Nobody Puts Tom Brady in the Corner.

Did you hear about this guy, Vinnie Iyer, from The Sporting News and the article he wrote this past week? He decided to rank the eight remaining NFL quarterbacks left in the playoffs. He based his rankings on different aspects of the game: arm strength, mobility, pocket presence, intangibles, blah blah, and then ranked the QBs within each area and assigned points. His results are a little shocking and kind of stupid.

Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson all scored 28 points to put them tied for first. Drew Brees came in fourth with 22 points and Cam Newton was fifth with 21 points. Phillip Rivers and Colin Kaepernick each scored 19 points to tie for sixth place. And then... in the lonely last place spot (the corner, as I like to call it) is Tom Brady, scoring just a 15 on Iyer's stupid point system. Wait... did I call it stupid already?

So the fact that Tom Brady has more Super Bowl wins than the other seven quarterbacks combined means nothing? Or that the Patriots have had to deal with both major personnel changes AND major losses to injuries means nothing? What about the NFL-leading five fourth-quarter comebacks and five game-winning drives this season? Nothing?

Sure, Tom Brady didn't have his best season statistically. He didn't blow the doors off any records or anything like that. Instead, he methodically lead a team of new guys, rookies and replacements to a 12-4 record, good for the second seed in the AFC and a first round bye. Back in December, this article on the Bleacher Report hit the nail on the head with this statement about Brady: "He's reverted back to his pre-2007 ways of squeezing maximum production out of minimum talent."Amen.

I dunno... call me crazy but I'd rather have a proven veteran at the helm going into these high-stress games. Someone who has demonstrated the ability to lead his team in all sorts of weather and all sorts of situations. Someone who never gives up—no matter how many points separate him from his opponent. A two-time Super Bowl MVP, perhaps?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Day 285: Giving Bill Belichick a Reason to Smile

The New England Patriots have made the playoffs again this year—something that has become more expected than hoped for with this team. Since Bill Belichick took over the head coaching duties for the Pats back in 2000, they've missed the post season just three times with only one sub-.500 year. They've made it to the Super Bowl five times, winning it all three. He has a trio of Coach of the Year awards, including one in 2007 when the Patriots finished the regular season 16-0.

A lot of really good stuff has happened to Belichick during his time in New England. He pretty much controls every aspect of the team. He probably makes a bajillion dollars. He gets to coach Tom Brady. He can be really vague and assholish to the media and it's just how he is so he can get away with it. Seriously? I'd be smiling like the cat who ate the canary. But not this guy.

It's no secret that Bill Belichick isn't the most smiley guy on the planet so when he does turn his frown upside down, it's something to be documented. Because his grins are so rare, the Wall Street Journal took to the post-game press conference footage to document each and every time this infrequent occurrence transpired. In case you're wondering, that's 114.5 minutes of footage to comb through to find something about as easy to locate as a needle in a haystack.

For a guy who wins more often than he loses, he has a lot of reasons to smile. But he doesn't. I have to wonder if smiling pains him. Maybe deep down inside, he's ridiculously happy but it's hurts too much to show it. In the end, the Wall Street Journal concluded that Belichick smiled just seven times and even threw in a laugh—but just one of those. Laughing must really hurt him. If so, maybe he should try cartwheels instead.

Of course, all seven previous smiles took place after wins so I'm really hoping the Patriots give him a reason to do it again on Saturday.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Day 284: Cooperstown Class of 2014

First, I would like to say how much I think the voting process for the Baseball Hall of Fame is a crock of shit. The BBWAA (or Baseball Writer's Association of America) is responsible for submitting a ballot that can list as many as 10 players or even none—if they think no one is worthy of a trip to Cooperstown. Some of these voters might write down their hometown favorites, or leave deserving others off for ridiculous reasons. It's just stupid.

In an age where many players now eligible for the Hall are held in suspicion of using performance enhancing drugs, fewer players are being voted through. Look at Roger Clemens. Arguably one of the best pitches of my lifetime with seven Cy Young awards to his name. But just the suggestion of PEDs keeps his vote total low—just over 35% in his second year. Same with Barry Bonds. Personally, I don't think cheaters should be rewarded with an accolade of this caliber. It's setting a bad example.

In order to be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame, a player must have played at least 10 years and have been out of the game for at least five years. They must also receive at least 75% of the votes to be inducted—and if a player gets less than 5% of the votes, he's disqualified from future ballots. There were 36 players who qualified for this year's ballot—only three made it in. Fifteen players received the dreaded sub-5% and will no longer be eligible. And then there's Jack Morris who was on his 15th and final ballot and received just 61.5% of the votes—sadly not enough to get him to Cooperstown.

This is the first time that three first-ballot nominees were elected since Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount in 1999. Without further ado, I introduce you to the very small Cooperstown Class of 2014:
GREG MADDOX, PitcherMaddox was the leading vote getter with 555 of the 571 ballots for 97.2%. He pitched 23 years in the majors averaging a .610 career winning percentage. He won four Cy Youngs and 18 Gold Glove awards. He played in three World Series earning one ring when the Atlanta Braves beat the Cleveland Indians in 1995. 
TOM GLAVINE, PitcherGlavine received 525 votes (91.9%). A Massachusetts native, Glavine also pitched in the majors for over 20 years and finished with an average winning percentage of .600. He won two Cy Youngs and played in five World Series, winning only once as a teammate of Greg Maddox in 1995.  
FRANK THOMAS, Designated HitterThomas received 478 votes (83.7%) in his first year of eligibility. The first baseman/designated hitter spent a good portion of his 19-year career with the Chicago White Sox where he was nicknamed The Big Hurt and won back-to-back MVPs in 1993 and 1994.
Houston Astros' Craig Biggio really got the shaft when he missed being inducted in his second year by .2%. And former Red Sox playoff hero Curt Schilling got just over 29% of the votes to keep him out for the second straight year. So the bloody sock makes it to Cooperstown but Schill will need to wait...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Day 283: Bruins Represent in Sochi Olympics

The official Olympic rosters for all Men's Hockey teams have been named and the Boston Bruins will be well represented in Russia next month. In the end, five guys have been named to five different teams—which just goes to show you the international flair of the game. Hockey is one of the marquis events of the Olympics and it's always fun to watch a group of teammates fight so fiercely for their home country, even if it means squashing your line mate to get ahead.

Patrice Bergeron will play for Team Canada for the second time. He was a member of the gold medal winning Canadian team in Vancouver in 2010. Team Canada has also named Bruins' head coach, Claude Julien, as assistant coach. And Milan Lucic was invited to attend the orientation camp, but wasn't chosen as part of the final roster.

Bruins' captain, Zdeno Chara, will play in his third Olympics and head the Slovakia team. Tuukka Rask will tend the net for Finland, David Krejci will play for the Czech Republic and Loui Erikkson was named to Sweden's team. No one was named to the US team.

Each player was humbled by the appointment and felt honored to be playing for their home country. Teams Canada, Russia and Sweden are all favorites to win the gold medal. USA doesn't quite measure up to the top teams, but they have a strong team and could be in the hunt for a medal of some color, just probably not gold. But who knows with the Americans... they always seem to surprise us on the big stage.

Here's my prediction for the podium in Men's Hockey:

GOLD:  Russia (Duh... because they're the home team.)
SILVER:  Canada (Unable to defend their gold, they'll lose to Russia in a real nail biter.)
BRONZE:  USA (They're going to beat Sweden to squeeze onto the media podium.)

The Olympic hockey tournament begins on Wednesday, February 12th. Can you tell I'm excited?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Day 282: Lindsey Vonn Sadly Out of Olympics

The human body can only take so much and Lindsey Vonn's knee is a perfect example as she announced Tuesday that she would not be competing in Sochi next month. Vonn crashed last year in the Super G at the World Championships where she tore two ligaments in her right knee and suffered a tibial fracture. She came back to compete at the end of 2013, but crashed again in November. Not to be discouraged, she made another valiant attempt but skied off a French course after her knee buckled. And now, with the games just a month away, she has run out of time.
"I am devastated to announce that I will not be able to compete in Sochi," Vonn said in a statement Tuesday. "I did everything I possibly could to somehow get strong enough to overcome having no ACL but the reality has sunk in that my knee is just too unstable to compete at this level."
It's a sad realization that the most successful skier in American history will not be around to defend her downhill title. In 2010, after announcing she was battling a shin injury, she came out just a week later and became the first American woman to win gold in the downhill. After crashing in two other races, she finished third in the Super G. Vonn will turn 30 this year so competing in 2018 is not a complete long shot. With her determination and perseverance, I wouldn't be surprised to see her hurtling down the mountains of South Korea.

There's no doubt that Vonn is one of the toughest competitors in the skiing field. Back in 2006 in the Torino Games, she crashed during a training run and had to be airlifted to the hospital. She wanted to compete so badly, she got up out of her hospital bed and tried to leave without being officially discharged. She skied just two days later finishing eighth and while not winning a medal, she did win the US Olympic Spirit Award.

Lindsey's withdrawal from the games in Sochi leaves a spot open for another skier on the team. This could be the chance Mikaela Shiffrin has been waiting for. Described as a "phenom" by Bode Miller, the 18-year-old is the current slalom World Cup champion—the youngest in US history. She has won two of four World Cup slaloms this season and is targeted as a potential medalist in both slalom and giant slalom.

While it's sad we won't get Vonn's sparkling presence at the games next month, it will be nice to see a wide-eyed Olympic rookie get her first taste of the global spotlight.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Day 281: Saturday Night Matchup: Patriots vs. Colts

The New England Patriots did not face the Indianapolis Colts in the regular season this year, which was a little weird because it seems like they play each other every year. That's ok though, because now they get to host them in an AFC Divisional game on Saturday, January 11th. The Pats are 2-1 against the Colts in the playoffs—beating them in the AFC Championship game in 2004 and the AFC Divisional game in 2005, but then losing a close AFC Championship game in 2007.

This game will be interesting and there will be a lot of factors in place. The Colts are coming to Gillette Stadium. Outside. In January. If the weather this winter so far is any indication of what these two teams are in for, expect nasty or snowy or cold. I can only hope it's all three. Tough for a team like the Colts who plays in a climate-controlled dome half the time.

If the weather is really shitty, it could be a battle of place kickers. Former Patriots kicking hero Adam Vinatieri, who is 35-of-40 with a long of 52 yards this season, will face off against his replacement, Stephen Gostkowski who is having the best season of his career. Gostkowski is 38-of-41 with a long of 54 yards. How will the 41-year-old Vinatieri handle Gillette in January? This time around, let's hope he doesn't.

While the Patriots enjoyed a bye week over Wild Card Weekend, the Colts battled hard against the Chiefs overcoming a 28-point deficit to beat KC by a single point. So how's this going to play out? Will the Pats be rested and strong and ready to rumble? Or will the Colts be pumped up and riding the high of that huge comeback win? Or maybe the Colts be exhausted and sluggish...

In 2012, the only time New England faced then rookie Andrew Luck, they blasted them 59-24, scoring 21 points in the final quarter. But the Pats also had a lot more weapons then. This season, Tom Brady had a slightly better completion percentage than Luck and over 500 more passing yards. When you look at the season stats, both quarterbacks are pretty even. However...Brady has just a tinch more experience in big games than Luck, so we shall see.

The only thing I know for sure is that I'll be parked on my couch, most likely swaddled in my blankie. My nerves will be shot. I might be slightly intoxicated and probably eating piles of junk food. I'm a stress eater. Now where are those good luck jammies?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Day 280: Still a Hockey Pink Hat

After the extreme excitement of the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, I vowed to be less of a hockey pink hat for the 2013-14 season. Guess what? I failed. I know the season isn't over yet and there's probably still time to move past that dreaded pink hat status, but I guess I didn't realize how difficult the task is when the other person in the house could give two craps about hockey. It's going to be a tough hill to climb, a tough stigma to shake.

It's not like I know nothing about the team this season. I've been keeping up with the news. I heard all about the Shawn Thornton's suspension. I saw the play that got him ousted for 15 games. Is it wrong I didn't think it was that bad? Maybe it's because I watched it on YouTube and didn't get the full cheapness of the shot. I also know that unfortunately Dennis Seidenberg will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL/MCL—leaving a bit of a hole at defense. So I'm not completely clueless.

I do know this. The Boston Bruins are kicking some major ass right now. Their record of 28-12-2 is good enough for first place in the Atlantic Division. The leading scorers for the B's are no surprise: David Krejci, Reilly Smith, Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla and Patrice Bergeron round out the top five. I was happy to see that Iginla has settled in with the team he snubbed last year.

Krejci leads the team with 36 points. At first I thought that sounded like a pretty good number. And then I looked at the overall NHL scoring numbers and had to chuckle. Krejci's 36 points barely gets him on the first page. That whiney little idiot Sydney Crosby has 62 points. What? Both the Bruins and Penguins lead their respective conference but Pittsburgh has just three more points than Boston. And with all those goals and assists, I kind of feel like they should be so much better than that. Their goalie must really blow.

So now is when my superstitions come into play. I really want to watch a game or two and I'm afraid I'll jinx them. I guess if I'm going to give it a try, now is the time. Not later on when the games really matter as the season starts to wind down. I enjoyed the playoffs so much this past spring... I need that again!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Day 279: Wild Card Weekend Starts with a Wow!

If the NFL playoffs are going to be anything like the Indianapolis surprise comeback 45-44 win over Kansas City, it's going to be a wild ride! I'm sure there are a lot of Chiefs (and fans) shaking their heads right now wondering what the hell just happened. Well... you blew a 28 point lead early in the third quarter and now you're going home. What happened to that amazing defense I kept hearing about? Amazing defenses don't give up 45 points...

The Chiefs were stung hard by the injury bug often so that didn't help their cause much. The biggest being their star running back, Jamaal Charles. He suffered a head injury during the first quarter and was being evaluated for a possible concussion. He never returned to the game. The Chiefs also lost another running back, Knile Davis, as well as outside linebacker Justin Houston and wide receiver Donnie Avery.

But in the end, it was Andrew Luck who led the Colts to a one point victory, outscoring KC 35-6 after the Chiefs scored an early third quarter touchdown to go up 28. And that's with Luck throwing three interceptions in addition to his four touchdowns. It was the success of his connection with TY Hilton that propelled the Colts to victory. Hilton had 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Quite the comeback for the home team!

Patriots fans will need to wait until Sunday to find out who New England will face next Saturday. If San Diego beats Cincinnati, the Pats will play the surging Colts in Foxboro. If Cincinnati wins, the Bengals will make the trip to Gillette Stadium. Not sure who I'm rooting for...

Friday, January 3, 2014

Day 278: 30 for 30: Four Days in October

I'm embarrassed to say that "Four Days in October" is the first "30 for 30" that I've watched—and I'm even more embarrassed that it took me this long to watch it. I hope no one tries to revoke my fan status because of it. This was a film full of memories of those October days that altered lives for an entire generation of Red Sox fans.

October 17, 2004 is one of those dates Sox fans will remember forever. It was a day that changed the face of an organization and reversed an 86-year-old curse all in one fell swoop. But on that day, no one knew it would be a day that would live on in infamy. It was just another day. It was a day that followed an embarrassing 19-8 loss that put the Sox in a 3-0 hole, facing elimination at the hands of the Yankees for the second straight year.

But we all know what happened on October 17th and the days that followed. The Boston Red Sox, who hadn't won a World Series since 1918, accomplished something that had never done in professional sports—they came back from a three game deficit to win four straight and send the Yankees home. From that stolen base in the bottom of the ninth in game four to a famous bloody sock, it was a series full of pivotal events, clutch plays and cowboy upping.

Watching this special brought back so many memories. Like how much of a cheerleader Kevin Millar was for this team—he was telling everyone, "Don't let us win today." Like how close the Yankees were to going to the World Series—just three outs away with Mariano Rivera on the mound. Like how you could hear a pin drop in Fenway with Dave Roberts on first in the bottom of the ninth in game four. Or how his stolen base brings tears to my eyes every time I see it.

What about the clutch hitting of David Ortiz, driving in the winning runs for games four and five, both in extra innings. Or Curt Schilling's pitching in a do or die game six in Yankee Stadium with a bloody sock. The memory of a horrible ankle injury, a fresh surgical scar, and a blood stain that slowly grew with each passing inning. He pitched seven heroic innings allowing just on earned run on four hits.

Or like when Alex Rodriguez, desperate to get on base, swatted the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove and then tried to say it was just his running motion. And then his tantrum on second base—refusing to leave the field, convinced he did nothing wrong. Or the subsequent shower of shit from the stands (because Yankees fans are classy like that) prompting the NYPD to take the field in riot gear.

Then there was Derek Lowe who pitched game seven on just two days rest and ended up spinning a six-inning, one-run beauty. Or like when Pedro came in to relieve Lowe to the chants of "who's your dad-dy!" and giving up two runs. But Boston's bats had exploded in that final game giving them a lead they would never surrender.

When that final out of the ALCS was recorded, you just knew... there was no way the Red Sox could lose that World Series.

If you don't have Netflix, you can watch the whole special right here on YouTube... if you have an hour to kill, do it. It's so worth reliving the plight of a group of idiots that simply asked, "Why not us?" [Dad... if you haven't seen this special, you must watch it right now!]

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Day 277: Crazy Couple Completes 366 Days of Running

When I was in high school, I ran indoor track. I ran less than 300 yards per meet—the 40 yard dash and the relay. I wasn't a track star by any means, but I've always joked that if there had been a 10 yard dash, I would've been champion of the world—I was that fast out of the blocks. The speed usually petered out quickly which is saying a lot for a race that lasts five to six seconds.

The one thing I despised about running track was, well, the actual running. The endless laps on the suspended track in my high school's gym. The occasional jaunts around town. The forced participation in the Jingle Bell run. I did everything in my power to not have to run more than a couple minutes at a time and that included maybe a little window shopping around town while waiting for the proper amount of time to lapse before heading back to practice.

It probably sounds like I hated running track when in fact, I love it. There was just something about Saturday winter mornings at the Portland Expo. The sound of the shot put bouncing across the floor... or the high jump bar clanking to the ground. The sound of the starters' pistol and the thump, thump, thumping of runners as they hit the ancient wooden banks on either end of the track. The sound of the cheers from all corners—each containing a team and their fans. We always had the same corner...

Basically, all I knew was sprinting. Those high-stepping, quick-footed races that you could miss just by blinking. I found distance races boring. The gentle synchronized slapping of the sneakers as they continued to pass by. As I got older, I met more and more people (weird people) who were into running long distances just for fun. People who trained for and ran marathons as a hobby. People who traveled around the country to run marathons. It was bizarre to me, but also rather impressive. Definitely not something on my bucket list.

Recently, I came across a story of a couple in their 60's who decided to run a marathon a day for a whole year. Excuse me? I've been around people who run marathons and there seems to be lots of training and specific length runs for each day leading up to the event..and these two were running at least 26.2 miles every single day? That's just crazy talk. They could give Forrest Gump a run for his money!

Janette and Alan finished their 365th consecutive marathon on New Year's Eve with their children, grandchildren and a whole slew of others cheering them on. Then, on New Year's Day, as if for good measure, they ran another one—366 consecutive marathons is a world record. I'm surprised that someone has been crazy enough to run all those miles before them. Since setting out on their journey a year ago, they've run 9,776.75 miles all over Australia.

I wonder if their goal for this year is to spend the time they had been dedicating to running to maybe sitting around watching television and getting caught up on some shows? I would be on board for that challenge. Sign me up.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Day 276: Happy New Year! And Balls' Resolutions...

Every New Years Day, I start listing things I can do to better myself. Most of them consist of exercising more and eating better. It never turns out that way. Sure, the exercising seems to go well... but I love to eat and the more horribly bad for me the food is, the more I love it! So this year I'm not even wasting time trying to change my diet. Maybe I'll just shoot for smaller portions... (I couldn't even type that with a straight face!)

My exercising goal will be the usual—elliptical (or is it spelled elliptikill?) at least five days a week, 30 minute per day. Maybe I'll crank up the tension knob a turn or two and add in the moving handles. Although when my arms are moving, it makes controlling the DVR a little more challenging. I might have to rethink that one. It's no secret that the key for me to actually staying on that ghastly contraption for the full 30 minutes is good television shows. This could be the reason why I fail at it so terribly between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That and the fact that it seriously cuts into my eating time.

Starting today, I'm also planning to take part in a 30 Day Plank Challenge... and no, I'm not talking about lumber. The Challenge is supposed to take me from a short, 20 second plank on day one to a five minute plank on day 30. I can honestly say I've never attempted a plank in my entire life so really, how hard could it be? If you've never done a plank, the answer is: very hard. Planks are pure evil. But I'm really hoping this will help my rapidly aging lower back.

The challenge starts with a 20 second plank on day one that I completed a couple of hours before writing this post. Doesn't sound very lengthy, right? Holy shit! That was by far the longest 20 seconds of my entire life. My abs are currently planning a revolt. WTF? I'm really not sure how I'm going to increase that to 30 seconds which is just two days from now, let alone make it five full freaking minutes. I'm doomed!

I'm also declaring this summer the Summer of Golf! I definitely need to play more golf (and get better golf outfits!). The end. I really don't think I'm ever going to get better if I can't play regularly. Maybe I'll even take a few lessons in the spring to get going on the right foot. There's nothing worse that stepping up to that first tee and wonder what the hell you did the last time you hit a pretty drive...six months ago. I don't remember what I did six hours ago!

I have high hopes for 2014... Here's wishing you all a happy, healthy and hopeful year too!