Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Worst Christmas Gifts

I have many generous friends and family, so I always do pretty well in terms of giving and receiving Christmas gifts. There always seems to be one person however, that partakes in one of the worst holiday traditions, bad gifts. We saw it in the movie Christmas Vacation when Aunt Bethany wrapped up her cat, or when Clark received a one year subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club. There's the bunny suit that Ralphie received from Aunt Clara in "A Christmas Story". It's probably happened to all of us at one time or another.

I have one person in my family that gives us those awful gifts every single year; and not just for Christmas. She is married to my grandfather, and NO she's NOT my grandmother! My grandmother was and is one of the most important people in my life. She was a strong woman of compassion, caring, wisdom, and faith. I always think about her this time of year, or whenever I need strength in life's most difficult situations. She died in 1995 from Lou Gehrig's Disease. After my grandmother was diagnosed with ALS, Grace entered my grandfather's life. She was my grandparents' neighbor who used to bring meals over as a "gesture" to my grandfather and grandmother. Chicken Tertrazini was her favorite dish to bring by. My grandmother couldn't eat of any of it of course because she had lost her ability to chew from the disease. After Gram died, Grace and my grandfather became companions and married two years later in 1997. This was Grace's first marriage at age 68 and my grandfather's second at age 80. Now that I've given a little family history of how she became a part of our lives, I can talk about the gifts she gives.

Over the years I have received the following gifts from Grace at the holidays: a pen shaped like an exclamation point, a sweater that was 4 sizes too big, and a plastic penguin that walks after you wind it. This year we received a wreath from William Sonoma that fell apart right out of the box. For our wedding, rather than pay attention to pointless little things like gift registries, she sent a lamp to an old address. We never received the lamp, but we did receive 2 calls from the store she bought it from at 4AM Hawaii time while we were on our honeymoon, asking why we hadn't received this special gift. I wonder if it was like the "Leg Lamp" the father won in "A Christmas Story". Regardless, it's always entertaining to see what she sends on these occasions. I just keep in mind that it's the thought that counts, and it did provide material for this blog post.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Belichick Is the Best

I like coach Belichick more every day. Yesterday he sent 4 players home from practice for being late including Randy Moss and Adalius Thomas. Thomas hasn't performed a single day that he has been in New England, but he felt the need to open his trap yet again. "There's nothing to apologize about," Thomas said today. "You can't run people over. You leave home people are there. What are you going to do? It's not the Jetsons. I can't get up and fly." Blaming the traffic and the weather for being late to an 8AM meeting. Typical Thomas. Figures he brings up the Jetsons. He plays about as big as Elroy.

Belichick is the best because he knows he has a team with a ton of weaknesses, but he still doesn't stand for lack of effort, discipline, subpar performance, and bullshit. Unlike a certain baseball manager in this town, he doesn't allow the inmates to run the asylum. He doesn't allow players to quit on the team like Manny Ramirez did on the Red Sox in 2006 and 2007. I admire Belichick's decisions even if I don't always agree with them. He could probably draft a little better, but even the best GMs only hit on half of their draft choices at best. These players have nothing holding them back to attend an 8AM practice. If they want to buy a $90,000 SUV to drive through the snow, they can do it. If they want to buy 6000 square foot house next to Gillette, they can do it. Their wives don't have to work and they can hire a nanny to take the kids to school and pick them up. There's nothing keeping these players from doing anything. Take your punishment like a man Thomas, and shut your piehole. You love eating humble pie, I'll give you one guess of another thing you can eat. It rhymes with HIT: another thing you haven't done since you've been in Foxboro.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Blame the D, Not the Coach

I said the game was over when the Patriots didn't convert on 3rd Down of their final drive. I didn't think they'd go for it on 4th down. I probably wouldn't have done it myself, but that's why I love Belichick. He sees the same thing I have seen for 3 years, a substandard defense. He didn't trust his defense to win the game for him. Would you? The Patriots are 35-10 in their last 45 regular season and post season games, starting with the 2006 AFC Championship Game against the Colts. Of those 10 losses, the defense was on the field for the final series in five of those losses. In each of those games, not only was the defense on the field for the final possession of the game, but the game was either tied or the Pats had the lead. Starting with that AFC title game the Patriots led by 3 with 3:53 to go and allowed the Colts to go 80 yards on 7 plays in 2:36. In Super Bowl 42 the Patriots offense left the defense with a 14-10 lead and 83 yards of field to protect with 2:42 remaining. The Giants went 83 yards on 12 plays in 2:07 to win the Lombardi trophy. Last year the Pats "D" allowed the Jets to score in OT after they won the coin flip. This year the Pats not only allowed Denver to score on the first drive in OT in Week 5, they allowed a 98 yard drive by Kyle Orton to tie the game at 17. Any reason to trust the defense yet?Then there was last night's game. And don't forget on Week 4 that Baltimore receiver Mark Clayton dropped a pass deep in Patriots territory that would have been a sure first down late in the 4th Quarter, with a game winning drive inevitable. The Patriots also allowed Buffalo to score on their final offensive possession in Week 1. Only a fumble by kick returner Leotis McKelvin saved the Patriots bacon.

Are these examples not enough for people to realize that Belichick made the right move trusting the game to his Hall of Fame QB and offense, and not a week defense. In response to you Rodney Harrison and your ill-advised, maybe if you actually made the play you should have made on David Tyree in the Super Bowl, Coach Belichick wouldn't worry about whether his defense can make stops at the most important times. Tell NBC to add a mirror to your wardrobe on Sunday nights. Maybe then you'll realize why Belichick didn't have faith in his defense. Let's look at the facts Pats fans, and stop looking for the easiest answers. The Patriots have nobody on D that makes plays or presents any matchup problems for opposing offenses. Kudos to Belichick for not worrying about players' feelings, and taking a risk to win an important game.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Football In Jolly Old England

Now that the Pats are home from their splendid experience across the pond against the Junior Varsity Buccaneers, I think it would be appropriate to make some observations about the NFL's obsession with American football in London, and their desire to put a franchise there. Only in America do we associate football with pigskin. Football means soccer everywhere else in the world but here. This is the main reason why football wouldn't work in the UK. It's not part of the culture. There are no Pop Warner or youth leagues in London, nor are there any High School programs that I know of, and there certainly is not any college football. It's just another chance for the owners to cash in on another marketing opportunity. And for those of you who work in Marketing, you know how often the truth is up for interpretation. So they want to put an expansion franchise in London. Before they do, I have some questions I'm sure every football fan is asking themselves:

Could Plaxico Burress stay out of trouble considering the fact that not even police carry guns in London?

Would the Gatorade buckets be filled with strawberries and cream?

Would British players wear two mouthguards because they have bad teeth?

Would the parking lots smell like fried fish?

Would fans buy beer even though its warm and called bitter?

Do the bloody players have to clean the bloody blood off their own bloody uniforms?

Could teams like the Cowboys and Bengals(the All-Convict Teams) deal with pubs closing at 11PM?

I think we can all agree, sarcasm aside and NFL owners excluded, that the NFL in London is a bad idea. For starters, travel would be a 12 hour flight each way for teams like Seattle, Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco. Not only that, if they do have an afternoon game in London, say 1PM, people on the West Coast would have to be ready for kickoff at 5AM on a Sunday. Yeah that'll get good ratings. There's no benefit for players either. The only ones, who benefit? Surprise, the owners. And even Bob Kraft is pushing the NFL in London idea, despite the fact that he won't give up a home game. Could that be because every game since 1994 in New England has been a sellout, and Kraft would also lose over 1 million dollars in parking revenue? Having lived in London myself, I love England's grandest city. Not for American football though. Try something else NFL.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oysterfest

There are a number of things that make Autumn in New England special. Football in Foxboro, Fires in the fireplace, foliage and frost on the trees. But one festival on the Cape brings my family back every year, and it's not Octoberfest. It's the Wellfleet Oysterfest, and the world's best oysters. Wellfleets have the best flavor by far, but this festival is much more than just shellfish with a smooth, salty ocean flavor. There are almost 100 businesses selling arts, crafts, food, beer, and other items native to the Cape. For the ninth year, Wellfleet holds this festival honoring the town's long history with the shellfishing industry. There's a 5k road race, facepainting and activities for the kids, shucking contests, cooking demonstrations, live bands, wine tastings, and tennis round robin among other activities. There is also speaker series that takes a look at the history of an industry that dates back to ancient Roman times, and how shellfishing survives today despite limited resources.

You can eat oysters in just about every way possible at this festival: grilled, fried, on the halfshell. There's oyster stew, oyster fritters, and Sam Adams even created an oyster stout specifically for this event. Unfortunately for those of you who like your oysters at the bottom of a shot, I didn't see them serving oyster shooters at this open air party. Head over to the Bookstore Cafe by the harbor, and I'm sure the bartender will hook you up. I like mine stright from the cold water, high salt beds of Wellfleet Harbor. There is no substitute for the briny, salty, ocean flavor of a Wellfleet oyster. Add cocktail sauce, champagne mignonette, or tabasco if you'd like; but for me it takes away from the fresh flavor. Thousands make the trip out from all over the country and the world. Crowds can make the weekend feel an upscale version of Harpoonfest, and northeastern rudeness can make it's way into this quaint little village on the Cape. But if you enjoy oysters, chowder, and everything seafood, this is the place to be in the middle of October. Why? because as it says on a number t-shirts for sale, "Eevryone can use a good shuck."

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Most Secure Job You Can Find

Under these brutal economic circumstances over 15,000,000 are out of work with more than 150,000 people losing their jobs each month. There is a job however, where you can make a lot of money, have great job security, and never pay any consequences for your mistakes. From 2001-2009 this job was known as President of the United States. Today, this job is known as a Major League Baseball Umpire, a National Football League Official, or NBA referee. Yes sir, ladies and gentlemen screwing up on the field may mean a trip to the minors for many baseball players, but for umpires it means a trip to the playoffs and a chance to work the most important games of the season. And if you play your cards right, maybe you can affect those games too. Same thing in the NFL and NBA. All you have to do is look at how poorly the Super Bowl was officiated last year. The NBA is probably the worst of all the leagues and even had an official, Tim Donaghy, bet money on games that he officiated.

Recently, officiating in professional sports has hit an all time low. The baseball playoffs have been a prime example. CB Bucknor gave the Angles two extra outs in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox with two missed calls at first base. In the Yankees-Twins series Joe Mauer hit a double that was ruled foul, when you clearly see at full speed that ball was about 8 inches fair. The Colorado Rockies lost a game last night where the umpires blew two calls on ONE PLAY.

During yesterday's Pats game, an official through a flag on Brandon Merriweather for Pass Interference, and then changed the call to Taunting. The problem was, the official threw the flag before Merriweather taunted the Broncos receiver. In other words, he knew Merriweather would taunt the opposing player before it happened, or he didn't want to pick up yet another ill-advised penalty flag. So they made something up. These calls even happen on the tennis court. The famous incident where Serena Williams verbally abused a line judge happened when that line judge called a foot fault at match point. I don't excuse Serena's behavior, but making that call at match point is like passing gas during the blessing at Thanksgiving Dinner; not an appropriate time.
I did a little searching on MLB.com on how to get an umpires job, and how much they get paid. This is what I found.

Professional umpires currently begin their Minor League career at $1,800 per month. At the Major League level, salaries range from approximately $84,000 to $300,000 per year.

Even more disturbing is the job description I found on MLB.com for umpires. It's listed below. Look at the second question asked. This is where the problem lies.

How to Become an Umpire
Have you ever stopped to think about what it would be like to be an umpire? To know the fate of a game rests in your hands? What would it be like to suit up and call the shots each day?

I always thought the fate of games should be left in the hands of players. But if you like control and 300,000 dollars a year, you too can be an umpire. Not a bad gig.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Tribute to the Most Trusted Man in America

It would be crazy for me as a writer and journalist not to pay tribute and respect to Walter Cronkite. Cronkite entered the broadcast journalism business when television was still a new commodity. The most famous events he covered were the assassination of President Kennedy, th Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War, the Apollo 11 trip to the moon, and the 1960 Presidential election.

Cronkite rarely voiced his opinions on the air. When he did however, he articulated them better than anybody else, and he supported them with irrefuatble facts and images. No event in American history was this more evident than his assessment of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War in 1968. He spoke of a standoff, not a victory or defeat, but a stalemate in which our political leaders suffered from an excess of optimism and stubbornness, despite huge losses of American troops, prestige and morale. "To say that we are closer to victory or defeat, is to believe in the face of evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism," Cronkite said. "To say we are mired in a stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could." Ladies and gentlemen, this is why as a child I was required to watch and listen to this man, even though I was only 9 years old when he left the anchor desk. As it turned out, President Johnson announced one week later that he would not run for President in 1968. "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America," Johnson said. I only wish reporters had questioned and criticized the last administration in the same manner.

Today's news, at least local television news, has become a dog and pony show. Fancy voiceovers, dizzying graphics and special effects, stupid headlines, and young eye candy newscasters don't really cut the mustard when it comes to good reporting. Don't get me wrong, I like to look at most of the young female newscasters, I just can't seem to get any substanital facts or stances on the issues that affect us the most. This is where Cronkite separated himself from everyone else. Even his replacement Dan Rather screwed up by not checking his facts and sources before reporting a story. Nowhere was this more evident than when he presented documents that were possibly forged of George W. Bush's National Guard service, as authentic. We all know George Bush has dodged many resposibilities in his life, and there is nobody that enjoys a derogatory George W. Bush story more than me. But if you're going to report a story, make sure your sources and your facts are authentic. Nobody knew this better than Cronkite which is why his signoff of "That's the way it is" is so appropriate.

I even heard Hugh Downs say that Cronkite told him you have to be liberal to be a good reporter. I know what you're all thinking. But what he meant was people should draw conclusions based on facts and evidence without fear of questioning the establishment. RIP Walter Cronkite. You're the best. And that's the way it is.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Little Irony for You

For those of you who don't know, I interviewed for a job this past winter that was as close to a dream job as I could get. I interviewed for a Copywriter position for the Washington Nationals. I didn't get the job unfortunately. No harm, no foul. Apparently they found a more qualified candidate.

However, things have not exactly gone swimmingly for the Nationals since the start of the season. GM Jim Bowden was forced to resign amid FBI allegations that he was skimming bonuses from Dominican players coming to the US. They had a prospect lie about his name and his age. Apparently the prospect they signed known as Esmailyn Gonzales born in 1989, is really Carlos Lugo, who was born in 1986. Oops! I guess there is nothing the Nats did wrong, but a little embarrassing nonetheless. As of tonight's All Star Game the Nats have the worst record in baseball (26-61) and fired manager Manny Acta today.

Probably the funniest thing I've seen however, was this incident in April where Nationals name was spelled wrong on Ryan Zimmerman's and Adam Dunn's uniform jerseys. No this is not a joke, but feel free to insert one if you like. See this link to Dan Steinberg's blog in the Washington Post. The link to the pictures of the uniform is: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/dcsportsbog/2009/04/nationals_uniform_fail.html. He also comments on it at http://voices.washingtonpost.com/nationalsjournal/2009/04/washington_natinals.html Apparently they need more than one copywriter. Unbelievable.

I wonder if Dan Steinberg knows that his blog is called "DC Sports Bog" I wonder if that is a typo.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Baseball On A Budget #1


When it comes to the Red Sox, there isn't much in the way of bargains, if anything. I attended my first Pawtucket Red Sox of the season for 2009. The General Admission ticket for a PawSox game is $6 and hasn't changed to my knowledge in at least 20 years. The most expensive tickets are $10. Parking is free in most areas, although there are a few lots that are $2, $5, and $10. Try finding that at Fenway. I got to see Clay Buckholz continue his bumpy road back to the majors, and Jed Lowrie continue his rehab, so we can say adios to Julio Lugo.

I will always have a certain amount of loyalty to the PawSox. Ben Mondor and Mike Tamburro have owned and run the franchise since 1977 and have revolved their product around affordable baseball for families. I had the privilege of interviewing Ben and Mike a year and a half ago for Rhode Island Home Living and Design magazine. The link to this article is at http://rhodeislandhld.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=652&Itemid=122. Ben and Mike gave me 4 hours of their time and could not have been more accommodating. They also gave me 7 free tickets behind home plate to the July 3 game with fireworks to follow. McCoy Stadium is a great place to watch a ballgame. There are no bad or expensive seats in the house. If you bring the kids I recommend you sit out on the centerfield berm with a blanket or beach chairs. Pawtucket is less than an hour away, and it won't force you to take a second mortgage on your home. There is all kinds of room for kids to roam in case they get restless too. I'll be recommending other venues soon, but Pawtucket is great for an affordable night for everyone, and it also gives the best opportunity to see Major League ready talent. Almost every home grown Red Sox player has played on Ben Mondor Way. With the All Star Game approaching, don't miss your chance to catch future Red Sox All Stars.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Red Sox Pitcher Bob Stanley

Since Jonathan Papelbon broke Bob Stanley's Red Sox team record for saves today, I thought I would pay homage to Bob Stanley: The Steamaaah. Is there anybody in the history of the Red Sox that his been put in worse positions than Bob Stanley? In the infamous Bucky Dent game, Stanley came in right after Dent hit his three-run home run. He then had to come into a game behind 3-2 with Mickey Rivers, Lou Piniella, Thurman Munson, and Reggie Jackson staring him in the face. Munson hit an RBI double and Jackson hit what proved to be the game winning home run off Stanley. Then the Red Sox proceeded to tease us with 2 runs in the 9th and Yaz representing the tying run. Yaz popped out for those of you who don't remember.

Stanley was also a central part of the WORST moment in Red Sox history. In the 1986 World Series the Mets were down to their final out and final strike against Calvin Schiraldi with no one on base. Somehow Schiraldi managed to give up 3 straight singles and leave the tying run at third. To add to the situation the diamondvision at Shea Stadium said "Congratulations Boston Red Sox 1986 World Champions". Here is where they bring in Bob Stanley. He throws a wild pitch that Rich Gedman arguably could have stopped, and then induces a ground ball(exactly what he needed) that goes thru? Well you know the rest. There is no worse situation in baseball history, and Bob Stanley did that sooo many times for the Red Sox. He wasn't the best, that's for sure, but he certainly took the biggest hit for his team. Today I salute you Bob Stanley.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Coors Field







There are so many things that are nice about Colorado; the scenery and natural beauty, the friendly people, the fresh food and cold beer, and the facilities. Colorado really does it right with taxpayer money. There are bikepaths everywhere, new high schools with modern facilties, recreation centers with tons of activities, wide roads with no potholes, and state and national parks that are second to none. Denver is a sports town that's second to none with a phenominal baseball venue to prove it.

HOK Architecture created another masterpiece in Coors Field. Just about every detail was carefully planned in this ballpark from the landscape in centerfield with pinetrees, waterfalls, and fountains, to the spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains in left field, and a sunset that is unmatched by any MLB park. The main entrance at the corner of 20th and Blake Street is reminiscent of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. It is constructed of hand-laid brick with an old fashioned clock at the top. Adding to Coors Field's history is the fact that 66 million year old dinosaur bones were discovered beneath the Blake Street location. They do have a silly looking mascot named Dinger the Dinosaur that resulted from this discovery. Most of the seats at Coors Field are dark green, but there is a row of purple seats in the upper deck in right field that marks the exact point that fans are 1 mile above sea level. Coors has one of the larger capacities(50,449) of the new ballparks due to the fact that the Rockies were regularly selling out 80,000 seat Mile High Stadium in their first two years of existence in 1993 and 1994. The Rockpile is the bleacher section in centerfield that was first conceived at Mile High and brought over to Coors Field. They are a ways from the field, but if you are 55 are older or 12 and younger, you can buy these tickets the day of the game for A BUCK!!! Try doing that at Fenway!

Even with some of the features that bring fans back to 1940's era of open air ballparks, Coors Field has a number of amenities necessary to accomodate modern day baseball. The field can drain over five inches of water in one hour, and the grass is heated to melt snow from the unpredictable weather months of April and October. There is even an area to bring fans to safety in case of a tornado. Yes they do happen, and the day before my tour, the tornado siren sounded at Coors Field for the first time.

Food and drink choices are endless at Coors Field. The Blue Moon Brewery is attached to the ballpark with their signature Belgian wheat beer and pub grub. The Mountain Ranch Bar and Grille is located in right field with casual and fine dining options. There's a good view of the field and a lot of memorabilia and references to the 2007 World Series. This is one of the aspects of Coors that Bostonians will enjoy more than any other, as we celebrated a sweep of this World Series right on the field. I enjoyed a "Rockie Dog", a giant hot dog with peppers, onions, sourkraut, relish, and mustard. There are also Buffalo burgers, gourmet pizza, Denver Cheesesteaks, and even Rocky Mountain Oysters. These are good, if you have the BALLS to eat them. There is a kids area called Buckaroos that serves kids sized portions in case your child doesn't want to eat a 2ft hot dog. The longest line for food that I saw was for tornadoughs. These are pretzels covered with cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar and other toppings; fantastic. There's even salad stand for those men who want a beating for eating a salad at a ballgame. Believe it or not, you can bring food and water into the ballpark. Make sure while in CO to drink water as the altitude can give you a headache or worse. After the game, the LoDo area (Lower Downtown) has a number of great bars to tie one on after the game. I recommend one of the bars with an outdoor patio or the Chophouse(great steaks!)

I know many of you think that the scores at Coors rival those of Bronco games. Not so much anymore. The humidor where they store baseballs before the game has considerably cut down on home runs. Coors has altitude 6% higher than any other park in baseball, so the outfield is 4% larger. What hasn't changed is the fact that a curveball does not break as sharply at Coors. This would explain why pitchers Mike Hampton, Darryl Kile, and Denny Neagle did not succeed despite huge contracts. Pitchers from the Rockies farm system have fared better from learning to pitch in nearby Colorado Springs. Keeping the ball low is key. For the record, there were no home runs in the game I saw. If there is a Rockies Home Run, the 40 foot fountains in centerfield erupt.

My seats were 15 rows up from the field with a view of the sunset in left field and the Rocky Mountains. A hundred bucks got me two field level seats; pretty good considering you could pay $150 a seat to sit in front of a poll at Fenway vs. the Yankees. Not that I ever did that.The Rockies completed their 10th straight win, and I might gave seen my last glimpse of Ken Griffey Jr. as the Mariners visited Colorado. The ushers and police officers are helpful and actually want to answer your question. Convenience is the rule at Coors Field as it is located right off I-25 and close to a light rail public transit station. There is also plenty of parking for $5!!!!! In Boston you can park 1/8 of a car for 5 bucks. In short, for those of you who plan your vacation around the Red Sox travel plans, or you just want to see a ballgame in a great facility, with perfect weather, and a friendly atmosphere, do not miss Coors Field.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hot Sulphur Springs, CO

On our vacation in CO, when my wife suggested we take an overnight trip outside of Denver, I have to admit I never would have guessed that she would have picked a place with an overwhelming aroma of natural gas! Hot Sulphur Springs, CO is a town of 521 residents west of the Rocky Mountains on the Colorado River. We stayed at the Hot Sulphur Springs Spa and Resort. The resort does not have a good reputation from what I read on TripAdvisor, and from what I saw, I understand the complaints that were made. The rooms have no phone or TV and amenities are nil for over $100 per night. The massage therapists were excellent and well worth the price. The esthetician who gave us an herbal wrap was nice, but it isn't something I would do again. There are seven natural springs in Hot Sulphur Springs that range from 104-126 degrees. Fissures, or crevices deep beneath the earth's surface, are heated by volcanic rock which then in turn heat the natural springs. The water from the springs contain sodium, sulfate, potassium, calcium, fluoride and magnesium among other minerals that rejuvinate the skin, relax the body, and some claim that they even cure arthritis. As you would expect, the sulphur springs smell like, well, farts! There are also train tracks nearby and the horns go off at all hours of the night; much like the scenes in the movie "My Cousin Vinnie", as my wife Holly aptly pointed out. The one amenity the resort does have: earplugs for the trains. It is a beautiful spot, as are most places in Colorado, but the resort could do so much more by organizing hikes around the mountains or provide an exercise facility and classes that promote overall wellness. They do none of this, however and it really is a shame. Unless you want a dinner of funyuns and Mrs. Fields Cookies from the vending machine, walk across the river to the Riverside Hotel.


We had one of the best meals we have ever had at the Riverside Hotel. Local Rocky Mountain asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and fontina cheese was our appetizer. I had a ribeye fired directly over wood coals and finished with a balsamic glaze for the right mix of smokiness and sweetness, phenominal!!! Holly had swai fish, which is similar to Tilapia, but more flavorful and less expensive. Side dishes included their fantastic seasonal vegetables, and out of this world gratin potatoes. We finshed the meal off with bread pudding covered in chocolate sauce, and Holly had a strawberry dessert finished with grenadine and whipped cream. We polished everything off, and we don't even like bread pudding, except at this place. Did I also mention we got a table with a window that had the best view of one of the nation's most important rivers, the Colorado River? Afterwards, the Paradise family turned on their big screen TV so we could watch Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. What a great place. Reasonable too! Stay here instead of the Hot Springs Spa and Resort if you go. The Paradise family will welcome you with open arms, particularly if you're a KU Jayhawk fan.

Also that weekend was the celebration of Hot Sulphur Days. It's a small town summer celebration with events such as fireworks, a pie baking contest, street dance, craft fair, parade and more. The signature event is the Texas Charlie Shootout which re-enacts an Old West story of a high-rolling outlaw that meets his match in Hot Sulphur Springs trying to confront the long arm of the law. The body of Texas Charlie(the actor) is put on pallet and displayed and shown to onlookers in the Hot Sulphur Days Parade.

There is a lot of "white knuckle" driving on the way to Hot Sulphur Springs. US 40 climbs many mountains and ledges and winds through Winter Park, the highest city limits in the entire country. Believe me, you feel it. Winter Park town center is located more than 9,000 feet above sea level, as opposed to 5,280 in Denver. Drink lots of water and be prepared if you are afraid of heights.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flying: Also for the Birds

Readers: These were my thoughts I wrote down as I was sitting in Denver International Airport for more than 5 hours.

My wife and others ask me why I do the things I do; like drive any distance up to 1000 miles. As I sit on a plane waiting for our flight to take off for Boston after a 4 hour delay, I will tell you. Flying sucks, pure and simple. I can think of a number of things I like better than flying such as:
1) Having my wisdom teeth pulled without anesthesia.
2) Having a meat thermometer hammered in my ear.
3) Contracting bird flu.
Well, you get the idea. Maybe if I'm lucky by the time we arrive at Logan and get our bags, I can go right from the terminal to work. Good times. All this after paying $75 to check our bags roundtrip, $200 in cab fare, and $80 in meals and magazines to keep my brain occupied while I act thankful that we arrive home safely. But there is hope. Now that they delayed our arrival time to 1AM, they're allowing me to turn on my cell phone for the next 45 seconds and check the Sox score. Hope nobody has to take the T home. By the time I get home, the Rockies, who start their games 2 hours later, will have finished their game. Oh and there's more. They're coming around with snack boxes that sell for a mere $6. Complete with the finest snacks found on the floors of taxi cabs everywhere! Scrumdidlyicious! We are also apparently sitting next to a surgeon wearing a mask. He looks to be younger than Doogie Howser. Maybe the youngest surgeon ever! I suppose he could be worried about swine flu or sars. Maybe he is carpenter who is going to sand down a cabinet in his seat, and he doesn't want to inhale the sawdust. If that's the case, the least he can do is offer us a mask. Maybe at this point I'll pay $6 for an eye drop of vodka to go with my 40 oz. can of tomato juice. That'll put me to sleep, or at least make me regular again. We are apparently circling around the airport for the next 40 minutes. Hey look kids it's Big Ben... Parliament. Stay tuned....

10PM Eastern. We're in the air and I just got sassed by a male flight attendant.

1:30AM- We landed, and now we know why the guy next to us was wearing mask. He was farting enough to wilt all the corn crop in Iowa.

It's too bad Denver is 2000 miles away. Great city. Great vacation. You just have to fly there.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going Golden In Colorado

Today we spent the day at the home of Coors Beer: Golden, CO. Since we've been such great customers of Coors over the years, I thought we should take a tour of the brewery. Coors has been brewing beer since 1873, and doing it well I might add. Their brewery is the largest single-site brewery in the world. Enter the brew house and there are tanks that contain the eqivalent of over 27,000 six packs of beer. There are a number of interesting facts including it takes about 55 days on average to brew one Coors Beer from start to finish. The best fact of all: The tour is free and includes 4 free samples of their beers from Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Killians Irish Red, Blue Moon, and Honey Moon Summer Ale.

Golden is a great little town about 15 miles west of Denver. There are rafting and kayak lessons right in the center of town on Clear Creek in addition to tours of the brewery. After the tour we took a walk on Clear Creek path, and then drank $1.50 Coors Light Drafts on the outdoor patio at the Buffalo Rose Bar. This bar has the best wings I've ever had, and has great live music to boot(look for acoustic guitarist David Risk, phenominal musician).The people are friendly too. Being from MA, I'm still trying to figure out how to handle being treated with respect at a restaurant on a regular basis. The only thing that surprised me, noone was watching the afternoon Rockies game in any of the bars. They're on an 8 game win streak! I could not find the game on TV either; Not like Boston. The weather was great though! Unlike the fog and rain I saw tonight at Fenway. Great place to spend the day. Stay tuned for the Hot Spring Spas and Coors Field!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Duck Tour Is for the Birds

I'm taking on a different topic in this post. Sports can take a back seat for a couple of days. Recently Holly and I decided to take a duck tour through the hub. Boston does have a lot of great things to offer. It is sometimes difficult to see these things with the bad weather, bad drivers, bad traffic, corrupt government, high cost of living, and generally unhappy people(I know, I'm one to talk). Boston does, however, unmatched historical significance, different and distinct neighborhoods, a spectacular skyline, unique architecture, and oh yeah 6 pro sports championships in 7 years.

Duck Tours can be fun on a nice day. It's an 80 minute tour that takes you through one of the most aesthetically pleasing cities in the country. You learn to appreciate Boston's skyline after seeing places like LA, Buffalo, and Detroit. The World War II amphibious vehicle travels along Boylston, Newbury, and Tremont Streets by land, and the Charles River between the Museum of Science and the Longfellow bridge. Quick drives through Charlestown, Government Center, the West End, and the Back Bay are also made. Boston is a city of firsts as we all know. Boston has the oldest public botanical garden, the first subway system in the country, the oldest university in the country, the nation's oldest restaurant(Union Oyster House), the first commissioned naval vessel in the world, the first American public school, and the first public park in the US.

Unfortunately the Duck Tour focuses more on bad jokes and saying the word duck in every sentence, than giving facts on our great city. I would liked to have learned something I didn't know before, like why Boston is called the Hub. Colonel Duct Tape was our guide. He hands out a lot of duck stickers, makes numerous bad jokes about ducks, and yells at pedstrians on Boylston and Newbury streets. He's a good tour guide, but I wish they allowed him to focus on why people are on the tour: to see Boston. It would have been nice of them to reference the other neighborhoods in the city too: Brighton, Alston, West Roxbury, Roxbury, Dorchester etc.It's not cheap either. $70 for 2 tix on the internet. In short, Leave the Duck Tours to the out-of-towners.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Leaving Trouble Behind

Once again it looks as though NCAA violations have found the school that John Calipari just left. Sound familiar UMass alums? The following column sums from Jeff Goodman sums up Coach Cal's character perfectly http://msn.foxsports.com/cbk/story/9620504/Memphis-scandal-won't-stick-to-Calipari. I love the reference to Teflon John. Now the Memphis hoops program will never be the same either. How do you think he knows exacrly what time to leave?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beyond Disgraceful

This will be last comment on the franchise that took their dog and pony act to North Carolina. I go onto to their website today as they face elimination against Pittsburgh tonight in the Stanley Cup semifinals, and see that good seats are still available for the Hurricanes game tonight in Raleigh. It says it right on their website at http://hurricanes.nhl.com/index.html BTW, Boston hasn't seen the Bruins go this far since 1992, and I highly doubt that the Garden wouldn't have been sold out under the same circumstances. I hear all the time about how Carolina has a great home ice advantage. Another instance where the reputation doesn't match reality. They are only professional franchise in their city, and they can't sell out a semifinal playoff game PITIFUL! It's good thing Red Sox fans weren't fair weather for Game 4 against the Yankees in 2004. Oh, and I wonder if the other 3 cities still alive in the NHL Playoffs Detroit, Chicago, and Pittsburgh are having trouble selling tickets. Nice job Raleigh!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New Yankee Stadium




I know we all hate the Yankees here in Boston, but I had to see what 1 billion dollars buys you in a stadium. One thing it doesn't buy you is hospitality from Yankee employees. I went to two Yankee Clubhouse stores in Manhattan to buy a ticket for a tour. Both told me their ticket machines were down, but that I should be able to buy a ticket at the stadium, and that they usually don't sell out. Well of course that day's tour did sell out, and after waiting 20 minutes in line at the stadium, the one employee would not sell me a ticket for the next day. I called Ticketmaster and paid $10 in surcharges to buy a $20 tour ticket. Because I'm writing a magazine piece scheduled to run in October, the Yankees wanted me to go through their media relations department who wouldn't answer my calls or give me a free tour. Sure, I'll run my first draft by them after their next World Series victory(LOL). I can't imagine how I would have been treated if I gave the slightest hint that I am a Red Sox fan.




The tour was pretty good, although the first thing they was that there are"more don'ts than dos". In other words, no videos of any kind, flash photography etc.. The thing this security guard said more than anything else is, "We'll ask you to leave".




So how would I describe the new Yankee Stadium? Well, in the Yankee museum there is a shrine to Babe Ruth which quotes him as saying, "I swing big with everything In got. I hit big, and I miss big. I like to live as big as I can." That's the way I would describe Yankee Stadium, BIG. There is a huge open concourse as you walk in the stadium with photographs of various Yankee greats. The biggest thing you see is the guitar from Hard Rock Cafe located inside the stadium. The museum has statues of Don Larsen and Yogi Berra 60 feet 6 inches apart commemorating the only World Series perfect game. In that 60ft 6" of space is hundreds of autgraphed baseballs signed by Yankee greats. Thurman Munson's locker was also moved from thr original stadium and is worth seeing. There are also vintage Yankee photographs from the NY Daily News that were never released before.




The new Yankee Stadium doesn't carry the Yankee aura that the old yard had. It has an aura of corporate America and particularly the Steinbrenners. It's overwhelming, overpriced, and ostentatious. It's clean and nice and well built, as it ought to be for 1 billion dollars. But Monument Park is tucked in a corner of centerfield and is not even visible from most areas of the stadium. To me, that was a defining feature of Yankee Stadium. The things that were focused on most in the tour were the 1100 tv monitors throughout the stadium, the largest diamond vision scoreboard in baseball, and the largest ribbon scoreboard across the stadium. It's something to see for sure, but be sure to bring $ as front row seats are over $1000. And as a fan told me at the ticket line, "These are the corporate Yankees now". Hopefully Citi Field Queens will be a more enjoyable option.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Touring Camden Yards


Having family in Maryland, I have watched the Orioles for years at both the old Memorial Stadium, and now Camden Yards. Now that most of these ballparks give tours, I thought I would take a tour of the one that started the mass-construction boom of downtown baseball parks. The tour only costs $9 (as opposed to $20+ fees and rude service at Yankee Stadium). The key feature of Oriole Park is that it is a ballpark and not a stadium. This simply means that the ballpark is not enclosed and views of the dowtown area and local landmarks add to the ambience. Our tour guide hammered home this point as we walked down the length of the B+O Warehouse into into the centerfield entrance. Oriole Park still looks brand new despite the fact that it opened 17 years ago. The seats are comfortable and unobstructed(unlike a certain ballpark we all know so well), and there really isn't a bad seat in the house. Oh yeah game tickets are also pretty cheap which is why Baltimore is such a hot destination for Red Sox and Yankees fans that are priced out of their own ballparks. The Eutaw Street bleachers are the best value for $15 for a single game and $23 vs. the Red Sox and Yankees. They get pretty hot on day games though. Other features that distinguish Oriole Park are the raised bullpens so fans can view or "interact" with pitchers from standing room seats, and vintage scoreboards reminscent of Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and Forbes Field in Pittsburgh.
The tour takes you through the club level and the expansive luxury suites, the press box, the jumbotron control room, and most importantly the dugouts on the field level. Fenway tours do not take you on the field. The guides do a great job not only recalling the history of the team through players and managers such as Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, and Cal Ripken; but through employees behind the scenes such as the late PA Announcer Rex Barney, who coined the phrase "Get that fan a contract" every time a fan caught a foul ball, and "Ball Boy" Ernie Tyler, the other iron man of Baltimore who rubbed dirt on the baseballs for nearly 3,800 consecutive home games. He has been working for the Orioles since 1961. Camden Yards is the original of the new ballparks and still one of the best.
For all you foodies out there, Camden Yards has some of the best options of the 30 MLB teams. There is nothing better than Maryland crabcakes and Boogs Barbeque sandwiches. Wash them down with a brew from the Bud Light Warehouse Bar on Eutaw Street. You don't have to like baseball to enjoy a ballgame. Hell, if someone wants to give me a job reviewing all the food options at the 30 ballparks, count me in. After the game McCormick and Schmicks in Inner Harbour has great crab cake sliders. Inner Harbour also has good places to party and hang out. For a good sports bar, head to Pickles Sports Bar after the game. It may be an unfortunate name for a sportsbar, but it's a good place to go. Finally, the best places to eat Maryland Blue Crabs are outside the city. Annapolis has a lot of great places, but my favorite is Watermans Crab House in Rock Hall, MD. This is where you get the quintessential Maryland experience eating steamed blue crabs covered in Old Bay seasoning off a table covered with a giant paper towel complete with mallets and claw crackers. This is a can't miss. Stay tuned for my review of the new Yankee Stadium tour.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What A Punch In the Face - Literally

It should be my team going to the Eastern Conference Finals. That's the worst part of the Bruins losing to Carolina. I'm not surprised that they lost, just that it's Carolina that now has a chance to go to their third Stanley Cup Final in 7 years. The Whalers never had a great team, but if Hartford had the team Carolina has now, the season tickets I bought in 1997 would be pretty valuable right now. And I would have witnessed a Stanley Cup Championship. Pretty brutal.

As far as the game goes, it ended the worst possible way with the series villain Scott Walker scoring the winning goal. Apparently he does more than punch Aaron Ward in the face when he's not looking. BTW, way to go Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell for not suspending Walker when he should have been kicked out of the rest of the playoffs. What he did do however, was crash the net, something the Bruins don't do. Otherwise the Bruins would have been sneaking a rebound shot past Cam Ward. The Bruins have been the same for 30 years, they have good team, but nobody like a Joe Sakic, Mark Messier, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Henrik Zetterberg that can create chances at the net and score needed goals at crucial times. Cam Neely is the only legit offensive threat during the last thirty years - and he's only one guy. They have a good base, but they need a star goal scorer like Crosby, Ovechkin, or Rick Nash. 37 years and counting........

Sizing Up the Rocket

I promise I will try and cover topics other than baseball, but let's face it - Roger Clemens provides so much material to write about. Unlike most, I was excited when he left Boston in 1996, mainly because wasn't pitching well, but also because I just never liked the guy. Starting with Game 6 in the 1986 World Series, a game that he started and didn't finish as we all know, the Red Sox began a 13 game postseason losing streak that did not end until Roger left and Pedro Martinez won his first postseason start in 1998. He won 1 postseason decision for the Red Sox in five postseason series. Pretty unimpressive. We also shouldn't forget that he was thrown out of one postseason game as a Red Sock for verbally abusing an umpire, and then ten years later he should have been thrown out of the World Series for throwing a jagged bat at Mike Piazza(although he did say he thought it was the ball he threw at Piazza). This image is on the cover of the new book American Icon and sums up Roger perfectly from what I've heard.

Let's look at some of the other things he missed out on. He never won a postseason MVP award despite pitching in more postseason games than any starting pitcher in baseball history(6 World Series too!!). He did win 2 World Series rings as a tag-along with the Yankees in '99 and 2000(after his steroid use). He won 7 Cy Youngs. Pretty impressive. Although he won four of them after he took a liking to long needles.

He has now opened his mouth again, never a good thing for him, to reiterate that he never took performance enhancing drugs. I think my favorite part of his stance is that he vehemently denies using steroids and HGH, but tells everbody that his wife and best friend(Andy Pettite) used them. They're must be a lot of love in that marriage!

When you really look at it, the move that changed the Red Sox fortune for the better and put 2 championship banners on Yawkey Way was blasting the Rocket out of town. He is the classic example of how the reputation doesn't match reality. The best way to size up the Rocket - One word - LOSER.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Let's Retire #24 at Fenway

I hope the news that Manny Ramirez tested positive for performance enhancing drugs finally closes the book on one of the most self-absorbed athletes ever to dawn a Red Sox uniform. In 7.5 years in Boston, we watched him quit on his team, shove a 65 year old Red Sox employee to the ground, refuse to attend the 2006 All-Star Game despite receiving the most fan votes, throw a punch at Kevin Youkilis, and so many other "Manny Moments". It's too bad that a player who played such a large role in helping the Red Sox turn the corner turned out to be such a hateful character.

In light of this recent development, I hope the Red Sox do the right thing and retire the #24 in honor of the greatest right fielder to ever to patrol the land by the Pesky Pole - Dwight Evans. Dewey won 8 Gold Gloves, hit 385 home runs(more than Jim Rice), played in three All-Star Games, and had more home runs and extra base hits than ANY player in the 1980's. He is a consummate professional and should be in the Hall of Fame. I don't know what it will take to get him there, but the Red Sox can start by retiring his number and closing the book on Manny.