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Feb. 28, 2009 - Where's My Checkbook?
   • This photo would be sufficient to describe the weekend's events:

BU 7, UMass 2 - Feb. 28, 2009
-- Staged, at Julie's request. Honest.

   but I'm going to tell a story regardless.

   Despite being outshot, UMass jumped out to a 3-0 lead one minute into the second period of the Friday game in Amherst. The near-sellout crowd of more than 8,200 was in a frenzy, given they were thrashing the No. 1 team in the country (which has lost one game since Thanksgiving.) Led by the large student section, they began to chant "OVER-RATED!" (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)

   I looked at Julie and simply said, "There's a lot of time left on the clock, dear."

   In the remaining five periods of the home-and-home, BU outscored the Minutemen 13-2. For every time I've complained about getting to games just in time to see the Terriers roll over, that was a nice touch.

   When I think back to all the BU games I've seen in the last 11 seasons, the same ones always seem to come up.

   -- The inexplicable upset of a superior BC team in the '99 Beanpot semis that I made into my answering machine message as a freshman.

   -- The late OT winner against UMass as a sophomore that, in my head, is the loudest I ever heard Walter Brown Arena get. (Course, I also thought until just now it was in the Hockey East tournament, not midseason.)

   -- The opener to my senior year, where BU nearly blew a 6-1 lead to RPI in the last 10 minutes.

   -- The rollercoaster '02 Beanpot final -- BU blowing a 2-0 lead, coming back to play 15 minutes of the third tied, only to score the winner inside the last 90 seconds.

   -- The Agganis Arena opener where they beat top-ranked Minnesota.

   I really think Friday night at Mullins might be my favorite. Down 3-0, home fan roaring, NESN audience ... and they just picked them apart. Two power-play goals. The equalizer before the period ends, via a pass to a guy standing alone in front of the net. Then, were there any doubt of what was ensuing, a slapper from the circle on their first rush of the third period.

   This will not end well, because it never ends well. But there's really only two things left for me until I retire as a fan: a Bruins Stanley Cup and a BU ... well, I'd hypothetically settle for a Frozen Four.

   Though watching 13 goals in five periods isn't the best way to keep expectations grounded.

Price of Playing in WBC Could Be High
-- Or, um, it could not be. It's hard writing not from Florida sometimes.

Feb. 27, 2009 - Bringing It On Myself
   • Mom was cleaning this weekend.

Agawam High School IDs

   Please note that in the last three years, I am actually wearing the same shirt, but in three different team designs. Yes, they were all bought at the same time, and yes, by the end I was doing it consciously.

   Now you understand fully why my mother cried at the wedding.
Feb. 20, 2009 - The Best
   • With an injured foot from hiking up a small mountain, a cut thumb from trying to be polite and wash a knife, and dry skin from spending a week in a region where simply living defies God's will -- I'm way more fascinated by places running out of water than this guy -- the Mrs. and I made our way back cross-country from Tempe.

   Some of the vacation highlights, trimming even the 20-point version down into something less:

Hayden Butte - Tempe, Ariz.   Hayden Butte - Tempe, Ariz.
-- The previously referred-to Hayden Butte.

Tempe Beach Park
-- Whale Rider, eat your heart out.

Desert Botanical Garden - Phoenix, Ariz.
-- The Desert Botanical Garden, made even more spectacular via blown glass.
(Delivered by a one-eyed man, no less.)

Big League Dreams - Gilbert, Ariz.
-- Your drunken beer-league softball fantasy, come to life.
(There's eight parks, despite the lack of eight collages here. The Fenway, of course, doesn't meet my absurd standards.)

-- Pixie the Dog, who'll get you to chase a ball.

White Tank Mountain Regional Park
-- EXTREME MOUNTAIN CLIMBING!!! (Which continued roughly 10 seconds after this picture was taken, since the chances of me and my windbreaker skirt falling in the water were about 85 percent.)

White Tank Mountain Regional Park
-- Bullet-riddled water tanks from years gone by.

   There was obviously more, but we didn't get pictures from the three D, D and D-inspired food stops, which included this absurd back-to-the-future place with apparently pneumatic condiment pumps and signs warning you not to climb the trees because scorpions might fall out of them. If only I was more enjoying devolving into a fatbody.

   And yet today, I write about Conan.

   I did not know, when I booked this trip weeks ago, that today would be the last "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." It is far and away the winner in the category of "Shows I Loved Despite Never Watching Regularly." I can blame it on the air time, but really, I didn't even watch it regularly when we had a working TiVo. The talk show genre just kind of rubs me the wrong way: I couldn't care less about 99 of the interview segments of Conan, Letterman, The Daily Show ... the only reason to watch is for the skits, which on the network shows are less than half every episode.

   And yet, no show outside 'Family Guy' made me legitimately laugh more than Late Night. (I wish I could put together a good list of stuff largely forgotten, but I'm coming up with Olde-Tyme Baseball and Triumph vs. Star Wars just because they were the last two I saw.)

'Actual Items'
-- Well, outside of the whole 'Actual Items' oeuvre.

   I'd like to believe I'll start fervently watching 'The Tonight Show' when he takes over in June, but I suspect nothing will change, short of me occasionally veering into the "Conan's been ruined by 11:35" crowd every so often. (I take solace in knowing Letterman continued to have his moments.)

   And if nothing else, at least Jimmy Fallon is being put far away, where he can't harm anyone ever again. Even in death, 'Late Night' offers a gift. (On top of the gift of Evil Puppy.)
Feb. 16, 2009 - Vacation in Progress
   • GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If I can quote NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and this blogger for a moment:

In an interview before the third annual Winter Classic outdoor NHL game at Wrigley Field, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said that the Phoenix Coyotes "will be okay" in an interview with CNBC's Darren Rovell.

The Coyotes are owned by Jerry Moyes, the owner of national trucking firm Swift Transportation. In response to reports that the league is helping them get a cash infusion or whether they're going to be bankrupt, Bettman said "I don't believe they're going to be bankrupt. They're not going to miss any payroll. There always seems to be in this sector of the business world a lot of rumor and speculation. They've got some challenges but we think they'll be okay."

Coyotes vs. Oilers - Feb. 16, 2009

   I am not a businessman, not in any sense. Perhaps that's why, if someone said to someone they wanted to put a hockey team in Phoenix, Ariz., the reaction was anything other than what mine would have been: "Are you high?" (Maybe not exactly that, but something in the neighborhood.)

   Understand, though, that's not exactly what we're dealing with. Tonight, I saw the Phoenix Coyotes lose to the Edmonton Oilers. To call the crowd evenly split probably wouldn't be accurate, but suffice to say, there was a lot of this:

Oilers fans in Phoenix.
-- I had on the "Bionic Oil Drop" model, shown with a "C" above the sign.

   Absurd as it was that the parking lot had more than just a scattering of cars with Alberta license plates -- Edmonton is 1,700 miles north of Phoenix, or roughly Boston's distance from Dallas -- it pales to what the Coyotes did when they moved from downtown Phoenix (where they almost never sold out a game) to Glendale, on the opposite side of the population base.

Phoenix Metro Area

   From Tempe or Scottsdale to the arena is anywhere from a half-hour to an hour, based on rush-hour traffic, which is always the most fun way to spend the evening hours. Combine that with the team going in the tank, replacing "lose in the first round every year" with "just lose all the time" ... shocking it wouldn't be working.

   And how is it not working? The team doesn't charge for parking or programs, the market apparently bearing out that people would rather not come than pay. (They also forgot to charge me for a $6 soda, which I'm reasonably certain is a death-penalty offense in Boston.) They appear to be building their fan base around mocking other cultures, including a secondary mascot called "Pierre The Hockey Snowman" and a between-period promotion entitled "Russian or Rubbish" -- it's the nation's newest sensation!

   We did not get an episode, probably because Russian goalie Ilya Bryzgalov didn't get his first start in almost 20 games. Just my luck. I love sort-of racism.

   I'm having trouble fully capturing the experience, because I'm still not sure it actually happened. I've seen a ton of hockey live in my life -- NHL, minors, various levels of college, high school, you name it. It was an experience unlike any I can remember.

   The arena is one of the better hockey venues I've ever seen, but in a giant neon-saturated mall literally surrounded by miles of scrub.

   My biggest concern was that the Oilers fans around us would figure out I was a poseur, wherever the hell they came from.

   The team's retired numbers all date from the Winnipeg Jets era, complete with the red, white and blue color scheme.

   The games aren't even all on TV.

   It's not that I can't fathom why someone thought that putting hockey in Phoenix wasn't the best idea in the world.

Coyotes vs. Oilers - Feb. 16, 2009
-- It's that I can't fathom they haven't been proven wrong yet.

Feb. 8, 2009 - No File Photo
   • In honor of tonight's Beanpot final, about which I have the slightest mixed feelings given:

   a) 1988 was a really long time ago, but more
   b) the BU teams of my era have quite the knack for making winning the 'Pot the peak of their season.

   I give you this, from Stan Grossfeld's frequently entertaining "story behind the photo" feature on Boston.com

Texting at the Beanpot Guy (Stan Grossfeld)

I look terrible. It makes me look like one of those people that go to the game just because it's the Beanpot. It's so embarrassing, but it's pretty funny, too. I'm definitely not a nerd. I'm going to be there Monday night to watch BU win; but I'll probably leave my phone home.

   He's got good seats for a freshman ... my group was in the last two rows.

   The only time I've ever actually spoken to Stan Grossfeld was at Spring Training 2007, when the Sox had Brendan Donnelly. Donnelly had already cultivated not so much a tough-guy image by the time I got there, but a "I will not tolerate you fucking around" image. The sort of guy who would suffer no fools without letting you know you were an idiot.

   I was standing with a group of writers in the general vicinity of Donnelly's locker -- possibly waiting for a player who never showed as his locker, possibly hoping a story would fall in my lap -- when Grossfeld made his way over to him. If I recall correctly, he was doing a story on players' superstitions.

   He strode over to Donnelly and said, "Excuse me, Brandon?"

   I don't remember exactly what got said, but after Donnelly blew up, walked off and came back, Grossfeld apologized and the two did the interview. (Apparently, Donnelly blames bad outings on his shirts.)

Feb. 5, 2009 - It's Not His, But It Could Be Yours
   • When you watch TV late at night, there are times when something comes on that you're not sure actually exists. The actual schematics of how that works aren't clear, but there's this feeling what you're seeing can't be serious.

   Prescription penis pumps definitely fall under that umbrella.

-- While this isn't the exact ad, it gives you the "technical specs."
Because, well, you're probably right to have a few questions.

   Julie seemed to think the funniest part was that they kept stressing it was the only vacuum system "approved by Medicare Part B." I thought the funniest part was that it was actually better than almost every segment on Sports Soup.

   I didn't time it, but that program's got to be a 50-50 show vs. commercial split at best. We watched like 10 minutes, and I swear they had three commercial breaks.

   The best thing about Versus, though, is of course that their lead-in to most NHL games is this. Always a fun time when someone in the office asks what we have on in the run-up to a nationally televised Bruins game.

Feb. 2, 2009 - Civic Pride
   The Beanpot: It was the first BU game I've watched beginning to end this season, and I wasn't blown away by any stretch. Given my cynicism, it would have been somehow perfect for the Terriers to lose immediately after rising to No. 1 in the country, but they put it together just enough times to prevent that.

   And hey, any time I turn off a BC game with them down 2-1 and come back with them down 5-1 is OK by me.

   A BU-Northeastern 'Pot final is never a bad way to spend a Monday night.

   (That was a hell of a month. Patriots win their first Super Bowl, watch the Beanpot from the club seats at the FleetCenter, and seal up the spring break trip to the Canaries. We don't get a lot of those stretches in Whale City.)

   • Today, we happily received our New Bedford Bay Sox hats in the mail. They had a special offer to by some at a discount, so we did just that despite the hats not exactly being the most exciting thing in the world. (Hey, they're locally made.)

New Bedford Bay Sox Hats
-- The cat hair appears worse than it really is.

   Excited, I go to their Web site. Where I of course discover:

Bay Sox Hats, Take 2
-- They're selling an entirely different, entirely better hat design.

   Now, I've not exactly been overwhelmed by the operation out of the blocks. On Sunday, I noticed via said Web site they'd announced a manager four days prior and never told us about it, which seems odd given we're one of the exactly two media entities who give even a whit about their existence. (And the other's a talk radio station.) To say nothing of referring to him as a "head coach," which is not something I would recommend you try with your local Major League manager.

   The marketing side, though? They appear on the ball, because I'll be God-damned if I'm going to walk around in outdated gear.
Feb. 1, 2009 - Far More Super
   • It should not be surprising that the Super Bowl featuring zero teams of any real interest, both from a personal and professional perspective, was a far more enjoyable experience than the one that featured both of the teams I've been following since childhood, plus three writers filing copy from Arizona and twice as much newspaper space to be dealt with.

   And yet, it's hard to say I love this:

S-T - Feb. 2, 2009

   more than this:

-- Editor's Note: Text may have been changed after paper published.

   It really was pretty miserable. Stumbled across the game being replayed on NFL Network, and I couldn't keep it on. Giants fan or not, 19-0 would have been 19-0. Let's just hope the whole thing never happened.

   In a related note, I was digging around the system this weekend and stumbled across this old front page:

Oh, what might have been ...
-- Oh, what might have been ...

   It also just occurred to me that two of the three writers we had in Arizona are no longer at the paper, the third was basically a stringer and our main Patriots guy -- who didn't travel out there -- died.

   That seems to be right in line with the mood of the place at the moment.

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