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March 31, 2006 - None Of Them Had Mason
   • It's nice to learn that great things are going on back at the alma mater, such as everything the hockey team did up until they woke up to play Boston College for a trip to the Frozen Four. In so much as I just posted the pictures and left that alone, until the Eagles are rousted out by North Dakota -- a man can dream, can't he? -- I'll just continue mulling the stupidity of the whole thing in my head.

   But that shouldn't be limited to one alma mater, since the new regime at good old Agawam High School has done themselves proud in a way that makes me glad they don't call me asking for donations.

AGAWAM - With the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at its peak point of madness last week, an educator at Agawam High School discovered a stack of tournament brackets and a list of students participating in something common, but illegal - a betting pool.

The pool, a $5-per-person affair which included more than 25 students, was organized at the school, with materials needed for it printed on school computers, administrators said.

After questioning students, Principal Linda J. Prystupa and her staff did something that experts say is rare: They disciplined the participants. ... The students, who came from all four grades at the school, were each handed a one-day internal suspension, said Assistant Principal Bernadette Conte. Two students who admitted to organizing the effort received a stiffer penalty, a three-day external suspension.

   Now, obviously, people who run basketball pools should be smart ebough to not get their supplies found. Especially if they're, say, 16.

   But suspensions?! You're suspending kids for the $5 office pool their parents probably are involved in? When there's probably bigger money pools being run in the teacher's lounge? When the entire rest of the universe (exept for me and people who hate sports) is in their own pools? When I mock drunks in online poker games at 5 a.m. solely to pass the time?

"If you're gambling in school, what kind of people would we be if we didn't do anything about it?" Conte said. "There's nothing wrong with a little tough love, and that's our philosophy."

   Conte is the one person mentioned in the story who's a holdover from my legendary 1994-1998 stay at the sprawling Brownie palace so odd, I left with two varsity letters. I didn't know her all that well because, well, I wasn't in trouble a lot. Mrs. Conte was, by all accounts, tough but fair ... well liked by the miscreants who she constantly crossed paths with as the Administrator of Discipline or whatever title she had before the one she has now.

   And maybe that's what bothers me, because in what's a shock to absolutely no one, I ran a handful of betting pools while a high-profile member of the Agawam school system. The one that leaps to my, just to show what a miscreant I was, actually was in Junior High -- Nov. 11, 1993, when No. 1 Florida State played at No. 2 Notre Dame. Had at least 10 kids chip in $5 each, with it split down the middle -- half for the Seminoles, half for the Irish. It was all recorded in the front page of a blue book I had for typing class or something.

   Of course, because this is me we're talking about, I picked Florida State and lost. Losers paid winners. Much fun was had by all, but clearly that fun was high on the list of ways the town failed me.

   It's second to me getting to college and not knowing what marijuana smelled like. They made sure we knew how to put condoms on bananas and do the Heimlich maneuver, but the stuff I'd actually need? Not quite.

   I can tell you right now ... even a one-day internal suspension would have caused the high-school me to have an aneurysm. I used to get edgy because a handful of times, I'd get to school late and have to go to the office for a tardy slip. Only years later did I figure out that:

   -- no one cared, and
   -- with the amount of teachers who loved me, on the off chance I'd need bailing out after some double-digit number I'd never reach, I'd have it in spades.

   If I had any faith that the people at AHS were actually suspending all the people externally for three days who deserve to be suspended externally for three days -- like, say, that asshole who kicked me in the back of the knee once because he thought I was trying to start a fight with him -- I wouldn't care. But I know they're not, instead making a stand on an issue that's alreayd a complete joke in every other facet of society.

"While we certainly don't encourage gambling, we do recognize the distinction between the office pool and larger organized, illegal gambling operations," said Beth P. Stone, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office.
-- They don't even care in Massachusetts,
where everything is illegal and open for prosecution!

   But them's the breaks. If nothing else, they're teaching children to keep their damned gambling paperwork away from prying eyes, though I'm sure the banter some of their teachers are making in class about the tournament is probably pretty confusing. And no one's stupid enough to think that isn't happening.

   Oh, wait.


March 30, 2006 - Excellent Lasagna
   Random Foxwoods Story To Fill Space: So upon arriving at the casino on Sunday, I walk over to the elevator and board it with another couple and a random woman whose not in some sort of pseudo-focus because she's not 15 minutes late to meet somebody.

   This woman notices that the female half of the couple is somewhat giddy at what she is about to experience, and says something to the effect of "First time?" They all laugh at the obviousness of it, and begin to discuss both how great a place it is and how the male half of the couple should have his own wing of the casino.

   I then bumped into them walking out of the elevator, since after pausing for a few seconds to let them out first, they only decided to move once they were done staring at the fixtures in the elevator. Or something.

   They, sadly, were not the same people who I saw almost have an aneurysm when UConn tied their game with George Mason with 00:00.1 remaining. They are, however, the reason the old Foxwoods poker room is being filled with slot machines.

   Automotive, Part Two: While sitting in the bank parking lot today, waiting for Matty Cooch, I had some time to stare at something he noted on the car parked next to us.

Terrorist Hunting Permit
-- Design of the first, words of the second
(And all borrowed from here.)

   Now, it was on a Dodge Dakota, which I only know because the sticker right next to it was a promotional sticker for the Dodge Dakota that had probably been on the guy's truck since he bought it -- which was not yesterday, unless he happened to christen it by transporting plutonium. The guy was wearing overalls with either an auto body or some other overall-needing job, and looked of an age where even using a bolt-action rifle would require stretching of reason.

   What does it all mean? I couldn't come up with anything, short of not really wanting the guy noticing the kid in the leather jacket parked in the car next door, staring at his vehicle while scribbling a sketch on what looked to be a napkin.

   Signs of a Wonderful Age: I'm guessing they didn't start making turkey pepperoni any time recently, but upon discovering it tonight, I'd have to guess it's high up there on the list of products people gorge on thinking that they're not actually harming themselves in any way.

   I mean, after all, it's turkey! And that's not whatever pepperoni usually is!

   My personal choice in this genre is footlong Subway sandwiches without any cheese. I get wheat bread, no cheese and always choose from the "6 grams of fat or less" menu. With a Diet Coke, the nutritional value of which I still think is a wash, and (generally speaking) a bag of Baked Whatever They Have In Stock That Day.

   It's 1,000 calories, but really, I probably haven't eaten anything up to that point during the day.

   Hey, at least I understand why I'm soft in the middle.


   • Tonight, while doing work, I learned that Trot Nixon passed on an offer to play quarterback at North Carolina State to pursue his baseball career after the Sox drafted him No. 7 overall in the 1993 draft.

   First, I learned/remembered that Trot Nixon was drafted No. 7 -- they really did say he was the next Dwight Evans.

   Second, I learned he didn't go to college.

   Third, I learned I shouldn't really say which of those was a bigger surprise because, really, Trot Nixon is not a guy I want to piss off.


March 29, 2006 - Automotive
   The Ivy League Word of Yesterday: Had I seen it, yesterday's word would have been "videlicet." Defined as "that is; namely" and "used to introduce examples, lists, or items," it's apparently used in regular discourse by yesterday's star, Richard Tenorio.

   Everyone get out the flowers and welcoming gifts, because something tells me Google is going to lead our masters-toting friend here before too long.

   In not all that small a way, I feel a kinship with the guy given I started my career as a copy editor writing sports columns. And there's this, a magical moment where our lives cross. I linked to all the psychotic kid's MySpace friends, who then wandered through the newsroom a few weeks later in all their glory, and he drew a cartoon making fun of southern people.

   This, however, is way over my head.


   • And now, a review of all those Web sites I saw on vehicles while driving to dinner tonight.

   Vannin.com, not surprisingly, is my home for "custom vanning on the Web." Apparently, tricking out one's van is a sport, though I do have to question what sporting definition that falls under.

If Bikers are the Modern day Cowboys, then I guess Vanners would be the Modern day Gypsies. Actually Vanners and Bikers do about the same stuff, but nobody ever died of carpet rash (vs. road) falling down in their van.
-- Big Steve said this.

   And fascinated as I was a kid that you could have a vehicle that had recliners in the back and blinds in the windows, anyone who thinks their culture is unlike one anyone has dealt with clearly isn't going to Texas next month to play trivia at wherever TRASHionals ended up being this year.

   MassDriven.com, however, did not fit since I saw the sticker on some crapbox Bronco clone ... not exactly something that would stay together were it to take part in any of the mentioned rallies.

   It, however, was perhaps part of the minority in the day's poll question:

Should I gut?

   At first glance, I really did think it has something to do with someone's gut.

   And finally, while not a Web site, I came across a billboard saying "4'9" is the magic number!" -- children should be kept in a car seat until they reach four-foot-nine.

   Thinking that was an odd number to stop at, I extrapolated it out to 57 inches and wondered if I could come up with a better slogan. It didn't take long.

"Car seats until 57 ... lest they end up in heaven!"

   It certainly gets its point across.


March 28, 2006 - The Healing Power of Bismuth
   People I'm Glad I'm Not: As a man who started his sportswriting career as a copy editor masquerading as a writer, it makes me happy to know that at no point was I ever this guy, who apparently believes the Red Sox season hinges on Trot Nixon and Tim Wakefield, the same way he believed a few weeks ago there was a competition for second base this spring and that the sports page is a good place to write a column about people who don't like sports.

Nixon, signed by the Sox in the amateur draft on June 3, 1993, has impressed countless crowds with his physical style of defense. Those who were watching on October 13, 1999, the date of Game One of the American League Championship Series, will remember his acrobatic throw in the seventh inning that - had Jason Varitek handled it properly - would have prevented Scott Brosius from scoring the tying run.
-- True. Irrelevant and seven years ago, but true.

Since then, the right fielder has also distinguished himself with the bat. In 2000, he hit a two-run home run off Roger Clemens that sealed a Fenway win for Pedro Martinez and the Sox. In 2003, he homered in the 11th inning for two more runs and a victory over the Oakland Athletics in Game Three of the American League Division Series. His defense remains his trademark, though; last season, he made just one error in 118 games in right field. While injuries have limited his playing time in recent seasons, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein knows that right field will never be a question mark.
-- So much so, he just traded for Wily Mo Pena -- a guy who will play right field more than any other position in 2006.

   The last column I linked above has a reference to "Harvard classmates." I'd love to know what major one uses to build a career path from the Ivy League to being a copy editor at the Lynn Daily Item.

   Also, why he didn't use any syntax that would allow me to resurrect the 'Ivy League Word of the Day.'


   • This would not have been the greatest blog post ever on the 'Files From The Fort' blog. It might, however, have reminded that it would be useful to have the book while writing everything for the Red Sox season preview.

   Thank goodness for the Interweb. Were it not for the Interweb, I couldn't have spent an hour playing real $1 blackjack, followed by fake casino games so real, I scared Matty Cooch by pretending I was drunk and spending my life savings $600 at a time.

   Even fake money, I didn't have it in me.


March 27, 2006 - No Parade To KFC
   Web Things You Should, Or Already Do, Know About: Yacht Rock, which perhaps can be better enjoyed by first reading about it. I saw Episode 2 this afternoon, which will be the answer to your question "What the hell is that from?" when I tell you to 'get your dick out of your heart' at some point later this week.

   Also, Mike Rocha was right ... I really can't appreciate Portuguese Fireman. I'm not Portuguese, even by osmosis, and I don't know enough natives to wistuflly think of that time I asked some guy for directions and ended up driving into the harbor out of confusion.


   • Not getting out of bed until 2 p.m. is not a precedent anyone should be setting, even if they do have a laptop and can do the exact same things they would be doing in the other room as they can from the bedroom.

   This, of course, is a not a problem you have. On the surface, it's because you have a job where you're needed before 4 p.m., but deeper down it's because you aren't a slovenly bum who has meals of supermarket sushi and Doritos while thinking, "Wow. I bet I'm the only person in the world eating sushi and Doritos together right now."

   Also, to be fair, enough time has passed since the Foxwoods poker debacle to mention that I was there with one Bill Yelenak, who for years looked up to me in a way I really couldn't understand.

   Course, he also spent his Saturday night getting hammered while listening to a guy covering Billy Joel songs in some aristocratic Connecticut bar room. I'm no prize catch, but really, our entire afternoon had the feel of a 12-11 baseball game where Julian Tavarez ends up punching a guy in the face because he had the nerve to ask Tavarez to get off his leg.

   Say, like this one.

   And I know a whole bunch of other people have already said it, but it bears mentioning ... for a guy with such a reputation for his short fuse, you'd think he'd know how to throw a damned punch.


March 26, 2006 - Told You It Was Gambling
   • Just because this is one of my favorite sporting occurrences of my lifetime, all I'm going to say is Geroge Mason is in the Final Four. George Mason.

   This would be awesome even if they hadn't beaten Jim Calhoun and UConn to do it, and beaten them after they'd looked to have given away their chance at the end of regulation.

   As a matter of public record, I spent roughly seven hours today playing poker at the new Foxwoods poker room, the ensuing creation and existence of which I knew nothing of maybe as recently as a week ago.

   The lack of actual discussion about the room and day should clue you in as to how well it went. While I can neither confirm nor deny that some guy paid in excess of $60 to catch a flush on the river and beat my three kings, I am able to say definitively that after that was over and I'd returned home, another guy online caught a 10 to make three-of-a-kind on the river against my superior (both to his hole cards and anything on the board) pair of pocket queens.

   You can attempt to deduce exactly how I'm feeling right now, or you can do what I would do were the tables turned -- promise yourself that no matter how much you want to or feel you should, you will not mention this to the police after I'm suspected of a homocide in downtown Whale City.

   Also, if no one hears from me for a week, please check under my treadmill.


March 25, 2006 - Silenced

Disaster '06

   • I'm glad I made the plan I did.

   I have nothing I can possibly say anyway.

Players To Keep An Eye On ...
-- ... outside the AL East, if by that I mean including Toronto and not including Florida. Fortunately, our Web site now makes everything almost unreadable, so no one will notice.


March 24, 2006 - Does It Get Better/Worse Than This?
   On Crying: It's at moments like this where I don't simply love my profession, but society in general. And as you know, society and I really only tolerate each other.

   So Duke's J.J. Redick and Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, after losing emotional games well before their teams should have been beaten, cried. One walked off, one went face-down on the floor. So naturally, upon seeing these breakdowns, coming at the end of a season that encompasses more or less every aspect of their life, the natural outsider reaction is ... to make fun of them. I was told multiple times tonight how callers to Rush Limbaugh's show were just ripping into Morrison, who shouldn't be crying because "he'll be a millionaire in a couple of months."

   Yeah, they're talk radio callers. But that's not the point.

   These are the same people who, not long down the road, will be ripping into either Redick/Morrison or someone else for "not caring enough." For "just playing for the money." For "never showing any emotion."

   And of course, they won't understand why this shows they're mental midgets. They'll be too busy telling Manny Ramirez he sucks because, despite hitting 35 homers, he doesn't run out every grounder and wants 10 games off during the season.

   To think, someone marveled at me once when I said I'd gladly do an afternoon of big-time sports radio, but I'd never go out of my way to do it. It'd just be four hours of me grinding my teeth and stifling/not-stifling swears.

   Not My New Favorite Commercial: You know it's good when the spokesman just lists his Web site as "the one below," since it could change at any time. You know it's good when the "screaming boss" actor starts to lose his inability to smile at his counterpart during his final line, after which the "employee whose quitting to be his own boss" offers a 'Suuuuuuuuuuure!' even HeeHaw could be proud of.

   I'll say nothing about your commercial being in heavy rotation during the NCAA ice hockey tournament, if only because I spent 10 minutes on the phone with a former subscriber this afternoon who was furious with us for not having the tournament pairings in Friday's paper.

   It was the happiest I've ever been talking with someone who hates us.


   • In hindsight, I'm happy Nebraska-Omaha scores first. In what would become the 9-2 rout it really should have been all along, the young Mavericks had their moment in the sun. Their odd-looking fans got to celebrate, and everybody at the office got to give me crap not solely because I wore the black, red and white sweater that matches the black, red and white BU hat, but because the alma mater was losing to a team we postulated could have been called the "Frozen Corn."

   The phone call from above led to me turning on the game some four minutes in, so imagine my joy when things were four minutes in and the Terriers were down 1-0. I'm serious ... this whole thing has me on edge. Even since that St. Lawrence debacle in my sophomore year, I'm constantly convinced disaster is at every turn.

Poor guy.
-- Apparently, they did score one goal where they didn't roof the kid.
I'm just glad I didn't go to the bathroom and miss five goals.

   That, however, is over now. After getting slightly riled about what Jon Rea wrote on here about Miami of Ohio, by the time I won the TV back, they were down 0-2 to BC. It got no better, which means we now face the best and worst possible outcome.

   Boston University and Boston College, for the sixth time this season. I assumed this was probably a record, until realizing that they actually played each other seven times two seasons ago -- that year BU was awful, needed a break just to get into the Hockey East tournament, then inexplicably beat the Eagles twice for their only two wins against them that year.

   I can say with some certainty that they'll never have a better chance to make the Frozen Four. I can also say that I'll probably sweat through my jersey at work while being completely unproductive for two hours, if not more.

   Tomorrow definitely feels like a picture-only post.

   I better bring my camera to work.


March 23, 2006 - Crossing The Cases
   Now, He's Gone Too Far: Since he's gotten too big for his shtick and began holding himself up as though his middle name is Gutenberg, Bill Simmons has said a lot of hurtful things. Hurtful not because of their stupidity so much -- that's his own problem, and he's shown he doesn't care -- but because I generally enjoy his writing even in this, his 'Dumbass' period.

   However, he may have crossed a line in a chat Hypho brought to my attention this afternoon.

Sode (San Jose): How are most of the people on "Deal or No Deal" so dumb?
Do they know the definition of the word odds?

Bill Simmons: (2:55 PM ET ) It's really an astounding sociological experiment. In any other gambling situation, if someone offered you a guarantee of 250K, or 1-in-5 chances of winning one million, $500,000, 50K, 5K and $1, anyone in their right mind would jump at the 250K. On this show, they lose their minds. I finally had to stop watching it, it was driving me crazy. I don't care if Howie Mandel is represented by Lewis Kay. I couldn't stick with it.

   Alright, let's look at this rationally first.

   Thanks to this banker's calculator, which I knew someone would build or already had built by the first time I saw the show, we know that the bank offer in the above situation would actually be higher -- $311,000. Now, I am a man in my right mind, so I know I'm opening one more suitcase if I pass on the offer. I also know (or believe, depending on your perspective) that the difference between $1 million and $311,000 is drastic enough to be worth mentioning.

   We could just say that assuming the worst case -- my suitcase contains $1 -- there's a 50-50 chance or something bad happening on that next open, and a 25-75 chance of something gruesome. But with the calculator, we can go a step further ... here's what happens based on what gets opened. *

$1 case opened, offer RISES TO $388,750
$5,000 case opened, offer RISES TO $387,500
$50,000 case opened, offer RISES TO $376,250
$500,000 case opened, offer FALLS TO $263,750
$1,000,000 case opened, offer FALLS TO $138,750
(* - probably not exact, since the show seems to favor even thousands)

   Now, maybe I'm just stupid. Maybe I have a crippling gambling problem, or a very bad grasp on things beyond basic math. But here's my logic, and I can with as much possibly certainty say this would be my (basic) thought process in the actual situation.

   -- I'm guaranteed a six-figure payout, because I have two giant amounts left in play, but only have to open one suitcase.
   -- Worst case, I'm 50-50 to increase my offer. Best case, that being I'm holding the million (and thus can't knock it out), I'm 75-25. Even worst case, I'm 75-25 to still have a $250,000+ decision on the next offer.

   Because of that, I say no deal and draw again. If that means I'm not in my "right mind," then so be it, asshole. In my wrong mind, I'm doing no worse than coming to the show with nothing and am leaving with $139,000. And I don't care that $311,000 is more than $139,000 for two reasons.

   -- Picking a number out of a hat to win $75,000 more is easier than working for two more years.
   -- You can't imagine how well I could live on $139,000, and considering I'd keep working even if I won the million bucks, that's all I care about. I've got $15,000 left in college loans to pay off ... anything left after that goes to paying off the family house, then a personal trainer, then gifts to friends so we can all live like jerks. Or, at the very least, have a big party where we act like jerks.

   And If You Weren't Bored By This Yet ...: Let's take it a step further, past the point where Capt. Jackoff can calculate because he's too busy watching reruns of "Pimp My Ride" and "Beverly Hills 90210."

   I'm convinced the show won't work after someone wins the million, because almost all the excitement will be gone. But lucky for them, it's going to be damn hard for anyone who thinks rationally to win the top prize.

   Take our above example, for instance. Let's presume I'm holding the million dollar suitcase, pass on the $311,000 offer and choose wisely, knocking out the $1.

   My next offer thus becomes the aforementioned $388,750. Now, I don't know I'm holding the top prize and am presuming the worst to calculate my chances. Here's what I see if I pass on the offer.

$5,000 case opened, offer RISES TO $516,667
$50,000 case opened, offer RISES TO $501,667
$500,000 case opened, offer FALLS TO $351,667
$1,000,000 case opened, offer FALLS TO $185,000

   I'm staring at $389K guaranteed and three suitcases. At worst (where I'm holding the $5,000 case), one skyrockets my offer past a half-million, one more or less holds it firm and the other more than chops it in half.

   How do I possibly throw myself to the fates and chase a 1 out of 3 shot? And then, on the off-chance I hit it, how do I possibly throw away $517,000?!

   Or better still, how do I subdue all the people I brought with me, who will obviously beat my unconscious and take the deal before I have a chance to do anything?

   Course, if you've watched the show, they seem to not be choosing contestants who are thinking even half this hard. They're choosing people who "need the money" beyond the way everyone could use six figures. Though that could work against them, since these people are the same ones who probably fill slot machines because they're convinced they're hot.

   I don't know ... maybe they want that. But what I do know is Bill Simmons must be one hell of a poker player with a mindset like he's got. Forget his going to the World Series, which is probably even a bigger joke than he thinks it's going to be.

   I want to play him heads-up, and I suck.


   • Anything to keep me distracted until 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, when my alma mater (and, given the polls, de-facto tournament favorite) hopefully doesn't have their season end at the hands of a hockey team from Nebraska.

   A hockey team making their tournament debut, no less, far from home. If this is getting my stomach in a knot, someone knock me out and wake me up in the middle of April.

   And by the by, my vote total rose 10 -- from 31 to 41 -- in the last 24 hours. For that I thank you, though if you've not already voted, feel free to do so while telling your friends.

   I'd like to think there's more than 11 of you out there.


March 22, 2006 - The Jinx Is In
   Making Westchester Understand: After last year returning to (and largely enjoying) fantasy baseball, I'm likely stepping aside again this year because ... I'm not even sure why I'm not interested. It just strikes me that if being involved in something free that's supposed to be a rip-roaring good time needs this much thought, it's probably ultimately not for you.

   Course, there are people for whom this is no problem ... I know one well. He, thus, does not need The New York Times to explain to him what it is and how it works.

   And for the world's sake, I hope no one else does either.

Fantasy baseball does not imagine, say, an outfield of Bettie Page, Yoda and Robin the Boy Wonder. But neither does it take into great account those aspects of the game often called the "little things": laying down a sacrifice bunt; hitting the cutoff man; using the least detectable steroids. This is because fantasy baseball is a cafeteria form of baseball, heavy on the carbohydrates, with no interest in all the spices that make the game so enticing.

   Dan Barry, whoever you are, stop trying so damn hard. There's no one in the reading universe who doesn't care about fantasy baseball who is going to read your second paragraph and be transfixed. You're going to get jerks like me making fun of you, countless others who simply didn't read the first paragraph because they don't care and homeless people, who don't give a crap what the ink says as long as the paper burns.

   As for the actual book, it falls into the great expanse of "things I should probably read, but won't." Especially when you consider at some point Thursday afternoon, I'll go off and try to find a copy of Game of Shadows, with the hopes being I can read it in two days and write a review of it for my Sunday column.

   Hey, I got through Jose Canseco's 'Juiced' in a long afternoon, though I'd imagine the differences between the prose of Jose Canseco and two actual writers are probably more than discreet. Somewhere on opposite sides of a rodeo-related interview with Larry The Cable Guy.

But when he's not hacking off Clay Aiken fans (he once commented that he was on the Clay Aiken diet -- where you pop in a Clay Aiken CD and try to keep food down), he's selling out concerts nationwide, turning out hugely popular CDs (including 2005's The Right to Bare Arms), keeping most of us in stitches with his approachable style and putting a little coin in the pockets of cowboys and cowgirls.
-- I think he can be funny at times,
but he better watch his damn mouth.

   Cooch, Designer Extraordinaire: Just curious to see what people think, even knowing it's probably not going to be great.

Mar. 23, 2006

   If I had it to do over again, I might move the Red Sox photo to the left side of that story. But if that's anyone biggest complaint, I'll be overjoyed.

   Forshadowing To Four Inches From Now: What some people view as a jersey "best left in the closet," others view as something they had their paper's hockey writer investigate the availability of for public sale.

I like the stripes.

What a disappointment it was to see the Boston University men's hockey team take the ice at the Boston Garden Friday night wearing a uniform that looks like a clone of the University of New Hampshire's uniform. Jack Kelley around 1964 introduced the uniform that has represented a tradition of excellence for over 40 years. That uniform replaced one that represented mediocrity.

The teams from that period did have some outstanding players. However, there was no excellence or passion associated with those teams. When the Agganis Arena opened, considerable stress was placed on the tradition continuing. The walls of the arena are lined with images of accomplishment.

When the team now takes the ice wearing the "retro" uniform, the tradition and passion seem to be lost. It's like the Yankees removing their stripes or the Marine Corps changing their uniform. Teams with a rich history don't re-brand their image.


AHHH! They're the same team!
-- I can see how he observed similarities.
Say, if he was blind and had forks jammed in his eyes.

   And for the record, the source he contacted (who, trust me, is a guy who would know) said the school is trying so hard to get them out on the market in the best way possible, they're simply not selling them when people would clearly seek them out. Course, a national championship probably would force their hand a little bit.

   Also, the use of two photos was not to lengthen this copy, but simply to ensure Julie (and her UMass-graduate parents) know I'm making the most of this opportunity to be a jerk.


   • And now, two things I swore I wouldn't mention here. The first, not surprisingly, goes with the above.

Final USCHO.com Poll of 2005-06
-- Can't ever remember that happening before.

   And the second, well, I can't remember happening as it applies to me either. The Boston Sports Media Watch, which regularly links to mine and nearly everyone else in the region's sports stories, is having their annual awards poll. This year, I have been included in the group nominated for "The Boston Media's Best-Kept Secret."

   Now, I'm not under the illusion I am the above ... to be brutally honest, I couldn't bring myself to vote for myself simply because I wanted to see where others thought I stood. That, apparently, is fifth of the seven nominees.

   And that's fine, but I'd like to make my fifth place a little more secure if that's, in fact, what I deserve.

   And thus, I turn to the couple dozen of you. I'm not going to ask you to blindly go and vote for me without thought, though I'm certainly not going to buy a gun to stop you from doing so. There are a lot of other categories and two other sheets of polls, so in an ideal world, you'd go vote in all of them too via the BSMW link above.

   But really, I don't want to beg. So I'll just shut up.

   And continue to check the current results every hour and a half to see how much higher I can go from 31 votes.


March 21, 2006 - Milking The Rap Teat
   I Can Only Promise So Much: I'm bascially filling in for my boss this week while he's at a conference about becoming a better boss. This, logically, led to me going into the office about 90 minutes before the start of my regular shift and cleaning three cubicles.

   I guarantee I'm the only writer on the Red Sox beat who can use that as an excuse for not writing their column.

Pena's Raw, But Also Worth A Try
-- The column from Tuesday's paper, which makes it seem like nothing different happen. If Josh doesn't know I intended to write two pieces, Josh doesn't need to know I intended to write two pieces.

   When the boss started his job, I autographed a large bottle of Formula 409 on behalf of the staff as an apology for my old boss being such a slob. He has never touched that bottle again, except to move it to other places on his desk. I have used it to clean at least a dozen times.

   Had I know that would be the case, I would have expensed it. You just assume when a guy wears a shirt and tie to work every day, you're not oging to end up cleaning the hovel out from under that desk like you had to do three years ago.

   Speaking Of The Old Boss: The links on his new site led me to discovering more news a week after everyone else. News that now finishes off old episodes of 'Press Your Luck' that haven't aged well, since now when I watch them, I'll know Peter Tomarken died in a plane crash.

The plane was on its way to San Diego to ferry a medical patient to the UCLA Medical Center, said Doug Griffith, a spokesman for Angel Flight West, a nonprofit which provides free air transportation for needy patients. Tomarken, the pilot, was a volunteer for the group. The FAA said the plane was registered to him.

The plane apparently had engine trouble and was headed back to Santa Monica Airport, located about two miles inland, but went down in about 19 feet of water about a half-mile southwest of the Santa Monica pier, authorities said.

. . .

Tomarken's death was first reported by "Entertainment Tonight."

   Sad as I am that "Entertainment Tonight" can break news, and thus maybe is some bastardized form of legitimate journalism between Britney Spears' car seat controversies, that photo is pretty much the stock photo for "person who died in gruesome accident." I can't not look at it and think, "His face probably sorta looked like that when he died."

   In an unrelated note, the Natalie Portman gangsta rap? No 'Lazy Sunday' by any stretch, though that probably wouldn't be what I was saying if Meg's friend who worked at 'Entertainment Weekly' had ever gotten her over to BU to party with us. In so much as one can classify playing indoor basketball on that Koosh hoop I nailed to the wall as partying.

   The room had very high ceilings. It was an excellent diversion, up to an including the time I sprained my ankle so badly, I watched it swell while I was scrambling for ice.


   • In the constant to try and entertain with my boring white-person life, I forget sometimes about the better resources that are out there. Say, the crime logs back at Boston University.

A Flashy Arrest
A Brighton man exposed himself to a police officer early Friday evening at the intersection of Cambridge Street and Harvard Avenue in Brighton.

Police arrested Benjamin Huston, 23, for exposing his genitals to a police officer after leaving "Sports Depot" bar.

As he ticketed a nearby car, the officer noticed a group of about 15 people exit the bar screaming profanities and walking in the middle of the street as oncoming traffic swerved to avoid them.

The officer approached the group and asked them to "tone down the behavior." In response, Huston turned around and exposed his genitals to the officer.

The officer arrested Huston, and as they waited for a car to arrive to transport him for booking, Huston told the officer he had been drinking for five hours previous to the incident and was a Harvard Law student who would defeat him in court.

   Ivy Leaguers. They're just richer than you and me is all.


March 20, 2006 - Bye Bye, Rock Star
   Pleasing Captain Checkbook: As a bit of a capper to Florida, an excellent thank you was waiting in my inbox today from our editor-in-chief, prior to him coming over and saying essentially the same thing to me face to face. There was talk of a longer trip next year, but let's sit on that so I can ramp up the panic again before I go next year.

   A second trip would be tremendous if only because I now know the lay of the land a little better, and that when my mother said a while back that I could stay in her brother's hotel in Cocoa Beach on any vacation I took to Florida, she meant I could stay in any La Quinta Inn throughout an area much larger than Cocoa Beach for roughly half of what I paid to be smoked out of an Econo Lodge.

   Clearly this is my fault, as you can clearly see how I would confuse the two things, them being so similar and all. Fortunately, the only La Quinta Inns I can think of both were in better locations than my hotel, and featured ... oh, hey! Look at the masthead on that Web site!

La Quinta ... Spanish for 'Free Hi-Speed Internet'
-- It's real, even if this is what I'd type on a joke ad.

   Also, this feels like a good place to mention that I wrote a column on the Bronson Arroyo trade, but it didn't post for a reason that's ultimately my fault. That'll get remedied tomorrow, when I also write a column where I apologize to the World Baseball Classic for silently mocking it.


   • You remember way back when I used to get copies of our rival paper in Fall River, which featured the thought columns of one Marc Munroe Dion? The classic "Livin' and Dion"? Well, I had thought that those had fallen by the wayside, left as the capstone to a pile of bad ideas in some forgotten dusty alcove.

   Well, thanks to friend and golf enabler Ed Collins, we discovered that MMD is still out there, preaching about the disgrace of gravy disappearing from the American diet. Here, then, is a selection of thoughts from Monday's "Livin' and Dion" in ... I'm not going to give you the paper's name again. You'll just run to your phone and hike their subscription numbers.

After work on St. Patrick's Day, I went home. St. Patrick's Day and New Year's Eve are amateur nights.

I'm hoping to die at work. It's the only way I can afford to quit working. ... But if I could retire tomorrow with a full pension, I would.

NOTE: In Dion's defense, this feeds off the local high school principal's retirement at 57 because of his
"reaching the maximum level of retirement benefits under Massachusetts law." Besides, there are others that are far more nonsensical.


If I believed in reincarnation, I'd want to come back as a monkey. They seem to have a lot of fun, most of them don't have jobs and their food really does grow on trees.
NOTE: For example, that one.

OK, here's the deal. You bite your dog. Then, let your dog bite you. If you hurt the dog more than the dog hurts you, then you don't have to put a fence around your yard.

I'm going to say something that hardly anyone in America ever says: I know a lot of people who are smarter than I am.

I went to the grocery store and they had signs all over the freezer case saying that March is "Frozen Food Month." It's the one holiday of the year when you're not expected to make a homemade meal.

   OK. The last one was pretty good.

   But considering my high school circle of friends featured an MIT graduate, a current Microsoft employee and a pair of rocket scientists right off the top of my head, I've been saying I know a lot of people smarter than me for years.


March 19, 2006 - That's Why I Donated The Extra $5
   The Screed That Keeps On Giving, Part One: Now that I'm back in my technological wonderland, note that the posts of the past few days have all been updated with art that makes them more than words you just don't want to read.

   And since most of you probably didn't read them since I posted them all at once, it's like nothing was ever missing.

   The Screed That Keeps On Giving, Part Two: This was waiting upon my return to the office, one of five actual e-mails among the 100 or so that were sitting there.

Subject: "For all Bode Miller's antics, least he was honest" Jon Couture
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006
From: ___@aol.com [___@aol.com]
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Hello -

   This is a very good article. I wish more people, specially journalist, could look at the whole picture.

   Cheers,
   Chris ___
   Eponymous Web Site

   Be sure I remember what people want to read about come 2010.

   The Joys of Discovery:

Red Bull New York

   You have to give MLS credit, even if this falls under the window of "news the rest of you probably knew last week." Staying true to world soccer's roots, corporate-name teams! I had seen the name somewhere else, and sure enough, that's where they're going.

   Plus, MetroStars was stupid from the very beginning. And as sad as I am that the new Houston club will not actually be Houston 1836, it reminds me of when the Colorado Rockies changed their logo from being gray across the top of black before they'd ever played a game.

   Not that I'd already bought a bunch of gear already, and made it part of an art project where we spelled out city names with things native to that city -- the "D" was the Rockies logo, the "E" was utensils to represent restaurants, the "V" was an upturned mountain and I forget the rest. It was junior high ... what do you want from me.

   They hung it in the superintendent's office, which was a big deal (relatively speaking) at Agawam Junior High School -- I got a little notice telling me that. I can only wonder what the superintendent thought about some hick from Western Massachusetts paying homage to a city he'd never been to. Clearly, he had to think I had moved from Colorado.

   It was an odd time. There was a long period at AJHS where I never had anyone to eat lunch with because either none of my friends had the same lunch as me or they all were gone on the band trip. I, logically, was in the chorus.

   This story clearly needs to stop, as much fun as it was to just start rambling and see where it ended up.

   Remembering The Past: Maintaining my loose grasp on the news of the world, it's come to my attention the Iraq war has been going on for three years on Sunday. As a way to commemorate that while still maintaining my blissful ignorance to any actual news, I decided to see what I was doing March 19, 2003, that was so damn important.

   Aside from rehashing my tournament picks -- which featured a National Championship game between Kentucky (lost in Elite Eight) and Xavier (lost in Second Round) -- I had this comment.

Operation "Iraqi Freedom"? That's the best we could come up with?!

   On the plus side, I was two days away from purchasing my Springfield Falcons and Marty McSorley bobbleheads, four from failing to win $500 because my credit card wouldn't me bet against the No. 16 seed BU women's basketball team, six from mocking the current employer of my girlfriend for sending anchor Dan Elias to the Middle East (and having him discuss how to pronounce "Qatar" for 15 seconds) and 11 from what proved to be Britney Spears' last great moment.

Britney and Howie
-- Having her chest ogled by Howie Long at a NASCAR race.

   And people wonder why I've kept this thing going for so long.


   • In a shocking turn of events that involves electronics doing exactly what they're supposed to, I returned to Whale City to find TiVo had recorded both Boston University's Hockey East semifinal blowout and every second (even the overtime) of the classic Final win over BC. It was easily the most rewarding "stay up until six in the morning" moment I've had in a long time, and the first that hasn't involved either a video game or getting pissed off because some jerk hit a flush on the river to beat my unbeatable two-pair.

   As such, I've been thinking a lot about BU hockey. The four-minute, four-goal stretch against UNH wasn't as bang-bang as I would've hoped because it did begin with an awful own goal and did come in a game clearly in hand (even by three-goal lead standards), but the give-and-go goal for No. 7 was awesome. Having seen BU lose at home to New Hampshire in November, they've clearly turned into an entirely different animal. You would think that's something it would be easy to figure out, given they've lost twice in 22 games since New Year's, but this was really the first time I got to see it.

   That, plus the quick strike in an overtime being just dominated by BC, makes it chillingly clear ... my alma mater is the team to beat from the East. They may not be better than Wisconsin and Minnesota, but if anyone's going to win the national championship from this area of the country, it's going to be BU.

   There aren't a whole lot of things out there that can genuinely make me want to cheer between the lines anymore, which definitely isn't to say I don't enjoy sports, but that I've been so programmed to internalize it, I do it almost too well. Seeing the three parties involved -- Brandon Yip at the lead -- watching his abusive game-winning goal trickle across the line, giving BU their first tournament title in nine years, was one of them.

   When I was sifting through those March 2003 posts, the other thing I saw and didn't mention was this:

UNH 3, BU 0

   UNH beat BU 3-0 in Worcester's regional final, leaving me to bitch like I bitch: "Have a decent regular season, most likely peaking with a Beanpot victory, but struggle at the end with losses to either the Rival or the Evil Pair. Lose to either Providence in the first round and miss the NCAAs, or one of the Evil Pair beyond that in the Hockey East playoffs, with that loss sufficiently sapping any momentum into the NCAAs."

   This is the first time I can remember that didn't happen. While I'm not real amped that Miami of Ohio and BC are in the regional, the Terriers are clearly the best team and the favorite to move on.

   And this is the first time in a long time where I actually feel like they will.


March 18, 2006 - I Almost Bought That CD
   Sleep 3, BU 2, BC 1 (OT): Thank goodness it wasn't exciting, and that the overtime assures that the TiVo recording won't last long enough.

   So it looks like it'll be mighty Nebraska-Omaha on Friday, followed by either Cornell or ... Boston College. I think back to how dominant BC had looked going into that first home-and-home in December, and here we are in March with it Terriers 4, Eagles 1.

   Knowing nothing about Cornell, this is obviously the team's best-ever chance to force me to buy a Frozen Four T-shirt. I'm simply clinging to the belief one can't be a bandwagon fan if you paid six figures ever to the entity in question. I'm sure my tuition dollars paid for part of a skate sharpener or something.

   Revisiting The News: So, Yanni got arrested for a "domestic dispute"? His real name is John Y. Christopher? And there's a comedic mugshot and crazy fans involved?

Live, Not At The Acropolis
-- Not comedic. I'm disappointed.

"I hope you have peaceful sleeps and that the Good Lord smiles upon you
as he sends you away from the pearly gates," wrote "T2B."

-- That, however, is hilarious

   • Well, my return to Worcester was better than most given Julie's sister didn't suffer a crippling injury this time, but she also didn't win through little fault of her own. She'll just have to settle for four trips to the state championship game and two titles.

   I wonder if I ever told her about that time I lost in the first round of the Western Mass. team tennis tournament after being beaten by a couple of kids from Longmeadow in the individual tournament.

   Honest to God, after the top four seeds were determined, they filled the rest of us in alphabetically. So Agawam's best doubles team played the No. 1 seed in the first round, and I/we got to play the No. 2.

   Yes, this happened eight years ago, and I'd probably have lost to like 60 percent of the field. Point taken.


   Despite that, there were two things I had to marvel at. One, the size of the crowd for winners Oliver Ames -- there were easily 1,000 people, the vast majority of which were wearing orange and screaming. I didn't get that excited about high school athletics when I was in high school, though that could have had to do with the rampant sucking.

   The other, however, was worth marveling over. The Danvers boys team that played after Hampshire had a 6'11" kid with a full beard. And we're not talking about a Shawn Bradley type build ... this kid would damage any car that struck him.

   Course, for the five or so minutes I got to watch, he appeared to be playing solely because he was 6'11". Not that it wasn't enough.

Giant Kid
-- EDIT: This ran in the Herald, which I inexplicably found in the trash.
Note he's actually from Duxbury, not Danvers, and that he looks ready to feed.


March 17, 2006 - Wearin' O' The Headache
   Tournament Reset: Well, we finally got our upset, and I got to see it online because most people clearly had given up on the entire escapade. And I understand why, given the video feed was choppy when Northwestern State actually hit the game-winning shot.

   And in a trivia bit I just realized upon reading that write-up, Northwestern State was the first-ever No. 16 seed to win a tournament game, in so much as the one the first-ever play-in game in 2001.

   That said, I'm sad I didn't see any of what would have been the greatest tournament game ever played for a multitude of reasons -- Albany beating UConn. While I have to dispute that there are "some new Albany fans around the country now," there's a good chance seeing Albany up 12 with 12 minutes to play would have led me to need to pull the car over and breathe into a paper bag.

   And no, there's nothing fulfilling about just hating UConn and BC, while cheering for no one.

   BU 9, UNH 2?!?!!: I'm not going to lie to you ... I didn't watch one second of this game. Last I had heard, it was 2-1 BU. And yet, it's probably for the best. If I'd watched the four-minute stretch at the start of the third, where it went from 5-2 to 9-2, I'd currently be convinced they're an unstoppable force ready to roll to a national championship.

BUís nine goals are the most in a Hockey East tournament game since the Terriers defeated Massachusetts 14-1 in the quarterfinals back in 1996.

   That was a gratuitous shot, but a needed one. Always kick when others are down, because they'd do the same thing.


   • I'd never been drunk-dialed at 1 p.m. before today.

   But then again, I'd also never learned corned beef and cabbage was a sham meal, or that you could get involved in a class-action lawsuit if you're dead.

   Next time that commercial comes on, I'll get a better transcript. But rest assured, if you took Xyprexa or something else, and suffer(ed) from "diabetes, diabetic coma, (something) or even death," you can get money now.

   Because you need it for your funeral expenses.


March 16, 2006 - Remember Me?
   Said Without Any Shame: I hadn't given much thought at Simon Cowell's involvement in American Inventor when I sat down faced with the option of ... non-upset tournament action (see below). So I watched. Four people at a table, one of which is eccentric enough to eschew shoes, hearing people's invention ideas and lifting them up or shooting them down.

   It was, in short, everything I presume is great about watching the first few weeks of American Idol -- the guy with the soap dispenser toilet paper holder, the handheld smoker, the tube you put your kids in when they're having a temper tantrum, the guy crying for no discernable reason, the woman who couldn't believe somebody already invented what's essentially the TV remote caddy.

   Not strangely compelling. Compelling compelling.

   The only downside is eventually they'll get rid of the crazies and start trying to make dreams happen. That's not good TV.

   Boston Winter Sports Roundup: Last night, the Celtics somehow built a 25-point lead on the Miami Heat. By the time I figured this out in the highlight package I was watching, they were on their way to losing it, and the game, which is what I would have expected in the first place.

   The Bruins, in so much as (like the 2001 Red Sox) I'm allowing myself to continue thinking they exist, decided to finally win their first shootout of the shootout era. The opponent, logically, was the Ottawa Senators -- Stanley Cup favorite and team which the B's have beaten four times in a row, making them the only team in the league to have beaten them more than twice.

   Sometimes, I feel like I just woke up to find myself sleeping in the yard.


   • In a grand return to this site after my glorious 66-hour work week vacation, I was going to write while watching the first day of the NCAA Tournament.

   Then I spent an hour trying in vain to watch online, nothing exciting happened and I went out for sushi round dinnertime. So, the highlights:

   Boston College vs. Pacific: When Pacific had four seconds left in regulation, the ball and the game tied, I said to Matt, "Do I dare to dream?" Then, in overtime, when Craig Smith had to make two free throws or see his college career end, I openly scoffed at the analyst-suggested thought that I'd be saddened to see a career like his end on missed free throws.

   Then, sadly, Pacific realized what they were doing and flaked out.

   Tennessee vs. Winthrop: Upon Chris Lofton making the falling-away, covered shot to win the game, the play-by-play man screamed "WHERE DID HE FIND THE COURAGE TO TAKE THAT SHOT?!!!. Well, friend, the game was tied, the worst-case scenario was overtime and not shooting would have been pretty stupid. So, to answer your question, not real deep.

   Udon Noodle Soup: I think I'm over it, because really, they're just noodles. Even if they do look cool.

   I will say, there were a few moments when I got my side of spicy tuna roll that I wondered what was wrong it. I mean, the rice looked like actaul rice, not the extruded, solidly packed stuff that's on the sushi I buy at the grocery store.

   Not bad for a place next to a paintball store that, for whatever reason, doesn't carry Diet Coke anymore.


March 6-15, 2006 - Surprisingly Few Sunburns
   Sorry, Gang: I will have you know there was about a six-hour period after I settled in that I intended to keep doing daily updates.

   Six hours may be a little high.

   As it stands, the photos that go with this will have to wait for me to get back to Whale City. Though I'm sure you can visualize marshes and a garbage truck with a palm tree painted on the back of it.

Metaphors!
-- EDIT: See? Doesn't that just make it so much better?
(And remember, it's not a simile because it doesn't use 'like' or 'as.')

   • After debating the best way to do this, the "Twenty Talking Points" reigns supreme as always. Though before that, as much as I'd like to link to 20 stories, I only wrote 17.

   So lazy. And since I thought it was 19 before counting them, throw in "So math deficient."

Old 'Idiot' Pays Friends A Visit
Notebook: Flaherty's Retirement Leaves Sox In A Pinch

Lowell Ready To Earn His Money
Notebook: Bard Catches On To Extra Duty Behind Plate

Little Different For Grady In L.A.
Notebook: Arroyo Won't Dismiss This One

Foulke A-OK With Progress
Notebook: Bard Gets His Grip on Wakefield

Graffanino Bides Time
Notebook: Pain-Free, Curt Finding His Stride In First Start

Prospects Need Time Before Phone Rings
Notebook: Papelbon Done With Camping Spirit

Getting A Rise Out of A Sinker
Notebook: Gonzalez Shows Off His Glove

Flushed With Success
Notebook: Arroyo Unshaken By Shaky Start
Not Everyone Caught Up In March Madness

   I'm a little disappointed that I didn't really wander off the day's beaten path all that much, though on plenty of days, there was the one story that had to be written. I'm really happy with the Grady Little story, and not simply because one of the quips he gave to my question ended up in most everyone's story who wrote that day.

   I do find it funny, in hindsight, that I wrote so much about backup catching. Though that really is an issue, especially with the number of pitchers they've got running around.

   The blog and accompanying audio site weren't a rousing success, but considering the circumstances, went as well as could have been expected. Not being a place people would normally look for something like that, I'd like to think if we did it again next year, it would be both a lot more popular and a lot more read. The actual act of doing it, however, was easy -- thanks to this hovel for that. Apparently, there was actually a SouthCoaster in the area who saw me at the Pirates game in Bradenton and nearly came over and said hello ... that, easily, would have been the most surreal moment of the whole trip.

   Well, not entirely. But at least until we get art for this.

   1. On a strictly personal level, receiving by first-ever Baseball Writers Association of America card was not emotional, but one of those things that made me kinda sit back and realize how amazing everything that has happened is.


-- Pixellated to obscure tears of joy.

   The fact that no one at my paper, ever, has been a member of the BBWAA just reinforces what I've been trying to do all along. Not necessarily better myself to a certain level so I can move on, though that may happen of course, but better my paper by bettering myself. Not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, but when have I ever been smart enough to do that?

   2. That, however, came on Day 2. Day One featured discoveries, such as though Bank of America has some 17,000 ATMs nationwide, none of them are in T.F. Green Airport. That knowledge hardly made me feel any better when I figured out two days later that cost me $4 in transaction fees, but fortunately, I'm independently wealthy.

   Though my flight down was on the same plane, we stopped briefly at Reagan National Airport in D.C. During my time off the plane, I came close to making another classic "souvenir purchase I'll be expensing later" -- a red Washington Nationals cap, despite my having come out against the name ever since "D.C. Expos" got passed on.

   I talked myself out of it, strangely enough, by noting the caps was made by Twins Enterprises, which is based across the street from Fenway Park. You would think the $25 price tag would have done it, but really, I have no sense of a dollar.

   I did, however, have the sense that one of the flight attendants on the second leg of the trip was a dead ringer for Noted Showboater Lindsay Jacobellis. Even before the guy in front of me in line turned to his companion and said the same thing ... all that did was make me think I wasn't crazy.

   3. After showing my wild side and choosing for my rental car a gray Saturn, which is as close to my actual car as I could have gotten, I noted the access road you're dumped on to had a sign that warned of "Panther Crossing." This struck me more odd than anything else, especially since the road had a canal running alongside it, at least until I saw another one in front of a field where cows were grazing.

   Sadly, no cows were mauled by panthers during the travels of my gray Saturn. At least not where I could write about it.

   4. What I can write about, however, is my hotel. Now, understand I can't fault the Econo Lodge of North Fort Myers for putting me in a smoking room because, well, that's what I booked. For that I'll blame Travelocity, who not only listed that when I asked them not to, they included the following in their description:

All rooms have high-speed Internet access, air-conditioning, coffeemakers, dataports, irons and ironing boards, interior access, and cable TV.

   Now, exactly zero of the 48 rooms at the hotel offered "interior access," unless by that they meant you could walk through a door from the outside and be on the interior of something. I did not have a coffee maker, though really, I don't drink coffee so I don't care. There was no hook where either an iron or ironing board might have been at one point. And, before I even bothered to ask the clerk whether or not their hotel did have "high-speed Internet access," I noted I was being handed a carbon-paper slip to fill out upon checking in.

   The staff didn't have a computer to keep reservations on.

   I doubted whether DSL was the best thing to be asking about.

   5. It could have been a lot worse. The smell wasn't terrible once your nose adjusted to it after a second or two, and there were two beds to choose from. I got a microfridge in the room for free. I could use my cell phone as an alarm clock in lieu of an actual alarm clock. And, if you'd asked me where I would have preferred the cigarette burns be, I would have taken the tub over the bedsheets every single time.

   Plus, it was nice to look across the parking lot and see a far nicer Days Inn that was probably the same price. The sort of reminder that, in the future, I should just look at the aforelinked to hotel Web site, and tell Microsoft-run Travelocity to shove that gnome up their ass.

   6. This will be well worth revisiting when I'm trying to cancel the AOL account I signed up for so I could have emergency dial-up access, especially since about three days into the trip, I figured out how easily I could have done without it.

   7. But anyway, on to baseball. Somebody commented on the blog about the team's lack of success while I was South -- they won the first game I saw, then lost six of seven -- but that's meaningless. The usual day doesn't even feature watching the whole game, since clubhouses typically open up once the starters come out in the middle innings.

   Get to the park at 8 for the first hour of clubhouse access, update the blog and check audio before Francona's 9:30 press conference, either transcribe or go back to the clubhouse 11:15 to noon, keep working through the game start at 1, cut out to talk to the starter when he's ready, head back upstairs before returning when the game ends, work until 6 or 7, go home, get fast food dinner -- we'll get to that -- sleep, repeat.

   Course, that's just the stuff that I asked about because I didn't think I could figure it out as I went. That doesn't include parking, which I paid for until I found out which lot was the media lot for the final two home games. Of course I could have asked someone, especially since it's so rare I get to flash a card at someone and have them nod affirmatively, but that really goes against everything I stand for.

   8. The road trips, however, were far more fun. Especially since the first, which featured a cross-state drive to Jupiter for a game with the Marlins, began with me driving 45 miles off course.

   9. No, seriously.


-- Sometimes maps are useful, even if they initially appear useless.

   Just following the letters of my directions, getting on I-75 while already on I-80 -- the majority of that horizontal route -- was the right move. Getting on I-80 in downtown Fort Myers, then getting off it because I thought I needed to would have been fixable had it not taken me two miles to figure out my error.

   And that two miles being followed by 20 miles of exit-free highway.

   10. Eh. It was nice to then get on roads where I was forced to pass tractor-trailers going 85 miles per hour, and where I half expected to turn corners and see an alligator. It was also nice, right around Lake Okeechobee, to see what appeared to be a funnel cloud that ended up being spewed by what appeared to be some sort of harvest. Literally talking about something you're seeing for 25 miles, just reeking of burnt rubber.

   It almost ruined my geographic dork thrill of being just a short mound away from Lake Okeechobee. Had I not been 45 minutes late from what I was hoping, there would have been a comical rup up a hill and, likely, massive disappointment at staring at another f'ing marsh.

   11. Now seems as good a time as ever to dissect the road trips, so lets.

Go Slot Jockeys!
-- Their future incarnation as the Vegas Slot Jockeys
can only hope for this kind of success.

   Jupiter / Florida: Arriving late wasn't helped by following the initial surge of cars into the first available lot, which was apparently for a guest lecture being held at the adjacent campus of Florida Atlantic University. After walking the half mile or so on to the Roger Dean Stadium complex, things were further not helped when I spent 20 minutes trying to find the media gate, only to find there was no media gate (as there is in Fort Myers) and I could have just walked in any damn entrance I wanted.

   Never mind later discovering the Sox clubhouse was accessed via a path, behind a service fence, under some portable bleachers.

   Not surprisingly, the Marlins don't have a very large press contingent. Though the guys I sat next to had an affinity for a giant grasshopper that sat on the inside of the window in front of me the entire game. Not that I spent most of the affair convinced the thing was going to jump off and somehow further embarass me. But whatever.

   Outside of the work produced, the day's highlight was easily meeting some other better-known members of the press corps. Not a lot of people made the trip, so Michael Silverman of the Herald and I got to talk a little bit. It was he, me, Alex Speier of Manchester and ... Dan Shaughnessy.

   Now, some of you may know Shaughnessy drives me crazy. No matter what I've said in the past, it's pretty much because I know he's a good writer -- it shows in his non-baseball work -- but he so often just hacks it and takes the easy way out to cheap heel heat. See, "Bambino, Curse of the."

   I had long said I wouldn't introduce myself to him, waiting instead for this mythical moment when he'd say 'hi' to me. Well, when there's all of four of us there, it happened. We talked about New Bedford boys basketball getting whacked out of the state tournament, though I'm reasonably sure he thought my name was Joe.


Go Grapefruits!
-- Amazingly, my press seat in Vero Beach: first row, center.
Almost as amazing, that guy does eventually move so I can see the plate.

   Vero Beach / Los Angeles: To finish the Shaughnessy story, I heard him discussing with someone else the few members of the press corps who had been in Jupiter. He said three people had been there, and no, I wasn't the third.

   Douchebag, even if he does sign autographs like it's going out of style everywhere he goes.

   Anyway, Dodgertown is the first place an elderly person in a position of authority tried to tell me my media pass wasn't any good. Since I wasn't in Florida for the duration of the spring, all I was given was the sufficient BBWAA card, not the official Spring Training pass Course, this woman also didn't want to let me in the stadium because "it wasn't 10 a.m. yet," that being the time the fans are let in the stadium.

   Clearly, I have trouble getting my point across.

   For her sake, I was the first media member for either team who had shown up at Holman Stadium, which like most things Dodgers hasn't been changed much since it was built in 1465. There's a certain charm to it all, but also, I wouldn't have gotten a sunburn had the press box not been entirely open air.

   Course, I also wouldn't have moved to the front-row seat directly behind home plate if I hadn't been trying to find one of six outlets in the whole 20-seat row.

   I think the story pretty much covers the conversation with Grady Little. What it doesn't touch, however, is the look on Nomar Garciaparra's face after the game when he saw seven of us waiting to see if we could talk to him for a bit. Much like what your face would look like if a little child, with a big smile on his face, walked up to you and politely asked if he could punch you in the crotch.

   And you had to say yes, for whatever reason.

   Also, Tommy Lasorda is fatter than you could possibly imagine. Though if I ate the kind of spread I ate with the other writers -- chicken fajitas, soup, salads, cakes -- maybe I'd be the size of a zeppelin too. Though I'm sure having his own golf cart, with "Lasorda" in script across the front, doesn't hurt.

   12. As an aside, because I was among the only writer to cover both the Eastern Florida games, I was among the only ones who chose to crash out the night between. So for an evening, I had a hotel room under my name on opposite sides of the state.

   For the record, the Ramada in Stuart is delightful -- for roughly the same price in a non-Spring Break hot spot, there was free wireless Internet, an iron and board (which, sadly, I couldn't steal), a bigger TV, a fat guy out front who tried to usher me into the karaoke bar, an alarm clock and access to any and all number of fast-food restaurants.

   This was the night on the trip I made a pivotal decision -- I'm not the kind of person who can go into a restaurant and eat by himself, so it would be all fast-food places from here on out. It wasn't a major problem on this night, as the Wendy's was able to discern that my order of a side salad instead of fries with my combo meal actually meant I wanted a side salad instead of fries with my combo meal.

   If only they'd been able to figure out most people want salad dressing when they order a salad. Not that it stopped me from eating half the thing before the rage became too much.
Go Glasses!
-- The bald man in the front is the Hartford Courant's David Heuschkel, who a few days later asked Enrique Wilson if he was "down with 50 Cent" based on the T-shirt Wilson was wearing. I swear to God. Those sorts of balls are the reason I will never make it in this business.

   13. Bradenton / Pittsburgh: With the other drives fresh in my head -- on the drive back from Vero Beach, I briefly managed to talk myself off the right path -- I got myself to Bradenton plenty early by rocketing up I-75. Which was good, because though I didn't get lost, Google's directions weaved me through all the residential areas humans don't use when they're describing directions to you ... say how to get to the highway after the game is over without getting carjacked.

   As such, I don't have a very pleasant opinion of Bradenton, since the stadium sits just among auto body shops, pawn shops and other various businesses you don't exactly feel good about leaving your car with. The stadium's alright, with an absolutely comical number of outlets to up the average loweled by Dodgertown. I literally counted 72 plugs in a room that could comfortably sit maybe 40, and that's not counting the seats where pillars blocked the view.

   It's always fun to see people, not used to the fun of third-row press seating at Fenway, deal with the thought they might not be able to see every inch of the field. I've long said you haven't lived until you have to move your head to see both pitch and catch. Only because I had no options, but not the point.

   I did have Subway for lunch, which did make me feel closer to home. This was the day where Curt Schilling his Chris Duffy in the head, and while he spoke after the game, he had this long blond hair hanging from his chin. I wanted nothing more than just to reach over and grab it away, since it was driving my mild OCD crazy, but he fortunately took care of it himself after about a minute.

   This was also the day when, walking down to clubhouse and waiting for the attendant to let us through, an old man walked up to me and said, "You know, I'd kill for a media guide."

   He had a face that made me feel he was maybe 15-25% serious.

Go Practice!
-- This picture-taking stretch is about the only time at City of Palms Park
when I couldn't have been seen shoveling down free food.

   14. The majority of the trip, however, was obviously spent in Fort Myers. After taking a shot at in I believe the first blog post, I then left the better pool untapped for the duration -- it's Spring Break in Florida! And I was there across two weeks, which means I got two pools of collegians in the prime of their lives.

   It looked as though the best story was going to be the endless stream of college kids who walked across our parking lot to get to the Denny's, then down the street to the sports bar, then back. That changed on Monday morning, however, when I was getting my stuff together for the drive to City of Palms.

   My room was right in front of the staircase to come off the second floor, which made it a regular place for milling about. This is what a group of college athletes were doing at about 7 a.m., loudly recounting whatever (and whomever) they did last night. At one point, a girl became shocked she had had such trouble getting another person out of their room.

   To then show how eagerly she had tried to roust this person, she began pounding on the window.

   My window, about about 7 in the morning.

   Now, because I was up and just doing some odd computer stuff, I thought it was hilarious. But you could slowly hear outside the slow realization that they had just pounded on the window of some random stranger at what's a normal sleeping hour.

   Abount five seconds later, in a rich Valley Girl:

"Um. That's someone's room."

   And I still don't think they know how lucky they were, given the crowd you might expect staying in a budget hotel.

   15. There's a far better story out there from the trip, though. It was so good, I blogged it, thus giving me the chance to quote myself.

Coco Crisp walked up to me in the Sox clubhouse this morning and shook my hand. We'd never met before, so it was an excellent gesture. Here is the entirely of our exchange:

Coco: "I'm going to ask you the question I'm asking everybody ..."
Cooch: "OK."
Coco: "Do you have any connections in TV?"
Cooch: (sheepishly) "Um ... I've been on TV."
Coco: (smiles) "Other than that."
Cooch: "Nope, sorry."
Coco: (smiles again, shakes his head and walks away) "You're useless, man. You are useless."

A man with his own production company, Coco is trying to find a home for a dating show.

Now, I've been very lucky in this job, basically starting my time as the team was creschendoing to the conglomerate that they are now. But that just easily became my favorite moment ever covering the team. If you could all go buy Coco Crisp jerseys on my behalf, I'd appreciate it.

And if you know someone who knows someone, Coco would appreciate it.

   Look into it.

   16. Sadly, I haven't yet gotten a chance to talk to Coco again, introducing myself as, "Hey, Jon Couture, Standard-Times. You called me useless the other day."

   You're all allowed to do it, though.

   17. Course, it wasn't all sunshine and lollipops, as every extended period leads to me developing a rage-filled lather. The top of the list came from some of the other smaller-paper guys who tended to do the things smaller-paper guys like us do when they don't cover the team much.

   For example, when I did my Tony Graffanino story, I tried to marry a lot of the stories that other people had already done with something new. In short, everything this story didn't do, written by a guy who sat next to me in the press box a couple days and asked me enough questions to make me wonder where he's even aware there's this thing called Google.

   Not that I'm miffed he got linked here and here, and I didn't get linked anywhere.

   18. I also enjoyed the writer from the Bangor Daily News who, along with twice showing up late at Francona press conferences and asking him questions long since answered, got busted by the team's PR staff because he literally stuck his head in Coco Crisp's locker to look at some pictures he had posted in the back. And this wasn't like a peek ... literally, he was in there for about 10-15 seconds before someone finally tapped him on the back.

   And just in case anyone thinks I'm getting all high and mighty because I'm Member No. 703 in the BBWAA, bear in mind the guy from Bangor didn't drop his pen at the Sox minor-league complex, meaning instead of being able to write down notes, I had to talk them into my tape recorder and wander around for three half-innings until I found the pen in the grass.

   To say nothing of the pair of massive forehead sunburns, spaced nicely as to cover the whole trip.

   19. There's all sorts of other little thoughts that came to my mind in my time driving around the area. Some of them, I even wrote down.

   -- Canadian Punk Princess Avril Lavigne must be pleased to know her original hit "Complicated" is now fare on stations like the soft and contemporary 'The New Magic 94.9,' which followed it with some other soft-rock standard by Richard Marx or StainD or whatever.

   -- On 43rd Avenue just outside of Vero Beach, with nothingness to each side of me as far as the eye could see, there was a yellow sign screaming "No To 5 Lanes on 43rd!" The road at that point was two lanes, so either Vero Beach is very industrious in their road construction or this guy didn't want to make multiple signs through the years.

   -- One night, right before I went to bed, what film came on USA but Barb Wire, Pamela Anderson's tour de force. So I watched about 15 minutes, right up until some naked woman had her brain scanned before being killed.

   Part of me wondered if I should have been ashamed that I found it some mix of captivating, arousing and hilarious.

   But then I realized there were at least 1,000 other people around the country thinking the same thing at that very moment.

   -- I was able to make a drive down to Fort Myers Beach on the first night I was in the city, before I had anything to do. My favorite sight, other than about four miles of traffic going in the other direction, was all the beach superstores selling elaborate towels, T-shirts, boogie boards ... presumably lots of other stuff.

   I'm sure they'd do better if they sold beer.

   -- Billboard topic of favor? "Please don't abort me!" Noted on a headline scroll: "Florida Police Arrest Yanni" In every Publix supermarket: A free scale for public use.

   Sadly, these probably have nothing to do with anything. But I'd like to think they do somehow.

   -- In the best blend of roles I can think of, the man who runs the gang in 'Prison Break' is the leader of the 'Unpimp My Ride' crew in the new Volkswagon commercials. You know, "German Enginnering In The HAAAAAAUSSS!"

   -- The pink-haired eSurance cartoon girl in those commercials is attractive, but not attractive enough to deal with changing insurance companies.

   -- The new 'Surreal Life' features a transsexual, the well-weathered Tawny Kitaen and the lead singer of Smash Mouth, who looks exactly like he's looked forever.

   20. It all, however, could not take away the final spot from what I've deemed The Hardee's Saga.

   As some of you know, I'm a fan of fast food I can't get in my local area. It's a kind of vacation treat. For example, I was captivated by being so close to a Long John Silver's, but never went there. Something about being so close fresh seafood made it seem more sacreligious than sacrelicious.

   Anyway, this trip I said I would stop at the first Hardee's I saw given it's place in the American fast-food culture. After all, they print quotes about their greatness all over their packaging.

Hardee's knows what America wants.
-- Marshall (MN) Independent

Now Hardee's has thrown down the burger gauntlet.
-- NBC Nightly News

Hardee's restaurants unveiled a hamburger to end all hamburgers.
-- CNN American Morning

   I like to think the CNN quote was followed by something like, "the Monster Thickburger. Upwards of 17 slices of cheese. Three pounds of bacon. Enough mayonnaise to smother the entire nation of Andorra."

   Anyway, despite my many drives, I kept not coming across a Hardee's. I began to wonder whether they inexplicably weren't in the state of Florida, and didn't want to look online as it would ruin the fun.

   After about four days and crossing the state, I had enough of that. I discovered there was a Hardee's up on I-80 about seven miles away, and despite not being particularly hungry, I jumped in the car and drove.

   It was honestly a little sad, watching the numbers count up on the road and feeling my heart race a little bit at each neon sign, wondering if that was the one.

   Course, I then got to the Hardee's to find their sign was off, because they were closed. I had to settle for a Taco Bell quesadilla, but on the plus side, I got to think about Hardee's all day.

   That didn't happen, because that would be sick. Regardless, when the day's work was done, I got in my car, drove down I-80 and ordered up.

   Not fully understanding that "Crispy Curls" were spiced curly fries, which are quite possibly the greatest side dish God has ever created, I ordered what the big ad told me to. Big Chicken Filet, Medium Fries, Medium Diet Coke. After being asked for the first time ever whether I wanted napkins, I saved as much as I could and ate up at the hotel.

   It was, in short, awesome. It became more awesome on the two subsequent trips, when I discovered the Crispy Curls, marveled at being told I couldn't order a large because "we're out of large fry containers," had a burger, had the chargrilled chicken club, marveled at the size of even a medium soda ...

   ... and had a delusional dream where I murdered my brother.

   Now, there's no way to know for sure whether the things are related. But all I know is that first night with the Big Chicken Fillet, I ate very close to when I went to bed. And upon going to bed, I had the creepiest dream I ever had. One where I accidentally killed Matty Cooch, leaving his body partially covered by some leaves in the woods, and kept being reminded that it was not, in fact, a dream. That I had actually killed my brother, and that he was never coming back.

   There was such a vividness to it, upon actually waking up, I spent much of the morning reliving it over and over again with a pain in the pit of my stomach.


   He got a souvenir out of it, because I felt so guilty.

   But the powere of Hardee's, however ... I went back twice more, just ordered something different and moved on.


   I can only imagine the dreams if I'd gotten the Monster ... genocide? Limb loss? Actual paralysis?

   It would have made a great update title.


March 5, 2006 - Like The Salmon of Capistrano
   Genuine Random Thoughts: What happens if the ticket dispensing machine at the various entrances to the Massachusetts Turnpike runs out of tickets just as you drive up? I mean, it has to run out sometime. Do you have to call someone, then sit and wait until it's refilled?

   At what age do most children stop worrying about getting separated from their parents at a public place? Say, the mall? When do they start wishing they were on their own?

   Are the single-package shirt-tie combos they now sell actually any good? Or do business-world people just look at you and say, "Ha. All his clothes came out of one bag."

   Would you buy a newspaper that looked like this in the newsbox?

Mar. 6, S-T Front Page
-- It's like I'm growing out of the masthead.

   I mean, would content even matter at that point, or would you be too petrified to continue? Thank goodness we were so behind tonight, because my productivity would have dropped just knowing it was there.


   • Oh, it gets better.

My House Ad
-- House ad, with any sort of goofy tropical get-up mercifully absent.

   Suffice to say, my superiors are expecting me to reinvent the wheel down in Florida. This isn't quite as bad as the time my two-part bodybuilding story took over essentially the entire issue for two days, but really, that was also for a story that was already done. Now, after doing the first-ever "Q & A with the Sox manager" we've had, it's the first-ever trip to Spring Training.

   So yeah, I'm pretty nervous about the whole thing. I keep waffling back and forth between nervous and excited, in no way affected by the fact I've apparently booked myself a smoking room, since I'm pretty sure I can get that remedied at the appropriate time.

   I don't know exactly what's going to happen when I'm down there, so should I turn up missing for any swath of time between now and the 15th, check the other blog before assuming I gave up and am floating in the Gulf of Mexico and/or being eaten by an alligator.

   And if it all ends poorly, just remember ... I'm reasonably sure I can still move back home and get a job here to hold me over until Six Flags opens up in the summer.

   To strip malls!


March 4, 2006 - Rounders Surplus
   Targeted Mailings: Among the e-mail waiting for me at work after two days out of the office? One addressing me as 'American Idol Viewer #839b' and informing me "We need your help deciding was the best American Idol." Having never seen more than one full episode of the show at best, I'd have to say it was the won who the Grammys, even if people would rather watch 'Idol' than the Grammies.

   Though I should clarify:

Idol Contestant
Concerts Of Theirs
I Have Attended
Kelly Clarkson
(The One With The Grammys)
0
Ruben Studdard
(He's Sold Two Million Records?!)
0
Fantasia Barrino
(Wrote A Book, Is Illiterate)
0
Carrie Underwood
(PeTA's "World's Sexiest Vegetarian")
0
Clay Aiken
(Just America's Sweetheart Is All)
1
-- Keep reaching for the stars, jilted son!

   Perhaps better still, however, was the invite to take my daughter on an "American Girl Weekend," with everything for two days having to do with those dolls that are kind of educational, but can also be designed to scare the bejesus out of you by modeling them after your own child.

   Now, we can reasonably hope that I don't breed at any point, because you just know that would end in either tragedy or court proceedings. But I can say with reasonable certainty that, if any child of mine is a girl, there will not be American Girl dolls involved in her upbringing. Of course, if any child of mine is a girl, I'll be locking myself in my car for 25 years and driving into the Pacific Ocean. The above, however, will go in my will.

   And bear in mind, I know I said Pacific. I think I have enough music on the iRiver to get me there without losing the motivation, but we just won't know until we get there, will we?

   A Baseball Interlude: I've talked a little bit about the World Baseball Classic here, and will talk more about in the latest Inside Baseball. I do, however, want to note one thing before that.

Korea's Uniforms
-- South Korea, it appears, is not awash in cash given
their uniforms appear to have been bought off the Internet.

   The hats, I'm pretty sure, were stolen from Agawam Little League and stopped up from ever creating that 'Killers' team we were asking for.

   These sorts of observations will no doubt invigorate the woman I'm not calling my biggest fan ... the waitress at Isaiah's in downtown Whale City who hates me. Previously mentioned earlylast month, apparently Nick went in there earlier this week for lunch and was nearly murdered because said waitress thought he was me.

Cooch and Nick
-- I know I see the resemblance.

   Among the things she said this time were "He hates the Red Sox!" and "He writes shitty stories!" I wanted to clarify whether she meant I wrote stories that make the Red Sox look shitty or whether I actually write shitty stories, but Nick made a good point -- "Really, I don't think she was getting that specific."

   Regardless, I can say with some certainty I know where I'll be eating my next downtown lunch.


   • In good news, Boston University is the outright Hockey East regular-season champions.

"So we finish the season 16-2-2 in our last 20 games -- thatís quite a run for us and might be the best run we've ever had since the 1978 team that only lost one game all year,. It was a great regular season for us and we get rewarded with the league championship outright. To enjoy the evening tonight -- getting the championship and getting it in the style we did down the stretch is pretty nice."
-- Jack Parker, who a decade ago told the Bruins to stick it.

   In better news, they draw the same team they drew when they last earned that honor in 2000 -- UMass Amherst, with whom you may be aware I have a few ties.

   In bad news, I will be in Florida for the duration of the three-game quarterfinal series, returning only in time to see the crippling overtime loss in the final that will ensure I've still never seen the alma mater win the league tournament.

   Perhaps the most enjoyable part about all that news, however, is that you could move the opening clauses around between the three and it would still work just as well.

   Go Terriers.


March 3, 2006 - Why We Gamble
   Today's Poor Product Clearance: Work overalls. Just your generic work overalls, but with a patch on the left breast bearing either the Yankee or Red Sox logo. Theoretically, the full complement exists somewhere, so that the auto mechanics of Kansas City can properly show their allegiance to Mark Grudzielanek and Doug Mientkiewicz.

   I'm pretty sure those are right.

   And I'm pretty sure the overalls were on the clearance rack with the other odd jerseys and the 4XL FUBU sweaters.

   The Crap On TV In Front Of Me, Right Now: The band Hi-5 -- rock stars for the preschool set, groupies with juice boxes. Apparently, they have an Emmy-nominated children's show on Discovery Kids, and apparently that's enough to get on a morning show after the "Chef on a Budget."

   I will now clear my Internet cache.

   Hampshire 73, Mahar 45: The night started with Julie's kid sister -- the captain of the defending Div. 2 state champions and current WMass No. 1 seed -- winning in a bloodbath. As in, at one point, it was 61-19.

   I can say with some certainty I have never seen anything worse than 61-19 in person on a scoreboard, and I'd have to imagine it will be a long time before I ever see anything that close again.

   For what it's worth, Julie's sister had twice as many points as she did dribbles. And eighth graders, of which there are at this regional high school, don't so much look 13 as they do 8.


   • I can sit here all day and talk about poker, about how playing it is a far better bet than a regular casino game because there's some legitimate skill involved in the long term.

   And then I can go to a bar in Springfield to see my buddy Justin rock it out for four hours. And in sitting there, I noticed the Keno screens and did what I always do ... try to win enough money so everyone can drink for free.

   After an impulse $5 scratch ticket -- I was standing next to the machine for like a minute -- and Young Cooch dropping $15 on three games to my delight, I came to the kind of awful decision I usually reserve for my virtual money.

   One game, one number, $20. If it hits, I win $50.

   But as I didn't have $20 cash on me, I had to turn to Matt. He forced me to change the investment slightly: one game, two numbers, $20. If one hits, we get the $20 back. If both, $100. His was 55, which was his lacrosse number the one year he played. Mine was 43, which came to me in a moment of clarity.

   I'm not convinced I can close my eyes, blank my mind and have a winning number just appear in my brain. But this doesn't stop me from continuing to do it.

   Being me, I'm informing everyone else there that there's no way this plan can fail ... we have a better than 1-in-4 chance to get our money back! It's no lose!

   The first 18 of the 20 numbers drawn all miss. I can feel Matt readying to mock me, and demanding I trudge across the parking lot immediately to get his money.

   The 19th number drawn is his 55.

  The 20th is 43.

Of course I save it.
-- Of course I saved it ... now, to get it framed and matted,
so it can sit on the floor like every other picture I never hung.

   Sadly, we could not drink $80 worth of drink two rounds into the evening. That led to a reminiscing trip to Denny's, and the discovery that the Meat Lover's Skillet I could barely destroy as a high schooler has now had its toast or English muffin replaced with three buttermilk pancakes, extra bacon strips and sausage links.

   Yeah. Sadly.

   But that moment seeing the 43 on the screen, and everyone realizing my tortured genius?

   Chris Moneymaker wasn't that pumped after winning the World Series of Poker.


March 2, 2006 - 180-Minute Commute
   Reader Submission: A link to this column was sent to me with a simple note: "I will match any money you win off this guy."

   Can't imagine why said mailed would feel that way ... I mean, it's not as though the whole column is written with a "Actually, I'm way too cool to be doing this" vibe.

   And that's too bad, since even I was able to appreciate the Atrocious GM Summit.

   South Korea 2, Chinese Taipei 0: The first-game ever of the World Baseball Classic. I don't know if you saw the highlights, but there were no people in the outfield seats, no people next to the bases ... hey, I think the number 5,193 when capacity is 55,000 speaks for itself.

   Speaks very sadly, but still speaks.


   • I'm not sure who greenlighted Pros vs. Joes, but I hope they failed to copy the proper paperwork and there's a lawsuit in the works.

   I'm that much of a positive guy.


March 1, 2006 - Ides!
   Five Alive: Apparently Bode Miller can still strike a nerve.

Subject: For all Bode Miller's antics, least he was honest
Date: Wed, 01 Mar 2006
From: Harold ____ [___@att.net]
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Honest? It's hardly honest to say you hate the bougeois establishment, take their dough, and tell your fans to stick it, and kid ski racers and their parents you don't care what people think of you, drunk or not.

   Bode Miller is a first rate sell out. He was asked directly about this in Torino and said only, "Wait and see how I raise my kids." So what? The kids will see Dad sold out to get the dough too.

   I have defended Bode's pre-2005 season career and Games performances because the press has ignorantly trashed them. But they have not ignorantly trashed his character. His Dad called Bode's sport-money contradictions a "double bind". Dad's do that; spin to protect their kids. Misled media and fans do not. If Bode were honest with himself and us, he would admit the old Bode was a naive, happy ski racing kid, and that post world champion Bode takes the dough, apparently hates himself for it, and tells us the old Bode is dead. Oh yeah, sorry I misled you with my quotes from Emerson and Thoreau...

   Maybe Bode will wake up and realize that if he wants to be a "real" guy again, he must eschew all of the trappings of fame that have corrupted him, not just the ones he hates. What is compelling is that he better than any icon knows this from his upbringing, but it did not stick. The next big question is "Why not?".

   I'm betting we'll never know.

   Harold _____
   Canton, CT
-- I genuinely love that I'm getting readers that can
drop "bougeois" and know what it means.


Subject: For all Bode Miller's antics, least he was honest
Date: Wed, 01 Mar 2006
From: Mike ___ [____@oceanspray.com]
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Thank you for posting what I've been thinking all along.

   Mike
-- Local merchants!

Subject: For all Bode Miller's antics, least he was honest
Date: Wed, 01 Mar 2006
From: ____ Shaughnessy [_____@earthlink.net]
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Ozzie and Pedro have jobs that are provided for by market capitalism. Bode Miller is supported partly by donations from the Olympic Committee, which is supported in part by donations from Americans. When you are in the position of taking handouts, you ought not disrespect the system. Bode has jeopardized future donations by his embarrassing behavior. It isn't that he failed. Dan Jansen failed. He made a mockery of the Olympic games. Flipping off a reporter? Drinking before events? Showing up overweight? Bode built himself up. He gave permission to use his likeness on the cover of magazines. This isn't some shrinking violet. He asked for the fame, and then shrunk before it--- embarrassing for himself, his family and the people that provided him the wherewithal for the trip.

   ____
-- Sadly, it is not 'that' Shaughnessy. But I can still dream.

Subject: Bode Miller
Date: Wed, 01 Mar 2006
From: Jennifer ____ [mailto:____@yahoo.com]
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Just read your article. And really liked it. I'm a lawyer from NH, and I wrote Mr. Miller a letter a few months ago, asking if he'd visit with some of my clients this summer when he comes home. (I'm a juvenile defense attorney, so my clients are those kids who have been charged with crimes, the kids who light the principal's desk on fire, the kids who no-one-knows-what-to-do-with-anymore.) I told him that I could be writing to many different celebrity athletes but that I'm not looking for a cardboard-cut-out hero. I need someone real, someone who believes in himself when no one else does, someone who lives his own Truth and who knows how to be his own cheerleader. I need someone who can handle a kid with a wild side and not be afraid of it. Someone who cares more about helping a kid than he does about being adored by him. I told him, medals or no medals at the Games, he's the one for my kids. I s! till feel that way. Your article reflects the way I view his Olympic performance, too. He made it clear to the world that he didn't want to go back in November. He had signed with Nike, and part of the deal was that he had to go. He knew he wasn't ready for them psychologically and physically and said so. He couldn't give his spot to a younger skier---he's Bode Miller, for crying out loud---I'm sure his coaches and sponsors wouldn't have let him had he offered. People keep saying, "He didn't even try." I think he did. His slalom run before the disqualification? Beautiful. Incredible. And fifth and sixth place? Cripes, if I ever came in "fifth and sixth" in the world at my job, I'd be considered pretty darn successful. Had Bode partied twice as much at the Games, weighed in at 250 pounds and won 5 gold medals, no one would be complaining about a lack of anything. Besides, none of us know him. I d! on't know him. I'll meet him in April when he gets back. Maybe he is a jerk. But maybe...just maybe... he's a guy who needs a break, is looking forward to being home again, and might make my kids laugh out loud. Who knows? Thanks for the article.

   Jen
-- I suppose this is close to getting Bode himself
reading it. Like, second degree of Kevin Bacon.


Subject: Bode Miller
Date: Wed, 01 Mar 2006
From: Todd ____ [____@yahoo.com]
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Jon,

   I wanted to write you for your thoughts in a southcoasttoday.com article I just read about "Bode, least he was honest".

   Based on the quotes of other columns, it looks as though you and I have been doing the same research. You for your job and me because I following ski racing and have been for years. It seems we share the same perspective that very few people share.

   It's quite absurd from my perspective that everyone thinks Bode is a loser. He has never been anyone but Bode and those that have followed his career would know that. While his 2006 Olympic year may not be memorable in terms of winning races, his career has been incredible.

   Yes he has been more outspoken in this Olympic year and from my perspective that is part of his exit strategy. I just hate the way the media has spun everything that he has said into a negative about who Bode is, because quite frankly I think he is a kick ass skier and solid individual.

   I liked Bill Marolt's quote the best from Ski Racing.com:

   What is the cost/benefit of Bode Miller over the last six months?

   Marolt: I think you have to look at Bode over the last eight or nine years and what heís meant to our sport, what heís meant to our team, what heís meant to our organization. And along the way itís been ... I wonít deny it's been a challenge. All I can say is I took that trip to Wengen, which you all were aware of, and I was standing on that downhill and when you see that big horse coming at you, you're damn glad that heís on your team.


   Thanks for your time and positive perspective.
-- The 'positive perspective' wouldn't fit with my future list
of resume slams, but I much prefer it.

   As always, all letters receive a handcrafted response. I'd send out a scented candle or something, but that would mean I'd have to buy scented candles. And I always manage to screw that up.

   Wow ... Baseball's Cool: Do you know who Gary Majewski is? You should ... he's given up just more than a hit an inning in his career 107 frames, going 4-5 with a 3.11 ERA -- he has been victimized for 10 unearned runs in those innings, by the by.

   Well, that's not why you should. You should because he'll be representing America in place of actual superstar Billy Wagner in the World Baseball Classic.

Majewski set a franchise rookie record for appearances, and ranked fifth in the NL in holds. Majewski retired 61 of 78 first batters faced (78%) en route to posting a .248 batting average against.
-- That puts it a little better, I guess. USA! USA!

   This, of course, is the preface to the comments of Johnny Damon, about whom (quote-wise) you know how I feel.

Since this is the first WBC, there are numerous unanswered questions: How much will the stars play? How sharp will they be? And how emotional will the players be about the whole thing?

"It's going to be close to the postseason," Damon said of the tournament's intensity. "The last thing we want to do is to embarrass our country....We need to go out, hustle, play hard and do all that good stuff. There are some tough teams, so we can't expect to go out and win just by throwing our gloves on the field. I don't think we'll do that."

-- From the New York Daily News.

   God bless him ... I miss it already.

   How Could This Possibly Be Bad?:

Joanie Laurer! Anna Nicole Smith! Oscar?

Former professional wrestler and actress Joanie Laurer arrives for the trailer screening of her new movie "Illegal Aliens" on Wednesday in New York. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)

Well, the word seems to be out on 'ILLEGAL ALIENS'. The Edgewood feature that showcases the showdown of tabloid-magnets ANNA NICOLE SMITH and JOANIE 'CHYNNA' LAURER has generated a record amount of buzz ... and the film isn't even finished yet! Media outlets have been inundating Edgewood while Director David Giancola, who's brainchild "Illegal Aliens" has been, is bunkered down at Edgewood's post-production facility; POST MONSTERS, with three editors, busily putting the finishing touches on the film. A special screening has been planned for March 1st, the day after ANNA NICOLE has her audience before the Supreme Court of The United States, (she will be flown from Washington D.C. directly to the screening in New York City) featuring key scenes from the film. The screening will be open to industry professionals ONLY as Edgewood is looking at who it will choose to release the highly-touted film.
-- There's a couple clips here, thank goodness.
Because now I know there's a "mega-gravitron" involved.

   • As an advance warning and a cheap ploy to capture readers, I'm announcing here today that the paper has given me my own blog.

   Now, the plan for right now is not that this takes the place of this for my time in Florida, since theoretically, that blog is not for me to post about seeing homeless people wearing new Ugg boots at a Subway -- it was strange enough to see it here, but in Florida, it's be that much better. But really, I'm honest enough with myself to know that I would love to turn that into something more than I fear it's going to be.

   And the best ways to do that are to either pander or report. I think a mix of the two work best.

   So I'm just saying it wouldn't kill you to look at it every so often. After all, I'm reasonably competent, and they're letting me make my own graphics on top of giving me the $456,000 for the trip.

   I can't wait until I get lost in the airport, start to cry and just spend nine days eating Cinnabon and doing pushups.


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2005: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05] - [04] - [03] - [02] - [01]
2004: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05] - [04] - [03] - [02] - [01]
2003: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05] - [04] - [03] - [02] - [01]
2002: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05] - [04] - [03] - [02] - [01]
2001: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05]