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March 31, 2007 - So, Who's The Lucky Guy?
   Preview: There's more, but here's what's run for now.

A New World: Dice-K Fits Right In

Tinker Boys: Sox Spent Spring Tweaking Repertoire

   My favorite part of the section, outside of the cover graphic, is the page of fake baseball cards. Having written it all and designed it all, I suppose I'm biased, but so it goes.

   • I'm a couple days late, but here's the Grand Theft Auto IV trailer that will inevitably lead to my buying an XBox 360 sometime in the fall.

   I'd like to think I can win the $400 playing poker or something in the period until then. That'd be a lot of money to defraud anyone of by actual illegal means, especially at my relative experience level.

   Also, Julie's friend from New Orleans is in town. Both went to a wedding today that was apparently at a former chicken farm in Rhode Island, officially starting what will be I believe a 10-wedding cavalcade for her in 2007. Somehow, it make my haul seem somewhat trivial.

   Anyway, the couple that got married apparently took the sort of quirky liberties I'm hoping to take, among them designing their own program on essentially a two-sided sheet of paper. Bios of themselves and fun facts on the front, and (along with a period picture) "The Good Wife's Guide, Housekeeping Monthly, May 1955" on the back.

"During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction."

   The "you have no right to question him" and "a good wife will always know her place" down the bottom just took it to an uncomfortable place. Really rather unfortunate. Poor show, 1955.

March 30, 2007 - Kananga!
   Some Fine Web Work: Seriously, the design of this Project-A13 is top notch. Some serious time put in there.

   I refer all other comments to Fire Joe Morgan. That this post just kept on going, continually driving the same point home as the words got more and more absurd, says all that it needs to about the subject matter it's tackling. In so much as there's a kernel of truth in it, it's one smothered like any health value in a vegetable contained in a Paula Deen dish.

   High Comedy Potential: My father worked for AT&T back in the '80s, and thus was the recipient of an e-mail with Stephen Colbert's analysis of AT&T history. He loved it, to levels that involved showing it to Matt at least 20 times and me during my last four-hour visit home.

   In the past, I've often described my father's television viewing habits, which in the past few years have featured a growing amount of Fox News. He really has no idea about Stephen Colbert, what he does or the general tenor of his show.

   He now, though, loves Stephen Colbert. Which, were he to watch enough of him, could become one of the funniest developments ever to happen to the family.

   Sadly, he's not generally up at that hour, and Comedy Central isn't exactly on his short list. But I feel it's my duty to make sure there's some more cross-pollination here. I mean, the worst that oculd happen is he gets the joke and starts muttering about who knows what involving my inability to maintain a car.

   Don't try to understand. Julie stopped not too long ago, and I think she's the better for it.

   • The TiVo screwed up tonight, taping the wrong channel instead of the two hours of wrestling -- which once can whizz through in about a half-hour -- it was supposed to.

   It instead taped Live and Let Die.

   I'd never actually gotten the equal to a Monopoly "Bank error ... in your favor!" before now. It's a pretty nice break.

   Editor's Note: Jane Seymour was pretty sweet in 1973. And now I know it was the first Roger Moore Bond film, fulfilling my distinctly passive geek obsession with the series.

   Never would have thought I'd hear James Bond say the word "pimpmobile."

March 29, 2007 - The White Glove
   One by One: In an attempt to waste some time by avoiding the baseball preview projects, I completed an oddly pointless, yet oddly satisfying project of a whole different color. I determined how many episodes of The Simpsons there are that I haven't seen yet.

   Using this Wikipedia list as a guide, up to the present day, I determined I'd seen 378 of 394 currently aired episodes, a 95.9% saturation rate that suddenly makes it very easy to see why I'm often quoting long-forgotten lines that no one else thinks is funny.

   Of course, in the two since I made the list, syndication aired the two Season 9 episodes I'd missed, putting me at 96.4 percent and 14 away (at least until the next new one).

Season 1 -- "There's No Disgrace Like Home"
Season 2 -- "Principal Charming"
Season 2 -- "Simpson & Delilah"
Season 3 -- "I Married Marge"
Season 6 -- "Homer vs. Patty & Selma"
Season 10 -- "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken"
Season 12 -- "Simpson Safari"
Season 13 -- "The Lastest Gun in the West"
Season 13 -- "Brawl in the Family"
Season 15 -- "The Way We Weren't"
Season 17 -- "The Seemingly Never-Ending Story"
Season 18 -- "Moe'N'a Lisa"
Season 18 -- "Revenge is a Dish Best Served Three Times"
Season 18 -- "Yokel Chords"

   A couple are familiar enough that they may just have been bad ones I immediately forgot about, but we'll call this scientific given the lack of interest beyond me. Neither of the two Season 9 ones were particularly good, though I do look forward to referring to every sketchy town I come across for the next several months as "Crackton." For example, pieces of the northern part of Fort Myers? Big time Crackton.

   Whale City, by the way, has too few businesses downtown to qualify as Crackton. Though I would rather eat off the pavement than try that Chinese place that's over there.

   • The ESPN shows Major League Soccer, so the ESPN advertises Major League Soccer. Their latest campaign? As described here, "You are a fan. You just don't know it yet."

The spots tap into the fans of basketball nation who currently are watching NCAA tournament and NBA action. Text reads, "Things you love about basketball."

An animated basketball player is shown displaying various attributes, such as "quickness," "athleticism," "teamwork" and "desire." The animated player is then intercut with live MLS action in which soccer players display similar attributes.

ESPN/ABC's coverage of the 2007 MLS season launches April 7 on ABC.

-- This appears entirely unrelated.

   The campaign does not appear to go after the league's other major problem. Why I, an admittedly and self-aware soccer fan, would rather fast-forward through a Premier League match scanning for goals than watch the Revolution lose another MLS Cup.

   Best of luck to them. And also, to this foreign sport called hockey, which ESPN used to talk about a whole lot more before they had to start telling me I care about both women's college basketball and arena football.

March 28, 2007 - Filled Up on Stale Bread
   Apropos of Nothing: It's an all culinary update!

Duxelle, anyone?
-- This is cussing.

Chicken Mozambique
-- This is Chicken Mozambique.

   Little of this was my idea.

   • Though I do have to ask, given I've now shown one of the good sides of Portuguese cooking ...

Easter Sweet Roll
-- Made in Fall River.

   Why does this piece of locally made baked goods have an egg nestled on it? Admittedly, Julie noting that it's probably a hard-boiled egg -- as opposed to the raw one I was hoping for -- makes it a little clearer, but I fail to see the correlation.

   Three seconds of searching hasn't helped either, so I'll just assume the worst. It's the Portuguese balanced breakfast equal of Toaster Strudel. Which really should be n a whole lot more successful than they are ... you could just suck down the icing packet, and that's before the extra points for use of the word "strudel"!

March 27, 2007 - Broken Ribs and Bronchitis
   I've Always Preferred Sirius: For those who both have XM and listen to enough XM MLB Radio, does my inclusion in this blog mean something I wrote got mentioned on satellite radio?

   If nothing else, it's good to see a blogger doing what I do with increasing frequency -- bitch about writers as though the writers are actually reading the bitching. I suppose my actually finding it is divine, though as I often am, I'm flabbergasted that perceived slights which may not actually be based on anything can be that enraging.

Now, Couture uses the powerful baseball media's most common tool to trick you--trying to equate Mariano with their buddy Trevor. I understand Trevor's good, a nice guy, has many friends, etc. But if you take the time to look up the numbers, you'll see no comparison whatsoever between the 2. Here, Couture makes a statement for which I've been unable to find substantiation.

. . .

Countless media have reported Papelbon recently saying he'd like to follow in the footsteps of Mariano Rivera. I've looked all over, tried google, etc., and can find no reference to Papelbon comparing himself to Trevor Hoffman. Maybe Papelbon knows more than Jon Couture.

   I should hope he friggin' does. Never mind that she actually picked a statement where I have documnted substantiation.

   I've responded with my piece. The shame is that I've been told I can't do so on this completely unrelated e-mail that was sent "anonymously" to the sports desk.

Subject: girls basketball super team
Date: Sun 25 Mar 2007

   dear standard times,

   i would like to know who picks the all stars. i am a fan of the [SOME HIGH SCHOOL] basketball team, and was wondering why [PLAYER ON SAID TEAM] did not even make 2nd team. [PLAYER] averaged just over 10 points a game, with 8 rebounds. i think that is all star stats, especially when that is better than 2 or 3 of your players on the super team. her stats are also better than almost of the players on your second team, so why did she get snubbed?? who picks these players??

   thank you,
   a concerned reader

   My boss thought it was funny that, in citing this letter to a curious parent whose child also plays on this team, the parent said this player was both one-dimensional and not very good.

   This raced to the top of my "Best E-Mails Ever" pile, however, when I noticed that the "From" line listed the name of the actual sender. Which, coincidentally, was identical to the player the "concerned reader" was asking about in the message.

   High school students. Smart enough to send an anonymous e-mail to ask why they weren't chosen for the Super Team. Not smart enough to do it from a friend's e-mail address, or at the very least one where the real name and username don't correspond exactly to the player, the team and the player number at hotmail dot com.

   • My point of the last week is not simply to dump all over other writers and people who aren't me. But as I'm trying to find my blog voice and place in the greater puzzle, I'm pretty well sure that at no point will I use as many exclamation points as MaineToday.com's Sea Dogs blog already has.

   It is, however, reassuring the know we might have the same number of comments only because there's a technical glitch on "Better Red Than Dead" that's keeping everyone else from posting on it.

   Long story short, since I'm reasonably certain a good number of you will end up being the people who comment over there, you;ll probably have to register with the site to comment once they figure out what the heck is wrong.

   Sly, you can use whatever name you'd like, regardless of if they threaten prosecution about it. The message boards at the paper have, not surprisingly, attracted some angry people over the years. They're a little gun-shy about this stuff.

March 26, 2007 - I Just Need To Say
   Clarification: I did not Photoshop yesterday's picture of the Mighty Mitusbishi ... truck. That's honest-to-goodness real, forever Webbed thanks to my camera phone and that there was traffic making it slow to make a left turn on whatever road that is to get back to Exit 8 on Route 140.

   Not really needed, but I didn't have a whole lot else to lead in with today.

   • Dan Shughnessy's written a lot of things over the years for The Boston Globe, which no matter what you say is the paper of record for New England. In so much as other publications make inroads, it is New England's paper, for better or for worse.

   And today, it's for worse. Head-shakingly worse. Depressingly worse. Laughably worse. Disgustingly worse.

   This is not a link to Shaughnessy's column, it's a link to a Baltimore Sun story about Shuaghnessy's column. In so much as an actual link to it -- which I put here, with the recommendation/request you not click it -- would result in maybe 8-10 extra reads, I don't want it on my hands.

   In short, Dan Shaughnessy wrote a fake Curt Schilling blog post as his column, ripping all the questioners as sychofants and the target of their queries a verbose jackass. I'm not so much perturbed by the subject matter, since if you read Schilling's blog, a large majority of the comments are "Oh my God, it's so cool you're doing this, I love you."

   It's that it's not funny.

   And that Shaughnessy wrote it purely to entertain himself.


   Seriously. Schilling's blog opened up shop while I was in Florida: March 7, not even three weeks ago. I've read almost every word of every post, and contrary to some fears, I don't really feel like I've learned much beyond what I've learned asking Schilling questions myself and, moreso, hearing his responses to the questions of my peers.

   Could this change? Absolutely. But one of the benefits of covering baseball in Boston is that there are so many talented and intelligent baseball minds doing it, there's not a lot of stuff that's going to fall through the cracks. I can't even count the times I've felt stupid because someone else asked a perfectly legitimate question that completely escaped me.

   Of course, it's been a long time since that was Shaughnessy's aim. He's a columnist now, and beyond that, he's a columnist whose niche is what it is. It's made him moderately wealthy, it's gotten him countless radio and TV gigs, and it's made him one of the most visible people who cover the team. In so much as he actually doesn't need to be anywhere near the team to do most of what he does.

   I've written this before. Shaughnessy and I have spoken exactly twice since October 2003, and I'm pretty sure he thinks my name is Joe. I don't exactly blame him for this, even though he's hardly gone out of his way to say 'hi,' because I don't really have any interest in talking to him.

   There are people on the Sox beat who've been incredibly friendly to me, incredibly helpful to me or some combination of the two. Shaughnessy may not actually be a potential member of either of those categories, but I'm not exactly losing sleep over not knowing.

   I think what I find most offensive about his latest screed is not that it's an embarrassment to the profession. There are always going to be members of the public who mistake what he does with what quality beat writers do. What I find most offensive is that his shtick works.

   Yes, it only works to a point. It only hits a limited number of people, and it can't work on the same people forever. But the fact is it gets read. It gets noticed. It gets compensated and talked about and debated and publicly noticed.

   That's all a guy like Shaughnessy wants. I read all these rants about the kind of person he is, about how pathetic his life must be and more. I'm not going to pile on, because I don't know.

   I find it hard to believe he doesn't love what he's created. The spider hole he's built. I saw him posing with his son and chatting with his daughter before the Sox-BC exhibition game -- the kid's on the Eagles roster, though to be honest I have no idea how much he plays.

   He had a big, stupid grin on his face as he hobnobbed on the field, posed goofily for photos and generally wallowed in his quasi-professional, quasi-private life.

   I don't want it. Not for a second. Even as enjoyable as it would be to taste the trappings, I'd rather plug away doing what I do, how I do it, well aware that the inevitable conclusion is me leaving the business quite possibly not on my own terms.

   The thing is, I'm pretty sure Dan Shaughnessy wants what he's got. That doesn't make him any less of a buffoon, and it doesn't make what he wrote today look any better that what an uncleaned gerbil cage would amount to after a week.

   Quite simply, I couldn't have written what he did. I absolutely could not have written it, never mind pasted it into an e-mail and told my editor, "Yeah, that's my column this week."

   He writes for The Boston Globe, and I don't.

   It's not as simple as that, I know, but it's also not that much more complex.

March 25, 2007 - Your Favorite Birds
   Barking: As enjoyable as it is to pick up a phlegm-loaded cough, the joy of having chunks of whatever's in my lungs come out of the body is constantly tempered by the actual act of having the phlegm in my lungs rise up my neck, generally needing to be assisted beyond that point.

   No pictures. I think that should be enough.

   • Willis McGahee, formerly of the Bills, now of the Ravens, on the city of Buffalo:

Last season ended and McGahee left Buffalo, N.Y., immediately. "I couldn't wait to get out of there," the running back says. He rushed home to Miami and left his visiting mother in Buffalo to tie up loose ends. McGahee had no doubt that his time with the Bills was over, even though another year remained on his contract.

Ten weeks later, his agent called and told McGahee a trade to Baltimore was complete. "I was yelling and [stuff], running through the whole house, screaming, 'Yes! Yes!'" he says. "It was such a relief."

. . .

"I've grown a whole lot," McGahee says. "It doesn't feel like it's been five years since college. Coming from Miami, I was used to partying, going out, just having something to do every night. Restaurants, whatever. Going to Buffalo, it was like hitting a brick wall. Like, 'Damn!' Can't go out, can't do nothing. There's an Applebee's, a TGI Friday's, and they just got a Dave & Busters. They got that, and I'm like, 'What the?' And, you know, the women ..."

-- Baltimore Sun

   How ugly were the women? So ugly, McGahee wasn't able to father a fourth kid in a two-year period.

   I never would have thought there'd be someone who would make me support Buffalo, which is located 15 miles from the actual edge of the friggin' planet. But there you go.

March 24, 2007 - As Expected
   Word I'd Rather Not Have Learned: Metastasized means, roughly, "the spread of cancer from its primary site to other places in the body." Potential first lady, meet women's college basketball coach.

   I have nothing to add. At least nothing beyond that some people love their cars, and some people don't.

Mighty Mitsubishit
-- Freetown, Mass.

   The story of how this came to be is probbaly way less interesting than the way I'm thinking about it.

   • To be honest, I never really got into it. Much as I felt what I felt when I wrote what I wrote, watching UMass-Maine just wasn't the same as watching BU-Maine would have been. Don't get me wrong ... I was trying hard to be optimistic, though it was a bit difficult with Julie turning to growl at me, "It's your fault! You predicted this!" every 10 minutes.

   But beyond not really feeling like the team I'd see play Clarkson had what it took to beat Maine, I'm just struggling to enjoy watching a tournament I annually look forward to, but have not had much of anything to enjoy.

   It was a very even game even without looking at the stats, and the Minutemen very easy could have won. But they didn't. They ran into a better goaltender, and both of the game's biggest breaks fell against them (or, more accurately, off them and into the net).

-- They'll get theirs. Hopefully someday.

   It just strikes me that in the past nine years, the three teams who annually avoid what is the scatterbrained nature of this thing are North Dakota, BC and Maine. Two of which are teams with fanbases I just generally can't stand.

   So it goes. If every team I liked actually won a championship, then I wouldn't have any place to put all this angst. I'm well past the age where I could start trying to spin it into poetry.

IB: Tavarez Can Hold The Fort
-- I wish I could always get them done by 10:15 a.m.

March 23, 2007 - Now, I'm Begging
   I Had Something To Say: Lost it in rage driving home. Oh well.

   • Know what? Fuck 'em. I'll be back, and they'll be back. Maybe they'll be better, maybe they'll be worse, but I'll pay my money just the same to see them.

   I'm not going to link to any stories, because to be honest, I don't even think the game is over yet. When Josh asked me if he could change the channel with it Michigan State 4, BU 1, I said I didn't care. He didn't change it, but I stopped paying attention.

   Admittedly, I went into the tournament in no way deluded of what was going to happen. If not here, then in the next round (though Alabama taking Notre Dame to double-OT ... let's just say my emotions weren't conflicted). The flaw in all of this was reading the Free Press preview story.

   Well yeah, Jack Parker is smiling. You know, it is probably good they're in a region without any other Hockey East teams. They have been a pretty good road team. And then, they come out and play the first 10 minutes like their hair was on fire.

   But, well, what would be a better metaphor for a team that peaked too soon? A team that can hang their hat on another miserable, meaningless Beanpot, a tournament which will remain so as long as the years pile up without a return beyond March.

   But you know what? I'm happy. I'm happy because UMass won. I'm so happy, I'm driving to Boston to play poker tomorrow, then cutting out early to go to Amherst and watch it with Julie's family at The Hangar, the campus pulse-point and often mentioned as my favorite bar in the world.

   Admittedly, finding out Julie dozed off and missed the game's only goal after I'd left her for work wasn't exactly thrilling. But I don't even care that her team, whose lack of an NCAA resume I was disparaging not three months ago, is on the doorstep of beating mine to the Frozen Four. I don't care that it appears like I'm climbing on someone else's bandwagon. I don't even care that the odds of UMass beating Maine for the fifth time in three-and-a-half weeks are far lower than I want to admit.

UMass 1, Clarkson 0
-- Via USCHO.

   I want to cheer a hockey winner. I'm getting fucking desperate. BU? It's been nine years, and a lot of almosts. The Whalers? No longer exist. The Bruins? Dear Lord, where to start. Hell, I got on the trains of the 2003-04 Flames and 2006-07 Oilers just in time to have them lose the Stanley Cup to southern teams in seven games.

   I have Western Mass. roots. I've probably seen as many UMass games since graduation as Terriers ones. I'm sure Julie's family saved me a seat. I even cheered and threw my arms aloft involuntarily when Kevin Jarman got the fluky goal they needed to beat Clarkson!

   Not Maine. Jesus, please don't let it be Maine again. The team that finished off the final Terrier team of my undergraduate life. The team whose fans had their jowls aquiver for commercial bumps all friggin' afternoon. The only one that can finally finish what truly began that day at Mark Coen's apartment, watching overtime after overtime of Rick DiPietro's BU Terriers and the St. Lawrence Seaways or whatever the hell they are.

   Let 'em do it. Let 'em go to St. Louis. Let me go try to find my basketball hat from the mid-'90s glory days, then top it off with John Calipari's Memphis Tigers upsetting Ohio State to make the Final Four.

   Though given how Calipari left Amherst, really, him losing could be just as exciting if the crowd's liquored up by that point.

   All I know is that I'm not rioting beyond writing things in ketchup on my appetizer plate. And the BU Athletic Department shouldn't be holding their breath for my "Terrier Pride" donation.

   They can have a couple more bucks when they do something to earn it.

March 21-22, 2007 - For No Good Reason
   Editor's Note: There's just no post from yesterday. Normally, I would try to cobble something together, but it's just not in me right now. And really, it's not like anybody's missing anything.

Papelbon Move Works Only if Setup Men Do Too
-- Whoops. Goodbye, day off. Though that's always an inevitable story of the season.

   Bear in mind, the historic "first commenter" award is still up for grabs on ths Sox blog. I'm not above begging.

   • With that in mind, the latest possible "return of the Whalers" rumor.

   If you'll excuse me, I have to go curse the fact I could have no reason to watch the NCAA hockey tournament by 11 p.m. Friday.

March 20, 2007 - Mocking and Nutting
   I Am Not Mature: And thus, I believe this is hilarious.

   It's all in the commentary. Clearly, what my hotel room video was lacking.

   One More Peg From The Bottom: The East Hartford Gazette is a free weekly paper, reported circulation of just more than 19,000. Hardly battling even a paper my size.

   But sweet Jesus, if you're even going to accept a freelance report from spring training, give it a half-assed read.

   Purely looking at spelling, Dunedan, A.J. Barnett, Julian Tavares, Hidecki Okajima, Brian Donnelly, Daishuki Matsuzaka, Joel McEwing and Davis Ortiz ... and I'm sure I probably missed one. This woman writes sports. She does features. How could anyone possibly take a word written at face value? Was money exchanged?

   I actually feel bad. But I can't even believe this prose actually exists.

Gyro's Mystery is Mind over Matter
-- I mean, at least my spelling is good most of the time.

   Course, as I say that, I note the poll on the main S-T sports page spells it "Diasuke Matsuzaka."

   • The total cost for both tuition and room/board at Boston University in 2007-08 will be $45,880.


   I remember feeling some perverse sense of pride when my school was among the only ones charging more than $30K for a year. At the rate they've historically hiked the numbers, they'll blow past $60,000 inside of a decade.

   Though on the plus side, it makes the hockey tickets seem like an absolute bargain.

March 19, 2007 - Can Lies Be Beautiful?
   Why He's Him and You Aren't: The alma mater's Jack Parker, still pissed after all these years.

And while many teams watched ESPN2's selection show Sunday afternoon, reporters turning up at Boston University's Agganis Arena were surprised to learn that the Terriers had decided to spurn it altogether. Minutes before the telecast was scheduled to begin, the players were immersed in a no-pucks practice on the heels of Friday's embarrassing loss to Boston College.

Terrier coach Jack Parker spoke only briefly before heading out to the ice to join his team.

"We don't care who we're playing, and we don't care where we're going," Parker said. "We'll find out afterwards, and I'll tell our team. We're not going to make any comments about who we're playing because that's not our problem. Our toughest opponent is ourselves. The only thing I'm concerned about is trying to get us ready to play another hockey game -- unlike the one we played the other night."

   Lucky for me, BU-Michigan State is 8:30 p.m. on Friday, right in the middle of an office shift with Josh. The sports editor who loves giving me crap, and a Syracuse alum who's not exactly at peace with the Orange being relegated to the NIT.

   Course, I'm sure that has nothing to do with my coworkers berating him about it non-stop for a week. I can't even take credit.

   Hope For Everyone: The dork who lived in a Nissan for seven days -- SENTRA! -- is being mistaken for a more famous dork.

   Course, the payoff is attention being brought to one's proximity to Ron Jeremy. Your mileage may vary.

   Not like it would in a Sentra, but the point's the same.

   • Things I learned today that really have nothing to do with anything.

   In learning that David Wells has diabetes -- can't imagine how that happened -- I learned he also has gout. That puts him in the same club as actor Jared Leto, who apparently got gout when he had to gain 65 pounds to play John David Chapman in a movie.

   Jared Leto, who unbeknownst to me is the lead singer of 30 Seconds to Mars. They being a band whose music I've downloaded unaware of that fact, though Wikiepdia says that's not a shock. "Although Leto is a Hollywood actor, he originally preferred not to use this information to promote the band; in fact, the band used to refuse to play at venues that used his fame to promote shows."

   That's how you spend sour hours on the Internet and accomplish close to nothing, friends.

March 18, 2007 - Only Seven Hours Away!
   TSA? Bad At Repacking: At about 7 tonight, a nice lady showed up in Whale City with my suitcase. As I figured might happen, all the electronics in it led the TSA to open it and hand-search it, though they found nothing and everything appears to still be in there.

   And apparently, another airline just requested a tractor trailer to start deliveries on all the bags their recent issues have stranded. The late news leads me to think it's U.S. Airways.

   Course, the late news also leads me to think that Chris Daughtry is newsworthy, so let's leave that right there.

   Clap. Stop. Clap. Stop. Clap More.: In frigid temperatures that made the typical runners gear of tank-top and half-shorts even less socially acceptable, today was the 30th-annual New Bedford Half Marathon. As it annually does, the course made its way past my apartment, with the finish line in nearby downtown.

New Bedford Half Marathon, 2007
-- I really need to clean my windows more.

New Bedford Half-Marathon, 2007
-- She won. Note the large crowd at the finish.

   Right after the first runners came in, a gust of wind blew over the portable speaker tower being used to introduce the runners as they sprinted home. It's not a very interesting sidelight, but it was pretty funny when the alternative was realizing forgetting my gloves was a rather critical mistake.

   • Hockey brackets are out. As predicted, the alma mater has to travel to Michigan and play Michigan State, which will at least save me a little money I'd have spent to go watch them lose in Manchester.

   And though I couldn't get the TiVo to save it in time, it bears repeating that Bob Norton, actual college hockey analyst, predicted UMass to advance to the Frozen Four out of the East Regional. They would have to beat No. 1 seed Clarkson in Rochester, N.Y., then either St. Cloud State or Maine (whom they just beat four times in a row).

   In so much as I would actually be thrilled to see the Minutemen do something even close to that in their first NCAA tournament appearance, for them to make the Frozen Four before the Terriers (in the "I care" era) would require me to do the right thing: drive my car into Whale City Harbor and let the cool, cool water envelop me forever.

   If it didn't get me, the PCBs would.

March 17, 2007 - No-Glass Pop-A-Shot
   • Ending up at Dave and Buster's for the second day in a row, I was just close enough to a television to see that after two periods tonight, it was Rangers 7, Bruins 0.

Bruins rule, again.

   What could possibly put it any better?

March 16, 2007 - Buster A Move
   The Continuing Saga: At 11:15 a.m. this morning, after I'd returned my second rental car -- 266 miles, 12 hours -- and discovered my car drives significantly different than a new car, I find the Continental baggage office is closed. Upstairs at the check-in counter, I see nearly every flight from Newark to Providence today has been cancelled. Had I stayed, I'd still be there.

   My luggage still is, and still was after my half-hour phone call this afternoon with their baggage hotline. Theoretically, it will be delivered to me, though the lack of a working buzzer on the building might make that a bit of a hairy enterprise.

   Thankfully, I haven't forgotten how to shave with a razor and shaving cream. Though that whole "putting the work laptop and not my laptop" in the bag has potential disaster written all over it.

UNH 3, UMass 2 (2OT): We had tickets to the Hockey East semifinals, but I didn't really feel like piling up the other car the two of us own. It's all for the best, as driving 60 miles to watch both our teams lose would have been tremendous on the way back.

   To be honest, I didn't even watch BU-BC ... the Terriers peaked too soon, though peaking at the right time didn't work for them last year either. UMass tore my guts out, because a win (listening to Bracketology) likely sealed their first NCAA berth. Now, they're a maybe.

   Julie, somehow, seemed more disappointed about losing the shot at the conference title. Like she said, she's new at this stuff.

   • On the plus side, the trip to Providence did lead us to Dave & Busters, the marriage of two of my loves -- causal dining restaurants and big, stupid arcades.

   It does bear mentioning, however, that when I was on my way to breaking the pop-a-shot record (and winning 500 tickets I could have given to some kid), the machine reset itself and cancelled my game. And the Golden Tee game was even more broken that the one in Cape Coral.

   Course, that didn't stop me from dumping $25 into the machines with Julie. I'm nothing if not not smart enough for my own good.

   Double negative. Don't care. I hate writing.

March 15, 2007 - Day 17, And Then Some
   Lehigh Acres: It was, to my knowledge, the first town of what became a parade of ones being built up by Erik Estrada infomercials.

Pretend this says Lehigh Acres.
-- Pretend this says Lehigh Acres.

   It's also right next door to Fort Myers.

   I took a tour today. You could do worse ... it's not all swampland, and like everything else in the Fort Myers area, it's no more than 10 minutes from a Publix supermarket. I swear, you'll be driving on this uninhabited road for five minutes, then suddenly there's an intersection with a well manicured shopping section on a corner. And inexplicably, every one of them is nicer than the one I did my shopping at in 2006.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • This was the final day of the trip, and yet, the trip is not yet completely over. Does that not make sense?

   Don't worry. I'll be sure to explain it. I won't be able to do it with photos, though.

   Not that I don't have photos. Just the means to get them is, well, somewhere where I am not.

   8 a.m.: I get up and out of bed after an hour of not wanting to do my laundry. It's going to be a rather relaxed day, after I opted not to try and move my flight up from it's 5:30 p.m. departure.

   11:05 a.m.: Five minutes after check-out time, I actually check out. After getting all my laundry folded and an extra set of clothes out (so I'd have northeast clothes to change into before I got on the plane), it stuck me that I really did have no idea where everything would go. Somehow I fit it all, cramming my new baseball glove in my backpack and mistaken packing the work laptop (not my moody personal one) in the middle of the suitcase with two Red Sox media guides and "Game of Shadows," which really got far less interesting once I realized I really did know how it ended.

   12:15 p.m.: First stop, Hardee's for lunch (via a long meandering drive to get money that took me through the depressing Hispanic part of Fort Myers). Fully embracing the "I'm on vacation" ideal to the level I can, I get the fried chicken sandwich -- that's not what it's called, it's what it is -- curly fries and a Diet Coke. To eat it, I drive to the scenic overlook in North Fort Myers near last year's hotel, which looks less disgusting when I'm merely passing it on the road.


   Eating the first spiced curly fly, I fully accept that Hardee's, not In-N-Out, is the greatest fast food joint there is. In-N-Out gets extra credit for being the only place I really eat hamburgers from, but Hardee's has made their own niche -- "The Fast Food Place For People Who Aren't Trying Anymore." Their absurd burgers are well known. They have a breakfast sandwich called "Monster," which looks like a three-egg omelette on top of a sausage hectare on top of ham. They're just there when you want to eat like a pig, and on top of that, the food tastes great.

   Nos. 1 and 1A. But I digress.

   1:30 p.m.: Making the most inevitable trip of any time I'm in Southwest Florida from now on, I burn some calories at Mike Greenwell's Bat-A-Ball & Family Fun Park.

Greenwell's Legacy

   I still can't decide I'm in relieved or disappointed the place is large enough that Mike Greenwell was not actually working behind the counter. Regardless, I pour dollars into two rounds in the batting cages, then discover their Golden Tee machine has a trackball that only sort of works.

   2:30 p.m.: With maybe an hour to kill before I feel like I should get to the airport, I head to the Edison-Ford Estate and prepare to take the tour ... until I see the tickets are $20. I instead enjoy all the free parts, the refreshing air and watching a parade of elderly people get their picture taken with a Thomas Edison statue.

C'mon honey! Push the green button!

   I also nearly buy a Fort Myers magnet -- Julie collects magnets from places -- with some reference to an Edison quote about wives, but I catch myself before whatever you would call buying that.

Panther Crossing
-- An annual favorite, though never delivered.

   4:15 p.m.: After cruising on a big loop through Lehigh Acres, stopping to gas up, again stopping to change clothes in an area that would be a great place to dump a body and returning the car, I get to the ticket counter and find out my checked bag is exactly one pound under Continental's weight limit.

   4:16 p.m.: My wry enjoyment on the baggage victory ends, when I hear the clerk at the next kiosk over talking about "Newark" and "delays."

* * * * *

   My itinerary was not booked to be real delay-friendly. Landing in Newark from Fort Myers at 8:33 p.m., my connection home to Providence was supposed to leave at 9:30 p.m. When the clerk comes over to me, she tells my first flight is tentatively scheduled to now land at 9:15 p.m. Looking at it now, even if that happened, there was no way I was making the other plane if it was at the next gate over. However, at that "I really want to go home" moment, I ignored that.

   I immediately dismiss the idea of staying in Fort Myers until the next morning, mainly because I'd just returned my car and there's no hotel at the airport there. As ghastly as the idea of staying a night in New Jersey is, I put my fingers in my ears and tell her just to keep the flights the same ... if I miss my connection, I'll just rent a car and drive home.

   It's at this point she asks me if she should just route my checked bag to Newark, and I can pick it up when I get there and go get a car. I say no, largely because she has me thinking there's any semblance of a chance I'm making the connection. Had she stopped with the customer service friendliness, and given me the equally "here's reality, jackass," I'd have my luggage right now.

   It happens. I just wish I'd taken the 10:1 bet I'd make my connection because it'd be delayed too from the woman I taked to at the gate.


   6:50 p.m.: I board the plane, with the thinking it's taking off at 7:20 p.m. My hopes of making the connection remain, but they're very tenuous.

   Lost in all this, when I hand my clerk my ticket to board, it doesn't take because my reservation has somehow been lost between the time I checked in and the time I boarded. Halfway down the jetway, the 10:1 lady hands me a new ticket which is both six rows further back -- troubling, because remember I think I can make this other plane -- and a window seat next two an Indian couple who doesn't really speak English.

   7:20 p.m.: The captain comes on, minutes after he'd basically told us he was going to speed in the air and hope the FAA didn't notice, and tells us we'll be sitting at the gate for another hour. Connection dreams evaporate. I stopped listening, so I'm not sure if there's a reason why we had to sit there beyond the airport saying so. Telling my mother it's because "there's something wrong with the plane" was the wrong choice.

   I then go to open the blower above my head to get some air, and the Indian woman next to me angrily tells me to close it before opening her own.

   8:31 p.m.: Two minutes before I was supposed to land in Newark, I take off from Fort Myers.

   (10:35 p.m.: I don't know it at the time, but as I'm beginning my final descent, my connection takes off for Providence. Had the hour not been tacked on, there's a pretty good chance I'd have made it after all.)

   10:49 p.m.: Flight 577 lands in Newark.

   11:14 p.m.: After wondering for a moment whether rental car agencies close, I'm on the AirTrain to the National car rental counter.

   11:22 p.m.: They don't close. I choose a Chevy Cobalt for roughly $150, which I reason is pretty close to what a hotel would have cost me.

Car, Next Morning
-- Shown next morning. No, I wasn't killed en route.

* * * * *

   11:53 p.m.: In conditions where I can't really see the lanes all that well, I cross the George Washington Bridge. Combined with $1.70 on the Jersey Turnpike and $1.25 on the New York Thruway, I pay a Delaware-like $8.95 in highway tolls in slightly more than an hour. Forget to get reimbursement-assisting receipts for all three.

   12:21 a.m.: Connecticut welcomes me. The thermometer in the car says it's 35 degrees outside and dropping, meaning whatever's falling is probably going to be freezing pretty soon.

   2:04 a.m.: I'm welcomed to Rhode Island, with the temperature sitting on 32 and the hills near the Foxwoods exit leaving multiple cars parked/stuck on the roadside. Optimistic, I am not.

   2:39 a.m.: Just more than four hours after I'd been supposed to get there with all my belongings, I pass the T.F. Green Airport exit in Warwick, R.I.

   2:50 a.m.: I'm back in Massachusetts.

   3:15 a.m.: Never has the parking lot at my apartment looked so welcoming. Somehow, the temperature never dropped below 32.

   Can't wait to do this again next year.

March 14, 2007 - 16: No Glory, No Glory
   On Currency: Twice on this trip, I've been given a rather odd piece of currency. Odd enough that I feel the need to write it down.

   First, an old design $20 bill from a Bank of America near the Twins ballpark. Considering they redesigned the bill in 1998 and "the average life of a $20 bill in circulation is 25 months," my holding onto it until needing to spend it in the poker tournament was smart.

   Of less usefulness, I got one quarter from the front desk last week that wasn't going in the washing machines. Kept getting stuck, and I'd spit it back out. So I took a look at it.

   It was a French franc, which France stopped producing in 2002.

   I suppose given the proximity to Canada, a Canadian quarter would actually have been more exciting. But I've flung enough of those out of my car over the years already.

   Doc Block: Two hours of MSNBC programming every night dedicated to documentaries, Dateline specials and other stuff that will now be polluting my TiVo regularly.

   Tonight's was a full airing of Supersize Me, though I couldn't get through all of it since they kept breaking for commercials. I believe at one point they said Morgan Spurlock gained 17 pounds in 12 days, which doesn't even seem possible to me. I'm getting fatter, but at least I'm doing it gradually.

   Though bear in mind Julie did suggest to me tonight that I should spend my final day eating meals from all the fast food places I've miraculously avoided the entire trip. Because the best thing to do before you fly is eat food that leaves you feeling greasy for hours.

   Maybe she's trying to kill me, I don't know. It would give her the opportunity to steal my car and move to Mexico, proximity being what it is.

Heat's Off Drew
-- J.D. Drew talks a lot, and I'm pretty sure he actually says something when he does it.

Notebook: Varitek's Hitting Woes Continue
-- This might be the first notebook that didn't lead with a pitcher.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was, as endings go, the perfect way to end the trip. The media softball game, which I played in largely because it's not every day you're given the chance to play in a stadium like City of Palms Park.

   As I may have mentioned, I missed the media batting practice session at the minor league complex by a couple hours, given it happened right before my flight landed. It's most definitely for the best, since softball is better designed for people whose last competitive baseball experience came when they were 12.

   Miraculously finding a $30 glove at a Sports Authority I just kind of found accidentally, I went 0-for-2 and may have taken the one grounder hit to me in the outfield -- poor choice on my part, given the size of a real baseball diamond -- in the groin. I both thank and blame Sox PR guru Dr. Charles Steinberg, whose second base play made it all possible.

   The Japanese media beat the handful of U.S. media who played with the Sox staff 2-1, scoring the winning run in the top of the ninth. Ultimately, I probably shouldn't have hung back, thus volunteering myself to rotate in on defense, but I probably also should have run hard through first on the second grounder. Hey, I thought the throw was going to hit me.

   In a ghastly turn of events, Red Sox Nation cardholders will likely see highlights of all this in an upcoming "Red Sox Video Report," since it was filmed. Never has years of being a wallflower been so valuable.

   And also, Dr. Steinberg noted that he remembered Whale City as the place where they sailed out of to bring the World Series trophy to Gosnold, the last stop on the team's trophy tour. New Bedford ... that place you fondly remember leaving.

   So, that's it. It hasn't been as full as the average Olympiad, but I think 29 stories speaks for itself. Squirrel-nut theory says with that much writing, I was bound to do at least something right. And managing editor Dan, in all his team-building glory, did call me specifically tonight to tell me he didn't miss me.

   We run a tight ship. A tight ship that's had sensitivity training and rolled out a new Web site since I left. Plus, apparently my computer was completely disassembled and gutted while I was gone. They must have heard I was perfectly happy with how it was working and how I had it set up.

   I have a plan for tomorrow which may or may not amount to anything, but I am hoping to figure out how I'll fill a suitcase that was full at the start with even more stuff. Plus, there'll be that nice moment at the airport when I see Julie at the bottom of the staircase.

   The key being that moment, since the moments after that I'll be consumer with trying to avoid the mucus spigot she's become in the last 48 hours. Timing is everything.

   At least I hit the ball solidly twice.

March 13, 2007 - 15: Sand and 7-Eleven
   Meanwhile, Back Home: I can't believe a state like Massachusetts actually had a department called the Department of Mental Retardation for any period without someone whining about it.

   Admittedly, they had plenty of other stuff to whine about, but it just seems like the ultimate low-hanging fruit.

Senators Karen E. Spilka and Stephen Brewer are sponsoring a bill that calls for the department to find a politically correct name.

"The world has changed radically, and certain names that used to be OK now aren't," said Brewer, a Barre Democrat. "When I was a boy, 'colored' was used for African-Americans, but that's unacceptable now. I believe that 'mentally retarded' is not appropriate."

He says he's open to what the department should be called, but he has suggestions, perhaps the Department of Challenged Citizens or the Department of Developmental Disabilities.

   The "Department of Challenged Citizens" has that sort of "Wow, what an awful choice" ring to it.

   Hey Wait, I've Walked By There: I believe the Stardust is the first implosion since I've been to Vegas, and thus the first hotel I remember seeing that's now a steaming pile of rubble.

Hundreds of people partied beneath tents and on makeshift patios before Boyd chairman Bill Boyd's four grandsons pushed a plunger to detonate the former Stardust casino. The blast generated a massive dust cloud that chased the revelers into cars, buses and nearby casinos.

"It hurts. We cried," said Sheila Navarro, 51, a school supplies buyer from Oxnard, Calif., who took shelter in the nearby Frontier casino-hotel. She came with three sisters, her mother, an aunt and a brother-in-law to say farewell to the casino she's gambled at for more than 30 years.

"It's very hard for me to find another casino to go to," she said. "Maybe in two years, three years, I'll have different feelings, but right now, my heart is broken."

   There are no words. Well, at least not any that don't make me want to start referencing the Department of Mental Retardation.

Crisp Playing His Own Game
-- Something.

Notebook: Snyder Will Experience Variety
-- Really, there's pitching news every single day. Except for tomorrow.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As seemed inevitable, I did actually go to the beach today.

Bowman's Beach, Sanibel
-- Seaweed and shells. It's a bad Wendy's combo in space.

   Of course, the beach is deceptively far away from the center of Fort Myers, plus each of the three beaches are all connected to the city by one road -- Fort Myers Beach gets one, and Sanibel/Captiva share one. So what was maybe 45 minutes actually on the beach was roughly a three-hour production, complete with being stuck at a drawbridge and paying a $6.00 toll. Still trying to figure out how that was a good idea, especially when there were so many places to just pull over before the toll and stand with fishermen in the water.

   But I suppose I'm glad I dug my toes in the sand and all the stuff normal people do. It's the sort of thing even the other writers suggest.

   My favorite part about that list is that Shaughnessy can't even put forth an effort in listing his favorite things to do. Edes and Cafardo? Some items and a little discription. Dan-O? Half sentences and half place names. You have a feeling he either responded to the message asking for stuff in five seconds, or didn't do it for three weeks and threw that together in five seconds when asked for the fourth time.

   He must have had a hairdresser's appointment or something.

   Sanibel has the Cape Cod thing going, where there's all the normal 7-Elevens and Bank of Americas and Hess stations there are elsewhere, but they make them use quaint signage. There's also nowhere to park unless you're staying at a resort, so beach stopping can get a little dicey. I would have liked to hang around their old lighthouse, but all the signs told me how militant they are about illegal parking.

   I have no idea whether I would have gotten a $50 ticket had I not paid $2 for an hour in a public lot. I find it a little hard to believe they're on constant patrol, but really, my budget for the trip is in no place to gamble.

   As the picture shows, there are a lot more shells than normal beaches ... supposedly due to the island going east-west. Calling Julie while there means I get to carry some back with me, which is good, since I'd spent 20 minutes reflexively picking them up without actually knowing what I was going to do with them. The water is crystal blue after about six feet of seaweed, seaweed that concealed at least one jellyfish that I saw. Swimming would have been nice, but that would have necessitated the sort of planning that will probably submarine my playing in Wednesday's night media softball game.

   I have to get a glove. The most logical choice is Play in Again Sports, which is on my way to the ballpark, but necessitates me actually getting my stuff together in time to stop there. All so I can go out and fumble around against the Japanese media.

   The shame is that there will be no one there to take pictures.

   In short, Sanibel Island is nice because the way there isn't so littered with crappy beach gear stores. It was, however, probably a lot nicer before people figured out you could charge a lot of money to let old people stay far away from civilization. Thus creating civilization, thus ruining everything, but no one noticed because you can still rent bicycles.

   And even the 7-Eleven on Sanibel Island is lit with that excessive grid of flourescent lights, giving it that "Wow, this place is filthy" feel. Not that I went in, but if you've ever been in a 7-Eleven, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

March 12, 2007 - 14: Pangs?
   For That Deep Down Body Thirst: The winner because it was the only entrant, 'The Coochtini':

1 part dry vermouth
1 part bitters
1 part Clamato
1 dash Tabasco

Stir and strain over ice into a glass rimmed with crushed Cool Ranch Doritos. Garnish with peel from a sour persimmon.

   I think my favorite part is the idea that such a concoction could actually be strained by non-NASA technology. It doesn't even seem like the liquids would mix ... they'd just all repel each other like magnets of the same pole.

   Bids for someone to actually produce and comsume it will not be accepted. Whatever the disclaimer is before every episode of 'Jackass,' consider it in play here.

   Too Many Coochtinis?: Separate bedrooms might be a good idea.

Occasionally, the need to separate does have to do with sex. Professor Rosenblatt said one older woman he interviewed said she had her own bedroom because, "I've paid my dues. I'm old enough that I don't want to have sex at 1 a.m."

   Something tells me the moment you start referring to your husband with the phrase "I've paid my dues," sleeping arrangements ought to be the least of your problems.

   I pity the hairdresser you must browbeat every six weeks for dressing like a whore.

   Want A Gift Soon To Be Worthless?: Try the NCAA bracket T-shirt, complete with a bracket you could buy filled out on a T-shirt in a couple weeks. Plus, better not wash it if you still want to read those schools.

   Why is it the only thing dumb Americans didn't want to buy was my PS2?

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- I have no idea why, but tonight driving back to the hotel, I actually had a few feelings about being sad that my spring training extravaganza was just about over.

Sox, Yanks Special For Crowd
-- Apparently, the girl I saw sitting at the ticket window at 5:30 p.m. the night before goes every year. Doubly glad I left her to her own insanity.

Notebook: Papelbon Looking For Feel of Curve
-- Hopefully this doesn't read as disjointed as it felt.

   Sox-Yankees is more or less the last big event of the stay, especially with me thinking better of another two-hour drive north to find out there's no stories on the road. Theoretically, I'll have some mid-day hours to actually go to a beach, thus no longer having to list "drove by Fort Myers Beach" at night as the closest I'd come to actually doing touristy stuff while down here.

   For now, though, sleep. Sox-Yankees is a friggin' zoo even when the game doesn't count.

Not staged.
-- Totally not staged. Can't you see it in their faces?
This is exactly what the three of them do every single day.

Boston Red Sox pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka, left, and Hideki Okajima, right, pose with New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui prior to their spring training baseball game in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

March 11, 2007 - 13: Counting Down. Again.
   Probably Inevitable, But Not Like This: While looking for something else that I can't exactly remember, I discovered tonight that I have my own Wikipedia entry. A little digging and it was pretty easy to see who put it there, so bully to them.

   Much as part of me wants to gussy the whole thing up, I made one cosmetic change and I'll leave it at that. Let's see where it goes on its own.

   The answer, of course, is probably nowhere. But that's good enough for me, since Mr. Human Resources won't beat me to the punch.

Dice-K, Fans OK With Speed Bumps
-- Yeah, he was bad. Oh wait, he wasn't trying. So why are we televising this again?

Notebook: Lester Sets A Northern Goal
-- Added bonus being that while watching him pitch, the dugout roof saved me from being killed by a BP home run.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At the game today, Julie called me to say she'd been in a car accident, and that she's fine.

   Later tonight, I was so frazzled, I made my mother cry and hang up on me.

   Other than that, everything's f'ing spectacular.

March 9-10, 2007 - 11-12: Up North
   Food Log: Clearly, it's not coming back. I think the goal was ultimately to discourage myself from eating 35 fast food meals down here, and that's been accomplished. The first one came Saturday night at Steak 'n Shake, when the lovely waitress had me repeat my order twice so it came up correctly on the video screen.

   Then she forgot my onion rings and gave me a Coke instead of a Diet Coke.

   Other than that, it was tremendous. If for no other reason than it brought me in the vicinity of the world's last non-Vegas Hooters Inn.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • CLEARWATER/LAKELAND, Fla. -- Both Clearwater and Lakeland appear to be lovely cities, even if the latter became the first place I've ever failed to find a Dunkin' Donuts when I was looking for one. (Apparently, I just didn't look hard enough.)

   The story of the weekend, probably, was the near-brawl.

Not fight.

Tigers Introduce Okajima to American-Style Hardball
-- Timo Perez ... apparently, a calming force when players are rushing the field.

IB: Fernandes Heeds Advice of Clemens
-- Every small paper has the local player in the majors story, if they're lucky.

Notebook: Tender Back Puts Timlin on Hold
-- Philly's park is lovely, but the day wasn't much for extra stuff.

   No driving calamities this time around, which was nice. It's a little less than two hours from Fort Myers to the Sunshine Skyway, which is both massive and so spartan at its peaked top that you get the sensation it's what you feel when your plane is crashing. Like at any moment, the ground's just going to disappear.

   On the way there, also, there's an overpass/interchange dedicated to guide dogs. No real idea why, but there it is.

-- Not quite as much fun as an entire county named after the manatee,
but then again, it's not as if I came across any manatee statues.

   There was exactly one real traffic foul-up on the way to Clearwater, one I later found out was due to the sort of traffic accident that often snarls things on both sides of a highway.

America's Least Beloved Ballpark
-- I'm sure it was just a coincidence that it was right next to Tropicana Field.

   You can the Trop from the Skyway ... it kind of looms over that whole area for about 10 miles until you're finally next to it.

   Shockingly, it looks even worse from up close. The way it's built, one side is actually higher than the other (apparently, and aptly, to cheapen air conditioning costs).

   I won't go to the lengths to make some sort of ranking list when this is over, but suffice to say, Bright House Networks Field is the nicest I've seen. Pretty upscale neighborhood, well assembled, new amenities, tiki bar that stays open beyond left field after the game ... just the kind of place where it would be fun to watch a bunch of games over a vacation.

   Course, I don't take vacations, I don't particularly enjoy spring training and the Phillies play in a city where sports is probably taken several clicks too seriously.

Bright House Networks Field
-- Still, nice statues and helpful staff. Well done.

   From there, though, that's where the trip took its decisive turn. In electing to do both the Clearwater game and the Lakeland game against the Tigers, it made sense to stay over up there. So I get the cheapest room I could find at a hotel whose name didn't scare me ... Motel 6. This meant I'd take I-4 over to Lakeland, which meant I'd ride on the stretch of it from Tampa to the I-75 interchange.

   It's because of that I came across a place of current cultural significance, a place at which I couldn't really let opportunity pass me by. After coming across it, I let it pass because it was late and I was tired and Lakeland ... for all I knew, Lakeland was like Vero Beach, with at utter lack of both street lights and civilization.

   After the Tigers game, though, with nowhere to be, I headed back. It actually was a mile past the turn I needed to make, but I had to stop.

Seminole Hard Rock
-- I had to visit the Seminole Hard Rock, the place
where Anna Nicole Smith sparked a worldwide clusterfuck a month prior.

   Now, I won't lie ... I didn't find out until much later that the Seminole Hard Rock I came across wasn't actually the one she died at ... that was the one in Hollywood, though it looks largely the same. But I wouldn't have stopped there unless I thought it was the one, since I was hoping I could either come across some half-assed memorial or a wildly weeping Nancy Grace.

   I've never hated a woman so much whose show I've never watched. All I know is that she gloms onto whatever wah-wah news story the nation is glommed too that week, throws a couple exclamation points into her news ticker trumpeting "New Evidence!," and feeds the masses.

   Obviously, there was nothing because I was on the wrong side of the state. I'm just glad I didn't ask somebody.

   Anyway, thoughts:

   -- Foxwoods is 8.5 miles off I-95 in the middle of the woods, and it's easier to get to than the Tampa Seminole, from the parking garage of which you could spit on the highway. There are no actual signs to tell you which exit to get off, and there are three exits in the general vicinity of the place, weaving into a highway maze that's more or less impossible to navigate.

   Of course, I needed to try all three before choosing correctly, then drove past the easiest entrance to get in. These things should generally be treated as signs.

   -- Though I saw a back room on the way out that may prove this statement wrong, the casino is basically a giant room with a bar in the middle, surrounded by slot machines, with a poker room on the side. When you're one of the only gambling venues for several hours, great. When you're dealing with me, who just so happened to have the largest casino in the world establish itself an hour away, there's a lot of walking around wondering where all the missing stuff is.

   The little kiosk bar near the door that serves Guinness and Bass, though? Excellent touch.

   -- The poker room is handcuffed by the Florida law mentioned a couple days ago: "The cardroom operator may limit the amount wagered in any game or series of games, but the maximum bet may not exceed $2 in value. There may not be more than three raises in any round of betting." So they spread that, but the main draw is no-limit tournaments, which I opted for because I'd stopped.

   Long story short, I did not win a handsome profit. Ten players, start with 1500 chips, 25-50 blinds raised every 10 hands ... I finished 9th. Made one decent play and ended up all-in AK vs. AK, then got caught on a mediocre-to-bad one and went all-in before the blinds could all but force me there.

   Suffice to say, it's a different world. You still check in with the desk, they keep a board and call your name when it's time, but you just give your cash to the dealer. He then keeps it in the chip rack, takes out the rake, then presumably just pays the players in cash when it's over.

   I did, also, actually sit next to a man missing teeth and wearing a camoflauged baseball cap. Not mkaing that up. At least he's not the one who knocked me out.

   -- The one thing I did see there Foxwoods doesn't have are the new all-electronic poker tables. No dealer, no chips, no actual cards. Everyone has their own touch screen, and the actual hand plays out in a larger monitor in the middle. I saw one group play a tournament on one, while another special heads-up one went unused.

   I hate the idea of it. Admittedly a little different since online poker got harder to play, but the point of going to a casino is for the tangible stuff. Holding cards. Using chips. All that. This is basically just a way for the casinos to save money paying dealers.

   Which means it'll take over someday. Hopefully, I'll have either made my big score or gone entirely broke by then.

March 8, 2007 - 10: The DreamLiner.
   Annual Bruins Rise and Collapse: I appear to have missed both pieces of it. The other day, I caught the tail end of a highlight that Tim Thomas had made a career-high 53 saves to beat Philadelphia, putting Boston four points out of the No. 8 playoff spot. Given they're the Bruins though, this was followed by me watching the last 10 minutes of the loss to Colorado on Monday, then tonight's follow-up home loss to a Western Conference team.

   Now they're still four back, but they've pissed away the games in hand they've had all season. Though at least, in discussing this phenomenon with Mick at the office before I left, I at least had the foresight to point to these games as where it'd fall apart.

   The Bruins and BU ... last two championships I need to add to my fan collection. At least the Terri ... tremendous.

   Saint Louis 74, UMass 71 (OT): This ends the Minutemen's tourney chances, making it a perfect night. They'll try to talk themselves onto the bubble in the run-up 'til Sunday, but when your one win of any note is against Louisville, let's just congratulate Travis Ford on a solid comeback season and move on.

   I can guarantee this will somehow be mentioned if I talk to my Dad in the next couple days -- UMass basketball being the official team of Western Massachusetts -- though that happening seems unlikely. Via a call from Matty Cooch (do yourself a favor ... click that) tonight, I've learned that both of my parents are angry at me because of the broken laptop issue.

   Their basis for rage is two-fold:

   1) I refused to take the laptop to a reputable repair shop, instead relying on a techie friend;
   2) I never should have taken an unreliable laptop to Florida.

   This argument, while solid in its own right, fails to address what I feel are at least three notable points:

   1) I took the laptop to what I determined to be a winner of the "Best Local Computer Shop" award and was told, "Um, the motherboard's broken? Pay us now."
   2) My techie friend fixed the problem the laptop was having.
   3) The issue now is something entirely unrelated, and had never happened in the two-plus years I'd owned the machine.

   In my family, though, facts are never a proverbial enough barrier to get to the jointly inevitable conclusions of rage and screaming.

   It used to be Dad was the one I could tell things to that I couldn't tell Mom, because he would actually think about them rationally. As opposed to my mother, who would either stop sleeping because she loved me so much and was worried about me, or just tell me I was an idiot and say just enough that I couldn't stop myself from trying to correct her. It's become clear that I need to rethink that strategy.

   I could try to explain the above three facts, giving me what I believe to be a pretty good leg to stand on that this whole computer thing isn't my fault entirely, or I could just start answering every question I'm asked by one of my parents by quoting the Fifth Amendment.

   I'm not sure which one would be more effective, but I know which one would ultimately be more fun.

City of Palms Press Box
-- Unrelated to anything, the City of Palms press box. I was going to post this to the blog on Daisuke's opening night, but I forgot the equipment I'd needed to do it. Just felt like this needed another picture.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This year's "Coco Crisp calling me 'useless'" moment appears to be coming from Josh Beckett. Throwing a football around the clubhouse, it somehow ended up bounding across the floor, settling closest to me. I went to grab it and toss it back to him, and just as I was, he goes, "Hey! Woah woah woah woah woah!"

   I look up quizzically, he pauses, then goes "Ah, I'm just fucking with you."

   Never before has this felt more like a 15-year-old's diary. If only I had the ability to dot all the i's with hearts, I could just finish myself off.

Pineiro Angling For Closer's Role
-- No he's not. "Pineiro Angling For Good Impression" would be better, given the story makes two references to that. But really, I also wouldn't have eaten an entire bag of Ritz Toasted Chips tonight if we're giving out do-overs.

Notebook: Schilling Keeps Working on Changeup
-- I have nothing needlessly rotten to say about this headline. And plus, they did, you know, sene me a new computer to work on, which is nice.

   By the way, do yourself a favor and look up Kyle Snyder on Wikipedia.

Kyle Ehren Snyder (born September 9, 1977 in Houston, Texas) is a starting pitcher who plays for the Boston Red Sox. Previously, Snyder played with the Kansas City Royals (2003, 2005). He is listed at 6-8 and 220 pounds, is a switch hitter, and throws right handed. He attended UNC-Chapel Hill.

. . .

Kyle Cameron Snyder, (born September 19, 1984) is the captain of Lambda Chi Alpha's intramural basketball team at SMU. His penis is shaped like a Boeing (both in size and shape). His girlfriend calls him the DreamLiner in bed.

   Edit: It's gone now. Not surprisingly. For posterity's sake ...

He kicked the respective asses of the Law School and some open league midgets to win the University championship in basketball. Some say he is the perfect man. Garrett Haake notes, "Kyle Snyder once whispered in my ear, and for a brief instant, I was invested with all of the knowledge in the universe." He is exceptionally loud in order to ward off predators like Lebron James, Tracy McGrady, vampires, and cougars who are trying to have him killed because he is so awesome. Hindus insist that he is the reincarnation of both Genghis Kahn and Michael Jordan (who has actually been dead since 1999). He reveals secrets. He taught Chuck Norris how to grow a beard and Ben Stegmann how to do everything. I want to be Kyle Snyder when I grow up.

   Road trip to Clearwater and Lakeland for the next two days. I'm going to presume the Motel 6 that's charging $60/night near the Tigers' complex doesn't have Internet access, so I'll be back in a bit.

March 7, 2007 - 9: Not Even A Typewriter
   Today's Dead Wrestler, 'B' List: Bad News Brown is reaching a little farther than most people admit they actually remember, but does in fact join the growing list who die at a tragic age. He was slightly important around the time I still thought wrestling was real and my father humored me about it ... according to this, I first came across wrestling Oct. 3, 1987.

   Twenty years. Tremendous. And I'm still not completely sure whether this is racist or not.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Even less than 20 years ago, they didn't really have actual laptop computers. Guys still used typewriters, or perhaps those comical word processing machines (that at least one former Herald columnist still used into the era when we worked in the same press box). During the regular season, this wouldn't have been so much of an issue, since at any point during a regular season game, things could happen that would need to be written about.

   This isn't the case in spring training, when most of the guys worth mentioning are in the shower or home by the sixth inning. So the laptop not only provides a means to work, but also a way to keep distracted in the waning moments.

   Let me just say ... not having one sucks.

Sox Bullpen Remains Question Mark
-- Having planned to write this halfway through my trip before it began, it probably ended up being the best possible day for it anyway.

Notebook: Papelbon Strong in 50-Pitch Effort
-- Five innings, one hit. Yes, it doesn't matter, but let's pretend it does. More fun.

   And of course, the blog. It appears to have an actual commenter or two, which is great. Especially since the post counter had me pretty sure more than half the reads were me.

   Ultimately, one day without a laptop at the park is on the lesser end of the disaster scale, which ranges from fully operational electronics for all 17 days to me throwing my laptop out the window of my hotel in a fit of rage. Still, I'd been hopeful the FedEx deliveries would make it to me before I had to leave. They didn't, so I came back the hotel for like an hour, but that was pointless too.

   So there was a lot of sitting and scorekeeping. At one point, I started transcribing my press conference audio by writing it in my notepad, which did save perhaps several seconds in the ultimate scheme of things.

   I still ended up back at the hotel writing until 9 p.m., though with the really social part of the trip over, that probably saved me several hours of almost watching the Style Network. They appear to be showing an awful lot of this show "Clean House," which is exactly like every other network's "family lives in abject squalor/clutter, family has yard sale, family gets reorganized house" show, except hosted by the black deputy on 'Reno 911!' (even if that piece of her resume is curiously omitted from her bio page).

   In the one episode I watched, her hosting style appears to be waking around with a flower in her hair, not actually doing anything involving with cleaning the house, making the slow stare into the camera when a homeowner says something stupid (like "But I love this spice rack!") and offering up snappy commentary at moments that may or may not need snappy commentary.

   It's hard to believe the sentence "don't quit your gig in Reno" could actually apply.

Clean House's domestic diva is turning another year more fabulous -- and we want to help her celebrate! Do you love how Niecy brings hilarity to home improvement? Tell her! Think her sexy sass is second to none? Let her know!

Plus, wanna really celebrate Niecy's big day in style? Try toasting the birthday girl with her own signature cocktail: the Niecy-tini! Simply strain one part Seagram's Gin & Juice Tropical Thunder and crushed ice into a well-chilled martini glass. Garnish with a fresh slice of star fruit, of course. So festive!

   There's about six things in there I could go on about, but I think the critical point is it's probably a good thing I do not get the Style Network in Whale City. At least with Paula "Everything's better marinated in butter!" Deen, there's the undertone that everyone knows she's slowly bring down America, one additional waist inch at a time. Here? They're telling her she's not fabulous enough.

   Though it does make me wonder ... what would be the best bitter cocktail for the Cooch-tini? And should the garnish be a lone Dorito, or should it go all out and just line the bottom of the glass with filthy poker chips from Foxwoods?

March 6, 2007 - 8: As Advertised, Great
   The Meal Was Better: When the Celtics made their 21-point fourth-quarter comeback on the Nets in the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals, I was eating a meal at Fitzwilly's in Northampton. Checked the score at the bar when we walked in -- the quarter was just starting -- and noticed a commotion as we walked out. They'd just won.

   Thanks to YouTube, I've now seen the whole thing ... that's the first of five parts. And I have to say, awesome as it is, the most exciting basketball in the world is not typically getting fouled every other trip and hitting some free throws.

   That's what they did all quarter. Pierce driving the lane, hacked, one of two from the line. Still fun, but hardly sparkling.

   Though it beats the hell out of being caught plagiarizing. I think what bugs me the most is my usual rage-filled indignance on these things can't work, because I can actually see how it happened. He's not jackass Ken Powers, though it would be nice if even for a second I could believe they considered firing him.

Borges declined to comment, but his union representative issued a statement saying: "The Boston Newspaper Guild stands behind Ron and the high-quality work he has done for the Globe over the years. We will work on his behalf to see that justice is served in this matter."

   That must be nice, to have your bosses knowing even thinking of firing you will spark litigation. Because clearly, this is what newspaper unions were designed before ... something to hide behind when you're careless and lazy.

   Eh. Borges and I barely even do the same job ... we're running on such different planes, it borders on ridiculous.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There's no stories to link to today, because I took the day off. Did one interview for Sunday over at the minor league complex, but generally just decompressed. Opened the window in the room and let some air circulate, stopped at the ballpark to take a couple pictures, looked around the gift shop feeling like "they have no idea my true identity and that I'm here every day" and caught up on a few things.

   I had no idea how much I really needed it ... it kind of hit me while I was driving on Route 41, with the warm sun and the window open.

   As such, some observations that I've been meaning to clean out.

City of Palms Park   City of Palms Park

City of Palms Park   City of Palms Park

City of Palms Park

   -- I stopped at CVS today to buy a hot plate I'll be returning at the end of the trip, thus solving the stove concern. While there, not only did I see the oddly troubling idea that a full-on pharmacy can sell a full selection of beer and wine:

Wine sales at CVS.
-- Sadly, no discounts with an ExtraCare card.

   I saw one of those products that I needed to come home and check the wide-spread existence of: doggie barbecue sauce.

   Though I suppose it's the logical next step if you give your dog bottled water.

   -- Justin wanted to know what the deal with the Sox closer situation is. Maybe he's also the one who asked here. Regardless, go there to find out nobody knows yet, though I will say Brendan Donnelly is at least backing up the fact I touted him as the probable opening day closer all winter long.

   -- I like Quizno's. They make good sandwiches. I'd go there more if they weren't located inconveniently to my apartment (and if their sauce-covered monstrosities wouldn't have me 200 pounds by mid-November).

   But honest to God, they really should try to find more annoying people for their commercials. The first one, with both of America's smartest construction workers.

"That's prime rib. That's the kind of all the meats."

"Magnifico? Is that Italian? (Uproarious laughter)

   Now, their latest, with the Asian Fran Drescher.

"It's not lacking any meat.
And that's what real women need!"

   Right. Thanks. Leave now.

March 5, 2007 - 7: Pack It In
   I Still Hate The NBA: But I've watched this NBA on NBC compendium repeatedly the last few days.

   Apparently, I like basketball enough to watch a five-minute highlight reel from an 11-year period. That counts for something, doesn't it?

Lester Makes Another Step To Normalcy
-- Not even one pitch for every minute it took to drive over there from City of Palms.

Notebook: Beckett ... Woes
-- I did not mention the Nomar "press conference" because I didn't see it, but no way it could have topped last year's in Vero.

   Asked if he had any particular memories as the bus drove up to the park, Garciaparra said: "That the bus has to turn right on Edison to make sure he gets it right. See that little detour over there. Thatís what I thought of." That my colleague on the Cape got a whole column on this interests me to the point I'm disappointed their site is currently down.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The guys from the Cape are leaving tomorrow, as in this was their last game. Because we're sister papers and theoretically sharing our stories -- I think they run my notebooks, and we ran their columns until I got down here -- we talked a good bit and sat next to each other in the press box.

   When he told me this was their last day and that they were heading out, I had a split-second thought:

"I would trade places with him right now."

   Everyone who knows me knows I swing pretty wildly for a guy who supposedly has his shit together. There's just so much stuff that piled up today, I all but lost it. In college, I'd have been throwing stuff around ... say what you will about Meg, but that's one thing she got me over rather quickly.

   I'm supposed to be down here not writing "story of the day" stuff, and yet each day, that ends up being the most compelling stuff I can put together. Admittedly, there are some days where you have no choice when you're a paper our size and your readers couldn't identify half the guys on the Sox roster if given a list of names, never mind give a shit about what they're here for. Schilling's first start. Matsuzaka. Lester today, depending on your perspective.

   So I spent all day running around, with no real clear idea of what I was going to write. I knew nothing was going to happen in the game that would change my mind, plus that if it did, it would probably be done by a player who wouldn't be around in the clubhouse by the time I got in there -- pre-game was largely shot by going to watch Lester pitch across town.

   So I just kinda sat there after finessing the laptop to plug in, absentmindedly eating, scoring the game and editing tape. In the end, I did a good chunk of a notebook, then just packed up and left afterward, planning to write back at the hotel -- perhaps the best part of having reliable Internet access and a place that doesn't smell like a dog track.

   Course, I get back to the hotel and I can't get the moody plug to work. For a half-hour, trying for a few minutes, walking away, coming back, walking away, coming back. After a little transcribing on battery power, I took the pork chops I'd bought out and got ready to cook them on the stovetop.

   Only to discover the stovetop doesn't actually work. It's plugged in to the wall with some high-grade connection, but the burners don't turn on, the light doesn't go on, nothing.

   I could go down to the desk and have it looked at, but their answer will be to move me to another room. I have no desire to repack all my shit, trudge it somewhere else, resettle myself. But that's the option. Now, I can't eat dinner. My laptop is on its last legs. I'm going to have to buy a new one, which I don't have the money for and which I can't get a loan for from work because the program stopped.

   So I just sit down and start writing. I'm constructing the story, but I just want nothing more than to be done, to have it sent in, and then to see that little green charge light on the front stay on, instead of flickering and going off when it can't connect with the plug.

   I finish, and I send the stories in. And then, the plug. Fifteen more minutes, and just more edginess and panic. Won't work.

   Finally, I call my boss. I'm going to need them to overnight me, to Florida, one of the office laptops I got to know so well last fall. I feel like a failure, given it's my laptop that's causing this. Josh is completely understanding on the phone, because I think he can sense I'm on the edge of just losing it with ... whatever one would lose here, but I feel like an ass. I just want to change my flight, pack my luggage and go home with my tail between my legs.

   We part ways, and I sit down. I make a can of soup, get a soda, and sit. It's just before 9, and Julie calls ... she wants to know if she can stop the TiVo from taping my weekly comedic relief, professional wrestling. This leads me to remember it's on, I start watching it and I just ...

   I boil over. Not with rage, just with ... boil over is probably a good term. My whole life, I just kind of simmer, quietly cooking with any number of different thoughts, inner monologues and the like. I don't often just lose it, but when I do, stuff goes everywhere. I start bursting steam that normal people may disperse over time, but that I stow in and try to dispose of with the least possible damage. No one reads my stories. I can't be successful doing this. I have no money, and am in a field where I can get no money. I'm not a reporter. I have no future doing this. I just want to be able to provide for the two of us, buy a house, have a job where I don't see the people I love in the two minutes before they go to work and the three minutes before they go to sleep.

   She's trying not to cry, which is hard because I'm 1,000 miles away and she can't help me. I'm feeling even worse, because I know what I'm saying is killing her, but I can't stop because I'm losing it. We both finally compose ourselves, calm down, actually laugh about something irrelevant, chat like normal and part. It's surreal. The phone says it was a half-hour call, but I swear it couldn't have been more than five minutes.

   I go finish my soup, get into bed and go to sleep. I get one last phone call from work -- they need an address to send the laptop to -- but it's no big deal.

   And as I'm dozing off, I have only one real thought.

   I really need to go to a jewelry store when I get home.

   Epilogue: That you're reading this should clue you in it's Tuesday morning and crisis has temporarily been averted. Waking up and watching a little TV on what was going to be a day off anyway -- after last year's debacle driving to Jupiter, there was no way I was driving three hours to get near that Matsuzaka mob scene when agreed I didn't have to -- I manage to get the laptop plugged in doing the exact same thing I spent the prior night losing my mind doing.

   Suffice to say, this computer is not moving from the counter until I'm packing it in my bag on March 15 to fly home. As far as I know, I'll be getting a FedEx tomorrow morning with a work computer to use, something I'll feel like crap about long after sucking up the jokes about it when I get back.

   It seems like I have a manageable solution, but suffice to say, if the updates disappear, you'll know why and I'll clear it up back in Whale City.

   This week might be the first time in six years I've legitimately started to wonder if maybe this thing has run its course. Like perhaps it's time to stop airing my life to anyone with Google, who'll end up finding the bad and missing the greater point. I kind of doubt the feeling will last my returning north, but who knows.

   I just wish I didn't have to fight myself all the time.

March 4, 2007 - 6: Twin Killing
   On Daughtry: Or, I suppose, on Justin Guarini.

   What passes as the rock station down here is having their annual uber-show in the near future, and Daughtry is among the acts. They're real excited about it too.

   It seems a bit backward that the more 'American Idol' shows their are, the more "legitimate music careers" that are being produced. Theoretically, the talent pool's getting a bit watery, right?

   And yet here we are, with Jennifer Hudson winning Oscars while Justin sits in bargain bins and sells ... wait, is this true?

If there was one success story to come out of this film, it was Anika Noni Rose, who played Kaya. She won a Tony Award the next year for Best Supporting Actress in the musical Caroline, or Change. Ironically, her next big movie role was opposite another American Idol contestant, Jennifer Hudson, in Dreamgirls.
-- Everyone's successful but him!

   And this might be even worse:

Despite the bad reception it received, 20th Century Fox announced plans to make a film called From Ruben to Clay which would feature Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, however, this movie was never made.
-- Just insert sexuality joke here and move on.

   I'm not sure how this became a treatise on what it became a treatise of, but I also haven't been sure how I was going to work in the photo I took my first night here. The one when, flipping channels, I discovered some school board meeting.

Government is serious business.
-- One with a councilor wearing a Dr. Seuss hat.

   Moving on.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- You know, I jinxed myself. I allowed myself to think, "I might get to have a pretty easy day today."

Delcarmen Has Grip on Situation
-- Story features no actual mention of his oft-mentioned hair highlights.

Notebook: Schilling Hopes Changeup Becomes Work of Art
-- After the mad dash down Metro Parkway. After his start, Schilling immediately left, meaning we all had to go cross-town before the game was over to talk to him.

   I wasn't writing my main story off the game, after getting my interviews done before it began. I could write that early, put together a notebook and get myself finished at a respectable hour for a change. A very nice feeling.

   One that was gone not long after I got to Hammond Stadium, when the laptop started telling me it couldn't recognize my AC adapter. Thus meaning I couldn't actually charge my laptop battery, thus meaning I had about an hour of power left for the rest of the trip, thus meaning I was probably irrevocably screwed.

   Bear in mind this charger had worked without incident as recently as that morning, when I'd packed up my things for a quick stopover at City of Palms for clubhouse access. Now, broken. I suppose something like this happens in such a sudden fashion, but still ... THAT MORNING.

   All I could do was go for a walk, call my boss, call Julie, call anyone since I was largely searching for answers I didn't have. No other writer has a spare laptop floating around, the ones that are leaving aren't going to be overly willing to let me mooch for a week and a half and, to a lesser extent, I like my laptop. It's got all my transcribed quotes, all my old stories and all my links, not to mention the oodles of TV crap that makes it a little easier to pass the time while stuck in Southwest Florida.

   A real quick perusal of the Net, stumbling across an actual Dell rep answering a question of someone with a similar problem, made it pretty clear the issue was inside the computer -- not that a brick AC adapter would have been any easier to fix, since you need to buy Dell crap through Dell. So, in attempting not to hurtle myself out the window at Hammond, I wander downstairs to buy the park's concession specialty: giant turkey legs for $5.75. I ate roughly half of it, picking out every cartilage chunk and skin piece along the way, and stopping because I clearly did not need to eat the entire thing if I didn't want to push myself into traffic later.

   After which, powered by the turkey, I plugged in the laptop and fiddled with the connection. Lo and behold, it decided to work.

   Right about the time the game was starting, meaning I'd only really lost the ability to get things done ahead of time.

   The game, by the way, featured a PA guy who really needs to stick to his zoo radio day job. Literally the whole thing was done in what I've long termed "the wacky radio voice," and this guy was completely serious. Not that I needed to understand him, but I couldn't anyway. I'm already starting to get on edge via the every-game promotions the Sox do at City of Palms -- it's more laid-back and a smaller park, thus there being more. Covering the Twins regularly with this guy might have led to words being exchanged somewhere down the road.

   Not to mention that Hammond has the worst press box I've ever seen in a pro baseball stadium. It's fine that there's two rows of seats, with giant pillars/window panes blocking big chunks of view. But on top of that, the counters are too high and the sills are too high and the chairs are too low to the point I'm not sure anyone in the damned thing can see the whole field comfortably.

   I actually took a picture of my view -- which was nice for sightseeing, since the park overlooks the road beyond the fence and glades beyond that -- but the phone appears to have eaten it.

-- Cereal and juice.
-- Half the turkey leg, plus three-ish cans of diet soda over the course of the day.
-- Massive dinner: Fettucine with shrimp and scallops from Blue Pointe, a writers' favorite. Also with rolls, calamari and two Newcastles.

   The extra Black and Tan came after dinner, when Bill and I met up to make the poor-decision drive to the Naples Fort Myers Greyhound Track.

   The sign says it features poker, but I would imagine they also feature people. Going on a Sunday night, we got there to find no one at the desk, no one in the building (but for one guy we saw running across a closed bar) and a sketch factor of about 40 out of 10. When he encouraged to get in the elevator he'd summoned, after we'd run up and back down four flights of stairs, I decided it was not the place where I wanted to die.

   Besides, I'm of the belief dog tracks are a step above betting on coin flips in a parking lot.

March 3, 2007 - 5: Inside Presence
   At Least It Wasn't An Anniversary: An actual conversation that took place this afternoon between Julie and I, somewhere in the vicinity of 1 p.m.:

C: "How are you able to be calling me? Shouldn't you be in school"
J: "Um, sweetie? It's Saturday."
C: (after pause) "Well, I suppose that would explain why there was so little traffic this morning."

   Perhaps the best part of all of this is that even though I genuinely had no idea what the hell day of the week it was, I had reflexively started to write Inside Baseball, my regular Sunday column.

   I suppose this could be scary, but I'm just so used to the levels to which I'm an idiot that it's pretty much accepted.

   Hockey East, as in Northeast: At the risk of relaying the blatantly obvious:

No. 8 Providence at No. 1 New Hampshire
No. 7 Northeastern at No. 2 Boston College
No. 6 Vermont at No. 3 BU
No. 5 Maine at No. 4 UMass

   In my mind, right or wrong, Vermont is a far tougher opponent than Northeastern, so I was actually glad BC swept Maine, meaning BU's rather-awful Wednesday night loss didn't matter. Course, losing two in a row with the NCAA Regionals less than three weeks away ... goodbye, ground those UNH points had gained.

   I'm actually pissed I can't go to the UMass-Maine series at the Mullins Center, because it appears the Minutemen student body is again rising to the moment. As Julie keep mentioning to me, Saturday night home-ice clincher drew an absurd 8,221, "152 less than a sellout!" After that stretch where I seeing the Minutemen more than my alma mater, they've redeveloped that soft spot they earned in my youth.

   Course when it sounds like that, it sounds like a condition I need to have fixed. Which, after today, might very well be possible.

Papelbon Holds Lofty Standard
-- He was pretty damn awesome, I have to say. Even if this did still feel like a relief appearance.

Notebook: Old Face Fields a New Question
-- Had to write about Wakefield, so why not here. Plus, a hint at the 600-page '07 Sox Media Guide.

   And instead of lamenting the blog, I'd just like to note our collection of dumbasses in the sports department are now APSE honorable mention winning dumbasses.

   I really enjoy our boss being quoted in a "Staff Report," since there's a decent chance, with me down here, he's the one that wrote it.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- I'm not typically a big fan of Internet memes ... most don't appeal to me, though the "answer these fiver personal questions" one that's been floating around my circle recently is intriguing. If only the British kid I paid $15 to years ago for my comment system wasn't face down in a ditch somewhere bloating right now, I might even have attempted it.

   Regardless, my favorite of all time was "List 10 things you've done you're pretty sure no one else has" from Feb. '05. My list was, in my opinion, pretty good. A nice mix.

1. Did the majority of the driving of a 15-passenger van on road trips to Chapel Hill, N.C., and Ann Arbor, Mich., on consecutive weekends.
2. Hit a (roughly) buzzer-beating three-pointer to send a basketball game to overtime.
3. Eaten more than a baker's dozen of Taco Bell tacos in a single sitting.
4. Removed a cast so I could take gym class.
5. Watched a July 4 fireworks display from the roof of a newspaper building.
5b. Lost 30 pounds in a single summer.
6. Worn the gear of both Stanley Cup finals participants to school on the same day.
7. Had a Welsh sheep eat my lunch.
8. Spit on the Eagle painted at center ice in Boston College's Conte Forum.
9. Driven a Ford Tempo at least 100 miles per hour.
10. Picked a cork off the locker room floor as the Red Sox celebrated beating the Yankees in Game 7 of the '04 ALCS.

   I now, however, have something to enter in replacing, let's say, No. 5.

   Played pickup basketball with a certain Red Sox GM.

   As stories go, it's not a bad one. Most of the writers that I've been going out to dinner with the last couple days also play basketball, and apparently have a pseudo-annual thing where they play against some of the front office members. Outwardly appearing to be in some semblance of fitness, they asked me if I played, which I do. Even if it is even less frequent than how often I run.

   So after the game, I head down the road to some public courts, attempt to make a presentable outfit out of clothes clearly not the best choice for full-court basketball in muggy Fort Myers ... and there you go.

   We played four games, the last two of which were -- in the spirit of a Certain Hollywood Starlet -- prompted largely by a Certain Baseball Executive. About midway through the first game, I had that feeling I could throw up at any time. Even if we did rest between the opening game to 21 and the second game, which was to 11, imagine four games of that.

   First two were writers against Sox, and we lost both. The teams were scrambled, putting me and Ian Browne with CBE, among others. Suffice to say, his ultra-competitiveness did not do real well with the way I was laboring around toward the end. Though I can't disagree with him that his driving the lane was a better idea that kicking it to me, when it was obvious I was just going to shoot it immediately from outside.

   It's been maybe 14 years since I played organized basketball, and at least one since I'd even played actual pickup -- the S-T two-on-two tournament, half-court and at a point I was probably the best conditioned guy out there. The idea of the motion offense is lost on me, unless by motion you mean "run around to spots on the outside, then badly position for a rebound."

   All in all, I held my own. I'm still smart, quick and average enough to steal some passes, hit a couple outside shots and grab some rebounds. Course, when the guy you're covering doesn't have you by either 50-plus pounds or four inches, you're not going to rack up much of a statline.

   And because I've already been asked by the people I've talked to, there were a couple of really memorable moments, the first being my almost trying to take a charge on CBE. He's got one of those sort-of dirty, sort-of gritty pickup styles built on lane drives and being fit enough to run non-stop. We were largely 1-on-1, and I'm trying to stay ahead on the fast break, and at the last moment, I have two thoughts:

   1. I'm not sure if I'm getting a charging call in a pickup game;
   2. There's a good chance this is resulting in blood.

   Bitched out. Whatever.

   The other is at the start of the second game. A couple of city kids had lingered onto the far end of the court, and with us ready to start, he screamed "Hey guys? We're gonna go full-court." They left without incident, but kinda lingered and stared, possibly because they knew who he was, possibly because they were debating whether to argue the point. There were numerous other courts available, so they moved on.

   But before they did, he muttered to me and the others in the vicinity, "Yeah. I'm dead."

   As I said to Nick, "This is a story I'll be telling my kids. And hopefully by the time I have kids, my back will have stopped hurting."

-- Cereal/milk
-- Only one, thank God, crab roll.
(Which brings up that today, the creator of the crab roll threw out the first pitch. He flew the catcher and hit the backstop, almost killing several photographers.)
-- Same chicken & dumplings, fruit and turkey slices as always.
Prison food?
-- They don't joke it's prison food for nothing.
-- Apple, along with various cups of soda since they friggin' ran out of water bottles.
-- The 'Puerto Vallarta' platter -- "Chicken enchilada, cheese enchilada and beef taco al carbon" -- from high-end TexMex chain that's nowhere near New England. And I'm skipping the guacamole they make at your table, or the various salsas ... writers know how to eat on the road.
-- Two Guinness, two Dos XX Lagers

   I really can't remember why the food log was a good idea.

March 2, 2007 - 4: Curmudgeon Close
   I Think That Signifies Problem: Want to know whether gambling has become an issue for you? You found this enlightening, or better still, wrote it.

Most bettors know that wagering on exhibition baseball is a bit like throwing a dart at the wall. But that shouldn't stop anyone from betting.

While many view the exhibition season simply as a way to gauge how teams will fare when the real season starts, there have already been some interesting match-ups in the so-called meaningless games.

   Today's Sox-Toronto day game ended with non-roster invitee Joe McEwing grounding out with the bases loaded against Double-A Toronto pitcher Tracy Thorpe. On base were non-roster invtees Alex Ochoa and Kerry Robinson, and Alex Prieto, who was called up from the minor-league camp just to fill out the split-squad roster.

   But yeah, get that money down. Or better yet, go out in the parking lot, flip a coin and slam your head in the hood of your car.

Google News
-- Now this? This is a good story.
(Not that I read it. Just something about it strikes me as nice.)

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- And that, I suppose, seeps into this quote:

"This guy's a grumpy motherfucker."

-- Trust me. That's Super Karate Money Death Pitcher.

   As you might imagine, tonight's Dice-K festivities brought out some of the big guns. And among them was a certain Hall of Fame baseball writer with a bit of a reputation. Given my fandom for Fire Joe Morgan, allow me to point you toward some of the latest evidence.

   "Willfully uninformed" seems apt, given the tenor. Again, Hall of Fame writer. Still though, I've never written a column (I don't think) where I've reveled in not knowing something.

   Anyway, when the seats were assigned for the game, this Hall of Famer somehow ended up right next to me. Having discovered this early in what proved to be an 8:30 a.m.-10 p.m. day, it spawned some hilarious e-mail exchanges as the debate raged on as to how I should handle this. Should I break my rule and introduce myself? Should I try to casually work VORP into a conversation? What about Nick's suggestion?

Steal his typewriter ribbon, then tell him that the closest telegraph machine for wiring in his story is behind the phosphate stand at the nearby Woolworth's. He'll get his knickers in a twist then, I'll tell you what.

Oh, and tell him you were given a column before the age of 40. He'll love that.

   Course, this all became moot when he arrived ... and set up shop four seats down from me. Somehow or another, the seat intended for him remained empty, meaning he found a spare one. There were reportedly 200-225 press people here last night, not to mention the live coverage on NHK or any of the other 20 million numbers I quoted on the blog.

An Other-Worldly Night at City of Palms Park
-- I suppose technically I wrote the headline.

Notebook: Silver Lining in Manny's Slow Start
-- With plenty left over for my eagerly awaited Kyle Snyder feature.

   And when it was over, I went back to the hotel and had a can of soup. It's not walking around in a blue ballcap with your newspaper's logo on it, but it's all I've got.

-- Two apples and handful of baby carrots throughout day.
-- Let's say three Shan-San Spicy Crab Rolls. This is becoming a problem.
-- Chicken and dumplings, turkey slices and mixed fruit lunch.
-- A hot dog because, well, they were there.
-- A Yuengling and that can of soup, Grilled Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.

   This really is bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, isn't it?

March 1, 2007 - 3: Baseball Christmas Eve
   Clarification: It appears that for $7.50, you can actually get two of the Shan-San Spicey Crab Rolls that I ate. For that price, it's at least running neck-and-neck with the chicken fingers and fries as the Fenway concession I'll buy at least once this year.

   Pleasantly, the Web address being advertised as Shan-San in the park now actually leads somewhere. It didn't 12 hours ago, which had the potential for the best kind of comedy -- high comedy involving the elderly.

Straw Hat Man
-- The front side of his straw hat had 'NORTHEASTERN' written
on it, via a similar piece of paper pinned to the front. I remain
unsure of whether he flipped it back and forth between innings.

Files From The Fort, Vol. 2

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- First things first, since I actually did a good job today.

New Bedford's Chin Has Blast Against Sox
-- Sometimes stories just work out. This was one of those.

Notebook: Beckett ... Curve ... Next Level
-- As the notebook should be, it's everything else.

   And blessed Christmas, don't forget the blog.

   The first couple spring training games, at least to me, have deceptively little to write about. I'm still new enough doing this that for each of the first two days, this didn't really occur to me until the fourth inning or so. This can lead to problems, especially when the people I'm looking for aren't actually around.

   Today, I had a bit of an out. Northeastern has a utility player from New Bedford on his roster, so I figured if he did anything significant, it could be fleshed out into a notebook lead.

   Then they post the lineup, and he's starting at second base.

   Then, as I'm transcribing tape in the press box, I look down to see a woman in the aisleway watching batting practice in a red No. 13 Northeastern jersey -- the only NU jersey not on the field in the whole park, and inexplicably, the number of New Bedford's utility player on Northeastern's roster.

   Turns out it was his mom, who was extremely helpful as I attempted to figure out exactly what I should be asking her. This led to me racing to both clubhouses afterward, finding an even more gregarious player.

   That's journalism, pretty much. I have no idea if that's interesting to anybody but me, but in so much as you can plan ahead, sometimes the stories just kind of find you.

   I wonder what I would have written about had I not seen his mom behind the plate, or had she not been wearing his jersey. Let's just assume it would have stunk and move on.

-- Plus, this is the longest I've ever talked
about Northeastern without making a pot joke.

   The days, as they usually are, continue to be dominated by baseball. I'm unsure of whether the arrival of former Daily Free Press colleague and current fellow poker degenerate Bill will change that, but it will be good to see him. He made perhaps the finest ticket purchase of the year, getting tickets to the Boston College exhibition game for cheap before it became the Daisuke Matsuzaka debut game that also happens to be an exhibition with Boston College.

   Course, he's probably not going to be pitching much of it. Though I believe "two innings" in Japanese translates to something around "85 pitches."

   There's a good chance my raw copy on Friday night will contain at least one reference that could probably be construed as racist. I want to make a public pronouncement that I'm not actually racist, I just tend to be laissez-faire about this stuff. Because I'm not bothered by it, I find most of the borderline stuff funny. Like, say, Excited Red Sox Fans Eagerly Await Debut Of Matsuzaka's 'Ultimate Galactic Dragon Gyroball Pitch Power Explosion'.

   Though for the record, most of the Japanese media here yesterday seemed to think it was funny too.

   Or maybe I am racist. Who knows. All I know is my current lead is going to feature the Shan-San Spicey Crab Roll unless someone convinces me otherwise.

-- GoLean/Juice for breakfast.
-- Chicken and dumplings, turkey and awful spiced ham slices, and mixed fruit lunch.
-- Two more bottles of water, plus half-bag snow pea crisps before they disgusted me.
-- Spicy crab roll, N.E. clam chowder, two Sierra Nevadas and part of an absurd seafood platter from here, likely the best dinner of the trip.

2007: [02] - [01]
2006: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05] - [04] - [03] - [02] - [01]
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]