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March 30 - April 5, 2008
   • It has been a long week. Without hyperbole, probably the longest I've ever had, and it seemed like it was going to be such a nice literary package.

   On Sunday morning, I got the phone call I've been grimly accepting for years ... my grandmother, my last surviving grandparent and in a nursing home for a handful of years after a pair of strokes, was on her way off this mortal coil. She did not last the afternoon.

   On Monday afternoon, Julie called me from her school. Her sister, whose pregnancy was rather dramatically revealed on the day Julie and I got engaged, just had her water break.

   I kind of chuckled to myself and began packing my things for the drive across the state.

   I'd make that drive four times in five days, and my mind wasn't settled for a one.

-- Christmas 2003. I actually hadn't realized it had been that many years.

   I've always inhabited an odd pocket in the Couture family tree, the only kid born in roughly a six-year period. A bit of an odd spot when it came to needing child care, but something that definitely made it a lot easier when it came to dumping me over in Chicopee over at Grandma's house.

   It did not take very long, once I became generally conscious of my surroundings, that my going over there was less about need and more about desire. I distinctly remember one stretch during a summer or a school vacation where I spent five straight days there, because every day when my parents would call to figure out when to come get me, I whined until they consented that I could stay another day. It reached the point that I had a legitimate neighborhood friend from there because I was around so much ... she apparently was Most Like to Succeed in her high school class, which makes sense since last I knew she went to Cornell with the hopes of being a lawyer.

   I could go on for days with individual memories. How I would endlessly watch the Weather Channel there because we didn't get it in Agawam and I wanted to be a weatherman. The day I found my father's Army uniform in the basement closet, or discovered the back stairwell that connect all the levels in the three-decker -- Aunt Muriel lived on the second floor with her grown-up son, and the third floor was a rotating parade of always-friendly relatives. The time on the porch playing the original Gameboy. How she taught me solitare, or made sure the place was stocked with frightening amounts of strawberry Dole Fruit and Juice Bars for my arrival.

   But more than anything, it's the warmth of knowing I've not written a hundred stories, and I've forgotten a thousand. It's why even though I made my piece with losing her years ago, it took me almost three days after her burial to write this. Why I spent all that time in my car this week, only to remember when it was over that it was her last car, and that she'd more or less given it to me. (It's long been a family joke that I was her "golden child," and the one picture that I wish I had to post right now is the one of her and I on Magazine Beach in Cambridge after I received my BU diploma.)

   It's also why, a couple years ago, I quietly said to myself I would never again go visit her in the nursing home. The same nursing home that was more or less the only place I even knew my grandfather, wracked with Alzheimer's and gone going on 18 years.

   I don't remember how I found out about her first stroke, but I remember going to see her with my family at Mercy Hospital in Springfield. She was still Grandma, as sharp and as loving and as normal as she ever was. I have no idea what we talked about because I didn't really think much of it ... I honetly thought we had dodged the bullet, and that she'd have years left being who she always was.

   She had another stroke soon after, and that was it. Her mind moved to an alternate universe that I'm sure so many have before and so many will after. She'd claim to have seen dead relatives in the hallways, have had conversations that were impossible. Look at you, be able to convey she knew you, but come up with a name from somewhere else in her 92 years.

   I wasn't the only one who knew how much she would have hated knowing that was her life. My father, whose dedication to his Mom will remain in my head forever, would couch it, talking about how happy she was, wherever she was. I had the chance to avoid it, though, and I did. It was selfish. I've felt guilty about it, and how it must have hurt my father, for four years. But I can't say I would have done it differently ... she and I had talked too much about it, whether in the context of my grandfather, after the rare times when I'd go with her to church, or just a winding conversation that ended up the sort of place teenagers usually don't chat.

   Come Monday, it had company in my mind. Julie and I raced home to wait, as I found myself thinking about what Terry Francona (of all people) had said about birth in the context of Daisuke Matsuzaka's wife:

"It's out of my hands, thankfully. That shit comes when it wants."

   That shit, in the context of my niece, was in no rush. When I left the hospital on Tuesday afternoon, 25 1/2 hours after Lindsay's water broke, there was only a doctor looking at her charts quizzically as Mom watched Jerry Springer, in blissful enjoyment as her upspeakable opened up like Stargate.

   If someone could please forward that to the Pulitzer people, I'd appreciate it. Much like my Wikipedia page, I feel weird doing it myself.

   There was still no baby throughout the two-hour drive back, and only a "she's going to be pushing soon" text as I started my shift.

   She wasn't born until early evening, after an hour and a half of pushing (I'm told). And Becca-Anne was rushed out of the room when she was born.

   She wasn't breathing. When she started, there was fluid in her lungs. Then came seizures.

   As I write this, five days into her life, she's in her second hospital, perhaps looking at another week in the natal ICU. Things are a lot better than they were ... Uncle Jon appears to be among the few family members who haven't yet held the baby, which looks exactly like almost every baby ever born.

-- Is it actually her, or a random Googled newborn? My tongue-in-cheek point exactly.

   I can't even imagine. Not a bit of it.

   Individually, it would have been a lot. Next week, it would have been a disaster, since only I would have pulled myself toward the Sox on top of everything else. But together, it just gassed me, especially with the sort of family battles that I've always naively assumed get shelved when the point is to celebrate someone's fucking life.

   At the risk of saying too much, I would love nothing more than to either elope, or scrap the entire wedding plan and start over. I'm disgusted to the level the day has ballooned, even as I'm being told by everyone I talk to that this is what happens 90 percent of the time.

   But, I'm back. Does it still count as breaking a story if not much of anyone may give a crap about the revelation?

Hard To Read Much From First Week, But ...
-- Is Javier Lopez a submariner? I could see that being technically wrong.

   And by the way:

   Eight. EIGHT. Sure is nice to be cheering for the Clippers of college hockey in Boston.
March 28-29, 2008 - Simple
   • Season picks.

AL East Unlikely For Change At The Top
-- Inside Baseball. MLB preview. Who cares.

   That was today, plus a fantasy draft. And Lord knows no one cares about that.
March 27, 2008 - Pride and Prejudice
   You Don't Have These Problems: In a general sense, of course.

Whale City Heroin Bus
-- In most cities, they don't think to ask.

   Of course in Whale City, we carry our carabiners in our pockets between mountain climbing expeditions, not in our ear lobes.

Carabiner Ear
-- This was extremely impolite. I acknowledge that.

   Today's Quote Taken Completely Out of Context:

"See that BC-Vermont game last week? There was nobody there.
The building was empty. That's because BC alumni don't spend any money."

-- Said prior to Thursday's critical Bruins win by the guy next to us at The Four's. Which, honest to God, has a UMass hockey jersey half tucked behind a flat screen television.

   This one went much better than the Valentine's Day massacre -- which I swear is not a Richard Zednik joke, since it was the night before he almost died. I'm idly curious as to how many of the people around us also were only there because it was another half-price loge night. Given the number of children, I'd guess a lot.

Bruins Win

   • One day, I hope to be this good.

Heidi, Rob told me, is Jose's girlfriend/publicist. She's a "cute, little, junior college graduate, who lives with Jose," said Rob. "She likes to let Jose think she's working hard for him when really all she is doing is fucking things up for him." Rob said Heidi lives with Jose without paying anything, which may be literally true, but not figuratively. The price women pay for living with Jose is actually quite high. All those boring days and nights during which Jose rarely speaks, except to say, "Where's the Iguana?" because of Jose's fervent belief that when "women talk only bad things can happen." All those needles and vials of performance enhancing drugs around the house which his woman of the moment must learn to differentiate, winstrol from deca-durabolin from HGH, and then draw the proper amount of fluid into each syringe and inject that needle and its fluid into Jose's buttocks. All those variations of his moods from steroid-fueled anger to steroid-withdrawal depression. All those startling changes in his genitalia, his penis swelling with steroid use at the same time his testicles are shrinking from steroid use. All those strange women's messages on Jose's cell phone. All those trips to the gynecologist to cure the STDs Jose brought back with him from one of his road trips.

And, finally, most depressing of all, all those perfunctory sex acts with Jose, doggy style in front of a mirror so Jose can watch himself perform, his chest muscles and biceps twitching as he works. Which is why Jose's first two wives, Miss Miami, and Miss Fitness America, divorced him.

   I won't ever be, but I'm at peace knowing that in America, I can continue to simply dream about that with no punishment.

   The writing, not the "requiring testosterone injections to maintain boner."
March 25-26, 2008 - They Ran Together
   Quite Possibly The Oddest Story Ever: Hey, here's some kid who gets beat up a lot!

A car the color of a school bus pulls up with a boy who tells his brother beside him that he's going to beat up Billy Wolfe. While one records the assault with a cellphone camera, the other walks up to the oblivious Billy and punches him hard enough to leave a fist-size welt on his forehead.

The video shows Billy staggering, then dropping his book bag to fight back, lanky arms flailing. But the screams of his sister stop things cold.

The aggressor heads to school, to show friends the video of his Billy moment, while Billy heads home, again. It's not yet 8 in the morning.

   The third-to-last paragraph explains why the New York Times needed to go to Arkansas to find a kind who gets beat up all the time: his parents are suing the bullies and might sue the school district.

   Regardless, an uncomfortable, compelling WTF all around.

   We've All Got Problems: Wah! People are smoking outside!

The School of Management administration recently sent out a stern email to remind students that smoking outside the school is not allowed and an entranceway littered with cigarette butts sends the wrong message to visitors, after students and faculty raised complaints.

. . .

Lataif also said in the email that smoking outside SMG presents a negative image to the school's external clients, including recruiters.

"If you are a visitor and you walk into an ocean of cigarette butts and matches, you're not going to have a pretty good impression of the school," Lataif said. "The school's reputation affects the students in the school."

   The BU School of Management features, among other things, a $1 million marble staircase in the foyer, a tremendous globe statue (partially featured in that site's masthead), its own Starbucks and -- at least at one time -- a golden toilet.

   The BU College of Communication has a main staircase fashioned out of an old car elevator, is topped by a largely rusty radio tower and, while I was a student, had part of the building's exterior fall off.

   The end.

For Good and Bad, Opener The Price of Success
-- Big picture before I've been up early two days in a row.

One Loss in Land Far Away Means Nothing
-- I remember when I used to get up at 5 a.m. all the time.

   • Afternoon naps are an underrated part of a balanced breakfast.

Red Sox in Japan (AP)

Red Sox in Japan (AP)

Red Sox in Japan (AP)

   I suppose if you truck yourself all the way over the Japan, you may as well make it worth your while. I mean, it's not like you're going to know anyone there.
March 24, 2008 - Alarm Set For 5 a.m.
   For Those So Interested: This will not help you stay awake at 6 a.m. Only semi-informed.

S-T -- March 22, 2008
-- The four-page Standard-Times 2008 Red Sox preview.

   All written by your whiny host, though I only laid out the player profiles on page 2. Not sure why J.D. Drew only appears in the PDF as a grayed-out box, but maybe it'll work symbolically. (It was fine on our poor excuse for newsprint.)

   Compare this with the Springfield Republican Red Sox preview. That's all of it, read by a circulation almost three times ours. I'd be proud if I wasn't praying for any number of different things, most of which contradict each other.

   • Amazingly, I'll be going to bed now, dreaming of ...

Jonathan Papelbon, Serious Professional
-- Baseball!

   I'm not planning on sleeping well.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (Shizuo Kambayashi/AP)
-- Less creepy. Close enough.

March 22-23, 2008 - In Hindsight, It Seems So Easy
   That Mitchell and Webb Look: Not a week ago, I had no idea this show excited. Now:

-- Insert Whale City joke here.

   Just something notable -- not that they do in that clip -- of swears on television. Though apparently the karmic fallout is that no one in England understands financial responsibility.

At one point, Alexis Hall had more than 50 pairs of designer shoes and handbags. It never occurred to the 39-year-old media relations executive from Glasgow that her £31,500 in debt ($63,000) would be a problem.

"It was so easy to get the loans and the credit that you almost think the goods are a gift from the shop," she said. "You don't fully realize that itís real money you are spending until you actually sit down and consolidate your bills and then it's a shock."

   I wonder how the Brits feel about Internet begging, or about typing the words "yucky debt" and not thinking, "Wow, that makes me sound like I need a bat to the face."

   Link-Created Aside: I can't begin to fathom where I'd begin writing a book. I can't begin to fathom how I would actually complete the project, especially to the point where I'd actually make it financially worth my while. So off the top, I have a great deal of respect for anyone who's accomplished something that I haven't even attempted -- running a marathon, writing a book, building the world's biggest army of douchebags, etc.

   But really, chick lit. Assaults for everyone involved. Books that read the way people that annoy the crap out of me talk.

   That was unexpected.

Youth, Veterans Fit Perfectly For Sox
-- Part one of the preview, on the balance in the clubhouse.

Parts In Place, But Repeating No Easy Task
-- Part two, on, well, repeating.

Jon Couture's Starting Nine
-- Part three. The inside part of the parts.

   Can't tell you who it is, but it's Piney61 approved!

   • Remember how everyone was surprised when they found out that the guys behind Fire Joe Morgan were trained writers?

   It seems much less surprising when you find the people trying to rip them off.

   Seriously, what the Christ is all that? As someone with a bad, pointless Web site, that is a bad, pointless Web site.

Yes this blog is a total ripoff of FireJoeMorgan but we here at FireCHB believe that their mocking of sports journalism is not just an amusing distraction, it is the beginning of a movement! A movement so powerful that given time, Dan Shaughnessy, Gorden Edes, and Gerry Callahan will be whipped naked through the streets of Boston until they reach The Bell In Hand Tavern whereupon they will be drawn and quartered and we can all have drinks and talk about VORP. Either that or we have boring jobs.

   As far as I can tell, they appear to hate everyone except me, and they don't yet hate me because I haven't caught their attention.

   These people are out there, every day. They drive cars, they walk the streets, they have the ability to buy firearms.

   At least I get paid to be stupid.

March 20-21, 2008 - It's Still Not Over
   Shocking Turn of Events, Again: Amazing.

"But privately, nobody believes her. It is her," one told the New York Post's Page Six gossip column.

Best, a model and the son of English soccer star George Best, has a history of taking videos of women in intimate acts. Last May, Britain's Sun newspaper reported how Best, while partying with two prostitutes, "used his mobile phone to film a girl pleasuring."

When the video of his antics was leaked and the Sun confronted Best, he confessed: "I've been stupid. I regret it all."

   I don't know enough about him, but I'm guessing Dad would actually be proud.

-- This is not it. This has nothing to do with it.
Plus, it's a lot funnier. Especially if you like soccer.

   Games I Didn't Watch Update: BU's hockey season presumably ended at 1 a.m., because BC felt the need to come from 4-1 down to beat New Hampshire in triple friggin' overtime.

   Simply the act of watching the video highlights of the first game would make me homocidal, so let's just be thankful I didn't have to deal with a shocking Frozen Four trip during "the year of the sort-of boycott."

   • I didn't start being jealous of those in Tokyo with the Red Sox until I started reading Bradford Files.

Papelbon's Helmet (Barry Chin-Boston Globe)
-- I mean, Papelbon wears stupid hats over here all the time.

   Just something about seeing every blessed cell phone picture I'd be taking along the way.
March 19, 2008 - All Your Brackets ...
   The Beauty of BUPD Police Logs: Sometimes the world's greatest stories simply come from a book in a police station.

Officers responded to a radio call for an armed home robbery in Allston at 2 p.m. March 13. The caller said he left his bedroom to inspect the house when he heard someone enter his apartment. He said he found a man in his sister's bedroom. The intruder pointed a gun at him and demanded that he hand over his wallet and lie on the floor. The man with the gun, disappointed with the contents of the wallet, threw it back at the victim, saying, "What, you broke?" He then fled the apartment. The resident waited in the room for an hour before calling the police.

   (I have no idea if it's an actual book. Regardless, it's chock full when I'm passing over "road rage incident," "drunken student racial slurs" and, a special guest, "illegal massage parlor sting.")

   Boycott: Allow me to heartily second this, from the only Oakland A's fan I know.

   When it comes down to it, it still surprises me the number of baseball fans who are bitterly jealous of baseball players, especially how much money they make.

   They are the cornerstone of a SIX BILLION dollar industry. If you were the cornerstone of a $6,000,000,000 industry, you'd probably be able to carry yourselves a little bit differently as well.

   And yet, the beauty of the whole thing is they're willing to fight for one of the least compensated corners of said industry, above and beyond the behind-the-scenes stuff they do that nobody ever sees.

   (Course, the whole thing appears to be based on a false assumption, albeit one with Bud Selig's greasy, inept fingerprints covering much of it.)

   Shocking Turn of Events: America's new favorite prostitute was previously was a Girl Gone Wild.

"Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis also rescinded a $1 million offer to Dupre, now 22, for a new video after the company on Tuesday discovered it had footage of Dupre in its archives.

. . .

"It's kind of like finding a winning lottery ticket in the cushions of your couch," Francis told the AP.

   Anytime I read about Joe Francis, it reminds me of one of my favorite features ever.

What's more, the press has been omnipresent and, he says, too critical. "I've been anally raped over and over by the media."

It's an odd sort of thing for him to say. In January 2004, as news reports recounted, he was forced at gunpoint to simulate sodomizing himself with a vibrator as an intruder videotaped him in his Bel-Air mansion.

   A criminal with a creative streak. Society is saved.

   • My lack of political interest is well stated here, but I just spent almost 40 minutes watching that speech. You probably know the one.

   Yeah, I zoned out for some parts of it ... it was two in the morning. But it's worth your time.

   I'd go as far to say that I'm proud I voted for him. I dare say I can't wait to do it again.
March 18, 2008 - Fan Interaction
   The Greatest Resume I've Ever Been Sent: I received an e-mail at work today from a current college senior who's an Agawam High graduate, and who was sending me her resume because she saw my wedding announcement in the Agawam Advertiser News.

   I guess that's the kind of chutzpah you need to get ahead in this business. (Of course, we have no jobs, so maybe it isn't.) Regardless, bonus points to her in the "Whose Line is it Anyway?" scoring system of life.

   The Greatest Reader Complaint Call I've Ever Overheard: A woman called the office twice tonight to complain that we didn't run the NCAA women's tournament breacket. (We ran the schedule/pairings in the agate and a story about the field, but not the printable bracket, as we do with the men.)

   Dave, who we've always said views arguing as a hobby, picked up the phone the second time, and proceeded to have a 20-minute debate with the woman involving the phrases "gender equity" and "when I was in journalism school." Upon hanging up, he declared the woman "very rude," but said it was among the most fun he's had in a long time.

   (Or something like that. Lord knows if he read this, he would even debate a direct quote.)

   • The biggest baseball story you don't care about.

Undeterred by his free agent status, Cash spent the summer in the Cape Cod League, where he made the All-Star team -- as a third baseman. Thatís where, he says, "I was fortunate to be seen by the right people."

It came as a mild surprise when he was asked to take infield behind the plate at the CCBL All-Star game, but Kevin, a team player, was willing.

"I didn't care; I figured if it was going to help, why not go ahead and do it?"

What the young man didn't know was how closely that warmup was being observed. At the time, it seemed like a coincidence.

"About a week prior to that, both our catchers were hurt, and I had volunteered," he recalls. "After the first inning, a scout walked over to my coach and asked him to get me out of the game. They pulled me and put somebody else in there -- I didn't really understand why at the time."

It was Ted Lekas of the Jays, still with the team as a pro scout, who first spotted Cash's defensive potential as a backstop, and wanted to keep his find a secret. Tim Wilken also got involved in signing the diamond in the rough.

   Kevin Cash, Boston's current backup catcher, first got his break behind the plate when the Falmouth Commodores two actual catchers got hurt. He threw out two runners, and the Blue Jays up and signed him.

   And now he's approaching a sixth season in the big leagues.

   If you already knew this story, well, act surprised.
March 17, 2008 - What Mirror?
   Baby Talk: Understand that I first saw this:

Women who want to have children should make it a priority in their twenties to find a partner. That's because one of the most dramatic issues facing Generation X is infertility. No generation of women has had more trouble with fertility than this generation, who received the terrible baby boomer advice, "Wait. You have time. Focus on your career first."

But in fact, you have your whole life to get a career.

   in the context of this:

She's almost as bad as Ann Coulter (shudder) telling Ivy League women who can have nearly every opportunity in life within their reach that they should be teachers and librarians and stay at home mothers.

   It took some additional digging to find this:

When I was 30 I did not have a boyfriend. I hired a dating service for 10K, (which at the time was the best way to deal with my ticking clock) and the guys who were coming up were great investors for my company and lousy husband prospects.

   What is the point of all this? Julie told me this week she'd like to have kids by the time she's 30, which I replied is fine, so long as the children she's speaking about can be cared for as though they were a house plant. You know, place in the sun, water occasionally and allow to flourish.

   Oh, and everyone linked to above could use a good, thorough throat punching. Ten thousand dollars on a fucking dating service, and you're giving people on anything but how to take a bat to your own face.

   It takes a lot to come off as stupid as the militantly single. Congratulations, former pro beach volleyball player turned Boston Globe columnist. You're another rich person I wouldn't trade places with in a million years.

   • Though after reading this I might have to reconsider the order. Without going into my own tirade, that's roughly every female emotion deserving of ridicule and derision rolled up into one story.

   Anyone who needs to be told that Sex and the City is not an ideal is someone I'd rather continues to think it is. It's easier to tell them apart that way, because they subconsciously try to look more like Secretariat.

   And yes, I am no prize. Thanks for the assist.
March 15-16, 2008 - Illness Addled
   Love-Hate Alma Mater Update: With a narrow escape from a catastrophic first-round upset against UMass Lowell, BU continues to have an outside shot at another season-ending NCAA tournament loss. (This makes it appear it'll need to be with the conference auto-bid, at least.)

   On the plus side, I got out well before a year's education there basically cracked 50 grand.

Graduates who took loans from private companies or the federal or state government for undergraduate education expenses left BU with an average debt of $24,939 in 2007, according to the university's common data set. Sixty percent of undergraduates who graduated in 2007 took out loans.

BU does not record debt incurred by parents funding their child's education because "every case is different," Riley said.

   Because, of course, every case involving student debt is exactly the same.

   (I can't really bitch ... I'm just thankful their financial package edged out the one from Franklin Pierce, because that was a decision I didn't really want to have to deal with.)

   Look What I'm Missing!:

The Tokyo Dome Baseball Stadium. (Debra Samuels for The Boston Globe)

The Boston Red Sox play their season opener nine days from now at the Tokyo Dome, once home field to their relief pitcher Hideki Okajima, a former member of the Yomiuri Giants. And instead of those sausage and onion subs on Yawkey Way, fans will be munching dried squid, soy beans, fried noodles, and sushi along with their burgers and corn dogs.

. . .

Sugamo may be Japan's capital of red wear. Red is an auspicious color in this country and the Japanese believe the center of a person's well being resides in the stomach region. Protect and keep this area warm they say, and you will gain strength and happiness. So seniors flock to shops like Maruji, one of many along Jizo Street, for "akapantsu" (red undies), also fondly referred to as "power pants." This is not Victoria's Secret lingerie. It's cotton over-the-belly wear and it's available along with red belly warmers, red boxers, red long underwear, even red socks.

   I have no doubt I would love Japan. Seriously.

   And she doesn't even get into pachinko parlors!

Fernandes Looks To Rebound
-- Inside Baseball's semi-annual visit with SouthCoast's one professional prospect. To be continued, should he get back to Portland.

   • So begins what annually is among the busiest weeks of my year: Red Sox Preview Week.

   On the plus side, my employers have now ruined local fast food. That'll keep me focused.
March 14, 2008 - Beautiful Memories
   Far Be It For Me To Brag:


   Please don't beat me. My image needs this.

   Eliot Spitzer: First off, I'm a little disappointed in myself that I had no idea who the hell the governor of New York was.

   Secondly, I really think it's being underplayed that his replacement is legally blind For some reason, I can't wrap my head around that. Obviously it hasn't been a hindrance to his being an extremely productive and successful member of society, but .

A basketball player himself and an avid fan of New York sports teams, Paterson has been known to call in to WFAN, a major sports talk radio station in New York City.

   Yeah, because that's a ringing endorsement to his intelligence.

   • It was the classic finding a $20 in a winter jacket. Something you'd stuffed in there, maybe even consciously, months ago to be found with great joy at a later date.

-- If only my cell phone took better videos.

   Appliance Direct is Flea Market Montgomery, just in Florida and with appliances. A craptacular place you'd probably never shop in, but with advertising so quirky, so awful, so memorable, it captured my ironic generation's attention.

   Look at the YouTube search. "The Appliance Direct Guy and Santa Claus Rape a Toaster." "Link Murders The Appliance Direct Guy." Remixes. You really can:

   That was what I saw last year, but the magic is that it's never done in 30-second spots. Like my video, the commercials are all looped together and played one after the other for like a half-hour. They come up, like some pirate radio station, then disappear and give way to some "already in progress" programming.

   That he's the CEO makes it even better. Self-exploitation is always the best kind.

   On a whole different level of enjoyment, The King of Kong. I already knew the story, but the way Julie slowly realized the types of people I associated with in four years of college bowl ... let's just say I'm glad she's already met most of them, and the ring is already on her finger.

   Never mind her slow realization that Billy Mitchell might be a complete jackhole. I didn't have the heart to tell her he's a Western Masser.

   Or that he's gotten the record back.

March 11-13, 2008 - Days 8-10: Welcome Home, Sicky
   Photo Collage: The infrequent updates and a cell phone camera mean I have a lot of leftover items that didn't really fit anywhere else.

   Here's a smattering.

Files From The Fort 3 - Dregs
-- Shockingly, the Florida Panthers do not draw well.

Files From The Fort 3 - Dregs
-- Sadly, I didn't get a picture of the display up front.

Files From The Fort 3 - Dregs
-- Ignore the centerpiece, lovely that she is.
Kevin Federline is a dead ringer for Tony Stewart, gut and all.

Files From The Fort 3 - Dregs
-- At City of Palms. The Giants haven't used that logo since 1993!
(Because I'm a dork, this has bothered me for three years.)

Files From The Fort 3 - Dregs
-- Because I know with this sore throat, I crave burning citrus flavor.

   I never did go back to get a picture of Larry's Pawn Shop, with its matching neon signs promising GUNS and CASH. And the moped rider who whizzed past me on the highway wearing a "Hello Kitty" backpack was just too fast.

Files From The Fort 3

   • NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -- There were a lot of unexpected things that happened on this trip, not the least of which was waking up Thursday morning with the start of a sore throat and arriving in Providence in full-blown illness.

   On the plus side, not only did I have an empty seat next to me on every flight except Newark-to-Providence, when I was in a one-seat row, Julie pointed out the return trip was the first time I've flown anywhere without significant delays in multiple years.

   But clearly, the most shocking turn of events came back on Monday, when I came within 18 inches of ending up on Deadspin.

Seitaro Shimomura, who covers the Sox for the Japanese newspaper YOMIURI SHIMBUN, showed up late to Tradition Field for a game vs. the Mets. The reason? Car trouble - a pelican smashed his windshield.

Meanwhile, Joe McDonald of the PROVIDENCE JOURNAL was able to make it to the ballpark without running into any fowl play - only to have his laptop smashed by a foul ball during a clubhouse interview with Jon Lester.

-- Via these Fark advertisers.

   If you're reading this, you may remember my nervous breakdown from a year ago, when my laptop stopped taking a charge and forced the paper to FedEx me a new one -- which then promptly got placed in the luggage that was lost for three days, but they never found out about that. Suffice to say, losing the ability to write the stories you're paid to write is the No. 1 panic point of these trips.

   Foul balls smashing laptops happens slightly more than one might think -- McDonald is at least the third person I know of it happening to, plus the countless other times I've missed. It's probably a lot more common in spring training, where the press boxes tend to be lower and open and we often head down to the clubhouses while the games are still going on.

   This, of course, doesn't stop me and countless others from forgetting to close their computer lids when they head down. McDonald, to hear him tell it, actually didn't, though at best he left it askew.

   Perhaps the most disturbing part of all of it is that after the Lester interview, McDonald, Hartford's Jeff Goldberg and I went and sat on the first-base side to watch the end of the game. (The elevator at Tradition Field borders on a useless-level of slow, and there's no unlocked staircase up to the press level.) While we were sitting there, I kind of gazed up toward the wide-open box and thought, 'Shit. A foul ball could fly in there and smash my computer.'

   By that point, one almost had, clipping the left side of McDonald's screen and torquing the LCD past the breaking point. I was on his left side. Dan Shaughnessy, whose blog post brought this to the world's attention, was on McDonald's right.

   So though I didn't get to be momentarily famous for something that had nothing to do with my writing, I take great solace in not having had to cry my way back across Florida. Never mind that I actually managed to stay within 35 miles of my intended route the entire way back.

   But by the way:

   Destructive foul ball etiquette. Once we'd determined that it actually had happened, there were two immediate questions: Who hit the ball? and Where is the ball? That's how it works. When Rob Duca had his computer smashed at Fenway Park -- sitting in the seat that's now mine -- by then-Oakland's Bobby Kielty, he not only got the ball, but he had Kielty autograph it. (He'd covered him in the Cape League.)

   Not only did the Tradition Field official in the press box give the ball to a little kid once it settled itself, he had no idea who'd hit it.

   Really? A fucking baseball comes flying into your seating area, smashing a piece of electronics in a largely empty room, and you don't think to note who hit it? I'll give you the first part, but come on.

   Let this be a lesson to all of you. Because Lord knows I still won't remember to flip the lid down when a baseball's hurtling at me. I'll be too busy preparing to mangle the play of it like last time.

Sox Cut Mirabelli, To Go With Cash
-- Thursday's lone story, probably reworked
since I had to leave midway through the game.

Delcarmen Has Finally Grown Up
-- Oddly enough, I think last spring I wrote about how he hadn't yet.

Buchholz Still Seeking Sharpness
-- Wednesday's notebook. Hammond Stadium is still awful.

Greenwell Pulls No Punches
-- I can't believe I worked two decades
of Gator fandom down to just my end note.

Beckett, ESPN.com, Blah Blah Blah
-- Tuesday's notebook. Suffice to say, reworked a couple times.

March 8-10, 2008 - Days 5-7: Suck Me, Fla.'s Turnpike
   Whale City Image Update: We have someone who's on a satellite radio show, part of an empire that once dominated and revolutionized the landscape!

   Unfortunately, it's for hoo-hah farts.

A Howard Stern Show bimbo and two adult-themed models were busted for trespassing inside an abandoned state hospital in Lakeville, where they were taking part in a sexy photo shoot, according to police and the photographer who arranged the gig.

Leah Fawn Isabelle a.k.a. "Eve the (Queefer)," 26, of New Bedford, was charged with trespassing and breaking and entering, according to Lakeville police.

Isabelle is a regular on Sternís show, where she has also been described as an exotic dancer. She often appears naked or in lingerie.

Also arrested Feb. 23 were shutterbug Christopher Helme, 32, of New Bedford, model Erin Baxter, 24, of Wareham, model Jacelyn Howlett, 29, of Wareham, and Jonathan Botelho, 23, of New Bedford.

   The story went on to describe the hopes for their photo shoot, which included fake crime scene photographs of a hot chick that people will touch themselves to.

   OK, well it didn't say all that. I'm sure that was covered in our version.

   Now This: This is a lede.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- When David Helms was in seventh grade, he would take his .22-caliber rifle to school, put a box of ammunition in his locker and, like virtually all the other boys, lean his rifle against a wall in the principalís office so he could start hunting squirrels and groundhogs as soon as classes let out.
-- To Revive Hunting, States Turn To The Classroom

   In some alternate universe somewhere, this is written as an Onion story that gets the entire staff fired and the paper liquidated.

   And by the way, OF COURSE it's West Virginia. If only I was home, and still had that e-mail the W. Va. resident wrote me after I ripped the state in Coast to Coast. Basically something along the lines of how cultural and wonderful the state is, and maybe someday, I'll be mature enough to understand that.

   Not bloody likely. Not as unlikely as my friends from afar Cardiff City FC making the friggin' FA Cup semifinals, but close. These are the moments I pay Fox Soccer Channel for. (Which, of course, I can't watch in Florida.)

Files From The Fort 3

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- I've never had a child. (Good Lord, I only just got a cat.)

Newton packs.
-- And it's not like I can control him.

   Yet from people I know, I've come to understand that there are some things that you just can't teach people. You can't make someone find their calling and pursue it. You can't push a heavy smoker into stopping. You can't make a lazy bum exercise. For the most part, you have to just wait until, within them, it just clicks.

   I go through this battle professionally all the time. Given what a pompous jackass I am around people I know, it's rather depressing that I'm not terribly more outgoing in new groups than I've ever been. Part of it is that I just really don't do a lot of social stuff, because I'm perfectly content to entertain myself or zone out.

   The other part is I default to shy, not exactly the greatest trait to have when your job is based around talking to people.

   Every so often, though, something clicks. It occurs to me that the hard part is the initial push, the forcing myself to go talk to somebody. After that, based on being prepared and being witty enough to fake it, I'm generally fine. (Mark Redman would tell you different, but fuck that guy.)

   The switch flipped on Saturday. And let me tell you, being in Florida covering spring training is a hell of a lot more fun when you feel like you're kicking ass.

Next Big Thing Living In The Moment
-- And yet, not living in the moment. My favorite of the spring.

Sox Not Worried About The One That Got Away
-- Monday's notebook. Santana-riffic.

Dodgers Shutting Down 'Baseball Heaven'
-- Everyone else seems to like this more than I do.

Boston Will Be Patient With Beckett's Back
-- Sunday's notebook. Narrowly averted a smashing.

Pragmatic Sox Set For Tough Opening Stretch
-- There's no way they're .500 through April. OK, maybe a very little way.

Beckett Pulled With Sore Back
-- Saturday's notebook. Get ready for a lot of these.

   Barring calamity, a potential "Files to the Fort 4" will not be based around bitching. It will be based around baseball, and Florida, and social aspects. (It will also probably not happen, because that's how life is.)

   However, I made a promise, Therefore:

   0.8 miles. The drive from Fort Myers to Vero Beach is about 150 miles.

Fort Myers to Dodgertown

   The detail of the turn onto I-95:

   Which I, of course, interpreted as this:

   Thus making the drive from Fort Myers to Vero Beach about 200 miles.

Yeehaw Junction!

   Yes, friends, 50 MILE WRONG TURN. Smashing the old record, which was somehow less frustrating because it happened in the trip's first 20 miles, as opposed to its last 20 miles.

   Because in Florida, highways don't have exits. They just continue for days, going nowhere, because THERE'S NOTHING IN MOST OF FLORIDA.

   It worked out in the end ... I'd left an hour or so early, and instead got to Dodgertown roughly a half-hour late. Which didn't matter, because the Sox still weren't there anyway. Regardless, Florida highways? Veins on the penis that Florida is.

   Still, Dodgertown. And they were honoring Vin Scully, which meant Vin Scully gave the monologue I quote in the piece.

Holman Stadium
-- Chills.

-- Anti-chills.

   I had more, but I'm not going anywhere. Better to spread the rage.
March 6-7, 2008 - Days 3-4: Magic In A Tornado Watch
   Today's Quote You Really Shouldn't Have Said Out Loud:

"What the heck am I doing? And how many children in Africa might have been fed?"
-- Swiss millionaire Dan Stoicescu, who's paying $375,000
for his complete human genome

   And whay, pray tell, will he be doing with it?

"I'd rather spend my money on my genome than a Bentley or an airplane," said Mr. Stoicescu, 56, a biotechnology entrepreneur who retired two years ago after selling his company. He says he will check discoveries about genetic disease risk against his genome sequence daily, "like a stock portfolio."

   And if something comes up poorly, he will ... wait to get it and die.

   Outstanding. It's Debbie Downer in real life.

   Look Who Else We Got!: The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa loves BU hockey. Yes, it's "we" again. The Terriers, even when I'm mad at them, are my only indulgence.

   Plus, the Bruins decided the best way to respond to the most positive attention they've gotten since the lockout is to lose three games by a combined 19-5. Give them this ... that's hard to do.

   If Baseball Writers Know One Thing ...: It's that In-N-Out Burger is awesome.

   I've not only seen a walk-off walk, I've seen a walk-off hit by pitch. Beat that, random Internet guy!

Files From The Fort 3

   • NORTH FORT MYERS, Fla. -- I spent pretty much all of Thursday panicking about the Days Inn. I mean, those are BAD reviews. Those are "people concerned about you" reviews.

   Those are outdated reviews, because they're renovating the hotel and the place is good enough for company. The room smells fresh, the sheets are in one piece and the fridge worked too well -- mmm, frozen milk. When the biggest complaint is that they lied about having an iron in the room, that's a pretty good sign.

   Yes, things continue on without calamity. Given the first year I accidentally booked a smoking room in a hovel Econo Lodge (that's across this parking lot) and last year nearly had a nervous breakdown when my laptop broke, I can't wait to drive my rental car off the highway into a marsh. That probably won't happen until the weekend, when I'm driving across the state's guts, which I've taken to referring to as "The Set of Deliverance."

   So, with my calamity closing by the hour, let's bask in right now. Because I am flying.


   Friday was a free night, and I noted on Thursday that minor league hockey action was a mere 20 miles away. Usually, these sorts of things seem like a great idea in principle, but I always puss out because I don't want to go eat/watch/do something by myself on the road. I'd gotten a couple positive reviews of the Florida Everblades -- good crowd, good action, decent quality hockey, dusted with Hockey East alums -- and for once, I followed through on the plan.

   I could not be happier.

Florida! Mississippi! Hockey?
-- Florida! Mississippi! ... Hockey!

   This will end up being the "pickup basketball with Theo Epstein" of the 2008 trip, understanding that pickup basketball with Theo Epstein will never be topped.

   Unless we play again and I actually take the charge.

   First off, I paid $17 for a ticket dead on the blue line, nine rows off the ice, five minutes before the opening face-off. Even throwing in the $5 for parking and the $4.75 for what was no more than $1.50 worth of chicken fingers, we're ahead of the game.

   Second, the fans. Getting 6,637 is never anything to sneeze at, and a good chunk of those were in jerseys. Admittedly, the team looks to have had about 18 different jerseys in 10 years, but what the hell ... minor league merchandising never hurt anybody.

   And really, it's not like you have to go to Florida to find people who seem to think screaming "SHOOT! SHOOOOOOOOT!" is worth their while. Given the half-dozen times Florida air-mailed the net trying to shoot high, they may have actually needed some sort of help.

   Third, the game was about as good as you could ask for. Mississippi scores on two of its first four shots -- made slightly better in that those shots took almost 15 minutes to compile -- while Florida whiffs on a pair of breakaways. There's a legit penalty shot turned away, a goalless second, and a frantic final period. Blades score twice to erase a 2-1 deficit, getting the winner on a power play inside of four minutes left, then escape a last-minute 6-on-3 in which the Seawolves didn't even get off a shot.

   And then, as I'm walking out on the concourse, Brass. Bonanza.

Florida Everblades v. Mississippi Seawolves - 03/07/08

Florida Everblades v. Mississippi Seawolves - 03/07/08

Florida Everblades v. Mississippi Seawolves - 03/07/08
--In foreground, BU alum Brad Zancanaro. (To his credit, he wasn't knocked unconscious the way Carl Corazzini was when I saw him as a P-Bruin.

Florida Everblades v. Mississippi Seawolves - 03/07/08

   Ice Shavings: The Everblades have different sponsors for the penalty box, the power play, home penalty kill and every puck that flies into the seats. ... Via the Blades scoring in the third period, I won a gallon of washer fluid from Advance Auto Parts. ... The Florida College Hockey Classic is contested annually at Germain Arena, and features zero teams from Florida. Hockey East teams have won four of the seven tourneys. ... The scoreboard "loudness meter" clearly had at best a tangible connection to actual crowd noise, but worked all the same because the scoreboard loudness meter is universal. ... If you're ever looking for a perfect juxtaposition, tonight's intermissions entertainment is a good start: Hooters tricycle race, children playing musical chairs. ... Everblades fans mock the goalie after goals using 'Rock and Roll Part Two' as UMass does, but with 150 percent fewer swears. ... Some guy named Smed thought to himself, "What's the best way for me to propose to my beloved Debbie Lombardo?" He came up with flashing "Will U Marry Me?" on the scoreboard for like 90 seconds. Best of luck to them both. ... Ushers keep people from walking into the seating bowl during play. This may be overkill, but it's awesome overkill.

Kottaras Catching On
-- Jason Varitek called me 'Sir' after our interview. He doesn't know my name.

Closer Hopes He Opened Up Market
-- Friday's notebook. I hate it when I can't get my questions out.

What's The Story With Torre?
-- This would have been much better as a notebook lede.

Papelbon Settles For Modest Raise
-- Thursday's notebook. I gotta figure out how to get salary figures.

March 3-5, 2008 - Days 0-2: Did I Figure It Out?
   Attention Other Jon Coutures: Someone's looking for you.

Subject: Race Announcing (Timberline Events)
Date: Fri, 29 Feb 2008
To: cooch at joncouture dot com

   Hi Jon,

   I'm looking for a "Jonathan Couture from Burlington area used to announce bike races and was very good." By any chance, is this you? I am the race director of the Green Mountain Relay and I'm looking for a race announce/DJ for my event. It's the weekend of June 21 - 22.


   I could definitely do those things. Whether I would be very good would only be open to debate if you had high, legitimate hopes.

   I also love that the date, of all the available dates ever, is the weekend of my wedding.

   • FORT MYERS, Fla. -- I made this in five minutes.

Files From The Fort 3
-- If that's not the perfect tagline for this Web site, I don't know what is.

   If you've been reading for a while, you understand that these trips to Florida just devolve into me bitching about everything. (Note, off the top, I'm building around the image of the airport access road.) I'm not terribly proud of it: I really don't spend all my time down here waiting to leave, especially as the other writers get to know me and, say, invite me to crash at their condo with the Guitar Hero setup.

Idyllic breakfast.
-- Idyllic breakfast. I can't wait to move here, though it can not
possibly be that bad. If it is, death will solve the problem.

   However, since we're going to get there anyway, let's go direct. The following are things I think are bitch-worthy.

   As always, your mileage may vary.

   • My ATM card is on the road to not working. Understand that along the same lines as last year's "Oops! Your laptop doesn't plug in anymore," this is an issue that has cropped up for the first time while I'm 1,500 miles from home.

   Needing money Wednesday and away from a Bank of America, I attempt to get cash back at a CVS. Card won't read in the hand reader, and the cashier can't do cash back if she scans the card in her slightly more powerful register scanner. Back to the park, where the port-a-bank doesn't want it either.

   Let's presume that's why it ended up charging me $3.50 to get my money. The extra effort it needed to put forth to scan the card.

   • Dropping my laptop at the Charlotte airport. Amazingly, I appear to have escaped with a very minor case crack and full functionality. Won't stop the nightmares.

   Let this be a lesson, kids. If you're only slightly above average coordination, put down your things to rejuggle how you're carrying them. Don't throw your backpack in the air and try to catch the shoulder strap like a fucking Harlem Globetrotter.

   • Flight delays in clear weather. Given I had a scheduled 31-minute layover in Charlotte -- yeah, that didn't seem like a bad idea when I booked it -- imagine my joy when the tug pushing the plane back from the gate in Providence broke before doing its ONLY REASON FOR EXISTING. Immediate flashbacks to last March 15, this site's most recent highlight.

   Seriously, go read that return trip again. In hindsight, I just laugh at my abject horror at the thought of having to spend a night in Newark. We're talking sitting on the tram with a stomachache at the thought I wouldn't be able to get a car. It was as though I thought they issued you a bullet wound and several used syringes to eat upon leaving the airport property.

   Are we sure they don't?

   Of course, the short pre-flight leaves the pilot to actually try on the flight, meaning we get into Charlotte some 20 minutes early. Turn on my phone, there's a message from Orbitz.

   Whoops! Your flight to Florida is delayed an hour and 15 minutes! Mechanical issues on the original plane which necessitated getting a new plane.

   It worked out, not only because it didn't really matter so long as I got to the Fort, but it meant Quizno's in my favorite airport (that I'm thinking of right now).

-- Free wireless. Take note, most everywhere else.

   Plus, I got to watch a crowd of people stop dead in their tracks in front of a broken automated walkway. Among them, people just kept saying "It's not moving. This one's not moving."

   Apparently, they forgot the space still exists as floor. Which can be walked across at almost all times.

   • This guy!

-- "Y WORK" on your convertible? You better be old and/or ugly.

   Which, of course, you're not. Because the elderly love Florida, we can pretty safely assume they thus do not love Vermont and sportscars.

   • Florida radio. The drive from the condo to City of Palms is about 20 minutes, give or take depending on route and traffic. Attempting to kill some time during the drive, I flick on the radio and settle on a decently catchy pop song.

   I'm kind of zoned out, focusing on the road, just rolling with the melody. Eventually, I hit a stop light, at which point I stop and actually listen to the song's chorus.

"You are amazing, God!"

   Discreet Gospel! This happened twice! Then, scanning up, I hit the country music glut and turned the whole thing off.

   Like I said, the song was catchy, so it could have been worse. It's just given my comfort level in churches, suddenly hearing God's name being repeated in my ears has that "lol, brainwashing" vibe to it.

   You know, bitching about stuff is a lot more fun when you're not actually that unhappy. Don't worry ... that Days Inn ought to season me right up.

Sox Need More From Lester
-- Where Spring Training stats aren't overvalued, but used to prove a point.

Rival Friendlier Than Advertised
-- Wednesday's notebook, leading with Francona-Torre love-in.

Subtle Change Could Make Difference For Dice-K
-- The editors do love Dice-K over Daisuke, I've noticed.

Papelbon Looks For Fair Deal
-- Tuesday's notebook, basically led by another whole story.

March 2, 2008 - They Crippled Me With Poultry
   Today's Quote That Needs No Context: Within a Sunday story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

"I'd prefer not to have a grown man standing there looking at my pickle, but if they have to do it for the sake of the game, I'm in."
-- Arizona's Eric Byrnes, on MLB drug testing

    New Unattainable Goal: After watching this CBC open in last year's Stanley Cup final, see a NHL game in all six Canadian venues. I'd sure there's lots of other fun things to do in Edmonton at all times of year. And Calgary ... think of all the old Olympic venues I could break into!

   There's not enough crowd anthem singing in America. Of course, we also have a lot fewer Mounties waving pom-poms and winking at TV cameras.

   • Should you ever want to attempt suicide via the consumption of barbecue, I would suggest The Little Red Smokehouse.

   Not only is the food very good, it's in the middle of nowhere, so I'm sure there's plenty of well-worn wooded paths and cranberry bogs where one could heave a bloated corpse with a last bit of strength.

   Was I trying to off myself before Monday evening's flight to Fort Myers, thus saving the world from 'Files From The Fort 3'? Sure!

   As I've told numerous people, if I'm killed, avenge my death.

March 1, 2008 - Last Day
   Today's Quote That Needs No Context:

"Red Sox Nation? What a bunch of [expletive] that is. That was a creation of the Red Sox and ESPN, which is filled with Red Sox fans. Go anywhere in America and you won't see Red Sox hats and jackets, you'll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We're going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order."
-- Hank Steinbrenner, Yankees

   For reasons that are my own fault, my 'Inside Baseball' isn't on-line. It was halfway decent, too, so that's going to need to be fixed.

   • Until then, Oedipus Bronx.

Hank Steinbrenner was driving like he owned the place.

"This thingís got no pickup," he said, gunning my midsize Hyundai down Steinbrenner Drive in Tampa, Fla. We had just finished lunch on a January afternoon at a Steinbrenner family favorite, an Italian restaurant called Iavarone's, and were on our way back to his new office at Legends Field in my rental car, which Hank had insisted on driving.

As we approached the ballpark, he steered the car up onto the curb, drove it on the main walkway, between the Yankees merchandise store and a small memorial park devoted to Yankee immortals, and came to a stop just a few feet from the tinted-glass door marked "Executive Offices."

"This is where I usually park," Hank said, stepping out of the Hyundai and tossing me the keys.

   And when you're done with that, Baseball Boogie.

   Had I known about this as an eight-year-old, I kind of think it would have scared me off.
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2005: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05] - [04] - [03] - [02] - [01]
2004: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05] - [04] - [03] - [02] - [01]
2003: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05] - [04] - [03] - [02] - [01]
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2001: [12] - [11] - [10] - [09] - [08] - [07] - [06] - [05]