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June 30, 2006 - The Songs Are Too Awful To Post
   And ... Time!: It bears noting that, despite my pick, I think it's great that Germany has advanced to the World Cup semis. Always love to see the home team give their crowd something to be giddy about.

   Their match with Argentina was a classic, and one that really did feel over once they tied the game -- Argentina's best guns were on the bench, including their starting goalie, and they had no subs or fire left. And yet, my lasting memory will be of something the commentators, not surprisingly, let go without a word.

   After he slotted home the third penalty of Germany's four in the shootout, Lukas Podolski pumped his fist. The camera quickly cut to his teammates celebrating at midfield, then back to a wideshot of the goal. Podolski is seen walking out of the box.

   He kisses his fist, and his arm continues to go up in the air while the camera cuts in on him. Just in time to see ...

Whoops! Nazi salute!
-- Whoops! Nazi salute to the German crowd!

   Now, I don't know for sure if that's what he's doing because I wasn't there to ask him. And it does seem more than a little strange, given he's a naturalized German citizen born in Poland.

   But this was an instant reaction, and Julie had the same one. So it bears mentioning, at least.

   Especially since they've got a pretty good chance to beat Italy and make the final.

   • So tonight, despite what you would figure would be the lunacy of driving toward the Cape on the Friday of Fourth of July weekend, I checked off Cape League ballpark No. 2 from the list of 10: Veterans Field in Chatham.

Late in the game.

Post eye scratch.

Self portrait.

The late rally.

   I had been told this was "the authentic Cape League experience," which is why I drove so far to do it. The game -- down the bottom -- wasn't spectacular by any stretch, but was close throughout and featured the most exciting ending I've seen that wasn't a Red Sox walk-off -- with it 3-2 Brewster and the bases loaded via walks and two errors in the bottom of the ninth, the second baseman dove to his right -- saving a single that would have probably scored the winning run -- and started a game-ending 4-6-3 double play from his stomach.

   That write-up doesn't do it justice, obviously. Good to see our corporate sisters are too busy doing nothing else all summer to staff five baseball games a night. Nice work.

   In so much as I enjoy the games, I will say this is the only baseball game to which I've both brought a book and read it during the game. Course, it was a baseball book, and that is kind of the point of the league.

   Eight to go, and I am still counting.

June 29, 2006 - Light Shines On The Pirates
   Quickly: For the quarters ...

Argentina over Germany
By far the best opponent the hosts have seen. Plus, I'm still bitter.

Italy over Ukraine
If only because I don't really have a good reason to think otherwise.

Portugal over England
If England starts the game with two strikers, I'm changing my pick.

Brazil over France
A little revenge for 1998. They could have been going for four straight!

   Respectfully: I love how Pedro just elicits this kind of emotion, even when it may not belong.

Subject: You fell for that, hook line and sinker
Date: Wed 28 June 2006
From: AFA
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Dear Jon:

   Wow, it seems, in reading your Pedro Martinez story today that you clearly fell for "his" story in its entirety.

   Look, I think Pedro was great. His record shows it and more so, he proved it again and again.

   But I am also smart enough to listen to Pedro's words and remember some facts AT THE SAME TIME.

   To hear Pedro ( and now you ) tell it the Red Sox never offered three years and only did so at the end of the negotiations. Worse, Pedro once claimed they only offered TWO YEARS !

   The fact is that Pedro was going to use the Red Sox and the Mets to keep driving up both the price and years until the highest bidder won. The Mets offered 4 Pedro took the money and ran. Good for him he has a family to feed .........

   But the crap that he wanted to be a Red Sox he really did - No he wanted to be a Red Sox ON HIS TERMS at HIS PRICE.

   You and others can make the claim, accurately, the Red Sox bailed on no more than 3 years, but the fact is they did do much more, over the years only to get slapped by Pedro again and again.

   * When they did not have to the Red Sox picked up Pedro's 17.2 million dollar option and what did Pedro do? The very next day he called a press conference and bitched moaned and groaned.

   * The Sox sent three representatives ( Henry, Werner, Lucchino ) to meet Pedro at the airport where he was coming/going from a wedding and for that great gesture what was Pedro's response? ..... I felt like they were disrespecting me by sending three people to see me.

   * 1999 - 2004 Pedro saw fit to only show up ONCE for a team picture and that was in 2004 and he made it by seconds.

   * He never showed up to Spring Training on time ( Remember how he always had to attend his father's birthday, the only problem was the birthday date changed every year ) and he often asked for more days off for the All Star break.

   * Jimy Williams 'punished' him for repeated tardiness and he blew a temper tantrum.

   * Ownership donated $100,000 to the Dominican Republic relief effort when Pedro asked if they could help.

   Pedro was a prima donna - a great pitcher, but a prima donna and the act wore thin.

   So, while I agree Pedro was great and while I agree the management MIGHT have averted Pedro's departure by negotiations a year earlier the bottom line is that Pedro does not wear the heroes hat either. He is not without blame in this story. To read your article is to suggest that poor Pedro he tried so hard to stay and he just wasn't wanted. The facts speak differently to the show Pedro staged yesterday. Fine theatre but as they say in Hollyowood, 'based on some facts'......

   Why can't an athlete just leave and say I took more money because so and so offered me more......? Damon can't stop talking about the Red Sox....Now this week Pedro is on the tour....It's not hard to simply say so and so offered more and I took it.......Easy !

   Adam ___

   Did I not go out of my way enough to say the return wasn't about all the contract stuff? Because man, I sure thought I did.

"Yesterday, however, wasn't a day for that talk any more than today is."
-- Quoting myself ... not ideal.

   • In an unconnected narrative:

   -- Upon learning Germany would be playing Argentina in the World Cup quarterfinals, Julie said:

Hey! It's the country with the Nazis and the place where all the Nazis went!

   -- Upon hearing Paris Hilton's new single on the radio, Mark Coen said:

The song is kind of like what I think would have happened had No Doubt started off as 14 year olds on a Disney Channel show.

   -- Jack Welch, the former head man at GE, has for some reason been paraded around this year on NESN as the "Voice of the Fan." Because, you know, he spends a lot of time hanging out at the Cask and such.

   If NESN is so convinced they need a recognizable name as their speaker for the masses, the least they could do is go with Stephen King.

Stephen King
-- He pops his own popcorn at home!
He buys the unofficial program on the street!
He looks ready to kill you at any moment!

Writer Stephen King waits for the start of a baseball game between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

   Plus, how would those studio segments not be better with the anticipation of King gutting Tom Caron with a cleaver at any time for no apparent reason?

June 28, 2006 - Field Day
   Reader Request: So we've had a call, in the face of scintillating "View" talk, to reach back deeper in the TV memory banks and discuss "Home Team with Terry Bradshaw."

Promotional Crap
-- Sadly, these show promotional items are the best I can do.

This was a pretty good show. Granted, I saw only a few episodes, but from what I saw I liked. And this is something that I don't understand about network "big-wigs" and their thinking: they'll cancel a good show like this, but keep a show like "The View" on for-what, three years now?

For those who never saw it, you missed out.

-- IMdB's 'ZuBiDan,' Who went for a credibility save two years later by panning Crossroads as "even worse than my worst expectations."

   Course, said commenter still saw it. But that's neither here nor there.

   The Internet is not kind to "Home Team," and I'm of little help. The only reason I know the show ever existed, and I swear I'm not making this up, is because on the airing of my first of four appearances on legendary Western Mass. high school quiz show As Schools Match Wits, there's a "Home Team" teaser ad right before the show begins.

   Bear in mind I haven't watched this tape in several years -- I never have fully gotten over our losing in the first playoff match -- and that tonight I forgot Tom Glavine is lefthanded. My hierarchy of trivial facts could use a good sorting.

   From what I can gather, "Home Team" was a generic morning show, featuring house cleaning and B-list celebrity discussions with the homespun humor of Bradshaw, who is often more than moderately entertaining. Heck, let's just say there was a feature that spun off into the current FOX pregame staple, "Ten Yards With TB." It had some funny name and also had nothing to do with tuberculosis, but was scrapped when guest Jennifer Love Hewitt started laughing too hard and one of her breasts popped out.

   I would miss the show too that way.

   Offshoot: For as many times as I've gotten notes or heard from people asking me to edit some stuff in the archives because their bosses found it on Google -- apparently, not everyone wants their legacy to be passing out on my bathroom floor and blocking the doorway -- I could never be mad at the Internet's greatest creation.

   Why? Because of how searches like the one I just did to find stuff on "Home Team" lead me to things like fan fiction based on Fran Drescher's "The Nanny."

   And it's still being updated with fresh material!

Welcome to the Seventh Season of The Nanny! In this special section of the page, the show lives on, through our stories. Come enter the the world of the Sheffields once again!
-- I'll pass. But thank you for the offer.

   And yet, no Google search could ever help me find the proper thank you.

   • In the grand pantheon of Stats That Time Forgot, and numbers that are of far more significance to me than to anybody else, tonight's Sox-Mets was the 100th Red Sox game I have covered as a member of the press.

   Technically, it's the 101st Major League Baseball game I've covered, since I did request a press pass and sit in the back of the box for this unforgettable contest. And I did write about it, leading to the greatest headline one of my pieces has ever had.

   I really should have tried to talk to Nomar, or at least done more than sit in the back and not talk to anybody. But it was fun regardless.

   It's funny to me to think back to that first game, which, in the happily dysfunctional way things work at a paper our size, was Game 1 of the 2003 ALCS at Yankee Stadium. I got there something like five hours early, ran inside and was absolutely giddy to find I hadn't been stuck in the back of the upper deck, where all the TV people were situated. I was running around taking pictures, generally unconcerned with what any other media member may have thought of me.

   That's still true, though I don't take as many pictures anymore. And I have spoken to more media people than the two I did that day: Steve Krause of the Lynn Daily Item, who I actually saw tonight for the first time in about a year, and a man who needed help with his computer who turned out to be one J. Donaldson.

   In the end, I couldn't help him. Given how my feelings about his work would develop over the years, I'm sort of happy that's how it all worked out.

   Despite that, I less-than-grudingly admit his Natalie Gulbis column is good. Well, like half of it. Then it kind of loses steam, comes back a little and just kind of ends. Jerk drives a sports car. A sports car!

   Remind me to steal his sports car when I kill him and take his job. And to delete this when he e-mails me about it.

   It's been going on three years, and I'm jaded. Not jaded like far too many of my colleagues can be at times, but probably still more than I told myself I'd be that evening in the right-field corner in the Bronx. I still save all my press passes. I've started keeping all my scoresheets. I'm never more than a moment away from wanting to just go outside and walk around to take in the scene, though that's increasingly becoming impossible to do with as hard as I try to work.

Lastings Milledge
-- I'm always open to making fun of the travails of Lastings Milledge.

(Boston Globe photo by Jim Davis)

   And I've never lost that emotion tied into the writing. That feeling you get, after hitting 'Send' on a story or column you just feel like you nailed, where you want to stand up, spike your plastic cup or whatever's handy and scream, "Yeah! YEAH!"

Sox Defense Sets Record
-- A packed notebook, though not packed with Wily Mo Pena reporting to Lowell on Friday for a two-game rehab assignment. So consider this an addendum.

Emotional Pedro Wins Hearts, Loses Start
-- The Pedro column that brought out that cup-spiking feeling again.

   I'm not going to lie: With the exception (to a lesser extent) of my soccer column from a few days ago, it had been a while since I really got that feeling. Part of me might even have started to wonder if I was still really able to find it.

   Now, I don't have to wonder about it for a little while.

   And that's the best commemorative present I could have possibly imagined.

June 27, 2006 - 'Nah. Bull(feathers).'
   News That Will Shake People Who Aren't Me: Star Jones, whose most newsworthy accomplishments include being a scary bride and not being fat anymore, is leaving 'The View'.

Don't expect any smackdown between Rosie O'Donnell and Star Jones Reynolds on ABC's "The View." Jones Reynolds says she's leaving the show. She told People magazine, "I feel like I was fired." Rumors that she was leaving had intensified since the April announcement that O'Donnell would be replacing Meredith Vieira on "The View" in the fall. O'Donnell had made several caustic remarks about Jones Reynolds, saying that it was dishonest for her to talk about losing more than 100 pounds through diet and exercise without talking about gastric bypass surgery. Jones Reynolds, one of the original cast members of Barbara Walters's daily chatfest, made the announcement on "The View" yesterday, saying the show had decided to move in a new direction.

   It's at times like this I think of two things. One, now's as good as ever to resurrect "The 48 Faces of Hell: Celebrity Edition!"

Now overflowing with stars.
-- Somehow, this doesn't feel scary enough.

   Two, what ever happened to The Other Half, which featured Mario Lopez and Danny Bonaduce completely emasculating themselves for a couple bucks of Dick Clark's massive fortune? I remember stumbling across it one late morning, watching for about five minutes and having every "Saved By The Bell" episode I ever enjoyed ruined forever.

I can't believe they canceled it. What a refreshing change of view to see how the guys got to learn about women and us about them. I really miss it. They were funny, compassionate, crazy and at times really stupid, but I still had to have my daily fix of the show. My husband would laugh because I'd tape it and then about 9PM I'd say I had to go upstairs to watch my boys. Give them a second chance!!!
-- IMdB's 'asdogma,' whose husband may be drinking at this very second.

   Contests That May Not Entertain People Who Aren't Me: The Where has Homestar Runner been? Photoshop contest.

Homestar's Red Card
-- This will stand for any complaining
about Spain continuing to choke on their tapas.

   • Tonight could be a lot of fun.

Pedro's Wave

Boston fans cheer New York's Pedro Martinez after Martinez emerged from the dugout in the second inning Tuesday in Boston. Martinez, a member of the 2004 World Series Champion Red Sox is scheduled to pitch against his former teammates on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Strikes and Smiles: Pedro's Back
-- The biggest problem with this? There's really no way to include everything quoteworthy Pedro said. Also, I always get better headlines when I go on the front page. And that includes when I write my own headlines.

   I had a bad notebook, but for whatever reason, clicking headlines on the Sports section of the Web page leads to unrelated stories from Monday's paper.

   It's so dumb, it's hilarious. Kind of like 'Jackass,' but without the fear of having to look at Steve-O after he had all his body hair removed.

June 26, 2006 - The Nutmeg State
   They'll Be Off Days Soon: In a sumch as I'd like to leave it at 'shock' Italy won a match on a dive, Australia had spent the prior 40 minutes a man up, not playing the kind of soccer I'd picked them to win because of.

   So screw them. And the other match. There's so much else out there to savor, up to and including the episode of The Colbert Report last week where Alexi Lalas helped him come up with jingoistic jeers.

Turn up your hearing aids, Grandpa, because I'm only going to say this once! The only reason you beat us in the first match was because our players were too busy thinking about the sacrifices their grandfathers made to save your asses back in WW2! Yeah.

And look. Look, Czechs Mix. I've been to Prague. I've been to Prague. I found the architecture trite.

Why don't you go home and cry to Slovakia? Oh wait! They're not part of your country anymore!

-- Clearly, this is why they lost their next two matches.

   I also appreciated them using still Lalas photos from MLS Cup 2002 and his days with the Revolution, and Lalas dropping a casual "fellatio" into conversation. Just throwing that out there.

   Wistful Memories: It's always nice to read what's going on back at the alma mater.

COM Dean Admits To Cursing At Alumna
College of Communication dean John Schulz swore at an alumna at a West Coast gathering on June 15 when he realized she had criticized him in a letter recently published in the Boson Globe. The incident comes amid an investigation into the dean's conduct and faculty allegations that the dean has verbally abused several of its members.

In an account of the incident, COM graduate Lilly Jan wrote that during a brief conversation she declared herself a co-author of the letter. Schulz then abruptly chastised her, calling her a "first-class asshole," according to the account.

. . .

The apology letter is the first known evidence of a frequent journalism faculty claim that the dean often lashes out at colleagues and students. That claim is a central focus of allegations the faculty members brought to Provost David Campbell last month, when they called for an investigation of the dean for allegedly exaggerating his resume and mistreating colleagues.

. . .

"This is not an isolated incident," (journalism professor Nick) Mills wrote. "It fits a pattern of outburst-apology, misstatement-correction. But this incident alone, calling an alumna a 'first-class asshole' at an alumni function would seem cause for dismissal."

   Exaggerating his resume and mistreating colleagues. And to think there were people always on the case of the dean in my day because he liked to tell stories about how he was held some job of power in the military when Cher filmed the "If I Could Turn Back Time" video.

   Apparently, not everyone was big on her straddling a cannon.

   • The other day, I mentioned English World Cup songs, a discussion we can soon revisit because they're playing again.

   That, however, might not be for you. Understandable, all things considered.

   So we've got a different song for you. A song I must credit young Matty Cooch for, since he heard it on Sirius Radio's "Alt Nation" and went to the trouble of procuring it for me.

   It won't be funny forever. So simply enjoy it while you can.

Connecticut's For Fucking

( If you're at work, you can read the lyrics here and enjoy it later. )

   Even with the Massachusetts reference, I do sort of feel left out by the whole thing, though.

June 25, 2006 - Salute Someone's Shorts
   Soccer Quickness: In what I'll admit is a little disappointing, my U.S. soccer column netted all of one letter.

Subject: Low expectations were too high for U.S.
Date: Tue 30 May 2006
From: Travis
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Absolutely fantastic article that cuts deeps and is sadly the truth.

   On the plus side, it wasn't the kind of one letter I got when I last tried to write about the Celtics. That guy, along with more or less dissecting my entire argument with at least a few cogent points, pretty clearly understood that I know almost nothing about professional basketball by choice.

   At least he understood ironic humor. Or didn't at all ... I can't remember.

   Anyway, going 4-0 in the first matches of Round Two doesn't feel all that surprising or exciting, since the upset picks don't start until Monday. England continues to play like crap, but win thanks to great draws and weak opposition. And on that note, they draw in the quarters Whale City's love, who'll be without two starters thanks to the most gruesome soccer match I can remember.

   I shouldn't be complaining, as this is the first time I can remember one of "my teams" making the semifinals. Course, that's where Brazil will probably be, meaning my rage will likely again be directed at:


   By the way, anyone else noting that I'm swearing more on here as of late? I'm not sure what it actually means, other than I apparently don't care about your kids. I am, however, still a role model.

   At least until the first heart attack. Or homicide.

   Does He Look Like A Bitch? Yeah.: Remember the Ozzie Guillen discussion from earlier in the week? Well, it just keeps getting better. After Guillen, in this country for two decades, starts telling people he can't go to sensitivity training because he'd need English lessons to understand it, Jay Mariotti wirtes a column that may actually be the textual representation of "Mom! He said a bad word!"

I have to chuckle at some people -- including some writers -- using this opportunity to blame me and tell lies about how I do my work. Would people like to explain what I've done here, other than my job?

   I'll go first. Now, this all started because Guillen called out Mariotti for not being "man enough" to talk to him before he wrote. Mariotti then responded, rightly bumping his own story to the bottom of the column, by explaining why he would continnue to not be "man enough" to go to U.S. Cellular and speak to his subject.

I have nothing against locker rooms and clubhouses as long as they're civil. Again, if Guillen wants me to join his nightly OzFest charm sessions before games, he and Sox management will have to address and apologize for a history of threatening and unprofessional episodes. It's certainly not about fear. It's about dignity, couth, professionalism and a refusal to lower myself to laws made by jockdom.

   Go figure you'd find those ... IN A LOCKER ROOM.

One incident involved Guillen himself on a night in Baltimore when he stood naked behind me in the clubhouse and -- how do I put this? -- pretended to have sex with me. If that happens out on the street, he gets arrested for lewd behavior. A screaming Carl Everett, mean guy, confronted me outside the Sox' clubhouse last October. Oh, and before a playoff game, while I joined a live ESPN "SportsCenter'' segment on the field, Guillen yelled at me from the dugout, "Get off our field before I kick your ass!''

So, do you want me on your field, Ozzie, or do you not want me on your field? Can't have it both ways. I'm confused.

   Now, there are two ways to write about these things if you decide they're worth including in your column -- I have my feelings, and the debate's raging here.

   The better one, short of taking the 'L' to the park and writing about what happens, is to be a writer. Note the funny little quirk of a man who keeps calling people homosexuals trying to do you in the butt naked. Remind everyone Carl Everett once questioned the existence of dinosaurs, and throw in his child abuse investigation only as a last resort. Stuff like that. Makes for a good read.

   The other way is to be a bitch, a slanderous term in its own right, yet somehow accurate. Throw in a line about "If that happens out on the street, he gets arrested for lewd behavior." Refer to Carl Everett only as "mean guy." Cap your Guillen playoff story with "So, do you want me on your field, Ozzie, or do you not want me on your field? Can't have it both ways. I'm confused."

   You're not confused, Jay Mariotti. You've got the deft fingers of an amputee. Wit isn't just lost on you, it spits on you when it passes in the street.

   I find it hard to believe someone who comes off as such an ass on TV could be that musch worse in print. You write in Chicago ... do you think for one second any one of your readers is siding with you, dumbass?

   I honestly hope Mariotti keeps perpetuating this, because I'm 1,000 miles away and all I want to do is punch him in the groin now. He's about two columns away from me inquiring about vacation time and getting my car keys.

   • And now, we update The MySpace Experiment.

   It's been more than two months since I opened my less-imformative Internet haven, with the newness having worn off and the initial influx of reconnections with people having been done -- it actually did lead me to see one person I hadn't since high school, which is more impressive than the one person who e-mailed me out of the blue to ask I take all the stories of her drunkenness in college off here since her employer found them.

   Ah, Google. You have always been my friend.

   Anyway, to the still unintiated, the general rhythm of MySpace is built around a couple different things. The main one is bored friends posting chain-letter like bulletins, allowing you to never again wonder if your girlfriend considers you a "guilty pleasure" -- to Julie's credit, I was listed behind pedicures and lobster bisque.

   But the ancillary ones are just as special.



   Each day, clearly fake MySpace sites pop up trying to make you add them. Some days, you get none, but some days you get six. They're usually not even this elaborate -- they have one picture, with a description of someone 18-20 in California that may or may not be overtly sexual.

   Of course, they're usually not written much better than the real ones, but that's part of the fun too. As are the people who think they're real, but we'll get to them later.

   It seems a little elaborate to get people to visit a porn site, especially since half of them don't actually have a link anywhere. I was actually relieved the other day when I got one from a guy trying to get people to pay him for a profile tracker, which lets you see exactly who has looked at your page. At least he had a business model, even if it was a bad one.

   His site, however, had no comments. And comments are how you find the really fun people.

Instant Depression!


   Now, I live in a city generally accepted to be one of the more depressed in the state. I live on the edge of what some consider one of the grayer parts of town. It's not as if I don't know there are sad stories right outside my door, that go walking by my window every day.

   But I don't know those stories. Fortunately, MySpace does! So now I can know things like "Yeah, I'm 23 and I have two kids and I was married to their Dad for two years but 'la di da' and though I don't have a job, every moment of my day is filled with cleaning up poop and not getting paid for it!"

   Because I need that, especially since I don't just read it, I try to envision where the person is sitting when they're typing it. How loud the children are crying, and exactly how much grime is on the floor in the kitchen.

   I like to know there are 48 year olds out there who don't take shit from anybody, love weed more than people and have a page full of thong-adorned asses and glittery angels thanking people "the add." Where would I be if I didn't know you like System of a Down, are my age and enjoy a cool afternoon gripping yourself to the images of some porn star I've never heard of?

   I'd probably be on here, talking about soccer. While eating an apple or a third bowl of Yogurt Burst Cheerios, looking at my treadmill and thinking, "Wow. I remember when I used to do more with that than stub my toe on it in the dark."

   So while Friday night, I was discussing the benefits of MySpace with someone, suffice it to say it's not everybody. Or anybody sometimes.

   They totally couldn't handle my vacation writeup on there.

June 24, 2006 - Connecticut
   Reader Request: I received this YouTube video link in an e-mail entitled "Worst. Video. Ever."

I swear to god, if this video doesn't make your update in the next two days I will cut you. Again, there will be blood. You've been warned.

   So really, it's an act of self preparation. And an act of respect for both down counts and off blasts.

   Red Sox 5, Phillies 3 (10): I was supposed to cover this game, but didn't. And thank goodness, since I can afford to miss pitchers duels and David Ortiz hitting his second walk-off in two weeks.

   I missed that one, too. I think I've been twice this month, which is far more depressing than it should be.

Fans Doing OK With The All-Stars
-- Inside Baseball, hurt by my refusal to leave the house. Though I did have a very good reason.

   • I actually had an update planned for today, with my having found an awful "We Didn't Start The Fire" remake for England's 2006 World Cup team. It's in Whale City, however, where I am not.

   So you'll have to be content with "World At Your Feet" by Embrace, the official theme of this year's English team.

   You can go listen to it on that site, or you can take my word that "Three Lions," either the Euro '96 or World Cup '98 version, was way better.

   England and Portugal would play in the quarterfinals. If you don't think I'd eagerly foresake my adopted home in that match, you obviously aren't aware I have no morals.

   Portugal would probably beat England. England will probably beat Ecuador, and nobody else.

   I have nothing else, other than congestion in my head. So I'll just stop.

June 23, 2006 - Gloating
   Ick: I have nothing today. Or now, as the case may be.

   • I have to say ... I've impressed myself. Beating 10 out of 16 proves I'm actually getting smarter!

1. Germany
2. Costa Rica

3. Ecuador
4. Poland
1. Germany
2. Ecuador

3. Poland
4. Costa Rica
1. Sweden
2. England

3. Paraguay
4. Trinidad & Tobago
1. England
2. Sweden

3. Paraguay
4. Trinidad & Tobago
1. Netherlands
2. Argentina

3. Serbia/Montenegro
4. Ivory Coast
1. Argentina
2. Netherlands

3. Ivory Coast
4. Serbia/Montenegro
1. Mexico
2. Portugal

3. Iran
4. Angola
1. Portugal
2. Mexico

3. Angola
4. Iran
1. Italy
2. Czech Republic

3. United States
4. Ghana
1. Italy
2. Ghana

3. Czech Republic
4. United States
1. Brazil
2. Croatia

3. Japan
4. Australia
1. Brazil
2. Australia

3. Croatia
4. Japan
1. France
2. Switzerland

3. South Korea
4. Togo
1. Switzerland
2. France

3. South Korea
4. Togo
1. Spain
2. Tunisia

3. Ukraine
4. Saudi Arabia
1. Spain
2. Ukraine

3. Tunisia
4. Saudi Arabia

   Twelve out of 16 of the advancing teams, with there only being a handful of things I really wish I'd known before that I didn't.

   -- That Costa Rica had such a one-person offense with Wanchope. I knew that pick was wrong not long after the first game kicked off.

   -- That Ghana was as quick as they were, and in an offshoot.

   -- That I really could pick the U.S. to finish last.

   As such, I look to the Round of 16 with enough gumption to say: Hey, call Ladbrokes! Don't bet, but perhaps consider it for a few minutes.

Germany over Sweden
The Germans don't have the best defense, but Sweden's not going to exploit it.

Argentina over Mexico
Too hot to pick against them right now, especially given Mexico's last game.

England over Ecuador
This will probably be the best game of the round. England's swan song.

Portugal over Netherlands
I've liked what I've seen. Not a lot, but enough.

Australia over Italy
Upset Monday, I'm calling it now. The Aussies have shown plenty of fire.

Ukraine over Switzerland
This one goes to extras. And it could go either way.

Brazil over Ghana
There's no way this game is less than a two-goal issue. No way.

Spain over France
Yeah, they're big on letdowns. I can't pick against them, though.

   Mid-week, we'll see why I should have quit while I was ahead.

June 22, 2006 - A'Holes
   Spam Moment: Sadly, the e-mail titled "I'm a mistake -- legalize abortion!" was just gibberish.

   It would have been far funnier if it was an ad for penis enlargement.

   Honesty, Sometimes, Is Not ...: The following is not the official crest of the Fall River Police Department, but the critical element is the same.

Fall River: We'll Try

   I'm still not entirely convinced it's real, but in the center of the Police Department's crest, on the doors of the cruisers, are the words "We'll Try."

   I can only hope they change it in the next few years and go the rest of the way. Add, across the bottom, "No Promises."

   And they make fun of Whale City.

   A Good Thing: Why, it's MatchingSox.com, a Red Sox fan dating service started by -- if we're to believe The Boston Globe -- a man who thinks it's OK to wear a batting helmet to games.

"You're crossing off the main thing when you're looking for someone: They're not a Yankees fan," says founder Tim Lampa, in all seriousness.

Lampa, a die-hard 31-year-old who grew up in Quincy, says he was originally looking for a way to get serious Red Sox fans together to see games and talk trivia. But he also confesses he has had some of the same problems as Ben Wrightman, the ``Fever Pitch" character whose relationships were sometimes derailed by his Red Sox fervor.

"I can speak from experience, where it was known to girlfriends in the past that I was a Sox fan and where they tried to accommodate my loyalty to my team, and it caused some issues, to put it nicely," said Lampa, who spent his college years working security at Wrigley Field and part of his adult life selling hot dogs at Fenway Park . "I don't want to get into personal examples, but let's just say the World Series was a tough time for me."

   I know some of you might be a little surprised that I've labeled this a good thing, so let me talk it out. Clearly, Mr. Lampa is a better man than me, because sports fandom is not what I look for first. I go right to the superficial stuff -- attractiveness, intelligence, a full compliment of limbs. He, however, goes inside.

   The batting helmet must be to protect all that extra brain.

"My main goal is to keep those New Yorkers in New York," he said, "and keep them away from our Boston girls."
-- You noble, noble, lonely man.

   The point that drives this home, of course, is the Hot Sox Chick ad for T-shirts on the main page. That site sells, not surprisingly, ads for shirts that read simply "Hot Sox Chick."

   Logically, it does so with models who would be the kind of girls who would wear said shirts -- GIRLS WHO ARE NOT HOT.

   We've gone over this before. If you are hot, you do not need to tell people you're hot. If you have to tell people you're hot, there's probably a reason. This does not make you bad people. It makes you stupid people.

Nice hat!
-- Like, say, if you believed your friends that told you the white hat looked really good.

   I'll give the man this ... his odd creation is at least well done. I wish him the best, most notably about $25 profit.

   So he can go across Yawkey Way and buy a friggin' cap, thus looking less like a candidate for the short bus.

   • The last time I can remember screaming expletives at the television over a sporting event was this game, with New York capping a blown 24-point lead by getting hosed on a last-play pass interference call. I'm pretty sure I scared my family, myself and the neighbors on that one.

   Today, however, was different. It was quieter, and yet, somehow angrier. When the day began, I really only believed the U.S. Men's National Team had a chance because, mathematically, they did. Those sorts of things override the obviousness that they'd shown no signs of being worthy to make the second round of the World Cup.

   And in the end, they held firm to that.

-- Man!! Did that ever work out or what?

   But not before everything else fell exactly how they needed it to. The team that kicked their ass then lost twice, poised to finish last in the group. The team they needed to beat proved unfit and eminently beatable, not surprising given it was their first World Cup. The mighty Italians couldn't score up a man, as Kasey Keller played perhaps the only genuinely good game of his 16-year World Cup career.


   I got so angry, I more or less begged my boss to let me write a column about it. He let me, though he did talk to me beforehand and say it couldn't be the sort of "I DON'T KNOW WHAT WE'RE YELLING ABOUT!" rant that apparently no one likes because he doesn't like it.

   Never mind I got more positive feedback after that Bruins column than anything else I've written since the 2004 World Series. But since it worked out in the end with this one, I defer.

Low Expectations Were Too High For U.S.
-- This is as close to actual soccer analysis as the paper has had since we let our soccer writer go.
Take that it's coming from me, uninformed guy, for what you will.

   Since that column got me over it, or at least much as I will be while the tournament rolls on with f'ing Ecuador in Round 2, Friday we'll review how poor my uninformed first round picks turned out and make far more informed calls on the Round of 16.

   And with England and Portugal playing on the same day (Sunday), maybe all three of my teams can be out in one semi-fell swoop.

June 21, 2006 - Warning: Many, Many Quoted Slurs
   Enjoying The Stereotypes of My Youth: Like a grandfather who hangs around long enough to see his grandchildren go to the prom, some book-keeping led me to this gem from Dec. 18, 2001:

Blanket Belief: People are not supposed to sleep until noon. I feel very strongly about this. If you sleep until noon, you better have a damn good reason, because you've wasted half of the day in your bed.

   It's pretty safe to say when I wrote that, I had never actually slept until noon ... that was a luxury saved for drunkards, the sexually non-selective and the comic rocker Honey Dew Donuts has been using to sell whatever watered-down crap they've stolen from Dunkin' Donuts this quarter.

   Not that I have anything against Honey Dew Donuts, but when I'm trying to kill myself from the inside out, I'm going with either Chinese food or the cakey tripe I know and trust. You can never be too careful these days.

   Let The Jokes Write Themselves: Really, no help on this one, unless you're from out of the area.

Menino on Podcast

   And if you're from out of the area, I'm sure you have your own marble-mouthed politician to kick around. So just throw that name in there, and you're all set.

   Speaking of quotes and audio, however, how shocking was it (as a person whose vocabulary is legitimately 25-40 percent routed in The Simpsons) that this article only hit on two or three of my genuine stand-bys: "Everything's coming up Milhouse!," "I've said it before and I'll say it again: Democracy simply doesn't work," and the biggie, "Aaaannnd heeerrre come the pretzels!" I suppose that's a high percentage given how many were actually in the article, but I would have liked the count to be far more depressing.

   As such, I'll allow others to chime in some of their Cooch favorites should they so desire. Julie would obviously have the most, but bless her, she either won't for fear of back-mocking herself or has legitimate better things to do to remember the exact way I've wooed her.

   • Oh, Ozzie Guillen.

   I don't have to quote it, I don't think, but I really want to.

Angry with a recent column by Mariotti critical of Guillen's handling of recently demoted relief pitcher Sean Tracey and upset with Mariotti over past columns, Guillen said to reporters when referring to Mariotti before Tuesday's game, "What a piece of [expletive] he is, [expletive] fag."

. . .

Guillen defended his use of the term "fag" by saying this about homosexuals and the use of the word in question: "I don't have anything against those people. In my country, you call someone something like that and it is not the same as it is in this country.''

Guillen said that in his native Venezuela, that word is not a reference to a person's sexuality, but to his courage. He said he was saying that Mariotti is "not man enough to meet me and talk about [things before writing].''

Guillen also told Couch that he has gay friends, attends WNBA games, went to a Madonna concert and plans to go to the Gay Games in Chicago.

   Honest to God.

   Now, I'm used to not looking at stuff like this in the context of whether I'm offended, because in a statement that may not shock you, there's very little in the universe that I agree with the public on an offensiveness level. But I'm smart enough to know what things offend the public unnecessarily and, thus, should probably be spared.

   You don't need me to tell you Ozzie Guillen, in a moment of clarity, should not be calling writers "fucking fags" even if he thinks they are, well, "fucking fags" -- note I didn't say "act like fucking fags," as I can guarantee you I would have as recently as three years ago. This is one of those situations where we're all left largely to just say something simple, like "You just can't throw a bat at an umpire" or "You just can't start shooting people because their inane banter on the BART train is making you want to blow yourself up."

   But I'm not going to lie ... I would LOVE to be in a press conference of pre-game meeting where the manager of the team I'm covering said something like this. Working with Terry Francona, whose biggest faux pas by a mile is that he enjoys plenty of casual swears -- and really, who worth talking to doesn't? -- I can't even fathom this is real.

   I actually left Chicago disappointed after last year's ALDS. Not simply because of the eggs the Red Sox laid, but because Guillen hadn't done anything stupid. Nothing even remotely close. It's like I expect him to just start indiscriminantly slapping people or grabbing his crotch and making faces at females the same way most people breathe.

   The worst you'll get out of Francona is rather dry mockery of a stupid question that deserves mockery, and then (usually) an attempt to answer what he thinks you were trying to ask. I've been spared of it largely because my questions to him are generally specific -- I let everyone else handle the stuff we all want to know anyway. The man is not worthy of being called a great interview, but he tries his best while still maintaining decorum -- perhaps slightly less open that I'd be, but I respect that he's smarter than I am about these things.

   Ozzie Guillen? Sweet Jesus on a cracker. I could almost see myself on a bad day going out of my way to do stupid, irresponsible things just so I could set him off. He might slug me and net me a multi-million dollar lawsuit!

   He's got a history with the same slur! How is that possible in 2006? Winning is one thing, but good Lord ... does he have to spike a reporter in the clubhouse? Punch a rookie pitcher in the nuts? Crotch chop a child sitting next to the dugout in opposing colors?

   Thank goodness this is baseball. Were it a sport that actually has it's stuff together, we might not get to actually find out.

   A sport like, say, MLS. Not international soccer, which I almost successfully made it through the whole update without mentioning.

   And thanks to Michael Owen's trick knee, I now have to suspend the fact I wrote off the U.S. team months ago because fourteen coins might flip the right way to get them into becoming ground beef for a Brazilian team that needs to kick the piss out of somebody in the Round of 16.

   I'm not going to say 'Go U.S.A.' I'd like to actually see them score a goal first.

   But trust me when I say I'll be praying I'm wrong.

June 20, 2006 - Paul McCartney is 64
   It's Why I Got The Card: Tonight, after the 99th game of my baseball writing career, I lost my scorecard.

   Most people who care about such things have a book they use to score all the games they cover. I, however, like the design of the sheets the Red Sox hand out -- the boxes are bigger, which allows me to score in my goofy little artistic way. I've taken to totaling up the lines while I'm waiting for the post-game press conferences, which is nominally a waste of time, but does give me a chance to pick up on any numbers from the game I might have missed.

   Anyway, after getting back upstairs tonight, I noted I had lost my scoresheet somewhere downstairs. Most people would have let this go, given deadline concerns. I, however, spent a couple minutes trying to find my scoresheet, leaving me disappointed while I wrote my mediocre story.

Slinging Shuffle For Sox
-- This isn't it. This is the notebook. The other story is missing.

   After I was done, I grabbed a blank scoresheet, planning to make a new one when I got home. That would have been odd enough. But then I walked over to the fifth-floor elevator bank, trying in vain to get the elevator I'd taken up to open so I could see if it was in there. Failing, I did my usual walk down the ramp, stopping at the interview room to see if I'd left in there.

   Then, despite the thousands of people who'd walked through it since I'd been there, I started up the concourse to see if I could find where I thought I'd dropped it.

   And sure enough, there it was, next to a trash can.

   It was only at that moment that I realized I'd spent 10 minutes looking for a sheet I really only want because I have all the others. Well, that and because I didn't start writing in the wrong inning all night.

   Nacho Libre: I hate to do this, though that's cushioned by most of the people who are very excited about it probably having already discovered this for themselves.

   The 52 of 100 seems a little high.

   In a way, I'm kind of relieved "mixed reviews" seem to be carrying the day, since I walked out of the theater wondering if I'd reached an age where I don't find stuff like that funny anymore. Turns out that wasn't the case -- most everyone thinks there was just something missing.

   Julie said something to the affect that it felt like half a movie, like it was trying to get somewhere it never really reached. I almost feel like that was generous, and doesn't bode well for any future enjoyment of "Napoleon Dynamite." There really aren't very many genuinely funny parts that outweigh the sort of winking clunkiness of the movie, especially if you're in a theater with like eight other people in it who aren't buying into the film at all.

   Apparently, SouthCoast isn't big on Monday night at the mall cinema.

   Another Embarassing Admission: Driving back from the Sox game tonight, I told Julie I'd call her back after listening to the final five minutes of the NBA Finals, sufficiently motivated by Mark Cuban and Simmons' latest gem.

   This comes a day after I'd skipped TiVoing a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, instead opting to TiVo wrestling.

   I'll be handing my jerseys over to the authorities later this afternoon.

   • And now, we clean out the backlog of non-trip things from the trip.

   -- Phil Mickelson. Seriously. What the fuck.

   Two of 14 fairways?! It almost makes me glad I saw all of five minutes of this year's U.S. Open, which is generally my favorite golf tournament of the year. I can't even fathom me being that stupid as to keep hitting driver when I've hit two of 13 fairways, never mind a man who's so much better at the sport than I am.

   I'm over it, at least until the British Open when it all comes up again.

   -- Theme birthday parties are fun, especially when they're built around NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Did I mention the birthday boy is 3, and calls the host "Jimmy Jimmy Bo Bo"?

"He adores NewsHour," said Mom. "We watch it every night, usually during our dinner, and we listen to the podcast in the morning in case he missed something the night before. He talks about every reporter who comes on." As a baby, he became fascinated by the show's sparkling trumpet theme and took to calling it the "da-da-da" show. Now he recognizes many Cabinet and Supreme Court members, and he adores the banter of Mark Shields and David Brooks.
-- Now I want to hear the trumpet theme song, a feeling
I did not have after answering a NewsHour question at some quiz tournament.

   -- The following Sox stories take up more time than I spent focusing on the Red Sox while on the west coast: A minor-league story focused entirely on politics, the realization no one wants to live with Yankee fans and the Braves learn the Sox travel.

"It sucks. It's very irritating. I've never experienced anything like that," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said. "I'm in my own place, and I hear all these 'Let's Go Red Sox' chants. It just kills you in the outfield when they're cheering against you in your own home park. The Red Sox are getting louder cheers than we are."
-- See, the Sox actually sell out their playoff games.

   -- Lastly, in so much as I tried to go on vacation at a time when the Sox were out of town, I missed two rather significant media business stories: Chris Snow, the Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe, taking a front office job with the Minnesota Wild, and our good pal Ed Berliner taking ... a vacation.

   Suffice to say, both are pretty surprising, but the latter hits a little closer. I actually found out through Ed himself, who sent a nice little note explaining the situation and more or less saying goodbye. Obviously, I had a blast every time I was on with Ed, and not simply because he figured this very Web site was pretty much an endless source of material.

   What this means for my budding Q-list television career is hard to say, though the rest of the show's staff is remaining the same to my knowledge. Thankfully, there's a Web site out there to track these sorts of things, who will keep you intimately updated on everything short of my bowel movements.

   All interspersed with the kind of things funny to someone who chuckled at seeing a copy of "Your Film Acting Career" among a homeless man's belongings on Lombard Street by Telegraph Hill.

June 12-19, 2006 - Mickelson Makes Me Angry
   OK, Just One Today: As the Spaniards were celebrating their third goal against the mighty Tunisians this afternoon, the feed panned to the crowd. Among the celebrants, one of the Spanish fans was waving a Confederate flag.

   Now, I don't know why. I don't care where he got it. But all I know is that is probably wasn't all that good.

   We're pacing it back in slowly, folks. It's been a good week.

   • Well, I'm back. Not exactly pleased about it, but really, that's generally the sign of some high-quality time off.

   San Francisco, as I had been warned, is wonderful. The weather was eerily incredible, to the point that the five minutes of rain experienced as Julie and I were boarding the ferry back from Alcatraz seemed more funny than anything else.

   Obviously, I'm going to save most of the stories for the vacation write-up, the completion of which I'll leave sufficiently vague enough as to leave the idea I might never write it. But it's safe to say that if you exclude riding a cable car and beating up a hippie, more or less everything you'd imagine a first-timer out there would do, we did.

   When you consider the family and friends who were out there to boot, it's safe to say this was the best vacation I ever went on that didn't involve me drinking a 48 oz. margarita out of a giant plastic glass before noon.

Flower Cards
-- Speaking of Julie, she made this at the wedding.
Only now do I realize I probably should have stopped her.

   But seriously, a double bogey on the 18th? That actually happened? And I missed it, only to find out about it on a ticker read on an airplane?

   And don't even get me started about the U.S. soccer team. I'd like to limit today's update to one eventual broken promise.

June 11, 2006 - Not Mighty
   The One Thing I Forgot: Which is not to be confused with learning that all of England (and Nick) thinking England was actually terrible against Paraguay, every time the Paraguayans team would get mentioned on TV, I couldn't help but think of Amber Dempsey.

Girl (about Amber Dempsey): Eyelash implants.
Lisa: I thought those were illegal.
Girl: Not in Paraguay.

   Speaking of England, Non-Soccer Edition: The back pages of the British tabloids have been largely disappointing, with most of the ethnic slurs looking to be held back until the later rounds, but the fronts have all been dominated by a fun story: Heather "McCartney-ex" Mills is a prostitute.

FRIENDS of Sir Paul McCartney last night said he was "deeply shocked" by claims estranged wife Heather was once a highly-paid hooker who bedded rich Arabs. One said: "He was absolutely stunned. But Heather has assured him that there is not a shred of truth in the allegations. He's heartbroken by what is being said about the mother of his daughter. He's shocked and hurt."

Heather, 38, had an emotional hour-long phone call with 63-year-old Macca yesterday. She emphatically denied reports she was once a prostitute who indulged in group and lesbian sex.

. . .

According to a Sunday newspaper, Heather pocketed £5,000 for a threesome with a prostitute and a Saudi prince when she was in her 20s. It alleges she was also paid £6,400 for five sex sessions with arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.

   Really, who hasn't? It's just being polite.

   • I'll be honest. I'm on vacation, and I have 17 things to do in the waning moments.

   So, this is it. Good for Mexico, the other team who had their lives ruined by the U.S. in 2002. Julie noted how funny it was to hear "Ole! Ole-Ole-Ole!" by the people who actually invented the song the rest of the world has ripped off.

   And Portugal? Rest assured no one will accuse The Standard-Times of underplaying it.

6/12 S-T Sports Cover
-- And this isn't even considering the "NOT AGAIN" head on Page 3
(though that page has nowhere near as high a number of snappy cliches)

   Enjoy your week. I know I will, since I keep getting told I look like I could use a vacation.

   Whatever that means.

June 10, 2006 - Mighty Angola?
   Programming Note: No, it isn't me writing Warning; Soccer Talk.

   I leave Monday afternoon for a week in Northern California, during which I'll probably twice see if McAfee Colisuem is as God-awful as colleagues keep telling me.

   That's not all that will happen, but who doesn't love the resurrection of the ballpark ranking list?

   Now I know I've said this before, but with the laptop in tow, my plan is to change how vacation write-ups are done. As in, they'll be done. But not until I get back.

   So basically, go away for a week. Or read the archives ... remind yourself how the hell you got here in the first place, and why it is you keep coming back.

   And watch more soccer.

First Start Not A Sign of Future
-- I'm going to refrain from discussing the nearly five-hour rain delay that submarined me covering my first-ever doubleheader. Rest assured, there's plenty of other writers who were there who'll bitch for all of us.

Future Looks Bright Down on the Farm
-- The soccer story from earlier in the week killed the Sunday column, since it ate up the time I planned to spend, you know, talking to actual people. I'll take the tradeoff.

   Just know that during the rain delay, I explained the concept of the "own goal" to Springfield Republican sportswriter Garry Brown, who I can legitimately say I've been reading since childhood. He appeared to really want to know, though the part about Colombia's Andres Escobar may have been overkill.

   And no, that wasn't a bad pun. At least not on purpose.

   • All I'll say today is sometime things do work out. Late getting out of the apartment Saturday morning so I could sit in Boston idle for an entire afternoon, I saw England's lone goal before missing nearly all the scorelessness that followed. I may like soccer, but sitting through 80-plus scoreless is something even I'm only wistful about.

   But in the interest of keeping interest, the rest of today's blathering -- which you'll all miss when I'm gone, damn it -- will be in pictures.

The Babe has relocated.
-- All I'm saying had the Red Sox not won the Series,
this would have been in the Boston Herald. Guaranteed.

Paraguay's Julio dos Santos, left, comforts Nelson Valdez after the group B match between England and Paraguay in the World Cup stadium Frankfurt, Germany, on Saturday England defeated Paraguay 1-0. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

She's telling you something.
-- Even after failing to score on a 10-men team from Trinidad and Tobago,
I'm going to guess that wee waist word is about something (and for someone) else.

A Swedish supporter waits for the start of the Sweden v Trinidad and Tobago soccer match at the World Cup stadium, Dortmund, Germany, on Saturday. The match ended 0-0. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

To your Photoshop!
-- Hey. All I'm saying is someone with worse Photoshop
skills than me could finish this one off.

England's team captain David Beckham cools hisself down during the group B match between England and Paraguay in the World Cup stadium Frankfurt, Germany, on Saturday. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

   Just one more day, then you're on your own. Hopefully I'm not killed in an anrgy Portuguese riot between now and then.

June 9, 2006 - Their Graphic's Too Big
   Good Thing They're Not Nefarious ...: In the pantheon of things that could be considered extremely scary in the wrong context, can you imagine a world with three times as many Dunkin' Donuts as there are today? I sure hope you can.

Dunkin' Donuts plans to rapidly expand to nearly 15,000 U.S. locations by 2020, up from about 5,000 today. Two-thirds of the new stores will resemble a prototype store the company opened in Pawtucket, R.I. last November.

The new face of EVIL!
-- Dear God, they'll be fit in places like weeds.

   And what, pray tell, new evil schemes will this scourge spread upon the world?

   "A new retro-looking truckers baseball hat."

   "A new paper lined coffee cup."

   "A fix-your-own coffee station where customers can add milk or sugar themselves."

   "New quartz table tops in front of ... new open-air deli-style cooler(s) filled with beverages."

   "A more open design to better showcase newer products -- such as breakfast pizza, ... gourmet cookies and brownies."

Blood Brownie
-- Funny ... it doesn't look like blood raining from the sky.

Dunkin' isn't just expanding its geography but also its menu offerings. In April, Dunkin' introduced a new smoothie yogurt drink, backed by heavy advertising. It is the biggest product launch since the chain added espresso drinks to its menu in 2003. Another product on the test list? Ice tea.
-- Revolutionary!

In its bid to go nationwide, Dunkin' faces fierce competition from java giant Starbucks, as well as McDonald's, which introduced gourmet coffee in its restaurants last year. Dunkin' is heavily concentrated in the Northeast. For example, there are 1,100 Dunkin' Donuts within a 50-mile radius of Boston, or one for every 5,600 residents in that region, the company claims.
-- Strangely, not excessive at all.

And while many Dunkin' Donut stores in New England have televisions turned on to CNN, the Pawtucket store doesn't have a TV, but has soft rock Muzak piped through with songs by the likes of Michael Jackson and U2.
-- OK. There's the evil.

   And for the record, as an extremely incidental DD customer, I can safely say I have never once had a "150-second" drive thru transaction at a Dunkin' Donuts during rush hour. That place has lines at 7 a.m. on a Sunday ... it's like they're giving out free crack and speedboats.

   Never Forget That People Are, Still, Dumb: Now I'll admit, Windows Live Local is pretty cool, especially if you live in an area where they've done "Bird's Eye View" photographs. Logically, I don't, but I do get to see one of the world's least threatening golf courses.

   That said, their latest advertising campaign seems a little weak.

Really? For FREE?!
-- I hope, in the spirit of things,
they didn't pay their ad wizard.

   Maybe I'm mistaken, and there's a large market of people who have only dreamed of the thousands they'd have to pay to sort of see what their roof looks like. I would have been much more excited by a "What the hell is THAT?!" campaign featuring aerial shots that look obscurely sexual, large crowds of people that stormed barren woodland towns to see crappy jam bands, or the face of Jesus in heaven knows what.

   Course, I also spent a portion of last week confusing people with the odd aerial view of Montreal's Olympic Stadium, so perhaps I'm not the demographic.

   Speaking of 'Not The Demographic': Were I ever to write a book about books I never thought I'd see:

Mario Tailgates NASCAR Style
-- This would be more than just the foreword.

With tailgate parties that sometimes last for days, NASCAR fans do their share of gathering around for simple, hearty meals cooked and served outdoors. Food Network star and restaurateur Batali is apparently fond of such rituals, and in this little cookbook he presents food for the races, with Southern-style grilled meats in the starring role.

Illustrated with photos of racegoers and drivers (and their arm candy), the book is peppered with racetrack analogies ("A minor variation can make all the difference in a race. The same can be said of salting a steak before grilling it"). More a celebration of the camaraderie at the track than a cookbook, this should be a hit with NASCAR fans.

-- "Or it could be a gigantic failure, because Batali is the first person ever trying to sell something to NASCAR people in chef's clogs. We don't know. Please just buy it."

   I can only hope one of the analogies goes something like, "Olive oil may not help stars like Jim Gordon or Jeffie Johnson run three-wide in the corner, but it can make guests run to your buffet table." Stuff like that makes for better racist message board banter, and increases the chance the ham-fisted friend of a true blue NASCAR fan wil buy them this book with all the best intentions.

   Hey, the universe is always trying to increase chaos. Far be it for me to stand in the way.

   • You have no idea how difficult it's going to be for me to leave for the Red Sox day-night doubleheader at the same time England is taking the field for their opening World Cup match. Especially since I'm not actually English, and couldn't name more than a half-dozen players on their current roster, but am infatuated with them every four years all the same.

   That's right, gang. Here comes the perfect compliment to yesterday's World Cup picks you didn't ask for. It's World Cup thoughts you didn't ask for!

   -- Were my picks "actually informed" instead of "slightly informed," I'd have noticed Ecuador was 7-0-2 in qualification games played in Quito (some 9,000 feet above sea level) and 1-6-2 in those not (with the win coming in Bolivia, which is about 7,000 feet above). Of course, Ecuador then beat Poland, affectionally knows as "The Team Next Door."

   Ignorance really is bliss.

   -- Hearing Tommy Smyth refer to a soccer net as "the old onion bag" is far and away my favorite announcer analogy in all of sports. The fact that he did it within 10 seconds of his first appearance on TV yesterday means he realizes this, though he may not be aware I've been slipping it into conversations it doesn't belong in since 1999, when I first heard the reference during Manchester United's absurd comeback in the Champions League final.

   I would exchange the opportunity to myself have a live microphone at my wedding only if, instead, Tommy Smyth had a live microphone at the wedding and gave updates from the floor every half-hour. If nothing else, DVD sales would be at least 10 times better, I can guarantee you that.

   -- Note that I frequently can't remember actual important life events within a week of their occurrence, but I just told you the exact moment I first heard Tommy Smyth refer to a soccer net as "the old onion bag" some seven years ago. Combine that with the fact I only remember when my high school graduation party was because the day began with me watching the U.S. lose to Iran, and understand why my finding love should be an inspiration to everyone in the world.

   And she's cute, too!

   -- While nearly everyone in the Boston media who doesn't like soccer was just starting a month of making fun of it, the highest-scoring opener in World Cup history was going on.

   I could sit here and talk about how exciting Germany's first and last goals were -- the 40-yard latter of which actually made me scream out in my empty apartment -- but I'd much rather just smile knowing they're idiots. Yeah, it sucks that there's really not much quality soccer on TV more than once every four years.

   But at least we always get to see the top quality stuff now.


   Again, don't try to understand it. Just accept it and move on.

June 8, 2006 - In The Nick
   A Site With Potential: It's TwinsBallpark2010.com, which probably won't be exciting every day until the next Winter Olympics, but has already shown that almost no current ballpark fits on the site the team currently has for their new home.

   That's a good sign, as is building in the general vicinty of a garbage burner. I'd make fun of New Jersey, but given what's been said about them and Maine in the past few days, I'm feeling a little bit guilty.

Fans' Allegiances Divided
-- This was supposed to be on the front page until al-Zarqawi died. All the better, since I don't think it was what they were looking for anyway.

   I feel a little guilty that Frank Dell'Apa of the Globe wrote the story they really wanted, but I kinda like mine too. Even if did kind of shoehorn it in to a day between a haircut and eating a whole pizza.

   • That said, let's talk soccer!

It's the beautiful game!
-- It's The Beautiful Game!
(And yes, I am resisting the urge to post half-naked Brazil fans instead.)

A person walks by caricatures of some of Brazil's soccer stars, from left, Ronaldinho, Ze Roberto and Ronaldo, in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Patricia Santos)

Compromise is beauitful!
-- There. A beautiful compromise!

   No need to muss around, as we discussed this yesterday. Use at your own discretion.

1. Germany
2. Costa Rica

3. Ecuador
4. Poland
1. Sweden
2. England

3. Paraguay
4. Trinidad & Tobago
1. Netherlands
2. Argentina

3. Serbia/Montenegro
4. Ivory Coast
1. Mexico
2. Portugal

3. Iran
4. Angola
1. Italy
2. Czech Republic

3. United States
4. Ghana
1. Brazil
2. Croatia

3. Japan
4. Australia
1. France
2. Switzerland

3. South Korea
4. Togo
1. Spain
2. Tunisia

3. Ukraine
4. Saudi Arabia

   Not exactly full of upsets, but what can you do. Trust the French, Cisse or no Cisse, that's what. And hope I'm wrong about the U.S. ... again.


June 7, 2006 - Because I Care About You
   Sidewalk Your Enthusiasm: Coming tomorrow on the eve of the World Cup, it'll be my unpatented, slightly informed first-round picks! Four years ago, this worked relatively well in the sense that I didn't make a fool of myself, yet also didn't make anyone a million dollars.

   Plus, it's always nice to talk about "Group H," because it makes World Cup haters roll their eyes at the thought there are designations that go all the way to 'H' in the alphabet.

Advancing teams correctly chosen: 10 of 16
First-place picks who actually won their groups: 3 of 8
Last-place picks who actually finished last: 5 of 8
First-place picks who actually finished last: Thanks, France!

   Ironically enough, Groups G and H were actually where I showed the most expertise. You can take that for what you will.

1. Italy
2. Mexico

3. Ecuador
4. Croatia
1. Mexico
2. Italy

3. Croatia
4. Ecuador
1. Belgium
2. Japan

3. Russia
4. Tunisia
1. Japan
2. Belgium

3. Russia
4. Tunisia

   On the plus side, this means Friday's post will be up before the crack of noon, since that's when the free-for-all begins. And really, that day's second match is a good barometer for how you really feel about the World Cup.

   If you can get excited for Poland-Ecuador, you're a better man than me.

   Also Four Years Ago: There was the brush with fame when Meg and I watched Amy Mickelson walk by us at the GHO in some odd white dress; the fake quote "And me, I'm Edd Hall. Check that out, double d's! America, suuuuck iiittt!;" the Weinermobile getting stopped near the Pentagon, the move of this site to joncouture.com and something about Lizzie Borden being a lesbian.

   Plus something about dogs licking the feet of drunk people and slightly arousing them.

   And there's doubt about why I keep doing this.

   • Given I have a record of mocking Mainers regarding their high school prom -- who could forget Nina Sysko dropping by on May 26 two years ago, defending her Starburst wrapper prom dress -- I'm a little hesitant to link to this for fear of getting typecast.

   But sometimes, strangeness just wins out.

ROCKLAND (June 6): Rockland District High School seniors Caitlin Hynes and Gretchen Appleby certainly have their priorities straight. That is why they skipped a once-in-a-lifetime school event in an attempt to attend their first Boston Red Sox game.

After all, it is baseball season, the two teenagers reasoned, and what better way to spend a spring night or afternoon than at a game?

   Not all that odd. Some people don't like the prom. I'll go with it.

Hynes and Appleby opted to skip their senior prom May 13 to try to attend their first pro baseball game at Fenway Park, a game between their beloved Sox and the Texas Rangers.

The first problem that cropped up was that they could not get tickets to the May 13 game, but did secure tickets for the May 14 game against the Rangers. But the game was postponed due to rain.

So the two teenagers not only missed their senior prom, but also the game.

   We're still OK. I wouldn't call it a sad story, per se, but it definitely falls under the category of "Ah, damn it." Even if the weather was so bad on May 13-14, anyone who drove to Boston thinking there was going to be a baseball game really was lying to themselves.

When the two decided they would forego the formal dance to attend the Sox game, the wheels were put in motion. Becky Butler, the mother of one of the girls' friends, e-mailed New England Sports Network, which broadcasts Sox games, to let broadcasters Jerry Remy and Don Orsillo know that the two teenagers would be at the May 14 game in their prom dresses.

Appleby's boyfriend, John Bonney, a RDHS graduate, found the tickets -- which cost $150 apiece -- online. Hynes said prom dresses can cost $200 and, when dinner, dance tickets and the usual limousine ride is included, the cost of attending a prom can skyrocket, which makes the Sox tickets and trip to Boston seem financially worthwhile.

   OK, now someone has to help me.

   If you have a boyfriend, you have a prom date. If your boyfriend refuses to go to your high school prom with you, or won't get the night off work or something, then he's not your boyfriend. Pretty sure that falls under the rules we all agreed to.

   While I can't be 100 percent sure, I'm reasonably certain prom dresses can be gotten for less than $200. I went to a prom, and odds are pretty good every girl in that place did not pay $200 for their dress. Having seen my date's dress, I can say that if she paid $200 for it, cheating on me and dumping me two days before Christmas might have been the best present she ever could have given me.

   Sadly, said prom photo is both not scanned in this computer and two hours away. And that's sad, since I totally would have Photoshopped someone else head on her body as a means of hiding her identity.

   Dreams die hard sometimes.

   So ignore the fact you overpaid for Red Sox tickets, then lied to yourself about a prom dress to feel better about it. If the tickets were bought online "a week before the game," and they weren't for the night of your prom, you then spent prom night sitting at home doing nothing anyway!

   And then your hometown paper -- as with all hometown papers -- hurting for news, you get a story about it!

"We had already not gone through with prom plans," Hynes said of why they could not go to the prom when they could not find tickets for May 13.

The dress Appleby was to wear to the dance was the one she wore for the junior prom last year. "We didn't make any appointments for our hair or anything because we were going to the game," Appleby said of why the two girls could not shift gears and attend the dance as well.

Hynes said the two decided to skip the prom because there is so much work and stress involved in the event.

   Yes, because this sounds so much less stressful. What with the $300 tickets and the three-hour drives for games that didn't happen and the sign-making and the calling NESN and the rainproofing signs and the "handsome male escorts" going with you because your parents don't want you roaming Boston alone in your prom dress, which isn't really a prom dress since those are way too expensive.

   And the best part? These are smart people!

Hynes, the valedictorian of her class, plays field hockey, basketball and softball. Appleby cheers and plays softball. Hynes will play basketball and study premed at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, while Appleby plans to attend the University of Southern Maine to study athletic training and possibly join the Husky cheering squad.

   The whole thing makes my head hurt. Is the prom really that big of a deal? Honestly, I went and I worry about everything three times more than a normal human should. Am I forgetting something? Did I get drugged in the middle?

   And yes, thanks in advance for pointing out I'm not a girl. What, parents can't do hair anymore? A limousine is required to enter the parking lot outside the building? Sweet Jesus, I hate to say it, but it's Maine. Like, sort of way up Maine. I don't think Star Magazine is going to be doing a photo shoot.

   All I know is this link alone makes having that Boston "Red Sox" Google Alert set up worth my while.

June 6, 2006 - How'd That Apocalypse Go?
   The Travails of Journalism: I really wanted to write this story -- two Wareham Gatemen being early draft picks of the Red Sox yesterday. I'd actually started digging up research on it, planning my attack, and then got the call from work that our Gatemen writer was taking care of it.

   I'm not sure why I'm telling this story. Maybe because I'm so used to not wanting to write on Tuesdays, it was cute to know sometimes things worth writing about do actually happen.

   Also, that was unexpected. Course, when you throw Josh Beckett and David Pauley on two consecutive days, one will give up eight runs in getting four outs and the other will give up two in seven innings. Except ...

   Pagin Gary Numan: So Pixar's Cars is coming out Friday, which is strange because I'm pretty sure I've been seeing previews for it since the dawm of time. At least.

   Has there ever been a film that's been milked this hard before it's even come out? Of course. It's just people were talking about this movie FIVE YEARS AGO. Hell, it was ready to be released last November. And now last night, after I've already spent an afternoon in Target and been run over with every cross-promotional idea possible, I see Larry The Cable Guy on The Tonight Show ... in a 'Cars' camo hat.

   Which Reminds Me ...: Tuesday's 6/6/2006 Tonight Show lineup: The Blue Collar Comedy guys, Tim Russert and music by David Lee Roth. Not the worst ever, not the best ever, just ... I don't know what exactly you would call it.

   There's just something not right about it, which is good, because I'm still not really settled with Stuttering John Melendez making the logical jump from "The Howard Stern Show" to "The Tonight Show." I mean, I'm not the only one who finds that completely illogical, yes?

   Course, last night's roughly 10-minute stint was the longest I've watched The Tonight Show since I attended a taping on New Year's Day 200-whatever it was. So maybe, it really doesn't matter.

   After all, it's not like he's hiding the past.

   • Thoughts from an evening staring at things in the Target electronics section while Julie ... we're going on a trip, and she thinks she needs clothes. You do the math.

   -- They made a straight-to-video Dr. Doolittle 3, written around the daughter of Eddie Murphy's "classic character." The plot? "Lisa Dolittle sends her daughter to 'Durango', a Dude Ranch, to find herself. While there, she uses her talent to talk to the animals in order to save Durango from being taken over by a neighboring Ranch."

   Gary Busey is involved, and Eddie Murphy isn't. Something about that, isn't there?

   -- Seeing it on the DVD rack made me realize, perhaps for the first time, that they really did make Doom into a movie starring The Rock. Like, seriously.

   Given that's a whole genre of films that I don't understand or enjoy, I will leave the review to some IMDb reviewer:

Visuals: 7
Sound: 9
Gore To Idiocy Factory: 3
Cliché Catch Phrases: 5
Overall Score: 6

   I think I'd like to see every major Hollywood film rated with a "Gore to Idiocy Factor." For example, Cars? Probably way more one than the other.

   -- They're selling a Poison 20-year retrospective. The cover is a woman's legs, upside down.

   Do you think Bret Michaels ever has to stop himself and resell his brain on the idea that his whole life hasn't been absurdity built upon absurdity?

   And on the way out the door, the clerk who checked Julie out not only apparently didn't care to keep any cleavage to herself, but had the most gruesome colored bite mark on her arm that I've ever seen. Clear shape, but this mix of purple, blue and yellow that made vomit look attractive. Was it from a child? A baby daddy?

   The world may never know.

June 5, 2006 - That Cartoon Girl
   Behind The Music: So whatever happened to "Forces of Nature," the band whose song "Caught in the Sun" was used as the theme to ESPN's coverage of the 2002 World Cup?

   Apparently, nothing. This isn't them. Given there was apparently once an earthquake during a World Cup final, this search isn't even fruitful.

   Course, the 2006 World Cup is using U2 to motivate the masses. Which is nice, especially since one of the commercials is all about Scotland -- who didn't qualify for the World Cup, but will apparently go cheer for their absent team anyway.

   Oh, drunks.

   Hurricanes 5, Oilers 4: So, to recap, Edmonton blew a 3-0 lead and their goalie blew out his knee, ending his series.

   In short, perhaps the NHL would like to kick my dog while they're here.

   • Tonight, on the season finale of Deal or No Deal, a Celine Dion superfan had a shot at $5 million. This, logically, sparked both the superfan to sing into her pen, then Celine Dion to show up via satellite and get all cheerleader.

   I don't think I've ever wished for someone's failure so hard since the guy at Foxwoods in the Johnny Damon traitor gear.

   My mother tonight, bless her heart, encouraged Josh Beckett to hit Damon in the lip with a pitch. There was a moment when I thought about explaining why you don't do that, but even if I'd wanted to, he'd already gotten New York's 17th hit of the inning.

   Now, for the record, might be a perfect time to panic.

June 4, 2006 - Four More Years?
   Sundays With That Harvard Dink: Due to the seriousness of the ... I don't want to say 'charge,' so let's go with 'talking point,' I'd like to discuss Sly's comment from here.

   If you look at my Sunday column entry on the anniversary of Ten Cent Beer Night, it's pretty clear to see this Wikipedia entry was the main research. There were other pages and references made, such as the Baseball Library write-up, but that was more to verify Wikipedia than it was to add to my note.

   This leads to Sly's point: "Casual fact-lifting gets people fired in this day and age." A valid one, since I eschew spelling out Wikipedia by using, as he cites, things like "according to reports" and "as legend goes." Is this perfect? No. But do I feel guilty about it? Not particularly.

   In a perfect world, I probably should have cited Wikipedia directly. But, well, I didn't. I made it clear that I was citing something, both by using a quote and peppering the thing with the "reports" note -- not very detailed, but not false either.

   Ideally, I would do more, but I'd be lying if I said I'd have given it a moment's thought had the comment not been made.

   Given my previous irrational rage at the plagiarism issue and my hopes of personal ruin for Little Miss I Wrote Most of a Book, it would be a copout to have just left the points made alone. So, I'm curious as to what everyone else thinks.

   Also, I'm curious as to who has time to think of things like National Emo Kid Beatdown Day. I mean, Slayer has an excuse -- caution, Slayer plays on that link -- given it's their job at all.

   And yes, that conversation did take a real quick turn, didn't it?

Taking that participation (in National Day of Slayer) to a problematic level
-- Stage a "Slay-out." Don't go to work. Listen to Slayer.
-- Have a huge block party that clogs up a street in your neighborhood. Blast Slayer albums all evening. Get police cruisers and helicopters on the scene. Finish with a full-scale riot.
-- Spray paint Slayer logos on churches, synagogues, or cemeteries.
-- Play Slayer covers with your own band (since 99% of your riffs are stolen from Slayer anyway).
-- Kill the neighbor's dog and blame it on Slayer.

-- My gut feeling? These are going to come back as problematic.

   • Sunday was, in all its splendor, my four-year anniversary at The Standard-Times. It did not go unnoticed, as mentioning it landed me some blueberry bread in the sense one of our editors congratulated me, then brought out a contained of blueberry bread for everyone to eat in my honor.

   Cake would have been too heavy, anyway, so it worked out.

   In re-reading my post from 06/04/2002, I can only smile at the opener -- the sewage truck I saw on the way to New Bedford for work that I still think of every time I drive through the intersection where I was stopped behind it.

"We're #1... in the No. 2 business."

   In some small way, I could use that a symbol, but I won't. Not too easy, but too predictable. I'll instead note my belief that "This thing will cost me a job at some point, I can almost guarantee that," which I suppose could have come true had the wrong people taken the wrong things the wrong way, but really, when I fell down in front of that car in a wet supermarket parking lot as a kid, the driver also could have not stopped and I could have been killed. Life's full of coulds.

   Fortunately, it has not been full of this Web site making people never talk to me again, which has happened exactly once that I know of. Though I was apparently bummed out about it that day, given it was still fresh and all, I have a hard time regretting true stories getting people all bent out of shape. According to this, she went into TV, which could lead me into a whole other diatribe, but instead I'll leave it at I hope she's doing well.

   What makes this even more fun is that in seraching for her, I've learned we have a reporter who's an alum of BU's Washington program ... had no idea. The Washington program was one of those things COM wanted everyone to do, both because it was incredible jounalistic training and made the school look super, super awesome. I'd have done it, except to say I had absolutely no interest in busting my ass for a semester doing political reporting would be the understatement of a lifetime. I'd rather have gone behind the counter at Taco Bell and watched how my food was made.

   The day was apparently uneventful, though it wasn't until months later I learned it was eventful for what didn't happen -- no one gave me my benefits paperwork, so those couple months when I was jumping off parking garages and surfing on cars believing I had health insurance could have ended real poorly for a lot of people, most certainly me.

"I'm living out of a duffel bag in a Days Inn by the highway. Cut me a little slack."
-- Reacting to a backhanded comment made about my wardrobe.
This is especially funny since it's now a rite of the season to see the Dow Jones interns come in the first day, in shirt and tie, before they realize we don't dress like that at night.

   The major piece of the writeup, though, was a comparison with the only real journalism job I knew -- my copy editing stint in Nashua, which I now see is winning design awards left and right since they redid their whole layout right after we did -- I can't stress enough how ugly The S-T was before I got there, so I won't even try. That day, I called them a tie. Today?

   Not a tie.

   Which is also what happened in the U.S.-Portugal soccer game that came a few days hence and made me as fulfilled as I've ever been waking up at 4:55 a.m. Somehow, I don't feel like U.S.-Czech Republic is going to work on the same level.

June 3, 2006 - Stoneham: Slow Gas, Bionic Toilets
   No Further Need To "Mock Jersey": Nick took care of it. As long as it is, I can't imagine he missed a thing.

   And he even discusses Albany!

Bandwagon Fans Becoming A Touchy Subject
-- A vivisection of a fellow writer, a review of a book, a sort-of mistatement about Freddy Sanchez and a celebration of my own big day. Plus, ten cent beer!

   • There's a note on one of my many sketch pads, presumably about something I wanted to write about. All it says, in quotes, is "She looks so incredibly normal."

   Your guess is as good as mine, and probably far more entertaining.

   In a completely unrelated statement, I wouldn't have thought I could drive 100-plus miles due north and still be in the Bay State, but therein lies the beauty of living almost as far south as one can in Massachusetts. You can drive as far as Nashua, keep driving, and still not end up somewhere where they know that this logo has nothing to do with the Nittany Lions.

   Nor would I expect anyone too. I just continue to be surprised that the first person of many to make that incorrect identification would be a poker dealer at the Flamingo in Las Vegas.

   For the record, one of Julie's cousins graduated from high school, and I got to the party well past the point where everyone's mothers had started drinking wine. As a result, while I would have felt welcome anyway, I felt welcome in an "everyone is kissing me and telling me to eat lots of food and drink lots of beer" way.

   Which, by the way, is real pleasant on plenty of levels. The only time it got odd was when the graduate had a legitimate fight with her older sister because, apparently, said older sister tried to put wrapping paper down the back of graduate's pants while boyfriends were present. Apparently, that's embarassing.

   I once accidentally slammed Matt's head into the arm of the couch and he took it better. Lucky for me, I suppose.

   Really, it was exactly like going to a party with my own family, but I didn't feel as guilty about not knowing everybody's name.

June 2, 2006 - Yeah, We Could Milk This Again
   On Wedding Invitations: As some of you know, since reading this means there's a better than 50 percent chance you're going as well, I'm attending a wedding in the coming weeks. Despite there being nothing to eat in my refridgerator that my mother didn't put there out of fears I'd starve, I've found myself looking at the invitation for said wedding more as the date draws closer.

   And to be honest, I'm not feeling it.

   It is the generic wedding invitation, which is to say there's some nice script font, the dates all written out in words and a description of what will happen despite most of the free world understanding just what goes on at a wedding. I'm certainly not critiquing the invite, since it's one of those things whose style predates everybody, and the groom both makes at least twice my salary (thus the classy invite) and probably had little to do with it.

   I just feel like when the time comes, I'm going to want to go in another direction.

   This is a little different than my earlier wedding request: that I be given an open mic for the entire reception, which on top of the Cooch family-mandated open bar, probably won't happen for the good of society and whomever owns the reception site.I just feel like, given my reputation for my random non-birthday cards for people's birthdays, I can cobble together an invite that gets the point across while not actually looking like a generic wedding invite.

   It would have a picture, presumably of myself and betrothed, possibly with comic voice balloons off the side for bad joked. Maybe the sort of fill-in-the-blank lines pioneered on birthday party invites for eight year olds, maybe not. Maybe nothing more than, "It's a wedding. You know what to do." Maybe something entirely different.

   If nothing else, I'm apparently attending something like 47 weddings in the next 12 months (or so I keep being told). Much study will be made, with findings (as they come about) posted here with everything else.

   Course, the above conversation implies a lot of things that probably should never be implied. After all, they've apparently made a mediocre movie modeled after what's likely the road map of the next four months of my life.

Gary (Vince Vaughn) and Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) first meet at a Cubs game, where he bullishly sweet-talks her away from her date, a cipher in plaid shorts and a visor. Then, after a montage of snuggly still photographs -- the only images in "The Break-Up" that demonstrate anything like chemistry between its two stars -- they stumble into a fight that detonates their two-year-old relationship. Unmarried cohabitants and joint owners of a yuppie-elegant Chicago condo, Brooke and Gary engage in a desultory modern version of the high-spirited sexual combat that fueled the classic comedies of remarriage of the 1930's and 40's. But the stakes are low, the script (by Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender) strains hard after a few easy jokes, and the whole movie feels dull and trivial.
-- Ouch. Close to home.

   It's good to know that the New York Times, when they're not busy ruining everyone's quasi-legal fun, is secretly critiquing my five years of half-assed work.

   • As promised, and since Nick still hasn't posted his screed, more on the New Jersey Pearl Jam Experience.

   -- At the Devils' banners end of Continental Airlines Arena, above the scoreboard and right where the stage lights would focus when they pan out over a concert crowd, there is a banner.



   After the band reunited, Springsteen (who, contrary to Satan's dreams, did not have Bon Jovi serve as opener) sold out a 20,000-seat arena 15 times in a row in July. During the run, the one millionth person to see Springsteen in that arena alone went through the doors.

   This is not marveling that there's a banner up to commemorate this. It's the complete opposite ... even in New Jersey, I can't fathom this actually happened. This is more absurd than the Red Sox selling out 250 games in a row, because that's the Red Sox and it's not even unprecedented -- Cleveland has the record at 455.

   Is there any other band in the world, anywhere else in the world, who could sell out something that size 15 times in a row? And consider the people, because it's more than a couple, who went to all 15 shows at, what, $70 a pop?

   He shouldn't just have a banner. They should have painted it on the ceiling, readable by every plane flying in to Newark.

   -- We passed this near the end of the drive down -- something so ugly from the exterior, I not only didn't mention it to Nick when I saw it, I swore I would look it up when I got home.

   The fact that it's a banquet hall, and the Web site features the words "Sheer Elegance" in prominent letters, says more about New Jersey than I would even dare to try to formulate.

   -- As we were going to the show, Nick's fiancee Rachel was beginning a cross-country drive with her family. She texted him not long before we passed that Fiesta thing, also while in New Jersey, saying she had seen "five mullets in three minutes."

   -- We were driving by a school field some kids looked to be organizing a pickup baseball game on, with some girls among the likely players. This spun off a conversation Nick and I had been having about how every time I go to a new place, I wonder what it would have been like had I grown up there, and how I would hate all the things I was driving by because I'd have done them three million times.

   Seeing the girls, I could only remark, "Wow, real Jersey girls. I'm disappointed ... they don't have the pony tails springing up directly out of the top of their heads."

   -- That, if you've stopped reading, is three New Jersey jokes in a row. A lot, even for me. Being well aware that Julie's roommate Megan is not only a Jersey girl, but a proud Jersey girl, I can almost hear her all those miles away in Western Mass., sharpening the knife she will plunge into my trachea the next time we see each other.

   New Jersey seems to be one of those places, maybe because everyone's always making fun of it, residents are always making vehement defenses on. I get that a lot regarding Western Mass. as well, but really, most of my defenses usually peter out and end with, "Look, I left. There really is nothing to do after a while, and I'm sure some parts don't have plumbing yet. What else do you want me to say?"

   Absoutely nothing to do with the concert, any of it.

   -- Because Nick and I didn't actually plan to have tailgating time outside the arena, since we'd assumed we'd get lost, we were reduced to eating peanut butter cookies Rachel had made, drinking either the Coke Zero (me) or Gatorade (him) we'd brought, and watching other people tailgate. I couldn't get over how old portions of the crowd looked, especially the downright elderly couple who were sitting in the back of a pickup truck listening to something I couldn't discern.

   As I'm me, I'm constantly of the feeling old people don't get to go to concerts. After all, they're old, and should be at home shaking their fists at teenagers on their way to concerts. But really, it's not hard to figure -- if you were 20 when 'Ten' came out in 1991, you're now 35. If you were 25, now you're 40. Beyond that, do the math. Hell, Eddie Vedder himself will be 42 in December -- an absurd thought that would make me sad if I cared enough.

   Seeing all those flappy arms and hearing people talk about work in the morning got me to thinking about what bands I would be paying to see with the kids when I'm 40. Who in my interests will still be touring in 2020? And who will actually draw me to reach into my withered wallet and out to whatever shitty car I got a good deal on?

   Honestly, I can't think of one band. Not a single one.

   I've never been huge into music, as evidenced by the fact my first show came in 1998 and I still probably haven't been to double-digits. It was, as were my second and third shows, the Barenaked Ladies -- first Hartford, then Worcester, then the second row in Amherst. They're really the only group I can fathom I'd be paying to see when I'm 40, but I don't feel like they'll hold it together that long. Smart guys, guys who aren't going to blow all their money on drugs. They won't still be doing tours. Who's that leave? Oasis? I wouldn't pay to see Oasis today, never mind when I'm bald, have high cholesterol and can't wear pants whose waist size doesn't start with a "4".

   Depressing. But not as depressing as ...

   -- The guy, mentioned yesterday, who rolled into the parking lot after work in his shirt and tie. He proceeded to change right next to us, stripping down to boxers and replacing with jeans, a gray T-shirt and a Yankees hat. After a short conversation with his friend a couple spots over, he kneeled down by his car, looking like he was going to service the imaginary person in the driver's seat and whizzed for like a minute and a half.

   The empty port-a-john, of course, was maybe a one-minute walk away ... I can't fault the guy. But the fact I was staring at him, wondering what was going on, and then noted the streak as it started between his legs.

   Nick made a nice face, if nothing else. And it became the first notation he made on his pad, so for once, I'm not the only one quoting me.

June 1, 2006 - It Works
   Ex-Whalers 4, Cooch's Fellow Alumni 2: Despite a goal from Doug Janik, who I played Little League with and graduated alongside in 1998, Buffalo fans are once again left ...

Fat, stupid and losers
-- apparently posed in front of an
elementary school photo day backdrop.

Sabres fan Tony Trunzo, 25, of North Tonawanda, objects to a call during Game 4 of the second-round series against Ottawa. (Will Yurman/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)

   To be honest, a couple days ago I started to wonder if Janik was even still in the league ... I hadn't actually seen him play much since he was ripping my guts out playing for Maine against BU. As the story goes, Jack Parker only offered him a seven-semester scholarship, which he turned down when the Black Bears gave a full ride.

   I owe him and the whole city of Buffalo an apology, since I'd decided they'd appreciate the Cup more than Carolina and thus hitched my wagon to their team. That's always proven a bigger kiss of death than even being from Buffalo, where depsite Sly's objections, a hockey title would have been the best thing to happen since William McKinley was shot.

   Or, as Stephen Colbert called him, "America's least loved assassinated president."

   Today's Conspiracy Theory I Just Learned About: Jim Morrison faked his own death. After watching the Loose Change 9/11 conspiracy video, I've got to admit I'm disappointed there's not more.

   I mean, I've seen the mother of conspiracy theories. Given me more than, "Well, even if he did, he's probably dead now anyway."

   • To put it bluntly, I now understand. After years of not really getting the whole Pearl Jam thing, and then taking a ride to New Jersey despite that, I now understand what all the fuss was about.

   I'm hesitant to write a whole lot about what went on, since super fan Nick will have something far more substantive here from the four shows he's seen in a month very soon. Also because, when I was looking around and seeing an entire arena absolutely transfixed by what was on stage, I knew that even recognizing most of their set list, I was there just to watch. It was a nice feeling, as was being in the last row of a lower-bowl section with no one to my left for most of the show. I could kinda take the whole arena in, and I did.

   It wasn't upon arrival at Continental Airlines Arena, but upon going inside and marveling at how small it seemed that I remembered what had happened there 10 years prior.

The 1996 Final Four
-- The 1996 Final Four: Kentucky 81, UMass 74

   Of course, thanks to Marcus Camby, in the NCAA record books that game never happened and my memories of it are all dirty and false. Though really, given the game would have actually never happened without Marcus Camby, I'm willing to give the man a pass.

   I've been known to exaggerate stories over the years, but I can genuinely say that that game, on that March night 10 years ago, was the ultimate game of my lifetime. I can not think of one athletic contest up to that point, that I was only a spectator for, that mattered more. You could argue the Sox in the '86 World Series, but I really have no recollection of the '86 World Series.

   I was actually discussing with Nick on the way down that I think I'm such a huge baseball fan because the first baseball season I really remember start to finish was 1988 -- Morgan Magic helped the Sox win the East, Tom Browning threw a perfect game, Orel Hershiser set his absurd record of 59 consecutive scoreless innings and Kirk Gibson helps the Dodgers become the worst team to win a World Series in God knows how long.

   But those 1995-96 Minutemen ... I was 11 when their run really began with a 30-win season in 1991-92, and I rode it. They were my team, especially since the Sox in that period were awful. That Final Four, there was a genuine feeling they would win it all. And then, they just didn't, and the whole thing fell apart.

   Whatever. I honestly didn't give it that much thought tonight, but there it is. A decade later, and I still can't let go.

   There was a moment tonight when Eddie Vedder climbed on one of the speaker stacks on our side of the stage -- we were behind and to the right, absurdly good seats given the amount of planning that went into this trip -- and just had his arms outstretched singing. Past him, from our vantage, was just people with their arms up in the air, absolutely in rapture by the whole thing. For a moment, I was disappointed that I had forgotten my camera. But really, I'm not, because a picture could only have come close.

   I got into all this with the Green Day show last year, where we were on the floor, but the whole reason arena rock works is emotion. Yeah, you lose a sense of intimacy in the large setting, but if it's done right, you gain most of it back in a sheer sea of overwhelm. For Green Day, the people were crazier because they are genuinely crazier.

   For Pearl Jam, which kinda lost everybody in the '90s when they made all those albums the general public kinda let slide, the people are crazier ... about Pearl Jam. Even if it means a lot of them lose the ability to dress, producing far more 'that guy's than you'd figure for a crowd so in tune with the music, the rapture when the band is on stage doing songs is something to behold.

   I need to sleep now, so we'll talk more about the girl with the humongous sunglasses, short-shorts and brown cowboy boots later. Especially since I kept finding her again in a crowd of 20,000+.

   But don't for a second think I'll forget the guy who parked as a businessman and left as another guy on his knees, pissing under his car.

2006: [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]