October 31, 2004 - Disguised As A Gentleman
   In Other News: Apparently as a nation, we're electing a President this week. I hadn't noticed, given I both don't live in a swing state and have been busy covering a story more New Englanders may actually care about.

   Think about that for a minute, and slowly realize it's not an exaggeration at all.

   On that note, the debate over whether I actually should vote is wide open -- this wouldn't be an issue if I'd ever re-registered in Whale City, but you fill in the blanks based on this discussion.

   My ballot on Tuesday, outside of a four-candidate Presidential race, features the following:

U.S. House of Representatives -- Neal unopposed
Mass. Governor's Council -- Vickery (D) vs. Wilson (I)
Mass. Senate -- Buoniconti (D) vs. Chaput (R)
Mass. House of Representatives -- Keenan (D) vs. Porth (R)
Hampden County Sheriff -- Ashe unopposed
Non-Binding Referendum -- Divorce and Child Custody

   It's hardly stirring the fires for a 240-mile drive, though as amazing as it seems, I actually know more about these candidates than I do about the ones who actually govern me on a daily basis -- Neal is sort-of a friend of my father, Chaput got the coveted endorsement of Charlie a month ago, and I haven't been a fan of Keenan since he took the post out of Agawam in '94.

   All I'm saying is if I drive 240 miles to vote, and I undoubtedly will, you damned well better get off your ass too. Especially considering I'm sitting in my apartment, yet can see my potential polling place a 30-second walk away.

   I'd say something about Mom not raising a smart boy, but the driving factor in my belief I will vote is I've given my mother crap for going on two decades about ... not voting.

   • On the first Sunday I've had off to watch football in longer than I can remember, it's only fitting the Patriots lose and Giants win. The bold "New York over New England" statement of a year ago is paying off big time, and not just because there's always the chance my blue "ny" hat could be mistaken for a statement of Yankee support and get me laughed at in a bar.

   I'd like to thank FOX, who for the first and probably only time in history, swithced away from a "decided" game to show me something "more exciting." Beacuse really, I didn't want to see the Giants win, I was much happier with the scintillating Cowboys-Lions game.

   It allowed me to switch away to something far more exciting than both games ... the end of Coneheads.

   Yet as with most Sundays, a real scattershod day. In no particular order:

   • The New England Revolution, who annually lose tremendous amount of games in a row, have inexplicably made the Eastern Conference Finals for the third straight year. How this keeps happening, no one knows.

   • Today's inaugural PBA Tour event of the year featured a bowler from Agawam, however I was unaware the man existed before seeing him today and he bowled a 153 in his only TV match.

   I'm also from Agawam, and have been known to bowl the occasional 153. Can I be on TV now?

   • The aforementioned Charlie had one of his Red Sox Parade photos featured in this photo collection, however I remain confident he had no idea who he was looking at for most of the afternoon.

   Fox example, I would have loved to watch him look at the Mike Myers / Curtis Leskanic / Ramiro Mendoza / Terry Adams / Lenny DiNardo boat, which is about as close to a tanglible example of "going to the bathroom" as a person can get.

   And also, just because I give noted non-athlete Luis Sojo crap for having five World Series rings, Mendoza now has four. Carl Yastremski and Ted Williams? Still none.

   And because some people like their Cooch without a hint of sport, allow me to announce I have the best coworkers in the world. Not only did I feel the need to set up an emergency boyfriend contingency plan, I put a dollar in the jukebox and chose the following three songs.

Alicia Keys, 'Falling'
Phil Collins, 'Sussudio' (Live)
Jennifer Love Hewitt, 'How Do I Deal'

   The bar closed right after this ... is it because it was 2 a.m., or was it because "how am I supposed to dream, with all the static in my head"?

   Doesn't matter. Best non-costumed Halloween ever.

October 30, 2004 - Welcome Back
   Cooch And The Commissioner's Trophy: History has shown no one looks at this site on weekends, so when I say people have wondered how exactly I got a picture of myself with the World Series trophy, it's purely hopeful dreaming.

Orlando Cabrera and Cameraman
-- Boston.com photo by Eric Wilbur

   The man at the right of that photo, to my knowledge, has nothing to do with Orlando Cabrera or his family. He's a photographer, and while we were both standing nearby to that scene, he tapped me on the shoulder and told me to snap his picture as above.

   He did this twice, after which he was in no way reprimanded, and the rest is history.

   And as for Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore cavorting on the field during the celebration, I saw the one of the two who didn't deserve to have a picture snapped. Anyone who says their being there ruined the moment clearly should look into some mood-balancing candy, since if the presence of two "possible" bandwagoneers did in the Red Sox winning the World Series, there's clearly some obsessive-compulsive cavorting around in you.

   • I didn't go to the parade in Boston today ... the pictures pretty much explain I've had all the celebrating regarding the Red Sox that I'm ever going to need.

   However, the idea of it just seems like a present that keeps getting better every day I have it.

   Clearly, I was not moved in the way that many people were ... I did not cry, and at no moment did the idea of crying ever even come into my mind. The years where sports truly defined my life and my happiness are clearly well past. They can cause pain as they can cause joy, but hey, it's only sports.

   The Boston Red Sox, however, just won the World Series.

   And that literally changes everything.

Subject: Sox Articles
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2004
From: "Michael ___" <______@globalcrossing.net>
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Kudos Jon!!

   More good writing! Being able to read the hometown news each day while residing in Arizona is a beautiful thing! Enjoy the parade!!

   We did it Jon we really did it!!


Paid for by Red Sox fans for truth

Subject: Feelings Of An Old Sox Fan
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2004
From: "______" <______@hawaii.rr.com>
To: jcouture at s-t dot com


   Born and raised in New Bedford and a Red Sox fan since 1946, yesterday was one of the happiest days of my life. It was also one of my sons' birthday. As he is also a Sox fan, he got his most desired present.

   I vividly recall sitting in the stands at the then Sergeant's Field, attending a Murphy Club football game and hearing over the PA system that the Sox had lost the 1946 series to the Cardinals. I used to listen to all the Sox games on the radio and keep the line score, recomputing their averages after each 'at bat'.

   I left New Bedford joining the Air Force in "54" and have lived here in Hawaii since "73". I have traveled the world over these many years, but have never lost my love for the Sox.

   October 27, 2004 is a date I will cherish forever.

   Bob ___

Subject: It's Over
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2004
From: _____@comcast.net
To: jcouture at s-t dot com


   This morning I attempted to purchase my usual stack of newspapers to view the endless opinions, analysis and game reports that will provide my soul with the ultimate sports cleansing. However, the papers were gone. Sold out. But sitting there, lonesome as could be, were a few copies of the Standard-Times, a paper I rarely purchase. Like the Enterprise and Ledger, I consider it's sports section far inferior to the "name" papers.

   I sat down and did my online review -- The Herald, Globe, Post-Dispatch, etc. Spent a good hour looking at the usual suspects and what they wrote -- and this is from a guy who'll routinely go into the archives to look at a Jimmy Cannon column from the 50s. Nothing unusual.

   Finally I sat down for breakfast and to look at some real hard copy. Your column was on page one so I started there. Simplistic, but emotional, poignant, and beautifully constructed. So, maybe the term simplistic does not apply. Maybe it won't get any rewards. It'll probably get lost in the shuffle. But this life long Sox fan (60 years) congratulates you on expressing his feelings so beautifully. Every Nation needs a Poet Lariet.

   Continued success.

   Rick ____
   Middleboro, MA

Subject: Your Work
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2004
From: _____@s-t.com
To: jcouture at s-t dot com

   Jon, when you come back down to earth after the heady run of the last week or two, you are going to realize how far and how fast you have come as a writer on deadline who can combine the fan's emotion with the expert's analysis and what a rare package that is in this cookie cutter world.

   You did a fine job and your page one intro today was a gem. Congratulations and keep on growing and going until you get there.

October 25-29, 2004

The Word
-- This time, it wasn't premature.

A Tale Of Two Baseball Cities
-- On the off-day, a story about the similarities.

Martinez Makes Most Of His Moment
-- If it was Pedro's goodbye, he made it worth it.

Meet Me In St. Louis -- It's Nice Here
-- What happens when two stories get asked for on a one-story day.

Francona's Faith Paid Off
-- From a guy "too nice" to a guy with a ring.

It's Finally Over
-- The story every New England writer has waited a lifetime for.

Saving Their Best For Last
-- The story from the field.

   Obviously today is a special case, but to hold to form, an abnormal version of the "Twenty Talking Points."

   1) I did not see the eclipse.

   2) Contrary to all the convincing ads in the area, I am not interested in crop insurance.

   3) Exactly why the people at Pretzels Inc. use so much articifical butter flavoring is up for debate, but I would imagine it has something to do with wanting to eliminate all health gains air travel could provide.

   4) It seems to go with the general policy of Northwest Airlines, who not only is unwilling to hold connecting flights when they are at fault, but makes sure the passengers bags illogically beat them to their destination.

   5) On the plus side, the Detroit airport is far nicer than the actual city of Detroit.

   6) Sorry, Craig.

   7) Along with not seeing the eclipse, I did not see anything from the top of the Gateway Arch beyond I-70 and a log on the side of the Mississippi River.

   8) Though given the amount of MLB-sponsored parties my partner thwarted my attendance to, through general whinyness or simple silence, a view of the inside of a cloud seems about worthy.

   9) On the plus side, next year I'm 25 and will undoubtedly spend October covering ... high school field hockey pairings.

   10) Which is a shame, since the politeness of St. Louis Cardinal fans really can't be overstated. When the TSA officials at the airport are talking baseball with you and offering congratuations, it truly is something special.

   10) It's almost enough to make a person feel bad their team was demolished in the World Series by your team.

   11) Almost.

   12) High on the things I could not believe was definitely the choice of Scott Stapp for God Bless America at Game 4.

   12) Shouldn't that have been one of those moments where an apparition of God came down, looked around for a bit, and said "Hey! I don't even like you!"

   13) I also think Manny Ramirez is a jerk for missing the "Free Taco Here!" sign by a section in Game 3.

   14) I could have used that 99 cents.

   15) There may have been nothing more entertaining on the whole trip than the local ESPN commercials sponsored by St. Louis area businesses.

   16) After the ad came the local voiceover -- "Wingate Inn congratulates the Redbirds on their National League pennant. Good luck in the Series!"

   17) Far better than the discoveries that not only does St. Louis have a suburb called "Cool Valley," but that I-70 through the city is called the "Mark McGwire Highway."

   18) And better even that the discovery that Fox Sports Net Ohio spends their Tuesday nights airing "Blue Jackets Classics," which I'd imagine is only slightly longer than my favorite theoretical album, "Kajagoogoo's Greatest Hit(s)."

   19) But really, aren't I just killing time to get to the big No. 20?

   20) Why don't you ask my new best friend Doug Mirabelli?

Doug, The Trophy and Me

   In the coming days, I will say something of actual insight. Until then, just look at the pictures and continue with the hating of me.

October 2004
[Login using CoochWorld/CoochWorld]

October 24, 2004 - Halfway Home
   Brain Teasers: It's good to see the spirit of competition has infected the readership via the Road Blocks game, especially in the sense of its bringing out Cooch mocking.

   With all the praise I've been getting lately, I've honestly missed it.

   As of this writing, I'm on Level 14. I would be further, but as you may be aware, I'm busy covering the World Series.

   Tee hee.

Curt Schilling Is Absolutely The Real Deal
-- No, that's really the headline. Totally serious ... look it up yourself! Yeah, I'm thinking they were just desperate to fill space near deadline. They've been working hard too.

Fighting The ALCS Hangover
-- The pregame story, it is far less sucky than yesterday's pregame story because I seem to have a point. As a writer, having a point is always a pretty good thing to have going for you.

   • When we next speak, the Red Sox may have won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.

How cool is that?
-- How cool is that?

   And also, just to get things out there:

    I finally figured out the secret to the Sox success -- they are 6-0 since I made my home PC wallpaper the curse-ed baseball I caught before Game 3. The black shoes also ran their record to 4-0, but the ball paper is the only thing I can pin down for all six wins and nothing else.

    The Fenway fans are apparently better people than me, since it's apparently my fault they took all of Section 3 and some of Section 4 and turned it into media seating. It'll be interesting to see whether the people of St. Louis hold me personally accountable for doing my job.

    If anyone is interested, I now have Jayson Stark's Instant Messenger name. I can't exactly tell you what it is, since I didn't get it in the sense he "gave it to me" as much as I "looked at his laptop screen when he got up for something." I do, however, have it all the same.

    My friend from Hawaii whom I did the radio interview with is not credentialed for the World Series in Boston, so he's taken to hanging around outside the press gate -- right where I saw him the first time -- and just talking to people so they'll come on his radio show. Somehow, this makes me happy, as does the fact that the first time we met, I didn't notice he has a rat tail.

    On Saturday, I got an e-mail from a SouthCoaster who told me she'd reversed the curse in July by getting a pair of red socks tattooed above her ankle. I tend to believe her, but that may just be because she didn't then ask me for World Series tickets.

   On that note, go watch this commercial.

   It might soon be a relic.

October 23, 2004 - Brought To You By MasterCard
   Everything else is.

   The Complimentary Non-Sports Point: I offer you this brainteaser, of which I have gotten to Level 12. Given my strength at problem solving, I have no doubt you should use this as shame motivating.

   And in another stunner, it's always fun when celebrities get angry about being treated like normal people. The irony of this being The Sun, and thus there being all but naked women in every other section, certainly isn't lost on me.

   And yes, whenever I start turning to The Sun for material, I'm stretching.

At World Series, Everybody Is On Stage
-- Game 1 pregame, also known as "The Good Story." It was so surreal that they were actually playing the World Series at Fenway Park, though the surreality ended when the press line to get in was 45 minutes long.

Dramatic? Yes. Fast-Moving? Not So Much.
-- Game 1 postgame, also known as "The Train Wreck." Clearly this was a better idea in my head, though the wireless Internet deciding to conk out certainly didn't make things any easier.

   I am allowing myself one mulligan when I've written 20 articles in 21 days. Us country boys just aren't used to that kind of pressure.

   • So yeah, I was at the World Series tonight.

World Series On Grass

   Course, I had to keep reminding myself this Series was something important. Even with the credential that had my picture on it, and the sitting next to Jayson Stark, and the first pitch by the MasterCard CEO and the 'God Bless America' by Kelly Clarkson and everything else ...

   I mean, didn't we already win the World Series?

   That 'Miracle on Ice' analogy where the U.S. still had to beat mighty Finland for the gold? Couldn't be truer.

   Also of note, as exciting as the walk-off home runs have been throughout the postseason, nothing so far has been more exciting that Mark Bellhorn donging the foul pole to win Game 1. Having seen the clip, I know it didn't reproduce as such on television, but just take my word for it.

   It also ensured that a crowd who had chanted "Give us our seats back! (Clap, clap, clap clap clap)" earlier in the game ensured Section 3 was not overrun and I was not killed. So that was nice.

October 22, 2004 - Happy Birthday, Dad
   The Complimentary Non-Sports Point: Today we have a good one, as I may have heard the most depressing song ever written on the way up to Fenway this afternoon. And fortunately for anyone who may be flying too high, it's right there on the Net for free!

Dry your eyes mate
I know it's hard to take but her mind has been made up
There's plenty more fish in the sea
Dry your eyes mate
I know you want to make her see how much this pain hurts
But you've got to walk away now
It's over

   There are songs that are about breakups, and then there are songs that are breakups. Neither are good, but I'm guessing somewhere globally, this song has made humans drive off bridges.

   Contrast that with this song, whose chorus really does include the line, "Take a chance, you stupid ho."

   It's just a great time to be alive. And if that song has you forgetting that, watch this slideshow from Game 7. I don't know if I'll truly ever realize what just happened, but I feel a lot closer after watching that.

Players Focus On Baseball's Top Prize
-- The off-day story is always interesting for me, because so many seem fascinated that I have to work on a day there's no game. If they only knew we didn't even get fed for free on those days, they might actually feel bad for me.

   • After yesterday's update, I felt a little bad. Reading it back, it struck me as a little ego-centric ... beyond the idea of me having my own Web site, of course, but just generally too much spouting about what I've done and where I am and all that jazz. Should anyone else feel that way, please let me know. I want nothing more than to stay grounded.

   And as such, I have a brush with fame story.

   Well, beyond the scope of Theo Epstein, David Ortiz, etc., etc., etc.

   Those of who watched the first season of ESPN's Dream Job will remember Casey Stern, who made the show's final 12 but ultimately didn't win the contest. Well, he got a job with MLB.com, hosting, among other things, State of the RedSox.com Nation.

   As such, we have crossed paths a handful of times. Never, however, moreso than today.

   Epstein made an appearance on the field today, and as you'd expect, he was swarmed by press people -- I didn't stand with him the whole time, but he had to be out and surrounded for a half-hour at least. I was in the first wave to get over to him, and had my tape recorder in there, listening intently like a good little baseball writer.

   Stern and his cameraman, latecomers, found space to wedge their way in. Fair enough ... it's the nature of the business. If you ever want to feel like you're on a Tokyo subway, I highly recommend the Yankee Stadium visitor's clubhouse after Boston clinches the pennant.

   Stern had plenty of space to get in, but his cameraman was on the other side of the swarm, so they somehow had to get the MLB.com microphone across the press horde to the anchor. They, purposefully or not, felt the best way to do this was to run the cord across the top of my head.

   By this point, the crowd has reached a size where I can not pull my left arm, and it's tape recorder, out of the crowd unless I want to wait another 20 minutes to talk to Theo. So I have to start shaking my head like a horse trying to get rid of a fly to get this cord out of my hair. After about six attempts I finally succeed.

   At which point Stern, who suddenly figured out why his mic cord hadn't had any slack before, expresses gratitude.

"Hey, thanks a lot, boss."

   Maybe it just struck me as funny because Casey Stern is always dressed to the nines, but can't be more than 5'6". Maybe because he always walks around with this sort-of half-smug grin on his face.

   Or maybe because, if I was ever provoked, I could dropkick him 12 rows into the grandstand.

   Aside: I'm sure Casey Stern is a very nice guy, and contrary to what this story may portray, I was hardly angered his mic cord mussed my hay-like mane. It was just one of those things ... and then he called me "boss" and I all but broke out laughing.

   Hey, it's an offday. Be glad I didn't print the three-page letter I got from a man who believes he's the Curse Killer because he was born on the day Babe Ruth died, and because he was in the Fenway for critical wins in 1967, 1975, 1986.

So what is the solution to reversing the curse? I have never attended any Red Sox World Series games. Maybe my presence those previous years helped to partly crack the curse and help the Red Sox make it to Game 7 of the World Series each of those years. But I wasn't at the BIG final game (Game 7). Just maybe if the Red Sox rubbed my head or shook my hand before going onto the field, that might give them a little more confidence knowing that, in Pedro's words, I'm "THEIR DADDY" and I'm taking care of THE CURSE.

   Yes, because if I had the power to get people into World Series games, I would start with a guy I've never met who believes in something all of the players likely resent.

October 19-21, 2004 - History, (Hopefully) Part One
   The Complimentary Non-Sports Point: On the request of one of the people formerly wooed by my feeble list of charms, I will now provide to you, the sports-hating-yet-reading-my-site-anyway reader, a link that has nothing to do with athletic competition. Think of it as my way of keeping all the people happ all the time.

Jon Stewart on CNN's 'Crossfire'

   Now, I'm well aware this is old news, but I only did both hear about it and see the video in the past 24 hours. Such is the irony of being on the road writing for a newspaper -- you don't see a whole of news or newspapers when you're busy.

   You all know how I feel about politics, but really, everything Stewart says is dead solid on. Except for the part where he calls Tucker "The Guy With The Bowtie" Carlson a dick. The word he was looking for is pompous asshole.

   Well, words. It's been a pretty long week already.

   • Now, we're not going to do the normal Twenty Talking Points of a weekend trip because, really, I was just in New York City. I already told you about the "Juicy Couture" ads in Times Square, the poop smell in the subway and all the other things that led proud New Yorker and pal Matt Boggie to defend his fair city.

   Plus, this was not any ordinary weekend.

   My first instinct was to come on here and do some sort of poignant photo tribute, to the point where I had even planned the photo in my head -- yes friends, I dream about the Web site even when I'm blissfully away from it. However, we will not be doing that.

   Because really, if there was ever a point when people would want to read my ramblings, this would be it.

   And so, let's do it. I'll be using red on occasion because let's face it, it's about time the blue and white took a backseat.


   First things first, my thoughts fit for print:

A Big Performance On The Biggest Stage
-- The Game 6 gamer. About all the non-baseball fan has to know about Curt Schilling is the procedure he underwent just so he could pitch in this game had never been done before, and thus had to be tested on a cadaver. That's pretty much Sox vs. Yankees in a nutshell.

Boston No Longer Feeling Inferior
-- The Game 7 pregame piece. They asked the both of us to file some sort of story that could stand up even after the game result was known, and I was left to write something good, but not use too much of the stuff I'd collected for the postgame story. On the plus side, um, they didn't want it very long.

World-Class Comeback
-- The Game 7 gamer, which we will also call "The Money Shot." I don't know if it's as good as what I filed after last year's Game 7 collapse, but I do know it was much easier to write not feeling like I was going to black out at any second.

Players Celebrate Victory, As A Team
-- The story of the clubhouse celebration, of which I hope someday I can look back on and truly appreciate. I couldn't help while I was in there, in the moments I wasn't hustling to collect material, wishing that no press were there and it was just the players' moment. And I'm completely serious.

   I can not express enough the thanks to all of you who have said such kind things about my work in the past couple weeks, and really, since I started writing the sports stuff. Believe me, I read all of it even while on the road, and to know that people were seeking out my stuff even before I could get back here and post links to it means more to me than you may ever know.

   When I've got a friend calling me while I'm sitting waiting for a press conference to tell me my stuff is some of the only things he's been reading, it's both pretty humbling and damned inspiring.

   It makes all those dollars I pay in salary to you all worth it.

   I do ask however, and it is just a request of mine, that if you read something that you really love or appreciate, tell someone else about it. Post a link in your journal. Spam people. Write the President. Whatever ... I do what I do because I want people to appreciate sports and appreciate the passion as much as I do. I want to entertain people, make them think, the whole nine yards.

   Some of you already do this, and for that, I am again more than grateful. Among them is Matt Bruce, who because of his repeated pimping of my work, will now be linked in each of the remaining words in this sentence.


   As you might imagine, there's been a heavy demand for people qualified to talk about the Red Sox in recent days, which is what led to me doing a radio call-in to KORL-AM 690 today while sitting in Lindy's on 7th Avenue near 53rd St. eating French toast.

   Walking around outside while I was in Lindy's? Biff Henderson. This is made less amazing by the fact the Ed Sullivan Theatre is only like a block away, but more amazing because he walked by twice in the span of five minutes.

   The obvious question is how I ended up on a Hawaiian radio station that, despite what the Internet will tell you, is not a Radio Disney affiliate anymore. As the story goes, soon after I got the baseball prior to Game 3, I went for a walk outside Fenway Park to take in the scene of playoff baseball in Boston like I used to do in college.

   As I made my way back to the press gate and waited to get inside, I noticed an older man standing just to the side. We started chatting, and it turns out his name is Wayne, but he goes by either "World Series Wayne" or "Super Bowl Wayne" since he has attended each of those major events in excess of 20 times -- one was 27, one was 20, and you don't care.

   You now see where this is going, I hope. He asked me if I wanted to go on his radio show, and as a publicity whore, I said yes. We swapped cards and shook hands, and he then gave me a box of chocolate- and toffee-covered macadamia nuts as a gift for agreeing to the interview. While fattening, they and the baseball almost made me OK with the Red Sox being dragged down an alley and beaten later in the evening.

   Now, if I can figure out exactly why the CBC -- and yes, that would be the Canadian Broadcasting Company, Canada's answer to PBS -- e-mailed the S-T looking to do a TV interview with me, we will definitely be getting somewhere.

   Sadly, my chance for international acclaim may have been missed, as my boss got the e-mail too late and Canada instead got the Providence Journal's Sean McAdam. Though given he's a Red Sox beat writer and I'm angered because the Yankees didn't offer ham and cheese as a choice for the Game 7 media meal, I think things might have worked out better for everybody.


   Anyone who has been near Red Sox fans for even a short period can readily tell we are insane. During Game 7, I had my brother essentially tell me the Red Sox played better when he sat on the couch as opposed to the recliner in our basement.

   His is just the first one I remember.

   And let's just say I didn't tell him it was bunk.

   As such, the following is a list I put together before Game 7 regarding my own personal behaviors and their relation to the Sox success and/or failure. It's a little less meaningful now, but we can never be too careful.

The Red Sox record on days I ...
... genuinely thought they'd win: 1-3 (Games 1, 2, 3, 5)
... genuinely thought they'd lose: 3-0 (4, 6, 7)
... got a baseball: 0-1 (3)
... ate a dessert at some point: 2-1 (3, 4, 5)
... used some styling product in my hair: 1-2 (1, 2, 7)
... wore a hat at some point: 1-0 (6)
... drank a beer: 1-1 (1, 6)
... wore a sweater: 4-1 (3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
... wore black shoes to the game: 2-0 (4, 5)
... wore brown shoes to the game: 2-3 (1, 2, 3, 6, 7)
... read my complimentary USA Today: 1-2 (1, 2, 7)

   It does not take a physics major to read this results table. I know it was a huge risk to use pomade before the ultimate battle, but I just didn't want to be frizzy. I thought maybe if I got a baseball I could offset it, but hey, everyone got what they wanted.

   Except for Yankee fans, who for the most part aren't human anyway.


   Many have asked exactly why about a couple of the pitching changes made in Game 7 -- why Pedro Martinez came in with Derek Lowe throwing a one-hitter through six innings, and why Yankee closer Mariano Rivera was brought in with two outs in the eighth when his team trailed by seven runs. I have theories, so what the heck.

   Pedro: Martinez was due to throw on Wednesday anyway, as it was his scheduled side session between starts. Knowing his feelings about New York, and that he had yet to make a huge positive splash in this series, he wanted in on the game when the Red Sox would finally do in the Bronx Bombers. So he "asked" his manager if he could pitch in Game 7 ... give him a shot to kick a little dirt on the knocked-out heavyweight.

   With the score 8-1 and the crowd sufficiently quiet, Francona gave him his wish. Of course, this then electrified the crowd and nearly took the game out of hand, but they wouldn't be the Red Sox if they made anything easy and swear-free.

   Rivera: Mariano Rivera is retiring.

   Admittedly, this is a bit out there, but I have what I feel is a pretty sound theory. The series began with Rivera in Panama for the funeral of two relatives, and as a very religious man, he was gratly moved by this. Now, he returns, and the Red Sox deal him the first consecutive blown savs of his postseason career.

   The Yankees then lose the series altogether, a first for Rivera.

   Having had the decency to tell his manager he would not be back, Joe Torre allows Rivera one last game in Yankee Stadium, with his theme music played and his performance strong on his final night on the mound ... even if it's a blowout.

   As he walked off the field, Rivera seemed to stop for a moment, look at the League Championship Series logo painted on the grass, then proceed into the dugout.

   Just a thought.

   And as it was noted on the Bruce's blog, I did argue that Mariano Rivera was past his prime during my last appearance on Lou Tilley's Sports Connection, available here if it's going to take a 41 MB download to make you believe me.

   Between this and my prediction St. Louis would win this game, perhaps I can stop at least sounding like an ass in public.


   And now, the poignant photo copout. The baseball has a new friend.

Ball And Cork

   Next week, the whole rest of the bottle.

October 18, 2004 - 10:51
   Nobody's Home: This past weekend was Homecoming at the alma mater, with the year's theme apparently so bad, it was not publicized at all online.

   This strikes me as something I should not be finding out about after the fact, since last I checked, one of the points of Homecoming was to get me to come back to campus -- you know, to "Come Home." No one sent me anything regarding tickets to anything, regarding any sort of celebration ... apparently, I'm the black sheep of the family.

   Though now that I think about it, I did recently get a call from a COM student thanking me for my "previous support of the College," and asking if I would like to give them more money I don't have.

   Perhaps if I had offered up a couple bucks, he would have invited me to the killer party I'm sure they threw. Or at least the one I'm sure the kid was throwing at his rundown, shithole apartment in the Allston ghetto. You know, the one where both the kegs get kicked by 10:30 p.m. and the cops show up at long after the alcohol is gone.

   Sometimes, I don't miss college. Make that more than sometimes.

   Extra, Extra: And no, this has nothing to do with baseball.

   In more BU news, apparently the campus bookstore has taken to selling anti-Yankee hats.

Only the best Taiwanese craftsmanship.
-- Only the best in Taiwanese craftsmanship.

   As will happen when your school is full of crybabies -- no, I didn't call them "liberals" -- there are people up in arms about this. On both sides of the issue.

"I can understand how it's tempting for people to go there and buy it, but I feel bad for the New York kids at the school," said Olympia Banerjee, a College of Arts and Sciences junior and Red Sox fan.

   Yes, because we should all feel bad for the New York kids at the school who are Yankee fans. They're so far from home, and really, their suffering just needs to stop. What, have they gone almost 72 hours now since they could tell Red Sox fans to cram it? When will their national nightmare end?!

   Given her Google results, I have a great deal of faith young Olympia will find her way here. Therefore, I would like to relay her a message on behalf both of myself, and others who have spent a good portion of their lives taking baseball far too seriously -- whether that portion still continues in mine, I leave up to the reader.

   Olympia, please go home and get some rest. Back to wherever it is you came from. Have some coffee. Take a nap. Stay out of the real world for as long as you can. It will probably not be kind to you if you spend great deals of time pitying New Yorkers because of shitty hats they sell at the bookstore.

   I do aim to help my fellow man.

   • Last night, I got home at about 3:30 in the morning, feeling just entirely drained. Just feeling as though I had been in a marathon, yet somehow came out on the other side with more to do.

   Had tonight's game started at the same 8:19 p.m. time as Game 4, I wouldn't have left Fenway Park until about 2:30 a.m.

Back To New York
-- No matter what happens from here on out, I have been witness to even more baseball history. I'd like to think some of my fellow press members will grow to accept that viewpoint as time passes, but I have waning faith that is the case.

   I'm not a big fan of quoting myself here, but I will say this is one of my favorite sections I've ever written.

How bad did it get? The FOX blimp landed because it was running out of fuel. Beer sales stopped seven innings before the baseball did. The NLCS game, supposedly the second of a national doubleheader, didn't make it on the big network until the top of the ninth. When Manny Ramirez walked in the bottom of the 14th, bringing up the man of two walkoff home runs in the past week, the crowd barely mustered a cheer.

They more than made up for it afterward.

   And so, I'm headed back to New York, again. When Ortiz hit the bloop single to center to win the game, I simply couldn't handle it anymore, screaming at Damon to "Go! Run!" right from my seat in the press box.

   I'm saying it was because I just wanted the game to end.

   You can believe me or not.

   All I'm saying, as I head on my not-so-merry way, is that I'm putting the odds of the Red Sox winning Game 6 at about 1,000-to-1. I just don't see it.

   Though it could be I just don't want to think of the consequences.

October 17, 2004 - Another Messy Divorce
   So, About The Ball: If you look at this seating plan, you'll know what I mean when I say I sit in Section 3 for ALCS games -- the S-T also has a seat in the Media Dining/Press Work Room behind the actual press box, but I actually like to watch the game rather than see it on a big-screen TV.

   The area where press conferences are held and the media buffet is sits under Sections 30 and 31, so sitting out in right means a good deal of walking nearly all the way round the concourse. I usually make the trek through the seats, and I was headed back to right after some interviews when someone shouted "Heads Up!" right as I reached right field box Section 94.

   With my back to the plate, and thus no chance to see where the ball was coming in, I ducked slightly and sort of half turned to ensure if it hit me, it would smash me in the face and mean I could get some plastic surgery with a clear conscience.

   The ball, which I suspect was off the bat of Jason Varitek, hit about six rows above where I was standing, bounced off a seat, and rolled slowly down the steps right to where I was standing. I was the only one within about 30 feet of it, but given the bounce, I'd have gotten it even if it was crowded.

   I mean, I made a leaping, bare-handed catch reaching over the wall with 50 people grabbing at my shirt. Then the Sox offered me a contract, but I said no because the pay wasn't high enough.

Red Sox Nation Still Believes
-- The shell of this story, written as if the Sox lost, was filed in the bottom of the ninth. This was built from it sometime in the 11th. Look at me, giving you a look inside the business of a paper with comically early deadlines.

   • Anyone who thinks my job is simply fun and easy should know two very important things regarding tonight's 5:02 classic:

   1) There's a good chance I contracted hypothermia at some point this evening, but I just told myself I wasn't allowed to die until I hit deadline.

   2) It actually would have been easier for me if the Sox lost, and thus when tied the game in the ninth, I had to sit there and be torn about preventing a sweep by the Yankees.

   You all see what they're doing, don't you? They're going to make us all go back to New York, and then they're going to lose, and I'm going to have to listen to stupid New Yorkers on another long subway ride home. And I'm going to have to reschedule my eye appointment for the second time.

   They're going to kill all of us, you know. Every last one of us. Again.

   Or they're going to complete my dream comeback as stated before the series -- four late, come-from-behind, dramatic as can be wins. However, I'm not they're yet. I can't become delusional.

   I can just implore any sports bettors out there to bet their homes and automobiles on the Sox in Game 5.

October 16, 2004 - 1942 Leafs, 1974-75 Isles, End
   • Tonight was the one-year anniversary of Game 7. And yet, the feeling is a totally different one.

My new baseball.
-- After 18 years of games, I finally got a baseball.

A Big Crowd, But Nothing To Cheer For
-- This is what gets written when your deadline hits in the seventh inning.

   Tonight, we saw the birth of a whole new era of Red Sox baseball. I genuinely believe that ... 19-8 doesn't just happen.

   The cut is cleaner this year, though no one may realize just how clean it is until they see who takes the field for Boston on Opening Day 2005.

October 15, 2004 - Two Wrongs, But It's Still Right
   At Fenway Park: Today was one of those fun nights where I'd imagine I really could convince you I don't have the greatest job in the world. Full well knowing that there would be no game played, I drove the 60-odd miles to Fenway Park, went in, found out I wouldn't need to file a story anyway and watched the game get rained out as everyone knew it would.

   Though I did get to eat some of the Fenway buffet's delightful seasoned french fries ... twice.

   And my suggested story of "Why did people come tonight when they knew it was pouring?" got shot down, which ultimately probably made the night better than it could have been.

   It would not have been as insightful as this:

The Patriots are like the new boyfriend that you really like --
he's awesome but almost too good to be true, so you worry.

The Bruins are like the guy that you just casually dated and you
don't really care about him, he's just something to do.

The Celtics are like the marriage that was great at one time but has lost its spark and you always kinda look back and think about how great it was.

And the Sox are the hardcore abusive husband who just absolutely beats the shit out of you, but day after day you always go back to him cause you always believe that tomorrow will be different and you just love him too much.

   As much as I keep looking for ways to improve on it, there just aren't any.

   Soccer Smiles: Major League Soccer, who apparently isn't losing as much money as everyone thinks they are, has added two new clubs for the 2005 season. We've talked about the first one here already -- CD Chivas USA, an offshoot of the similarly named Mexican side that will probably go over huge in Los Angeles.

   The other is Real Salt Lake, which in their initial press release looked all kinds of bad when it was announced they would be ReAL Salt Lake.

   Get it? There's a little 'e' sitting on part of the 'R' ... yeah.

   I have nothing much to add, other than to say I know soccer, and I'm desperately struggling to say it correctly as Ray-al Salt Lake. The whole thing just makes me think of a rap.

"Who's ready to see the Real Salt Lake?!"

   The Mormon Tabernacle Dancers would then come out and start grinding. That would be so awesome, I'd actually go to games.

   • The Springfield Falcons won their first game of the season, beating the Providence Bruins 4-3 and moving within 25 wins of their "one point better than league worst" 2003-04 season. A good showing on their part, considering people will actually care about the AHL this year.

   They, however, are not the focus of the hockey attention here right now. As some of you may have noticed yesterday, there was a bit of a flareup regarding Boston College and its sucking in yesterday's comments.

Now I think the one that needs to be jumping onto the tracks is the idiot that equates hating BC with being a racist, BC is hated because they are morons that can't even figure out that there campus is in Chesnut Hill.
-- OTC

We are WELL aware that our campus is in Chestnut Hill. It's our address. You can't even spell "their" correctly. Who's the moron now?
-- April (Eagles Class of 2006)

   Deep cuts, indeed. Why does everything here always come back to spelling and grammar? You people must have been just lovely to hang out with on Friday nights during high school.

   Oh wait ...

   To me, BC's sucking has never had anything to do with their location. After all, the Country Club of New Bedford is actually in North Dartmouth and Springfield Country Club (for you WMassers) is in West Springfield. Granted, the whole Chestnut Hill thing is rather comical, but in and of itself it is not why Boston College sucks.

   There are plenty of other reasons.

   Camp-is Envy. It's not debatable that Boston College wishes desperately to be Notre Dame. The affinity for God, the football rivalry, the neat and organized campus ... sometimes it's just so cute. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't equate this to Boston University wishing to be New York University moved from Manhattan.

   Many could mistake the sports rivalry as us wanting to be BC, but quite the contrary -- the obsession with being multicultural, the beauty of an urban campus, the absorption of all the local buildings into student housing are all clearly NYU reaches.

   Now, when you look at them, the only reason anyone cares about Notre Dame is because they want to become clergy or because they care about their sports ... which were really, really great about 50 years ago. The only reason anyone cares about NYU is certainly not for their sports -- the fact their team name is the Violets begins and ends that discussion -- but because NYU is one of the most respected universities in the entire world, consistenly scoring the world's best and brightest, plus the Olsen twins, as students.

   I rest my case.

   Erin Go Blah. Both schools clearly cater to a certain demographic. They certainly aren't limited to admitting those students, but if you're stereotyping the schools like I am, here's the route you go.

   Boston College? Irish kids.

   Boston University? Rich kids.

   We win again.

   Now, I can hear the BC lobby again ... Boston College graduates like Peter Lynch more or less run the city of Boston and its finances, never mind all the lawyers they pump out every year.

   That's great, but sometimes it's cool to, you know, leave Boston and be successful.

   Man, this is fun.

   Local 'Dive' Eateries and Drinkeries: BC has Maddie's Market and Mary Ann's, the second of which is usually good for at least three academic suspensions per sporting season.

   BU has Kenmore Square and the bars around Fenway Park.

   No elaboration needed.

   The Athletics Question: I'll readily admit that here it gets a little dicey for the Terriers. Ever since BU stopped going to the Frozen Four every year, and BC finally got their 1918-like "1949" off their back, one could be compelled to say that Eagle athletics could be vastly superior to those on Commonwealth Avenue.

   To which I say, "I should hope so, considering what a big, damned deal you make about them."

   Slightly Related Aside: I once snuck into a BC football game against Michael Vick and Virginia Tech on an expired BC student ID. Mainly because I wanted to see Vick just run roughshod over the Eagles, but also because I like to remember because sometimes, campuses have and support football teams.

   The student ID was from my pal Amit.

   My pal Amit, who is of Indian descent.

   This, combined with the fact I once got into Conte Forum to walk on the ice and spit on the eagle because no one locked the doors leads me to believe that Chestnut Hill would be a terrific point of entry for any interested terrorists.

   I could go on, but by all means, feel free to add your own. Maybe we can give young Jonah Goldberg reason to love us again and not think we're supporters of the Holocaust.

October 11-14, 2004 - Bronx Bummer, Manhattan Mess
   They're Playing Hockey Somewhere: Lost in the AL Championship Series fervor was the final presidential debate. However, also lost was the start of the all-important Boston University hockey season. I'll let you guess which one I was more alarmed about missing.

   Of course, BU didn't do the usual and open with some awful team from Canada in an exhibition, then barely beat RPI. This year, they thought it better to lose to Miami of Ohio and (now former) No. 1 Michigan by a combined score of 12-3.

   Regardless, BC Sucks. Even if it's both not really true and this kid equates it to racism. Thank goodness he's a Yankee fan, and thus I already have a reason to hate him.

   We'll get to that soon enough.

   The Written Word: If you haven't been following along with my prose on S-T.com, shame on you.

   If I actually expected people to, shame on me.

More Than Just Baseball
-- Day of Game 1, a fluffy, front-page piece on the rivalry. This may be the last Red Sox column written this week that does not include the word "Daddy" anywhere in it.

Too Little, Too Late For Red Sox
-- Game 1 gamer. This is not my finest work, but I would account that to my lede eventually becoming my conclusion, a perfect game almost being thrown and attempting to weave in nearly the largest playoff comeback ever, stopped only by a closer who started his day at a funeral in Panama. So yes, I still whine too much.

No Support For Pedro As Sox Fall
-- Game 2 gamer. I really had expected Pedro to come out and just shut down the Yankees for the night. What's sad is that he sort of did, and yet they lost anyway. Though on the plus side, I got to see John Olerud not in his permanent helmet.

Things Look Different From The Other Side
-- Sadly, I was not able to work in how the Yankee fans mouthed off to the Mets fan, telling him they were responsible for the '86 championship because "Babe Ruth was the only reason Buckner's glove wasn't on the ground." Even more sadly, I didn't have any handguns and licenses to kill lying around.

   • As has become customary, and far easier than actual vacation write-ups ... the Twenty Talking Points.

   1) First things first, the amount which I loathe New York City probably can not be understated at this point. It wasn't long ago when I was actually wishing to go visit the city because I hadn't been in a while, but having gone 4-5 times in one year just completely burned off any passion I have for the place.

   2) And no, this actually has nothing to do with the Red Sox laying a pair of eggs and coming back to Boston needing to win three straight to avoid me giving up on them. I had all I could do to avoid walking out of Penn Station, looking skyward, and saying, "Wow. I hate this f'ing dump."

   3) But anyway, back to the beginning. Fellow Sox writer Steve and I took a ride our boss to Providence for the Acela, which would be even better if it wasn't $88 per journey. In a car-based search for breakfast after getting our tickets, we actually ended up in Pawtucket before we found a Dunkin Donuts so I could have my morning infusion of sausage and Coolatta.

   4) Am I the only one who assumes Providence's Dunkin' Donuts Center should actually contain a Dunkin' Donuts? Doesn't our needing 20 minutes to find a DD mean Rhode Island is now booted out of New England? Isn't this compromising everything we stand for?

   5) The actual trip to New York was blissfully uneventful, though the fact I became fascinated with Windows solitaire and the Vegas scoring system should not be and is not something I'm proud of.

   6) Though it is good to know I can now listen to Phantom Planet's 'California' without getting a stomachache.

   7) I never knew Penn Station was essentially under Madison Square Garden before, but considering my travel partner hates and may actually fear New York, I got us to the subway and the hotel with very little difficulty.

   Unlike the last trip, we never ended up on the wrong side of the East River this time. However, in as much as I figured the 'B' and 'D' trains were a better way to get to Yankee Stadium than walking to Times Square for the '7' to the '4,' I didn't realize there was actually a station entrance right next to our hotel until the last night we were there. Very useful.

   8) Getting there a day early, and knowing the cheap as cheap Yankees wouldn't be feeding reporters unless they absolutely had to, we ate McDonald's for lunch. I'll leave out the part about how I was already edgy since I'm both in my glasses again and am breaking out with acne for the first time since I as 18, but not this.

   9) The McDonald's had an offer posted behind the counter that customers could get a free small french fry or hash brown ... if they're cashier didn't smile at them. You want to talk about a can of worms in a city where near everyone is forward enough to demand free food if not given an arbitrary greeting ... I wouldn't be encouraging customers to "play along" so much as I would be putting bulletproof glass and speakerboxes on the counter.

   10) The first day was pretty boring, to tell the truth. After filing our stories, we went back to the hotel -- a recurring theme of the trip -- and ate at the hotel bar, charging beers and fries I spilled all over myself to the company. Anyone who has heard of WEEI (Sports Radio Boston) personality and Bruins play-by-play man Dale Arnold should be happy to know not only was he there by himself, but he's a wine drinker.

   In hindsight, we should have invited him to sit with us, but this was after I managed to splash myself with ketchup.

   11) The good experience in the hotel bar lad us to go to the cafe out front for breakfast. Given their limited menu, and the fact that I wanted some fruit and Steve wanted pancakes, we both got the buffet -- the only choice that offered those things.

   12) The buffet ending up being $27 per person. Considering the gourmet buffet at Bellagio in Vegas was only 30-something, someone should inform the Sheraton people that the ability for me to eat cottage cheese, hard-bolied egg whites and a shitty sweet roll is not equal to nearly putting myself in the hospital with sushi and Beef Wellington.

   13) Have I mentioned I hate New York yet? Did I work that in?

   14) Steve has not been to New York often, so I thought Tuesday would be a good day to get him out there and see the touristy things people see when they make their first trips to Manhattan. So I asked him what he'd like to do for the four hours we had until we needed to be at the park. His answer was simple enough.

   15) "Nothing, really."

   16) We settled on the NBA Store -- someone you know now holds the Pop-A-Shot record there -- Rockefeller Center and Central Park, which he loved because it was green.

   17) I nearly had to do a piece on Yankee fans before Game 2 until my editor thought the better of it. Hopefully, he realized that I would either kill someone or be killed myself, since I've more or less decided I have no problem with most of the Yankees. It's their fans who I wish would all die.

   18) Though "Mr. Yankee" seemed rather harmless, though the fact he didn't give me one of his $22 bills with a Web address on them means he's not getting a link.

   19) He was far better than the 'natives' who told the Sox fan to jump on the tracks and kill himself, and then on the actual subway, were asking me where Penn Station was. We may not have a World Series since 1918, but at least we're not all fat, obnoxious and ugly, you little bastards.

   20) And as for the actual series? Let's not forget Boston trailed California three games to one in 1986. They've got about a 1-in-10 to make this interesting -- win all three games at Fenway, and go back to New York needing one of two to shut the bastards up.

   One last thing. This is my new computer wallpaper, and I thank the Times Square Alliance and comsumer culture for it:

Juicy Couture
-- You all should "Go Couture Yourself."

   However, the Mini people at least keep proving they think like I would as an ad exec:

Mini Epidermis

October 10, 2004 - Oatmeal and Fake Sausage
   PGA Tour Update: Playing in a scramble today with my father and friends at this course, our team managed to shoot an 8-under-par 61.

   Typically, any team where I am the best player is not going to do well. However, the thought that I could hit a crap shot and not actually have to play the following one is always a benefit.

   Score None For Cali: The Dodgers, a team I feel no oddness about cheering for unabashedly, went out quietly tonight, falling to the Cardinals because they weren't bright enough to pitch around Albert Pujols with two out in a tie game.

   Yes, that does make it a little easier to stomach.

   So if you're scoring at home, and I know you are, Southern California's two entrants into the postseason went 1-6 and got outscored 51-20 as their fans bopped ThunderStix as a means of support.

   Perhaps I'll be reevaluating the five-year plan that included the Los Angeles Daily News.

It's All Coming Together For Francona
-- Ah, the classic off-day piece. I'll be saving the back story of its writing, including how I got sidetracked by an episode of "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" when I'm featured on the upcoming show, "Inside The Writer's Studio."

   • Ken Caminiti is dead.

   Christopher Reeve is dead.

   And I'm off to New York City again, which means soon, my faith in humanity will be dead.

   This would be the place where I'd normally put a little postcard saying where I'm going to be, and how I won't be back posting again until Thursday. However, since writing "F' you" on a picture of Aaron Boone with his arms outstretched would just take time I am not willing to give, you'll just have to finish the job yourself.


   ThunderStix in Dodger Stadium ... that's just the Buddy Christ come to fruition, isn't it?

October 9, 2004 - The Rematch
   Thoughts On Fenway Park: I was about 5-6 paragraphs into a story about the workmanlike way Boston disposed of Anaheim -- they were never really threatened -- when things fell apart. Had they lost the game, I would have accepted any necessary blame.

   Sitting in the press box afterward, there was a man in the row in front of me who had some sort of shaving cream / beer head all in his horseshoe of hair. I was amazed no one told him.

   I did not go into the clubhouse for the postgame festivities, but I did get to hear the tape recorders of many reporters who did.

   I never knew that if you get them wet and try to play their contents, the machine squeals and sounds as though it's trying to gargle the liquid.

   The Division Series press credential is the prettiest one I've ever received. Shiny plastic and shaped like a home plate ... when the site gets redesigned, press passes are definitely getting their own gallery. I'd imagine people would even look at it.

   I'm forgetting a lot of the rest, but just generally, I haven't felt that drained after covering a game since Game 7 last year. And even that wasn't as bad since, because I was in Row 4 of the press box, I had to stand the whole time to see home plate.

   At least I wasn't in the Media Dining Room, a.k.a. "Overflow Press Area."

   • And so, it's sealed. There will be no Metrodome for me.

   Boston vs. New York. Again.

   I can hardly wait for those Yankee box lunches.

October 8, 2004 - Sweep Dreams

The Pile

The Water

The Beer

Click for the gamer.

Sox Sweep With Style
-- It was the 16th Red Sox game I've seen this year, and yet the ending was the same as the first -- David Ortiz, extra innings. Course, after 4:11, my first instinct was "Thank God. I'll still have a couple hours to write."

October 7, 2004 - Finally, The Monster Seats
   The Rite Of Winter: In the past week, we of New England have witnessed an inching toward the bitter February cold that makes us all want to begin committing homocides. While we certainly aren't there yet, it seems as good a time as any to post this handy chart for those who may be new to the area.

New England Temperature Conversion Chart

60 degrees F: Southern Californians shiver uncontrollably.
People in New England sunbathe.

50 degrees F: New Yorkers try to turn on the heat.
People in New England plant gardens.

40 degrees F: Italian and English cars won't start.
People in New England drive with the windows down.

32 degrees F: Distilled water freezes.
The water at Moosehead Lake in Maine starts getting cooler.

20 degrees F: Floridians don coats, thermal underwear, gloves, wool hats.
People in New England throw on a flannel shirt, buttons open.

15 degrees F: New York City landlords finally turn up the heat.
People in New England have the last cookout before it gets cold.

0 degrees F: The city of Miami shuts down.
New Englanders close the windows.

10 degrees below zero: Californians escape en masse to Mexico.
Girl Scouts in New England sell cookies door to door.

25 degrees below zero: Las Vegas disintegrates.
People in New England rummage around the attic to find some winter coats.

40 degrees below zero: Washington, D.C. runs out of hot air.
People in New England let the dogs sleep indoors.

100 degrees below zero: Santa Claus abandons the North Pole.
Some New Englanders are frustrated when they can't start their "kahs".

460 degrees below zero: At absolute zero Kelvin, all atomic motion stops.
People in New England start saying "Cold 'nuff for ya"

500 degrees below zero: Hell freezes over. Red Sox win World Series.

   Map Man: In response to my putzing yesterday's question, I feel it necessary to note Vermont, which also is not served by a 5 or 0 Interstate, is served by Interstates 89, 91, 93 and 189. North Dakota, on the other hand, gets only Nos. 29 and 94.

   This would mean a lot more if anyone cared about this. It's not like that has ever stopped me before.

The Calm Before The Storm
-- This was supposed to go on the front page of the whole newspaper, but was moved back to the sports section because, well, "it didn't have it." Personally I really like it, though that could just be because I was standing right next to David Eckstein and noted, "Wow. I'm taller than you."

   • I did not get to see all that much of the baseball games today because I was working. Working at Fenway Park covering baseball.

   I'm pretty sure this is irony.

Braves 4, Astros 2
Best-of-five tied, 1-1

Rafael Furcal
-- Saw this during Mike Scioscia's press conference.

Rafael Furcal of the Atlanta Braves is greeted by teammates after hitting a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to beat the Houston Astros 4-2 in Game Two of the National League Divisional Series at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. (AFP/Getty Images/Streeter Lecka)

   For the past several days, I've been trying to find a way to work in the story about Furcal, who is headed to jail to serve a 21-day sentence immediately following the Braves' elimination from the postseason.

   Headed to the favorite jail of every kid who watched wrestling in the 1980s, Cobb County.

   Atlanta now actually has a chance to win this series again, as beating one of Houston's aces and only needing to win one on the road means this thing will go five. As good as Minute Maid Park has been, this is the playoffs. Atlanta does have some game.

   I was thinking about this on the drive back from Fenway today ... looking at all the playoff teams, I've either actually seen a game in their park (Boston, New York, Anaheim, Atlanta, L.A.) or been in the city at an offtime and got a good view of it (Houston, St. Louis). The only exception being Minnesota, with that being the one reason I'm cheering for either team in that series.

   As long as it goes five, I'll be happy.

Cardinals 8, Dodgers 3
St. Louis leads best-of-five, 2-0

Adrian Beltre
-- This pretty much says it all.

Los Angeles Dodgers star Adrian Beltre kneels after striking out during fifth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of their National League Divisional Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Cardinals pitcher Dan Haren struck out Beltre. (REUTERS/Peter Newcomb)

   At the very least, they gave me a glimmer of hope. I had it on the radio when Shawn Green and Milton Bradley hit back-to-back home runs, making it 3-3 in the fourth.

   It didn't so much make me think they could win the game, but it did make me happy because at least they'd made one of them competitive. I got home in time to see St. Louis continue to just completely overmatch the Dodger pitching staff, but I think there's a non-baseball reason for it.

   It's karmic punishment for a team whose Rally Monday festivities were hosted by Jonathan "The Single Guy" Silverman.

   More Flashbacks To TV's Mediocre Past: Remember a good while ago, when I noted that while Kenan Thompson had gone on to Saturday Night Live, his "Good Burger" partner Kel Thompson had simple succeeded in not dying?

   It's gotten a little better, as Kel is now a co-host of the syndicated Dance 360 that Charlie, the whitest guy I know, apparently loves.

   I watched it tonight, and it is a good show -- any time you can get a girl from Palestine on to "represent the West Bank," you're something special in my eyes. I just think if you're going to the trouble of having prizes, it should probably be more than $360, an XBox and a guitar.

   But hey, what do I know? To me, it just looked like they were all seizing to the beat.

October 6, 2004 - Broom Closet
   Check Raise: After almost exactly four months of waiting since my two-year anniversary, I have been given a raise by my fine superiors at the Whale City Picayune ... that's what I would call the paper were I to hit the Powerball and take over the show.

   That'd be with the money left over after bringing minor league baseball to Springfield, of course.

   This year's bounty is less than half of last year's 80 cent hourly jump, and using the same formula as I did last year, the 2.44% hike means per year I make the hourly wage of someone bringing in about $58.2 million.

   It just sounds so much better that way.

   Nerd Report: Perhaps my raise woud have been higher if my Ken Jennings story had delved deeper into the magical world of quiz bowl, as this front page Washington Post story does.

   Considering when how poor the New York Times did in trying to write this story several years ago, I'm shocked at how complete a picture the reporter was able to paint about the parties involved.

   Of course, sometimes knowing the parties brings a whole new perspective. For example:

"We have trouble explaining ourselves," Hentzel allowed. "None of us is really good at putting together presentations. If it's between writing questions or cold-calling Microsoft for sponsorship, well ... People who tend to be salesmen, managers and really people-people don't tend to become quiz bowlers."

   Couldn't have said it better. Also:

When veteran quiz bowlers and NAQT members gathered this summer in Minnesota for the wedding of Hentzel and fellow player Emily Pike, it was a given that people would show up with portable buzzers, timers and packets of questions as well as wedding gifts, like the black nightie Emily received with a pink question mark on it.

   That's going to vainly be going on the "Do Not Remember" list.

   Still On The Quiz Bowl Train: A few weeks back, I aimlessly mentioned I'd like to see a U.S. map with just the 5 and 0 Interstates on it. Well, Mike Burger made one.

   Without looking, which of the 48 contiguous do you think is the only one skipped over completely? It didn't shock me either.

   Since we've already discussed my finances, Mike's tip will be inclusion in the mighty Links page ... slated for deletion in the mighty site redesign I have floating around in my head.

   I'll be getting to that right after the vacation writeups are never posted.

   • Attempting to cash in on the reality TV craze, PAX TV has put ten people in a house and will force them to ... quit smoking.

   Ah, PAX.

PAX TV takes reality television to a whole new level with "Cold Turkey." Watch every Sunday 10/9c, and also catch the encores on Tuesdays 9/8c and Thursdays 8/7c.

Bamboozled into thinking they were going to join the cast of an outrageous reality show, ten unsuspecting chain smokers discover that the real task at hand is to quit smoking 'cold turkey' while sequestered in a house for over three weeks. A series that is sure to have television viewers talking this fall, "Cold Turkey" reveals a new and positive side to reality, exploring the world of self-esteem and keeping one’s word.

   I can't decide what to finish this with ... "It's just good to see A.J. Benza working again" or "It's a shame Zeus will hit all the producers with lightning bolts anyway for lying to the contestants." So I'll use both.

   I would much rather watch playoff baseball than "Cold Turkey."

Astros 9, Braves 3
Houston leads leads best-of-five, 1-0

Roger Clemens
-- Of course, NOW he can just pitch well enough to not lose.

Houston Astros starting pitcher Roger Clemens throws to an Atlanta Braves batter during Game 1 of the National League Division Playoffs in Atlanta. Clemens pitched seven innings to help the Houston Astros rout the Atlanta Braves 9-3. (Alan Mothner/Reuters)

   In the series where I genuinely do not care who wins, Roger Clemens pitched just well enough to not blow things for his teammates.

   How's that for faint praise.

   Maybe he was getting squeezed at the plate, and maybe he is coming off a bad bout of the influenza, but the Cardinals will not be sweating the Astros should this be the ace they have to face. Plenty of people will look at this outing the exact opposite way, as Clemens was "gutty" to get out of things like a bases-loaded jam in the third.

   I say he was lucky to be doing it against rookie Charles Thomas, who came to the plate with his best "there is no way in hell I am hitting a baseball fair in this at-bat" face showing.

   As strong as the Astros bats looked -- first-time playoff player Carlos Beltran is doing all the things first-time playoff player Vladimir Guerrero isn't -- this series is far from over. Atlanta's hopes get better as they get deeper into the Houston rotation, but they do need to win Thursday's Game 2. Going down 0-2 when the Astros haven't lost at home since August isn't the best way to get your fans to show up at next year's playoffs.

Yankees 7, Twins 6 (12)
Best-of-five tied, 1-1

Derek Jeter
-- Thankfully, this season I decided I don't really hate Derek Jeter.

Derek Jeter, right, celebrates scoring the game winning run off a sacrifice fly by Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees to defeat the Minnesota Twins 7-6 in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium. (AFP/Getty Images/Ezra Shaw)

   All I really want out of this series is for it to go the full five games,so I should be happy with the result.

   This is, of course, impossible. Asking me to be happy about a Yankee win is like asking someone who just got dumped by the girl of their dreams to be happy because, well, the girl was a serial killer and he was next on the list.

   Reason and logic? Need not apply.

   In so much as I've become content with the way Derek Jeter plays -- he just enjoys the game too much to be hated all that much -- I've moved all that loathing to Alex Rodriguez. Seeing him finally do something in a game that matters just makes me sad. It's like we want to reward those who suck franchises dry, taunt with their talent, but then don't deliver.

   Baseball is such a more pure game if Alex Rodriguez goes 1-for-37 in a playoff season. Why can't baseball rig things like this to happen?

   Before I move on, the Twins bringing closer Joe Nathan out to pitch the 12th inning -- his third -- after Minnesota had taken the lead is the kind of move, if made by Boston, that would cause people to lose their jobs and/or lives. I don't even have to convince you of this, because you know I'm right.

Red Sox 8, Angels 3
Boston leads best-of-five, 2-0

-- There's insurance runs. Then there's insurance runs.

Anaheim Angels catcher Jose Molina looks on, left, as Boston Red Sox star Manny Ramirez scores the first of four runs in the ninth inning during Game 2 of their American League Division Series at Edison Field in Anaheim. Welcoming Ramirez home at right is Kevin Millar. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

   As a Red Sox fan, I feel it is my duty to say this.

   Four times since the Division Series began in 1995 has a team blown an 0-2 lead and lost the series. The Red Sox have been on the happy end of this twice, coming back against the Indians in 1999 and the Athletics in 2003.

   If you didn't think about some sort of karmic retribution coming up after Boston sealed their 2-0 lead, you're clearly either new to the team or just don't get what it's all about.

   That said, this series is over. With Anaheim's rapidly atrophying lineup? With a No. 1 bullpen in baseball that the Red Sox just shelled in a must-win game for the Angels? If played 100 times, Anaheim sweeps both games at a playoff-crazed Fenway maybe five times. Maybe. Boston scores a dozen on Kelvim Escobar on Friday ... you heard it here first.

   And even if they square things by the grace, what do they get? Game 5 against Curt Schilling, who's about three weeks away from beating John Kerry for the state's electoral votes.

   And by the way, Pedro, we'll take 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 6 K every time out this October. Just call the MLB offices and set that up, if you would.

October 5, 2004 - More Blah, Blah, Blah About Sports
   Debatable: The point when I start watching a vice presidental debate instead of anything, never mind playoff baseball, is the day I'd like one of you to step up and pop me in the head. It's like wanting to hear what the presidential candidates feel, but for real big fans of a good game of Telephone.

   My good friend The Bruce had something to say about the debate, however.

Until reading (this) sentence it had never even occurred to me to do that comparison. Even after reading that sentence... either pretending to be a woman or just approaching it from guy-on-guy... I still can't even remotely give either of those men an edge. Thoughts? Anyone?

And it's not a matter of my never finding a man cute ever. There are some really cute guys out there, of course, including some I've been proud to call friends over the years. Every guy I can think of who's ever appeared on my "cute-dar" (I apologize profusely for that butchering of the English language) turned out to be either gay, bisexual, or at minimum "questioning."

...or a pro athlete, I guess, but that's neither here nor there.

   If you don't regularly read his blog, I'm surprised ... but I can't imagine this is going to drive you that way either.

   Boston Linkage: There are many good papers in my former home, most notably the Boston Globe, who forced a columnist to spend a night in Britney's hotel suite.

   Read the article before you get to the part where I say, "That's my kind of story."

Imagine that you are spending the night in a luxury hotel in downtown Boston. Your deluxe room has a top-of-the line audio-visual system with a 42-inch-wide, high-definition, plasma-screen TV. That is the good news.

But the system is on the blink. It plays only one DVD: Britney Spears's "In the Zone." It is supposed to get cable and broadcast TV, but it doesn't work. Julian Miller comes up from the front desk; he has fixed this problem before. But not this time.

So you won't be watching "SportsCenter" or "CSI: Especially Grisly Deaths" tonight. Just Britney swinging her 22-year-old tush with the Ying Yang Twins, over and over.

Welcome to the fourth circle of hell, the one where you are condemned to a life of useless labor. Welcome to the $349-a-night Britney Spears room at the Onyx Hotel.

   On the college side, it has come to my attention that Walter Brown has seen its last Midnight Mania and there's a new student sex mag coming to town.

As the weather around Boston cools down, the streets of Boston University will be heating up as the new student-centered sex magazine, Boink, nears publication.

The publication - which will hit newsstands after winter break - will feature sex columns, toy reviews and polls written by and for BU students, as well as several nude photographs of BU coeds.

Alecia Oleyourryk, editor-in-chief and founder of Boink, said college is an important time of sexual exploration often unrealized by conservative university campuses such as BU.

"Sadly, there are few formal forums for people our age to share their sexual experiences and to learn from others who are on the same journey," the College of Communication senior said. "Boink was created to fill that need."

   Because a magazine full of naked college kids and dildos, entitled Boink, is what passes for a formal forum these days.

   These kids today ... when I was an undergrad, we didn't have formal forums. We just made lewd jokes as people passed by on the street and watched scrambled porn on college bowl road trips! And weeeee liked it!

   • I sometimes take flak from my baseball fan friends because I refuse to get excited about the game before August. They say I'm "not a real fan," that I "should learn to love a Brewers-Pirates game" and other "things along those lines."

   I just can't get excited by baseball that doesn't matter.

   We won't be having that problem in the month of October.

Cardinals 8, Dodgers 3
St. Louis leads leads best-of-five, 1-0

Larry Walker's first home run.
-- My hope had already begun to wander anyway.

The St. Louis Cardinals' Larry Walker hits a solo home run against Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Odalis Perez in the third inning of their Division Series Game 1 in St. Louis, Missouri. Walker also hit a solo home run in the eighth inning as the Cardinals went on to win 8-3. (Peter Newcomb/Reuters)

   If you're not really a baseball fan, and yet are interested by the playoffs, allow me to boil this series down as succinctly as I can.

   L.A.'s pitcher Odalis Perez is pretty good, and he did pitch alright if you ignore the string of massive home runs he allowed in the third inning. The only batter he had trouble with on the first trip through the order was Albert Pujols, who may end up winning the MVP award.

   Perez got the count to 2-2 on Pujols without him even swinging the bat -- a pair of called strikes. He then threw up a beautiful pitch ... a breaking ball that stayed low and ended up on the outside edge of the plate. The kind of pitch he'd probably meant to throw, and the kind of pitch he'd fan plenty of batters with.

   Pujols hit it into the centerfield bleachers.

   So, what have we learned? In order for the Dodgers to beat the Cardinals, who had lost five of their last seven meaningless games, they will need to play perfect baseball and catch some breaks.

   If nothing else, maybe I can get some playoff gear on clearance.

Twins 2, Yankees 0
Minnesota leads best-of-five, 1-0

Posada's out at the plate.
-- Play of the postseason thusfar ... all one day of it.

New York Yankees' Jorge Posada is tagged out by Minnesota Twins catcher Henry Blanco during the second inning as home plate umpire Charlie Reliford, left, and Miguel Cairo watch the play in Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Twins won 2-0. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

   It's hard for me to get really excited about Minnesota winning Game 1 with their ace on the hill, simply because it was what was supposed to happen. None of the three games today really departed from script that much.

   It's still good to see Johan Santana remains as good as advertised in the postseason.

   Despite the 2-0 score, the only reason the Yankees were ever a threat in this game is because they're the Yankees and they do things like win games they're 0-2 in during the playoffs. Minnesota's defense was just simply too good ... Torii Hunter's gun-down at the plate above and robbing A-Rod of a possible home run in the eighth were the kind of plays that remind everyone how fun it is to cheer against the Yankees.

   Well, at least the smart people. Those of us who, you know, sometimes like to have a tangible, recent reason for the hate.

Red Sox 9, Angels 3
Sox leads best-of-five, 1-0

Manny's home run.
-- If Ramirez gets hot in the postseason ...

Boston Red Sox Manny Ramirez swings for a three-run home run as Anaheim Angels pitcher Scot Shields watches along with catcher Bengie Molina during the fourth inning in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, in Anaheim, Calif. In the background at second is Johnny Damon. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

   Remember what I said about Johan Santana and the Twins winning Game 1? Same here.

   Ask me to get excited in the early morning hours of Thursday.

   Before the postseason began, my boss and I were discussing possible playoff matchups and came upon the topic of Anaheim. Here is an exact quote:

You know, I just can't see a scenario where Boston loses to Anaheim. Ever.

   I'm not going to get overly excited about winning this first game -- ESPN ran a stat yesterday that said the Sox are 4-5 all-time in series they lead 1-0 -- but should Boston and Pedro Martinez win against Bartolo Colon in Game 2, the series is over. OVA.

   Yeah, real bold statement, since they'll be up 2-0 in a first-to-three situation. We're Red Sox fans ... nothing should be even that sure.

   Seeing Vladimir Guerrero, Anaheim's mighty slugger, swinging at first pitches and going 0-for-5 in his first postseason start just caps that Anaheim played the absolute worst game they will ever play today. Their defense was awful, their baserunning was purely average ... heck, the Red Sox were the ones scoring a run from third on a bunt single!

   And playing their worst game got them blown off the field. As it should be.

   I've just read so much saying "Pedro will be fine" and "Pedro will be lights out," I desperately want to believe it. I want to think he sandbagged for the last month just to sucker the whole AL in, and that the Boston bats are going to knock Bartolo Colon around like a sumo wrestler.

   I just can't do it.

   But somehow, they just might.

October 4, 2004 - Ratings and Rankings
   Springfield's For Sale: Many American cities have that patriarch that seems to make everything tick, and Springfield, Mass., just lost theirs.

   Peter Picknelly Sr. When you talk about having an obituary in the can, this has to be the only one The Republican does. Read the story ... even if all the rumors I've heard of him being a jerk are true, I'll take half his successes and call it a life right now. To make a Springfield-based business the second-largest anything in the nation is more than enough for me.

   On the plus side, however, this also opens things up to allow me to become the person to bring minor league baseball to the City of Homes. All's I gots to do is hit that Powerball.

   The Playoffs Are Here: Tuesday begins one of the greatest sporting times of the year -- the baseball playoffs, but more importantly, a Red Sox-involved baseball playoffs.

   In the vein of my front-page baseball column having been "dumbed down" a handful of times, predictions with little to no supporting evidence:

Cardinals in 4 -- Sorry, Dodgers. I'd probably have picked you to beat the Braves, but thank you for one heck of a fun ride.

Astros in 4 -- Taking the Braves to lose a playoff series in the first round is just a rite of autumn, isn't it?

Yankees in 5 -- Johan Santana just splits with the Yankees, who likely win in dramatic fashion just to get everyone else's hopes up.

Red Sox in 4 -- At best ... I don't think they'll lose, but the Sox are just maddening enough that I could foresee them needing to pitch Curt Schilling twice.

   All I know is this site's SoCal correspondent best get herself to Orange County so I can have some game reports.

It's A Clean Slate At The Plate
-- It's always a good day when you can see my headshot in a newspaper box selling the S-T. Especially since the words and process "dumbed down" got thrown with this one at least three times.

Sox Hope Pedro's Still Pedro
-- I'm not exactly confident about one former ace pitching in these playoffs. The knowledge he may be on the way out doesn't help either, not that I'm the binding force behind anything anyway.

   All those weeks where I wrote no column ... there aren't going to be any of them coming anytime soon.

   • The joy that is Camden Yards got me thinking over the weekend about the parks I've seen and the places I've watched baseball.

   I think it's every fan's dream to visit every yard in the league, simply because many have so much character, they shouldn't be missed. I know that was part of the reason I wanted to go to Montreal for the Expos' last game there ... there aren't going to be parks like that hosting MLB anymore.

   I did not go there, but I am assembling quite the little list. Ranked from worst-to-first, just like the 1991 Atlanta Braves.

8. Angel Stadium / Edison International Field
(Anaheim Angels)
Visited: 8/20/2001 vs. Boston

   Somebody always has to be last.

   By no means does Anaheim have a bad stadium ... here and Kansas City were essentially a toss-up simply because they're both just kind of there. I went in the season before Anaheim won the World Series, and the place was just dead. Overrun like Baltimore was over the weekend. The park was clean, well maintained and everything, but you couldn't shake the feeling it was a new minor-league facility.

   There's just nothing really remarkable there, including the fake rock formation and the fountains. You can see why I didn't raise a major stink about the paper not sending us West.

7. Kauffman Stadium
(Kansas City Royals)
Visited: 8/23/2001 vs. Chicago White Sox

   I wish I could push Kansas City higher, simply because the fans they have are so knowledgeable and devoted, but it's another case of their just being nothing there.

   The ballpark was dead then, and I suspect it's dead now. It's nice to be next to Arrowhead Stadium, but that doesn't save a place that's basically little more than an overblown I-70 rest stop. That said, the fountains and scoreboard are beautiful, and anywhere I can get two seats behind the dugout for $10, I'll be glad to just give the guy a $20 and be on my merry way.

   The story is in here, should you really be interested.

6. Turner Field
(Atlanta Braves)
Visited: 6/10/2000 vs. Boston

   This seems low for Atlanta, but the other parks simply evoke stronger memories. I don't dislike the park in any way, I just have a lingering memory of the place being very, very big.

   It was not, at that point, very very empty -- we sat in the upper deck out in right.

   This is the place where, wearing my No. 5 Red Sox jersey, I was heckled by intoxicated Southerners who told me, "Nice game, Nomar!" as I went down the escalators to leave. What I said back was probably worth forgetting.

   I do remember enjoying seeing the old wall of Fulton County Stadium out in the parking lot, along with a little mock baserun for the kids in the upper deck.

5. Yankee Stadium
(New York Yankees)
Visited: Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 of the 2003 ALCS

   The next two I struggled to rank one ahead of the other, because they're essentially the same thing -- iconic stadiums that are showing their age, but are still palaces to the game.

   Obviously, my views of Yankee Stadium are tarnished by who I root for and what I saw there. I honestly look at it and see a very dingy place in a neighborhood I wouldn't be wandering around in much after a game ends. But the same could be said for Fenway, and I'm not going to shortchange the place.

   I'd have no problem ranking it much lower, though, if I went to a game as a fan. I just don't see that being much fun.

4. Dodger Stadium
(Los Angeles Dodgers)
Visited: 8/18/2001 vs. New York Mets

   The Yankee Stadium of the West Coast, only better.

   There is a magic when you go to Dodger Stadium simply because of how it's built. It's in a huge canyon, so you always turn a corner or reach the peak of a hill and ... "There it is." Plus, since you enter at the stadium's highest levels because the field is actually below parking lot level, everything just opens up below you on first sight. Not even Fenway can say that.

   It's one of my favorite baseball stories.

When Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley was negotiating with the city of Los Angeles in 1957 over the deal that would take the Dodgers out of Brooklyn, he and a county supervisor took a helicopter ride over Los Angeles to look for potential stadium sites. When they flew over the empty 300-acre lot at Chavez Ravine, surrounded by freeways and within sight of the downtown skyline, O'Malley is said to have pointed and asked, "Can I have that one?" The supervisor replied, "No problem."
-- Financed by public funds too, but now I'm gushing.

   The difference from Yankee Stadium, which I may start calling Dodger Stadium East just to irritate people, is that it's not kept up as well. The weather does play a factor, but Dodger Stadium is kept about as immaculate as you could ever expect a 42-year-old ballpark to be. It borders on the absurd.

   As does the view of Los Angeles from the parking lot, but I better stop now.

3. PNC Park
(Pittsburgh Pirates)
Visited: 8/25/2001 vs. Houston

   If the Pirates can ever put together a good team, they're going to need to put snipers on the roof to keep people away from PNC.

   I've already written about it here, but this place is just put together. It makes it a shame the product on the field is so bad, because there are so many great places to watch it from. Knowing what I know now, it's very reminsicent of New England's Gillette Stadium, with the large winding concourses designed more or less just for standing room patrons.

   The way the thing makes Pittsburgh look like the most beautiful city in the nation should alone get it to the top of most lists.

2. Oriole Park at Camden Yards
(Baltimore Orioles)
Visited: 10/1/2004 and 10/2/2004 vs. Boston

   PNC should, however, be topped by the park that started the whole craze.

   That's what the greatest thing, to me, is about Camden Yards. Whereas nearly everything that has come since copied off it, it was the originator of this old-style park craze.

   And they got it completely right.

   Seeing a game at Oriole Park, even if it's a throwaway night in the middle of the week, is an event. You're going out to an event every time you go there. The stadium itself feels smaller and more intimate than it really is, partially because there's just so much around it to see and enjoy. The Eutaw Street "concourse," or whatever they call it, just shows what a joke Boston's Yawkey Street version is ... granted, Baltimore had design plans to add it, but that's not the point.

   When they add in a new sports museum right next door in 2005, the place will get even better. It's not so much a question of if I'll be back as it is one of how many people am I dragging with me when I go.

1. Fenway Park
(Boston Red Sox)
Visited: Twelve this year, too many to count before that.

   And yet, I can't make Camden top the list. I just can't.

   I have now seen nearly every crevice of Fenway Park. Sat in near every section, walked on the field, seen the clubhouses, everything. There are times when I wish it would just go away, so the Sox could get a more modern, cleaned-up version and lower their ticket prices even just for show.

   There are a lot of other people who probably feel this way.

   And yet all of us probably get that same jump in their guts when they walk up the ramp and see that field, that green, for the first time again.

   Impartial my ass ... please let this be the year. As bad as 2003 was, it may have actually worked out because 2004 feels that much better. It may never all be this perfect again.

   And I have such a good lead for a championship column worked up.

October 1-3, 2004 - Weekend At Miggy's
   Lingering Debate: The near complete absence of debate about the debate among the lot of you -- with the real surprise being nothing from Spaz -- leads me to think nothing will ever be "remembered" long-term outside of, if George W. loses, the fact that he looked like he prepared the same way I used to prepare for AP Physics tests.

   Study for like five minutes, then realize you had no shot to learn anything. Winging it worked well enough for me ... mainly because I sat next to sweet, sweet Lonnie, who though a cheerleader now builds rockets for GE.

   Unfortunately for George, his Lonnie wasn't at the debate.

   And thus, we were left with "You forgot Poland."

   Let's just leave it at that.

Numbers Don't Lie -- Sox Can Hit
-- As impressive as my collection of numbers is, this is clearly the weakest of the FOUR columns I'm planning to write in the next 24 hours. Somehow, I will get stronger as the hours tick by.

   • I will not be traveling to Anaheim for the games, which is actually how I'd prefer it. Having been to Angel Stadium in 2001, there's really no need for me to go back ... I'd hardly call it a mecca.

   I do not say the same thing about Baltimore and Camden Yards, as I hope these "Twenty Talking Points" make plenty clear.

   1) This trip started the way it seems all of my trips now start -- staying up all night due to needing to pack and having had to work the night before. When you have to be in Springfield to catch a 7:30 a.m. bus, getting out of Whale City at 12:45 a.m. with a car you can't drive 90 miles per hour the whole way is typically a bad idea.

   2) The drive was notable for two reasons -- there were points in Western Mass. where the fog was so bad, you couldn't see 20 feet in the front of the car; and I came upon a station greatly hypeing and playing Rumors, the new single by a certain Hollywood starlet trying to launch her music career.

   3) As someone who enjoys insipid pop music, on first listen this song may not warrant a second listen. When it feels like you sing the chorus five or six times in a four-minute song, and this is your chorus:

I'm tired of rumors started
I'm sick of bein' followed
I'm tired of people lyin
Sayin what they want about me
Why cant they back up off me
Why cant they let me live
I'm gonna do it my way
Take this for just what it is

   that is not a good thing. Of course, Vito said all that needs to be about this

"Yeah on the Lohan, absolutely awful. That means it will be a US Top 10."

   4) I think found out Saturday night from S-T pal Zach, who'd driven down to Baltimore for the games, that she was apparently running around Quinnipiac the previous night because her best friend goes there ... you know, I think devoting three of these twenty to her is wrong, but I just wanted to include the line, "If you see her, tell her to stop giving it away for free" somehow. And now I have.

   5) I stayed up all Friday morning doing laundry. Most people, if going on a trip, would have done laundry the previous day at a laundromat. I am clearly not most people.

   6) After all, I almost cried on the bus ride down because I decided that Major League is essentially the story of the Red Sox along with the Indians. Why I didn't notice this ever before is beyond me.

   7) I just blame the whole thing on the fatigue, which also set me up to be shocked awake by Jaws on the way back. Always good to be entering likely your busiest month of the year with some semblance of chronic fatigue syndrome.

   8) But on to the city, finally.

   9) Baltimore is an absolutely lovely city for which I have absolutely no desire to live in. Nearly everything I saw this weekend, from Camden Yards to the National Aquarium to the Inner Harbor to Lexington Market to the Babe Ruth Museum, was excellent. Excellent in an "I'm a tourist, and I enjoy looking at this right now" kind of way.

   10) Sadly, I did not walk over to M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, and spit on it because I hate them so much. I couldn't even do it to the memorial on the shore of the Inner Harbor because there were too many people around. They'll just have to feel my hate.

   11) Odds are pretty good they were doing that all weekend anyway, as that part of the city was just overrun with Red Sox fans. I can't stress that enough ... heck, look what Sidney Ponson said after Saturday night's 7-5 win by Boston's scrubs:

"It [ticks] me off," said Ponson, who pitched six innings, giving up seven hits and four earned runs and getting a no-decision. "Boston comes down here and kicks our [butts] and the whole stadium is cheering. It's sad, but it's one of those things you have to deal with. It's amazing how Boston fans can get 30,000 tickets."

   On Friday night, when Mark Bellhorn's bases-loaded single gave the Sox a lead they'd never relinquish, it would have sounded like Fenway if you'd closed your eyes. Just incredible.

   12) Friday night's game was the one I watched from Camden's press box. Aside from learning the "charge $9 for the media meal" is not just a Boston thing and that Internet access should not just be an assumed availability, I was quite impressed. Seats are in the second of the three decks, and it's entirely "first come, first served." So of course I sat up front, directly behind home plate.

   13) The way things are set up in Baltimore, there's only the vertical portion of the screen behind home plate ... it's held up by wires rather than more netting. Combine the open airness with the complete lack of windows in the press front -- the plastic sheeting they pull down at night must keep writers reeeeal warm in April -- and I was pretty sure lots of baseballs get knocked into the writers in an 82-game slate.

   14) So there was no surprise when Orlando Cabrera launched one off the metal counter of the front row and off the back wall with a resounding thud. I didn't get that ball either, as NESN's Eric Frede went and grabbed it and gave it to some kids. I'd have done the same thing, but at least I would have gotten to touch a real foul ball first.

   15) Baltimore's other attractions are plenty impressive, as what they've assembled downtown is a tourist area built around sports. I'm pretty sure the Baltimore ESPNZone was the first, and it make s a nice place to eat after the two-plus hours you've spent at the National Aquarium -- very much like its New England counterpart in Boston, but with a better dolphin show and a rainforest exhibit that reminds you why no one with any brains lives in Florida year-round.

   16) I just wouldn't advise eating there, as there's a Chipotle like six storefronts down that both doesn't have a two-hour wait and does allow you to eat for less than $10.

   17) As for the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, they'll be doing much better once they move a lot of their non-Babe stuff out of the current building -- Ruth's house combined with three other nearby ones -- and into the Camden train station right next to the Yard. Though I wonder if they'll still be the only place to have both a World Series and Super Bowl trophy on display.

   18) Yet the jewel of this trip, and of that city, is clearly Oriole Park at Camden Yards. When you consider there was no park like it to copy from when it opened in 1992, the fact that they just got so many things right when building it is stupendous.

   19) From the Eutaw Street walkway and the bronze baseballs signifying homers hit that far, to the wrought iron gates with the Oriole painted on them, to Boog's BBQ, to screaming the "O" during the Star-Spangled Banner, to just the way it all ties together with the warehouse and the monstrous, beautiful scoreboard in center ... there's just too many deserving accolades for it. Any baseball fan should go see it, because its flaws are outweighed by its strengths by far. There's really only one way I can tie it all together.

   20) After Friday night's game, I left the pressbox and went to the upper deck and sat with my brother, who'd obviously been up in the seats our group had for the trip.

   The O's had a fireworks show as part of their last series of the season, so they darkened the park and, after ten minutes plus necessary dramatic lead time, they started this cavalcade of explosions in the open area behind center field. Easily a ten-minute show tied to music, with much of the crowd still there to just gawk and take it all in with the city skyline in the background.

   With all due respect to my press brethren who were trying to file while that was going on, I can't think of one moment, in any of the baseball games I've ever been to, that I've enjoyed more than that.

   It's almost enough to make me get an Orioles jersey just to thank them.

2004: [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]