Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New England History and Hubris

Patriots fans should be prepared for an upset of major proportions on Sunday. Unfortunately most fans in "Patriot Nation" can not fathom the vaunted Patriots offense being shut down or the timely Patriots defense showing up too late. My head tells me the Pats will roll to a fourth Super Bowl title in seven years. My heart says "Watch Out!". Winning here in New England has been taken for granted, not by the players. The New England Patriots organization is the best all time in the ability to play one game at a time and not take any opponent too lightly. But the fans of the Patriots have developed a case of hubris not seen ever before this side of the Bronx.

Most Patriots fans are also Red Sox fans, so you would think that after watching a team be one strike from a World Series title (1986) and completely collapse they would think twice about ordering their "Perfect Season 19-0" T-shirts before the final game is over and the Patriots have more points on the board than the Giants. All New Englander's have to do is look at recent and distant local sports history, aside from the Red Sox, to realize that a fourth Super Bowl banner being unfurled at Gillette this September is NOT a fore gone conclusion.

The 2001 NFL season was only six years ago. The Patriots had an unbelievable run from Thanksgiving to the Super Bowl to enter the big game as 17 point underdogs. Similarly to the Giants the had a good mix of players and a great coaching staff who knew how to scheme just enough to win. Not win pretty, but win. We all know how that ended up. We have gotten to where we are now in the ranks of the NFL starting out like the Giants, a moderately talented team who's guts and smarts have put them in a position to change their teams destiny.

A more poignant and historical example of the underdog pulling off the impossible one has to look no further than Brookline, Massachusetts where in 1913 a 20 year old ex caddy named Francis Ouimet shocked the entire sporting world and won the US Open in a playoff over Harry Vardon and Ted Ray at "The Country Club". By 1913 Vardon had already won 5 British Opens (known as The Open Championship) and One US Open which made him the most prolific golfer of his time. Ouimet was a 20 year old, with local amateur experience, who was so green that he had a ten year old (Eddie Lowery) caddying for him during the Open. The Brits, Vardon and Ray, were heavily favored to sail back to Briton with the US Open trophy as even seasoned US professionals like Walter Hagen and John Mc Dermott had no chance to beat Vardon. Vardon was the Tiger Woods of the early 20th century. He had endorsements, a line of golf balls (the Vardon Flyer) and more trophy's than anyone else. He even had a golf grip named after him that is used to this day. It took a fluke, local knowledge, naivete and dumb luck for Ouimet to defeat Vardon.

Are the Patriots the best team ever? They are the best I've ever seen in my 42 years.

Will they destroy the Giants? My prediction is Patriots: 41 Giants: 21.

Can the Giants win? Absolutely. Whether it be hunger, a scheme, naivete or dumb luck they have a fighting chance.

You know that hackneyed, but all so true saying "Any given Sunday"...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Weekly Weigh In (Week 8) and Whining

I am as sick as a dog. I've got a fever, post nasal drip and a nasty cough. I started feeling run down on Sunday, but still went to open skate with my son for an hour before his skating lesson. Yesterday I hit the gym, but could only muster up enough energy to do a half an hour of cardio. This morning I could barely get out of bed. I haven't been this sick in years, but maybe I'll start puking and lose a few more pounds. I am down to 216. That translates into a 19 pound weight loss. When I get over this bug I will be hitting the weights harder and extending my workouts. I need to go back to sleep and rest before my sister-in-law (who had mercy on me after hearing my pitifully hoarse voice this morning and took the boys off my hands for a while) brings my kids back home. Oh yeah, no sign of Billy. Rumor has it he and Veruca Salt have holed up in Willy Wonka's place schmereing chocolate all over each other and licking it off (Don't call the cops Veruca is like 45 now).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Weekly Weigh In (Week 7)

16 Lbs lost, 24 to go. My kids got sick last Thursday night and were sick until yesterday, so I didn't see the gym until this morning. I went to the Pats AFC Championship game Sunday, so I ate like a pig and drank like a fish. With all that going on, I still lost three pounds. I finally heard from Billy. He has been on a big roofing job about 60 miles away and hasn't had time for the gym. He says he's down about 8 pounds, but is going to have to play serious catch up to get down to my level. Seven weeks to go and there is a clear front runner. Tune in next week for another episode of "As The Fat Burns" or in Billy's case "As The Gut Churns".

Friday, January 18, 2008

Why I Am Going To Hell: Reason # 56

Being a director in a non-profit human service agency people often assume that I am a good person, bordering on sainthood. "That's sooo great you work with those people" and "You are doing God's work" are things I hear quite often when telling folks what I do for a living. Little do they know that I am a self serving bastard who capitalizes on any opportunity for self-gratification. Let me explain.

Wednesday morning I was logged on to Ticketmaster trying to get Patriots AFC Championship tickets. After hitting the refresh button for an hour and a half it became apparent I was not going to the game. I rationalized that it would be better watching at home in the warmth of my living room instead of freezing my ass off sitting in single digit temperatures and bone chilling wind. Then I had a revelation.

Handicapped seating.

Being that I work with folks who have physical handicaps I am fully aware of that a certain amount of seating at any public event needs to be put aside for the handicapped per the ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act. I have brought clients to games in the past and never had a problem getting tickets. I called the ADA number at Gillette Stadium and was put on hold. As I listened to some old play by play with Gino and Gill I thought "are there people out there so desperate for a ticket that they would feign a handicap to get them?". The box office attendant answered " Patriots Ticket Office" and startled me in mid-thought. I ordered two tickets, the maximum and since I have ordered tickets from them in the past it took less than a minute. I hung up the phone and floated around the room on cloud nine. The elation was short lived.

My conscience kicked in, full bore.

I wasn't like someone faking to be handicapped in order to get tickets, I have my choice of real, live, handicapped dudes to choose from who love the Pats and would love to go to the game. But I came to the realization that I ordered the tickets because I wanted to go to the game, not because I knew one of my men would want to go or out of the kindness of my heart.

My guilt lasted less than my initial elation and I started calling everyone who would listen, to brag about my latest coup de grace.

I may be going to hell in a bucket, but at least I'm enjoyin' the ride.

Section 120, me and my newest, bestest, client.

Go Pats!!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Watching Paint Dry

I have a guilty pleasure that I rarely admit to doing.

It involves a four letter word.

G O L F.

In the winter from January to March I love to watch golf on television. I know, I know, you would rather watch paint dry, but to me seeing those green fairways and ocean vistas give me a much needed mid-winter lift. After March I will watch golf in tiny snippets just long enough to see who is winning a tournament, except for the Majors (The Masters, US Open, British Open, PGA Championship) and Ryder Cup where I may watch the entire final round.

I didn't start playing golf until I was 29, but once I started, like most things I like, I became addicted. My USGA handicap index is 8.8, which means if the normal par round of golf is 72 then I average 81. Since my oldest son was born in 2003 I have not played consistently. My actual handicap is higher than 8.8 since it takes a certain amount of rounds played to make a significant change in handicap; I've only posted a few round per year since 2003. That said I can still make my way around a course. The first winter following my first year playing I could not get enough golf so I watched anything on TV concerning golf. Thus the genesis of my winter golf TV obsession.

In January the PGA Tour starts with two tournaments in Hawaii. The TV coverage for these events doesn't start until 7:00 PM East coast time, so I usually fall asleep to the sound of wooshing drivers and tepid applause. The tour then moves to California and Arizona for the next seven weeks where golf is played on quite a few desert courses and the famed Pebble Beach. By the time the tour heads to Florida in March I have had my fill of TV golf and am ready to play here in New England, even if it means driving two hours to Cape Cod to play 36 holes in windy, 40 degree weather.

The Bob Hope Chrysler Classic Pro-AM is on at 3 PM Eastern Time with a full field of pros and celebrities such as Carson Daly, Sterling Sharpe, Alice Cooper and hosted by comedian George Lopez. Pro-Am tournaments are fun because you get to see the pro game juxtaposed with the amateur game. On one hand its makes you feel good that you are better at something than Jerry Rice, but you also see the glaring difference between the celebrities and the pros and it reminds you that as good as you think your golf game is, you suck compared to a tour pro.

Spring Training is a month away. My first round of golf for the year is two months away. Opening Day at Fenway is three months away. Beer at the Beachcomber is five months away, but warm breezes, palm trees swaying and drives splitting fairways are hours away with the click of my remote.

65 days 'till Spring!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Weekly Weigh In (Week 6)

13 lbs total weight loss since 12/2/07. I have had no problems with dieting or exercise as evidenced by the results. I did have pizza and chicken Saturday night right before the Pats game in anticipation of a trip to the AFC Championship Game. I will continue to eat whatever I want one meal per week until I get down to 200 lbs. You might ask, "where is your friends chart?". Billy hasn't been heard from in almost two weeks. I hope he hasn't gone off the wagon and started gorging himself. As I see it, weigh in is on the Ides of March (March 15) and I should come in at about 200-205 lbs. Billy will be lucky not to gain weight. If your reading this Billy, put down that fork and get into the gym, before you're 10 lbs. heavier and $200 lighter.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Snow Game

This is the sixth anniversary of the game that changed the fortunes of New England football forever. Here is a re-post of my account of that wonderfully, snow-filled evening. It was one of the most watched playoff games of all time, so I know most of you were watching, somewhere. Enjoy, reminisce and drop me a comment about where you were on...

January 19, 2002.

The Snow Game.

The greatest football game in New England football history.

I was there.

The New England Patriots have played bigger games (as of the date of this writing they have played in 5 Super Bowls), they have played in closer games, had games with more controversy (1976 playoffs vs Raiders, sno-blower-gate) and they have played games in worse weather conditions. There has never been a single game in their history that could compare with this games combination of magnitude, atmosphere, suspense and exhilaration.

The Pats had a season that was typical of those since Bob Kraft had bought the team in the early 90's, competitive, hopeful, but missing some unknown key ingredient. The one difference between this team and the others in recent history was that they were peaking. They had earned a home playoff game and in every possible scenario it would be their only home playoff game thus making this game the last game played in the drab, dismal Schaefer... Sullivan...Foxboro Stadium. As horrible as it was a venue, it held a vault of beer soaked memories that could never be replaced by a state of the art stadium. Going to Foxboro Stadium was like going to a football game in the town of Bedrock circa 2500 BC. Touch football in the rock strewn, gravel parking lot. The smell of meat cooking on ridiculously huge grill fires. Drunken fights at 11:00 AM, two hours before kick off. Blood and beer.

The week leading up to the game my buddy Billy and I had been scouring the net for tickets to the game. Billy is a hard drinking , hard living guy who bought his father's roofing business back in the 90's and was my golf partner. He had bought season tickets back when Kraft bought the team, but had sold them recently to a vendor of his. We had gone to lots of games together, but were on a mission from God to go to this game. We wanted to experience one last game like cavemen, drunk, eating meat and watching fights. On Friday afternoon I found some tickets for $200 a piece and immediately called Billy, excitedly. He had already gotten us tickets from a vendor, for free.


Saturday we got on the road at 11 AM. packed with beer and a crock pot full of meatballs and sausage. The game was an 8PM start, but we had a plan. Drink. Check into our hotel we booked knowing it was going to be a late, drunken evening. Spend the afternoon in Providence drinking. Get on our cold weather gear and head to the game. Things pretty much held to plan.

During our ride down the Mass Pike the snow had already started falling as predicted, but was not yet sticking to the frozen pavement. It wisped back and forth across the road blown around by the speeding cars. We checked into our hotel in Attleboro on Route 1 about 5 miles from the stadium at 1PM. We plugged in the crock pot and hopped back in the car for the 15 minute ride to Providence and its warm, inviting stripper bars. The snow was still light as we made our way into "Club Fantasies". We opted for this joint on the recommendation of the front desk clerk at the hotel over the infamous "Foxy Lady". There is nothing like sitting in a warm, cozy stripper bar with 50+ naked women prancing about while drinking beer and shots of Jaegarmeister as the snow piles up outside. Its like Apres Ski without the Apres or the ski. Billy and I sat at the bar for the most part occasionally heading into "The Pit" (a squared off section next to the main stage) for a $5 sample table dance(an R-rated version of the $25, X-rated, private table dances done upstairs. We had lost time while in the joint and when we walked out sometime after 5 PM it was into "white out" conditions.

It took us 45 minutes to make the 15 minute ride back to the hotel. We put on our "long johns" and waterproof gear, gathered up the meatballs and french bread and headed toward the stadium. My Bonneville handled surprisingly well in the snow and the trip to the stadium went smoothly. We stopped at a liquor store 2 miles from the stadium and Bill went in. He came out with 12 nips of Grand Mariner. We pulled in to the stadium parking lot and there were no discernible parking spaces. The snow was at least 8 inches deep. I had plugged the crock pot into my a/c converter which plugged into my lighter on the way to the stadium from the hotel, so we expected some steamy, hot meatballs to go with our beer. No go. The converter not only shorted the lighter, thus making our meatballs cold, it shorted out half the electrical system including the defroster, heater and inside lights. We sat in the car eating luke warm meatball grinders washed down with ice cold beer. 45 minutes before game time we filled our pockets with beer and nips of Grand Mariner and headed for the gates of the stadium. At the gates there were ticket takers and droves of security. I thought for sure we would have all of our booze confiscated. I handed the ticket taker my ticket and got a token pat down by a disinterested security person. I know he must have felt one of the five beers I carried in in my jacket pocket or one of the six nips I tucked in my socks. I turned to Billy as we headed to our seats in Section 216 and said "I guess Kraft is trying to save money on demo and is hoping someone brings in a bomb". "I'll drink to that" he said as he hoisted a Grand Mariner in a mock toast.

The scene at our seats were something that could not be duplicated by the best of Hollywood's special effects artists. Snow was falling sideways under the dim lights. The grounds crew was walking back and forth over their respective yard line snow blowing the line so you could see the yardage. Players were warming up mainly by running in place or doing jumping jacks as to not get injured before the game even started. A fog was enveloping the stadium caused by the breath of 60,000 strong anticipating the kickoff.

The game developed slowly. The only scoring in the first half was a Raiders touchdown, Gannon to Jett. In the third quarter the Russian born Sebastian Janikowski and the South Dakota born Vinateiri, both seemingly oblivious to the weather, accounted for dueling field goals with Janikowski winning 2 to 1. With the Pats down 13-3 the crowd got restless. Our half of the stadium, on the Pats sideline, spontaneously started chanting "We want Drew" in response to Brady's inefficiency. Drew was warming up on the sideline and seemed to zip the ball a bit stronger as the pleas for his entry became louder.

Then there was the forth quarter.

Brady appeased the masses by driving the ball down field early in the quarter and ran one in cutting the Raiders lead to 3. Miss cues on both sides ensued. With under two minutes to go Brady dropped back to pass and was being tackled when the ball popped loose. The crowed groaned collectively as a Raider pounced on the ball. I started yelling hoarsely, drunkenly "His arm was going forward, they are going to reverse it." I repeated it a number of times while people stood in dead silence or headed sullenly for the exits. Some guy a few rows in front turned around and told me to shut up. Just as I was about to dive over a couple of rows to fulfil the trifecta of booze, meat and blood the ref said the play was being reviewed. I suddenly went from drunk "belligerent" guy to drunk "knows what hes talking about" guy. The call was reversed and everyone was hugging, high 5-ing and kissing like it was New Years Eve. The guy that told me to shut up even gave me a high 5 which I reciprocated as hard as I could.

Brady took advantage of the second chance, but couldn't get us within "chip shot" range which on a night like that would've been inside the ten, if that. He got us to the 30 with just under 30 seconds to go. The snow seemed to pick up in intensity when Vinitieri was lining up the field goal attempt. As the ball lifted off the ground into the falling snow I immediately sunk my head. The trajectory of the kick was way too low to travel 47 yards and I didn't want to see it miss. As I stared at the pile of beer cans and bottles of Grand Mariner, covered with snow, piled at my feet the roaring erupted. The kick carried just enough over the cross bar to tie the game at 13 - 13. Every hair on my body was standing on end. People were falling over their seats. For two straight minutes everyone in the stadium was bouncing in unison, screaming and laughing.

This never happens to us, we never get the breaks.

The ghosts of Ben Dreith, Buckner, Piersall, "The Fridge", Desmond Howard and Bucky Dent who had been lingering over the moment retreated hastily from the joy and ectasy rarley experienced on a January night in New England.

Over time was anti-climactic. We won the coin toss, drove the field and AV made a chip shot right in front of us to win the game. As Lonnie Paxton was making snow angels below the stands were a sea of euphoria. People were screaming, jumping, cackling, hooting, hollering and even crying. I stood there like a lifeless spector not making a noise, but soaking in the sights and sounds of the moment until Billy bear hugged me bringing me back from my daze. No one left their seats for an hour. Every fan stayed there listening to the post game interviews being broadcast over the loudspeakers, drinking smuggled booze and telling tales of this game and games prior. It was like an Irish wake, drunken and raucous, but touching.

We made it back to the Bonneville about 2:30 AM, but didn't get out onto Route 1 until after 3AM. We passed out at our hotel immediately. I woke up at 7 AM to take a piss. As I stood over the bowl, still drunk, I noticed that my right hand was killing me. I inspected it figuring I must have slept on it the wrong way, but the palm was black and blue. I sat on the end of my bed flummoxed, then it hit me. As I walked out of the stadium I high fived at least 1000 people on my journey out of the stadium.

We got on the road by 10 AM. At home I alternated between worlds on my couch while watching the Steelers and Rams win. Every time I closed my eyes I could see the breath rising and the snow falling. It was a mid-winter nights dream.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Weekly Weigh In (Week 5)

Weekly weigh in was Monday. Down eight pounds to 227.

Last Tuesday I cut out all sugar and high carbohydrate foods in a modified version of the "South Beach Diet". When I've done this in the past, combined with cardio and weights, the pounds start dropping, rapidly. During the two weeks of the holiday I stayed at about 231 lbs, which was amazing considering the amount food and drink I consumed. An 8 lb. weight loss during the first month is more than expected considering Christmas fell smack dab in the middle of the first month. Now that starch and sugar have been gone for a week I estimate by February 1st to be down around 215 lbs.. In a week I'll start adding low glycemic fruits back into my diet as well as low glycemic grains. Last week and the upcoming week is nothing but low fat protein and low glycemic veggies.

My buddy Bill, with whom I have a substantial wager over who will lose more weight by the Ides of March, wants me to post a progress meter for him, next to mine, for comparison. I am thinking a flower motif. Pansies possibly? Tune in next week.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Rink

I've done some cool things in my life. Played baseball for the Red Sox. Won thousands in Vegas. Had menage a trios with Charlize and Fergie. OK, so I've dreamt about some cool things, but one cool thing I've always dreamt of was having a backyard hockey rink.

My dream is now a reality.

Two winters ago I was sitting in my living room in the dead of winter with my then 2 1/2 year old and 8 month old boys, bored out of my mind. It was too cold to go out to play and we had already exhausted our library of DVD's. To avoid this kind of boredom in winters to come I came up with the perfect solution, a backyard hockey rink. The following winter I started looking into how I would get one started. The problem. It was 70 degrees on January 26th and the chances of making a usable rink and getting enough use for the effort was negligible. I scrapped plans until this year.

Starting in October this year I fired up my search engines and started researching backyard rinks. My first inclination was to buy a kit. There are a variety of kits out there, but most of the online feedback I read was negative. It wasn't cold enough, the ground was uneven, the liner ripped, nothing but problems.

The next option was to build my own rink by going to Home Depot, buying plastic sheets, wood, lights, etc...and building a rink from scratch. Most people's experiences doing it this way were much better, but you still have to deal with mother nature, uneven terrain and equipment failure.

The last option was to wait until the ground was frozen,rock hard and start sprinkling water in an area of the yard until you have a skatable area. This option was the cheapest, but could only work in sub freezing temperatures and lots of man hours.

I did a combination.

After a big snow in mid December I sno-blowed an area 65 feet by 25 feet right down to the grass. I then flooded the area, so all the low spots were filled with ice. After a few days and nights of filling in the low spots I put down plastic, molded it to the snow banks surrounding the snow-blowed area and filled the rink with water. Within three days we were skating.

Temperatures are expected to be above normal during the next week here in New England, but we just got a straight week of skating. We were out on the ice an hour at a time two times per day. On Wednesday my father-in-law (who happens to live next door) brought up a couple of hockey nets he hasn't used in over thirty years. I put one on each end of the rink and we now have our own hockey arena. To my suprise they could still take a slapshot without the net breaking. I put out a flood light so we could skate at night.My four year old son Matt and I were out playing hockey under the stars this past Thursday night at 7 PM. The temperature, -2 degrees fahrenheit. Its easy to play in such cold when the warmth of your house is only steps away.

This rink has been a dream come true and has surpassed any and all expectations. Now if I could only figure out that menage...

Friday, January 04, 2008


Iowans are ready for a Black president.

Is the rest of the country ready?

Obama now has a bulls eye on his back. Figuratively. Literally.

I am one of a long line of democrats. I live in, as Mitt Romney said on NBC this morning, the "Bluest State" in the country, Massachusetts. I work with the underprivileged at a non-profit human service agency. I benefited from Public Welfare being the child of a single mother. Out of all the candidates running for our presidency I like Obama better than the rest. I am ready for a black president. Most of America is ready for a black president. The small percentage that aren't, are extremely dangerous.





Besides being gunned down in cold blood each of these men were ardent proponents of civil rights and played huge roles in the struggle for racial equality. It is in my liberal, democratic, blue state living, opinion that if the majority of this country's white citizens did not believe that all men were created equal that white people would still own slaves. Black people would not be able to vote, own property, shop, eat and live among us "privileged" whites. The majority of Americans are ready for a Black man to be president. The lunatic fringe isn't.

The presidency holds a certain amount of danger as evidenced by the mountains of security which follows the man. There are always disenfranchised individuals and groups who will make a half-assed attempt at taking out the president due to subliminal messages from a movie (Hinckly) or an attempt at gaining infamy. Obama is in grave danger.

Obama will be President, if he lives that long. He is young, idealistic and fresh, not unlike JFK was in 1960. JFK had to overcome his Irish-Catholic background. Obama has to overcome his skin color. America was ready for change then. America is ready for change now.

If 250 million people are ready for a Black president and one person isn't and that one person has the will and means to be sure that a Black man's only entry into the White House is through the housekeeping entrance, then there won't be a black president.

I am not naive by any stretch of the imagination. There are plenty of people that won't vote for Barack due to his skin color. Racism, sexism and classism is alive and well in this country of ours, but just because someone won't vote for a black candidate doesn't mean that they want that candidate assassinated. There are more than a few of the lunatic fringe that would like to see all black men dead, especially one running for the most hallowed office in the land, President of the United States of America.

Barack has to worry less about Hillary, John, Mitt and Rudy than some racist with a gun bought at WalMart and the will of an Islamic Jihadist. "O" looks too much like a bulls eye. A "B" might be a harder target.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Back To Normal

The decorations are off the tree and stored away. The mountains of toys which encompassed half of the living room now encompass half of the kids bedroom. The refrigerator actually has room for groceries and is now free of leftover turkey, ham and desserts. Time to get back to normal. We still have the creche lit up in our bay window and it will remain there until January 6th, the "Feast of the Magi", then its off to the basement until December 8th next year (December 8th is the "Feast of the Immaculate Conception").

I enjoy the solitude and slow pace of early winter. To me its a time to recharge the batteries and get things in order for the coming year. This is the time of year when I plan vacations, catch up on work projects and do some home organizing. I look forward to the small increases in light each afternoon. The Celtic, pagan in me responds viscerally to the rhythm of the seasons. Don't get me wrong. I follow the teachings of Christ and think he was a great man. He is the son of God just as we all are the sons and daughters of God. My Celtic, pagan ancestors appeased the Romans by adopting Christ and Roman Catholicism to avoid persecution, while still revelling in their pagan myths and beliefs. I've done the same (to avoid the persecution of my mother, grandmother and the Nuns at my school). I sat through hours of religious studies in Catholic School and hours of praying in church, but am affected more by the increase and decrease of the light as dictated by the tilt of the earth, than the light of God.

Getting back to normal means blogging on a regular basis. I've stepped out of the blogosphere for a bit while tending to the rigors of the holidays, doing some year- end projects up at work and building a skating rink in my backyard (the rink is 65 x 25 and as of this posting is ready to go).

Happy New Year to all and take some time during this quiet time of year to recharge, revitalize and get things back to normal. Embrace your inner pagan.