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Day 162: Missing Out

January 16, 2011

The last month has been pretty eventful and I hate writing these “reasons why I got lazy” posts, but the last 30 days involved a full house move, hectic holidays, a return to substituting, the final tests and classes leading to the completion of my teaching credential and the continued preparations for our daughter, Hollie.

It’s been busy enough that sports have taken a back seat all together.  In the past, I would have postponed any and all activities that interfered with a Northeastern men’s hockey broadcast.  Nowadays, I have to remind myself to check the score on my cell phone, just so I don’t fall out of touch.  And that’s for my FAVORITE team.  Facebook and Twitter have been helpful because of friends on site who are able to post details about the games.

There are sports fans everywhere in this country, but after my heavy travelling days ended I realized that the fan culture in the Northeast is far and above any other region in the U.S.  Local sports media is strong, the population is better informed, telecasts are part of a routine.  Some places are pretty intense about a team, but rarely invest enough passion over multiple sports.  Part of the reason I decided to go to school in Boston was to experience what I thought was an even more intense atmosphere than the New York area in which I was raised.  To be honest, the most disappointing thing about moving to California has been apathy: people are either out of touch with anything outside of ESPN highlights or they’re football fans and that’s it.  I’m still at my current level of emotional investment because of the people I grew up with and stay in contact with.

That’s why today’s going to be rough: Jets vs. Patriots.  Today’s game is the first time I really feel like I’m missing out on sharing an event with friends.  It means that Facebook is off-limits today and probably tomorrow as well.  It means I couldn’t actually hear the supposedly entertaining Wes Walker press conference.  The New York/Boston dynamic is in play and Jets fans have always carried that passionate desperation that for so long defined the New England region through the Red Sox.  The divisional dynamic elevates the game above a standard Pats/Giants showdown.

You would figure it’d be a bit looser; my experiences have led me to believe that Most Jets fans are also Mets fans, while Giants fans lean towards the Yankees due to their habitual need to have their allegiance validated by championships.  Boston fans don’t care; both groups of New York football fans are geographically indistinguishable.

My most vivid Jets/Patriots memory was the infamous Joe Namath/Suzy Kolber game.  I was preparing to produce the post-game show on WEEI with Pete Sheppard when we noticed something was off about Namath.  I thought he was just a cold man in his 70s.  Pete thought he was exhibiting the early signs of Parkinson’s disease.

“…!!!  He’s cocked!”  We scrambled to get the audio cut and instantly, a meme was born.

The hardest part has been missing out on what sounds like another awesome Patriots run.  Their renaissance in 2001-02 coincided with my entry into pro sports with WEEI, so I’ve always felt a connection stronger than I ever had with my hometown pro football squads.  I avoided all of the college bowls successfully and don’t feel like I’m worse off for it.

I have to miss Pats/Jets today, and it’s the first time during the Year Without Football that it feels like I’m turning my back on the people that helped and continued to foster my passion for the games.



Day 121: Blissful Ignorance

December 6, 2010

Apparently the BCS Selection show was yesterday.  I was attending a company holiday party with Melissa and missed any and all news of bowl appearances for the sport’s phantom championship.  I’m sure the choices were “controversial” (PR code for inexplicable), someone will claim they got screwed (an undefeated team from a non-BCS conference), the ratings will go south and no one will be satisfied.

Meanwhile,  the WWE held their King of the Ring tournament last week, a single-elimination format comprised of eight wrestlers leading to a prestigious title, complete with crown, robe and scepter.  How is it that PRO WRESTLING can handle a playoff-type tournament yet the NCAA can’t figure it out?  The transition wouldn’t be too rough since most of it tends to be pre-determined…

This weekend, though football-free, was busy nevertheless.  I completed the RICA exam, a reading instruction competency evaluation that’s considered the final step to fully credentialed to teach in California.  Four hours were alotted, and I was among the first finishers at 3.5 hours.  All that’s left is a mandatory CPR class and I’m homefree.  Then there was the revelation that our landlord has decided to sell our rental home, thus requiring its vacancy in 30 days.  Luckily, this is a favorable time to rent as many newer homes sit vacant with no expectations of sale due until an uptick in the economy occurs.  Homes listed for rental last about a week before they’re snatched up.  We’ve already had a handful of applications processed and we’ll have a bountiful choice before settling on a new place.

The move should help keep my mind from straying back to football during the home stretch of the NFL regular season.  I’m still pretty cloudy on the performance on most of the teams.  I don’t know any team’s records and am vaguely aware of certain teams’ performances.  The Patriots and Saints are doing well, the Cowboys are in the toilet and the Jets are, well, exactly where their fans imagined they’d be.  That’s about the extent of what I know about the NFL this year.

It’s been tricky trying to come up with new things to post over the last few weeks.  I’ve hit the point where there’s not much new to report about something that’s NOT a big part of my life anymore.  I’ve gotten past any urges to turn to an ESPN channel to catch up or to stay on VERSUS to watch a possession during a college game.

But that time is drawing to a close.  Once the NFL playoffs begin, I’m going to have to take this into overdrive.  A new plan is forming, and A Year Without Football might just take me into the dark ages of information…


Day 116: The Rundown

December 1, 2010

There isn’t one big event to report, just a bunch of smaller ones.

– The only football story I encounter really had nothing at all to do with the actual game: a couple of Facebook updates about Tom Brady’s rumored hairplugs.
Again, if this was the biggest story of the week, it reinforces one of my main fundamental issues with football. It’s not about the game, it’s about celebrity buzz and hype.

– I finished my teaching credential courses last week and just have to pass a reading instruction competency exam on Saturday in order to clear the final hurdle. It’s going to feel REAL good to be done, but it doesn’t look like there’s a ton of jobs out there quite yet.

– Tomorrow is a major update on Hollie. We’re going in for a thorough ultrasound to check on her development.

– Finally, there’s the news that Antoine Walker is about to sign an NBA D-League contract with the Idaho Stampede. Here’s where it gets fun: guess where Idaho is headed this weekend… It’s a Friday-Saturday-Monday series in Bakersfield. I’ll be courtside for the D-League debut of “The Wiggle.” FanHouse reported that this move is intended to showcase Walker’s determination and dedication to an honest NBA return. Well, ‘Toine, your first step back to the NBA is gonna be to check in at MY table.

See you Friday.


Day 111: Time or Money?

November 26, 2010

Melissa and I work very different schedules.  When I’m teaching, I’m home when she’s at work.  That’s great for when the baby arrives, but it makes communication and entertainment difficult at times.  We spend most of our shared time together on the weekends catching up with our agreed shared television series.  We’ll watch The Office, Fringe, Dexter, How I Met Your Mother, etc.  There’s a lot to catch up on and we do all of it via online sources like Hulu and Netflix.  We don’t have appointment viewing during regularly scheduled events anymore.  Even her own shows like General Hospital are viewed online at her convenience.

For all the viewing we do online, we’re starting to notice a discrepancy between the amount we pay for cable and the amount of time we spend watching scheduled programming.  Going over the itemized statement, it occured to me that I pay for the Sports Pack and only watch one or two of the channels included.

A few weeks ago, I calculated an estimate of how much time I spent following football during the course of an average season: an eye-opening two-and-a-half weeks.  So, in an effort to continue my self-evaluation of sports investment, I decided to calculate exactly how much I pay for the games I watch.

The Sports Pack on my cable provider cost about $9.99/month, which includes Fox College Sports, Fox Soccer Channel’s HD feed, the greatly outdated ESPN Classic and a variety of other fledgling peripheral sports networks like Tennis Channel, the Sportsman Channel, and FUEL TV.  Have I ever watched any of these with any regularity?

No.  Never.  $120 bucks a year?  Saved.

This is kinda fun…but is it time to take this logic to the next level?  Could it be possible to stay as invested as I am in my sports WITHOUT cable?

The main channels, ESPN, Fox Sports Net, Versus…just about all of the content they provide is readily available online.  It’s already there, either through verified league programming subscriptions like NHL Gamecenter ($170/season).  Bright House finally picked up the rights to ESPN3, so I’ll be able to watch that through my XBox 360.  All of the major events will still be held on free over-the-air broadcast television…why do I need $65/month ($780/year!) cable again???

Melissa still uses some of the channels, but some (SOAPNet) will not be around for much longer and some (TLC, HGTV, etc.) have exhausted their programming supply to the point of oversaturation or deviated so far from their programming niche as to be indistinguishable from the pack.

We’ll likely hang on to digital cable for another couple years or so, but I’m definitely ditching the Sports Pack.  It’s a product I simply don’t have any use for.  The strange thing is…I don’t feel that it’s an indictment of my level of dedication to a cherished pastime.  It’s just another example of how dramatically my priorities have shifted over the last year.  Between teaching and my soon-to-be-born daughter, I just don’t have the time or patience to sit in front of a television set waiting to be entertained.

It’s gotta happen on my terms.



Thanksgiving Experiment – Part 2

November 25, 2010


Finished dinner at country buffet: in & out in just over an hour.  It’s a Thanksgiving Express.  Nearly 250 folks at the tables and surprisingly only three sightings of football perihernalia (a Packers camo ballcap, a 49ers pullover, and a Tony Romo Cowboys XXXL jersey).

Melissa’s working tonight, which means it’s me and Braddock at the house.  The Thanksgiving TV schedule is a lowest common denominator wasteland: country music specials, holiday movie marathons, reruns and B-list celebrity interviews.

I’m starting to wonder if I had enough turkey to put me out for the remainder of the evening…but it looks like I’ll make it without a major gridiron intrusion this Thanksgiving.


Thanksgiving Experiment – Part 1

November 25, 2010

11:01amPST: NBC airs their first Sunday Night Football promo of the parade. Peyton Manning…Future Hall-of-Famer…somethingorother…

Turns out the choice to watch the parade helps to cancel out the Pats/Lions game here on the West Coast. Definitely helped to minimize the damage, even if it means feeling inadequately old; I have no clue who half these performers are.

Day 110: The Thanksgiving Plan

November 25, 2010

It took a while for Melissa’s family to finalize plans for Thanksgiving because of her work schedule (she’s working today). What resulted might ended up being the most obvious way to successfully last the day without any interference: dinner out.

Here’s the Thanksgiving schedule:

9am – Fire up the television and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

I’m partially embarrassed to admit this, but I’m a 28-year-old man who still makes sure to wake up in time for the Parade. Even worse, since I moved to California, I’ve been just as excited to watch the tape delay. I guess I could fall back on the logic that I’m “practicing” for Hollie, but who am I kidding? It’s one of those things that will always have a direct connection to my childhood. It’s why I still make Rudolph/Frosty/Year Without A Santa Claus appointment television every year, or make a Lenten sacrifice even though my only visits to a church in the last decade have been weddings or tourist curiosity. It’s something I did as a kid growing up in New York and helps connect with my heritage.

So, I’m a grown man who gets excited for Thanksgiving parades. What are YOU gonna do about it?!?!

12pm – Parade concludes as Santa rolls through Herald Square.

It seems like a strange marker of time for folks here in California, but I firmly subscribe to the philosophy that the Christmas season can’t officially begin until the Big Man makes his appearance to close the parade. We’re not talkin’ your run-of-the-mill, mall workin’, fake beardin’, baby traumatizin’ Santa’s helper. The Macy’s Santa = the REAL DEAL. Christmas doesn’t begin until HE decides it does. Side note: I caught one of my students writing a letter to Santa during a math lesson. I held it up and admonished her not for being off-task but for not being patient enough to let Santa rest before Thanksgiving. True story.

2pm – Depart for Thanksgiving dinner at…Hodel’s Country Buffet.

I’ve had Thanksgiving dinners in unique settings prior to my move to California. There was the first non-homemade dinner at Staten Island’s Golden Dove diner. In college, it was a competitive meal on the road as I joined the Northeastern Huskies men’s hockey team during a holiday swing in New York’s North Country of Potsdam and Canton, just one banquet room over from conference rival Providence College (This was where I had first heard the term “shoe bombing” used outside of the media realm of terrorism: explanation due another day). There was the inevitable Thanksgiving alone in Boston where I successfully trained my bird-cooking skills on a duck instead of a turkey.

Melissa’s family usually meets for Thanksgiving dinner at the Country Buffet. It’s a pretty wild scene: a large room with rows and rows of tables full of families too exhausted or too incapable of preparing their own holiday feasts. The food is actually pretty good, but it’s a little strange sharing the meal with about 200-300 strangers. The benefit of the meal this year: no TVs on location. No TVs = No football.
The meal will be done by 3:30pm-4pm at which point Melissa returns to work and I return home, filling my time as I normally would with the exception of CBS or FOX.

A strict adherence to the plan and I’ll have successfully navigated through the first big football holiday of the year. I’ll try to keep running updates of any encounters that may spring up today.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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