Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In the Woods

--> I had a co-counselor at Camp Chicopee who was in charge of what was called "Nature and Pioneering." He was a bit of a cartoon character--nice man actually--but quirky enough to warrant attention because of his behavior.   His refrain when speaking to 10-14 year olds about camping was more amusing because of his butchered speech than the inherent wisdom of the message.  "In Da Woods" he would say, "Dere aint no luxuries."  He said it so often and every time with the butchered articulations that one co-counselor once remarked, "When brains were given out, he was in 'da woods.'"

I have read a few books with title references to the Woods in the last few years.  The most memorable of these was Man in the Woods which I thought was terrific both because of the story line and the metaphor--since the main character was in the woods as symbolically, as he was in the woods because a key event in the story took place in the woods.

Thinking of being in the thick of an impenetrable area dense with trees and brush allows us to imagine ourselves unable to extricate oneself from jungles of our own making.  How do we get out of our psychological woods without scarring ourselves irreparably?

I just finished In the Woods by Tana French.  A cousin recommended the novel when I spoke of enjoying a series of police procedurals by another author.  In the Woods was a debut novel for French and not that easy to get out of the multi site library system in the Boston area.  There must be twenty libraries around here that are part of the system.  Every one that had In the Woods indicated that the book was "out."  I put myself on a waiting list and, ten days later, a well read (as in damaged) copy arrived in the Waltham Public Library with my name on it.

Was it worth the wait? 

Not really. But it is growing on me to the extent that today I actually asked for the second novel in the series to be delivered to Waltham. 

Here's the story that is laid out right in the beginning, so I am not giving much, if anything, away. Two Dublin area detectives-a man and a woman--attempt to solve the murder of a young girl who was killed in the woods. Coincidentally or not, in the same woods, twenty years prior a trio of pals who cavorted there regularly, met with a devastating fate resulting with two of them vanishing and the third all bloody with no memory at all of what had taken place to him or to his mates.  One of the detectives trying to solve the current crime is actually the third child from the first. (The author very cleverly informs the reader how this is the case. It was so clever that I had to read the page three times to get it).  In what is really preposterous, most people in the community are unaware that this detective was a prior victim.

Stop here if you want to go read the book.

Lots of things about this book are disappointing. A key piece of the novel is about the relationship between the survivor and his detective partner. Yet, we never find out how the affection for the detectives which is apparent from day one, evolved. They are presented as platonic but clearly are not.  Also, the relationship of the detective survivor with a suspect from the current case is never developed until we discover that it had been taking place. There is no drawing of that relationship in any substantive way. Yet, that relationship is central to finding out how the crime was committed. Finally (and absolutely do not read this next sentence if you plan to read the book) while we find out who committed the current murder, we never find out about the perp in the earlier one despite a number of comments throughout that suggest that the two crimes are linked.

I guess, though, that if you take the novel away from the plot line the point is that it doesn't matter who committed the first crime, because the survivor will forever be in the woods, as will the perp of the current murder, as are some other key characters.  Events beyond our control and some in our control, put us in the woods.  And it is our challenge regardless of how we got in the woods, to figure out how to get the hell out.  Some of us do, some of us are so caught in the vines that we can not get out, and some of us don't even know we are in there.

One thing that is constant in this book and the other one I referred to earlier with Woods in the title, is that as my co-counselor once tried to inculcate, "In da woods, dere aint no luxuries".  So, while you might want to hang there for a while, after a stretch you need to get out.  

The book is convoluted and labyrinthine. So much is unnecessary, but sometimes authors of whodunnits throw in characters just to throw you off and it is kind of fun to try and figure out who did it and who did not.  I don't think Columbo himself could have figured out the doer in this book with the evidence presented to the reader.

I will be interested in seeing if the sequel to In the Woods is better than the first.

Monday, January 30, 2017

I am Fenwick

There is a funny Southwest airlines commercial that has been aired several times during the NFL playoffs.  In it a leader of some sort announces to an army that if Fenwick identifies himself, all of his comrades will be spared. As Fenwick begins to acknowledge his identity, his mates, one by one, announce, "I am Fenwick" to make it impossible to single out the real Fenwick for what appears to be some disastrous end.   The attempt to protect Fenwick, however, is thwarted because another man stumbles into the crowd, finds the real Fenwick, and asks him a question.  When he realizes the blunder, all heads turn to the latecomer. The audience hears the voiceover say, "Want to Get Away."

Over the past weekend, the Trump administration has issued a number of edicts that one would think could only be enforced in some autocracy.  I was under the impression that there are checks and balances in America to stop a tyrant from ruling like a King. Apparently, there are things a president can do unilaterally that are outrageous, let alone unconstitutional.

With some signatures, immigrants from certain countries cannot enter the country.  And Moslems are especially identified as potential threats to America and will have difficulty getting into the United States.  The claim is that since terrorists have, indeed, terrorized the US, and some of these terrorists are Moslems, and some of these terrorists have, as their place of origin, Iraq, Sudan, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Somalia and Yemen, people who wish to enter our country from these countries are not welcome. (Osama Bin Laden was from Saudi Arabia, which is not on the list).

So Moslems cannot come in. Lebanese, Syrians, and Sudanese etc cannot come in.  Does that not smack of racism to you?  Do you have to be an historian to remember when Jews had to wear Jewish stars so that they could be singled out as potential threats.

I am not Lebanese, or Syrian, or Sudanese--but I think it is time for all Americans to respond to Trump's absurd behavior, to pretend as if we are.

We are Fenwick.

Tomorrow, I fly out of West Palm Beach. This, I assume, is Herr Donald's airport when he flies to his winter mansion.  I will probably have no trouble getting through security, though I imagine tomorrow it will be a bit chaotic at the security check in.  But if I were an Iraqi or Lebanese I might not be able to get through. Imagine if you were an immigrant, or just had an accent, and were flying somewhere tomorrow. Imagine if you had planned to come to the land of opportunity and had saved for the pilgrimage. And then all of a sudden, because your name is not Alan, but El-Alan, you are stopped from boarding your plane.

It is time for Democrats and Republicans to find their backbone, stand up to the self styled King and say, defiantly.  We are Fenwick.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

the U

Yesterday I drove from Del Ray Beach to Coral Gables to watch the University of Miami upset the University of North Carolina by double digits.  I am interested in UNC for a number of reasons one of which is that I am still befuddled at how the academic scandal there could have existed for nearly two decades.  Also, I think their coach Roy Williams is one of the more dedicated college basketball coaches there is. He has won wherever he has been.  Similarly I have been impressed with Jim Larranaga.  Before he went to the University of Miami (the U) he had taken just an okay talented team at George Mason to later rounds of the NCAA tournament. To be informed a bit more for this blog I was startled to read that Larranaga had played for Molloy high school graduating when I did (from a different high school) and he'd been a star at Molloy, as well as later at Providence College. I don't remember him as a player, but I do remember that Molloy was always a powerhouse team in New York.

So, for a number of reasons I was interested in going to the game.  I took notes during it making, no doubt, the folks seated to my left and right wondering why I was doing so.  But scribble away I did. Some points that may be of interest to readers.

  • It took me almost as much time to drive the 4.4. miles on route 1 to the stadium, than it took me to drive the 50 miles from Del Ray to Coral Cables. Note to U of M, perhaps hire a constable to help with game day traffic. It was enough to discourage me from going to a game again.
  • I bump into a fellow with a University of Miami shirt in the parking lot. He walks me to the arena, but then goes into a separate entrance which appears to be for the donors.  Looked like a bar mitzvah in there with all the food provided for folks who were in the club.  I remember that when I was at SUNY Fredonia that members of the booster club--of which I was one--were treated to pepperoni and cheddar cheese before games.  The U of M faithful were eating more substantive stuff.
  • I was not impressed with the arena. I am not a big fellow, but I could just about squeeze into my seat. Fortunately, neither of my neighbors spent a lot of time on the buffet line, otherwise it could have been uncomfortable--and I paid a pretty penny for the ticket.
  • I was smack at the mid court stripe. A little high up for what I paid, but could not be more dead center.  To my right were zealots from UNC. To my left were a father and son team that prayed at the alter of the U. I felt like Switzerland sitting between them.
  • There was a lot of loud noise. "Songs" I never heard of were being boomed out at ear splitting decibels.  I have Shazam on my cell, so I can detect titles of songs being blasted. I did not recognize a one. "Freaks" was one soft number. Another was "Tsunami". A third was "Light it Up." Perry Como never sang these songs.
  • When the Miami coaching staff came out, I counted ten suits. Ten.  When I played freshman ball it was Coach O'Brien and the manager.  On the varsity there was the head coach, and Coach O'Brien--that was it. Two suits for the varsity. One suit for the freshman team.
  • There is apparently a tradition at the U. Fans do not sit down until the home team scores a basket. Since Miami got off to a 6-0 deficit, I was not too pleased when a guy two rows in front of me blocked my view for an extended period of time.
  • The University of North Carolina fans to my right were the genuine article. The woman knew all the players by first name. Her husband was muttering about the referees from the start. My favorites, "What the hell call was that" and "Why don't you foul them all out you bum."  Since UNC eventually got shellacked he was not a happy camper and I hoped they had not flown in just for this contest.
  • Miami switched to a zone after the slow start and they stifled UNC. Both teams were so well coached, but UNC could not get off a decent shot against the zone. Miami must have had a half dozen steals when the Tar Heels tried to get the ball inside.
  • At a break in the game, high school seniors who had committed to playing football for the U in Fall 17 were introduced.  This is a big time sports school.
  • At half time former Buffalo Bill and the University of Miami quarterback, Jim Kelly was honored and addressed the crowd.
  • I guess the Tar Heels are deep. At one point, all five players on the floor were replaced by what looked like five other players who could start for most teams.
  • Larranaga had some terrific inbounds pass plays including a recurring one which went the length of the floor. Difficult to believe these could not be defended, but they worked regularly even against an excellently coached UNC team.
  • Father to my left had what I discern to be a Cuban accent. He knew his UM basketball. At one point I asked them how they were doing this year.  The response sounded like the guy was the team statistician. I wondered how he was reacting to the antediluvian immigrant policies created this weekend.
  • The U were never really challenged at the end. Williams tried calling time outs and fouling, but the U led by a freshman, were just too well schooled to blow the lead.
  • I left the parking lot at 322. I did not get to the Florida turnpike, 4.4 miles away, til about ten to 4.
  • Even with the traffic, it was fun. The energy, sounds, dancing and various commercial escapades, made the experience an enjoyable one.


I have always liked Roger Federer.  On the court he seems to be a gentleman.  I was never a fan of John McEnroe or Jimmy Connors. I felt that the way they berated officials rendered them losers regardless of how often they won. I believe that if the technology that exists today to review line calls were in place when McEnroe and Connors played, neither would have won as many championships. By stopping play and intimidating lines people, McEnroe and Connors got calls that officials were afraid to call against them.

Federer never seems to squawk. Unlike some contemporaries who, for some bizarre reason, scream at their box when they miss a shot--as if their coaches somehow were responsible for the error-- Federer's demeanor is nearly always the same. Appropriately, he berates himself-- not his coaches, or officials, or an opponent--when his play is off.  For similar reasons I am a fan of Nadal.  He, too, seems to be a straight shooter.  I love the way he goes after every shot and plays with energy and class. He never seems to want to gain an advantage by any other way than by earning it.

Today's final between Federer and Nadal was special.  Because the match was in Australia and started at 330 am eastern time,  I missed the first three sets. As soon as I woke up though, I grabbed the remote. I saw Nadal win the fourth set to tie it up.  And then I saw the fifth when Federer, down a break, came back to break Nadal twice and win the tournament.

I was disappointed with Federer took a break between the fourth and fifth sets. This seemed like gamesmanship, a euphemism if there ever was one.  But maybe not. We will never know for sure as the trainer came out during the fifth set to work on the muscles that, allegedly, Federer took the break to address.

It is rare when I watch a sporting event when I like both competitors so much that it really does not matter to me who prevails.  That is pretty much how I felt this morning at 7 or so during that fifth set. I was pulling for Federer, but Nadal would have been a worthy champion.  Usually when a match is over I do not wait to listen to the speeches from the competitors. But this time I did. Both men commented so humbly that it was refreshing to listen to them thank their supporters and opponent so genuinely.

Federer and Nadal are getting long in the tooth for tennis players. This may be the last time we see them compete for a championship.  I'm glad I woke up in time to enjoy the moments.

Monday, January 23, 2017


In what is an aberration this football season, I picked the conference championships accurately yesterday.  I just reread the blog I posted about the games. Not only did I get the winners, and winners against the spread, right, but the rationale I provided for the picks was, one day in retrospect, clearly on the mark.  This is good reason to stay away from any prediction I might make about anything in the near future.  Had I been in Las Vegas last weekend, the casino owners would have been delighted at my victory anticipating that the result of my successful prognoses would be additional bets on which, one could successful wager, I would lose.

Last year my brother and I went to Las Vegas to watch the betters on superbowl weekend. We thought it would be a blast, but it was one of the least enjoyable times I have spent there. For some reason the smoke seemed more pervasive, the crowds too oppressive, and the expense to even find a place to comfortably watch a game almost otherworldly.  During March Madness most casinos are just first come first serve for seating.  On Superbowl weekend, entrance into the books comes at a steep price--as I recall something on the order of 200 dollars a ticket. This for the right to blow more money on the game.

It would have been different had the Patriots been in the game last year.  But alas it was the Broncos who represented the AFC and therefore I had to be reminded of our (note the pronoun) loss to the Broncos whenever I encountered an obnoxious Denver fan screaming for the Orange in what proved to be a boring contest.

Not positive where I will watch the game this year. For a period we would go over to a friend's house to watch the superbowl, but we've veered from that pattern.  So, I am likely to watch in a sports bar near the house.  One reason for selecting that venue is because both last week, and last night I was perched there when the Patriots defeated the Texans and then the Steelers.    Last night I was able to secure the stool where my buddy Kenny had sat the prior weekend. It has turned out that this seat is a lucky spot.

Some things about the experience of watching the championship game, from start to finish, in a place packed with Patriots supporters.

  • On occasion we go out to breakfast on Sunday morning at a diner that is right next to this bar where I watched last week's game.  We got to the diner around noon yesterday and I noticed, not exaggerating, a guy dressed up in Patriots gear, get out of a car and walk into the tavern a full 6 hours and forty minutes before the kick-off to secure a seat in the tavern.  
  • I waited 6 1/2 hours and arrived at 635 for the 640 kick off and got very lucky because the open seat referred to above had recently been vacated.  
  • The fellow to my left was not the guy who came in at noon, but in the three and a half hours he sat next to me he said not more than a dozen words that I could make out.  He'd respond to a question with words, but after a couple of "whats" and repetitions I just gave up and nodded as if I understood the response or any of his subsequent utterances.
  • The guy to my right could not sit down even though a seat was vacated sometime in the second quarter. He was too nervous.
  • We gave high fives all around to complete strangers when the Patriots scored.
  • The bar made a fortune.  Guys all around me were banging them down like three to every one I could consume.  If I drank like my cheering neighbors I would not have gotten up until the superbowl.
  • The bartenders were into it, cheering during special plays.
  • Occasionally yelps went up at peculiar times. A fellow knocking back Yuenglings conjectured, I think correctly, that the sporadic shouts must be due to Keno that was played throughout the contest.
  • Every tv set in the place was set to the Patriots game even though other sporting events were taking place at the same time.
  • A lot of the fellows who like the Patriots like pizza as well.  The place actually makes a good pizza and yesterday there were several samplers.
  • The gender breakdown was about 15-1.  
  • Nobody near me was rooting for the Steelers except when they scored their last touchdown and a two point conversion. Then the Yuengling fellow was happy because he had won a square.  This is a football type game where for a certain amount you buy a square that has numbers on it. If you had 6 for the Patriots and 7 for the Steelers, this meant that if the game ended, as it did, 36-17, you would win as the second digit of each score was a 6 and 7.  I don't know how much was at stake with these last night, but I can recall winning once and coming away with a surprising number of shekels.
  • The game was not real close, but I as a fan was still holding my breath at the half.
  • A party wandered in off the street dressed to kill and apparently oblivious to the fact a game was going on. Each ordered drinks that stumped the bartender.
  • I had no money on the game, but loved watching "us" win.  My dad used to say that it was a shame when people did not like sports, because of the fun involved.  This comment did not resonate a whole lot with my mother, but I agreed and agree absolutely.  The allure of sport is such that last night I felt elated while a year ago when we lost to the Broncos I felt, well--to use a word that is prickly in these parts--deflated.

Friday, January 20, 2017


All week I have heard and read about how Aaron Rodgers is playing as well as any quarterback has ever played.  I can't recall vividly how well he did against the Giants during Wild Card weekend, but the game he played last Sunday against Dallas was indeed one of the most startling exhibitions of talent that I have ever seen.

I was watching the game with my buddy Kenny and we were stunned at how effortlessly he was throwing the ball--almost like a dart-to receivers far down the field.  I commented at one point that he had to throw an interception the way he was threading the needle. That is, if you try to throw the ball into such a narrow opening, you are likely to be off once in a while and throw it to the wrong team. But the only interception came on a deflection. Otherwise, it was startling how accurately he was passing.  And the throw he made at the end of the game was other worldly.

If you have not seen it, go on Youtube or some other site.  He was running to his left, near the out of bounds marker. Then he flicked his wrist and the ball went thirty yards to the only spot that would have allowed his receiver to catch the ball. The receiver's catch was almost as good as the throw--just keeping his toes in bounds before the rest of his body fell out of bounds.  That throw and catch put the Packers into the Conference championships this Sunday against the Falcons.

The thing is that if Rodgers could throw like that all the time, his team would be undefeated. Yet the Packers lost 6 times this year.   And the Packers, with Rodgers have won only one super bowl. Nobody can play the way Rodgers played last week on a regular basis.  Rodgers has not proven that he can play like Rodgers played last weekend.

The Packers will not win on Sunday.  Let's remember that the Falcons quarterback, Matt Ryan, is not chopped liver. And he, and his mates, may be getting tired of hearing about how Aaron Rodgers is Zeus.  I say give up the four points and hand them to the Packers.  Then take the money and run.

The Patriots game is a little harder to pick.  I am a fan and can be so biased for the home town team that I don't see things objectively.  Take that as preface.

The Patriots laid a stink-bomb last weekend and still won by 18 points.  Of course they were playing against a team that was so awful as to make one wonder how they could have won their division.  Still the Patriots won by 18 playing poorly.  They turned the ball over with fumbles and Brady threw as many interceptions in that one game as he had thrown all season.

The Patriots are not going to give away the ball three times against the Steelers. And if they do not I do not see how the Steelers are going to outscore them. The Steelers' biggest assets are a distinctive running back and a great pass catcher.  The Patriots are usually good at designing a defense that removes the key player from the opposition.  I don't see the talented runner making hay against the Patriots.  I also don't see the receiver doing as well as he has been.  The kicker for the Steelers kicked six field goals last Sunday.  He is due to miss one or two this weekend. For all these reasons I say give up the 6 points and go with the Patriots.

In sum, Pats-6 against Pittsburgh, Falcons -4 against the Packers.

Before you bet, consider that I voted for Clinton and did not think Trump had a chance.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

joe cool

Today felt like a sort of dress down day; business casual is what I think is the formal name. At a university we don't have dress down days because if you are a faculty member any day can be a dress down day. Since I have been an administrator for the past six years, I tend to dress more like a regular business person than I did when I was on the faculty.

But, as I wrote above, today I felt like I could eschew the suit, wear a pair of decent dress pants, and a sweater. So, that is what I yanked from my walk-in closet.

A word here about walk in closets. When we did our home renovation in 2011 I agreed to including a walk in closet. I thought it was a good idea, but did not feel as strongly about it as, say, the bay window we had installed or the open feel of what would be the new living room/dining room area.  But I agreed.  Now with the renovation completed the walk in closet has proved to be wonderful.  The house in its earliest incarnation was a basic Cape with only a few closets, a couple of which (as a result of a subsequent iteration, before we bought the home) were built into the eaves of the second floor.  So there was limited closet space, but it all seemed fine to me. However, now I have places for everything and it is terrific.  Of things that I could not do without, the closet pales in comparison to a dishwasher--which is as important to me as a front door, but if I was looking to downsize to an apartment, having a walk in closet would be something I'd lobby for with energy.

Back to the point. I pulled a sweater out to go with my pants (what my mother would have called "slacks" in the 50s and 60s).  I put everything on, thought I looked (as my mother would have said), "presentable" and took off on the mass pike on what turned out to be an unusually bad commute day.  I cannot figure out why Boston, for such a relatively small city, has such traffic.  When I lived in New York and there was a jam you would eventually come to the accident or police presence or construction that explained the congestion. In Boston you can drive bumper to bumper in rush hour and then all of a sudden, there is no traffic--usually about the time you want to get off the highway.

Well, I got to work and went to work at work.  I had several meetings back to back, and then went for a walk to take care of some business on what would be called a lunch hour if there were such lunch hours at universities. There really aren't. You typically work through lunch and if there is a meeting during what is traditionally called the lunch time, there are sandwiches provided.  When I came back from the walk, after having interacted with many people during the course of the day and on the walk, I glanced at a mirror and thought the sweater looked especially good on me.  And I wondered why I had not worn this sweater previously and why it looked relatively new.  Then I noticed something like a design toward the back of my shoulders.  The design looked familiar.

It looked familiar because what was the back of the sweater as I had been wearing it is actually the front of the sweater. I had been wearing it backwards all day.  Business very casual.  I went to the rest room, switched it around and, you know,  it did not look as good with the design in front as it did when I was wearing it backwards.

So, I switched it back.

It looks cool.  No?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A game for the ages

As opposed to the four NFL games played last weekend, the college football championship game last night was one of the best contests ever.  My favorite all time college game is still the Miami 1984 victory over Nebraska. And second place is the Texas win over USC in 2006.  But the game last night may be number three.

In the last few minutes Clemson went ahead compelling Alabama to respond-and they did.  Then with a minute or so to go, Clemson had to retaliate.  With one second left Clemson scored the winning touchdown. So exciting.  Alabama is one of the toughest college defensive teams ever, and Clemson scored two essential touchdowns in less than half a quarter.

Anyone who has read my blogs about college football (and retained the tiny bits of wisdom spewed therein) knows that annually--before the current four team playoff system--I railed against the bogus nature of a national championship in college football. The erstwhile bowl system was a joke and national champions were determined by journalists who selected the best two teams in the land. And these two selected teams played for the trophy.

The current system is very good.  Four teams are invited to participate in a tournament. Other excellent teams play in bowl games which have been rendered more meaningful because there is no illusion that these contests are in any way going to determine a champion.

The college game is so different from the NFL.  Deshaun Watson played a magnificent game last night at quarterback for Clemson.  He declared today that he will forego his last year of eligibility and play professionally next year.  He will get a big contract, but he will never make it big in the NFL.  It's not because he is not great, it is because the quarterback position in the NFL bears no resemblance to the quarterback position in the pros.  In the previously mentioned Texas USC game in 2006, Vince Young, the quarterback for Texas, was plain unbelievable.  He lasted one or two years in the NFL.  Matt Leinart the quarterback for USC had about the same longevity.  RG 3, a great college quarterback, is marginal in the pros.  Remember David Klingler, who was supposed to be the second coming.  After a few years as a professional he now is teaching about the second coming in a Theological Institute.

Seven of the eight quarterbacks remaining in the NFL playoffs are just great.  Most of them were not stars for elite teams when they played. Roethlisberger played for Miami of Ohio.  Brady shared quarterback duties for most of his time in Michigan. Ryan played for Boston College. Dak Prescott labored for Mississippi State.  Wilson played for two different colleges. Rodgers played for Cal-Berkeley and was not drafted until late in the first round. The only one of the seven who was heralded is the most bland of them all, Alex Smith, now the quarterback for the Chiefs.

Most colleges now have a run-option offense. This means the quarterback has an option to hand the ball off or run himself on many plays. The great  college quarterbacks can run and throw.  A quarterback who runs regularly in the NFL is a goner. They will just get whacked too many times. Ask Michael Vick or RG 3, or Vince Young, three quarterbacks who could not be stopped in college. They were regularly injured in the pros.

Still the college game can be exciting. It is just different.  Yesterday I wrote that the pro games this past weekend were stinkers. Last night's college championship was the antithesis, an antidote for the football fan.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Four Stinkers and a trick play

If there are athletic contests that are so competitive and exciting that they are dubbed "games for the ages", then the games played this past weekend in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs were games for the dark ages. Four stinkers. Not one of the games was well played or closely contested.

The Texans beat the Raiders not because of any super skill, but because the Raiders were forced, because of injuries, to start a quarterback who had never started in an NFL game previously. They would have had as much luck with my Uncle Morris throwing passes.  The Steelers shredded the Dolphins who, themselves, were playing with a second string quarterback. Then the Giants laid a stink bomb of no small proportion when, incredibly, they gave up a "hail Mary" to a team, the Packers, that has been successful throwing these prayers. How the Giants allowed for that to happen, who knows.  Also, the Giants--the team my dad and I cheered for when I was a boy--could not catch a cold. Three dropped passes in the first half alone, two of which would have resulted in touchdowns.  And finally Seattle drubbed the Lions, a team that played less like lions and more like pussy cats.

Next week should be better.  My predictions are that three home teams will prevail. The Patriots will win in Foxboro defeating the visiting Texans, easily. The Dallas Cowboys will end the Packers--who have been playing over their heads.  The Kansas City Chiefs will shut the Steelers up and not a minute too soon. The Steelers were chippy in their win against the Dolphins and will not get away with their unnecessarily rough play next week on the road. The lone visiting team that will win are the Seahawks who will get by the overrated Falcons.

See me on Monday.

On a related note, I am reading a book now about professional football in the 50s.  I'll review it when I am done if I think it is worthy of my criticism, but am just a little over half way done now.  I just read a section which refers to a trick play the Giants ran during the last game of the 1958 season.  For some reason in baseball I can remember 1956 and beyond, but in football it is more like 1959 with some fuzzy recollections of 1958.  This particular 1958 play described in the book I have no recollection of whatsoever.   It was such a complicated play that I wished I could see it. The quarterback hands off to a running back who in turn hands off to another running back who pitches it back to the quarterback for a score.

I can remember doing some writing in the early 80s and to describe a section accurately,  I needed to see a tape of a baseball play. I wrote to WOR in New York; the sportscasters who announced that play; the pr director of the Mets (a Met player, Ron Swoboda, had made the play) and a number of other sources. I could not get a copy of the event.

Today, one minute after reading about the 1958 trick play in the book, I typed in some descriptors in You-tube and then instantly could see the trick play.  I must have spent a month in the '80s trying to get a tape of the spectacular catch by Ron Swoboda, and now 40 plus years later can see instantly, over and over, what took place in 1958.

Too bad the Dolphins, Giants, Raiders, and Lions did not look to You-tube prior to last weekend. They might have found some plays from 1958 that would have been useful.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Live Spectator

It had been years since I went to a professional football game.  I have a buddy who lives in St. Louis but is a loyal Giants fan.  He has come to Massachusetts a couple of times when the Giants played the Patriots.  Then once on a whim, when the Patriots were terrible, Donna and I drove to the stadium on game day and got tickets easily.  Another time in the 90s my brother got us tickets when the Jets played the Patriots in New York.  In the late 70s and 80s I went to a few games in Buffalo.  It's been over a decade since I went to a game.

For all of my fanaticism, I have not really enjoyed the viewing experience of games at the stadium. When my St. Louis friend came, it rained for one of the games and for the other we had to walk over a mile--easy-- from where we parked to the stadium.  When I saw the Jets play in New York while it was a decent seat in terms of distance to the field, we could not see the other end of the field very well. In Buffalo, we froze even when the games were in October. I never tried to go in November, but one October in particular I was an ice cube when we left the stadium.  There's also the issue of traffic getting out of the stadium.

But recently I thought I would give the experience another shot. I had noticed that the Patriots were playing the Dolphins on new years day in Miami. Well I knew I would not freeze in Miami, and it was the Patriots after all.  It would be good, I thought, to juxtapose for the first time in over ten years the experience of watching the game on tv to seeing it live.

I was so pleasantly surprised. It was just great fun to go to the game.  It did not hurt at all that it felt like a beautiful June day on January 1, or the tickets I bought on stubhub, were--by chance-- fantastic seats, or that to my surprise there were hundreds if not thousands of Patriots fans among the 50,000 or so spectators at the arena.

How was the experience different?

Well, to be sure the traffic getting into the stadium was hard (harder getting out),  I arrived at the park a full 90 minutes before the game was going to start and I kept getting waved on to farther and farther sections of the parking areas.  Then it cost me 40 bucks for the privilege of parking in another county. But that was the bad news.  The walk to the stadium was like a show in itself. There were tailgaters all over the joint. It was like walking through hundreds of parties.  The setups were elaborate.  Picnickers were eating hotdogs and sandwiches while knocking back cold ones (at 1130 in the morning).  Tables and tents were set up in the parking lot. Nobody was worried about getting cold on this 75 degree day.  I almost wanted to hang out with the tailgaters as opposed to going into the game.

I had never used my phone to carry a sports ticket previously to baseball or basketball or any type of contest.  No problem getting into Hard Rock Stadium with my little computer in my pocket.  As I walked in, the attendant scanned my "ticket" and then when something popped on my screen said, "Enjoy the game and you got a text from Bobby."

The noise in the stadium during pre game was as loud as any music you will hear in, well, a hard rock cafe.  Just blasting in my ears to the extent that I could not make a phone call from my seat even though the stadium was three quarters empty an hour before game time.

There was an enormous, but enormous American flag that was draped over the entire stadium for the national anthem. I mean the flag covered the whole 120 yards (field plus ten yards in each endzone). There were four enormous screens at each of the four corners of the stadium. One does not see as many replays as there are when watching tv, but still several were replayed and the images were extraordinary clear.

I found the spectators remarkably civilized and nobody gave the Patriot fans in my section any grief for rooting for the visitors. One guy got tossed for unruly behavior though I assure you that in Madison Square Garden this guy would not have stood out.

There were some serious imbibers. Two Dolphin fans, a couple, seated to my left barely had their asses hit the seat at any one time before they popped back up to get another couple of brewskis.

Each time the Dolphins got a first down the announcer got on with a cheer that would have been annoying had the Dolphins got a bunch of first downs. As it was the Patriots won easily so that noise was more amusing than anything else.

My seat was terrific. I was on the moon but could see the whole field. It was great to see the Patriots sideline, and watch how the substitutes shuttled in and out depending on the play. It was great to see what takes place during commercials as the quarterbacks played catch and others did exercises. When I was in cold stadia, the time outs used to drive me crazy as I was freezing during them. Here it was like a delightful scene played in the park during summer.

There were amusing contests during the breaks as well. The best was a kissing segment.  The camera would zoom in on a couple and then the kissing camera beckoned those caught to smooch.  One woman was holding a placard of her favorite player. When the camera zoomed on her and her man, she eschewed her date and kissed the placard.

While it took two and half hours to get back only about 40 miles, the day was a delight. I felt, truly, like a little boy who had gone to his first ball game.

When you watch a game at home there are lots of plusses. You can see replays from dozens of angles, you can use the bathroom without having to hop over an army. You can park in your driveway and when the game is over you can leave without waiting one minute, let alone two hours.  However, for those like me, who have avoided going to a game, it might be fun to attend one live now and again.