Friday, April 19, 2013

Something Good in This World

Last summer a 29-year-old man with Down Syndrome, named Ted Kremer joined the Cincinnati Reds as batboy for a day after his parents won a charity auction.
His effect on the team was so profound that they invited Teddy back, to be the batboy again on April 17th. In the 6th inning he asked Todd Frazier to hit a home run for him.

Teddy looks pretty happy, doesn't he?

"He is so funny," Frazier told "He said, 'come on man, hit me a home run. I love you.' And I said 'I love you, too. I'll hit you one. It was great how excited, that look, I started smiling before I even hit home plate.

"He's such a great guy… Even if you have a terrible day, you can't be mad with a guy like that around."

There's a lot of bad stuff going on in this world, so it's nice to see pure unadulterated joy on the face of someone who really deserves it.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

And We Saw a Game Too

Thanks to a very generous friend I was able to take Chase to his first Knicks game, versus the Indiana Pacers.

But first we had to get the proper attire. I bought last season's Melo jersey for $30 off during a sale. And then we took Chase to Modell's and got him a Melo jersey shirt. I explained to him that we liked Melo because he was the best player on the Knicks, but also because he went to Syracuse. And he didn't just go to Syracuse, he won a national title. So we dressed up in our Melo shirts...

And headed towards the train.

Riding on the train was by far his favorite part. Before, during and after the game, the train ride came up as his favorite part.

When we got to MSG we of course took his picture next to the life size Melo

And then a picture next to this name

We had very good seats in 200 level

With nice cushy movie theater style chairs

Then we went on the concourse to get something to eat and discovered it was kids day, meaning they had someone making balloon "animals"

Chase got a basketball hoop hat, with a balloon basketball

and of course we shared a big bucket of popcorn.

We were in the corner of the second level, but the second row so our view was very good.


No Zoom

Chase loves counting the scores during games, especially basketball because the scores change so often and get so big. So he astutely noticed that when the Knicks led 9-2, Melo had gotten all those points. "Now I see why he won the national championship.

The Knicks started off with hot shooting and maintained that lead through, extending it to as much as 20 at one point. But other than picking up on Melo's hot shooting to start, I could tell there wasn't much about the game that was interesting him.

He was more interested in his balloon hat, his popcorn and after halftime, his hot dog.

By the way, he does eat the bun, he just does it separately from the dog.

Other things that got his interest: The Knicks City kids, some weird halftime show where a giant inflatable mascot swallowed a kid, and this feature on the scoreboard where they showed baby pictures of Knicks and made you guess who they are.

Iman Shumpert was his favorite.

He asked that if someday he plays for the Knicks would Mrs. Poop and me please send in a baby picture of him to put up on the scoreboard.

Meanwhile, I was scanning the crowd for celebrities. This row featured Christine Taylor, Ben Stiller, Drake, some random guy and then the guy who played Jackie Robinson in the new movie. A few seats to his left was Spike Lee.

Also in the crowd was the smoking hottie from 30 Rock whose name I forgot and remembered about 4 times since the game, Katrina Bowden.

The game ended and we hustled back to the train for Chase's favorite part of the trip -- the train ride.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A TON of Luck

TON knows about a lot of things: raising fish, body hair maintenance, sheet rock, computers, porn, computer porn and even sports like volleyball and MMA. But he will even admit college basketball is not his game. He'd be lucky if he could distinguish Peyton Siva from Peyton Manning. But TON used his head to pick Louisville to win it all and his heart to pick Syracuse to make the Final Four and his 1220 points put him in the top 1.8% nationally and at the top of our group.
Honorable mention should be given to Damino who was the only one in our group with 3 Final Four teams, and also the only one to have the title game participants correct. He was in the top 2,000 overall heading into the final game and probably would have been in top 2 or 3 hundred had Michigan won. But they didn't. So TON got the 320 points, and beat Damino by 10. But the following is not a list of people who did really well but fell short. It's a list of winners, and TON's name will go on it. Next year maybe you can add your name.

2012: Reissberg
2011: Mrs. Poop
2010: Vacated (I forgot to keep accurate records)
2009: Mrs. Poop
2008: Pa Beers
2007: Michael

Song of the Week

"How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" - Al Green
How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sherman Had a Better Time in Atlanta

When Billy and I were skyping during the Syracuse-Marquette regional final (as we often do during Syracuse games) and it became clear Syracuse was going to Atlanta, we debated whether we should join them. Billy was gung-ho and steadfast on going solo if I didn't join him.
Eventually I was persuaded and we immediately hopped on vividseats to get our tickets. Vividseats is a little better than stubhub and generally has cheaper ticket prices. We decided to spend a little more to get seats in the 200 level. Our seats were $305, and after the ridiculous, borderline-criminal fees, they came out to $390, but I think stubhub would have been similar.
Then I booked my flight, which I got for $550 because I was willing to stop and change planes in Charlotte. For the record, Billy drove to Baltimore to get a cheaper flight, but he flew direct.

I took the NJ Transit train, switched at Secaucus, and went right to the airport. It actually was pretty convenient and a lot easier than finding someone to drive you.

Flight to Charlotte was delayed slightly but I still had plenty of time to catch my plane. I found my gate and it was easy enough to spot because everyone there was wearing either orange or yellow. The gateside seating area was literally segregated. One creepy 30-ish Michigan guy was kicking it to every young Michigan girl who looked like a student. Unfortunately the seating on the plane was not as well-designed. I was in a 3-person row on the window, with a fellow Syracuse person on the aisle, but a fat dude with a yellow hat sat in between us. The conversation was mostly pleasant and there was no incident.

We go to the airport and hopped on the shuttle to our hotel, the Courtyard Marriott. Little did we know there was a Courtyard North, South and West, all in the area by the airport. So we got on the wrong shuttle, to the wrong hotel but eventually got to the correct one, checked in quickly and headed right back town. That required getting back on the shuttle to the airport and taking MARTA from there.

Marta is pretty good as big city mass transit systems go. Everything is arranged around a junction called 5 points, everything meets there. The airport is south, so you gotta go about 15 minutes north through College Park (made famous by Luda) to 5 Points, then one stop over the Georgia Dome, Phillips Arena, Olympic Centennial Park and CNN Center.

So we got off there and went to the game, which you can read about in a separate post.

After the game, downtrodden and devastated we went back to Marta, caught two incredibly packed trains and made our way back to the airport to catch a shuttle to the hotel. The train was absolutely packed, so much so that we got delayed because someone was blocking the door. At least that's what they told us the first time. Then they said someone was leaning on the door. Then they said police were conducting business on the train. Huge delays in a packed train, after midnight, after losing the game. Unpleasant. It took about an hour to get back to the airport at which point we engaged in a pushing and shoving match with a huge crowd to get on the shuttle back to our hotel. I won and got a nice seat in the back, Billy lost and barely made it on the bus.

I was seated next to a couple of SU students who had driven down on Friday (18 hours in one day). They relayed to me their horrible experience at the game. Each team had a big student section right behind the basket, and when the first game ended they cleared out Wichita State's and brought in Michigan's and Syracuse's moved to where Louisville's was. So during the first game, the Syracuse students were herded into a convention center across the street and given tickets. Towards the end of the first game they were let into the Georgia Dome into an empty section. When the game ended the students ran for any seat regardless of assigned ticket. This poor girl, from the Five Towns (so probably one of ours) didn't get a seat and had to stand under the basket to watch the game. But she said, it would have all been worth it had they won. That must have been a miserable 15 hour car ride back to Syracuse.

The next morning Billy and I tried to salvage some semblance of fun from our trip so we headed back downtown to find a Waffle House. A real Southern tradition, Sunday morning breakfast at the Waffle House. We found one that looked nice enough but the neighborhood must not be that great, because the menu said we would be charged a 20% security fee on our bill. And Billy and his tiny bladder had to be buzzed into the bathroom.

Our waitress was so nice, and I felt badly that she had to work in what I presumed was an unsafe hellhole, so I gave her a 100% tip on my $5 meal. People definitely are different down south. Everyone was so much nicer. Low wage, menial task employees in New York would have been rude and disinterested. In Atlanta everyone we saw was friendly and helpful, going out of their way to help us, including the Waffle House employee who walked outside with us to show us how to get to CNN Center.

Obviously I had heard a lot about the place in my 8.5 years there, but had never visited it, so it was a cool experience, even though I wasn't able to connect with any friends for a behind the scenes tour. CNN Center has a mall on the ground floor where there was a giant bracket.

There was also a Braves team store. Braves fans are so stupid they need a t-shirt to teach them how to do the tomahawk chop.

Then we walked through the shops and bought a little souvenir for Mrs. Poop and AliNatPro.

Then we went into the huge convention center where they were hosting Bracket Town, basically a huge fanfest. $10 to get in, but well worth it, because we got to:

See Christian Laettner, but we didn't have time nor motivation to wait on line for his autograph.

Pretend to cut down the net (scissors were glued shut)

Posterize me (I let Billy be the dunker, even though his pit stain is repulsive)

Pose for a picture with the rest of the team

But then it was time to go home. We took the train back to the airport and parted right before security, the lines for which were ridiculous. I was actually late to my flight, one of the last people on, so late that they stewardesses had a list of people missing, it was me, and the two people next to me. Just when I thought I might have the entire row to myself a woman gets on with a 1-year-old kid, and a 4-week old baby. And she didn't have the car seat. So she had to hold the baby and and a stewardess had to hold the older boy. For the whole flight this stewardess did nothing but hold this lady's kids. And why the fuck would you take a 4-week old from Atlanta to St. Louis? What the fuck is so important? Thankfully the kids didn't cry and disturb the entire flight.

When I got to Charlotte I had almost two hours to kill, so I sat down for some traditional carolina BBQ. That thing next to my cornbread is a fried pickle.

There was an EA Sports store and it had a Robert Griffin III jersey shirt for $20, so I bought it. I didn't notice a tiny hole on the shoulder. Tried to contact the company and they didn't respond. Never buy shit at the airport.

I made it home safely and spent the last week or so contemplating the trip. It sucked because they lost. No getting around that. I would not have gone had I know they were going to lose. But I didn't know, I took a chance. I had a nice time seeing a city I had never seen before, rooting on my team in an important game, experiencing something I may never get to experience again. And I did it all with my best friend.

So I guess the trip wasn't that bad.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Hurt Has Subsided Now

It's been a week and the hurt has finally subsided enough for me to rewatch the Syracuse game and write a post about it. I'll start with everything that happened from the time we got to the Georgia Dome about 5pm Saturday night, until the time we left, around midnight. The rest of the trip to Atlanta will be covered in a separate post.

We got to the Dome more than an hour ahead of time and had a chance to walk around the plaza in front of the building where they had concessions and beer stands (no beer for sale inside the arena). It was a nice day and pleasant to be outside and thousands of people were milling about. The security line was huge, but he used a gate on the outside and made it in quickly. We bought out seats through vividseats, which is like stubhub all the way down to its exorbitant and borderline criminal fees ($85 on a $300 ticket), and we didn't even get a ticket. Billy swiped his credit card through a reader and it printed a small stub with our seats on them.

Billy and I decided to drop the extra money (which amounted to $60 - $75 each) to get 2nd level tickets. This turned out to be a great idea for two reasons. First, our seats, though far from the action, had a great line of sight, and were much closer than the back rows of the 300 level which were so much higher and farther away than we were.

This picture taken without zoom.

This picture was taken with Billy's panoramic.

The second was the food. There were two concourses on our level, the regular one, right behind the seats with your typical arena fare. Then a nicer almost restaurant quality one, where there were carpeted spaces with tables and chairs, and better food.

I started out with the turkey leg, no surprise there.

And right before our game I got an Italian ice (only $5, not bad considering today's normal arena prices) and I got lemon and creamsicle. I prefer cherry but I thought I needed to get something orange since I had told Chase to eat an orange and an orange candy after dinner that night.

The first half was bad. And as much as I want to (and I will) dissect the second half and the little plays that could have made the difference, Syracuse really lost this game in the first half. They couldn't make a shot (especially James Southerland who got viciously swatted on a fast break) and they didn't play the aggressive defense that had been their calling card through the first four games of the tournament, allowing Spike Albrecht to nail a couple 3s and Michigan had an 11-point halftime lead, the biggest deficit Syracuse faced all season.

But before I start ranting about bad calls and bad coaching let me first say that Syracuse should not have been able to come back in this game. Michigan went to the John Beilein Memorial No Points Offense (what is it about coaches witrJB as their initials?) way too early, and they missed a ton of free throws. By the end of the game I was screaming "miiiiiiiiiissssssssssss" during each Michigan free throw and they missed so many (5 out of 9, not including the lane violation) in the last minute or so, my voice was getting hoarse.

Now onto the three plays that decided this game:

First, a minute-40 left, the score is 53-49. McGary just passed up an inside shot and kicked the ball way out to Hardaway who got trapped and ran over Michael Carter-Williams and they called a block. It was a horrible call. You generally have to be set to draw a charge, but it doesn't mean that the ballhandler can just run the defender over. MCW has as much right to a spot as TH Jr does. Hardaway ran him over, and used his arm to do it. It was a horrible blocking call, just horrible.

Next Syracuse gets the ball with 28 seconds left, down 2 points, and Triche puts his head down and drives right to the basket. Jordan Morgan gets in his way and they call an offensive foul on Triche. Three things about this play. First, this is why I barely watch the NBA very much anymore. The whole league has turned into this at crunch time, give the ball to your best player, tell him to dribble right into someone and hope to get the call. LeBron does this more than anyone and it ruins the NBA for me. It's not basketball and it's not fun to watch. Second, Jim Boeheim should have called timeout and designed a better play than this. Even if this was a called play, I still don't like it because it was totally telegraphed. Michigan knew exactly what he was going to do, that he wasn't going to pass so all they had to do was get in Triche's way. Third, it was a bad call. Many people think the block/charge call is based on a defender's feet. It's not. It's based on his body from hips to shoulders. In order to be set your body has to be in the spot at the moment the ball handler makes upward motion to the basket. Morgan was not. This should have been a block. But it was a very tough call. Much closer than the horrible one on MCW.

But still, because of Michigan's poor free throw shooting Syracuse got one more chance, down 3 with 10 seconds left and they gave it to Trevor Cooney. Trevor Cooney? Really? That's what the Hall of Fame coach drew up? First of all they should have shot a 3. The chances of making one shot versus making a 2, fouling, getting a miss and making another two are so remote, even a bad 3-point shot (one with a 25% chance of going in) has a better expected win percentage (I'm guessing) than coming through with all those eventualities.

I know Southerland hadn't done too well in this game, missing his first 7 (including one that could have tied it at 48), but he had hit his last two and I would have put the ball in his hands. But alas, the genius of Boeheim entrusted the game to Trevor Cooney.

But the real reason they lost is because only CJ Fair had a good game. James Southerland shot poorly, and became hesitant, turning the ball over a few times. Brandon Triche didn't have his best game, and Michael Carter-Williams was horrible. I'm sure the tears he shed after fouling out were more out of disappointment with his own performance than anything else.

I don't know if it was nerves, or Michigan was better than other opponents, or Syracuse just picked a bad time to have an off night, but it was a subpar performance for a team that had turned in some great ones in March.

Only one team gets to hoist the trophy and the other 67 teams (not to mention the other 270 or so who don't make the tournament) leave with disappointment. It was still a great season, with one bad stretch, and an exciting and thrilling run through the NCAA Tournament that I was glad to have been able to witness in person.

And maybe now that I have finally deleted the game off the DVR, I can start the healing process and get over this horrible defeat.