The Winter Classic…Fenway Park

10 04 2009

The Green Monster and Fenway Park are not your typical setting for a hockey game, but that is exactly what will take place this coming New Years’ Day.  For the NHL, the Winter Classic has been a gold mine of sorts bringing new fans to the game, and tv ratings that haven’t been seen for hockey games in far too long.  The past two have been at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo and this past year at Wrigley Park in Chicago and were viewed as wildly successful.  Bringing hockey to an open air environment has so much upside and for the most part little downside involved.  If this is an event that the NHL can manage to recreate in some form or another each year, thereby not running the risk of overuse this may become the foundation of the return of the NHL to national consciousness.

Boston Herald Graphic

Boston Herald Graphic

The odd part about this whole thing is the speculation that the opponents being debated between are the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals.  Clearly, I would never dream of belittling the team of my current city and the Flyers and Bruins do have a fairly big rivalry, but I just don’t see it.  The management of the Boston Bruins has been pushing for this game pretty much since its inception and the thought was always that this would be an Original 6 game.  It only seems appropriate, Boston has one of the most storied franchises in the sport and why would you not want to pit them against one of their oldest and fiercest rivals for an event of this magnitude.

I understand the rationale behind putting the most exciting player in the whole sport onto the sport’s largest stage.  But in some respects the rivalry in itself should be enough of a draw, although admittedly I am probably not the target demographic for the NHL.  Watching fans at games, every time Alexander Ovechkin touches the puck there is a palpable excitement running through the crowd.  With that in mind, I can imagine my friends watching the game explicitly because the Great 8 is in the game and tangentially because it is a cool event, hockey outdoors in Fenway Park.  Obviously, not your typical hockey game.   The league obviously has a strategy behind the cities they choose for this games and the teams they ask to play in the Winter Classic.  Since they are so adamant about bringing the young guns to the forefront of the game then there could be no better choice than the Washington Capitals.  I truly hope that when all is said and done that the Boston Bruins are facing the Washington Capitals at Fenway Park in Boston on January 1st, 2010.

How do you say no to a man that can sing and dance like this…

Especially when he can do something like this…

I guess I understand why the NHL is leaning away from the Bruins and the Canadiens and to a team with that man on it.

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The Joys of Radio

7 04 2009

I think that people of our generation tend not to appreciate the role that radio announcers play in the world of sports. There is the cult of personality that endears partisan fans to their local announcers, but this is something different. In today’s day and age, when so many teams have their own television channels and when you can watch a game online with the click of a button less and less people are listening to games on the radio. Without a doubt there remains in my head this romantic vision of the family gathering around one of those old school radios to listen to the Brooklyn Dodgers. But it would be too easy to write this off purely as romanticism.

Over the course of my fairly regular visits to Ohio and Connecticut I have spent many an hour frantically pressing the Scan button on the radio hoping to pick up a strong signal to listen to whatever happened to be on. In the past year or so I  have been in the car for March Madness, the Big East Tournament, the Super Bowl and Opening Day of the MLB Season.  Clearly, there are some things you will always miss out on by listening to the game rather than watching, but of course that is why we have YouTube.  TV announcers seem to have this desire to be funny and likable, rather than talking about what is going on in the game, filling up space with idle chatter, normally not related to the game or even the sport (I’m looking at you Monday Night Football Crew!).  Play by play announcers for the radio seem less concerned with their public personas willing to make their broadcast about the game and only the game. While you may not be able to see that crazy dunk, or just how far that home run traveled, you are going to hear the emotion in the announcers voice and you are going to feel like you are a part of the crowd.

I’m not advocating that people toss out their 40 inch HD tv’s but once in a while sit down and listen to the radio broadcast of the game instead.  I’d even take a compromise of listening to the announcers while watching the game on tv if you must.





Just another A-Rod post

12 02 2009

I hate the Yankees. People know that. Yet, I have this weird love-hate relationship with Alex Rodriguez. I guess it’s more of a pity-hate relationship. Normally, I cheer for every error on and off the field that A-Rod makes, but in this case I didn’t. Yea, I was giddy when I first found out and I did call my dad to rub it in his face, but then I thought about it a little bit.

I still cant stand A-Rod

I still can't stand A-Rod

I don’t necessarily feel like A-Rod deserves the treatment that he gets in New York, at least for his on the field performance. He desperately cares about what people think about him and in particular the thoughts of the fans. So in some respects playing in New York City must be absolute hell.  A-Rod wants to be remembered as one of the Yankee greats like Mantle, DiMaggio and Jeter and ultimately the greatest hitter of all time.  The numbers that he has put up while in New York have been nothing short of extraordinary, aside from when it counts to Yankee fans. Until the Yankees win the World Series with A-Rod leading the charge, he will continue to be a pariah in the local papers and the target of far too many boos.

It’s become all too clear to our generation that the players that they group admiring will likely have a cloud of skepticism hanging over their heads. This era will be known as the Steroid Era in baseball and that is truly sad because the vast majority of players played the game right. After Barry Bonds I began to take a very hard stance in my mind, it just bothered me so much to think that a player who was obviously going to hold the record for most home runs ever was more than likely a cheater. I firmly believe that there should be an asterisk in the record books next to every player who has been caught using steroids or even to go as far as to not put them in the record books at all. But the situation with A-Rod really makes me question that belief.

I have to admit though I was a little surprised when A-Rod got caught up in all this. There have never been any questions about his work ethic, body size or any of the other telltale clues. Even though I was a little surprised by this and obviously disappointed (I was really looking forward to him taking the rightful crown of home run king away from Barry Bonds), I don’t necessarily feel as though this should take away from his reputation. Obviously, he screwed up and I am in no way defending what he did, but I do think that there are some issues with just writing him off and out of the record books.  If we take him at his word that he only used steroids for two seasons and it ended 5 years ago then it’s important to look at his production since that period.  More than likely you could take those two seasons out of the records entirely and he would still eclipse Barry Bonds’ home run record with room to spare. I realize that this is a horrible double standard, maybe it is just my hatred for Barry Bonds overtaking any rational thought.

This revelation should maybe make us consider what the historic impact is going to be from this era. We have already seen the impact it has had on the other major professional sports in North America; each has undergone serious discussions about the role of steroids in their respective games and the best way to proceed for each. Whether or not people want to treat those moves as good faith efforts is a whole other issue, but steroids are now at the forefront of sports in America and something that is beginning to be dealt with in the open.





Fighting and Hockey (also posted on Danny’s blog)

29 01 2009

One of the most persistent debates about the NHL and hockey in general is the role of fighting in the game. For many, it is hard to understand not just how a sport can condone violence but how central it is to the game.  These concerns are only compounded by the incidents that have plagued the game in recent years. While very few of these were related to fighting, these incidents only affirm the beliefs of many people.

I tend to hate the argument that because something has always been done one way, that it should continue to be done that way.  But, I’m going to do it anyways. Fighting is a part of the tradition and history of hockey. There is a code of honor, a degree of ethics that exists between all those who choose to fight in hockey and it is based on mutual respect.

– It is very rare to see someone in a fight that clearly doesn’t belong.
– You don’t grab a guy from behind.
– A fight requires two willing participants
– You won’t see sucker punches or anything like that.
– If one person won’t fight, that’s the end of it.
– When a player hits the ice, the fight is over.
– Most of the time, these are fights to protect players who can’t fight for themselves.

There are a number of pros and cons to the existence of fighting in the NHL. I have seen the excitement that a fight can put in an arena and in a team, the feeling can only be described as electric. But I will say that a big hit can achieve the same effect. Some people have argued that fighting is such a turn off that it keeps people away from the game.  That maybe true for some, but I would argue that there are many fans that go to games purely for the spectacle of the fights, this is especially true in the minor leagues. Now whether or not that is a good sign for the state of the game that’s a whole other issue.

Would I still watch hockey if fighting wasn’t a part of the game? Definitely.  But, there is something absolutely thrilling about watching a fight in a hockey game.  Maybe that is the savage caveman in me shining through.





I can’t stand Sean Avery

5 12 2008

Yes.  I am a grump and this post will only confirm this, but I don’t care.  Sean Avery of the Dallas Stars absolutely infuriates me; he has zero respect for the game of hockey, the fans and even worse none for his teammates.  This is nothing new.  In his career, he has time and again managed to set the hockey world aflame, all the while achieving Youtube infamy, be it through his incessant diving, his penchant for the dramatic or his all consuming desire to infuriate the other team.

The sad part is that he is a truly talented hockey player.  The issue is whether he is worth it to teams; there is a reason why he gets traded almost every year.  This week he crossed the line, AGAIN:

I like tough players, that are willing to back it up and know how to get under the skin of other players, but this is just too much.  Granted, this is a really fine line to be trying to draw in the sand, and it is impossible to make a hard and fast rule on the words and thoughts of individual players.  This mentality has always been a part of the game and there is nothing wrong with that.

The thing that bothers me most about this is that it was in no way a slip of the tongue, despite how Avery might want to explain it.  The Dallas coach had spent the morning defending Avery to the Canadian press, the PR staff asked if he wanted to talk to the media at all and he said no, then he goes and seeks out the camera to say this.  This was no accident, it was planned and it was way over the line.

I am not one of those hockey fans that gets all shrill about how the game is too dangerous and how they need to stop fighting.  I think that the physicality is one of the best things about hockey and fighting is an integral part of the game.  So I wouldn’t change any of that and generally speaking I think that sports are going a little too far too quickly in terms of cracking down on the players on and off their respective arenas (hello Mr. Goodell, stop suspending people for good hits on quarterbacks).  But in this case I really hope they throw the proverbial book at Sean Avery.  If not the NHL then the Dallas Stars organization.  It is too bad because they spent a lot of money on him, but the team has under performed and he has been a major distraction and not shown those great hands that made him so valuable to the New York Rangers.





Holidazzle

4 12 2008

On my last night in Minneapolis I got to attend the Holidazzle parade.  While this is something that most people I know from Minnesota seem to laugh at and make fun of, I was so utterly charmed.  This is one of those things that you expect from a small town (i.e. Gambier Halloween Parade), but definitely not a large city.  Which was half the fun of it.

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com

When we arrived downtown and began walking to the parade site I was still pretty confused about what exactly Holidazzle entailed.  We got down there probably 15-20 minutes before the parade was to begin and we arrived just in time; picked out a spot on top of one of the statues along the street and watched as the few open gaps in the crowd disappeared.  Other than how cold the statue we sat on was, this was pretty much the perfect spot.  My butt was frozen for the next thirty minutes as we walked around trying to find somewhere to eat after dinner.

As it grew closer to 6:30, the excitement of the kids was so clear, they were all inching farther out into the street, trying to catch a glimpse of the floats.  I was so impressed because the head of the parade was not the grand marshals float, but volunteers from a local food pantry network that were collecting donations.  Target is known for doing a lot for the community and I worked with them while I was at United Way, but I was still really impressed by this gesture.

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com

Each individual segment of the parade got loud cheers from the kids and it was really nice to see the crowd wave to the participants.  Everyone waves too, it’s not just the kids, which was kind of surprising in itself.  Holidazzle is something that seemingly everyone from the Twin Cities area has been in at least once, or at least everyone that I have talked to.

Holidazzle pretty much had it all.  Fairytale characters, Joe Mauer and all those characters and things associated with Christmas.  The Transit bus all lit up was great, although the best part was definitely the spinners on the wheels, but you will just have to imagine that part. Joe Mauer probably had the largest following until the arrival of Santa.  Not a bad one to come in second to though.

I have to admit that on my way down to Holidazzle I was most excited just to hopefully see Bullseye, the Target mascot, it was still a great experience.  Holidazzle is without a doubt one of those heartwarming things that makes you feel good about everything in the world.  Maybe that’s overly dramatic, but watching all the kids crowd the sidewalks, watching them point and wave to the people in the parade and watching their excitement grow waiting for the grand finale and the arrival of Santa was really wonderful.

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com

From dgwallick1 @ Flickr.com





The Thanksgiving Travel Rush

3 12 2008

On my trip back from Minneapolis after Thanksgiving I ended up getting stranded in the Atlanta airport due to a horrific mix of weather delays and mechanical/human error.  What should have been a long day turned out to be a In Minneapolis, we had been told that it would be tight to get to our connections, but that mostly likely we would make them.  I made sure that I was put on stand by for the two remaining flights that evening out of Atlanta before we were even in the air.

We landed in time to make my connection except that no one came to pull our plane up to the gate and on top of that they had problems getting the door opened.  All in all, leaving us on the plane for almost 45 minutes, by the time I got off the plane and to my gate the plane had left 10 minutes before.

At this point I became just another one of the frightened, huddled masses in airports across the country.  All doing everything they can to get home from the holidays and all being utterly confused by the process and what it takes to achieve success.

I learned a few things from this experience

1. It does very little to get angry and make a lot of noise.  Ultimately, the staff on hand were in as bad a mood as everyone that was stuck, if not worse.  Granted, me being nice (when I could) didn’t get me any further than the times I was really angry but still.

1a. Get angry and vocal afterwards. The next day I made my disgust known with the way I was treated and how the night went overall and I was actually given a $100 voucher for my next flight.  Even though I wasn’t making any different arguments, the staff I talked to were just much more willing to listen and attempt to help out.

2. If you are going to sleep in the airport get as far away from the speakers as possible.  It never occurred to us that being far away from the tv didn’t necessarily mean that we were far away from the speakers.  As a result, it will be too soon if I have to listen to CNN International ever again.

3. After it is clear that you are going to be spending the night in the airport do not expect the airline to give you a blanket.  Even when they give you a little bag that looks as though it has a blanket in it.  Even when you ask them for a blanket and they hand you this little packet.  It is not a blanket!  It is an XL t-shirt, some shaving cream (despite the fact that you clearly do not have a razor with you), a solid brick of laundry detergent, a little deodorant and some toothpaste.  I would have much preferred a blanket.