Friday, April 8, 2011

The Best Month of the Sports Year

Thursday, March 31 marked the beginning of the best month of the 2011 sports calendar year. The period starts with the baseball opening day and the final four, progresses through the Masters, and leads you right into the NBA Playoffs. Since we are smack-dab in the middle of the Masters as I write this, lets recap the first portion of April.

Dodger Stadium Debacle

How pathetic was the beatdown at Dodger Stadium last Thursday? For those of you that have never been to Chavez Ravine, save your money. If I weren't a die-hard Dodger fan I'd have stopped going to this dump years ago.

A perfect example is the bathroom situation. Even when sitting in the expensive seats, fans are subjected to Wrigley Field style trough urinals, which would be fine except for the fact that you are surrounded by vato gangsters straight out of Training Day. These creatures broke out of the barrio zoo, and are looking to eat you for lunch (or ask to see your "cuete holmes") if you so much as look at them the wrong way.

"Easy solution, just don't look at them" you might say.

Problem is, not acknowledging the vatos could be construed as "disrespecting" them, and such behavior could earn you your first stab wound. Never has Baltimore and Camden Yards looked so good (and yes, I've seen "the Wire").

Several years ago the Dodgers banned tailgating at Dodger Stadium. Clearly this was so they could sell more $10.00 beers, not to protect the fans from themselves, because the vatos have no problem slugging down 10-12 beers in the park across the street (illegal), then slugging down 10-12 more $10.00 beers before looking for a fight. It's been this way since Fox bought the Dodgers from the O'Malley's in the 1990's. A sad situation, and a big black eye on the face of a franchise that is clearly in disarray right now.

As I mentioned on Facebook last week, the cowardly act by these two thugs was inexcusable. Dodger Stadium is not your "turf," and Giants fans aren't members of a rival gang. This is reason 10,000 why Logan will be raised a Brewers fan (or a fan of the team of his choice). Although I'll always root for the Dodgers, I won't put the same economic embargo on alternate gear that I would if Logan were to pick up a Bears, Vikings, or Celtics jersey.

I've never witnessed this kind of behavior at any of the 22 ballparks I've visited around the country. Same can be said for the significant number of NFL stadiums I've visited (except for Oakland). I've especially never witnessed this kind of behavior at either Miller Park or Lambeau Field (exhibits A and B why Wisconsin is heaven). People drink wayyyyyyy more at Miller Park and Lambeau than they do at Dodger Stadium, yet still manage to refrain from stabbing and beating one another to death.


Angie kicked off the best 9 days of the sports calendar year sitting poolside at Caesars' Palace on a Bachelorette party when I called in a couple bets on the Final Four. Pretty nice that my wife would act as a gambling proxy so that Steve and I could get some action in on the games before she returned to a day of relaxing poolside in a cabana (reason number 1,000,000 why I have the most awesome wife possible, and why she rules).

Angie's return from Vegas (and the resulting stories) made me realize that last weekend is the absolute perfect weekend to schedule an annual Vegas summit for me and the crew. It's the beginning of Spring, there is a lot going on in the sports world, and it is a time of the year before we get really really busy with our annual respective late Spring/early Summer U.S. tours.

It's really interesting to hear a girl's perspective on a successful Vegas trip as contrasted to the 100 or so I've been on in my life. This party sounded like a lot of fun for a group of girls. It included a night at the bar, a full day of cocktails and food by the pool, a show where everyone kept their clothes on (presumably), a sit-down dinner, and a night at a club. Angie got home seemingly not too hungover, and had an all around pleasant experience. Seemed like a pretty good deal to me.

My trips to Vegas in the past 5 years seem to follow the same predictable (and lately downright boring) 20 stages:

1) Have 2-3 tall beers at the airport, plus 2 on the 45 minute flight;
2) Withdraw my first $300 from the ATM at McCarran International Airport;
3) wait in cab line;
4) stop at liquor store for smokes/12 pack;
5) hit the tables;
6) lose $200,
7) go out;
8) black out;
9) return to casino and withdraw a second $300;
10) pass out at 5am;
11) wake up at 10am;
12) eat McDonalds;
13) go to pool and consume 5 buckets of bud light;
14) nap;
15) shower;
16) eat drunken nice dinner;
17) walk around on the strip and gamble in random casinos, smoking nearly a pack of cigarettes;
18) return to home casino;
19) play poker or blackjack until 5am;
20) lay down for half an hour and wake up for early flight on Sunday morning wondering whether it was all worth it.

This pattern was epitomized by an August 2010 trip to Vegas that was supposed to include all 7 of my best friends, but dwindled to 3 by the time the weekend rolled around. Lost are the seemingly unbelievable stories bred by trips of the past such as the time I was invited to my brother in law's best friend's bachelor party in July 2008 as "entertainment" and wound up at the top of the Bellagio in a suite with Omar and Fadi the Jordanian Oil Tycoons who were betting $5,000 a hand and had a suite full of booze and trouble.

Was that 2010 trip fun? Hell yes it was fun. I was with a couple of my best friends and we partied all weekend. The problem was it didn't carry any of the mystique that is Vegas, and could have been any random weekend we decide to get crazy.

I think I've figured out the problem. A successful trip to Vegas is a function of who you are with and making different experiences. Angie's trip seemed pretty fun. It included: 1) people she hadn't seen in a long time; 2) some people she didn't know; 3) a schedule of things to do that didn't involve just hanging around casinos; and 4) it was only 36 hours long, so she was in and out of there pretty quick.

You don't need to reinvent the wheel, but you need to keep it in motion. I've been stuck in fourth gear for five years now in Vegas. It's time to take things up a notch. That said . . .

I feel like it's time for a Vegas summit with the UCSB crew to reclaim the glory of the past. It can't be just 3 of us, Paul, Pete, Jeff, Steve, Lazz, Ozzie and myself all need to break down and make it happen. Second, we need to get everyone on one blackjack table together, and we need to plan some things to do. Third, we need a hibachi dinner (I feel like hibachi dinners are always the catalyst to trouble).

Clearly we are past our prime, but if Fred Couples can routinely shoot in the 60's at Augusta once a year we can handle one big Vegas trip per year. Guys, if you read this, lets start planning now, then get an annual Spring trip on the calendar.

End Sidebar

Brewers Opening Week

No need to panic Brewer fans. Your best pitcher is on the DL and will be back sometime within the month, and good teams struggle in April. The Red Sox started 0-6 and nobody except their fans feels like they won't be in contention in September. Brewers will be fine too (and already look a ton better). All this stuff is a good reason why the baseball season starts about a month early in my opinion.

Final Four

The final four itself was pretty much a bust, although I managed to split first in a 15 person pool by virtue of Kentucky going to the final four. Unfortunately, those weren't the picks I posted on here, so only the other 14 guys in the pool know that I'm telling the truth. Bottom line, this year's tournament was more of a crapshoot than its ever been.

The biggest lesson I learned this year is that the mid-majors are killing the sport. These teams were everywhere, and Cinderella has jumped the shark. The VCU/Butler game was downright painful to watch, and I don't need to even write about the worst national championship game in history. Truly painful stuff.

The NBA is to blame here. Their stupid rule requiring players to be one year removed from high school has killed program continuity and allowed the Butler and VCU's of the world to have a chance. Much like I don't like TCU playing Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, I'm a snob for bigtime college sports. Please don't expand the tournament any further, and when the NBA returns sometime in 2013 please allow high school players to make the jump right away.

Thursday/Friday at the Masters

The Masters is one of my absolute favorite events of the year. I've been watching it since I was about five years old, and used to love watching it with my grandpa. He's been gone 13 years this year, and the Masters always makes me think about how much I miss him. He got me into sports by taking me to Dodger and Laker games when my dad wouldn't, and I would've been lost in life without his teaching me about the true treat in life that sports are.

This year feels like a changing of the guard at Augusta. As Tiger charges up the leaderboard while I write this, I predict that one of McIlroy/Day/Fowler/Barnes holds him off to win the Masters this year. McIlroy would be particularly nice given that he's been pegged as the next great thing since he played in the Walker Cup when he was 17. Should be a fantastic weekend.

For the record, I've got a trip to Augusta for the Masters on my calendar for next year. Even if I don't get tickets through the lottery I'm going to go ahead and pay the $500 or so to go to Saturday's round. It's a great event with cheap beers and a party atmosphere. Pretty much a must for a sports fan even if you aren't a golf fan per se. I had a blast at the 2010 U.S. Open and can only imagine that August is 10 times better.

I feel like the Masters is the casual golf fan's favorite tournament because even people that don't watch that much golf recognize the back nine at Augusta. If you don't watch it yourself, your dad or grandpa probably did, and outside of Pebble Beach there really isn't a prettier setting in golf. There is nothing better than the back nine on Saturday and Sunday. You can argue with me all you want, but I think it's exciting as hell. Plus, where else can you see stuff like this?

NFL Lockout Update

The parties went to court on April 6 and not much happened. Judge Nelson needs a couple weeks to render a decision, and when she does the losing party will immediately appeal. This thing isn't looking good folks. Although I'd handicap the odds of a full season at 8.5-1 I still don't like the fact that it went into litigation at all.

The union is a union, and should be ruled a union (jesus, that sentence kind of reminded me of a line from one of Logan's children's books). Therefore, this dispute should be decided by the NLRB and the Antitrust lawsuit should be thrown out the window, and the parties should get back to the bargaining table under the federal labor laws. Litigation is for the weak and afraid, which is exactly what the players are.

NBA Playoff Preview

Simply stated, Bulls look unstoppable in the East, Lakers look unstoppable in the West (even on a 3-game losing streak).

I find the NBA playoffs to be much better drama than the average guy, and am able to sit through pretty much every game in every series from the second round on. Even half the first round series are semi-entertaining.

I don't see a team out there that can beat the Bulls. I just don't. Miami isn't deep enough and doesn't play enough defense, and the Celtics took themselves out of it by trading away their size.

In the West, only Oklahoma City has even a prayer of beating the Lakers, and it seems like both the Lakers and the other teams know it. Even if San Antonio smacks them around at home this week they still know they are done. This Spurs team reminds me of the run and gun D'Antoni Suns teams. Great in the regular season, good enough to maybe get to a conference final, but not a serious title contender. Let's just hope people try to behave themselves this June when the Lakers win their third title in a row.

Six titles for Kobe vaults him into the top 3 players in history. You can keep Jordan and Russell up there ahead of him, but nobody except those two can touch him. The guy is an assassin, and I sincerely hope he gets this title, because it will likely be his last. I feel like the Lakers' window closes after this year and it will be time to re-tool.

How good does the Hangover 2 trailer look? Usually you can tell that a sequel is going to suck just by watching the trailer, but this time these guys look like they legitimately wanted to make a second movie as good as the first. Can't wait.

Finally, if you haven't watched the "unedited" version of Charlie Sheen's 20/20 interview, click on it now. Anything this guy touches right now is comedic genius. He knows he's batshit crazy, doesn't give a shit, and is smart enough to spin his meltdown into a clever marketing ploy. I love it, and sincerely hope he manages to keep it together just enough to keep doing weird things for the next 5 years. I'll watch anything, and am really disappointed that the Violent Torpedo of Truth isn't coming to Los Angeles in the next 3 months.

Speaking of "Violent Torpedoes of Truth," I've got my own warlock-style U.S. tour coming up in a few weeks, and will try to provide a recap of each event after I recover. This is a more hectic Spring tour than I've booked in several years, I only hope I can keep up. The menu:

4/23: 9 hours of death metal in the desert with Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax
4/30: Alumni weekend in Santa Barbara
5/7: hiatus
5/14: Lazz's bachelor party in Chicago
5/21: East Coast swing to find an apartment in Baltimore
5/28: Memorial Day weekend festivities
6/5: San Diego Rock n Roll Half Marathon
6/11: Lazz's Wedding on a boat in Newport Beach
6/18: Depart on week-long road trip to Baltimore and will be covering 5 ballparks

My liver already hurts. Stay tuned.


Juicelaw said...

Are you moving to Baltimore?

Juicelaw said...

Also, drinking and gambling at a sports book for 14 straight hours then finding trouble at the tables is Vegas to me. You can have the clubs and fancy dinners unless I'm there with my wife.

UCSB616 said...

Yeah, Angie is doing a fellowship @ johns Hopkins. We will be there for a year then back to Midwest for good.

UCSB616 said...

I'm over clubs. My point was mixing it up. I've done that 20 step thing I wrote about over 20 times in 4 years. Its stale. Needs new life.

Juicelaw said...

Wow. I'm guessing Baltimore will be a change of pace from SoCal.

UCSB616 said...

It'll be fun. I love living new places. I owe pretty much everything I have in life to having the guts to pick up and move to Wisconsin where I didn't know a soul. Was the best decision I ever made and the best experience I ever had. I've got some friends in DC and Angie does too, so this year will be like an extended business trip. Looking forward to it, and we may really like it there.