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Just another thought-filled Monday…

Happy Monday all!  Random thoughts from the weekend:

Politics:

  • It appears that President Obama may have gotten a 5-7 point bounce out of his convention.  According to several polls (great graphic here), Obama’s bounce has sustained, even despite a weaker than expected jobs report on Friday.  We won’t know the full bounce for a few more days, because most of these polls include some percentage of interviews conducted before key convention moments.  So, there is still the potential for a larger bounce, perhaps as many as 10 points.
  • For months we’ve been hearing that this election is a “base election.”  In other words, given that most people have already made up their mind, turnout will be the key to winning.  That’s why you saw the Democrats hit social issues so hard in Charlotte – they are trying to fire up their base and get key constituents out to the polls.  And therein lies the advantage for the President.   The New York Times calculated that, if everyone who is registered to vote shows up at the polls, Obama has a 90%+ chance of winning based on party registration etc…This blog has a great breakdown of how that figure was identified and what it all means.  If you are interested in party registration over time, check this out.
  • The debates are going to be more important this year, than I can ever remember them being.   Between now and election day, Romney and Obama will debate 3 times and Biden will square off against Ryan once.  In an election where both sides are willing to say anything (true or not) and the challengers have steadfastly refused to provide specifics about their economic plan, it will be super interesting to see how much the moderators or candidates push for information and call people on their lies.  Who can say the things that will motivate and excite their base, while not turning off the few undecideds or the ones who could still be swayed?  That, ultimately, will decide this election.

Sports:

Football is back and I could not be more excited!  All you need to know is that, at the Red Sox game on Saturday night (another loss), the fans started chanting “Go Pats” in the 7th Inning.  And I was among them!  After a great first weekend, here are my winners and losers:

Winners:

  • New York Jets

I don’t think you can understand how painful it was for me to type that.  Look, their top two QBs (Sanchez and Tebow) didn’t score a single TD in the preseason (see below).  And they were facing the Buffalo Bills, who sport a revamped, and very expensive defense) in Week 1.  Many, including me, were convinced it would be an embarrassing display by Ryan’s boys, but were we ever wrong.  How they managed to put up 48 points is beyond me.  This was more shocking than Brady Anderson’s random 50 homers in 1996.  Which reminds me, someone check the Jets’ offensive coordinator for steroids!

  • Peyton Manning

In the you’ve gotta see it to believe it category, I give you Peyton Manning.  After not playing in a game for 600+ days, Manning returned to the field and, against a pretty good defense, led his team to a comeback win.  Seeing him in Bronco orange was defintely strange, but the result was not.  He’s still got it, folks, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AFC.

  • Replacement Officials

Look, they weren’t perfect, but they survived and this ragtag bunch of retirees, teachers and insurance salesmen got some difficult calls right.  Although they did their best by giving Seattle an extra timeout at the end of the Seahawks-Cardinals game, they didn’t change the outcome of any game and that, my friends, is a win.  Of course, regardless of how long this strike lasts, they also made history by counting in their numbers the first woman to ever officiate a NFL game.  Congratulations to Shannon Eastin and I hope you blaze the trail for more gender equality in the sport.  Way to go!

Losers

  • Preseason footbal

It means nothing, as the Jets showed, and 4 games is way too many.  It looks like the NFL may, finally be making the change.  Week 1 showed just how meaningless those games really are.

  • Rookie QBs

It’s a tough jump from college to the pros, no question about it.  All the rookie QBs starting this weekend, with the exception of RGIII looked way over matched and out-of-place.  Weeden, Luck, Wilson and Tannehill all may be great NFL players but, on week 1, they looked very mortal.

  • New Orleans Saints

After quite the offseason, I thought the Saints would come out firing on all cylinders.  Us against the World would be their motto and, especially playing at home, they would steamroll over any opponent unlucky enough to be on the other side.  That didn’t happen.  They looked flat for the first half of the game and, to me, didn’t seem like there was any motivation or desire to beat the odds.  They tried to recover in the 2nd half, but it was too little too late.  Let’s see which team shows up next week.

Link for 3/7 – I LOVE this!!!

Nomah is back!!! Well, not exactly.  The Red Sox are going to hold a press conference today in which they will announce that they have signed Nomar Garciaparra to a one-day contract so that he can announce his retirement as a member of the Red Sox.  Despite the acrimony that preceded his trade in 2004, Garciaparra was a big part of the Red Sox for so many years and is one of the better SS’s the team has ever had.  From his signature pre-pitch routine, to his presence in the community, to the debates about which SS was better (Jeter, A-Rod or Nomah) to the SNL parodies, it was great to have been able to root for him for so many years and I wish him nothing but the best.  Thanks for the memories Nomah, and I’m so happy you’re still a part of the Red Sox family.

The Decade is almost over

What do CNN, ESPN, millions of bloggers around the world, every local news station, NPR, and random people have in common?  They have all spent the last few weeks creating those “year-end lists.”  You know the ones: Best moment of the year, saddest death of the year etc…  Of course, since the end of 2009, also draws the 2000s to a close (if you count the years in the way that most people do), those year-end lists have become decade-end lists.  I thought I could resist giving you the sportypolitics lists but, alas, I could not.  So, as we count down the final hours of 2009, I hope you enjoy my list of moments I felt the desire to highlight. 

Decade’s defining moment: The attacks of 9/11/2001
Sports or politics, there really is no question that the events of that Tuesday morning defined the decade. We are still feeling repercussions from those attacks and we are a fundamentally different society because of them. Thousands of people lost their lives that day and many more have been killed in the wars that the attacks spawned. The attacks brought the world together but the choices that followed splintered us again. We lost the illusion (however foolish it was) of being safe on our own soil and, as we saw on Christmas Day, there are still many out there who are willing to give up their life to kill Americans. As we move into the next decade, it is critical we find a way to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan and continue to rebuild our image in the world. Otherwise the defining moment of this decade will become the defining moment of the next decade and so on.

Defining struggle of the decade: The economy
One could certainly make an argument for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the fallout from the recession we have been mired in gets my vote. Greed and poor choices led to the near collapse of our Economic system and cost many people their jobs. With the unemployment rate above 10%, we once again saw that the consequences of decisions by those at the top are felt most dramatically by workers. It is a real shame that so many of those who made the decisions (or allowed the decisions to be made) have had so little interest in being a part of the solution. Greed is a powerful force and people like Anastasia Kelly who resigned from the disgraceful company AIG because she was upset at only making $500,000 (and will pocket several million dollars in severance pay because she left for ‘good reason’ show how few lessons those top decision-makers have learned.   The economy affects all of us and, while I think the Obama administration has taken strong steps to avert disaster and get us on the right track, jobs must come back for his work to be considered a success.

Now for some happier news…

Baseball team of the decade: The Boston Red Sox
I certainly could be accused of being a homer for this pick, but I feel pretty strongly about it. Yes, the Yankees had more wins. Yes, both teams won two World Series. But the way in which the Red Sox turned their team around and, in doing so, re-energized their fan base, gives them the edge. They maximized revenue from their ballpark, developed some really strong players, spent money when they needed to, and are really well-positioned for future seasons.

Football team of the decade: I don’t know
This is a really really tough one. Arguments could be made for the Pittsburgh Steelers (although their collapse and the fact that they may not make the playoffs this year argue against them), the Indianapolis Colts or the New England Patriots. To me, a lot depends on who wins the Super Bowl this season. If the Pats win, they are the team of the decade. If the Colts win, then they are. If neither wins, I think the nod goes to New England, but it is mighty close. Colts vs. Patriots is one of the best matchups of this decade and they sure have played some memorable games.

Basketball team of the decade: The Los Angeles Lakers
They didn’t have the most wins. They didn’t have the best winning percentage. They didn’t even have the most memorable championship (the Celtics get credit for that). But they were the most dominant and they were the team to beat in this decade.

Hockey team of the decade: The Detroit Red Wings
It’s not even really close. Sure, you could make an argument for the NJ Devils, but you would be wasting your time.

Sports city of the decade: Boston
These are incredible times to be a Boston sports fan. From the Red Sox (2 world series) to the Celtics (1 championship) to the Patriots (3 SB championships plus an almost perfect season) to the Bruins to the college teams we have winners everywhere you look. 6 parades in 10 years…pretty incredible. Add to that the hockey championships won by BU and BC and you have a pretty successful decade.  Think about the transformation in the Boston sports scene over the last 10 years. In 2000 no one really cared about Boston. We hadn’t won in years and things weren’t looking too promising. Fast forward to today and we are called “arrogant,” “spoiled,” “cheaters,” and “obnoxious.”  Such hatred is saved for winners, which is what Boston has become over the past decade.

Sports story of the decade: Cheating
From steroids to videotaping, this decade will be known as the one where fans were forced to confront the fact that our athletic heroes willingly and knowingly broke the rules to achieve greatness. Hopefully, with so much now out in the open, we can have faith that the sports legends of the future will get to the top legally.

Society’s story of the decade Lack of personal contact
In some ways Google’s IPA in 2004 is a defining moment for our society. From Myspace and Linkedin (2003) to Facebook and Twitter (2006)…from smartphones to ipods and email to online cards to blogging, this decade has been given us the tools to be constantly in touch without ever having to actually speak. Communication means something very different than it did 10 years ago and everyone, from retailers to relatives are having to adjust. How we get and share information and build and maintain relationships has fundamentally changed and may be the most lasting societal change we have seen this decade.

I know there is a lot I haven’t touched on in this post. The deaths of groundbreakers like President Reagan, Senator Kennedy, Julia Child, Fred Rogers, Richard Pryor, June and Johnny Cash, Arthur Miller, Johnny Carson, Michael Jackson, and so many many more. The true heroism of our troops and Captain ‘Sully.’  The incredible elections of 2000, 2004 and 2008 (and the historic election of Barack Obama).  We’ll see what 2010 and the next decade have in store.

Happy New Year and all the best for a wonderful 2010. Thank you for reading and may the coming year be filled with more smiles than frowns and more laughter than tears.

Link for 11/5/09 – The World Series

With the world series ending last night, I felt like I should share some pictures of the fall classic and ensuing celebration.

Here’s a nice slideshow of images

A photo that sums up what these Yankees are all about

A good recap of the deciding game

So congratulations to the Yankees…I promise I’m not bitter.

Link for 10/15/09 – Red Sox fan with a ‘Yankee’ illness

If you do only one thing today, read this inspiring piece about a Red Sox fan battling ALS.  I have always admired people who, when dealt terrible cards, find a way to keep their chin up and make the best of their situation.  Paul Szantyr has found a way to continue to live a positive life even as ALS takes over his body and there are so many lessons to be learned from him.  One of my best friends lost her father to ALS and, in him, I saw the same determination to make the best of it and not lose his life before he actually stopped breathing.  I hope Paul’s book is published – I want to buy it and read it!

A sad day for Boston sports

Well, what do you really say after a day like today.  99 times out of 100 Papelbon saves that game.  99 times out of 100 Brady wins it for you when he has the ball at midfield with 90 seconds left.  But today.  Well, today in both games, it was the 100th time.   The Pats will play on (and continue getting better) but, for the Sox, the season is over.

It is a crazy thing having a favorite team in the playoffs.  There is so much hope, optimism and excitement.  You just feel like your guys will find a way to get it done.  I really believed that, despite being down 0-2 to the Angels, we would find a way to win.  And, up 5-1 early and 6-4 in the 9th, I was already liking our chances with Lester and Beckett…But, alas, it wasn’t to be.  The fact is that this team just wasn’t quite good enough.  They couldn’t hit good pitching for most of the year (especially the second half) and seemed to only be able to beat the teams they were supposed to beat.  It will an interesting offseason but, for now, all that is left to do is reflect on the season that was and turn our attention to the Celtics, Bruins and Patriots.  And, in doing so, we can consider ourselves lucky that we do have other teams to focus on.  Even if one of those teams had a heartbreaking loss in Denver today.

Thank you to the Red Sox for a fun year.  Theo – the ball is in your court.  Time to make us even better for next year!

Link for 10/9/09 – “Fake Baseball Fan”

With Game 1 out of the way (I really don’t want to talk about it) and the first home playoff game for the Red Sox just days away, I thought I would share this fabulous post on “faking it.”   There is nothing worse for a hardcore fan than sitting at home and seeing a camera shot of someone who just so clearly doesn’t want to be there.  Look, I know you might get dragged to the park by a significant other or a parent or a friend but, please, fake it!  And now, thanks to the “Girly Girl’s Guide to Fenway” you have instructions on how to do it.  So go, enjoy the game, and do what you have to do to fake enjoyment.  Trust me, you will be doing a service to the many thousands of us who are sitting warm at home and drinking reasonably priced beer.  🙂

Enjoy the game and Go Red Sox!!!!!

MLB Predictions

Well after 162 games + 12 very exciting innings, the playoffs are here.  Each of the 8 teams have some real strengths and some glaring questions.  October is always unpredictable and, with such parity among the teams, this October will not disappoint.   Now, without any further ado, let’s look at the teams:

Yankees vs. Twins:
What a run the Twins (and the city of Minnesota) have been on since the beginning of September.  The fact that they even made the playoffs is a victory.  I hope they enjoy it because they have very little chance against NY in the most lopsided first-round series.  I think some combination of Yankee in-fighting (why oh why you would start Molina ahead of Posada in two of the games is beyond me…Molina’s bat makes Tek look like a batting champion) and plain old momentum will allow the Twins to steal a game.  But only one.
Yankees in 4

Red Sox vs. Angels
Well this looks familiar. Is this the year when the Angels finally rise to the occasion and beat the Red Sox? Nope. Late-season struggles aside, Lester and Beckett will both pitch well and I am confident about getting 2 wins out of them and then one from either Clay or Dice-K. In some ways, however, this series might turn on which big bat (Papi or Vlad) can be more consistent…I think Papi. Besides, does anyone really think that the ALCS won’t be Red Sox – Yankees? Just has to happen based on all that has gone on this season. Of course if Beckett or Lester are not fully healthy and can’t pitch to their ability, then the Sox are in a lot of trouble. Red Sox in 5

Dodgers vs. Cardinals
Without a doubt, this is the first round series I am the most excited about. Any time you are have two of the best managers in baseball history (Torre and La Russa) matching wits, you know it will be good. As a fun side-note, this series also features the two best pure hitters in the game today (Manny and Pujols) and two nearly stastically identical pitching staffs. If this series was played with pre-July 31st rosters, LA would win. But St. Louis did a better job at the deadline and those new additions will tip the scales in their favor.  Cardinals in 5 (note: I have absolutly no faith in this prediction and, if Manny gets really hot, I think LA might win. Either way, it is going to be fun!)

Phillies vs. Rockies
Another series that could go either way. On paper the Phillies have the advantage since they have three elite LHP and most of the best hitters Colorado has are lefty. However, the Phillies bullpen is in terrible shape and their closer, Brad Lidge, has been nothing short of awful in the second half of the season. If he isn’t the guy, then the bullpen options for Charlie Manuel are even more limited and, as the series goes on, it will make for some difficult decisions. By contrast the Rockies have a very solid pen and that will serve them quite well. Rockies in 5

I want to give you my quick predictions for the other series now. However, I will revise and comment on the matchups as they become known

ALCS
Yankees over Red Sox in 7 😦

NLCS
Cardinals over Rockies in 6

World Series
Cardinals over Yankees in 7

Link for 10-6-09 – A great game

Well this season keeps getting better and better.  Nothing like a one-game playoff to decide the final postseason birth.  This blog has a great preview of the game (and has a bunch of other really fun entries).  I think the Minnesota winning streak continues and the Twins prevail 4-2.  On a related note, can we stop pretending that the Yankees might pick the series that starts on Thursday.  There is no way they are going to give their opponent that extra day off before the series starts.  They want them to fly from the Twin Cities right to New York and have to play tomorrow.  No question about it.

Link for 9/14/09

This post is dedicated to my loving and patient wife, Lindsey.   With the football season underway, she has truly become a “Football Widow”  and I, for one, am very grateful to her for it.   Click that link for an awesome post about football widows and some tips if you are still adjusting to life as one.  I would like to add a few tips of my own however:

1. Sign up for emails from the team. Lindsey gets a daily email from the Red Sox with news/updates and, sometimes, even ticket offers. I assure you, there is nothing better than getting a phone call from your spouse because he/she wants to talk about what the Sox will do now that Kottaras is on the DL or because the team just released a block of seats for the game that night.  Knowledge is sexy and nothing beats sports knowledge.

2. Understand that 2 minutes doesn’t actually mean 2 minutes.

3. If you are going to watch the game, make sure you have a couple of sports-related comments or reactions prepared and understand the proper time to use them.  Last night, we were watching the Packers-Bears game and Lindsey, after a particularly jarring hit, made a ouch sound and commented that that looked like a painful way to fall.  She waited until after the play, during the reply to make the comment and left it at that.  Perfect!  (NOTE: This is an advanced tip and must be practiced before being used in a game situation)

4. Understand and appreciate the pain your significant other feels when he/she has to miss a game.  It could be for a happy reason (wedding, art show) or a sad reason (funeral).  The pain is still there and anything you can do to ease that pain is appreciated.  Along those lines, learn early on if getting the score is what is best, or if your partner prefers to wait until later to watch highlights or DVR or something.  If the latter, then you must do everything in your power to protect your partner from score information.   You are like the secret service and the score is an assassin’s bullet.  It is that serious.

5. Even if the game has just ended…and your partner has watched the whole game…he/she will still want to watch the highlights.  Highlights provide additional insight, extreme pleasure/pain, and are a relaxing way to wide down after the game.  The “5th Quarter” isn’t as important as the first four, but it can be close.  However, don’t force the highlights on them.  If their team has suffered a terrible loss, they may choose to not watch the highlights.  Respect that.

6. Let me give you a sense of the requirements of each day of the week during the football season:

Monday: Wind-down after an exciting Sunday. Trash talk (nicely) your colleagues who may be fans of other teams. Read MMQB on cnnsi or whatever your favorite recap articles are.  Prepare for the MNF game (s) by making any last minute changes to your fantasy lineup and game watching plans.

Tuesday: Celebrate or cry over your success/losses in each fantasy league you are in (including pick ’em, or eliminator) and begin to game plan for the upcoming weekend.  What worked/didn’t work and how can we make appropriate changes.  Today is also a good day to spend some quality time with box scores looking at all appropriate information (how well did your players do?  What defenses showed some holes? How involved were players in the game plan? etc…) 

Wednesday: First injury reports are released today, so be prepared to act accordingly.  Also, many fantasy leagues have a 3-day waiver period, so today is a really good day to pick up someone you want to have available for the coming Sunday.  (Of course, if there is a Thursday game, this throws a wrench into these plans….)

Thursday: If there is a game, make sure you make all your picks and line-up changes in time.  If there is a game on Thursday, it is nationally televised so the NFL thinks it is a game you will want to watch.  Trust them. 

Friday: This has been the day that I tend to make my picks and “finalize” my lineups.  Obviously, I will make late adjustments as the games draw near, but I like to spend some time on Friday looking at injury reports and making decisions about which team will win

Saturday: 3 important jobs: 1. Finalize your game-watching plans.  2. If you are into CFB, watch some games.  3. Do any chores/errands so you are not feeling stress on Sunday.

Sunday:  Football time starts early.  Make sure you have a good pre-game plan (shows? cooking?).  As game-time draws near, pop open that first beer (try to make it from the region your team is from but, at the very least, do not drink a beer brewed in your opponents city.  That is asking for trouble!)  and enjoy the games. 

Anyway, I’m lucky that Lindsey has become a true Red Sox fan (hard not to in Boston), is really into the Bruins, is getting into the Celtics and tolerates the Patriots.  Maybe she’ll have more insight into coping mechanisms or how to make the transition from casual fan to true fan.  Because, when all is said and done, the best way to watch a game is with your interested and excited partner.