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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 10/22/09 – Back to sports

I am proud that I have a lot female sports fans who read this blog.   So for all of you, I give you this really fun site created by a couple of ladies who REALLY know their sports.  Fan or not, it is a really fun read and worth checking out.  The tag line of their site is “watch sports like a girl.” From the time I have spent on the site, I can tell you that watching sports like a girl seems to mean being very informed about what is going on, but still remembering that it is only a game and it is important to have a good time with it.  Sounds good to me!

A Fan in Search of a Team

So there are a lot of  blogs out there.  Some are stupid.  Some are funny.  But some, and only a few, are absolutely brilliant.  This is one of those.  Long story short, this guy, Jason Spires, is a huge sports fan, but doesn’t have an NFL team (a crime if you ask me)  In an effort to remedy that sad situation, he has written a letter to all 32 NFL teams asking them to state their case on why he should root for them.  So far the Lions (congrats on their win btw), the Bills and the Titans are the only teams to respond. 

As a service to this poor lost soul, I would like to state the case for the New England Patriots.  To me there are three key reasons for the supporting the Patriots.

1. Present: It is well-accepted that the label “team of the decade” will either go to the Patriots or the Steelers.   Even if Pitt. does claim that mantle (though after losing to the Bengals, I like our chances) there is nothing like supporting a team you know will be competitive every year.  That drive to win starts at the top with our owner, Robert Kraft.  Mr. Kraft comes from the Rooney school of ownership.  He wants to win.  He needs to win.  He will stop at nothing to win.  He knew Belichick was his guy and was willing to give up draft picks to get him.  That commitment to winning means that, regardless of whether we are the team of this decade, we will be in the running for team of the next decade and the next decade and so on.

2. Future: The Patriots, perhaps better than any other team, don’t just play the current year.  They are always thinking about how they can be better in coming years.  All one has to do is look at the Richard Seymour trade to understand that.  The Pats Brass made the determination that they were unlikely to be able to resign him (because, when they grade players, they NEVER operate on emotion) and that the drop-off between him and Jarvis Green and Myron Prior was worth a first round pick (from the woeful Oakland Raiders).  But they didn’t stop there.  Aware of the contract negotiations and that there would likely be a rookie payscale in place by 2011 (but not by 2010) they took the 2011 first-rounder.  How many teams would have that foresight and patience?  Also, they are brilliant with moving around draft picks and still getting the player they want. 

3. Veterans: Two points here.  First, the Pats are a smart team and smart teams are fun to watch.  Watching players like Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, Tom Brady or Rodney Harrison who may not have been the most talented players work their butts off and win because they were always the most prepared and smartest is so much fun.  Also, something about the Pats culture allows vets in the “twilight” of their careers (Seau, Taylor) play like they are young men again and “problem players” (Moss, Dillon) be good citizens and huge contributors.  Also, they also have a scheme such that they can replace players who leave and barely miss a beat.  They went 11-5 with Matt Cassel who looks very human this year for heaven’s sake! 

4. Fan Base: Boston fans are passionate, knowledgeable, loyal and friendly (at least to each other)  Not to mention that, no matter what city you are in, you will find Patriots fans.  And, as I’m sure you know, there is nothing that compares to going to an away game with tons of like-minded fans.  Going to the Pats final regular season game in NY against the Giants in 2007 was easily one of the most fun sports experiences of my life. 

Well, there you go.  I can’t give you any Pats merch, but hopefully I have helped you make up your mind…Good Luck!

Happy Opening Day!!!!

To celebrate the first game of the NFL season tonight (Steelers 21, Titans 17 in case you were wondering) I give you my rules for watching football with friends.  This is from a column I wrote years ago for the Drew University newspaper, The Acorn, but it still relevant today.  Enjoy!

As I see it, there are 10 rules which, when followed, will make viewing a game with your friends so enjoyable, even I might come over. Break any of these rules, and woe to you. Here are the rules, in no particular order.

1. Don’t talk excessively on the phone to a significant other.

If you have a girlfriend or boyfriend, more power to you. If they want to watch the game with you and your friends, that is more than acceptable (see rule 7). However, you must not spend valuable game-viewing time talking to them on the phone. You can wait a few hours. If you must check in with your love, do NOT ever do it during game action. There is never a good excuse to talk on the phone while the game is going on.

2. Don’t gloat too much if your team is winning.

You are watching the game with friends. Friends. It is important to stay friends after the game is over. In order for that to happen you must not gloat if your team is beating your friend’s team. It is fine, even expected, to cheer and be happy. Some needling is perfectly acceptable, but there is a line. You must find that line for yourself, but there is a line. It is important to note that the line will change if, earlier in the game or season, your friend crossed the line in his or her behavior toward you. If that has occurred, all bets are off. Be careful about how far the taunting goes.

3. Don’t come late.

This should be a no-brainer. The game starts at 1 p.m., not 1:20. Show up on time or, better yet, show up early and get yourself emotionally prepared for the game. Showing up late without a valid reason is simply uncalled for and distracting. If your friend shows up late, I hope you will time your hello so that you do not miss a moment of the action. Once the game begins, there is no response too cold for a late arrival.

4. Don’t block the TV for any reason.

The TV is the most important object in the room. It must be treated as such. If you must get up, do not cross in front of the TV. If you must and, by must, I mean there is absolutely no other option, get down on your belly and crawl. DO NOT BLOCK THE GAME! EVER! It is never funny, and if you think it is I would recommend reassessing your sense of humor.

5. Go to the bathroom during commercials. You have two minutes. Use them wisely.

On that same subject, you should not be leaving your seat until there is an appropriate break in the action. Commercial breaks are two minutes long. This is plenty of time to take care of any business. If the game has begun before you make it back to your seat, stand by the door. Do not try to crawl over your friends or make them move. You have been neglectful and you must suffer.

6. Do not discuss other subjects.

You may need to plan a study group. You may want to tell all about the fabulous time you had the night before or that hot date you have tonight. Great! We want to hear it! (Well, maybe not the study group part.) But, for all of our sakes, wait until after the game! Don’t make us choose between your story and the game. I promise, you will lose out every time.  Wait until after the game. If it must be told, it can be told during halftime.

7. No PDA!

I would think this goes without saying, but, more often than you’d think, it doesn’t. As I said earlier, if your significant other, or really close friend, wants to watch the game with you and your friends, that is fine. But there will be no cuddling. No massages. No hand holding. Nothing. You are here to watch the game, and you must never allow something to take you out of that state. Hugging after a great play is OK (chest bumping is preferred). But sustained cuddling has no place in the viewing room.

8. Switching to other games is fine…anything else is a no-no.

Commercials are becoming more and more insipid and harder to watch. Luckily, on most Sundays there are two games going on. Switching to another game is perfectly fine, but the timing must be worked out so you do not miss a moment of the action from your primary game. Many of us have mastered the art of switching back just as the commercials end and the action begins. If you must switch, do not mess up. It is akin to dropping the game-winning touchdown pass with no time left on the clock. Practice your timing.

9. If someone has a lucky seat, respect that.

I rode the left seat on my friend’s couch all the way to a Super Bowl Championship for the Patriots in 2004. During this entire period, and continuing to this day, it is understood that if I am there to watch a game, that is my seat. No one would ever challenge that. It may be the most comfortable seat in the room. Deal with it. Superstition is more important than comfort every time. I must add that it is a horrible crime to fake a lucky seat for your own personal comfort. I shudder at the thought of anyone ever being that selfish.

10. Fantasy players may not be cheered for when they’re against your team.

Look, we all have fantasy teams, and we all want them to win. Checking the box scores to see how your players do is fine. But cheering for a play against your team because it was made by a player on your fantasy team is inexcusable. DO NOT DO IT! Let’s say I am watching an Eagles-Patriots game, and I have Donovan McNabb on my fantasy team. When McNabb throws for his second TD pass of the game, I will be upset, and nothing but upset. I have been known to bench players who will be playing the Patriots in the upcoming week, thus avoiding any temptation.

And the most important rule of watching football?

Enjoy the game.

Link for 9/9/09

This is a fabulous article about when it is ok to abandon your team.   I would add two more to the list:

1. If you marry a fan from another city and move to that city.
a) However, this rule only applies if you will be more passionate about the new team than about the old team.
b) AND you can’t pick and choose which teams to pick.
For example, let’s say you live in Chicago and you marry a girl from Washington DC who is a huge Nationals (ugh) and Redskins fan and move there. You can’t just take the ‘Skins and hold on to the White Sox. No, no, no. You must take all available teams first and then, if there is still an available team from your original state, you can, nay must, hold on to them.

2. If your hometown (within 25 miles) gets a team, you have every right to switch your allegiance to them.

Anything I’m missing??