New Year’s Resolutions for Sports Fans

New Year’s Resolutions for Sports Fans

We resolve to limit our sports viewing to one device at a time.

We resolve to remaining a contributing member of society even after our favorite team suffers a devastating loss.

We resolve to playing Candyland with our sons and daughters for the 10th time that day over checking twitter for the latest update on that Mountain West basketball game between Boise St and Air Force.

We resolve to voice our opinions in a passionate yet respectful manner.

We resolve to refrain from insulting the intelligence/appearance of a player or coach. Remember, they all have parents. Wives, husbands and children too.

We resolve to take a deep breath before posting anything hurtful or derogatory on social media.

We resolve to always tip the waitstaff no less than 20% even when our jalapeño poppers come out luke warm.

We resolve to limit our living room celebrations to a solitary fist pump.

We resolve to stay down in front.

We resolve to playing catch in between innings or at the half.

We resolve to limit our pre game portions. Why settle for the entire bread bowl of spinach & artichoke dip when half would more than suffice?

We resolve to leave the last beer or hot wing for a guest.

We resolve to be the designated driver.

We resolve to teach our children about sports history. From Magic to Michael. Marino to Montana. Griffey to the Big Hurt.

We resolve to re-watch all the sports movie classics. Hoosiers. Raging Bull. Slap Shot. Caddyshack.

We resolve to give the WNBA another shot.

We resolve to fully embrace this summer’s upcoming women’s World Cup.

We resolve to celebrate the accomplishments of the current all time greats even if they are not our favorite players.

We resolve to allow our kids the freedom to pick their own favorite teams.

We resolve to visit Cameron Indoor. Augusta and Churchill Downs too.

We resolve to clean up after ourselves at a tailgate.

We resolve to report abusive behavior in the stadium.

We resolve to watch what we say especially in the company of the young and impressionable.

We resolve not to shelter our kids from the immorality of famous athletes but rather use their transgressions as a catalyst for productive discourse.

We resolve to remain our children’s role models.

And finally, we resolve to always keep sports in their proper context.

The U.S. Open: Tennis Made In New York City

Tennis in New York City. A combination of glitz, glamour and grit. Where greatness does not shy away from the bright lights of the big city. From baseline to baseline, with flashbulbs flickering, the stars come out to watch the best compete in the final slam of the season, the year’s last chance to claim one of tennis’s most prestigious prizes.

In the City That Never Sleeps, players cannot afford to tire. This moment in the spotlight will not allow for old wounds to heal or fresh scars to mend. The U.S. Open is about persevering past the obstacles that accumulate over an exhausting season. Survival here requires not just skill but internal strength and fortitude in the face of a different kind of hardship, one unique to this proud city and its people.

This is a place where titles are overrated, and work is valued. If you’re willing to sweat. Willing to bleed willing to grind then this city will welcome you. It will adopt you as one of its own. Because if there’s one thing New York respects it’s the ability to overcome adversity. The desire to stand up and stare down a challenge. Admiration doesn’t come easy but it is a currency greater than any other commodity. It cannot be bought or sold. It must be earned.

Heads up. Feet forward fast. This city does not stop. It will not slow down. Not for past champions. Not for the future’s brightest stars. Not for the game’s all time greats. There is a pace to this place so rare to the rest of the world that it cannot be matched by Melbourne, Paris or London. One slip. One stumble. A single moment of self doubt and the city will pass you by.

Here it’s better to be brash and bold than timid and temperamental. Petulance is panned regardless of pedigree. This city cares not about what you’ve done in the past only what you’re willing to do in the present. There are no laurels to rest, no record books to regard. Win today, hero tomorrow. Until it’s time to go to work again.

Look around and you’re surrounded by history. By icons past and present. This is the city where stars are made, where fame is created. Where talent transcends. Be careful not to stare for too long because objects are closer than they appear. Success is poised for the taking for those capable of withstanding.

So embrace the moment. Soak in the scrutiny. Accept the adoration. But do not rest. Time to turn on the lights. For this is New York. The City That Never Sleeps.

Real Names As Movie Characters

Fern Cunningham is a renowned sculptor and advocate for racial equality in the United States. But if “Fern Cunningham” were a movie character the possibilities would be endless.

Fern Cunningham is….

– an assistant district attorney in Mobile, Alabama famous for bringing down a group of pelican poachers called “The Gumbo Gang”.

– the owner of a taco truck in Sante Fe, New Mexico specializing in open faced shrimp po-boys and Arnold Palmer’s brewed with live scorpions.

– the starting center of the Bismarck Bison, a small minor league basketball team in North Dakota that had their season cut short by the installation of another nuclear missile silo.

– the sinister operator of a funeral home in Bridgeport, Conn that due to the faltering economy has begun offering it’s services to beloved house pets.

– a burnout bassist for a popular pop/rock band from the late ’60s called “The Sea Horses” who once popularized the phrase “Smoke rises watch the mist fall, let my love be the last thing of all”.

– a hipster from Brooklyn who attempts to make a living selling both vintage t-shirts depicting former senator Russ Feingold and hummus stuffed popovers.

– the head of a Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity in Dayton, Ohio whose father, Fern Sr., is a high powered Chicago architect who has promised the young Fern a job upon completion of his 6th year of college.

– a mother of 4, retired art teacher who spends most of her days knitting socks for her 10 grandchildren while recording medical advice from Dr. Oz.

– a young, heavy set florist from East St. Louis who owns and operates a store called “Fern’s Ferns” specializing in bouquet wedding arrangements.

All Quiet On The Wimbledon Front

It’s been said plenty of times before, and with much greater eloquence and authority, but one of the things that makes Roger Federer such a fantastic, eternal champion is that he has always possessed a certain way of making everything he does on the tennis court look so damn easy. From his return of serve to his cross court forehand winners to the way he never looks out of breath even after chasing down volley after volley. There is even a disturbing consistency to the way he delicately brushes the hair from his eyes as if to show us all that we can only dream about being as in the moment as he has been over the course of his now 17 Grand Slam victories.

I exchanged a few messages with my buddy Chip who was in London during Sunday’s final and he said that the Britons weren’t all that disappointed by the end result given that the oddsmakers and daily rags had penciled down Federer as the heavy favorite over Andy Murray, the hometown hero from Highlands. Chip also went on to say that according to his Boston centric sports senses the reaction of Londoners after the 2012 Wimbledon final was very to similar to what happens in the Fens following a Red Sox regular season loss to the New York Yankees, an occurrence that I had to remind him was becoming much more frequent in 2012.* In simpler terms, Great Britain was proud of Murray for the way he battled through to the final and for this heartwarming, endearing post match speech but not all that surprised when the greatest of all time came out on top once again.

But before prattling on for far too long about a result and champion the context of which overwhelms most middling scribes and is better suited for a discussion amongst McEnroe’s, it’s much easier to instead focus our dwindling attention spans on something simpler like the behavior of the Wimbledon crowd and how it was predictably impossible for the fans at Centre Court to keep their personal allegiances secret. On this particular championship Sunday the vast majority of the crowd was pulling for the Brit Murray but there were also a healthy number of onlookers there to support Federer who is, with all due respect to Pete Sampras, arguably the greatest champion the London grass has ever seen.

So as the emotions of a 76 year old drought came within a few games/points/sets of reaching its crest, the partisan crowd managed to remain respectful and did not distract either player from the task at hand. This sort of restraint shown by the fans raises the all important question of why it is that a sport like tennis requires that the crowd maintain its silence while the point is being played yet there are other sports like baseball that do not ask for the same serenity? Is this because tennis is a much more difficult sport than baseball that it requires a much higher level of concentration or perhaps tennis players have been conditioned throughout the years to play without distraction? The easiest analogy to make is the art of bunting in baseball compared to the serve in tennis.

Arguing over which is the more difficult task to execute, the 120 mph serve or the sacrifice bunt, is both futile an unnecessary. Each requires more skill and precision than we mere mortals can even begin to fathom. A good serve, as with a sacrifice bunt, relies on not just speed but location as well. A hard serve is difficult to return only if placed properly. The same can be said about an effective sacrifice bunt. Depending on the situation a batter needs to direct the ball either down the first or third base line.** Just simply putting the ball in play does not guarantee that the batter will be able to advance the runner into scoring position just like hitting a 120mph serve does not necessarily result in an ace.

The other interesting parallel between these two skills is that both tennis and baseball players have a limited number of chances to accomplish their goal. Tennis players get two chances before committing a double fault while in baseball a hitter has two strikes to put a bunt in play, unless they’re being managed by a real old timer like my high school legion coach who would keep the bunt sign on throughout the at bat regardless of the count.***

So why is it that baseball players can handle the noise yet tennis players require such stupefying silence? The simple answer is history and tradition. Think about it this way, if there was no such thing as tennis etiquette and fans were allowed to make as much of a racket, no pun intended, as they wanted to eventually players would cease to be distracted by the noise. It just like basketball players adjusting to shoot free throws while staring at this guys face or Tiger Woods hitting a low cut 3 wood stinger with hundreds of fans snapping cell phone pictures.

But the rules and tradition of tennis do not allow for fans to interfere with the action. And it’s a good thing too because elite tennis players cannot handle the additional distraction. Take yesterday for example. What if some hooligan Andy Murray supporter wearing a Union Jack shirt with matching Dame Edna glasses were to have directed at Federer right as he was going into his ball toss a string of expletives that would even make EL James blush? For starters, the offending fan would have been thrown in the Tower of London to rot for all eternity alongside the ghosts of William Wallace and Oliver Cromwell. Secondly, due to the interruption Federer would have been thrown completely off his game and that laser like focus that has made him such a vaunted champion in the past would have been melted down to nothing more than a puddle of ineptitude that even Pippa**** woud have had a difficult time watching.  Because tennis is such a proper sport, and because no true athletes wants to be given an unfair advantage, Murray would have most likely conceded the point and even personally apologized to Roger for the poor behavior of the fans.

The reason why baseball fans don’t go silent just as the batter squares around is not because bunting is any less difficult than hitting a 120mph serve but rather because baseball players have been conditioned to perform through the distraction. In fact, it would probably be more off putting for major leaguers if the crowd did go silent during important moments of the game. Unless of course you are currently playing in Oakland.

*Before going ahead and accepting Chip’s analysis as the gospel please understand that he was drinking white wine while watching the championship at “Lady Di’s Place” which was either a reference to a former residence of the Princess of Whales or a gentleman’s club by Emirates Stadium.

**Back when Roberto Alomar was playing for those great Toronto Blue Jays teams in the early 90s, they would say that he would intentionally bunt the ball foul early in the count just to get the defense to shift out of position so that later in the at bat he would have more open space to put the ball in play. 

***FYI, there is nothing more embarrassing as a baseball player than failing to get the bunt down. Close second is getting picked off second base.

****Never forget.

Prep School Basketball or Pond Hockey: A Top Ten Examination

Since when did Lake Winnipesaukee become such a hotbed for prep school basketball? Most folks are familiar with the New Hampshire Lakes Region for its pristine beauty, 0% sales tax, and golf ball sized mosquitoes. But premiere high school hoops in Northern New England? Sounds like some sort of bizarro John Irving novel under the heavy influence of either Adrian Wojnarowski or Scott Raab.

This past Monday Brewster Academy defeated in-state rival Tilton School 60-56. With the win, Brewster extended their record to 28-0 and will remain the top prep team in the country. That’s right, the top high school basketball team in the United States is from little old Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. This seems about as likely as an undrafted second year point guard from Harvard emerging as the New York Knicks savior. But I digress.

Here are the top ten sports related events more likely to occur in New Hampshire other than being home to the best prep school basketball team in the nation.

10. Ice Sculpting – Having grown up in Hanover, I can attest to the wild scene that is the Dartmouth Winter Carnival. It’s like something only the National Lampoon could conjure, fueled entirely by Mad Dog 20/20 and Swisher Sweets. The Greeks are allowed to pass off their debauchery by creating large ice sculptures on the front lawn of each fraternity. Now these creations are usually tied to a specific theme, like Dr. Seuss or the Abominable Snowman, however the only time anyone every sees these sculptures is when some overserved pledge attempts to jump over them on ice skates fashioned out of petrified birch tree braches. Trust me, this never ends well.

9. Surfing – You don’t need to travel to exotic locales like Cape Cod or Newport, RI to find some totally tubular New England waves. Hampton Beach provides wannabe Johnny Utah’s with ample surf and sun. And who knows just when a pickup football game may break out.

8. Motorcycle Gathering – I have never been so horrified as I was when driving through Meredith, NH and being passed by roughly 100 Clay Morrow lookalikes all wearing leather chaps sitting atop Harley-Davidson choppers with names like “Buttercup”, “Mystique”, and “Precious”.

7 – Ski Racing – The majestic White Mountains provide many scenic opportunities for both alpine and nordic skiing. But honestly, I don’t know anyone under the age of 45 who cross country skis. My mom took me XC skiing over the backcountry once and it was a miserable experience. For starters, cross country is much more difficult than downhill mostly because you have to create all of the momentum yourself. Secondly, it was like running on a treadmill. We must have gone around the same open field five times before returning home. All and all, cross country skiing is not something for me. At least not until I turn 45.

6. NASCAR Race – Yes it’s true, Loudon, NH is home to several NASCAR events as well as an Indy Car race. And you thought it was only Dixie that cared about fast cars driving in concentric circles until they all crash or run out of gas.

5. Mountain Climbing – Speaking of outdoor activities, the White Mountains boast the Presidentials, a series of tall peaks named after famous US Presidents. Mt. Washington is probably the most famous of the bunch and if you don’t feel like climbing the highest mountain in New England you can always drive your car to the top and purchase one of these decorative stickers. Hiking suites my fancy just fine, so long as it not black fly season. Black flies are the scourge of human existence and the single most effective means of population control in New Hampshire.

4. Big Buck Hunter – I’ve been informed by a colleague in the know that the appeal of this arcade game found commonly in bars across the Kancamagus is not the killing animals part but that it tests your quick twitch muscle response. Sounds a little fishy to me. Get a few Dr. McGillicuddy’s in you and shooting defenseless opossum sounds pretty entertaining.

3. Golf – Even though the official golf season exists for only a few fleeting months before the frost descends from the arctic and envelopes the entire state with a permafrost until the following May doesn’t mean that the Granite State is void of championship caliber golf courses. In high school I use to frequent a course where on the 18th hole you had to hit your tee shot over a 300 foot ravine. 9 times out of 10 I ended up at the bottom of the gorge having to take a drop by the ladies tees on the other side of the bridge. Humbling experience especially when the people you are playing with never seem to make the same mistake.

2. Rope Swings – You haven’t lived until you have been hit in the genitals by a long piece of knotted rope while free falling into the shallow, ice cold water of the Connecticut River.

1. Pond Hockey Tournament – I have friends who compete in an outdoor 3-on-3 hockey tournament held every winter on Lake Winnipesaukee. They tell me that some of the highlights include: no officials, a skate in and skate out Labatt Blue tent, and the fact that everyone is off the ice by 2pm which allows the “athletes” an optimal amount of time in one of the many Lakes Region greasy spoons.

view from The Rock courtesy of @JamesBellomo