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Sports and Politics

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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23:  U.S. President B...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Tim Thomas is *right* off my Christmas list now. The Bruins had a White House ceremony today, and I loved President Obama's speech. He's probably not much of a hockey fan (basketball fans usually aren't) but he is a gracious speaker and seemed to be having fun, right down to saying he knows everyone was "wicked happy" to be there. Then he rattled off the championships from the area and said "enough already Boston!". He had some fun with it, going so far as to call Marchand by his "Little Ball Of Hate" nickname, and it was really cool. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves tremendously.

Goalie Tim Thomas, NHL Hockey player for the B...

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Except Tim Thomas, who boycotted the event because he feels that government is "out of control". What an idiot. As some have said, it's his "right" to not go if he doesn't want to. But it is also *my* right to call him out for a selfish boob, who stood up his teammates for a big occasion to make a political, selfish point. To show him how it is done, I'm sure that if/when his teammates are asked about it, they will all defend his "right" and back him up, just like he should have done when they went to the White House. Put out a statement afterwards if you must, but, as Kevin Paul Dupont said, "Win as team. Lose as team. When team is honored, attend as a teammate."

Teams are funny things. I *love* being a member of a team. And it really has to be a sports team - business can try to coopt the team ethic, but you have to have black and white wins and losses to really pull a team together. It's been a while since I've been on a real team, but once a year, I pull together a group of the guys I play hockey with and we enter a team into a local tournament. And it is an intense 3 to 4 games, played over just a couple days. So much so, that I am usually too burned out to play goal come our regular morning skate.

And I love it. Even just for that short period of time, the "team" pulls together. Some are just friends of friends, so we just see once a year for this tournament, but it doesn't take long for the team to gel and we have a blast. And as a goalie, I am a unique kind of teammate. Probably akin to a pitcher in baseball or a kicker(!) in football, from the outside we get more share of the blame and more credit than we deserve. But the teammates just know how it works, and how the dynamic works and they would never ever say anything bad to me as a teammate, no matter how much I screwed up. And that's the thing with goalies, pitchers, kickers and the like - when you screw up, it is usually pretty major and pretty obvious. And your teammates recognize this, knowing that they'll screw up and you'll bail them out and vice versa, despite how it might look on the outside. And I really dig that kind of responsibility and ownership.

Boston Bruins

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So the Bruins will have Thomas' back but I pretty sure they also wish, deep down inside, that he had just gone along with the flow and hadn't been, as my teammates will sometimes rib me, a "fuckin' goalie". Because we are different, let me tell you!
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Patriot Punishment

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Tailgate 1Well, that was a pretty awful effort by the Patriots on Sunday, wasn't it? Sure, the Jets played a perfectly servicable game but I find more things to blame in the Patriots game plan than successes I can point to in the Jets. For an accurately painful wrapup, please check out PatriotsDaily.com's Making the Grades.

One thing that I think is a recent development is the insistence on sticking with the game plan when it is obviously not working. I felt it in the earlier Browns loss and again on Sunday. Maybe it's hubris, maybe there are changes too subtle for me to notice, but it was pretty obvious to most of us in the stands that things just weren't working as planned and it was time to change it up. But they get stuck in their ways and there isn't enough effort to go in different directions. What's the old Albert Einstein quote?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

That is how I feel about the Patriots when things don't work as they plan. Maybe they (and specifically, Coach B) are reading their own press clippings too closely, but things just didn't change, despite their reputation for flexibility and adaptibility. Coming out of the locker room in the second half, I would have gone to the no-huddle and worked the Jets hard. Instead, they went into a grind it out offense, taking long periods of time to get no points at all. And I also would have blitzed the hell out of Sanchez, although I can't really blame the defense much.

Tailgate 2Anwyay, we had a great tailgate. The weather was about as great as you could hope for in the middle of January - 30s, sunny with a little bit of wind. I brought my 32" flat screen, hooked it up to a little antennae and we enjoyed the opening game of the day, a Bears blowout. We sipped a very nice concoction I made from a book I got from my mom for Christmas. Called The Authentic Guide to Drinks of the Civil War Era, 1853-1873, it is a pretty cool compendium of drinks aimed at reenactors, so the quantities are often pretty large, so this was a good chance to make one. I wanted a warm one and this one really worked.

Orange Punch

  • 1/2 pint port (I used a Warres LBV)
  • 3/4 to 1 pint rum (I used Bacardi silver)
  • 3/4 to 1 pint brandy (I used Chateau des Plassons cognac)
  • 1 oz. Curacao, Noyau or Maraschino (I used maraschino)
  • 3 1/2 pints boiling water
  • Juice 3 to 4 oranges (I used 4)
  • Peel of 1 or 2 oranges
  • 3/5 lb. sugare

Add orange juice and peels to sugar & boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, strain and add liquor. Add more warm water or sugar if desired weaker or sweeter (I thought it worked perfectly as is). You can make a good lemon punch by substituting lemons for oranges.

It was really really good. And the other guys at the tailgate thought it so good, they want to make it a tradition along with the hot chocolate and schnaps!

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Amazing Brady Stat

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What do you think of this table? Pretty remarkable W-L record for Tom Brady, wouldn't you say? They said that one reason the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII against the Giants is because they sacked him 3 ties. Well, the Patriots 7-1 with Brady since then when he is sacked 3 or more times, so it really isn't that. You sure choose you poison when you play him!

Courtesy of Pat Kirwan on NFL.com, via Mike Reiss' indispensible ESPN.com Patriots Report

Record when sacked three or more times since 2003
Player Record Win pct.
Tom Brady 19-4 82.6
Brett Favre 11-11 50.0
Peyton Manning 6-5 54.5
Drew Brees 5-14 26.3
Michael Vick 15-19 44.1
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College Bowl Challenge

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2010-2011 College Bowl Helmet Schedule.jpgcourtesy of Simon On Sports


For the 12th year in a row, I am hosting the College Football Bowl Challenge. In this challenge, you pick the winners of all 35 (one more than last year even!) bowl games, ranking them from 1 to 35. Throw $5 into the pot and the top four point scorers split it up. With updates after every day of college football bowling, it's a fun way to add some spice to the intermitable bowl season.

There is a an easy online form to fill out and one of the players does all kinds of statistical breakdancing on the numbers once they are in. It usually comes down to the wire, with both experts and newbies racing to the finish. The more the merrier, so fill out the form and pass it along!

2010 College Football Bowl Challenge

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Pats vs. Bears Morning After QB

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brady-snow-bears.jpgThose Patriots sure are on a roll, aren't they? My viewing of their latest steamrolling was delayed a couple of hours due to the girls playing in a basketball game. But A10.3 scoring 4 points and R11.5 scoring 2, and both out there during crunch time, made it all worthwhile.

The smashing victory over the tame Chicago Bears was made even sweeter by the simple fact that I work for a company based in Chicago, so needless to say there were a few wagers on the line. I felt confident enough to even let them take the points (the Pats were 3 point favorites). But the game was never in doubt. Some bits and pieces from the game:

  • I was pretty confident going into the game. Save for the New Orlean debacle last year, the NFC just has never scared me.
  • I loved how the Patriots came out and immediately went against the common "wisdom" and went 5 wide with an empty backfield. They just aren't affected by the wind and snow.
  • Once again, despite the elements, the defense gave up 19 yards on a 3rd and 18. Argh, that made me so angry!
  • Other than that though, they did a very solid job on defense. They seemed to bring the pressure at the right times and tackled pretty well. I still think the strip fumble by McCourty was down by contact, but hey, when things are working, things are working.
  • woodhead.jpgDanny "Rudy 2" Woodhead had an amazing touchdown run, especially considering it was only for three yards. He couldn't have seen more than backs and butts and yet he kept moving for an impressive final dive into the end zone.
  • Was that a brilliant catch by Tate or what? A full out dive along the sideline - wow!
  • Man, can Devin Hester juke! I can hardly blame the Pats special teams, the only black mark on the day, for not bringing this guy down. He can just change directions on a dime. Amazing that Ninkovich was able to able to track him down.
  • I think the biggest difference in this team over pretty much any other Patriots team in the past decade is the amazing trio of tight ends. They can each do it all, with The Big Gronk leading the way.
  • It's pretty incredible that they clinched their 9th playoff appearance in the last 10 years and that one missed playoff was the infamouse 11-5 Matt Cassell team. In fact, they've made the playoffs for 12 of Bob Kraft's 17 seasons of ownership.
  • coachb.jpgI sure loved the jacket that Coach B was wearing at the game way better than the Stay Puff jacket he wore the previous week. That's a very sharp looking jacket; too bad I can't seem to find it at the Pro Shop.

On to face Green Bay this weekend in Foxboro. A cold, blustery, snowy Sunday night - should look great on the TV! That is not one of my tickets, although I do like a good snow game. One interesting twist will be to see how facing Dom Capers, current Packer defensive coordinator and past "de-facto" Patriots defensive coordinator, affects the game planning.

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Pats vs. Jets, Morning After QB

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Patriots 45, Jets 3 - now that was pretty much a perfect game for a Patriots fan like myself to watch. Heck, even the much maligned defense played a whale of game, moving all around and in general, confusing Jets QB Mark Sanchez. Some scattered thoughts about the game (for the best postgame analysis, keep an eye out for the Grades from Patriots Daily):

  • My pre-game prediction was 24-10. I felt pretty confident, as this was a team playing well, at home, in the cold, against a team not playing so well. In this case, I don't mind being wrong...
  • I hate settling for a field goal after a long, successful drive. But I guess given the cockups on the last series (botched snap, missed handoff), 3 points is okay.
  • Football statistics are for fools. While I love their writing, Cold Hard Football Facts can't predict anything. They can do a ton of data mining, but I call it data dredging, because there just isn't enough data to predict things like there is in baseball. It is way too hard to isolate a player's performance as well. Their picks, against the spread, are no better than my 10 & 11 year old daughters'. And all the complaining about the defense being "32 out of 32" overlooks a simple fact that for plenty of it, they are in a prevent defense, as the offense has done so well. I thought they went soft too early on the Colts and Peyton Manning, but other than that, it's been played to perfection, especially considering having the youngest defense in the NFL (please repeat that phrase 100 times on the blackboard, football "pundits").
  • My favorite plays last night were the Wes Welker touchdown catch, where he dragged a defender a good 5+ yards in for the touchdown, and, of course, Danny "Folk Hero" Woodhead's 50 yard scamper on the 2 yard shovel "pass". Danny always seems to make positive yardage. I wonder just how many negative plays he has, even.
  • I loved Belichick getting the team together at the start of the fourth quarter, exhorting them to play the entire 60 minutes. They kept the pedal down and a foot to the throat. I have seen a couple places complaining about Brady playing the entire game, but that's just how it is done here. Even if they were to clinched home field advantage early, they still play the game 100%.
  • I was wondering where Aaron Hernandez had been, and then he caught a couple in the 2nd half, including a prototypical 35 yarder and an easy 1 yd TD. Brady seemed to be wildly excited for Hernandez who, remember, only was able to share a post game beer with the guys beginning last month. As the youngest player in the NFL, he only recently turned 21!
  • But Gronk led he offense in snaps played (besides Brady, of course). Reiss had him in there for 52 of 61 snaps, because the guy can block, run and catch at any time.
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Pats vs. Vikings

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Notes on yesterday's Patriots game, after being there on a beautiful cool, breezy Halloween evening, and then settling in for a viewing afterwards:

  • Adrian Peterson still hasn't crossed the goal line. Not when we watched it live (from that end of the stadium even), not watching it on myriad replays on Gillette's often malfunctioning big screens, nor watching it later on TV. Jerrod Mayo had a spectacular hit on him and he was well short of the mythical "plane". Heck, the TV announcers didn't think it crossed the plane either. Not sure what replays the officials were looking at but we wuz robbed on that one. And it knocked Peterson out for a series even - that's how hard he got hit in mid-air.
  • On the other hand, Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis was definitely in on his TD mid-air spin move. While it was on the other end of the stadium, it still looked good to us and replays showed it, although my home viewing did bring up the possibility of his elbow being down, which we didn't notice at the time. But even if his elbow did touch the ground, the ball was still over the line.
  • What's up with Tom Brady? There were very few of the pinpoint accurate laser beams we've come to expect from Tom Terrific. Instead, it was a parade of throws to the feet and, most commonly, behind the receivers. One thing I could really see from my end zone seats were just how many wide open receivers he was missing. Sure, his spin-a-rama TD throw to Brandon Tate was a thing of beauty, but I wish he'd start hitting the easier passes a little more frequently. The bizarre juggling catch Tate had earlier in the game, on the pass that should have been intercepted, never should have been that close. Tate was wide open but Brady was late delivering the ball and it was still behind him. Injury to the shoulder or elbow? Maybe the knee is still bothering him?
  • Speaking of the bouncing almost interception, what the hell was Childress thinking when he challenged the play? I'd love to know what he thought went wrong. The ball clearly just went through the defensive back's hands (you know what they say about defensive backs - if they could catch the ball they would be wide receivers), never came anywhere near the ground, and Tate most clearly had full possession when he was downed and even then never lost the ball. Very strange. Troy Aikman speculated somewhat incoherently that perhaps Childress was gunshy after blowing a few challenges earlier in the year, but I'm not sure that makes sense.
  • Think it is about time one of the Patriot linebackers start covering the back coming out of the backfield? Wow, a couple of times there wasn't a red jersey within 20 yards of the receiver.
  • Speaking of red jerseys, Troy said he really liked the look but as my friend said, they remind us too much of the bad old days. I actually prefer the away throwback jerseys anyway, white with red trim.
  • Still unexplained are the two half-hearted quarterback sneaks from the 1 yard line as the clock wound down after the Law Firm's wonderful 20 yard run. I was hoping for some info, or at least speculation by the TV announcers, but they were prattling on about something or the other and not even paying attention to the play. The sneaks didn't look very serious, more like time killers. I know the Vikings were out of timeouts, and it shaved about a minute and half off the clock, but still - a TD there makes it a two score game and surely that's enough? But it was like they knew they could score whenever they wanted and just punched it in on third down. Still, a little weird.
  • A lot of purple at thMossBurning.jpge game. Not sure when the last time the Vikings came to Foxboro (it must be ten years or so), but the local Viking fans came out in droves. Probably the biggest showing for a visiting team after the Dolphins, who always have a ton of fans at the game.
  • For some reason, they felt the need to burn a Moss jersey in the lot where we tailgated before the game. I'd say the crowd was ambivalent at best. A smattering of boos and applause for the one Moss catch. Not sure what ovation he was talking about in his postgame conference.


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Wednesday morning golf

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Unicorn Golf Course

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T
Par 4 4 4 3 4 5 4 3 4 35
Handicap 2 7 6 9 1 5 3 8 4
M 7 6 7 7 6 7 6 4 6 56
J 4 6 7 4 6 8 8 4 6 53

This was played a couple of weeks ago, and I never got around to posting it. Started off great - a par on the first hole is pretty amazing. Then it went downhill fast and I struggled for most of the rest of the round. I've been hitting my drives off the tee pretty well, but my irons were shaky at best.

Unicorn Golf Course

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T
Par 4 4 4 3 4 5 4 3 4 35
Handicap 2 7 6 9 1 5 3 8 4
M 7 6 6 7 5 6 9 4 4 54
J 6 6 6 5 6 5 7 3 5 49

Probably my best round of the season so far. My drives continued to be solid, ever since I decided to cut way down on my back swing, keeping my left arm as straight as I can. Sometimes, I slice it off to the right, if I don't follow through. But I generally get it out there, which makes things much more easy. Michael has been having problems off the tee, so his score is actually pretty damn good, especially if you take away one or two disasteruous holes. As for me, my putting was abysmal. I three putted the first 4 holes and missed plenty of other short ones. With even an average putter going today, I could have had a round for the ages, easily cutting off 5 strokes. My short game was glorious, especially on the par 5 6th hole. I even mis-hit that one but it skipped off the fringe and came to rest about a foot from the cup.

Tuesday golf at Unicorn

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Unicorn Golf Course

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T
Par 4 4 4 3 4 5 4 3 4 35
Handicap 2 7 6 9 1 5 3 8 4
M 6 5 10 3 8 6 6 4 4 52
J 6 4 7 4 8 6 7 4 7 53

A very inconsistent day at the links yesterday. It was highlighted by both of us looking at makeable birdie putts on the par 5 sixth hole. We both then proceeded to three putt to go from a birdie to a bogey in the blink of an eye - sigh... I've started using my driver off the tee for every hole (well, save the par threes, of course) and I've started making some pretty good shots. The best drive of the year could very well have been my last one - a beautiful long drive, right down the middle of the fairway, sitting pretty about 150 yards from the hole. I proceeded to horrible muck up the next few shots, including one that Michael said had the greatest swing to divot ratio he's ever seen! A nice easy 9 iron resulted in a huge, 10" divot - yech. And I proceeded to get a triple bogey on the hole. Stupid game...

More Tuesday Golf

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Unicorn Golf Course

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T
Par 4 4 4 3 4 5 4 3 4 35
Handicap 2 7 6 9 1 5 3 8 4
M 6 7 8 7 8 6 7 5 6 60
J 6 6 6 5 7 5 7 4 5 51

A very nice day on the links Tuesday morning. It's been infernally hot here in the Boston area the past few days, finally cooling down yesterday to merely uncomfortable, rather than searing. But as we get out on the links by 6am, it is still reasonable out there even as we wrap up our nine holes by around 8:15. Michael struggled with his drives off the tee, after a beauty to start the day. I stuck with my driver, resisting the urge to go back to the three wood. If I take it slow, I can do alright with the driver. I hit a beaut at the par 5 sixth hole, and it even led to a par there for the first time in recent memory. Still haven't been putting all that well, though.

Tuesday Golf again

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Unicorn Golf Course

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T
Par 4 4 4 3 4 5 4 3 4 35
Handicap 2 7 6 9 1 5 3 8 4
M 6 7 7 5 5 9 6 3 7 55
J 7 6 7 4 6 7 5 4 6 52

Another ugly morning on the golf course. It started off so well for both of us, with nice long drives off the first tee. And we each followed that with a pretty nice second shot. Downhill from there though, culminating in an ugly pair of scores for the par 5. We have been talking about bringing a digital camera with us, so if we have a nice shot, we could take a picture of the landing, but that was not a worry today. Although I guess it went okay on the second par 3, the 8th hole. We both landed our tee shots on the green, but Michael was pretty close and damn near made a beautiful big bending putt for birdie. I haven't been putting well and after my birdie putt fell far short, I missed the follow up shot for a 3 putt bogey :-( Maybe we'll have to go again this Friday to get back into the swing of things, as we didn't play last week on the Fourth of July.

Tuesday Golf, chapter 1

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Unicorn Golf Course

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T
Par 4 4 4 3 4 5 4 3 4 35
Handicap 2 7 6 9 1 5 3 8 4
M 8 4 5 4 6 6 7 5 6 51
J 5 4 8 4 6 10 7 6 7 57

Our first weekly Tuesday morning golf round of 9 was pretty much a total disaster for me. It started off pretty well, with two very nice drives. But then the wheels started to fall off, and the final four holes were completely forgettable. Ah well, I suppose it was better than work.

Morning exercise

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Unicorn Golf Course

Hole 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 T
Par 4 4 4 3 4 5 4 3 4 35
Handicap 2 7 6 9 1 5 3 8 4
M 6 7 4 6 8 6 7 3 6 53
J 6 6 6 3 5 6 6 3 8 49

Now that summer vacation has started for the kids, I can start to play my morning golf. We usually play every Tuesday, because Gabrielle doesn't go to work Tuesday or Thursday, so there's no need for me to rush back and help pack everyone up. We meet by 6am and can usually get our nine holes in by 8:15. So I'm back home and ready to work before anyone even notices.

This morning was a perfect morning for golf. Cool, humid and virtually empty - no one in front of us slowing us down, and no one behind us, making us speed up. Just the two of us, playing at our own speed. It started off badly for me, as I topped my first drive. But after that, my drives were pretty solid, both in distance and accuracy. I was really striking the ball well. And we both had very makable birdie putts on the 8th hole, but we just missed. Still, two pars on the par 3s is pretty damned good for me.

Then came the final hole. If I had only shot my usual 6, I would have finished with a very respectable 47. Par there would have given me a remarkable 45. Instead, I solidly hooked my initial drive way left, completely whiffed my next two attempts at a tee shot, and then sliced the last one far off to the right. Yup, that's right, I whiffed on two swings at the end. Oh boy oh boy, when the wheels come off in golf, they can come off in a hurry... I ended up with my first "snowman" of the year, but even that was a struggle, having to make a tricky 5 foot putt to pull it out. Still, I'm pretty happy with the results and I'm looking forward to beginning the weekly Tuesday morning ritual next week.

I used my new golf shoes for the first time. Last fall, my U6 soccer team gave me a gift certificate to Modell's, a small sports store chain. That was very nice of them, and I finally remembered to use it when I decided it was time for new golf shoes. They worked out pretty nicely, although I need to spray some waterproofing on them, as the golf course is usually pretty wet in the morning, both from watering and the dew.

Speaking of soccer, my U6 coaching career came to an end last Wednesday. It was my fourth season doing it and I enjoyed every minute of it. I brought along my digital camera for that last game and I hope to have a nice slideshow ready soon. I had a good group of kids this year and, even more importantly, a good group of parents. All we try to do at this level of soccer is to maintain a positive atmosphere, and sometimes parents, even for U6 teams, can get a little too intense. But I've been lucky and have had some wonderful parents, both as spectators and helping out. I'm going to miss my time with the littlest soccer players, but I'm looking forward to coaching the U8 Galaxy in the fall. It should be much easier having both girls back on the same team. This past two seasons, we've had soccer four nights a week! Finally, back to "only" two.

Carnival of the NFL

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And speaking of Carnivals, my Doug Flutie post made it into the Carnival of the NFL, along with a nice complement about the blog. Some good NFL action in there! I can't wait until the Pats season starts up.

Multiple Mentality � Carnival of the NFL #7-a

Red Sox 9, Yankees 5

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What a game! Once again, my buddy came through with tickets to tonight's Red Sox / Yankees game. He's the same season ticket holder who asked me if I was busy one October evening in 2004. I hemmed and hawed and finally said, no not really. He then asked me if I wanted to go to Game 3 of the playoffs against the Yankees. I, of course, lept at the opportunity. And when he called a couple days later and ask what I was doing that next Sunday, I immediately said I was free:-) And gratefully accepted the offer of another Yankee ticket.

But when we met down at Yawkey Way that Friday night, it was raining hard and the game got canceled. We went and saw Team America : World Police instead. It was a poor substitute, although funny in places. I mean, any movie where watching puppets vomit excessively and make love are the high points you have to wonder about. And the night was topped off when I walked through the pouring rain, only to find my car had been towed. Cost me like $200 to get it back.

So we missed the Game 3 debacle, where the Sox lost 19-8. What luck! But that meant we went to Game 4 with the definite possibility of watching the last game of an heart-rending four games sweep to the Yankees. But, of course, justice prevailed and we went on to watch 2 of the most amazing baseball games in sports history.

So when he called a couple of weeks ago and asked what I was doing Monday, May 22, I immediately said "Nothing!" And so we were at tonight's game and got to watched the Sox smash the Yanqui Devils by a score of 9-5. It shouldn't even have been that close except Foulke spit the bit and gave up a 2 run jack to Rodriquez (what a clutch player, pitching in when down by 8 runs), the another home run to Posada, then back to back doubles. But even despite a 2 run bottom of the 8th for the Sox and 4 runs in the top of the 9th by the Yankees, the game was over in less than 3 hours, and I was home by 10:15pm, which is quite nice.

Nothing really remarkable at the game. We did have a Mattingly uniform sit down right in front of us, but he was pretty good natured about the ribbing we were giving him. And some guys next to us kept bugging us about us keeping score, as both Chris and I a pretty serious scorekeepers. Chris goes one further than me and even keeps track of the pitches. I find it very hard to follow the game if I'm not keeping score. And I always bring a radio to the game, just to clarify what is going on sometimes. And the wave was practically non-existent, so I was spared that pain. And the weather was well nigh perfect. So a good night to be at the old ball park.

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