Friday, November 30, 2007

Had to add this, because it's such a great stat. The Celtics won their 13th game tonight (against 2 losses). Mike Breen on ESPN pointed out that Boston didn't win their 13th game last year until February 14th!

How things have changed...

I got back last night from a work-related conference in Toronto. I'll talk about that later, but first I want to talk about an astonishing experience I had today with Massport.

I parked at Logan Airport for my Air Canada flight to the Great White North. When I returned, I paid my parking fee at the automated machine and went to my car. As I was leaving the parking lot, I realized that I didn't have a receipt. I needed it to submit with my expense report.

I stopped at one of the lanes out of the lot that had an attendant and asked him what I could do to get a receipt. He gave me a Massport Parking phone number to call and said that they could help me get a duplicate. Based on my experience with other departments of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I was expecting it would be an ordeal to cut the red tape separating me from my receipt.

This morning I called the Massport number. The first person I talked to was very polite, but couldn't help me. She transferred me to Betty. I got Betty's voice mail. I figured it would take at least three attempts to finally speak to a live person.

Surprise! Betty called back within 1/2 hour. I was on another call, so she left a voice mail saying that there was a form I needed to fill out and she would fax it to me if I left a phone number. I called back, left another voice mail and the form appeared on the fax machine a bit later. I filled it out and faxed it back. The form said it would take 3-5 days to get the reciept, which seemed very acceptable to me.

So, thanks to Betty from Massport. She exceeded my (admittedly very low) expectations. I could hardly believe I was dealing with a government agency.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A few notes:

- Torii Hunter signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the LA Angels. This gives the Angels offense a huge upgrade. Combined with Vladimir Guerrero, the Angels have a great 1-2 punch in the lineup and Vlad finally has some protection. Combined with their pitching, the Angels are already the odds-on favorite to win the AL West.

- Given that Hunter just signed for $18 million a year, how much money do you think Andruw Jones cost himself with a subpar season? He batted only .222 and his OPS was his lowest since his rookie year at .724 (by contrast, Hunter was at .839; Chipper Jones led the NL at 1.029). Jones hasn't signed yet, but you have to wonder what kind of a contract he'll get, and with which team.

- If you are going to be in New York City on Tuesday, you can see Jim Bouton and Marvin Miller speak at the Museum of the City of New York. If you have been a regular visitor here, you know I have known Jim for several years and I have long been an admirer of Miller, who was the head of the MLB Players Association and shaped the current MLB economic system as much as anyone. If I could manage it, I would get down there myself.

- We saw the new movie Enchanted yesterday. If you love the classic Disney princess movies like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, you'll love this. I won't give away too much of the plot, but the movie is funny and touching. Amy Adams is brilliant as the princess-to-be and the rest of the cast is great. Go check it out.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I'm sitting here on Thanksgiving morning watching the Macy's parade and thinking about everything I have to be thankful for: a wonderful family, great friends, a good job and a Red Sox World Series championship among many things I am lucky enough to have in my life.

I hope you are enjoying your Thanksgiving day and remember to take a moment to thank whoever it is you thank for such things for the good things in your life.

Monday, November 19, 2007

NESN ran a classic Red Sox game tonight. It's one that I'll go to my grave regretting I didn't attend.

It was April of 1986. I was a junior at Northeastern. During class, I was thinking that I would go over to Fenway that night. Keep in mind that in the mid-'80s you could pretty much walk up to the ticket window and get a pretty good seat. A bleacher seat cost $4.

After class I went back to my apartment and checked my schedule. I discovered that I had a meeting scheduled that evening; I don't even remember what it was about. I debated for a while whether I should blow off the meeting or go to the game. The Sox had a hot young pitcher going that I wanted to see. But I decided that I had committed to whatever this was and that I should go to the meeting.

I got back to my apartment around 10:30. There was no Internet worth speaking of at the time and we didn't have cable, so Sportscenter wasn't an option. The easiest way to get game scores was to call a recorded line the Boston Globe had set up. So I called and listened to the voice say, "Red Sox 3, Seattle 1, Roger Clemens 20 strikeouts".

That's right. I missed the Rocket setting the single-game strikeout record.

The great thing about watching the game was that I got to hear legendary Red Sox announcer Ned Martin do the play-by-play. Martin was the Sox radio voice for most of my childhood, and at this point he was doing TV on NESN along with Bob Montgomery. It was fun to hear him call a game again.

The big news of the day, of course, is that Mike Lowell signed a three year deal with the Sox. I'm sure all of Red Sox Nation is thrilled with the news, and it'll be great to have our World Series MVP out there getting his ring on Opening Day.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I'm really spoiled.

I watch most sports in HD. NESN, ESPN and ESPN2, TNT, TBS and all the broadcast networks are available in HD on my cable system. Really the only time I watch sports in standard definition is on the Extra Innings baseball package.

So when tonight's Celtics game against Orlando was not presented in HD, it was a bit jarring. It was like watching the game, in which the Celtics suffered their first loss of the year, through a sheet of gauze.

Yeah, I know, if this is my biggest problem I have a pretty good life. I'm just in a whiney mood, OK?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Very few things could have knocked A-Rod's new $275 million contract with the Yankees off the top of the sports page, but one of them was Barry Bonds indictment for perjury and obstruction of justice.

To the surprise of virtually no one, a federal grand jury decided that Bonds was lying when he said in 2003 that he had never knowingly used performance enhancers. Exactly why it took four years for them to come to this conclusion is beyond me, but I'm guessing that the government wanted to be very sure they would get a conviction if they brought Bonds to trial.

I'm not going to go into the whys and wherefores of the indictment here - there are plenty of places on the Web that will do that for you (Google News lists 2,168 articles). My only comment at this point is this: it made me vaguely nauseous every time I saw the words "home run king" in front of Bonds name.

A couple of quick comments on the Rodriguez contract. It is amazing to me how badly A-Rod and his agent Lord Voldemort, er, Scott Boras, misread the market. After they voided the original deal, along with the Yankees $21 million subsidy from the Rangers, my guess is that they couldn't find anyone else willing to get even close to Boras's outrageous contract demand (10 years, $350 million). I'm thinking that the best the could get on the market from teams like the Mets, Dodgers, Angels and maybe Red Sox was 7 years and somewhere between $180 and $200 million.

So, A-Rod went crawling back to the Bronx with his tail between his legs and the Steinbrenners capitulated, giving him what was still a record contract, but a lot less than the original asking price.

It's going to be really interesting to see how the Yankee fans react to this debacle, plus another miserable post-season performance.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It recently occurred to me that I have lived in the Boston area for over 25 years now, since I started as a freshman at Northeastern in the fall of 1982. Although I did spend some time at home in Rhode Island during my first couple of years at school, the lure of better co-op opportunities kept me in Boston after that. I have lived within the Route 495 belt ever since.

A lot of places have come and gone over the past quarter-century. As I was riding the train into town this morning, I was thinking about some places I particularly missed for one reason or another. Here's a list of seven Boston area establishments that I have a soft spot for.

Bailey's Ice Cream: When I was a kid, my family would occasionally make the hour drive from Pawtucket to Coolidge Corner in Brookline mostly to get a hot fudge sundae at Bailey's. A Boston institution for over a century, Bailey's made perhaps the greatest hot fudge sundae in the history of the universe. They served it in a silver bowl on a silver plate, and the bowl was so overflowing with ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream it would drip onto the plate where you could scoop it up. The hot fudge was the best I have ever tasted: smooth, chocolatey, sweet, but not too sweet. It was a little heaven on earth. The chain shut down about 20 years ago, but I'll never forget those sundaes.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace: Yeah, I know it's still there, but once upon a time the Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall area was home to dozens of locally owned, eclectic little shops. Rising rents pushed many of the small businesspeople out and the chains moved in. Honestly, if I want to go to the Sunglass Hut or Victoria's Secret, I can go to pretty much any mall in America. When I moved to Boston, Faneuil Hall Marketplace was a unique slice of Boston mixed with the historical site. Today, it's a mall with cobblestones.

Charlie's Cafeteria: Located in Kenmore Square, Charlie's fed this young Red Sox fan many a good, inexpensive meal prior to a game at Fenway Park. The double cheeseburger was the highlight, but there were many other good choices as well. If memory serves, Charlie's had a somewhat suspicious fire, was replaced by an IHOP, and then the entire block of buildings was knocked down to make way for the Hotel Commonwealth. I never really had as satisfying a pre-game meal until UBurger opened near the BU Bookstore.

Jordan's Furniture - Waltham: We have put plenty of money in Barry & Elliot's pockets over the years, but I always found the Natick store too darn big. The rows of furniture seemed to go on for miles, and it would become difficult to remember what we had seen. It was too much of a good thing.

The original Jordan's Furniture store on Moody St. in Waltham was probably 1/4 the size of the newer stores, but had a good selection of product and was much less overwhelming. The store was closed down a while back when the new Reading store opened. Whenever we talk about looking at furniture, I find myself wishing that the Waltham store was still an option.

Stuff-It's: This was a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Harvard Square that made excellent wrap sandwiches. When I lived in Newton, I would often take the eight mile round trip bike ride along the Charles River bike path to Cambridge, grab a wrap for lunch or dinner and head back. Exercise and a reasonably healthy meal. What else could you want?

Shoppers World: I know this one is still around, too, but I'm talking about the original Shoppers World. It was one of the first outdoor shopping centers in the country, and was anchored by the flying-saucer shaped Jordan Marsh store. The center courtyard always seemed to have some activity going on and it made for a nice community gathering spot. The place had a great amount of uniqueness and charm to it.

The original shopping center closed in 1994 and was replaced with the current strip of big box stores. The new Shoppers World lacks any kind of character and would be just as at home in Houston or Boulder as it is in Framingham.

Eliot Lounge: The Eliot was a great bar at the corner of Commonwealth and Massachusetts Avenues in Boston. Although it was probably best known as a post-Marathon destination for many of the runners, it was a fun place to hang out at any time of the year. Prior to the seventh game of the 1975 World Series, Sox starter Bill Lee famously said, "No matter what the outcome of the game, I'm going to the Eliot Lounge." It was replaced a few years back by an overpriced restaurant called Clio. This was a crime against humanity, as far as I'm concerned.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quick thoughts on three players:

Dustin Pedroia: A well earned rookie-of-the-year award for our man Dustin. I had the feeling this guy could play from the first time I saw him with the Pawsox. This is a guy that I'm going to enjoy watching play in the Red Sox infield from the next 15 years or so.

Josh Beckett: It's a shame that the postseason doesn't count in the voting for the Cy Young Award, because Beckett would have been the hands down winner. However, the votes are due at the end of the regular season and the Indians C.C. Sabathia won the award. I can't really argue; even though Beckett was the majors only 20 game winner, Sabathia pitched about 40 more innings and was better than Beckett in several other categories. I'm guessing Josh would rather have a World Series ring than a Cy Young Award, anyhow.

Mike Lowell: The Sox were unable to sign Lowell during the exclusive negotiating period and now he can take offers from any team. I think Boston still has a decent shot of signing him, but they are almost certainly going to have to go to four guaranteed years to do so. Will Theo go to a fourth year? Not sure, but we'll have to see what happens.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Today was Veterans Day and the kids were off from school, so I took the day off and we all went out to Old Sturbridge Village. OSV is a recreation of an 1830's vintage New England village, complete with most of the typical businesses you would see.

The tinsmith's shop

We spent the day going through the village, checking out the various buildings. One of the nice things about OSV is that they have people there who explain how things worked back in the early 19th century. It makes the place more than just a museum and more of an experience. The kids weren't shy at all about asking questions and got a lot more out of the experience because of that.

So if you are in central Massachusetts and looking for something fun and educational to do, I recommend Old Sturbridge Village. It's a good time.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I had dinner tonight with my friends Taz, The Hey and Bismo. We went to John Harvard's, a local brewpub, drank a lot of beer, talked and laughed a lot

I have known these guys for about 20 years. We used to spend a lot of time together back in the days when the USS Christa McAuliffe was more active, and Taz and I were roommates for several years. Now we all have families and we just don't have as much time to do stuff.

It was great to go out with them tonight. We have so much history together, it's incredibly comfortable to hang out, drink beer and talk about life, the universe and everything.

Here's to more "Boys Nights Out" in the future!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

It was a good day in Red Sox Nation. First, Curt Schilling signed a 1-year deal to finish his career with the Red Sox. The deal is for an $8 million base, plus a bucket of incentives: $3 million based on innings pitched, $1 million for getting a single Cy Young Award vote and a $2 million weight clause.

Hell, for $2 million I'd get myself to be as thin as Twiggy.

I think this is a good thing both for Schill and the Sox. Schilling gets to finish his career in a place that he and his family obviously enjoy being on a team that should be a World Series contender again. The Sox are on the hook for relatively short money if Schilling has another regular season like 2007, and they have a guy who can be a great mentor for what is a relatively young starting rotation, with the exception of Wake.

It seems like the Sox have one starter too many at this point (Beckett, Schilling, Wakefield, Matsuzaka, Lester and Buchholz), but I think we learned in 2006 that you can never have too much depth in the starting rotation. Anyone else remember pining for Bronson Arroyo after he was traded to the Reds as the Sox went through 14 different starting pitchers? For comparisons sake, Boston used nine starters this year.

The other exciting event was that Kevin Youkilis won a much deserved Gold Glove at first base. Youk has been outstanding since moving across the diamond and hasn't made an error in a regular season game since the middle of the 2006 season.

Congratulations to both Schilling and Youk!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Could last week have been the best week in Boston sports history?

It started on Sunday the 28th (actually, early Monday the 29th) with the Red Sox win in game 4 to sweep the Colorado Rockies and win the World Series. The Rolling Rally through Boston followed on Tuesday afternoon, as hundreds of thousands of Red Sox fans lined the streets between Fenway Park and City Hall Plaza to salute the new World Series Champions.

The Celtics took over the spotlight on Friday, crushing the Washington Wizards (am I the only one who still thinks of them as the "Bullets" first?) at the Gahden. It was a successful debut for the new Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. The Celtics followed that up with their first road win on Sunday, with Allen hitting a 3-pointer with less than three seconds left to defeat Toronto.

The Patriots added the cherry on the sundae with yesterday's epic comeback win against the Colts. The image of a frustrated Peyton Manning on the bench while the Pats ran down the clock is one New England fans can carry around with them for a while (at least until the AFC Championship game).

A great week, all in all. Can anyone come up with a better one?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A couple of thoughts from the weekend:

- Another amazing Brady comeback today, as the Pats beat the Colts to go 9-0. New England was down 20-10 with just over 9 minutes to play, and Brady hit Randy Moss for one TD and Kevin Faulk for another to give the Pats a 24-20 win.

- A while back, I started learning to play the piano. I gave it up when A. broke her leg a couple of years ago and I just didn't have time to keep up with it. Tonight, I started the lessons again from the beginning. I think it should be fun. I'll update my progress here on the blog.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Despite a serious lack of baseball (I'm already having withdrawal symptoms), it's a pretty good sports weekend here in Boston. The Celtics had their long anticipated debut tonight, with the first regular season appearance of the new Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. It's been pretty successful so far, as the Celtics lead Washington by 15 with about 9 minutes left.

It's been a very long time since I was actually excited about the start of a Celtics season. This should be a fun team to watch this year, and the Celtics actually have a legitimate chance to get deep into the playoffs.

The other big sporting event is probably the biggest regular season NFL game of the year, as the 8-0 Patriots take on the 7-0 Colts. It should be a great game. There has been a lot of controversy about the Pats running up the score on their opponents this season (like in last week's 52-7 win over Washington). Y'know, the NFL isn't Pop Warner. These guys are professionals, and if they can't stop their opponent, they should expect to get their butts kicked. We'll see if Indy can stop (or even slow down) the Patriots on Sunday.

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