Monday, November 7, 2011

Dallas is Trending: Local Pro Teams Making Dallas the Place to Be!

I’m one of those people that always desire a new adventure, new places to experience and a new environment to thrive in. I have lived in the Dallas Fort Worth area for several years and I always catch myself saying that I want to move to Denver, San Diego or anywhere but Dallas. I’ve met athletes and musicians that say Dallas is one of their favorite cities to visit. Until recently I just didn’t buy into those statements. I would tell them they are crazy…that it's easy to say Dallas is fun when you have the luxury of actually living in a great place like Chicago or Jupiter, Fla. It’s Texas people! Also…I’m an Oklahoma girl that doesn’t believe that Texas is truly a great nation of its own. Despite my doubts, in the last couple of months I made a conscious decision to take in all that Dallas has to offer and to really embrace this city. A huge part of that, if you are a sports addict like me, is learning to appreciate the home teams. The following is a look at what we are working with in DFW. The Dallas-Fort Worth area is laid out like this: Dallas to the east, Arlington in the Middle and Fort Worth to the West. The Mavericks and the Stars play in the American Airlines Center in downtown Dallas. The Cowboys and the Rangers compete in Arlington, a block away from one another.


I will go ahead and get the obligatory Cowboys blurb out of the way. It is quite simple. We are not “living the life” here in Dallas nor reaping any rewards associated with pride and victorious spirit, due to any accomplishments of the Cowboys. The Dallas Cowboys have made it to the post-season five times since 2000. In 2010 the team won the NFC Wild Card, their first playoff win since 1996, only to lose the following divisional game. No one is jumping on that band wagon! One would hope that at least some members on the Cowboys roster would catch some of the Rangers fever to win, since they are in close proximity, but it hasn’t happened yet.


The Rangers are making scorching hot Texas summers even hotter…and much more tolerable. In 2010 the ball club made their first World Series appearance since moving the organization to Texas. In 2011 the Rangers made their second trip. Since 2000 only three American League teams tout multiple World Series appearances: Texas, New York and Boston. If you know anything about baseball you are aware that being in a grouping alongside the Yankees and the Red Sox means success, national attention and confidence. Instead of being just one of 14 AL teams, the Rangers are now a highly relevant club in a city full of other successful and elite professional sports teams. How ya like that Jay-Z?! Fans should look forward to the 2012 season, with an $11.5 million dollar renovation to the centerfield plaza and visitor bull pen underway at The Ballpark in Arlington, and C.J Wilson the only notable free agent with a probable exit from the team, things are looking solid. The Rangers should make a strong push for the playoffs in 2012. DFW may never be granted the opportunity to host another Super Bowl…but the area will most like host another World Series!


Let’s move over to downtown Dallas, where dining options and nightlife are on a whole other level if nothing else. Before we discuss basketball let me remind everyone that the Dallas Mavericks ARE the reigning NBA Champions. That may not be much for Mavs fans to hold onto right now but it is still huge. In case you have no idea how things work on the professional hardwood, the Mavs hosted their 2010-2011 season opener on October 27, 2010. Due to a lockout, (I won’t go into detail) there has yet to be an NBA game played this season, and I for one, am not looking to see one played any time soon. Hold onto that NBA title Mavs fans, it has been the first and only in Dallas since the club hit Dallas in 1980, but it is still an accessory no other city has the chance to claim right now.


What have the Dallas Stars Benn up to?! No typo there…I am saving the best for last. Since we are in Texas…not the Midwest, the northeast or Canada, you may need some urging and education to grab onto the local NHL team. I know most of us have a hard time getting excited about hockey at first. It is often not in our blood. We didn’t play it growing up, it is not a family tradition like football on Thanksgiving and most of the athletes are foreign anyway. However, if you love sports you need to trust me on this. Hockey is the fastest, most aggressive and demanding sport played. Lucky for you, the Dallas Stars are a team to beat this season. Yes, some of you thought the Stars would struggle after the loss of center Brad Richards to the New York Rangers. However, with guys like left winger Jamie Benn, right winger Loui Eriksson, center Steve Ott and team captain Brenden Morrow looking better than ever, it makes sense that the currently Stars lead the NHL Western Conference.

So, you might not be skiing on the weekends like you would as a Colorado resident. You won’t be eating the freshest seafood and perfecting a golden tan, whilst watching surfers on a Saturday, as you would in San Diego either. Yet, Dallas residents should feel secure that the city we live in is trending. It is a hot spot of fashion, fine cuisine and successful professional sports teams…that are only getting better.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Five Ballparks in 2011: Angel Stadium of Anaheim

Angel Stadium of Anaheim- Anaheim, CA- Home of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

From San Francisco to Anaheim, National League to American. Welcome to Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Let it roll of your tongue. Los…Angeles…Angels…of…Anaheim. Ok, so the name is slightly unpleasant and trying, especially for life-long Angels fans. However, the home ballpark for the Angels is quite the opposite. The updated version of “The Big A”, as fans call it, was complete in time for Opening Day in 1998. I am sure there is no argument that it was an adequate improvement to say the least.
As you arrive, park conveniently just outside Angel Stadium for under $10 and make your way toward the welcoming two giant Angels’ hats that adorn the impressive entrance. Leave your jacket in the car, as the California sun should be fully present for the game. We ate in Downtown Disney prior to the game, so I am not able to suggest my favorite food option. However, I did read that in 2011, ARAMARK added 11 new dinning venues to the park and 50 new menu items. Head over to the outfield plaza sponsored by Coors Light to make a selection, and even enjoy the outside bar area. While in the outfield, take note of the “California Spectacular.” This landmark of the stadium is a pile of boulders, some of which are appropriately in the form of an “A”, in left centerfield equipped with geysers that erupt and stream down the side throughout the game.
If you don’t have tickets yet, let me tell you which ones you want to save your pennies for. In between the home and visitor dugout, 50 feet from the batter’s box, are 10 dugout suites that hold 12 people each. Can you imagine that game experience?! If you aren’t quite so privileged, you will still enjoy the game. Look out from your seat, past the cars speeding by on Highway 57, and take in the view of the San Gabriel and Santa Ana Mountains, along with the Brea Hills. We were lucky enough to enjoy a post-game concert featuring Dierks Bentley the night of the game we attended. Though, I always enjoy seeing Dierks, the acoustics in the ballpark left a lot to be desired, as you would imagine.
As you head out of the park, you will hopefully get to see the halo atop the long standing “A” marquee lit up to signal a home or away game victory for the Angels. As an added bonus, it should take you no time to get out of the well flowing parking lot. Now…go light up L.A!
Overview: Convenient stadium access, view of the mountains, nice weather, plenty of food options, and not a bad seat in the park.

Centerfield Plaza Surrounding the "California Spectacular"

The Dugout Suites

Stadium View

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Five Ballparks in 2011: AT&T Park

AT&T Park- San Francisco, CA- Home of the World Champion San Francisco Giants

Is there anything more American than catching a baseball game on the Fourth of July? Try one of the greatest American cities (San Francisco) in one of the most coveted ballparks in America (AT&T Park), watching the reigning World Champion Giants, in perfect California Bay Area weather. Yeah…it was a great holiday. The Giants moved from Candlestick Park to their new home at AT&T Park in 2000. Originally, the park was called Pacific Bell Park, however, it was re-named SBC Park after the company’s acquisition of Pacific Bell in 2003. When AT&T merged with SBC in 2006 the park was re-named once again. I might note at this point that my iPhone worked just fine under AT&T service at the crowded park. My friends and I chose to park at Pier 39 for the game, since we planned to return there afterward. We hopped on a cable car then hopped off a few blocks from the stadium to walk the rest of the way, past the San Francisco Bay Bridge. Outside the stadium, you are greeted by a massive Willie Mays statue surrounded by 24 palm trees in tribute to the number 24 jersey Mays wore as a Giants’ legend. The right field wall inside AT&T Park is 24 feet high, also in honor of Mays. When you enter the stadium take some time to walk around and check things out before you settle down in your seat with a fresh order of garlic fries and clam chowder in a bread bowl. As you start out to explore AT&T Park, first take in the scenery. It is without a doubt one of the most picturesque views of any ball park in America. Gazing out to the San Francisco Bay, fans might have the tendency to drift away from the game at hand and simply enjoy the view and the nice San Francisco weather. It was July, so it was hot, but still bearable. Those attending a night game would most definitely need a jacket to stay comfortable though. Next, cruise on down to the promenade level of the stadium. Beginning in left field you will find a key area of excitement for kids or kids-at-heart, known as the Coca-Cola Fan Lot. A giant Coke bottle will stand before you that is actually an 80 foot long slide that lights up at night. I am still kicking myself that I didn’t take the time to go down that slide! Kids can also enjoy a giant baseball mitt, the Little Giants Mini Ballpark, and a cable car donned with a sign that boldly states “No Dodgers Fans Allowed.” In centerfield there are four pillars that shoot up water upon each Giants home run and victory. These pillars stand just above the very notable Levis Landing. Levis Landing is host to the Splash Hits board. Each Giants home run that is blasted outside the park to McCovey Cove is called a Splash Hit and these hits have been recorded cumulatively since the park opened. There have been 58 recorded Splash Hits by Giants at AT&T Park. Barry Bonds was responsible for 35 of them and Pablo Sandoval takes credit for the one I was fortunate enough to see on July 4, 2011. (Number 56 in the tally) McCovey Cove is the area of the China Basin just outside the park in right field. The Cove (as called by Giants fans) is named after former Giants first baseman Willie McCovey and is frequented by boats and kayaks enjoying the atmosphere and hoping to secure a coveted Splash Hit ball. Last stop around the promenade is the strikeout board in right field. This record of Giants strikeouts-per-game is manned by fans that place a K on the board for every strikeout earned. Now, make your way to your seat and enjoy the game. Try not to get too distracted by the sites that you miss a possible Splash Hit and the certain fight that will follow out in The Cove over the ball. After the game, head back over to Pier 39 for some excellent seafood and night life. Not all of you will be blessed enough to watch fireworks over Alcatraz…but there is always fun to be had in San Francisco. Overview: Unbeatable view of the San Francisco Bay, a giant Coke bottle slide (do not turn it down), nice weather, suspense of a possible Splash Hit and a great American city to enjoy while in town.
Overview: Unbeatable view of the San Francisco Bay, a giant Coke bottle slide (do not turn it down), nice weather, suspense of a possible Splash Hit and a great American city to enjoy while in town.

Wille Mays Statue and Honorary 24 Palm Trees

McCovey Cove and Strikeout Board

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Five Ballparks in 2011: Minute Maid Park

Minute Maid Park- Houston, Texas- Home of the Houston Astros

I am laughing at all the sappy intros I could use to begin this review. I will spare you the “come on ride the train” comments, as I can only imagine most would just roll their eyes and stop reading after the first sentence of this post (which still may happen). In June, I took a trip to Houston to visit friends and catch an Astros game at Minute Maid Park. Yes, Minute Maid Park is in Houston. Texas. Odd as it may seem that a ballpark holding the name of a citrus company is in Texas, it is one of the most interesting ballparks I have been too. Minute Maid Park is located in downtown Houston, with parking readily available across the street from the park on all sides. The city of Houston was basically built as a railroad stop, thus, the ballpark is strongly tied into local history. The park is connected to the former operating Union Station, and Minute Maid’s most unique attraction is the locomotive that runs on a track above left field after each Astros home run and victory.
Sitting out in the Huston humidity just not sounding fun to you? No worries, Minute Maid is equipped with a retractable roof. Much like another “OJ flavored” ballpark, Tropicana Field in Tampa, baseball is played indoors on most game days. However, in Houston you get the best of both worlds. On days with favorable weather (tell me when that is in Houston), the roof is open and outdoor baseball is enjoyed. When the roof is closed, fans are still treated to a downtown view since the retractable was designed with a glass wall. Sit in your seat and sing along to “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” or take time to stroll along the left field concourse and check out the tributes to Astros greats and successful seasons of the past. Minute Maid has a refined concourse loaded with Texas inspired food choices. Though it doesn’t offer view of the field, The Five Seven Grille in the outfield adds a sleek restaurant to the park. You want the view while you enjoy your ballpark food? Minute Maid offers several appealing spots for watching a ballgame while entertaining. The Union Station Roof Deck holds up to 125 and can be rented for $500. With both a downtown and park view, this is an impressive spot to host a party. If you are looking for a more engaging spot to watch the game you might want to reserve Coke Corner. Located at the top of center field, Coke Corner will seat 50 people and is rented for $625. I am betting the view from this premiere seating will not disappoint. If you would rather have the feel of a sports bar without the need for a flat screen, Minute Maid has you covered with an “are you kidding me?!” deal. Seating in the Budweiser Patio in centerfield, next to the Astros bull pen, is only $65 a seat and includes: dinner, unlimited beverages, and table service! Budweiser Patio is also right next to Tal’s Hill, which is exactly 436 feet from home plate. You never know what you might see over at Tal’s Hill either! The “grassy knoll” in dead centerfield was host to what is now known as “The Great Fan Escape,” in May 2011. During a home game a fan jetted across the outfield and was able to scale the hill and the ivy wall above it to evade security. I suppose you could witness a variety of entertainment at an Astros game. If at long last you are ready to venture out of the park to enjoy the company of friends, cross the street to the B.U.S. The laid-back open-air sports bar is a local favorite.
Overview: Climate controlled ballpark, unique seating options, great dining spots, easy access to pre or post-game downtown entertainment and a train loaded with oranges… that leaves you pulling for the home team just so you can see it move!

The centerfield concourse outside The Five Seven Grille and Budweiser Patio.

The leftfield concourse featuring a tribute to Astros great Jeff Bagwell.

View of Minute Maid Park from leftfield.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Five Ballparks in 2011: Kauffman Stadium

Kauffman Stadium- Kansas City, MO- Home of the Kansas City Royals

How does a trip to the City of Fountains sound? Not Rome…the official City of Fountains. Kansas City has more fountains than any city other than Rome at over 200 in total. Perhaps none of these fountains is more famous than the fountains of Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. The weekend after I returned from San Diego and my visit to Petco Park, I made a day-trip to Kansas City to visit Kauffman Stadium and watch the Royals play the Twins. Since, Kauffman is in somewhat of a remote location the only notable view once inside the park is of the fountains, but it is still a really great park to watch baseball.
Parking is made very simple at Kauffman Stadium, since there is only one choice. You will park in a massive lot that is shared with the Chief’s Arrowhead Stadium, and you will pay $10. Drop-offs will be tricky. There could be a Midwest chill in the air if it is early or late in the season, but the weather should be nice and warm if it is summertime in Kansas City. It might be a good idea to get to the stadium early if you are not willing to miss a couple of innings of the game to visit the Royals Hall of Fame. This museum, found in left field, is a must see. Exhibits are not limited to Royals history and tributes to George Brett, but also include American League memorabilia and the history of the glove and bat. While in the outfield, check out the kids play area, featuring a Royals Carousel.
I suppose the thing to eat in Kansas City is barbecue, and might I suggest dining at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue while in town, because that is where I ate prior to the game. I am unable to suggest a food selection at the park, however, I would lean toward stopping by Rivals Sports Bar in right field. This sports bar has an open air view of the park and offers a great atmosphere for watching the game. Located just below Rivals Sports Bar is the visitor’s dugout…and just to the right of it in center field is the best experience of Kaufmann Stadium, Pepsi Party Porch. For $45-52 you can secure a spot on this porch for game viewing and a fun and rowdy time. The porch is right in front of the fountains…which light up at night I might add. If you don’t have a ticket for the porch, no worries, the entire area behind it is open viewing, so check out who is warming-up to take the mound or just take in the view. Either way you are sure to enjoy a nice Garth Brooks sing-along to “Friends in Low Places,” and come away singing praises of Kauffman Stadium! I did….and my Twins sadly lost 2-11.

Rivals Sports Bar

The Fountains at Night

A Kansas City Home Run

Royals Hall of Fame- Tribute to George Brett's 3,154 Hits

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Five Ballparks in 2011: Petco Park

Part of appreciating the game of baseball is the appreciation of the ballparks the game is played in. Many baseball fans make it a goal to visit as many major league ballparks as they possibly can. Players, such as the Michael Cuddyer of the Minnesota Twins, document each park they visit in pictures and share them with fans. The fascination with major league ball parks is understandable. Each is totally unique and representative of the city it resides in. I have been able to visit five major league parks this 2011 season. I wanted to take the opportunity to share what I believe makes each a park worth visiting.

Petco Park- San Diego, CA- Home of the San Diego Padres

The first Padres game was played at Petco Park in 2004. The park is named after the San Diego based pet supplies retailer Petco. Petco Park is located in downtown San Diego so parking can be a challenge. Scratch that….not just a challenge …parking anywhere in downtown San Diego is tough. I highly suggest you buy a parking pass from the Padres to park in one of the lots across from the park. Same cost as parking anywhere else with zero headache.
When at my hometown ballpark in Arlington, I like to sit as close as I can. When visiting a new park, I like to sit at the very top, right above home plate. This is the best view point. Once seated inside Petco your view will not disappoint. The downtown San Diego skyline is before you and the historical landmark, Western Metal Supply Co. building, graces left field. The Western Metal Supply Co. building houses the Padres team store, private suites and rooftop seating. Batters face due-north and the San Diego Bay is to the south of the stadium, so you cannot see the bay from your seats. The bay does, however, bring in very chilly weather. No matter what time of year you visit Petco Park, be prepared with a jacket and pants. You ARE in California, but a shorts and a tank top will cut your visit to the game short. Trust me.
Home runs in the park are followed by fireworks and a recording of the fog horn on the Navy’s USS Ronald Reagan, which is at port in San Diego. Home runs hit by the major leaguers that is. Home runs can also be hit in the entertainment zone for kids located in the outfield. Also in the outfield is a grass berm with views of the field. For $5 you can purchase a ticket to sit out on the berm and enjoy an evening of baseball. You can also catch fabulous views of the game in other key spots such as the Knothole. The Knothole provides a field-level view of left field and is located at the back of the team store in the Western Metal Supply Co. building. Another spot to check out is the landing just above the Padres Premiere Club near home plate. Stay as long as you like and chat with super friendly ushers in that section.
Oh I’m sorry…you haven’t eaten yet?! Though I don’t give Petco a glowing review of sports bars or fun dining spots in the park, if you need a snack, hit up Anthony’s Fish Grotto. I actually know people from Dallas that go to San Diego each year just to eat at Anthony’s. There is a main Anthony’s location at the San Diego port, but this ballpark location should be just as scrumptious. If you are able to wait till after the game to eat (or if you have time before) you simply must head just down the street to the corner of J Street and 7th. There you will find Bub’s @ the Ballpark. Bub’s is the perfect sports bar. TVs everywhere, foosball, basketball court, and the best chicken sandwich in San Diego! Order the Archie Chicken Sandwich: chicken breast, honey mustard and buffalo sauce.
Overview: easy parking, great views of San Diego, a “park in the park” for kids, nice cool breeze, fantastic hospitality and the Archie!

The entertainment zone and "park pass" area with statue of Tony Gwynn

View from the Knothole in left field from the Western Metal Supply Co. building

Monday, June 13, 2011

Loyalty in Question

Most sports fans would say they are loyal to their favorite team or athletes. We buy team apparel, attend events, download apps on our iPhone, follow on Twitter, etc. When “our team” is doing well, we are on cloud-nine and cocky like we ourselves have aided in their triumphant efforts. It is easy to love the loveable, we all know that. Where then does our loyalty go when success is a mere memory of last year…or last decade?
The Chicago Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup. The start of the 2010-2011 season was rough for us Blackhawks fans though. Fear set in that Chicago would not be making it to the 2011 NHL Playoffs, and I personally found it difficult to find the interest to watch hockey. I was able to attend the Chicago vs. Dallas St. Patrick’s Day game at the AA Center in Dallas. Luck was not on the side of the Blackhawks, as I witnessed the Stars beat my boys 5-0. However, with a record of 44-29-9, the Blackhawks squeezed into the Western Conference playoff battle. During the first-round match-up against the Vancouver Canucks, I was feeling the spirit again and wearing my Patrick Sharp #10 jersey with pride! The 2011 season didn’t end with a Stanley Cup, as it did in 2010 for Chicago. However, I was so proud to be a fan of a team that came back from a 3-0 deficit in the series to force overtime in game seven against the NHL’s top-ranked team. I know I will stay tuned-in and interested the entire 2012 season…as I now have a greater respect for my team’s resiliency and fight.
In golf there are ebbs and flows with every round of a tournament. You have to be” in it for the long haul” if you are a fan of any tour professional. You have to understand how things work in golf too. Just like basketball fans know you don’t get emotionally invested in a 10-point lead…you similarly don’t get too confident or discouraged in a three or four stroke differential in golf. A win on tour does not guarantee a made cut the next week, nor is a missed cut cause for too much concern. Consistency over several weeks is the true indicator of a season, but even then a career is not defined. Guys bounce back after a couple of bad years. Ask Adam Scott or Sergio Garcia. There is a reason you place tour pros on your radar…keep them there longer than a few missed cuts.
Every sport has its crazy loyal fans. Perhaps none with a stronger passion than those found in baseball. Yankee fans don’t stop watching (or cussing) till the last pitch of the season is thrown. A friend of mine is a massive Boston fan and let me know that his team WOULD be winning the World Series this year. That was in week six when Boston had a record of 17-18 and were ranked 14th in the MLB Power Rankings…they now lead the AL East by two games over the Yankees. I am a Twins fan…most of you know that. The Twins have a .400 winning percentage and are nine games back from the AL Central lead. This decade the Twins have dominated the AL Central, winning the division in six of those ten years ('02, '03, '04, '06, '09 and '10.) It is hard for a Twins fan to enjoy baseball right now. Last week’s injury report included the following staples to the lineup: Mauer, Thome, Nishioka, Span, Kubel, Nathan, Perkins and Slowey…with Morneau far from 100%. Are you kidding me?! That is almost every key player in Minnesota! Manager Ron Gardenhire has submitted 56 lineups in 60 games. How do you stay faithful to watching and supporting a team that is barely functioning? Not to mention, my very favorite baseball player is one of those names listed on the disabled list and was seriously struggling beforehand. Joe Nathan was the former All-Star closer for the Twins. The 37-year-old Houston native is a four-time MLB All-Star and has a career ERA of 2.85 in 700.1 innings pitched with 250 saves. In his returning season from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Nathan has a 7.63 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched with only 3 saves. Due to inconsistency Nathan relinquished his closer position himself to Matt Capps earlier this season. It is frustrating as a fan to see one of best closers in baseball struggle. Prior to his absence of the 2010 season, each time Joe Nathan would take the mound a feeling of peace would take over me. The odds of a win or a save were great, which is a certainty and comfort I am now missing. During a trip to Kauffman Stadium to watch a divisional game between the Royals and the Twins, I was able to witness Nathan go through his bull pen warm-up and take the mound as a reliever. Though the Twins lost 11-2 that night I realized something. I still love my boys and I am still a loyal fan of the great Joe Nathan. What he provided Twins fans from 2004-2009 was pure greatness and I will not give up hope that there is still some of that left for him to deliver.
I’ve found ways to stay loyal to my teams and favorite athletes. Mostly, I realize that just as I turn my back there are glimpses or even monumental episodes of greatness that reel me back in. Moments like overtime in game seven…a no-hitter (Twins had the first of the 2011 season)…a PGA tour victory. So hang in there sports fans. You will regret it if you don’t! Now you can rejoice that Dirk finally does have that NBA Championship ring…and you were watching the whole time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Why So Serious?

Let’s be honest. Sometimes we sports fans get a little umm…too intense. We tend to forget that sport is intended to be fun, entertaining, a recreational activity and a way to de-stress. You know as well as I do that for the true sports fan it is virtually impossible to take our favorite sports lightly…especially during playoffs season! I am always wrapped up in a complete zone of tension over the sport event of the moment: NBA Playoffs, NHL Playoffs, PGA Tour event of the week, the latest Twins loss. Then there is the intrigue over the latest news development or topic of interest: Shaq’s retirement, should “fill-in-the blank” get suspended, was Tressel really forced to trade in that iconic vest and tie of his!? Enough already. After recent events such as the heartbreaking Blackhawk’s loss in round one of the NHL Playoffs to the Canucks, the elimination of the OKC Thunder from the NBA Playoffs and the thrilling playoff victory by my friend Keegan Bradley at the HP Byron Nelson Championship this past weekend… I have decided to mellow out a bit.
Surely there is a way to take in the laid back joy of sport, right?! My recreational sand volleyball league starts June 12. However, anyone that knows me knows or has seen me play volleyball, knows I will likely be yelling at someone for poor play at some point during that first match. At the very least someone will get hit in the face by one of my serves and I will merely mutter, “meh.” Maybe I will go watch my buddy play in his adult hockey league at the local Dr Pepper Stars Center. It is always entertaining to watch the Shockers Hockey team in action…and my buddy in the penalty box! Plus, a good friend of mine will be in town tonight to play some minor-league baseball. See…there…it can be done. I am willing and able to enjoy sports in a healthy and balanced way. Wait…Rory McIlroy is tied for the lead at the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village….he is starting on my fantasy golf team this week!!! Padding my lead Rory! That a boy!! On second thought…I am a lost cause.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why Golf?!

Maybe I like watching paint dry! Actually, I am completely drawn to the sport of golf. As my devotion to golf becomes increasingly intense, I have more and more people ask me why I like golf. I thought I would try to tackle this question, as well as, make a few comments about the recent Masters. Though I do really enjoy hockey and college football, and yes annual events such as the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, my passion lies with two sports that are actually quite similar. If you had to describe what makes baseball unique what would you say? The long, rich tradition? The mental aspect of the game and superstitions held by players? The hot boys…well that particular point is not exactly unique to baseball. These are certainly reasons to appreciate baseball. The title of this post is why golf not why baseball, however, the reasons are basically the same. Seems my true interest lies with the two sports that many people claim they can barely tolerate…especially on TV. Slow doesn’t necessarily equal boring, you just have to learn what you are watching for, what to appreciate, and just as importantly… who to appreciate. The game of golf has many traditions and many legends most sports fans recognize: Palmer, Hogan, Player and Nicklaus. Fantastic, however, they have no bearing on why we should care about the tour today. So who is there to watch? Why watch if Tiger and Mickelson are not even in the field that week right? So wrong. I won’t start rambling on about those two. As a matter of fact, it isn’t even really about a like or dislike of the two most recognized figures in golf. The point is, there are tons of other guys on the PGA tour that are just as exciting to watch, and even a few on the European Tour that join in and quite often end up winning majors. Once you get to know who is on the tour, their stories, their personalities…it draws you in. Does anyone know who Jason Kubel is? Probably only Minnesota Twins fans would have heard of this designated hitter, but he is one of the reasons I wear a Twins hat! You have to know who is playing in order to have a vested interest in watching. Look for guys on the PGA Tour like Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar. Watch for European Tour members playing in the major championships like Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer, former and current number one ranked golfers in the world. It is so easy to become interested in each of these guys enough to want to appreciate their golf game. They are young, funny and extremely talented. They open themselves up publicly and connect with their fans via the social media unabashedly. These golfers also have a comradery not often found in sports. The way they pull for each other and spend time together socially, teasing and pranking…. is not unlike guys in a baseball clubhouse. Take for instance the support shown by fellow Northern Ireland friend and Ryder Cup teammate Graeme McDowell toward Rory McIlroy during and after McIlroy’s devastating play at the 2011 Masters. McIlroy lost the lead he held for three days and nine holes to finish tied for 15th. Friends like McDowell, Poulter and Westwood publicly displayed their support and encouragement of McIlroy. I appreciate that. This open display of support makes me want to watch these guys fight for a win each week…it goes beyond competition, it is a community and a brotherhood worth paying attention to.
Watching the Masters also reminded me of the huge impact the mental aspect of the game has on the outcome of a tournament. Whereas, in other sports speed and reaction are key factors, one’s ability to remain confident and focused shot after shot will determine success in golf. Similar to a pitcher having an off night on the mound or an all-star going hitless in a series, golfers can self-destruct quickly if their mental game is not completely intact. Conversely, mental toughness is what wins championships….it is what carried Charl Schwartzel to a green jacket on Sunday. Even amidst the roars at Augusta National he birdied his last four holes to victory. It is intriguing and sometimes painful to watch these athletes battle their mind during competition, but I thoroughly enjoy it.
Recently I have found that the superstitions and repetitions of each players game peaks my interest, as well. You know how you can watch a hitter go up to the plate in a baseball game and he does the same thing each time? The player may step out of the box a certain number of times, check his wrist guards and go through all his “rituals” before taking each swing? This is often criticized because it drags out the game, but I like it. These little superstitious patterns make that players game his own. It is the same on the golf course. This is a part of the game that you only see in person. I have really picked up on it and it is so interesting. Specific movements prior to addressing the ball, lucky head covers, ball marking, colors worn on Sundays and endless superstitions can be found on the tour and help each individual player stand out.
So maybe you think watching golf is worse than watching paint dry, or grass grow, or your grandma brush her dentures. There are reasons I became interested in golf and reasons such as tournament visits, fantasy golf and even waking up to the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive each morning, that keep me excited about it. Take a second look, give it a try, get familiar with golfers you have never heard of. Often, you walk away from the zoo talking about the monkeys not the tigers….sure tigers are cool to look at…but they are not the only attraction.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grime Report: The Not-So-Glam Guys

There is a lot of glitz and glam in sports. Sure, sports is competition, aggression, and raw athleticism. However, you don’t get on MTV Cribs without some glam. You don’t get your own reality TV series either…not one…nor two as in the case of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Along with anything glamorous, there is always a side that is a bit less-attractive. Suspect, distasteful, or grimy if you will. Here are a few examples that come to mind:

Evan Longoria: has an AK-47. Well, he did till it got stolen from his spring training apartment in Port Charlotte, Fla. Not sure why Longoria had an AK-47?! The Rays third baseman probably purchased it after his 1967 Camaro was stolen earlier this month, or maybe after that guy stole his hat! Wait…that was just a commercial. I should mention this AK-47 was owned legally by Longoria. Camaros and AK-47s. Sounds like a movie that would star Jason Statham doesn’t it? At least Longoria was driving a classic Camaro, which is much more glam than some of the vehicles driven by other players to spring training. Mark Buerhle of the White Sox was spotted with a vehicle parked in the lot that literally resembled a mini-semi truck and dwarfed the Tahoe beside it. Jason Werth (Nationals) has driven a truck to Florida that, I was told, was every bit as obnoxious as his unkempt beard and louder than a whole monster truck rally! These MLB stars use spring training for two things: a time to prepare for the season, and a time to let the wild, grimy boy in them out. Back to work boys!!

Hockey Thugs: On February 11th, the New York Islanders beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 9-3. Notable grime here? There was a total of 346 penalty minutes in the hockey game and ten ejections. If you are unfamiliar with the game of hockey…that is not normal. That is far uglier than the normal cross-checking, high sticking and occasional break-out fight or two. That kind of display is not even hockey, but an ugly bash that makes the street fight scene in Anchorman look low key. Know your sport…the object is still supposed to be scoring goals. The sport of hockey gets uglier by the week, and injuries are getting far worse than just bad breaks.

Geno Auriemma: Connecticut women’s basketball coach, Geno Auriemma, is one of the most accomplished coaches in division one basketball. Unfortunately, he is also one of the most cold, condescending and unapproachable. On March 22nd, the Huskies beat Purdue in round two of the NCAA tournament, before a crowd of 5,729 in their own Gampel Pavilion, which seats a total of 10,027. It was the smallest crowd to see the UConn women’s team play since 1994. Auriemma was upset about the small attendance. In the post-game press conference he stated, “I think we have a real spoiled group of fans. I think free parking and handouts at the game would help. Letting some of the fans participate in coaching the team, since they always volunteer to do that.” I understand being spoiled, and I also understand it was an NCAA tournament game, but that is still a decent number of fans for women’s basketball. The University of Oklahoma women’s basketball team (20-10 regular season), which may not be UConn but is still considered a top-level program, averaged about 4,000 in attendance this season. The OU men’s team only averaged about 10,500 at Lloyd Noble Center with a capacity of 12,000. Though these comments are no surprise to anyone who is familiar with Coach Auriemma, they don’t exactly motivate fans to come on out and support the Huskies. I had a personal encounter with Coach Auriemma’s ugly attitude in December of 1999. UConn visited Norman to play the Sooners, winning 84-68. Since I was working for the University of Oklahoma Athletic Media Relations, I knew I would have the opportunity to meet the coach. In high school, I was a big Rebecca Lobo fan. She had played for Connecticut and had written a book with her mother who had battled breast cancer. Lobo had signed my copy of the book when I met her in 1996, and since Geno Auriemma had written the forward, I wanted him to sign it as well. I looked forward to this moment and to chatting with him for a bit. After the post-game press conference in Norman I approached Auiremma. Ouch! I was met with a cold and rude coach that was barely willing to sign my book, much less offer any kind words to a young college student. I ended my admiration of the Connecticut head coach precisely at that moment. I had the privilege of meeting many coaches while at OU, and he was by far the most disdainful. I consider Roy Williams every bit of, if not more so, the basketball legend Auriemma is. Williams took ample time to visit with me and make me feel appreciated as a fan. What is so hard about that Geno?!

Dez Bryant: Finally, a short word about the less-than-stellar wardrobe of some professional athletes. If you live in Dallas you probably know that Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was issued a criminal trespass warning by off-duty Dallas PD officers working at North Park Center last week. Bryant was given this warning because he began using profanity after he and his entourage were asked to pull their pants up by the officers. That is right folks…sagging pants worn by a first round draft pick who signed a $12.05 million over five years contract in 2010. Bryant went to Oklahoma State…you would have thought the Cowboys in Stillwater would have taught him to wear better fitting jeans!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Upset

What is your favorite weekend out of the year? I have two: the weekend of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, and the weekend of rounds one and two of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Wait…correction…rounds two and three of the tournament. This year the NCAA decided that instead of a pool of 64 they would allow 68 teams into the tournament. There was also an extra “round” added. The first two nights would consist of two games each, determining the four additional teams that would be added to the tournament. So, in other words, play-in games. This was no round one. Call a spade a spade. Doug Gottlieb, ESPN Basketball Analyst, illustrated quite effectively that it was like his wife getting an invite to the neighborhood barbeque. The invitation says it starts at 7’oclock…and she actually wants to show up at 7’olock. You don’t show up to the party at seven. You show up around 7:30…8:00…8:30. Everyone knows that…everyone but the NCAA apparently. Don’t call play-in games round one and don’t expect us to watch them. We will show up when the dance really starts...and we won’t stop partying till closing time!
I don’t really know why year after year March Madness gets my total attention, but I can assure you that it has me wrapped around its finger like a controlling boyfriend, demanding all my attention and dictating my schedule. I have filled out a bracket since I was about twelve years old. I get super competitive about my picks and highly frustrated when things don’t go my way, and they usually don’t. I mean who picks Morehead State to beat Louisville...that knows anything about basketball?! The best part about filling out a bracket for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is that no matter how much you know, or how much research you do, you will most likely be stunned, frustrated and humbled within a day of the tournament. However, every now and they you get it right, and it is so satisfying. In 1998, my brother-in-law took me to the Midwest Regional first round games at the Myriad Convention Center in Oklahoma City. I was big Kansas Basketball fan growing up so I went to see Kansas play Prairie View. The game prior was Valparaiso vs. Ole Miss. I was the only one in our section cheering for Valpo because I had picked them in my bracket. With a Bryce Drew buzzer beater 3-point shot, Valpo advanced! It was an incredible moment, and one that is mentioned every year during the ESPN Bracketology special…a note as to what could happen. It happens every year…it is what literally makes March such madness…it is why we even care. Upsets make sports thrilling, whether we are benefiting or barely able to stomach them.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

If You Can't Beat Em' Join Em'

I never really thought much about the week leading up to the Super Bowl. I never thought about the entourage the big game would bring to the host city, the media frenzy, the nightly parties, nor the mass of fans that would visit. Then again, I have never had a reason to. This is the first year I have lived in the host city for a Super Bowl. Sunday, Super Bowl XLV was held in Arlington, Texas. However, for the entire week prior, all of Dallas-Fort Worth was overtaken with NFL hype. I am not a big fan of the National Football League. I try to follow the Cowboys and I do follow quite a bit of NFL conversation during my daily ESPN Radio fix. I just wouldn’t say I am a fan and I certainly don’t get excited about it. I have always taken a lot of heat for that. I have many friends that do not understand my apathy toward the sport, claiming that the NFL is far more entertaining than college football. I must admit I took on somewhat of an “if you can’t beat em’ join em’” approach last week. I tried to get into the spirit and even spent an evening in Packers Territory (downtown Las Colinas) amongst the players and fans.
Ironically, one evening last week, I came across a GQ article from September of 1999, listing “50 Reasons Why Pro Football is Better than College Football.” I often tear out articles I want to read and put them in a pile. Obviously, the pile is slow moving, but the timeliness of this particular article was perfect. No doubt, I saved this article to compare it to the arguments I am frequently presented from friends. Below are the 10 points I feel are most worthy of notation (direct quotes from the article and in no particular order) and would add value to a conversation on the subject. I still wouldn’t pass up an Oklahoma Football game for any match-up the NFL has to offer, though.
1. No male megaphone-toting cheerleaders.
2. Real play-offs.
3. Tailgating the way it ought to be, by fat guys in sweats, not moms straight out of the Talbots catalog.
4. You can give a pro player a Cadillac and two new suits and not go to jail for it.
5. We all know what a Lion is. What the hell is a Nittany Lion?
6. Of Miami’s two professional teams, the Dolphins draw twice as many fans as the Hurricanes and half the felonies.
7. No pimply-faced, cable-holding teenager following the head coach around the sideline.
8. Division III?
9. Papa Bear Halas-player, coach, owner. Let’s see Bobby Bowden do that.
10. Ditka!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What Happens in the Mornings....

Every morning I wake up and watch Mike & Mike in the Morning on ESPN2. This week…due to some tennis tournament…probably a big deal but I don’t know and don’t care what the event was…I have been unable to do so. Since I started my Fantasy Golf (yahoo sports) this week and I am supper pumped about it, I detoured to the Golf Channel’s Morning Drive with Erik Kuselias and Gary Williams. (We will re-visit this topic shortly.) Thursday, John Feinstein was on as a call-in guest. Feinstein, author of Season on the Brink and A Good Walk Spoiled, was blabbing on about how Lee Westwood was a “bogus number one” and other such comments. The topic of conversation was concerning Westwood’s decision not to take part in the 2011 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass in May. Let’s quickly look at this decision by Westwood. Simple enough, Westwood does not own a home in the U.S. He has chosen not to be a PGA Tour player this year and instead stick with the European Tour because of his location (supposedly.) This stance in consideration, and since he was a 2009 PGA Tour member, Westwood is allowed to play 10 tournaments in the U.S. and also the Players. That leaves this equation: Four Majors, plus three World Golf events in the U.S, plus the Houston Shell Open before the Masters, plus the Honda Classic in between events and last the FedEx St. Jude Classic the week before the U.S. Open and also where Westwood will be defending. This leaves no opportunity to play stateside the week before The Players, so the world’s number one golfer bowed out. Going back to the Feinstein blasphemy...I was in a state of high irritation. I like Lee Westwood. I really enjoy him as a golfer and as a sports figure in general…he entertains me. It just so happens, that part of this entertainment is from frequent banter on Twitter. At the time of this interview on Morning Drive, Westwood and Poulter were blowing up Twitter from Abu Dhabi, which in turn was blowing up my iPhone. I don’t always pay keen attention to these tweets, but I thought to myself that Westwood was surely not aware of the foul comments Feinstein was sharing to the world. Thus I decided to advise him. Very quickly a response ensued. Needless to say, I was cheered that the world number one decided to acknowledge my informative Tweet with a witty response almost immediately. I do what I can folks…I’m here to take a stand for the golf elite! This was only the start of what seemed an irritating day (evening in Abu Dhabi actually) for Westwood. There were continued comments on Twitter about what Westwood viewed as a non-story of his decision to forgo The Players. However, I tend to agree with Brian Katrek of the PGA Tour Network’s radio show Teed Off, “In order for this not to be a story we would have to say that he is not that important, and that wouldn’t be very polite.”
About this new show on the Golf Channel called Morning Drive. Here is an example of the Golf Channel getting it right in my opinion. The live show debuted on January 3rd and airs from 7-9 A.M. Hosting the show are former ESPN commentator Erik Kuselias and former Mad Dog Radio (Sirius/XM) host Gary Williams. There is a definite ESPN feel to the show, but it works. Popular music going into and coming from commercial breaks, sporadic chatter of football and other pop culture topics, and celebrity guests liven up the show and leave a different feel than typical Golf Channel shows. To my liking, since Kuselias was such a staple on Mike & Mike (filling in for Mike Greenberg), I felt even more content in watching Morning Drive. I may leave it on the Golf Channel for a while.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Beginnings

One of the things we suffer through during the holidays is the time off. Not our own time off…that of our dearest sports radio hosts of course! It is quite painful at times to listen to their “replacements.” However, as I was listening to Doug Gottlieb cover for Mike and Mike one day last week, I was reminded of a few points. First of all, every sports journalist takes time from their focus to enjoy the holidays, thus, I am also justified as a mere sports blogger (this is my hobby and not profession at that), in taking a break. Second, and more relevant, I took a sharp left down memory lane. During the broadcast there was a mention of a Notre Dame men’s basketball game the night prior that triggered the thought of former Notre Dame men’s basketball player Ryan Humphrey. He is the first player I think of when I think of the program. Let me explain further. Humphrey was a highly touted recruit for the University of Oklahoma in 1997 out of Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa. This guy was seriously decorated with awards in high school: McDonald’s and Parade All-American and finalist for USA Gatorade Player of the Year, to name a few. However, after earning little playing time at OU, Humphrey transferred to Notre Dame after his sophomore year. There are some reports of health issues contributing to the lack of court-time, however, his success at Notre Dame leaves one speculating. I was personally saddened by the loss of Ryan Humphrey from the OU squad. Not only was he a super nice guy, I grew up in Oklahoma so I knew of his history and potential. However, sometimes you need a fresh start…and a fair chance. After being drafted in 2002 by the Utah Jazz and a somewhat short NBA career, Humphrey now plays ball in Europe. Going further down this path, I thought back to Doug Gottlieb. When I think of Oklahoma State basketball I almost immediately think of Doug Gottlieb. The Californian was an integral part of the success that OSU had during the 2000 season and trip to the Elite Eight. Gottlieb was the 1998 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Have any idea why he came in the first place? Notre Dame decided Gottlieb should move on after the starting Irish point-guard stole credit cards from a roommate and ran up a $900 bill. He found his fresh start and identity (that he claimed legally I might add) with the Cowboys.
Do Sooner fans think of Ryan Humphrey as one of their greats? No. Do Notre Dame fans even remember that Doug Gottlieb played ball for the Irish? No. I can also personally speak of two very talented and exciting high school basketball stars that left the University of Oklahoma women’s program due to false promises of playing time and contribution not realized. Sometimes that just happens…we don’t always see or hear the full story and excuses. However, more often than not, it works out in the student athlete’s favor to make the change. So here’s to new beginnings…looking forward to the fresh starts and changes in 2011…as long as they don’t involve any of my favorite athletes making a change to another team!