Monday, June 30, 2008

Boys of Spring -- Part 2

For an explanation of what this is and Part 1, click here

*****
Story by Emily Werchadlo
Pictures by Sean DuFrene


Part two

Senior catcher Doug Peters gives a high five to Weston Sailer (8) before Escondido’s game against Valley Center May 10.

Escondido flourishes as freshmen join the team

The Escondido baseball team begins Valley League play on a cool, crisp night under the bright lights of Pete Coscarart Field. There are nearly 100 people in attendance, bundled up and warmed by hot chocolate, to watch the Cougars take on cross-town rival Orange Glen.

Most people would consider it an easy win. Most people aren’t Escondido head coach Steve Afenir. Afenir needs only to look back one season for a pair of reasons why he should take the Patriots seriously: two losses.

Despite it being only April 9 — the midway point of the season — the game is incredibly important.

With a 3-10 preseason record, making the playoffs without a Valley League title is a long shot.

The Cougars make a statement early, taking a 4-1 lead through the first three innings and putting up a five spot in the sixth. Rehabbed pitcher Troy Williams, who broke his non-throwing wrist in a snowboarding accident in the off-season, is dealing on the mound.

As the senior mows down Patriots batters, it’s clear his return couldn’t have come soon enough. After six innings, with Escondido up 9-2, Afenir wanders over to scorebook keeper Dave Peters.

“Has he given up a hit yet?” he asks Peters.

Troy hasn’t, and he doesn’t in the seventh, either. Unfortunately for the pitcher, a bevy of errors that led to two Orange Glen runs throws off his teammates, and there’s no swarm on the mound as is customary after such a rare accomplishment.

The Cougars are just happy to get a win.

“I think that’s a no-hitter,” Afenir says in the postgame huddle, finally giving Troy the credit he deserves from his teammates. “If we get pitching like that, we’ll win league.”

It’s an optimistic start to the second half of the season.

“1-0. That’s what we are,” Afenir says.

******

For Afenir, this time of year can be tricky.

Many of the Cougars’ parents invest as much time in baseball as their children, and they don’t enjoy watching their kids ride the bench. Afenir knows that after some games, the parents might be waiting in the parking lot to speak on behalf of their sons.

The issue comes to the forefront as the midpoint of the season arrives.

After starting the year on the junior varsity roster, freshmen Tim Zier and Audie Afenir get called up just before league play to aid the varsity club.

The arrival of the freshmen means some of the Cougars’ players will lose their starting positions.

Audie Afenir lays down a bunt to bring in a runner to help the Cougars defeat Valley Center.


For Audie, the pressure of fitting in is doubled because of his last name: Not only is he a freshman, but he’s also the nephew of the head coach and the son of former major leaguer Troy, an assistant coach. Part of Escondido’s best-known baseball family, the freshman is expected to impress.

“It’s pretty hard,” Audie says. “Lots of people say stuff. They kid around and say, ‘That’s why you get to play.’ ”

But it’s unlikely that Audie (whose real name is Austin) would be pegged as an Afenir by his looks. While the Afenir coaches are tall, hulking, dark-haired men, Audie has blazing red hair and freckles and the kind of build that lends itself to a few more years of growing.

He’s almost painfully quiet, so much so that when he calls for a pop-up in a late-season game, pitcher Troy Williams wonders aloud, “So that’s what Audie sounds like?”

Audie might be quiet, but his performance at the plate speaks volumes. Through the first few weeks of league play, he hits better than nearly everyone, providing power near the bottom of the lineup as well as a much-needed upgrade at third base.

Audie mostly keeps to himself around the team, no doubt mindful of the expectations connected to his call-up.

“People think that Audie is good because his father was in the major leagues,” says his dad, Troy. “But he’s good because he works really hard.”

Freshman designated hitter Tim Zier checks the day’s lineup before the Cougars’ game against Valley Center May 10.

Tim is nearly the polar opposite of Audie. Also a freshman, Tim is more than six months older. He embraces the game of baseball with a focus and seriousness unlike many of his teammates, giving off the vibe that a strikeout might linger in his psyche for days.

“I bust my butt a lot,” Tim says. “I’m hard on myself. That’s what I’m working on right now. I like the game so much, I just want to succeed.”

His confidence on the field and with his teammates reflects that of a veteran player, and he shows maturity and fearlessness at the plate.

Unlike Audie, who was a likely call-up from the beginning of the season, Tim impressed the coaching staff with his play during the Lions Tournament.

Escondido, in desperate need of a leadoff hitter, found one in Tim. Despite a short stature, he has strong legs and is a deceivingly fast runner. He’s also sociable with his teammates and quickly blends in with the group.

Audie is mindful of the differences between him and his classmate.

“He’s outgoing,” he says of Tim. “I just like to play, do what I do.”

The two freshmen quickly become the pieces that complete the puzzle for the Cougars.

Despite the fact that Audie and Tim are worthy starters, rumblings still exist among the older players.

“Some people are grumbling about it, they’re bummed they’re not playing,” says Troy Williams. “I hear the parents talking. But we’re getting better. It’s just a matter of who’s getting it done.”

Junior center fielder Jarrett Sisler, who came up to varsity as a sophomore, can relate.

“I know the feeling, like you’re not welcome,” he says. “But good for them. It’s anyone who can play. They kept their spots because they earned them. They’re varsity-level players.”

Coach Afenir doesn’t completely turn his back on his varsity players.

In an attempt to quell the displeasure, he platoons certain starters, but he finds that to be a heavy task as well.

After one game, a player who was given a “second chance” publicly apologizes to his team and his coach for his poor play.

Afenir is surprised at the seriousness of the scene.

“This is the part of the season where things get dicey, where you start talking to kids about roles,” he says. “But (he) screwed up; when did this become life or death?”

*****

Escondido scores a walk-off win on April 10 against Orange Glen.

The next week the Cougars defeat San Marcos 4-2 to start league 3-0, before dropping a winnable game to Valley Center the next day.

The Cougars are getting caught in pickles, forgetting to swing on hit-and-runs and failing to execute the bunt.

Afenir is so disgusted with his team’s play against the Jaguars, he refuses to coach third base.

To Afenir, the poor play isn’t the Cougars team of last week, which won back-to-back contests with Orange Glen. It’s the team of preseason, the team that went 3-10 and has no chance of winning league.

The coach sits motionless on the bench. The players are afraid to speak to him. They know that the only thing worse than their coach yelling is his silence.

Afenir isn’t afraid to speak out after the game.

“They don’t listen. They didn’t follow a single thing I did all day,” he says. “They are the uncoachables. It’s just stupid baseball. That’s become Cougar baseball.”

By the next game, a road contest against Mission Hills, Afenir has cooled considerably. He’s also got a new tool for motivation: thickly applied layers of eye black.

First baseman and Cougar captain Brett Hartman has eye black applied by head coach Steve Afenir. Eye black was the team’s “slump-buster,” Afenir says.

“It’s our slump-buster,” Afenir says as he paints the players’ faces in the dugout, becoming a self-declared makeup artist.

The Cougars defeat Mission Hills 4-2 to get back on track. The eye black becomes a pregame ritual for the rest of the year.

******

By midseason, many of the seniors on the Escondido team are looking for their own magic wand.

The pressure is on.

Not the pressure of school or the pressure of the Cougars team, but the pressure of finding a new home for their baseball talents — the pressure of finding a college willing to let them play.

The clock is ticking.

Captain Brett Hartman was well on his way to a top program after a stellar junior season. But last summer — the prime time to showcase his skills at camps — Hartman injured his back, slowing his progress for the upcoming season.

“There’s a short, small window where you can make hay,” explains Afenir.

For Hartman, the 2007 season represents his last opportunity in high school to get noticed.

One college that has noticed him is Fort Hays State University in Kansas. It’s not a Division I program — the town’s population is 20,000 — but when it comes to scholarships and playing time, Hartman has to give every offer fair consideration.

So the senior and his family take a trip to the small town, a struggle in its own right. The closest airport is Denver, and they have to take a four-hour car ride to reach their destination.
Hartman knows almost immediately it’s not for him.

“It’s good to go out there and see what it was like,” he says. “It’s a good start.”

Pitcher Anthony Nutter’s college baseball options are limited to one school: Harvard. Though he has already been accepted to the university, he hasn’t officially been offered a spot on the team. The Crimson reserves many of its roster spots and scholarships for students who might not otherwise be accepted to the Ivy League school.

But without Anthony knowing it, Harvard has been scouting him. In late April, he takes his first trip to Boston for an orientation weekend and to see where he will be spending the next four years.

Once there, Anthony will have one of the best weekends of his life. For the first time, he’s around people who get him.

“I don’t want to go anywhere else,” he proudly proclaims when he returns home.

As if his time there wasn’t good enough, the Harvard coach tells Anthony he wants him on the team next year.

The future is clear for one player on the Cougars team.

For many others, it’s still up in the air.

*****

With a 4-2 league record, the Cougars find themselves at a game on their schedule that is must-win.

It’s not must-win for the fate of the season, it’s must-win for the pride of the team. The game is against heated rival San Pasqual, a matchup that is always memorable for both sides.

This game will be no exception. The players are chirping at each other from the dugouts, and the parents are arguing from both sides of the stands. The umpire is caught in the middle.

By the sixth inning, things have gotten downright ugly. San Pasqual’s Brandon Hartley crosses the plate and is tagged out by catcher Doug Peters. Doug gets spiked, ripping his pants and sending the senior down in a crumpled, angry ball. Both sides argue whether the contact was intentional.

Not getting up is not an option for Doug. He is the vocal leader of the Cougars and has maybe more to prove than any of them. He kneels down behind the plate every day knowing that just to the left or right of him are two guys who were catchers at the professional level, Tom and Troy Afenir.

“It puts a lot of pressure on me, pressure to perform,” Doug says. “But it’s kind of a resource. Coach Bit (Tom) has helped me a lot.”

If that weren’t enough, Doug was preceded by catcher Buck Afenir, the head coach’s son and a CIF Division II player of the year.

Doug has been soaking in the Afenirs’ expertise for years.

“Sophomore year I could kind of sit and watch Buckey a bit,” he says. “We have great coaches over here. They’ve all played baseball before. We’re learning from the best.”

The early season was a struggle for Doug, so he made the decision to step up in other ways.

“I try to be a leader,” he says. “I try to keep everyone up in down situations.”

Grimacing in pain behind home plate, Doug now needs his team to step up for him. They do, taking down San Pasqual 7-4 and ensuring that when the teams meet on the final night of the regular season, it will be revenge for both sides.

For now, there is an even more important game on the horizon: a trip to Ramona for a chance at first place in the Valley League. A 16-0 smashing of San Marcos in Escondido’s next game is just the kind of pump-up the Cougars need before heading up the hill.

The team is clicking. There has been a shift in momentum. Coach Afenir knows that the performance in Ramona will be the gauge to tell if things have really changed, if Escondido has really turned it around.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Boys of Spring

Emily's Note: This story ran a year ago in Today's Local News, a subsidy of the San Diego Union-Tribune and a paper I worked at for more than a year. It's pretty much my crowning writing achievement thus far. I haven't changed anything here. It's not perfect, and if I could go back and give it a final re-write I would, but I'm still really proud of it. I'll run part 1 today and post 2 and 3, tomorrow and Tuesday. Warning, it's long.

*****

Early mornings, late nights, inside jokes, hurt feelings, college choices, position changes, coaches’ decisions, walk-off wins, rally caps, eye black, superstitions, history in the making. A look into the life of a high school baseball team.

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Escondido High catcher Doug Peters looks dejected after Langley, Va., scores in the top of the seventh during the Cougars’ Lions Tournament game on April 3.

Stories by Emily Werchadlo
Photos by Sean DuFrene



Friday, June 28, 2007

A frustrating start

Steve Afenir is a player’s coach.

As the head of the Escondido High School varsity baseball program, Afenir has duties that go beyond setting lineups and forming game strategies. With 18 high school boys under his care, he has to be prepared for all the fragile teenage psyche has to offer.

“With kids this age, you have to be part coach, part baby sitter and part child psychologist,” he says. “At this age, you deal with everything.”

Today, the problems are all baseball related. It’s Thursday, March 15, and according to the zeroes on the scoreboard, the Cougars are about to be no-hit by Fallbrook pitcher Josh Peters for their fifth loss in a row to start the year.

The defeat will be a new low in a season already full of them. The dugout is filled with bruised egos, unsettled feelings about playing time and anxieties about fitting in and finding a college. The Cougars are a mess of emotions, an unfocused, self-interested bunch that hasn’t learned yet that success comes with playing as a team.

As the last Cougar goes down in a final hitless at-bat, the frustrated 44-year-old coach contemplates how to motivate his underachieving team. Afenir knows that at this rate there is no chance Escondido will make it to the playoffs, the measure of success for any high school Division I team. So he crafts an ultimatum and delivers it stoically to the players.

“I don’t want to end this week without a win,” Afenir tells the red-faced, head-hanging Cougars in the postgame huddle. “I’ve scheduled a game with the junior varsity team tomorrow. Whoever wins wears the varsity uniforms on Tuesday.”

Nobody thinks he is kidding. Under the glaring late-afternoon sun, no one can escape the heat.


******
dayone3
Escondido High head coach Steve Afenir was a star third baseman for the Cougars in the late 1970s. He went on to play at Palomar College and the University of Wyoming, before coming back to coach the Cougars.

If Afenir knows anything, it’s baseball. And Escondido High School baseball is his specialty.

Afenir starred for the Cougars as a third baseman in the late 1970s. He moved on to Palomar College, and then the University of Wyoming, before coming back to be an assistant and then head coach of the Cougars.

Steve isn’t the only Afenir who knows baseball. His brother Tom, a straight-faced assistant coach nicknamed “Bit,” followed in his brother’s footsteps at Escondido and Palomar before taking his career one step further into the minor leagues, where arm injuries forced an early retirement. Steve’s brother Troy also helps coach the Cougars. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, Troy played in 45 major league games with Houston, Oakland and Cincinnati and caught big names such as Nolan Ryan.

It doesn’t end there. Steve’s son Buck, a former CIF San Diego Section Division II player of the year and current University of Kansas Jayhawk, hopes to draw future draft interest by playing in an Alaskan League this summer.

Audie (Troy’s son) and Evan (Steve’s son) Afenir, in ninth and seventh grades, respectively, figure to be stars on varsity for EHS someday.

“There’s a lot of baseball in the Afenir family,” Steve says. “My father loved baseball. Our folks said we could do one thing, Pop Warner, Boy Scouts, Little League. So we just decided to play Little League, and we fell in love with it.”

With all his baseball expertise, Steve Afenir knows the 2007 baseball season has the potential to be a struggle. Coming off a disappointing 2006 campaign in which the Cougars finished sixth in the Valley League, Afenir figures big success is still a few years away. Case in point: Of nearly 70 players on The San Diego Union-Tribune’s “Players to Watch” list, not one Cougar made the cut. Most prognosticators pick them to finish second to Ramona in the league race.

“We’re not a baseball powerhouse like Rancho Bernardo, Torrey Pines or Poway,” the coach says at the end of February during the team’s first practice. “I have to get these kids to overachieve for us to be good.”

As a coach, Afenir’s style is clearly old-school. He’s a stickler for execution and his players respect him for it.

“The Afenirs have been around Escondido forever,” says junior Jarrett Sisler. “They make it hard and instructive at the same time.”

Looking out at his team on that first day, Afenir predicts Escondido might start the season 0-10. It’s not that he’s an overly pessimistic person; it’s that the Cougars’ tough nonleague schedule features 11 of 13 games against eventual playoff-bound teams. Afenir figures it to be one of the 10 toughest schedules in all of California.

But is it too tough?

******

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Escondido High pitcher Anthony Nutter walks out of the clubhouse with a focused demeanor as he prepares for his start against Valley Center on May 10.


Anthony Nutter, the Cougars’ highly touted senior pitcher, also demands perfection.

“I like winning,” he says. “If we’re not going to win, that’s all that really matters.”

Anthony is the picture of achievement. He is valedictorian of the Class of 2007 and will attend Harvard in the fall. His guidance counselor thinks his 4.77 grade-point average might be the highest of any student ever at EHS.

But Anthony’s smarts aren’t necessarily appreciated by his teammates on the baseball field. Afenir calls him “eccentric,” and he isn’t considered one of the “cool kids” on the Cougars team.

“(The team) is a tight-knit group,” Anthony says. “They go out on Friday nights and they ask me if I can come. A lot of the times it’s a ‘no’ because I have to study for a test.”

It’s a social risk he is prepared to take.

“I live a life a lot different than everyone else,” he says. “Not only am I an athlete, I’m the top student in my class. If I went back, I’d do the same thing. If I was all about the social life, I wouldn’t be where I am. I have no regrets.”

The Cougars’ first game March 6 involves a long, warm trip to El Capitan in Lakeside. As the staff ace of the Cougars, Anthony gets the ball.

By the second inning, the game is out of hand.

Murphy’s Law has taken full effect, as any ball sharply hit is loosely played. Even though the defense behind Anthony isn’t helping (the Cougars rack up nine errors), the senior can’t stop the bleeding as Escondido falls behind early and loses an embarrassing 17-4 game.

The poor start doesn’t help Anthony’s perplexing persona, and it doesn’t take long for Afenir to lose his patience.

“(Anthony), that’s pathetic,” he bellows in the postgame huddle. “I put you up as one of the best pitchers in North County.

“The way we’re playing is directly related to the way you’ve practiced in the last two weeks,” he continues to the rest of the group. “You need to be humbled. Everyone thinks they’re so good.”

Afenir is particularly aggravated by his team’s on-field attitude. Despite nine errors, nobody assumes responsibility for the loss, choosing instead to point fingers at each other.

“I’ll put up with errors, but I won’t put up with players yelling at each other on the field,” he says. “Unless you can walk on water and rise after you’re dead, I don’t want to hear it.”

*****

Escondido center fielder Jarrett Sisler bobbles a pop fly, costing the Cougars a run against Vista High School.

If there’s one player on the team who continually tests his coach’s patience, it’s center fielder Jarrett Sisler.

For Afenir, the junior is half-dream, half-nightmare. The dream: Jarrett is the team’s closest thing to a five-tool player. He has blazing speed around the bases and a sweet stroke that hits for a high average and home run power. He is the player who gets the most buzz from scouts.

The nightmare is that some of his tools still need a great deal of sharpening. His play in the outfield is always an adventure, as is his running on the base paths.

“Jarrett is the definition of the word ‘enigma,’ ”  Afenir says. “On any given day, I don’t know whether he’ll be Mickey Mantle or Mickey Mouse.”

But if Jarrett had it his way, he wouldn’t be playing baseball. When he was younger, he played hockey, but his parents decided the off-season was too long and Jarrett spent too much time in front of the TV. So a change was made when he was 9 to baseball, a yearlong sport in San Diego.

“I cried for the first week (I played baseball), because I didn’t want to play,” Jarrett says. “Now I never miss a week.”

Jarrett knows he can be a bit of a disaster in the outfield, but he figures he’s overcome worse before.

“I’m most worried about my fielding ability and my arm,” he says. “But last year, I was worried about hitting a curveball.”

As a junior with college on the horizon, fortifying his baseball skills has become even more important to him.

“It’s been my goal to make it to college,” he says. “My family can’t afford to send me. So I have to use baseball to get there.”

******

It doesn’t take long for Jarrett to encounter danger on the base paths. In the Cougars’ second game — another lopsided 17-4 loss — Jarrett is waved home in a misguided attempt at a meaningless late-inning run. He’s pounded at the plate by the Hilltop catcher and buckles over, grimacing and clutching his foot while the Cougars hold their breath.

He sits out the next game against Rancho Bernardo (a 7-0 loss) but gets the start in the team’s following contest against Mission Bay. He attempts to be a spark plug for the winless team by speaking out in the pregame huddle.

“We need energy,” Jarrett tells the group. “Let’s have a quick first inning.”

But after a fly ball sails over his head and he crashes into the outfield fence, it’s apparent to everyone he’s still not at full strength.

Afenir pulls Jarrett, telling him, “I need you for the season.” As the limping center fielder trots to the dugout he mutters under his breath, “That sucked.”

******

By the fourth game of the season, another loss, almost everyone on the team is in the doghouse. Everyone except Anthony, who picked up his team with a pinch-hit, two-RBI single while pitching well in relief.

Afenir offers some unorthodox praise for the Harvard-bound pitcher.

“I give Nutter a lot of crap,” he says in the postgame cluster. “And he’s a freak — no offense,” he says directly to Anthony, “you’re a freak. But he’s 100 percent focused. I’m looking for eight more freaks.”

Aside from Anthony, the coach is hard-pressed to find positive things to say about his team. He sends out a call for leaders.

“Somebody step up and do something,” Afenir says. “Everyone is waiting for someone else to do something.”

The message falls on deaf ears. Nobody steps up in the next game, the no-hitter at the hands of Fallbrook. Afenir knows something has to change.

“I knew we’d struggle early. It’s hard to stay positive,” he says. “But I can’t let them know it’s OK to lose to better teams. Their skins have to get tough.”

So he proposes the game against the junior varsity squad. He makes it legit so his team knows he is serious. Umpires are hired to officiate, and even with the harsh ultimatum of losing their varsity spots, the Cougars’ play is lackadaisical and they barely scrape by with a win.

Afenir will have to wait and see whether his attempt to motivate his team was successful.

******

Through the first five games of the season, Escondido’s stats are cringe-worthy: a .194 batting average to complement a .294 on-base percentage. The pitching staff can’t get off the hook, either: They’ve posted a 7.64 ERA and a 16-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

So with only one way to go, the sixth contest of the season presents the first presumably winnable game for Escondido. The El Camino baseball team visits Pete Coscarart Field with similar early-season struggles.

With an 8-2 win, the monkey is lifted. The highlights include a back-to-form Jarrett, who tallies a home run, a single and three RBIs.

Meanwhile, the brainy Anthony starts to fit in with his teammates, giving up just one run in six innings in the win.

“I was real comfortable when the season started,” Anthony says. “But then I got nervous that I wouldn’t be as good as people expected. Without it ever being said, everyone kind of looked at me to get the job done.”

The early-season failures were torture to a perfectionist such as Anthony.

“That’s one of my problems,” he says. “I get way too intense about things. I try too hard to be perfect all the time. My goal is to never fail at anything.”

So does that make him a freak, as his coach suggested?

“I think he exaggerated a little bit, but he got the point across,” Anthony says. “(My teammates) have all been cool with me. It’s a matter of respect. Once I do better, there is a lot more respect.”

Soft-spoken senior captain Brett Hartman has been playing baseball and going to school with Anthony for four years, yet he struggles to categorize his teammate.

“Nutter’s just … Nutter,” Brett sighs. “I don’t know if it’s because he’s so smart, but when he pitches, he brings a lot of intensity.”

Anthony is a two-year member of the varsity team, and it’s taken all that time for Afenir to adjust to the pitcher. He’s not all the way there yet.

“I told Nutter, ‘I like you better every year I coach you. If you were here for two more years, I might actually like you,’ ” he says, teasing the senior.

After the relieving win over El Camino, the Cougars go 2-2 over their next four games, improving to 3-7 entering the highly competitive Lions Tournament.

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Escondido High head baseball coach Steve Afenir talks to his squad after its 6-5 loss to Whittier during Lions Tournament play.

Teams from all over California flock to Pete Coscarart Field for the Lions Tournament. The field, named after the EHS graduate and former All-Star who played nine seasons in the major leagues in the 1930s and ’40s, is meticulously cared for by the team. Veteran prep reporter John Maffei declared it the fifth-best field in North County, deeming it “most improved.”

Now it’s one of the featured home fields in the Lions Tournament — a five-decade-old competition that displays baseball talent from up and down the West Coast and from as far away as Langley, Va.

Afenir knows how hard it is to make the field look good for big events, and his players know it, too. They are fiercely protective of it, and Afenir says they often have chased local hoodlums off the grounds if they sneak in after hours.

What makes Escondido’s baseball complex stand out is its clubhouse, a rarity for a high school baseball team.

“The clubhouse is a buffer between the parking lot and the field,” Afenir explains. “When they are in school, they belong to the teachers. When they are on the field, they belong to me. In the clubhouse, they can decompress their day. The clubhouse is theirs.”

Despite having access to that outlet and playing on their home field, the Cougars can’t win any of their three Lions Tournament games, blowing leads and stumbling against weaker teams.

After another brutal loss, Afenir is ready to blow. Standing alone, the 6-foot-1 head coach scores a 10 for intensity. Flanked by his brothers, Troy and Tom, he’s downright scary.

“It doesn’t matter what we do, you guys are going to cough up runs like a bass coughing up a worm,” Afenir says. He kicks a bucket in frustration and later admits the clubhouse took the brunt of the beating.

It’s not just that Afenir hates losing. It’s that he knows his team is better than what it has showcased.

But heading into league play with a 3-10 record, he is losing his will to motivate.

“I’m out of magic tricks,” he tells the team. “I’m out of Vince Lombardi speeches.”

Fortunately for the Cougars, nothing they did in the previous 13 games will matter if they can capture first place in the Valley League. But Escondido must change the way it plays if it expects to take down league front-runner Ramona and advance to the playoffs.

The Cougars will start league play on April 9, giving them five days to regroup from a March disaster.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Low Fat Foodage Rave

So most of you know -- or can deduce -- that I'm trying to lose weight for my wedding. 

Trying.

Jeff and I enrolled in a gym a few miles down the street from our house at the beginning of May, and have gone something like 85% of the days since then. Each time we go, we stay for anywhere from 1/2 hour to 1 1/2 hours. I burn from 300-600 calories each time. Jeff burns anywhere from 500-1,100 (I know, right?).

Well, almost two full months later -- I've lost no weight. Jeff, of course, has lost 10+ pounds.

I'm trying not to be frustrated. I'm trying to note the "way my clothes feel." (that's what people always tell you, right?). But it's hard to get on the scale over and over and for it to read within the same 4 pound range each day.

So what am I doing wrong? I've come up with a few problems and possible solutions:

Problem #1: I work from home. Now this in and of itself might not be a problem, but I tend to work... from my bed. Laying down. For 9 hours on top of the 9 or so I sleep. Believe me, I'm ashamed to admit it. But it's just too easy and too comfortable to do.
Solution: I'm not really sure. Yeah you can say "Get out of bed" but is sitting up all day really that much better? I don't really get an elongated break where I could take a walk, so I'm not really sure what to do about this one.

Problem #2: My daily coffee. I've read conflicted reports about coffee + dieting. Some people say coffee helps you lose weight because it's an appetite suppressant. Some people say the caffeine in coffee is counterproductive to losing weight. I don't know who to believe. I can tell you the former is true with me -- it does suppress my appetite in the afternoon when I'd tend to snack. 
Solution: Well, first off, I've switched from cream only to milk only. This should help right? According to the D&D nutritional information, a small cream only iced coffee is 80 calories and a small iced coffee milk only is 35. I also drink about 4 bottles of water a day, so that should help, too.

Problem #3: My general diet. This is where I am really confused. According to my online sources, I would need to consume 1600 calories a day to maintain my weight. TO MAINTAIN MY WEIGHT. 1600 calories is NOTHING. This is so depressing. So I'd have to eat something around 1,000 calories to lose weight. 
Solution: I'm just not that disciplined yet. I try and keep it under 1,600 calories a day, and hope that, combined with exercise, puts me around 1,000 each day. But the truth is, I don't do this every day. I should. 

So here's where I need help. So far, I've found a few low-fat, low-cal foodages that somewhat fill me up and don't want to make me barf. They are:

Snacks:
Chocolate and Caramel Chex Mix
Calories: 100 (100-calorie pack)
Taste: 7 of 10. I like the ones covered in caramel better than the ones covered in chocolate, which is sort of a shocker for me.
Fill-up factor: 6 of 10. I am taking into account this is a "snack" but seriously, this thing is so small, it takes me about 45 seconds to eat the whole thing.

Entrees:
Lean Cuisine Roasted Garlic and Chicken Pizza
Calories: 340
Taste: 9 of 10. Yum. This is really so good. My favorite, flavor wise, of all low-fat foods I've tried.
Fill-up factor: 7 out of 10. But even eating two of these (which I've never done!) would be better than two slices of regular pizza and more filling.

Smart Ones Santa Fe Rice and Beans
Calories: 310
Taste: 7 of 10. Very good. I don't love beans, but the sour cream and chili sauce is very good.
Fill-up factor: 8 of 10. One of the better options.

Pierogies (Mama T's)
Calories: 360, without add-ons. I estimate about 500 with. (This is for 6 pierogies)
Taste: 8 of 10. I sautee these in butter (I know) and sprinkle with Emeril's Original. A Werschaible family favorite.
Fill-up factor: 9 of 10. It's pasta filled with potatoes. Nuff said.

Desserts:  
Smart Ones Mocha Pie
Calories: 150
Taste: 8 of 10. This is pretty yummy, too. It's better when there is more chocolate sauce.
Fill-up factor: 6 of 10. It's about the size of my palm.

Skinny Cow Peanut Butter and Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich
Calories: 150
Taste: 7 of 10. I don't like these quite as much as the smart ones, but it's a little more economical (about $4.50 for a pack of six). Taste is a little more lo-fat and the outside sticks to your fingers, which is sort of gross.
Fill-up factor: 6 of 10. Just about as good as the other one.

Anybody have any other winners?

Friday, June 27, 2008

How NOT to behave at a wedding

When you have an open bar at your wedding, you are guaranteed at least one jackass, right?

Meet "Jackass" (sorry for the bad pic, best one I could get)



So, "Jackass" appeared about four hours into the reception, dancing up a storm on the dance floor, clearly wasted, jumping from woman to woman. I didn't REALLY notice how obnoxious he was until he took a cup of coffee on the dance floor, approached the bride and came thisclose to spilling it on her. I think I would have tackled him before that happened.

He sort of reminded me ... you know that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry gets stuck to a drunk British guy on the plane? And he makes him babysit his dog? That's EXACTLY how this guy sounded/acted.

So JA disappeared from the dance floor after a bit. Suddenly, there is a crowd by the pool -- like at a baseball game where a fight breaks out -- all of a sudden everyone is turning and rushing over there.

I get to the pool and see JA on the diving board ... in his boxers. I go to grab my camera, lift up my arm and ... uh, oh, no longer wearing the boxers. 

Let me get something straight. This wasn't an act of spontinaety. He didn't strip off all his clothes quickly and jump in the pool. This was a performance; a drunken, stupid performance. 

He waited on the diving board for at least 30 seconds, naked. I kept waiting for him to scream out "I AM A GOLDEN GOD!" Finally, he jumped in the pool.


Yup, that's the best picture I got.

He waded in there for a while, before getting out, and with no shyness, drying off. Then he put his clothes back on and rejoined the party.

I ran over to my cousin, brother of the bride and said, "WHO IS THAT GUY?!?!"

His answer? "The former mayor of Block Island."

Golden God, indeed.

****
Many people would want to know how the bride reacted. The truth is she took it in stride, despite the fact that not only was this guy the former mayor of Block Island, he was also her current boss. Yep. 


What? No!

Click here for the rest of Editor and Publisher's item in today's "News of the Blatantly Obvious."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Wedding review

I hope that title doesn't sound like it's going to be critical. But with three weddings to attend in the upcoming year, you can bet that I will be carefully observing what works and what doesn't. 

First up was my cousin Lisa's wedding. What a fabulous location -- Block Island in her parents back yard. Totally jealous. Block Island is absolutely gorgeous and yesterday was no exception. She had a tent set up, and hung Chinese lanterns and lights on the inside. It was really nice looking and I loved the color scheme.



Here are the centerpieces: We laid down green table runners (she bought them at target) on the white table cloths. Then we had some moss pieces laid down, with a bowl of water and stones in it. Then we put in gerber daisies (?) down with them stems cut off. Around the bowl we put small votives -- but the "candles" were electric. I think the finished product looked great -- bright and full of color. In hindsight, having put these together, I think moss is a difficult choice, because it's like ripping up a piece of earth, it crumbled everywhere and was hard to get off the tablecloth. Also, I think the electric votives were a little too dim to shine in the daylight. But it really looked nice on the table.



Another touch she had that I loved: her guestbook. I believe she made it herself (the bride is an artist) and it was just blank white pages. She had crayons and colored pencils out so people could draw and write. Below is what my grandfather drew:



Her bouquet is almost exactly what I want. A callalilly arrangement in a bright color.



The bride and the groom were both casually dressed. The bride was in a white-halter top dress from J Crew. The groom was in a tan shirt with a white casual button down and sandals. They also wrote and read their own vows, which were funny and sweet. Tears!



The food. Ah, the food. The food was freaking fantastic. Bravo to my cousin for choosing to have a "cocktail reception" which is basically the same as any other wedding reception, but it's heavy appetizers and no sit down meal. She had everyone show up 1/2 hour before the ceremony to drink wine, beer or margaritas. Then the ceremony, then the food started right away. Here is a list of what she had (at least what I can remember): 

Stationary display: Sushi including tuna and california rolls. Cheese and cracker grand display, with rolls, sausages, etc. HUGE shrimp and cocktail sauce. 

Passed apps: Sliders: beef (hambuger), portabella mushroom, crabcake. Lobster rolls. Scallops and bacon. Antipasto skewer. Beef on toast with horseradish sauce. Brie and cherries. Beef wellington. Lamb chops. 

It was so much food. For anyone who was thinking of doing this, go for it. Please. It missed a little bit of the formality of a sit-down dinner, of course, but I think that was the point for my cousin. It was PLENTY of food and I did not feel gypped. In fact, I wish I could go back and set my plan of attack different. Hehe. I never knew if that was "it" for appetizers so I kept going back for seconds, then something new and fabulous would round the corner. I was so full by the end.

The cake: I didn't eat it, but it was so cute. (Those are doves at the top)

DSC01769

The favors were great -- a CD made from the bride and groom. Jeff wants to steal this idea :)

The bathrooms were port-a-pottys, but I chose to go into the house (hey I'm family!). The DJ was good, played a whole oldies/classic rock mix at the beginning of the night before switching to more current stuff.

Another touch I loved: some people "choreograph" the first dance. The bride did that, but instead she did it with the father daughter dance. Made a touching moment even more touching.

Overall, I don't have anything much negative to say. I think the drinking got a little out of control by the end of the night -- capped off with the bride's 65-year-old boss stripping naked and jumping in the pool, but I guess that's to be expected when there is a six-hour open bar. Plus it made a great story which I'll detail above. But here is my favorite pic of me and Jeff from the night.




Monday, June 23, 2008

Pics of Ceremony/Wedding venue :)

Went down to Newport this weekend to check out the venue. It was a much nicer time than our first visit because it was SUNNY and they were setting up for another wedding so we got an idea of what it might look like in there with tables and such.

The only major worry I have right now is the amount of wind there was whipping around. It might make it hard for people to hear at the ceremony. Also I can't help but worry about sand getting in my contact and me having to leave my ceremony to wash out my eye, mascara streaming down my face. OK, now I'm really worried.



This is the carousel that sits right next to the venue. Cheesy, maybe. But I think it's a cute idea.

This is the area right next to the carousel ... aka the cocktail hour site. I think it's great because there is water on both sides. Should be a good mingling point!

This is the inside of the venue with the chairs and tables set up.


And this is it with the tables not set up. It's pretty big in there with nice hardwood floors and high ceilings. Soooo happy with the floor -- don't mean to dis anyone else, but I hate ugly reception carpet that plagues 99% of the carpeted venues. This is much nicer, no?


The look from inside the venue looking out onto the beach. 


This is the ceremony site. I took this picture the day it was rainy, so it obviously doesn't look that nice. It looks right onto the water. It's not a totally ideal place, but I think done up right, it should be pretty fantastical.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Brain. Hurts.




With my mom coming up from South Carolina for my cousin Lisa's wedding this week (mini Block Island vaca in the middle of the week -- fanx!), I thought it would be a good weekend to get her together with Jeff's parents and have a mini wedding orientation. 

Wedding orientation to include: 1. Meeting with the caterer, 2. Trip to venue so Jeff's parents could see it; 3. Scout some possible rehearsal dinner sites and 4. check out nearby hotels for rates and room blocks.

First was the caterer -- Fine Catering by Russell Morin gets fabulous reviews on all the wedding message boards I frequent as well as by word of mouth mentions. I contacted them a few weeks ago, and they were fantastic in getting back to me, presenting me with a menu with some really outstanding choices, and writing up a proposal for me.

We got there a little bit before our appointment and were taken care of by Chris -- by taken care of I mean ice water and a beautifully presented plate of pastries (big points!) He also showed us some different china patters (China again?) and table cloths. I started to get a headache as my mom kept oooooohhhing and ahhhhing. Meanwhile I'm thinking, great, but the plain china they include is fine and so is the plain tablecloths. Everything else is $$$$$.

That was sort of the theme of the afternoon. The catering/food portion of the wedding is where you could really go over budget if you don't reign yourself in a little. Sure it would be nice to have a dessert buffet, in addition to cake. It would be great to have a raw bar, signature cocktails, stationary appetizer stations, a four course meal, top shelf liquor and wine service during dinner (for those keeping track, you won't see much of this at our wedding.) I'm sure the guests would LOVE that. But I do not have unlimited funds, and I am trying to get the absolute best for the absolute least.

That sort of started with picking this caterer in the first place. I knew, at the very least, the food would be good. Beyond that, this is what we have in mind (and so far fits in the budget):

Pre- Ceremony: The company will have 'butlers' passing out sparkling water and lemonade. I'm pretty psyched to learn about this 'perk' because it will be a hot day and the ceremony is outside. I'm hoping guests appreciate this.

Post-Ceremony/Cocktail hour: During the cocktail hour (in addition to a spinning carousel) there will be 5 passed appetizers. Here are some that we liked that I have to narrow down (Please, my loyal readers, give your opinions in the comments): 

Shrimp Shots -- Iced Gulf Shrimp served cocktail style in an individual glass with a variety of sauces to include chili mojo sauce, herbed remoulade and a tangy traditional cocktail sauce. Allie, my coordinator at Russell Morin's said this one is usually a big hit and looks really cool.

Coconut Shrimp: Jumbo Gulf Shrimp encrusted with Coconut and topped with Apricot Horseradish Sauce

Lobster tartlet: Fresh Maine Lobster and French Brie with Saffron Sauce

Haute Club Sandwich: Smoked Salmon, Cucumber Herb Mousse and caramelized Shallots on a miniature Club Sandwich

Duck Toast: Warm Smoked Duck on Toasted Cheese and Brioche Bread with Aged Gouda Mission Figs and Fig Aioli

Mini Chops: Succulent mini lamp chops with a tangy fresh raspberry cabernet sauce or a tangy, green apple, sour orange compote

Crab Bruschetta: A toasted triangle of Asagio Bread topped with a crab mousse with Asparagus Vinaigrette and Homemade tartar sauce

Chesapeake Bay Crab Tower: Traditional Maryland Crab Cakes topped with Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette with Micro Greens

New Age Beef Wellington: Grilled Tenderloin with Boursin Cheese and Merlot Demi Glaze -- another one our coordinator said was a hit

Bacon Wrapped Scallops -- self explanitory.

OK so that's less than a third of the options -- and I have to pick five. Argh. Gonna be really hard.

Also during cocktail hour we'll have passed drinks -- Margaritas to be exact! Everyone who knows me knows I love margaritas and the company is throwing this in as an incentive because we booked early!

Reception: We have things a little more ironed out for the reception food. First we are going to have a gourmet pizza station! Since the theme of our wedding is fun and beachy, and Jeff and I both love pizza, we thought this was a really great idea.

We get to pick three pizzas and here are the three we think we will go with:

Mexicali Pizza -- Refried Beans, Chunky Salsa, Shredded Sonoma Jack Cheese, Scallions, Lettuce, Jalapeno, Sour Cream and Shredded Beef fajita. I love mexican!

Athenian Pizza -- Diced Vine Ripe Tomatoes, Fresh Baby Spinach, Creamy Feta, Kalmata Olives, Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Banana Peppers. I love Greek! (PS -- also a vegetarian option that I hope my vegetarians will like!)

And the grand mama -- 
BUFFALO CHICKEN PIZZA! Nuff said.

But no, that's not all. We will also have another station and this is the one we think we are going with: 

Tuscan Grill Station: Bistecca alla Florentina (Marinated Herb Bistro Steak slices grilled and served over wilted spinach), Gamberoni alla Siciliana (Grilled Shrimp skewers laced with marsala, current caper tomato sauce served over soft asagio polenta). This station will also have grilled vegetables.

Bar: So we're having an open bar. We're not going with the super, tricked out awesome open bar. It's more the "it's free booze, drink it and shut it about no fancy liquors" open bar. We'll have three kinds of beer, some wine choices and all your basic liquors. I think this will be just fine for everyone.

DESSERT! You know I couldn't just serve cake. Pleaz. After toying with the idea of a chocolate fountain, I saw this option on the caterers menu: A coldstone creamery bar! This. Sounds. Awesome.

*******
So at the end of the meeting, Jeff's mom just said, 'This seems like a lot of food.' I agree with her, but I prefer to look at it as a lot of options for people. It is a little overwhelming, but I really wanted the food to be good at the wedding. And I think it will be! I can't wait for my tasting!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Leggo my EGO

This article is pretty f-in relevant to my life right now. It breaks down the catastrophic feud between newspaper sports writers and the emergence of sports bloggers. What I think the article fails to mention is:

1. The overwhelming ego of certain sportswriters. I say certain, but it's really a certain majority. Believe me, I've seen them. They know that they are doing what millions of people would think is "awesome" but they act cavalier about it, pretending it's more of a bother to them, that the athletes aren't nearly as fun when you actually meet them. They hold onto the inside, sometimes unflattering info they gather on these athletes like pirates booty, spilling it out at cocktail parties... just a way of ripping down the people they cover.

As you can tell, I don't understand this. Why are so many sportswriters so unbelievably grumpy and if they hate their jobs so much, why are they still doing it when so many would love to take their place? I still don't know the answer to this. 

2. Why is it so hard to compare good blogs against bad blogs? Is this so different from comparing good newspapers to bad? I don't think so. If we say somewhere about 15% of the newspapers out there are actually trustworthy, I'd argue the same thing about blogs. There are blogs that don't pretend to be news sources, so why are we acting like they are? 

There's a jealousy of this kind of freedom of expression in blogs. Newspaper writers don't get that. They mask it as 'responsibility,' but isn't the responsibility on the reader to some extent determine what information to believe?

****
This argument boils down to ego vs. jealousy, mixed in with a whole lot of misunderstanding. When I was down at the blog summit yesterday, ESPN.com executive editor Rob King had some very interesting things to say about the purpose of the blog and where he saw it fitting into the greater journalism field. He said a few off the record things, but his main message wasn't about this blog, or any blog bringing down journalism, signaling the end. It was quite the opposite. 

Why are we always so against change?

****
With all this being said, I can't really understand the hostility that lives on the internet. This whole living behind an avatar lifestyle that some people spend hours cultivating. I've never had the urge to scream at someone I don't know across the internet. How immature. That is one thing I hope will fizzle and die.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The sum of all blogs

Just got back from the ESPN Blog Summit in Bristol, Connecticut and I have one thing to say ...

SWAG!



Yes, those are sparkles spelled out to say ESPN. And no, the male bloggers/editors did not get an identical one. But that's not all!


Go deep! (Actual football not pictured, actual mousepad appears above.)

Anywhoo... I had a great time. I'm sure the ID picture they have of me has a perpetual "Happy to be here!" face that I was displaying the whole time I was there -- tempered only by an untimely cold that made most of the speeches I hear resemble Charlie Brown and my voice sound like Barry White.

I met all the bloggers and editors and they are all fantastically talented people I can't wait to work with. I've started already, editing the Hashmarks blog, and generally trying to not screw anything up royally (so far, so good). 

ESPN has big things planned for this blog, and I think it's going to be widely successful at giving people a kind of coverage they won't find anywhere else. It feels good to be part of what the executive editor called "the biggest single initiative in ESPN.com history." I'm psyched I'm not just a copy editor, checking for grammar and spelling, but also giving direction on coverage.

I know I'm gushing a bit -- but I honestly feel like my life is exceeding expectations right now. I don't feel like it's perfect by any means, but it's pretty damn good. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Brian Scalabrine -- MVP of Trash Talk



This video is hilarious on so many levels. First of all -- who stuck around for the Brian Scalabrine press conference? Was this at 4 a.m.? Was this even at the Garden, or did Scalabrine set this up at his house? 

Secondly, the trash talk is priceless, but the "we's" he dropped were even better. We this, we that. Hey, I'm all for sticking with the team philosophy through injury, but dude, "we" didn't need "you" to win this championship.

Thirdly, who was this guy who interviewed him? Was he a janitor? I'm 99% sure the audience for this press conference was made up of Garden staff, a member of Scalabrine's family who ran the camera, a reporter from the Hull Gazette, and five other guys who he paid to laugh at his jokes.

Fantastic.

What the hell?

First Simmons, now Deadspin ... rippin' me off! ;)


Game 6 Predictions: Revisited


So with a drubbing that NO ONE saw coming in the books -- how did my predictions fare? Hey, anything's possible!

Prediction: Paul Pierce drops a 32/8/5. Garnett a 15/10. Ray Allen a 25/8.
Actuality: Paul Pierce 17/3/10. Garnett 26/14. Allen 26/4. Well. All series, all playoffs long we've been watching one member of the Big 3 step up in every game, and combined with another hot shot performance from a role player, we were able to pull it out. Well, when the Big 3 ALL step up and score a combined 69 points? Yeah, we win by almost 40. It was late in coming, an absolutely spot-on performance by everyone on the team, but can you think of a better time?

Prediction: Kobe is the game's leading scorer with 38 points, 30 of them in the second half.
Actuality: Kobe, actually only the third leading scorer, scoring a team-high 22 points on 7-22 shooting. This is the first of many predictions I'm not ashamed to be wrong about. In fact, I was pretty much completely wrong, with half of Kobe's points (11) coming in the first quarter, where he was draining threes overtop outstretched hands and Celtics nation was nerrrrrrrrrvous. Those three threes he hit in the first frame were the only threes he would hit all game.

Prediction: The Lakers will shoot under 80% at the free throw line.
Actuality: Well, I was right about this one, but it didn't have the kind of consequences I thought it would when I wrote it. The Lakers shot a shade under 74% for the game on 28-38 shooting. Didn't matter if they went 100%. It wasn't a factor last night.

Prediction: Mike Breen says "hard foul" 14 times, with none of those actually being a hard foul.
Actuality: Just one. Not bad, Mikey, not bad.

Prediction: Posey comes up big again -- let's say four threes.
Actuality: I supposeeee, James Posey! Posey did come up big again, but his biggest impact wasn't on offense despite the fact that he shot 4-for-4 from the field (and 3-for-3 from downtown). The way Posey played Kobe when Allen was out of the game, and beyond that, was a MAJOR factor in the win. Kobe never got in a rhythm and the hapless Lakers followed suit. It was genius defense and fun to watch. He should release a cheesy instructional video." James Posey: How to Play Defense Like the Pros."

Prediction: I will confuse Ray Allen and Sam Cassell (by looks from afar only) for the 500th time this season.
Actuality: Sam Cassell = DNP. Thank goodness. He was the only Celtic not to see playing time. He stayed on the sidelines, with the towel, and that's all I needed.

Prediction: PJ Brown throws down 1 dunk, and three fouls in four minutes.
Actuality: As much as I would have liked to see the old man throw another one down, it didn't happen. Six points, four fouls. He wasn't a force in this game, but he wasn't a liability. Turned out to be a pretty decent pickup didn't he?


Prediction: Sasha Vujacic fouls out and openly cries on the bench.
Actuality: Wouldn't you have loved to see this? Instead the Lakers as a team openly wet themselves on the court. It's the first time they played as a team. Together in Epic Faildome -- The Story of the 2008 Shaq-less, Kobe-full Lakers. (I dedicate this scary picture to the rightto the 2008 Lakers)

Prediction: Van Gundy moves from calling Doc Rivers 'brilliant' to openly questioning his line-up switches 5 times.
Actuality: You can't criticize Doc Rivers Finals performance. I'm the kind of sports fan where I can cut you some slack if you got us here and laid an egg in the playoffs (KG -- for the most part) and also if you laid an egg all season but showed up for the playoffs (Doc Rivers). Great job, Doc.

Prediction: Having rotated through all the other pastels, Michelle Tafoya wears a light yellow pantsuit.
Actuality: My most disappointing miss of the night -- dark blue. Poor Michelle Tafoya -- I uttered that phrase no less than 100 times this playoffs. Just watching her, stretching her mic to catch all of KG's insane rambling, you have to respect her a little. It's not an easy job to be good at something so pointless and so thankless, but she's one of the best at it.

Prediction: Mark Jackson says "You talk about..." for the millionth time, causing me to bitch about it for the millionth time.
Actuality: You talk about this tired cliche... Well, he didn't. Or maybe I was too excited all game to care.

Prediction: The ratio of Kobe Bryant smiles and winks to Kobe Bryant scowls and yelling at teammates shown on tv will be 100:1. The actuality will be 1:100.
Actuality: You couldn't hide the Kobe scowls tonight. Especially in the press conference. Kobe just showed how unlikeable he really is.

Prediction: Tony Allen will see no playing time. Good Lord, please.
Actuality: Any time Tony Allen wants to enter the game, lay down a thunderous dunk, and exit gracefully without signaling an epic collapse -- he can.

Prediction: Derek Fisher will be the only Laker who won't be ashamed of himself after the game is over.
Actuality: This was a complete swing and a miss. Fisher had been the player throughout the Finals for the Lakers that I thought handled himself with any pride or dignity. But he was as stone silent as the rest of the Lakers last night, scoring just 7 points, and racking up 5 fouls.

Prediction: The refs will cast a shadow of doubt on whoever wins this game.
Actuality: How glad are we all that this prediction was completely wrong? After the negative luster the refs had laid on every finals game before last night, they "Let them play" last night -- 38 FTA for the Lakers, 37 for the Celtics. Not perfect, but good enough.

Prediction: The Celtics win 108-100.
Actuality: Hahaha. HAHAHAHAHA. Hahaha. Ahhh.... not so much. The CBS scoretracker couldn't even handle the score -- it topped out midway through the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Paul Pierce is named Finals MVP.
Actuality: Obviously not much of a stretch on my part to make this prediction. Even with an average performance (for his Finals standards) Pierce was a shoo-in. Obviously, not a stretch to say I am thrilled with this outcome. I'm thrilled that Pierce got a lot of "mea culpa" from the media for overlooking his potential in the past. I'm thrilled with the way he handled himself among it all, staying humble with a childlike wonderment and enthusiasm through the upswing. He deserves this win more than anyone on the Celtics -- here's hoping he can get one more.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Count it.

17 Predictions for tonight's game:

1. Paul Pierce drops a 32/8/5. Garnett a 15/10. Ray Allen a 25/8.

2. Kobe is the game's leading scorer with 38 points, 30 of them in the second half.

3. The Lakers shoot under 80% at the free throw line.

4. Mike Breen says "hard foul" 14 times, with none of those actually being a hard foul.

5. Posey comes up big again -- let's say four three's.

6. I will confuse Ray Allen and Sam Cassell (by looks from afar only) for the 500th time this season.

7. PJ Brown throws down 1 dunk, and three fouls in four minutes.

8. Sasha Vujacic fouls out and openly cries on the bench.

9. Van Gundy moves from calling Doc Rivers 'brilliant' to openly questioning his line-up switches 5 times.

10. Having rotated through all the other pastels, Michelle Tafoya wears a light yellow pantsuit.

11. Mark Jackson says "You talk about..." for the millionth time, causing me to bitch about it for the millionth time.

12. The ratio of Kobe Bryant smiles and winks to Kobe Bryant scowls and yelling at teammates shown on tv will be 100:1. The actuality will be 1:100.

13. Tony Allen will see no playing time. Good Lord, please.

14. Derek Fisher will be the only Laker who won't be ashamed of himself after the game is over.

15. The refs will cast a shadow of doubt on whoever wins this game.

16. The Celtics win 108-100.

17. Paul Pierce is named Finals MVP.

Monday, June 16, 2008

:)

Check out Jeff's New York Yankees blog -- http://nyyankeesnews.blogspot.com/ -- he's been working really, really hard on it and even got some interviews with actual minor leaguers.

I know most of my friends aren't Yankees friends (me neither), but go ahead and check it out anyway!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Six sports media happenings that must end. Now.

6. It needs to end:  Any mention/reference/allusion, etc. to Jessica Simpson and her impact on any sporting event that doesn't include a wet t-shirt or some sort of competitive eating contest. Jessica Simpson has nothing to do with why your team sucks, no more than Tony Romo is to blame for 'The Dukes of Hazard.' Let it go 'boys fans.

5. They need to go: More than two people calling a game. It was a tried and true tradition for decades: the play-by-play guy and the color commentator. Now the trend is to have the above two... and a recently retired player who has no grasp on the English language. (Oh hai Eric Young!) Commentators are supposed to be informative, but unobtrusive. They aren't supposed to saturate us with their ever-changing opinions on the game, their completely off-topic trains of thoughts, or their comments on current events -- sports related or not (I'm looking at you Joe Morgan). Stick to the game, thnx.

4. Stop it, please: Trying to make Kobe Bryant look like a nice guy. In Game 5, I watched ABC cut away from Kobe clearly about to go off on a teammate to...  two minutes later showing him winking at the camera (or his cheerleader girlfriend?) and kissing his daughters on the way down the tunnel. You ain't foolin' me.

3. He has to stop: Mike Ditka talking about anything but his ED. (for comic purposes.) He is no doubt the WORST panelist ever drudged up from the sports relics society and placed on a swivel chair. The man has never completed a sentence ... ever. Sometimes, they just have to cut away from him to Keyshawn Johnson while Chris Berman and Tom Jackson look on in abject horror. How was this man ever a successful coach? I can imagine him in the huddle, "You're gonna want to get back on .. well, I mean the offense needs to be .... you're not taking into account the receivers ability to ... huddle up and make sure ... get back in the game." This guy is the Paula Abdul of sports talking heads.


2. It needs to end: In-game interviews of coaches/players. I cringe every time they're on. They are without a doubt the most worthless interviews ever. Take the NBA playoffs -- poor Michelle Tafoya. I don't envy her in the least bit. She has to interview either players/coaches who A.) are down in the game and royally pissed off (hint: not very condusive to a great interview) or B.) hitting on her. So either way she's dodging dripping sweat or unprofessional come-ons. I don't think we even have to mention Suzy Kolber here ... (Funny aside about that: I was watching that Jets game with Jeff's dad. When Namath started speaking, Jeff's dad said, "Did he have a stroke? He must have had a stroke" Um, no Mr. S. Just a drunken perv.)

But that's not even the main reason I don't like them. I'm not a sports purist or anything, but I just feel like they take away from the joy of being a spectator. Feeling like the players/coaches are "aware" of the media during a game just reeks. It's not necessary, it's uncomfortable for the interviewer, the interviewee and the viewer at home. 

1. I have to stop hearing this: This whole 'You talk about..." trend. This has become a mandatory phrase/sentence starter for about a year now and it's driving me mad. Starting a sentence with 'You talk about...." has, many times, nothing to do with what they are talking about. It's a completely inane catchphrase along the lines of 'You know what I'm sayin?' It often precedes a completely stupefying train of thought, becomes a terrible transition catch-all or starts a line of conversation, ironically, no one, no where, has ever been talking about. Such as: "You talk about back-up Celtics point guards with heads like aliens ..." "You talk about Kobe Bryant's favorite sex position..."

***
I'm pretty sure I'll have many addendums to this post over the coming years. But that's all I can think of for now.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Registry Offender

OK. So apparently, I'm supposed to register for fine china. (My guy friends are confused already.) I say, "supposed to" but that really translates to "that's what my mom says." She says, "You'll be glad you have it." She says, "You'll need it for special occasions." She says, "It's one of those things you'll never want to save for to buy yourself." Hmmm ... she's probably right there. 

I have one of those mothers whose opinion can take me from, "definitely not" to "well... maybe she's right" over the course of a few weeks. What can I say?

My first opinion on china was, "Don't need it. Don't want it. Don't want to make people buy it for me." I mean, if I'm going to make people buy something that is obnoxious, ridiculously expensive and hoity toity, then I'll just register for some sort of gold plated LCD flatscreen TV.

Let's back up a second. First of all, I don't even know what china is. I don't know how it's different from regular plates. They're supposed to be fancier, for special occasions, but how many of those do I really have in my life? And how many people that I know will appreciate that kind of thing? And tell me again why I can't just get regular plates?

Oh wait ... I'm supposed to get those too.

Did I mention china is really expensive? Like $50 for a tea cup expensive. (Nevermind that when I suggested we register for both a tea kettle and a coffee pot, Jeff nixed it.) 

Now I know you're saying, "Don't get china then." Well .... I guess it's supposed to be a relic of your wedding right? I thought, "Let's go to Macy's, see if we like anything."

I don't want to go as far as to say it was a "mistake" to bring Jeff, but ... he didn't really put a lot of thought into the china question. We settled on a possible pattern (he said definitively, 'I like this one') and continued to wander around the department. We wandered back, "I don't like that one so much anymore. It's kind of ugly from far away."

Sigh.

Hey Jeff, if you can't like this china for more than five minutes, you're probably not going to like it in 30 years. So I pointed out another pattern -- 


It's Wedgwood Lustreware Blue Fin Dinnerware. It's probably what we're going to go with. I like it because it doesn't have a lame ass swirly pattern on it, but it's still classy and nice. 

Anyways, we decided not to go with anything today. Going to register is pretty overwhelming ... I want to make sure I register for stuff I really want and not just make people buy a bunch of crap I won't ever use. But I can see how it's easy to just take that scanner thing and go nuts on the store. I can see how it's tempting to buy a quesadilla press and a deep fryer and a table runner and a bunch of other things that probably won't transform me into the domestic goddess Jeff is hoping for. You could easily register for twice as much as you need and the fact of the matter is, I'm not having that big of a wedding.