…Continued from the previous post.
As enjoyable as watching opening round coverage of the NCAA Tournament is, Kels and I had no remorse about leaving March Madness behind in Scottsdale’s Fox Sports Grill at 3:45 PM for the 7:05 PM first pitch that would begin Event #100 – a Spring Training game between the Los Angeles Angels and the San Francisco Giants. After all, we had almost ten miles to travel.
Twenty minutes later we pulled into a free parking lot adjacent to Scottsdale Stadium – an absolute gem of an old-fashioned downtown ballpark. And we were by no means alone in our eagerness. It would be another 45 minutes until the gates would even open, but already there were hundreds of people milling around, even though all 11,622 tickets had long since been sold. These people, like us, just wanted to get inside and drink up the atmosphere as soon as possible.
Ask any sports fan when Spring really begins and they’ll reply without hesitation: The day that pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. No matter where you live, from the snowiest of Frost Belt towns to the warmest Sun Belt city, the day that baseball’s pre-season camps open is always the most reliable harbinger of hope. And what is Spring anyway, if not the Official Sponsor of Hope?
When Spring Training begins, every team is a potential World Series champ. Yes, even the Pittsburgh Pirates! OK, that’s patently ridiculous, but see how easily the concept can sweep you away?
With that in mind, what better place to end my journey than at the home office of Renewal?
Of course I’m not talking about the MVC, the WCC, or the MAAC – or any of those conferences for which there is but one invitation to The Big Dance. These tournaments mean everything –perhaps too much, as a team that dominates its conference during regular season play can have one bad night and see its season go down the drain. Certainly there is drama of the highest kind in the alphabet soup conferences.
No, I’m talking here about the glamour conferences. The ones that dominate media coverage of college basketball. The ones that are amateur in name only. The home of “one and done” players putting in their time before heading to the NBA. The Big East, the Big Ten, the ACC. These conferences have traditionally sent at least four teams to the NCAA tournament each year, and as they’ve grown in size by engulfing major media market teams from smaller conferences, they’ve gained even more at-large bids.
One could argue that the drama for these conference tournaments has been usurped; pretty much every team with a decent record is going to the NCAAs. When you really get down to it, you could actually make the case that winning one of these tournaments is detrimental to a team’s chances for March Madness success. For example, no Big East team has won the NCAA title since the conference expanded to 16 teams and instituted a conference tournament that brings to mind the Bataan Death March. Coincidence?
I do not bring this up merely to watch myself type. I had a decision to make.
It was the end of an era. Assuming of course, that a time span of just over three months qualifies as an “era”.
On this day, the U.S. Synchronized Team Skating Championships would proudly round out the winter sports portion of the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour.
I have to admit that, once actually onsite I’ve enjoyed each and every one of my Ice & Snow events. It was the process of getting to each venue that provided a steady stream of…how do I put this…“opportunities to exhibit problem-solving skills”. Yeah, that’s it – opportunities. Two feet of opportunity one day. Negative 29 wind-chilled degrees of opportunity the next.
So I reveled in the irony that the last Ice & Snow event would take place in the winter wonderland of Ontario. Ontario, California, that is, with its 80 degrees of sunshine bathing at least the outer confines of Citizens Business Bank Arena. Granted, it felt a little odd wearing two layers of clothing (and carrying a third) as I crossed the parking lot, but at least I could be sure that here the ice and chill would be confined to the arena.
“Excuse me sir, but before I can let you in, I need to know that you possess the multi-tasking capacity necessary to fully assimilate this meet.”
Then again, I’m glad they don’t test. Because based upon my early performance at the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships, I would flunk.
Walking in the door at the Albuquerque Convention Center, I was reminded of opening weekend of the fantasy football season, when each year without fail, I would freeze immediately upon entering my local sports bar – and then meander around aimlessly in search of the ideal seat for simultaneous viewing of every game in which one of “my guys” was playing. An aerial shot of me would look like one of those Family Circus cartoons with the big dotted line showing where Jeffy or P.J. had scampered off to that day, bless their annoying little hearts.
Click and Clack won’t take my calls on their Car Talk radio show. They think my lack of mechanical know-how has to be an act. Nobody knows that little about cars.
When I was growing up, my Dad introduced me to two of his passions: sports and engines. Guess which one stuck.
Of course there’s always been an intersection of the two, and motor sports have been wildly popular ever since the first guy said to his buddy, “I’ll bet my Model T can get to the end of that road faster than yours.” But until the advent of the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour, I had never really ventured outside of the stick and ball world to check it out.
…Continued from the previous post.
Wait, hold that thought…OK, it’s Japan that’s the premiere team. I mean, Guyana never had a chance to…
Hang on, hang on. Wow! Canada is really putting the hammer down on poor France. These guys are pretty much unbeatable…except by Scotland, who seemed not to have much trouble doing so. Or was that Wales? But didn’t they lose to Kenya? Who lost to New Zealand…and England?
Welcome to the IRB Rugby World Series, and its USA Sevens tournament, in sun-drenched Las Vegas. To become that confused about what countries rule the world of rugby sevens, you’d think I would had to have seen a lot of teams play. And I had.
I mean, I’d been there for over an hour.
But I never contemplated the chances of being victimized by crime. Yet there I was, being robbed. In broad daylight, no less.
She didn’t fit the profile – they never do. She couldn’t have been more than 25 years old. Pleasant-looking. A little on the slight side. I don’t know how tall she was, because she was sitting down at the time. I never saw it coming.
While I’ve had a few years to familiarize myself with the more obvious differences in the sexes, I had to admit that I’d never considered the question in the context of ice hockey. So when presented with the perfect opportunity to come up to speed on that topic, I jumped on it.
I had spent the previous night at a sold-out TD Garden, home of the tradition-laden Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics…and a pretty popular 59-year-old college hockey get-together they call the Beanpot.
On this night I was headed to Conte Forum, on the campus of Boston College, where I would experience that event’s little sister – the 33rd annual Women’s Beanpot.
It’s called the Beanpawt, and it’s held every February at The Gahden. As in “Oh my Gawd, I’m goin’ ovah to The Gahden for the Beanpawt!”
The alert reader will of course recognize that the sporting event du jour takes place in Boston, home of the hypnotic, syrupy sweet accent popularized by postman extraordinaire Cliff Clavin.
I had not been to the Gahden since it was the Boston Garden, i.e. before it became headlined by a series of financial services companies. To get there back in those days, you simply took either the Green or Orange line to North Station and then followed the rats.
If you were attending a game at that time, it was tremendously helpful if you were a “people person”, since you and your fellow fans were all going to be squeezing into seats that conformed to the size of the average Bostonian – the 1928 version. And of course you hoped like hell that it wasn’t an overly warm day, because there was no air conditioning in the building.
People loved this place. No, really – they did.