…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?
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.
The alert reader may wonder why, given that when the thermometer displays 10 degrees, the description of the weather is never just “cold” – there’s always an adjective in front of it.
My motivation was simple: At the time it was 0 degrees, and I was going to be spending the bulk of the next day outdoors at the Winter Dew Tour’s Killington, Vermont stop. By comparison, 10 degrees would be a huge improvement. At 10, we’d be talking “excruciatingly painful” as opposed to the “potentially rushed to the hospital” I normally associate with 0.
I really needn’t have worried though. I had the Ski Diva on my side.
The Ski Diva started out as a self-professed Ski Chick, but her years of working in the ski business have undoubtedly earned her a promotion. And for her efforts on my behalf she’s now up for Ski Sainthood (assuming there is such a designation).
In preparation for the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Winter Swing, she had given me a checklist of clothing articles that I needed to think seriously about bringing along. None of which I actually owned, of course.
Like most everybody else, I have only the vaguest of notions of what Hell is like. The whole fire and brimstone thing never actually clicked with me – hey, if it’s warm it can’t be all bad. No, my vision of Hell involves mostly images of cold and dark. And reality television. I’m guessing that Keeping Up With The Kardashians is broadcast 24/7 there.
The reason I bring this up is because the end result of my recent trip to the Bob Hope Classic is a guaranteed reservation in Hades. You see, I snuck a Flip Videocam into a PGA Tour event. And used it. Here is the damning evidence…
To enjoy golf in January in the desert, you have to acquire a taste for sunshine, zero humidity and temperatures in the upper 70’s. It’s not too bad, if you like that sort of thing. As luck would have it, I do – but that was not the motivating factor in including the Classic on the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour schedule. I was actually there to see a celebrity.
Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, CA is perfectly suited for a small-market location. Somewhere between “serviceable” and “deluxe”, it is big and gleaming enough to inspire civic pride, yet modest enough to operate profitably.
There are some flashes of big-time amenities, such as the Cross Bar, where for the price of a mere two-drink minimum (on top of your regular ticket price) you can while away the game at a cocktail table overlooking one of the goals. But in general, nothing is over the top or flashy. And clean? Crumbs don’t dare fall off hot dog buns here. And if they did, somebody would be there to catch them before they hit the floor.
I was in search of an Official Program for the minor-league hockey game between the Ontario Reign and the Utah Grizzlies. I hadn’t seen any being hawked when I entered the arena, so I asked the usher stationed at the portal to my section where I might go to find one. He seemed genuinely concerned, and suggested I try the Main Entrance. Which I did…to no avail.
A customer service representative working there was also intent upon helping me, but he didn’t have an answer either. “Let’s try the souvenir stand,” he said, and off we went.
The search wound up involving about a half-dozen well-intentioned employees of Citizens Business Bank Arena, and eventually brought me all the way around the concourse – so I got a program AND a free guided tour. Very nice.
It’s all very simple. Knowing full well that The Bird would be riding shotgun, I was ornithologically required to choose an Anaheim Ducks game for the NHL portion of the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour schedule.
Come to think of it…“riding shotgun” is probably not the best phrase to use in a paragraph that includes Ducks and Birds. But I digress.
On paper, the game between Anaheim and the Chicago Blackhawks should have been a sell-out, given that the defending Stanley Cup champs have a strong contingent of ex-pat fans who brought their love of both warm weather and their former hometown team with them from Chicago. Moreover, the two teams are currently jostling for position for the final play-off spot in the Western Conference. And to top it all off, it was Free Hat Night, one of just six promotional games on the Duck’s schedule.
So when the game popped up as an opportunity on Goldstar.com (the absolute best discounted event access site in the Free World), I took it as a continuation of Christmas and accepted the thoughtful gift of half-price tickets.