Friday, December 31, 2010

We'll Take A Cup of Kindness Yet For Auld Lang Syne

Photo by: Me

After about a foot and a half of snow, flights being canceled, and a 21 hour drive from Brooklyn to Tampa, I am back home. The city of New York could have solved all of it's plowing/shoveling issues by getting all of the Floridians who are amazed by the snow to shovel it. Seriously. We couldn't get enough. Until our flight was canceled, then things were much less romanticized. I got plenty of sleep and am finally feeling more alert. On the drive back, I started writing a post comparing the sports fandoms of Boston and New York. But Auld Lang Syne is running through my head and I am thinking of the past year.

Frankly, I'm glad to see 2010 go. The new Lightning ownership and seeming resurgence of the franchise has been very welcome, but to see if they can keep it up and have success in the playoffs the calendar needs to change. In the meantime, I can revel in a thrashing of the Candiens to end 2010, Cedrick Desjardins' NHL debut and victory, and Steven Stamkos' 30th and 31st goals.

I had an interesting relationship with the Red Sox this year. Even as the injuries continued to pile up, they still found ways to win. In spite of all of the frustration with pitching and lacking guys like Pedroia or Youkilis in the line up, they were still competitive. Combine that with the sensational off season moves and the waiting for spring training is definitely the hardest part.

I'm excited and looking to the future. 2011 looks to be a good year, sports wise and for my personal life. And that's what I'll be thinking of when the clock chimes midnight this evening. Cheers and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas To All

Photo by: Me

Part of what makes the holidays unique is my annual trip to New York City to spend Christmas with my family there. If posts are light for the next few days, that's the reason why.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Public Service Announcement With Guitar

Before the 2008 elections and the artist Shepard Fairey became known for his Hope posters of President Obama, he made the above print of Joe Strummer back in 2002. I have one of those signed, numbers prints on the dresser in my bedroom. And I will pretty much never be convinced to sell it.

December is a bit of a melancholy month in spite of the hopeful Christmas music and all of the twinkling lights. I observe the passing of two of my musical heroes this month. John Lennon died on December 8th 1980. Joe Strummer died on December 22nd of 2002. Both made music that profoundly influenced my life and the way I view the world.

What does this have to do with sports? I'll tell you. I grew up in a family where there were two children, both girls. My father made sure to teach us about sports. Baseball, football, etc. Sports were a part of our lives. It wasn't until I got older and realized that not every girl had that same upbringing. That my passion for sports is sometimes even seen as an oddity. I never let that stop me. I love what I love without apology. My gender has absolutely no bearing on my capacity to enjoy the game. Because I grew up and into punk rock and rock & roll, rebellion has been embedded in my subconscious. And I have guys like John Lennon and Joe Strummer to thank for a lot of that.

Back to sports tomorrow. For now, I'll listen and be thankful.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

That Just Happened

Photo by Me

Back at the beginning of November, I wrote about how impressed I was with the Lightning and Steven Stamkos' play at that point in the young NHL season. Well, they have floored me again. I was at the Lightning's 5-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes last night and the milestones were flying all over the place. Teddy Purcell had his 13th point in 13 games. Vinny Lecavalier tallied his 750th career assist. Marty St. Louis passed Vinny to be come the franchise leader in game winning goals scored. These are all fantastic, but one milestone stands out a bit more.

At 16:26 in the second period, Steven Stamkos scored his 100th career goal. That statistic is impressive enough without anymore detail. But wait, there's more. Stamkos is only 20 years old. He has only played two and a half NHL seasons. He is now one of six players to reach that mark before his 21st birthday. Some of the other guys who have done it: Wayne Gretzky, Jimmy Carson, Brian Bellows, Ilya Kovalchuk. This kid keeps getting better.

I am really enjoying seeing what will happen next. The team is off to their best start in team history. There is some nagging doubt at the back of my mind. Like all masochistic sports fans, I can't just sit back and enjoy the good times. I have to worry about our goal tending inconsistencies. Mike Smith was just starting to get hot and he's out 2-3 weeks due to a knee injury sustained at yesterday's practice. Will he be able to pick up that momentum when he gets back? Yes, Dan Ellis did play his best game of the season last night. But can we really count on him for more of those performances? His teammates aren't always going to have an flurry of offense and score 5 goals. We have Cedrick Desjardins on the bench as a back up. I was very impressed with him during training camp, but he is untested in an NHL setting.

Then I go on and worry about what happens at the end of this season when Stamkos needs a new contract. I am very, very worried that the Lightning won't be able to hang on to them given their current contract restrictions with some players. I know there is nothing that one fan can do to change what is going to happen. I am just really enjoying this season. And I don't want that feeling to end anytime soon.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm All In For Life

Photo by: Linda Hamilton

I had big plans for today's post. I took my parents to the Lightning/ Buffalo game last night and we had a great time. We taught my mom about icing and offsides. The more Labatts that was enjoyed meant that icing and de-icing were confused a few times. We ended up closing down the bar, Shots, that is outside of the arena and got home around 1 am. So I'll keep things brief.

Congratulations to Steven Stamkos on his 25th goal of the season. It was an absolute beauty. I tried finding it on Youtube, but my tired fingers are having trouble spelling.

A good night and a good win. Good celebrating with good friends. This is one of the best parts about being a sports fan.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Road To the Winter Classic Episode 1

Brief update before I head off to sleep. Due to not having HBO and being at the Lightning/Thrashers game last night, I missed the debut of HBO's 24/7 Road to the Winter Classic. I got around to watching it tonight and have quite a few thoughts. And am actually surprised I enjoyed it so much.

I'm sure that I am like most hockey fans who are not Capitals or Penguins fans in that I'm kind of sick of the manufactured rivalry between those two clubs being hyped beyond belief. Going into the mini series, I fully expected it to be four weeks of following Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. I should have known better. HBO does a lot very well, especially when it comes to their sports documentaries. Sure Ovie and Sid were part of the show, but they weren't the whole show. We saw a team riding high on a win streak and another team struggling just to win games. We saw home games and road trips. Guys at home with their families, teams going on the road and hotel pranks.

One of the most interesting parts is hearing what the players and coaches say when they're on the bench or the ice. So many fans like to consider ourselves to be knowledgeable, but this kind of view behind the curtain is unprecedented.

The best part? HBO has made the game of hockey look FANTASTIC. The shots of skates being sharpened, sticks being taped, and the footage of the games being played. It is a feast for the eyes and I honestly can't wait until the episode. Whoever decided the NHL should be involved in this deserves a huge pat on the back. It is intriguing.

My only gripe is having to look at Sidney Crosby's straggly mustache until Christmas. That thing is just creepy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Can't Buy Me Love

Photo by: AP Photos

As a sports fan, it's really easy to get disillusioned by the high value contracts that are bandied around every off season. We saw a lot of that in hockey this past summer with Ilya Kovalchuk's 15 year, $100 Million dollar deal. It's something that is especially rampant in baseball since MLB hasn't organized a salary cap yet. And I don't see that happening any time soon. What you do frequently see is well known , talented players who say they will never leave a team they supposedly love when the highest bidder places the biggest stash on the table. I'm looking at you, Johnny Damon.

The biggest shock with baseball free agency was when former Texas Rangers' ace Cliff Lee did just the opposite. Before the World Series had even ended, I was telling my friends that it really bothered me that Lee would probably be wearing the dreaded pinstripes when spring training rolled around. Pretty much everyone figured he'd end up in the Bronx because they were really the only ones with the financial clout to entice him in. Hank Steinbrenner and crew offered out a 7 year deal valued at $150 million. The longer everyone waited to hear about the signing, the more it seemed inevitable.

Until the news broke last night as I was heading to bed. Cliff Lee is returning to the Philadelphia Phillies for a $120 million, five year contract. To me, that says a lot about his character. He left $30 million on the table to go back to play in a place he liked and where his family was happy. Not that his baseball career is going to suffer because of the move. Hell, if nothing else Philly now has arguably the best rotation in the league. But for once, money wasn't everything to a professional athlete. Don't get me wrong, he is still going to be insanely rich. But probably a lot happier.

I'm sure it wasn't the final deciding factor in Lee's signing, but I can't help but think about some news stories I read that came out after the Rangers were playing the Yankees in the Bronx during this year's ALCS. Where Yankees fans were rude, cursed, and even spat at Rangers players' wives in the stands. Maybe thing about this next time, jerks. Be nice. You never know what you could gain or lose.

Monday, December 13, 2010

There Is a Santa Claus

Photo by: Me

I've been blamed for the cool weather in Florida ever since I got back from Boston. Whatever the reason for the cold front, I am enjoying it and it is definitely putting me in the Christmas spirit.

So are the Belfast Giants of the UK's Elite Ice Hockey League:

Brilliant. NHL teams need to do this. I can totally cast a remake of this with Lightning players. My pick would have been on Victor Hedman to be the elf, but I don't know if he would mince around merrily enough. So, I think I have to give it to Mike Smith.

News just broke that the Yankees are out of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes and he is set to join the Phillies.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, Yankees! HAAAAAAAAAA! I am going to be laughing about this for days.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hello, My Name Is Awesome.

Photo by: Getty Images. Used without permission.

Even with all of the hot stove business, I've still been paying attention to the Lightning. It's not always easy. Believe me. After witnessing the 8-1 beat down in Boston on December 2nd, I was walking the streets near the Garden yelling about how much I hated my team. But, like any good masochist I am back for more.

I watched the first period of the game against Vancouver last night, but was tired and full of food and drinks from my mom's early birthday celebration. I saw Brett Clark's goal, wished them good luck, and went to sleep. My parents get the NHL Network in their cable package, so I sat through a bunch of NHL on the Fly replays before finally getting the highlights from the game. My immediate thought? Steven Stamkos definitely seems to have gotten out of that 7 game scoreless streak. A goal against Edmonton and two last night against Vancouver, most importantly being that #24 was the game winning goal in overtime. So, Stammer is awesome. There you go.

The main thing I wanted to write about was the shoot out loss to Edmonton on Friday night. The Lightning made a great come back in regulation to tie things up. The effort was definitely there. But they ended up coming off as sore losers. Linus Omark of the Oilers won the shootout on this goal:

In the post game press, both Mattias Ohlund and Ryan Malone were quoted as how they thought the spin move was "disrespectful" and "a joke". It was extra disrespectful because it was his first NHL game and he was already being a cocky young whippersnapper. Ok, maybe they didn't actually say that. But judging by the quotes, you could almost see them shaking their canes at the young upstart. I mean, heaven forbid a player do something different or show some personality. Seeing as how I am a fan of Jeremy Roenick, it's easy to see why I would come down on the side of personality.

I also find the verbal barbs pretty hypocritical given that Marty St. Louis has done something similar in shoot outs before. Not the full on spin-o-rama, but he definitely turns his back to the goalie. As seen here against Marc Andre Fleury from January of 2007:

A bit of an overreaction, probably stemming from the frustration that Khabibulin was showing flashes of the brilliance he showed at the end of the 2004 playoffs and the fact that they could not seal the deal in regulation or OT. Put the blame where it belongs. Don't shove it on a kid who scored the game winning goal in his first NHL game.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Well, Beat the Drum and Hold the Phone

Photo by: Elsa/Getty Images

Yup. That looks good. Before the news about Adrian Gonzalez broke when I was in Boston last weekend, me and my buddy Josh actually talked a bout how it had been a very quiet hot stove season. Except for the Werth deal, no team had made a big splash. Usually the team splashing around at all the free agents is the Yankees. This year? The Red Sox pretty much cannon balled right in. I'm still trying to adjust to all of it. Having a hard time believing it's happening and then getting bummed because we still have to wait several long months for baseball to actually be played. I am so high on the 2011 Red Sox right now and they haven't even set foot on the ball field.

Another brief thought. I'm in Jacksonville for the weekend and there is Christmas shopping to be done. But I am reveling in all the Yankees/ Cliff Lee drama. Adding a seventh year to the deal? Really, Hank? And using Andy Pettitte as an example of how older pitchers can still succeed? Probably not the best example you might want to give what with the whole juicing thing.

If the Yankees have invested that much time and effort to try and land Lee and he goes somewhere else? Man, I will throw a one woman parade. Childish? Sure. Vindictive? Absolutely. But the Yankees deserve nothing less.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kind of a Big Deal

Photo by: Getty Images

My buddy Rich messaged me at about 8 am this morning and was amazed that I hadn't heard the news. The Red Sox signed Carl Crawford while I was sleeping.

About 15 hours later, I still can't believe it happened. I didn't even think we were on his radar. It was all the Angels and the Yankees taking CC and his agent out for dinner.

Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are going to be wearing Red Sox uniforms on Opening Day. This is going to take some time to process.

All those pundits and writers saying that 2011 was going to be a bridge year for the Sox? Pretty sure the front office just drove over your bridge and gave you the finger.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let Five Goals In Three Minutes

Photo by: AP Photos. Used without permission.

Ok, so the Captain Tractor lyric used as the title isn't entirely accurate when it comes to the Lightning's loss to the Calgary Flames last night. Dan Ellis let in two goals on seven shots in the first period of the game. Pretty sure even the baseball people who read my blog can tell by simple comparison that that isn't good. I try to be supportive of my team at all times, which has been really difficult the last few seasons. OK Hockey, Brian Lawton, residing in the basement of the league, Alex Tanguay, etc. There is one thing that has me on the verge of really losing my patience this season. Goal tending. Or the lack thereof.

I had a fear going into this season that the Lightning were playing two goalies who only had the capability to be career back ups. Mike Smith and Dan Ellis aren't doing much to make me eat my words. Being a goalie is a very difficult job. I get it. I gained a lot of respect when I put on a mask and Dominic Moore shot foam pucks at me at Hockey and Heels a few weeks ago. I understand that it's impossible for one man to stop every single shot. I also understand that the defense isn't 100% innocent in some of these losses.

But their Goals Against Average is over 3.00. All the goal scoring forwards in the world won't help this team progress in the playoffs when it often takes a goalie literally standing on his head to make spectacular saves to ensure advancement. A GAA of 3 and higher does not win you a Stanley Cup.

It's extra frustrating as a fan because you know something needs to be done. But what? There were a few good free agent goalies available over the summer but none that would have worked with the Lightning's salary cap limitations. And I don't see those limitations going away anytime soon. If nothing else, money is going to be tighter when Stamkos is (hopefully) re-signed. Our goalies aren't the answer. Unless someone hypnotizes them to believe they are Patrick Roy or Terry Sawchuk.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

John Lennon 1940 - 1980

I try to stay largely on topic when it comes to my blog. Every once and a while, a day comes along when I have to veer off of the sporting topic and talk about something else. I'm a little early, but December 8th is one of those days. Almost 30 years ago today, John Lennon was killed.

I am a huge fan of the Beatles and John was always my favorite. I was a weird, loner of a kid when my sister brought home a Beatles Greatest Hits cassette. For whatever reason, the music spoke to me and I felt some sort of kinship with Lennon. So much so that after I would say my nightly prayers, I would lay in bed just talking aloud to him. Even though he died before I was born and the Beatles had broken up even longer before then, I felt like he was a friend.

Today, I choose to remember his life, music, activism, and message.

We still love and miss you, John.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Down By The Banks Of The River Charles

Photo taken by Josh Blue

Apparently it was wishful thinking that I would update my blog after getting back to Tampa yesterday evening. My flight got in in the late evening and I brought the chilly weather with me from up north. What a trip. It was so amazing that even watching the Lightning get absolutely decimated 8-1 in person couldn't dampen it.

Between the Garden and the Freedom trail and Cambridge One Pizza and everything else, I was trying to think of one thing that would summarize my trip to Boston. It would have to be Fenway Park. I ended up in or around the ballpark on all three days of my visit. When I arrived on Thursday, one of the first acts of business was taking the tour of the park. Due to beer, pizza, and good but meandering conversation, Josh and I missed the 2 o clock tour. This gave us plenty of time to walk all the way around Fenway and even stop in the Bleacher Bar for a pint of Guinness.

A lot of work is being done there this off season. When we were there, almost all of the right field grandstand seats had been removed in order for construction crews to redo the concrete. The dugouts were covered with giant sheets of plywood and almost the entire field was covered in sheeting. It was cold and windy and empty and... amazingly beautiful. It's really cheesy, but each time I visit Fenway Park I become even more enamored. And there wasn't even baseball being played.

On Saturday evening, we were hanging out at a number of bars in the Fenway area. While walking down Yawkey Way, I told Josh "I'm going to hug Fenway." So I did. I'm pretty sure it hugged back.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I Believe in the Church of Baseball.

For the first time in... well, it seems like forever I am traveling for something other than Christmas. I am leaving very early tomorrow morning and shipping up to Boston. One of the first orders of business will be taking the Fenway Park tour. My day in Boston will begin there and end with a hockey game at the Garden with the Lightning taking on the Bruins. It's no small exaggeration to say that I will probably be the happiest woman in Boston tomorrow.

It's easy to wax poetic about the glorious baseball parks of days gone by, most of which aren't around anymore. Fenway is almost 100 years old. It's imperfect. And it's beautiful. I'm not a religious person, but this will be visiting sacred ground for me.

There probably won't be any updates until I get back on Sunday, but I have been told to take a lot of pictures. I'm sure that won't be a problem.