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June: The Friendly Confines [Fukubukuro 2010]
Jan 7th, 2011 by Dan

Wrigley Field is baseball. No other ballpark I’ve ever been to has exuded quite so much of that je ne sais quoi that makes baseball so great. You know, I think I do know what makes Wrigley so great for baseball. It’s the fact that no matter what year it is, no matter how many garish Toyota signs are up in the outfield, or how the game of baseball has changed since its inception, the Cubs show up in a Wrigley laid out almost identically to its opening day in 1914, complete with a manual scoreboard and ivy walls, and play ball in a park that has become one with Chicago. Wrigley Field is a constant. No matter what you do to it, watching a ball game feels like you’re back in the 1950s. Wrigley is comforting in that way. It immediately makes you feel like you’ve been watching baseball there forever, even during your first visit.

My good friend Duffy lives out in Chicago. She’s getting her PhD. in psychology at Northwestern, which is absolutely amazing, but I miss hanging out with her terribly. A few of my friends and I decided to remedy that whole “we miss Duffy” problem by heading out to the Windy City to take in some good, old-fashioned baseball at the oldest National League ballpark in America. Our tickets were for a day game, my favorite time to watch baseball, and came in at a respectable $40 for pretty darn good seats in the upper decks. Everything but the opponent was looking good, but at least I’d potentially get to see Hideki Matsui take an at bat in the Friendly Confines (NOTE: Matsui did not play).

Our trip on the ‘El’ was uneventful, but it was filled with the same enthusiasm for baseball that I’d seen on rare occasion in Washington, but often on the trains that crisscross New York City when attending Yankees or Mets games. The closer we got, the more packed each car became with that beautiful Cubs blue that the team wears (Quick aside, there is no sports team color that I find hotter than Cubs blue (Gator blue comes in a close second). Maybe I’ve dated too many blue-eyed girls (Cubs blue does things to their eyes that ought to be illegal), but it’s got this perfect aspect to it that makes a girl damn near irresistible to me on a hot summer day. What this says about my psychological health and why I’m not inherently attracted to Marlins teal or Cornell red, I’m not quite sure.). Excitement built as we approached the Anderson stop and I could see the stadium looming over the surrounding buildings.

Did Yankee Stadium ever actually sit within New York City the way that Wrigley Field is nestled within Chicago? Why don’t more ballparks do this? Townhouses line three of Wrigley Field’s four sides, some with bleachers on their roofs for fans to watch the game. The separation between the ballpark and those houses: one regular-sized city street. Citi Field is right in the middle of Flushing, but the giant parking lot is on one side and I don’t think the other has much in the way of actual New York City. These are missed opportunities to make your ballpark, no, your team a part of the community. Instead Yankee Stadium has done all it could to alienate New York City. Ticket prices are astronomical, parks have been destroyed to construct parking garages, and everything about the team screams “We are too good for you.

The Phillies are a blue team. It annoys the people who think baseball should be an elite institution, but Philadelphians know no other way to do things. Their team is managed by a salt-of-the-earth kind of guy, the fans are allowed to bring food into the ballpark, and members of the team that don’t seem like they belong in Philly quickly find themselves on the shit list of fans. The Cubs aren’t this way; they’re a little more like the Red Sox, with their pink hats and facetime-seeking fans, but Wrigley…Wrigley handles everything the way a ballpark should. Wrigley belongs to the people. You can sit behind the plate for $100 or less (assuming you could find a ticket the almost always sold out games).

Despite not winning for over 100 years, the Cubs are a premium product without being as stuck up as the Yankees. That’s the overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t escape while I was in Wrigley. This team, one of the biggest, most storied franchises in the world, both loves and is loved by the fans. I’ve yet to attend a game at Fenway, the other remaining “classic” stadium, but I find it hard to believe that any ballpark could be more perfect or more baseball than Wrigley Field.

The Famous Sign - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Chicago Cubs 19 June 2010

Fall [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Sep 15th, 2010 by Dan

Home Run Celebration - Florida Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies 17 April 2010

It's not over yet, but we're getting close

It seems that fall is rapidly approaching, despite my fiendish plot to seize control of the planet’s weather with my mind. With the change in the climate comes a change in sports programming. Back for two weeks is college football while the NFL opener was played over the past few days as well. Baseball no longer holds the brunt of the spotlight, but I guess that’s not all bad.

MLB

Since I started this blog the Marlins have never been in serious contention for a playoff spot, but the Rays always have. This year is no different. Tampa Bay seems a lock for at least the ALDS while Florida is scrapping for third and to possibly play spoiler to Philadelphia or Atlanta.

The season isn’t over yet, so (hopefully) expect more coverage until the last out is made in the World Series.

NCAA Football

Despite winning both games, the Gators are among the weakest looking top ten BCS teams this year. It’s entirely possible that John Brantley will have a much better season than he’s had so far, but these are definitely not the Tebow years.

Will they defeat Tennessee this week? I’m not really sure…

NFL

For literally the first time in my entire life, I actually sat down to watch a Dolphins game this past weekend. I only got to half time before I had to start heading back home to MD, but I didn’t want to miss getting the chance to gloat about the victory in my Bills fan friend’s face. Will this start a trend? Maybe…

Wow, A LOT Has Happened [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Jan 6th, 2010 by Dan

I’m pretty sure that I haven’t mentioned anything about the NFL this year, which I find hilarious, considering that I use a modified football saying as my sports category. Now’s as good a time as any to talk about it, I guess, since the regular season is over. As far as the playoffs go, I’d like to see the Ravens advance to the Super Bowl, but that’s just because they’re the local team. If we’re lucky, we’ll also get to see Brett Favre face-off against the Green Bay Packers (and hopefully knock them out) too in this postseason. Beyond that, I haven’t paid enough attention to the NFL this year to really care one way or another.

While I’m talking about football, I also haven’t talked too much about the Gators, who handily won their bowl game 51-24. It was Tim Tebow’s final game for UF and I’m excited to see where he ends up in this year’s draft class.

Again, let’s keep the subject on football, only to mention that I’m actually glad that the USA is in the same pool as England for the World Cup. One victory against the Queen’s team would be enough for me to make fun of Phil for the rest of my life. If Team USA can knock them out of the World Cup, I’d die a happy man, even if they were to lose every match afterward.

Beyond that, I’ve mostly been focusing on baseball (no surprise there!) in both the USA and Japan. A lot of huge moves have gone on so far, most notable among them Matsui leaving the Yankees for the Angels, but the other big move (to me) was the whole Cliff Lee/Roy Halladay trade involving Philadelphia and Seattle (and Toronto and Oakland (I think)). After seeing Cliff Lee absolutely dominate the Yankees in the World Series, it makes nearly zero sense to see the Phillies trade him away, but Halladay should be a fully adequate (and scary) replacement for the team that will most likely top the NL East yet again. Seattle also gets their hands on one of the finest pitchers in the league which should allow Wakamatsu to make a real move against the Angels who lost a lot of pitching and some offense this off-season.

In Japanese baseball news, the Seibu Lions drafted the best pitching prospect, Yusei Kikuchi, who should be ready to start tossing for the team as early as next year. Whether or not he appears in relief in 2010 is an interesting question.

My team, the Carp, avoided picking Kikuchi to go mostly for pitching, getting some of the best talent left in the pool. Their season was looking up until they lost one of their aces, Colby Lewis, to family issues stateside. It will be interesting to see if they can actually finish this season in the top three this year as they haven’t reached a Japan Series since 1991. They’re the team most removed from their last league championship and last Japan Series victory, so they’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Man, I miss baseball season. Hurry up April!

BCS Championship Game [Embedded Reporter]
Jan 12th, 2009 by Dan

Deep from the trenches, it’s time for your Monday video feature: Embedded Reporter.

Ah! The BCS Championship Game was so good. 24-14! Check out these great highlights and scoring plays from the game, it’s just like having watched the game!

Things to Come [UnCat]
Jan 8th, 2009 by Dan

Ok, so I know I’ve been in and out so often these past three weeks, but what am I supposed to do? I’ve been travelling around the country and sick to boot, so unable to get ahead on my posts. So you won’t worry too much and so you’ll stick around, how about a little taste of some stories that will be coming up soon?

Continuing next Friday will be the regular Villains of FF that you’ve no doubt been waiting so long to see concluded. FF IX doesn’t have the most riveting final boss, but it’s kind of a nice blast from the past.

Tonight’s the big BCS game and it would be ridiculous of you to assume that I wouldn’t blog about it. Since I’ve got people coming over to watch it, don’t expect me to blog during the game, but do expect a post with my thoughts some time next week (could it be Wednesday?). Until then, GO GATORS!

I’ve been llistening to a few podcasts with people talking about Game of the Year choices and I thought, “Did I not also play video games this year? Am I not also qualified to have my own GotY opinion?” So expect a special GO with my pick for the year.

And finally, did you know that I’m a contributing writer on a blossoming webcomic? Check out I’m Not Mad to see what my brother and I have been cooking up. It’s still in its early stages, but I think we’re doing alright.

Pre-Game [WMQ]
Jan 7th, 2009 by Dan

I can barely contain my excitement for this final game between the Sooners and the Gators. Yesterday was spent mostly reading about the matchups and looking at game projections for who was going to win this game (I also found a guy who writes a Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, but I think he writes about college ice hockey, if I remember properly).

Because I read mostly Gator-oriented articles, I find myself feeling more and more that a Gators win is probable or possible. In fact, I’m super glad that the Gators seem to have a bit of underdog status again thanks to Bradford getting the Heisman and OU being more vocal than UF. This is part of what helped us beat the Buckeyes two years ago.

So who will win? I’m not totally sure. I haven’t seen the Sooners play any football this year, but I’ve seen plenty of Gator football. It’s vitally important for a Gator win for the offense to be spread beyond Tebow and Harvin. Having to cover four weapons is way better than knowing which two will get the ball more often than not. Should UF do this and should Tebow have lots of powerful momentum moving forward, we’ll see a Gator win. I think we can do it and I hope we get it done tomorrow night.

And We’re Back [WMQ]
Jan 6th, 2009 by Dan

Break is over and I should be returning to a more regularly scheduled format for this week’s blogging. Hope you’ve all had a happy New Year!

I know it’s not Wednesday, but I think it’s fair to call this a football category too, so bear with me on this. Last night was the conclusion of yet another bowl game for OSU and yet another night of disappointment for the Buckeyes. It was so close to being a victory for them, that it almost hurts to talk about. A controversial, but ultimately right spotting put the Longhorns into a great position to take the ball in with under thirty seconds left to put them ahead of the Buckeyes at the last possible moment. Crisis could have been averted with a field goal, but the Buckeyes got an untimely sack and didn’t have the time to manage any comparable last minute heroics.

So where does this leave the BCS? I have to admit, I was hoping for a Buckeyes win to make the Big 12 look bad. That upset would have been disheartening for a Sooners squad about to face off against the Gators this Thursday. Then again, how can I be unhappy about a criminally overrated OSU team being beat, yet again, on the national stage? I guess it comes to a point though where it’s no longer funny, it’s just sad. Three BCS bowl games ago OSU was the strong favorite against the Gators. They’ve lost every big-name, major game since that year against out of conference teams, if I’m not mistaken. This includes losses against USC, LSU, and Texas, all admittedly good teams, but most supposedly worse teams. One has to hope that some of these results will call into question the BCS ranking system, but we all know that instead it will be used to call into question Jim Tressel’s ability to win in the big game. That’s too bad, we desperately need reform in the BCS system. Would it really kill the players to have a playoff system? Have each conference send their top teams to compete for the national title? It makes it a bit more difficult to organize, but I think it’s fairer.

Oh man…I can’t wait for the Gators game on Thursday!

BCS Championship! [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Dec 10th, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ’em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

Yeah, yeah, I know I just said that this feature might go on hiatus until spring, but how can I ignore the Florida Gators making it, once again, to the BCS Championship Bowl game?

The Gators won an amazing victory against the previously undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide last Saturday, even with the significant handicap of not having Percy Harvin healthy and on the field. The team’s other players, especially QB Tim Tebow really stepped it up and showed Alabama what Florida was made of. They may have had a strong third quarter with a lead, but Tebow silenced all doubters and moved himself to top Heisman consideration with an incredible fourth quarter in which UF dominated Alabama.

Unfortunately, we have to wait a whole month (!) for the final showdown between the Gators and the Sooners due to a ridiculously nonsensical NCAA schedule that keeps the action out of our television sets until the first of [too] many bowl games begins on 20 December.

That being said, the real question is this year’s BCS game, luckily set in Dolphin Stadium, giving the Gators a virtual home field advantage. Will they be able to dominate the Sooners? Will it be close? Be sure to tune in for the final game on 8 January to find out!

SEC Championship and WMQ Hiatus? [Wednesday Morning Quarterback]
Dec 3rd, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ’em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

Whoa! Another WMQ!

With a sound defeat of FSU, Florida has solidified its ability to compete for the BCS championship game, so long as they defeat the Alabama Crimson Tide this Saturday, that is.

They can conceivably do it. They’re the favored team. Unfortunately they’ve also lost a very important component of their offense, Percy Harvin. His condition is still unclear as a result of spraining his ankle in the FSU game.

Should they manage to win, well, what an exciting prospect. The Florida Gators will, once again, be in the BCS Championship Bowl and should hopefully win.

Unfortunately, no matter what the result is on Saturday, we have to wait an inordinate amount of time for the bowl games. A whole month is ridiculous. We need some reform.

So, as you may have noticed, WMQ doesn’t appear as often now that baseball season is done. What’s up with that? Well, baseball is my favorite sport and I just don’t pay attention to as many sporting events when the season is over. So I’m thinking that, barring special circumstances, like next week’s SEC Championship or the bowl games, we just might have a hiatus up until late March or early April when baseball season starts up again. Filling this space will be whatever other stories I decide to post.

Anyway, I hope you’ve been enjoying WMQ so far this year! It’ll be sure to train up in the off-season and be ready to go for Opening Day (or Spring Training…).

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: It’s Here!
Oct 22nd, 2008 by Dan

You’ve probably heard the saying that hindsight is 20/20 on Monday morning, so just imagine how well I can call ’em two days later on Wednesday. That’s right, it’s time for Wednesday Morning Quarterback, your weekly sports round-up.

Listening to the Baseball Today podcast, it becomes very apparent that half of this World Series matchup doesn’t make sense. TV execs were hoping, nay, wishing for a Dodgers/Red Sox World Series. Torre vs. Francona. New Manny vs. Manny’s old team. Two huge market teams going at it for all the glory. Heck, they would have even settled for a Phillies/Red Sox series, with all those big names and big guns on both sides. Not to mention a Cubs appearance on their lucky 100th year of losing.

Instead they’ve got the Phils and the Rays. The losingest team in baseball (Philadelphia) against a team that has sucked every season of its existence until this year. Will ratings be low again for this World Series? It’s likely, what with the baseball audience mostly dwindling and since football season is in full swing. Will it be more exciting than the Sox? Most definitely. In fact, it’d be best if the series went the distance. A seven game series would do wonders for an event that has sorely lacked drama in recent history.

Speaking of drama…

Why does the BCS have Ohio State ranked above UF again? Two weeks of byes and all of a sudden we’ve forgotten how good UF is? A few games against mediocre teams and we forget how traditionally OSU is overrated? This should hopefully be resolved this weekend with the Kansas game.

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