May 9, 2008

Fundamental Difference between Men and Women

So yours truly and the wife are planning a Labor Day weekend trip to Chicago for the one-year anniversary. The wife knows that she can plan essentially the entire trip but the one thing on my agenda is to make it to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Any red-blooded male understands the need to go to Wrigley Field. Let alone for a sunny afternoon game on Labor Day Monday.

Tickets are obviously sold out. They've probably been sold out since five minutes after tickets went on sale. It's a good game against the Astros. And, of course, because it's Labor Day, it's an excuse for the Cubs to charge "premium pricing" for their tickets (i.e. double the normal cost). What is any buyer's recourse for a sold out event aside from dealing with scalpers? Hit Stubhub. On Stubhub, I tracked down sixth row upper deck seats which at Wrigley are ridiculously low, just behind first base, for $65/ticket. This is only ten dollars above the face value of the ticket of $55. Of course, after shipping and Stubhub's commission, this comes out to about $75/ticket.

Really? I have to give THIS experience up??

Well now it appears as if I have to resell the tickets because $75/ticket. This is not a final decision by any means. It is an ongoing "dispute" shall we say. My contention is that it is Wrigley Field, it's good seats, it's not a bad price given the sold out nature of the game, it's one of the true meccas for sports fans, I would be a whining, annoying wreck if we went to Wrigleyville the day of the game for the atmosphere and I couldn't go into the game, that on an anniversary trip I'm not going to abandon the wife for one afternoon and do my own thing, and that this is simply an opportunity that I, as a sports fan who has only ever been in Chicago one other time in November and won't foreseeably be there in baseball season anytime soon, can't pass up. The wife's contention is that $75 is a ridiculous amount to pay for baseball tickets, let alone upper deck tickets, and that it's money that could be better spent elsewhere on our trip.

Gentlemen, I don't write this because I need validation of my viewpoint. I know that I am correct. I am writing this to vent. It's Wrigley Field. It's Labor Day. It's one of the all-time best environments for a major league ballgame. I'm there. I may need a divorce attorney, but I'm there.

EDIT TEN MINUTES AFTER POST - There has been some resolution. I still win. However, our attendance will be part of my birthday present. I'm an awesome negotiator.

First Look at Preakness Weather

You can't trust a weather forecast more than about 2 days in the future, but when it comes to Preakness, I can't help myself.

If that holds up, it will be a perfect day to sit outside, drink beer, and gamble. I can't wait.

May 7, 2008

PETA to Picket Preakness

I'm sure this won't surprise anyone, but PETA is planning to stage a protest at the Preakness in the wake of the tragedy with Eight Belles in the Kentucky Derby. Even though we all saw this coming, doesn't PETA see that horse racing people love horses more than a 6 year old girl wishing for a pony? People who are involved with horse racing don't want to see anything bad happen to horses.

I hope a PETA protester gets up in my face at Preakness so I can give them a piece of my mind.

Of course, the Lettuce Ladies are welcome to protest whatever they want in the infield.

And if you think this entire post was an elaborate excuse to post those pictures, you're absolutely right.

A Sports Guide to Politics for Barack Obama

Since Hillary Clinton continues to refuse to concede defeat to Barack Obama, I thought I might suggest a new approach for the junior senator from Illinois. He needs to treat the campaign like a sporting event.

1) If Michigan and Florida counted, it'd be a tie - The sports parallel here is obvious. Hillary obviously feels like the referees jobbed her by tossing out her "wins". Obama needs only point out that the referees are part of the game. Only losers whine about poor officiating (see Seahawks, Super Bowl XL). Plus if Hillary had gotten those early calls, who's to say that Obama wouldn't have played the rest of the game differently?

2) I can win the big states - I like to call this the Phoenix Suns/San Antonio Spurs argument. Sure, Phoenix is prettier to watch. They hit the big shots and make the great passes and generally look like the real thing. The only problem is they don't win in the column that matters: points. Hillary might hit the big three or send home the thunderous dunk, but for the rest of the game she's getting outworked and outhustled by Obama.
If you want to look at it on a whole season level, Hillary's argument is that she beats the good teams. That just means she's one of those teams that makes you want to pull your hair out, like when the Orioles take a series from the Yankees only to get swept by the Rays and Royals the next week.

blahblaahblah McCain always uses that crossover he learned in Hanoi

3) Barack can't put me away - Ever since the so-called Potomac Primaries, we've been waiting for Obama to issue the coup de grace and send Hillary seeking consolation in her vast pile of money. Barack has two sports parallels here. First, he took his foot off the gas. Of course he played a bit more conservatively with such a large lead. He might have allowed a cheapie touchdown, but he's still got the game under control. Second, he's been caught looking ahead a little bit to the next opponent, John McCain. It'd be nice to get some work in for the next opponent, and unfortunately it's let Hillary make the game look closer than it really is. Vegas handicappers are sweating a bit. So long as he doesn't pull a Patriotesque choke, he'll still be hoisting the Lombardi.
4) Rev. Wright shows Barack chooses bad friends - This one is easy. We don't care what you do off the field so long as you bring it on game day. Barack attended a church with a sometimes-crazy pastor? So what. Michael Jordan hung out with gamblers. Wilt Chamberlain hung out with sexually transmitted organisms that haven't even been discovered yet. Ray Lewis may or may not have taken part in a double murder. So long as he brings his A game to the Oval Office, he can do whatever he wants on Sunday morning.

What is the bottom line? SCOREBOARD BITCH. The lead is insurmountable and the clock is winding down. She can say whatever she wants and take her moral victories, but at the end of the season there's going to be a big fat ring on Obama's finger. I'm sure Barack will let Hillary kiss the ring, like Michael Jordan does every time he sees Karl Malone.

May 6, 2008

Idol Recap 5/6

Tonight I can only assume there was a panoply of songs for the Idolists to choose from. We've heard lots of bemoaning from the Idolists in prior weeks about song choice and having trouble. I mean, in all honesty, it's hard for a woman to pick Dolly Parton songs and it's hard for a man to pick Neil Diamond songs. Hell, it's hard to pick Dolly Parton songs in general. But tonight, if the Idolists truly could pick just about any song in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we should have been able to really see some separation in the contestants. And we did.

1) David Archuleta
He's the best vocalist of the group. He's a Josh Groban-type performer. He's not going to be a frontman of a band. He's going to be a soloist with a few back up singers or some strings behind him. His takes on Stand By Me and Love Me Tender were pretty stunning vocally. I actually didn't like the version of Love Me Tender but I just don't really love the song. He did great and he's one of the two finalists. No question. I would bet my wife on it. And my firstborn.

2) David Cook
Unlike Archuleta, he's the frontman of a band. He's got a distinctive voice and enjoys rising above a crescendo of hard music behind him. I didn't mind Hungry Like the Wolf, but it wasn't up to what we're used to and did seem a little karaoke. I really did love Baba O'Reilly and would actually have loved to have heard Cook sing the entire version. Really it's a two-man race. And I actually like David Cook's odds given that once Castro falls out, I'm not seeing his voters falling in line with Archuleta. I gotta say, I'd buy a David Cook CD.

3) Syesha Mercado
I liked her version of Proud Mary and yeah, it was a little bit of a large take on Tina Turner's version. But she's got a big voice and big stage presence and did just fine with it. I wasn't familiar with the Sam Cooke song (Change is Gonna Come) and really didn't love it except to say that Syesha sang it beautifully. However, I'm pretty convinced that Simon was going to have some not-so-nice things to say about it until Paula made Syesha cry. Then Simon saw that there was no way he could slam the performance with Syesha crying. Some of you may think Simon wouldn't care. I think he does. He looked pained at the end of her song.

4) Jason Castro
Really what can you say. A total clusterfuck on just about every level. I mean, he took on not one, but two singers who, according to the Idol Bible (as of yet unwritten), you never, ever, ever cover. Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. Yeah. Those two, Stevie Wonder, and a few others you just don't touch. I Shot the Sheriff was totally, insanely dreadful and painful. Simon was dead on. If he sang that in one of the cattle call auditions, he wouldn't have even gotten a golden ticket to Hollywood. Then forgetting the lyrics in the middle of Mr. Tambourine Man... that's just the cherry on top of a horrid evening. Jason doesn't care. He's just along for the ride at this point. Hell, he was even quoted in the most recent Entertainment Weekly as saying that he was kind of tired of Idol and ready to go home. Well, he'll get his wish. He's straight gone tomorrow.

May 5, 2008

A National Embarassment

I was awakened this morning to a horrific song. Yes, every franchise has a song in its history which is downright embarassing, but the Nats' new theme song might take the cake. Click on the picture below for a listen.

Thanks to the Kirk & Mark Show on 105.7 FM in Baltimore for playing the song and thanks to Eliot in the Morning, 101.1 FM in D.C. for hosting it.

Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Nationals Park 5/4/08 underneath a 72-degree cloudless sky, 5-2 win vs. Pirates

No, this was not uttered by Eight Belles, but was actually uttered by Nationals Park, in the wake of the final two games of a four game series in which the Nats took both games surrounded by a total crowd over the two games of over 65,000. And bear in mind, this wasn't exactly a team that would draw a lot of buzz. This was the Pittsburgh Pirates in town.

A few comments on Pirate fan... dude... the stovetop hat that a lot of you all seem to enjoy wearing... it's manufactured primarily as a JOKE. It's not cool or fun or trendy to wear this eyesore and embarrassment to major league baseball uniform history to a game. Further, the total lack of Pirate fan love for any remotely recent Pirate players is all-too-clear when you take a look at the jerseys that they wear. I spotted one Jason Bay jersey. I spotted tons of Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente jerseys. And of course Pittsburgh fans seem to feel the need more than any other fanbase to commit the #1 jersey-wearing sin... get the customized jersey with their own last name on it.

That said, let's talk Nationals Park... we have an ownership group who listens. For the first weeks of the stadium, the single biggest complaint amongst fans was the fact that the biggest scoreboard in the game was being put to total waste. All you'd get for a batter every time they came up was a giant picture, where they were born, how much they weighed, and their date of birth. No batting average. No stats. No prior plate appearances. Nothing. Starting this homestand, Kasten and company implemented wholesale changes. Full lineups of both team at bat and team in field. Double switches and pitching changes showing up immediately. Running pitch count. Accurate pitch speed. Time of day. Stats for batters as they come up. Prior plate appearances. The official scoring of the prior play (i.e. groundout to short you see a "63" on the scoreboard). Some would say why do you need all of this if you're a true fan. Well my response is that if you're going to have thousands of square feet of video screen space, you might as well make the best of it.

It also seems that Nats Park has figured out how to handle large crowds of 30,000+. Opening Night was filled with ridiculously slow concession lines, ridiculously slow bathroom lines, and people who flocked the aisles during at bats blocking the view of the game. Well yesterday, the in-laws and I went to a concession stand in the middle of the sixth inning for some dogs and had... get this... zero wait. (Ben's Chili Half Smoke = MONEY!!!!) In fact, we had about three people calling us over to their register. Line for the bathrooms has diminished greatly. Ushers implementing a new rule whereby patrons returning to their seats have to wait for at bats to end prior to entering the sections.
I will say that in the offseason, Kasten and company are going to have to seriously examine ticket pricing. The President's Club seats behind home plate that are always empty and that make the stadium look empty on TV are just overpriced. Also, there is such a thing as too many amenities such that even though people might be at the game, they are most likely hanging out inside the Club, enjoying ridiculously good free food and watching the Nats take indoor batting practice. The Diamond Club seats are also overpriced and not going sold. Further, the sections underneath the scoreboard that are priced almost like lower deck seats are rarely sold and need to be lowered in price. However, the remainder of the lower deck and upper deck are packed. And the upper deck seats remain one of the best values in the game, even with a new stadium (they figure that the value will decrease once you drop $4 on a bottle of Dasani, $5.50 for a large soda, or $7.50 for a 20-ounce domestic draft... really not THAT bad of a deal for 20 ounces of Yuengling draft)

The place is really starting to feel like home. I took the in-laws and the wife for a tour of the place prior to the game. All three had previously spent most of their time at Oriole Park. They were all stunned and appreciative of how open the ballpark feels. When you enter from the centerfield gate, you've got the Presidents and Screech waiting for you. You enter the outfield plaza open to the field with a DJ spinning great songs to get you in the mood to have a good time. You've got the best food vendors in the park in the outfield plaza and can linger and watch batting practice. You walk upstairs to the Red Loft, the open-air bar that overlooks centerfield. You've got the wonderful overlooks that allow you to look out over the Anacostia to the Navy Yard and out to Alexandria. The other overlook that gives you the postcard view up South Capitol Street to the monuments.

Metro continues to be a winner. Fourth time at the stadium yesterday and I actually didn't put my parking pass to use that I was given for yesterday's game. The drive would only save about fifteen minutes. It's crowded to get into the Metro station but it moves very, very efficiently. Never waited yet more than a total of seven minutes for the two trains that I have to catch (green line at the park, red line at Gallery Place).

And I haven't even discussed the product on the field which took an incredible turn upwards with an 8-3 homestand. And that being done with series against the Cubs and Mets.

The Nats will do just fine attendance-wise once school lets out, once the weather gets warmer unlike the first few weeks of the season when the line for the coffee carts was longer than the line for Metro. And especially once the team gets beyond that 5-15 start.