You just need a little bit of help.
Tuesday, Aug 14 — It has been nearly six weeks since I’ve sat down to write upon this space. It has been a mildly eventful time frame, but only a tiny bit of it has been worth writing about.
The beginning of this summer was marked as an introspective one, a time to sit down and go over the mental notebook and read the tea leaves/writing on the wall/insert clever “see into the future” colloquialism.
OK, really. Nothing really interesting happened over the past several weeks. There was a lot of work, a quick trip to Seattle when the schedule allowed it and this:
*A moment of silence*
There were a lot of little things that happened. Like the top picture. Poor pig has a cock-shaped eyebrow. I didn’t realize I had the picture until I went through them off my phone earlier. Now that’s funny. He needs a name, though…
On Saturday, a quick trip to Seattle for the Seahawks preseason game was a good reset. The game wasn’t that bad for a practice game. Downtown, especially in Pioneer Square, was lively. You saw a lot of interesting people and ticket scalpers for the game on every block. Every bit of the street corners were used to hawk their wares:
Also, I saw a walking bottle of Rainier beer. The beer’s handler was a cutie, but I did a poor job of getting a picture of the two. (Out of focus) With that in mind, visit Restore The R.com.
I have hundreds of shots of Qwest Field/Century Link Field in my archives that I could put any of them down and call them from Saturday, but I won’t. I’ll try to get a shot or three from different vantage spots over the season.
So, for now, that’s all.
Thursday, June 28 — It is raining. It is always raining, unless you are not here.
This was the lesson of the 2012 vacation. For just over two weeks, the rain came down as I walked around the house. The rain stayed away and the sun came out when I left the area for mini-trips. There were three mini-trips, all of them were sunny. None of my days at home have been.
And that only covers the lawn and how big it has grown.
Seattle, Part 1 — Two trips to Safeco Field for game between the Mariners and the San Francisco Giants. They are up here one three-game stretch every six seasons. The last time they were in Seattle, I barely remember it. (Editor’s Note: Somewhere in this computer is a video or two of his time in Seattle in 2006. If I get away, I’ll post it. Ha ha.)
Safeco Field is a pretty nice place to watch a major-league baseball game. The sight lines are great, there are very few bad seats (I found one) and there’s plenty to do once you are inside the ballpark, if you are into that sort of thing. The food/drink, however, is expensive to the point of eating/drinking before the game is preferred and recommended.
Pyramid Brewery is across the street from Safeco Field. The beer, at $4.50 a pint, is half-price to the domestic beer inside the stadium. The food, mostly pub-style meals (including burgers), is reasonably priced and there’s plenty of room to eat/drink/be merry before the game.
On Friday (June 15), I was able to take in the England Euro 2012 match over beers and burgers. Also, met some interesting people there, a lot of them Giants fans coming out of the woodwork to enjoy the weekend.
One guy who wasn’t all that interested in the game was George, a full-time RV traveler from Ohio who was walking Seattle to all of its pubs/breweries before heading up north. He asked for his Pyramid Hefeweizen with an orange slice (which is correct). The bartender didn’t agree, telling him that all of their Hefeweizen beers get a lemon slice. This was a bit of interesting banter between George and the bartender. Truth be told, George was right, but I wasn’t about to get on the bad side of a bartender, especially when I knew I had about 4-5 beers left on my agenda before the game.
I got George to try the Pale Ale, which is a brewery-only tap, and he was happy with that. We talked travel, Disneyland and Disney World and what is needed to hit the road without a home base. By the time I’m typing this, he should be heading to Alaska, with a stopover in Calgary for the Stampede.
Saturday was an early Father’s Day, which enabled me to enjoy the family and go … On Sunday (June 17), I went with friends to the Sunday matchup – Bumgarner vs. Felix – and saw a good, tight pitcher’s duel. The Giants should have won. Took the Sounder train to/from the game, enjoyed the stress-free day.
Leavenworth, WA — A 2 1/2-day break to Central Washington was just what the mind needed, with beer, German food and no stress. This, along with the three-day weekend of baseball and Father’s Day, was the best start to a vacation since… well, ever.
A little Central Washington hamlet, where you can get your whitewater trips started and where you can lift a stein of ale everywhere, turned itself into a Bavarian village in the 60s. This is what a few people in the Twin Harbors want to do with Aberdeen/Hoquiam. Unfortunately, for that to happen, there has to be a huge change of direction in terms of urban development and mindset. Also, there has to be some leadership to get it started and to move it along.
But focusing on the trip, Icicle Brewery served up some really good beers, especially its Big George, Dark Vader Ale (yes, it is the Dark Lord) and Dirtface Amber. I have a large stein to remember the trip. The Raspberry Wheat was a hit for my wife, who pretty much stuck to that beer the whole trip.
Nice place, good to be there. Will return when we can. That was fun.
Seattle (Trip No. 2) — This one was with the family and can easily be broken down into several posts. First day: King Tut. Second day: Woodland Park Zoo. Third day: EMP/SciFi and Space Needle and other stuff.
I’m going to keep this bit simple, because I’d like to talk about the King Tut exhibit at the Pacific Science Center on its own. So, I’ll talk about the Woodland Zoo. Simply, it was great. The Brown Bears were cool, the gorillas were very playful and demonstrative and the penguins were fun. It was a lot of fun and it wore the little girl out. The entire complex reminded me of a slightly smaller version of the San Francisco Zoo, where I learned about animals throughout my youth and where I haven’t walked around in more than 15 years.
This trip was so good, I’m loathe to actually write about it. Everyone had fun and it was nice, just like the rest of the vacation.
Too bad I return to work Friday night, because this break was too good to end.
Thursday, May 31 — Shuffling through into the summer, I was reminded of what was good and bad about sports on Wednesday. The good came in Portland. The bad came somewhere in New Jersey.
Let us start with the bad, because that won’t take very long. The NBA Draft Lottery took place on Wednesday night, giving the teams that didn’t make the postseason something to look forward to before they start work on who they’ll draft in the first round. The lottery, which was designed to discourage teams from “tanking” the season in order to get the No. 1 pick in the draft, is also a prime source of conspiracy theories.
OK, the NBA — in and of itself — is a constant source of conspiracy theories.
The New Orleans Hornets, which is currently owned by the NBA (yes, the league owns the team), picked up the No. 1 spot in the 2012 draft, which means Kentucky’s Anthony Davis will be there for the 2012-13 season. Davis is the prized player in the draft this time around. OK, so now you can scan the Internet for all of the stories about how the NBA “rigged” the lottery in order to give the top pick to a team that it owns and wants to sell off to current New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, making the franchise more valuable.
For most of the teams that were eligible for the lottery, a conspiracy theory was easily available to them as well. Grantland – link – did a great job of going over the conspiracies, especially for Golden State (a protected pick).
Why is the NBA Lottery bad for sports? Yeah, it is the conspiracy theory theory. The NBA is rigged. The fix is in. If the NBA wants things done its way, it makes sure of it, even in the open (see Chris Paul trade fiasco with New Orleans after the lockout). It is a cottage industry, which really kicked into a high gear when a disgraced referee came out and said that he helped “work” games for gamblers and his presence was felt during a disputed Western Conference finals between Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002 — link.
In reality, it takes a lot of people keeping their mouths shut and a lot of people working behind the scenes to come up with a plan to influence a playoff series, or even a draft lottery. Human nature comes in and tells you that someone will say something that will blow it all up. It hasn’t happened yet. Yet. For now, stay off the Internet when the lottery comes on.
(Editor’s Note: Everyone here at 366 Days has sworn off the NBA because they do feel that something fishy did go on in this 2002 series. As Kings fans, it was tough to watch Games 6 & 7 without feeling like the strings were being pulled. To this day, the NBA is league non grata. And that was before its work in helping Seattle lose the Sonics to that city that is currently down to the San Antonio Spurs in the WC finals this week.)
The good in sports came Wednesday night in Portland when the MLS Portland Timbers hosted an amateur team from Ventura Country in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup. The Timbers are, of course, professionals and they fielded a pretty competitive team on this night. Cal FC, the amateurs, don’t have a home stadium and are stocked full of players who have some professional experience, but not enough to (supposedly) threaten an MLS squad.
On Tuesday, seven MLS squads were eliminated by lower-tier teams in the third round of the tournament. Upsets were flying all over the soccer landscape. Wednesday night’s match was the biggest — and most embarrassing (in the eyes of Timbers fans) — of them all. Here’s the Oregonian story
Portland spent the vast majority of the match dominating, peppering the Cal FC goal (with a goalkeeper that had a tryout with the Seattle Sounders on his resume and used to play for the Kitsap Pumas, a US Developmental League squad) with shots. Many of the shots didn’t threaten. And when they did, they went over the crossbar.
Cal FC got its big break in the first overtime period, getting a breakaway that was converted with a chip shot over a charging goalkeeper for the only goal of the match. At the end, Cal FC players celebrated, Timbers players sulked and the Timbers Army got a little heated. In the end, it chanted to Cal FC “Beat Seattle”… I honestly thought that the TA would ask for the Timber players’ jerseys, ala Genoa and its Ultras, but that didn’t happen. The request would have been extreme, but my point was that the result is an embarrassment to Portland’s die-hard fans, who deserved better than to be on the wrong side of history.
Fair play to Cal FC, for coming into a stadium that was 100 percent pro-Timber and walking away with a victory that will live in U.S. soccer lore. And that’s why it is good for sports — underdogs prevailing.
(Editor’s note: A bit of a rant coming up. Honestly, it hasn’t been the best of times here for 366 Days. The finished product here was seriously edited, because, in all honesty, there is still some brewing anger left over.)
Catchup (Memorial Day weekend, before and after) — I learned one thing about writing and blogging: don’t do it while mad.
The state tournament trip to Yakima turned into a one-day burnout to cover two games and return to write the story in the office. Mileage on the car and gas burned were high on this day. The tense days before that one-day burnout made life suck and the days after weren’t that much better. I guess stress is handled differently in other parts of the newsroom.
This summer will be an interesting one, a more introspective one. A few trips, some summer baseball/softball tournaments and time at home will be the call of the days. The constant will be the task of resetting the house, inside and out. This is the worst time of history to have to do this, but it has to get done. It has to get done.
Some of the good stuff from the timeframe, including the Mount Rainier pic that started this entry. I took a few shots of the re-dedication of the Washington Vietnam Veterans Memorial ceremony in Olympia, but I was so far away from it, you can’t really tell. That was a nice ceremony and a nice reminder of my family members who fought in Vietnam and WWII.
Sunday, May 20 — On the first day when all the games are finished and it was time to relax, it rained. It rained enough to keep the lawn mower in the garage, the trip to the miniature golf center on hold and a touch of ‘stir-crazy’ to settle in after being on the job for the past two-plus weeks.
Home-made Philly Cheese streaks were consumed for dinner and it was nice to just sit and enjoy the family. We watched a few movies, found that the little girl can sing along with songs she’s heard maybe once or twice before and balloons are fun for cats.
Once the rest of the family went to bed, I kept Netflix on and watched Jamie Kennedy’s “Heckler,” his documentary on hecklers and critics, why they do what they do and how other comedians/entertainers/producers handle the criticism. If you think your job is tough, try taking your creative work out to the public for their enjoyment/derision, especially if you are a stand-up comedian or an actor or a singer or, well, anything in entertainment today.
To a certain degree, there is criticism of the media from the public. I’ve heard my share of “Are you guys in need of a copy editor or a spell checker?” and “You don’t cover this, so you must be biased or hate this or that…” comments over the years. Also, we get the e-mail that usually tells you that you, in a word, suck.
I saved one of them from this past school year and well, this person was at least kind enough to put their name at the bottom of it. (Editor’s note: It has been edited to protect those named in it, including the person who wrote it. No need to give the letter writer any bit of notoriety.)
One of your comments in (the paper) regarding the (soccer) game vs (a league rival) apparently shows your lack of knowledge of what a good pass is in Soccer. On the only score for (the local team), (a player) made a beautiful crossing pass to (a teammate). … The announcer even commented on the nice assist. Your comment of a missplaced pass in (the paper) was uncalled for and showed little support for our local high school sports team.
OK. So, according to this person, I have no knowledge of a good pass in soccer and the announcer knows more than I do. Underlining assist, as if that was the most important aspect of the entire play, was classic. Not the goal or the team lost the game, but the assist. Most important — assist. All of that equates to a complete lack of support for the local team. The one comment negated the front-page photos, the 19-inch story on the game and the continued coverage that the paper delivers for not just that team, but for that school.
After re-reading what I wrote, I pretty much came to this conclusion — the letter writer was upset that their player wasn’t named in the story. How I described it was what happened, even going back over notes that I kept from the contest, confirms that.
I have no problem making a mistake. That’s what a correction and a kind response e-mail back when alerted is for. However, to be told that I have “(a) lack of knowledge of what a good pass is in Soccer” is a bit much. Is it true? To this person, yes. In reality? Hell no. Did it affect how I covered the next game of that team? No. Unfortunately, it still bugs me even today and it has been several months since I received it and that particular game was played.
Why does it bug me? Because if I make a mistake, that makes me look bad and is a kink in my armor as a writer. There is something there that I missed/screwed up on and, therefore, it is fixable. If I am told I made a mistake and I didn’t, then that’s just bitching and moaning because I didn’t write how that person thought/believed/imagined it should have been written. And, honestly, that makes it damn near impossible to defend. You can’t reason with crazy/looney and you can’t fix crazy, especially when you aren’t the one who is crazy.
“Heckler” also touched upon the notion that everyone is a critic and everyone has an opinion. Well, yeah. The difference is how it is communicated. Just go through Twitter and you’ll get your fill on criticism/bitching/moaning/wise-cracking. I’ve done it myself a few times, usually during award shows. Pro sports have a pretty good niché in critical mayhem and that enters fan-dom and “what have you done for me lately” territory. It isn’t pretty. In some ways, it isn’t fair either, but it is an outlet for fans to vent frustrations. Again, it is how it is communicated.
Acceptable: Tweet — Damn, I can’t believe he missed that shot.
Unacceptable: Tweet — @(Player’s name) Fuck you, you suck. My grandmother can make that shot. Go die in a plane crash you waste of human space.
The movie was a very interesting trip through Kennedy’s eyes on hecklers, critics and opinions. Many of the comedians featured in it had their run-ins with hecklers and how they’ve handled them. In the end, all the “heckler/critic” wants is attention. Not giving attention to them works sometimes in some ways, but not in face-to-face/public meetings.
I never responded to this e-mail and I haven’t responded to others as well. We’ve even received e-mails from people about us to other newspapers. Those were just flat-out laughable. I noted this one, because it really stuck in me as petty and crazy. So this is my response. Way too late, but a response. Congrats. I’ve now deleted your e-mail.
The past two-plus weeks — The experiment is stil on, because I still enjoy doing this. When I have something to write about or something to say, this is a damn good outlet.
Work pretty much dominated my life once the sun came out and the games were piled up, ready to be played in a rapid-fire series. Western Washington is known for its rain, but this spring was crazy. For some schools, their teams literally completed a full 10-week regular season in 2 1/2 weeks. It was nuts trying to get everything down and covered.
This week, there is a trip to Yakima for state softball. This is a good trip to finish the high school season on. The sun is out and the weather is gorgeous. The travel is a bit of a pain, but 4 days out of the office is nothing to take lightly. I had 4 days out of the office this past week, but I had to drive back to the office to write everything up. It is a bit different knowing that you have days away and your hotel room or your beach chair on the grass is your office.
This was my seat for most of the four days at Borst Park in Centralia for district softball:
I’m not normally that far away from the action, but the bleachers were packed and there isn’t much space inside the fenced-in areas to put down a seat and work. Also, there’s fewer distractions down the line and you can watch more than one game if you need to. And with several teams in each district tournament, that was pivotal.
Overall, this was a fun couple of weeks. When you are a sports writer, this is one of the good times of the year. The games are close, the circumstances are dire (win or go home) and the stories are filled with drama. You also get to see which players step up in the pressure and which ones melt down. It is a microcosm of sports and life, all played out on a small patch of dirt and grass with a ball, a bat and nine fielders.
Coming up… Road trip to Central Washington, maybe a rant or two beforehand.
Saturday, May 5 — The Kentucky Derby is one of those events that most people have on their bucket lists to go to, see that it looks like a lot of fun to walk around Churchill Downs in fancy dress and a big f’n hat.
Yeah, I have the Kentucky Derby on my bucket list as well, but it isn’t as high a priority as other sporting events to cover/attend. Maybe because I know how much of a pain in the ass it is on that day to get through the crowd, to get a good place to watch the races, to even get a decent drink that doesn’t cost a ton of money.
Besides that, it looks like a lot of fun there.
Horse racing has a small part in my sports writing life, mostly coming early on when I was a stringer for the Vallejo Times-Herald in the early 90s. During the summers, I had to write up the daily handicap feature that ran during the Solano County Fair horse races. This involved going down to a small motel near the fairgrounds to meet up with a freelance handicapper — Jack “The Track” Webster.
Jack was a chain-smoking, circuit-hopping handicapper who made his living off the California horse racing days. During the summer, he would travel with the fair racing circuit to make his living. On the side, he offered up his picks and advice in newspapers.
The first time I met Jack, he told me he remembered another reporter who would pick up his picks and that he’d offer me the same offer he gave to him — give him $20 or $50 before the fair racing starts and he’ll bet the money on horses throughout the two-week run; at the end of the run, we split the money. I declined. I thought it was a scam. Who knows how much money I would have won that year, because he made a ton. However, since I was just a freshman in community college, I wasn’t flush with cash that I could part with $20 or $50 like that on something that may not work out.
Every day, I would go to his hotel room, brave the vast cigarette smoke that will bellow out of it when he opens the door and get his picks for the next day’s races. He’ll talk about the horses, the jockeys and the owners as if they are all crooked and mumble about how much money he lost (not gained, actually) because of something he couldn’t control or see in advance.
You see, he made money. Lots of it. Every day. He was pretty damn good at his job, good enough to make a living at it and not have to worry about when his next paycheck will come. He knew his next payday came at post time.
Throughout this run with Jack, I learned a few things about horse racing. For starters, there were too many variables to take into account to accurately handicap how a race will finish. One of the variables — the horse owners. If an owner looks up and sees that his horse is too big of a favorite that he can’t make any money betting on him (and the purse money isn’t enough to cover expenses), he may tell the jockey to “take the horse for a run” and hand the jockey a little money to compensate him.
Another variable — the horse. It is a temperamental animal that, even with all the training it goes through, can do whatever the fuck it wants to do on any given moment. A Derby-bound horse can just suddenly not want to run anymore. A low-grader can suddenly run as if it was equipped on rocket fuel.
A third variable is the track and its setup. A good race track will make middle-of-the-pack horses better, a really good horse great and a great horse look like Secretariat. Nothing really makes a bad horse better, except for buzzers and they are illegal.
The most constant advice I got on better horses from him, which was thrown into into other life lessons he would toss out without prompting or care, was you had to learn how to read the racing form and know the horses. There are huge volumes of books on horse lineage and family trees that you have to take into account. A great horse can sire a pretty good string of winners, while middle horses can get lucky and bad horses should learn how to handle children on their backs in trails and forests.
One more piece of advice that he offered was simple — listen. Listen to the owners. Listen to the track operators. Listen to the jockeys. Take in all the news and tidbits and gossip you can gather, plug them into the variables above and lean on your research to make the right call. He fancied himself a detective just as much as a handicapper, because Jack felt he needed that one piece of information that would make the difference between a torn ticket and a new car payment.
For three summers, I met up with Jack. Every summer, I declined his offer. In hindsight, I wish I’d taken him up on one of those summer deals, but alas… Every summer, I would hang out at the track for a few days to listen and to understand what Jack was trying to tell me. In the end, I learned that the track press room had free beer, the horses do what horses do whatever they felt like it and you are going to lose betting on horses a lot more than you are going to win.
But when you win, you feel like a king. And, you feel like the smartest man at the track.
Thanks Jack. You were a good guy and a pleasure to talk to.
Friday, May 4 — This day is the fabled “May The Fourth (Force) Be With You” Star Wars Day. It was a day when I was going to come on here and talk about Star Wars and poke a little fun at being a nerd and the silliness of this day.
That is until I woke up late on Friday morning and learned the MCA of the Beastie Boys, aka Adam Yauch, died.
And my heart sank. Yauch died of cancer and its complications, He was more than a musician and rapper, but a respected ambassador for New York and humanitarian causes.
The Beastie Boys got me through the final years of high school and were a part of my learning curve into New York rap/hip-hop. “Licensed To Ill” was my first rap album I bought, but it was the third one I owned. The first two — Run-DMC’s “King of Rock” and Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation…” — were pilfered (aka stolen) from other sources. I’m not proud, but I took a few chances and didn’t get burned. (Editor’s Note: Those were cassettes and now he own the CDs/digital versions of those two albums, so karma has been restored.)
I own just about every Beastie Boys tome that has come out, most of them now digital. It is fun music, brilliantly put together and lyrically perfect as a soundtrack to your day/month/life. “Paul’s Boutique” literally played throughout the summer of 1989 and my first year in college. There isn’t a song on that album that doesn’t make me ‘free associate’ what I was doing when that song came on. Also, it is music that I haven’t grown tired of. I have a library full of music that I’ve listened to a lot, but haven’t touched in years. Not so with the Beastie Boys, since I hear something from them every day and it is still good.
I got to see them three times live. Each time was an adventure, musically, and I was never disappointed.
This is one of those times when it is tough to describe what I’m feeling about someone dying, especially someone I never met. In a way, I did know him and the Beastie Boys — through their music. And for that, I’ll miss MCA/Adam. Thanks, Brooklyn brother.
Coldplay did a tribute to Adam during their concert on Friday night. Brilliant… Also, the Seattle Mariners introduced their lineup to the Beastie Boys as a tribute to Adam as well. So cool.
Thursday, May 3 — This has been the first time I’ve been able to sit down and type on this blog since April 20. Life, as always, took center stage and you have to ride the ride, since the ticket has been paid for long before you got here.
Everyone had the flu for a few days. Everyone had a hectic schedule of work and activities to get through. Everyone had a little less sleep than they needed. Everyone caught up eventually.
And now, I’m sitting here again to restart this project.
There ya go. Still not much else to add, since talking about work and the rain and length of your lawn and minutia that everyone else goes through and very few people would want to read it. Unless you are a boring individual and really, we all are in our own way of living.
On Friday, it is the uber-dorky “May 4th” holiday — as in “May the 4th (force) be with you!” Ugh. I’m a Star Wars fan and it makes me nervous itchy to acknowledge that.
Some pictures in and around the Harbor: