Week 9 NFL Picks (And My Search For Gainful Employment)

old-man-crystal-ball

This is shaping up to be a shorter-than-usual picks column. I’ll pause while you scream with joy.

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Done?

Awesome.

Typically I spend most of my Tuesday and Wednesday combing through NFL results, stats, analysis…anything to distract me from my pursuit of writing.

But this week I’m learning a tough lesson. And that lesson is this: Restaurant jobs are a young man’s game.

Deciding after 18 months of semi-retirement that getting some income might not be the worst idea, I spent the last few weeks debating what type of work I wanted to dabble in. The key is for that work not to take away too much time from my writing.

I have experience in only two professions…selling software and waiting tables.

Oh, make that three professions actually. Sunglass sales too.

OK fine, four professions. Library security guarding would be the fourth.

I’ve been out of the sunglass game so long I wouldn’t even know where to begin. And I haven’t seen the inside of a library in 10 years. Do they exist anymore? Didn’t the internet + Kindle + iPad + the world moving towards an uneducated majority put libraries out of business?

So that leaves two options. And I came to the realization long ago that the reason I become voluntarily unemployed for a few months every couple years is because I hate software sales so very much.

The pattern is: work at 70% effort level for three years, save money, don’t put money towards the things adults eventually need money for (house, wedding, kids, timeshare in Aruba), instead drain all that money by “taking a break from the sales career,” decide during that break that I’m never going back to sales, beg my way back into sales when the money runs dry.

Long story long, I started a job at a fancy Mexican restaurant this past Tuesday. Even though I interviewed to be a server, they start everyone off as a busser for training purposes. When I first worked in a restaurant 10 years ago, it was the same thing. But back then I had a young man’s body and energy. Back then it was a bunch of college kids socializing and flirting throughout our shifts. Back then I spent more time figuring out which waitress I was going to bend over a barrel and show the 50 states to later that night.

These past two days I’ve come home from three-hour shifts and felt like I needed to soak in one of those ice baths for 30 minutes. I can hardly walk. I dislike the thin layer of sweat, cooking oil and salsa that covers my entire body. It doesn’t feel like a bunch of college kids hanging out and planning the after-work party. It feels like adults who are actually trying to make a living. I almost threw out my back hauling a full trash barrel to the dumpster on Wednesday.

Part time restaurant jobs do not typically include benefits. Therefore if I do throw out my back, it’s going to take somewhere in the range of 15-20 shifts to make enough money to cover the costs of a chiropractor.

This is not good.

In conclusion, it turns out I don’t hate software sales that much after all.

In further conclusion, my football research time this week was spent trying to play a young man’s game. And I lost.

 

Here are the week 9 picks:

Cincinnati (-3) @ Miami

When I did my line guessing on Monday night, I had Cincinnati as a 6.5-point favorite. So you can probably guess which way I’m going in this game. Now that the Dolphins have lost four in a row to fall to 3-4 on the season, the only result that’s confusing through their first seven games is their win at Indianapolis. Don’t know how to explain that one. But wins over Cleveland and Atlanta don’t seem that good at this point, and they’ve lost home games to Baltimore (3-4) and Buffalo (3-5). They aren’t good and they’re also down an important receiver in Brandon Gibson. What am I missing? The Bengals roll, 27-16. 

Side Note: Another strike against the Dolphins’ chances on Thursday is THISIf the prank was anything other than the rest of the O-line showing him pictures of them gang-banging his wife/girlfriend, he’s a friggen wimp and should be cut.

Atlanta @ Carolina (-7.5)

I would have loved to see Vegas still refusing to give the Panthers the respect they deserve. But alas, the Falcons have been so bad the line makers had no choice but to stretch this to more than a touchdown. I’ve placed my biggest bet of the week each of the past three weeks on a Carolina cover, and they’ve come through each time. I know my luck is going to run out sooner than later, but I just don’t want to bet against them until they face a team that actually has a chance to win. I think Cam Newton can tear up this atrocious Falcons defense. I say Carolina wins by 10….30-20 final score.

Minnesota @ Dallas (-10.5)

I’m making this pick before we even know which terrible option the Vikings are going with at quarterback on Sunday. And before we even know if Minnesota’s going to make the trip to Dallas or just forfeit the game. And I’m still picking the Vikings to cover. This Cowboys team doesn’t deserve to be this big of a favorite against anyone not named Jacksonville. And coming off that loss in Detroit…the Cowboys being the most mentally weak team I’ve ever seen. No way they cover. If Minnesota was starting someone at QB that was at least the caliber of Tim Tebow or Brady Quinn, I’d be picking them to win outright. Instead I’ll go with a Cowboys win, 24-20.

New Orleans (-6) @ NY Jets

I was hoping this line was a little bit higher so I could feel even more sure about the Jets covering. Yes, the Saints were one play away in that Patriots game from still being undefeated. And no team has lost a game by more points in 2013 than the Jets’ no-show at Cincinnati last week. I feel like people would bet on the Saints even if the line was closer to 10. But not me. I love the Jets in this game. I dare you to look at who the Saints have played so far this year and still feel like they’re a sure-thing Super Bowl contender (the combined record of the six teams the Saints have beaten this year? 16-28). On the road against a good defense (I know, I know, that “good D” just got torched for 35 points)…and don’t forget the Saints have the uglier Ryan twin. And looks are extremely important for determining who’s better just as much in football as they are in all parts of life. Give me a Jets cover, but a Saints win, 31-27.

Side Note: As I mentioned in my week 8 recap column, this Jets team might be really difficult to pin down for the rest of the year. Win one, lose one. Keep a game close, get blown out. It seems like as Geno Smith goes, so go the Jets. And rookies tend to be pretty unpredictable. A pick for or against the Jets will almost never be a confident one from me.

Tennessee (-3) @ St. Louis

This is one of those games that leaves you feeling clueless about football. Should the Titans really be favored against anyone on the road? Should the Rams be even more of an underdog because Kellen Clemens is their best option at quarterback? It’s a waste of time to try to pick this game based off of statistics and research. I’m going to say that since the Rams were able to keep their game against Seattle on Monday to a five-point loss, they will also play Tennessee close. I’m taking the Rams to cover with a 21-18 win (I’d really like to call a push here and say the Titans win in overtime, but that seems like a very specific prediction).

Kansas City (-3) @ Buffalo

This line makes no sense. The 8-0 Chiefs against the 3-5 Bills. Of course it seems like this should be a 7-point spread regardless of Kansas City being on the road. But it looks like Vegas won’t let me outsmart them this time. I’ve been picking against the Chiefs the last two weeks and even promised to keep picking against them as recently as two days ago. I was just waiting for them to be a heavy favorite so I could roll over my World Series profit on the Bills (I did actually take the Sox to win it all back in April at 30/1 odds. Hurray for me!). You know what? Screw it. I’m still taking Buffalo to cover. Here comes KC’s first loss of the season. The Bills win 27-23.

Side Note: You know dynamic runner/receiver Jamaal Charles? The guy with all the speed who you think should be able to carry the load for the Chiefs in this game? Well keep in mind Darren Sproles had 0 rushing attempts and only 4 receptions (for 0 total yards) against the Bills last week. Not saying they’re the same player, but this Bills D might be really good against guys like that.

San Diego (-1) @ Washington

This is already the fourth game of the week where we have a road team favored by three points or less. These are frustrating games to pick. In the Norv Turner era, I would have quickly taken the Redskins and moved on, mostly because I would have felt like the Chargers would be looking ahead to week 10 where they’ll be facing Denver for the first time this year. But this is not the Norv era anymore, and the Chargers have had two weeks to prepare for RGIII. And don’t forget that while San Diego was relaxing on the beach last weekend, the Skins were getting beat up against the Broncos. Let’s dub this game “The One That Caused Obnoxious Media Personalities To Start Screaming For Kirk Cousins To Be Named The Starter So RGIII Can Get Healthy For Next Year.”

San Diego wins 31-24.

Philadelphia @ Oakland (-2.5)

On Monday I saw some websites that had the Eagles actually favored by the 2.5 points. Unfortunately my gambling website hasn’t posted a line for this game all week. Probably waiting on more certainty around the Eagles’ starting QB. But if Bovada had listed the Eagles as any kind of favorite at any point this week, I would have bet so hard on Oakland. You already know that I’m sneaky in love with the Raiders so the change to them being favored in this game does nothing to my pick. I’m taking the Raiders to cover and improve that sterling record to 4-4 with a 26-21 win over the Eagles.

Tampa Bay @ Seattle (-17)

Ahh, the final game on Greg Schiano’s season-long farewell tour. It’s the polar opposite of the Mariano Rivera farewell tour. Listen, I’ve been on a team where everyone hates the guy in charge (mine was a sales team, but still). It’s a toxic atmosphere. Guys stop doing their work and instead spend most of their time trash-talking the boss. They stop paying attention to details because subconsciously they want to sabotage the entire operation. Sometimes, like in almost every season of Survivor, a team wants someone gone bad enough that they consciously throw a game/challenge/whatever to further justify that person’s ousting. The Bucs will not compete in this game. And don’t forget that the Seahawks are coming off their version of a loss…a close road win that feels like a loss but still ends up in the win column. Seattle rolls to a 38-9 win.

Baltimore (-3) @ Cleveland

I’m not taking the bait on this one. I get it, you want me to take the Browns. Lots of people are going to be taking the Browns. After all, the Ravens have already lost road games to Buffalo and Pittsburgh, both by three points. And Cleveland played the Ravens very tough at Baltimore in week 2. And Jason Campbell didn’t look “that bad” against the Chiefs last week. And both teams are under .500 so why does it make sense that the road team would be favored? But my counter is this: It’s the NFL. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you don’t. Oh, and Baltimore’s had two weeks to get ready for a divisional matchup that they’re very motivated to win. These next two weeks are pretty much the season for Baltimore (they host Cincinnati in week 10). I’m picking the Ravens to cover with a 23-15 win.

Pittsburgh @ New England (-7)

I got incredibly lucky picking the Patriots last week. If New England doesn’t block that field goal late in the game, it’s a push. And if the Dolphins don’t screw up another field goal early in the 2nd half, where the ball hit the upright, the Dolphins easily cover. So I should say thank you to the football gods and not take my chances on another Patriots seven-point cover until they prove to be worthy of it. New England’s injury report is still alarmingly littered with important players. Gronk got added this week with a hamstring injury. Amendola, Bolden, Edelman and Marcus Cannon were already on there for the offense. And Aqib Talib’s status remains a mystery. Even if New England plays its best game of the year, this is ripe for a backdoor cover by the Steelers. I see the Patriots winning, but only by four. 27-23 is the call.

Indianapolis (-2.5) @ Houston

Ummmmmm….only 2.5? Is that real? And why isn’t it available on my gambling site so I can bet all of last week’s winnings + the Red Sox money + the cash advance I’m going to add to my balance later today? You want to tell me Reggie Wayne’s absence is going to hurt the Colts? Fine, but what about the fact that both Arian Foster and Ben Tate might miss this game? This Houston team is nothing without its running game. And Gary Kubiak’s worried enough about his running back tandem that he signed three free agent RBs this week just in case. This is not a trap game for the Colts as they literally have no difficult competition on the horizon (next 4 games: St. Louis, Tennessee, Arizona, Tennessee). And Indy’s already proved they can win on the road when they handled San Francisco earlier this year. Please let this game show up on Bovada with the current spread that I’m seeing on other sites. I could forego all restaurant and sales jobs if I can just get money down on this line now. I’m clearly taking Indianapolis by a score of 31-20.

Chicago @ Green Bay (-11)

I spent a solid 20 minutes looking for some logical reason to pick the Bears in this game. I’ve already picked enough favorites this week, including one double-digit favorite in Seattle. I want to go underdog here, but there’s just no statistical evidence that Chicago will put up a fight. Even with Jay Cutler the Packers have pretty much owned Chicago in Green Bay over the past five years. And you may have heard that they won’t have Cutler this time around. My only concern is the backdoor cover, but just like Aaron Rodgers was motivated last week to put up an extra score or two because of the Greg Jennings trash talk and playing a divisional rival, so too will he be motivated against their biggest rival in the Bears. Let’s ignore the backdoor potential and say Green Bay covers with a 36-20 win.

 

For those of you keeping score at home, in week 9 I’m taking:

  • 8 Favorites & 5 Underdogs
  • Of those 5 Underdogs, 3 are Home Dogs & 2 are Road Dogs

Now if you’ll excuse me, day three of the great restaurant experiment is calling.

Enjoy week 9.

Week 8 NFL Recap: A Rush To Judgment Leads To Bruised Hands & Junk Food

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions

No matter how many times we have it drilled into us that in sports “it’s not over til it’s over,” we just can’t help rushing to judgment. Things can change so quickly, and we’ve all probably seen hundreds of examples of this across every sport.

But we just can’t help ourselves. Instead of patience, we feel the need to make a definitive statement about how things will end up, even when those things are still being played out right before our eyes.

I like to think of myself as a relatively even-keeled sports fan. But that doesn’t stop me from succumbing to the temptation to overreact. This past weekend was a perfect example.

After my Red Sox were on the losing end of that still-mind-boggling World Series game on Saturday night, I flipped out (kind of like Dez Bryant flipped out on Sunday). More depressing in my mind than the way that game ended was the fact that Boston was now down 2-1 in the series and a mysteriously-injured-or-fatgiued Clay Buchholz was the only thing standing in the way of the Cardinals getting a 3-1 stranglehold on the series. I reacted like any normal 30-year-old would: I crushed enough drinks at the bar to mostly wipe out my memory, and then I woke up Sunday morning with a confusing bruise on my left hand and a kitchen suddenly stocked with beef jerky, Goldfish, peanut M&M’s, a Heath Bar and Pringles. It seems like I had an anger-filled pity party for myself. I hope it was fun.

Fast forward to the first half of the Patriots-Dolphins game on Sunday and here are some of the notes I was taking for the recap blog:

  • “Marquice Cole might be the worst defender in the history of football…awful, awful coverage on the Dolphins’ first touchdown”
  • “It honestly looks like Gronk is the only eligible receiver on the field for the Patriots on every play. Why is Brady refusing to throw to Amendola, Edelman and Dobson???”
  • “Brady’s first completion comes with 1:35 left in the 1st quarter…terrible, terrible, terrible”
  • “The Pats’ best offensive weapon is a borderline pass interference call that went for 21 yards. Let’s do that 23 more times.”
  • “Patriots down 14-0. This might be over with the way Brady’s playing”
  • “From bad to embarrassing, the Pats get the ball to start the 2nd half and their three offensive plays are: Dobson drop on a perfect 10 yard throw, Brady trips on Ridley’s feet and gets hit while throwing a wobbler, Brady gets sacked…awful”
  • I don’t think I have the energy to deal with this Pats game and then another Red Sox loss later tonight..this is shaping up to be a terrible sports weekend for Boston fans”

Well…you don’t have to be a Boston fan to know that starting with the 2nd half of that Patriots game, this turned out to be a great sports weekend for New England. The Pats not only won, but they covered (important for jerks like me who always say they’re not going to bet on their own team but then do anyways). The Red Sox not only got a solid outing from Buchholz, but they won the game and knotted the series at 2-2.

Maybe the Patriots reacted to the Red Sox loss on Saturday night the same way I did and that’s why they were a bit lethargic to start the game on Sunday. The point is, no matter how much it kills us to demonstrate patience when things seem to be going bad, it’s necessary if you don’t want to have a meltdown every other day. I’ll try to remind myself of that if the Sox implode in game 5 on Monday night.

 

Let’s dig through the notebook and see what else went on this weekend outside of that Patriots game:

  • Calvin Johnson is good at football.
  • Dez Bryant is pretty good at football too, but he’s a fucking psycho. As Calvin continues to gravitate towards the Jerry Rice stratosphere, Dez continues to go down the Terrell Owens path. I hope the Dez-Dallas relationship ends as poorly as possible.
  • Speaking of Dallas and Detroit, I’m going out on a very small limb here and saying that was the best game of the year. Better than Peyton @ Indianapolis two weeks ago. Better than Patriots over the Saints in the final seconds. You couldn’t ask for more in this game. A 300-yard receiver, some circus catches from Owens Bryant, the Cowboys shooting themselves in the foot after leading by 10 with only six minutes left, and the perfect QB-WR combo to lead an unlikely comeback in the final minute. I even gained a new respect for Matt Stafford with that ballsy leap into the end zone on Detroit’s final score. If this had been the Thursday night game instead, it would have ended with Detroit winning 12-7.
  • I have a new favorite play of the year. Yes, better than all of those Brandon Weeden throws where he underhands it to a group of defenders. But this play also came from a Cleveland quarterback. With the Browns trailing by six and time about to run out, Jason Campbell ran to the line of scrimmage near midfield, got his team lined up, and then spiked the ball to “clock it” right as the game clock ticked to 0:00. I’m not sure, but I think a hail mary might have been the correct call.
  • It’s tough to get a feel for a lot of the games when you’re just watching the Red Zone Channel all day. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the Buffalo-New Orleans game was just play after play of the two QBs getting absolutely demolished every time they dropped back. Did anyone else watching the RZC notice that? Every highlight from that game was either Drew Brees or Thad Lewis getting drilled. I’m stunned neither of them got seriously hurt.
  • I told you before week 7 to start shorting the Chiefs because they were a soft undefeated team that is getting too much respect from Vegas. And guess what? They haven’t covered in their last two games, both of them at home against bad Houston and Cleveland teams. Yes, they still won both times and they’re now 8-0, but they won’t fool me. I will continue to bet against them, and I might even pick them to lose at Buffalo next week. If you look at their schedule, it’s conceivable that they’ll lose their next four or five games. I know, I know, blasphemy. Everyone’s so high on this defense and mistake-free offense, but they haven’t played anyone yet. The fall is coming. (end of Chiefs rant)
  • If you’ve been paying attention to my football columns, you know I’ve been wrong on my Redskins predictions every week. And this week I picked Denver to cover only so I’d be wrong again and my friends from Washington would end the silent treatment they’ve been giving me. So in one sense you probably think I broke my curse by picking correct in one of their games. And maybe I’m not a jinx anymore…but in another sense, I should probably tell you that when Washington took a 21-7 lead, I wrote in my notes, “This week’s ‘football makes no sense’ example: The Skins are going to beat Denver in Denver.” To my friends in D.C., I’m very sorry for this.
  • The real “football makes no sense” example from week 8 is this: The Raiders were the consensus to be the worst team in football this year. That was when we thought a potentially competent Matt Flynn would be their starting QB. Instead, supplemental draft pick Terrelle Pryor wins the starting job and suddenly they’re 3-4, have a legitimate shot to be 6-5 after week 12, and hearing Andrew Siciliano tease us that an update on the Raiders game is coming on the RZC makes us wonder what awesome thing Pryor did this time. It makes no sense that the Raiders are this fun.
  • My favorite Siciliano update on the Raiders game yesterday was not the Pryor 93-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, but rather when he told us that multiple Raiders players and coaches were flipping the refs off from the sideline after a bad penalty went against them. Once Tom Brady hits the IR with a broken throwing hand, I might adopt Oakland as my team for the rest of the year.
  • The Red Zone Channel could have renamed itself “Turnover Central” or “Interceptions Only Channel” for the four late games on Sunday. You think I’m exaggerating? With half a quarter left in each game, I jokingly guessed that I had seen about 14 turnovers between those four games. Turns out I was off by 8 turnovers…there were 22 turnovers in those games. 19 interceptions and 3 fumbles. That’s an average of 5.5 turnovers per game.
  • As a comparison, there were 19 total turnovers in the other 8 games that have been played so far in week 8.
  • Personally I found all the turnovers to be fantastic TV viewing.
  • Here’s some interesting trends from the 2013 New York Jets: They’re 4-4. They’ve neither won two games in a row nor lost two games in a row. In their 4 wins, they’ve outscored the opponent by an average of 3.25 points. In their 4 losses, they’ve been outscored by an average of 20.25 points (Even if you take out the 40-point loss to Cincinnati on Sunday, they’re still getting outscored by nearly 13 points in their other losses).
  • From a betting standpoint, it seems that you should first decide if the Jets can win outright or not. If not, then don’t get cute and expect them to cover as a 3-10 point underdog.
  • I got a comment last week from one of my faithful Pittsburgh readers. He was upset that I didn’t spend any time recapping the Steelers’ big win over the Ravens. Fine. Here you go, Pittsburgh reader: That win over Baltimore looked like it could be big, but now it’s completely meaningless. Beating Oakland to get to 3-4 would have made things interesting, but now the 2-5 Steelers are finished.
  • I’m officially adding Pittsburgh to my list of teams that have no shot at the playoffs. 8-8 is their best case scenario.
  • And if I could change that list from last week’s recap, I’d be taking the Giants off of it. Unbelievable as it may be, the Giants are only two games out of first place in that horrific NFC East. For now, they remain alive.
  • I held out as long as possible, but I just have to brag a little. It wasn’t only a good sports weekend for me because of my Boston teams. I absolutely crushed my picks in week 8. I’m 9-3 going into the Monday night game (where I have Seattle to cover). I won both of my Pick ‘Em leagues for the week. Got another win in the only fantasy league I care about at this point. Everything turned to gold. The depressing part is that it took until week 8 for me to finally not lose money on my picks.

 

By the way, did you realize the city of St. Louis could get a double dose of sports depression tonight? Kellen Clemens vs Seattle in football and Red Sox-Cardinals in game 5 of the World Series. Fingers crossed that St. Louisians are jumping off the arch en masse later tonight.

 

Week 9 picks coming on Thursday.

Week 6 NFL Recap: Women Hijack My Man Cave

women watching footbal

I could write my usual NFL recap column as if I was a full participant in the football viewing on Sunday, but I think you, dear reader, would see right through the lies. The ugly truth is that I haven’t been this distracted on a football Sunday since December 20, 2003, when I had to attend a family gathering at a bar and therefore couldn’t devote my full attention to the TV screens. That date is memorable because it’s when Joe Namath tried to kiss Suzy Kolber on live TV during a Patriots-Jets game. And I was robbed of hearing it in the moment.

Whenever I go for a weekend visit to San Francisco, I always end up in my brother’s man cave on Sunday to watch the games on his three TV screen setup. Typically there are four or five guys holed up in the cave for 10 hours, and the only topic other than sports that’s discussed is our annual Vegas trip.

So I thought I’d return the favor for my brother this past weekend because he was coming down to LA for a visit. I got the multiple TV part right as I setup my living room to represent a man cave as much as possible. But that’s where the similarities ended. For most of the day we “had the pleasure” of being surrounded by a puppy, a baby and four women.

Here’s an incomplete list of what transpired:

  • We got to participate in (but mostly ignored) conversations such as “Are Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn a good couple? How could she trust someone who was so publicly involved in all that cheating?” AND “Is Pippa gonna have a rough life because she’s constantly being compared to Princess Kate?”
  • On the hour every hour the women suggested that the two men should move one TV to the bedroom and sit on the bed together watching football. In my home, like most, the large TV is in the living room and the small one is in the bedroom. They didn’t understand why watching games on a 24-inch screen was inferior to watching them on a 42-inch screen.
  • Of course the women weren’t going to spend all day indoors watching us watch football, but they had to wait for the baby to wake up from his nap before they could take him and the dog on a hike. You probably aren’t surprised to hear that the two men purposely made loud noises and lots of commotion nonstop for about 30 minutes trying to bring that nap to an abrupt end.
  • We had to entertain a 10-minute conversation where some of the women asked why the extra point attempt after a touchdown even exists since it’s so damn easy. We tried to answer as best as we could, but they continued to push for us to contact the NFL competition committee to get the whole process changed. Then one of them asked us how far away, in feet, the attempt is…we told her, then she spent a few minutes converting that into yards. It was as frustrating in person as it sounds on paper. Oh, and then they collectively decided it is a far kick after all so they should probably keep it in place.
  • When we handed each of them an US Weekly to stop the conversational madness, all it meant was that my brother and I had to be in charge of making sure the 100-pound dog didn’t eat the baby. This took up more of our time than you’re probably imagining.
  • Listen, I’m all for the pink stuff raising awareness for breast cancer, but I don’t need to hear the words “mass” or “lumps” while watching a group of women pointing at their breasts.
  • There was a lengthy discussion about whether or not Snoop Dogg and Snoop Lion are the same person, and if so, why would you change your name. And is Snoop Dogg his stage name or his real name? One of the men could have ended that conversation in 30 seconds, but, you know, football.
  • Since none of the discussions I previously mentioned were quite girly enough, they decided to bust out the bridesmaids dresses talk right around the time the Patriots game was hanging in the balance. Half my attention was devoted to taking notes on all the things I hated about the Patriots, and the other half was inadvertently learning about sweetheart necklines, bustiere bras (pronounced boost-ee-ay) and apparently a color I’ve never heard of called “dead pink.”

I think you get the point. Even with two TVs, it felt like I watched no sports all day. As a Patriots fan it was an especially shitty day to not have my full attention on those games.

By the end of Sunday my brother had sworn to never again come to my place for a sporting event, and all the women were mad at me for hogging the apartment and the TVs for 10 hours.

Even if the environment around me had been ideal for football on Sunday, I have a feeling it would have been particularly difficult to put in the time necessary for a full breakdown of all the games, mostly because this was dominating my thoughts Sunday night and the better part of Monday:

It’s not all bad news for my readers though. You get a break from the weekly homework assignment of trying to make it through my 4,000 word recap column before passing out from boredom. So in a sense, while these women were doing me no favors on Sunday, they were doing you a huge favor. I’ll send them your thanks the next time they invade my Sunday Sanctuary.

Week 7 picks coming up on Thursday.

Wrapping Up A Great Stanley Cup Final (And Some Reflection on The Overall Boston Sports Landscape)

chara toews handshake_6-25-13

The immediate aftermath of the Bruins’ game 6 giveaway to the Blackhawks was so strange. I had no urges to set all my Boston sports gear on fire. There were no chairs or couches kicked across the living room. And I barely even thought about lining up four shot glasses to try to erase the painful memories.

Of course I thought about the missed opportunity. And I was definitely kicking myself for daydreaming earlier on Monday about eight Boston Championships over 11 years. But there was a weird sense of being able to immediately step back and appreciate an incredible Stanley Cup Final, and an even more impressive Boston Bruins season.

This might be an unpopular thought in Boston, but it sort of feels like a gut-wrenching loss in the Championship round is a right of passage for this current installment of Boston athletes and their fans. We’ve had three Patriots Super Bowl victories, but also those two unthinkable losses to the New York Giants. We got Celtics banner #17 when the new Big Three was assembled, but no one’s forgotten how close they were to #18 when they fell to the Lakers in game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. And while the Red Sox haven’t lost in the World Series during this extended run of Boston sports success, their game 7 losses in the 2003 and 2008 ALCS belong in the same miserable category.

So now it’s the Bruins turn.

Are you one of those people who can filter out the missed chances when thinking back on this ridiculous run that started in February 2002? Or are you going to remember David Tyree and Mario Manningham’s catches, Ron Artest’s three-pointer, and Aaron Boone’s home run more than anything? (You’re right, no one will ever forget Boone’s home run. That moment is not erasable. And no, I would never link to that clip in a blog post)

Maybe part of the reason this Bruins loss will bring a shorter grieving period is because it was never about anything more than this particular Stanley Cup Championship. It wasn’t about anyone’s legacy or needing another banner to win an argument over another city’s fan base. Every time the Patriots’ season ends short of a Super Bowl Title now, we can’t help but think of Brady and Belichick needing just one more to solidify their places atop the all-time quarterback and coaching ranks, respectively. And another Larry O’Brien trophy for the Celtics is always needed to stay ahead of the Lakers.

LeBron James got all of two days to enjoy his latest NBA Championship before people were talking about how he needs a few more if there’s ever going to be a real comparison to Michael Jordan.

In hockey they don’t talk like that. Think about everything you’ve read and heard about the Bruins and Blackhawks over the past 10 days. It was all about the hockey. There were no sideshows. No talking about how badly one star needs to get the monkey off his back. There was no Spygate, no PEDs talk, no flopping or referee conspiracies, and no former or current murder suspects on either team. Every bit of analysis concerned matchups on the ice or strategic line-shuffling by the coaches.

Am I the only one who finds that refreshing?

Even if I kind of do hope that a report surfaces this summer saying the entire Chicago team was more doped up than Lance Armstrong before a leisurely ride through the Alps.

A few more notes before I put an amazing hockey season in the rearview mirror:

  • It took me about two hours last night to go from stewing over the disappointment to throwing myself into fantasy football analysis. Just like an athlete turning the page to focus on the next game, we can’t harp on this too long or else we’ll be missing out on the next sports priority.
  • We’re spoiled as Boston fans. We get to turn our attention to a surprising 1st place baseball team and a perennially contending football team (Aaron Hernandez drama notwithstanding).
  • Since you may not have taken a step back recently to do the math on this 11 year run, I did it for you. Boston teams have won seven Championships in that time (3 Patriots, 2 Red Sox, 1 Celtics, 1 Bruins). Those teams have also combined for four Championship round losses and six more Conference Finals round losses. That means 17 times in just over a decade our teams have been on the doorstep of winning it all (or a step away from the doorstep).
  • The odds are against that kind of success happening again. I hope you were paying attention.
  • Looking on the bright side of this Bruins letdown…we can all start acting like normally-functioning humans again. We can wash our lucky shirts (they were becoming as firm as cardboard due to all the dried up beer, pizza sauce and tears on them). We can shave our playoff beards (and some of us can even knock down our playoff afros). And we can cut our lucky playoff lawn (heard a rumor that fans in Chicago and Boston were letting the grass in their yards grow for good luck….so random)
  • People will naturally point to games 4 and 6 as missed opportunities, but don’t sleep on game 1. Remember, the Bruins took a 3-1 lead with just under 14 minutes left in the 3rd period. A win in game 1 means the Bruins would have taken a 3-0 series lead eventually if things played out the same otherwise.
  • Of course if things had really played out the same after that, we’d be talking about how the Bruins have to win game 7 on Wednesday to avoid the crazy choke job of blowing a 3-0 series lead.
  • This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt the need to congratulate the opponent and their fans after a Boston loss.

Just a great series that hopefully we’ll look back on fondly even though our team came out on the wrong end.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go buy a new Patriots hat so I have something to set on fire when Tom Brady falls short of Super Bowl #4 in about seven months.

Job Opportunities For The Underemployed (Six Potential Jobs I’m Seriously Considering)

Like any legit financial genius would do, I’m always evaluating and re-evaluating my money situation. A few months back I took a look at my cash flow and realized there was no actual flow, just a rapid bloody hemorrhaging. After calculation upon calculation, I finally figured out what was happening. I hadn’t been on the receiving end of “income” in about 10 months. Apparently money only flows one way when you don’t have any coming in.

After squeezing every penny out of my stock market plays, my online gambling website and any family members who were dumb enough to believe that I was self-producing a movie and needed donations, I did what any person would do as his last resort for income: I got a job.

Over the past four months I’ve been making lead generation cold calls for a software company from my couch. It’s part-time work that nearly covers my monthly living expenses. When I agreed to this job (which is way, waaaaaay below my qualifications as a former sales wunderkind, but that’s another discussion for another day), I liked the plan. Work about 20 hours per week, have enough time to continue pursuing my writing, and make enough money that my savings account status goes from “rapid hemorrhaging” to “controlled bleed.”

And so far it’s pretty much worked out how I expected. But soon enough there will come a time when I probably want to make more money than “just enough to come up short of my living costs.” Isn’t that every American’s dream?

Here are some of the supplemental job opportunities that I’d be willing to consider to bring me from “voluntary poverty” to “upper lower class”:

  1. Los Angeles Apartment Hunter: This isn’t an actual title of an actual job, but I bet there are people out there willing to pay good money to have someone go to an apartment they’re potentially looking to rent and check it out for them. Let’s say you’re relocating from the East Coast but won’t have a chance to come look at apartments yourself. You could pay a stranger to visit the apartment, ask questions, take pictures, survey the safety of the neighborhood and haggle with the landlord about the security deposit. It wouldn’t surprise me if this type of job already exists. And I’d totally do it, but I’d get fired almost immediately. You know how I know that? Because last week a friend who is coming to LA for two months asked me to look at an apartment in West Hollywood that she might rent. And like any good friend, I helped her out. She asked for pictures and a general sense of the safety of the complex and surrounding neighborhood. I ended up getting about 14 good pictures of the living room, all from the same angle. No pictures of the bedroom or bathroom. One picture of the roof deck, but somehow I missed the pool and hot tub setup. I essentially asked zero questions to the woman who rents the place. And I spent the whole time thinking about how much it sucks that a five-mile drive home from this apartment might take 45 minutes. So while I think this could be a good part-time job, I just don’t think I have the eye for detail that’s needed for success.
  2. TaskRabbit Task Master: Are you familiar with this company, TaskRabbit? Probably only if you live in one of the nine cities they currently serve. It’s basically a forum where people who need a task done for them post a request, and then someone agrees to do that odd job for a certain amount of money (grocery shopping, yard work, delivery of 50 buffalo wings to a group of drunk poker-playing guys). So if you’re feeling lazy, you can post on the website that you want someone to buy your groceries and deliver them to you. And for about $40 (plus the cost of the groceries, obviously) someone will arrive at your house a few hours later with your grocery list fulfilled. The randomness of these jobs is endless. And if you spend some time on the site, you’ll see that there is quite the range when it comes to making money. I could make $300 one day by helping someone move out of his apartment, and then $15 the next day by delivering cupcakes to some unemployed weirdo who’s too lazy to get off his couch (though seeing someone who is an exact replica of me might be a mind-numbing experience). This idea has some potential, except for the fact that I don’t have a car most days, and I’m a little concerned I’d be the unlucky person who goes to clean someone’s gutters and it turns out he’s a psychopath who wants me to give him a handjob instead. Let’s move on.
  3. ChaCha Answer Master: The lazy man’s version of TaskRabbit. Instead of getting paid to perform odd jobs that may take you out of your house, you get paid to find answers to random questions people have while sitting on your couch. So if you’re at a bar arguing with a friend about how Grady Little should have never gotten another managing job in Major League Baseball after his 2003 meltdown with the Red Sox, and the friend says Grady Little never did get another job in baseball, you can text your question to ChaCha (242-242) and some fat slob will research the correct answer and send it to you within minutes. Why you wouldn’t just google the answer from the bar is beyond me, but this company exists so plenty of people must be going to it for answers. You may be surprised to know that I actually was a ChaCha answer person for a little while in 2010. But after spending about seven hours spread out over three days answering questions for all the idiots who use the service, I found out I had only made like $3.10 total. I decided it probably wasn’t the most lucrative job I could find at that time. I don’t think I’d consider this again unless I suffer a terrible injury and literally cannot leave my apartment.
  4. Company Name Thinker-Upper (aka “I Steal Your Money Right From Under Your Nose”): I stumbled upon this industry when I was researching a company for my current part-time job the other day. The company is Namella, and their value prop is that they’ll come up with the perfect name for your new company in 72 hours for only $97!!! It immediately struck me as a bold business venture, mostly because I think it’s absolute bullshit to pay someone to come up with your company name. You’re an entrepreneur, right? A creative, think-outside-the-box type of person? And you can’t even think of a good name for your company? On Namella’s customer success stories page, they give examples of the great names they’ve come up with for existing businesses. “John wanted a name that reflected his company being a real estate company but that it was a professional one that you would be glad to seek out. 72 long hours later, we came up with ‘ProSeek Properties’.” Or… “Janet wanted people to know that her technology services really are unlimited, so after a few all-nighters with the creative team here at Namella, we came up with ‘Limitless Tech Solutions’.” Brilliant! Hey, if people are dumb enough to pay you hundreds of dollars for you to not add any value to their company, by all means you should take it. That’s why I’m happy to announce my new business venture. It’s called “Ross Names Your Company Because You’re Too Stupid To Name Your Own Company.” Fortunately for my new customers, I only charge $96 and promise to give you the new name within 71 hours of your payment (*71 hour commitment not guaranteed if an important Boston sporting event is happening within that time period).
  5. Online Gambling Addict: On the one hand, I did make over $1,500 last year during football season on a combination of fantasy leagues, elimination pools and yes, online gambling. But on the other hand, it took five months to make that money, and football is the only sport that I know well enough to consistently make a profit. So the next step would be playing online poker all day long for money. Tempting, no doubt about it. I knew some guys in college who would constantly have four separate poker games going at once, and they made thousands of dollars by basically being patient and playing the odds. Unfortunately I don’t know the odds, don’t have the patience, and I’d feel like such a loser when my girlfriend came home from work every day to find me on my 11th straight hour of poker, hoping and praying that I make $100 before the night’s over. College Ross should have done this instead of going to those useless journalism classes.
  6. VOLCANOOO!!: OK, the name of the job isn’t volcano. But whenever I think about waiting tables one more time, the first thing I think of is my interview at RainForest Cafe in San Francisco eight years ago. Since I worked at Pizzeria Uno (or Uno Chicago Grill, whatever the fuck they call it) for three years, I thought I knew what I was getting into with working at another chain restaurant. But RainForest Cafe went to the next level. Any time it was someone’s birthday, you’d have to bring out the volcano dessert and scream “VOLCANOOO” at the top of your lungs until all the other servers joined you to sing the cheesy birthday song to the kid. And don’t get me started on their forest ranger uniforms. If I had taken that job, I would have absolutely stabbed myself in the neck with one of those sparklers that sits on top of the volcano. I’m pretty sure this guy wants to do the same thing:

So there you have it. My six best job opportunities right now, and they range from “undesirable” to “doesn’t actually exist as a job.” Perfect. I should have the cash needed for the tropical vacation I promised my girlfriend in no time.

Six Days of Boston: Next Time I’m Bringing a Defibrillator and a Spare Liver

My visits home to Massachusetts always seem to unfold the same way: Spend the first few nights partying in Boston, reluctantly drag myself to the sprawling metropolis known as Central Mass (not reluctant because I don’t want to see my family, but because it’s just not Boston), continue the partying at family gatherings for a couple more nights (where “night” = “start boozing by 3PM every day”), walk around like a zombie for the final day or two in Fitchburg, realize how F-ing boring it is once I’m stuck there by myself on a weekday where everyone I know is working, hightail it back to Boston.

Basically if you’re in Massachusetts and want to hang out with the fun version of me, you’ll want to find me in Boston or during the first two days of my return to Fitchburg. For the people who had to see me in my final two days of this most recent trip, I’m sorry.

This was a Memorial Day trip, but I’m just now getting around to posting because there’s always a one-week adjustment period when I get back to the real world. The alcohol and junk food withdrawals tend to mess with my sleeping patterns and therefore my productivity level.

If you’re thinking, “Ross, why the hell would I wanna hear about your trip back to Massachusetts? Do you really think you’re that interesting?” …I hear ya, but all I can do is promise that you’ll laugh at least once during the next several hundred words. As a matter of fact, to laugh immediately just scroll down to the bottom where I unveil the ridiculousness that was my diet for six days.

I have no way to organize the following thoughts because they are all jumbled together in my head. Let’s just go with whatever pops into my memory first:

  • With some time to spare on the afternoon I landed in Boston before meeting up with a college friend, I decided walking through the Copley/Boylston Street area where the Marathon bombs went off was the best course of action. I honestly had no idea if there was a memorial of any kind out there on the streets to all the victims of Marathon Monday, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out. After a quick Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger at the Boylston St. Wendy’s, I was off to pay my respects. Below are a few of the pictures I took when I made my way over to the makeshift memorial across the street from the Boston Public Library. But as for the atmosphere, I can only describe it as hushed, calm, respectful, and of course a little eery. Not something you’d expect from one of the busier streets in the city.

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  • For those of us that were born and/or raised in Massachusetts and had been lucky enough to never experience any major tragedies that hit close to home, this Marathon terrorist attack ended that streak almost certainly. It feels like everyone knows someone who was injured, or knows someone who knows someone who was injured. It’s one thing to hear the crazy stories from secondary sources, but it’s something entirely different when a person who was hurt during the bombings is recapping the experience as you look on from three feet away. Hearing a dad say he was pretty certain his son, who had just crossed the finish line before the first bomb went off, was dead, and then hearing him say that his son thought he was dead when the second bomb went off…just a different level of a major tragedy sticking with you.
  • The details still need to be figured out, but I’m confident that we’re getting a group of people from Fitchburg together to run next year’s Boston Marathon, with the goal being to raise money for all those affected this past year, and to specifically honor the family we all grew up with who was hurt on that Monday in April (though none of them critically injured, thank god).
  • OK, enough with the grimness, right? Right. Well, if you happen to be in your thirties and feel like you’re lacking a bit in maturity, just know that there are people in your age range who still need their mother to write their names in marker on their toothbrushes or else they’ll forget whose is whose and accidentally share the same one. I know because I live with these people whenever I go home.
  • And in possibly the greatest example of someone simply not giving a fuck about his appearance in public, I went to the movie theater with a guy in Fitchburg who strolled in wearing a fancy dress shirt on top and sweatpants on the bottom. So if you’re 35 years old and can dress yourself and remember what color your toothbrush is, you’re doing better than at least one person your age.
  • Speaking of acting their age, good to see my grandparents finally acting more like the 80-year-olds that they are. My grandfather has a history of saying borderline inappropriate things to women that dates back to the FDR administration. But it’s always been contained to good-natured joking, and only when the woman he’s talking about is present. But on his way out of my Dad’s house over Memorial Day weekend, he looked me in the eyes, made sure I was paying attention, and said, “Tell Julie I said hi and that I’ve been thinking about her.” Julie, of course, is my girlfriend who was 3,000 miles away at the time, and was presumably NOT thinking about my grandfather. Though I’m kind of afraid to ask…maybe they have some strange connection that I didn’t pick up on the last time they were in the same room together.
  • And this trip home marked the moment my grandmother gave up even trying to half-remember things I told her during my last visit. First she asked me how my book was coming along. I told her I was never writing a book, and she basically got mad at me for lying. I told her I’ve been working on TV and film the entire time. But I’m sure she’s telling people right now that my book-writing is going OK. Then she asked me if I’m still finishing up school in September, which I’ve never told her because I’ve been randomly signing up for classes whenever something looks good. So why would I tell people I had a target end date to my school work? Then she asked me if I ever write about my dog with my comedy stories. I told her the dog doesn’t play into my writing very often. So about five minutes later in front of a group of eight other people, she announced that my sex life was suffering because my dog is always in the bed with me and my girlfriend. I had no conversations with her in between the things I just told you above, but she somehow created this sexless narrative based on the few things I told her about writing, comedy and my dog. At least now we can all re-calibrate our opinion of her. Because after my grandparents left the house on Saturday night, at least two people said, “Oh, your grandmother is so sharp for her age.” Really? Did we switch the meaning of sharp recently and no one told me?
  • Not to be outdone, my other grandmother asked me one day later if I remember playing with my Mom’s dog, Bruno, who died when my Mom was like 12 or something. I need to learn to just say “yes” to any question or assumption my grandparents make at this point. It will save me hours of miscommunications.
  • But the socially-inept people that I hang out with apparently aren’t limited to my grandparents. At one BBQ I attended, I felt like I had to make small talk with a guy that was sitting next to me on the couch, so I said, “Oh, congrats. I heard you guys have a little one on the way soon.” His response was a 15-minute rant about his wife’s period, or lack thereof. I promise there are plenty of acceptable ways to discuss your wife’s pregnancy, but going into elaborate details about the tardiness of her period is not one of them. Whatever, the party had good hotdogs at least.
  • So the real reason I was home for this particular weekend was to attend a benefit event for a high school buddy who passed away last November. His family organized a great event with a ton of raffle prizes and a live auction (where I proceeded to field remote bids from my brother on items such as a signed Tom Brady jersey, a chainsaw and a cord of wood. We were outbid on every one of those items).

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  • But I don’t know if that’s the right setting for grown adults to be running around giving each other ball taps and hitting on the grieving friends of the guy who died. I haven’t been to a lot of benefit dinners though, so maybe I’m the one who doesn’t fully understand the etiquette?
  • Everyone that I saw over my six days home complimented my afro (aka “gray bush”). People just going out of their way to say they like when I have long hair, which I’m growing for good luck for the Bruins by the way. It’s like my version of the lucky playoff beard since I still can’t grow dark facial hair. Anyway, I can’t figure out for the life of me if these people really do like my hair in its afro state, or if they all got together before my visit and came up with this big practical joke to pay me back for everything bad I’ve ever done to them. If that’s the case, I’d just have to say well played, everybody. Well played.
  • Serious question: If a person talks throughout an entire movie at the theater—I’m talking repeats every line of the movie out loud to his significant other—is it OK to hit him? I bet you said yes. What if instead of a man it was a woman? Would you still say yes? I still say yes. Lucky for me she only ruined the worst comedy movie ever made.
  • Here’s why true Red Sox fans shouldn’t be upset at all with the drop in attendance at Fenway Park this year: Tickets were so hard to come by when I was in college that I was one of those people who slept on the sidewalk overnight while waiting in line for Red Sox-Yankees tickets. For the game I went to on Memorial Day against Philly, a group of four of us strolled up to the day-of-game ticket window one hour before the game and bought four seats at face value. And in theory, we could have picked any section of the ballpark to sit in. If that’s what the end of the sellout streak means, then I officially hope the teams I root for can never fill their stadiums again.
  • But here’s the moment where I almost decided not to be a Red Sox fan anymore. The ticket window that’s specifically for day-of-game sales has moved, and now it’s kind of inside one of the entrances. And there’s a Red Sox employee that tells people who enter that area that they’ll have to go directly into the ballpark once they purchase their tickets, even if it’s 5:15PM and the game doesn’t begin until 7:10PM. But then you ask the person at the ticket window about leaving that area with your tickets, and he says it’s perfectly fine. So you buy the tickets and then that first person who said you’d be stuck inside the park really tries to make it happen. But then you realize he has absolutely no authority, maybe even less authority than you have at that very moment, and you simply move a barrier and exit the park. After discussing this whole  scenario that played out when we bought the tickets with my group, we realized the Red Sox wanted to make it seem to people as if they had to enter the park right away so that most people would do so and obviously spend a bunch of extra money during the time leading up to the game, but they have absolutely no lawful way to enforce this. It just feels so unnecessarily sketchy to me. I know these owners want to squeeze every penny out of their fans, but come on. I can’t think of any other reason they would have this soft enforcer trying to persuade people to go immediately to their seats two hours before the game.
  • Final sports note: If there’s one thing I miss about Boston, it’s the palpable buzz that energizes all parts of the city when one of our teams has a big game on the horizon. We got a large group together for the Bruins-Rangers game 4, and walking around the city all day leading up to that game, you could feel the excitement. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in the other two major cities I’ve lived in. I need to return for more big playoff moments.

And now, the moment you’ve probably all been waiting for. I mentioned just before my trip back East how bad my eating habits are when I’m traveling or away from home for an extended period of time. I just want to show you all how bad this sickness gets for me. And there’s really no reason for me to embellish this list, so I promise I won’t:

Wednesday

  • Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich at airport in LA
  • Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, fries, Diet Coke at Wendy’s on Boylston St.
  • A home-cooked meal of oven-roasted chicken and sweet potatoes, made by my Wednesday night hosts (and easily the only thing I ate all weekend that could be described as “reasonably healthy”)

Thursday

  • Carnitas Super Burrito, Diet Coke from Anna’s Taqueria
  • Turkey club sandwich, several rounds of fries from the bar where we watched the Bruins

Friday

  • Two eggs, two sausage links, two strips of bacon, two pancakes, two pieces of toast at breakfast in Boston
  • Peanut butter cup ice cream for lunch in Fitchburg
  • 8-10 slices of pizza at the benefit event
  • Peanut butter cup ice cream on top of a brownie as a late-night snack

Saturday

  • Omelet for breakfast in Fitchburg
  • Popcorn, Peanut M&M’s at movie theater
  • Cheeseburger, hot dog at a BBQ
  • Peanut butter cup ice cream on top of a brownie as a late-night snack

Sunday

  • Brownie, pasta salad for breakfast
  • 2 hot dogs, two peanut butter cookies, slice of strawberry cheesecake at BBQ
  • Steak & Cheese grinder from D’Angelo’s

Monday

  • Bacon, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Cheeseburger, hot dog, Diet Coke for lunch
  • Nachos and boneless buffalo wings at Game On before the Red Sox game

Tuesday

  • 2 breakfast burritos, hash brown, Diet Coke from McDonald’s at Logan Airport
  • Pulled BBQ pork, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, texas toast, Dr. Pepper (no Diet Coke available) from restaurant at airport in Dallas

No presence of vegetables or fruit in that entire six-day run. And keep in mind that my liquids for six days were a revolving door of soda, beer and Jack Daniel’s.

How much salad do you think I need to eat over the next month to offset the damage that was done in Massachusetts?

Follow My Lead This Weekend and You’re Sure To See Plenty of Sports and Be A Lot More Single By Monday

In case anyone needs help deciding whether this Saturday is a good day to do family stuff or chores around the house, let me show you what my day is going to look like:

9:30AM: New York Rangers/Washington Capitals Game 2 – Try to watch this game while I pretend to enjoy family breakfast with my girlfriend and dog.

2:30PM: Show up at my favorite sports bar because things are about to get crazy.

3:00PM: The 139th Kentucky Derby – I’ll be making a small bet on a random horse with longshot odds just to have something to root for during this event.

4:00PM: Toronto Maple Leafs/Boston Bruins Game 2 – Hockey is the greatest playoff sport there is. If you try to argue against this fact, you are an idiot and I don’t want to talk to you.

4:30PM: Anaheim Ducks/Detroit Red Wings Game 3

5:00PM: Chicago Bulls/Brooklyn Nets Game 7 – Basketball is the worst playoff sport there is, but even I can get semi-interested in a game 7.

5:00PM: Boston Red Sox/Texas Rangers – Best team in baseball is must-watch TV.

6:00PM: San Francisco Giants/Los Angeles Dodgers – Probably only relevant in my neck of the woods.

7:00PM: St. Louis Blues/LA Kings Game 3

7:30PM: Floyd Mayweather/Robert Guerrero fight – I don’t even like boxing but might as well cap the day off with one final event.

And don’t forget Cinco de Mayo is Sunday, but plenty of people are sure to be celebrating on Saturday.

Speaking of Sunday, don’t assume you can follow my lead on Saturday and save all your chores for Sunday because we might be dealing with four game 7’s in the NBA playoffs and 13 hours of playoff hockey on Sunday.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you when you’re stuck in the checkout line at Ikea desperately trying to get updates on all these games via Twitter.

Fine, I’ll Be The First To Say It: The Boston Tragedy Couldn’t Have Worked Out Better For The Red Sox

Leave it to me to think about who makes out best from the Marathon Monday Bombing. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t think beyond the immediate tragedy and the people who got injured. I can’t help thinking about who benefits most from all of this.

The way this thing broke for the Red Sox was perfect. They got to leave the city for a three-game road trip in Cleveland before they return to Boston for a 10-game homestand. What if they had been in the middle of a long homestand when this happened? There’s no way they would have played at Fenway during the week following the explosions. Not only would the city of Boston be missing the welcome distraction of watching baseball, but the players’ routines would have gotten majorly screwed up. And we all know how much baseball players are creatures of habit.

Instead they get three road games in mid-April that suddenly have a ton of meaning for them and their fans. Then when Boston’s had a few days to absorb what happened and begins to move on, the Sox ride in and save the day. How crazy is Fenway going to be on Friday night? What if I told you their dramatic return to Boston might coincide with David Ortiz’s dramatic return to the Sox lineup? I’d be spending $30 for a ticket to that game if I was in Boston.

With Kansas City, Oakland and Houston visiting during the homestand, couldn’t this team realistically emerge from their next 12 games with a record of 18-7 and a little extra motivation for the rest of the season? Knowing the Red Sox organization, I’d be stunned if they weren’t marching people out for ceremonial first pitches who somehow represent the marathon, the victims or the heroics that were on display Monday. The players are going to get daily reminders of what they’re playing for.

And if we want to go even further on how this might benefit the Red Sox, there’s this:

I was 12 days into my freshman year of college when the hijacked planes took down the towers in New York. I know firsthand what it’s like to live through a national tragedy with a group of strangers you’re forced to be around every hour of every day. The friendships I made during those dark days of September 2001 are some of the strongest and weirdest friendships I still have to this day. That group of people I bonded with back then is the only group I know who gets together for a yearly reunion. And it doesn’t even matter that all of our significant others have protested the sketchiness of a mixed-gender, supposedly-platonic group of 30 year olds meeting up for a weekend getaway every year. We do it anyway.

The point I’m trying to make here is that all the players and coaches on the Red Sox just had to spend the last 48 hours processing the Marathon explosions together, stuck on a bus, a plane, in a hotel or in the locker room…together. Helping each other get through it. Talking about why someone might have done this. Brainstorming on what they can do to help the community. As of Monday morning, I’m willing to bet some of the players were still getting to know each other. After all there are a bunch of new guys on the team this year. But as of today, I’m willing to bet there’s no locker room in baseball that feels like a family quite as much as the Red Sox do.

If the Sox needed something to rally around and carry them through the intolerably boring summer days, they just got it.

Here’s hoping they save a couple of the feel-good ceremonial first pitch candidates for the World Series in October.

If This Blog Distracts Even One Person From The Horrible Boston Marathon Explosions, Then I’ve Done My Job

Here are three universally understood events: a marathon, a baseball game, a holiday. But non-New Englanders could probably use some educating on the annual phenomenon known as Marathon Monday.

I wrote those two sentences on Sunday night when I was preparing a Boston Marathon blog. Sadly that last sentence could now read “But non-New Englanders just got educated on the annual phenomenon known as Marathon Monday…”

Imagine an entire city throwing a gigantic block party that doubles as your own secret little holiday that no one else in the world gets to enjoy. The weather’s almost always great, bars open by 7am, the Red Sox game starts at 11am, and we all show our blind love of camaraderie and sporting events by rooting for thousands of strangers to run faster. Call it a cosmic peace offering for Bostonians having to deal with the yearly misery known as Winter. It’s a day that promotes so much optimism: “The weather’s turning…finally Spring is here!” “The Red Sox are 8-4…this is their year!” “If these 23,000 people can run a marathon, why can’t I?…screw it, I’m getting in shape and running it next year!”

As with most people who grew up in Massachusetts, I have plenty of Marathon Monday memories. Here’s the simplest way I can describe my personal Boston Marathon history:

  • Childhood: Went to a family friend’s BBQ ever year in the suburbs to watch the runners go by. Back then us kids probably just viewed it as another day to run around and play outside with our friends, with the bonus of getting to hand cups of water to these seemingly-important athletes (something that the public’s not allowed to do anymore, probably partially because of me and my brilliant idea as a kid to put pebbles in the cups of water for the runners).
  • Advanced Childhood (aka College Years): Typically cracked my first beer at about 7:30am at my apartment, walked down to Kenmore Square while discreetly drinking beer out of a 7/11 Big Gulp cup, went to a house party (the years before I turned 21) or a bar (once I was of legal age), and then stood on the sidewalk screaming for people I’ve never met before to keep running.
  • Adulthood Part 1: Spent my second Marathon Monday in California trying to replicate the festivities as best as possible. Got to my brother’s apartment at 7am, cracked a beer immediately, started watching the Red Sox game at 8am, and then went out on his front porch and cheered for runners going by his apartment…extremely confused runners who were out for a San Francisco morning jog. It wasn’t as good as the really thing, but probably the best Marathon Monday celebration in all of California.
  • Adulthood Part 2: Ran the marathon in 2011, finished in 4 hours and 46 minutes, had an incredibly supportive group of family members and friends cheering me on from those same sidewalks I frequented during my college years.

Each of those versions of me deserved a carefree, relaxing and happy day. The eight-year-old Ross should be allowed to fill cups with rocks until his heart’s content; the 20-year-old Ross should have only one concern on his mind: not getting arrested; and the 28-year-old Ross should be smiling as he approaches the home stretch of a huge accomplishment, regardless of the size of the blisters on his feet.

I feel terribly for all the people who were trying to do these same mostly-innocent things in Boston today and now have a horror show to remember instead of the good times that Patriots Day promises. The little kid who was just getting the hang of yelling out the correct cheers for the runners only to be pulled away from the course by parents who feared more explosions were coming. The college student who went from the euphoric haze of partying hard on a Monday afternoon to the sobering reality of a day gone terribly wrong just a couple miles away. The first-time marathoner who didn’t get to run down Boylston Street, the proverbial exclamation point to the world’s most famous marathon. (Needless to say I feel the worst for the people who were either directly injured or had loved ones injured in the explosions.)

Everywhere you look around the web or on TV, there are people better than me at putting this stuff into words. So I’ll let them do their jobs. I’ll just leave you with a couple pictures. If these pictures distract even one person from the events of today and put a smile on his or her face, then I’ve done my job:

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After all, if a dog wearing human clothes and a baby wearing sunglasses can’t cheer you up, what can?

Stay Strong, Boston.

Major League Baseball Knocked Down My Door and Stole $130 (aka Part 2 of My Red Sox Audition)

Fine, Major League Baseball, take my stupid 130 bucks. You win. I can’t go around telling the world how I’ll buy the baseball package if the Red Sox get off to a hot start and then not buy the package after they open the season 4-2 on the road. I want to hold onto my money so badly that before I purchased the mlb.tv package this morning, I scoured all the Boston newspapers hoping to find a hint of drama inside the Red Sox clubhouse. A tiny divide between the players. Discord between the team and ownership. Something…

Nothing. Not one ounce of bad energy in there. Everyone just yucking it up over Will Middlebrooks’ three home run outburst on Sunday. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think these guys actually enjoy playing with each other.

On the bright side, they took two of three in New York before winning two more in Toronto. Most experts didn’t have them winning their fourth game until the All-Star break. Among their four wins, they beat Cy Young Winners C.C. Sabathia and R.A. Dickey (but they couldn’t beat J.A. Happ…more importantly, has any team ever faced three guys with initials as first names in the opening week of a season?). Middlebrooks and Mike Napoli seem ready to fulfill their roles as the power threats for the Sox lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia seem like they’re in midseason form at the top of the order. This team hasn’t made an error in six games and the pitching looks strong…only three years late the “run prevention” team may have finally arrived. And no word of a setback for David Ortiz. All positive stuff. And I almost forgot to mention that this 4-2 start is largely the work of homegrown talent. Nine guys who have been regulars in the first week of the season came up through the Sox’ minor league system. If only Daniel Bard were still alive, he could make it an even 10.

On the not-so-bright side, the Lackey injury sucks. Not that I had high hopes for the guy this year, but you gotta feel bad for him after missing last season and committing to a reverse-steroids regimen in the winter to get his weight down to 89lbs. He was primed for a 12-win, 4.65 ERA in 2013. Hopefully the injury isn’t serious. We may also be saying goodbye to Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jose Iglesias sometime soon. Not because they haven’t been good enough to stay on the major league roster, but because better players are getting healthy. It’s a good problem if the Boston fans are freaking out over these pending demotions. I know John Farrell’s commitment to being aggressive and the Red Sox’ speed should be under the “bright side” paragraph, but what about the fact that this team may set a major league single-season record for most times a runner is gunned down at home plate by the opposition. I think Victorino alone may get thrown out 25 times at the plate this year. It’s definitely a negative for the team, but it’s going to make every inning with base runners exciting.

If the Sox drop 12 of their next 13, I don’t want to hear it from my readers that I jinxed them with my optimism. More likely it would be because this first week of the season was all smoke and mirrors and they really are as bad as we feared. Somebody already bet me that I’ll be regretting my purchase of the baseball package by May 15th.

So here’s to the 2013 Red Sox playing great baseball through May 16th.

My Seven-Day Audition With The Red Sox

I’ve mentioned more than once that buying the major league baseball package for the 2012 Red Sox season was one of the worst investments I’ve ever made (this is coming from someone who bought bongos during a hazy hippie phase sophomore year of college and never used them…needless to say I’ve made some bad investments).

For the first seven years that I’ve lived in California, I bought the MLB package no questions asked. With the way this team was winning since 2003, it was a no-brainer. But we all know things are different now. The Sox aren’t expected to be in the playoff mix this year. They’re certainly not considered one of the favorites to win the World Series. It’s very tempting to blindly say no to even the smallest investment in anything Red Sox-related. Besides the possibility that this team just won’t be that enjoyable to watch, there’s also the notion that watching 150 baseball games isn’t the best use of time for a 30-year-old unemployed aspiring writer. Those three hours of baseball-watching each day should probably be going towards something a bit more productive.

But in the interest of fairness and equal opportunity for all Boston teams, I’m giving the Red Sox a seven-day try out. In this first week of the baseball season, the Sox have already been on ESPN twice, and the MLB package through DirecTV gives subscribers a free week of all the games. So by Sunday afternoon I will have seen six games and my decision will be made. Am I going all in on the 2013 baseball season, or am I going to casually watch from a distance (and hop on the bandwagon should they be 35-15 after their first 50 games)?

The February 2013 version of Ross would be stunned to see the present day Ross even considering paying $130 for access to Boston Red Sox baseball. But what can I say? I’m a sucker for the hope that comes along with a new season.

It’s only been two games so far, but let’s check in on how the audition is going:

  • A 2-0 start against New York will make even the biggest pessimists question their attitude toward this team. I’m not blind to the fact that the Yankees are marching out a lineup that might not outhit the September 2012 Red Sox lineup, but they did have their top two starters pitching in these games and the Sox didn’t struggle at all to score. 
  • You know what I see when I open up the Boston Globe every morning? Not a hint of drama. No talk of the manager showing up his players. No references to some of the players trying to find a clubhouse snitch. Nobody freaking out about a pitcher playing golf on his off day while injured. Nothing. It’s so peacefully quiet.
  • You know what’s taken the place of the drama? Discussions about Jackie Bradley Jr.’s immediate impact, the ridiculous fielding of Jose Iglesias, the fact that Shane Victorino might actually be worth the big contract, the resurgence of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz at the top of the rotation, and the potential for the Sox bullpen to be one of the best in baseball. Again, I know we’re only 1.2% of the way into the season, but there’s a lot on the field to be encouraged about.
  • And it turns out David Ortiz might be less than two weeks away from returning. Could this team have a sneaky-deep bench?
  • What if we go beyond the fact that they’re winning games and focus instead on how they might win games this year. I didn’t pay attention to John Farrell’s managing style when he was in Toronto, but by all accounts he’s going to be a more aggressive in-game manager than Terry Francona ever was. And with a team that could have four guys capable of stealing bases in the lineup every night (Ellsbury, Pedroia, Victorino, Bradley Jr.), Farrell might have the weapons he needs to make those bold moves (i.e. play some small ball).
  • And what if 2013 John Lackey (apparently hit with the “Thinner” curse from that Stephen King book) is healthy for a full season? Same for Ryan Dempster. Notice I didn’t say “what if they return to all-star levels”. How about they just each make 30 starts this season. That would be huge compared to last year when Aaron Cook (18 starts), Dice-K (11),  Daniel Bard (10), Franklin Morales (9) and Zach Stewart (2) combined to make 50 starts, which is about 49 starts too many.

I think what’s most appealing to me as a Red Sox fan is that for the first time in a decade, it feels like we’re working with a clean slate. They’re not the juggernaut with crazy expectations that they were from 2004-2011. They’re not the 2012 team that had us tuning in only because we might see a meltdown on the field or in the dugout. They feel like a brand new team. Wipe the championship years from your memory along with the 2012 “oopsie,” and all of the sudden you’re rooting for a team with no expectations or baggage. That’s a nice unfamiliar feeling, isn’t it?

I think you can tell which way I’m leaning regarding the purchase of that TV package, but I’ll let the week fully play out before I make my final decision. It might take a four-game losing streak combined with a string of injuries and an out-0f-nowhere steroid scandal to make me change my mind, but with the Red Sox you can’t rule out anything. I’ll check back in on Monday with the decision.

And now for a few more random Red Sox notes that are dying to get out of my head:

  • As Red Sox fans, we really can’t complain about the team not making the playoffs for three straight years. We shouldn’t bitch and moan about rebuilding or these “bridge years” because it’s a guarantee our rebuilding process is going to be shorter and smoother than a lot of other teams. The Astros are going on year eight of rebuilding. The Royals have gone 28 years without a playoff appearance. And even that Indians team that almost beat the Red Sox in the 2007 playoffs are knees-deep in a rebuilding process that’s gone on for six years. So as Boston fans, we’re even spoiled in our down years. Don’t forget that.
  • Speaking of the Indians, I read Terry Francona’s book over the past few weeks. I definitely recommend it to anyone who was as invested in the team during his years managing as I was.
  • Re-reading the parts about the end of his career with Boston opened up those old wounds for me. I don’t know if there was anyone more stunned or pissed off when he got fired than I was. Just inexplicable. The Red Sox owners got what they deserved last year after getting rid of Francona. But that’s not good enough for me. I want Francona to be able to throw it in their faces a little more. So when the Indians play the Sox for the first time this year, April 16th-18th, I’ll be rooting for a Cleveland sweep. Tito deserves that gratification of showing the Red Sox owners they made a mistake, even if it’s just for a day.

Wake Up Boston: The Bruins Are The New Patriots & There’s Still Time to Jump on the Bandwagon

Being a diehard sports fan isn’t a skill or a talent. It’s an investment. For the most part it’s simply an investment of your time, but every now and then you’ve gotta dip into the wallet and make a financial investment to properly keep up with your team.

I live in LA, but I bleed Boston sports. Unfortunately for me, following my teams isn’t as easy as tuning the TV to NESN. We have to pay a ransom to watch Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics games out here. When I bought the Major League Baseball package last April, it was easily one of the worst investments in my life. That’s the risk I run every year when I ponder the benefit of sinking my money into one of the sports packages. The Red Sox were such a disaster last year that I was basically done watching them by August 1st. And you know what? I haven’t decided yet if I’m buying the MLB package for the 2013 season. It’s sad that Red Sox fans are even considering not forking over the money this year, but that’s how pessimistic we are about a franchise that’s been more drama than baseball over the past 18 months.

Buying the NHL package like I did four weeks ago is on the opposite end of the spectrum. There is little downside in investing in the Boston Bruins right now. I’d go so far as saying at this current moment in Boston sports, the Bruins are as sure of a bet as the Patriots.

Here’s my disclaimer before you continue reading: Any legitimate diehard Bruins fan can probably stop reading this article. I don’t think I’m going to tell you something you don’t already know. This is really for the fair weather fans who haven’t decided whether to jump all-in on the Bruins bandwagon. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to hockey and basketball I am a bit of a bandwagonner. There’s only so much time in the day, and football and baseball have ruled my sports life for a long time. I realize the NHL just had its second work stoppage in eight years and hockey isn’t covered in the media as thoroughly as the other major sports, but that doesn’t take away from how incredible of a sport it truly is. And really if you’re a fair weather fan you should have been pretending to like the Bruins as far back as two Springs ago when they won the Title. Last year they rolled to a #2 seed in the East before losing to Washington in a classic seven-game series. So if you started backing them in 2011, I have no idea why you would have stepped off the bandwagon between then and now.

If you’re still having doubts, right now is your last chance. You can still get ahead of the laggards and the extreme casual fan curve and not look like a total fool after the Bruins win their second Stanley Cup of the decade (That’s not a guarantee that it’ll happen this year, but I’ll be stunned if it doesn’t happen soon).

It’s not an exaggeration to think these guys might be the “new Patriots” over the next five years. As you’ll see below, they may even be better-positioned for multiple title runs than the Patriots.

Here are some stats and tidbits that should help you understand why I’m pushing this so hard:

  • First of all, after Sunday’s 4-1 win at Florida, their record now sits at a sterling 11-2-2
  • By my count, 17 of the Bruins’ 20 regular players were a significant part of the 2010-11 Stanley Cup team. There really hasn’t been much turnover, so even if you were out on them last year, you can hop right back in without skipping a beat.
  • They have one player who’s the son of a Bruin legend. That would be Chris Bourque. How can you not root for the son of #77.
  • They’ve got a high 1st round draft pick from 2011 who looks like he’s going to be the stud they thought they were drafting. That would be Dougie Hamilton. He’s already a regular defenseman and he’s 19 years old.
  • They have their own version of Dustin Pedroia! Or is it Wes Welker? Or Rajon Rondo? Whatever it is, they have an undersized, not-much-to-look-at guy of their own. His name is Brad Marchand and he’s leading the team with nine goals.
  • They have 10 “key players” under the age of 30.
  • Their top seven point scorers so far this year are all under the age of 28. You really can get behind this team now and feel good about their chances over the next five years. They have a young cornerstone goalie, a young cornerstone defenseman, and several young cornerstone forwards.
  • Speaking of their goalie, his name is Tuuka Rask, and he’s actually not a new guy on the scene. This is his 6th year in the league and 4th playing meaningful minutes. In the 2009-10 season, he led the NHL in both goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.931). If not for Tim Thomas’s resurgence over the last couple years (which I’m absolutely not complaining about), Rask would be a household name along with the best goalies in the league.
  • It’s unfair to judge a hockey team purely on a traditional win-loss record because it’s somewhat irrelevant to the standings. For the uninitiated, here’s how it works: a team gets two points for a win (regulation or overtime) and one point for an overtime loss (whether they lose in the extra period or the shootout). So it’s much better to gauge a team on the number of points they’ve captured as a percentage of their total possible points (example: This current Bruins team has played 15 games. At most they could have 30 points. They currently have 24. That puts their “points captured” percentage at .800…Still with me?) By comparison, an .800 win percentage in baseball would have the Red Sox winning 130 games in a season. That same win rate for the Patriots would give them 13 victories in a 16-game schedule. If you want to argue that this 14-game sample isn’t sustainable, I totally agree. But over the last two-and-a-half seasons, the Bruins are playing at a .640 clip. Translating that number into baseball once again, the Red Sox would put up 104 wins, or just a handful more than Josh Beckett said they’d win in 2011. My apologies for nerding out in this paragraph, but hopefully you get my point. The Bruins are damn good, and it’s been that way for a while.
  • If fighting and physicality is more your game than scoring, the Bruins roll out Shawn Thornton, Lane MacDermid, and Milan Lucic on the regular. They are all badasses, trust me (hopefully you saw Lucic absolutely bury that Panthers player who hit him from behind on Sunday). And for pure comedic value, just watch a Bruins opponent (especially a rookie) get pissed off at Zdeno Chara. There’s nothing more entertaining to me than seeing a guy on the other team get a borderline cheapshot from Chara, quickly turnaround to confront the offender, and only then realize it’s the 6’9″ Bruins captain (aka the biggest player in NHL history).
  • The Bruins are tied for 5th in the league in fights per game. Just read some of the opposing players’ or coaches’ quotes after they play the Bruins. They regularly call it “the most intense game we’ve played all year” and comment on the “physical, crushing style” the B’s play. I promise you this all lends itself to even more entertainment.
  • Yeah the lockout sucked, but the Bruins’ season just began and already they only have 33 games left. Surely you can get on board with such a short season.
  • In March, the Bruins play 17 games and will have more than one day off in between games only once. So you can count on meaningful hockey every other day.
  • Hey, it’s not all sunshine and pixie dust for the Bruins. If there’s one knock on their “watchability,” it’s that their highest point scorer ranks 63rd among all NHL players. That’s pretty ridiculous. When you’re trying to make the case that Boston is one of the best and most enjoyable teams to watch in the league, that’s a damning argument against them. But remember those three Patriots Super Bowl winning teams? How they never really had just one guy standing out on the stat sheet? And that Celtics championship team in 2008, no one averaged more than 19 points per game? And even the Bruins title team two years ago didn’t have a guy ranked higher than 39th in the league in points. What I’m trying to say is, yeah it kinda sucks not to have a Crosby or a Stamkos or one of the Sedin Sisters to dazzle you every night, but last time I checked, regular season flash doesn’t translate to postseason success.
  • And then there’s the gigantic woolly mammoth in the room: the Bruins power play. We’re now into year four of all Bruins fans asking if they’re allowed to decline the power play rather than play with a man advantage. It’s that pathetic. But if they’re going to suck on one special teams unit, at least they are far-and-away the best in the league on the man disadvantage. So even the dark power play clouds have a nice silver lining for this team.

The point of all this? Fair weather fans in Boston have naturally gravitated towards the Patriots and Red Sox over the past 10 years, and for good reason. They’ve been the more consistent contenders in their sports. But the landscape has shifted, and the Bruins are ready to take the reigns for the foreseeable future.

Coping With the Latest Boston Sports Loss By Reminiscing About Past Disappointments, and Looking for Silver Linings!

As experienced as Boston fans are at celebrating our teams’ big wins, we’ve also become equally adept at dealing with their catastrophic losses. That gives you an indication of how successful Boston sports have been over the past 12 years. On one side we have three Patriots Super Bowl Titles, two Red Sox World Series Championships, a 17th banner for the Celtics and most recently a Stanley Cup for the Bruins. But on the other side there are two Patriots Super Bowl losses (one while chasing a perfect season), two Patriots AFC Championship Game losses (with the Pats leading both those games at halftime), two Red Sox ALCS losses in seven games (including the 2003 Grady Little/Pedro game), a Celtics NBA Title loss in seven games (after being up in the series three games to two), and a Celtics Conference Championship loss in seven games (ditto).

Side Note: Holy Shit. Can’t we ever just lose a playoff series in five games? Maybe get swept in four games? Why do all our losses come in the most dramatic fashion?

Anyway, the first side of that coin makes it impossible for anyone to empathize with us on the second side of the coin. And that’s fair. But it doesn’t mean that these playoff losses hurt us any less than they hurt fans of other teams.

I don’t have a recap of Sunday’s games for obvious reasons (A full bottle of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey + a mind-boggling Patriots loss). But what I do have is a smorgasbord of disjointed thoughts on coping with tough sports losses.

Until just a couple years ago, I always took my teams’ losses extremely tough. And I always thought it was my god-given right to react as poorly to these losses as I wanted. When I say “extremely tough” I’m talking about drowning my sorrows in whatever cheap booze I could find, holing up in my bedroom for days, refusing to talk to people, and even crying. Yes, crying!

Here’s an incomplete list of some of those poor reactions I’m talking about:

  • After the Red Sox lost to the Yankees in the 2003 ALCS, I walked into my kitchen, lined up four shot glasses and took down half a bottle of shitty Vodka in about three minutes. I proceeded to walk the streets of Boston by myself for hours that night, alternating between looking for a Yankees fan to punch in the face and crying into the sleeve of my sweatshirt.
  • Also after that ’03 disaster, I wouldn’t talk to my oldest brother (one of the bigger Boston sports influences in my life) for three weeks. He didn’t wanna talk to me either. It would just be too painful to have to rehash the details…actually I think we would have set the world record for longest phone call without any words spoken. So for 20 days my poor Mom had to act as a go-between for us whenever we wanted to tell each other something.
  • When the Patriots lost to the Giants in February 2008, me and my other brother had to walk home from my oldest brother’s apartment. On the way (keep in mind it was a one-mile walk), we split eight beers and a bottle of champagne. Apparently this loss was too painful to simply drown our sorrows in alcohol. For this loss, we needed to be destructive. So we went out into the street, threw my Patriots hat on the ground, doused it in lighter fluid and set that thing on fire. Thinking we had proved our point, I turned away from the flames to walk back inside. When I turned around one more time to say “see you in hell” to the hat, I found my brother pissing on the burning hat. It was a perfect exclamation point.
  • After that same Patriots loss, I strolled into work at 11am the next morning with a pounding headache. This awful co-worker (a pompous, conniving, little shit) was waiting at my desk just so he could be the first person to scream “18-1” in my face. Ever since that day, I’ve always hoped he would contract a deadly disease. After Richard Sherman and Terrell Suggs, I think he’s the person I’d most likely kill if I was guaranteed to get away with it (If I knew back then that I didn’t want a career in software sales, I probably would have thrown him out of our office’s third story window).
  • And after last year’s Super Bowl loss I simply walked through the Mission District in San Francisco looking to talk trash to, and possibly get in a fight with. anyone wearing New York Giants gear.

So after the latest edition of “Patriots choke in the playoffs” on Sunday, how did I react? By taking my dog for a long walk with my girlfriend and then drowning my sorrows in chocolate. I’ll admit I had one moment on that walk where I started stomping my feet and whining that “it isn’t fair, why can’t they just win one more Super Bowl while Brady’s around…”

Is my lack of a childish reaction to this latest loss a sign that I’m growing up? Actually, I think it’s just more of a realization I had over the past couple years when it comes to sports: Let’s say you have a favorite team in each of the four major sports. Most people are lucky if they get to see two or three championships among their four teams in a lifetime. Let’s say you live to be 85 years old and the first 10 years of your life don’t count because you were too young to be affected by your teams’ wins and losses. That means 75 years of actually caring about sports, multiplied by four teams per year. You have 300 different sports seasons that have to come to an end at some point. Even the luckiest among us are going to see 290 of those seasons end in bitter disappointment.

That’s where my realization comes in. Can I really spend a lifetime having meltdown after meltdown whenever my teams lose? Because they’re going to lose a lot. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I’m not saying you shouldn’t care. I’m just saying we have no choice but to put it behind us and move on with life. Much like a football team does after a regular season win when they say they’re going to celebrate for one night and then move on to the next opponent, it’s OK to spend one night being miserable after a playoff loss, but then the sun comes up the next day and it’s time to get over it.

My advice is to wait two days before reading your local newspapers, watching sports programming on TV or listening to any sort of sports talk radio. Two days is enough time for you to cool off and go to your happy place. And for the people living in Boston, you should feel lucky. You get to go to work this week surrounded by mostly fellow miserable Boston sports fans. There are Boston fans all over the country who had to walk into work yesterday morning and deal with fans of other cities who couldn’t wait to rub this loss in their faces. Trust me, it’s as helpless of a feeling as you can have.

In the spirit of getting over this latest setback, here are some silver linings for New England fans:

  • Having Wes Welker back next year would be huge, of course, but let’s not forget that the chances of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez missing time with injuries in 2013 are very slim.
  • The running backs will only get better. Stevan Ridley is their best pure runner, but Shane Vereen was the surprise in the playoffs, establishing himself as a capable runner and receiver.
  • The offense is as good as it’s ever been, and there’s no reason to think it’ll slow down anytime soon.
  • There’s absolutely no indication that Tom Brady is slowing down. He was still a top-10 quarterback in every important category this year. If you think the Championship window is only open as long as Brady is playing at an elite level, I’d say we have at least three more seasons of opportunity.
  • There’s also no indication that Bill Belichick is regressing as a coach or losing his desire to run the Patriots (if you mention the two times Brady/Belichick screwed up clock management at the end of a half this year, I will stab you. Name a coach or QB who hasn’t made those one or two gaffes this year).
  • The defense improved this year, and it’s young enough that you can expect more improvement next year. They were a top-10 defense in points allowed per game this season, they increased their takeaway-to-giveaway differential from +17 in 2011 to +25 in 2012, and they’re heading in the right direction in terms of yards allowed per game (from 31st-ranked in 2011 to 25th in 2012).
  • Remember how the Patriots thrived as a “no one believes in us” team 10 years ago? Maybe now that they’ve choked away playoff games four years in a row, when next January rolls around, they can play the “no one believes in us in a big game” card.
  • It could be worse, we could be sports fans who have to pretend to enjoy rooting for Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs.

When you finally emerge from the dark hole you crawled into after Sunday night’s game, you may be wondering who you should root for in the Super Bowl. That’s the biggest no-brainer in the history of this blog. You root for the 49ers, hard. You do not root for the team that doesn’t know how to be a gracious, respectful winner (Suggs and other Ravens just couldn’t contain themselves after the game. They just had to take more satisfaction in the Patriots losing than in their own team winning). You don’t root for the team that has one of the biggest headhunters in the game (Bernard Pollard). You don’t root for the team who, if they win the Super Bowl, would probably say something like “This one title means more than the Patriots’ three titles because of SpyGate.” That’s not a team that deserves to win anything. But if the Ravens do win, I won’t freak out and throw a tantrum. I’ll just look forward to the regular season meeting between them and the Patriots in 2013.

More Conversation Starters: The Song I Almost Sung to My 3rd Grade Crush, Unofficial Corn Dog-eating Record and More

After last week’s successful rollout of “My Answers to First Date Conversation Starters,” I’m pleased to bring you round two. For those of you wondering why I’m continuing this series of posts, you have the 16 people who viewed last week’s post to thank. For those of you who didn’t read that first installment, I’m basically making a grab for more page views by droning on about topics that you might bring up on a first date. Let’s get right on with it:

1). Name five songs to which you know all the lyrics.

  1. “Ice Ice Baby” (Vanilla Ice) – Learned all the lyrics to this one in 3rd grade with Matt Maguy because he was gonna help me sing it to Amber Donnelly. That was my grand plan for getting a 10-year-old girl to like me back then…sing “Ice Ice Baby” in the school parking lot with my best friend. Luckily we never went through with it.
  2. “The Star-Spangled Banner” (Francis Scott Key?) – No excuses not to know this one if you’re an American.
  3. “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang” (Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg) – This song is now 20 years old and I think I’ve known every lyric since the beginning.
  4. “Send Me An Angel” (Real Life) – The best song from the best ’80s movie, Rad. If you haven’t seen Cru Jones do his bicycle boogie with Lori Loughlin to this song at the town dance, please go find a way to rent or buy Rad and watch it right now. Your appreciation for implausible, gravity-defying dance routines will be at an all-time high.
  5. “I’ll Make Love To You” (Boyz II Men) – I’m not sure how this happened, but this song has morphed into “the song everyone assumes Ross and his friends wanna sing whenever there’s a karaoke machine around.” I’m not denying it. But I just don’t remember ever telling anyone that this was my go-to karaoke jam.

2). What movies have made you cry, if any?

“Faith Rewarded: The Historic Season of the 2004 Boston Red Sox”…I’m dead serious. I wish I could tell you there were more movies that made me cry, but unlike certain people who cry at every sappy movie or even sappy commercials (“cough” my girlfriend, “cough cough” my sister-in-law), movies and TV shows just don’t get me like that.

3). What did you think was “cool” when you were around 8 years old? 

Serenading my crush with rap songs in the school parking lot.

4). What’s your biggest food-related triumph?

That’s a tough one. I’ve thrown up multiple times from eating too much ice cream or pulled pork, so it could possibly be one of those instances. But actually there was this time in Montreal when me and three high school friends were at one of the friend’s parent’s house and we decided to cook a 40-count package of corn dogs. These weren’t mini-dogs; they were full size. We at the whole thing between four of us. And I’m one of those people who always eats more than his allotted share when it comes to splitting food among a group. I must have had 12 or 13 corn dogs that day. I’ll let you make your own conclusions as to what kind of substances we were under the influence of at the time (I’ll give you a hint: the corn dog eating came right after we passed around a fake glow-in-the-dark ball while listening and dancing to techno music in this guy’s backyard).

5). Would you ever want to know the future? Why or why not?

I shouldn’t have to explain why my answer is Yes to this, but I will. You see, I post at least two blogs per week that talk exclusively about sports gambling. In the sports betting world, anyone who hits 60% of their bets is looked at as a genius. Imagine the fame, power and most importantly, money I would have if I knew the future? I could stop pretending like I want to make a living as a writer and simply gamble more. By the way, anyone who answers no to this question is a liar and an idiot. There are both admirable and selfish reasons for wanting to know the future, and not a single person in the world would decline that power.

6). Do you want children?

I only posted this question so I could ask my readers a follow up question. If I was on a first date and a woman asked me this question, how do you think she’d react after I gave her the five-minute breakdown of my “adopting a 17-year-old” theory that I blogged about a while back? Would she think I was joking or just psychotic? Also, how psychotic is it of someone to ask this question on a first date anyway? If she’s asking me about kids on date one, I’m happy to scare her off with my adoption scam.

7). What was your biggest accomplishment before you turned 13?

Accepting the fact that girls are not impressed by your ability to sing rap songs in the school parking lot while your best friend acts as your back-up dancer.

Those are all the questions I could handle for today. Assuming I get another 16 or so page views, I’ll be back with installment three soon.

My Desperate Attempt to Extend the Date I’m on with my Readers: Conversation Starters (Bad Habits, Worst Costume and More)

To my loyal readers who don’t give a damn about football, I think it’s obvious that we have a problem. After months and months of us having so much to talk about, the well’s run dry. It’s like we’re on a first date, and the first six months of this blog was the part where I talk and talk and talk about anything under the sun. And you’re like the quiet girl on the date who doesn’t have much to say but thinks I’m hilarious and spends all her time laughing at my stories. And the last couple months has been the part where I’ve kinda run out of things to say, so I pull out my wallet and start showing you pictures of my kid (or in this case, my dog). But now we’ve exhausted that part too. I see you nodding and giving a polite smile whenever I talk about my dog, but I can tell you’re thinking “Will it seem obvious if I pretend to get an emergency phone call that forces me to cut this date short?” So instead of having this magical night end abruptly, I’m turning to a device that any desperate man who’s looking to get laid would turn to…the google search results to “conversation starters on a date.”

That’s right. I’m not below relying on someone else to provide me with topics of discussion. In fact, I feel like it’s the only shot you all have of reading non-football posts over the next two months. I’ll admit this is a risky road to travel. Rather than blog about noteworthy things I’m observing in my everyday life, I’ll be talking about past experiences/inner thoughts that might only pertain to me. And there’s a good chance you’ll hate me after reading some of these. But this blog needs page views and I have no better idea on how to generate them.

When you google “conversation starters on a date,” you inevitably get a mix of lame topics (where were you born? what do you do for exercise?), and outrageous topics (what animal besides humans do you think would make the best world leaders?). I’m going for the topics that are somewhere in the middle. I’ll limit it to just a few questions on this first post, and if it catches on, I’ll post a series of them over the coming weeks. Sound good? Great. Let’s roll.

1). Do you prefer the window seat or the aisle seat on a plane?

Starting with an easy one. This depends on the length of the trip and what my goals for the flight are. Usually if it’s a two-hour-or-less kind of flight, I’m taking the aisle seat because there’s a good chance the people in my row won’t be bothering me with repeated trips to the bathroom, and because I always wanna get off the plane as quickly as humanly possible. But if it’s a long flight, I’m all about the window. That way I can be in my own little world, not have any tiny bladder people asking me to move every hour and can use the window as a pillow and sleep the flight away. The only other reason I’d pick the aisle is if I know I’m going to be drinking heavily on the flight (i.e. any time I fly to Vegas). Because that’s when I turn into a tiny bladder person myself.

2). What’s the longest you’ve ever waited in line?

Originally I was thinking it was on one of our family trips to DisneyWorld when I was a kid and we waited FOREVER to get into the Indiana Jones show. But actually I once slept overnight in a line on the sidewalk next to Fenway Park to try to get Yankees/Red Sox tickets for the next day. I believe I was in line from 11PM until 10AM the next day. I remember having an incredible amount of adrenaline over the first three hours because it was such a cool thing to do. But when that faded, I decided it was one of the three worst ideas I’d ever had. I used a wine bottle as a pillow that night. And if memory serves, I believe me and my buddies got kicked out of that game in the fourth inning. So yeah, 11 hours of waiting in line to see one-third of a baseball game. Good times.

3). Do you prefer baths or showers?

I have absolutely no patience for baths.

4). What’s the habit you’re proudest of breaking?

Well I’m still working on some of the typical bad habits like biting my nails and picking my nose. And I still catch myself with my hand down my pants in public sometimes. Would love to break all those some day. I guess it would have to be going into a casino and spending every single dollar I have to my name. That was a pretty bad habit I had in college.

5). What’s the first thing you wash in the shower?

Legs. I’m a “start from the bottom and work my way up” kinda guy. Although I often wonder if I should wash my face first before the soap has all of my armpit and ball residue on it. But then I just remind myself that soap can’t possibly be dirty because it’s soap.

6). Where were you on September 11, 2001?

Jesus this got serious quickly. Listen, it was a Tuesday morning at like 9AM. Where do you think a freshman in college who had probably been out late the night before was? Asleep in my (or someone’s) bed. I was woken up by my brother calling from the West Coast to tell me to “stay out of tall buildings today.” I’m sure my first thought was “Does this get me out of classes for the day?” That call started a disturbing trend…whenever Neil wakes me up with an early morning phone call, it’s bad news (runner-up to the 9/11 news was him calling to tell me that the greatest Red Sox player of all time, Ted Williams, had died. I admit it’s a distant runner-up, but still…).

7). What was your best, or worst, Halloween costume?

I can actually answer best and worst with the same costume. It was senior year of high school. My friend Sam and I wanted to dress up in something outrageous for the party we were all going to. I believe we had just learned in religion class earlier that month what a partial birth abortion was. Naturally we decided to be partial birth abortion doctors. The execution of this plan was nothing more than wearing doctor scrubs, squirting some fake blood on ourselves and taping a sign to us that said “partial birth abortion doctors.” So I showed up to the party in all my glory, and I found Sam dressed in a poncho and sombrero. His explanation? “My girlfriend wouldn’t let me dress in our original costume idea.” Are you fucking kidding me, Sam? Do you know how insane it looks for one guy to be dressed as a partial birth abortion doctor? But it was too late for me to change it up. I just had to own that creepy costume, and I did. (Yes, you’re allowed to be disgusted with me right now. I’m pretty disgusted with myself.)

There I go doing all the talking again. This is the type of blog post where it would be really cool for my readers to respond with some of their answers to these questions. That way I don’t feel like the clueless guy on the date who can’t pick up on a signal that you’re bored out of your mind.