In On Meaningless Preseason Football, Out on the Red Sox…Was I the Last One Still In On Them?

For you Red Sox fans out there, when was your “I’m out on this team” moment? Mine was this past Saturday. It was about two in the afternoon when I was casually flipping through channels and paused on their game against the Yankees. Julie saw the game on and asked why I hadn’t been watching it from the start. Uhh, isn’t it obvious, Julie? Because I’m busy watching a Jaguars vs Saints preseason football game, durr.

So on a day when the Sox were putting up a convincing win against the Yankees of all teams, I was not only choosing to watch a meaningless football game between two teams I don’t care about, but I was finally ready to proclaim the baseball season over. I have a feeling many of you were probably out on them long before I was. And if that’s true, good for you. If you were lucky enough to somehow ditch the Red Sox way back in April or May, congratulations, you wasted a lot less time this summer than I did.

Now before you all start screaming at me for being a fairweather fan, you should realize I’ve hung around for plenty of playoff-less Red Sox seasons. But isn’t it OK to give up early on a Red Sox team that is easily the least likable of my lifetime? I can deal with watching meaningless games in September, but I can’t deal with watching meaningless games in September while the actual baseball takes a backseat to ridiculous drama between the players, manager, ownership and local media. If I want a dose of daily drama, I’ll start DVR’ing Days of Our Lives again.

And for the few people reading this who are excited for that moment in six weeks when the Sox miraculously clinch a playoff spot just so you can rub it in my face, here’s a dose of reality:

The Sox would probably have to go 33-8 over their final 41 games (would get them to 92 wins) just to have a shot at a wild card spot. Does it seem like they have that type of run in them? What if I told you 29 of those 41 games are against playoff-caliber teams? Would that help you detach yourself from this team and move on with life?

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I have another dilemma. Just like I wrote about back on April 12th (“Should I Pay to See the Red Sox or Not?”), I now have the option to go see the Sox play in Anaheim in 10 days, but I’m on the fence. Do I go because it’s the Sox and it’s a stadium I’ve never been to? Or do I skip it because it means paying for a ticket, enduring 90 miles of driving (half of which would be during rush hour trying to leave LA), and trying to root for a team that doesn’t seem to give a shit about winning?

I think a quick look at the NFL preseason schedule just made my decision easy…the Patriots play the Giants on the same night as the Red Sox game. Yes, it’s a preseason game, and yes, the NFL Network is bound to show 355 replays of the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to the Giants from six months ago, but that still might be less painful than watching the most pathetic team in baseball.

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The Best Possible Sporting Event You Can Attend? The Verdict Is In

For the record, I’m a casual golf fan—I can name most of the popular professional golfers, and I’ll typically watch three of the four days of the major tournaments on TV only if there’s not a better sport on at the same time.  But that’s where it ends for me.  I can’t tell you who the top 10 golfers in the world are based on their ranking (interestingly enough, the top 10 ranked golfers are not necessarily the most popular golfers to the casual fan), and I certainly can’t pretend like I’ll watch one of the lesser-known tournaments.

As far as my golf-playing abilities, I’ll just tell you that I’m left-handed, have been playing golf left-handed for the past 14 years, but there’s a chance I could start playing right-handed tomorrow and immediately be better.  I’m uncommitted enough to the sport that I’m living in LA and my clubs still live in San Francisco.

But I’m going to try to convince you that watching a major golf tournament in person may be the best live sporting event you can attend—whether you’re a diehard golf fan or someone who doesn’t know the difference between Tiger Woods and a 5-Wood.

While I’ll try to sound like a total expert on this topic, I’ve actually been to only two major golf tournaments in my life: the 2010 U.S Open at Pebble Beach and the 2012 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.  These experiences were amazing enough that I will probably attend any Major for the rest of my life that is taking place within a 500-mile radius of where I live.

A quick note for the uninitiated: there are four Major Tournaments in golf each year, and in terms of importance, you should think of them as the Championships.  The best golfers in the world are ultimately measured in terms of how many Majors they’ve won.  So while there is only one Championship in baseball, basketball, football and hockey each year, there are essentially four in golf.

Here’s one man’s incomplete list of why a Major is the best live sporting event you can see in person:

-$6 per beer!  Let’s start off with the most important reason.  Every sporting event is better with alcohol, but we’ve all been conditioned to expect to pay nearly $10 per beer at every stadium.  At these golf tournaments, you pay only $6…meaning by the time you’ve spent $60 on alcohol, you’ve had four more beers than if you were at a baseball game.  That’s a steal!  (I should add the lack of a two-beer limit at the concession stands as a plus for those of you who like to triple or quadruple-fist your drinks.)

-No assigned seating.  There’s an amazing freedom when it comes to being at a golf tournament.  Your ticket allows you to roam around the course, watching golfers at as many of the 18 holes as you want.  And you can choose to watch them teeing off at the start of a hole, hitting their second shots from (hopefully) the fairway, or snuggle up close to the green and watch them finish.  You can choose to sit or stand on the grass around the green, or you can get a seat in the makeshift bleachers they setup at every hole.  There’s really no limit to where you choose to watch (apparently if you’re the second best NFL quarterback, you can even follow Tiger Woods around to each hole inside the ropes where the public is not allowed, just like Aaron Rodgers did last Friday at the U.S. Open).  This means there’s a decent chance some of the best golfers in the world are taking a shot within five feet of where you’re watching.  By comparison, think about the ticket you buy for a playoff basketball game.  It probably cost you $150 and you’re probably in the nosebleeds.  You’re stuck there and it sucks.  Even if you paid $2,000 for a 3rd row seat, Lebron is never going to be taking a three-pointer from a spot where you could reach out and touch him.

-Speaking of ticket prices…only $100 per ticket.  This may seem expensive to watch a bunch of guys play golf, but let’s put it in the perspective of a Major being the equivalent of a Championship game in other sports.  Even if you get a ticket to a Stanley Cup Finals game for $100, you’re paying for essentially three hours of entertainment (or $33.33 per hour).  One day at the golf tournament gives you about 12 hours of entertainment if you choose to be there that long (or $8.33 per hour).  You tell me which is the bigger bang for your buck?  Actually, the ticket prices for the weekend days of the Open were $125, but plenty of people were selling them on Craigslist for $100.  When’s the last time you bought tickets for a playoff game BELOW FACE VALUE??

-Chance an errant shot lands directly in front of you.  Here’s another beauty of golf: Even though the golfers would like to play all their shots from within the roped off section because that’s where they’re supposed to hit it, it never works out that way.  Every player screws up bad enough that they have shots where the ball goes into the crowd.  When this happens, if you’re lucky enough to be standing near where the ball lands, you get to see one of the coolest things in sports…a golfer only 18 inches away from you, talking to his caddy about how the hell he’s going to hit from behind a giant Cypress tree.  And you’re actually allowed to crowd around the guy when he takes this next shot.  Just take a look at this youtube clip to see what I’m talking about.  This situation happened to me three or four times in one day at the Open last weekend, and being up close and personal for these shots was cooler than I can describe.

-No jumbotrons or artificially pumping up the crowd.  Unlike at venues that host the four popular sports, there is no one on a golf course telling the fans when to get loud.  Actually it’s the exact opposite.  Officials have to signal the fans to be silent when a player’s about to swing.  What this means to me is that you get a lot more natural of a crowd reaction in golf.  There’s no stupid scoreboard telling the fans to yell “De-Fense” or simply urging them to “get loud.”  When a golf crowd goes bonkers, it’s organic…the shot they watched was simply that amazing.

-Speaking of the venues, golf is the only sport where the playing surface is truly an X factor for the players.  In fact, sometimes the golf course can end up being the biggest star of the weekend because it’s so unique, difficult, beautiful or something else (like this past weekend in San Francisco…the Olympic Club course was talked about more than any single player.  It was so difficult that we were surprised to see most of the players even bother showing up for their final round on Sunday).  And the courses can be so different from one tournament to another.  One tournament you might have a hole that’s 670 yards long, and the next tournament there’s no hole longer than 550 yards.  Always bringing a new challenge for the players.  Obviously in football, the field is always 100 yards long.  In basketball the court is 94 feet long.  There are no hills, no water, no sand traps and no trees to compete with in these sports.  The golf course is an added opponent for the players.

-Rooting for every player to do well.  Like I said earlier, I’m a casual fan so maybe this is different for hardcore golf enthusiasts, but I doubt it.  At a golf tournament, the entire crowd is rooting for every player to succeed.  Since it’s not a sport where the guys play defense on each other, you don’t have to pick which side to root for on a specific play.  You can root for every golfer to have great shots and scores, and eventually someone will be just enough better to win.  In golf, the crowd tends to be supportive of great shots and great play rather than cheering for a specific player or team.  And you certainly never see the crowd booing one of the golfers.  Compared to those other sports, being at a golf event is full of positive vibes and reactions from the entire crowd.  What’s not to love about that?

-Golf fans’ attire.  Before you go thinking golf is too serious, just know that there’s a very humorous aspect to being at a tournament.  Golf fans apparently like to dress up as if they are actually playing golf when they go to see a tournament.  I really struggle to understand this phenomenon.  It seems like everyone wants to be ready in case the PGA starts asking fans to participate in the tournament.  Fans will dress up in ridiculously goofy pants, polo shirts and sweater vests.  And believe it or not, many of them will actually wear golf shoes with the spikes on the bottom…to watch other people golf!  Can you imagine if hockey fans dressed up in full gear, including helmets to see an NHL game?  Or if all basketball fans only wore mesh shorts and a tank top to NBA games?  Keep in mind that there is plenty of funny people watching at these golf events.

Now before the naysayers can say nay about my article, let me bring up the one negative people are likely to point out.  “There are 18 holes on the golf course and upwards of 150 players competing.  In every other sport you can see the entire game happen, with all the players involved, from your seat.  In golf, you can never see everything so you’re missing out on a lot.”  That’s fair.  But at least at these majors they do a great job having a leaderboard setup at every hole so you can constantly see who’s winning overall and who’s moving up or down.  On top of that, they give you a little radio earpiece that broadcasts the live coverage of the tournament.  So even if you’re standing at the 13th hole watching the guys in last place, you can be listening to what’s happening with the leaders over on the 2nd hole.  When a new group of players approaches your hole, you’re always up-to-date on where they’re at in the standings.

I know this list is incomplete so I urge my fellow U.S. Open compadres to add more reasons in the comment section.

Adventures in Relocating: Losing My Mind over Home Entertainment Choices

I worry that I’ll come home one day to find Julie trapped inside my wire jungle

I have already lost two full days trying to solve this riddle, and there’s no end in sight.

In my current apartment, we have DirecTV, a DVR for recording shows, and a Blu-Ray player.  Our DirecTV package has most of the regular cable channels as well as HBO & Cinemax.  We have typically bought the NFL Ticket and MLB Extra Innings packages to watch football and baseball when they’re in season.  Our Blu-Ray player can stream Netflix Instant content.  Those are all of the options we have available at this time. While Netflix Instant is affordable at $8 per month, DirecTV rapes us to the tune of $124 per month.

With the move to the new place in LA only two weeks away, I thought this would be the right time to do a reset of my home entertainment packages to see if I can A) leverage different services and devices to have a broader choice in TV shows and movies, and B) cut out some significant costs from my current situation.

As I started researching this topic via the web and chatting with friends, I came across an endless amount of options: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO, Roku, AppleTV, iTunes, DirecTV, Comcast, On Demand, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, illegal downloading…

Don’t worry, this can go even one layer deeper in complexity when you start to consider the following: Netflix has its instant service and its regular/ship you dvd’s service; HBO GO only works if you have an active HBO subscription through a participating cable or dish provider, Hulu has free and plus services, Roku has four different devices with options on picture quality as well as having ports for your USB cable.  Not a single service seems to have “everything.”  For instance, Netflix Instant has almost every well-known TV show, but lags in making the newest seasons of shows available to you.  Hulu Plus’s claim to fame is that the newest episodes of currently airing TV shows are available the day after they air.  But their problem is they don’t have deals with all the major network and cable channels so some shows are missing.  Amazon looks awful for current TV shows but awesome for movies.

It also seems like if you were to create a spreadsheet that matched up all content providers (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon) with all the physical devices that the content can be streamed through (i.e. PS3, Xbox, Roku), your computer would probably explode.  Just like my head was about to do when I started to consider all these options.

Maybe the first thing I should figure out is what I really want access to. Ideally I want to be able to watch any new/currently airing TV shows close to the date that the new episodes actually air.  I also want to catch up on old seasons of still-airing shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and 30 Rock.  I need the ability to watch the playoffs of all major sports.  But I also need access to every Red Sox and Patriots game. Movies don’t matter as much: I just want the option to see most new movies that are coming out on DVD.

I know some people who have gotten rid of cable/satellite service all together and get their content exclusively from the Netflix and Hulu’s of the world.  This is the dream scenario, and I eventually want to get there. But here are three reasons why I’m reluctant to get rid of DirecTV/cable: playoff sports still have a lot of games on channels like ESPN, TBS, TNT; without cable I feel like I might miss out on something (there’s no logic to this feeling, it’s just an emotional reaction); and Julie will go ApeShit on me because all of the ridiculous shows she watches are on Food Network, MTV, E!, and TLC, and I don’t think she could get access to all of that content from another service.

I guess I’m leaning towards keeping DirecTV (but going back to the most basic package possible), and then buying a Roku to stream Netflix Instant and the MLB.tv package on my TV.  This will probably satisfy me for three months, at which time I will buy AppleTV, subscribe to Hulu Plus, buy a PlayStation 3, add HBO to my DirecTV package again so I can access HBO GO, and of course activate the NFL Ticket just in time for football season.

I’m exhausted from this talk we just had…any better suggestions for me?

March Madness: More Than Just Basketball to Help End Relationships

Well, it took four long weeks, but it finally happened…I’ve been published on another blog/website.  I’ve sold out and given this other publication a chance to post my material before I even posted it on WBFF blog.  Entrepreneurs like me start a business for one of two reasons: either to be acquired for a ridiculous amount of money, or to take the company public, also making ridiculous bank.  My exit strategy with the blog has always been to reach that coveted 45 views per day benchmark and then sell.  We’re not there yet, so don’t worry, the blog’s not going anywhere.  But with my posts now in high demand, it’s only a matter of time.  The post below was published on caughtinsouthie.com last week, and you can either read it below or click on the following link to see it on that site: http://www.caughtinsouthie.com/feature/march-madness.  Either way, I hope you enjoy it.  If you don’t, I don’t care since I just got published on another website.)

As a rule I try to never feel bad for anyone.  Who wants to feel bad for someone else?  It just makes you feel awful…ruins your day, really.

But I gotta admit, at this time of year, I truly feel bad for women.  Specifically women with husbands or boyfriends, or even those weird girls who hang out mostly with dudes in a platonic way.  You see, it’s this time of year, the February/March timeframe, where these women think they’re gonna recoup all those lost hours with their men from the 10-month disaster known as Baseball & Football season.  I can understand the thinking… Football season ended after the first weekend of February, and everyone knows baseball doesn’t start until April 1st.  So that’s about eight weeks for couples to spend all their time together: taking cooking classes, doing couples’ massages, tripping on mushrooms together, whatever.

The obvious problem with this arrangement?  These eight weeks are actually when some of the best sporting events of the year take place.

Let’s start with the biggie: March Madness.  Now some people might say, “wait a minute, the tournament doesn’t start until March 13th this year.  What do you mean it’s eight weeks long?”  Well, for the irrational sports fan, March Madness really begins in mid-February.  That’s when the college hoops schedule somehow creates intriguing matchup after intriguing matchup.  And these teams don’t just play once a week.  So this week, for example, there are about 31 interesting college basketball games over seven days.  Ladies, when you get home on Wednesday night and your guy’s watching a “random game” on TV, think twice before you touch that remote control.  This game could give him that extra insight he needs to determine if Team X is gonna lose in the 1st round of the March Tourney or the 2nd round.  March Madness is a strange phenomenon.  For instance, I have absolutely no loyalties to any of the big basketball programs.  Sadly, I attended BU (not the Baylor version, the Boston version), and they make the tournament once every five years.  But for some reason, I can get fired up for a Duke/UNC or Kansas/Missouri game like I’ve had season tickets for 40 years.  This past Saturday I actually went to a bar for the 1pm KU/Mizzou game, and I felt nervous…even though I had no clue who I was rooting for.  It’s unhealthy; it’s inexplicable; but it’s completely necessary (a big factor in play for me is that I’m so sick of seeing the winner of the March Madness bracket turn out to be someone who picked the teams based on mascot, uniform or perceived sexiness of the team.  It’s my life’s goal to win that damn pool).

Let’s explore what else is going on this time of year.

Well, ladies, your dude plays fantasy sports right?  Guess what?  We all just got our automated emails from espn.com last week saying it’s time to activate our league for the 2012 baseball season!!  That’s right, it’s officially fantasy baseball season.  The regular season might not begin for another five weeks, but in that time we need to refresh our memories on all the players that changed teams in the offseason (when we weren’t paying attention because we were too busy managing our fantasy football teams), read numerous magazines and websites offering advice on who to draft, and then, when we don’t trust those websites’ rankings, we create our own formula for ranking players.  Then we need to do the actual draft (which will definitely go through dinner time on a weeknight).  If you happen to be with someone who wants to watch spring training games, forget it.  Break up now.

Other than college basketball and baseball, add in the final regular season push for hockey and professional basketball, where we might be hanging on every game to see if our team will qualify for the playoffs.  And then finally, multiply it all by some more football.  What?  More football?  That’s right.  For some fans, it’s actually their favorite time of year.  You’ve got the scouting combine where NFL teams are evaluating college players (they actually broadcast this stuff…you could watch a herd of 300lb guys run 40-yard dashes all day long if you really wanted).  You’ve got free agency beginning on March 13th (oh no, our players might leave to play for another team!), and finally, you have the NFL draft at the end of April (which means we spend most of March and April watching the same two guys on Sportscenter argue about who each team might pick in the draft).

And while I’m feeling bad for women in general, let me give a special shout out to the wives/girlfriends of Boston sports fans specifically.  Our teams’ season always goes longer, and it always seems to end with us going on a bender…either an ecstatic “our team is the greatest” bender or (as in the case of the Patriots this year) a “how in God’s name did this happen AGAIN” bender.  No matter the result, it seems like the Boston sports schedule never has a break.

Ladies, you’ve got it rough.  No one’s doubting that.  So here’s what I’m gonna do for you: I’m officially giving you permission to force your man to watch whatever TV shows you want.  You wanna watch “My Bridezilla’s a Teenage Mom who also happens to be a Real Housewife of Miami?”  Fine.  He’ll watch it with you.  Just as long as there’s not a game on.