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

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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.

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Stanley Cup Conference Finals Preview via Guest Blogger (Who’s Getting Quite Arrogant At This Point)

[Editor’s Note: Guest-blogging extraordinaire Nkilla is back with his preview of the Conference Finals. That’s right. We’re finally halfway through the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One month down, one to go.]

Well, well, well… look who pulled off a sweep in the second round of the NHL playoffs. That’s right, I did, your favorite guest blogger. I predicted the winner of all four second round series correctly. Before I basically give you free money by picking the semi-final winners, let’s quickly recap what happened in round two.

[Editor’s Note: Classic douchey sports prognosticator move by Nkilla here. Highlight the fact that you got the winner of each series right, but ignore the fact that you didn’t correctly pick the right amount of games for any of those series. It’s like anyone who picked the Baltimore Ravens to win the Super Bowl before last football season by saying they would be the #1 seed in the AFC and go on to win their second Championship. Yeah, buddy, you knew exactly how things were going to play out.]

Pittsburgh eliminated Ottawa 4-1. This series was never really close. In fact, if the five players on the ice for Pittsburgh in the last minute of game three do not collectively stop playing defense for eight seconds Pittsburgh probably sweeps Ottawa. After fending off a feisty Islanders team in round one, Pittsburgh apparently decided to take the playoffs seriously in round two and just go out and dominate their opponent. Ottawa may have fooled us a bit by how easily they eliminated Montreal in round one, but Montreal was probably more inured than they let on, and they let on that they were very injured.

Boston eliminated New York 4-1. This series was never really close either. In fact, if Tuukka Rask does not forget how to play goalie in game four Boston probably sweeps New York. After the Toronto “almost a fiasco but really one of the great Boston sports moments of the last thirty years”, the Bruins, much like Pittsburgh, decided to get serious and end their second round series quickly. A couple of things factored into this being a quick series: just because one sucky team (New York) beat another sucky team (Washington), the winner does not all of a sudden become good; the Bruins three rookie defensemen added some much needed life into the Bruins and helped them dominate the series; and most of all, the growing legend of Krug.

Los Angeles eliminated San Jose 4-3. The home team won all seven games in this series. It was a very well-played series with five of the seven games being decided by one goal. Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick is starting to look as unbeatable as he was during last year’s Stanley Cup run, and he really carried the Kings through this series. San Jose probably lost this series when they gave up the game-tying and game-winning goal twenty-two seconds apart with less than two minutes to play in game two.

Chicago eliminated Detroit 4-3. Best series of the second round between two long-time division rivals that will not even be in the same conference anymore as of next year. Chicago dominated game one, and then Detroit came out and cruised through the next three games to take a 3-1 series lead over the West’s top seed. At this point Chicago came to life offensively and dominated game five at home, came from behind to win game six on Michael Frolik’s sick penalty shot, and then won game seven twice, once with one minute left in regulation that was overturned on a horrendous penalty call, and then a second time in overtime.

 

So, that leaves us with a great final four. If you look at the sixteen teams that started the playoffs, it is tough to come up with a better final four option than how it actually played out. All four of these teams are worthy of winning The Cup, which isn’t always the case once you get to the final four in any sport. These are also your last four Stanley Cup champions. Let’s break the two series down and reveal the winner of each:

Chicago v Los AngelesChicago wins if: They score on the power play and Corey Crawford does not give any games away. The power play is going to be particularly important for Chicago because Jonathan Quick is playing so well right now. I think goals are going to be hard to come by in this series. Also, if Chicago gets two or three goals past Quick in a particular game, Crawford cannot have a shaky game and give up five goals.

LA wins if: Jonathan Quick keeps playing like he did during last year’s championship run. Listen, LA’s offense has by no means been lighting up the scoreboard this postseason, but with the way Quick is playing two goals is going to be enough most nights.

And the winner is…: Chicago was the best team in the regular season and dominated their first round matchup against Minnesota, but showed some weakness in the Detroit series. Quick seems to be getting better as the playoffs go on. If LA was scoring goals at even an average rate during these playoffs, I could see LA winning a short series. The Sharks won three games against the Kings by a score of 2-1 in the last round. I see no reason why Chicago can’t grind out a couple wins like that in this series. I think this goes seven, and I want the better goalie in game seven. LA in 7.

Pittsburgh v BostonPittsburgh wins if: They continue to play outstanding special teams and their offense continues to run amok. Pittsburgh has the number one power play in the playoffs and the number three penalty kill. Most of the time their power play looks surgical. When their five-on-five offense is clicking, they can make it look like they are on the power play even when they are not. They have three of the top four goal scorers and point leaders so far in the playoffs.

Boston wins if: They continue to play the best two-way hockey in the playoffs and the rookie defensemen continue to play like veterans. The Bruins have the top four plus/minus players in the playoffs so far, and that is because when the Bruins are playing well the forwards are forechecking and helping on defense. Based on what I just taught you about Pittsburgh’s offensive proficiency, the Bruins young defensemen need to not only provide the youthful energy they brought against New York, but they have to play solid defense.

And the winner is…: On paper Pittsburgh is slightly more talented and their offense really started to click against Ottawa. As good as the Pittsburgh offense is, their defense is a little soft. A couple of these games may end up being of the 6-4 variety, and I prefer Rask over Vokoun easily in those games. If you watched the Pittsburgh/Ottawa series, by game four it seemed like Ottawa was afraid of Pittsburgh. The one thing the Bruins will not be at any point is scared of this Pittsburgh team. In fact, I think the personality of this Bruins team is one that wants to go through Pittsburgh to get to the finals. I think there is a small part of Pittsburgh that wishes someone else took care of Boston for them. Boston in 6.

[Editor’s Note: I love that Nkilla picked a Stanley Cup Finals between my hometown team (Boston) and my new hometown team (Los Angeles). Really, there’s no wrong answer for the NHL when it comes to the possible Finals matchups. It’s either Pittsburgh vs Chicago (the two most-talented teams and the top two teams from the regular season), Pittsburgh vs LA (the best offensive team against the best goalie/last year’s champs), Boston vs Chicago (two original-six teams, great hockey cities) or Boston vs LA (the last two Cup winners, the two most physical teams, and my overall preference). This is going to be a fun four weeks.]

Should We Predict the NHL Playoffs’ 1st Round Winners or the Most Entertaining Series? How About Both?

[Editor’s Note: Two months ago I wrote about the Boston Bruins and how they were quietly becoming Boston’s most consistently competitive team. This is probably surprising to nobody who knows me and my sports jinxing history, but since I posted that article on February 25th, the Bruins have won 17 games and lost 16 games. Not really the dominant trajectory my article put them on. When it comes to sports not named football, you’ll notice my blog posts are typically limited to ball-washing my Boston teams. I don’t usually write anything about the going-ons outside of the New England area. But that doesn’t mean my readers don’t have a thirst for more balanced sports coverage. Therefore, I’ve invited back a guest blogger who regularly abandons his husbandly and fatherly duties to watch more sports than you or I could imagine. He’s here to break down the NHL playoffs in his no-nonsense, marginally humorous style. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the only blogger in internet history to write 10,000+ words about something called the “Euro Soccer Championship”….Mr. Neil “nkilla” Gariepy.]

Your favorite guest blogger is back! I know what most of you are thinking – if I am blogging, then there must be some sort of obscure sporting event coming up that I am going to try and get you to pay attention to. Well, if you consider the NHL “obscure” then you are correct…it is time for playoff hockey. For those of you that are not NHL regular season regulars, it is time for your annual “jump onto the NHL bandwagon”. No more shootouts, lots of sudden death overtime drama, and teams building up genuine hatred for each other as each series moves to the next game. [Editor’s Note: Someday Neil will learn to link to certain YouTube clips to support his claims, but for now I’ll give him an assist (pun intended!). If you want to see what Neil means by genuine hatred, just watch the first two minutes of THIS CLIP from the Penguins/Flyers playoff series last year. I promise it’s worth it.]

There are eight first round, best-of-seven series. I’ll go ahead and rank the eight first round series from least exciting to most exciting so if you have an actual life and can only follow two or three series you should probably use this blog post as your guide.

8. Chicago v Minnesota – This should be a quick series, a 1-seed vs 8-seed matchup where the 8-seed has very little chance for an upset. Chicago was the best team in the Western Conference, and Minnesota is probably the worst of the sixteen teams to make the playoffs this year. During the regular season Minnesota lost two out of every three games against teams that eventually made the playoffs. For you gamblers out there, Chicago -360 to win the series is not a horrible bet; I expected it to be more around -800. Chicago to sweep is +400. Also, my friend Todd is at -2000 to puke after reading the last paragraph and realizing I just jinxed his team.

The Pick: Chicago in 4


7. Pittsburgh v “Brooklyn” – Another 1-seed vs 8-seed matchup where the 8-seed probably has very little chance of winning. The difference between this series and the Chicago series is that the Islanders will have a nice little underdog story about them that everyone in America likes to root for. The Islanders last made the playoffs six seasons ago, and they have not won a playoff series since 1993. Their current team is built around 22-year-old-star-in-the-making John Tavares and a bunch of cast-offs from other teams. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh was arguably the best team in the league this year, winning four out of every five games against eventual playoff teams. It is almost impossible to root for Pittsburgh unless you are from Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby is way too whiney for most of us and then there is Matt Cooke. For those of you unfamiliar with Mr. Cooke’s work, go ahead and google “Matt Cooke Cheap Shot.” One of the video compilations is titled “Matt Cooke Cheapshotting History.” It is almost four minutes long. And it is from 2009. If you can find the 2013 version with four more years of footage, it is probably twelve minutes long. [Editor’s Note: Interesting that this time Neil even tells you how to google the right video in order to see Matt Cooke’s cheap shots, but still doesn’t link to the video. As much as I hate doing someone else’s work for him, here you go]:

The Pick: Pittsburgh in 5


6. St. Louis v Los Angeles – This is the 4-seed vs 5-seed matchup in the West. St. Louis is the better seed here, but LA had a slightly better record against eventual playoff teams in the regular season. Most people are predicting a close series with LA prevailing in six, or St. Louis winning in seven. So why would I rank this as the third worst series of the first round? Well, LA won The Cup last year, brought almost the same team back to defend the title, and started the season off with a little bit of a residual hangover from all the celebrating. In the last month or so they have been getting back to form, winning games and moving up the standings. Also, they went 3-0 against St. Louis this season. I think this is one of those series that goes five or six games but seems like it was a sweep. Gamblers, LA at -120 to win this series is not a horrible bet, no need to get tricky by picking the right number of games.

The Pick: Los Angeles in 6


5. Anaheim v Detroit – Bit of a compelling storyline here. Many view Detroit as “old-blood NHL” and Anaheim as “new-blood NHL.” Detroit had to struggle to make the playoffs for a 22nd consecutive year whereas Anaheim stayed just behind Chicago most of the year and locked up the 2-seed in the West.  This series may very well go all seven games, and we will probably be treated to a couple overtimes as well. The reason this series is not higher on the list is that there is almost no history between the two teams and not a lot of household names on either team. Gamblers, Detroit to win the series at +125 or “the series goes 7 games” at +165 are probably your two best moves, but neither are recommended.

The Pick: Anaheim in 7


4. Washington v New York – I know what most of you are saying – “This is the worst ranking blog ever. How could one of the league’s most marketable players, Alex Ovechkin, playing against the New York Rangers in the playoffs just be in the middle of the pack for entertainment value?” Well, the problem is one of these teams is not good, and the other is really, really bad. The Rangers are the 6-seed and are basically “Minnesota of the East.” They only won 37% of their games against eventual playoff teams, and only five of those wins came in regulation. They are the “not good” team mentioned above. Washington did not beat a team in regulation that eventually made the playoffs until April 9th. When everyone was saying Washington was the “hot team” about a month ago, it was because they were beating up on their horrible division. Ovechkin vs New York still carries some weight, but I have a feeling this is a short series.

The Pick: New York in 5


3. Boston v Toronto – Shocking confession, I’m a huge Bruins fan/homer, but the following paragraph is in no way a reverse jinx. This Bruins team is a little too much like last year’s team  for my liking. Looked like the best team ever assembled for the first half of the season, played .500 hockey for the second half of the season, got bounced in the first round of the playoffs by an inferior Washington team. Meanwhile, people in Toronto like hockey more than any fan base likes any sport in the world. And Toronto is in the playoffs for the first time in eight years. The worst seats for the home games in Toronto are going for $2000. According to Vegas, Boston is a 2:1 favorite to win this series. Most experts are predicting Boston in five or six. I just don’t see it. Toronto is going to be so jacked up for every home game with a completely bonkers crowd. Toronto was slightly better than Boston during the regular season against eventual playoff teams. Both teams are original league members, physical, and are going to bring it. I think first team to lose a home game loses the series. This should be a very entertaining, long series.

The Pick: Toronto in 6


2. Vancouver v San Jose – San Jose, the 6-seed in the West, actually had a slightly better record than 3-seed Vancouver against eventual playoff teams. The teams are pretty evenly matched although Vancouver was not able to beat San Jose in the regular season. Both of these teams have had lofty expectations over the past eight years and neither have been able to bring home The Cup, and now one of them is getting knocked out in the first round. Both fan bases are knowledgeable, so there will be a great atmosphere at each game. Vancouver always seems to bring some team drama with them into the playoffs…you never know when the goalie carousel might get going with them, or when Alex Burrows might bite someone, or when the Sedin Sisters might admit they are not only sisters but also lovers. This has all the makings of a long, intense series. For the gamblers, being able to get San Jose at “plus money” (currently +105) to win this series is very good value.

The Pick: San Jose in 6


1. Montreal v Ottawa – Any time two Canadian teams play a long series against each other the intensity gets ratcheted up eh. Montreal is the 2-seed in the East and Ottawa is the 7-seed, but these two teams had basically identical records against playoff-qualifying teams in the regular season eh. Also, they split four games during the regular season eh. So we have two Canadian teams eh, that are very evenly matched eh. A series that is probably going seven games eh, and again all the games will be taking place in eh Canada eh. This may not have the high profile players of some of the other series eh, but the intensity and location should make it the best series of the first round eh. Eh.

The Pick: Montreal in 7

For the record, Neil picked four upsets in the first round, two series to go seven games, only one sweep, and somehow managed to squeeze in “eh” 11 times in the final paragraph.

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.

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.