Monday, December 29, 2008

Surviving the Lights of Vegas - Part 2

In our last thrilling episode, we continued our obsession with snow in Portland, which led us to venture down south toward Las Vegas, the land of cheap buffets and slot machines everywhere. We had come up with the idea back in August, which seemed like a great thought, but after knowing what weather was here, well, we got on the plane anyway. We now continue with our regularly scheduled blog entry.

Friday, December 19th - The plane ride was rather uneventful during the first three quarters, as it was filling up with snacks, reading airline magazines full of products and services that I would imagine nobody needs, but somehow they can advertise for them. Sky Mall is one huge magazine of crap that nobody needs, but somebody thought would be a good idea to create. Alaska had also changed their beverage service to Jones brand, as they indicated they wanted a more "natural" soda. It's not bad, actually, and now I'm seeing it everywhere as they just became the soda vendor at the Rose Garden here.

As we start to descend to Las Vegas, we had heard that Vegas had issues with snow and ice there, but the airport was open so we weren't concerned. Until we turned around over the city, and saw the entire town covered in a white glimmer of snow. Normally, the glitz comes from the neon, but in this case, Sin City was officially Snow City, and it didn't look quite right. I suppose our packing plan of having some winter and some warmer clothes was a good idea.

After picking up our bags, we found the MGM Grand check in desk, which was right at the airport. Yes, we were able to check into our room about 10 feet from baggage claim. Ok, you can play slots while picking up your bag at points, so I'm not surprised here except that why don't more hotels do this? We got our rooms, caught our shuttle to the hotel, and within a half an hour, we were looking at the chilly Strip. Only 37 degrees at 5 Pm. Maybe we didn't get far enough from the cold.

Girl and I found our room, and just chilled for a bit inside the room, getting to know the room specifics. The rooms all have an electronic safe, so I got to figure out a combination to look up our valuables, and any monies we might win while there. Well, it's the thought anyway, but soon after this, we are in search of food. We find the MGM Grand Buffet, and so decide to give it a try. And let's just say that when they call it a Grand Buffet, they aren't kidding. It was amazingly huge, and it had so many different food options. After powering through food from two different trips, we settle down to gamble a bit with some margaritas. It doesn't take too many losses and the effect of the booze to put us up to our room, although it certainly seemed like we were there for a while. But since there's no clocks on the casino floor, you can lose track of space and time. I'd also spent some time in the sports book area, placing bets on my beloved Trail Blazers and West Ham to do well in their respective leagues, although the odds certainly weren't what I expected. The Trail Blazers to win the NBA at 8 to 1 odds?

Well, if we get to bed around midnight, we'll be ready to go the next morning.

Saturday, December 20th - We had thought this time of year, things would be mellow around Vegas, or as mellow as this place gets. We couldn't have been more wrong, as the annual Las Vegas bowl game was happening here later that night. Arizona, who hadn't been to a bowl since Clinton was in office, was facing BYU. It seemed odd that BYU would want to be here, but the fact that Donny and Marie were playing at the Flamingo meant there was something for them to do here. Plus, they'd been here the 3 previous years, so apparently there must be something here for them. We'd encountered some of their fans the previous night, but we were serenaded early Saturday morning to some of them running about, banging doors about in the hotel. I love people...

We end up waking up a bit late after dealing with the traveling stress and being woken up early, so we don't get out of the room until about noon. That's normal around here, but probably not the going to bed early thing from the previous night. Well, hey, it's vacation and we'll do what we want. We decided to head to the Luxor for their buffet that afternoon, and so we walk from MGM to New York, New York then Excalibur. I have to say that New York, New York is an impressive casino from the outside, but inside, it looks a lot like any other casino. Excalibur looked very old school casino inside, and it was by far the most packed during the afternoon. And the Luxor has the cool vibe to it, and yes, they advertise the cheapest and best buffet, and they weren't kidding. Since it was Saturday, they served champagne brunch, and so girl and her mom didn't disappoint in drinking a bit. I felt a bit parched, so I stuck with water until later. But again, massive eating was abound. We took our time walking back, playing a few machines here and there, and we found a bar that had frosty big drinks for sale, so we drank a bit on our way back. Ok, we drank a lot, and tried to take in a few sights. As we got back to MGM, girl's shoes were giving her trouble, so we sat and watched the action at Lion Country Safari for a bit.

The lion habitat at MGM seems rather cruel, as you have lions under glass, but apparently they stay there only 10 hours per week, and they stay with the same pride and handlers, so they build a relationship with everyone. And while they look rather large and menacing, they basically acted like big cats during dinner time, playing with their food and water, and getting praise from the helpers. It was interesting to note the similarities between our cats during feeding time and the lions, although our cats won't snap your arm in half with their bite. Well, that I know of. We ventured up to our room, and didn't intend on napping, but we soon found ourselves down for a couple of hours, waking up in time to watch the end of the bowl game and Arizona's victory. Thinking that things might get a little insane later that night, we head to the food court to get some pizza and drinks later, and then head into our room for another early night. Well, we did gamble a little bit, but again, we were in our room before midnight. Hmmmmm, maybe there is a theme here? Girl's mom did get to see David Hasslehoff, though, as he was passing through the casino. He had sung the national anthem at the bowl game that night, and was staying at the MGM, we think. Apparently, he's really tall and has a rather large entourage.

Sunday, December 21st - Morning came with us being serenaded again, but not by Arizona fans, but by some kids who were told to play in the hall before breakfast. Ok, it's 8 am and they are signing, laughing, and knocking on doors until a front desk employee comes up later to scold them and have them return to their room. Ok, another bad start to the morning, and we also had some issues with the hot water in our bathroom. It was bad enough the ventilation in the room caused the shower curtain to blow into you while in the tub, but then apparently everyone decided to take 2 hour showers to kill the hot water. Needless to say, it was a rough start, but the champagne brunch at MGM made up for it. More good food, more alcohol, great dessert. Geez, I feel like I've put on about 20 pounds.

We decided to head north towards the Bellagio today, to check out the fountains. Plus, there might be some shopping to do about here, so we stopped into the M and M World store. And it was absolutely insane. People in every direction, grabbing stuff from the shelves, talking at the top of their lungs. Apparently, consumerism turns some people into idiots, and so after 20 minutes of this, we run from the place screaming. As we walk north, we see the casino construction of the new City Center areas, plus the new Wynn casino Endeavor. The economy might be struggling, but casinos are doing Ok, and building and expanding to keep one step ahead of the competitors. It reminded me of Portland, who for a while seemed to have everything here under construction.

We soon got to the Bellagio, and saw their wonderful Christmas display, which was very popular and people filled. This led us to try and find some quiet machines to play for a bit until the fountain show later. It was fun, until girl's mom tried to cash out on her machine, and it couldn't produce a ticket. So it took us 30 minutes to track someone down to collect our pay. The fountains came on right at 5, played for one song, and then it was done. Hmm, the economy affecting water shows? Well, we wandered back to catch a cab back to MGM, and decide on what's up for later.

Girl and I soon head to Walgreen's to load up on some snack food that isn't overpriced, and while it was a nice diversion, I also had a bit of tunnel vision going on, so I wasn't the most communicative person. Sometimes, in my desire to do well and keep on top of things, I focus too much and don't always say as much as I should. Thankfully, it was a good conversation with girl, and we got things settled, because I don't want her to feel like she can't talk to me. And if she does, I should respond with more than a grunt or passing gas...

We decided on Sunday to try and stay up as late as we could, first loading up our big drink cups from last night at Fat Tuesday, and seeing how many casinos we could hit until they hit back...Well, I can safely say, we did a pretty good job of hitting them. So good, that the trip deserves it's own entry. So, tune in next time for stories of drunken wandering around the Strip, and food at 4 AM. Talk to you all next time.

Next Time - So this is what 4 AM looks like, and wait, we've been here before, but why are we still here?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Surviving the Lights of Vegas - Part 1

I'm exhausted again, but it's a good kind of tired. You'd think at some point, I'd just stop running myself into the ground, but there's the tired from being lethargic after consuming your body weight in snack food and soda and then there's the tired from actually working hard to accomplish something. My tired has a lot to do with the latter, and so stick with me as I detail my adventures from the past few weeks.

Sunday, December 14th - The snow obsession detailed in my last entry finally came true with some crazy snow and ice falling around our home. Although I wasn't around to see it much, as I ventured to NW Portland to watch a footy match and then participate in practice. When I got to the pub, there was nothing wrong, just a rather cold morning. That all changed about 9:30 AM when the heavens broke down and the snow came down. It appeared to be wet and not sticking, so I decided to practice instead of heading home. Bad move on my part, as unbeknown to me, the snow was significantly falling east side, and roads were closing while I was running about. And of course, my cell phone battery decided to die about the time practice started, so I had no way of being contacted or calling out. Yeah, needless to say, the drive home was an adventure but I took it really slowly and cautiously and made it home without issue. I will now promise never to do anything that dumb for at least the next 15 minutes or so. The snow fell for the rest of the day, meaning that the likelihood of going to work tomorrow was falling between slim and none. However, my friend dublinx did get a great shot of me playing in the snow.

Monday, December 15th - With the snow still down on the ground, I woke up Monday deciding to work from home at my primary job. I love the fact that my job is flexible enough to allow me this alternative, rather than me trying to drive on semi-dangerous roads with other people who drive like there's nothing wrong with the roads. Despite the fact that cars are leaving the road on a regular basis trying to stay upright, there is a part of the population here that thinks driving as fast as possible works and hey, if you don't hit anything, there's nothing wrong here. Thankfully, I can connect with my workstation from home, and my meeting schedule is pretty consistent so I know where I'm supposed to be most of the time. As I work away at my stuff, girl is working hard on her grant writing. With some of the mangled grammar still showing on the page, she curses the world according to Clippy and just wonders if she has anyone that can make nouns and verbs agree. The snow tapers off later in the day, but things are still chilly as the temperature hovers about 20 degrees for most of the day and night, so basically, the snow that fell isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Tuesday, December 16th - Well, I woke up at 7:30 am and seeing how things hadn't dramatically changed from overnight, I decided to venture into the office anyway by transit. I bundled up in my best eskimo wear, with snow pants, gloves, hat, and butt warmers present, and wandered off to catch the train and bus. Since the snow and ice were still about, I had visions of sitting at the stop waiting for long times and nothing coming. I've lived in Portland since 1989 and know that when things get snowy and icy here, transit still tries to operate with varying degrees of success. I've experienced 4 hour bus rides home packed to the hilt, busses stopping because of conditions, and busses smacking each other in a crazy version of Chinese Checkers, so I had expectations that I might be waiting for a while. And I couldn't have been more wrong.

The train was totally on time, and got me to the bus stop in plenty of time to make my connection, which was also on time. I spent not more that 40 minutes getting into work, which was absolutely crazy considering the conditions outside with ice, cold and blowing snow. As I take off my layers at my desk, many of my coworkers are sharing reports of snow and ice in their area, and the many reports of what possibly is coming to hit us later that day. Apparently, the paranoia about the weather is being listened to, as many folks complete a few hours of work, then disappear home before things get worse. I decide to stick it out as I have a few things to complete before I leave, and if all else fails, I live close enough to work that I could walk home if needed. The afternoon gets quieter and quieter as more of my co-workers head home, and then girl calls me after one of my meetings. Apparently, she's grown frustrated at the staff she works with, and has asked for my help to edit some of her work.

Ok, in my past life, I've written for a college newspaper, I've written dozens of reports and project documents, hundreds of important notices, dozens of procedure updates, even more new procedure documents, and countless self training documents. While I may not have the best grasp of grammar usage around, I can write and write quickly. And most of the time, it makes sense. After careful consideration lasting about 30 seconds, I agree to provide some help to her. Within moments of this news, I find out by email that our bowling league is cancelled for the night, as the alley is closing in case conditions get bad. I tell you, the paranoia about snow here is big. It's suddenly more true as the snow starts to hit later that night, with a light dusting at first, but then getting more consistent as the night goes on. I listen to girl's instructions about what she reviews in her documents, what the particulars are to look for, and suddenly I'm off in editor land.

And I have to say that I'm glad I don't have an editor for this exercise here. I'm sure that most grammar nazis would cringe at some of the words I use, plus I break a lot of English rules by starting sentances with prepositions or ending them with one. When I blog, I tend to be extremely conversational in my style, which is great for reading but not so much if you are being completely attentive to correct style. Anyway, after a late night of editing, I'm off to sleep and wondering if I will venture to work or not.

Wednesday, December 17th - The conditions aren't terrible outside, but they haven't changed since the snow hit, and with the cold, cars aren't moving around much in the morning. You know it's bad when city officials are telling people that if possible, just stay home. I heed the warning and settle in to work at home for the second day of the week. I have some requirements to review, some testing to complete, and a few meetings on my schedule, so I have a rather busy day of work on the schedule. As I quietly work, knocking off task by task, I realize that by noon, I'm done with my tasks and there's still a good half a day left. Well, I need to do some more reading and there's a few emails that have piled up.

Work email is a necessary work communication tool, but at points, I think people just send them to make it look like they are doing some work. The note may not accomplish anything more that stirring up more questions, which may be the approach, but by sending a note, real work can be avoided. I must learn the ways of this skill, as the inbox piles up. By quitting time, I'm back caught up with my email, and now it's off to complete more editing for the night. It's not such bad work, and I'm actually getting pretty good at it. The weather guys are predicting more snow for tomorrow, which would be good if you like snow, but bad if you were thinking of getting into work. And honestly, I'm getting a bit of cabin fever so getting out of the house is starting to sound like a good idea.

Thursday, December 18th - The predicted snow hasn't started as of 7:45 AM when I wake up and the roads are clear, so I trudge down to shower and get ready for work. No sooner than I walk upstairs at 8:10 AM, the skies turn purple and it's a snow downpour. I suppose I could try to get into work, but that idea fades as the snow starts to stick and it's now slowing down at all. I settle in for another day of working in the basement. I tend to my work documents and meetings while also getting laundry ready for our big trip. Tomorrow, we head to Las Vegas, and I'm excited. There's a bit of concern that the weather might keep us here, depending on when the storm might hit, but at this time, it's a go. As I look at my work task list getting shorter, my home task list is getting bigger with packing, other editing, and house chores. Girl and I have tickets to the Trail Blazer game that night, and under normal circumstances, we never miss a game. But the snow keeps falling, the work keeps piling up, and there's not time to divert our attention from the tasks here for hoops. As much as I hate to, I end up selling my tickets to a friend for the game.

The editing is flying along, the packing is going well, and I even decide to hook up the radio to listen to the game. My tickets were picked up, and going to a good cause. And the cause got better as the game went on, as Brandon Roy had a career night in scoring 52 points in the Blazers beating the Suns for the first time in 12 tries. I had to go upstairs to watch the fourth quarter, as it was a game for the ages. But I knew that going to the game would mean that there would be numerous things here at the house that needed attention that would be ignored, and so I was where I needed to be. And besides, if you need a fallback plan, listening to Wheels call a game isn't a bad back up option. Girl and I end up working late, and then I knock off about midnight to finish packing, and curl up for sleep. Our shuttle arrives at 9:30 AM to get us to the airport for our flight, and I can't wait.

Friday, December 19th - Travel Day is here, and I'm ready and raring to go. A few last minute items to clear up, and we're ready to fly south to avoid the cold. In watching the news, though, snow had hit Vegas the night before and the airport had closed for a while because of the conditions. Wow, the snow is following us all over? Well, we are going to chance it anyway, and the shuttle arrives a bit early ready to take us to the airport. The conditions on the roads are a bit dicey, but as long as you drive slowly, it's not that terrible. Our driver takes his time getting us to the terminal, and we arrive in plenty of time before our flight at 1:30 pm. After a quick visit to the bank for some much needed gambling funds and a stop for some snacks, we settle into our gate for the flight.

Well, ok, girl had lost her stocking hat on the way back from coffee, so I went on a mission to find it and I did right in front of Good Dog, Bad Dog sausages. And our gate actually changed to another location. Plus, we ran into our friend Dick Danger, who works at the airport and was there getting his check. So, there was plenty to do while waiting for our flight, and that doesn't include the people watching opportunities that were abound. Airports are an amazing study in people, as you have the folks that dress to the nines when traveling, showing off the latest fashion styles with their designer bags, and then you have the people that just rolled out of bed and don't care what they look like. Add this with the conversations with fellow travelers, and seeing people meet up at the gate, it's truly interesting to watch. The movie Dogma had a few scenes about what happens at airports, and I believe it's the truth. When you see someone at the gate, you are truly happy to see them and it's a true show of emotion. We got to watch a few tearful reunions before we got the call to board our plane.

As we took off from Portland, it didn't matter that the conditions were cold and snowy here, or that things might be getting worse while we were gone, or did we forget anything at the house. It was the simple emotion of being able to put the trials and cares away for a few days and just be somewhere different for a few days. And I was looking forward to having a few adventures while we were gone, then return home in time for Christmas. What I didn't expect was how many crazy adventures we'd have between the time we left Portland and the time we came back to the very snowy Rose City.

Next Time - Adventures in Gambling and Buffets, and Gee, We aren't the only city under construction right now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holidays Around Here....And It's Arctic Death Storm 2008

I love Portland more than a lot of things, but one of the insane phenomenons that exist here is how snow affects the town. Because we have a lot of hills about town, when there is the slightest bit of snow around, it can make for an adventure driving. And since we have a lot of different weather affecting areas (Beaverton and all points west are higher up, while Gresham gets frozen like a Popsicle with the east winds, etc), the weather isn't the same anywhere in town. But what adds a element of insanity to the mix is our local television station's almost non-stop obsession with reporting the weather. It can go on for hours and hours of pictures of snow about the area, followed with the obligatory reporter stations of Sylvan hill (high point in town) and the Troutdale truck stop, where some rookie reporter slides around on the ice while talking to truckers that can't figure out why people driving certain cars feel the need to drive 80 miles an hour in a driving snowstorm without chains.

The Portland Mercury gets the whole situation right, courtesy of their news list. Even Fark has video of our adventures in trying to drive up a hill covered in snow. The area is down near John's Landing, and yes, it's amazing that nobody got into an accident. That's almost as good as some video they got last year of cars sliding around PGE Park taking out cars. What amazes me is that friends of mine that live in other areas and people that live out here can't imagine why this town goes nuts when the seemingly smallest amounts of snow fall on the ground. Gee, we can drive in this stuff in Minnesota, but why here when there's an inch of snow, the town literally shuts down.

Well, it's really simple. We have something called elevation to deal with, and there's lots of hills around town, and they might not be very big, but get a little snow on them, shake it with some ice and not have any sanding crews come near it for a while, and it becomes a regular sledding hill. We also have a lot of inattentive drivers, who don't realize that you can't drive as fast in the snow as you can on bare pavement, but I think these are some of the same people that freak out when it rains and then have to slam on the brakes because they can't stop as fast with water on the road. Personally, I find our fascination with snow endearing, as I love seeing the white stuff come down, but I could really do without the long TV coverage about it. But I suppose it's one of the things about here you just get used to.

The MLS Dog and Pony show came winding through town last week, as the commissioner and other officials toured the city and met with various personnel about the MLS bid. Merritt Paulson did some talking, the MLS folks did some talking, the city officials talked, and the task force set up to study stadium options asked a lot of questions. Some were pretty good, others not so much, but at least the group is trying to understand all of the challenges and positives about bringing MLS to town. Merritt has a good plan in place to bring MLS here, and is trying to learn from the mistakes of renovations past , while a lot of sports writers are asking simply what will MLS do if it comes to Portland? Even John Canzano has been talking about soccer, and if you can get him to talk about something, you've done your job well but get him to be positive about it, and you are really accomplishing a major feat.

Look, MLS will work here, and I can cover the thoughts in a few sentences. The MLS plan is backed by bonds purchased by the city, so there's no affect on city services. The bond payments are made by collecting taxes from team sales, ticket revenue, and salaries from the players. $85 million for an upgrade to PGE for MLS and getting a minor league ballpark for the Beavers is less of an investment that what would be required to bring any other major sport here. NFL and MLB require large stadium investments with a larger corporate support in town, and while the Rose Garden is suitable for the NHL, that won't happen unless Paul Allen either buys the team or supports the idea because he owns the arena. Yes, there's lots of details to be worked out, but when the MLS commissioner says "We want Portland in our league", that's a pretty clear indicator that they want our city there because they know what we have here, even if we are a little obsessed with the snow.

I've never done much traveling during the holidays to points that didn't involve seeing family. I've done all night Greyhound trips, flown in some of the worst weather possible over the holidays, even drove to some rather remote points just to end up with family for the holidays, and so this year, I'm actually doing something different. Girl, her mom and I escape to Las Vegas for a few days before Christmas to relax. I've been to Vegas a few times in the past few years, and it's a rather fascinating mix of hotels, debauchery, buffets, and entertainment 24 hours a day. I'm actually going to enjoy going somewhere to drink a bit, gamble a bit, and just get away from the day to day insanity around here. Wait, you are telling me the snow is there too? Maybe there is something to this snow obsession.

Finally, I've been listening intently to my local radio station who has been counting down the 94 best alternative albums ever as voted on by the listeners. The list is available here, and I'm not terribly surprised about who won. It was a rather unusual album when it came out, and it showed a generation that music could be dark, raw, unpolished, and yet extremely powerful. But I can't help but thinking that Nevermind isn't my best alternative album, and I probably would put it top 10 but maybe farther on the list.

Look, if this was a question of the most influential alternative album, it wins easily as it totally changed the face of music during the 90's. But Nevermind has some weak tracks intermixed with some great songs, the album can wear you down upon repeated listenings, and I think that Nirvana immediately gets more cred and attention simply because of Kurt Cobain's death. Yes, they are talented, but a lot of their tunes talk about some bleak topics. If that's all you want to listen to, well, I guess that's your thing, but for best alternative albums, I'd choose Weezer's Blue Album, Depeche Mode's Violator, Radiohead's the Bends, U2's Joshua Tree, or even Pearl Jam's 10. All five of those have a tight track set, varied track types, and even the more obscure songs bring something to the album. There's even some more obsure music by the Dismemberment Plan, Self. Futureheads and Hum that I would put up against this and call it some of the best music I've heard

But I suppose this is why stations put together lists or put up voting to get opinions. If anything, you get a lot of discussion about albums, and talking isn't such a bad thing. As long as it's not about snow, we should be Ok. Wait, it's lightly falling down here, I need to go watch the news about Arctic Blast 2008...

Before I go, here's some wonderful Christmas music for you to listen to. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Last Few Days of Adventures

I love the holiday season, but the social calendar tends to get rather insane this time of year. There's parties to attend, gifts to buy, events to see, and you still need to manage to work and take care of the day to day things about the house. Tonight, I sit at home, which is really the first night in about a week that I can say that. I love being busy, but at some point you just need to hide for a bit..

Thursday 12/4 - After a day at work, girl and I headed to the Cheerful Bullpen for our TA monthly gathering. The off season being here, we gather the first Thursday of the month to talk about things and plan next season's activities. Well, today, someone had posted on our message board about setting up Timbers currency, which led to all sorts of board havoc, so the conversation was pretty animated. The food was good, the alcohol excellent, and the deer with a TA scarf was a really nice touch in Christmas decorations. We stayed a bit late, but thankfully I didn't have to work on Friday.

Friday 12/5 - I've never been to the Holiday Ale Fest, as I considered the location small, the beers not very good, and the time of year was tough to get a day off to drink. But I had a vacation day available, and girl encouraged me to hang out with the boys, so I did. Since the location was at Pioneer Square in downtown Portland, it was a very easy MAX ride down there to meet up with the boys. And then drink, eat a bit and keep drinking.

I loved the chocolate porter with vanilla beans, and the commemorative beer was great, too. We also got some condoms from Rogue while getting food, as I noticed there were plenty of merchandise booths there. Going early on Friday was rather smart, as the lines weren't bad, the beer was still plentiful, and you could leave before the Friday night crowds showed up. Around 4 PM, I decided to head home, although the trip home I don't remember that much of. Thankfully, the MAX did the driving for me, and so I wasn't on the road scaring people. I made it home to see part of the Trail Blazer - Celtics game, but the pull of food was more important that watching the Celtics smack us about. The Road House steak was very good, and filled my stomach with goodness, which at that point, I needed as I was still full of beer. By 9:30 PM, I was in bed, dreaming of things not related to beer. Girl woke me up around midnight to drink some water, which was good since most of my liquid consumption that day was fermented.

Saturday, 12/6 - Girl and I worked on a few things here at the house before we left for downtown to meet up with some Timbers Army to watch the Winterhawks that night. The TA had gotten a block of tickets to watch the Winterhawks - Thunderchickens match at the Coliseum, with it being teddy bear toss night (score a goal, toss a bear on the ice) and such. We met at a pub to snack a bit before catching the MAX over there.

Admittedly, the Winterhawks used to be one of my teams in the wheelhouse, as I went to at least 10 games a year when I first moved here. The team was good and competitive, the stadium was fun to watch games at, and the ticket prices were reasonable. Well, over the years, the team got better then worse, the tickets starting running close to ticket prices for the NBA, and I decided that watching them lose all the time wasn't worth my money. I've tried to get back into going, but every recent game I've attended in the past 2 seasons, it hasn't worked to draw me back in.

So, Saturday was a litmus test. I did enjoy the bear toss, and the video screen in the Coliseum actually worked, plus the team played well despite losing. Also, the mascot Tom-A-Hawk came to visit us a couple of times with a TA scarf on But, the concession lines sucked (over 30 minutes to get two beers), and we had an issue with our tickets. The TA was supposed to have a reserved section, but instead, our original seats had us surrounding families. Mind you, we stand and chant at all matches, and the language can be PG-13 to R at points, so we tried to find another spot. After folks started showing up for the seats we were at, we decided to find the top rows of the section and hang out there. The regular hockey crowd seemed to like our noise, although we did get a lot of strange looks for most of the night. Eh, I'm used to it.

Sunday 12/7 - I got a taste of what outdoor winter soccer will be like in the mid-afternoon, as it was down pouring during our scrimmage at Columbia Park. After a while, I didn't notice how wet I was until I stopped running and thought about the coldness. But around here, if you don't get out of the house in the rain, you might go from November to April without seeing the outside. That's why Gore Tex and rain gear was invented.

I did make it home in time to watch my fantasy football results come in from the day. I know some folks don't like make believe football or the real version anyway, but I've been running our league for about 15 years, and many of our teams have been with us since the early days. While we all worked together at one point, for some, this is the only time they see each other, and it's nice to be able to connect after the years even for a day. The stories of beer and fun adventures in the past are now stories of new children and different jobs. What I do like about fantasy sports is that it forces you to be a fan of the sport, because being a homer fan of your team in any fantasy setting can be a recipe for disaster. My first year of fantasy football, I won the league with lots of Broncos (my team), yet months later, I did fantasy hoops with tons of Trail Blazers and I got my lunch handed to me. It's a fun diversion, and if I win now and then, it makes it fun.

Monday 12/8 - After a day of working, girl and I went downtown to celebrate our first date anniversary at Ringler's Annex before heading to a concert later. It was 3 years ago, when we had our first real date there, and we go back every year near the date to celebrate. And so, it's plenty of food, drink, and me trying not to act like too much of a geek realizing that I'm now married to the girl. Yes, there are points the conversation mirrored the talk of that first night, as I was nervous trying to think of things to say. Glad to know that some things don't change, but I'd like to see this one little thing disappear.

We then found our way to the Crystal to watch Cold War Kids and Franz Ferdinand. While I've seen Franz perform before, this was a smaller venue so I was looking forward to seeing them up close, plus girl worships them. The show was good, but it was a tale of two bands. One was young, inexperienced, and their sound showed it, with distorted vocals, too much treble and bass drum, and other assorted noises appear in their songs. Yes, you guessed it, the Cold War Kids really looked rather amateurish and while their show had moments of goodness, it was really shoddy in comparison to the old pros. Franz Ferdinand started on time, had a crystal clear sound, and the band just owned the stage. Plus, the singer engaged the crowd all night, something that the first band couldn't be bothered with. When the show got done about 11 PM, the room was still buzzing from nearly 2 hours of high energy rock. It's a treat to see professionals do their thing.

Tuesday 12/9 - We still bowl on Tuesday nights in our Big Turkey league, so it was off to Hollywood Bowl for some bowling action with our friends. The alley has refurbished their bar and snack area rather nicely, and the food is actually good quality when it finally arrives, although they are still working out some of the kinks. It's too bad the actual alleys haven't been repaired, because they could use some serious attention and maintenance.

For me, this is my 11th term of bowling, from the days of Bourbon Crew to Got Balls? to Gutter Punks, and I'm happy we have such an amazing group of guys and gals to bowl each week. They are all wonderful people, and so very unique. Hornman is our ringer, bowling like a true pro, while S3K does his dance hop thing and flips pins off when he misses shots. NickyD is a super bowler, and has the unique style of position then loft, but it works. Graceless throws the ball, and then superstitiously, she can't watch it hit the pins, while her beau fenrus just throws really hard - no change up, just fastball. Hornman's gal joined us this term, and she's a lefty social butterfly, while girl is our captain and emotional leader of the team. She's a great bowler, but also knows what to do to loosen the team up when needed. And myself, well, I send the emails and try to be the other quiet leader while trying to throw my ball straight. I love having such a good group of friends to meet up with and bowl, and while we might now win most of the time, we always have a good time. Unless you are listening to the Trail Blazers game and they lose on a last second shot..

So, it's now Wednesday, and I'm exhausted just typing all this in. But, I had fun doing all the things I did, and I owe much of this to girl and my friends. I spent times in my life being rather insular, only going out once in a while, and so forming bonds with people was hard. But getting involved in the TA means there are events going on all the time, and while you don't have to attend them all, it's nice having such a diverse group of people there to do things with. If there's something I'm thankful for this holiday season, it's meeting up with this lot. Without them, I wouldn't have these fun adventures nor would I have met my wonderful wife. Not bad for a bunch of soccer hooligans...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dude, Seriously, Just Drive

I tend to talk a lot about sports here, but I've been noticing a trend in stupidity lately that I feel the need to comment towards. Granted, I'm not a poster child for making all the right choices, but I'm really beginning to wonder about some people. Mind you, it's bad enough lately when you see guys at your work bathroom talking on their cell phone while doing their business, it hardly fazes you. But when they are using the wall urinal and cradling their phone with their head on their shoulder, I wonder why the conversation is that important that you have to talk while peeing. Mind you, two days prior to that, I was trying to use a sit down stall in another part of the building, and they were both being occupied. I turned to leave and heard snoring from one of the stalls. So apparently, you can fall asleep while doing your business, but I don't want to become one of those people obsessed with poo. We've already got one family member with that issue...

But in the vein of cell phones, I'm tired of people using their cell phones while driving. I've seen enough near accidents and slow driving around the area to know that people aren't paying enough attention to driving while they chat on their phone. These aren't folks using hands free sets or the phones with speaker, but people cradling the phone with their neck or driving with one hand and talking on the other. Seriously, your conversation with some random person is more important than actually driving and paying attention to what you are doing, so you risk the lives of everyone else around you just to talk more? I just don't get it.

I mean, seriously, when I took drivers education back in the 1980's, they showed us the education films with accidents and bloody bodies and such, and it freaked most of us out enough to drive and pay attention. But my history in driving stopped at high school, as I went to college and sold my car as I left, and then I moved to Portland and lived a carless existance until I moved out to the eastside with Girl. I've always had a drivers license, and have driven enough rental cars to keep some skills going, but it wasn't until I drove more regularly that I got better. But there's been some scary moments, and times I really thought girl was going to banish me from driving. Driving is a lot of paying attention to detail and traffic flows, and my old roommate John-O would be happy to hear me channel traffic terms. I've gotten better, and I try not to make mistakes and not speed, but I drive a bit faster than I should at points. It happens, but I make it a point to never use my cell phone while driving unless I have a hands free and it's a conversation that I need to take.

Yet, I see dozens of people talking while driving on the highway, responding to and sending text messages, not paying attention to what they are doing. Some drivers drive slower while on the phone, which may give them a false sense that they are helping things out by slowing down. But seriously, anything that you do to draw attention away from the road is bad, and trying to pay attention to that many things isn't good for most people. I know there are exceptions to the rule, I'm sure there are people that are smart enough to do both things, but the law of averages says that most of us aren't and some folks aren't smart enough to know better. So I'm asking all of you to put the cell phone away while driving, or let your passenger make the calls while you are driving around. If you need to talk, pull over and talk. The choice might cost you some time, but the alternative isn't worth the risk.

MLS Update!!! - Montreal has bowed out of the MLS sweepstakes, and our interim mayor, Sam Adams (no relation to the patriot guy or beer guy) is soliciting input on stadium ideas. He'd love to put a footy stadium in the Rose Quarter complex, but right now, it's more about soliciting ideas and getting a task force together to talk about the ideas.

If you'd like to leave comments about the plan, learn more about Sam's ideas, or learn more about the committee folks, you can visit the following site: It's directly to the mayor's site, and has the latest news. The MLS sites to Portland also have periodic updates about progress, and you can get to them from my home page. The decisions about the 4 main candidates for MLS expansion are due soon, and right now, it looks good for the Rose City.

Web Alert - In reading the Interwebs today, I found this interesting tidbit from Brooks Sports about the University of Montana. During my college days, I've actually been to Missoula, Montana a couple of times. It's a nice part of the world, very rustic and scenic, and fanatical about their pointyball team. So fanatical, that they throw pastries about. Yes, I said pastries. Being a pie loving person, I can't condone the use of pastries in celebratory gestures, and after reading the ingredients list on these things, I think this is a better use than actually eating them.

That's all for now. Be good everyone, and remember, don't text and drive!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Start to the Holiday Season

I've been a bit of an emotional mess the past few days, and you'd think around the holidays, I'd be in a slightly better mood. I mean, I've eaten enough turkey the past few days to grow feathers, I only went to one store today for shopping and got out in 10 minutes, and my job has been going really well lately. And things with me and girl are amazing, but I got some news that one of my dear friends lost her mom to cancer this past week, and it's reminded me a lot of me losing my mom.

For the uninitiated, my mom died in 2005 due to cancer. They didn't catch it in time for her to go through chemotherapy or other treatment, and so she was gone that quickly. I got a call on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend to come home and see her, and within a week, I was saying goodbye. It's probably one of the worst feelings I've ever had, mostly because of my closeness to my mom, and sitting there at her side watching it happen. I knew there was nothing I could do but wait, and I have never felt so powerless in my life. There's no amount of money that could have changed anything, and while prayer helped my peace of mind, it left me a lot of time to be with my thoughts. I kept wondering what I was going to do, and how I could handle losing an important piece of my life. But before she died, I told her about my planned trip to England in early 2006 and how important it was for me to go, but I was hesitant in going. She said, "You'll never have another chance to do something like this, so you need to go." The trip I took was in her honor, and to prove that I could do something like that.

Soon after her funeral, I came back to Portland and poured my life into my job and my friends, and very soon after that, girl and I started dating. Almost 3 years later, we are married and living happily in Portland. But admittedly, I wish that my mom was here now, to meet girl, to have been there at my wedding in person, to be here when we have our first child, to be here to be part of my life. And there have been times that I get mad at how unfair it is that she's gone. I know she's in a better place, and I'm happy she's not in pain anymore, and that there's a part of her that's with me all the time, but sometimes it just doesn't seem like enough.

I spent a lot of time afterwards dealing with my feelings for my mom, and admittedly went through a "rose colored glasses" phase, where I only thought of happy thoughts and good things about our dealings. Unfortunately, life is full of all sorts of moments, and I had to come to the reality of who my mom was - a wonderful woman with a big heart that was secretly scared of things she didn't know anything about and she spent her life letting other people control how she dealt with things. Time and time again, men made decisions that affected her and she put up with the situation to keep the family harmonious. I have an extremely strong female in my life now in girl, and seeing how my mom dealt with things, well, I can see why sometimes I have issues making tough decisions. I don't want to make anyone mad, even if it means that I do something that I don't want to or shouldn't do.

But, in the process of losing my mom, I've begun the process of finding myself and so far, it's been a pain staking, emotional, fun, annoying process. I see some of my strengths in my temperament, but yet I also tend to be quiet sometimes when I need to speak up. Girl has given me a lot of strength and support, and I'm better because of her, but it's funny to think that I met her just before one of the most significant times in my life. I think my mom would love girl a lot, and they'd be the best of friends, but sadly, the only talks they've ever had were spiritual. I think they were talking about a lot of my weird quirks, I'm sure.

The thing is that death is a normal part of life, and it's something that everyone will have to deal with at some point. It's natural to be angry, to be sad, to cry, but in the end, life for the rest of us goes on and you can't stop living it. I think for me, that was the lesson I needed to learn the most, and I still am learning it every day with each new challenge I encounter. If I could give my friend any bit of advice, it would be to remember the good and the bad, because those things are part of the same person. You may not like everything they did or said, but they loved you no matter what, and it's important to remember that.

Which is why around the holidays, I try and keep in touch with my friends and family a bit more, especially since you don't know what might happen. I may not be the best at keeping in touch, but I do my best to let people know that I think of them often. I mean, the holidays should be about giving of yourself, and sharing time with the people you care about. When I read the news story today about a guy getting trampled at a Walmart, it made me angry because the holidays for many folks are now about buying and consumption. I understand that we all take things for granted, and it's easy to get caught up in the moments like that, but we all have to remind ourselves that it's not what you can buy people, it's what you can give of yourself that matters. And you never know when you might lose someone close to you, so it's important to start now. Even if it's a phone call, an email, a text, or whatever, but say something. You'll be surprised how you feel afterwards.

And in relation to my last story about the Civil War, apparently, there's been a lot more animosity between the schools that I realized, but I still think this is the most friendly but nasty rivalry ever. I mean, Duck grads marry into Beaver families, I see Ducks rooting for Beavers at some points, that's not something I'd expect to see at say, a Auburn - Alabama rivalry. But that's something that makes this place rather unique, and one of the many things to love about Oregon. Hope it's a great game, and go Platipi!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Civil War Week In Oregon

So I spent part of my lunch hour crafting the following entry for posting about the Civil War. After putting it to paper, I found some more information out, but decided to post the entry anyway, so enjoy, but please read the notes at the end:

I’ve hesitated to write about it, even though I don’t consider myself a
superstitious person. But it’s gotten to the point that it can’t be ignored anymore, as Oregon State sits one win away from a Rose Bowl berth, something they haven’t achieved since 1965. After the team started 0 and 2, I don’t think anyone but hardcore Beaver fans would have expected this kind of run, but after losing to Utah and knowing they needed to win out to get there, they sit one game away from that very situation. And the team they get to face this weekend is their arch rival, Oregon.

The Civil War is a uniquely interesting rivalry to say the least. Since I didn’t attend either school, I don’t have any specific allegiance to either side except that as a bandwagon fan, I pay enough attention to wish them well and hope they do our state proud. Since I have a large number of relatives from Colorado, I got to enjoy watching Oregon destroy Colorado back in 2002 and give a few of my cousins a hard time afterwards. I felt the Ducks should have been playing in the championship game that year, but the BCS felt otherwise and got a rather anti-climactic final game that year. The problem occurred the preceding year when the Beavers lit up Notre Dame, and at that point, were the best collegiate team on the field but the polls didn’t rank them higher and the BCS passed them by. But I don’t think anyone except hard core Beaver fans figured that team would destroy the Fighting Irish. But that’s why you play the games.

I haven’t talked about the Beavers much simply because they aren’t in my wheelhouse of teams that I religiously follow. I like them well enough, but I don’t have a specific leaning one way or another, which really makes this week of all weeks interesting. For 51 weeks of the year, Duck and Beaver fans politely co-exist happily in Oregon without too much issue. But then Civil War week comes around, and the fans come out of the woodwork to abuse each other with taunts, barbs, and other assorted trash talk. I seriously think that Oregon – Oregon State is the most friendly nasty rivalry around, as I find it common to hear people say, “I’m a Duck but I like seeing the Beavers do well.” If you look around at most other rivalries, I can’t imagine opposing fans wishing good luck to their rival at any point, but that’s how things are around here.

It was weird going to school in Spokane listening to Huskies and Cougars trash each other during the Apple Cup week, and the battle of Montana produced some rather odd moments (I recall seeing a drinking contest between fans before one game that I went to using everclear. No, not the band, but the alcohol, working brain cells not included), but those rivalries never seemed to go away during the offseason. And for my family, the battles between Nebraska and Colorado, well, that was one of those topics you didn’t discuss around the holiday dinner table, lumped in with religion and politics, because you were just as likely to get a smile as you would a fork in the head. So moving here in 1989, I found the Civil War to not only match up to the name by how fans interacted with each other, but the general tone of pre-game talk and antics. Granted, if I had attended either of those fine schools, I might feel differently. I know following the Timbers, I do have people confuse my support for them for the Ducks because both teams wear green, and I tend to wear a lot of green. But that’s mostly relating to Timbers, although in saying that to people, most people are surprised we have a soccer team, much less one that wears green.

But, I’ve attended the same number of football games at each school (two), I’ve actually attended online courses for each school for graduate credit (three), and I have friends that support both schools rather passionately, so I’ve really avoided picking one school over another. It’s come down to who is doing well at that point, and I follow them as much at time warrants. This does go against most of my sport leanings, because I tend to pick a team and follow them closely and I try not to waver when picking teams to support, but right now, I have as many reasons to pick being a Duck versus being a Beaver.

But for 51 weeks of the year, it doesn’t seem to matter that much. I’ve only ran across one person in my near 20 years of being here that dissed on a Duck, and it was on the golf course. My friend Obi and I got paired with two older gentlemen for a round at Killarney in Hillsboro, who were really good guys to play a round with. After the round, Obi mentioned he took some course management advice that he’d seen on TV from Peter Jacobson, a long time Portland area golf pro. One of our playing partners was a long time Beaver fan, who politely said he wouldn’t take any golf advice from Peter Jacobson because he was a &%&$%# duck. And seriously, if that’s the most vicious thing I’ve heard in almost 20 years of Civil Wars, well, it’s tame in comparison to most. The passion is certainly there, but the fans are still extremely cordial to each other even in their trash talking. Which really makes this one of my favorite rivalries, because even in totally trash talking the other side, fans are still incredibly nice to each other. I hear stories of oddness, but I think for the most part, it’s the friendliest, fiercest rivalry around.

But I know this weekend, the stakes are pretty high. Oregon would love nothing more than to get into the Holiday Bowl with a win, and keep the Beavers from getting into the Rose Bowl, something the Ducks haven’t done in a while. Oregon State would love to show the country how good of a team they are, and beat the Ducks for the third time in a row. And the game falls on one of the last weekends of the college football season, which means it will get some pretty good attention during a Saturday afternoon. I’m sure this will be a well played, competitive game, but really I’m having trouble picking a side to support.

So for this week, if I’m asked which side I support, Ducks or Beavers, I’m saying Platypus! The idea actually came from girl, who in teaching at various schools always gets asked by her students what side does she support. And so she says Platypus, and really, this combination half-duck, half-beaver creature, really it’s the poster child for those of us Oregonians who really just want our teams to play well but haven’t really chosen a side yet. In my case, I probably won’t choose one side or another, simply because it’s nice to be able to appreciate both teams without feeling too guilty. Whether it’s my college days of going to a school that didn’t have a football team, or it’s the fact I have teams I follow more closely, I think for me this week, it’s a simple theme “Have a good game and may the best team win!”

Notes: So I wrote this and sent it to myself for posting, and then I get home, and of course I wrote this before reading John Canzano's blog about 112 reasons to care about the Civil War, and I learned a lot about the rivalry. While it won't cause me to choose a side in this affair, it does give me a greater appreciation for the history of this game, and what it means to others. So really, root for your side this weekend, and enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Follow Up From Yesterday, Soccer Gets Serious in Portland

Ok, I spent some time thinking about yesterday's post, and I came to the conclusion that I grew up in an era of sports where sports were the game and now they reside in a world of entertainment and money for those fortunate to play. Back in my day, players stayed with their team for their career and you identified the player with the city they played in - Ripken, Bird, Magic, Stockton, Elway. Now, the days of free agency are here, and players move about so often, it can be difficult to keep track. Seriously, Shaq has played with 4 NBA Teams, Farve is now a Jet, Montana ended his career in Kansas City, and Randy Johnson has officially been with 5 MLB teams.

And Fantasy sports give fans the opportunity to put their general manager skills to the test, and do it in a way that you don't have to deal with any sort of reality. Instead of dealing with locker room issues, playing time questions, and many of the distractions teams deal with on a regular basis, fantasy allows you to pick and choose players at a whim and trade them in most cases whenever you like. The real world doesn't work like that, much like the real world doesn't give you instant replay to make the correct call or decision about things. The safety net isn't present, so decisions get made based on gut instinct and things fall where they may. But you don't have people calling up sports radio about your fantasy team getting destroyed by 40 points, or calling for a new coach.

I think expectations get fans in trouble, and perspective goes out the window when you start to listen to hype machines. And when those things start ranking seventh graders for potential pro prospects, it's hard to say that's a good thing. It's tough enough to play sports nowadays with costs up and school districts cutting back on sports, you then have the pressure of potentially playing for college and then possibly the professional ranks if you are good enough. Despite the overwhelming odds against a kid playing professionally, parents and kids often see sports as the way out of bad home situations. So with all of this going on, why should anyone expect expectations to be reasonable?

Because it's the right way and healthy way to approach sports. Sports can teach kids valuable lessons about working hard and playing as part of a team, but also that life isn't fair sometimes and you might lose a close game now and then. But when the effort is enough, the talent comes together at the same time, and things work out, winning can be the most amazing feeling ever. And keeping winning in perspective that it's special and losing isn't the end of the world is something that every sports fan should keep in mind. It's ok to celebrate, and it's ok to cry and curse, but it's also important to keep playing no matter what.

In the world of Soccer Portland style, my friend Obi runs a great little podcast called the 107 Report, which usually focuses a lot on the Timbers, but he did a great edition about MLS to Portland, starring some of the Timbers Army members that really understand what's happening with our bid. Based on his take, there's trouble in Philly, Vancouver has a pretty solid bid in place, and Portland is a serious contender for a team provided we figure out how to finance the stadium. It's always an interesting listen, so if you want to get a refreshing take on footy things with some cool musical interludes, visit on the interwebs for a listen.

This past week, we also saw a press release that a USL Premier Development League Team (PDL) is coming to Portland, affiliated with the Timbers. The Timbers play in the United Soccer League's first division, the top flight, while the Timbers PDL would play in the third division, filled mostly with local soccer talent wanting to showcase their stuff. The PDL plays from May to June against teams from Salem, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Victoria, and Abbotsford BC. Player development has been an issue for the Timbers for years, trying to develop and keep young players here, so this move makes logical sense. A player starting out can play here, hone his skills near the pros, and possibly be playing on a larger scale locally. While PDL players don't get paid, it is a stage to show some skill, and the Timbers name carries a lot of weight so I could see some players coming out just to try and play on the big stage. I also foresee some players that spent their years withering away on the Timbers bench, only playing in friendlies or blowouts actually getting some playing time to see what skills they have. Seriously, it shows the commitment to soccer that Merritt Paulson is making, and he's not just looking at MLS for his future, but potentially at making USL a strong option if we don't move up.

It was also announced that the Portland Rain will join the Women's Professional Soccer League next year, bringing women's soccer to the pro ranks here. This town loves women's soccer, from mad support for the University of Portland's women team, to sellout crowds during the Women's World Cup back in 1999 and 2003 here in town, so it's not a surprise that an organization finally recognized the potential for a team to do well here. We haven't heard many particulars about the Rain, as the website is rather generic, so I'm sure there will be more details coming. But the fact that someone is willing to commit time and resources to bring a product like this to the Rose City shows how well the great game is supported here. Plus, women's soccer is very entertaining, as they show a lot of the great skills you see in men's leagues throughout the world. Not that I have an issue with women's professional sports, but with soccer, lack of skill isn't an argument that holds much weight for critics to discount it.

Gee, with all this footy, I just might be more busy this coming summer. Not like that's a bad thing at all, and along the way, I'll be cheering and singing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Being a Proper Fan

I've written about perspective in the past, but apparently, it's not something that a lot of sports fans use on a regular basis. The fans in Eugene apparently decided they didn't like what the Ducks were doing, and so turned Autzen Stadium into a cascade of boos during the early stages of the game. Never mind it was in the first quarter, fans apparently didn't think the coaches or players were playing well. The Trail Blazers have been on pins and needles until tonight when Greg Oden came back, although the Blazers won their second game on the road versus Miami and have played well without their big center. Yet, for all of a 13 minute career in the NBA, Oden is a bust and another Sam Bowie.

I didn't spend a lot of my days listening to sports radio for the very reasons I noted above. Many sports fans lack the perspective to understand when they have things good, and tend to pile on when things aren't good or they perceive that it's bad. And let's face it, sports radio, newspapers and magazines sell well when they create controversy, even if they have to manufacture it because fans will come out on both sides of a red-button issue. With the day and age of being able to watch most sporting events at any point and get information 24/7, it breeds a certain level of intellect for sports fans but it also breeds a sense of being a know-it-all fan. I don't pretend to know everything about sports, but I know that coaching is a career that I would avoid like the plague. Not because I don't think I could do it, but seriously, to have every move made second and third guessed even with wins and many arm chair folks thinking they could always do better, it's a no win situation. And really, coaches get hired to be fired at some point, because even the best run across a losing streak, a change in direction of the organization, or just simply being tired of the rat race. It's tough to live under that kind of microscope.

And that's nothing to say about the credentials of fans that comment on games or situations within the team, and put in their two cents. Sometimes, fans want their team to be so perfect, it's easy to gloss over the issues and paint a rosy picture about injury problems, young talent, official conspiracies, tough road trips, you name it, it's brought up. Here's a news flash for some folks, most sports are set up to provide a winner and a loser. The only sports that I can think of that don't are soccer, where ties are part of the landscape, and college football, who would rather use a complicated mess of calculations to give the title to somebody rather than have an actual playoff to determine a winner. Teams lose, it's the nature of the game, but it's handling the losses that separate real fans from bandwagon fans.

I tried to come up with criteria to designate a real fan from bandwagon fans, and used home games, television matches, knowing current and historical players, watching your team on the road, and owning merchandise of your team, but I couldn't come up with a formula that made sense. Some folks can't afford ticket plans in today's market, and for me, one of the teams I follow is in England so it's difficult to fly across the pond and see a lot of games. I have Portland Timbers season tickets, an 11 game package for the Portland Trailblazers, I graduated from Gonzaga University and watch their basketball team religiously, I watch the Denver Broncos because of my grandmother's influence and I've been to games in Denver, and West Ham is a team I support because of Clive Charles, my wife, and being able to attend a game in one of the greatest sports venues I've ever seen. I've watched enough games in person and on television that I know my teams, and I get upset when they lose and am happy when they win. I get disappointed when things happen, but knowing the nature of the sports world, I realize that everything is cyclical. Unless you are in Detroit and you are a Lions fan.

The thing is that I support these teams win or lose, and have done so for a very long time. It was tough loving the Trail Blazers during the early 2000's when they were some of the worst personalities in basketball, and didn't care about anybody but themselves. Try getting up enough energy to watch this bunch get drilled night in and night out, while they constantly got in trouble for drugs, drinking, sexual crimes, and other assorted crimes. The bandwagon got really small, but the situation also provided perspective in the sense that it wouldn't always be that way. That's why I never leave a game until the clock is done, even in blowouts. You never know what you might see.

I also understand the importance of the bandwagons, and know the teams for which I'm really a bandwagon fan. It doesn't bug me if the Mariners lose, or the Ducks get into a great bowl game, or if the Beavers will get respect, the thing is whether they win or lose, I have interest in how they do, but it doesn't matter to me at the end of the day. I haven't invested enough to really count them as teams I worship, and I think this has to do with I didn't attend college here so I never made an attachment and I consider the Giants and Padres regional teams like the Mariners, and the Padres have more interest for me because their farm team plays locally in Portland, and I've seen enough games of theirs to know players pretty well.

I also know that sports isn't just sports anymore but it's entertainment, and sports needs to appeal to bandwagon fans much like hardcore fans. Entertainment dollars are tight, so people need to make smart decisions about where they want to spend money, and if they have a good time at an event, they might just come back and if they visit enough, maybe they'll become hard core fans. While it would be nice if every team could simply be supported by hard core fans, it's not an economic reality in a limited income world. I'd love to have season tickets for every sport I follow, but I can only afford the Timbers season tickets, so it's my choice amongst many. I also don't mind the bells and whistles at Trail Blazer games from the dancers to Blaze to stunt teams, because if you want your event to appeal to lots of folks, you give them options for entertainment.

I do find some recent comments about the Blazer dancers not being family entertainment hilarious, though, because a peave of mine is that sporting events shouldn't always be about family entertainment. Not that I am against families, but seriously, appealing to fans of all ages and interests is rather diverse, and if you are worried about protecting your family from jiggling, you may want to protect them from the profanity, rap music, and drunken behaviour that I've seen at some Trail Blazer games. The Blazer Dancers aren't guilty of not being family entertainment, they are guilty of not being very original in their dance moves. Sports fans will use their discretionary income for events, while families tend to spread their spending to various events, taking in a game or two as they can afford it. So if I'm taking direction on what entertainment I'd have at the game, would I choose the family that might take in one game now and then or the fan that will come to games as much as they can.

Look, I wished that some people wouldn't behave like jerks at events and spout off incoherent comments thinking they are clever and annoying a whole section, but I also wish that parents would keep control of their kids to not kick chairs in front of them during a full game, getting up every 5 minutes because they are bored, and then rewarding their kids' behaviour with sugar and candy. Perhaps my beef is more with parenting, but really what my point to this whole mad rambling is this: being a true fan takes perspective and patience, and it's OK if things are bad because they won't be always and it will make the good times that much better. We can all daydream about better days, unlimited money to buy talent, and an arena that can hold millions, but the realities are that cycles happen, money even for rich people is limited, and fans at events aren't all going to be 100 percent passionate or hard core. Until we can have the sports utopia, it's up to all of us to be better fans, whether it's keeping the booing to a more logical time or realizing that one player won't win a title no matter what. It's ok to be frustrated at your team, but it's remembering that there's always a next game and it's up to all of us to provide support in good times and bad. And keeping cotton candy away from kids that kick...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

All I Can Say is Wow...

Last night was simply amazing, as girl and I watched history unfold on television as Barack Obama became the 44th man to hold the office of President of the United States. It was a significant moment just after 8 PM pacific when most major news networks called the race over, and then John McCain gave his concession speech. I wasn't sure what to expect after watching 2000 and 2004 unfold with the confusion, anger, court injunctions, reports of voting issues, and then being told each time that G.W. was in charge.

I have respect for the office of president, regardless of the party that holds the office. What I don't have respect for is people in the office who use fear to manage their plans, and make all decisions by trying to scare people into acceptance. This plan only works if your constituents are either too stupid to know what's going on, they are concerned about other things more or they just don't care one way or the other, as they are too easily distracted by the media's flavor of the day, American Idol results or what some drunk starlet is up to now. So instead of coming up with any real ideas about anything, let's distract them with lots of figures, distract them from the real issues with talk, or just say this is evil. You don't gain any respect with this type of leadership, but honestly, it took a near catastrophic financial crisis, two wars, and most of the world disliking the US before people realized that a change needed to be made. And their votes carried a powerful message.

It doesn't matter the color of someone's skin, but the power of their ideas and the passion by which they follow this power in inspiring others. I found Obama's victory speech to be stirring without being too overbearing, and the sights and sounds of people celebrating, crying, dancing, hugging, and generally being happy showed the signs of relief. We actually have someone in the office that we can be proud of, and while it's not going to be easy to get us out of the mess we're in, I feel Obama will set up his team of advisers to give us the best chance to succeed.

And I also felt proud of John McCain, who was extremely gracious in defeat, even yelling at some of his supporters who booed as McCain mentioned Obama's name. He said it was a time to celebrate and bring folks together, and while sometimes you hear that it's just talk, I don't think so with McCain. He's a genuine guy, and someone that I considered voting for in 2000 over Gore and Bush, but somewhere along the way, he aligned himself with groups that changed his positions and he became more conservative and less of an independent thinker.

We live in a rough world, with single issue people demanding time and energy to solve their crisis above everything else, when really this is a time for people to put aside their concerns and do what is best for the greatest good. I get that there are serious concerns, from saving Social Security to getting us out of wars to fixing our financial markets. But we need to allow time for the leaders to come up with a strategy and lead us into this new age. And I think we're all ready for something different, something we can be proud of, and watching it unfold last night was one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed.

Back to the world of sports for a bit, there was a great piece at ESPN's website about Greg Oden from Bill Simmons. Normally, I don't like Simmons' work, as he seemed to be preoccupied with those things Northeast, like the Celtics, Red Sox, Patriots, etc. It's great to have your favorite teams, but in a national setting like ESPN is, they tend to be very focused on teams within their area. Just saying, but back to the story, I liked his take on Oden. And so much as I want people to be wrong about Oden, it's hard not to feel a little down after the latest setback.

I can't call Oden a bust, because he's re-energized this fan base in Portland which was already buzzing after last year's 41 win season and 13 game winning streak, and then we add Rudy Fernandez, Jarryd Bayless and Oden to this team, and see what happens. And after Oden's knee injury last year, he's worked hard to rehab, but he's been in the community, doing interviews, representing the team, and generally showing off his personality. Oden is a great interview, and his ESPN commercial last year was hysterical, but because of his draft standing, I think some expectations have been put out there that it would be near impossible to live up to. Greg Oden needs to be a productive member of this team, but asking him to score 20 points a night and 13 rebounds probably won't be needed. As long as he stays healthy and contributes defensively by altering shots and getting rebounds, he makes us a better team. But really now, it's more simple than that for him, really we need him to get healthy and stay that way. My hope is that Oden will put all of this "bust" and "Sam Bowie 2.0" talk to rest, and we'll be the toast of the NBA.

Finally, gee, it's already time to bash the BCS? Well it is November, but I think the point made today on sports radio makes sense. Colleges and conferences don't want a change right now because they are making a ton of money in the current system, so if we want change, we need to approach the television markets and propose the playoff as a way to make money. But another key point is that despite folks being mad about the BCS, the TV ratings are still through the roof the past couple of years. So apparently, college football fans will bitch and moan about the lack of a playoff, but yet still watch the game. I get that the BCS does what it's promised by getting the top teams to meet for a championship, but I haven't watched the last 2 BCS championship games, and I plan to skip this year as well. The system is there to simply make money, and anyone that thinks it will do anything different is just kidding themselves. There's more money and a great incentive to make a playoff system, but as long as the TV ratings are through the roof and they are making decent money, why change?

Ok, folks, the rains are coming in November, so stay dry and warm. Peace oot..

Monday, November 3, 2008

Random November Thoughts

The blog has been getting a bit dusty lately, but that's for a lot of good reasons. It's hard to juggle a new marriage, work, house details, social obligations, playing soccer twice a week, and then try to find time to go to the gym and keep up on the television shows I worship. Compound that with girl and I's idea of hosting Halloween here at our house, and you can see why things have been piled up. I know a lot of bloggers use shorter entries and more frequent posts to break things up, but I tend to write longer topics and when the inspiration hits me. And lately, the inspiration has been here, it's just finding time.

And really, doing things you enjoy doing it should be easy to find time, but as with my last entry, that isn't always the case. I love going to the gym, but it suffers at the hands of other obligations. Much like this blog suffers from surfing the web, catching up on emails from friends, and from the fact that I spend 8 hours on a computer at work so of course, it's time to come home and spend 3 to 4 more hours in front of a box here. But big events have been piling up, and I felt it's time to weigh in a little bit on them.

The world isn't coming to an end, but if you listen to a lot of Trail Blazer fans, it certainly seems that way. Greg Oden injured himself in last week's opener versus the Fakers in LA, and it seems like people are calling him everything from a bust to the next Sam Bowie to fine china. I'm not ready to call him a bust, but admittedly, the injury prone tag is going to take some time to go away from him. It's been 18 months of an NBA career and so far, it's been a major knee surgery, rehab, ankle issues in practice, then 13 minutes in a game and then he rolls the ankle stepping on another player's shoes. Big guys tend to get hurt because of their natural position of rebounding, blocking, and taking abuse from other team's big guys, and so Oden isn't really an exception here. What is an exception is expecting this guy to dominate the world from his first game then be upset when he's banged up. The expectations should be more measured, as we have a key part in the overall cog of the Trail Blazers, not the end all guy who will lead us to the NBA title. Seriously, it's time to ratchet things down a bit, and be realistic. Yes, he's a number 1 pick, but 13 minutes then an injury doesn't label him a bust.

Huskyville is dealing with another coaching situation, as Tye Willingham is resigning at the end of the year with a little help from his team currently being on the longest losing streak in College Football right now. The Huskies are terrible in all facets of the game, but as with every other situation, Tye is handling the issues with class. He's not throwing players or the school under the bus, but simply trying to manage expectations as best as he can, which is hard when your team is 0 and 7 and staring at the possibility of another win-less season. Willingham is a great coach, and about as fun to listen to during interviews as Clyde Drexler, or as I called him Captain Cliche'. Clyde would talk a lot, but say a lot without really saying anything, while Willingham takes a cerebral slant on the same approach by talking a bit but not saying anything at all. The problem is that boosters and fans still hold a lot of weight in college football, and if they aren't happy, they make havoc for the schools, and Willingham never really said much about what was going wrong but a lot of vague generalities. I can't tell you why the largest college in Washington can't draw competitive talent for football, but when Oregon State is doing better than you consistently while playing in Corvallis, you have to raise your eyebrow. Mike Riley does a great job for the Beavers, but imagine what he could do with the facilities and money that is available up north. He'll get asked to go up there, and politely decline because he's happy where he is, and he's the guy for OSU. Who would want the Husky job, I have no clue...

Which brings us to the entire Seattle sports market right now, as today it was announced that Seattle is considered part of Portland's NBA market now, and based on Comcast's contract with the team, Trail Blazer games will be blacked out in Seattle unless you have Comcast. Gee, way to appeal to the NBA fans up there if you have any left after their team was stolen. Look, I know what the evidence says and I know what people are saying about the Sonics and it couldn't have happened to a nicer city, but seriously, I worry for the future of the league with David Stern at the helm. It's all about power, influence and money, and while he talks about bringing the NBA to China and England, teams in the US are struggling to keep revenue streams flowing, and then he allows a 39 year old franchise to essentially walk for nothing because the city didn't want to help with any more money for a facility. I respect the Seattle-Portland rivalry a lot, and I already have issues with the regionalization of the Mariners and Seahawks as they are repeatedly shoved down sports fans' throats in Oregon because we don't have NFL and MLB, so it's a little poetic justice to see the same thing happen to them up north by the NBA, but seriously, it shouldn't have come to this. And anyone who really thinks their franchise is totally secure really should shudder to think how easily that team was moved to Oklahoma.

The MLS to Portland bandwagon has slowed a bit, not because of the efforts, but simply we are in the evaluation period as Portland is among 7 cities vying for 2 teams for the 2011 MLS season. I like our chances a lot for one of the two teams, but as with anything else lately, it's all about timing. Right now, the economic world is still reeling from a credit crunch and markets having issues, and so taking on more debt, even for a city our size, is something that all sides need to be thinking about. But the amount being asked for and the potential return make the risk minimal, and the team's owners are committed to the long term future of MLS in Portland in addition to giving Triple A baseball a new home as well. It's a great plan, and one that I think everyone should consider and support. But with everything going on election wise plus the economics, I can understand some skittishness. But once you view the repayment schedule, the figures and facts, it's a win for everyone. And unlike other things, there won't be a lot of annoying political ads to distract you from the real issues going on.

Finally, please vote tomorrow. I do care who you vote for, but in my mind, exercising the vote is the most important thing citizens can do. Do your research, and make your voice count by voting. Oregon makes it easy with vote by mail, but I found myself spending about 2 hours researching issues on the web, and feeling like I'd done my civic duty. Tomorrow, we make history, and hopefully we can see the change that everyone seems to be craving right now. I'll keep my fingers crossed and the lights on for you...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's Thursday and I Finally Went to the Gym

It's funny having a crazy, busy schedule, because you never realize how much time you have to do things until you get a moment to relax and then it's either rehash the list and be overwhelmed or fall asleep at a moment's notice. I've managed to accomplish both feats this week, as girl and I do some moving of rooms in our house and we generally clean the place from top to bottom. You'd think having 3 people in a big house, it'd be easy to keep up, but then again, having 7 cats means the mess is done by creatures that talk back but you can't understand them. Some of the things that have suffered greatly during this busy time include sleep, eating right, and the gym. I love going, simply because it's a great way to de-stress and do something good for yourself. I've been playing soccer twice a week for the past few months, which has helped out my fitness a bit, but the stress is still there because I'm trying to learn how to do things in the right way. I'll get it, but it's still fun, and I'm already looking forward to Sunday.

The world of sports has had an entertaining week, which is nice considering all the craziness in the world right now with the financial crisis, presidential debates, and trying to keep tabs on everything. I try not to spend too much time on the internets, but it's hard with the back and forth political posturing. I'm rather looking forward to November 5th and the entire thing will be done for a couple of years. Not that I don't mind elections, but they've become a corrupt business all their own. Politicians don't talk about issues or helping anyone, it's more about palatable sound bites that are vague enough to stand for something yet not get them into any trouble with opposing viewpoints. Trying to fit in the middle and appease large groups of people is really hard I get that, but many campaigns have turned taking a position into pandering and throwing any bit of mud they can at opponents simply to make themselves look better in comparison. Politics is an ugly business, which is why I wish folks that want to run the best because they're better than me. I just couldn't stand the scrutiny, the single mindedness about certain issues, the pandering, all the things that you have to do to in order to convince people to vote your way.

The topic of sportsmanship came up after Oregon State crushed Washington State this past weekend 66 to 13, the same weekend that a couple of high school football games ended with extremely large margins of victory. Even the sports columnist in town got on the wagon, calling running up scores a part of the game. I can't blame players who come into blowouts late, and want to play hard and get the same chance as other more talented players to score. I know from my days of playing football, the only time I got into games was late, because while I gave a lot of effort in my game, I just didn't have the talent like other players. I understood the reality of things, but worked hard because I was there to play. And I learned a lot of lessons about winning and losing, being on both sides of blowouts. It's a great feeling to win big, but it can over inflate your confidence and put false expectations into your brain, while losing big, well, sometimes it's just better to forget a big loss. But in either event, it's about learning for the next time, and not getting too high with wins or too low in losses, and showing respect for your opponents. I think it's a disservice to take the throttle off in blowouts, it sends the message that you don't respect your opponent enough to play hard the whole game. I understand that you want to be sportsmanlike or show mercy a bit, but seriously, life doesn't take it easy on you at points when things happen just because there's too much going on. Taking a big loss in the chin taught me to work harder so that I never wanted to deal with that again, and when it happened again, I just worked harder. Losses happen, and I think the more people try to protect athletes from reality, the more issues it brings up.

You already have a class of people that is used to getting advantages for being good at sports, having people tell them they are great or could go professional, so now, let's cushion them from big losses because it will hurt their feelings. The best athletes want to play anytime and prove their talent in the arena, and play until someone wins. But playing also means respecting your opponent enough to play all the way, all the time. It means showing respect by not trash talking or belittling an opponent with disparaging remarks, but playing until the game is done and then shaking their hands and thanking them for competing. That's why sports keep score, it may not help any hurt feelings, but competition can be healthy if it's done in the right way. And honestly, it needs to be simplified. Young athletes shouldn't be ranked or scouted in eighth grade, but instead encouraged to find their sports and play better. Learn to win the right way by being respectful, and learn to lose respectfully by not blaming teammates, officials, or others. I know it's human nature to complain about losses, and so I'm not naive enough to be pollyana here, because I do that myself. But after some soul searching, it's time to shake off the loss or issue and get back to work to do it better the next time. If you aren't striving, you aren't getting better.

I also spent some time reading an opinion in today's Oregonian about MLS to Portland, and why public money shouldn't be used. I respect the author's position on this issue, but I think the points used in arguing his side are flawed, so I crafted a response to the O about it. The studys that say new stadiums don't bring economic impact to the area where they're built are many, but even the staunchest anti-public money economists admit that there are economic streams that aren't included in most studies that should be, including money spent due to civic pride in the team, or the "free-rider" impact. Free riders are folks that don't pay for tickets, but follow the team at home, in their local pubs, read about them in newspapers and are generally fans that don't go to games. It's also difficult to tag income figures of people attending games, knowing if the income used is really new income to them or a movement of discretionary funds from another purchase, which if that could be measure would make those figures more accurate. The best estimates are estimates at best, and there's studies showing benefits as well as studies that are critical.

The final point is that cities feel they are missing something if they don't have major sports, and so many of the economic benefits thrown about are in competition from cities trying to entice teams because there is a limited amount of them. Hey, having a monopoly on professional sports teams gives owners some control, and some use that control to their advantage, bleeding cities of monies until the next gravy train comes along. I get that some owners are like that, but I don't feel this is the case with Mr. Paulson. The deal to get MLS here is a partnership between the city and his group, with both sides submitting money, time and effort, and sharing risks on both sides. I think it's a great idea, and one that comes to fruition. So I'm talking about it to anyone that asks. Learn more at or, both are great sites that talk about the issues and address most major questions. And now with our bid submitted, it's a waiting game. But I'm not worried about having things to do until then...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

MLS to Portland Update

I got this in my email box today with updates about MLS to Portland. If you have interest in learning more, helping out, or knowing the status of MLS coming to Portland, read below...



October 7, 2008 - “Today, on behalf of the greatest soccer fans in America, we submitted our formal application to bring Major League Soccer to Portland. We expect to get a response to our application no later than March of next year. In the meantime, we will continue to work with MLS, city officials and the community to turn this exciting idea into reality for Portland and Oregon.” – Merritt Paulson

ESPN Soccer columnist Ives Galarcep ran an expansion poll consisting of 9 cities in the mix for MLS expansion. Likely due to the great fan atmosphere at Timbers games and the rivalry with Seattle, Portland was the runaway winner with roughly 40% of the vote.

Portland papers have also picked up the story of Paulson’s submission and readers have commented fervently to some of the online blogs. While there is broad public support for the plan, some commenters have responded with both anti-soccer sentiments that we know exist in this country, as well as knee-jerk reactions to public involvement in the plan.

Independent city auditors for the city and another group hired by Shortstop LLC have indicated that upgrading PGE Park bringing MLS to Portland represents substantial positive economic impacts for Portland. Also, auditors have noted that the initial revenue numbers provided to the city by Shortstop LLC are conservative and may even under represent the revenue that would repay city bonds issued for stadium construction. Paulson has already committed to funding the $40m expansion fee with private money.

We at MLStoPDX also believe that this public/private investment is fair for Portland. In exchange for leveraging the city’s credit which would be repaid with ticket revenues, the citizens of Portland gain economic and cultural benefits, while Shortstop LLC also earns a return on their $40m investment.

Publicly available city council communications have revealed that MLS boss Don Garber has promised Portland an MLS franchise in 2011 if the stadium upgrades are funded. The funding decision will come to a city council vote in early 2009.

We are almost there, but the public campaign continues up until the city council vote in January. So if you support bringing MLS to Portland please respond to as many of these reports with positive Letter to the Editors and comments if there is a blog posting

3 Key messages

1) We are Soccer City USA and this is an incredible opportunity to bring a second Major League franchise to Portland while simultaneously bring much needed investment to the Lents neighborhood.
2) The proposal is not asking for significant taxpayer dollars but instead for the City of Portland to help finance the construction and renovation of PGE Park and the new Beavers Ball Park. These bonds will be paid back through ticket sales and rent on both stadiums. This is a win-win situation.
3) The time is now. We have a owner who is putting his money where his mouth is to the tune of $40 million dollars to bring a MLS team to Portland. We have a jewel in the heart of a magnificent city in PGE Park. We have a rabid soccer fanbase in Potland. Portland can truly be Soccer City USA if we seize our opportunity.

Article Links:

Paulson pushes for Major League Soccer franchise (Portland Business Journal launches campaign to lure MLS (Associated Press via SI Pushes for Major League Soccer (KOIN [url=]launched to lure major league soccer to Portland (KATU[/url])Portland talking about $75 million deal to attract Major League Soccer (The Oregonian Expansion Miscellany (The Offside Rules, hello (USA Today push for major league soccer in Portland (KEX! (From the Beer Garden talking pro sports stadium again (Jack Bog’s Blog MLS edition (Oregon Live

Seriously, MLS to Portland would be an amazing thing. Learn more about it at (unofficial site) or (official site). I highly recommend getting behind this wonderful effort to get Portland another major league team.

I know funds are tight, the credit market is tough, and there's plenty of competition for funds, but this idea not only builds something for now but in the future as well in bringing the top level of American soccer to Portland. MLS to Portland now!!