Monday, February 22, 2021

NHL Outdoor Game Ideas

The NHL played two outdoor games over the weekend at Lake Tahoe. While the league has held outdoor games in stadiums for over a decade now, these games were unique in that there were essentially no fans. The league put a hockey rink right next to Lake Tahoe with the Sierra Nevada mountains in the background. It was absolutely beautiful. I mean, sure the Saturday game ended up being delayed after the first period due to the sun melting the ice, but I think the NHL should consider playing games in unique locations in the future, even without fans.

Here are some ideas the NHL should consider. 

+ Since I'm from Pittsburgh, Point State Park was the first place I thought of when I came up with the idea for this post. Every television broadcast from Pittsburgh always shows the confluence where the Allegheny River and Monongahela meet to form  the Ohio River. Now you can have a game right there!

+ Central Park in New York City. I asked my friend and hockey road trip partner Christian his thoughts on this question, and he suggested other places in New York, which sound even cooler. "The rink could go in Battery Park which is all the way downtown. View of the WTC as well as the Statue of Liberty. 

Oh, and on that note. Do the game on Governors Island. There’s a massive field in the middle. Would have a great view of the Verrazano bridge, the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan. And best, it’s on an island. The NHL could easily control the people who are on the island. In fact, I bet a lot of cities have islands that have great views. That could be kind of epic."

+ My first thought of having a game in the Bay Area was on the Golden Gate Bridge. Sure, that would seriously mess up traffic for days, but think of the views! However, after Christian's island idea, the clear answer is Alcatraz. (This video is not suitable for work, but go to 2:07 of the video to avoid the R-rated language and get to the money line.)

+ Play the game on an actual lake. Since Lake Tahoe isn't frozen, pick one that actually is for a January or February game. Lake Placid.* Lake Michigan. Lake Erie. Great Bear Lake. Any of Minnesota's 10,000 lakes. Just find one that works.

+ Convert a Maid of the Mist boat at Niagara Falls into a hockey rink. Amazing views plus you get the bonus of seeing a game played on a moving surface (the boat will be on the water, not docked!) and you get the mist from the falls creating poor visibility for the goalies.

+ The National Mall in Washington. I see two options here. One is building a rink between the Washington Monument and the United States Capitol, and the other is on the reflecting pool itself. For the second option, immediately after the national anthem, have Robin Wright come on the ice and yell Forrest.

+ The Grand Canyon. There must be a valley with enough space to put a rink. 

+ Under The Gateway Arch in St. Louis. 

+ Outside the CN Tower in Toronto or the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) in Chicago.

+ Long Pond in Windsor, Nova Scotia. If this is the first place hockey was played, play an NHL game here!

+ Next to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. And by next to, I mean play the game on Mount Lee for the first ever game played at a significant angle!

+ Yellowstone National Park. Build the rink with the Old Faithful geyser in the middle. Who wouldn't want to see Tom Wilson get shot up into the air in the second period?

I could probably keep going, but if you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below.

* Although this post is about outdoor games, why hasn't the NHL had an indoor game in Lake Placid? There is no place more famous for hockey in the United States than Lake Placid. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Thierry Henry In a Pirates Hat?

ESPN UK posted a video of CF Montreal manager Thierry Henry mic'd up during a match. There are rumors that Henry, who I saw play when he was on the NewYork Red Bulls, will be the next manager of Bournemouth, a British Championship club that was relegated from the Premier League last season.

The point of this post is from the title. Is Thierry Henry wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates hat during the match?

I don't know of any connection between Henry and the Pirates though perhaps it's an homage to Roberto Clemente who played minor league baseball in Montreal. Maybe. Go Bucs!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

2021 Australian Open

Attending the Australian Open in Melbourne is on my bucket list. I don't really have a formal bucket list, but I want to visit Australia, so why not go and see some Grand Slam tennis while I'm there? And some Australian Rules Football too. That seems like such an awesome sport.

Plus, it's always winter in the US during the Australian Open, and it looks so nice and warm there. And yes, I'm writing this as we're expecting snow in the DC area and most of the country is dealing with cold temperatures, ice, and snow. Some summer weather right now would be fantastic!

I mentioned that I want to visit Australia to The Moose (my 9 year old son) recently, and he is interested in joining me. When I asked if his brothers would want to go too, he replied that they're not old enough. I doubt I'll make it to Australia anytime soon, so I think they'll be an appropriate age in about 20 years when I take my trip.

I have a few thoughts about this year's tournament. Yes, I know that most of you probably aren't interested in the tournament, but I hope you'll find this interesting and maybe a little entertaining.

* Let's start with Serena Williams. I saw her (barely) when I went to Wimbledon in 2000. Over 20 years later, she's in the semi-finals against 3rd seeded Naomi Osaka who already has 3 Grand Slam titles herself at the age of 23. Yes, Osaka wasn't even 3 years old when I saw Serena (barely) play. I'm rooting for Serena. I'd love to see her win another title, especially since she's one of the few people who can pull off having a chair made of Elmos.

* Aslan Karatsev is an Australian Open semifinalist. Never heard of him? You're not alone. He's 27, from Russia, spent much of his childhood in Israel, and this is the first time he's ever made it into the main draw at a Grand Slam event. By reaching the semifinals, he has now made more money this week than in his entire professional career. And for this achievement, he gets to play Novak Djokovic next.

After he won in his quarterfinal match, I tweeted this:

I think it's cool that I'm not that far behind a Grand Slam semi finalist in the amount of Twitter followers that we have. Congrats to Karatsev!

I got one reply.

So you judge people on twitter followers?? What an idiot!!

The person who wrote this has 11 followers. I'm judging him. Anyway, my point was not to disparage Karatsev. It was just to show that he really is (or at least was) unknown. At the time of my tweet, he had about 1,250 Twitter followers. As a comparison, Rafael Nadal has 15.7 million followers, and Roger Federer has 12.7 million followers. Maybe this is a poor comparison since these two are among the best players of all time. 6th seed Alexander Zverev has 87.4K followers. 5th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas (great name) has 210.4K followers. Somewhere in that range seems about normal for a tennis player who reached a Grand Slam semifinal. Not 1,250. Oh, Karatsev now has 2,400 followers as of the time this is posted.

* Karatsev defeated 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in the quarterfinals. Dimitrov was clearly hurting and could barely move near the end of the match. This got me thinking. How would I fare in a match against a world-class professional tennis player who could move? I mean, he could still serve though probably at around 60%. Maybe he would have to stay at the same spot when I served. For my credentials, I earned 2 letters from being on my high school tennis team. That may sound pretty good, but in reality, I was a below average player on a below average team. I think the answer is that I would lose 6-0, 6-0 to a professional player who couldn't move. I wouldn't be able to handle his serve or any return shots on my terrible serve. This question did remind me of the entertaining book Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan.

* Back to Dimitrov, I appreciate that he continued to play while injured. Meanwhile, 22nd seed Casper Ruud of Norway seemed fine but retired after losing the first two sets in the 4th round. First, based on his name, we have to assume that he's friendly. And perhaps even a ghost. However, it's a Grand Slam event. Unless you can't move, you try to keep trying to play, right? 

* I think the tradition of the match winner signing a camera lens with a Sharpie is dumb. Is there some type of protective film so that there's no damage to the camera? If so, what happens if someone forgets to put on the film?

Friday, February 12, 2021

Baby Squirrel

I’m doing something that I rarely do. I’m sharing a story that’s not my story to tell. Usually, I write about myself or my kids, but this is completely different. A friend recently sent me this picture.

My immediate response was "Gah!" This is actually a baby squirrel that fell from a tree or its mom rejected it (and possibly pushed it out). The squirrel survived only to be discovered by my friend’s dog who promptly put it in her mouth. My friend convinced the dog to drop the squirrel and ended up taking care of the squirrel overnight. The local wildlife agency picked up the squirrel the next day and expects the animal to be fine.

There’s not much more to this story. Just that the baby squirrel is so little and apparently likes Similac!

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Just Dance

During the pandemic, we have spent part of almost everyday outside our house.  Whether it’s playing sports or riding scooters/bikes or just going for a walk, the kids need time to play and run around. Sure, they would be content watching Peppa Pig, Dude Perfect, or some other YouTube videos when not in school, but we really need them to burn off some energy. They are at the age when physical activity is important. And by "the age," that applies to me too.

Now that it's winter and it's cold, there is not much motivation to go outside many days. And yes, this applies to me. I asked around for various physical activities we could do inside, and a friend suggested searching for Just Dance Kids on YouTube. For those not familiar, Just Dance is a video game where you dance along with various pop songs. It's been around since 2009 and is available to play on Wii, PlayStation, and just about every other platform. Even though we don't own the game, there are hundreds of Just Dance videos on YouTube. Here are a few of our favorites:

Now, I consider myself to be a decent dancer. I already shared that I made the cast of my high school musical in part because of a flawless dancing audition (and because they needed more guys). As you can see in the videos below, maybe I'm not that good of a dancer anymore. In my defense, I was only learning these dances for the first time when these were filmed. (Plus, I was unaware that the filming was taking place.)

Unlike his dad, 3 year-old Luigi has some potential!

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Revisiting The Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament

In February 2009, I created the first of four annual Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournaments. This was a time when the blog scene exploded, and the goal of the tournament was to highlight the outstanding writing and work by so many people. I also hoped that there would be more exposure to the blogs and to encourage collaboration among the bloggers. 

Twelve years later, I wondered how many of the 32 blogs in the original tournament are still active today. The answer is not many. And by not many, my count is seven-ish:

Behind the Steel Curtain
The Pensblog
Steelers Gab
Bucs Dugout
PensBurgh (The Confluence was in the tournament, and Tony of this blog joined PensBurgh in 2014)
Nice Pick Cowher (which turned into Still Curtain at some point)
Sean's Ramblings

Taking my blog out of this, all of these blogs are under larger conglomerates or organizations now. Behind the Steel Curtain, PensBurgh, and Bucs Dugout are all blogs on SB Nation. The Pensblog is under The Sports Daily. There is a separate "Gab" blog for every NFL team. Still Curtain is a Fansided blog. Except for possibly Hooks Orpik on PensBurgh, I don't believe that any of the writers who wrote these blogs back in 2009 are still writing on these sites. Plus, all of these active blogs have multiple writers today.

Maintaining a blog can be difficult, especially over many years. Writing a team-specific blog for years is impossible. In non-pandemic times, you're looking at 162 baseball games, 16 football games, 82 hockey games and that doesn't include any preseason or postseason games. Plus, if you are a team-specific blog, the games are only part of your site. You have to write about drafts, trades, transactions, coaching hirings/firings, and more. It's easy to burn out quickly if you're trying to cover a team by yourself. For better or worse, I still have this blog because I write about a wide variety of topics (including Pittsburgh sports on occasion though less than I did a decade ago) and enjoy doing it. I joked about the idea of writing a blog only about Sheffield Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and my cat last year, and that only lasted one day.

What happened to the other blogs listed in the bracket above? Seth of Empty Netters still writes about the Penguins for Tribune-Review Sports and makes a living doing this. Dan of Blog 'n' Gold also gets paid to write though that particular blog is gone. Of course, both of these blogs had the backing of the Post-Gazette, so it was a bit of a different animal even then. Most of the writers shifted from their blogs to Twitter. The blogging and social media landscape have obviously changed over the years. Twitter really wasn't that big when the first tournament started. Writing (or reading) a quick take on Twitter is much easier. You can engage with fellow fans in real time. It's the perfect format to yell TOUCHDOWN!! in a tweet and get instant responses. 

I should also mention that I try to contact Don of Mondesi's House every few years. Mondesi's House was arguably the biggest Pittsburgh blog during this time and just disappeared. Don has never replied to any of my inquiries. 

Personally, I miss the independent blogger days. It was a fun community. So please excuse me as I reminisce.