Thursday, October 30, 2014

Watch Party

With last night’s 3-2 win, the San Francisco Giants won their third World Series title in five years, defeating the Cinderella story that was the Kansas City Royals in the deciding game of the Major League Baseball Playoffs.  It was an exciting end to an amazing postseason of a great season that brought me untold hours of joy.

But now it’s over. Thanks to the magic of, for the past six months I never had to think about what I was watching each night when things around the house were done and it was time to relax. There was baseball.  Unless there was a game I really wanted to see, I’d let my son pick which teams he wanted to watch before he went to bed. I never could figure out a pattern or favorite team of his. As best I could tell, he’d pick a game based on whichever baseball cards he was playing with that day that caught his fancy. The Marlins were more popular than I would have guessed, though I think it had something to do with their orange uniforms. After he’d go to bed, I’d turn on the Cubs or, if there was a game that caught my interest for some other reason, that game. My wife would go to bed around 9:30 and I’d stay up and watch the end of the game before picking a west coast game to fall asleep to in bed.

It obviously wasn’t that exact routine every night (there'd be far fewer references to a wife or son if it was as they’d have left me), but more often than not, baseball filled my evenings from April through October. It wasn’t always intense watching. Usually just a game on while my wife and I talked or I caught up on Twitter while my wife Pinterested – I assume that’s the conjugation of “To Pinterest” – and there were times I’d turn the sound down on the game and listen to a podcast while casually following the game.

But every year, at the end of the World Series, I’m left with an entertainment void that needs to be filled. I’ve got a couple of books I’ve been putting off reading, so I’ll be doing that, but one thing I always make sure to do is pick a television show that I’ve missed out on completely and watch it during the offseason. Last year, for example, I finally got in to the Breaking Bad phenomenon and spent the offseason watching the entire series. Often I had to limit myself to one or two episodes a night and follow it with a comedy before going to bed because of how intense it was. There’d been enough chatter about the show online and among friends that it was an easy choice for me to pick as my offseason show.

But this year, I’m still not sure what I’m going to watch. I’ve got two brothers and both of them have made their pitch for what I need to see. One, who happens to live just outside Washington DC, says I should watch The West Wing. The other says I need to watch Friday Night Lights. (I’ve put off watching FNL mostly because I’ve read the book by the same name and it was turned off by the premise of the show being so different from what was portrayed in the book. I know that’s a mental hurdle I have to overcome and nothing against the show. Finally, had several friends push Parenthood as one I should watch. Other than the fact it has Lauren Graham in it, I really don’t know much about the show, so I’d be going in to it with only the expectations of it being really good.

One I’d considered before reaching out to others for suggestions was The Sopranos, especially now that it’s streaming on Amazon Prime. I feel like that’s one of those shows I’m supposed to watch to be culturally fluent in America in 2014, well, more likely culturally fluent in 2008 but given the amount of baseball I watch annually, it shouldn’t shock anyone that I’m not up to date, culturally, with televised entertainment.

But now I turn to you for suggestions. What do I need to watch between now and April when baseball season starts again? I’m not saying it has to stream on Netflix or Amazon Prime for me to watch it (we are that family that still has a Netflix DVD plan), but it would be helpful. So help me out here, what do I need to watch?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Baseball Friends

I've never been to Kansas City. I've never even been reasonably close to the city. I've spent a couple weeks in Memphis, Tennessee, but even that is 451 miles from where the Royals play baseball. At best I think a former coworker had been to Kansas City a few times, but essentially I have no connections to the greater metropolitan Kansas City area, nor do I really have a reason to.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to get to Kansas City some day as part of my dream of seeing every Major League team play in their home stadium. And while that means the Royals are on the list, I can't really say they're high on the list. Giving it very little thought, I'd say they're somewhere between 25th and 29th on the list (I'd be ok if I never made it to Philadelphia for a game, though if I'd been to each of the other 29, I'd find a way to make it to Philly.)

So about a year ago when I was goofing off on Twitter, I managed to gain a follower who was a Kansas City Royals fan. We tweeted back and forth a few times, I started following him and we developed a friendship over baseball. Soon, a couple of his friends (maybe from Twitter, maybe offline friends, I honestly don't know) started following me and we also developed a baseball-centric friendship.

Then this year happened. You may have heard that the Royals, expected to be a slightly above average team, were, in fact, a slightly above average team. They won 89 games which was good enough to get them in to the one-game wildcard round of the playoffs. Win that game and they'd play a best-of-five series against the team with the best record in the American League. Win that series and they'd play a best-of-seven series against the second-best team in the American League. The odds were not in their favor.

Despite that, it was the first playoff appearance for the Royals in 29 years. Sure they were only guaranteed one game, but come on, after almost three decades, you'll take what you can get. I mean, when there are songs written about looking back at 1985 in a nostalgic way, you know it's been a while.

And it looked like the Royals return to the playoffs was going to be a brief one. Trailing by 4 late in the game, I'd already written an "I"m sorry" tweet to send to the group of Royals fans I'd befriended. I saved it in my drafts and was all set to send my condolences but to remember the joy the previous six months of baseball had delivered along the way as soon as the game was over.

But I never needed to send it because the Royals started scoring and pulled out a 12th inning win. And then they kept winning. Sweeping the Angels and the Orioles to get to the World Series. And after losing Game 1, Kansas City took games Two and Three and suddenly the downtrodden Royals were having legitimate visions of World Series parades dancing in their heads. And me, a guy in south Georgia with no real connection to the team, was getting to follow along with some diehard Royals fans who, though the wonder of the Internet, allowed me to follow along the highs and lows.

Living vicariously through their joy and taking the unexpected ride to the World Series with them has been a fantastic experience. One that, with the Royals now down three games to two, may come to an end tonight. With a little luck, it'll go to a Game 7 tomorrow. Win or lose, it's been so much fun to get to follow along with a group of strangers who welcomed me into their little twitter world and let me go from casual fan watching the games because I enjoy baseball to someone who is actively rooting for his friends to get to experience the ultimate joy in baseball fandom.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paved Paradise

There are several things I hope to be able to impart to my son as he grows up.

I want him to know the importance of being kind to others. I want him to know that learning for the sake of knowledge is a good thing. I want him to find what he's passionate about in life and find a way to make a career out of that.

And I want him to remember where he parks.

Now granted, he's more than a decade from actually having to remember where he left his car in a crowded parking lot. But I don't want to wait until he's started driving to help him learn this most valuable of all skills.

So just how do I plan on doing this? By adhering to one simple rule. I hesitate to tell you what it is because if this gets out and people start doing it, then my grand plan will be ruined. But given the limited readership of this blog in general and the even smaller likelihood anyone's still reading five paragraphs in, I feel ok sharing with those of you dedicated readers.

Here it is. I park near a light pole. At the ball fields. At the grocery store. At sporting events. I will pass up spots closer to where I'm going to get a coveted spot near a light pole. And I make sure I point this out to my son so he knows what to do.

It warmed my heart the other night when we were walking out of our Fair into the adequate but not well lit parking lot and said to him, "uh oh, I don't remember where we parked."

"Did you park near a light pole?" he asked.

Sadly, because we were directed where to park, I hadn't. But the life lesson has been learned, so I may take the next 10 years of parenting off.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What if... "The Max"

What if The Max, the 50's diner style restaurant from Saved By The Bell, had Yelp Reviews

- This place looks nice from the outside, but inside it's kind of cramped. There aren't that many tables and this group of six teenagers always has the best booth. The food is ok, mostly burgers and fries, but it's definately a teenage hangout spot. Go elsewhere if you're looking for 50's nostalgia."1 Star"

- What a joke. My wife and I wanted something quick so we ducked in here on our way out of town. Little
did we know there was going to be a fashion show taking place right in the middle of the restaurant. Who holds a fashion show in the middle of a restaurant? The fashions sucked and we ended up going somewhere else. "1 Star"

- The place had a creepy vibe to it. The college-aged manager kept hitting on his high school wait staff right in front of the customers. Max? More like "Min." Am I right? "1 Star"

- My husband and I had heard about this place from our son who goes to school at Bayside. We figured we'd give it a shot but when we got there, it turns out some kids in his class had rented out the place for some marriage project in one of their classes. Seriously, is this any way to run a business? "1 Star"

- I'm giving this two stars because the waitress was kind of hot. But the food sucked and right in the middle of our meal, a pep rally broke out for some high school. Don't these kids have a gym or football field? What happened to that oil money they were going to get when they found oil under the football field? "2 Stars"

- Who holds a radio contest at a restaurant roughly the size of half a basketball court? Between the radio DJ and the chairs set up for people to watch a radio show. Who watches a radio show? Anyway, we went elsewhere. No wonder they needed a fundraiser to keep this dump open. "1 Star"

- Casey Kasem broadcasted a dance party from here once, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Big mistake. Food was bland, drinks were served with no ice and there wasn't a single bit of Kasem memorabilia. Do yourself a favor and go anywhere else. "1 Star."

- This place really started to go downhill once the magician guy left as manager. That guy could really run a restaurant. "1 Star"