Category Archives: Sports

Championship Tennis

In the last year I’ve been fortunate to get into tennis, learning to play and enjoy the game.  A little over a year ago I had never even touched a racquet or watched a whole match of tennis, never mind played one.  Now I’ve taken three rounds of lessons, love to play, and seen some of the legends play tennis….  Jim Courier, Pat Cash, Todd Martin, and Pete Sampras.  Living close to Newport, RI gives me the opportunity to not only visit the Tennis Hall of Fame, and for this weekend, see the  Outback Champions Series Tennis.

I was amazed that the place wasn’t 100% sold out – this is a chance to see legends of the sports play great, competitive tennis.  This isn’t an old-timer’s league where things are slow and easy – they play hard, fast and smart, with a lot of good, old-fashioned serve and volley, with smart play and fast rallies.

It is probably one of the best values in professional sports out there – thirty bucks to see great players playing great tennis. 

Take Me Out to Ye Olde Base Ball Game

Sometimes you vaguely hear about a trend happening – just know that it is out there – and then you get a chance to experience it first hand.   I’ve heard of teams who play "vintage base ball" (space intentional, as that’s how they do it), but got chance to see it this weekend – at the Vintage Base Ball Federation World Series

This is more than just a baseball game – it is part theater as well, with people dressed up in period (1860-1870) costumes playing various roles: hecklers, entertainers, women’s suffrage movement activists (a particularly clever way to get people to register vote I thought), and the programs being sold by old-timey looking newspaper boys and girls.

The baseball is played well enough to be interesting and the differences spice it up: 7 balls for a walk; a hit batter only gets a called ball, not a first base; there’s one ump who can appeal to the players and/or crowd for help on a call; if a ball is caught in foul territory on one bounce, it is an out.  That is probably a good rule, since the players can’t wear modern baseball  gloves, which means that catching is hard.  And hard on the hands.  No one dives for a line drive here and it makes you appreciate how important defense is (the game we saw had over 25 runs scored) to modern day baseball. 

The event in Westfield is unique, with a combination of local groups selling items as a fundraiser, only $5 admission, and a beer garden with good local beer overlooking the field and the hand-painted, hand-operated (by four guys…) scoreboard.  It is a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere, and one that almost seems more focused on the game at times than professional Major League Baseball, even though technically it is meant more as entertainment than MLB.  Gone are the 50+ signs always visible at even a small park like Fenway, the grandstanding players, the high-fiving and kissing of jewelry (actually forbidden according to their rules of conduct) and quite possibly best of all: even though representative of a more chaste, religious time, the post-game speeches bear absolutely no mention of "I’d like to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus" when we all know that the power(s) that be have far more important things to do than making sure a long ball goes to the right side of a foul pole.

To be fair, there is another group out there called the Vintage Base Ball Association (as opposed to Federation).  The Federation is a for-profit group that bends a few of the historical accuracies to make for a better albeit less historically accurate game, while the Association is a non-profit group of clubs who are dedicated to playing games that are only extremely historically accurate.  However, as is often the case, the volunteers started it, the corporation is monetizing and popularizing it, and hopefully the non-profit will benefit from that in the long-run, regardless of any animosity between them now.

I’m sure that the couple hundred people who experienced the games on Sunday will tell people about it and next year there will be a few hundred more people and soon after that, I’ll be looking back, grateful I made it to the first World Series!    

As they say at the end of the game: Hip! Hip! Huzzah! 


There might be some people out there who think this is old news, but this morning I read about a game called "Cornhole."  As if that isn’t strange enough, there’s two organizations dedicated to furthering the cause of this game:

American Cornhole Association

American Cornhole Organization (I hate it when my cornhole isn’t organized!)

It is an unfortunate name for what seems like a perfectly simple game that is a lot of fun to play while drunk.  Unfortunately, the other meaning of "cornhole" is often done while drunk as well.  At least the first time.

A quick Google search reveals a number of links for the game, including Cornhole Outlet (nothing like a little discount cornholin’!), and a company’s attempt to make it sound less dirty by calling it a "Tailgate Toss."  Is that anything like tossing salad

Let’s hope not.

The sad thing is that I kind of want to play this game now and I want my own cornhole set, but they are expensive.  Further proof that if you want to play with a cornhole, sometimes you’re betting off doing it yourself.

Oh, Canada!

On September 22nd, my girlfriend (The Pop Culture Gangsteress) and I headed for Toronto to go watch the Boston Red Sox play the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Center.  Back in May when we bought these tickets, we thought that this series of games was going to be an important one.  The Red Sox were in first place and the Jays were predicted to be contenders for the division championships.  This was the last away series of the year and we figured it could be a division-clinching set of games.

Five months later, things had taken an ugly turn, and the series turned into a battle to stay out of third place.  But, being dutiful Red Sox fans and always up for a road trip, we embarked on our journey anyway, determined to make the best of it.

Outside_rogersWe spent the night in Syracuse and then moved onto Buffalo, NY, where we tried the original buffalo wings at the Anchor Bar.  We crossed the border into Canada via the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, with a laughable border patrol effort.  We didn’t even have to show our passports – we told them we were going to the baseball game and they let us through.  Apparently its a good thing terrorists aren’t baseball fans.

Our first impression of Toronto is that traffic SUCKS there.  I mean, really sucks.  We were driving into the city in the very early afternoon on a Saturday and it felt like Friday rush hour in Boston.   Every time we looked out on the highway, we saw some traffic virtually stopped in some direction.  Perhaps they are trying to encourage mass transit or bicycling by not improving things.

Inside_rogersOnce in the city, we managed to wind our way to the hotel (note to mapmakers: if a street isn’t really a street, but a pedestrian walkway, for the love of god, please mark it as such!), which was a great Holiday Inn just a short walk from the stadium.

The Rogers Centre was made world-famous by its retractable roof, and inside it, the stadium reflects the landscape of the city around it.  It is impeccably clean and modern, with clean lines and sleek touches everywhere.  It is the opposite of the newer stadiums which are usually retro in their design, tying into the the rehabilitated areas of the city they usually inhabit (such as Baltimore’s Camden Yards and Denver’s Coors Field) with lots of brick, exposed metal beams and natural landscaping, matching the converted old industrial buildings that surround those parks.  In contrast, the area surrounding the Rogers Centre is clean and sleek with lots of concrete and the futuristic CN Tower standing tall next to it.

I won’t even get into the games – the Sox lost both games we saw, one by an embarrassingly large number of runs.  We took advantage of the lack of pressure to see the games in order to see more of the city.  We had the opportunity to see a comedy show, a major attraction in the city thanks to some top-notch comedy clubs.  Cn_tower

We also met up with a colleague of mine who lives in the city and was kind enough to show us around Chinatown and Kensington Market.  Chinatowns are always interesting, especially with an experienced guide and Kensington Market was the perfect little funky neighborhood that makes cities unique, with independent stores selling unique wares such as fresh whole spices, independent music, and specialty cuisines.

For the second time, I tried Dim Sum.  This was my attempt at really trying to like it, but unfortunately, while I LOVE a lot of Chinese food, I’m not crazy about the steamed texture that the dumplings take on.  I can say I’ve honestly tried it, gave it a true try, but alas, I shall not be participating again by my own free will.

Glass_floor_2We also traveled to the top of the CN Tower, the tallest structure in the world (but not the tallest building… whatever), which was awesome.  In one of the most clever ideas I’ve ever seen, they have a "glass floor" which allows you to look straight down underneath you.

  On the trip back, we enjoyed two pleasurable stops at Niagara area wineries, picking up some excellent ice wines while there.  Then we spent a few hours at Niagara Falls, a natural phenomenon that no photo can do justice.   I went about 15 years ago, but unfortunately a malfunctioning camera left me with a bunch of half photo frames.  This time I got a chance to take some dramatic photos from the sidewalk and from the Maid of the Mist. Niagara_falls

The ride home was a long one, broken up with a stop in Syracuse again for some Dinosaur Barbecue, which was worth the hassle of getting there.  We got home late, but it was a great trip with a lot of great memories – we plan on going next year.  You know, when the Sox clinch the pennant next year….

My Crystal Ball (The Other One Is Fine, Thanks)

For those who don’t know, the Pop Culture Gangster is a bit of a Red Sox fan, which means I might regret this, but here I go…   

The Red Sox just beat the New York Mets for the second game in a row, making it 11 straight wins, the most since 1995 when they won 10 in a row.  We’re almost at the All-Star break and the team is on fire.

So are the Mets actually…  which leads us to the way-too-early to be talking like this possibility of the Red Sox playing the Mets in the World Series.  20 years after they played each other in the 1986 World Series, ending in what was the most heartbreaking loss in Red Sox history.  1986 was one of the biggest clouds hanging – looming – over Red Sox nation for years, and Sox fans are a fairly superstitious bunch. 

We beat the Yankees and St. Louis in 2004, which definitely lightened the cross we all bear as Red Sox fans.  The Yankees are obviously a hated rival, but St. Louis has a history with the Sox as well – they beat us in two other World Series bids, in 1948 and 1967. 

Still, Red Sox fans still have a few ghosts of years past that haunt us.

What say the Red Sox beat the Mets in the World Series, 20 years after they played each other last.  The Sox win because Pedro Martinez – who left the Red Sox to play for the Mets – bungles a simple fielding play, a la Bill Buckner. The Red Sox win the Series and the opening pitch at Fenway of the 2007 series is thrown by none other Bill Buckner himself, who can consider the demons exercised.

Now we just gotta beat Cincinnati and order will be restored to the universe.


As part of my ongoing effort to bring the most fascinating material to you, my loyal readers, I made the great sacrifice of spending a weekend in Baltimore with my girl watching the Red Sox win two baseball games against the Orioles.   I know, I know… the sacrifices I make, huh?  It’s, like, Ghandi, Mother Theresa, and then me. 

Anyway, as a testament to what can happen when spontaneity gleefully interferes with personal responsibility, late on Friday afternoon Meghan and I decided that it would be fun to go see the Red Sox play the Orioles in Boston one weekend this summer.  Her sister lives there, so we had a convenient and cheap place to stay.  However, a look at the Red Sox schedule revealed that the only weekend which would work for us was that weekend.  So we got tickets and went!

A long drive down on Saturday thanks to rain and traffic got us down there a few hours late, but luckily the game was on rain delayed so got in there by the third inning, but not after a huge hassle of trying to get our will-call tickets.

If you are a baseball fan, it is worth the pilgrimage to Camden Yards.  As a life-long Red Sox fan, I never thought I would want to see a stadium other than Fenway in Boston, but I have to say that Camden Yards makes a pretty good argument for it.  Beautiful facilities, comfortable seating, plenty of open spaces and sitting areas and great views of the game all around.  Camden_yards

A few interesting observations: first of all, Red Sox fans made up at least 70% of the crowd.  I don’t know who would have been there if the Sox fans hadn’t been there.  Maybe the O’s fans stayed away because they knew there would be a lot of Boston fans there, but it was a really weak showing for them.  The fact that there are so many Red Sox fans willing to drive at least 6 hours – more like 8 for us – from the Boston area to Baltimore just to see their favorite team plays speaks to the sheer lunacy of Red Sox fans.  We’re sick and we love it.

However, there were enough O’s fans to scare the daylights out of us during the national anthem.  It is apparently a tradition of theirs in Baltimore to SHOUT "O!" during the second to last line of the Star Spangled Banner: "O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave"

This was my first time seeing a baseball game outside of the Boston area, so it was interesting to see the stadium have to put up requests for the home crowd to make more noise and to simply see a stadium that wasn’t sold out.  Never experienced that at Fenway and even not that often at McCoy stadium.

Besides seeing the two games, we also hit the local Hard Rock Cafe real quick – just to pick up a few shirts and pins.  We ate dinner at the Wharf Rat (wing review here) on Saturday night, trying the traditional Maryland crab cakes.  Basically a ball of crab meat barely held together by some bread crumbs with plenty of Old Bay seasoning.  Perfect!

A road trip can be such a great experience and this one was.  In 40 hours we drove to and from Baltimore, watched 2 Red Sox Games, went to the the Hard Rock Cafe, ate at a Brew Pub, tried Maryland crab cakes, had breakfast at Denny’s, ate deep-fried hot dogs, and laughed a whole lot.  It was a ton of fun and so glad that we we spontaneous enough to do it.

A Little Empathy Please?

Let me explain why I am both befuddled and sometimes jealous of those who don’t pay any attention to sports.

Tonight, the New England Patriots lost their bid to do what no football team has ever done: win three Superbowls in a row.  It is a disheartening blow and one that made me want to throw the remote through the TV several times.  I was picturing it going through the glass and the sparks and smoke coming out of the TV when that stupid pass interference play was called on Asante Samuel.

It is frustrating, disheartening, disappointing and heart-breaking.

It is also a bit of a relief…

Of course I wanted the Patriots to be the first team in history to win three Superbowls in a row.  All New England fans did.  But the Patriots – like the Red Sox – never make the victories easy.  They are dramatic nail biters (which makes for great football) and while it would have been great to see another Lombardi trophy in the hands of Brady and watch another Championship banner go up at Gillette Stadium, it is also weird sort of  relief that all of New England doesn’t need to start working on yet another ulcer for the next three weeks.  That’s two more weekends where we can do what we want, when we want, where we want.

This is why I try to keep my sports fandom at a reasonable level.  I can get too caught up in it – become too competitive and do stupid things like make fans of opposing teams break down in tears with insults and trash talk.  I get nervous, disgusted, excited, and overjoyed.  I enjoy watching sports, but I can’t watch/listen to every single game, or else I’d be locked up by now.

However, I am enough of a fan that when I meet people who just don’t care at all about sports, I am dumbfounded.  But then at times like this, I’m jealous of them.  They may have done something more memorable than I did tonight, but I think that watching the game was exactly where I wanted to be.

I do want to say one more thing about the Patriots and their loss tonight: the dissection of this game will go on for days, if not weeks here in New England.  Blame will be shifted around as it is placed on the shoulders of the players, the referees, the coaches, the humidity, the altitude, the wind direction, the phase of the moon… whatever it is.  But I hope that what all the fans don’t forget in the middle of that discussion is that the Patriots have given us what very few teams in Football history have: a "dynasty" of three wins in four years and an AMAZING run of record-breaking games throughout those playoffs. 

We have everything to be proud of and I hope that whichever team wins the Superbowl this year, the team and their fans will enjoy it as much as we have the last few years with the Patriots.

THANK YOU Patriots for making the last few years the time we’ll look back on and say "those were the good ‘ol days!"

Let’s enjoy the peace and quiet while we can: 32 days until pitchers and catchers report!



Went to see Curt Schilling pitch at the Pawtucket Red Sox last night.  It was cool to be able to see a legend up close, but it was a dissapointing outing.  Granted, the PawSox didn’t exactly back him up with great hitting or fielding, but he got hit hard, which was sad to see.  Hopefully he’ll get back on track sooner or later.

On top of that, there were no fireworks last night – I was looking forward to seeing a good display on the fourth of July, but after a mishap the night before, the fireworks were cancelled.  That made it all doubly dissapointing.

This poor, poor girl

I met someone today is BOTH a Red Sox fan AND a Cubs fan.  She’s originally from Chicago, then moved out here and became a Red Sox fan.

Who DOES that to themselves?  Granted, we can all breathe easier with the Red Sox, but now she still has the OTHER team to deal with.   God, I feel sorry for her….