Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sox Win The World Series! Now Here's Some Random Thoughts...

It's fitting that today is Halloween, because last night the Boston Red Sox pulled the ultimate trick on major league baseball and gave us Fenway Faithful an awesome treat: going from one of the worst teams in 2012 to winning it all against the Cardinals.

Seriously, as much of an optimist, pie in the sky, we're down 5-0 bottom of the ninth but we can still win this, kind of Sox fan that I am, I did not see this coming, even as late as the start of the playoffs. Of course, once they made it to the World Series, I did call it: Sox in six!

A hearty congratulations and WOOOFRICKINHOOO! to the Red Sox and the entire fan base! What an amazing year with a spectacular ending!

So, since this blog has a sports-oriented name and I'm a die-hard Sox fan, naturally there needs to be a post that has something to do with the World Series. Here's a collection of thoughts that have been going through my brain today (thoughts other than "man, I shouldn't have had that champagne and stayed up so late last night").

  • Big Papi deserved the World Series MVP, but I'd have been just as happy if Lester had won it, or even better, if they had co-MVPs.
  • You do know that if Bobby Valentine was still manager, they'd have won the series in just three games, right? And all the while, he'd be serving the team sandwich wraps!
  • The awesomeness of last night was further enhanced with the realization that we'll never have to subject ourselves to Tim McCarver's deranged biased ramblings ever again. And that's a win for all baseball fans, not just Boston's!
  • Hey, Phillies! Thanks, for indirectly giving us the Flyin' Hawaiian!
  • I think the people who said that Pedroia was too short to play baseball need to be called out, front and center, and let Red Sox Nation point and laugh at them.
  • The 2013 Red Sox season could also be called "The Redemption of John Lackey".
  • So. Where's the fried chicken and beer jokes now, eh?
  • Big Papi in Cooperstown? Hell yes!
  • I have no difficulty in believing that Terry Francona contacted John Farrell and congratulated him on doing the same thing that he himself did: bring the Sox a World Series win in the first year of being manager.
  • Farrell wasn't perfect this year, but somehow I think he's received some impressive on the job training. And no one can deny that his gut feelings which he employed in putting together the Game 6 lineup were spot-on.
  • Entry in the "Sox fans will always find something to bitch about even when they win" Department: the only way this could've been better is if Pesky had been around to see one last championship, and this was the year of Fenway's 100th anniversary, not 2012.
  • The shrieks of ecstasy that you heard seemingly from nowhere were the sounds of Scott Boras anticipating a huge payday in the near future.
  • Speaking of which, here's four free agents whose Sox futures are uncertain: Ellsbury, Saltalamacchia, Drew, and Napoli. My prediction: Ells is gone, Salty is gone, Napoli stays, and Drew can go either way.
  • If Ells does indeed go, welcome to the Jackie Bradley Jr era. This is not a bad thing.
  • I wonder what Beckett, Gonzalez, Crawford, and Youk are thinking today. And of all those guys, the one I feel the most sorry for is Youk. Yeah, granted, he was getting injured a lot, but let's face it, he was a direct casualty of the Clown Manager From Hell.
  • Hey, remember the news story that broke during the 2007 World Series celebration? That badly-timed, self-serving news item? Something about some baseball player getting an obscenely huge long-term contract from the New York Stinkees? Remember how many people threw back their heads and howled, and rightly so, about how the timing of that news story was poorly executed, since the big baseball news story that deserved sole attention was the Sox winning the Series? Yeah, remember that? Where are the Yankees now, and how's that relationship with A-Rod working for them today? Ladies and gentlemen, Karma has come to call, and she's in a rare mood.
  • Considering how many "The Official (insert product/service here) of the Boston Red Sox there are out there, are the Dropkick Murphys the Official Band of the Boston Red Sox? If not, they should be. If they are, then whooops, never mind...
  • After reading about how hard Mike Napoli took the World Series loss when he was with Texas two years ago, I feel especially happy for him today.
  • Since the victory parade traditionally has a duck boat for the team's support staff, and that Pedro, Tek, and Timmay worked for the organization in some capacity this year, does this mean we'll see them in the parade? I think it does! Hope so, anyway...
  • Bringing in Fisk and El Tiante to throw the first pitch in Game 6 was a touch of brilliance. 
  • I wonder what it's like to be Xander right now. You're 21 years old, you began the season in the minors, got called up to the majors in August, found yourself thrust onto the World Series roster, and now you're getting a ring.
  • Speaking of Xander, I predict he's going to be with us for quite some time, and will become one of those beloved players, like Ortiz or Pedroia.
  • If you're a fan of feel-good stories, especially in the "cast offs make good, win it all" genre, you have to love this 2013 Sox team. Whether it's veterans who've never been to the Series, veterans who've been to the Series but lost, or guys whose teams cut them loose because they supposedly had nothing left, there was a lot to root for here.
  • Summing up the 2013 Red Sox: Characters with Character.
  • After listening to John Henry's words upon receiving the World Series trophy, I really think the Red Sox IT department needs to install a new communications interface patch in his programming. I've seen Daleks be more articulate and emotive.
  • Ben Charington, you rock, sir.
  • The 2004 team was characterized as a pack of unlikely idiots. The 2007 team was just a scary good team of expert players up and down the lineup. The 2013 team is definitely more like 2004, don't you think?
  • After seeing photos of the Sox both clean-shaven and with their beards, I come away with the conviction that, as a rule, men look way better without beards. Or said another way, it takes a very rare breed of man who can pull off a good beard look. Lord knows I tried back in the late 90's. I'm just about done writing apology notes to anyone who'd ever been around to see that travesty in person.
  • Definitely on my Christmas list: World Series t-shirt, Red Sox Road Team jersey with Victorino's name on it.
  • Okay, don't get me wrong here, but is it at all possible that we can continue to remember the marathon bombing and keep praying for and rooting for the victims and their families, and do whatever it takes to help in their continued recovery and make sure that nothing like this ever happens again, but also permanently retire "Boston Strong"? Please?
And now, the off-season begins. Whatever happens, it promises to be an interesting one. And through it all, we'll have the Red Sox victory to keep us warm through the winter.

Congratulations again to the Boston Red Sox!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Ex-Manager Bobby Valentine Claims Credit For Remarkable Red Sox 2013 Season

Former Sox manager Bobby Valentine addresses empty room.
After the abysmal 2012 season that showcased a dysfunctional Red Sox team led by "manager" and chronic verbal diarrhea sufferer Bobby Valentine, the best results that many of the Fenway Faithful expected out of Boston's 2013 team was that they simply not embarrass themselves or trip over the steps when emerging from the dugout. As of this writing, a stunned baseball world is witnessing the Boston Red Sox crowned as the AL Champions, finishing in a tie for the best record in baseball for 2013, and locked in a duel with the St. Louis Cardinals in the Fall Classic.

Even the most ardent Sox-hater has to grudgingly concede that this Boston team has, regardless of the World Series outcome, accomplished something special, a turnaround of positively epic proportions, one for the books. Many have tried to offer explanations for the resurgence, and on Thursday morning, another explanation came from a rather bizarre and yet regrettably not a wholly unexpected source.

"I am responsible for the Red Sox' fantastic performance this season!" proclaimed ex-manager Bobby Valentine. Taking the podium at a hastily arranged press conference, the erstwhile manager and professional blabbermouth regaled the empty room with his "logic".

"My 2012 tenure was a little less than successful," Valentine admitted in a rare display of acknowledging reality. "By the time winter hit, the guys, at least those that weren't traded away or ran away screaming, were humiliated and embarrassed. When Spring Training came around this year, they were exceptionally motivated to erase the memories of 2012."
  News Update:: These cats had more to do with the Sox
 successful season than Valentine did.

Valentine maintains that it was this degree of humiliation and almost fanatical desire to expunge 2012 that served as the catalyst for the Red Sox surprising success this year. "If I hadn't so completely and utterly screwed the bed as manager last year, they wouldn't have had that burning, itching need to prove themselves and salvage their dignity this year. And since one of the many tasks of a manager is to motivate his players, well, I leave you to do the math."

And, with a vacant, cow-like expression and dopey grin, he did just that, leaving the podium and wandering out the door, phone raised to his ear as he attempted to touch base with the Detroit Tigers' ownership, offering his services as manager. Screams could be heard on the other end of the line.

Some critics scoffed at Valentine's claims, noting that the words "Valentine" and "dignity" are mutually exclusive.

Valentine's bizarre assertions were further shot down in a statement released by John Henry, Red Sox principle owner, steel-driving man, and full-time android. "Bzzzt...Valentine does not compute not found!..bzzt..beep..Subject is delusional and possibly insane..approach with caution...bzzt. Ex-ter-min-ate!"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sox Win The 2013 AL Pennant!

It takes a very special person with a very special mindset to be a true Red Sox fan. While I could ramble on about what doesn't make a true fan (some recent nasty fan comments, attitudes and behavior fresh in my mind), I'll instead point out one huge positive characteristic: an insane, stubborn optimism that the Olde Towne Team is going to rise to the occasion and prevail.

But not even in my wildest, craziest, reality-defying moments of optimism and wishful thinking did I think the Red Sox would win the American League pennant. No way. And I'm a big fan.

When you consider that the best mental picture of the 2012 Red Sox would be a herd of several dozen irritated, underachieving cats being unsuccessfully herded by a deranged, grinning circus clown with a non-functioning internal editor button, the idea of them having a season where the best outcome could be for them not to embarrass themselves for two consecutive years was all any true fan could hope for.

One of my co-workers, a dyed in the wool superfan who leaves me in the dust, was so disgusted with 2012 that he said the Sox would be lucky to win 70 games this year. I disagreed, and said that they would a) finish above .500, b) make the playoffs via the Wild Card, and c) get eliminated in the American League Division Series.

After all, they finished with a 69-93 record in 2012. And in a "Well that bloody well figures" department, 2012 was Fenway's 100th anniversary, and beloved Red Sox veteran Johnny Pesky died in August. I mean, talk about a season where it would have been a really good idea to not bite the large one and become mass victims of the St. Bobby Valentine Day Massacre! Pesky passes away and his last impression of his beloved Red Sox is them doing a convincing impersonation of the Houston Astros.

And so, now look at the Sox. Booby (sic) was given his walking papers, where he would eventually go on to just making stupid statements in public and actually putting me in the uncomfortable position of sticking up for and sympathizing with the New York Yankees in the wake of Valentine's comments about 9-11. The underachieving players, the dead wood, the "I'm not comfortable on this team" people were traded away, and players were brought in who could really work together and brought a level of energy and joy to their playing.

Bringing in John Farrell was a stroke of genius. Sure, he was "only" the pitching coach for the Sox previously, but he knew the team, knew the division rivals, and had the respect of the Sox veterans still on the team. Not only that, pitching wins championships, and even though he wouldn't be returning as the pitching coach, you can't tell me that he didn't offer opinions and suggestions for the pitching staff.

But wow...seriously? American League champs? A rematch in the World Series with the Cardinals? UM..ok....yeah sure, I'll take it!

Yet as far as I'm concerned, this has already been an amazing season. It could end right now, and I'd call the 2013 Red Sox a raging success. This team is fun to watch, a joy to root for, and made up of genuinely likeable players. Being half-Portuguese, I have to root for Shane Victorino (of course, after his heroics in ALCS Game 6 that's easy to do!!); players like Mike Carp who were in essence salvaged from the scrap heap; young 21-year old gifted rookies like Xander; Big Papi with his "This is our #%^% city!" in the wake of the Marathon tragedy, as we all struggled to come to terms with the bombing and were eager to start the healing process. The high-five happy, hug-happy, Koji "Jonathan who!?" Uehara. Guys like Nava, Gomes, and of course the ever-colorful Pedey. I mean, come on...these guys have personality and character! Hell, they ARE characters!

Of course, every victory comes at a price: we're now stuck with Tim McCarver for at least four more games.

So, congratulations to my guys! Whether you win the Series or not, you're all winners already!

Oh, and...Sox in six. Just saying.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Best Damn Haunted Attractions In New England (at least we think so!)

The Halloween season is that special time where we set aside the horrors of the real world (the Tea Party, Miley Cyrus, government shutdowns) and immerse ourselves in the make-believe world of spooks and scares.

Not all horror is Halloween-based
My wife Carol and I are horror aficionados, and this year, rather than working at a haunted attraction, we made it a special point to allocate a butt-load (an actual unit of measurement) of cash for the express purpose of visiting as many haunts as we could.

To give you an idea of how committed we were to this fun project, we decided to try and see as many haunts as possible on their opening night. Granted, logistics dictated that we couldn't accomplish this for every one of them, but we did okay, which resulted in us starting our haunt tour on Saturday, September 21! Yes! Finally, Christmas isn't the only holiday that people can start putting stuff up for and observing unusually early!

Although every haunt we went to this year was well worth it, these five stood out as the best. If you get the time and inclination, visit all of them. Each of them is an outstanding example of your classic New England style Halloween haunted attraction, and you can't go wrong with any of them. Here they are, presented in no particular order.

Ghoulie Manor: Mwahahaha!
Ghoulie Manor (Taunton MA)
Ever visit an attraction and have a great time but, for balance's sake, you try and come up with at least one drawback or negative, but you just can't find one? Welcome to Ghoulie Manor; a perfect haunt. The props have a level of scary detail that show that the builders made this a labor of love. This place is delightfully creepy, and it's filled with great performers with good backstories and convincing makeup. There's one or two spots here that caused this jaded haunt fan to actually jump, so yeah. This is Ghoulie's second year in operation, and new haunts needs all the bodies (warm or in states of decomposition) that they can get. If you like supporting the new local business and cheering on the plucky newcomer, then Ghoulie deserves your support. If you like going somewhere to get the Hell scared out of you, then Ghoulie works there too!

Dark Walk. This lady's makeup was...disturbing.

Dark Walk (Andover, CT)
Speaking of "try to find at least one negative and coming up short", there's Dark Walk. As the name implies, it's a walk through the dark woods, and let me tell you, talk about a walk to remember! The intricate backstories, the very convincing acting job, the entire theme and story of the haunt, the realistic sets, all combine to create a haunt experience that you won't soon forget. Unfortunately, the weekend of October 18-19 is the last one for the year (they only run two weekends), but anyway, keep it in mind for next year.

There's nothing like a menacing clown staring down at you while
you're waiting in line...
Barrett's Haunted Mansion (Abington, MA)
If Ghoulie is one of the newer kids on the block, Barrett's is an absolute old guy on the porch, telling those damn kids to get off his lawn. Yet its longevity has done little to diminish its impact as a haunted attraction. Now, I'll admit, I didn't find this year's attraction "scary" per se, but the entertainment value, particularly the set pieces (with some uncomfortably realistic props) make this a must-see. They've also expanded their haunt to include a creepy, fog-filled maze set in a make-believe cell block. And after the haunt, there's the ever awesome Abington Ale House, just a short walk across the parking lot, to retire to for beer and food. Om nom nom...

Fright Kingdom (Nashua, NH)
Yeah, this one's in our backyard. Not our actual backyard, but sort of down the street from us. And in the interests of full disclosure and integrity, I should point out that we have worked there in the past. But that doesn't take away from the fact that this one is a can't-miss. Like Barrett's, Fright Kingdom is another haunt veteran. But if you want to go somewhere that has the complete haunted attraction experience, you must go here. Creepy manor? They got it. Freaky-ass clowns? Check. Vampires that don't sparkle? Oh yeah. Zombies? A whole barracks full of them. Blackout Maze? Yeah they have one. Fright Kingdom has something for every horror phobia that you or that really jumpy friend of yours could possibly have. Add to this an awesome Monster Midway with food, games, special guest celebrities, and zombie dancers, and the experience is complete! Add the fact that it's right off the highway (Route 3), and the entire thing is indoors (no worries about  cold and/or rain), and you get a haunted attraction that gives you more boo for your buck!

AAAAAA! It's coming right for us!

Haunted Overload (Lee, NH)
Overload is right. Holy crap. Take a stretch of woods belonging to a farm. Decorate it with HUGE props of skulls, pumpkins, hideous tree-things. Add some extremely effective actors. Put up some dark shacks and tunnels to walk through along the long, dark, twisted path. The resulting concoction is a horror overload to your senses, and a screaming good time for all. You must check this one out, but only if you want some highly effective scares. The scenes were definitely more actor-driven than prop-driven, but the props did have a more "organic" feel to them, conveying a very convincing "creepy nature" vibe. If the only negative you can come up with for a haunt is that they sold out of your t-shirt size, well, that's saying something!

 So there you have it. Our favorite five. Go to any or all of them, and your Halloween season experience will be enriched and unforgettable. You'll also end up going back year after year, so beware: these five are habit-forming.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A-Rod Sues Jason Varitek: "It's all his fault"

Om nom nom...
NEW YORK- The saga of New York Yankees third baseman, steroid user, and noted sociopathic narcissist Alex Rodriguez took another odd turn yesterday when he announced that, in addition to suing the MLB, the Yankees, and the Players' Union, Rodriguez has decided to file suit against former Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.

Alex Rodriguez, also known as A-Rod, A-Roid, A-Fraud, A-Hole, Slappy, Slappy McBluelips, Mr. Madonna, and Dumbass, is embroiled in a PED controversy that threatens to tarnish the legacy of disgust and contempt that he has worked so hard to foster during his illustrious career with the New York Yankees.

"Alex claims that all of his problems began in 2004 when Varitek tried to force him to eat a glove on national television during the 2004 season," Bobby Shill, a spokesweasel for Rodriguez announced yesterday during a press conference. "It was at this point that A-Rod's psyche was so irrevocably damaged that he had no choice but to turn to performance enhancing drugs to make himself better, which of course he didn't actually take. On purpose. He was tricked. He didn't do it. He didn't know the stuff was illegal. Which he didn't take. A big scary monster did it."

According to the wording of the suit, Jason Varitek caused Rodriguez "irreparable harm to Mr. Rodriguez' self-esteem and mentally unhinged him, forcing him to commit unsportsmanlike acts that he would otherwise not do, if there was any chance he'd get caught."

The suit further alleges that after the catcher's mitt made contact with his teeth, Rodriguez developed "an unhealthy obsession for beef jerky and other forms of stringy aged meat products", citing not only the possibility that Varitek had rubbed barbecue sauce on his mitt, but also offering a possible explanation for why Rodriguez formed an ultimately destructive relationship with Madonna.

A-Rod took time out from a recent posing session for a new portrait depicting him as a minotaur. "It doesn't matter that I eventually went on to single-handedly win the World Series for the Yankees in 2009, and won the love, respect, and admiration of every fan and player in baseball. Jason got inside my head and really messed me up."

Rodriguez also offered a hint that if his current defensive strategy fails, he intends to prove that all wrong-doing was in fact committed by his evil counterpart from the Mirror Universe, as depicted in the original Star Trek series. "My evil counterpart is clever," Rodriguez admitted. "He even shaved off his evil counterpart goatee in order to pass for me!" Rodriguez will attempt to prove that every time he did something good, it was the "real" him, managing to somehow overcome his evil opposite and take his life back, while every time something questionable occurred, it was the evil Mirror-A-Rod regaining control.