Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More marathon observations

I picked up my wedding band in the South End last night and thought I'd head over to Copley Square to jump on the Green Line. Of course, since I worked yesterday I forgot about the little road race. But things were getting back to normal by then, with the streets reopening and everything. And though I haven't drunkenly watched the marathon in person in a few years now, two memories immediately surfaced:

As a kid, I remember watching the 6:00 news with their live reports from the route, and seeing all these people still running the thing (the first wave always completes it a little after 2:00). It always makes me a little sad, because these are the people who are not being cheered at Wellesley and not being watched on television… all the parties are over and everyone's either gone home or changed the channel. As if to emphasize this, the roads are now open and these poor runners have to keep to the curb, whereas earlier finishers had the luxury of not needing to be aware of passing traffic or oncoming headlights. And then there are the 11:00 live feeds, with people still going. Oh boy. Anyway, my heart always goes out to them.

And then there are the annoying astronauts. When people finish the race, all these handlers rush out to them to give them water and stuff, and to wrap them in those tinfoil-like blankets. I have no idea what they're for but there must be a scientific body-preserving effect attached. Great. But many runners are determined to wear these the entire rest of the day and night while walking around the city, in a very I-ran-the-marathon-and-you-did-not-because-I-am-hot-shit manner. Sorry, dude, I was busy drinking my ass off and not bleeding out of my nipples. Fight the real enemy!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pizzeria Uno? Cheesecake Factory? It must be the Boston Marathon!

The wedding is less than two weeks away and Saturday I had to pick up my new suit at the tailor. I brought it in last weekend and he told me to pick it up in a week, and since I was blinded by the quick turnaround I said "Great!" Wish I had consulted a calendar though (a Massachusetts or Maine calendar, that is), in which case I would have said "Great! But I'll come the following Tuesday instead, thanks."

For today is the regional holiday know as Patriot's Day. Otherwise known at my company as an optional holiday (used them up already, rats). Otherwise known in Lexington as Fuck You, Concord, We Started the Revolution Day. What this manufactured holiday has really become, though, is Boston Marathon Day. (Also, Crazy-Early Red Sox Game Day.) It is truly shocking what happens to this city every year for a few days—it gets mobbed almost as badly as New Year's Eve, with Back Bay close to non-navigable.

So that greeted me Saturday. Not only were they setting up the bleachers in front of the library and closing off streets (thankfully I don't live around there anymore), but the mob was out. International mobs too, you can tell by how rude and oblivious they are. Say what you will about Americans, but for the most part we are a friendly and courteous collection of people. We generally take our backpacks off in the subway and walk in single-file on the sidewalk instead of side by side, thereby blocking people who might need to pick up his suit before he starts slugging everyone. Plus (again, for the most part) our sunglasses are not nearly as ridiculous as everyone else's.

Never mind. Visiting Americans and non-Americans alike were flocking to the chain restaurants. The tailor is right above a Pizzeria Uno on Boylston Street, a block from the finish line, and apparently everyone was afraid they'd lose their prime real estate if they ventured farther than that. So yeah, I had to plow through a crowd of people just dying for some deep-dish, or otherwise too lazy to see if this "Boss-tin" has any other restaurants.

And they do… they also have a Cheesecake Factory! After picking up the suit and getting the hell out of there, I went to the Prudential Center mall because I still needed to get shoes for the big day. (No luck. I've determined that my fashion tastes run about a year or two behind, because I was and still am looking for some square-toed shoes. Unfortunately the style now seems to be sissy pointy-toed things. Also, my initial suit idea was for one with four buttons, and several people came just short of laughing in my face. Ah, fat cats.) So after recognizing that Johnston & Murphy and Florsheim are stores that I will never again patronize (not that I ever did, but I had high hopes because they sound like good shoe-brand names) I decided I would rather go home and drink beer (perhaps I could have borrowed one of the dozens of fanny packs I saw that afternoon and stuffed a couple of drinks in there). Of course, the Prudential subway stop is adjacent to the Cheesecake Factory, and there was another lazy mob waiting to eat exactly what they could eat at home. Even though there have to be a hundred restaurants within five blocks of there. Side streets and quaint neighborhoods be damned, I guess.

Now, I understand the safe familiarity of a chain restaurant—wasn't that the idea behind McDonald's in the first place, and didn't that work out alright?—but if I'm visiting San Francisco or Chicago or something I really hope I'm bold enough to look for something with a little more local flavor.

Like Chili's!

Monday, April 2, 2007

This guy here, this is the guy

I'm a big fan of the Fire Joe Morgan blog. What a stiff. But his suckiness honestly doesn't bother me because I never watch a non-Red Sox baseball game and therefore I'm rarely put upon by network broadcasters, only when the Sox are in the playoffs or on national TV (I wanted to set Joe Buck and that cretin Tim McCarver on fire in 2004). So the only way Morgan affects my life is when the FJM guys skewer his abilities, and for that alone I hope he never actually is fired. Or, at least, not until after this internet fad passes.

My real Joe Morgan is Joe Theismann, a.k.a. The Loudmouth Joe Theismann. Needless to say I was pleased with last week's decision to replace him in the Monday Night Football booth, because football is something I do watch even if the Patriots aren't playing. (I don't like Ron Jaworski either, but he's not as reprehensible… yet.) MNF has never been much of a big deal to me: too many commercials, too many celebrity interviews, too much Hank Williams, Jr. And every announcer I've ever liked—Boomer Esiason, Dan Fouts, post-scandal Frank Gifford, even Dennis Miller (the broadcast is a giant variety show anyway, so why not do it right?)—has been pushed out. Unless it's a big game, I'm unlikely to tune in just to spend most of the night yelling at the moronic analysts. Who needs that?

Still, I was intrigued last year when ESPN threw Tony Kornheiser in the booth. I'm a fan of him and Michael Wilbon on Pardon the Interruption but I was skeptical. Turns out they stuck him with a dud (Mike Tirico) and a loudmouth (The Loudmouth Joe Theismann) and he essentially sucked right alongside them. Besides, who honestly tunes in to televised sports based on the announcers? I never once watched a game because some dude was calling it.

Today it's too easy to watch whatever game you want and just mute the TV to avoid the nonsense altogether. If you're lucky you can turn on the radio and listen to those guys (always superior) and sync up the broadcasts. Difficult considering broadcast delays, even with DVRs, but it can be worth the hassle.

It's remarkable how much money and effort networks invest in these bozos, and in the seeming importance of maintaining consistency from season to season—as if I'm going to accidentally throw my hat out the window when Stephen Gostkowski scores three points unless John Madden clarifies that it's called a field goal and not a hat trick. These people have no bearing at all on the game itself (except for those pointless/priceless six-second interviews at the end of the half which succeed only in making the losing coach even angrier). They screw up a lot (one of the benefits of instant replay is hearing these guys make a definitive statement like "Oh, he clearly stepped out of bounds there, Jim", seeing on the replay that the player actually managed to stay in bounds and then listening to the dead air of an unacknowledged mistake). They think we repeatedly care that such-and-such-player's dying parents are in the stands. They think we're just as absent-mindedly taking in the action as they are, when instead we're curious about the specific game-oriented things that they aren't discussing (questioning coaches' decisions, recognizing how much or little respect a defense is giving a particular offensive player, wondering if Marty Schottenheimer was told before the game that someone dunked his headset in a bucket of hepatitis C). And half the time they're openly anticipating the moment when they have to plug Survivor or throw it back to the studio for a highlight. It's all a giant clusterfuck that gets in the way of enjoying a game.

The Sports Guy complains about announcers a lot and his assessments are usually on the mark, so I apologize if I accidentally recycled some of his sentiments. Last week—or at least I read it last week—he had some choice words about Billy Packer doing the college hoops tournament. I can't say one way or the other because I haven't really watched any, and the little I have has been at a bar where I couldn't hear anything (yet I still followed the games… somehow??), but he's probably right. And it's not a coincidence that the worst offenders are usually the ones who have been doing it the longest.

So remember, as you watch the Sox (or whomever) over the new and endless baseball season and as you suffer through Don Orsillo's boot-licking fanboy routine and Jerry Remy's cigarette-hack laughter (or the local equivalent): the mute button is your friend. Just have that instant-replay button handy, too, in case they show an old clip of some Redskins quarterback's knee being destroyed while he hollers out in agony. Because he'll never be more coherent or incisive again.