Wednesday, February 07, 2007

39 and holding

That's right today I officially begin my year in Pre-40's Purgatory; I only have one more year that I can say I am thirtysomething, 39 & holding, that 30 rocks!

The thirties are quite a decade in a person's life. The immaturity and impetuousness of the teens & twenties fall by the wayside, replaced by a grizzled, knowing immaturity and impetuousness that comes with onset of being considered 'old' for the first time.

When I turned 30 I didn't have time to realize what was happening since my wife threw me a great surprise birthday party. Not only was I completely taken off guard when I saw all my friends and family at the house that night, but by the time enough adult beverages had been consumed and the exotic dancer left I didn't dwell on the fact that I had officially entered my thirties.

No, that realization hit home when I reached the dreaded 35. Why was 35 worse than 30 for me? Aside from the fact that there were no strippers it was the realization that I had officially run aground on the sandbar that is middle age. Halfway home. Glass half empty. Time ticking away....

I stumbled around in that state of depression for about a week or two before I shook it off by reminding myself "hey, at least I've still got 5 years till I turn 40!" Now that grace period has dwindled to a year, which makes me feel like more of a lame duck than George Bush.

But something positive thing did come out of the last decade: I found out that family is more important than anything else. Thanks to eye-opening events like 9/11, the Iraq War and even mid-January Florida tornadoes that wipe out dozens of sleeping citizens in the blink of an eye, I know that it is crucial to spend as much time with your family while you can.

So I guess my 30's weren't all bad.
Since this is 'my big day' I decided to post about some things that interest me. For a change.

I read a couple of amusing pieces today on Sportscenter anchor Stuart Scott on Deadspin. Let me start off by saying I HATE STU SCOTT WITH A PASSION. I find his condescending tone, wanna-be-ghetto-hip slang and annoying catchphrases to be an immense distraction to what the man is supposed to be doing for a living- anchoring a sports news show.

Instead the ultracocky 'smoov brova ' hands out cute sayings like Mike Vick hands out STDs and after a few too many "cooler than the other side of the pillow"s, "holla at a brother"s and "hater in the house"s I want to poke my eardrums out with a letter opener. Not to mention the horrifically overplayed "Boo-Yah!" Of course Stu thinks his "ridickified" lingo is the hippest thing since Chuck D's lyrics, in turn making him the baddest brother in broadcasting. To me, and evidently many others, it makes him sound like a Tourrette's victim who swallowed a ebonics dictionary, combined with a nauseating desire to come off like Jamie Foxx. Dude, you're from a middle class family and went to North Carolina. You ain't street so please stop trying to be!

Some of my Stu Scott dislike comes from the time I saw him when I was in Denver for the 1998 Baseball All Star Game. My buddy Bill not only had tickets to the game at Coors Field but due to some work connections also scored passes to the Players Party at the convention center. It was incredible to see so many great athletes under one roof: Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, George Brett, Jeter, A Rod (when he was with Seattle, before everyone hated him), tiny Vinny Cashstealer, Juan Gonzalez, Pudge Rodriguez. The lineup was incredible. Everywhere I turned was another player just hanging out, chatting or getting a drink.

Anyway, a bunch of ESPN guys were in town (I met Dan Patrick on the street the day before) and soon enough Stu-ya walks in acting like the pimp of the prom. I mean you would have thought the guy was Denzel, Jordan, and Tiger all rolled into one. As people recognized him he gave the slight head nod as if to say "thanks for acknowledging me but I'm not really gonna return the favor" and pimp walked his way to a private area, ostensibly so he wouldn't be harassed.
The first thing I thought when I saw this was "what a douchebag. You're a freakin' cable sports anchor, not a real athlete or celebrity, so get over yourself."

Which brings me to the point of my story. As I'm checking out Deadspin I read a piece about how Stu is ticked at one of their columnists for releasing an article about Stu trying to score a booty call while in Miami for the Super Bowl. Evidently Stu, married with 2 kids, had no desire to have this juicy bit of info plastered on the world wide web.

Too late, Stewie. Not only is the cat out of the bag but you'd better start coming up with some clever phrases for "brother kicked out of his crib with no place to crash 'cept a hoochie mama's couch." What a loser this guy is.

To top it all off I found another post on the site from last August about a "group" that had come up with a disparaging song about Stu. The commenters ripped the guys for many obvious reasons, and although their singing was American Idol-reject lame, the message was spot on. Listen and enjoy it, and let's all hope Stu does something to get himself booya-ted from SC soon, so I can start watching it again.

Tonight for my birthday present I get to watch another installment of the classic North Carolina/Duke college hoop rivalry. In case you didn't know this about me yet I am an avid Duke fan. I know what you are thinking, "how can a Sox/Pats fan like a team that is often referred to as the Stankees of college ball?" Well it began in the mid-'80s, when I was knee-deep in hoops hysteria thanks to a guy named Larry and a team known to wear Green. Along with the NBA I also enjoyed college hoops a great deal, but as most Mass residents will attest to college sports takes a back seat to the 4 pro teams in the region.

Although I watched games every week I had no hometown team to root for; BC had a just few decent seasons when Dana Barros was there, and this was before UMass went on its bought-&-paid-for run to national prominence. So when I watched games each week who was there to watch but Duke? As the great coach Pete Gillen once said about the Blue Devils propensity for appearing on national television: "certainly Duke is Duke...they're on TV more than Leave it to Beaver reruns."

So began a decades long infatuation with the boys from Durham, starting from the days of Mark Alarie, Danny Ferry & Johnny Dawkins through the Laettner-Hurley-Grant Hill era and the Brand-Battier-Jason Williams regime right up till the recently concluded JJ Redick/Shelden Williams age. There have been so many great players, great games, and such a clean history associated with the Blue Devils program that I personally can't see why the entire country hates them. But I guess that's what fans of the Stanks say.

And tonight is another installment in one of sports greatest rivalries when the Dukies take on the Tarheels, their arch enemy whose school is located just 8 miles down Tobacco Road from Durham. The Devils come into this game riding a two game losing streak, and both losses were last-second heart breakers: 68-66 at Virginia on a buzzer-beating shot and 68-67 at home to the Noles (the first ever win for FSU @ Cameron Indoor.) Both games ended with Josh McRoberts futilely attempting to hit a final shot, but as this team is so young it is still trying to find its footing in the rough & tough ACC.
As the tired saying goes you can throw out the records when the Devils and Heels go at it; the game often features fantastic finishes and 4 of the last 5 meetings have been decided by 5 points or less.

Whenever games like this come on there is always an outpouring of "best rivalries in sports" pieces, which of course got me thinking about my favorite rivalries. Here is my list of the best sports rivalries, past & present, in honor of tonight's epic contest.

Major League Baseball
ALL TIME & CURRENT: Red Sox Yankees
Sure I'm biased, being from New England and having been witness to hundreds of these contests myself, but anyone would be hard pressed to come up with two teams, cities, and fan bases that dislike each other more than these two. Maybe back in the day the Giants/Dodgers or Cubs/Cards were big time, but this one dates back to the early 1900's, festered throughout the century, and came to a head in that miraculous ALCS in 2004. You know, the greatest comeback in the history of sports.

This rivalry might just be the best in the history of sports as well.

ALL TIME: Dallas/Washington
CURRENT: Patriots & everybody
When teams are whining because you are celebrating too heavily you know the rest of the league can't stand you.

ALL TIME: Celtics/Lakers
This one is officially shot now that Celtics "fans" are rooting for Laker players.
CURRENT: David Stern/Fans
With players getting arrested every other week, getting in brawls the other weeks, and other players who admit to participating in the slam dunk contest just for the money, how can anyone tell if there is a rivalry worth watching now? Stern would have the fans think it's Lakers/Heat, but that made-for-TV rivalry is lamer than Battle of the Network Stars.

Who cares?

ALL TIME: Some will say Army/Navy, or Harvard/Yale, but I'll go with Ohio State Michigan
CURRENT: Ohio State/Michigan
The recent resurgence by the Buckeyes has only made this rivalry sweeter, or more bitter depending on your perspective. But as long as the keep churning out 1 vs. 2 shootouts, this one will stay at the top of the heap.

ALL TIME & CURRENT: Duke/Carolina
Storied history (dating back to 1920); close proximity; Hall of Fame coaches; stellar winning records; spotless academic records; myriad players make the NBA. This rivalry cannot be matched anywhere by anyone.

It simply is one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports.

And the 222nd edition should be no different.

Happy Birthday to me.

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