Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time Out

For the next couple of weeks, I plan on only occassionally making use of the Internet, largely because I can no longer differentiate between my own ideas and the web's. I need a break from blogging and Tweeting and what has become a desperate, semi-daily search for something of note about which to write. (Early morning check-ins with Google analytics have grown tedious, and tedium, it's been said, is the worst pain.)

There are, you'll be happy to know, still tons of wonderful and timely and hilarious subjects or public misadventures and humiliations still waiting to be found online, but I'm not particularly interested in finding them. At least not now.

I knew it was time to unplug when my friend John tried his hand at writing 30 posts in 30 days. Though he's off to a wonderful start, the idea of undertaking a similar exercise here, frankly, exhausts me. My eyes cross at the thought. I'm simply not up to the task, which is I why I'm going offline.

I leave you with My Morning Jacket's "Circuital," the eponymous first single off the band's forthcoming album.

Friday, April 22, 2011

An Easter Story

In Easters past, my mother used to cut out bunny footprints for my sisters and I to follow to our Easter baskets, which were usually hidden in dark corners of our house, like the laundry room or mud room. Places we weren't normally allowed in or rarely visited under normal circumstances. It was a cute idea, but my mother had no sense of scale. The footprints were probably a size 12. Because I was a literal-minded child, these enormous bunny paws naturally terrified me. All I could think about was a 7-foot bunny skulking around my house, while I slept unprotected, in my jammies, down the hall.

With that in mind, take a look at Funny or Die's slideshow of disturbing Easter Bunnies and may the Resurrected Christ have mercy on your soul.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Capital Punishment

I went to the Rangers game last night. Oof. Thank the Virgin Mother I'm only a casual fan, otherwise I might still be trembling under the covers this morning. I have yet to hear from my friend, a lifelong fan--and season ticket holder--who spent most of the second overtime with his head in his hands.

"What a bad loss," he kept repeating in the crowded stairwell after the Capitals came back from a 3-goal deficit to take a 3-1 series lead. "What a bad loss."

It was. Such a shame, too, because the night held so much promise, so much fun. Stirred by the team's exciting victory in game 3, the Rangers faithful was in fine form. We had a point to prove to Bruce Boudeau, the Capitals' head coach who called Madison Square Garden a dump. He also said it wasn't loud. He might as well have called Mark Messier soft. His insults would not go unpunished.

Through the opening minutes of the first period, I couldn't hear the whistle. I could hear only the steady rumble of the crowd and the hectic breathing of those around me. The upper sections shook. It was special.

After the Rangers' third goal, which came seven seconds after their second, the Garden popped. We chanted "Can You Hear Us?" We slapped hands. We hugged. We forgot these were the Rangers.

Washington came out with a charge, scoring less than three minutes into the third period. They scored again about a minute later. A three-goal lead was suddenly down to one. A few minutes later, Marcus Johannson deflected in the equalizing goal. The game had lost its fun, and the crowd had lost its voice.

For the rest of the game, now nothing more than perfunctory, the Caps circled the Rangers zone. They were like sharks, and the vulnerable Rangers their chum.

"I think we got tight," Chris Drury said after the game. "In between the second and third periods, we talked about staying with our game. We just got away from it. We weren't making plays, we got tight and we were on our heels."

Twelve minutes into the second overtime, Jason Chimera poked one past Henrik Lundqvist after Marian Gaborik, the Garden's scapegoat-in-residence, misplayed the puck. This after Lundqvist, who saved 49 shots, stoned Alex Ovechkin on an overtime breakaway. "It's tough," Lundqvist said. "So, so tough."

"We got beat," Rangers coach John Tortorella said, "by a nothing goal."

A nothing play, a bad loss, a night ruined.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

NBA Playoffs

I shouldn't do this, especially after my atrocious showing in March, but I can't help myself. Playoff predictions are a particular itch I can't help but scratch. And scratch I will.

Out West, I like the Spurs to beat the Grizzlies in a surprisingly tight series, and the Lakers to make quick work of the hobbling Hornets. Incidentally, I like Phil Jackson to take a quarter or two off each game, just to mess with Hornets first-year coach Monty Williams. "Why won't he call time out," Williams will wonder. "He knows he's losing, right?"

Meanwhile, in what's sure to be the most entertaining first-round series, the Thunder will edge out the Nuggets and their roster of former Knickerbockers (Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari and Al Harington.) Six games sounds about right, with an overtime thriller thrown in for good measure.

The Mavericks should get by the pesky Trailblazers, who will stay in every game but won't be able to get over the hump. I say, Mavs in five. Like my friend John, I can't figure out why most experts are picking the Blazers.

Here in the East, I like the Bulls over the Pacers, and the Heat over Philly. These two series will end in four and five, respectively.

The Magic will get by the Hawks, but it won't be easy. I love Atlanta's front line, but almost nothing else about Atlanta.

Finally, I have to go with the Celtics over my Knickerbockers. I wish this were different. I wish the Knicks were deeper, and better defensively. But they're not. (Ironically, the Knicks' chances would have greatly improved, I believe, with Cory Brewer, the defensive-oriented wingman they released a few days after acquiring him from the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the 10-player Carmelo Anthony trade. C'est la vie. )

Despite the Knicks' best efforts, the Celtics will advance, primarily because the 34-year-old Chauncey Billups won't be able to keep Rajon Rondo in front of him. And Paul Pierce just kills the Knicks. While my heart says Knicks in six, my head says Celts in five. I just don't like this match up. If they were facing the Heat in the first round, I would have picked the Knicks in five, yes, five, but the Celtics, with Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Rondo, Glen Davis and Jeff Green, are too deep, too experienced and--oh, how I hate this term--battle-tested for the Knicks to beat in a seven game series.

In this last instance, and this last instance alone, I truly hope I'm wrong.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Faa

Ed Ford, the longtime superintendent of recreation in Jersey City known throughout Hudson County simply as the Faa, died Tuesday. He was 65. The Star-Ledger's Steve Politi measures the Faa's legacy:
He was, officially, superintendent of recreation in Jersey City and a longtime baseball scout, but stopping there would be like calling P.T. Barnum a man who worked in a tent. The Faa was the ultimate Jersey City character, a golf-cart-driving, Buddha-shaped needler who would wear a Hudson Catholic T-shirt to a St. Peter’s Prep practice just to bust the coach’s chops.

He was a muck-raking columnist for the Jersey Journal, setting the agenda in the Hudson County sports scene for three decades — and always referring to himself in the third person. “Just another football game?” he once wrote the week of a big game. “The Faa thinks not!”

He was the kind of guy who had friends in high places and low places, from janitors to pro scouts to legends. Dean Smith, the Hall of Fame basketball coach at North Carolina, became close to the Faa when he came to Jersey City to recruit high school star Mike O’Koren. “Let me ask you a question,” Smith once asked the Faa. “Is everyone in Jersey City like you?”
But this, above anything else, is how the Faa should be remembered: He helped people. They were usually inner-city high school baseball players with problems at home, kids who had nowhere else to turn or needed a second chance from someone who’d be tough on them when they needed it.
I never met the Faa. I only occassionally brushed up against his legend. I briefly worked at the "Jersey Journal," but the Faa submitted his columns, if I remember correctly, over the phone, probably from his cluttered trailer in Caven Point, just on the marsh side of the Liberty Science Center. He was like that, a character straight out of a Joseph Mitchell story.

Around Hudson County, stories of the Faa's exploits were as common as political indictments and potholes. There was the time the Faa tossed a hectoring nun out of a gym, back when he was still refereeing basketball games for Jersey City. He also, I learned recently, once threw out Bobby Hurley's wife from a St. Anthony's game. When she told him he couldn't throw her out because her baby son--Danny--was with her, the Faa threw Danny out too.

My favorite Faa story occurred, I believe, in the summer of my sophomore and junior years of high school. A classmate lived across the street from the Faa in downtown Jersey City. Because my friend was a talented baseball player, he and the Faa forged a pretty close relationship. And by relationship, I mean the Faa would drag my friend to the batting cage or ball field at all hours. He would wrap on my friend's bedroom window and holler, "Grab your stuff." My friend came to expect his visits. One morning, the Faa came knocking early, a little after sunrise. The Faa asked my friend to open the trunk of his car. Inside was the Stanley Cup, just another morning in the Faa's Jersey City.

(Photo: Ed Ford in his trailer at Caven Point, June 2, 2007, by Mia Song, The Star-Ledger)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Baseball Photos by Leslie Jones

The shadows, the arms, the spikes in the air: One of many images captured by Leslie Jones, a staff cameraman for the Boston Herald-Traveler between 1915 to 1956. Recently, the Boston Public Library digitized more than 36,000 of Jones' photographs. This one of an unidentified Chicago Cub sliding into home against the Boston Braves. For more images from the collection, which the library is still curating, click here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Knicks Beat Sixers, Reclaim Sixth Seed

With two more wins, the Knickerbockers will secure the franchise's first winning record since the 2000-2001 season, Jeff Van Gundy's final full year as coach. This really was a lost decade, wasn't it?