Month: November 2012

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

There are several reasons why I love being a sports fan.  Some of them have to do with the characters who have kept me a fan for such a long time.

The New York Rangers had Chief, now they have Homeboy Larry and the rest of the crew in the 400s.  The Mets have had so many characters in their fan base, it’s ridiculous.  Cow-Bell Man, Tie Guy, Pin Man, several others.  Hell, even Mr. Met is awesome.

Of course, the Jets have Fireman Ed, or “had” because he has retired his fireman’s helmet and will no longer do the J-E-T-S chant at home games.  While he’ll still attend “incognito” (I used to know his crew back in the day, so it’s possible I’ll know who he is without the helmet), you won’t have Ed Anzalone to kick around anymore.

To the Jets fans who screamed him off to the point where he did not want to do it anymore, I say – YOU ALL GET WHAT YOU DESERVE.

This shitty team we have.  YOU DESERVE IT.

The “little brother” moniker.  YOU DESERVE IT.

All the jokes made at the expense of the Jets.  YOU DESERVE IT.

Notice I didn’t say that **I** deserve it.  I consider myself a mild-mannered Jets fan, if there is such a thing.  I will cop to being a loudmouth at times, usually at Rangers and Mets games especially.  Jets fans are funny, and I found that I identified with them more than others.  Probably because a lot of the roots are from Shea Stadium, a place that I grew up.

What I noticed about Mets fans is that they were working class, they had hearts of gold.  Like firefighters.  And guys like Fireman Ed.

Being a Jets fan is more than I can bear sometimes.  I’ve always kind of liked the culture of being a Jets fan.  We have a reputation of being rowdy, uncouth, loudmouths but most of all, we are nothing else but loyal.  The amount of infighting though has given me pause.  Hell it’s even given Jet Fan #1 Fireman Ed pause.

Being visible gives way to getting a lot of flak.  Fireman Ed gets a lot of flak.  With great visibility comes the necessity of a thicker skin.  And I dunno, I guess he gets it from everyone, fans and non-fans alike.  And those on the outside, who consider him a “mascot” or a “shill” or even “how difficult is it to get a cheer down during games,” I had the following from my friend @Swirlywand on Twitter describe what it was like without him.

I’ve given my dad lots of shit for making me the sports fan I am today.  Though in some ways, I’d be a totally different person (and possibly, way more boring) than I am now.  Yet, a Mets fan is one thing (they were at least moderately successful when I was younger).  The Rangers another (they have a lot of history, though not exactly one of winning, I have seen a championship in my lifetime which is more than other generations can say).

The Jets?  I still cannot believe I fell for it a long time ago.

I have to laugh though.  A guy who wears a maligned quarterback’s number to a game, that he PAYS TO GO TO gets abuse from his OWN FAN BASE.

Let me tell you something.  I went to Seattle a few weeks back to see the Jets get their asses kicked by the Seahawks.  I knew there was a possibility they’d lose (more like a HIGH probability), but Seahawks fans were nice.  They bought me drinks.  They talked about the game.  I felt more at home at a road stadium than I do at MetLife Stadium.

Say what you want about Fireman Ed, that he’s a pussy somehow, that if he can’t take the heat, etc etc.  This guy was the heart and soul of a fan base that deserves SO much more from the front office, from the team, from the fucking owner.

I know the Jets are really bad.  Like major suckitude this year.  But the amount of infighting going on within the fan base is just wrong.

Fuck you all if you need to pick on a figure head of the team.  You want a better team?  Root for another one.  I don’t know what to tell you.  All I can say is I am ashamed of some Jets fans right now.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

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Smells Like Green Spirit

My husband and I get around.  We are sports fans and we LOVE to travel, therefore, we are traveling SPORTS FANS.

In the middle of all this comes the advent of social media, and we have friends in most of the states we visit.

Two baseball seasons ago, we visited Arlington, Texas, and we met some Mets fans from the San Antonio area.  When I told them we wanted to make it to a San Antonio Missions game simply to meet Ballapeño, their pepper-inspired mascot, they made it a point to mail us a stuffed critter replica.

Since then, Ballapeño Pepe Sanchez Gomez has taken a life of his own.

You won’t meet a bigger Jets fan than him.  He’s not only green but their quarterback is a Sanchez, a fellow Mexican-American.

Speaking of being a Jets fan, I often say that out of all the sports, I like football the least.  It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a game every now and then.  It’s just that I prefer baseball and hockey, and well, with hockey not being played any time soon…football is going to have to suffice.  Of course, the New York Rangers were my closest team winning a championship anytime in the near future.  But my football Jets…uh…yeah.  The furthest thing from it.  And it doesn’t seem like they’re interested in winning anything, let alone a stupid game, at all.  Just to, you know, torture me.

My husband, though, is a rare one.  He’s a Bronx boy who roots for the Mets, and his other two teams – basketball and football – have nothing to do with one another and have to do with serendipitous circumstances.  He happened to like John Stockton and Karl Malone, and roots for the Utah Jazz today as a result.  (True story, is that I also used to root for the Jazz, since they were the only team to play the Bulls it seemed when I really wanted Chicago to lose).

He happened to catch a playoff game in 1983 featuring the Seattle Seahawks.  It turns out it was their first.  He’s rooted for them ever since.

He also celebrated a milestone birthday this year.  Coupled with the Jets visiting Seattle to face his Seahawks this year, which like never ever happens, his birthday and me completing the marathon a week before (which did not go down, obviously), we figured a quick getaway to Seattle was in order.

I told Gal for All Seasons podcast regular “WHOOMP!” ThereItIs Jake that I wouldn’t mind if the Jets lost the game we were going to — I mean, a team HAS to lose right? (no one told that to San Francisco this weekend though) — but that the Jets would probably win just to fuck with me.

Well they didn’t, and even the TD they scored was completely by accident.  In fact, good friend Wooooo was nice enough to send this picture to remind me of how annoying this game was for a visiting Jets fan.

I digress.

When I was in high school, a music movement called “grunge” infiltrated our vocabulary and our ears.  This movement was based in the Pacific Northwest region, and most importantly, Seattle.  Being a huge music fan, I always made it a point to want to travel to Seattle, I just never had a reason to go.  I guess that it’s unfortunate that there will be a few states in the Union that I’ll never visit, simply because there is no baseball or the Mets won’t be visiting that year.

I’m weird.

But Seattle has baseball…so that I haven’t made it to Safeco Field at least just once yet surprises even me.  But I had no reason not to go this time.

I had never followed my football team on the road.  I had never been to Seattle.  My husband will only turn 40 once.  Therefore, it was on.

On Friday, our first full day in the caffeinated city (where I had a hard time finding a place that was non-Starbucks), we decided to do stadium tours of both Safeco and CenturyLink.  On the light rail over to the stadiums area (they are little spitting distance from one another), we met some other Jets fans in from out of town.  Though they lived on the west coast now (California), they were from Long Island.  And up to see the Jets play.

On the CenturyLink tour, we met another couple from New York where the wife was a Jets fan and the husband was a Seahawks fan.

I thought…it was nice to see others traveling to see their teams play.  No matter what side of the fence they were on.

But people were still surprised we traveled that far.  Especially with the chance of one of our teams losing.  Here’s my thoughts on that: one will have to lose.  I travel all over to see my teams play, and there’s a 50/50 chance they may lose.  I make my peace with it before I travel.  There’s more to it than just my team winning at that point.  It’s not like the Jets are going to the playoffs or anything that this game was a must-win.

So I got a drink out of it.  A few, actually.

Jets fans are known to be a little bit on the uncouth side,  a tad rowdy, and lots of fun.  I know there’s also a bit of a reputation of us being douchebags (it’s true, but let’s be fair – ALL fan bases have them), so I was curious to see how we’d be on the road.

One of the things I noticed first off, though the stadiums are in an industrial and underdeveloped area of what is known as “SoDo” in Seattle (technically borders the area), there is not a lot of parking available.  I remember reading a few years ago that Seattle is the worst state for traffic in the 50…I didn’t drive, but I can attest that it didn’t look pretty to drive around in some areas.  Kind of reminded me of Boston, essentially one highway in and out of the city.  Anyway, the next time New York fans complain about how expensive it is to park for baseball games will get smacked upside the head by me.  Parking — not even in PRIME LOTS — can cost upwards of $40-50 for events.  Talk about price gauging, hubby noticed that any other days (since we were there two days before the game), it’s like EIGHT BUCKS.  Plus, much of the prime location parking lots are covered.  Therefore, that means not lots of tailgating.

Part of the charm of going to a football game is the tailgating.  In fact, when the city talked about moving the Jets to the West Side Stadium (that was never built) a few years ago, I was dead set against it.  The traffic for game days would be abominable but also, where would we tailgate?  It would be a travesty, really, because even if the team loses, the tailgates really are a lot of fun.  Losing that is like losing the green in our team colors.

But on game days, they do make accommodations for tailgating…they actually OPEN Safeco Field on the Center Field side to the Left Field concourse and have concessions open and sell beer for “happy hour prices.”  The admission is free, but of course you pay for food.  Keep in mind this is also west coast time.  By the time this game started, many of the east coast games had finished or were finishing.  There were TVs on the games around the horn.   It was a great atmosphere.  We were disappointed we were not aware of this soiree, as we would have LOVED to show up earlier to experience some of the charm.

Jets fans were there.  We were politely heckled, but mostly, everyone kept their cool.  I can’t say it would be like that in New York/East Rutherford.  I remember seeing the Jets play the Vikings in 2002, I think, and some dude wore Helga braids and Viking horns.  I thought he was cool, but the rowdy drunk Jets fans heckled him mercilessly, to the point where I thought the dude was going to punch someone.

   

For the most part, the fans were very chill here.  On both sides.  I introduced myself to other Jets fans, and got some pics as evidenced above.  It was like we survived a war or something, traveling to follow our teams even though there was a good chance they’d lose.

Of course, they did.  Which leads me to Mark Sanchez.  I have made no bones that I am a Sanchez chick.  He’s my guy, and I don’t get why the blame gets solely put on him.  Yes, there was that funny pic of the interception which in essence changed the game dynamic.  Yes, they scored on defense, and it was a complete accident.

He’s kind of like the David Wright of the Jets, if you think about it.  The kid with talent who is completely misused, but is a complimentary player, not necessarily the “star QB.”  That’s the difference between a Sanchez and say, a Tom Brady.  Brady can carry a team, even with shitty defense.  He’s that talented.  Sanchez is talented, but if you remember two years in a row, he helped bring the team the conference championship game two years in a row.  To paraphrase President Obama, he didn’t build that.  He didn’t do it on his own.  As quickly as the Jets rose to stardom, ownership was just as quick in dismantling it by letting key players leave and injuries.

Being a Mets fan, I guess I am a little sensitive to dismantling after a successful run with no reason or rhyme

Once the game was started, we sat in a section called the Hawks’ Nest.  This was in the end zone, and I guess I was expecting a bit of a louder more rowdy crowd.  You see, CenturyLink is called the “loudest stadium,” and holy shit, when the “12th Man Flag” was raised prior to kickoff, it was deafening.  I don’t know if the blowout was the reason or just maybe I got used to it.  But while passionate, the fans were also very laidback.  There were two Jets fans sitting in front of us — we were dining our guts, meanwhile Seahawks fans were talking us down from the ledge.  It was pretty comical.

 

The first pic of the Hawks Nest is from our tour.  On game day, our weather karma ran out and it misted most of the first half, to rain-rain-rain the second half.  When we left, we walked in the rain to Chinatown, the next neighborhood over.  It didn’t let up, even as we left that evening.

Another thing I learned on the tour was that being that CenturyLink is considered the loudest stadium, and trust me, it was, some players complain about playing there.

As I got on the elevator with some other fans (Jets fans also took the tour), I was like, “I’m sorry, but aren’t these guys professionals?  ‘WAH! It’s too loud! WAH!’ What a bunch of pussies.”  That got a good laugh.  But it’s true!  Don’t go into pro sports if you can’t take a few loud fans.  /RANT

So there’s not much else to tell.  The Jets lost, and looked awful in the process.  The Seahawks won, and the Jets fans around me all talked about how their defense was sick.  Which is funny – wasn’t that supposed to be the Jets’ MO?

 

We had hoped that after the game there would still be tailgates open, but I guess like most stadiums, they close down concessions after a certain time.  Most importantly, stop serving beer.  So we hung out in Chinatown for a few hours, had some food, had some beer, and then went home.

Experiencing a road football game was something different for me.  I’ve only gone to see my baseball team on the road, and even have gone to games for the hell of it, even if my team wasn’t there.  It never occurred to me to go to a football game.  Hell, even my hockey team I didn’t follow around all that often.  Just across the river to Jersey.

In any event, I’d definitely do a trip like this again.  I’ve heard great things about M&T Bank Stadium, where the Baltimore Ravens play, and I’ve wanted to check out Heinz Field.

All I can say is CenturyLink was a great place to watch a game – very spirited, fun stuff to do pregame.  Doubt I’ll be going back to Seattle anytime soon though.

I was disappointed though in the coffee and the music.  I didn’t find a good cup of coffee nor did I see any places to review local bands.   However, I was one of those late bloomers who didn’t appreciate Nirvana till it was too late, but I still love me some Pearl Jam.  We were also greeted by the voice of Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains at SeaTac Airport.

I came as I was, but forgot my flannels at home.

The Pain Is Only Temporary

Over two years ago, my friend Phil and I went to cheer our mutual friend Sharon on during the New York City Marathon.  While we cheered her on around Mile 23, I remembered two things.  One was that she seemed so happy to see familiar faces to give her enough of a boost to carry her to the finish, about 3.2 miles from that point.  The other was that Phil and I had both chatted about the thought of doing the marathon.

I was captain of the cross country team in high school.  And I was always knew that the New York City Marathon was something I always wanted to do.

Being in New York or close to it, the marathon is a large part of our identity, it’s a large part of the culture here.  Some people might look at 26.2 miles as a steep hill to climb.  When you’re here, though, it’s something that you consider doing without question.

I don’t know if it’s like that in any other city.  But to have enough clout to shut New York City down essentially for one Sunday a year so people could run the streets freely, I’d say that’s a pretty big event.  More so than say the Thanksgiving Macy’s Parade that just shuts down one avenue in midtown.

To give you an idea of what we did in those last two years to get in wasn’t short of challenging.  I’ve run three half-marathons.  I developed arthritis in my foot.  I hurt my back a number of times.  I managed to finish a 10K after busting my ankle two weeks prior.  I also was invited to several sports shows and podcasts to talk about my fundraising efforts, and was featured prominently at several websites for the fundraising efforts of Team McGraw.

As part of the New York Road Runners “9+1” program, you run nine races and volunteer for one.  That’s how Phil got in.  I decided to get in how Sharon did, and that was run with the Tug McGraw Foundation, a charity that supports brain cancer survivors, victims and those suffering from neurological disorders a better quality of life.

It was not only me.  My oldest childhood friend, Kara, had brain cancer directly affect people in her life.  She also volunteered for Team McGraw.  My friend from high school, Jay, decided to run for a children’s charity.  Between the three of us, we raised over $13,000 for these respective charities.  We are far from the only folks who did such a thing in conjunction with setting a personal challenge goal of completing 26.2 miles.  In fact, most runners get in via charity.

But it was more than that. When you are running in excess of 30 miles per week (but it’s not even running five miles per day six days a week, it’s more 8 miles one day, 12 miles another then two five mile runs), it’s easy to let the mental more than physical part get to you.

To have that taken away from you after putting so much of your life into it…and when I tell you how much I put into it…I couldn’t take a part time job for fear of losing it ANYWAY because I needed time off for the race and training.  I missed two family weddings.  I’ve missed even more family gatherings.  I had to put off seeing friends for months because of the grueling training schedule.  I didn’t drink (that’s not a bad thing for me, but bad for the liquor stocks).  I ran in heat and humidity that would make a Navy SEAL cry.  When I made friends with a slight Romanian woman who did her daily walks at Central Park, she told me I was doing a great thing and to keep it up.  I lost my short term memory and common sense. All I knew was my training schedule.  I knew, when November 4th came, that it would have been all worth it.

I guess this is where we say there are no guarantees in life.  Sure, I paid a $250 entry fee to cover the costs of fluids, nutrition, safety, police presence, road closures, loss of revenue, bib technology, that were already allocated to the race.   I know $250 doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but multiply that by 50,000 runners or so and that’s a large amount of revenue to the city and New York Road Runners.  Not to mention the businesses that generate a lot of revenue because of spectators.

That’s not to say I don’t agree with the decision to cancel the New York City Marathon in 2012.  I did agree with it.  I wish they had done it SOONER, as I know several people who came in on Thursday, from outside areas, in order to fulfill their charitable obligations.  In fact, the only reason I was so defiant is that if the city and NYRR TRULY BELIEVED that it would be a good thing for the city and that it wouldn’t impact recovery efforts, well, goddammit I wasn’t going to apologize for working my ass off this year and putting MY life on hold for a few hours of running a road race that in the grand scheme of things is small change.  Especially with the devastation in my home state (New Jersey) and my adopted state (New York).

This was my story.  Thousands of other runners shared the same or similar stories.  I was shocked by the amount of scapegoating involved in the race itself.  I understand it needed to be cancelled or postponed (the reason for cancelling outright was due to city logistics, getting the elite runners back here and even weather conditions outside of, you know, a fucking hurricane at the end of October).  What I didn’t get was the scapegoating.  There were people and things to demonize.  Don’t demonize the runners.

So now, I have to rethink my philosophy on life.  My philosophy has been to help others.  To put a cause or a mission ahead of myself in order to help those less fortunate.

It hit close to home this week too.

I had been running for a brain cancer charity.  The Mets lost two icons to brain cancer, one they honored all 2012 season.

For me, it got personal.  My friend Kara, whom I’ve known since three years old, has lost two family members to brain cancer, and her father suffers from a neurological disorder.  My uncle passed away from a brain tumor.

Then I found out my friends Colleen and Jamie lost their 16 year old nephew to brain cancer this week.

Take that in for a second.  A 16 year old child (and I remember when he was friggin born) lost his life to brain cancer.  He wasn’t living in a storm-affected region, but it was still in the midst of chaos in our world, a 16 year old lost his life.

If there was a chance I could run, you goddamn better bet I was going to do it.

So now, four and a half months of hard work, three half marathons, tons of carbs later, a mission I’ve had since I was 16 (to run the marathon) was taken away from me by nature.  It is what it is, and I can’t do anything about it.

But what you can do – what we all can do – is volunteer. Get on lists, go to your local Red Cross, no matter what your denomination is, go to your local churches or synagogues.

Several of us did our part.  Don’t demonize people who were going to run to do their part for the spirit of the city.

I told one of my friends that 2012 hasn’t exactly been a great year for me.  From a sports fan perspective, it’s sucked.  The Mets are irrelevant, the Rangers lost to the Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals, now there’s a hockey lockout (and the Rangers are the closest team I have to ever winning a championship in my lifetime), the Jets suck, and now the Marathon can’t be held.  This one stings because it was the year I had looked forward to.  I also couldn’t find a full time job and had to start my own business.  I was so not ready for that (that’s actually been a bright spot for me, the business).  I left an apartment I loved because my husband and I needed to cut down on home expenses.  Now Hurricane Sandy has trashed the shore line I grew up in and has damaged a city that I have adopted as my own.

What’s next? Are the Mayans right?

The one thing I had to look forward to was the marathon.  And now that was taken away.

I’ve spent my life looking at the bigger picture of things, and have always taken things well even if they haven’t worked to my advantage.  I realize that the world isn’t all about me.  That’s something I learned early on, actually.

But this one, this one is going to sting for awhile.  I spent over 20 years getting mentally prepared for this, and I’m not doing this again.  I don’t have it in me.  I will have a big part of my life that’s unfulfilled because of it.  That may be hard for some of you to get and may tell me to get over myself.  Those who know me and love me will understand that about me.  I don’t really care.  I’ve spent most of my life looking at the larger picture, and now I’m allowing myself to grieve for everything that I’ve lost (not just from the marathon, but my memories of the shore and childhood) but for something that was out of my control.

Yet while I thought I had broken my foot (it was arthritis), while I was chugging along at mile 16 of 20 on some training runs, one thing I kept telling myself is that it was all temporary.  The pain is temporary.

With the craziness going on all around us, we’ll learn that we’re resilient, and that the pain will be temporary.

The pain will be temporary, even if we have to tell ourselves this every day for awhile.