My 2012 In Pictures

I started this blog in January of 2012, thus marking a full year of its existence with this passing month.  I’ve yet to find any unifying purpose, other than an avenue of expression, and on some strange level communication.  But it continues to be a varied assortment of content that mirrors my predominant interest of the moment.  So with that in mind, I was cleaning and reorganizing some of the pictures I’ve taken over that year, and decided to publish many of the pictures that had not previously made the cut.

The pictures that follow tell only a fraction of the story I weaved over the last year, but my lack of professional training and reluctance to take pictures combine to scratch the surface in a provocative way.  I leave it to my visitors to draw from this post inspiration for their own adventure.

photo 1-25

The first picture I took with my new phone was just before the new year in 2011.  It was taken from the Embarcadero in San Francisco, CA, on a day that managed to beautifully combine fog and sunshine.

photo 3-25

A few days later, my 2012 began with the last game of the regular season for the Oakland Raiders.  The tickets were acquired in a way only described as “subversive”, and is a great story for another post.  Unfortunately, with a playoff trip on the line, the Raiders gave only a half-hearted effort and were defeated 38-26.

A couple weeks later I embarked on the first leg of a cross-country road trip, due south to Los Angeles to stay with friends.

photo 1-24

We hiked up Rocky Peak, just north of the San Fernando Valley.

photo 3-24

There are no pictures of the author within this blog, but the author’s shadow cuts a striking figure.

photo 2-23

Bobby and Cal.

photo 4-25

We stacked the cans as high as we could.

photo 2-22

As I wrote in a previous post, we visited the Valley Table Tennis Club in Reseda.  The owner, Mary, is one of the sweetest people I met along my travels.

photo 3-23

photo 4-24

Spent a good amount of time in San Diego.  Woke up on the beach this particular day.

photo 4-23

After I left SoCal, I headed east along Highway 10.  I didn’t take another picture until I sat down for a meal at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, TX.

photo 2-19

And I didn’t take another until I arrived New Orleans, LA.  I’ve already posted many of the best pictures from NOLA, but here are a few scraps and perhaps some retreads.

photo 4-17

photo 1-16

photo 1-17

photo 3-17

photo 4-20

photo 1-19

I left New Orleans, and continued along the Gulf Coast.  Slept on the beach again, this time in Biloxi, Mississippi.  I stopped in the Burris Farm Market in Loxely, Alabama.

photo 2-15

I bought some fresh strawberries and a peanut praline.

photo 3-16

I shot pool in Tallahassee, watched dog races in Palm Beach, and saw a Spring Training game in Tampa.

photo 4-16

photo 1-15

photo 2-14

I had a wonderful meal at a small cafe in Atlanta, GA.

photo 4-15

I headed north into Tennessee from Georgia, where I visited the home of country music, The Grand Ole Opry, and spent an afternoon on the Tennessee river.

photo 2-12

photo 1-13

photo 1-14

photo 4-14

In Clinton, Oklahoma, I met the sweetest little stray puppy ever.  No clues on that collar, and she trotted up to me while I was taking a walk through town.

photo 3-12

photo 2-11

She followed me all night, and a long-haul trucker who was staying at the same run-down 10-room motel and I fed her and played with her past midnight.

photo 3-13

The old man who ran the place took over, and said if he couldn’t find her owner he was taking her home.  I wonder if he did, and if she’s doing good.

photo 4-13

 

I named her Pea.

When summer rolled around, I got a job dealing poker in Las Vegas.  I took a flight to scout rooms and shares just before summer.

photo 4-12

photo 1-11

Travel tip: when guys in orange vests start taking panels out of the ceiling before you take off, it’s rarely a good sign.  We were duly unboarded, delayed, and assigned a different plane shortly after these pictures.

photo 1-10

Las Vegas is a fantasically unique place.  There is much, much more to Las Vegas than just meets the eye – it is a beautiful and fulfilling place, yet a harsh, unforgiving environment in so many ways.

photo 4-10

There are many different approaches to evolution for life in the desert.

photo 2-6

photo 1-7

photo 4-8

photo 3-7

While I was working at the World Series of Poker, famous player Scotty Nguyen invaded the employee break area to conduct an interview.

photo 3-10

photo 2-9

I also went to a number of Las Vegas 51s games – last year, the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, this year under new affiliation with the New York Mets.  I was lucky enough to catch star player Vladimir Guerrero on an injury-rehabilitation assignment.

photo 4-11

photo 3-11

In early October I found myself once again in Los Angeles, and fortunate enough to see a Giants-Dodgers game, my first game at Chavez Ravine.

photo 3-5

photo 2-4

Later in October I took a trip back home to the San Francisco Bay Area, in time for Game 1 of the 2012 World Series pitting the hometown Giants against the Detroit Tigers.  Without a ticket I made my way to McCovey Cove to take in the atmosphere, and I was not disappointed.

photo 1-3

The anthem wasn’t complete without a flyover.

photo 3-4

photo 4-4

Before the game started, this gentlemen decided he would climb to the top of Lefty O’Doul Bridge.

photo 2-2

The police did not approve of his decision..

photo 3-3

..but he doesn’t seem all that concerned by anything.  I wonder if they broadcasted the game in his holding cell.

photo 4-3

After the World Series, it was back to Las Vegas for the home stretch of 2012.  Before the football season ended I made it out to Sam Boyd Stadium to watch the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.

photo 4-2

photo 5-2

I also managed to have a winning day here and there.

photo 5

When the holidays rolled around, I headed to the Venetian Casino and Resort.  They put on a very pretty Christmas atmosphere.

photo 4-1

photo 5-1

photo 3

photo 2

And a few days later, when the grains of sand in 2012’s hourglass were all but gone, we gathered again in the same location to bid farewell to the old year and welcome in the new.

photo 1-20

photo 1-12

And that, as they say, is that.  I could scarcely have asked for a more fulfilling, eye-opening year.  I learned about people, and myself, and the world.  And I couldn’t be more excited for 2013, which promises to be an even greater adventure than the year past!

 

Advertisements

Fight Night, Cont.

Great day to be a combat sports fan!  Today’s card:

Nottingham, England
Carl Froch vs. Yusaf Mack

Los Angeles, California
Roman Gonzalez vs. Juan Francisco Estrada
Brian Viloria vs. Hernan Marquez

Atlantic City, New Jersey
Seth Mitchell vs. Johnathon Banks
Adrien Broner vs. Antonio Demarco

and, yeah, there is also UFC 154:

Montreal, Canada
Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit

TLH has a fight-day tradition for Carl Froch cards: look at pictures of Froch’s girlfriend Rachael Cordingley!

Exhibit A:

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Don’t Stop Believin’ Part II

The Giants won the freakin’ World Series!

There are three points to make in regard to the 2012 SF Giants.

– This was not 2010, and these were not 25 best friends.  No matter how many times they recited the company line and talked about how they all loved each other and how much fun they had playing together, it wasn’t really true.

For the most part, this team assumed the personality of its leaders – Buster Posey and Matt Cain.  One would be hard-pressed to find two more stoic, serious, quiet ballplayers.  They lead by example, a business-like demeanor, two men who are singularly focused on the job at hand, steady as trees rooted into the ground.

Many players identified with that approach this season – Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, to name two.  Angel Pagan is as intense and serious a ballplayer as there is, and Marco Scutaro’s modus operandi: make plays; say nothing.  But there was another distinct faction in the clubhouse, those goofy, loose jesters like Sergio Romo, Pablo Sandoval, and Brian Wilson.  And, if you can excuse the alliteration, I’m certain there was friction between these factions at points during the season.

One can easily see where the differing points of view would occur.  The buttoned-up professionals annoyed at the juvenile antics, and the loose goofballs chafed by the condescending looks.  Brian Wilson is especially of interest, being shelved by Tommy John surgery, his only contribution this season came in the form of irreverence.  Not everyone appreciates irreverence, especially in a pennant chase.  And it showed up at times, even if only through body language.

But is that it, you say?  A perception of two different approaches, and you’re ready to say everyone was at each others throats all year?

Far from it.  Consider all the other present factors that could cause hostility or resentment.  The first should be obvious: the Giants’ best player at the time, prized off-season acquisition and All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera – popped for a positive PED test 118 games into the season and suspended 50 games. After clinching the division, it was announced that Cabrera, though eligible, would not be included on the playoff roster.

You can be sure there was dissension in the ranks regarding this position, for two reasons.  First, Cabrera would likely be of assistance, batting .346 at the time of his suspension.  But perhaps more importantly, relief pitcher Guillermo Mota was in the SF bullpen at the time, having previously served 50 and 100 game suspensions for similar offenses.  Dues paid, he was in uniform.  Why wouldn’t Cabrera in turn be reinstated?

And speaking of performance, viewing performance in terms of salary was a harsh reality over the regular season – the top two 2012 salaries belonged to Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum.  That’s Tim Lincecum of the decreased velocity, 1st inning woes, and league-worst 5.18 ERA, and Barry Zito of the 58-69 record with San Francisco, nary an ERA under 4.03 in the first 6 years of his 7-year, $126 million contract.

That’s not to say the guys in the San Francisco clubhouse would hold a teammate’s contract against him.  I’m pretty sure everyone in the League accepts the realities of the sport.  But it is worth pointing out that the top two salaries belonged to the bottom two performers.  Zito had a way of appearing at times as though he wasn’t much personally affected by his struggles, and Lincecum had a habit of hiding under a hooded sweatshirt, perhaps coming off as aloof.

I’d like to think that a group of professionals wouldn’t harbor negative feelings towards these guys – but might it grate on me that they accounted for about a third of the total payroll?  Perhaps, it might.

In fact, little episodes across the season pointed to the lack of unity, hidden in the details.  Before the broadcast would break for commercial, a quick shot into the dugout sometimes revealed quarrels and tiffs.  Postgame handshakes were strained at times this year, as were dugout celebrations.  There were small, telltale signs that not everyone got along.  Add up all the unique factors, and yes, you might be left with a somewhat disjointed, fragmented clubhouse.

But that only begins to bring the conversation to the second point.

– And that point is, none of the above mattered.  Not even a little.  Not at all.  And the reason that none of it mattered is because when and where it counted most, the 2012 Giants are most exemplified by their catcher and Willie Mac Award winner Buster Posey.

That’s the Buster Posey whose contract was worth less that 5% of Zito’s this year.  Whose 2011 was abruptly and violently ended by a collision at the plate in May, left writhing on the field with a broken leg and torn ankle ligaments, his bright career suddenly in doubt.  Who, the following April, was unsure of how well he could rebound.  He went out and played 148 games in 2012, 114 at catcher.  Led the league in batting at .336, the first NL catcher since 1942.  24 HRs, 103 RBI.  The likely MVP.  Etc, etc.

But what Posey did in 2012 that won’t be on the back of his baseball card is what Giants fans will remember about this season.  He was the steady, calming influence.  He was the rock. Posey controlled the rhythm of the game, harnessed the energy of the moment, put his pitchers in a position to succeed.

There were times this summer that it seemed each game went through Posey, as though would have his say on its outcome, night after night.  Night after night he would show up to work, ready, steady, and approach every situation with the same tangible toughness and resolution.

And this attitude was pervasive.  It’s not an accident that the Giants overcame such insurmountable odds.  The 2012 Giants became an extension of Posey – approach every situation head-on, don’t back down, don’t give an inch.  You don’t come back from 0-2 and 3-1 deficits against playoff teams by being weak-willed and fractured, after all.

Somehow, no matter what was happening outside the lines, this team came together from the first pitch to the 27th out.  After the game, life was waiting.  But just like everyday people find a respite from real life in the escape of sport, this team did too.  They all made the decision that, no matter what, once the game starts, everyone pulls the rope in the same direction.  Show up to work.  Be ready, be steady.  Don’t give an inch.

When the Giants acquired Hunter Pence at the deadline, it was only appropriate.  He played a focused, intense game that immediately endeared him with the ‘serious sect’, while being unpredictable and irreverent enough to connect with the ‘wild bunch’.  He’s the Ferris Bueller of the 2012 champs – they all love him! He became a glue that kept the Giants from folding to the pressures.

By the end of the year, Pence was leading a unique pregame dugout ritual – a slow, building clap that swelled into a raucous storm of bodies and showers of sunflower seeds.  It had started as a way to keep the team loose, but it became in itself a metaphor for the team.  “It doesn’t matter how you got here,” it seemed to say as the most excitable Giants swirled in the eye of the storm and the more stoic players milled the edges, mentally preparing themselves, “what matters is that we work together, now, and don’t quit on each other.”

And when the shower of sunflower seeds ceded, it was time to go to work, together.

– If the 2012 Giants are an extension of Buster Posey, Buster Posey is an extension of Manager Bruce Bochy.  There’s not as much to say about Bochy as the rest of the amazing stories on this championship team, but then again, Bochy would probably prefer it that way.  He has always given all credit to his players and staff, despite being a tactically advanced and savvy manager.  But Bochy was as important to this title run as any player.

A former catcher, he spent 9 years in Houston, New York, and San Diego, and Posey’s calm behind the plate seems to reflect Bochy’s calm in the dugout.  It’s rare to see outbursts of emotion from Bochy – he’s inclined to say little in interviews, and poker-faced during every game.  His demeanor has always been even-keeled and steady, whether April or October.

(It should be said that during the 2012 postseason run, Bochy became more animated than is usual for him.  He was more excited in the dugout, more open with media, and he seemed to be almost rooting for his team.  It was a small pleasure to see Bochy smile, high-five, and clap at big moments.  I got the impression he really, truly enjoyed this season, and that he was more proud and satisfied this year than 2010.  Perhaps with one in the bag, he felt less pressure.  Who knows?)

And since his approach is so straight-forward and consistent, it can be buried in the sensationalism of a championship season, in the highs and lows.  Bochy, after all, does not subscribe to highs and lows.  So to find Bochy’s influence, his fingerprints, you have to look a little deeper.

After two titles, it’s inarguable that Bochy is a wonderful leader of men.  He seems to have an innate ability to rally his troops.  This Giants team played a particular brand of baseball, a blueprint that Bochy has employed for a long time, and one that has been studied and critiqued ad nauseum.  Pitching and defense, rinse, repeat.

Dominant pitching, good defense, and timely hitting are all nice concepts, but it takes an orchestrator to place the pieces properly, to time his moves with precision and reason.  Bochy’s 2012 team played the way he manages.  He was calm, prepared, and willing.

Throughout the regular season and playoffs Bochy steered the ship calmly.  He never wavered or showed weakness.  There was never any doubt who was in charge, and never any doubt as to the overall purpose – beat the other team.  And that didn’t only entail scoring more runs, not this year.  In 2012, beating the other team meant proving to them that you were more resilient, more dedicated, and more capable than the other team.

That’s the way Bruce Bochy managed, and that’s the way the 2012 Giants played.  Be ready.  Be steady.  Don’t give an inch.

Image

There are actually a couple more points to cover.

– Bruce Bochy has a lifetime contract to coach the Giants.  I said this after the 2010 season, and it goes double now. (consecutive life sentences?) First and foremost, he’s one of the great managers of his generation.  The numbers back that up, but the feel backs it up too.  That Bobby Cox aura.  Joe Torre. He will get the most out of his roster that can be gotten.  He maximizes his talent and helps them to succeed.  That’s a manager.

He’s also now brought two titles to a title-starved baseball town.  He is the culmination of over 50 years in San Francisco.  He will go down in Giants history and folklore.  Bruce Bochy’s name will never be forgotten by Giants fans.

And practically speaking, imagining the sequence of events that could possibly lead to Bochy’s firing or resignation is an interesting exercise.  Barring unforeseen circumstances, like criminal charges or health problems, what kind of baseball circumstances would demand his removal?  Would five consecutive 90-loss seasons, starting next year, oust him?  Perhaps, but perhaps not.  His seat might be hot.

How about five straight 100-loss seasons?  Perhaps, but perhaps not.  One must start to consider 6, 7, 8 losing seasons, or some strange unparalleled mediocrity, before Bochy’s firing would be considered.  But what are the chances that he embarks upon such a terrible string of seasons?  Incredibly, incredibly unlikely.  He’s not going to forget how to manage this offseason, nor will the roster be replaced by junior college players.  This team is prepared to succeed in the future.

So all that being said, it is now the Giants’ management’s job to make absolutely sure that he is never “Terry Francona’d”.  He is now a local hero, and it is Brian Sabean, Larry Baer, et al’s responsibility to care for this era of Giants baseball, keep it competitive, and retain its legacy.  Don’t screw this up!  These teams will be celebrated for years to come and it is the Giants’ management’s task to ensure that Bochy is properly recognized and appreciated.

– SF has a short list of free agents this offseason.  Fortunately, the majority of the core is under contract for next year, including all five starting pitchers.  A decision will have to be be made regarding Angel Pagan.  Aubrey Huff has a $10 million team option which SF will certainly buy out for $2million.  Jeremy Affeldt is a free agent and an important piece of the bullpen puzzle. Melky Cabrera, Xavier Nady, and Guillermo Mota are also free agents.

However, rounding out the free agent list are three interesting names: Freddy Sanchez, Marco Scutaro, and Ryan Theriot.  In other words, the Giants’ three most viable options at 2nd base.  I cannot predict how it will play out, only that for the coming offseason, much of the conversation will revolve around 2B.  It will be interesting to see what SF plans to do, most notably at CF/LF and 2B.

– I must give credit where credit is due, and credit is due to the much-maligned Joe Buck.  Half of the broadcast team at Fox, Buck has long been criticized for putting his listeners to sleep.  He has a knack for taking a high-tension, high-leverage, pivotal moment and sucking the air right out of it.  It’s just no fun to listen to him, and most of the time he’s mistakable for an NPR lecture on microbiology, or some other such droll, lifeless, boring example.

But the professional that he is, it seems that Buck has heard his critics and responded, at least when it counted most.  I want to recognize Buck for his broadcast of Game 4, which I thought was some of his most riveting work. He was into the game, into the moments, and two of his calls stood out: his strikeout call to end the game and the series, and his call of Crawford’s play on the grounder that Matt Cain deflected. To paraphrase:

“And Crawford continues to play the heck out of the shortstop position.”

That’s as good as you’re ever going to get from Joe Buck.  His pause before he said “heck”, you could almost sense him struggling, like he wanted to say, “Jesus fucking Christ, have you seen what this Crawford kid can do?!”  It’s in him.  In fact it even goes back to last year – his Game 6 call of Freese’s home run to win it – “And we’ll see ya.. tomorrow night!”  Perfect homage.

He’s coming around.  Buck is growing as an announcer.  He’s beginning to sense the moment more, realizes his place in it more, and his calls are becoming more human and less robotic.  I’m not saying he’s there yet.  But credit where credit is due.

Tim McCarver, you suck.  You’re like the John Madden of baseball broadcasting.  Only much worse.

– The Giants executed a 7-4-2 putout to nail Prince Fielder at the plate.  Marco Scutaro did some unbelievable things this season, but he is not getting enough credit for that play.  It’s basically the reverse of Jeter’s play, except that Jeter’s play was in the ALDS, while Scutaro’s play was the first 7-4-2 putout in World Series history.

The reason he’s not getting any credit is because he has said it was a routine play and they practice it all the time.  (Okay, the real reason, as we all know, is that ESPN wasn’t watching this World Series, since neither the Yankees or Red Sox played in it.)  But the fact is, this was a transcendent, series-altering play that came out of where the relay came out of – left field.

– And finally, a Posey Admiration Tangent:

His at-bats resemble a quarterback standing tall in the pocket and collected in the face of the pass rush, waiting for his receiver to come open, delivering a smooth ball to the back corner of the endzone.  Or the right-center gap, as it were.

His defense is reminiscent of an artist working his brush, trying to create on the canvas the vision in his mind.  Many games tend to proceed at the pitcher’s pace, but no Giants game proceeds until Gerald “Buster” Posey allows it.

A professional ballplayer, he walks, talks, and plays with a maturity far beyond his 25 years.  He is an example for many young baseball players to follow.  We thank him for his inspiration, courage, and leadership.  And we’re looking forward to watching him in a Giants uniform for a long, long time.

Don’t Stop Believin’

The day after the World Series ends is always a sad one.  Even if the sun shines bright, birds chirp, and maybe there’s a double-rainbow or two..  it seems a little muted.  Autumn’s colors are duller today, the wind a little harsher, the cold air that much sharper. 

The world is a lonelier place without baseball.  It’s a little more quiet and and little more empty, less exciting when I know that the setting sun won’t be bringing with it the first pitch, night after night, from Little League fields to Yankee Stadium.  Opening Day means hope, possibility, opportunity.  The day after the World Series ends means a long, cold winter.

And into the depths of cold, dark Winter, you can take only memories to keep you warm.  Images of the season past keep the fire burning until spring – timeless, ageless men turning double plays into ballet, launching towering shots into the sky, diving fully extended across seas of green grass or leaping over the top of walls, sometimes looking like they might never come down.

They do come back down to Earth.  Inevitably, they all do.  You turn on the game one day and see a switch hitting rookie from a small town in Florida get his first major league hit.  19 seasons and 468 HRs later, he’s on a farewell tour, his Hall of Fame ballot a mere formality.  And in between?  A rookie became a legend.

And during that last season, a young rookie from a small town in New Jersey swept onto the scene.  Took the world by storm.  There is no telling where I will be, or what the world will look like, 19 years from now.  But I’ll measure it season by season, like I always have, knowing once again that with spring comes the hope and unlimited possibility of a new year, a new start, another trip through the past, present, and future, and all the excitement and joy that comes with this beautiful game.

To a harsh, cold winter, that will make spring that much brighter, warmer, and sweeter.

 

A New Adventure

A long and winding road has led to the city of the brightest lights, Las Vegas.  The annual poker convention that is the World Series of Poker has landed at the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino, and with it comes all the temporary help necessary to put on the show.  That’s where the Lost Hawk came in.

– – –

It was nothing short of wonderful to get back to California after months on the road.  There’s no place like California that I’ve been yet – it’s home in every way.  But there’s something about being at home that saps my creativity and motivation to write and experience and connect with the world around me.

I especially left this blog, which I’ve so caringly assembled, to fallow.  I still don’t have a clear vision beyond a collection of content, but I very enjoy the expression and connection I get.  So, I’m certainly happy to resume working on my writing and sharing it with the random surfer looking for something to read.

– – –

A smart man once told me, “It’s hard to see the picture when you’re inside the frame”.

The thought crossed my mind pretty much just as the lights of the Vegas strip began to reveal themselves from the high desert road into town.  In the bed of my truck was most of what I owned, enough to furnish the room I rented.

I had been to Vegas more than a handful of times already, but always as a visitor, and in the many visits, I had never been anywhere besides the airport, the strip, and baseball fields.  This trip would be different – I had a job and a room waiting for me, and a whole new chapter of life in front of me.

This time, for the first time, I’m seeing the picture from within the frame, and this after looking at the picture for years.  And the converse of the old cliché is just as accurate.  Once inside the frame, my perspective on the picture has expanded vividly and rapidly.

Las Vegas is a fascinating town, as much a melting pot as New York was in American’s immigrancy heyday.  It is built on dreams, most of them broken deams, but some are simpler.  People come to Vegas from all over the world in search of their fortune, big or small, in search of work, a life to carve out in the desert.  The idea of “making it” can be very relative.

To explore the neighborhoods around Las Vegas can be like stepping back into medieval times.  It’s in many ways an approximation of feudalistic society in that the so-called proletariat exists almost solely to support the oligarchy of CET and MGM.  The towns sprawls out, the working class that has struggled through the toughest of times strewn across the badlands.

One of the many recognizable strip landmarks is the beam of light emitted directly into the night sky from the Luxor Las Vegas.  It is the strongest light beam in the world, clearly visible from 250 miles away, anywhere in Vegas, and is more than just a symbol of the glamour of the city.

The beam of light is part destructive siren’s song.  It represents the allure that draws in the vulnerable soul to crash on the rocks of the blackjack tables.  It shines bright and beckons in fast and loose money and extinguishes with the rising sun, spitting out the flotsam in the gutter to be washed away.  It’s a soulless light, without a conscience.

And yet it’s also part beacon of hope.  There, every night as the sun sets, it beams strongly and brightly through the heavens themselves, sending a steady message that the lights are still on in Las Vegas, the scene set and the curtain again to be drawn on another night in Sin City.  Even in the face of that hanging, dreadful feeling that this fragile town could come crashing down, as long as that light shines brightly in the sky, the show will go on.

– – –

I’m excited to be a part of Las Vegas.  It’s an important time for the city, and its future is less than certain.  But there is a palpable excitement here, and I’ll be here all summer to help turn the wheels of enterprise.  Dealing at the World Series of Poker promises to be an exciting and interesting experience, as will exploring my strange new home.

Stay tuned for updates and intrigue..

The Trip Is Over

TLH arrived in Las Vegas last week.  I checked into my room, and pitched a deck of cards into a hat for a little while.  I had my audition to deal the World Series of Poker early the next morning.

I got the call just inside the Georgia state line, in a little cafe in a little town in the middle of somewhere.  Somewhere was 2100-odd miles from Vegas.  It was time to take a left turn, and head back towards Pacific Standard Time.

I nailed the audition, and I’ll be working in Vegas this summer, so that will be a whole different can of worms, but that’s not for a few weeks.  In the meantime, the trip is essentially over, just one more leg up through the heart of California from LA.

Thanks for reading!  Continue to check back for updates, as I’ll continue posting when I get the opportunity.   The road is an interesting place, but I’m excited to put some stakes down in Sin City..

 

 

Blake Griffin Should Be A Travel Agent (Or, Why I Don’t Watch Hoops)

Here’s today’s link.

I thought I was watching basketball, apparently Adrian Peterson put on his Blake Griffin costume, took the handoff, and turned upfield off-tackle.  Count the steps – if this isn’t a travel, bears must not actually sh… look, it’s a travel.

Basketball is a joke.  It’s commonly accepted that superstars “get calls” that other players don’t get.  That’s right, it’s common NBA practice to selectively apply the rules.  Unless you’re Derrick Rose, of course.  (And that’s not even the best “I’m the target of grave injustice” quote this month.  In Chicago alone.  Hi Matt Forte.)

The NBA is the biggest collection of crybaby kids this side of Bay Farm Elementary.  They whine and moan and groan and plead and generally are more dramatic and demonstrative when they get called for a foul than most soccer players.  I refuse to pay hard-earned dollars for bad theater and bad officiating.  These divas make Madonna blush.

And don’t get me started on the endless fouling and timeouts at the end of games, or the difference between a blocking and charging foul, (pretty much the ref’s mood at the moment) or the numerous issues regarding “amateur” basketball, and certainly let’s push the whole “David Stern and the NBA lost all semblance of integrity with the complete charade that was the vetoed Chris Paul to LA trade” thing under the rug.

A roll is a roll.  And a toll is a toll.  And if you don’t call no walks, I ain’t watching your games. (Hi Mel!)

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Things That Make Little Or No Sense

According to the above commercial, which has been making the television rounds lately, this guy Nat Christiana took a 965-mile road trip with his equally clueless friends to get a Tacos Locos from Taco Bell.  965 miles.  For a taco.  From Taco Bell.

And this “Doritos Locos”?  It’s your standard taco from Taco Bell, except the shell is made from Doritos.  Apparently the local Taco Bell in Nat’s hometown doesn’t sell tacos, and the gas station on the corner doesn’t sell Doritos.

Otherwise the trip could have taken about 10 minutes.

 

Tagged , , , ,

The Other Guys (Who?)

So, right up until Roger Goodell went completely Wyatt Earp on Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints, the biggest story of the NFL offseason has been the Quarterback Shuffle.

The Washington Redskins shipped three 1st round drafts picks and a 2nd round pick to the Rams for the 2nd pick in the upcoming draft, and the right to hop over the Cleveland Browns and draft Baylor QB and Heisman winner Robert Griffin III.

The Indianapolis Colts released Peyton Manning, arguably the greatest signal caller of his generation, even arguably the GOAT (that’s sports shorthand for Greatest Of All Time) so they could draft Stanford quarterback (and projected Hall of Famer and curer of cancer) Andrew Luck.

Manning’s arrival on the free agent market set off a frenzy.  He worked out for the Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers, and was also linked to the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals before deciding to sign with the Denver Broncos.

These guys are all big names.  They will arrive at their new teams and assume their respective thrones as franchise QBs.  They dominate the headlines.  But in their wake, there is a litany of players left to negotiate the treacherous waters of the “business side of the NFL.”  (This is a euphemism for “you just don’t cut it, pal.”)

Curtis Painter started at QB for the majority of Indianapolis’ 2011 season.  Come 2012?  Stapled to the bench, watching prodigy Andrew Luck lead the charge.

Matt Moore started 12 games for Miami in ’11, completing just over 60% of his passes.  This past offseason, he watched his team’s front office make a major push for Manning and had to look at a billboard for manningtomiami.com.

After the Dolphins whiffed on Manning, they made another play for Packers backup QB Matt Flynn.  Flynn also spurned the Dolphins and signed with Seattle.  The Dolphins now may or may not be combing the market.. for relationship counselors.

Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams made no secret his pursuit of Manning.  He also put on the full-court press, also to no avail.  Probably didn’t make incumbent QBs Matt Hasselback and Jake Locker feel cherished.

Tim Tebow’s heroics in Denver, including rescuing the team from a 1-4 start, delivering a playoff win over Pittsburgh, and turning water to wine weren’t enough to keep Mr. Ed John Elway from coveting (get it, coveting?) Manning.  Now Tebow is done in Mile High, shipped out on the first train leaving town before the ink dried on Manning’s contract.

Tangentally, am I the only one who thinks John Elway displays all the worst qualities of a little league parent?  The disappointment and embarassment he wore on his muzzle face was uncomfortably ever-present when Tebow was around.  Then the Golden Boy shows up and Elway is all, “I want to make Peyton Manning the greatest QB of all time.” But Elway is a whole other blog post.  I digress.

After bankrupting their draft pick cupboard for Griffin, (and people mocked the Raiders for giving up a 1st and 2nd round pick for Carson Palmer?) Washington won’t have much use for incumbent Rex Grossman.  Poor little feller.  That’s business.

The Cleveland Browns were never in serious contention for Manning, but they were expected to select Griffin with the 4th pick until the Redskins stepped in.  Now they are said to be kicking the tires on Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill.  Sorry, former franchise QB Colt McCoy.  The beat goes on.

These guys aren’t mentioned in the press.  They aren’t talked about on the NFL network.  They’re just.. placeholders.  They were good enough to start, until something better came along.  In the end, they’ll be footnotes, lost in the annals of the NFL.  For all these teams, the grass is greener on the other side of the QB market.

But for just one, single, solitary blog post in the infinite expanse of the web and the world, you are all, special, unique flowers.  Your mothers still love you, whether you’re a starting quarterback or not.  Good luck next season, nobodies!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Magic Johnson Better Not Outlive Me

Okay, so the post title and the following content are a little bit morbid.  If that bothers you, you can either suck it up and keep reading, or come back tomorrow.  Deal?  Deal.

Magic Johnson was a superstar basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers until November 7, 1991, when he announced publicly that he had contracted the HIV virus and would retire immediately.   This has been in the media lately, as ESPN recently produced and aired “The Announcement”, a documentary detailing the circumstances and the ripples it continues to send through many walks of society.

The thing is, it could be argued that in 2012, Magic has never been more successful or well-known.  He owns movie theaters and studios and runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, valued at over $700 million, he has had a talk show, done NBA commentary and studio analysis as well as motivational speaking, was a minority owner of the Lakers for 16 years, and has been active in politics.

Now, according to this global summary of the AIDS epidemic by the UN, the average life expectancy of someone untreated is 11 years for males.  According to this study by the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, appropriate treatment can extend life expectancy of males up to 22 years.

So, a little quick math.. carry the two.. divide by the antiderivative… This coming November, Magic will have lived 21 years since he declared his contraction.  Here comes the morbid part.

I’m a young guy.  Mid-20s.  I embrace life and all it offers, and I fully understand that life, especially the life I lead, is a wonderfully delicate gift, and could be snatched away from me as quickly as the blink of an eye. God forbid.

Nothing personal against Magic, but if by some freak accident or by my own foolhardiness, he manages to outlive me, I’m going to be returned to the Earth with a very embarrassed look on my face.  He’s 52, and he’s been living with one of the deadliest diseases known to man for over two decades.  Yes, he does have means beyond anything I can comprehend, but how much longer can he go?

So, in conclusion, I better live longer than Magic Johnson.  I’m not wishing death on anyone.  I’m just sayin’!

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,