Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Writers Wanted To Holler From The Tree Tops Of WPS

He who has a thing to sell,
And goes and whispers in a well,
Is not so apt to get the dollars
As he who climbs a tree and hollers.

So were the words on a Lipton tea bag that I sipped from at my little Grandma Civin's house about 30 years ago. Grandma was a tiny woman, with a slight Russian accent. A pleasant woman who had more friends than anyone I had ever met. I reminisce foolishly but all in all just wanted to tell the story of my tea bag.

I loved to drink at Gram's house due in part to the sayings on her Lipton tea bags. Even when they'd sink into the bottom of my cup, I'd fish them out and let them dry on my napkin as I drank tea and ate Stella Doro cookies with Gram.

I remember this one vividly and kept it in my wallet for years. I wasn't sure if and when I'd ever use it. Today seems right.

The new Women's Professional Soccer League has embarked on it's maiden voyage and three of us Bleacher Report writers have taken up the task of becoming the league's voice. Jo-Ryan Salazar has befriended the gals of the Los Angeles Sol, John Howell has done the same the for the Chicago Red Star.

We, the Few, The Proud, The Writers of the WPS have thrust the league upon our shoulders and, for whatever reason, have become committed to the success of the league. As the league grows we do the same.

Sort of a journalistic version of she scratches mine and I do the same for her (no comment, honey...a simile....).

We are the trend setters, the trail blazers..The Lewis and Clarks of the Women's Professional Soccer League. But our map is missing cities.

Though I would love to take me a road trip every other week to the City of Arches it simply isn't going to happen. And if I go to DC it is to play some hoop with Barack not to watch a futbol match. And frankly, I don't know where the cities of FC Gold Pride and Sky Blue FC even are.

So this is where you come in....As my Athletic Director said to me as a high school freshman, "Hey kid, you like sports? Can you write? Okay, you're our school sports writer." I say the same to you some three decades later. Hey kid? Can you write?

Drop me an email at or on my Bleacher Report Bulletin board. Though I'm sure you can figure things out on your own, I'm happy to help.

And when you get to the top of that tree..tell me if you can see FC or Sky Blue from there.

Baby Boston Breaker: This Gal Came To Play

As the self appointed Official Bleacher Report writer for the Boston Breakers Women's Soccer Team in the new Women's Pro Soccer League, I find myself being the Pied Piper of Bean-town.

Much like Paul Revere rode up and down the streets of Boston shouting "One if By Land and Two if By Sea," it seems as though I find myself shouting something new about the team each and every day.

Each time Kelly Smith scores another goal or Heather Mitts wipes her nose, I create a news flash.

I feel a bit like a new father, who alerts the entire family when my baby crawls, walks, runs. Every first something is captured in pictures or in this case my "New Baby's Journal."

More than a father, I see myself as being the caring Uncle. I want nothing but the best of everything for my new niece. Yet, at the end of the day, I can still return her wet little bottom back to Mom and Dad (who in this scenario, are any of a number of excited parents).

Maybe that is the best analogy of all for the fledgling team in the fledgling league. The Boston Breakers have clearly exited the Mother's Womb and are experiencing their first breaths in the new soccer world.

Opening night on the west coast must have seemed much the same as a child's first wide eyed day on the planet. She looked around at everything circling her crib and tried to make sense of new shapes, new sounds, new faces.

All of her new friends gathered around to see what our new gal looked like. Was she cute and cuddly? Was she strong and confident? Or did she look a little like a monkey like I allegedly did?

Much to everyone's pleasure our little Breaker was new, exciting, vibrant and full of an endless supply of energy. She was playful and enchanting. She was strong and poised. She possessed a certain level of confidence, despite her young age.

And most importantly she was healthy. In this case, she had 110 ten fingers and 110 toes (I know it's weird, but do the math...11 x 10 of each).

Her first day ended and though she was a little awkward she certainly took her first step. Maybe even more than a step, she walked. A little unsteady and maybe toeing in a bit with one foot, but she walked nonetheless.

Baby's first pictures appeared in all the local papers and friends of the family began following her every move. After a few days away, Baby Breaker finally came home and everyone was there to see her.

As guests entered her "Crib", to catch their first glimpse at Baby Breaker, they smiled from ear to ear. Her room had been remodeled, as it had been the infant home of many kids before her.

But, a fresh coat of paint and clean carpet and her room looked like new. It, too, possessed a new life and a new energy that comes with any addition to the family.

Over 4500 friends of the family, aunts, uncles, and cousins watched Baby Breaker as she hit the ground running. Much like my son, Corey, Baby Breaker didn't walk for long. She raised her own personal bar and she ran.

Up and down her "Crib" she frolicked and cajoled as the excited family cooed at every new first. First goal. First assist. First save. First stop. First Win! And she looked beautiful.

Baby Breaker had come to play.

Scrap books became immediately filled with newspaper articles telling the first events of Baby Breakers life. Flash bulbs popped and Kodak moments were taped onto our girl's eternal pages. We even captured Video of our little bundle of joy.

Baby Breaker was actually named "Most Beautiful Gal" amongst all who were born on the same day. And were we proud.

And now, as Uncles and Aunts, we sit back and watch Baby Breaker grow. Soon she'll become Toddler Breaker and, though she will face her share of growing pains, and maybe even a be forced to endure a teasing or two from her older siblings, there is no doubt in our minds that she will grow to be everything we hoped she would.

We'll grow to know her as "Breaker" as she will undoubtedly drop the infant like surname we have given to her. She'll continue to play. Continue to grow and continue to impress all who see her. She'll become an inspiration to everyone and a role model to many.

I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself in trying to see too far into her future. I want to enjoy her when she's young and unspoiled and naive and innocent. Too often gals like Breaker become hard and cold and distant and even a little bit arrogant as they become hardened by the ways of the world around her. But it's all part of growing up, I guess.

So I won't. I'll put her to bed for now and watch her sleep.

And I know, I'll have plenty of time to watch our little gal play.

Good night, Breaker. You made your Uncle proud.

The Boston Breakers: Beantown's Hottest Team

It was a day not much different than any other here in the Hub. The weather was warm (considering it was April in Boston) and the sun was shining brightly on Kenmore Square; spring was finally in the air.

I walked along the "Bank of the River Charles" and noticed that the landscape was covered with my all time favorite species. They were everywhere. Like starfish washed up on Nantasket Beach, the co-eds clad in nothing but an ipod and a belly button ring lined the shore of Boston's famous river.

I continued to Newbury Street, Boston's version of Rodeo Drive. Store front windows were dressed with the hottest fashions from Paris, New York, and Milan. Styles that all stylish women have to have. A sharply dressed shopper with legs up to here hurries across Newbury with a handled Hollister bag in one hand and Aldo Shoe in the other.

My journey continues as I attempt to track down the hottest women in Beantown. Over to Harvard Square I head. A Tracy Chapman wannabe plays acoustic guitar near the T stop. A blue haired gal with a spiked dog collar drinks Starbucks on the corner of Cambridge and JFK. Boston's college scene is ablaze with activity.

My jaunt takes me into historic Harvard Stadium.

And there they are.

I stop and watch them for seconds that seem like minutes.

Long muscular legs. Shapely figures and beautiful pony tails that bounce with each rush across the Harvard Stadium lawn. Dressed in short Puma shorts and tops with rolled up sleeves that expose their muscular bellies.

I watch continually and become aware of the delicate balance between sexy and athletic. Cute and cuddly, yet strong and powerful.

They're the Boston Breakers Women's Soccer Team and, coming off their 2-0 home opening victory over St. Louis, they are the hottest team in Boston. Hotter than the smokin' as the Celtics and muy caliente when compared to the Revolution.

I walk the sidelines as the ball moves up to my end of the field. I imagine that Kristine Lilly and Angela Hucles are advancing the play up to my end of the turf solely to get a closer look at me. I quickly push my protruding belly up to my chest, lick my hand, and coif my wind blown graying hair. I comb an extra piece from the back of my head to the forehead as Heather Mitts heads to Kasey Moore.

Abby Crumpton and Ariel Harris stop to sip from their water bottles and look over at me with love in their eyes. Ariel raises her arm and mops a sleeve full of sweat off of her brow. I look to her and do the same in a slight mocking gesture. She stares at me with a look of confusion on her fair but athletic face and calls over Amy LePeilbet. They cover their mouths and giggle shyly as if playfully teasing me.

I flip my styling Foster Grants onto my forehead and part my eyebrows slightly to each side of my forehead. They laugh. Playfully.

Then Fabiana, the gal from Brazil, runs right towards me. I have a thing for women with only one name...Madonna, Rihanna, and Queen Latifa.

I think I'll buy her poster from the Breakers Online Store to add to my collection. Newspaper clippings of Ali Lipsher and Sue Weber already adorn the walls of my slick Chelsea efficiency.

I know that Fabiana's running towards me, as she seems to be running to me in slow motion. I hear music playing softly, totally unaware that the Harvard College band practices in the distance. She tries to get to the rolling sphere before I pick it up. The Brazilian Bomber won't be denied.

She gently hip checks Ariel Harris out of the way and continues in my general direction.

And then she stops. And looks right at me. I quickly pull my Jordache jeans a little higher. I'm stylin'. The cat's meow.

Then she speaks to me in Portuguese as her slight accent flows from above her powder blue mouth piece. She nods once. Then again.

I can feel my heart begin to beat just a little faster as Fabiana's eyes meet mine. And then I hear her voice. Like the angel from south of the equator that she is, she says those familiar words that I've waited so long to hear.

"Hey, Mister." she yells. "Could you get off the field? We're trying to practice for our next home game, May 2 against the Los Angeles Sol."

I look around, totally unaware that I'm standing in the center circle. I'm on cloud nine. I know she really wants me.

At that moment, a security guard walks across the field in my direction. He points, blows his mall cop whistle, and hollers through a bull horn to "vacate the premises." Another Dudley Do-right blind sides me and tackles me to the turf. I pull a mouthful of grass from the meticulously manicured Harvard Stadium field as the Bobbie slaps cuffs on me and lifts me to my feet.

I smile at Fabiana, who has a look of new found respect for me on her face. She loves the bad boys.

I nod knowingly at Boston's Hottest Team.

I just love when they play hard to get.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I Want You To Join the Women's Pro Soccer Community

I don't consider myself to be a philosopher, although sometimes I sit quietly in the lotus position rubbing my big Buddha belly and philosophize.

I think for hours on end about many of life's imponderable questions.

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Is the Pope German?

If a bear craps in the woods and there's no one there to smell it, does it have a scent?

My mother and your mother hung out the clothes. My mother punched your mother right in the nose, what color was the BLOOD?

Even Who's on First and How Did the Chicken cross the road?

I've been able to answer most of them in the following way...Yes.

The others I've been able to answer R-E-D and he was stapled to the rooster.

Recently, I was presented the most imponderable of all imponderables by The Bleacher Report Community Leader Coordinator (a promotion from Chief Cook and Bottle Washer) Dave Morrison, when I petitioned to become the Community Leader of the WPS.

"If a Community has no members", I pondered. "Is it still a Community?

You see, The Women's Professional Soccer League has recently been hatched by the marketing geniuses who believe that their league can succeed where most have dared not tread. Only two weeks after the WPS gave birth to a bouncing baby league, seven teams from coast to coast find themselves with the daunting task of learning to run.

Like Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, and Sally Ride, these 100 plus women have put history upon their backs and are carrying the torch of the Women's Pro Soccer League.

Being a man who has had more than his share of experience in putting women on their backs (sorry, couldn't resist) I have decided to join them on their ride. I've decided to man the co-pilot seat on the bus they are riding.

And so, I ran (unopposed) in hopes of becoming the First Bleacher Report Community Leader in League History.

I waited on AIM for days, much like I was sitting in the Virtual Waiting Room prior to my children's births.

I chewed my nails and paced the floor of the kitchen in much the same way that Thomas Dewey did before he defeated Eisenhower.

And then it came. An email from the Coordinators of All Community Leaders, Big and Small. I was hand selected. Appointed. I am again One of the Chosen People.

I feel a bit like Latvia sitting next to China at the United Nations, but at least I'm not the former USSR. I exist. My Nation is recognized.

I set up my office and carefully positioned a folding card chair in front of my desk. On the door, I hung a sign which I crafted from tan construction paper and emblazoned with thick bold letters written in black magic marker.

It reads Todd M. Civin Community Leader of Women's Professional Soccer

It's lonely here. I have to admit.

I didn't realize the size of the chunk I had bitten off until I logged on this morning and saw the sign in big bold white letters.

"The Community Has 0 Members"

I looked at it and stared. I've always been an over achiever. After I ran my first 5K, I decided to run a marathon. And after I drove up Mtn Washington in my car, I decided to enter the 6.7 mile up hill race. Running.

And when asked to raise some money for Muscular Dystrophy I opted to sleep on a scaffolding for 48 hours outside of my Service Merchandise Store in an effort to shatter all previous records.

But now, I've decided to do something that seems so much more challenging. I've became ruler of a Nation that has no inhabitants. I feel a bit like Pat Paulsen did when he opted to run for the President of the United States for the first time.

I feel a little bit like a Yodeler standing on the edge of a canyon and shouting Hello...hello..hello...hello...hel...

I truly have the same feeling in my gut when I sitting Shiva after a death in the Jewish religion and waiting for a minion (See page 34 on Judaism 101...This is where I got the info).

I called my Mom and Dad to brag about my new appointment. "Hey Mommy and Daddy", I said still hoping for parental approval. "I was Elected by a jury of my peers to be Community Leader of the Women's Soccer Page on Bleacher Report."

I puffed my chest up big. I smiled ear to ear and I waited for Mom and Dad to respond.

I waited for Mom and Dad to respond.

I waited for Mom and Dad to respond.

"Good, Todd," they replied in unison. "And how much does this job pay?" they asked as if somehow being annoyed by my lack of employment.

"No pay. This is for exposure," I responded as all 6,000 of us Bleacher Report writers are brainwashed to respond...(Gotta Drink the Kool-Aid...Zander is God).

"Exposure?" Dad inquired in a mocking tone of voice. "Exposure and $2.19 will buy you a cup of Coffee at Dunkin Donuts", he added.

I slammed the phone down, as I do when my parents don't support my many career choices, and went back to my lap top with a sudden enhanced thirst to succeed.

And then I saw it. Again.

The Community Has 0 Members

And The Pope Is German...

And The Bear's Poop Has No Smell...

And Who is indeed the Name of the Guy on First Base...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mark Fidrych Defines His Dash: Baseball Loses Its Most Colorful Star

It's been a tough week for baseball, and one that should make us stop and realize how precious life is.

"Live every day is if it were your last, and then, one day you shall be right."

Only four days ago, the Major League Baseball family lost Anaheim rookie pitcher, Nick Adenhart, who was killed in a deadly hit-and-run accident hours after making a stunning 2009 debut.

Tonight, the MLB family lost one of its most colorful characters when former All-Star pitcher Mark "The Bird" Fidrych passed away in an apparent accident on his farm in Massachusetts.

Fidrych was 54.

Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early told the Associated Press that Fidrych was found by a friend of the family around 2:30 p.m., and was under a dump truck that he appeared to be working on at the time of his death.

Fidrych bought the farm more than 30 years ago with bonus money he received when signing out of Northborough High School.

"The entire Detroit Tigers organization was saddened to learn of the passing of former player Mark Fidrych today," the team said in a statement Monday evening. "Mark was beloved by Tigers fans, and he was a special person with a unique personality. The Tigers send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends."

Fidrych burst onto the baseball scene in 1976 as a lanky right-hander with wiry hair and a "march to the beat of a different drum" personality.

Fidrych was known to talk to the baseball and get down on his hands and knees to "manicure the mound" as part of his on-the-mound antics. He would pace maniacally behind the mound after each out and would throw back balls to the umpire that "had hard hits in them."

After filling the final roster spot for the Tigers that season, "The Bird" pitched two games in relief before throwing a two-hitter in his first major league start. Fidrych, who earned his nickname for his resemblance to Sesame Street's Big Bird, won nine of his first 10 starts, and was named to the American League All-Star team.

The Bird became an instant cult hero and fans filled the stands of Tiger Stadium each time he took the hill. His fans, who became known as "The Bird Watchers", flocked to Tiger Stadium in record numbers. In Fidrych's 18 home appearances, the Tigers attendance was half of what it was for their entire 81-game home schedule.

Opponents began asking Detroit to change its pitching rotation so Fidrych could pitch in their ballparks.

He appeared on the covers of Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and became the first athlete to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Fidrych also drew attention for his bachelor lifestyle. He continued to drive a green sub-compact and lived in a small Detroit apartment. He often spoke of his inability to answer all of his fan mail on his league-minimum $16,500 salary, and told people that if he hadn't been a pitcher, he'd work pumping gas in Northborough.

He ended his rookie campaign with a 19-9 record and a healthy 2.34 ERA, and tossed 24 complete games, including six in succession.

Following those six complete games in June of his sophomore year, Fidrych's "right wing" deserted him. He started only sixteen more career games for the Tigers before the Tigers cut him in 1981.

Fidrych finished with a career record of 29-19 and a 3.10 ERA.

Fidrych's tomb stone will read "August 14, 1954-April 13, 2009".

He was born Aug. 14, 1954 died April 13, 2009, and the dash stands for how he spent his life.

How we are defined as human beings is not defined by the first date or the last date, but by how we define our dash.

Mark Fidrych will be remembered for how he defined his dash.

Fidrych is survived by his wife, Ann, and daughter Jessica.

R.I.P Mark Fidrych...You will be missed!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Breakers Score in A Big Way With This Guy

As a boy, I used to spend each Saturday afternoon in pretty much the same way. After a morning filled with Speed Racer, Josie and The Pussy Cats, and Scooby Doo, I'd make myself a bologna sandwich and a cup of chicken soup and plop myself in front of the TV set.

Even though my television line up would never change, I'd grab the TV Guide and circle my Boob Tube schedule. From Noon to 1:00, I'd watch Vince McMahon, Andre The Giant and Chief Jay Strongbow and the World Wide circus they referred to as Wrestling.

From 1:00 to 2:00, I'd lace up my roller skates, take out my front teeth and settle in for an hour of hard hitting action/trash talk brought to you by the United States Roller Derby Federation.

For the better part of a sixty minutes, The Kansas City Bay Bombers would whip themselves by the jam of the Gotham City Girls and rack up points using some sort of unintelligible scoring system.

I'm not 100% sure if it was the trash talking toothless gals with the facial hair that intrigued me or seeing chicks actually slapping, punching and clawing each other that grabbed my imagination. I just couldn't get enough of it.

So when I hooked up with Greta Tella, the Marketing Manager of the Boston Breakers, who was promoting the team at the Worcester Sharks Hockey game, I have to admit I was psyched. "Roller Derby on Grass", I thought.

The Boston Breakers Womens Soccer Team is the local entry into the New Womens' Professional Soccer League. Greta gave me a bumper sticker and Boston Breakers program and I headed in to watch the Sharks. I'm a hockey guy. A baseball guy and I guess to some degree a roller derby guy.

But soccer? Chicks playing soccer? C'mon.

I had played soccer as a kid. My friends would pass, juggle, head the ball and shoot and I was the neighborhood fat kid that they'd torpedo the ball at.

And I have watched my share of Men's Soccer. There is no event on the globe that rivals the energy of the World Cup and there is nothing that makes my adrenalin flow like seeing Liverpool wipe up the field against Manchester United.

I guess I've even seen women's soccer before. What guy doesn't remember Brandi Chastain exposing her undergarments after the 1999 Women's World Cup?

But a Women's Soccer Game? A Women's Soccer League? This is going to be awesome. I assumed I'd see something that fell between school yard kick ball and Jello Wrestling.

The Breakers opened their maiden season on April 6th in Santa Clara, CA against the FC Golden Pride. The match was the first ever match for both teams in the newly launched Soccer League.

I was relegated to watching the game on TV as my wife, Kate, felt that a trip to Santa Clara was unnecessary. She always ruins all my fun.

However, I was ready for action and truly intent on giving the sport a fair chance. I sat in front of the wide screen, with a plate of Tostitos gobbed with gooey orange cheese and salsa. Dressed in my new Blue and White Breakers Jersey that I had bought from the Breakers Pro Shop, I was ready for action.

The stadium was filled with energy reminiscent of the Olympics as, 6,497 men, women, boys and girls from ages 3 to 73 flowed through the turn styles of Buck Shaw Stadium. Fans cheered loudly and waved the teams colors passionately before the opening kick was launched.

Being the maiden game for the newly formed league Opening Ceremonies filled the stadium with energy and hundreds of popping flash bulbs from the well attended stands.

And then it happened. For the next 90 minutes I was enthralled. I was entertained. I was mesmerized. I was glued to the television set. Up and down the field action for the better half of two hours dominated play. I was hooked.

The team work displayed by the two teams was truly fine art. Skilled passing, deft foot work and high energy rushes to the net were reminiscent of the skill level I had witnessed while watching footage of Pele, David Beckham and Cristiano Renaldo.

The action was truly non stop. Up and down the field the two teams battled each other much in the same way The Bruins battle the Canadiens. If you like hockey, you'll love soccer. If you like men's soccer you'll by highly impressed by Women's Soccer. And if you love the action of the WNBA, you'll be amazed by WPS.

Every once in a while, Kate would come into the living room to ask me to quiet down. Tostitos were every where. I swore at the refs. I rooted for Kristine, Abby and Amy. I ooohed with every kick that sailed wide and aaahed at each corner kick that was tipped over the cross bar by the keeper. I even second guessed Coach Tony Dicicco despite not knowing an off-sides from a goal kick.

I ran daughter, Kaitlyn's room to make sure she was watching. She was. She watched well she text messaged her Monty Tech soccer teammate Abbey, who watched equally intently. For the girls this was a magic moment.

The miles that they ran and the skills that they gained during the fall soccer season at Monty Tech was being legitimized before their very eyes. I could see from Kaitlyn's wide eyes that this was a moment she would never forget.

She shooshed me every time I asked her to explain how soccer offsides differed from hockey and told me to go back upstairs when I threw off my shirt ala Brandi when Breaker's Kelly Smith knotted the score at 1-1 in the 79th minute of play.

The Breakers lost the game 2-1 on a G-O-O-O-A-A-A-L-L-! in the 90th minute by FC Gold forward Tiffany Milbrett. I'm sure the gals from Beantown were disappointed. Kaitlyn slammed her pink and white soccer ball against her closet door.

But I truly didn't care. I know I can get the TV fixed where the bowl of cheese sauce hit the screen. I hope to have it fixed before the next game.

This wasn't roller derby, Josie and the Pussycats or even Mud Wrestling. This was Sport. Action. Passion.

"Hey, Katie. Do you know where my Breakers Jersey is? Me and the guys have tickets for the Home Opener. And sweetie, can you take down my Roller Derby poster. I'm getting me a Kristine Lilly."

Make Every Day "This Bad Day In Yankees History"

Every day before today was a carbon copy of the day before at work.

I'd see Braulio at the time clock. I'd punch in at 7:00 on the button. He would wait until 7:07 as if he is anointed with some sort of special privileges.

I nod at the little weasel. He nods at me.

I'm wearing my bright red t-shirt commemorating the Red Sox World Championships in 2004 and 2007. Braulio is wearing that God-awful "Got Championships?" t-shirt with the 26 brightly shining gold rings on it.

It's ripped so his furry belly hangs out, but he doesn't seem to care.

In the distance, I see two more of his Yankee cronies fell in behind him. Like a scene out of Warriors, Braulio and the "Baseball Furies" come walking towards me, spinning their metaphorical baseball bats and clanking glass coke bottles on their gnarly little digits.

"Red Sox fan...come out and plaaaa-ay", cackles the, near toothless, warehouse workers who have immigrated from Da Bronx.

I start to sweat at this point, knowing that I am clearly outnumbered. Outnumbered 26 to seven. The baseball banter begins. It sounds like a scene right out of "Who's On First".

I say "How'd Sabathia look yesterday?"

Braulio, Jose and Guido recite in unison "26 World Championships."

And I say, "Oh yeah, well A-Rod, Clemens, Giambi and Pettitte took 'roids."

And the toothless contingent stammers, "26 World Championships."

So I say, "Only team to CHOKE by blowing a 3-0 lead".

And Da Bombers say, "26 World Championships."

My face turns Red Sox Red and sweat begins to form on my brow. I say, "Well I am rubber you are glue. Anything you say bounces off me and sticks to you." I'd puff out my chest like a peacock and laugh.

Braulio and his posse of wannabes wipe the milk stain from their pre-pubescent mustaches and scratch their collective scalps. Then they say, "26 World Championships."

It continues like this until the Roach Coach arrives at 10:00 or until it's time to start working. Which ever comes first.

But today was unlike the other days. Today I came armed with a throng of facts and barbs fresh out of Billy Martin's closet. I would approach my Yankee foes with an arsenal reminiscent of that of North Korea. Today I would trump even Donald...You see. I now have history on my side.

I got home yesterday and rushed to the mail box with the speed of Little Ralphie waiting for his Ovaltine Secret Decoder ring. I fumbled through the stack of bills, fan mail, and Victoria Secrets ads to see if my "treasure" had arrived.

And there it sat. Wrapped in plain brown wrap like a piece of well disguised Porn, was a small 5" x 5" package with Barnes and Noble imprinted in the upper right corner.

I opted to open it right there as the post man whisked away in his 1970 RFD Jeep. My fingers trembled. My heart beat raced. I reached into the brown envelope and slid it to the top like a five-year old looking for the price at the bottom of a box of Cap'n Crunch.

I threw the envelope to the ground and stared at her. She was beautiful. The cover had a decrepit looking image of crumbling Yankee Stadium. It looked like a scene out of Will Smith's Independence Day. I read the cover.

"This BAD Day in Yankee History" by Gabriel Schecter. I snickered.

Schechter, a renowned Hall of Fame writer, and admitted Yankee Hater has compiled a book/calendar which is a "Must Read" for baseball fans everywhere. Not just for Boston Boys but for anyone who has had their nose pushed in the proverbial poop by any Yankee fan.

The book, with a witty and absolutely incredible Bill Lee-esque Forward by the Space Man himself, bursts from the binding with 365 Days of Anti-Yankee Hatred.

Of course I immediately turn to my birthday (September 9, for those Yankee fans who care to send cards). The words seem to jump from the page.

"Let's Get it Over With"

"1990 - Yes, the Athletics become the first team to sweep a season's series from the Yankees, winning 7-3. It's 3-3 with two outs in the ninth inning when Willie McGee's routine fly ball is caught in a sudden gust of wind and not caught by right fielder Mel Hall. The triple sets up the winning four-run rally."

"Meet The Monster"

"1962 - Rookie Dick 'The Monster' Radatz pitches nine innings of relief to help the Red Sox sweep a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. After an easy 9-3 victory in the opener, Radatz enters in the seventh inning of Game Two. He gives the Yankees one run in nine innings, striking out nine, and the Red Sox push across a run in the 16th inning to win 5-4.

"Maybe Babe Ruth Would Have Driven in Nine"

"With Babe Ruth sidelined with appendicitis, Lou Gehrig drives in eight runs, including a three-run double in the ninth inning to the game in Detroit. But the Yankees waste his heroics, losing 14-13 in fourteen innings, and also lose the game 4-1.

"Quote of the Day"

"1990 - Mel Hall: 'It started off as a regular fly ball, but the wind took it toward the line. I turned and just ran out of room. When I turned I knew I was in trouble."

Schechter fills 365 days with stories of Yankee cheapness regarding contracts, stories of the inmates running the asylum and other tales of Bronx Bomber Buffoonery. As only Schechter can, he presents the "brighter" side of the truth, he manages to tell stories about the 83 years and 62 games per season that the Yankees didn't win instead of concentrating on the mere 26 and 100 times they did.

If you want to see the evil side of the Empire, Schechter's book is a must read. The beauty of the book is its compact size and day-by-day arrangement. Far different from the popular "Fact of the Day" calendars, Schecter's treasure is a day by day reading journal.

You can enjoy a few minutes on the john reading one day at a time or can lie on the hammock in the back yard soaking up 365 days at a time. I personally prefer the latter.

The book is available on line on the publisher's web site, Never Too Much Baseball.

Some of Schechter's other books, which are also mandatory reading for anyone who loves the sport, are Neil Liefer: Ballet in the Dirt, The Golden Age of Baseball, Unhittable; Baseball's Greatest Pitching Season, and Victory Haust; The Rube Who Saved McGraw's Giants.

His entire catalogue of sports books can be found at

And if you see Braulio and the Baseball Faerie, tell 'em that Todd's looking for 'em.

Someone saw them headed for the dumpster with their tails between their legs.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Red Sox Open Season at 4:06...For A Number of Reasons

For an organization that had done things wrong for so many years, but for the past several has turned that all around, it is especially fitting that today's season kicks off at 4:06 PM.

For those readers not entrenched in Red Sox lore, .406 is of course, Ted Williams final batting average in 1946. This was the last time any one has achieved that magic number and some believe that it is a figure that will never be achieved again.

But for Red Sox fans, .406 is a number much like 56 is to the Yankees. And it is what 61 used to be before it was asterisked by 60-something and 70 something. It's a figure that is much like 714 used to be and 755 became only to be asterisked, as well by whatever number surpassed 755.

And .406 is the numerical equivalent to 2130 for baseball fans all over the map only to be overtaken and cast in Iron by 2632, a number that may not yet by as easily recalled by fans outside of Baltimore.

To all of baseball fans, .406 is a lot like 42 is. Not just a number, but The Number.

The number .406 is the equivalent to 511 for pitching fans and 41 for single season pitching fans. And .406 is very much similar to fans of 130 and 1406 to those who like the fine art of stealing. And .406 is much the same but clearly overshadowed by 67 for fans of the two bagger.

So today as the bell tolls .406. It doesn't just mark the start of season number 2009. It marks the statistical chase of a whole bunch of digits. And that my friends is why baseball isn't just a game. It's a passion.

For a number of reasons.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Thank God It's Opening Day

My phone rang on that Saturday in early February. It was my son, Corey. He screamed through the phone and woke me from my mid-morning slumber.

I could barely understand him and assumed he had been out with college buds the night before.

"I scored. I scored" he screamed.

I quickly changed my thoughts and interpreted his words to mean he had finally gotten laid. Who'd have thought it would take him to the age of 22.

"Well good for you, buddy", I said. "I was 21 the first time I scored. It was with.....?"

"TMI, TMI Dad." he interrupted blocking his ears. "Besides, I was 16."

"I scored four Red Sox tickets for Opening Day," he continued.

I was immediately torn between being disappointed because my kid had sex six years ago and hadn't told me, and elated in finding out I was going to Opening Day.

"With who?." I asked.

"Tampa Bay!" exclaimed Corey.

"No....never mind. Where are the seats?" I started to ask. And then I stopped. I knew it didn't matter. Corey and Tabitha, Kate and I were going to drink from the Silver Cup. We had found Charlie Bucket's Golden Ticket. We had hit the lottery like only Whitey Bulger could. We were going to Opening Day in Fenway Park.

I dropped to my knees, like every good Jewish boy does, and began to pray.

"Dear God...I know I pray for some pretty wild things. I sometimes wonder if you even hear me. I prayed for that plane to land safely on the Hudson River. And you heard me loud and clear. Thanks for that."

"And I prayed for a black man in the White House by the time I was 48 and you came through with flying colors." Nice work.

"I even prayed for my son to have sex before the age of 22 and you apparently heard that too. How great art thou?"

"But when tickets went on sale for Opening Day, and I sat in the virtual waiting room like a fool from 9:00 AM to 11:59 PM. And watched that damn browser refresh every 30 seconds. To no avail. I assumed I had gone to the well once too often. Thanks, Big Guy," I said.

That was then and this is now. I went to bed last night with a swarm of butterflies in my gut. I felt like a four-year-old on Christmas eve. I tried to sleep but had one eye on the alarm clock as each and every minute crept by. I tossed and turned and counted Championships in an effort to sleep. "1903... 1912...1915...1916...1918...I fell asleep for what seemed like a century...then awoke again... 2004, 2007....".

The alarm clock radio sounded loudly...."Sweet Caroline...bum, bum, bum..."

I sprung from my bed and almost tripped over my dog, Fenway, who still slept on the floor at the foot of our bed. "Katie, Katie...time to get up," I screamed. "It's Opening Day, honey. It's Opening Day."

I ran into the bathroom and threw on the shower. Steam filled the room as I took my morning pee in the trough that adorns our bathroom wall. I finished and shivered slightly as the last few drops hit the cold white porcelain. "Natures way of shaking", I thought.

I jumped in the shower totally unaware that I was still wearing my Jim Lonborg t-shirt and boxer shorts. Red boxer shorts.

I laughed and through them over the top of the shower curtain. I quickly grabbed the Barbasol shaving cream and my Lady Bic and shaved a winter's worth of growth off my Red Sox tattoo.

"It's Opening Day, Coco," I said randomly to the cat. "It's Opening Day."

I ran to the closet, naked. Totally unaware that my son's girl friend Tabitha was standing there. Laughing.

I thumbed through my collection of Red Sox apparel...Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz...I continued...Youk, Bay...Drew...I realized that my shirts were in the wrong order...Lowell...Lowrie...Varitek. I scratched my head. Varitek.

I took the plastic off the Varitek shirt and slipped it on. Hmmm. "Honey, did you shrink my Varitek shirt?" I asked.

"No dear. You got fat," she hollered as she tucked her pony tail into the back of her pink cap.

I didn't even care. "Can you believe it's Op..." I screamed.

"I know...I know..." interrupted Kate. "It's Opening Day."

I threw open the window shade.

And then I stopped.

And stared.

In my drive way a puddle formed.

A big puddle.

And in that puddle was a drop.

A big drop.

Then another drop.

Then another drop.

I scratched my head.

I turned around and dropped to my knees. Like all good Jewish boys do.

"Dear God. I know I pray for some pretty wild things. But how about we scrap that World Peace Prayer and give me back Opening Day?"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Bleacher Report T Shirt...All The Cool Cats Are Wearing 'Em

I'm not a pretty man. I'm 5' 8" and weigh 220 pounds with gusts up to 230.

Women don't look twice when I walk down the street.

Oh sure, my wife thinks I'm hot, but people say she's bias.

The dog plays with me, but that may be because I'm the only one who will rub his belly.

My daughters say "I'm the bomb", but then they make that gagging sound when they stick their index finger down their throat and flick the little punching bag thing.

Just to give you an image, people say I'm a cross between Taylor Hicks from American Idol (can you feel it?) and Danny DeVito. I'm flattered, but actually think I'm taller than DeVito.

All steak, no sizzle. Where's the Beef? Hanging over the belt line.

Each morning, I wake up, throw my feet to the floor, scratch myself Al Bundy style and head for the head, all the while contemplating some big choices.

What to eat for breakfast (because this body doesn't just grow on it's own), whether or not I really need to shower today (I've already got me a wife, who needs another?) and what to wear (those grey sweatpants again or the Tommy Hilfiger jeans that accentuate the package?)

After the squirt, I throw some Squeeze into the 8 track player and I grab "my toothbrush, some toothpaste, a flannel for my face, Pyjamas, a hairbrush, new shoes and a case, I said to my reflection..Lets get out of this place"...

Tired of the Squeeze, I opt for some Disco and decide to boogy down to some "Funky Cold Medina"...I'm styling.

"Nobody's as slick as I am...I think. The chicks are going to go absolutely bananas!"

You know my kind: I'm in my mid 40's, but the younger chicks know how hip I am. The younger guys like Hao Meng, Pete McKeown, and even Zander Freund don't stand a chance when Todd hits the Karaoke stage.

"I'm the cat's meow..The Bee's knees.."

In the words of the immortal Jim Carey, "I'm smokin'".

Now to the closet...Time to put the crown jewel on the King of Cool.

I peel back one Red Sox t-shirt after the other. Jacoby? Not today. Schilling? Retire that bad boy. Manny? Time to clean up after the dog.

No, today is different. A day not like any other day.

I get to the middle of my walk in closet (Not sure why they call it that...when I walk in this closet I can't even turn around)...and then I see Her...

She sits there..She seems to have a gleam...a shine....She's whiter than white can be.

Her letters seem to jump off the cotton threads like Dolly Parton's letter's jump off of hers.

She's beautiful. The Golden Albatross. I stand back for what seems like forever and admire "her" in all her splendor.

I start to tremor and shake. My palms sweat.

It's the new, discounted, Bleacher Report t-shirt.

Made of a wonderful cotton and other material mix, with that oh so familiar black, gray and orange b/r logo.

What a design.

Not sure if it was Mr. Hanes or Mr. Fruit of the Loom that designed this one, but it is stunning.

But where'd it come from?

Victoria Secret? Maybe.

Fredericks? Perhaps.

Walmart? Perhaps. Maybe it's part of the roll back. I start to smile like that Happy Face on the Walmart ad.

No, it came from the Bleacher Report Store, and it can be yours for less than the price of a New York City cab fare.

(Voice over of Narrator: And for a limited time only, we'll also send you these beautiful Ginsu Knives. This offer is not available in any stores, so send in today!)

I peel off my pajama top and take her from the hanger. I stretch the neck slightly as I push my big bulbous head through the arm hole by mistake. I reverse gears and thrust it through the reinforced neck.

I can feel a complete transformation.

"From ordinary mortal to a Love God", I think to myself, but say out loud anyway.

I saunter to the mirror and stand there, captured by my reflection. I'm not sure if it's me, but my muscles look bigger, my stomach smaller, my chest seems to bust through the cotton fibers like Schwarzenegger.

I can run faster and jump higher. I can leap small children in a single bound.

I roll up one sleeve and throw in a pack of Lucky Strikes. I take one first and let it hang slightly from the right side of my lip.

Matches? No thanks. Don't smoke.

I walk from my apartment, and I see the babe across the hall. She looks at me this time, instead of running back into her apartment like she usually does. She smiles.

Then she turns her head slightly and flips her hair back like Cindy Crawford. She licks her lips.

She motions to me as she kicks off her heels and heads back into her apartment.

"Hey Taawd" she says like Lisa Lubner on the old SNL. "Wanna play?"

I look at her. I start to drool slightly onto the front of my Bleacher Report T. Sweat starts to pool just above the arm pits of my new BR garment!

I look again and stretch the neck line of my New BR T...It bounces back immediately to it's original form.

"Hornier than a monkey with a hard on in a barrel full of knot holes", I think.

"I'm married"...I continue. "I can't do this to Kate."

Then she walks towards me and rubs her hands all over my Bleacher Report covered belly.

She purrs like a fisher cat with a half-eaten squirrel in its mouth.

She leans into me and presses herself against my quivering torso.

"You know what I want?" she whispers.

"Why me, of course. You wanna piece of this, huh?"

"HELL NO!" She screams. "I want your newly designed and discounted Bleacher Report T-shirt. All the gals are wearing them. You geek."

I take it off and hand it to her. I head back to my apartment as I realize I forgot pants.

"Hey, honey....I'm home!"

The previous story was not an infomercial.

OK...It was. But the least we can do is buy one so Zander can pay the damn bills.