Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Hangover Part II & Bridesmaids

The Hangover Part II




















In the last several years Hollywood has run out of ideas so instead of making new movies, they just recycle old ones. Usually, it takes a decade or two before a movie is remade. In this case, it took just two years.

The Hangover Part II is essentially a shot for shot remake of the first film. But instead of being in Vegas, we get Thailand.

The first twenty minutes is a reunion of sort: all the guys come back together for another shindig. They catch up, rag on each other, and react to Alan’s bizarre behavior and antics. Nothing big happens, but the beginning is charming and funny.

And that’s when the sequel kicks into cliché gear. You can almost picture a cheesy narrator announcing: “Here we go again!”

The boys get lost in Thailand, this time with a few new characters. Ken Jeong plays a bigger part as Mr. Chow, and the new lost guy is Teddy, the young brother-in-law.

The boys retrace their steps once again, and discover all the havoc they created the night before. They cause a riot, hang out with a monkey, and meet some chicks with dicks. This time around the scenes are even more absurd, but not nearly as funny.

There are lots of laughs, but without the clever writing and mystery, the Hangover 2 loses its charm. The original movie was so successful because even without the comedy, it was still a well-made who-done-it. Even my Mom liked the first one because she wanted to know what happened (that and she thinks Bradley Cooper is hot.)

But in the sequel (or the remake), we basically know what’s going to happen before every scene. As a result, it’s just another raunchy comedy with hit and miss laughs.

Fortunately, the Hangover II still boasts three great characters that make the movie watchable. Alan’s antics get a little old by the end, but he does provide a number of laughs. Phil is the straight man, and Stu mixes things up with his nice guy routine. My favorite bit may have been Stu’s rendition of Allentown by Billy Joel (one of two Billy Joel songs featured in the film, the other being “The Downeaster Alexa.”)

The last 30 minutes or so felt a lot like a hangover. My senses were dulled, my head hurt a little, and I kind of wished it would stop. The scenes with Paul Giamatti were useless and the twists were incredibly predictable or just plain absurd.

The traditional slideshow ended the movie on a fun note, but this hangover was not nearly enjoyable as the first. I guess Hangover’s are never as fun the second time around. (Review of The Hangover.)

Bridesmaids




















Waiting in line for Bridesmaids was one of those really uncomfortable experiences. For some reason, they made us wait outside on the street for all to see me. And I couldn’t pretend I was seeing something else…the signs made it very clear that it was a line for Bridesmaids. I tilted my head down and pretended to look for something on the ground to blind my face. Sure, there were a few other guys, but they were either overly enthusiastic to be there or dragged along by their girlfriends. It felt like Sex and the City 3 more than anything else. I just wanted to get in there and watch it already.

But maybe I stumbled onto something brilliant: picking up girls at the movies. I’ve never tried it and still haven’t. But there must be a group of creepy and desperate guys who scout out chick flicks just to meet women. I wonder if it works.

Before I delve into the movie, I need to preface it with this: I am a misogynist when it comes to comedy. My top 10 favorite comedians are all men. My top 10 comedy movies feature male main characters. I don’t get Rosie, Ellen, and Chelsea. The Sweetest Thing certainly was not the funniest thing. Bride Wars and Monster-in-Law—no thank you. Even Sarah Silverman doesn’t do it for me. I know this isn’t getting me any points with the ladies. I can picture mobs of women banding together to burn me at the stake. I’m sorry, but that’s just how I feel.

So when I saw a trailer for Bridesmaids, I immediately cringed. Watching women catfight at a bachelorette party and fart from eating too much just wasn’t my idea of funny. I secretly hoped the film would tank so the attempted female comedies would just stop already.

But then something happened. Everyone I spoke to raved about Bridesmaids. Sure, it was mostly from women, but they were so happy. One friend enjoyed it so much, she felt drunk afterwards (the good kind of drunk.) She couldn’t stop smiling. A pair of random girls next to me at lunch (whom I eavesdropped on) grinned ear to ear as they described their favorite scenes.

And I cannot hide the fact that I’ve actually been a bridesmaid. No, I didn’t wear a dress (couldn’t lose enough weight), but I was on the emails about the bachelorette party. I gained new insight into how women think and how they plan parties. I even considered attending the bachelorette party, but at the last minute, I joined the guys instead. The guys made fun of me, but I was proud to be a bridesmaid. It was fun!

So I finally hiked up my skirt and decided to go see the movie.

Bridesmaids is smart and the writers took their time crafting a fairly good comedy. The first scene gets the audience into it right away. You can never go wrong, chick flick or not, with sex in the first few minutes. And it’s fun to see a woman’s perspective of how men are in bed. Apparently, we’re not as good as we think we are.

Kriten Wiig plays Annie, the nice girl lovable loser. To understand better, she’s basically Ben Stiller from Meet the Parents or There’s Something About Mary, but she’s a lady. Everyone craps on her even though she’s a cool girl.

Her life is down in the dumps but things get worse when she’s asked to be Lillian’s maid of honor. She’s in charge of all the bachelorette duties and has to put up with an eclectic mix of weirdo chicks.

The movie works for the most part because the characters are either relatable or funny. It helps that there’s a nice balance between the straight characters and wacky ones. So when the craziness erupts, we’re on the side of Annie, and the comedy doesn’t seem so forced.

There are a few “big” scenes. Some work, some don’t. But give Kristen Wiig credit. She puts in every ounce of energy to try and make them successful. My favorite scene takes place on an airplane. It’s reminiscent of the classic Seinfeld episode where Jerry sits first class and Elaine is in coach, and it’s just as funny. And the heavyset girl, played by Melissa McCarthy, steals a number of scenes too.

Bridesmaids lost me at some points, maybe because I was a guy. As some women shrieked in the audience in laughter, I simply smiled or just shrugged deeming them as cute scenes. The catfighting got a little tiresome, and I was thankful when the main character finally put an end to it.

Bridesmaids was not the life changing experience that some of my female friends described, but it was a decent movie. And I understood their excitement. Finally, there was a comedy featuring women that was both sincere and kind of funny.

So guys, if your girlfriend drags you along to this chick flick, it’s not a bad deal. You’ll laugh a bit, and learn a little something about women at the same time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Pump, Koosh Balls, and Other Random Stuff from the 1990's

Last week my friend revealed a childhood story that had been haunting her for years. Twenty years before, she had been dissed and dismissed by her fellow classmates for not wearing the right clothes. Champion sweatshirts were in, and she didn’t have any.

So she begged her mom over and over again, but still nothing. She pointed out that Sally from down the block had 5 of these sweatshirts. Why couldn’t she have one?

So on Christmas day, a package awaited her from under the tree. She frantically opened it up, eyes wide, and smile bright. When she unraveled the gift, it wasn’t a champion sweatshirt at all. It was a pair of champion socks.

She feigned excitement but wore her socks proudly often pointing out the champion symbol to her friends as a means of acceptance. But it didn’t really work. To this day, she still remembers pining for that sweatshirt.

I had a similar story revolving around a special pair of sneakers: The Pump. This lead to a discussion about the forgotten decade: the 1990’s.  These are the clothes, toys, and random items that I remember:  

Koosh Balls















These light and fluffy creations were fun to throw around, and just plain snuggle with. Despite their exceptional kooshiness, they somehow just vanished.

Diablo Juggling




















At summer camp, there was always one kid who could perform amazing tricks with this thing. We’d watch him in awe, and then deal with our jealousy by making fun of him. After 1999, I never saw diablo juggling or that kid ever again. 

Scrunchies















Girls will have more to say about this, but the 1990’s were all about the scrunchie. They tied up your hair and you could also fling them at people. Apparently, most women wouldn’t be caught wearing one today, but I still think they’re cool.


Snap Bracelets





















These things were brilliant. In one moment they looked like simple bookmarks, but when slapped on a wrist, BAM, they were bracelets. Hours of fun could be had snapping bracelets onto each other. Now, they’re nowhere to be found.

Champion Sweatshirts

Like my friend’s story, these shirts were the craze in the 90’s. Their bold colors and comfiness were bound to gain you popularity amongst all of your high school classmates, even the bitchy judgmental ones. The coolest people wore them a few sizes too large to they could be extra baggy and thus cool.

The Pump

















I begged my parents for the pump, but never got it. I settled for pumping up other kid’s shoes. We all cheered in unison when the air was released from the pump. It was a life changing experience. Even the deaf kid at my school with no friends was suddenly super popular when he showed up wearing a brand new pair of pumps.  He would point to his shoes, and although he had trouble speaking, there were two words he could clearly utter: “The pump!”

Umbros

These soccer shorts tore through my camp and school in the early 90’s. The key was to wear them properly, with your boxers creeping out underneath. I remember the day when I combined my Simpsons boxers with some hand me down Umbros from my brother. I felt like a King. Sure, the shorts were short, rode up, and often revealed too much, but it was worth it.

Coed Naked T-Shirts/ Big Johnson T-Shirts

I was shocked when I described these shirts to some under 30 youngens, and they never heard of them. Co-ed naked shirts combined sports with sexual innuendos; it was brilliant. Some examples:

Coed Naked Tennis: “It’s in. It’s out. It’s over.”

Coed Naked Lacrosse: “Rough, tuff, and in the buff!”



And one cannot forget about Big Johnson T-shirts. My friends and I often bought these inexplicably dirty shirts at crappy beach shops during camp. We’d wear them once only to be told never to wear them again because they were inappropriate. But we thought they were classy!

Slogans included:


Big Johnson Bar & Casino: “Liquor up front, poker in the rear.”

Big Johnson Motorcycles: “You’ll never have to ride a hog when you have a Big Johnson.”

Big Johnson Quarters Tournament: “Hit the rim and slip it in.”











Hypercolor T-Shirts














Tell me this: who wouldn’t want a t-shirt that changed colors when you touched it? I am flabbergasted (and I rarely use this word) that these shirts ever went out of style…they were the coolest. And it always gave girls a reason to touch you. I really need these shirts to make a comeback. 

Z-Cavariccis 





















These insanely overpriced pants were boss in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They rode up, had a tight waist, were pleated, and had AC Slater written all over them.

Girbaud

These pants gained you immediate popularity especially when you showed the label near the zipper. My friend Randy outgrew his pair of Girbauds and gave them to me. I’ll never forget the first day I wore them. Kids spoke to me that I had never heard from before.  Girls smiled. It was a wonderful time. But eventually, I outgrew them too, and couldn’t afford to buy another pair.  

Skidz


I wore my Skidz proudly in the early 90’s. My pair was green and yellow, and plain hideous. But they felt like pajamas so that made it okay.









Game Hats


















There was nothing fancy about these ball caps, but they used to be hot. These hats were usually found on the heads of cool high school kids and douche bag fraternity guys. The brim was arched and pushed down just enough so you couldn’t see while wearing the hat.

The school logo or mascot name appeared on the front in capital letters. And underneath in small letters was the entire school name. The most risqué version was the University of South Carolina because on top it read in bold letters the team mascot, COCKS.  


Casio Digital Watch




















The Casio digital watch was like the iphone of the early 1990’s except it couldn’t make phone calls, go on the internet, have apps, etc. But it did have a mean stopwatch, told the time, was waterproof, and some even had a calculator. Pretty sick!

TI-82 Calculators






















In the early 1990’s, I was in middle school and these things ruled our world. They were supposed to be used to graph in math class, but the genius kids learned how to program games, and even used them to cheat on tests (not that I ever did that.) It looked like we were studying a lot, but really we were just playing lots of homemade video games like Snake. The kids nowadays have better technology to play with, but twenty years ago, they were a way of life.  

Sunday, May 1, 2011

NBA Playoffs 2011



Even after my roommate showed it to me, I still didn’t believe him. There was no way. It couldn’t be. But there it was right in front of me.

It was Lebron James’ mom’s phone number; then a text from her; then a pic of the two of them. Somehow, my roommate had turned into Delonte West overnight. He assured me it was harmless. He had a random, late night drunken dinner in Atlantic City with Mrs. James and her buddy. And since then they simply traded a few friendly texts.

















It happened about a month before Lebron made his grand “decision.” I wonder if my roommate, a native New Yorker had any impact on Lebron’s choice. Maybe he didn’t want to play in a city where random guys texted his mom. 

My roommate hasn’t heard from Mrs. James in a while. She’s been busy and so has her son. After dispatching the Sixers in 5 effortless games, the Heat now host the Celtics in the 2nd round of the playoffs: the new big 3 versus the old big 3; the king, flash, and bosh versus KG, the truth, and Jesus. Lebron’s Mom versus Ray Allen’s Mom. Let’s get it on! 

NBA Predictions:

Miami versus Boston














This is going to be an epic series. The Heat have youth, athleticism, and lots of egos. The Celtics have experience, teamwork, and creaky bones. Some say the series will come down to Shaq’s health, but the real wildcard will be the bench. The Celtics are missing that energy/swagger guys from years past: the Leon Powe’s, Nate Robinson’s, Tony Allen’s (who has been amazing for Memphis), Rasheed Wallace’s, Kendrick Perkins’. You really think Jeff Green is going to finally wake up? I sure don’t.

Miami in 7

Chicago versus Atlanta

I met Jamal Crawford last year. He shook my hand and was extremely friendly. But on the court, he is all business. He is a scoring machine, and is one of those players that has no conscious. He truly thinks every one of his shots is going in; a great guy to have in the playoffs.
















Unfortunately for him, they’re up against Chicago and Derrick Rose. Rose might not be able to take his SATs, but on the court he is unstoppable. I’m on the bandwagon for him to win MVP. He has the best crossover since Iverson, also includes his teammates, and has even found his range from three point land. Chicago has great athletes, and is also a team. Coach Thibodeau has preached defense, and they've responded. They also have bought into the concept of team; everyone knows their role and they do it no questions asked. 

The only question for Chicago is lack of experience, and a few lingering injuries. But those flaws won’t bother them for this series. Plus, they have Brian Scalabrine. Enough said.  














Chicago in 6

Los Angeles versus Dallas

I lived in LA for five years, and besides the traffic, the worst part was seeing those damn Lakers flags attached to cars in May and June. LA has some of the worst fans in the world, and seeing them suddenly pumped for another championship run makes me feel ill.












But it’s not a surprise when they have the best basketball player in the world. Kobe is old, brash, stubborn, and let’s face it, an asshole. But he refuses to lose. The last playoff series he lost was to the Celtics in 2008. Since then he has been absolutely dominant. He has molded his game each year so he can play through injuries and fatigue. It helps that he has 3 seven foot beasts (Gasol, Bynum, Odom), and a coach who intimidates most other coaches.

Some people like Dallas because Kobe’s a little banged up. But in the end, do you ever really want to bet against Kobe?   I don’t think so.  

LA in 6

Oklahoma City versus Memphis














Alex Trebek: And the category is cities. Oklahoma city, Memphis.

What are two cities I will probably never visit?

Alex Trebek: No. Sorry. We we’re looking for: What is the Western Conference Semi Finals?

While I love Oklahoma City, especially with the addition of Kendrick Perkins, the real story is the Memphis Grizzlies. These guys are a collection of castoffs and scrappers that nobody wanted.  They’re just the fourth 8th seed to ever upend a number one. How did they do it: defense, hustle and heart. They locked down the Spurs on nearly every possession: diving into the stands, hitting the floor, taking charges, boxing out. They looked like a high school or college team that came together, not for money, but for the love of the game. I wish the Celtics had a few of these guys (see Tony Allen.)

Memphis doesn’t quite have the manpower to shut down Durant and Westbrook, but they’re going to try every trick in the book. It’s always dangerous when the underdog knows they have nothing to lose and are willing to try anything. But Durant has come too far and is too competitive to lose this one.

Oklahoma City in 7

For you gamblers out there:

In the last 28 years, only 7 franchises have won the NBA title: Boston, LA, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, San Antonio, Miami. Compare that to the MLB (19), NFL (14), and NHL (14) and suddenly the NBA doesn’t seem to have much parity.

If you happen to be in Vegas or Atlantic City, you may want to put some money on LA, Boston, Chicago or Miami. And while you’re there, look out for Lebron’s mom. Maybe she’ll buy you dinner one night too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Dating Disasters

I’ve enjoyed dating, and think I’m pretty good at it. But once it in a while, I do something really stupid, embarrassing, or just plain terrible. I guess it happens to all of us. We get a little nervous, anxious, and make a few mistakes.

We all have bad dating stories, but rarely do we blame our self. It’s always something the other person does. So I think it’s only fair to divulge some of my personal worst dating disasters. Hopefully, they will serve as lessons for all of us.

The Pub Crawl (Pub Golf)

Even though I screwed this up big time, it was still one of the best days of my life. The pub crawl or pub golf was an extraordinary experience. It was a golf themed event so people dressed up in their coolest, goofiest, and sexiest golf outfits. I wore khaki pants, a Nike warm-up jacket, a golf glove, and the kicker was a plaid beret. It was a painful gift from a former girlfriend. I am not a beret guy. I didn’t have good use for it, until now.

I didn’t know many participants, but was just glad to be at the bar. It turned out to be 21 guys and 21 girls. Everyone was cool, and 2/3 of the girls had the killer of combination of being single and also really cute. And they looked especially hot in their golf attire. It was an incredible stroke of luck. I would be spending the day with attractive and available women, and we’d all be getting drunk at the same time. Unreal!















The pub crawl was extremely well organized. We were split into groups of six, 3 guys and 3 girls per group. Each bar served as a hole. We were given score cards to indicate what score we would receive. For example, for par, it was one drink per person. For  birdie, it was one drink and one shot. And the list went on.

Each bar got progressively more challenging with types of drinks (Irish Car bombs, Absinth, chug offs, etc), and I was up for the challenge. Our team birdied the first four holes. We were on fire.

As the liquor flowed so did the conversation. I hit it off with a new girl at each bar. I was having the time of my life. I felt like Tiger Woods. Each girl was cute, sweet, and fun to talk with. It was like speed dating, but with alcohol and the coolest girls ever. I ended up garnering four phone numbers. The crawl was a success, but I was in way over my head.

A few days later, I examined my collection of numbers, and that’s when I blew it. Instead of focusing on the girl l liked the most, I figured why not call of them. I was single. I was cool. I was funny. At least this is what was floating in my head.

I had fun talking to them. I was being mathematical and skeptical at the same time. There was no way all four would like me again or even call me back. I assumed three dates would be okay, and one would be very good. I just wasn’t sure who the “very good” would be.

So I contacted all four girls. Unbeknownst to me, THEY ALL KNEW EACH OTHER. It made sense since we all went to the same event. But because I’m a complete idiot, I never really thought about that. A private source (my friend who knows them and later told me the story) informed me about the debacle.  As soon as I asked them all out, they contacted each other and confirmed that I was pretty much a jerk. I should’ve just sent a group email and cut out the middle man. At least that would have been more direct. Obviously, none of the girls responded.  

They were right. I was a jerk. I blew it. It was a lot like golf. I got to the green in just a few shots, and had a chance for a birdie. But then I four putted my way to the triple-bogey. I was just in way too deep. I can barely handle one girl let alone four. But I guess pub golf can be a tricky game sometimes.    

The Bottle of Wine





















It was my fourth date with Jeanne and I was ready to bring her to my favorite restaurant in LA: The Sauce Place. It was one of those mom and pop Italian places that only took cash and where you could bring your own booze. They were known for their delicious desserts, and I absolutely loved the marinara sauce.

Jeanne immediately liked the place and was impressed when I pulled out a fresh bottle of wine. The waitress handed me an old school corkscrew—I guess I would be opening the bottle.

I screwed up on my first attempt to uncork the wine. Jeanne laughed and I shrugged it off. It wasn’t too big of a deal. But then it got worse. I tried and failed once again. Either this corkscrew was busted or I was a complete moron. I started to get angry and then I panicked. I tried again. The screw finally went in, but now I couldn’t pull the damn cork out. I was pulling with all of my might. My face was flushed. I was sweating. I was pissed. Meanwhile, Jeanne was slowly hiding behind her menu in embarrassment.

I was now in a one-on-one battle with this bottle of wine. I finally pulled one more time, and ripped the cork out of there. There was only one problem. Half of the cork still remained inside.

The waitress eventually came over and used a knife to fish the cork out. Tiny pieces fell into the bottle, but at least we could finally drink it.

The night was a bust, and somehow got worse. I raved about the desserts all night long.  After dinner, Jeanne’s eyes widened as she decided between the gelato, cheesecake, and homemade cannolis. That’s when I realized I didn’t bring enough cash, and there was no ATM within sight. When the waitress stopped by for our dessert order, I quickly dismissed her and asked for the check. Jeanne stared at me in confusion.

I dropped Jeanne off at her apartment and we hugged good night. She flashed a bright smile even though I knew she was faking it. I was disappointed because I really liked her. If it weren’t for that damn bottle of wine, everything would’ve been fine.

I waved goodbye and assumed I’d never see her again. I called a few days later and left a message. To my shock, she called me right back. And we ended up dating for nearly a year.

A few months later I asked her the big question: “Why did you want to go out with me after that horrible wine incident?” The answer: She thought it was cute.

I’ll always remember this story. It’s taught me the greatest lesson of all: if you do something stupid on a date, something embarrassing, something painful and you’re with the right person, they’ll think it’s cute. So it’s okay to mess up sometimes.

Psycho

I met this super cute girl at a bar. She went to school in Boston, liked the Sox, and had a killer body. We went on a date to discover that we actually didn’t have much in common. We disagreed with just about everything, and although it made for decent conversation, it was stressing me out.

My flirting skills were weak that night. I was tired, had a long day, and wasn’t feeling it. It was no excuse, but she was driving me nuts. After another debate, I joked around, said that she was driving me nuts, and if we kept disagreeing I was gonna “kill” her. No matter how cute, charming, or funny you are, this is not a good line to use on a first date. My hope was that it would be cute, silly and flirty, but it definitely came through as weird, creepy, and awful.

As I walked home alone, I realized she now had a dating story. She had a tale about the weirdo who threatened to knock her off. I felt like a complete moron. The only saving grace was that she did respond to my apology text and said everything was okay. But I think she only sent it out of fear.   

The Blog

I was on a date with a pretty Asian girl. We were downing our drinks, and flirting, talking about our favorite places to travel. She made eye contact and smiled a lot. Things were going in the right direction.

That’s when I told her my passion for writing. She asked if I was working on anything. I told her about this blog. She instantly took out her new age phone, pressed a few buttons, and my blog stood before us. She perused through it, landed on my DEALBREAKERS post, and chuckled a few times.  Then she asked me lots of defensive questions. Then things got a little uncomfortable. Then I never heard from her again. I learned my lesson: never show off my blog on the first date.

The Blog II

Of course, I broke that rule again. This time my blog served as a connection at first. She loved my writing, and that made me feel great. She encouraged me to submit to magazines, newspapers, and even write a book. All was well until she critiqued my latest post entitled THE BOY COLLECTOR and she took offense to it. She thought it was misogynistic (it probably was), and I was calling her out (I wasn’t.) And then she feared if I wasn’t, I soon would. She assumed that I would embarrass her on my blog.  I promised I would never do that (until now), but by then it was too late. Things got awkward, and I was paranoid that she would overanalyze all of my blog pieces. I proposed dedicating a blog post to her, but by then I realized this relationship was just not going to work.  Once again I learned to keep my blog to myself.

The Double Header

One night, I tried to be suave and plan two dates in a night. My theory was that one girl would cancel anyways so it was more of a safety plan. But to my surprise both girls actually followed through. So I had my first date at 7pm and the next at 830pm.

The 7pm date was actually going well. But I kept excusing myself to text to my second date that I was running late. I was constantly checking my cell phone. My date caught onto this, and could definitely tell I was not paying attention to her. In my head, I was being smooth, but I definitely wasn’t. She probably didn’t know I was scheduling my second date of the evening, but she did know I was being a jerk.

The first date was a failure, but at least I had a second chance with the 830 girl. I arrived on time, but she never showed up. I finally received a text. She was going to flake, and I wondered if she pulled the same stunt as me. Maybe she was already on a successful date so she didn’t need me as a backup. I guess I deserved that. Karma’s a bitch.

The Easter Call

Never call a girl for the first time during Easter dinner. I learned this lesson with Eliza Dushku, but you can click here for the full story. Once again, I am an idiot.

The Sweaty Pig

I was enjoying my friend’s concert when I realized I was late for my date. It was about 20 blocks away (a mile or so), and it started in ten minutes. I hated being late, and out of principle, I just couldn’t take a taxi (it was too short of a distance) so I ran for it.

At the time, I was running everywhere: to meet friends to watch football, to the ATM, and now to dates.

The good news was that I was physically fit and showed up on time. The bad news: I was a sweaty pig. The girl greeted with me a hug and literally slipped off of me. I was a nasty mess. For the first ten minutes, I caught my breath, and mopped down my brow with a napkin.  She looked at me with disgust as she tried to make conversation.

I had embarrassed myself with my sweaty pig routine. But at least I was punctual. Rightfully so, I never heard from her again.

The Tucson Girls

About a decade ago, I drove cross-country with one of my best friends. He and I ended up in Tucson, Arizona for the night. It was one of the best places I’ve ever been. It was a land filled with healthy, fit, tan, and gorgeous college girls.













The bars were stocked with these beautiful goddesses from the University of Arizona. Not only were they beautiful, but they knew how to party and had loose morals too. It was a stark contrast to my days at Tufts where the girls didn’t like me and had much higher standards.

My buddy and I met a pair of buxom blondes. They liked that we were traveling cross-country and showed their affection by buying us drinks and touching my leg.  In my head, I kept thinking of the perfect line so we could go back to their place. As I scoured my brain, one of the blondes abruptly asked: “Wanna come back to our place?” It was brilliant. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

The girls jotted down the address on my bar receipt. I calmly placed it in my pocket, but I could barely contain my excitement. The blondes had to walk a friend home, but we would meet them at their place in an hour.

My buddy and I galloped back to our motel, sprayed on some cologne, and pre-congratulated each other on a job well done.  We had permanent grins. It was the perfect night.

Then we jumped in our car and drove to their place. But we never arrived.

We searched and searched, but we never saw them again. The address did not exist.

In her haste, the buxom blonde forgot one number on the address. But we didn’t know which one. We drove for hours, knocking on doors, waking up people, praying, fighting, and finally giving up.

In my haste, I never got a phone number, and realized I blew it.  I contemplated whether the girls were just messing with us, but I think it was an innocent mistake. They probably waited by the door for us and wondered why we never showed. Then they gave up and settled for a good old-fashioned pillow fight in their bras and panties.

I still have the address somewhere in my closet in an old shoebox. It serves as humble pie and what might have been.

So the next time you’re on a date and you screw up, do something stupid, or make a fool of yourself, just think of me, and maybe you’ll feel better. And if not, at least you’ll have a good story for your friends.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

HERO

I stood at the foul line with two seconds left on the clock. It had all come down to this. We were down by three points, and all I needed was to sink the next three foul shots. For a moment, the gym went silent. A few teammates offered me encouragement and patted me on the back. I took a deep breath and exhaled. As I approached the line, the opposing team barked comments at me calling me a “choke” and a “bum.” I paid them no mind. It was only me, the ball, and the hoop.

I held the ball, bent my knees, and flicked my wrist. The ball rotated in slow motion toward the hoop. It bounced softly off the rim four times before it fell just outside the cylinder. I had missed. I had choked. The game was over.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I wondered how many times an ordinary Joe gets to be a hero on the court, the field, or the diamond. This game wasn’t for the championship, and I wasn’t getting paid, but it was still a hero situation; one of those memories that you store in your mind forever; one of those moments that you reminisce about with your friends years later.

As I lied in bed with my eyes wide open, I scrolled my mind for sports hero moments in my life. A few benign memories sprung in my head, but only one stood out.

There was one day that I was the hero. It was back in seventh grade.

Little League










Growing up in the suburbs, Little League was something every kid went through. You could be awkward and clumsy or athletic and coordinated, it didn’t matter. You were going to take part in Little League.

In seventh grade, I was on the Cardinals. We were a combination of awkward, clumsy, athletic and coordinated. I can’t remember my entire team, but one player stuck out for me: Big Mike. He was the tallest seventh grader in town. He was probably around 5’ 9”, but I swear he was 7 feet tall. He was our catcher. Even as he squatted, he seemed to rise over the batter at the plate. This was Big Mike’s greatest asset. Unfortunately, he couldn’t really catch the ball. But we figured it out as we went along.

And as for me, I was the utility guy. I was an above average player, but nothing to hang my hat on. I played second base, wasn’t the greatest hitter or fielder, but did the best I could.

We were a scrappy bunch that scratched out runs, and somehow advanced to the NLCS. Our opponent was the Cubs.

The Cubs were no mere Little League team. They were stacked. They had seventh graders who must have been on some kind of performance enhancing drugs. They were huge, skilled, and probably on HGH. Gossip floated around town that a few parents rigged the draft placing all the best kids on one team: the Cubs.

We didn’t have a shot, and the odds makers pegged us as 100-1 underdogs. Things got worse when our ace pitcher fell to an injury and couldn’t pitch. And our next pitcher couldn’t play either, but I can’t remember why. (Maybe it was Bar Mitzvah lessons or maybe he was getting his braces tightened. I’m not sure.)

All I knew is that we were in deep trouble. We didn’t have a third pitcher, and our options were bare. A few minutes before game time, my coach sauntered over to me as I tossed the ball around with my teammates. She patted me on the back and told me I was going in. I had only pitched once before. Earlier in the season, I had baffled the Pirates with a mixture of meatballs and a whole lot of luck. It was a fluke. I was not a pitcher.

But now I was the starting pitcher against the best Little League team in the world in the most important athletic competition of my young life.

I relished the opportunity. The adrenaline coursed through my veins as I stepped onto the mound. I focused on Big Mike’s target and mowed down the Cubs in the first inning. I was in the zone.

But it was a long game, and I struggled through the next three innings. The never ending line of bash brothers slammed the ball around the diamond.

In the fourth inning, one of my pitches got by Big Mike with a man on third. The Cubs player sprinted home as I covered the plate. Big Mike tossed me the ball, I squeezed it, and somehow managed to miss the tag. The player was safe, and another run was on the board for the Cubs. I barked at the umpire, my longtime friend’s father, Mr. Jordan. He shook his head indicating he was clearly safe. I wiped away tears from my eyes as he tried to console me. I was choking. I was blowing it. We were going to lose.

I somehow escaped a bases loaded jam and got out of the inning. My teammates made amends for my mistakes, and put together a little rally. We chipped away against the Cubs. They were human. They were not machines. They could be beaten.

The sidelines were now filling up. The town had heard about this game, and it seemed like every kid in the seventh grade was cheering from the bleachers. This wasn’t just an ordinary Little League game. This was a battle. We were playing for every little guy out there; every team that didn’t have a shot; every team that was counted out. And we weren’t going to let our fans down.

In the last inning, we were able to squeak ahead by one run. All I had to do was record 3 outs, and the Cardinals would go down in the record books as pulling off the biggest upset in Sharon, MA Little League history.

I stepped to the mound. For a moment, the park went silent. A few teammates offered me encouragement and patted me on the back. I took a deep breath and exhaled.

The first batter came to the plate filled with confidence. He looked forward to ruining me. But I had the upper hand. My pitches were precise, nipping the outside corners of the plate. He struck out on three pitches.

The second Cubs batter strutted to the plate. He was going to end my night too. But once again, I had the upper hand. My pitches were crisp, and although a few got by Big Mike, I managed to strike him out too.

There were now two outs and we were up by one run. One more out, we would win, and I would be an instant legend. I would be a hero.

I felt anxious as their gigantic left fielder stepped up to the plate. He was a thick kid who used his body weight to knock the ball out of the park. He had already crushed a few balls off me earlier in the game.

The Giant planted himself in the batter’s box. I stepped to the mound, released the ball, and fired it towards the outside edge of the plate. The bat clung to his shoulder as the ball zipped by: strike one!

My teammates cheered me on. “Two more!,” they screamed. I wielded another pitch and he swung and missed: strike two! “One more! One more!”

As I let go of the third pitch, I pictured the Giant swinging and missing and my team celebrating. My fantasy tore apart as the Giant walloped the ball off the meat of the bat. The thing sailed into deep right center past all of our outfielders. My heart leapt out of my throat. I had choked.

The Giant rounded first base and sprinted around second. Our speedy outfielder grabbed the ball and whipped it to the cut-off man. But it looped over his head. The ball dribbled across the grass and now lied silently next to second base. Everyone was out of position. It was total chaos.

I urgently chased down the ball.

The Giant reached third as I clutched the worn out baseball. The third base coach motioned for him to stop, but the crowd chanted for the Giant to keep going. Feeling the rush of the crowd, the Giant kept moving. He was heading home.

I gripped the ball and fired it to our catcher. As soon as I released it, I knew something was wrong. The ball was overthrown. No seventh grader was going to catch it, except for one: Big Mike.

Big Mike rose to his feet and his wing span miraculously allowed him to grab for the ball. The Giant trudged home ready to take him out. The ball floated in slow motion toward Big Mike’s glove.

He squeezed it as the Giant barreled into him. The collision sprayed a cloud of dirt into the air. I ran in for a closer look. Mr. Jordan, the umpire, made the signal. He was out. We beat the Cubs. We had won!

Our team piled on top of each other in ecstasy. We tried to pick up Big Mike, but he was just too big. Instead, a few kids hoisted me on their shoulders and I was carried off the field. Tears of joy streamed down my face. It was one of the greatest thrills of my life. I was a hero.