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Just Off-Camera

"They respect you if you write. The dumber the world gets, the more the words matter." -Dan Jenkins

Monday, February 28, 2005

My Cell Phone Charger Is Lonely Tonight

First order of business: If you have my cell phone, please e-mail me. I'm just throwing this out there in the desperate hope that somebody found my phone, flipped it open, saw my name (which I put on my phone for exactly a situation like this), Googled it, and came across this site.

Unfortunately, I am more likely to stumble across a hundred dollar bill than to find my phone. And the $100 would be nice to have, since new phones are mad expensive.

Okay, now backtracking to where the story should begin. Yesterday, I went to the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa to see Camille Saint-Saens's opera Samson et Dalila. I was really curious about how the experience would go for a couple of reasons.

First, it was the first opera I'd seen since moving to the West Coast. I'd been to the Met (world-class, of course), and I'd been to the Tri-Cities Opera in Binghamton (Binghamton-class), and I was wondering where Opera Pacific - the company putting on the show - would fall in that spectrum.

Second, it was the first event I'd been to in Orange County. I'm not a fan of The OC, but I've seen a few episodes, and I was interested to see what the crowd at an opera close to Newport Beach would be like.

You know how when you go to the mall, there are often new cars parked inside as advertisements for local dealerships? Well, parked outside the street level entrance to the OCPAC was a Mercedes CLK500. That's a $56,000 car - without the options. I began hoping that I would run into Rachel Bilson inside the theater.

Unfortunately, once I was inside the theater, I realized that I was at an opera, and apparently regardless of whether the opera is in New York or in the OC, the average age of an attendee is about 70 (maybe 80 for a matinee). I'll have to come back in 50 years and see if she's there then.

The good news was that I quickly forgot about the disappointment of the audience not looking like the cast of The OC, because the production itself far exceeded my expectations.

For starters, the interior of the OCPAC is beautiful, with a unique design for the balconies, good sight lines, and beautiful wood and mirrors around the concourses and stairwells. The building is only about 24 years old, so I was told, but it's kept in very nice shape.

The sets and lighting were magnificent, particularly in the second and third acts. Delilah's bedroom was recreated with well-chosen fabrics, and the lightning effects were done nicely. (I just realized that last sentence makes me sound like I should be on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Sorry.) And the final scene, where Samson topples the temple of the Philistines, was done brilliantly - even better than the final scene of the Ring series at the Met, where Valhalla crumbles.

The performers were also far better than what I expected. Many of them have sung at renowned opera houses such as the Met and La Scala. In fact, the woman who sung Delilah will be playing Carmen at the Met soon, and if you have the means, I highly recommend seeing the performance (and getting me a ticket and a flight to New York). Not only was the singing terrific, but the stage direction was well-done, and the choreography of the Bacchanale dance in the third act was awesome.

And finally, the opera itself is great. I'd never heard of it before I got the tickets (although my mom tells me I used to listen to it when I was a toddler). It's one of the best I've heard, and it makes me wonder what other operas are out there, just outside of the mainstream of the Verdis, Puccinis, and Mozarts that I haven't yet heard. I'll probably end up getting a CD of the highlights from the opera.

All in all, I'd put the performance I saw yesterday - the entirety of it, from the venue to every aspect of the production - up against any opera I've seen anywhere. I'm not what you'd call a seasoned opera-goer, but I'd like to think I can recognize outstanding art when I see it, and I saw it yesterday. It was that good.

So anyway, when the opera ended around 5:00, I got up, turned on my phone, and that's the last I saw of it. When I got home about an hour later, I realized it was missing. I had a friend call the phone, but there was no answer. I retraced my steps, driving back to the law school, where I stopped to pick up a book, and then all the way back to Costa Mesa, nearly a 100-mile round trip, for the second time in a day. A security guard was nice enough to let me into the theater, where, at 9:00, the costumes were being loaded into a truck and the set had already been taken down, but my cell phone was not to be found.

I really hope it turns up. I suppose my only hope of finding it rests with the theater - the guard told me to call tomorrow, after housekeeping sweeps the building - or someone stumbling across it at school, where I often see posts on the blackboard in the hallway of "Lost Ring," "Lost Laptop," and even "Lost Mind" (during finals week). Otherwise, I'll have to get a new phone, again, since I dropped my old phone in a pool in September.

So please, if you have my phone, let me know.

And if my phone is gone for good, then drop me a line with your number so I can put it in my new phone. Especially if you are Rachel Bilson.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Yes Virginia, There Is Pro Hockey

That's right, while Bettman, Goodenow, and a bunch of other guys in suits ensure the demise of the NHL as we know it, there's minor league hockey being played all across North America. Here in the 310, the closest minor league team is the Long Beach Ice Dogs, so tonight, I made the trip down to the LBC to attend my first hockey game (UCLA excluded, of course) since last season's conference quarterfinal between the Flyers and Devils.

The Ice Dogs play in the ECHL, which is hockey's equivalent of AA baseball - it's two steps down from what once was the NHL, and one step below the AHL, the highest minor league level. Although I'd been to AHL games in a few different cities, I'd never been to an ECHL game before, so I was curious to see what the play would be like.

I was very pleasantly surprised at the speed of the game. This might have something to do with the fact that the only hockey I've seen in person has been UCLA's games, and that even on TV, college hockey (or any hockey) is shown very infrequently in SoCal. I suppose that shouldn't have come as a surprise - after all, the Ice Dogs have the best record in their conference, and their opponents, the Idaho Steelheads, are the defending Kelly Cup champions.

I recognized a couple of names on Idaho's roster - goalie Frank Doyle, who used to play for Maine (he beat Cornell 3-2 in the semifinal of their winter tournament in Florida my senior year), and former Flyer Billy Tibbetts. Tibbetts is an interesting story. If you look at his stats, you'll notice that he has a mysterious four-year stretch in his career where he didn't play any hockey at all. That's because he was incarcerated for statutory rape. I've heard various stories from various sources about the story of what happened, and I'm not about to guess at which is correct. Tibbetts is interesting in the sporting world, though, because upon his release from prison, he had to register as a sex offender. This made trading him from the Penguins difficult - he had to remain in state, which is why the Flyers got him on the cheap. Tibbetts is an enforcer, make no mistake about it - his career NHL stats are 82 games, 2 goals, 8 assists, 269 penalty minutes. He's also been on the move constantly since getting out of prison - he's played for 10 teams in three different leagues in the five years since his release. I guess he somehow got the sex offender registration thing worked out. And this season, he's leading all ECHL forwards in penalty minutes (though he's racked them up with three different teams). Surprisingly, Tibbetts had an assist tonight and no penalties.

There was one fight in the game, although I missed it, because it was in the first 10 minutes of the game, and traffic in L.A....well, you know. I was surprised at how much the players struggled to bury the puck, because the goalies didn't strike me as playing particularly well. There were plenty of shots that missed the net, and aside from a quick burst in the middle of the second period where Idaho scored on two straight shots and the Ice Dogs countered with a goal of their own, there was no scoring at all. In fact, there was hardly any shooting. The final shot count was just 21-19, Idaho.

It was nice to see some pro hockey, though, regardless of the lack of offensive firepower. And I was able to pick up a cheap seat for $9 ($2 off the regular price with a student discount), although parking cost $8, which was kind of ridiculous.

At the risk of sounding somewhat elitist here, perhaps the most disappointing thing I saw all night was the striking proportion of overweight and obese people in the crowd. Perhaps you'd figure that a sporting event might draw people who lead an active lifestyle, but it certainly didn't seem the case here. Morgan Spurlock should consider a sequel to Super Size Me set at minor league hockey games. Everywhere you looked, people were shoveling really disgusting arena food into their pieholes. I mean, this stuff looked worse than the usual arena food. I'm usually down for a dog and a beer at a baseball game, but come on, when the Wienerschnitzel napkins say, "The diet you can't lose on," what are you supposed to think? I was hungry, but when I walked around the place during the second intermission, all I found was a dismal selection of overpriced, grease-soaked food. I couldn't bring myself to spend over $10 on a hot dog, pretzel, and soda (and that would have been one of the cheaper and healthier alternatives available), so I just skipped eating dinner at the arena altogether.

All in all, though, I enjoyed myself. It's hard not to - after all, it's a hockey game, and hockey is awesome, no matter what everyone else in America says. Hey, I even saw someone wearing a Krzysztof Wieckowski Ice Dogs jersey. Any place where someone's sporting a jersey of a guy I saw play for Cornell is alright by me. So I'll be back, hopefully this year. The Ice Dogs look poised to make the playoffs, and I might have to jump on the bandwagon for that, because the No Hockey League won't be giving me my annual springtime fix of playoff hockey.

In Case I Forgot Why I Hate Certain Teams

News item: FleetCenter officials reject Harvard-educated auction winner's choice to rename the building the "Derek Jeter Center" for one day on grounds that the name is "obscene and vulgar."

I couldn't make it up. Well, maybe I could, but I didn't have to.

Here's the story, short and sweet. The FleetCenter's contract for naming rights with Fleet was terminated (I assume this had something to do with Bank of America buying out Fleet). While the arena seeks a long-term deal for a new corporate sponsor, it's been auctioning off single-day naming rights to the building, with the proceeds going to charity.

The winner of the eBay auction for the rights to name the building on March 1 was Kerry Konrad. Konrad is a Harvard grad and a Yankees fan, and apparently has had quite the rivalry with his Bahston-area classmates over the past quarter-century. Not surprisingly, they are Red Sox fans. I think I would rather have a forklift truck land on me after driving off a 10-story building than sit in a room and be subjected to a bunch of Harvard students argue about curses and World Series titles and A-Rod and Babe Ruth. But that is apparently what Konrad and Co. have been doing for the last 25 years.

Konrad bid $2,325 for the one-day naming rights, and to stick it to his old boy Crimson network of Sox-lovers, he chose to rename Boston's main sports arena the Derek Jeter Center. Now, I will concede that this is devious and clever, in a sick and twisted way. This is also exceedingly obnoxious and something wholly unsurprising from a Yankees fan with a few grand to burn. Seriously, is there a better way to make a donation of over $2k more irritating? What happened to anonymous donation? I think if a Cowboys fan (one of the three who haven't evacuated the bandwagon) renamed the Linc "Jimmy Johnson Field," even for an hour, he'd get letterbombs with Philly postmarks.

Not to be outdone by a snotty blueblood with money to spend on spite, the FleetCenter folks fired back, denying Konrad his right (yes, it's a right, he paid lots of money for it) to slap Jeter's name on the building. I checked, the eBay auction makes no mention of any restrictions on what the building can be named. So, ex post facto, the prez and chief exec of the FleetCenter announces that all names have to be "rated G," and the "Derek Jeter Center" is "obscene and vulgar."

Now, what Konrad is doing is obnoxious, spiteful, and detestable, but what the FleetCenter brass is doing seems unethical. They're making rules up after the contest was won. Do you think Konrad would have dropped his cash on this auction if he couldn't name it whatever he wanted? By the way, Konrad also apparently considered names like the "A-Rod Center," "Aaron Boone Center," and "Bucky Dent Center."

The restriction on the name was justified, according to the suits, because "We were afraid of the volume of phone calls bogging down our switchboard, the number of e-mails clogging our portal and the potential graffiti on the side of our building." Okay, so even if these are legit reasons to block the "Derek Jeter Center" name (and I doubt any of these things would really happen), they have nothing to do with obscenity and vulgarity. They're strictly convenience reasons for the powers that be at the FleetCenter.

Somehow, one of Konrad's Red Sox-loving Hahvahd pals was able to supersede Konrad's bid - after the fact, natch - and up the total to $8,600 (for the 86 years the Sox went without a World Series title, which is vomit-inducing). The Sox fan is naming the Center the "Jimmy Fund Center," which is palatable, if only because it finally stops escalating the feud. What if he had named it the "Posada Is A Little Bitch Center?" (Actually, if he had named it that, I'm sure the FleetCenter people would have been fine with that - New Englanders wouldn't be flooding their switchboards; therefore, it's not vulgar in their eyes.)

So, to summarize, an obnoxious plan conceived by a pompous ass was thwarted for a B.S. reason. I hate you, Yankees/Red Sox/Harvard.

By the way, auctions for single-day naming rights are still ongoing for the days of March 2-6. If you have 10 Gs to drop, I really would love to actually name a Boston arena "Lynah East" for a day.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Art And Science Of The Road Trip

I love road trips. I don't mean the kind that your favorite team takes while you wait for them to play another home game; I mean the kind where you get in your car and hit various destinations, with or without an objective, time frame, or itinerary.

I think in order for something to qualify as a road trip, there are at least four standards that must be met: (1) You must spend a night in at least three different locations other than your starting and ending point. (2) You must drive at least 100 miles between locations. (3) Four consecutive legs of the trip must be done by car. (4) No more than three nights can be spent in any one place.

This rules out road trips that I took when covering Cornell hockey, such as the Harvard-Brown weekend. Providence and Boston, besides being less than 100 miles apart, were the only two stops on the trip. My 2003 Great American Baseball Stadium Tour trip is also ruled out, because although we stayed in Louisville, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh, we flew into Louisville and out of Pittsburgh, only driving the middle two legs of the trip.

Using these criteria, I've been on four true road trips in my life. The first, during winter break my freshman year of college, was with three friends from high school. For some reason, we got tickets to an NFL playoff game in Jacksonville. On the way, we spent nights in Chapel Hill, N.C. and Atlanta before arriving in Jacksonville for the game, which turned out to be the second-biggest blowout in NFL playoff history. The Dolphins, in Dan Marino's final game, lost to the Jags 62-7. Following the game, we returned to Philly.

Road trip stats:
Philly to Chapel Hill - 417 miles
Chapel Hill to ATL - 380 miles
ATL to Jaxville - 346 miles
Jaxville to Philly - 858 miles
Total distance - 2,001 miles on my dad's 1995 Chevy Tahoe
States covered - 8 (PA, DE, MD, VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, plus DC)

The second road trip was during spring break of my junior year of college, when my girlfriend and I bounced around the Northeast following the Cornell hockey team through the postseason while mixing in family visits. We saw a heartbreaking double overtime loss to Harvard in the ECAC final, then went to Boston to visit our brothers. After visiting my family in Philly, we went to Worcester, Mass., to see the Red smoke Quinnipiac in the first round of the NCAA tournament before losing to UNH in the quarterfinals.

Road trip stats:
Ithaca to Lake Placid - 253 miles
Lake Placid to Boston - 309 miles
Boston to Philly - 313 miles
Philly to Worcester - 270 miles
Worcester to Ithaca - 288 miles
Total distance - 1,433 miles on my 2000 Chevy Blazer
States covered - 6 (NY, MA, CT, NY, NJ, PA)

Road trip No. 3 was the summer before my senior year, when I flew out to Idaho to meet my girlfriend and drive her car back to Ithaca. We got to see all kinds of natural beauty - Yellowstone, Devil's Tower, the Badlands, Craters of the Moon - as well as Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, and the Mitchell Corn Palace, a building made mostly out of corn. And we also went to a Big Tymers concert in Peoria, Illinois ("Pee-or," or "P-Town," as they called it).

Road trip stats:
Mountain Home, ID to Sheridan, WY - 638 miles (not counting getting lost in Yellowstone)
Sheridan to Mitchell, SD - 517 miles (not counting leaving I-90 to see various sights)
Mitchell to P-Town - 617 miles
P-Town to Philly - 848 miles
Philly to Ithaca - 224 miles (although I drove separately on this leg)
Total distance - 2,844-plus miles on my girlfriend's 1992 (I think) Chevy Corsica
States covered - 11 (ID, MT, WY, SD, IA, IL, IN, OH, WV, PA, NY)

My latest, most ambitious road trip to date was last summer, when I moved from ESPN HQ in Bristol, CT, to Los Angeles. Along the way I went to a friend's wedding in Pittsburgh, visited another friend in Chicago, saw a minor league baseball game in Lincoln, Neb., swam in hot springs in Colorado, and won $55 in Vegas. My dad flew out to Nebraska to meet me and drive the second half with me.

Road trip stats:
Bristol to Pittsburgh - 472 miles
Pittsburgh to Chitown - 479 miles
Chitown to Lincoln - 528 miles
Lincoln to Glenwood Springs, CO - 641 miles
GS, CO to Vegas - 592 miles
Vegas to L.A. - 286 miles
Total distance - 2,998 miles on my '03 A4
States covered - 13 (CT, NY, PA, OH, IN, IL, IA, NE, CO, UT, AZ, NV, CA)

In a couple of weeks, I plan to add road trip number five to this list. I'm still figuring out all the details, but right now, my plan is to leave L.A. and go visit friends in San Diego on Thursday, March 3. I've got tickets to a concert of a band I only know two songs by (OK Go), but I like the songs, so hopefully the concert is good. From there, unless I find someone to take the rest of this trip with, I'll drive solo to Phoenix. I'm planning to stop in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, on the way for lunch or dinner or something like that. In Phoenix, I'll catch a Spring Training game - something I've always wanted to do. Then it's off to Vegas, where I'm planning to meet up with my brother, who'll be there on his spring break to launch his pro poker career. I'll get back to L.A. on Sunday night. It's a lot to cram into one weekend, but in the scope of road trips, it's fairly small.

The potential road trip stats:
L.A. to S.D. - 125 miles
S.D. to Phoenix - 363 miles (not counting detour into Mexico)
Phoenix to Vegas - 287 miles
Vegas to L.A. - 286 miles
Total distance - 1,061-plus miles
States covered - 3 (CA, AZ, NV, plus Mexico)

Now the real trick will be to pull this off. We know how the Jacksonville trip turned out. (My Super Bowl Jacksonville trip, not the aforementioned road trip in 2000). Of course, the beauty of the road trip is that everything is controlled by the driver, and there's nothing an airline can do to screw it up. So in a little more than a week, it'll be me and my car, beating the open roads of the southwestern United States. And there is something beautiful and American about that experience.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Closing The Book On 2004-05 Hockey

Hockey season ended yesterday. Not the NHL's; that the NHL won't play this season has been a foregone conclusion for months now, and besides, the NHL's season never started. Of course I'm talking about hockey season ending for UCLA and the Pac 8.

Although it was, by nearly all measures, a successful season for the Bruins, we stumbled against a surging Washington team in the semifinals and never even had a chance to play for the championship. It wasn't a fun game, so I'm not going to write much about it. We went down 1-0, then tied it 1-1 on a slap shot by Marty Galstyan that the Huskies goalie should have saved. After that goal, I thought we were going to cruise - we were starting to swing the momentum and their goalie wasn't looking great.

I was completely wrong. I got my only shift of the game in the first period, and it was going really well until a miscommunication between my linemates led to an odd man rush and a goal the other way to put Washington up 2-1. Even though they led 3-1 at the first break, I still was confident we could pull it out, just as we had against USC in the decisive game of the Crosstown Cup. Washington continued to build their lead, though, and they were up 5-2 at the second intermission, and went up 6-2 early in the third period. We started a valiant comeback with about six minutes left, scoring twice and keeping a ton of pressure on their goalie, but we ran out of time and saw our hopes of a Pac 8 championship ruined.

Despite the 6-4 loss, we outshot the Huskies 37-20, and we probably had more scoring chances than they did, too. It just seemed that 75 percent of their shots came from the low slot at point blank range, and they made the most of those opportunities. None of their goals was soft; Matt Miller, our goalie, played a solid game. We just kept leaving black jerseys unchecked on the back post, and they cashed in. Meanwhile, their goalie played a much better game than I thought he would play, and in a nutshell, that's why we lost.

We came out the next afternoon against Cal (who was upset by Oregon in the other semi) looking for some motivation to play a solid game in the consolation. The goals were to send the seniors off with a win, to end the season with a win, and to win the season series with Cal, which we dubbed the "UC Cup." UCLA and Cal had each won two of the four meetings this season. Plus, we hadn't lost a season series to any team, and we didn't want to drop one on the last day of the season.

We won the consolation 2-1 in a game that wasn't what anyone would call pretty. However, we were able to send the seniors off with a win, and our coach also started the game with a line of five of our seven seniors, which was a nice touch. I got three shifts, and I picked up a penalty, my first of the season (the one that I had before wasn't really mine, the scorer screwed up and charged me with a penalty that I was serving for Eric Allen). It was a good penalty, though, a coincidental roughing call for shoving some d-bag on Cal after he two-handed my linemate in the head after the whistle.

And so ends the season. The failure to reach the championship game aside, there are plenty of positives to take away. The shining moment of the year has to be winning the Crosstown Cup, but there are other things we can look at with pride as well: our 16-6 record a year after going 7-17, finishing the regular season in first place, and having five players earn postseason honors. (Those players: Honorable Mention - Matt Miller, G; Stu Szuch, D; Paul Medina, F; Second Team - Niki Kollar, D; First Team - Marty Galstyan, F.) That's pretty good, considering that each team can only nominate six players. (And by the way, Stu and Paul deserved more, and there were a couple of other forwards on the team who also could have been considered for an honor.)

Then there are the intangibles. I wasn't here last season, so I only know what it was like secondhand, but everything I've heard about this year's team from my teammates makes last year's team pale in comparison. It's been more fun, the team's been more dedicated, the team believes in itself more, and so on.

Now comes a long offseason, during which I have no idea what will happen. There's talk about getting a summer league team together, but, like the NHL returning, I'll believe that when I see it. Personally, I've worked very hard this season to get into the best shape of my life, and I hope I can continue to motivate myself to stay in that shape, or get in even better shape.

2005-06 is a long seven-plus months away, but I'm already looking forward to next season. Replacing the seniors won't be easy, but we also have a strong returning group of players and an improved attitude. We have a Crosstown Cup to keep and a Pac 8 championship to win, and who knows, perhaps we could even work our way up the rankings and earn a spot at Nationals. The opportunities and possibilities are exciting, and I can't wait for the return of UCLA hockey.

Monday, February 14, 2005

A Unique Celebration Of Valentine's Day

Sports, law, and women.

One I understand well enough to be paid to research it, one I'm learning to understand well enough to practice it, and one I will never understand.

It's Valentine's Day, and in order to celebrate, I'm going to try to deepen my understanding of all three, right here, right now. The class material is Jordan v. Knafel, 2005 Ill. App. LEXIS 73.

Beginning with what I understand least, here's the story as far as women are concerned.

Woman who sings in a band in a hotel is introduced over the phone by a hotel guest to a man. For several months the woman and man stay in touch over the phone, but the woman continues to decline the man's invitations to meet. The man marries another woman. A few months after that, the woman decides to meet the man. They sleep together. A year later, they sleep together again. A few months later, she's pregnant and thinks it's the man's.

Now the law enters the picture - specifically, contract law. The man offered to pay the woman a boatload of money in the future in return for an agreement not to file a paternity suit and to keep their relationship on the hush. After the baby is born, the man pays the woman a tidy sum (although not a boatload) for hospital bills, medical costs, and "mental pain and anguish arising from her relationship with him." Id. at 5. (I'm sorry, I have to do these cites...you wouldn't understand). Seven years later, the woman reminds the man about their little arrangement, and the man says that he'll pay. Two years later, the man denies everything. The woman threatens to go public. The man sues for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief that their agreement - an oral contract - is invalid because it is extortion. Ironically, the facts are now public. Oh, and the woman counterclaims to make the man cough up the money.

Where does the world of sports enter the picture? If you haven't guessed, the man's an athlete. Maybe you've heard of him - Michael Jordan?

The story is still ongoing, because although both MJ's complaint and Karla Knafel's counterclaim were dismissed in trial court, the Appellate Court of Illinois overturned both dismissals and sent the case back to the circuit court.

So how has my understanding of all three been deepened? Let's see...

Sports: Star athletes make a ton of money, and MJ was the brightest star in the history of sport. He dropped $250,000 after the baby was born, and he promised to pay another five million dollars to Karla after he retired. And this was just hush money, which inclines me to believe Kobe's allegations that Shaq drops millions to keep his harem quiet. It also makes me wonder if this had anything to do with why MJ kept unretiring - after all, if he never retires, he never meets the condition upon which he must pay his $5 mil. Also, Justice Theis's opinion in the case had some great unintentionally comedic analysis of Jordan's final playing days: "Additionally, at the time Knafel filed her counterclaim, it was alleged that Jordan was playing basketball for the Washington Wizards." Id. at 6. (Sorry, again.) Alleged? Come on, his game didn't deteriorate that much...

Law: Not all contracts for silence violate public policy. If Karla has a legitimate right to file a paternity suit (she did, even though it ultimately turned out that the baby wasn't hers), then her forbearance from filing such a suit is good consideration in exchange for MJ's payment. (By the way, Jordan relied on the case of In re Yao, 661 N.Y.S.2d 199 (1997), for support. See the coincidence? Yao is the next global basketball star... Ah, forget it.) And as to the agreement itself, there is an "actual controversy." Id. at 24. So I guess that's the Illinois standard for defeating summary judgment.

Women: I believe it was Snoop Dogg, who, in his glory days, declared that "bitches ain't s--- but hoes and tricks." Snoop apparently met many bitches like Karla Knafel. Come on - MJ wants to meet her, but no, she's too good for that...until he gets married. Now he's the superstar forbidden fruit, and women (permit me the generalization here) like what they aren't supposed to have. And while it's all going on, while MJ's sleeping around, she's doing the same thing back to him, having someone else's kid. I suppose the lesson here is not to get involved with someone who's so down with cheating, celebrity, or forbidden indulgence.

I hope this little exercise has been as educational, informative, and valuable to you as it has been to me. Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Beer Never Tasted So Sweet

"'The USC ice hockey team is full of arrogant cheap-shot whiners who need some humility beaten into them. You are very capable of doing the job. Beat them with extreme prejudice!'

"'Goaltenders, challenge and play tough. Forwards shoot high, Goaltenders hate that... Most important...Kick some sorry S.C. Ass.'

"'A game likes this does not come very often and is the reason you play. So have the heart and spirit of a warrior, because when the crowd is gone and the cheers stop, you won’t remember the pain, but your glory will echo for ages. Beat SC.'

"'Congrats on the great season boys. Keep truckin. F--- SC.'

"'Best of luck, kick their ass, and as always, aim for Wilbur's head. I wish I could be there.'"

The e-mail with the subject line "FW: Words of Encouragement" came on Thursday, the night before the fifth and deciding game of the Crosstown Cup, UCLA hockey's annual series with USC. Those lines are just a sampling of what our alumni wrote in order to inspire us to win the Cup for the first time since 1999 and the second time in the Cup's 10-year history.

We appreciated the support - but we were plenty fired up for the game already. Coming into this season, we had a 17-game losing streak to the Trojans, and the team's loathing for USC rubbed off quickly onto rookies like myself. From their head coach, Mark Wilbur (at whose head one alum suggested we shoot), to their leader in points and penalty minutes, Remy Bickoff, to their obnoxious fans, there isn't a single positive thing about their program that anyone on the Bruins would say. Hell, even my mom, who's a Buddhist and loves all sentient creatures, dislikes USC's fans.

During pregame warmups, it became clear that HealthSouth Training Center, our home rink, was going to be loud all night. USC's band showed up (and Wilbur forked over around $380 in admission for it) and launched into loud drumrolls and renditions of various USC fight songs. And in the larger UCLA section, Nick Hertz was leading cheers. Nick is on the team, but he missed the first half of the season with an injury. During that time, he became something of a one-man pep squad. When he returned to the dressing roster, he found himself on the fourth line with me, and knowing how much playing time a fourth liner would get against USC, he opted to help the team out by firing up the crowd. He's the guy in front in this picture, facing the crowd, clapping over his head.

Despite all the energy, we seemed to come out timid, while USC physically pounded us early on. The Trojans always seem to take extra shots at our goalie and our leading scorer, Martin Galstyan. Early on, in a scrum in front of our net, one USC player, Shon Smith, took an extra swing at the head of one of our guys. When someone from our bench kindly informed him that such a move was "chickens---," he sneered back and arrogantly invited us to come get him, even telling us that he wore number 16. Somehow Marty ended up getting whistled for a pair of penalties in the first period, though.

With their physical play and our taking penalties in the first, they held the momentum early and went up 2-0 after one period. They got the bounces, too - one of their goals came on a breakaway created by a blocked point shot in their defensive zone, while on the other hand, a puck that slid into their net during a scramble was pulled out by their goalie before the ref noticed it.

In the second period, though, the momentum began to shift, and the whole team sensed it. Early in the period, on a power play, Niki Kollar, one of our defensemen, carried the puck into the USC zone and got plowed into the boards right past our bench - but not before he set up Scott Freschet for the first of his two goals in the period. USC also dropped another goal on us in between Scott's goals, so we went into the second intermission down 3-2.

The fans started feeling the momentum change, too. When the USC fans started whatever cheer it they do where they wave two fingers in the air, the UCLA fans returned the gesture by waving one well-chosen finger back at them. And the USC fans' chants of "scoreboard" were directing our attention only to a Trojan lead that was dangerously small and getting smaller. We'd won the period, and I got the feeling in the locker room that despite the deficit, we were confident that we had the game won.

(Short "hockey logic" moment: During the intermission one of our coaches urged one of our defensemen to hold his stick under number 16's neck and threaten to "stab him in the throat." Then he told us to stay out of the penalty box.)

Every now and then, I tell Marty to "do that thing I like," and sure enough, early in the third period, Marty showed why he's the conference's best player. He did that thing I like, tying the game and sending our fans into a frenzy. At this point, we'd come back from a two-goal deficit, we were in our home rink, and, simply, I believe we wanted it more.

Then Niki found himself open on the left point with the puck. He ripped a shot and beat their goalie. (I love that picture. And by the way, I wish we consistently had pictures this good when I was Assistant Sports Editor at the Daily Sun. Thanks, David Hasson.)

We were up 4-3, our first lead of the game, and when Marty buried an insurance goal to put us ahead by two, the building became electric. Our coaches had to repeatedly tell us to calm down on the bench because we were in danger of losing our focus.

With about five minutes left, I called Brian Schuster, our third-string goalie, over to me and asked him to go to the locker room to get my video camera. I didn't want to bring it out while we were trailing, and even with a two-goal lead, I told Schuster to wait until there were three minutes left, just because I was wary of angering the woofing gods. As the time ticked down to four minutes left, our fans began chanting, "We want the Cup!" and then, with a minute and a half remaining, "Na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye!"

Finally the clock counted off its last second, and we'd won, 5-3. We threw off our gloves and helmets and swarmed our goalie, Matt Miller, who played a terrific third period and really sealed the game for us. He's a fifth-year senior, so winning the cup means even more to him, having gone through four years of being pounded by USC. Seeing the seniors enjoy the win even made me feel a little guilty for not having suffered through the dark ages of Crosstown Cup history before having the opportunity to lift the Cup.

The USC captains had to bring the Cup to center ice, where Paul Medina, our captain and another senior, got the satisfaction of taking it from them. Then the celebration began. We skated the Cup around the rink, holding it up for our fans to admire. When we got in front of USC's band, a few of us held up two fingers, mocking their cheer. Even though I didn't play a shift, I loved being able to hoist the Cup.

After the team picture, the party then proceeded to the locker room, where many of our alumni joined us. Some of them even were getting misty-eyed, which really drove home just how big a deal what we just accomplished was. We passed the Cup around the room, and the coaches, the seniors, the captains, and everyone else got their turn with it. We also passed around "the boot" - an old skate that (I hope) has some sort of coating inside it and has been converted to the least sanitary vessel ever. And we chugged beer from the boot as well as the Cup. We also dunked our faces into the beer-filled Cup, which is when I found out that beer in the nose is not comfortable, but that seeing your teammates stick their faces in a Crosstown Cup full of beer distracts you from the beer in your nose.

The next step now? Practice on Monday and Tuesday, where we'll get ready for our trip to Berkeley for the Pac-8 championship. We'll face tough tests in a surging Washington team and Oregon and Cal, with both of whom we split our regular-season meetings. The Crosstown Cup is great, but to complete the season, we have one more piece of hardware to claim, and one more team picture to take.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Forty-Four Years And One Day

It is 2 a.m., two hours into Day 1 of the latest "next year" in Philadelphia sports.

I really thought they were going to do it. The Eagles were winning the field position battle, T.O. got involved early, they took a 7-0 lead...

But they beat themselves. McNabb threw some floaters to nobody in particular that would make any secondary salivate, he and Reid couldn't figure out how to make the clock go slower, the Birds couldn't get David Akers a chance to kick a field goal - all week, I kept saying, "David Akers: the new Adam Vinatieri" - and in the end, the Eagles couldn't do enough right - not against a Patriots team that doesn't screw up - to make up for their mistakes.

All day long, I tried everything I could to make sure the Eagles would win. I barely slept, got up early, went to Redondo Beach and signed up, race day registration, for a 10k. I wore my old Bobby Taylor jersey during the race - didn't want to get the new McNabb uni sweaty, it needed to be worn later - and I clocked in with an official time of 49:36 (unofficially, 48:44, a 7:52 pace). Considering my "training" basically consisted of hockey practices and a three-mile run on Friday, that's a terrific result: 578th out of 3168 finishers, and 29th out of 79 in the male 19-24 age group. It had to be a good sign.

After the race, I went home, made myself some Chunky Soup (seriously, I did - it was beef and barley), put some Icy Hot on my quads, and took a pregame nap. I was a little worried about the bad omen of having left my hockey equipment on my balcony in the rain, but I put it all in my bathroom with the fan and heat lamp on to dry out, so I don't think this was too bad.

Game time. I went to the house of a few people I didn't know - friends of a law school friend - wearing the McNabb jersey and bearing a 12-pack of Rock Green Light. Green beer from Pennsylvania - another positive sign.

3:30 PT. Eagles won the toss. Throw in T.O.'s direction the first couple of plays. Three and out, but the Pats gave the ball back quickly. Back and forth. Eagles winning the field position battle. And then...L.J. Smith! The Eagles had the lead! They clung to it for a perilous while. Tom Brady even coughed the ball up in Eagles territory.

You could see the cracks in the foundation, though. McNabb was chucking up some ill-advised balls, reminiscent of Brett Favre's pass in the 4th-and-26 game last year. The only plus that came from Rodney Harrison's pick was that Jeff Thomason lowered his hard hat and drilled Harrison right in the nuts.

The guys with whom I watched the game had one of those grids where you buy squares corresponding to the last digits of the score. The halftime payout was $25, and I had the 7-7 square. I did not want that $25. Someone with the 7-0 square could take it, or the 7-3 square, or better yet, the 4-0 square. At halftime, it was 7-7. I've never been so unhappy and anxious about winning money.

At one point, I vowed that I would name my firstborn son after the Super Bowl MVP if the Eagles won. He'll understand, one day, why his name is Donovan, or Jevon, or Lito, or Terrell (I held my breath with every step T.O. took, especially when Harrison was in pursuit).

Second half. Mike Vrabel gets another touchdown pass and imitates T.O.'s bird dance, like David Givens did after the first Pats TD. This is infuriating, which I suppose is the point, but damn, they can't even do it well. And Vrabel - don't the Eagles know that when he's in there, they're going to pass to him? By the way, at some point in the second half, Deion Branch caught his 11th pass of the night, which caught me totally off guard. I hadn't given Branch a second thought - never came to my mind that, hey, Branch is tearing apart our secondary - but there he was, tying the record for receptions in a Super Bowl.

The Eagles bounced back - McNabb threads the needle to Brian Westbrook for a TD and ties the game at 14. After that, the game becomes fuzzy. The Pats went up by 10 with about 10 minutes to go. Donovan threw another pick, but the Eagles got the ball back. Then steadily - way too steadily - the Eagles march down the field. On NyQuil. By the time they score to bring the game within a field goal, they're inside the two-minute warning with two timeouts that they haven't used.

Then they go for the onside kick. Now, normally I love Andy Reid, but explain this to me: If you're going to save the timeouts in order to get the ball back after a Pats possession, why go for the onside kick? And if you're planning to onside kick it, why save the timeouts? Long story short, Pats recover the kick, go three-and-out, bury the Eagles inside their own 10, and the Eagles never even give Akers a sniff of the field.

I left the party in the next two minutes. I didn't want to see any award presentations. I drove home in a daze, turned off the lights, and went to sleep at 8 p.m. Unfortunately, I didn't stay out until morning. I woke up at midnight, probably thanks to the earlier nap, and now I can't fall back asleep.

I saw that Branch was named MVP. Out of spite, I'm glad Tom Brady didn't win a third MVP. I saw ESPN.com's home page, but I didn't read any of the articles. I think I'll try to avoid watching ESPN until March Madness rolls around; I don't want to see highlights of the game.

The Eagles, in all likelihood, will be the favorites to win the NFC again next season. And the goal of any team, I've said before, is to improve on the previous season. The Eagles finally did that this year, reaching the Super Bowl. So why do I feel like the Eagles fell short?

After the Eagles won the NFC championship a couple weeks ago, I put a background on my computer of Donovan hoisting the NFC championship trophy while Brian Dawkins, T.O., Andy Reid, and a longshoreman-looking Terry Bradshaw stood by. I really wanted to replace that background with one of the Lombardi Trophy. I'm not sure what I'll do with that background now - an NFC championship is nice, but that and $5.75 will get you a provolone wit raw at Geno's. I suppose I'll leave it for the time being, because it's not as if I have any championship photos to replace it with (although there is UCLA hockey in the coming weeks, hopefully).

Meanwhile, the next step for the Eagles is to improve on the 2004 season. It's Super Bowl or bust, and it's time to start hoping now in the face of disappointment. I sure as hell don't want to wait until LXIII to see the Eagles with Roman numerals on their jerseys again.

Friday, February 04, 2005


I should be on a plane right now, Florida bound. But as you can see, I'm writing right now, so I'm not on that plane.

It's my own fault, really, that I'm not going to be in Jacksonville for the Super Bowl like I planned. I booked the trip while the AFC championship game was still going on. And in my excitement over the Eagles finally reaching the Super Bowl, I mistakenly got myself a return flight on Monday, March 7. I know exactly how it happened, too - February is 28 days long, so looking at a calendar quickly, the beginning of March looks identical to the beginning of February, with the first Monday falling on the seventh in both months. So I made a mistake.

I discovered this snafu less than four hours before I was supposed to take off. Frantically, I called Delta, then Travelocity, only to find out that it would cost $900 to change my flight, and that I couldn't get a one-way ticket from Gainesville to Los Angeles at all on February 7. And so ends the potential "Fineman Basks In The Glow Of Alltel Stadium As The Eagles Win Their First Super Bowl" saga.

I'm trying to look at this positively. If the Eagles lose, then I won't have the added frustration of having flown across the country to experience it. And if the Eagles win, I can't complain about not being there, because after all, the Eagles will have won the freakin' Super Bowl.

Now I am very glad I did not make more serious efforts to get Super Bowl tickets. I might have seriously considered driving to Jacksonville if I had the ducats in hand and no flight.

So I will still watch Supe XXXIX on TV (which is really what I would have done in Jaxville), although I won't be a stone's throw from the actual game and surrounded by Eagles fans.

And, I have the added bonus of having taken care of all my work for this weekend, so for the first time this semester, I have nothing at all hanging over my head during the weekend.

Well, except for the biggest game in the last 24 years of Eagles history.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Guarded Hope On A Sleepless Night

I cannot sleep. It is 5:49 a.m. and I haven't been asleep yet. I haven't slept for more than four hours at a time since Monday afternoon. I went to bed over a half hour ago, but I didn't sleep. So I got back up.

I am nervous. The Eagles are playing in the Super Bowl in three days. I am going to Jacksonville for the game. Not to the game itself, but for the game. Tickets are expensive.

I leave Los Angeles tonight on a redeye - maybe not having slept will help the flight go a little quicker - and I'm returning on Monday afternoon. Which is why I've been up all night. I have a memo due on Monday, which means it needs to be done today, which means it was written in the wee hours of the morning.

I have no idea how I will feel on the return flight on Monday. Exhausted, no doubt. But will I be satisfied? Ecstatic? Elated? Overjoyed? Depressed? Morose?

I am worried that I'm setting myself up for a big letdown, flying across the country to be closer to my team while they play a game that most experts say they will not win. Maybe if I worry, if I don't expect a win, I won't be disappointed.

But I believe that the Eagles can win on Sunday. I know they're good enough to beat the Patriots. I am positive that every player who puts on the midnight green uniform has it within them to play the perfect game. And I don't know if it will happen.

I want to walk around Florida this weekend with my Eagles hat and jersey on and see other fans with Eagles hats, shirts, jerseys - 5, 20, 36, 81, 93 - and nod to them knowingly, with that confidence that a winner has. But the Eagles have never won a Super Bowl, have only been to one - before I was born - and haven't won a championship in 44 years.

I worry that I will walk, dazed, out of a bar on Sunday night while Patriots fans enjoy the diminished celebration that comes with a third championship in four years. I hope it doesn't happen that way.

I want to cry as Donovan kneels out the final seconds of the game clock, grin as T.O. mugs for the camera while confetti rains down, exult as Andy Reid accepts the Lombardi Trophy.

I want to sing Fly, Eagles, Fly in unison with my friends, with a bar full of Eagles fans, as millions of fans sing the same song around the country.

I am so hopeful, and still so cautious in my hope.

I can't wait to go to Jacksonville.