Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Sports Bucket List

(an incomplete list - but these are the most desired ones on the bucket list):

1. Hockey at Toronto Maple Leafs Gardens/ Montreal Canadiens Molson Centre As the deep south reveres high school and college football to a religious extent, Canada, the place where shinny was born, prays at the church of hockey. And Toronto and Montreal boast two of the most storied hockey franchises in the world. One of my favorite winter pastimes is watching Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday evenings, always wishing I could be sucking down a Labatt Blue in some warm Montreal or Toronto pub before venturing out into the frigid Canadian winter en route to that night's hockey game.

2. Every B1G Stadium (accomplished: Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State (by far the best experience of any I've visited thusfar), Ohio State, Notre Dame) (Left: Wisconsin (probably the best place to watch a game in the B1G), Nebraska, Northwestern, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Purdue). A product of Michigan's auto-industry, I feel 100% a Midwestern boy at heart. What better way to explore your Midwestern roots than a roundabout of the Big Ten cities, taking you from the golden cornfields of Iowa and Nebraska to the great lake shores of Wisconsin and Northwestern through the rust belt of Indiana/Purdue and almost to Appalacia territory at Happy Valley?

3. Death Valley at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge Ironically, I would have had season tickets for this upcoming season, as well as the past two glorious seasons, at LSU if it hadn't been for the old college sweetheart. Oh, the funny places life takes you. As it is, for better or for worse, I've yet to experience the place they call Death Valley in the heart of football country - the deep south.

There are plenty of college football traditions I'd love to see: Chief Osceola riding out of the Florida State tunnel on the horse they call Renegade, Enter Sandman at Virginia Tech, or tailgating in the most famous tailgating spot in America - Ole Miss' "The Grove" - but none are quite as worthy of the sports bucket list as LSU's death valley is. Give me some southern bourbon on an autumn southern day, the ferocity of thousands of liquored up cajuns, and the glow of the lights underneath a Louisiana midnight sky - that's college football.

4. Ontatio Hockey League Tour Although I'm a Michigander through and through, I think there might be a little bit of Canadian blood in my system. Hockey holds a special place in my heart, particularly the junior OHL circuit. Last season, I crossed one off the sports bucket list as a couple of my buddy's and I ventured up north to the schoolhouse to see my London Knights play in the Ontario Hockey League Championship at the John Labatt Centre. It was one to remember.

Still, there are plenty of other venues left to see on the OHL circuit. With the NHL destined for a lockout, surely I'll get out to see plenty of the hometown Plymouth Whalers' games this season. But of course Plymouth cannot compare to those Canadian cities where hockey truly lives and breathes. Amongst the cities I'd most like to see in Ontario: Windsor, Niagara, Kitchener, Ottawa, Owen Sound, and Sault Ste Marie (MI). Along with the B1G cities, this is probably the most realistic check on the sports bucket list in the near future (i.e. this winter).

5. Texas High School Football The South boasts its own unique culture in Americana lore, but the high school football culture of Texas is a subculture within that Southern culture. How great would a Friday tailgate in some small Texas town be - sipping on some southern bourbon, cooking up some Texas chili, all whilst the Texas sun sets and the famed "Friday Night Lights" begin to glow?

6. Fishing on the Big Two-Hearted River I fashion myself somewhat of a Hemingway aficionado, and "Big Two Hearted River" is amongst my all-time favorite stories. Located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the river served as a safe-haven for Hemingway after he returned from war. While not a sports event per se, nothing sounds more relaxing than floating on the Big Two-Hearted, taking in Michigan's beautiful Up North scenery, and sipping on some beers around a campfire at night, watching carefully for the ghost of Hemingway somewhere in those woods.

7. Arsenal soccer game in North London. In the same vein as the previous one on this bucket list, this one stems from a literary source. Rarely there comes along a book you can relate so closely to that you feel as if the author and yourself would make good friends, but Fever Pitch struck that exact cord for me. I've never been a soccer fan, but one of my now all-time favorite novels has me dying to hit the fish-and-chip shop that Nick Hornby frequented in North London, the Arsenal stadium where so much of his story took place, and the Arsenal pub he spent so many hours in - whether it be sulking after a brutal loss or basking in the glory of a victory.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Thoughts on "Fever Pitch"

For a long time, I've known that I'm not the type of fan that your ho-hum, casual fan really likes. I can be unpleasant to be around during the most important games of my teams due to an obnoxious fervor, I tend to sink into either a deep depressed state after an initial phase of rage when things aren't going well for my guys, and I'm unapologetic when I shed a tear or two for a particularly big win or an historic loss.

Fever Pitch -the novel, not the cheesy movie - scared me. It scared me in just how closely I could relate to the author. An account of Hornby's lifelong obsession with the Arsenal soccer club in England, detailing everything from the tears of joy during Arsenal's most glorious moments during Hornby's life to the bouts of real-life depression that mysteriously seemed to coincide with poor Arsenal seasons, Fever Pitch is an explanation of what it means to be an obsessive fan.

More than anything else, Fever Pitch illuminated to me that it's gonna be this way forever. The way it has been for Hornby and Arsenal, it will be always for me and Michigan and the Red Wings.

"I had discovered after the Swindon game that loyalty, at least in football terms, was not a moral choice like bravery or kindness; it was more like a wart or hum, something you were stuck with. There have been many times over the last twenty-three years when I have pored over the small print of my contract looking for a way out, but there isn't one. Each humiliating defeat must be borne with patience, fortitude and forbearance; there is simply nothing that can be done, and that is a realization that can make you simply squirm with frustration."

Anywho, the point is that the obsession that is fandom lasts forever. The point is that, like Nick Hornby, life often makes more sense in the stadium for people like us; like Nick Hornby, my biggest dreams have nothing to do with my own life, but rather my biggest dreams revolve around a bunch of twenty-year-old strangers one day playing for a national title, or a bunch of European-born hockey players wearing the Winged-Wheel hoisting the holy grail of hockey.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Looking back upon this summer, the lunchless days in court hustling from one criminal defendant to the next, the days sitting around the jail waiting to listen to bogus stories from some mentally-questionable characters, the days in a windowless office entering in new court dates onto the public defenders computer system, they all sort of blend together into one monotonous glob. One day, though - one day that would make Ferris Bueller proud - sticks out as the day I'll always remember from this summer.

It was a Monday morning. I was driving down the country road I like to take, rather than the less-than-picturesque view of the freeway, to court in Ann Arbor. I had attended my first NASCAR race the previous day with my dad, my uncle, and my cousin for father's day, so needless to say the Miller Lights and images of jort-city were still lingering with me the morning after. The prospect of work grew less and less appealing the further I got into the country, as I watched the summer sun bloom over some farm fields. Shortly thereafter is when I decided work was not, in fact, happening that day. Irresponsible? Maybe. But it was perhaps the best decision I made this summer.

Unwilling to return home and attempt to explain my reason for not going to work - I didn't really have a legitimate reason - I embarked on a day of activities that would return me to my past and make me genuinely smile. I went to memory lane.

I walked around Ann Arbor. By my old college house and by the stadium. I thought about my old friends and how separated we had become and wondered how two whole years had passed since I had graduated. Yet I didn't feel sad; rather, I felt happy for the memories I had with those great college friends. Then I walked by East Quad and saw some bright-eyed and innocent-looking incoming freshman, walking around with a dazed look in their eyes and the lanyards around their necks - the dead giveaway of the freshman. They had no idea how jealous I felt as I watched them in their confusion. I thought about how the next four years would unfold for them, and about how it would probably be the best four years of their lives.

I went to Hines Park and to the old ballfield. I watched two little boys riding their bikes down the trails, adjacent to the river where I spent my boyhood days. I watched them, without a care on their minds, on that summer day, and wondered just how in fact so many years had passed since that was me. Indeed, it seemed like it was only yesterday that my friends and I were carrying our baseball gear down those trails, the only worry on our minds being who would win that day's ballgame. For a moment I sat down on our old baseball field and felt the June sun beat down upon me, and for a moment it was as if all of the gang was there and we were just kids again.

When life becomes monotonous, sometimes you need a day like that. A day to remind you why we're truly here on this earth. A day to remind you to savor those memories with your friends, because soon it will be years later and you'll be missing these very days. A day to remind you that, as Ferris Bueller said, "life goes by pretty quick, if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it".