Friday, August 29, 2014

And so it begins...

The summer has traditionally been my "easy" time. Like school kids themselves, I often look forward to summer as a chance to take a break, to relax and maybe not work quite as much. While I don't go on vacation or anything, I do see it as a break in the action, a chance to catch my breath and maybe work 40 hours a week instead of 60 or 70 or 80.
My schedule revolves mostly around the whims of high schools. Being as most of the coverage I do is high school sports, I will start full-tilt to the ground with games the final week of August and with the exception of a few weeks around Thanksgiving, a few days around Christmas and New Year's and a few weeks in March, I am constantly on the move until June rolls around.
And that's all just fine. That's part of the job. I know there are much worse things I could be doing for a living. Watching sports and writing stories is pretty darn easy on the list of jobs that people can do. While I may complain a time or two about being tired, I try to restrict those complaints as much as possible.
But for me, summer was always that saving grace. Sure, there were tournaments to cover for Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth, but for the most part, I could count on having many afternoons off during the summer months. That seemed to change this year and though I don't know why, I don't know if I like that change. This summer was by far the busiest summer I've had since I started doing this job in 2003. It seemed I was always on the go, always off to one event or another. I can't put a finger on to why this summer seemed so much busier than previous ones, but it most certainly was.
Now, as the end of August has rolled around, I'm looking at a schedule with every afternoon blocked off with some sort of contest, be it football, soccer, volleyball, golf, cross country or field hockey.
That presents me with my real problem, which is the fact that the fall is also the traditional start of the television season, when new shows crop up and returning shows pop back onto the schedule. I know the television world has changed in the last few years and there are shows that I watched throughout this summer (Under the Dome, Royal Pains, Taxi Brooklyn), but for a television junkie like me, September is the big time.
So of course, the busiest time in the television world has to come at the busiest time in my work life. Thank goodness for the DVR.
This season I am saying goodbye to three shows that have been part of my life for a number of years. Parenthood, Glee and Parks and Recreation are all signing off at the end of their upcoming seasons and while I am sad to see them go, I think it will be a welcome respite for me. My problem is that once I get invested in a show, I stick with it, right to the end (which might explain why I'm the only person in the world still watching Glee as it prepares for its sixth and final season).
In addition to those three shows (two of which aren't coming back until midseason), Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, The Blacklist, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, New Girl, Modern Family, The Middle, Revenge, Nashville, Hart of Dixie and The Amazing Race are all returning this season and most of them get started at some point in September. I've already started glancing over the grid trying to figure out what to watch and how to keep myself on schedule.
Of course, that list above doesn't include my favorite show, Survivor, which is the one show that I will always watch before I go to bed on the day it airs, no matter how late I get home or how early I have to get up.
The crop of new shows looks intriguing, but I am trying not to get too bogged down in new shows. I may try Scorpion and Stalker, the latter of which I am guessing comes from my relationship with Taylor Swift, but I can't be 100 percent sure.
Whatever the case may be, if you see me out and about in the next few months and I look like one of the main characters from the Walking Dead, you might be able to figure out why. And if there's a volleyball or football or the like hurtling toward my head and I still remain oblivious, I hope you at least pull out your camera and record it for posterity sake.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Deadline Day

I spent Thursday morning driving to southern Connecticut for a softball tournament. When I finally got where I was going, I took out the iPad just in time to find out that the Red Sox had traded Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes.
I found it kind of ironic that I was at a softball tournament when I found out this news. In the fateful summer of 2004, when Theo Epstein sent Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs and helped to engineer an impressive run that ended in the happiest moment of most Red Sox fans' lives, I was also at a softball tournament. I remember it distinctly because I was telling someone in vicinity of the dugout and one of the players absolutely lost it. Nomar was her favorite player and it was not a welcome trade in her mind.
All day yesterday I kept up on the latest news. When I was in my car I had MLB Network Radio on, listening to the latest news and rumors. I also had my iPad and continually checked Twitter for updates from the local Boston beat writers, guys like Peter Abraham, Nick Cafardo and Gordon Edes.
I listened to trade deadline talk the entire four-hour ride back to New Hampshire, switching to WEEI once I got into range and I still am not sure what to make of the whole day, from a Red Sox standpoint.
I was not thrilled to see Jon Lester go. I admired him for all that he had been through and all he had overcome to become one of the best pitchers in the game. His toughness and attitude made him the perfect big-game pitcher and he had proven he can cut it in Boston, unlike other players who have come along the last few years. However, I drew a little comfort from the fact that they didn't send him packing for a couple of prospects. In Cespedes, they have the power hitter they've lacked all season.
Then came the news that John Lackey was heading to St. Louis for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, again, not a package of prospects but proven Major League talent. It was mind-boggling that teams in contention for playoff spots were shedding talent in order to bring in other talent.
The Andrew Miller trade was also a bit disappointing, but they got decent value for him and he gets the chance to pitch for a competitor. The Stephen Drew trade came completely out of left field, but was not an unwelcome development.
As for assessing the damage, I think for a team that was in "sell" mode, the Red Sox did pretty darn good. Obviously nobody wants to be in the position of selling off assets at the trade deadline, but it was apparent nothing was coming of the season. Other teams valued players the Sox had and were willing to make deals that would also benefit the Sox. In acquiring three Major League players, the Red Sox have begun setting themselves up for next season. In sending Drew to New York, they've also opened the shortstop door for Xander Bogaerts, thus opening the third base door for Will Middlebrooks, giving him a chance to prove himself. They've also left plenty of spots in the rotation, where guys like Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo will be given a few months to prove they belong in the big leagues.
I've loved everything that I've seen out of Christian Vasquez and my hope is that the others will not disappoint. Webster hasn't impressed me much, but both Workman and De La Rosa have had moments of brilliance (and they've also both had moments of disaster). While I don't think Jackie Bradley Jr. is a suitable replacement for Jacoby Ellsbury in the lineup, I do believe he may be the best defensive centerfielder the Sox have had in a long time.
The indication that I got from the deals made by Ben Cherington on Thursday is that the Sox will not be in a long rebuilding process. They intend to compete next year and they now have a few of the bats to do so. They believe pitching will be available on the free agent market this winter (including Lester and Miller) and the team will be competitive again in 2015. If all the talent had left the Sox for a string of prospects, I would be of the impression that 2015 was slated to be a down year, a rebuilding process. That is not the case.
Bottom line, I'm sad to see Lester go, but I think, given the circumstances around everything, the Red Sox did what they had to do to set things in motion for next year. In the meantime, we get to see if that touted farm system has done its job.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fun with Southwest...


I don’t fly a lot. But in the past year or so, I’ve done more than my fair share.
And there’s been some positive and some negative experiences in that time. Of course, the most positive experience had to be the longest of the flights, the flight from Boston that took me to the Olympics. I flew from Boston to Paris, Paris to Moscow and Moscow to Sochi and there was not one single delay. Every flight was either on time or early. Keep in mind there were hundreds if not thousands of athletes, media members, coaches and spectators making their way to Russia for the Games.  This boggled my mind for a few reasons.
First and foremost, just a week before I left for Russia, I made a quick trip to Los Angeles for a Survivor event. That flight had me going from Manchester to Chicago, Chicago to Los Angeles and back the same route. Before I even left Manchester, the flight back from LA was cancelled due to anticipated weather. Then the flight out of Chicago coming back was cancelled. And then my fight from Chicago to LA was delayed by an hour. So out of the four flights I needed to get back and forth across the country, three were either cancelled or delayed. I ended up changing my flight, sending me through Philadelphia, where I ended up waiting a few hours.
Then came this weekend.  And this weekend topped it all. It was the most unpleasant travel experience I’ve ever had. Yes, I haven’t traveled much, but this was just ridiculous.
My plan was to fly to Nashville on Tuesday afternoon/evening and drive to Paris, Tenn. to cover Cody Symonds and Wyatt Stockman in the national bass fishing high school championships. I was planning on seeing them on Wednesday and Thursday before heading back to Nashville on Thursday afternoon and flying out on Friday afternoon after spending some time in the city on Friday.
As I made my way to the airport on Tuesday, I got a text message from Southwest that my flight from Manchester was delayed by a half-hour. As I got closer, there was a message that it was delayed by two hours, meaning I would not be able to make my connecting flight at BWI that evening.
I called the hotel in Tennessee and the gentleman I spoke with was able to refund one night of my stay, which surprised me. I used that money to get a hotel in Manchester for Tuesday night, since the next chance to get to Nashville came on Wednesday morning at 5:30 a.m. That also meant that I would miss the launch on the first day of competition for the tournament, which pissed me off.
However, I was at the airport bright and early on Wednesday morning and through a connecting flight in Chicago, I was able to get to Nashville about 12 hours behind schedule. I got in the rental car and hauled it to Paris to catch the weigh-in for the first day.
After seeing the kids off on the second day and then seeing them back in, I made my way back to Nashville and did a little sightseeing on Thursday night and Friday morning. I then made my way to the Nashville airport for the return flight.
Before I had even checked in at the gate for my flight from Nashville to BWI, I had a text message saying that the flight from BWI to Manchester was delayed to 12 a.m. After double-checking that with the ticket agent (yes, the three-hour delay was correct), I boarded the flight to BWI only to find I was sitting in front of three or four kids who didn’t shut up the entire flight. I had my iPod as loud as my ears could take and I could still hear them. But that’s a story for another day.
I got to BWI and checked at the gate. The agent put me on standby for a flight leaving at that moment, but at the far end of the terminal. I went as fast as my out-of-shape legs could carry me, but I got there just as the door closed and the jetway pulled away. I then tried getting on standby for a 10 p.m. flight to no avail. So here I sit, still waiting on my flight when I should be landing in Manchester and heading home.
And to think, I have the Granite Kid Triathlon tomorrow morning. At this rate, I may make it just in time.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Putting things in perspective


The Olympics have a way of putting things in perspective.
My original trip to the biggest sporting event in the world really opened my eyes to how much organization, planning and hard work goes into pulling off an event of that magnitude.
But it also made me a little jaded against other events, chief in that are the NASCAR weekends at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
When I first started covering the NASCAR weekends (I believe it was 2004 or 2005), the events always impressed me. There was more than one hundred thousand people cramming into the stands and infields. I was up close with the drivers, working alongside writers and television and radio personalities that I read, watch or listen to on a regular basis. I wrote in my weekly newspaper column after each race how cool it would be to cover the circuit on a full-time basis, traveling around the country from track to track.
While I still think that would be a cool job, this year I look at the NASCAR weekend with a different set of eyes, eyes that have seen the magnitude of an event like the Olympics.
As I was eating lunch at the media table, colleague RC Greenwood asked me about my Olympic experience. I told him it was a lot like the NASCAR weekend, just times 1,000. There are no words to describe just how much organization goes into putting on an event like that. The people at NHMS do a fantastic job of keeping things running smoothly. I’ve been a fan watching the race and I’ve been a media member covering the race and I have always come away impressed with what they do.
But, like I said, the Olympics push that up a notch, or two, or a thousand. While I was in Sochi, I learned that time is of the utmost importance. If an event was scheduled for 9:33, it started at 9:33, not 9:32 or 9:34, but 9:33. Same for the buses. They had a schedule to keep and if you were late, you had to wait for the next one, which in fairness, probably wasn’t that far away. NHMS NASCAR weekends do the same thing, with events planned for certain times and they are all expected to go off at those times.
And like the events at NHMS, the media access to the athletes competing at the Olympics is fantastic. I was able to meet up with local athletes with relative ease at the Olympics and I participated in interviews with some of the most famous athletes winter sports have to offer, including Bode Miller, Julia Mancuso and Ted Ligety.
There are some times when I really like my job, and getting to cover events like the Olympics and NASCAR weekends are certainly the high points in those times. But, I also enjoy doing what I did all week leading up to Sunday’s NASCAR race, which is covering youth baseball, from Cal Ripken to Babe Ruth.
Because in fairness, every event is a big event to someone, whether it’s a local youth baseball game or the Sprint Cup Series or the Olympics. It’s fun covering all of them.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Give me a break

I don't spend tons of time listening to sports talk radio, mainly because I find many of the people who call in to these shows to be incredibly annoying. However, ever since WEEI returned Dale Arnold to a regular role (2 to 6 p.m.), I've been tuning in a little more. In my humble opinion, Dale is the most informed and intelligent sports media member in the Boston market. He knows his sports and he knows how to talk about sports.
Yesterday, as I was sitting in my truck waiting out the rain to end and the Kingswood boys' tennis team's quarterfinal match against Wilton-Lyndeborough, I was listening to Dale and Holley and a couple of New England's "finest" called in to say that Jerry Remy needs to resign.
Now don't get me wrong. Jerry Remy's son is an awful human being. He deserves to be rotting in prison. But that doesn't mean that Jerry Remy needs to go into hiding and run away from his position at NESN.
The actions of an adult child should not be held against the parents. Jerry and his wife have made it known that they made mistakes in raising their children, but then again, what parents haven't made mistakes. No parent sets out to raise a murderer, yet there are murderers out there, obviously raised by someone.
I hope that the world never hears from Jared Remy again. I hope that this story goes away and nobody ever has to see his face or listen to his voice again. I am hopeful that the Boston news media can just let that go.
However, I want to continue to hear Jerry Remy on my Red Sox broadcasts each night. He deserved the chance to make a living and he and his wife deserve every chance to try and get back to normal in their lives as much as possible. When I hear Jerry talking about a pitch or a play or relaying an anecdote about the team, I don't think about Jared. I think about baseball, one of the biggest joys in my life. And I know that baseball is one of the biggest joys in Jerry Remy's life. Why should viewers want to take that away from him? He has done nothing wrong.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Talking Russia...

In the last few weeks, I've had a couple of chances to reflect on my trip to Russia to cover the Olympics. I was invited to speak to the Wolfeboro and Alton Rotary Clubs and did a presentation that included a short speech and a power point presentation with photos.
Public speaking is certainly not my forte, but I knew this was something I needed to do. The people of the local communities helped me get to the Olympics and I owe everyone a debt of gratitude. I also feel like I should give everyone the opportunity to hear about the trip if they want to and see the photos that I took.
I am working on possibly doing the presentation for a few more groups and/or in a public presentation and I will certainly make those presentations known if there are people who are interested in hearing about the trip.
Spending time talking about the trip really got me looking back in more fondness. As I've moved along with the very busy spring sports season, my mind has been pretty much occupied with baseball, softball, track, lacrosse and tennis. There's not much time for anything else during the spring season, which is the busiest time of year for me.
However, getting to look over pictures and write up a presentation got my mind thinking more about that trip and of course, I have nothing but fond memories. Sometimes it still seems hard to believe that I was in Russia, that I was in the middle of an event as large and as impressive as the Winter Olympics.
Many of the questions I get at the presentations or even just on the sidelines of a game or at the grocery store, focus on the negative view of things that was presented here, particularly in the area of the lodging problems experienced by other members of the media in the days leading up to the Olympics. I also get a lot of questions about the food. It's interesting that those are the things that seem to stick with people, but they are the questions I like to answer, because my answers usually go against what other people might have seen or heard.
One way or another, the memories live on and hopefully I can share them with as many people as possible moving forward.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Slowing it down

So, it has been more than a month since I made my way back to the United States from Russia and things have slowed down a bit.
It seemed that as soon as I got back, the schedule was full-bore with tons of playoff games and the finish of the regular season. I barely had enough time to catch my breath. I touched down in Boston on Monday, Feb. 24, and Tuesday, Feb. 25, I was back in the office and then back at basketball that evening, with the Prospect Mountain girls in the playoffs.
However, the last few weeks things have been slowing down a little bit. One by one, teams were eliminated from the playoffs and soon enough the season was over. The time between the winter and spring seasons usually isn't that long, but with this year's major snow coverage, it appears we might have a game or two before schools graduate in June. Therefore, I have been taking it easy, relatively speaking of course.
I covered some youth hockey with the Seacoast Hockey League and then hit up the She-Wolves Women's Hockey Tournament. These tournaments all took place on the weekends, so that left me with some time off during the week.
That time has allowed me to get to bed at a decent hour. It has also allowed me to start to catch up on the many television shows that I try to watch every week. I have way too many shows that I watch, some that I've been with for years (Survivor, Grey's Anatomy) and others that are fairly new (Nashville, The Blacklist, Brooklyn Nine-Nine). But one way or the other, I try to find a way to catch up and with the break in weekday action, that has been my opportunity. I caught up on probably the best show on television, Parenthood, earlier in the week and got started on a number of backlogged episodes of Nashville yesterday as well.
The only show that I make sure to watch on the night it actually airs is Survivor. I do everything in my power to avoid spoilers while I'm out and about on Wednesday and then watch as soon as I get home.
Needless to say, I am almost caught up, but sadly, every night seems to add another episode or two to watch.