Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Retiring from Ice Hockey

I threw out my old ice hockey equipment today.

In 1993, I took up the game of ice hockey, and I took it as seriously as I could take it. I bought the best skates I could afford ($200 Riedells). I spent almost a year learning how to ice skate (I took lessons at The Skating Club of Boston). I accumulated equipment as the months progressed.

I joined Hockey North America in early 1994. HNA is a league geared for beginners. There were group try-outs, and then we were assigned to teams randomly. I forked over more money, signed a bunch of papers, and eventually fell into one of the most memorable experiences of my limited sports career.

Our team, the Boston Heat, had a bunch of hockey wanna-bes. Just like me. Some were fairly good skaters. Others were fairly good puck handlers (I was a better skater than puck handler or shooter). We were all gung-ho enthusiasts, living out our ice dreams.

Our captain, Joe Jaena (a fabric business owner) wanted the team to improve, and he hired Cliff Lombardo, a player in the "A" league, to be our coach (we were in the "D" league). Cliff was a good coach. Our team practiced once a week (drills then scrimmages), then we'd play a league game (complete with referees, a clock, and a handful of fans). I played defense, and wore the number 25 because that was how old I was when I joined the league.

We were a good team, and we made it all the way to the championship game. However, the opposing team's one lone talent skated down the left wing, and scored in the final minute of play. I don't remember the score, but I did remember that a tie would have given us the championship on points. I was on the ice, head bowed, completely lost. The locker room afterward was numb, but I remembering trying to hold Joe back as he started in on one of our teammates. We peacefully departed. I remember eating a breakfast meal (it was almost 11PM) at a local pancake place, trying to console myself.

The team stuck together though. We had a nice team party a few weeks later. And after a summer league (we moved to New England Regional Hockey League) and on-and-off practices, we played one more winter season. However, we never captured our original dominant form. We would fade in the early playoff series. This was April 1996.

After I "retired", I played exactly once, at a "stick practice" during lunch (the equivalent of pick up basketball, except that it takes nearly ten minutes to get dressed). There were only ten men in the game, and I was exhausted after three minutes of being on the ice (professional players typically skate in shifts of less than two minutes).

My bag of gear stayed in my basement, but this past weekend, while cleaning out the basement, Jenn suggested I let it go. I have often thought about chucking my gear, but there was always this fear that I might take it up again, and I would need all this equipment. But that didn't seem realistic. I then thought about getting my stuff into a second-hand store, but my pads were worn, and dank with dried sweat. Eventually, I convinced myself that the road sometimes ends. I emptied my gear into a garbage bag, and put it out on the curb.

I kept my skates and my gloves though. My gloves were too new (they were my second pair). And there's no way I could throw out my skates.

I don't miss my equipment so much as I miss being on the team. I loved the camaraderie. I loved the profane noise of a locker room after a practice or a game. I loved the atmosphere: The hard ice. Looking up at the time. My occasional forays into the penalty box. The game itself is the fastest, most physical, yet most skillful game I have ever participated in.

But my playing days are over. They were over long before I threw out my equipment. Putting it out on the curb just makes it official.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Giants Lose World Series

Spent a draining weekend watching the San Francisco Giants lose the World Series to the Anaheim Angels. As I've mentioned in this space before, I was rooting for the Giants. I was denied the satisfaction, and I'm slighly numb. It's funny how attached you can get to a team you've barely followed all year. I have spending time commiserating on alt.sports.baseball.sf-giants, and I feel their heartbreak.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

The Little Fish

Carlos Ruiz, the Guatemalan on the LA Galaxy who scored the game winning goal against the New England Revolution in the championship game, is nicknamed The Little Fish. (The highest paid player in the MLS is Cobi Jones, Ruiz's team mate. Cobi makes almost $600,000 a year.)

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Barry Bonds makes $15 million a year.

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Neat web clock. (Link from Red Rock Eater.)

Friday, October 18, 2002

Ben Curtis

Steven is the name of the goofy kid who pitches Dell computers on television. Nearly all his ads have him saying "Dude! You're getting a Dell!" He first made his appearance on TV in the year 2000. The first commercial was a video message to his parents, asking them for a new Dell, and why it's a good thing. He's been going strong as a pitchman for two years. Later we saw him trying to finagle Dells for his friends at stores, malls, and college.

The actor who plays Steven is Ben Curtis. He's 21. Before his commercials with Dell, he was a struggling actor from NYU.

I must admit that I enjoyed these commercials, and while his character is growing a little old, he plays it with freshness (watch how he trills his fingers when he says "just call or go on-line"). Today, I read an article saying that Dell is checking out other advertising campaigns. Could we have seen the last of Steven?

At the Dealers

I spent some time at the dealership today, waiting for auto service. While waiting at the show room floor, a man rushed up the stairs to the service desk, and said "Don't order that part. I won't be needing it." As he made his way downstairs, he announced to a sales person "I'll just get a new car instead." Over the next few minutes, I listened in as he spoke with the sales person. The buyer had decided the cost of a new catalytic converter would be better spent towards a new used car.

It sure is intoxicating sitting in a car dealership, full of gorgeous, gleaming cars. The used cars out front were also nice. Sometimes when I sit there, I contemplate talking to these sales people. "I think I'm ready for a new car," I'd say. "Do you think I can test drive something today?" And we'd be off, spending money I don't have.

Saturday, October 12, 2002

The Revs in the Final

I am rooting for the New England Revolution.

Amazingly, with a tie score today, the Revs made it into the final, the MLS Cup. This is the first time they have made it to the final. The league itself is only six years old, born out of the FIFA World Cup held in the United States in 1994. Jenn and I had season tickets to the Revs in their "dry years". So it was with high hopes that we look forward to meeting the Los Angeles Galaxy in the final. They have a certain karma to them also: the Galaxy have been to the MLS Cup four times(!), and have not won it. I can only wish the Revs extend the Galaxy's streak.

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I am rooting for the San Francisco Giants.

Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Jugglers

On my way home from work today, I spotted a bunch of jugglers practicing in a backyard. They were passing clubs between one another. At home, I saw that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus was in town. Television news had the obligatory shot of elephants trundling along downtown Boston towards the FleetCenter.

I didn't think these two observations had a connection, but now that I think about it, there are jugglers at the circus.

Monday, October 7, 2002

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Biggest surprise for me out of the weekend: The Yankees were eliminated by the Angels. As a result, the Yankees won't be in the American League Championship Series, nor the World Series. A big wow!

Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Today's High School Kids

I went to a college fair tonight representing Rensselaer. Most high school kids have an experience with a college fair. Typically, representatives from dozens of colleges have a table in an auditorium or cafeteria of some high school, and students walk around, seeking colleges they're interested in, talking to reps, and picking up brochures. I enjoy the interaction and the older I get, the more fascinating it is to observe the interaction between kids and their parents, and kids and their peers.

Today's high school kids seem so different than when I went to school. I wonder if I was ever that "cool"? I wonder if I ever acted stand-offish when my parents were around my peers? I see so many of the kids that I knew in high school: the slouch, the A+ student, perky people, quiet people. Who was I back in high school? What impression do I give these kids today?

The questions from students range from "Do you have a nursing program?" (No.) to "What SATs do I need to get in?" (There is no specific score, but the average SAT for the class of 2005 was 1306. I was well below that.) to "What was the atmosphere like?" (It's a blast. I think.) These miniature counseling sessions are varied, and enlightening.

I stare at the parents. I see the parents who have a strong hand in the decision making, and I see the ones who are just there to chauffeur their kids. I enjoy stunning parents with the cost of tuition (it's $35,000 for freshman year, when you add room and board). I also enjoy representing the school as an alumnus, someone who's proud of their degree, and is making the most of it. I think I know what I want them to hear, since I will (I hope!) be walking around some high school cafeteria chasing after my own college-bound daughter.

I think I would enjoy being a guidance counselor. For most kids, the world truly opens up after high school. It would be fun to be their guide as they start to explore their next horizons. It is an exciting time for them, facing the question: "Where do I want to go to college?"

I know what I want to say to those kids: "You have so much time ahead of you!" I want to tell them to know themselves now. Really think about who they are, and what they enjoy. Try to imagine what you want to be doing "in the real world." Yes, getting into a good school is important, but people transfer between colleges all the time. People drop out all the time. People pick up college later in life. You have a lot of time ahead of you! Make sure to enjoy the excitement.