Thursday, December 28, 2006

Back from vacation

Ah yes, after flying from Oakland to Salt Lake City, continuing on to Cincinatti, and then on to Burlington, I have returned to the great old north of Vermont. I returned with a nasty cold thanks to my nieces, a greater appreciation of said nieces, and a desire to throttle Delta Airlines.

First, the good of the trip. It was great to see the family again and to see how BIG my two nieces are. They are both AMAZING children who are creative, happy, affectionate, and SMART!! Lucy, who is a couple of months short of two, showed off to me that she can count to ten, and turned an orange slice into a lady bug which she then promptly ate......Along with everything else in the house. Janie, who is now four, greeted me with a massive hug and a kiss, then promptly asked where her aunt was. Thanks Janie, it is good to know where I stand.....When we left the Bay Area yesterday, Janie told me she loves me, planted a couple of kisses on me, and then I didn't want to leave.

Now for the ugly.....I hate Delta Airlines. I could deal with two connections on the way home, that is just standard. What I couldn't deal with was the fact that this beaten up and battered sportsclown couldn't manage to get a wheelchair. Now for those who know me, you know I am not totally disabled by any means; I just have an aching and creaking left knee which makes simple things like walking without searing pain impossible. I knew full well with tight connections, there was no way I could hobble, stop every minute or two, and make the flights, so I requested a wheelchair through customer service. Not only did I do that, but told the flight attendants(Who were VERY nice) the same, and it was to be taken care of. Do you think it was? Strike one!!!!

Going from Burlington to Cincy, there was one, but since we had to change concourses, the dude left me at the bus and I had to hobble up a flight of stairs and then drag the leg behind me. Ya know, he could have called ahead and asked someone to meet me!! I am not hard to miss!! I had a bag, ESPN shirt, and dragging the dead weight of my leg behind me. Not difficult!!! My wife had to fly up ahead to make sure they knew I was hobbling along and would eventually be there, and we ended up making the flight by a hair.

The way home was an adventure all in itself. We got to Salt Lake City with a chair waiting but no one to drag my gimpy butt to the next concourse. I waited, asked for a lift, was told to sit, and someone would be there. Five minutes later, no dude or dudette to drag me, so I had to drag myself. One gate agent actually told me I did not need a chair. Holy fark, I almost lit her up but then realized I had another tight connection to make and had to hobble in a hurry. Yes, we made that one too but I was in serious pain.

Fast forward to Cincinatti where I had again arranged the chair, and it was waiting for me thanks to a very kind and vigilant flight attendant named Jennifer who made sure my chariot awaited. The designated driver was hysterical when he said he was expecting an old man. He took me to the bus, we cracked jokes, and he actually called ahead to have someone meet me. Small problem........No one was there. I asked a couple of people for a lift, they looked at me like I had three heads. Finally some old coot had me hobble with him to get a chair, and I was at the gate. Oh yeah, one more thing.....Man alive that is a long walk in the commuter terminal to get from the gate area to the actual gate. A lift would have been nice!!!

Of course I fired off a nice little e-mail to Delta about the whole deal. Needless to say, I was one miserable radio dude whose knee needs to be chopped off with a chainsaw.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Live from San Francisco..........

Yes folks, I am in fact in San Francisco for some time with my family and a much needed vacation. This vacation thing is kinda cool actually. I wake up, my uncle has made coffee, Mom has made breakfast, and the only thing I am forced to do all day is play with my nieces. I think I can live like this...........

The only thing of note that would interest anyone but myself is my wife felt her first ever earthquake this morning. Yuppers, it was centered about five miles from here and registered 3.5 on the Richter scale. It only lasted a few seconds, and of course I thought it was funny. I get to town and an earthquake hits. Ah yes, the pleasures of being home.

Happy holidays everyone, my nieces are tugging at my knees and are demanding I have a tea party with them.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The world as we know it is ending.........

No, Babe Ruth is not back from the dead; George Steinbrenner did not grow a heart, but something else of monumental proportions happened.......I stopped being stubborn for a mere day.

As some of you know, I have the absolute knee of doom. I have had it scoped twice, I can walk without searing pain for about ten seconds a day, and the doctors have said they can't do a stinking thing. Well, my beloved wife and I are heading out west for five days with my family, and we have a TIGHT connection in Cincy. When I say tight, we are talking 35 minutes tight thanks to Delta and their love of inflicting torture on their passengers. Now, I am as stubborn as the Republican party is corrupt. I don't care if my body will fall apart with the next step, I am still taking the step because I simply don't know any other way. Either that or the family genetics get in the way which means there is a glossy photo of us in Websters next to the word "stubborn". Anyway, back to the connection. With the connection as tight as it is, and with as miserable as walking is, I conceded that I will need some assistance getting from one terminal to another in less than three days. So, I called Delta and told them I need an old person mobile at the gate.

When I mentioned this to my wife, she almost had a coronary. "My husband?? Ask for help?? What alien took control of your brain that made you actually do something logical??" (I kicked her with the good knee, fell over, and she laughed.) So, if you see someone hiding their face at the airport in Cincy, leave me my one bit of humility and don't laugh so hard your ribs break. I am doing this ONLY because I want to get back to my beloved San Francisco so I can eat Mom's food, drink her booze, and spoil my nieces ROTTEN!!!! (Only because I can give them back...Sorry sis.) I am still stubborn, still a pain in the word the FCC wouldn't like me to use, and always will be!!!! There is no getting around it world, regardless of what you do!!! Well, there is, but only for tight connecting flights. I blame this all on Delta and genetics........

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The stretch run.......

Ah yes, after doing three games in four nights, I can now really start counting down the days until my much anticipated vacation. Today one part of the body will be taking a much deserved day off........My voice. Yes folks, after doing two hockey games and a basketball game with more or less non-stop talking, my voice is cooked, toasted, killed, mauled, and silent. Now civilization as we know it is probably quite pleased that I sound like an obscene phone call gone horribly wrong, but it happens. The interesting thing should be tomorrow when I go into work and do my usual thing. I can picture it, "I'm Chris Fells, or something resembling Chris Fells with.......".

I had some pretty good games this week. The first one was a bit of a yawner as Colchester just crushed Middlebury in boy's hockey 9-1, but that was followed up the next night with a track meet of a boy's hockey game in which Montpelier pressed Lyndon into submission by nine. Last night I had the Burlington/BFA Saint Albans girls' hockey game which was a GREAT game. Alas, the voice started going in the third period. Oops.

Two more this week and then I am headed to San Francisco for five days of spoiling my nieces and catching up with the rest of the family that I haven't seen in a year and a half. To say the least, I can't wait.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Vermont Frost Heaves

At long last, after bending my schedule, and then finally getting the time, I made the trip down Interstate 89 to Barre, Vermont to finally attend the latest game in town; the Vermont Frost Heaves of the American Basketball Association. The Frost Heaves are the brainchild and dream of Sports Illustrated writer Alex Wolff, who wanted to bring basketball to his adopted home state. Alex is a prolific writer, having written countless books on basketball, and basically being obsessed with the game from about 30 seconds after being born.

The ABA is a struggling minor league with countless problems and issues ranging from corrupt owners, to corrupt upper leadership, and teams who have folded in mid-season, failed to pay their players, and whose commissioner has all of the PR skills of a two year old who is throwing a tantrum. Last year, the league played half of its games, but yet commissioner Joe Newmann has plans to expand his league to over 100 teams. Don't let these statements turn you against the Frost Heaves, Alex Wolff is a man who if others follow his lead can turn this league into a success.

So, after calling the Saint Michael's/LeMoyne game on WCAT, I made the trip down I-89 to the Barre Auditorium. "The Aud" has been recognized by the USA Today as one of the top ten venues in the country for high school basketball with great views of the court, and an intimate and LOUD environment. The Aud is packed for the state basketball tournaments, and everyone I bumped into seems to have a memory of one game or another from years past. Barre is a blue collar area whose fans know their basketball who have the days counted down until the next game at the old brick arena.

Alex is a man who as my mother would say "gets it". Being a Vermonter, Alex has honed in on what will bring fans to the games. All of the products sold and produced are environmentally friendly, and are tied into the local economy. The team bus is low emission, and the concessions are all done by local companies from Central Vermont and are very affordable. Forget the standard cold hot dog with a soggy bun; Alex had a place with fresh grilled sausages and hand made crepes. Tickets are a bargain at 12 bucks for a balcony seat, and the parking is free.

Some of the players themselves have local ties. Dana Martin starred at Stowe High, Burlington product and Saint Michael's standout B.J. Robertson gets some time, and local favorite Kerry Lyons who hasn't seen a second of playing time this year has a cult following because of his easy going manner and the fact he hasn't stopped smiling since the tryout sessions. All of the players willingly sign autographs before and after the game and have been known to hold impromptu teaching sessions while they are warming up. Coach Will Voigt is a graduate of Cabot High School who is a basketball savant. At the age of 30, he has already coached college ball, and overseas at the pro level. He has worked with the San Antonio Spurs, and many say Will has a solid chance at being an NBA coach.

The fans are entertained during timeouts and in between quarters with a variety of promotions including a race where kids go from one sideline to the other and change the banners in front of the scorers table. Fans are recognized, by the PA guy who keeps yelling for more ringing of the cowbells (Don't ask, they gave me a migrane and I had to block them out) and throwing out facts about Frost Heave players. The Aud holds about 1,500 and I think I counted 50 empty seats.

The quality of play isn't bad, but it could be better. These are guys who are hanging on to their dream of playing professional basketball and are doing everything they can to hold on. The pace is frantic as only seven seconds are allowed to cross mid-court, and if the ball is turned over in the backcourt, and the opposing team scores, an extra point is awarded. Quebec City was able to turn two field goals into three points, and another two three pointers into four. Defense is emphasized, and if you can't run for 48 minutes, then get in shape.

The fan experience is tremendous, the staff goes above and beyond, and owner Alex Wolff is a class guy who deserves all of the success in the world. He is bringing affordable basketball to an area in need of something to hold onto, and if the commissioner of the league would stop handing out franchises to anyone whose check clears, the league may make some money for everyone and not just those in the family of Mr. Newmann. Alex has marketed the team, is a PR genius, has gotten out in the community, and made a name for his team. Many teams in this league have not done that and have failed miserably; including six teams who have folded this year. Off the record I was told two more and possibly three more will fold in the near future. If every team follows Alex's model, and Mr. Newmann REQUIRES all prospective teams do the same, the league will grow. If Mr. Newmann fails to do that, his league will go into the sunset.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More from the old job.......

First of all, thanks to Cathy Resmer for linking my blog in her "Tuesday Linkdump" section. It is good to see that people are reading my ramblings.

Now, to more of the questions I get asked about my duties at ESPN Radio......

1) "Why don't you do more local sports coverage?"

We do what we are able to as far as covering action in the area. There are only two of us doing games being myself and Larry Richards, so unless cloning is now legal, there is only so much we can do while keeping our sanity and preserving our marriages. Actually, wait, more games may save the marriages........

2) "What sport is the most difficult to call?"

So far, I have to go with hockey. I did a game last week in Middlebury and the action is so quick, there are so many changes, etc that it is difficult to keep up with it all. Football you have more time to talk about the play, and there is are some breaks in there. Hockey, the play doesn't stop and when it does, it is a quick turnaround. The voice tends to get a bit tired during those games.

3) "Why are there so many commercials, and why can't you give more analysis during timeouts instead of going on and on about sponsors?"

Simply, because I want to get paid. Advertisers pay our salaries, heating bill, insurance, etc. We promise sponsors a certain number of mentions, and we do that and a bit more. Again, we do have bills to pay.

4) "Who has the best press box?"

Middlebury College has the Taj Mahal of press boxes when it comes to football. It is heated, the view is fantastic, stats are quick, and the food is always hot. In high school, Essex High is fantastic. There is PLENTY of room, and again, the munchies are good and we are treated very well. Colchester High is tied for first as well because of the size and the true hospitality shown by Leigh Mallory, the AD at the school.

5) "Who has the worst press box?"

Trinity College in Hartford is pretty miserable. The parking is terrible so I had to lug my equipment for quite a distance, and the thing resembles a tin can. Simply horrible.

More later on this week or next.......South Burlington/Middlebury tomorrow on WCAT 1390 at 6:45, then Saint Mike's against Le Moyne at 1:15 on CAT and WRSA.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Random Vermont thingy

You are 77% from Vermont!

You probably got a lower score because, even though you're a real Vermonter, you must be one of those rednecks who failed history.

How Vermont are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Holy crap, have I turned into a Vermonter?