Monday, January 1, 2018

Columbus Blue Jackets (From the Sardine Seats)

My first NHL game. Not as much fun as going to minor league hockey, but almost okay(ish).

Click on pics for larger view.
The view from my seat. Yes, I was above the scoreboard.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Tampa Lightning

When the game is a blowout you can always fight.
Women in skates and miniskirts scraping the ice.
Ummmm, I guess this is supposed to be a blue jacket?

1) Had to run a gauntlet of beggars and get cussed out by a conman on my way from the parking garage to the hockey rink.

2) My seat was above the scoreboard and it was far from the highest seat in the house. It provided an excellent view of the game, but otherwise it was BY FAR the worst seat I've sat in for years. The seats were inexcusably tiny and this wasn't just because I'm personally big. Everybody in the row was alternating with one person sitting back and one person sitting on the front edge of his seat. It was the only way to sit unless we wanted our shoulders crushed into each other along the entire row. Worse, the seats were separated from each other by unmovable, hard plastic arm rests. These wouldn't have been too bad except each had an unusable cup holder on it which made it hard for adults to even get into the seats. And if you put a drink in one it would have gotten crushed, crumpled and spilled by you and/or your neighbor. I've been to lots of stadiums, parks, pitches, rinks, etc. over the last few years and I've complained because some sell tickets where they know the view is blocked so the action cannot be seen (Cincinnati Reds, Indianapolis Indians, Huntsville Havoc), but I've never before been to a place where the seat itself is so deplorably bad. Oh, and my seat was on the first row of the upper level and there was so little space between the front of the seat and the plexiglass keeping you from falling about ten feet to the walkway below that my knees were on it for most of the game. They've optimized this place to crush as many people in as they can and they've succeeded at that. However, they've also made it unpleasant enough that nobody should pay the cost of an upper level seat ($82 for my single seat - $66 plus "fees"). Buy a subscription to NHL TV instead. It's $99 right now and was less than $150 at the beginning of the season. Do the math, use a VPN, stay home, and have a good experience watching the game.

3) The first period was lackadaisical.

4) The second period was a slaughter. Before the clock ticked off nine minutes the Thunder had put the puck into the goal four times and the game was effectively over. Sometime in the third period, the Thunder got another goal and it all ended with Blue Jackets' fans booing the home team loudly. I don't know how the fans in the bottom level were reacting, but the fans in the sardine seats were mightily peeved off.

5) I bolted for the door before the "indoor fireworks.' Holy cow, that's a bad idea.

6) A once in a lifetime experience (I hope).

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wheeling Nailers

Toledo Walleyes

All ECHL matches have the mandatory fight, but this one seemed a little more real than most.

Wheeling Nailers

1) That's the last time I trust my weather app. The drive across West Virginia when it wasn't supposed to be snowing turned into death drive 2017. Then the same thing happened when I got into my car to drive the ten minutes to the rink and ended up driving geared down in near whiteout conditions for about half a thirty-plus minute drive. Oh, and the temperature at time of puck drop was 11 degrees Fahrenheit, -8 wind chill.

2) For a day in which only insane people were going out to a hockey match, there was a good sized crowd out at the rink.

3) The Toledo Walleyes scored almost immediately and put three pucks in the goal in the first period. The Wheeling Nailers struck back in the second period scoring three of their own before the Walleyes put two in in the last minute or so of the second. The third was hard fought and the Nailers got one back and had the Walleyes' goal under siege when time ran out.

4) Overall, although the drive sucked the hockey was a lot of fun. Now, on to Columbus.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Off Season Happenings (Baseball)

While most  of the minor leagues pushed out their schedule for 2018 extremely early this year, changes in logos and names are happening later. The only new logo that came early was the American Association' Chicago Dogs in unaffiliated ball.

It's an interesting logo for a brand spanking new team. It has ties to a popular item in popular culture (a Chicago hotdog), although I think the color scheme is a bit on the weak side. I'll be interested to see how this one weathers the ravages of time. Blue and red are already claimed colors in Chicago. If this team survives and thrives it might want to change those some day to differentiate itself (or  avoid a lawsuit).

However affiliated minor leagues didn't go through the usual spate of changes we see during November. Instead, we have now been hit with three new changes in earlyish mid-December. It's an interesting time to do this because it misses the early Christmas shopping period for anyone buying for a minor league fan.

The re-imagining of the Augusta Greenjackets' logo as they move to a new State is a mixed bag::
click to enlarge

Both the "A" logo and the name logo are impressive. The color scheme is strong. The wasp logo would be strong too except for that thing on its head. I spent a while trying to figure out what that was and my best guest \was some sort of crown. When I finally bowed to the inevitable and looked it up, it turns out to be a golfing cap. Without the cap failure this would have been close to perfect.

The re-imagining of the logo for the Hudson Valley Renegades is more even:
click to enlarge
All of those are solid logos, although none is too strong. They seem to have dropped red from their color scheme a while back and taken the Rays colors which leaves a rather bland palate for their logo. If I remember right the logo being replaced was a raccoon tail with the name and raccoon eyes over the top. It was a decent logo but these are tighter and will probably look better on a uniform. I'm not sure what I think about the smirking raccoon. I think that is a throwback to an older logo where the raccoon was smiling. The smirk isn't a smile though and seems a little off putting.

Finally, there is the Gwinnett Stirpers:
click to enlarge

As everyone can recall, I previously recommended that Gwinnett change its name and logo. Neither of my suggestions were accepted (Goshawks or Gesundheits), but the team in Gwinnett did take my general advice and change its name and logo. I'm not sure what tortured reason the ad company which sold Gwinnett on "Stripers" used. However, it hooked the team andd now we have the Gwinnett Stripers.

All the logos are well drawn and the name logo as well as the one with the tail and ball are good (and somebody needs to show Pensacola that a good logo with a fish can be done). The use of the hook with a baseball on it is a flaw in the ones in which it appears and the hook with the cartoon worm is poor. The G in the shape of a home plate around the fish is clever. I may have to buy a hat.

And that's all we've got so far. There will be more to come. At the very least the rookie league team in Greeneville, Tennessee will have to rebrand some day as it moves from being an Astros affiliate to the Reds.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Cincinnati Cyclones

Went to see the Cyclones last night in Cincy. There were about 8,000 people there and they were having a blast.

The flames under which the Cyclones skated in.

The dive.
1. The place was so full that they had to uncover seats they hadn't planned to sell.
2. Cincinnati had two mascots. Porckchop is above and I have no idea what connection he has to cyclones, but there was a statue of him out front of the stadium. It took me half the game to figure out the second was supposed to be a twister and I only got that when I read "Twister" on the back of its uniform.
3. They brought the Cyclones out under a flame that was so powerful I don't know how it didn't melt the ice. We got warm from it 18 rows from the ice.
4. The first period was hard skated and clean.
5. The second period was an extended fight. I'm not sure how many people ended up out on fighting majors, but there might have been four people on the ice when the Cyclones scored.
6. The third period was extremely hard played and there were no fights.
7. The ECHL is predictable. They obviously use fights as part of their ticket sales incentive and the Cyclones are clearly all in for that strategy.
8. The Cyclones have figured out how to do a good show. I really liked the part where they rode people out on zambonis between periods.
9. The Cyclones beat the Toledo Walleyes 1-0.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs

Last night was the first hockey game I've gotten to this year and it was a blast. The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs of the SPHL were hosting the Macon Mayhem in front of about 2,000 fans and it was game on from the second the first puck dropped.

In the first period both teams got three goals. Each was hotly contested, but it was a wee bit more scoring than you usually see in any period much less the first. In the second period the Rail Yard Dawgs got one goal, but the big story for them was the fact that their goalie imploded. Earlier in the period the goalie left the net to go off to the boards to his left only to have the puck take an unexpected bounce off the boards and end up right in front of the net where a Mayhem skater was waiting to put in the softest, most uncontested goal I've ever seen in hockey. Hockey fans being, well, hockey fans, instantly began to pour out every bit of hate they'd ever had at the goalie. It didn't help when later in the same period the goalie sat frozen on the ice as a Mayhem player shot through the gap between his legs and scored.

Finally, at about the time it looked like the goalie was going to need a police escort to get out of the building alive, the coach decided to switch him out and put Barone in. Barone turned out to be a brick wall and no further goals were scored by the Mayhem. Meanwhile, the Rail Yard Dawgs managed to pull even in the third period and forced the game into sudden death.

In sudden death, the Rail Yard Dawgs controlled the puck the majority of the very short time that the period lasted and pretty quickly blasted in a goal to end it all with a 6-5 victory.

1. The arena is nice and a $20 ticket had me on the glass near center ice.
2. Don't buy your $5 parking online because they will charge you a service fee and the parking was only $5 when I got there and there was plenty of it.
3. Both concessions and souvenirs were more than a little overpriced here. Eat supper before you go. Not sure what you can do to get jerseys etc. cheaper.
4. I'm a little upset that the jersey I bought (which is okay) was nowhere near as good as the one the Dawgs wore out onto the ice. They weren't even the same color scheme. Where do I trade in my blue, light blue, white, and yellow one for that cool red one?
5. The SPHL still does its best to keep fights from happening and the refs break up anything that starts immediately. So, if you're looking for a fight go find an ECHL game where they seem to have that one fight minimum per game guarantee.
6. It's time to start watching hockey folks. I'll see you at the ice!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Louisville City FC v. Red Bull II

USL Eastern Conference Championship at Louisville last night between the Lou City Purple and Red Bull II.

And so it begins.
Ownby (of course) gets this ball, lets it bounce, spins, and back-kicks it past the player in front of him and under the goalie.
I'm famous!
Intercepted throw in.

Greg Ranjitsingh - the eventual hero of our saga.
1.  Game won on penalty kicks 1(4) - 1(3) by the Purple and Ranjitsingh deserves a medal (or a raise).
2.  That crowd went the most nuts I've ever seen anybody get at a soccer match.
3.  The refs are pretty lucky that Lou City won because otherwise they were going to need a National Guard escort back to their cars.
4.  The refs were generally allowing a pretty rough game to be played and that favored Red Bull II because they were playing much rougher than the Purple.
5.  I don't know that the Red Bull player shoving the Lou City guy down before he could shoot in the box was a penalty or the RB guy coming down on the Purple player's head with his cleats was, but shoving a guy head first into the wall is a major penalty in HOCKEY and the ref refused to call it.
6.  Over 10,000 people at the stadium and it was rockin'.
7.  The Oscar phenomenon: For the matches I've been coming up for, I've noticed that the people in my section absolutely love Oscar Jimenez. They root for the others, but they are obviously fond of Oscar. Today, I saw why. While all the other players were still celebrating people in my section flooded the rail and he came over and shook and slapped hands with fans back and forth across the section (including mine). And it wasn't just some fan service thing. It was plain to see that he was there to share the joy of it all.
8.  The Red Bull had a suspicious number of "cramps" at times the Purple started getting on a roll in the second half. At one point, when the ref wouldn't stop play for one guy down another went down and play got stopped. The crazy faithful were holding up red cards, but the ref never did.
9.  Holy cow, the Red Bull put in a man so big in the second half that the people across the aisle from me instantly started calling him Gigantor. He wasn't fast and he wasn't particularly skilled in ball handling, but he was a head taller than everyone else and bounced every single ball that was in the air back up field from his defensive position. It took Lou City a good portion of the second half to realize that nothing in the air was going to go their way and adapt its offense to go around him.
10.  For the last three Lou City matches in the playoffs I've driven 4+ hours to come up and watch the match. How do I get rewarded? The Championship game is going to be MONDAY, 13 November 2017 at 9:00 p.m. So, I guess next weekend's minor league money will be spent at the Knoxville Ice Bears or Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs. Unfortunately, I doubt I'm the only person who will miss the game because of its date and time. The people walking out behind me were locals and they were not happy because, y'know what, THEY HAVE JOBS AND SCHOOL and didn't want to come to a match starting that late on a weekday.
11.  Up to this gaff, the USL has run a far better playoff than the MLS. Let's face it, the only reason people are watching the MLS playoffs, with their dumb two game setup and poor matches, is to see if the Crew and its fans can stick it to the Scumbag Owner who bought the team in bad faith and is trying to steal it from them. #SaveTheCrew  And if it can't be saved in the MLS save the name and the old, cool logo (the owner can have the doodle) and bring them to the USL (the better league anyway).

Sunday, October 29, 2017

USL Lou City v. Rochester Rhinos

This weekend was the second weekend of the USL Playoffs in Louisville. Last weekend was decent temperature and a weak opponent. This Saturday it was cold and a hard fought match which Lou City won when Brian Ownby (midfielder) got the goalie to come out and commit and then dinked it past him. Lou City 1 - Rochester Rhinos 0.

I might have been a little cold

Pregame Huddles

Didn't Quite Get There

Oscar After a Mugging

Oscar After Another Mugging
1.  I know 38 degrees ain't all that cold, but it's the first weekend of such temperatures and it felt like -20.
2.  There were over 6,000 people in the stadium last weekend. I don't think as many were there this Saturday, but it was a respectable crowd and every one of us was dressed like we were above the Arctic Circle.
 3.  Lou City runs its offense up the right side so poor Oscar Jimenenz, rarely got to kick the ball - about half the time he did he got mugged.
4. There were long periods of time where Lou City played ball control and just passed it around from midfielders and defenders.
5.  For about 10-15 minutes toward the end of the 1st half the Rhinos pressed hard and it looked like there was no way Lou City would keep them out of the goal.
6.  Ranjitsingh made a difference at goalie.
7.  Thank God for Brian Ownby. Until he scored, I thought this match would go to overtime and end with a shootout. And I was fairly certain I'd be a popsicle by then.
8.  Next week Lou City faces Red Bull II.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Centre Ladies' Soccer (Homecoming Weekend)

Gotta luv women's soccer - no penalty

Running through the defense - literally

1.  The more I watch women's soccer the more I enjoy it. Less penalty calls. Less flops. When they go down they get up unless they're actually hurt. In other words, they man up better than the men and it makes for better matches.
2.  Centre had control of this match pretty much from the moment the whistle blew.
3.  Of course, the whistle blew an hour after the match was supposed to start. Apparently, they had trouble getting refs for the match. In the end they got a ref and one linesman and everybody just had to live with the fact that they were one short.
4.  I was only able to stay for the first half because the match started so late.
4.  Centre won 5-0- over Sewanee.

USL Playoffs at Lou City

The USL soccer playoffs began yesterday. Out West, the number 8 seed, Sacramento Republic, took out the Real Monarchs in a shootout 1(3) - 1(1). Highlights here. Full match here. In the East, the Lou City Purples absolutely handled Bethlehem Steel 4 - 0. Highlights here. Full match here. As promised, I was at the Lou City match.

The *ahem* more interesting fans line up to march to their seats.

I think we might need to give the Lou City player on the left a cape.

Every goal - much more purple in person.

When you're trying to convince the ref that a red card should be issued because your player is mortally wounded you should at least pretend to be worried about him.
1. For some reason, my gps insisted on taking me to the wrong part of the city when I told it to take me to Louisville FC. When I changed and told it to take me to the baseball stadium it got me there.
2. Decent size crowd - about the size of a typical day when the baseball team is playing.
3.  Considering that this is a baseball stadium converted to a soccer pitch there are actually a fair number of good seats.
4. Louisville had control of the game from the beginning.
5. I'm pretty sure that Lou City imported hockey fans for the match. They were convinced the refs were letting Bethlehem get away with everything short of murder and gave the poor assistant ref near me sheer hell. One guy jumped out of his seats and ran down the stairs to the wall and started yelling at the linesman, "Three of you! Three of you and you missed that! Do your job!"
6. Next week Lou City will face the winner of the Rhinos-Independence match.