Monday, October 27, 2014

The Short Game

The other night, the Boston Celtics played a 44-minute exhibition game against the Brooklyn Nets. Since NBA games are usually 48 minutes in length, this was puzzling. Why did they do that? Apparently, the folks in charge of professional basketball feel the younger generation are being lost because they don't have the attention span for longer games. They're thinking of shortening the games in an effort to lure more fans.

It's Marketing 101 to give people more as an enticement, not less. Whichever business school graduated the genius behind this harebrained idea should be stripped of its certification immediately. Take this ploy to a logical conclusion and you'd have to believe that customers will give you the most money when you deliver no product at all.

(Well, OK, that's often true in government, so maybe it's possible in sports.)

I'm amazed at the so-called fans of a sport who will defend shorter games. Quite a few supposed baseball fans have been decrying the length of baseball games. They keep advocating ways to speed up and shorten the game. I look at those folks the same way I'd look at a person who professes love for someone but then says he wishes he didn't have to spend so much damn time with her.

I know some younger fans of baseball will find this hard to believe, but there used to be these things called “doubleheaders”. Not just two games in one day; they still have those occasionally, played one in daylight and one at night, separate admissions for both. What I'm talking about is two games in one day, played back-to-back and requiring only ONE admission. It was the best bargain in sport. You got to spend 7 or 8 hours at the ballpark for the same price as one game on any other day. It wasn't a travail. It wasn't something to be endured. It wasn't a whole bunch of people in a hurry constantly looking at their watches and moaning about how long it was taking while they fretted about missing the next thing they wanted to do. It was a ballpark, often full of kids – that is, future fans - who appreciated a bargain.

If you find that hard to believe, try this on for size. The Celtics used to offer their fans basketball doubleheaders. It wasn't the Celts playing two games in a row – basketball is a bit too strenuous for that – but there would be a game, before the home team played, involving either two other NBA teams or the Harlem Globetrotters and their Washington Generals patsies.

And now they're offering not two games, but one shorter game in an attempt to build their fan base. If it works, I expect we'll someday see PGA golf tournaments on putt-putt courses, hockey games where first goal wins, and soccer games consisting only of a tie-breaking shootout. I do believe, though, that there's one area where this idea of shortening things to make them more valuable might work: political campaigns. Can we get the NBA marketing team to work on that?

Soon, with more better stuff.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Time Capsule

So, this was something I submitted for publication in a Boston newspaper, but it was not run. This was because of one reason or the other.

One Reason - It was submitted a little late to be scheduled during a timeframe when it would still be current.

The Other - The editor didn't like it.

Well, hell, it couldn't be that. Anyway, it's fairly Boston-centric, but I'm sure all of you - from Boston or not - will get the gist of it. And my tears from it not being published will be dried via your wonderfully kind-hearted and complimentary comments.

Either that or I've submitted it to you just a little late.


The other day, while repairs were being done on the lion and unicorn from atop the Old State House, a time capsule from 1901 was found inside of the lion's head. The stuff in that time capsule will be sorted out; as of my writing, we don't know everything in there. The most interesting thing to me, however, is the plan to encase a new time capsule for future historians to find. The Bostonian Society is actively soliciting suggestions as to what should go in it.

First, I think we should concentrate on things that are now extant but which may not be when this new time capsule is opened. The Constitution, for instance. We should probably enclose some sort of proofs that it wasn't just a work of fiction dreamed up by utopian crackpots, but was actually the guiding force behind an oddly successful country known as The United States of America. I'm not sure what those proofs would be, though. Maybe news reports showing the Supreme Court dopeslapping elected officials who tried to ignore it? Do we have any of those handy?

Some money would probably be interesting to those who crack open our time capsule. What with debit cards, internet transactions, and other cashless ways to purchase, they may not know what money is aside from lovely portraits of some guys with bizarre taste in hairstyles. We won't explain the truncated pyramid with a floating eye; let them try to figure it out same as us.

That painting by Norman Rockwell showing a family gathered around a dining table for Thanksgiving might be an interesting curiosity. I rather doubt Thanksgiving will still be a holiday by then (at least, not if Macy's has anything to say about it.)

We might consider including a cell phone, along with some photos of what happened when our citizens used such devices to text while driving. There should also be some photos showing people camping out for days in front of stores in order to buy the things, then throw in a few photos of Soviet citizens lining up to purchase toilet paper in the 1960s. Let our descendants decide which was the more interesting human behavior.

I think a copy of this year's ballot, with four referendum questions, would be a good thing to include, with the following explanation: “We used to let our people vote to include or not include certain things in the law. Then our legislators ignored that vote unless they agreed with it anyway.” Attach the results of the 2000 vote to lower the state income tax rate to 5%, just in case nobody believes that statement.

Finally, we should think about including some bacon cheeseburgers, booze and cigarettes since they may all be outlawed by then in the quest to lower government health care costs. But, knowing human nature, I'd lay even money the guy who opens the time capsule will take a belt, chow down and light up before looking at the rest of the things.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Have You Ever Ridden The T?

Have you ever ridden the T?

If so, then you'll know that I'm giving folks 100% unvarnished stone-cold good advice in my latest piece for The Boston Herald.

Or maybe it's a big pack of lies. Or it might just be my usual crap - some truth, some lies, some allegedly funny stuff, a couple of pip pips, a bit of barbecue and what have you. But you have to read the piece to decide, so why not go and do that right now?

Soon, with more (probably lengthier, with fewer links per square inch) stuff.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

A Worthy Cause This Sunday

I'd like you to try a little experiment. Don't move, in any way, for just one minute.

Aggravating, isn't it? If you have an itch, you can't scratch it. Something in your eye? Too bad. Nose running? Tough.

You now have some idea of what Chad Larivee has been going through since July 29th.

Chad is a 43-year-old Taunton firefighter with a wife and three kids. He spent eight years as a hoseman, routinely entering burning buildings. More recently, he drove Taunton's Engine 1, the city's busiest pumper. During the past 17 years, he put his life on the line. That's what firefighters do. But, while helping a fellow jake with some roof repair on his day off, Chad fell 30 feet from a ladder and suffered a severe spinal cord injury. He was immediately paralyzed.

He was medflighted to Rhode Island Hospital, where he underwent 9 hours of surgery. After almost a month in their ICU, eating via a feeding tube and unable to speak because of a tracheotomy, he was moved to Spaulding Rehab in Charlestown. He remains there today, doing the hard work to try and regain some mobility. Currently, he is a tetraplegic. He has limited left arm movement only.

Since the injury, Chad's fellow firefighters say he has remained tremendously upbeat despite his troubles. And they'd know because they've been there for him. In Rhode Island, there was always at least one of the Taunton crew by his bedside 24/7. At Spaulding, a Taunton firefighter stays overnight, every night – 10pm to 6am – so Chad never wakes up alone. They scratch those itches and do whatever else is physically needed. Some firefighters in Worcester known as “The Ramp Gang”, assisted by their brothers from Taunton, Scituate, Franklin and Northbridge, donated their time and skills to build Chad an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp at his home. It is hoped Chad will be able to return home in November.

But there's a lot more work needed and the funds to do that work are staggering. Chad will need a specialized wheelchair and a chair van, a residential elevator, a mounted lift in his home, conversion of his bathroom and other spaces. It will cost hundreds of thousands and none of that specialty equipment is covered via insurance.

To raise what's needed, his friends in Taunton have set up a fundraising event on Sunday October 12th. Starting at noon, at The Jockey Club in Raynham, there will be five live bands; fun games like jump houses, bowling and face painting for kids (children 12 and under get in free); food and drinks; some superb items up for bid via auction (for example, all-expenses-paid trips to San Diego to see the Patriots play the Chargers or to California for the USC – Notre Dame game.) And you won't miss the Pats game if you go; you can see them take on the Buffalo Bills via a huge projector. More information is available at!blog/c35h (or, if you can't make it that day and the spirit moves you, you can make a donation anyway.)

I'll be there on Sunday. I hope you will, too.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Final Day At The Downs

If you were here on Friday, you know I was going to attend the final day of live horse racing at Suffolk Downs. If (for some unfathomable reason) you weren't here on Friday, here's the why of it.

I'm happy to report that MY WIFE and I did, indeed, go there on Saturday. I met up with the crew from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. They were very nice and I think the interview I did went well. I was informed that it will likely air sometime in the next two weeks. When it does, I'll provide some way for you to view it (unless I view it first and I see that I came across as a total idiot, in which case I'll deny everything I've said on both Friday and today.)

Some of you may be wondering if I made any money betting the ponies on that last day.

As might be divined from the illustration, the answer is no. I lost a few bucks. I am happy to report, however, that the very last bet I made at Suffolk Downs was a winner.

It was an overcast and rainy day, not the most pleasant imaginable for autumn in New England. The track was muddy and it drizzled off and on for most of the time we were there. It got to the fifth race (of nine) and I said to MY WIFE, "This is the last one for us if I don't cash."

It wasn't because we would have been out of money; I want that to be clear. It was just that I wasn't getting much of a thrill from the whole experience. I had been psyched for meeting the Australians and doing the interview, but after that it was just mostly a depressing scene. It was the last day, after all, and most of the workers there on that day were losing their jobs tomorrow. The crowd was larger than it had been for years, but, again, that was because it was the last day, forever, for thoroughbred horse racing in New England. Had the place been closing without advance notice, the crowd would have been half the size. As I say, it was overcast and dreary. And I hadn't picked a winner yet. Had I been spectacularly successful, it would have seemed sunnier.

So we watched the fifth race and my horse, Get Back Jack, led from wire-to-wire. He paid $9.20 to win. I had five dollars on his nose and so I went to the window to cash my $23.00 ticket. I decided My Dad would be proud of me if I walked away with the winnings from that final race instead of maybe blowing it back trying to get fully even on the final four races. MY WIFE was amenable to whatever I wished, bless her, and so we left. There is a certain amount of satisfaction in walking away a winner the final time out (even if one is a loser overall.)

Speaking of losers, I'll tell you a funny story involving my softball teammate and friend, Big Jay Atton. He called me on Saturday morning and left a message. He asked me when I was going to the track. He works somewhat nearby to Suffolk Downs, so I imagined he might get off work and come on over. I called him back and got his answering service. I told him to call me back. He did, again leaving me a message. We were playing phone tag and now I was it.

So, I called him back. He answered, saying "Hello, Jim Sullivan!" I said hello. He asked me what time we were going. I started telling him what our plans were. He interrupted me and asked me a question. I spoke. He interrupted again. I started speaking again and then he says, "Nah, this is just my voice mail message. Leave a message." And I heard a "BEEP".

The bastard had recorded a message, using my name, and had totally suckered me. I left him an obscene recording, while laughing.

As it turns out, he didn't get back to me after that message and apparently he showed up at the track himself but never spotted us. He got all indignant about it on Facebook. We would have loved to have met him there - the Australian TV crew might have made him a star in Oz, as well; you never know - but it didn't happen. Well, shoot, I'm about 5' 10" and MY WIFE is 5' 1", so we can duck under the radar in a big crowd, but if he had called me back and told me he was definitely going to be there, our chances of spotting him, at 6' 7", would have been much better. Oh, well. I would have introduced him to the Australians as a former jockey just to see the look on their faces.

Soon, with more better stuff (or more bettor stuff, but not at Suffolk.)

P.S. Got the photo from this place. Since I lost money overall, I hope it's OK. A lawsuit would make neither of us any money.

Friday, October 03, 2014

My 15 Minutes Will Begin In Australia

Last time you were here, you were directed to a story of mine in the Boston Herald that talked about Suffolk Downs, a racetrack in East Boston.

(I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the last time you were here was when Bush was still president. If so, thanks for coming back and where the hell have you been?)

In any case, Suffolk was the scene of one of My Dad's major triumphs in life and it will be closing its doors forever on Saturday. I mentioned in the story that I would be going to the track on that final day.

The newspaper piece was seen by a reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, one Lisa Millar. She liked the piece and contacted me. She was going to be in town covering another story and thought it might be worth her while to also do a story about Suffolk Downs closing. It seems Australians are quite enamored of horse racing and the closure of some American tracks, mostly due to competition from casinos and other faster-paced gambling ventures, might prove interesting to them.

The upshot of it is I'm meeting her tomorrow at the track and she'll have me on-camera to answer a few questions about Suffolk and the piece I wrote.

In 1968, Andy Warhol said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." It appears the future is now and my 15 minutes will begin in Australia.

Soon, with more better stuff.