Gold Jacket, Green Jacket, Who gives a shit??

I do. I bet Phil Mickelson does. Arrogant-ass, drop kick my iron on the 16th tee box when I shank my tee shot Tiger Woods…ya that’s all he cares about (and easy, hot women). I bet Bubba Watson gives a shit. The fact is, while as quotable and hilarious Happy Gilmore made that simple line, the green jacket they award the winner of the Masters every year in Augusta secures that golfer a place in the history books. The Masters is a magical event that occurs every year. It’s the one major a year that gets played at the same course every single year. The beautiful private club of Augusta National is a fantastic way to kick off the golf season.

First off, everything is so damn green. My current location has enough green and grass in a 100 mile radius that could possibly equal the same amount found on the 1st tee box. So seeing all that green on TV almost makes my eyes hurt. Amazing what happens when you just stare at grey/tan/white colors all day, every day. However, I don’t think I have been to a place with so much green bursting out and in your face like Augusta is. The beauty and colors alone can draw in even a casual golf fan. But something even more interesting about Augusta National is that it is a private club…that doesn’t allow women members.

This is always a hot topic every year when the Masters roll around. My 2 cents on it, it’s a private club. Augusta has the right to choose who they want in the club. Whether I agree or not isn’t the issue. I think eventually it will change, but that’s not up to me. The tournament, as always, did not “start” until the back 9 on Sunday and boy was it a good one. We were even fortunate enough to get some overtime golf as well. By far the shot of the tournament was the double eagle Louis Oosthuizen hit on number 2 that Sunday…until Bubba Watson happened. That quirky, long-hitting, Dukes of Hazzard car driving, golfing machine hit a ridiculous shot from the pine straw on the last playoff hole. Just great, great theatre unfolded late Sunday that ended with Bubba embracing his mother with overwhelming emotion. One of the greatest scenes in sports in when professionals remind everyone that they are human just like everyone else. We often forgot that professional athletes are just as human as everyone else. They have the same needs, desires, wants, emotions, as anyone else. Yet we, as Americans, lose sight of this because they are viewed simply for their entertainment value they provide in the limelight. Bubba Watson winning was good for golf and for everyone one watching.

I would like to apologize for being away for so long. Schedule and work stuff, mixed in with failures in the internet, have kept me from writing for a few weeks. It’s time to get back on the train. I still have plenty of baseball subjects to cover. We are going to look at the beautiful art of pitching in the next post. Pitching in the majors is a good as its been in a long time. Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, CC Sabathia, Derek Holland, Neftali Feliz, Jered Weaver, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, and Justin Verlander just to name some of the game’s top Starters. There are countless number of great arms out of the bullpen in the league as well. Can’t wait to break it down!

Advertisements

Opening day


Opening day has a feeling unlike anything else for fans and players alike. Now I have never played in front of 40,000 people with a giant American flag that covers all of the outfield on grass soft enough to sleep on. Or one at a stadium where the world’s greatest Air Force flexes its muscle and shakes the crowd with the awesome power of jet or bomber engines. But I have played a few opening day games. So we are going to take a look at Opening day from both aspects.

As a fan, baseball’s opening day brings so much more that just game one of one-hundred sixty-two. The pageantry of that day reminds us of America. In most of the country, you are brought with fantastic spring weather. Clear skies and highs in the 80s; it’s like the baseball Gods wrapped you in a hammock and showed up with a beer and hot dog (see post about hot dogs, added new picture). Also, most of these games are played during the day (when baseball should be played more often). Night games are great, but day games are just better. I know it won’t change for plenty of good reasons; I just wish more day baseball existed. Anyways, back to the spring weather and the American flags covering the stadium. There is a renewed hope and a genuine feeling of joy with opening day. It’s a day filled with visions of elusive world series trophies, championship banners, or just a winning record. With a game that involves so much repeated failure, yet reveals such greatness at the same time, it just seems like with 162 games ahead of a franchise that anything is possible. Isn’t that what America is about? I mean, come on, just look at these pictures:


God Bless America

The game itself may be different, but it has something else to offer. At first glance, it appears that the crowd is a normal, baseball crowd. However, on second look, there is something different about the crowd at opening day. Because of the games being predominately during the day, there are plenty of “sick” people at the game. Never in my life have I seen 40,000 “sick” people so damn happy. We had got the same speech from whoever our baseball coach was at the time. We always had practice during games and attendance at practice they day before was well noted to be sure to combat against any “sick” calls. Also, the coaches would pop into classes to make sure we were still there as well. Crafty coaches…

With that being said, opening day as a player (for me), had one huge difference. It was always…super…fucking…COLD! That’s right. I don’t know how it always happened, (granted, it was February every year) but without fail, the clouds rolled in, the wind kicked up to around 25 mph, and the high dropped down into the lower 40s, upper 30s. It was the most miserable thing ever. Hell, practice for up to 2 weeks before the game, the weather would be perfect. I got sucked in ever year. There would be a big tournament, get the chance to play teams you normally wouldn’t get a chance to, and play at some new ball park. Then the day before, the weather would be on and I’d get some report on a cold front blowing in. I always hated The Weather Channel in February. They acted as a soul-crusher every year. Look, I was chomping at the bit to start playing baseball. The spring semester would start off in January and practice would be roughly the same thing day in and day out. So after about 30 days of same shit, different day, it was time to start playing someone else. But baseball is miserable in the cold.

If the cold games were close, they were bearable. But if they were a blowout, it wasn’t even fun. The game would be over by the 3rd inning, so it just became a struggle to get to the end of the game. Sure, you go out and compete. There was never any quit. No one likes striking out. But unless a string of 5 batters reached base, momentum never changed and the end result was inevitable. So inning after inning, your body temperature would slowly turn to freezing. No longer fueled by adrenaline, each gust of wind cut through your body deeper and deeper as the game grew on. Nose starts running, hands get a little numb, and every contact with a baseball sent pain jolting up your forearms. But the game would eventually end and you totally forgot you just played a baseball game. It would be great to write about the great outlook the opening day brought to me as a player, but it was never enjoyable. It was just a fight to get the season started, instead of some joyous occasion. It’s gonna be hard to find many people who love playing baseball more than I do, and I never had a great experience on opening day. So ya, as great as opening day in the MLB is, it could possibly be that bad as a player (unless of course you make it to the show). And on a side-note, if you live above the Mason-Dixon line, you just don’t live in good baseball country. A baseball field covered in snow as often as it has green grass on the field equals bad place to play baseball. I just feel sorry for you northerners.

It’s great to see baseball back on TV. The Rangers are looking to become the first team in since the New York Yankees (1998-2001) to go to 3 consecutive World Series. With baseball back, the blog will take a look at pitching, hitting, fielding, and even umpiring. Make sure that you’ve got those David sunflower seeds ready and PLAY BALL!

Oh ya, almost forgot…the Masters is in the 2nd round. You can bet to see an appearance of Augusta National on the blog soon. Probably interrupting the baseball coverage now that I think about it. Green jacket is important enough to put aspects of baseball on hold.

HOOOOOOOOOTTTTT DOOOOOGGGSSSS!!!

There are very few things in this life that are more American than the hot dog. I don’t know exactly what a hot dog is made up of, nor do I care. At this point in my life, I have eaten enough of them that even if I knew what random concoction of patriotism that makes a hot dog (no matter how gross), it wouldn’t stop me from going through mounds of hot dogs for the rest of my life. Truly and honestly, if you don’t like hot dogs, you most be a terrorist (which unfortunately includes my loving mother, such a shame). The versatility of the hot dog lends itself to practically anything under the sun. It’s damn near impossible to find something you can put on a hot dog that would not work. Maybe that’s what adds to the mystery of the hot dog. Not too many foods out there that can adapt to its supporting elements so well to satisfy pallets from Chicago, New York, California, Texas, Georgia, Washington, and anywhere in between. These, and other regions, of the United States have their own take on a hot dog which they claim as their own. We are now going to take a look at these different delicious masterpieces.

Sonorans (Tuscon and Phoenix, Arizona)

Bacon-wrapped hot dogs are grilled, then nestled in steamed bolillo rolls and topped with (but not limited to) pinto beans, chopped tomatoes, onions, mustard, mayo, jalapeños, shredded cheddar, queso fresco, cotija cheese, salsa verde, and guacamole. What ever does it for you, that’s the beauty of the hot dog. Oh I almost forgot, hot dogs wrapped in bacon are unreal. We need a quick visual:

Now that we have established just how beautiful that sight is, back to the Sonorans. Take your favorite Mexican flavors, and dump them on a hot dog. How could you go wrong? The answer: you can’t. I have yet to have one of these, but am looking forward to my first experience.

Chicago Dog (Chicago)

All beef dogs in a steamed poppy-seed bun and makes its rounds through the garden: minced raw onion, neon sweet relish, sport peppers, pickle spear, halved tomato slices, yellow mustard, celery salt. Most importantly on the Chicago dog, NO KETCHUP. This dog screams Wrigley field to me. I need to find away to get to the north side of Chicago, get a seat in the bleachers with one of these treasures and a cold beer.

Coneys (Midwest)

Small-sized, all-beef dogs served in steamed buns and topped with minced meat chili, mustard, and chopped onions (order the “loaded” and you’ll get shredded cheddar, too). Here is a dog where less is more. Chili, onions, mustard, cheese firmly settled on top of a hot dog. A sloppy taste of euphoria is fully loaded with the Coneys.

Dodger Dog (Los Angeles)

One of the most eaten stadium dogs out there, Dodger dogs are skinless foot-long hot dogs made of pork and set in a steamed bun. I have been lucky enough to have this hot dog, and they live up to the hype. I would recommend sitting out in the outfield where the tickets include all-you-can-eat hot dogs, water, nachos, popcorn, nuts, and sodas (No, beer must still be bought). That summer day back in 2007 easily ranks as one of the top 5 fattest moments of my life. And yes, it was totally worth it.

The Homewrecker (Charleston)

The Homewrecker Hot Dog is as scary as it sounds: It is a half-pound all-beef dog that is served in a “build your own dog” concession stand. The Riverdogs offer a total of 25 signature toppings that may be added to complete the experience and is priced at only $5.50. When this episode of Man vs. Food originally aired, I was in college and had no idea I would end up stationed in Charleston. I just knew that I needed this dog. Clearly, this is something of an event in itself. The Riverdogs are known for their unique take on the hot dog, but this one is the Pièce de résistance. Just look at that thing one more time. Unreal. The Riverdogs have a beautiful ball park and I can’t wait to go to my first game and chow down on my own Homewrecker.

This is goes to show just how awesome the hot dog can be. But let’s not forget about how much of an American symbol the hot dog is. As if it weren’t American enough, there is a tradition that is carried out on our nation’s birthday every year that puts the hot dog front and center; Nathan’s hot dog eating contest.

According to legend, on July 4, 1916, four immigrants had a hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous stand on Coney Island to settle an argument about who was the most patriotic. I love this country. I’m a bigger patriot because I can eat more than you. LOVE IT!! The contest has been held each year since then, except in 1941, when it was canceled as a protest to the war in Europe, and in 1971, when it was canceled as a protest to civil unrest and the reign of free love. And you can’t just be any joe schmo either to get into the contest. You must meet on of the 4 qualifications to get into the spectacle:

The defending champion
Winners of a regional qualifying contest for that season
Qualifying as one of two wildcards (highest two average qualifier scores without winning a single qualifier)
Special invitation by IFOCE (International Federation of Competitive Eating, yes this is real, check the website.)

The event is televised live on ESPN every year and last year an estimated 40,000 people attended the contest. Yes, you read that right. 40,000 people watched for 10 minutes how many hot dogs a human could possibly wolf down. What’s even more interesting is the 40,000 people who attended actually was more people than the Jacksonville Jaguar’s 2011 home attendance (should have gone after Tebow harder). The winner, Joey Chestnut, ate 62 hot dogs and buns in 10 min. How that is possible is beyond me. I watched and it’s like they are machines. The contestants never slow down until the horn goes off. The important thing in all of this is that the Mustard Belt has been in the hands of an American for the past 5 years.

So there it is, America in your hands. You get a shot of Red, White, and Blue every time you bite into a hot dog. There is not a reason you can give me that justifies why you don’t like hot dogs. Opening day is only 2 days away. Even half-way across the world, I can hear the local hot dog vendor back in Arlington getting his voice ready for at least 80 homes games of slinging hot dogs and watching people swap cash with complete strangers in order to get an edible piece of the great game of baseball. Check back in on opening day as I will have posted my take on opening day and the stark differences it has for a fan and a player.