Archive for July, 2010

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A Melancholy Stroll Down Memory Lane

July 19, 2010

I was watching the Honda Indy Toronto on Sunday and realized that it had been over 3 years since I had last been to a racetrack. I started getting a little melancholy about what fun I had down at the Grand Prix of Cleveland at Burke Lakefront Airport.

A race in Cleveland was awesome for several reasons, but the track location was the true star. Burke is located right on the shore of Lake Erie in downtown Cleveland. (It’s about 1/2 mile down from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, just to put things in perspective.) The airport was shut down Thursday night and was ready for racing on Friday morning. Because it was an airport, the track was completely flat, and you could see any corner of the track from the grandstands. It was also a nice view out to the water.

This was taken in 2006. You can see the sailboats out on the lake in the distance. In the six years I attended the race, no car ever ended up in the water, but there were rescue crews on hand just in case the unthinkable happened.

I miss it.

Really. I do.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that there’s two perfectly cromulent races up at Watkins Glen and in Toronto, why don’t you just attend those? That’s easy. It’s because it’s not the same. The drivers may be somewhat the same, but the cars & atmosphere are not.

- I miss the smell of methanol in the morning and picking tire grit out of your hair & ears for days after. (Current Indy Cars run on ethanol.)

- I miss riding down the 90 on Friday morning and hearing the hum of cars riding around Burke as soon as you entered the main downtown area.

- I miss the lovely hum of 20+ turbocharged engines heading towards turn one (and the inevitable carnage that would ensue from the fact that three cannot go where only one can).

I love this video because you can truly see how wide the track is and just how narrow it gets as they head into Turn 1. I think of the six years we attended the race, there was a clean start once.

– I miss the glorious pop of a pop off valve indicating that the driver was pushing the car to the max.

- I miss sitting in the stands having conversations with people you’ve never met before but you’re united in your love of racing, seeing those same people again next year and catching up. Not to mention meeting people you’ve met online through forums and discovering that they’re just as entertaining and wonderful in person as they are online (kind of like hockey fans).

- I miss being able to wander the paddock. Unlike NASCAR, where garage access is limited to the chosen few, in Cleveland, any fan with a ticket had garage access. You were able to step right up to the temporary garages (nothing more than awnings hanging from the team transporter) and watch the crew at work. All they asked was that you got out of the way when they brought the car in and out. No one cared that you were taking pictures (of course the super secret bits were under tarps), and the drivers would come out and sign autographs and pose for pictures when not on the track or in meetings. All that separated you from the team’s workspace was some bunting and a metal pole or two.

I think they were trying to put the kniffling pin into the connoculator valve.

- I miss being almost run over by Paul Newman in the paddock while he was toodling around on his scooter, stopping to chat with those few fans that recognized him. He did incognito very well.

- I miss watching the drivers clown around like idiots in the paddock, knowing that despite what happened on the track, they could get along off of it.

- I miss sitting in the stands before a race and watching drivers clowning around by shaking a port-a-loo relentlessly while a fellow driver was inside.

- I do not miss going through a metric ton of iced tea and water because it was so blessed hot in the stands (despite the wonderful lake breezes.)

- I miss the sunkissed glow that a weekend at the track gave me for the remainder of the summer (despite excellent sunscreen usage).

- I miss the ability to make the weekend truly a sporting dream by catching an Indians game.

- I miss the fact that the Cleveland police knew how to keep a goat rodeo from happening when the race fans were exiting E. 9th Street at one end and Indians fans exiting the Jake at the other end.

- I miss the pulled pork & sweet potato chips at Fat Fish Blue, and the truly awesome circular parking ramp next door to the restaurant.

- I miss there being sponsors other than Ethanol, Izod, Target, 7-11 & GoDaddy.

- I miss when it wasn’t all Danica, all the time.

- I miss having a Chief Steward that had the cojones to park an underperforming and/or misbehaving driver, not letting the almighty dollar dictate his actions.

I miss all of it. I want it back. I’m not getting it back. Current series management has not indicated that Cleveland is part of their long range plans for the series. It’s a damn shame, because it’s a fine track with a great racing history.

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This, That and the Other Thing

July 12, 2010

- I’ve been mainly staying quiet on the LeBron James saga, as I felt that as a non-basketball fan, sitting back and enjoying the insanity is better than being a participant in it. However, today’s odd turn of events has changed my tune a little bit. Just when you think that this whole saga is over and we all can go back to not giving a flying fig about the NBA again, the Reverend Jesse Jackson steps up to the plate. In a news release from the Rainbow/PUSH coalition, Jackson compared Cavs owner Tom Gilbert’s comments regarding LeBron’s departure to those of a slave master lamenting the loss of a runaway slave.

This is certainly one for the WTF files. Let’s think for a minute. LeBron made a big hoopla (a 1-hour purchased show on ESPN) of his announcement that he was abandoning his hometown team. Whether there was some master plot between James, Bosh and Wade is irrevelant at this point. You cannot make the comparison of a wealthy (VERY WEALTHY) professional athlete to a slave. Last time I checked, slaves do not get paid for their labor. They also don’t have the opportunity to have practice schedules and flight departures catered to their every whim. They don’t have ladies throwing themselves at them 24/7. Slavery is drudgery, the glamorous professional athlete lifestyle is not.

It’s just a bad comparison on Jackson’s part, and one that really didn’t need to be made.

- Continuing on with LeBron for one more moment, Ad Age did a behind the scenes look as to how LeBron’s ESPN special actually got on the air. The who talked to who and when and where stuff is kind of fascinating.¬† (Certain sponsors declining to run ads, but make charitable contributions instead is also interesting.) The comments from media professionals are kind of hilarious and definitely to the point. I think more people are throwing LeBron under the bus for this whole thing than actively cheering him on.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer also analyzes the who said what to who and when, but this time focuses on the relationship between Bosh, Wade & James. The basketball side of things is just as fascinating as the marketing side of things. All in all, this was a massive coordinated effort from many angles. Will this be the new way that free agents announce their deals, or will common sense prevail in the future? I hope its the latter, but I do reserve my right to throw a shoe at the TV the next time someone pulls a stunt like this.

- So Thomas Vanek is having twins, due in November. Many congratulations to him, his wife and soon-to-be big brother Blake. I’m sure some are wishing that Vanek would have timed the arrival twinsies for the off-season, but better to have a baby arrival in the relative doldrums of November than in the midst of a playoff chase.

- If you haven’t already, stop over to The Goose’s Roost and read Ryan’s excellent reflections about being in the press box and interviewing players.

- When the Blackhawks announced that they matched San Jose’s offer sheet on Hjalmarsson, it made Chicago’s cap situation even more perilous. Someone(s) else on the roster will have to move in order to make way for ducklings the remainder of the active roster. Speculation this afternoon focused on Soupy as the most likely to move, but is there a team stupid enough willing enough to take on his mammoth contract? Even more important, is there a team that can afford to take on his contract that also falls onto the list of teams that Campbell would have to approve a trade to? It’s going to be very interesting watching Chicago figure this out.

- I currently have an episode of NHL Network’s “Off the Ice” sitting on my DVR. I only recorded it because it was featuring Ryan Miller. When I watch it, I might have to diarize the experience. Dunno. It depends on what he has to say and how enthused I am while watching it.

- Speaking of Miller, he announced that the 5th Catwalk for Charity will be in November. The event this year will have an 80s theme. (PS – Memo to Crunchy, the website for The Refinery is down. Get one of your talented people on that, please. Don’t make me pull out the marketing lecture on you.) Since we saw how the boys dressed up for the 50s theme last year, there’s several good ideas that they could use to dress up as outside of the traditional Madonna, Michael Jackson, et al (and this is expanding beyond the music genre, but bear with me):

- Luke & Laura

- Diana & Charles

- The Breakfast Club

- Alex P. Keaton (c’mon, if he’s with the club by then, Gerbe could totally pull this one off)

- After watching his interview on NHL Network last night (during the goalie mask documentary), I have definitely moved Ken Dryden’s “The Game” to the top of my summer reading pile. It is coming with me to Michigan in two weeks. If the style of the book is as good as Dryden’t interview style, I’ll be very happy.

- And finally, Dilbert’s pointy-haired boss wants to blog. Oy.

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Darcy Did Something!

July 7, 2010

The Sabres today announce that they’ve signed Rob Niedermayer to a one year deal. The Sabres sign Nieder, I create a blog post featuring an Animal House video. It’s a win-win situation, really. The Sabres get some grit, determination and a player with a Cup ring, and I get inspiration for a blog post.

Animal House is one of my favorite movies, in case you were wondering.

And to make the day a lot better, the Sabres announced that Patty Lalime has been signed to a one year deal. Was there much of a doubt as to whether this would happen? Enroth’s not ready for the big show quite yet, and Lalime keeps Miller loose and relaxed. Miller doesn’t need “keeping rookie backup goalie sane” added to the things that he carries on his shoulders. Now the task is just getting Lindy to do something completely insane and play his backup¬† goalie on a slightly more regular schedule. This only playing the backup on the second Tuesday of next week when the moon is in the 7th house won’t cut it anymore.

And since Niedermayer got a video, it’s only fair that Lalime get one. Lalime’s video is really more of a Ryan Miller video, but it contains Miller’s quite adorkable impression of his goalie partner.

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Happy Birthday USA

July 4, 2010

I have a hockey post in the hopper, but it needs some serious tweaking. So in the interim, please enjoy the Muppets on this Fourth of July.

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