America Does Things Big.

I would love to come back to the UK and see the size of one of these things.

Probably wouldn’t hold a candle, really.

Oh, and this is in Dayton, Ohio, so making election comments are tempting.  But I am going to ask for restraint.  My readers are above cheap shots. 

I’m not, but you are.

Big, Tough, and Defeated by British Toilet Paper

The Boffin is the master at coming up with news articles to amuse me, and he didn’t let me down this morning.  Being a New York Jets fan (That’s an American football team for those who are not familiar with sports in the U.S.), he was keeping up with the goings on with the upcoming game with the Miami Dolphins at Wembley this weekend.  Apparently, the Jets shipped over 350 rolls of toilet paper along with their other supplies.

Nothing but Land Rovers and Charmin Ultra Soft for Darrelle Revis.
Nothing but Land Rovers and Charmin Ultra Soft for Darrelle Revis.

The Jets’ rep claimed it was all about keeping the same routine since the teams would be out of their comfort zones in England.  The devil is in the details and throwing in some extra bog roll into the shipping container was no big deal.  Now I can understand that as far as meals and practice routines, but if a player is thrown off his game because of what he uses to wipe his ass, he picked the wrong occupation.

“I fumbled because the hotel only had Andrex Classic White!”

Tell that to the rugby players, dude.

I think the world now knows how to defeat American athletes in international competition.  Just force them to use foreign bog roll.

The Boffin Family Goes to Lambeau Field

We had to do something else besides look at toilets.

For those who are not familiar with American football, Lambeau Field is home of Green Bay Packers, the National Football League (NFL) franchise that makes its home in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  Within its city limits, we are talking about a place that contains about 104,000 people with approximately 306,000 in its expanded metro area.  This is a team that does not have a huge fan base at its doorstep.

However, what it does have is intensely devoted, loyal and deep, and its national following carries the banner just as high. Starting in 1919, the Packers is the oldest team in the NFL that has stayed in one location. (The Decatur Staleys became the Chicago Bears, and the Chicago Cardinals eventually became the Arizona Cardinals.) So, the franchise has been there for nearly 100 years. Not only that, the Packers have won 13 NFL championships, including four Super Bowls.  Five of those championships were under the helm of Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach after whom the famed Super Bowl trophy is named. And I haven’t touched upon people and events like Donald Driver, the Ice Bowl, the Lambeau Leap, Bart Starr, and host of other references.

So, even if you are not a Packers fan, this is home to quite a bit of American football history.

With that in mind, yesterday, the three of us decided to partake in the Classic Tour (the comparatively cheap hour long one) of the field.  Since I have become a lapsed rabid, football fan, my attitude was to just take in the atmosphere and info and go with the flow. My recommendation is to get there early to get ahead of the rest of the hoard sporting Lambeauners. It is basically like being at a game or training camp as far as T-shirt, cap, and jersey donning of the crowd is concerned. And it is understandable. This is Packer Mecca.

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Our tour guide, Kevin, was quite genial with a Dad-style humor who dearly loves his Packers. Let me put it this way.  He has been on the season ticket list for 26 years.  He is about number 13,000 out of about 114,000.  He can will his spot to his granddaughter and hope she gets the coveted seats eventually.  No exaggeration.

All of us on the tour were out-of-towners, so he really enjoyed giving his spiel to a fresh set of ears. After taking us to the plaza where the statues of Curly Lambeau and Lombardi, Kevin told us how Lambeau, a clerk for Indian (Meat) Packing Company, asked his boss for money for uniforms for the football team he was organizing and how it all snowballed from there.

From there, we got to see how the other half lives from the box seats.

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Would sitting here be considered cheating the single digit Fahrenheit temps during December?

If you look around, you will see something…or not see something, as the case may be. Notice the minimal amount of advertising. The Packers are a not-for-profit, publicly owned franchise with shareholders and a board of directors. The board has made a conscious decision to keep advertising to a minimum to cover expenses. Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make a profit off of your football team, but one of my issues with the NFL is how excessive it has become. It is lovely to see a team who has reined it in.

From the heights to the depths, we got to the cool part…the home team’s tunnel. They even played crowd noises for us as we walked out, although I think the Bears would eat the Boffin and Sprog alive with their lax attitude.

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And being able to walk on the field. Wow.

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And aluminum benches that will “keep you cold during the winter and hot during the summer,” according to Kevin.

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My uncle and cousin recently went to a game here in the middle of winter without building themselves up to the cold, and I am thinking about the windchill and uncomfortable seats and came to a conclusion. They obviously wanted to test their endurances and give themselves a real football fan experience. The reality is that they were nuts. And I only say this with love, guys.  Mwah!

So, what did I take away from the tour? I really enjoyed the experience from a football history standpoint. But I have to say, I still have my issues about what the NFL is now, which is a separate post entirely and has no place here. If I ever do go back to the NFL (not looking likely at this point), I would consider the Packers as a team. I think I could pull off the look.

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“You Cannot Be Serious!”

Has it really been 34 years since this match between John McEnroe and Tom Gullickson?  Even at 8-years-old, he was the badass American with his flyaway hair who took on the Establishment.  I certainly was in his corner.  What kid wouldn’t understand the value of a temper tantrum?

And to think the nation has welcomed Mr. McEnroe back with onto the BBC broadcasting team.  I am sure it appreciates his vast knowledge and boisterous personality this time around because the BBC keeps asking him back.  I know I am lapping it up thanks to a PC hooked up to the TV.  Proxy servers are a beautiful thing.

Suggestion to Auntie Beeb, get Patrick over.  The brotherly banter is worth watching.

Grass Courts and High Hopes

June is almost ending and that can mean one thing on the English calendar.

The start of its 2 weeks of summer.

Well, that, and the beginning of Wimbledon on Sunday, June 29th.

And I love me some Wimbledon.

I didn’t really grow up in a tennis family, but we always had NBC’s Breakfast at Wimbledon on TV. When I was a kid, this was the era of John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert (Lloyd), and a whole host of other exciting players that I could happily rattle off ad nauseum. I am not going to say it was a halcyon time because each sports era has its own greatness, but I can’t complain about what I had.

The coverage on NBC was fun because it was headed up by Dick Enberg and Bud Collins. Enberg, one the most genial and elite play-by-play men in the business, is still working as one of the San Diego Padres’ broadcasters, even though he more than deserves retirement. Collins, the tennis expert, was…well.. quite the color commentator. At least, his pants are colorful.  He used to talk about his fictitious “Uncle Studley” all the time and this gadabout called Fingers Fortescue.  You wondered what he was smoking, but he also knew and still knows his tennis. They made quite a team and brought a liveliness that contrasted with the formality that the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club maintained and still maintains.

Stemming from watching such quality tennis, Older Brother #1 and I created our own tournament…Bimbledon.  It involved tennis rackets, a volleyball net, and a shuttlecock.  This was pure power badminton.  It seemed the goal was to make the other sibling run around like an idiot, and if said sibling managed to fall backwards into a bush or into the swing set, all the better.  Trying to injure my brother was a great way to spend a summer afternoon.

The Boffin had a different experience.  Of course,  he grew up watching Wimbledon, but the fortunate lad has actually been there. Lucky.  He used to live very close to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club when he lived in Collier’s Wood. And he was able to get in to see some fine tennis and soak up the atmosphere, even though he wasn’t and still isn’t a toff (member of the upper class).

One advantage of England in the summertime is that the days are longer. Remember, it is at the same latitude as Newfoundland, so the sun does not set until about 10pm. That means you can get reduced priced tickets after 5pm. Considering that there are usually rain delays or extended matches that need to be squeezed in, there is usually some sort of tennis going on well into the evening that the general public can still enjoy.  Imagine catching a bit of Wimbledon live after work is over. Nice.

The Boffin also got to take advantage of a People’s Sunday. Traditionally, there is no play on the middle Sunday of the tournament, but rain forced play on Sunday during the years 1991, 1997, and 2004. Reduced priced tickets were offered to the public on a first-come, first-served basis at the gate, and the Boffin and his late wife took full advantage, including watching a Michael Chang match on Centre Court.  The Boffin holds so many fond memories of just being able to pop in and soak it all up.

There was a price freeze on strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, so they were only £2.50 in 2014.  And they are a reasonable portion size.  It was great improvement according to the Boffin.
There was a price freeze on strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, so they were only £2.50 in 2014. And they were also a reasonable portion size. It was great improvement according to the Boffin. “Strawberries and cream Wimbledon 2014” by Micolo J from Shrewsbury, England – Strawberries and cream. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Now when talking about Wimbledon, we have to talk about Andy Murray.  Andy Murray became the hero of the U.K. when he won Olympic gold in the 2012 London games and followed it up in 2013 by taking the men’s singles championship.  Apparently, according to the media, no Briton had ever taken the Wimbledon championship since Fred Perry did it in 1936, and Virginia Wade’s victory in 1977 didn’t count because she didn’t have a penis.  You would think the British sports press would be satisfied now that Murray crossed that “t” and dotted that “i”.  Of course, not.

Now, I am sure the average British person would just be happy if Murray just played out his career in whatever capacity he can.  He has nothing to prove to anyone else anymore.  However, since the sports press has to justify its existence, it has to fill up its pages with bogus ways of putting more pressure on Murray to win Wimbledon again.  You read articles like this and that.  Even the BBC is getting in on the act with this video.   England still expects, Mr. Murray, even though you are Scottish.

I guess your hope that everyone would shut their gobs (mouths) was too much to ask.   “Andy Murray Wimbledon 2013 celebration”. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Whatever happens, I am going to enjoy it because it is Wimbledon, and the sports press can’t do anything to take that pleasure away from me. And I’m pulling for Serena. I’ll also root for Andy, but I just want him to do the best he can. No pressure. I just wish my brother lived close by for a rematch.

Hockey Lions Redux and Capitalism

Last week, I reblogged a post by Cher from the The Chicago Files about the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) sticking hockey helmets on their famous lions in support of the Blackhawks in their Stanley Cup run.

Well, Chicago clinched the championship on Monday, and the AIC added one more feature outside.  Playing off the famous American foam hand common at sporting events, the museum had to remind us that TripAdvisor rated it the best museum in the world in 2014.  Can’t pass up a little self-promotion on the heels of the Hawks.

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This really isn’t any different than selling a T-shirt saying “Chicago Blackhawks – 2015 Stanley Cup Champions”. It’s taking advantage of what is current and timely to make money. It’s how a free market works. Therefore, someone came up with a clever idea to advertise to bring people into the museum to help raise funds, so precious pieces of art can be preserved. Works for me.

And, as much as it pains me to say it, congratulations to the Blackhawks for their victory.

A Different Kind of Le Mans Endurance

I can’t complain.  The Boffin does not spend hours of his life parked in front of the television watching sports or involved in fantasy leagues.  Not that there is anything wrong with doing those things, just as long as your family is not suffering from your lack of presence.  Hey, everybody needs an interest or hobby.

However, the Boffin has two loves: Formula One and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  Le Mans just started, and I lost him.  At least for a while, I’ll ask him when the slow parts are when he will break away.  He isn’t crazy, just an English engineer.

The Boffin will eventually get up.      By Mdk572 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Boffin will eventually get up. By Mdk572 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
I was glad the race actually started, so I would be a reprieve from the English engineeriness. Because we have a PC connected to our TV. We gave up cable and watch TV through the Internet, so watching Le Mans meant going through a live feed. The Boffin was futzing with YouTube and Daily Motion to find just right channel. He made a joke about he couldn’t miss the beginning the race because Nigel Mansell isn’t in it this year. I stared at him blankly. He reminded me that Nigel Mansell crashed after a few laps 5 years ago. Like that was supposed to be a high priority in my brain retrieval system. Most of the time I don’t remember to eat breakfast.

But I was wrong. The audio wasn’t matching up in this feed. That feed was in French, and his French was too rusty. All I could do was provide tea and sympathy. There were positives for him. The race was being shown an hour behind because of TV contracts. That he could live with. Good. He also found the Audi feed. Even better. I was sure, the Boffin being the Boffin, would work this all out. Imagine his delight when he found out Daily Motion has channels for the car cams. He bounced in his seat. He formally announced that he is sleeping on the couch tonight. I think he would have anyway.

And now he just announced to me that he shelled out six quid for the Eurosport feed because he had enough with the fiddling. I just told him to do that every year and save himself the aggravation. He conceded defeat and just wanted to enjoy the race. I am also glad he is saying more and more, “It’s better to just spend the money than drive yourself crazy to fix it for free.”

You know, I can’t begrudge him a once-a-year event that makes him this happy, especially when he does so much for us. We are just working on making it a little less complicated for him to actually get to the enjoyment part.