Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Seven Alternate Uses for a Ravens Jersey

I’ve been sitting on this post since September and it’s finally time to let it out.

The Steelers/Ravens game was Christmas afternoon, so I watched it over at my brother’s house.  It was quite dramatic the way it ended.  The Steelers’ QB drove the team 75 yards in just over a minute to score the game-winning touchdown, with Antonio Brown reaching the ball over the goal line with nine seconds remaining.

The Immaculate Extension

Throughout that whole last drive, neither my brother, nephews nor I were sitting down.  We all just kind of stood around TV alternately pacing and wringing our hands.  I’m pretty sure the neighbors heard us when the Steelers finally scored.  I know we scared the shit out of the cats…

Now that the Steelers have beaten the hated rival Ratbirds and knocked them out of playoff contention, I needn’t worry about upsetting the Mojo Gods with this post.  I mean, if they lose against Cleveland next week, it’s OK because they’re locked into the third seed, regardless of the outcome.  And then if we lose in the playoffs, well at least we still stomped on the Ratbirds’ dreams.  I can live with that.

So the point of the post?

As you may know, I give those Chinese jersey sweatshops a lot of business.  I order baseball, football and hockey jerseys from them on the regular, so my friends down at the sports bar are always asking me where I get them.  Over the summer, two of my bar friends asked me to get particular jerseys for them the next time I placed an order.  One wanted a Washington Capitals hockey jersey; the other wanted a Ravens jersey. 

In August, I figured out what I wanted to add to my collection this year, (White Bud Dupree Steelers jersey and a Geno Malkin “new” white Penguins throwback jersey) and sent the order off, hoping to get it back in time for football’s opening weekend.

Well, the good news was that the order came in on time and the hockey jerseys were fine.  The bad news is that the jersey I got said “White” on the back, instead of Dupree.  Also, the Ravens jersey came in a youth large instead of a men’s large.  Mine, I wasn’t worried about; I’d have time to get that fixed.  But I felt pretty bad about the delay with my friend’s jersey.

Dealing with these overseas people can be troublesome.  They were willing to replace the Dupree jersey without issue, but they wanted me to send them another $10 to keep the youth jersey and then send me the correct one.

I was like, “You want me to send you MORE money to fix a mistake that YOU made?”  But they were adamant about it.  I might have continued the fight but I needed their help more than they needed me, and I was already into them for about $200.  I felt I had to do what I could to make sure I ended up with the goods I needed.

So eventually both replacement jerseys arrived and all was well.  And that’s how I came to have a Ratbird jersey in my place for a month… this being a house that’s so averse to Raven colors, I wouldn’t let Pinky even have purple towels for her bathroom.

It was unsettling, but it made me think: What would be the best way to put this jersey to some use?  And that, my friend, is the “real” subject of this post.  So I give you, without further delay:

Seven Alternate Uses for a Ratbird Jersey

 #1 Dishrag, for after you’ve eaten the Ratbirds’ lunch.

#2 Dust rag, for wiping down your Steelers collectible figurines.

#3 Shoe shine buffing rag.  Also good for removing clumps of turf from cleats and facemasks.

#4 Doormat, perfect for wiping the road grime and assorted debris from your shoes.

#5 Car cleaning rag.  Wax onside, wax offside.

#6 Toilet bowl scrubber.  Perfect for wiping the rim, or scraping off the cling-ons.

#7 Heavy-duty toilet paper for cleaning out the old end zone.

Am I missing anything?

Director’s DVD Commentary: No jerseys were actually harmed during the creation of this post.  In fact, I gave the jersey to my nephew Sammy, to give to one of his friends.  (Although I should have had Sam charge the kid $10, to recoup my loss.)

This will likely be my last post of 2016 so please have a happy New Year and a tremendous 2017.  And RIP Carrie Fisher.  No one will ever rock those cinnamon bun hairpieces like you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How Suite It Is

Director’s DVD Commentary: I know I didn’t post last week, but I did post late the week before, but I knew I’d have a juicy one on deck for this week.  (And we had a company happy hour Monday night, which is why I didn’t post then.) So I’m sorry for the delay.  Now onto the day’s business…

I know I said I’d never set foot in that big purple toilet ever again, but Sunday I found myself back in the Ratbirds’ football stadium for a game.  All it took was access to a corporate suite.

I have a friend whose company has one of those fancy-schmancy corporate suites and earlier this fall, he offered me a pick of three games to go to with him.  And seriously, I almost turned him down flat.  I mean, I do not like that place at all, especially not after getting cheap-shotted in the upper deck, the last time I was there.  More importantly, I’d rather watch the Steelers game anyway, which was likely to be in conflict with the Ratbirds game.

First date: Redskins.  Directly opposite the Steelers game.  Nope.

Second date: The Steelers game itself.  He assumed I’d jump at this one, but I had no intention of spending 4 hours getting screamed at by 60,000 idiots.  Pass.

Third date: Eagles.  For this date, the Steelers were scheduled to play on Sunday night.  So once I confirmed this would be in an indoor suite, I accepted.  I’ve never been to one so the prospect was exciting.

Naturally, about two weeks ago, the NFL rescheduled the Steelers game out of Sunday night directly into competition with the Ravens game.  Gah!  Unfortunately, I felt it was too late to cancel so I figured I’d make the best of it.  I’d bring my ear buds and listen to the game from the Steelers app on my phone, and then catch the highlights later.

All week long, the weather reports suggested it would rain throughout the entire game.  But then by game day, the threat of rain was changed to around 40-50%, although the temps would drop sharply from the 50s into the low 40s during the course of the game.  I just obtained a new rain jacket and rain pants, but I opted to go with the jacket alone.

I decided to go “neutral,” by wearing Ohio State stuff… had and long-sleeve tee, although I did wear a Steelers tee shirt underneath.  I felt I had to do something with good mojo, even if only I knew it was there. 

I had the tickets in hand; my friend mailed them to me earlier in the week.  They were actually quite nice looking.  I figured I’d wear the ticket around my neck on a lanyard.  It would be nice to have a proper ticket in my year-end ticket collage for a change.  I much prefer the cardboard tickets over the home-printed ones.  This one was full color, with nice embossing and gold leaf.  I know they ask to see your tickets every 15 feet in the hoity-toity sections, so I wanted to keep them crisp.  I had a big-sleeved lanyard from 2006 when I went to my first and only NASCAR race, so I thought it would do nicely.  The tickets fit in, which was the important part.

I got there right at 11:00 when they started letting people in.  I was to meet up with my friend later; he was coming from the train station on the way home from New York.  I went directly up to the suite to check it out.  At that hour, there were not yet any food, drinks or people around, so I had the place to myself.  It gave me a chance to take some video and shoot some pictures, without looking like a rube.

 Our suite.

The view from our “balcony.”  They had really nice reclining desk chairs out there.  Too bad I never got to sit in them.

The outdoor viewing deck.

The next activity was to make use of our ONFIELD PASSES! 

"That's right... this P. is V.I."  
My field pass; safely protected in my lanyard sleeve.  The game ticket is on the other side.

I had to go back downstairs and register, (meaning sign a waiver holding the team harmless in case I get tackled or trampled or something).  I was kind of hoping I’d get the chance to go out to midfield and defile their logo, but I wasn’t optimistic.  Plus, I promised my friend I wouldn’t misbehave.  So much for burying a Terrible Towel under the bench.

Anyway, after meeting up with my friend, we filed onto the sidelines around 12:10.  It was really a thrill to come out through the tunnel and onto the field; it was a lot like my “First Pitch” experience with the Orioles two summers ago.  Even in enemy territory, the thrill of going on the field conquers all.

We had to be careful where we stood, though.  The security team were real Yellow Line Nazis.  One toe over the line and you got scolded.

Here’s an officer yelling at a little kid who had his foot on the line.  Young Lives Matter!

But we got to stand along the sidelines and watch the players go through their warmups, from just a couple feet away.  Eagles fans, being Eagles, got to heckle the Ravens from close up.  I just shut my yap and took pictures.

Flacco throws one to Perriman.

By the time they shooed us off the field and we got back up to the suite, everyone seemed to have arrived.  But the food and beer did too, so I tucked into a nice assortment of submarine sandwiches, hot dogs, chicken fingers and whatnot.  (They brought out pit beef and pizza later.)

The “problem” was that everyone had already claimed their seats outside on the “balcony,” where they had two rows of desk chairs behind a table surface.

I didn’t really mind, because after all, I didn’t really have an emotional attachment to the game, other than desperately wanting the Ratbirds to lose.  And then we discovered that we could get any football game going on, on one of the three TV monitors.  A gaggle of New Yorkers put on the Giants/Lions game, and I got to see the Steelers/Bengals game, just like I originally wanted.

It was kind of like a normal Sunday for me at the sports bar… watching the Steelers game (without sound), watching the Ravens during commercial breaks, and eating tailgate food and drinking beer (only for free!)  I was living the dream!

It was just kind of funny because there I was watching the game on TV, and then every now and then, stand up to look out on the live game going on. 

Sometime in the 2nd quarter, that temperature drop hit.  You could see the dark clouds coming and the wind starting to whip things around and shake the outdoor TV monitors.  Next thing you know; everyone was back inside.  I had my pick of outdoor seats then, but I was content to watch the Black and Gold from my comfy high-top seat.

“Baby it’s cold outside…”

I’d told my friend, right off the bat, that I intended to leave about halfway through the 4th quarter.  I did NOT want to wait for the end and then spend 90 minutes trying to get out of the parking lot and stadium area.  Not being invested in the game made the decision to leave early a slam dunk.

The problem was that the Steelers game was a nail-biter and in addition, still had over six minutes left when the Ratbirds game was down to two minutes.  I was like, (looking at the live game), “Stall!  Stall!  Call all your timeouts!”  Then spinning to the TV and going, “For Pete’s sake, hurry up and DO something!

The Steelers, who had been down 20-6 at halftime, were driving for a go-ahead touchdown, amid another Bengals meltdown.  They committed 4 consecutive penalties on the Steelers last scoring drive.  Thanks, guys!  Anyway, as soon as the Steelers scored to take the lead, I shot out of there.  Got out of the lot and across town with minimal delay.  I was back at my regular sports bar by 4:30.

Then as I took off my coat, what did I see?  No ticket.  GAHHH!

I’d noticed a tear in the lanyard sleeve starting, during the game, but I took pains not to tug on it from then on.  Apparently, it tore completely between the suite and my car.  I retraced my steps from the car to the bar, but it was nowhere to be found.

So much for my classed-up ticket collage.

At least I still have the parking pass.  (Lot N.)  Note the gold leaf embossing!  Those Suite People really get all the perks.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or whatever miscellaneous Pagan ritual you care to celebrate.  See you on the other side.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Of Sickness and Hockey

It’s been a rough week and a half.

I started coming down with my annual cold on Cyber Monday, with a tickle in my throat.  That begat the dreaded post-sinus drip, which means I had to sleep in my easy chair if I wanted to keep from choking myself awake every ten minutes. 

More throat crud Tuesday.  Wednesday and Thursday I worked from home, so at least I wasn’t bothering anyone with my sneezing and honking.  I was already scheduled off on Friday and Monday, so I knew I had time to get back on my feet.

The thing was, the reason I took the days off is because I had plans to go to Pittsburgh for the weekend, with my brother and his sons.  So all week I was worried about not being able to go, or even worse, going and getting everyone sick.

Our original purpose of the trip was to see the Penguins play the Red Wings on Saturday night and then the Steelers/Giants game on Sunday.  We’d stay downtown for two nights and come home Monday.

The problem was the tickets.  My brother picked up some Pens tickets easily, but the Steelers tickets proved to be too expensive, due to the popularity of the visiting New York Giants team.  As a comparison, for the next two home games against the Ratbirds and Bengals, two division rivals, secondary market tickets started around $80.  For the Giants game, they started around $200… and that’s for nosebleed seats.  Then factor in the second night’s stay, with pumped up football prices and you have quite a chunk of change.  (Especially for my brother, who has to cover the boys.)

So we dialed our plans back to just the hockey game.

By Saturday, I felt tolerable and I was pretty sure I wasn’t contagious any longer. The contagious part is usually early in an illness.  As long as I didn’t cough globs on anyone, I figured they should be fine.  I packed myself a travel bag for the car, with cough drops, Kleenex and hand sanitizer.  I also made sure I coughed into my sleeve and blew my nose away from everyone.  Sadly, I had to refrain from my customary hugs for the boys.  I just hope my precautions worked.

Before checking in, we went straight to the west side to see the Aunts and Uncle, and met up for lunch, featuring a classic Pittsburgh massive fish sandwich.  (Sorry, no picture this time.)  But it was memorable because that was the last food I’ve been able to taste.

We checked into our rooms with enough time for me to grab a nap before the game. 

We ended up in the 5th row in the corner, at the end where the Penguins shot twice.  The seats were great, as long as the action was in our end.  At the other end, it was hard to look through the glass at an angle.  Everything looked like a funhouse mirror.  Luckily, there was the overhead scoreboard with a live video feed.

It’s funny; I’d be watching the game up on the board when the action was at the other end, but then forget to look back to the ice when it came down to our end, leaving me craning my neck up to watch a feed of the game that was happening 10 feet in front of me.  I got the hang of it eventually. 
 My brother and the boys decked out in battle jerseys.

The game was great.  The Pens came back from a 3-1 deficit by scoring 4 in the 3rd period to win 5-3.  Very exciting.  Daniel and I found ourselves in one of the press shots too.
We’re in the upper left corner.  There’s my brother’s elbow and Sam’s elbow right above the rail, then Daniel and me.

We took off early Sunday morning and were home by 11.  I had plans to go to the sports bar to watch the Ratbirds game at 1:00 and the Steelers at 4:30, but I only made it to halftime of the first game.  Only had two beers but I suppose it was the combination with all the cold medicine I’d been taking that made me just want to go right to sleep on the bar.  So I went home and slept straight through the second half before waking up for the Steeler game.

I just laid around on Monday, trying to summon the strength to go back to work on Tuesday.  The cold has pretty much moved to my chest now, so we’re at the disgusting part, where I have to hack great chunks of lung butter into the toilet, just to breathe again.  So much fun.  I’m sure the neighbors just wish I’d hurry up and die already.

But the worst part is that I haven’t been able to taste anything since Saturday, aside from very spicy or very salty.  I expect that when I can’t breathe through my nose, but even when I can, I still can’t taste anything.  I wonder if it’s from the cold medicine or all the gunk. 

All I can say is that it better be temporary, or else I might not have much reason to live. 

Or maybe this could be an opportunity to eat a bunch of stuff that I hate, but is good for me… (Nahhh)

Both Tuesday and Wednesday, I went into work, went as long as I could, and came home early.  No sense killing myself.  But I did want to get in and clean up some stuff.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Sorry, there are no big idea or caustic rants today; I’m not up to forming complex thoughts just yet.  So let me just drop a few more pictures from the game…

Our view, from section 110.

Everyone looking up.

Penguins goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury

I don’t know how goalies even move with all that stuff on.

Penguins TV analyst Bob Errey and Radio analyst Phil Bourque, between the benches. Both are wearing jerseys celebrating the Stanley Cup Championship teams of 1991 and 1992, of which they were both members.

Now I need another nap…