Wednesday, October 21, 2009


One of the things that I have started to miss most out here in Exile is accessibility to watching my favorite sports teams. Most times you have to search out a way to watch your teams and occasionally a team comes to you. It is only on rare days, however, you get to see two of your teams play on the same day. This past Sunday was one of those days.

This weekend the Philadelphia Eagles were visiting Oakland Coliseum, home of the “Raider Nation”. For those of you unfamiliar with Raider fans they are rabid and loyal. What they are not, apparently, is plentiful. Well, the overall quality of the team hasn't helped this year and as of the morning of the game vs. the Eagles there were still seats available. After a little bit of arm twisting I convinced my buddy Jim to head up to see the game with me.

Arriving at the Coliseum I came to realize why the Oakland fans are so surly. Getting in and around the stadium is a absolute nightmare. When asking an attendant for some advice on where to park the best he could come up with was to point deeper into Oakland and say “You could park over there, but I wouldn't!” Of course the whole situation wasn't helped by the fact that “Disney Princesses on Ice” was letting out at the Oracle Arena right next door. This did lead to some interesting scenes in the parking lot as dozens of little girls dressed as Disney princesses traversed the asphalt surrounded by tailgaters that dressed like they gave fashion advice to Rob Zombie.

Once I finally got inside the stadium The Raiders fans really did live up to their reputation for creativity. The place was how I would imagine a circus on acid. The best I can do to describe the average fashion motif for the Nation is Rastafarian Voodoo Pirates. It is sort of expected to see some people in various types of getup at a football stadium. Here, however, there are people that looked like they stole their wardrobe from Gwar and the set of The Road Warrior. Even your average fan is decked in black and has some type of skull imprint on their clothes. The only people in the place not dressed as members of the Nation were the cheer leaders who are surprisingly attractive. I guess you don't have to live Oakland to be a cheerleader there!

So anyone that even casually follows sports knows that the Eagles blew the game. However, deep in Raider Nation, even when the opposite team is loosing, those not wearing black are targets. Keeping undercover is easy enough, just don't say anything. Easy enough that is until your wingman starts getting animated over some bad calls for the away team. Keeping Jim's protests under wraps was becoming more and more difficult but led to some comical moments where he had to turn some boos into mock cheers. Deciding to cut our losses before captain emotion blew our cover we split at the two minute warning. Good thing we did to, because as we were leaving Disney on Ice part two was getting set to start up. This time the little princesses in the parking lot would get to see the “Nation” extra drunk!

Hoping for better things on the next event in the day I tracked down a bar that was recommended to me as being Philly sports friendly. Rolling into 'Keysar' in SF was night and day from the cold Raider nation. Phillies tees and pinstripes were everywhere and “Beat LA” chants were prevalent. The only thing the place lacked was a seat for Jim and me. Lesser men might have seem this as a limitation. We saw this as an opportunity.

Scouting a table that only had one occupant I introduced myself to the friendly and attractive Christine and ordered a round for the table. That table quickly grew to include her sister and some other friends who coincidently were at the Raider game also. It was nice to sit with some fellow Philly expatriates because you don't have to worry about dumbing down the geography section of the get to know you quiz. Also while sitting 3000 miles away anybody from even remotely close to home is practically a neighbor.

Now for as bad as Jim was as a wingman at the Raiders game he was like Maverick during Phillies game time! As if flying by instinct Jim did all the hard work for me. In the course of three innings he managed to inform Christine that he was married, I was single, gainfully employed, that I wasn't gay (something important to establish in SF), yet still capable of being in a long term relationship. Not bad for a guy that has been out of the game for like 8 years!

So as the game progressed and the beer,wings and nachos progressed also. The Phillies march towards a game three win helped the damage done by the Raider nation to quickly faded. In the end the high fives of the Phillies Phans with some new friends at the end of the day was all it took to mix a slice of home with a slice of Northern California.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The King of LA

I must admit that there are perks to life in Exile. You get a little extra cash on hand to fund some frivolity and some slightly better proximity to friends you don’t get to see nearly often enough. On occasion it gives you access to a little bit of whisky and fair dose of redemption.

At the moment I am writing this I am on ground delay at SFO airport while the Blue Angels are monopolizing the airspace. This is the first time I have ever thought that the Blue Angels have pissed me off. So I took advantage of the extra time to prep for an Exile post.

This past weekend I took little trip down to Los Angeles to visit my good friend Tim. Hopping onto the most affordable airfare I could find put me on Jet Blue. Not that anyone was asking, but Jet Blue is pretty cool. Every seat was leather and had 36 channels of Direct TV and 3600 channels of XM radio. For the first time in I have no idea how long I was sort of upset that my flight was going to be short. Then I came to my senses as the mother with the two kids sat in front of me.

I guess I have become a snob to the front of the plane because my first inclination was to think “Oh man, is it too much to ask for sedatives for kids on airplanes?!” Next I had a series of emotions which started with upset at myself for being unsympathetic to this mom in a difficult situation. Quickly that emotion passed as the 5 year old spilled his soda all over my feet and I wanted the kids sedated again. In the “justification” phase of my emotions I figured that the mom probably would want some peace and quiet too. Thinking that there is probably some medical danger in drugging the children I hit upon the brilliant idea of given the sedatives to everyone else near the children. Why has no one ever thought of this before?!?!

Landing at Long Beach airport was a new, and very brief, experience for me. It is the first airport I have ever seen where you can see the baggage claim and airplane gates just by turning around and looking the other direction. Half of the gates exist in what is the airport equivalent of a double wide. I almost expected to see a 727 up on cinder blocks off to the side.

Friday evening somehow turned into throwback to college era decision making. Tim invited over one of his friends, Chad, for the evening and as he arrived he produced some really expensive bottle of whiskey that Toby Maguire gave him (yeah, this stuff happens in LA). Normally I am not a whiskey guy but this is Spiderman’s whiskey! Next thing I know it is 5 am, Ally abandoned us long ago, and the Spiderman whiskey is kicked. We have been arguing over who would win the “Forthcoming and inevitable” east vs. west civil war (3-1 votes for the East), who are the best actors in Hollywood, and which stars are “douchebags” (apparently “Russle Crow”).

On Saturday Tim was granted by the misses a “Guy pass” for us to attend the Dodgers game. I used to think that LA fans didn’t care about the team because it takes for the third inning for all the seats to get filled up. I learned going there that this is because getting into the stadium is darn near impossible! Once inside however we had a great time. Scoring some field level seats we got to see LA clinch their division, some guy propose to his girlfriend two rows behind us, and some fan bring his ‘A’ game in a lip sync to “Don’t Stop Believing”.

After the we left the ballpark however, the fun and games were now over and Tim and I had to get down to business. The traditional and obligatory air hockey tournament had to be completed and was held at a bar called Jerseys. When last Tim and I met last he delivered me a crushing loss and claimed the 804 air hockey crown for his own and it was my goal to get it back as my sleep has been restless since I lost. Tim seemed relatively calm for the “head that wears the crown”. As we began to warm up for our game it became apparent that Tim’s whole plan with getting me drunk and tired the night before was just to wear my down for this moment! Would his devious plan work?

The table was crammed between the door and the jukebox. Less than favorable conditions to say the least. But no excuses are accepted in air hockey. If you want to be the champion you have to play like one and rise above the conditions! As play kicked off it was immediately clear that I was not on top of my game. My left side goaltending was practically nonexistent and Tim easily won game one. Game two I again fell behind on the score early. As the score turned 4-2 in favor of Tim I finally decided that I had been playing to tense and loosened up a bit. Shoring up my ‘D’ I finally got a little bit of a groove and eventually battled to win 7-5.

Game 3 it was all on the line. An epic defensive struggle ensued the likes of which had never been seen at Jerseys. No quarter was given and none was asked. As the puck caromed from wall to wall our goaltending kept the flurry of shots off goal long enough for the table to actually time out with the score tied 5-5! Tim and I stared in disbelief. We would have to soldier on to play a full game four of our best of three series.

Now both of us are conditioned only to play three games. Going to game four would require us to dig into that energy reserve that when you get as old as we are you have to keep on board for emergencies only. But this was an emergency. Pride was on the line. As game four started I quickly fell behind again. Fighting back and fending off Tim’s puck control offense I overpowered him and eventually went up 6-5. A sloppy possession by me gave control back to Tim and he capitalized without hesitation, just like a champion should. Now at 6-6 I pulled the puck from the return and placed it on the table knowing it was now or never. Watching my opponent I needed to wait for the right moment, for him to blink! As his lids began to close I had an instant to launch my attack. By the time Tim opened his eyes it was all over. Game over, 7-6! My passionate and worthy opponent and I shook hands at center ice. The crown was back where it belonged!
That night I rested well.

Oh yeah… Ally looks great, they have a nice new place, I got home safe, and it was great to see my friends again!