Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Top 5 Reasons You Should Always Take the Subway in NYC

Editor's note: This blog entry is more of a PSA than anything and is actually pretty lame.

I don't care if you're a tourist or a long-time resident of the Big Apple. There's only one way you should travel around the city and it isn't by the streets and grid system that make getting around relatively easy.
Here's top 5 reasons why the subway is much better than other city transit options.

5) Inspires Exercise

This one is a little bit ridiculous on its face. After all, the point of transit is to save effort (and time). But as opposed to other transit services, which tend to go door to door, the subway has a lack of pinpoint accuracy that inspires a healthy walking mentality. Plus, the subway becomes inconvenient over shorter distances as you would've been better off walking anyway.

4) The Right Time, Every Time

Trains run every 20 minutes on the 4 train (east side Express)..... in the middle of the night. Most of the times it's much quicker than that, averaging around every 8 minutes. Keep in mind this doesn't account for some trains that overlap routes in critical areas (the 4,5, and 6, the 1, 2, and 3, the N, R, and W). Sure you could flag down a taxi faster than that, but you'd give back that time simply waiting for traffic lights and pedestrians playing Frogger in traffic.

3) Well Adjusted

Unlike the streets, which tend to be the most congested option at the times when you need them the most (rush hour!), subways tend to be the most free option at this time. This isn't because the trains are faster or have less people on them (the exact opposite is likely true), but because there are simply more trains on the tracks. It's a dynamic system that adjusts to a need, unlike the static roadways.

2) Green Line? All the Time

If you even remotely care about the environment, there is simply no other way to go. Taking a subway is the carpool lane times 20. If LA had a system half as good as New York's (it doesn't), the air might not be such a nightmare.

1) The Price is Right

When a quarter price hike to $2.25 per ride is a big deal, you know you're getting a good deal. Especially considering that the $2.25 is the same regardless of whether you're riding from the Bronx all the way to Brooklyn or just going crosstown across Manhattan. Compare this to a taxi. Just to get into a taxi, you need $2.50 for the flag drop and god forbid you go anywhere. The prices for an NYC taxi, while much better than LA or a lot of other major cities, are still expensive relative to the simple subway option.

Go Metro!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Top 5 NBA/NHL/MLB Teams That Need to Move

Note: I didn't include any NFL franchises because none of them cracked the top 5.

5) Oakland Athletics

This is a franchise that's certainly not new to moving around. Originally founded in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics, they moved to Kansas City in 1955 and again to Oakland in 1968. So what's another change of venue or two? The A's have two big reasons to move: crappy ballpark, crappier attendance numbers.

Let's start with the stadium. Having an old stadium in baseball isn't always such a bad thing. Fenway Park and Wrigley Field are considered among (if not) the best places to see America's pastime. Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (formerly McAfee Coliseum) was built in 1966 but has not held up as, well, the most charming place to watch a game. What makes a baseball park great is often its character: the little quirks like a row of purple seats marking one mile above sea level (Coors Field, Denver), big distinguishing factors like an ivy-covered outfield wall (Wrigley Field, Chicago), or scenery like the breathtaking views of a city on a river (PNC Park, Pittsburgh).
In looking at the Wikipedia article for the Coliseum, the two features noted are Mount Davis (extra seats that block views of the surrounding hills) and the Tarp (literally a tarp that covers these extra seats). This ballpark also currently has the smallest capacity in the majors, despite having at point the largest capacity in the same place. It had to be reduced because game day tickets were so easy to acquire, few saw the need for season tickets. Attempts to build a new park in Oakland or move to nearby Fremont have failed.

As for attendance, it's been pretty terrible even in the face of success. The team has had two losing seasons in a row (and look to be headed for a third), but were in the ALCS in 2006 and had a streak of eight winning seasons prior to 2007. How have they fared attendance-wise? Poorly. The A's have been in the bottom half of average, percentage and total attendance since 2004. Remember that they play in the smallest capacity park too. Can you say ouch? In 2006, the year the team made it to the ALCS, the team finished 26th in ticket sales.

Get this team out of town.

4) Sacramento Kings

This is a team with a lot of rumors circulating about a possible move, with Las Vegas and Kansas City as some of the top possibilities. Why is this exactly? There are a lot of great reasons. They play in one of the oldest arenas in basketball, Arco Arena (1988). This dinosaur (by basketball standards) also boasts the third smallest capacity in the game, soon to be second when the Orlando Magic move into their cozy new arena in 2010. Current attempts are being made to build a new arena, but chances of one actually being constructed seem slim given California's economic state. But this isn't their biggest problem. Heck, it's not even their second biggest problem.

The attendance numbers are one of the big sticking points at the moment. Last season, Sacramento ranked dead last in average attendance. It hasn't always been this bad in California's capital; in fact it's been just the opposite. Of the 24 seasons the Kings have been in Sacramento (after previous stints in Rochester, Cincinnati, Omaha, and Kansas City), Arco Arena has AVERAGED a sellout for all but 6 of them. This is incredible and the fans of Sacramento are to be commended for showing such unmatched loyalty. Unfortunately, of the six seasons mentioned, two were the last two seasons. This isn't too surprising, as the Kings were a terrible product, finishing well below .500 both seasons, and dead last this past year. In a market as small as Sacramento (25th largest metropolitan area) low attendance simply doesn't quite work. Throw in limited corporate sponsorship and you've got a big financial issue.

Another big blow was losing out in the recent NBA Draft lottery. Although the Kings had the best chance of winning the top pick and rights to Blake Griffin, they not only didn't get first choice, they got the worst possible draft position (4th).

Perhaps the most major problem Sacramento faces is its ownership. The Maloof family, owners of The Palms casino in Las Vegas, are hurting for cash. Revenue from the casino and the Kings are down sharply and the Maloofs have had to make layoffs in their organization for the first time ever earlier in May. A move would bring in a lot of new cash because of the sheer excitement of the fans in the market along with merchandise sales.

3) New York Islanders

Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Islanders of the 80's were a dynasty, a force to be reckoned with. They won four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 - 1983. Pretty damn good for a team founded only 8 years before this feat. Now they might be headed elsewhere.

This one doesn't take a lengthy explanation, because the reasons are similar to the other teams on this list. Aging arena, sagging attendance. Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum is one of the older NHL arenas around at 1972, and prospects for a new one don't seem likely. But the real story here is the pathetic attendance numbers.

In the last four seasons, the Islanders have ranked dead last in attendance for three of them. Even when the team had moderate success in recent years, they've ranked consistently in the bottom half of attendance. This is staggering considering their location in a city as gigantic as New York. Sure they have to share the spotlight with the Rangers, but there should be no way a hockey team in Nashville, Phoenix, Atlanta, or Columbus of all places should draw more fans. The city doesn't care about the team at this point, and I'm not sure they'd be missed.

2) Phoenix Coyotes

Perhaps the most obvious selection on the list, because they already have their foot halfway out the door. The Coyotes have already tried to file for bankruptcy and sell the team over to Jim Balsillie, who already tried to buy the Nashville Predators two years ago. Balsillie is desperately trying to move any team he possibly can into Hamilton, Ontario. The team would've already been sold if not for the NHL stepping into court and fighting the bankruptcy and transaction. The crux of the debate is whether the Coyotes acceptance of massive financial assistance from the NHL put the league in control of the team. Whether or not the league wins the debate is almost immaterial. This team is gone sooner rather than later.

In the last decade, the Coyotes have been in the playoffs only once, and ranked 19th in attendance in their best year. In fact, the team hasn't won a playoff series since moving to Phoenix from Winnipeg. I think it's about time this franchise made its way back to Canada. Give it up Gary Bettman, the attempt to shoehorn the NHL into the southern United States didn't work. Of the ten warm weather teams currently in the league (Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Carolina, Anaheim, Nashville, Florida, Tampa Bay, San Jose), only one finished in the top half of total attendance last season, Dallas. And Dallas finished 15th. In terms of percentage attendance, the same holds true, except that San Jose is the only team to finish in the top half. In all fairness, only three of these teams made the playoffs. Still, this trend is troubling. Get those Coyotes out of Arizona.

Oh and I did a Google Image search for "Phoenix Coyotes fan". 226 results, only 2 pictures of people wearing Phoenix Coyotes gear, and one of them was of a paid model.

1) Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers place at the top of the list has nothing to do with an inadequate arena, or terrible attendance (though their attendance isn't great). It doesn't even have anything to do with an impending move in the works. By the numbers, the Clippers are actually fine where they are in Los Angeles as LA's second basketball team. This pick has nothing to do with necessity, but more to do with the intangibles and opportunity. Let me explain....

On the court, the Clippers are simply a haunted franchise. They are the oldest team in NBA history (founded in Buffalo in 1970) to never have appeared in the Finals, to never have won their conference, and to never have even won their division. The Clippers haven't won anything, ever. Well, that's not completely true. They won their first round series in the 2006 Playoffs, but besides that, not much. In the battle for the city of Los Angeles, the Clippers have had a better regular season record than the Lakers four times in the 25 seasons they've been in the same town. As a franchise, the Clippers have won 36.2% of their games overall (compared to 61.7% for the Lakers franchise). This is a loser team.

I've been to a Clippers game myself. It was one of the most depressing sports experiences of my life. One single fan in the lower bowl got the crowd going louder than the public address announcer could. Unlike most teams, which only use a dance squad/cheerleaders plus an entertaining performer or two during time outs, the Clippers used their kids dance squad. Some of them were wearing suspenders! It was like a Kidz Bop commercial. It was truly awful.

But my dislike for the Clippers' game experience isn't enough for them to move. The opportunity to have a sizeable market (and spotlight) to yourself is though. If you're the Clippers, why stay in LA as a second team when you can move 30 miles away to Anaheim and have the market to yourself. Anaheim and the Orange County area have shown through their support of the Angels and the Ducks that they're capable of supporting their teams. By moving out to Orange County you could have a facility exclusive to your own basketball team, a HUGE potential sponsor in Disney and a fanbase looking for more accessible basketball. Don't like Anaheim Donald Sterling? What about San Diego? Sure, maybe it's not as appealing of a market because of a poor past history with the city (they used to be the San Diego Clippers), but at least you'd have it to yourself instead of being LA's redheaded stepchild.

Worried fans won't be excited when you get there? You're dead wrong. The Clippers have the top pick in this year's draft, meaning they get to pick up Blake Griffin. Without all of their injuries this year, they might have been decent. They will have the talent, they just need the luck (and a coach). A quick move makes a lot of sense, and the team certainly won't be missed.

Honorable Mentions

- Atlanta Thrashers
- Nashville Predators
- Florida Marlins (if they weren't already getting a new ballpark... nothing describes a Marlins game better than an orange seat convention)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Top 5 Places to Eat On or Around USC

No big intros, lets just get to the list.

5) Chano's

Why it Made this List: The late night eating options around USC's campus generally consist of: McDonald's, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Denny's, Subway and Del Taco. By merely being open until 3 am just about every night and not being part of a huge chain of restaurants, Chano's endears itself to the party crowd on the Row. The food always hits the spot for those willing to make the drunken, treacherous trek to go and get it. Make sure you wash it down those tacos with an Horchata or a Champurrado.
Shortcomings: Being open late at night and a chain restaurant are pretty much the only reason this one's on the list. The quality of the food isn't the greatest and it's certainly not the healthiest option. It's also kind of a sketchy location late at night, but then again, what location late at night near USC isn't?

4) Galen Center

Why it Made this List: First let me clarify... USC has two Galen Centers. The Galen Center is the new stadium across Figueroa where the Trojans plays home basketball and volleyball games. Galen Center is the oddly placed building behind Heritage Hall (USC's athletic nucleus) where USC's varsity athletes go to dine. This hidden spot is one of campus' best kept secrets because while it's exclusive to athletes during dinner, its open to the public at night. The food is fit for a hungry Trojan athlete. They have delicious hamburgers with fresh fries, juicy "daily grille" specials, and plenty of protein overall. The best part about Galen Center though is the atmosphere. The room is decked out like what I imagine a Trojan chain restaurant would be like, there are comfy booths, and big screen televisions showing ESPN and ESPN News non-stop. There's also the intangible cool factor of eating where the Trojan team eats.
Shortcomings: But you didn't honestly think this wouldn't come at a price did you? Galen Center will run you well over $10 for a decent sized meal. That's not terrible for being on campus, but the problem for students on a meal plan is that Galen Center doesn't accept Dining Dollars, only cash (or discretionary funds on a USC Card). Also, the kitchen is slow sometimes.

3) Armando's

Why it Made this List: This is another hidden gem on campus at USC. In fact it's very well hidden because it's just inside the maintenance parking lot across the street from the Lyon Center. The restaurant itself isn't much, a food truck parked in a parking lot. But it may be one of the best all-around dining experiences at USC. The truck is owned by Armando, a friendly cashier/restaurateur who seems to finish every sentence with "my friend". The food is a mix between Mexican cuisine and American treats. The USC Chicken sandwich, California Burger, and Macho Burrito are some of my personal favorites. While there is an extensive menu on the side of the truck, the cool part about Armando's is the secret menu. Trojan football fans can order a Taylor Mays, a Keith Rivers, or a Lendale White at Armando's (I don't remember what's in each one, except that there's generally a lot of meat). This is the place where Pete Carroll and his coaching staff get their breakfast burritos from in the mornings. The cost of all this is usually under $5, and I guarantee you won't get a better meal at that price or friendlier service anywhere else on campus.
Shortcomings: It's not as cheap as you might expect it to be. The line and wait times during a lunch time rush are generally pretty bad. Obviously you shouldn't eat here if you're looking for a sit down place.

2) Viztango Cafe

Why it Made this List: It made this list because goddamnit I love my Italian food. And there's no better place to grab a delicious, huge portion of pasta. Boy do they have a variety of pastas.... pesto sauces, red sauces, alfredo sauces, and pink sauces with a wide variety of proteins and pasta shapes. The Farfalle Pesto is a delicious mix of farfalle pasta, a pesto sauce, chicken, and sun dried tomatoes. The Linguini Seafood is linguine with a big mix of clams, shrimp, etc. with tomatos, basil, and a buttery sauce. But that's just two options from a huge picture menu that you can choose from. They have sandwiches and pizzas too, but I haven't tried them yet because there are so many damn pastas to try. The dining room is only ok, but the service is very fast.
Shortcomings: I wish it were open just a little bit later. It can be a little bit pricey, but considering the size of the portions and the fact that with a student a discount card you get a "small" Caesar salad and a bunch of garlic bread, I don't think it's a problem. The food does have a little too much oil a lot of the time though.

1) Parkside Restaurant

Why it Made this List: Anyone who knows USC might have a shocked look on their face right now. Wipe it off, stop buying the negative hype and read on. This is hands down the best quality and bang for your buck at USC as far as food goes. Parkside boasts a wide variety of delicious, perfectly portioned food in an all-you-can-eat style. They have unique cuisines and dishes. Mongolian, Vietnamese, Italian, it all changes from day to day while still maintaining the staples of pizza, burgers, fries, salads. The Tomato Basil soup is a keeper. There's a wide range of desserts too. Apple pie? All yours. Jello? Boring, but take your pick from a bunch of varieties. Ice cream sundae? Make your own! Fruit? Sure, ya damn health nut. Pudding? Yes. You get the idea. Don't forget to come in on Fridays for the best dessert on campus, Oreo pie. I think Parkside is unfairly criticized because people get bored with it after eating there on a meal plan day after day after day. I think that would be the case at just about any of the other restaurants on this list. The sheer value, quality and variety make this my top pick.
Shortcomings: For some ridiculous 'green' reason, Parkside decided to abolish trays. Considering the sheer amount of plates you have to grab to get your fill of Parkside food, this is completely impractical. I think USC did this as a way to cut down on costs rather than actually have a conscience surrounding the environment, but I digress. Also, silverware and condiments can be tough to find as their spread out around the dining room, making it a little inconvenient.

Ground Zero Coffeehouse (If they had anything substantial foodwise they'd clearly make the list... Best milkshakes in Southern California, and easily the best milkshakes I've ever had)
Chipotle (Best burritos around campus! Too bad it's a chain)
Wok Crazy (Not enough value, but a pretty good Asian styled place)
In N' Out (One can dream right? Culver City ain't close enough! I need a Double Double Animal Style on Figueroa and Jefferson right now!!!)

EVK (EVK sucks... It just does)


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Top 5 Most Forgettable NFL/NBA/MLB/NHL Teams

When you take all four of the "big" pro sports in America, there are 122 teams in total. Yet only four of these teams can be a champion in any given year, and only 52 can make the playoffs. For those of you who know subtraction, that's 70 teams that watch the playoffs where all of us non-pro athletes do... from the couch. Some of the teams are going to get lost in the shuffle. The national media can't hype up all of them. While any good sports fan can probably recognize if a team name is correct or not, naming all of them off the top of your head is tougher than you might think. In order to see what teams are the most "forgettable", I tried to name all of the teams in each league and then looked at either the ones I named last or the ones I outright forgot. Here are some rules for how I picked through the teams:

1) Going division by division is a no-no. Yes, this would be a good way to be thorough, but I'm trying to pick through my own mind here and see which teams fall through the cracks, not make a complete list.

2) There are some biases that are unavoidable. Having not lived or attended games in the Midwest, South, and Mid-Atlantic regions of the US, I'm more prone to forget certain teams. That's just the way it is...

3) Pairs come naturally. If a city or a region or a state has two or more teams, I was a lot more likely to name all of them together. An unfortunate geographic reality...

4) This is not scientific at all... At ALL!

After my top 5 for each league I'm also going to give my best guess as to the teams I would've predicted would be the most easily forgettable.

National Football League (NFL)
5) New Orleans Saints - This was a weird one. I still don't know why this team eluded me. I pull for them every week and Reggie Bush (USC Heisman Trophy winner) is their tailback. It could be because they had such a mediocre season last year.

4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers - I grew up an hour from Tampa Bay and I still forgot that this team is here. They're not particularly interesting these days... a borderline playoff team in a pretty weak division. This team is overshadowed by the Miami Dolphins and college football in the state of Florida despite a Super Bowl championship this century.

3) Baltimore Ravens - This is sort of a forgettable city in and of itself, plus the team was 5-11 last season.

2) St. Louis Rams - The "Greatest Show on Turf" days are long gone. This is a terrible team in the middle of the country. Forgetting the Rams didn't really surprise me.

1) Washington Redskins - Lets see.... low-scoring offense, not a lot of big-name players, uninteresting team, racist team name, 3 rings but no Super Bowl trip since 1991. Plus they're easily

5) Carolina Panthers -
Besides Steve Smith, is there really a big-name player on this team?

4) Houston Texans - This team doesn't have a winning history, many celebrity-type NFL players, and is the red-headed stepchild to the Dallas Cowboys in the state.

3) Cleveland Browns - Great fans, but this team flat-out stinks and isn't nearly as interesting as the train-wreck/jail-bound Cincinnati Bengals that they share the state with. Not helping their case is a total lack of a team logo/memorable helmet.

2) Washington Redskins - Yeah, they deserve to be about here.

1) Jacksonville Jaguars - Jacksonville just plain isn't a major-league city. This team is really the 2nd or 3rd most prominent NFL team in the state of Florida.

National Basketball Association (NBA)
5) Denver Nuggets - I must be really tired to forget this one. I've been to two home games, plus they have two star players in Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson.

4) Golden State Warriors - If this team were the Oakland Warriors or the San Francisco Warriors, I think I'd have remembered them more easily.

3) Utah Jazz - These are some of the most vicious fans in the NBA, but a good team that plays as a team doesn't make the Jazz a memorable team. The small market doesn't help either.

2) Washington Wizards - Forgetting about Washington D.C./Baltimore area teams is a running theme in this Top 5. I think if this team were still the Bullets I'd have forgotten about them too.

1) Charlotte Bobcats - Not even Michael Jordan makes me remember that this team exists. That's really really sad. God does their logo suck.

5) Indiana Pacers - Name 3 players on this team. If you're not a fan of the NBA or this team, then you probably can't. And no, Reggie Miller doesn't count.

4) Memphis Grizzlies - The University of Memphis basketball team is way more relevant than these hibernating grizzlies.

3) Atlanta Hawks - This may be one of the most poorly run organizations in professional sports.

2) Oklahoma City Thunder - OKC is here because the team name is brand new as is the location.

1) Charlotte Bobcats - I'm still not sure this isn't an ABA or D League team.

Major League Baseball (MLB)

5) Oakland Athletics - Billy Beane must do the most with the least out of any GM in baseball. Too bad that means the team is totally forgettable when they aren't any good (like right now)

4) Toronto Blue Jays - They're unique as the only Canadian team in the league and totally overshadowed by the rest of its division.

3) Minnesota Twins - I'm sorry I forgot this team because they're one of the classiest organizations in all of sports.

2) Detroit Tigers - Maybe I was prone to forget this team after I picked them to make it to win the AL Central before the season began.

1) Milwaukee Brewers - Yeah, I haven't really been to the Midwest much if you couldn't tell.

5) Pittsburgh Pirates -
They haven't had a winning season in 16 years. It's a small market team as well.

4) Cincinnati Reds - Generic team name, haven't really been a factor in the World Series since 1990.

3) Seattle Mariners - This team holds the record for most wins in a regular season in major league history. Sadly, they choked that year, and they were pretty damn terrible this year too.

2) Florida Marlins - Judging by the fact that this team had fewer than 600 fans at one game, I think a lot of fans in Miami forget they're there too. This is in spite of winning 2 World Series during my lifetime.

1) Washington Nationals/Montreal Expos - A new stadium and a new home don't make up for how bad the Nationals are.

National Hockey League (NHL) - Abridged version

5) Tampa Bay Lightning

4) Washington Capitals

3) Buffalo Sabres

2) St. Louis Blues

1) Carolina Hurricanes


5) Phoenix Coyotes

4) Atlanta Thrashers

3) New York Islanders

2) Florida Panthers

1) Carolina Hurricanes

Hope you enjoyed it.... non-sports related one should be coming next week if I remember.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Top 5 Places Nothing Good Ever Happens At

Remember as a kid being dragged around on errands on a beautiful Sunday? Remember hearing certain stores on the seemingly never-ending list and being happy to hear some and devastated to hear others? For me, Target was on the good list. It's a colorful store with a video game demo section and a significant toys department. There's things to do. What was (and still is) on the bad list? Well that's the point of this entry, so read on. Here are some ground rules.

1) If you thought these other lists were subjective.... this one takes the cake. It's based solely on my own experience, not any other criteria.

2) This list might make more sense if... you're a guy as you might see from a few entries.

3) Don't take things too literally. Obviously jail, and morgues are sad places, war-torn countries, etc. This is fine, but this list has more to do with outright annoying or deviously neutral locales.


5) Hobby Lobby

This is sort of a throwaway item, as I don't really have 5 unique places that I could put on this list. Hobby Lobby is mainly here because I couldn't think of anything I'd actually buy here. I guess they do sell particularly strong varieties of model glue, but when your main featured sale is a big discount on "scrapbooking supplies", I don't feel particularly motivated to go inside and spend an afternoon. Speaking of which, there are few activities less interesting to me (and less manly) than cutting and re-gluing photos and words in cheesy, "heartwarming" arrangements. Maybe I'm just not an arts and crafts kind of guy.

4) NASCAR Races

Alright, someone help me with this logic. I'm going to pay to go to a mercilessly loud place, sit in the hot sun in some cases, and get crap spilled on me by wasted fans... all so I can watch cars drive really fast but in a constant left turn. At least as far as variety goes, most people's daily commute to work is far more interesting. Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't get the appeal in seeing a bunch of good ol' boys spin around in circles. You know it's a redneck sport when the main entertainment draw is the possibility that someone screws up, crashes their car, and possibly dies in the process. The common defense NASCAR fans give is that if you know the sport, there's a lot of strategy to it. Maybe so, but I'm not sure I really care to know the sport any more than knowing it's not my cup of tea. Throw in the drunken redneck, jock-sniffing and loyal-to-the-grave fans, a dash of excessive patriotism, and the significant possibility that you may go deaf or get skin cancer sitting out in the sun and you've got one fantastic time don't you? Is there anywhere else I'd hate to be more? Three places perhaps...

3) Orthodontist

I don't know about you, but I sure as hell am not a morning person. Any class before ten and it's a crap shoot if I'm not still fast asleep in bed. Hey, early birds may get all of the worms, but late birds get plenty of food that tastes a whole lot better (especially late birds who live near busy outdoor cafe's. Thus, any place that forces you to get up early is likely to make my shit list. At least for my specific orthodontist, there was no flexibility with dates and times. They weren't there Fridays... or most Mondays... or any time after school got out at 3:15. Nope, here are the options the orthodontist often gave me: a) Tuesday at 7 am b) Wednesday during class or c) we won't fix that intricate meta contraption glued to your teeth that's been poking you in the cheek for the last 5 days.
Now if this were life-saving stuff, I might be more inspired, but it's not. All an orthodontist can really fix is a bit of an appearance issue regarding your teeth. Of course this is only after going through you a multi-year period of borderline evil dietary restrictions, social awkwardness, impaired speech, and occasional intense pain. Ahhh, the things we go through for straight teeth. As humans, there is just about nothing that minor that we go through that much trouble to solve. There has to be a better way. Until then, it's just a painful series of trips for the teenage crowd.

2) Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)

If you didn't see this one coming, then you either aren't from the United States, have never been here or have terrible instincts. DMV's are a lot of fun if you like waiting in queues. In Los Angeles to switch my driver's license from a New Mexico license to a California one, I literally waited in a long line just to get a number to... wait for it... wait in another line. Following that I was sent upstairs to... you guessed it... wait in another line. I then filled out some paperwork which, to turn in, I had to wait... everybody now... in another line. Nope, it doesn't end there. I waited in another pair of lines before my 4-hour odyssey to the DMV was finished.
There are other DMV's in other states where you may wait in fewer lines, but that's made up by time spent just flat out sitting around wishing you'd brought something entertaining to do and generally hating life. Not to mention that the employees working at these fine locations aren't usually the happiest people. This just adds to the collective depression and frustration that DMV's seem to inspire. I strongly considered this for #1, but...

1) J.C. Penney

... there's no beating this hellhole. This place is the inspiration for this list. I'd have to go clothes shopping as a kid and this would often be the destination. It got to the point where, when my mom would tell me that we were going here, I would tell my mom, "Nothing good ever happened at a J.C. Penney." I stand by that statement to that day. J.C. Penney is a gathering place for all of the minor annoyances in the world to congregate and mockingly laugh at the poor mortals that come through looking to scratch a nagging consumer itch. Here is my list of grievances against this secretly terrible force.
A) It's never a short trip. A trip to J.C. Penney is usually between half an hour and a full hour long. Oh and what a time it is. Trying on endless dorky clothes, most of which don't fit, looking for that misfit piece of clothing that looks half decent in those lying mirrors. Speaking of that...
B) They don't have my size. J.C Penney carries clothing for fat people, or at least people larger than myself (most of whom, in all fairness, aren't really fat). Maybe I'm just difficult (27-28X34 pant size, Adult S-M shirt size), but when a store doesn't have a single stylish small shirt, but plenty in XXXXXXL, it's frustrating. For pants, don't even ask. They don't make clothes for people who are skinny, period. I don't care if you make all of your money selling jeans to fat people trying to get a better self-image, throw me a bone here.
C) Gratingly annoying advertising. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWFsOkvGAug&feature=related . Check out :40, :49, :51. Does that appeal to anyone but parents who think their kids go to the same school from Grease? Way to aim for the stupid, cutesy demographic J.C. Penney.
D) Slogans. Here are some J.C. Penney advertising slogans during the history of the company. "It's All Inside" (...just not at this store...), "Every Day Matters" (...so don't waste yours here...), "We Know What You're Looking For" (...but we don't have it here...), and the painfully obvious "This is J.C. Penney" (...run while you still can...). Hope you didn't pay too much for those J.C. Penney. I've got a good one for your next ad campaign. "J.C. Penney... Where Fun Goes to Die".
E) Active boredom. At the DMV, you can read a book or play a video game. At J.C. Penney, your full attention is required. No idle time, just merciless shopping.
F) 'Helpful' Employees. If any of these poor souls wanted to really help, they'd just point to the exit.
G) They're based in my least favorite state in the United States. Texas.
J.C. Penney.... you can go screw yourself. I hope I'm smart enough to marry someone who wouldn't force the kids to go to this place.


Arby's, Linens 'N Things, WWE/UFC matches, Hookah Bars, Yoshinoya, Sunglasses Hut, gun shows, Detroit, Tobacco shops, Hummer dealerships.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Top 5 Prime Sports Relocation/Expansion Locations

With this summer's move of the Seattle SuperSonics to Oklahoma City, the ever-present threat of a team moving away from it's fanbase has been reignited. While there aren't too many teams in as imminent of danger as the Sonics were, it is interesting to look at some possibilities of future locations for new pro sports teams or new homes for established ones. To keep things from getting too complex, I've excluded intercontinental destinations for expansion. I'm also only including the three big leagues likely to expand, the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL. Not too many rules for this list, just one man's opinion.

5) Milwaukee, WI

Metropolitan Area Population: 1.97 million

League That Should Move Here: NHL

Reasons Why: Milwaukee is a larger city than you might think. It ranks 34th out of US media markets, higher than other sports markets such as Oklahoma City, New Orleans, and Salt Lake City. However, the size is not the reason this move would make sense. Cold weather markets tend to support hockey teams far better than teams in Southern markets. One of the newer additions to the NHL, the Minnesota Wild, ranked tenth in attendance in the league. Hockey fans in the northern Midwest, bitterly cold areas of the US, have a better hockey tradition and a better tie to the game. The Wisconsin Badgers, located less than 90 minutes away, have a hockey tradition that rivals most schools. The biggest reason this move would make sense though is the quality of the fans in Wisconsin. The Green Bay Packers fanbase is downright rabid. The Milwaukee Brewers, despite being located in a much smaller market than most teams, are 9th in MLB attendance.

Reasons Why Not: Can Milwaukee support a basketball team, a baseball team, a pro football team, and a hockey team in the region? While baseball attendance is good, basketball attendance is bad (the Bucks were 22nd in the league last season). This can be disregarded a bit as hockey makes more sense in this market than basketball anyway. What cannot be disregarded is that Milwaukee has a minor league hockey team, the Milwaukee Admirals, who barely drew in the top half of the league for fans this past season. Is the interest for hockey here strong enough?

Teams That Could Be Moved Here: Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers

4) San Diego, CA

Metropolitan Area Population: 2.94 million

League That Should Come Here: NBA

Reasons Why: Yes, I know the Clippers were here back in the late 70's and 80's, but things have changed. The city is one of the ten largest in the United States and like there is regional passion for baseball in the Northeast and football in the South, there is plenty of love for basketball out West. The rivalries would be fierce, especially with the nearby Lakers. While the Clippers could/should move here, I would hope that San Diego could get a less dysfunctional/cursed/poorly-run franchise. There is enough money and enough people here to easily support three pro franchises. On paper, this looks like a pretty easy decision for the NBA.

Reasons Why Not: California fans are notoriously fair-weather fans. If a team's good, they're there. If they're bad, the team can't give tickets away fast enough. Speaking of fair weather, could the team convince city's residents that they should come inside to see a game on a beautiful day in San Diego. An outdoor arena could be an interesting idea for this market. Plus the team most likely to move here, the Clippers, would draw a far more lukewarm reaction. Also, after recently funding Petco Park, would the city be willing to fund a major arena?

Teams That Could Move Here: Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings

3) San Antonio, TX/Austin, TX

Metropolitan Area Population: 1.94 million/1.59 million

League That Should Expand Here: NFL

Reasons Why: Texas loves football. It doesn't matter if it's high school, college, or pro football, if it's a pigskin and a 100 yard field, they're on it. The Dallas Cowboys are the most valuable franchise in US pro sports. With a competitive team last season, the Houston Texans have come into their own, ranking 11th in attendance last season. Football fans in Texas are passionate and many of them have money behind them to make big things happen. San Antonio and Austin are located far enough away from both of these markets (3 hours from Houston, 4 hours from Dallas) that they can easily support a pro franchise. Austin is currently the largest city in the United States without a pro franchise in any league. The San Antonio Spurs have already found plenty of success even being in a smaller market. Helping all of this is the fact that San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Either of these cities would be a great candidate for an NFL expansion team, but not both at the same time. I think there would be a huge public reception in both cases. This region of Texas is prime territory for more pro sports teams.

Reasons Why Not: Could the team survive being in the shadow of two more established teams, especially during the likely lean first few years post-expansion? Does the more artistic nature of Austin dampen the non-college fans in the area and make the team less of a fit? Other than that, this seems like a pretty good fit to me.

2) Los Angeles, CA

Metropolitan Area Population: 17.76 million

League That Should Come Here: NFL

Reasons Why: The Los Angeles area (including Anaheim) has: two NHL teams, two NBA teams, two MLB teams.... and zero NFL teams. As the second largest market in the country, it only seems to make sense that the largest league would at least have some presence here. It's too big of a market for the NFL not to take advantage of it. As long as the stadium is located somewhere close to money-rich areas of town or even downtown. There is plenty of love for football in Los Angeles. USC's football team is one of the most popular teams in the city. Both the city and the NFL would benefit from having pro football return to the City of Angels.

Reasons Why Not: The third time may not be the charm. LA/Anaheim used to have two football teams, the Rams and Raiders. They both moved for various reasons including sinking attendance and old facilities. If you thought San Diego has a problem with fair weather fans, Los Angeles is twice as bad. There are almost too many choices for LA residents and unless the football team is any good, fans won't be there. Frustratingly slow local politics also don't make this as appealing of a location as you might think. Not to mention that LA already has a pro football team in the mighty USC Trojans.

1) Las Vegas, NV

Metropolitan Area Population: 1.78 million

Leagues That Should Expand Here: NBA, MLB, NFL (in that order)

Reasons Why: I think this is almost inevitable, especially for the NBA, and if one of the major leagues enters the market the rest may follow. Las Vegas is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, with plenty of money in the area. There are plenty of wealthy young sports fans who have shown that they don't mind dropping a few hundred or thousand dollars. Tourism is a huge part of the economy and visiting fans may be inclined to check out the team's games. Season ticket sales would be strong, especially amongst casino owners looking to impress big spenders. The city itself would attract star free agents to come and play in the city itself. A move here appears imminent for the NBA. The 2007 All Star Game, Summer League, and 2008 US Olympic Basketball Training Grounds were all hosted here. It flat out makes sense, and whichever team owner ends up with a team here will be very lucky indeed. This would be a smart move for the MLB and the NFL for many of the reasons listed above, but each has their own unique problems that I'll get into in....

Reasons Why Not: Associating sports with gambling is a messy issue in American sports culture. Any team located here will have to be extra careful not to get in bed with the local casinos. The mere juxtaposition of the two will cause endless conspiracy theories. Baseball and football each have major problems potentially moving to Sin City. Baseball sells itself on tradition more than any other sport and its fans have a long history of turning away from the game at the slightest suspicion of games being fixed. Not helping this are stodgy baseball owners unwilling to break the status quo or think in unique ways. Baseball is stuck in the past, while Vegas is a younger city of the future. The NFL has a similar, albeit smaller problem associating itself with gambling. The main issue the NFL would face is one of image. The league has had a major image problem in the last few years and reputation-minded commissioner Roger Gooddell may be unwilling to put players in a situation where they're likely to get into trouble.

Teams That Could Move Here: Milwaukee Bucks, Sacramento Kings, Oakland A's

HONORABLE MENTIONS (and why they didn't make the cut):

Anaheim, CA - NBA, NFL (fair-weather fans, attendance issues, congested sports area)
Brooklyn, NY - NBA, MLB (NBA is already moving here in 2010, no baseball team could ever replace the Dodgers)
Providence, RI - MLB (it's already a little too cramped here, is the population large/interested enough?)
Seattle, WA - NBA, NHL (not enough interest in either sport, team might have a cheapened feel in replacing the old Sonics)

See you next week with a random list of my choosing.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Top 5 Odd/Funny Things You Might Not Notice When Watching This YouTube Video the First Time

Hey everyone,
Check out this video:
Yeah it's pretty tame, kind of boring. Neil Sedaka doesn't really inspire a whole lot. Maybe you liked the song, maybe you didn't. Either way, this video is teeming with hidden oddities and bizarre things that you probably didn't notice watching it the first time. It also shows off a lot of differences between music videos today and in the 60's.

The items are in chronological order. No rules for this one, just enjoy.

5) Neil Yells at Someone in the Middle of the Song.

Time it Occurs: 55 seconds in.
If you couldn't tell he was lipsynching in the first place, watch closely at this point as Sedaka... supposedly in the middle of the song, turns his head, yells a few words at someone, before quickly swerving his head back and continuing singing. What was he yelling? I have no idea. Why did he decide to yell at that specific point? I have no idea. But this makes Ashlee Simpson's lipsynching look believable. It's pretty damn terrible.

4) Backup Singers? Barely...

Time: 1:54 to 2:04
And again, if you didn't realize he was lipsynching, surely you can tell these two are. They aren't even trying. I'm not sure they really know the words. The one on the right is especially bad. She giggles, turns around to talk to someone, looks down, fixes her hair. She does everything but move her lips and... you know, sing. At 2:03 you can even see Neil shake his head, probably thinking about the many ways he could kill them after the show. Can you imagine this type of thing on TV nowadays? Maybe as a bad parody...

3) That Dude's Either Really Bored or Going to Brutally Murder Someone

Time: 2:05 to 2:09
Usually people in the background of most music videos are smiling, happy to be there, or partying. This guy is the absolute opposite of that. He looks like he's either:
a) Emo
b) Going to strangle a baby
c) Bored as hell
d) All of the above.
Maybe he just doesn't like the song.

2) And She Can't Dance Either....

Time: 2:11 to 2:17
This backup dancer/singer can't do anything right can she? She figures she can't sing so she tries dancing... in the most shy, half-assed way you'll ever see. I'm just glad whatever mild swaying move she's doing didn't catch on in the 60's... It looks like she's trying to hide an erection. I'm really starting to wonder where they found this girl.

1) "That's a Gas, Man"

Time: 2:45 to 2:47
I'm not really sure who came up with that ridiculous phrase or how it came about. It doesn't really make a lot of sense. In any case, the awesome 6o's host guy is right. Just like most forms of gas, Sedaka stunk. Also, look at the picture at right. What's his hand doing in his mouth? Bizarre bizarre bizarre.

I'm out... A sports-related and far less random one coming up next time.
P.S. For anyone back at USC, I'm back tomorrow night.