Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The best fantasy football experience is Hawaiian style

WAIKOLOA, Hawaii – People like me seek paradise as a means of escaping the realities of life such as commute traffic, kids who do not pick up their bedrooms unless subpoenaed and cats who serve as meowing alarm clocks when they verbally communicate that they must be fed at 5:30 in the morning.
My wife and I recently choose to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in Hawaii, specifically the Big Island, where we honeymooned in 1990, the year that Iraq invaded Kuwait and Pete Rose entered prison.
It was my quest on this trip to escape from every day stress but, unfortunately, though thousands of miles from home, I was not able to avoid the two things in my life that recently have been haunting me and have forced me to cringe and look away every time I see them.
I’m talking about, of course, DraftKings and FanDuel. Or better yet the countless, endless array of their commercials that have adorned our television screens pregame, in game and postgame and pretty much every day since this football season started. You know what I mean: The nauseating volume of commercials that run on like black lava in Volcanoes National Park and are targeted at people who love to gamble and are addicted to fantasy football and are led to believe that beginning with a simple free code or bonus (enter LOSER) they can make millions of dollars like so many other many lucky souls who apparently spend every waking minute staring up at a TV screen to see how their fantasy football players are going every Thursday, Sunday and Monday until Christmas when Santa delivers us NFL games on Saturday as well.
Rudolph with your nose so bright, guide my fantasy picks tonight!
If you know me, I have never been a fan of fantasy football unless I’m in Hawaii where fantasy football is now getting up for a gorgeous sunrise to watch a Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans game then spending the rest of the day on Sunday waiting for a gorgeous sunset. I can live with that and so can the Hawaiian Islands where Mariota is more popular than King Kamehameha. The Hawaiian-born quarterback has a funny Subway TV ad with a Heisman Trophy statuette sidekick and a cool ad for an insurance company showing him running alone on a long sandy beach and doing agility drills around rocks that are more imposing than tackling dummies.
Watching NFL football in Hawaii is a real treat because the only thing Hawaiians are focused on are games involving Mariota, who gets more attention than the hula dancers at the Mauna Kea luau. Plus his games on Sunday usually end before the half price Happy Hour at Hali i’ Kai. Woo hoo!
On this particular Sunday on the Big Island, as soon as the Titans-Colts game ended I swear the next program to air on my TV cable system network was an infomercial for FanDuel. This is akin to going to Hapuna Beach then seeing only one-piece bathing suits.
What I can’t stand is, however, is watching an NFL game nowadays and being distracted by all the individual statistics scrolling across the bottom of the screen. The screen is busier and more crowded than the Costco in Kona on Sunday. These Wall Street Journal ticker-like stats are for the people who are signed up for DraftKings or FanDuel or are still thinking about signing up for DraftKings and FanDuel. Instead of watching live game action on the screen, people are dedicating at least one eye to all the day’s big fantasy football players who are have produced big numbers which may someday make a fantasy football team owner a million bucks!
In addition, CBS is now including in its out-of-town scoreboard scroll the up-to-the-second score, quarter, time remaining, down and distance and field position and quite possibly the daily winning Power Ball lottery numbers on its  bottom line, so much run-on information that it is impossible to dissect in the four seconds or so it appears on the screen. You have to be a speed reader to take it all in.
In Hawaii, things move much slower. They are on Island-time, not eye-on-the-screen time. Life to them is like the dessert tray sampler at the Canoe House at Mani Lani. You can’t go wrong with whatever you pick.
I’m guessing there are fantasy football leagues in Hawaii, but I’m of the belief that there are fewer fantasy football team players in the Aloha State simply because they spend their time and money on the necessities: Groceries, gas and cable TV to watch Marcus Mariota.
They could care less about fantasy football being that they live on islands with pure fantasy. Like the ULU ocean grill at the Four Seasons.
As for the mainland, I’m waiting for fantasy football judgement day. The day when a DraftKings or FanDuel multimillion dollar winner becomes the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers because there are evidently grown men wearing caps on their head backwards and replica football jerseys out there who do a much better job evaluating talent than Trent Baalke.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

San Francisco Giants fans are the best in baseball

San Francisco Giants fans are the best baseball fans in the world!
 That’s not Larry Baer talking. Or Bruce Bochy. Or Kruk and Kuip on baseball. Or anyone affiliated with, an employee of, or a lifetime, longtime or die-hard Giants fan or any rebroadcast, retransmission, or account of this game, without the express written consent of Major League Baseball that is prohibited.
 I’m saying that and this is why: I was sitting in the front row of the press box at AT&T Park on a Wednesday night in mid-September where the fading Giants – 7 ½ games out of first place – were playing a last-place team, the Cincinnati Reds, in a seemingly meaningless game with little playoff ramifications on a cold, drizzly and windy night and yet another sellout crowd showed up.
“I can remember in the late 70s and 80s they couldn’t giveaway tickets,” said Bryan Price, manager of the Reds, who used to attend Giants games at Candlestick Park as a kid growing up in nearby Mill Valley. “It was great. We’d look at the schedule and see when they had bat day and cap day or some promotion and go. We could see all the great teams of that era – the Dodgers, Phillies, Pirates and Reds.”
The only thing Giants fans want and need now when they come to the ballpark is a Kiss-Cam-kind-of-good-time. They never know what wondrous thing they might see – like Jake Peavy’s first home run in nine years -- or even moisture falling from the sky. Heck, on this night they literally cheered when an intense, albeit brief, rain shower pelted them in the eighth inning.
Yes, the Giants are World Champions for another month or so before someone else jumps in line and that carries some clout and the ballpark they play in in San Francisco is more attractive than Coit Tower and that lures fans to games for hard-to-get tickets unless GroupOn is in a giving mood.
OK so they were not 41,000 people and change actually in the ballpark at AT&T Park on this night, but the Giants claim that many tickets were sold and hence that’s officially a sellout. The bleachers were 90-95 percent full and the bulk of seats behind home plate were occupied, unlike the wasteland in premium seats behind the backstop in Yankee Stadium.
Still, the standings and the weather on this bleak Bay Area day suggested that the loyal Giants fans who used their tickets would have been better off to stay home and watch the season finale of “America’s Got Talent.”  Or “Naked and Afraid.”
Giants fans don’t need a lot of incentive to turn the turnstiles. The team isn’t trotting out much headline-making talent lately. Icon Tim Lincecum is gone for the season, Madison Bumgarner wasn’t scheduled to pitch or pinch hit, Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford are in the trainer’s room and everyone didn’t come on this dreary evening just to see Buster Posey bat or pose on a spinning pedestal to pitch Toyotas. Plus, the Giants have about as much of a chance right now of catching the Dodgers in the NL West as Rick Perry has of catching Donald Trump in the polls.
So why, pray tell, are Giants fans here?
Because they are the best in baseball. They have sold out 398 consecutive home games, only 57 from catching the Cleveland Indians for the second best consecutive home sellout streak in major league baseball history. The Boston Red Sox own the record – 820 straight sellouts – but their streak ended in 2013 – the year the Red Sox actually won the World Series.
The Giants have a winning combination – a top-notch organization and a much-coveted ballpark – that creates a great atmosphere that doesn't need Sweet Caroline or the Budweiser jingle. I mean, the team lost 91 games in 2007 and still drew 3,223,215 fans.
For comparative purposes, let’s look back to the last time the Giants played a mid-week game at home in mid-September away from AT&T Park. That would be Wednesday, September 15, 1999 when the Giants, then coincidentally 7 ½ games out of first place, beat a last-place team, the Florida Marlins. Barry Bonds batted third and Jeff Kent batted clean-up and the paid crowed at Candlestick Park that night was … 11,996.
The next year the Giants moved into AT&T Park and in the 14 of the last 16 years they have drawn three million fans.
For comparative purposes, the Giants in 1985 – the twilight of Bryan Price’s fan experience at Candlestick Park – the team’s yearly attendance was 818,697.
Yes, Candlestick was a miserable place to watch a baseball game. But AT&T Park, despite all its charm, isn’t exactly the place to be on pretty much any night in San Francisco. Look at the fans sitting behind home plate. They were wearing jackets and hoods and parkas.
They were not wearing Panda hats, but you get the point. It’s rare to see a shirt-sleeve crowd at Candlestick yet, despite the conditions – a chilly night and a team essentially out of the playoff race – another Orange Mass of more than 30,000 Giants fans choose to come to AT&T Park simply for a good time.