Watch a football game at Vanderbilt ... and don't forget room service
Posted: Friday September 17, 2004 12:22PM; Updated: Friday September 17, 2004 5:58PM
Greetings from windy and rainy Nashville, where my home for roughly nine hours -- just enough time to sleep fitfully, write this and unleash myself on the lobby breakfast buffet -- is the Marriott on the campus of Vanderbilt University.
I realize most of you don't care a whit where I am, but I bring it up because when I awoke, I discovered I was occupying what would be the best seat in college football if the fightin' Commodores ever got their act together and won some games. My humble abode, Room 524, overlooks Vanderbilt Stadium, giving me an only-slightly obstructed mezzanine-level view of the field from just beyond Gate 1. I basically slept in the end zone, so I've already spent more time there than most Vanderbilt running backs.
Talk about a room with a view. Vanderbilt's campus is beautiful, and the stadium looks cozy. (This floor of the Marriott is also home to something called the Vanderbilt Sleep Clinic, an indication that sleeping conditions at this hotel are optimum, or that any minute I'll hear a crazed, sleep-deprived test case shrieking down the hall.) I've paid good money for far worse seats at several sporting events, and none of those came with a little bottle of shampoo or a complimentary appetizer at Latitude, the seafood restaurant on the ballroom level.
A few weeks back, fellow blogger Josh Elliott wrote about the highs and lows of the travelin' life. One of the things that keeps it interesting -- and I use that term very loosely -- is checking into a place late at night and being surprised the next morning by what lies outside your window. Last year, I arrived, exhausted, in Colorado Springs in the middle of a midnight snowstorm; visibility was about three inches. The next morning I opened the curtains and was hit with an unexpected and stunningly clear view of the Rockies, one of the most beautiful snapshots I've ever seen. Same thing happened once with a surprise ocean view in Florida. (There was also once a cinder block wall in Philadelphia, but I'm trying to be upbeat here.) If you've got to wake up thousands of miles from home, that's not a bad way to do it. Now if only the Commodores had a game this morning. ...
Submit a comment or question for Stephen.
I feel obligated to weigh in with something profound on the NHL lockout, but really, what is there to say? A couple of things have struck me. One, I'm shocked at how little people in this country care; I knew the NHL was teetering on niche status, but I honestly wonder if an MLS labor war would engender more public outcry. One thing players and owners have in common -- they have vastly overestimated the place they hold in the American sports landscape. ESPN's Barry Melrose made a rare salient point the other night: He said he was afraid NHL customers would find somewhere else to spend their money. They already have. The only thing worse than a long lockout is a long lockout that the average sports fan doesn't even notice.
I'm also a bit surprised at how lopsided an advantage the owners seem to have among those who do care (namely, Canadians.) TSN, Canada's ESPN, had a Web poll the other day asking which side fans supported. Ownership won handily. I know it's hard for people with real jobs to align with the stereotypically greedy athlete who can't seem to get by on an average salary pushing $2 million. But the proletarian in me also has a hard time siding with a bunch of tycoons who created the NHL's financial mess with poor management, a misguided expansion plan and spending habits that Mike Tyson would cringe at. (Like the players, I'm also inclined to be somewhat skeptical of corporate accounting and the league's refusal to open its books to the public.) Players are essentially being asked to save the owners from themselves.
Anyway, I'm conflicted, and I'm surprised more people don't share that feeling. I did think this was interesting. A day into the lockout, the Devils' John Madden, one of the better quotes in the league, said he'd be willing to accept a salary cap if it saved the season. The Players Association leadership will no doubt take Madden out to the wood shed, if they haven't already. But maybe, just maybe, this union isn't as airtight as we all presume it to be. Hey, if it meant hockey would be played before 2005, I don't think most fans would mind if the union collapsed. ...
Maybe I'm the last person to know about this. I ran across a hilarious Web site the other day: BadJocks.com. Most of it is fairly lowbrow stuff, but the site is a great source for news about misbehaving athletes. A banner at the top of the page asks: Who Did Something Stupid Today? There never seems to be a shortage of stories. It was here that I learned that Jeff Garcia's Playmate girlfriend got into a bar fight with his ex-fiancee. (Sounds suspiciously like an elaborate ruse designed by Garcia to prove to Terrell Owens that he's not gay.) And a Zambian soccer player responded to a red card by kicking the referee in what the BBC tactfully referred to as the "private parts." People often ask me where we come up with Scorecard's Sign of the Apocalypse. This site is proof that the end of the world is nigh. ...
Another, non-sports related apocalyptic tidbit. Gotta love this story about a public defender in Seattle who's accused of having sex with one of her clients, if only because it introduces a wonderful new phrase to the lexicon. Long story short: The woman insists there was no sex, and that any physical contact between her and her client was merely a "hug gone bad." Kobe must be kicking himself for not coming up with that one.
An addendum to Mark Bechtel's list earlier this week of the best hair on a baseball card. (Bechtel, by the way, is a Vanderbilt alum and no doubt a former patient of the Sleep Clinic down the hall.) I remember a card of Dickie Noles when he was with the Phillies; I can't remember the exact year, but it must have been 1980 or '81. Noles had two great mounds of curls sticking out of his hat on either side of his head, and the biggest chaw of tobacco in his cheek that I've ever seen. It was almost as big as the chewable goiter that distorts the face of Red Sox manager Terry Francona. Have you seen Francona lately? I'm pretty sure it's gum. It looks to be 30 or 40 pieces, and he must start chewing Bazooka at 10 a.m. to have that thing ready for a 7 p.m. game. The other night I swear I saw him eating sunflower seeds on the right side of his mouth while the gum stretched the skin of his left cheek to the breaking point. It was a nifty maneuver, and one you should keep an eye on as Red Sox-Yankees mania rages this week.
Until next time. Have a good weekend ...
Sports Illustrated staff writer Stephen Cannella covers the NHL for the magazine and contributes frequently to SI.com.