What I did on my summer vacation:
June 25, Foxboro, Mass. "How's Zim?'' says Tedy Bruschi, and I fill him in. Paul Zimmerman has had a bit of a setback, but he's fighting hard, and if anyone of advanced age can come back from three strokes it'll be Zim.
"It's the toughest thing to do,'' said Bruschi, who is doing what he can to help. He has auctioned himself off, along with me, to have a lunch to benefit Zim's long-term medical care, and we're at Davio's at Patriot Place, the Bob Kraft-invented mini-town adjacent to Gillette Stadium, so Bruschi can fulfill his end of the deal with a generous lawyer from Providence. We're at the restaurant almost two hours, and I can tell you this: Bruschi was so good, and so generous, that he never looked at his watch, and if the afternoon had stretched on another hour, he wouldn't have complained.
July 6, Brewster, Mass. I'm in the fourth row of the bleachers at the baseball field behind Stony Brook Elementary, with a cadre of football intelligentsia behind me. Bill Polian, GM of the Colts. Steve Spagnuolo, coach of the Rams. Chris Palmer, quarterbacks coach of the Giants. Chris Polian, assistant GM of the Colts. Brian Polian, special-teams coach at Notre Dame.
They'd gathered at Chris and Donna Palmer's summer home (and someday permanent residence) in Dennis, on Cape Cod, for an afternoon cookout, and now their eyes are glued to the Cape Cod League game between Brewster and Cotuit. It's so interesting to watch football people watch baseball, or any other sport; Bill Parcells was fascinated with how basketball players could transition from power forward, say, to tight end. Polian and son, Chris, are similarly fascinated with how baseball works.
They're tight with Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Red Sox GM Theo Epstein. And Bill Polian knows these players. "I love these games,'' he said. "It's pure baseball.'' On the field in front of us, two LSU players and two from Texas -- they'd been in the College World Series two weeks earlier -- are battling on a chilly night on a backwoods field with a kids' playground instead of a big grandstand behind home plate. Life is good.
July 11, Seattle. I meet maybe 400 or 500 Seattle Sounders supporters -- including Tod Leiweke, who helped bring this team here, and Gary Wright, the recently retired Seahawks PR maven now running the business side for the Sounders -- in Pioneer Square for the March to the Match. The Sounders, in their rookie season, are playing Houston in 90 minutes, and the team has started what it hopes will become a tradition in meeting the Sounders Band in midtown, getting fired up with a few soccer songs, and marching to the stadium.
"It was Drew Carey's idea,'' Wright said. The part-owner of the team had similar displays at European matches -- the bands and the marching to the stadium -- and wanted to bring that fervor stateside. Interesting.
The previous night, we'd been to see the Mariners in a fairly big game against the Rangers, and the crowd was supportive, to be sure. But it was nothing like the electricity we felt before and during this soccer game at Qwest Field with 32,404 people waving team flags and holding up team scarves. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe soccer can work here. I know it sure can work in Seattle.
July 13, Los Angeles. Two years ago, Andrea Kremer invited me to join the Los Angeles Sports and Entertainment Commission's annual venture to keep NFL interest stirred up at the L.A. Coliseum, and now I look forward to it as part of my summer calendar. (Free trip to LA! The Beverly Wilshire! Sign me up! For eternity!)
The setup: Fans mingle with players and club brass on the floor of the Coliseum, and there's a panel with NFL people moderated by Kremer -- under the stars, where the '32 Olympics happened. My two favorite nuggets from this year's panel:
Officiating czar Mike Pereira said the league is basically going to go back to the drawing board to try to find his successor; Pereira retires at the end of this year. "We thought we'd have someone in place by now,'' he says to the crowd, but the league doesn't, and now Roger Goodell wants a new process to begin. Pereira said he expects there to be 15 or more candidates interviewed and re-interviewed. Also loved Carson Palmer on the prospect of an 18-game sked: "I hate it. I hate it. Sixteen games is already a triathlon, and they want to add two to it?''
July 15, Lake Elsinore, Calif. You know what's great about minor-league baseball? You can hear everything. Tonight, it's the Stockton Ports and the Lake Elsinore Storm. Future A's and Padres on display. And the Lake Elsinore manager, Carlos Lezcano (here's how sick I am -- I remember Lezcano's cup of coffee with the Cubs 25 or so years ago), doesn't like what he sees of the strike zone from where he stands in the third-base coach's box, and he begins to walk down to tell the home-plate ump what he thinks, and I wish I could tell you exactly what Lezcano says because I heard every syllable, but I really can't in this venue. Suffice it to say, Lezcano invited the ump to toss him from the game, with six or eight expletives thrown in, and the ump obliged.
July 20, Boston. Trip to the urologist. Regular checkup. Two docs. First doc examines me, and I should say he examines me thoroughly. He leaves and the other doc comes in. Very nice fellow, just like the first one. He puts on the rubber glove. Whoa! Whoa! This, uh, already happened! Second urologist wants to check out the situation for himself. Examines me a little more thoroughly. Other than the self-inflicted left-hand bite mark, all's right with the world. Gosh, I love vacation.
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