Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It is Football Season ... and What that means in Wondo's World.

     I know that I am supposed to be a soccer fan … and I am … but football season is starting (yes that football not that other football that we pretend is football while we know it is really soccer) – with college games this weekend and the National Football League (let’s call it the NFL) starting the following week. 

     I love football season … for full disclosure I love long walks on the beach, a good romantic novel, hot cocoa in front of the fire with my Basset Hound, and little kittens.  But football season people !!!  The start of football season is better than the first robin in spring, better than the first hot day at the beach in June, better than going to a high school reunion and seeing the girl you had a crush on is married to an unemployed guy who could stand to lose 300 pounds … I mean it is really good.

     I always loved football (again the real football not the football that is really soccer that ‘cool soccer fans’ have to call football) … when we started to combine grilling with football – we really invented something that is even better than drinking beer and fishing on a warm fall day. 

     My point is simply that even though we are saying goodbye to summer – we are saying hello to football season.  That is like having Halle Berry move away from next door but at the same time Beyonce moves in instead – it is all good. 

     This year I am going to try my first structured and formal Fantasy Football League.  We have my three boys, my two sons-in-law, and two close Wondo Friends all in the league.  I’ve never done a structured “real” one before so I am pretty clueless which will explain why I am the League Commissioner.  Our draft is on Labor Day and at dinner tonight my youngest son talked to me like I was in kindergarten because of my stupid questions.

     All in all – this may be more than I had bargained for … but I am going to see it through.  It seems a little too intense and there is studying and research and other things that none of my sons did when I was actually paying for their schools.  I may be longing for grilling and watching football without seeing how many yards Matt Ryan has thrown for so far in the game … but I’ll keep you posted on how a soccer (other football) guy fits in with a football (real football) Fantasy League.

     And … if the Raiders suck again – and my starting quarterback is actually Matt Flynn because I wasn’t paying attention … I can always put a few beers in the cooler and go out to the lake where at least the fish will not bother me. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

What I Learned this Summer (that you can use too)

With Labor Day coming up this weekend – and many people calling it the ‘unofficial end of summer’ – your Award Winning Blog will join the me-too group and reflect on this past summer.  Now, the editor of Your Award Winning Blog will only recognize the end of summer when the Autumnal Equinox brings the season to a close at 7:39pm on September 22nd.  But I always do like to jump on a bandwagon --- so --- here are the three things that I know now but did not know when the summer of 2014 began. 

·          If the San Jose Earthquakes give up 4 or 5 goals per game … their chances of winning that game go down dramatically (you don’t get your C Coaching License by not paying attention people).

·          Having a grandchild has given my wife something to shop for.  She loves to shop and so prior to having Emersyn - when she ran out of things to shop for – I ended up with a lot of socks.  Now she spends 15 hours per day at Buy Buy Baby … and I have run out of socks.

·          The Oakland Raiders are just never, ever, ever going to have a competitive NFL team ever again – never.  Except the year after they move to Los Angeles or San Antonio.  My new coping device is Fantasy Football. 

     No season is without trials and tribulations – things you just have to fight through.  Until this summer I was never going to use a gas grill … I had my Traditional Weber and my Big Green Egg and my life was brilliant.  I was not a zealot for my way of grilling and smoking ... I did not evangelize… I just let gas grill guys be lazy and wrong without criticizing.  UNTIL – the summer of 2014 – I found myself during one family getaway at a vacation cabin with a gas grill and a traditional Weber.  I opted for the gas grill that ONE TIME – and it became my gateway drug.  I am now hopelessly conflicted – when under the influence of the gas grill (Weber – 4 burner – Searing Station … Stainless finish … easy ignite … a temptress powered by propane) I think that this is what grilling should be like – but two days without the gas grill and I am back to being my old self.  I guess the good news is that I don’t need to go to Grilling Rehab Camp – because my wife is simply not an enabler – no way she will let me get a gas grill in addition to my traditional Weber and Big Green Egg … of course if I said it was for the baby – I might be able to squeeze it through the bank account filter.  I’ll keep you posted. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sports Predictions ...

One of the constants in the childhood of my three boys was sports --- I could probably rationalize the reasons into building strong young men but the reality of it was that I really like sports and I am pretty lazy so I watched sports and went to sporting events and played sports so the boys watched sports with me, went to sporting events with me, and played sports – with me and then with each other and friends. 
My wife and I are kind of like the Flintstones on our court – we are the ones who have three newspapers delivered on our driveway every morning.  (caveat – I do read them on my iPad when I am on the road so that is kind of like a cross between Flintstones and Jetsons). The first thing I do in the morning is to grab the sports page from the Contra Costa Times and the sports page from the San Francisco Chronicle and read them cover to cover (I read the Wall Street Journal at night and their one-page sports page gets devoured each evening). 

With that as background into my pitiful little life … I offer this set of observations.  Tonight I read an article on-line that had the odds for which college team would win this year’s NCAA Football Championship – and they had odds for 53 teams with the 53rd team coming in at about 1000-1 or so (Spoiler alert – Cal was not in the list of 53 teams).  I am amazed that people can feel confident predicting how teams of 19, 20, 21 year old (and sometimes 26 year old) men will perform over the course of a four to five month season … and it made me consider the fact that there are much easier sports predictions that can be made year in and year out. 

For Instance:
-          Right before the NFL pre-season starts, then again after the first pre-season game, and then again after the third pre-season game, and then again after the regular season week two, week six, and week nine … there will be a headline in the Contra Costa Times that reads:


-           At some point during the Major League Baseball Season the Giants will be in a losing streak (of some length) and during that streak the following headline will appear in the San Francisco Chronicle:

                - Note – I have always wondered the value of closing the doors and some veteran telling his teammates that they need to get the critical two-out hit … but I’m not a professional baseball player so I guess this is a good thing.

-          At some point during the summer, the home of the best team in baseball will become the subject of a headline:
*”Oakland Coliseum (aka McAfee,, Oracle, Grocery Outlet) – toilets back up and flood locker rooms … all 3300 fans made it out safely … Oakland City Officials confirm their commitment to keeping the A’s in the Coliseum.”
Note- That last part of the headline gives me the visual of the Oakland City Officials with a picture of Lew Wolff holding today’s newspaper while standing in the prehistoric A’s Clubhouse (for those who don’t get my humor --- think hostage tape).

Other sports stories mystify me as far as their importance.  For example neither Tiger Woods nor I have won a Major in the past six years – and last weekend the sports networks were flashing alerts that Tiger Woods was going to take a practice round – coincidentally that same day I went to the golf range to hit a bucket of balls --- not one network ran the story about me … they all picked up the Tiger Woods (non-story) instead.

Finally – although this was a story from a couple of years ago … the press became obsessed with Notre Dame Football Player (now San Diego Charger) Manti Te’o when he happened to invent a fake girlfriend.  I don’t know Mr. Te’o but I can guarantee you that if he is an NFL Linebacker – I have had far more imaginary girlfriends than him … and yet … not one article published with the scoop that I have had imaginary girlfriends.  You can call it a West Coast Bias or a vast conspiracy against Polish-Americans – I cannot explain the popular press I can just offer observations.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Earthquakes-Galaxy Recap --- We Basically Watched a Star Wars Movie

The Earthquakes went on the road to a very difficult place to play (very large field in Carson) – against a very good team that has been playing very good soccer.  Adding to their challenge was that Los Angeles’ best player (in fact best U.S. Player to ever play) – Landon Donovan – just announced that this season would be his last season as a player.  The Earthquakes are suffering from injuries and still trying to claw their way back into relevancy in Major League Soccer.

So this past Friday night seemed like it might be better to be an Oakland Raiders fan as they started their newest rebirth in their first pre-season game at Minnesota a couple of hours before the Earthquakes game.  But those who picked Raiders … had a rougher road. 

How did the Earthquakes tie the Galaxy on Friday night in Carson, California?  I don’t really know.  Unofficial recollection of the game statistics had the Galaxy with 273,564 shots and the Earthquakes with 3.  Fortunately for the Earthquakes, while they converted 67% of their shots into goals – the Galaxy converted 0.000001% of their shots into goals.  Also fortunately for the Earthquakes – the Galaxy decided to shoot about 273,562 of their shots not directly at the goal and hope for the best.

Last night was like the old Star Wars movies … where the Empire Soldiers … all decked out in their white armor and great weapons – went into battle stations by the hundreds against the rag-tag group of Rebels (who numbered 2 guys, 1 girl, 1 wookie with a speech impediment, and 1 pessimistic android).  While the Empire Storm Troopers fired thousands of lethal rounds from their state-of-the-art weapons … the Rebels fired about 3 shots and ended up killing 10,000 Empire Storm Troopers with those 3 shots.

So to me – that was last night.  Somehow, improbably, as the dew set in late evening in Carson --- the Earthquakes and Galaxy ended up with the same total of goals when the game was over.  I guess all us Northern Californians can say is … “It’s L.A. people – nothing makes sense down there

Thursday, August 7, 2014

MLS Soccer Announcers - Revisions and Additions

Two quick revisions/additions to yesterday’s important blog on MLS Soccer Announcers and Color Commentators …

A few people whose opinions I value ‘reminded’ me that I am an idiot for not including Gus Johnson in the good list.  I could not argue either the point that I am an idiot nor the idea that Gus Johnson is a good Play by Play Soccer Announcer.  Gus brings the street cred of being that rare American Sports Announcer who has been on networks for other major sports and then picks up soccer and does well.  We were lucky enough to have Gus do a few radio games for the San Jose Earthquakes in seasons past --- and hearing his audio on some replays was really great.

Other people – many I don’t know – wanted to use me as their proxy for completely blowing up Steve McManaman of ESPN.  I would argue that he doesn’t do MLS games but he does from time to time work as studio guy for MLS playoff games.  Those people (many I don’t know) wanted me to write that his act of talking down to American Soccer Fans because they are American Soccer Fans is a bit abrasive – ok --- they wanted me to say that it is far too abrasive (they had other adverbs).  While I don’t know why ESPN would have him from time to time do MLS games when he wants to just belittle the product --- I nevertheless keep my journalistic objectivity and point out that he has great hair.  I have to give him tremendous credit because I am neither on television – nor – have great hair.  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

MLS All-Star - Broadcasters (Suitable for Fans who watch games on TV)

I am going to try to not get in trouble with this … but with the MLS All-Star Game this evening I have decided to look at MLS Announcer All Stars.  This is not a comprehensive list as it has a deep bias for anyone who I have actually watched/listened to more than a couple of times.  AND --- I am trying to not offend anyone here so I am going to be less critical than I am when I am sitting on my couch screaming at these idiots for getting things wrong. 

Sometimes you can see your life play out even at a young age.  For me, it was clear that I was going to be a Major League Baseball Player for the San Francisco Giants and then move on to a successful career as their broadcaster.  Neither of those things has happened yet, but I am only 56 years old so I am not giving up (and who would believe the bad luck of having to follow Kuiper and Krukow???).   I’m not saying I could have hit as many major league home runs as Duane Kuiper – but who knows?  Even Gaylord Perry hit one I think. 

PLAY BY PLAY GUYS – for some reason the networks all believe that they need to bring in a British accent to be authoritative play by play guys.  I don’t subscribe to that but if you have to have a Brit – make it Adrian Healy (or Ian Darke … or any other Brit that I am forgetting) but Adrian Healy is very, very good.   
For the American guys (or guys who sound like Americans) – I have become partial to Jim Kozimor – being from the Bay Area I see other sports that he does and I have grown to really like him on the screen.  Of course it is ridiculous when the local Earthquake games are done with the announcers in a studio rather than at the road game … but that aside – Kozimor is great.  I like Steve Cangialosi’s voice and style with New York Red Bulls – but my best American play-by-play is Glenn Davis.  Glenn is in Houston but had done national games and when he is doing the game you get a very clear account of what is going on and some insight into the game.

COLOR COMMENTATORS – I have to say first and foremost that my two favorites have to be excluded from consideration.  I have known Alejandro Moreno since Chris first came up with the Earthquakes and have been able to spend time with him over the years.  It is not a surprise to me that he is really good as a commentator --- it is probably more of a surprise that he does it without flopping in front of the defenders (sorry Alejandro … I hope you laughed at that).  The other exclusion has to be Taylor Twellman --- not because we are friends – I have only met Taylor once (and by the way he is a great guy) --- but when Chris first got drafted I told Chris that he could be successful in the mode of Taylor Twellman … which kind of outs me as a huge Taylor Twellman fan.  Fandom aside --- Taylor does a great job and is not afraid of voicing his opinion (no matter how incorrect it might be from time to time).  I also have to include Kasey Keller who is really, really good (somehow goalkeepers see the game better and if you happen to get one that isn’t flat out crazy – they are good as commentators NOTE – Kasey is probably the only goalkeeper who doesn’t appear to be flat out crazy).  Brian Dunseth is fantastic and Kyle Martino may be the best of the best as commentators (until he let that ham Stu Holden pinch hit for him)…. Some of us see Kyle Martino now as Wally Pipp and Stu Holden as Lou Gehrig (google it and you might agree – but at least you will learn a little baseball history).  Finally – if I didn’t mention Eddie Robinson he would probably jump on top of me and elbow me in the back (like he used to do to guys like Taylor Twellman).  I’m semi-kidding – I mean I am scared of Eddie and he did play like that --- but he is really good on the Houston games.  Eddie is also the nicest guy in the universe off of the field (as long as you remember to compliment his broadcasting and try not to step in front of him for head balls or dinner lines).  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Levi's Stadium Opens --- But This Blog is Just Whack

     I can accurately say that I was an Earthquakes fan long before my son became an Earthquake.  In fact, I was an Earthquakes fan long before I ever had a son.  Similarly my love of the U.S. National Men’s Team predates even a predate with Chris’ mom. 
     This last Saturday, being at the new home of the San Francisco Forty-Niners, I feel like I do have to come out of the closet and tell everyone that I am the one guy on planet earth who is both a Forty-Niner fan and a Raider fan.  When they play each other I root for the Raiders.  In fact, even though I became an Earthquakes fan when I was a boy … I became a Raider fan a few years before there was even a small tremor of an Earthquakes team to follow. 
     I fell in love with the San Francisco Giants when I was a very small boy.  We lived in Livermore and I used to make my dad take me to the games at Candlestick (about a 14 hour drive back then) to watch Willie Mays (I saw 17 of his home runs in person)… and I would let my know when Juan Marichal was pitching so he could pick out that convenient weeknight game to take me to.  I also love the A’s … but strangely --- I am Giants before A’s and Raiders before Niners … but love all four. 
     With self-proclaimed love of all four teams … there is a marked difference between Oakland fans and San Francisco fans … and an eerie similarity between Raiders fans and Giants fans. 
     A real Giants fan will tell you stories about McCovey, Mays, Bonds (the other Bonds – the one who was the dad), Cepeda, Marichal, Gaylord Perry, and every one of them knows why they hate the Dodgers and every one of them knows about the Johnny Roseboro incident and every one of them knows that neither Don Drysdale nor Orel Hersheiser would have shutout inning records if the umpires didn’t bail them out.  A real Raiders fan will see a #12 jersey and think “Ken Stabler” and a #21 jersey and think “Cliff Branch” – every Raiders fan will tell you the story of the “Sea of Hands” – and the “Holy Roller” – they will all claim that they were there in fact.  Just about every real Raider fan knows that our two best Running Backs both came from Colgate – and each of them will tell you that if we used to have Instant Replay we would have won 7 Super Bowls (Immaculate Reception, Rob Lytle fumble at goal line, etc).   And real Raiders fans know that we even hate the Chiefs more than we hate the Steelers (and everyone else we don’t like … but we hate them less than those two teams).
     So there you go – probably the lamest blog post ever (unless you are a Giants or Raiders fan … then you know exactly what I’m talking about).  Of course if you are a Raiders fan then you hate me mostly for also liking the Niners. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Earthquakes Open Levi's Stadium - Views from the Tailgate

     Yesterday was the grand opening of the new San Francisco Forty-Niner Stadium – Levi’s Stadium – in Santa Clara, California.  The very first game featured Major League Soccer and the San Jose Earthquakes against the Seattle Clint Dempseys.  Your Award Winning Blog will now capture the key elements of the day – the Wondo Group Tailgate … and some stadium highlights. (Quakes 1 - Seattle 0). 

     I have told you before that my wife will use any excuse to organize a party and I will use any excuse to go to a soccer game.  Yesterday was a sort of nexus of marriage dynamics – she and her friends created an amazing party that fortunately broke up just in time for the soccer game.  I read that the attendance last night was 48,765 (since it was the inaugural game the Earthquakes did not sell tickets to the top deck) – of those 48,675 fans there were roughly 53 to 56 of them who did not attend our tailgate (I lost count for a minute when I went to use the restroom). 
     We were in “Lot 6” which is surprisingly easy to get to (if they did not make you for unknown reasons take a u-turn at Tasman and come back on Great America Parkway rather than simply turning left into the parking lot) … and when it is not busy being “Lot 6” it is the driving range for the municipal golf course that is located there.  Fortunately for us the golfers had wrapped up their practice sessions before we arrived (but it was my son-in-law’s car so I really didn’t care that much). 


     I have four brothers and three sons – and if you include me and my dad – 9 male family members who are all nicknamed “Wondo”.  At each stage of your life you run across people who think they invented the nickname – and you just smile and say “Oh – clever!”  But I like the nickname and I especially like that the nickname has really become a way of people feeling more familiar with Chris. 
     Our tailgate had (again by my count – over 48,600 attendees) – and many of them were wearing various “Wondolowski” jerseys.  Some from Team USA, some from the Earthquakes, and Pequena Chefona – Emersyn even had on a “Lil Wondo” Earthquakes Shirt.  For reasons I cannot really explain – I don’t wear Chris’ jerseys or really any Earthquakes gear usually when I go to the games.  I try not to be “That Guy” who has to show everyone that Chris is my son.  Don’t get me wrong – of the 48,675 fans at the game there were 48,674 who were significantly less proud than me of Chris.  I just feel strange about being seen as “That Guy”. 
     But … since there were dozens of “Wondolowski” jerseys at our tailgate it did tend to draw attention from fans walking by … and that leads me to the point here … can you imagine how strange it is that people want to meet me and talk to me simply because I am Chris Wondolowski’s dad?  I have had that experience before but it exclusively came from the Principal at St. Isidore School and the Dean of Boys at De La Salle High School who wanted to specifically talk to me because I was Chris Wondolowski’s dad (and those conversations involved behavioral reprimands). {By the way - Thanks Mrs. Gannon-Briggs and Mr. Alioti for letting me keep him in school}.  
     Plus - consider the fact that my own three sons really find no interest in talking to me and it just makes that whole dynamic a little stranger for me to understand. 
     Well … when you combine the fact that (1) I don’t wear Wondolowski jerseys or gear with (2) I don’t share any of Chris’ good looks or really resemble him at all … when someone from our tailgate would introduce me as “Wondo’s Dad” – most of the people passing by thought it was a cruel joke.

     I have read a few articles in the papers this morning – some saying it was a disastrous first opening and some saying it was smooth.  It was a great experience … the stadium is great and we got home (Santa Clara to Danville) in about an hour from the time we got into the car after the game.  I suggest that if you ever go … get there very, very early – and if you don’t know what you will do with all that time before the game --- call my wife and she and her friends will plan a tailgate for you

Friday, August 1, 2014

First Ever Tailgaters at Levi Stadium Tomorrow

The Earthquakes are playing Seattle at the new Levi Stadium tomorrow evening and the Wondos will be among the very first tailgaters at the new stadium as this game is the debut event for the stadium.  A crowd of above 45,000 is expected.

Thanks to my Italian Wife --- I think about half of the 45,000 people will be part of our tailgate.  Joanne loves a good party and she will even tolerate a soccer game if she can organize a good party and at least loosely associate it with the soccer game.

I've looked at the parking lots and they do not look like they lend themselves well to tailgating - in fact I have a real fear that by the time the game starts we may all look like ants that have been under a  microscope in the sun all afternoon.  But I am there for the soccer game and I am the driver of at least one of the vehicles so I will be there.

Look for a captivating account of the event on this Award Winning Blog.  I'll tweet pictures for those who are playing at home.