RIP: Hurricane Carter

Today, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter died at 76 years old.

He will be remembered as a fierce middleweight boxer, a man wrongly convicted of murder, for which he served 20 years in prison, and a man who continued to fight the battle of his life from behind bars, in order to gain the freedom that he so rightly deserved.

hurricaneThe Hurricane has been memorialized in a number of ways, including the famous Bob Dylan song, the film The Hurricane, starring Denzel Washington, and his auto-biography, The Sixteenth Round.

By his own accounts, Carter lived a life of anger, and took up boxing as a means to control this, and to get over the fact that he was constantly made fun of for having a speech impediment as a younger man. He rose to the top of the boxing world, known for his speed, flurries of jabs (hence the nickname), and raw aggression. His life changed forever when he was arrested and convicted of murder in 1966. He spent 20 years in prison as an innocent man, wrestling with his rage, and with his demons, before deciding to fight for his freedom. Eventually, Carter was released. Reading accounts of the trial depicts racism and a broken legal system, something that Carter continued to fight against for the rest of his life as an activist.

While impossible to imagine losing 20 years of your life for something you didn’t do, Carter was inspirational in his overcoming his anger, and putting together the fight of his life, to clear his name, and to walk the streets again. It is said that every year, on the anniversary of his release, he would telephone the judge who let him go, to thank him for doing the right thing.

Hurricane Carter had one of the most interesting life stories, a sports battle unlike any other.

As for learning more about his life, reading The Sixteenth Round is well worth it, as he tells his entire tale, from his troubled youth, to his time on top of the world in the ring, to his wrongful imprisonment, and eventual release. Reading it in his words is something special, knowing what he was going through, and how he overcame it. We cannot blame him for some of the rage he felt…who wouldn’t? Also, the film adaptation of his life is a worthwhile biographical film. Denzel Washington is at his best in his portrayal of Carter.

A strong man who never broke, Carter should be an inspiration to many.

The U Updated Look

Among the several new sets of football uniforms released over the past couple of weeks (Florida State, Syracuse, Washington), are new duds for my favorite college team, the University of Miami Hurricanes.

It is always kind of frightening when a team you care about gets some new uniforms, because there is always that chance that they are actually pretty terrible. But there is no doubt that the U needed some new unis this year, as they have been trotting out some pretty bad combos over the past few seasons, and it was time to refresh everything. It has been a while since they have redone their main uniforms, at least in terms of how quickly teams seem to rebrand these days, so the fresh look would be welcome.

On first look, I didn’t like them. At all.

But after seeing the details, and the different parts of the new looks, they quickly grew on me. I think that they will look sharp on the field once again.

uSome notes:

  • Orange and green is one of the best, most recognizable colour palates in the game, so I’m glad they didn’t try and introduce something new in there.
  • I was originally offended that the helmet was different. I have long thought that the all white helmet with orange and green U on the sides was the best helmet in all of football. Observing it more closely though, I think it’s pretty cool that the U is a little bigger, shinier, and has the ibis symbol underneath it. Overall, it looks pretty sharp. The orange helmet will be a cool addition to the family.
  • I hate how Nike always shows their images as monochrome pant and jersey combos. Show us what the combinations will look like! Not many teams go full monochrome during games, so I want to know what the white jersey and orange pants look like. And all the other various combos out there.
  • I could definitely live without the fourth set, the black/grey look. Too many teams are doing it, and there is no point in my mind. The U isn’t black or grey. They are brightly coloured teams that are unmistakable with their egos, swagger, and look. The black just mutes the team.
  • I will miss the helmet stripe down the middle. It looks pretty blank from the front without it.
  • Good job at getting rid of the more annoying parts of the previous sets, like the random bib lines on the front and back of the jerseys. That piping always looked awkward, and I’m glad it’s gone.
  • There is potential for some really great combos here. Orange on top and green bottoms should look really good, as with any of the unis with white pants.

Overall, nicely done. I am happy with the changes, and am glad that the Hurricanes will look fresh and new this season, as the team continues to rebuild itself towards relevance and supremacy. They should have a pretty good team on the field, and at least we will know that they will look better than they have over the past few years.

The King Is Dead

How can you not love Game of Thrones? Easily the most well-crafted, best looking, series on television, it truly is something to get into, and to love. There is always so much going on, so much death and destruction. Lives are lost, alliances are changed, events unfold at a pretty rapid pace, considering the sheer size and detail of the novels they are based on.

For those who have read the books, the Purple Wedding of Season 4, Episode 2, was something that we were eagerly awaiting. For those who have not read ahead, it was a welcome sigh of relief.

Note: This article is full of spoilers, so if you have not watched this season yet, don’t read ahead.

King Joffrey, the worst villain in recent television memory, is at long last, dead.

joffAnd the best part about it, is that he died in a shameful, embarrassing way. On his knees, hacking and coughing, spewing blood and spit for all those at his wedding feast to see. He died in shame, and we are glad for it, as he was truly awful. A despicable character, who took every moment of screen time to make us hate him even more.

He was brilliant at it, and in a way, we loved Joffrey for this. When he would do something brutal or disgusting, like shooting crossbow bolts into the women sent to pleasure him, we hated him. When he treated Sansa Stark like garbage, seemingly taking every opportunity to rub it in her face that her father was beheaded at his request, or that her brother had been murdered in an awful way, we found him despicable. When he turns his rage and brutality to his Uncle Tyrion, we hate him even more (and we still all love Tyrion). We all wanted Joffrey to die.

And he has. So…now what?

Since Game of Thrones is such an encompassing story, new villains will rise, and we will turn our dread and loathing to someone else in no time. But there has been nobody on the show, or in recent TV memory, that had collectively been loathed in the way that Joffrey had. He unified all viewers with their vitriol and bile, and he deserved it.

Personally, I am excited to see where the show moves from here. I read the first three books, skipped the fourth, and have read the first bit of the fifth, A Dance With Dragons. So I am not completely familiar with the upcoming material, and am looking forward to the show without truly knowing what is going to happen. I know that there will be people to hate, and that is always good.

But, like most viewers, I probably won’t be able to hate them as strongly as I did Joffrey.

Veronica Mars (Film Review)

The largest Kickstarter campaign ever comes to fruition in the film version of the TV show that quickly became a cult classic during its three-year run on the air, the Veronica Mars movie leaves no disappointment for fans of the series.

Ten years after leaving Neptune, Veronica has left her private detective life behind her, and is on the verge of becoming a high end lawyer in New York. Her life has been a success, as we all knew that it would be. She has a degree in psychology, and is weeks away from taking the bar exam. She is interviewing with top firms in NYC, on the cusp of a great career.

Until the call comes in.

“Veronica? I need your help.”

marsDrawn back to Neptune to help out Logan Eckles, her ex-love, who is again facing a murder rap when his former girlfriend and pop singer is found dead in her bathtub (Carrie Bishop, from the original show, although she is no longer played by Leighton Meester, one of the few disappointments in the movie). Of course, Veronica begrudgingly accepts to help him out with finding a lawyer, which turns into a much longer stay than she had intended.

Veronica Mars has everything one could want in a YV series-turned feature film. This was, after all, mostly funded by the fans, who raised millions of dollars to see this made. That is a dedicated fan base.

All of our favorite characters are back, and Kristen Bell, as Veronica, is in her finest form. She is as sharp and witty as ever, now able to say some of the things that she couldn’t on TV (I always enjoy hearing TV characters swear, it is partially unnatural, and partially awesome, because we know it’s what they would have really said, anyways). Even ten years after the first season began, we still love Veronica. She is still the underdog, despite the success in her life. And she continues to fight for what she believes to be right, which is the part of her character that we probably always admired most, even if we didn’t realize it.

There are great nods to the fans, even mentioning the cancelled fourth season where Veronica was to be an intern at the FBI. In the opening minutes, she even calls herself a Marshmallow, the name Veronica Mars fans have adopted for themselves. These subtle nods are fantastic, as they are not punch-you-in-the-face obvious, and it would not detract from a person watching the film as their first exposure to the character. In fact, this film does a good job of being a somewhat stand-alone production, in that you could watch it with someone who was not familiar with the series, and they would easily be able to follow along and enjoy it.

As for the story, and the mystery, it is as solid as always. There are some twists, and it is a good murder mystery, as was nearly every episode of the show. There is no let down here. At an hour and 45 minutes long, it is basically watching two back-to-back episodes, with an entire murder plot crammed in. But it doesn’t feel to rushed. And for fans of the show, watching back-to-back episodes is something that we have all done. Probably more than once. Ok, maybe some of us have managed to watch an entire season in one sitting (that’s a lot of sitting, but it got done!).

Not many actresses really own their character in the way that Bell owns Veronica. She is her. And even though she continues to act, and hasn’t been pigeon-holed due to the success of this show, there will always be a part of Kristen that truly is in a part of this character. We want to see them as the same person, because she is so good as her. Veronica Mars is the girl with the smart answer to everything, but who can also be fiercely loyal and loving at the same time. She uses her sarcasm as a mask, something too many of us are able to identify with. She is the outcast who never should have been the outcast in the first place, but wears her letter with pride, and always manages to hold her head up high, not ashamed of who she is. She is a true television hero.

One of my favorite things about the film is that they did not deviate from the formula of the show. This is exactly what people wanted to see. And they got it. They did not try to go crazy just because there was some more money and a built-in audience. They knew how Veronica Mars worked, and they stuck with it.

As usual, Veronica narrates the film, as the did on the series. She compares her need to help, to be near Logan, near Neptune, as an addiction, something that she dealt with in her life with her mother, and the various issues that floated around the elites of Neptune. It is a clever under-current to the story, the tale of a girl who wants nothing more than to get away, and stay away, but can do nothing of the sort. Another layer to the story, that is great entertainment.

For any fan of Veronica Mars, this movie is an absolute must-see. For those who never watched the show, you can count on a pretty solid murder mystery with some good comebacks and wit.

Just as the show always was.

NHL Playoff Predictions- Round 1

Here are some vague guesses for round 1 of this year’s Stanley Cup tournament. I am really liking the new playoff format, as there are some really, really good matchups in the first round. A couple of them could end up being blood baths, and that is all that NHL fans can ask for. There is nothing better than the first round, in my mind, where upsets happen, and teams who move on get beat up. It’s an exciting time to be a hockey fan.

crystallWestern Conference

Anaheim Ducks vs. Dallas Stars

  • This has quickly become the trendy upset pick, with a lot of people choosing the Stars to take down the hot-starting Ducks, who traditionally fade over the course of the season.
  • Ducks are top heavy. Not much beyond the Getzlaf-Perry line.
  • Anaheim seems to have endless stud goalies, so whether they end up with Andersson, Hiller, or Gibson, they are in good shape.
  • Love, love, love the combo of Benn and Seguin in Dallas. They will be good together for a long time.
  • Surprising depth on the Stars. They are pretty underrated across the board.

Prediction: Stars in 7. I’m going with the trends here.

Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

wild

  • Hugely surprising year for the Avs. Are they ready to make the next step?
  • Biggest question in Colorado is that unknown D corps. Can they stop a consistent Wild team?
  • Huge disadvantage for the Wild in net. Bryzgalov is the ultimate wild card here. He could be great. He could be awful.
  • Big bonus for the Wild: their D is very strong, led by Ryan Suter. He will be a difference maker.
  • I’m smelling upset here.

Prediction: Wild in 6. Avalanche not ready to be great just yet.

San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings

kings

  • This would be a worthy Western Conference Final matchup.
  • It’s too bad one of these teams has to go home, they are both Cup contenders. But that’s the beauty of the new playoff format.
  • Great rivalry. This is one of those series that will be an all out war. It’s going to go 7, no matter who wins. Winning team will be battered and bruised by the time they get to the 2nd round.
  • Biggest advantage is for the Kings in net, with Quick over the under-appreciated, but inconsistent Antti Niemi.

Prediction: Kings in 7. Too deep. Too relentless. Sharks love to choke. 

St.Louis Blues vs. Chicago Blackhawks

st-louis-blues-logo

  • Ugly 6-game losing streak for the Blues leading into the playoffs.
  • Ryan Miller has come back to earth after hot start after his trade to St. Louis.
  • Battle of injured teams. A lot of banged-up guys on both teams. Hawks are getting Kane and Toews back, the Blues should get Backes and Oshie back. Big difference if they are fully healthy.
  • Another bruising series. The Blues play mean, and I wonder if the Hawks have enough to fight back with.
  • It’s so hard to repeat as champs in this league.

Prediction: Blues in 7. I think they can turn it around. They are just infinitely deep and tough to play against. 

 

Eastern Conference

Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings

bruins

  • 23rd straight year the Wings are in the dance. Incredible.
  • Important injuries on the Red Wings, including Zetterberg, who won’t be back. Datsyuk always seems to be banged up now.
  • Bruins are a monstrous team. They can score, defend, and beat you up. Wings can’t match them in any department.

Prediction: Bruins in 5

 

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Columbus Blue Jackets

pens

  • Maybe the most unappealing first round matchup?
  • Constant worry over Fleury in the Pens net. Bobrovsky is an advantage for Columbus.
  • Columbus has only been to the playoffs once before, and they were swept. Going against a team that can explode offensively.
  • Will Malkin be back?
  • Crosby has had an incredible season, and there is no reason to believe that he won’t continue it in the playoffs.

Prediction: Penguins in 7. I really want to take the Jackets in an upset, but they just aren’t there yet. If Malkin is back, they take it. 

Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

  • The biggest coin flip of the first round. Both teams are evenly matched.
  • Biggest impact is Ben Bishop’s injury. Huge downgrade to have Anders Lindback in net.
  • Carey Price has had a good year. He can/will be a difference maker.
  • Love the young guns of the Bolts. Stamkos, Palat, Johnson, Callahan.
  • Big year from Victor Hedman, largely not discussed over the course of the year. Big breakout for him.

Prediction: Lightning in 6. I feel the Habs will disappoint, and not give Price enough support. 

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

rangers

  • Another great rivalry, both teams are real contenders coming off a terrible start to the season.
  • Huge plus having Lundqvist over Mason in net.
  • Will be a tough series, both teams can hit and mix it up. Will be a bruiser of a series.
  • Not terribly sold on the Flyers D. Not that the Rangers set the world on fire on offense, but there is enough depth to do some damage.

Prediction: Rangers in 6. 

 

There we have it. Now we can sit back and enjoy the games, as they start tomorrow night. NHL playoffs are the best time of year, after the long, grueling season. Time to get to the real games!

 

 

End of Season NHL Thoughts

With the year coming to an end in the National Hockey League tomorrow, I figured I would jot down a few thoughts I’ve had on the season that is wrapping up. It has had a ton of interesting stories, none being bigger than the Olympics (which really isn’t about the NHL, but at the same time, really is).

Hahah, not exactly a new map. Let's pretend it doesn't have the Thrashers on there.

Hahah, not exactly a new map. Let’s pretend it doesn’t have the Thrashers on there.

  • Congrats to the Bruins on winning the President’s Trophy. They are definitely the class of the East, and have been all season. It is really tough to pick anyone but them to make it out of the East to the Stanley Cup Finals.
  • Could the team to challenge the Bruins be the Flyers? This season was a pretty incredible comeback from what was a terrible beginning to the year, for a team that always seems to be involved in some turmoil.
  • About the Flyers, I am shocked that Steve Mason has led them to the playoffs and regained some of his form.
  • Interesting that the two teams who really wanted to move East, the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings, both made the playoffs in their new conference. The team moving the other way, the Winnipeg Jets, did not.
  • Strange, but not surprising, that there will only be one Canadian team in the playoffs.
  • The Edmonton Oilers have to be the worst team in the league this year. The other miserable franchises, the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers, were not expected to be anywhere close to good, and their expectations were to be bottom feeders. The Oilers often showed no effort or care, and this is why they are below teams like the Calgary Flames.
  • Great to see Sidney Crosby healthy and playing a full season. He has of course, shown what he can do, leading the league in points by a mile and probably on his way to the Hart Trophy as well.
  • Tough call to choose a Norris (best defenceman) Award. Weber, Chara, Keith, Pietrangelo, Vlasic, Doughty, Karlsson, are all worthy candidates.
  • I picked the Blues and Rangers to make the Finals at the start of the year. They are both in the dance, so I guess there is a shot that I’m right?
  • Should we be worried about the Blues, and their end of the season slump? It is poor timing on their part, but it just seems like they are too deep a team to have another early exit.
  • It seems impossible to decide who will come out of the West. Seems like every team who is in the playoffs has a legitimate shot.
  • Do the Oilers need to look at the Avalanche as a model of how to rebuild quickly and successfully? Part of the Avs getting to where they are was from making big trades. Something that doesn’t happen in Edmonton.
  • I have to give it to the Flames. They over-achieved purely based on heart.
  • Breakout season from Mark Giordano. An excellent defender in Calgary. And worthy of being their captain. Exploded offensively, unfortunately he missed some time with injuries, or he would be in the Norris conversation.
  • I have been ranting for years to friends about Alex Ovechkin being overrated and generally terrible when it comes to everything hockey that is not scoring goals. His league worst plus/minus and obviously giving up on plays is making him look really bad. He will never be a defensive specialist, but he is a poor leader, and the ways in which he coasts when not in the attacking zone is pretty embarrassing. Sure, the guy can score, but would anyone choose him to build their team around? When there are so many quality, all-around players out there? I doubt it anymore.
  • Countdown to the Penguins falling flat in the playoffs begins very soon.
  • Thank god the Islanders are up for sale. They need a change, and it begins with the owner. It is sad to watch so many bad things happen to one franchise. Poor choices mixed with bad luck equals another pathetic year on Long Island. Sad.
  • How crazy good were the rookies this year? MacKinnon, Palat, Johnson, Maata. Impressive.
  • What happened to Martin St. Louis in New York? Wonder if he regrets wanting out of Tampa, and not getting to play with Steven Stamkos anymore. Stamkos is one of the best, and makes everyone around him better.
  • The Lightning had better hope that Ben Bishop can play in the playoffs. He has been a revelation. And they are done without him, I think. Although the Canadiens aren’t the toughest first round match up.
  • Love Ryan Callahan in Tampa. Hope they get to keep him. Good all around player, solid leader.
  • Tuuka Rask for Vezina.
  • Enough with the outdoor games. If you want to keep doing it, make it one per year. It seemed like they kept coming, and like nobody cared. The Heritage Classic in Vancouver was a sham, being indoors. Feel bad for the fans who thought they were getting something special.
  • Incredible that the Red Wings have now made the playoffs for 23 straight years. Seems impossible.
  • I’m bored of shootouts. I’m sure the New Jersey Devils are as well, being the worst ever at them.
  • How many more career points would Jaromir Jagr have if he hadn’t gone to the KHL for those three years? You could probably pencil him in for an extra 160-200 points. Amazing career.
  • Goodbye, Teemu Selanne. You were always fun.
  • Is it fair that the Anaheim Ducks have 3 quality starting goalies? And they traded another of them, so they had 4 at one point. That is smart drafting.

Enough of this regular season business, let’s get the playoffs going! It’s always an exciting time of year, in what is the most gruelling tournament to win a championship in any of the major sports.

Eating Boston: Cask n’ Flagon

Part of the Boston experience is so uniquely intertwined with the Boston Red Sox experience. You need to try and take it all in, in one of the cities that truly is a baseball-first place. In a massive market like Boston, there are plenty of sporting options. The Patriots, Celtics, Bruins, Revolution, all take their draws from the citizens of the city.

But no draw compares to the popularity of the Red Sox.

Based on this, the Fenway area of Boston is one that must be visited when in town. A big part of this, are the sports bars that surround the legendary Fenway Park, the largest being the Cask n’ Flagon.

caskThe Cask n’ Flagon does what sports bars are supposed to do. It offers a wide selection of bar food, and a really strong list of beers to keep you entertained while the game is on the multitude of TVs placed around the bar.

First, a couple of negatives from my trip there.

  • The lines are really long on game days. Be aware of that if you plan to go when the Sox are playing at home. I was there when they were on the road, so it wasn’t an issue.
  • The TVs aren’t as big as they should have, or could have been. For a bar that thrives on sports, there should be some monster screens in there, in my opinion.
  • The staff couldn’t seem to figure out how to get the Red Sox game on. Seriously? The place was packed with people, there specifically to watch the game. And it took them nearly an inning to figure out which channel it was on, and how to get their TVs to the right place.
  • We ordered some wings. They forgot to place that order. After watching tables around us get the food they ordered, and an hour having passed, we finally asked about them. Our waiter was very apologetic, and we did get our wings. On the house. With some extra wings on there. This is excellent service, and they more than corrected their mistake.

Some of the good.

  • They fixed their mistake, and not having to pay for the wings was an added bonus.
  • The wings were actually incredibly delicious and filling.
  • Very good beer selection, especially for a sports bar. And quite reasonably priced.
  • Huge establishment, with tons of seating to help deal with their game day crowds.
  • A fairly attentive staff, definitely friendly.

The Cask n’ Flagon does not merit a special trip or anything, but if you are in the area, it is a good, sports-centric place to pop in for a beer and a snack, maybe before or after a game, or when the Sox are on the road and you want to watch the game surrounded by their fans.