FANDEMONIUM!

At Super Bowl 41, Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears took the opening kick off from the Indianapolis Colts over 105 yards for a touchdown.  I stood in Sun Life Stadium and felt the concrete vibrating under my feet as the Bears’ fans went absolutely crazy.  Newly bought beers punched up into the air and rained down, grown men leaped on each other, and the built up excitement of the Super Bowl carried like an avalanche from section to section.  The young security guard standing near me had a look of apprehension as he realized this jubilation could not be contained. Rules could not be enforced.

It was one of those sports moments forever etched into my memory and one that was without compare until Game 2 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

If you have ever watched a hockey game, you can immediately recognize the fan’s reaction to the home team’s goal.  Within a millisecond of the puck crossing the red line into the net, fans will jump to their feet, reaching their hands towards the sky.  It’s universal.  It’s primordial.

When the Penguins tied the Predators in the 1st period, I involuntarily followed the routine.  I jumped up.  I screamed.  I banged my rally towel against the cheers.  The 2nd period was an even exchange of blows and chances, but no scores and, honestly, nothing really close to garner any sort of heart stoppages.

Then, 10 seconds into Period 3, Guentzel, hit a rebound into the net.  The back of the net popped, and 18,000 fans raised their hands to heaven.  Two minutes later, Wilson deflected the puck off of a defender and we watched it slide beneath the goalies legs.   It was jubilation and relief.  A 2 goal lead into the 3rd.

After the players reset themselves, fans began sitting down.  I saw Jen lean back, a little exhausted from the recent quick scores when I saw Malkin streaking down the ice, teasing the puck along.  I slapped her leg and heeded, “Here we go again.”

 We stood and saw the puck levitate and reach the back of the net, a mere 15 seconds from the previous score. 

It was an eruption of joy that preachers can only dream of.  We were the parishioners to Lord Stanley, a mass of jubilant strangers exalting the black and gold.  Our bodies knew no limits and our minds took fleeting absences.  The cheering was so reckless, so pure, that I’m not sure how my skin held my bones in.  My eardrums shut down, the world went oddly silent within this loud roar.  The faces around me were red.  People, desperate to high five, often made contact with shoulders, foreheads and basically anything to absorb the energy.  But the energy littered from one was swept up by another as we bore witness to an insurmountable 4-1 lead.

After the game, after a gazillion “We want the Cup chants,” after we slid into the Pittsburgh night away from the rejoicing, my body began to calm.  I was surprised, when watching replays of the goals, of what happened immediately after the goal was scored:  the Pittsburgh players hugging; the defeated goalie, demoralized, sipping water.  I never saw that.   It left me wondering whether I had also missed a security guard standing realizing that this was crazy and uncontolled.

 

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Stanley Cup Final Game 2

After the Penguins clinched the Eastern Conference final in a thrilling double overtime in game 7, Jen and I decided to see if we could manage to catch a Stanley Cup Final Game.

After finding tickets to game 2 in Pittsburgh and applying airline miles, we were on our way.  But since game 2 fell on a Wednesday night, we both had to work.  So our itinerary was short.  We spent only 12 hours in Pittsburgh but it was fun.

  1.  We were working in Florida at 2:00, eating Primanti’s at Market Square at 6:30 and hitting our seats in PPG Arena at 8.  By midnight we were at my parent’s house in Lebo, and at the airport by 5:30 am and I was back in my South Florida office by 10:30 am Thursday.  Exhausted.
  2. Oddly, upon arriving at Pittsburgh International, we tried to get Uber but there were none at the airport.  Instead of waiting the estimated 16 minutes, we hopped on the 28X bus that was sitting there.  It was $30 cheaper and just as fast.
  3. In South Florida, we have a few Primanti’s Brothers.  But I try to explain that these restaurants aren’t like the ones in Pittsburgh.  We hit the Primanti’s at Market Square and Jen noticed, “Oh, no pizza.”  She was lucky she had a seat and a menu.
  4. She ordered chili.  Sigh.
  5. Loved the atmosphere outside PPG Paints Arena and the viewing party.  Great concept.  The NFL could learn a little something there.
  6. When we got our tickets, I immediately went on line for the 3D view.  I realized we were second row from the top and was a bit skeptical of our view.  Holy still great seats!   We sat behind the Predator net and saw all 4 goals slide across.
  7. The 50-50 raffle hit $100,000.  We didn’t win.
  8. Very impressed that the entire crowd sang the National Anthem.
  9. Jen is a Flyer fan but she was an great sport, immediately pulling the yellow ‘Let’s Go Pens’ t-shirt over her head.  She also commented on what a great sports town Pittsburgh is.
  10. We hit the team store before the game.  I wanted an official game puck and found a display.  However, the only pucks we could find were for Games 1, 3 and 4.  I dug my hand into the back of a shelf and managed to get my hand stuck with a puck in it.  Don’t ask.  Inexplicably, a puck fell through the back of the shelves and bounced along the floor.  Everyone stopped and stared.  Jen picked up the rogue puck and said, “Here’s a Game 2 puck.”  It was meant to be.  My lucky puck.  I eventually got myself unstucked after finding the lucky puck.
  11. I fell out of my seat.  Seriously, I was sitting on the edge of my seat as the Penguins were pressuring, and slightly stood, only to have the seat fold up on me right as I sat back down.  I squatted back and grabbed Jen, laughing.  Jen thought she had missed something in the game and that I was doing a dance.  Nope.
  12. Jen loved the chili.  Sigh.
  13. We went straight from the airport to the game so packing for the trip was tough.  I have a sling bad that fits my phone, toothbrush, wallet, charger and a pair of underwear.  Jen hates this bag because it’s practical and not stylish.  At security I was pulled aside and told to not wear the bag because of all the recent bombings.  Jen was easily amused as she breezed past security. 
  14. When we were in Rio, 3 people out of the 14 staying at the hotel had lived in Pittsburgh at one time or another. We remarked at this incredible statistic when a soft, British female voice chimed in, “why, I love the Penguins.”  The room fell quiet and I couldn’t find words to respond.  The Brit read my face and commented, “I love ice hockey.”  I never caught her name but I did turn to Jen during the 3rd period and say, “The Brit is loving this game.”

WRIGLEY FIELD

20170414_103129This was my first time at Wrigley, Jen’s third trip to the Friendly Confines.  Anyone who has any awareness of American sports knows that the Cubs endured 108 years between Championships.  The fans  were known as Lovable Losers for enduring years of futility.  Their motto was “Wait Until Next Year.”  So in October 2016, when they finally shed their championship drought, Cubs fan experienced pure jubilation.

I wish I had visited Wrigley before they became World Champions so I could compare the attitudes and vibes of the before and after.  Even without that perspective, there’s still a silly drunkenness feel in the ballpark during their second home series of 2017.

I was both amused and perplexed with my 2 visits to Wrigley.  A separate blog will discuss Cub fans.  Here are my quick hits:

  1. You really have to pay attention if you sit down either the 1st or 3rd base lines.  The wall is low and some foul balls really go screaming into the crowd.
  2. We attended 2 games and had great seats both times.  Advantage for an intimate, older ball park. We bought tickets last minute for the 2nd game and were right behind home plate on the 2nd level.20170414_120108
  3. No one understands the aisle system from what I can tell.  Wrigley deviates from section numbers and you find your seat by either sitting to the left or right of the aisle. Not all aisles are marked from what I can tell.
  4. The 50-50 raffle raises some serious cash.
  5. Ticket prices, at first glance are ok.  Then you are hit with the taxes and fees.  Ridiculous.  These fees should be added into the price when looking at seats as it can raise the price substantially.  The surcharge is 12-15 per cent.
  6. After standing in line or an entire inning for popcorn and a drink, I can appreciate new ball parks with the plethora of concession stands and food options.
  7. Do not buy the licorice rope.  I think it was leftover from 1908.
  8. After the first game, it was a substantial wait to get on the L at the Addison station.  After the 2nd game, we walked the several blocks to Sheffield where there was a) no wait and b) we boarded and got a seat before the masses boarded at the Addison station.
  9. I love that the Cubs broadcast the game on a huge screen outside the stadium so people can still watch the game and be a part of the Wrigley experience without shelling out the cash on tickets, taxes and fees.
  10. The scoreboards do not post errors.  You have to look at one jumbo tron for pitch speed, another side scoreboard for balls and strikes.
  11. While there’s something nostalgic about the old scoreboard, and its fun to watch the numbers be put into place, with scores streaming real time on cell phones, the scorekeepers take an extremely long time to update the out of town scores.20170416_162854

 

 

CHICAGO FIRE HOUSE

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One of the unique parts of our trip was visiting a Chicago fire house.  So yeah, it’s a fire house, not a station like I’m used to referring to.  The tour was provided courtesy of  Henry Mendoza who happens to be the brother of one of Jen’s co-workers.  During our visit, a call came in requiring an ambulance and the fire engine to leave the house.

  1. This fire house was used by the “Chicago Fire” actors to train before filming began.
  2. A fire engine is not the same as a fire truck.  An engine pumps the water while a fire truck has the ladders.  The fire engine we saw can carry around 5,000 gallons of water which can run out pretty quick. 20170415_134223
  3. In the fire house that we toured, there was a specialty unit of divers.  The truck had a space to get dressed in wet suits so that upon arrival, the divers would only need a few minutes to get their tanks on before jumping into an often cold Lake Michigan or Chicago River.  They are quite busy in the summer with flipped kayaks and boating accidents.
  4. Firemen still slide down  fire poles.
  5. This fire house was equipped with a gym, sauna, and racquetball/basketball court.  After all, the 21 people who work in 24 hour shifts, can have some downtime.
  6. This fire house also had a communication command center.  This is used primarily during fires in high rises in which it becomes difficult for firemen to communicate with 911.  The command center acts as an intermediary ensuring that everyone is getting the right messages.
  7. Unfortunately, no discussion of high-rise fires ignores 9/11.  9/11 changed the way that first responders communicate.  During 9/11 everyone was using different frequencies so that police didn’t know what firemen were doing and vice versa.  Now, there’s a system in place to ensure that all responders are on the same page.  The communication command center is vital to that purpose.
  8. Also, firemen are now equipped to respond to a chemical attack.  Something that firemen weren’t necessarily trained for prior to 9/11.
  9. Interestingly, when the call came, the 911 dispatcher announced what units were needed.  Apparently 911 dispatchers gather information to tell the station that the ambulance and fire truck were needed.  The ambulance is always out first and the truck about a minute behind.
  10. Jen timed them to see how long it took.  A few seconds for the ambulance to leave, and around a minute for the truck to follow.
  11. To become a Chicago fireman, one has to pass a physical test.  After that there are no mandatory physical tests which surprised me due to the physical nature of the job.  However, the City of Chicago does provide financial incentives for firemen to pass certain physical tests (a certain number sit-ups, pull ups, etc.).

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Jen tests out the weight of the hoses that have to be carried into skyscrapers.

 

CHICAGO

 


We visited Chicago Easter weekend and had a blast.  Here are my quick bits:

  1. Great city. I loved being in an urban setting without the claustrophobia that I feel after a few days in New York City.
  2. I loved how easily walkable the city is and they have a robust bike share program that adds to the accessibility of tourist spots.
  3. Lake Michigan is such a great backdrop and the multi-use trial along the Lake just adds to the City.  
  4. The people are laid back and polite.  Not once did I hear someone obnoxiously talking on their cell phone or push by while walking down the street.
  5. The drivers have developed a honk tap to get people and cars moving.  They repeatedly tap the horn in short bursts. One bus driver tapped out the “shave and a hair cut, two bits” staccato.
  6. While known for their deep dish pizza, it is not something you can just grab and go.  Most places make you wait 45 minutes before the pizza is ready. This was quite annoying for Jen and I as we go, go, go, until hungry then want to eat right away.  So if you’re going to Chicago you have schedule time to eat deep dish.
  7. They need to polish the bean.  Do they ever clean it?20170415_092822 (1)
  8. The bike share, known as Divy was super simple to use.  We had day passes.  But hidden in the fine print is a surcharge for use over 30 minutes.  The program is designed to get you from place to place for short trips, but Jen and I rode along the Lake Michigan and explored te City by bike.  It would be nice to have the option to ride for more than 30 minutes without being dinged in the wallet.
  9. The L was the easiest transportation I have ever used.  Purchasing a ticket was straightforward and logical.  In other cities I’ve had to enlist helps from locals trying to figure out how to buy  the correct fare card.
  10. A lot of homeless people.  And surprisingly, many were women.  The homeless were not aggressive.  Rather, they simply sat holding signs.  Very few approached asking for money.
  11. We went to the top of the John Hancock building.  On the 94th floor, they have a bank of windows that tilt downward at a 30 degree angle. 

    I take a closer look at Wrigley Field and Cubs fans in later entries.


Blimp bits

This morning I was able to tour Wingfoot One, the Goodyear Blimp, stationed out of the Pompano Beach Airfield.  The size is massive and the photos will not do it justice.  But here are some interesting facts I  learned about the blimp.

  1.  It’s max speed is 90 mph, but rarely sees that.  It averages around 40 mph.
  2. There is no special course or flying school to learn how to fly the blimp. Rather, you must have a resume of flying various types of aircraft.
  3. There’s a crew of 25 that travel with the blimp.  So when the blimp is overheard, tractor trailers and trucks are on the ground driving to the meeting point.  The blimp usually arrives first and must circle until the crew arrives.
  4. Someone is always “flying’ the blimp.  24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Even if it’s in the hangar, someone must be monitoring the gas pressure, temperature, fuel levels, etc.
  5. The pilots can fly for 30 hours.
  6. Bored?  Never.  The blimp has XM Radio.
  7. The camera that provides you all that aerial footage during games is incredible.  The pilot has been able to read a fan’s program after zooming in.  He’s also been able to read the designer label on jeans and sunglasses.
  8. It’s a large as a football field, can carry 10 passengers and weighs 20,000 pounds.
  9. It’s filled with helium, not hydrogen.
  10. This 25 man crew and captain do everything.  In fact, the captain that gave our tour, was responsible for painting the blimp from the engines to the nose cone. He also inspects the inside of the blimp for pinhole leaks in which helium can seep through.
  11. After Hurricane Andrew, the blimp flew over Homestead with information on where people could get food and water.  Remember, Andrew was in ’92… no cell phones and power was out.  The blimp was the only way to communicate to a large group of people at once.
  12. The lifespan of a blimp is 12 years.  After 12 years, the hardware is reused but the sheathing is thrown away.
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    The hangar is only 8 feet longer than the blimp, making parking it a skill.
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    Inside of the mechanic’s truck that travels.
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    The screen is LED.
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    LED screen turned off.
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    Cabin seats 12

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    This was the 1st tail number ever issued in the US.

Quick bits

1.  The merchandise for the Olympics is sparse.  Perhaps I’m used to American consumerism in which they will stick a logo on just about anything, but not the case here.  There’s only about 5 styles of t-shirts and you better like white or blue.  Same thing with hats; white or blue.  Thought I was going to crush my Christmas shopping here but that’s not going to happen.

2.  I tried the brigadiero…it’s a dessert.  Tastes like chocolate icing but smoother.  Delicious.

3.  I have yet to see that obnoxiously drunk guy.   Hope I don’t.

4.   Security is everwhere but not intrusive.  It is a bit weird to see military transport vehicles with over a dozen heavily armed soldiers drive past.

5.  They must have 50,000 busses in this city.

6.  Learning how to ask where the bathroom is was the best Portguese language lesson ever.

7.  I’m still scratching my head at some of the signage.  To get to Olympic Stadium, the “Official” directions provide a station name that was not on the list. I just followed every flag caped person on the train.  Worked just as well.

8.  I’m sure you’ve heard by now about them tearing down a favella to build the Olympic park but a few holdout didn’t move so they built them “prettier” homes.  Those homes sanitation consist of releasing everthing into the canal that runs along a the major walkway to the majority of the venues.  Stincky ewwww.

9.  There must be 10,000 volunteers here and they all got pretty sweet outfits.

10.  I heard that everyone knows English in Rio.  No they do not.  Not even close.  But we’ve managed to get by with a Spanish, Portuguese, English, body language mix.  

Quick bits – tourist edition

1.  Not a lot of commercialism here.  Maybe a few drug store and fast food chains, but everything seems like a mom and pop shop.

2.  We had dinner tonight at the bar where the song   “Girl from Ipamena” was written.

3.  Salads are not really a thing here.  We ordered a salad and it consisted of leaves of lettuce with a dozen tomato slices and half of a sliced onion on a serving tray.  

4.  Sugar loaf mountain was a great experience.  Stunning views.

5.  The drivers here are insane.  They pass cars within inches at fast speeds.  Yet I’ve only seen 1 accident and cars do not have dings or dents in them.  It’s an art form here.

6.  The term hot shower has an entirely different meaning here than in the U.S.  The shower head is electrical and “heats” the water as it pass through.  It is not efficient or effective.

7.  We must be walking between 5 and 7 miles a day.

8.  What they don’t have in salads, they make up for bread.  The bread is delicious.  This is definately a carb diet in Rio.

9. At dinner, the young girl at the table next to us, came over to speak to us in English so she could practice.  She was probably 7, has only taken 1 year of English and spoke extremely well.  Compared to my 8 years of Spanish and I can only muster, “What’s your name?” and “LISTEN!”

10.  We watched some 8-10 year old boys play soccer on the beach. I now understand why U.S mens soccer is so far behind.  Im not sure they could beat these boys.

More photos

We are absolutely exhausted… 10 events in 6 days.  So I have some time to upload some photos while we relax.  Here are more pics from the games…  By the way, Jen has been the primary photographer and she’s done an amazing job.

A few of the sights


That boy got some height

After setting a new Olympic and World Record in the hammer throw, everyone chanted Anita’s name.  

After the men’s 3000m steeplechase heat, a little sportsmanship.

What happens to the hammer (the ball on a string) after the athlete throws it and it’s measured? Why they place it in a remote control truck and take it back.

Simone, before the individual vault competition, looking at the women she’s about to crush.

I would like to apologize to the British family in front of me as I apparently hit them several times with the flag.  But this is excitement when your country’s athlete is about to win gold!

All smiles…