Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rik's picks for best sports cities.

The last post got me to thinking about what cities in the US might be considered the best sports cities of all time. Though it's only my opinion, here's what I think are the best sports cities in the US, in no particular order:

BOSTON - I grew up less than an hour away from there so I'm obviously biased but I don't think anyone can argue here. Boston takes its sports very seriously as anyone familiar with the area will tell you. Combine the rabid fan base with the historical success of all four of its major sports teams and you could easily make a case that Boston is the best all-time sports city in the US.
Why it's great: The Splendid Splinter, Cy Young, Yaz, Fenway Park, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr, Red Auerbach, Johnny Most, Tom Brady, Red Sox Nation, Ray Bourque, The Beanpot, Fisk's foul pole home run, The Impossible Dream, Johhny Most, the Gah-den, Celtics' Dynasty, Patriots' Dynasty, Flutie's Miracle, Boston Marathon, the bloody sock...too many more to name.

NEW YORK - Another no-brainer. The Yankees are possibly the most recognized pro sports team in the world. The fans are also rabid. Hell, they've got two baseball teams, two football teams and two hockey teams - but their basketball team has never enjoyed much success.
Why it's great: Mantle, Ruth, Gherig, LT, Broadway Joe's guarantee, Yogi Berra, "Holy Cow!", Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, The House That Ruth Built, Willis Reed's heroics, Murderer's Row, The Amazin' Mets, Rangers vs. Islanders, Yankees' Dynasty, Madison Square Garden...also too many more to name

PHILLY - Teams from Philly haven't had much success but no true sports fan can argue that they have the craziest, most dangerous fans in the US. Philly fans have booed Santa Claus, cheered when Michael Irvin lay on the field temporarily paralyzed after a big hit, and once tried to light the Easter Bunny on fire. That is a serious sports town.
Why it's great: Rocky, Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Frazier, Dr. J, Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, Connie Mack, The Big 5, The Broad Street Bullies, Kate Smith, 1980, Bobby Clarke, Chuck Bednarik, The Spectrum.

CHICAGO - Known as "the Second City", Chicago could make a case for the top spot as well. The Cubs are legendary losers, The Blackhawks are famous for having the loudest crowd in the NHL, "da Bears" are one of the oldest and most respected teams in the NFL...and then there's the Bulls and that MJ guy...
Why it's great: His Airness, Sweetness, Bobby Hull, Shoeless Joe, Ernie Banks, Dick Butkas, Bulls' Dynasty, Gale Sayers, George Halas, Harry Carey, "Let's Play Two!", 73-0, Crazy Legs, Soldier Field, Wrigley Field, Ditka.

DETROIT - The Lions notwithstanding, Detroit has certainly had its share of sports glory over the years. No sir, no lack of tradition and success here.
Why it's great: Gordie Howe, Ty Cobb, The Bad Boys, Barry Sanders, Stevie Y, Tiger Stadium, Doak Walker, Octopi, Denny Mclain wins 30, Michigan-Ohio St, Sergei Federov, Scotty Bowman, Jack Morris, Hank Greenberg, Sparky Anderson, The Roar of '84.

Now you may be asking yourself how I arrived at this cities and I'm sure there are people in several cities who are cursing me for not including them. While I don't have any specific criteria for what makes a city a great sports city, I do have certain criteria that automatically disqualify a city from being considered one the best. First on the list is that you MUST have at one team in each of the 4 major sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL). That automatically cancelled out several cities that might have made a good argument. Chief among these would be Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Pittsburgh is the hardest city to leave out, mostly based on the success and tremendous following of the Steelers and Pirates. LA makes a great case too due to teams like the Lakers, USC and UCLA but c'mon, a city with no NFL team could not possibly be considered one the elite. St Louis has a great baseball tradition but not much else. Atlanta never seems to care about its teams until they start winning - something they haven't done much of outside of the Braves. Dallas is interesting but, like St Louis, feature tradition in one sport only.

What sets the 5 cities above apart from other cities in the US is that they have a long and storied tradition in each of the 4 major sports, plus college sports to boot. That, combined with a passionate fan base, is what makes a great sports city.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Best sports city 2007?

The Sporting News has an interesting feature where they annually name a "Best Sports City". The Best Sports City 2007 was recently named and the winner was...Detroit. Detroit? Are you kidding me?!

Well, allow me to retort...

How in the world does a city that boasts the Lions even get considered for such an honor? If you look back at the winners over the past several years, the common thread is that the winning city produced at least one championship. Usually 2 championships from the same city in a year means an automatic bid as best sports city. And in the past year, Detroit has won championships in ANY sport. In fact, their strongest argument seems to be that the Tigers played in the World Series (where they lost to the Cardinals). Neither the Pistons or the Red Wings - despite both being number one seeds - could even get past their respective conference finals. I think a better title for Detroit would be "Most Underachieving Sports City 2007".

So who would I pick for Best Sports City 2007? The answer is simple; Gainesville, home of the University of Florida. Love them or hate them, the Gators produced national champions in the two most popular college sports, football and basketball. When was the last time that happened? Has it EVER happened? Now, normally I would not agree that a college town could be considered the best sports city, but The Sporting News included them in their rankings (at number 11 no less) so if they can include them then I can too. And let's be honest, Gainesville had a much better year than Detroit. Plus, I'd be willing to bet even money that the UF football team could probably beat the Detroit Lions...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Rik and Gino Sports Show...

We are fast approaching my absolute time of the year; autumn. The reason autumn is my favorite time of the year is mostly centered around the sports world. Baseball is winding down and the Red Sox are usually in the middle of their annual end of season slide. College football and the NFL get underway. Soccer season (in Europe) gets started. The NBA and the NHL get started. Yes my friends, autumn is a virtual cornucopia of sports.

With this in mind I've decided to shake things up a bit and do some sports blogging for the next month or so. I'll write about whatever occurs to me at that moment but anyone is welcome to make suggestions. For those who dislike sports, take cheer, there may be a non-sports post thrown in occasionally if the opportunity presents itself. Barring that, Rik's Blog is going to an all-sports format for the next month or so.

Lastly, as an added bonus, Gino will also be participating. Expect to see him making rebuttals or counterpoints to some of my posts. I've also told him that he is welcome to submit guest entries that I will post for him and knowing Gino, he will take full advantage of the soapbox that I am providing for him but I'll warn you - he's a Philly sports fan so his posts may be a little rough around the edges!

With that in mind...this would be an ideal place to use the "Gentlemen start your engines" line but I hate NASCAR so I'll just say let's get rrrrrrrrrrready to rrrrrrumble...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Enemy.

They must be destroyed.


Thursday, August 16, 2007

Addendum to the addendum to the Cinque Terra recap

This afternoon I was talking with a woman I know from Italy. She had mentioned a month or so ago that she and her husband were also headed to Cinque Terra around a week or two after us so I asked her how her trip was.

Apparently she was swimming in Monterosso (the town next to Vernazza) and got stung by a jellyfish.

So that settles it. I'm never going in the water in Cinque Terra EVER AGAIN.

Screw you Gino.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Addendum to the Cinque Terra Recap

The wife and I decided to buy a couple scuba masks so we could enjoy the fish and other scenic beauty under the water. It was extremely beautiful and we were having a ball exploring the cove in Vernazza. At one point I decided to stretch my arms and legs a bit and swim across to the other side of the cove so I started swimming. At one point for some reason I decided to stop and take a quick peek under the water hoping to see some fish or whatever. What made me stop at that particular moment, I have no idea. But man am I glad I did. I put my head under the water and sitting about 8 inches in front of my face was a big damned jellyfish.

Holy &!@#$%.

If I had not stopped and looked when I did, I would have swam face first right into that bastard. Face first into a jellyfish! I flailed my arms wildly and was able to reverse thrusters rather quickly, swam back over to the rock, got out of the water, and didn't go back in the rest of the time.

The Italians have it right - the Italian word for jellyfish? "Medusa".

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Cinque Terra Recap III: The Blue Marlin

Vernazza is tiny. There are several restaurants and such but because it is so small, your nightlife options are limited to one place; The Blue Marlin.
The Blue Marlin is a Cinque Terra institution. It's run by three young Italian guys who are very popular with the ladies and who keep the place lively and fun from open til close. It functions mainly as a bar but also features a pretty good menu of snacks and small meals as well as the ubiquitous coffee and brioches for breakfast. But when the sun goes down, the Blue Marlin really comes to life. Lest there be any doubt about how hip and happening this place is, consider this: Playboy Magazine once rated it as one of the best vacation spots in the world to...ahem...get laid. They've even got the article hanging up inside on the wall. As I mentioned in the first recap, Vernazza is crawling with drunk college kids enjoying their summer break on their parents' dime so this should come as no surprise.

The bar itself isn't anything special, it's your typical bar with plenty of tables inside and outside and plenty of drinks on tap. What makes the Blue Marlin special are the guys who run it. Steff, the friendly flirt; Giuly, the ruggedly handsome, surly jokester; and Ettore, the carefree, fun-loving pretty boy who bears a resemblance to a young Brad Pitt. When these guys are manning the bar at night, it is impossible not to enjoy yourself. And if you're a cute, single girl be assured that you will receive the full "Italian" treatment. It's fun to watch these guys in action and hard not to be jealous - they're living the life most of us only wish we had. The drinks are also very good. Usually a bar that caters to tourists will water down their drinks so when I ordered a couple of mai tai's for the wife and I, I asked Giuly not to skimp on the alcohol. He gave me a sly smile and when I took my first sip, holy crap, it was the best and strongest mai tai I've ever had. Virginia couldn't even finish hers. We've been going to Vernazza for years now and we always have a good time at the Blue Marlin, enjoying drinks and striking up conversations with other tourists.

Anyway, here's a few photos from our most recent visit to the Blue Marlin (click photo to enlarge):

From L-R; Steff, me, Giuly, Ettore:

Virginia gets into the act:

Giuly and Ettore enjoying themselves as always:

The Blue Marlin has a myspace page as well. If you want to check it out, here's the link. Steff, Giuly and Ettore, if you guys are reading guys got GAME!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cinque Terra Recap II: The Natural Beauty

A few shots showing a sampling of the natural beauty of Cinque Terra (click photo to enlarge):