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San Jose Sharks

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Stadium Series Opening

NHL Stadium Series – Hits and Misses

As long time San Jose Sharks fans, we jumped at the chance when long-time season ticket holder Bob (who has been a season ticket holder for so long Sharks GM Doug Wilson calls him for advice) offered tickets to the Stadium Series Outdoor Classic at the semi-new Levi’s Stadium in San Jose (home of the San Francisco 49ers, who will certainly NOT be renamed the San Jose 49ers).Stadium Series Opening

Because of the stadium venue, this was more of an event than a hockey game. And, because we are Green Bay Packers’ fans, since this is the venue for Super Bowl 50, this was a chance for us to preview where the Packers will win their next Super Bowl (GoPackGo!).

Hopefully in the year between now and SB50 the Levi’s Stadium folks will get a few things rectified. Below is a (hopefully) helpful list for the folks at Levi’s Stadium.

Hits:John Fogerty Stadium Series

  • John Fogerty: as surprise entertainment between periods 1 and 2, Fogerty and his band were awesome and had us (and most of the crowd) dancing, air guitaring and singing in our seats.
  • Impressive stadium: it definitely had that new stadium smell and was clean. Even though the rink was away from the fans (see below) the view was good. It was a lot bigger than the Shark Tank (and any other hockey venue)…but that was the point. I’m assuming Levi’s had to have an event to show they could put 70.000+ butts in seats in order to test support for the Super Bowl.
  • A plethora of food choices: Curry dishes. Seafood. Veggie dogs? In addition to the normal hot dog and popcorn selections, there were quite a few choices.
  • Sitting outside with friends and family: what could be better? It was a bit chilly, but supposedly a bit too warm for the ice. But we had a great time throughout the event. It was like a short, outdoor John Fogerty concert with a hockey game wrapped around it.

Misses

  • Traffic and crowd control: this is always an issue at any stadium, but it certainly appeared that someone at VTA missed the mark. Even on the way in (we parked at a friend’s house and took the train in a couple of stops) there was a lack of trains (supposedly they run every 10-15 minutes on game day – we waited longer). But on the way out, it was a large mess. Though my wife and I went out a different exit, the folks going to the front toward the transit lines (including the rest of our group) had to cross the mini bridge (see photo at right, from a Sharks subreddit member). And then there were no trains running…seriously, we walked the mile back to the place where we parked (slowly, as two in our party had bad knees) and only ONE TRAIN passed us (and it was jammed). This does not bode well for the Super Bowl.
  • Jacking up the beer prices – Seriously? Beer prices were two dollars more than they were for regular 49ers games. Obviously the NHL or Levi’s Stadium saw this as a way to take money from loyal Sharks fans (and yes, I know I could have abstained, but hockey without beer is like a day without sunshine).
  • No lids or straws? And long lines – Our friend Nani got a Pepsi with no lid and no straw. When she requested a lid, she was told they weren’t environmentally correct…and this explained the spilled Pepsi everywhere. They did give her a straw, after going into the back to search for one. Lines at the concession stands were long and slow. One gent told me that 10% of the people didn’t show up for work; the hockey flu or just poor planning?
  • No seats near the glass – as you can see from the initial picture, there was lots of space between the ice and the fans. Hockey is meant to have fans banging on the glass. Without that closeness, this was more like watching hockey on TV with 70,000 of your closest fans. It looked like from other photos, that there were seats near the glass at the previous stadium series games.
  • Melissa Ethridge – two of the folks with us were fans, but all agreed – something was off with Ms. Ethridge. Stadium acoustics are not built for a solo act with a guitar, especially when she is operating below her normal standard.
  • Sharks lost to the Kings!: In spite of the carnival atmosphere, we were there for a Sharks game. I’m about to start agreeing with Bob – go ahead and miss the playoffs so we get a decent draft pick for a change. Or, since hope springs eternal, sneak in as a wild card and go on a streak to the Stanley Cup!
nba-houston-rockets-champions-clutch-city-dvd-3201130

Can Houston Rockets Choke City 2 turn into Clutch City 2?

Disclaimer right up front: I am biased.

I had Rockets season tickets for the great Hakeem Olajuwon’s entire career, and saw every game of the two championship playoff runs. And I agree the old adage “you can’t go back.” Whether one is discussing being a participant (be it fan or player) of a great team’s run, or working for a great company like a Compaq, that particular environment, the excitement and enthusiasm is hard to recreate. You expect things to be the same, but they rarely are.

And that brings us to this year’s Rockets.

In the 2004 season, against the Phoenix Suns, the Rockets had home court advantage, just like this year’s Rox had home court against Portland. The 2004 Rockets had leads evaporate in both game 1 and game 2. This year’s Rockets let game 1 slip away and were soundly beaten in game 2.

The Rockets of 2004, of course, earned the name “CHOKE CITY” for losing those first two games in that fashion, and then came back and won the series in seven games, prompting the T-shirt empire that was “CLUTCH CITY.”

And then those Rockets: Hall of Famer Olajuwon, and a cast that included TNT Commentator Kenny “the Jet” Smith, Vernon “MadMax” Maxwell, the underrated Otis Thorpe, Mario Elie, Sam Cassel, Robert Horry (who has more championship rings that most Hall of Famers) and a cast of others…won the NBA Championship over the New York Knicks.

Then they did it again the next season, with the addition of hometown hero Clyde “the Glide” Drexler.

And they were done.

They brought in the “Round Mound of Rebound” Charles Barkley, who was more round than rebound. That didn’t work out.

They brought in Scottie Pippen, late in his career, and without Michael Jordan. That didn’t work out.

Tracy McGrady came in, Yao Ming came in. A small bit of playoffs, but that didn’t work out.

And thus we come to the current incarnation, good players with good nicknames: James “the Beard” Harden; Dwight “DHo/Superman” Howard, Chandler “J.T.” Parsons, and a good cast of Patrick Beverly, Jeremy Lin, Terence Jones and others.

Like their illustrious predecessors, this years Rockets get home court in the playoffs, and lose the first two.

Can they make lightning strike twice? Can they turn Choke City II into Clutch City II?

Sadly, I think not. Even worse, I find that I cannot care about this team.

There are several reasons.

One, hack-a-Howard. If anything makes a game not worth watching, it is this strategy. Sure, the guy being hacked (whether Shaq or Howard or Omer Asik) should make the free throw and thwart the strategy. But what a waste of watches and paid attendees time.

Two, if it is true, this sequence from Harden:

“I’m not worried about my offense, I’m worried about our defense — our defense as a team,” Harden said.

A few minutes later, the questions stopped coming, but not before Harden, evidently still aggravated, circled back and spun the questioning to the aforementioned reporter, taking issue with his basketball credibility.

“You’ve never seen someone shoot 29 percent in two games? You must not watch basketball.”

The longtime reporter responded that he’d watching basketball longer than Harden had been alive. And that Harden should be held to a higher standard because he is All-NBA.

“Weirdo,” Harden said, before walking out of the room once Houston’s PR staff stepped in.

Despite his defiance, Harden has never been this bad. He has missed 33 shots in his past two games, the most he has ever missed in a two-game span in his career. In the 2012 Finals, Harden infamously shot 18-for-48 (37.5 percent) in five games, but he wasn’t the focal point of the offense like he is in Houston.

In Game 2 on Wednesday, Harden missed 13 shots, which is more than he attempted in any of those five Finals games.

Third, DHo. My son and I like him, really want him to be successful. But, unlike Olajuwon, who’s motor and competitive fire seemed to always be running (sometimes to his detriment) and who is working with Dwight, Howard seems to need a push. And, when he plays like Shaq wants him to play, the running Rockets are out of sorts.

And, lastly, and most telling, I find myself switching over to watch hockey (which I call Rugby on Ice). I find it more enjoyable these days than the NBA. I don’t get as much enjoyment from a Rockets win as I do from the San Jose Sharks winning. I get more enjoyment from an Anaheim loss than I do a Spurs loss. The players seem to try harder, push themselves more, and aren’t such prima donnas.

Can this year’s version of the Rockets come back?

I wish them well, but most likely won’t be watching.

 

 

Rockets can win the division

With the Rockets win over Portland combined with the Spurs loss (stomping) at Cleveland, the Rox are now 1/2 game out of the Southwest Division lead. The New Orleans Hornets loss at home to Utah gives the Rockets a 1.5 game cushion over the 3rd place Hornets, with Dallas three games behind the Rockets.

A quick look at the remaining games in the schedule shows the Rockets with an excellent chance to win the division: (more…)

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