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January 15th, 2007

More Football

Here's a suggestion for all those complaining about my football posts -- DON'T READ THEM.

That's what I do, when I visit the Live Journal of one of my Friends and discover that the latest post concerns something that doesn't interest me. I don't feel the need to add a comment berating them just because their interests are not my interests.

This is my Not A Blog, and I'll post about whatever the hell I want, thank you.

This past weekend was two solid days of NFL football, the divisional round of the playoffs. With both the Giants and the Jets eliminated, I no longer had a strong rooting interest, but I'm enough of a football fan so that I still watched all four games. (And I do like some teams better than others, so I usually found someone to pull for, or against). Chris Berman and Tom Jackson at ESPN like to say this is the best weekend of the year for an NFL fan, and I think they're on to something... all four games were tense and exciting, with the verdicts in doubt right down to the end, and there were plenty of terrific plays and memorable moments. My congratulations to the winning teams and their fans, and my condolences to the losers. You can join us Giants and Jets fans in a chorus of, "Wait till next year."

The biggest postgame controversy came out of the Patriots - Chargers game, where some of the Patriots celebrated their upset victory by dancing on the Chargers logo at midfield, making choking motions, and mocking the sack dance of Charger defensive star Shawn "Lights Out" Merriman. Needless to say, all this public gloating and taunting upset some of the Chargers and their fans, and led to bad feelings and harsh words afterwards. I can understand why. Rubbing salt in the wound, especially when the wound is fresh and raw, is pretty classless. If it had been one of my teams that had lost and was being mocked, I would have been pretty honked off too... and, indeed, during the season, it did anger me whenever I saw a member of an opposing team mocking the Giants' "ballin'" celebratory lay-up shot gesture after doing something against the Giants (a sack, a TD, whatever).

I really wish the NFL would have the guts to put an end to all these goddamned dances and celebrations and other nonsense. They add nothing to the game, in my opinion. There are rules against "taunting," yes, but they are narrowly defined and selectively enforced. The league should go much further.

It was one of my own who started all this, I know -- Mark Gastineau, a pass rusher for the New York Jets in the 1980s, was the first guy to become famous for a "sack dance." Early on, I think, it was just an expression of Gastineau's natural exuberence at making a sack, but when the cameras started focusing on it and commentators started commenting, Gastineau made it his trademark... until the NFL outlawed it. The "Gastineau Rule," as they called it, defined Mark's sack dance as taunting and made it subject to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. As a Jets fan, I will admit, I did not like the rule (maybe because Gastineau was never the same after they prohibited his dance). These days, however, I find myself wondering what the hell ever happened to the Gastineau Rule, and why it is no longer enforced. We need it now more than we ever did in the 80s. These days, gloating, taunting, and bad sportsmanship have become so common that no one even seems to see them any longer.

Plenty of that was on display this weekend. The postgame celebrations of the Patriots were the most flagrant examples, yes... but you know, mocking Shawn Merriman's "Lights Out" dance is only marginally more offensive than Shawn Merriman's "Lights Out" dance itself. They both have the same purpose -- to rub the other guy's nose in it.

Every time the NFL tries to crack down on this crap, some idiot sportswriters and TV commentators are sure to start making noises about how that makes 'em the "No Fun League." Says who? None of this stuff is fun as far as I'm concerned. Not even when it's my own team. When Michael Strahan makes a sack, it's the sack itself that I enjoy, not the phantom basketball shot afterward. When one of my teams scores a touchdown, it's the play that excites me, not some silly dance that the receiver does in the end zone. If I wanted to see dancing, I'd go to the goddamned ballet.

I say, outlaw all of it. The sack dances, the end zone celebrations, the receivers who signal "first down" when catching a ball for a first down (that's a job for the zebras), the receivers who mime throwing a flag when they think they have been interefered with (never works anyway). Fifteen yards unsportsmanlike conduct for all of it, I say.

The networks could help put an end to all the stuff as well, if they would only stop putting it on camera. When the networks stopped showing the drunken fans running across the field being pursued by security, the drunks stopped running across the field. They should do the same for the TOs and Shawn Merrimans and... yes... Michael Strahans of the league. Show their touchdowns and their sacks, and then CUT AWAY as they go into their chicken dances and "look at me" celebrations, and let us get back to football. That's what we came for.

Pizza Crawl

Now, this journal entry is mostly intended for readers from Connecticut. If you're not from Connecticut, there's probably not going to be a lot here to interest you, so go and talk amongst yourselves.

A few posts back, I wondered whether or not I had any fans in New Haven. Turns out I do. Some of them spoke up in replies to that LJ entry, and others sent me email. Here's why I asked --

Next month Parris and I will be making our annual visit to Boston for Boskone (a great convention, I urge you all to attend). After the con, we'll be making our annual post-Boskone visit to New York City. We usually take the train down from Boston to NYC's Penn Station (soon to be renamed Moynihan Station, I hope, in honor of Parris's Uncle Pat), and that's what we plan to do this year... but this year, we're planning on getting off at New Haven on the way, to try out the pizza.

Some of you may have read my "What I'm Reading" page, and may remember my 2005 review of Ed Levine's book about pizza, A SLICE OF HEAVEN. If so, you'll know that I am a huge fan of classic NYC style thin crust pizza pie ("real pizza," I call it, and don't talk to me about that Chicago deep-dish tomato and bread casserole thing). Well, Levine's book claims that the best pizza in the world comes from New Haven. Since that time, I've also seen a special on the Food Channel that makes the same claim. Two specific places are mentioned -- Frank Pepe's and Sally's.

OK. Out here in New Mexico, I live thousands of miles from great pizza (some of the local pies are adequate, but that's all, and they don't even call 'em "pies," which is a dead clue that the pizza is going to be second rate). I can't stand the thought of riding right past what may be the best pizza places in the world without trying. Ergo...

You've all heard of pub crawls. Well, I'm up for a pizza crawl. I want to try BOTH of these famous pizza places, and see how their pie stacks up. And maybe some place called Modern too. I see from my webcrawling that there are some New Havenites who rate that one even higher than Sally's and Frank Pepe's.

So here's the plan. Parris and I leave leave Boston by train on Tuesday, February 20. It will only take us a few hours to New Haven. We'll check into a hotel, stay overnight, and check out a few slices before departing again for NYC on Wednesday, February 21.

If any of my Connecticut readers want to join us for a slice or three... hey, the more the merrier, I always say. Some local guides would be most welcome... and who knows? If the pizza is as good as advertised, I might even be convinced to make a few knights...

So speak up, New Haven! Who's game for a pizza crawl?

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