World Series on ice

Apolo Anton Ohno

Prior to this weekend, only twice in my life had I been truly euphoric about the outcome of a sporting event. The first time was when the Red Sox came back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS—also known as, literally, “The Greatest Comeback in Baseball History.” The second was the team’s World Series victory just days later.

A large part of what made those victories mean so much to me was living through the team’s crushing Game 7 defeat in the 2003 ALCS. As you may recall, the Sox were five outs away from going to the World Series when, suddenly, Lucifer (disguised as then-Red Sox manager Grady Little) failed to sit Pedro Martinez in the 8th inning, despite the fact that Martinez’s pitching arm had already fallen off of his body and lay wilting in the dirt atop the mound at Yankee Stadium. Bye-bye, three-run lead; hello, Aaron Boone’s walk-off homerun, and sweetjesushchristinachickenbasket, thank god they won it all in 2004, or I’d need to chug a bottle of Pepto Bismol to stave off the massive ulcer that typing this paragraph would otherwise induce.

During the 2002 Winter Olympics, I experienced a mini-2003 ALCS-like heartbreak when I watched as short-track skater Apolo Anton Ohno, just a few meters away from crossing the finish line in first place during the men’s 1000m final, got wiped out in a four-skater crash. The look on his face as he went down—and, in that instant, so clearly realized that the gold medal had just been snatched from his grasp—was one of such shock and horror that it haunts me to this day.

I’ve always been an Olympics junkie. Summer, winter, whatever—I’m there. Not until seeing Ohno race, hearing him speak and learning of the determination and intensity with which he trains, however, had I been a bona-fide “fan” of an Olympic athlete … OK, well, at least not since that crazy crush I had on Mary Lou Retton when I was 14.

When Ohno blasted across the finish line in first place during the 500m final of the men’s short-track competition in Torino, Italy, on Saturday night, his victory became the No. 3 entry on “Jon’s List of Favorite Sports Moments.”

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Nine Inch Wiggles

nin

See the guy in the middle up there with the big guns and the buzz cut? That’s Trent Reznor, the mastermind behind the industrial-rock juggernaut known as Nine Inch Nails.

I am quite fond of Mr. Reznor and his music. (This is what we in the writing business refer to as “an understatement.”)

His first two albums, “Pretty Hate Machine” and “Broken,” were the soundtrack to my early ’90s “Women were created by the Devil and he has instructed them to rip your still-beating heart from your chest, throw it to the floor and dance a little jig on it” phase.

His tour behind 1994’s “The Downward Spiral” included a career-making performance at Woodstock ’94, during which he and his bandmates threw the entire three-day event over their collective lap, spanked its ass red, grabbed it by the hair and dragged it away like a caveman. I was there. It was that good.

Over the past two decades, I have probably been to a couple hundred concerts. NIN’s June 2000 tour stop in Phoenix — part of the group’s roadtrip behind 1999’s “The Fragile” (a two-disc album to which the word “masterpiece” can safely be applied) — ranks in the Top 3.

Trent takes his damn sweet time between albums. There was a six-year gap between “The Fragile” and last year’s “With Teeth.” During those six years, I cultivated many a contact in the music industry. And so it was with great joy that I landed a pair of free tickets to his most recent concert in Boston.

The night finally came. The seats were terrific. The lights went out. The group hit the stage.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned group was this one:

The Wiggles

I have always sucked at math, but, even with that handicap, I am willing to go out on a limb and say that the odds of Nine Inch Nails and The Wiggles choosing the same night of the same year to perform in the Boston area are somewhere in the neighborhood of a bazillion to one.

Seemingly slimmer still were the odds that my head wouldn’t detach itself from my body, blast itself into orbit and explode like a confetti bomb over the prospect of missing the NIN gig in order for Wonder Woman and I to take our resident Wiggle-a-holic to his first concert. But, lo and behold, not only did I not mind (too much) … I actually had fun.

And this, boys and girls, is called “parenthood.”

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Jon’s List of Things Not to Do, Item Nos. 231-233

Roses

231.) DO NOT assume that your wife won’t mind you posting on the Internet details about her personal life—such as a sarcastic and mostly unpleasant account of your Valentine’s Day experience.

232.) If you should choose to disregard No. 231, DO NOT include in the sarcastic and mostly unpleasant account of your Valentine’s Day experience a passage in which you cynically describe the act of buying your wife Valentine’s Day cards on behalf of her young children as an exercise in which you and she “pretend” that the children got her cards—especially when you’re writing about the fact that you forgot to get her those cards.

233.) Too stupid to heed the advice put forth in Nos. 231 and 232? Well, then DO NOT be surprised at how much of a total and utter heel you feel like when your wife, after reading your Valentine’s Day narrative, describes to you how the card that she bought for your 2-year-old son to give to you was one that “he picked out by himself at the store and asked [her] to read to him a dozen times, and then scribbled his ‘name’ in all by himself while telling [her] that the scribbles said, ‘Dear Daddy, Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you. Zan.'”

233a.) Seriously, dude. Trust me, you will feel like a gigantic turd if it comes to that.

WARNING: If you are actually dumb enough to let things progress as far as item No. 233, you better hope to hell you at least remembered to get her a card and some roses.

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Greetings from the Arctic Tundra

Snowstorm

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, that’s good to hear, because I’m much too tired to write now that all the excitement of good ol’ St. Valentine’s Day has worn me down to a nub.

Yes, the air at Maison de Scratches was thick with romance. Highlights included me forgetting yet again that I am supposed to purchase Valentine’s Day cards that my wife and I can pretend are directed to her from our toddler son and infant daughter. Unfortunately, my Cro-Magnon-like brain continues defaulting to the concept that Valentine’s Day is all about wooing your sweetheart—which is fine, unless your sweetheart is expecting to receive cards from her toddler son and infant daughter. It does not improve matters if your sweetheart remembers having the same conversation with you last year.

Hey, nothing that a little wine, candlelight and the smooth sounds of Barry White can’t fix, right? Unfortunately, we had none of the above, and instead were serenaded with a lengthy cacophony of shrill screaming courtesy of the aforementioned infant daughter, who usually would have been slumbering oh-so peacefully, but whose sinuses are glued shut thanks to yet another winter cold, and whose first teeth are taking their damn sweet time breaking through her insanely sensitive gums.

We eventually got her settled down … but not before one normally level-headed woman had smashed to death the expensive (albeit shitty and unreliable) universal remote control that works the TV, TiVo, DVD player and stereo receiver—in other words, the most important item in the house. To be fair, the remote sealed its own fate by choosing to showcase its shittiness and unreliability at the same moment that the person holding it was beginning to bleed from the ears due to the sustained, knife-like screams of the baby in her arms.

So, rather than write about all of the steamy, sultry and sensuous goings-on here at the Love Shack, I figured I’d give you a post-blizzard glimpse of my backyard, evidence that The Perfect Storm did, in fact, lay the smackdown on us.

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Remember me?

Q: Where the heck have you been for the past two weeks? You turned 36, and then fell off the face of the earth. What gives?

A: Let me explain:

  • The Universe did not respect my request to be spared the vomit bug that had previously felled my wife and son. I puked only once, but with enough ferocity and volume that I was certain my feet were going to come out of my mouth.
  • The layer of dust blanketing everything in my office had become so deep that I could barely open the door, and the dumping station that once was known as my desk had become cluttered to the point that it was no longer functional. Much cleaning was required, a job that spanned several days.
  • The state of financial panic in the Scratches household recently hit a heretofore unimaginable peak, to the extent that I was on the verge of scrawling “For Sale” on a piece of cardboard, taping said cardboard to a stick and planting it on my front lawn. By some miracle, however, the past month has seen a number of web-programming jobs come my way. I love our time together, Internet, but you ain’t payin’ the bills, and baby needs a new pair of shoes, so the paying gigs have occupied the time that I would otherwise have spent cozying up to you.
  • My son is two-and-a-half years old. My daughter is six months old. Neither believes in sleeping past 4 or 5 a.m., and, when awake, both require continuous adult supervision. (Which reminds me: Look forward to an upcoming entry about my yet-to-be-scheduled vasectomy.)

The remaining smidgen of time during which I could have conceivably squeezed you in instead went to this:
24

Yes, Jack Bauer and the gang at CTU have, much to my chagrin, sucked me in yet again. Last season was awful beyond all comprehension, but this season, the producers have employed writers who seem marginally aware of what the word “plot” means. I’m sure it will all come unraveled well before the season ends, but by then, I’ll have invested too much time to bail out. (They really should change the name from “24” to, say, “8.” Cut out two-thirds of the slop they normally stick in there, and you’ve got yourself a show. Gimme less of the “I’m so-and-so’s annoying/whiny/amnesia-stricken/secretly villainous wife/brother/ex-husband/gardener” plotlines, and more of Kiefer Sutherland bending people’s appendages in directions they weren’t designed to go.)

Hey, it’s my one guilty pleasure. Sue me.

So there you have it. I haven’t been avoiding you; I’ve just been insanely busy. Rest assured that I still love you.

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