Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Sad State for Sports

More and more people are tired of living in California. Folks don’t want to live in a broke state full of high prices, foreclosures and layoffs. And sports fans in the formerly Golden State are also a disgruntled bunch, because the teams we’re watching are mostly terrible.

I should say first that the L.A. Lakers, the San Diego Chargers, the Anaheim Ducks, the San Jose Sharks and the S.F. Giants probably don’t belong in this discussion…for now. The Lakers are the reigning NBA Champs and could repeat this year. The team has an incredible track record and the organization has always been a class act. The Chargers are in the playoffs almost every year, although they’ve never won the Super Bowl. The Ducks are former NHL champs and feature a competitive squad each season. The Sharks are consistently at the top of the hockey standings every year. They have some marquee players and play in a great arena. But, they’re starting to establish a reputation for choking in the playoffs. The team has never even made it into the Stanley Finals, so that’s their immediate goal. If the Sharks fold in the first or second round of the playoffs yet again this year, you’ll start to hear more and more boos and see more empty seats. The Giants built an incredible stadium ten years ago (AT&T Park) and the team has gradually gotten better over the last several years. Of course, they’ve never won the World Series and the Barry Bonds steroids affair has tainted his records and the team. But, when compared to the other dysfunctional professional teams in California, this group looks respectable.

After that, the state’s pro sports scene is full of wannabes, once-wasses and never beens. First, both the S.D. Padres and the L.A. Dodgers are being destroyed by the Big “D”—divorce. Both team owners are going through nasty divorces and it’s affected the overall attitude and approach of both franchises. These teams won’t spend any significant cash on much-needed free agents, until their ex-wives and the judges involved figure out how much they’ll have left. It’s a sad situation when team owners can’t keep their marriages together, because in the end, the fans pay too.

The San Francisco 49ers used to be the very best with a plethora of Super Bowl victories featuring some of the finest players in the history of the game. But now, after their former owner getting busted for bribery, the new owners are more like cardboard cut-outs in suits rather than people who truly understand how to build and field a competitive football team. And don’t even mention Monster Park (formerly Candledick)—another ugly, smelly, poorly run facility. The stadium is painted in green and white. Oh wait a minute—that’s not white paint; it’s seagull poo!

The Oakland Raiders are probably the biggest disappointment of the bunch. They play in a sub-standard facility and they have a senile owner who can barely eat his fruit compote without having three Raiders cheerleaders standing by to clean up the 80% that doesn’t make it to his mouth. They are the joke of the NFL and no coach with any ability won’t put up with the idiocy that surrounds this team. This team will not win--until the owner dies.

The Sacramento Kings play in a warehouse and they’ve never done anything significant. They’re a forgettable squad and the only reason anyone who lives out there supports this team is because they aren’t any professional sports anywhere nearby.

And don’t mention the San Jose Earthquakes in the same breath with pro sports. Soccer will never draw in this state on a consistent basis. If you want to find the Earthquakes’ scores in your local newspaper, you’ll have to look way back on the last page, next to the high school and Div. II college sports scores. Name three players on the Earthquakes and then get a life.

Then, we have three other chronically poor teams that are bad for different reasons—the Warriors, the A’s and L.A. Clippers. The Golden State Warriors haven’t won a championship since I was in high school and I’m old. The team has gotten accustomed to living at the bottom of the NBA standings after a series of general managers who have made an unending series of bad decisions. The Clippers are in the same boat. They’re the Lakers annoying little sister. Mediocrity would be a huge jump up for either of these sad story organizations.

The A’s have a crappy stadium and they’re constantly crying that they don’t have enough money to field a decent team. Thanks to a very astute general manager, the team has used a methodology that helps them draft good players to stock their farm system. But, once these players make it to the majors, they realize where they’re playing, and they run for greener pastures as fast as they can; which means that the A’s have to re-stock their team once again. The A’s had a potentially nice deal building a new stadium down the street in Fremont, but they blew that and now they’re stuck in a stadium that would function better as a prison (just put a dome on it). It is surely one of the worst stadiums in any sport!

And one last thing--why isn't there an NFL team in the Los Angeles area? Why does the third or fourth largest TV market in the nation not field a pro football team? It was amusing for a couple years after the Rams fled to St. Louis, but not it's becoming "that thing"

So, that’s the state address of so-called “professional” sports in California right now. In most cases, I’d rather watch college or high school sports than this stuff. It sucks.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All the Way with Anime!

If you’re a huge fan of anime, you need to check out the Animax Asia anime series. The world of asian anime has taken off in a spectacular way. The technology has given the entire animation field a substantial boost and you will consistently be amazed by the great things you’ll discover. Everything Japanese is big in the gold old US of A, so get on the anime train right now and you won’t regret it. One example of that is the Wipeout the TV show. It was originated in Japan, but now you can see the show on ABC in the U.S. I recently saw a sample of some of the hottest cutting-edge anime in the world and it blew me away. Some of it is so lush and colorful that it looks real! It is amazing. I first got into anime more than a decade ago, and back then the stories attracted me because they are so layered. Not like some of the silly cartoons we produce in this country. If you want quality animation, anime is the way to go. It’s so detailed and all of the characters are so well-developed. One of the finest anime shows on TV right now is Gurren Lagann, which is called mecha anime. Check it out my blog fans!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Take That Parking Ticket & Put It Where The Sun Don't Shine!

An Open Letter to the Meter Maids in My Neighborhood:

I’m not saying you’re targeting my car. I imagine you’re ticketing every car in your prevue whenever you can, but it just seems like my vehicle gets ticketed while other offending cars right next to mine seem to consistently avoid the similar penalty. I know, it sounds like I’m whining and maybe I am, but it’s becoming more and more evident that you people must lie in wait to slap tickets on my windshield with great dexterity and incredible timing. You’re either super human or it’s a conspiracy.

I’m mad at the world, I guess, and meter maids in particular. But, that’s a knee jerk reaction, because everyone has to have a job. I realize that it’s not fair for me to be abusive toward you simply because you chose this particular career. I’ve actually studied it, and people who become parking meter attendants were probably tattlers in elementary school, ratted out all the smokers and stoners in high school, and have been teachers pets most of their lives. These are the same types of people who also become sports referees, cops and school principals. They will flock toward any career in which you can penalize other people for doing something perceived by society as wrong. Hey I know it’s not your fault. You’re just doing your job. Isn’t that what they said at Nuremberg? (Just kidding.)

I don’t want to start a war because you’ll win. But, I want you to know that within the last two months, I’ve received five parking tickets totaling $310—one for blocking the sidewalk in front of my house for a millisecond, while I ran inside to urinate, instead of relieving myself in my car or on the same sidewalk; two for parking on the wrong side of the street on a street sweeping day, confused by your first and third week policy and maybe sometimes or not sometimes on particular holidays (for instance, why do they observe Martin Luther King Day but not President’s Day?); one for not turning my wheels in the correct direction while parked on a hill; and the final for blocking a driveway by approximately 7-8 inches.

Maybe we can make the process a little easier? Mailing in all these checks is time consuming and a waste of paper and stamps. Can I send you, for example $500, so that you can put it on account? Maybe you can give me a break for paying in advance? Because with my admittedly sloppy parking habits and your uncanny vulture-like ability to nail me for even the most minor offenses within seconds of them occurring—I anticipate a substantial number of parking tickets in my immediate future.

Can’t we just get along?

This Great Game in Cuba

Well, my baseball Web site ( made it to Cuba on a trip by the Society of American Baseball Research ( to study baseball in this amazing country. The kid on the right is wearing a cap from, the History of Baseball Online. That child will grow into that hat and hopefully one day we'll see him in the major leagues!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Castagnola's: A Unique Part of San Francisco's History

Castagnola’s (286 Jefferson Street, San Francisco, Calif. 94133. (415) 776-5015 open 11 am to 10 pm 7 days /week) is more than a restaurant—it’s also a piece of San Francisco’s history. Thomaso Castagnola opened the first crab stand on Fisherman’s Wharf in 1916, selling fresh crab to passersby. Back then I imagine you could get a huge bowl of clam chowder or a big crab cocktail for a nickel! The Castagnola family owned and operated the restaurant until it was sold in 1975. The Castagnola family played a major role in building San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf into the popular destination it is today.

Part of the allure of this place is the amazing view. If you want to see the boats coming and going; the seals mostly sleeping and all of the busy activities down below, Castagnola’s should always be your first choice. As their Web site describes: “The dining room boasts floor to ceiling windows where you can watch the fishing boats return from early morning fishing trips for lunch; during dinner hours the boats serenely float on sparkling waters in the evening light.” And I never tire of this sight.

To be honest, the first time I ate at Castagnola’s, I was less than pleased about the food. But, I know after eating at literally a thousand restaurants in my life, one so-so experience doesn’t mean a place is bad. So many factors can affect the food at an eating establishment. Maybe a rookie chef gets overwhelmed. Maybe several people are out sick. Or maybe they’re busy and rushing through the orders. I’ve worked in kitchens and I’ve worked as a cook, so I realize that problems can exist on any given evening.

So, in cases like this, I will go back when I can to give the place another chance. That’s exactly what I did two nights later and I can happily tell you that it was a great meal at Castagnola’s. We had the Fresh Dungeness Crab Cakes ($17) and the Lobster Bisque in a bread bowl ($12). The cakes were rich and velvety and the bisque was so full-bodied and full of distinctive flavors that I licked the bread bowl and then consumed it with bravado. The seals could hear my lips smacking and clapped in unison!

For our entrees, we had the Cioppino ($28) that was excellent. It came with a generous assortment of Dungeness crab legs, mussels, clams, calamari and jumbo shrimp in a lobster broth. The tomatoes and red peppers in the soup were fresh-tasting and not overcooked. I give it an “A”.

My fellow diner is a vegetarian, so she ordered the Veggie Lasagna ($17) and it was also outstanding. Fresh vegetables were layered with ricotta and tasted full of spring. We’ve had veggie lasagna before and sometimes it tastes like an afterthought; something restaurants put it on the menu to placate vegetarians. But this item is designed and prepared to make non-meat eaters happy. And it works!

Other items we saw on the menu include a wide range of top-tier steaks and chops, including the Filet Mignon (8 ounces-$39); Rib Eye (10 ounces-$41); New York (10 ounces-$38); and the big baby for hungry carnivores—the Porterhouse (16 ounces-$40). Other seafood items include a wide range of seafood pastas and a legendary Clam Chowder in a bowl ($11).

They have great entertainment at Castagnola’s, including comedy featuring some of the best comics from throughout the Bay Area. For more information about this place, check out their Web site at: