Happy Friday Before Labor Day!

‘Round these parts we have a silly, made-up holiday called “the Friday before Labor Day.” (I do realize that all holidays are made up, but come on, this one was made up like a month ago!) Three-day weekend just isn’t enough for the tourism industry; they got us four.

Of course this means we must go to school one day further into June. The last day of school where I live is now June 10, not June 9. Students will be sitting in class on June 10 thinking I could have started my summer vacation today. And let’s face it, it won’t just be the students thinking that.

Well, that was my thought the last month after I heard about this new silly holiday. I’ll admit I thought it was a waste.

But at the end of the day yesterday, were the students complaining that the next day was a day off? Heck, you could have talked them into going until about June 27 to get today off.

I think the teachers were right there with ’em.

Happy Friday Before Labor Day!

You’re welcome, Popeyes

Everywhere I look I see news reports of Popeyes around the country running out of that new chicken sandwich of theirs. You know that knew chicken sandwich… the one you heard about on this very blog last week?

You’re welcome, Popeyes. You’re welcome.

Good? Yes. Impossible? No.

Let it be known that I make it a point to try every new food item that comes down the pike. Hence Popeyes’ new chicken sandwich and many other much more questionable decisions over the years.

Somehow, though, the Impossible Whopper from Burger King had eluded me thus far. I’m not sure when it became available in Northern Virginia, but apparently as of a few weeks ago it’s now available nationwide. So no excuses. Get you one of these “plant-based, protein-filled patties” (their words). It’s good, sure, but then again I liked veggie burgers before I tried this one so I wasn’t exactly shocked. I wouldn’t call it impossible; after all, most veggie burgers do sorta taste like burgers, no? Anyway, it’s good.

Popeyes new chicken sandwich good?

No way.

Finding something to beat that one is going to be pretty…

Impossible.

Sometimes you CAN believe the Internet

Popeyes’ new chicken sandwich? One word… yes.

Believe the hype, Internet and otherwise, and from all media, traditional and “social.” This is the real deal.

The only trouble is (or perhaps this is part of a devious plan), my local Popeyes, was a bit overwhelmed when I visited. Lines inside stretched to the door and the drive-thru line went to the street. Everybody want this sammich.

After waiting in line for about 20 minutes (way longer than I’ve ever waited for food in my life), I thought to myself, this had better be the greatest sandwich I have ever eaten.

Check.

Popeyes has broken the Internet

The greatest thing since sliced bread… is when they put a piece of fried chicken between them.

In case you’ve been in a cave on Mars the past few days, Popeyes restaurant has a new chicken sandwich.

Yes, a chicken sandwich.

(Who had “chicken sandwich” in the what’s going to be the most amazing thing the world has ever seen pool?)

So yes, I need one.

And today, August 21, a happy coincidence has occurred in the O’Connell household as today happens to be our wedding anniversary.

Guess what the missus and I are getting each other as gifts?

Playoffs actually looking realistic now

When you put up a touchdown and two field goals in the first three innings the rest of the game becomes a lot easier.

Such was the lesson for my hometown Washington Nationals yesterday afternoon against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Nats scored 16 runs while socking eight home runs in the game, tying a franchise record. This, mere hours after surrendering eight homers (that’s got to be a record) in a devastating 14-inning loss against those same Brewers. (The final score of that one was 15-14. Damn those Brewers and their two-point conversion.)

Don’t look now but the Nationals have some breathing room in the NL Wild Card race. They are a full game and a half up on the Cubs for the top Wild Card spot, and three and a half up on the Brewers, Mets, and Phillies, who sit tied for sixth overall. Each team in that trio is 64-60, meaning the Nats (67-56) sit four up in the loss column. That’s called sittin’ pretty.

Tuesday, October 1st: Wild Card… book it.

I shoulda been older

My sources tell me that this weekend is  the 50th anniversary of the Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, New York, colloquially known as “Woodstock.”

I was born a little too late.

Would I have liked to have gone to Woodstock? Sure.

But I woulda rather gone to Ebbetts Field.

What season is it really?

Oh, middle of August… you used to give me just a hint of back-to-school sales as summer was still in full swing.

Nowadays it’s quite different.

On the upside the back-to-school sales are out.

Downside(?) is… they’ve been replaced by Halloween candy.

Report from the “road”: Soccer in Leesburg

Last Friday I attended the inaugural match at Segra Field, home of the Loudoun United. That would be the Loudoun United Football Club of the “USL Championship.” (That’s a soccer league, by the way.) The affiliate club of the D.C. United, the Loudoun United plays its matches in Leesburg, Virginia. Well, as of Friday they are. The first half of the season they were playing “home” games around the DMV while waiting for Segra Field to be finished.

It still isn’t finished. Not really. Parking and entering the stadium were kind of a mess, but hey, it was their first day. Once we were inside things went pretty smoothly. In classic soccer fashion there was no scoring for about the first 40 minutes or so, and of course the thing ended in a draw. Classic.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t be so excited about seeing a soccer match, but hey, it’s my hometown team. Sort of. And I got the tickets for free through my local library. I know, right… European socialist sport and I got to see it through a European socialist method. No real complaints, though, and I do look forward to seeing a few more matches at Segra Field.

Once they finish the parking lot.

Report from the road: Atlantic League “baseball”

Two days ago I was in Waldorf, Maryland, to see Southern Maryland Blue Crabs take on the Long Island Ducks. The Ducks and the Crabs play in the “Atlantic League of Professional Baseball,” an independent baseball league sort of affiliated with Major League Baseball and sort of not. There are no formal affiliations between member teams and those in MLB, though players do shuffle back and forth between leagues. You’d recognize some of the names on the rosters. Most prominent among them, I suppose, was the Ducks’ manager, Wally Backman. Yes, that Wally Backman of the ’86 Mets, a few too many YouTube clips, and at one time the manager of the Binghamton Mets.

But it’s really not the players or the teams that provide the interesting arrangement between the Atlantic League and MLB. It’s the rules. You see, the Atlantic League is experimenting with some rule changes, a sort of laboratory being observed by MLB scientists, alterations perhaps one day coming to a big league park near you. Most prominent among these, I suppose, is the electronic wizard that calls balls and strikes. Oh, there’s still a home plate umpire, of course, but he is merely reporting the facts as whispered in his ear by some unseen genie. (It’s like the reverse Wizard of Oz–the one you see is the little old man and behind the curtain is the actual wizard.) Watching the action it’s really not that obvious that there’s a slight delay between the snap of the catcher’s glove and the signal from the ump. Oh, but it does happen from time to time, that a robotic call will come in a bit late and of course it’s never in the home team’s favor. “C’mon, computer!” grumbles the faithful in the stands.

The league utilizes a 12-second pitch clock. That really does zip the game along. That the breaks between innings are only 1:45 instead of 2:05 (or any amount of time)… totally unnoticeable. Ditto 18-inch bases. Eighteen-inch bases? Quick, how big have the bases been for the past hundred years? Well, they’re 15 inches, and yeah, when you stare at them you think, I suppose they look a little bigger. But if I hadn’t known, would I have walked in the stadium and thought what the hell are those giant bases doing out there? Not a chance.

Wednesday I mistakenly reported that the Atlantic League uses a 62.5-foot pitcher’s mound. It does not. That change is scheduled to be implemented in 2020. (Guess I’ll have to go back.) The most jarring change and the most talked about (and viewed on YouTube) is, of course, the theft of first base. Yes, in this league one can actually steal first base. On any wild pitch or passed ball the runner at the plate can advance to first as he would on a dropped third strike. I’ll ruin the suspense–I didn’t get to see one. Oh, there were plenty of opportunities (about every tenth pitch is wild), and you could feel it in the crowd every time the ball went past the catcher. You wanted to see it, you were dying to see it. But alas, it was not meant to be. Are batters just not thinking about it? Or is it really not a good play, metrics-wise? We’ll let the geeks figure that one out.

A few words on the venue, Regency Furniture Stadium… it’s much cooler than the silly corporate name it carries. Everything about the park is easy: easy to get to, easy to park, easy to get in and out, and once you’re inside the place is kind of a palace as far as minor league parks go. It’s got probably 20 skyboxes—amazing for a minor league stadium—and a bunch of bells and whistles to keep the “experience” folks entertained. A swimming pool (which had paddle boats but no one swimming), a basketball court, jungle gym, moonbounce. (Thankfully I saw no selfie station.) Home run seats? Yeah, if you don’t mind sitting on a grandstand bench. One can walk around the entire field, a luxury I’ve encountered only at the biggest of Triple-A parks. Well done, Regency, well done.

In all I found the experience to be, well, pretty good baseball. The changes to the game are subtle; you are still watching something Doubleday or Cartwright would recognize. The caliber of play is probably AA or AAA, and as stated, the park itself is on par with some of the best I’ve seen. I happened to go to a game that had probably its lightest attendance of the year (11:05 a.m. start accommodating various local summer camp groups), but it was still an event worth blogging about.

One criticism: the Blue Crabs’ mascot, Pinch… totally copied (pinched?) from the Binghamton Mets and its “Ballwinkle.” Ballwinkle entertained B-Mets fans for nearly a quarter century before “retiring” when the team changed its nickname to the Rumble Ponies.

I’d lodge a formal complaint but come on, it’s a fuzzy blue sports mascot… how different can they really be?