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West Coast Super Bowl?

Hi. Sorry it’s been a while. I get busy and then I forget to blog. I’ll try to stick to writing something here once a week. We’ll see how I do. Between (finally) graduating and landing a full-time job, there are no guarantees.

My mom and I were talking the other day, and both of us decided that while we are going to watch the Super Bowl, we’re not happy about it. Why? There’s no West Coast connection. It’s two East Coast teams who just met in the Super Bowl a few years ago playing in a Midwestern city. Now, I’m all for the revitalization of the Midwest (setting the Super Bowl in Detroit last year was awesome), but when are we going to get our turn? When will we get a West Coast Super Bowl?

I know the argument against Seattle. Apparently it rains too much here for them to stage a Super Bowl outdoors. It’s too cold, they say. (Try telling that to a Seattle native on a day like today, when the temperature is upwards of 50 degrees and it’s gorgeous!) Well, if not Seattle, why not San Francisco, Oakland, or San Diego? Those three cities have mild, dry climates.

Besides, isn’t weather supposed to be one of the elements of football?

Apologies to Indianapolis, but maybe the NFL ought to put the Super Bowl in a place people actually want to go to. Like Seattle. Or San Francisco. We West Coasters are tired of feeling left out.

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Camp Nou!

Today, we visited Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona. We paid 19 euros for a stadium tour, and it was well worth it. The team has been around for 110 years, and is a symbol of Catalan identity. There were cases and cases full of trophies, and interesting displays about the players, the team’s identity, and its history.

It’s hard not to be a Barca fan after visiting their home stadium. During the Spanish Civil War, the team was persecuted for being associated with Catalan identity. Its president was assassinated and the team was forced to change its name to be spelled and pronounced in a more Spanish fashion. After Franco’s death, fans smuggled the Catalunyan flag into the stadium and displayed it.

Fan favorites include Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol, both of whom, I believe, are of Catalan descent. Puyol is awesome. He is one of my absolute favorite players. His goal for Spain during the World Cup match with Germany was amazing. He came out of nowhere and headed the ball straight into the goal, propelling Spain into the final.

It’s no wonder that Spain won the World Cup in 2010 — eight of the national team’s players were from FC Barcelona. In 2009-2010, FC Barcelona won all six cups it was eligible for. No wonder this team is the best in the world!

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Touchdown Barcelona!

First, it’s really difficult to blog when Firefox automatically translates instructions on webpages into Catalan. I remember a little bit of my high school Spanish, but Catalan is completely different in some ways. I brought my little Netbook for blogging, and even though my language is set to English, Firefox still translates everything!

Anna and Smiley’s Most Excellent European Adventure has officially begun! We are in Barcelona, Spain, after about 15 hours of traveling yesterday. My key to beating jet lag is to sleep as much as I can on the plane (thank you, Tylenol PM) and then to stay up as late as I can once I get to where I’m going. It worked pretty well, except I started fading around 5 PM local time.

We took a bus to our hostel, the Hostel Sant Jordi Arago. It’s just a short walk from Las Ramblas, a major walking street in Barcelona. It’s a nice place, and I would recommend it to others traveling here. The rooms are comfortable and quiet.

We grabbed a tapas lunch (yum), and started walking Las Ramblas. The buildings around here are pretty interesting — they remind me quite a bit of Morocco. It’s a neat mix between Spanish and Arabian architecture. On Las Ramblas, we saw a bunch of people dressed up as human statues — butterflies, and even Gene Simmons from Kiss! Passing tourists give them coins to make them do things. I snapped a bunch of pictures.

After a nap, we went to a cafe down the street to watch the Barcelona-Sevilla match. Sports fans the world over make the same rooting noises. So I fit right in. One thing that I found really interesting happened when Barca scored a goal. Rather than preemptively celebrate, the fans in the cafe waited until the ref confirmed the goal before cheering. We all got really into it at the end of the game. Sevilla had some good looks, and at times Barca’s defense really broke down. (Just like the Sounders!) Barca was pressing hard at the end, but the game ended in a 1-1 draw. It was fun.

Today, we plan on walking Las Ramblas, checking out La Boqueria market, and touring Camp Nou, the Barcelona soccer stadium. It’s going to be an awesome day!

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Spring Training Fever

It’s official. I have spring fever. The first Mariners Spring Training game was on Sunday. I turned on ESPN radio at 12:05 and heard Erik Bedard immediately strike out two batters and get the third to ground out. He was locating his pitches. I started having dreams of a Felix-Bedard one-two punch at the top of the rotation. I started thinking “well, maybe we’ll actually be good this season.”

The Mariners are like a bad boyfriend. I know they’re just going to break my heart come the All-Star break. They haven’t gone to the playoffs for ten years. And yet I keep coming back year after year. Just to get my heart ripped out of my chest and stomped on by poor offense, shaky relief pitching, and star players who abruptly retire in the middle of the year (ahem, Griffey). Yet still, Spring Training takes me in and captures my heart. I find myself full of hope. Summer’s just around the corner, and maybe my summer nights will be filled with the sweet sound of Mariners victories.

Sigh. A girl can dream, right?

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Sweet Lou retiring

After 18 years playing in the majors and 22 years as a manager, “Sweet” Lou Piniella announced that he will be retiring after this season. Lou was the only Mariners manager to lead the team to the playoffs, which he did in 1995, 1997, 2000, and 2001. I would argue that Lou was the best manager the club ever had.

What I’ve always appreciated and loved about Lou is his commitment to winning. Lou Piniella does not like to lose. And he’s not afraid to give umpires a piece of his mind, which he did while in Seattle on many a colorful occasion. I don’t know which Lou tantrum was better — the one where he kicked his hat around the bases, or the one where he threw home plate.

It was Sweet Lou, more than any player, who saved baseball in Seattle. To the Mariners, Lou brought the expectation of winning. From 1977-1994, the club never had a winning season. 1993 was the first time the Mariners played over-.500 ball. In 1995, the stakes were high. The club could have left Seattle without a new stadium. But under the guidance of Lou Piniella, the Mariners game from 12 games back to tie the Angels, beat them in a one-game playoff, and go on to the American League Divisional Series. Seattle became baseball mad. And Lou stewarded that team.

I’m sure Lou’s going to hang around baseball in some capacity. I would expect to see him as a club consultant, or possibly as an ESPN commentator during the playoffs. We wish you success, Sweet Lou.

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“Mr. Wetteland, my name is Anna. I’m a lifelong Mariners fan…”

I skipped out on my swanky 10-year reunion dinner to go to Mariners Singles Night. I’d bought the ticket a while ago, and figured that, while the 10-year reunion dinner would have been fun, Singles Night would definitely lead to a good story. I went in without any expectations, and had a great time. Some guys from Vancouver were holding their bachelor party there, and the piano players from Chopstix were great.

After a beer, I found myself standing over near the bullpen. At Safeco Field, the Mariners bullpen is right next to the Bullpen Market. From a fan’s perspective, it’s pretty cool. You can watch pitchers warm up, and sometimes you can interact with the players. I doubt the players like it very much, though. I know I wouldn’t want drunk fans yelling at me every night.

Some drunken assholes had been yelling vitriolic insults at John Wetteland, the Mariners bullpen coach. He came over and settled them down. I stood and listened to his pep talk. After the drunk fans left, I was still standing there. From the bullpen bench, Wetteland caught my eye, and I waved. Once again, he walked over and said “Excuse me, mam, but did you need something?”

Sometimes, after a beer, I just open my mouth and say what I think. Among my friends, this is an endearing habit. At least, I hope it is. So I opened my mouth, and this is what came out.

“I just wanted to say hello. Mr. Wetteland, my name is Anna. I’m a lifelong Mariners fan. I really want you guys to turn this thing around. The whole city feels bad for you guys, and we want to turn it around as much as you do.”

John Wetteland smiled a little, and said, “Don’t feel bad for us. We’re out here working really hard. If we weren’t working hard, you could feel bad. I don’t feel bad. You shouldn’t either.”

“Yes, but I really want you guys to turn this thing around. You see, it’s always been my dream to hear Dave Niehaus call a World Series.”

John Wetteland took a step back, and with a twinkle in his eye said “That would be really cool.”

And then, he put his hand through the bars of the bullpen gate, shook my hand, and said “It was nice to meet you, Anna.” He turned and went back to his coaching duties.

I was awestruck. As a baseball fan, one always hopes to be close enough to the players to actually interact with them. When you grow up with the game, the players always seem larger than life. Everyone wants to have a story about a meaningful baseball interaction. And this was mine. John Wetteland and I agreed that hearing Dave Niehaus call a World Series would be really cool. I think the poignancy of that statement was not lost on either of us. Niehaus is getting up there in years. For this to happen, the Mariners need to turn it around quick. Niehaus has been the Mariners’ radio broadcaster since Day One. Calling a World Series would be the crowning moment of his career.

Wetteland himself is connected with a piece of Mariners history. In Game 4 of the 1995 American League Division Series, John Wetteland was brought into the game in the 8th inning in a 6-6 tie. The Mariners loaded the bases, and Edgar Martinez, the greatest designated hitter of all time, hit a grand slam. The Mariners would go on to win that game 11-8.

My friends totally thought I was drunk when I called them, but I was honestly just euphoric. It’s not every day that you can have a five-minute conversation with the bullpen coach. They usually do their best to stay focused and ignore the fans.

After I calmed down a little, I decided to go to my seat. But first, I wanted to make sure I said goodbye to Mr. Wetteland and the rest of the bullpen. Don’t ask me why I thought this was a good idea. So, I walked over to the bullpen gate again, and got the attention of the sheriff inside.

“Hello, Mr. Sheriff,” I said. He came over. “So, John Wetteland came over and talked to me earlier, and I just wanted to say thank you to him. See, that really meant a lot to me that he did that. It was nice. I’m a lifelong baseball fan. I’m going to go to my seat now. If you would tell him thank you from me, that would be great.”

Apparently after a beer, I talk like a member of the Cleaver family. But this is honestly what I remember saying to the sheriff.

The sheriff nodded and smiled. “Don’t you go anywhere. I have to let Mr. Wetteland know who is saying thank you.”

And sure enough, between the first and second inning, the sheriff went over and told John Wetteland exactly what I’d said. He waved at me and tipped his cap. Other members of the bullpen gave me a little wave, too. It was awesome.

After the game, I decided to come back and say thank you to the sheriff. I walked up and said, “Hi. Remember me?”

“Of course,” the sheriff said. He smiled. He reminded me a little of my grandfather, if Granddad had been a King County sheriff with a rather imposing badge.

“I just wanted to say thank you for conveying my message. My name is Anna, by the way.”

The sheriff introduced himself, but I forgot what his name was. I’ll have to ask him again the next time I’m at the ballpark.

“I’ll come back and say hello next time I’m here.”

“You can say hello any time, Anna,” the sheriff said.

“Maybe I’ll say hi to the bullpen, too. Do you think they’ll remember me?”

“I don’t think they’re going to forget you for a really long time,” the sheriff said.

So, that’s how I met John Wetteland. I guess it’s not every day that a random fan just walks up to the bullpen and says the equivalent of “Excuse me, but will you please turn this thing around. See, Dave Niehaus is getting up there in years, and I’d like to hear him call a World Series.” And it’s definitely not every day that a major league bullpen coach listens, shakes the fan’s hand, and agrees that hearing Niehaus call a World Series would be really cool.

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Sportsologist to go on a date!

So I just got asked out on a date to go watch the USA vs. Slovenia game at a pub somewhere. Funny thing is, that game airs at 7 AM Pacific time. I will be at a pub on a date at 7 AM, watching soccer. We’ll probably need to get to a place early to grab a seat. So 6 AM.

I can’t stop giggling. If I was any other woman, I’d say “No way Jose. There’s no way I’m going on a date to watch a soccer game at 6 AM.” But I’m not any other woman. I’m a diehard sports fan. And I think watching a soccer game at 7 AM on a date sounds like a fabulous idea. Not just any sports game, but the World Cup!

This guy is now officially kind of awesome.

Still, I can’t stop giggling. How does one dress for a date that begins at 6 AM? To wear makeup, or not to wear makeup? Do I even attempt to look nice, or do I just say “screw it — it’s 6 AM!”

Thoughts and advice would be much appreciated.

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