The covers of the slapdash tribute magazines for Muhammad Ali at the supermarket checkout counters all depicted him as a young man. That’s to be expected: It’s a lot more savory to recall Ali as the beautiful dynamo who conquered Sonny Liston than as the aged sentinel humbled by his own hubris.
Last December, having been a dog owner for all of three days, I was letting our seven-pound puppy drag me around the neighborhood for about the 12th time that afternoon. I was completely exhausted, and I already had serious doubts I had what it took to make it work.
We ran into a congenial middle-aged man named Pat, in town from Ohio to visit his daughter. He calmed GG down, raved about what a handsome dog she was and we talked a little sports.
Something about Pat’s easy demeanor told me I’d found a sympathetic ear. Before we parted ways, I told him GG was my first dog, explained how difficult this first week had been and asked whether things would get better.
Pat looked me straight in the eye and smiled warmly. “You’ll have to put in some work,” he said. “But I can tell she’s a good dog, and you’re going to be just fine.”
Grasping for straws, I believed him. And it turns out he was absolutely right, everything worked out pretty great.
But it did take a lot of work, and things would get worse before they’d get better.
The middle months of 2012 presented a crisis of confidence for me: For quite a while, I found that I simply couldn’t write the way I like to. A large part of it was finding the time, as I was stretched too thin between day job demands, moving to a new home and planning a wedding. I had plenty of ideas that never came to fruition, and it took a lot of editing and re-editing for me to get comfortable with the ones that did.
This isn’t to say I didn’t write a few things I felt far more than good about. About a year and a half ago, I decided to spread my wings a bit, so I started writing some pieces for a few different publications and web sites besides this one. It was an adjustment to have someone filtering my writing, but it was also rewarding to know stuff I wrote passed muster with people other than myself. My goal is always to write something that hopefully people enjoy reading, including myself, and I think I had a few of those this year that I’d like to share.
I don’t generally do lists — with one or two exceptions — but below are five essays I felt good about last year. Hopefully this time next year, I’ll be able to expand the 2013 iteration of this list to, say, seven or eight, starting with a profile on Karl Towns I’m writing for Dime now. (As a result, don’t expect to see me around these parts much for the next couple of weeks or so.)
Admittedly, I used to hold the concept of the Hall of Fame in the highest esteem. When I was a kid reading as much about baseball as I possibly could, Hall of Famers were flawless demigods from a thousand years ago who pitched comets and swung bolts of lightning.
My parents took me on a pilgrimage to Cooperstown when I was in fifth grade, and I dutifully took pictures of the plaques for Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and personal favorite Ty Cobb. As recently as a few years ago, I vowed to be in Canton when Dan Marino was enshrined into the football Hall.
As have many of my stances, my position has changed quite a bit over time. MarinoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s big day came and went; I never even made the conscious decision that it was too much of an effort to make the trip from New Jersey. I spent a couple days in Springfield, Mass., for a prep basketball tournament last winter and declined to check out the Basketball Hall, though I drove by it several times. (It was really cold outside.)
The baseball Hall, in particular, seems more and more laughable to me, a morality-soaked tug of war between old school Murray Chass types and new-age Dave Cameron-ites. Omar Vizquel is probably going to make it to Cooperstown, while Barry Bonds probably wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know.
Plus, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gotten to know a few baseball Hall of Fame voters, and though some are sharp, by no means does that apply to all of them. One in particular, I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t rely on to vote on what I have for lunch. For the most part, I tend to laugh off most Hall of Fame debates Ã¢â‚¬â€œ that donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t involve Bonds Ã¢â‚¬â€œ as the harmless rantings of fans, and fans with press passes.
When I went to meet Muhammad Ali the morning after I graduated from high school, my enthusiasm was tempered by my growing recognition of what was happening to him. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d seen Ali light the Olympic Torch the previous summer, I knew all those fights had taken a toll, but it didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t totally sink in until I shook his hand and felt it shake. I verbalized my admiration for him; it was a one-sided conversation.
Compared to Ali, I was relieved to find Micky Ward seemingly in relatively good shape when I went to the North Jersey book signing for his new memoir, Ã¢â‚¬Å“A WarriorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Heart,Ã¢â‚¬Â last Tuesday. I came away thinking that Ward looked and sounded pretty good, considering his former line of work. And honestly, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what we want when we seek out the heroes of our youth.
We want to be able to say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“He looks good.Ã¢â‚¬Â
21,000 people sold out Madison Square Garden on Saturday to watch Miguel Cotto give Antonio Margarito his comeuppance, and there would be no other acceptable outcome.
A Margarito victory would have been catastrophic, as would have a run-of-the-mill boxing debacle akin to Bernard HopkinsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ aborted match against Chad Dawson a few weeks back. As such, with the exception of the first Mets game at Shea Stadium after 9/11, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not sure IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve attended a sporting event where the outcome seemed quite so crucial.
The two Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti fights I attended rank up there with the Mike Piazza post-9/11 game as the best sporting events IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been to live.
As such, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve eagerly awaited The Fighter since first seeing the trailer. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m just not good at actually carving out time to go to the movies, so it took me a while to see it after it released.
Bear in mind IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never actually done a movie review. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m far from qualified to be a film critic, as evidenced by my affinity for Ichi the Killer. But for what itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s worth, I did very much enjoy The Fighter, as a fight fan and in general.
Of course, it was by no means a perfect film.
New York City definitely isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the most comfortable place for a Dolphins fan these days, as I witnessed first-hand when I made a rare sojourn to Times Square to hit up Foot Locker today and found myself smack dab in the middle of a massive Jets playoff pep rally.
If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been coming here for a while, you already know that the only holiday I truly love is Halloween. But New YearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always at the very least liked. I realize itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s technically just another day, but it represents to me a time to reflect and measure growth.
A clean start. A fresh slate. Another chance to turn it all around. (Word to Vanilla Sky)
Another set of lists as part of our friends at Trumbull IslandÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Year/Decade-ending Top 10 list hysteria. Here are the Top 10 coolest athletes of the decade, and the Top 10 least coolest athletes. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m missing some, but I think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a pretty good primer. I think youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll see Nas is generally a good barometer here. Feel free to let me know some other guys I missed.