As you read this, I am most likely somewhere on a freeway between the Bay Area and Arizona. (I’m driving to save $1,500 on a rental car. Would you sit in your car for two extra days for $1,500?) Anyway, this will be my 11th year going to Arizona for spring training as a writer, after a few other visits as a fan. I’ve already told you about how I feel about the games down there. Since this is supposed to be non-baseball related, here are a few good and bad things about life in Arizona during spring training.
Going out to eat. Strangely, this is my favorite part. When I’m on my death bed and remembering all that time I spent in Arizona, I will remember the dinners out with other writers. My favorite place is Z-Tejas (yes, it’s a chain, but there are none in the Bay Area, so it’s OK). It is usually one of my first stops. I also really like Roaring Fork. Don and Charlie’s is a staple, but I’ve always felt it was a little overrated. Richardson’s is also great, but it’s not near Scottsdale, so usually we go on the way back from Peoria or Surprise. If you want great food with celebrities, you should go to Frasher’s. (Well, as long as you consider mlb.com’s Mychael Urban a celebrity.)
The casino. There are a few Indian casinos in the area, but the place I usually supplement my income is Casino Arizona. There are two locations. The one with the poker room is at 101 and Indian Bend. Right now it’s in a huge temporary tent-like facility, but they are supposed to have their new building open soon.
The weather. Duh. It’s not as perfect as you’d think. Still chilly in the morning and at night, but the days are mostly pretty sweet. Watch out when it rains though. There is no drainage and the city turns into a giant puddle.
Gather round folks, because I’ve figured out the answer to all of our economy’s problems:
I came to this realization somewhere around my third or fourth box of Thin Mints. Then I remembered my experiences with my daughter a couple of years ago selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door. I believe our success rate was about 90 percent of people who answered the door. A lot of people said, “Oh, I’ve already bought some, but I’ll buy some more from you.”
The cookies are OK, but the real selling point is the little 9-year-old girls with their brown vests and smiling faces. No one can say no.
Picture this. You’re walking into the bank trying to get a home loan. The loan officer frowns, glances down at your 435 credit score, notices that you haven’t had a job in a year and smells alcohol on your breath at 9:30 in the morning. He’s just about to say no, but then your daughter pops into the scene, smiling and toting an armfull of Tagalongs…
Bingo. You’ve got a loan. Works the same at a job interview.
Someone hit up Barack’s Blackberry for me. I’m busy eating Thin Mints.
On to other things…
Keep an eye on Steve Singleton, a shortstop in the Twins system. Singleton is from Bishop O’Dowd High in Oakland and the University of San Diego. I have no idea if Steve can really play, but this winter I dealt poker with him a couple times.
The classic comedy Blazing Saddles was released 35 years ago this month. It is still one of the funniest movies of all-time, and I’m not just saying that because one of the guys who wrote the screenplay, Andrew Bergman, is related to me. I think he’s my grandfather’s sister’s nephew’s cousin’s uncle. Or something like that. I’m sure my Dad will post here soon and explain it. Anyway, he also wrote the screenplay, just coincidentally, to Fletch.
Poker tip of the week: If you’re ever about to make a “pot odds” call on the river, don’t. A pot odds call is one in which you think: “Well, I’m probably beaten, but I’m getting 3 to 1, so I’ve only got to be right 25 percent of the time.” Pot odds don’t mean squat if you are going to lose. Most people overestimate their chances of winning, so if you already think you are “probably” beaten, you are “definitely” beaten. You need a lot better than 3 to 1. Besides, if the other player has a clue at all, the reason he’s giving you 3 to 1 is so you’ll call, instead of fold. He wants you to call. Don’t do it.
Forgot to mention one interesting thing about me last week: I have only to been to one country outside of North America, and it’s Finland. Finland! I was there on a trip with my high school hockey team. Yes, I’m a hockey player, which qualifies me as a pretty rare breed out here in the Golden State.
Funny thing is, I’m a much better hockey player as a 39-year-old in California than I was as a 17-year-old in Ohio. Most of the guys I play against now are players who didn’t even start playing until they were adults.
“I may suck,” I tell them, “but I’ve been sucking at this since I was 8.”
One of the guys I have played with is none other than A’s manager Bob Geren. He’s a late-in-life convert. Started playing in Arizona in his 40s. Bob still has some work to do as a hockey player. I told him when he’s on the ice he’s like the sun: bigger than everything and everything goes around it. Once Bob and I played defense together and we locked it down.
The A’s, by the way, had a whole bunch of hockey players around recently. Canadian Rich Harden and Minnesotan Dan Johnson were hockey players, of course. Pitching coach Curt Young (Michigan) and former bullpen coach Brad Fischer (Wisconsin) were also players. Even Bobby Crosby, a SoCal native, used to play.
If you want a peek at a guy who is going to be really good, check out this.
On to other things…
Do you have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen? You should. We have one, and if we didn’t, I might be using this space to ask if any of you have a place for me and my family to stay. Little toaster fire broke out right there on the counter a couple of days ago. Real flames. Fortunately I got out the fire extinguisher it did the trick with five or six sprays. Two minutes later I was back to eating my lunch, zero damage other than needing a new toaster. Without the fire extinguisher, I would have been two minutes from calling 911 and hoping my whole house didn’t burn down.
One more public service announcement: Click hereand you could save someone’s life.
Poker tip of the week: The biggest mistake novices make in tournaments is playing too tight when they get low on chips. They get scared and wait for really good cards. Ironically, they are often very proud of their “discipline” as they do this. Truthfully, that’s the exact opposite of the way you should play. Once you are down to six or seven big blinds, you really should be going all-in preflop with just about any two cards, as long as no one else has entered the pot yet. You’ll take the blinds a lot, and even if you get called, you won’t always be as big an underdog as you think. Ace-king will lose to 7-2 40 percent of the time if the hands are all-in preflop.
You’ve seen that stupid Facebook game with the 25 things. I’m philosophically opposed to Facebook, because I think people waste too much time there (when they could be wasting it here). Anyway, here are 25 things you don’t know about me:
I once put liquid dishwashing soap in a dishwasher. Not a good idea. Ended up with bubbles all over the kitchen floor.
I once wrote a story that ended up being “This week’s sign of the Apocalypse…” in Sports Illustrated. It was about a high school sports league that banned postgame handshakes because of a rash of fights. The story went national and was even on the major network news. (I would link to my story, but you have to pay to read it.)
The year after my much-hyped run to 54th place at the World Series of Poker, I busted on the sixth hand.
In a couple of weeks my son is going to be 6 years old, which is really quite a remarkable accomplishment for the little guy considering that he doesn’t eat. When I say “doesn’t eat,” that is only a slight exaggeration. He’ll eat hot dogs (sometimes) and grilled cheese sandwiches (sometimes) and of course he’ll eat all the dry cereal he can get his hands on. Even better if you pour it into a Ziploc and let him carry it around. “I want cerealinabag”!
I love my iPhone, probably more than a man should love any single piece of technology. I wonder how I lived without it. I use mine for email and internet much more than I use it as a phone. I can even blog with it. I also use the maps function, the mp3 player and even the video player.