So after watching UFC 98 with Josh during my trip to Virginia, I am stepping on the the MMA bandwagon. For those surprised that it took so long, there still are too many names to keep track of, it will take me a while to get to figure out who everyone is. But I like their promotional formula of having one match at the top of the card for a title or title shot (for boxing fans) and a "heat fight" between two people who claim to or really do hate each other (for wrestling fans). Although the "heat fight" last time was a disappointment to the 95% of the country that wanted to see Matt Hughes choke out Matt Serra, UFC 99 looks promising. Watch the promotional trailer. While the promotion for the first fight gets lost in all the weight class babble, the "heat fight" in the undercard looks very interesting. Marcus Davis is an Irish-American like yours truly who fights a lot in England. Dan Hardy is a real british guy...my favorite word gets dropped right before the 8th minute mark.
On second thought maybe "Dick and Douchebag" fight might be a better name. I'm hooked
I love the NFL, watch as many games as I can every Sunday and Monday. I love college football even more, watch more of it than just about anyone I know. Yet somehow the NFL Draft Weekend is like a night out with co-workers. An event you can get really hyped for that always seems to fall flat. And I realized this weekend the blame for that falls on the coverage of both the draft and college football itself.
ESPN added a four hour pre-draft special to compensate for the change in time from 12 noon to 4pm. What they did with that time was some human interest stories and a rundown of NFL teams needs. After each pick Mel Kiper runs down each picks talents and the reasons why he slipped to where he did, then their NFL commentators would discuss the NFL team needs again and if they made the right pick to address them. This year they wasted thousands of dollars on a CNN-like "Smart Board" so Michael Smith could drag names and discuss each teams draft with a broad brush. A neat effect but I couldn't figure out the point as opposed to just reading a CG.
What most college football fans want to know is why the players at the top are there. To them Matthew Stafford was an underachieving Georgia Quarterback who choked against Alabama, almost threw away the Capital One Bowl, and held up an empty keg before a summer concert. A lot of them may have never heard of Aaron Curry. What makes Stafford and Curry better NFL prospects than players like Chase Daniel and Rey Maulauga who were better known in college. I feel ESPN and NFL Network assume us to know this when it would be very interesting to have explained.
Also, how do I go through an entire college football season barely ever seeing Jason Smith or Aaron Curry? If they are can't miss NFL prospects wouldn't NFL fans want to see more Baylor and Wake Forest games for this reason? Furthermore, since most big time college football games have at least one or two NFL prospects in them, wouldn't it be wise to showcase these players to let fans know who the future of the NFL is?
Also, wouldn't it be smart to keep fans interested by keeping a record of a "Best Player Picked" graphic at each selection. Wouldn't Rams fans be more interested in their 6th round pick at 196 if they knew that Terrell Davis was once taken with that pick?
I should enjoy the NFL Draft a lot more than I do, and if ESPN can refresh its coverage I could enjoy it more.
Dan Greco Wedding Blog Day 4: A Brush with Fame, A Celebration of Love, and the Beach Race Challenge
Dan and Kristin’s wedding day started with a call from Josh claiming a brush with fame. “Randy from My Name is Earl is in the lobby here in the hotel…its gotta be him”. Now Dean Karnazes might be mistakable but Ethan Suplee doesn’t have that many lookalikes. However I don’t watch enough “My Name is Earl” to make a 100% confirmation. The fact that he wore sunglasses the whole time and spent his entire time by the pool holding his daughter’s hand lays credence to the fact that indeed a C List Celebrity was staying with us at the Sand Pearl. Josh had the idea of inviting him to Dan’s wedding but needless to say he never got that close.
I figure you’ve had enough gripping stories of laying out by the pool and swimming and that’s just about the afternoon so let’s move ahead to before the wedding. Scott meets me at the hotel as we try to figure out putting on tuxes. You’d think we’ve been in enough weddings to have this figured out by now but neck ties, vests and those buttons that go inside the buttons always give me trouble.
We headed up to Dan’s waiting room and as soon as the elevator opens we see, maybe the hottest girl in the entire hotel. We walk past her and not a second after I make a side comment to Scott about her hotness, she chased us down. “Hey Guys, I’m the videographer, are you with the Greco wedding?, make sure he knows I want to get video of you guys putting on your boutonnieres”. Of course I make sure she’s well behind us before I say to Scott “she can get video of me putting on a condom if she wants”. She probably didn’t.
The ceremony was gorgeous, on the beach close to sunset. The only thing that could’ve ruined it was Jason Segel coming out saying “Beach Wedding in Florida…how original!”. What was a nice touch is that the pastor giving the ceremony was mic’ed up so you could hear everything he said throughout the beach and pool area, giving Kristin and Dan some extra spectators for their vows. Dan cried, they kissed, they poured Unity Sand into a glass (replacing the unity candle which would’ve blown out by the beach, and would have been a troubling omen).
Pictures after the ceremony seemed to take forever so we were cooped up in Dan and Kristin’s bridal suite which was insane (two floors, full kitchen, HDTV, and oh yeah an intercom system) , we were so hungry we were eating leftover food from the Bridesmaid’s brunch. Megan asks me for my full name as to write it down like she’s preparing a list.
During the rehearsal dinner Jeff made a list of interpretive dances for us in the bridal party to do during our introductions. Those who know Jeff from his famous dance offs with Vabilla, know The Typewriter, The Shopping Cart, and Glamour Shots. I choose The Q-Tip (wax one ear, wax the other ear, throw away, throw away). We lined up right outside the reception hall and were ready to be introduced. The order is the shortest to longest My bridesmaid and I were the first to be introduced. ..or so we thought.
The first name introduced was not mine but rather Eric Banta, Dan’s longtime friend from High School. However so as to not confuse anyone else I agree to walk ahead and do my Q-Tip dance and take my place in the confused dance hall (Kevin yelled at the bandleader that she was screwing up the introductions, then went back to checking the Villanova score). After that were two more groomsmen and bridesmaids and then the bandleader was about to introduce Dan and Kristin, not knowing SHE SKIPPED THREE SETS OF NAMES. The music stopped and the bandleader ran back and reportedly threw a shit fit at the wedding planner even though she fucked up the list. To restore order the unannounced groomsmen and bridesmaids just walked into the hall unannounced to applause. Oh my, this band has nowhere to go but up.
While Dan and Kristin had their first dance (to Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours, their song, not mine), the most memorable would be between Jeff (our present danceoff champion) and Kristin’s cousin Jonathan, a trained student of cabaeira (sp?). While Jeff’s interpretive dances were nice and funny. Jonathan trounced him by doing everything including sliding on his head. This wasn’t even close.
You’ve heard enough about food and drink, and of course there was that at the wedding. The band eventually made the people forget how they botched the introductions but let’s just say I would have gladly have taken Booyasteez at half the price. A minor complaint on what was a lovely and fun night.
We headed back to the Bridal Suite for the afterparty, and yet more food and drink. I broke out the straw hat again, as it might have been the last time I get to wear it for a while. During the afterparty we remembered there is still one loose end to tie…the Beach Race Challenge.
Jeff stripped down to a tank top and biker shorts. Scott kept his pants on. Both men were ready, both men set, and we’re off! However as Jeff gets a lead step, Scott puts much too much weight forward and tumbles into the sand of Clearwater Beach. Jeff sprints on to victory as a despondent Scott laid out on the beach recording a DNF in a race where really, there were no winners.
The grand finale of one of the greatest weekends ever was Jeff taking the intercom from the Bridal Suite to sing some of his favorites for 15 minutes, for a segment we called Jeff XM. As you can see I found it hilarious.
It’s appropriate that the man who had more of a part than anyone in introducing to some of the best friends I have now, get the most memorable experience of any wedding I’ve been to yet. Thank you Dan and Kristin Greco, congratulations!
Dan Greco Wedding Blog Day 3: Relaxin and Rehearsin
Friday morning meant a transition of hotels, from the perfectly fine Holiday Inn on the water to the insanely ridiculous Sand Pearl Resort. A ***** star resort that is a long way for a group that used to pack 8 into the Empire Motel in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The time had come for us to live a life way above our paygrade, at least for two days.
After checking in we sit down for lunch at the Clear Sky Café, a place that Jeff and Meg enjoyed on a previous trip to Clearwater. Of course they have Grouper Sandwich, Cuban Panini, and a TV with ESPN and you know who on in the patio. I get the club sandwich, as I’ve never been disappointed by a club sandwich.
I’m sure you want to know about the Sand Pearl and it was everything you’d expect. All the amenities, gym, spa, HDTV, huge pool and hot tub, and service staff who are so nice its almost embarrassing, its easy to forget when looking at room rates, just what a luxury resort experience is like.
Among the perks is an activities desk where you could sign out or rent everything from ping pong paddles to jet skis. We ask for a football, and the gentlemen gladly gives us one but just asks us to keep it out of the pool.
We headed straight for the pool, to go toss the ball around (along with everybody else that borrowed a football from the activities desk). It is there we met Jim Lane, Dan’s longtime fraternity brother and Best Man of the wedding, also one of the most competitive people we know. So Jeff and Jim throw the football back and forth while I scope out “cougars” at the pool (and at a place like this, you’re sure to find some). Eventually Jeff was throwing the ball at some young kids about 8 and under who were jumping into the pool throwing the football. Jim decides this looks like fun and stands with the 8 year olds hoping to jump and catch the football. I regret I have no pictures of this as it was quite the visual.
I leave early as I need to get ready for the wedding rehearsal. Because there’s nothing more necessary than practicing a wedding. I think wedding rehearsals are more for the bride and groom to be assured that everyone will show up and nobody will do anything embarrassing. I’ll spare you the anticipation, there were no prospects in Kristin’s bridal party. Everyone was either taken or way way too young. Both bridal parties were paired tallest to shortest, with yours truly picking up the rear in Dan’s group. The good news coming out of the rehearsal is the Pastor promises a short ceremony, which in 90 degree heat in a tuxedo coat is always a plus.
The Rehearsal Dinner is held at the Bob Heilman’s Beachcomber Restaurant. I have no idea who Bob Heilman is but I went anyway. The dessert is Baked Alaska, which I know I’ll like since I like Sarah Palin and I choose New York Strip Steak as my main course as well I like steak, if not New York. Scott and Sharman joined us but Scott was thrilled when an older couple (liberals who definitely met in the 60s) sit with us and distract Sharman with Dick Cheney bashing and stimulus (not stimulating) talk. This allows Scott to talk about UFC and the Beach Race Challenge with Josh and myself.
As if paying for the Cooters dinner and sending us to the Phillies game wasn’t thanks enough. Dan tries to thank all of us in a speech during the dinner. Emotions understandably overcome him and Kristin is forced to take over. A shining example of why these two are now married.
The nightcap was Jeff getting obnoxiously drunk on Tanqueray and Tonics he could charge to the room leading to more hype with Scott for the Beach Race Challenge. Besides Jeff and Scott, the rest of us were excited enough for the event that brought us together, to take place the next day…the wedding of Kristin Smith and Dan Greco.
Dan Greco Wedding Blog Day 2: The Day Someone Disrespected the Pizza Parlor
On our cab ride from the airport, our Haitian cab driver, who did not have AIDS as far as we knew (ok, we never actually asked) couldn’t tell us any of the nightspots on Clearwater Beach but was savvy enough to point out the original Hooters on Route 60 in Clearwater. We made it a point to visit there on our way to the Phillies-Nationals Spring Training game which we had tickets to that day thanks again to Dan.
Working 9-5, I don’t get to watch much daytime ESPN during the week. Apparently, however all ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNews does during that time is take one story and give everyone on the payroll a chance to discuss it until the story has completely been beaten to shit.
Did I mention the Broncos declared they were open to trading Jay Cutler?
So we get to Original Hooters, some of the girls were wearing T-Shirts, one of them definitely worked there when it opened, our waitress is going through the motions and footage of Jay Cutler was on every TV. At least I would get some fried pickles and chicken wings to enjoy. The fried pickles were recommended and I’ve only had them twice, this time and at the Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, Tennessee. These were second to that saved by the delicious blooming onion sauce. The Chipotle BBQ wings we ordered were boneless “naked” and “on the grill”. Well when you order that you end up with nuggets of grilled chicken in sauce. We convinced ourselves we were having a healthy lunch to overcome our disappointment.
We leave Jay Cutler and Original Hooters to get to the game already in progress. The World Series trophy is on display for photo opportunities and Jeff and Kevin instantly become erect. The game itself was a fun one to watch. We had great seats behind home plate, sitting with some middle-aged groupies.
A lot of regulars played Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and some guy Jeff kept calling “Chooch”, a lot of home runs were hit. The Phillies lost 12-10 as Jamie Moyer may have had the outing that convinced him this was his last year in baseball.
During the game, Catherine spotted a familiar face. She explained to us that it was ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes. We spot him wearing an ING Direct running shirt and give her the encouragement needed to go up and ask if he was indeed Dean Karnazes. Despite her certainty, when she asks the gentlemen if he is Dean Karnazes, the gentlemen claims not to be. Josh and Jeff speculate if he was indeed Dean Karnazes and didn’t want to draw attention to himself. I couldn’t share in this theory because 1) If you were Dean Karnazes, and one person out of 4,000 knew who you were and asked to take a picture, especially someone who looks like Catherine, why would you refuse the picture? Because you’re just too much of a celebrity? I doubt it 2) If Dean Karnazes loves running so much he runs 100 miles at a time, why would he stop doing so on a Thursday afternoon to watch a Phillies-Nationals Spring Training game? Anyway.
I left the group to head with Dan, his father, brother-in-law and Best Man Jim Lane to get fitted for our tuxes. We got our tuxes at Men’s Wearhouse, which has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is if your party is from all over the country, so everyone can get fitted and the information can be stored online. The disadvantage is they always fuck something up. And for Dan, his father, brother-in-law, they did. Luckily mine fit perfectly and I was then excited for the wedding itself.
On the way back, I found out Jay Cutler was traded to the Bears, he’s not going away anytime this weekend.
Dinner on Thursday was at this sit-down large pizza restaurant about a half mile from the Holiday Inn. They had the Penn State-Baylor NIT Championship on, a game which not even Jeff cared about, until the whole restaurant oohed at what happens at the 47 second mark of the clip below.
However, that wasn’t the biggest scene of the dinner. A couple minutes later we hear running footsteps and a slamming screen door, then someone screaming “catch that man” and two more sets of running footsteps. While we were eating, a guest being led to his table, on his way pushed open the cash register and ran out with a stash of cash. The family next to us was shaken by the whole incident enough to order their food to go and the cops were seen taking down information unable to catch the “Pizza Bandit”. An interesting dinner to say the least.
Out at Shepherd’s, a night complex with a Tiki Bar, Lounge, and Night Club all next to each other, we met up with Scott and his wife Sharman. Sharman was meeting Josh, Catherine, Kevin and Jeff for the first time and cordialities were exchanged, however not soon after seeing one another Scott and Jeff’s competitive alter-egos took over. Scott pontificated that he could beat Jeff in a footrace in sand and they should challenge this a la Rocky and Apollo Creed in Rocky III (which is a little homoerotic to be emulated in my opinion). The “Beach Race Challenge” is on.
Dan and Kristin also joined us, along with Kristin’s sister Megan. And I haven’t mentioned much about Kristin because normally she is on the shy side. However you get a couple drinks in her and she becomes a different person. Kristin gets drunk enough to give me drinks than proceed to make me drink them like I was pledging, oops I mean associating, all over again. Megan is all about this as she is like Kristin except without the shy side.
We took our party into the lounge to end the night and to be honest, that’s probably where we should’ve been all night long. The lounge band was a hip-hop cover band that I am going to call “Booyasteez” as that’s what all their shirts said. They played electrifying versions of “Sexy Back” and “Low” by Flo Rida, where they loved to interject with the instruction to “Smack Dat Ass”. This kept Megan and me laughing too hard to dance.
By now everyone has arrived and the vacation was in full swing. I was wondering if our Hooters lunch was in fact healthy, if "not Dean Karnazes" was wishing he pretended to be, what the guy who ran off with the Pizza Parlor’s cash was doing with his friends, and when I could hear some more “Boo Ya Steez”. Truthfully I was wondering how this weekend could get any better.
Dan Greco Wedding Blog Day 1: The Search for Good Cooters
As a sophomore at Syracuse University, I decided to rush the Fraternity system, hoping to find friends for life but more importantly to get laid while I was in college. When I entered the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house, I didn’t know if Lambda Chi was necessarily the best fit for me to accomplish these things. Then one of the brothers sat me down and recruited me like a ***** QB prospect out of Florida. Dan Greco recruited me into Lambda Chi and although only half of that house became long time friends, Dan is absolutely part of that half. We have been friends to the extent that I didn’t give going to or being in his wedding a second thought when he decided to get married 13 years later.
When he told me that wedding would be held in Clearwater Beach, Florida, I immediately thought this was my chance to go on vacation somewhere nice. You see, when your friends live in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, when you go on vacation to visit them and tell your co-workers none of them blink an eye or get the slightest bit jealous. The weeks leading up to this trip, needless to say that changed. The wedding and the four days of the trip lived up to all expectations and then some…
Day 1: Wednesday
I flew Southwest to Florida, and if you haven’t traveled in the past six months, let me advise you; EVERYONE FLIES SOUTHWEST NOW. So many people that the line for the baggage check-in was long enough that I almost missed my flight, I took a lesser known security line and a roundabout way to my gate to make the flight never taking advantage of my B22 Boarding Pass I printed the night before. Bottom line is I made my flight but it was close.
I met up with Josh and his friend from work Catherine at the airport as our flights got in within a half hour of each other. The people at Woodway know Catherine as the one who does all the work while her boss is researching for his fantasy football draft.
While the Sand Pearl Resort, the location of the wedding is a beautiful resort, it is also $350 a night meaning we needed less swank arrangements for the days before. Therefore we check in to the Hotel Motel Holiday Inn (granted we upgraded to a suite upon arrival) but we got a coveted gulf view and a balcony overlooking the pool. While this is all great, by the time we check in its past 1 and all of us are starved. We asked the cute Southern belle at the front desk where to eat and she gives us the easy answer, Frenchy’s.
There are something like 18 Frenchy’s all independently owned, yet all serving the same shit. You figure that out. Frenchy’s and most every restaurant on Clearwater Beach has three featured items. Shock Top beer, which is like Blue Moon except more orangey, delicious at $2.50 a pint. A Cuban Panini, which is pork, salami, ham and cheese on flatbread. And Grouper, the local fish. You can have Grouper Sandwich, Grouper Cheeks, Fried Grouper, Grilled Grouper, Blackened Grouper, Grouper on a Stick, Popcorn Grouper, Jumbo Grouper…okay I’m exaggerating but I think if we went to McDonald’s they would’ve had a McGrouper. Every restaurant in Clearwater had to serve Grouper, it must’ve been the law. I had the Cuban, and it like everything I eat on vacation was delicious.
On the way back Josh said “You look like a Country music singer, and they get laid…they get laid a lot”. Maybe we could meet up with some late Spring Breakers.
The week of my vacation, the Broncos openly declared that they were shopping Jay Cutler, more on this later.
The next four hours were Josh, Catherine and I laying out by the pool and the gulf getting sun in 85 degree weather. I will try not to taunt you all with those details but it was a big part of what we did.
Jeff and his wife Meg, greet us at the Holiday Inn. Not five minutes after we all get in the pool does Jeff try to choke me out in the deep end in the pool. That’s what I like about Jeff, he’s so nice. Jeff’s wife Meg is pregnant and I’ve heard spending time in the pool can accelerate labor. She’s due in August so let’s hope she spends a lot of time in the pool so that baby comes out before the fantasy football draft. It’s good to have your priorities in order.
After getting dressed, we met up with the future Bride and Groom as well as Kevin Leitzell and his father. Kevin had been in Clearwater all week orally servicing following his Philadelphia Phillies Spring Training. We let Jeff lead us to find a dinner spot, this if you have to be told was a mistake.
Our first try was a Japanese Steakhouse, even got as far as sitting down and reading menus. Unfortunately if you didn’t like sushi or anything Japanese, your only option was a $30 steak. We got up and tried other options. After Jeff tried to take us to a small pizza place and a Chinese restaurant we see bright lights and a word no man could resist, Cooters.
Cooters was everything we wanted. Everything fried, including Grouper. Tequila Wings, Gator Bites, Buffalo Nachos. American Idol on the television (I’ll miss Megan Joy, some couldn’t get over the Arm Sleeve, but I appreciated her big picture, thinking you could always tuck the arm under a sheet), the jukebox going back and forth from Journey’s Greatest Hits and Doors Greatest Hits. It was everything great about America in one restaurant.
The dinner was a fantastic start to what would be an all-time weekend. Dan as a gesture to thank us for coming down paid the tab as we pretended to be upset. Well all of us except Josh. It was a great gesture by a great man, one well worth traveling for.
My friend Dan Greco, who recruited me into the failed Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and has remained my friend since, got married earlier this month in beautiful Clearwater Beach, Florida. Dan, who is best known for his love of making fantasy football trade proposals, proposed a trade of a wedding ring to Kristin Smith in exchange for a lifetime commitment and unlike most of the rest of the owners in our league, she actually accepted a trade proposal from Dan. As tends to be the case with destination weddings, not everyone could attend. So as a service to those people, and because it was that good of a time, I am doing my most detailed wedding blog yet.
Starting Tuesday, the FOUR PART Dan Greco Wedding Blog will appear on The Pizza Parlor. Check everyday this week for updates...