Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Mavericks Media Day Musings

37-year old Jason Kidd equated Mavericks media day to the first day of school.  Perfect analogy.  It's the first time many of these players have seen each other since the season ended.  Everyone has a bit of that youthful exuberance that comes with a new year.  They players are all in great moods and optimistic about their chances this season.  Hugs, air-kisses and buzz cuts galore.  More on that final one in a moment.

Every player got the memo to stress how deep the team is.  Four different players told me that three to four of their bench players could start elsewhere.

Shawn Marion is expected to be one of those bench players.  He's been a starter his whole career and admits that a shift to the bench will be hard.  But he adds, in only the way Marion can, that if it works he's down with it. 

A few more observations:

*Dirk Nowitzki is always in a great mood to start media day.  This year, perhaps, even better.  No offseason drama or huge news regarding any players this season, except for his free agent deal.  Nowitzki traveled this summer and didn't pick up a basketball for three and a half months, the longest he's ever gone without touching a ball.  He played a lot of tennis and ran but no basketball.  He started shooting a few weeks ago and said he had a hard time finding his shot.  I still can't believe he would struggle handling a basketball.

*Rodrigue Beaubois' English is improving.  This is a good thing considering he needs to be vocal when he's on the floor.  He was out of his walking boot, wearing tennis shoes and seemed to be walking well.  He's been doing a ton of rehab work, stationary bike and watching film after breaking his foot this summer.  He just started shooting but has a hard time because he can't jump.  The entire team is optimistic he can be back by early November.

*Caron Butler definitely looks leaner.  His infamous offseason workout regime in Chicago has been well-chronicled.  The workouts weren't necessarily the hard part.  For him, the diet was a bitch (to which I say, welcome the world of women everywhere).  Butler is a Mountain Dew addict.  Giving up sodas was one of the hardest things he had to do.  He told me his trainer had people at his hotel spying on him.  If he wanted to cheat and order pancakes from room service - not happening.

*Tyson Chandler is perhaps one of the nicest NBA players I've ever met.  He says he's as healthy as he felt in years and expects to be a vocal, enforcing presence in the middle for Dallas.

*The Mavericks want to reduce minutes for Nowitzki and Kidd.  But like Kidd told me, "every year that's the goal." Good intentions.  Let's see if it happens this season.  Kidd is sort of the teacher this year.  Call Kidd Mr. Morita, if you will, with Roddy B, Dominique Jones, even JJ Barea still serving as young grasshoppers.

*Head Coach Rick says the Mavericks need to be better at home.   Dallas was 28-13 last season.  He wants to see that win total north of 30, shooting for a mark of at least "31 or 32".

*And speaking of the head coach, Carlisle is sporting a new look: a buzz cut.  Your thoughts?

Many of the said they preferred longer-locked Carlisle.  Roddy B was smart and issued a "no comment" when I asked him about it.

Apparently Carlisle is into it, giving Mavs photo guru Danny Bollinger a close-crop cut as well.  Still hunting for pics on those.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Are There Football Spies Among Us? TCU Thinks So

TCU's Gary Patterson thinks there's a spy in the college football ranks.  Not quite 007-style but he does think the Baylor Bears got an edge on Saturday in something that someone saw at a Frog practice or scrimmage.

Patterson says the Bears ran a particular play against his team that has only been run by one group.

"Our own offense," he said.  "When would you have seen that?  Sometime in the spring in a scrimmage? Some other time?"

"I've been playing Art Briles going back to Houston and he's never lined up and ran a read option out of a double-wing, tight end formation, ever. But there's only team that ever has: our offense. So where would you see that?"

"People come to our scrimmages in the spring and the fall," he explaines. "There (are) a lot of guys that are ex-coaches now that can write down on a piece of paper how you defend each other."

It's one reason why he limits media access to practice.  Like most programs do, TCU only allows media members to attend and shoot practice during particular drills.  Practices are also, typically, closed to the public.  He admits he'd rather be overcautious in this area.

Even Patterson admitted he got some video from a newscast "five or six years ago" out of Lubbock that fired his kids up. "It's my job to help you do your jobs," he said referring to the media. "It's also my job to help my kids not get beat."

Patterson isn't the first coach to believe that there are football spies out there or that opposing teams can learn something from watching local newscasts.  When I covered the University of Tennessee, there was a rumor going around that a Vol scout was in Atlanta one weekend and saw something that the Bulldogs were working on in video used on an Atlanta affiliates 6pm newscast.

Who knows. 

The Cowboys took advantage of the Redskins a number of years ago when they charged admission to training camp.  Then-coach Dave Campo sent one of the Cowboys scouts to watch Redskins practice.  That Redskins game on September 18, 2000 resulted in Campo's first win, a game ball for the scout AND yours truly!

TCU vs SMU: The Lesson Gary Patterson Learned from the 2005 Loss

It's the battle for the Iron Skillet.  4th-ranked TCU puts its 3-0 record on the line when they play 2-1 SMU on Friday in University Park.  The Frogs will be the highest ranked opponent ever to visit Ford Stadium.

The Famous Skillet Getting Air-Time
Honestly, many of the current TCU players have no clue what the Iron Skillet is. 

"Isn't it something you cook in?" half-joked safety Tejay Johnson.

The trophy for the winner of this game was born after the post-WWII college football boom, according to both schools.  TCU and SMU students created the ceremonial trophy that was given to the game's winner.  The tradition died but was resurrected in 1993.

TCU's Gary Patterson has only lost once to SMU in his ten years as the Frogs head coach.  That one loss came on September 10, 2005 when the then-Phil Bennett coached Ponies beat TCU 21-10, ending the school's six-game win streak over the Mustangs.  It was the Frogs only loss of the season. 

The loss came a week after TCU had upset 5th ranked Oklahoma in Norman.  Let down game?  Trap game?  What happened the week between the OU win and the SMU loss?  Patterson explained during his weekly media briefing on Tuesday.

"The mistake I made is that I shouldn't have let anybody come to my practice," Patterson said.  "I was asked by my marketing group if I would allow media to come see our team because nobody had really showed up and we'd been 5-6 before in 2004."

"I let people come down and talk to my players on the field after practice on Sunday and treat them like celebrities.  That's the way they played all week.  They didn't concentrate they didn't do anything they needed to do to get ready for the ballgame."

So is Patterson doing anything differently this week, after the win over Baylor?  Well considering it's a short week and the game is this Friday, they'll be in shorts all week.  Patterson has found it keeps them fresher when they don't have a full week between games.  Another lesson learned.
Monday, September 20, 2010

Cowboys Locker Room Report: Don't Believe the Hype

That's what a number of Cowboys players were trying to tell the media today, doing their best to channel Public Enemy.  Unfortunately, I don't think we're the ones that need convincing of that.

Safety Gerald Sensabaugh brought up the fact that the Cowboys are constantly mentioned in the same breath as this year's Super Bowl.  Receiver Roy Williams alluded to it, as well. 

To that you have to ask - isn't it the Cowboys themselves that are doing it?  Remember quarterback Tony Romo on stage at the Cowboys training camp kickoff party in San Antonio telling fans that he would "See them at the Super Bowl!!!!!".
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pet Friendly Paradise: Hotels That Get it Right

MSNBC has a nice little piece on pet-friendly hotels in the U.S.  While I haven't stayed at any of the properties profiled, I have braved the plane hell and hotel hassle of bringing my dog with me on the road and found some great options.

Birdie in San Antonio
All Kimpton properties are pet friendly.  I brought my dog, Birdie, to Seattle where we stayed in the Alexis Hotel   which is within walking distance to Pike Place market.  It was fabulous.  They had a gourmet dog-bone welcome gift for Birdie, as well as their own beautiful lab on staff.

From Seattle we stayed at the Pacific Palisades hotel in Vancouver, another Kimpton property which welcomed us with open arms.  Birdie's gift was a simple little travel dog bowl from Ikea.  They were nice enough to decorate it and it's become our travel bowl for her any time we're on the road.  It was a cheap little item that the staff put some effort into making special.  Smart gesture on their part as it has become a lasting, warm memory for our family.

Many more pet-friendly hotels come to mind.  Birdie has visited the Hotel San Jose in Austin, a few Ritz-Carlton properties, the Omni Hotel in Corpus Christi and Hotel ZaZa in Houston where she got on tv when a local station did a story profiling hotels that have "gone to the dogs".

We've also stayed in New York's Waldorf-Astoria, where the doormen absolutely fell in love with Birdie.  I was surprised at how accommodating they were.  They were just fabulous. 

The security guards at a particular office building on Park Avenue didn't appreciate it, however, when she decided to use the bathroom on their greenspace outside the skyscraper (of course, we picked it up!) When a dog's gotta go, she just has to go.

Some Advice: 
Check the hotel's website regarding its pet policy but go the extra step to call the property directly.  With Kimpton properties, you know they are pet friendly but you still have to let them know you are coming with your pet.  Also some hotels use their own discretion.  The Waldorf-Astoria's website said one thing, while the representative from the hotel said another.

Some hotels charge crazy-high fees while others allow pets for free.  It's on a hotel by hotel basis and it's always better to call the property and get a contact name of a hotel representative in case there's any discrepancy or confusion.
Thursday, September 2, 2010

Travel Tips For Women Who Travel Alone

Travel tips for single women, travel tips for women traveling alone
Taking a selfie, before it coo, at Parc de la Cuitadella during a solo trip to Barcelona in 2008

The New York Times focused on the rise of solo travel recently and how the industry is reacting to it. People who are afraid of traveling alone befuddle me.  By virtue of having to live and work all over the world for the sake of my real job, I've never had a fear of going anywhere or doing anything by myself.

A girlfriend of mine thinks I'm crazy but it's a matter of not wanting to wait.  I don't have the luxury of a flexible schedule so when I have the free time, I jump on a plane.  I don't want to wait for a friend or a boyfriend to go with me.  By most accounts, my single girls who won't go anywhere alone want a boyfriend or husband to take them.  If I'd waited for that, I would have never left Dallas!

Antoni Gaudi, Solo Travel
La Perdera, Barcelona

The great thing about going it alone is that you can do absolutely whatever you want.  Want to sleep till noon and have a theme-park dinner at 10pm in the Tivoli Gardens?  No problem.  Plan to spend all day on the Mediterranean Sea?  You can.  Want to sit at that cafe right off the Seine River and people watch in Paris for two hours, you can and no one will complain.  There is no one to tell you can't.  It's the ultimate freedom.

You meet the most fascinating people.  I had dinner with the actual Pep, of Barcelona's famed Cal Pep restaurant one night.  He was busy but spent time with during dinner at his magnificent restaurant explaining the dishes in broken English.    

 From Balcony at Les Ombres
I've lived in Guam, vacationed in Tel Aviv, run a half marathon in Jerusalem and jetted to Barcelona and Paris all solo, not to mention countless solo sojourns for work.  I would do it time and again but there are some definite things a single chick on the go should do to make sure she's around to do it again.

Keep It Close and Closed
When strolling solo through Barcelona's Gothic Quarter or gawking at the Eiffel Tower, you'll be alone in a sea of people.  First and foremost, keep your purse closed and tucked securely under your arm.  I don't bring a big backpack, for many reasons, but for the purposes of being safe it's impractical.  A pickpocket or thief can grab something out of one of those zipper pockets even if it's securely closed with safety pin or other attachment.  I carry a nice mid-size bag, nothing too big or too small, and keep it closed at all times. Barrington Gifts Stadium Crossbody bag or GiGi New York's Madison Crossbody are great for touring a city.

Don't Carry Your Entire Wallet 
Tallin, Estonia
I have a little cigarette holder and while I have never smoked, it's the perfect credit card and cash holder.  I always bring that along with me when out and about.  I fill it with one credit card (not that ATM card, keep that separate), a copy of my passport and some local currency.  I usually don't exchange currency.  I have an international ATM card that charges significantly less fees and commissions when changing money so I generally just get local currency through an ATM.  That is a separate trip I will make in the morning while I am out getting coffee or breakfast.  With your mini-wallet,  if you do have the unfortunate luck of it getting lifted, at least not everything is gone.  Carry just one card and some cash for the day. 

Don't Bling It

This is a tough one for me.  One of the few things in the world I love as much as traveling is jewelry.  Sue me.....I have jewelers in my family.  But when overseas or traveling solo, I wear the less expensive goods.  I have a great big shell ring, some silver pieces and beaded necklaces that I bring.  None of the good stones or really nice watches.  With a lot of sparkles on your hands or ears, you will stick out like a sore thumb and in a bad way.  You will attract attention of potential pickpockets, gypsies or others who might think you a good candidate to rob, attack or do something even worse.  Don't do it.  It's just not worth it.

RELATED: Chic travel jewelry.

Old City, Jerusalem, Israel
Old City, Jerusalem

Dress Appropriately
I learned this the hard way.  I was walked through Jerusalem's Old City and got terribly lost.  I was wearing an outfit that, honestly, was pretty conservative for me: a long-sleeved knit top, denim skirt and closed-toe shoes.  Having my legs exposed as I was unknowingly walking towards the Muslim Quarter was the mistake of a lifetime.  I had men sneering at me and hurling words I didn't understand towards me.  Finally, it took a sweet, little 12-year old to clue me in. 

"You must stop," he said.

"I'm just trying to get out of here," I replied.

"No," he responds.  "You are not Muslim.  That is the Muslim Quarter.  You are not allowed."

Light bulb moment.  Message understood.

Walking back to my hotel, I got more awful comments thrown my way by a variety of men.  It was really one of the most uncomfortable experiences I've ever had.  The rest of the trip, it was jeans and long-sleeved shirts.

Don't Let Them Know You're Solo
Part of the fun of traveling solo is that you meet a variety of people and end up chatting with some lovely folks.  Some, though, not so lovely.  Don't let them know you're alone.  If some inquiring mind asks you why you're eating alone, or hiking by yourself, just say you're visiting your dad or that your brother is back at the hotel.  My father actually lives in Israel and spent a few days of my time there with me.  He didn't have the stamina to run around with me all day, so I would be alone most of the time.  The "dad at the hotel line" worked quite a bit for me when dealing with those guys. 

What About You? 
Are you a solo traveler? Is there a place you're dying to visit by yourself? I would love to explore Rome solo. Have a question about visiting a city solo? Email me.