Wednesday, February 3, 2010

2010 January Trip Summary

I'm back in Japan and suffering from sports withdrawal. So it's time to look back on the two and a half weeks that comprised my first extended sports journey in some time.

Toronto's Trying Travels

The purpose of the trip was so see the Leafs in 4 road games, which I did. I expected 3 points out of 8, which is what I got. In fact, back in October I had told a friend that I have a goal of seeing the Leafs lose in every NHL city and I expect to add 3 or 4 on this trip. Well, I got 3, and that brings the total to 11 (Toronto, Vancouver, Philadelphia, LA, Anaheim, San Jose, New Jersey, Buffalo, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Florida).

Hey, when you are a Leaf fan, low expectations leaves little room for disappointment. Of course, now that they've made those trades, I'm expecting playoffs in 2011!

1-goal (point) games

I saw 7 NHL games and 3 minor league hockey games. All but one were decided by a goal. No points for guessing which team lost 2-0 to ruin the perfect streak. I also saw 3 NBA games, all of which were decided on the final play, and all three were the lead story on ESPN that evening. I really didn't think about this during the trip, but I was quite fortunate to get such a run of competitive and enjoyable games, and I doubt such a streak will happen in my future trips.


I drove 2,414 miles over the 15 days I had the car, which isn't much at all, about 160 miles per day. But that's about right for a regional roadtrip - somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 miles per week. Most of the driving was on interstates, I averaged 55 mph, which means 44 hours spent in the car. I spent $203 on gas, so each mile cost 8.4 cents. The car, a Chevy Cobalt, averaged 33.1 MPG for the trip, which isn't bad.

I was on the road for 18 days and saw 16 events in 4 sports and 12 venues. I checked into 12 hotels during that time, all had wifi, although in one case it didn't work and in one case it wasn't free. Back in 2001, I was using dial up to update my site, was it ever a pain trying to find hotels that had free local calls. It is amazing how much things have changed in such a short time. In fact, I bought an iPhone the day before I left - despite being locked in to a Japanese service plan, you can use it with wifi without charge, so I was able to plan my driving routes and store them on the iPhone. Back in 2001, before Google Maps, there was a lot of wrong turns and curse words, it seems like those are a thing of the past.

Travelers Cheques

One thing that hasn't changed much since my trip in 2001 is the difficulty in cashing traveler's cheques at banks. Hotels and restaurants accept them in small amounts as they are as good as cash once signed. But when I try to cash them at a bank that is recommended by American Express, I am asked "Do you have an account with us?" Umm, they are traveler's cheques. I am traveling. I do not live here. So no, I don't have an account. On one occasion, it took about 20 minutes for the teller to understand the concept. Being a Canadian living in Japan and traveling in the U.S. is still not that easy money-wise.

Annoying Fans

My usual rant about fans that just don't get it. I've never understood why people will pay a lot of money to watch a game, then get up and down repeatedly during the event to buy food or beers or whatever. During the Pens game on Sunday, I noticed several fans, sitting in great seats, missed the first 6 minutes of the second period as they were out getting their crappy food. It surprised me that you would be willing to miss 10 percent of an event, in particular to be overcharged for terrible food. Of course, when you return to your seats, you block the view of everyone behind you (who actually want to watch the game!) while you sidle in front of everyone who has to stand up to let you pass.

When you go to a movie, you buy your food before the film begins and you sit there for the entire thing. Hockey games are about 2.5 hours long, shorter than Avatar for example. You also get two 15-minute breaks during hockey games. So why not leave your seats then?

Why I like sports

OK, enough ranting. What is great about sports is that you can see the best in the world perform on a nightly basis. On this trip, I saw LeBron, D-Wade, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Vesa Toskala, among others. You can also see stars on their way up in the minor leagues. There's no other genre where you can do this; it's not easy to find out where Meryl Streep is shooting her latest film, gain access to the set, and then sit there watching her do take after take.

For me, what's exciting about sports is that the outcome of the event is unknown at the beginning. You never know what you're going to see, which is why I keep coming back.

What's Next

And I will keep coming back! Two more overseas trips are planned this year, both involving baseball. The first is in May to watch Toronto in Arizona. On either side I'll catch some minor league games in California and Nevada, as well as some MLB games in Oakland, Anaheim, and San Francisco. And perhaps some NHL playoff action should the Coyotes or Sharks be alive in the later rounds and the schedule lines up.

In July, I'll make a visit to Minneapolis to see the new Target Field. I'll also spend a few days in Iowa watching all of their minor league teams in action.

In Japan, I'll be trying to watch some soccer/baseball doubleheaders in Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Sapporo. As usual, the schedule will be updated online, so please have a look and let me know if you'll be in the area.


Finally, a word of thanks to a few people who made the trip memorable. First to Aunt Barb and Uncle Ed for their hospitality in Fort Myers. Great burgers!

To Gary and his Royalty Tours comrades The King, Rich, Mike, and Alicia for an enjoyable day in Pittsburgh - lots of fun meeting up again in a new city guys!

To Sharpy for putting up with me for a week; it's true that when we do a Toronto road trip the team undergoes some transformation afterwards.

To Mr. Jones, father of Predator Ryan Jones; thanks for the extremely informative conversation before the game. Hope you weren't ostracized too long for talking to us Leaf fans.

And most importantly, to everyone who's been reading this blog, thanks and hope you enjoyed it. I'll take a few days off but look to get back into the sports watching biz with a bj league game in Tokyo next week. Until then, have fun everybody!



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