Archive for the ‘60/30’ Category

Andrew Unterberger made his way to Portland. Here’s his first report from the West Coast…

North Dakota and Montana. Two lovely states, no doubt, with what I’m sure is a surfeit of rich history and true character. And I absolutely can not wait to never have to drive through them again. The 16 or so hours it took me to traverse these two were probably the most stressful times I’ve ever spent behind the wheel — not helped by the fact that a too-large chunk of them were consecutive and that the great majority of them were at night, of course, but between the screaming winds in North Dakota, the endless stretches of corkscrew turns in Montana, and the horrible road conditions in both, I nearly broke my jaw with my teeth-clenching. Near the end of ND, the winds were joined by a sleet flurry that I was heading into. I’ve never driven directly against any kind of snowstorm before, but it looked like taking an acid trip through an endless white Koosh ball — a serenely terrifying experience. (Depeche Mode’s “Waiting for the Night” accidentally provided the perfect soundtrack.)

Capping it all was getting a ticket for going nine miles per hour over the speed limit. during one of the rare moments when driving conditions were actually OK. Now this is not the first time I’ve ever gotten a speeding ticket, and I accepted it as something of an inevitability that I would get at least one over the course of my 10K miles across America. But in the past when I’ve received such citations, I at least felt like I earned them. To get one for going nine over was not just frustrating and humiliating, it was downright insulting. When the cop asked me if I knew that I was going that fast, I was so incredulous that I responded by saying something like. “Well, uh, yeah. Is that … bad?” Maybe it’s not such a terrible thing that I live in New York and have to take public transportation most of my life.

But despite the trials and tribulations that ensued in the 25 hours in between, I eventually made it from Minnesota to Portland, with about an hour to spare before the Blazers tipped off against the Jazz at the Rose Garden. On paper, at least, it was the best matchup of my trip thus far, and I had been assured that the crowd would be especially into it tonight. (“It’s gonna be intense at the [Garden] today,” a fan named Kate tweeted to me. “Everyone is crazy emotional about this team right now.”) Tough to beat Wolves-Clips for game action, but in terms of crowd response, a Portland elementary school assembly probably could’ve taken them down, so I was hoping for something of an inspiring turnout.

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Andrew Unterberger, Mr. 30 Arenas in 60 Days, went to a Timberwolves-Clippers game on purpose. He lived to tell his tale…

“You’ll be happy to know that no one in the Twin Cities is talking about the Timberwolves,” my friend REL told me as I called him to tell him I’d be coming to Minneapolis for a game at the Target Center. It seemed a fitting way as any to essentially end the first leg of my trip — after this one I head out West, never to return up north — with one more truly lousy team playing for one more truly sub-par home crowd. After eight games, the home teams of my trip were a combined 2-6, and only two (arguably three) of the crowds for the games were even respectably average-sized. And so, the logical climax — Timberwolves vs. Clippers on a Wednesday night at the Target Center. I was kinda pumped, personally.

Unfortunately, this was the first game that I had to miss a significant chunk of — I forgot that REL is maybe the only person I’ve ever met with a less reliable sense of direction and time than myself, and between the two of us, we managed to show up a half-hour late to a stadium ten minutes away. It wasn’t for naught, though — I got to try a Juicy Lucy-type burger at a local bar, which somehow managed to live up to its conceptually-flawless promise, and I also got to walk to the Center from our parking lot via Skyway, which gave me a much greater understanding of the Replacements song of the same name. (I had always envisioned it as an actual transportational device, though, like some sort of monorail/cable-car hybrid, rather than just a glorified indoor bridge. Oh well.)

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Andrew Unterberger, TBJ’s traveling correspondent, just watched the Lakers play in Milwaukee. Here’s what he thought…

Another trip to Chicago, another missed opportunity to go to Hot Doug’s. I know, I know, it’s great, it’s wonderful, it’s worth waiting in line for six hours to get to try. It’s also closed on Sunday, which was pretty much the only day I could have gotten there. Sorry Chicagoans, and everyone else who told me to go there — next time, hopefully. In the meantime, I did get a Chicago-style hot dog at a less-gourmet joint, and I continue to salute your people’s general philosophy of Put More Shit on That Shit when it comes to tube steaks. (Deep dish, we can get into the pros and cons for some other time.)

To Milwaukee was a much shorter trip than I realized (less than 90 minutes), which meant that I got to my hotel with more than enough time to watch the Eagles immolate the Redskins on Monday Night Football. After taking care of a beer-related errand for my roommate the next day (a six-pack of New Glarus’s Moon Man No Coast Pale Ale — not sure how to read most of that, but not bad) and getting set on my first laundry reboot of the trip (free guest washer and dryer — thank you, Econo Lodge), I took a quick Twitter poll and ended up with take-out from Culvers — a Swiss and Mushroom burger, fried cheese curds, a root beer and pumpkin pecan custard. I always assumed that if I was going to have some horrible fate befall on this trip, it would be in some highway accident caused by me forgetting to check my blind spot before changing lanes, but the more of these local fast-food haunts I patronize, it seems like the auto wreck might not even be necessary.

Soon thereafter, it was time to head to the Bradley Center to see the Bucks take on the Lakers. My seats were terrible, but my sparing attempts to give away the spare ticket I had (since my Wisconsin friend unexpectedly moved to West Virginia for a month) fell short, so at least I knew I’d have a lot of elbow room.

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60/30: No. 7, United Center

Andrew Unterberger is traveling all about North America, seeing basketball games. Here’s his report from Chicago…

Heading to the Windy City after a brisk autumn day in Indiana, I got a rude awakening to the fact that in some parts of the country, the weather had actually started to feel like November. Rather than use the brainpower to try to remember how I usually dressed in past years for cold and rainy weather, I figured I’d stick with the unzipped-sweatshirt-and-tee uniform that I’d more-or-less adopted for the first two weeks of my tour and just kind of gut it out. The decision had mixed results, to say the least, as I quickly remembered why I was so thrilled to be spending the great majority of the month of December driving around the deep south. Good thing I’m heading to balmy Milwaukee and Minnesota after this, I guess.

I met up with my friend Tal, an ex co-writer of mine at an online music magazine, and a big Bulls fan whose father had Bulls season tickets at near-courtside. Before the game, Tal was extremely eager to show me around Chicago, giving me an impromptu driving tour of his home city. Not only did I learn extensively about the city’s tallest buildings and geographical breakdowns, I got a quick crash-course in Chi-town radio, in particular classic-and-contemporary R&B radio station V103 (102.7), which Tal couldn’t stop raving about (and for fairly good reason). I also got to see the outside of Soldier Field for the first time, and was surprised how closely this legendary, old-school football arena resembled some sort of flying saucer. Guess it’s a post-millennial renovation thing, I dunno.

Anyway, it was quickly time to get out to the tightly-packed United Center to see the Bulls take on the Wizards, in a highly-anticipated showdown between two of the last three top-overall picks, and a couple of hoops kindred spirits in both style and background in Derrick Rose and John Wall. In terms of straight on-court action, it was probably my most highly-anticipated game of the trip thus far.

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Andrew Unterberger, TBJ’s traveling hoops correspondent, is somewhere in the Midwest, sending out his reports. Here’s the latest…

I got to Indiana a day early from Cleveland, and was able to catch most of the Thursday night games on TNT the night before I saw the Pacers play the Rockets at Conseco Fieldhouse. (I spend two months touring NBA arenas, and what do I start itching to be able to do again? Watch nationally televised hoops games at home. Sickening.) But at least I had the whole next day to spend in Indiana, and it was an absolutely beautiful day in the Midwest, a crisp, sunny 72, which I started off with a Hoosier tenderloin and root beer at the Mug n Bun Drive-In. (Under-utilized concept on the East Coast, the drive-in restaurant — it’s like having a picnic without having to abandon the creature-comforts of being indoors.)

On the advice of my friend Kyle, I swung by Lucas Oil Field, the Colts’ stadium (“Warrants at least one ‘<gasp> Holy hell is that huge,’” said he) and Hinkle Fieldhouse, home arena for the recent NCAA darling Butler Bulldogs. No kidding about Lucas Oil, which was being used for some sort of national Bands of America competition, turnout for which seemed better than for that of the Pacers game. Hinkle Fieldhouse was cooler, not only because I was able to go inside and take some pics (gorgeous hardwood court, fantastic color scheme), but because there was also free entertainment to be had by way of a nearby Butler soccer game, against heated Horizon League rivals Cleveland State. A perfect day to soak in a half of the other round-balled sport, though it was a bit of a culture shock after watching so many live hoops games — after CSU scored a goal, my neck reflexively craned to the non-existent JumboTron for a replay.

The whole day was a great appetizer for a Friday night hoops showdown, at a stadium that had been hyped to me as one of the best in the NBA.

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Andrew Unterberger, our traveling hoops correspondent, is making his way across the country slowly but surely. Here’s his latest missive…

After saying my goodbye to the Jonesers, I spent the last night of my stay in Toronto at a bar observing the finest that Canada had to offer in two of my favorite cultural institutions — sports television and karaoke. I caught the last couple hours of Court Surfing on TBJ’s very own The Score, which I found brilliant in concept — basically the Canadian, NBA-oriented equivalent of the NFL Network’s Red Zone, showing a number of different games intermittently depending on which are in the thick of action — but questionable in execution, especially considering that it neglected to show the fourth quarter and OT of a Heat-Jazz game that will likely go down as the best regular-season game of this NBA season. And after a Canuck-heavy beginning (Alanis and Barenaked Ladies, and not the super-obvious songs either), Canadian karaoke proved to be much like its American equivalent, overwhelmed by thoroughly unremarkable US-bred pop/rock (including Poison, Garth Brooks and back-to-back Matchbox Twenty songs). Alternately disturbing and strangely comforting, I suppose.

Anyway, the Canadian leg of my tour done with, I headed back to Cleveland for a Wednesday night game between the Cavaliers and Nets. On the Overdose last week, I expressed my excitement at the prospect of going to Quicken Loans Arena to witness a true NBA ghost town, shell-shocked by the loss of the player who had defined the franchise for most of the last decade, and whose departure took the team from title contender to lottery hopeful. But a funny thing happened in the week since — the Cavs won three straight games, posted ticket sales numbers that were among the best in the league, and became one of the feel-good stories of the young NBA season. Suddenly I wasn’t going to the Q to witness the walking wounded, but to cover a team one win away from being 5-3 — the very same record through eight games as those supposed title contenders, the Miami Heat.

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Andrew Unterberger, TBJ’s traveling basketball correspondent, was in Toronto last night for Raptors-Warriors. Here’s his report…

North of the border for the second time in two months — the first a jaunt to Montreal with friends a few months ago for some poutine and old-school Expos garb, the second a visit to Toronto last night to see the Raptors take on the Warriors. The good news is that I’m getting much better at handling the border questionings — my first trip over, I wilted under the (mostly imaginary) pressure and was seconds away from confessing to smuggling infractions I probably didn’t actually commit. Now I’ve got the routine down — short, unelaborative answers, and unwavering eye contact. You can’t scare me, you wannabe Mounties.

Of course, while I was in town, I met up with the good people of The Basketball Jones, who were gracious enough to show me around their new digs and to take me out to dinner at Real Sports, the It sports bar of downtown Toronto. Of course, the place was booked solid, so we ended up going to the nearby Hoops, which was sold to me as being “like Real Sports, but worse in every possible way.” Still, a meal on company dime is a meal on company dime, and I got to try Hoops’ official “Toronto Burger,” which included back bacon, definitively the second-most wonderful Canadian foodstuff not to sufficiently trickle its way down south.

Then to the ACC, where I’d be seeing the Warriors as an away team for the second game in a row. Couldn’t ask for a much better match-up, though — with the Warriors’ scoring-happy backcourt, and the Raptors’ defense-sad frontcourt, I was sure to get an entertaining contest, in the very least.

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