Monday, August 31, 2009

What's Up Homes? Network Director Edition

When you're an accomplished TV director, sitting in the big chair for top-notch NBA, college basketball, and college football programming, you can live pretty much anywhere you want. So why not the tranquil setting of Lake Norman in North Carolina?

It's just north of Charlotte, and just down the road from the impeccable campus of Davidson College. So what if there are still a few McCain-Palin '08 lawn signs up in the neighborhood?

The protagonist of this story is a little more progressive. He hob-nobs with the money behind the Edwards campaign. How'd that work out by the way?

Despite the calm surroundings, he is true to his neighborhood and lets his inner Jesse Helms out every other Thursday. And if I know my man, I'd say the Delta Airlines representative on the other end picked up the wrong phone on this day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Vikings Fans: Consider Yourselves 4-Warned

Dear Minnesota Vikings fans,

You have Brett Favre as your Quarterback. Mazel Tov. When you celebrate his 40th birthday on October 10, you can revisit the highlights of his career:

>His one Super Bowl title, 13 seasons ago.
>His 12 Postseason wins (only 3 this decade).
>His 269 straight starts (he'll play even when he's hurt, costing the Jets the playoffs).

No QB in NFL history has thrown more interceptions, and no QB in NFL history has intercepted more headline-grabbing opportunities, sending newsrooms around the country scurrying at his whim.

Brett Favre will take the field tonight in purple, and we have not changed our stance from earlier this off-season. Below is "A Wing and a Prayer: Buyer Beware" (a Backtime Re-Air).

May 12, 2009

In 2008, the New York Jets and their fans experienced the career of Brett Favre in a microcosm.

There were the dramatic inconsistencies in a 3-3 start.

There was the spectacular run of 5 straight wins, including huge character checks in wins at New England and Tennessee.

There was the monumental collapse down the stretch as the Jets lost 4 of their last 5 including embarrassing losses to San Francisco and Seattle.

For quite a while we couldn't complain, Brett Favre was exactly what we had hoped for. Then when we needed him most, he was exactly what we all feared.

When the Jets sputtered to the season's finish line, Favre's decisions were horrible. He threw 2 TD and 9 picks. He clearly was having arm problems, but the Jets couldn't sit him, and he surely wouldn't sit himself. He had a consecutive games streak to maintain.

Brett Favre was bigger than the team. In the one sport in which that premise is certain to fail every time. Brett Favre was going to gut it out on the field to service his own pride. A quarterback with a weak wing doesn't rally teammates, it hands games to the opponent.

Brett Favre may be a warrior, but he's not a winner. Not at this stage of his career anyway.

Now he's flirting with coming back again. This off-season tap dance is a rite of summer and is very reminiscent of Roger Clemens' act through the last few years of his career. He gets his very own spotlight, negotiating platform, and ESPN beat reporter.

And why is he coming back? To stick it to the Packers. The team that gave him all the patience and leverage that Favre required until they no longer wanted to cooperate. Good motivation, revenge. Against your former coaches and teammates that backed you all along. I guess you need an edge when you get to a certain age.

The Jets' opening game against Miami last season tells you everything you need to know. After the Jets' 20-14 win, the TV cameras were all over Favre as the game ended - he got a handshake here and there, but he was still a stranger on the Jets. Favre's teammates all were eager to hug and offer best wishes to the opposing QB, former Jet Chad Pennington, who was heroic in defeat.

Pennington's Dolphins would later win the AFC East at the hands of the Jets. He got his revenge, but wouldn't claim it against the guys he fought with for so long.

Will the Packers be as excited to embrace Brett Favre after the first Vikings/Packers meeting in '09? Not likely.

You see, Brett Favre's teammates, both past and present, know that they're just extras in a one-man show.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A North Carolina Hit and Run

I took one full day on the road hitting my favorite regional winery. Time well spent!

Raylen Vineyards is one of the jewels of the very underrated North Carolina wine country. Now it's not Napa or anything, but it's very good, well-priced, and well-decorated.

Plus, who am I to disagree with one particular high-profile wine fan:

Any winery that Mariano Rivera endorses is one that I could set up a cot in. I'd just wait for his arrival so we can discuss whether he prefers the 1996 Yankees or 2009 Yankees while we share one of Raylen's unique red blends.

When it was time to go, I loaded up the trunk to transport the alcohol back across state lines.

Now I'm no professional bootlegger, but I'm told this is how Nascar got started in these parts. Guys who were transporting moonshine had to drive very, very, very fast.

I took it a little slower. And when I got home I uncorked one, and took it even slower than that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mad Men Season 3 Premiere: Limit Your Exposure

For the first two seasons of TV's best drama, the show was the first to really reflect the times. Think about "Happy Days" turned on its ear. If you were a white man, it was your world, whether you wanted it or not. If you were a woman, a minority, a homosexual, you were limited and repressed.

Mad Men actually seemed dark and heart-breaking until Sam Mendes' 2008 film Revolutionary Road really delved into living the Great American lie that existed almost two generations ago. So I think season 3 is off to a brighter start.


Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner took his Sopranos background into this project. Don Draper was the powerful, miserable Tony Soprano-type. And his wife Betty was the unfulfilled housewife with all the material goodies and all of the frustration of Carmela Soprano.

And like The Sopranos, while the main character drives the series, the colorful ensemble is what makes it so rich and deep. And when season 2 got underway, in very Soprano-esque fashion, we got the scoop on where all the characters were in their lives.

In this season opener, there was less "exposure" and more storylines.

The new London management of Sterling-Cooper has everyone on edge that they might be fired. Or pitted into a winner-take-all power struggle, like Campbell and Cosgrove sharing the position of head of accounts.

Salvatore Romano is outed after his first same-sex dalliance is interrupted by a hotel fire alarm, as is Don's effortless tryst with a sexy stewardess. Funny how seriously people took fire alarms back then.

And Don is still conflicted with "the lie," his idyllic suburban family life with a beautiful wife, two kids and a third on the way. Or is he really just the slick, self-absorbed pitch man who takes whatever he wants.

On the flight back from Baltimore, Don and Sal had the conversation that wrapped everything into a neat fortune cookie. The ad for London Fog raincoats: "Limit your exposure."

But even better, there was no cursory character development. There's a whole season to see what's going on with Peggy and her child, or Kinsey's foray into the civil rights movement. Or Joan's own lie with her very flawed heartthrob doctor fiance/husband.

Basically the debut of Season 3 was a major success, because there was plenty to sink our teeth into, but left us wanting more. Isn't that what advertising's all about?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is Harrington the Yin to Tiger's Yang?

When Tiger Woods really started to establish himself as the game's dominant force (roughly 10 years ago), a number of would-be challengers have come and gone. And we're still waiting for the Watson to his Nicklaus.

We thought it might be David Duval. Or Ernie Els. Or Vijay Singh. Or Phil Mickelson. All have provided challenges, but none have sustained it. Until now?

Padraig Harrington may be the guy. At 37 years old, he's got the fitness and fortitude to keep up. He's won 3 of the last 9 Majors, though two without Tiger in the field.

Harrington enters PGA Sunday tied for second, just two back from Tiger. But he's not in Tiger's pairing. That's your X factor. Or "Y" factor as the case may be.

That's 37-year old Korean Yong-Eun (Y.E.) Yang. He may be ranked just #110 in the world. But he won the Honda Classic earlier this year, and has two Top 10s and a Top 20 at Bridgestone in his last three starts. He is piling up FedexCup points and in his last 3 final rounds he's shot 68, 67, and 66.

So maybe Yang is the yin to Tiger's yang. Or is he the yang? Before this degenerates into a Abbott & Costello routine (though it's probably too late for that), it's time to remind you that Backtime will provide live updates and perspective from Sunday at Hazeltine.

Harrington tees off at 2:36 ET. Woods and Yang at 2:45. Weather could play a factor.

7:12 ET Final thoughts. I'm not sure I can put it into words, except I am thrilled to have watched this from start to finish. After Tiger's bogey, Yang won by three. As it turns out, a 71 for Tiger would have won it, but he shot 75. Yang shot 70 and made history. Forever Yang!

7:05 ET Yang nailed the birdie putt and celebrated on the green while Tiger, still unfinished, stewed in the background. What a surreal moment.

6:58 ET Asked and answered, counselor. Yang hit the best possible approach. Tiger's in the rough. This is 99.9% in the bag.

6:53 ET Both players hammered their drives on #18. Tiger's was a little better. But remember Kenny Perry couldn't hit an iron on #18 to win the Masters so Yang has a pressure shot coming.

6:49 ET Tiger made a horrible pitch at #17 and made bogey. But Yang made a horrible 1st putt and he made bogey as well. Yang could have put it away, but still goes to #72 leading Tiger by one. Riveting.

6:32 ET Even in standard definition, Yang looks very strong. After a low-maintenance par at #16, Yang still leads by one with only 17 & 18 left.

6:17 ET Peter Kostis just said what I was thinking about Yang, "It's easy to play with nothing to lose when you don't have the lead. Now he's got the lead, it's time to see what he's made of." But sure enough Tiger and Yang both had misplays on the par-5 15th, and both settled for par. Then CBS lost the HD feed.

5:58 ET Wow! The "Tiger" moment came from Yang with a chip-in for eagle on the short par-4 14th. But Tiger didn't concede the trophy on the spot, he made birdie. Yang leads by one with 4 holes to go.

5:47 ET CBS suffered some serious technical glitches. They cleaned up the mess and are back on track, though they didn't acknowledge or apologize for the difficulties. Tiger hit a great tee shot to the par-3 13th, but couldn't convert. Yang scrambled from the sand and remains tied. Yang is proving to be a tough customer, but you have to think the big "Tiger" moment is coming soon.

5:36 ET Tiger came off a rare birdie with some rare trouble on #12, air-mailing the 515 yard #12. He couldn't save par and is tied with Yang for the lead again. The closest in the chase are still 3 behind, and running out of holes.

5:21 ET Neither Tiger or Yang converted on #10, but Tiger finally made his first birdie on the par-5 11th, getting 606 yards in two shots, then a run-of-the-mill 2-putt. He's at -7. Yang is -6. Nobody else closer than -3.

5:02 ET Glover and Lee Westwood are each three shots back and will remain that way, missing birdie putts on their respective par-5s (Glover on #11, Westwood on #15). Tiger and Yang each got lucky bounces on their drives on #10, and both can realistically make birdie.

4:37 ET This championship may be defined by what's transpired on the 8th hole. Henrik Stenson got reasonably close to the lead, but bogied. Glover made bogey. Harrington built a snowman. Tiger found the trap and he made bogey as well - he's two-over for the day. Yang hit the approach of the day on #8, but another no-confidence putt. He's tied for the lead with Tiger again, but noone has wrested the outright lead from him the entire week. Now Soren Kjeldsen is alone in 3rd, two shots back.

4:27 ET Harrington may have had that winning look, but he's still the guy who made an "8" down the stretch last week going mano-a-mano against Tiger. He put it in the water on #8, then botched his shot after the drop, then put a second into the water. Another "8" - all of a sudden Harrington looks less like Tiger and more like Mickelson. It's down to Tiger and Yang.

4:13 ET Yang flirted with tree trouble on #6 but blasted out of it. His birdie attempt lacked confidence. The pressure may be mounting on him. Tiger made another par. Harrington didn't take advantage of the par-5 7th, and has 7 straight pars.

3:57 ET Yang bogied #5, while Tiger churned out a workmanlike par. Harrington just barely missed birdie on #6. Glover dropped a shot, so he's two back. And Tiger is alone at the top again. But Harrington is starting to remind me of Tiger. He exudes confidence in his swing, his walk, and his stare. Think of Robert Patrick in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

3:42 ET For the second day in a row, Tiger 3-putted the par-3 4th. Yang missed his birdie putt by inches, so he's now tied for the lead. Harrington and Glover are just one back.

3:31 ET Tiger has played well, if not great thru 3 holes. And like yesterday, he hasn't been close to any trouble. Harrington has flirted with trouble but has 4 pars. Yang made birdie on 3 and trails Tiger by one. Glover made a 2nd birdie on #5, and he's tied with Harrington at -6, within two.

3:15 ET Tiger was in position for a second straight birdie chance, but didn't convert on the putt. Yang looks rock-solid though it's only been 2 holes. No noise from Harrington. Lucas Glover with the first significant move of the day with a bird on the par-5 3rd, he's within 3 shots.

2:59 ET Tiger missed a great birdie opportunity on #1, sending his short putt wide. Yang played the first hole very solidly. Nobody from the field has made a move toward the top, yet. But you get the idea that another 71 from Tiger won't get it done.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The PGA's Top Two All-Time Money Winners Walk Into A Bar...

...What were you waiting for - a punchline? The joke's on the field as Saturday's final pairing has combined for $150 Million in career earnings.

Tiger Woods is halfway home to his 15th Major and 5th PGA Championship. He leads by four in front of a quintet of international elites, including Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington, and US Open Champ Lucas Glover.

Tiger and Vijay go off at 2:40 ET. Perspective will be offered throughout the day. Let's not call it a LiveBlog, because if Tiger takes off and hides there's more pressing housework to be done. Check back for updates.

7:00 ET Final thoughts. Tiger entered the weekend with a 4-shot lead and I'm sure he would have signed for a 70-72 today. Sure enough he shot 71, and still leads by two at -8. He didn't play great, but he played smart. What else would you expect? Harrington and Yang are the challengers. Glover and Stenson are both Top 20 players and they are 4 shots behind.

6:35 ET Harrington's first bogey of the day comes at #18. That means Yang (-6) will be in the final pairing with Tiger tomorrow (unless Tiger drops two shots coming in). What Tiger does on 17 & 18 will likely determine whether or not tomorrow is a mere formality. His approach on 17 was very average.

6:15 ET Tiger made a mess of the par-5 15th and wound up with par. Harrington made par on 16. Yang is in the house with 67, -6 overall. Everyone else is fading. Looks like a 3-man race tomorrow.

5:55 ET Despite a par on the par-5 15th, Harrington looks to be playing with a lot of confidence. But Tiger answered with a long putt for birdie on the short 14th. Woods now has the outright lead, the only player to have it today.

5:45 ET While Tiger has let the field back in, he isn't doing anything to lose this tournament. Still even through 13 holes, he is rarely in birdie position, but never in trouble. Els just bogied #16, so he will drop two back.

5:33 ET The dirty rice with andouille sausage, turkey bacon, and bell peppers never disappoints. And it would seem that Paddy doesn't either. Harrington is now -4 on the day, -7 overall after a birdie on #14. Tiger finally has company at the top. And Els and Yang each connected on birdie putts. They're each just one shot back.

5:00 ET A couple of upsets. Not only is the playroom clean and the dirty rice ready, but Harrington birdied #11 to get within one. Els and Kjeldsen both with clutch par saves at the tough par-3 13th.

4:48 ET While Glover and Kjeldsen falter, Henrik Stenson has moved to -4, and Ernie Els (!) is storming the back nine, now tied with Harrington for 2nd. Tiger grinds along. With a 4-stroke lead going into the day, he'd probably be just fine with a 72 but plenty of golf left.

4:38 ET It should be noted at this point that Vijay Singh's eagle was on a chip-in, because he can't make anything with his putter. Tiger finished the front nine even for the day, but still two in front of Harrington, Glover, and birdie machine Soren Kjeldsen. Nobody has gotten within one yet.

4:15 ET OK, this is officially interesting. Harrington got a second straight birdie on #8 and knocked it close on #9. Glover birdied #7, and Vijay eagled it. While Tiger looks like he'll have to settle for par. He's still 2 ahead, but he isn't pulling away. In fact just the opposite.

4:02 ET Yang missed a great birdie chance on #10, but Tiger missed on his opportunity on #6. Maybe the question isn't if anyone can catch Tiger, but can anyone get within 2 shots? Singh and Westwood are self-destructing. Harrington made bird on the par-5 7th, and he joins Glover three behind. You feel like it's destined to be Harrington to ultimately test Woods' supremacy.

3:49 ET Vijay's approach on #5 was awfully tight, but he missed the putt. Tiger scrambled for par. Y.E. Yang and Lee Westwood each made birdies and they join Glover at -4, three back.

3:35 ET Tiger's par putt on #4 went most of the way down before lipping out. 3 putts and even on the day, still 3 clear. If Tiger doesn't get too far away, look out for Henrik Stenson who is -3 on the back nine.

3:22 ET Tiger and Vijay both made par on the par-5 3rd, despite making seemingly perfect birdie putts. Tiger did make birdie on #2, so he's at -8, leading Glover by 4.

3:00 ET Torrential rain has knocked out my satellite feed, though it is my understanding that Tiger parred #1 while Glover made birdie on #2. Tiger by 3.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The New York Sanch Ezchange

As many of you know, we here at Backtime are not ashamed of our endless passion for the New York Jets. This is career post #99, so it would be fitting to pay tribute briefly to our own #99, that wacky character from the hey-day of the Sack Exchange.

Mark Gastineau wasn't the best player on that defensive line, just the most flamboyant and towed the biggest spotlight.

Joe Klecko was in fact the anchor of that line, first as the opposite defensive end, then as a dominant nose tackle when Bud Carson came to town. The 4-time Pro Bowler should be in the Hall-of-Fame.

Now, roughly 25 years later, it's the Mark Sanchez era. This segment of Jets history is already defined by a man who hasn't taken a snap for pay. The spotlight follows the latest Southern Californian Golden Boy, but is he really worthy of it?

This has to be the most anticipated preseason game in Jets history since...last year. Brett Favre brought a similar circus to town. This year, while the big news was 100 miles south just off the New Jersey turnpike, and while the New York Post ran their exclusive interview with Karen Sypher, it was up to our rookie savior to draw Gotham's attention.

Now I have been on the record here. I like Sanchez and I think he has All-Pro potential, but trade 5 guys for him? Come on. Is that the way Patriots operate?

Sure enough after a couple of fairly pedestrian Kellen Clemens-led drives and 3 points, Sanchez took the reins deep in his own end. And he hit David Clowney for 48 yards on his first fling. He also found soon-to-be-All-Pro Tight End Dustin Keller a couple of times before Thomas Jones plunged in on 4th-and-1.

One drive, one TD. Take a seat. I know you don't want to get anyone important hurt in the first preseason game, but what does Mark Sanchez need most for his development? Reps against an NFL defense, even if it's second and third stringers.

Sanchez gets high marks for efficiency and poise. He went 3-for-4 for 88 yards. Certainly nothing to complain about, except we needed to see more. Look at me being impatient. Just like a Jet fan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The 2009 PGA Championship: Glory's Last Snooze?

The last time the PGA Championship was played at Hazeltine in 2002, Rich Beem stared down Tiger Woods and Justin Leonard, and shocked the world.

While the event was as memorable as anything I've ever seen in my living room, Beem's dance on 18 was so horrible that the golf gods haven't allowed him to win since.

The next year, Shaun Micheel gave glory his last shot (as good a last shot as any I can remember) for his only tour title.

There have been 5 PGA Championships since. The winners: Singh, Mickelson, Woods, Woods, Harrington. The rich get richer.

Well, the spotlight will be back on Beem for a couple of days as his playing partners are Tiger (going for major #15) and Harrington (defending his title). They tee off Thursday at 8:45 AM.

Beem's breakthough at Hazeltine was his second straight win. He took the now-defunct "International" just two weeks earlier. So he was hot. But now he's been cold for 7 years, making the cut in just 8 of the 25 Majors he's played since.

Beem's only other win in his career was as a rookie in 1999, a season documented in the book Bud, Sweat, and Tees: A Walk on the Wild Side of the PGA Tour by Alan Shipnuck.

It chronicles the lurid tales of Beem and his somewhat legendary caddy Steve Duplantis through that 1999 season, including the improbable win at the Kemper.

Duplantis, who lived recklessly, was killed in January 2008, when struck by a car.

Anyway, I'm still not going with Tiger. I have a hard time pulling for the prohibitive favorite (not counting the Yankees or Obama). I saw in one publication with Woods at 6-5, followed not-so-closely by Mickelson and Harrington at 20-1 each.

I got Kenny Perry. Good enough for 5 wins in the last 2 seasons, including one after he gagged away the Masters. But chances are it will be a big name with no drama. Just in case, I'm leaving Saturday and Sunday open for potential live-blogs.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Face to Face is always better, but...

My annual trip for the fun and sun of the Bradley Airport Sheraton was not necessary this year.

In a cost-friendly initiative, instead of hosting 150 for two days in Connecticut, we were all invited to participate via computer and telephone.

I enjoyed the previous meetings. It felt like the first day of school, reconnecting with friends you rarely see. The days were long, but the nights were too. One of the big bosses was a presenter today, and he said "Face to face is always better, but..."

Not only was this a fiscally sound move, but while many of us enjoyed the meetings, we were conflicted about being away from the family.

So here are the Top 5 reasons that a web conference beats a seminar:

1. The family - 2 days of your life are not lost.

2. The bathroom - The traditional hotel continental breakfast is full of things to get the stomach churning. Not to mention the eight cups of coffee.

3. The kitchen - The aforementioned food. You can eat healthier and on your own schedule. During lunch break I grilled bacon-wrapped garlic balsamic chicken breasts with goat cheese crumbles. Nice.

4. Multi-tasking - There were plenty of featured video clips to watch, and lots of important things to hear. But every once in a while there is something that doesn't relate directly to you, and that's a great time to do the dishes, laundry, or pay a couple of bills.

(If anyone in charge of hiring and firing is reading this, I took good notes)

5. Stay connected - You're already on the web, you can browse headlines once in a while. But heavy reading isn't recommended, and stay away from Facebook.

There you have it. The company saves money. The team saves time. It's a win-win.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Plenty of Fight in the Yankees

The Yanks had been 0-for-8 against the Red Sox this season, but still had a 2.5 game lead in the AL East. Obviously the streak had to end some time, but I was intrigued that if the Yanks remained winless against their main rivals all season, 0-19, whether they could still win the division.

Well tonight the Bombers got off the mat and were inspired by some fighting spirit.

“The Greatest” Muhammad Ali was on-hand to throw out the first pitch.

And they were further bolstered by the presence of Butchie the Boxer (from Pulp Fiction), who wouldn’t take the dive.

They must have channeled those fists into their bats. 13 Runs, 18 Hits, 4 Home Runs.

The biggest was by The Amazing Melky Cabrera, whose 3-run bomb off of John Smoltz opened the floodgates in a rout over the Sox.

It is possible that the Pinstripes could lead the division by over 6 games by Monday. Every year the gloom-and-doomers call for the manager's head and they want to run A-Rod out of town. But it's a long season.

And along those lines, Boston could be in a virtual tie for 1st place come Monday. But right now they don't have that winning look. The Yankees certainly do.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Thoroughbreds Losing Footing

The In-Law caravan hit town on Friday, so I got a 48-hour pass. I pretty much drove as far as you can in one day without losing one's mind to one of my favorite work destinations...Louisville, KY.

It's a great sports town: College Basketball is awesome. College Football was great too (at least while Petrino was here). Horse Racing is huge. The Muhammad Ali Center. Triple-A Baseball.

Now I'm here on leisure, and this post was supposed to be about adventures on the road and in town. But my trip to Churchill Downs gave me a lot of perspective.

There was no racing here today, its season is over. But they host daily simulcasts here. When I showed up late afternoon, I soon realized that this is one of the biggest racing weekends of the year.

I was following the card at Saratoga "The August place to be" (maybe next year - that's too long a drive), and getting ready for the feature, The Jim Dandy.

All of a sudden the place was buzzing, then roaring. Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, based in Churchill Downs, was being challenged in his return in West Virginia. The hometown hero was the victim of a huge upset to Soul Warrior, a 24-1 shot. Everyone knew what was going on, and some were taking it pretty hard.

I hit with Kensei (over favorite Charitable Man) in the Jim Dandy and had him coupled in the late double, minimizing the deficit for the day.

On my way out, I heard people talking about Preakness champ Rachel Alexandra and Belmont champ Summer Bird going at it tomorrow in the Haskell at Monmouth Park. And I thought to myself, why didn't I know any of this.

Obviously I have more responsibilities now than when I was a single guy on my Upper West Side couch, but it wasn't just that. It was right there in the Daily Racing Form.

Steven Crist's article told the story:

"This weekend may represent an all-time low in racing's national visibility. Even as coverage has waned over the last two decades, there was a good chance that someone would find a way to get national exposure for the winner of a Triple Crown race..."

And it makes me realize a pattern here. I've written posts just like this about hockey, tennis, and boxing in just the past few months. The sports that I grew up with are now just niche.