November Writing Challenge Day 7: Raider Football

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

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I remember the exact moment I became a Raiders fan: it was an exhibition game between the hometown Los Angeles Rams and the visiting Oakland Raiders. Until this point I’d been rooting for the L.A. team because that’s where we lived and all of my classmates seemed to like the Rams. My dad had taken me to the game and it was the first time I saw an NFL game in person.

I was amazed at how big the Los Angeles Coliseum was and how small the players looked down on the field. Something about those players in the silver and black, though, just appealed to me. My dad used to root for them, too, I think because he liked the outlaw image of the team.

While my dad wasn’t an outlaw by any means, I’m sure the Raiders’ independent spirit appealed to him. He was someone who’d left his homeland behind, seeking opportunities in country where he was a minority. He only had my mom and her extended family in Southern California as his support system. He did what he had to do to provide for his family.

I remember Sundays being his day to watch football and drink a Michelob or two. I was thrilled whenever he asked me to grab a beer for him from the fridge. When the Raiders were losing, he’d tell me not to worry, since the Raiders were a second-half team. And more often than not in those days, Ken Stabler would lead the team back for a win.

While neither of us follow the team as passionately as we did before (in fact, the older I get, the less of a sports fan I become), I’m not one to change my sports team loyalties. I’ll always be a member of the Raider Nation, thanks to my dad.

November Writing Challenge Day 2: Fight Night

I’m blogging every day this month. Some will be game-related, but this challenge is different than my most recent play-a-game-and-blog-about-it challenge. I’m writing a single post every day: no topic guidelines, with some posts being a collection of random thoughts. Click here to read yesterday’s post.

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Saturday fight night has been a tradition in my family for as long as I remember. The earliest memory I have of a big fight night was Sugar Ray Leonard vs Thomas Hearns. Like other pay-per-view fights at the time my uncle had a party at his house and we gathered in the den to watch on the big projection TV.

Tonight was a double dose of big fights, but times have changed: everyone I know prefers mixed martial arts over boxing and I was more excited about UFC’s non-title fight for the BMF “belt” than the Canelo-Kovalev light heavyweight title. They even brought The Rock out to put the belt on the winner! Ha!

Although the BMF fight was stopped by the doctor after the third round due to a nasty cut on Nate Diaz’s eyebrow, it was still entertaining. Jorge Masvidal rocked Diaz several times and definitely won the first three rounds. But everyone knows that Diaz always turns up the pressure in the championship rounds so I was ready to watch a bloody fight get even bloodier. But the doctor had other plans.

And that was totally fine by me.

The fight was terrific, but that cut was nasty. Yes, I’ve seen doctors let fighters with worse cuts continue (I’ll never forget the sight of Diego Sanchez with his forehead split open by B.J. Penn). And I’m sure this fight would’ve continued if it was in Vegas, but this time it was in New York City. Perhaps they keep a closer look at the participants in the Octagon.

The BMF fight wasn’t in Vegas because Sin City was hosting the Canelo-Kovalev fight and to see how times have changed, the two boxers were shown relaxing in their dressing rooms. Kovalev looked like he was gonna fall asleep on the couch. The fight was being delayed until the end of the UFC main event, something that never would’ve happened 20 years ago.

I’d much rather watch MMA these days than boxing. But there is something special about seeing a boxer like Canelo in his prime land a flurry of punches to end a fight. It was a close fight until the 11th (I had Canelo slightly ahead) and honestly it was a bit of snoozer due to Kovalev’s jab-jab-jab style that never put either fighter in danger.

Joyce Carol Oates once wrote, “Like a tragedy in which no one dies, the fight lacking a classic knockout seems unresolved, unfulfilled: the strength, courage, ingenuity, and desperation of neither boxer have been adequately measured.”

And just as I was about to proclaim this fight a dud, it ended in a blink of the eye as Canelo hurt Kovalev with an overhand right and followed up with a barrage of punches. The final straight right hand was a masterpiece of violence, dropping Kovalev in a heap into the ropes. The referee immediately called the fight off.

The sweet science had produced another memorable moment, one that, despite the corruption of the alphabet-soup boxing organizations, will have me back at the next big fight.

November Daily Game Challenge: No-Limit Hold Em Poker

This is Day 3 of my Game-and-Blog-Every-Day-in-November Challenge. Search my blog for “Daily Game Challenge” for previous entries.

No-Limit Hold Em Poker (46)


No board games today; instead, I went back to my roots and played a few hours of no-limit hold em poker.

Today was our annual fantasy basketball draft, which meant a day of drafting our fantasy teams, eating way too much, having a few drinks, watching the UFC fights, and playing some poker.

Years ago this was my idea of game night: poker played until the wee hours of the morning, with lots of laughs, bluffs, and action on the felt. I’ve had a few regular poker games fizzle out due to life happening: work, marriages, children, etc., so it was nice to get some of my old buddies together for a game.

In the words of Ice Cube, today was a good day.

Inside Vs Outside Voice


My wife and I went to the Eat Play Move event in Los Angeles yesterday. It’s the second time they’ve held it and, frankly, we weren’t fans of last year’s event. Not only was it crowded, but the poorly organized entry point at the Eagle Rock Plaza and the nightmare parking exit made for a less-than-stellar first impression.

We loved the idea behind the event, since it celebrates the Filipino and Filipino-American culture, through food (our favorite, of course), play, and exercise, all wrapped up in the L.A. vibe. Although we were worried about another unorganized mess, we wanted to support Eat Play Move because we believe in its mission.

This year, they changed locations and took over a few streets near Boomtown Brewery in the Arts District. We paid $10 for early entry, which was a godsend since the early start allowed us to enjoy ourselves without having to wait hours in line for food.

We also avoided the afternoon heat, getting up early after a late night watching the Dodgers beat the Red Sox in the longest World Series game ever (18 innings).

As we munched on some terrific oysters and mussels, a local news program came up to me to chat.

Interviewer: “Tell us about Eat Play Move.”

Me (inside voice): “With our current political climate, it’s important to have events like these that celebrate the diversity of our communities. Look around you; there are people from all walks of life enjoying Filipino and Filipino-inspired food, music, and culture. There are no walls separating us here. It’s all about love and community and fellowship. We’re not worried about the divisiveness of our current administration. Here, we share food and stories with our neighbors as well as strangers.”

Me (outside voice): “GO DODGERS!!!”

Note to self: Work on ad-libbing skills.

Epilogue: The Dodgers lost a second straight World Series at home. My time on camera is not gonna age well.

The Nation’s Fist

Manny Pacquiao.

Manny Pacquiao.

If there’s ever been a tweet I wish I’d written, it’s this one:

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 10.17.39 AM

It’s a sentiment that I’m sure a lot of Filipinos and Filipino Americans share. Manny wasn’t the perfect boxer (too susceptible to counter-punchers like Marquez and Mayweather) or the perfect man (a womanizer and someone who has idiotic beliefs about gays), but he was one of us.

Twenty years ago if you would’ve told me that a Filipino boxer would one day be considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and would headline the biggest pay-per-views year in and year out, I would’ve said you were crazy.

Growing up, my favorite boxers were Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Evander Holyfield, and Mike Tyson. They were the larger-than-life athletes that fans gravitated to, but it wasn’t until Pacquiao burst on the scene that I felt a kinship to a boxer.

He was our community’s brother, cousin, uncle, father; the one who represented you, good and bad. He showed the world the ferociousness of Ang Pambansang Kamao (The Nation’s Fist) inside the ring and the soft-spoken humility outside of it.

He did what any of us would’ve done in his position, whether it was hamming it up with Will Ferrell or chartering two planes for friends and family to one of his fights.

And those fights! From the moment he started collecting championship belts until last night’s trilogy-closing domination of Timothy Bradley, a Pacquiao fight was An Occasion, a family party filled with plenty of laughter and too much food. It was like a Filipino mash-up of the Super Bowl and Thanksgiving, as you cheered him on with your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents, cousins, long-lost cousins, pseudo-family members, and random strangers. We made predictions of his fights and debated his place among boxing’s immortals, but not before stuffing ourselves from tables overflowing with food and drink.

While I’ll miss his fights and the parties, I’m rooting for him to stay true to his retirement. He has nothing left to prove and we all know about the damage that fighters suffer and its effect on their later years. I want to see him continue his public service to the best of his ability.

He’s my favorite fighter of all time, warts and all.

Day 362: 85 Degrees

85 Degrees Bakery Cafe

Sad that fantasy football is over? Go eat at 85 Degrees Bakery Cafe.

My fantasy football season ended tonight.

I was on a nine-game winning streak that led me to win my division and lock up the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. I squeaked by my first-round opponent with a 5-point win, then faced the guy who has become my nemesis.

Mike and I met in last year’s championship game, where he beat me. This year, as Yogi Berra would’ve said, was deja vu all over again, as I lost by 12 points to Mike’s team.

In the Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda department, I sat Todd Gurley and his 15 points for Ted Ginn Jr.’s less than 1 point. I didn’t think Gurley would do much against the Seahawks’ defense (the same defense that locked down my other RB Adrian Peterson a few weeks ago), so I went with the hot hand in Cam Newton and his favorite target over the last three weeks.

Of course, Ginn came crashing back down to earth, thus giving me no chance to win my third championship.

I’d be more upset, but I wouldn’t have been in the game anyway if my kicker Blair Walsh hadn’t exploded for 21 points. Plus, having two titles under my belt some of the sting away from the loss. Just a little.

I drowned my sorrows away with some treats from the phenomenal 85 Degrees Bakery Cafe. Pictured above: walnut multigrain bread, cinnamon twist, green onion bread, boroh danish, and calamari sticks. Not pictured: their extraordinary iced sea salt coffee. It’s all sinfully delicious and my hands-on research has proven that it does wonders for one’s mood when the fantasy football season ends.

Day 356: Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson.

I thought this was a cool bit of news today. Dodger Stadium is erecting its first statue on its property: Jackie Robinson. It’ll be on display during the 2016 season.

As a lifelong Dodgers fan and proud Angeleno, I couldn’t be happier. Actually, I might be happier if the Dodgers win their first World Series since 1988, but I’m not sure. Hopefully the team will give me the chance to figure this out.

Day 354: Reign-y Sunday

Ontario Reign oven mitt.

Ontario Reign oven mitt.

The last hockey game I attended was in the early ’90s, when Wayne Gretzky was playing for the Kings at the old Fabulous Forum. I sat a few rows behind goal and got to see The Great One do his thing. I’ll never forget how much better the game was live than on TV.

However, as much as I enjoyed that game, it didn’t stick. I occasionally watch the playoffs when the hometown Kings are involved, but outside of that I don’t really follow it.

(Side note: the number one thing I can’t stand about diehard hockey fans is when they justify their love of the sport by saying how “real men” play hockey. They play through injury, they’re tough, blah blah blah. Listen, I get it. Enjoy your sport. But when NFL games are regularly compared to car accidents and boxers/mixed martial artists practice the sweet science of causing major bodily damage to their opponents, I don’t want to hear a word about toughness.)

Fast forward to today, as my family and I scored tickets to the Kings’ minor league team, the Ontario Reign. We had a blast at this afternoon’s game. Once again, the speed of hockey is so much better in person and since this was the minor league, the arena was smaller and we could follow all of the action easily.

The experience was a first-class production from the moment we walked into the Citizens Bank Arena (much like the minor league indoor soccer and baseball teams in the area, the Ontario Fury and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, respectively). While it’s not the highest level of professional sports, it’s entertaining and more fan-friendly both in environment and in ticket prices.

And fans get the coolest giveaways, as shown above. Nothing beats an oven mitt that looks like a hockey glove. Go Reign Go!

Day 348: Playoffs

Fantasy Football Playoffs.

Fantasy Football Playoffs.

At the start of this fantasy football season if you would’ve asked me about my teams playing in the postseason, I would’ve gone full Jim Mora on you, as shown above.

One of my teams suffered from Andrew Luck having the worst season of his career. My other team kept running into teams scoring their highest scores of the season. Bids on emerging studs like Matt Jones turned out to be for naught.

I kept my cool, though. No panic trades or knee-jerk add/drops. I’ve been playing long enough to know that the fantasy season is a marathon, not a sprint.

It didn’t hurt to catch a few breaks, either, from Carson Palmer being rejuvenated to Rob Gronkowski not suffering a season-ending injury.

I’ll need two more weeks of good luck to capture the championship, though. But at least I’ve got a shot, which is more than I thought I would have a few months ago.

Day 346: First

Perfect Timing.

McGregor Gets There First.

I nearly missed the Aldo vs McGregor fight tonight. Not because I was busy or anything, but I happened to blink my eyes.

I’ve rooted for Aldo for so long that it was weird (sorta) rooting for McGregor tonight. McGregor talks a lot of trash, but he backs it up and the one thing I love about the UFC is that anything can happen.

In title-fight record time, McGregor knocked out Aldo cold in just 13 seconds. I thought the two would mix it up for two rounds before Aldo gassed (which is what seemed to happen to Weidman when he lost his belt to Rockhold in the fight before). But McGregor once again backed up what he said about nobody being able to take his left hand.

Aldo rushed in with his face wide open and paid the price as McGregor nailed him with that left just as Aldo was landing his own punch. Aldo was out while McGregor put the finishing touches (aka hammer fists) on him.

It reminded me of that old boxing adage: you want to be first. The Notorious One was first and cleaned out Aldo’s clock.