Monday, May 31, 2010

Post Game Hot Spot: Stockton's "Ave on the Mile"

Well a happy Memorial Day to everyone out there...the Spot is back, and before he gets his Memorial Day grill on (BBQ'd pineapple burgers with fruit salad for the more curious ones out there), it's time to throw some love out to probably the best post game hang out ever, Stockton's brand new Ave on the Mile.

As most everyone knows, the whole game going experience just isn't complete without the post game gathering spot (unless of course you have little ones who need to get back home in time to watch "Yo Gabba Gabba on a Saturday morning), and if anything, this past Friday's post game was more crucial than most.  Why might you ask?  Well those details are to come in the Spot's next story, but let's just say his first pitch was a definite strike with some serious heat!

So with this in mind, the Spot spent most of the first half of last week trying to think of the perfect post game venue after Friday's Pacific/UCSB baseball game, when someone suggested, "Hey, why don't you guys try AVE on the Mile" of which the Spot's response was "sure, why not!" and is he glad he ever did!

First off, lets start with location.  It's located on Stockton's Miracle Mile, and to steal a line from "Anchorman"...It's on the Miracle Mile, so you know its good. Billing itself as Stockton's premier bar and bistro featuring an elegant, upscale yet comfortable atmosphere, it more than lived up to expectations. The first class hospitality started right from when the first call for reservations on the Wednesday before.  When calling in, the Spot was put in touch with Kevin, who it turned out, was the actual owner.  Although informed that Ave would be packed on Friday night due to the Ave's "Sex and the City 2" party (yes Spot fans, Sex and the City, that unexplainable cultural phenomenon that some people actually believe is just as important and influential as March Madness, the World Cup or the NFL in general), Kevin told the Spot not to worry, he'd get the Spot and his party taken care of for our 9:45pm post game reservations.

Well....Friday's UOP/UCSB baseball game comes and goes and when the Spot arrived with his rather eclectic group (who else but yours truly could put together a group that included a Mills College Graduate, a Republican Political Science Professor, a part time DJ and last but definitely not least, the Spot's resident beer expert!) not only was our table reserved (with the sign you see to the left none the less, now thats what i call first class!), Kevin was there to greet us personally and make sure that all was good with our accommodations. Although the Ave as packed wall to wall with "Sex and the City" patrons (not that the Spot was actually complaining about being surrounded by all the women mind you) Kevin and his staff (on a side note, the tie that Kevin's manager was sporting rocked...I want it, where did you get it?) provided above and beyond personal service the whole night.  One thing was very clear from our experience at Ave, when it comes to classy hang outs, Kevin knows what he's doing, and he probably does it better than anyone else.

Now mind you, don't go to Ave expecting a burger and fries.  As the Spot stated earlier, the Ave is a classy and upscale place.  They have an excellent selection of wines, from your more expensive to your more reasonably priced bottles, along with very reasonably priced light fare appetizers and deserts.  For his part, the Spot got a nice bottle of Pinot Grigo to share amongst friends along with the Ave's take Polenta.  Might I say, both were beyond excellent and are highly recommended (and really, what more do you need than the Spot's seal of approval?).  And while the Ave is a highly comfortable atmosphere, don't come dressed like you're going to a party south of Charter Way.  Comfortable yet classy is the call for attire, and hey, if the Spot can pull it off, anyone can!

All in all, the Spot (and his amigos and amigas) were blown away by our experience at Ave.  The hospitality, the atmosphere, the drink and's clear that Kevin has a winner on his hands here.  Will the Spot return to the Ave? Most definitely! as it earns a "Super Solid" from yours truly (and you just don't get better than Super Solid).  So whether you're a native Stocktonian, or visiting from out of town for any number of events, be it a Pacific Basketball game, Ports game at the ball park (I could go on and on), it's highly recommended that you stop in an enjoy Ave on the Mile.  It's an experience you won't want to miss, and one that will keep you coming back again and again.

Monday, May 17, 2010

And they're off...

It's mid-May, which means one no no, it's not almost time to send your kids off to summer camp...It's the Amgen Tour of California.  And this year, as in years past, it has a definite valley flavor to it.

Starting with State 1, which began in Grass Valley (insert Rickey Williams jokes here please) half of the 8 Amgen stages include parts of the Central Valley and include the cities of Sacramento, Davis, Modesto, Visalia and Bakersfield.  Included among the riders in this year's Amgen tour are World Road Titlist Tom Boonen, 4-Time Amgen winner Levi Leipiheimer, 2009 Tour de France Runner up Andy Schleck and yes, 7-time Tour de France Winner (and a guy who deserved an Oscar for his role in "Dodgeball")...Lance Armstrong.

For those of you who want to catch the action, while the Sacramento and Davis portions of the tour have been completed, the riders will roll into Modesto to finish stage 4 on Wednesday, and make the trek from Visalia to Bakersfield for stage 5 on Thursday.  This is an event not to be missed, after all, how often do you get to see world class athletes go for a nice leisurely (ok, maybe not so leisurely) bike ride through the roads of the Central Valley?  So what say you Spot fans?  If you're in the area, stop by and check out the Amgen Tour.  The more support we give events like the Amgen Tour, the more likely it is that they'll return for our Valley sporting pleasure the next year.  Plus, its our chance to tell the French that yes, per usual, we can do anything better than races included!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's the weekend...and we're going skinny on the events...

It's a graduation weekend, so not many events out there this weekend in the Valley.  Now you may be asking, "why is a picture of Eva Mendes up on this post?".  Well, the answer is's my blog and she's hot! with that said, here are the Spot's pics for a light weekend on the valley sports scene...

Saturday- 10am-Pacific Softball vs. Cal Poly-Bill Simoni Field- University of the Pacific-  After having played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation, the Pacific Tigers Softball team, led by a class act of a coach in Brian Kolze, has their final game of the season vs. the Cal Poly Mustangs.  If you're in the area stop on by and congratulate them on their 2010 campaign.

Saturday- 10am-6pm- Calfornia Cougars at MetroPCS- March Lane- Stockton-  We all know the Spot likes the footy...and they're giving away a pair of season tickets for the upcoming why not stop by and say hi!

Saturday- 2pm\5:30pm- Fresno State Baseball vs. San Jose State- Beiden Field- Fresno State University- For our friends further south in the Ernie Banks would say, let's play two!  The 31-20 Fresno State Bulldogs look to make a run at yet another NCAA Tournament (and who can't forget their 2008 College World Series Title?) as they take on San Jose State in a double header.  So grab a hot dog and your favorite beverage (adult or otherwise) sit back, relax and enjoy watching what Fresno State usually does anytime they play San Jose State in any sport...give them a sever beat down!

Tuesday- 4:30pm- Sacramento Kings NBA Draft Lottery Party- 18th Street, Sacramento- Ok ok it's not technically a weekend event.  The Kings are blocking off an entire block of 18th Street to host what they are calling the "NBA's Greatest ever draft lottery party".  Now unless this party somehow involves Erin Andrews or Eva Mendes in some sort of swimsuit competition...the Spot isn't buying it.  Still, if you're a Kings fan, or just like a good party, head on down, and see where they get to pick in this year's NBA draft....and  pray they don't pull another "we're not taking Ricky Rubio" again this year!

That it for now Spot get your breakfast on and enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

If the Butler did it...why can't we?

Well Spot fans, its been over a month since the new “America’s team”, the Butler Bulldogs, almost went all Hoosiers on us, and that evil empire known as the Duke Blue Devils almost got “caught watching the paint dry”.

Of course now with the day to day excitement of the Madness over, it has given the spot an opportunity to sit back, analyze and ask the question, “If Butler can do it, why can’t we?” Now when I say we, I’m referring to the 5 Division one basketball teams that’s call the Central Valley Home: University of the Pacific Tigers, Fresno State Bulldogs, UC Davis Aggies, Sacramento State Hornets and CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners.

Now its easy for the Spot to dismiss three of the five without even blinking an eye:

CSU Bakersfield: you have to be a member of a conference, plain and as simple as that…you aren’t there yet Bakersfield...(plus it's umm...Bakersfield!!)

Sacramento State: forget their record on the court, it’s their “record” off the court that makes a trip to the final four a pipe dream for Sacramento State Basketball.  Sacramento State is, unforunatley, a commuter school, with absolutely no fan base, no corporate sponsor base that gives you the budget that allows you to recruit a tournament caliber team, and plays in a 1200 seat gym that can easily be put to shame by several high school teams in the area.  With those obstacles, Coach Katz deserves a medal or saint hood if he can just bring the Hornets up to respectability. 

UC Davis:  They have a great facility for a mid-major in the Pavilion (capacity nearly 8K), are starting to get some better players and even transfers (Joe Harden from Notre dame), but they are still extremely young program wise.  That being said, UCD was still an NCAA Division II team about 10 years ago.  Give them a generation or two to build the traditions and customs of the UC Davis Aggies sports programs and maybe then they can dream of making a deep NCAA tourney run.  It might also help if they get t heir current house in order.

So that brings us to the final two, the Pacific Tigers and Fresno State Bulldogs.  And No Spot fans, this is not the Spot’s version of the Bachelor, where one school will get a rose, the other crying in the limo that is waiting outside for It.  Both schools have the ability to make a Butleresque type run…but what exactly DOES it take to make such a run…well…glad you asked…

Contrary to what might be popular belief, Butler’s success this past year wasn’t a one year flash in the pan.  It was the pay off for years of continued success and program building by a team that has been consistently viewed as one of the better mid-majors in the nation.  They had already come into the season being nationally ranked 10th in the pre-season polls and had set up a schedule that lent itself to success during the tournament with regular season games versus the likes of Clemson, Minnesota, Georgetown, Xavier and Ohio State.  According to Emily Newell, the Sports Editor for the Butler Daily Collegian, Coach Brad Stevens has during his tenure, recruited players that would help build a team, not superstars , or the best 5-star recruits he could get, but players that each fit into the mold of what Coach Brad Stevens see’s as “Butler Basketball”.  Her sentiments were echoed by fellow sports writer for the Daily Collegian Steven Peek, expressing that this year’s success was the result of a trend of increasing success that Butler Basketball has shown over the past ten years.   Both he and Emily also felt that Butler’s success is doable at other like schools, because, in their opinion, their success doesn’t come from having the nation’s best recruits and facilities, or the biggest budget, but instead came from using what resources they had at their disposal in the best way possible, and (as Emily stated before) recruiting players that best fit into your program, even if that means passing over a more heralded recruit because he isn’t the right fit program wise.

Now while we might have already been able to guess the generalities of Butler’s success (making do with what you have, recruiting the best players for your program, etc.) one wonders, is there some formula, some exact equation,  that equals Butler’s success?  Well, according to the Indianapolis Star there is.  Shortly after last month’s championship game, the Star listed the factors for Butler’s success as follows:
·         A brilliant young coach;
·         A national profile;
·         A region where basketball is important;
·         A program that can produce NBA quality players;
·         Astute University leadership;
·         An ally in sports giant ESPN;

That being said, let’s take each factor and apply it to both Pacific and Fresno State:

·         A Brilliant young coach:  Well Pacific fans, Coach Thomason isn’t going anywhere for a while, and he isn’t exactly the youngest guy on the block either. With that though, he has proven that he can beat the majors during tourney time (the Big Least…err I mean East Conference knows this first hand) and has proven over the years to be one of the better X’s and O’s Coaches in the nation.  He does have younger assistants (Adam Jacobsen, Ron Verlin) who have definitely helped with the recruiting efforts to bring in players the last couple of years that fit Coach T’s system.  This combination has proven successful for staying competitive in the Big West, it now just needs to take the next step it seemed poised to take back in 2004-06 and not only reach, but remain, competitive on the national level.

As for Fresno State, Coach Steve Cleveland (formerly of BYU) has proven that he can recruit talent, but having a sub .500 record the last three years isn’t exactly awe inspiring.  As has been proven time and time again in College Basketball, great recruits doesn’t always lead to great teams, something that’s being proven in Fresno during the Cleveland tenure.

·         A national profile:  This is where it gets tricky and rumor, speculation and innuendo come into play.  As it stands right now, neither school can really say it has a national profile when it comes to basketball.  Pacific had the chance to get to that level during it’s three year tournament run from 2004-06, but let the opportunity slip through it’s hands.  While Fresno State’s football coach Pat Hill might have taken his program into the national consciousness, the same can’t be said for the basketball team, which last had a national presences back in the Jerry Tarkanian years (and all for the wrong reasons).  So just how does one get on the national radar?  Is it up to the individual school?  Does it depend on the school’s conference affiliation? 

According to Pacific Athletic Director Lynn King, while conference affiliation does play a factor, it’s mostly up to the individual school and it’s surrounding community that has the biggest say in whether a program can achieve national success, pointing to Gonzaga as the perfect example.  The similiarities between Gonzaga and Pacific are striking.  Both are private schools on the West Coast, both play in similar size arenas (Gonzaga has the Dog Kennel, Pacific has the Spanos Center) and both play in mid major conferences (Pacific does beat them out on famous alumni, Gonzaga has  Bing Crosby, Pacific has Dave  Brubeck, Chris Issak and Bubba from “In the Heat of the Night”).  So why was Gonzaga able to make the jump to national prominence after their deep NCAA run and Pacific couldn’t after three straight NCAA appearances, including two trips to the 2nd round.  The answer, it seems, is community involvement.   Gonzaga easily sells out it’s home games.  The ‘ Zags ARE Spokane’s team, the community is tied into the program.  As A.D. King put it, If Stockton wants a national program, then it has to invest in and support the program.   Lynn King made a point of stating that playing in front of a packed house solves a lot of issues on the road to becoming a national program.  It makes recruiting that much easier (who doesn’t like to play in front of a packed house), helps with increased financial resources to assist with greater recruiting and marketing capabilities in order to project a school onto the national stage.  King also makes the point that for the past 10 years Pacific has been investing in it’s basketball program.  Looking at the facts its hard to argue with him.  There is the brand new, state of the art practice facility.  Increased emphasis on marketing and outreach to the Stockton/Central Valley community (Just this past year we saw the Cal game held at the Stockton Arena,” take a time out for reading” and Pacific’s first “White Out” night) and last but not least, an upgrade in the non-conference schedule.  Gone are the days of playing two Division II schools per year.  In it’s place are games versus the likes of Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and San Diego State.  Indeed Lynn King has a very strong case for the argument that, Pacific has invested in it’s own basketball program…isn’t it time for the local community to invest in Pacific?

As for Fresno State…their path to national recognition depends on two things, football and conference realignment.  Football already has it’s foot in the door vis-à-vis national exposure…so it’s safe to say the more exposure the Bulldogs get nationally for football, it can only help basketball with their recruiting efforts, name recognition, etc.  As for conference realignment, well, it will take some time to see where those pieces fall.  Does Fresno State change conferences?  Will they be invited to the PAC-10?  Will they move to the Mountain West?  Either move can only help improve Fresno State Basketball’s accension to a national level program with better competition and increased media exposure (The PAC-10, that’s self explanatory, the Mountain West has it’s own TV network, so there ya go!).

·         A region where basketball is important:  lets face it, both schools strike out on this one.  The Central Valley is football country, be it high school, college or the pros.  Will producing a consistent winner help change that?  Absolutley, but for the time being both schools will just have to take a back seat football when it comes to the popularity and importance of each.

  • A  program that can produce NBA players:  Both programs have shown the ability to do this in the past.  For Fresno State, Paul George is destined to be a mid first round pick in this year’s draft.  For Pacific, Michael Olowakandi was the former #1 pick in the draft.  Fresno State also has the advantage of touting pro athletes in other sports too…Tommy  Mendoca, a high round pick in the annual Baseball draft by the Texas Rangers and Ryan Matthews, the #12 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft…’nough said.

  • Astute University leadership:  In her first year on the job, new Pacific President Pamela Eibeck seems to be doing all the right things.  Her most important project so far has been reaching out to the community on behalf of Pacific.  This can only help the basketball program as the more people who become invested in Pacfic, the more who become invested in the basketball program. 

  • On Fresno State’s end, the past has shown that University leadership is clearly lacking.  From the Stacy Johnson-Klein fiasco, to the firing of former coach Ray Lopes to the now long and drawn out contract negotiations with football coach Pat Hill, the University’s ability to deal with messy situations with the least negative public impact has been clearly lacking.

  •  A willing television ally in ESPN:  This is one area where both schools are clearly lacking.  The WAC and Big West clearly aren’t your power conferences, so they don’t get a seat at the ESPN table when deciding what schools/games to televise.  If anything, both conferences are just happy to get the scraps off the table TV wise, a Wednesday game here…late, late Saturday game there, you get the picture.  It also doesn’t help that both schools have the inherent east coast biased working against them.  After all, lets face it, if you’re west of the Mississipi River, ESPN, Duke…umm, I mean Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas could really care less about your program.  Yes both teams get the occasional games picked up here and there by ESPN or Comcast Sportsnet, but what is needed is a consistent, on going TV package for either school.  Espn, Comcast, Versus, all those are likely targets and would make excellent partners for our local schools to have continued success and help raise the programs in question into legitimate national powers.

So there you have it Spot fans, all the factors that can help lead Pacific or Fresno State Basketball into the new decade.  Which school has the best chance to climb its way onto the national landscape first?   The Spot would have to say Pacific.  Their increased involvement in the community, new facilities and school leadership that just seems to ‘get it”, give them a leg up over Fresno State in the race to become the first valley team to become a national fixture…

That’s all for now….so remember…stay classy Central Valley….

Sunday, May 9, 2010

...It was a cold and windy night...or...who doesn't love the Mt. Eden High School Drum Corp!

It's a Sports Spot pop the Northern California Team that currently has the best record in their league...the SF Giants? no....the Oakland A's? no (props to Stockton native Dallas Braden on his Mother's Day Perfect Game BTW)...the correct answer would be (drum roll please...) the FC Gold Pride of Women's Professional Soccer.  So as the evening of May 8th rolled around, the Spot found himself making the trip over the Altamont Pass to Castro Valley High School to watch the league leading FC Gold Pride take on the Chicago Red Stars.  Could the Gold Pride string together their 4th straight win?  Could the Jaime Moyer of Women's Soccer, Tiffeny Millbret, find the back of the net once again?  What kinda mischief could the Spot get himself into this time?  All these questions found their answers on one very cold and windy night....

Yes, it was cold, it was windy, but it was well worth it.  Per usual the FC Gold Pride Staff took care of us journalistic folk as well as could be expected (my cardiologist would like to thank you for having vegetarian pizza available as an alternative to the peperoni!)  The Gold Pride were donning the Red jersey's in support of the American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" campaign (as a side note, the Gold Pride were wearing red, playing a team called the Red Stars...yes, the Spot got a little confused at times!) and clearly were the dominant team throughout most of the game, scoring the 2-0 victory to keep them in first place in the WPS.  And to answer one of my questions, yes, Tiffeny Milbret continued to show the youngster's how its done by scoring the opening goal for the Gold Pride on a rebound off her first missed attempt the bounced back perfectly after hitting the cross bar.  While most women Tiffeny's age (a very young 37 might I add) are busy getting their kids ready for Prom, Tiffeny continues to run past opponents who are supposedly younger, faster and more athletic.  Definitley a tribute to professionalism, work ethic, and the fact that her experience probably gives her the ability to have a trick or two up her sleeve vis-a-vis the youngsters.

Now I could just give a simple re-cap of who scored what, etc. etc...but that's not the fun part of an FC Gold Pride game.  The fun part is that it's an experience, and experiences are what you make out of them.  Sure it was cold and windy...sure the Spot might have nearly scummed to frostbite on a finger or two, but it was the experience that the Gold Pride puts on that makes one want to come back time and time again.  Who doesn't like to have the chance to catch an official game ball kicked into the stands and keep it (are you listening NFL?  Just a thought) or to form a human tunnel to help bring on your team, your heroes, onto the pitch?  After all, do you think a simple little blogger like the Spot could spend half time at an NBA game or NFL game banging on the drums of the Mt. Eden High School Drum Corp?  Not a chance, yet there the Spot was, at half time, hanging with the boys from Mt. Eden High School banging away....singing to himself "I don't wanna work, I wanna bang on the drum all day....".  Lastly, would there be any chance the Directors of Real Madrid would let anyone from the media have an unabated one on one interview with Cristiano Ronaldo?  Fat chance...yet there was the Spot, post game, with the opportunity to ask four time FIFA player of the year Marta whatever questions popped into his head (BTW, much thanks to Marta, speaker of Brazilian Portuguese, for putting up with my version of Portuguese, of which my Grandfather would always say was "muto atrapalhado" his very kind way of saying it left much to be desired!).  Yes, there are quite a few teams out there that can stand to take a few notes from the Gold Pride on how to make a game day experience fun for every fan that shows.  Because when you take your kids, friends, co-workers (you get the idea) to a game, it shouldn't be about selling the most expensive jersey's, or pushing those personal seat should be about making the game an event, an experience that you'll remember and keep talking about until it's time for the next game...The Gold Pride do a very good job of making that happen, and that's why the Spot will continue to make the trip over the Altamont to cover them.

Now this write up wouldn't be complete without naming the MVP for the game.  As the Spot drove home, he gave it considerable thought.  As much as he wanted to give game MVP honors to every one's favorite soccer hottie, Kelley O'Hara in honor of her first goal as a professional, he just couldn't (and believe the Spot, it pained him that he couldn't bestow said honor), the MVP award for last night goes to....yep, the concession guy selling the hot chocolate!  Not only was the hot chocolate well, was so cold and windy that I'm sure most of those who bought the hot stuff spent the first few minutes wrapping their hands around the cup to soak up all the heat!  Yes I'm sure he sold enough hot chocolate last night to equal the Gross National Product of most 3rd world nations.  And that, Spot fans, is why hot chocolate guy gets the game MVP award....

'till next time...stay classy Central Valley.

*FC Gold Pride game photos courtesy of Kelley Cox/ISIPhotos

Friday, May 7, 2010

...Everybody's workin' for the weekend...

...Yes Spot fans, to quote one of the more underrated 80s hair bands of all time, Loverboy...everybody IS working for the, to help you out with your Mother's Day themed sports are the Spot's picks...

Saturday- 7:30am- Sacramento- Cal Expo- Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  Come out early and help a great cause as we run to battle breast cancer.  5k starts at 7:30, 1k fun run/walk starts at race fun and entertainment to learn more, go to the race website

Saturday- 7pm- Modesto- John Thurman Field- Modesto Nuts vs. Visalia Rawhide.  As we continue on our all about mom's weekend, head out to the ballpark as it's Breast Cancer Awareness Night and Fireworks Extravaganza, Sponsored by Memorial Medical Center. The Modesto Nuts have partnered with Memorial Medical Center to bring fans Breast Cancer Awareness Night at John Thurman Field! The team will sport special pink jerseys in honor of the evening, which will be auctioned off throughout the game and presented to each winning bidder and autographed by the player it belonged to immediately following the game. A fireworks extravaganza will follow the game, as well as a kids base race.

Saturday- 7pm- Castro Valley- Castro Valley High School- FC Gold Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars.  Yes, its time for the Spot's new favorite (and adopted) outdoor footy team, the FC Gold Pride (and no, its not just because Kelley O'Hara is the hostess with the most est...although it doesn't hurt!)...The Spot will be in attendance as the first place FC Gold Pride take on the visitors from the windy city.  And if you get a chance, take advantage of the "Stanford Standouts Pack" which lets you onto the field to meet and take a picture with Stanford Grads Kelley O'Hara, Rachel Buheler, Ali Riley and Nicole Barnhart.  The Gold Pride will also be wearing red jerseys for the fight against heart disease...currently being auctioned off online as we speak!

Saturday- 7pm- Stockton- Stockton Arena- Stockton Thunder vs. Idaho Steelheads (Game 5 of National Conference Finals) about momentum!  Fresh off their 3OT thriller on Wednesday, the Thunder just finished annihilating the Steelheads 7-2 to tie the series all up at 2 games a piece.  Can the Thunder make it three in a row?  Will the power of the rally monkey continue?...only one way to find out...

Sunday- IT'S MOTHER'S DAY!!!  Spend at least part of it with your momma!!!  The Spot is (she's the in the picture to the left)...are you??

'Till next time Spot fans...stay classy Central Valley...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The man with the Golden de Rally Monkey!!!

It's "Golden Goal Day" (Not to be confused with one of the more underrated James Bond Movies of all time, "The Man with the Golden Gun" co-starring Tattoo from Fantasy Island) in Stockton after the Thunder's thrilling triple overtime win vs. the Idaho Steelheads on Cinco de Mayo and the Spot could give you an in-depth analysis of the game (much thanks to his friend Shari Garibaldi for the ticket hook up!) but to be perfectly blunt, Ms. #1, who accompanied the Spot, was probably giving better in game commentary on quality of play the Thunder was giving its fans during regulation ("They're passing like my nephew's roller hockey team" was the line of the night I believe).  Yes, the Spot could talk about how Bryan Pitton channeled his inner Patrick Roy and recorded an astonishing 49 saves over 5+ periods of play....or how the defense showed up to play with timely stops and some rather punishing cross-checks against the glass (yes Heather Fogg, #5 did hit 'em hard!) or how Ryan Constant will now forever be known in Stockton as the Man with the Golden Spot instead will talk about the REAL reason the Stockton Thunder pulled out a win late into the Stockton evening...

....that's right, we all know the real reason the Thunder were victorious....RALLY MONKEY!!  Yep, the Spot, and a few others as well....showed up, Rally Monkey in hand, and through 5+ periods of hockey that at times had more of a resemblance to trench warfare than it did Ice Hockey, rallied our hometown Thunder to victory over the team from the land of potatoes, Smurf Turf, and Senators who do bad things in public restrooms.  The Rally Monkey took his fair share of punishment to ensure a Thunder victory...shaking, tossing, even having nacho cheese sauce dumped on his head...the Rally Monkey took it as well as he gave it to make sure his team came out victorious...

Now down only two games to one....the Rally Monkey's job is not yet done...Games 4 & 5 are this Friday and Saturday, on the home ice of Stockton what do you say Spot fans....does the Rally  Monkey need to make an appearance Friday night?...The Spot says yes!  Lets not just have a few Rally Monkeys...but a whole arena of 'em...because we all know that it's time to...."Believe in the power of the Rally Monkey"!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The California Cougars: A rebirth or a last hurrah?

As Butch Cassidy once said to the Sundance Kid…”Who are those guys?”….why is the Spot starting off his last blog story with that line? Because that’s what most Stocktonians and valley residents say when you just happen to mention the California Cougars. Usually when you mention “cougars” these days your thinking of this, but for the past 5 years, the Cougars (either as California or as Stockton) have been Stockton’s very own Professional Indoor Soccer Team…giving their fans the highs of being the 2008-09 PASL-Pro Champions and this past year’s playoff run…to the low’s of the initial Troy Dayak years (The Spot went to a few of those games back then…and yes, it was brutal). But through it all the Cougars have kept a small, yet extremely dedicated fan base that have stuck with them through thick and thin. As the Cougars head into the off season, with the difficulties of last year behind them (very, VERY late ownership change, which allowed for only 5 games to be played at the Stockton Arena, and caused games to be played in both Turlock and Sacramento, staff let go in mid-season…you get the drift) a new model of what they hope will be success, both on the field and at the gate, has been drawn up that puts the ultimate success or failure of the Cougars directly in the hands of their fans.

It was this new model that led the Spot to attend the very first meeting of the Cougars Booster Club this past Saturday at Stockton’s Cancun Restaurant (gotta love their chile Verde!).  The old model of how sports teams usually operate is out.  The TV and radio ads, the billboards, the newspaper spots…out.  What’s in you might ask… Social networking…Facebook, Twitter and the like.  More personal, more fan interactive…and definitely less expensive.  Under the new model it will be up to the Cougar’s booster club, in conjunction with team ownership, to run the social networking sites, to get the season tickets sold….get fans to the games….sell those sponsorships, get the word out about the team.  The advantages?  Well those that sign up to get all of the above done are your most ardent supporters; you know they’ll give it their 110% and then some.  The disadvantages?  They clearly aren’t professionals at this either…most have no experience in running the operational aspects of a pro sports team.  But then again, we’ve left running the State of California to professionals and look where that’s gotten us…maybe having people with more zeal, more personally invested in the product, isn’t such a bad idea.  According to Chairman of the California Cougars Booster Club Jack Jones, “Our goal is to make this the most successful Cougars season ever.  We believe that a solid booster club to help generate excitement for the team will help make this goal a reality.  We need excited fans, season ticket holders and local businesses to get involved to help us reach this goal”.

What’s the Spot’s take on all this?  Well, the Spot is a fan of the indoor soccer…and the Cougars final game vs. the San Diego Sockers last year showed that at least for one game the Social Networking model worked (1700+ in attendance, their highest attendance of the season) but for the duration of a whole season…that is where the great experiment comes in.  The Cougars new business model does have a few things going for it…the fact that all 9 games (8 regular season and 1 exhibition) this year will be played at the Stockton Arena (dates estimated to be finalized by mid-summer), a very, very decided  core group of boosters who have shown their dedication in the past season to doing whatever is necessary to making the Cougars successful and the fact that they are starting the process of promoting the upcoming season not weeks before the season begins (early November) but a good 6 months before the start of said season, giving ample time to get the word out that yes, the Cougars are still alive and kicking, and last, but not least, the fact that yes, this team now belongs not to some corporate owner, or someone who treats sports teams like their own personal little toy, but to you, the fans.  This year it’s very clear for the Cougars, without the investment, the feeling of ownership from their fans, the Cougars will go the way too many other former sports franchises in the Valley (see Lightning, Stockton, and Falcons, Fresno) and into the dustbin of history.

Ultimately, the success of the California Cougars and the new “Social Networking Model” of running a sports franchise depends on the fans who live in Stockton and the surrounding communities.  Residents of towns such as Lodi, Manteca, Tracy and Modesto.  The success of the Cougars are in your hands.  Do you want to keep what has turned out in the last few years to be a particularly successful team on the field, around?   Do we want to point to the Cougars as not only fun, affordable family entertainment, but as a source of civic and area pride?  The fact that OUR team, because under the new model that’s what it is now, is able to go to the San Diego’s, Denver and Cincinnati’s and win, not just for them, but for us.  If so, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is Valley fans.  The Spot’s in, are you?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Drastic times call for drastic's rally monkey time!

To remake a line from a story made famous in another sport..."There was no joy in mudville, for the mighty Thunder had struck out"...4-2 and 4-0, those were the scores of the first two games of the National Conference Finals Series between the Stockton Thunder and Idaho Steelheads, and suffice to say, none of the 4 spots belonged to the Thunder.  So the Thunder come back to Stockton for games 3, 4 and hopefully 5, backed into a need of something special...something out of the ordinary...

...yes, we could just break out that old staple the rally towel...but come on, who doesn't use that.  The Thunder are somehow inexplicably down two games to none to Idaho....Idaho!! The same state that's given us a U.S. Senator who tries to do things in public restrooms that should be done in the privacy of one's own home. No no no...we need something more powerful, something proven to rally any team it gets behind...yes, we need...the rally monkey!!!

Yep...the rally monkey is the only thing that can save the Thunder from the 2-0 hole they find themselves in (well, that and maybe scoring some goals...but us fans can't control that) the Spot is issuing a call to action for all Thunder fans, and valley sports fans in general...the Thunder find themselves one step away from playing for a title...for everyone who complains that well, Stockton is Stockton, this is your chance to get behind something that Stockton can be proud of...that we can all point to and say "yep, we're playing for the title" if you haven't done so already, get your tickets for Wednesday's game (7pm start time at the Stockton Arena), show up, and cheer on the Thunder to a game three win.  The Spot will be there with his rally monkey, will you?