Handing over the keys to the Purple People Eater

It was the weekend before Memorial Day weekend in 2002. I had joined a beach house on Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore, and it dawned upon me that I might need some sort of vehicle to transport me to LBI, among other things.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

After what looked to be a fruitless day of car shopping, I stopped at one last lot and, buried behind cars that were way above and beyond my means (BMW, Audi, Mercedes), I spotted a 1997 Honda Accord.

The good news: The car was exactly what I was looking for. Hondas are reliable stalwarts, and I was looking for something 1997 or newer, because insurance was cheaper for cars of that age at the time. And it was within my price range, or, more accurately, at the very top of my price range. The bad news: It was purple (really dark purple, not Grape Ape purple, but still purple), with gold trim.

However, when shopping for used cars, you have to make sacrifices, so, despite the fact that the gold trim made me want to hurl all over the hood, I drove the 1997 Honda Accord home to Hoboken that day, and it remained with me until Martin Luther King Jr. Day of this year, when I finally traded it in.

All relationships have their highlights and lowlights, and my relationship with the Purple People Eater was no exception. So, without further ado:

The good:

  • The Accord got me down to LBI for several summers, where, among other things, I relaxed on the beach, drank until I forgot how much I hated the planet, met several people who are now close friends, and got to know the future Mrs. 9.
  • The Accord was also my primary mode of transportation to Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center, former home of the New Jersey Nets, during the glorious run with Jason Kidd that included consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
  • And the Accord got myself and several teammates to many Bar None and Big Easy football games. We won the championship of our league in 1996, before the Accord was even born, but we had a successful and fun run, with multiple playoff victories, and the Purple People Eater carried many of us to Randall’s Island, or Grand Street and the FDR Drive, and to the bar afterward for wings and liquid refreshments (only two for me, thanks, I have to drive, and NO shots!).
  • The Accord was part of many a tailgate in the Giants Stadium parking lot prior to glorious shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and other shows at other venues, including my favorite band, Rush, at the PNC Bank Arts Center and Jones Beach (most uncomfortable, hottest show I’ve ever sat through).

The bad:

  • The brakes on the Accord always sucked, no matter how many times I had them adjusted, and how many different mechanics looked at them. Even though I drove the car for 11 years, I never got used to that nervous feeling whenever I had to stop quickly. And I feel bad for people who were passengers in other cars I drove, because years of having to push down as hard as humanly possible on the Accord’s brakes constantly caused me to slam on the brakes of other cars and send everything within those cars spiraling forward.
  • This was obviously not the fault of the car (or of the driver, I might add), but back in 2008, the Accord met Pothole-Zilla, and the Accord lost, badly, to the tune of two new tires, a new radiator, a new radiator cap, two new hoses, and more than $800 of hard-earned Benjamins.
  • The following year, my transmission died, and I have been driving on a rebuilt transmission since. It worked fine, for the most part, except that I was strongly advised to let the oil temperature rise for a few minutes before driving the car, and I have the same patience level as most native New Yorkers, which is basically zero.
  • The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    Around the same time, I noticed a spot on the roof where the paint had begun to wear away. Over the next few months, this spot began to spread like an STD through a Hoboken bar, to the point where I feared that the roof would rust over and cave in one day. While I love convertibles, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. So, in the interest of selling or trading in the car somewhere down the line, I spent about $2,000 on a complete repainting and detailing. The only good thing to come out of it was that part of the process included removing the God-forsaken gold trim and replacing it with a traditional chrome trim that made the car much less of an eyesore. I kept the gold H from the grill as a souvenir, and I may mount it on a gold rope chain one day so I can sport my very own hip-hop necklace.

  • The motor that drives the power windows needed replacing. The windows would go down, but I would have to jiggle the switch hundreds of times until something connected and the windows would roll back up.
  • The controls for the air conditioning/heating and defroster only worked if you punched the console Arthur Fonzarelli-style, and even then, only about one-half of the time.
  • And just in case I had any lingering doubts as to whether I was making the right move, when I started the Accord for the final time to drive it to the dealership and turn it in, I noticed that only one headlight was working due to a short.

While it was definitely time to part ways with the Purple People Eater, I had a lot of good memories with the car, and I will definitely miss it. I am now driving a dark grey 2010 Nissan Rogue, and I am sure I will grow to love this car, too. It’s in great condition, and it’s a lot of fun to drive, and I hope the memories I will create with the Rogue match up with those from the Accord, although that’s a pretty tall task.

Farewell, Purple People Eater, and thank you for the companionship and a job well done (for the most part).

Barclays Center: A tale of two cities

I finally made it to a Brooklyn Nets game last month. I have been a die-hard New Jersey Nets fan for several years, but I hadn’t made the trek to Brooklyn yet, largely due to becoming a father and moving to Basking Ridge, N.J.


Barclays Center

Overall, I thought Barclays Center was impressive. I have not been to Madison Square Garden since its overhaul, so I can’t compare the two buildings, but on its own merits, Barclays Center is visually stunning, and you couldn’t ask for a better location. Walter O’Malley really fucked up by moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, as the new Ebbets Field would have been on the same site.

Barclays Center is located in an actual neighborhood, unlike the Nets’ temporary home at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., where the area is still in the developing stages, or the Izod Center, which is in the middle of a God-forsaken swamp. The mass-transit options are plentiful, which is a good thing, because parking is not.

The overall look is modern and sleek, and the sightlines are gorgeous. The arena comes across very well both in person and on television.

However, I have one major issue with Barclays Center, which is the same issue I have with the new Yankee Stadium, MetLife Stadium, and probably pretty much every stadium or arena that opened its doors recently: The difference between the lower level and the upper level is gigantic, and Barclays Center is the most prominent example of this trend that I’ve seen so far.

All of the new facilities are following the same blueprint: Let’s cram a whole bunch of club areas and suites into the middle, and push the upper deck way up and way back. Fuck the poor and middle class!

The lower level of Barclays Center is palatial. The concourse looks like the lobby and shopping area of a Las Vegas hotel, and I’m talking about Caesar’s Palace, not Circus Circus. The concourse is well-lit and wide, with a staggering number of choices for food and beer, and a generous collection of bar tables for fans to use if they want to eat and drink prior to going to their seats.

After seeing the lower level, the upper level reminded me of the steerage section of the Titanic. The concourse was narrow and dark, and the choices were greatly reduced.

I am not a seat snob in the least. I practically lived in the upper deck of the old Yankee Stadium. I have never minded sitting higher up, as I have always been more concerned with a central location (home plate, 50-yard-line, center court).

But if someone gave me free tickets to a Brooklyn Nets game, and they were in the upper level, I would graciously decline and watch the game at home. The upper level is several feet higher and several feet further from the court, and even the best seats in the upper level pretty much suck.

My New Jersey Nets season tickets at Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center were in the second row of the upper level, right on the center court stripe. The equivalent seats at Barclays Center were like sitting in the very top rows of the old arena. To be blunt, the seats absolutely sucked, and those were the best in the upper level.

And this is the reason why, although I am still a die-hard Nets fan, and I still follow the team religiously and watch as many games as I can, the odds of my attending more than one or two games per season are slim to none. It’s not worth going to a game unless you sit in the lower level, and the ticket prices in the lower level are beyond prohibitive.

I was fortunate enough to win my company’s tickets in a drawing. Without trying to sound like I’m spitting on a gift, the seats were decent, but certainly nowhere near the best in the house. They were about 20 rows up, which is great, but they were also behind the baseline, which isn’t bad when play is happening at the near basket, but makes it very difficult to follow action on the other end of the court. The face value of those tickets: $190 apiece. Seriously? There’s no way those tickets are worth $190 apiece. And if that’s what it takes to sit somewhere decent in Barclays Center, thank God for my 50-inch flat-screen TV.

The LeBron James aftermath, part 2: The Nets can shove the Blueprint for Greatness up their asses

Even the most committed and knowledgeable of sports fans can make errors in judgment when it comes to evaluating moves by their favorite teams. Every sports fan has been guilty of it, and those who claim otherwise are full of shit. Until this past week, my own personal worst mistake as a sports fan was being totally and completely irate when the New York Yankees traded Roberto Kelly to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul O’Neill prior to the 1993 season. Kelly turned out to be a journeyman outfielder who only lasted a few more seasons, while O’Neill was my favorite Yankee from Memorial Day 1993 through his retirement after the 2001 World Series.

Blueprint for Greatness

But now, I can safely say that my biggest error in judgment as a sports fan was my happiness over the 21,375-square-foot Blueprint for Greatness billboard the Nets painted across the street from Madison Square Garden, featuring new owner Mikhail Prokhorov and part-owner and hip-hop legend Jay-Z.

When I first read about the idea. I was ecstatic. I hate the New York Knicks with a deep, intense passion, and putting this huge billboard up right across the street from the arena was like spitting in their faces. I constantly reposted updates on the massive project’s progress, just to tweak my friends who root for the New York Bricks. But now that the dust has settled, this was a really stupid, sophomoric, juvenile idea that makes the Nets look like even more of a joke than they’ve historically been perceived to be.

Unless, that is, you can find someone who sincerely believes that taking aim at LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Rudy Gay, Tyrus Thomas and David Lee, and then ending up with Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro and, if the Golden State Warriors pass on matching an offer sheet, Anthony Morrow constitutes a “Blueprint for Greatness.” That person should immediately be cut off by bartenders and drug dealers, as they’ve clearly lost touch with reality.

Johan Petro? Really? The only Petro who would help the Nets is sadly no longer among the living.

I’m not angry at the Nets’ organization for its approach this offseason. From everything I’ve read, they made the best possible effort in all of their meetings with free agents, and things just didn’t work out their way. Nor can anyone be blamed for the fact that despite finishing 12-70 last season, the NBA Lottery process bent the Nets over and screwed them without buying them dinner first, leaving the team with pick No. 3 in a draft that boasted two great players. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong, but I don’t think it was lack of effort or a poor approach.

But for the love of God, please paint over that fucking billboard. It’s beyond childish at this point. This team will be lucky to win 30 games next season, which won’t exactly ender it to the next class of free agents, either. This organization is in no position to taunt any other organization — even the overrated, worthless, piece-of-shit Knicks.

The LeBron James aftermath, part 1: Knicks fans and the media are delusional

Now that the most-anticipated free-agent pursuit in sports history has come to an end, with LeBron James’ signing with the Miami Heat, I have to say that I am amazed by the anger and sense of entitlement coming from the New York Knicks organization and fans, as well as the New York media.


Full disclosure: I am a die-hard New Jersey Nets fan, and I absolutely despite the Knicks. I am not happy with the Nets right now, either, but I will address that in a separate post.

But some of the comments I read after LeBron’s decision was announced were downright ignorant.

First off, even though the Knicks may have planned the past two seasons based on clearing salary-cap money to pursue LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, someone please find me a quote from LeBron saying, “I will be a New York Knick.” Knicks fans and the media acted like they were left at the altar. LeBron never made a commitment to the Knicks, yet he was referred to as a traitor on many occasions. Am I missing something?
Cleveland fans have the right to feel left at the altar, and it has to be horrible for them to see a local product (Akron is close enough to Cleveland for LeBron to qualify as local) raise the Cavaliers from the dead, only to leave them for dead. Knicks fans, on the other hand, need to shut the fuck up.

I think one of the reasons why I hate the Knicks as much as I do is the overinflated sense of importance that flows from the top of the organization all the way down to the fans. The Knicks portray themselves as one of the signature franchises in the National Basketball Association, and they think of Madison Square Garden as a basketball mecca. Why?

The Knicks last won the NBA championship in 1973, when I was five years old. Since then, the Knicks have been to two NBA Finals, including one that was a total fluke, when they only squeaked into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed because of a lockout-shortened season, and they only beat the No. 1 seed Heat because of a lucky chuck and heave toward the basket by Allan Houston, one of the most overrated shooting guards in the history of the league. During the same time period, the Nets, often ridiculed as lower-class citizens, have been to the same number of NBA Finals: two. And the Nets earned both appearances.

Plus, the Nets’ run of success was much more recent. Just a few short years ago, 2006-07, the Nets beat a tough Toronto team four games to two in the first round, and then lost a hard-fought series to , coincidentally, LeBron and the Cavaliers, four games to two. The Knicks, meanwhile, have not been to the postseason since 2003-04, when they needed to remove brooms from their asses after being swept by the Nets.

Let’s face it: The New York Bricks haven’t been relevant since game seven of the 1993-94 NBA Finals, when John Starks, another vastly overrated bum, shot 2-for-18 and handed the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the Houston Rockets.

Yet Knicks management, fans and media parade around acting like it would be a privilege for any NBA player to join their sacred team and play on the sacred hardwood of Madison Square Garden. Seriously? Why?

Stop all of your fucking crying already. LeBron isn’t coming here. Deal with it. Other than people who are part of the Miami Heat organization or fans of that club, no one is happy with the decision LeBron made. But stop acting like your team was entitled to anything. The Knicks are NOT a model franchise. They are a sad joke, and they suck.

There used to be a ballpark, part II

Anybody who knows me already knows quite well how I feel about the destruction of the real Yankee Stadium. While the new Yankee Stadium has definitely grown on me, watching the old ballpark being torn down feels like losing a family member. I still can’t digest the idea that Box 611 no longer exists.

What was left of the real Yankee Stadium on Opening Day

When you’re younger, you think everything will last forever, including ballparks. Then as you move on in life, you come to the sad realization that nothing is forever.

The wounds of Yankee Stadium are still fresh. Even though the Yankees christened the new ballpark with a World Series championship, the skeletal remains of the real ballpark are still looming.

The past couple of weeks have brought the beginnings of a new baseball season, but also two more endings related to my favorite teams: Texas Stadium, the former home of the Dallas Cowboys, was imploded (see below). And while the building isn’t going anywhere just yet, the New Jersey Nets played their last game at the IZOD Center (formerly known as the Continental Airlines Arena, Brendan Byrne Arena and the Meadowlands Arena), as the team is finally taking my advice and moving to Newark, allegedly for two years while the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is being built, but, as I’ve said repeatedly, I’ll believe the team is moving to Brooklyn when I see a building.

The New Jersey Nets thank all 27 of their fans

Neither building means anywhere near as much to be as the real Yankee Stadium did.

I only went to two Cowboys games in Texas Stadium and, as magnificent as the new Cowboys Stadium looks on TV, it’s still weird not seeing the ugly but familiar building I grew up watching on TV.

And while the New Jersey Nets’ best two seasons as a franchise came at the IZOD Center (then Continental Airlines Arena), the building itself had very little character and, thanks to the Nets’ piss-poor fan base, even less atmosphere.

Still, it’s bizarre to see three buildings that were part of my fabric as a sports fan disappear (I know the IZOD Center is still standing, but Disney on Ice is not a sport, and the Devils, Nets and Seton Hall are all gone). Nothing is forever and, sometimes, change is good, but that doesn’t make it any less jarring or weird.

Jayson Williams … WTF?

I am one of the 23 or so living New Jersey Nets fans and, before the team’s brief period of actually being somewhat relevant under the leadership of Jason Kidd, my favorite player was Jayson Williams.

Jayson Williams

Jayson Williams

Ironically, I also root for a college team that has long been forgotten by most of the country: the St. John’s Red Storm. Back in the days before political correctness caused them to adopt that stupid-assed nickname, Williams also played for the St. John’s Redmen.

He was a nonentity for the Philadelphia 76ers for a while, then came to the Nets and mastered the art of rebounding. Williams was never particularly skilled either offensively or defensively, but he went after every rebound with ferocious effort and was, quite simply, a likeable guy.

His NBA career ended in a nasty collision with then-Nets point guard Stephon Marbury, which left the two of them writhing in pain on the floor of the Continental Airlines Arena (now the IZOD Center — sickening, I know). Williams got the worst of the impact, suffering injuries that doctors likened to those from a motorcycle crash. He tried to come back about a year-and-a-half later, but he just didn’t have the strength or explosiveness.

So one of the guys who was always among the more personable in the NBA did the next-best thing: He started working on NBC’s basketball telecasts. That came to a crashing halt, as well, but not due to injury — due to blatant stupidity.

For anyone who doesn’t remember the details of the case, Williams was playing around with a gun in his house and accidentally shot and killed the limo driver who had driven him and a few other people home. Then he tried to cover it up, making matters worse.

On the one hand, there’s a big difference to me between deliberately pulling the trigger and an accident. But on the other hand, the driver’s friends and family lost a loved one due to complete idiocy, and Williams deserves whatever happens to him in the retrial, as much as I hate saying that about a guy whom I’ve always been a huge fan of.

Unfortunately, things only seem to be getting worse. Williams’ wife filed for divorce, and both that case and the retrial of the limo-driver case are due to start soon, and everything must have gotten to the guy. He was removed from a Manhattan hotel room by police and is being held for observation after being described as suicidal.

I know Williams is far from perfect and has done several more bone-headed things that I didn’t even bother to touch upon, but it’s still sad to see someone whom I was such a huge fan of, and whom I believe is a good person deep down, become such a mess. I’m still rooting for him but, rather than rooting for him to grab a rebound, I’m rooting for him to somehow turn his life around. I am not, however, rooting for him to be exonerated in the limo-driver case. As I said, he deserves whatever he gets in that case.

This sucks. Speedy recovery, No. 55.

Three is the tragic number

The New Jersey Nets have to be the worst team in NBA history at defending the three-point shot, and I’d really love to know why.

I’d love feedback from someone who knows more about basketball than I do. For once, I’m not being sarcastic, which is odd because sarcasm usually seeps from the pages of this blog.

I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable basketball fan, but I never played organized ball, so I haven’t picked up any of the coaching wisdom that covers my question.



I just watched the Nets get completely outplayed by the San Antonio Spurs, and Matt Bonner was one of the main reasons. Matt Bonner has exactly one NBA skill: three-point shooting. So why in the name of God was Matt Bonner open all night?

If it sounds like I’m ripping Matt Bonner, I’m not. I’d love to have a guy like him on the Nets. He may have one NBA skill, but it’s a valuable one to have. It just frustrates me that the guy has one purpose on the court and the Nets continually allowed him to accomplish it.

Obviously, the Spurs have some great inside players, with Tim Duncan representing one of the best to ever set foot on a basketball court. But why was Bonner’s defender constantly leaving him wide open with enough to receive a pass, set his feet, examine the basketball, get a perfect grip, look at David Stern’s signature, check out the hot blonde sitting courtside, elevate (barely) and nail a three-pointer?

I love the Nets, but there are nights when they can be excruciating to watch, and tonight was one of them.

The Newark Nets: Why not?

I visited the Prudential Center in Newark — the new home of the New Jersey Devils — for the first time Saturday night for a kickass Metallica show, and I was very, very impressed by the arena.

Prudential Center

Prudential Center

It’s located only three blocks from a train station that serves New Jersey Transit, the PATH and Amtrak. Bars and restaurants are starting to spring up around it, including Brick City Bar & Grill, which had such good food and beer that we went there both before and after the show.

And once you get inside the arena, everything about it is comfortable. The walkways and concourses are nice and wide. There is a great selection of food and beer. The sight lines are great, and the arena has some character, instead of looking like a big bowl.

So can someone please explain why the New Jersey Nets continue to waste away at the IZOD Center (formerly Continental Airlines Arena, formerly Byrne Arena)? The place has absolutely no redeeming qualities.

The only public transportation to the Meadowlands is a New Jersey Transit bus from Manhattan. The parking situation sucks (in the interest of fairness, it’s probably not great in Newark, either, as one lot tried to charge my friend who drove $30 to park for Metallica). The food is prison-quality. The seating bowl has no character. And the building is just plain ugly.

And before anyone brings up the Nets’ “impending” move to Brooklyn, please silence yourself. This move is never, ever going to happen. There’s a better chance of a certain overweight 40-year-old under-six-foot blog-writing Jew with no basketball skills starting at point guard than there is for the Nets to ever bounce a ball in Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards project is as dead as Sarah Palin’s political future. It would have been a fantastic move for the franchise, but it’s not happening. Accept this and deal with it.

For the love of God, please let the Nets move to Newark.

A way for the Nets to hose the Knicks

I’m a longtime New Jersey Nets fan, and I absolutely detest the New York Knicks. When the Knicks were a contender and the Nets were brutal, beating the Knicks felt like 10 wins. And even when the two teams’ fortunes were reversed, I still relished beating the Knicks, and they couldn’t possibly lose enough games for me.

Needless to say, as bad as the Nets’ season has been, I still look across the Hudson River and chuckle.

Unfortunately, the Knicks won three of the four games against the Nets this season, winning the season series for the first time since short-shorts and big Afros.

But I have a way for the Nets to get back at them.

The Knicks just hired Donnie Walsh from the Pacers to run their team. I have a better chance of coaching the Knicks next year than Isiah Thomas does, and the front-runner for the job appears to be Mark Jackson, former Knicks point guard and current Nets TV announcer.

Unless the Nets get him first.

I know people in the Nets’ organization love the current head coach, Lawrence Frank, and I can’t say I dislike him, but I’ve never been a fan of his substitution patterns. Plus, every time the Nets call a time out, I want to cry. If the Nets have the ball, the end result is usually a turnover or a horrible shot. If the opponent has possession, the end result is usually a dunk, a layup or a wide-open three-pointer.

Does Frank deserve to lose his job? Maybe, maybe not. But I’d gladly sacrifice his position to name Mark Jackson to the post and deprive the Knicks of his services.

Why do I want Mark Jackson to coach the Nets? I think he’s got a great basketball mind. He knows the game inside and out. He was a damn good point guard without having better physical skills or speed than most of his opponents. And, frankly (pun intended), I flat out like the guy and don’t want to see him end up in Madison Square Garden hell, where I have no choice but to root against him.

So, Rod Thorn, get moving on this: Letting Mark Jackson go to the Knicks would be a poor decision. In the words of Jackson himself, “You BETTER than that!”