Tuesday, January 4, 2011
A Two Day Trip of Football, Atlantic City, College Basketball and Cheesesteak
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Mal had suggested to Tieff and me an overnight trip. It would start on Sunday, January 2nd with the Jets hosting Buffalo, then a quick jaunt to Atlantic City capped by a drive to Philly to watch Hofstra take on Drexel on Monday night. It was a trip that involved three of my favorite things; the Jets, poker and of course, good CAA college basketball.
When my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I asked her for this trip. I didn't get an answer until Christmas Day, when one of my presents was labeled "Enjoy your trip!" It was a basket of trip necessities - shaving cream, toothpaste, razor, mouthwash, comb and deodorant. To me, it was the perfect gift and my trip extended my Christmas break vacation by another day.
But next to our seats is an open seat due to it being an obstructed view seat since it has a column to the right of it. The Jets won't even sell the seat. What's funny is that the view of the field isn't obstructed at all. And we even offered the Jets to buy the season tickets for the seat at a discount. And yet the Jets wouldn't sell it to us. Weird.
So we had to buy an extra ticket and then one of us could sit at the open "obstructed" seat. When Mal and I checked on Stubhub, the cost of the lowest priced seat was $55. But Mal figured that we would get a cheaper cost from someone scalping outside the stadium. Thankfully the Jets had sewn up a playoff berth last week and the game basically had little meaning. Thus you had people trying desperately to sell tickets outside the stadium. Mal picked up a seat for $20.
We got out of the Meadowlands before 4pm and took the trip down the Garden State Parkway to Atlantic City. While we drove down I kept Mal and Tieff abreast of the Colts/Titans and Bears/Packers games. We got to the Borgata a quarter after six and checked into our rooms. We had dinner at Wolfgang Puck's as we found out the Colts and Packers both won while they showed the meaningless Eagles-Cowboys game on the TV. Then it was off to poker.
In poker, my style of play is simple. Be patient and pay attention to the table. If the majority of the players at the table are aggressive or play a lot of hands, don't join in. Pick your spots, play only good hands and things tend to work out. I won the first hand I was in, then I only played another two hands for a good 20 minutes as I was getting dealt horrible cards.
Then I started getting dealt good cards. Pocket fives and pocket sixes led to two winning hands by being passive on the preflop but aggressive and betting heavy on the flop. Yes, they were only small pots, but still I was making money and making sure no one stayed in and got lucky on the turn or river. Then as luck would have it, I got pocket Aces three times over the span of ten minutes. The first two times I played it slow, winning both hands. I also eventually knocked out Tieff as he went all in with Jacks vs. my Aces.
Then came the hand of the night as I got dealt Aces again for a third time. Again, I raised pre flop with a small bet. Then another player raised me $35. Knowing I had the best hand, I went all in, trying to make sure that he wouldn't stick around and get lucky on the flop. Much to my amazement, he called. He had pocket kings. The flop, turn and river didn't help him and I busted him. He was furious, bought back in and did his darnedest to try to get back at me. But in the two hands that we played against each other, I folded, not giving him the satisfaction or the chance to get even. I cashed out shortly after, knowing I was up a $100, plus I was tired from being up early in the day. I was back in my hotel room at 11:00 PM. Yup, I am a lightweight.
Monday morning came, and it was unusual to sleep past 7:00 am uninterrupted by either of my two young boys. I ended up waking up around 9:00 am to a text from Mal wondering about breakfast, The rest of the morning/early afternoon consisted of a huge breakfast at the Borgata Buffet, then putzing around for a few hours before indulging on Ben and Jerry's at 2pm while Mal played more poker. A little after 3:00 PM, we left the Borgata and headed out on the Atlantic City Expressway to Philly - land of cheesesteaks, the Big Five and for one night, Hofstra vs Drexel.
an Irish Pub/restaurant on the corner of Market called Sliante, which is Gaelic for "Cheers". We walked down Chestnut and made our way into the pub.
Sliante has a wide selection of beers and really good food. We decided to have the piled high nachos with chicken and I downed the few that I picked at with a glass of Magnus cider on tap. We made friends with the waitress Dari and told her we were so impressed with the food, the service and the place that we would be back there after the game. And we made good on our promise later.
It had been four years since Tieff and I were last here at the DAC. We had first been there previously in 2005 to watch Drexel pound Hofstra. We were last there on January 28, 2006 when the Pride took on Drexel in front of a packed house. It turned out to be one of the wildest games I had ever seen. That night we saw Hofstra and Drexel battle back and forth. The Pride took a late six point lead, only to have the Dragons rally late in the second half and force overtime. In the overtime, Drexel had a six point lead, 75-69 with 35 seconds left. Hofstra looked like toast at that point.
I have always liked the DAC. It's a small gym that seats about 2300. What really makes it stand out is that the fans are literally on top of the action. There are sections of the court that seem not even a foot between the first row of the stands and the court. That adds to the ability of the fans to disrupt/heckle the players. And much to my surprise, Drexel started its spring semester that day, thus no concern about lack of student attendance (unlike Hofstra, where undergrad classes don't start till January 26).
After we sat down, it was a trip down nostalgia lane. Mal noticed in the free Drexel program that Robert Battle, former Drexel forward and one of the College Hardwood's all time favorite players was playing in Argentina while Phil Goss, a favorite of Tieff's was playing in the top Italian league. Nice to know players you remember are still going strong in professional leagues.
It was the first game of three games this week for each team. When the CAA starts conference play in January, they START conference play. For each of these teams, if they didn't play well this week, they could be looking at 1-3 come next Sunday morning. So starting off the week with a win was imperative for both Drexel and Hofstra.
To counteract the man to man defense, Hofstra showed a lot more movement than they did against Iona. This resulted in Greg Washington hitting two early open jumpers to put the Pride up 5-2. However, Drexel was consistently finding the weak part of the zone on the left block and Samme Givens was taking full advantage. Givens scored eleven of the Dragons' first sixteen points and Drexel was up 16-13 with 11:20 left in the first half.
Due to Drexel dominating the glass, especially on the offensive end, they would have eleven more FG attempts in the first half than Hofstra. But the Pride would actually score two more field goals (Hofstra would shoot 13 of 26 compared to Drexel's 11 of 37). This was due in large part to a very smart move on Hofstra Coach Mo Cassara's part. When the Dragons' leading scorer, Chris Fouch, entered the game, Cassara immediately put Yves Jules on him. So though the Pride was playing a zone, in part, it was a matchup zone with Jules defending Fouch. And it worked, as Fouch was held to only two first half points.
Now games that involve Drexel are fun in large part due to one Bruiser Flint. Flint is possibly the most demonstrative, funniest coach to watch in the CAA. And only being a few rows away from the Dragons' bench gave an interesting perspective to Bruiser's actions. When Derrick Thomas made a mistake in defending a Hofstra player, Bruiser screamed out to Thomas "We talked about this!" And in the picture above, Bruiser is discussing, what else, a foul call with a referee.
Then you had a crazy fan dressed up in a Blue Man suit with Drexel colors, who tried distracting Hofstra's foul shooters. In the first half, he raced from the one end of the court down to the other end where Hofstra was shooting and jumped up and down. Another time in the first half, he took off his shorts and yes, starting slapping his blue suit butt as a Hofstra player shot free throws. That resulted in a talking to by a Drexel security member. Needless to say, he didn't do that again. Finally, in the second half, he had an ingenious idea of folding himself into a box and then popping out like a jack in the box as the Hofstra player shot the ball at the line. Pretty damn funny.
With 14:11 left, Jenkins was on the bench, Hofstra had committed nine fouls to Drexel's two and a seven point halftime lead had gone up in smoke. Things did not look good for the road team. But the Pride did not give up and over the span of four and a half minutes, they went toe to toe with the Dragons and the deficit was actually only two 48-46 when Jenkins came back in with 9:45 left.
Drexel would go back up 62-61 on two Dartaye Ruffin free throws with 2:59 left in the game. Ruffin would actually score ten of his sixteen points from the foul line. But after Ruffin's two free throws, Hofstra would respond with a 7-0 mini-spurt, capped by a Moore three point play with exactly one minute left to put the Pride up 68-62.
Hofstra won 75-69.
It was perhaps the Pride's best overall effort on the season as seemingly every Hofstra player contributed in some fashion. Of course, Jenkins had 23 points including 11 of 12 from the line. He also had six rebounds and four assists. Imes was a perfect 8 of 8 from the field and had 20 points and 8 rebounds. Moore was huge late with 11 points, 9 rebounds and 3 steals. Brad Kelleher had a much better game than he did against Iona with 7 points and 5 assists. But Yves Jules might have been the hero of the game as he shut down Fouch.
In the stats of the night, both teams combined for 50 fouls and 59 free throws. Hofstra shot 21 of 27 while Drexel shot 22 of 32 from the line. Drexel had more fouls, 24 than field goals, 23 and free throws, 22.
Most of the 2064 in attendance at the DAC went home unhappy. But for three Hofstra fans, there was much to rejoice about. The Pride knocked off what many considered was the second best team in the conference after ODU. The Pride also started their three games in six days gauntlet with a much needed win and now were 2-0 in the CAA.
After the crowd filled out, we finally left and we took the long walk down to Chestnut and Market. And as we promised Dari, came back to Slainte for celebratory cheesesteak sandwiches. And we all agreed, they were quite good as was the mashed potatoes I had as a side. We then made our way back to our parked car and headed across the Ben Franklin bridge, back to the Turnpike and on our way home.
It was definitely another fun road trip. We got to see a Jets win, played some poker, got to see another good Drexel - Hofstra game and got in a cheesesteak sandwich. It's the nicest Christmas present I have received in a long while, so a deepest thanks to my lovely wonderful wife. But, when I pulled into the driveway of my house, I thought to myself one thing.
"When's the next road trip?"