I tried like hell to hold back tears the first time I dressed up as Santa Claus to entertain kids at an income-restricted apartment community in Orlando.
A little girl told me, while sitting on my lap as I was dressed for the part, that all she wanted for Christmas were shoes for her little brother. A young boy said he just wanted for his mom to be happy while another boy asked to receive nothing at all.
Similar requests were made in between the typical interactions of kids asking Santa for toys and gadgets they’ll lose interest in by February.
It was the looks in the eyes of parents and grandparents that made my heart ache most as they soaked up whatever joy these kids were experiencing.
A new Batman hits the big screen next year featuring Ben Affleck in the leading role as the Caped Crusader. He’ll follow in the footsteps of a handful of others who’ve put their own unique spin on Bruce Wayne dating back to the 1940s.
Luckily for us there’s someone looming in the shadows who recently felt compelled enough to showcase Batman’s cinematic past in his own way. Jacob T. Swinney has pieced together old footage of all who has worn the cape in movies over the years, helping to bring some perspective to the franchise and the changes it’s endured.
“The Evolution of Batman in Cinema” features a look at the Batman (1943) and Batman and Robin (1949) serial shows that started it all and the Batman: The Movie (1966) release that put the character over the top.
Swinney also includes footage of the nearly three-decade run that followed more than 20 years later including Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), Batman Forever (1995), Batman & Robin (1997), Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and The Lego Movie (2014).
( The following is a story I wrote for the May 30, 2015 edition of Lions Roar, the gameday magazine of Major League Soccer’s Orlando City Soccer Club, exploring the continued support of a legion of loyal soccer fans throughout Central Florida )
You need only to cruise the pavement of Central Florida and tally the number of OCSC magnets adorning vehicles for proof. Or stroll the sidewalks of downtown Orlando wearing the club’s trademark purple and keep tabs on the responses you receive.
It’s as though lifelong relationships are being made by the thousands in 2015.
Whether it’s the club’s work in the community or the inviting presence of its leaders around town, purple pride is spreading throughout the state at an uncontainable rate.
“I remember when we first started going to games and there was maybe a couple thousand people in the stands,” said Randy Badilo, a season ticket holder in section 110 who has supported the club since its inception. “Then at the start of this year we sell out the entire Citrus Bowl for the first game, and it’s been incredible ever since.”
Boosted by home crowds of 62,510 in the club’s MLS debut against New York City FC on March 8 and 40,122 against the defending champion LA Galaxy a little more than two months later, Orlando City is averaging 37,446 fans at home this season compared to an average of just over 20,000 for the league as a whole.
The No. 1 Titans became just the second team in Central Florida history to make it through the regular season without a blemish on its record. But it’s an elusive trip to the state final four that would be most satisfying as playoff qualifiers get underway this week.
The Titans face Ocoee on Wednesday in their Class 8A, District 3 opener, just four days after local rival Dr. Phillips had their backs against the wall late in the season finale.
Olympia scored seven runs in the final three innings to win 9-5 (in eight innings) and improve to 100-12-1 since 2012, which happens to be the last time Olympia went unbeaten before losing in the region title game to finish 29-1.
I never intended to make a post that’s in any way associated with the Grammy Awards.
Hell, I hardly even pay attention to the Grammy Awards, unless I’m wandering aimlessly on social media and happen upon the typically ridiculous placement of artists in categories of which they have no business earning an award.
But then Kanye West blasted Beckfor winning album of the year, for an album I admittedly dismissed upon its release much in the same way I did Sea Change in 2002. And although I own multiple albums by both Kanye and Beck, I found West’s response to Beck’s triumph as equally annoying as nearly every other music fan.
The MLS Cup goes down this Sunday at 3 p.m. in Los Angeles between the Galaxy and New England Revolution. There’s plenty of star power involved in the matchup, led by Landon Donovan, perhaps the greatest American soccer player of all time, playing in his final professional game.
On Monday Major League Soccer teams will begin submitting their list of unprotected players for the upcoming Expansion Draft as the Orlando City Soccer Club and New York City FC are scheduled to pick through those leftovers on Wednesday.
I spoke with Orlando City coach Adrian Heath earlier this week about his impression of the MLS postseason, and what he’s been doing as of late to prepare for the upcoming MLS drafts and signing periods for the Lions.
There’s so much to be done before the Orlando City Soccer Club even steps foot on the pitch as a Major League Soccer participant at the start of the 2015 season. Among the many obstacles to navigate is the MLS Expansion Draft on Dec. 10 as Orlando City joins New York City FC in each selecting 10 players from those made available by current clubs.
Orlando City currently has just 10 players under contract for 2015 after defender Luke Boden and midfielder Harrison Heath finalized contracts with the club on Monday. Boden has spent the past four seasons with the Lions while Heath joined Orlando City near the end of the 2014 USL PRO season.
UCF football’s announcement last week that they’d agreed to a home-and-home series with Stanford of the Pac-12 drew modest interest from college football fans. UCF coach George O’Leary didn’t appear to be too excited about it either at his weekly press conference earlier this week at Bright House Networks Stadium.
O’Leary was asked Monday if the new agreement, which sends UCF to California in 2015 and Stanford to Florida in 2019, might mean the Knights have plans to expand recruiting coverage to the West coast.
“No. I don’t see us recruiting more on the West,” he said with a tone that matched his disinterest in the topic. “It’s obviously a great opponent, [but] I’d much rather see us get opportunities to play teams that have some relative to recruiting for us. There’s a lot of teams from the Midwest, to the East, to the South that would be great opponents.”
But O’Leary’s never been blind to the fact that mid-major’s such as UCF are in no position to avoid these types of match-ups, even if they do make for a grueling road trip for both players and fan base.
Congrats goes out to the Arizona Rattlers for wrapping up an ArenaBowl three-peat on Saturday while simultaneously crushing the hearts of 18,404 rabid, title-hungry sports fans in Cleveland. In the first ArenaBowl I ever paid attention to (while at a laundromat in 2002, of all places) the Rattlers were badly beaten 52-14 by the rival San Jose SaberCats.
On Saturday, Arizona ravaged the Gladiators to the tune of 72-32 to claim their third ArenaBowl title in a row. It’s the fourth consecutive appearance in the ArenaBowl for the Rattlers since the AFL relaunched in 2010.
It’s partially why I’m pleading for someone (anyone!) to please save the Arena Football League.
Never mind the constant chatter alleging the abuse of the paltry salary structure by teams with kickbacks to players, or that an owner once told me he’d fix games so home teams won every time if he could. Forget about all of that, I’m just concerned with two particular tweaks that would help make the league feel a little more legit again.
It’s hard enough for players to hit for the cycle at least once in their Major League Baseball careers, never mind becoming just one of three big-leaguers ever to do so in both the American and National leagues. What makes the only cycle of the 2014 season so interesting is the familiarity involving a couple players and a pair of games.
While with the Brewers on May 22, 2009, Parra gave up three of the hits Cuddyer would need for his first cycle (while with the Minnesota Twins) before going on to finish it off at the Metrodome with a triple off of Jorge Julio, who had played for the Rockies two years earlier.
Was it any coincidence the reports of Ricardo Kaka retuning to Sao Paulo FC, where he’ll play the remainder of the year before joining Orlando City Soccer Club in Major League Soccer in 2015, came out the same week the clubs were scheduled for an international friendly?
While Kaka was back home in Brazil, Orlando City and Sao Paulo played to a scoreless draw. The match came down to Orlando City goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo, who made a save in the 90th minute off the foot of Alexandre Pato from the top of the box. It felt anything but routine despite the one-timer being offered up to his chest.
If you’ve been watching the World Cup this month you may remember the impressive day turned in by Mexican goalie Guillermo Ochoa against Brazil during a 0-0 draw in group play. Gallardo, who is of Mexican decent, was asked about the coincidence.
“I’m just happy that Brazilians couldn’t score on Mexicans,” he said with a laugh.
I’ve kept up with the Arena Football League ever since attending my first game during the 2001 season. I would soon go on to work for one of its teams on multiple occasions and later cover the league in some form or another, all while remaining a fan that genuinely enjoyed the sport.
I can’t say I feel that way about the AFL today. Maybe one day I’ll write more about why I’ve lost faith for those who don’t know how far the league has fallen since its relaunch in 2010.
But I must admit that on Saturday, when I made it out to my first game of the 2014 season while on duty for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in Orlando, I was lucky enough to cover a nail-biter that came down to the final play of the game. It was one of those classic AFL finishes.
That brief moment of excitement I feel each year when preparing to watch the NFL Draft doesn’t linger for too long. I’m usually ready to channel surf or dip in and out of the room by the eighth pick. But this year I realized it’s all in the way you approach it.
I spent much of the draft last night in a recliner with a laptop, smartphone and remote control nearby. First thing I realized was that ESPN has been ruining this event for me for years. It wasn’t until I committed to the NFL Network’s broadcast that I no longer had the urge to throw my television through a wall due to the rabid jaw-flapping.
Then I got caught up in the information overload world of Twitter and Facebook, reading and responding to online posts about fan’s draft triumphs and despair, with plenty of doses of humor thrown in at each other’s expense.
Disclaimer: Back in the early 1990s I learned that I share the same birthday as that of iconic musician Johnny Cash. Through the years I’ve connected in different ways with the contradictions of such a personality, but I’ve also remained unbiased when it comes to critiquing his body of recorded work.
I’m not much of a country music fan, but I do consider myself a bit of a Johnny Cash aficionado when it comes to the Man In Black’s discography. Though I plan to write more about the subject down the road, the most urgent matter of today is this week’s release of a once-shelved Cash studio album dating back to the mid-1980s.