Category Archives: sports

After the Open: What to Do

We are right in the middle of the Waste Management Phoenix Open week, of course with the big signature weekend to come tomorrow and Sunday. The Open is up at the TPC in Scottsdale, and is definitely known for being the rowdiest, loudest, most energetic crowds on the Tour. All that energy has to go somewhere once you’ve left the gates, and if the Bird’s Nest isn’t your thing, here are our suggestions for what to do and where to go in the North Scottsdale/Phoenix area:

WHERE TO EAT

Skip the chain restaurants and head to these local gems up north:

Zinc Bistro: At Kierland Commons, just a little more than a mile away from the TPC, you can find Chef Matt Carter whipping up his French specialties. It’s delicious and you can eat on the patio, on the side or tucked away in a back courtyard, to absorb the perfect weather. Whatever you do, get the molten cake – just make sure to order in advance.

North, Greene House: North (and Bar North) and The Greene House are all brain children of  you-guessed-it, Sam Fox, and both are at Kierland Commons. If you haven’t tried The Greene House, prepare to be wowed. The atmosphere and food are fresh as can be, laid back but sophisticated at the same time.

The Compound: Live Music + Grill: The creators of the McDowell Mountain Music Festival have set up shop – err, restaurant – at the Scottsdale & 101. But this is no ordinary grill, of course there’s live music to be had nearly every night. Great place to go to relax after the Open.

El Encanto: You’re already up north, so head a few more miles up and visit El Encanto, one of Phoenix’s oldest (and most delicious) Mexican restaurants. You’ll be surprised, too, by the lake surrounded by trees, with swans floating around -it’s what they’re known for. That, and the year-after-year award-winning margaritas.

White Chocolate Grill: Oddly, not every dish is made with white chocolate. A disappointment to some chocoholics like me, until I tasted the oh-so-fresh American fare. It’s reminiscent of a Houston’s-type restaurant, with the classy dark wood, really expertly cooked food, but the WCG as we call it has a killer bar and atmosphere. Get there early.

NIGHTLIFE

You’ve seen some golf, now you’re full from one of the restaurants above, and you want to go out. Here’s where to do it:

Devil’s Martini North: The sister to the original location in Old Town Scottsdale, Devil’s North – as it’s called – is the primary dance club/bar/lounge in North Scottsdale. It always has the best DJs (before you go, you can even request music on their web site), stiff drinks, and what’s widely known as the best looking crowd in town. Don’t be fashionably late this weekend – go early to save yourself time in line.

Stone Rose Lounge: This swanky place is at the swanky Fairmont Scottsdale, literally right behind the Open, which means you won’t have to find a DD to get there. There will be live music and drinks with a bite, but this isn’t the place to go to dance. This is the place to go if you want to relax on the patio or watch the action around the bar.

Armitage: Just a couple miles north of the Open is DC Ranch, and Armitage is the oh-so-popular wine bar you’ve gotta try. There’s a long wine list for the sophisticated type, and a spirit list for the rest of us that really is full of spirit with creative concoctions. It’s really cozy with oversized chairs and couches, but it’s quaint so don’t wait too long to get your spot.

Diamondbacks Game – Chase Field

There’s nothing like a good ol’ baseball game to help me reconnect with a little bit of Americana. And Chase Field in downtown Phoenix is the perfect place to do it . Now I don’t profess to be the world’s #1 baseball fan, but I’m always sure to get to at least a few Diamondbacks games each season. I mean, what’s summer without the “Boys of Summer”? And who can resist the Ketchup/Mustard/Relish Race up on the Jumbotron? I generally pull for Mustard. There’s also t-shirt tosses, the kiss cam and the seventh-inning stretch – all a part of baseball fun!

The crowd fills in

The crowd fills in

 

D'backs take the mound

D'backs take the mound

 

 Since I gave up meat, I no longer indulge in a Diamond Dog, but kettle corn and peanuts make me just as happy. In fact, I was pretty maxed out on kettle corn twenty minutes into this particular game. Uh oh! Oh well, it was totally worth it. We had killer seats for the game and the D’backs pulled out a win over the Cardinals after going into extra innings. The only thing missing was a souvenir fly ball – maybe next time.

 

Pretty sweet seats

Pretty sweet seats

 

D'backs homerun

D'backs homerun

Check out a game and cheer on your Arizona Diamondbacks – www.azdiamondbacks.com

 

Crowd gets fired up

Crowd gets fired up

All-Star Insider

When the Cardinals were in the Super Bowl, one of the big story lines  was, “Can they contain the excitement, busy schedule, and pressures of Super Bowl week to make it to the actual game fresh?”  

Good thing I wasn’t playing. The six days of events for All-Star week were so exhilarating and exciting, that it left me with a happy exhaustion. To be so near all the players, celebrities, NBA “alumni,” and let’s just face it – other big time sports journalists – was completely thrilling. In the midst of all that was going on, I remembered you, my dear blog followers (new word: “blogowers?”) and tried to snap as many shots as I could. I twittered my fingers off to bring you up-to-the-minute coverage (and don’t think I didn’t have twitter wars with the other media sitting next to me), which you can see at www.twitter.com/visitphoenix, by the way. 

Click here to see ALL our awesome pics on our Flickr page

The week was so busy – we saw TO, “Chuck,” and the GlobeTrotters bust it up on the court, saw the press conferences with Shaq and Kobe (see their smiling pics below), saw Kevin Rudolf perform “Let it Rock,” spotted Muhammad Ali, Jay-Z and Beyonce courtside (who, by the way, would NOT kiss each other when the “Kiss Cam” came on), saw LeBron get up to the dunk challenge next year, saw the winning Nate Robinson dunk (see pic below), and Lisa Leslie charm the crowd. 

So in addition to Scott’s celebrity game post, here are some shots for you to reminisce:

TOShaqZach Levi (Chuck)Kevin Garnettphil jacksondwayne wadethe boyspromo shotslisa leslierobinson and duncanLet it Rockdunk compDunk comp2west teamkobeshaq dunkmuhammad alijohn legendjohn mccainlebron jameslebron dunkshaq and kobe

 

Enjoy!

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

Start of chuck
Start of chuck

A few weeks ago, when the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association held its annual convention and tradeshow at the Phoenix Convention Center, I wandered through the building and was surprised to find live bulls and broncos roaming about its lower level.

Star of "Chuck"

Star of "Chuck"

I figured that was as surreal a scene as I was likely to see in a downtown convention center until I walked into the same building Friday night and witnessed Magic Johnson and Julius Erving exchanging pleasantries in the center of a full-size basketball court as a half-dozen NBA mascots flipped about like Mexican jumping beans and that guy from Chuck ducked a camera boom to bump fists with Stuart Scott.

It was like 1982 NBA Finals meets Pan’s Labyrinth. Or maybe SportsCenter meets Hollywood Squares. Either way, it was weird.

The occasion for all this frivolity was the McDonald’s NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, which brought together NBA legends, TV and film stars, and (refreshingly) members of the Harlem Globetrotters for an evening of light-spirited hoops.

I won’t bother recapping the game, but in the spirit of Oscar season and obligatory blog snarkiness, here’s a list of highly unofficial awards that recognize the evening’s best personalities and performances. Enjoy.

T.O. and Dr. J
T.O. and Dr. J

Best Athlete on the Court: Terrell Owens. T.O., who won his second consecutive Celebrity Game MVP award, could log productive minutes at small forward for several NBA teams, including the Suns. Come to think of it, being on the receiving end of Steve Nash’s passes rather than Tony Romo’s might be better for his stats and his ego.

Chris Tucker

Chris Tucker

Fan Favorite: Chris Tucker. His voice is higher than his vertical and he’s a few sacks of rice heftier than his Rush Hour heyday with Jackie Chan, but Tucker still knows how to solicit laughs and cheers.

Awww, That’s Too Bad Award: To former “Human Highlight Reel” Dominique Wilkins, who couldn’t quite elevate for a dunk under the basket. When it comes to old guys and windmills, Dominique now plays second fiddle to T. Boone Pickens.

Chivalry is Dead Award: To Arizona alum and Harlem Globetrotter Eugene “Wildkat” Edgerson, for waylaying Lisa Leslie. Edgerson, who is 6-foot-6 (6-foot-11 with afro) and 245 pounds, rumbled from one end of the court to the other to swat the shot of the spindly WNBA star, sending her into photography row. That’s no way to treat a lady, especially on the eve of Valentine’s Day.

Biggest Bruiser: Micahel Rapaport. If it moves, Rapaport (Beautiful Girls, Mighty Aphrodite) will foul it. Then he will complain about the call in an over-the-top Brooklyn accent. This schtick was pretty funny the first seven times, but by foul No. 8 even his teammates seemed tired of it.

Ageless Wonder: Dan Majerle. Phoenix’s favorite adopted son scored 13 points and hit 3 of 4 shots beyond the arc. If you don’t guard Thunder Dan, he will make you pay. Still. (And he serves up a fine burger to boot.)

Best Mike D’Antoni Impression: To East team coach Julius Irving, who seemed to have little use for some of his reserves, particularly Zach Levi (Chuck) and James Denton (Desperate Housewives).

Hardest Theoretical Question: Who would win a celebrity smile-off between Magic Johnson, Curly Neal and Rick Fox? It’s a tough one, but I have to lean toward Neal, the legendary Globetrotter. He’s pure happiness in a red warm-up suit. I found his smile infectious when I was 7 years old, and it got to me again Friday night. Basketball could not ask for better ambassadors.curly-resized

Camelback Ranch

grandstand2

Camelback Ranch, Greater Phoenix’s newest spring-training facility, hasn’t even hosted a game yet, but it’s already made the world a better place.

How? Simple: More baseball, fewer Brussels sprouts.

I toured Camelback Ranch last week and learned that the new Cactus League home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox was built on land formerly leased by the City of Glendale to farmers who grew broccoli and Brussels sprouts. No offense to our nation’s proud and hard-working farmers, but any project that tilts the cosmic balance between leafy vegetables and spectator sports toward the latter is OK in my book.

But that’s far from the only reason to patronize Camelback Ranch this spring. First off, the ballpark and its surrounding facilities are gorgeous. Baseball fans who have visited some of the country’s newest pro stadiums know that the idea of a ballpark as a sea of asphalt is as outdated as white cleats and AstroTurf. Still, Camelback Ranch takes the bucolic-ballyard thing to a whole new level.

There’s a creek. There are walking trails. There’s an orange grove. For goodness sake, there’s even a lake stocked with bass, bluegill, catfish and turtles.

Apparently, the developers’ creed was: “If you build a nature preserve, they will come.”

lake_bridge

river

The main stadium, which the Dodgers and Sox share, is filled with 10,000 box seats the color and sheen of melted caramel. There’s room for 3,000 additional fans on the grassy berms along the baselines and beyond center field.

Since the playing field is sunk 12 feet below grade, sight lines are fantastic. Depending on where you sit, you’ll be treated to backdrop views of the White Tank Mountains or the silvery shell of University of Phoenix Stadium.

The stadium is surrounded by a dozen practice fields, two of which are built to the exact dimensions of the Dodgers and Sox’s home parks. I was told during the tour that Roger Bossard — the Obi-Wan Kenobi of major league groundskeepers — oversaw the construction of all the fields. (No word on whether he had a hand in creating the turtle habitat.)

dodgers1

If not for all the construction workers milling about last week (about 800 of them, working hard to get Camelback Ranch ready for its March 1 opening day), I might have assumed the entire complex just sprung from the earth. It’s very organic. The teams’ clubhouses — low slung, with walls of natural stone and rusted-metal panels — look like they might have been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West pupils.

concourse

Bottom line, without hyperbole: I’ve been to spring-training parks across Arizona and Florida, and Camelback Ranch might be the most spectacular one I’ve ever seen. I’ve got a Dodger-fan friend coming out from L.A. next month, and I can’t wait to take him to a game.

The only thing I’m not sure about is the name. “Camelback Ranch” sounds like something you might get drizzled on a salad at one of Phoenix’s resorts. I mean, you can’t even see Camelback Mountain from Glendale.

But, hey, at least the place isn’t called Brussels Sprouts Farm.