The Ultimate Game-day Gear … for Tailgating

It’s football season, and you know what that means. You should be in game shape … for the All-tailgating Team! While steroid nation is knocking the snot out of itself inside the stadium, real men are bulking up their party muscles in the parking lot. But like the pros on the field, the bros behind the wheels need the right equipment to score the biggest compliments on their hungry man’s football feast. So here’s your season ticket to the all-star gear that will be a big hit with your boys.



The RoadTrip Party Grill
You’ll keep your food -- and your crew -- fired up in the most adverse game conditions with this compact)

Instant Canopy
Unless you’re a UCLA or Honolulu U fan, it’s best to be ready for the bad weather. So put a lid on cursing the sleet and snow with this portable protection against the elements. Are you a stats guy? This 12-foot by 12-foot canopy sets up in less than three minutes, giving you 9 feet of clearance and 144 square feet of cover. It also travels well, since you can fold it up and pull it around in a wheeled carry bag -- just like the one your mom uses!
Price:
$189.99

Collapsible Table
Now that you’ve got something to sear your meat and a shelter to devour it in, you’ll need a surface on which to serve it up. Say hello to the Micro Table! It’ll be a much more polite conversation than the screaming matches you usually have with those bulky oversized folding tables. This 15-inch by 11-inch table surface with expandable 4-inch to 6-inch legs (perfect mouth-level entry point if you’re strafing the food from a lawn chair) is both flame- and heat-resistant, plus it folds up faster than Michele Bachmann in a serious debate.
Price:
$32.95

Outdoor Heater
Here’s a heater that’s so damn good they call it “Mister.” Yes, this Mr. Heater–brand portable heater is a cordless propane heat-blower that lets you bring hot air (not the kind that’s emanating from your mouth) to the parking lot. The 35,000-BTU-per-hour unit heats you and the boys up for approximately eight hours -- without a generator or extension cords to trip you up. The battery actually charges while it’s keeping your kishkas toasty!
Price: $159.99


Tailgator Gas-powered Blender
 Making blended drinks may not sound macho, but doing it with this gas-powered blender puts a locker room full of hair on your private parts. This baby whips up drinks wherever you can buy gas, and it does it in less than 15 seconds.
Price: $289.99


The Cruzin’ Cooler
Forget about lugging a heavy cooler all over the lot. This one brings you to the party. The invention of the century, this 500-watt electric scooter only weighs 74 pounds and can haul your up-to-250-pound tuchus around at 12 mph while holding 24 cans packed in 8 pounds of ice. It has disc brakes and aluminum construction, and it can be used for hauling meat. (Hauling vegetables is officially confined to beauty salon parking lots.)
Price:
$599


All-weather TV
If you’re really serious about tailgating, catch the pregame show on this 32-inch LCD outdoor TV, which is able to withstand temps from minus 24 F to 122 F. (You, of course, will succumb to frostbite or heat stroke, but the show will go on!) The all-weather aluminum enclosure keeps this baby safe from snow, wind and rain. But be warned: It will short out from repeated exposure to Star Jones.
Price:
$3,295


Photo: @iStockphoto.com/sjlocke

5 Fastest Sleds to Make You King of the Hill

Are you sick of winter? Then think back to when you were a kid. The most fun you ever had was shredding through the snow on your Flexible Flyer, right? Well, we have news for you. Sledding -- the national pastime of prepubescents everywhere -- is just as much fun for postpubescents. Face it: Your life is going downhill anyway, so you might as well enjoy the ride!

One of the cool things about not being a little kid anymore is you can afford to buy your own sled. These are our top five picks of the sleds and toboggans on the market today. These babies fly, so to give you a fighting chance of getting to the bottom of the hill in one piece, we also included a couple of pieces of safety equipment.

THE SLEDS:

Flexible Flyer PT Blaster


That’s right: The brand of your youth is using adult technology to throw you off a cliff at breakneck speeds. (We said it was fun -- not necessarily safe.) With a three-ski snowmobile design, this sled shreds like no other. It comes with a spring-loaded break system and handlebar steering for improved control and handling. It’s 45 inches long, 18 inches high and 20 inches wide, so it can handle the big butt of an old Sasquatch like you.

Price: $77



Buy It Here



Avalanche Snow Disc

 


For the sledding “fun”-damentalists. The old garbage can lid blueprint has been upgraded with lightweight plastic to reduce friction and increase speed. Not exactly NASA-level technology, but this baby takes off down a hill like a flying saucer. Admittedly, it doesn’t quite handle like the Space Shuttle Columbia. Once you’ve been launched, the piloting is out of your hands and you start spinning like Kim Kardashian’s press agent, heading any which way the Avalanche takes you. But you do it fast, and that’s the fun!

Price: $12



Buy It Here

 

Mad River Rocket Killer B Sled


If sledding brings you to your knees, then this is the one for you. To ride it, you place your knees in the foam pads, buckle in your thighs and steer with your hands. (Not for the text-messaging nuts in the crowd.) The black shell, constructed from recycled plastic, is extremely sturdy and able to handle difficult terrain. Give yourself time to learn how to handle this mother so it doesn’t handle you.

Price: $160



Buy It Here



American Traders Deluxe 8-foot Toboggan


This 8-foot-long retro rocket -- made of traditional thin wooden planks with thicker side slats for extra strength and speed -- brings back warm memories of youthful mass casualties. Weighing in at 28 pounds and measuring 18 inches wide, it meets U.S. National Toboggan Championship standards.

Price: $299



Buy It Here


Airboard Softboard Inflatable Sled


This arrowhead-shaped inflatable raft has hard plastic ridges that help keep you from killing yourself while you break speed records in the snow. This is, without a doubt, the fastest ride on the ridge: It can hit 80 miles an hour! At that speed, you’d better make sure not to hit anything else. The good news is that the plastic runners provide good handling with a simple shift of your body weight. (You ride lying head-first like on an old Flexible Flyer.) Developed in the Swiss Alps, this snow raft inflates in less than three minutes with a hand pump and delivers the ride of a lifetime.

Price: $140



Buy It Here



THE SAFETY GEAR:

 

Shred Ready Forty 4 Helmet


Every year, more than 20,000 sledders hit the emergency room after hitting the slopes. If you don’t want to join them, wear a helmet. This one uses in-mold expanded polystyrene (EPS), an energy-absorbing foam. It also has an easy-to-use one-handed buckle, along with a removable and washable liner and ear pads. Don’t abuse your head; use it and buy this hard hat.

Price: $80



Buy It Here

 

Ice Bird Snow Goggles


You can’t sled if you can’t see, so keep the wind and snow out of your eyes with these double lenses with anti-fog coating. They’re anti-scratch and break-resistant with 12 layers of protective coating that provide both protection and better visibility. Plus, the comfortable form-fitting foam padding on the inside will keep your face from taking on a permanent raccoon outline -- a nice feature if any cute snow bunnies happen to be on the hill.

Price: $45



Buy It Here


Ramp up Your Summer Pickup Game Performance

You never know when you might get drafted to play basketball, flag football or even toss a flying disc. Here's how you can be better in each.

With all pickup sports, the top goals are simple: Get some exercise and have some fun. (After all, it is summer … and you're probably not in a contract year.) However, to stay in the game -- and be picked for a future one -- being a good, if not great, player goes a long way.

Here are three top warm-month pickup sports and how you can turn it up a couple of notches in each.

Pickup Basketball
If you're playing pickup basketball, often many other players are waiting on the sideline to get in the next game. In other words, helping your team win, and staying on the court, is motivation numero uno.

Offense: Consider this your chance to be that unselfish, pass-first player you always wanted to be. Meanwhile, observe how your man plays you. Does he slough off until you have the ball? If so, fake him out: Go go one way then quick-change direction. And to get layup opportunities, rush for those open spots on the floor.

Defense: Of course, playing defense is half the game, but you'd never know it by looking at most pickup games. If you’re on D, distinguish yourself by shutting down the guy you're guarding. Quickly diagnose if he favors going left or right, then force him away from his strength -- even top-level players often struggle going away from their strong side. Similarly, most players are either penetrators or shooters. Make the penetrator throw “bricks” and crowd the shooter.

You may be surprised at how far these strategies can go to throw off the mental game of your opponent.

Flag Football
First, know the basic rules: Flag football usually consists of seven-man teams rather than 11, all players are eligible to receive a pass, and you need 20 yards (rather than 10) for a first down.

Speed: And now, the stating of the obvious: Speed kills the competition, especially in flag football. Whether you need to get open on passing routes, sprint away from diving defenders, or -- if you're the quarterback -- buy time in the pocket, speed is prized. The best way to achieve it? Always break -- while heading downfield, of course -- toward the sideline after getting the ball, since defenders tend to hover midfield. Also, the fast guy doesn’t lose his flags.

Ball handling: Ability here is also key. To prevent the fatal fumble, carry the football in the arm farthest from a pursuing defender. When catching the ball, always make your hands do the work -- spreading your fingers and keeping them relaxed to ease the catch -- before bringing them into your body. And use the lateral pass, when the opportunity’s there, to further advance the ball and surprise the opponent.

Defense: On defense, adopt an aggressive style that often forces opponents to make blunders, like fumbling the ball or throwing interceptions. Also, attempt to funnel opposing players toward midfield for easier flag grabs.

Ultimate Flying Disc
Like flag football, Ultimate is a fast-paced sport played with two teams of seven people on grassy, football-field-sized turf. Play starts when the defensive team throws the disc to the other team. Once a player catches it, he has 10 seconds to pass. If the 10 seconds elapse before passing or if the disc is dropped, blocked, intercepted, thrown out of bounds or simply not caught, possession transfers to the other team. Passes can go backward or forward.

The hardest part is learning the three throws: the backhand, the forehand (aka flick) and the hammer. You'll need to know how to do all three because the defense will force you to throw to different sides and release at different heights.

The backhand is your standard throw: Grab the disc with your thumb on top, index finger on the inside edge and the other three fingers extended underneath. Hold the disc parallel to the ground and point your feet perpendicular to your target. Bring your throwing arm across your body until the disc is near your nonthrowing shoulder. Begin the throw with your shoulder leading and straighten your elbow. Release it with a snap of your wrist when it's directly in front of you. This toss is usually used to throw left (or right for left-handers).

The forehand is that awkward flicky toss you use to throw to the right (or left for left-handers). Proper form may require practice: Extend your hand as if to shake hands. Place your index and middle fingers on the inside edge of the disc, and your thumb on the outside top. Hold the disc parallel to the ground, right side up. Bring your arm back and bend your wrist so it's perpendicular to your forearm. Drop your throwing shoulder several inches below your other shoulder. Begin the throw with your elbow leading the way. Flick your wrist with a quick snap so your middle finger is the last point of contact with the disc.

The hammer is the loopy upside-down throw that will also require practice to throw … and catch. Its grip is the same as the forehand. Draw the disc back along your head to your ear, much like you're throwing a baseball. Hold it almost vertically, with the top of the disc parallel to your cheek, the palm of your throwing hand about where your ear is, and the disc a little behind. Whip your arm forward, bringing the disc over your head, as you step forward. Extend your arm in front of your body and twist your elbow forward to snap your wrist to give the throw some good spin. The natural spin of the throw released upside down will pull the disc away from vertical toward a horizontal float.

Olympic Hopefuls: A Roundtable Discussion (Part 2)

Last week, we talked to three U.S. Olympic hopefuls, all affiliated with the New York Athletic Club, about their training regimens. This week, we talk to them about the challenges of being Olympic-caliber athletes; what their individual sports demand of them; and how they motivate themselves to compete at such a high level.

Our athletes:

Jake Herbert, wrestler, age 26, from Naperville, Ill.; 2009 World Freestyle, silver medalist

Seth Kelsey, fencer, age 29, from Colorado Springs, Colo.; 2010 World Championships, silver medalist

Jarrod Shoemaker, triathlete, age 28, from Maynard, Mass.; 2008 Olympian, USA Triathlon 2010 Elite National Champion

 

MLT: What’s your biggest challenge as an Olympic athlete?

Kelsey: “It’s always a struggle to balance everything. I’m in the [Air Force] Reserves and work one weekend a month. I’m really fortunate in that my unit has been supportive of my Olympic dreams and working around my travel and training schedule.”

Shoemaker: “The biggest challenge is definitely balance. Training can’t become everything in your life.”

MLT: Name one thing about your sport that most people probably don’t know.

Herbert: “Olympic wrestling is different than high school or collegiate. In the Olympics, you could win -- or lose -- a match in 40 seconds.”

Shoemaker: “People hear triathlon, they think Iron Man. In that kind of really long-distance event, your goal is to stay under your anaerobic threshold -- basically to be as comfortable as possible for the time you have to be out there. In the Olympic triathlon, the distances are a little shorter, so our goal is to go hard. It’s all about power and speed.”

Kelsey: “Fencing is like a game of tag, except with sharp weapons.”

MLT: How do you perform your best when the pressure’s on?

Kelsey: “I’ll be a little nervous before competition, and that’s a good thing. It means I care. It’s when I’m not nervous that it’s time to worry. But I think one way to keep your poise during competition is by having a routine. Before each match, our warm-up is the same. Having a routine helps focus you.”

Shoemaker: “I know where I am, and I know there are still people better than me. So what motivates me is figuring out what I have to do to make myself that much better -- to achieve that small percentage of improvement I need to win that race.”

MLT: Do you have a quote that epitomizes your philosophy on training and competition, something that helps you stay motivated?

Kelsey: “I go with my favorite [paraphrased] quote from Teddy Roosevelt: ‘Ease in the present is due to great effort in the past.’ If you put in the hard work, you can make it look really easy.”

Herbert: “The one I like best I heard from Tom and Terry Brands, Olympic wrestlers and [University of] Iowa wrestling coaches: ‘You have to hate losing more than you love winning.’”

Shoemaker: “‘There is no such word as ‘can't’!’”

Photos: Courtesy of New York Athletic Club


Stoke Your Competitive Fire!

Champions share a hard-to-define quality. It’s a combination of competitive drive, focus and desire that makes them winners -- in sports, in the classroom and in life. You want to be that guy, but perhaps you think you can’t be. Maybe you believe that the winners of the world are born, not made.

If so, think again.

Research shows that the will to succeed is as much a factor of nurture as it is nature. A 2009 study compared competitive drive among members of a primarily patriarchal tribe in Tanzania and a community in India in which women have greater authority and social standing. The researchers -- from The University of Chicago and Columbia University -- found that in the Tanzanian tribe, women were less competitive. But in the Indian community, the reverse was true: The women were more competitive than the men.

The implication: Competitive drive is a learned behavior.

“Granted, some may be born with a mentally tougher edge,” says Greg Chertok, a sport-psychology consultant who works with young athletes at The Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Center in Englewood, N.J. “But any athlete -- any person -- who is willing to put in the work can develop this as well.”

Here’s how to develop the competitive drive and mental toughness of a champion.

1. Identify your opponent

First, stop and consider who or what it is you’re competing against.

“Most of us think of competitiveness as the drive to be No. 1,” says former NCAA wrestling champion Matt Furey, author of a 2009 memoir, The Unbeatable Man. “That’s OK sometimes, but chances are you’re not going to be the best in the world at whatever you’re doing. So does that mean you’re going to hide your talents under a rock? How about, instead, you let the very best you have shine?”

In other words, stop comparing yourself to others, and start playing the game of life as a healthy competition against yourself -- striving to set and meet goals, and to do your best.

2. Cultivate your competitive attitude

“Excelling often means taking yourself out of your comfort zone,” says Chertok. At the point when most people want to quit, real competitors battle on. You can help develop that go-the-distance attitude by practicing it. During moments when you feel like finishing your workout early or closing the book during homework … make the decision. Do one more set. Read one more chapter. “Flip the competitive switch!” says Chertok.

3. Find your peak performance number

We all have a different energy level at which we perform best. Chertok asks his athletes to find that level on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being cucumber-cool; 5, a controlled intensity; and 10, a Ray Lewis-like, frothing-at-the-mouth hunger.

Identifying and then getting yourself to your optimum intensity level (Chertok recommends deep breathing to lower your intensity, and your favorite music to amp it up) is going to raise your chances of coming up big when the game is on the line.

4. Take small daily steps to success

Doing one thing today -- one thing that will make you stronger, faster or better prepared -- will help get you closer to your goal. It’s a technique used by Olympic athletes during their long years of training between the quadrennial Games. “Every day they try to do something, even a small something, that gets them closer to a gold medal,” explains Chertok.

So let’s say your goal is to be the starting centerfielder on your school’s baseball team. What steps can you take now to reach that goal? Maybe you need to get stronger, throw the ball farther, hit better?     

Here are three days of small, realistic and measurable goals:

  • Today, I will bench-press the heaviest weight I can handle for eight to 10 reps.
  • Tomorrow, I will go down to the field and play long toss with my buddy -- and make 10 more throws each time we do it.
  • The day after, I will go down to the batting cage and take 10 more swings.

Over weeks and months, those extra reps, throws and swings will add up to you being a vastly improved ballplayer.

5. Positively the way to go

In his 2007 book How Lance Does It, author Brad Kearns examines the factors that helped Lance Armstrong come back from cancer to win seven Tour de France titles. He lists a positive attitude as Armstrong’s “Success Factor 1.”

“Lance developed a positive attitude so resilient and a perspective so enlightened that he could pedal his bike through all kinds of adversity and obstacles and emerge victorious,” writes Kearns.

Note that word: developed. When cancer threatened his life, he had every reason to be negative. But Armstrong realized that a positive attitude is a choice. Again, that drive to be a winner, to succeed on the field and off, is not in your genes. It’s in your mind.

So will you make up your mind today to start competing like a champion … to be a winner? It’s up to you.