Sea Isle Polar Bear Plunge 2012: Yes, We Jumped in the Ocean

Sea Isle Polar Bear Plunge 2012: Yes, We Jumped in the Ocean

The premise is fairly simple: go to the shore in the heart of winter and jump in the freezing ocean.

As I learned on Saturday at the 2012 Polar Bear Plunge in Sea Isle City, New Jersey, getting zig-zag-walking wasted also seems to be a common activity of participants in the yearly ritual.

Now, first let me say that before I write about what a shitshow our day was, we also saw some really cute/awesome kids who looked to be about 5 years old run into the ocean with their dad. So at least parts of the plunge could be family friendly. But that warm and fuzzy feeling didn't last very long.

Here are the most memorable anecdotes from my experience of jumping into the ocean on Saturday and hanging out with a bunch of lunatics all day in Sea Isle.

This was our first Polar Bear Plunge. My older cousin has had it on his bucket list forever and for whatever reason he rounded up a bunch of us this year to drive down to Sea Isle early Saturday morning. I wasn't amped about the idea initially, but what the hell, right?

There's a whole formal event with costume contests and even an organized walk on Sunday to raise money for charity, but being noobs we were just there to do two things: drink some beer and jump in the ocean so we'd have a story to tell.

The most memorable moment of the day could have happened before we even arrived at the plunge site located around the 40th Street promenade. Parking is pretty tough in the hours leading up to the 2:00 p.m. jump off, so we had to park about 15 blocks away and take a nice walk on a beautiful day.

Once we were about 5 blocks from the event, we heard a burly man hanging over a deck balcony with a red solo cup in his hand screaming into his cell phone.

"I can't walk up there. I'm too drunk!"

This was shortly after 12:00 noon and hours before the plunge was even set to start. It pretty much a perfect summation of the day.

Prior to jumping into the ocean with temperatures in the low 40s, you want to get your body nice and warm. My preferred method of choice was a couple of Yuenglings and a shot of tequila at the Ocean Drive (The OD), a bar resembling a football field's worth of a basement. The plan worked like a charm as my experience of jumping into frigid water proved to be rather fun and enjoyable.

I will admit, however, to standing on the beach surrounded by what seemed like tens of thousands of people, wondering to myself what exactly in the hell were we doing there. (As for the actual attendance, we have no idea, but the guy at the registration booth told us that they had already given out the 4,000 t-shirts they ordered so were were out of luck there.)

Some people hesitated, dilly-dallying, etc. But it seems like you just have to pull the band aid off and go right for the full submersion. It was cold but it wasn't nearly as cold as I'd thought it would be. We were treated to one of the warmer February days at the shore in ages. I hung out in the water for a good 30-45 seconds before heading back in. The view from the water of the throngs of people on the beach was wild.

After jumping in the water and doing a quick switch out of wet clothes into something fashionable like sweatpants, we hit up the OD for some celebrating. Being first timers, we weren't sure what kind of scene to expect at a bar 2 blocks off the beach in February. So after a few celebratory beers, we headed back to our hotel to clean up and put on something that would impress the classy women of Sea Isle. The problem with this plan was that when we returned to the bars around 6:00-6:30 p.m. it was like a zombie convention. It appeared as if nobody else had taken a quick "break" to shower up and get their act together before a long night.

Our first stop was the Springfield Inn and I can 100% assuredly say I've never seen a place full of so many sloppy drunk people. The guy who checked our IDs at the door told us they were closing at 8:00 p.m. which made no sense to us at all? But after about five minutes in the joint it was pretty clear why they wanted to close so early on such a busy day for them. The place was a madhouse.

We didn't think there was any way to catch up with these people. A couple of guys in bathrobes were working the dance floor pretty hard before a guy who could only be described as a 300-pound man you'd see tripping his face off at a Grateful Dead concert tried to steal the show.

The crowning event of the evening was, however, a bar-clearing brawl started over an argument about very important things. The thing about the brawl that was so damn entertaining was the fact that there were only about seven or eight bouncers while there were about fifteen or so combatants. It wasn't one of those throw a couple punches and dudes get separated type fights, punches were thrown, people were tossed, bouncers were in headlocks, more punches were thrown, shirts were pulled off. It was nuts.

We were also treated to the rare sight of seeing a guy's head used to open a couple of doors while in mid-headlock on his way of getting kicked out. You've always got to respect a bouncer who takes his cues from Robert De Niro in Casino.

This all went down at some point around 7:00 p.m. We probably hit up four or five more bars, drank for another five or six hours, and woke up on Sunday feeling like we'd just finished competing in an Iron Man competition.

But we all had our wallets. Only one of us lost a credit card and only one lost a cellphone. Pretty good Sunday breakfast at Uncle Bill's Pancake House and that's a weekend at the shore for you.

Hopefully it's like 20 degrees colder next year.

*

Here's a 360 panorama I took while in the ocean. Click to scroll:

And here's high-quality footage of us jumping in the ocean. Video by Going to the Shore:

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Tuesday night he'd still like another veteran bat in addition to Howie Kendrick, though he understands the front office is conscious of not blocking young prospects.

The Phillies need offense and the clearest area to upgrade is an outfield corner. But don't expect to see the Phils go after Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders or anyone of that ilk, because those players will require multi-year guarantees and everyday playing time. If you sign one of them, you're basically telling two of Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr that they won't be needed much the next three years. 

That would be unwise. The whole point of rebuilding is filling a roster with young, inexpensive talent and then eventually supplementing that core with established players who fit. Look at what the Cubs did. Look at what the Astros are doing now, adding older players like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Nori Aoki and Josh Reddick to fill in the holes around Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

For that reason, a player like Seth Smith would be a worthwhile addition for the Phillies.

Smith, 34, makes $7 million in 2017, the final year of his contract with the Mariners. When Mackanin discusses "professional hitters," Smith is the type. He has one of the better batting eyes in baseball, chasing about eight percent fewer pitches outside the strike zone the last three years than the league average.

He's a career .261/.344/.447 hitter who averages 29 doubles, 16 homers, 56 walks and 102 strikeouts per 162 games.

The left-handed Smith can play both outfield corners, and he's always been very effective against right-handed pitching. He has a .272 career batting average with an .827 OPS against righties compared to .202 with a .594 OPS vs. lefties. 

Smith is a fit for the Phillies for several reasons. They need more offense from the corner outfield. Logically, that outfielder should be a left-handed hitter because the Phillies' projected middle of the order has four right-handed bats in Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp and Kendrick.

Furthermore, Smith, unlike Saunders, for example, does not require everyday playing time. Smith shouldn't start against lefties. That would provide opportunities to Altherr and Quinn in 2017, while protecting against ineffectiveness from Altherr and another injury to Quinn.

And lastly, Smith is not going to cost anything meaningful via trade. He's a 34-year-old platoon player in the final year of his deal. The Phillies could likely land him for an insignificant prospect, perhaps a pitcher who had a high strikeout rate last season in the low levels of the minor leagues. 

For Seattle, it would be more of a salary dump. The Mariners' 2016 payroll is already $20 million more than it was last year, and per reports, they seem willing to spend to improve their starting rotation.

Smith is not a game-changer, that's not the argument here. He's not J.D. Martinez, a much bigger name and better player. Martinez would also fit the Phillies as a one-year option, and they'd likely be interested in keeping him around longer if they could acquire him. But any trade with the Tigers for Martinez wouldn't be nearly as painless for the Phils as acquiring Smith. 

So perhaps more than other available outfielders, Smith would be an offensive upgrade and a player who fits the Phillies' goal of improving without stunting a top prospect's growth.

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.