Friday, December 29, 2006

The Death of a Dictator

Saddam Hussein is dead. That news came down just about a half hour ago, and as it did, in our typical news way, media outlets began using fancy graphics and a new name – “The Death of a Dictator.”

Typical me – once I found out that the execution was evident, I became my usual junkie. MSNBC kept me wide-eyed with a biography as the world awaited the news that Saddam was dead. Fox News and CNN propped up the usual collection of “experts.” On the broadcast side, to the best of my knowledge, NBC and CBS still have not reported it – with the exception of a possible “crawl” or a local news tease (as I believe channel four in New York did). ABC finally broke in around 10:40 or so, which seemed logical since the alphabet network was in the middle of “20/20”, of course their news magazine. The peacock and the eye both had popular Friday night programs. God forbid NBC bail out of “Law and Order.”

I’m currently monitoring WCBS (880) radio, just for the heck of it. It’s business as usual – sports reports, other news stories and, of course, traffic and weather together on the “8’s.” For some reason, I though this story would be viewed as a bigger deal. Then again, things have changed quite a bit. “Back in the day”, as we say, WGCH’s newsroom, for instance, wouldn’t be silent. Somebody would probably be there, bringing either a national network feed, or providing local reports. Heck, it was just under a decade ago, when I was at ‘GCH hosting the studio portions of our coverage of high school basketball and hockey, that a newsman was in the building with me, sometimes until long after I left for the night.

Moving away from the media angle, my question is: why am I so paranoid? Not to make it about me, but OK, for a minute. Heck, I can remember the fuss during the famed “Summer of Sam” in 1977, when David Berkowitz was running wild in New York City. My fascination with the news made me nervous, as I would go into my own darkened basement. I was eight; a skinny white kid in the suburbs (hardly the Son of Sam’s demographic), but still paranoid. I normally send myself into “freak zone” during these moments, where some image will give me metaphoric chills that stay with me if and when I finally try to go to bed. Doesn’t matter what – it always happens.

“Paranoia will destroy you” – so said The Kinks. It is true. The other day, Ricky Fritsch told me that an envelope had shown up from the New London Day. Immediately, I assumed the worst: I wrote something that offended them on the blog. I said something that they didn’t like on the air. Of course, maybe they like the blog and want me to contribute to the paper. Maybe – this was The Wife’s suspicion – it was a subscription offer. So what was it? A media invite to an event at Mohegan Sun. I’ll consider going to it, but why the heck was I so paranoid?

Back to our old friend Saddam, and the reason for my paranoia du jour. As I study the news coming out of Baghdad, various outlets are reporting that there is celebratory gunfire, and in Dearborn, Michigan, they’re basically dancing around the Maypole. I don’t get it. Yes, he’s dead, but don’t you think that something bad is coming? Maybe not now (we’ve just hit 11:00 PM) as I’m typing, maybe not even tomorrow, but perhaps oh, I don’t know…SUNDAY?????? I know, that seems too obvious (who could have really predicted September 11?), but don’t we have to be vigilant, certainly on a higher terror alert?

Maybe the bottom line is this – what did we really prove tonight? Since the U.S. had to play a part in it, didn’t we just set ourselves up for more trouble with the Middle East? Believe me when I say that I’m no bleeding-heart. I’m a fine moderate, I suppose, but I’m all for executing criminals. If that means Susan Sarandon and I aren’t going to be dining together, then so be it (Tim Robbins wouldn’t like me anyway – he’s a Mets fan). So with all that said, Saddam Hussein had to die, but did he really have to? Couldn’t he have just rotted away?

All of this heavy stuff makes me think of the simpler moments of the day, like being at the Jefferson Valley Mall today and seeing The Son, as we ran into a school friend of his. The two of them played on this “silly floor” – a screen on the floor of the mall that shows images from a suspended projector overhead. The thing is that the images move if your shadow hits them. It’s pretty cool, but it’s a pain if you’re trying to make a hasty escape from the mall. We had nowhere to be, so it was fun to let him have a few minutes to do that, and even better since his “buddy” was there.

I knew the news of Bobby Murcer’s brain tumor wouldn’t pass without my hearing from somebody. The one friend of mine who I thought I would hear from is so busy these days that I’m not surprised. He has his favorite athlete – the equivalent of Murcer to me, though, frankly, his guy is closer to being a hall of famer (in hockey) than Bobby Ray could ever be in baseball. I did, however, hear from both my mother and my sister. I’m not surprised that I didn’t hear from my brother because that’s not his style. That being said, he’s the one who first introduced me to the guy who was our favorite player.

As I finish writing tonight, all I know is that Bobby Murcer emerged from the surgery as well as could be expected, and was cracking jokes. The hopeful sign was that he said he’d see everybody at Spring Training. I’m still nervous.

That’s all the news for tonight. I want to write a final line here, but I’m too paranoid…OK, I’ll finish up this way. I hope to write again before the end of 2006. I was thinking about doing some final thoughts for the year, including things like “best CD” and so on (I know, how pedestrian). Just in case I don’t, I’m sure by now you’ve read my thoughts on the idiocy of the celebration of a new year. I’m still wise enough to wish you all best – particularly health, happiness, and most of all, peace. This past year has been a mixed-blessing. We bought a house, but I got laid off. Money became a lot tighter, but we’re still alive. The job situation and the growth of our son put a stress on our marriage, but we’ve never worked harder and perhaps never been closer. See what I mean? When you get right down to it, isn’t every year like that? So let us simply move along into 2007, hoping for better days. Still, those better days could start tomorrow – December 30th (a mere 40 minutes away). I don’t need a new year for the change to occur.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thoughts for Good People

You've by now heard of the passing of James Brown and former President Gerald Ford. What you haven't heard about is the passing of a friend's sister. As I've come to find out, people can be quite private when it comes to getting a mention here on the blog. So I'll keep it simple and say that my friend Cathy's sister died on Christmas morning. Her sister's situation was similar to the Schiavo story in Florida a few years back in that she was in a coma - in this case, for eight years. I'm not aware of any nasty court battles or anything like that, but it was still a very difficult situation for the entire family. My condolences go to Cathy, her cousin Ralph (who I also know well), and their entire family. I hope I haven't said too much to upset or offend. I'm just putting it here as a point of honor. Cathy rarely spoke of the situation, but I know it pained her.

While you’re taking a moment to ponder that and perhaps extend a prayer or thoughts (whatever works for you), please do the same for one of the best people in all of sports. Bobby Murcer, a Yankee legend as an outfielder and broadcaster, will undergo brain tumor surgery today in Houston. Bill Madden in the New York Daily News has more here.

Murcer never lived up to the promise when he joined the Yankees in 1965. Thought to be “the next Mickey Mantle”, Bobby Ray still had a fine career, one that might have been even better if not for the trade that sent him to Giants in exchange for Bobby Bonds after the 1974 season. I had the pleasure of meeting him a few times and he was as gracious off the field as he was on. Something people don’t know about him is that he was a legendary athlete in Oklahoma, and could have just as easily gone into football as a quarterback.

Following his retirement, he went into the broadcast booth, where he has become the latter-day Phil Rizzuto, though he has never been the broadcaster that The Scooter was. Still, I will admit a bias here, as I know many do not like Bobby as a broadcaster.

To me, he is still my all-time favorite athlete; one who I have collected cards, magazines and other memorabilia of. If you ever see me with my number two Yankees jersey on (I normally only wear it to games), it’s not for Derek Jeter. It’s for Bobby Murcer, who wore number two from 1979 until he retired in 1983.

Needless to say, I’m rooting for Bobby Ray Murcer today – one of the truly good (if not borderline great) Yankees, but a great guy.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Jump Back Kiss Myself!!

The Christmas morning news is not great. With all deference to the soldiers (more bloodshed there, unfortunately), the Pope, Allah, and Bob Shepard (the voice of God), the great club in the sky just got a little funkier. The Godfather of Soul has joined them. Good God! Hurt Me! James Brown was about the only person who could get whites to say, “I’m Black and I’m Proud.” He was the original “Sex Machine.”

James Brown died in Atlanta early this morning at the age of 73. Papa’s got a brand new bag now!

So have you opened the presents yet? Santa was as good to me as the finances would allow. No complaints here. I’m breathing and I have the best wife and son, so I’m – yes –-a happy guy.

Christmas Eve at my brother’s house was great. The food was good and the mood was even better. My sister gave me one of the nicest things ever – a scrapbook that she made with pictures of my family and me from when I was young. I was very touched by the effort, and her inscription. Still, as we all know, the holidays are about The Son (Sean), who was eating up every minute of the presents, and playing with his cousins, of whom he has many!

Since we’re onto music, I have to tell you that our family picked up three CD’s so far – I got Johnny Colla’s “Lucky Devil” and the wife (Sandi, or Sandra – take your pick) got Gnarls Barkley “St. Elsewhere” and The Killers “Sam’s Town.” OK, so we bought them for each other, but you get the idea.

Johnny Colla, for those who don’t know, has been a main part of Huey Lewis and The News for about 28 years now. He finally took some time to record his own CD; with a band he calls The Lucky Devils. You won’t find it in the average store, but Amazon has it. It’s quite good – old-fashioned rock with some old-school pop sprinkled in. Johnny will also be remembered fondly in the Adams house for spending a few minutes chatting with The Wife, some friends, my cousin Kris and me in Poughkeepsie following an HLN show at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. He and band mate Stef Burns were very accommodating – posing for countless pictures as well. Stef, Sandi, and I talked about cameras for a few minutes, believe it or not.

Gnarls Barkley’s CD is really quite brilliant. Those who have heard the ubiquitous “Crazy” know what I mean. That is – if you’re not sick of it.

Then there’s The Killers. Every time I’ve offered a review up, The Wife has almost taken offense. I mean no harm when I say that much of their music sounds the same. There’s nothing wrong with hard-driving pop that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. I compared it to comfort food – you know what you’re getting with them. As soon as I heard “When You Were Young”, I immediately said that it sounded just like “Mr. Brightside.” There’s nothing wrong with that. When you’ve got a great hook, stay with it. “Sam’s Town” carries that legacy. Some reviews thought The Killers DID spread their wings with the new CD, but I disagree. Again, nothing wrong with them staying with what works. Heck, even the Christmas song that I just heard from them, “A Great Big Sled”, had elements of “Mr. Brightside” in it. No harm, people. Just know that The Beatles legacy is still safe, OK?

It was refreshing to listen to all of these CD’s and not listen to Christmas tunes. The shame is that I enjoy holiday music, especially eclectic offerings, but the all-Christmas radio stations, who start playing the joyous tunes just after Halloween, along with the Muzak pumping through department stores and malls, just wears me out.

Oh, while on the subject of holiday music, WGCH is playing tunes today – many, if not most, do that on Christmas. In between, various staff members offer their warm holiday greetings. You won’t be hearing me on ‘GCH though, since I didn’t get the memo until Saturday morning. Unfortunately, somehow, I’m easily forgotten on Dayton Ave. Out of site, out of mind. The truth is, they could have taken my greeting from any other year, because all I ever do is change the date –

“Hi, this is Rob Adams, Sports Director at WGCH. I just want to take a moment to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, and peace in 2007.”

Or something like that. It’s a tried and true formula. I hate “Happy New Year.” It sounds so lame. But since I’m trying to be more upbeat, I won’t offer my thoughts on New Years Eve and the whole idea of a New Year. Well maybe I will – do the words “bah” and “humbug” mean anything? My father, and many others, called it “Amateur Night” for a reason. To sum it up – this is why it is so lame to me: I can celebrate anything. Hey – Happy July 10th at 10:24 PM and 15 seconds! Why not? It’s actually my least favorite day of the year (it’s just so stupid), but The Wife and I have begun our own tradition that has made it not only tolerable, but fun. We basically ignore the fact that it’s New Year’s Eve. That’s right – no idiotic ball, no Dick Clark, no Seacrest, and for the love of God – no “Auld Lang Syne.” Jesus, I hated Guy Lombardo for years! It’s very hard to believe that he was once one of the more brilliant big band orchestra leaders because all we ever associate him with is that stupid song, which only became stupid after he introduced it at a New Year’s Eve party in 1929.

So The Wife and I might watch a few movies, listen to lots of music, talk, laugh, eat lots of finger foods (little hot dogs, pizza, mozzarella sticks – you get the idea), and when midnight hits, you barely know it. In fact, the only way you know it is when our antique electric clock chimes away. Those who have joined us call it if not the best party, certainly the most intelligent one. Oh yeah, frosty refreshments also are served.

One other thing, and this is the God’s honest truth. I have only, honestly, truly been drunk once in my life – New Year’s Eve 2004. Not drunk enough to be sick, but drunk enough that I knew I couldn’t operate a car. I stopped, and went to bed. Like I said, it’s called “Amateur Night” for a reason. The next day I was in an apartment full of people who prayed to porcelain gods. I was the only one who got up, showered, ate breakfast, and was ready to function. Somebody had to take care of The Son!

Sorry – I went on a tangent.

So how’s this for updating, eh? You’ve complained, and your complaints have been heard…for now…until the next time I get yelled at for being in front of the computer too much.

Now onto the rest of the day. Peace and joy to you all, and raise a glass to the Godfather of Soul.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

There, I said it. I’ll utter those ultra-PC words “Happy Holidays” only because I don’t like to assume the religion or preferences of any person. But generally speaking, “Merry Christmas” is what I’m going to say. I’m Christian (though I will never be accused of being the greatest Christian ever), so that is what I should be able to say and feel no guilt about it.

Oh, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year. Riiiiggghht… Let us count the ways, shall we? Let’s start with Black Friday, when people are tackling each other for another freaking Tickle Me Elmo or PS 3. Yep, wonderful. “My kid must have the “in” toy of the year or somebody’s going down.” That hustle and bustle BS rolls right on through the month, and will eventually tack a little stress onto the Adams household. What can we afford? What are we getting for (insert name here)? For that matter, what do you want?

Now let’s consider the various municipalities. In Briarcliff Manor, for instance, a rift came about because a local man wanted to buy and donate a cresh to the town’s display of a Christmas tree and a Menorah. His argument being that a Christmas tree is not a true symbol of Christmas, while a Menorah is a symbol of Hanukkah. Briarcliff resisted; the man took them to court and won. Briarcliff then said, “We’ll take our toys and go home.” Now there is no holiday display in Briarcliff Manor at all.

Fa la la la la…la la la la!

Then the big question comes along – where to spend not just Christmas, but Christmas Eve as well!!?? My in-laws, generally speaking, are not an option on Christmas Eve, since they go to church. If there is one thing that The Wife and I are consistent on, it’s that we don’t like making the yearly appearance at church (whether it be Easter or Christmas). There are many who do that, and we choose to not be like that. Some do it to shut their parents/families up. Others do it out of guilt. Different strokes, y’all.

So that means we’re either on our own for Christmas Eve, or it’s likely to be with my family. That would be the case this year. Tomorrow, we get to go to my in-laws. I find myself conflicted on this issue. I’m happy to spend any holiday with my in-laws, who have taken me in as their own. But I finally own a home, and I’d like to spend the holidays there, instead of somewhere else, with X number of relatives/friends/hanger-on that either The Wife or I don’t want to see. I’ve spent one holiday since 1988 in my own home – this past Thanksgiving, and I almost felt like I was in somebody else’s house, since I was off calling Greenwich and Staples that morning.

Oh yeah, gotta love the holidays!! If it wasn’t for The Son, I think I would pretty much tell The Wife to do as she wishes, and I’ll stay home, watch a few movies, order some Chinese Food, and hang with Fred the Cat.

Speaking of movies, don’t forget – 24 hours of “A Christmas Story” on TBS. The house on Cleveland Street, the store window at Higbees, the flag pole and Flick (who’s now a porn star), the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, and that most timeless of lines – no, not “you’ll shoot your eye out!” but of course, “Only one thing in the world could've dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.” Among the other great lines are “In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.” “Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian.” and “Oooh fuuudge!”

All the lines are great. Put it this way – when Aunt Clarabell grabs your cheeks (the ones on your FACE, silly) and insists on kissing you while smelling of mothballs, get to the nearest TV and laugh yourself silly. Once again, that’s my game plan for this year. Then repeat after me:

“Sons of bitches! Bumpuses! Naddafinga!”

Hopefully, this last bit has made you laugh enough to think that I am not some angry, near-suicidal Grinch of an SOB. That is the impression that I’m getting from some around me lately. OK, so I’m not “Mr. Happy” all the time, but at least I’m entertaining.

Oh, before I run to my brothers for the Christmas Eve drill, let me say what we should say everyday. Too many times at this time of year we see and hear images and sounds of the brave souls protecting our country. Yes, let’s think about them tonight and tomorrow, but how about the day after that, and so on? Let’s keep them close. Whether you agree or disagree with what’s going on, these people – somebody’s son, brother, niece, daughter, husband, wife, and so on – would happily trade with us for that kiss from Aunt Clarabell – so long as they feel like they’ve done their job.

Here’s a picture for you to think about as we prepare to say so long. My sister-in-law sent it to me, and normally I treat these things with a grain of salt. But she doesn’t send things like this often, so that made me take notice. While it’s a few weeks old (from Pearl Harbor Day – that’s December 7, kids) it’s still an emotionally charged photograph. Only those with no soul aren’t touched by it. Click on the picture for a closer view, and to read the caption. Incidentally, I would give proper attribution (I am a journalist, after all) but I don't know where it's from. If anyone knows, then let me know.



May God bless the soldiers, and all of you as well. And to all a good night.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

At Number One

Before we reach number one in my Top 20 football games, let’s review…
#21 Greenwich vs. Southington (December 2, 2006)
#20 Greenwich @ Danbury (November 25, 2004)
#19 New Canaan vs. Greenwich (November 17, 2006)
#18 Brunswick vs. Belmont Hill (November 18, 2006)
#17 Nyack vs. Harrison (November 6, 2004)
#16 Greenwich vs. Shelton (December 2, 2000)
#15 Rye vs. Chenango Forks (November 29, 2003)
#14 New Canaan vs. Greenwich (November 22, 2002)
#13 Staples @ Greenwich (October 21, 2000)
#12 Greenwich @ New Canaan (November 7, 2003)
#11 John Jay @ Fox Lane (September 25, 1999)
#10 Greenwich vs. West Haven (December 7, 2002)
#9 New Canaan @ Greenwich (November 9, 2002)
#8 Harrison @ Rye (October 14, 2006)
#7 Brewster vs. Greeley (November 6, 1999)
#6 Greenwich vs. Bridgeport Central (November 19, 2004)
#5 Poly Prep @ Brunswick (October 6, 2006)
#4 Greenwich vs. New Britain (December 4, 2004)
#3 Brunswick vs. Belmont Hill (November 19, 2005)
#2 New Canaan vs. Greenwich (November 17, 2000)

And at number one…

Can you stand the suspense….

Ready?

#1 – Harrison vs. Chenango Forks (Class B Championship – December 1, 2002 at Syracuse) – The best game, the biggest game of the year, our best broadcast, and an overall achievement for WGCH. All of that helped in my thinking. Most importantly, to repeat, it was the best game. WGCH ventured into New York football for the first time in 2002, beginning with the Rye-Harrison game that year (I didn’t call that one – Sean Kilkelly and Mark Rosen did it because I was with the Cardinals as they played at St. Joe’s that day). As the Huskies advanced into the playoffs, we followed. Initially, our broadcasts were met with some skepticism; especially since Harrison’s football team was embroiled in controversy involving parties and underage drinking and so on. When I first mentioned our broadcasts to a well-placed Harrison official, he asked me why we wanted to cover the team. I said, quite simply “I don’t care if you believe me, but I’m a sports broadcaster. We’re not interested in off the field stuff. We just like broadcasting games.” In fact, the controversy was never broached until after this game, when I briefly talked about it with Husky QB and kicker Peter Kohlasch.

For us, it was one of the most pleasant broadcasting experiences ever. It didn't start that way thought as after Mark and Sean picked me up at home, I felt like the tension in our van was so thick that you couldn’t cut it with a chainsaw. What made things even crazier was the presence of snow, as we got into the Catskills, with us traveling in the WGCH minivan. Not exactly a four-wheel drive vehicle. In fact, I had decided that if the snow had not settled down by the time we reached Binghamton (coming out of the mountains on route 17), then we would call it a night there. Plus I wasn’t driving – not my favorite spot to be.

Binghamton was fine, and I drove us from there to Syracuse, where we checked into a Hampton Inn before heading to dinner so we could watch Southern Cal and Notre Dame on TV at a dive sports bar west of town. We collapsed back in our room and called it a night.

Sunday morning brought a good six to ten inches of snow. I went out and cleaned off the van and went back in for breakfast. By the time I came back out, the van was covered again. Even the ride to the Carrier Dome – just a couple of miles down Interstate 81 – was hectic. Still there we were, walking into the Carrier Dome for the call of the game nice and early. We were then shown to our private booth (with Cable TV) and given our telephone line – all things that you don’t normally get at the high school level.


Look - it's REALLY us!!


Our old, beat up banner.


But we weren’t done. Things were going so well (shocking!) that we were able to go down and throw a football around on the football field, and even shown some of the behind the scenes stuff (like the basketball floor). I had been to the Dome before (for a sportscaster’s camp in 1990) but never for an actual broadcast.


Left to right: Mark Rosen, me, Sean Kilkelly. Sorry, not a great picture.


As we began our broadcast, a great feeling of pride came over me. This was a big moment for us, and you can actually hear my voice choke up just a tad as I went to take our first break in the pregame show. Regardless of the outcome, this game was an honor to be a part of. That the game was as great as it was just added to the day. Tim Batty got the Blue Devils on the board first with a six-yard touchdown catch, but the Huskies answered with a 33-yard Kyle Hannon run. Kohlasch’s extra point was no good, and Forks kept a 7-6 lead. Kelsey Jenks added a touchdown early in the second quarter to open a 14-6 Forks lead, but the Huskies would get it back to 14-12 as Steve Burton ran an interception back 55 yards for a score. Matt Juriga threw his second touchdown of the day right before halftime, this time to Nick Mirabito to extend the Forks lead to 21-12. That would be all the scoring for Chenango Forks, who had lost a tough championship game in 2001 to Peru, 14-7.

In the booth, we were savoring the moment. TV and the scoreboards in the Dome brought us live scoring updates from the NFL (a rarity for us), while we dined on cookies and beverages on press row. Best of all…live game statistics!! Yes, I could get used to that.

In the second half, Kohlasch ran 46 yards for a third-quarter score, and kicked the extra point to cut the deficit to 21-19. That’s how things would stay for a long time. Harrison’s star running back, Rudy Arcara, injured his knee early in the first quarter. Arcara ran for 218 yards in the state semifinal game against Lansingburgh, and that kind of offense is hard to make up. At halftime, Husky coach Art Troilo, Jr put the decision to play again in the senior’s hands. Arcara chose to come back out, and seemed to rejuvenate his teammates, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where he is the play-caller.

The game moved deep into the fourth quarter, with Forks still holding the 21-19 lead. It seemed that the Blue Devils had scored towards the end of the third quarter as Jenks, who ran for 141 yards, went into the end zone. A holding call negated that. Coach Kelsey Green told Kevin Stevens of the Press & Sun-Bulletin in Binghamton how displeased he was with that:

"It seemed like every time we got moving, they (the officials) found a way to call a holding penalty on us," Devils coach Kelsey Green said. "It was just amazing to me that (Harrison) didn't hold once."

Indeed a look at the stat sheet does point out that the Devils were hit with seven penalties for sixty yards, while the Huskies were penalized twice for only twenty yards. Ah, you’ve gotta love stats. The stat sheet favored the Devils in virtually every category – time of possession (32:43 to 15:17), rushing, passing, and total offense (337 yards to 211), first downs (19 to 9), and so on. But there’s the small matter of who leads on the scoreboard…

Chenango Forks got the ball back with 10:53 to go and embarked on a 14-play drive that would net only 29 yards, but ate up over seven minutes. Harrison's Jason Collabella broke up a Juriga pass play on third down to force the Devils to punt. The Huskies got the ball on their own 32-yard line with 3:32 to go. In the booth, nobody said a word, but we all knew that we could be seeing a fantastic finish. The Huskies would need eight plays on their final drive, with the first one being a 22-yard run by the ailing Arcara, who would gain 42 yards in the game. Still there would be some more drama. Three plays after the Arcara scamper, the Huskies had a fourth and five at the Forks 41 with 1:28 to play. Coach Troilo, on a call from his assistants upstairs, chose to hand off to fullback Steve Burton, who had scored a defensive touchdown but hadn’t touched the ball on offense. It worked, as Burton ran 11 yards for a first down off left tackle. Kohlasch, now nursing an injured leg of his own, rifled a 16-yard completion to Burton on the next play to set the Huskies up with a first down at the Devils 14. Arcara would gain a yard on first down, and as the clock ran down, we began to go nuts in the booth. It didn’t appear that the Huskies were in control of the clock, even though they had a time out to burn. I didn’t think they would run a play, but Kohlasch tried an option for no gain. The Huskies used their final time out with :02 on the clock. The Blue Devils used two time outs in an attempt to ice Kohlasch. Again, the Husky kicker was now playing with an injured leg – not the ideal injury for a place-kicker. Still the time outs gave him a chance to regain his composure. Advantage - Harrison.

So how did it turn out? Listen to the audio highlight.


Incidentally, I don’t love the call. It’s probably the biggest play-by-play call I’ve ever done, and I thought I went overboard. Most people tell me that they loved it, but I wish I had let the moment play itself out a little better.

The postgame would go by in a blur. I interviewed a few players, including Kohlasch, and we wrapped things up and left the Dome. Now, it was on to facing the tough central New York winter. The day had turned bitterly cold, and there was still all the snow on the ground on the final day of the Thanksgiving weekend. I decided to not go back home on the mountainous route via Binghamton, opting for the flatter terrain of the New York State Thruway. The ride from Syracuse to Albany was slow – with bumper-to-bumper traffic and a windshield wiper reservoir that didn’t work on the van, leaving me with a blurred view of the road, at best.

After a few hours of that craziness, we finally hit some open road, and stopped for dinner in Albany (yes, we went to Hooters…whatever). Whatever tension had long-drifted away (sometime on Saturday night), and the three friends enjoyed our food, and a nice ride back to Mahopac, talking about music, sports, life, and whatever else came up.

After everything was done, I was told to go look at the Syracuse.com high school football discussion board. Sure enough, there were reviews of our play-by-play, and they were glowing, with some asking if we could call every state championship game in the future. Just tell me where you want us, and I’d love to do it! It was rewarding to see that people listened to us, not just on the radio, but also all over the net. Perhaps the nicest reward came a few days later when WGCH (led by Peter Mutino and Don Russell) decided to rerun the entire broadcast. On our old talk show, "The Press Box", people were calling us from as far as Arkansas and Binghamton to thank us for covering the game so fairly. Can't ask for much more.

Well there you have it. I’m Casey Kasem. Keep your feet on the ground, and tell me what happened to the pictures I was supposed to see. Ponderous, man, f’ing ponderous.

If you’ve never heard the infamous Casey Kasem open-microphone meltdown, then that last sentence will mean nothing to you.

Top 10 (well, almost)

By now, hopefully, you’ve read about numbers 11 through 20 in our top 20 football game list. I hope you also enjoyed the highlights. These (along with the next batch that you’ll hear) aren’t necessarily my favorite calls, but they seem to represent the game pretty well. I have to admit that I’m very fond of the call that you hear in game number 15, and I’m pleased with the call of the game-winning field goal in game number 10. What bothers me, besides what I say or how I sound, is the quality of the audio in these calls. Jeez, cell phone audio can be just brutal sometimes.

Anyway, ten more games to go…

#10 – Greenwich vs. West Haven (Class LL Championship – December 7, 2002 at Bridgeport) – Still known as “The One That Got Away.” It wasn’t even supposed to be close. This was Greenwich’s year. They were to be undefeated, FCIAC champions, and state champions. They got the FCIAC win (game number 14), but couldn’t finish the deed. West Haven came in as a gritty, blue-collar football team, compared with Greenwich’s rep as the white-collar town. The Cardinals had John Sullivan, soon to head off to Notre Dame (and, hopefully, the NFL). The game went back and forth with no real flow. Greenwich would have a touchdown called back because of a penalty (rumor had it that it was a chop block). A nasty snowstorm threatened the game, and as a result, the Westies fans threw snowballs at the Cards as they left the field at halftime. The wind would be a factor also, causing missed extra points. The Cardinals tied the game up on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Jim Cabrera to Kevin Longo on fourth down in the fourth quarter. Tied at 13, it looked like we were heading to OT before the Cardinals got hit with a pass-interference call. The defense tightened but on fourth and a yard, Phil Banks raced 50 yards to the championship as the Westies, (also known as the Blue Devils) won 20-13. The post-game was equally bizarre, with a CIAC lackey trying to hand the runner-up award to coach Rich Albonzio. From there, depending on whom you believe, it got crazier, with reports of the trophy being thrown and kicked. At one point, Greenwich High School’s athletic department would temporarily suspend Coach Al. Then the CIAC, without even speaking with Coach Al (or me, for that matter, when I wanted a comment from them) placed the Cardinals on two years probation. The whole game was a black eye – for the trophy thing, for the snowballs, and for us, and you’ll hear why in the audio. Our sound is dreadful that day. Not a game that I like to relive, to be honest. Still we had a great crew – Sean Kilkelly, Mark Rosen, and I had the play-by-play. Tom Pollina and Tommy Dee walked the sidelines for us. You think we’ve got a lot of people now? HA!

Audio highlight – the winning touchdown.


#9 – New Canaan at Greenwich (November 9, 2002) – It was Homecoming day at GHS. It was also a quagmire, since Cardinal Stadium didn’t have artificial turf yet. You figured the Cards and Rams, even with spectacular defensive units, would find a way to score points. But at halftime, there was no score. At the end of the third quarter, we were still scoreless. With almost no time left, Zach Ostrowski would try to win it. One of the best kickers in Connecticut that year, Ostrowski’s attempt on that field never had a chance. In the booth, I vaguely remember hearing a rumor of overtime coming to Connecticut. As we got to the end of the fourth quarter, I mentioned that there would be overtime. I committed a brain fart that I’ve lived with ever since. That’s why all I could keep saying was “there is no overtime in Connecticut football.” That has since been changes in some parts of the state, but not in the FCIAC. The final score? Nothing. Sean Kilkelly, Mark Rosen, and Tom Kane joined me for this one.

Audio highlight – the final attempt for points


#8 – Harrison at Rye (October 14, 2006) – It’s only called “The Game.” It’s a tradition and a legend. It's been played almost every year since 1929, with no games from 1934-36, and (foolishly) in 2004. More often than not, one team is having an up year, while the other is down. Still, the games aren’t always close. This edition, was one of the best that the series has seen. Harrison jumped out to a 12-0 lead behind quarterback Matt Ciraco, who ran 41 yards for one score, and threw 37 yards for another. On their home turf, the Garnets fought back with two touchdowns through the air to take a 13-12 lead into intermission. Jimmy Falasca, not playing at 100% shape, topped off a seven play, 65 yard drive with a nine-yard score. Rye QB Franny Archibald, sent the nearly 10,000 people at John Nugent Field into delirium with a touchdown to give the Garnets a 19-18 lead. They would hold on for dear life as Ciraco, bum shoulder and all, made a desperate try to keep a late drive alive. The Garnets would take the traditional dip in Blind Brook. This would be one of only two Westchester games we would call in 2006, and though I felt weird being there, the atmosphere and game were some of the best that I’ve ever been a part of.

Audio highlight – Archibald’s game-winning TD, called by me with Ricky Fritsch and Zach Fisher. Archibald spikes the ball after the touchdown, setting off some discussion about the penalty.


#7 – Brewster vs. Horace Greeley (Section 1 Class A Final – November 6, 1999 at Mount Vernon) – It happened so long ago now, but it was just a tremendous football game. A back and forth affair in front of a raucous crowd at crumbling, yet charming Memorial Stadium, the night didn’t start well for me. Upon arriving in Mount Vernon, I noticed that I was missing a piece of equipment. Do you know how hard it is to do 80 on the Hutch to get back to Greenwich and get back to the stadium by game time? Well somehow, I did make it, and called a game that featured lead changes, and just ran out of time for Greeley to score once more. Ron Lyons, a legendary Section 1 coach (many of those years at John Jay), called that entire 1999 season with me on WVIP.

Audio highlight: Dan DiPietro scores the winning touchdown.


#6 – Greenwich vs. Bridgeport Central (FCIAC Championship – November 19, 2004 at New Canaan) – After yielding the 2003 FCIAC appearance to rival Staples, the Cardinals were back in the title game, against the sentimental favorite, the Bridgeport Central Hilltoppers. Football in Bridgeport isn’t exactly king, though it used to be. Coach Dave Cadelina has restored a lot of the pride, and his 2004 team won the divisional title, earning the right to face the big bad Cards. The game was moved out of Boyle Stadium to New Canaan, thanks to a fight in Stamford following a Black Knights-Norwalk game earlier in the ’04 season. Stamford Mayor Dan Molloy said that no night games would be played in his city until the matter had been fully reviewed. So Dunning Field got to host the conference title game. New Canaan has never been known as Cardinal country, and the people in the booth that night were openly rooting for the Hilltoppers. I recall one man actually yelling at times, cheering when Central did something good, and booing if things went Greenwich’s way. In the end, “Touchdown” Tom Brown said “boo this”, and ran for over 200 yards and took home the MVP award as the Cardinals won 43-27. Tom Kane, Matt Hamilton and I called the game on WGCH.

Audio highlight – Tom Brown seals the championship.


#5 – Poly Prep at Brunswick (October 6, 2006) – It’s amazing that there could actually be four better games than this one. In front of the MSG cameras (whose announcers called it “one of the best they’ve ever seen”), the Blue Devils had a 7-0 halftime lead before the Bruins tied it up on a Kevin Decker one-yard run in the third quarter. The B’s had a chance to shut the door on fourth and goal at the own one-yard line, as Tyrone Grant appeared to be stopped. But as the cameras clearly showed, Grant’s knee never hit the ground, and the Blue Devil QB kept running, stunning the crowd at “The Cos.” After the Blue Devils missed the extra point, the Bruins would get the score that might have sealed the win, with Decker scoring his second TD with 2:36 to go. Chris Harris, the excellent Wick kicker, pulled the point-after wide left, and following some zaniness, we went to overtime (a first on WGCH!). Each team exchanged TD’s in the first session of the shootout. In the second OT, Poly Prep scored and decided to go for two, which failed. As you’ll hear on the audio highlight, the Bruins would keep their magnificent winning streak alive on a night that might have officially proved whate we all knew – Kevin Decker and Tyler McFarlane are great players, and the Brunswick football program is for real. Ricky Fritsch and Nick Angotto joined me for the call on WGCH.

Audio highlight – The game-tying touchdown and the winning conversion.


#4 – Greenwich vs. New Britain (Class LL Championship – December 4, 2004 at West Haven) – Nick Angotto might not want to read this one. Nick, who is now a part of the WGCH family, was a receiver on the ’04 team, and he still aches over this game. Personally, I thought the Cardinals would get smoked by the Golden Hurricanes in this game at the “House of Horrors” – Ken Strong Stadium, the site of Cardinal title losses in 2000, 2001, and this one in 2004. I’ve heard the criticisms of Coach Rich Albonizio in “the big game” but I think after this past year, we can stuff that one away. Were mistakes made on this night? Sure, but I didn’t think that the Cardinals would be able to play with the Hurricanes to begin with. The Cardinals, much to my surprise, not only stayed in the game, but led it in the fourth quarter (that would be the part that hurts people). Turnovers would hurt Big Red late, and the Hurricanes would hold on for a 39-34 win. Tom Kane and Matt Hamilton called this one with me on WGCH. Quick side note – this was Tom’s last game with me, and he did an exceptional job as an analyst for our one year together. Sometimes things happen that cause people to move on, or be moved out. I had no control over Tom leaving, though Ricky Fritscha and I did make a pretty good team in the years after. ‘Nuff said.

Audio highlight – Chad Ingalls INT return for a score.


#3 – Brunswick vs. Belmont Hill (NEPSAC Championship – November 19, 2005 at Hartford) – Once we hit the top 5, what more can you say? To say “this game had everything” is a clichĂ©. In the case of the top five (or more – at least the top seven), it’s true. The B’s struggled to get going on this day, but once they did, they were hard to stop. The problem was, so was Belmont Hill. Kevin Decker, not sharp in the first portion of the game, went crazy as then game went on. The Bruins would fight back, get the lead, and hold on for 46-36 win. The thing that will always stand out to me was how professional the team was following the win. Here they were – winning their third straight championship, and they acted like it was no big deal. One of sports great mottos is “act like you’ve been there before.” Coach Sean Brennan and his Bruins personify that.

Audio highlight – Jack Taylor takes a touchdown pass from Kevin Decker.


#2 – Greenwich vs. New Canaan (FCIAC Championship – November 17, 2000 at Stamford) – It’s long forgotten now, but the Cardinals really weren’t supposed to be in this game. One loss in the FCIAC can generally spell doom for your conference title game hopes. The Cards had already lost to Staples, 14-8 on October 21 (Game # 13), but Staples went and lost to McMahon the last Saturday before the championship, thrusting Greenwich into the big game. The Rams and Cardinals exchanged touchdowns before Mike Westfal took over at quarterback for New Canaan and threw two touchdown passes. The Rams had a 21-14 lead and had to punt the ball back to Greenwich. Dean Capparelle blocked the punt, Tim Smallwood fell on it in the end zone, and bedlam ensued at Boyle Stadium. The Cardinals just had to make the point-after to tie the game. Not so fast! The Cardinals kicking game struggled all year, and quad-captain Michael Salvatore’s try was no good. The Cardinals would get the ball down into the Red Zone, and would try a field goal to win it with just under 2:00 to play. Again, the try was no good, and the Rams would run out the clock for the one-point win. Coach Al would take the blame (as he always does), saying that he shouldn’t have gone for the kick, allowing himself to be talked into it. Following the game, in one of the classiest and toughest things I’ve ever seen on a field, Salvatore allowed me to interview him. He didn’t take his helmet off, and I interviewed him through his mask as I watched tears run down his cheeks. That’s why the Salvatore’s are one of my favorite GHS football families. They’re tough and classy.

Audio highlight – The ecstasy and the agony


That’s enough for this time out. Next time – number one!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Top Football Games

Time to take a trip into the old Wayback Machine. I promised I would eventually do a Top 10 football game list, and the time has come. Thanks to Archive.org for hosting the audio that you will hear from these games..

To be clear, these are the top games that I have broadcast. That means, beginning with Horace Greeley at Fox Lane on September 18, 1999 on WVIP through Greenwich against Southington on December 2, 2006 on WGCH. There are a few honorable mentions as well. Without any further ado, let’s get started.

Initially, this was going to be a plain and simple top 10. It’s evolved into a top 20, with 15 of the games having audio samples. First, about the non-audio portion: I don’t have any audio for you from these games because I’m either too lazy, or some technical problem caused us to not have the game recorded. Or the audio has been thrown out. Any of those three options are possible. So, away we go:

#21 (Yes, I said it was a top 20, but I have an honorable mention). – Southington vs. Greenwich (Class LL Championship – December 2, 206 at New Haven) – I’ve said way too much about this game. If you haven’t read about it or heard the audio, then go here or here. Ricky Fritsch, Nick Angotto, and Zach Fisher joined me on the call.

#20 – Greenwich at Danbury (November 25, 2004) – One lone touchdown gave the Cardinals a 7-0 win on a snowy field at frigid Danbury High School. There were complaints that the field conditions were unsafe for the Thanksgiving morning matchup. This game, to me, is a composite of the many close regular season games that Greenwich played (against Brien McMahon in 2003, Danbury in 2006, and others). Tom Kane and Matt Hamilton were alongside for the call on WGCH.

#19 – Greenwich vs. New Canaan (FCIAC Championship – November 17, 2006 at Stamford) – It had the makings of a classic, especially if the Rams get a tying touchdown right before halftime. They didn’t and the Cardinals never looked back. The final was 28-0, and Ricky, Zach and Nick were with me.

#18 – Brunswick vs. Belmont Hill (NEPSAC Championship – November 18, 2006 at Windsor) – If Kevin Decker and company pull off the fourth quarter miracle, this game would have shot up to a lofty spot within the top 10. The fact that they got it to 26-20 made me appreciate the game even more. A night after the Greenwich-New Canaan FCIAC game (#19), we felt like we were in the middle of a great weekend.

#17 - Nyack vs. Harrison (Section 1, Class A Championship – November 6, 2004 at Mahopac) – A wild affair that saw the Huskies of Harrison get the score to 20-19. The Huskies went for the on-side kick and initially, the officials awarded the ball to Harrison. Seconds later, they reversed their call to Nyack ball. People in the press box were getting nasty, and the officials really couldn’t feel all that good about themselves. Basically, the official pointed the wrong way at first! For me, this was the second game of a doubleheader that I called (with Tom Kane and Matt Hamilton) at my alma mater. Unfortunately, no audio exists of that day.

#16 – Greenwich vs. Shelton (Class LL Championship – December 2, 2000 at West Haven) – The 2000 Greenwich team had a huge heart. I suppose in some ways they shouldn’t have even been there. The problem was, until late in the third quarter, nobody told them that. They and the Gaels were scoreless at halftime, and after Shelton took a third quarter lead, the Cards raced right back with a long Justin Bledsoe touchdown run. A fake point after try led to a two-point conversion and the Cardinals led 8-7. But future U Conn star and NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky threw two touchdowns and the Gaels won 22-8. Sean Kilkelly and I called the game from the top of the press box on a cold day at Ken Strong Stadium. Sean and I aren’t big on heights, and that climb wasn’t fun (though maybe not as bad as where we were in our #18 game).

#15 – Rye vs. Chenango Forks (Class B Championship – November 29, 2003 at Syracuse) – The Garnets and Blue Devils played scoreless football deep into the third quarter. Chenango Forks took a 3-0 lead on a Tim Batty field goal, and that’s how things stayed into the fourth quarter. Batty found Zach Vredenburgh over the middle from 23 yards out and the Blue Devils were on their way to a 16-0 win. For Chenango Forks, after two straight losses in the title game, the victory was sweet. I got to call three Forks title games (2002-2004) and came away impressed with how they conduct themselves. If you ever want to see a comprehensive site, check out his Forks Football website. Mike, the webmaster, is a great guy and his websites (also check out his Section 4 site) are full of information. Mark Rosen and I called this game on WGCH.

Audio highlight – Vredenburgh’s touchdown catch and run


#14 – Greenwich vs. New Canaan (FCIAC Championship – November 22, 2002 at Stamford) – What a night! I remember that we forgot a piece of equipment before the game, so Sean Kilkelly and Mark Rosen went all the way back to Greenwich to get it. As the teams were warming up, one of the Cardinals cheerleading captains came to the booth with balloons for me. The cheerleaders then serenaded me with “Happy Birthday.” One of the most embarrassing, sweet, and humbling moments of my life. The game was Rich Albonizio’s big night, as Coach Al finally beat his friend Lou Marinelli, 24-14. Jim Cabrera won the game’s MVP award. Tommy Dee walked the sideline while Sean, Mark and I called the action.

Audio highlight – Cabrera throws a touchdown to Nick Bastis


#13 – Staples @ Greenwich (October 21, 2000) – The defending state champions (in Class LL) got upset on their home turf by the upstart Wreckers, who needed to this win to solidify their program’s dominance. It wasn’t easy, as the Cardinals nearly tied it up on the game’s last play. Sean Kilkelly and I had the call.

Audio highlight – the last play


#12 – Greenwich at New Canaan (November 7, 2003) – Doesn’t matter if these two teams play Tiddlywinks. These two teams play good games (if not great games) virtually every time out. This regular season matchup was no different. Greenwich needed a late Tyler Stewart touchdown, and then held on for a wild finish. When it was all over, the Cards had a 13-10 win. They have not lost to the Rams since 2000 (however, they haven’t won all those games either…)

Audio highlight – Stewart’s touchdown and the ensuing point after.


#11 – John Jay at Fox Lane (September 25, 1999) – In only my second game, I had a small classic on my hands. The Foxes held a 7-6 lead late in the fourth quarter, but the Indians drove to get in range for a late field goal. Here I was, faced with my first potential game-winning field goal call. I prepped myself to stay nice and clam (and with no tangible interest in either team, I was able to do that). George Nicholson’s field goal was good for both of us, and the Indians had a 9-7 win. Ron Lyons and I called that game on WVIP-AM (now, sadly, broadcasting religious radio in Spanish.)

Audio highlight – the game winner.


You know what? I’ve been told too many times lately that I don’t update enough. So with that in mind, we’re going to stop the countdown right here. When we next visit, I’ll bring you games 10 through one. Please don’t hold you breath, OK?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Montage

Here it is – the epilogue to the 2006 football season. Using music that I hoped would sound contemporary, I have pulled together the highlights of the 2006 Class LL Championship Game between Greenwich and Southington. As usual, the music was the toughest part but I thought that I made some good picks. If I get chills, then it’s a good thing.

Before you listen to the montage, take a look at the 2006 broadcast team. From left to right: Ricky Fritsch, Zach Fisher, Nick Angotto, and Snoop Dogg. Thanks to Jesse Quinlan for taking the picture.



OK, have a listen to the montage. By the way, Ricky will play the montage on WGCH Saturday morning on "The Sports Insider" at 9:05. Well, probably more like 9:20, but since Rick Reily from Sports Illustrated is going to be on, you'll probably want to hear the whole show.



Oh, and if you want to hear the montage without music - Tim Parry has got it here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Return of "Off The Bench"

Time to get away from high school football (though the Greenwich championship montage is coming). Instead, we’ll talk about a little of everything in the latest edition of “Off the Bench”

I’m not one for predictions, and when I’m wrong, I say so. When I’m right, please give me my props. I (along with Mike and the Mad Dog, to be fair) said that the Jets would have trouble against the Bills on Sunday at the Meadowlands. I wasn’t sure that they would lose the game, but these are the Jets, after all. Bring in Bill Parcells, bring in Eric Mangini, bring in Vince freaking Lombardi for all I care. Doesn’t matter – it’s STILL the Jets. I was at a party the other night and a belligerent fan thought I was, in his words, “nuts.” Hmmm…scanning the TV, I saw the following: Bills 31, Jets 13. Again, they are still the Jets. Like other teams, they will rise to the top someday and might even win the Super Bowl, but they will still be the Jets. They will still be in the shadow of the Giants, and always be a franchise that struggles with luck and image.

By the way, my father was a Jets fan. My brother is a Jets fan. I have a soft spot for the Jets. We all know one thing at the end of the day:

They’re STILL THE JETS!

That party was loaded was shite-talking Mets fans. (I think I can say “shite” on here. The party was hosted by an Irishman. Come on – U2 for everyone!) Anyway, one of them pulled the old “who got farther in the playoffs?” argument. My answer? You’re right, but who got the ring? Easy does it now. Let’s say this again, nice and slowly. My friend Ricky Fritsch doesn’t talk shite, and I hope I don’t either. We’re both fairly intelligent sports fans (we had a minor misunderstanding, but that’s nothing that a trip to Hubba can’t resolve – great chili). I think that’s why we get along. I have an old coworker/friend who is a die-hard Red Sox fan. You would think we hate each other. Wrong. I enjoy talking sports with him.

Moral of the story? If you talk shite out of your arse, you are a poser. Sláinte! (which is, basically, Irish for “cheers.”)

For me, I just smiled, played along and so on. Funny how when you tell people that you’re in sports broadcasting, you become a focal point for a while. That’s fine, since I’m not always at my best in social situations. So that helps me to talk and loosen up. It’s not something that I offer, but it’s a response to “What do you do for a living?” I normally talk about my real-life job, and then possibly discuss radio. That often leads to the interviews that I’ve conducted and places that I’ve been. Same person then called me a “name dropper.” Dude, if you want name-dropping, then you ain’t heard nothing yet.

By the way, nothing says “hot party” like an ear-splitting playing of “The Sun Always Shines on TV” by a-ha. Uh-huh. Somewhere, The Wife’s cousin Diana (she of the ghost-hunters) is smiling.

So, heard enough of John Mellancamp’s “Our Country” yet? Just watch some football and you’ll get your fill. Then you’ll reach for the mute button.

The big report out of Washington, in a nutshell, says that we should get out of Iraq, huh? Wow, go out on a limb there.

What a sad scene it was, watching GHW Bush (“41”) crying as he spoke at a tribute for son Jed. Something much deeper was going on there.

It’s been a while since I’ve rambled about such things, so let’s do a quick catch-up.

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade? Lame…lamer…lamest. When it stops looking like an overproduced Broadway musical, call me.

Michael Richards? No soup for him! Too easy, I know.

Shooting of a young groom on the morning of his wedding in Queens? Sad, very very sad. Still, there’s something deeper going on there. Mayor Bloomberg – way to support your police commissioner and officers. Good to know that you’ve got their back. Everyone is outraged about the 50 shots (I’m sure Bruce Springsteen is working on a follow-up to “41 Shots” as we speak). The fact is this – you’re a cop and you think person X has a gun. Person X’s car begins driving right at you and your colleagues, and tries to ram you. Then shots are fired. What are you going to do? Ask if they want tea and crumpets?

Jesus, that whole story is amazingly sad. Now let’s throw in the race card (since the victim was black). Now let’s watch the media scramble to say it was white cops (hmmm…that part of the story has died down, since there were Latino and African American cops involved).

Then…and wait for it…comes my favorite part: the arrival of Al and Jesse. Hallelujah! Mssrs. Sharpton and Jackson are here! Now we have a party.

For those needing a refresher course, do we need to revisit Dutchess County, 1987? Didn’t think so.

Are there bad cops? Sure. Are there bad people in every walk of life? Um…duh. But most police officers deserve our respect and admiration for keeping us safe and doing an exceptionally dangerous job. Let’s try not to use the broad stroke on this one.

Then we have the case of the 10 year-old boy in Putnam Valley who decided that his teacher was sexy, and told her so. Told that that was inappropriate to say, he comes back days later and asks her for a hug. The kid gets suspended, and the parents look into lawsuits, visit Bill O’Reilly and so on. I haven’t heard of any resolution in this, but the family just looked foolish for defending their child’s actions in the way that they did. Did you ask your teachers for hugs and call them “sexy” when you were a kid?

If I did, my father wouldn’t have been a whole lot of happy with me. I doubt he would have been trying to get me on “The Mike Douglas Show” (it was the 70’s, after all). My classmates would not have thought I was a celebrity.

So the parents blame the media. Of course, they use the media to help tell their story.

Whatever.

Quick interlude – speaking of the 70’s, my old fried, Jon from Richmond, has the “Magic Garden” as one of his MySpace friends. Who, you say? Geez, you’re either not from New York, or you’re young. The Magic Garden was a kids show featuring Paula and Carol, two trippy, early 70’s sweethearts who clearly enjoyed the post-flower child era. The show was classic. And they’re MY friends, too. Trust me, anyone who ever watched it can still sing their closing song.

Back to the subject of blaming the media: we have good ol’ Michael Strahan. Granted, the ESPN reporter was trying to start trouble with the comments Strahan made about Plaxico Buress, but Strahan looked like a bully clown by the time he was finished.

Oh, and let me take it back – I questioned whether or not Albert Pujols was really a jerk a while back. I thought The Journal News’s Peter Abraham was too quick to judge Mr. Pujols. After hearing him whine about the MVP voting (in which Pujols was beaten by the Phillies Ryan Howard), I can now safely say that Mr. Abraham was correct. Did anyone hear Derek Jeter whine after Justin Morneau beat him for the AL MVP?

This just in – MVP’s, like Hall-of-Fame votes, and anything else, are arbitrary and, often, popularity contests. Often, the results are unfair and flat-out wrong. It makes for great debate. So for Albert, why not use some tact? Try it.

Boy, nothing says “smash your radio” like these 24/7 Christmas radio stations, eh? One day, you’re jamming to whatever your favorite station is playing, the next day; it’s 24 hours of The Chipmunks, The Carpenters, and Bing Crosby. Is there really, truly an audience for this?

OK, back to sports, because I can’t help myself. The Hall-of-Fame ballot is out (which Hall-of-Fame, you say? The only one that really counts: baseball). Mark McGwire is on for the first time, along with sure shots Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn. Mr. McGwire seemed pretty safe at one time, but no more. The guess here is that he will not get in, at least not this time out. There, to me, is something sacred about first-ballot hall-of-famers. I’ve had that argument with people – either you’re in or you’re not – regardless of ballot. I just think there’s something to be said about getting in on the first try. Anyway, McGwire would not get in if I had a ballot. Not unless my ballot was juiced.

Incidentally Paul O’Neill is also on the ballot. My three favorite baseball players in my lifetime are Bobby Murcer, Don Mattingly, and Paul O’Neill. Guess what? None, unfortunately, will be delivering acceptance speeches in Cooperstown. Mattingly probably has the best chance, especially when compared to Kirby Puckett (who should not have been a first-ballot hall-of-famer). The problem is that Puckett has two World Series rings, while Donnie Baseball has none. I’m OK with Mattingly not making the Hall so long as Keith Hernandez doesn’t get in. If Mex ever gets in, I will tear the building down.

Well, maybe not. But I’ll be pretty mad.

Birthday comings and goings – guess it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t recognize my fathers’ birthday. Pop would have turned 77 on December 10th. Still among us, as far as I know, is my niece Stephanie, who lights another candle tomorrow. Happy birthday, Steph!

Still, when I think of this time of year, I also think of the anniversary of my kidney stone in 1997. For guys who’ve never had one, the nurse I spoke to that night said that that’s the closest we men will ever come to knowing what it’s like to have a baby. Nope – I’ll pass, thanks.

I’ve wanted to write a long entry about this, but haven’t found the right way to do it. The softball league that I was a part of for approximately 15 years finally disbanded in 2006. I was first a player (at least, that’s the technical term for it), then a broadcaster (you heard that right – my first play-by-play gig, and it helped me get my position at WGCH), then their banquet Master of Ceremonies and annual video producer and talent. I miss being a part of it, though there’s a part of me that doesn’t miss the exhaustion that went into it. But I miss the people and the competition, and the fun. The league was part of the Philip Morris/Kraft Foods/Altria umbrella – companies that I didn’t collect a paycheck from after early 1997. I kept doing it because I loved it. My passion for the game never wavered, even if I didn’t play much. Seeing the latter part of the summer into the fall go by without so much as a mention of the words “softball” and “video” didn’t seem right. But truthfully the league was on life support for some time and finally, after one last batch of layoffs, the belief was that there was not enough players to fill teams. So that was that. That league gave me things, and honored me in ways that I could never fully explain.

Thanks, guys (and gals).

I’m off to learn how to be “Fergalicious.”

Friday, December 08, 2006

GHS Celebrates Their Season

Last night at the Old Greenwich Civic Center, the Greenwich High School football program gathered to pass out the hardware for the 2006 season. The various freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors were introduced to a large crowd, with special awards and scholarships being doled out as well.

As a reporter, probably the biggest thing for me was to find out who captains will be in 2007. Even if I’m not the guy walking the sidelines, these players are essential because they are the ones for a quote when in a pinch, and their parents know they can come to us when they need something. So, here are the 2007 captains:

Jim Dunster
Phil Catalano
Chris Bisanzo
Jonathan Myers

Congratulations to a fine incoming group, and kudos to the outgoing captains as well – Sean Bannon, Dan Bodson, Charles Williams, and TJ Cameron. Each one displayed grace as they spoke at the dinner. Among the other highlights was the presentation of the Coach’s Award to Reji Gachelin for not only taking what life gives you and being a better man for it, but for also being a very good football player. I spoke briefly with Reji afterwards and was struck with what a decent person he is. You can sometimes gauge those things very quickly, and they’re obvious with Reji. Of course, he also wanted to know why Nick didn’t interview him on the postgame show after the win against Southington also. That, and he wanted to know why a radio station said that he and Jake Clarke were fighting during the championship game. We did see Reji go and say something twice to Jake on the field, but I read that as leadership and encouragement, not fighting. Anyway, Reji didn’t seem bothered by it, so it was all in good fun.

Two other awards were passed out – the Hatchet Man award, which went to Charles Williams, though a special nod was given to Jonathan Myers as well. Both players received trophies, and after Myers was given his, he remarked that Williams was the true winner. Sean Bannon received the Big Red Award. I would compare the Hatchet Man to a defensive player of the year, while the Big Red is comparable to the team MVP.

Personally, many thanks to the people who stopped by at our table to talk about the blog, the team, other websites and comments, our broadcasts, football, and life. Nick Angotto renamed our table the “VIP” one, but believe me, we’re the least important people in the room on this night.

When I get a chance, I will post the highlight montage that I have created from the Southington game. Tim Parry has a copy and will probably put it up on the FCIAC blog, but I’m thinking about doing a music version. We’ll see how much energy I have. Then I have to go through the game audio. I should start selling my services and make some money!!

Anyway, gotta head to the temp job…thank GOD it’s Friday…

One more thing - while you're reading the blogs, go check out my friend and colleague Sean Kilkelly's. Then, go over to Tim Parry's (admit it - you read his a lot) and take a look at his store. He works harder at this than I do...which is why I can keep mine free with no store...heck, at the very least, leave him a note to say thanks for his efforts. He pulled a lot of people together in the FCIAC this year. In fact, he pulled Connecticut football together. Me? I update when I please, and it's not always about sports or football. But I have to say that several people have encouraged me to keep updating, and frequently so. I'd like to, but as always, we'll see.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Mr. Adams, meet Mr. Stern

Recently, I wrote in one of my entries about some bad times. It was probably a touch too personal, but that’s the tightrope that I walk here. When that happens, it’s almost like the new song from Gwen Stefani, “Wind it Up.” It’s like a train wreck – you don’t want to listen (or read it), but you just can’t help it. At those points, it’s best to just keep moving.

Incidentally, a reader reached out to me after that, and I appreciate that person’s thoughtfulness. I’ll come out of the shadows eventually. That being said, something happened yesterday that had me so mad that I drove home from work in total silence. I only wanted one thing – to see the joyful smile on The Son’s face.

Then he stuck his tongue out at me. Reality bites, people!

I will spare you the details of what happened. It was “unprofessionalism” at its highest form. Moving on to better things…

My old friend, John Iannuzzi, rang my cell phone around 9:00 yesterday morning. Unfortunately, I was in the loo at that point (that’s British slang for the…um…toilet), and though plenty of men answer the phone in there, I am generally not one of them. So I checked the message later on. Anyway, John is a loyal listener of Howard Stern, and this morning, he heard Howard and Robin Quivers, talking about producer Gary Dell’Abate (aka “Baba Booey”) and his son, Jackson. Jackson plays football in the GYFL for the North Mianus Bulldogs, who were in the junior championship game – a game that we broadcast on WGCH.

I had met Gary a couple of times, the first being at a GYFL championship Sunday a few years ago. He came up to the booth to say hello, and I played it low-key, as I try to do with everybody, because I don’t think they want the celebrity treatment in that spot. He just wanted to be “Gary” and that was fine with me. After the broadcast, Zach Fisher (who knows the Dell’Abate’s) told me that Gary was anxious to get the audio of that junior championship game. At the Greenwich Old Timer’s Dinner, “Baba Booey” himself reaffirmed that to me. Two days later, the CD was in his hands.

This all leads to this morning, and the reason for John’s call. Following some banter between Robin and Howard about the “community radio station”, a very familiar voice came on the air. Yep – mine. If this works correctly, just press play and enjoy perhaps the biggest moment that I will ever experience in my career.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Cardinals Come Up Big in the Big Game

As you read last time out, the Greenwich Cardinals won the 2006 Class LL Championship with an impressive 28-7 victory over the Southington Blue Knights. For those not familiar with Connecticut football, that means the Cardinals are the state champions for their class. Does that mean that they are the overall state champions? Not exactly. Connecticut has six classes (LL, L, MM, M, SS, S). Then there are two polls of interest – the New Haven Registers’ media poll (no, I’m not part of that), and The Day of New London’s coach’s poll. More often than not, the same team gets the nod in both of those polls, and for pride purposes, they can claim the title of the state’s best. It seems quite likely that there could be a split poll this year, and the Cardinals should be one of them, if not the only one.

Apparently, those who think they ARE high school football in Connecticut have deemed Ansonia the number one team. I, and a few other media types that I spoke with, think that is nuts. Look, Ansonia had a great year, and won the Class S title in impressive fashion. That being said, I give Ansonia a little more than a half before the Cardinals pull away in any hypothetical game. That is not to demean what Ansonia did – they were truly incredible and deserve that piece of the state championship pie. I just think too many people are looking at what happened on Thanksgiving Day too strongly. Again – the Cardinals did not need to beat Staples that morning. Staples, on the other hand, HAD to beat the Cardinals. Greenwich played with a lot of injuries, and so on.

Here’s the deal – if you saw what I saw in New Haven on Saturday night, then you know just how awesome the Cardinals were. In fact, the 28-7 score doesn’t even indicate how much of a blowout it could have been. If the Cardinals don’t make what I considered to be a risky, even foolish decision before halftime, then it’s possibly 31-7. If Paul Clements doesn’t make a wonderfully athletic play to get the ball to Garry Coles, Southington might not even get on the scoreboard.

As always, these are just “ifs.”

Let’s get to the final Super Six/FCIAC Five vote. No surprises here:

1) Greenwich (12-1, Last Week – 1) – We all know how much I agonized over picking the Cardinals to be my top team last time out. Now, with a state title, and the notion that no opponent would have beaten Big Red on Saturday, I feel comfortable handing the number one seed to coach Rich Albonizio and company. More about them in a bit.
2) Staples (10-2, 2) – So you might be saying, “now hold on. Staples lost to Bunnell for the state championship (in Class L) and lost to New Canaan in the regular season.” You, dear reader, would be correct. But just like those who will vote in the state polls, this is about opinion and gut feeling. My opinion is that, when all is said and done, Staples was better. An extra point was the difference between Staples and New Canaan, and a two-point conversion was the difference between the Wreckers and Bunnell. Congratulations to everyone in Westport for a great year.
3) New Canaan (11-2, 3) – Let’s welcome the Rams back to the state championship table for the first time since 2002. A tremendous year, with a visit to the FCIAC Championship, capped off by a whacking of Maloney (a feel-good story) in the Class MM championship. Some in the media whined that Lou Marinelli and company ran it up on Maloney. They beat them big, no doubt about it, but Coach M was one of the proponents of the still-idiotic 20-point rule. I don’t think Marinelli was running up the score, so stop with the talk of the Rams being “classless.”

From here, nothing will change (and why should it?):
4) Bridgeport Central
5) Trinity Catholic
6) Wilton

Let’s get back to the Cardinals. I’m going to be selfish for a minute. My first contact with the Greenwich football program came in 1999, when I was asked to be the sideline reporter for WGCH in the Cardinals semi-final game against Fairfield Prep. With frozen cheeks on a bitter night at Boyle Stadium, I kept track of a tremendous performance by Jimmy Henry. I missed out on the Cardinals championship win over Southington that year due to a prior commitment (I think I was invited to provide analysis).

Move ahead to 2000 – my first year as the play-by-play announcer for Cardinals football on WGCH. The Cardinals go all the way to a state championship appearance and lose to now-Detroit Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky and Shelton. Part of me, always somewhat superstitious, thinks I brought a jinx with me – one that would last through championship losses in 2001, 2002 (the one that got away), and 2004. Part of me assumed that I would never get to call a state championship for any of the Greenwich teams. Finally, on December 2, 2006, I was at the microphone for Greenwich’s big night. I’m very proud to be the smallest part of this team, along with Ricky, Nick, Zach, and Sean. We never played a down, or went through a practice, or cooked the meals, or washed the uniforms, and so on, but we were there for every play.

I went down to the field after the game to grab a few interviews. I wanted to talk to Nick Edwards, Jake Clarke and Sean Bannon –three former GYFL players who I interviewed after they won the senior championship in 2002. I wanted to interview them in this spot also. I also talked, briefly, with coach Rich Albonizio, before handing the microphone off to Nick, his former player, who had done all of the interviews all year. It was his moment to share with his former coach and teammates. Off the air, I told Coach Al how proud I was to be the announcer for a state champion. I have called others – Harrison’s win in 2002, and of course, Brunswick’s NEPSAC title in 2005, but I’ve long-been associated with the Cardinals. That’s what made this so special, and I mean that with no offense to anybody else.

The atmosphere was fun among the state champs. Players kept falling to the turf, doing snow angles, and having their pictures taken. Coach Wayne Gioffre was so emotional that he wouldn’t do an interview with Nick, but just wanted to hug his players. I chatted with several of the coaches, besides Coach Al and Gioffre. Most of all, while Nick did the talking, I watched and enjoyed the looks on their faces.

Oh, one more thing – you can rip Rich Albonizio all you want for play calling. Heck, I was very skeptical after the Cardinals ran the ball just before halftime with no time outs, and barely got a last play off at the gun, only to have Joe Poletsky run into the line. Part of me wondered if the Cards had squandered a chance there, and if the first half was their chance to make a statement. Had the blown the state championship?. Part of me wondered if the Blue Knights trotted off at 7-7, thinking they were really leading the game. But Coach Al’s play calling, and the execution by the offense to start the second half, gave the Cardinals the lead that they would not squander. Ever. So with all of that said, Coach Albonizio now has three state titles – one at Trinity Catholic, and two with the Cardinals. I know that makes him 2-4 in the championship game, but it’s still two championships in one of the state’s toughest jobs. He’s done a heck of a job with that team. The coach who couldn’t win the big game became the first coach to win the FCIAC and CIAC since 1994. That’s a winner, folks. Enough said.

By the way, and unfortunately, it didn’t’ get mentioned during our call, but what a nice move by the Cards to NOT throw the Gatorade bucket on Coach Al. This tired tradition once in a while gets a fresh taste, and it got one here. They dunked Brian Kennedy, THE man of Cardinal Stadium and Greenwich Athletics. To me, that was a classy show of respect for the leader of the behind-the scenes people.

Personally, a tip of the hat to Greenwich Athletic Director Gus Lindine for handing two sideline passes to me. As always, the CIAC wasn’t exactly running at top speed. For one, it was hard to find media credentials. For another, the gate people supposedly didn’t have us on their list. When I said that the CIAC (pronounced “Sea-Yack”) had spoken to WGCH and authorized us to be there, the man at the gate said, “this isn’t being run by the ‘Sea-Yack.’ This is the C-I-A-C.” Can’t make this stuff up.

Lastly, and most importantly, there are the players. The coach’s, fans, parents, teachers, media, and support staffs are all tremendous, but there’s only one team. And it’s the players that make it happen. Led by captains Sean Bannon, Dan Bodson, Charles Williams, and TJ Cameron, this group now has a bond that they will share forever. They also share history – as the first team to win both the FCIAC and CIAC titles since Connecticut began the semifinal system. They are a group the personified heart and character. When they lost Cameron to an injury, they regrouped with Nick Edwards and Jim Dunster as their halfbacks. When Edwards, Bannon, and Dunster all went down, they stumbled, but came back strong. With Bannon and Dunster back for the championship game, they were crowned winners.

They – and I – will never forget it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Champions

I can't write for long. It's 3:20 in the morning and I'm beat. The Greenwich Cardinals won their first state championship since 1999 with a convincing 28-7 win over the Southington Blue Knights. More about the game, the broadcast and so on when I'm a little more awake.