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:


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.


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.”

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