Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No, I Haven't Disappeared

OK, so I haven't exactly kept up on posting. As usual, I took some grief for it (most of it self-inflicted). Lots of shite going on in the life right now. Job adjustment (don't ask), attitude adjustment, minimal time, and so on. I suppose I could have come in and posted during the tons and tons of sleepless hours that I've had over the past few weeks, but I didn't. For those who have stayed patient and faithful, I thank you. I'd like to tell you that I'll update more often, but we all know that we shouldn't make promises.

Musically, I'm enhancing my life again. I have added five CD's in the past two days to the library, with two more on the way. The new additions are The Shins "Oh Inverted World" (two tracks of which were used on the movie soundtrack for "Garden State"), "Whatever and Ever Amen" and "The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner" from Ben Folds Five (which was actually just three, but once you learn about Ben Folds, it makes sense), "Definitely Maybe" from Oasis (the supposed BEST ALBUM EVER in England), and "Pretenders" from, yup, The Pretenders. Can anyone say Grrr? Chrissie Hynde can, and that's all that matters. As brilliant and downright sexy as "Brass in Pocket" is, I'll take both "Mystery Achievement" and "Stop Your Sobbing" first. Bloody brilliant, as the Brits would say.

This once again proves that variety is indeed the spice of life. It also proves that a 20GB iPod is not close to being enough for me. I had to remove a lot of songs. Right now, a lot of Jazz is paying the price, unfortunately. Or really a lot of “Easy Listening.” Still I always chafe at categorizing great vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett, but some of their music was among the cuts. They can always come back – that’s the beauty of the iPod.

The last two CD's will be from Montgomery Delaney. I hope to have them soon.

I have to admit that Ben Folds has really become a favorite recently. His music is basic in a lot of ways, but it’s the sarcasm of the words, combined with good melodies that make it so listenable. His song “Rocking the Suburbs” has almost become my mantra. On my MySpace page, I use this line as my quote: “Let me tell y’all what it’s like, to be male, middle class, and white.” Oh, it’s not for listening to when the kids are around. In fact, Ben Folds was asked to contribute the song to the soundtrack for “Over The Hedge.” Let’s just say he had to re-record it, with a whole new vocal.

“Rocking the Suburbs” (from the album of the same name) sits at number one on my “Crank it Up” playlist on iTunes. That means we turn the volume up to 11.

It’s probably going to take me until kickoff to care about the Super Bowl. I won’t be sad if the Bears win, but sure, I’d like to see Peyton Manning get his ring. I’d also like to see Tony Dungy get his ring as well. Although, just as a reminder, Coach Dungy got a ring or two as a member of a certain steel town team in the late 70’s. So it’s not as if his ring finger is empty. Still after the death of his son just over a year ago, you can’t help but view Dungy as a sentimental favorite. Whatever – may the best team win. Keep it close and let’s see a great game. And great commercials.

The NFL Network is getting towards the end of their series called, “America’s Game”, in which the supposed 20 greatest Super Bowl Champions were named. I’ve heard what the top four teams are (but not their order) and as usual, the “experts” who voted have demonstrated their usual lack of clue. The remaining four are the ’85 Bears, ’72 Dolphins, ’78 Steelers, and the ’89 49ers. While I will root for the ’78 Steelers to win (they’ve won almost all of the “greatest team” things in the past), I think there’s a fascination with either the ’72 Dolphins (they did go undefeated, after all) or the ’85 Bears. I’m telling you now, I love the ’78 Steelers, but the ’74, ’74, or even the non-champion ’76 Steelers would have done just fine. The ’75 Steelers would have likely beaten each of these teams based on their defense and power running offense alone. The funny thing is that Terry Bradshaw hadn’t even peaked yet (that would happen in ’78).

Whatever – more water-cooler babble, I suppose. Besides, how does this conversation continue without the ’66 Packers? Find your history books, people!

A very good thing happened in Texas Monday, with the official opening of the Center for the Intrepid at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. My radio god Don Imus was there to host his show, having spearheaded the financial attack to help raise the funds needed to build the center. The center is a 65,000 square foot, state-of-the-art physical rehabilitation center for those wounded in the current battles around the world. Also on-site are two houses for the families of those injured.

How much did out government pony up for this? Zip. Zilch. Nada. The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund raised more than $90 million to build this center. Say what you want about war, but it’s a current fact, and those injured in battle deserve the best care possible. And I have to zip it, at least momentarily, because among those putting up big bucks was Rosie O’Donnell. I’m a mega-critic of her, but she threw in $300,000, along with Cher (another target of mine). While I’m eating my humble pie, let me also say that John Mellencamp performed and seemed to do a fine job as a guest of the I-man’s show (I tried to listen but couldn’t). The country duo Big and Rich also performed. Senators John McCain and Hillary Clinton were the speakers (hmmm…we might want to get used to saying those names together as we heard towards 2008).

The shameful part was the lack of media coverage, other than Imus. If there isn’t a car chase or death, there isn’t much to look at, right? That can only be the logic of those running Fox, MSNBC, CNN, and so on. If it was in my local newspaper, I didn’t see it. And did Imus have a field day with all of that!

Well done by the NHL! A stroke of genius to put the All Star Game on a nothing network (Versus), resulting in a total of 474,000 households watching. The game was last played in 2004, and was on ABC. The Versus numbers represent a 76% drop from the ABC audience. More incredibly is the fact that the 2007 number is down 82% from 2000, when the game was also on ABC. Ouch. A great sport and a great league are largely invisible. Foster Hewitt (the godfather of hockey announcers) spins in his grave.

Speaking of Hewitt, someone recently asked who would be on sports broadcasting’s Mount Rushmore, if one existed. Using the notion that only four can be chosen, I would say my four are Vin Scully (shocking), Mel Allen, Red Barber, and it’s a tough choice for the fourth. Hewitt would be fine, but so would Bill Stern, Graham MacNamee (how he’s not a Baseball Hall of Fame Ford Frick Award winner by now is beyond me), Ted Husing, Dan Kelly, Marv Albert, Marty Glickman, Ernie Hawell, Jack Buck, Curt Gowdy, and on and on, until I reached my probable selection: Dick Enberg. Scully, Allen, Barber, and Enberg are each so well-rounded that they’ve all done virtually everything at one time or another, with one probable exception – yep, hockey. See? It’s a tough choice.

I did not consider myself, though I thought long and hard about Mark Rosen’s credentials. Ian Handwerger was disqualified for the “Dyer Duffy” story, but that’s for another time.

Those of you who know what I’m talking about probably enjoyed that laugh.

Well I’m happy that I got some stuff back on the blog. I was only going to post a paragraph but wound up doing more. For all of us here at Channel Four News, I’m Ron Burgundy. You stay classy, Planet Earth.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Note From Montgomery Delaney

Sometimes I get to meet people who have achieved fame in one form or another. Montgomery Delaney is one of those people. Well, to be precise, we've exchanged emails. I've told you a few times recently about Monty (if I can be so forward as to call him that) and his music, and the fact that he was supposed to perform in concert on February 3rdr in Irvington, NY. Well as I mentioned, The Journal News reported in "The Line" (their weekly publication of events around our area) that Montgomery's show had been postponed. My friend Sean Kilkelly has known Monty for several years, so he was my first point of contact. Once he said he didn't know anything more than I did, it was time to go straight to the source.

I sent a quick email to Montgomery, explaining who I am and what I was curious about. A little more than 24 hours later, I had a very nice reply from him, one that I would post for you, but won't since I don't know him that well (OK, I don't know him at all). In any event, a few issues arose that couldn't be worked out in time for the show, but he'll get back on stage again soon. I encourage you to check out his website, read his bio, and most importantly, listen to his music. Check out "Son of a Son" (which plays automatically when you go to the website). It's very good.

As a person who has long wished he could get on stage and perform musically, it's so refreshing to hear a "regular guy" (whatever that might mean) who sounds like he's doing what he loves, and doing it really well.

I'll keep you posted on future items from Montgomery Delaney.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Super Bowl XLI

It will be the Colts and the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. While I have nothing against the Bears, I think most of the country wanted the Saints to advance to the big game. The better team won though - and big. I listened to a bunch of it on the radio, but I didn't really miss anything. The second game was far better. In that AFC game, Peyton Manning and the Colts got down 21-3 then marched back. Many times, it looked like they weren't going to get it done. Even after the Colts scored to take a 38-34 lead, I found it hard to believe that Tom Brady wouldn't pull off another comeback. I looked at the clock and said, "Too much time." It might have been, but we'll never know, as Brady threw an interception. What a tremendously enjoyable and, at times, bizarre game.

The Colts will likely be the favorites, but don't underestimate da Bears. I'm happy in that A) The Patriots won't be in the game (I'm just sick of them) and B) I have no rooting interest. Just give me a good game now.

For the Bears, it's their first appearance since the Super Bowl Shuffle year of 1985, culminating in their blowout of the Pats in Super Bowl XX. For the Colts, it's their first visit to the big game since Super Bowl V, when they defeated the Cowboys 16-13.

I'm watching the Colts postgame ceremony right now. A few thoughts - it's hard to root for the Colts, only because of the cowardly way the Irsay family pulled the Colts out of Baltimore in 1984. But time heals all wounds - Baltimore got the Browns (in almost the same way that the Colts left) and renamed them the Ravens.

Also, and this will be a big story line - the fact that when Lovie Smith got the Bears into the Super Bowl, he became the first African American coach to lead his team to the big game. Then when Tony Dungy (a former Steeler, I might add) brought the Colts in, this became a game that will be coached by two African Americans. That's great, and it's a nice story, but stop the madness. I knew it would be a question worth asking - Terry Bradshaw asked Smith while Jim Nantz queried Dungy. Both admitted they were proud but both showed the class that they bring to football. That's what it's all about - not the color of their skin. They weren't hired because of it, and they're not better or worse coaches because of it. Good for them. They are PEOPLE worth rooting for, not causes.

Is it just me, or is it a little tougher for Saints fans, knowing that they lost to the Bears, but also watching their icon, Archie Manning, walk around with a Colts AFC Champion hat on?

Oh, what's the deal with both Jim Irsay and Tony Dungy playing the God card? Did God decide it was time for Peyton Manning to play in the Super Bowl? Is He sick of the Pats also? Just curious.

I wish more athletes would do like hockey players do. When they win the conference or league trophies, they don't touch it. They want no part of it, because they only want to touch one thing: the Stanley Cup. That's only one of the many unappreciated things about hockey: the superstitons. Today, coaches and players raised the trophy high, which I can't blame them for, especially since it's the last time, in the case of the winners, that they will be at home in front of their fans.

Now how about the warm and cozy interview between Solomon Wilcots of CBS and Bill Belichick? I wish I had the transcript, but it was embarrassing, and made Coach Happy Pants look like a fool and a sore loser. I guess Belichick hasn't quite learned how to lose yet.

Lastly, and not entirely completely unrelated to these games, it appears that the Steelers will hire their first African American head coach, when they announce that Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin has accepted the job. This at least according to Jay Glazer on FoxSports.Com, and after a wild weekend in which ESPN and Sports Illustrated said that Tomlin was the guy, only to have many denials surface. Early Sunday, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said that sources revealed that Russ Grimm, the Steelers assistant head coach under Bill Cowher, would be named head coach.

For my money, I wanted Grimm, simply because he would continue to preach the Steelers 3-4 defensive scheme. They have several players signed just because they play well in a 3-4. Tomlin comes from a 4-3 scheme, which most NFL teams have. Also, Tomlin will want to bring in many new assistants, which Grimm likely would not have done, since he worked with most of the existing staff. That won't be cost effective for the Stillers. Time moves on, I guess.

The Steelers will introduce Tomlin at a Monday news conference. By the way, Tomlin is 34, which was the same age as Bill Cowher was when he took the job. While I wanted Grimm, I'm pleased with Tomlin, and who am I to question? Since 1969, the Steelers have had two coaches, and won a record five Super Bowls (trademark).

Start the Super Bowl Madness!

Coming In From The Bullpen

Well it seems that Odds and Sods have been rightfully reunited over at Sean Kilkelly’s blog, so therefore, we must move forward. Thus coming in from the bullpen, to the strains of “Enter Sandman” (borrowed from Billy Wagner), is our old friend “Off the Bench.”

Speaking of friends, Ricky Fritsch went to Las Vegas. It doesn’t have the same ring as “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”, but it might. Ricky in Vegas, on business, alone. I’m hoping what happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas.

By now you must have seen that Captain Carpetbagger has borrowed from the book of Kennedy. Yes, Hillary Rodham Clinton, United States Senator from the state of New York (by way of Illinois and Arkansas) has announced that she is filing papers to form an exploratory…oh blah blah blah…she’s running for President, folks! As such, she follows Robert F. Kennedy, who was also a New York Senator (by way of Massachusetts, of course) and who also ran for President, and stood a mighty good chance of winning (some folks can’t let go of “Camelot”) before being assassinated.

Here on ye old Exit 55, “Captain Carpetbagger” is the worst thing that I will call Senator Clinton. I will not use Mr. Imus’ nickname for Mrs. Clinton (“Satan”, and no, not the hockey player pronunciation). I’ve made it quite clear how I feel about Mrs. Clinton, Dixie Chicks style, of course – “I am ashamed to be from the same state where Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer are my senators.” Doesn’t mean I don’t love the Empire State; just means that I don’t do a happy dance when thinking about the politicos here, is all.

Just when I mentioned to you that Montgomery Delaney was to perform in Irvington on February 3rd, I see in The Journal News that the show has been postponed. I’ve sent an email to Monty to find out more, and we’ll see what happens.

I thought my sleeping would improve after I resolved the job situation, but alas, I was enjoying some cinematic masterpiece on the couch at 4:15 this morning. I’m hoping that tonight will be the last rough night – since the job starts tomorrow. Some have commented that I don’t seem excited, and that’s not true. I’m just being overly cautious, and trying not to get wrapped up. I’d feel this way about any job.

I’ve spent large chunks of time since Thursday in various shopping enclaves. Don’t pity me – I normally enjoy it, and do it by choice. On Thursday, The Son and I headed off on an adventure. One of my favorite treats is the occasional Krispy Kreme doughnut. Now while I’ll eat the store-bought style, there’s nothing like the ones that come right off the production line. The Son likes watching them roll through the machines, so it’s a win-win. And before you begin the “now I see why you weigh so much” comments, stuff it. We rarely go. But since The Son was with me on Thursday, and it was getting pretty cold, I thought it would be kind of a roadtrip.

Fortunately, Krispy Kreme’s only nearby locations are in places like New York City, Long Island, Milford Connecticut, and Middletown New York. So Middletown (about a one-hour drive) was the winner. Ever drive somewhere, ready for a treat, only to discover that said outlet was closed? Out of business? Gone? Now ever try to explain that to a devastated four year-old? It seems Middletown is going through some pains. I noticed that their nearby shopping mall, The Galleria at Crystal Run, seemed to be in a bit of a transition. I’m not saying Middletown is a wasteland right now; I’m just saying the mall wasn’t jumping at peak-capacity.

Incidentally, The Son recovered quickly from his disappointment. It’s amazing how watching a garbage truck pick up and empty a dumpster will ease the preschool pain. Plus he got a Dunkin Donut later on. No, I didn’t have one. See? I was holding out for the good stuff.

Friday led me to the Palisades Center in West Nyack, New York. I am of the belief that the Pal is the only reason to go to Rockland in the first place, but what a place it is. (Not true - Bear Mountain State Park is in Rockland. I'm just being fresh) Yet after all was said and done, I bought almost nothing. Same can be said with Woodbury Common on Saturday. Woodbury is perhaps the largest outlet center in the world; popular enough that trips frequently run from Japan and the UK (and who knows where else?) explicitly to come to Woodbury Common. I did snag a couple of pairs of pants at the Gap outlet, but that’s about it. Sometimes we’re productive. This really wasn’t one of those times. If you could deal with the cold, it was a great day to go shopping there because the place was kind of barren (compared to a normal Saturday, when it’s like Disney World). We just couldn’t find the best deals.

Don’t feel sorry for us though. With the securing of a new job, that means we can go on our annual anniversary vacation. We started this tradition on the occasion of our 10th anniversary, in 2005, with a trip to Maine. We were going to be a little grander in 2006, but wound up back in Maine. Guess where we’re heading for 2007? Yep, back to Maine. The shopping is fine (LL Bean, my friends), the accommodations are awesome (The Harraseeket Inn), and the trip is easy – when it’s not snowing. We’re in Freeport, Maine within four to five hours, every time. Despite it being Red Sox country, I love it up there. It’s one of the few places that I would seriously consider relocating to at this point (that short list includes Richmond, Virginia and a couple of other places).

I’ll give you some more stuff on our Maine experiences some other time. There are stories to tell – mostly due to snow.

So the shopping tour continues today. Ever the good father, I’m meeting my sister at the Danbury Fair Mall so that The Son can go build a bear. That, for those of you who know such things, means I will probably be missing Da Bears and Da Saints, or at least a large part of it. I hope to watch the main event (Pats-Colts) later on.

Oh, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the last post was number 55 for Exit 55! Yay for me…or whatever.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, we'll see where the road takes me. As I announced yesterday, I have a new job - finally. I told you that I am not going to name the company, but will tell you this: I will be working in White Plains, for an Australian company that is opening their first US office. I'm also heading back to the industry that I was in until the middle of 2006. I'm nervously excited.

Thanks to all of you who were there for me in one way or another during this process. I know at the very least that so many of you were at least thinking of The Son, The Wife, and me, even if there was nothing you could do for us. Your thoughts and words of encouragement were great.

From here, we will take it day by day. I will keep my eyes wide open. Oh, and does this mean that I'm done with radio/broadcasting? Hardly. I hope to be back doing things for WGCH again soon, but if not there, then I'm hopeful that something will happen with Sporting News CT. Frankly, if none of that works out, then I will consider what I've long thought about doing: starting my own internet broadcasting outlet.

Again, let's see where the road takes us. Now, sing along...

"Buying bread from a man in Brussels. He was six foot four and full of muscles. I said, "Do you speak-a my language?" He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich.

And he said, 'I come from a land down under. Where beer does flow and men chunder...'"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Sods and Odds

I’ve decided to call tonight’s entry “Sods and Odds”, which, I think, is German for “Off the Bench.” (or San Diego – I don’t remember – wait, doesn’t that have something to do with a whale? Never mind.). At the very least, since Sean Kilkelly has been missing his “Odds and Sods” lately, we could start a theory that I stole it (scratch that, then reverse it).

Wow, two very vague movie references in the first paragraph? I must be feisty.

It's almost like I've had a touch of writers block. I've got a lot of stuff on my mind - both personally and professionally - and haven't been able to get any thoughts down on paper (the electronic type). I've started writing a couple of times, but just didn't like what it said, so I trashed it.

I guess it's not truly writers block, as I come up with lots of great things away from the computer. Therefore it must be performance anxiety, right?

I’m kind of all over the place today. I’m facing some big changes in my life, hopefully for the better. Unfortunately for as personal as I have made this blog, there are just some things that I can’t reveal. Some things are just too personal, whether because it might hurt somebody, or it would be stupid to reveal, and might hurt me – personally and/or professionally. Was that clear?

Anyway, I guess I can offer that by as early as next Monday, I might finally have that new job I’ve been longing for. I’ve decided to not name the company, and any other particulars. It’s not that I won’t eventually; I just think that it’s best to lay low. I can tell you that I’m very nervous, and no matter where I go, my approach and attitude are going to be a little different. Past experiences have made me jaded and very weary.

There are personal things that I have to deal with, but I can’t get into them. I tried – this is probably my third writing attempt – but there’s no way to talk about it. In short, I just have to be more tolerant and patient. And I guess that I really can’t say what I mean. My brutal honesty is great, until somebody gets hurt.

To music – Sean Kilkelly has been telling me about a friend of his, Montgomery Delaney. I trust Sean’s taste (he’s one of only two people who can barely interest me in wrestling), so I figured I’d check Monty out. He has a website, which allowed me to listen to some of his work, and I really like it. His story is worth checking out (on the “Bio” page), and he’ll be performing at the Irvington Theatre in Irvington, NY on February 3. So try to get a babysitter (if necessary) and go check him out for yourself. We’re planning to go – for $25, that’s a good deal. Doors open at 8:00 PM.

I just finished converting a whole bunch of old records and cassettes that I had laying around. Some 350 tracks were added to my computer when all was said and done and, despite the tape hiss, and the overall quality, it reminded me how wide and varied my tastes can be. Obviously these were items that were either A) out of print or B) not worth upgrading to CD for – yet. Most were in the latter category. Among them was some Lynyrd Skynyrd. The great Skynyrd had become one of those classic rock bands that were just too ubiquitous. Face it – if you listen to a rock station, you’re going to hear probably “Dream On”, “Stairway To Heaven”, “Money”, “Light My Fire” and “Free Bird” before the day is done – every time you listen!! So after years of liking Skynyrd, I just stopped. I didn’t even have anything from them on CD. Going through the tapes though, I rediscovered how great they were back in the 70’s. I’m not saying that it’s going to be jumping into heavy rotation again, but it was still nice to hear.

I guess I should be more up front (not pun intended, Jon) about this. My father especially loved “Free Bird.” This from a man who taught me all about Big Band music. He also taught me about variety in musical taste. How else to explain it? He once told me that he wanted “Free Bird” played somewhere at his funeral – preferably back at our house, when everyone had come over for the usual food spread.

I don’t recall if the song ever got played at the house, but I do remember this. I was one of two eulogists at his funeral. Part of my eulogy included the following words:

“If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me? For I must be traveling on now. There’s too many places I’ve gotta see.”

At least I think those are the words. I did a Google search on “Free Bird” and came up with multiple versions of those lyrics. Well you get the idea – those are the first lines of the song. The inspiration hit me the morning of the funeral. I’ve never quite listened to the song the same since.

OK, let’s get going with other stuff here. While I’m trying to turn over new leaves, there will still be plenty of biting commentary, such as:

I know I’m late here, but am I the only one who applauded The Donald when he bitch-slapped Rosie?

Did you hear about the radio contest in Sacramento that caused the death of a 28 year-old mother of three? “The Morning Rave” show on KDND hosted a contest in which contestants had to drink water and not relieve themselves. The person who holds on the longest would win a Nintendo Wii (pronounced “wee” which is relevant) video game. Jennifer Strange held on as long as she could and came in second. Later that day, after complaining that she didn’t feel well, she was found dead in her home. The cause of death appears to be water intoxication.

Now keep in mind that Ms. Strange signed a waiver, and participated in the stunt on her own free will. Also keep in mind that the nitwit radio hosts offered her concert tickets to stop. Yet a young mother is dead, three children don’t have a mother, and a husband is widowed. Sad story.

So how did the radio station react? They fired the entire morning show, along with other employees – 10 people gone in total. That’s a fairly typical “cover your arse” move by the station, but let’s face it – they will pay monetarily, because that’s the society that we live in. Doesn’t “Litigation” sound like a better name than “United States of America?” That’s what we’ve become, folks.

Incidentally, I would post links, but the Sacramento Bee is one of those sites that insist on having you register. So if you get there quickly, you might be able to read the article (the police might now get involved – yee-hah!!) and listen to some audio that they have. If you don’t mind registering, than party on, dude.

It’s great that the families in Missouri have a happy ending with the return of their sons, but obviously there are still some unanswered questions. Most notably is why neither of them ran – especially Shawn Hornbeck, who had been held for four and half years. Apparently, there’s much more below the surface. All one can do is wish them luck.

To sports now. I’m pleased that a hard-working individual named Jerry Reese is the new general manager of the New York Giants. It’s nice to see people who climb the ladder and pay their dues get rewarded by making it to the pinnacle of their profession. The fact that Mr. Reese is an African American (or dare I say, a “black”) is really of no interest to me. I guarantee it is of no interest to the number of Giants fans that I know. They, like me, just care about one thing: “just win, baby.” Therefore this quote from Mr. Reese just made me shake my head:

“I can’t win three games a year and expect that African Americans will be advanced.”

Excuse me? Did I read that correctly? This is New York, and these are the New York Giants. The people in and around this franchise are going to judge you on your record, not on the color of your skin. People in football will feel the same way. Quite frankly, your race will not be hindered by whether or not Eli Manning throws five interceptions in a game, or if Michael Strahan misses a tackle.

Please don’t play the race card, especially so foolishly. This is the kind of idiotic rhetoric that I expect from the mouths of Rev. Jackson and Sharpton, not a football GM.

Guess there will be no winter sports on WGCH. Sorry folks. I hope for other things to come down the pike. I always appreciated a little break following football season. I didn’t expect this. For the first time since I’ve been at WGCH, I have to basketball or hockey to keep me warm.

The Knicks are still playing, right? I’ve asked this before and nobody has responded.

In fact, other than the NFL, and some hockey, we’re into the dead zone now. I guess I should begin watching more college hoops. Instead I’ve been catching up on things that I’ve recorded, and other stuff. I finally watched “The DaVinci Code.” Quite good – as if anything that Mr. Hanks makes is ever disappointing. Costar Audrey Tautou is quite good as well.

OK, I’m talked out for tonight. The block is back. I think once I get this job stuff out of the way, I’ll be sleeping better and maybe writing more. Last week I was so wound up that I went to bed, and then woke up – at 2:30 AM. Then I watched TV until 5:00. Still nothing like a little Bugs Bunny when all else fails to take your troubles away.

The Son has finally embraced not only Bugs Bunny (he of the Greatest Cartoon Character Ever) but also is watching “The Flintsones” which he has done from time to time. Now he’s quoting them. My youth is coming back to me again.

One last thing – Muhammad Ali turned 65 today. Is it bad if I admit that I really don’t care? Is it bad that, while I respect Ali, and like Ali, that I’m just not going to genuflect when I see his image? I get it – the rest of the world does (Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and so on) and I understand his impact on society, but I just feel there were better fighters than he was. I’ll take Jou Louis, or Sugar Ray Robinson, maybe even Jack Dempsey or Gene Tunney. So while I’m here to wish the great Ali a happy birthday, just don’t expect me to fawn, OK?

When I’m talking about sports gods, I’ll take The Babe.

Wake me up when “American Idol” is over.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Latest On Bobby Murcer

I should have posted this sooner, but I think I'm in denial. As I mentioned in prior posts, I didn't like the way things were looking, just based on actions and reading between the lines. Then these statements came out yesterday:

Statement from Bobby Murcer: "As we begin a new year, I find myself facing a new challenge - the biggest of my life so far. Pathology reports have revealed that the brain tumor removed was malignant.

I'm not having to battle this alone, but am fortified with the most loving family, an abundance of wonderful friends and fans and the very best class of physicians.

I'm gaining confidence that with God and my faith leading the way, we will as a team put up an incredible fight. Please continue to send up prayers. That's all I can really ask of you at this time.

Statement from George Steinbrenner: "Bobby Murcer represents the spirit of the Yankees, and above all, he's my dear friend. I know Bobby very well. He has true grit, is a fighter and our entire Yankee organization offers our prayers to him and his family for a big win in this battle."

Nothing would please me more than to see Bobby walk out to thunderous applause on Old Timer's Day, or even throw out the first pitch at Opening Day. But I'm a realist and these statements, and the recent request from Kay Murcer, Bobby's wife of roughly 40 years, for privacy makes me very disheartened. Whatever you feel about sports, baseball, the Yankees, etc, I ask you to pray, or whatever you do, for Bobby Murcer. I would be thrilled if my son chose to have a person like that be his favorite ballplayer.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Hall of Fame Results

Congratulations to two guys who baseball desperately needed – Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, who were just announced as the 2007 Hall of Fame inductees.

From the Hall of Fame’s official announcement:

A record 545 ballots, including two blanks, were cast by BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years' service, eclipsing by 25 the previous mark of 2006. Players must be named on 75 percent of ballots submitted to gain election. This year, 409 votes were needed.

Ripken got five more votes than Gwynn did – 537 to 532. As a result, Ripken has set a new record for most votes received. He did not, however, set the record for percentage of votes. Tom Seaver set that record in 1992.

Before we get into the elected players, let us discuss the voting process, which is an embarrassment. First and foremost, these are only writers who vote (from the Baseball Writers of America – BBWA). With that said, there is a great deal of “old boys club” going on. Were you nice to that writer? Then you stand a chance of at least getting some votes. How else can you explain to me that Jim Rice isn’t in the Hall yet? Rice was a surly SOB, but he put fear in me every time I saw him at the plate. Yet because he was a pain in the neck with the media, and the fact he didn’t put up “no-brainer” HOF numbers, enough writers have banded together to make sure Rice never gets into the Hall. Yet from 1975 to 1986, Rice was a monster – a .304 batting average, hit 350 home runs, and drove in 1276. Plus he was a top-five MVP vote receiver six times (winning the award over Ron Guidry in 1978). A comparable player might be Mike Schmidt (though the two played in different leagues). From 75-86, Schmidt hit .271, with 440 home runs, and 1221 RBI’s. Rice had more total bases than Schmidt. Schmidt won three MVP’s. Don’t get me wrong, Schmidt was a more dominant player, but are their offensive numbers so different that Schmidt is a no-doubter and Rice is still waiting? Puzzling, to say the least.

Of course, I’m also up in arms about Rich “Goose” Gossage not making the Hall today. The Goose received 71.2% of the vote. I know Bruce Sutter “invented” the split-finger fastball, and I’m aware of what Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley did. Here’s what Goose did – he took the ball, as early as the sixth inning sometimes, and promptly shut down his opponent. He didn’t need a split finger or a cutter he just used a devastating fastball. He dominated over a long period of time. That’s a hall of famer.

Of course, debates about who should and should not be in any hall of fame is half the fun. Still it is time to take the votes away from just these writers. Broadcasters – who see and hear as much as writers often do, should be factored in, as should well-regarded historians. Bob Costas, for instance, who hasn’t called a baseball time in some time, has a vote on the committee to elect the Ford Frick Award winner (for the broadcasting legends). He should also have a vote for the general election. The votes should not be only in hands of the ink-stained folks. Heck, I (and I do consider myself to be a rank amateur baseball historian) could do a better job with the voting process.

Then we come to this writer in Chicago, Paul Ladewski. You can read it here, but let’s suffice it to say that he was one of the two ballots that were returned blank. Basically he didn’t vote for anybody as an indictment of the “Steroids Era” in baseball. OK, fair enough, and I feel mighty good that Mark McGwire came in ninth and did not get into the Hall. McGwire got 23.5% of the vote, behind Ripken, Gwynn, Gossage, Rice, Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Lee Smith (Lee Smith??), and Jack Morris. He got three more votes than Tommy John!

Anyway, back to Ladewski. To not vote for either Ripken or Gwynn is an attempt to lump them in with McGwire, Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and so on. He’ll try to tell you otherwise, but his answer is bogus. Don’t try to be all high and mighty with us. Please – most fans are smarter than that. Plus think of the other people who could have used those votes, such as the aforementioned Gossage and Rice. Are you going to try to tell me that both of them used steroids? You’re then an idiot, and should not have a hall of fame vote, just because you’re somehow lucky enough to belong to the BBWA. What you did, while it might seem morally right, was irresponsible. This isn’t a political election – you can choose to not vote for somebody, or write in “Mickey Mouse” on Election Day. That is a right. You have a responsibility to fill out your ballot. And it also served for your own purpose – to call attention to you and your outlet. Nobody heard of you before this, and nobody will remember your name after the furor dies down. Thus, you’re a fool. May the governing body have the same kind of “guts”, and remove your voting rights.

Now onto the elected players. I like Tony Gwynn – and always have. As a Yankees fan, I traditionally didn’t have the chance to see National League players (pre-interleague play, which I still abhor). So in 1995, The Wife and I went and saw a Montreal Expos (remember them?) game, and I was thrilled that their opponent that night was the San Diego Padres. That meant getting to see Tony Gwynn in person – who didn’t let me down by stroking a double. I saw Gwynn again against the Yankees in 1998, and wasn’t thrilled with him that time, as he homered to right extend a lead for the Padres in Game One of the World Series. But a few Yankees home runs later (including Tino Martinez’s grand slam) and all was well in the world.

Gwynn was dominant, consistent, and amazing. He should absolutely be in the Hall.

I have bigger problems with Cal Ripken. This is not to say that I don’t think he should be in the Hall of Fame. He was great – just not as elite, to me, as Gwynn. I know he was the first truly great offensive shortstop, but he’s getting in as much for being “a good guy” and for “The Streak” as he is for being a great player. Consider the numbers: a career .276 hitter, 431 home runs, 1695 runs batted in, a .340 on-base percentage, and a .447 slugging percentage over 21 seasons. He won two MVP’s (only three top-five finishes), got the requisite 3000 hits (finished with 3184), made countless All-Star games (largely irrelevant, since their popularity contests).

Before you think I’m only talking offensively, consider this – he won two Gold Gloves.

Incidentally, he played in one World Series, in 1983, which the Orioles won. He would not make another post-season appearance until 1996.

Still, when people want to talk about Ripken, they want to talk about “The Streak.” It’s an impressive feat – 2632 consecutive games played from 1982 to 1998. It surpassed Lou Gehrig’s record by 502 games. One thing to keep in mind about Gehrig – he took himself out of the lineup after he noticed that he was no longer playing up to monstrous expectations that he had set over his career. Why? He was dying, that’s why! Dying of a disease that now bears his name. Lou Gehirg was dead just over two years after he played his last game.

This is not about Lou Gehrig though. It was clear, despite his incredible work ethic, that Ripken was hurting his team. Take a look at his career numbers, with the exception of a wonderful 1991 season, and you’ll see stats that are not elite. In fact, take a look at 1992. He hit .251 with 14 homers and 72 RBI’s, with a .323 on-base percentage, and a .366 slugging percentage. How tough must it have been for any manager of his to keep writing his name on the lineup card, knowing that not doing so would have been destructive to a record, the sanctity of a the game, blah, blah, blah?

With Cal, though, was “The Streak” ever threatened? Probably not. His manager, at one point, was his father! After his father was fired, what manager was going to further upset the teams “star” by ending his consecutive games streak? Then along came Frank Robinson, who, despite being a standup guy, is also an Orioles legend. Nope, he’s not going to bench Cal.

The point is that, at one point, Cal probably should have sat, at least a few days. But god forbid that be allowed to happen.

Still, Cal Ripken was great for baseball, but his role in “saving” baseball is largely overrated. Yes, breaking Gehrig’s record in 1995 was a great night, but it’s still about the game. The Yankees and Mariners coming back from the dead to make the playoffs, then staging the wild 1995 playoff series, can be given as much credit as anything. To the fan, Ripken did everything right. To those who don’t defend his legacy, he was selfish.

One last thing, and though Ripken is not personally guilty for this, I still can’t forget it. In 1994, baseball nearly committed suicide with their selfish strike and cancellation of the World Series. For those who were responsible, I hope they sleep well every night. As a result of the strike, Cal Ripken was able to take the rest of the 1994 season off (from August on). Then baseball was faced the possibility of using replacement players in 1995. In fact, replacements were used in Spring Training that year (including the replacement Yankees who were in the same hotel as The Wife and I on part of our honeymoon). One team did not – the Orioles. If you believe owner Peter Angelos (a personal fave of mine…not), he did it because he didn’t want anybody other than the actual players on the field. The fact is – he did it because of Ripken and “The Streak.” If he loses The Streak, in his mind, he thinks that people won’t come out to Camden Yards. At the time, nothing could have been further from the truth, because Camden Yards was a palace (it still is).

OK, enough about Cal Ripken. He’s a Hall of Famer, a great guy, somebody who I admire very much. I just don’t hold him up as being as elite as, say, Tony Gwynn. Congratulations to them both. Despite what you might be thinking, I have tremendous respect for both of them.

To finish up here – no locals will be anywhere near Cooperstown (without buying tickets). Gossage came the closest, with Tommy John in the top ten. Don Mattingly was the only other Yankee or Met who can continue to appear on the ballot next year, and he got a mere 9.9 percent. Incidentally, I’m not counting Lee Smith as a Yankee, despite the fact that he had a cup of coffee in the Bronx. Those receiving less than five percent of the vote get removed from the ballot. Therefore, Paul O’Neill, Bret Saberhagen, Tony Fernandez. Bobby Bonilla, and Scott Brosius will not be preparing acceptance speeches ever. Neither will Jose Canseco, by the way (yes, unfortunately, he was a Yankee in 2000).

Finally, the next few years give hope to Rice, Gossage, Jack Morris, among others. Check out some of the names…and groan…

2008: Shawon Dunston, Travis Fryman, David Justice, Mike Morgan, Tim Raines, Randy Velarde
2009: Mark Grace, Rickey Henderson, Dean Palmer, Dan Plesac, Matt Williams
2010: Andres Galarraga, Edgar Martinez, Robin Ventura

Only Rickey Henderson is a lock. Edgar Martinez will be a tough call, due to the Designated Hitter issue. Personally I like him, but if I had a ballot (and after today, I think I deserve one), I’d have to really study his career to make a firm decision.

Let’s move on – adios, Randy Johnson. I was proud to have The Big Unit here, but it didn’t work. May he fare well in the desert. Just so long as it doesn’t come at the expense of the Yankees.

The Jets lost to the Patriots. Did anybody reasonably think that Tom Brady was going lose to Chad Pennington? It was a game for a while, but the Pats knocked them around. Let’s be honest. As for the Giants, Tom Coughlin got the team to the playoffs. I would bring him back for the final year of his deal, because the injuries were just too much to overcome. Still I think the Giants are in big trouble. The loss of Tiki Barber will be hard to overcome. He was amazing in his last two games.

Back to the Pats-Jets. Did you see the hug between Belichick and Mingini? Ok. Did you also see Belichick pick up a camerman and throw him out of the way in the process of getting to Mangini? Is a simple “excuse me” that hard?

The best video that I can find of it is here. It's not great, but you should be able to see the incident, if you care.

I’m done, but, before I go, my blog buddy Tim Parry has started an “Exit 55” style effort. His new blog, “Hello, My Name is TIM” will be an across the board, anything goes kind of thing. I don’t know where he finds the time (his wife, like mine, must be a saint) but I like reading "Slim Shady's" stuff (look at the name of the blog and you'll understand why I'm calling him that). I hope you like reading his stuff also.

By the way, the Veterans Committee will name their hall of famers next month. Expect more ranting and raving!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

All is quiet…

Not much cooking on this Wednesday evening, but I didn’t want the “you’re not updating” choir to get on my back, so I figured I’d post something.

No news on the Bobby Murcer front, except that the family has asked for peace during this time. That worries me.

The Mets have to be hurting by not getting Barry Zito. He would have definitely helped, but I’m just not sure that he’s an east coast kind of guy, dude. Still he would have prospered in the National League, in a pitchers park like Shea Stadium. The Mets are still going to be OK.

On the other side of New York, I have to admit that I’m never a fan of trades. Very few trades really excite me. For instance, I was absolutely thrilled when Roberto Kelly went to Cincinnati in exchange for Paul O’Neill. Kelly was a nice player, but O’Neill became an icon in New York. Love him or hate him, number 21 was a force, and the Yankees haven’t won a World Series since he (and Scott Brosius) left.

The other trade of recent memory that I remember being excited about was the deal that brought Tino Martinez to the Yankees. They had to move on, since Don Mattingly was non-committal about his plans for 1996. Martinez also became a legend in the Bronx. Game one against the Padres in 1998? Game four against the Diamondbacks in 2001?

Notice I got through the mention of O’Neill without making any reference to a ten-pitch at-bat? That, my friend, is progress.

On the other hand, sure, I liked getting A-Rod, but was fearful what Alfonso Soriano would do. How’s that worked out?

Anyway, the reason to talk about trades is the possibility that Randy Johnson could be leaving the Yankees to return to Arizona. Normally this kind of trade makes me nervous, but, while I respect him as a competitor and a first-ballot hall of famer, I’m also willing to show him the door. You would think that I would want to do the same for A-Rod, but deep down, I like the guy. Plus he’s The Son’s favorite player. If he goes somewhere else, he will explode for a .335/60/160 kind of year.

That’s batting average, home runs, and runs batted in for those who didn’t know.

I don’t talk in terms of OPS. Slugging percentage? Sure. On-base percentage? Check.

I’m kind of a purist that way.

I wasn’t missing baseball too much but it’s starting to heat up for me. A little. I still have to pay the invoice for my season tickets for 2007.

It is 2007, right?

Tim Parry’s blog page has changed, by the way. Go visit one of the best blogs here. He, and my friend Sean Kilkelly always get my mouse clicks. A couple of others are the AA Roads blog (I’m a roadgeek, remember?) and Adam Prince’s (roads again).

Also go say hello to my old friend (and broadcasting partner) Tommy Dee by the way. Another Mets fan (I just can’t save these people), but a good, opinionated, smart sports fan.

What is it with the Mets fans in the media? I swear that Sean Mike Francesa, Nick Angotto, Zach Fisher and I are the only Yankees fans. Check out WFAN sometime. Joe Benigno, Evan Roberts (great pairing there, by the way. Please note the sarcasm), Tony Paige, Bernard McGuirk, Lou Ruffino, Steve Sommers and , of course, Mr. Met himself, Bob Huessler. Am I missing anybody? I DARE Mark Chernoff to hire ONE PERSON who will be the Yankees guy. But I guess when you have Mr. Francesa, you have enough.

Not the best of times around the ‘FAN, by the way. I still love it, but it confounds me. The one guy who I like is Mark Malusis, but he gets buried in the overnights. This Evan Roberts fascination is just mind-boggling, but then again, the Benigno fascination is as well. You know it’s bad when you’d rather listen to Steven A. Smithinthehouse (oh, that’s not his full name?).

Lastly, since I’m getting the ‘FAN issues off my chest, what is the deal with Erica Herskowitz? The Rutgers grad seems like a very talented reporter. Now, this is where I differ with most. I don’t watch sports for the babe factor. Ms. Herskowitz is apparently quite attractive, but I don’t care. Why is it that she insists on reporting as if she’s auditioning for a DJ spot on Z-100? She can’t just say the word “five”, for instance. Listen sometime and you’ll catch on.

I know it’s radio, but Mike and the Mad Dog are shown every day on YES. That’s where you can see Erica. Again, she seems talented and nice, but please stop sounding like you want to play the next hit tune from Justin Timberlake. Or Fergie. We haven’t had a Fergie reference lately.

Oh, and to show you that I’m a fair, OK kind of guy, an old colleague of mine, Matt Levine, has created a website where he will stream a game of the week. I’m jealous that he beat me to the punch, but he’s a good guy. He’s on a competing station, but that doesn’t keep me from liking him. Plus he works more consistently than I do. Anyway, good luck, Matt.

As for me, I might want to look into whether or not Matt needs a partner. I don’t know when I will be back on the air again. Guess I can’t say more than that. I hope to be back soon, because I miss it something awful. My friend, coach Bill Brehm, has his Greenwich Cardinals boys hoop team off to a 5-0 start, and I know he wants his team to get the press it deserves. Until this season, virtually every game Bill ever coached was broadcast on WGCH. Times change.

So, have you seen the Saddam footage yet? I scoured the net for it, and watched it – a day or so after it happened. Certainly grisly stuff, and the images of him swaying will stay embedded with me for a while. The grainy picture only adds to it. Say what you want about him, and I felt he should die, but you’ve gotta give him this: he went his way. Completely unrepentant, with a ballsy attitude. He didn’t need no stinking hood.

Still – was it good? Was it rushed?

My thought about the video is this: let’s see it. For real! No, I’m not saying that we should have a public execution, but yeah, if there’s a real video, then let’s see it. Why do we sanitize everything? Put it out there and let the people decide. I can understand protecting our kids, and I wouldn’t be letting The Son watch Saddam swing from the vine, but let me decide if I want to see it for myself. Obviously I was intrigued enough that I looked for it, and thanks to Fox (who else?), I saw it.

Was New Lame’s Eve all that you wanted it to be? Mine was…GREAT! Why? Because I watched “Apollo 13” (still one of my favorites) with The Son and The Wife, then a little “South Park – Bigger, Longer, Uncut” (without The Son) before listening to music and heading to bed. I was asleep by 12:15. I told ya – no Seacrest, Carson (Daly, not Johnny), and so on. No friggin’ ball! We enjoyed a beer tasting (the names aren’t important now), little hot dogs, mozzarella sticks, and other goodies.

Ah, the good life.

Don’t judge me because we had a beer tasting. If it were a wine tasting (which we’ve also done), you’d think we were “high class.” So there.

To football, where the Jets and Giants both got their tickets stamped to join the playoff fun. The Steelers, on the other hand, finished with a nice kick to end at 8-8, but one can only lament that one lousy win, against, say, the freaking Raiders would have made a huge difference. So for those who love parity, you get your wish. You will have a new Super Bowl champion in XLI.

By the way, one of my bigger sports pet peeves is the stupid notion of trade marking everything. So will I get sued for using the term “Super Bowl?” It’s so stupid. Listen to the commercials that talk about “The Big Game.” Will that be taboo next? Will we have to start calling it “The Event That Takes Place On The First Sunday In February That Might Or Might Not Double As A Football Game?” Because, after all, it’s a Prince concert, and two teams will play some football eventually.

OK, back to the Steelers. The buzz is that coach Bill Cowher has likely coached his last game. I am resigned to that fact, as a big Cowher fan. Sure, “The Jaw” was no “Emperor Chas” (that would be Chuck Noll) but he was a consistent winner, and got us Stillers fans our dream – the elusive fifth Super Bowl ring. There could have been more, but who’s to complain after last year?

The bad news is that, if Cowher quits, he’ll be back somewhere else. That will be tough.

Relax, Jets fans. I know you all expect “Mangenius” to guide you to that February game, but so long as the Patriots still have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady (my choice over St. Joe Montana, by the way, in a big game), I’ll take the Pats, at home. If it’s a heartbreak, remember this: your team wasn’t supposed to be there is the first place when the season started.

Oh, one more thing: They’re still the Jets. Must I remind you of the AFC Championship Game in Denver, with the 10-0 lead? Jeez, you had Bill Parcells as coach then and you still found a way to lose. I forgot – you had Vinnie.

Then again, who is Tom Brady’s backup in New England? Vinnie Testaverde, that’s who. Maybe the Jets have a better chance than I thought.

Even though he’s the Cowboys coach, I still like Parcells. I know, he left the Giants, Pats, Jets, Bucs, Falcons (am I missing anyone?) high and dry at one point or another, but I think the guy is a great coach. A sad reminder, from Mike Francesa today: if Parcells stays with the Jets, they win a Super Bowl. Ouch.

I also expect the Giants to lose, because the Eagles just seem to have something cooking right now. I’d hate to see Tiki Barber walk away but if he does, he had a heck of a career, and a monster finish in the regular season, with a 234-yard effort against the Redskins.

That said, I hope both the Jets and Giants win. Same for the Cowboys (did I just write that?), since I lost all respect for the Walrus in Seattle (boo hoo! The refs lost the game for me. WAH!!). I’d also like to see Peyton Manning get it straight this year. Here’s one of the really top-notch people in the NFL, and he has to play in a Super Bowl one day.

Otherwise, I don’t really care who wins what. I’ll take it game by game. May the best team win.

In college football, they just finished playing the Charmin Toilet Bowl in Flushing at Shea Stadium. OK, maybe not, but how many bowl games can there be? Did you see the Fiesta Bowl the other night? The hook and lateral play, the big comebacks, the overtime, the two-point conversion, the post-game proposal. Insanity, my friends!!

Nope, I didn’t see it either. I was in bed when it was 28-17, Boise State. Once again, we see proof that these games get over way too late. Whether it’s due to the stupid halftime show (with the equally stupid promotional contest), or the idiotic Fox coverage, or whatever, these games drone on forever. And is that the best broadcast team that Fox has to offer us?

I just popped on the Sugar Bowl (I refuse to say the sponsors names). Fox has Kenny Albert, Terry Bradshaw, and Howie Long calling the game. That’s more like it.

Then Jeanne Zelasko came on the screen as their sideline reporter. Check, please.

I’ve mentioned people doing it his way, and Bill Parcells, and those two things remind me of The General – Bobby Knight. Like Parcells, he can be a nightmare, but I have a lot of respect for him. He could coach The Son anytime. Now I wouldn’t be too happy with anybody – and that is ANYBODY – laying a hand on my son, but anybody who might instill respect and attention is OK by me. Plus, like Parcells, he’s a great coach. One who, after topping Dean Smith’s career wins record the other night, had “My Way” (by the great Mr. Sinatra, natch) played over the PA system in Lubbock.

Hmm. For a guy who had nothing to say, I came up with almost four pages worth (I write in Microsoft Word first).

I’m not complaining, but will it ever snow?