Monday, February 28, 2011

The Duke and Some Links


Farewell, Duke Snider.  I know, all of Brooklyn will find me and hurt me but, despite what Dave Anderson says, Snider was never as good as Mickey or Willie.  Snider was great - no argument - but Mickey and Willie were iconic.

The only time Snider was better than the other two was, say, in 1949 or 1950...when netiher had made it to the Major Leagues.  After that, it's not a crime, but the other two were complete.  Compare Snider's 1956 to Mantle's, for instance.

In the spirit of all of the Beatles talk around here, I thought we should post this from Fusion 45 on the WNEW Blog.  The Roling Stones three best songs...the take "Waiting on a Friend" (pass), "Sympathy for the Devil" (good choice), and "Monkey Man" (AWESOME choice!).  Personally, I will always take "Heartbreaker (Doo Doo Doo Doo)", maybe "Brown Sugar" or "You Can't Always Get What You Want" or "Gimme Shelter."  I'd have to think further.

Oh, and speaking of the Liverpool Lads (WNEW)...

The Dave Duerson story is frightening and angering.  Heartbreaking.  The NFL needs to wake up...now (via Deadspin).

The not-so-beautiful game (with good seats still available!).  Kind of reminds me of the dive I saw taken during yesterday's Rangers/Lightning game (via Deadspin)!

Off to the big town to have lunch with Carrie.  Maybe I'll get around to watching my two LONG OVERDUE DVD purchases..."Caddyshack" and "Slap Shot."  Yes, I'm shocked I never owned them, too.

Have People Lost Their Minds, or Just Their Manners?


Another week, another collection of strange behavior in this world.  Last night, after a great day of exploring New York (following another frustrating Rangers game - three words: SHOOT THE PUCK!), Carrie and I crashed and watched the horrid Academy Awards.

It wouldn't be unusual for me to settle in for the long night right up until the show was over.  This year though, I simply wasn't feeling it.  So Carrie and I turned the TV off and called it a night.

Then...BLING!  (that's the best way to represent Carrie's phone buzzing).

Now understand that we both get text alerts about things like sports, breaking news, weather, transit service and so on, but this was none of the above.  This was garbage.  Completely inappropriate.

Let's be clear - her phone isn't the ONLY one to have it happen.  Some of my friends seem to think I'm also up 24/7.

Later in the same night, some jackal decided to ring a phone number.  In this case...mine.  At 2:14 AM.

I was not amused, and getting back to sleep wasn't easy.

I mean, seriously? Is it a full moon? Has it been a full moon for about two weeks or so now?  Folks are acting in the strangest of manners.

Have we become too accessible?  Well simply put - yes.  Those who don't have those new-fangled technology thingies will agree wholeheartedly with this statement.  No texting!  Some don't even have cell phones...email...the internet...or even a computer!

Still the question of courtesy is completely legit.  My dad (I've mentioned him around here a few times) had a simple rule:
No calls before nine in the morning and none after nine at night.
I feel pretty confident that others in my family still abide by it and, overall, so do I.  This is not to say there aren't exceptions (Carrie, emergencies, or if you absolutely 100% know I'm up and expecting to hear from you) but beyond that...no.  I mean, sure, if I'm on the air calling a game and you're giving me an update from another game or something like that?  Fine.

Otherwise?  Come on...email works.  Facebook works.  Or...just wait until the right time.  I do it!

The point is, common sense will work just fine, thanks.  Drunk texting or calling?  Really?  How old are we?

Oh Lord, this could head off to a whole different topic...

The point is, simply because we have the technology (BIONIC MAN!!), doesn't mean we have to use it at all hours.

While on the subject of courtesy, please have a read of this from Annie Mole's Going Underground Blog.  I watch stuff like this all the time.  Carrie is amazing at giving up her seat.  Amazing awareness.  Me?  I don't sit in a full subway car when a seat opens.  I'm still fairly young at heart and, I'd like to believe, a gentleman.  I don't need to sit. 

Thank you for reading (don't want you to think my mom didn't teach me any manners).

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mario Kart!

Hat tip to Katie and Ryan - awesome niece and nephew - for alerting me to this.  My God, Mario Kart is uber present in my life ever since a certain nine year-old got a Nintendo DSi XL.  Cool game, actually.

This is funny.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rolling Stone Readers Pick Their Top 10 Beatles Albums


A week ago, Rolling Stone asked their readers to vote for their favorite Beatles' albums.  Most - especially non Beatles nuts - would automatically say "Sgt. Pepper" and walk away.  But...the readers felt differently.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is a wonderful, inspiring, amazing record.  It's brought about so many imitators, and countless artists have been influenced by it.  But among The Beatles catalog, I don't think it's their best work.  Oh don't get me wrong.  It's influential, in the same way that "Citizen Kane" is considered an amazingly influential movie.  The Beatles took everything that they learned, beginning with Rubber Soul and put it into this masterpiece.  It sits - rightly - among the top two or three records ever made.  The Beach Boys Pet Sounds was a response to Rubber Soul, and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band a response to Pet Sounds.  Amazing how The Beatles and The Beach Boys (most specifically, Brian Wilson) were trying to one-up the another.

In the end, Sgt. Pepper wins.  It was named the number one album on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Ever.  To be sure, Rolling Stone wrote that Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band...
is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time.
"Most important" and "Greatest" are, to me, the key words there.  But what they didn't say was "favorite" and that's what RS wanted readers to pick.  As such, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band landed at number four.

If Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is "Citizen Kane", then Revolver is "The Godfather."  Interestingly, Revolver is third on that Rolling Stone "Greatest" list.  It's number one on the "Favorite" list.  Here is that list:
1) Revolver
2) Abbey Road
3) The Beatles (aka "The White Album")
4) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
5) Rubber Soul
6) Magical Mystery Tour
7) Help!
8) Let It Be
9) A Hard Day's Night
10) With The Beatles

I'm not sure the readers are too wrong.  Here's how I see it:
1) Revolver (when the albums came out on CD, this was the first one I bought.  Brilliant, starting with "Taxman" and heading off to "Eleanor Rigby" down towards "Got to Get You Into My Life" and slamming home with "Tomorrow Never Knows.")
2) "The White Album" (They were a separate group by then, but there's still so much to like on here.  "Back in the USSR", "Helter Skelter", "Dear Prudence", "Glass Onion" and so on.  We'll simply choose to ignore "Revolution 9".)
3) Rubber Soul (Had they simply kept the formula going up through Help! they would be just another teen pop group.  But they dared, and it started here.  "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) broke new ground.  John's most personal tune to that time, "In My Life", is also here.)
4) Help! (The title track alone is enough for me, but I also love things like "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" and "I've Just Seen a Face", which is a song that has gathered new life for me.)
5) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (It's tough to drop this to five, but there are a few things that aren't my favorites.  I like "When I'm Sixty-four" and I chuckle at "Lovely Rita", but I find "Within You Without You" to be too long with it's Indian-influenced sitar.  Yet from the start, the album still grabs with the title track.)
6) Abbey Road ("Come Together" with John's "shoot me" is just bloody brilliant.  Paul matches it with "Oh! Darling."  Most fans love it because the band came back together and acted like a band for one last incredible time.  But it's still musically amazing.)
7) Let It Be (Originally called Get Back, it's close to being great.  I love "Two of Us", and Sean and I have used it as a theme song.  We both hold it closely.  "Get Back" is also fun, with Billy Preston's keyboards putting a little funk in.)
8) A Hard Day's Night (A nearly perfect match of music and motion picture.  Surely one will argue for others like "Saturday Night Fever" or "Grease" and I will come back with "Pulp Fiction" and this.  Just as with "I've Just Seen a Face", "I Should Have Known Better" has become a favorite - one I hadn't given as much notice to prior to the last year.)
9) Magical Mystery Tour (A disaster of a movie.  Ugh.  Still "I Am The Walrus" sits right near the top of my list of favorite songs.  I'm also big on "Penny Lane."  The theme song can still rock.)
10) With The Beatles (Honestly, it doesn't matter.  It could be Please Please Me or Beatles For Sale, for all I care.  The first three US releases - and we're going with the CD's for this exercise - are all the same to me.  Each have cover songs and originals.  Hard to ague with "I Saw Her Standing There" from Please Please Me or "Eight Days A Week" from Beatles For Sale.  Yet when they hit the states, the first song they played on the Ed Sullivan Show was "All My Loving" from With the Beatles, and the Revolution began.)

Keep in mind that, especially in the 60's, there were a lot of variations on albums.  What we got on the record here in the US didn't always match the UK version.  Or there were different titles.  For instance, in one of the collections among the Adams' siblings should be a copy of Beatles '65, which when the albums were released on CD, was ostensibly covered on Beatles for Sale.

Then there were the singles, and those made it to compilations, or found their way to separate albums in the US.  For the CD releases, they became known as Past Masters, Vol 1 and 2.  Past Master, Vol. 2 is so great that I'm tempted to place at number 10 on my list, but its inclusion of a different take of "Let it Be" shows that it's not really a true original album.  Still..."Day Tripper", "We Can Work it Out", "Paperback Wrtier", "Rain", "Lady Madonna", "Hey Jude."  Yikes.  That's some album, and I didn't even name all of the tracks.

Yes, "Hey Jude" was meant to be only a single (and spent nine weeks at number one).  Its B-side, by the way, was "Revolution."  Wow.  A "Hey Jude" album was released in the US in 1970 (I believe my brother has that one), comproised of pieces of A Hard Day's Night and more.

There are many places on the web that one can go find the details of The Beatles' discography.  Believe me, it's confusing, and I remember it being so even as a kid.  The Wikipedia page does a solid job, and serves as a great jumping point.  Beyond that, hit your local Googler to see what comes up!

Very extensive, and exhaustive.  I think I'll just go listen to the music now.

LG Does Not Stand For "Good Customer Service"


I bought the above phone via Verizon in November, 2008.  It was necessary, as my previous LG phone (my second) had died.  Well I was satisfied enough that I went back to LG for this - the Env2.

Ugh.

Very early on, I noticed the phone would just die.  I figured my battery charging skills were bad.  WRONG.  This thing would just shut down as it pleased.  In the middle of typing a text, or dialing a number - bam.  Off.  In a pocket?  Gone.  Just sitting on a desk?  See ya.

I must turn it on three to five times a day.  I've missed countless calls - some important.  Even important texts (they do occasionally happen).  Carrie knows that when she doesn't hear a response from me, it's normally because of the phone.

Effing thing.

I complained while it was still under warranty, in 2009.  The answer I received from the geniuses there (not to be confused with Apple's geniuses - that's a whole different thing) was that they would fix it.  GREAT!  Right?

Nope.  They needed to get the phone from me...leaving me phoneless.  Which, in reality, I've mostly been a cell phone user exclusively since about that time.  I turned my land line off.  So that wasn't much of an answer or option.

(Granted, I should have just gone to a Verizon store.  That's my bad.  But still...)

As the phone got older (and these things don't have much of a life span), more began to go wrong.  The front panel has stopped working, meaning to answer the phone, I must open it, hit "send" THEN close it to talk.

I complained again in 2010 - not looking to have them fix it, but to tell them what incredible screw-ups they were (and are).  Their response was laughable, when they ignored everything I wrote and told me that any repair costs would come out of my pocket.

Was I looking for a freebie?  No - just some recognition that something was wrong.  Ignoring the concerns of the customer isn't going to make for a good relationship.

So today, they got the following from me:
I purchased this phone in November, 2008 and it has been nothing but annoying. For two solid years, I have watched the phone turn off at random - sometimes as I typed, even with a full battery. More recently, the front panel of the phone has completely stopped working.

I've written to you twice - once in 2009, and once in 2010. The first time, I was told that I could send the phone to you and have it fixed. And what was I supposed to do while you were fixing it? The second time, after writing purely to express my frustration, I was told that you'd fix it and the cost would come out of my pocket. I'm comfortable, based on those two experiences, in thinking that LG does not read these messages clearly.

So at this point, I'm purely writing to say good bye. I'm so angry at the customer service experience that I've had with LG that I no longer recommend your products. Nor will I. I'm moving to a new phone as soon as possible. I can assure you it won't be with LG.
That's it.  There was a time when they were my company of choice.  Microwave, phone, and so on.  Now?  Screw em.  I'm done.
 
That's where customer relations makes the difference between customer retention and "adios."  And I'm gone.

As soon as I can afford to do so, I'm heading the Android route.  LG phones are available.  Not a chance.  Further, my mother is on the lookout for a new phone (she goes for the no-frills type).  Again, an LG is available.  I won't let her consider it.

They thought purely writing back was good customer service.  Wrong.  It takes more to have a satisfactory experience.  Think outside of the box.  Work with the consumer (I just had this go on with Ikea recently, and the results were outstanding).

Oh, I get it.  They don't care and all that happy stuff.  Whatever.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

September 11 Timeline


I heard this on the news this morning (CBS New York).  The National September 11 Memorial and Museum has put together a timeline that includes audio, video, and pictures.  Many of the voices - both those lost and ones who survived - are heard.  It's a little chilling.  If you're a history guy like me, and can stomach what you're going to see and hear, then I highly recommend it.

Ten years this September.  Still amazing.

Happy Birthday, Sean


On Saturday, we gathered the troops at the stately Adams manor to celebrate Sean's ninth birthday.  Of course, that was his unofficial birthday.

Today he is nine.

Hard to believe that the little bundle of joy I wheeled around Hudson Valley Hospital Center on this day in 2002 is beginning his 10th year of life.  His life has seen so much already.  We could break it all down but, really, why?  Sean is working on having a happy life, even as he does it with a lot on his mind.

I have no doubts that there is a lot of his mother in him, and hopefully they are good qualities.  Yet I think most of us know - without a doubt - that he is a carbon copy of me.  For better or for worse.

There are those who may quietly label him as a "brat" but when all is said and done, I think Sean is very typical.  He's smart and very funny.  He also hasn't learned how to handle losing, or just not being successful at certain things.  But he doesn't need to be an athlete for me.  Oh god, no.  He already has a love of the Steelers and Yankees, but it probably won't have the fervor that I have.  That's OK.  He loves music.  He loves The Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.  But he also loves things that aren't my thing.  A lot of TV shows and such that just have never been my taste.  I wouldn't have cared about any of the "Transformers" movies without him, but we have a date to see the third one this spring.

All of that is good. He needs to be nobody else but Sean.

It's been a year of transition for him.  Nothing more to say there.

He thinks I'm mean to him.  I'm rough.  I'm strict.  Blah.  Blah.  Blah.  I can't think of a nicer compliment.  Funny thing is, I know some critics who think I'm soft on him, or let him get away with too much.  To this of course I say, "thanks for your opinion.  Your mileage may vary."

Sean and I are both doing the best that we can.

No matter what, I always let him know that I'm proud of him.  Oh, I'm so proud.  Proud to have a child with such a winning smile and personality.  Proud that he's a part of this flawed family.

I'm so proud that he's my son.  Outsiders tell me that he's wonderfully behaved, and that he can visit them anytime.

He'll work out the kinks.  He's nine.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mariska, Ice, and Me


It seemed like it was going to be a lazy Tuesday around the BK (that's fun speak for BrooKlyn, y'all!) when Carrie and I decided to do lunch together at Moe's - arguably our favorite place for reasonable (read: CHEAP) Tex-Mex food.  So I grabbed the Q train and made it into the Apple* a little after 1:00.

*Anyone remember WAPP, 103.5 FM in New York, known as "The Apple?"  It was a rock station before it switched to Top 40.  Now it's dance music as WKTU.  A WAPP DJ from there spun the tunes at my junior prom.  Good times.

I made my way out into Union Square and sent Carrie a text.  She said it was just too early for us to meet up.  So with time to kill, I walked along E 15th St. until I came to Stuyvesant Square.  With a small park at my disposal, and some bright sunshine (the windchill in the big town was around 10), I figured it was a good place to stroll.

That's when I saw the lights.  Police lights outside of a church made my spidey senses tingle.  Hopefully not a funeral.  Yet I saw a boom microphone.  Plus I saw onlookers.  This appeared to be as good a spot to waste a few pre-lunch minutes as any.

I got closer, and that's when it hit me.  I had walked into a shoot of some kind.  As I watched more closely, I noticed a familiar face.  That of Tracy Marrow.  But you better believe I'd never call him that.  That, friends, is Ice-T.

A scene from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was being played out right in front of me.  I knew exactly what to do.

Call Mom.

You see, she's a huge fan.  I mean...a HUGE FAN.  The "I'm going to DVR it because I can't miss getting my fix" type of fan.  Of course, telling her that I saw Ice-T wasn't enough for her.  She needed to know the important things:

- Was Christopher Meloni there? (No)
- Was Mariska Hagartay there? (At first, I didn't see her, but I found she was in the scene being shot)

The picture above is to prove that cell phone camera takes crappy pictures.  Ice-T and Mariska Hargatay are in there but you probably can't see them.  My cell phone is another post for another time...

I watched for a bit, until they got a take that the director liked.  For me, I enjoyed the behind the scenes of it all.  Sure, hanging with Ice (as I call him) and Mariska was sweet, but it was watching the process of make-up (our heroine needed a brush for her hair), the clapping of the clapper to set the scene, seeing over the shoulder of the director, the camera work, the positioning of the actors (main characters and otherwise) and all of the other stuff that I liked.  Not really a stargazing moment for me.  Just enraptured by the making of it.  Watching them do takes from multiple sides.  Seeing an actress who is reacting to a body on the street in the process of slamming into Ice-T, and watching as she turns to Ice after the scene was done to say "did I run into you too hard?"

Are you kidding, lady?  This is ICE!  This is the dude from Body Count.  He rapped "Cop Killer!"  You think some blond actress is gonna mess him up?  The guy was shadow boxing (and losing the bout*) before "Action!" was yelled.

*If anybody recognized that line, then you're either seriously warped, or a knowledgeable (or obsessed) Huey Lewis and the News fan.  I mean it: MONSTROUS.  Because only the most devoted fan would recognize a line from "Stop Trying" off their first album.  Of course, that's where I come in, and I am both warped and devoted.  And knowledgeable.

I can't tell you if Mariska or Ice are nice people.  They were in their element and, other than Ice-T's shadow boxing, I didn't notice many amazing moments of levity.  They talked to each other during breaks.  They didn't approach the crowd.  They were doing their job.  Nothing negative to say about that.

As this all played out in front of me - outside of St. George's Episcopal Church (marked "St. Francis Church" for the scene), I couldn't' help but think how this was just a "New York" kind of moment.  Here I was walking along, randomly picked out 15th St, and stopped in Stuyvesant Square just...because.  Here I watched TV magic being made.  After a few minutes, I was gone - off to First Ave to eat Moe's for lunch with my amazing girlfriend.

It wasn't long before, as usual, I found New York continued going about their day.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pure, Totally Rad Awesomeness

Dear God I love the 80's.  The music, the looks, the sports (OK neither the Steelers or Yankees blessed us with a title during that decade, but nothing was perfect), the movies.

Times Square was still gross.  We had ALF.  Bueller!  We had this women who acted kind of like that Lady Gaga person, and her music wasn't terrible.

So in a world where Brooklyn holds their own Phil Collins Day parade (what???), it seems necessary to bring you this goodness...behold!


Now despite the "Back to the Future" reference, I'm not sure I saw anything dedicated to the decade's single greatest artist.  No, not that Thriller guy.  THESE GUYS...

Come on!  SOMEBODY could have dipped their head in some ice cubes!

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Great Day (and Night) of Hockey

This guy knew a thing or two over 57 years about public address announcing...

Yesterday was a hockey double-header for me.  It started at the Dorothy Hamill Rink, where I was to provide live updates for the Greenwich/St. Joe's boys' game.  It ended at Madison Square Garden, with the Rangers and Kings.

Yes, I said "updates."  No play-by-play.  Of course that never pleases me, but I can only do what I am assigned to do.  As such, one door closed and another one opened...

I was speaking with Dave Fierro, a friend and a staff writer at the Greenwich Time, who was also there to cover the game, when Lou, a Hamill Rink staffer who would be running the scoreboard, asked who was going to be the official scorer.  At the same time, we lamented that there would be no public address announcer.  For once, I spoke up...

"I'll do it if you want."

A few minutes later, I had a microphone in my hand.

It was a blast.  While we didn't do player introductions or the National Anthem, I announced all of the penalties, goals (a 5-3 St. Joe's win), and other pertinent information, including the 50-50 raffle.

I would do it again in a heart beat.  Being down that close gave me a whole different look at the sport.  The pure speed and beauty were on display.  For me, as the one who has reported the news to "the masses" for so long now, it was still a little intimidating to be doing so to the 100 or so assembled in the rink.  My style - not shockingly - was to not be a screamer.  Keep it simple.  Announce the goal, maybe inflect a little more so for Greenwich, and stay out of the way.

Oh, and maybe work in a shameless plug or two for our broadcasts on WGCH.

It also gave me a new perspective on the job of a PA announcer.  It's not completely easy, but with some organization, it can get easy.  I listened to each thing that the officials told me and made notes to repeat to the crowd.  I made sure it was all prepared.  Then I spoke.

"Cardinal goal, scored by number 15, Eric...Macken.  With an assist to number 23, Oscar...Ladd.  Time of the goal: 13:04.  That's Macken, from Ladd, at 13:04."

I got a few compliments as I left the rink.  Not bad for my first time as a varsity public address announcer.  Plus my name is on the official scoresheet from the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

From there, I jumped on a train at Port Chester and met up with Carrie two blocks away from the World's Most Famous Arena.  We had a nice dinner of appetizers across the street from the Garden and saw a fun game between the Rangers and the LA Kings.  The Rangers got a shootout victory, winning 4-3 (2-1 in the shootout).  Honestly, I'd debate if they deserved the win because every time they stepped up, the Kings came right back and The King allowed a few "cheapies."  Yet they should have won in regulation.

Those in charge of the three stars of the game had the smarts to not be swayed by Hank getting his 200th career victory (a mere 400 or so behind Martin Brodeur), instead going with Dustin Brown (3rd - two goals), Marian Gaborik (2nd - a goal), and Ryan Callahan (1st - one goal, two assists and played his heart out.  He will be the captain, sooner if not later).

My friend The Graying Mantis wrote about the game at The Dark Ranger.

I enjoyed the Rangers game, one of the better ones I've been at, but that was enhanced so much more by the fun I had with Carrie.  We seem to be coming together and getting closer all the time - and understanding each other so well.  Mostly, we spent the night laughing, which is something that we both need to do. 

We'd like to personally thank the couple sitting behind us for the entertainment that they provided.  Let's just say that the topic was things that are emotional and unemotional between two adults. 

And lies. 

Not really something you want to battle about at Madison Square Garden, complete with meltdowns, tears, accusations, and more.  It was good stuff - so long as it's not you.  A perfect train wreck that we couldn't stop listening to.

We laughed about it (and more) all the way back to Brooklyn and all throughout today.

Give me that kind of night any time.

My Latest Writing Effort

Greenwich Post Sports Editor Paul Silverfarb was kind enough to ask me to write a story on the recent Greenwich/Staples-Weston-Shelton game that Chris Kaelin and I broadcast.  The article can be found in the newest edition of the paper, and is online here.  The pictures in the article are from my friend Avery Belicka, who takes great shots.

Thanks to Paul for asking, and for his kind, patient feedback.

Nice to see my work in print!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Forget You!

It's catchy.  It's Gwyneth!  It's Cee Lo Green.  IT'S THE MUPPETS!

It's politically correct.

I guess he's more Xbox and I'm more Atari.  Holy COW!  That needs to me my new motto!

Growing Up

A little Bruce for ya.  This song is going 'round in my noggin right now.

Oo La La!

Hockey was different back then, but it was also promoted.  Madison Ave. took note.  A hockey commercial from 1979 (hat tip to Tom/Shag)...

That's (captain) Dave Maloney, Phil Esposito, Ron Duguay, and Anders Hedberg.

And there was a sequel!

Esposito and Hedberg are back, with Ron Greschner, and Don Maloney.

Funny stuff.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who's The Inspiration?


My dad.

Today on Facebook, I noticed that there was an option in the profile section to select people who inspire me.  To be honest, I'm not sure I had an immediate answer.  I mean, I guess I do have an answer but it's not going to be Dr. King, Mother Teresa, or Ghandi, or someone profound (and, bluntly, obvious - with no disrespect intended).

Don't get me wrong.  Those are wonderful choices...if they're real and sincere.  Let's show our cards for uno momento.  Many people say those names because they don't know what else to say.  In short - it's phony.  I've seen some phoniness in my life (most recently today) and it makes me sick.

Digressing.

In the Facebook model, I'm allowed five inspirational choices.  So who are my choices?

I started thinking about it.  Religious leaders are, of course, out.  I respect certain members of the cloth (yes, I honestly do).  How can one not respect Mother Teresa?  Are you really that much of a heathen?  Politicians?  Possible.  George Washington was an incredible man.  Lincoln, of course.  Beyond that (and a few others)?  Meh.  Plus - seriously - do any of them inspire me?  No.

There isn't really one writer that has truly done it for me.  There isn't that one scribe who has made me read everything he or she has ever written.

Per Facebook, I can't pick average people.  So Mr. Durant (my 8th grade math teacher) or Mr. Peterson (9th grade science) and others can't be in this discussion.  Perhaps even my old baseball leader - Coach D'Aliso.  Man I loved playing for him, and he knew how to get the best out of me.

And, shameless though this will seem, Carrie inspires me.  So does Sean.  They both give me the impetus to get out of bed every day.  To keep moving forward.  To be a good man (and dad).  To find things to stretch my mind and theirs.  To make them laugh and smile.

Suddenly picking five wasn't so easy.  For the purposes of Facebook, I had to whittle down.

So...who?

- Vin Scully.  Of course!  When in need of inspiration in the radio booth, one can always say "What Would Vin Do?"  It's a completely sane approach.  He inspired me to become the better prepared broadcaster that I am today.  He inspired me to let crowd noise wash over the radio, and hopefully find the best words to use to describe the moment.  I pay attention to his style, without hopefully ever sounding like a cheap knock-off.

Scully is the top banana in a collection of broadcasting inspirations, that really began with the old WABC guys (Ron Lundy and Dan Ingram) and Frank Messer (the Yankees' broadcaster - the first play-by-play guy I ever took note of).  Don Imus has played an enormous role in my building as a broadcaster, for his pacing, humor, and creativity.  Plus he's always had such a talented team around him, and I believe in doing that as well.  Scott Shannon, Red Barber, Dick Enberg, Doc Emrick, and on and on.

Yet there's Scully.

- Lou Gehrig.  Yes.  An athlete.  Gehrig is, to me, the way athletes should conduct themselves.  Gargantuan on the field, polite, gentlemanly, and decent off.  He was always humble and played the game of baseball as well as many of us ever wished we could.  A simple man - son of immigrants, he nonetheless attended Columbia (granted, he got help to get his foot in the door).  Still he went.  Most of all - when faced with the loss of his skills and inevitable much-too-soon death - he still told the world how lucky he was.  Seventy-two years later, those words can still make grown men cry.

- The Beatles.  I couldn't pick just John Lennon.  I couldn't pick just Paul McCartney.  I can't ignore George Harrison and Ringo Starr.  I picked them as one unit.  Before I knew to pick my own style (and eventually worked my way around to Huey Lewis and the News), the Fab Four was it.  They helped bring our country out of the funk of JFK's death, and showed us a whole new style of music perfected.  When their early sounds became too poppy and easy, they found new ideas.  They found themselves always reaching for more.  Can you hear any of their early work in works like "Strawberry Fields Forever?"  I would argue no other musical act has changed their core and still had such resoundingly amazing results.  Inspiring?  We still sing "Give Peace a Chance", and though that's John's song as a solo artist, it still resonates "All You Need is Love" and that's The Beatles.

After that, I was able to discover that Facebook gave me a little latitude.  So...

- Friends.  My friends have been a huge source of inspiration for me.  There are times when, for instance, I'm not feeling it here on the ol' blog train and friends will tell me - without knowing how I am feeling - that they love reading it and hope I keep going.  I feel charged up again.  My friends have inspired writing, broadcasts, parenting ideas, and simple pieces of life.  During my darkest moments, it's been my friends who have been there.

Which doesn't mean my family hasn't been mega huge.  At all.  And that brings me around to the biggest influence of them all:

- Dad.  I've talked about him so many times on here.  I still hurt over his loss, and it's been almost 22 years (next month).  I've told Carrie so much about him.  He hauled himself out of bed every day to drive a truck, making deliveries on his plumbing supply route in intense pain with knees and hips that had climbed out of a cheese grader.  He didn't finish high school.  He wanted all of that for me.  So I did, and made sure to go back and finish college long after he passed.  He inspired me to see the open road, and to make every moment as much fun as possible.  He inspired me to laugh - at everything - and not take everything so seriously.  He also inspired me to do things with dignity and class.  He taught me about style, and that there's a proper way to dress at proper times.  He inspired me to stand at attention until the very last note of "The Star Spangled Banner" (and I do - to this day, then point to the sky to remember him).  He inspired me to try to make people around me better and, if that wasn't possible, to at least leave them happy.  He made me a rule follower (within reason).

I owe him, my mom, and my siblings so much.  It is them, my friends, and those I am closest to that inspire me the most.  There are so many others, and I know I haven't even slightly represented them all.

Maybe that's why it wasn't so easy for me to pick five after all.

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Hate When I'm Not Feeling It

I started to write something earlier, and it was just not working for me, so I bagged it. It violated some of my tenants, which indicate that if it's just too snarky and I can't quite put it in the right words without offending, then I must delete it. So I did.

Happy Valentine's Day to all, especially my Carrie. Duty calls, so I will be at Hamill Rink in a few hours for the Greenwich/Staples-Weston-Shelton game.  Game time is 6:45. You can hear it live on WGCH.

Pitchers and catchers reported to Tampa today, so the major leagues have begun. The minor leagues begin in a few days.

There's a joke in there, but it's just too easy.

The Beatles won an historic Grammy.  Nice!

I'll let Macca take us out here.  Happy Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How to Fix Hockey: Chapter 9904


The Super Bowl is over.  Pitchers and catchers report next Monday.  Spring training games (meaningless) are a few weeks away.  Who really watches Daytona anymore (I don't)?  March Madness is wonderful - for a few days, then it's quiet, then a few days again.  A few other fringe things exist that, while they're nice little diversions, let's be real.  It's not going to catch on but it's fine if the beer tastes good.

So that leaves regular season college hoops, the NBA, and the NHL.

I'm here to talk about hockey.  Neil Keefe, writing for CBS New York, has the latest version of how to make hockey more popular.

I like most of what he is saying.  More aggression, more fighting, less policing, consistent penalties (from the league office), and a clear vengeance on Matt Cooke.  Yet it's so much more.  I've said it before.  I'll say it again.  STOP DUMBING DOWN THE GAME.

I think it's an insult to the fans - the true heart and soul people.  Yet even they're not the same (or they've disappeared and can't afford tickets anymore).    I've been told, and I've seen it for myself, that the denizens of Madison Square Garden have changed.  Those screaming "I am a RANGAH!" are the same ones who wouldn't know that Marv Albert was once a great hockey broadcaster for the Blueshirts.  Many of them don't have the first clue why they scream "Potvin SUCKS!" but they do it anyway.

Plus don't be fooled by the attendance.  The tickets might be sold, but the bodies aren't there.

I know, I'm sounding like I'm getting ready to discuss Eddie Shore, Toe Blake, and Dit Clapper.  You know...OLD TIME HOCKEY!


Neil Keefe is right in that there's no point in discussing each of Gary Bettman's mistakes (and yes, I'm looking the shootout square in the eye).  I don't care if the folks in the arena are on their feet screaming - they just want a win, and shall we really revisit the paragraph about dumbing down the game?  If I'm there, I'll be on my feet too, but really, what's the difference?  Sure I want the win, but my team has already picked up a point.

Of course, it's a problem when OLD TIME HOCKEY these days is - what? - 2003?

Truth is, we need more Matt Cooke's.  Seriously.  We need the black hats.  We need Tie Domi.  We need Dave Schultz.  But we also need - and nothing can be done about this - the major cities to win.  The Rangers.  The Blackhawks (last year, and that helped).  The Flyers.  The Bruins.

We need the Maple Leaf and Canadiens (oh it pains me to say this).  We especially need Montreal because, just as in baseball, two very distinct camps will return - those who LOVE the Habs and those who DESTEST the Habs (just as with the 27-time World Champion New York Yankees).

Some of the luster left as more Europeans came in with a finesse style, but it's to their credit.  They are here to stay.  Now they need to be markeatble.  The days of purely Canadian and American players is over.

The NHL wants to be fan-friendly?  Great!  Promote more.  Good personalities deserve lots of love.  Problem is - who is that personality?  Sidney Crosby?  Most people can't stand him.  Alex Ovechkin?  Not a pretty boy.  Nobody wants Wayne Gretzky's mantel.  More appearances are needed - not just for hockey fans, but cross-functioning.  When the Rangers won the Cup back in the 17th Century (or was it 1994?), they brought Lord Stanley to Yankee Stadium, with Leetch and Messier hanging out.  New Yorkers knew them (and really, knew them before the run to nirvana).

Now, New York, name me five Rangers.  GO!

I'm not directing this at Harold or his sister Mary.  Or Carrie.  Or Sean Kilkelly, Chris Kaelin, Paul Silverfarb, Richie Spezzano, Dave Fierro, and the others that I talk hockey with all the time.  These are the people that know the game.  Yet, I have other friends - sports fans - who couldn't name five.

The Rangers and Islanders of the late 70's drew me to the game.  It helped that my sister got me a Ron Duguay/Bryan Trottier poster that hung on my wall for years.  Truth be told, my sisters' coworker had the hots for Duguay, so she had him autograph the poster and I got it.  Sadly, it eventually got destroyed.

Ron Duguay signs a poster at the Dutchess Mall that ends up in my hands.  With that, I become a bigger fan.

A week or so back, Justin Bieber made big news by getting booed at the Garden.  OK, well the Knicks fans showed some good taste.  Regardless, sitting next to him was the closest thing New York has to a hockey star - Henrik Lundqvist.  The King should have (and maybe he did) try to get Biebs to come to a hockey game.  Make him an advocate for the sport.  Dear God, we talk about peer pressure all the time.  How about using some of the power of Justin Bieber (or somebody else) to promote the game?

Is hockey involved in schools?  I mean, in the classroom.  Get there.

The NFL had a show on Cartoon Network.  The NBA makes their presence known there also.  Get to the kids, people.  The kids will want to learn and bug their parents to go to games.

Instead of sending the Winter Classic to known "hockey areas", how about sending it somewhere else to spread the love?  Now that probably isn't possible in the south without some kind of dome involved, but still - the NHL needs to get creative.

This is what's needed.  At least part of what's needed.  It's a complex issue, involving TV rights (NBC has them for what that is worth), a fickle public, the sport itself, those who run it, and more.  Maybe ESPN (with their propensity to promote) needs to get hockey back.  How often is hockey the top story on "SportsCenter?"  It's not - ever.  But it's a grass roots thing, too.  My mother doesn't watch hockey, so I popped it on one night, and she cared.  She enjoyed it. 

We need to find a way to keep the new fans ("oooh, those fireworks are pretty!"), make more new fans, and mesh all of that with the old fans.  The NFL does it.  The NBA does it.  Even MLB does it.

Doesn't mean I like it, by the way.

The funny thing is, fixing the NHL seems complex.  Yet it seems almost easy.  It's not rocket science.

I welcome any thoughts, of course.  Seems like we - the fans - need to do it ourselves.

By the way, if you thought my naming this post "Chapter 9904" was significant, you're right.  Gretzky/Orr.  The new definition of OLD TIME HOCKEY!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

This. Is. Awesome!


Hockey Fight Live is on the air!

The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens squared off across the street from the Boston Garden tonight (that is to say they played in the TD Bank North Garden Shawmut Fleet Center).  The B's won, 8-6.  But this baby was all about the fighting.

Tim Thomas (27 saves) versus Carey Price (26 saves).  Two of the best goalies in the NHL - two of the top five in the Eastern Conference, and they allowed FOURTEEN GOALS?

This is the NHL highlight version of the game:

That's Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley with the call on NESN.

OK, now to the fun stuff.  The Bruins and Habs have long hated each other, so it's refreshing to see them mixing it up a bit.  Even the goalies got into it - albeit half-heartedly.


For my money, give me Johnny Boychuk smacking Jaroslav Spacek around like a rag doll.

At the very least, Johnny Boychuk is my favorite non-Ranger.  How can I not like a guy with a great hockey name who wears fifty-five?  It's a match made in hockey heaven!

I digress.  Good times in Beantown tonight.

There are plenty more highlights over at Hockey Fights.

Linky Dinks

Posting links is often the easy way out.  I like making people aware of things that are on my radar.

Soooo...

I'm not interested.  Sorry.

Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone agrees with me about the halftime show.

Michael Bean at Behind the Steel Curtain say, correctly, don't blame Big Ben for the loss on Sunday.

Stuck in the 80's combines two of my loves - baseball and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  They resolve a question: what game did Sloane, Cameron, and Ferris go to?

Staying in baseball, LoHud's Yankees Blog has their annual pinch hitter series going on, with regular Joe's (not Girardi) subbing for Chad Jennings and Sam Borden.  Ban Hoffman is from Germany, and I like how he came around to being a huge Yankees fan in a land where the logo is known but baseball isn't number one.

Ken McMillan brings good news - the Yankees' spring training broadcast schedule!  He also has the Mets one, but right now, I think that team might become my third "toxic topic" - things I won't write about here.  I mean - honestly - picking on the Mets might be as easy as any of the answers on "Celebrity Jeopardy."

Ken also gives his thoughts on each Super Bowl commercial.  I was underwhelmed by nearly all of them.

Pete Dougherty gives props to Fox for their Super coverage.

If you ever need to do a eulogy, read this.  It is remarkably well-written and (no doubt) well-delivered by my friend and basketball colleague, Christine Baker.  Through the sadness of her loss (I add my condolences), she drains one from downtown with stories meant to recall good times.

You might not have known who Gary Moore was.  He was a brilliant guitarist for Thin Lizzy, and on his own.  He died earlier this week.  Metallica's Kirk Hammett has a tribute to him in Rolling Stone.

One of my favorite road enthusiasts (and friend of "Exit 55"), Steve Williams says part of Georgia is really tracking down on speedersReally tracking down.  Getting medieval, if you will.

Post-Game


They won...they deserved it.
OK, so I've been in hiding.  I admit it.  Yes, I'm talking about the game, and I've been avoiding the media since Aaron Rodgers took the final knee.  For my money, you simply can not turn the ball over three times and expect to win.  Down 14-0, I said it was over (and was called "a fatalist", perhaps deservedly so).  If Ben Roethlisberger leads the Stillers back - even with the two INT's - he wins MVP.  I thought Rashard Mendenhall might take the MVP, but his fumble killed that.

The Packers dropped passes.  The Steelers couldn't make a big play defensively (like snagging a turnover).  The Packers took advantage of Pittsburgh's mistakes.  It was so close.  It was so winnable.  It didn't happen.  The Packers won, and deserve congratulations.

I'm proud of the Steelers for making it a game.  I had visions of an old-fashioned 80's/90's kind of Super Bowl Suck Fest (final - 55-3!).

Prince should be proud.  He no longer holds the title of worst half time show in recent memory!  The Black Eyed Peas (whom I like) proved that they are a wonderful studio act - as is the case with most current artists who produce wonderful sounds but are just that - produced.  No harm, but what they proved conclusively is that mindless people want the effects and not the music.  WOW!  People making arrows in lighted suits!  OOOOOOH!

Please.

Oh, and I noticed Xtina (or whatever her name is) slightly botching the National Anthem.  I thought it was minor.

Almost all of the commercials were lame.

Joe and Troy were fine in the booth.  Overall I thought the game was so-so, but would have been legendary with a big finish.  We didn't get it.

As such, here we are.

I spent Sunday night and most of Monday in mourning.  I actually lost sleep over it, and I didn't play in the game.  Again, I found myself questioning why I put myself through it.

Carrie - who is simply amazing - brought me out of my fog late Sunday night (I literally stared at the TV as she was watching some show about how something is made) by getting me to talk about doing a road trip on Monday.  So we did - heading to PA to meet with my niece and her family for some lunch and a good walk.  I listened to music as much as possible in the car, and laughed with Carrie about anything other than football.

Ugh.  Five days to pitchers and catchers.  Still hockey to be played.  March Madness is coming.  The Masters.  Daytona.  We move on.

So that's that.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Top Super Bowl Quarterbacks

I should just quit.  Seriously.  My colleague and friend Sean Kilkelly has said for years that he doesn't like lists because they're generally silly (I'm paraphrasing, of course).  Yet time after time, I keep reading them and letting them pop my blood pressure up into the heavens.

So we come to another one - this time the greatest Super Bowl quarterbacks (via Doug Farrar at Yahoo!).  And of course you're all going to think 1) I'm a Steelers lackey (you're welcome to your wrong opinion on that) and 2) I'm utterly nuts (OK on that one).

So this is Doug's top 10 list.  Seriously...

1) Joe Montana
2) Kurt Warner
3) Tom Brady
4) Terry Bradshaw
5) Bart Starr
6) Jim Plunkett
7) Roger Staubach
8) Steve Young
9) John Elway
10) Drew Brees

OK, right about here is where my head begins to hurt.  JIM PLUNKETT??  WHAT?  Better than Phil (22 of 25 in Supe XXI) Simms?  And, of course, the always-safe pick of Saint Joe at the top.

Oh my f****** God. Did ALL OF YOU HAVE MAN CRUSHES ON CLEFT-CHINNED WINE AND CHEESE BOY?

OK, I get it.  I liked Montana.  Had his jersey.  Wore it.  To school.  OK?  Can we get past that (the same way people think I hate other things that they are dead wrong about, but we're not going there as they are still on my "banned topics" list)?

But there comes a point where the drooling is overkill (U2..."Jack and Diane"...and some of will say Derek Jeter and I can't argue).  Holy schnike but it took me fifteen years to get over putting my fist through the radio every time I heard Bono's voice.  So I totally understand.

Side note, but a future post may eventually get around to discussing songs that no DJ or radio Program Director should be allowed access to.  "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Jack and Diane" are two of those effers.

Anyway, what's my list, you say?  OK, here we go...

1) Bradshaw.  Sorry, Mantana lovers.  Four Super Bowls before Montana.  Managed the offense for two, then dominated for other two.  Won two legit MVP's (unlike Montana - I mean, Montana was about as much the MVP of XVI as I was).  And, of course, he called his own plays.  He also didn't dink and dunk to Rice, Taylor, etc.  I know he had Franco, Swann, Stallworth, and so on, but who were his tight ends (Stillers fans will tell Randy Grossman and Benny Cunningham, but no one else will).  Whatever.  He's my guy, and this is my list.  Oh and things weren't as pass-happy as they were when Pretty Boy Joe (God's Quarterback from Notre Dame) played.

Or maybe I'm tired of people thinking of him as purely the hillbilly on Fox and not as a brilliant Super Bowl-winning, Hall of Fame quarterback.  He seems to often to be forgotten, believe it or not.

2) Brady.  That's right, as my friend Chris Erway says, "come get some."  I'll take Brady over Lord Joe, beginning with his gutsy performance against the Rams, as he drove them to the winning FG (courtesy of my MVP for that game, Adam "Put me in the Hall of Fame" Vinatieri).  I know he has a loss, but he played just fine against the Giants.  I have mega respect for this guy.

3) Montana.  It's so tempting to keep dropping him lower and lower, if only to watch each of you have a coronary.  Yes, I'll be ostracized by all - from my loved-ones right on down - but I don't care.  I've watched and digested every game since Super XII (one word: boring).  While the Steve Sabol's and such want to hang him as their poster boy, can we all agree that he was the master of a SYSTEM?  This is Bill Walsh's team and Montana was the five-yard pass-throwing robot.  He had Rice, and everyone else.  He was a wonderful quarterback - I'm not saying otherwise (God, people can be thick). 

Giants fans...this is for you...good times...Leonard Mashall

Anyway.  Joe was a great player.  No doubt.  The drive against the Bengals (in an otherwise dreadful game) was tremendous.  But he also beat the snot out of a Broncos team that had no business being there.  The defense won the first matchup agains tht Bengals.  He beat Marino and the Dolphins in an offensive show.  Great player.

4) Bart Starr.  Boy does he get forgotten in this conversation.  MVP of games I and II.  Set the passing yardage record that wasn't broken until XIII (by Bradshaw).  Executed everything Lombardi asked for.

Don't get me wrong - you can take any of the top, let's say, four and we can all agree to disagree on the order. To me, these are the top four, regardless. They're a combined 13-1!


5) Troy Aikman.  I know.  The Cowboys.  Ugh.  Maybe we forget about him because of Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.  Maybe we forget him because we all hate the Cowboys.  Or Jimmy Johnson.  Believe me - he hurt me in Super Bowl XXX.  But the guy was money in the big game, and he won three.

6) Phil Simms.  I'm hesitatnt to put one-game QB's on this list (so that means Drew Brees, Steve Young, Doug Williams, Joe Namath and so on).  And I know Young threw a record six touchdowns.  But Young wasn't 22 of 25 against a pretty good Broncos team.  Simms was.  I feel comfy in saying Simms could have guided that Super Bowl XXV Giants team to glory but he got hurt against the Bills in their regular season matchup.  Jeff Hostetler did just fine, and Scott Norwood...

7) Kurt Warner.  Yes, I know he's 1-2 in the big game.  Try to blame him for those two losses.  He's a yard away from overtime and maybe being 0-3 (not likely, of course).  He's also a few seconds away from being 2-1 and 3-0, but Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger had a few things to say about that.  But man he could throw the ball.  You can't do it without receivers but Warner was special, and a Hall of Famer.  Plus the Cardinals are a shambles without him.

8) Roger Staubach.  I know.  The Cowboys.  Ditto everything with Aikman.  Roger has losses against him - granted.  Backup to Craig Morton in V - loss.  Won VI (MVP).  Lost X and XIII to the Steelers.  Won XII.  Was a system QB before Montana.  Still really really good (enough to earn two "really's").

9) John Elway.  Some want him higher.  In my all-time list, he is higher.  I like him as much if not better than Montana (just love watching all of you fall over).  But come on.  In the Super Bowl?  Folks, I don't get hung up on stats, but sometimes they're hard to ignore...three touchdowns and eight interceptions.  A 59.3 rating.  But it's the run aginst the Packers in XXXII and his passing in XXXIII that gets him here.

Before we get to 10, let's go through the winners...
Starr, Starr, Namath, Len Dawson, Johnny Unitas (or Earl Morrall), Staubach, Bob Griese, Griese, Bradshaw, Bradshaw, Ken Stabler, Staubach, Bradshaw, Bradshaw, Plunkett, Montana, Joe Theismann, Plunkett, Montana, Jim McMahon, Simms, Williams, Montana, Montana, Hostetler, Mark Rypien, Aikman, Aikman, Young, Aikman, Brett Favre, Elway, Elway, Warner, Trent Dilfer(!), Brady, Brad Johnson(!), Brady, Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Roethlisberger, Brees, and ???

(By the way, despite my allegiance, my pick is Aaron Rodgers to join this list, but I desperately want to be wrong).

Anyway, if he wins tomorrow and plays well, then...

10) Roethlisberger.  He was dreadful in his first game (XL).  But against the Cardinals, he showed had matured on the big stage (just not off it).  As good a drive as Eli Manning directed the year before, Ben's stepped up and matched it.  A brilliant strike to Santonio Holmes netted the sixth Lombardi trophy in the Burgh.

Then again, by tomorrow, this list could be completely different.  Hence the very nature of lists.

Come get some.

Friday, February 04, 2011

More Joe Buck Bashing!

OK, folks, let's go through this quickly.  What got me here was another foolish list.  This time, of so-called 50 Greatest Play-by-Play Calls in Sports History! (The exclamation point is mine)

Hat tip to Phil Giubileo for the link.

This writer finds a reason or two to take more shots at Joe Buck.  Look, we all get it.  Joe is kind of smug.  He doesn't ring the bell of hyper-screaming that you frat boys want with the likes of GuJo and doesn't whittle out the one-liners like Kevin Harland.

He's simply put, the latter-day Pat Summeral.  Go find Pat's call of the kick to win Super Bowl XXXVI.  Not exactly life of the party stuff there.

I decided to compare Pat and Joe on arguably the two greatest catches in Super Bowl history.  Here's Pat on Lynn Swann's theatrics in Super Bowl X.

Largely understated, don't you think?  Want more?  Here's Swann's catch for a touchdown.

Tom Brookshier was the analyst.

Now to Joe.  David Tyree makes this wonderful catch in Super Bowl XLII.

Troy Aikman is the analyst, of course.  Nice work by him also.

Oh, and here's Joe on the winning touchdown.  I like it - understated, with crowd noise and the right hint of excitement.


So please - stop.  Now.

Andy Pettitte Retires

(Photo:Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
Who are the greatest pitchers in the history of the New York Yankees?  I think we all agree that Whitey Ford is the greatest - 236 wins, a champion, 1961 Cy Young Award and so on.

After that, things can get a little murky.  They're the Bronx Bombers after all.  Red Ruffing deserves to second.  A right-hander that was cast off by the Red Sox, he won 273 games.

But what about the lefties?  Whitey Ford, obviously, Lefty Gomez is likely second (189 wins), and then?  For me, I'm going to say Ron Guidry, who could flat-out dominate, most notably in one of the greatest seasons I've ever seen - his brilliant 1978 year of 25-3.

Then?  Andy Pettitte.

It's not knock to put Andy Pettitte fourth among lefties, and probably in the top five Yankees pitchers ever.  I don't think of him as a Hall of Famer (and neither does he), but I think of him as one of the greats.  He was - beyond a doubt - the right guy to get the last start in the old Stadium.  He gave the Yankees and their fans some amazing moments.

He was this kid who appeared on our radar in 1995, right on the verge of a dynasty.  This happened to be the first year that we glanced at some kids: a converted second baseman to catcher named Posada...a starting pitcher who came out of the pen in the playoffs named Rivera...and a first round draft pick shortstop who sat on the bench to get a flavor of the playoffs.  Name?  Obviously Jeter.

Pettitte was the first one to stay full-time of the "Core Four."  He's the first to walk away.

We saw him go 12-9 in that '95 wild card year.  He pitched in Game 2 of that wild series and got a no-decision.  The next year was the explosion.  He went 21-8, and was a deserving Cy Young candidate (losing to Pat Hentgen).  Every time that team went on a losing streak, there was Andy, turning things around.  Though not great to begin the playoffs, he got better as they went along, and delivered a mammoth start in Game 5 of the World Series, outdueling John Smoltz in Atlanta over eight-and-a-third.  Thinking about the way he fielded his position in the sixth inning of that game will bring a smile to any fan.  First, nailing Smoltz at third on a sacrifice bunt, then starting an inning-ending double play.

Oh we saw bad also.  He was a eyelash away from becoming a Phillie in 1998, and struggled in his ALCS start against the Indians.  Jim Thome's home run hasn't landed yet.  Fortunately "El Duque" Hernandez and Boomer Wells righted the ship in the season of 125 wins.  And then there was that absolute stinker of a performance in 2001 - when the Yankees had taken all momentum back in that World Series.  Pettitte's rough start in Game 6 set the stage for Game 7.

But those are hiccups.  Hard to argue with an otherwise wonderful career.  It's tough to think about those Astros years - because he should have been in New York, but he wasn't.  Instead he and his one-time buddy, Roger Clemens, went to Houston, and pitched to a World Series appearance in 2005.  Thankfully he came back, and was so big in gaining his fifth ring in 2009.

OK, let's deal with the HGH thing.  The catcalls have begun about that hindering his Hall of Fame credentials.  Those who know are aware that I'm sick of that whole conversation.  I have a hard time condemning Pettitte off a stupid decision to take something because he wanted to get healthy and get back on the field.  Is anyone foolish enough to think that Andy Pettitte was a juicer otherwise?

It disappointed me, for sure.  But since we know - WE KNOW - that there are others who haven't been "outed", then we are we going to knock Pettitte?  Because the Mitchell Report did so, and Pettitte himself had the decency to look everyone in the eye and say "my bad?"

If Andy Pettitte isn't a Hall of Famer, it will be because he just didn't accomplish enough.  Not enough wins.  No Cy Young Awards.  Stuff like that.  Funny thing is, Curt Schilling will get in.  go compare their numbers.  Schilling is going to the Hall but Andy Pettitte isn't?  I'm going to let that hang right there...

We'll miss the class.  We'll miss the grace.  We'll miss that hat pulled down to the point that you could barely see the eyes staring back between the brim and his glove.  We'll miss the pickoffs.  We'll miss the winning.

We'll miss Andy Pettite.

With his departure we begin to face our own mortality, really.  It's that point when we have to say goodbye to our heroes that we realize it isn't forever.

Brian Cashman sat in the press conference, looking to me like he was sick.  He needs to go find a pitcher.

Andy Pettitte isn't coming back.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The Steelers' Appreciation Post

I could have written a post all about the glory that is the Pitttsburgh Steelers.  Could have told you about how they've consistently been the same franchise for roughly 40 years.  I could have waxed poetic about the drafting of Mean Joe in 1969, followed by the great (and now amazingly unappreciated) Terry Bradshaw in 1970.

It would have been great to discuss how the team matches the identity of the city, and to talk about the ownership and it's low-key approach.

I could have done that, and more.  I don't need to.  Joe Posnanski already did.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Tao of Vin Scully

(One of the things I didn't get to see while in Hollywood...perhaps next time!)
Tom Hoffarth, via his blog, asked several play-by-play voices the following question:
As a professional play-by-play man, what can you learn about your craft simply by listening to Vin Scully today?
He got answers (so far) from...

Nick Nickson (LA Kings radio voice)
Bob Miller (Kings TV)
Charlie Steiner (Dodgers radio)
Victor Rojas (Angels)
Matt Vasgerian (MLB Network - I don't get this one, personally, but I've never been a fan)
Ross Porter (former Dodgers radio and TV)
Ken Levine (Mariners and others)
Jim Nantz (mmm...Hello, friends)

If anyone asked me, the first thing I'd say is that Vin Scully himself has always said that he never listens to other broadcasters.  Now I don't entirely subscribe to that, but one of the most important things that Scully said Red Barber taught him was to "be yourself."

I couldn't agree more.  I'm definitely influenced by Scully, Barber, and Mel Allen, but also others who I listened to over the years.  Frank Messer, Dick Enberg, Ernie Harwell, even both Jack and Joe Buck (humor is an important part of entertaining in this era).  Plus many others.  Preperation is crucial, but so is the gift of storytelling, and attention to detail and accuracy.  All are important.

This series of articles is interesting, even if it might be a little LA-centric.  It's a must-read for those interested in Scully, but also those wanting to call games.

Here We Go Steelers!

Go make the Terrible Towel wave - somewhat virtually.  I did it.  Kind of cool.

Nice little collection of pictures and historical notes about the Black and Gold via Mitchell and Ness.

Otherwise, I'm mostly avoiding the Super hype, and my blood pressure likes it that way.

Sitting in a Cafe


Live from a bagel shop/coffee shop/whatever in Brooklyn, NY, this is Exit 55's Off the Bench!

Nothing like a high priced trendy little place to grab a bite and get online.  Actually, I'm enjoying a cup of their house blend coffee for $1.95.  Not too bad.

Places like this can be great for people watching, getting out of cabin fever, and hearing some good music.  That is, depending on what their rotation is.  The first time I sat here, it was a great mix.  Last time wasn't so solid.  Today?  Bingo!

Zero 7...Death Cab for Cutie...Arcade Fire...nice background tunes.  Maybe a little too deep or electronic for some, but for me, perfect.  They're all on my iPod or in my collection somewhere.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder is mighty annoyed with a Washington writer.  And?  Dan, really?  Sticks and stones and all that jazz.

Now it's Smashing Pumpkins on the ol' sound system.  So maybe this seems stereotypical but it's OK.  I'm liking it.

As is often the case, Off the Bench is going to morph towards Linky Dinks.  All good, I guess.

I was just reading one take on how Ben Roethlisberger can't win even if he doesn't win his third Super Bowl ring.  I couldn't agree more.  No matter what, the Steelers are the guys in the black helmets.  Big Ben and James Harrison are the clear cut bad guys.  Most of my own family is rooting for the Packers because A) the black and gold beat the J-E-T-S and B) because they've made their own judgement of Roethlisberger.

To me, Big Ben has done all of the right things.  All of the things I said he needed to do.  Apologize.  Be contrite.  Then play his ass off.  I don't care what his numbers were in the AFC Championship, he outplayed Mark Sanchez with the combination of his arm and legs, and made the plays that needed to be made.

I'm still saying the Packers are going to win, but it will hurt like hell come Sunday night.

I know they get something out of it for tying in regulation, but last night's shootout loss to the Penguins by the Rangers left a really sour taste in my buds.  Down 2-0, they came back and tied it up...then promptly lost the lead.  Yet they tied it again, then lost in the SO.  That was a Penguins team without Evgeni Malkin and some kid named Crosby, among others.  I see it as a blown chance.

I wrote the other day about the demise of the peacock at NBC, but as of this morning, I'm still seeing it.

Memo to Egypt: protest is good.  Civil disobedience and violence?  Bad.  Sadly, that's why your voices are being heard all around the world.  Enough that Brian Williams (he of the still-peacocked NBC) is there.  With Lester Holt.

Charlie Sheen?  Bad.  Very bad.

Time for some "Bittersweet Symphony" here in the ol' cafe.

I can't resist the urge to post another Jeff Pearlman post.  Damn you, Jeff!  He writes for Sports Illustrated about one of the tougher, more gut wrenching sports losses for me.  Cowboys 27, Steelers 17...Super Bowl XXX.

I warned one and all - I didn't expect the Steelers to win, but if it's a close game and under five minutes to go, lock me up.  It was there.  It didn't happen.

Yet the sun came up the next morning.

You don't think a Yankees/Steelers fan doesn't ache?  You're wrong.

One more Pearlman item, talking about how he feels to see something in print.  I get it.  He's written for over 20 years.  I've been a broadcaster for over 20 years.  I still feel a huge rush of pride and excitement when I hear my voice.  Latest example?  Charlie Pennella - brilliant videographer for some of Greenwich High Schools' sports teams, put my audio all over the 2010 football highlights video.  Way.  Cool.

(By the way, Pearlman also often uses webcam pictures of himself.  What can I tell you?  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I think our blogs are quite similar, yet I've never actively tried to "rip him off.")

I saw "Man v. Food" guy Adam Richman was at the Garden last night for the Rangers game.  I was somewhat dismissive of that silliness at first, but his show is great.  It's become a staple of Carrie and Rob's TV life (and we don't really watch a lot of TV).  In fact, it's helped make me reach for the Travel Channel everytime I put the TV on.

Anthony Bourdain rocks also.  And I still like Samantha Brown - and have for years.  Andrew Zimmern seems like a nice guy but what he eats is a little too, oh I don't know.

I think Kenn Tomasch, while often so bitingly honest, is brilliant.  He totally gets it, and is completely correct.  He also had the class to not call me out when I misprounced a name during an interview with him.

Just saw where Steven A. Smith is back at ESPN.  I don't get it.

Sort of on that same topic, no matter my criticism of him, I hear Stuart Scott is a good dude.  I also read that he is battling cancer.  Best of luck to him.  Beat it - and fast.

Oasis - "Wonderwall."  Predictable?  Yes.  I still like it.

Ready for that big Black Eyed Peas halftime show, where the biggest question is how naked Fergie will be?  Yeah, me neither.  Over at Wolfgangs Vault, they tease us with some thoughts and videos of recent haltime shows.  They're completely wrong about Prince, who completely sucked, but Springsteen rocked.  So did Tom Petty...and Paul McCartney...and U2...

Let me say that again.  Prince sucked.  Ugh.

I have no idea what is playing in here now.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Pitchers and Catchers


We have another bad weather stretch here in the Big Apple, as the winter of 2010-2011 has turned into one for the record books.  The worst on record?  Maybe.  Certainly if you believe all of the hype.  It's definitely one that I think we'll all remember.

So just a moment ago, I posted this status on Facebook: "I look outside and think to myself: 13 days until pitchers and catchers!"

It's so true, and yet, the date is purely symbolic.  Let's think about it: all fall and winter long, those of us who love baseball look forward to that mythical moment when those first players report to Spring Training.  Yet, they just kind of drive in and begin to loosen up.  Some have been doing that for weeks already.  Derek Jeter is among those already in Florida (and based on what I've seen, he's hanging at his MEGA mansion in Tampa, so it's not like he has a long commute).

What I'm saying is - it's nice, but it's almost like Groundhog Day (coincidentally tomorrow).  Poke your head out, and it's still six weeks or so until first pitch of the regular season.

Don't get me wrong.  I'll take whatever images I can find of the boys of summer whirling the arms around and playing catch.  I'll take a few exhibition game broadcasts featuring one at-bat by the starters and the rest of the game of names you'll never hear again (I'm exaggerating, of course).  It's all nice, definitely.  Yet until 1:00 on March 31st, at Yankee Stadium against the Tigers, it means zero.  Nada.

Pitchers and catchers reporting is a sign that warmer weather is on the way, but we have oh-so-far to go.

Thus Opening Day remains my official start of the year and, arguably, my favorite day of the year.

(I Googled "Yankees Spring Training" and that picture came up.  That works.)

Moby Wakes Up and Finds "Robbie" in his Place


Hopefully you all remember Moby, the super-talented and fairly down-to-Earth DJ/musician who scored big with his 1999 album Play.  I haven't listened to it in some time but I remember liking it a lot back in the day.

I have a friend who had the chance to go hang in Moby's place a few years ago in New York.  He said Moby was about as nice a guy as you'll meet.

Anyway, Moby has a blog, and he writes about an uninvited visitor.

A few things: 1) I've never touched acid or anything else, and 2) I never introduce myself as "Robbie."  People are welcome to call me that, but it's mostly my family who does so anymore.

Now back to our regularly scheduled snow/ice storm.