Thursday, May 31, 2012

What Should Be Made of This?

Photo: Bob Luckey / Greenwich Time
My friend Alyce posted something on Facebook tonight and, as a reporter and broadcaster of high school athletics, I feel it is my duty to pass it on to you.

Bob Luckey of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group, which includes the Greenwich Time, was shooting photographs at the Greenwich/Darien FCIAC girls lacrosse final.  He caught Darien coach Lisa Lindley grabbing goalie Caylee Waters forcefully during a timeout.  The question, of course, is: is this inappropriate?  The comments on the post indicate outrage of a few varieties.  Some are bashing Lindley, some are supporting her, and others are attacking the media for "shoddy" reporting.

My issue is that the picture is only an image.  It looks bad, but I can't definitively tell the intent.  Is there video of this? 

Well, it seems that Darien isn't very happy about what happened, because Paresh Jha reports tonight that Lindley has not been at practice all week and is now on administrative leave.

So what should the punishment be, if any?  Coaches are supposed to be leaders.  Role models.  Part of what prepares athletes to go out into the world or onto college.  A physical confrontation like this cannot be tolerated.  Does that mean Lindley should be fired?  Oh no - I'm not saying that.  At that point, I want to know more about Lindley.  What is her track record?  How is her reputation?  What do her former players, colleagues, and opponents say about her?  Is this an isolated incident?  We need more answers.

I'm not going to pass judgement.  I've never met her.

But it doesn't look good.  That is for sure.

My Sappy Side

I'm sitting on a patio, enjoying an amazing breeze, listening to tunes coming out of the house.  But I'm having one of my softer moments.  Just heard this song.

Some songs hit the right notes.  I'm not always one for the words; great musicianship and a fine tune are often enough for me.  But sometimes the words are so powerful.  The Beatles were masters at that.  Obviously most of the credit belongs to a couple of lads named Lennon and McCartney, but don't discount Mr. Harrison either, who wrote "Something", a song that even Frank Sinatra lauded (although he thought John and Paul wrote it).  And of course, Ringo.  He knew his place.

PS, if you've never seen A Hard Day's Night (yes, the movie) then go find it.  Now.  That's your homework.  You'll never find a better musical/rock and roll movie.  I've seen many of them: This is Spinal Tap (love it!), Help, Yellow Submarine, Purple Rain, Tommy, and on and on.  The opening credits are enough to make you smile - that opening note on George Harrison's Rickenbacker 12-string guitar (said to be an F and G chord, but I don't know enough to sound smart on that topic) is purely iconic, and states its presence with a thump.

Oh, and if you know me, then you can watch the movie with me, because I just happen to own it, along with Yellow Submarine.  I don't have Help however, and believe it or not, I've never seen the disaster that is Magical Mystery Tour in its entirety.  But the title song has been in my head since my trip to Florida, and is currently my ringtone.

Anyway, I'll soon be back to ranting and raving.  Just get me going on Mayor Soda Jerk or some of the filth on New York sports talk radio and I'll spout off.

My Son, the Musician

Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth, 1928
Sean's mother (you might remember her - name of Sandi) informed me this morning that our awesome son is joining the band at his elementary school for fifth grade.  As luck would have it, he will be playing the saxophone.

This is lucky because: A) I could use the picture above of two of the five or ten greatest baseball players ever and, B) his maternal grandparents have an old saxophone, since two of their children played it!

So yes, we will take that touch of good fortune.

But in all seriousness, I am deeply proud of Sean for taking this initiative.  He has demonstrated for some time that he has an interest in music, both as a listener and as a participant.  Honestly, I suspect it will frustrate him as much as his attempts at playing baseball did.  But he'll give it his all.

Sean's ear for music runs from the supremely awesome (The Beatles...duh) 5 ("Moves Like Jagger") Big Time Rush.  We all make mistakes.

You all know how proud I am of my son.  You all know what an honor it is to be his father, and how seriously I take it.  So of course I'll proudly be at his concerts!

Happy Anniversary!

I saw that my friend Tim Parry and his lovely wife Ursula are celebrating another year of wedded bliss today.  They've been married 15 years and, as someone who came up short in the marriage department (but is always a hopeless romantic who still believes in it), I admire long-lasting unions.

So it inspired me...and how it is that I've NEVER used this before?!?  Ladies and gentlemen, Fred, Barney and the crew!

I figure I have to start writing again, if only to keep the person whose heavy metal band name is "Fobidden Temple" happy while she is in Virginia.  If reading Fifty Shades of Grey wasn't enough, a fix of her favorite blogger is necessary!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Green Eyed Lady

Well, I'm on a bit musical kick, aren't I?  We had a visit from the "Red Headed Woman" before.  Well this song also got in my head: "Green Eyed Lady."  Even if the eyes look blue.

Or whatever.

PS, I went with the single version of the song.  Here is the album version.


2013.  It's on.  And if it is terrible, then there will be no visit to Pleasure Town.  I will feel the need to go find a trident, and then take Dorothy Mantooth out for a nice seafood dinner and NEVER call her again.

If it is great, then it will be music to my ears.  Baby-making music.

The Essential Memorial Day Song

Maybe you have yours.  One of those songs that screams beach, open roads (or clogged going to the beach) and warm weather.  The promise of summer!

*Let this not take away from the reason for Memorial Day.  We remember.  Always.  We thank those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us to have the freedom that we have.

For me, there's only one.  The Boss.  Born to Run.  The heart of a nearly perfect album.

The live version shows the pure power of the Boss's shows in the early 80's.  It shows Clarence being, well, Clarence, and a young Patti Scialfa before she became...uh...Mrs. Springsteen.  Oh, and there's a sight of the first Mrs. Springsteen.  Awkward.  Plus the late Danny Federici.  These were some great times on E Street.

But of course, the studio version is still a masterpiece.

A Musical Interlude

I've got some tunes going as I mow the lawn on this sticky Saturday.  For the most part, it's been the Beastie Boys (how is this song not New York City's anthem?)

Then I strolled inside for a break and found myself listening to Bruce (please don't ask "Bruce who?").  One thing led to another, and I came across this.  Yes, a Red-Headed Woman.  Even if they don't stay red, or they're kind of red but dye it blonde.  Or something like that.  I'm rambling.

Back to the lawn.

Oh, and good luck to Greenwich as they play for the FCIAC baseball title today.  I'm with you in spirit, and will serve as announcer for tomorrow's home run derby at the place I will always call "Cardinal Yard."

Friday, May 25, 2012


John Tortorella looks for answers that never came.  (Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News)

The New Jersey Devils are heading to the Stanley Cup Finals.  They just knocked off the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and will meet the Los Angeles Kings for the right to hoist Lord Stanley's chalice.

Many months ago, my colleague and friend Sean Kilkelly told our listeners on WGCH that the Rangers would be the ones to carry the Cup.  I wasn't sure at first, but as this feisty, gutty team worked their way through the season, I began to think he was the right.  By the playoffs, I felt like there was some kind of magic going on.  I was convinced they were going to win.  I certainly thought tonight that the Blueshirts might see the ghost of Game 6 past.  Down 2-0.  Game 6.  A must-win.  Conference finals.  In New Jersey.

Sound familiar?

The Rangers came back and tied it up.  Oh, it seemed like destiny.  The problem is that Mark Messier is simply a number on Paul Silverfarb's cell phone, and not the guy who scored a hat trick in 1994.  In 2012, Adam Henrique found an open net and stuffed home the game-winner.  Series over.

A team simply can not rally from down 2-0 to tie it and lose.  They can't battle back from 3-0, as they did in Game 5, and lose.  It's just not good.

How does one assess the Rangers' season?  Well, to me, it is a failure.  I'm sorry, but that's true.  This was a team that had a very legitimate chance to win it all.  And as a fan, I don't settle for making the playoffs, or making it to the conference finals.  I'm not satisfied with the Steelers having two Super Bowl losses.  It kills me.   The Yankees have 13 World Series defeats.  I personally lived through 1976, 1981, 2001, and 2003.  Ugh.

So by that same rationale, the Rangers losing tonight is, to me, a failure.  Now there is the question of Henrik Lundqvist's legacy.  "The King" won't be facing The Kings in the finals (oh the missed merchandising opportunities!).  It goes without saying that Lundqvist played his tail off this season - and nowhere more than in the playoffs.  He absolutely would have been the Conn Smythe winner the Rangers had won in the Finals. However, Game 5 was bowling shoe ugly, but he was certainly allowed to have a clunker.  The problem is, he picked a bad time to have it.

He can go win the Vezina Trophy.  It rings hollow.

Now before you jump me, I like Henrik - personally and professionally.  He is a great goalie - utterly brilliant.  He seems - SEEMS - like a nice guy.  But he has yet to have his "Mike Richter" moment.  He came close this year.  Oh.  So.  Close.  He was doing what I had long said goalies are supposed to do in the playoffs: put the team on his back.  Yet even though it appeared that King Henrik (I really don't like that nickname) was better than the grizzled veteran Martin Brodeur, one must say that Brodeur was better in Games 5 and 6.  I mean did you watch the save Brodeur made on Brad Richards tonight?  Stunning.

Lundqvist had a marvelous season.  It is not - repeat, NOT - his fault.  Nor am I putting this on the Rangers' defense, which stopped more shots than a bullet-proof vest.  This loss is on the offense.  Or lack thereof.  I think I saw Marian Gaborik's face in the post office.  He has vanished. 

Gary Bettman's cereal won't go down well tomorrow.  LA/New York would have been a blast.  LA/New Jersey might as well take place in Winnipeg.  The ratings would have been great with the Rangers involved.  Now?  Not so much.

Yes this one stings a lot tonight.  Badly.

Vin Scully...Who Else?

Just saw this video.  The quality is sketchy, but it does the job.

The best.  Ever.

Well done by ESPN.

And just in case you're new around here, or have been on Mars, you should know that Mr. Scully is the greatest sports broadcaster of them all.  Here is one stations' take on Vin Scully - his top 5 calls.

My $.02?  They're nuts.  The Koufax perfect game is not only Scully's greatest call, but it is the perfect call of any moment.  That entire 9th inning has been printed in its entirety.  It's the basis by which I teach my students.

OK, back to the hockey game.  Rangers/Devils.  Game 6.  Overtime.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Farewell, and Thanks!

Kristi, Kris, Tati, Brittany, Jen, Lori, and Guy Smiley - Lutz, FL.  May 20, 2012 (Photo by Kris)
I'm sitting in my room in Lutz, FL on this Monday morning, getting ready for the sad ride to Orlando and then the plane ride to White Plains.

It's sadness that I feel, but I don't feel the intense end of vacation blues that I've recently felt.  I think I knew (at least in Las Vegas) that something was ending, and it was time to face that.

Here, I feel like there are new beginnings and adventures.  To be sure, the wonderful Mackey family - Kristi, Brittany, Jen, Kris (Mackey, not Adams), Tati, the dogs, cats, rabbits, and ferret - would all welcome me back.  Explaining how I'm related to them is, well, not worth it.  They are family, extended family perhaps, but family still.

Of course, I can't discuss this trip without thanking my cousin - my brother - Kris and his wife, Lori.  They hatched this idea of me meeting them in Florida, knowing how much I love the Gulf Coast area.  They knew I could use this trip to get away and make good on the promise of returning to Tampa Bay.  I'm grateful for how good they both are to me, and Sean.

And with any luck, Sean will go with me in the future.  Because I'm going back.

It was Kristi who took charge yesterday when she realized that the potential existed to be lazy all day.  She discovered that I'm not like that when I'm vacation.  I can be an up early, down late type of guy.  Keep going all day.  So it was she who said, "Hell, no.  It's Rob's last day.  He needs to do some 'Florida' things.  Go play golf.  Or go to a game."

Well, we tried golf.  Few convenient tee times were available and, more problematic, NO left-handed rental clubs (for me: a pain in the arse).  So Kris (yes, Adams) and I hit the road to take in the Tampa Yankees game.

By the way, I love - love - love leaving for a game with about 40 minutes to spare and being in the ballpark by first pitch.  Did I mention I love it?

Tickets?  Two rows behind the Yankees dugout?  Six bucks?  DONE.  We paid more for a soda than we did for the tickets!  This, if you didn't know, is the spring training home of the 27-time champs.  So obviously, the digs are pretty nice.

The game was, well, baseball.  The Yankees scored two in the first.  The Charlotte Stone Crabs (Rays' affiliate) fought back to tie it up.  In the hot sun, sitting on hot seats, on concrete that was - you guessed it - hot, we were just moments away from bonus baseball, when Eduardo Sosa singled to right, bringing in Rob Segedin, who had reached on a double to shallow right that got lost in the sun.


Since the Stone Crabs are a Rays' affiliate, it is worth noting that there were at least four former Hudson Valley Renegades in the lineup whose games were broadcast by none other than me.  Robby Price, Derek Dietrich, Philip Wunderlich, and Robi Estrada all came through Dutchess Stadium.

To the delight of the assembled mass (said to be 1,080, but more likely 200) not only did they win, but a few players signed autographs.

Before I speak of the autographs, I must tell you that I lucked my way into a baseball.  But not really.  Robi Estrada flied out to Ramon Flores to end the top of the fifth.  As he trotted in, kids were screaming for the ball.  Kris said I should also yell for the ball, but I declined and said out loud that, essentially, I was a big boy.  Flores motioned to me and said, "to the girl behind you."  I caught the ball with one hand, spun around, and put it right into the hat of a freckle-faced girl.  She came back later and allowed me to take a picture of it.

The minor leagues really do such a wonderful job for the fans.  After the final out, two players (Evan DeLuca and an unnamed one - still have some work to do on that) were nice enough to sign a miniature bat that I bought for Sean.  Kris had the foresight to get a picture of DeLuca (from New Jersey) signing the bat.

Later in the day, we all gathered at the house (with the addition of Kristi's parents) for some wonderful grilled chicken and family pictures.  But before that, I had a chance to hit the pool!
It's probably becoming clear why I didn't totally want to come home!

Such good times.  Like I said, I'll be back.

Coming Home

I have a longer post recapping some of the final moments of my trip in Florida.  It's not done yet.  But I'm sitting in Orlando International Airport, working off of their free WiFi, hoping that the rain in White Plains doesn't cause us trouble.  I'd rather stay here at the airport than sit on a plane.

It's time to come home.  While I'd love to stay, there are people and things to get back to.  So here I come.

All elements permitting, I will be back on WGCH tonight, hosting "The Press Box" with Marty Appel as our guest.

A big thank you to everyone who made this trip possible.  I'll have more to say about the folks here in Florida later (Kris, Lori, Kristi, Brittany, Jen, etc).  But to Roe Lefflbine, who let me park my car at her house, and Ryan DeMaria, who is meeting me as I step off the plane in White Plains, I say thanks.  And to Lisa Slocum, for keeping me company on the phone, and staying patient, well, thanks for just being Lisa.

Thanks to all of you for reading.  As always.

I'm babbling.  Time to board.

Talk to you then.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Tip of the Cap to Bobby Ray

May 20th normally means three things to me:

1) My dear friends Jon from R-Va and his lovely wife Rebecca are marking another anniversary. it 12 years?  I wish them both so many years of happiness; so rare in this era, and I have both admiration and envy for them.

2) My great friend BL, the once-and-always "John Harrison" of Majic 105 - my very first friend/mentor in radio - is celebrating his birthday.  I've lost track of what number it is, but we must find a way to get together.  We live so near, and both have kids (his two children are my godchildren), so it is a crime.

3) Bobby Ray Murcer, the pride of Oklahoma City, was born on this day in 1946.  In terms of being a Yankee, few had more pride.  Few were also more beloved.  I emulated his swing.  I wore his number two (which he wore from 1979-1983) in little league whenever it was available.  When he became a broadcaster, it gave me more inspiration to do the same.

Each time I met him, he treated me with kindness.  That's all a fan could ask.

I'd like to believe that some of us Bombers fans still miss him.  I know I do.  I wish the Yankees as an organization would do a little more to honor him.  It's been far too long since Monument Park picked up a few more plaques.  Bobby Ray wasn't a Hall of Famer, but he was a legendary Yankee.

Anyway, happy anniversary and birthday to these people who have had an impact on my life.

Sad Realities

Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg, FL.  May 19, 2012
Vacations are generally a total departure from reality.  While I'm down here with family - extended and otherwise - there's still a touch of real life, but there hasn't been work to worry about (not totally true; I've done things for both of my jobs since I've been here).

Still, the day-to-day is different.  Just a fact.

So I begin to enjoy my last full day in the Tampa Bay area.  It has been a great thrill to be back here, and I only pray that it isn't my last visit.  I could happily return here - very often!

I saw so much of what I wanted to see.  Yet I can see lots more.  Beyond Tampa Bay, there is Sarasota and Bradenton, and on down to Naples (anyone remember 2007?  I do).  To the east is Orlando and out to the Kennedy Space Center (last visited in 1981).

Yes, much more to see.  More memories to relive.  More memories to make.

Yesterday was beach day, as indicated by the picture above.  It took a few hours to get it all straight, as we headed towards Clearwater Beach (BIG mistake!  One must not head there after, say, 10:00 AM).  So we regrouped and drove to Fort De Soto, which combines the beauty of the Bay with the history of the fort, and the views (at the right height) of the majestic Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Still, leave it to me to screw up.  I got to reading my Kindle (Marty Appel will be on "The Press Box" Monday night to talk about Pinstripe Empire.  If you love baseball, you will love this.).  Then I got sleepy.

Then I slept.  Then I took a walk back to see Fort De Soto.  I also used this as some time to call New York.  Then my phone buzzed with the news that we were packing up.  Had I missed something at the beach?  Yes...THE WATER!

So I ran back and stood in the Gulf of Mexico for all of about 20 seconds.  CHECK!

This trip is different for me.  I normally play a big hand in planning things.  I'm normally the driver.  I've done none of it!  I'm so happy to simply be along for the ride.

I'm suspecting today will be more low-key.  Some breakfast, some dinner at home, and maybe some recreational time (like jumping in the pool).  That's what I mean - one simply do everything.  Golf won't be possible on this visit, despite the course being literally in our back yard!  So come next Friday, when I play Chris Erway's bachelor party/golf tournament, I'll be sure to be positively terrible, and have fun doing it!

Oh, and a mighty solid effort by the Rangers yesterday.  New Jersey isn't winning this thing.  Just saying.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Living Every Boys' Dream

This was really supposed to be a post about Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.  I was going to talk about the experience.  Maybe a few thoughts about the game between the Rays and the Atlanta Braves (and, yes, I still loathe interleague play).

I could spend a paragraph or two about walking around Steinbrenner Field, spring home of the New York Yankees, and seeing Raymond James Stadium, where the Buccaneers play, and a team from Pittsburgh won a Super Bowl.

I was going to go into a rant about Bud Selig, the man who keeps tweaking with our beloved National Pastime (really?  Now the new playoff format?  Now pitchers can't do that fake to third, then first base thing?  Will the hidden ball trick be next to go?  Stupid.)


OK, first to The Trop.  Parking was fine, and if you drop the car a few blocks away, it is fairly affordable (we paid $15, and another block down it was $20).  Walking up and buying tickets was a snap - as we paid $26 for two ducats that put us in the second deck, down the third base line.  Also, tickets started at $22, and that's not too bad.

The concourse leaves one well away from the action, but there is a lot to do, from the customary team shop, to food (pulled pork nachos?  YES, PLEASE!?), to the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame.

There were carnival games for kids to play.  There was the touch tank to visit an actual ray (the line was too long for us and we almost inadvertently cut it).

Of course, there was baseball (a fairly sleepy 5-3 loss for the Rays, but always nice to see a future hall of famer, as Larry "Chipper" Jones went 1 for 3.  We also saw Jones get hit by a ball, off the bat of BJ Upton, in the third inning.  Jones is fairly certain he won't play again in the series, as he has a bruised calf.
Chipper Jones is tended to.

We didn't spend that much time in our seats.  We moved around and took in as much of The Trop as we could.  It was a fun place to be, despite a paid attendance of only 19,693.

It would have been easy to leave early, as plenty of people did, but Kris and I picked out a couple of seats in the right field stands in the bottom of the 8th.
The woman in front of me insisted of clapping with her hands in the air.  News flash: it ain't about you, sweetheart.
Quick aside: I know the whole "cowbell" thing is Tampa Bay's "schtick", and they can be fairly innoculous, but there's a guy in the right field seats that has one so loud that you can hear him in Sarasota when he hits the damn thing.  Ugh.  And there was a woman with him with a horn that was bigger than her.  Double ugh.

The game came to an end, and Kris and I took a few more pictures.  We were getting ready to leave when an announcement was made.  Something about "exiting the stands via the field."



Sure enough.  It's called the "Center Field Shuffle."  A DJ comes out, the lights go down, the beats start pumping, and the fans are allowed into the outfield.  Throw a beach ball around.  Dance.  Maybe lay on the turf.  Maybe take a pose as if creating a baseball card!
Pretend to be Derek Jeter, going back on a ball from shortstop into the outfield.  Pretend to make a diving catch.  Chat with the friendly guards.  It's all good!

Or pose with the mini baseball bat that you bought for your son!

Reality says, as usual, I get it.  The Rays have trouble drawing manatees (or flies).  Their average attendance is, well, not good.  It's shameful, considering they have one of the best teams (and organizations) in the game.  So they need to do as much as possible for their fans.

But, still.  It highlights to me that other teams could do so much more, but won't because, hey, they don't have to.  Think the Yankees would ever do this?  The Red Sox?  No...and no.  Now, I'm generalizing here.  I'm not saying that either organization doesn't have their fan friendly moments, but neither team bends over backwards either.  Simple supply and demand, of course.  The Yanks and Sox both have consistently full stadiums.  The Rays have the fans off at the beach, or the clubs, or somewhere else.

I think I'm still making my point clearly enough.

Let that stuff go for another time ("The Press Box", 7-9 Monday nights on WGCH!).  For on this Friday night, it was about two big kids living the dream.  Sure, I've stepped on the greatest of all sports turf (161st and River in The Bronx) but Kris had not, and had never been on a Major League Field.  So for him, and his not-jaded-second cousin, it was a moment not to be forgotten.

And it was next to impossible to wipe the smiles off of our faces.

The Diva Debate

My friend Mick the Great just sent me a short, simple email

Subject: Icon

Donna Summer vs. Whitney Houston - GO!

I have my answer.

As do I.  Look, Whitney Houston made a few nice songs, and was certainly a legend.  But I maintain that she became as legendary for being a train wreck.  Certainly not as deserving of the fuss that was received.

But Donna Summer was, simply, the bomb.  Donna Summer set the bar for disco and the mess that was the late-70's.  Her music was completely inescapable.  As a seven year-old, I can remember the Giorgio Moroder-infused sound of "Love to Love You Baby" coming out of the AM radio in our 1971 Chevy Impala.

I didn't know what that woman was moaning about, but I knew it was making my parents uncomfortable.  Giggity giggity goo!

The hits kept coming for Summer, and until 1980 (after "the death of disco") she was as ubiquitous on the radio as anyone. 

I simply don't have the time and/or energy for this debate otherwise.  Common sense may speak to the simple answer of "Whitney Houston" for this topic, but my money is on Summer, who helped spark a genre.

Then again, it's an opinion, so there really isn't a wrong answer.

So I have my answer.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Then...and Now


OK, so I'm standing on the wrong side of the statue, but here it is - me and my dad in February, 1980...and me today - May 18, 2012.  Special thanks to Kris, who had the made sure that this picture got taken.  I'm not the skinny kid I was back then, but whatever.

And while we're at it, see the hat that my dad is wearing?  Well...(again, thanks to Kris)...
We spent the day in Tarpon Springs, home of the famous Sponge Docks (in case you didn't know).  It's a greek fishing village, and my dad had one of these hats that he often wore.  So today, his spirit loomed large (as it often does, and is omnipresent down here).  Just a nice way to pay homage to him.

Oh, and though I didn't buy that hat from that store, I did buy a Tarpon Springs baseball hat.  Have to keep my head from getting sunburned!

OK, baseball tonight!

Sentimental Journey

(US 19, Tarpon Springs, FL, 1986)

(US 19, Tarpon Springs, FL, 2012)

Kris and I hit the road after some Waffle House today for our trip down memory lane  The two pictures above serve as just a small indication of how lie has changed.  In 1986 (top photo), the corner of Tarpon Ave (FL 582) and US 19 had a Bojangles and the Tarpon Mall.  Today, there are more plazas, but the Bojangles is gone.  Sadly, so are Florida's colored US road signs (damn federal mandates).

This was hardly the star of the show today.

(Holiday, FL, 2012)
That's my grandparents' former home.  They lived there beginning in the early 60's.  My grandfather died in 1989, and my grandmother stayed into the late 90's.  The best "old" picture I could come up with was this dandy family picture taken in 1971.  And no, that is NOT Sean Adams holding the guitar (as was suggested today).
(Holiday, FL, 1970)
It was an emotional roller coaster of sorts.  In some ways, our trip showed me an area that has completely changed.  In others, there were bits and pieces that looked entirely the same (one of the hotels we used to stay at is a time warp).  A text came from New York (Lisa) asking about my emotions.  There were an intense flood of memories.

Kris and I approached it from the east - and the minute I saw the Wendy's - the damn WENDY'S - I knew where I was.  That was the first time I ever had Wendy's; before they ever hit my home area.  We drove the main drag - US 19 (which stretches from just south of St. Pete to Erie, PA) and, sure, so much of it looked different (the famed Innisbrook resort entrance looks nothing like it did when I last saw it) but yet things looked similar as well.  I definitely knew where I was - I guarantee you that.

(Fred Howard Park, Tarpon Springs, FL)
Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs is as beautiful as ever; the Gulf looking so inviting.  But we simply didn't have enough time for everything on this day, and are supposed to return to Tarpon Springs' Sponge Docks before I go home.

So we drove.

We took very few breaks, getting out only to walk around Howard Park and grabbing gas and a couple of sweet teas near St. Petersburg (Rob...drinking sweet tea?  Well, go the "Arnold Palmer" route and I'll drink it).  And trust me we couldn't possibly hit every thing.  Memory Lane is pretty long around these parts, and I'm not even sure I could truly remember where to find everything.

We ended our ride at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  Love it.

Still more to do on this trip.  Beach.  Sponges.  Maybe the Rays/Braves game tonight.  Stop by Steinbrenner Field (I've already seen Steinbrenner HIGH SCHOOL!!).  Grab a look at Raymond James Stadium (where the Steelers won super XLIII...and some other team plays there).  Maybe some golf (please please please please).

Heck, I even went to a kickball game (good game, Brittany)...after awesome Japanese Hibachi.

Days are flying by.  I'm just trying to enjoy it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Settling In

Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  Nor sure I'll get there on this trip, but I hope so.  It's pretty much my favorite bridge ever...or one of them.
Day 1 of my Florida Adventure is over, and oh God, what a day!  First, thanks so much to the fine folks at Delta Airlines for making this day into a total cluster....

OK, things happen.  Flights get canceled.  Weather disrupts things.  Blah blah blah.  BUT.  Is it that freaking hard to contact passengers in this era?  Answer: NO!  I was advised last night that my original flight had been canceled, and even contacted regarding the re-booking of the flight.  I thought I was leaving an hour later.  I had everything ready.  But I checked in with Delta online a few hours later...only to discover...that they had canceled THAT flight and I was now on a plane leaving five hours later!

What if I had gone to the airport?  I would have sat there...for a long time.  Ever been to the waiting area at Westchester County Airport?  Kind of a like a large, overcrowded conference room!

But life, of course, goes on.

After thinking I would be in Florida around 10:30 this morning, I arrived at 5:40 this afternoon.  I must tell you, it is surreal.  Just crazy.  It really hasn't hit me yet that I am back in Tampa.  From what I understand, tomorrow may be a day of Waffle House (WAHOO!), Japanese hibachi (sounds good), and lots of memories - including visiting the area where my grandparents lived.  I expect my emotions to be all over the place.  It's just who I am.

PS...ever been to Steak and Shake?  Well I had not...until tonight.  Cross that off my checklist and add it to the coronary overload deliciousness of my diet!

Back home, I'd have to say I'm not missing much (in the Sports division).  Rangers?  Lose.  Yankees? Lose.

I have to love the fact that the super awesome Brittany (a mere two doors away from where I'm currently typing) just "liked" my previous post on Facebook.  She has Beatles stuff in her room.  Awesome.  Enough said.  Then again, I can't let her see "Jerk Face" being so...nice.  Can't be warm and fuzzy.

Kris and I considered going to the Rays/Red Sox game tonight, but my late arrival killed that.  We missed seeing this.  Apparently all is OK, thankfully.

OK, sleep awaits.  So do waffles.

Like Going Home

Me and my Dad - February, 1980, Tarpon Springs, FL.

I've never lived anywhere else but New York.  Heck, to be more specific, I've only known two zip codes in my life.  I didn't even go away to college.

And yet, there's something about Florida, specifically, the Gulf Coast, from Bayonet Point to St. Petersburg, that has always felt like home.

I should explain that I'm writing this a week before you'll actually get to read it.  This is the preamble to one of the most special trips I've ever taken.  I'll explain.

The Gulf Coast - Tampa Bay - was an area I visited 16 times between 1969 and 1995.  My grandparents (specifically, my fathers' father and his second wife) lived in Holiday, just to the north of Tarpon Springs, in Pasco County.  Every December from '69 to '75, my whole family filled up the car and drove to see them.  The family dynamic changed by 1980, when the trip moved to February.  It was just my parents and I in 1980 and 1981, while my sister joined us from 1982 to 1986.  My brother - now with a family of his own, passed.  Two more visits to area came - in '89 and '95.

So as you can see, Tampa Bay has a meaning to me.  It's the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks.  It's Fred Howard Park.  It's seeing my grandparent's house (apparently, without its pink roof).  It's the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  Clearwater Beach.  Innisbrook (which we won't be able to play golf at - this time).

It's driving US 19.

It's honestly hard to explain why this area has such a special place in my heart.  Many of the businesses and sites are gone now.  The restaurants have closed.  But there's a bond.  Many memories.  It's an emotional tie.

And finally, after 17 years, I'm going back.

The plan was hatched not too long ago.  My cousin Kris and his wife Lori are going to visit Lori's nieces, nephew, and former sister-in-law (that's the short version of the story).  I was introduced to them a few years ago when they came to New York, and they told me to come visit anytime.  The time never seemed right.  Money, of course, was tight.  But Lori's niece (and my pal) Brittany reminded me back in March on St. Patrick's Day that I needed to get my "Jerk Face" (my nickname) to Florida for a few days.

Kris and Lori asked if I wanted to join them.  They're driving (which I would love to do) but I can't stay as long as they're going.  So we came up with the best way to make it happen. I found two inexpensive flights, and they will pick me up at the airport (Orlando, to be exact).  The only thing is, Brittany doesn't know that "Jerk Face" is coming to visit.

There has been no mention of it on Facebook or Twitter.  This post - only to appear AFTER I've landed - is the first notice.

Oh, I can't wait.  Seventeen years is too long.  Kris and I have promised that we will take a ride around the old area (we will be based closer to Tampa).  He knows that I can probably serve as a decent tour guide, and I'm looking forward to seeing how everything has changed, and reliving everything.  No, you can't live in the past and you truly can't entirely go home again, but you can come close.  This will do.

At the same time, there are new things to visit.  New experiences.  Brittany will no doubt have some things to show me.  I'll want to see Steinbrenner Field.  Maybe glance across Dale Mabry at Raymond James Stadium (yeah, Paul Silverfarbs' Bucs play there, but the Steelers won a Super Bowl there).  Of course, there are plenty of Waffle Houses in the area to visit!  We might even go check out a Rays game.

Some golf?  The beach?  Who knows?

My hope is this will set things up for future visits - hopefully to bring Sean (at the very least).

It will be like a journey home.  It will be special.  By the time you read this, I'll be there.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How Did This Happen?

There's a point in the 1996 Tom Hanks' movie That Thing You Do when Steve Zahn's character (Lenny) looks at Guy (played by Tom Everett Scott) and says:
"Skitch, how did we get here?"
The question isn't asked in frustration.  It's asked in amazement, excitement and bewilderment.  It's asked with as if saying, "is this real?"

(For the record, the answer is: "I led you here, sir.  For I am Spartacus" but that really isn't necessary to this conversation.)

So how did this happen?  "This" is relevant, but not.  This, and its cousin "It" (Get it?  Cousin It!?) are part of a larger consortium.  All it does is make you look at, you know, the big picture.  The game of life.  You're sitting on the fastball - you expect it - and suddenly - BOOM!

A change up. A curveball.  You're swinging from your shoes, and you hope to make contact so that you don't corkscrew in the batters box.

Four years ago, even five, I wouldn't have seen any of this.  Who would?  You know, "Life moves pretty fast", said Mr. Bueller.  Opportunity showed, but didn't seem right.  Something was amiss.  So move on, away from it.  Yet keep tabs on it.  Don't burn bridges.  You never know.

A year passes.  Two, almost three.  You've tried other things, and it's always still there.  Nothing pursued.  Kick the tires occasionally.

Then?  Then.  Yep.  Then...

THWUMP!  That's the sound of a brushback pitch, slamming into you.  It doesn't matter where it hit.  In a perfect world, it hits you on the small of the back, and maybe it was thrown softly.  But more likely, it's Armando Benitez, throwing in the high 90's.  Or it's Pedro Martinez, hunting for your head.  Either way, you go down.  You're mad.  You want to charge the mound, and let loose in a torrent that leaves no rosin bag unturned.

But.  No.  You take a stern look, toss the bat aside, and trot to first.  Stay classy, San Diego.

The game is played, and it is done.  Even if you want to ask "why?"  You simply don't.

It returns.  The stars align.  Fate deals its hand.  This time, it's a flat fastball that you simply hope to put a good swing on.  Opportunity has knocked again!

And that's when it hits you.

Things happen for a reason.

Yet as I type these words today, pondering how this really did happen, I find myself not wanting to know that reason.  I just want to enjoy it.

And keep moving forward.

(PS, I love That Thing You Do.  Excellent time warp)

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


I was talking about this commercial tonight.  I think it's fairly ubiquitous, but maybe because it runs during sporting events.  To me, it's fairly amusing.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

"Best Day Ever"

The above quote (the title of this post) comes from the mouth of a ten-year-old.  Yes, it is hyperbole, but given the particulars, I'll take it.

I bought two adult passes to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY last May from a website that gives bargains on various special deals (like Groupon).  It was a bargain for two adults (not so much for an adult and child).  Then the passes sat and waited...and waited..and waited, until I realized that they were getting ready to expire.  I asked around - did anyone want to come along? - but alas, no takers.  All along, I had planned to take Sean.  But I knew that he would be slightly resistant.

Let's just put it out there: Sean is not a big baseball fan.  He doesn't watch games, doesn't play catch, doesn't concern himself with the standings.  He'll go with me to games and talk with me about it.  Still that's about it.  So, really, would he want to look at old tickets, bats, gloves, and laundry?  Would I bore him to death?  Would he whine about wanting to go home?

First and foremost, he dreaded the drive.  Hell - I dread that drive.  There's no good way, and I've tried them all.  Taconic to 84 to 87 to 28.  TSP to 90 to 5 to 80.  17 to 206 (via 30) to CR 21 to 357 to 88 to 28.  Ugh.  Those are just a couple.  I put my faith in - GASP - my GPS.  Under three hours, maybe.  Sean was armed with two DVD's (he's all about Ironman and The Avengers right now), his game system and his goofy stuffed cat Pillow Pets.

For the record, road enthusiasts, we took the Taconic to 82 to 23 to 145 to 88 to 7/10, used a cut through to go back on 10, to 165 to 166 to county road 52.  The drive took just about three hours, including time for breakfast, gas, and a quick restroom stop.

I was concerned, because I had read that the Hall was hosting "Fenway Day", honoring the great field of dreams in Boston.  I figured, given the proximity to Massachusetts, that plenty of Hub loyalists would be on hand to drool.  But, no.  While there were handfuls of Sawx fans (and a few obnoxious one at that), it was otherwise a shockingly quiet day in the peaceful village.  In fact, it felt almost like we had the place to ourselves!

Lou Gehrig statue, in the entrance atrium.
The Hall of Fame has changed quite a bit since my first visit as an over-excited kid in 1974.  More changes have occurred since my last visit, about eight years ago.  There is a more elegant entrance now than ever before, and upon being handed our tickets (in gleeful irony for some, our tickets featured Tom Seaver's jersey on it), we were whisked to the Grandstand Theater.  There, Sean was dazzled by the small model of the old Comiskey Park exploding scoreboard, and we began our scavenger hunt (a way to keep kids occupied).

I had to remind myself to watch the pace of the day.  I couldn't stop and look at everything.  I needed to hit the highlights and educate - but not overwhelm or bore - Sean.  If I can allow for such a statement, I'm kind of proud of myself.

We didn't short-change our trip - oh, hardly.  We saw it all: lockers belonging to Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, and Joe DiMaggio.  The tribute to the 27-time World Champions.  A few trinkets from Alex Rodriguez* and Derek Jeter.  Yes, we saw items from other teams, but highlighting the Yankees stuff was the best way to keep Sean into it.

*Let me deal with A-Rod for a moment.  Sean has liked A-Rod since he was two.  Yes, seriously.  He knows the bad things Alex has done.  We just talked about it the other night, and he reminded me that he would remain loyal.  A-Rod is his guy.  He even wore an A-Rod T-shirt for our trip.  We adults can debate the things that Rodriguez has done, but I have a soft spot for him, due to Sean.

In all, we spent almost three hours in the Hall of Fame, which is a very good amount of time to be there.  I could tell, by the time we hit the church-like atmosphere of the Hall of Fame Gallery, that we needed to take a break.  We needed lunch.

A few quick Hall of Fame things - for one, it is easy to be a snob about the Hall, given their attitude towards both Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.  It is undeniable that both of these men deserve enshrinement, but are denied due to their ties to gambling on the sport.  I'm pro-Jackson (third highest batting average ever, etc) and feel that Rose should be in, but with no honor of delivering a speech.  Put a plaque up and state that he was banned for betting.  There.  Done.

The Hall is magnificent but has areas that are long in the tooth.  The Grandstand Theater show is the same one (with pictures of more modern players) that I've seen about seven times since 1990 or so.  The Scribes and Mikemen area  - very near and dear to my heart - also needs a touch-up.  But I'm also of the belief that certain broadcasters and writers deserve a plaque in the Gallery.  I mean, who is more important to the history of Los Angeles baseball than Vin Scully?

After strolling the gift shop, we hit Main Street to see the shops and grab a few slices of pizza (very tolerable by Cooperstown standards).  We walked over to the batting cage for the ritual known as Daddy Tries to Hit and Not Embarrass or Hurt Himself.  We picked the 55 MPH knuckleball machine as my opponent (55?  Get it?).  After a 43 year-old veteran found his swings, finishing the hitting round hitting a rope to right.  Truth by told, I was late on the first few pitches and way early later on.

At one point, I saw the Hall tweet that "Barry" was enjoying his first trip to Hall.  Barry?  Barry who?  Bonds?  No...way.  Then I saw a picture - one of the newest Hall of Famer (after his induction this July) - Barry Larkin.  I didn't think too much of it, other than to say "oh well" and assume it was a missed opportunity.

Amazing, in fact.  I had my head down writing down Sean's scavenger hunt answers when a group with microphones and cameras went by.  Yep.  That was Larkin and I didn't see him.

We had unfinished business as the late afternoon shadows descended on Cooperstown.  Sean wanted a souvenir, and I was willing to comply.  The Main Street shops came up empty, so we opted to return to the Hall, where Sean chose to add to his collection of miniature baseball bats (a Yankees one, at that).  Indeed, my first souvenir in '74 was a mini Hall of Fame bat.  Love the symmetry there.

We began to make our way out when I glanced back into the Hall of Fame Gallery, and what did my wandering eye spy?  A small group...a camera...a microphone...and Barry Larkin.  Sean's jaw dropped.  We went back in.
Larkin concluded his Q&A and stepped up to shake hands with each person there (as the museum was getting ready to close, the crowd was barely 20 people).  I called Sean over, and Larkin greeted him with a boisterous "Hi buddy!" and a handshake.  Then Larkin - Hall of Famer, former Cincinnati Red - glanced down at Seans' hoodie, adorned with the interlocking NY and said, "What is that?"  Laughter broke out everywhere.  Larkin and I exchanged a hello before he moved to talk with a Reds fan standing next to us.

A short exchange, but Larkin made two fans for life.  Even if Sean can't remember his name.  I did go get him a Larkin baseball card that he is preparing to show off to his classmates.

This is the - CLICHE ALERT - stuff you can't put a price on.  The pride and surge of emotion I felt all day was tangible.  The bond of father and son was proven to be so strong.  By striking the right balance of fun and facts, we made Sean's first visit to the Hall of Fame one that he will remember.

One that he wants to do again.

One that, of course, I want to do again.

Maybe, in the end, it was meant to be that we should go alone (two adult tickets be damned).  It won't always be that way but for our first trip, it all worked out just fine.

He said it was his best day ever.  I think - and I'm fairly sure - that it was my best trip to one of my favorite places in the world.  I went twice with my dad.  Now, finally, I've been with my son.

In a month that will have me traveling every weekend (up next?  Philadelphia), we are off to one great start.

Friday, May 04, 2012

A Nod to MCA

Nineteen hundred eighty-six was the first time many of the kids my age became aware of the Beastie Boys.  Their anthem "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)" was an MTV and radio staple.  Of course, it was only a slight vision into what the Boys were capable of and, in reality, a first glance at rap for many white kids of that era (along, of course with Run-DMC).

But the Beastie's could never be defined.  And so it was that I chuckled when the obituaries began to run today for Adam Yauch, forever known by his moniker "MCA."  Some referred to Yauch, who died of cancer, only as a rapper.  Oh he was more.  The Beastie Boys were more.  Sure, they rapped.  But they also dabbled in elements of punk, ska, R&B, and rock and made brilliant videos to go with them.

The Beastie Boys website has a tribute posted to Yauch.  For me, we will go with a video - a legendary one at that - for "Sabotage."  It serves as the opening theme to "The Press Box."

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Best Solo Musical Artist After Leaving a Band (And a Quick Personal Note)

Rolling Stone asked readers to pick the 10 best post-band solo careers.   Some choices were solid (Ozzy), some (Morrissey), and some were hardly surprising (Sting).  But I'd have to say, overall, they got this one right.

Number one should be, and is, obvious.

Sir Paul.

Let's return to 2009 at Citi Field.  I'm not into effects at concerts (just play the freaking music), but this was cool.

Friends, let this also be a simple way to say that, after four long years, all is said and done from another part of my life.  The process that began with being served papers in my driveway has come to a close.  Finally.  Hopefully you know what I'm talking about, and I'm not writing this to celebrate, gloat, or anything else.  There's also no mourning here.  In fact, I felt nothing when I found out.  I thank each of you that was there for me (and Sean) from the bottom of my heart.  I thank all of you that have stayed loyal and are still here as well.

As one person said to me, "Onto new horizons."  And so, indeed, I say "To new horizons."

And we keep moving forward.  Brighter days are ahead.