Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ode to a Moustache

You keep my lip cozy and warm,
And never let my nose get harmed.
A manly man cannot go far,
Without his trusty handlebar.

November is male-related cancer awareness month. To show my solidarity with men across the globe who are currently fighting the good fight against prostate and testicular cancers, I will do my best Rollie Fingers impersonation and grow upon my upper lip the greasiest, most finely-twisted example of moustachey goodness this country has ever seen. I plan to provide you, my faithful readership, with a pictorial journey from clean-shaven to fully clad. If you'd like to join the fight by raising your own awareness on male-related cancers, or if you simply want to provide me with a small sponsorship, please visit


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Super Bowl Monday: Post Game Work Excuses

Super Bowl Sunday is a glorious day. It’s filled with parties and people, keg stands and corn chips. It’s a celebration of 20 weekends spent huddled in front of our sets waiting for the teams to be whittled down to two. And when it finally happens, there are at least four perfect hours of pure football freedom.

But then the game ends, and with it the weekend. The last thing you want to do is toss back a few Alka-Seltzers and prepare yourself for another grueling work week. Can’t you have just one more day?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.  I’m here to guide you through some of the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly ways to make that inevitable Monday morning call out.


Stall-ing Out
When it comes to guaranteed success, no other excuse in the book is more reliable than the old stomach bug routine. Think about it. There’s not a boss in the business that doesn’t have sympathy for an employee who ate a bad batch of hot wings during the Super Bowl and spent the rest of the night dropping shots of Kaopectate on the throne.

Plus, there’s no chance even the stingiest of managers would have use for someone whose main contribution to the work day will be peppering the toilets in the employee john. It’s a can’t miss.

Some Say a Good Phony Fever…
When it comes to the working world, Ferris Bueller’s sage advice that a phony fever will get you nabbed is pure hogwash. Sure, a very small percentage of offices ask for a doctor’s note. But chances are yours is not one of them, and that leaves you with a great excuse. The beauty of the Super Bowl is that it’s played in the dead of winter; also the height of flu season. Coincidence? I think not.

The chances of catching the flu at a crowded Super Bowl party are actually pretty darn good, so your boss will have trouble questioning the absence. A bonus is you can probably stretch this one out for a few days as the “flu” works its way out of your system. Go for some sympathy points by telling the folks at your office you got sick before the Bowl and had to miss the game. Then spend your Monday finishing off the left over pizza crusts and hanging around in your boxers until dinner.

An Offer They Can’t Refuse
You don’t have to be a stand-up comic to impersonate the voice of some idiot with laryngitis. You probably have the idiot part down already. Now, call your boss at the crack of dawn, do your best impression of Marlon Brando in The Godfather as you tell him you screamed yourself hoarse during the game, and proceed to enjoy your day off. It’s time to pull the covers back over your head for a few more hours of quality snooze time.

This excuse works really well for people who need to predominantly use their voices during the course of a work day. You know, teachers, receptionists, telephone operators, politicians (that’s right Barack, I know you’re thinking about logging in that sick day), and the like.


To the Funny Farm…
Nothing screams, “I’m a psychotic nutcase!” more than a bad excuse that conjures up an image of you as a lunatic super fan. So, before you call your boss in the morning and tell him you’re covered from head to toe in red face paint and that your now-hairless chest bears the logo of the New England Patriots, please think again.

A tactic like this may get you the day off, but don’t be surprised if a bunch of guys in white suits are sent to your home with a tailor-made straight jacket, compliments of the company. Trust me, not only is this a poor excuse, it’s altogether a very poor idea.

Care to Place a Little Wager?
I once knew a guy who tried to tell the boss he lost a bet which prevented him from coming to work. Being that he was such an “honest” gentleman and, therefore, bound to his debt, he couldn’t possibly break the deal. He had this elaborate story all boiled up and everything.

The boss actually stood there and listened to that crap for a full 15 minutes. You know where that guy is today? Neither do I. He got canned about five minutes later. The fact is, not many employers appreciate the Pete Rose type. Go figure.

Sossifer, I’m Ober
If you take nothing at all from this article, remember one thing: DO NOT USE BEER AS AN EXCUSE! Regardless of the fact that the Super Bowl is one of the biggest days of the year for alcohol sales, we are all supposed to suddenly turn back into sweet, innocent, little pixies once the clock strikes midnight.

Bottom line, unless you’re a member of the Kennedy family, do not under any circumstance call your boss and slur something to him about not being able to legally drive this early in the morning.


Boss a Pats Fan?
If you just want to be brutally truthful and you happen to be a Giants fan, give the old boss an excuse that’s both believable and amusing. Tell him a large gentleman dressed in big blue smacked you in the chops, heisted your pair of Brady-inspired Uggs. I mean, the guy's not gonna make you walk to work he?

Brighten his morning with this little nugget of information and you might be finishing off stale pork rinds and watching re-runs of Good Times all week.

Enjoy your Superbowl Monday, folks. You’ve earned it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Top 5 REALLY Old School Sports Games

It may be hard to remember a world without video games, the internet, or satellite TV.  But, like disco, we can’t go around trying to forget what was once reality. Even then, us sports geeks found ways to get our fix on rainy days, during math class, and even in our cubicles.

These were the top five sports games of a bygone era. If you’re busy filling out some mundane office form at this very moment, it may be the perfect time to bring one of these classic, sports-minded time-passers back to life. Anyone got a quarter?

1. Supa-Fly Flicka Football
Sweep the halls of any high school and you’re bound to find a piece of white-lined paper that’s been meticulously folded into a sharp triangle. But that’s no mere piece of paper, my friend; it’s a make-shift pigskin. Now, just bring it to the cafeteria, force some pimple-faced freshman to act as your human field goal posts, and you’re ready to play a little Supa-Fly Flicka. Simply spot the paper football at various distances and become a one-man place-kicking combo. Drill a few from 50 yards out and celebrate like a Grammatica brother. Give yourself some quality points if you can send the freshman home wearing an eye patch.

2. Suction Cup (aka Landfill) Basketball
Here’s a dorm-room classic for you. Spending half the night spreading saliva on a pair of oversized suction cups is well worth it once you have the cheesy, plastic hoop installed above your doorway. Now it’s time for a mini jam session, or if you want a real challenge, spot up from the land of three and make it rain foam rubber. If you don’t have a fancy, plastic mini-hoop, or if you’re trapped in an office right now, don’t despair. All you need is a trash can and a few balled-up pieces of paper and you’re ready for a quick game of Horse.  If your boss gets nosy and asks what you’re doing, just tell him you’re really into recycling.

3. Pencil Case Hockey
Can’t skate?  Don’t worry, you can still make your mark as an ice rink warrior—just as long as that ice rink is the surface of a desk or table and your skates are the four legs of a chair planted firmly on the ground.  Bust out a #2 pencil (your trusty stick) and one of those replacement erasers that fit on the end (the puck) and you’re ready to challenge that office geek whose wax lips seem stuck to the boss’s rear, or that annoying kid in class whose hand is permanently stuck in the raised position.  Rip a few wrist shots past either one of these clowns, make a few dazzling saves with your custom-made Meade, and you’ll be more than vindicated.  Don’t forget to drill your opponent with a devastating hip check as you make your way to the door.  True, it might not be part of this mini-game, but it sure would feel good.

4. Desktop Football
The beauty of this game is you only need a shiny quarter and a desk or table, so it’s perfect for study hall or the break room at work. Get ready for kickoff as you spin the coin down the Formica turf in search of supreme field position. Then use your four downs flicking the coin wildly across the gridiron until you reach the end zone, the edge of the table.  Get the coin to break the plane and it’s touchdown city. Shoot the coin over the edge and you lose the ball, even if you do gain the indispensable experience of how it feels to play for the Dolphins.  Once you’ve exerted your mini-game dominance, feel free to spike the coinage in your opponent’s eye and do an oddly choreographed dance.  There’s no need to worry about getting flagged for excessive celebration in this game. 

5. Honest Abe’s Soccer
Yet another mini-game that only calls for the use of coins and a table, Honest Abe’s Soccer is pretty easy on the pocket.  Just toss three pennies on the playing field and its World Cup time.  Flick the penny at the rear through the gap between the other two pennies to dribble your way down the field.  Once you get inside the 18, bicycle one Pele style into the goal, actually your opponent’s thumb and forefinger held at the edge of the table.  There’s no better way to play soccer than without all that mindless running.  Now, all you need are a few pints of brew and a couple hooligans and you can bring the post-game riot into the comfort of your very own living room.  I assure you, Honest Abe would be prou

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bud Bowl III: Great Taste or Less Filling?

Seems I can think back to a simpler time; a time when Super Bowl Sunday wasn’t the selfish, end of season hype generator it is today; a time when our nation’s most widely televised game could share the spotlight with another omnipotent, if ever-juvenile, contest; a time when the stop-break mayhem of a beer bottle football game played ring master to America’s most coveted day of commercial programming.

Of course, I can only be talking about Bud Bowl, the Anheuser-Busch company’s slick marketing ploy which began in 1989 and featured what was billed to be an annual gridiron slugfest between animated teams of Bud and Bud Light bottles.

But I’m not just speaking in general terms here, people. I’m dedicating this article to the genuine article: The greatest Bud Bowl of them all, Bud Bowl III.

To me, this piece of stop-break goodness outshined all other beer-related sporting contests before and after its time. Part of the charm of Bud Bowl III was dependent on the fact that it consisted of a whopping seven ads placed strategically throughout the course of the actual Super Bowl game. That meant you were bound to be treated to an all-important Bud Bowl update nearly twice a quarter on average, instead of the pitiful two or three ad performances of more recent contests.

Also, it was a matchup that set the stage for a possible King of Beers three-peat. A win by Bud would have given them an unprecedented third Bud Bowl championship and an automatic seat in history next to the other dynastic legends of the adult-beverage sporting contest world. Ok, maybe there’s not much competition in this arena. So what?

At any rate, Bud Light wasn’t about to simply crack under the pressure. They had themselves a scrappy team, and past defeats had helped them develop quite a sizable chip on their, eh, shoulders. The addition of top draft pick and star quarterback, “Bud Dry,” also didn’t hurt in the way of boosting Light’s often watered-down confidence.

Aside from all the background hoopla that built Bud Bowl III up in terms of fan excitement, the game itself did not disappoint.

From the opening kickoff, which actually tallied at least 20 seconds on the hang-time meter before ascending out of the stadium, to a big opening drive that featured Bud Light linemen busting open a huge running lane with the aid of a giant-sized can opener, to the introduction of “helmet cam” strapped to the caps of Billy and Bobby Bud (the brothers from Cerveza, TX of course) on a nifty play-action catch and run to open up the King of Beer’s scoring, to the intoxicating play-by-play of ESPN legend Chris Berman, this installment of Bud Bowl had it all.

There was even an encore touchdown plunge by larger-than-life Bud bottle “The Freezer” and a sweet Hail Mary pass to a certain “long necked” Bud receiver to give the defending champs a 21-17 lead with just seconds to go.

But the final play of Bud Bowl III is what cemented it as a commercial masterpiece.

In a play eerily reminiscent of Tennessee’s homerun throwback play (which didn’t happen for another eight years. I think Jeff Fisher may have done a little advance scouting at the Anheuser-Busch facility), surprise kick returner, Bud Dry, collected the kickoff, made a nifty move, and pitched the ball across the field to one of his teammates.

This unidentified Bud Light bottle rumbled down the sidelines, dotted with gasping Budweiser players and coaches, and directly through an over zealous Budweiser team band prepared to celebrate what seemed like a sure Budweiser victory. Then he plowed into the end zone, even with a Tuba uncomfortably clinging to his thermos-chilled body, and gave Bud Light its first ever Bud Bowl championship by a score of 23-21.

By setting up a key TD play earlier in the contest, and through his heroics on the game winning kickoff return, Bud Dry was the clear MVP. True, he may have deserved it. But tell me, folks: Where is Mr. Fancy Pants Bud Dry today?

Discontinued, that’s where.

Regardless, we still have to give Bud Bowl III some today for being the greatest string of stop-break folly to ever grace all those wasted minutes between Super Bowl drives. Have a look for yourself:

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Sporting Scribe's Super Bowl Spread: Chicago Style Dogs

If the Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe I gave you earlier wasn’t enough, don’t worry. I’m on your side. All week, while you’re busy surfing the internet behind your supervisor’s back and pretending to look busy whenever he walks by your cube, I’m dreaming up a deliciously artery-shattering meal for the big game.

Nothing is easier, more delicious, and less healthy than the classic Chicago-style hot dog. Just ask Jay Cutler. Dude probably eats scores of these things on his romantic strolls through the Windy City. In fact, now that I think about it, that mysterious leg injury shouldn’t be much of a mystery at all. Can you say, “I got gout?” At any rate, enjoy.

Chicago’s Hottest Dogs

1 tbs. grainy mustard
2 tsp. white-wine vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper to taste
½ of a Vidalia onion, thinly sliced into spears
½ of a hot house cucumber
1 large tomato, sliced
1/2 cup celery leaves
2 tablespoons hot banana peppers, chopped
4 hot dogs (I’ve used all-beef and turkey dogs; both have been delicious)
4 hot dog buns, grilled or toasted
1-2 pickle spears
Dill relish to taste

1. Combine the mustard and white-wine vinegar in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.

2. Add salt and pepper to the mixture, to your taste.

3. Add the Vidalia onion, cucumber, tomato, celery leaves, and hot peppers to the mixture. Toss.

4. Throw the dogs on the grill over medium-high heat until browned and heated through, about six minutes.

5. Serve your Chicago-style dogs on grilled buns. Top each with a sliced pickle spear and some dill relish.

The Sporting Scribe's Super Bowl Spread: Jamaican Jerk Chicken

It’s that time of year again, folks. Time to throw caution to the wind. Time to stuff ourselves full of preservatives, processed meats, cholesterols, and fats. Time to drink beer after glorious beer until our livers scream out for mercy.

 It’s time to watch some football, people.

And while our favorite athletes are out on the field of battle abusing their bodies in the name of the game, shouldn’t we also put ourselves through an equal amount of abuse? I think so. That’s why I put a lot of thought into my Super Bowl spread this year. Who cares if I’ll be the only one around to eat it? I didn’t want to share anyway.

Today, I give you the main course…Jamaican Jerk Chicken. If you don’t mind putting in a little work ahead of the big game, you’ll be picking the bones on this spicy, sweet treat come half time. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Jamaica’s Best Jerk Chicken

1 tbs. ground allspice
1 tbs. dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. ground sage
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbs. salt
2 tbs. garlic powder
1 tbs. sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup orange juice
Juice of 1 lime
2 Habanero peppers, finely chopped
1 cup chopped white onion
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 whole chicken cut in pieces trimmed of fat

  1. Combine the allspice, thyme, cayenne pepper, black pepper, sage, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, garlic powder and sugar in a large bowl.

  1. Slowly add the olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, orange juice, and lime juice. Stir it together with a wire whisk.

  1. Add the Habanero peppers, onion, green onions, and mix well.

  1. Put the chicken pieces in the mixture, cover with plastic wrap, and marinate for six to 24 hours (the longer the better).

  1. Preheat an outdoor grill to medium high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and grill for 8 minutes on each side, or until fully cooked. Baste the chicken with the marinade every two or three minutes to keep it moist. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

RE: The fate of your worthless trading cards

Dear Readers,

I’d like to speak to all of you about a very pressing issue that affects many of us on a daily basis. That’s right, folks. I’m talking about the boxes full of worthless trading cards that forced your bowling ball bag and ironing board out of the closet and into your bathtub.

Now, I’ve faced this problem on more than one occasion. There was that grab bag of batboys-through-the-ages cards I picked up for a bargain price at the card show. I’m sure you’re surprised to hear that little experiment didn’t pan out.

Then there was the time I thought I’d struck it rich when I strung together a dozen full sets of ’87 Topps cards. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that Topps produced enough packs of cards in 1987 to give a stale piece of tooth-shattering, flavorless bubblegum to every man, woman, and child south of the moon.  

But still, no choice was worse than allowing a pallet-full of Rick Schu rookie cards to “just happen” to fall off the truck and “roll voluntary” into my garage. And out went the riding mower, my tool set, and the car…not to mention my last shred of dignity.

But I’ve had enough, people. I’m taking my garage back, and I’m doing so at the expense and reputation of those bargain basement baseball cards. And I’m not just talking about the average Joes, neither. I’m going for the throat. I’m heading straight for the scrubs, the most worthless cards I can find. Oh yes, my friends, they’ll be facing my wrath first.

Here are just a few of the ideas I’ve come up with in trying to free myself of these worthless cards.

The School of Hard Looks
In the fine tradition of all past and present ball players who have mimicked the pained expression of a hardened criminal in their trading card photos, I give you the game of Hard Look War. That’s right. It’s just like the ordinary playing card version of War that you’re used to, except the winning card is always that of the player with the hardest, most intimidating expression on their face. So basically, you want to stay away from any card with David Eckstein on the front. But definitely drop a Pete Incaviglia card on the table and watch your opponent’s ’95 Kevin Stocker Donruss shrivel up in fear. 

I guess you’re wondering what happens when the inevitable dispute arises from a difference in judgment between you and your opponent. I gotta to be honest with you, I don’t see this one ending pretty. Just make sure you pick a playing partner that is small, fragile, and slow of foot. Isn’t that why younger siblings were invented, after all?

Drink The Blues Away
Ok, so you’re looking for any excuse to knock a few back on your day off. Isn’t that the perfect reason for a new drinking game? I think it is.

But then you hear it: “Honey, you said you’d move your baseball card collection out of the closet. It’s been sitting on top of my wedding dress for three years!”

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Go in there and grab that dusty box of baseball cards. Hell, while you’re at it, you might as well throw that dress on a hanger for her. Good, you’re golden. Now grab yourself a six pack and get to work.

The game is simple. Grab a handful of cards, toss them in the air and let them fall where they may. Then, pick up the card that landed closest to you, and then next closest, and so on. Every time you pick up a card with a player whose career average is under .250 you chug a beer.

There, that should keep you busy for at least ten minutes. When you’re finished, toss the cards in the trash and repeat with another handful.

Melt Them Down For Energy
Hey, all I’m saying is I’m tired of signing over half my pay check to the pimply geek behind the counter at Sunoco. I’m also tired of a frigate’s-worth of crappy trading cards hogging my whole garage. Are you starting to connect the dots? I mean, can you imagine a world where the Bud Smiths and Rick Reuschles of the world contributed to the conservation of world energy? It sounds like Utopia to me, folks.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more convinced I become about the inevitable conversion to crappy trading card energy. Then again, it just may be because I’m pretty sure Al Gore is probably sitting on an unopened case of ’87 Topps. The dude needs some space for his solar panels in that garage of his.

Make Them History
You’ve heard of Casey At Bat, but why not Momar or Churchill At Bat. All you really need is a few crappy trading cards, a black marker, and a hazy understanding of world history and you’re ready to morph your least favorite baseball players into your favorite historical figures…at bat.

The best thing about it is you don’t even need art skills to turn Von Hayes ’85 Fleer into Von Kaiser Hayes ’85 Fleer. The possibilities are endless and, I assure you, the revenge is sweet.

Some of my personal favorites include Brian “Davy Crockett” DuBois ’90 Upper Deck, Lloyd “Rick James” Moseby ’88 Donruss, Jeff “Honest Abe” Innis ’90 Upper Deck, and Jeff “Ponce De Leon” Granger ’94 Upper Deck. (pictured here)

Make Them the “Butt” of All Jokes
This one basically speaks for itself, and I’m not talking about actually bad mouthing your baseball cards to your friends. What I am referring to is probably one of the most childish and immature things you could possibly do to your worthless trading cards. That’s also why it’s my personal favorite.

A friend of mine back in middle school once astutely likened the small crevice which forms on the side of your index finger when you bend it down towards your palm to yet another crevice which undoubtedly makes more sense with the subtitle I’ve so subtly placed above. Of course, I did what any sports-minded person would do after hearing something so nonsensical. I took the ball and ran with it.

Therefore, for ultimate comic relief, I suggest you get yourself a pair a scissors and a few worthless trading cards and follow my directions.

First, you need to find a card with a good pose on it. In this case we’re looking for anything that gives new meaning to the line from Rookie of the Year, “Pitcher’s got a big butt.”

Then you need to go to cuttin’on it. Basically, you cut the player’s mid section out of the card. Stay with me here, the results are worth it.

Finally, you need to bend the tip of your index finger down to your palm. Look for the crease on the side of your finger…it’s hard to miss. Now, simply place your bent index finger behind the little window you created with the scissors. Take a look.

Woops, looks like somebody took part in a little too much sliding practice! Is there any wonder why there’s such a pained expression on Glenallen Hill’s face as he slides into home?

Please Help!  
So there you have it. In this writer’s opinion I’ve provided you with a fairly comprehensive list of possibilities when confronted with the troubling problem of what to do with your useless trading cards. I just wish there were more options out there because that pallet-full of Rich Schu rookie cards in my garage isn’t getting any smaller. That’s why I’m open to any ideas you all may have out there to alleviate my problem. Please keep them coming.

Thank you so much for your time and understanding in seeing me through what is obviously one of the more pressing issues of our times.

C.G. Morelli
The Sporting Scribe 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Heart of the City: The Northeast Taproom

  Aaah. Reading, Pennsylvania. Once nicknamed the Compton of the East, some would say a bullet proof vest is perfect attire for a day of outlet shopping in the city’s downtown district. But don’t despair if you happen to find yourself passing through the area this summer. If you’re brave enough to venture into town and you can tolerate the pungent odor of mushrooms multiplying on the surrounding farmland against 90 degree heat, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised…especially if you find yourself on a pilgrimage to a little beer drinker’s Mecca called The Northeast Taproom on N. 12th street.

From the moment you lay eyes on the dingy, broken-shingled exterior of The Northeast Taproom as it sits on the corner of street lined with similarly tattered residences in a run-down and inconspicuous section of the city, you know you’re not dealing with the ordinary. Even so, if not for a small sign and a set of steep, stone steps built into the corner of the block, you could easily mistake the place as a part of the neighborhood itself. And once you step inside, you quickly find that statement isn’t too far from the truth.

You’re greeted at the door by the owner’s golden retriever as your brain struggles to process the endless stream of off-beat art, Elvis memorabilia, strange mosaic tiles, and other assorted oddities that hang from the walls. Shells crunch beneath your feet, a product of the endless cracking and tossing of complimentary peanuts by the thirsty patrons. You notice the men’s bathroom is actually built into the crawl space beneath an apparently unusable staircase, and that the sink to said bathroom is actually hanging on the wall on the outskirts of the barroom with a sign that reads, “Please wash your goddamn hands, we’ll know if you didn’t.”

A group of locals, who presumably know each other on a first name basis, huddle around a hand-pump loaded with a variety of craft beers such as Rogue Schwarzbier and Anchor Old Foghorn. There’s also a refrigerator stocked with an assortment of bottles ranging from the ordinary (Sierra Nevada) to the bizarre (DogFishHead). With so much variety on tap and in the cooler it’s hard to decide on a winner. But don’t worry. The bartender at the Taproom is quick to let you sample the goods. If that fails simply order the house specialty, appropriately termed a “classic.” It’s a goblet full of Guinness and a bottle of Lord Chesterfield Ale. That’s right, you’re going two-for-one, folks. Drink from the goblet, refill with the Chesterfield and repeat.

Now all you need is something to keep you busy (as if double-fisting brews and downing free peanuts doesn’t eat up your time). A lounge area inside the bar houses a vintage “Dr. Dude” pinball machine and an arcade Pac-man game, not to mention dart boards, puzzles, trivia games, beer placards, a few random trophies, a leather couch, and a ping pong table. There’s weird crap to hold your interest all over this place. And let’s be honest, people, what goes better with beer than weird crap to help you idle away the time?

The Northeast Taproom is gritty. It’s the kind of place that stays with you even after you trudge back down the heavy corner steps at the end of the night. If you like good beer and a great environment to enjoy it in, it’s a place you really can’t miss. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Most Important Innovations in Sports Equipment History

 I’m sure I can only speak for myself when I say that studying sports equipment is really interesting. See, I know most sports fans out there aren’t thinking about what kind of resin Roy Halladay powders on his hands before hurling a 90 mph heater. And there aren’t many fans, like me, who see a boxer laid out on the canvas and wonder what kind of mouthpiece it is laying beside him in a puddle of his own drool.

It’s this hazy attention to details that causes many of us to take these seemingly innocent innovations for granted. We fail to see the important roles they play in the lives of our athletes and rarely think about how things would be different without them

Therefore, I feel it is my duty to present to you the most important innovations in sports equipment history.

Honorable Mention – Nerf Footballs
Ok, so these flashy globes of foam rubber aren’t really pieces of equipment used by the professionals, but they sure make your Uncle Harry look like Johnny Unitas.  Maybe he was telling the truth when he told you he would have went pro if not for that damn alien abduction. Either that Nerf ball is scientifically designed to soar 90 yards with a flick of the wrist, or your Uncle Harry’s stashed some performance enhancers in that six pack of brew he’s got dangling from his belt loop.

5. Football Helmets with Facemasks
Just think, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that the modern football helmet and face mask were mandated in the pros. Before that, guys pretended to be tough while wearing the same leather helmet worn by Snoopy in his exploits as the Red Baron. Could you imagine how many teeth must have littered the turf by game’s end? It must have looked like closing time at the Chic-let factory. I guess on the bright side, however, not having facemasks would have eliminated pretty-boy smile guys like Tony Romo and Tom Brady from the game. Of course, I’m sure it also eliminated any chance of having the ability to produce rational thought after an average playing career.

4. Batting Helmets
The original batting helmet, used from the mid 1800’s all the way up into the 1950’s, was portable, fit like a glove, and was incredibly inexpensive. That’s because it was the human skull. Apparently no one thought it was a priority to protect the most vital organ in the body from whizzing, rock-hard projectiles. That is until the Major League death toll from wild pitches tallied six players by 1951. Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates took notice of this scary statistic and began wearing protective helmets. Of course, the rest of the league immediately branded them as pansies… until 1954, when Joe Adcock was knocked unconscious by a wild pitch for a full 15 minutes. After that, the league decided to mandate the helmet rule for all players. Now you couldn’t catch a ballplayer standing in the on-deck circle without a helmet.

3. Hockey Goaltender Masks
You have to be either extremely brave or extremely stupid to stand in front of a blazing slap shot and stop a puck with your face. Until Jaques Plante of the 1960 Canadiens finally donned a protective mask, hockey goalies were a little bit of both. Since then, the goalie mask has progressed from the full plastic variety, made famous by Jason Voorhees in the slasher flicks Friday the 13th, to the modern version of a helmet and a protective metal cage that we commonly see today. Both varieties have allowed goaltenders to escape their playing days without losing an entire row of teeth or winding up with a face only a mother could love. 

2. Protective Cups
There’s really not much to say here. To even provide a reminder of sports without the trusty walnut shell would be an exercise in barbarity to anyone who’s ever taken a knee to the groin during a game of rough-touch football. But, yes, the forefathers of sports didn’t think twice about leaving the little guy open to injury. Makes you wonder how we all came to be, doesn’t it? The first cup was actually just a rolled-up piece of leather. Yeah, that gives you peace of mind. Thankfully, a wide variety of lightweight and sturdy materials now exist to protect you from the ultimate manly mishap.

1. Baseball Caps
There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t sing the praises of the baseball cap. I mean, I where a cap so often it’s become my hairstyle, and that’s the way it is for millions of hat-dependent Americans each day. Don’t feel like combing your hair? Baseball cap. Don’t want your hair to get wet in the rain? Baseball cap. Don’t have hair at all? Baseball cap. It’s the answer to most head-related issues…at least in my book.

But one thing that can’t be disputed is the modern ball cap has become an American staple, like the cowboy hat or apple pie. Thankfully, the original straw hat worn by the 1860 Brooklyn Excelsiors has come a long way. It’s been updated to the modern 59-50 style worn by current major leaguers. Otherwise I’d be sitting on a porch with a goofy straw hat and a corn cob pipe trying to whittle something right now.  

 And, really, who wants that?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Top Dawg: Bernie Kosar

Growing up, my friends and I spent the bulk of every summer playing sandlot baseball.  Of course, each of us would take a shot on the mound and see how accurately we could imitate the quirky wind-ups of our favorite major league pitchers.  You know the old drill: “Hey, I’m Kent Tekulve!” “Look at me, I’m Fernando Valenzuela!”

Once the weather got colder we’d trade the bats and gloves for a football.  But it was never as easy to imitate our favorite quarterbacks.  They pretty much all looked the same when they released the ball, especially in the eyes of an eleven-year-old kid.  Unless, of course, that favorite quarterback was a Cleveland legend. 

“Look, I’m Bernie,” I’d say.  Then I’d whip a sidearm bullet to an open receiver for a TD (ok, so the sidearm part is accurate even if the “bullet” remark is debatable).  What was never debatable was Bernie Kosar’s impact on the city of Cleveland during his sometimes-brilliant, sometimes-embroiled tenure as the Browns’ starting quarterback.

Kosar was a Brown in the making since his first day on Earth.  He was a fan of the team as a young boy growing up in Youngstown, Ohio.  His love for the team grew as he played football at Boardman High School and began solidifying his legacy as a brilliant quarterback. 

He earned Parade All-America honors his senior year at Boardman and then moved on to the University of Miami, where he took over as starting quarterback in 1983 after a red shirt season.  His impact on the Hurricanes offense was immediate.  He threw 15 TD passes on his way to an 11-1 season and a berth in the Orange Bowl.  Then he followed the brilliant regular season performance with a 300 yard, 2 TD shocker against top-ranked Nebraska.  He did the unthinkable in leading Miami to its first national championship in a stunning 31-30 victory over the Huskers.  The following season Kosar threw 25 more TDs and finished fourth in Heisman voting.  It seemed he was ready to join the NFL ranks. 

Rumors began to surface that Bernie would forego his remaining collegiate eligibility and enter the draft.  Kosar denied the reports, and then rebuked his denial.  A messy draft scenario ensued.  The Cleveland Browns jockeyed for position.  The Minnesota Vikings made accusations.  Kosar stood fast by his claim that he wanted to come home to Ohio.  Cleveland fans held their breaths and crossed their fingers….Long story short, the commish at the time, Pete Rozelle, allowed Kosar to enter the 1985 supplemental draft and the Browns scooped him up with the first pick.  And, just like that, Cleveland’s love affair with an unlikely hero began.

Kosar never possessed the athletic gifts of John Elway or Dan Marino, but he did have two things going for him: accuracy and heart.

In 1986, Kosar’s first full season as the Browns’ starter, the sidearm slinger connected on 310 completions for nearly 4,000 yards in leading the team to the AFC Championship Game.  Who could forget Bernie’s 489 yard performance in a comeback win against the Jets to get them there?  It took the mighty John Elway and a certain 98-yard drive to stamp out Cleveland’s Super Bowl hopes.

Kosar dialed up 22 TD passes in 1987.  He led the AFC in QB rating, and his Browns once again rumbled into the AFC Championship Game.  But Bernie’s 356 yards and three touchdowns still could not top Elway’s Broncos.

Kosar made one more trip to the AFC Championship in 1989.  He was once again unable to slay the dragon that was John Elway.  But through all the heart-breaking defeats, Kosar embodied the never-say-die attitude that defined the Cleveland fans and complimented the hard-nose atmosphere of the vaunted Dawg Pound.

Perhaps the most telling sign of how deeply Kosar had touched the Cleveland fan base with his gritty play came in 1991.  That was when Bill Belichick took over as Browns head coach.  Belichick’s first order of business was to bench Bernie in favor of Vinny Testaverde.  Later in the season, after a bad round of backup work, Belichick ordered Kosar’s outright release.  The Cleveland fans were outraged.  Angry Dawg Pounders showed the new head coach what they thought of him by wearing Bernie Kosar masks instead of Dawg masks at the next game (by the way, I’d love to get my hands on one of those masks before Halloween). Think Cleveland fans still hold a grudge?  Let’s just say Billy boy shouldn’t throw on an old, sleeveless hoodie and take a moonlit stroll down West Third Street any time soon.

But Bernie, in classic Bernie style, kept his chin up and moved on.  All he did in 1991 was sign a million dollar contract with the Cowboys and win that elusive Super Bowl ring as Troy Aikman’s backup.  Bernie completed the final three years of a brilliant career back in Miami, playing second-fiddle to Dan Marino.  Then he faded away from the spotlight and took his rightful place as a Cleveland legend.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 20 Dumbest Football Quotes

 Let’s face it, football players are measured more accurately on stop watches than on IQ tests. Don’t get me wrong. I‘m not complaining. It’s not like I tune in every Sunday for rocket science. 

Actually, I’m here to support athletic stupidity in all its forms. Without it, how would I compile a list with such absurd notions as the ones you’ll see below. Thank you, sweet football, for yet another 20 reasons to spend half my weekend drooling before you.

They may stupid. They may be childish. They may not make a shred of sense. But at least they’re something.  I give you: 

20 Really Stupid Football Quotes

George Rogers, former Saints RB
“I want to rush for 1,000 or 1,500 yards, whichever comes first”

Bill Peterson, former Oilers Head Coach
"You guys line up alphabetically by height."

Dick Butkus, former Bears LB
"I wouldn't ever set out to hurt anyone deliberately unless it was important -- like a league game."

William “Refrigerator” Perry, former Bears DT
"I've been big ever since I was little."

Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson, former Cowboys LB
On Terry Bradshaw’s brain power…“He couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the C and the T.”

Joe Theisman, former Redskins QB  
“Nobody in football should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

Jim McMahon, former Bears QB
On traveling to Europe…"The people don't take baths and they don't speak English. No golf courses, no room service. Who needs it?"

John McKay, former Bucs Head Coach
"Well, we've determined that we can't win at home and we can't win on the road. What we need is a neutral site."

Randy Moss, Titans WR
“When you're rich you don't write checks. Straight Cash, Homey!” Randy Moss

John Madden, former Raiders Head Coach
"The purpose of the center during the snap is to get the ball to the quarterback; and if that doesn't happen it usually results in a fumble."

Terry Bradshaw, former Steelers QB
“I may be dumb, but I’m not stupid.”

Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, former Saints RB
“People say I’ll be drafted in the first round, maybe even higher.”

Randy Cross, former 49ers RG
“The NFL, like life, is full of idiots.”

Chuck Knox, former Rams Head Coach
“Most of my clich├ęs aren’t original.”

Gale Sayers, former Bears RB
“The only thing I got out of football was the ability to work hard, and that’s it.”

Joe Namath, former Jets QB
“I guarantee a win.”

Bum Phillips, former Cowboys Head Coach
“If I drop dead tomorrow, at least I’ll know I died in good health.”

Jim Mora, former Saints/Colts Head Coach
“What’s that? Playoffs? Don’t talk about — playoffs?! You kidding me?! Playoffs?! I just hope we can win a game!” (former Saints and Colts coach Jim Mora

Bill Cowher, former Steelers Head Coach
 “We’re not attempting to circumcise the rules.”

Bruce Coslet, former Bengals Head Coach
“We can’t run. We can’t pass. We can’t stop the run. We can’t stop the pass. We can’t kick. Other than that, we’re just not a very good football team right now.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

We'll Miss You, Joe Pa

On this sad day, as a college coaching legend departs our cruel world, I am once again reminded of the impermanence of life and of speed at which our only true gift can be taken away from any one of us. What is even more sobering, possibly, is the fickleness of prestige, the fleeting nature of the public's opinion, and the modern desire to pulverize the mystique of the past.

I, for one, am sick and tired of our disposable society. Have we become so attached to the rapidity of a drive-thru lane or the immediate gratification of a Twitter post that we've forgotten that the benevolent acts of a lifetime actually take....a lifetime? Are we such slaves to the me-first, me-now attitude that a man and his remarkable body of work spanning at least four decades can be dashed by some second-party hearsay, a few weakly-researched news clippings, and the fall-guy mentality of a puzzled trustee base?

Unfortunately there are still many days of speculation ahead of us, but on this day, let us pay our respects to a great man and admire some of his epic triumphs:

My heart goes out to the Paterno family and the entire Penn State community during these tough times. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Friday, January 20, 2012

On the 8th Day God Created...Tom Brady?!?

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s getting tired of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick love fest that occurs every Sunday around noon. So far this football season, the bitter taste of Brady’s almost effortless performance has left me speechless and frustrated. But when I heard the following joke the other day in a crowded checkout line, I was left slightly refreshed:

Many years into the future, God layeth down his mighty robes and strapethed on his NFL foam finger. He headed to his own personal 50-yard line seat at his own personal stadium, and readied himself for an exciting week of professional football…played to his specifications, of course. On either side of him was an empty seat for whomever he deemed worthy enough to be his guests at the game.

The Lord had just taken a rather large bite of chili dog and wiped some dribbling cheese-wiz from his chin, when the spirit of Drew Brees came walking down the concourse. 

“Do you mind if I sit with you, uhhh, God?” Brees asked sort of confused.

“Well, my son,” said God mildly, “What do you think it is that makes you worthy of such a seat?”

“Uhh…well, during my career I played football like a warrior. I ignored injuries, I lifted my teammates, and I also thanked the guys around me for allowing me to have so much success on the playing field.”

“Hmm,” God responded, “It sure seems like you’ve made your contribution. Please, have a seat on my right.”

Drew obliged and began enjoying the game from the best seats in the house…literally.  A few moments later, as God and Drew Brees shared a pile of spicy nachos, another spirit made his way down the concourse.

“Is this seat taken?” asked Peyton Manning with a smile.

“Well, my son,” said God gently, “It is not taken as of yet. However, it is reserved for someone most worthy.  Do you think you are that man?”

“I’d have to say that I am,” Manning claimed. “For one, I always made it a point to treat the game like a game and have fun with it. But, at the same time, I remembered that my teammates and my city were counting on me, and I made sure to take it seriously as well. I think I was able to find the perfect balance.”

“That is quite an accomplishment,” said God with a grin, “I believe you are the man to take the seat at my left.” Peyton took his seat and snagged a stray nacho from the plastic tray, and the three miracle men took in the sights and sounds of barbaric poetry ringing from their private playing surface.

They were silent in their observations for a long while, until something from the stands caught their attention. This time, it was the spirit of Tom Brady who was making his way down the steps. There was an awkward moment of silence as the two legendary spectators, and of course God, glanced nervously from Brady to the row of occupied seats and back at Brady again. They simply had nowhere to put him.

Of course, Tom had no intention of missing the game. Do you know what he did?

He looked God directly in the eyes, tucked his very own biblical hairstyle behind his ears, and said, “Hey, buddy, I think you’re in my seat.”