Thursday, August 11, 2016

I’m Glad…

When Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I was glad. Very glad. The news was announced by Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, at a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 2, 2009.

At first it was because of Chicago’s proximity to Kenosha that I was glad they didn’t receive the bid. If Chicago had gotten the 2016 Olympics, it would have most certainly had an impact on my hometown and its inhabitants. While there would have been some positive effects on Kenosha, the negative repercussions would have far outweighed them. I am quite sure of this.

After this weekend, I am glad for a whole new reason.

Chicago, or any city in America for that matter, doesn’t deserve to host the Olympics. After hearing the commentary coming from Americans during the opening weekend of the Olympics, I am convinced we would not appreciate it. We would be too busy criticizing and bitching about it.

Criticizing and bitching, it’s what we Americans seem to do best.

Why appreciate and enjoy something when we can find fault and cast aspersions on it? It’s much more our style to disparage than it is to admire. We Americans do it on every level, every chance we get.

But it’s not like that everywhere. Definitely not in Great Britain. Having nearly twenty facebook friends in England, I have been made keenly aware of how much they are appreciating the Olympics being held in their country.

It almost makes me envious.

It started Friday afternoon when I had the privilege of getting a sneak preview of the Opening Ceremonies with my dear friend Bev Cooper via Skype. I heard about Mary Poppins, Mr. Bean and the Queen’s remarkable parachute jump well before most of my American friends did. I was even able to post on facebook the scoop about Sir Paul McCartney several hours before NBC aired his closing performance.

While chatting with Bev, comments started popping up on facebook. Her sister, Margaret Martin wrote, “This is fantastic!” When Bev commented, “Nice outfit, Queenie,” her niece, Sarah Crabb quickly replied, “She looks amazing, bless her.” There were also several cries of “Wow!”

My favorite facebook comment came from Bev’s brother, David Taylor. At the completion of the event, he simply wrote, “That done us proud.”

What kind of observations do you think were being made in America? A reported 42 million viewers saw the event Friday night.

Well, of course the first ones I heard were political. Former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney made sure of that when he said the Olympics would be a failure. His blunder was compounded because he made it while on a visit to London.

Predictably, this set off a barrage of back-and-forth rants between both sides of the political fence. The Liberals excoriated Romney and wanted him crucified, while the Conservatives thought he was spot on and should be canonized.

Fortunately, the Republican Presidential candidate sought to repair his damaged reputation the next day with a series of interviews where he praised the host country and went so far as to call the weather in the UK “great.”

Meanwhile, while we Americans were making the Olympics political, my friends ‘cross the pond were elated because cyclist Lizzie Armistead had won the host nation’s first medal by taking silver in the women’s road race.

The British were ecstatic about a second-place finish and the Americans were squabbling about a politicians unfortunate remarks.

On Saturday evening, the criticizing and bitching continued on facebook. Dan McNeil, WSCR talk show host, posted the following:

 “I love Paul McCartney, but they dropped the ball at the opening ceremonies. ALL British Invasion stars should have been there. Jagger. Richards. Daltrey. Townshend. I could keep going. They all should have been there.”

Expectedly, the responses were moronic. Iron Maiden should have been there. Judas Priest. Sabbath. The Kinks. Cream. Even UFO was mentioned. You get the picture; nothing is ever good enough for us. We Americans always know how to do it better. We are never satisfied. It’s so hard for us to quietly enjoy anything.

On Sunday, while my British friends were busy cheering each and every event, I ran across another post. It complained that the Opening Ceremony included a memorial to the victims of the 7/7 attacks, but failed to do the same for those victimized by the Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich games.

Maybe it would have ruffled less feathers had the hosts modestly lit the flame and went directly to the parade of nations. I heard this suggested a minimum of three times this morning. Honest.

All of this criticizing and bitching made me wonder what it would be like in 2016 if Chicago had won the bid for the Summer Olympics. Would we be as enthusiastic and gracious as our British counterparts? We shall never know, but I seriously doubt it.

Don’t get me wrong; I heard a small amount of concern about the length of the Opening Ceremonies. Of course, there is also considerable discussion on how the Olympics has interfered with their daily commutes. But mostly, my friends from Great Britain are passionately supporting their British athletes and enjoying the 2012 Summer Olympics.

And they aren’t criticizing and bitching. And I’m glad.

Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

31 Years Ago…

In 1975 it was legal to purchase and consume alcohol at the age of 18 in the state of Wisconsin. And that’s exactly what I did, usually in the form of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Lots and lots of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The truth be told, I was consuming alcoholic beverages before the legal age of 18. Today’s blog deals with the warm summer of 1975 and involves the infamous Arno Schubert. 

Arno first graced this blog in “My First Labor Day”. After that he also showed up in “Arno: A Koos Legend”, “A Koos Christmas Story”, “A Special Secret Weapon” and “Attack Of The Chainsaw”. If you haven’t read these entertaining blogs, I encourage you to take the time to do so. They will help you to appreciate the enigmatic man named Arno.

Let’s get back to the summer of 1975.

I had been working at Koos Inc. for a couple of months when I finally felt comfortable enough to tell my co-workers where I lived. Keep in mind, this was the first time I was exposed to wild characters like Virgil Tucker, Ziggy Gutowski and of course, Arno Schubert. So, you can understand my reluctance in revealing such personal information.

When I first mentioned that I lived off of Highway C in Pleasant Prairie, just down the road from the Nobby Lobby tavern, my worst fears were realized. The words had barely left my lips before Danny Fliess blurted out, “No shit Puddles. Arno lives right by you!”

Great, I thought to myself, that’s all I need. And I was right. As soon as that crusty old German discovered where I lived, he was hitting me up for a ride home. So, for the rest of that summer I gave that foul-mouthed curmudgeon a lift home. Each and every miserable night.

At first, the 15-minute trips were fairly uneventful. A typical drive home consisted of me continually turning the volume of the radio up in an attempt to drown out Arno’s incessant cursing. I’m not sure if he ever even noticed.

Then it happened. After a particularly hot day, Arno climbed into my car and announced that he was going to start compensating me for giving him a ride home. I am quite sure he didn’t use the word compensate, but you get the idea.

All right! I wondered just how much he was going to give me. Five bucks would be nice. Ten would be even better. Well, it wasn’t ten and it wasn’t even five. Nope.

The compensation came in the form of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

As soon as I had turned on to Washington Road, Arno instructed me to turn into Andy and Phil’s parking lot. Andy and Phil’s was a small neighborhood bar located right behind Big Star’s parking lot.

As I pulled in, I quickly informed him that I had no intention of sitting in a bar stinking of fertilizer. He promptly told me to shut the “f#ck up” and jumped out and ran inside. Moments later he appeared with a brown paper bag and a toothless grin going from ear to ear.

While I pulled back onto Washington Road, Arno reached into the bag and produced an ice-cold bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I shrugged my shoulders and accepted the payment for my transportation services. Arno, still grinning, removed a bottle for himself, cracked it open and started gulping it down.

Well, at least he wasn’t swearing. If there was one thing that Arno enjoyed more than swearing, it was drinking beer. And I enjoyed the quiet. The beer wasn’t bad either.

By the time we turned onto Highway HH we had finished the six-pack. It was at this point that Arno gathered up the empty beer bottles and began to hurl them out the window into the ditch by the cornfield.

This didn’t last forever, a couple of months I think. But every night for those two or three months we stopped at Andy and Phil’s so Arno could buy that six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon for the ride home. And every night he tossed the empties out the window into that ditch by the cornfield.

There must have been over 400 bottles in that ditch before I finally stopped giving Arno a ride home.

I know, I know. Not only was I drinking while driving, Arno was littering as well. What can I say, I was young and dumb and Arno was… Well, Arno was Arno.

That was 41 years ago. For the next ten years I continued to consume Pabst Blue Ribbon on a regular basis. Sometimes on a “more than” regular basis.

However, on August 4, 1985 that all came to an end. I was in the booth announcing a morning league game at historic Finney’s West when I decided that I had had enough. And I haven’t touched a drop since then.

Happy 41st anniversary to you Arno Schubert, wherever you might be. More importantly, happy 31st anniversary to me. Until next time…from the booth.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Memorial Day and Memories

Memorial Day falls on the last Monday of May and is a day to remember ancestors, family members, loved ones, friends, and neighbors who have given the ultimate sacrifice: dying in wars. Initially known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades.

Memorial Day is now celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. It is also customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.

Now the battle hymns are playing, report of shots not far away
No prayer, no promise, no hand of God could save their souls that April day
Tell their wives that they fought bravely as they lay them in their graves

As the train pulled in the station and the families gathered ‘round
You could hear the first car echo with a loud triumphant sound
But the last car it was silent, they listened close but they couldn’t hear
It was laden down with coffins, that didn't speak and couldn’t cheer

~ Dropkick Murphys from  “Broken Hymns”

The reason we observe the Memorial Day holiday is to pay tribute to those who have passed on while preserving the peace for our nation, so that we can enjoy the blessings of freedom and liberty. Thank you, each and every one of you.

I would also like to take a moment to honor some of my family and friends that have passed on – people that I think of frequently.

I will miss the guys that I worked with at Koos – Larry, Cecil, Jesse, Ziggy and Gary. They were all part of a very special fraternity.

Kathy and Karen were two wonderful ladies that were taken from this world much too early. I was blessed to be have been their friend while they were still with us.

Uncle Dino and Uncle Jimmy were two of the kindest people that I ever had the honor of knowing. I will never forget sobbing outside of Holy Rosary Church after Uncle Jimmy’s funeral while hugging his son David.

On the Matrisch side of my family, there is Grandma ‘Trisch, Uncle Eddie, Uncle Wayne and his son Davie. My cousin Davie was a kind soul that also left this earth tragically at a young age. They are gone but will never be forgotten.

Members of the Vagnoni clan that are no longer with us are Grandma and Grandma ‘Noni, Auntie Bay and my cousin John Dean. It’s hard to describe how closely knit the Vagnoni family is. It is a true blessing to be a part of it.

Growing up, John Dean was like my third brother. We played, fought and got in trouble together. Twice we unwittingly attempted to burn down the family “cottage” at Camp Lake. Fortunately, we were unsuccessful. Unfortunately he is no longer here to laugh about those days.

I have fond memories of all these precious people. They each played a role in my life, some more than others. They are all missed very dearly, but none quite as much as the most beautiful man I ever knew – my Dad. I can’t put into words how much I miss him. It hurts too much when I try. I love you so much, Dad.

Dear God, please remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again; may you bring them and all the departed into the light of your presence.

Have a happy and blessed Memorial Day and please remember why we celebrate this holiday. Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

It's Over! It's Over!

We have our champion! Samantha Stevens destroyed Rachel Green in the Finals of the 2016 Classic TV Pulchritude Tournament. Samantha finished with 82% of the vote to Rachel's paltry 18%. Thanks to all who participated!

Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Finals!

March Madness is coming to a close. At least for the Tournament of Classic TV Pulchritude! After four grueling rounds of competition we have arrived at our two finalists – Samantha Stevens of Bewitched and Rachel Green of Friends. These are the paths these two lovely ladies took to get to the finals:

Samantha won her opening match in the Midwest bracket over Jeannie Nelson by a mere 4%. After that she gained momentum. She thumped Thelma Lou in the finals of their bracket by 24%. Samantha then demoralized Donna Pinciotti in the semifinals by 42% to reach the championship round.

Rachel’s journey to the Finals was similar. In the opening round, she handily disposed of her Friends roommates, Phoebe and Monica to advance to the finals of the South bracket. She then flattened Jill Munroe by 54% to move onto the semis. There, Rachel crushed cartoon cutie, Betty Rubble by 14%.

There you have it. Samantha vs. Rachel. Vote, Chicago style, early and often!

The poll is now open for the Finals. As always, base your voting on the character and not the actress herself! We will crown our Queen of Classic TV Pulchritude after the voting ends on Wednesday night at midnight!

Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Final Four

We now have the Final Four for the Tournament of Classic TV Pulchritude! The results from the Elite Eight matches show us how we got there:

EAST Finals
Mary Ann Summers 64% over Diane Chambers 36%

Samantha Stevens 71% over Donna Pinciotti 29%

WEST Finals
Catwoman 64% over Bailey Quarters 36%

SOUTH Finals
Rachel Green 57% over Betty Rubble 43%

Well, the cartoon character finally went down as Rachel Green squeaked by. It was a nice run, Betty! Meanwhile, Mary Ann, Samantha and Catwoman continue to dominate. That leaves us with these Final Four matchups:

Semifinal #1
Mary Ann Summers vs. Samantha Stevens

Semifinals #2
Catwoman vs. Rachel Green

The poll is now open for the Final Four. As always, base your voting on the character and not the actress herself! The voting ends Sunday night at midnight. On Monday, it will be the Finals for the Tournament of Classic TV Pulchritude. Finally!

Until next time…from the booth.