Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Spot or Big Star?

Okay, I know that it is less than a week after Christmas, but I want to talk about Kenosha’s favorite drive-ins. Thanks to one of DK’s most prolific forum contributors, “aaa” and his frequent references to Big Star, I have had drive-in cuisine on my mind. Not that it takes a whole lot to get me thinking of food, but our friend “aaa” has given me even more impetus to do so.

First of all let’s make it clear that there is a definite difference between a drive-in and a fast food restaurant. There are fast food joints all over America. In fact they are all over the world. You would be hard pressed to go anywhere and not find a McDonalds, Burger King or KFC. But go to those same places and try to find a Big Star or Spot. It’s just not going happen.

Fast food is fast food, no matter where you are. A Whopper is a Whopper and a Big Mac is a Big Mac, whether you are in Kenosha, Wisconsin or Los Angeles, California. But a Big Star double-cheeseburger is unique to our fair city, as is the Spot’s. We are fortunate to have two one-of-a-kind drive-in restaurants to choose from. But which do you prefer?

Having a rough time making up your mind? It used to be a lot tougher. Back in the ‘70s there were at least five drive-ins to choose from. Besides The Spot and Big Star, there was also A&W, Chat ‘n’ Chew and the legendary Fon Tan Blu. Each had it’s own distinct style and menu. And each featured things that stick out in my memory.

A&W was on Roosevelt Road and 30th Avenue. It has since become Andy’s Drive In. It has become more of a sit-down establishment, although they will provide service to your car if you leave your headlights on. Back in the day it was strictly a drive-in that featured carhops. I remember driving by and reading the daily special posted on the tall roadside sign. You couldn’t beat a one-dollar pizza burger.

Located on 52nd Street and 40th Avenue was Chat ‘n’ Chew. I don’t quite recall when it went out of business but I do remember the fragrant aroma that the small building exuded. The smell was different from any that of the other drive-ins. Like the other drive-ins, it stayed open late. I can recollect working at Burger King and heading over to the “Chew” with the gang after we got done closing up. Its focal point was an enormous billboard that doubled as a menu.

Kitty corner from Holy Rosary church was the Fon Tan Blu. The oddly shaped blue building was a destination spot for softball players who had been enjoying adult beverages after their game. It was not uncommon to have your burger or “Soakie” prepared by none other then Kenosha’s premiere double-play combination, Nick Perrine and Dick Laba. Mama Perrine’s Italian Bombers were second to none. Fon Tan Blu is terribly missed.

Alas, venerable institutions like Chat ‘n’ Chew and Fon Tan Blu no longer grace our hometown. In my humble opinion, with all due respect to Andy’s, Kenosha only has two true drive-ins. Restaurants that are primarily set up to serve you without leaving your car. The Spot and the Big Star are the two remaining survivors. And both have their loyal legion of supporters. Which of the two do you prefer? They both have their pros and cons.

The biggest difference between the two is the hours of operation. As I write this column, Big Star is “Closed for the Season.” While on the south side of town the carhops at The Spot have donned their long johns and are waiting on cars into the wee hours of the frigid morning.

Big Star is typically open from March until the Sunday before Labor Day and is closed on Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Its normal hours of operation are 11:00 AM until 11:00 PM. Their cross-town rival opens at the same time, but stays open until 3:00 AM during the week and 3:30 AM on Friday and Saturday. Perhaps Big Star subscribes to the theory that “absence makes the heart fonder”, or in this case the taste buds.

Both of the popular eateries are located on busy thoroughfares. The Spot at the intersection of 75th Street and 22nd Avenue, while Big Star is directly across from Time Warner on Washington Road. Because of the traffic, coupled with their popularity, getting in and out of the parking lots can be a bit dicey at both drive-ins. But their scrumptious food makes it well worth the hassle.

Both Big Star and The Spot are known for their flavorful root beer and make it available in gallon jugs. The only drawback to the tasty, sugary beverage is the swarms of bees that it attracts during the summertime. I think the carhops should be eligible for hazard pay during bee season.

Another delight that each of the two carry is ice cream. The Spot currently features six different “hand-packed” flavors with Big Star offering soft serve cones of the vanilla, chocolate and twist varieties. If you enjoy rich and creamy ice cream, The Spot is for you, but be prepared to pay for the frozen treat.

The menus are similar at both restaurants, offering burgers, fish, chicken, etc. The burgers come in an array of sizes with Big Star tempting your appetite with a half-pounder. It should be noted both places have steak sandwiches on the menu. Having enjoyed both, I must report that Big Star’s is closer to an actual piece of steak, while Spot’s is more like Salisbury steak. Advantage to Big Star on the steak sandwich.

Another thing that is offered on both menus is a grilled cheese sandwich. Big Star’s is very tasty and cut on the diagonal, just like mom used to do. On the other hand, the last time I had a grilled cheese at The Spot, it was made on a hamburger bun! Maybe it has changed since then, but a hamburger bun for a grilled cheese sandwich? Please!

The last menu item that I will comment on is the double-cheeseburger, a standard that any good drive-in can be judged on. This is a tough one for me. They both have their own special qualities. Both get very high grades in my book.

The freshness of the ingredients that make up a Spot double-cheeseburger is second to none. The meat appears to have been ground and formed into a patty moments before hitting the grill. If you like your onions grilled, you will love the ample amount slathered on this sandwich. The only downside to this taste delight is that too much of the cheese sticks to the wrapper! But I am nitpicking. The Spot double-cheeseburger is outstanding.

Big Star’s double-cheeseburger is no slouch either. It too draws rave reviews for its unparalleled taste. There truly is nothing like a Big Star double-cheeseburger. The simple reason is the cheese! Some call it a cheese sauce, or Cheese Whiz and I have heard from others that it is actually Velveeta. Whatever it is, it’s good! And packaging the yummy sandwich in a Styrofoam container solves the oozing cheese problem. You just wait for it to cool and dig it out with your finger.

Well, there you have it. I guess you want to know which double-cheeseburger I prefer. I guess it matters on how much money I have in my pocket or how hungry I am. You see, the thing is, a double-cheeseburger at The Spot will run you about twice as much as its counterpart at Big Star. But they are both great and unique to Kenosha. With that in mind, I am calling it a toss up.

I will be interested to see where others stand on this not-so-earth-shattering subject. Which of these exceptional drive-ins do you prefer? Now, I’m not Lou Rugani, so I can only write about the ones that I do remember. Did I leave out any of your favorites from days gone by? Let me know. Maybe next time I can discuss a subject that I am truly an expert on – Kenosha pizza! Until then…

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tis the Season…

The holiday season is here and Christmas is right around the corner. This season means different things to different people. What this season means to television viewers is an onslaught of holiday programming. Everything from Christmas themed sitcoms to movie classics like, “It's A Wonderful Life.” We all have our favorites and they will be on the air at one time or another. Here are my favorite Christmas movies and television programs.

Being more of a television-guy than a movie-guy, I will save my television choices for last and start with the holiday movies. Movies of the holiday-ilk can be separated into two groups - the classics and the contemporary.

Making Moviefone’s 25 Best Christmas Movies of All Time list are these contemporary movies:

“A Christmas Story” (1983)
“Scrooged” (1988)
“National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation” (1989)
“Home Alone” (1990)
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993)
“The Santa Clause” (1994)
“Elf” (2003)
“Bad Santa” (2003)

From that same list are these classic movies:

“Babes in Toyland” (1934)
“Christmas in Connecticut' (1942)
“Holiday Inn” (1942)
'”It's a Wonderful Life” (1946)
“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)
“The Bishop's Wife” (1947)
“A Christmas Carol” (1951)
“White Christmas” (1954)
“We’re No Angels” (1955)

I will be honest with you, like I said I am not much of a movie-guy, so I have only seen one of the movies from the contemporary list. I know, I know, but surprisingly enough it is one of my top three. The other two on my list are from the classics list, of which I have seen every one of them.

My top three Christmas movies:

1. We’re No Angels
2. A Christmas Story
3. It’s a Wonderful Life

We’re No Angels is a heartwarming movie. It is in my DVD player as I write this column. Here is a quick synopsis: Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov play three escaped inmates who hatch a plan to steal from a shopkeeper on Christmas. But their plans change when they find themselves actually growing to like their target and his family. Besides, the luckless merchant is apparently about to lose his shirt, as his business is unraveling. So, instead of robbing him, the convicts decide to help him, a mission that proves wildly complicated. Please do yourself a favor and make an effort to see this movie. You will not be disappointed.

Here are my best-loved Christmas television programs, an area that I am much more qualified in. Every sitcom that you can think of has had a Christmas-themed episode. The Bob Newhart Show, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Threes Company, Friends and Seinfeld have all featured a holiday episode. Who can forget Frank Costanza celebrating Festivus on Seinfeld? Then there are the numerous Christmas specials; even Martha Stewart has treated us to one of these.

With the huge collection to choose from, here are my top five Christmas-themed television programs:

1. The Andy Griffith Show (1960)
2. Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)
3. Dick Van Dyke (1963)
4. Hardrock Coco and Joe (1952)
5. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

The Andy Griffith episode entitled, "The Christmas Story", will surely warm the cockles of your heart. I know each time I watch it my cockles get toasty. Here is a quick synopsis:

On Christmas Eve, department store owner Ben Weaver insists Andy jail moonshiner Jim Muggins. Weaver has brought along a jug of moonshine as evidence of Jim's wrongdoing. Andy complies with Weaver's request but feels it's only fair that Jim's wife Bess and his two young children be incarcerated as well, since they all had knowledge of Jim's moonshining. With the Muggins family in jail, Andy, Barney, Aunt Bee, Ellie, and Opie prepare a feast with all the trimmings for the family and decorate a Christmas tree. Peeping at the window, Ben Weaver is touched with the Christmas spirit and tries to get himself arrested in order to join the fun. Andy only arrests Weaver, however, after he dumps a garbage can in the alley. Together, the men appear at the door of the jail with a suitcase full of gaily-wrapped gifts from Ben's store. Ben is welcomed and regaled with food and drink. Weaver falls asleep in one of the jail cells after finishing the jug of Jim's moonshine.

Those are my lists. I am sure, as with all lists, I have left off many of your choices. If the spirit should move you, leave your lists in the DK forum section. Merry Christmas to all DK users…Until Next Time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Survivor Gabon Finale

Survivor Gabon Finale - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! The 17th season of the award-winning Survivor came to an end last night. Two Immunity Challenges narrowed the final five to an optimistic trio vying for the title of Sole Survivor and the one million dollars that accompany that honor. In addition, the Sprint Player of the Season was announced during the reunion show that followed the finale. This winner of this distinction earned $100,000.

The first Immunity Challenge saw Bob, the 57-year-old physics teacher; win for a record tying fifth straight time. Pin-up model Sugar took a distant second place. The contestants had to collect puzzle pieces by digging, crawling and conquering two different mazes. After gathering all the pieces, the players had to create a replica of a Gabonese hut. All of this in order to stay alive in the quest for survival.

At Tribal Council Rat Boy Kenny was surprisingly confident until Jeff Probst started his accustomed instigating. When the matter of Bob promising him the Immunity Idol came up, Rat Boy questioned the physic teacher’s honor. Bob told the 22-year-old “professional gamer” that he changed his mind when he got wind of Rat Boy’s plan to backstab him. The vote was taken and Rat Boy was exterminated.

In between Tribal Council and the second Immunity Challenge, the final four, Sugar, Matty, Susie and Bob, honored the 14-tribe members that had been eliminated. They collected a mask for each contestant while a short video of that person was shown. It should be noted that during Ace’s vignette, his accent was not present!

The final Immunity Challenge required that the Survivors make a 10-foot house of cards using 200 wooden tiles within a 30-minute time limit. If no one made it to 10 feet, the tallest structure at the end of 30 minutes won immunity. Susie, the 47-year-old teacher/hairdresser, was victorious, creating a formation standing over eight feet tall. The victory gave the normally inconspicuous Susie immunity and a spot in the final three.

Back at camp Susie can’t keep her mouth shut and tells Bob that he is gone. She goes on and on with Matty piling on. The usually even-tempered Bob finally tells her to shut up and goes off to be alone. Sugar starts crying, realizing that she must choose between eliminating Matty and Bob. As Susie continues to blather, they collectively wonder where Bob has gone.

At an emotional Tribal Council, Probst prompts each remaining Survivor to reveal what their rationale will be for the upcoming vote. Matty and Susie both say the obvious pick is eliminating Bob, that he would be too hard to defeat at the Final Tribal Council before the jury. When Sugar is asked, she bursts into tears and explains that she looks at Matty like a brother and Bob as a father figure. This moves everyone and brings Bob to tears. Obviously, once again, Sugar has become the swing vote.

The four remaining Nobag members cast their votes. Probst reveals the vote, with the first two going to the venerable Bob. The third vote is for young Matty. With the music rising dramatically, Probst reveals, “That we have a tie.” When there is a tie, in Survivor tradition, there is a fire-building contest. The first competitor to start and sustain a fire substantial enough to burn a rope above it wins the final spot up for grabs. Remember when Bob had wondered off to be alone, prior to Tribal Council? Being a fan of Survivor, he knew hat it could come down to a fire-building contest. He was practicing! His practice paid off and he won easily, with Matty never even getting a flame. The final three was set – Susie, Sugar and Bob. Now it was time for the Final Tribal Council before the jury.

The Final Tribal Council

After three rather mundane opening statements, it was now time for the members of the jury to have their go at the trio of finalists.

Charlie – asked Sugar and Susie why he should vote for them. Susie said because she always tried and was still trying. Duh. Sugar gave an even stupider response, “I don’t know.” When he got to Bob, he talked about spooning and cuddling. It kind of creeped me out. I thought this was CBS, not Bravo.

Crystal - yelled at Susie about getting this far by riding the coattails of others. Then she went after Bob, berating him. The Olympic Gold Medalist then asked Sugar why she voted her off, to which the pin-up model replied, “You’re a bully.” Well said Sugar.

Kenny - started off by asking Susie, “Why you?” Susie responded by saying, “Because I am average.” Helluva reason Susie! Rat boy then told Sugar that she had scarred him for life by voting him off. Sugar’s response? You guessed it! She cried! With Bob he started whining about the Immunity deal. Blah, blah, blah…

Corinne – told Susie that she would vote for her if she promised to use the money to have her vocal chords removed. She then asked Bob to be nasty for once in his life. Seems Corinne likes nasty. She proved this by ripping Sugar apart with a tirade that ended with telling her to take a handful of anti-depressants the next time she decides to cry about her recently deceased father. Sugar flipped her off. Way to go Sugar!

Marcus - was very esoteric, telling Susie she wasted her opportunity to be a role model for mothers everywhere. He then asked Sugar, if she won, to use some of the money to honor her late dad. Bob should have exerted more control, in Dr. Marcus’ humble opinion.

Randy – began by shouting, “All three of you can kiss my ass!” His line of questioning went downhill from there, asking Susie why she felt sorry for him and Bob and Sugar why they laughed at him. For a guy who once declared himself the “King of Gabon”, he sure has a lot of issues.

Matty – was the final juror to interrogate the finalists. Unfortunately, he chose to ask the ubiquitous, “Why are the other two more deserving than yourself” question. Bob, ever the wise old sage, replied, “They aren’t!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Now it was time for the jury to cast their ballots. After the voting, during which Randy’s comments had to be bleeped out, we were transferred, through the magic of television, to the live reunion show. Host Probst welcomed everyone and proceeded to read the votes for the last time. Susie took the early lead, with 3 votes to 1 for Bob. The next two went to Bob, tying the score. After a dramatic pause, Probst announced that Bob was the sole survivor of Survivor Gabon and winner of one million dollars. GOOD (Bob) had indeed triumphed. This time it was over NONDESCRIPT (Susie). Curiously enough, Sugar garnered nary a vote. Final tally Bob – 4, Susie – 3 and Sugar – 0.

The reunion show was fairly entertaining, revealing that Corinne was truly a mean and nasty person in real life. She even complained that she was not portrayed as negatively as she should have been. Randy really is bitter, but in a fun, lovable way. Honest. Crystal produced her 2004 Olympic Gold Medal to prove her athletic prowess. Too bad for her it didn’t show while in Gabon. Ace, using his best British accent, assured everyone that it was indeed genuine and that he was born in England. Bob added to his loot by winning the Sprint Player of the Season as voted by the viewers.

Season 17 of Survivor started slowly, but developed into one of my favorites seasons ever. It featured numerous twists and the challenges were always fresh and interesting each week. GOOD came out on top and we were introduced to Sugar the pin-up model. What more could a Survivor fan ask for? Until Next Time…From Tocantins.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Eleven

Survivor Gabon Week 11 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! Another great episode! Season 17 has whittled down the original field of eighteen competitors to the final five. The power shifted tonight with an unlikely tribe member declaring this a battle between GOOD and EVIL! Read on to find out which side triumphed.

Although this season that started out slowly, the pace has definitely picked up! Tonight’s episode opens with the Survivors returning from the last Tribal Council where Corinne was voted off. Matty bickers with Rat Boy Kenny, who quickly spews his venom towards Bob for faking him out with the bogus Immunity Idol. Bob, being the decent human being that he is, promises to give Kenny the Immunity Idol if he wins it again. Rat Boy is pleased with this.

The Reward Challenge requires the Survivors to navigate an obstacle course made up of swamp, cargo netting, balance beams and inner tubes. Once they make it through that mess, they grab a ball and return to what amounts to a pop-a-shot game. They then must shoot their ball into the hoop. Once they accomplish that feat, they must repeat it all over again. The first Survivor to sink three baskets wins reward.

Want to know what they are playing for? The victor receives a helicopter trip to a wild gorilla sanctuary, along with a meal, shower and clean clothes. Plus, they get to send someone to Exile Island. Bob, the 57-year-old physics teacher, narrowly edges out Matty and Rat Boy. None of the women sink a single ball, not even Olympic Gold Medalist Crystal.

Bob, who sends Susie to Exile Island, is allowed to choose two additional tribe members to accompany him on the reward. He chooses Rat Boy and the Olympic Gold Medalist. While they dine, strategy is discussed. Rat Boy gets Bob to reassure him that he will turn over the Idol, should he win it at the Immunity Challenge. Over at Exile Island, Susie opts for comfort, knowing full well that Sugar has the Hidden Immunity Idol.

Upon returning to camp Nobag, Rat Boy and the Olympic Champion start yelling at Matty and telling him that he better win Immunity, otherwise he is the next to leave. Sugar, the pinup model, hears this and is enraged! She corners Matty and tells him that Kenny (Rat Boy) and Crystal (Olympic Gold Medalist) are EVIL and have been lying all along. She is determined to see GOOD come out on top.

Next up is the all-important Immunity Challenge. The Survivors must crawl under a maze made up of ropes and bring back a total of three bags of puzzle pieces to replicate a Gabonese Warrior mask. The trick is they are blindfolded! This spells doom for our Olympic Gold Medalist as she wonders aimlessly off the course, looking quite ridiculous. Susie doesn’t fair much better and it comes down to Matty and Bob. Bob miraculously wins his fourth consecutive challenge and the Immunity that goes with it.

Back at camp, Rat Boy reminds Bob about their deal. They agree that if Rat Boy feels threatened at Tribal Council, Bob will indeed turn the Immunity over to Rat Boy. Of course Rat Boy decides to double-cross Bob and gets the equally wicked Olympic Gold Medalist to go along with the plan. They tell Sugar of their diabolical scheme and she nods her head in agreement. Sugar, in turn, corners Bob and tells him what is going down. She said she wants to be aligned with the GOOD guys, that EVIL should never win! They must stop EVIL! Bob listens intently, but is not sure who to believe or what to do, making for a great Tribal Council.

The discussion at Tribal Council begins in typical fashion until Susie actually speaks! I don’t think this qualifies as a twist, but it is certainly unexpected. Matty admits how vulnerable he feels. As Jeff Probst continues questioning the six finalists, Rat Boy divulges the deal he has with Bob. This shocks no one, except Probst, who then says it’s time to vote and asks if Bob wants to turn his Immunity over to Rat Boy Kenny. The tension mounts!

Bob pauses briefly before giving his decision. He says, “I would give it to Kenny if I thought he was threatened tonight. But I do not, so I will keep it.” The Rat Boy is crestfallen and the Olympic Gold Medalist’s eyes bulge out in utter disbelief. It is now time to vote.

Before Probst reads the votes, there is the matter of anyone having the Hidden Immunity Idol, which Sugar produces and turns over to Matty. Major Twistage! Probst inspects it and declares it authentic. This means that all votes cast for Matty will not count. Words cannot describe the looks on the faces of Rat Boy and the Olympic Gold Medalist. The votes are read and the first two are worthless because they are for the Immune Matty. The next four are for Crystal, the Olympic Gold Medalist and her torch is extinguished. She is the thirteenth person voted off of Survivor Gabon.

In this episode, GOOD triumphed over EVIL, a rarity in this thing we call reality television and it was refreshing. I must apologize at this time for never giving pinup model Sugar her due. In the past I have referred to her as an airhead and being dimwitted. Kudos to you Sugar, I am sorry. Sunday is the big finale for Survivor Gabon, with the reunion show to follow. I can’t wait to see if Ace uses his accent. Because of the late finish, my recap will be on Monday. Until then…From Gabon.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Ten

Survivor Gabon Week 10 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! What a great episode tonight. I felt it was one of the best of season 17. This one had it all; triple twists, double crosses and it even had a…well, keep reading if you want to find out!

The show opens with Bob telling the “Fab Five” that they shouldn’t have been so rude to Randy when they voted him out at the last Tribal Council. Then Corinne, the ever-bitter one, went off on Sugar. When alone and talking to the camera, Corinne comments. “I am in a camp of mutants.” The battle lines are definitely drawn. Classy Bob and the rancorous Corinne against the “Fab Five” of rat-boy Kenny, Matty, pinup model Sugar, Susie and the athletically challenged Olympic champion Crystal.

The Reward Challenge divides the contestants into teams of three for part one. Tied together, the must run through a swamp and gather gear-like wooden puzzle pieces. Once they have collected all the parts, they must assemble the puzzle. If done correctly the gears will turn and raise a victory flag.

The members of the winning team then go head-to-head and must solve a sliding puzzle. Want to know what they are playing for? They get pizza, beer, brownies and get to watch a video message from their loved one on a Sprint phone. The twist is the loved ones are not there, just the video message from them.

They choose teams and since no one but Bob can stand Corinne; she is left out, with no chance to win the challenge. The team of Bob, Sugar and Crystal defeat Matty, Kenny and Susie in the first portion of the challenge. Bob makes quick work of the second puzzle, winning easily over the dimwitted duo of Sugar and Crystal.

While enjoying his victory meal, Bob watches a video message from his wife. Out of nowhere, his lovely bride appears and they embrace. Another twist! They walk back to camp and the other Survivors run to meet them. Bob, pauses, whistles and everyone's loved ones come out of the jungle. The rare triple twist! Never have all the loved ones been allowed to hang out at camp!

During the historic moment, Susie and Crystal spend time with their respective men, while Corinne catches up with her brother. Meanwhile, Kenny tells his sister of his nefarious plot to win it all and Sugar, along with her sister, throws the ashes of her recently deceased father into the lake. Matty, in another Survivor first, takes the opportunity to propose to his girlfriend! She says yes and they make out. All this and we haven’t even made it to the Immunity Challenge!

The Immunity Challenge is a combination of Gabon Jeopardy and bocce. The competitors must correctly answer questions about Gabon to earn balls for the bocce portion of the challenge. Having earned their balls (that doesn’t sound right), the participants make their way over to a huge hill where the must toss their orbs (better?) bocce style at a sand target at he bottom. The Survivor coming closest to the center wins Immunity. Once again Bob, the 57-year-old physics teacher, is triumphant.

Back at camp, Bob and his lone ally Corinne come up with a self-described “hair brained” plan to keep Corinne around. Bob, being the craftsman that he is, designs yet another fake Immunity Idol. Now they have to convince two members of the “Fab Five” that it is authentic and to join them in the blindsiding of Matty.

Rat-boy Kenny, being a little worm, jumps at the opportunity. Crystal, just happy to screw someone, eagerly agrees as well. Kenny, not satisfied with just stabbing Matty in the back, concocts a plan to also double-cross Bob and Corinne. He presents his plan to Crystal, telling her to vote for Corinne. This will force her to use the “Idol” and Matty will still get the ax. Nice guy this Kenny.

Tribal Council is suspenseful, not knowing which way Crystal will vote. Jeff Probst starts antagonizing the Survivors, getting them to discuss paranoia. Each one admits they are paranoid to some extent as they wonder whom they can trust. The votes are then cast. Will it be Matty or will it be Corinne?

Before Probst reads the votes, he announces that if anyone has an Immunity Idol, they should present it now. Kenny and Crystal both stare at Corinne, anxiously waiting for her to whip it out. When she doesn’t, Probst reads the votes. The vote goes back and forth until it is 3 for Matty and 3 for Corinne. Then Probst utters those fateful words, “The twelfth person voted off of Gabon is…Corinne.”

Next week should be another stellar show. Both Bob and Kenny have some explaining to do! The coming attractions show Kenny jumping all over Bob about the bogus Immunity Idol and Sugar finally realizing that Kenny has been lying to everybody. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait! Until Next Time…From Gabon.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Am Thankful For…

Since it is Thanksgiving Day and Pat has already presented us with his list of what he is thankful for, I felt obligated to contribute my list. The thing is, it is not really a list per se. In fact, one sentence pretty much sums it all up for me. I am thankful for angels. Let me explain.

For many, an angel has religious connotations. Whether the religion is Christianity, Judaism or Islam, an angel is a spiritual supernatural being. I personally believe in spiritual angels. However, the spiritual angel is not the only type that I am thankful for. Once again, let me explain.

The New Oxford American Dictionary provides the following definitions of angel:

1. a spiritual being believed to act as an attendant, agent, or messenger of God, conventionally represented in human form with wings and a long robe.
2. a person of exemplary conduct or virtue.

Based on those two definitions, I would hazard a guess that we all have some sort of angels to be thankful for. Think about it for a moment and I am sure that you will begin to identify the angels in your own lives.

They may be the spiritual type based on your religious beliefs. Being Catholic, growing up I learned about Raphael, Gabriel and Michael. Another concept taught was that of guardian angels. Yet another sort of spiritual angel could be a loved one that has passed on. In that respect, I am thankful for my late grandma, Ermalinda Vagnoni. She was an angel while here on earth and remains one to this day.

The second definition of angel provides for a wide range of possibilities. I am sure that growing up, all of us has had a teacher or a coach that made a difference in our young lives. Maybe they helped you with something you could not comprehend or helped developing a certain skill. Maybe they just helped you fit it. Now as adults, this angel may be someone that has had a similar impact on your child’s life.

An additional variety of angels are role models. Once again it could be a teacher or coach, but personally, my “role model” angels are relatives. Not necessarily any one in particular, but a combination of the qualities of many. For example, I am thankful for my parents. They have shown me how to love, care and respect others. Also the entire Vagnoni clan for demonstrating how important family is. Funny thing about Italians. Finally, in the category of role models, I am thankful for my aunt Terri in California for illustrating how significant it is to not only listen, but to understand.

Yes, both types of angels are there to help us. A case in point is the angels that helped my godson Alex survive the 2007 holiday season. The spiritual kind guided the earthly angels as they fought from December 8th to Christmas Eve to keep him alive. A ruptured AVM (arteriovenous malformation), resulting in hemorrhaging in his brain, had both sets of angels working overtime. I am extremely thankful for that.

Where would we be without our angels? Who really knows? I know that I am thankful for Dr. Alfred Habel for helping me to delay what is inevitable for all human beings. I don’t know if he would appreciate being called angel, but he surely qualifies as one.

I am willing to bet that as you read this, you are coming up with people in your lives that fit the bill as angels. It could be a boss or a co-worker. Perhaps it is a clerk at a favorite store or your mailman. Is it the guy next door that you have known all your life or is it the stranger that was there when you needed help? Angels come in many shapes and forms.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a very valuable type of angel – the friend. My “friend” angels are all over the world. Literally. From Kenosha, Wisconsin to Farmington Hills, Michigan. From St. Paul Minnesota to San Juan Capistrano, California. I even have an angel with an English accent. They are all angels for various reasons. They are there for me without being asked. And I am thankful for each and every one of them.

I truly believe we all have angels in our lives, whether we know it or not. Maybe you have a different name or term for your angels, but they are still angels nonetheless. So be thankful for them. Not only on Thanksgiving Day but every day. Until Next Time…

Monday, November 24, 2008

It Ain't Fair!

When I was young, oh so many years ago, I got used to certain things. Sure as I grew up, new things were introduced to me, but I still wanted my old "standards" to be there as well. When the things that I had grown accustom to would change or go away, it left me sad and a little angry. If I enjoyed something, I wanted it to be around forever!

In my young mind I felt that if something was good and provided me with, not only enjoyment, but also a sense of security, why should it be taken away from me? With my juvenile intellect I just could not comprehend this loss that I was experiencing. It didn't matter to me what the reason was, it just didn't seem "fair".

Over the years, I have learned that, usually, "fair" isn't part of the equation. In fact, having grown up (well, sort of), I have come to cringe when I hear adults bitching and moaning and declaring something is not "fair." Don't they get it? Things change for the good and, far too often, for the bad. The sooner that we as a mature human beings quit expecting life to be "fair", the easier it will be for us to deal with the changes in our lives.

Certainly there are different levels of change in our lives. Changes that take away things we once treasured. It may be as simple as something that makes our life more comfortable or pleasurable. It may be a relationship ending or a change with our occupation. The most emotional is when we have to adapt to a loved one being taken from us.

I do not mean to diminish the effect or misery that changes have caused in any others lives. Having experienced all of these changes in my life, I didn't like any of them. I fully understand that there is no "fair" guarantee in our life here on earth. But it doesn't mean that I have to like it. I accept it, but I do not embrace it.

Sorry for being so cryptic. I have written this column in anticipation of something that is about to change in my life. Nothing major, just something that over the past seven months I have grown very fond of. I have a very strong sense that it is about to be taken from me, for it has already begun to change. And you know what? It ain't "fair!" Until Next Time…From the Booth.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Nine

Survivor Gabon Week 9 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! Tonight was a good, old-fashioned episode featuring classic Survivor elements with just enough new touches to keep things fresh and entertaining. Then despite all of that, why am I feeling so crummy?

The episode starts in typical fashion, recapping last week’s events. After the recap, we see Randy, Bob and Corrine discussing their hopeless situation. We are then reminded that the alliance of Kenny, Crystal, Matty, Susie and Sugar will be calling the shots from now on. With that in mind, for no good reason, Bob decides to tell Sugar about the fake Immunity Idol that he fashioned while on Exile Island. I thought Bob was a physics teacher…

Tree mail sends the members of Nobag to a Survivor Auction, a vintage favorite. Randy spends $180 on beer and peanuts and Sugar forks over $340 for peanut butter and some chocolate. Not to be out done, Susie plunks down $300 for a hot bath, while Matty gladly pays $400 for a burger and fries. Randy still feeling a bit peckish, outbids his tribe mates for a $280 plate of spaghetti and garlic bread.

Kenny bids and wins a surprise item, which ends up sending Bob back to Exile Island. Corrine shells out $500 for a message in a bottle, which is to remain, sealed until the next Immunity Challenge. The final item is a $20 platter of chocolate chip cookies that must be shared with the rest of the tribe. Randy ponies up the cash and shares the sweet delights with the rest. Sugar, having a great hatred for Randy, gives her cookie to Matty.

Randy, who didn’t care for Sugar to begin with, is really ticked off! So mad that he comes up with an ingeniously devious plan, which he shares with Corrine. Randy figures that Bob must have found the Hidden Immunity Idol by now and since every one in the alliance already hates him, he will be an even bigger jerk and really piss them off. Then when Bob comes back from Exile Island he will talk Bob into letting him have the Idol. What a stroke of genius! Be careful what you wish for Randy…

The next order of business is the Immunity Challenge. Bob returns from Exile Island and Randy stares at him, desperately wondering if he does have the Hidden Idol. Jeff Probst describes that the challenge will consist of carrying three bags of puzzle blocks across balance beams. The first 3 contestants to finish this task go onto the finals where they must set up the blocks on bridges dominos style while negotiating “trip” ropes. If the domino blocks are set properly they will release a flag that declares the winner.

Before they start, Probst tells Corrine to open her bottle from the auction and read the message inside. The message tells Corrine she is automatically in the finals of the challenge. This means only 2 spots are up for grab in the balance beam portion of the task. Matty finishes first with Kenny barely beating Bob for the third spot in the finals.

The competition is fierce between the trio and Kenny is triumphant and has earned Individual Immunity. Back at camp Sugar convinces Bob to give his fake Idol to the dimwitted Randy. Our resident airhead giggles over the cruel scheme. Thinking Bob has the real Hidden Immunity Idol, Corrine is next in line to tell Bob he has to give it to Randy. Bob does as he is told and hands it over to an elated Randy.

As can be expected, Tribal Council is somewhat of an anti climax. Probst listens as members of Kenny’s alliance discuss what a jerk Randy is. Sugar is especially opinionated, using words like alcoholic, bigot, chauvinist, etc. You get the point – she doesn’t really care for the man. She giggles during the entire voting process and the inevitable happens with Randy becoming the third member of the jury.

I know it sounds like it was a first-rate episode, but I still felt crummy at the end. And it wasn’t even the chocolate chip cookies. Usually at this point in the season I have a good idea who I want to win the million dollars. But I don’t!!! I honestly can’t pick a favorite for season 17.

Matty is nondescript and doesn’t realize he will be the first one ousted once the alliance has to get rid of one of t’s own. Kenny keeps making hat stupid rat face and those weird noises. Susie doesn’t know when to shut her mouth. Crystal isn’t as vocal, but when she does speak it is usually to whine. Plus, I still want to see video of her winning in the Olympics.

Corrine is a loathsome creature driven purely by contempt for others and at this point, Sugar simply nauseates me. She has gone from airhead to obnoxious. That leaves me with Bob. I thought I could pull for him, but after they showed the coming attractions where he was lying to Corrine, well I crossed him off the list as well.

You must be wondering if I feel so crummy about the way things are going, why do I continue to watch. I will tell you why. Because this is Survivor and I love it! I just hope that next week isn’t a review show. We will have to wait and see. Until next time…From Gabon.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A First

As some of you might know, I have been writing for the DailyKenoshan since the beginning of May. That is where a majority of my "columns" come from. By my subject matter, you can probably tell what interests me - sports, music, television, etc.

This past week I decided to expand my horizons and try something new. This week I interviewed and wrote a column about a local radio personality, Bill Lawrence. I was very pleased on how it turned out and really enjoyed doing it.

Because of the length of the article, over 1,100 words, I did not want to reprint it here as well. If you would like to take a look at it, please click here. Please leave a comment if you do happen to read it. But be gentle, remember it is my virgin voyage into the world of interviewing!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Eight

Survivor Gabon Week 8 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! Tonight’s episode provides us with a totally new, never seen before challenge. But don’t worry, it is also chock full of Old-School Survivor elements. Plus, Jeff Probst finally utters the words everyone has been waiting to hear!

The episode opens with Kota’s Kenny feeling the power and Bob experiencing extreme anxiety, pinning his chances for survival on a merge of the two tribes. Over at Fang, it’s just a lot moaning and groaning about starving and having no more rice.

The tribes are gathered for the Reward Challenge, but alas no merge. Kota is visibly upset when they see that Fang has eliminated Marcus. Corrine and Sugar are the most verbal calling their opponents stupid. Charlie is simply crestfallen.

The challenge is slingshot golf! The tribes have to propel their balls towards the hole using huge slingshots, not unlike the ones you see at sporting events used to launch t-shirts into the crowd. Want to know what they are playing for? A trip to an authentic Gabonese ceremony/feast complete with authentic Gabon natives.

Fang wins the 3-hole competition, but not without Randy, Matty and Charlie bitching at each other while Sugar stands by smiling, staring off into the jungle. The reward is pretty standard Survivor fare. The only unusual part was during the dancing portion of the ceremony. Seems Randy senses that one of the natives was coming on to him and announces, “That’s the first time that’s happened in 20 years.” Shut up Randy.

Kota’s Bob has the distinction of being the first player, other than Sugar, to be sent to Exile Island in the last 6 episodes. Despite solving all the clues, he cannot find the Hidden Individual Immunity Idol. Resigned to the fact that Sugar has it, he goes old-school and makes a fake Idol! Shades of Ozzy from season 16 Micronesia. It was great! I think a tear rolled down my cheek.

After the reward has concluded the Immunity Challenge is next on the agenda. The tribes gather, Probst takes the Immunity Idol and then announces that they are now playing for individual immunity and those much awaited words finally come out of his mouth, “DROP YOUR BUFFS!” That’s right, at long last the tribes have merged!

The challenge is to make a fire strong enough to burn through the twine above your station. Each Survivor is given a flint, a machete, kindling and some sticks. Shockingly, only Susie and Sugar are able to create fire, with Susie emerging victorious.

Back at camp, the newly formed tribe is elated to find rice, beans, fruit and even some canned goods. The next endeavor is to come up with a name for the new tribe. Someone comes up with the bright idea of spelling Gabon backwards and the tribe is christened Nobag. They paint a flag featuring the new moniker and proudly sport their new buffs.

With all the fun stuff behind them, the Survivors decide to back to the real task, deciding on whom to eliminate. Randy bluntly expresses. “There’s no way I’m staying with Crystal, either she goes or I do.” Kenny, still feeling somewhat omnipotent, declares, “I’m like a little rat in the corner.” Then proceeds to make a disturbing rat-like face and some strange noises. Corrine states the obvious, "Sugar is such a moron!”

Despite Sugar not being Mensa material, she is the swing vote. For the first time in years, I have no idea who is going to be ousted at Tribal Council. The discussion is very volatile, with Randy and Crystal going at it. Sugar says something dumb and Kenny tells a big, whopping lie. Charlie attempts to be the voice of reason with little results. It’s time to vote.

Probst tallies the vote. The first four are for Crystal, who begins to cry, joining the already misty-eyed Sugar. Out of nowhere the next four votes are for Charlie. With everyone on pins and needles, Probst proclaims Charlie the 10th person eliminated and the second member of the jury. At least Charlie has been reunited with his buddy Marcus.

Next week should be promising. The battle between Randy and Crystal will surely continue to escalate. Corrine will probably become bitchier. It’s about time for Susie to start shooting her mouth off again and Sugar will remain the lovable airhead. I can’t wait. Until next week…From Gabon

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Seven

Survivor Gabon Week 7 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! Lying, cheating, backstabbing, hating, conniving, half-truths, promises not kept, scheming, deception. I’m not talking about the Presidential campaign, that’s over! I’m talking about Survivor Gabon. Yes indeed, Old-Time Survivor is back! Plus, we have the ubiquitous twist.

This week’s episode starts out with the typical planning and strategizing at both the Kota and Fang (rhymes with thong) camps. Tree mail arrives and the tribes are told to bring only their personal items and make their way to the beach. Both tribes are ecstatic, surmising the long awaited merge has finally arrived. It also sounds like a meal is possible as well.

Well, they were at least half right, there is a meal waiting for them. A veritable feast fit for a king: chicken, meat loaf, mixed nuts (yes, mixed nuts), a cornucopia of fresh fruit and wine. Randy sits on the beach with a class of wine and declares himself the king of Gabon.

During the meal, the survivors were given a clue for yet another Individual Immunity Idol. Randy finds it in about 7 seconds. He doesn’t want it and the other nine decide that the Idol is evil, not unlike the apple in the Garden of Eden. So they put it in a bottle and toss it in the ocean. Okay, they aren’t that bright.

Remember I said the gang was half right about their interpretation of the tree mail? What they got wrong was the part about a merge. Much to their chagrin, the merge did not emerge. The twist! Instead of a merge, they draw numbers to form two new tribes. The new Fang crew consists of Matty, air-headed Sugar, Corrine, King Randy and Charlie. The updated Kota clan is made up of Crystal, Ken, Marcus, Susie the bigmouth and Bob.

Back in their respective camps, the new tribes’ members proceed to form new alliances and make promises they have no intention of keeping. Old-Time Survivor! Crystal, the Olympic Gold Medalist, promises Marcus she will never write his name down at Tribal Council. Moment’s later, she stares into the camera and basically states she just lied and would slit his throat in a heartbeat. Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. Don’t ya love it?

The Immunity Challenge is an endurance test. Each survivor must support a wooden pole on the back of his or her hands. Lower your hands and the poles fall and you are eliminated. The survivor who lasts the longest wins immunity for their tribe, sending the opposing tribe to Tribal Council. World-class athlete Crystal lasts exactly one second with Sugar holding out for 10 seconds. Not long after, six more survivors fall to the wayside, leaving only Matty (Fang) and 58-year-old Bob (Kota) remaining. Bob finally succumbs and Fang is victorious.

Kota goes back to camp and the plotting and lying begins. Crystal makes a deal with Marcus to vote out Ken. While Marcus is informing Susie of the plan to get rid of Ken, Crystal is making a beeline to Ken and they plot to oust Marcus. Ken and Crystal then go to work on Susie. The lies and the backstabs are flying. This puts Susie in the powerful position of swing voter. She decides to eliminate Marcus the 28-year-old doctor from Atlanta.

It appears that the group of survivors from season 17 has finally gotten it. They are at long last lying, cheating, backstabbing, hating, conniving, telling half-truths, not keeping promises, scheming, and deceiving each other. Ah yes, Old-Time-Survivor! Until next week…From Gabon

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Big Day…

Well, Tuesday is the Big Day. November 4th is the day when America elects the man that will end the eight-year presidential reign of George W. Bush. Politicians and pundits alike are calling it the most important election in America’s history. Yes, it certainly is a Big Day.

I won’t debate the significance of November 4th, 2008. That would be ignorant and somewhat hypocritical on my part. Knowing the gravity of this date, I have made sure that my vote would be cast, having recently done so through the Absentee Ballot process.

Having already done my democratic, oops (Freudian slip) - patriotic duty, I have done all that I can to contribute to the immense importance of Tuesday. No more answering those annoying phone calls urging me to vote for a particular party. Although, I will eagerly watch the election returns Tuesday evening, personally the Big Day has lost a bit of its luster.

Seeing that November 4th isn’t quite as big a day for me as it is for others, I have decided to make Monday my new Big Day. Yes, November 3rd is my choice for the Big Day. The reason for this choice is that it is the birthday of my friend from England, Bev Cooper.

I have known Bev for about 3 years and she is a wonderful, dear friend. All friends are special and should be treasured. Please don’t take your friends for granted. They are too precious. Happy Big Day Bev. I close with the words of Pete Townshend.

A friend is a friend
Nothing can change that
Arguments, squabbles
Can't break the contract
That each of you makes
To the death, to the end
Deliver your future
Into the hands of your friend

Until next time…From The Booth.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Six

Survivor Gabon Week 5 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! The Twist is back!!! That’s right, after a two-week hiatus the twist has returned to Survivor Gabon. Okay, there was some more crying, but the twist made its triumphant return.

This week’s episode started out in typical fashion. The gang at Fang (rhymes with thong) is bitching and moaning once again, Kota kicks their ass once more in the Rewards Challenge and Sugar gets sent to Exile Island for an unprecedented time. Sound familiar?

The Reward Challenge was the classic children’s game of keep-away, with Kota shutting Fang out in the contest. Want to know what they were playing for? A helicopter ride to the top of a gorgeous mountaintop, complete with a delicious picnic lunch. Plus, another Survivor staple, letters from loved ones. That’s where the tears came in. Please, for the last time, there's no crying in Survivor!

All of this happened in the first twenty minutes of the show and they were already gathering around Jeff Probst for the dreaded Immunity Challenge! That got me to thinking that Producer Mark Burnett had something up his sleeve. Could it be? Do you think?

Yes!!! It was the long awaited Survivor twist! And it was a huge one. Probst announced that, because Fang sucks so bad, someone from each tribe would be eliminated. Okay, he didn’t say that Fang sucks, but we all know that was the reason behind the double-elimination twist. But the twist didn’t end there. In this Immunity Challenge everyone had a chance to earn Individual Immunity.

The challenge was the classic lumberjack contest of logrolling. After three rounds of intense competition, Marcus emerged the champion Survivor logroller and had garnished the precious Individual Immunity. But wait, the twist wasn’t done! In addition to winning immunity, Marcus had the honor of awarding Individual Immunity to a member of the opposing Fang tribe. He must have thought he was sending someone to Exile Island, because he chose Sugar.

Back at camp Fang, the tribe members were faced with the weekly task of going to Tribal Council and voting off one of their own. Sugar, who had the Hidden Immunity Individual Idol from Exile Island, was the swing vote. Ace asked to “borrow” it from her, but Sugar effortlessly played stupid and told him that he wouldn’t need it.

Despite some prodding from Probst, the discussion at the Kota Tribal Council was fairly mundane. The most notable occurrence was Ace finally remembering his thick British accent. He hadn’t used it yet in tonight’s episode. I am glad he finally did because, in a true Survivor blindside, he was the 7th Survivor sent home from Gabon. As Probst extinguished his torch, Ace glared at Sugar and uttered, “Thanks Sugar.” Poor fool never saw it coming.

Now it was Kota’s turn. Faced with the unaccustomed dilemma of eliminating a tribe mate at Tribal Council. It looked like Dan was the consensus pick until Susie; the quiet 47-year-old hairdresser opened her mouth. When Corrine told Susie that Dan was the one being given the heave-ho, Susie casually mentioned, “Oh, okay I was gonna vote for you.” Duh, Susie! Step away from the chemicals used to give perms.

At Tribal Council Susie continued to run her mouth and pisses Corrine off even more. It certainly appeared that she would be the 8th person to hear those fatal words, “The tribe has spoken.” Alas, for some unknown reason, Kota went back to their original plan and ousted Dan.

If things stay to form, next week should be the merge. The coming attraction at the end of this week’s show teased us with Randy drinking, what appears to be, champagne and declaring that he is the king of Gabon. Oh ya, and a bunch of (blurred out) Survivors skinny-dipping. It should be interesting. Until next week…From Gabon

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Do I Dare…

I have a dilemma. I really enjoy writing my Survivor Recap each week. Not only do I post it here, but also on the Daily Kenoshan as well. When I first started, I would write in pencil and scratch things out and rewrite it several times before hitting the computer. Not being a typing whiz on the keyboard, it would take a considerable amount of time.

I finally gave in and took the advice of my friend Bev. I was reluctant at first because Bev talks funny. You see she is from England. We met about three years ago playing online games in Pogo and have since become dear friends. When I told her how I wrote, she called me a donut and said just start typing. Believe it or not she was right.

Since adopting this new "style" of writing, columns are done much quicker. Last week's was done at 9:15 p.m. Not bad, considering the show ended at 8:00 p.m. and I first had to call Aunt Janet to discuss the latest developments in Gabon.

So, you ask, what is my dilemma? Top Chef premiers November 12th on the Bravo network and besides Survivor, it is one of the few reality shows that I still follow. I have never been a big fan of American Idol and have recently kicked the Apprentice habit, as well as just saying no to Project Runway. It was tough saying good-bye to Heidi Klum, but characters like Christian Siriano and Austin Scarlett made it easier.



That leaves me with (for now) Top Chef and Survivor. Do I dare undertake starting another recap series with Top Chef? It is on Wednesday nights at 9:00 p.m., so I am thinking that the column would probably be posted on Thursday mornings. If you happen to read this blog, please leave a comment or email me and let me know what you think. Until next time…From The Booth.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Five

Survivor Gabon Week 5 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! Quick, someone call Richard Hatch, Sue Hawk and Jonny Fairplay and send them to Gabon! The Survivors on season 17 are in dire need of a few tips and pointers on how to play this game.

Okay, maybe Hatch can’t help because he’s still in prison for tax evasion, but surely Hawk and Fairlplay could help this clueless bunch. Heck, if you have to, call Rupert Boneham. It would have been nice if some of the current Survivors had watched a season or two before they signed up for the show.

Wondering what I am talking about? Well, lets start with the Reward Challenge. Once again Kota kicked the Fang (rhymes with thong) tribe’s ass. Yes, that’s right; Kota carried their 200 pound, 20 foot long snake faster and won yet again. That set up some behavior that was very unbecoming of a true Survivor. There's no crying in Survivor!

After the loss, Fang’s Crystal starts crying because she can’t stand losing all the time. Kota’s Randy, upon seeing Olympic Gold Medalist Crystal’s tears, responds with, “Wha, wha!” Once again, Kota sends airhead Sugar to Exile Island. Guess what? She starts blubbering! Why? Because she gets to lie on a hammock eating fruit while the rest of her Fang tribe is starving!

Maybe, in addition to Hawk, Fairplay and Boneham, they should also send Jimmy Dugan to Gabon. You remember Jimmy Dugan the manager of the Rockford Peaches in A League of Their Own. When right fielder Evelyn Gardner doesn’t hit the cutoff, he chews her out, causing Evelyn to burst into tears. Dugan’s response to her weeping? “THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!”

Well there was plenty of crying in Survivor last night. Plus there was plenty of stupidity as well, most of it being attributed to our dear friend Sugar. When Ace, he of the occasional British accent, tells her that everybody knows she has the (not-so) Hidden Individual Immunity Idol, she gladly turns it over to him. Later, after Fang loses the Immunity Challenge (that makes them 2-8 in challenges), Ken tells Sugar that Ace cannot be trusted. So she cheerfully says okay and takes it back from Ace.

Before going to Tribal Council, Matty tells Ace he wants to vote Sugar out. Ace, forgetting to use his accent, talks him into voting for Kelly. Crystal wants to eliminate Ace and Ken agrees that he can’t be trusted. This is when Ken talked Sugar into getting the Hidden Individual Immunity Idol back. Confused yet?

At Tribal Council Jeff Probst chastises the members of Fang for sucking so bad and starts a fight between Kelly and Crystal. When Kelly brings up Ace, he snaps at her in his thickest British accent possible and basically tells her she is a moron. With that, the tribe votes and Probst tallies the votes, announcing, “The tribe has spoken” and Kelly is history.

Next week, because Fang is so pathetic, each tribe will be eliminating a member out of Gabon. Before that happens, I implore producer Mark Burnett to send the remaining contestants to Survivor 101. Hopefully professors Hawk, Fairplay, Boneham and Dugan will be on hand to whip this sorry lot into shape. Until next week…From Gabon

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is Brett a Rat?

Hopefully you read yesterday’s blog titled “Is Brett a Rat? – A Prelude”. It was a column that was originally written on July 8th for the Daily Kenoshan. It was titled “Why Brett, Why?” and dealt with my feelings concerning Brett Favre’s considerable waffling regarding his retirement. Obviously the discussion of whether Favre would play for another NFL team ended when the Packers dealt him to the New York Jets.

Since Favre went to toss the pigskin in the Meadowlands, the opinions that I gave in that column have pretty much remained the same. I was a fan when he was a Packer and enjoyed watching him play in Green Bay. I am not a fan of Favre as a Jet, although I do not root against the Jets.

After what Jay Glazer’s reported Sunday, that is subject to change. Said Glazer, on Fox's pregame show Sunday: "Brett Favre called the Detroit Lions, starting off with Matt Millen and then the coaching staff, and gave them a 90-minute dissertation on every single thing that the Green Bay Packers do on offense."

You have to be kidding me. What’s next?

In Monday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Greg A. Bedard wrote a column about the Green Bay player’s reaction to this allegation. Bedard wrote, "He contacted them?" cornerback Charles Woodson said with raised eyebrows. "I don't respect that. If they called him and he gives them information, that's one thing. But to seek a team out, because, you know, I guess you're trying to sabotage this team, you know I don't respect that. I know he's been the greatest player around here for a long time but there's no honor in that."

Bedard reported that General Manager Ted Thompson and Head Coach Mike McCarthy both had no comment. Offensive tackle Chad Clifton said he didn’t believe it, but defensive end Cullen Jenkins offered this, "If that was the case, if he did talk to the coaches, I could see if he told his coaches if they were going to play us. That's all right. But if you go out of your way to talk to another team, nah, I don't think that's right."

Granted this is still an allegation, but Glazer is standing behind his story “1000 per cent.” He is a reporter that “hits” far more than he “misses.” WTMJ news at noon consisted of a lot of fan’s opinions. A lot of disappointment to say the least. Still needing more, I decided to see what the talking heads on the radio had to say.

As expected, there were a lot of quotes from Glazer being discussed and he was interviewed via telephone on several different shows. Interesting, but it wasn’t giving me what I wanted. It wasn’t giving me what I needed to hear about Brett Favre.

Then I got it. Former Packer players started to weigh in on the issue. On ESPN 540 Steve “The Homer” True interviewed former tight end Mark Chmura. He said it wouldn’t shock him. He went on to say that if it was true, it would have to effect the Packer’s decision to retire Favre’s number 4. I realize Favre and Chmura have a friendship that has waned in recent years, but the way he spoke had an impact on me.

Down the dial, WSSP 1250 featured no less than 3 former Packers – host Gary Ellerson, Gilbert Brown and LeRoy Butler. While Brown took a wait and see attitude, the same couldn’t be said about Ellerson. He said this was the tip of the iceberg, that we would be hearing even more about Mr. Favre in the near future.

Between Chmura, Brown and Ellerson, I had heard enough to help me get a hold on what I was feeling about this situation. After LeRoy Butler spoke, I had a complete stranglehold on my feelings.

Butler is one of the classiest people around. Pat Hegewald has featured Butler and his contributions to society in several columns. When he speaks, it goes beyond athletics. When he spoke on WSSP I got the impression he was disillusioned with Favre.

During the radio show, a caller told Butler that his wife had just given birth to their second child. The caller told Butler that it would mean a lot to his wife if he would call her. Butler’s response? “What’s the number?”

The host commented that this is why Butler had such a great reputation with the fans. He then asked Butler if the current turn of events would tarnish Favre’s stature with the fans. Butler’s response said it all.

“If you were to ask me if he cares what people think of him, the answer would be NO! Why? Because he is Brett Favre.”

In the upcoming days we will surely hear more than we need to about Favre being a rat or a backstabber. I will listen and watch, but I have heard all that I need from Chmura, Ellerson, Brown and especially Butler. Heroes are supposed to be big. In my eyes, even at 6’2” and 220 pounds, Brett Lorenzo Favre is pretty small. Until next time…From The Booth.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Is Brett a Rat? - A Prelude

Before I comment on Brett Favre's latest alleged miscue, I would like to lay some groundwork. On July 8th I wrote the following column for the Daily Kenoshan. It will give you an idea on my feelings regarding the former Packer great. I will follow up tomorrow with my opinion on the recent turn of events.

Why Brett, Why?

The Green Bay Packers have long been my favorite football team. My first recollections were of the great Lombardi championship teams of the 1960s. They were, in my opinion, the greatest dynasty in the history of the National Football League.

After the glory years came, for lack of a better term, the lean years, beginning with the Dan Devine era and ending with the Lindy Infante regime. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that a couple of coaches named Starr and Gregg were sandwiched in between. Indeed, the teams of the '70s and '80s tested the intestinal fortitude of us loyal fans of the Green and Gold. It's fortunate that Packer fans are a hardy lot and remain faithful and I am no different.

Our continued faithfulness was repaid in the '90s. The "title" was finally put back in Titletown, thanks to the efforts of Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren. We were rewarded with another Super Bowl victory on January 26, 1997 at the Superdome in Louisiana. The team's good fortune would continue to this day, with varying degrees of success - often going deep into the playoffs.

The one constant ingredient for the Packers during their current streak of prosperity is Brett Favre. General Manager Ron Wolf acquired Favre from the Atlanta Falcons before the 1992 season. I was stunned the first time that I saw him throw the ball downfield during a drill in training camp. What an arm! It was evident that he was something special. Later that same year I was fortunate enough to be sitting in historic Lambeau Field on September 20th.

It was a warm autumn day and the Packers were playing the Cincinnati Bengals. The home team fell behind early and to make matters worse, quarterback Don Majkowski was knocked out of the game in the first quarter. Down 17 to 3, the sellout crew (duh!) grew restless, sensing impending doom.

Enter number four. It wasn't pretty, he fumbled four times and was sacked five times. He did, however, manage to throw for two fourth-quarter touchdowns. The second, a 35-yarder to Kitrick Taylor with 13 seconds left, ended a 92-yard, 54-second drive that Favre engineered with no timeouts remaining. Instantly a legend was born. The victory would help the Packers start building their streak of winning seasons. That game that day sealed the deal for me. I had become a fan of the kid from Kiln, Mississippi.

Being a Brett Favre fan for the past 17 years has been a roller coaster ride, with plenty of ups and downs. Like any good roller coaster ride, it has been plenty exciting. Watching Favre develop, not only as a player, but also as a man, has added to the enjoyment of being a fan of his. Sure, I have had to defend some of his on field and off field decisions over the years. Numerous times a Bear or Viking fan have given me considerable grief when Favre "waffled" on whether or not he would play in 2006 and 2007. Like any good fan, I stood behind my player. He was our quarterback, he was our leader. Hell, he was the Green Bay Packers!

On Tuesday March 4, 2008, a teary eyed Brett Favre finally called it quits. His emotional retirement address was carried live on ABC, CBS, FOX, ESPN, ESPN News and NBC. For the next few months, it was even available "On-Demand" on Time Warner. I know, I watched it several times and endured all the jeers and mocking coming from Favre-haters. Once again I stood by Favre. Retired or not, I was still a fan of his.

It saddens me to say that all of this changed a couple of weeks ago when Favre began to hint that he had the "itch" to play again. WHAT?!? I thought he was mentally tired and couldn't endure the grind any longer. He told me this. I heard him! Through the tears and the sobbing, I heard him! He was retired. He was done. I heard him! With his decision, the Packers had to move in a new direction. The recent draft is evidence of this. But, now this! To make matters worse, Favre uses his brother Scott as his mouthpiece. If I hear one more phone conversation between Scott Favre and WTMJ's Lance Allan, it will be my turn to cry.

Upon hearing of Favre's interest in playing football again, Packer head coach Mike McCarthy responded, "You're putting us in a terrible spot." Sport Illustrated's Peter King has reported that Favre had text messaged Packer General Manager Ted Thompson over the holiday weekend. Wht was Thompson's response to Favre? "I'm on vacation, we'll talk later." To top it all off, we have his mother saying that she feels the Packers haven't really appreciated her son the past couple of years. Bonita, please shut up! That was the proverbial last straw for me.

It comes with a heavy heart, when I say that it is over. I can no longer defend number four. I just can't do it anymore, not when I hear discussion of Favre playing for another NFL team. What if he ends up playing for the Vikings, or heaven forbid - da Bears! Anyone have a Kleenex? Why did you have to tarnish your great legacy? Why Brett, why? Until next time...From The Booth.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Four

Survivor Gabon Week 4 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! Okay Mark Burnett, where’s our twist? In my humble opinion, a sub par episode this week. Coming attractions from last week fail to deliver and the weekly twist never happened. Thank goodness for a couple of decent challenges and Ace’s mysterious, here-again-gone again accent.

I have been watching Survivor since it inception back in 2000. All 17 seasons have had their peaks and valleys. Except for the challenges and waiting to see whether or not Ace was going to use his British accent, week four was definitely a valley for me.

Where were the wild, rogue elephants crashing into the camp that we were teased with in last week’s coming attractions? Where was GC going AWOL and not showing up for a crucial Immunity Challenge? That too was tantalizingly dangled in front of us last week.

I will tell you where – NO WHERE! GC did go AWOL – for about 10 minutes while he rowed around contemplating his future on Survivor. As far as wild elephants attacking camp, Matty sees an elephant eating leaves across the river, so he and Ace row over and marvel at the pachyderm. Fortunately there was still Ace’s intriguing accent to monitor.

Last week was the first time I noticed that Ace doesn’t always “remember” to use his accent. At the beginning of tonight’s episode he used it. Later when GC starts freaking out and goes missing, Ace’s accent goes missing as well! It seems like when he talks to the camera he uses it, but when he is dealing with the other members of Fang (rhymes with thong) he doesn’t use it. Check it out next week and see if I am not right.

Thankfully, both challenges were pretty good this week. Flying fruit highlighted the Reward Challenge. You name it, it flew! Melons, apples, pineapples, and guavas – I think I even saw a quince. Needless to say, the fruits were not all indigenous to Africa, but who cared.

Survivors from each tribe attempted to throw various pieces of fruit past the other team, through raised openings to a waiting tribe mate who would deposit the produce in a basket. Want to know what they were playing for? An herb garden (can you say Gia pet?), salt, oil and all the fruit your team caught. Of course Kota won and of course they sent Sugar to Exile Island. Ho hum…

The Immunity Challenge entailed throwing large, weighted wicker balls down an extremely steep hill into goals with varying point values. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so quick! Each team had a “goalie” with an over-sized snowshoe trying to block the other team’s efforts. Not bad, eh? But there was more! The “goalies” were blindfolded and were told where to go by a teammate. Pretty good stuff.

Oh ya, Kota won, yawn. Before Tribal Council, GC tells the other Fang members that he has had enough and wants to be voted out. Yawn, been done before. At Tribal Council, despite the air headed Sugar coming just short of admitting she has the Individual Immunity Idol, Fang obliges GC and votes him out of Gabon.

Hopefully next week the action will pick up a little bit. If not for the challenges, week four was a real snooze fest. I can only play the “Where’s Ace’s Phony Accent” game so long! Until next week…From Gabon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Competition, Pride and Friendships"

A while back, I had kicked around the idea of putting together some sort of book celebrating the history of Kenosha slow-pitch softball. Although the book idea got shelved, I was able to obtain some interesting stories while gathering information for the project. I would like to share one of those stories with you. To minimize embarrassment, I have used nicknames whenever possible.

Jim Nehls was kind enough to respond when I put out a call for information. Nehls pitched for Margetson Construction. Margetson was a constant thorn in the side of The 400 Club, the team I managed.

They were only together 3 years, one as Arneson Foundry. During that short period of time, they were able to win the 1979 Kenosha City Tournament. This group of ex-hardball players comitted only one error over the 2 weekends that it took to complete the tourney. The final Sunday's action took place at the expansive Simmon's Field. On that memorable day, Margetson knocked off The 400 Club, Matador Lounge, Sorensen's Mfg. and Tirabassi's in the finals.

Nehls told me that winning that city title, obviously, was the number one highlight in Margetson's short existence. His number two highlight brought a broad grin to my face. It seem, Nehls remembered a 6:00 pm "grudge match" with The 400 Club at Finney's West. After the game, a 400 Club outfielder (let's call him "Eddie") approached Nehls, saying, " Why don't you chumps ever stop at The 400 Club?" So Nehls honored the request, gathered several of his teammates and arrived at The 400 Club around 10:00 pm.

Upon entering the historic establishment, Nehls was greeted by 400 Club legend, "Munk." The affable Munk snapped, "What the hell are you guys doing here?" Nehls bravely replied, "Back off! We were invited by Eddie." Munk chuckled and informed Nehls that he was too late - Eddie was already asleep in Gentile's van. Nehls said he thought that was a bit rude. Jimmy Gentile, owner of said van, assured Nehls that it was nothing personal, explaining that Eddie often ended up in the back of his van after a "tough game." Nehls broke into a big smile and ordered a beer.

The players from both teams "closed" The 400 Club that evening, had a great time and got to know each other better. Nehls summed up this highlight, saying, "I guess that's what Kenosha softball was about - Competition, Pride and Friendships." Well-said Mr. Nehls. Until next time...From The Booth

Friday, October 10, 2008

In My Humble Opinion…

In my humble opinion…my late Grandmother, Ermalinda Vagnoni made the best ravioli, bar none. Each holiday, this little Italian angel would single-handily make enough of these meat-stuffed pasta delights to feed ten adults and their nine children. Not once, but twice! The first seating was at twelve noon and the second around 5:00 pm. Mind you, Grandma 'noni's "ravs" were the size of a large man's hand and never seemed to run out. They were the best!

In my humble opinion…Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon comprised the greatest Rock band ever. The Who, formed in 1964, took a back seat to no one in the '60s and '70s. You can have The Beatles, Stones and Zeppelin; give me The Who any day. "People try to put us down, just because we get around."

In my humble opinion…Badstreet U.S.A. is the benchmark for sports-entertainment intro music. Nowadays every WWE superstar has his or her own distinctive theme music. They all have The Fabulous Freebirds, Michael "P.S." Hayes, Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy and Buddy "Jack" Roberts, to thank. They were the first to fully incorporate music into their ring entrance. "The further down the street you went the badder it got."

In my humble opinion…it would be nice to have an interesting local sports-talk radio program to listen to. The operative word is INTERESTING! The sad thing is we use to have one, but unfortunately we do not have one anymore. Enough said on the matter…it just makes me sad.

In my humble opinion…Kenoshans that suffer from sleep apnea or respiratory problems are truly blessed to have Kevin Metz and his wonderful staff at Metz Medical to serve them. Besides being a good, honest businessman, Kevin is also a considerate and caring human being and makes your problems a little easier to deal with. Thanks Kevin.

In my humble opinion…the greatest television show of all time was the HBO drama The Wire. Okay, The Sopranos is a close second, but it was fading at the end. The Wire always left me wanting more. If you have never had the opportunity to watch this tremendous program, you need to do yourself a favor. Beginning with season 1, rent or borrow the DVDs. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. One last thing, Omar Little - Rest In Peace.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Three

Survivor Gabon Week 3 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Column! In an obvious effort to draw sports fans from the baseball playoffs, Survivor featured an Immunity Challenge that combined water polo and lacrosse. And, what has become a weekly highlight, yet another twist!

This week’s episode starts out showing how divided the Fang (remember it rhymes with thong) tribe has become. As the bickering grows worse, GC comments, “Not looking good for a pimp out here!” Even Kota has conflict with pseudo leader Ace having had it with Kelly and refers to her as a “Whiny little cow.” It ain’t looking good for the Fang gang or the Kota crew.

What could possibly cure Fang’s internal chaos and Kota's squabbling? How about a “twist”? Jeff Probst to the rescue. He has each tribe rank its’ members in order of importance. Of course this raises a few eyebrows. Marcus and Matty are ranked number one for their respective tribes and start the process of choosing new tribes.

Each new squad ends up with 3 new survivors on it. Neither tribe picked Sugar so she is sent off to Exile Island once again, with the stipulation that she return after the next Tribal Council, replacing who ever is voted off. Since she already has found the Individual Immunity Idol, she chooses comfort rather than a clue. She spends the rest of the show lying on a hammock munching succulent morsels of fruit.

Before the new tribes can get to know each other very well, they get tree mail announcing an Immunity Challenge. The challenge is a combination of water polo and lacrosse. Each survivor paddles around in his or her own little raft. As a team they have to try to shoot a ball into their opponent’s goal using their paddles.

It was actually a pretty interesting challenge with Randy scoring an unexpected hat trick as Kota shut out Fang, 3-0. Besides Randy, Marcus and Dan lead the charge for Kota, while Ace and Jacquie stood out for Fang in defeat. And yes, the challenge was another excuse for the babes and the hunks to be in the water in their swim wear.

After the challenge, Fang went back to camp to lick their wounds and argue over which tribe mate should get the heave-ho. It came down to either Jacquie, who has a B.S. in business administration from the University of Wisconsin, or Kelly, the sales manager from Buffalo Grove, Illinois.

At Tribal Council, the two blond beauties plead their cases with Jacquie, despite some earlier tears, gets “The tribe has spoken” speech and is the fourth survivor ousted from Gabon. One interesting note, during deliberation, Ace lost his thick British accent while making his point. However when he cast his vote, it miraculously reappeared! This reality television really is must see TV.

That’s it for week three. Coming attractions for week four tease us with “Elephants Gone Wild” and GC goes missing right before an important (aren’t they all?) challenge. This causes a tribe mate to utter, “Maybe a monkey ate ‘em, dude!” I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. Until next week…From Gabon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Early Softball Memories

In my first submission I mentioned that I would be sharing some of my many softball memories with you. One of my earliest memories of Kenosha softball was of the great Tirabassi teams. They were always the team everyone wanted to knock off and at the same time wished to someday reach their level of excellence. The Tirabassi Excavators have always been the gold standard of Kenosha softball and in 1962 they were World Champions.

That's right, sandwiched in between 3rd place finishes in '61 and '63; the Excavators were the American Softball Association world champions. They accomplished this great feat by running the table, going undefeated in the 64 team double elimination tournament. They played error-free ball in each of their 7 victories, knocking off Allen Bradley of Milwaukee 10 to 4 in the final game. The stellar defense was highlighted by the strong play of it's outfield.

This team marked the beginning of what was to become the Tirabassi juggernaut. They stayed together and became a dynasty in the truest since of the word. Playing for sponsor Domenic Tirabassi's world champions were:

Mario Bonofiglio

Vince Bonofiglio

Nick Guarascio

Russ Guarascio

Tom Keating

Dick Kreger

Howie Latshaw

Vince Lia

Mike Molinaro

Alex Nigro

Sam Nigro

Jim Spallato

Jim Tirabassi

Jeff Pascucci was the batboy and Al Gadjos the scorekeeper.

The Tirabassi Excavators from the '60's kicked off Kenosha softball's rich history. Remarkably, they still rank among the elite 46 years later. Hopefully, I will share more of my softball memories soon...From The Booth.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Hey, Somebody Had To Do It!

There are many thankless jobs in the world. Jobs that, although very important, are for the most part, taken for granted. Some jobs that fit this description are policemen, judges and even softball umpires.

Think about it. These are all professions that go virtually unnoticed until something goes wrong. Then you hear the cries of “dirty cop”, “crooked judge” and “blind ump.” Yes indeed, each one of these is a thankless job, but hey, somebody has to do it.

While all of these jobs are thankless, it goes without saying some are more important than others. Police officers and judges make a bigger impact on people’s lives than your average run of the mill softball umpire.

However, when a cop pulls you over for speeding, who does it affect? - You and perhaps your family. When a judge hands down a verdict that is considered either too lenient or too strict, it might affect a few more.

But, let an umpire blow a close call in a big game and an entire team and all of its' fans become irate. Make a questionable call in a Rotary tournament game and that number is multiplied by at least one hundred.

So why would anyone in their right mind want to be a softball umpire? Why would a sane person want to have criticism heaped upon them while standing on a dusty infield in unbearable heat?

Doesn’t that sound appealing? Obviously it would take a rare individual to want to perform such a task. This person would have to come from a special mold and possess unique qualities that apply specifically to being a softball umpire.

The first quality necessary for the job would be an ability to make split-second decisions in a firm and decisive manner. Secondly, you must be able to communicate your ruling to all that are involved, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what the call was. Sprinkle in being able to act as an authority figure.

You might be surprised at the number of top-notch umpires that are/were teachers. It never hurts being able to control an unruly group of people. Obviously the candidate for this thankless job must have a deep love for the sport of softball. Many are ex-players. Physical fitness, decent social skills and a good knowledge of the rules, pretty much round out what is needed to fill the thankless job of softball umpire.

If these qualities qualify someone for the job of softball umpire, what would it take for that person to excel at it? A one word answer sums it up – PERSONALITY!

Give me someone with most of the before mentioned skills and throw in a sparkling personality and I will show you an exceptional umpire. You are probably thinking, “Ya, right. Where you going to find someone like that?” Well, believe it or not, such people do exist. In fact, a group of them used to perform this thankless job at Finney’s West. And they did it exceptionally.

Back in it’s hey day, Finney’s West was fortunate enough to employ roughly a dozen men who possessed the skill set necessary to be a successful umpire. These umps not only handled the “safes ‘n’ outs”; they added a little color to the game.

Upon arriving at the park, many a player would shout up to the booth, “Who we got umping tonight?” Sometimes there was a groan after hearing the answer, but, more often than not, there was a smile followed by a wise crack.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention these men who umpired at Finney’s West. The #1 duo was Dick Cairo and the distinguished Ernie Pascucci. When Pascucci decided to cut back on the amount of games he worked, Cairo had to choose a new partner. His choice was George Becker, long time Kenosha schoolteacher. With Cairo’s years of experience and Becker’s “George Hamilton-like” good looks, Finney’s West had a new top crew.

There were other notables that officiated games on the corner of Highways 31 and E in beautiful Somers, Wisconsin. Three more schoolteachers come to mind, Ron Soulek, Larry “Boog” Powell and Joe Benz. The cerebral Jerry Herrick, Jim Steinhoff, Jeff Pascucci (Ernie’s son), Marc and Scott Haarbauer, Ken Sprague and “Uncle Dan’s favorite nephew”, Rob Travanty, filled out a talented roster that made balls and strikes their business. Plus, they did it with a certain amount of flair and style.

They helped bring fun and laughter to the games they umpired. Sure, they might have missed a call or two and they certainly absorbed their fair share of heckling and abuse. However, please keep in mind, they knew going in it was going to be a thankless job, but – hey, somebody had to do it! Until next time…From The Booth.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Survivor Gabon - Recap Two

Survivor Gabon Week 2 Recap - WARNING! Possible Show Spoilers In This Blog! Pole dancing and Slip ‘n’ Slides highlighted last night’s episode of Survivor. Just like last week, producer Mark Burnett provides us with a new twist.

Okay, maybe there wasn’t actual pole dancing last night, however there were 2 poles with the babes and the hunks clinging to them in the Reward Challenge. And in the Immunity Challenge, there were 2 humongous enormous Slip ‘n’ Slides. Honest!

The show started out showing how unorganized and seemingly hopeless the Fang tribe is. GC no longer wanted to be leader and Randy refused to replace him. It looked extremely bleak at camp Fang. That would all soon change at the Reward Challenge.

The Reward Challenge consisted of one survivor from each tribe wrapping their body around a large wooden pole while 2 survivors from the opposing tribe attempted to physically separate them from the pole. If and when they removed their opponent from the pole, they had to drag them up an incline across the finish line.

Ace, the pseudo leader of Kota, was dragged, fighting and kicking across the finish line by Fang’s Matty and Crystal. Amazingly, this gave the much-maligned Fang tribe a victory in this 2-out-of-3 Reward Challenge. Want to know what they were playing for? A couple of blankets, a few pillows and a hammock. Oh ya, they also got to send a member of Kota to Exile Island. They chose the bubbly Sugar.

Upon her arrival at Exile Island, Sugar, the 29-year-old pin-up model from Brooklyn, experienced the new twist. She had the option of receiving the first clue necessary for finding the invaluable Individual Immunity Idol or take a delicious apple and a comfy night’s rest. Duh! Unlike Eve and Snow White, Sugar didn’t fall for the old apple trick.

Despite admitting she was “no camper" and that “she didn’t like to get dirty”, Sugar was rather impressive in her efforts to track down the Individual Immunity Idol. Shortly after referring to a nearby group of crocodiles as “those giant lizards”, our girl Sugar did indeed find the precious idol. Just in time for the Slip ‘n’ Slide challenge.

The Challenge for Tribal Immunity required 6 survivors from each tribe, one at a time, descend down their slide into a murky body of water to recover a bag containing a number clue. They had to return to the top of the hill before the next tribe member could make their watery descent. After all 6 clues were recovered, a seventh survivor used them to solve a puzzle that formed a combination used to unlock a box. Inside the box was a big machete used to release the tribe’s flag. Some challenge, eh?

As you can imagine, the first portion of the challenge allowed us the pleasure of watching the babes and the hunks in their bathing suits sliding around getting wet. After they became wet, we were treated to them running up a grassy hill. That was the titillating part of the challenge. The second segment had a more cerebral slant to it, pitting Ken, a world-class video gamer against Bob the physics teacher.

Both of the survivors fit the stereotypes associated with their respective “professions”. Ken is sort of geeky with highly developed thumbs. Bob resembles Orville Redenbacher and goes so far as to fashion his official Survivor “buff” into a bow tie. Advantage physics teacher, right? Wrong!!! In yet another upset, Ken beats Bob, giving Fang another unexpected triumph over the gang from Kota. Kota must go to Tribal Council to vote one of their tribe out of the game.

Prior to Tribal Council, the usual posturing went on at camp Kota. It looked as if the majority of the tribe were buying in to Ace’s plan to oust Paloma, the diminutive waitress from California. While they plotted her demise, Paloma had ideas of her own.

Talking to the camera, as people often do on Survivor, Paloma explained that, “I’m like an animal in the wild. I am going to watch them – and then “prounce” on someone and eat them all up.” Trust me, I didn’t make that up. “Prounce” is not a typo. I watched that part three times to make sure that is what she said. Reality television, you just can’t script stuff like “prounce”.

Alas little Paloma’s efforts proved futile. She didn’t get to “prounce” on anyone or eat anyone up. The tribe spoke and said, “See ya!” Too bad, I was counting on a multitude of malaprops from her in weeks to come. Oh well, there’s always next week where coming attractions show GC uttering, “It’s not looking good for a pimp.” Hmmm. Until next time…From Gabon

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gonna Party Like It's 1982

The 26-year drought is over! The Milwaukee Brewers have gained a spot in the postseason for the first time since 1982. The Crew earned that spot Sunday by knocking off the Chicago Cubs 3-2 in front of exuberant fans.

The Brewers had indeed done their part by beating the Cubs. However, they still needed the New York Mets to lose to the Florida Marlins for their dream to be realized. The final two innings of the Mets game was shown on Miller Park’s video screen. Brewer fans weren’t going anywhere as they watched anxiously as the drama unfolded.

The Mets fulfilled those dreams by losing 4-2. The crowd roared as blue and gold streamers and confetti rained down from above. After celebrating briefly in the locker room, Brewer players and coaches came back onto the field to whoop it up with the fans. The champagne sprayed everywhere as both the Diamond Dancers and players alike danced on top of the dugout. The party had begun.

Watching Brewers bench coach Robin Yount spraying the Milwaukee faithful with champagne was special for me. I was fortunate enough to attend a game the last the Brewers were in the playoffs back in 1982. During the post World Series celebration, I remember watching Hall of Fame shortstop Yount racing around venerable County Stadium’s warning track on a motorcycle.

Sunday brought back many fond memories for me. I just pray the Brewers can continue to provide new memories. Hopefully, it won’t take another 26 years before these memories get stirred. Until next time…From The Booth.