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