Thursday, July 30, 2009

Please Pass Me a Tissue

Before I explain why I need a tissue, let me make a couple of things clear. The first is that I love sports. I am a sports zealot. I am obsessed with sports. Any way that you want to put it, I am a sports fanatic. Most of you either knew that or had a very strong idea. The second thing that I want to make clear is that I am a big softy. Whether it is a heartbreaking situation or a joyous moment, it doesn’t take much to make me tear up. I bet a lot of you didn’t know that, or even expected it.

It’s true. Given certain situations, I am a real crybaby. For instance, you know that sappy video of that crazy choreographed wedding entrance that was making the rounds on the Internet last week? I watched it four or five times and I got misty each time the bride made her way down the aisle. Come on! Did you see how happy she was?

Another example is the movie Bang the Drum Slowly. It is the story of the friendship between a star pitcher (Michael Moriarty) and a half-wit catcher (Robert De Niro) as they cope with the catcher's terminal illness through a baseball season. The first time I saw this movie was in 1982 on Christmas day. I cried when I saw it then and each of the dozen times since then.

Heck, I read Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie in one afternoon. The only hard part was finishing the last forty pages because my vision was blurred with tears and was I was having trouble breathing because I was sobbing.

Okay, so you know I have a passion for sports and that it doesn’t take much to get my waterworks going. So why do I need a tissue now?

Once again it involves sports and this time it includes a little boy with cerebral palsy.

The sport is baseball and the little boy is Mackail McGehee, the 2-½ -year-old son of Milwaukee Brewer infielder Casey McGehee.

On Saturday, July 11, the Brewers Players Wives hosted a special event, Jerseys Off Their Backs, to benefit United Cerebral Palsy of Southeastern Wisconsin. The event was very successful and the $50,000 it raised was presented last night before the Brewers’ game with the Nationals.

Little Mackail was honored as the guest of honor and he threw out the ceremonial first pitch with Prince Fielder's help. Dad Casey squatted and caught his son's toss as it rolled across the plate. Mackail received a loud standing ovation before his dad took him from Fielder's arms and held him during the national anthem.

The special night continued when Casey McGehee came on as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning and drove the ball into the Brewers' bullpen for a pinch-hit two-run home run that gave the team the lead and pushed it to an eventual 7-5 victory.

Pretty magical stuff, huh? Wait, there is more.

McGehee spoke to Mackail on the phone right after the game, and the toddler just had one thing to say: "Good hit, Daddy."

McGehee was quoted as saying, "That was about as good a congratulations as I could have got."

Now, could someone please pass me that tissue? Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It’s Just A Fantasy

The last time I wrote I mentioned an old column titled “I Remember…Part Three”. It was the last in a three part series of “I Remember” columns. After digging them out of the archives I took the time to read them again. One of the memories discussed in “Part Two” dealt with fantasy football. It made me smile because the next course of action after reading them was to check on fantasy baseball teams. Yes, I said teams. As in three.

Yes, fantasy sports is another of my many obsessions. However that old column explained that it wasn’t always that way. Here is a brief summary of what I wrote:

When I was a kid, playing fantasy football meant I was Paul Hornung. My younger brother was Willie Lanier of the Kansas City Chiefs and tried to tackle me. When the Vagnoni family got together, fantasy football meant that my dad and uncles took turns being Bart Starr, throwing passes to my cousins and me. We were Boyd Dowler, Max McGee or Carroll Dale, scoring touchdowns against the Bears or the Vikings.

Today all my fantasy football playing is done using my MacBook. My dad and uncles no longer throw passes to my cousins and me. I don’t dream about being Paul Hornung when I play fantasy football anymore. In 2009 when I play fantasy football I imagine being Ron Wolf or Bill Parcells.

That’s the thumbnail version of what I have wrote, but you get the point.

These past eight years I have played in no less than nine different Yahoo leagues, winning the championship three times and finishing third twice. Being a notorious creature of habit, I have stuck with Yahoo, never giving CBS Sports or a chance. That’s just the way I am, when I get used to something I am reluctant to try anything new.

As I touched on earlier, I am in three fantasy baseball leagues this year. That’s no big surprise. The shocker is that one of the leagues is a Sports Buff league! Yes, I tried something new this year. And I am glad that I did.

Not only am I enjoying this new form of fantasy baseball, but also it has opened my eyes to a new type of fantasy football. It’s called RapidDraft and to say it’s different would be a huge understatement.

RapidDraft is so unique that I have already drafted two teams, am preparing to draft a third and plan on drafting a couple more after that! I know, it’s not even August yet, what is this fool doing getting so excited about football already, let alone fantasy football.

I guess what has me so jazzed so early is that RapidDraft, although it has many elements of a traditional fantasy league, it also possesses so many unique features that you just can’t find anywhere else. This sets RapidDraft apart from any fantasy football that I have ever been involved with. You are in leagues playing against fantasy pros and you choose your draft spot!

Like I said, I have already participated in two of these drafts. They were both twelve team, twenty round affairs with one taking 45 minutes, the other thirty.

Don’t take my word for it, check for yourself. Click on RapidDraft anywhere in this column to get to their website.

Something else that makes RapidDraft stand out from the rest is that their world headquarters is located right here in downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin.

That’s right, since 1993, World Fantasy Games and its subsidiaries have operated games for more than 300 web, brand, and media partners including Chicago Tribune, Charlotte Observer, Taco Bell, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Prime Sports, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Miller Lite, Oakland Tribune, Bergen Record, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Sacramento Bee and more. They have processed more than two million entries. And have paid more than $3 million in prizes

These guys are the real deal. The guaranteed grand prize for RapidDraft is $250,000!

The final thing that makes RapidDraft special is their fact-filled Fantasy Lunch podcast that airs Monday through Friday from 1:00 pm to 2:00pm. The co-hosts are Pat Hegewald and Caitlin Morrall.

Hegewald, a lifetime Kenoshan, knows sports inside and out, having hosted the popular Instant Replay sports talk show on WLIP. This veteran of sports broadcasting has a gruff and unrestrained manner that is not only informative, but at the same time entertaining.

Hegewald’s style is contrasted by that of his co-host Morrall’s. Albeit much more demure than her partner, the former Miss Wisconsin comes across as both knowledgeable and engaging. Morrall gained broadcast experience while working at 540 ESPN radio in Milwaukee and doubles as the “spokeswoman” on the “RapidDraft” online tutorials.

That’s enough about fantasy sports. I have to check my baseball lineups and do some research for my next football draft. Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Friend In Need

Back in September I wrote a column titled “I Remember…Part Three” about an incident involving my good friend Leon Rosko. Today I am writing about Leon again. That first column was somewhat humorous, as many situations concerning Leon were. He is a charismatic, gregarious fellow who loves to laugh, even when it is at his own expense. Leon has always been a kind, generous man, sometimes to a fault. Today’s column isn’t funny and this time Leon needs his friends' help and generosity.

Many readers of my column know Leon Rosko. He was the owner/operator of Finney’s West for many years. Anyone who has played softball knows Leon. In recent years, he has worked at Dairyland Greyhound Park and the Moose Lodge. He is still involved in softball, organizing and running leagues for Moose Lodge.

Despite being so well known locally, Leon has always been a very private man. With that in mind, I will not go into too many details when I tell you why he needs our help. He has been dealing with some serious physical problems for the past few years. A recent setback has prevented him from working at all since late last year.

This inability to work and a multitude of medical bills that have stretched his insurance to the limit, leave Leon needing some help. Knowing Leon, he will probably be upset that I am writing this. Too bad. He needs help. We all have needed help. I have and you have. I can’t imagine where I would be without the help that I have received.

That being said, Rich Smart and the good people at Moose Lodge #286 have stepped forward and are holding a fundraiser for Leon. The event will take place Saturday night at 7:00 pm. The Lodge is located at 3003 30th Avenue in Kenosha. The admission is only $5.00 and donations are encouraged.

The fundraiser is being held during the Moose’s annual “Miss Moose America Pageant”. I am told the event will be not only be entertaining, but maybe even a bit bawdy! Without giving too much away, the contestants in the pageant are very unique.

Leon Rosko Fundraiser
Saturday July 25, 2009
“Miss Moose America”
Show starts at 7:00 pm

Moose Lodge #286 (262) 657-7831

3003 30th Avenue, Kenosha

Let’s have some fun and give a friend some help. Please make sure you tell people about this fundraiser. Email your friends and let them know. Even if you can’t be there on Saturday night, drop a contribution off at the Moose. They will make sure Leon gets it. Or call me at 551-0710 and I will see that your help gets to him. Thanks in advance. Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Another Addiction…

It has been over a week since I last wrote a “From the Booth” column. I could say I was busy or had writers block. But the truth of the matter is I have been spending way too much in facebook. Most of the people who read this column are “friends” from facebook and have probably saw me there. Today I told myself that I had to step away from facebook, choose a topic and start writing. Guess what I chose for my topic.


I know, I know, what can I say? For the few that haven’t heard of facebook, it’s a social networking website. Basic features include friend networking with others and posting on a "wall" or "commenting" on pictures.

Among the many other features of facebook are a profile page, a place for photo albums and a myriad of addicting games to keep you occupied and prevent you from getting something constructive done.

You can also “chat” with your facebook friends that are online when you are. Of course you must learn a completely new language in order to communicate. Knowing the abbreviations is imperative.

Here are just a few of the acronyms that you must know –

BRB – be right back
LOL – laugh out loud
WB – welcome back
HB – hurry back
IMO – in my opinion
LMAO – laugh my ass off
TTFN – ta-ta for now
YQW – your quite welcome
WTF – I will leave that one for you to decipher.

One of the most interesting parts of facebook is a micro-blogging feature called "status updates" which allows users to inform their friends of their current whereabouts, actions, or thoughts. For example "Ralph visited Doris," "Sam called Mary," "Joey is going out with Jen," or "George is a total idiot."

I know riveting stuff, but those are only examples.

Here are some recent statuses. I have changed nothing but the names in order to protect the “innocent”.

Jason Johnson is happy to be back at work.

Lenny Lujack is going to eat healthy for lunch.

Nicole Harris Feel like I am about to have a nervous breakdown.

Mick Gagne Kids go back to school today!!~ I LOVE year round schooling!~

Tina Marie Smith studying & tanningg alll day. waiting for the boy to get off work. then maybe a lil shopppin w/ him anddd festival laterrrrr!

You see, they range from the mundane to the, well let’s just say, the more colorful. Some get so evocative, that it makes you wonder “what are they really saying?” I mentioned this to Fellow Survivor Geek Jamie, knowing her rapier wit would provide an interesting take.

Her are FSGJ’s interpretations of some actual statuses:

Jay Taylor typed - oops I can't do my status on this phone lol
What she meant was - I can't WAIT to get home to change my status!! It's important that everyone know my status at ALL TIMES.

Mike Thomas typed - was on the elliptical at Cardinal Fitness this morning, (yeah, even I am working out).
What he meant was - Just kind of bragging because on most days I'm so lazy I don't even exercise good judgment!!

Jack Schwartz typed - dinner and sleep.. that’s what’s on my mind....
What he meant was - Somebody PLEASE call me and ask me to do something fun!

Annette Hilton typed - After looking in the mirror, it has become apparent that my butt needs to get to a gym...stat!
What she meant was - How many seconds will it take for someone to FB me that my ass is actually perfect?? 1-2-3-4…

FSGJ provided me with at least a dozen more “status reviews”, but to be safe, I will stop with these four. They all made me LMAO.

Oh WTF, here’s one more:

Al Sorensen typed – The last time the National League won an All-Star game, I as an unsaved drunk.
What he meant was – I wonder where I hid that beer?

Hell’s Kitchen starts it’s new season tomorrow night. That should furnish me with something to write about! Maybe I can check out a few new statuses before that. Until next time…from the booth.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Some Rotary Tourney History

This weekend the Rotary Club of Kenosha West is holding its 37th annual Softball Tournament. Over the last 36 years, the Rotary Tournament has become the "mark-your-calendar" event of the summer in Kenosha. Hot temperatures, ice cold beer and top-notch softball action draw large crowds to Lincoln Park on a regular basis. This year will be no exception.

In 1973, Explorer Post 416 and Parkview Tavern squared off in the inaugural tourney hosted by the Rotarians. Post 416's roster consisted of Keith Anthonson, Louie Chiappetta, Mario Covelli, Paul Covelli, Danny DeRose, Mark DiCello, Jeff DiCello, Bruce Edmark, Randy Ellis, John Goodwin, Dave Hapanowicz, Roger Hunt, Al Lawrence, Tom Lee, Dennis Lumley, Mark Montague, Ron Rossa, and manager Al McClure.

Six years later, Edmark, Montague, Rossa and Jeff DiCello would again play for the Rotary Tournament championship. This time they played for the renegade 400 Club team managed by yours truly. Other standouts for the “Club” were Danny Llanas, Bruce “Hollywood” Meyers, Jimmy Gentile and Glen Ekern.

Only the outcome mars my memory of that championship game. We lost a heartbreaker to Valerie Insurance 2, a young bunch of recently graduated Tremper athletes. I still occasionally have a nightmare that causes me to wake up in a cold sweat, but they are occurring less frequently.

Seriously, it would have been nice to have won that game back in 1979, but at least we got to the championship game. Here is a list of the teams that cannot only say they played in the game, but that they also won it and became Rotary Tournament Champions.

1973 – Explorer Post 416
1974 – Parkview Tavern
1975 – Second National
1976 – Josephon and Thomey
1977 – Armando’s Pizza
1978 – Pillizzi Towing
1979 – Valerie Insurance 2
1980 – Tirabassi
1981 – Oriental Inn
1982 – Sorensen Mfg.
1983 – Koos Inc.
1984 – Lakeshore Mechanical
1985 – Washington Park Tavern
1986 – Tirabassi
1987 – Tirabassi
1988 – Rumors Lounge
1989 – Rumors Lounge
1990 – Rumors Lounge
1991 – Coors Light
1992 – Sunnyside Club
1993 – Rumors Lounge
1994 – Budweiser
1995 – Tirabassi
1996 – Budweiser
1997 – Gehring Remodeling
1998 – Budweiser
1999 – Miller Genuine Draft
2000 – Tirabassi
2001 – DLB/Tirabassi
2002 – Budweiser/Hi-Liter
2003 – Tirabassi
2004 – JJ’s Doghouse
2005 – Miller Lite/Prime Industrial Contractors
2006 – Jay Bee Auto/Frankie D’s/Coins
2007 – Racine Screen/Scores
2008 – DLB
2009 - ???

I don’t know who will be crowned the 37th Kenosha Rotary Tournament champs, but I do know it won’t be my 400 Club squad. Oh, over the years we had our chances, and not only in 1979.

Perhaps I should tell you about the time Kenosha’s finest and their canine patrol were called to Lincoln Park following a controversial tournament game we had with Nehlsen’s Sporting Goods.

It was a hot, extremely humid Saturday night and well past 10:00 pm …naw, maybe next time. Until then…from the booth.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Random Thoughts and Bits

There is absolutely nothing on TV this afternoon that I care to watch. Since today is such a slow news day, I have decided to share a few random thoughts and bits of information. Nothing earth shattering, just stuff that’s bouncing around in my melon-like cranium. By the way, I had forgotten what a great album Exile on Main St. was. Listening to Rocks Off right now. Good jam…

Isn’t remarkable the different things that people give high degrees of significance? We are all guilty of this in one form or another. Whether it is politics, sports, television, music or pop culture in general, there are things in our lives that are very important to us that couldn’t mean less to others.

That’s all well and good, except for the fact that we feel compelled to share our feelings with others, especially those close to us. It’s human nature. The problem is that with blogs, facebook and twitter becoming so prevalent, we are making our personal opinions and feelings available to a growing audience. And I am as guilty of this as anyone.

That being said, something I heard on the radio this morning made me abundantly aware of this. WSCR’s Dan McNeil was interviewing Chicago Cub television broadcaster Len Kaspar and they were discussing the seventh inning stretch ritual that goes on during Cub home games.

Since the legendary Harry Caray passed away in 1998 it has become a tradition to have a celebrity act as “guest conductor” and lead the singing of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game”. Afterwards Kaspar and his partner interview the celebrity during the bottom of the seventh inning.

Please keep in mind that many of these celebrities aren’t huge baseball fans. This prompted McNeil to ask Kaspar if any of the numerous personalities that they have had in the booth have made him angry. His answer made me laugh out loud.

He basically said that although none had really angered him, it does upset him when some don’t realize the “enormity of the moment”. Give me a break. I hope I don’t get invited to be a “guest conductor” anytime soon, because I don’t realize the “enormity of the moment” either.

What can I say? I guess I just don’t get it. As of late there have been quite a few things that I am not getting. Evidently I am not seeing the importance of certain things that are of great concern to others.

However, there are a couple of things in the near future that are coming up on TV that may be of interest to you. They are to me.

What else is in my head? Let’s see…the final season of Monk begins on August 7th on the USA network. The 6th season of Hell’s Kitchen is scheduled to premiers two weeks from tonight on Fox. Finally on the television front, Survivor Samoa kicks off sometime in September. This will mark the nineteenth season of the award winning reality show.

Enough of my rambling. I see that the networks have returned to normal scheduled programming. Almost time for Judge Judy. Until next time…from the booth.

Take me out to the ball game…

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Are You Free?

What’s going on here? In the short span of nine days we have lost the following personalities: Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Gale Storm, Fred Travalena, Billy Mays and Karl Malden who, at 97, was the oldest of this collection of celebrities. This has got to be it for a while, don’t you think? That’s what I thought until I received a heart-rending email from England today.

Looking over my emails this morning, I discovered one from my dear English friend Bev Cooper. The cryptic subject line read as follows: shame (one of your friends has died.) As my heart raced, I opened the email and read this -

“Mollie Sugden also known as Mrs. Slocombe has died.”

That was it, but I knew what Bev was telling me. Another celebrity has passed and I am crestfallen. This particular passing really means something to me. Who is Mollie Sugden?

She was an English comedy actress best known for portraying the saleswoman Mrs. Betty Slocombe in the popular British sitcom “Are You Being Served?” from 1972 to 1985. She later reprised this role in Grace & Favour, which ran from 1992 to 1993. Sugden also appeared in The Liver Birds and Coronation Street.

Her character Mrs. Slocombe was a department-store saleswoman with a socially superior attitude, a repertoire of double entendres, and a penchant for bouffant, pastel-colored hairstyles.

Are You Being Served? was a long-running British sitcom broadcast from 1972 to 1985. It was set in the men's and women's departments of Grace Brothers, a large, fictional London department store.

The show spawned the catch phrase "Are you free?", usually said by Captain Peacock to the staff; more often than not, the staff are noticeably free, and each would look solemnly from side to side before answering, "Yes, I'm free, Captain Peacock."

During its run, the series attracted some mild criticism for its reliance on sexual stereotypes and sexual double entendres, including jokes about Mrs. Slocombe's "pussy" (cat). A few examples –

"The central heating broke down and I had to hold my pussy in front of it. It was frozen solid."

"Oh, Mr. Rumbold, I hope this isn't going to take long. My pussy's been locked up for eight hours."

"Well, I can't stay too late. The man next door is popping in every half-hour to keep an eye on my pussy."

These jokes may seem a tad sophomoric, but I have laughed each time that I have heard them (repeatedly) over the past 30-plus years the show has running on PBS. Are You Being Served? is a charming show that will make you giggle, laugh and maybe even chuckle.

If you don’t believe me, do yourself a favor and tune into WMVS (channel 10 in Kenosha) on a Sunday afternoon at 4:30 pm and see for yourself. If you like what you see, you can catch Mrs. Slocumbe and her friends every weekday on WMVT (channel 16 in Kenosha) at 2:30 pm.

In nine brief days we have lost television hosts, actors, actresses, music stars and a TV pitchman. They were all good at what they did, some even great, but the one I will miss most is Mollie Sugden. She has made me laugh and feel good on Sundays for an awful long time.

Captain Peacock, Mrs. Slocombe is free. Mollie, rest in peace. Until next time…from the booth.