Sunday, May 30, 2010

That Toddlin’ Town

My thanks go out to my friend “Reenie” for inspiring this blog. She is the biggest Mark Grace fan that I know. Therefore, it stands to reason she is also a devout Chicago Cub fan. Anyone who knows me is aware that I cannot stand Chicago sport teams, especially the Cubs. While “Reenie” is conscious of my distain for Cubs and most things Chicago, I don’t think she understands why. In fact, today in facebook, she posed this question, “Paul, just tell me why do you dislike the Cubs so much? Really, why?”

The answer I gave outlined, in some detail, the major reasons I deplored those guys from the Northside of Chicago. The response, although blunt and rather negative, made the rationale for my feelings very clear. Or so I thought.

“Reenie” came back with, “I just wanted to know. Tell me if they ever got to a World Series, would you root for them?” AARGHH!! I wasn’t sure if she really didn’t get it or if she was just busting my balls. So I politely answered definitely not.

At that moment I decided to quit being such a contrarian and would attempt to be more positive. “Reenie” had inspired me to write a blog about Chicago things that I enjoy. Remarkably it was easier than I thought.

Believe it or not, the very first baseball player that I ever was a fan of was Randy Hundley, a Chicago Cub. Growing up I was a slow, overweight child and always got stuck playing catcher when we played baseball.

Hundley was recognized as one of the best defensive catchers in the league, winning the 1967 Gold Glove Award for catchers, and setting a National League record by committing just four errors.

When Hundley was traded by the Cubs to the Minnesota Twins for George Mitterwald on December 6, 1973, I was devastated. It was then that I developed a loathing for the Cubs and threw all of my support to the upstart Milwaukee Brewers.

Another Cub that I remain partial to is outfielder Brant Brown. He may be most remembered for the error he committed on September 23, 1998 in a game against the Brewers. In a tie with the New York Mets for the lead in the NL Wild Card standings with three games remaining, Chicago held a 7-5 lead in the bottom of the 9th inning with two out.

Milwaukee was down to its last gasp, but they loaded the bases with Geoff Jenkins at the plate. Jenkins hit a long fly ball to left field, a routine play for Brown. But with the sunlight distracting him, Brown dropped the ball and let it get past him, allowing three runs to score and giving the Brewers an 8-7 win.

This play became famous for the radio call by the Cubs broadcasters Pat Hughes and Ron Santo, in which Santo exclaimed, “Nooooooooo!!!!!” when Brown dropped the ball. To this day, I get a warm and fuzzy feeling whenever I hear that audio clip.

Yet another person associated with the Cubs that I am a fan of is the infamous Steve Bartman. In the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, with Chicago ahead 3-0 and holding a 3 games to 2 lead in the best of 7 series, several spectators attempted to catch a foul ball off the bat of Marlins' second baseman Luis Castillo.

Bartman touched the ball once it crossed into the stands, disrupting a potential catch by Cubs outfielder Mois├ęs Alou. If Alou had caught the ball, it would have been the second out in the inning, and the Cubs would have been just four outs away from winning the National League pennant.

Instead, the Cubs relinquished the lead that inning and then lost the game. When they were eliminated in the seventh game the next day, the “Steve Bartman incident” was seen as the turning point of the series. Thanks Steve.

There are a couple of Chicago things not related to sports that I have a fondness for. One is the Ferrara Pan Candy Company. They are responsible for such sweet treats as Atomic Fireballs, Lemonheads, Alexander the Grape and “The Original Jaw Breakers” – Jaw Busters.

Salvatore Ferrara came to America from Nola, Italy in 1900 and founded Ferrara Pan Candy Company in 1908 in Chicago, Illinois. 1908 was the same year that Teddy Roosevelt was president, Henry Ford invented the Model-T automobile and it was also the last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series.

The fifth Chicago area thing that I have a soft spot in my heart for is Michelle Patitucci of Elmwood Park. When I worked at Koos Inc., Michelle worked for the General Cooperage Company in Franklin Park Illinois.

General Cooperage supplied Koos with the 100 lb. drums that we used for Safe Step Ice Melt. As luck would have it, it was my responsibility to order the drums, with the lovely Michelle taking the order.

This developed into a whirlwind romance that began with a Milwaukee Brewer game. Although it was a short-lived relationship, it provided me with many wonderful memories. It would be fair to say that Michelle Patitucci was my favorite “thing” connected with Chicago.

I am fully aware that tomorrow is Memorial Day and that somehow this blog should be honoring those that have/are serving in the Armed Forces. I truly tried to start in that direction but could not. Having lost the most important veteran in my life less then four months ago made it too tough for me to do that.

I apologize. That is why I opted for something a little lighter. Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

You Ever Wonder Why?

I have been a bit derelict in my blogging duties as of late and I offer my sincerest apologies. Lately my book has occupied a majority of my time. So you can understand that when I wasn’t doing book stuff, more writing was the last thing that I wanted to do. I am not sure whether that is a valid excuse or not. Maybe it’s not because I do feel a bit guilty. Therefore I decided to take a moment or two to introduce a new semi-regular feature called “You Ever Wonder Why?”

Once a week or whenever the spirit moves me I will shoot out a quick blog about a random conundrum. They will be done in the style of Andy Rooney, the crusty curmudgeon from 60 Minutes, hence the name of the feature.

Today is the first day of an extended period of extremely warm weather. Weather prognosticators are calling for temperatures to be in the mid 80s for the next four or five days. When you mix in dew points near 70, I don’t call it warm. To me it’s simply uncomfortable.

With that weather forecast in mind, I pose my first “You Ever Wonder Why?” How come some people don’t think twice about cranking the heat up the instant they feel cold? Yet these same people are extremely reluctant to turn on the air conditioning when it is hot. You ever wonder why?

Maybe these folks feel that AC is some sort of luxury item that should only be used on very special occasions. Like when somebody is all shiny and lying on the floor covered in a pool of his or her own sweat.

Perhaps, while frostbite and hypothermia should be avoided at all costs, it is okay to be suffering from heat prostration and hyperthermia. Is one condition really more acceptable than the other?

Or is that it that running the AC when it’s hot costs considerably more than when you keep the house at a toasty 72° in the winter time? I don’t know, I’m just asking. Does one really cost more than the other?

Finally, you ever wonder why these people have not realized that you can always put on more clothes when you are cold? On the other hand, when you are hot you can only take off so much before it just gets plain ugly. I ain’t saying, I’m just saying.

If anyone can help me with this rather perplexing question, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It’s Over And I Got Underwear!

The most enjoyable season of Survivor came to an end last night. It was late and I was a bit verklempt at the moment, so I did not write a blog. After a rather restless sleep I have decided to “man-up” and put my feelings into words. But I must lay some groundwork first. Please humor me. My emotions are still running at a fevered pitch. Remember, the most epic season of the greatest reality show ever just came to a grinding halt. It’s over.

Do me a favor and try to recall Christmas time when you were younger. Now call to mind the days leading up to Christmas day. Beautifully wrapped packages began to appear under the magnificent tree while delicious cookies were being baked on a seemingly daily basis. Friends and relatives that you see only during this special time would stop by, often bearing gifts. It was a wonderful time, wasn’t it?

Finally the excruciating waiting was put to an end and Christmas day arrived! As dawn broke you ran to the tree and tore into the pile of gifts expecting all kinds of incredible things. Indeed there were many terrific things to be found, toys, and books, even a check from aunt Betty. Spectacular, sensational gifts that exceeded your wildest expectations.

Eventually you would get down to the last present, the one you saved for last because you just knew that it was going to be something very special. You would pause briefly and then open it ever so carefully. Off came the sparkly paper and pretty bow to reveal a box. Taking a deep breath you opened the box to reveal what you had been waiting so long for.

And there it was – underwear.

All that built up anticipation and excitement for underwear. You would try to hide your disappointment by reminding yourself of all the other awesome gifts that you had received. But try as you might, it didn’t work. It was still underwear.

If you are able to empathize with this, you now know how I feel about the Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains finale last night. This historic season had so many memorable moments in it. The Immunity Challenges were exciting and climatic; all the elements were there for a unforgettable finish. Then Sandra was declared the Sole Survivor and I got my underwear.

I knew Russell didn’t have a prayer, but a guy can wish can’t he? Even the petulant Pavarti winning would have been less of a let down, but Sandra? I was so distraught that I didn’t even make my traditional call to FSG Auntie Janet. She had to call me. Then she rubbed it in!

Composing myself, I was able to watch and enjoy the reunion show following the opening of the underwear. It was sort of like going to Grandma’s house after Mass for the Vagnoni Christmas feast. Here are some of the random observations that I scribbled on my note pad.

Seeing Jonny Fairplay in attendance was somewhat of a surprise. I thought that he had burned his bridges with the Survivor hierarchy. Maybe he bought a ticket.

Another surprise was that Boston Rob does his cloth shopping at the Army surplus store. At least his baby was cute.

Rupert’s act is tired and old. You’re not a pirate! Just an old hippy that is insecure and looking for approval.

Moments after the shock of Jeff Probst asking Amanda if she was a loser in her real life as well, I realized she still has a thing for James.

While we are on the subject of having a thing for someone, how about Probst’s man-crush on the hunky Colby Donaldson? Fairly obvious, but kind of cute.

One last romantic observation from the reunion show. The “bro-mance” between Coach and his twerpy sidekick Tyson was also obvious but was in no way cute. It was just creepy. Yuck.

Speaking of creepy, how about StephEnie and Danielle’s eyebrows? Lillian Munster’s makeup was subtler.

Russell the Hall-of-Famer never stops playing the game. He is one of the most competitive people I have ever seen. I was glad to see him win the Sprint favorite player award. At least America loves him.

Candice has some definite issues and reads way too much into things. Her comments lead me to think maybe she should be a marriage counselor. Or better yet, a bartender.

Like Christmas I have saved the underwear for last. Sandra did nothing during the reunion show to change my opinion of her. When I saw her shove her $1,000,000 check into her bra on the CBS Early show, it was reinforced. I will leave it at that.

That’s it. The 20th season of Survivor has come to an end. It’s over. But damn, I didn’t want underwear. Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Did I Miss Something?

There are so many things going through my head right now, but I don't dare let them come out. That is why there will be no blog until Monday. Sorry…

Thursday, May 13, 2010

This Is It!

Tonight marked the final Thursday of the 20th edition of Survivor. In my opinion, Heroes vs. Villains was without a doubt the most enjoyable season of the award-winning reality show. It was the third time that there was an “All-Star” cast, but the first two cannot compare. It's not even close. On Sunday night the two-hour season finale takes place and is followed by the reunion show. The first order of business on the reunion show will be to reveal the Sole Survivor.

We will have to wait until 9:00 p.m. Central Time to see who wins the million dollars. But, for what it’s worth I am willing to share with you the way I would like to see this epic season conclude. Please keep in mind that this is the way that I want it to play out, not necessarily the way I think that it will.

5. The first person that has to be eliminated on Sunday night is the annoying Sandra. Forget the fact that she is horrible in challenges; she has easily been the most irritating person this season. Every time the woman opens her mouth I cringe. It’s not just the accent; it’s the stupid things she says. The sooner she goes the better.

4. For his own good the next to go should be the hunky Colby Donaldson. Not only will an early exit prevent him further embarrassment during challenges, but also it will give him the opportunity to get some much-needed rest. I swear I saw him nodding off during tonight’s Tribal Council. Colby has gotten old.

3. If it wasn’t for Sandra’s obnoxiousness and Colby’s ineptness, Parvati would have been my choice to be the first to go. If you look up diva in the dictionary I am pretty sure you fill find a picture of Parvati. You will also her picture by haughty, arrogant, pretentious, conceited and pompous. Hopefully some day someone will be kind enough to inform her that her shit does indeed stink.

2. It’s pretty bad when Jerri becomes the voice of reason, but she has. Of all the castaways this season, she has been the most levelheaded and least abrasive. Which is quite remarkable given her past performances. On top of that she has done a very respectable job in the challenges. She has a good shot at taking home that giant check signed by Mark Burnett.

1. There is only one person worthy of being the Sole Survivor of Heroes vs. Villains. That would be the Hall-of-Famer Russell Hantz. No one comes close to him in this game I love so much. They should put his picture on every Hidden Immunity Idol in all future seasons of Survivor. Damn, I am going to miss him.

There you have it. That is the way that I would like to see things happen Sunday night. But they won’t. There is no way that Russell will win it all. He will never be able to garner enough jury votes. He couldn’t do it last season and he won’t do it this time either.

Yes, he lied, cheated and bullied people at times, but so did everyone else. He just did it so much better than anyone else. That’s why he won’t get their votes. They resent his superiority. When it comes to Survivor, Russell Hantz is the best there is, was and ever will be.

Sadly that’s it for this Thursday. Next week I will probably be watching the Brewers and the Pirates play ball. But before then I will be anxiously watching Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains on Sunday night hoping for a Russell miracle. Until then…from the booth.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

There Ain’t No Good Guys

Dave Mason was spot on when he said, “There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys” in the song We Just Disagree. The latest installment of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains was a prime example of this. The episode treated us to not one, but two sets of Immunity Challenges and Tribal Councils. Sandwiched in between were heavy doses of morality and plenty of pontificating on how the “game’ is supposed to be played. In the end, two more castaways left the game to join the jury and it became abundantly clear that there ain’t no good guys.

Five minutes into the show we had Rupert telling Russell the Hall-of-Famer that he was a disgusting, terrible human being. No shit, Rupert. He then went on to say that his only hope was to show the Villains the Hall-of-Famer’s disgusting side and ask them if they want to be involved with that. Good luck.

At the first Tribal Council we had Colby reading Candice the riot act because she turned on the Heroes in the previous vote and helped to eliminate Amanda. Moment’s later after writing her name down, he whispered that he was proud of the way he has played the “game” and wondered if she could say the same thing.

Original Hero Candice, was then voted out, leaving only two “Good Guys” to vie for the title of Sole Survivor. Only Rupert in all his tie-dyed splendor and the hunky Colby Donaldson stand in the way of all those despicable, low-down, dirty rotten Villains and a cool million dollars. This heroic duo is left with the task of upholding the honor of the “game”.

Please. Give me a break.

Hey Rupert, weren’t you the guy who stole the other tribe’s shoes and personal items on your very first episode of Survivor: Pearl Islands nearly seven years ago? Hypocrite.

Hey Colby, if you are so keen on playing the “game” the honorable way, why did you leap at the opportunity to align yourself with that scumbag Hall-of-Famer moments before the second Tribal Council took place? Hypocrite.

Indeed, both Colby and Rupert did team up with the Hall-of-Famer and along with Jerri, voted out Danielle. This meant the jury now consisted of Coach, Courtney, J.T., Amanda, Candice and Danielle.

In order to save their ass, it appears Colby and Rupert have each turned their back on the honor of the “game” and joined the dark side. This move left Parvati, Danielle and Sandra confused and very pissed off at the Hall-of-Famer. Jerri is simply left confused.

All of this proves two things. First, Russell Hantz is the Hall-of-Famer because he is the greatest person ever to play Survivor. Not the greatest bad guy to ever play Survivor. He is the greatest person ever to play Survivor. He lies, cheats and deceives better than anyone else ever has.

Which brings me to my second point. The Hall-of-Famer will never win the $1,000,000. When it comes down to the final vote, the other competitors will always vote against him because he lied, cheated and deceived better than they did. That’s because in this “game” there ain’t no good guys.

Until next time…from the booth.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Please Accept My Apologies

I would like to offer my sincerest apologies for the lack of new blogs on this site. Most of my “writing time” has been spent working on my book. I am not trying to make excuses, but it is true. The fact that I am a notoriously slow and a two-fingered typist only adds to the scarcity of new material.

The book is right on schedule and will hopefully be available by the time the Rotary Club Tournament rolls around. I do promise that as soon as the book project allows, I will return to my typical blogging routine. I promise.

That being said, with only 3 episodes of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains remaining, you can rest assured that there will be recaps forthcoming. Remember, two Tribal Councils on Thursday night with two castaways being sent home. Let’s just pray and hope that Russell “Hall-of-Famer” Hantz isn’t one of them.

One last ramble. Thanks to everyone for their kind Birthday wishes. It really meant a lot to me. Until Thursday…from the booth.