Sunday, February 27, 2011

That Toddlin’ Town

Green Bay Packers fans rejoiced with their cherished Super Bowl champions during a frigid ceremony on Tuesday February 9th to welcome the Lombardi Trophy back to Lambeau Field after a 14-year absence. It was the fourth time the city of Green Bay was able to celebrate winning the Super Bowl, giving the small city in northeastern Wisconsin 13 total NFL championships.

Undoubtedly these championships have bolstered more than the spirits of the people of Green Bay, especially this year what with the state of the economy. But this blog isn’t about the city of Green Bay and winning championships.

This is about a city with the longest championship drought in North American sports, that toddlin’ town, Chicago.

Typically, championship teams attract more fans. Those fans don't just spend money at the stadium, they go to dinner before or after the game, or they go to sports bars to watch their favorite team. All of those activities generate tax revenue for the city.

In addition, having a major league franchise, especially a championship franchise, helps cities in attracting new business. If a company is looking to set up a regional headquarters, or relocate, they're much more likely to choose a city which has a vibrant sports scene and a history of winning championships.

None of these are problems for the city of Chicago. All of their teams have large fan bases, there is a very fervent nightlife and it doesn’t seem to have any problem attracting new business.

At first blush, you wouldn’t think that there would be much of a problem winning championships either. And there isn’t. As recent as last year, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. Prior to that, the White Sox won the World Series in 2005 and the Bears were the Super Bowl champs in 1985.

And not to be forgotten are the six NBA championships that the Bulls procured during the ‘90s. So what is the problem team in Chicago? Who is this perennial loser? Who is this team that can’t seem to get it right?

The Chicago Cubs, that’s who.

The Chicago Cubs have not won the World Series since 1908 and haven’t even appeared in the Fall Classic since 1945. In fact, the Cubs’ last World Series win came before the other three major U.S. professional leagues were even founded.

That’s a 102-year championship drought.

In sports, a drought refers to instances in which a team has gone on a lengthy period of time without winning a championship. Droughts occur for a variety of reasons, from chronic mismanagement to seemingly bad luck.

Some fans believe that their team’s drought is the result of a curse. The Red Sox fans attributed their 86-year drought on the Curse of the Bambino. In Chi-Town, it’s the supposed Curse of the Billy Goat that is responsible for their prolonged absence of a championship.

So based on this historic dry spell, you would think that I might have a soft spot in my heart for these lovable losers and pull for them to finally break this horrendous streak.

Not a chance.

Even with a good many of my friends being longtime Cub fans, I just can’t bring myself to rooting for the Northsiders. It’s impossible to do this based solely on the longevity of their ineptitude.

If that was the case I would be rooting for the Sacramento Kings to win the NBA championship purely on the fact that they last won one in 1951 when they were the Rochester Royals.

If I used the logic that “they’re due”, I would have to pull for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hell, they haven’t won a Stanley Cup since the 1966-67 season.

And I’m certainly not going to hope that the Arizona Cardinals win the Super Bowl just because they haven’t won a championship since 1947. Especially when you consider that the franchise was located in Chicago at the time.


That’s probably the reason I can’t pull for the Cubs. They are the Chicago Cubs. Not the Louisville Cubs or the Duluth Cubs. They are the Chicago Cubs.

I don’t know why I have such a problem with Chicago. It’s not just the fact that they have some of the most obnoxious, delusional fans in the world. No, it’s more than that.

Perhaps it’s the arrogant notion that ketchup is not allowed on hot dogs. Who made Chicago home to the gods of frankfurters, anyways?

Also, the way they try to pretend that the Taste of Chicago should be mentioned in the same breath as Summerfest has always annoyed me. Please, it’s not even close.

How about that ridiculous “Dibs” thing that goes on during winter. Only in Chicago can you have lawn furniture and card tables in the street holding parking spaces. That’s real normal.

On a grander scale, maybe it’s the rich tradition of fine Governors that the state of Illinois has produced. Gentlemen like, Otto Kerner, Dan Walker, George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich. A really classy bunch.

Speaking of politics, let’s not forget Richard M. Daly and his glorious 20-year stint as Mayor of Chicago. Although his corruption charges and Federal investigations were prolific, it was his actions prior to his failed Olympic bid that ruffled my feathers the most.

It was special the way he shipped Chicago’s most undesirable characters out of the city in an effort to make it a more desirable place to host the Olympics. Suddenly, neighboring cities had a new supply of ne’er do wells to contend with. Thanks, Richie.

Okay, enough already, I can’t do it. I just can’t pull for that toddlin’ town and their Cubs. Not unless I am also being forced to root for the Sacramento Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs and Arizona Cardinals. It just isn’t going to happen.

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

So Many Stars

Tonight’s Survivor: Redemption Island wasn’t quite as entertaining as the premier was last week. But I do feel it was still more intriguing than your typical second episode, where you are typically still searching for personalities and characters. That wasn’t the case tonight. Originally I was going to title this blog, “A Star Is Born” and concentrate on Special Agent Phillip. But that wouldn’t have been fair to established stars like Russell and Boston Rob. Nor would it do justice to emerging stars Kristina, Matt and Farmer Ralph. Yes, I said Farmer Ralph.

It goes without saying that Russell “the Hall-of-Famer” Hantz and Boston Rob Mariano were going to shine in this 22nd season of Survivor. That was very evident tonight. Both the focal points in their respective tribes, albeit for different reasons.

Russell has a humongous target on his back and can’t fart without being called a liar, cheater and a bastard. I am really beginning to think that a good portion of his Zapatera tribe doesn’t trust him. Except for Stephanie and Krista, that is. Mmm, Stephanie…

Over in the Ometepe camp, Rob has found himself surrounded with a good number of “sheeple”. You know, people that act like sheep, blindly following their master, listening to his every command. Unfortunately, “sheeple” usually forget about being led to slaughter. Well, maybe not Matt. I think he figured it out after being voted out at Tribal Council.

Oops, I guess I already revealed who was sent to Redemption Island.

Sorry, it was the Holy Roller, Matt. Although he was a likeable, Christian boy, he made the mistake of screwing with master Rob. He never should of shook hands with the Zapatera tribe after losing to them in the Immunity Challenge, because this greatly upset the master.

Bad Matt. He should have never agitated Rob like that. But I have to admit that the look on Andrea from Wisconsin’s face was priceless when the blindside took place.

Don’t worry; Matt will be around a little bit longer. He shouldn’t have much trouble defeating Francesca when they duel next week at Redemption Island.

It’s hard to pin down why I think Kristina has the potential to become a star. Perhaps it’s because she’s the only one from Ometepe with big enough cojones to go after Boston Rob.

Wait, she played her Hidden Immunity Idol tonight at Tribal Council. Forget about Kristina, she’s toast. She messed with the master.

Another budding superstar is Farmer Ralph. This guy should get bonus points for competing in the heat of Nicaragua wearing a thick, wool sweater. Holy Hypertrichosis!!! Between having an inordinate amount of body hair and a propensity for saying “Dag Gum”, he has all the ingredients necessary to become a major character. Plus he and Russell can’t seem to get along.

Finally there is Special Agent Phillip. Five minutes into the show he broke into tears while explaining his passion for his country. I think Patty 4-Names said it best with her facebook status. She wrote, “HA! Phillip the Federal Agent on Survivor is John Boehner's long lost twin!”

Let’s see, what else did Special Agent Phillip do this evening? Well, he attempted to spear crabs in his pink briefs while grunting like a primeval warrior. Boston Rob and his “sheeple” got a big kick out of this.

At Tribal Council he explained the meaning behind his elephant and lion tattoos. It wasn’t as good as Coach’s classic pygmy tale, but it was pretty damn good. Oh ya, he must have gotten over his dry mouth, because he pronounced Francesca properly.

Speaking of Francesca, we will have to wait until next week to see her battle it out with Matt for the right to remain on Redemption Island. The loser will be the first Survivor officially eliminated. I can’t wait; the stars will be definitely be out! Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, February 21, 2011

My Lenten Traditions

March 9 is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent and many traditions that I observe during the next 40 days. These traditions include: fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, abstaining from eating meat on Fridays, spending more time in prayer and performing some sort of penance.

I’m not going to be preachy; I am only sharing the traditions I observe during the Lenten season. It helps me get my head straight and in general, going in the right direction. God knows I get detoured far too often.

The fasting and abstinence are pretty self-explanatory. They both promote self-discipline, something I definitely need.

For the praying part, I intend on saying the Holy Rosary every day. It is a practice that I have gotten away from recently. It was something that I used to do on a daily basis with Dad and Lent is the perfect way to get back in the habit.

The last tradition, penance, is one older Catholics might recall. A popular form is to give up something that you enjoy or fond of. Typically, children would give up candy, their favorite soft drinks or even a favorite TV show. Things that adults might give up are alcohol, junk food or some form of entertainment.

For my Lenten penance, I traditionally abstain from pizza. Any of you that know me well, realize that this is a true sacrifice for me. Pizza is easily my favorite food. That is why it is what I choose to abstain from during the 40 days of Lent. The long 40 days of Lent.

I remember the first time I explained why I give up pizza to Bev, my friend from England. At first, I think she thought I was crazy. However, the next time I spoke with Bev, she proudly announced that she was giving up crisps for Lent. I should explain that crisps are what the English call any sort of potato chips and Bev enjoys her crisps as much as I do my pizza.

That was five years ago and Bev has abstained from crisps each Lent since then. And she’s not even Catholic, just a very dear friend.

I said before that I wasn’t going to be preachy and I’m not. But now that I think of it, I have to admit that I do have an ulterior motive to writing this blog. I need your help.

March 9 is only a little more than two weeks away and I plan on having a pizza on “Fat Tuesday” prior to Ash Wednesday. I have put together an opinion poll on the right side of this blog to help me decide from where I should order that pizza.

There are 19 different local pizzerias in the poll and I promise to order from whichever one garners the most votes. You can vote as often as you like. Please note that I did not include Luisa’s Pizza, Nick-N-Willy’s, Papa Murphy’s, Ruffolo's Special Pizza and Renzo’s Pizzeria, only because they do not deliver to my residence.

So, as they say in Chicago, vote early and vote often. Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

All-Star Break

In honor of the National Basketball Association’s All-Star game being played Sunday evening, I thought that it would be appropriate to honor a former hoop star. Although this man never played in the NBA and technically was never an All-star, he certainly deserves to be acknowledged for his contributions to the game of basketball. In fact, coupled with his prowess in the sports of softball and fishing, he might just qualify for a lifetime achievement award. What makes him even more notable is that he is also a former Kenoshan. During his time here he had achieved iconic status.

The name of this local legend is none other than Arno Schubert.

The last I heard, Arno had left Kenosha, moving to Arkansas to be with his parents. Rumor has it that shortly after relocating, he earned the title of Mr. Arkansas Over 40. There was nothing this man wasn’t capable of.

So, to pay homage to this phenom, I would like to share with you one of the many stories that have been written chronicling his greatness. It was originally posted January 10, 2010.

A Special Secret Weapon

On a cold Saturday afternoon in January of 1977, Kenosha Tap’s basketball team took to the court at Bullen Jr. High School. Led by player-coach Kurt Plaisted, the squad was warming up for their 1:00 pm City League tilt with the Jubilee Lounge. As fans began to fill the bleachers, Plaisted nervously watched the locker room door as he tossed in a long practice shot.

All of Kenosha Tap’s players were present and accounted for, except for the special secret weapon that Plaisted had counting on. It was almost game time and he was beginning to become anxious.

Suddenly Plaisted’s anticipation disappeared.

With a thundering bang, the door from the locker room burst open and a loud cry of “Let’s kick some ass you sons-of-bitches” was heard throughout the large gymnasium. Dressed in a torn t-shirt and dirty sweatpants, Plaisted’s special secret weapon had arrived.

With a predominantly toothless grin, Arno Schubert clumsily dribbled a basketball as he took the court amid boisterous cheers, mixed with a few chuckles from the astonished crowd. A relieved Plaisted tossed a scarlet Kenosha Tap jersey to Arno and said, “Here, get this on and put out that cigarette.”

Arno tossed the butt to the hardwood floor and ground it out with his well-worn Chuck Taylor sneakers. As he attempted to tug the jersey over his large head, it was obviously a size too small, causing it to fit the hung-over German like O.J. Simpson’s glove.

With the game ready to begin, Plaisted gathered his team into a small huddle. “Okay guys, the starters are Cliff, Stan, Harry, Gino and Hall. The rest of you be ready!” No sooner had Plaisted stopped speaking, Arno blurted out, “What the (expletive deleted) Kurt! I ain’t starting?!?”

Plaisted smiled at his special secret weapon and said, “Not yet Arno, not yet.” Arno, cursing under his breath, sat down on the bench and shot a dirty look at Plaisted. If looks could have killed…

The referee tossed the ball into the air and the game between Kenosha Tap and Jubilee Lounge was under way. The contest was a typical City League basketball game and the score went back and forth. It was also a very physical game, with the players needing frequent rests.

Every time Plaisted would put in a substitute, Arno would jump up and beg to be put in the game. Each time, the response was the same, “Not yet Arno, not yet.” Arno would return to the bench and curse at his coach a bit louder.

At halftime, the game was tied and Plaisted told his crew to hang tough. He then, much to Arno’s chagrin, announced that the guys who started the game would start the second half as well.

Knowing what was coming, he turned to the disgruntled German and said, “Not yet Arno, not yet.” This time Arno didn’t even bother cursing, he just waved his hand at his coach and went to the far end of the bench.

The second half was a different story, with Kenosha Tap pulling out to an early lead. Before long, the margin had grown so large that Plaisted knew what he had to do. With the game seemingly in hand, he stood up smirking, winked at the crowd and shouted out, “Now Arno, now!”

The special secret weapon was about to be unleashed.

Arno sprang to his feet, almost falling as he pulled off his grimy sweatpants. Initially the crowd roared its’ approval and then broke into laughter when Arno finally succeeded in getting his sweatpants off, revealing shorts that were only slightly larger than a pair of Speedos.

What ensued was not for the faint of heart.

The special secret weapon went on a vicious rampage and nobody was going to stop him. His elbows were flying, knocking opponents out of the way. He threw up high-arching hook shots that came nowhere near the backboard, let alone the basket.

He dove for every loose ball and challenged his opponents for every rebound. At one point he leapt high for a rebound, curling both legs underneath himself. It was a thing of beauty. The only problem was that he forgot to straighten his legs out and crashed to the hard wooden court, landing on his boney knees. The fans gasped, shuddered and cringed before beginning to giggle.

It should be noted that this all took place in a span of about 5 minutes.

As the beer-guzzling, chain-smoking man from Germany attempted to get up, he looked to the bench and beckoned to Plaisted to take him out, he had had enough. Plaisted broke into a wide grin and replied, “Not yet Arno, not yet.”

For the next 10 minutes, the feisty Kraut struggled up and down the court, his weather-beaten face growing redder each step he took. Every time there was a stoppage of play he would plead to be taken out of the game. Each time, Plaisted’s response was the same, “Not yet Arno, not yet.”

Almost mercifully, with 2 minutes left in the game, Jubilee Lounge took a timeout and play finally stopped. A crimson-faced Arno hobbled over to the bench and glared at his coach. Plaisted, fighting back laughter, decided to give in and said, “Okay, Arno, you can sit down now.”

But Arno did not sit down. Instead he kept staggering down the sideline, wheezing and gasping for breath every shaky step of the way. There was a hush over the crowd; all eyes were now on Arno as he continued his unsteady journey toward the corner of the court.

Ultimately he disappeared behind the bleachers in the southwest corner of Bullen Jr. High’s gymnasium. Fans, players and officials stared at each other, questioning what had become of Arno, the special secret weapon.

The powerful retching noise that was emitted quickly answered everyone’s question.

After he finished regurgitating, he finally came back toward the bench. With tears streaming down his face, he wiped the remnants from his mouth and said, “Thanks you dirty rotten (expletive deleted).” He then took a seat on the bench and quietly watched Kenosha Tap seal its’ victory over Jubilee Lounge.

I hope that you enjoyed my tribute to this superstar. If you would like to read more tales about Arno Schubert click on either Arno or Schubert in the Labels section below the blog.

That’s it until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Balls To The Wall

Wow! That is the first word that comes to mind when I try to describe the premier of Survivor: Redemption Island. In the previous 21 seasons of Survivor, you would be hard pressed to recall a more dynamic opening episode. I know that I can’t. Typically the first two or three shows are rather slow moving, which gives you an opportunity to get to know the competitors and get a general feel for things. Not tonight. It was balls to the wall from the word go.

Being a self-proclaimed Survivor Geek, I am not ashamed to admit that I had goose bumps when award-winning host Jeff Probst introduced Boston Rob Mariano and Russell Hantz as the additional players this season. Of course the reactions coming from the newbies were different for each of the two Survivor veterans.

Boston Rob received a loud cheer along with a chorus of oohs and ahs. Especially from the young female challengers, who were evidently impressed. The response for Russell was quite dissimilar. It was pretty much a collective, “Oh no!”

Despite the initial polar opposite reactions, they didn’t last very long. After a lot of hugging and kissing, segments from both the Ometepe and Zapatera tribes decided they wanted the two Survivor All-Stars gone as soon as possible.

On Zapatera, it was slime ball attorney David and Iraq veteran Mike who teamed up to plot the demise of the Hall-of-Famer, Russell.

Over in camp Ometepe, it was the aggressive Kristina, along with the dimwitted Francesca and the extremely annoying Phillip joining forces to try to facilitate the early dismissal of Boston Rob.

Because Zapatera thoroughly kicked their ass in the Immunity challenge, the trio from Ometepe was given the first opportunity to eliminate their All-Star.

It should be noted that following the end of the challenge, Boston Rob exchanged a short glance with Russell. Something was going on between the two. It was as if they were communicating without ever saying a word.

Before going back to camp Ometepe, in a brilliant piece of editing, they cut to Russell who made this prophetic statement, “I know how Boston Rob thinks. Right now he is thinking, oh crap, I’m stuck with a bunch of weenies.”

A truer assessment was never made.

Kristina, who to her credit had already found a Hidden Immunity Idol, tried her best to lay a plan for the disposal of Boston Rob with the rather obtuse Francesca. Unfortunately they needed a third person, so they called upon the irritating Phillip.

Let me explain why I have called Phillip both annoying and irritating.

Before tonight’s episode was three minutes old, Phillip informed us that he was a former special agent. Then, while they were building their shelter, he announced it to the tribe. Over the next 60 minutes we were being constantly reminded that this 52-year-old guy in droopy fuchsia briefs was a former special agent.

So, reluctantly, Kristina and Francesca revealed their diabolical scheme to take Boston Rob out of the game to special agent Phillip. After some considerable deliberation, the dysfunctional threesome left for Tribal Council seemingly prepared for the ultimate blindside.

Well, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. Now they can say it for weenies as well.

It didn’t take long before special agent Phillip became double agent Phillip, quickly spilling the beans to Probst and the rest of the Ometepe tribe. He even went so far as to reveal that Kristina possessed the Hidden Immunity Idol. The look on Probst’s face was priceless.

Needless to say, Boston Rob saw right through Kristina and Francesca’s feeble attempts to cover up their skullduggery.

Francesca received enough votes to be sent packing to Redemption Island. There, she will have to fend for herself, waiting for someone else to be voted off. At which point there will be some sort of duel where the loser is exiled permanently.

Like I said before, wow! Season 22 has started out balls to the wall and I don’t see it letting up anytime soon. The previews for next week show farmer Ralph and Russell having a major confrontation. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Here We Go Again

Okay, Fellow Survivor Geeks, and you know who you are, it won’t be long now. It’s what we have been craving since December 19 at 10:18 pm CST. That’s right, the 22nd season of the award-winning reality show that we love so much, will finally return on Wednesday at 7:00 pm CST on CBS. And it should be epic!

I am sure that you aware that Russell Hantz and Boston Rob Mariano will be reigniting their epic feud on Survivor: Redemption Island. If that wasn’t enough, there will be several “twists” introduced this season.

Besides giving Hantz and Mariano a third and fourth chance, respectively, to redeem themselves and win Survivor, the show has introduced a major twist that gives voted off contestants a chance to return to the game. Obviously this is where they came up with the name, Survivor: Redemption Island. Duh.

I have read several online articles on how this new “twist” will work. This explanation by host Jeff Probst was the best.

“How it works is very simple,” explained Probst. “When you’re voted out at Tribal Council, you don’t go home. You’re not out of the game. You go to Redemption Island and you live alone. And at a certain point in the game another person will join you. You will compete in a duel. The winner stays. The loser goes home. So you’re continuing to live out there on your own with very basic supplies. But you’re still in the game. And at a certain point you’ll be allowed to reenter the game and have a shot at the money.”

In other words, people that are voted out will compete against each other for a chance to later rejoin the game.

Unfortunately, since each episode will include a Redemption Island duel, you can expect there to be just one combined reward/immunity challenge per episode for the players that have yet to be voted out.

If this is the case, I might not be a fan of the format switch. I was always a big fan of two challenges each week. Although the Redemption Island duel could potentially provide enough drama, we might forget that we are only getting one challenge. Only time will tell.

Here are the Opening Night lineups:

Ometepe Tribe

Rob Mariano (35), Pensacola, FL

Andrea Boehlke (21), Random Lake, WI
Ashley Underwood (25), Benton, ME
Francesca Hogi (36), Washington, DC
Grant Mattos (29), West Hollywood, CA
Kristina Kell (46), Malibu, CA
Matt Elrod (22), Nashville, TN

Natalie Tenerelli (19), Acton, CA
Phillip Sheppard (52), Santa Monica, CA

Zapatera Tribe

Russell Hantz (38), Dayton, TX
David Murphy (31), West Hollywood, CA
Julie Wolfe (50), Oceanside, CA
Krista Klumpp (25), Columbia, SC
Mike Chiesl (31), Del Mar, CA
Ralph Kiser (45), Lebanon, VA
Sarita White (36), Santa Monica, CA
Stephanie Valencia (26), Long Beach, CA

Steve Wright (51), Huntington Beach, CA

If you want more information on the competitors, check out my blog from last month, “Look What I Found”.

Based on the results of my Survivor Hall of Fame poll, bad-guy Russell Hantz is the fan favorite among many of the From the Booth crowd. If you disagree make sure you cast your vote before Wednesday night. The poll is located just to the right of the blog.

Yes, here we go again, Russell Hantz vs. Rob Mariano. And I know who I’m rooting for. Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Charles Nelson Reilly Rules!

The past few days I have been messing around with Jib Jab. Today I came across this little gem that pays homage to the great Charles Nelson Reilly. A special thanks to Weird Al for his hard work. I thought I would share it with those of you not on on facebook. There has been some problems with the YouTube version. Hopefully this will work for everyone!

Click here to see my tribute to Charles Nelson Reilly.

Pretty cool, huh? Did you notice Gene Rayburn? As long as you're here, please take a moment to vote on my Survivor Hall of Fame poll if you haven't already done so. It's located just to the right of this blog. Only three days left. Thanks! Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Welcome To Wisconsin!

Someone needs to make sure that representatives from the Lake Geneva Visitors Bureau, the Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and the Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce read this blog. By doing so, they will become aware of the best advertising tool they could ever dream of. Seriously, this blog will bring to their attention the greatest destination-marketing implement they could ever hope for. Want to know what it is? I won’t make you wait.

It’s my friend Michael Chagdes from Lake Geneva.

You are probably asking yourself why some guy from Lake Geneva would be some a marketing boon for drawing people to America’s Dairyland. Let me explain by starting with a quick background of Michael Chagdes.

Michael hasn’t always lived in Lake Geneva, or Illinois for that matter. Up until last year he and had resided in Illinois all of his life, the last eight in the western suburb of Lisle.

He and his wife Rose, run Wacker Hardware Company located in Chicago on West Jackson Blvd. Michael is the President/CEO and Rose is the Vice President of this highly successful company that has been in business since 1936.

Wacker Hardware is the Midwest source for security hardware, locksmith supplies, and master keying specialties. The company not only serves locksmiths but also, hardware stores, industrial supply houses, building contractors, and many other types of businesses.

Michael is much more than an accomplished businessman. Although he is a self-proclaimed curmudgeon, he is also funny and a very straightforward kind of guy. What you see is what you get with Michael Chagdes.

I first met Michael and Rose on facebook a couple of years ago. I finally met them in person when they came to Sister Act Painting and Creative Treasures for my book singing this past July. You couldn’t ask to meet two more charming people.

Okay, now that you know a little a bit about Chagdes, chances are you are still wondering why he should be the Spokesman for the state of Wisconsin. Maybe these two quotes will help you see why:

“I’m 60 and have been in Illinois for 59 years and Wisconsin for 1 year. I have met more nice people up here in 12 months than in the previous state in almost 6 decades. Just sayin’…”

“I’d say it's a great day to live in Wisconsin, but then again, EVERY day up here is great!”

Both of those remarks were made on facebook when talking about how he liked living in Wisconsin. Most of the people he was talking with were from the Land of Lincoln.

Wait, it gets better. Not only has his residence changed in the last year, also has his sport allegiances. Oh, yes.

According to Rose, Michael has been a Cubs fan since he was 5 years old! After last season he had enough and decided to be a total Brewers fan. He has already bought hats and will assuredly be acquiring more Brewer items, as the season gets closer.

Not only has he converted to the Brewers, he is also a Packer fan. I bet you think he was a Bear fan, right? Wrong.

Recently, some of Michael’s Bear fan friends were giving him a hard time on facebook for cheering on the Green and Gold during their Super Bowl run. He responded with, “No “flipping” here. I have NEVER been a Bears fan and I most assuredly never will be.”

He went on to say, “I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan since 1967. I jumped on the Packers bandwagon this year mainly because it annoys so many Bears fans. But I really do admire the organization and my neighbors are happier when they win.”

There you have, Lake Geneva, Kenosha and Wisconsin Visitor Bureaus, a former Illinoisan who has nothing but wonderful things to say about our great state. He is a successful businessman, loves the Packers and the Brewers and genuinely cares about his neighbors. Michael Chagdes would be the ideal marketing tool, so feel free to use him and his wonderful quotes.

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It Won’t Be Long Now

This blog is just a reminder that it won’t be long now. That’s right, in just seven short days two significant things will happen. On February 16th, the Milwaukee Brewer pitchers and catchers will report to Phoenix, Arizona for spring training. Equally important, on that same date the twenty-second season of the CBS award-winning reality television series Survivor is scheduled to premiere. Wow! It doesn’t get much better than that, does it? That’s rhetorical – you don’t have to answer.

This means starting next Wednesday I start writing my popular Survivor recap blogs. Although I am sure that this pleases Fellow Survivor Geeks, I know that it doesn’t do much for others. Yes, Sharon I’m talking about you.

Don’t worry I will continue to write entertaining blogs on various subjects in between Survivor blogs. In fact, if there are any topics that you would like to see me write about, feel free to leave a comment here or email me at

Before I wrap up, I want to mention my From The Booth page on facebook. If you are on facebook, click on From The Booth to be a part of this page. Once there, click on "like". There will be updates regarding upcoming blogs as well as providing another place for you to leave comments.

That’s it for now. Join the From The Booth page on facebook, because it won’t be long now! Until next time…from the booth.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

R.I.P. Ziggy

I just read that Larry Gutowski had passed away at age 54. Larry was one of the characters that I worked with at Koos Inc. and was better known as “Ziggy”. He was one of the mellowest people that I ever knew. But trust me, he was a character in the truest sense of the word. In honor of Ziggy, I would like to repost the first blog I wrote about Koos.

My first Labor Day was June 9, 1975, four short days after I graduated from Tremper High School. This was my first grown-up job. Oh, I had worked at Howard Johnson’s and Burger King while I was in school, but those were high school jobs.

I had a job as a laborer at the infamous Koos Inc. fertilizer/ice melter plant. This was a bona fide, real-life job where I went to work each morning five days a week and received a paycheck for $91.18 each and every Friday afternoon.

The amount of $91.18 was after taxes were taken out. My gross pay was $120.00 for forty hours. Insert your own joke here.

Hey, I said it was a real-life job, I didn’t say it paid a lot. For my $3.00 an hour I got to lift 40-pound bags of fertilizer in a hot, sloppy plant with slippery mud covered floors. In the winter we were treated to 50-pound bags of ice melter in a building that had no heat whatsoever. Although we were freezing, at least the floors weren’t muddy. Now they were covered with a toxic dust that you inhaled all day long.

Did I mention that Koos Inc. featured no running water? Most guys simply stepped to the nearest open dock door to relieve themselves. Otherwise, if you wanted to use an actual restroom you had to maneuver through the entire plant, walk down a long flight of stairs and go across the yard to the “Jap Shack”.

The “Jap Shack” was nothing more than an old storage shed with a few beat-up lockers, a couple of picnic tables, a number of rats and a toilet with a sink. This venerable structure received its colorful name because it allegedly held Japanese war prisoners during World War II.

Don’t ask me, I just worked there.

And so did a multitude of fascinating characters. People like Virgil Tucker, Dead Man, Bone Head, Stretch Babic, Munk Ekern, Tyrone Walker and Ziggy Gutowski. Each one possessed unique characteristics. They obviously had to, with monikers like those. They all left a lasting impression on yours truly.

But none like the legendary Arno Schubert. I could easily write a story about Arno each day for a month. This ornery “old” German was well known in every drinking establishment between here and Paddock Lake. I say old because he was about 36 and I was only eighteen years old at the time.

The only problem about sharing stories about Arno is that it would take so long to clean up the language. With Arno, cursing was an art form. He made Dice Clay, Earl Weaver and other high-profile foul mouths look like choirboys. Let me give you an example.

Because of his propensity for filthy phraseology, he was often asked to “watch his mouth”. One classic moment is when a burnout named Lanny challenged Arno that he couldn’t go the whole day without cursing. Arno’s response? Cover your ears mother.

“F*ck you, you stupid motherf*ckin’ c*cks*cker.”

That was one of the things that I learned on my first Labor Day. How not to talk! Koos Inc. made me realize why Emil and Milly Vagnoni had been drilling that stuff into my head throughout my childhood. Now I was experiencing why in my first real-life job.

On that first Labor Day, I honestly considered making a run for it during first break. I often wonder how my life would have been different if I had. Do I regret not quitting Koos Inc. on my first Labor Day?

Probably, because I ended up working there for over sixteen years. Things would have definitely been different. Maybe better, perhaps not. Who knows? One thing that I am sure of, staying at Koos Inc. on my first Labor Day has provided me with a mountain of material for future columns.

It also provided me with many memories. R.I.P. Ziggy. Until next time…from the booth.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Smash Mouth Football

I have been a fan of NFL football since 1962; yes I’m that old. My favorite team was the Green Bay Packers and because I was five years old at the time my favorite player was Paul Hornung who just happened to wear number five. However, the Golden Boy wasn’t the only player I admired.

Among my favorites were Ray Nitschke, Jim Taylor, Dick Butkus, Mike Curtis, Jack Lambert, Ernie Holmes, Mike Lucci, Alex Karras, Deacon Jones and Conrad Dobler. All of these guys had one thing in common; they all played smash mouth football. They could dish it out and in turn, take it as well.

Football is a tough sport and players get injured. They are assured of a lifetime of aches and pains. They understand that they will probably never play at 100%. There is a pervasive attitude that anyone who sits out with any injury short of a broken bone is some kind of wimp. Football is a game played by tough guys.

I loved football. Especially smash mouth football. Or at least I thought that I did. Then something happened.

In the NFC Championship game, Chicago Bear quarterback Jay Cutler left the game with a leg injury that turned out to be a second degree MCL tear. He was immediately labeled a quitter, a baby, a pussy and a few things that I won’t repeat.

These attacks came from fans, players and members of the media. NFL stars, past and present were taking shots at the Bears star. Players like Maurice Jones Drew, Derrick Brooks and Fran Tarkenton were seemingly standing in line to question his manhood.

I was stunned. Not because Cutler’s toughness was being questioned, but because I found myself defending him. Remember, Cutler is a Chicago Bear and I don’t particularly like Chicago Bears. Especially petulant douche bags like Jay Cutler.

But right is right. Who knows how bad his knee was? I certainly didn’t.

In the week following the game, I engaged in several facebook “discussions” regarding Cutler’s virility, always taking the Bear quarterback’s side.

I even participated in a rather heated debate regarding the subject on my friend Pat Hegewald’s Fantasy Lunch show heard on BlogTalkRadio. In the end, we agreed to disagree.

Even though I felt that I was right, I was a bit confused. Was my love for tough, smash mouth football fading?

After listening to the Cutler discourse rage for over a week, it finally hit me. Maybe Cutler was scared. Maybe he didn’t want to end up like Dan Hampton, Willie Wood, Jim Otto or worse yet, like Mike Webster or Darryl Stingley.

Let me explain. These are all former NFL stars that have suffered a myriad of physical problems because they played smash mouth football. Some more so than the other. Here’s what they got for being tough guys.

For example, Hampton endured 10 knee surgeries (five on each knee) and had two more just after finishing his 12th NFL season in 1990. After his contract expired after 1989, Hampton signed a 1-year deal for $850,000 to play the 1990 season for the Bears. This final contract was incentive based, if he played he got paid, if an injury forced him to the sidelines he would not.

Wood is currently living in an assisted care facility and has had many operations as a result of his being injured during his NFL career. He has had replacement knees and replacement hips, dementia and forgetfulness, and his current NFL pension of a little over $1100 per month is just not enough to pay all of his bills.

Wisconsin native Otto punished his body greatly during his NFL career, resulting in nearly 40 surgeries, including 28 knee operations (nine of them during his playing career alone) and multiple joint replacements. His joints are riddled with arthritis, and he has debilitating back and neck problems.

One time, Otto nearly died on the operating table. He also fought off three life-threatening bouts of infections due to his artificial joints, and during one six-month stretch, was without a proper right knee joint because he had to wait for the infection to clear up before another artificial one could be implanted.

After retirement Webster suffered from amnesia, dementia, depression, and acute bone and muscle pain. He lived out of his pickup truck or train stations between Wisconsin and Pittsburgh even though his friends and former teammates were willing to rent apartments for him. Webster was only 50 years old when he passed on.

In a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland Coliseum on August 12, 1978, Raiders defensive back Jack Tatum hit Stingley. As Stingley and Tatum collided, Stingley lowered his helmet, which collided with Tatum's shoulder pad. The hit compressed Stingley's spinal cord, breaking his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae. He eventually regained limited movement in his right arm, but spent the rest of his life as a quadriplegic.

Although controversial, the hit was not a violation of NFL rules at the time. No penalty was called on the play.

On April 5, 2007, Stingley, at age 55, died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after being discovered unresponsive in his home. His death was attributed to heart disease and pneumonia complicated by quadriplegia. The Cook County Medical Examiner listed Stingley's cause of death as an accident.

I realize that no one forced any of these tough guys to play in the NFL; it was a choice they made. They decided to play smash mouth football. Regrettably, because of those choices, they are all crippled or worse.

I understand that violence in the NFL is part of the equation. However, it's still just a game, with rules and referees. Unfortunately, life is not a game. It is precious and all too short.

Maybe I don’t like smash mouth as much as I used to. Until next time…from the booth.