Sunday, June 30, 2013

Random Rambling…

When I write a blog I typically have a specific topic or theme. That’s not the case here. Nope, today I am just going to spout off about things in general. This is just stuff that has been going through my oversized melon the past few days. My last two blogs have been originals; not reposts. I have been working my way up to getting back to working on my book. We shall see. Before that, I simply feel like reflecting on some fairly innocuous subjects. Merely some random rambling…

I am a creature of habit. Big time. I appreciate things happening in a certain order. Not being a fan of change, I like to know what to expect next. No surprises for me, give me what I am comfortable with. If I enjoy something, I want it to be there for me to continue enjoying.

This is why I think WGN radio stinks.

Thursday night when I plopped into bed, I hit preset number 3 on my Bose radio. Number three is WGN 720 and at 10:30 pm Turi Ryder should be yakking about something. Turi is on Monday thru Thursday from 10:00 pm-1:00 am. Her show is what I have been going to sleep to since she took over for Milt Rosenberg six months ago. It had become part of my routine.

That suddenly came to a screeching halt when Turi announced that this was her final show.

Seems that WGN, in their infinite wisdom, was changing their schedule yet again. This got me to digging around the Internet to find what or who was replacing Turi.

Boy was surprised when I found the new schedule. Please remember, I don’t like surprises.

Not only are they axing Turi’s show, they are eliminating the WGN Sports Night show that was on weeknights from 7:00-10:00. Although the show was mainly Chicago sports and featured the pompous David Kaplan as one of it’s hosts, I listened to it on occasion. Along with Kaplan, Brian Noonan and Andrea Darlas also hosted. This served to counter Kaplan’s arrogance and self-importance and made the show fairly entertaining.

But WGN Sports Night is also gone.

In it’s place? The David Kaplan Show from 7:00 to midnight, Monday thru Friday. Nice, huh? Not only have two decent shows been eradicated, they are being replaced by five hours of the pretentious Kaplan’s special brand of patronizing blather. The icing on the cake is that it pushes the über-popular Nick Digilio show on Friday nights from 10:00 pm-2:00 am to midnight-5:00 am Saturday morning. That is the final straw.

Like I said, WGN radio stinks.

While I am rambling about Chicago related things, let’s discuss which of Chicago’s sports team “owns” the city of big shoulders. The reason I bring this up is because Chicago Tribune sports writer David Haugh wrote that the Hawks were at the top of the Chicago sports heap. He even went so far as to declare that the “Transcendent Cup champs have eclipsed, at least for the moment, even Bears in unifying city."

Sorry, Mr. Haugh, I don’t agree. Chicago is, and will always be, a Bears town. In fact, I would take it a step further and say that the Cubs rank higher popularity-wise in the windy city. Here is how I rank ‘em:

1. Bears
2. Cubs
3. Bulls (tie)
3. Hawks (tie)
5. White Sox (and fading)

I was going to randomly ramble some more, but the Brewer/Pirate game just came on. I am delighted to announce that Craig Coshun is handling the play-by-play while Brian Anderson pursues his national gig on TBS. I hope the Diamondback and Brave fans enjoy him. The can have him.

Hey! The Pirates are wearing their black and mustard uniforms from the ‘70s! They are too sweet. I guess I will watch for a while. Hope it’s a good game, because Monk isn’t on today.

Until next time…from the booth.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review Time

The other day, my friend Kool Papa asked if I would recommend a book to another friend of mine, Patty 4-Names. I said sure, that I would be glad to. After all, anytime I can do something to help promote literacy, count me in, especially, among friends. Seriously, Kool Papa and Patty 4-Names are easily, two of the more well read people I have never known. They certainly put me to shame.

This got me to thinking that it would be a good idea to do a little reading of my own. I harken back to a column I wrote November 14, 2009. It was titled “Intervention Update” and discussed my attempt to start reading a pile of books that had accumulated on my shelf.

With that in mind, I grabbed the first book I saw and read it from cover to cover before I turned on Hell’s Kitchen. Honest. I even read it again this morning before writing this blog. Seriously, I did.

Okay, this book couldn’t be classified as a tome. You might call it a quick read. It is less than 40 pages and half of those are illustrations. But it is quite compelling, a real page-turner. The title of this little gem is “Cherise The Niece” by J.K. Benton. It was a gift from my friend from Michigan,
Sharon and it is cherished.

“Cherise The Niece” is called an “adult picture book” and is recommended for readers 14 years and older. This is because it’s a spine-tingling, yet amusing tale of a troubled little girl that may be doing away with her aunts one-by-one. It is illustrated and is told completely in rhyme. It is a darkly comic masterpiece of the macabre.

The bloody footprints leading out of Cherise’s bedroom are the first clue that perhaps the little darling with the bow in her hair is not an angel. As Cherise is shuttled from one aunt’s home to another, her aunts vanish, meeting with creative and hysterical ends. With a killer punch line on its final page, Benton’s Cherise will leave you laughing. It did me.

About the author – Benton is a writer and artist who might draw a happy bunny one moment and write poems about a scary little niece the next. It’s probably best not to ask why. His characters, including Happy Bunny, Franny K. Stein, and the New York Times bestseller Dear Dumb Diary, are licensed worldwide and appear in books and calendars, and on T-shirts, stickers, magnets, and more.

Here are a couple of short excerpts:

“She was orphaned quite young.
In a mysterious way,
Her Parents just up and
Vanished one day.”

“She stayed for a while,
With her dear old Aunt Bea,
‘Til one day when bug spray
Wound up in her tea.”

Good stuff, huh? Don’t take my word for it. I found these reviews for the book on the Internet:

“This was such a cute book. Okay, it’s a picture book with a dark humor that is meant for anyone but kids. The pictures were good; the writing had a great flow. Definitely something I would read again.” – Michelle

“Dark and funny. My husband found this book for me when he ran into the dollar store for tape… I love it!” - Angela

“My uncle bought this for me as a joke and I thoroughly enjoyed It.” – Justine

“Adorable, but isn’t it supposed to be a children’s book?” – Cecellia

“This is dumb, pointless and not funny or cute. Absolutely meritless.” - Catalinna

“Very strange. Strange is good.” – Nicole

If strange is indeed good, then “Cherise The Niece” is VERY good. That’s it for my book review. If you would like to borrow my copy, just ask, although I saw it on Amazon for less than $4.00. What should I read next? Hmm…

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


MUSIC UPDATE! Currently, I have 2,833 songs on iTunes. Here are the artists with the most tunes: David Bowie – 36, World Party – 37, Chicago – 39, Alice Cooper – 40, Queen – 62, The Rolling Stones – 74, The Beatles – 92, The BoDeans - 95, The Clash – 99, Dropkick Murphys – 143, R.E.M. – 160, The Who – 412.

The Clash? Where did that come from? Oh well, here are my favorite albums of 10 of the artists on my iTunes list. It was extremely tough to pick a favorite for The Who. (Note: You will notice that I have been so kind as to include the playlist from the albums.)

Alice Cooper – Killer (1971)
Under My Wheels
Be My Lover
Halo of Flies
You Drive Me Nervous
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
Dead Babies

Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks (1975)
Tangled Up in Blue
Simple Twist of Fate
You’re a Big Girl Now
Idiot Wind
You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
Meet Me in the Morning
Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts
If You See Her, Say Hello
Shelter from the Storm
Buckets of Rain

The BoDeans – Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams (1986)

She’s a Runaway
Still the Night
Rickshaw Riding
The Strangest Kind
Say You Will
Ultimately Fine
That’s All
Lookin’ for Me Somewhere

Dropkick Murphys – Blackout (2003)
Walk Away
Worker’s Song
The Outcast
Black Velvet Band
Gonna Be a Blackout
World Full of Hate
Buried Alive
The Dirty Glass
Fields of Athenry
Bastards on Parade
As One
This Is Your Life
Time to Go
Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

Black Dog
Rock and Roll
The Battle of Evermore
Stairway to Heaven
Misty Mountain Hop
Four Sticks
Going to California
When the Levee Breaks

Queen – Sheer Heart Attack (1974)
Brighton Rock
Killer Queen
Tenement Funster
Flick of the Wrist
Lily of the Valley
Now I’m Here
In the Lap of the Gods
Stone Cold Crazy
Dear Friends
Bring Back That Leroy Brown
She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos)
In the Lap of the Gods… Revisited

R. E. M. – Green (1988)

Pop Song 89
Get Up
You Are the Everything
World Leader Pretend
The Wrong Child
Orange Crush
Turn You Inside-Out
I Remember California

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed (1969)

Gimme Shelter
Love In Vain
Country Honk
Live with Me
Let It Bleed
Midnight Rambler
You Got the Silver
Monkey Man
You Can’t Always Get What You want

The Who – The Who By Numbers (1975)

Slip kid
However Much I Booze
Squeeze Box
Dreaming From the Waist
Imagine a Man
Success Story
They Are All in Love
Blue, Red and Grey
How Many Friends
In a Hand or a Face

World Party – Goodbye Jumbo (1990)
Is it Too Late?
Way Down Now
When the Rainbow Comes
Put the Message in the Box
Ain’t Gonna Come Till I’m Ready
And I Fell Back Alone
Take It Up
God On My Size
Show Me to the Top
Love Street
Sweet Soul Dream
Thank You World

Believe it or not, there is plenty of music that I need to add to my list, so I am always open to suggestions. Let me know what you think belongs in my collection. I’ll let you know if I already have it. If I don’t, it might be added! Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Football and Sandcastles

Recently I have been thinking about the good old days with the Vagnoni clan. When I saw the two neighbor boys playing catch with the football it reminded me of the times we did the same out at Camp Lake. I wrote this last April and decided to share it again. I hope you enjoy it again…

It was a late Saturday morning in the summer of 1971. The sun was shining; the weather was warm and pleasant. This could only mean one thing - the Vagnoni families were headed west on highway C to the “cottage” located on the shore of scenic Camp Lake, Wisconsin. Because of our heritage, the “cottage” was more commonly referred to as La Casa Da Lago, which roughly translated is “the house on the lake”. Whichever name you used, it was a popular gathering place.

The headcount would typically be twenty. The only time the number fluctuated was when one of us kids could talk the folks into letting us bring a friend along. Or if any members of the Curi, Allegretto, Maccari, Ficcadenti, Ventura or Pulera families happened to pay a visit. You get the picture; there were usually a considerable number of people of Italian descent visiting western Kenosha County on weekends during the summer.

This particular weekend was no different. Everyone arrived before noon and us kids knew the routine – we had to perform hard labor before we could even think about having fun.

Hard labor meant picking up sticks. Now picking up sticks doesn’t seem too terribly taxing. That is until you consider the lawn at the bottom of the hill was at least 40 yards wide. Plus, there were dozens of enormous trees on the property with all but a couple of them at the top of that massive hill.

Oh, did I mention that the hill was extremely steep? If my memory serves me correct, it was at about a 45° angle. By the time we finished picking up all of the sticks we were walking like goats.

In case you were wondering what our folks were doing while us kids were slaving away, they too were busy. Our mothers were inside cooking, washing dishes or sewing. I’m not really sure. I do know that our fathers were mowing the lawn – on a riding mower. They didn’t trust us on it yet, which was probably wise on their part.

Eventually we finished picking up all of the sticks and the lawn was pristine. After the lawn mower was put away it was time to play. Out came the Duke.

The Duke was an orangish football that had a small bulge the size of a golf ball on one side. We jokingly referred to it as the pregnant football. We didn’t mind, it was a football and playing with it was better than picking up sticks.

When the dads decided to play with us, it wasn’t a regular game. Normally Dad and Uncle Dave would stand at one end of the long yard while Uncle Joe and Uncle John would be down at the other.

They would take turns lofting passes to my brother Mike and I, and our cousins John Dean, Mark and Danny. We would run endless pass routes up and down the field. Sometimes even my sister Teri would join in, but usually it was just all of the male cousins.

Except for my little brother Joey, he didn’t like sports.

While we ran back and forth catching passes from our dads, Joey was content to sit on the small beach making sandcastles with his Tonka trucks. He was having fun and perfectly happy.

Everything was fine until cousin Danny decided to “break off his route” and spoil one of Joey’s sand creations.

With a maniacal little laugh, Danny suddenly veered from the lawn, onto the sand and gave Joey’s sandcastle a quick kick. As Danny ran back unto the grass, still laughing, Joey could only let out an astonished, “Hey!”

The rest of us roared with laughter. Looking back we probably shouldn’t have, because it only encouraged Danny to continue his mischievous reign of destruction on Joey’s sandcastles.

At least two more times Danny would run off the field and give Joey’s latest sandcastle a swift kick, destroying them. Being only 9 years old, Joey hadn’t become proficient in cursing like a longshoreman. Yet. That would come next year. But you could see his anger and frustration building.

Danny must have sensed this, because he finally refrained from tormenting his cousin. It looked like everything was fine again.
Danny was content catching passes from the dads and this allowed Joey to build his sandcastles in peace. Yes, everything was back to normal.

So it seemed.

Out of nowhere, Joey yelled out, “Hey Danny, aren’t you gonna kick over my sandcastles anymore?” The curious request brought an evil grin to Danny’s face; he didn’t need to be asked twice.

Like a blur, he sprinted over to the beach, pulled his foot back and gave the large sandcastle a mighty kick. BAM!!! Sand flew everywhere.

Danny then let loose with an anguished shriek that could be heard on the other side of Camp Lake.

You see, Joey had discreetly hidden a large brick in his sandcastle and the tip of Danny’s foot hit it flush. His cloth tennis shoe provided very little cushion.

As Danny rolled in the sand in agony, a smug grin spread across Joey’s face. Being young and sadistic, the rest of us howled with laughter. Hey, it wasn’t our foot.

It was determined that Danny’s foot was fine; nothing was broken. He even managed to hobble up and down the field and catch a few more passes. However, he didn’t go near Joey’s sandcastles the rest of the afternoon.

Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Things That Make You Smile

This morning I was sitting on my bed praying the Rosary while looking out my back window. As I contemplated the Joyful Mysteries I saw something that I hadn’t seen for a very long time. In the road behind our condo were two young boys playing catch with a football. This made me smile. In fact, this made me smile real big. Let me explain.

I am assuming the boys were brothers. They had just moved in a few months ago. One was much smaller than the other. I doubt that he was 10 years old. The other boy was much larger, wore glasses and was probably three or four years older. The smaller boy had a constant smile on his face, while his big brother was more serious.

This wasn’t the first time I noticed the two youngsters playing, but it was the first time I took the time to actually watch them play. What I saw when I watched is what made me smile.

First of all, the smaller brother was playing quarterback. I thought this was unusual. The older ones always get to throw the football and make the younger ones run all over the place trying to catch their passes. That’s how it was when I was a kid. My Dad and uncles always were throwing the football, making me, my brother and our cousins run up and down the field.

That wasn’t the case this morning.

No sir. The little guy was the quarterback and his brother was the wide receiver. They must have watched plenty of football with their dad because they knew what they were doing. The big guy would get into a two-point stance while his brother would call signals. He would then “take the snap”, drop back a couple of steps and loft a tight spiral into the outstretched hands of his bespectacled brother.

These boys were such a joy to watch. I continued to pray, looking up every now and then to watch the action. Suddenly they both ran into their house. I’m not sure if one of their parents had called them, but they were gone. Oh well…

Then, just as suddenly, they reappeared. But they didn’t have their football with them. No, this time they both were wearing baseball gloves. Evidently, they were switching sports. Again I was smiling.

You know how good those two brothers were in football? Well, they were that bad in baseball. Honest. When the little one threw the ball to his brother, you never knew where it was going to go. And on the rare occasion that the toss was anywhere near it’s target, it would clank off of his brother’s glove and roll away.

It wasn’t much better on the return throw. The big brother’s aim was slightly better, but it didn’t matter much. The little fella had no clue what to do with the glove stuck on his left hand. When the ball approached him he would stab at it awkwardly, knocking it to the ground. But he kept smiling. And so did I.

The last time I glanced out the window, the younger brother was squatting down like a catcher and flashing signals to his big brother. I believe he was signaling for a fastball, but it made no difference. The older brother had pulled his mobile device out of his pocket and was adjusting his earbud. I’m not sure if it was an iPod or Smartphone. That wasn’t important, I had been transported from 1967 to 2013 in the blink of an eye and the magic was over.

Let’s see, tomorrow is Tuesday, so it is the Sorrowful Mysteries. Hopefully those two brothers will be outside playing again. That way I won’t be too “sorrowful” when I am praying. Those guys do make me smile.

Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Oh, My Papa

Joyful the sound, the word goes around.

From father to son to son...

That is the photo and those are the words that I have used in my blog for the past four Father’s Days. Each time it is to honor the most beautiful man I have ever known. This year I have again decided to use the more visual tribute.

Dad and his sister Helen making their First Holy Communion  

Dad’s faith was always the most important thing in his life. I so dearly miss praying with him in the morning. I keep his Rosary next to my bed. This past Good Friday I used it. Thank you, Dad.

Dad in his Army uniform
He bravely served our country in World II from age 19 to 21. People like Dad are the reason his generation is referred to as “The Greatest Generation”. He never intended to be a hero, but he was. Thank you, Dad.

Dad at work with a big smile on his face  

He’s smiling because he loved providing and caring for his family. I don’t remember ever hearing him complain about going to work, no matter how tired or sick he was. Thank you, Dad.

Dad with his family celebrating my birthday in 2009
It was the last time that ever happened. He loved his family more than anything on this earth. We were truly blessed to have him as a part of our lives for as long as we did. I only wish it could have been longer. Thank you, Dad. 

Oh, my Papa, to me he was so wonderful

Oh, my Papa, to me he was so good

No one could be, so gentle and so lovable

Oh, my Papa, he always understood.

Gone are the days when he could take me on his knee

And with a smile he'd change my tears to laughter.

Oh, my Papa, so funny, so adorable

Always the clown so funny in his way

Oh, my Papa, to me he was so wonderful.

Deep in my heart I miss him so today.

Thank you, Dad.

Until next time…from the booth.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Media Overload

Here I go again. I am typing this totally one-handed. It’s hard, but I just realized that I am watching way too much TV again. And it’s on a regular basis. This became very evident when I saw the logjam my DVR list.  Here’s what I have to catch up on: one episode of Am Pickers, two episodes of Counting Cars, two episodes of American Restoration and two episodes of Pawn Stars.

Here is my current prime time schedule:

7:00 to 8:00 – Barney Miller
8:00 to 9:00 – Dog and Beth: On the Hunt (DVR)
8:00 to 9:00 – Bar Rescue (when the new season starts)

7:00 to 10:00 – Kenosha Common Council (1st and 3rd Monday)
8:00 to 9:00 – American Pickers (DVR)

8:00 – Hard Core Pawn
8:30 – Hard Core Pawn: Chicago
8:00 to 9:00 – Counting Cars (DVR)
9:00 to 10:00 – Shipping Wars
9:00 to 10:00 – American Restoration (DVR)

7:00 to 9:00 – Master Chef

7:00 to 8:00 – Hell’s Kitchen
8:00 to 9:00 – Does Someone Have To Go?
8:00 to 9:00 – Pawn Stars (DVR)

Undercover Boss and Kitchen Nightmares when new episodes are available


Somewhat daunting, eh? Now add into the equation as much Match Game and $25,000 Pyramid as I can squeeze in, Brewer games and approximately 6 hours of radio. Yikes, I need help!

To my credit, I have been making it a habit to read the Bible and do my prayers each morning. Hopefully my left hand and wrist will soon improve enough so that I can get back working on my book, “More Kenosha Softball”. At least then I will feel like I am accomplishing something.

Oh well, time for some Extra Strength Tylenol® and Voltaren. Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Punishment… Part Three

Of the four major professional sports, baseball, football, basketball and hockey, baseball would have to be considered the least physically confrontational. This is not to say that MLB has not had its’ ugly moments. Memory brings back the image of the Oriole’s Roberto Alomar spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck in 1996.

More recently, there was the ugly, bench-clearing brawl on May 19, 1998 between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. This viscous battle raged for at least 10 minutes with nearly every man on the field throwing a punch. It was precipitated with a beanball, MLB’s form of enforcement. Just as many hockey traditionalists believe an occasional fight is a natural part of the game they cherish, many baseball purists view a well-timed “purpose pitch” as a necessary part of their game.

McSorley wasn’t the first professional athlete to place a piece of lumber across an opponent’s head during the heat of battle. On August 22, 1965, Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants split Dodger catcher John Roseboro’s head open with his baseball bat. A series of brushback pitches led to the brutal attack by the future Hall of Famer.

Like McSorley, Marichal apologized publicly. Although he received the most severe penalty issued by the league to that point, as had McSorley, some felt it was not enough, just as some feel is the case with McSorley.

The NBA is another professional sport that has had its’ share of violent moments. Kermit Washington of the Los Angeles Lakers pulverizing the Rocket’s Rudy Tomjanovich’s face comes to mind, as does Latrell Sprewell’s choking of his Warrior coach P.J. Carlesimo. Not to be left out is one of the NBA’s original “bad boys”, Dennis Rodman, who’s indiscretions not only include multiple altercations with other players, but also kicking a courtside cameraman in a delicate area.

The worst NBA season for fines and suspensions was 1995-1996, when 57 players were punished, suspended a total of 62 games and assessed $475,000 in fines. These cases were all handled by the NBA, as did the NHL with McSorley.

Along with the NHL, the NFL probably comes to mind when thinking about an aggressive, collision-filled game. Like hockey, footballs’ physical nature often leads to situations where hostile, intimidating behavior is prevalent. This, in turn, gets out of hand and rules are broken.

Take for example, the fact that during the 1999 season, Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski and Detroit safety Mark Carrier had a combined total of $92,500 in fines. Carrier was suspended for one game and fined $50,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Green Bay receiver Antonio Freeman on November 21st. This vicious display of brutality left Freeman with a concussion. Once again, the league handled the punishments.

If a person were to hit another human being over the head with a stick, throw a rock at another person or smash their own skull savagely against someone else’s, they would be arrested. That is what would happen if such transgressions occurred in the everyday realm of the real world.

This is not the case in the world of professional sports, where “play” can and does become violent. When such things happen on the field of play, whether it is a diamond, football field, basketball court or a hockey rink, there is a distinction from regular society. The governing bodies of the respective sports are responsible for the activities that go on during the course of the contests. It is their responsibility to impose and enforce rules upon the participants of those contests.

Mark Carrier did not head butt Antonio Freeman outside a gas station in Green Bay, Wisconsin; he did it on the field of a National Football League contest.

Nor did Juan Marichal club John Roseboro in a San Francisco nightclub; he did it during a game on a Major League Baseball diamond.

Likewise, Kermit Washington did not sucker punch Rudy Tomjanovich on a downtown street in Houston; it was on the court of National Basketball Association game.

What Marty McSorley did to Donald Brashear on February 21, 2000 happened on a rink within the context of a National Hockey League game. It wasn’t in a Vancouver restaurant.

After all of these acts took place, the league officials of the respective sports took the necessary action. Paul Weiler, who teaches sports and the law at Harvard School, assessed the responsibility for dispensing law and justice, by saying, “As long as the league is doing it in a meaningful fashion, I think it’s right to have a hands-off attitude. Especially when it’s part of the culture of the sport.”

Unfortunately, what McSorley did is a part of the culture of hockey as it is played in the NHL. For his actions, he was suspended for 23 games, which later turned into a full season, the harshest punishment in NHL history. Because this culture is part of the nature of the very unique game of NHL hockey, its’ league officials handed out discipline in a historically consistent manner and McSorley’s punishment fit his crime.

That’s it for hockey and violence in sports for now. Until next time…from the booth.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Punishment… Part Two

To further illustrate how unparalleled the emotions of NHL hockey are compared to those of other professional sports, consider the retirements of Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. Both are considered, arguably, the greatest athlete ever in their respective sport.

When Jordan retired in January of 1999, albeit the second time, there was the expected fanfare, however the event was somewhat marred by questions regarding why he was retiring, “what ifs” and speculation that he would end up playing somewhere else.

When Gretzky called it a career in April of the same year, the league had a pre-game ceremony that was shown live in other arenas around the league. On hand to pay honor to him were former teammates, rivals and coaches.

When the game had ended, Gretzky, fighting back tears, skated laps around the rink for more than ten minutes, showing appreciation to those in attendance and to those watching the live telecast. Afterwards, Gretzky sat in the dressing room long after the game was over, answering questions, not wanting to take his uniform off. McSorley played a very emotional sport.

Because hockey is such an emotional sport, tempers do flare and players do lose their composure. Perhaps, that is what happened with McSorley on February 21, 2000. It is hard to tell what goes through someone’s head the moment they do something as irrational as McSorley did. However, no matter what the motivation or reason for his action, he did hit Brashear over the head that evening and was punished for it by the NHL in a quick a decisive manner.

This is how the how the league handled violent acts earlier in the season and it is how the league has traditionally dealt out suspensions for all on-ice incidents. It should be should be noted that 15 days after McSorley’s episode with Brashear, prosecutors in British Columbia issued criminal charges. This type of thing is not something new to the NHL.

Prior to McSorley’s suspension, there had been 29 suspensions during the 1999-2000 NHL season. The reasons varied from slashing and spearing to the popular butt-ending. The suspensions ranged in length from one game to ten.

Interestingly enough, earlier in the year, Brashear was one of the culprits suspended for wrongdoings. He received a two game unpaid vacation for checking from behind. Historically, NHL tough guys occasionally get carried away and commit violent acts. This season was no different and like other seasons, league officials have delivered disciplinary actions swiftly and evenly. McSorley’s was the longest, not only this year, but ever in the league’s history.

Before McSorley, the longest NHL suspension was 21 games. The Washington Capitol’s Dale Hunter held that distinction for assaulting the Islander’s Pierre Tugeon during a playoff game in 1993.

The earliest suspension of significance went to Boston’s legendary Eddie Shore. In December of 1933 he received a one-month suspension for hitting the Maple Leaf’s Ace Bailey from behind. It would be nearly 36 years before a punishment of that magnitude would be issued again.

In September of 1969, Wayne Maki of the St. Louis Blues and the Bruin’s Ted Green were involved in a wild stick swinging melee. For their indiscretions, Maki received a one-month suspension and Green, 13 games and a metal plate in his head.

As stated earlier, McSorley isn’t the first hockey player to have criminal charges brought against them, just the most recent. Maki and Green were both charged and subsequently acquitted of assault charges for their fracas in 1969.

Another case had Boston Bruin Dave Forbes accused of using excessive force against the North Star’s Henry Boucha. The 1975 trial ended in a hung jury. The prosecution in the case sought no retrial.

The most recent case, prior to McSorley’s, that involved the criminal justice system, was that of Minnesota’s Dino Ciccarelli in 1988. He spent one day in jail and was fined $1000 for hitting Maple Leaf Luke Richardson several times in the head with his stick. Obviously, the NHL has had its’ share of violent on-ice incidents and the consequences that have accompanied them.

Though the media might lead you to believe it, the NHL is not the only professional sport with such occurrences. This is hardly the case. Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League have call had their share of violent exploits that have occurred during their respective games and have dealt with them accordingly. For every Marty McSorley, there is a Juan Marichal, a Latrell Sprewell or a Mark Carrier.

On Monday, in the conclusion of “The Punishment Fits the Crime”, I will give examples of extreme violence in each of the other three major professional sports. Until then…from the booth.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Punishment Fits the Crime

On February 21, 2000, Boston Bruins defenseman, Marty McSorley, bludgeoned Vancouver’s Donald Brashear across the right temple with his hockey stick, leaving Brashear lying on the ice twitching, with blood flowing from his nose. Two days later, the National Hockey League suspended McSorley for the remaining 23 games of the regular season plus any playoff games Boston would play. Based on the nature of the game, the league’s history of disciplinary action, and the manner in which other professional sports have handled similar incidents, the punishment the NHL dealt Marty McSorley was appropriate.

Marty McSorley is a veteran of 17 NHL seasons. During those 17 years, McSorley can best be characterized as a tough guy, an enforcer if you will. His job hasn’t been putting the puck in the net or setting up teammates with scoring chances. His job has been to protect to protect his teammates so that they can make the pretty passes and score the big goals.

The most well known player that he has provided this service for has been Wayne Gretzky. McSorley spent 11 seasons with the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings as the personal bodyguard for the Great One, keeping the league’s other tough guys occupied, allowing Gretzky to work his magic and artistry. This was the job expected of McSorley.

The brand of hockey played in the NHL is physical and hard-hitting, with large men, like McSorley, colliding at high speeds, trying to gain possession of a small piece of vulcanized rubber, so they can advance it into their opponent’s territory.

Enter into the equation the fact that these athletes are carrying sticks and it is easy to see just how uncommon professional hockey is. Hockey is unique in many aspects, for example, the rules and penalties, the different roles of the players, and even the terms broadcasters use when describing a game on television. What other sport has a penalty called butt-ending?

It would be fair to assume that McSorley has been called for butt-ending a few times during his career. In the NHL, when a player is penalized, his team loses his services and must play short-handed. There are minor, major, misconduct and match penalties.

Examples of minor penalties are holding, tripping or cross-checking; a player hit with a minor penalty goes to the “sin bin” for two minutes. Fighting, maliciously slashing or spearing, are infractions that will earn a major penalty and five minutes. Misconducts are worth ten minutes and a match penalty gets the offending player an early shower, along with 20 minutes added to his penalty minutes total.

The NHL does a nice job of keeping track of player statistics and penalty minutes served is just one of the many it keeps track of. In the 17 years he has played in the NHL, McSorley has played in 961 games. During those 961 games, he has accumulated 3381 minutes of penalty time and received seven suspensions, which includes the one for the Brashear incident.

During the 11 seasons that he served as Gretzky’s personal bodyguard, McSorley amassed 2393 penalty minutes while scoring 93 goals and recording 196 assists. Over the course of those same 11 seasons, Gretzky put in 400 goals, registered an astonishing 1065 assists and was whistled for a measly 280 minutes worth of penalties.

Because McSorley was doing his job, Gretzky was able to do his. They both were playing in the same league, for the same teams, but each had distinctively different roles that made their teams very successful.

The average sports fan knows the names Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Sidney Crosby and perhaps Alexander Ovechkin. They were all, or are, highly skilled hockey players, often having been featured on the highlights on ESPN, scoring dazzling goals or making breathtaking passes.

Ask that same sports fan who Marty McSorley, Bob Probert, Donald Beashear and Tie Domi are and they likely couldn’t tell you. The only time these guys show up on ESPN is when they are involved in an ugly skirmish. Then, more often then not, they are labeled as goons.

Certainly there are players in the league who qualify to wear that moniker, but it is not the case with McSorley. He is respected around the NHL for his toughness, not only by current players in the league, but also by Hall of Famers who offered their support after the incident with Brashear. Hockey has a unique fraternity that is often misunderstood.

Because hockey is such a physical and a times, violent game, emotions often run high. It is a game of grace, power, skill, intimidation and control all wrapped into one not-so-neat package.

Most players in the NHL began playing the game as soon as they have learned to skate, which typically occurs shortly after they take their first steps. They develop a deep love for the sport at a very young age.

McSorley, a native of Hamilton, Ontario, falls into this category. Despite the ferocious hitting and physicality that sometimes leads to fisticuffs, hockey players have a deep respect for their opponents.

This respect can be truly appreciated at the end of a playoff series. Two teams have been battling tenaciously with each other for four or more games and are physically spent. They have built up a strong dislike for one another, yet after the final horn sounds, both teams line up and shake hands, often embracing emotionally. The emotions in hockey are unlike that of other sports.

On Saturday, I will compare the emotions of hockey to those of other sports in part two of my column on the Marty McSorley case. Until then…from the booth.