Monday, March 31, 2014

Not So Funny

Tomorrow is the Spring Election in Kenosha. It is also the first of April, otherwise known as April Fools’ Day. Oh the irony. But you won’t find any jokes here. Nope. Politics, although I generally disdain them, are important. Especially on the local level. Unfortunately, they are also very sleazy and contentious. Especially on the local level. And this is not so funny.

On tomorrow’s ballot the people of Kenosha will be voting for a couple of Judges, two County positions, Alderman, and the School Board. The Judicial and County races are a slam-dunk. All candidates are running unopposed. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe it’s not.

That’s not the case for many of the Aldermanic races and the School Board. My Alderman, Rocco LaMacchia, Sr. is running unopposed. Which is fine. Rocco is a good man and is doing a great job. He always answers his phone when I need him.

Regrettably, several of the other Aldermanic races and the School Board contest aren’t so pleasant and clear-cut. They are heated, unsavory and messy. They aren’t pretty and, again, they aren’t so funny.

Not at all.

I’m not going to get into details on this blog. Anybody on the World Wide Web can see it and I don’t need any extra unpleasantness in my life. And in case you think I am being over cautious, consider this: I recently commented on a political post on Lenny Palmer’s Facebook page. Evidently a certain Kenosha Alderman didn’t appreciate my remarks because he suddenly sent me a Facebook “friend” request. Coincidence? I think not.

I respectfully declined his request. I have heard too many stories about what happens when you cross this guy. I don’t need any “visits” from him or his people.

As far as the School Board goes, that situation might be even uglier. There is now money and influences getting into the picture from outside of the city and, dare I say, outside of the state. These are people with an agenda that are used to getting their way.

All this being said, I still encourage you to get out and vote. Vote for the candidate that is best for you. It’s your civic duty. I was going to say vote with your heart, but that wouldn’t appropriate in this case. Vote with your head. Be smart. And remember, it might be April Fools’ Day, but this stuff isn’t so funny.

Until next time…from the booth.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The News

Here’s the Friday News from the booth:

Dateline Racine, Wisconsin. My dear mother, Milly Vagnoni, hits it big playing bingo at the Roma Lodge last night. She won one game by herself and split another for a grand total of $112.50. Armed guards escorted Vagnoni and her associates, Maryann Behling and Debbie Snowtala to their car with her loot. It was the first time Vagnoni had won anything since sometime in 2013. She only smiled when asked on what she planned to spend her winnings.

Dateline Highland Park, Illinois. A new “Flash” craze was born Thursday afternoon. Seemingly out of nowhere, Patty 4-Names organized an impromptu “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” viewing party on Facebook. The response was unprecedented. The total number of viewers is still being tallied. No word from 4-Names on what cinematic treasure will be next.

Dateline Hoddson Hants, England: Christine Tulley is organizing the famous Taylor Sisters and their families in a Race For Life event. They would be participating to honor their sister Sue Symes who lost her battle with cancer September 30, 2013. The tentative date is May 18 in Harlow. Details to follow as they become available.

Local Weather: Today – Clouds breaking, brisk and chilly. High 44°/Low 24°. Saturday – Partly sunny and chilly. High 40°/Low 24°. Sunday – Sunny, breezy and warmer. High 55°/Low 38°. Monday – Mostly cloudy, rain possible; breezy. High 56°/Low 29°.

Celebrity Birthdays: Conchata Ferrell – 71, Ken Howard – 70, Dianne West – 66, Reba McEntire – 59, Bart Conner – 56, Salt – 48, Tracey Needham – 47, Rodney Atkins – 45, Vince Vaughn – 44, Julia Stiles – 33 and Lady Gaga – 28.

Sports: The Brewers, Cubs and White Sox all open their seasons on Monday. A bit of prognostication from the booth:

NL Central
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Milwaukee Brewers*
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Chicago Cubs

*Wild Card

AL Central
1. Detroit Tigers
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Chicago White Sox
5. Minnesota Twins

Friday’s Funny:

At the end of Mass, Father O’Hara told his congregation, “Next week I plan to preach about the sin of lying. To better help you understand my sermon, I want you all to read Mark 17.”

The following Sunday, as he prepared to deliver his sermon, Father O’Hara asked for a show of hands. He wanted to know how many had ready Mark 17. Every hand shot up in the air.

Father O’Hara smiled and said, “Mark has only sixteen chapters. I will now proceed with my sermon on the sin of lying.”

BREAKING NEWS! Reliable sources are reporting that “More Kenosha Softball” will now be available at RK News on 75th Street in Kenosha. This is in addition to the Kenosha History Center. You can still arrange a personal book signing by calling (262) 671-4251.

Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Yesterday I mentioned that I might write about the reality TV show Survivor today. Well, I intended to. But then something happened at 7:00 last night. When the show started, I broke out my pencil and notepad and actually started taking notes. Just like I did for the last dozen seasons. Then I realized that this was a pain in the ass and I was missing things – like the lovely Morgan frolicking about. That is her at the top of the blog. Quite fetching, don’t you think? I think I have a crush on the young lady…

It was at this point that I said the heck with it, I’m just going to watch the show and that’s what I did. And I really enjoyed it. What’s not to enjoy? Several attractive women in bikinis, a couple bearded hillbilly bohunks, three brainiacs and a sleazy muscle-bound cop all competing on a tropical beach for $1 million! That’s a tremendous combination.

I brought up earlier that this season, Survivor: Cagayan, was a marked improvement over the last few seasons. Especially that train wreck, Survivor: Blood vs. Water. Maybe it’s because there are no retreads from seasons past muddling things up, or that there is no Redemption Island. I detest Redemption Island. I want to know who has been eliminated that week at the END of the show, not in the first 10 minutes.

Another benefit of not having Redemption Island, it pretty much guarantees two challenges – one for reward and one for immunity. I love the challenges, especially the physical ones. And if they involve mud or water… be still my heart. Did I mention that I enjoy watching the lovely Morgan frolicking about? Include mud and water to the equation, well; I don’t think I need to say more.

Although the season started out with the “Brawn vs. Brains vs. Beauty” theme, it was no big deal for me. This only lasted four episodes due to the fact that the Brains tribe wasn’t all that smart. Because their tribe dwindled to only three, a merge was in order.

I truly think the main reason for me liking this season more is that I am not doing the structured trilogy recap immediately following the show. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time doing the trilogy with Marie Beth and Jamie, but after awhile it became more of job than fun.

Rather than just watch the show, I found myself always looking for an angle, for something to write about. When nothing stood out during an episode I would become frustrated and this would reflect in my writing. Typically I would just bitch and moan about how boring the show was and that I couldn’t stand any of the castaways. I knew it just me when the usually affable Mary Beth expressed the same sentiments.

So, no more posting a recap one hour after the show ends. From now on I will simply watch the show while exchanging caustic comments with my good friend and Fellow Survivor Geek, Patty 4-Names on Facebook. If something on a show really stands out for me, I might mention it the next time I do a blog. Something like the lovely Morgan frolicking about.

Until next time…from the booth.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vince Lombardi

Vincent Thomas Lombardi was a football player, coach and executive that was best known as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s. He led the team to three straight and five total National Football League championships in seven years, including the first two Super Bowls. Lombardi is considered by many to be one of, if not the best coaches in NFL history. Today the NFL’s Super Bowl trophy is named in his honor. He was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

It would be safe to say that I have an infatuation with Lombardi and those Packer teams. However, it’s not based solely on their excellence and high level of success. That helps, but there are other reasons.

Lombardi and those Packer teams transcended the football field. I can and have listened to the seemingly endless stories about this legendary man and his accomplishments. He was decades ahead of the rest in many areas and not just with football.

On Christmas Eve, the NFL Network ran part one of “A Football Life – Vince Lombardi.” They ran part two on New Year’s Eve. It was tremendous. I recorded it and have watched it several times since. I also suggest you read “When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss. This book on Lombardi is the best I have read and pulls no punches.

Here are a few examples of way I am fascinated by Lombardi:

The plaque at the top of this blog is dedicated to him and was installed in 1974 in the sidewalk near Sheepshead Bay Road and East 14th Street in Brooklyn, New York. The nearby football field at Old Bridge School, New Jersey, is named Lombardi Field.

* * *

Lombardi was a man of faith, a devout Catholic. In fact, while he coached the Packers, he not only attended church every day, but also served as the altar boy. Rumor has it that the priest saying Mass would often nervously glance over his shoulder, hoping that he wasn’t making any mistakes in front of Lombardi.

* * *

Lombardi demanded excellence from his players, his coaches and himself. He always wanted to the team to perform at the best of its ability. On one particular Sunday, their opposition soundly defeated the Packers. The did everything wrong. The game was a train wreck. The very next practice, Lombardi stood up and said, “Gentlemen, I’ve seen about enough. We’re going to start over, right at the very beginning! The object I am holding in my hand is a football.”

Max McGee, the team jokester, yelled out, “Coach, please don’t go so fast.”

* * *

What Max McGee had to say about Lombardi: “But Vince was about as smart as anybody who ever put on a coaching hat. One time before a big game, he told us that if anybody was caught sneaking out before the game it would cost him $5,000. And he looked at me and said, ‘McGee, let me tell you something — if you find somebody worth $5,000, let me know — I want to go with you.’ That broke the tension. He could get you so wired before a game you almost couldn’t play

* * *

Although Lombardi was born in Brooklyn, New York, he loved Green Bay, Wisconsin. This was made quite evident by this story:

It was 1975, the year that Lombardi and several of his players were being inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. The group included Don Chandler, Willie Davis, Paul Hornung, Henry Jordan, Jerry Kramer, Ron Kramer, Max McGee, Jim Taylor and Fuzzy Thurston. There was a banquet for the event, which was, of course, sold out.

Lombardi’s widow, Marie, was there to accept the award on the behalf of her husband. It was an emotional time, as it was a short time after he had passed away. She told the audience about a conversation she had with Vince a couple of days before he died.

She said, “I was sitting on the edge of the bed and Vini (as she always called him) was so sick and semi-conscious. He awoke and said, “Marie, honey, I want to go home.”

I said, “You are home.”

And Vini said, “No, I mean I want to go home to Green Bay.”

It was a tear-jerking moment for everyone present.

* * *

Lombardi hated racism. When he first came to Green Bay, the color barrier in pro football was still recently broken, and there was still teams that were nearly all white and one that was all white. Lombardi once said he didn’t see black and white. He only say Green Bay Green. He once pulled his team out of a hotel at midnight when the owner asked Lombardi to get the blacks on his team other accommodations. He let his team and the city of Green bay know that if blacks and whites alike were not accepted at their establishments, all Packers players and personnel were banned from the place.

In his first year in Green Bay, some veterans brought to his attention that a black player was to marry a white woman. The next day before practice, Lombardi (he a victim of racial prejudice as a dark skinned Italian) told his players that if any of them displayed any racism at all, they would be kicked off the team. In and of itself, his intolerance of racism at a very volatile time in the civil rights movement would solidify Lombardi as a great man. But, he was further ahead than you know.

* * *

Lombardi hated all forms of bigotry. When he took over as Washington Redskins coach in 1969. In training camp, he had a marginal player, Ray McDonald. Lombardi knew McDonald was gay, as did the coaches. Lombardi told his coaches to get on McDonald, and work him, and work him hard. Seems normal enough. But, the Lombardi told them “and if I hear one of you people make reference to his manhood, you'll be out of here before your ass hits the ground”. Lombardi also had other players he knew were homosexual, such as Jerry Smith, who Lombardi turned into an all-pro tight end. He told Smith that his sexuality would never be an issue as long as Vince coached the team.

* * *

October 1961, a number of NFL players were called to active duty in the National Guard because the Soviet Union had demanded Western forces leave West Berlin in what became known as the Berlin Crisis. This was the Cold War, and American forces needed to be on the ready. That included professional football players.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote that more than a dozen NFL players were called to serve their country, and that involved three of the Packers top contributors – eventual Hall of Fame running back Paul Hornung, eventual Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke and two-time Pro Bowl receiver Boyd Dowler.

Though the latter two were granted weekend leaves and didn't miss a game, the calls to duty didn't make life easy for Green Bay, which was rumbling along to an 11-3 record but which needed extra help before attempting to win its first NFL title in 17 years. Hornung had told Lombardi he was keeping in shape while he was deployed, though he later admitted that had been a bit of a fib, and Lombardi constantly mailed him game plans.

Vince Lombardi then made a special phone call to one of his good friends.

As the story goes, Lombardi met John F. Kennedy when he was campaigning in Wisconsin for the 1960 presidential election. Lombardi endorsed Kennedy, and Kennedy gave Lombardi his personal phone number. That's who Lombardi dialed up when the Packers were set to play the Giants for the 1961 NFL title to see if the president could pull some strings to make sure Hornung would be on leave and available for Green Bay.

Kennedy, the commander-in-chief, made it happen.

"Paul Hornung wasn't going to win the war on Sunday, but football fans of this country deserve the two best teams on the field that day."

That reportedly is what Kennedy told Lombardi, and Hornung made the favor pay off for his team, rushing 20 times for 89 yards and a touchdown while kicking three field goals in Green Bay's 37-0 domination of the Giants.

* * *

I will stop here. Hopefully my tales of Lombardi haven’t put you to sleep. Tomorrow I plan on switching to something a bit more cerebral – Survivor. Until next time…from the booth.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Words Have Meanings

People that know me will tell you that I love to talk. A 90-minute phone call is nothing for me; it’s a walk in the park. I also enjoy writing. I first realized this when I went back to school to get an Associate degree in graphic design at Gateway. And I thank my instructor Randy Mueller for bringing me to this realization. Talking and writing. What do these two things have in common? Words. And words have meanings.

Because what we say is meaningful, I think it is important to choose our words carefully. There are people in my life that get upset when I question what they say to me. When I repeat to them what they just said, I will get the reply, “Well, that’s not what I saying. You know what I meant.” Hey, I’m not a mind reader. I only know what you said.

Personally, I make an effort to think about what I say before I say it. When speaking, this isn’t always easy. Believe me, I know this from experience. I have placed one of my size 12 extra wide feet in my mouth more often than I care to admit. That’s why as I grow older I am trying to be more conscientious before voicing my opinion.

When writing it is a bit easier when choosing your words. At least for me it is. It might take a little bit longer, but it is well worth it when you are attempting to express your thoughts.

This is particularly evident in Facebook. With capitalization and punctuation having gone the way of the dinosaur, deciphering some people’s comments can be a real challenge. Especially when it something you really care about.

Enough pontificating on the usage of words. However, while on the subject of things you really care about on Facebook, I need to say something.

When a friend posts that a loved one is very ill or has passed, I am as guilty as anybody for typing, “you are in my thoughts and prayers.” Maybe its because I am at a loss for words, or it’s the easy way out. Whenever I make this response, it is always with sincerity. Unfortunately, many times it ends there. Oh, I will think about the sick one or the person that has passed, and include them in my prayers, but I need to do more.

That’s why I am sincerely going to make a concentrated effort to say more prayers for those people that I said I would. After I post this I need to pray for a friend of mine, the Wizard. He’s in rough shape up at St. Lukes in Milwaukee. I said I would and words have meanings.

Until next time…from the booth.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Big Picture

It’s been quite awhile since I have posted a fresh original blog. I’m not going to make excuses, but there have been several reasons. It is amazing how much there was, and is, to do after my book, More Kenosha Softball, was finally published. That has kept me quite busy. Also, much of my time was occupied trying to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and their efforts to fight childhood cancer. I could throw in a few other more personal reasons, but I won’t. It’s time to quit making excuses and time to take a look at the big picture.

For many of us, the big picture is something we seem to avoid at times. After all, isn’t much easier to concentrate on the little things in life? You know, the every-day, run of the mill things that face us all.

Thing is, this morning I came to the realization that these so-called “little things” have much to do with the big picture. The big picture is a thing I really can’t put into words. It has to do with something much larger than me. (Insert your own fat joke here.) Let’s just say, I adhere to the thinking that you have to have faith in something bigger.

Hmm, isn’t that the title of a Who song?

Seriously, I feel that what we do with our time here on Earth is important. Not only to us, but also more importantly, to the other people we have in our lives. Therefore it obviously makes sense to do the most with this time. This is an area in which I need improvement.

To make this happen, I need to have a routine. A routine of positive activities. For me this begins with getting my day going at a certain time with productive undertakings. For me, this has to include praying. After that, I need projects that will not only benefit me, but also others.

Hopefully I can figure out exactly what these projects are.

I do know that writing is a positive undertaking for me. At the very least, writing makes me think, which is always a good thing. Therefore, I am going to make an effort to do a blog each day. I am sure some blogs will be longer than others, and I know they will definitely differ in content and style.

Okay, day one is in the books. Speaking of books, mine are available to you at various different outlets. If you are in Kenosha, they are at the Kenosha History Center at 220 51st Street. If you are outside of Kenosha, there are several ways to pick them up. Online you purchase them at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Also, whether you are in Kenosha or not, you can obtain a personalized copy by calling (262) 671-4251.

Until next time…from the booth.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A True Basketball Star

The National Basketball Association’s All-Star Weekend was played a couple of weeks ago. Because I couldn’t care less about any of these events, I decided to bring out a classic from the Koos Vault and honor a true basketball star from Kenosha, Wisconsin. You guessed it – the name of this local legend is none other than that crusty Kraut, the iconic Arno Schubert.

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.

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. 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.

If you would like to read more tales about Arno Schubert click on either Arno or Schubert in the Label section below the blog.

Until next time…from the booth.