Thursday, August 11, 2016

I’m Glad…

When Chicago lost its bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I was glad. Very glad. The news was announced by Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee, at a meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark on October 2, 2009.

At first it was because of Chicago’s proximity to Kenosha that I was glad they didn’t receive the bid. If Chicago had gotten the 2016 Olympics, it would have most certainly had an impact on my hometown and its inhabitants. While there would have been some positive effects on Kenosha, the negative repercussions would have far outweighed them. I am quite sure of this.

After this weekend, I am glad for a whole new reason.

Chicago, or any city in America for that matter, doesn’t deserve to host the Olympics. After hearing the commentary coming from Americans during the opening weekend of the Olympics, I am convinced we would not appreciate it. We would be too busy criticizing and bitching about it.

Criticizing and bitching, it’s what we Americans seem to do best.

Why appreciate and enjoy something when we can find fault and cast aspersions on it? It’s much more our style to disparage than it is to admire. We Americans do it on every level, every chance we get.

But it’s not like that everywhere. Definitely not in Great Britain. Having nearly twenty facebook friends in England, I have been made keenly aware of how much they are appreciating the Olympics being held in their country.

It almost makes me envious.

It started Friday afternoon when I had the privilege of getting a sneak preview of the Opening Ceremonies with my dear friend Bev Cooper via Skype. I heard about Mary Poppins, Mr. Bean and the Queen’s remarkable parachute jump well before most of my American friends did. I was even able to post on facebook the scoop about Sir Paul McCartney several hours before NBC aired his closing performance.

While chatting with Bev, comments started popping up on facebook. Her sister, Margaret Martin wrote, “This is fantastic!” When Bev commented, “Nice outfit, Queenie,” her niece, Sarah Crabb quickly replied, “She looks amazing, bless her.” There were also several cries of “Wow!”

My favorite facebook comment came from Bev’s brother, David Taylor. At the completion of the event, he simply wrote, “That done us proud.”

What kind of observations do you think were being made in America? A reported 42 million viewers saw the event Friday night.

Well, of course the first ones I heard were political. Former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney made sure of that when he said the Olympics would be a failure. His blunder was compounded because he made it while on a visit to London.

Predictably, this set off a barrage of back-and-forth rants between both sides of the political fence. The Liberals excoriated Romney and wanted him crucified, while the Conservatives thought he was spot on and should be canonized.

Fortunately, the Republican Presidential candidate sought to repair his damaged reputation the next day with a series of interviews where he praised the host country and went so far as to call the weather in the UK “great.”

Meanwhile, while we Americans were making the Olympics political, my friends ‘cross the pond were elated because cyclist Lizzie Armistead had won the host nation’s first medal by taking silver in the women’s road race.

The British were ecstatic about a second-place finish and the Americans were squabbling about a politicians unfortunate remarks.

On Saturday evening, the criticizing and bitching continued on facebook. Dan McNeil, WSCR talk show host, posted the following:

 “I love Paul McCartney, but they dropped the ball at the opening ceremonies. ALL British Invasion stars should have been there. Jagger. Richards. Daltrey. Townshend. I could keep going. They all should have been there.”

Expectedly, the responses were moronic. Iron Maiden should have been there. Judas Priest. Sabbath. The Kinks. Cream. Even UFO was mentioned. You get the picture; nothing is ever good enough for us. We Americans always know how to do it better. We are never satisfied. It’s so hard for us to quietly enjoy anything.

On Sunday, while my British friends were busy cheering each and every event, I ran across another post. It complained that the Opening Ceremony included a memorial to the victims of the 7/7 attacks, but failed to do the same for those victimized by the Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich games.

Maybe it would have ruffled less feathers had the hosts modestly lit the flame and went directly to the parade of nations. I heard this suggested a minimum of three times this morning. Honest.

All of this criticizing and bitching made me wonder what it would be like in 2016 if Chicago had won the bid for the Summer Olympics. Would we be as enthusiastic and gracious as our British counterparts? We shall never know, but I seriously doubt it.

Don’t get me wrong; I heard a small amount of concern about the length of the Opening Ceremonies. Of course, there is also considerable discussion on how the Olympics has interfered with their daily commutes. But mostly, my friends from Great Britain are passionately supporting their British athletes and enjoying the 2012 Summer Olympics.

And they aren’t criticizing and bitching. And I’m glad.

Until next time…from the booth.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

31 Years Ago…

In 1975 it was legal to purchase and consume alcohol at the age of 18 in the state of Wisconsin. And that’s exactly what I did, usually in the form of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Lots and lots of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The truth be told, I was consuming alcoholic beverages before the legal age of 18. Today’s blog deals with the warm summer of 1975 and involves the infamous Arno Schubert. 

Arno first graced this blog in “My First Labor Day”. After that he also showed up in “Arno: A Koos Legend”, “A Koos Christmas Story”, “A Special Secret Weapon” and “Attack Of The Chainsaw”. If you haven’t read these entertaining blogs, I encourage you to take the time to do so. They will help you to appreciate the enigmatic man named Arno.

Let’s get back to the summer of 1975.

I had been working at Koos Inc. for a couple of months when I finally felt comfortable enough to tell my co-workers where I lived. Keep in mind, this was the first time I was exposed to wild characters like Virgil Tucker, Ziggy Gutowski and of course, Arno Schubert. So, you can understand my reluctance in revealing such personal information.

When I first mentioned that I lived off of Highway C in Pleasant Prairie, just down the road from the Nobby Lobby tavern, my worst fears were realized. The words had barely left my lips before Danny Fliess blurted out, “No shit Puddles. Arno lives right by you!”

Great, I thought to myself, that’s all I need. And I was right. As soon as that crusty old German discovered where I lived, he was hitting me up for a ride home. So, for the rest of that summer I gave that foul-mouthed curmudgeon a lift home. Each and every miserable night.

At first, the 15-minute trips were fairly uneventful. A typical drive home consisted of me continually turning the volume of the radio up in an attempt to drown out Arno’s incessant cursing. I’m not sure if he ever even noticed.

Then it happened. After a particularly hot day, Arno climbed into my car and announced that he was going to start compensating me for giving him a ride home. I am quite sure he didn’t use the word compensate, but you get the idea.

All right! I wondered just how much he was going to give me. Five bucks would be nice. Ten would be even better. Well, it wasn’t ten and it wasn’t even five. Nope.

The compensation came in the form of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

As soon as I had turned on to Washington Road, Arno instructed me to turn into Andy and Phil’s parking lot. Andy and Phil’s was a small neighborhood bar located right behind Big Star’s parking lot.

As I pulled in, I quickly informed him that I had no intention of sitting in a bar stinking of fertilizer. He promptly told me to shut the “f#ck up” and jumped out and ran inside. Moments later he appeared with a brown paper bag and a toothless grin going from ear to ear.

While I pulled back onto Washington Road, Arno reached into the bag and produced an ice-cold bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I shrugged my shoulders and accepted the payment for my transportation services. Arno, still grinning, removed a bottle for himself, cracked it open and started gulping it down.

Well, at least he wasn’t swearing. If there was one thing that Arno enjoyed more than swearing, it was drinking beer. And I enjoyed the quiet. The beer wasn’t bad either.

By the time we turned onto Highway HH we had finished the six-pack. It was at this point that Arno gathered up the empty beer bottles and began to hurl them out the window into the ditch by the cornfield.

This didn’t last forever, a couple of months I think. But every night for those two or three months we stopped at Andy and Phil’s so Arno could buy that six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon for the ride home. And every night he tossed the empties out the window into that ditch by the cornfield.

There must have been over 400 bottles in that ditch before I finally stopped giving Arno a ride home.

I know, I know. Not only was I drinking while driving, Arno was littering as well. What can I say, I was young and dumb and Arno was… Well, Arno was Arno.

That was 41 years ago. For the next ten years I continued to consume Pabst Blue Ribbon on a regular basis. Sometimes on a “more than” regular basis.

However, on August 4, 1985 that all came to an end. I was in the booth announcing a morning league game at historic Finney’s West when I decided that I had had enough. And I haven’t touched a drop since then.

Happy 41st anniversary to you Arno Schubert, wherever you might be. More importantly, happy 31st anniversary to me. Until next time…from the booth.