Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Scary fall leads to scary call

Got the kind of phone call last night that, for a few moments anyway, makes a parent sick in the pit of his or her stomach:

"Hi, Dad. Unfortunately, this isn't a good call. I was in an accident."

The caller was my 22-year-old son, Ben, who immediately followed up with: "But don't worry ... I'm OK."

Ben manages a small restaurant in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. Every so often, he needs to do a bike delivery, which he usually doesn't mind because it gets him some fresh air. He was on such an assignment early last night when a car cut him off. Ben swerved, hit his brakes and went flying. He instinctively put out his left hand to brace his fall.

He said one of his knuckles had swollen to "five times" its normal size. Even allowing for a little exaggeration, that didn't sound good. He also had pain elsewhere on his hand as well as his wrist (which he had broken twice as a kid).

It's an hour later here in Charlotte, so it was about 10:30 p.m. when Ben called. My wife, who has to be up early to go to work, was sleeping. But I decided to wake her because she's a nurse and has a better feel for which questions to ask in medical situations. She listened to Ben's description of injuries and told him to go to a certain hospital close to where he lives.

Ben did just that, and X-rays determined that he had a fracture. They put him in a cast and referred him to a specialist.

All will be well, I'm sure. Ben writes and eats left-handed but he is pretty close to ambidextrous, so he'll get by. He should be able to work. And he'll come out of this as good as new, just as he did the last two times.

Still, I like it a lot better when he calls to complain about the Cubbies.


Ben never used to wear a helmet because "it's not cool," but earlier this year he started wearing one. Maybe he was influenced by the couple of bike accidents and several close calls experienced by my wife on those crazy Chicago streets. Or maybe he's just growing up.

"All I know is that I'm glad I was wearing a helmet," Ben said.

Me, too.


The first time Ben had to be in a cast was when he broke his left wrist as a 9-year-old. It was harrowing at the time but it now makes for one of my favorite family stories.

My father always hated when I played football way back in the leather-helmet era, so he was none too pleased to hear that Ben was getting ready to play the kiddie version of tackle football. A couple of weeks after practice had begun but before the games had started, Ben was fooling around at a nearby playground, fell, and suffered his very painful injury.

The next day, I called my dad to tell him and he immediately said: "Damn it! I hate that stupid football!"

To which I responded: "Well, he broke his wrist when he fell off the monkey bars at the playground, if that makes you feel any better."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Some Big Ten fleecers play like sheep

Loved this from J.P. Giglio of the Raleigh News & Observer heading into the weekend:

"Every conference schedules its share of fan-fleecing games, but the Big Ten has outdone itself ...

"It's the unofficial Big Ten-MAC challenge, with eight games between the two conferences. Those are gems compared to Wisconsin's home game with Austin Peay and Michigan State's date with Northern Colorado.

"Keep in mind, we don't have a playoff because that would devalue the regular season. The Big Ten has already done that."

By the way, Purdue and Minnesota lost to their MAC opponents, Toledo and Northern Illinois ... proving that the Bad Eleven can't even get a fan-fleecing weekend right.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

An ex-hack's MVPs

Over the years, I voted for every baseball postseason award controlled by the BBWAA ... except one: MVP. Never got to choose for either league. And now that I'm out of the biz, I guess I never will.

You can stop crying for me now. I'll get over it.

And I'll start by pretend-voting for this year's MVP in each league. I'll choose 10 in the AL and 10 in the NL, just like the grown-up sportswriters do!


10. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays. Team was never in it, but 50 HR earns this much.

9. Carl Crawford, Rays. Catalyst for dynamic club.

8. Paul Konerko, White Sox. On fire when Sox got back in race; wasn't his fault they faded.

7. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers. Probably would get vote for Player of the Year, but my definition of "value" requires MVP to at least be on contender.

6. Evan Longoria, Rays. Best hitter on excellent team.

5. Rafael Soriano, Rays. Emerged as true stopper.

4. Vlad Guerrero, Rangers. Little hype even though he had one of his best years.

3. Delmon Young, Twins. Everybody talks about Mauer and Morneau, but check the stats.

2. Josh Hamilton, Rangers. MLB OPS leader main reason team led wire-to-wire. But he has sat out September and he faced little division competition all year.

1. Robinson Cano, Yankees. While Hamilton got to switch to cruise control in July, Cano was the main man in battle for best record in baseball. The best player on a team filled with great ones.


10. Ryan Howard, Phillies. 30 HR ... 100 RBI ... first place ... (and 149 K). What else is new?

9. Martin Prado, Braves. Unsung offensive leader for Bobby Cox's crew.

8. Brian Wilson, Giants. Made 9th innings exciting sometimes, but nailed down win after win.

7. Scott Rolen, Reds. Wherever this guy goes, winning seems to follow. Brilliant acquisition by Walt Jocketty ... and both ex-Cards stuck it to their former club.

6. Roy Halladay, Phillies. Did exactly what he was supposed to do - and more.

5. Albert Pujols, Cardinals. Another great season, of course, but slumped when the Reds were leaving his boys in the dust.

4. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies. Swaying voters with crazy-good finish, but if he had been there all season, the Rox might not have had to scramble at the end.

3. Adrian Gonzalez, Padres. The lone cannon on a team full of BB shooters.

2. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies. Very good first half followed by awesome second half. If his home/road numbers weren't so skewed to the Coors Field bandbox, he'd be the choice.

1. Joey Votto, Reds. Game after game, week after week, month after month, Mr. Steady produced for surprising NL Central winners. Actually has higher OPS than Albert. And unlike Cargo, he did as much damage on road as at home.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brilliant ... and lucky, too

Everybody has only great things to say about Mark Dantonio, and not just because they feel sorry that the Michigan State coach suffered a heart attack shortly after his Spartans beat Notre Dame.

Dantonio has "guts" and "courage" because he called for a fake field goal in overtime. And the TD pass that resulted from his gutsy, courageous call gave Michigan State the win.

The following day, Redskins kicker Graham Gano apparently booted a winning 52-yard field goal in OT. But Texans coach Gary Kubiak had called time out just before the snap and Gano had to try again. The next time, he missed badly, and the Texans ended up winning.

And let's go back to the Super Bowl, when Sean Payton had his Saints attempt an onside kick to start the second half. They recovered, captured momentum and went on to stun the Colts.

So, Payton, Kubiak and Dantonio are brave and brilliant and ballsy.

That's cool. But what would they have been had the Colts recovered the onside kick ... Gano missed the first kick but made the second ... and Sparty's fake field goal failed?

Stupid and silly and sucked in by the lure of gimmick plays, that's what.

Ah, the line between genius and goofball. It's finer than ever, isn't it?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bearish in Chicago, winless in Charlotte

As a resident for all of 3 weeks now, I'm no Carolina Panthers fan. And I probably never will be; my three-decade stint in journalism has rendered me incapable of rooting for a pro team. I didn't even watch Sunday's Panthers game and didn't know the Bucs beat them until some 3 hours after the final horn.

Still, I wish the Panthers were 2-0 (or at least 1-1) instead of 0-2.

This time of year, a city with NFL football gets a lot of energy from its team. When the team is winning, the energy is positive. When it loses, negativity reigns supreme.

Back in Chicago right now, I'll bet folks are darn giddy - and it isn't because Quade's Qubbies have become baseball's Garbage Time Darlings.

Even most diehard Bears fans probably expected doomsday in Dallas. Lo and behold, Lovie's lads prevailed and are 2-0.

Yet more proof that sport - and sport alone - is great reality TV. Nobody really knows what real-life twists and turns the plot will take. And, thank God, neither Bristol nor Blago are anywhere in sight.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A lady? Maybe. But she's no journalist

ESPN's Jemele Hill has written a thought-provoking piece on the whole flap regarding Ines Sainz, the TV "journalist" who was treated like crap by the New York Jets.


Jemele's column reminded me of the one I wrote about Erin Andrews back in 2008, the piece that temporarily caused a storm of biblical proportions.

Sainz did not deserve to be treated so shabbily, obviously. But when a model (who regularly does publicity stunts for a living) tries to pass herself off as a legitimate journalist, it's a recipe for trouble.

Sainz's act makes it difficult for the hundreds of outstanding female sports journalists - those in TV, radio and print - to do their jobs. And I echo Jemele Hill in wondering why some of those people immediately rushed to Sainz's defense.

Switching topics, here's for the commenter who asked for my take on the Bruce Pearl situation ...

This is the classic case of reaping what one sows. As longtime Illinois basketball followers know, it was Pearl, then an Iowa assistant, who ratted out the Illini for alleged recruiting crimes involving Deon Thomas some two decades ago, leading to NCAA sanctions against Illinois.

Now here comes Pearl, it hot water with the NCAA over his own lying and cheating. Beautiful.

As is the case with many holier-than-thou people - Jay Mariotti fits this category, too - the fall is hard when the "thou's" prove to be most unholy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nadel ... Nadal ... let's not quibble!

An uncle can't be much prouder than I am of my nephew Rafa. The boy doesn't know how to spell the family name, but he's one hell of a tennis player!

My only complaint about Rafa is that he needs to go on a diet or something. I mean, his body-fat content must be all the way up to 4 percent these days.

And speaking of guys in bad shape, the Cardinals can't even beat the Cubbies. When MVP voters cast their ballots in a couple of weeks, here's hoping they realize Albert Pujols has barely stayed above the Mendoza line in September as his team has lost game after game to NL dregs. Coffee, my friends, is for closers.

Finally, a word about that fine arbiter of good and evil, Jay Mariotti.

Seven counts are about to be filed against him in connection with last month's alleged beatdown of his girlfriend, including domestic violence, false imprisonment and grand theft.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail, and I'm probably thinking the same thing Ozzie Guillen is thinking:

Jay would be quite popular among his fellow inmates.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Guard your wallets, folks

I started to write something about some of the football action over the weekend. Then I changed my mind. I saw precious little football, pro or college. And I had trouble caring about any of it.

So instead, I'll write about something that actually matters:

Your money.

When you get a bill from the cable or telephone company, look it over closely. When you get a check from the server at the restaurant, don't just hand over your credit card assuming the tab was correctly figured. When you get your paycheck, make sure you were paid for all the work you did.

In the past week, my wife and I found errors in all of the above. I'd estimate that in the last 10 years, I have "made" at least $1,000 by spotting similar errors.

And even to a multimillionaire such as myself, a thou is a decent chunk of change.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pujols will get chance to let deeds match words

Got a kick out of Albert Pujols scolding Colby Rasmus after the kid outfielder said he wanted out of St. Louis. Guess that means Prince Albert will be loyal to St. Louis even if the Cardinals ultimately decide against committing 25 percent of their payroll to him.

Glad to hear that the Heisman folks are going to take Reggie Bush's trophy away. Meanwhile, O.J. Simpson will remain a proud Heismanite. Seems it's much worse to take payola from an agent than to kill two people in cold blood. (Allegedly, of course.)

Just heard that Richie Daley isn't running for reelection. Jeesh. If I knew that was coming, I would have stayed in Chicago and run for mayor.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Snoozing with Clooney .... and thumbs down to Eastbound

Just saw The American. I can't remember spending more time at a movie watching less happen.

We all know George Clooney can act. I just wish he had chosen a script that gave him the chance to do it.

For most of this tedious bore, the director even managed to make the Italian countryside look drab and unimpressive.

I want my money back. Even more, I want those 2 hours back.

And speaking of time-wasters ...

On the recommendations of some friends, I decided to give HBO's Eastbound and Down a second chance before the second season starts.

The show, about an ex-ballplayer gone bad, is supposed to be a comedy. I forced myself to re-watch the first two episodes and then to watch the next two for the first time. I am glad to say my original instincts were right - and that I will not be watching the final two episodes of Season 1. Nor will I be watching any of Season 2.

I love to laugh. I can't wait for Curb Your Enthusiasm and Dexter to return to TV. But I did precious little laughing while watching those first 4 episodes of Eastbound. Maybe one chortle and half a guffaw. Total.

I even like to laugh at stupidity as long as the stupidity is funny. Eastbound's stupidity is just stupid.

I'm a pretty darn loyal HBO watcher who will give just about any of their shows a chance. I watched all of Season 1 of Hung and was shocked to learn there would be a Season 2. (I've passed on it and have heard it's as bad as ever) Hell, I even watched John From Cincinnati in its entirety (and wasn't the least bit surprised there was no Season 2).

If you want to laugh while watching a baseball-themed show, rent Bull Durham or Naked Gun or Major League. Or just watch the Cubs.

Just skip Eastbound and Down.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Moved to not want to move again soon

You know how you forget how good or bad something is until you have to do it again? Well, that's how I am with moving ... and it's never good.

But hey, Roberta and I made it to Charlotte - even if all of our stuff didn't. We couldn't quite fit everything into the 24-foot truck we rented, so we had to make some executive decisions about some of our less desirable junk. Not until after we were hundreds of miles from Chicago did I realize that one of the items we left behind - an old TV stand - had all of our remote controls and some other valuable stuff taped into one of the drawers. My son had to go retrieve the remotes for us and ship them at a cost of nearly 50 bucks. What fun! A bargain at any price.

Otherwise, I survived my turn as truck driver, we got everything moved into either the apartment or a nearby storage facility and we're starting to get to know our new hometown. It's all good for this Connecticut Yankee in Krispy Kreme Land.

I even finally got my high-speed internet connected ... but only after spending 8 hours on the phone over a 3-day span with about 2 dozen different AT&T employees. The thieves then tried to charge me more than double what they had promised for the service. And at the end of it all, the supervisor actually asked me if I'd give them a "completely satisfied" grade when I get their online survey.

She might as well have asked if I would sprout a new head of hair.

Things have been so hectic that I've barely followed what's going on in the world, sports or otherwise. I haven't even picked up a golf club, believe it or not.

I did see that the White Sox got Manny, the Cardinals swiftly turned a 1-game lead over the Reds to a 7-game deficit and the Cubs won a series against the Pirates to all but clinch 5th place. Strike up the band.

Meanwhile, regarding things that actually matter, there was another oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, which no doubt somehow was Obama's fault. Or Milton Bradley's.

Anyway, I hope to get up to speed before the next time I post. Until then, here's hoping everybody has a great Labor Day weekend. I sure plan to ... even without the labor.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Net-less in Carolina

i have arrived in charlotte. my modem has not. sorry for the ridiculous look of this post. i know i am not ee cummings. i am still waiting for full internet access so i will not be doing anything resembling a real post till then. stay tuned.