One More Time- Are You Ready For Some Football?

This year’s Super Bowl pits the Rams versus the Patriots.

Super Bowl 53 is set for Sunday February 3rd in Atlanta.  During the weeks and days before the Super Bowl I really get bugged by one silly quirk.  In radio or TV commercials for food, beer, big screen televisions and other items, if they want to make a reference about the Super Bowl, they have to call it “The Big Game.”  The only way these ads can say the words “Super Bowl” is if they are officially and financially tied to the NFL and the Super Bowl in sponsorship form.  Do you know how stupid that sounds?  Ooh!  “The Big Game!” What COULD they be talking about?  So to the NFL I’m going to stick with just saying I look forward to the SUPER BOWL.  Now go sue me.

Be Square and Stay on the Grid

Every year a few days before the Super Bowl, I get my students to put their initials on a grid of score squares for the game. Then we draw the numbers that will go on the vertical and horizontal axis.  I explain to them how the team’s scores at the end of each quarter will dictate who wins some extra candy treats in school the day after the game.  The sad part of this is most of my middle school students don’t have much interest in watching any sports. While I’ll sound like a ‘get off my lawn’ old man, they’re too goddamn busy playing countless hours of Fortnight or 2K video games.  Still, I hold out hope that they at least acknowledge the presence and of an event that tens of millions of people will be watching.  One of my constant missions is to show my class news clips, current event features and other points of world happenings. I try to open their eyes so they see there’s more to life than moving to another level on MineCraft.

Good luck to my students and their Super Bowl Square picks.

Hot Time in Atlanta

No matter which teams are playing, I enjoy getting sucked into all the fun of every Super Bowl. I’m way into it because the whole phenomenon is over-hyped, over-commercialized and bloated.  In other words, it’s very American!  Back in 2000, I won a full expenses paid trip to the Super Bowl in Atlanta for me and my buddy Marko.  That was the year the St. Louis Rams and their ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ beat the Tennessee Titans, who came just one yard short on the game’s last play to tie the score.  Marko and I spent 3 ½ days partying in Atlanta and did just about everything you could do during Super Bowl Week.  On Super Bowl Eve we took part in a game that involved flicking folded dollar bills at some strangers covered in whipped cream.  Good times.

The 2000 Super Bowl ended with the Titans falling just a yard short of tying the game.

The End of Eating Season.

I once heard a sports radio host say he felt relieved that the day after the Super Bowl was approaching. Why?  Because he said that was the end of “Eating Season.”  He aptly described how for many of us, the season of culinary over indulgence begins at Thanksgiving then segues into Christmas holiday parties, office bashes and family events.  Then there’s the lead up to New Year’s Eve, not to mention all the late season football (pro and college) that’s watched. Next you’ve got the three rounds of NFL play-offs and then the capper of all pig-outs of chips, dips, nachos, sliders, pizzas and plenty of booze, yes the Super Bowl itself!  Forget New Year’s Resolutions, the day after the last NFL game of the year is a good time to re-assess one’s physical shape and what to do to change bad eating habits.

The day after the Super Bowl ends ‘Eating Season.’

Not So Fast S.I.

One more point on this time of the year.  About two weeks after the Super Bowl, the release of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue happens.  There’s all the drooling over tanned super models hanging out in exotic locations, posing in barely there pieces of mesh, string and dental floss.  Often a strategically placed splatter of brushed sand is used to cover up a naughty bit or two.  A few years ago, so called ‘plus sized models’ like Ashley Graham broke through the teeny bikini glass ceiling and appeared in the swimsuit issue. These non-twig-like models struck a critical victory for 99% of the women in the world who are of normal size and eat a diet that consists of more than lemon slices and boiled kale.  Well I just read that this year’s Swimsuit issue will not be released until mid-May.  The idea being it’s best to promote swimwear and fun in the sun when we’re not in the dead of winter.  When that swimsuit issue is on newsstands I’ll have further comments on it. 

The annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue won’t be out until May.

So enjoy the Super Bowl, good luck to my students who sign in on game score squares, use your imagination on that dollar bill flicking game, prepare for the end of “Eating Season” and be patient for the S.I. Swimsuit Issue, it’s only three months away.  

P.S.  If you’re betting on the game, take the Rams and the points.

Remembering Brian ‘Bubba’ McCarthy

Late last month a friend told me Brian McCarthy, a former baseball teammate, was very ill with cancer and the outlook was not good.  This was stunning news and I kept Brian and his family in a morning prayer/reflection I take part in every day. Sadly, Brian McCarthy passed away last weekend. 

Brian McCarthy’s senior photo (1980)

Whenever someone near my own age who I know passes, I get numb. Brian was one year younger than me so yes, once again I’m numb. Numb with disbelief, numb with shock and numb with hurt.   It’s a reminder that as young as we all may feel, we are mortal. By this age most of us have been through these kinds of situations but familiarity to them doesn’t soothe the ache.  Still, my primary thoughts are with Brian’s family and his many friends. I wish them all only peace and the ability to cope through this sad time and beyond.  

Now from what I remember of Brian from back in the day, if he was here right now, he’d probably say “Hawk (my nickname from way back) cut the maudlin crap and lighten up!”   O.K. Brian, for you, I can handle that.  So here are a few of my memories of one Brian “Bubba” Mc Carthy.

I first knew Bubba from our Little League baseball days.  He was on the Pirates, I was on the Orioles. We both were pitchers. When playing ball, Bubba was always blowing huge bubbles from the massive hunks of Bazooka or Bubs Daddy gum that were jammed in his mouth.  In fact our team referred to him as “Bubbles” because of the constant pink bubbles he’d blow during a game. Maybe that’s where the nickname ‘Bubba’ formed. I never asked.

Bubba was a damn good ball player and steady all-star for his team.  One distinct memory was when we played the Pirates in a single elimination tournament game at old Elm Field. That field was located where the Elmhurst Portillo’s restaurant now stands and it was the only place in town with brick dugouts.  I was pitching out of a final inning jam, two outs, bases loaded and my Orioles were up by one run. Bubba was up to bat and worked me to a 3 and 2 count. I sailed a high fastball just out of the strike zone that he swung and missed at. Game over, we won, the Pirates went home. Whew! Not that this mattered much, we Orioles got eliminated a few days later by those pesky damn Mets.

Fast forward to high school baseball.  Starting with sophomore year, I made each York team as a pitcher. Bubba was on the freshman squad and played all 4 years for the Dukes.  We finally became teammates on the York summer league team of ’78 and then during the Spring season of ’79.   Bubba was a steady pitcher mixing a decent fastball with sidearm curves and really good location. During that summer season he was our go to starter and in that spring season, a reliable reliever putting out run scoring threats and saving games for us starters. 

Brian ‘Bubba’ McCarthy in the middle of his team of baseball Dukes.

Despite being a year younger, Bubba would sometimes lead me. He showed me a good hideout during boring baseball work-outs.  While the rest of the team was taking batting practice, we’d ditch into a football storage room underneath the gym stairs and lounge on padded tackling dummies, exchanging lines from “The Honeymooners” and other jokes.

During pregame work-outs Bubba and I would hit fly balls to our outfielders and see who could sky the highest pop-ups with our long skinny fungo bats.  Once the games started we’d sit in the bullpen beyond the left field home run fence and do a running play by play /color commentary of the contest at hand.  

As anyone who knew him will tell you, Bubba McCarthy was a very funny guy. He was always quick with a dry or sarcastic comment that would crack up everyone, including coach Erl Ellingsen and our summer ball coach Dave Trayser.     

During my last semester at York we were in the same Probability and Statistics class.  Freshman baseball coach Mr. Aggen was our teacher and the first 15 minutes of every class would be held up while we talked about sports.  Mr. Aggen finally decided to give Bubba and I the first 5 minutes of each class to give a formal sports update to the class on what was happening with Chicago teams.  I worked part time at White Castle and brought in a couple of paper hats for us to wear during our in class reports I called the White Castle Sports Update.  At the end of the semester we had a White Castle party with my mom making a burger run and delivering several bags of sliders for our class to munch on. 

Whenever we’d talk about the fine cuisine at White Castle Bubba would say a funny line like, “I should grab a few, I haven’t taken a healthy one in a while.”  A glib line like that was his specialty!

It was great to have someone like Bubba as a co-conspirator for my own shenanigans.  That last baseball season at York included several beer fueled poker parties happening at my house on weekends.  Bubba was always on hand for the cards and the cracking of jokes and camaraderie. 

After graduating York, moving on to college and respective careers I lost track of Bubba McCarthy but heard from mutual friends that he was married and doing well.  That was great to know.   I always smiled when thinking of the fun I had with him.

Bubba, you were always aces in my book, and I’ll let you have the last word on this post.  This is a direct quote that you wrote in my senior yearbook: “Drink beer and eat sliders, and good luck in college.”  

Drink beer.

Eat sliders.

Better Late Than Never Pt. 1

I used to be on top of every hot trend and happening in pop culture. As I settle into middle age my ‘hip quotient’ has dimmed somewhat and I’m O.K. with that. Anyway, here are a few things I was admittedly late to the party for:

For a period of time last year Wendy’s did a $1 per Double Stacker burger sale.  Until this money saving promotion happened, I never had eaten a double stacker.  Warning, they are cheap and very easy to get addicted to.  My goal is to stay away from Double Stackers in 2019.  So far, so good.  

Last month I finally figured out how to use my Xfinity DVR which has been part of my cable package since late 2017. You’d think that a former radio geek/producer/audio file like me would be all over modern technology. Not true! Just catch me using the microwave oven, it’s like watching a monkey doing a math problem.  I’ve always been a more old school writer and creative type. However, now that I’ve mastered the DVR, I’m a TV show recording maniac. 

While it came out in limited release in 2017, I only caught up to the warm witty movie “Dean” last year. It’s one that is now locked into my DVR storage.  “Dean” is about a young cartoonist who is working through the death of his mother and occupies himself by trying to stop his dad from selling their home.  He then finds love in L.A.  Try “Dean” out, it’s an under the radar treat and one I enjoy watching over and over.

Check out the trailer for ‘Dean’. I guarantee you a witty, dry humor funny and touching experience.

I don’t subscribe to Netflix because if I did, I’d probably be glued to my TV 24/7 and never leave the house.  So contrary to the photo below, I have not yet seen the Netflix offering “Bird Box.”  I have friends who subscribe so I will catch up to this movie in time.  The sensory issues of the ‘don’t take off your blindfold’ plot remind me of last year’s fine thriller “A Quiet Place” and also a lesser known movie from 2015 called “It Follows.”  If you want to be creeped out, find a way to watch “It Follows.”

Anyway, thanks to this Sandra Bullock starring film, people are now on social media doing “Bird Box Challenges,” walking around with blindfolds on banging into walls and falling down stairs..  Some are even trying to drive cars with their peepers covered!  So now the “Bird Box” producers had to put out notices asking their fans to stop attempting such dangerous stunts. 

Eating Tide pods, snorting condoms up the nose & spitting them out your mouth, swallowing cinnamon and the dance to the “In My Feelings” song challenge are just a few of the other idiotic stunts pulled by goofs with too much time on their hands. We live in a participatory world full of knuckleheads who are eager to be temporary YouTube stars and frequent patients in the E.R.   Social media mongrels will sniff up the butt of the latest ‘thing’ to do and the “Bird Box Challenge” is just the latest. 
I’m just glad Vincent Van Gogh isn’t around to star on YouTube, otherwise people would be lopping off their ears.

Since leaving country radio years ago I only check into the newer offerings from Nashville on rare occasions.  That explains why I missed out on Carrie Underwood’s 2015 single “Smoke Break” until late last year.   I always liked Carrie’s voice and this song is without a doubt my favorite of hers.  Great lyrics that anyone who’s been over worked or over taxed can identify with.

Enjoy the lyrics video for Carrie Underwood’s fine country anthem “Smoke Break.”

I’m only a year or so late on this next ‘catch up’ but I recently heard the music of country singer-songwriter Ashley Mc Bryde on CBS TV.  Wow! She’s like a mix of Miranda Lambert, Wynonna Judd and Brandy Clark, in other words REAL country music.  Nominated for a Grammy this year, Ashley Mc Bryde’s climb to stardom has an interesting back story and my next blog will address more about that.  She had plenty of naysayers and I’ve got more to say on that.  Until then, here’s the link to the title cut of her debut album “Girl Goin’ Nowhere.”

For those who say Country music isn’t ‘country enough’ anymore. Just click into Ashley McBryde.

One more item on the music beat, one of my favorite things about surfing You Tube is finding songs that were hits for bands that were then covered by other groups.  There are also plenty of unknown aspiring singers who can do justice to well worn songs. This year on my Facebook page I’m going to post up some of the better covers I’ve heard.  With that said, I’ll close off this first blog of 2019 with the Jay Hawks doing up the old Grand Funk single “Bad Time.” 

The Jayhawks have plenty of great original songs but they also can do justice to an old pop hit like Grand Funk’s “Bad Time.”