Monthly Archives: December 2014

Nice to not be home for the holidays

I had a great day Tuesday. Too bad that didn’t carry over once I left Kansas City.

I decided Monday night after staying away from Buffalo Wild Wings to buy gifts for LIz, Brittany and Lisa the next morning. I knew Lisa would not be back until Saturday, and I didn’t think Brittany was working Tuesday, but I thought Liz was.

Turns out I got Brittany and Liz mixed up. Brittany worked Tuesday morning, so I sat in her section. She LOVED her gift. I got Liz to come by Buffalo Wild Wings just before 3 while she was out shopping, and she too was impressed. I cannot reveal the gift because LIsa might read this.

I wasn’t planning on spending long at Buffalo Wild Wings Tuesday, but sure enough, I stayed until 8:30. In the evening, I sat at my old table in the dining room, table 162, and had Rue-Jean Klapporth serve me for the first time. She got me to play some of her favorite songs which impressed her.

I didn’t get out of Kansas CIty until almost noon Christmas Eve, since I stopped at the new Chik-Fil-A on Barry Road and then for gas at Hiy-Vee just down Barry. The sun stuck its head out of the clouds just past Junction City, and it was there I remembered Buffalo Wild Wings in Salina was now open.

I checked in a little before 3 and stayed until closing at 5. Not as big as the location at Zona Rosa, but still bigger than ones I visited in Baton Rouge (Bluebonnet), Wichita (North Rock), Topeka and Manhattan. The walls are brick, and there is recessed track lighting all along the dining room ceiling. With a wide open window facing east, there is much more light coming in than at Zona Rosa.

If I had to do it all over again, I would have stayed away from Russell on Christmas Day. I really had no reason for going back, except for getting more clothes. I wasn’t too wild about the ham my mother cooked for Christmas dinner, although I enjoyed the eggplant casserole and broccoli with melted cheddar.

I wanted to leave Russell before dawn this morning, but I didn’t get out of town until after 10. I beat the snow east and to the Kansas City area at 2, but I ran into another problem.

I went to the Overland Park Marriott to check in, and it turns out there were no rooms available on the 11th (top) floor. I was offered a room on the 10th floor, but I wasn’t biting. They told me a big group took up most of the rooms on the 11th floor. I was unhappy the group got priority over a Platinum Premier member like myself, a Platinum Premier member who was in the top five percent of guests at that hotel.

I decided that I would go back to the Courtyard on Tiffany Springs. The television selection stinks, but (a) it’s $40 less per night and (b) much closer to Buffalo Wild Wings.

I arrived at Buffalo Wild Wings at 3, after making a quick dash into the CVS pharmacy next door. I’m now sitting at the bar with Brittany and Tori Weber. Liz brought me a couple of gifts, a polo shirt and a Tommy Hilfiger wallet. I was very impressed. It’s the thought that counts. I’ve haven’t had anyone do that for me in a very long time.

I now have a week to get Liz’s 21st birthday present. I will probably get her some beer to enjoy legally, plus I’ve got something else up my sleeve.

Immaculate for 42 years

For some it’s probably hard to believe, but it has now been exactly 42 years since possibly the most famous play in the history of the National Football League too place.

It was the first playoff game for the PIttsburgh Steelers, and they were hosting the Oakland Raiders. In their first 39 seasons (1933-71), the Steelers qualified for the playoffs the same number of times I’ve had sex. ZERO. Nada. Zilch.

The team’s fortunes began to turn in 1969, when owner Art Rooney hired Chuck Noll as coach. Noll hit the jackpot in his first draft, selecting Mean Joe Greene out of North Texas and L.C. Greenwood out of East Texas State to anchor his defensive line. Pittsburgh was only 1-13 in ’69, but it had the number one pick for 1979, and Noll added another key piece to the puzzle by drafting Louisiana Tech quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

By 1972, Noll added Jack Ham, Gerry Mullins, Mike Wagner, Mel Blount, Ernie Holmes, Jon Kolb and Franco Harris, among others, and that year, the Steelers went 10-3-1.

The 1972 Raiders were 9-4-1. John Madden’s fourth edition of the Silver and Black featured a mix of players who were on the roster when Oakland lost to Green Bay in Super Bowl II and newer faces. The quarterback situation was unsettled, with Daryle Lamonica starting, but Madden had a quick hook, often shutting in a young Ken Stabler and the ancient George Blanda, who was mostly reduced to kicking, but still could sling the ball when needed, as evidenced by his 1970 season, when he finished as runner-up for NFL MVP at 43.

THe ’72 Raiders had a new weapon in rookie receiver Cliff Branch from Colorado. Oakland also had another new receiver, Villanova’s MIke Siani, to compliment Fred Blietnikoff, who was forced to go it alone for the most part in ’71 after former deep threat Warren Wells was imprisoned.

The Raider defense was solid, although this unit didn’t have any household names beyond Willie Brown and Jack Tatum in the secondary.

The first half of the Raiders-Steelers game was scoreless. PIttsburgh kicked two field goals in the second half, and it appeared that 6-0 score would hold up.

Madden replaced Lamonica with Stabler in the fourth quarter, and with less than two minutes left, Stabler scampered 30 yards around left end to the game’s first touchdown. Blanda’s extra point made it 7-6 in Oakland’s favor.

Pittsburgh appeared to be out of miracles. It soon faced fourth-and-10 with 22 seconds to go.

Bradshaw launched a pass over the middle for John “Frenchy” Fuqua, who was circling out of the backfield. However, the ball, Fuqua and Tatum all arrived at the same time near the Oakland 45-yard line.

Just as the ball was about to strike the TartanTurf of Three Rivers Stadium, rookie Franco Harris scooped the ball off of his shoelaces and galloped down the left sideline all the way to the end zone with 13 seconds to go.

The Raiders thought the play was illegal. At that time, two offensive players could not touch the ball consecutively. That was a point of contention during Super Bowl V two years earlier on Baltimore’s 75-yard touchdown pass from Johnny Unitas to John Mackey. The Cowboys claimed the ball went off the hands of receiver Eddie Hinton straight to Mackey, but the officials ruled Dallas safety Mel Refro’s fingers grazed the laces in between. NFL Films replays proved the officials correct in that case.

Referee Fred Swearingen went to the Pirates’ dugout near the end zone where Harris scored and called NFL Director of Officiating Art McNally. McNally told Swearingen he could not help, and the decision was up to the officials on the field.

(The urban legend is Swearingen called up to the director of security and asked how many cops he could provide if the officials ruled the touchdown didn’t count. When the response was six, Swearingen then said okay, “Six for Pittsburgh”, meaning the play would stand.)

Instant replay would not come into existence until 1986, and even if there instant replay in 1972, it would have done no good. There were not as many cameras covering the game, the video quality was not anywhere near where it is now, and it would have taken way too long to run the film to the truck, rack the film and re-rack it time and again to determine the call.

Pittsburgh won 13-7, and two years later, the Steelers won their first of four Super Bowls in six seasons under coach Chuck Noll.

Oakland would have to wait until 1976 to win its title. To this day, Madden and all of the Raiders refuse to acknowledge the Steelers won.

How iconic is the Immaculate Reception? Travelers to Pittsburgh International Airport are greeted by a life-sized statue of Franco Harris in the exact uniform he wore in 1972, catching the ball like he did vs. the Raiders.

The Immaculate Reception is so cemented in NFL lore that in a poll earlier this year, it was named the greatest play of all-time. ESPN had a poll of the greatest play of each of the 32 teams. and then a tournament was held to determine the best play of all-time. The Immaculate Reception defeated Bart Starr’s game-winning quarterback sneak in the Ice Bowl by a wide margin.

December 22: lots going on

Yesterday was the anniversary of two pretty important events from my younger years which I recall very well.

The first was in 1984, when Bernhard Goetz was accosted on a New York City subway by four African-American teenagers. Goetz was deathly afraid—and rightfully so—of the youths mugging him and possibly doing worse, so Goetz shot them in self-defense.

As could be expected, the shootings caused a major uproar, and as you can expect, the split came along racial lines. If you were white, you cheered Goetz as a hero for defending himself. If you were black, you decried Goetz as taking the law into his own hands.

Goetz did what he should have to protect his life. I would have done the same thing.

He was charged with illegal possession of a firearm, but he did not get charged for anything relating to the shooting.

The other event was in 1989 when it snowed in New Orleans. It was only half an inch, but in south Louisiana, where measurable snow may occur once a decade, it caused traffic nightmares, especially in a city with as many elevated bridges as New Orleans. If you know roads, elevated surfaces are first to ice, and all around the Big Easy that Friday before Christmas, cars were sliding into each other and into barriers left and right.

My dad had to cross one of those high bridges to get home from his job at Air Products and Chemicals in the far northeast corner of New Orleans. The bridge crosses the Intercoastal Waterway and provides access to St. Bernard Parish, where my family lived.

As for me, the snow didn’t matter. School was already out for two weeks for the holiday break. I was in the eighth grade at Brother Matin at the time.

In Kansas, a snow like that would not have been enough to disrupt anything.

The snow wasn’t the worst part of Christmas weekend 1989, at least for most. It was the bitter cold which accompanied the snow.

Temperatures for two nights dropped into the low teens, and in many areas well away from the city, they were in the single digits, and the Saturday before Christmas, the high temperatures were in the low to mid 20.

All over the New Orleans area, pipes burst, spraying water all over driveways and caushing people to go without some of the basci conveniences of life, such as taking a shower, cooking and drinking.

Since New Orleans is below sea level, pipes are above ground. They must be wrapped during a freeze to protect them from bursting. My dad always wrapped the pipes during the winter and never took off the protective covering until the spring, so we never had a problem like that at 224 Jaguar Drive. That isn’t an issue at our house in Russell, since my grandfather had the foresight to bury the pipes below ground.

Fans of the New Orleans Saints also recall December 22 fondly. It was on that date in 1991 the franchise won its first division championship, defeating the Cardinals 27-3 in Tempe to clinch the NFC West. I can go on and on as to how the Saints were in the NFC West, but I’ll save that for another day when I’m bored.

I also remember December 22, 2007, simply because I was stuck in the Overland Park Marriott due to a snowstorm which dumped eight inches on the area. This was before the OP Marriott renovated its rooms, and I can recall a green love seat, drab blue carpet, and an old tube-style TV inside an armoire. Dreary. The only good news was there is an Applebee’s across the street, so I could get a meal to go.

Actually, the rooms inside the Marriott on the Country Club Plaza in KC looked exactly like the ones at Overland Park until they were renovated in 2010. I’ve only stayed at the Plaza twice, and each time, I’ve used points. FIrst, the rooms are expensive due to the prime location, and second, it costs $27 a day to valet park. Worse, traffic on Main Street is hell trying to get out.

It’s now December 23, and I”m back at Buffalo Wild Wings. Brittany Davidson is serving for the first time in four months, and of course I have to sit with her. I will go back to Russell tomorrow morning and then come back to KC Friday. I’m getting a ridiculous rate at the Courtyard Marriott on Tiffany Springs–$70 per night (including tax) through New Year’s Eve.

Stressing on Sunday (when I shouldn’t)

I have no clue why I’m out the Sunday before Christmas, especially in a shopping area in a big city, but here I am, back at Buffalo Wild Wings.

I was fortunate to find a parking space. B-Dubs was full because the Chiefs-Steelers game was on, and with the other restaurants around also packed, I thought I might have to park far, far away. Fortunately, it took less than 10 minutes.

The only reason I got to B-Dubs at 2:45 is because I had to go to Staples across Barry Road to pick up something. With ridiculous traffic all around, I figured it was better I went there early and wait instead of going back to the hotel and coming back at 5 when Lisa took over behind the bar.

Probably should have gone back to the hotel in hindsight. I couldn’t get at the bar because it was full, and I really didn’t want to take up a table by myself, even though Liz came on just after 3. I wanted to sit in her section, but there were three kids who wouldn’t budge.

I eventually went out to the patio even though it’s 45 degrees and cloudy. I didn’t have my parka on at first, so I had to go all the way through the restaurant and back to my car to retrieve it. Then a motherfucking asshole had to come outside and smoke a cancer stick.

I despise cigarette smoking. I really despise it. It’s a major reason my mother and I do not get along all that well. My father was a heavy smoker for 30 years until he quit in 1985, and I believe he would have been dead by 1994 if he had not. I cannot stand tobacco. Never used any form a day in my life and I never will.

I have a hard and fast rule: if you smoke in my car, I will stop the car immediately and that person will get out. What’s more, he or she will NEVER ride in my car again. For the rest of their life. And I will also make the offender pay to have the car fumigated. If it came to going on The People’s Court to collect, I would.

The fact I can’t stand smoking is a major reason I stay at Marriott hotels whenever I can. Marriott has banned smoking at all properties since October 2006. I will not stay at a hotel with smoking rooms if I can help it. Fortunately for me, two hotels in western Kansas I frequent, the Sleep Inn in Norton and the Holiday Inn Express in Goodland, are also smoke-free.

I’m now at the bar, one seat over from where I was yesterday when Brittany was here. I was starting to get anxious. First time I’ve felt that way in awhile.

THe NFL games right now don’t interest me. Two of them are really bad (Cowboys 28, Colts 0 and Giants 27, Rams 13) and one is irrelevant (Bills at Raiders).

The Saints laid an egg today by getting routed at home by the Falcons. Not only is New Orleans out of the playoff race, but one of my least favorite NFL players, SCAM Newton, can lead the Panthers back to the playoffs if they win in Atlanta next week.

Another piece of awful news: Jameis Winston got off scot-free in Florida State’s investigation into sexual assault allegations. Typical. I hope FSU gets destroyed by Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

Danger lurking

In my last post I forgot to mention I nearly got sideswiped coming to Kansas City.

It was on the Kansas Turnpike just east of the Topeka service plaza. I’m in the left lane, and some dumbass in a Ford Fiesta attempted to change lanes without looking. I gave him a good blast of my horn. If he had hit me, it really would have been bad, because I would have careened into the concrete barrier. The Turnpike does not have a median like most interstate highways in rural areas. The Turnpike was built before the interstate highway system came into existence (not by much), so the Turnpike is grandfathered from the existing standards. The Pennsylvania Turnpike also has no medians, instead concrete barriers for its long journey from the Ohio state line to Philadelphia.

I tried my best not to look at him as I drove east, and for the most part it was successful. I finally lost him at the toll plaza near Bonner Springs, since he was in a long line in one of the cash lines, and I zipped right through in the tag lane.

Good thing I have a toll tag for the Turnpike. It came in really handy today, when there were long backups in the ticket lane at Topeka and the cash lanes at Bonner Springs. Some days, the tag line is as long as the ticket/cash line, but today, that definitely wasn’t the case, especially at the east end.

Actually, the Turnpike does not end until two miles east of I-635, although no tolls are collected between that point and the K-7/US 73 exit at Bonner Springs. There used to be a toll booth at Bonner Springs, but when the Kansas Speedway opened in 2001, ridiculous backups became commonplace, so the Kansas Turnpike Authority moved the toll plaza to mile marker 217, six miles west of the Bonner Springs exit.

The last thing I need is an accident. The Chevy is almost paid off, and my Allstate agent, Phil Aitken, informed my mother yesterday that my yearly insurance premium is dropping from almost $2,500 to $1,080. I don’t want another claim, even if the accident wouldn’t be my fault.

Kansas City, here I am

I left Norton at 9:30 this morning and drove straight back to Russell, choosing to bypass Hays.

The McDonald’s in Norton closed earlier this year, leaving no Golden Arches along US 36 from at least the Colorado state line–probably farther–to Seneca. The only Mickey D’s on 36 in Kansas are in Seneca and Hiawatha. At least Norton still has a Dairy Queen, as does Belleville, while Marysville has Hardee’s, Sonic and Taco Bell.

Got back home by 11:20, visited with my parents for half an hour, and got back on the road. I would have driven straight from Norton to Kansas City had I not forgotten my insulin pen at my house yesterday. However, you don’t gain any time going 36, because the speed limit is slower (65 vs. 75 on I-70) and there are stops in the small towns along the way–Phillipsburg, Smith Center, Belleville, Seneca, Hiawatha, et. al–that makes it slower than just speeding along the interstate.

I found myself locked out of my office today. I wanted to pick up something inside, but it turns out there was a new lock placed on the outer door. I decided I would live. I’ll get a key from Frank when I get back to town.

I got to Kansas City in record time, all because I wanted to see Brittany Davidson before she ended her shift as the bartender at Buffalo Wild Wings. Mission accomplished. She was ecstatic to see me, as were a few more people who had not seen in at least a month and a half, including Shannon Swanson, who encouraged me to get help for my depression.

Lisa and Liz are working tonight, and they’re very happy to see me too. I also saw two of my trivia buddies, Jane and Mark, and gave them one of my many $5 discount coupons. I also saw Rondo, who was playing when I got there. I was surprised the 12,989 I posted on Dec. 4 held up as the high score for the month until Rondo hit 13,000+ twice today. I just posted 13,286.

This keyboard for my iPhone has everyone jealous. Larry Bernard was the first to notice Thursday at the wrestling meet in Lincoln, Peggy Cox, Mason Buckmaster and Taylor Zabel all noticed last night at basketball, and now I’ve gotten raves from Liz, Lisa and Chris Smith at Buffalo Wild Wings. Sounds like a great gift idea. The best thing about the keybaord is I don’t have to lug my 30-pound laptop everywhere if I want to work. The only time I now really need the laptop is to download things from the Main Street Media FTP site. I have Word on here, so I can write the articles, save them to my Sky Drive, then transfer them to Quark when I get the computer set up.

Lisa was so nice to get me a stool with a back to sit down. I really feel welcome when she’s my server. But I’m very happy to hear both she and her man, Jeff Daniels, recently got new jobs. I know as a young couple they’re probably struggling a bit, and this is good news.

Norton to Russell (and KC?)

Seroquel and the long day yesterday left me quite drowsy. Yet I’m almost ready to go; as soon as I finish this post and pack up my computer, I’ll be on my way back to Russell. I’ve got a decision to make whether or not to go to Kansas City, but I probably will, seeing as I have a lot of work to do, and the last two Sundays I haven’t gotten a thing done staying home.

Norton’s boys easily defeated Smith Center 58-29. The Redmen missed a heck of a lot of open shots from short range which would have made the game much closer, but the Bluejays are awfully good. The only bugaboo for Norton came when Deon Lyle missed a dunk in the first quarter. Bluejays coach Doug Reusink immediately sent in a substitute, but Lyle redeemed himself with a layup before the next dead ball. When Lyle finally came out, Reusink gave him the business.

Smith Center’s highlight was a breakaway dunk by Mason Buckmaster in the fourth quarter, but by this time, the clock was running continuously, which occurs when one team holds a 30-point lead at the end of the third quarter or later. The Bluejays were up 53-19 after three.

Norton is now 6-0 heading into the long holiday break. Smith Center fell to 1-5.

The first college football bowl game of 2014, the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, kicks off at 10 a.m. Louisiana-Lafayette is in the game for the fourth consecutive year, taking on Nevada. Hope the Cajuns lose. ULL hates LSU passionately, and Bayou Bengal fans mostly return the favor in kind.

Lady Red rolls

So much for drama in the girls game. Norton scored first, but Smith Center responded with 13 unanswered points and cruised to a 50-31 victory. The Lady Red are 5-1 on the year, with the lone loss last Saturday to a strong Washington County squad. The Bluejays are 3-3.

The Bluejays were hamstrung since one of their top low post players, Caitlyn Cox (Peggy’s daughter), was ill. She tried to give it a go, but just after halftime, she couldn’t go, and coach George Rossi smartly removed her after two minutes. Peggy told me Caitlyn will probably go home and not watch her brother Conor play much.

This is the final game for me before the long holiday layoff. I’m probably going to get rusty in the interim, but I am counting on a lot of action at Buffalo Wild Wings in KC.

Stuffing my face!

I’m stuffed. Stuffed worse than a goose. But it was well worth it.

Just got back to Norton’s gymnasium after eating at Los Canteros with Peggy Cox and Hayli Bozarth. Hayli wasn’t supposed to return from Boise until Sunday, but she came in a couple of days early, which was a bonus for me.

The food was outstanding. I had a shrimp chimichanga, which took Peggy and Hayli by surprise, but I reminded them I’m from south Louisiana, where shrimping for many is not just a hobby, it’s their livelihood.

There’s a Mexican restaurant in Russell on Wichita Avenue, but my parents and I don’t go. We went once and said never again. There have been health code violations galore. Besides, my mother makes better enchiladas.

The girls varsity game should start around 6:15, with the boys varsity to follow. I should be back at the Sleep Inn by 9:45 for some real sleeping.

Peggy’s husband, Clark, is officiating the girls junior varsity game with Corey Roy, the principal of the elementary school in Norton. I’m wondering who the varsity officials will be. I’m expecting not to see anyone I’ve seen at Smith Center, Russell or Victoria, simply because it’s a long way out here. Probably get a crew out of Colby or nearby.

This is my last event for 2014. I won’t have anything until January 6, when Russell hosts Ellsworth in basketball.

Back in Norton

Yes, Virginia, there is a sun! The bright orange ball made its appearance just about the time I pulled into Hays for stops at Dillon’s, Walgreens and Freddy’s for lunch. I believe the last time wore my Oakleys was on the trip back from Osborne from the wrestling tournament 13 days ago.

There was nary a cloud in the sky as I headed west on I-70 from Hays to WaKeeney, where I exited the interstate for the always intriguing ride north on US 283. I passed Trego Community High School, but the fact I wouldn’t be covering the Mid-Continent League round robin wrestling tournament didn’t really bother me. I knew I had things to do and people to see tonight which would completely take my mind off of any negativity.

Sadly, a Graham County EMS ambulance sped south on 283 as I reached the Hill City city limits. That’s never a good sign.

I pulled into Norton just after 2, and checked in at the Sleep Inn. Everything looks great. I enjoyed a good nap.

Peggy Cox messaged me on Facebook with some more good news. She and I were supposed to have dinner at Los Canteras Mexican restaurant before the games, but it turns out it will be a party of three.

Hayli Bozarth, a former state champion shot putter and discus thrower for Norton who went on to compete at Iowa State and Boise State, returned to Norton earlier than expected, so she’s joining us. Hayli was one of the first athletes I covered for all four years of her high school career, and she has always been one of my favorite people. She is beyond friendly, always smiling, but always ready to compete, thanks to an impressive work ethic that most people can only dream of.

Hayli also played volleyball and basketball at Norton. Peggy was Hayli’s volleyball coach for her junior and senior season, and when Hayli was a junior, the Bluejays made it to the Class 3A state tournament after pulling off a Cinderella run during sub-state. Norton came into the tournament seeded seventh out of eight schools with a 10-20 record through the MCL tournament, but they knocked off Lakin, Cimarron and Phillipsburg. Norton was spiked hard at the state tournament, but that sub-state run has stuck with me for seven years as one of the great stories I’ve covered.

This is the first of at least two, maybe three, stays I’ll have in Norton this winter. I’m sure I will be here for the Class 3-2-1A wrestling regional in February, and I’m considering coming up for the Jake Durham Invitational tournament in January.

I’m going to have to go back to Russell tomorrow. I’ve got things to pick up at my office and at home. But first, there’s food and basketball on the docket.