Blog Archives

A few random topics on a Wednesday evening

My humdrum life in western Kansas resumed at 1100 Sunday. The Seroquel I took to h help me sleep Saturday had me groggy. I was fading fast. I wanted to get home in time for lunch because my mother was cooking salmon and asparagus, two of my favorite foods. Plus, I had been eating nothing but White Castle, Taco Bell and Buffalo Wild Wings for 10 days, save for a Blizzard at Dairy Queen in Columbia when I met Bill for lunch on the first day there and a couple of hot dogs from QuikTrip. A home-cooked meal did me some good.

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Yesterday (April 23) was the 34th anniversary of the introduction of New Coke. Coke had been building up to the rollout of a new formula for three months, with Bill Cosby stating in commercials that New Coke would taste just as good as the original.

I recall New Coke being pretty good. I couldn’t tell the difference. I was unaffected by Coca-Cola bringing back the “Classic” formula three months after rolling out New Coke, because I would drink anything. Whenever I saw New Coke in stores for the next few years, I’d buy it over the Classic formula, although sightings of New Coke in metro New Orleans were few and far between.

What was funny was my father was drinking Pepsi during this period, and my brother and I were drinking Coke. Looking back on it, seems silly now. I don’t have a preference for Pepsi or Coke. I usually buy whatever is cheaper, although the Pepsi 2-liter bottles fit in the door of the refrigerator in my garage, while the taller Coke 2-liters do not. Heck, I think Kroger’s imitation of Coke Zero Sugar and Pepsi Zero Sugar is pretty good. There are some versions of pop I like, such as Dr. Pepper Ten, TaB and Pibb Zero, which only come in cans, although I haven’t seen TaB in quite some time. I like TaB because it’s sweetened with saccharin (Sweet and Low), which I find superior to aspartame and Splenda. I last saw a TaB 2-liter in 1997 in an Albertson’s in Baton Rouge.

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The Stanley Cup will remain in the United States yet again. The last Canadian team in the NHL playoffs, the Maple Leafs, choked away Games 6 and 7 vs. the Bruins. The Leafs have got to trade one of their big scorers for help on defense. I don’t care if it’s Austin Matthews, Mitch Marner or Mikael Nylander, just get help on the friggin’ blue line. And get a competent backup goalie. Heck, the Leafs had a better goaltending situation in the 80s with Ken Wregget and Alan Bester. Frederik Andersen is going to die if he keeps facing 50 shots a night like he has many times in Toronto.

The good news? The Predators and Golden Knights are also gone from the playoffs. Gary Bettman’s dream of the Stanley Cup residing in Vegas or redneck country is down to the Hurricanes, who play the defending champion Capitals tonight in Washington in Game 7. God, Washington had BETTER win. I have always despised the Carolina Hurricanes because they used to be the Hartford Whalers, whose logo is the second best in sports history, behind only the Brewers’ ball-in-glove which forms “M” and “B”. I’m not a fan of the Sharks or Stars, but they are far more palatable than Na$hville and Vega$, teams I cannot stand. And I certainly could stomach Ovechkin and the Caps much more than the friggin Hurricanes.

Na$hville, Vega$, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida are on my list of teams I will never, ever root for. Also on the list are the NFL’s Panthers, Buccaneers, Ravens, Dolphins and Patriots (as long as those two buttholes are there); MLB’s Reds, Orioles, Marlins, Rays and White Sox (at least as long as they keep wearing those disgusting black uniforms); and the NBA’s Heat, Magic, Nets, Knicks, Kings and whatever team LeBron is playing for. The Detroit Lions are on the list right now because Matt Patricia is a buffoon.

I’m hoping for a Blues-Bruins final. Even though Boston eliminated Toronto, I can stomach it because it was a fellow Original Six club. As for St. Louis, the Blues have not been to a Final since 1970, and they are 0-12 all-time in Finals games, getting swept in ’68 and ’69 by Montreal and in ’70 by Boston, when Bobby Orr scored the Cup-winning goal 40 seconds into overtime after he was tripped by St. Louis’ Noel Picard. The shot of Orr flying in the air is the most iconic photo in NHL history.

More importantly, two people I care about are HUGE Blues fans: Larry, my trivia buddy who I got to see last Friday, and Lisa Toebben Daniels, whom I miss greatly.

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The Bucks are resting up after sweeping the Pistons. Now they play the Celtics, who swept the Pacers, in the second round. Boston looked damn good in taking out Indiana, so I’m worried. I think this will be tougher for Milwaukee than Toronto or Philadelphia would be in the Eastern Conference Finals.

As for the West, who cares? We all know the Warriors will finish the Clippers tonight, then they’ll crush the Rockets, then either the Nuggets (hopefully) or Blazers. Why bother?

The NBA should let the Warriors have a free pass to the Finals, and have 16 other teams battle it out for the right to play Golden State for the championship. Would make things a lot more ##########################################################################

Today’s discovery: I can play Buzztime trivia in Hays.

The Golden Q, a popular hangout for Fort Hays State University students, is a new member of the Buzztime network. I have taken advantage twice today, first during a two-hour gap between appointments, and now. My favorite game, SIX, is coming up at 1930.

Now I don’t have to drive to Salina, or even farther, to play. That’s a relief.

The food is pretty good. One item I can’t find anywhere else: chicken gizzards. I’ll have to try the wings.

(Classic) Coke was it

Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of one of the biggest moments of pop culture of my formative years. Since I’m going to be engrossed in a certain someone’s wedding reception, I’ll get to it today.

And it all revolved around a soft drink, one which had changed its formula less than three months prior.

On April 23, 1985, Coca-Cola announced a new formula, one which was supposed to be sweeter than the original, which had been unchanged since cocaine was removed from the list of ingredients at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. While Coca-Cola was still the number one drink of choice throughout the south, including my hometown of New Orleans, it was losing share rapidly to Pepsi in other parts of the United States.

In fact, my dad refused to drink Coca-Cola. That’s right, my mother, who was drinking Diet Coke by 1985 after switching from TaB, the only diet beverage The Coca-Cola Company had in its portfolio prior to 1982, bought my dad Pepsi. He grew up in Russell, and Kansas was big on Pepsi, not Coca-Cola. In a lot of states outside of the old Confederacy, Coca-Cola was associated with the South, with the losing side in the Civil War, and in the late 1950s and early 1960s when my dad was growing up, Coca-Cola was also derisively called “Redenck Cola” by many northerners, more than a few of whom associated Coca-Cola with racism and the Jim Crow laws which ordered separate facilities for whites and Negroes. .

Coca-Cola’s headquarters are in Atlanta, a progressive city in a state which was still ruled by the rural white interests at that time. Even though Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. got his start preaching in Atlanta’s Ebeneezer Baptist Church, Georgia still elected notorious racist Lester Maddox as governor in 1966. In the Democratic primary, Maddox defeated  a peanut farmer from Plains who also favored segregation. Unfortunately, we had not heard the last of James Earl Carter Jr.

Pepsi was considered “Yankee Cola” by many in the south and still is in many areas, although Pepsi has a strong presence in Alabama, thanks to the Buffalo Rock bottling plant in Birmingham, which distributes Pepsi throughout the Yellowhammer State. In fact, the Alabama Crimson Tide are sponsored by Pepsi, the only Southeastern Conference school to buck Coca-Cola. But in many southern restaurants which serve Pepsi–including Dreamland Barbecue and Baumhower’s Wings in Alabama–waiters and waitresses must ask if Pepsi is okay when someone asks for a Coca-Cola.

What most people don’t realize is Pepsi was started in Raleigh. As in the capital of North Carolina. Last I checked, North Carolina was one of the 11 Confederate states.

Coca-Cola hired Bill Cosby as its main spokesperson for New Coke. However, even the star of the number one show in prime time TV at the time could not convince loyal Coca-Cola drinkers that the New Coke was better than the old formula.

Some people were afraid of the switch to the point they hoarded the old formula. One such man was Gay Mullins, a retired advertising executive from Seattle. He borrowed $120,000 and around Memorial Day started a new club, The Old Coke Drinkers of America. He began to lobby Coca-Cola headquarters, including CEO Roberto Gouizeta, to bring back to the original formula.

Pepsi took advantage of the apathy over New Coke and began to heavily cut into the market share of its archrival.

Although Gouizeta was a staunch defender of New Coke right up until his 1997 death, he finally relented to public pressure, and on July 11, 1985, Coca-Cola Classic was born and quickly returned to the shelves.

How important was the reintroduction of the old formula? ABC News interrupted General Hospital (in the Eastern and Central time zones), One Life To Live (Mountain) and All My Children (Pacific) for a special bulletin, which was announced by World News Tonight anchor Peter Jennings. My mother was addicted to AMC and OLTL in the mid-1980s, but she did not watch General Hospital. Thankfully for her, Jennings’ interruption did not affect her as much as it might have.

By July 1986, Coca-Cola Classic was far outselling New Coke. By 1991, New Coke had disappeared from the shelves in the Big Easy.

Buffalo Wild Wings switched from Coca-Cola to Pepsi in early 2014. I was upset Coke Zero was no longer on the menu, but as you can see, it has not stopped me from going and going and going and going.

In case you’re curious, TaB is still around, although it can only be found in certain areas, like Kansas City. Much like Pibb Xtra and Pibb Zero, the former Mr. Pibb, which is not available in Russell, Hays, Wichita, Hutchinson and most of northwest Kansas.

Maybe Billy Joel had it right in “We Didn’t Start the Fire”….rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore!

Party like it’s 1985

The Royals won again last night. The Brewers and Indians both lost.

This is starting to look a lot like 1985. That was the year Kansas City won its first–and only–World Series championship, rallying from a 3-1 deficit vs. St. Louis, thanks in large part, though, to a blown call at first base in the ninth inning of game six by umpire Don Denkinger.

Meanwhile, the Brewers and Indians were in a dog-eat-dog race for sixth place in the American League East. The two teams occupied the bottom rungs of the division in 1984, with Cleveland 75-87 and Milwaukee 67-94. Although the Brewers played the entire 1984 season without their future Hall of Fame third baseman and team leader, Paul Molitor, there wasn’t much hope for the Wisconsinites even with Molitor healthy in 1985. The Brewers, who won the American League pennant in 1982 and came within one win of a world championship, simply didn’t have any pitching, despite Molitor and another Hall of Fame shoo-in, Robin Yount, anchoring the offense.

At least Milwaukee could hit. Cleveland couldn’t hit, nor could it pitch.

Sure enough, when the season ended, Milwaukee found itself 71-90 and in sixth place, a cool 25 1/2 games behind division champion Toronto.

As bad as that was, Cleveland was 11 1/2 games WORSE, going 60-102. The only thing which saved the Indians from the worst record in the Majors was the beyond pathetic Pirates, who were 57-104.

Pittsburgh baseball hit rock bottom in 1985. Numerous Pirates, both on the 1985 team and since departed, were addicted to cocaine, and they were subpoenaed by a grand jury in the Steel City to testify about the rampant use of the illicit drug in Major League Baseball.

Although the 2015 season is not a month old, the Brewers and Indians are in free fall. Through tonight’s games, they are a combined 10-30 (Cleveland 6-13, Milwaukee 4-17), and not surprisingly, own the worst records in their respective leagues.

The Cardinals and Dodgers, the two teams which played for the National League pennant in 1985, lead their divisions. The Mets, whose 98 victories left them three games shy of St. Louis in the NL East, have the best record in the Senior Circuit right now. 1985 AL East champion Toronto is hovering around .500, but it’s early, and the AL East figures to be a mediocre division.

I wasn’t quite nine years old in April 1985, but for some reason, several events from that month stick out in my mind three decades later.

The first came on the night of April Fool’s Day, when Villanova stunned Georgetown in the NCAA men’s basketball national championship game at Lexington’s Rupp Arena.

The Hoyas won the 1984 national championship, and with three-time All-American and 1984 National Player of the year Patrick Ewing back for his senior campaign, John Thompson’s club was the overwhelming favorite to repeat.

Villanova finished fourth in the rugged Big East Conference, finishing behind Georgetown, St. John’s and Syracuse. The Wildcats of coach Rollie Massamino earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The Wildcats, who had not been to the Final Four since All-American Howard Porter starred for the south Philadelphia Catholic school in 1971, were seeded eighth (out of 16) in the Southeast region.

However, once the tournament began, the Wildcats roared to life. They upended top seed MIchigan in the second round, and won regional games at Birmingham over ACC powers Maryland (led by Len Bias) and North Carolina to reach the Final Four, where they would be joined by conference rivals Georgetown and St. John’s, plus Memphis State (now Memphis) from the now-defunct Metro Conference.

Villanova dispatched Memphis State and Georgetown ousted St. John’s to set up the fourth meeting of the season between the Catholic schools, separated by less than 150 miles of Interstate 95.

The Wildcats played what has been called by many the best half of basketball in tournament history in the second half. Villanova hit 22 of 25 field goal attempts, an astonishing 88 percent, and won 66-64.

It was the final game before the NCAA adopted a shot clock for all games. Several conferences had experimented with it in the early 1980s, but it was not universally adopted until the fall of 1985.

Less than 48 hours after Villanova’s amazing victory, my parents, my brother and I departed for an Easter vacation to Walt Disney World.

Let me just say that trip is not one of the most pleasant memories of my life.

In fact, the opposite.

The first night told me this would be trouble. My father insisted on stopping for dinner at a truck stop off of Interstate 10 in the Florida panhandle, approximately 70 miles west of Tallahassee, the state capital and the city where we would stop for the night before completing the trip to Orlando the next day.

The food was terrible. The service was awful, and we got the short shrift since we were not truckers. My dad vowed never to eat at a truck stop again, the only good thing to come out of this trip.

The next day, it went from bad to worse.

One of the tires on our 1978 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon went flat on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, home to the Florida Gators. I already was not enamored with Florida, since it was a rival of LSU’s in the Southeastern Conferenc,e but the tire blowout gave me another reason to loathe Gainesville.

It wouldn’t be the last bad experience with the city.

Since only one tire was damaged, my dad put the spare on and we made it to Kissimmee, where we checked into our hotel.

I found nothing really exciting about the exhibits at Disney World. The lines were way too long. At least a cold front came through central Florida, meaning it was nowhere near as bad as it could have been. However, the Saturday before Easter, we were stuck in the hotel most of the day by rain.

We visited Epcot Center the last full day, which was far better in my estimation than the Magic Kingdom. If I had my druthers, I would have far preferred Anaheim to Orlando.

When we left the Tuesday after Easter, my father got lost and we took a circuitous route back to the Florida Turnpike, which led to I-75 south of Ocala. Gainesville was on the horizon.

And more trouble.

Two tire blowouts on one trip is almost unheard of. To have it happen in the same city must mean we did something very wrong to anger God.

This time, TWO tires were blown out in Gainesville, and we spent almost three hours in a Firestone store in Gainesville while the tires were repaired.

I have not looked at photos from this trip. Ever. Maybe they were flooded by Katrina.

Two weeks after the trip to Disney World, New Coke debuted.

There were rampant rumors throughout the first quarter of 1985 Coca-Cola would be changing its formula in order to combat the rapid rise of Pepsi, which had been a rival of Coke’s for nearly a century, yet never could come close to eclipsing Coke’s popularity, especially in the South. Coca-Cola’s world headquarters are in Atlanta, and in the Deep South, when you say “soft drink”, it almost always means “Coke”. Pepsi is frowned upon as “Yankee Cola” by many southerners, although it was invented in North Carolina.

April 23, 1985 was the big day. It wasn’t a day which will live in infamy, like Pearl Harbor Day was, but it certainly will be remembered as the introduction of one of the great marketing flops in American history.

Less than three months after New Coke hit the shelves, Coca-Cola agreed to bring back the old formula as Coca-Cola Classic. You would have thought cancer and AIDS had been cured in one fell swoop.

Nobody had any idea what was in store for the rest of 1985. But April had more than its fair share of hijinks.