Blog Archives

Goodbye July (until next time)

I’ve slept only 9 1/2 hours the previous two nights, yet I feel nowhere near as groggy as I have the previous few nights in Russell. Is it the CPAP mask? Or has it been a better bed in the hotels in Salina and Kansas City? I hope it keeps up the rest of the trip and when I get back to Russell Sunday.

Last night in front of the Hy-Vee on 64th Street near Interstate 29, I saw a woman holding a sign saying she is sleeping in her car. I often wonder if they’re telling the truth or not. If they are telling the truth, I wish I had more money to help them. If they are lying, then I have nothing but scorn.

It rained hard this morning. I had to get out due to an 0900 appointment. The sun is back out now, but more rain is heading to Kansas City. Not that I mind. As long as it’s dry Sunday for the ride west.

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Peggy is in New York City with family (not her children). Her birthday was Monday, and last night, she posted pictures of herself all over social media attending a performance of Hamilton. That’s out of character for her, but I’m glad she’s enjoying herself. She deserves it.

I have no desire to visit New York City. I’m not into Broadway plays, and I am certainly not into places where people are packed in like sardines. The farthest east I’ve been is the Baltimore-Washington airport, and I’m not keen on visiting either city. There is so much history in Washington, but between the crowds and security, I don’t see where it’s worth it. I would love to live in Maine, but southern New England, NYC and New Jersey? Heck no. Philadelphia? Maybe to see Independence Hall, but that’s it.

I have been to Pittsburgh. PNC Park, where the Pirates have played since 2001, is gorgeous. I didn’t go inside Heinz Field, but it’s nice from the outside. I would like to see the Pocono Raceway in northeast Pennsylvania. I’m not a big NASCAR fan, but the track’s triangular shape makes it one of the three most fascinating in stock car racing. The others are the road courses, Sonoma in California and Watkins Glen in upstate New York. Most of the others, not counting the restrictor plate tracks (Daytona and Talladega), don’t have much to differentiate themselves.

Dallas and Houston were more than big enough for me, thank you. At least in the Texas cities, Los Angeles and Chicago, you can drive places. New York doesn’t allow for it, at least in all of Manhattan and The Bronx, and most of Brooklyn and Queens. Staten Island would be the only borough I could stomach. I don’t think I’d make it on the Subway. Besides, it’s dangerous.

I used to get very jealous of Peggy and her family going on vacations, and others posting pictures from their vacations. But I finally asked myself why, because many of the activities are not things I enjoy.

Going to the beach is very, very, very low on my bucket list, if it even makes the bucket list. I can think of thousands of places I would rather be than a beach in the hot sun. I burn easily in the sun, I don’t swim, and I can’t build a sand castle or anything else to save my life. My family took a trip in 1984 to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but I hardly remember anything about it because there was nothing to remember.

When people post pictures of trips to Walt Disney World, especially in the spring, summer and early fall, I scratch my head. Way too hot and humid. I lived in a sauna for 29 years. I now live in an oven, which is slightly more tolerable. If I HAD to go to a Disney park, it would be the one in Anaheim. I would take the risk of dying in an earthquake.

The day I want to stand in line for two to three hours for a ride or exhibit is the day I need to exit this planet. To do so with screaming children? Those who do so are either brave or foolish. I won’t say which. My brother and sister-in-law took their honeymoon to Orlando at Thanksgiving 2013 without my then 13-year old niece. They were smart. I hope they do not go back with her and my now 3 1/2-year old nephew.

Besides, I hated my trip to Orlando in 1985. Hated it. Bad hotels, a terrible meal in a truck stop in the Florida panhandle, a blown tire on Interstate 75 in Gainesville, plus all the lines, not to mention we’d be back in school the day after getting home. I advise STRONGLY against vacations during the school year unless it’s during the Christmas/New Year’s period.

Going to the lake? I live close to Wilson Lake, and I’ve been once because I was forced to cover a fishing tournament. I loathed it. Again, not interested in lying out in the sun. Also, if I never went to a lake in Louisiana, why would that change?

Peggy’s family goes skiing a lot. I wish I grew up in a colder climate, but it wasn’t to be. I’m too clumsy to ski.

Besides, those things are not meant for a single person with absolutely zero prospects of changing that. I would not want to go on a tour with a bunch of strangers. It would be very hard in many ways; having to follow the group would be worse to me than not knowing anyone.

Like Neil Diamond crooned, I’m a Solitary Man.

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Nick Buoniconti, the great middle linebacker on the Dolphins’ Super Bowl championship teams in 1972 and ’73, passed away this morning at 78. He played for seven seasons with the Boston Patriots, who released him after the 1969 season. Don Shula, hired by Miami in February 1970, immediately signed him. Buoniconti became the heart of the “No-Name Defense” which also included standouts like Manny Fernandez, Bill Stanfill, Jake Scott and Dick Anderson.

Buniconti retired after the 1976 season, the year before the Dolphins drafted Bob Baumhower and A.J. Duhe, who became the leaders of the “Killer B’s” who led the Dolphins to Super Bowl XVII, where they lost to John Riggins and the Redskins.

Buoniconti has a connection to Kansas City, both on and off the field.

On the field, Buoniconti had one of his greatest games in the famous double overtime playoff game on Christmas Day 1971, making 20 tackles.

Three weeks later, Buoniconti had a game to forget in Super Bowl VI. The Cowboys confused Buoniconti to no end with misdirection, rushing for 252 yards, a Super Bowl record which still stands. Buoniconti was popped time after time by Dallas guards John Niland and Blaine Nye, and center Dave Manders. The Miami star suffered a concussion and was in a fog in the locker room, one of the many disappointments for the Dolphins that day. The good news was they didn’t lose a game which counted for 20 months thereafter.

Duane Thomas, who rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys’ 24-3 rout, was originally voted the game’s Most Valuable Player. However, the NFL caught wind of this and demanded the writers vote again. This time, Roger Staubach won. The league did not want the award going to the surly Thomas, who ignored reporters the entire season and clashed incessantly with Tom Landry and Tex Schramm.

Buoniconti redeemed himself the next two Super Bowls.

In Super Bowl VII, his interception on an underthrown Billy Kilmer pass led to the Dolphins’ second touchdown, and it was enough to defeat the Redskins 14-7 and complete Miami’s 17-0 season. Scott was the game’s MVP and Fernandez made 17 tackles.

Buoniconti’s jarring hit on Viking runner Oscar Reed in Super Bowl VIII on fourth and one from the Miami 6-yard line forced a fumble which Scott recovered. Minnesota, trailing 17-0 late in the first half when the play occurred, had very little hope of winning at that point. After Reed’s fumble, all hope evaporated. Miami won 24-7 in maybe the most lopsided Super Bowl, at least as matchups go, since the game began in January 1967.

Buoniconti was not elected to the Hall of Fame by the Professional Football Writers Association, earning enshrinement in 2001 thanks to the seniors committee. He waited 19 years (he was first eligible in 1982) after his playing career ended to get in. Too long, but nowhere near as bad as the 44 endured by legendary Packers guard Jerry Kramer. That Kramer wasn’t inducted in the 1970s is a travesty. Only two of Lombardi’s Packers were elected on the first ballot: Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr, both in 1977,

Following his retirement, Buoniconti and ex-Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson were selected by the five-year old Home Box Office network to host a new weekly NFL highlights show.

Inside the NFL became appointment television for football fans for the next 25 seasons largely due to the banter between Len and Nick, and later Cris Collinsworth. My parents recorded the show when we couldn’t watch it live; from 1982-86, that was a Betamax machine which cost $800 at Christmas 1986. I wish we still had it.

HBO inexplicably fired Len and Nick in early 2002. We watched for a little while longer with Cris and Dan Marino leading thee way, but quit soon thereafter. My parents and I ignore it now. I can’t stand Warren Sapp in particular.

In addition to his playing and broadcasting careers, Buoniconti was an advocate developing a cure for paralysis, a cause which he unfortunately had too much experience with.

Nick’s son, Marc, played football for The Citadel until he was rendered a quadriplegic while making a tackle vs. East Tennessee State in October 1985. For the past 33 years, Nick raised tens of millions dollars for the Mark Buoniconti Project, which funds research for a cure for paralysis.

Nick struggled with dementia in the last years of his life, and it’s likely he had CTE, which has afflicted thousands of football players at all levels. Buoniconti is donating his brain to the CTE project for research.

Sadly, the Dolphins have lost two of their greats from the championship teams in 2019. Guard Bob Kuechenberg, who also started in Super Bowl XVII, passed away in January.

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I’m playing Michael McDonald and the Doobie Brothers at Buffalo Wild Wings. The infamous Michael McDonald look-alike, Bill, who smokes like a chimney and chugs beer like a frat boy, is here. Ugh.

Another novella completed.

A Mickey Mouse kind of place 

I went into my Howard Hughes phase yet again. Five straight days without posting. I’m not going to use Christmas as an excuse. I’ve got to do better. I’ve got to get this figured out in 2017. 

I need to do a lot of things better in 2017. Eat better. Don’t lose my cool. Don’t worry about what I don’t have. Easier said than done, of course, but at least I have a place to start. 

Bowl games are going on all day today. Georgia beat TCU in the Liberty Bowl, and Stanford is leading North Carolina in the second quarter of the Sun Bowl. Nebraska and Tennessee kick off at 2:30 in the Music City Bowl, and tonight is Florida St. vs. Michigan in the Orange Bowl. 

LSU plays tomorrow morning at 10 am vs. Louisville in the Citrus Bowl. Hopefully the Bayou Bengals can shut down Lamar Jackson, the undeserving Heisman Trophy winner, and shut up Bobby Petrino. 

Peggy and her family are on a skiing trip in Colorado. I have to admit I’m a bit jealous. I’m settling for Kansas City AGAIN. Not that I dislike anyone in KC, but it sometimes gets repetitive. On the other hand, I’m afraid to hang out at a Buffalo Wild Wings in another city, because I believe they would kick me out for loitering. The die is cast; I’m wedded to Zona Rosa for the foreseeable future. 

The farthest west I ever ventured in my first 28 years and 11 months was HAYS. I’m not saying I wanted to go skiing, but going west would have been nice. Denver. Or maybe Wyoming. But my mother hated small towns. She still does, even though she’s lived in one for almost 11 years. 

My parents DRAGGED ME KICKING AND SCREAMING to Disney World in 1985 when I was 8 1/2. It was beyond AWFUL. I hated every minute of that trip. HATED. EVERY. MINUTE. What else was I going to do? I couldn’t stay home at that age. It was a mile walk to the nearest restaurant and convenience store, and a little longer to a grocery store. It would have been awfully boring staying in the house all day, but then again, it could not have been much worse than Disney World. 

Two experiences not related to Disney World on that trip were horrifying. The first was my dad’s moronic decision to eat at a greasy truck stop in Marianna, a small town about 60 miles west of Tallahassee, on the way. The second was a tire blowing out on Interstate 75 near Gainesville. Not to mention my dad got lost leaving Kissimmee and didn’t find the Florida Turnpike until we were almost to Ocala, and the hotel in Tallahassee on the way there and back overcharging my dad’s credit card. 

My brother and his wife took their honeymoon to Disney World three years ago. Pretty dumb. I wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near Orlando, much less be caught at Disney World. It was bad enough in 1985, when there was only the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center. It’s a billion times worse now with MGM Studios and all the other shit. If they want to go back to Disney World with their son one day, then I can’t help their stupidity. I would never take a child of mine on that torture trip. 

I don’t remember a damn thing about Disney World that was good. Maybe the video arcade. But no ride was worth a dime. And I cannot stand roller coasters. I would only go on one if I had a significant other who wanted to. And I would have to warn her I might throw up. 

If you’re that desperate to go to a Disney theme park, then pack the bags and head to Anaheim. Disneyland may be smaller, but the weather is much better. I woudn’t be caught dead anywhere in Florida any time of the year. Yes, there is a the constant threat of earthquakes in Orange County, but I wouldn’t want to deal with the Florida heat, not to mention hurricanes in August and September. 

I’ve been to Florida four times since Disney World, all on business. Two trips were to Gainesville when LSU played Florida in baseball. Gainesville is one of my least favorite cities in the Southeastern Confernece, and Florida’s baseball stadium is a joke. The press box has no air conditioning, or at least it did when I went there. Yeah, great idea, Gators. 

The other two times were in the Florida panhandle with Delgado Community College, where I worked prior to Katrina. At least I didn’t have to worry about changing time zones. 

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.