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29 October, 2011

Snow before Halloween

Me: First you rake, then you shovel. Those are the rules.
God: Just when you think you have the answers, I change the questions.
Me: Roddy Piper said that.
God: Where do you think he got it?

Fallon and Timberlake Parts 1, 2 and 3

   Jimmy and Justin did their History of Rap: Part 3 last night, so here they all are

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

24 October, 2011

The Year of 25 Years Ago- Buckner

   by Tom McConville

It was one of the greatest days of my life. And my sister got married, too.

It was a cold and rainy Saturday in northern New Jersey. And while my mother worried about what the weather might do to my sister’s hair and wedding gown, the majority of people, including my sister and her new husband, at the church were more concerned about what the rain might do later in the evening – potentially cancel Game 6 at Shea.

Rain be damned, the ceremony went off without a hitch. Around noon, the reception started and I turned into Spalding from Caddyshack. While my parents were busy entertaining, the open bar was calling my name, and I took full advantage of the fact that my underage drinking was #4589 on the list of things my parents (re: my mom) would be thinking about. When the reception ended, my parents invited the entire wedding back to our house for an after party and another 20 or so rounds of drinks to toast the happy couple.

My dad, not wanting to drive (wisely) asked me to drive our large, lime green station wagon home. Me, not wanting to drive (very wisely) suggested my brother be the driver. My brother, who also decided Spalding should have company, inexplicably suggested the 3 of us walk home from the wedding reception. Shockingly, my dad thought that was a splendid idea, even if it was a 3 mile walk in the rain.

But, walk we did. Three guys in tuxedos walking home from a wedding reception. And just to make it more interesting, we were each carrying various bottles of liquor with us. While the catering hall supplied the food, it was my dad who supplied the drinks. And after loading up the big lime green station wagon, affectionately called the “Muchus Mobile”, with cases of beer and bottles of booze (which a tee-totaling neighbor drove), there were still more left over. It was then my dad enacted the “No Bottle Left Behind” law that he fully expected me and my brother to carry out without complaint.

By the time we got home, neighbors, relatives and guests were already there, and the second leg of the celebration began in full swing. While the house was wall to wall with people, the TV room and back porch were especially crammed to the gills. Vin Scully could scarcely be heard, which was a good thing, if for only this one night. You see, there was already a big discussion in our house about whether Scully was actively rooting FOR the Sox that particular Series, or if he was just caught up in the whole alleged curse stuff. It was genuinely agreed upon by everyone at the party that we were all tired of Scully telling us how Wade Boggs was more dangerous with two strikes on him than anyone in the history of baseball.

Then, the game began. The rain had mostly held off, but I remember it felt as if the game was being played in a perpetual light mist. It seemed foggy at Shea, but, as I was still taking full advantage of my Spalding like ways, it could have been me.

The nine innings had everything you could have wanted. The Sox took a 2-0 lead, the Mets clawed back to tie in the fifth, and then the Sox got another run in the seventh. By the seventh, all the rooms in my house that did not have a TV were abandoned, and those that did have a TV resembled a Walmart at 4am on Black Friday.  When Gary Carter tied up the game in the eighth, the house shook. Now, I realize that could have been me, since I had basically turned into Foster Brooks by this time. But to this day, I firmly believe the back porch shook as much as the cameras at Shea when Carter hit that sacrifice fly.

The rest of the game seemed like an eternal blur. When Dave Henderson homered and Marty Barrett singled in Wade Boggs to make it 5-3 in the top of the tenth, I was stunned, and with the help of Budweiser, near tears. So I made what I thought was the best decision possible at that time. I went to bed.

I was seventeen years old, and the last thing I wanted was anyone – relatives, family friends, new in-laws – to see was me start to cry over the Mets. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I was way too invested, a way-too-over-the top fan that lived and breathed the Mets for the entire season. So I made my way upstairs, and sat on my bed, fought off tears, and lay down. There was no way I was going to see the Sox celebrate on our field.

But as soon as my head hit the pillow, I got up again. Mad. What was I doing was being a coward?
Suck it up, sissy boy. Go down there, take your medicine, and watch the Sox wrap it up. It’ll be good for me, toughen me up. So that’s what I did.

Bottom of the 10th. I miss Wally Backman’s at bat. But the silence that greets me when I get back to the TV room tells me everything. 1 out. I watch Keith Hernandez at bat. Liner. Fall, please fall, please drop. Nope. 2 outs.

At this point, I reconsidering my decision to be brave. I walk out the TV room, and into the adjacent dining room.  I can’t watch. I can only hear Vin Scully and Joe Garagiola wax rhapsodic about the Sox and the broken curse.

Then, Gary Carter singles. Too little, too late, I’m thinking. Kevin Mitchell singles. Now God is playing with me. Knight goes down 0-2. Just put me out of my misery. Single up the middle. Carter scores.  Oh man, oh man, oh man, oh man. I have not moved from the dining room.

There’s tension and anticipation in Scully and Garagiola’s voices. There’s tension and apprehension in every face I see in that overstuffed TV room.

Mookie’s at bat. I can’t stand it anymore. I have to watch. I start inching back toward the TV room. My brother looks at me, and says, loudly, that if I do not stay where I am, he will kill me. My father looks at him, then at me, and says, “Tom, don’t even think about it.” 4th pitch. Alone in the dining room. 5th pitch. Staring at the china cabinet. 6th pitch. Can’t…take…this… anymore.

Screw it. If the Mets lose, then it is all my fault, but there’s no damned way I'm staying in the dining room one second longer.

I walk back into the TV room. The look my brother gives me is almost thoughtful, as if he’s seriously thinking of the way he will maim me first instead of simply delivering a final, fatal blow. Thankfully, my dad is too wrapped up to realize I have turned my back on the baseball gods who reward superstition for my own selfish needs.

Bob Stanley throws the pitch. Mookie leaps out of the way, Gedman fails to block it, Mitchell runs home tying the game.

Our house, which the original builders must have reinforced with 67 tons of reinforced concrete, nearly shakes out of its moldings. Hugging, shrieking, middle aged white people moshing. You name it, it happened. The game was tied and I would not be murdered in my own home. I was overjoyed, relieved, drunk, sober and wired. All at once.

But wait. The count is still 3-2. Mookie is still up. Knight is leading off second. He’s taking a big lead. Spike Owen is creeping up behind him. A collective shout in our house of “Get back!!!” can be heard back at the catering hall where the wedding took place. Stanley doesn’t even look at second.  8th pitch.  Foul. 9th pitch. Foul.

10th pitch. A dribbler to first. Mookie takes off, tearing up the first base line, Buckner bends down to field it, and then……………

It was one of the greatest days of my life. And my sister got married, too.

23 October, 2011

Tebow vs the Dolphins

   by Gus Ramsey

   It was ugly. It was real ugly. Fifty four minutes in and there was only one thing that Tim Tebow did that made me say wow, a 21-yard scramble in which he avoided a sack on his own goal line, evaded three other tackles and kept a drive alive.
   But mostly, there were overthrows, happy feet and moments of panic. And then, suddenly, Tebow was throwing strikes on the run, throwing strikes from the pocket and making a beautiful play to hit Demayrius Thomas for the first TD of the game. We all know what happened after that. For the first time since the merger, a team won a game when trailing by fifteen or more points with three minutes to go.
   Many people tweeting me during the game were not in love with the pass plays that were called. It's hard to say without seeing the sky-angle film on what was called, but it did not appear a single slant was called. There were no screen passes called until a brilliant TE screen for the 2nd touchdown. In short, it's arguable that the play calling wasn't the best for Tebow, but it's hard to know for sure, especially if Tebow was giving up on plays too soon or didn't have time to make the throws.
   You can't erase the awful play for the majority of the game, but you can't ignore what Tebow did in the end. This much is true, the Broncos season will be more entertaining over the final ten weeks than it was over the first five.


22 October, 2011

MLB LEGO stadium kits could happen!

   LEGO has a web site where people can submit ideas and if their idea gets 10k votes of support, LEGO will consider pursuing the idea. So please go to the site and click on your vote of support to try and help me reach the 10k votes needed.

15 October, 2011

The Year of 25 Years Ago- The First Game 6

   By Gus Ramsey

   October 15th, 1986. I am a sophomore at Rollins College and my team, the New York Mets, are playing game 6 of the NLCS against the Houston Astros. I remember many details about the previous time the Mets were in the playoffs in my rooting lifetime, but I was only six in 1973. When you are six the word "pressure" doesn't apply.
   The Mets are coming off a dramatic 12-inning, game 5 victory and have returned to Houston with a 3-2 lead in the series. Game 6 is the rare must win for both teams. The Astros need was obvious. The Mets need to win because Mike Scott is poised to pitch in game 7. Scott dominated the Mets 1-0 in game 1 and again in game 4, winning 3-1. In those losses, Scott fanned 19 batters (14 in game 1) and only allowed 8 hits. Adding to the intrigue is the Mets fascination with the thought that Scott was scuffing the baseball. It was such a big story that before game 6, County Judge Jon Lindsay took a sheet of sand paper to the mound when he threw out the first pitch. Scott's presence looms over game 6 like the Death Star over Alderaan.

   When game 6 begins in the mid-afternoon, I am settled into the common room in Elizabeth Hall and ready for a few hours of quality playoff angst. Two lefties are on the hill, Bob Ojeda and Bob Knepper. The legendary Keith Jackson is on the call with Tim McCarver (yup, that Tim McCarver) by his side.
   The Mets enter the game with a .185 team average for the series. No team had ever won an LCS with a team average under .220.
   New York goes meekly in the first. It'll be the first of six times they go 1-2-3 in the first seven innings. Knepper would pitch 15 1/3 innings in this series, and only allow runs in two of them.
   The Astros waste no time jumping on Ojeda and sending me into an early state of panic. A hit and run double by Phil Garner scores Billy Hatcher and the squirming has begun. Base hits by Glenn Davis and Jose Cruz plate two more and before the butterflies in my stomach can flap their wings a few times, it's 3-0 Houston.
  Rafael Santana's single in the top of the third makes the Mets a cumulative 2-54 in the first three innings of the series.
   The game settles into a pitchers duel. I spend some of the time pacing, some of the time nestled deep into the couch in the common room. People walk in and out of the room. Guys want to know the score before heading back out to the beautiful Florida afternoon. Girls come in hoping to watch their afternoon soaps. I grunt them away without so much as a glance in their direction. (there's a reason I had a K Corner hanging over the bed in my dorm room my sophomore year.)  In the first eight innings of the game the Mets get one base runner to second base. One. Basically they got to second about as often as I did. (ba-dum, bum)
   The biggest issue for me on this day is my "job" with the school radio station. I have to do the sports update a little after 6pm. So in the 7th inning I hop in the shower while the Mets bat (when losing, I shower while my team bats because they can't lose a lead they don't have), get changed and grab my walkman radio, before heading toward the station.
   Knepper's dominance through the first eight innings cannot be overstated. 8 IP, 1 H, 5 K and only four outs recorded in the outfield. The Mets can't touch him. As I make my way across the Rollins campus, the warm afternoon sun casts my shadow out before me (is that the shadow of a looming Mike Scott?) A sense of defeat is creeping in.
   As I enter the WPRK studios, the kindly, old Gordon Frazer is at the mic, teeing up the next song by Bach or Beethoven. Gordon has seen it all. He covered World War 1 for NBC radio. He helped introduce television at the World's Fair. Now he is retired and helping to teach aspiring radio broadcasters the tricks of the trade on his own time. (When Chris "Maddog" Russo was a Rollins student, Gordon told him he needed to get voice lessons or he'd go nowhere. Apparently Gordon wasn't always right.) He is a wonderful man, with a soft, willowy voice and pleasant disposition. But right now, the pressure of the moment is too much and I can barely muster a hello to Gordon. I sit in the chair and await his tee up to deliver my report. I still have my walkman on and give the update as I listen to Brent Musburger and Johnny Bench on CBS radio. Dykstra has tripled and Mookie has singled. I barely hear Gordon say "...and now with an update on the day in sports, Gus Ramsey." As I deliver my report, Hernandez doubles to the gap, scoring Wilson. "And the Mets have just scored again on a double by Hernandez! It's now 3-2 in the top of the 9th!" I can hardly contain myself. After finishing my report, I stay in the studio (karma) to hear the rest of the inning. The Mets tie the game, but leave the bases loaded. Joy and frustration.
   The game creeps into extra innings and I hurt. I am in real pain. It may be an ulcer. I can't sit. I pace in the back of the room as both teams do nothing through the first four extra innings.
   It's the top of the 14th. The sun has all but set. More girls have come to the common room and left shortly after their arrival. They say things like "You're still watching this game?" They go unanswered. Finally, the Mets have something going. Strawberry is on second when Backman singles to right. Straw races around third as I jump up and down like a maniac. It looks like a good throw may get him, but it's a bad throw. A real bad throw. And suddenly, well as sudden as it can be in the 14th inning, the Mets have the lead.
   Roger McDowell was 0-3 against the Astros in 1986, but today he has delivered 5 shutout innings of relief before handing the ball over to Jesse Orosco. As noted by Mark Simon on ESPN New York.Com, McDowell is the only pitcher in postseason history to throw at least five innings of relief in a postseason game, in the ninth inning or later, without allowing a run. 
   When Orosco took the mound for the 14th, I was confident, confident that the pain in my side was something that was about to rupture and kill me before this game ended. I am standing behind one of the couches, shifting from one foot to the other, when Bill Doran strikes out. During the Doran at bat, McCarver notes that in 18 innings in this series, Mets relievers have not allowed an earned run. Thanks, Tim.  Up comes Billy Hatcher. Hatcher hit six home runs in '86, three from each side of the plate, but had just eight in 591 career ABs. On the second pitch of the at bat, Hatcher laces a fastball down the line.  My knees buckle when he hits it and I let out a big sigh when the camera catches up to it to show that it is going foul. Yikes, that was close. Carter smartly pockets the inside fastball and calls for a curve (called strike 2) on the next pitch, as McCarver notes, "I don't think Hatcher will get another inside fastball this at bat. Either a heater away or a curve. (the next pitch is a fastball away, ball 2) If you make a mistake on a fastball away, a single is all he'll get. Inside could be a homer." After a breaking ball just misses, the count is now full. The next pitch is a fastball in. As Keith Jackson says the words, "High in the air... toward the corner..." I start to bend over. "...curving... home run!" The ball hits the net attached to the foul pole and I drop to my knees, throwing my hands on my head. I cannot believe it. This can't be happening. I have no more energy. This game needed to end. Now. I have nothing left to give and now we are tied in the bottom of the 14th. I've never known true despair in my life until this moment.
The next two Astros batters go quickly and there is much needed time to regroup. Breath. Breath.
   The Mets do not score off 88-year old Aurelio Lopez in the 15th (Gordon Frazer covered Lopez in the '47 series). The Astros do nothing off Orosco, who seems to have regrouped.
   As the 16th inning starts, it occurs to me that I have not eaten since breakfast at around 9am. Perhaps that's the reason for the pain in my side. Perhaps not.
   Strawberry leads off the frame with a pop-fly, AstroTurf bounce double, that Hatcher misread. It should have been an out. I am standing and shuffling again. Knight rips a single to right and just like in the 14th, Strawberry is racing around third and I am jumping like a maniac. And just like the 14th inning, it looks like a good throw may get him, but Kevin Bass's throw is way up the line. As the Astros new pitcher is warming up, Tim McCarver compares this game to Beowulf. Really? I read Beowulf during my freshman year. I suppose I wanted to kill myself during that too, but for completely different reasons.  The Mets tack on two more runs and now we have a three run cushion. Finally, breathing room.
   Orosco is out for his third inning. Davey Johnson has no other choice. Doug Sisk is not coming in this game. Orosco does away with Craig Reynolds and we are two outs away from the World Series. Davey Lopes walks. No biggie. Bill Doran singles. OK, tying run is at the plate, but a ground ball can be a DP and we're done. Meeting at the mound. McCarver has left the booth to go to the field for post game interviews. Billy Hatcher is up. Not again. There's no way he can do it again. Please, Jesse, no inside fastballs. Fastball away, ripped to center for a single, Lopes scores and it's 7-5. I can not take it. The pain comes rushing back to my sides. Another meeting at the mound. Davey Johnson takes part in this one and says something like, "Jesse, I've run out of TUMS and Doug Sisk is warming up in the pen. For the love of all that is holy, please get two more outs." I am now sitting on the couch, both knees pulled up to my chest, peeking over those knees. Walling grounds into a force play as Hernandez smartly gets the out at second, keeping the tying run on first base. Glenn Davis and his 31 HRs come to the plate. If I had any pee in me, it would be coming down my pant leg right now, but there is nothing in me but fear. Davis bloops a breaking ball to center but Dykstra pulls a Billy Hatcher, breaks back on the ball and can't recover in time. Doran scores. It's 7-6. The tying and winning run are on base. I am now rocking, praying, cursing, crying and sweating. Orosco throws a couple of good breaking balls in the dirt that Bass chases and misses. McCarver, from his vantage point in the Mets clubhouse says, "Keith, you are in a situation right now, I do not believe Orosco will waste any kind of fastball. You are in a situation where the whole season depends on one pitch and my guess is a breaking ball." The next two pitches are breaking balls away that just miss. If I had a cell phone in 1986, I would have already dialed the 9 and the 1 with my finger sitting on the 1. The count is full. Orosco throws one more breaking ball and Jackson proclaims "Struck him out!!!" I scream. I fall to the floor. I may have blacked out.
   Twenty five years later this remains the most exhausted I have ever been after watching a game. The Mets ensuing World Series win and the Broncos Super Bowl victory over the Packers brought the ultimate joy, but this game ran the emotional gamut like nothing I've experienced before or since. As Keith Jackson is wrapping up, he notes this game was "brought to you by Chevrolet, the heartbeat of America." A heartbeat is something I am glad to still have after that game.


Watching this game 25 years later it is astonishing how little is made of game 7 and the Mets having to face the dominant Scott if we get there. The first time it's mentioned that Scott would be the starter in a game 7 is the top of the 3rd inning. In the bottom of the 5th McCarver points out that if the Astros and Red Sox both win today (Clemens pitched for Boston in their game 7 win against the Angels on this day), both Scott and Roger Clemens would not be available for game 1 of the World Series.  If this NLCS were to be played now, there would be montages of Scott striking out batters with Mets players collecting scuffed baseballs in the dugout, graphics showing Scott's numbers in the first two games, sound bites from both teams and league officials talking about the controversy. In 1986, barely a mention.

I still think Billy Hatcher should have caught Dykstra's ball in the 9th and could have caught Hernandez's ball in that inning as well.

The Mets also got a break when Bill Doran mistimed his jump on Wilson's soft-liner in the 9th.

Great moment in the 9th when Dave Smith's 1-2 pitch to Knight misses outside. Astros catcher Andy Ashby slammed his leg in frustration after the pitch is called a ball. Knight stands over the plate and yells back at Ashby, who gets in Knights face. Astros manager Hal Lanier comes to the mound with the sole purpose of waiting for the home plate ump, Fred Brocklander, to come to the mound so he can yell at him. As Brocklander makes his way to the mound, Astros SS Dickie Thon has to be held back by his teammates as he yells at Brocklander. It's a good 30 or so seconds of controlled pandemonium over a pitch that was a foot outside.

The Mets hit just .189 in the series, striking out 57 times. 

The Mets made just 1 error in the series. 

What they said after the game:
Gary Carter: "Mike Scott was our incentive to Win Game 6.We didn't want to face Him in Game 7.''
Bob Knepper: "For 8 innings, that's the best I've ever pitched."
Keith Hernandez: "That's the best series I've ever played in," and "If we had lost this series it would have been the biggest disappointment of my career."
Ray Knight: "This is my 16th year in professional baseball and I've never been involved in something so emotional and under such a mental strain and under as such physical as I have been in this series. 
Mike Scott, who was named MVP, said "I'm numb." 

14 October, 2011

a collection of links

some links from the week in case you missed them

a preview of an upcoming E:60 piece on former wrestling star Scott Hall

a very funny moment on Family Feud

Hulk Hogan takes on Tim Tebow

My 1st contribution to

12 October, 2011

Face Off- Thoughts on the Breaking Bad Finale

   by Gus Ramsey  (10/11/11)
   Sunday night the words "Walter White is dead" were not uttered, but the words "Gus is dead" were. They could not have been said more matter of factly than the way Walter White delivered them. After a dramatic pause and look of astonishment on Jesse's face, Walt added "We've got work to do." That is not only true for Jesse and Walt, but for Vince Gilligan and his creative team, as well. Trying to figure out where the final 16 episodes goes after the spectacular execution of Gus Fringe is probably fruitless, because every time you think you know something about this show, Gilligan reminds you that you don't. Let's review the season finale, Face Off, with a few perspectives thanks to some of my followers on Twitter.

 Steve Braband 

 the episode title makes ALOT of sense now. wow.



   Agreed. I'm not one to pay attention to titles of TV show episodes. Other than LOST (because you had to pay attention to everything on that show) and Police Squad (because of the humor in it), episode titles always seemed insignificant. I was not aware of the title of this episode going into it. Had I been, I probably would have thought nothing of it (the Walt v Gus showdown was inevitable) or, perhaps, thought John Woo was guest director. Learning the name of the episode after the fact made it even more enjoyable.
   As for THE SCENE, I thought it was spectacular. Beginning from the moment Gus says on his cell phone "I do this," the drama builds. Gus changes from his work clothes into his work clothes. Then he pulls into the parking lot at Casa Tranquilla and sends in his man to make sure it's safe. With western music fitting for a gun fight at high noon in the background, we get a :25 iso on Gus's stony visage sitting in the car. :25!! That's an eternity in a TV show and a brilliant decision by Gilligan as it pushes the drama of the moment further and further. Finally, jarringly, his cell phone rings. Gus begins his procession toward the retirement home, and again the camera, right behind Gus' head, sells the sense of a showdown at the not-so OK Corral.
   As the scene unfolds in Hector's room, Gus is just about to inject Hector with a fatal dose of something and Hector looks like he is going to cry. Suddenly his face changes to anger and he begins to ring his now famous wheelchair bell. The facial transformation of Hector in a :06 span stuns Gus and astonished me. If there were an Emmy for best facial expressions, Mark Margolis would be a finalist, along with Nolan Ryan. We quickly get the camera pan down to the bomb, a scream from Gus and the explosion.

 Kyle Roberts 

 No. Words.


 his face!!!

 Peter Cheng 


 When Gus first leaves the room I thought "what the hell??" but when the camera pans around as Gus straightens his tie, we eventually see a Terminator looking shell of a face left on the right side of Gus' head before he falls dead. Some people thought that moment was a bit cartoonish, but I enjoyed it because it was so Gus. He had always been so meticulous, I wouldn't have it any other way.
   Shortly thereafter we are treated to the second best line of season 4 (behind "I'm the guy who knocks") when Skyler asks Walt "what happened" and he stoically but defiantly proclaims "I won." It's at this point I felt a sense of finality and satisfaction, but that's when Gilligan dropped the bombshell. The closing shot of the Lily of the Valley plant sent a shiver down my spine (after the fact I connected the dots of this scene and the one in the prior episode of Walt spinning his gun a few times before it stops, pointing toward the plant). It was an epic twist that sets us up for what I always expected, that ultimately this show is coming down to Walt vs Jesse. Those two characters are almost complete opposites from where they started. Jesse is becoming a caring family man who has immediate regrets for any objectionable actions. Walt is now a cold blooded killer who justifies all his heinous acts, including poisoning a child, as acts of family preservation. In reality, Walt only wants to be what Gus was, The Man. As one Twitter follower said
    Tom McKenna 

 Walter White died in the cellar in Crawl Space. Only Heinsberg climbed out.

   In the end, I completely agree with this assessment.
   Jim Henry 

 it seemed like that would have been the perfect series finale so I'm pumped for next season!

   They could have called it quits right there and I would have been TOTALLY satisfied. But now we get 16 more episodes (probably split over two seasons) to see how it ends. One of my friends thinks Walt will end up getting nailed by Hank and lose everything, resulting in his entire purpose of this journey blowing up in his face. He always said he was doing everything for his family and he'll be left with none of them by his side. I think Hank never finds out that Walt was Heizenberg and Walt dies from his cancer. Walter is all about control and that's the one thing thing he has no control over. It's going to be a long wait until season 5, but you know it'll be worth it.

 Jeremy Buffone 

 That was fantastic. My heart was racing the entire episode.

 Michael Weil 

 How the hell are they gonna frame the final season after that???

 Tim lacock 

 so good. Excited to see where they take this. 


Meeting the Hulkster

   by Gus Ramsey

   Thanks to my job, I've had the good fortune of meeting some cool people over the years. Today I had the great pleasure to spend some time with Hulk Hogan.
   The Hulkster burst into my world in 1982, when I was fifteen, with his performance as Thunderlips in Rocky 3. I only half-jokingly tell people it is the greatest scene ever filmed for the big screen. Nearly thirty years later, The Hulkster is as omnipresent as ever.
   In the 80's when Hulk Hogan became a house hold name, he was as important as any athlete/entertainer in my life. Not only was the WWF becoming part of my every day world, but their storyline capitalizing on the US/Iran tensions with Hogan vs Iron Sheik had everyone hot and bothered. As Hogan so often explains about winning his first WWF title, "The state of relations between the USA and Iran was total chaos, so the hatred toward the Iron Sheik was real."  When Hogan pinned the Sheik on 1/23/84 to win the strap, I was as excited and emotional as I was for any big win by one of the teams I rooted for, and I was not alone. Just check the crowd reaction at Madison Square Garden that night.
  The Hogan experience blew up from there. The 24-inch pythons, the trademark mustache, the pantheon-level entrance music, the catch phrases about prayers and vitamins and "whatcha gonna do when Hulkamania runs wild on you?!" followed by the double fisted "shooting" of himself off camera,
it all came together and he helped take wrestling from a freak show to The Show, culminating in Wrestlemania. Hulk body slamming Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania 3 remains one of the watershed moments in sports entertainment history. Hulk said today that the first time he tried to hoist Andre up, he was too heavy and he stumbled back. The second time, Hulk said he got his balance and got Andre off his feet, but as he went to raise Andre higher for the slam he tore muscles in his back and shoulder. So one of the most monumental moments in his career was one his most painful.

   You could argue that Hogan is among the most recognizable "athletes" in the world. As my friend Nick said, "If I showed my wife flash cards with pictures of Magic Johnson and Wayne Gretzky and Hulk Hogan, she would know Hogan. She probably wouldn't know the other two." For people of my era, Mike Tyson and Michael Jordan may, may, be the only two who would get recognized more often.
   Meeting Hogan today I was struck by how all the beatings and all the surgeries had taken their toll on the 58 year old. His face is worn with the lines of punishment endured. Some of his own doing, some from countless opponents in the ring and some from an '80s lifestyle that great fortune afforded back then. He moves gingerly and deliberately. He told me the eight back surgeries, some just to remove the pins and wires that were put in him, were the worst. Two of the operations resulted in bad anaesthesia experiences and left Hogan hospitalized for extended periods. Despite all that, it's still mezmerizing to watch him flip the switch and go into "Hulkster" mode. He goes from a relatively docile and subdued man, to a raging ball of energy, spouting out his trademark lines as he shoves his charisma down our throats with his powerful hands as they wave frantically in our face.
    Hulk admits the last two years have been tough on him. His personal life has been a battle royal unto itself. But he seems to have rebounded, remarrying and immersing himself in his own wrestling company, TNA. He is pleasant and engaging to talk to. He loves wrestling and enjoys talking with those who love it too. He is quick to point out that the real star of wrestling is wrestling. "Hulk Hogan is replaceable. The Rock is replaceable. The stars come and go, but the show remains. The writers are so good that they can turn anyone into a star."
   When we were done talking we "got a Polaroid together," or this case an iPhone. We only spent ten minutes together, but it was the thrill of a lifetime. It's not everyday you get to hang with Thunderlips... in the flesh, baby.

the Ultimate Meatball and the Ultimate Male

08 October, 2011

The Day I Met Al Davis

   By Gus Ramsey

   The year is 1977. I am 10 years old and embarking on my first, full-fledged season of NFL watching. I have not gleaned too much from the sport other than this; I love the Broncos. I hate the Raiders. It seemed like that was all I needed to know. Life was all about good and evil. That same year Star Wars was released. A pretty clear depiction of good vs. evil, if ever there was one. Darth Vader was the face of evil. Or, at least the face behind the mask of evil. At age 10, it was easy for me to tell the difference.
In my NFL-viewing world, it broke down this way, Broncos = good. Raiders = evil. At the forefront of Evildom was Al Davis. He was the living, breathing (wuuuuhhhhh-puuuurrrrhhh) Darth Vader of the NFL. I hated everything about him and his team.

   The year is 1990. I am 23 years old and embarking on what I hope is a full-fledged, successful sports-journalism career. In May of that year, the NFL owners meetings were held out at Disney World. I was dispatched to interview some of the owners and get some soundbites about whatever the important issues happened to be. When I arrived, my cameraman and I went upstairs and as we walked down the hall, there he was, Al Davis. His hair was slicked back, he had on his famous eye glasses, he was wearing some kind of studded Raiders jacket. He looked like The Fonz's great uncle. He was talking to another owner, so I positioned myself about 30 feet away, in his line of sight, hoping that he would see I was waiting to speak with him. After about ten minutes of waiting, stirring, contemplating how I would handle my showdown with Darth himself, and general nervous passing of time, I was approached by another man. He was a smaller fellow with a beard. He looked up and said "Are you waiting to speak with Mr. Davis?"
   "Yes. I was hoping to ask him a few questions."
   "OK. Just wait a few minutes and he'll be free," the man said. (I would later learn that man was Al LoCasale, Davis' longtime right hand man.)

   A few more minutes passed and finally Mr. Davis waived me over. So here I was, pacing towards one of the biggest villains in sports. I was prepared for a terse, grumpy, son of a gun who would dismiss me as quickly as a speck on his famous spectacles. I expected him to wreak of Aqua Velva, Grecian formula and gin and tonic. I was ready to ask the tough questions (whatever those were). I was ready to represent Broncomaniacs everywhere. I planted my feet shoulder width apart, gripped my mic like Rambo just before he says, "Murdock, I'm coming to get you," and braced for the showdown.
   "Mr. Davis, I'm Gus Ramsey from the NBC station here in town," I said steadfastly.
    And then he spoke. He spoke without the Darth Vader wuuuuhhhhh-puuuurrrrhhh. He didn't smell like anything. What gives?
   "Hello, Gus. Nice to meet you? How old are you?"
   "Um... twenty three, sir. (about 90 years younger than you, gramps)"
   "Are you just starting your career?" he asked.
   "Uh, yessir, I am," I said, completely perplexed by the sincerity of the dastardly leader of Raider Nation.
   "Good for you, son. Good for you. Keep at it. If it's your dream, go after it and don't let anyone tell you you can't do it. I wish you the best of luck. Now, what did you want to ask me?"
   Somehow I conducted the interview (I have no idea what I asked), and shook Mr. Davis' hand when it was over.

   The year is 2011. Mr. Davis died today. He lived 82 years and milked them for all they were worth. He was a pioneer, a rebel, a visionary, an owner, a champion and a maverick. He was someone I hated, for no reason other than the team he owned, until the day we met. On that day he wasn't an evil tyrant, he wasn't Darth Vader without the mask, he was kind. I'll always remember and appreciate that.
   Rest in peace, Mr. Davis.    

04 October, 2011


   By Gus Ramsey

   My drive from work to home is twelve minutes long, thirteen with traffic. So my entertainment window during that time is small. Some days I hope to hear three good songs on the radio. On other days there is the often entertaining WFAN radio and it's mainstay host, Mike Francesa, with his thick accent and a pompousness that makes Donald Trump seem humble. My hope when I listen to MIke is that someone will call with a really bad question and send him into a fit of anger or a lecture laced with superiority. And no, the two are not mutually exclusive. (some of the better ones can be seen on YouTube.)

   On a separate note, you may know I am a Mets fan. That makes me a "New York Baseball Fan." You know us, we're the ones (Mets and Yankees fans) who often get praised by the media and, at times, the players, for being smart baseball fans. We "understand the game," and are "really passionate".
I always cringe when I hear people say that because you need a pretty big brush to paint that large of a group people.
   Now, take all that into consideration as I share with you the five questions I heard in succession to Mike Francesa on my drive home yesterday.

#1 Caller: "Hi Mike. Love your show (still waiting for the first person to open with "your show sucks, but I wanted to wait an hour on hold to talk to you anyway.") In all the time Alex Rodriguez has been a Yankee he has never come through in the postseason.... I mean..."
    Mike: "Wait a second, wait a second...Nevuh? Did you watch the 2009 playoffs? Two game-winning homahs. 18 ribbies. He saved the Twins series with that 9th inning homah. I mean. c'mon already. What kind of a Yankee fan are you anyway?"

#2  Caller: "Mike, Girardi made a big mistake leaving Garcia in in the 6th.... Should have taken him out."
      Mike: "Why? He had only given up two runs and had thrown like 50 pitches?"
      Caller: "Nah, they should have pulled him."
      Mike: "He had not given up a run in 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th... He had thrown like 50 pitches? There was no reason to take him out. And replace him with who, by the way. Who are you gunna replace him with? That is a CLASSIC second guess. A classic second guess." (Mike likes to repeat himself.)

#3 Caller: "Hey Mike. The Yankees should start Burnett tonight and pitch CC in game 4 so they don't have him going against Verlander."
    Me in my head: Oh boy. This is going to be good. Mike HATES this idea.
    Mike: (starting slowly) "Well, it's CC's day to pitch. It's his day.... Look, they already put him in the room with the media yesterday... it's his day....(getting hotter) I mean, the Yankees should just concede this game? This is a best of five series and you want them to just give a game away? You can't do that in a best of five. Sabathia is your ace! Geez. What people forget about sports is that the idea is to COMPETE. Not to say, 'well, we can't be this guy today.' C'mon with this stuff."

#4  Caller: "Mike, Teixeira is killing the Yankees. I think maybe they should sit him tonight and play Eric Chavez at first. He's been looking good when they play him."
      Mike: "How many homahs did Teixeira hit this year?"
      Caller: "I have no clue. 25?
      Mike: "39. 39!" How many did Chavez hit?"
      Caller: "I don't know..."
      Mike: "2. He hit 2. It's 39 to 2 and you want to sit Teixeira for Chavez? 39 to 2. This is what happens in the playoffs, people lose their minds!"

#5  Caller: "Hi Mike. I've been listening to your show for a long time. Your the best... in America (hmmmm. Wonder what kind of research this caller did for that hypothesis.) Look, I really think Girardi should have taken Garcia our before the 6th inning....
      Mike: "He had just put up goose eggs in 4 straight innings! He had hardly thrown any pitches. And who would you have brought in by the way?? "

   At this point I pull into my driveway. So in a span of twelve minutes, and five phone calls by those "intelligent" baseball fans, I got "a guy who propelled his team to a title with 6 HRs and 18 rbi never did anything clutch,"  "The gold glove,  run producing 1st baseman should sit for a dude with an OPS of .676 in 160 ABs this year," "the best starting pitcher on our team shouldn't face the best starting pitcher on their team because we're going to lose anyway," and "the starting pitcher who had given up one hit over the previous four innings and had thrown a minimal number of pitches, should not have come out for the 6th inning." Oh, and none of them mentioned the Jeter error that started the 6th.

   Maybe the smart baseball fans are too smart to call shows like these. But for those twelve minutes I'm driving home, I'm kind of glad they don't.