Thursday, January 31, 2008

Classic card of the week

*Special Super Bowl edition!
Jim Bakken, 1976 Topps

I feel bad for the Cardinals right about now. Two of the NFL’s elite teams and franchises are descending upon their home field, about to battle it out for league supremacy, while the Cardinals’ most notable participation in Super Bowl activities involves Matt Leinart hosting 13 parties in the span of three days.

So in honor of this year’s Super Bowl host, I wanted to call to mind the days of yore, when the Cardinals were from St. Louis, and they boasted Pro-Bowl kickers who pensively waited on the sidelines contemplating their next field goal attempt, unconcerned with such matters as hair gel or the concept of fashionably late. Jim Bakken was old skool, a St. Louis native who kicked footballs for the hometown team for -- as you’ll see from the statistical data on the back of the card -- 36 years. It would be a cold day in hell before Jim Bakken allowed the Patriots and Giants to play football uncontested on his team’s home field. He would surely challenge these imposters to various feats of kicking ability, of which he would be victorious, ultimately refusing to be carried off the field in celebration, because it was simply something that had to be done. In fact, because of Jim Bakken, there was no Super Bowl in 1975. You can look that up.*

But Jim Bakken was just one Cardinal, albeit the best one. What about the others? Let’s get teased by the trivia on the back of the card, shall we?

Guess the mystery Cardinal
I gained 28 yards on a rushing play in 1965.

The obvious answer to this question is, “Who gives a shit?” I mean, seriously. That is the most difficult and unreasonable trivia question I could ever imagine. Even if the Internet was around in 1976, that’d be a tough one to figure out. Then again, a 28-yard play in 1965 was the equivalent of a 375-yard Devin Hester kickoff return for a touchdown while he’s not wearing a helmet in 2007, so maybe that “rushing play” came to mind more easily for some elder statesmen. Also, this is only “clue 4 of 12,” so if one were to keep acquiring the football cards of Cardinals’ players -- and who doesn't want to do that? -- then this riddle could possibly be solved. For example, clue 10 of 12 states:

I like ham.

In this respect, the answer becomes infinitely more obvious.

Did you know?

In 2006, the mystery Cardinal gained 28 yards on 17 carries. The Cardinal was Edgerrin James, and the mystery was why they paid him a bazillion dollars to do so.

*Do not look that up.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Classic card of the week

Bill Cartwright, 1992-93 Stadium Club

Every kid like myself who was totally obsessed with Michael Jordan growing up -- read: all of them -- was all too familiar with Bill Cartwright. He was a necessary evil in the world of those dominant Chicago Bulls teams -- the antithesis of Jordan and Pippen’s unmatched athleticism, yet required to guard the likes of Patrick Ewing and Bill Lambier when playoff time rolled around. Truth be told, Bill Cartwright was pretty darn good during his heyday with the Knicks of the early 80’s, but by the time this card was printed, he was spending most of days grooming his grey goatee, getting outscored by his man, and getting yelled at by Jordan. Nevertheless, Cartwright was always respected as a leader, as evidenced by his coaching tenure with the Bulls later on in his career. Obviously, he must have had a deep, enduring basketball philosophy. But what was it? Let’s go to the back of the card to find out:

His quote, “You’ve got to accept blows and you’ve got to give blows,” characterizes his game…

During his first practice as Chicago Bulls head coach, Cartwright gathered his team around in a huddle, and he asked them, “Okay, who here is willing to accept blows?” The entire team raised their hands (they also gave each other high fives, and recounted stories that proved they were, in fact, willing to accept blows). Then Cartwright said, “Alright, alright…but who here is willing to give blows?” Nobody raised their hand. In fact, Bulls forward Ron Artest simply stormed out of practice, shouting, “Oh no, he didn’t,” as he left the gym. “But that,” Cartwright continued, “is what separates the good teams from the great teams.” The Bulls responded to Cartwright’s powerful words by finishing the 2001-02 season with a 21-61 record, mostly as a result of their inability to return blows. Cartwright was also often criticized for leaving his starting five in for the full 48 minutes, refusing to give them, as many game announcers put it, a blow. Cartwright’s career itself was given a blow when he was fired as head coach 14 games into the 2003-04 season.

Did you know?
When Bill Cartwright goes out to dinner with friends, he will frequently walk right up to the host or hostess, and yell, in an Asian accent, “Cartwright! Four!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A ‘to-do’ list for Super Bowl weekend

Note: This column appears in the 1/31 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 2/1 issue of the Peoria Times

As they say, sometimes the anticipation of something is actually greater than the event itself. A good example of this would be almost every Super Bowl, ever. That is an even more appropriate example considering the Super Bowl is this Sunday. So while it is yet to be determined how good the actual game will be, there are a million things going on right now in anticipation of the Big Game, and you’d be remiss, come Monday morning, if you didn’t get your lazy butt off the couch and take advantage. With that in mind, here’s a list of suggestions of things to do for the next few days. And as you’ll see, there’s something for everyone.

For example…

If you like kids, or the NFL, or possibly both, get your tickets for:

The NFL Experience at the University of Phoenix Stadium. Get some free autographs from NFL players, test out real-life football gear, or -- with its array of interactive competitions such as passing, field goal kicking, and wind sprints -- find out once and for all if your 7-year old has what it takes to make it to the National Football League.

If you’re a Scottsdale twenty-something who was priced out of Los Angeles, you’ll want to ask somebody you know to please get you into:

P. Diddy’s Super Bowl block party outside of Scottsdale’s Club Axis/Radius, this Thursday, Jan. 31. Don’t forget to bring your cousin’s best friend’s sister’s cousin, who once met Diddy at a coffee shop. He totally remembers her!


The 2008 Maxim Super Bowl Party at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort. The date for the party is currently listed as “Saturday, February 1,” which should serve to adequately confuse many of the wannabe celebrities that plan on attending.

Does this shirt make my knees look fat? And what day is it?

If you’re ATM password is “Bosco,” then you don’t want to miss:

The Glendale Chocolate Affaire in Historic Downtown Glendale on 58th & Glendale Avenues, Feb. 1 & 2. Super Bowl + chocolate? That’s a no brainer.

If you came here for the Super Bowl, but you really need a new lamp for your guest room, mosey on down to:

The Antique Shops at Old Towne & Catlin Court in Downtown Glendale. A quaint afternoon spent antique shopping should balance out the drunken disaster that Super Bowl Sunday usually turns into.

If you can’t wait to see up-and-coming contemporary rock star Tom Petty perform at this year’s Halftime Show, then you definitely don’t want to miss:

The Gridiron Greats Super Jam at the Hotel Scottsdale on Saturday, Feb. 2. Come out and see many of the legendary rock stars that have miraculously survived years of touring and assumed excesses, such as Boz Scaggs, Tommy Miller of The Allman Brothers, Pat Travers, and a fraction of Jefferson Starship. Mike Ditka will also be there, of course. To rock.

They don't make rock stars like they used to, with all their dilly-dallying, hip-hopping, and hulabaloo. Back in MY day, a guy like Boz Scaggs would put out three albums per week! And he wouldn't be caught dead doing a duet with Omarion!

Or, if you prefer music from the past decade or so, be sure to check out:

The NFL Pepsi Smash Super Bowl Concert Series at Arena in Glendale, featuring Mary J. Blige & Maroon Five on Thursday, Jan. 31, and RBD on Friday, Feb. 1. VH1 will be taping the event for a one-hour special to be aired Saturday, so if you act crazy enough, you may even get your own reality show!

If you would like your perceptions of professional football players to be adequately challenged, then come on out to:

Smocks & Jocks 2008, Saturday Feb. 2, 10:30am – 1:30 pm, at Skye Restaurant in Peoria. This event will feature art created by many current and retired NFL players, topped off by a silent auction. It could be your first and only opportunity to say, “The depth of this particular piece is remarkable, and it beautifully leans towards the impressionist style of Monet. You were on my fantasy team last year.”

If you don’t have any money, but would still like to be entertained, come out to:

Super Bowl Saturday Night at Tempe Downtown Lake, from 6-10pm. Why go? It’s free! Experience some great Super Bowl Eve entertainment, such as live music, fireworks, and other cool stuff. It is quite possible that orange drink will be served, but don’t quote me.

For more information on these events, please contact the Internet. Or call Diddy.

Oh, and enjoy the game, too!

Good evening everyone, and welcome to a wonderful evening of theater and picking up after yourselves.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Classic card of the week

Neil O’Donnell, 1992 Score

In honor of the upcoming Super Bowl, I figured we’d post the card of a Super Bowl quarterback. Not a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, mind you -- my Trent Dilfer cards are locked up tight in a safe somewhere in Switzerland, obviously -- but a Super Bowl quarterback nonetheless. Yes, Neil O’Donnell was the starting quarterback during Super Bowl XXX (a.k.a. the Porn Bowl), which featured the Steelers and the Cowboys (whose own quarterback, coincidentally, had not spent the previous few days in Mexico with the singer Monica.) At the risk of spoiling the surprise, the Cowboys won. But we can’t blame O’Donnell, whose three interceptions -- two of which, if I remember correctly, he threw directly at Cowboys’ defensive back Larry Brown -- immediately led to Dallas scores. (As a result, Brown became the first person in NFL history to be named Super Bowl MVP based solely on the merits of being able to catch a football.) Okay, well…maybe we can blame O’Donnell. But I choose not to. Why? Because of this:

No, that is not a shadow. That is a mullet. An amazing mullet, and one that can only adequately be captured within the confines of a cartoon field goal. Now, mind you, many jokes have been made about mullets. And yes, by this point, everybody gets it -- mullets are ridiculous. Making fun of mullets may have even jumped the shark…who knows. And I don’t know…call me sentimental, but when I turned over this card to check out Neil O’Donnell’s amazing 1991 statistics, a rush of mullet-goodness flowed through my body, and my love of making fun of mullets returned, in one fell swoop. Maybe it’s the combination of the “tough guy face” mixed with a lack of self-awareness that yes, “I have a mullet.” Maybe it’s because this is my favorite kind of mullet -- the part in the front, short sides, no sideburns (perfectly executed very rarely, by the way). Or maybe it’s because -- with the Super Bowl theme we have going on here -- Neil O’Donnell reminded me that Tom Brady is sort of growing a mullet right now. (And also, since the game will be on Fox, this.) Either way, it's arguable that Neil O'Donnell has done more for the mullet than he has done for even Larry Brown.

Not really, but still.

Did you know?
Many of our great nation’s least most successful bloggers entrepreneurs have followed the path of Neil O’Donnell, who is Irish, from NJ, and who went to college in Maryland.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Super Bowl mailbag!

Maybe you remember our Feedback Friday segment from just a few days ago, where a New England fan sent in a fantastic email to berate me, alternately proving the very point I was sarcastically trying to make in the original column. And maybe you were saying to yourself, “Boy, I wish Mike got more negative feedback like that!” Well, you’re in luck, because when I arrived in the office on Monday, I had two more amazing pieces of literary genius from New England fans just waiting for me to peruse.

So, since the Super Bowl will renew the oft-ignored rivalry between New York and New England, I figured why not get things underway with a mailbag featuring Boston fans who hate me?! So without further ado…

Mike Kenny is a lousy, NY biased writer who should go back to Jersey…

A solid start. Though I’m intrigued to see where this one goes.

His stereotype-filled article about the upcoming Super Bowl in Glendale was pretty weak and very very negative…

The column, if you’ll remember, actually acknowledged that I would be playing on stereotypes of fan bases. Ya’ know, sarcastically. But whatever. As for the general “weakness” and “negativity” of the column, here is where Ted backs up his argument:

The Super Bowl is a fun event and will bring a lot of money into AZ. – Ted

Point well taken, Ted, albeit it in obvious contrast to my original point that the Super Bowl is not a fun event, and will not bring money into AZ. I thank Ted for calling me out on that one. But let’s get to my favorite email:

As a Bostonian living in NYC, he is quite a familiar voice, yet most New Yorkers wouldn’t dare publish such idiocy.

They’re right.

It is so sad that your paper in friendly and beautiful Arizona, must put up with such New York-skewed sports coverage…

That’s my bad. I had originally asked the paper for an Iowa-skewed gardening column, but they insisted on sports. Too boot, the New York-centric nature of the column is indeed unnecessary, considering the Giants are not in the Super Bowl, which is not in Arizona.

Mr. Kenny, who clearly cannot let go of the evil NY/Boston rivalry even though he has moved to AZ, attempts to make you readers believe that Patriots fans are a crude and obnoxious group…

What? I didn’t do that! Okay, well…yeah, I kind of did. What can I say -- this is an evil rivalry. Evil, I tell you!

As for his comment that Bostonians will arrive and complain that Arizona is bereft of foliage and unattractive females – I can only guess that he didn’t have quite enough intelligence left in his brain to say something that, well, I suppose a good writer would say in such an article…

Speaking of a “good writer,” that was eloquently spoken.

I wouldn’t want his brain cells to work too hard, however, so if he doesn’t understand this letter – just spell out BITTER NY FAN…

Yes, I am very bitter that my favorite football team is in the Super Bowl. Makes sense. But this email is making my brain cells hurt.

The point is New Englanders love Arizona and we are excited that the Super Bowl is being held there (warm, beautiful, friendly!). We are sorry, however, that you have ol’ Mikey boy from the Ol’ boy’s network, invading your thinking with his ignorant diatribe… - Anonymous

Thanks for writing in, anonymous. And don’t forget to check out next week’s column, entitled, “Arizona: Warm, beautiful, AND friendly? C’mon…” which will be simulcast live on the “Ol’ Boys Network,” whatever that is.

Anyway, I’m glad to report that at least a few New England fans were able to grasp the sarcasm of the aforementioned column, in which I described New York Giants’ fans as “Notoriously the most respectful and least-abrasive fans in the NFL,” obviously ignoring such events as EVERY SINGLE GIANTS’ GAME, the “snowball fiasco of 1995,” and the fact that every curse word I ever learned I originally heard at Giants Stadium as a child, being hurled in the direction of Phil Simms, who had just led his team to a Super Bowl title. Ugh. If I knew a way to wink in print, I would.


Ol’ Mikey boy

I get sarcasm! Get IT in your FACE! Arrgghhhh! Go Pats!!!

Wolf and I

On the scale of great days in the history of my lifetime, today ranks somewhere in between the Yankees winning it all in '96, and my wedding day.

For today I met an American Gladiator. Not just an American Gladiator...THE American Gladiator:


Yes, Wolf (real name Don Yates) came into our office for an interview. Turns out, he's from Peoria -- I live in Peoria! We're practically the same person! -- and my coworker Chelsea is currently grilling him in the conference room, which is a good thing, because if I were conducting the interview, it would sound like this: It says here you howl because you're a Wolf...Is that accurate? He was actually supposed to come in last week, at which point I immediately called my wife (she loves Wolf so much that I should actually be a little concerned), and she told me to make sure I told him that she thinks he is "the most bad-ass of all the Gladiators." She also told me to try and have Wolf call my brother-in-law, sign a few autographs, etc., etc. It was to be a regular Wolf field day, but alas, he had to cancel because he was taping an episode of "Deal or no Deal," obviously.

But today he came in. And I met him. I shook his hand, he got up to pose for a picture with me, and this ensued:

Me: Wow,'s great to meet you! We were just watching you on TV last night...

Wolf: (Smiling) Alright, alright, cool. (Poses for picture with me)

Me: My wife wanted me to tell you that she thinks you're the most bad-ass of all the Gladiators.

(Pause for!)

Wolf: She's a smart woman.

(Awkward pause...)

Me: That's why I married her.

Shake his hand again..

Me: Thanks so much! Is was so great meeting you!

(End scene.)

Not surprisingly, I didn't have the courage -- or gall -- to ask Wolf to start making calls to various people on my cell phone. I was too nervous. I can't imagine how I would act if I ever met one of the Beatles. The verdict from Chelsea, and from my own experience, is that Wolf is a nice guy, who is polite, but gets to the point. But what more could you expect...

He's freakin' Wolf!

Ed. Note: We differed on hand gestures. His was better.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Feedback Friday!

Because I now reside in another state, far, far, away, people from back home often ask me how I'm doing with the writing. "What's it like writing for a weekly in Arizona?" and "Have you gotten any feedback yet?" Well, luckily, yes -- I AM getting some feedback! In fact, just today I received this little nugget of goodness in my inbox:

Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2008 11:45 AM
To: Mike Kenny
Subject: Hey Mike Kenny

Just read your vomit about New England sports fans and I had to take a moment to tell you what an outstanding job you've done of showing your ignorance. But then, what more could anyone expect from a piece of New York shit like you?

With utmost sincerity,
Dave Pete

So there you have it! Amazingly, making fun of New England sports fans from Arizona isn't much different than making fun of New England sports fans from New Jersey, in that no matter where you make fun of them from, they just...don't...get it. And on that note, this piece of New York shit (from New Jersey) wishes you all a great weekend...

Go Giants!

And, obviously, Chargers.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Classic card of the week

Carl Pickens, 1992 AW Sports

Few players loved America as much as Carl Pickens, who refused to be a part of this Carl Pickens card unless America was adequately acknowledged. And while it may be difficult to notice unless you look closely at this card, the American flag is, in fact, waving above Carl Pickens’ head. It is widely assumed that, going through Carl Pickens’ mind at this very moment as he waits to field a punt, are the emotional words of the National Anthem, which go, “And I’m proud to be an Americaaaan, where at least I know I’m freeeee…” That, I’m being told, is actually not the National Anthem. But it should be.

Besides loving America, Carl Pickens also played for the Cincinnati Bengals in the early 90’s, who were quarterbacked by Boomer Esiason, who also loved America, but not nearly as much as Carl Pickens, as evidenced by his mostly flagless cards. (Said Pickens, “You look great, Boomer, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t tell what country you’re playing in.”) Taking their cue from their forefather Pickens, the 2006 Cincinnati Bengals displayed even more love for our great nation, one-by-one actively traveling through America’s swift legal system in search of justice. Because Pickens considered himself a “star” on a team that wore “stripes,” he inevitably began to feel as much loyalty to his team as to his nation. According to his Wikipedia page:

He is also known for the "Carl Pickens Clause". This was a loyalty clause that the Bengals created and added to Pickens' contract which would cause him to forfeit all or some of his signing bonus if he insulted the organization in public. This clause has since been used in contracts with other players.

In stark contrast to the “Carl Pickens Clause” is the “Clause That Every Other Player Besides Carl Pickens” currently uses, which encourages said player to publicly trash/embarrass the organization, force a trade or flee for free agency, and then enact some sort of nonsensical “revenge” against that organization by scoring a touchdown or something. Pickens himself has likened this strategy to Benedict Arnold, which is a statement Terrell Owens did not take offense to, as he thought Benedict Arnold was the kid from “The Wonder Years.”

Did you know?

On the back of his pick-up truck, Carl Pickens displays an image of a pilgrim riding a bald eagle over Mount Rushmore.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Classic card of the week

Shaquille O’Neal, 1995 Upper Deck

Please do not disturb Shaquille O’Neal when he is stylin’ and profilin’, especially by doing something stupid like trying to reach him on his modestly sized car phone. For crying out loud, if Shaquille O’Neal wants to style and profile with the assistance of a car phone, he will simply pick it up and perpetrate like he is talking -- he doesn’t need you calling him up asking him questions! Shaquille O’Neal has the good sense to end this conversation by launching his car phone onto the Orlando highway, which is exactly what he would do if there weren’t a 20-foot cord attached. Today is Shaquille O’Neal’s only day off this week, and all he wants to do is throw on as many colors as possible, hop into his drop-top Benz -- which he will allow his friend to drive today, because you can’t be drivin,’ stylin,’ and profilin’ all at the same time…that is too much! -- bump some Fu-schnikens out the speakers, and cruise down the boulevard. Is that too much to ask?

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “This Shaquille O’Neal fellow, he looks familiar…where have I seen him before?” Well, maybe you have heard of a new fad called “hip-hop,” of which Shaquille O’Neal is prominently involved. Allow the back of the card to explain:

His “Shaq-Fu” album was a hot seller in the hip-hop market…

This is true, if by “hip-hop market” they are referring to 11-year old white kids with an allowance who are curiously intrigued as to why their favorite 7’2” basketball player is trying to rap. But “Shaq Fu” would have the last laugh, as it won a Grammy in 1995 for “Best Gimmick.” But maybe that does not refresh your memory. Where else have you seen him? Hmmm…

…and his appearance in the basketball movie “Blue Chips” was an admirable performance for the first time actor.

Shaquille O’Neal’s role in “Blue Chips” involved him dunking a basketball approximately 17 times and occasionally stylin’ and profilin,’ which he did to rave reviews, such as the one you see above. Luckily, this led to Kazaam, and by “luckily,” I mean for the purposes of making fun of Shaquille O’Neal. Not for Shaquille O’Neal personally. Oh, one more thing:

On or off the court, Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most stylin’ players in the league.

Whether it was a tie-dyed shirt, a Cross Colors bandanna, or a pair of silver dollar gag glasses, Shaquille O’Neal was widely considered the Kanye West of his day when it came to fashion. The back of the card however, curiously ignores any “profilin’” statistical data, but I’m sure he was adept at that as well.

Oh, and he also played basketball. Until 2005.

Did you know?
Objects in mirror may be less gangsta' than they appear.

Thanks for the card, Eric!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Classic card of the week

*Special “Let’s Make Fun of the Cowboys and Hope That the Giants Have a Chance This Weekend!” edition
Michael Irvin, 1991 Pro Line, Portraits Series

When Michael Irvin would leave his not-at-all-gaudy mansion for practice, he would often stop on his all-white spiral staircase, stare into one of his walls made entirely of mirrors, and run through his personal checklist:

Spandex capris?
Over-sized wrist-sweat prevention devices?
Money on the nightstand?
Ya’ know what? On second thought, I’m gonna leave the football here. This is MY football and they probably have footballs at practice that I can use. Yeah, I’m gonna leave it here.
Fresh racing stripes on the side of my head?
General feeling of unchallenged superiority, fueled by years at “the ‘U,’” the accuracy of Troy Aikman, and the unwillingness of my peers to gloat after every single play they make?
Double-check. I’m out!

Of course, we kid with Michael Irvin. The truth of the matter is that, when it came to football, Michael Irvin was all business. Don’t believe me? Check out his mad-deep philosophy taken from the back of this card:

The mental game is the most important part of it. You have to sit there the Monday before a game and think about everything that possibly could happen. You play the whole game again Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday, and then Saturday you just relax. Sunday, everything you’ve thought about doing is so much easier, because you’ve already thought about it. You won’t make a play unless you’ve actually dreamed about it first.

Irvin’s proactive philosophy of relentless contemplation has provided a blueprint to athletes marred by the inability to want to go to practice. On occasions that Michael Irvin would miss a block, or simply pull up short on a deep route, he would explain afterwards to the coaching staff that he hadn’t actually dreamed of making that particular play during the week, and thus couldn’t do it. This was understood. Especially by Barry Switzer, who was also a deep thinker.

Did you know?
When Michael Irvin was relaxing from thinking on Saturdays, it often resulted in a court date.

A big thanks to Jason, for the newly received shipment of ridonkulously awesome football cards, such as this one!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Classic card of the week

Tom Chambers, 1991-92 NBA Hoops

Does life get much better than being Tom Chambers? You’re playing basketball for a living, you’re one of the more respected white dudes in the league, you live in sunny Arizona, you wear purple, the Knicks are your bitch, and you have -- unarguably -- the best hair in NBA history. Oh, and to top it all off, you’re middle name is Doane. I mean, where do I sign?

After games in which he would score 20 points or more (all of them), Tom Chambers would retire to his quarters, where he would be fed fat-free grapes by a cavalcade of modestly attired women (he was from Utah). If it was a Saturday night, he may even top it off with a glass of sparkling water. When Tom Chambers had sufficiently conquered Phoenix, he made the next logical step: he moved to Israel to play for the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team. Obviously. Chambers’ style of high-flying, killer-crossover-themed basketball was the equivalent of streetball in Israel, and on one occasion in 1995, he spent three months in an Israeli prison for raising the roof during a game. Cameras documented Chambers’ experience abroad, which was later pitched as a sitcom to NBC entitled, “White Men CAN Jump...Compared to the Rest of Israel.” The pilot starred Billy Zabka as Chambers (in the show, he also solved crimes), but that was not enough for the network to pick it up. In fact, NBC scoffed at such a premise, and claimed they had more important things to do, such as exploring the possibility of remaking American Gladiators for a prime-time audience.

Did you know?
Ironically -- because Chambers’ locks were usually flawless, and because “Seinfeld” aired on NBC -- Jerry Seinfeld got the idea for the “black market shower head” episode from the back of this card.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Road to the Super Bowl: Calm before the storm

Note: This column appears in the 1/10 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 1/11 issue of the Peoria Times

Super Bowl XLII: Now with 100% less Rex Grossman!

Maybe you have heard, but in a mere few weeks, the Super Bowl is coming to Glendale! Yeah, I know, seriously! This is very exciting for me personally, as I have never been in the general location of where a Super Bowl was being hosted. It has always been a dream of mine to watch the game on TV, and say, “Hey, this game isn’t very far from where I am right now!” And it looks like this dream may be fulfilled, as the higher ups at the University of Phoenix Stadium don’t seem to think that two-bit “columnists” who write for the local weekly are worthy of a ticket. Nevertheless, it will be nice to see rabid football fans like Clay Aiken and Amarosa from “The Apprentice” in attendance, while someone who actually writes about the local NFL team sits on his couch. Really, I’m not bitter!

Anyhoo, over the next few weeks, I’m going to try and keep track of how preparation for the Big Game – that is what people call the Super Bowl who aren’t allowed to use the term “Super Bowl” – is progressing, from the scrambling to finish last-minute construction, to the goings on at Westgate, to, of course, the impending matchup. I will also like to explore the local fervor, as I love me some fervor! So far, my favorite aspect of the local sentiment is the increasingly outlandish rumor about how much people are renting their house out for: I heard people in YUMA are renting out their basement for a million dollars an hour!!! That doesn’t make any sense. I also have yet to meet one person who hates football and sunshine enough to go somewhere else for a week so an overweight NFL fan can take over their house and sleep in their bed. No thank you.

It’s also been exciting to watch the beginning stages of Glendale taking the national spotlight. Announcers and sports magazines are using terms like “Road to Glendale,” websites are flooding with requests for “tickets to Glendale,” and Clay Aiken is asking, “Where the heck is Glendale?” It’s all pretty cool, knowing that for at least two weeks, our own city will be the center of the pop culture universe. For crying out loud, Ryan Seacrest will be here!!!

In fact, since we’re now less than a month away from Super Bowl Sunday -- in Glendale! -- I went down to Westgate this past weekend to see how things were moving along thus far, and also to catch a hockey game. The Coyotes are preparing for the Super Bowl by playing their best hockey of the season, and they beat the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout on Saturday night. That was the best hockey game I have ever been to, and, from a competitive standpoint, I hope it was more of an indication of what the Big Game will be like than the Fiesta Bowl from last week, where West Virginia played the role of New England. Westgate itself wasn’t much different than usual, except for the Super Bowl signs, and a general “calm before the storm” atmosphere. I can’t imagine how nuts it’s going to be there in three weeks, but something tells me that the Westgate City Center is not Pacman Jones-proof.

Westgate: Preparing itself to not know what hit it

As far as the potential matchup is concerned, the Wild Card games were this past weekend, which featured wins by the Giants (yeah!), Jaguars, Seahawks, and Chargers. This leaves the most likely potential Super Bowl matchup as “Patriots versus someone from the NFC,” which is exactly what it was before the start of last weekend. Whatever.

No matter what teams make it to Glendale, the point is that they’re coming to Glendale! It’s still kind of hard to believe. Like most things, it probably won’t sink in until Ryan Seacrest gets here. In the meantime, bring on the fervor!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Classic card of the week

Tony Bennett, 1992-93 Fleer

Tony Bennett did not receive as much flak for his name as one might think, as approximately 96% of the NBA at the time had no idea who Tony Bennett the singer actually was. (A modern day scenario would involve a rookie small forward named Michael Buble.) In fact, midway through his first season in Charlotte, teammate Kenny Gattison, upon discovering Bennett’s name, began making fun of him, singing mock lounge songs in the locker room. Larry Johnson, now distracted from his customary routine of pre-game cross-dressing, demanded to know what was going on. When Gattison informed Johnson that Tony Bennett was a famous “crooner,” Johnson began busting on Gattison -- calling him “Carlton” and mocking his use of the word “crooner” -- for even knowing who Tony Bennett was. Kenny Gattison eventually lost the respect of all of his teammates (ironically, including Tony Bennett) and was traded to Utah the following week.

But what about Tony Bennett the baller? Let’s find out:

Bennett was the GTE Academic All-America Player of the Year and Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Year as a senior at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Green Bay…

Wow. That is a lot of words. And dashes. This guy must have been good. And hey, while we’re on the subject, please allow me to express my disdain for the term “All-America.” For crying out freakin’ loud, it’s All-American!!! Why does basketball do this? This irks me to no end. The phrase All-America is awkward, pretentious, and goes against everything America stands for. It makes college basketball players sound like freakin’ superheroes, as if they needed any additional confidence boosters. So, like, everyone please stop using this term right now. Thank you.

Anyway, back to Tony Bennett. He weighed 175 lbs at the time this card came out, and “he was also the starting point guard for the U.S. team at the 1991 Pan Am Games.” I am of course referring to Tony Bennett the basketball player, as there is also a famous singer that goes by the same name.

Did you know?

When Tony Bennett later informed Larry Johnson that Carlton actually liked Tom Jones, not Tony Bennett, Larry Johnson punched him in the back of the head.