Showing posts from 2010

Classic card of the week

Anfernee Hardaway, 1997 Upper Deck "Crunch Time" series

Is there anything crunchier than hitting two free throws with 7.4 seconds left on the clock during a regular season game against the Toronto Raptors? No, there is not. To wit:

“Penny” Hardaway has a panache for hitting game-winning baskets.

Is this true? I honestly don’t remember Penny Hardaway’s panache. I remember that he was really good at basketball, and then not so good at basketball. It’s possible that during the time he was really good at basketball he displayed a noticeable panache for game-winning baskets. If that is indeed true, I wonder why Upper Deck did not choose a more thrilling game-winning basket from his extensive catalog of game-winning baskets to highlight.

He can hit the open three, drive to the hole or, as he displayed at Toronto (1/12/97), nail clutch free throws under pressure.

The exact date is unnecessary. I trust we all remember where we were when Penny Hardaway hit two pressure-filled foul shots …

Classic card of the week

Pete Ladd, 1987 Donruss

Pete Ladd employed fear tactics, and he made no apologies about it. Possessing somewhat average stuff for a major leaguer and a middle name of “Linwood,” Pete Ladd succeeded by utilizing his most apparent quality: a general aura that implied he would kill you if you crossed him or batted against him.

Quoting one source:

A hard-throwing sinker-slider pitcher with a herky-jerky motion, he was an intimidating presence with his long hair, beard, and 6’3” 240-lb physique.

Obviously, Ladd had since shaved the beard. Legend has it that while with the Brewers, Ladd walked into the opposing clubhouse to shave his beard … with a butter knife for a blade and Ben Gay as shaving cream. The other team watched in horror as blood splattered everywhere. It was yet another infamous Pete Ladd intimidation tactic. Did it work? The Brewers won 7-5 that day. You tell me.

As if Ladd’s imposing presence wasn’t enough, the herky-jerkiness of his delivery only added to the fear exhibited by…

Christmas, with a peppermint twist

Note: This column appears in the 12/23 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/24 issue of the Peoria Times

We have a really good friend who is like a modern day saint. She is so insanely kind that it naturally exposes my own selfishness, yet being in her presence somehow makes me feel like a better person. She has adopted eight children out of foster care, and was the driving force behind our own decision to get involved as well. In that respect we have her to thank for our own family.

Her younger girls are all enrolled in dance school, and they had a big Christmas recital last weekend that ended with an all-important daddy-daughter dance. For this, the men of their family were employed for service, including our friend’s own dad and the girls’ oldest brother. Another brother was supposed to take part until it was discovered that this year’s dance included a lift. He was out, not yet big enough to lift up his sister. So …

I agreed to be the dance partner for our friend’s five-year old dau…

Classic card of the week

1992 Upper Deck, "Rookie Threats"

It’s a Brian Jordan sandwich, between two slices of plain white bread. (Sayeth Brian Jordan: “Haaaaay!”) Now, for the mustard:

After Ray Lankford and Omar Olivares made the jump to the Majors in 1991, you would think the Cardinals would have to wait a few years before their next crop of rookies.

Cardinals Manager Joe Torre: In a way, it’s a shame Lanky and Oli played well last year, cause I got a few young guys who I’d love to give a shot.

General Manager Dal Maxvill: Then, why don’t you?

Torre: Well, you know. What would people think? We just harvested a crop of two rookies, and then we’re gonna bring up more rookies? We have to wait until at least 1994 to bring up more rookies. It’s too many rookies, too soon. The fans will get restless. Because of the rookies.

Maxvill: Well are they better than the players we got?

Torre: I mean, our No. 2 starter is Rheal Cormier, and we got Ozzie Canseco in the outfield. So … yeah.

Maxvill: I say who cares what …

To my dismay, family is gift that keeps on giving

Note: This column appears in the 12/16 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/17 issue of the Peoria Times

Our entire family recently became involved in a long, drawn-out email discussion regarding Christmas gifts.

I started it. For the seventh consecutive year I attempted to, with the help of my courageous wife, steer the rest of the family away from an all-encompassing gift exchange and relegate things to a one-gift grab bag. For the seventh consecutive year, it did not work. Last year, before our own valiant attempts, my sister had taken the reins and suggested that donations be made in lieu of gifts, and she was excommunicated from the family for three days.

I realize that my attempts to shun gifts are sometimes viewed as self-righteous, but they are really not. If anything they’re a result of selfish laziness. You see, gifts are things, and things bother me. Especially now that we live far away from everyone else, and each gift is a package—a package that arrives at the front door w…

Classic card of the week

Dmitri Young, 1991 Upper Deck

Dmitri Young is a Top Prospect. Don’t believe me? Ask Dmitri, seen here menacingly brandishing a baseball bat in the direction of all those who do not believe he is a Top Prospect. I’m sold. More:

Young hit .564 in high school baseball in Alabama – and that was as a seventh grader.

I feel like that needs a little more explanation. At least more than "no explanation," which is what this card provides. I thought you had to be in high school to play high school sports? Are there no rules in Alabama? Man, I would hate to be the last kid cut on that team:

Manager: Jimmy, step over here for a sec.

Jimmy: Sure. What’s up, skip?

Manager: Jimmy, I realize you’re a senior now, and that you’ve been patiently riding the bench for the past three years in the hopes of one day getting into an actual game. But the thing is, you’re cut.

Jimmy: What? Why?

Manager: You see that kid over there, blasting home runs? He’s gonna be with us this season.

Jimmy: Who, Dmitri? But h…

Weather warnings in Valley a mere blanket statement

Note: This column appears in the 12/9 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/10 issue of the Peoria Times

My wife subscribes to the weather alert application on her phone. Because we live here in the Valley, and her Blackberry does not, apparently, recognize center-of-the-earth-type heat as a situation that bears warning—it would get redundant, I suppose—this feature is barely utilized.

That changed last week when temperatures became unseasonably cool around these parts. As a result, my wife received two weather alerts on her phone, and each time we reacted as if our lives were about to change dramatically.

You see, when we lived back east, the first winter weather warning was darn near the most exciting thing that happened during the year. After all, it could mean that you wouldn’t be leaving the house for the next six days, and that you’d be utilizing the canned goods your dad stored up in the basement during the fall, and that you’d probably be going to school now until July. Being wa…

Classic card of the week

I was flipping through a stack of sports cards as usual in my attempt to find one to post here. I came across this.

I really don’t know how this got in there. I did NOT collect Batman cards. Promise. However, it should be mentioned that I was very much into the original Batman movie. I remember that not long after it came out, I dragged my mom to the Brunswick Square Mall and convinced her to buy me a white t-shirt that had just the Joker’s face on it.

I wisely decided to wear my new shirt for the first time on a Saturday, so that I could wear it all day and not just for the allotted five hours after Catholic school and before bed. To boot, I got my haircut that morning. Could I have looked better, riding my red bike around the neighborhood with a fresh cut, rocking a new Joker t-shirt that draped beautifully over my lanky, 70-lb frame, while listening to the latest Jodeci song on my walkman? I don’t think so.

Anyway, as if I don’t already know, let’s see what’s going here:

Crazy Jack …

A home filled with castles is my castle

Note: This column appears in the 12/2 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/3 issue of the Peoria Times

We live in a modest home. It’s a considerable upgrade, however, from where we lived in New Jersey, which was a two-bedroom condo.

There was more storage than we had stuff when we moved in. This was great, as everything could be packed neatly away. As the years progressed, and we acquired more and more stuff, and my wife maintained her refusal to dispose of the stuff we already had, that extra space dwindled. Now, we have a child.

There is no more space. In fact, the walls are closing in. There is a trampoline in our dining room. Next to my side of the bed rests a multi-colored jumper thingee that our daughter no longer uses, which has a plastic sun on it that sarcastically smiles at me each morning as if to say, “Still here!” At the foot of our bed rests a plastic dinosaur castle. It has compartments for the dinosaur egg balls it came with—obviously—but now our daughter uses those com…

Classic card of the week

Wilson Alvarez, 1996 Topps

Here is a Wilson Alvarez baseball card. Like you, I wonder: Did this professional baseball player play baseball as an adolescent?

Wilson pitched for a Venezuelan entry in the 1982 Little League World Series, an event that also included a Tampa, FL, team whose star was Gary Sheffield.

This is the most interesting thing I have ever heard about in my entire life. Are you trying to tell me, card, that Wilson Alvarez played baseball in an event that also featured another, different baseball player? I mean, what are the odds? Furthermore, what are the chances that the other player would be none other than Gary Sheffield? Is there no end to the link between Wilson Alvarez and Gary Sheffield? Some things are just…destiny.

Earlier that year, he’d fanned 21 in a game!

Who? Gary Sheffield or Wilson Alvarez? Either way, I enjoy the emphatic exclamation point as it pertains to what somebody did when they were 12-years old. I don’t like to brag, but I once accumulated 36 total…

Holiday TV specials inspire nostalgia, teach about love, war

Note: This column appears in the 11/24 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/26 issue of the Peoria Times

Television is a big part of my annual holiday experience.

For me, much of the nostalgia that surrounds this season revolves around movies and specials that I continue to watch on TV, even if those movies/specials have nothing to do with the holiday itself. For example, this Thanksgiving I will be greatly upset if I do not see two movies that have come to define this holiday: the original Willy Wonka and Home Alone. The former aired for whatever reason during a few Thanksgivings of yore, and I steadfastly continue to search for it on TV each year, even though I don’t really like the movie and find it bizarre and disturbing. The latter traditionally airs every Thanksgiving night, and I will not be able to sleep unless I see Joe Pesci fall and hurt himself 80 times. Again.

This week will also unleash the flood of Christmas specials, few being as special as A Charlie Brown Christmas. Thi…

Classic card of the week

Jeff Gryaer, 1993 Topps Stadium Club


This is what Jeff Grayer said, in his head, as he dribbled a basketball while wearing white tube socks. One can sense the excitement of this dribble-off as the culturally diverse crowd looks on in amazement and anticipation of what will happen next. Will he shoot it? Will Ron Harper get called for reaching? Will Jeff Grayer dribble in a different direction? Is a five-second call in order? Who knows. Anything can happen in basketball. All I can say is, that is some fiiiiiiiiine dribbling.

What else about Jeff Grayer?

Here Grayer is rocking the Warriors throwback jersey, although that trend in clothing hadn't yet peaked among NBA fans. Coincidentally, Grayer's Warriors jersey on the front of the card is now a throwback. Jeff Grayer is so old that his regular jerseys are throwbacks and his throwback jerseys are future jerseys. In fact, according to this card, Grayer was popularly referred to as “Ol’ No. 44.” I think we’re…

The old man and the sea of change

Note: This column appears in the 11/18 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/19 issue of the Peoria Times

Like many men of his generation, my grandfather held strong—often stubbornly strong—to his worldview.

God only knows what he experienced and witnessed during World War II. He wasn’t the type to talk much about it. Post-war America was a much different place than it is today, and all of this helped shape his ideals and opinions.

When we were kids, my grandfather was a larger than life presence, sitting on his throne, which doubled as a recliner, watching golf on TV and generally not wanting to be bothered. The underlying threat of my grandmother telling Pop of our misdeeds was enough to redirect us to better behavior, though I’m now certain that the last thing he ever wanted to do was get out of his chair to discipline us.

All would have been well should things have proceeded as expected in his world, but life had other plans. It began when his eldest daughter married a Jewish man and…

Classic card of the week

Michael Adams, 1992 Stadium Club

Several things immediately stand out about this basketball card. First, Michael Adams is a small man. He is roughly the same size as the referee in the distance -- we all know how small referees are, am I right? Hello? -- and I imagine that the referee will get taller as he gets closer. (I’m no scientist, though.)

It also appears -- and I realize this is a small sample size, in the form of one still shot -- that Michael Adams does not know how to dribble a basketball. The ball is hitting the side of his hand. Plus, I do not understand why he is bouncing the ball so high in the first place. Remove the crowd, keep the knee pads, switch the uniform to a pair of jorts and an oversized t-shirt, and you have a small man playing basketball for the very first time.

But on the contrary:

The always-reliable Sporting News Skills Rating System has Michael Adams’ ball handling skills at a 4.6, which matches his “floor leadership” rating. In those categories, Adams is…

Road to dental wisdom is paved with speed bumps, tarter

Note: This column appears in the 11/11 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 11/12 issue of the Peoria Times

One advantage of living in the middle of the hurricane that is fatherhood is the ability to more easily put off certain burdens, like going to the dentist. When I considered the stark reality, however, that putting it off further will only make it worse when I actually do go, I decided to make an appointment.

I have been repaying the carelessness of my youthful lack of dental hygiene—I rebelled against my own braces—throughout my adult life. For example, I have been forced to wear a mouth guard at night, every night, for the rest of my life. Apparently, I rather forcefully grind my teeth at night, a habit that is no doubt a form of relief at the subconscious stress I feel towards dentistry in general.

I repented long ago, and have since committed to brushing twice per day, flossing and using mouthwash. I also, sans for this latest procrastination, go to the dentist every six month…

Classic card of the week

Greg Lloyd, NFL A1 Masters of the Grill series

Mmmmmmm, it smells delicious! What is Greg Lloyd cooking up today?

Onion wine sauce? Nice! In my opinion, there is nothing better to do on a beautiful day -- one in which the sky is so blue that it seems to go on forever -- than go over to Greg Lloyd’s house for a barbeque. Greg Lloyd is the type of guy who will toss on his football jersey, an apron, an oven mitt, and a chef’s hat, and invite the entire neighborhood to his house as he cooks a marinade for some delicious steak. (You have to bring the steak though.) There, you can sit in his backyard, admire the vines growing up his gorgeous white lattice, and listen to Greg Lloyd recount graphic stories of grabbing other dudes’ testicles during football games. This is a rite of springtime for all of Greg Lloyd’s neighbors.

Because Greg Lloyd is much more than just a recipe for onion wine sauce, let us consult Wikipedia to discover other details of his personality:

In 2001, Lloyd was accused o…

The security of marriage

Note: This column appears in the 11/4 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/5 issue of the Peoria Times

I am as guilty as anyone as falling into a false sense of security occasionally. In this day and age, that can be bad news. Thankfully, in between checking fantasy scores and other people’s mundane status updates, I always make it a point to check my accounts online daily. A few weeks ago I noticed a fraudulent charge on my credit card account.

As I sat there with a quizzical look, muttering to myself, “What is this charge?” my wife, who is known in our family as “the investigator” for her innate ability to question everyone and everything to uncover the truth, reacted like a CIA operative. “What, what, what…TELL ME!” she said. I barely got the words out before she was locking the doors and windows, and questioning whether we should shred our files and flee the state for a few days.

My wife is always on guard. Whenever we are at the store and the cashier asks for our phone number, she …

Classic card of the week

Jerome Kersey, 1993-94 Topps Stadium Club

Here is Jerome Kersey executing a slam-dunk. Feel the excitement. Undoubtedly, point guard Rod Strickland has driven the lane, thus drawing multiple defenders, and subsequently dished off to a wide open Jerome Kersey, who was standing on the block, and who then proceeded to jump as high as six inches in the air in order to dunk uncontested while letting out a half-hearted scream of dominance. Clear this area which has already been cleared! Jerome Kersey’s ‘bout to get his dunk on!

There are a few interesting things going on with this card. And by “interesting,” I mean stupid. For starters, the font of the “K” on the front makes it look like an “H,” so the uninformed onlooker may feel as though he or she was just dunked on by a man named Hersey. Hersey Johnson. Hersey Johnson is a person I made up, but who I Googled for fun and who I discovered is, among other things, one half of a charcoal grey sweatshirt-making team. Luckily for me, I grew up …

How a mortgage broke, almost -- a not-so-funny tale

Note: This column appears in the 10/28 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/29 issue of the Peoria Times

Talking about mortgages is not fun, or funny. Whenever a friend or acquaintance attempts to become involved in a conversation about mortgages, interest rates, or anything involving finances, my strategy is to draw upon enough acquired knowledge to prove that I am not an idiot, and then make a forced and ill-timed joke in an attempt to steer the conversation back to an inane topic, like sports or celebrity gossip. You know who should refinance? David Arquette! What a jerk, huh?

If there is anything worse than talking about mortgages -- besides, of course, having one -- it’s reading about them. Please consider a forthcoming column that even I wouldn’t read evidence of my immense frustration.

Like many Americans, we have watched our home and greatest asset depreciate in value exponentially. This has been wonderful, especially since we purchased our home at the peak of good economic time…

Classic card of the week

Christian Laettner, 1993 Classic Games, Inc.

Here is another installment of Classic Games, Inc’s immensely popular and relevant “Four-Sport Collection.” Featured here is famous four-sport athlete Christian Laettner, who besides excelling at basketball, was also an offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, a jockey (who once, it should be mentioned, almost rode Butter Purplefingers -- a thoroughbred owned by trainer D. Wayne Lucas -- to glory at the Belmont Stakes), and a competitive dancer who was featured in the independent film, “You Got Served.”

Today however, we focus on basketball. Laettner, seen here dribbling intensely with slicked-back hair, was dubbed “The Professor” while at Duke, for his entertaining brand of streetball and also because, when he received enough college credits, he actually taught an introductory course on French Literature. But let us see what else this card has to say:

Christian Laettner helped Minnesota tremendously during the 1992-93 season

The 1991-92 Minne…

Washing my hands of washing my hands a lot

Note: This column appears in the 10/21 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/22 issue of the Peoria Times

All of a sudden, my wife is on a mission to ensure that I wash my hands more often.

I’m sure this is at least partially based on the fact that we have a child. Indeed I’ve found myself -- when ill-prepared with resources I should have thought to have at my disposal -- wiping clean the runny nose of our daughter with my bare hands. I remain unconvinced, however, that my wife’s concern with my hand-cleanliness stems from a more general concern for my well being, rather than for her own well-being and that of the aforementioned child.

It has been suggested on several recent occasions that I wash my hands. If I maintain that I have washed my hands recently, the follow-up question is, “Did you use soap?” Most 32-year old men with a lifetime of hand-washing under their hypothetical belts would find this question insulting, although I have been known to simply run my hands under water as a …

Classic card of the week

Junior Ortiz, 1985 Topps

No doubt this gorgeous, professional swing produced a grand slam home run for Junior Ortiz! That, or an opposing player has grabbed the other end of Ortiz’s bat with plans to drag him around the infield as retribution for an earlier insult.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. And here it is, the thing that you are thinking: Sure, Junior Ortiz likes to play baseball during the summertime. Who doesn’t?! But I wonder what he does during winter months?

Excellent, excellent question. I was wondering the same exact thing.

Junior is a graduate of Ana Rogue (Puerto Rico) High School.

This is valuable information. Especially the part about Puerto Rico. For a second there I thought they were talking about the Australian Ana Rogue, who was infamous for her stance on less education and who also hoarded and abused ferrets. That, or “Ana Rogue” is Spanish for “Puerto Rico,” which is already Spanish and which, if accurate, you would think I would have been aware of by now. Neverthe…

On Wonderpets and wondering how I got here

Note: This column appears in the 10/14 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/15 issue of the Peoria Times

Things happen fast when you’re a parent. There’s not much time to reflect on what, exactly, is happening. Therefore, there are moments when you look around, and say to yourself, “Where am I, and how did I get here?” Once such moment occurred for me a couple of weekends ago, as I sat there on a Saturday afternoon, watching live Nickelodeon characters dance around and sing onstage.

We took our daughter to Arena to see Nickelodeon Live Storytime. (For those of you who follow the column, yes -- I returned to Westgate. They called me personally to apologize for the farmer’s market fiasco, explaining how they were forced to cancel last minute due to the heat and valiantly attempted to get the word out in time. Tip of the cap to them.) Considering it was the beginning of October, and still one thousand degrees outside thanks to “the summer that wouldn’t die,” I was happy to get …

Classic card of the week

Chris Zorich, 1991 NFL Pro Set

I don’t think that, as a society, we’ve given the half-shirt football jersey its just due.

We certainly can’t just pretend that this trend never happened. As evidenced here, the half-shirt football jersey was championed by such champions as Chris Zorich, who –- a quick Google image search will confirm –- didn’t rock the half-shirt during only practices and scrimmages. After all, 1990 LOMBARDI AWARD WINNERS aren’t typically shy about showing off their belly buttons.

Not that Zorich was the only one. The late 80s and early 90s witnessed a bevy of football players -– frustrated with layers upon layers of protective apparel that failed to adequately expose their natural physique -– paying homage to their most manly of man parts. That part being their stomach, so appealing to the opposite sex by virtue of the grizzled strip of hair leading from the belly button and down into an abyss of additional manhood.

In Zorich’s particular case, the half-shirt football jer…

A parental breakdown

Note: An edited version of this column appears in the 10/7 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/8 issue of the Peoria Times

My parents are falling apart. Physically.

This is mainly a result of them both being super active. My dad is an avid runner, and my mom -- though she became involved relatively recently -- has possibly passed even my dad in her commitment to running.

Unfortunately, their bodies are having difficulty keeping up. A few weeks ago, my dad’s knee went out while playing softball. For whatever reason, most of my fathers’ injuries involve something “going out.” Nothing is ever “tweaked,” or “pulled.” It just dramatically goes out, collapsing, I imagine, onto itself. I’m not certain what the exact medical terminology is for something “going out,” but my dad’s back has gone out so often, it’s a wonder that it’s not, at this point, being held together with duct tape and string. (Which is, by the way, how he would fix his back if it ever fell off, in lieu of going to the doct…