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Showing posts from November, 2011

It’s never too early to celebrate Christmas

Note: This column appears in the 12/1 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/2 issue of the Peoria Times

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I know, weird, right? I’ve always been different, I guess.

I’ve been looking forward to this particular Christmas season more so than any since I was a kid. That’s because of our daughter, who is at an age now where she is starting to get it. Granted, she is convinced she is going trick-or-treating on Christmas morning, so I’m not saying she’s a genius, I just mean she’s at the point where she understands that Christmas is something to be excited about.

Sure, a part of me is living vicariously through her. Last year when Santa got her a miniature baseball set, I immediately redirected her to her other toys so I could play with it, and became legitimately upset when it told me I had hit a “single” after I crushed the ball so hard the entire thing fell over. I’m sorry, but if that’s not a home run, I don’t know what is. More so than that though, and corn…

Classic card of the week

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Kennan McCardell, 1999 Topps Gold Label

Here we have a sample from Topps’ super-exclusive “Gold Label” collection. Presentation of a Topps Gold Label card at any participating outlet can earn you up to 3-percent off already marked clearance items and VIP access to the fitting room. I doubt this comes across over the Interwebs, but this card is two inches thick and has enough gloss to … gloss a horse? I wasn’t really sure how to finish that sentence. It’s a lot of gloss.

So, according to this card, Keenan McCardell plays football. Let’s find out more about Keenan McCardell, football player:



McCardell conducts himself with style on and off the field.

This is best evidenced by McCardell’s brash-yet-stylish backwards hat that sits slightly askew. This hat is supposed to go this way, but I’m gonna wear it this way! = style. I mean, it’s not like he’s breaking new ground here—Griffey was the first athlete of note to wear his hat backwards during non-game activity, and it looked awesome, AND th…

Lost in translation

Note: And edited version of this column appears in the 11/23 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/25 issue of the Peoria Times

I began taking Spanish classes in seventh grade. I had no idea what was happening.

This confusion continued throughout high school, where Spanish remained my most difficult obstacle to a well-balanced intelligence. I could understand and translate certain words, but I simply could not grasp tenses and the fact that words had genders. The library is a lady but a book is a man? I'm sorry, but that's not what the Bible says.

I remember those rare occasions when I felt I was kind of getting it, and the teacher, sensing my newfound confidence, would begin speaking at a normal pace, and my head would explode and I would run out of the classroom holding my ears. Were it not for -- I'm not proud to say this -- a particular high school Spanish teacher who was not very adept at monitoring the classroom during testing, I never would have graduated.

In fact, six …

Classic card of the week

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Jermaine O’Neal, 1998 NBA Hoops

If you’re like me, you’re not missing the NBA that much at all, but you are kind of missing the 1998 set of NBA Hoops basketball cards that feature down-to-earth street talk and other helpful tidbits about various NBA players.

That said, here:



Yeah, we’re feeling you.

Was there any question we were feeling Jermaine O’Neal? OF COURSE we’re feeling you, Jermaine. If we weren’t feeling you, we probably wouldn’t have created this basketball card featuring your image and statistics. Our feelingness of you is therefore implied. Nevertheless, I would be overjoyed if, during the 2012 Republican and Democratic National Conventions, each person who speaks on behalf of his party’s elected candidate begins his speech, “Yeah, we’re feeling you.”

Sidebar: Jermaine O’Neal’s hair is blonde on this card. Remember when stuff like that happened in the late 90s? Frosted tips for white guys and blonde hair for black dudes? If anything can finally bring our two races together, I…

Forever isn’t two cents away

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Note: This column appears in the 11/17 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/18 issue of the Peoria Times



I recently purchased stamps at the post office. This somehow caused a minor argument between my wife and I.

You see, I did not specify what type of stamps when I verbalized my order of “Stamps, please,” and thus I received “forever” stamps. A few years ago, when the post office was raising its rates every two weeks, I intentionally purchased several books of forever stamps at the market price, confident that in 2041, when envelope postage is a robust $2.90, we will be laughing all the way to the bank, retroactively profiting from what few envelopes we actually send out, as everything by then will be communicated telepathically. This is, of course, assuming we have not lost our forever stamps.

Anyway, the reason I had purchased stamps was because we were out of them and had a few items that required mailing, which is the most exciting sentence I have ever written. My wife, however, up…

Classic card of the week

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Steve Sax, 1989 Diamond King

This is the second artist’s rendering of Steve Sax we have examined around these here parts. Which one is better? Difficult to say. Purely subjective. For me personally, the colorful lines randomly zig-zagging in the background really take this one to another level. Do those lines represent the unique yet aimless nature of our very existence? Prolly. Or, it could have just been like:

Donruss executive: Background’s too white on this Sax.

Diamond King artist: I could put some lines on there, all different colors, going this way and that. I’ll make it look like the background of an 80s grade school picture.

Donruss: This is the 80s. Why are you referencing this current era?

Diamond King artist: I don’t know. I’ll go get my ruler.

However those colorful zig-zaggy lines speak to you, they leave no doubt that Steve Sax was a baseball player.

But what kind of baseball player?



Steve Sax is one of the rare players who made the transition to playing for the New York Yank…

Homecoming and coming home: an account of grievances

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

Punch me in the face if this column ever takes on a “kids these days!” or “when I was young, things were like this!’ tone. I never want to be the one making sweeping generational generalizations out of frustration and a false sense of nostalgia. I’m sure the 1720s witnessed its share of ungrateful, punk kids who lazily ditched the intricacies of word-of-mouth to play on their fancy newspapers all day.

That said, allow me to be specific about my angst. There are several groups of kids in our neighborhood who roam free of the restraints of parental supervision. Recently, united by their brute incivility, they have joined forces. Some of their accomplishments have included setting the local plant life ablaze—in order, I assume, to send a smoke signal to airborne local law enforcement to save the rest of us from their wrath—and washing the street of debris with their own urine. I wish I…

Classic card of the week

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John Franco & Bobby Thigpen, 1990 Fleer

I want to point out that here it appears as though John Franco is smelling a nasty fart, and that Bobby Thigpen is trying to be sly about having dealt it. Franco’s “Who farted?” face pales in comparison with the greatest one, but still, I commend it. And Thigpen? You’re nasty. It smells like you ate a day-old egg and sulfur sandwich. Get a hold of yourself, man.

Enough with the fart observations though. I can do other things.



Relievers Bobby Thigpen and John Franco had one thing in common in 1990,

They were relievers? They were the TOP GAME SAVERS as you pointed out on the front of the card? They played baseball? They enjoyed “Cats?”

but it’s likely neither one was thrilled about it.

Hmmm, this is getting tricky now. Let’s see … they both had bouts of diarrhea? They enjoyed “Cats?” I am stumped.

Thigpen, the American League save leader, and Franco, tops in the National League, wound up on teams that finished second in their respective divisions.

The man in the garlic tuxedo

Note: This column appears in the 11/3 issue of The Glendale Star and the 11/4 issue of the Peoria Times

We traveled back east recently for my brother-in-law’s wedding. A great time was had by all, although we did experience our fair share of minor stresses.

For starters, my father-in-law wasn’t feeling well. This was cause for concern, because it takes a major bout of sickness for him to even reveal he’s not feeling 100-percent. He could be battling the bird flu and he would still go spinning at the gym in the morning and then claim he had thrown up afterwards due to “bad water.”

As in all cases of sickness involving my father-in-law or his family and friends, the solution was simple—garlic. He boasts an entire menu of garlic-based, home-health-remedies. He once had me chew straight garlic cloves for a severe sore throat and also famously forced my wife to ingest a garlic-lemon-honey concoction to treat a scorpion sting. There is literally no ailment, in his mind, that could befall a hum…