One Persons Tradition is Anothers Angst at ‘Again’

Having completed the necessary and brilliant football picks (Panthers giving 1.5 to Dallas? Absolutely!) over java and a large bacon-cheese-egg-with wasabi sauce sandwich, its almost time to head over to brother Steve’s for the deep frying of the turkey. While he hasn’t confirmed that the noon start– and strict schedule adherence isn’t usually a strong point with him– cooking time has been cigar and an adult beverage time tradition for us for the last couple years.

The real tradition behind this article is the Drumstick for Glenn though, and for a significant number of years, pretty much everyone has gone with idea I’m going to want to gnaw on one. Its not usually the massive hunk it seemed to be ‘back in the day’, but it doesn’t seem like there are a dozen other items crammed on the plate that made its presence look so overpowering either. Dinner seems simpler now, and while its understood Mike will mention his le sueur pea concoction (like the cheesy, not enamored of the potato chip topping vs. crispy fried onion) being a specialty more than once, its easily balanced by the fact Steve usually has a couple good bottles of wine available.

About the drumstick as Tradition/Dammit, Again. For the sake of accuracy, it was actually a Christmas turkey, and Steve’s family had left for a ski vacation out west, and my folks were here in Charlotte from Tampa. Having parked near the garage instead of on the street, significant date and I came through the house from downstairs vs. front door, arriving in the kitchen just as a semi-shocking conversation between Mom and Dad came to a point.

Mom: Just cut the meat off and put it on the plate.
Dad: That’s Glenn’s drumstick that he always likes to chew on.
Mom: Ohh, I always *hated* that he did that!

That we’d arrived just in the nick of time to save Dad from having to stymie her willingness to hack the meat off herself was one thing; to hear she’d HATED– apparently for most of 45 years!– my chewing on the dark, juicy drumstick was more than just a little bit of an oh my! moment. If there’d been a tendency to eat like a pirate early on, it has still been something to kind of count on as mine. Dad having my nephew Ian deliver a small drumstick to me (“Grandpa said you’d really like to chew on this”) when Thanksgiving was being celebrated at a cousins house, is still something that comes as a really good emotional memory. Those two specific times when a certain ‘streak’ was imperiled and Dad came through, that’s deep stuff, and clearly what Tradition is about.

Long time family friend Mrs. Kline– who alternated major holiday dinners with Mom for years once they determined there was no sense making seperate ones when we’d wind up together later in the day– *guaranteed* her mashed potatoes wouldn’t be stiff (it was a fact in the past) when we got together last year, which shows how significant some holiday memories are imbedded. It was only mentioned once, but we can all smile about it (now).

It’s doubtful Mom will say anything one way or the other today, and hopefully Steve leaves one drumstick to the side, and nobody grabs it before me. Tomorrow might begin another tradition when I help prepare a holiday dinner at the Men’s Shelter, and at some point there will probably be a dinner with lasagna instead of turkey, but Tradition, lets go with that at least one more time.

Best wishes to all, including those unfortunate SOBs who have to work in retail starting at 6pm.

Glenn S.

Panthers 7-0 After Rainy Monday Night Almost Slipped Away

Two essential Truths about unbeaten teams are that not everything is going to work perfectly, so sometimes you’re going to have to buckle it on *strong* and WIN the game, dammit! Secondly, clutch field goal kicking is going to figure in there significantly.

For the vast majority of Monday nights 29-26 victory, in front of an above-average crowd that endured steady and sometimes heavy rain (bless their hearts), the vaunted Panther defense made Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck look exceptionally human. The Colts had only 40 yards passing after three quarters, and he leads the league with 12 INTs after Carolina picked three, including the gamer in overtime. After Cam Newton’s TD pass (16-of-35, 248 yds., 2nd TD- Philly Brown) to Greg Olsen, the 23-6 lead looked like a kickin’, even though Gano missed the PAT.

Luck’s final yardage was 231, but overtime belonged to the kickers. The Colts Adam Viniteri, showed his chops with another clutch kick in his career-long string, thumping a 50-yarder, then Gano answered with one. After Kuechly, who dropped an interception possibility at the end of regulation, grabbed one in OT– Ted Ginn also dropped a possible TD in admittedly lousy conditions– Gano took care of business with a strong 52-yarder.

If the game looked kind of ‘Done Deal’ after the Olsen TD, its going to help Charlotte (and fans) in the future, because it became a game where that ‘unbeaten’ could have come off their resume. When they beat Seattle two weeks ago, that certainly charged expectations up, Seattle being a constant pain over the last couple meetings. Of COURSE there’s a whooooole lot of ‘Can they beat Green Bay/Aaron Rodgers?’ now, and thats a legitimate question. Should it make any difference that Rodgers had an ugly night vs. Denver and might have a chip on his shoulder when he gets to Bank of America stadium? In a word,’No’, because stopping his usual surgery on offense will test whats been the teams strength–its D– and you *HAVE* to nullify his big plays to win in all cases.

Moral victories don’t count, and no denying Green Bay is a premier team. It will be a massive game, and there’s every reason for a full stadium till the end, which is, or should be, a standard for this level of event. The Panthers haven’t been ‘Lucky’ yet in getting to 7-0— even without Charles Johnson (knee) and Kuechly (out three games, concussion protocols), the defense has been flexible with personnel, AJ Kline and Shaq Thompson stepped up, and opportunistic– two of ace cornerback Josh Norman’s 4 picks were returned for TDs. While TV analyst John Gruden continued to sound pessimistic about having Newton run as frequently as he has this year, his 41 looked good, and his 3rd down conversion rate has helped Carolina’s running game all season.

The Hornets have picked up their game with a 2nd win, after stumbling out of the starting game 0-3. Last night they rode (Less Big?) Al Jefferson’s 15-18 shooting for 31 points to bury the Dallas Mavs 108-94. Much has been made of Al being 25 pounds lighter this season, but it was an excellent team scoring effort, which was essentially the Hornets ‘must fix’ problem from last year. Marvin Williams-17, Kemba Walker-14, Cody Zeller-11– and with ALL due respect for Jeremy Lamb’s 16 off the bench— Coach Caldwell can continue blending process on where points come from.

Frank Kaminsky hasn’t been overwhelming yet, and losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (MKG) to a shoulder injury at end of pre-season are adjustments to continue. Caldwell, who is dealing with many new and clearly talented parts very successfully, feels getting roles set is a priority, even after a 7-1 preseason that included a pair of victories in China.

Reunions Stake Out Past From Next– and Which Memories to Keep Alive

Alex Chrys (L) raises Arabian show horses, Scott Grayman (M) is the epitome of reunion attendance, myself (R) in tuxedo

Alex Chrys (L) raises Arabian show horses, Scott Grayman (M) is the epitome of reunion attendance, myself (R) in tuxedo

With all due respect to George Alper for bringing a tableful of pictures (and still remembering his best half-mile and relay times), and the ladies who were at the core of getting the Linton HS 40th reunion done in such a satisfying way (Yay! Janelle Richardson, Belle W., Anna Casillo (Gelman), Allyson T., with an attaboy! for advisor Don Lang), being back in Charlotte this fantastic Wednesday morning is a start on the Next I had the opportunity to discuss with several classmates along the way. NEVER giving up on the writing, that is a piece of all I am, but real estate is in my future—talk to me if you’re coming to Charlotte!

To say I practiced my talking and journalistic habit of inquiry mightily over five days—many would say that’s essentially what I’m remembered for and wouldn’t need *practice* (right Scott?)— was quite affirming. Beyond the reunion, my always-a-sportswriter persona felt extra alive when brother David took me to a meet-great for this year’s Siena basketball teams directly from the airport. I was also glad to have several hours with my cousin Doug, wife Cindy, and their two girls, one of which I quizzed on her continents and oceans. I always appreciate time with my Blackhawk-flying nephew, Curtiss, who was back from Ft. Drumm this weekend, and his fiancée, Stephanie. Hearing he is promotable and will be an Army captain by the time they get married in June is a good thing.

For those who didn’t make it to this reunion– or other readers who missed their last/recent or are considering missing an opportunity– the chance to share and/or compare notes at this juncture in life is legitimate. The day a book of mine wins a Pulitzer, or a 7-figure check hits my bank account for a movie script, I’ll probably still be a million or more behind Vic Mazzotti (Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP) or Alex Chrys, but so it goes. Al seemed slightly affronted about my having Googled the idea he raised Arabian show horses, because Saturday morning it seemed like he juuuust might be seeing what stuck to the proverbial wall Friday night at our Clinton’s Ditch gathering. FYI—for anyone who remembers the spray-painted note ‘Susan is a pinhead’ on a downtown wall, ‘Pinhead Susan’s’ is where we had final drinks Saturday.

That guys I played Pop Warner football with even before high school were there: Jim Schemerhorn, a prosperous looking NY lawyer now, and Bob Massaroni– who I also graduated from Brockport with– looking forward to a few more years of teaching before retirement, and thankfully past some long time physical problems, was fine. That Joe Genovesi, who also played Pop Warner, didn’t make it, but told Bob to remind me of his 1-1 basketball victories on my court, brought a small smile. So did my brother David (Class of ’78) relating how all the gym classes were made to stand at attention one particular Monday while teachers demanded to know who knew what about a torn up football field from a bunch of us in college who played football in slushy snow the Sunday before the annual Election Day Linton-MP football game. Ahh, memories! (and I *swear* we thought the season was already over.)

Steve Lussier didn’t make it either, nor hoops buddy Danny Smith, who I double-dated with for Senior Prom. No Pryzblo, Dave Karowe, Karen Cioffi, Schein twins, or Robert Relyea, who gave the use of his legs for his country in the Gulf War even before our 10th reunion. There was a Memorial Tree for classmates who died, and while everyone is a loss, I’m sure Tim Easley’s smile was missed.

That several people were just as well-preserved as Don Lang kept crediting me with—I’m talking about Belle Waddington (Freedgood), Pete Zimandonis, Karen Korniak (Johnson?), John Zampella, Linda Noonan (Leary), John Notar, Joe Litz, Cindy Bush, Jayne Binzer, Kathy Riemer (Corso), Ken Bascue, Jean Tafler, and Anna Casillo (Gelman) for starters—is why anyone who said, “I’ll make it to the next one!” missed the boat. Oh, can’t forget Mini Acevedo (Hoffman) or Patti Barbeau (Egan), who explained how a medical condition caused some bulging in her very pretty eyes when she asked if I recognized her. Patti, knees were a concern for many of the guys, but those eyes weren’t a problem, even when they were hurting you Saturday night. Of course there are names missing from this list, so I’ll ask for forgiveness in advance, but even with glasses now, Pete Z. is still a studly 6’1” with shoulders that looked awesome in a plaid jacket. Linda, tell those puppy-aged nurses to shut up! about 40 as real old, especially in YOUR fine-for-58 presence.

People are doing interesting things: Chris Boehm, who I’ve known since summers at Sacandaga Lake with the GE Alumni crew our fathers were, was right on top of the dredging of PCBs from Hudson River project (even if he sub-texted the effort as many years and billions of dollars of ‘dog and pony show’ for the EPA), and deals with “30 of the deadliest gases you could ever imagine” regarding atoms 500 layers thick on silicon wafers (tough to explain); really really smart former-cheerleader (I’m smiling, Cin) Cindy Bush *swears* her financial derivatives weren’t the sort of irresponsible crap of the too-crazy-for-own-good numbers people that helped cause the recession; Jim Thackery is doing brainy stuff, I think also involving silicon wafers—-they were starting to hustle us out of Malozzi’s about the time we talked. Hope to talk to more people about such things (my movie?) when we attempt this again in five years.

Guess I shouldn’t be overly shy about plugging my book here: ‘CARDS & CONSEQUENCES: Return of Marlena the Magnificent’ ISBN# 9781493176571, e-ver. -76557. (There’s a link and first chapter at the top of this page, in black area. Story goes well with red or white wine…)

Two doors away neighborhood girl/’Class Venus’ Allyson Towler (Grayman) was part of the reunion committee, and special props to her for persuading long time best bud Scott Grayman to be there. He had pictures of a great looking bunch of kids (6), but the Orthodox Jewish belief against celebration, because his mother died in the last year, and fact he couldn’t drive until after sundown on the Sabbath (he also drove *back* to NJ right after) goes to the core of religious tenets. We hear about intolerance of what others do in that area constantly, but self-practice like that, the world would benefit from those who do it quietly and personally.

Those who didn’t come for lesser reasons, well, the reunion was small relative to 560 at graduation, but we enjoyed it muchly.

Panthers-Bucs Game Another Piece of Sportswriters Life

Sportswriter isn't at all like being Norwegian Green agent Bahnd Jens-Bahnd, .

“Sportswriter isn’t at all like being Norwegian Green agent Bahnd Jens-Bahnd”

As the Panthers prepare to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today, this piece will be in homage to a venerable Tampa sportswriter, Tom McEwen, read often during the years while gaining my own muscles as a writer there in the early ‘80s. Mr. McEwen always began his columns discussing his breakfast fare, so:

With a second cup of post-church java in hand, sitting down to an awesome 3-egg omelet– filled with half a thigh of leftover grilled chicken, chopped up with a decent amount of firm Ruskin tomato for color, handful of baby spinach, plentiful shredded Parmesan, and laced with tabasco (as usual) on a less-rainy-than-predicted Sunday– feels righteous. Two pieces of buttered rye toast with honey and a perfectly ripened, juicy but not drippy, organic pear and the sports page, all is well with the immediate world around me.

Well, all is well now that a new $112 battery has been installed in Ol’ Blue, the PT Cruiser that required a jump this morning to get out of the driveway. As long as memories are running rampant in advance of Panthers-Bucs game—and very aware of that upcoming 40th reunion next weekend—one quick thought about hitches (like dead battery) and church. On the first day of a newbie 10 year old altar boys first 7:30am Mass long ago, Fr. O’Hara announced post-Gospel reading that he was too sick to continue. Walking through a swirling February snow to the rectory to get another priest is a memory that has obviously lasted longer than this mornings inconvenience will.

About the game: Well, the Panthers are now 4-0, tied with the Atlanta Falcons atop the NFC South. That they won the division with a 7-8-1 record last year shows just what hope every new season brings to fans. Unfortunately, even having #1 overall selection in the 2015 draft– Jameis Winston, ex- of Florida State, a Heisman Trophy and national championship winner like the Panthers Cam Newton– on their side doesn’t figure to raise the now 1-3 Bucs from the depths that having the opportunity to make such a selection indicates. It’s impossible not to think about interviewing a young, strong-armed black QB during those early Tampa sports writing days; Doug Williams was frequently running for his health behind a line not much better than Tampa’s current one.

On what turned out to be a brilliant, sun-shiny day in the second half, Winston threw four interceptions, balanced somewhat by a two TD, 26-of-43 for 287 yard effort that is his best overall game production early in a rookie year. His first INT became Panther cornerback Josh Norman’s second pick-six of the year, and Norman grabbed his fourth INT of the year a bit later. Winston might have had a worse day, but the Bucs fumbling a handoff was attributed to a running back. At least Jameis figures to still have a job on Monday—kicker Kyle Brindza missed three more FG attempts and an extra point– and coach Lovey Smith can’t protect that type of production much longer. On the other hand, Norman, Defensive Player of the Month for September, continues to make a strong case for a major cha-ching! improvement in his contract next year.

Cam Newton was average on the stat sheet, 11-22 for 124 yards, but with a pair of TD passes to Ted Ginn, Jr., the first such game of Ginn’s career. Cam’s 51 rushing yards– much like in his outstanding first year, and definitely a hoped for asset after a $103 million commitment by the team this off-season–kept the sticks moving, and have the Panthers back to ‘highly respectable’ if not feared status early. Freak plays like tight end Ed Dickson’s grabbing a Jon Stewart pop-up fumble and turning it into a 57-yard touchdown rumble seem to come through when teams are playing well overall.

While Panthers fans will continue to worry about the concussion protocols that have kept star linebacker, Luke Kuechly, out of three games since the opener against Jacksonville, they now have an off week before facing Seattle. Jared Allen, an $823,529 bargain added during the week, brings major experience (12 years, 134 sacks, 4 Pro Bowls) to a front four that lost sack-master Charles Johnson for eight weeks last week. Linebacker Thomas Davis’ final pick of Winston, and AJ Klein’s steady play replacing Kuechly, bode well for the defense, but even more than two December games vs. arch-rival Atlanta, the Panthers need to overcome a play-them-tough-but-lose history against the Seahawks. With a whiff of playoff fever already in the air, you can’t get back to any Super Bowls without expecting to see them along the way.

Two Weeks to 40th Reunion: What Would Boehner Say at Such a Time?

Boehner might've been a hard working SOB, but its got to be a relief to leave

Boehner might’ve been a hard working SOB, but its got to be a relief to leave

In two weeks Linton H.S. 40th reunion will be over, and a couple beers killing time in Schenectady (actually, at brothers in Ballston Spa, NY) until an early Tuesday flight, will allow plenty of time for reflection about what comes next. I’m planning on wearing a tuxedo that Saturday, mostly because I haven’t gotten nearly enough wear out of it the last three years, and while  a little trimming of hair for neatness is possible, no sense taking it down too far– there’s juuuust a perfect amount of ‘silver foxes’ at 58.

Everyone will recall how ‘Nam went down the spring we graduated; that’s still a huge historical event, and staying out of that unholy mess comes through clearly every time I see a documentary about it. People generally looked pretty good at the 25th on Thanksgiving weekend in 2000, and it was great to be remembered as ‘one of those journalism people’, because that was clearly a personally important part of life. That was almost a year before The World Changed with 9/11 attacks. At least I can say I’ve finally gotten a book published since then. A script anywhere close to being read? Nope. Kids or wife? Nope. Get hurt in the stock market or real estate=The Great Recession? Ehhh, can’t deny employment situation took a whack. Retail for a while, still haven’t really gotten stuff back on track like I’d want, a problem for lots of people. Ready for retirement? Yikes…!

That’s kind of the deal at this point, what’s actually Next? and even though he’s 65 and doesn’t have a 40th reunion coming up, I wonder what soon to be ex-Speaker of the House John Boehner would tell people if he did. You’d HAVE to want to ask him whuzzup? at some point, especially about both crying at the Pope’s visit and having to put up with the Tea Par…excuse me, Heritage…’scuse me…Republican Party’s refusing to do A SINGLE DAMN THING that might’ve helped this country since 2008 if it meant in ANY way that the Democrats and President Obama *might* get credit for it. Yeah, just putting my opinions on the line, but its legit to ask, right, J.B.? (Bartender, two more over here!)

Okay, John, you were only Speaker since 2011, but with the perspective of constant knife-in-your-back-ness from ‘fellow Republicans’ like Senator Cruz, shutting down the government over whatever they didn’t like– this time around it being the defunding of Planned Parenthood-– does it seem like one heckuva relief to be outta the chair? Third time to the edge, geez, aren’t we starting to look like those 50-odd Italian governments that collapsed over no confidence votes, or Greece, going to the ballot box to see which of two really lousy choices the country wanted?

If you were coming to my reunion J.B., I’d be willing to buy you a shot or two and listen, even if I’d probably say something about that tan we always saw on TV. I bet Danny Smith would grab us, get us out on the dance floor (no sweat, I’ve got my knee brace on) with 8-9 ladies and declare, “Hey, we got ’em surrounded!” Mostly, I can only imagine that while I missed out on some real ugliness that Spring of ’75 in Viet Nam, you saw more fraggings coming your way in Congress than you ever would have believed possible.

If the Pope or Holy Spirit indeed helped move you to that decision last week, take the last train out of Washington, John. When every Republican candidate for President stretched to the max in putting their religious convictions on display during debates to stay on the public radar, just knowing you won’t be around and having to take all that lip/blame when the Grand (a-h)Ole Party crash lands in 10,000 miniature, discordant pieces has to help the relaxing begin.

Keep Looking, The Good Stuff is Out There to Read-Learn From

While I’m very willing to comment on a know-nothing or left-headed piece by bloggers or writers of any strain, when something really damn good shows up, there’s almost a moral obligation to give it the attaboys! it deserves.

In the last week I’ve come across three pieces in particular, on extremely different topics, and that seems like exactly the reward surfing the web should provide. I’m including the exact locations, but with enthusiasm of the moment, the subjects were:

* How some college courses, rather than stretching the thought processes of students, are *constrained* by the milque toast-namby pamby-political correctness of students who are, it seems, willing to object IN LEGAL ACTION to something that strikes their sensibilities as un-good. Wow! even regarding classics in literature, and the idea a professor needs to give ‘trigger warnings’ about material will just floor you.

* The second was titled simply ‘What ISIS Really Wants’, and while its a LONG piece, I can almost guarantee you won’t find a better and more complete assessment of information to get you clued in. It gets to the religious bottom line about why the caliphate draws ‘true believers’ from everywhere; doesn’t *rationalize* the brutality, and puts genuine perspective out there about WHY there are so many Muslims in the world that won’t speak against the savagery ISIS so clearly displays. That its brand of belief doesn’t adjust for 21st century sensibilities vs. original Koran about beheadings and slavery is stuff that counts.

* The last was about how to make the small changes in your daily schedule that allow for increasing your time/productivity as a writer, and I almost wept (okay, hyperbole) at its clarity. That I’d put 90% of Melissa Chu’s‘s ideas into effect about two years ago and DID gain the consistency and oomph! that made a difference meant it was Truth, and I promise, you will want to read . When she writes about stealing hours to invest in your freelance gig, I *know* setting the cell phone for 7:05, having coffee in hand by 7:15, and cranking on my editing/blogging with a personal deadline of 10:15 because I had to get a quick shower and something to eat before my shift– that’s the Real Deal.

It’s never been easier to get your thoughts out to the world than with this electronic wonder we work with, although Ben Franklin et al– who wrote and published their production– had a good lock on it. I can re-post this 4-5 different places and touch different audiences, and while I’m expecting there will be more frequent reasons to pooh-pooh less inspired efforts, I’m quite satisfied that The System is kind of working the way it needs to regarding at least a corner of what the world needs to know.

Glenn S.

On the Verge of Restoring My Sports Writing Credibility

670px-bank_of_america_stadiumHaving neglected my own blog because I’m posting on Pulse and upping my profile (got to #2 in my category a few weeks ago) rank by responding to numerous subjects/slices of opinion on LinkedIn, I’m also working through the technology on a site that will put me back into the ‘getting paid for the effort’ area for my long time expertise in sportswriting –

It’s not a done deal yet, and the semi-hangup is having to (as in *mandatory*— pieces don’t go through without it) link to two other pieces. Not MY work mind you, just anyone who has done something for the same outfit, and that’s not something I’ve felt comfy with. It’s not collaboration, its simply this new site (about two months in business, Euros don’t you know) trying to ensure their writers get more views, which will increase how much they get paid. Now, I’m not against more $$ at any point, but when I’m done knocking out something on the local Carolina Panthers, trying to put (in my humble opinion) *legitimate* links in when the possibilities are about fantasy football or the futbol played in the rest of the world, I’m not crazy about that.

The lure of getting my opinions in front of thousands of readers is driving me though. Back in the early ’80s I earned my writing muscles while writing several features a month for IT’S SPORTS! magazine in Tampa, FL– muscles but not much cash. When I arrived in Charlotte 20 years ago, there weren’t the possibilities for publication there are now, and this city is *busting* with all levels of sports, even beyond the headlining NBA (Hornets) and NFL (Panthers) teams: there is AHL hockey (Checkers), an International League baseball team (Knights) that lead the league in attendance with their classy new stadium last year; lacrosse! a mens and womens soccer organization with a mission (non-profit!) you probably wouldn’t believe, and of course, NASCAR is still kinda big hereabouts.

I know I’ll get the hang of that linking thing soon, and I’m goal-oriented enough to state that I want to be read and considered an EXPERT about Charlotte sports in places like Belgium or Wisconsin. If you’re reading this now, please try and find me on again soon– I’ll make sure its worth your while.

Glenn S.