RIP Dick Clark…

19 04 2012

Unless you spent all of Wednesday under a rock, then you’ve heard about the passing of TV and media legend Dick Clark, who’d died after having had a massive heart attack while at hospital for outpatient surgery. He was 82.

Many will remember Dick from the decades he had spent as the host of American Bandstand. I admit, I was not one of those fans. Having grown up on country music, Bandstand really held no interest for me.

However, I’ve been a fan of game shows my entire life. And when it came to the various incarnations of the Pyramid game show that have run over the years, Dick was the quintessential host. Other folks have tried their hand at hosting Pyramid (John Davidson, Donny Osmond, even the legendary Bill Cullen) but no one could steer the course of a Pyramid show better than Dick could.

I was also a fan of other shows that Dick Clark hosted, such as TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes, in which he shared hosting duties with Ed McMahon. I always loved the way Dick handled himself, regardless of what show he was involved in.

One of the things that will constantly be talked about is the youthful appearance he always exhibited, up until his last few years. Take a look at footage from American Bandstand’s earlier days from the 50s, and compare it to images from the $25,000 Pyramid over 30 years later, and even some of his New Year’s Rockin’ Eve footage from before his 2004 stroke, and you’d find it very difficult to see a change in apparent age over those some 50 years! That was one of his hallmarks, and the reason he was dubbed “America’s Oldest Teenager”.

My condolences to Dick Clark’s family: his wife Kari Wigton, and his three children: Richard, Duane and Cindy.

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To the Leafs: apology not accepted…

11 04 2012

On Monday evening, the Toronto Maple Leafs posted a message to fans on their website, which reads as follows:

OPEN LETTER TO LEAFS FANS

Dear Leafs Fans:

On behalf of the ownership of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, we want to thank you for your unwavering passion and loyalty. Like every fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, we are disappointed with the results of this season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a public trust with the greatest fans in the world. We have fallen short of everyone’s expectations, and for that we are sorry. We take full responsibility for how this team performs on the ice, and we make no excuses. The way this year ended was unacceptable. Results are the only measure of success in sports and the results speak for themselves.

Ownership believes in the plan for the Maple Leafs. All of the resources at our disposal will be used to make sure that the entire organization is focused on making the Leafs a successful playoff team. We are 100% committed to ensuring we ice a team that competes with the NHL’s best. Passion, hard work and accountability will always be the hallmarks of our organization.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are privileged to have such passionate and loyal fans. We do not take that for granted. Our entire organization wants nothing more than to deliver a team that makes you proud.

Yours sincerely,

Lawrence M. Tanenbaum, O.C.
Chairman of the Board
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

[thanks to the Maple Leafs website]

The problem with the Leafs is not that they’re unable to get the personnel needed to make them competitive year after year. It is because, as long as the arena gets filled to the rafters game after game, regardless of how they are doing, the Leafs can field whatever team they wish, knowing that the seats will be filled every game night, and those who cannot make it to Toronto (or cannot afford the incredible cost of a ticket) will undoubtably turn the game on, either on TV or the radio. So the Leafs brass know that the money will be there, no matter who they put on the ice. And that’s a major problem.

In spite of claims by Mr Tanenbaum that they do not take the fans for granted, I don’t believe it for a second. For as long as I can remember, even going back to the days of Maple Leaf Gardens and Harold Ballard, it has been like that most years. Yes, there have been years in the past where the potential was there to break a Stanley Cup-less streak that is now at 45 years (the last time the Leafs hoisted the Cup was in 1967), but most years, the Leafs have merely been fortunate to get just a taste of the playoffs and not much more. And in the past few years, they haven’t even gotten that taste: they have not even made the playoffs since the NHL lockout that killed the 2004-05 season.

And yet, the fans still attend and watch the Leafs in droves. This has got to stop, so a message can be sent to the Leafs brass that what they have been putting on the ice is no longer acceptable. That means that fans should stop attending Leafs games at the Air Canada Centre. Put an end to this situation of selling out game after game.

But I know what many of you are thinking: many of the seats for Leafs games have been bought as season tickets by companies, who might give the tickets from time to time to their employees or such, and these companies don’t care what kind of team is on the ice. True, but hear me out, as there are other ways that regular fans keep track of the games.

Just under 19,000 fortunate souls get the opportunity to watch the Leafs at the ACC. But what about Leafs fans everywhere else, who live in other parts of Canada and the world, or who are unable to, or cannot afford to, make the trip to the ACC? How do we get our Leafs fix? By television or by radio.

Leafs games are televised in Ontario on Sportsnet or Leafs TV, and nationally on TSN or CBC. And all of the games are on the radio. The rights for these broadcasts are certainly not cheap, and have already been paid to the Leafs, usually in multi-year deals. Sponsors will attach themselves to these broadcasts, knowing that there will be folks tuning in to watch or listen, and therefore, will be exposed to the commercials that run. The networks, again knowing that the viewers/listeners are there, are able to set a pretty price for the privilege of running commercials during games.

But if Leafs fans stop watching or listening to the games, it can all fall apart. Fewer viewers or listeners means fewer eyeballs seeing, or ears hearing, the commercials and therefore, possibly, not purchasing as much in the sponsors’ goods and services as in the past. Therefore, the sponsors will have fewer dollars produced by those commercials. They will want to offset that by demanding a lower price for the ads they wish to run, and/or they will run fewer such ads per game. Either way, fewer dollars will go to the Leafs. Or even worse, the sponsor will stop supporting the Leafs completely. Bye-bye, sponsorship dollars.

So, if folks stay away from the Leafs games in whatever way possible, the Leafs bottom line could be hurt terribly, and that might kick the Leafs brass in the butt and tell them, “Hey, this is not good. The only way to get the fans back is to field a team that they’ll want to watch.”

So, Mr. Tanenbaum, no, I do not accept your apology. To me, the only way you and the Maple Leafs will be able to make us fans happy and keep following your games, is to get a team on the ice, that will be worth watching, either in person or on TV, or following your games on the radio. Any other action will be more of the same that we have dealt with in the past, and that we will deal with no longer.





My thoughts on the Blue Jays season opener yesterday…

6 04 2012

On Thursday, the Toronto Blue Jays opened their 2012 season with the first of three in Cleveland. It looked like the Jays were going to start off with a loss, having given up 4 runs in the 2nd inning, and were trailing by a score of 4-1 heading to the 9th inning.

Little did baseball fans know that they were in for a little history that day.

The Jays scored 3 runs to tie the game up 4-4, and they held the Indians scoreless in their half of the 9th. Going to extra innings.

Both teams had chances to put this game away sooner in the extra frames, but could not score – either by poor hitting or great pitching and defense – some of both at times!

The score remained 4-4 until the 16th inning, when J.P. Arencibia smacked a pitch into the stands in left field for a three-run home run to put the Jays ahead 7-4.

Heading to the bottom of the 16th, the plan was for Jays closer Sergio Santos to come on to pitch the full inning, and get a 3-run save. However, relief pitcher Luis Perez, who had pitched the past 3 2/3 innings, sprinted onto the field and crossed the baselines. Once he had done that, he was required to pitch to one batter before coming out of the game. Santos had to return to the bullpen and wait. Perez got the batter out and then made way for Santos, who did walk a batter, but got the job done, getting the last two outs without giving up a run. The Jays erased a 4-1 deficit, tied it up, and won 7-4 in 16 innings – the longest opening-day game in MLB history, in terms of innings played. The previous record was 15 innings, set twice: once in 1926, and repeated in 1960.

The plan had been for Santos to come in at the beginning of the inning and pitch the entire inning to earn the save. However, because he had to wait until the first batter had been put out by Perez, it turned out he only pitched 2/3 of an inning, and the rule for saves states that for a pitcher to qualify for a 3-run save, he must have pitched a full inning, closing out the game. Santos didn’t pitch the full inning as planned, so no save for him.

In the grand scheme of things, however, this was a great day for the Jays. They showed a “never say die” attitude, though they were trailing for most of the first 9 innings. They held the Indians off the scoreboard for the rest of the game, and came away with the victory in 16 innings. It was a great game to watch, and if the Jays show that kind of attitude the rest of the season, 2012 looks to be a great Jays season to follow. Pundits have predicted that the Blue Jays will likely end up with only some 85 wins for the season, but I think that if they keep the same “never say die” attitude that they showed Thursday, the Jays will end up still in a lot of games that, in past seasons, would have been written off early as losses – and may find themselves winning some of these close games!

Go Jays Go!





The Randy Carlyle era of the Maple Leafs has begun in earnest…

5 03 2012

The Toronto Maple Leafs held their first practice under new head coach Randy Carlyle on Sunday. He’s already made some adjustments to the Leafs defensive systems, more than the tweaks that were done before the Leafs won Carlyle’s debut behind the bench for Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

From reading the story on TSN.ca, the Leafs appear to be buying in to the instructions put out by Carlyle. He, right from the start, has worked to put his stamp on the team, and at least to begin with, he’s got a very hands-on approach to coaching.

“I’m always that way,” he said. “Maybe that’s a fault. Maybe I’ve got too much to say some days, but I feel it’s important that the head coach conveys the message and allows his assistants to step in when they need to.”

Well, so far, the Leafs are listening to the message from Carlyle. Already they’ve put themselves back in the win column after a six-game winless slump.

With just 17 games left in the regular season, and the Leafs currently 12th in the Eastern Conference, making the playoffs this season will be a hell of a task. They might not make it. However, during that time, Carlyle will have made significant progress in making the Leafs play the way he wants to see them. So, instead of having the Leafs adjust to a new head coach during training camp next fall (a certainty if GM Brian Burke had stuck with Ron Wilson for the remainder of this season), they will already have a new coach and system in place. So this fall, the Leafs will be able to focus better on getting ready for the 2012-13 season, and hopefully, begin a full return to being a respectable, perennial playoff contender.





How am I doing? Not very well, sorry to say…

25 02 2012

As many of you know, things have not been going well for me. It’s affected what I say on Facebook and Twitter. I’d apologized in case I’d stepped on any toes with what I said. Friends said it was no problem (for that, I thank you), and suggested I go ahead and vent. I originally wrote the following for Facebook, and then put a copy of it on Twitter. I felt I should also put a copy of what I said on this blog. So here it goes:

[From Facebook page, Feb 24/12]

Well, folks have told me I should rant away. Again, my apologies if I end up saying something I shouldn’t.

Let’s be honest here: I hate what my life has become the last few years, since I ended up in a wheelchair. My physical condition (unable to concentrate enough, very easily tired, unable to hear properly, can easily get dizzy if I look too quickly at something) makes it impossible for me to handle any kind of work, and besides, while I haven’t really looked much into it, it’s very doubtful that there actually are jobs for folks in wheelchairs here in Brantford.

And the pittance I get from ODSP, even with subsidized rent, makes it difficult to make ends meet. Though, since the ministroke last spring, my food costs have gone down (because I’m not eating as much as I used to), there isn’t enough left over for me to afford to go out and do things, even if I felt up to going. Going on outings out of Brantford have now become out of the question, because my body can no longer handle being out and about for an entire day.

I can’t even go to a damn movie when I’d like to, because of my hearing issue. I’m deaf in my left ear, but I also have literally constant tinnitus in the same left ear, that drowns out speech, so I have to have captioning on all the time with the TV. Yet, even though I’m deaf in my left ear, it is still sensitive to loud noises. For example, when I’m outside and a large truck rolls by, my left ear feels the rumble and I don’t like it. So movie theatres are out for me, because they are so loud.

I used to be able to enjoy hosting shows on internet radio, but I can no longer do that, either. That ministroke I mentioned earlier has taken it out of me. I just no longer have the energy you need to put together a show on net radio.

In spite of appearances to everyone, I’m not doing well emotionally at all. I try to keep an upbeat appearance when I’m online, and here at home, and sometimes, it works. But deep down, I’m still very sad about not being able to just get up and walk around when I feel like it. It feels like I’m not living – just existing, taking up space, not making a valid contribution.

I just turned 44 yesterday, and my life has been at a standstill for a number of years, and I don’t see any hope in that changing.

I know some of you are thinking that meds for depression will help me here. I disagree. For a very long time, much of that time untreated, I was depressed. Thinking about it now, even during high school, I was depressed but was not diagnosed or treated. In more recent years, we’ve tried all manner of antidepressants in various combinations, without long-term success. I’m now at a point where I have literally zero confidence in depression meds, even though there are very likely new ones I haven’t tried.

So, what you folks see from me right now is a very sad person, whose lower body doesn’t work worth crap. I haven’t walked at all in over 5 years, and I will, in all likelihood, never walk again. I’ll be stuck in this damn wheelchair, with a partly broken body, and pretty much a broken soul and heart.

[end of entry]





The latest Blue Jays happenings…

24 01 2012

A couple of Blue Jays events for you today:

It’s been confirmed by the Blue Jays that they have come to terms with arbitration-bound pitcher Brandon Morrow, on a 3-year deal worth $20 million, plus a club option for 2015, worth an additional $10 million. It turns out that when Morrow and the Jays submitted salary numbers recently, in preparation for the arbitration hearing, they were only $300,000 apart, and that looks to be the impetus to get a deal done. The fact that Morrow will be with the Jays for a longer term is a definite plus. Along with having Ricky Romero signed for the next few years as well, a good chunk of the Jays’ rotation is in good shape for a while.

Also yesterday, the Jays signed veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel to a minor league deal, with an invitation to spring training. Vizquel will compete with Mike McCoy and Luis Valbuena for the Jays’ utility-player position.

I think this is a great move for the Jays. If Vizquel succeeds in staying with the Jays come April, he will be a very positive influence on the entire Jays clubhouse, particularly with regular third baseman Brett Lawrie. In addition to regularly playing shortstop, Vizquel has spent about 90 games in the past three seasons playing at third, so he knows the position, and so, he could possibly fill in there for Lawrie every now and then.

Vizquel’s presence at spring training may also force McCoy and Valbuena to step up their own games, to the point of one of them earning the utility role. Either way, Vizquel will help make the Jays better in the weeks leading up to them making the move north to Toronto. Plus, being a minor league deal, the Jays are not taking a huge chance on this venture.

Someone commented to me that even if Vizquel is not successful in landing a position with the Jays, he’d be very good in a coaching role. I fully agree. That is something that I think the Jays should consider, if they decide to go with McCoy or Valbuena for the utility position. The Jays would do well to have a positive influence like Vizquel in the dugout.





RIP Joe Paterno…

22 01 2012

It has been a very difficult weekend for the Paterno family. Early on Saturday, they announced that Joe’s battle against cancer had taken a turn for the worse. Then later that evening, one university newspaper erroneously announced that Paterno had passed away. CBS and some other news services also posted Paterno’s obituary, causing his sons to comment that, in fact, at that time, Joe was still with us.

Sadly, the family announced earlier today that Joe Paterno has indeed lost his battle with cancer, passing away at the age of 85.

Yes, the scandal that has been talked about lately, regarding Jerry Sandusky’s conduct while at Penn State under Paterno’s watch, will leave an indelible black mark on him and Penn State, but it should not be considered Paterno’s legacy.

He’d spent 61 years with Penn State, almost five decades of that as the school’s football head coach. During that time, he’d amassed 409 wins, more than anyone else in NCAA Division I football history, plus 37 Bowl Game appearances, and two national titles. On the football field, his integrity was legendary, and he was loved by pretty much everyone at Penn State, students and staff alike.

*That* is how Joe Paterno should be remembered: not by what happened in the past few years, with Sandusky, but by his entire time at Penn State.

Rest in peace, Joe Paterno.