Hello again, friends.
It has been a while since last we all chatted. The high school winter sports season is but a memory now, and what a lasting impression it made.
I did have a great time at the Lackawanna League boys all-star game. What can I say about Clay Basalyga breaking a backboard on a dunk? That was sensational. Glad I was there. And the kids played great.
But now there are trying times ahead for us as sports journalists.
In the coming weeks, starting Sunday, we at The Times-Tribune will be honoring our winter sports athletes on our All-Region teams. Wrestling will be up first, followed quickly by Swimming and Basketball.
Over the years, as social media has become more a part of sports writing, it is more and more difficult to select these athletes for the teams without the fear of hurting the feelings of someone else. While, I know this is a difficult and gut-wrenching task, I do it and we as a staff do it, because it is important and we treat it as such. If any fan or parent doesn’t believe that we agonize over these teams, you are welcome to visit us at The Scranton Times Building at 2 a.m. when we weigh each player’s candidacy and their merits.
Being chosen or not being chosen can be a great lesson in life. That is a message for parents and guardians to deliver. Coping with disappointment in life can be the strongest character trait of a young person and can serve them best in a competitive world that awaits them after they leave the nest.
That being said, I had an absolute great time this winter — dealing with the weather notwithstanding.
It’s always fun to watch players as they mature. Heck, I have been at this for 18 years now, longer than some of the athletes I cover have been alive.
But what always drives me to work the long hours and the seven-day weeks, ultimately, is the kids. I probably don’t say this enough, but I have to thank them for all that they do. They are my subject matter. Their stories of hard work, dedication can be inspirational on and off the fields, courts or pools. Look, in this day and age, of sensationalism, I am in this for YOUR kids. I appreciate the shout outs at games more than I can ever say in words. And it’s those rare moments, when as Batman said to Commissioner Gordon, “you put a coat upon a boy’s shoulders to tell him everything would be all right,” or when a group of athletes asks to have a picture taken with you, that helps me to keep this job in perspective.
So, yes, I can’t thank you all enough for another great season.
Now, it’s onto spring sports.
But, not so fast! It is required by law that I must take a vacation.
They force me to do it.
Now there are those who will say, I am on vacation all the time, which, in comparison to most jobs, I probably am. But, by the power of the wind, I must stay away from the bustling offices at The Scranton Times Building (I am rarely there that much any more any way) and will try to recharge the battery. Goodness knows that I will not be able to rest! Why, because for some forsaken reason, all of my neighbors and I must put our own water wells on our property. And this just in — It’s not cheap! The drilling itself shakes my entire house, so my usual pattern of sleeping during the day has been terribly interrupted.
My daughters, Meghan and Grace, probably wish that we were headed back to Disney World because right on cue, I am going on vacation and BAM! The weather looks terrible for the week. But that isn’t happening any time in the near future!
We always have a good time when we go to Florida and the weather is top notch and much warmer than NEPA. But I digress.
Therefore, I must find things to keep me busy. And while my better half has compiled a lengthy Honey Do list that puts the daily Times-Tribune Sports Budget to shame, I have come up with some ideas on how to spend the next nine days. I would love to share some with you, so that you know that I will be spending my time wisely.
So here goes:
As Rick Rude said. … Hit the music!
First, I plan on doing my best Adam Richman imitation. No, I am not actually going to perform any Man vs. Food stunts, but I will be indulging in some of my less than healthy vices. Heck, you only live once, and you only vacation technically four times a year, I am told, so why not live dangerously.
Here are my Top 5 favorite foods that I shall be taking in during my hiatus: (in descending order)
Oh, I love ’em. I will stack ’em with some of the most delicious deli meats you can find. My food and cuisine consigliere Herb Smith swears by some sandwiches made by a local establishment that I cannot identify here without violating about 10 rules of our company. But I can assure you, if Herb gives a place the thumbs up, I am going to try it out.
4. Burgers. Yes, I know that these are terrible for my cholesterol and I am likely cutting years off my life, but I will try to balance the mouth-watering, savory taste of these scrumptious patties, by going for daily walks. I promise. Honestly, I can’t stop myself. Now, I am not recommending these for everybody and certainly not the highly trained athletes I cover, but I love a good burger (sometimes a double)!
3. Steak. What can I say, I am a glutton for punishment. I actually have cut down on how often I go for steak now that my doctor told me the reason I breath so heavy when I walk up stairs is because I am 75 pounds overweight and I eat too much red meat. That being said, I have to treat myself because I am on vacation, and that’s what sportswriters do when they aren’t working 15-hour shifts. I particularly enjoy my wife’s homemade prime rib!
2. Italian pasta. Now, anybody who knows me, knows that I love pasta. Actually, I love Italian Sauce. My late Grandmother, Mildred Gravine, made the most delicious gravy I have ever tasted. I would walk into her house on a Sunday afternoon, and my taste buds unleashed a Niagra Falls of water. Her recipe should have been marketed. She shaved the garlic ever so thin, added the meatballs at just the right time. Oh, and her homemade pasta just melted in your mouth. It was magnificent and it is unmatched. That being said, I can still down a pound of pasta drenched in tomato sauce at a sitting, and since I will be doing a lot of sitting, why not overdo the pasta.
1. Chicken wings. I’m sorry all you health fanatics out there, I am guilty as charged. I would be a hypocrite, if I didn’t say that I can power down a serving of wings every night if they were put in front of me. I can’t stop myself. So, unfortunately, I can assure you that I will be torturing my body and soul with this evil. But as Bane said in The Dark Knight, “It’s a necessary evil.”
This just in. … I love movies. I am home alone a lot because my two beautiful daughters are in school all day, and once my naps are through, and I have done some work at the kitchen table, I watch DVDs or even Blu Ray now as I step into the 21st century.
Here are some of my favorite movies that maybe you should watch during your next vacation:
5. All the President’s Men. You didn’t really think that I got into the newspaper business just to cover sports, did you? Well, actually, I did, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the work ethic of hard-newsmen and newswomen in the business. I saw this movie starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman for the first time only because it was an assignment in college as part of a research paper into the Watergate scandal. I loved the movie. It got me to think. And it pulled me in with it’s intense script. From that day forward, I always pictured the scenes at The Washington Post as being what it would be like at The Scranton Times. I highly recommend this for high school students, especially those who are interested in journalism as a career, even if it is in the digital age.
4. The Odd Couple. When one of the opening scenes of any movie is a bunch of dear friends getting together on a Friday night, in a messy apartment where the host serves brown sandwiches or green sandwiches and milk is standing in the fridge that isn’t in a bottle, for a night of poker, I am hooked. Walter Matthau, one of the underrated actors of his time, plays Oscar Madison, a sloppy, unhealthy, slob who is a sports writer (Hey, that’s me!) and Jack Lemmon is Felix Unger, an uppity, clean, neat-freak. Both are divorced and live together in a New York apartment that puts my home to shame. It’s hilarious from start to finish.
3. Jaws. Normally, I don’t crack this one out until the Fourth of July, but with the winter we have had and the terrible weather expected this week, I need a summer movie to motivate me. And this one is my favorite. Now, I know that Chris Imperiale prefers Beach Blanket Bingo with Annette Funicello, but I like a bit more horror in my beach movies. This one fits that bill. That music still sends chills down my spine, and I know, no matter how tough we all pretend to be, that before dipping that big toe in the ocean, you all think of little Alex Kintner innocently laying on that raft! Favorite line by the way. … “We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
2. Fletch. What? A comedy as my No. 2 favorite movie? That is blasphemy! Actually, that’s me. That’s my personality. I don’t have to be moved to tears when watching a movie. There is enough pain in the world to build those tears. When I am on vacation, I demand to be happy. And I am happiest when I am laughing. I can recite lines from this Chevy Chase classic. It’s an awesome film that generates side-splitting laughs. Plus, he is a newspaper man, and technically, I qualify as one too, so here’s to us journalists, again. Excuse You!
1. The Dark Knight. You can probably tell already by my constant reference to lines from the script that I loved this movie. It is cinematic genius as far as I am concerned. Heath Ledger gives what is in my lifetime the greatest movie performance in my opinion. I can watch this movie, over and over, again. So much so that my kids refuse to allow me to pick the feature on Family Movie Night, which I believe is Tuesday this week! One of the great things about this movie is you can watch it separate from Batman Begins, which is a pretty good script in its own right. Block out some time, and watch this feature. I know I will!
Okay, look, dinner, movies, what else productive can I do on my vacation? Hmmmm, well, the bathroom needs a new coat of paint. And I probably should clean out my downstairs in anticipation of my well being installed. I could vacuum, and I should probably scrub the bathroom. I got it. … TV!
Who doesn’t love kicking back and watching the old tele? Not me. I am sure that my remote control will get a workout, so here are my five favorite television shows:
5. NCIS. I guess I have always been drawn to shows like this because my father is a Marine and was a Pennsylvania State Policeman for 30 years. Others think I just watch it for Special Agent Caitlin Todd or Special Agent Ziva David. But I also like the character of Tony DiNozzo, but I fear that my boss probably wouldn’t mind giving me a head slap every once in a while! I am certain USA Network will run some sort of “themed” marathon this week!
4. Law and Order. The original is still great. I am a big-time fan, so much so that I have the DVD collections of the first 8 seasons. Lenny Briscoe is my No. 3 character from television, right behind a certain pair of detectives who will be coming up on the list shortly. I prefer the older episodes to the newer ones and find myself, as hard as I try not to, watching whenever it is on the air. Thank goodness that both Sundance Channel and the WE network that both show marathons three times a week.
3. Seinfeld. Hey, again, I gotta laugh. My fraternity brother Tim Moncman, who is a remarkable high school football coach, got me watching this show when it first started. He said it would be a hit, and he was right. But, I am not sure how I feel about his comparing me to the character of George Costanza? Any way, there is always a chance I can land on this show being on somewhere, and I know that it is on at 1:30 a.m. daily, so I will try to catch as many episodes as I can.
2. Columbo. I am, if not anything else, a bit of a sucker for nostalgia. Maybe it’s because in the subconscious you always want to go back to your younger days. I remember watching Columbo as a kid, so when I watch it now, I feel like that kid again. Peter Falk is annoyingly charming and I can’t help but feel bad for the criminal as he is tortured and pestered into an almost self relieving confession. Hey, look at that — A Columbo Marathon on Hallmark Movie Network this weekend. How lucky can a guy get?
1. Law and Order: Criminal Intent. This one got me right from the first episode. Detective Robert Goren, played brilliantly by Vincent D’Onofrio, is one of the great chracters written and developed for television. He’s the ultimate detective. He knows 18 different languages, he’s a computer analyst, he’s a mathematician, you name the field, he has experience in it. This guy is a walking Bat Computer. And Detective Alexandra Eaymes is so witty and observant. It’s just a more developed version of Columbo, and since I like Columbo and Matlock so much, I am sold on Law and Order: CI and it’s not just because my boss is sometimes referred to as CI (Wink!).
Well, I guess I better share some time with the family, too.
I am going to watch the big sporting events next week too, just to stay in touch with the real world. I mean, how could I miss Wrestlmania? And even though I got pummeled in the office pool (for entertainment purposes only), I will watch the Final Four, I am guessing, and this may be a stretch, somewhere in Greenfield Township (Right fellas). But that will be it. I need time to decompress folks and get ready for what promises to be a very condensed spring sports schedule.
So, I shall walk away from my cubicle sometime after the midnight hour. All-Region teams done and ready to go, track and field previews written and ready. All is in the system for the masterful artist Conor Foley, who is the Leonardo da Vinci of page design.
Hope you all don’t miss me too much.