Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Great One

The Mount Rushmore of Professional Sport's Athletes goes as follows: Muhammad Ali, Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan & Wayne Gretzky.  If I had to pick someone from Football it'd have to be either Joe Montana or Jerry Rice.  Then again Jim Thorpe or Jim Brown might surpass them due to cultural influence and impact.  But since only four grace the actual Mt, I am comfortable with my picks.

Hockey is the one sport I have yet to discuss or reference.  I played street hockey as a kid and was a big hockey fan while active in the sport.  This was around the time when Eric Lindros was in Philly and the New York Rangers & Mark Messier won the Cup for the first time since 1940.  My friends and I dented our fair share of cars and even broke a living room window, about 7 feet wide x 5 feet high, with a frozen solid, pink street hockey ball.  I recently visited that same spot of streets and housing.  I couldn't find a single remnant of sports equipment or any evidence pointing to activity in the area.  When we played there, there were a couple basketball hoops, loose bricks on the sidewalk for goal markers, chalk lines on the street for bases & the most telling factor; Cars were parked in driveways and at the ends of the street.  The people of that neighborhood knew if they parked their car in the center sections it was going to get hit by a ball, a puck, a body or a stick.  The people there were cool with us for the most part too.  On my turn-back-the-clock day, cars were parked up & down the road like Danica @ Daytona with not a child in sight.  There was always that one old guy who got really pissed if you stepped foot on his grass though.  We had to deal with 2 of em in our neck.  I bet the current old dudes would be thrilled if some kids came around to play on their lawns or near their street corner.  Well maybe not thrilled but at least encouraged.

Gretzky, Lemieux and Lindros were the big dogs of Hockey in the mid 90s.  The Legion of Doom John LeClair, Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg led the Flyers top line from 95 to 97.  I saw them play in '96 against the San Jose Sharks sitting in the very top row of the CoreStates Center.  A fan next to us punched a hole in what appearred to be dry wall ceiling.  That was the most memorable part of the game for me even though it ended in a 2-2 tie with overtime.  Top Row or Upper Deck seating in any venue are notorious places for fan misbehaviour.  I remember Marty McSorley beating up a Flyer too.  McSorley is Classic NHL Bully/Tough Guy/Goon/Enforcer.  He was Gretzky's protector in Edmonton with the Oilers and he followed the Great One to the Kings in Los Angeles in the biggest trade in Canadian History, equivalent to Babe Ruth going from Boston to New York.  If Canadian's weren't so reasonable and humane, that trade might have resulted in riots and the burning down of Northlands Coliseum.

The Last Hockey game I attended was in 2004 when the Flyers faced the Maple Leafs in the 2nd round of the NHL Playoffs.  I won tickets by, get this, sending a creatively written email to Comcast's Daily News Live show.  "Best email wins tickets to the Flyers vs Leafs game," announced Michael Barkann.  So I go into a spur-of-the-moment soliloquy about the NHL and the idea that it's becoming a league dominated by higher payroll teams.  I include evidence from the previous seasons and use the Flyers as my prime example for cementing my argument.  They read my email on-air, joked about how the question/email was so long-winded it was short-circuiting the studio and I sat there laughing and smiling knowing I'd be at Game 5 of the Flyers, Leafs.  The Result: Best Sporting Event I've witnessed live.  Plenty of fights, Tie Domi getting ejected for excessive ass-hole-ery, Ed Belfour being pulled from goal for getting torched, (crowd chanting Ed-dy!, Ed-dy!, Ed-dy! while he skates to the bench, awesome) Keith Primeau hat-trick and Flyers win 7-2.  I had no vocal chords after that game.  I'm the kind of fan that believes in crowd participation so I make sure, even to the embarrassment of myself and the people with me, I get my money's worth.  I didn't pay a dollar for those tickets, but I made my presence felt nonetheless.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Get Your Ass Outside!!!

What a luxury to take a week off from being me.  To go live someone else's life in another place.  Being a slasher has become my career.  Not the violent, murderer kind but the kind who bounces from job to job.  If you're a college or high school student and you need help writing a paper, I'm your man.  If you just lost someone from your workforce and you need a quick replacement, give me a call.  If you're going out of business and you need a pair of strong shoulders to haul some major inventory or make a few last sales, I'm your man.  I grew up in the 80s and 90s so I can help you develop pictures in a dark room or upgrade you to a digital studio & post them online to any site you like.  You need something sold, cleaned, fixed, faxed, trashed, removed, refurbished, replenished or serviced; I'm the guy you need to hire.

Jack of all, master of none?  No, more like an AC Adapter or Extension Cord.  I can't rebuild your engine, but I can get it running.  I can't fix your furnace, but I can start a mean fire.  Improvisation and creativity are my forte.  Not just the bullshitting kind, although I can hold my own, but more the problem solver, solution oriented guy.

Someday if I have a son or daughter I will pass on my knowledge.  I want to relate to my kids, not just order them around.  I want to teach them something, not just let them watch tv & play video games.  Parents need to get their kids away from all the electronics every once in a while.  Take them camping or into the desert.  Whitewater rafting in the mountains and building fires along the way would be a perfect getaway.  Teaching them outdoor survival and safety all while bonding and developing a stronger relationship; now that is the ultimate family trip.  Leave all the cells, xbox's, tv's and computers back in the world.  Nature is where it's at.  Get young people to understand that we don't come from processors and microchips, but from the ground and the water.

Football is the most strategic game played on a field.  There are as many plays in the book, as there are moves on a chessboard.  Eleven on Eleven.  Offense vs Defense.  The Ground, the Ball and the Man.  "Always keep your head on a swivel," is definitely my favorite Football-ism.  It doesn't get much more survivalistic & cautionary than that.  Great Football is like the Martial Arts; controlled agression.  You can't be all-out all the time.  You can't try to take a guy's head off on 3rd and 2.  You make the tackle and get your Offense back on the field.  The Quarterback must always be the smartest man on the field.  He can't be reckless.  Turnovers lose football games.  If Vince Lombardi were still alive today, I think he'd be proud to see the progression of football, but disgusted with the rule changes to protect QBs & promote Offense.  I just wrote that because I needed to include Lombardi in a piece about teaching & discipline.  "God, Family and the Green Bay Packers," as he once said.

Kids don't need to play football if they don't want to.  It's a game and a violent one.  But kids do need to be taught and they do need discipline.  And they want to be taught, and they want to be disciplined.  So in this case give them what they want.  The Worst Parents are the ones who ignore their children and don't teach them anything.  The Internet and TV should not be raising our Kids.  And don't let their Teacher's or Principal's be the Main Authority figures in their lives.  That's what YOU need to be.  And a little Tecmo Super Bowl never hurt anyone, especially Joe Montana:)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy 50th MJ

The lights go out and the beat begins.  The Alan Parsons Project starts playing Sirius.  Your blood rushes, you feel the adrenaline and your skin tingles with the excitement of the sound.  "And Now Your Chicago Bulls!!!!!  6 foot 6 Guard from North Carolina, Michaelllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Jor-dan!!!!!!!!!!"

An introduction that couldn't be crafted any better if it were mixed by Mozart, directed by Spielberg and narrated by Duke Tango.  And the ultimate climax is reached with the enunciation of the greatest basketball player to ever lived's name.

The Synergy created by this spectacle of sight & sound combined with the game only a God could possess, made watching Jordan play basketball seem like a religious experience.  Maybe that's exactly what it was too.  Mike did everything on the floor with precision & fluidity.  In his younger years he was so explosive he went to the basket at will.  As he got older his jump shot got better and better.  He put everything together with an all-around game that made his teams unbeatable.  Jordan's combination of athleticism, game, unrivaled-will, leadership and clutch gene make him the undisputed GREATEST EVER.  All Sports fans wish they could see MJ play just one more time (& in High-DEF). 

His numbers are unmatched by anyone.  His career paths unparalleled.  Averaged 30 points per game career, 6 rebounds, 5 assists & wins wins wins.  MVPs: 5 regular season, which could've been more cuz who else in the NBA was more valuable than Jordan?  6 MVPs in NBA Finals for 6 Rings, never lost a championship series.  14 All Star Selections, 9-Time NBA All-Defensive Team.  Michael Jordan didn't even play baskeball every year.  He took two sabbaticals, a 1-1/2 year and a 4 year!!!!  Who does that?  That's 5 years away from the NBA and he still scored 32,292 points.  Obviously Abdul-Jabbar only has the Scoring Record because Jordan allowed it to stand.  And ask anyone who ever watched him play.  Ask anyone who knows basketball.  Ask anyone over the age of 25.  If they know of what they speak, Michael Jordan is numero uno.  He played Baseball too:)

So he's got the records, the numbers, the titles and the testimonials.  He's got great Shoes & he's been an NBA Executive for the Wizards and currently for the Bobcats.  I owned a pair of Jordan VII's back in 4th grade.  My Dad was and still is a Union Rep so I would never be a regular Jordan purchaser for my own good.  The Jordan Brand is more than the swoosh and stitching.  Kids & Adults wished & dreamt to 'be like Mike.'  They wear the clothes and the shoes not just for the fresh style but for the expression.  Michael Jordan signifies Greatness, Dominance, Elegance, Skill, Attitude, Class and Game and on and on.  Jordan has done it all and we want to do some of it too.  We all want to be great.  Maybe life proves dreams foolish for most, but not for everyone.  So lace em up tight, loose or however you like.  Just remember, It was never the Shoes.

I think I have over 50 Jordan cards in my collection but recently I found one that begs to be shown off.  His rookie stands alone as the best capture, but this one comes close.  Jumping high in the air, perfect form, perfect arc, perfect rotation; Michael Jordan's game is absolutely PERFECT.  This shot showcases his classic, picturesque form with the mouth open and the ball in his hands, inevitably ending with a tickle of the twine.  MJ will always be a Bull in our hearts and his Wizard-ry on the court will last forever.  Topps Finest really is the class of the hobby.  The best shots, best artwork, best presentation, best colors, best card stock, best cards period.  Another for The Cathedral Gallery.  Happy Birthday Michael Jordan

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

31-Year-Old GUM

I just bought 10-packs of 1982 Topps Football Cards off Ebay.  My previous Jack Tatum post inspired me to find more HARD-Hitter rookie cards.  The '82 set has Lawrence Taylor and Ronnie
Lott.  The first pack I opened; BOOOOM! LT Rookie.  Only about an 8-grade so nothing major but real cool for a first-pack-pull.  15-Card decks with gum on the bottom, staining that last pic in every pack.  I held the cards up to my nose.  Cards crispy from an opened pack have that smell.  Like new shoes straight out of the box these cards are gum-powdered fresh.  And these cards are from 1982!  Gum and all.  Oh Yes the gum.  31 years old, petrified.  Can I get my 31-year-old gum PSA Graded?  I even ate a piece just to see what is was like.  You don't chew 31 year old gum, you grind it up into little pieces like a sweet tart or breath mint.  The gum is still powdered and still smells good.  The taste however is sweet & stale.  I thought about microwaving it to bring it back to life so to speak, but I didn't cuz eating one piece of 31 year old gum was enough for me.  I didn't get any Ronnie Lott's, which sucks but I did enjoy learning about the gum and being reminded of that fresh card smell again.  If you can't appreciate 31-year-old gum then you're not a Card-Head.  If you don't like opening packs of cards you're not a Card-Head.  If you'd rather pay $300 for a hobby box so you can search for a rookie card worth $500, then not only are you a Card-Head but you're a dumb-ass too.  Just pay the extra 200 for the single and get on with it.  I mean I know it's fun to open packs but don't be stupid.  Then again, it is much more gratifying to rip open a pack & peel off a rookie card or rare insert then going on Ebay.  Nevertheless, 31 year old gum is definitely GEM Mint in my book.

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Fav Sound Bites

No article or commentary on Classic Sound Bites could ever be complete without first mentioning the great Muhammad Ali.  He might as well be the originator of the sound bite, or an outstanding piece of spoken word that journalists and newspaper reporters seek when talking to public figures.  Like we collectors search for great cards, pressman & paparrazi must prod and needle the people for interesting bits of information laced with theatrical enthusiasm.  Ali personified this exact description and he was much more than a quip.  He broke as many social and cultural barriers as the Civil Rights activists themselves.  My favorite Ali-ism would have to be, "The man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life."

Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb had a falling out in 2005 after their Super Bowl loss the previous season.  The Eagles had a great 2004 but came up just short losing to the Spy-Gate Patriots.  The game was punctuated by a pathetic 2-minute drill, the Eagles ran in the waning minutes of the game.  The idea of running the 2-min offense is to go no-huddle so the defense can't make substitutions, giving Offensive side the advantage as well as saving some clock.  The Eagles made it look more like the 10 minute drill; lots of standing around, lots of seconds ticking away, incompletions and... Vomiting?!  TO later made reference to McNabb being out of shape in the biggest game to the Philadelphia media and Donovan came back with a GEM that I still use every chance I get to this day, "Keep my name out yo mouth."

"What are we talking about here?"  The Philadelphia media really knows how to bring out the best in their sports stars.  The little guy from Virginia that played quarterback in high school and was heavily recruited, but at 6 ft about 150 lbs really would've been kidding himself to choose football, Allen Iverson decided to play hoops @ Georgetown University for coach John Thompson.  AI learned to share the basketball about 30% of the time, which was a 25% improvement in his two year stint in D.C.  But still, practice became just too mundane an activity for Iverson whence he reached the pros.  Another classic sound bite occured when Allen gave a press conference in 2002 to address the media about the Sixers and coach Larry Brown's issues with him.  "Practice?  We talkin bout practice?"

Save the most entertaining for last.  Mike Tyson has given us too many special moments to count.  From, "I'm gonna eat his children" to "then turn the camera off you bitch," Mike never disappoints.  Muhammad Ali spoke to the world with an athletic tongue and a sharp intellect, while Mike Tyson spoke to us like we were his baby's mama's boyfriend.  I'm happy for Mike now that he has entered Broadway.  And comedy is really where he belongs.  To be where he's been and come from the toughest streets, Tyson should have plenty of raw material to express on stage.  I just hope he doesn't lose it on a heckler when he forgets a line or stammers when someone starts laughing during serious dialogue.

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Friendly Wager

The office pool got up to $5000 this year.  3-grand for the winner, 1500 for 2nd and five-hundred for 3rd place.  The way we do it is we pick the winner, the score, the game's MVP and the score at half-time as another possible tie-breaker.  We had a hundred people in our pool this year so that's 50 bucks a head.  Pretty sweet deal.  We're all athletes and former sports so this is the kind of action we appreciate.  The guy who holds the cash and numbers is a 53 year old lifer with a no-nonsense attitude.  Every office pool needs a figure at the top who everyone knows and trusts.  He's a family man and a 49er fan so I'm sure his phone blew up when Crabtree got held in the end zone & no yellow flags were thrown.

College Basketball is heating up.  March Madness is one month away and the Top Ten are fluctuating weekly.  Another pool, another prize.  The Tournament doesn't get as much action as the Super Bowl in our pack so we make adjustments.  Anyway, our winner picked the Ravens, 35-30, Joe Flacco MVP and the half-time score was 21-14 Niners ahead, but turned out that tie-breaker wasn't necessary.  2nd place picked Ravens, 31-28, Joe Flacco MVP with a half-time score of 21-17 Ravens.  3rd place picked Ravens, 30-28, Flacco MVP and 17-14 @ the half Ravens on top.  Well done peeps.  You folks were the correct minority as 68 picked the Forty-Niners, while 32 got it right with the Ravens.  ONLY BECAUSE THE REFS GAVE IT TO 'EM, yeah i picked San Fran:(

Carmelo Anthony and his teammate Tyson Chandler had a Super Bowl bet.  Melo picked the Ravens, Tyson the 49ers.  The Knicks are looking pretty good and a little team chemistry has clearly been created.  They got Shumpert, Felton and Stoudemire back, so depth is no longer an issue.  A friendly bet between friends & co-workers is always good for stirring the pot, making things more interesting in the workplace.  The Knicks need to bond tight if they stand a chance of challenging the Heat, Bulls and Pacers in the East.  Carmelo is playing the best ball of his career, learning to share and play nice with JR Smith and Amare Stoudemire.  Novak and Smith are deadly from 3 so the Knicks can really spread the floor.  Chandler and Stoudemire make a nice big man combo.  Melo is a top 3 MVP candidate shooting 40% from 3, Wow.

Another 2003-04 Topps Finest Gem, back when Melo was rockin the braids.  One of the finest looking rookie cards with an Autograph to boot.  Topps hit me up already!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Cathedral Gallery

Welcome Back to the Cathedral Memorabilia Gallery.  Right here we have a 1952 Topps Richie Ashburn.  The '52 Topps card design is very similar to an oil painting.  It is not a true photograph but an artistic depiction of each players' likeness.  The 'Father of  the Modern Baseball Card', Sy Berger with the help of Woody Gelman collaborated on the project in 1951.  Berger was a mainstay at the Topps Corporation for 50 years and his basic Card Design of a picture, the player's name and all the statistical and biographical information on the back, which he originated, is still how most cards are produced.

If you've ever seen a 1952 Topps Card, you'll notice it's BIGGER than most other cards.  The normal measurements for cards are 3-1/2 x 2-1/2.  The 407-Card Set from 1952, which most people remember of course for the Mickey Mantle, measures a robust 3-3/4 x 2-5/8 inches.  It's Massive!!!  And the Painting Style gives it a unique look harkening back to a simpler time when less was most certainly more.

You can read more about the Topps Company and it's history on the Wikipedia page at
I had to make a personal edit to the page.  They had incorrect measurements for the 1952 Cards (they had 2-3/4 x 3-5/8).

Richie Ashburn was a career .308 hitter for the Phillies, Cubs & Mets.  One of the "Whiz-Kids" from the 1950 Phillies who got their name for their good play and youthful inexperience, Ashburn patrolled center field in Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium from '48 to '59.  He led the National League in hitting twice, made 6 All-Star teams and was a great defensive player.  Richie accumulated 2,574 hits in just 15 seasons and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995 alongside Michael Jack Schmidt.  Youngsters like me came to know him as "Whitey" the grandpa-figure, announcer who always had great insight and commentary during the Phillies games.  Whitey and Harry Kalas made for one of the best play-by-play tandems I've ever witnessed.  Harry 'the voice' enunciated with Gusto, and Whitey gave the in's and out's of the game all ballplayers and fans alike could appreciate.  Even though I was only a kid when I last saw them do a broadcast, Rich & Harry left a lasting impression on me the way they called a ball game.  Thanks Whitey & Harry, you're the best.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Kaepernick is Tebow's Worst Nightmare

The Irony of this year's NFL Season with regards to Tim Tebow, is epic in the grand scheme of his career.  Last year Tebow not only shocked the world, he made nearly every NFL anaylst and player question their idea of greatness.  "All he does is Win" is the quote from Skip Bayless made into a catchy song parody almost 4.4 million people have viewed
on YouTube.

Tebow was drafted by the Denver Broncos 25th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft to a controversial and mixed response.  Most people thought he would be drafted in the latter rounds, but when former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels decided to make Tim a first round selection, the football world was bushwhacked & had no idea what was about to materialize.  After a year riding the pine, Tebow took over the 2011, 1-4 Broncos to wide fanfare and media acclaim, but some of his peers were not so pleased.  Namely back-up QB Brady Quinn and ex-starter Kyle Orton.  Orton probably had no qualms about his demotion, but Quinn was definitely pissed-off by Tebow overtaking him on the depth chart.  You can thank your former fans and teammates from the Mile-High City for that Brady:)

Have you ever heard anyone say, "This guy is a terrible practice player" about an NFL QB?  Before Tim Tebow, no you hadn't.  Tebow was 3rd on the Bronco QB depth chart when the 2011 season began, but after five disappointing games and audible chants from the Denver crowds for "Tebow, Tebow, Tebow", the Bronco Brass caved to their Fan's demands and made Tim the starter.  He won 8 of the next 13 games, including the Earth-Quaking, First Round Playoff overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Cut to this year.  Tebow rots on the bench and plays on the Punt team for the Jets.  Hyped and Publicized to the bitter rear end of the Butt Tackle, the New York Jets chose to ride it out with Mark Sanchez instead of giving Tebow a chance.  Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Russell Wilson showed everyone what rushing ability combined with strong, accurate passing can do.  All the shine Tebow got in 2011, the 2012 QB Class took it and yes ran with it.

In 2011 Tim Tebow proved once again a mobile quarterback with questionable throwing ability is capable of winning in the NFL.  In 2012 the new class of QBs have made the case that you don't have to settle for poor throwing to have a good rushing QB.  While Tebow was running QB draws and fake punts for the inept Jets, 3 of the new class were making the playoffs and Kaepernick is in the Super Bowl.  Kaepernick is Tebow's worst nightmare.  Not only can Colin run faster than Tebow, he probably throws harder than John Elway (Kaepernick's Fastball was clocked @ 95MPH, he was drafted to play baseball) and is quite accurate.  You can make the argument that 3 once-in-a-generation QBs came along this year in Wilson, Griffin and Luck.  This is great for the NFL, but absolutely dire for Tim Tebow.  Everyone's Standards for QBs were lowered in 2011, but 2012 may have raised those standards to a level unequaled.

I do hope Tim Tebow gets another chance to be a starter.  No one can deny what he did in 2011, but the QBs from this year have made it a whole lot harder for him to even get an opportunity in the future.