Archive for the ‘Adventure’ Category

Henry Ford famously tried to make personal airplanes available to everybody with his awesome little Ford Flivver, but ultimately failed. That was sad.

Ford’s success in making a car available to every US citizen led him to believe that he could do the same with planes. Thus, Ford hired an engineer named Otto Koppen and charged him with designing a small, light plane.

The design was finished in 1926 and was called “Ford Flivver.” The plane’s flaps were arranged in such a way as to give it maximum upward lift in small spaces, and a rear wheel meant that it could be driven from your home to a makeshift runway.

Unfortunately in 1928, pilot Harry J. Brooks attempted to fly Flivver from Michigan to Miami on a single tank of gas. As he was cruising over the ocean, the Flivver’s engine locked up, smashing the plane and the pilot into the water.

Brooks’s body was never found.

The accident put an end to the project. But in 1940, Ford famously announced, “Mark my words: A combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come.”

Since then, humankind has longed for and awaited for their own personal plane. Well kids, our long wait has come to an end. Not only do we have a personal airplane, it also turns into a car. Ladies and gentlemen, the PAL-V Liberty:

Well, hell, that looks fun doesn’t it? Just hop in your PAL-V, fire it up and fly away to parts unknown, land, and drive away like it ain’t no thing. Check out this video:

I want a PAL-V Liberty and I want one yesterday!

Note: Just read where the cost starts at $400,000.00. Never mind.

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Nice work, fellas.

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crowd

Not from that night, but pretty damn close.

Back in 1991 I was in my second year coaching varsity basketball. We had a really good team and we were playing another really good team from another league. Due to what occurred that night I’ll try and leave our opponent’s name out of the story. However, if you were there that night you’ll never forget what went down . . .

Like I said, we were a very good team that year, as we had been the year prior. We were about to play a team we’d beaten the year before, but they’d improved and really, really wanted to avenge that loss.

How badly? We had no idea.

Oblivious to what was waiting for us, we prepared for the game like any other. Game day arrived and we made the bus trip over the hills, into the next county and into our opponent’s gym.

Upon walking in though, we knew something was different. Although the reserve game was just getting started, the place was packed. In those days a full gym wasn’t that surprising though.

However, the emotionally charged atmosphere that hit us as we walked inside was an eye-opener.

As the home crowd stood and booed lustily, we looked around and there were signs everywhere. Some were of the generic variety, some decidedly not.

The gym we were in was pretty small, with maybe 15-18 rows one one side and a set of bleachers on the stage. On a related note, the crowd was decidedly 95% anti-Bearcats. We had a faction of small, but mighty and boisterous, fans in one corner of that stage.

It was then, as we were walking into the gym and towards our locker rooms, that I noticed a sign. Here’s what it read:

“WELCOME TO THE NASTY PLACE”

Uh . . . oh. Where had I heard that before? And then it hit me. After we’d beaten this team the year before, one of my quotes in the paper was this:

“I was glad to get out of there with a win. That’s a nasty place to play.”

I’ll swear to the day I die I never meant that comment as an insult to our opponent’s small gym. What I meant was that it was a tough place to win because they always had hard-nosed, well-coached teams with loud, loyal crowds. That’s what I’d meant by nasty.

Really, that’s what I meant.

At this point, however? Too late for explanations. I’d insulted their gym, their team, their school, and apparently their entire community, which incidentally was there en masse that night.

We went down to our locker room, which was at the bottom of some stairs under the bleachers. As we dressed we could hear the roar of the crowd, even during the reserve game.

The place was electric.

Eventually we took the floor, of course to loud boos and taunting from the crowd.

As the game progressed, the atmosphere only became more intense. The score was close throughout, which only ratcheted up the intensity. Objects were thrown from the crowd, usually at me, which to my recollection included pennies, candy (my managers loved that), and anything else folks could get their hands on.

At one point the game was stopped and an administrator made an announcement, something along these lines:

“Listen, no matter what the other coach said about our school, please try and stop throwing things at him.”

I swear it was something like that. Probably not the best choice of words, because they only amped the crowd up more.

And man, if you’d have heard some of the things being yelled at me from behind our bench your jaw would have hit the floor.

Anyway, as we entered the last quarter we were in trouble. We trailed a very talented team whose crowd wanted a win very badly. With around 5:00 remaining, we were down by 10-points.

But then, thanks to a timeout followed by a furious full court press, we made a run. Did I mention we had three of the best little defensive guards in the league in Todd Shoemaker, Casey McFadden, and Roman Diekan? All three were 5-10 and they would get after you defensively.

Not only that, they feared nobody. Not even hundreds of angry fans giving them Holy Hell from the bleachers. Shoot, it made my guys play harder.

Bottom line, we held our opponents scoreless the last 5:00 of the game, and eventually forced overtime. It was on.

As we readied for the overtime tip, the din of the crowd was deafening. But the real fun was about to commence.

The Bearcats got the tip, and it was then we made the decision to hold the ball.

Yep, you read that right. We decided hold the ball and go for the last shot.

Hey, we had three of the best guards, defenders and ballhandlers in the Scioto Valley Conference, we were playing in a hostile (to put it mildly) environment, so why not hold it and go for the win?

And that’s exactly what we did.

Todd, Roman and Casey dribbled and passed their way through the overtime, running a weave out front as our opponents tried desperately to regain possession of the basketball.

Wasn’t happening, man. And as you can imagine, this only amped up the tension higher with the crowd, if that were possible.

We burned the clock in that spread offense until there were about 5-seconds left, when Todd Shoemaker rifled a no-look, bullet pass from the top of the key to 6′-5″ sophomore (and future 1st Team All-Ohioan) Craig Kerns under the basket. Kerns was immediately fouled on the wide-open layup, giving him two free throws with 1-second remaining in the tied game.

It was then we called a timeout, and I told Craig to make the first shot (I had no doubt he would) and miss the second, giving the other team no time to get the rebound and call their own timeout and attempt a last second prayer of a play.

As Craig was lining up for the first shot, I saw Todd walk up from beyond the 3-point line and whisper something to him. He actually had his hands cupped over his mouth as he whispered in Craig’s ear. In retrospect I should have known something was up. Alas, in the heat of the moment I did not.

So, Craig made the first to put us up 1 and missed the second as directed. An opposing player grabbed the rebound threw up a desperation shot that missed, and we’d pulled off the big comeback win under very difficult circumstances.

One of the incredible final stats was that we held a very good team, including the last quarter and overtime, to zero points over the last 9-minutes of the game.

As I started to go over to shake hands with the opposing coach, I caught something out of the corner of my eye. As I turned to look, I saw Todd and Craig running towards the opposite wall. Then I saw them rip a particularly offensive sign off the wall.

Uh-oh. So that’s what they’d been talking about.

I can’t say it was the best decision they’d ever made, but they’d also been suffering through some pretty intense verbal abuse the entire game. Did I condone it? No. Did I understand it? Yes I did.

At that point, well, all hell broke loose.

People poured onto the floor and fights seemed to be breaking out everywhere.

My assistant coaches, Daron Myers and Pete Hollon among them, were fending off people trying to get at me, and at one point formed a circle around me as we attempted to get our team to the locker room.

I remember that Craig’s father Brad, our film guy, forgo the ladder that led to his little crow’s nest where he’d been filming and basically jumped down to join the fray.

Finally, we made it downstairs to the locker room. Once there, we could hear people at the top of the steps yelling nasty things down to us. A group of our parents actually stood guard at the top of the stairs. I told my players to sit tight, that we’d have to wait this out until things calmed down. Soon after that, a local policeman came to tell us the same thing, that they were calling in some more enforcement to clear the gym.

My players didn’t even change into their street clothes. They just sat there waiting to be told what to do next.

Over an hour later the gym was eventually cleared, but a lot of people were still waiting for us in the parking lot. Soon, a plan was hatched. Our bus left the lot it was parked in and was brought around to the other side of the school. With a large group of our fans forming a tunnel, we snuck out through a side door and boarded our bus.

What happened next seems surreal even today. After we were all seated, the Sheriff of the county we were playing in got on the bus, stood at the front, and said this:

“You fellas better keep  your heads down until you get out of _______ County.”

Yep. That actually happened. I have witnesses.

On a related note, do you know how you can tell you have loyal assistant coaches? When, after hearing what the local sheriff just said, you have this discussion with one of them:

Coach Myers: “Coach, switch places with me.”

Me: “Why?

Coach Myers: “You’d better get away from the window. They’ll be aiming for you.”

That’s loyalty, folks.

As we pulled out we were escorted, front and back, by several cars and trucks from Paint Valley. Behind our fans, in the back, followed a lot of cars that were not from Ross County. When we crossed into Ross County, those cars turned around and went back from whence they came.

You may not be surprised to learn that I got several phone calls the next day, most from angry fans threatening to beat my ass but with a few death threats thrown in for fun as well.

Good times, huh?

Our twice yearly regular season games with that opponent were cancelled for the foreseeable future, although the very next year we happened to draw them in the sectional tournament. Again, they couldn’t beat us.

Thank God it was on a neutral court.

Note: Folks from the school and opponent in question will most certainly have a different perspective regarding what happened that night, and they are certainly welcome to chime in if they feel the need.

 

1Another story from my misspent youth . . .

We had a kid in our neighborhood when I was growing up that was, shall we say, lacking in the looks department. Ah, what the hell, he was the ugliest SOB I’ve ever seen. He had a bulbous nose, elephantine ears, beady eyes, and his complexion was so bad it looked as if his face had caught on fire on somebody’d put it out with a rake.

God, I can be mean. But seriously, this dude’s parents had to tie a steak around his neck to get the dog to play with him.  I swear he had to sneak up on a glass of water to get a drink. Hey-O! I could go on forever.

In addition, he was really big for his class at school. Alright, so he’d been held back a couple of times. But he was still big for his age, and not just big-big. Humongously fat-big. Add some long greasy hair to the mix and I think you get the visual.

The guy’s last name was Granderson, and for some unknown reason that only our then-addled minds could understand, we called him Grungy. Grungy Granderson. Hey, it seemed to fit.

Anyway, he hated the nickname. Hated it. If you ever called him that you best be sure that you weren’t within grabbing distance or you were in for a severe ass-whipping. However, since Grungy was lacking in the footspeed department some of us would occasionally get away with actually calling him that to his troll-like face. The fact that Grungy was such a mean and hateful guy somehow made this acceptable in our world.

Wait. Now that I think about it, it’s sort of obvious why he was so angry all the time. The world can be a cruel place, man.

I actually felt a hint of remorse there for a second. Hold on . . . OK, it passed.

That said, one day I was cruising by Twin School on my bike with my buddy Buddy (seriously, his name was Buddy) when we noticed Grungy shooting some hoops on the playground. Buddy, who could be a bit of a jackass, then suggested we ride over and torment Grungy a bit. After all, we were on our bikes and he was not. Seemed like a safe and entertaining way to kill a few minutes. Have I mentioned I was once one helluva a punk-ass kid?

Before we rode over there, though, Buddy and I had this conversation:

Buddy: “Hey, why don’t you see how close you can get to him, call him Grungy, and then take off?”

Me: “Why don’t you?”

Because I’m quick like that.

Buddy: “C’mon. I dare you.”

Me: “No way man. That dude would crush my spleen if he caught me.”

Buddy: “You’re a chicken.”

Me: “For once in your life you are correct. I am a chicken.”

Buddy: “C’mon. I double dare you.”

Now, when I was 12-years old you could dare me, you could call me chicken, you could question my manhood. But you could not double dare me. Ever. Double dare me and I would take you up on it. That was the the rule of the street in Bourneville, Ohio in the late 60s my friends. I know, it makes no sense, but anyone in my age group knows exactly what I’m talking about.

So . . .

We rode on over and I immediately began circling Grungy on my bike, saying clever things like:

“G-r-u-n-g-y . . .”

“Hey GRUNGY!”

“Grungeman!”

“What’s up Grungy?”

“G-R-U-U-U-U-U-N . . .”

A-n-d I never got that last part out because a basketball had just slammed into the back of my head at approximately the speed of light. I swear it felt like a cannonball had hit me from a distance of 10-feet, thrown by an angry King Kong after 17-Red Bulls and a shot of liquid adrenaline. To this day if you look closely at the back of my head I’m pretty sure you can see the faint outline of the word “Spalding” there, backwards.

Of course I flew off my bike, and when I came to my senses Grungy was towering over me like an enraged Goblin on steroids.

Man, was he pissed.

He then picked me up by the front of my t-shirt and belt of my pants, held me over his head, and threw me like a rag doll into the air. While airborne it felt like I was moving in slow motion. Everything became quiet and it was actually quite peaceful for a few seconds. While up there I believe I actually caught a glimpse of Buddy, my supposed friend, pedaling away at warp-speed while glancing over his shoulder in fear, like a hobo being chased by a guy with a job offer.

Of course all that ended when I landed on the playground blacktop.

I sat up, stunned, looking around wildly for the expected onslaught that was to come. But nothing came. All I saw was Grungy riding away on my little bike, looking like one of those bears in the circus that they’ve taught to ride a bicycle. It would have been funny if I’d had any feeling in my upper torso.

After sitting on the ground for awhile trying to catch my breath and my bearings and feeling around for missing teeth and you know, blood, I got up and walked home.

And there, leaning against a tree in my front yard, was my bike.

Grungy had left it for me.

God knows I deserved what I got and he had every right to roll my bicycle into Paint Creek or something, but for some reason he didn’t.

Grungy moved away soon after that, and I never got the chance to ask him why he left my bike for me. I guess somewhere deep inside that big, mean, ugly body there beat a good heart.

I sort of wish I’d known that sooner.

sniper

Boom. Roasted.

NY PostA sharpshooter killed a top ISIS executioner and three other jihadists with a single bullet from nearly a mile away — just seconds before the terrorist was set to burn 12-hostages alive with a flamethrower, according to a new report. The hostage burning was to be filmed to show America.

Boy, this sure gives new meaning to the phrase “Boom. Roasted!”, huh?

From what I read, the British Special Air Service marksman badass turned one of the most hated terrorists in Syria into a crispy critter by using a Barrett .50-caliber rifle.  He did it by striking a fuel tank affixed to the jackwipe’s back. The pack exploded, killing the terrorist and three of his men who were supposed to film the execution. Up to 12 civilians were going to be murdered — eight men and four women. They say the executioner gave some sort of rambling speech, and those were his last words. When he finished, the SAS sniper opened fire, blowing The Butcher and his three flunkies to smithereens and sending them straight to hell.

The captives were then rescued by British and US special forces.

Bloody well done, chap. Time for a spot o’ tea.

Run Over by a Truck

Posted: August 13, 2016 in Adventure, Humor, Kids
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Yep. This happened.1

When I was 11 or 12 my buddies and I got on this kick where we built homemade go-carts. We’d take the wheels off of an old wagon or something and attach them to a 2×4, make axles, and go from there. We’d attach the axles with a bolt down through the middle, and in that way we’d be able to steer with our feet.

Make sense?

Anyway, the go-carts became quite elaborate with sides and roofs (we’d use whatever wood, tin, or anything we could find in our parent’s garages) along with some creative paint jobs. For mine, I found a big rectangle shaped board and nailed it to the bottom of my go-cart. It made it look like it had wings, so I christened it “The Flying Dutchman” because I’m part Dutch and part German. And hey, even at my young age “The Nazi Death Wagon” just didn’t seem appropriate.

If you’ve been reading my “Childhood Injuries” series, you know that we didn’t exactly err on the side of caution when I was a kid, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that we raced our go-carts right down the hill on Twin Road. Yes, it’s a pretty high traffic area, but I don’t recall that being figured into the equation at the time.

So we’d have these races down the hill, two at a time, winners advancing just like March Madness. This was a different kind of madness, but still. Each cart had a pusher that would give you a start, just like the bobsledders in the Olympics. My pusher was Ted, the same guy who knocked me out with a beer bottle and watched me plummet 20-feet out of a willow tree. In retrospect, Ted wasn’t exactly a lucky charm for me, but at the time that hadn’t occurred to me.

One day we’re having our races, and Ted gives me a helluva shove. I’m leading by a hefty margin, hunched over to reduce wind resistance as The Flying Dutchman hurtled down the hill.

All was well until I saw the truck.

It was pulling out of Keran Street, which ran perpendicular onto Twin Road. The guy driving the truck looked right, then left towards me. He didn’t see me, perhaps because he was looking for a regulation vehicle on a public road and not a small wooden contraption built from garage junk. Then he turned left, directly towards me, and it was too late for me to ditch.

I was going to be hit.

At this point I had few options. The truck was going to run right over me. It was too late to roll off the go-cart, so it looked like the end for young Dave.

Listen, if you’ve never seen a truck grill coming at you at 30-mph from a height of about 2-feet off the road you haven’t lived. Without really thinking, I just reached up and grabbed the truck bumper as it went over my head. Somehow, I stayed in the cart but unfortunately the truck kept going. In the background I could hear my buddies yelling, “STOP! YOU’RE KILLING OUR FRIEND!” or something along those lines.

The guy probably only drove a few feet with me dragging under his front bumper but it seemed like, oh I don’t know, 43-miles. This was probably so because every second I held on I expected to lose my grip and be crushed by the undercarriage of a 1968 Ford F100.

But I didn’t, and the driver finally stopped. He jumped out and pulled me from under his truck, genuinely concerned that he may have killed a child. Except not really. He ripped me a new one:

“What the hell do you think you’re doing? You rolled right under my truck you %$#*&%$ IDIOT!!” 

Yeah, because it’s all about you, bud.

Bottom line I was unhurt, miraculously I might add. And I somehow avoided peeing my pants, which saved me from great ridicule on the mean streets of Bourneville, Ohio.

After some more ass-chewing and the extrication of The Flying Dutchman from under the truck, I pulled my undamaged go-cart back to the top of the hill, where the races continued. After all, life went on, fortunately for me.

And hey, it was just another near-death experience for me. No big deal. Just another day in the life of a southern Ohio kid in the late 60s.

Artist’s rendering.

This was one of the stories in a series about my susceptibility to almost getting killed as a kid. I’ve alluded to this little mishap before, so stop me if you’ve heard it already.

On Halloween when I was, oh, maybe 11 or 12, my buddy Ted and I decided to climb the big willow tree in my front yard and scare the bejesus out of passing children. If you have to ask why you don’t know what fun is, folks.

I was climbing ahead of Ted, at least 20-feet up. He was probably 10-feet off the ground behind me. I reached for a branch, it broke, and next thing I knew I was hurtling downward, backwards, towards the gaping jaws of death. You ever fall from a great height backwards? A lot of stuff goes through your head as you fall all slow-motiony and whatnot through the air, like “I hope mom will be OK without me” or “I sure wish I would’ve kissed Debbie Mirkelson on the playground last Tuesday when I had the chance“, or perhaps, “Oh no, when they clean my room they’re going to find those magazines under my mattress.”

Too specific? never mind.

My point is, you actually experience great insight and retrospection on the way down. I actually think I may have understood The Grand Unification Theory for a second, but sadly it vanished from my brain upon impact. Anyhoo, as I flew past Ted, and you may find this hard to believe, but he actually yelled, “A-h-h-h-h-h-h-h . . .” imitating a man falling down a hole.

What can I say? I’ve had some really weird friends in my life.

So I hit the ground, landing on my back, and all the air went out of me. Things went black and I thought, “So this is what it’s like to be dead.”

Except I wasn’t, although for a second I’m pretty sure I saw Jesus.

Soon Ted came down and shook me, probably not the preferred method of treatment, and it was only then that I began to feel the pain. My back hurt like hell, but something was seriously wrong with my mouth. I instinctively reached in there to see what was wrong, and to my horror there was a a lot of blood and a substantial sized hole in my tongue. I ran screaming bloody murder into my house, only to be chastised by my parents for interrupting a scintillating episode of “My Three Sons” or something.

Did anyone call 911? Nah. Was I taken to the emergency room? I was not. I got a wet rag, stuck it in my mouth and got on with my life.

Bottom line? Even though I still have a lump in my tongue today, it healed. And my back is fine if you ignore the fact that, on rainy days, it feels like a honey badger is chewing on my lower lumbar vertebrae.

What can I say? ‘Twas a different, and in many ways better, time.

My Bucket List

Posted: August 3, 2016 in Adventure, Dreams, Inspiration
Tags:

I’ve been lucky enough to do a lot of cool things in my life. I really can’t complain. I’ve been behind the bench at Final Fours, been courtside during the glory days of Duke-Maryland, been to a handful of World Series games, a Presidential Inauguration and an NBA All-Star game. I saw Hank Aaron tie Babe Ruth’s home run record, and I’ve been backstage at several rock concerts and even met a few rock stars. Hell, I even stared into a volcano less than 36-hours before it erupted for the first time in recorded history.

Still, there a several things I want to do before I die. Some are going to be pretty easy to achieve. Others, not so much.

Will I make all of these happen? Not likely. Will I try? Oh yeah. I’ll give what I perceive to be my chances of meeting my goals after the description. Let us begin . . .

JUMP OUT OF AN AIRPLANE

Allow me to tell you a quick story. Back in college I led a group of my friends to Xenia, OH where we intended to do the whole skydiving thing. I actually organized the trip. We got there and went through the whole practice routine. Back then you had to jump off a little platform and practice your landing roll and whatnot. Anyway, we got up in the air and I was first in line. They rolled open this big cargo door and suddenly I could see cornfields and roads and cows and stuff down below. At that point every single fiber of my being was screaming at me, “Man cannot fly. You are not supposed to do this.” At that point I just froze. I couldn’t do it. And then, after I chickened out, I got the whole “Well, if Shoe’s not jumping I’m not jumping” thing from my moronic friends, so much to the chagrin of our instructors a grand total of nobody ended up skydiving. Bottom line I’ve regretted it ever since, and although I’m terrified of heights I’m taking the plunge. Soon. I have to. Who’s with me?

My chances: 90%. God, please help me go through with it this time.

LEARN TO PLAY PIANO. AGAIN.

I took piano lessons for a few years when I was little. Like the dumbass that I was, I quit to focus on, oh I don’t know, riding my bike or something. At one point I could actually play a few simple songs, and to this day I regret quitting piano. I would love to be able to sit down and play something today.

My Chances: 60%. Time is my only enemy. And I don’t mean it’ll take 30-years to learn, I mean I’ll have to find the time.

VISIT ENGLAND

I’ve always dreamed of going to England and seeing all of The Beatles sites. The Abbey Road crossing, the rooftop where the live “Let It Be” songs were performed, there’s even a Magical Mystery Tour that takes you down Abbey Road and past Strawberry Field. And I’m not sure I could even speak as I stood in the legendary Cavern Club, where it all began. Yep, it’s still there, waiting for me. I’d also like to head up to The Netherlands while I’m in the area. I’ve always been fascinated by that part of the world.

My chances: 75%. I’ll do almost anything to make this happen. 

WRITE A BOOK

I want to write a novel, and I actually have some ideas. Will it be any good? I have no idea but I want to try. And I want to be published, not just do some online book that just about anyone can do these days. Stay tuned.

My chances: 10%. Like I say, writing is the easy part, getting published is another story (pun intended).

VISIT DEALEY PLAZA AND THE ALAMO

As a lover of history I have to visit both of these historic sites. I’ve been to Gettysburg, Fort Sumter, and several other places, but I simply have to see where John F. Kennedy was assassinated, visit the Book Depository, and go to the place where Davy Crockett, William Travis and the boys fought so bravely.

My chances: 99%. I just can’t put 100%. I don’t want to tempt fate.

DRIVE ROUTE 66

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to travel The Mother Road, the Main Street of America. Yes, there are places where you have to hop on the interstate for a while, but most of it is still intact. It begins in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles, and it’s mostly two-lane blacktop. It was in decline for years but has been largely restored. As a kid I used to watch a TV show called Route 66, and I’m pretty sure that’s where I originally got the idea. Oh, and preferably this trip will take place in a convertible, top down of course.

My chances: 85%.  Don’t have to do this. Need to do this.

GO TO AN SEC FOOTBALL GAME

Preferably Alabama, Georgia, LSU, or Auburn. There’s just something about tailgating down south at an SEC game that’s always appealed to me. Surely there has to be a Shoe: Untied reader with connections. Anybody?

My chances: No idea, but I’ll be positive and say 67%.

EAT THE BBQ SHRIMP AT EMERIL’S IN NEW ORLEANS

Let’s see. I love shrimp, I love BBQ, I love New Orleans Cuisine. MUST. HAVE.

My chances: 95%. This will happen. 

VISIT EVERY NBA ARENA

So far I’ve only been to arenas in Chicago, Indianapolis, Orlando, Atlanta, Washington DC and Cleveland.  I also used to watch the Cincinnati Royals at Cincinnati Gardens, which is sadly about to be destroyed. There are 30 NBA teams, so I have a LONG way to go. I simply must see Madison Square Garden in New York and The Staples Center in L.A. Hey, I have time, right? Right?

My chances: 15%. That’s a lot of traveling.

WIN A STATE BASKETBALL TITLE

Go ahead and laugh, but it’s been a dream for nearly 40-years. Is it likely? Well, it’ll take some luck for sure. Is it impossible? It is not. Do I have a lineup of future Bearcats in mind that I think may be able to make a run at it? I do. Stay tuned.

So there you have it, my Bucket List. Can I make it all happen? Who knows, but I can sure try. And after all, the fun is in the journey, right?

Now if you’ll excuse me I have some planning to do.

Jeebus.

cop

Smooth move, squirrel.

squirrel

rick-nelson-3

Yeah, but you should see the bear.

(Source) A Sudbury, Canada man is walking away with only scratches after fighting a 300-pound black bear. Sixty-one year old Rick Nelson was walking his dog in the Panache area on Sunday afternoon when he stumbled across the bear’s cub. “I sat down on a log and the bear cub poked its head out of the shrub nearby. It was so close I could touch it. It let out a yelp, because I scared the heck out of it,” Nelson told CBC News. “I knew right away I was in trouble,” he said. “It’s calling for mommy.” Nelson is a former bear hunter, so he stood up knowing he only had seconds to spare. “The mother was coming full speed. All you could hear was the bush crashing. I had no rocks, no sticks, but I couldn’t let it get me or my dog” he said, but he did have a lot of boxing practice. Nelson tried to swing at the bear but missed, hitting it in the teeth. The bear hit back, scratching Nelson across the chest and face. “I knew it would swing first with its left but it would really come with its right, because most bears are right-handed,” Nelson said. So Nelson swung a second time. “I had the perfect shot to take. I did an underhand and hit it right in the snout. You want to make sure if you punch a bear that you’re hitting it straight in its snout. That’s really the only thing you have on a bear that will really startle it,” Rick Nelson told CBC News. The mother bear turned around and it was snorting blood. It looked at me, and I thought, ‘Oh no. Here it comes,’” he said. “But it just turned back around and walked away like nothing ever happened and followed the cub,” Nelson said.

Luck schmuck Rick Nelson. That bear knew exactly what it was doing and that was getting the hell out of there. Why? Because it just got a bloody nose from an uppercut by Mr. Rick Nelson. Go snort your blood elsewhere, bear.

Men, remember this tonight when you shriek like a little girl at that bee in your yard. Man up a little for once.

Honestly, my favorite part of this story is how Rick knew the bear would probably try and set him up with the left before he came with the big overhand right because most bears are right-handed. Of course everybody knows this. My second favorite part is how Rick explains matter-of-factly that “You want to make sure if you punch a bear that you’re hitting it straight in its snout” as if this happens all the time. Remember this tidbit next time you box a bear, kids.

PS- I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Rick Nelson understands bear-talk too. “It was calling for it’s mommy.” Rick Nelson, man. Old school badass.

Can’t wait for this one.

jason-bourne-conclusion

The Ride

Posted: May 10, 2016 in Adventure, Humor
Tags: ,
jgchj

Not Army, but this is how it looked. At least in my memory.

Sometimes incredible, amazing things happen when you least expect them.

I love summer, I love the beach, and I always spend time there during June, July or August. Hell, sometimes an October or April visit is in order. And maybe because summer is approaching, an unforgettable incident that happened a few years ago recently popped into my head.

It happened in the Outer Banks. I was with some family members, including my nephews Josh and Canon and my brother-in-law Army. We were down at The Point, where if you have a 4-wheel drive there you can drive right out on the beach.

Let me say this straight out –  if you happen to know Army this story will be infinitely funnier, because he’s at the center of the action and well, he’s Army.

You see, we were all out on the ocean body-surfing that unforgettable day. We were catching some pretty good waves, just enjoying the beautiful weather, the sand and the surf. None of us could have possibly imagined what we were about to witness, an event so epic in its awesomeness it’s etched in my mind forever.

All of us except Army had taken some waves into the shore and were wading/swimming back out towards the breakers when it happened. A wave was hurtling towards us, much bigger than any we’d seen that day. This thing was a mini-tsunami. We were only about a third of the way out so it was too late for any of us to catch it. We looked for Army but he was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he was on the other side of the monster, we had no idea.

Then, about 5-feet in front of the wave, just under the surface and slicing through the sea, we saw him. Army had caught the Mother of All Waves, and was experiencing what would henceforth and forevermore be known simply as . . .

The Ride.

I swear he looked like a torpedo, arms straight out with hands clasped above his head, face down and ankles close together in the back. He shot by us like a meteor as the humongous wave pushed him forward.

‘Twas truly a glorious sight.

We watched, almost in a trance, as he bulleted by. It was then the wave caught us all by surprise, tossing and flipping us over into the angry, churning sea. We came up sputtering and coughing, desperately trying to catch another glimpse of Army and the Body Surf to End All Body Surfs.

The wave crashed to the shore, and as it receded there lay Army, facedown in the sand. I swear he was a good 30-feet from where the sand met the surf. For a few seconds we thought he was dead, but then he slowly rolled over and sat up, stunned. As he looked around, seemingly confused and disoriented, it began . . .

A slow, rhythmic clapping from people all around us on the beach. Some actually rose from their towels to stand, to honor this man who, by performing this feat in front of them, had surely changed their lives forever.

I think I may have even seen a man go to his knees and give the universal “I am not worthy” raising and lowering of his hands.

And in the sky, an old pelican tipped his wings in a show of admiration and respect.

As Army stood, he simply turned to the adoring beachgoers and gave them a thumbs-up, followed by a knowing nod of the head.

It was all that was needed in that moment.

The perfect form, the catching of a once-in-a-lifetime wave at the precise moment, the sight of this man-dolphin slicing through the waves like a barracuda pursuing a grouper – these visions will be in the minds of witnesses forever.

Yes, those fortunate enough to be in attendance that day will never forget, can never forget . . . The Ride.

The Man-Dolphin and his adoring wife.

The Man-Dolphin and his adoring wife.

Yeah, I know I’ve sort of been purging my soul lately. Once again I’m about to tell you a story that bvlaI’m not particularly proud of. Just try and remember that there is no correlation between my compassion for people and my ability to joke about their misfortunes.

But as I’ve said on previous posts, funny is funny.

Right? Besides, no laws were broken that I’m aware of and nobody was injured as far as I know so it’s all good.

It happened years ago when my friend Jay and I got the idea to spend a lazy Saturday floating down Paint Creek, from a few miles west of Bainbridge to just west of Chillicothe, a distance of maybe 20 miles. Problem was we had no kayaks or a boat of any kind.

After asking around, one of my relatives mentioned that my late grandpa had a big old Jon Boat in his shed, one of those that was rectangular shaped and about 12-feet long. The thing was huge. Perfect, we thought. We’d commandeer that baby and go to town.

We loaded up the Jon Boat in my buddy’s truck (not an easy job – I think we turned it upside down and it practically covered the cab of the truck), stopped for some beverages, and hit the highway. Soon we were at our drop off point (a friend was to drive the truck to our destination and leave it there) and we were ready to turn off our minds, relax, and float downstream.

Note I: That was a Beatles reference. However, they weren’t talking about Jon Boats, creeks and whatnot. Trust me.

However, as we exited the truck we noticed something a bit unnerving – the water was really, really high. And fast. Being the inexperienced boaters that we were, checking the water level had never crossed our minds. In addition, being the moronic doofuses that we were, we didn’t even have lifejackets.

Note II: While looking up the plural of doofus, I discovered that “doofi” is also accceptable. Doofi. How cool is that? 

Bottom line, we were woefully unprepared to launch our vessel into the raging, swollen tributary that was Paint Creek. Hell, anybody with a brain would have turned back right there. Of course, we thought about it for about 3-seconds, tossed our cooler into the boat and ventured onward.

It became clear right away that we were in over our heads, so to speak. The place where we entered the creek was just above a section called The Falls, and the water was high and moving fast. On a related note, it soon became clear that Jon Boats weren’t made for white water rafting.

We began moving and immediately started picking up speed. The original idea of a leisurely float down the creek seemed like a dim memory. Still, we thought if we could get through the upcoming falls things would slow down a bit and we’d be fine.

And we probably would’ve been, had it not been for the Cincinnati Area Youth Kayak Club awaiting us around the bend.

We first saw them as we rounded a slight turn in the creek, and there had to be thirty of the little bastards in the water up ahead. Turns out they were having one of those team building exercises that day. They all had these cute little different colored kayaks, nice little protective helmets, and of course lifejackets. They weren’t stupid, after all. That would’ve been us.

Yeah, sorta like this.

Yeah, sorta like this.

In addition, there were counselors among them, some in kayaks and others on the bank with bullhorns, shouting instructions. I found out later that many in the Cincinnati Area Youth Kayak Club that day were kids who had had been in trouble at school or with the law, the idea being that spending a day on the creek, learning to operate a kayak and getting in touch with nature would do them good.

Oh, they got in touch with nature alright.

Who knew a 12-foot rectangular shaped Jon Boat could go faster than a 6-foot kid’s recreational kayak?

Chaos was about to ensue.

We stormed through the kayakers, all the while being screamed at and chastised by the men with bullhorns on the shore. Jay may or may not have flipped them off as we flew by, but that can’t be confirmed. The little kayakers paddled away frantically, desperately trying to avoid contact with our battleship. I can’t lie to you, I’m pretty sure I heard some crying, and yes, there were screams of terror as we barreled through. I swear at one point I thought we were going to t-bone a kid in a kayak, but somehow (out of pure terror I suspect) he summoned the power to miraculously paddle out of harm’s way.

Not all were so lucky, however. We clipped one of the pint-sized kayaks on its tail, sending a youngster overboard and into the drink. I’m pretty sure I yelled “Sorry!”, though I can’t be sure. Last I saw he was dog-paddling his way to the outstretched oar of one of the adults.

It was sort of like Moses parting the Red Sea, the way those little kayakers got out of our way. It was a beautiful thing, really. You know, other than the kid that almost drowned. As we pulled away from the mass confusion, we saw instructors, kids and parents alike shaking their fists at us as we made our escape.

Of course, Jay and I had a great view of all this because at that point we were floating backwards.

We continued on downstream that morning, half-expecting the authorities to be waiting up ahead somewhere, ready to charge us with inducing panic or negligent use of a Jon Boat or, you know, attempted murder.

But alas, nothing. We’d escaped unscathed.

Too bad I can’t say that about the kid we nearly killed. Little dude probably never went near a creek again.

paddleNote: The names  in the following story have been changed to protect the parties involved. Except mine of course. I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations has passed by now.

If the story I’m about to recount had taken place in 2006 or even 1996 everyone involved would have probably been fired. But this was a different time, a different place. This was 1985, and the place was Greenfield, Ohio. Read on …

It was mid-morning and I was teaching Reading at the time. Teaching Reading was great because they basically let me write my own curriculum, which is either downright horrifying or spectacularly exciting, depending on your viewpoint and opinion of me as a professional educator. Let’s just say I created some unorthodox lessons plans, such as deciphering the lyrics to Don McLean’s “American Pie”, or “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am the Walrus” by my beloved Beatles. Hey, there’s nothing more fun than explaining what John Lennon meant when he wrote “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together” or “Yellow mother custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye” to a bunch of impressionable 13-year olds.

Good times.

Anyway, I was in the middle of class when I heard the principal’s voice over my intercom: “Mr. Shoemaker, you’re needed in the high school office immediately.” I responded, “Sure, let me get someone to cover my class and I’ll . . .”  At that point I was interrupted. “Never mind that, just get over here right away.”

Uh-oh.

I immediately walked/jogged to the office, mind racing as I went. What the hell had I done? Was it taking the kids to the roof for that lesson last week (don’t ask)? Was it discussing evolution? Was it letting  that kid walk over to the Kahlua Cream to grab me a milkshake the other afternoon? Since I usually did 2-3 things a week that could be considered controversial, the possibilities were endless. Alas, when I arrived at the office my fears were allayed.

I walked in the door, and in the corner stood Joe, a high school kid who had been in a lot of trouble, mostly involving physical altercations. Joe was sort of in a crouched position, looking around wildly, waiting to pounce on the first person brave enough to approach him. Watching him was my principal and the high school football coach, who had also apparently been called in as an enforcer along with yours truly. At this point my principal looks at me, grinning, and says,”Mr. Shoemaker, Joe here took a swing at Mrs. Blipnoid (not her real name) and he’s refusing to take his whoopin’.”

Keep in mind these were the days when paddling, or corporal punishment as it was called, was commonplace. Joe then demanded to speak to his father, but my principal had other ideas. He said, “Tell you what. I’ll call Charlie myself.”

My principal knew every single person in town, I kid you not. He then proceeded to call Joe’s dad, explains the situation, listens, and hangs up the phone. He then looks at Joe, grins maniacally and says, “Looks like the whoopin’s a go, Joe.”

At that point Joe knows the deal and decides to go for broke. He leaps over the desk and makes a break for the door, except I was in front of the door. Before he runs me over the football coach steps over and sort of blindsides the kid (using perfect form tackle I might add) and takes him down in one fell swoop. As this is happening the principal clears everything off his desk with one sweep of his giant paddle. The football coach and I then body slam Joe facedown on the desk. The principal actually proceeds to paddle Joe by raising the board over his head, swinging straight down, while using both hands. If I recall it was 4-whacks give or take a whack.  We then let Joe up, he apologized, shook our hands, and went back to class. No suspension, in-school restriction, Saturday school, nothing.

Problem solved.

If it happened today we’d all be on 60-Minutes trying to explain ourselves. Back then? Just another day at Greenfield McClain.

Hey, I told you it was a different time.

HH9c

Good times.

This is sort of hard to explain but I’ve always had this weird ability to get into restricted places without people stopping me. My friends can tell several stories of me just strolling by security at concerts and sporting events and whatnot. I’ve no idea how it works, other than I just act like I belong there and people buy it. I like to think I have an air of authority, others say I just have a look about me that makes people think twice about questioning me. Maybe it’s just that I don’t really care if I’m caught. Perhaps I’m just lucky. Wait. Maybe it’s just that I lack the morals of normal folk.

Bottom line? I have no idea. Still, there’s no denying I’ve gotten away with this sort of thing many times over the years. Yep, just strolled on in like a boss. It happened again Friday night at Horrorhound in Cincinnati, a story I’ll get to shortly. The friend I was with said something I’d never really thought about. He said, “Most people think “WWJD?“. You think, “What’s the worst that could happen?

I guess I can’t argue with that assessment.

On the other hand, I’ve had ridiculously bad luck getting through customs at airports and other points of entry. Makes no sense. Again, more on that later.

That said, I shall now give you some examples of said behavior. I have several but I’ll pick out just a few:

Every year I go to the National Record Show in Columbus. They have rare albums and other music memorabilia. The show used to be held at Vet’s Memorial and opened to the public at 10:00 A.M. However, they open up to the vendors at 9:00 A.M. They have security at all the doors so there is no way to sneak in. So, the best course of action is to just walk right in, which I do. I just open the door, say hello to security, and stroll on in like I run the place.

Nobody’s ever said a word. Hell, after all these years they probably think I do run the place. The best part is I get to look at the merchandise before the masses huddling outside get a chance to. Woot!

Yeah, not for me.

A year or so ago I went to see American Hi-Fi at the A&R in Columbus. The show was at 7:00, but as I am want to do I went up around 4:00 to scout out the terrain. I could hear the band doing a soundcheck inside, and there was a line of probably 150 people sitting outside the door and down the sidewalk, but I thought what the hell, I’ll take a shot at this. I walked past all the people, up to the door, and as luck would have it the door was open. I walked in, nodded at a few security guys in A&R polos, and sauntered on to the front of the stage and watched the guys warm up. After a bit I walked to the back of the venue and was leaning against the wall when I was approached by a very large dude.

Uh-oh.

I was expecting the worst, but the guy said, “Hey, have you seen Greg?” I looked around as if I knew who the hell Greg was, then told him, “No, not recently.” He then thanked me and gave me a knuckle-bump before departing.

Then, incredibly a short while later I swear this happened:

The band stopped and the lead singer looked straight at me and asked, “Whaddaya think? Is that enough bass?” The world stopped for a second as the entire band and everyone in the venue looked at me. I nodded knowingly and gave the thumbs-up sign as the bass player shot me a return thumbs-up before kicking into another tune. At that point I had cred with the entire place so I could basically do whatever I wanted. What can I say? Maybe it is luck.

A buddy of mine and I went to Horrorhound in Cincinnati last night. Horrorhound is a convention where you can find anything and everything related to horror on television and movies. Several members of the cast of The Walking Dead were there, the guy who played Eddie Munster, John Carpenter (who directed Halloween), Tony Todd (from Candyman and Night of the Living Dead), but I’m sure you get the picture.

So we arrive at the Sharonville Convention Center, and I swear there was 1000 people in line, at least. We spoke with some people and heard horror stories (get it, horror stories?) of people who’d been in line for well over an hour. We walked to the end of the line and it was not moving. At all. Later we heard stories on the news regarding all the problems they had getting people into the place. Seems The Walking Dead cast was the big draw and the organizers were somehow caught by surprise although I can’t imagine how or why.

Long story short, we weren’t going anywhere, at least very fast. And have I mentioned I hate standing in lines? Hate. It. As we’re standing there I say to my friend, “You know, I have a pretty good record of walking right into places like this. I think I’m going to give it a try.” He gives me a “Wait. What?” look but I’m off. Five-minutes later he gets my text:

I’m in.”

I’d walked around the back side of the convention center and had seen a door that was ajar. After a quick look inside I went on around to a couple other doors but assessed my first option was the best. I had a line ready if I was confronted, something like, “Yeah, have you seen Gary? He was supposed to meet me at the door back there but he’s not around.” You know, then just wing it from there. As luck would have it, a girl was there but I just said hi and kept on walking. Gotta show confidence, people. Then I had the choice of going up or down. I chose down because the basement seemed the best place to avoid, you know, people. I walked past an open door to an office with a plaque that read “Maintenance Supervisor”, and sure enough there was a guy in there at his desk.

I just waved, he waved back and I and kept movin’. That’s always best. Keep movin’.

He never said a word.

Note: I’ve found that guys who work behind the scenes at events are often named Gary. Write that down.

Yeah, this guy.

Next thing I know I hear crowd noises so I follow them through an open door. At that point I’m standing right next to Michael Madsen, some actor you’d probably recognize from the Kill Bill movies, Reservoir Dogs and some other stuff. By the way, Michael Madsen? Not looking so good. Yeesh. Plus, his shirt was about 2-sizes too small, but who am I to judge? He didn’t even notice me and I walked on by, smack dab into the madness that was Horrorhound.

I’d texted my friend earlier and he’d followed my lead but had gone up the stairs and had run into nobody. We met and had a few laughs about our daring adventure, but soon realized we couldn’t get into any of the cool stuff without a wristband.  Damn it. What to do?  We’d noticed there were different colored bands, but we had no idea what that meant. I then saw a guy with a Horrorhound T-shirt on that was checking people into one of the large rooms where the actors were signing autographs and posing for pictures, all for a small fee of $25 or so of course. Anyway, I asked the guy what the different colored bands meant and he immediately looked at my wrists to see which color I had, of which I obviously had none. At that point he gestured for his supervisor to come over. Yikes. This could signal the end of our stealth mission into Horrorhound. Talking fast, I repeated my question to the lady, at which point she asked me this:

“Why, did you lose yours?” 

Why, as a matter of fact I did.

She proceeded to pull a wristband out of a bag and handed it to me. Pushing my luck, I asked if my friend could have one too. Friendly lady that she was, she complied with a smile. She also added that our bands were good for the entire weekend. We were good to go, or as a friend once told me, “You’re good to go alright. Good to go to hell.”

Did I mention that tickets were $25 apiece?

Easy big fella.

On the other side of the spectrum, I have never, ever, gone through customs without getting stopped and searched. You know how travelers have been treated since 9/11? That’s how I’ve always been treated. Again, no clue why. I can be in a line of 100-people and the customs guys take a look at me, huddle together worriedly, and walk over to quietly ask me “Can you come with us, sir?” I swear I must fit some visual profile or something. The only time this got a little touchy was when I was traveling with my first wife. She was diabetic and I was carrying a small cooler with little vials and syringes and stuff. Yeah, I had some ‘splainin’ to do on that one but we got through it. I also survived an encounter with a bitter customs official in the Caribbean. It was turning ugly, but I  was eventually saved by a call from a government official I knew. However, that’s a blog for another day.

So, I have zero clue how to end this, other than to say I feel ready to set my goals a little higher. I think I’ll shoot for sneaking into the Final 4, the Super Bowl or maybe even the White House.

After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Yep. Totally missed this.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to witness some pretty special moments in sports, so I thought it was time to share. Let’s see, where to start . . .

I’ve been to several big Maryland basketball games thanks to my friends out there, so I won’t list them all. Still, the 2001 Final 4 game against Duke in Minneapolis stands out. The Terps were up 17 in the first half only to lose the game due to some very shady officiating. We were pretty close to the bench, and at one point Gary Williams turned around to a group of NCAA Committee members and yelled, “Just how f***king bad do you want Duke to win?” Priceless. It actually brought a gasp from the crowd around us. Michigan State and Arizona contingents were also there, and everybody, I mean everybody, was anti-Duke that day.

cole

The legendary Cole Field House

You never knew who you were going to run into at College Park. We were always on Row 1 right behind the bench, thanks to my friend Billy Hahn. Robert Novak and Tony Kornheiser always sat nearby, and there were always a few pro athletes sitting near us as well. One night we sat down and I said hello to the guy next to me. I kept glancing at him because, damn, he looked familiar. He seemed like an uncle from my past or something. Then it hit me. I was sitting beside Johnny Unitas.

Once, at a Maryland-Duke game at College Park, I heard quite a ruckus behind me in the Maryland student section. I turned around and saw a guy in the middle of the Maryland fans with a Duke hat on. People were going nuts booing the guy and screaming obscenities at him. After a while things died down a bit so I turned back to the pregame warmups. A few minutes later I heard a roar and looked around to see that somebody had swiped the hat and was passing it up through the stands. The Duke guy was livid but he was outnumbered by about 5000 to 1. At that point I thought it was over, but about 5-minutes later I heard another roar. This time I turned around and there was a Maryland fan waving the hat on the end of a long stick. And oh yeah, by the way – the hat was on fire.

Have mercy.

Sticking with college hoops, I have to say that being behind the bench in Cincinnati a couple years ago for “The Return of Huggs” was pretty special. Just being that close to all the emotion was pretty overwhelming, and I was honored to be given seats so close to the action. It was unforgettable, and other than the fact that I appeared on the front page of ESPN’s website the next day looking like I was having a stroke, it was a great night.

When I was a kid I was lucky that my dad was not only a big sports fan, but also the head of purchasing at a pretty big corporation. Because Dad was in charge of buying literally everything for the company, he was constantly being bombarded with freebies from people who wanted him to buy from their businesses. Hence, all he had to do was mention a game he wanted to go to and he had the tickets post-haste (he also used to get a ton of free food and alcohol around the holidays, which was always a bonus). I’m pretty sure there are ethics laws preventing at least some of this stuff now, but maybe not. Anyway, combine Dad’s occupation with the fact that I had an uncle who was pretty high up in Ohio politics and I was one pretty lucky kid where getting tickets was concerned.

Because of this I was in attendance on April 4th, 1974 when Hank Aaron hit his 714th home run off of the Red’s Jack Billingham to tie Babe Ruth. Now there’s something you don’t see every day. I’ll never forget the electricity in Riverfront Stadium that day. Even at my age I knew I was witnessing history.

A few years earlier, on May 17th, 1970, I’d seen Hank get his 3000th hit at Crosley Field. It was the second game of a doubleheader, and later in the game he hit his 570th homer.

Speaking of Crosley Field, I was also at the last game played there on June 24th, 1970. I remember the great Juan Marichal pitching for the Giants and Johnny Bench and Lee May hit back-to-back home runs off him, enabling the Reds to go ahead and eventually win the game. Afterwards a helicopter came in, picked up home plate, and flew it over to Riverfront Stadium to be placed there. Pretty cool night.

2921217d6ebc034d5b4350c4cb1266db

Joe Rudi, 1972.

Another great memory of Crosley was during Game 2 of the 1972 World Series. With Tony Perez on first and Oakland leading 2-0 in the ninth inning, Joe Rudi raced to the left-field fence and made a leaping, backhanded catch of Denis Menke’s smash to save a run. Earlier in the game, Rudi had a solo home run. Dad and I were in the right field stands about 5-rows up, so I had a great view of that famous catch.

wilt

Wilt.

We also used to go to several Cincinnati Royals games a year. We were once at a Royals-76ers game and I really wanted Wilt Chamberlain’s autograph. He was by far my favorite player. Anyway, not knowing any better I decided to go down at halftime and tried to get it as the players walked off the court. At that time both teams exited at the same point, right at half-court, walking together and then going into opposite locker rooms. So, I’m standing there waiting for my hero when there he comes. Listen, I was probably 10-years old but Wilt looked 20-feet tall to me. He was walking right beside Jerry Lucas, and they were yelling at each other, saying words I’d never before heard in my young life. Then, right in front of me they stopped. They were nose-to-nose, just completely going at it. Other players came in and broke it up, but before Wilt left he looked down at me, rubbed my head, and shook my hand. I guess I should say he shook my forearm because his hand gripped mine practically all the way up to my elbow. Hell, even at that young age I realized that was WAY better than an autograph.

Greg-Cook

Greg Cook.

My Dad and Uncle Myrl used to take us to a bunch of Bengals games every year, especially when our cousin Greg Cook was the quarterback for the team. He used to take us to the locker room afterwards and it was great. We even went into the visitors locker room a couple times where I met some famous players, including Joe Namath and OJ Simpson. Yes, I shook that hand. One particular game stands out from when I was a little older though. Again, I can thank my dad for pulling through for the tix, but I was in attendance at the Bengals vs. Bills Monday Night Football Game back in 1975. During the Bengals’ 33-24 win Ken Anderson threw for 447 yards and the aforementioned O.J. Simpson slashed his way for 197 yards rushing. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

I also got to see a ton of big Ohio State basketball games and almost all of the Ohio State-Michigan football games through the late 60’s up to the present. Once in the 70’s I was nearly clotheslined by a security guard when I rushed the field after the game. I also vividly remember watching Lew Alcindor play against the Bucks (1968 possibly?) and just dominate. Dad never liked him because he thought he was lazy. Indeed, with John Wooden’s fast break there were several times Alcindor never made it past mid-court. As a kid, I was also impressed when he untangled the net without even standing on his tip-toes.

The Pistol.

The Pistol.

Another great memory is a Royals game we went to against the New Orleans Jazz. The Jazz had none other than Pistol Pete Maravich on their team, and he torched the Royals for 44-points that night as I recall. I also remember that he wasn’t the high scorer that night. Unheralded Royals center Connie Dierking had 45. I could be off on those numbers but I know I’m close. Pete Rose sat a few seats down from us that night. Probably had some jack placed on the outcome.

And finally, here’s an amazing memory that never was. Back in 1988 a friend of mine had a buddy who worked for CBS Sports. This guy got us tickets to the 1988 NBA All-Star Game in Chicago. We had passes for the dunk contest, the whole works. Well, by the time we checked into The Omni in Chicago that Saturday we were, uh, having a little too much fun. Later on we were in a bar near the stadium and were having such a good time that we decided, in our infinite wisdom, to stay there and skip the dunk contest. This would turn out to be the contest where Dominique Wilkins and some loser named Michael Jordan would have their legendary showdown. You know, the one where Jordan came in from the side, looking down on the basket, and nearly ripped the rim off. Oh, and later he dunked from the foul line. Personally I thought Wilkins won, but what the hell did I know? I was in a bar 3-blocks away. To put a cap on things, as we were walking into the stadium for the All-Star game the next day some guy offered us $300 for our tickets. Of course we promptly sold them. What can I say? We were idiots.

So there you have it, a few of my favorite (and one not so favorite) memories of sports.

Then again, I bet a lot of you have some pretty cool sports memories. What are they? They can be anything, from little league to the big leagues.

Let’s hear ’em.

Originally published on April 27th, 2012.

man-in-car

Not me but eerily similar.

My recollections regarding my horrifying hoodie in the backseat the other day got me to thinking about other heart-stopping moments I’ve experienced in my lifetime. Give a listen, kids . . .

Once I was on a plane returning from Vegas and we had to land in Minneapolis for a layover. I was looking out the window as we were landing, actually watching the landing strip lines flashing by, when at about 20-feet off the ground the pilot lurched the plane upward so violently the oxygen masks fell from the ceiling, several people screamed, and most tragically I spilled my drink.

On a related note, I may have professed my love to a flight attendant and made a couple promises to God if he let me live, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, after we leveled off the pilot got on the intercom and told us a plane was on the runway that wasn’t supposed to be there and he had to pull up to avoid a crash. My friend, who hated flying anyway, actually tipped the pilot as we exited the plane. Oh yes he did.

Anyway, scary.

Years ago I had been visiting a friend down in Waverly and was returning home around 2:00am. I recall it was a really foggy night, and as I came up Blaine Highway I stopped at the intersection of Blain and Route 50. Keep in mind I was in a cloth-top Jeep CJ-5 at the time.

I stopped briefly at the stop sign, but before I could pull onto Route 50 the passenger side door of my jeep flew open and a man jumped into my jeep.

Talk about a heart-stopper. Foggy, 2:00am, man jumps in jeep with me. Sweet Mother of God.

After jamming my heart back down my throat and making sure I hadn’t wet my pants, I screamed something along the lines of . . .

“WHAT THE HELL, MAN???”

Well, it took me about 3-seconds to ascertain that this jackass was drunk as a skunk, and from what he told me his friends had stopped and threw him out of their car for reasons that would soon become clear to me – the dude was a bad, bad, drunk.

He demanded that I take him to Chillicothe, which sadly for him was in the opposite direction of my destination. I told him this, but in his drunken state he wouldn’t take no for an answer. At this juncture my fear had turned to anger, so I had no choice but to turn off the jeep, walk around to the passenger side, and jerk drunk boy out of his seat and onto the road. I gave him a good shove, and the last I saw of him he was staggering off into the fog and parts unknown.

I half expected him to reappear in front of the jeep, and if he had I’m 100% 50% sure I would have run over him and continued home.

Anyway, if you’ve never been on a 2-lane country road on a foggy night at 2:00am, had your car door jerked open and a guy hop into the passenger seat, well, you haven’t lived.

Not recommended though. Damn, that scared me.

SparkLogoThis evening I had the scare of my life. Sparky had a scrap with a coyote. You heard that right – a COYOTE. Here’s what happened . . .

Spark and I like to walk up around the new housing development north of Bourneville, across from the graveyard. There are only two houses there so far, but the street circles off of Twin Road and connects back with it again, so it makes for a nice evening walk. I never have him on a leash when we go there, since Sparky is generally well-behaved. Well, unless he sees a squirrel or something with feathers. Other animals, like other dogs or a cat, don’t usually illicit much interest.

So around 6:00 this evening we’re on the back side of the development, enjoying the nice weather. I have a long walking stick in case we’d run into a groundhog or something, as you never know for certain how my pooch could react to something unusual.

It’s not odd for Sparky to go darting into the fields around my house if he sees something of interest, so it wasn’t a big deal when Spark stopped and perked up his ears.

Then, however, the growling began. I’d heard it before, most notably the night we thought somebody was trying to get into our back door.

I followed Sparky’s sightline back into the woods, and just over the crest of a hill, about 30-yards away, I saw it – the head of a coyote, staring at us.

What the hell, didn’t they wait until dark to go out hunting?

Before I could grab him, Sparky made his charge. All I could think of was stories I’d read of one coyote acting as bait, luring another animal into a trap, a pack of coyotes. I mean, Spark is one tough hombre, but I could see he might be getting in a little over his head here.

Bottom line, I was terrified. Sparky was way ahead of me and I couldn’t see the coyote any more. I just ran as fast as I could after my best friend, yelling for him to come back:

“Sparky!”

“SPARKY!!!”

Nothing.

I burst through some underbrush into a clearing and stopped. It was eerily quiet, and for a second I didn’t know which way to go. Then, to my left I heard it – barking and growling, the obvious noises of a fight. I knew that one of the voices I heard was Sparky’s, and I headed that way. I swear to God I expected to find him being torn to shreds by a pack of snarling coyotes.

Instead, when I got to where I thought I’d heard the fight there was nothing. Again, it was oddly quiet. I stood there, desperately trying to hear something, anything.

123

After the scrap. He really looks worried, doesn’t he?

Silence. I thought I’d lost him for good. I was near tears, man. I couldn’t lose The Spark, I just couldn’t.

Except then, strutting out of the brush like he’d just saved my life, was my pint-sized, fearless friend.

Then he rolled over for a belly-rub.

Ain’t no thing, Dad. Just went to war with a Hound from Hell. What’s for dinner?

I picked him up and gave him a thorough going over, checking for bites or scratches. Alas, nothing. He was fine.

And I was too relieved to even be mad at him.

But boy, did he scare the hell out of me.

Life with Sparky. It is never, ever boring.

Don’t let the shy look fool you.

So I’m on my way to the bank after school yesterday, just cruising down West Main minding my own business and enjoying the beautiful weather. I had the passenger window down so The Spark could stick his head out, sniff the air, and bark at birds and hobos. After his going airborn incident a few weeks ago I thought it would be prudent to wrap his leash around the gearshift. You know, in case he spotted another squirrel or something.  Anyway, as I approach the Gazette Building I notice an attractive, nicely dressed middle-aged woman leaving and coming around the front of her parked car. She was wearing one of those power suits, really dressed for success and all. She had a briefcase in one hand, a bag slung over the other shoulder, and she was holding with both hands what looked like a stack of papers on a clipboard in front of her.

You know how the lanes on West Main are a little tight, right? Because of this I was sort of close to her car so she had to wait for me to pass, and as I approached I got a stone cold stare that seemed to ask, “What, you can’t stop for a lady, you low-life male chauvinist scumbag turd?” The answer was I probably could have, but hey, I wasn’t really paying that close attention.

By the way, you know exactly where this is heading, don’t you?

What happened next is really sort of hard to describe. In my mind Sparky saw the smug look on the woman’s face and was simply doing what I would have done. You know, if I were a dog. Anyway, to say he barked at her doesn’t come close to what actually happened. As we passed her, very closely I might add, he leaped as far as his leash would let him while emitting a feral, ferocious and terrifying combination snarl/roar/howl. For a horrifying second I thought he got a piece of her throat or maybe her nose, but by the grace of God he air-snapped. Then I looked in my sideview mirror and saw a bunch papers floating from the heavens and onto the street. I swear it looked like 9/11 back there, sheets just fluttering everywhere.

And there, in the midst of the document shower stood an angry businesswoman, hands on hips, glaring at my departing car and the savage canine contained within.

Sparky? He was wagging his tail and smiling at me like, “Heh-heh. Got her good, didn’t I dad?”

Oh yeah, Spark. You got her alright. Good.

I probably should have rounded the block and gone back to apologize, but the look on the woman’s face told me that might not be a good idea. I turned on Paint Street and finally hit a light, just sitting there shaking my head at my crazy-ass but extremely loyal and lovable dog. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see a guy pull up beside me. It’s a 30 ish dude and there are tears in his eyes from laughing. He pounds the steering wheel and says, “That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen a woman in heels jump that high in my life! Papers everywhere! I gotta get me a dog like that!”

Sorry buddy, but you can’t. There’s only one dog like that, and I got him.

Just another day in my life with Sparky.

Great title, amirite or amirite? You’re curious, aren’t you? That’s the difference between yours truly1 and the average blogger, kids. Anywho, read on to hear the whole story . . .

Years ago, back when I was single, free and easy, I bought a car called an MG Midget. It looked pretty much exactly like the one you see there on the right. I bought it used off a guy for $1200.00, and he swore he’d never had a problem with it. That said, he was clearly lying through his teeth. Why do I say this, you ask? Because the damn thing broke down an average of probably once a week.  I swear to you, every time I drove through a puddle on the road it died. I’d have to pull off the highway until something under the hood dried out before it would start again. Oh, believe me, it was fun to drive but boy was it a headache. I literally couldn’t drive it outside the county for fear it would break down and leave me stranded in parts unknown.

Random thought: I wonder if the name MG Midget would be considered politically incorrect today? I’m guessing yes.

Anyway, one day my friend Tom and I drove the Midget to town for something or other. It might help the visual to understand that I was 6-2, 210 (still am in fact) and Tom was 6-3, 250, so we undoubtedly struck quite the image driving around town in a tiny little car. So at some point as we’re running around town the brakes on the Midget went completely out. Fortunately I avoided rear-ending somebody [insert your own joke here] and we pulled safely to the curb.

Now, a lot of people would have possibly done something totally responsible at this point like, oh, maybe calling a tow truck. Us? Not so much. In our infinite wisdom we came to the conclusion that we could make it from the east side of Chillicothe to Bourneville, a distance of 15-miles, safely.

Without brakes.

In a car the size of a tin can.

What could possibly go wrong? You know, other than slamming into the back of an 18-wheeler and dying in a fiery crash?

Here was our plan. Since the Midget was such a small, lightweight car, we figured if I drove really slowly through the city we could make it.

And we did.

How, you ask?

Well, we popped open both doors and stuck our legs out, that’s how. And when we came to a stop light or stop sign we put our feet on the road and skidded to a stop, Fred Flintstone style.

Stop laughing, it worked.

Once we got out of town I actually sped up a little, making sure to keep a sharp eye up ahead for stopped vehicles, deer and Amish Buggies.

After a tension-filled drive home, Bourneville could finally be seen in the distance. Victory would be ours! Oh, the stories we would tell.

I deftly maneuvered the MG Midget from Route 50 onto Twin Road and on up the hill, turning left onto the street on which my house, and wonderful refuge, awaited. All that was left was turning into my driveway and the safety of my garage, where the Midget could nestle comfortably until her brakes could be fixed properly.

But as we approached my driveway excitement got the best of me. The joy of knowing we pulled off such an amazing achievement blinded my judgment. A miscalculation in speed if you will. Hell, in my elation I’d forgotten the core statement of our mission, which was to go slow because, you know, we had no method in which to stop.

I believe it was as I was high-fiving Tom as we turned into the driveway when the realization hit me . . .

We were going too fast.

Way too fast.

Oh no.

Immediately, both of sensed trouble. We stuck our feet out the door and dug our heels in the gravel the best we could, but it was horrifyingly apparent I’d made a grievous error in judgment, not to mention in miles-per-hour.

I’m not sure what was worse, the moment of impact as we slammed into the garage door or the incredulous, disappointed look on my father’s face as he rushed from the house and surveyed the carnage.

The garage door had sort of folded under at a 90° angle, with Tom and I trapped underneath. Thankfully the top was down, so the Midget was relatively undamaged save for some scratches on the hood. The garage door? Total loss. We’d killed it.

Tom and I were fine, although as I recall dad wasn’t overly concerned about that. I do, however, recall a lot of yelling about the garage door. Seems I was to going to be held responsible for a new one.

And that was the end of the line for the MG Midget, as I put her up for sale a few days later. I got $1800.00 for it, a tidy $600.00 profit. And I’m not particularly proud of this, but the guy who bought the car was buying it for his son to drive to and from college at the University of Cincinnati.

Yeah, good luck with that, sir. But hey, I needed the money. I had a garage door to purchase.

1

Aerosmithpic29

Yeah. Those guys.

Back around 1978 Aerosmith was on a bit of a downward spiral. Something about drug addictions and whatnot. Anyway, it was after “Dream On” but before the album “Permanent Vacation” marked their return to prominence. A friend of mine was a regional roadie, one of those guys who doesn’t travel with the bands but works a certain area where he helps set up shows and the like. Well, he had backstage passes to Aerosmith and asked if I wanted one.

Well, yeah.

I watched the show (not so good actually – something about drug addictions and whatnot) then headed backstage for the festivities. I don’t really know how to explain it other than saying it’s exactly what you’d expect it to be. Lots of girls, drugs, alcohol, and things I didn’t recognize and haven’t seen since. Rock and Roll decadence at its highest form. Back in those days I blended right in. My hair was as long as theirs and I looked like a taller Charley Manson, minus the God complex and murderous intentions (well, maybe just the God complex).

I worked my way over to Steven Tyler and struck up a conversation, probably saying something witty and insightful like “nice show” which incidentally would have been a complete lie. He looked at me through glazed-over eyes and offered me a beer (for the record, it was a Stroh’s – dead serious). One thing led to another and I ended up on a couch sitting between Tyler and Joe Perry.

Kids, there once existed a picture of me, between those two, all three of us holding up a beer for the camera with half-crazed smiles on our faces. Later, in one of the dumbest moves of my life, I gave the picture to a girl I was dating, who displayed it proudly on her apartment wall. Sadly, when we had an ugly break-up, she hit me where it hurt most – she burned the picture.

For years I waited for her to show up and say she had really kept the picture, then hand it to me with a smile. That moment never happened, but there’s still hope, right? Right?

Damn it.

Well, it’s a legend in my circles anyway. And yes, kids, I have circles.

Anyway, as many of you know I have a jean jacket that 1once belonged to James Taylor. For you younger readers there was a pretty good singer known as JT before Timberlake. Here’s how I got the jacket . . .

I went to see JT at Blossum Music Center back in ’78 with friends Tom E and Chris B. After the show we ambled down to the side of the stage, just getting a look at the setup really. The roadies were tearing down the set, wandering around doing this and that. At some point I look up and say, “Hey, look. He left his jacket hanging on the mike stand.” He’d worn it onstage and had taken it off during the show.

Anyway, one of us (probably Tom) gets the bright idea to try to grab it. Nice plan but the place was crawling with security and roadies. I turn to Chris for ideas, turn back around, and Tom had already jumped the railing and was halfway across the stage. He was just casually walking like he belonged there. A couple of guys glanced at him but didn’t say a word, either because he looked like he belonged or because he was 6′-3″, 280 lbs and looked like he could rip your heart out and show it to you before you died (which by the way he could have but that’s another story). He casually grabs the jacket, throws it over his shoulder, and hops off the other side of the stage as Chris and I run frantically around to meet him. We walk away without looking back, expecting at any moment to hear, “Stop them! Thieves! Thay have James Taylor’s jacket! For God’s sake stop the bastards!” Except it doesn’t happen, and we make it to the car.

At that point Tom tries it on. Obviously too small. Chris grabs it. Too big. Heh-heh. Fit me perfectly. Apparently, in ’78, James T and I were exactly the same size.

And that’s how I came to own James Taylor’s jacket.

By the way, later I woke up wide-eyed in the middle of the night, realizing I hadn’t checked the pockets. The possibilities were mind-boggling. Carly Simon’s phone number possibly? Alas, nothing. Damn . . .

 

James Taylor's Jacket

James Taylor’s Jacket

You know how I love random, weird videos that make no sense? You know, like the one where the dog and horse go running down the street for no apparent reason? This is one of those videos. You have all the ingredients of random oddness – a Russian Flea Market, a bunch of old cars, a guy being chased up a tree by a bear, all filmed casually by some bro who is not at all alarmed that his friend is about to be eaten in cold blood. Just pure comedy gold, lemme tell ya. Enjoy.

 bear1

Not Sparky, but there’s a striking resemblance.

Well, this was terrifying.

So I’m sleeping like a baby the other night when I’m dragged slowly from the Land of Nod by a noise. It was a low, growling sound, sounding like a panther as it eyes its prey. I sat up and glanced at the clock.

3:17 A.M.

Damn it, it’s always between 3:00 am and 3:30 am when weird things happen at my house.

Only then did I realize the noise I’d heard was Sparky. There he was, standing at the foot of the bed, growling, and staring at the doorway . . . and the dark hallway beyond.

That’ll wake a man up fairly quickly.

For a few seconds I did the same thing. Stare I mean. Growling would’ve just been weird. Anyway, I have a little sensor light by the backdoor inside the kitchen because I often have to let a certain 4-legged furball out in the pre-dawn hours. As Spark is growling and I’m staring into the darkened hallway, that light comes on.

From two rooms away.

For a few seconds I was indecisive. Sparky? Not so much. He sprung into action like a Hound from Hell, leaping off the bed and tearing towards the kitchen. Whatever, or whoever, is out there is in for a bloodbath. I grab a Civil War era bayonet off the wall by my bed and follow. As Spark makes his charge he’s emitting a noise I’ve never heard from him before. He’s barking, but it’s a deeper, more feral sound, mixed with a growl, really frightening.

I swear to God, at this point I was 100% sure somebody was in our kitchen.

I also thought he’d picked the wrong house, because he was about to meet 22-pounds of pissed-off territory protecting terrier who happens to jump like a pogo stick and has a penchant for going for the throat (just ask that homeless dude out by Walmart). Not to mention the 225-pound guy with the bayonet that was coming, not so much to engage in combat (I’d prefer he run), but there was no way he was going to hurt my best friend.

Long story short, unless burglar dude had a gun he was in for a soul and larynx crushing defeat.

So I follow, through the hallway and back bedroom, into the kitchen. The whole sequence, from waking up to getting to the kitchen, probably took no more than 30-seconds. But when I got to the kitchen Sparky was there, going crazy and pawing at the backdoor. No intruder in sight. I checked the door and it was locked.

Strange.

I then did a quick search of the house, including the basement. Nothing. In the meantime, Spark was doing a search himself, behind chairs, under tables, still growling all the while. After we were convinced we were alone, I figured it would be a good idea to take him out for a quick look around the yard.

Other than dogs barking a block over, nothing. Still, dogs were barking . . .

Did somebody try to get in? Did Sparky hear the doorknob rattle? Could that have made the sensor come on? Was it nothing at all? Whatever it was, suffice it to say it took me awhile to fall back asleep, but I eventually did.

Sparky? He lay by my bedroom door, head on paws, watching. I tried to get him to come up with me on the bed, but he would have none of it. He was still there when my alarm went off at 6:00 A.M.

Man’s best friend? Damn straight.