Wednesday, August 29, 2012

No Touching


No one knows what to expect on the field when Penn State football kicks off the post-Paterno era this weekend, but one thing it appears we can count on is a tight playlist on the stadium sound system.
University officials have confirmed that Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" will no longer be played at Nittany Lions home games, although they insist it has nothing to do with the song's lyrics, which include "Hands, touching hands, reaching out, touching you, touching me." According to a Penn State spokesman, Sweet Caroline was dropped as part of a routine playlist rotation, and the decision is unrelated to the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal. And if you believe that, perhaps I can interest you in some Florida swampland, a prime patch of Brazilian rain forest or a lovely stretch of Mongolian desert. Presumably, if a song as innocuous as Sweet Caroline is getting the hook, we won't be hearing the the Doors' "Touch Me," Journey's "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'" or MC Hammer's "You Can't Touch This" at Penn State games. While they're at it, maybe they should ban the term "touchdown" in favor of the less offensive "six point scoring play."
It's one thing to forego due process and throw a dead man under the bus with the benefit of little more than sanctimonious hindsight - and even though I don't agree with it, I understand the expediency in making Joe Paterno a scapegoat to the point where he's come to symbolize the scandal more than the actual perpetrator - but the Sweet Caroline episode is confirmation that panic and paranoia have officially trumped common sense at Penn State.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A mosquito by any other name is a Skeeter


Regardless of his motives and whether or not he actually makes it back to the major leagues, Roger Clemens' return to baseball at the age of 50 has introduced us to one of the most delightfully named franchises in all of professional sports.
If you had asked me before yesterday who or what the Sugar Land Skeeters are, I'd have guessed an indie rock-a-billy music trio or a brand of candied yam available only at IHOP franchises south of the Mason-Dixon line. I also like the Toledo Mud Hens, Vermont Lake Monsters and Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, but for a combination town AND team name, it's tough to beat the Texas-based Sugar Land Skeeters, not only for the name itself but because of how it rolls off the tongue of a native Texan.
The Skeeters also represent part of an inadvertent public relations campaign that continues to rehabilitate the image of a relatively useless, highly annoying and sometimes lethal insect. From being the namesake of the RAF's most celebrated fighter bomber of World War Two to having an entire youth sports league division named after it, the mosquito has enjoyed an unprecedented run of good press compared to other disease-bearing or parasitic life forms. That I'm aware of, there are no Quad City Dengue Beetles, Amarillo Ringworms or Fort Wayne Rabid Fruit Bats competing in any of the various professional and semi-pro leagues across North America.
But for this week, at least, the Skeeters are the darlings of baseball, all thanks to a snake.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ewww! Girls!


The slam dunk/point after/empty net goal commentary on women members finally being allowed into Augusta National is the one that celebrates the demise of a notorious sexist bastion and heralds the dawn of a new era of gender equality.
This is not that commentary.
Breaking the gender barrier at a high-falootin' country club doesn't exactly rank up there with women getting the vote or equal pay for work of equal value. It's the grownup version of girls forcing their way into a tree fort for no other reason than the boys decided that girls aren't allowed, and it's not going to make Augusta National any less exclusive in the bigger picture. Just because two women of enormous wealth and privilege have been embraced as members doesn't kick down the door for bored middle class housewives, empty nest retirees or the local ladies auxiliary.
This isn't a victory for women's rights. That war was won on issues of real substance. It's a victory for political correctness and spite, and a hollow victory at that.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to join Curves.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cheerio, London(and other Monday morning musingss)


In the debate over who should have carried the Canadian flag in the closing ceremony at the Olympics, one person's opinion mattered more than the rest, and she was good with the final choice. Trampolinist Rosie MacLennan - Canada's only gold medal winner in London - went on Twitter yesterday to congratulate soccer bronze medallist Christine Sinclair as a worthy bearer of the Canadian colors. MacLennan gets it. Sinclair is the face of a national women's soccer team that provided the defining moments of a bittersweet Olympics for Canada. Having her hoist the Maple Leaf sent the signal that shabby officiating can sully a championship, but it can't destroy a champion's spirit...Canada's men's track sprint team did an honorable job of manning up after being stripped of the bronze in the 4 by 100 meters. Jared Connaughton didn't hesitate to take the hit for running outside of his lane, and while the infraction was minimal and inconsequential to the outcome, Canadian coach Glenroy Gilbert said the rules are the rules, and it was the right call. Their dignity in defeat was at least as uplifting as their performance...Nice jean jackets on our athletes at the closing ceremony. Don't we get stereotyped enough by the rest of the world without playing into the cliche by wearing the time-honored Canadian tuxedo to a global party? The only things missing were tuques, stubby beer bottles and a pack of Export A sticking out of the jean jacket pocket...So, let's see, there's Anorexic Spice, Botox Spice, Boob Job Spice, Tummy Tuck Spice and Somewhat the Worse for Wear Spice...I haven't fleshed it out, but somewhere in that Wozniak vs. Wozniacki Rogers Cup tennis match there's an Abbott and Costello skit.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Phelps, Flav and other Monday morning musings


Every four years without fail, the Olympics boil down to 10 seconds - or 9.63 seconds, which was Usain Bolt's winning time yesterday in the signature event of the Summer Games. The men's 100 meters is the one event that's appointment television for the entire world, notwithstanding millions of Americans being willingly duped by network television coverage that's tape-delayed for the sake of ratings and advertising revenue. In the social media age, you'd have to be pretty deep in the Kentucky backwoods, Dakota hills or Louisiana bayou to not know Bolt had won the race by the time NBC got around to airing it last night...Good for Andy Murray that he won Olympic gold by avenging his Wimbledon final loss to Roger Federer, but don't even try equating the two championships. Olympic tennis is still a glorified exhibition compared to the Grand Slam tournaments, and Wimbledon is by far the most esteemed of the four professional majors. That Murray himself said beating Federer yesterday "sort of" made up for Wimbledon tells you everything you need to know about which event carries more prestige...At the risk of diminishing Rosie MacLennan's gold medal performance in trampoline, I'm hoping Team Canada can pad MacLennan's medal with gold in a more traditional Olympic sport, like speed walking, rhythmic gymnastics or chariot racing...Among the landslide of quality online wisecracks spawned by the first full-blown twitter Olympics, I have two favorites: MacLean's magazine columnist Scott Feschuk's fervent wish that a thousand hornets build a nest in Bob Costas's colon, and Sports Illustrated contributor Steve Rushin's observation that 22 - 18 of them gold - accurately describes not only Michael Phelps' medals but also Flavor Flav's teeth.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mea culpa


I've offended a lot of people over the course of my radio career.  It comes with the territory of being paid to give an opinion, and I've long believed that trying to be all things to all people makes you nothing to anyone.  Yesterday, though, I managed to offend even myself by committing the cardinal broadcasting sin of cracking wise about something on which I was uninformed. 
That I'm aware of, no one complained about the short guy jokes about Brian Price, the diminutive coxswain of Canada's silver medal-winning men's eight rowing team, but I'm compelled to call myself out after learning that the 5 foot, 4 inch, 120 pound Price is a cancer survivor whose childhood battle with leukemia stunted his physical growth.  If I'd been paying attention in 2008 when Price was part of a Canadian gold medal effort, I'd have known his story, but I wasn't so I didn't, and yesterday I ended up publicly mocking someone who not only faced more adversity by the age of 12 than most people face in a lifetime, but whose strength of spirit represents the Olympic ideal as much or more than any of the athletes we so gushingly celebrate. 
Brian Price's power of example makes him someone to be respected rather than ridiculed.  Consider the lesson learned.