Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Show me your ...

I'm not in the Big Easy today, but I wish I were there for Fat Tuesday - the Grand Finale to the 150th Mardi Gras celebration.

I love New Orleans. Newscoma and I have had many a fine time down there by the Mighty Mississippi. Anyone who has been there likely holds a fond place in their heart for NOLA. The food, the fun, the people - both tourists and natives alike - that make every visit to Nawlins something to remember.

And we will again someday make our way back there, no matter what damage Katrina may have wrought. The city is rebuilding and adapting.

To all those folks from along the Gulf Coast who've struggled through the last six months - Good luck to you and I'll raise a Hurricane glass for a toast to you tonight.

'Laissez le bon temps rouler' loosely translated to "Let the squirrely good times roll."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Squirrels & Scout's Mockingbirdisms

A coworker has started a new Web endeavor.

Scout, as she is known online, has a new blog entitled Mockingbirdisms And Other Local Chirpings.

She's providing an outlet for local writers, giving them the publicity they often lack.

If you get a chance to read her own works, grab it and don't let go.

The woman has mad skillz to go with a pretty sweet jumpshot, so I hear.

Squirrels & Banjos

The Squirrel Queen remains in a musical mood.

Thanks to Newscoma, I've got a little ditty not about a man named Jed.

Instead, it's dueling banjos, squirrel style.

I wish I could take credit for this, but I can't.
I did put together the little one-squirrel band to the left, but not the "music video."

Get your daily dose of squealing pigs, the General Lee, Burt Reynolds, a squirrel, a penguin (?!?!) and strange chickens surrounding a burning KFC sign.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

sounds and music

Trolling around the Internet today I came across a site, Rummage Through The Crevices, that offers links and downloads of interesting tunes, what they call "Musical Curiousities, Obscurities and Unearthed Treasures."
There's a lot of ambient music made from everyday common sounds and events.

I especially enjoyed the song that involved toothbrushes, dental hygiene and a balloon. You can download it on Rummage.

If you want, check out more of that artist's ambient music here at Naing-Naing.

A criminal wiz

It appears a couple in McKeesport, PA. made an unfortunate "pit stop" at the local Kwik-E-Mart and gave an employee quite a scare with their urinal, err, I mean unusual request to heat up something in the establishment's microwave.

Their need for warm urine to beat a drug test while using one of those infamous Whizzinators gave the cashier a fright with it's physical similarity to a real human reproductive organ.

The good news for local customers is the store has replaced the microwave in question, so no need to worry when you're heating your frozen burrito. mmmm, tasty.

Friday, February 24, 2006

five rings and some straight lines

To keep you in the Olympic spirit, here's a fun cartoon covering both winter and summer Olympic events.
For a giggle, give it a click and check out Mr. Otto.

Bode blah, blah, yada, yada

The Olympics aren't quite over yet, but I'm definitely "over" Bode Miller and all the hype and hoopla surrounding him in the past few weeks.
If I have to watch another Nike commercial where he waxes on and on about how his perfect Olympics would be not winning a medal but performing some Zen-like runs down the mountain, I think I'll fling myself off the Matterhorn or at least Lookout Mountain.
His failures at Torino have left him with one last shot at a medal after not even finishing two of his events and managing a fifth-place finish and a sixth-place finish in his other two.
He's had equipment issues and attitude issues.
We've all heard the term ski bum. Now, he's got a bum ankle after an accident while playing basketball in Torino. I'm not going to give him grief for that, because according to some, hoops is one way the athletes blow off steam. They're athletes, you can't keep them under glass while they wait for their next event.
But a swollen ankle certainly can't help Bodacious Bode in his final chance at a gold medal in 2006.
I think all the pre-Olympic Hype has certainly worn down what good will he had. That and his quote about skiing while inebriated and then the sort-of backpedalling to please sponsors and the U.S.Olympic committee followed by his blah, blah in the Nike commercials which were omnipresent in the opening week of the Games.
Nike, who has spent the last 20 years or so laughing at Reebok for their Dan vs. Dave commercial debacle, now has their own advertising albatross.
Oh well, I'm still celebrating the US men's curling bronze medal.
Woo hoo.
And if you want to cheer for a US skiing medalist, raise a glass for Julia Mancuso, who earned a gold this morning.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tag hag via Newscoma

It appears I've been tagged.
I'm guessing this is a good thing. Whereas, in the lexicon of graffiti artists I would have someone's spray-painted "tag" on my broad arse in a rainbow of colors in a font that strains the eyes to read. I'm all about the street culture.
Any way, here's how this works, as I understand it (or at least as I copied and pasted.)

Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot. (1)(insert name here) (2)Rex L. (3) Aunt B. (4) newscoma (5) squirrels_on_snark.

Next, select people to tag:
squeegee monkey,
Batesville USA

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was going through a great deal of upheaval. I'd just changed careers and started a new relationship. After several years in radio as an air personality, radio was undergoing a radical transformation as live on-the-air talent was rapidly being replaced by canned liners.

I took a job with a sign company that was opening up a shop. It was my first job that involved a computer on an extended level and my first 8-5 job after working overnights for years as a DJ and the only person in the building. (It gave me a great appreciation for solitude.)
That job only lasted a couple of years as the boss was kind of a wack job who had no idea what he was getting into with this sign shop. At least it got me a trip to Montana to train on the software.
As for the relationship, it's still flourishing, growing and changing and I couldn't ask for a better partner.

What were you doing 1 year ago?
The same thing I'm doing this year - grinding through another high school basketball postseason, chasing teams all across West Tennessee as they try to earn a berth in the state tourney.

Five snacks you enjoy:
* Tortilla chips and rotel dip

* Mountain trail mix
* buttered-up movie popcorn combined with double-dipped chocolate-covered peanuts with a giganormous Diet Coke big enough to swim in
* Cheese quesadillas
* grapes

Five songs to which you know all the lyrics:
* Psycho Killer by Talking Heads

* Take me out to the ball game
* Harper Valley PTA by Jeanie C. Riley
* Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner
* Big Rock Candy Mountain

Five things you would do if you were a millionaire:
* Pay off all my family's bills so everybody gets a fresh start

* Set up trust funds for my nieces and nephews
* Buy season tickets to all my favorite sports teams and then get swingin' pads in the cities where they're located so I have a place to lay my weary head after each game
* Travel with my girlie to old favorite locales and new exotic sites
* Buy my sweetie the Porsche she loves to dream about and then hang on as we ride around squealing the tires from coast to coast

Five bad habits:
* Procrastinating (that's why it took me two days to get this filled out

* Bottling up my emotions
* Not telling the people I love how much I care about them often enough
* Not keeping a tidy and clean abode
* Speeding

Five things you like doing:
* Watching sports

* Sharing a good meal with my girlie
* Spending an afternoon at the movie theater watching a matinee and then buying a second ticket and watching another flick and then debating and analyzing the thumbs up/thumbs down attributes of the viewing menu
* losing myself in pop culture crap like Survivor and Seinfeld and My Name is Earl
* nothing, absolutely nothing, reaching a vegetative state as my arse melds into the weave of the upholstery fabric that covers my couch

Five things you would never wear again:
* tight clothes (I'm all about the baggy, saggy, not-so-form fitting fashion. Ultimately, my clothes should only touch me at the top of my shoulders and around my waist)

* flip flops
* jumpsuits (unless I'm pulling off some sort of elaborate Halloween Elvis impersonation involving a cape, a giant belt buckle and lots and lots of rhinestones and sideburns)
* a foofy prom dress
* toe socks

Five favorite toys:
* My dashboard hula dog

* My juggling balls
* My photoshop software (It's time to make the squirrels)
* My collection of flickers/lenticulars
* My glowing brain light

Monday, February 20, 2006

Where there's ganja smoke ...

Where there's ganja smoke, there's ganja fire apparently and sullied yellow liquid in a sample cup.

Stories circulating around the NFL are saying that talented but conflicted running back Ricky Williams has once again violated the league's drug policy.

This is his fourth strike and will mean a year's suspension. (Whatever happened to three strikes and you're out?)

The story was first reported in Colorado, an obvious connection since it's the Mile High State.
Then it was backed up by two more "sources".

Ricky, Ricky, Ricky ...

You should have stayed in yoga school, paid the money back to the Dolphins and gone on with your own wacky tobbacky lifestyle.

Now, it looks like the NFL's mystery man will have plenty of time to study his downward dog position and holistic healing methods.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Squirrels & Squids

It's been an afternoon of mindless television. I've given the last four hours of my life over to watching Peter Benchley's The Beast on the SciFi Channel.
Poorly done trash starring William Peterson (pre CSI) chasing down giant squid mamas in the local bay. Peterson has to be glad this flick has been superceded on his resume by his role as Gil Grissom. Matter of fact, he might think about having his lawyers sue SciFi for airing The Beast and reminding his newer fans of his lesser work.
Too bad the movie wsn't as interesting as the real giant squids, which finally made their debut on film last summer.

For a look at all things squid, including info about the footage of real giant squids, check out
It's got links to everything squid related, including movies with Japanese wrestlers taking on men in rubber giant squid costumes, squid fornicating info and knitted 25-foot long squid.

I will admit I saw nothing linking to Spongebob's Squidward, so it's obviously not all inclusive. Although, I think that is about the only tidbit of squid arcana not available.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Curling, not Moe-ing or Larry-ing

The layer of ice across Northwest Tennessee has cancelled my basketball games, so I'm staying home planted in front of the telly watching the events in Turin.
For the third time this week, I've found myself zoned in on the thrilling Olympic event that involves broom-wielding Minnesotans taking on the best the world has to offer.
Yes, I'm addicted to curling. Who would've guessed that a game of shuffleboard on ice would hold my interest.

The US men's team has played its way into second place in its pool. The US women aren't attaining quite that level of success. According to what the TV analysts were putting out yesterday, the women made a strategic blunder at the end of their match, ultimately costing them a victory. They ended up losing in extra play.

I guess once the Olympics are over, I'll have to make my way down to the Senior Citizen center to feed my curling/shuffleboard jones.

Or just hold out for four more years until the next Winter Olympics.

Unfortunately, I'm getting too used to waiting in four year increments. All thanks to Chimpy Dumbya McBush.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Hydroplane in Vain

I know cats are supposed to get nine lives, but I'm not clear on what the quota is for squirrels.

Whatever the total, the Squirrel Queen reduced her number by one last night after a scary hydroplaning incident on the way back from a basketball game.

Storms left H2O on the local highways and byways. I'd just driven through the heaviest pounding of the rain and wind without an issue. The precipitation reduced to a normal, non-typhoon state and I began to feel better about my trip home. Oh, was I wrong.

The Squirrel Queen was moving along at around the speed limit since the worst appeared to be over. The next thing I know, I feel my not-so-trusty truck lift as the rubber lost contact with the road. I shifted the steering wheel and didn't feel that comforting sensation of the tires grabbing back onto the pavement. Instead, my truck's rear end began to swing around. Fortunately, I knew there were no other vehicles anywhere near me on this four-lane stretch of highway, so I didn't have to worry about involving another unsuspecting traveler in my sudden misery.

What did concern me was the question of how deep the median was and whether I would come to a stop before I came into contact with the rapidly approaching guard rail that I knew resided in the middle of the aforementioned median.

Spinning in the dark, I initially tensed as my vehicle left the road, expecting a potential sudden stop as I dropped off into the median, debating whether my truck would flip over if it was too steep an incline. Instead of plummeting, the truck continued to skim and skip and spin. OK. So either this grassy span isn't that deep or I'm now floating across more standing water like the Delta Queen over the muddy Mighty Mississippi.
While pondering this, I continued to rotate.

Now facing the highway I'd just traversed, seeming to move forward in reverse, my next concern was the guard rail I couldn't see but knew awaited me.
I braced myself again for the anticipated collision and expected sickening crunch, clutching the useless "steering" wheel, foot firmly planted instinctively on the brake.

I didn't see my life pass before my eyes. Instead, I wondered what the force of the sudden stop would feel like. I contemplated the sound of the crushing connection the truck would make when it met the metal in the middle of the median.
Instead, I kept spinning. I faced to the forefront again and any sense of normalcy evaporated rapidly as my truck's rear end continued its circuitous route, again swinging around to lead the charge.
Concerns about the guard rail were now pushed aside by my curiousity about how long this event was going to take. How many loop-de-loops was I going to make.
Then I sensed the vehicle beginning to slow and, before I knew it, I was stopped.
My front bumper was once again pointed in the direction I had been traveling not so long ago. But now the truck was resting in the grass just next to the two lanes of highway going the opposite way. Again, fate smiled through the rain as no traffic was approaching.

After a moment's pause, I realized I was in one piece and my truck's engine was still running. Now, the question was whether I would get stuck in the wet terrain where I'd come to a stop.

Peeling my foot off the brake, I reached for the accelerator, applied some pressure and waited to see if I'd just spin my wheels or gain traction and pull back onto the pavement. Thanfully, with no hesitation, the truck nudged forward and I now had to worry about any damage the steering or underbody of the vehicle may have incurred.

I headed back into the town I'd just departed from, knowing there was an empty parking lot just a few tenths of a mile in that direction. The truck and I both eased onward. I pulled off the street and shifted into park in order to take inventory.

Heart rate - elevated
Breathing - rapid
Sanity - barely intact

As for the truck, it appeared to be fine.
Except for all the grass on my windshield and the clots of mud and grass that stuck to my driver side mirror.

After a quick run through my mental checklist, there was no longer any reason to remain parked in this dark, empty lot on the edge of town.

I slipped the gear shift into drive and retraced my slippery path on the way back to the office to write a game story before my deadline. A deadline and a story that no longer held my attention the way they had just five minutes before.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

If a drunken Stanford tree falls

The Stanford basketball teams will have to do without their familiar green leafy mascot for their next two home games.

It seems the student who brings life to the limbs got in trouble during a recent road game and was booted for cheering on an area of the court where trees are not supposed to be planted.
After being escorted off the hardwood by security personnel, it was determined the tree did not have a pine fresh scent but more of an alcohol stench wafting from its leaves.

A new mascot inhabitor was already scheduled to be elected in early March. Until then, Stanford fans will be forced to bring their own tiny tree-shaped air fresheners to the games for inspiration.

Cheney Fudd & the Magic Pellets

Calling all conspiracy theorists.

It appears some algebraic forensic work combined with a hunter's knowledge of bird shot is casting a CSI cloud of doubt on some of the details regarding Quickdraw McCheney and his recent lawyer hunting expedition.
The folks at Brainshrub have been busy concerning Cheney's "Magic Birdshot".

While we're at it let's bring a new twist to an old saying - "A bird in the hand is worth more than a shot in the face by a member of the Bush administration."

On a more serious note, let's all hope Esquire Whittington makes a full recovery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Do you want bacteria with that?

During some surfing yesterday I came across this story about a Florida teen's science fair project.
The experiment the young lass decided to tackle involved sampling the amount of bacteria in ice served in sodas sold by fast food restaurants compared to the bacteria in the same establishments' toilet bowls.

Ta Da. Her findings point out that we're better off poking a straw into the john than in that giant cup o' pop.

Mmmm tasty.
But see, actually I'm not one of those alarmist germaphobes who freaks out at every story about a severed finger found in a bowl of chili or a tale about the chick with leprosy who works the local drive-thru window and served a kiddy meal that included her own detached ear.

I know how clean my kitchen counter is ... or isn't. I've got my own horror stories created in the very dining area where I live.

Gather round chirren and I'll tell you the tale about the time ...

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Agony of defeat

On a weekend when snow fell in mass quantities casting a white Shroud over the Eastern United States, the winter weather event was a great mood setter for the opening weekend of the Turin Olympics.

Shroud ... Turin
Ha Ha ha.
It's the small things that always make me howl.

There was ski jumping today and it just makes me nostalgic for the old Wild World of Sports intro. You know, the one where the guy helicopters through the air and basically crashes into a building in a jump gone oh-so-wrong.

As a child of the 70s, every Saturday had me planted in front of the giant Magnavox watching log rolling or motorcycles racing on ice or sumo wrestling or cliff diving. It was always something "thrilling", that's for sure.

Oh well, there have been some Red, White and Blue busts so far in Turin.

"Drunken" Bode was slow down the hill on his fancy new skis and flashy Apolo Anton Ohno bobbled in the final turn of his short track effort.
The "Flying Tomato" at least came through in the half-pipe, although it took a strong showing in his final run.

If I'm not in a gym, I'll be watching curling.
Now that's a sport worthy of Jim McKay announcing what boils down to shuffleboard-on-ice.
Count on it.

Cheney Fudd

It appears our less-than-esteemed Vice President Dick Cheney has filled a lawyer cohort with bird shot while on a quail hunting jaunt in the Lone Star state of Texas.

Apparently Cheney's intelligence sources told the VP his hunting buddy was packing WMDs in his hip pocket.

The good news is the shooting victim will recover but will likely suffer PCHD
or commonly known as Post Cheney Hunting Disorder.

I can't read this story without hearing the refrain of Elmer Fudd's operatic "Kill the Wabbit" racing through my brain pan.

Bag full of hearts (not the bloody variety, though)

I've spent a quiet Sunday morning lazing on the couch, one eye cast upon the TV (Something About Mary, still hilarious) and one eye focused on ye olde laptop. I bounced here and there on the World Wide Web and eventually landed upon my new favorite diversion cockeyed.com

I've read about science projects involving frozen shaving cream and others centered around gi-normous pumpkins. One extensive post involved the results of one solid month of dining out in Sacramento. Other diversions there include very involved pranks.

But with Valentine's Day approaching on Tuesday and me being all mushy about my girlie after her extended absence this week, what caught my attention was their scientific research on Sweetheart Conversation Hearts.

Light-hearted fun.
Be sure to check out the list of sayings on the hearts. Note some of the entries in the list have zeroes next to them. They're bogus sayings created by the "scientists".
Check it out and send it to your loved one for V-Day.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Locusts hit the stores

The dreaded snows struck West Tennessee, paralyzing the area with its overwhelming, powdery downfall.

Yes, all measly one-and-a-half inches have brought the area to its knees.

While events were cancelled and lives reorganized to accomodate the wintery intruder Mr. Snow, local denizens still managed to drive across the frozen tundra to the local grocery and clear the shelves of all bread and milk.

I've never understood this phenomenon. The crazed shopper forging her way through the "terrible" driving conditions to buy slices of bread and gallons of milk. As if they were going to be stranded in their homes for weeks on end with nothing to spread their peanut butter and jelly upon nor any liquid to wash it down their gullets.

Yes, the roads were a bit slushy yesterday, but already the roads are clear and life as we know it has continued.

All despite the hoarding of grocery staples.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I thought bowling shoes were bad

Now I've seen it all.
I thought renting bowling shoes was a hygienic nightmare, but even the communal use of shoes has been dropped way down on the ick list.

A story on
Fark.com tells the tale of a "sporting" goods store somewhere in "The GULF" (not of Mexico; think Middle East) that has been renting blow-up dolls. It seems their interpretation of "recreational activities" is subject to interpretation.

Yes, you read that correctly, not selling, but RENTING.

Apparently, I know this may seem hard to believe, teens are the most frequent customers of this booming bidness.

But as often happens to entrepreneurs who are ahead of the curve, they are shut down and shunned. The boom has gone bust. It happens to the best businessmen. Just ask the good folks at ENRON.

Hoops H-E-Double-Hockey sticks

Ta da.

It's here. When I type it, I mean the high school basketball postseason.

It looms at the end of every regular-season schedule. The teams anxiously play their way to it. Each game preparatory in their pursuit of a shining gold ball, their ultimate goal, representing a state championship.

I'm giving up my life for the next month or so in order to traipse across West Tennessee and eventually, potentially all the way to the 'Boro in order to follow area high school hoop teams.

So long Newscoma. So long hounds. We'll get reacquainted later. Oh, say, the middle of March.

Potentially, there are a pair of girls teams who could earn their way to the state's elite 8. The Westview girls will be making a return trip, should they earn it. It would be their third in four seasons. The Gleason girls will be building on their school's own rich tradition if the Lady Bulldogs get back to the state tourney. The Greenfield girls are trying to build a foundation of success after many seasons of mediocrity at best.
As for the boys, the county's best shot rides on the sneakers of the Westview Chargers. The Dresden boys are a dark horse. In total contrast to the girls in the area, boys basketball in West Tennessee (barring a couple of phenomenal squads) is on a downturn. There are several teams on the same competitive level, but that level is well below par.

So right now, I've got several road trips in my future in the next few weeks. Some of them will be of the 180-mile, round-trip variety for the regional level. Substate and state trips will be longer.

Despite the wear and tear on me, it is gratifying to see the hard work these kids put into their team come to fruition. As a mediocre high school player on a team that was usually below .500 in a completely different generation, I have no clue what they are experiencing. But it must be amazing or they wouldn't pursue it with such sacrifice.

So, I'll keep providing the scrapbook material and pumping gas into my vehicle as long as they provide the wins.

Toss up the basketball for the tipoff and let's get this thing started

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

bon voyage

Well, it was bon voyage to Newscoma this morning as she headed out dark and early for Nashvegas to attend the Tennessee Press Association winter conference.
She'll be hobnobbing with legislators and big-wig publishers.
Me, I'm stuck with five hounds, a turtle, two in-laws and two nieces.
I think I'm coming out the winner.

So, Newscoma, enjoy your stay in Trashville but come home soon.

And don't let yer trip to the big ol' Mean Streets change ye none.
Bite me.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Steelers rolling

The Steelers eked out a halftime lead, thanks to a questionable offensive pass interference call against Seattle in the first half.
Then nabbed a bigger lead thanks to Willie Parker's record-setting third quarater run.
We'll see if the Seahawks can punch one across the goal line. Speaking of, I'm still not sure Big Ben broke the plane with his run for the go-ahead TD earlier.

kicking off

Super Bowl XL (that's 40 for you non-Roman numeral reading fans) is barely under way.

No score as of yet, unless you're counting the number of 12 oz. hops and barley beverages I've imbibed already.
There is no over-under number in Vegas for that, so I won't reveal the results.
Stay tuned for Super gridiron squirrel updates.

Squirrels In Tights

It's officially a trend.
Men in tights on the basketball court.
For years, the kings of the ballet have been mocked for their legwear - hosiery, leggings, tights.
Short shorts to baggy shorts to headbands to tights - now an NBA fashion extravaganza is already finding its way onto the high school courts.
It started with Kobe Bryant wearing black tights under his regulation NBA baggy culottes, er, I mean shorts early in this season.
Then a few other lesser stars in the NBA galaxy sported the leggings.
Finally, the new King of the hardwood, Lebron James, put on the legwear in recent weeks, causing another fashion buzz.
As a result, high school kids are now improvising their own leggings.
At the game I covered Friday night a couple of the local kids had come up with their own cunning plan to mimic their favorites in the NBA. Instead of full-length tights, the local kids were using what appeared to be baseball stirrup hosiery stretched as high as they could pull them until they nearly fit up under the bottom hem of their baggy uniform shorts.
Creative, yes.
Attractive, no.
Did it enhance their games any? One kid played less than stellar as a starter; the other mopped up several points in play among the scrubs.
It's gotta be the tights.

Squirrel Hoops on ESPNU

Rah! Rah! Rah! Zis-Boom-Bah!
The Squirrel Queen had a unique experience on Thursday night. I got to assist an ESPNU crew during a college basketball game at Tennessee-Martin.
Great atmosphere, great game, great experience.
Got a call from my buddy Jo-Lo, the UT Martin Sports Information Director, Monday asking if I was available to work Thursday night. I'd already picked the Skyhawks' games as my games to work that night on my schedule for the week. A local young woman plays on the Tennessee Tech team and that was Martin's opponent for the night, so I figured it was the old two-birds-with-one-stone scenario.
What a day Thursday was. Folks where I work decided they wanted to rearrange offices on short notice, moving my entire work area to another floor in the building. Had to get into the office early to pack up my messy, organized so only I know where it belongs and what it is stuff and help move it upstairs. Then try to put away what I could that day. Trouble was, I lost an entire bookshelf in the move, absconded by my coworkers for their new area. Then, the shelves in my new space are rickety and must be braced, so I can't put anything on them until they get reinforced. Still waiting on that.
Hectic, stressful start to a long day.
Then I have to be at Jo-Lo's 45 minutes before the already-moved-up tipoff time of the women's game. Rush home, run through shower, run back to Martin.
At the gym, everyone is squirreling around trying to make everything perfect for the ESPNU folks. Always want to make a great impression to a national TV audience, especially when you're a small town and a small university not used to being in that glaring spotlight. Rained all day, so admin folks were worried the crowd might be slimmer than expected. Just one more added stress for them.
My first assignment was to key in stats for the box score in the women's game. My inaugural attempt at that. It took me a while to get the hang of it. Oh, wait, I'll admit I never did get comfortable, but I got through it, thanks to Travis, one of Joe-Lo's student staff, a veteran of the stat crew. Mighty Kudos to Trav.
As soon as the final horn sounded, Jo-Lo nabbed me and introduced me to the ESPNU staff. I was told my job would be to sit next to the on-air talent and feed them stats. I'd also be wearing a headset that was hooked into the truck parked outside where the director and the rest of his crew would work. I'd feed stats to them so they could use them as on-screen graphic info.
There was about an hour wait between the women's and the men's games as the men's tipoff had been pushed back in order to accomodate ESPN's schedule.
I got to go into the truck for a few minutes to talk to the crew there. It was a treat to get a gander at all the equipment and monitors and the hectic pace they put themselves through even in the pregame.
I settled in next to the on-air talent, watched them study their hand-written notes and rosters and listened to them rehearse and tape their game intros.
The gym was electric and filled to near capacity. The student body came out in full-throated force. Loud and clad in orange and blue, the students stayed on their feet and screamed from the time they walked into the gym to the final horn. Nowadays, everyone wants to be on TV and, according to Warhol, this was their shot at 15 minutes of fame. They grabbed the "fame" stopwatch and never let it go. It should be that way at every home game.
It was interesting to hear the ESPN crew fret over lighting. The Skyhawks are always introduced in the pregame in near darkness, that's a problem for a media that needs bright lights in order to bring their product to the viewing audience.
Oddly enough, the tipoff of Tennessee-Martin's game wasn't broadcast since the earlier game on ESPNU was still under way and the score was close enough they wouldn't cut away from it. So much of the Skyhawk pregame fanfare was only enjoyed by those in the gym. Only the ESPNU people knew it wasn't being beamed into living rooms around the nation.
Time for the game to start, I'm a bit nervous, anxious to provide the on-air talent what they need. I've got a monitor in front of me that is supposed to provide a running total of player and team stats. My job was to write down pertinent info and hand it over to the talent, while using my headset to tell the guys in the truck what they wanted to know and answer any questions they might have about on-court action and players.
Trouble was, when the game started, my stat monitor didn't. As a sports writer, I'm used to keeping up with some stats as the game goes along but I was a bit out of my comfort zone.
The game was fast-paced and exciting with plenty of high-octane offense, a perfect contest to be televised.
Finally, I snagged a UTM staff member and let her know the monitor wasn't working. It seemed like it was about halfway through the first half before we got it up and running. Once the stat screen came up it made my job much easier. I finally got a rhythm.
From there, it was a breeze. The Skyhawks got not only a big Ohio Valley Conference win, they got a great experience.
And so did the Squirrel Queen.
So, if you happened to TIVO the game, look for me on the sideline. I'm the one in the headset and the yellow shirt right next to the on-air talent.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Diamonds and Groundhogs

It’s a little known fact that Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of Major League Baseball, relied on the prognosticating shadow of Punxsutawney Phil’s ancestors to schedule spring training and opening day.
Most modern-day baseball fans are unaware that before Landis’ election to the game’s top position in 1921, the sport used the Mayan Calendar, which featured a count of 260 days, to position the season’s first games. Because of the sport’s 162-game schedule, prior to Landis, baseball always symbolically scheduled the season opener on Day 162 of the Mayan Calendar. As a result, in certain years, the season did not get under way until November and the league was forced to play through the winter months. The phrase "boys of summer" certainly did not apply. With the sometimes-frigid temperatures, fan attendance numbers often took a tremendous dip during these winter-based seasons. Landis, with all his vision, realized that the Mayan civilization, though grand and dominating in its time, had been conquered and ravaged by the Spanish conquistadors. The man who ruled America’s national pastime feared baseball might suffer the same fate as the grand Mexican dynasty and lose ground to the Jai Lai craze or the competitive tiddly wink fad sweeping the United States in the early 1920s. Several marquee major league baseball players were already being wooed by the glamour and salaries of the fledgling Professional Tiddly Wink Association (PTWA). The smitten baseball standouts transferred their superior hand-eye coordination from catching flies in the outfield to flipping discs in the PTWA.
Baseball ownership was up in arms. The inaugural commissioner had to put a stop to the talent flooding out of his sport.
After much thought and several flips of a trusted Magic 8 Ball, Landis came up with an alternative scheduling guide, removing the Mayan Calendar from its prominent place in the diamond game’s history.
With the dependence on the 260-day calendar out of the way, the visionary baseball commissioner turned to the common large North American marmot, or groundhog, as it is more commonly known.
Though a native of Georgia and born before the invention of the Internet by Al Gore, Landis was wise to the meteorological connection the Keystone State groundhog had to impending weather. The baseball commissioner took the act of saving the game upon himself and wrote his solution into the game’s secret administrative bylaws, now under the tight-fisted control of the current commissioner Bud Selig and rarely seen except by those who know the secret handshake. Landis’ ground(hog)-breaking strategy stated that should the shadow be witnessed by the mammal named Phil, both spring training and opening day would be delayed by six weeks.
Landis’ action cemented the sport as America’s favorite and eventually led to the tremendous surge in popularity of the sport across worldwide borders. The World Series champion Montreal Expos are just one shining example of its international success.
So, before contacting a travel agent and buying a non-refundable ticket for a flight to Florida to catch Grapefruit League games in spring training action, fans of the diamond game should keep a close eye on that Pennsylvania marmot.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Everything's OTAY"

President Squirrely McBush took to the airwaves last night to try to convince Merica what a great job he and the Repubs are doing with his State of the Union address.

He told us we're addicted to oil. No joke. This is coming from a known oil baron and his filthy rich cronies and it rides on the heels of Exxon posting its grossly greedy quarterly profits one day earlier. Ponder that as you get passed by 42 dozen SUVs and giant RAM trucks on your way to and from work today.

Oh yeah, and everything is peachy for the US on a global scale. We're the ball busters of the planet and we're going to poke the eyes out of anyone who deigns to disagree, aggressively or passively.

Also, note Cindy Sheehan was kept out of the building because she refused to give up her right to free speech by changing T-shirts. Apparently, the Bushies were afraid a little dissent might take the air out of the big bubble of crap they were floating our way. I guess their wire tap of her didn't catch any fashion discussions before Dubya's big speech, so they weren't preparted. Or maybe the FBI Minnesota office didn't get the info to the Washington bureau in time or they just ignored the briefing they received.