What’s an Irish Bearcat to do?

Big news tonight from the University of Notre Dame. No, not football but basketball sweet basketball. Tonight from South Bend the Irish host the boys from my alma mater, the famous Bearcats of Binghamton University.

So what’s an Irish Bearcat to do? Whom to root for? Well, all things being equal, go with the underdog, right?

So… go, Irish!

Sprite on a plane

I’ve seen the news in several places from several different sources backed up by various scientists and I think we can now conclude: your tastebuds really are different while flying the friendly skies.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany (other scientists have shown similar results but these guys sounded the most prestigious) have documented once and for all the changes your tastebuds undergo while flying. Who knew? Well, everybody, but now it’s official.

For 20-plus years I’ve wondered why Sprite tastes better on a plane. Seriously, I never touch the stuff on land. But on an airplane? Nectar of the gods.

Thanks, German researchers, for validating my unscientific musings. And because every other news article about this issue includes this joke: it’s your fault your in-flight meal tastes so bad!

Honoring veterans everywhere

Ah, November, chock full of holidays to every schoolchild’s delight. I’ll admit that when I was a kid I barely understood Veterans Day, confusing it with Memorial Day as so many do. At least Veterans Day never went the way of most holidays, moving to Monday for mere convenience, though it does still retain the problem of its questionable apostrophe. (I vote no.)

Luckily for us in 2014, Veterans Day honors only a small number of our citizens. That is, only a small percentage of our citizens have been required to serve in recent years and that must be recognized as a good thing. I suppose that means we can make our thank yous just a little bit bigger for those we do honor. And I promise to recognize the holiday more than just another day off from school.

The most remembered thing about it was it came down

Twenty-five years ago this Sunday the East German government made a surprising announcement. It would do what its citizens and the Western world had been demanding for years. It would tear down the Berlin Wall.

For 38 years the wall had stood as a literal and figurative barrier between the communist-controlled East and democratic West, a real-life Iron Curtain blocking passage into and out of that forsaken land. Its destruction really did bring freedom and, in time, greater prosperity to a people that had become virtually accustomed to living without it. And the eventual collapse of an empire, rendering an ideology to the ash heap of history. Three cheers for democracy.

A final word for those interested, and a question often raised by my students (many of whom were born post-1989… ouch). Just as the entire wall was not built in a day it was not torn down in a day either. What happened on November 9, 1989, was the announcement that East German citizens could now pass through the wall to West Germany and West Berlin. The citizens took it upon themselves at that point to literally bring down the wall, though the process was not actually completed by the state-run bulldozers until 1992. The final sorry example of crappy government service at work.

GOP wins big; Wizards rally to top Knicks

New York–Paul Pierce and Garrett Temple each scored 17 points, and the Washington Wizards used a 32-15 third quarter to defeat the New York Knicks Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. In other news, the Republican Party regained control of the U.S. Senate and picked up major gains in Congress and statehouses across the country.

That’s how I felt last night watching Election Night “coverage” on several different channels, numbers rolling across the bottom of the screen with sports scores and the occasional pop culture tag. If politics is but a horserace to win, place, or show I’m going to start referring to it as such. I just wish I didn’t have to pay those idiots.

What does this mean? What does this mean? cries the media (I am now referring to this plural noun in the singular to reflect its single-mindedness). Answer: a different set of dopes with patronage jobs on Capitol Hill next year.

No doubt I would be pleased to see some actual policy changes and/or initiatives from Washington in the next two years, but I’m not holding my breath. These guys are comfortable being in the minority and they’re going to act as much even when they’re not.

At least we can all celebrate one victory last night. Goodbye, annoying mailers and TV commercials. This is the day the politicians begin to leave us alone for 10 minutes before the next election.

Update: 7:32 a.m. E-mail received encouraging me to purchase 2014 Republican victory souvenir t-shirt. Thanks for ruining my last point and validating everything that preceded it.

Fifty years ago today

It’s hard to pinpoint an exact date on which a nation lost its soul, but if forced to do so I would select November 3, 1964. This was the ill-fated day of the 1964 presidential election, when Lyndon Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater, thus killing small-government conservatism forever. Never had Americans had such a choice and such an opportunity, and never have they thrown it away with such vigor. Oh sure, there are glimpses now and then, but nothing like the deathblow dealt fifty years ago today.

I realize the blog is becoming something like what-anniversary-can-we-celebrate-today trivia, but this, like the others is of great importance. In fact, the entire month of October 1964 is something to examine, and I’m ashamed I didn’t do so until today. It was done quite well 20 years ago by David Halberstam in a book cleverly titled October 1964, and I recommend that one highly. Focusing on both baseball and politics, Halberstam examines the changing tides imminent in that month, and in 2014 they are even more clear. And I still think no election was more important.

Goldwater spent the rest of his career pushing small-government initiatives, the kind of thing one can do as a minority-party senator. Does this describe the so-called Tea Party of today? Well, after tomorrow they might not be in the minority.

October Heroes


Is it too cliche to be Madison Bumgarner for Halloween this year? I’d like to think I could get away with it. After all, who called his Game Five performance something resembling Muhammad Ali? Well, Game Seven matched it. Remember, stars shine when the lights are brightest.

Today, of course, is Halloween, one of my favorite holidays. This is my son’s first, and my ninth without the master of all things Halloween. So here’s to Bart Simpson, Michael Myers, Roseanne Conner, Charlie Brown, and everyone who makes Halloween special..

And Joe.



Stars shine when lights are brightest

I’ve received flak from two disparate sources the last 48 hours re: Monday’s post. One, that I would compare a single baseball game to the greatest boxing match of all time. I stand by the analogy. Memorable performance with the whole world watching.

And speaking of such performances, I was gently reminded (chided?) that I neglected to mention the anniversary of another October 1974 event: Frank Sinatra’s performance at Madison Square Garden on October 13, 1974. Billed as the “Main Event,” Sinatra was broadcasted live to the entire Western Hemisphere, an honor rare in the pre-Internet era. Presided over by none other than Howard Cosell, the show truly had the feel of a championship fight.

So tonight, with the whole world watching, which stars will shine brightest in Game Seven of the 2014 Fall Classic? Tune in to find out.

Bumgarner echoes a decades-old performance

Madison Bumgarner’s pitching performance in last night’s Game Five of the World Series deserves the word epic, an epithet used all too often by tweens and Tweeters in 2014, but completely apropos in its traditional meaning here.

Last night’s contest wasn’t exactly a rumble in the jungle (more like play by the bay), but the gutty performance did call to mind the work of a certain Mr. Ali, who 40 years ago this week defeated a certain Mr. Foreman in what some consider the greatest boxing match, nay, greatest sporting event of the 20th century.

On October 30, 1974 (at 4 a.m. local time to accommodate Western TV audiences), Muhammad Ali knocked out George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire: a nation that no longer exists on a continent known today only by the fact that some people there carry the Ebola virus. The match was a culmination of what turned out to be a month-long celebration of music, sports, and black culture that would be unrecognizable today. And entirely politically incorrect. Well, maybe.

For a nostalgic look at this event watch the Oscar-winning documentary When We Were Kings, now 18 years old but still relevant and still awesome today. You’ll thank me later.

P.C. pandering starts already

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) will hold his annual pheasant hunt this weekend among Republican bigwigs and aspirants. Faux conservative and 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Chris Christie will attend, apparently, but not hunt. Scheduling conflict.


Squeamishness and apologies for conservative thought has already begun for 2016 among our own. As I often find myself saying, “With Republicans like these…”