Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year 2011!

Time to start icing the champagne, and ease into a new day, new year, and new decade, and here's a wish that all find happiness, health, and prosperity in 2011.

BTW....I'm much more comfortable saying "twenty-eleven" rather than the stiff and too formal sounding "two thousand eleven".

I wrote a lot about politics in the the final months of 2010.....perhaps too much. But in this morning's Star-Ledger I saw a column by Steve Politi that was of special note. And I wanted to close 2010 by mentioning it, and urging you to read it.

Politi is a sports columnist for the newspaper, and today he published a list of the top 10 sports stories (in his opinion) for the New York- New Jersey metropolitan area.

Number 1 wasn't about Rex Ryan and his bluster, or the resurgent Knicks, the collapse of the Devils, or the quicksand Tom Coughlin is standing in as I type this.

And even the passing of George Steinbrenner was #2 on the list.

Steve Politi chose the story of Rutgers University football player Eric LeGrand, his tragic on field injury that left him paralyzed, and the outreach of tens of thousands of friends and fans who gave their support to Eric and his family in the aftermath of his injury as the most important sports story of 2010.

We can choose to accept life in a cold, cruel world and live self serving lives. Or we can try to do the small, right things that make it a better place, and give of ourselves to the best of our ability. Eric's story touched many, not just in the Rutgers community, but throughout the nation and world.

The story of Eric LeGrand and the thousands who reached out in the days since his injury show what mankind should and could be. I think this column by Steve Politi is a final holiday gift to Eric and those who became part of the story, those who stepped up to the plate and cared.

The column is available online by clicking here. Read it, and please pass it on.

Have a Happy New Year!

And I'll be back with you.....soon.

Late Addition- Eric LeGrand is the winner of the 2010 Discover Orange Bowl-Football Writers Association of America Courage Award which will be presented January 3 at the Orange Bowl game in Miami.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


If you're old enough, some of you can remember.....

Where's Waldo?

The first Where's Waldo? books were published in 1987, a children's series in which the little buggers were supposed to find the pictured Waldo in a collage like this one....

It would keep the kids occupied for just long enough that you could watch an hour long show like DALLAS or MOONLIGHTING and not be interrupted. Where's Waldo? became so popular in the late 1980's that there had to be spinoffs and knockoffs. One of my favorites was Where's Dan Quayle?. I actually gave this one to my nephew when he was three years old. I don't think my sister-in-law was pleased.

In more recent years, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has had an entire line of products that asked the question, Where's Bobby?, included is the tote bag pictured below.

As of now Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie doesn't have any books or a line of accessories named after him. But the governor who left on a Florida vacation just hours before a blizzard crippled New Jersey for days- and while his lieutenant governor is also vacationing, leaving Senate President Steve Sweeney, a rival and a Democrat, to cope with the situation- he has something more high tech in the dubious honors department.

Chris Christie is now featured in a new website; Where's Chris Christie?, courtesy of our friends at Progressive Change Campaign Committee. And the question is answered....he's just about anywhere BUT in the state of New Jersey. In the last three months Gov. Christie could be found in Florida, New Mexico, California, Massachusetts, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Connecticut, and Delaware. I probably left a couple of states out, but he'll be there in 2011, you can count on it.

Where's Chris Christie? Coming to your town....soon. Unless you live in the Garden State.

You can count on it.

Scocca : Chris Christie Is Too Important to Care About Snow, or Cancer, or His Job

To borrow a a line from Ricky Ricardo....."Chris Christie, you've got some 'splainin' to do."

Much has been said and written about Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's decision to go ahead on a vacation the day a blizzard hit the state, leaving third in command Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat, to handle the emergency. Sweeney was sworn in as acting governor because Lt Governor Kim Guadagno was also out of state. On Monday morning Sweeney appeared on News 12 New Jersey and declared a state of emergency. When asked why he was serving as acting governor, Sweeney replied Christie was vacationing in Florida, and he didn't know where Guadagno was.

Some in the Christie administration have countered the criticism of Christie by calling it partisan sniping. But when voices like that of Republican stalwart Pat Buchanan tell MSNBC that Christie should have been on the first plane back to New Jersey after 30 plus inches of snow fell in Monmouth and Union Counties, and similar amounts in the rest of the state, well...that's trouble. The STAR-LEDGER's resident conservative columnist Paul Mulshine has called Christie's absence during a statewide emergency "inexcusable".

I've read dozens of blogs, editorials, and stories related to Christie's no-show and abdication of leadership during this event, but none so pointed and as on target as Tom Scocca's entry in Slate. Click the link below to read....he won't be on Christie's Christmas card list in 2011.

Scocca : Chris Christie Is Too Important to Care About Snow, or Cancer, or His Job

Monday, December 27, 2010

16" +.....The Holiday Blizzard of 2010, and The Case of The Missing Governor and Lt Governor

For lack of a better term, it's being called the The Holiday Blizzard of 2010, with 30" of snow falling in New Jersey's Union County, and with an unofficial estimate by yours truly of 16 inches locally in this end of Middlesex County. The snow began around 10AM on Sunday (December 26) and ended in the wee hours of December 27th, with wind gusts in excess of 30 mph and bone chilling cold, and drifting snow blowing all over the place.

A state of emergency was declared in New Jersey by Acting Governor Steve Sweeney who's filling in for the vacationing Chris Christie....I have a few things to say about that, but be patient, it's coming. It's bad out there, and the bottomline is simple; if you don't have to drive, stay home. There's been stories on all of the news outlets of people throughout the region being stranded on highways for 12 or more hours, or in airports, train stations or on subways overnight.

We had three significant snow storms last winter, one in December and two in the same week in February. I'd say this was worse than any of last year's storms, and this might have been the worst storm to hit New Jersey since the Blizzard of 1996.

Now here's the interesting those of us following this thing as of Christmas Eve, on just about every local news station, the consensus was that the storm would miss the area almost entirely. On the 11:00PM news on WNBC (New York) on Christmas Eve, the forecast was for cloudy skies Christmas Day, and with a near miss of the developing storm with the Twin Forks of Long Island getting a couple of inches of snow, and New York City and New Jersey getting a dusting to perhaps an inch of snow. The minor snow event would start late on December 26, and would be of little consequence. Go about your business and enjoy Christmas. The brunt of the storm would be a hundred miles of more out to sea.

No big deal, right?

So on Christmas Day, I went about my business and had a nice day, enjoying it all and relishing Santa's bounty. After a filling dinner and a few drinks on Saturday night, I went to bed, but had a hard time sleeping. I got up and had some coffee at 7AM Sunday.....I put on the news. I hadn't watched any news, picked up a newspaper, listened to news on the radio, or been online since Christmas Eve.

And the storm that was going to miss us? GOTCHA!!!!

It was only a few hours from hitting New Jersey, New York, and the whole Mid-Atlantic Region.

It was the re-energized storm that dumped ungodly amounts of rain in California, and even deposited snow in the Deep South, like in places where it never snows, in Georgia and South Carolina, the first White Christmases in those states' histories.

And intense blizzard was about three hours away; and I didn't even know the status of my snow blower. It always had a knack for dying on me when I needed it most. Hopefully there was no bad gas in it from last year, and the carburetor didn't gum up on me again.

So before breakfast, it was off to Home Depot to get some two cycle oil and carburetor cleaner, and then on to buy fresh gas for the snow blower. Home Depot, at 9:00 AM Sunday morning, was a total freaking madhouse. Literally pallet after pallet of ice melt and snow shovels were coming out of storage. The parking lot was packed, the store was full, and I overheard one employee say to another, "I've never seen anything like this, ever, at this store". It was one of those scenes you see on the news, and you watch and shake your head in disbelief.....but this time I was part of the same incredulous scene.

After Home Depot I went to a local HESS gas station with my empty gas can. At the station there was one attendant working four lanes, with about six cars deep in each lane, and also with a few guys standing around to get their gas cans filled. It seemed that many people decided to get an early start and hit the road before the storm hit on Sunday, and most gas stations staffed like they would for a typical Sunday morning; that is, very minimally. They were slammed. It took a half hour to buy one gallon of gas, and the situation was the same all over.

And then Came The Blizzard......

The ornamental reindeer with antlers is about three feet tall, his grazing female mate is buried under the snowfall.

Between the two candles is a three foot tall Santa Claus

I had intended to include more pictures of the aftermath of the Holiday Blizzard of 2010 before removing snow, but while walking around out there I got stuck in the snow bank created by the snow plow.....I mean, physically stuck. The snow was close to three feet in depth in that spot, and yes, I literally had cold feet (rimshot!).

BTW....Where was the Governor when the blizzard hit? Better yet, where was the Lt Governor?

Before beginning to dig out of the worst blizzard since 1996, I watched the updates from News 12 New Jersey. On air at the time was the Acting Governor of New Jersey, State Senate President Steve Sweeney, who declared a state of emergency in New Jersey.

It was explained to the viewers that New Jersey's Republican Governor Chris Christie was vacationing in Florida, and Sweeney, a Democrat, was serving as acting governor. But that led to the next obvious question....where was Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, Christie's running mate and the New Jersey's first ever lieutenant governor?

Steve Sweeney didn't know the whereabouts of Guadagno when asked. But it appears that she too was on vacation, leaving town at a time when a major snow storm threatened the region.

The voters of New Jersey chose to create an office of lieutenant governor in 2005 after a turbulent period where New Jersey had five governors in five years. Previously the state Senate President served as the acting governor while the governor was ill or out of town.

So let me ask the obvious....why do we have an office of lieutenant governor in New Jersey if both governor and lieutenant governor choose to vacation at the same time? It's back to a letting the Senate President run the state...and in this case, it's during natural disaster, doing the the job we voted for a lieutenant governor to do.

Lame duck governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania was on the job during the blizzard. So was lame duck governor David Paterson of New York as the storm threatened.

The joke among New Jersey Democrats is "How is Chris Christie unlike God?".

"Because God is everywhere....and so is Christie- except in New Jersey."

OK....Governor Christie does deserve to go on a family vacation over the Christmas holiday if he wishes. But shouldn't his #2 be there to mind the store while he is away?

This is a really bad job an both of their parts....and they can't blame this error in judgment on Barack Obama or Brett Schundler.

Maybe they'll hang it on the crew of THE WEATHER CHANNEL.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas To All! Photos From A Recent Trip To New York

I just wanted to take a minute to thank all for your readership, support and friendship, and wish all the merriest of Christmases!

Below are a series of pictures taken in New York City last Sunday in Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Madison Square Garden, and from atop the Empire State Building. Even the worst Scrooge would have a hard to dispute there is no place like New York during the holidays.

Click the photo for the full sized view!

Take care, stay warm.....and be sure to use a designated driver.

"The Naughty List", 2010 Edition


Remember me?

I'm the guy who used to post new entries to this blog everyday......and then a funny thing happened. It's called "Christmas". From Thanksgiving until about 9PM last night (Happy Belated "Festivus", BTW) I've been running a 30 day sprint, trying to get things done before The Big Day. And finally, when I got up this morning, I looked around....and EVERYTHING IS FINALLY DONE!

Free at last! Now I know many of my fellow bloggers have been keeping up with current events, politics, and pop culture while I was making myself hysterical for the past three weeks. So why go through a rehash of everything that's been said already? Those guys know what they're talking about....I'm just a wise guy from, not THAT kind of "wise guy".....maybe I should say "smart ass" instead.

But I will touch upon some of the people who deserve coal in they're stocking this Christmas.....there is a list, you know. Trust me. It does exist. I found this video on the internet that proves it.

Walter Hobbs is not alone, Buddy.....and as for New York, we'll I'll talk about that later.

But's a list of those who've made Santa's Naughty List. Some should remain on it for years.

(1). Senator Mitch McConnell- The Republican minority leader from Kentucky has earned this description from MSNBC's Chris Matthews; ".....a character from Charles Dickens.". It's hard to tell what he's for, and much easier to talk about those things he's against, like the START treaty, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", The Dream Act, the bill for medical aid for the 9/11 first responders.....oh yeah, he is FOR the giving of billions of dollars in tax breaks to billionaires when the money could be used to aid municipalities around the nation on the brink of default.

(2). Senator John McCain- probably the biggest political sellout of the early 21st century. The Republican who ran for the presidency on the motto "Country First" opposes START, was a leading voice to kill the repeal of DADT, has swung way right on immigration issues, and called the Zadroga 9/11 First Responder's bill "fooling around" in a speech on the floor of the US Senate. The once proud maverick has morphed into The Angry Old Man of the Senate

3). Governor Chris Christie- the guy blows a $400 million government grant to education, then tries to blame the Obama Administration for the New Jersey delegation's error, and when that doesn't work he throws his education chief under the bus. His personal war on the teacher's union has led to referring to New Jersey students as "drug mules", carrying information from teacher union leadership home with them, and his allying himself with conservative gonzo filmmaker James O'Keefe. There's a lot more to say about this guy, but time is limited. The governor, who's personal style reminds me of Billy Martin at his worst, is finally starting to have some veneer wear off of his once somewhat (by GOP standards in New Jersey) lofty status. Recent polls have shown his job approval dropping 5% in the past month, while disapproval in New Jersey shot up to 48%.

4). Sarah Palin- much can be said why she belongs on the naughty list. But this year it's because Santa is afraid the former half term governor of Alaska will shoot one of his reindeer.

5). BP- It's not cool to pollute our waters....and even worse when some of our political leaders, like Texas Congressman Joe Barton apologized to BP's CEO when President Obama took the company to task for the Gulf Oil Spill of 2010.

6). Oh yeah....Joe Barton. You're on the list, too.

7). The New York Giants. You guys were beating the Eagles by 21 points (31-10) with less than eight minutes to play.....and lost 38-31! C'mon, man! All of you belong on the list after that one.

8). The NCAA- the governing body of college sports has decided to punish five Ohio State football players for selling personal items, trophies, and awards by suspending them for the first five games of the 2011 season. OK, the "student athletes" bypassed the rules laid down by the NCAA. But all five players remain eligible to play in next week's Sugar Bowl game. So when is a suspension not a suspension? When it impacts the showcase of a BCS bowl, and the big bucks a BCS game generates. Shame on you, NCAA.

9). LeBron James- to paraphrase Michael in GODFATHER II, "You broke our hearts, Fredo......I mean, LeBron". So speaketh the hurting sports fans of the city of Cleveland. But this video says it better than I ever could.

And finally.....

10). Rex and Michelle Ryan- the head coach of the New York Jets and his wife have been making some news it naughty?'s not THAT naughty. Maybe even kind of nice.

That is, if you're into that kind of stuff.

I wonder if they exchange argle socks for Christmas?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas (and Other Forms of Temporary Insanity)

Crazy Whacked Out "Countdown To Christmas Rant, #1"

Ten more days.

Then I can breathe again.

My brain, once brimming with the insightful witticisms of a typical, swarmy, smart allecy, know it all, online amateur pundit has completely turned to mush. And I'm sure certain conservative Republican types are probably muttering to themselves....."it's a big improvement".

All I can say is....thank God Christmas is only once a year, and Happy Birthday, Jesus. Because maybe the ailing economy can use the influx of cash to regain some semblance of health, but the holidays......and I'm trying not to be Scrooge-like here....are starting to make me feel like I'm on a treadmill that's gone beserko, and I can't stop the dang thing, and the gym attendant went out for a quick smoke while no one is watching.

OK...I love Christmas Day, and friends and family and the festive atmosphere. I just dislike some of the preliminary events leading up to it, and the DEADLINES, both imposed by others and ourselves. Like the last day to mail cards, parcels, decorate outside, decorate inside, get the house cleaned before such and such date, plan dinner (or cheat and go out like we will this year....I need a break!)- and oh yeah, I almost forgot. Christmas shopping!  I know. I'm the guy who mocked people out for Christmas shopping after the 4th of July. I still think they're crazy....but kind of smart, if that makes any sense at all.

What I'm trying to say to you, oh loyal readers....the Ole Hugh Jee is getting buried alive by Christmas cheer.....and I'm trying to dig my way out, and I can see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel......and it's an out of control HO scale train set heading in my direction.

So if I don't have any comments on the news of the day, or remain strangely silent for days, or even a week at a time....blame it all on good cheer of the holidays. Because I really am not dealing with a full deck at this point anyway, and probably will not be "normal" until after New Year's. I'm sure you're feeling the same way.....what's even scarier is that we have guys in Washington with the same problem, and they vote on legislation that will affect us all for years!. "Lame duck sessions", with "lame" being the operative word.

But I am thankful, even so, for good health, friends and family....and most of all, for Sam Adams Winter Lager, this man's best friend during the Countdown To Christmas.

Talk to you soon.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

GOP blocks 9/11 first responders bill; ABC, CBS, and NBC ignore the story

It's been a very busy time around here, but I wanted to take a few minutes to alert others, to fellow bloggers, and those of conscience regardless of your political philosophy, of a tragedy that's ongoing  and the lack of response by our government that should be labeled a national disgrace

First responders to the September 11, 2001 tragedy are dying at an alarming rate, and our elected officials are letting it happen.

And, according to MediaMatters contributor Eric Boehlert NONE of the news broadcasts of ABC, NBC, and CBS covered the story of the Friday December 10 vote in the United States Senate of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 . This bill had a price tag of $7.4 billion, and would have been set up to cover the medical expenses of the heroic first responders to the attack on New York's World Trade Center, many of whom have had medical problems linked to the toxic atmosphere in aftermath of the tragedy. These were first responders from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and later from other areas of the United States.

The bill made it to the United States Senate yesterday.....and it was killed by a Republican filibuster in a 57-42 vote to begin debate. Sixty votes were needed to move forward.

Republicans said that the cost of the $7.4 billion, a mere fraction of the total cost of the Iraq War, was too high. The vote went along party lines.

The GOP leadership has made it clear that no new business will be considered until the extension of the Bush era tax cuts to even the wealthiest Americans is finalized.

The Republican Party, which at every opportunity has wrapped itself in the American flag and preached God and country, are now telling heroes of 9/11, those who came to the aid of their country when it was needed out of sense of purpose and duty, that they have to wait until the rest of America gets a tax cut before they will raise a finger to help. And then they'll try to blame Democrats for the stalemate.

Sadly, I think this lack of response and empathy for the first responders is part of a pattern of our society, our media, and our government, to distance themselves from 9/11. The public wants to forget. The news media sees it as an old story. And there are those in the federal government who don'twant to deal with the first responders because it might involve paying for the medical expenses of those who need to get those tax cuts so a zillionare can get his new yacht.

Cancer schmancer....

To the GOP senators who say "we don't have the money" I say- in this cleanup up version- that's bullcrap.

Find it. For once, do the right thing. Country first, heh? It's just one big lie that you sold on the American people in last month's midterms.

The GOP's stance on this bill is nauseating, disgusting....and cowardly.

The following excerpt is from the statement of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

"The idea that tax cuts for millionaires would derail this legislation is simply outrageous and offensive," she said. "The men and women who rushed to the burning towers and worked for hundreds of hours on the pile did not delay and the Senate should not have delayed either, certainly not to give tax breaks for millionaires. We should not have to wait for tax deals to do what's right."

I want to take a second to point out that locally, some in the New York City area media have done much to keep the story of the plight of the 9/11 first responders alive. In particular, PIX 11 has been updating the story and doing updates on air and online.

Click the link below for Eric Boehlert's story on the vote....and note his update- if you wanted to know how the Senate vote went on this bill yesterday don't bother watching Brian, Katie or Diane....the DAILY SHOW with John Stewart covered it.

GOP blocks 9/11 first responders bill; ABC, CBS, and NBC ignore the story

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thirty Years Ago Today; 12/8/80 The Murder of John Lennon

There is more than a little irony in that this entry follows the one on the passing of Don Meredith, former Dallas Cowboy quarterback and longtime color analyst on Monday Night Football. Because thirty years ago tonight I was watching the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots on MNF, when Howard Cosell broke this tragic news to me and to millions of others watching on ABC.

John Lennon, the founder and for years the official unofficial leader of The Beatles, author, artist, political activist, and until late in 1980 a stay at home Dad caring for son Sean, was murdered, shot in front of his home in Manhattan's The Dakota by deranged fan Mark David Chapman at 10:50PM, and pronounced dead at 11:07 PM at Roosevelt Hospital.

Several hours early Lennon autographed a copy of his comeback album, Double Fantasy, for Chapman.

Below, two segments of VH-1's Behind The Music, Remastered, telling of John Lennon's last days, the shooting, the frantic attempt to save him, and the aftermath of his death.

In the second clip you can hear WNEW-FM's Vin Scelsa tell his audience that he was momentarily speechless. I was part of that audience, at home across the river in Jersey. I didn't put on the news on TV that night; I wanted to spend time with music people, not talking heads. I put on Vin and listened to his show. He took calls from his listeners, and was joined by other NEW-FM deejays throughout the night; I'm pretty sure Dave Herman and Scott Muni joined Vin, but it was thirty years ago and my memories of the immediate hours are kind of fuzzy. As one who grew up with the Beatles as a teenager and remained a fan of the former members after their split, John's death was like that of a family member. Though he was nearly ten years older than me, we kind of grew up together, he in that fishbowl of fame, and me in the anonymity of the life of a regular guy.

But a little piece of me, and of Our Generation, was killed by Mark David Chapman that day. The Dream really was over.

Below, segment of a YouTube documentary on New York rock radio legend Vin Scelsa and his long running (to this day) FM show Idiot's Delight. The clip begins with the death of John Lennon, and the reaction of Vin and his listeners.

The following Sunday a tribute was held for John Lennon in Central Park. I was committed to be at a now defunct bowl game in Giants Stadium that day. But I found a small space, and stood in silence for a few minutes, away from the crowd.

I just wanted to say "Thank you" to John Lennon one more time....and say it was nice to know him.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Don Meredith; 1938-2010

Just taking a minute to remember "Dandy" Don Meredith, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and member of the classic Monday Night Football broadcast team for 12 seasons, along with Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell. Keith Jackson was MNF's play by play man during it's first season.

Don Meredith was 72.

"Turn off the lights.....the party's over".

Update 12/7/10 This morning I read a great column by Steve Politi of the Star-Ledger with some comments on Meredith and Monday Night Football's impact on American culture and media back in the day. Included in the column were some classic "Dandy Don-isms".

There was the time that Spiro Agnew, then the country’s vice president, visited the Monday Night booth. “I didn’t vote for you,” Meredith told him, “but you do have a nice suit on.”


....the time when, discussing what it was like to play for Dallas legend Tom Landry, he said, “He’s such a perfectionist that if he were married to Dolly Parton, he’d expect her to cook.”


....his assessment of teammate Walt Garrison: “If you needed 4 yards, you’d give the ball to Garrison and he’d get you 4 yards. If you needed 20 yards, you’d give the ball to Garrison and he’d get you 4 yards.”

He was one of a kind. MNF has been trying replicate the magic of Gifford, Meredith, and Cosell for a quarter of a century now. Tirico, Chuckie and Jaws are good, so were Michaels and Madden, and Michaels, Gifford and Dierdorf.

But the MNF crew of the 1970's and early 1980's was the gold standard, as iconic in sports broadcasting in their way as ALL IN THE FAMILY and HAPPY DAYS were to TV comedy in that era.

As Howard Cosell might have said it...."Rest in peace, Dan-DAH Roooo."


Rutgers Football; They'll Be Back In 2011 After A Painful 2010

(Texas A&M.....Alabama....Miami)

Last night, before I watched a tough minded UCONN Husky football team beat South Florida 19-16 (without scoring a point on offense) to win the Big East championship and a berth in a BCS bowl- probably the Fiesta, against Big 12 champs Oklahoma, I sat down and wrote three pages freehand on a legal pad about "what happened?" to Rutgers football in the wake of a 4-8 season. Early in the year I stopped doing my weekly updates about the 2010 season; last year it was a fixture in this blog. There was a strange lack of continuity to the season, even before the six game losing streak to end 2010, when Rutgers started the year a respectable 4-2, though the two losses should have set off the was to a poor Tulane team at home, the second to a North Carolina squad beset with a dozen suspensions, also a loss in Piscataway.

But looking at what I wrote last night, I now have come to realize that any criticisms by me have already been said by hundreds on RU message boards and by dozens of print journalists. We know the the offensive line was probably the worst in the FBS with a ridiculous 61 sacks allowed (compared to 10 in 2007), and that poor run blocking and injuries at running back led to too much reliance on the "Wild Knight" formation to generate any semblance of a running game. The three and outs had the defense out on the field way too long game after game, and injuries to that unit and wear and tear caused it to collapse by the end of the year. And at quarterback, young freshman Chas Dodd took over for injured soph Tom Savage, and never relinquished the who's team was it really, anyway?

And of course, there was the catastrophic injury to Eric LeGrand at the New Meadowlands Stadium in a win against Army that left the young defensive tackle paralyzed. It was Rutgers last win. They were 4-2, and then proceeded to drop the next six games in a row, culminating with yesterday's loss to West Virginia in Morgantown 35-14, Rutgers' 16th loss in a row to WVU.

The Army game on October 18, a 23-20 Rutgers win, followed by the tragic news that Eric LeGrand was paralyzed from the neck down was the turning point of the season. It was as if a team that was already struggling for an identity was hit with a blow that it never really recovered from. The questions were asked then, "Will LeGrand's injury effect this team? How would they respond?". The answers were, yes it did effect the team. And I believe many of the players didn't know how to respond to such a terrible injury to a friend and teammate.

(Penn State....Tennessee....Nebraska)

Last year cornerback Jasper Howard of UCONN was murdered in an incident, stabbed to death. UCONN was able to turn it around what was a losing season and make it to a bowl game at the end of the year, defeating Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks. So if UCONN could right the ship after the death of a player, then why couldn't Rutgers after LeGrand's serious injury?

In football terms I think Rutgers had much more serious issues on the offensive side of the ball then UCONN had last year. The Huskies had a stellar running game with two 1,000 yard rushers and massive O line. Rutgers running game in 2010 was based on "trickeration" and too many doses of the Wildcat.

But on the emotional side of the game, dealing with losses of Howard and LeGrand, we see a vast psychological difference. Because as tragic as the loss of life of any friend is, we always find a way to turn the page and go on. But when someone close to us is seriously injured, as in LeGrand's case, paralyzed, how do we go on?

How do we handle our grief for a person who survives, but is forever changed by catastrophic injury? Where is the guidebook to lead us out of that one? I'm a believer in psychologist Eisabeth Kubler-Ross's theory of The Five Stages of Grief- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I was present at the game when LeGrand was injured; I felt a sense of depression for days, and I had not even met the guy personally. A college football team is made up of young people, some of whom were only in high school a few short months ago.....a bunch of kids. Most have probably had to deal with the death of a loved one; probably very few (if any) had a friend who was ever carted off the field with the paralysis in his limbs and below his neck. For all we know he may never be able to button his shirt, feed himself, change the channel on a TV, or text message his friends ever again without assistance. And in the back of each of those kid's minds could be hidden the guilt of a survivor, either overtly or buried deeply in their subconscious.

Probably to some degree the entire Rutgers football team, and even Greg Schiano's coaching staff, may be stuck somewhere in those five stages of grief. The stages don't always follow the sequence as I've listed them. As described to me, and experienced by me, the stages of grief can be found in conditions other than a death or a serious illness- the end of a relationship or financial ruin can lead to the same feelings of loss, denial, and the other stages.

Of course, the injury to Eric LeGrand was NOT the only reason for RU's struggles on the field, but it probably did act as a catalyst to speed its collapse in the second half of the season.

(Michigan.....Notre Dame.....Texas) what's with the colleges in parenthesis and italics that I posted every couple of paragraphs?

Those are all universities that have powerhouse football programs, national names that few could dispute help to define college football. They have won national championships, some have worn the national crown on multiple occasions.

And they have something else in common; all have had one or more losing seasons since 2003.

All have rebounded, or will return to prominence. And so will Rutgers to at the very least the level of success they have achieved in recent years, and hopefully RU football will move beyond those limits.

Greg Schiano came to Rutgers 10 years ago, and after a rough start he accomplished what no RU football coach had done since Frank Burns in 1978.....he got Rutgers to a bowl game 2005. His 11-2 team in 2006 captured the imagination of the nation and won Schiano the National Coach of the Year Award. And the Scarlet Knights won a bowl game that year, their first ever bowl win. And they went to- and won- a bowl game the next year, and the year after that, and for good measure the year after that. For the record, that was five consecutive bowl appearances, and four consecutive wins. And while accomplishing those successes on the field, Rutgers players excelled in the classroom; every year Rutgers can be found in the top five of the NCAA's Academic Progress Report (APR). This year Rutgers was number one in the FBS in the APR. They were winning games, graduating players, and sending unprecedented numbers of young men into the NFL.

Greg Schiano and his staff did it the right way. And I have no reason to believe that he will not get the ship righted.

This was a year when the program hit a speed bump that ended up causing damage....and it was a step back. But as mentioned before, it happens to "The Big Guys" from time to time as well.

What is mindboggling are those types who come out of the woodwork to trash this program in a down year, calling it a failure, and even now there are loonies who call for a return to the days of playing Lehigh, Bucknell, and Princeton in front of 10,000 people or less. Some of the print media don't help the perception either; last week one local paper showed a nearly empty Rutgers Stadium late in the fourth quarter (and on Black Friday) against Louisville. For the record, the official attendance for that game was 37,422, far from being a sellout in the 52,000 seat stadium, but not a ghost town either. The 10,000 students who are usually at every game were represented by a fraction, maybe 1,000; the student body was on Thanksgiving break. In addition, many ticketholders and regular fans were out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday. Also, the season average per game was 46,195, roughly 6,000 fans short of capacity but also about 4,000 more than the capacity of the stadium before the expansion project two years ago. A cause for concern, yes. But hardly a cause for alarm.

The cranks, the critics, and overzealous editorial boards will write pieces complaining about Rutgers football and the waste of money it is. But do a GOOGLE search for Rutgers, and click on to IMAGES.....the vast majority of the pictures are not of old buildings and famous alums (other than James Gandolfini).....

The largest number of  pictures you'll find in that search will be of Rutgers football, it's players, it's coach, and it's fans. Some may hate the fact, but the recent football success has given Rutgers greater visibility than the university has ever had before despite it's high academic standing.

Forty thousand plus people don't pay $50 a ticket to attend a chemistry class on Saturdays in the fall. And ESPN won't give RU a check for $100,000 to televise a symposium on Hamlet's Oedipus Complex.....that is, unless Hamlet played high stakes poker as well.

So critics, take your best shot.....because this team and it's coach will be back.

And I'm one fan who says "Thank God!" for that.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Suspicious package at Gloucester County College discovered to be bible, deemed suspicious due to Armenian writing, authorities say |

Here's a weird story that fell through the cracks last month. A "suspicious package" caused evening classes to be canceled, and evacuation of the building, at Gloucester County (NJ) College last month.

The package had foreign writing on the outside, and was on the campus for several days before suspicions were aroused. So the package was taken out of the building and placed on a golf cart several hundred yards from classroom buildings. The local bomb squad checked out the package, and then x-rayed it.

Inside the package was a bible.

And the suspicious foreign writing on the outside of the package?

It was Armenian. You know.....Armenia, dontcha?

Here's a geography refresher....

The Republic of Armenia was once part of the Soviet Union. The majority of citizens of Armenia (98%) are ethnic Armenians. Most are Christian, and have their own distinctive alphabet and language, though Russian is a second language in the landlocked nation.

OK.....the powers that be were acting on the side of caution in handling the package.

Be vigilant in these dangerous days, by all means.

However.....somehow I feel there's a real funny joke to be made about this entire escapade. But I just can't think of one now.

Click below for the full story, from The Gloucester County Times

Suspicious package at Gloucester County College discovered to be bible, deemed suspicious due to Armenian writing, authorities say |

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When Stink Bugs Attack!!!!!

Just when I thought I had 'em all out.....they find their way back in!

This morning while reading the editorial pages of The Star-Ledger- ironically, the op-ed piece that Joe Scarborough wrote about Sarah Palin that I commented on in my last blog entry- I felt something buzz past my left ear. And I knew they were back, and I had failed.

The previous Sunday I bought an eight pack of Hot Shot Indoor Fogger at Home Depot, and proceeded to bomb the garage and the basement, using two cans in the garage in my vain attempt to stop the invasion of the latest peril from the Far East.

We've been told ad nauseum that in a few years the Chinese economy will exceed that of the United States. I'm no economist, but I do know invasion from China has already begun. And New Jersey is one of the first places to be conquered.

Because the ugly, disgusting, and prehistoric looking Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, a species that hitched a ride from China to Allentown, PA in 1996 has been a constant (and unwelcome) visitor in my home for months now. And I've been lucky....I'm only finding  maybe one or two a day. Many New Jerseyans are finding dozens of the little guys in their houses and apartments everyday. And during autumn the situation only seems to get worse; the stinkers try to get into homes before the onset of winter, when they become dormant.

They are so named because of the foul odor they give off when they are squished; and consequently they have few natural enemies. Birds don't mess with them, and only certain spiders, wasps, and mantises will eat them; and for the most part, they're dormant at this time of the year.

Last week I shot a can of a generic "flying insect bomb" directly at a stinker as he walked across the wall in the family room; I sprayed for five seconds...ten seconds...15 seconds.....he was still moving! Eventually he fell to the floor, I picked him up in a tissue and sent him for swimming lessons in my septic tank- maybe he's like Rasputin, and should have been shot a couple of times just to make sure he was a goner.

Yes, the little guys are harder to kill than Freddy Krueger, Jason, or Dracula combined. The website Ask The Exterminator says a professional exterior treatment with Talstar Pro may help to keep the stinkers away, but the best way to prevent a home invasion of these guys is to make sure doors and windows are sealed. Over the summer I found some stinkers trying to get in the house through the window mounted air conditioners; when I took them down at the end of the season the problem in the affected rooms ceased.

There has been some research done at universities as far as developing traps for the stink bug, but so far none has proven to be effective. And they may soon become more than a household pest; because of their diet, stinkers may become a very real agricultural problem as their numbers become larger and their range grows.

Some bits of good news are that stink bugs won't reproduce in homes, and that the invasions usually stop during the winter months; they head for cover until spring when the cycle starts all over again. They usually eat fruits, veggies, and plant life, and cause no damage to home exteriors or interiors.

And I know...."stink bugs"...."New Jersey".....yeah, let the jokes begin.

Let me be the first one- "Don't kill that stink bug! He's our state bird!".
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