Friday, December 30, 2011

'Twas the Night AFTER Christmas ...

Reprinted with permission from the mind of the great wordsmith David Rode ...

Twas a night after Christmas and yay! It was cold!
A feeling that certainly never gets old
The kids were nestled all snug in their beds
They were sleeping alone, they had nothing to dread
For my kids, keeping warm would be a real cinch
But for me, I slept next to the Blanket Grinch
In the middle of the night, I arose with some clatter
Because I wanted to know just what was the matter
Then what to my wondering eyes should appear?
She had stolen my blankets, I was freezing my rear!
She was wrapped up in blankets from her head to her toe
She looked like a goddamn human burrito
I tried to reclaim them, before freezing like a stick
But the Grinch grabbed the blankets, and grabbed them up quick
Her eyes they were closed, because sleeping is good
Though it sounded as if she was sawing on wood
To take back these blankets would take some real work
But the Grinch is pregnant and I don't want to be a jerk
So I grabbed what I could and covered my nose
And rolling back over... I started to doze
But I heard the Grinch claim from her blankets so tight
"Sucks to be you... quit bitchin'... good night!"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

PDN columnist Bill Conlin makes the news -- it's all bad

Just when you thought it was safe to ride off into the Christmas holiday in a good mood, think again if you come from Philadelphia and you ever read the sports pages of the newspaper.

Bill Conlin
Late Tuesday we learned longtime Phillies beat writer and columnist Bill Conlin is being accused by six people (more sure to come, if the other recent patterns hold up) of sexually molesting them when they were children in the 1970s. Conlin, who had been quasi-retired, living in Florida and contributing infrequent columns to the Daily News of late, immediately retired when he caught word that the story had broken.

If you're not dyed-in-the-wool Philly, then you won't understand why this relevation rocks us who are.

If sports in Philadelphia are like Crusades or attempts to walk on water, then the Philadelphia Daily News and Inquirer are like the Bible -- and Bill Conlin was our Gutenberg. He lived in New Jersey, but he "got it" when it came to knowing how Philly fans bleed and boil underneath the skin.

To readers, he was a lifeline. To aspiring writers, he was a muse.

So if these allegations are true ...then damn you, Bill Conlin. You were one of my journalistic heroes.

Just when you start to heal after a round of these stories -- Gerry Sandusky, Bernie Fine, et al -- you get your heart ripped open again, and you start to feel like a child again. Who can I trust?

If the stories are true, then the victims were violated, and those who enjoyed Conlin's prose feel much the same way. And then there's the feelings of his co-workers, and bosses.

Daily News Editor Larry Platt opined openly in a piece he wrote asking how in the hell to report about one of their own. Readers, in comments that were at first not allowed, then allowed with careful moderated scrutiny, either felt the newspaper went too far with the story, or not far enough. A newsroom full of people had to look each other in the eye and wonder, "How were we supposed to know?"

Conlin can stay in his Largo condo and sit comfortably, knowning that he cannot and will not go to prison for what the victims say he did. The statue of limitations apparently runs 15 years on molestation charges, and since all this happened prior to 1996, there will be no Gerry Sanduky-like treatment for Conlin.

I'm sure we all agree we want this to stop. We can only protect those we can reach, and hope that individually we can widen the circle of protection. If you have children, sometime soon you have to teach the lessons, if you haven't already ... if someone touches you where you don't want to be touched, you scream like a little girl, run away and tell the first adult you see.

We must break through this shroud of hushed secrecy, for those who come after us.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The meaning of Christmas, from the Unemployed

I beg your pardon that this isn't about sports, but all that's going on right now are meaning-deficient college basketball games, lesser bowl games garnering interest only from followers of the participants, and the flurry of activity in the NFL as teams try to secure playoff spots -- and you hear enough from the talking heads over at ESPN and NFL Network about that.

The rest of the world is in full Christmas mode, and the blogosphere is full of long and bloated posts about love and family and so forth. I'm taking a different angle on it this year.

About two months ago I got laid off from a job I enjoyed doing. Intra-office crap was making the brew a little bitter, but what I felt like I was doing for the high-school athletes of Osceola County made it worthwhile. It came without warning, and while I was told the move was based on the lack of revenue and not my job performance, it's like saying I was shot by a cop who was aiming at a fleeing bad guy.

I've spent nine weeks or so applying for jobs I'd like (and some that I wouldn't) and wondering when the hell unemployment benefits will kick in. The whole experience has been equal parts disappointing and humiliating. I feel like I let people down, especially my daughter, who luckily has been shielded from it in her own little world and has no idea why Daddy's dropping her off or picking her up at day care more often. Outside of the freelance work graciously offered by my former employer and hopefully my new one, I'm quite often floating through the day without purpose.

Lately I feel like this shouldn't happen during Christmas. What's better then Christmas? Music, food, family, happy children, vacation time. It's all right there but year's version had just been ruined by a bunch of corporate scrooges. I wanted nothing to do with the holiday ... the official amputation of the Christmas spirit.

Then I thought of what another friend had told me when this happened to him, when he watched the holiday classic "White Christmas" and heard Bing Crosby croon some heavy lyrics ...

When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I remember when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings


Amen, brother. I have one helluva resourceful (and hot) wife, the cutest kid on the planet, a roof over my head and the smarts to pull out of this. And the response from friends and some family these last two months has been uplifiting. From offering to do lunch to sending along job leads, it's all meant something and I'll never forget it. In another classic you can't avoid this month, "It's A Wonderful Life", Clarence tells George Bailey, "No man is a failure, who has friends."

This Christmas, there will be presents, and cookies, and music, and laughter, and it will be among people who are special in my life, who will inspire me to pick myself up, shake off the cobwebs, get another job and pick my chin up off the ground. I'll be surrounded by happy children pleased to unwrap what they wanted from Santa, who is still stopping by at some point Saturday night, and between my wife, mother and mother-in-law, they will fill me up with enough fattening and sugary foods to put me in a diabetic coma until, oh, St. Patrick's Day.

So I'm doing everything this Christmas that I do every Christmas. This time around, however, it's going to mean just a bit more. I hope all of you appreciate what you have as much as I do, and that you have as merry a Christmas as me.

Statement of full disclosure: A good friend of mine expressed a lot of these same emotions in a missive he wrote when going through this same experience about three years ago. Reading it really hit me and I thought, "I hope I'm not like that if I lose my job." Well, um, I am. This feeling is apparently universal.

Monday, December 12, 2011

UCF, Magic stars packing their bags

In the immortal words of Ken "Hawk" Harrelson ... they gonnnnnnne.

Well, one is on his way out according to published reports. The other ... depends on your mood and level of fandom.

Pardon me, time to take this ball and go home.
Monday, UCF sophomore quarterback Jeff Godfrey reportedly received a release from his scholarship and is leaving the Knights football program. Godfrey, who became the starter as a freshman in 2010 and led UCF to a Conference USA championship title, and then to the school's first ever bowl win -- a 10-6 victory over Georgia in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl -- was supplanted himself for quality playing time by redshirt freshman Blake Bortles this season. Bortles was in the game in the fourth quarter in critical stretches of C-USA battles with Southern Miss and East Carolina. In the season finale at home against UTEP, Bortles entered the game late in the first quarter and played the rest of the game as Godfrey watched from the sideline.

Iliana Limon's story sums up the "Why" of all this. I can tell you all about the "How". My best guess is that George O'Leary had seen enough of the "Michael Greco Syndrome" -- drop back to pass, one-one thousand, two-one thousand, RUN! -- that he didn't want to revisit it with Godfrey, who did a helluva lot of that as a freshman. Well, a leopard doesn't change his spots, and Godfrey just isn't a pocket quarterback.

As for Bortles ... Knights fans, you saw it. He's got a cannon for an arm, can thread a needle at 25 yards and at 6-4, 225 with a little hop to his step, he's got the size and quickness to evade a mess. UCF could win with either one at quarterback, but that would mean the other would be sitting on the bench. Godfrey would still be a great option (stick him in there on a 3rd-and-3 or a 2-point conversion and watch the other defensive coordinator experience angina-like symptoms), but no QB wants to be an option. They want to be THE option.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Football ditties: UCF -> Big East and the bowl games

Took 'em long enough, didn't it?

Big East Comm -- oh, wait, excuse me, BIG EAST Commissioner John Marinatto finally made the worst kept secret in college sports official on Wednesday by accepting UCF, along with Conference USA cohorts Houston and SMU as all-sports members, bringing Boise State into the big-boys football club and adding San Diego State's football program in a move that screamed, "What the f$&k else was I supposed to do? The Mormons turned the other cheek!"

So there you go -- football played across four times zones in the same conference. On the surface, it seems kind of silly, and kind of sad -- the whole thing is predicated by money and Marinatto's acts of desperation to maintain a BCS automatically qualifying spot. Oh, by the way, that berth is safe through 2015.

The best suggestion for UCF fans is take the "It is what it is" mental approach to all this, then think of all the postives this will have for the Knights' football program -- and basketball program.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What I've been up to ...

Hey folks, I'll have some insights on UCF moving to the Big East and the Champs Sports Bowl and Capital One Bowl matchups tomorrow, but right now I have some other pressing issues.

First off, J.C. Carnahan and I recorded the second edition of our still-unnamed Central Florida-based podcast on Tuesday at the ESPN 1080 studios in Orlando. You can access it here. It went about 55 minutes but you can easily skip through it. I thought the production really improved over the first one. The site its on logs the number of visitors, and a nice hit count will look good to a potential suitor as to putting it on their website, or us getting our own live radio show.

The other thing I've been doing is setting up a profile on Examiner.com. I am now the Orlando Sports Examiner, and I get paid for stories I post based on the number of unique visitors. Here's my first story. As of last night it had 10 hits and I "made" $0.60 (they cut you a check once you hit $10). Click the story, then scroll to the bottom and then you can close the box. It takes like 5 seconds and maybe I can get paid. If I post 2 more stories by Dec. 31 they'll double my pay. I need Orlando-centric story ideas, so send them to me if you think of any you'd like seen covered.

That is all. Have a great day!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

#1 vs. #2 on Jan. 9, no matter what you think

So let's recap Saturday's college football action ...

LSU won by 32. Oklahoma State won by 34. Alabama won by not playing.

And thus, we get a BCS National Championship Game that nobody outside of central Alabama wants to see.

That's not my opinion. It's fact. As I write this, it's 10:15 p.m. on Sunday, the night that all the bowl game bids were announced. On a poll at CBS Sports.com, the question, "Do you agree with Alabama facing LSU in the BCS title game?" is being answered with "No" by 65% of over 22,000 voters.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

They gave me a microphone ...

... and I used it.

The world may never be the same.

I participated in (what I hope becomes a regular) podcast this week out of the ESPN 1080 studios in Orlando. The show is the brainchild of J.C. Carnahan, another former community newspaper sports writer who's now going the freelance route when he's not doing his new day gig as the Director of Media Relations for the Orlando Predators.

The show, which is going by the working title "Upon Further Review" for the time, is centered around Orlando-based stories, from area high school kids now playing in bowl games for in-state and out-of-state teams to features on local pros done good and stories on our local pro teams, major league (or whatever the Magic call themselves) or minor-league, and with the Predators, Orlando City Soccer, Rollins College and the recent re-start of the Solar Bears hockey team, there's plenty of that.

Anyway, listen to it here. It went nearly an hour, but there's some music interludes in there, and you can skip through it with ease. Among the topics were the freshmen starts of Austin Rivers (Winter Park High School) and Shane Larkin (Dr. Phillips H.S.), the new Orlando Solar Bears, Jay Gruden (former Predators head coach, now Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator -- and possibly a head coach in 2012?) and a rapid-fire segment to close.

So, give it a listen. Tell me what you think. We'll be doing it again next week, after the bowl game matchups are released. We will certainly improve -- like the old XFL guy said at the end of their first game, "We made $10,000 jumps in production every 15 minutes." Wait, they only last a year ... nevermind.
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