Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Sandwiches That Can Kill You" for a thousand, Alex.

It started innocently enough. It escalated from the mere suggestion of greatness from a fellow foodie. It ended in sheer indulgence, and a wife totally doing it wrong.

In my defense, it could've had bacon.

My chest is tight.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I really do love the vastness of the internet some days.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Legend of Bucky: A Malvern Boy's Rite of Passage

It was called the rest home by most in town, but it certainly wasn't the type of place that the elderly go to shuffle up & down hallway corridors aimlessly, or lay in bed waiting out their last days on earth. The group home across the street from Granny's house, across from the Leader Office and directly behind Randy's Tastee Sweet (better known as "The Suck" to many). It was named Nishna Cottage, and it was home for a collection of ex-junkies, the mentally disabled, and other various adults with mental and physical disabilities that had appeared to have been forgotten about by family, if they had any left that would even still claim them. The structure itself had served as a hotel in the late 19th early 20th century. It was on the payroll as a state institution, loosely affiliated wit the Glenwood State Hospital & School, a fifteen minute drive west of town. Residents, from what I could tell, were free to come and go as they pleased. A handful of regulars could be seen wandering around downtown most days, and for the most part all of them seemed well-mannered.

 One of the most recognizable residents of the group home was known as Bucky, a, balding, elderly man of medium build, with an uncomfortably short, shuffling gait, and extremely thick, Coke-bottle glasses. Bucky would shuffle noisily down the Main Street sidewalks en route to his customary sitting spot next to the soda machine in front of Mulholland's Grocery Store. The soda machine actually sat in the doorway of the old main entrance to the building, perched up one step from the sidewalk. On Sunday's, Bucky would be dressed in his customary Sunday best; a well-worn navy blue suit, paired with either a regular or bolo tie, typically finished off with a cowboy hat. The downtown traffic was light on Sunday's, but Bucky would be there as an unofficial Sunday greeter.

 Bucky's vice was chewing tobacco, preferably out of a pouch. I seem to recall Levi Garrett as his preferred brand. He would earn his tobacco by offering to sweep the sidewalk in front of Mulholland's Grocery Store. It was a fair and understood business transaction. It was a favorite childhood pastime, a rite of passage for Malvern's male youth for decades, to summon the courage to engage Bucky at his sitting spot to tell him, cautiously, "Bucky, your chew's made out of horseshit & grass!!" Such a proclamation to Bucky didn't really count as being successfully done unless you had a friend who was there to witness it and vouch for you to others, typically later on in the day up at the pool. It was the visceral reaction from Bucky that was the whole point of this juvenile exercise. "Why, you little son's-a-bitches! Get outta here, you!", in his crackly, muddled, high-pitched voice, peering red-faced and wide-eyed through those impossibly thick, cloudy spectacles.

 Some said that Bucky would chase them for a block, his cane wielded like a weapon. For purposes of added dramatic effect, it was common for boys to embellish such tales. There's no way Bucky could physically chase someone away. You could certainly get a reaction from him, though. I still can't look at a pouch of tobacco behind a convenience store counter and not think about what that stuff is made out of. I doubt any other boy who made his summertime living on riding his BMX bike up & down the brick streets of Malvern in that 30-plus year span of Bucky being a downtown regular can, either.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Road Tripping, Bad Baseball in a Great Setting, and Losing Friends Through Snoring

It's one thing to get a (not so) gentle nudge around 11:15 PM from my wife, who's encouraging me to roll over onto my side and not sleep on my back due to the inevitable louder-than-normal one-man chorus of snoring. It's quite another to hear the soft click of a hotel door at 1:15 AM, when your buddy decides that the best option is to gather his things and leave the room, leaving behind the echoing growls of a slightly overweight human bear, heavily sedated from an 11-hour slow-to-medium beer consumption pace in Wrigleyville after a day-night double-header, and attempt to get his own room with peace and tranquility at $150-a-night, only to be up & on the road by 5:30 AM.

Gotta tell you. It was an attention-getter.

I wonder how many more HYPHEN-riddled sentences I can jam into this post.

I know I've been an above-average snore producer for quite a while now. I would assume that it's from a combination of genetics (my parents are Steve & Edie of snoring), weight, and getting older. It's been bearable for the past ten years, but there's been more recent signs that things certainly haven't been getting any better. Recently more than once, I've woken up to see that my wife has moved her sleep agenda to the living room couch. I don't think it was the farting.

The trip to Chicago for the Tuesday, June 28th game(s) was brought on from a recent "Extreme Baseball" bus trip that I took with a couple college buddies. Three Major League Baseball games, in three cities, in three days. The last day was to be an afternoon game from one of the rooftop venues outside right field at Wrigley Field for a Cubs game. It got completely rained out before it ever started. The rootop's return policy? When the game is re-scheduled, they would see us then. Conveniently enough for a guy living 8 hours away, it was re-scheduled for a Tuesday afternoon. So me and one of my buddies decided to get back over to Chicago.

Prior to that particular game getting rained out back in May, we had a successful two-day run of games and general fun in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. I'll spare you the obvious and simply say that beverages were consumed. You don't have to be an ear-nose-throat specialist to assume that the likelihood of snoring can be increased after some alcohol consumption. Far from any dangerous levels, when Sleepytime came after night one, I was bushed. I was told more than three times, I believe, by my two roomies for the weekend, that I really needed to stop snoring before there were real physical consequences. Not that I can do anything about it when it's happening. I'm sleeping. Problem was...they weren't.

Their observations were that they didn't think it was full-on Sleep Apnea, because my breathing would never pause or stop for long periods of time, which is a common (and frightening) symptom of Apnea. So, I chalked it up to me just being a guy who makes a good racket at night, and didn't really think much more about it.

Until this most recent incident.

I texted the now fleeing friend about 10 minutes after he left the room the other night.

"Was the snoring that bad?"

Reply: "Haha. I'm a lite sleeper!"

Yep. Indeed, it was, Dixon. Indeed, it was.

So, now what?

I suppose I should go somewhere for a sleep study. It would be nice to know just how much this nocturnal noise-making is really effecting me, physically. I don't really wake up that well-rested. I was chalking that up to my bed a little. And a baby. I'm not real keen on the idea of wearing the dreaded "Apparatus".  I quick perusal of brought up some pretty horrendous looking masks, hoses, pumps, and various other accessories for the allready sleep-challeneged.  It seems pretty far-fetched at first glance to think that wearing these fighter pilot masks will actually aid in my sleep.  They look far too clunky and uncomfortable to be worth the trouble, right? 

Well, the good news is that I didn't lose my friend.  The bad news (for him) is that him and I are making plans for a 3-night roadtrip for the Pearl Jam 20th Anniversary Concert weekend over Labor Day.  Will I have this thing under control by then?  Or will I hear the quit Click of Shame as my guttural impression of a '74 Ford pickup drives a friend away.....again....?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Times Like These

Incredible rock show put on by the Foo Fighters in Council Bluffs, of all places, on Monday night, 5.22.11, highlighted by their amazing 3-hour set, which included this version of a personal favorite, a clip from Carslisle, England earlier this month.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tuscaloosa: An Incredible Tornado Event

A very rare combination of all of the essential ingredients needed for incredibly explosive, tornadic storms came together for one afternoon yesterday across the deep south, triggering what will be considered one of, if not THE worst tornado outbreak in recorded history. While not confirmed yet, one particular storm sustained a mesocyclone/circulation/tornado continuously for almost 200 miles, from eastern Mississippi, across the state of Alabama, into northern Georgia, before the storm dissipated entirely, finally, southern North Carolina. This was the fateful storm/tornado that ravaged Tuscaloosa, AL, and went on another 50+ miles, tearing through the north side of Birmingham. It would go on to do more damage as it crossed northeast Alabama, and into northwest Georgia. The majority of the known fatalities from yesterday’s outbreak are from this one supercell thunderstorm. Truly amazing

I don’t think this video was taken by a trained spotter or storm chaser, but needless to say, he had a front row seat for one of the most jaw-dropping, terrifying sights he will ever see. (No , he doesn’t get hit by the tornado!). He is on the south side of Tuscaloosa (5:15-5:20 PM) in a commercial area (restaurants, mall, etc…), looking to his west-southwest at a very rare monster tornado.

At about the 5:00-5:15 mark in the video, after the tornado has passed his immediate area, he starts experiencing very strong winds blowing into the tornado (now to his east-northeast), and he turns the camera back to his south/southwest, thinking that it’s another tornado. The wind he was experiencing were actually what are known as Rear Flank Downdraft winds, or RFD, rapidly sinking cool air from the top of the storm on the back side of a mesocyclone, and one of the necessary ingredients for a tornado to form and sustain itself.

At about 6:30 in the video, his adrenaline really kicks in, as he realizes the extent of what has happened. That’s when fear sets in, because he knows he was sitting directly in the path of it before he (wisely) moved south.

A very intense, incredible video. This was a day that will be talked about for years as one of the worst natural disasters in our history. There were dozens of tornadoes just like this one yesterday. Very rugged, hilly, forested terrain, very rural areas with few resources, and very few structures with basements or true shelter, combined with the power and size of these tornadoes yesterday is unfortunately adding up to perhaps hundreds of lost lives. Heartbreaking.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Queens of the Stone Age - Monsters in Your Parasol (2002)

Dave Grohl using live ammunition for drumsticks.  Any band is a better band when Dave's sitting in.

"Dave Grohl’s fills should be a MacArthur fellow.  They help America."  -M. Mann


iPhones are freaky, man.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wrestlemania 27: Live Stream-of-Consciousness Notes

A note up front: For at least what is looking like the first hour or two, due to an extremely hyper-needy 14-month old, this isn't going to go real smooth. He's found his voice....and it sounds like a loud, inaudible 14-month old.

This will be the post that will update every 5-10 minutes or so. So, what have you done with your entire day to quell the overwhelming anticipation?? T-Minus 5 minutes till the Grandest Stage of Them All begins once again. Dating back to a young, impressionable 7 year-old, Wrestlemania was always the larger-than-life event to me, where my boyhood heroes became legend.

SO what's my excuse now? Well... Um.... I guess I keep thinking that it will be as entertaining to me as it was in the mid to late 90's, during the peak of the "Monday Night Wars". Wrestling certainly wasn't what it was in my childhood anymore. Raunchy, bloody, extreme, immature....entertaining.

It appears that this Wrestlemania is trying to tap into that storied history with tonight's lineup. The Rock is back, albeit not in an actual match. Steve Austin is back, also not in a match.

Who am I bullshittin'. I have no excuse. Just go with it. COmmence with the funny. Here we go!

6:00 - THe Georgia Dome is host to WM 27. Looks amazing. Jam-packed, sans the area behind the MASSIVE stage/entrance.

America the Beautiul (a WM tradition) is being sung by an R&B singer whom I've never
heard of.

6:02 - THe Jabroni-beating, pie-eating, most electrifying man in sports entertainment makes his entrance. Decent pops from the crowd. Did I mention the crowd is stupid huge?

6:09 - FINALLY.....The Rock.....has said something into the micorophone! The Rock promises that this will be the most electrifying WM of all time. It's all around the place. Can you smell it? Perhaps that's the prepubescent, overweight 14-year-olds that haven't found the goodness that comes from anti-perspirant.

If the WWE does nothing else worth a shit, their ability to put together the most elaborate, spectacular montages is unequalled by any league or association. THey make what is bad acting and fake moves, and package them with a soundtrack to make the entire thing look 100 times bigger and better than what it typically is.

6:17 - But, I'll hand it to them....they do put toogether a pretty good production & stage set-up. THey just shot off about $10,000 of pyro. THe upper deck should be able to see the ring through the smoke in about an hour.

6:19 - World Heavyweight Title Match: Alberto Del Rio (challenger) VS. Edge (Champion). Yes, this is a title match to kick off the show. But there are essentially two world titles. Confused yet? Well, if I have to explain all of this crap, I can't honestly believe you care.

The traditional introduction of the announcers at the Spanish announcer's table at ringside. THe over/under on their announcer's table making it through the show intact is 60:1

Pretty sweet graphcs/TV screen "Cube" hanging above the ring. Apple is securing patent rights to it as we speak.

((Interruption of viewing: Steak on grill, kid in everything))

Not as long of a match as I was anticipating, but Edge pulls out the predictable win. Walking back up the ramp, he pauses at Del Rio's Rolls Royce car that was driven out on the ramp. Gives it a few kicks. THen Christion (Captain Charisma to you) brings a tire iron and a lead pipe. Hilarity ensues. Del Rio cries at the front grill of his newly detailed Rolls. End Scene.

6:40 - Cody Rhodes VS. Rey Mysterio Jr. Not sure what the storyline is with this one, but Cody Rhodes is wearing Rip Hamilton's facemask, calling himself disfigured & grotesque. Has he seen his father Dusty's forehead? I've seen tenderloins with better complexion. Rey Mysterio is in a Captain America outfit. I would like to see his birth certificate. Great action, as always in any Mysterio match. Now Rey has Cody's mask. I'm corn-fused. Somehow Rey gets hit with something. Rhodes wins.

6:55 - Snoop Dogg with a little pre-taped skit. Nice Rowdy Roddy Piper cameo. Mildly funny. Steak's done. Kid is still defiant in the eyes of sleep. Ugh...

7:03 - 8-Man Tag Match: The CORRE VS. Kane, The Big Show, Santino Marella, Kofi Kingston. At least we have some wrestlers who actually have moves to make up for Kane & Show in this one. Don't expect me to give names to members of The Corre. They're made up of newcomers who won one of WWE's Tuff Enuff seasons a while back. Okay, I'll mention Ezekiel Jackson, but only because he's ridiculously huge. And 3 minutes after it started, it's over. That wasn't even enough time to go take a squirt. Kane/Show.Santino/Kofi win.

7:09 - Mae Young wants "The People's Strudel". The Rock and Steve Austin exchange pleasantries backstage. This isn't nearly as fun with a kid around. Hey, Mom's got cough syrup with Codeine in it. Hmmm...

7:15 - CM Punk VS. Randy Orton. Orton's got a bad right knee. ((DOES he??)) And yes, that appears to be a tattoo of the Pepsi logo on Punks arm. These guys like their ink. Uh-oh. Orton's up in the Tree of Woe. What ever happened to that classic move?? Actually this is probably the best match so far. Pretty well done.

((Sidenote: Why doesn't anyone do the Greg "The Hammer" Valentine delayed faceplant after taking a bump? These guys need to study up on their History.))

RKO....catching punk in mid-air off the top rope.....Punk goes sleepie. Orton wins. GOod match, except for some terrible knee injury acting.

7:35 - Mean Gene Okerlund talking to The Rock. Cena's #1 fan is here to confront Rock. Pee-Wee Herman? The Pee-Wee Herman wants to be on Team Bring It. I paid $65 for this.

7:40 - THe Fink, Howard Finkel announces the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2011: Abdullah the Butcher, Sunny, The Road Warriors, and Drew Fuckng Carey? Oh, and Bullet Bob Armstrong, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels. Someone needs to give HBK some Sweet Chin Music so he's not cross-eyed anymore. WTF?

7:47 - Friday Night Smackdown Announcer Booker T comest ringside, walking out to the old Harlem Heat theme song. Can you Dig It? SUCKA!!! And Jim Ross, and his stupid OU Fight Song entrance music. Ugh.

7:48 - Michael Cole VS Jerry "The King" Lawler. I hate this. I hate having to explain some of this stupid shit. I hate it it because then it shows that I actually know these storylines, which in turn shows that I actually do watch this hot garbage more often than not. Anyway, Michael Cole is the TV Announcer turned heel. He's picked a fight with King, his broadcast partner. He's been trained by wrestler Jack Swagger (HAS he?). Guest referree is Stone COld Steve Austin, which really is the only reason I'm sitting here and not turning it over to the Weather Channel for Severe Weather coverage. Christ, I need a social agenda.

Austin arrives ringside in a camo four-wheeler. Cole is wearing a bright orange wrestling singlet with headgear. Cole is in his plexiglass announce booth, "The Cole Mine", so King joins him, raining down fake punches. Lawler's got a devastating fake right. King has a spectacular spray tan for a 60-something. 10 minutes into this one and nobody's cracked a beer yet in the ring. Fail. COle has the muscle definition and skin tone of a scallop. I think of all of the wrestlers on the WWE payroll who aren't on this card, knowing that these two wastes of time, along with Snooki are the ones taking their place. Chants of "Boring" starting to come in now. What took so long? Jesus Christ, Steve, do something! Pour some beer on someone. Anyone.

Jack Swagger throws in the towel to save Cole. Gets a Stone Cold Stunner from Austin. Cole doesn't know how to take a bump. Took a pretty good boot to the face. Lawler's pretty spry for an old man. Lawler taking his time, Austin encouraging him. Cole's tapping out to an ankle lock, but Austin not calling for the bell to ring for a bit. Finally. Okay, let's drink some goddamn beer already. It's fucking Wrestlemania and the bet beer you can get is Keystone Light?? Wow. Booker T gets in the ring to celebrate with the Spin-a-Rooni. Then gets the predictable Stunner from the Rattlesnake.

An email comes in from the "Anonymous Monday Night RAW General Manager (No, I'm not going to explain this horseshit). Says the referee was involved too much in the match, DQ's King, awards the win to Cole. Another announcer gets a Stunner. More beer. Speaking of which......


8:18 - Best montage of the night for Undertaker Vs. HHH. Pretty much the reason I even thought of getting this damn PPV this year. Otherwise the card seems pretty slim. Sad to say that I remember The Undertaker as Mean Mark Callous back in the NWA. His finishing move? The Heart Punch.

8:22 - The Undertaker VS. Triple H. Coming into this PPV, the highlight of the night was likely going to be the entrances of both of these guys. HHH coming out to a rain of explosions and Metallica's classic "For Whom The Bell Tolls". Incredible production value. QUick change with the lights out, now HHH walks down the aisle in his traditional Motorhead theme. I'm a kid again. Suck it.

Lights go out. Bell sounds. Flames. Lots of them. Johnny Cash song. Smoke. Black Light. Awesome. I'm gonna go ahead & say that if you meet someone that causes thunder & lightning when he takes off his hat, that you should consider that a really cool bar trick, and buy that man a beer. No holds barred in this one, kids. It's been quite a while since HHH wore the proverbial Crimson Mask. I think he's due to dues some blade work to the forehead in this one tonight.

Well, there goes Michael Cole's "Cole Mine" Announcer's booth. Taker is taking some serious bumps. Selling everything well. Looks like King and JR's announce table is going to go next. The Spanish guys are getting off easy. WOW.....HHH took a back flip off the table to the floor. He bounced. Damn.

Taker just launched himself over the top rope onto HHH. Not sure HHH caught him clean to break the fall, but Taker is upright. First chants of "Holy Shit" from the crowd tonight. THey're not disappointing them.

Aaaaand.....there goes the Spanish announcer's table. That was a sucker bet.

Steel chair.....Not yet. But it's in the ring. Solid chair shot to HHH's back. Warped it with one shot. Fake? Not that one. Pedigree by!....and a kickout.

Over-under on kick-out's in this match: 13. We're at 3 now, I think. Just getting warmed up. THe Last Ride Powerbomb, from a serious height. Kickout by HHH. Damn, Taker looks old. GIving the throat shlash gesture......Tombstone? Yes. Folds the arms, gives the tongue and eye roll...One....TWOOOO!.....Kickout by HHH!

More steel chair fun.....DDT by HHH on steel chair! (WAS it?) Both men down. Where's Earl Hebner Or Joey Marella for a good double-count out when you need it? Both guys climbing the ropes back to their feet. Pedigree!! One....TWOOOOO!.....Kickout by Taker.

Another Pedigree.....and another kickout by Undertaker. Man, if I didn't know better, I would swear this shit is scripted. BIG chair shot across Taker's back. That chair is fucked. 6 more chair shots to the back. Some Boo's trickling in for that one. HHH yelling at Taker to "Stay Down!" Square shot to the forehead with the chair on Undertaker. Trying to get up in his patented rise-from-the-dead way, but can't.

HHH gives Taker the Tombstone? Kickout. Crowd is going bananas. Taker is out. HHH rolls out of the ring to get his trademark sledgehammer. JR: "Desperate times are obviously upon us."

Taker gets HHH in the Hell's Gate Submission. Essentially a triangle choke. HHH has the sledge.......can't hang on to it. THe Game Taps. Taker wins. 19-0. SOmehow, some way, some script had this ending, and somehow the fake streak lives! Virtually no pops from the crowd. Hard to get excited when you know what the ending will be, I suppose.

Another $10,000 in pyro gets shot off. You can leave now, Upper Deck. Nothing else to see way down there.

9:10 - 6-Person Mixed Tag Match: Dolph Ziggler, LayCool (wome's tag team) VS. John Morisson, Trish Stratus & Snooki. I'm gonna go take a dump.

Back now. I do a lot of thinking, like most men do, when I'm in the loo. Perhaps I didn't think about this particular blog post idea enough. I had done this similar kind of thing in previous years pretty much anonymously on a off-topic message board I used to frequent. It was entertaining, something to laugh about and others participated in the self-deprecating nature of it all. Markedly different feeling when you've not only posted it on your own blog, but even gone out of your way to promote it in your circle of friends. Ahhh, regrets. I've had a few.

Official attendance: 71,617. A Georgia Dome record. How could 71,617 be wrong? Amirite?

9:23 - WWE Championship: John Cena VS The Miz (Champion). Good Motage of The Miz (yes, of The Real World fame). They've made this guy one of the big names. But more importantly, he's made himself one of the big names, as well. He's easy to hate, so he's a natural heel.

Interesting to see what role The Rock has in this match/storyline. Haven't seen him for a couple hours. Some host.

Cena has a giant Baptist Choir on stage singing for his entrance/montage. He's done pretty cool WM entrances before. This montage is a prayer/poem. Playing to the kids. But still, pretty well done.

I took 7 seconds to think about the Rock-Cena-Miz storyline. Ref's gonna get knocked out. Rock will come down to be the ref. Cena wins. They embrace, much to the delight of every screaming kid everywhere. Not the ending I want, but that's what I'm gonna get. Let's watch this unfold here, shall we?

9:45 - And there it was. The ref's knocked out. Cena's got the pin. Nobody's there to count. Miz's assistant Alex Riley in the ring, hits Cena with a metal briefcase. Ref comest to.....Miz with the pin, One....TWOOOOO!!! Kickout by Cena.

Now Miz has the briefcase. Cena ducks, hits Alex Riley. Cena Hits the Attitude Adjustment, the pin...One....TWOOOOO!.....kickout by Miz. Huge clothesline outside the ring over the guardrail. Full tackle by Cena at miz over guardrail. Double-countout. Rulde a draw. Still Champion: THe Miz. Really? That's how this ends??

Let's see what The Rock has to say about this. He's in the ring. Both men still down on the outside. A message comes in from the Anonymous Monday Night Raw Commisioner. WM is not over. The Rock says that this match must restart right now. No DQ's. Miz & Cena get back in the ring. Rock gets in the ring, gives Cena the Rock Botomm from behind. Miz Pins Cena. Miz Wins.

Rock staring at Miz from outside. Rock runs in, giving Miz a whuppin'. THe People's Elbow. Closes the show.

Well, there it is folks. Another one in the books. It's been funnier. It's been better. It's also been a helluva lot worse.

Thanks for enduring. I was running out of steam, frankly. Perhaps that's a sign. Am I growing up? Shudder the thought.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Recent Unhealthy Hockey Fixation

There's a window of time in the late winter, the time when football season is over, and baseball season is a still a couple months away. From the time between the Daytona 500 and the beginning of March Madness, there was never much for me to latch on to, from a sports standpoint. Sure, back in my formative years I would watch the NBA with a fair amount of passion. Even college basketball would satisfy me. it was my favorite sport to play, and it was fun to keep tabs on a team or two. But as I've gotten older, my playing days long since pased, basketball simply doesn't hold my attention like it used to.

Enter the game of ice hockey. The grand game embraced as Canada's National Pastime, played by a bunch of tough, toothless Northerners, preferably on a frozen pond with sub-zero temperatures. For a long time, I had a hard time looking at hockey players in the same sense of any other professional athlete. They looked like guys you'd see at your local bar, never bothering with details like hygeine or proper grammar, slurring their words and drinking Old Milwaukee Light, sucking the foam out of their scraggly moustaches, made easier by having no teeth or dentures. Take Calgary Flames legend Lanny McDonald, for instance, hoisting the Stanley Cup in 1988. Or the rough & tumble Wndell Clark fro the Toronto Maple Leafs. That's who I picured when I thought of a hockey player, not a babyface like Wayne Gretzky. The guys who liked to fight, who had their front teeh missing for years.....those were hockey players.

It's a sport that for the casual American sports fan doesn't have enough scoring, enough action. Their playing surface has a lot of confusing lines and circles on it. And who can see the puck?? But as seasoned soccer fans always suggest to the non-fan, you need to look a little closer. In hockey, there's a lot going on. Once you know the basics of the game, picking up on a few subtle nuances, it's a sport that's impossible not to enjoy or respect.

So how can a casual observer begin to pick up the basics of the game? It's simple. Watch a game. Listen to the announcers, and especially the commentators. They're pointing out the little things all the time. Much like soccer to a casual observer, in hockey, what used to look like a bunch of guys skating around aimlessly suddenly begins to make more and more sense. The spacing, the stick-handling, the footwork, the positioning....each little aspect adds up to a blast of a sport to follow.

Another piece of advice to the newbie hockey enthusiast: Pick a team & embrace them. Any sport is more fun when it feels like you've got a little emotional skin in the game. It doesn't matter who, or even at what amateur or professional level. Just make sure it's a team that you have the ability and resources (TV or in person) to watch a few games. Get to know the players, the roster, their backgrounds, etc.

My most recent hockey addictions are following the Colorado Avalanche (more on them & their incredible woes this season at a later time) and watching CBC's Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights, thanks to the NHL Network. In particular, every Canadian knows that at the 1st intermission of Game 1 of their Saturday Night double-header (typically with most or all teams being the Canadian franchises), it's time for Coach's Corner with Ron Maclean (the Bob Costas of Canadian Sports Television) and the incomparable Don Cherry.

I admit it. I love Don Cherry. He's John Madden and Rush Limbaugh rolled into one. He's the most polarizing figure in Canadian hockey, and whether you love him or hate him, you hang on his every word. According to a 2004 CBC survey, he's the 7th most popular Canadian ever. Being a good Canadian boy, he naturally thinks Canadians are the best hockey players. He believes the Russians are pussies and cheaters on the ice, and that American players don't have enough passion for the game.

What sets Cherry apart from most analysts is that he literally wears his passion for the game, his patriotism for his country, and his hard-nosed playing & coaching bravado on his sleeve. Specifically, he wears it on his outrageous custom-tailored suits. As much as tuning into Coch's Corner is about what Don's going to say about whatever the hot topic of the week is, it's also just as much about seeing what outrageous suit he will be wearing. Red or green plaid? Flower patterns? Hot pink? How about Red Velvet? Perhaps a black & white pattern? It's always must-see TV.

Case in Point: Here's Coach's Corner from this past Saturday night, with Don in full-on St. Patty's Day spirit, talking about the recent vicious Zdeno Chara hit on Montreal Canadien (and former Sioux City Musketeer) Max Pacioretty, takes some shots at the Montreal boards (set in concrete, I believe). He also guarantees that Winnipeg will get an NHL franchise back....the return of the Winnipeg Jets (which they absolutely should get). It's about as fired up as I've ever seen him. That's saying something.

Embrace the game......especially before playoff season starts!! Thank me later.