Evel Knievel’s Answering Machine


Ten years ago, I worked for what was known then as the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) as a person-to-person sales representative. It was a nice way of saying that you’re a telemarketer. I didn’t mind the job and working there, because the product was well known, not a product likely to be introduced to you based on what the person on the other end of the phone was saying.

One Friday afternoon in the spring, I wound up calling one Robert Knievel. He was better known as Evel Knievel, a daredevil who jumped over various things with (mainly) his motorcycle back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was probably better known for the stunts that failed, like the rocket he tried to soar over the Snake River Canyon.

I didn’t immediately put two and two together that this was Evel I was about to speak to, but I didn’t get the chance. I did get Evel’s answering machine, later made famous by the Bubba The Love Sponge radio show. Profanity masked, it went like this:

“This is Evel Knievel and if I ever see you, you motherf****r, I’ll rip your f***ing head off! Stop calling me on the phone, you motherf****r!”

Well Evel, how else was I going to call you? With tin cans and wires?

Needless to say, I was a bit shocked hearing that, let alone what would possess anybody, even a celebrity, to have such a profane message for a greeting. He would pass away in Clearwater the following year of 2007, having suffered from diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis.

I always admired him as a kid, though. I could only imagine that all those jumps that went bad took a significant toll on his body and mind, and I know from personal experience that if you’re in pain, it sometimes makes you crazy.

The Coaches

I was sad to read yesterday that Pat Summitt had passed away at the age of 64. The cause was not immediately revealed, but she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease the last few years of her life. I saw my grandparents die of this disease when I was younger, and I can assure you it’s not a pretty thing to watch. Memories fade, and you constantly have to remind them of who you are, which can get a bit frustrating.

I’m sure you sports fans know of her credentials. Eight national titles coaching the Lady Vols of Tennessee, and 1,098 wins with a .841 winning percentage as their coach. She also played on the original women’s basketball team at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal early in her Tennessee coaching career, earning a silver medal. Eight years later, she coached the 1984 Olympic team to gold in Los Angeles.

I would rank her up there with Billie Jean King and Babe Didrikson Zaharias among the pioneers of women’s sports. Like Babe’s death of colon cancer at the age of 45 in 1956, it seems Summitt’s passing has come way to soon.

A little later on in the morning came word that Buddy Ryan, former head coach and defensive coordinator (most notably of the Chicago Bears that won Super Bowl XX), had also died at the age of 82 in Kentucky.

As I said earlier this year, I consider the 1985 Chicago Bears the best NFL team over a single season I have ever seen. They had decent talent offensively, but considerable talent on the defensive side of the ball. I don’t think you’ll ever see another team like those ’85 Bears in the modern era which stresses competitive balance via the salary cap rules.

Two coaches leaving their mark, also leaving the world on the same day. Not something that is often seen. May they both rest in peace.

Iceland: World Soccer Powerhouse


The smallest nation in Europe is rocking the soccer world.

First, it was Iceland stunning Austria to qualify for the single-elimination knockout phase of tournament with a last second 2-1 win.

Yesterday, it was another 2-1 victory, this time over England, a national side that hasn’t won a major competition since the 1966 World Cup that they hosted, but still considered a world power.

I took a look at the FIFA ratings of national teams after the game. Iceland is now 34th. I dare say they are going to move up after beating England. They face France in the quarterfinals over the weekend.

Scab Wound

A scene from the sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives that began on June 22, 2016. John Lewis (D-GA) led the protest, he’s on the near left.

I didn’t get a chance to talk about the sit-in at the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill last week.

Now that we’re two weeks removed from the shootings in Orlando that killed 49, I feel it’s a scab wound that has been ripped open on the skin of the country. Democrats has since made calls for tighter gun control, while Republicans have done likewise except they’re calling for tighter immigration laws, even though it’s a very small portion of “Radical Islam” that believes in what ISIS wants.

The differing opinions as to what the root causes are, and how each side of the aisle can’t seem to see what the other side is seeing, insures political gridlock will continue on. Probably even past the elections when whoever the new President is takes office.

If you tighten the gun laws, those who wish to harm us will simply use other things, like bombs, knives, maybe even planes. And, even if you tighten immigration laws and “build that wall” as Trump often says, what about domestic terrorism? Militias?

Watching Congress trying to get a handle on this is like watching a dog chase its own tail.

Championship…Burger Eating?!?

I thought you all would get a kick out of this.

This aired on what was then WTCG in Atlanta, Channel 17, which became WTBS in 1979. Don’t know the exact year this aired or on what show it aired on, but hearing “Gonna Fly Now” in the open, I would guess it was pretty close to 1976, maybe 1977.

This contest took place at the Techwood Drive studios in Atlanta where the wrestling matches for the old NWA Georgia circuit were held. Gordon Solie, who I’ve mentioned in a few of these blog entries (as he’s a big part of my local history and my TV childhood) called the action, with announcer Freddie Miller handling the introductions. I have no idea which burger outlet handled the supply of hamburgers, because Gordon mentions McDonald’s and Burger King’s mottos from the time in his closing.

I also have no idea if the competitive eaters are supposed to be local media personalities in Atlanta, or contest finalists, or what. It’s a good little “slice” of television, though.


Anarchy In The UK

I was waiting for the Big Brother feeds to start up Thursday night when the news broke. As the result of the “Brexit” referendum vote, the United Kingdom is separating from the European Union. David Cameron, the current UK prime minister, will step down in the fall and make way for a new “PM” to take his place.

To make matters worse, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland all voted to stay in the EU in the referendum, but the votes to leave in England made the difference. As a result of this, we may also see Scotland break away from the United Kingdom. I would also think it is possible that Northern Ireland could also want to break away.

Who knows, maybe the Irelands, Northern and the Irish Republic, will unite one day as a result of this. That would be outstanding!

The vote is also seen as a sign that Donald Trump could become President, but I don’t see how rational people could ever vote for him.

Flashback: “Turtle Blues” by Janis Joplin

Time for this week’s flashback, and much like when I flashed back to Janis’s version of “Piece Of My Heart” three months ago, this has a predictable story.

I first heard this song done by, you guessed it if you’ve been following this blog closely, Bonnie Tyler, off of her 1988 album that was called “Notes From America” here in the United States, “Hide Your Heart” in other parts in the world. Despite bombing in the US charts, it had a lot of songs that were covers (Don’t Turn Around, To Love Somebody), or would wind up being covers (The Best, Save Up All Your Tears, Hide Your Heart) for other artists.

Janis’s original version of “Turtle Blues” does a good job of capturing what was (or simulated to be) a jam session, with Joplin vamping as only she can. Lovely little song no matter who does it.

Because I Had Time


It has become a ritual of mine in June to watch the new season of Orange Is The New Black when it’s released on Netflix. This year marked the fourth season, and without giving away any spoilers, the way the season ended assures us there will be at least one more season.

It’s not a show for everybody, as it’s definitely R-rated with what I call “contextual nudity” (as opposed to gratuitous nudity you see on some Showtime and Cinemax movies) and lesbian scenes with varying degrees of comedy and clothing. But, it’s a damn good show with great casting.

There’s a mix of veteran actresses (Kate Mulgrew, Lori Petty) with artists getting a shot at the limelight they probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise (Lea DeLaria, Michael J. Harney). Oh, and Taylor Schilling and Laura Prepon aren’t too bad to look at, either.

Now what will they do with that fifth season, I wonder?

Aircheck: WIOD in Miami, 10/3/1995

With O.J. Simpson and the “Made In America” documentary part of the national argument once more, I thought I’d look back at one of the landmark moments of the saga.

It’s the day of the O.J. Simpson verdict, October 3, 1995. Neil Rogers, much like talk show hosts across the country this day, can’t stop talking about the verdict that airs in the last hour of the show.

Neil gets very creative with the computerized “drops” (short sound bites) that’s frequently a part of his shtick during the verdict, an acquittal for Simpson on all counts. Usually doing a light, comedic type of talk show which usually spouts that “topics are a bunch of crap,” Rogers shows that when he needs to change gears and get a bit serious, he’s not out of his element at all.

Miracle On Grass?


With all the national competitions going on in our country and in Europe, it’s easy to forget that our own national team is in some rare air, making the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario tournament. They play Argentina tonight in Houston in the semifinals, and even though the U.S. are the home team, they would have to be considered underdogs against an Argentine squad that’s usually an international power on the pitch.

But you never know. We have a few miracles on ice in Olympic ice hockey. Maybe it’s time for a miracle on grass.

Looking forward to the game, and hopefully, they don’t fire Jurgen Klinsmann, who did a good job managing the US side to get this far.

For The Whole Magilla


The eyes of the sports world (or at least North America) were focused on Oakland last night, as Game 7 of the NBA Finals took place. Either Golden State’s Warriors would win back-to-back NBA titles, or Cleveland’s Cavaliers would win the city’s first sports title since the Cleveland Browns won the 1964 NFL title over the Baltimore Colts.

The game went back and forth most of the way (as NBA games tend to do), with the scored tied 89-89 late. A Kylie Irving three-pointer and a foul shot from LeBron James in the final moments sealed the deal, with the Cavs winning 93-89. The Warriors went 73-9 in the regular season, but the playoffs often prove what you do in the regular season matters not.

The Cleveland Cavaliers ended their city’s long drought, bringing a major sports title to their city for the first time in over half a century. LeBron wept on the court of the Oracle Arena, realizing the dream of bringing a championship home, shades of Michael Jordan winning the title 20 years ago. Outstanding work, guys..

Cleveland is no longer Believeland, but Championshipland.

Pride Taking Many Forms


It was a great night to be a Rays fan Friday night, even if it didn’t show on the scoreboard with a 5-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants in an interleague game.

It was supposed to have been Pride Night, a chance for the LGBT community to show their spirit and go see some baseball. But, in light of the tragic shooting last week in Orlando, the event was turned into a makeshift benefit for the victims. Beginning the previous Tuesday (June 14th), tickets that were still available went on sale for as low as just $5. Not only did the game sell out to its regular capacity of just above 31,500, the Rays decided to remove the usually tarped over seats in the upper deck 300 level.

In all, 40,136 tickets were sold for a Friday night game, the biggest crowd the Rays have had for a regular season game in over ten years. Watching the game, it didn’t appear to me that the seats were completely filled, looking like a crowd of just under 30,000. But it didn’t matter. The tickets were bought, and the Rays ball club was able to raise over $300,000 for those lives tragically cut short.

It just goes to show you that there is a market for Major League Baseball in the Tampa Bay area. It’s just a matter of find the pricing and location that taps into that market to make the enterprise profitable and enjoyable at all.