Terror On The Thames

Another alarming day for the free world.

There was another terror incident in Europe, this time in London, not too far from British parliament, then at the building itself. 

Details changed over the course of the day, and might still be sketchy as you see this today. The asailant was shot, eventually dying of his injuries, but not before he took the lives of a few others.

It is a chilling reminder for some that the threat of terrorism still, sadly, exists. But as they say over there, we shouldn’t be afraid of them.  At some point in the future, no matter how hard our governments try, we will again be reminded of it. 

A Piece Of The Action

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Over the past week, I was paying attention with great interest to the new VSIN network and their chronicling of the $352,000 wagered by Derek Stevens, owner of the D Hotel and Casino, of 32 first-round games in this year’s NCAA basketball tournament.

Stevens bet on  the four “first four” play-in games, then the 28 first round games not involving those teams who played in the play-in round. He went 10-19-3 (10 wins, 19 losses, and three games landing right on the point spread for “pushes” which count as neither a win or a loss), losing $109,000 in total.

Stevens, according to Brent Musburger on his Sunday show “My Guys In The Desert”, also has a bet on Michigan to win the NCAA tournament at 80-1. Derek wagered $12,500, so if he’s correct, he wins a cool $1,000,000.

I’ve always heard that the most successful sports handicappers play very few games, not a whole bunch of them. The “wisdom” in that is the fewer games you wager on, the less errors one can make. Then again, Las Vegas hasn’t had all that money pour in because there’s a lot of “sharps” out there looking for openings in the sports lines.

Can’t help but hope the Wolverines win the whole shebang, though.

Rachel And The Documents Of Doom

Some of you will be surprised to hear that I find Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show to be tolerable. That was, until she, like the other media outlets, got caught up with the hysteria surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency, and the partisanship it’s caused since. I think we, as Americans, can do better than this for our duly elected President under the current constitutional rules. I like hearing the opinions of both sides, because when you take being bellicose out of it, it’s how I learn what they’re saying.

Then came last week. Maddow’s Twitter feed bursted on Tuesday with news of a surprise revelation concerning a seemingly forgotten about topic: Donald Trump’s taxes, and his failure to release them to the public. Someone anonymously sent journalist David Cay Johnson the documentation for Trump’s 2005 taxes, who then released the findings to NBC and cable outlet MSNBC. The findings probably didn’t go the way Maddow or the network of Peacocks had hoped, despite making news on all the other televised outlets: Trump paid over 25 percent of his income in taxes this year, far more than other politicians paid recently, such as former President Obama or Democratic contender Bernie Sanders.

A brief rant here: the one thing that drives me crazy about TV news is that networks, cable news stations, and local TV stations frequently wave documentation around on camera, then tell you what’s in it. I would love to see the FCC pass a rule, for the sake of transparency, that if a station does that, they must put the same documents on a website or other such forum for public view. It isn’t something media does or doesn’t do all the time, but there should be a uniform rule so that informed people wanted to learn more, that ability is there for them.

As for Maddow, the big show on Tuesday night was a ratings hit, but it seemed to harm her reputation on both conservative and liberal sides. Geraldo Rivera’s career recovered from the “bomb” of a 1987 special promising to reveal the contents of Al Capone’s vault, but finding nothing of significance within. My gut tells me we’re not getting rid of Rachel so quickly, and I’m sure her bosses will remind her not to turn into such a caricature of herself.

Ones And Sixteens

Even at age 45, statistics still fascinate me. Maybe not as much as they used to, but stats can be a powerful tool in sports, in politics, or in the news in general.

Up until the Super Bowl this year, I thought the most amazing statistic in sports was the anomaly that up until that classic Pats/Falcons Super Bowl, no Super Bowl had gone to overtime, winding up tied after 60 minutes of regulation play. Roughly, at least 1 NFL game in the regular season and beyond out of 20 such games needs overtime to decide, but after 50 Super Bowls, it had never happened in the big game.

Now that it finally happened this year (and I “marked out” big time when it did, dancing around the TV and saying to myself, “It happened! It finally happened!!!”), there is an heir apparent to the biggest anomalous stat in the sports world.

Since the NCAA men’s basketball tournament went to 64 teams in 1985, the teams are seeded in four regions: based on a combination of record and roughly the strength of schedule a given team plays. The best seed is to be a number 1 seed, while being a number 16 seed is the least desirable.

Counting the first round games this year, the 1 seed has played the 16 seed 132 times. The 16 seed teams have NEVER won, 0-132 against the 1 seed. In women’s college basketball, it’s only ever happened once, in 1998 when Harvard stunned the top seeded Stanford squad.

It will happen someday, but not until at least March of 2018.

Aircheck: WFLA-AM, 6/6/1991

I’ve had this in my collection for many years, and finally got around to converting it to an mp3 file back in 2013, then turning it into a YouTube video. (Only had the first hour of a three hour show, though. Sorry.)

Back then, WFLA was still locally driven, with talk show hosts on the political left and right. Now, the station is owned by Clear Channel, and syndicated conservative talk is the order of the day.

Personally, I thought this WFLA at its peak. All voices and opinions welcomed. A shame stations aren’t run this way today.

Flashback: “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge

In honor of the passing of Toni Sledge this past Sunday, here’s a look back at Sister Sledge’s biggest hit, topping the charts in 1979.

I always think of a couple of things when I hear this song. First, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who won the World Series that year, adopting this song as their unofficial theme for that season.

Secondly, this seemed to be a theme song at weddings I’ve attended of relatives and friends. At weddings, this song is timeless. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1979, 1999, or 2017; it’s a perfect fit.

Give it a listen, and I’ll be back tomorrow with an aircheck.

Keeping Kayfabe With Kareem

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Pro wrestler Kareem Muhammad in the camo tights, with Kevin Sullivan behind him.
In the lexicon of professional wrestling, kayfabe is the lost art of keeping the performance as authentic as humanly possible in all aspects of the business. It is not done as much now as it was decades ago, because travel, cable TV, and the Internet changed those aspects of the business. But, back in that era, when wrestlers traveled within regional circuits from city to city, “good guys” and “bad guys” would not usually travel together. If they did that, the public would figure out quicker that the business was staged, or “a work” as the industry calls it.

Back when I was 15 (not quite yet 16) in 1987, my first encounter with a pro wrestler was with a bad guy, better known in their terminology as a heel. That doesn’t mean of course that the performer is a bad guy in real life, but merely the role he plays to help his company draw, or in other words, make money for them and in turn, for himself.

I was roaming around the old Sunshine Mall in Clearwater at the JCPenneys. Most of the sets are tuned into Channel 10 on a Saturday afternoon, airing UWF wrestling, which was the old circuit that emanated from Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas by that time. It was the first time I had seen the UWF on local TV, but I was a reader of the Bill Apter wrestling magazines, which is why I went to the mall to begin with, to stock up on magazines to read at the old Super X drugstore. In the era before the Internet, the mags kept a fan up to date what happened in the territories you didn’t see on local or cable TV. If you wanted to know what was going on in the WWF, you didn’t need the mags, because it was on TV everywhere via cable at the very least. If you wanted to know what was happening in the Northwest circuit based out of Portland, you’d need mags for that.

Watching the TV, I didn’t dawn on me immediately who was right next to me: a large African-American man dressed in a camo shirt and pants, chatting with a larger than average woman of color. Recognition dawned, but the name briefly escaped me. Pouring through the magazines covertly, I figure out who it is: it’s Kareem Muhammad, who got his start as Ray Candy before changing his moniker and becoming part of the tag team known as the Zambuie Express with Elijah Akeem, who used to be Bad Bad Leroy Brown. He’s working in the CWF circuit in Florida, which would wind up folding later in the year when Jim Crockett Promotions (the Mid-Atlantic circuit based in Charlotte, but by then rapidly expanding nationally to keep pace with the already expanded WWF) bought out the circuit, but then expanded too quickly. Ted Turner would buy the Crocketts out in late 1988.

(In the business, it’s not unusual for guys not well known to change names, gimmicks, homes, and go from being a good guy to a bad guy every so often. Remember, it’s all about the promotion finding the best matchups of good guys and bad guys that will get butts in the seats. Now a days, it’s not about getting fans to the local arenas, but getting ratings for the cable TV shows and the pay-per-view cards, the total opposite of the what it used to be.)

Figuring that out, we have a nice, respectful conversation. His tone is a bit gruff, probably because he’s got me figured for a mark (a fan who may or may not know the realities of the business). I wasn’t about to disrespect him, because while I’m a big kid, this dude TOWERED over me.  He’s easily got six inches of height on me, plus about 100 to 150 pounds.

I wasn’t about to razz him for being a bad guy, or to say wrestling is fake. I already KNEW wrestling was stage crafted, and it didn’t seem a good idea to confront someone MUCH bigger than me. Back then, if you questioned the credibility of pro wrestling, it was not uncommon for the one making the allegation, or anyone thinking they could take a pro wrestler, to get beat up or injured. (Hulk Hogan was one such wannabe at one time, who wound up with a broken leg when he first tried to break into the business.) I didn’t know that at the time, but I figured it’s best to keep a level head.

With that, I parted, with a story to tell my pals at Largo High School on Monday, though I don’t remember if I ever did tell it.