Boomer Twilight

Mostly Humorous Observations of Most Anything, with a Boomer Slant

Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Peanuts, Pinball and Pool

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Take a gander at the picture of the pinball machine. I loved Eight Ball Deluxe. Walking into a bar, ordering a beer and cashing a few dollars for quarters was a thrill that is now just a memory. You can still play pool in a tavern, but very few have pinball.

I was good, shaking the machine just enough to keep the ball alive and avoid tilting. Sure, there were other people who played better, but on any given night I could rattle the machine, while my beer sat on the little table or nearby shelf waiting for me to lose the ball so it could resume it’s intended duty.

One of my favorite watering holes was Town Hall, just outside the University of Maryland campus. I worked at the school, and after my shift was over, a few of us would stop at the bar, walk though the smashed peanut shells on the floor, scuttle up to the bartender, order a beer, purchase quarters and begin the journey into Pinball Heaven.

Town Hall has been open since 1960; soon to celebrate it’s 50th anniversary. That’s quite an accomplishment for a drinking spot. Those that come and go are usually “theme” bars catering to whatever fad or style is temporarily occupying the minds of its semi-loyal patrons. Dance clubs seem to last the least amount of time, usually laid waste by fights, drug busts, marriage, and the quick aging and waning interest of its clients. But, Town Hall has lasted through student migrations, sporting event-driven traffic, all the recessions and economically-challenging occurrences during the five decades of its life, and the probable deaths of several of its clientele who just didn’t outlive the joint.

I don’t imagine there was a secret plan scripted by the owners. They just offered cheap beer, a liquor store next door, free peanuts, pinball, pool, slim jims, pickled eggs, bags of chips and party mix, standard bar food, those red sausages in the big jar that I only had the nerve to eat once, and an unpretentious atmosphere. It worked, and my guess is they are not even paying attention to the Golden Anniversary approaching. It’s doubtful the customers care one way or the other.

Despite being within 200 yards of University of Maryland’s main entrance, Town Hall caters to locals. Students really only go there after a football game, basketball game or any other event that brings with it doting parents and seekers of learning, spilling out to quench their thirst after a couple of hours of cheering and jeering; much to the chagrin of the regulars who adjust to the noise, silliness and immature behavior of the privileged bunch who have just invaded their space. It only lasts a short while until the nerds and their entourage decide to shove off for haute cuisine, laced with over-priced, but oh-so-pretty beverages. Once the children are gone, the slim jims and suds taste better.

People reading this outside the College Park area most likely are unaware of Town Hall. Some may have stopped by when following their team to Chevy Chase Bank Field at Byrd Stadium (god, that sounds awful), Cole Field House or Comcast Center. If so, you probably didn’t even notice the regulars smoking their butts (when it was legal) and drinking their draft, while arguing Redskins football or some other non-college thing. Don’t worry, they ignored you, too.

For me, it’s now nostalgia. Occasionally I am in the neighborhood on business, but beer, pool and peanuts are not on the agenda. When home, I play pinball on my computer, shaking the machine with key strokes. Diet soda in a can or plastic bottle is my “draft.”

*Sigh*

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Maryland’s Dying Sport . . . On a Morphine Drip

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It is generally accepted that duckpin bowling originated in Baltimore in 1900. There are references to it as far back as 1892 in the Boston Globe, claiming the sport to be of New England birth. Personally, I prefer the Maryland version, attributing it to the efforts of John McGraw, the famous New York “Baseball” Giants Hall of Fame manager and Wilbert Robinson, the Hall of Fame catcher who played for two Baltimore Orioles teams; from 1890 – 1899 (the National League team that folded after 1899), and the 1901-02 Orioles of the American League, who moved to New York City in 1903 to become the Yankees. That’s right, those Yankees.

Growing up in Maryland with duckpins was terrific. During my formative years (the 60s) the sport was in its heyday. My best friend’s dad coached our team and Saturday was anxiously anticipated. I couldn’t wait to get to the lanes for the bowling (but really for the french fries). Bowling Alley fries were the best. That was when they cooked them in real fat, not this sissy trans fat-less stuff we use today. Grease, salt and ketchup . . . . mmmmm, the best. We were active kids, not slothy adults, so the cholesterol didn’t clog our arteries. In my adult years I bowled with a fellow who drenched his french fries in mustard. If we wanted to snatch a fry or two while he was on the lane bowling, we had to eat them with the yellow stuff. I guess his intent was to thwart our thievery of his snack. It worked. Or, maybe he just liked them with mustard. On our team, he was the only one.

During the 1960s there were Fair Lanes alleys all over Maryland, and several independent lanes, as well. The sport was going strong. I bowled on leagues in Suitland, Forestville (Parkland), Queenstown, Hyattsville (Prince George’s Plaza), Marlow Heights, Catonsville (Westview), Laurel (with mustard guy), Silver Spring (White Oak), Riverdale (Rinaldi), Wheaton (Glenmont), College Park, and probably a couple of places I’ve forgotten.

The good thing about duckpin bowling is anybody can do it. The balls are small, weighing from 2 to a maximum of 3.75 lbs. But, don’t get the impression it is easier than ten pins, because it’s not. You can throw the ball right down the middle and “chop” for just two pins. No one has ever bowled a perfect 300 game in duckpins, but in ten pins it is a frequent occurrence. Many ten pin bowlers think they’re “tough guys” because they can roll the heavy ball down the lanes. They ain’t so tough when ending up with two pins for a whole frame because the first ball chopped, and the next two were rolled through the hole. I guess they really don’t appreciate the challenge and precision necessary to be a good duckpinner, so they make fun of it. With the game disappearing, there won’t be as many opportunities to test their skill as in the past. In 1967 there were about 300,000 duckpin bowlers. In 1973 nearly 40,000 were sanctioned (league) and today there are about 9,000; virtually all concentrated in Maryland and Connecticut. The biggest factor in the decline was the demise in 1973 of the only company manufacturing automatic pinsetters (one source says it was 1969).

Ken Sherman invented the automatic pinsetter for duckpins in 1954, but refused to sell the rights to Brunswick because he didn’t want to leave New England. Shortly thereafter, AMF developed a pinsetter for ten pins, and eventually the device became the preferred equipment due to their willingness to expand and Sherman’s desire to stay at home. His company didn’t survive, and today Fair Lanes establishments are named AMF.

After enlisting in the Air Force in 1969, I came back to Maryland in 1973, but didn’t join a league until 1980. Then I bowled for a few more years and stopped in 1987. I still had the itch, so in 1992 I organized a tournament for my employer, which included 40 teams, with 5 bowlers each from companies with whom we did business. Two hundred people participated during the middle of February to have a grand time of socializing and duckpin bowling. It was required that each team have at least two females, so those participating would have to allow the clerical employees (peasants) to take the afternoon off to bowl. Otherwise, they would just send the males, who usually golfed and found other ways to waste their afternoons while the peons did the work.

After five tournaments I left the company, but the event survives to this day. We gave trophies for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Last Place finishers. That’s all fine and dandy, but my preferred awards were for Best Team Name and Best Bowling Attire. My favorite team name and attire (designed by my son) is in the picture to the left.

Many of you reading this participated in one or more of those tournaments. Most of the pictures from the 1996 Awards Ceremony are posted in the sidebar link “5th Annual CIC Tournament Pictures,” which is under the “Boomer Memories – Duckpin Bowling” category. Take a peek(ing) and you may find yourself or someone you know. Don’t be alarmed by how much older and fatter you look today. It’s always fun to see what used to be.

If you have not bowled duckpins in the past (or even if you have), find an alley and have a good time. Take the kids. Most centers will put down gutter bumpers so the ball stays on the lane, and the child feels like a star. Spend a few minutes clicking on the links (particularly the videos) in the sidebar under “About Duckpin Bowling.” You might want to check out Robin’s Web, a site devoted to the sport.

It won’t be long before duckpins are completely gone. The equipment can’t last forever.

Roll one for the Gipper.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by bakemyfish

February 16, 2009 at 9:06 pm

Today’s Gladiators – Professional Football Players

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I love the NFL. There’s nothing more exciting to me. After the Super Bowl, I count the days until the Draft, followed by off-season training sessions, then pre-season and the new season. I fear dying before I get enough. It is the coolest and most anticipated thing in my life. When the season starts I am in 7th Heaven. “Lord, I thank you for the NFL.” Give me football on my death bed.

Millions of Americans and people all over the world love the sport. Players sacrifice their bodies and minds for our enjoyment. Billions of dollars are at stake. Players undergo sugeries we have to research on the Internet to understand. A lateral this and a medial lateral that is music to our ears. Living beyond fifty-years-old for an offensive lineman is a luxury, but who cares? We have our sport. Today’s Gladiators provide our entertainment and milk our weaknesses by proxy.

The NFL is a mutli-billion dollar industry. Our stadiums are like the Roman Coliseums. The players are shoved out on the field and we hope to catch a violent hit or two. We are just missing the lions and other beasts tearing flesh from the fighters. If it wasn’t moralistically-challenged, the creatures would play a part. Like the Gladiators, football players are shown the exit door once they have suffered enough injuries or grown too old to be of use to a team (although a Gladiator’s death ended their careers). Winning is everything, and job security is short-lived.

In virtually every sport there is the hope of tragedy. With Nascar, we are waiting for the fiery crash. In hockey we love the fight, where a couple of teeth are knocked out. A knockout in boxing brings with it a cheer from the fans, and tears from the loser’s family. Baseball brawls, with the dugouts emptying on the field are particularly exciting; the more players involved, the more newsworthy the event. An NBA player entering the stands to punch a fan in the mouth gives us goose bumps. Soccer hooligans are damned-near idols in some countries; tearing down fences and trampling spectators. A near-death collision in the NFL is spectacular. We thrive on the violence. Am I wrong?

Every year the NFL winner comes down to which team is the healthiest. When key players are hurt, the whole complexion of a team changes. How many of you relish the thought of your team’s biggest rival losing a player who makes a difference? I’m happy that Tony Romo is hurt, or T. O. is going through a meltdown. It helps the Redskins’ chances. And you are thinking the same thing with regard to the opponent of whichever team you cherish. The most anticipated statistics on Friday are the injury reports.

I’m not apologizing. At times I feel sort of bad hearing the news someone has broken a limb or suffered a season-ending injury that can help my team. But, I don’t feel that bad. If they don’t die, my conscience is off the hook.

We are already finished with half of the season. It will be over soon, and I have to begin the cycle again. Drool is running out the side of my mouth. I only have a couple of months left apologizing to my wife for ignoring her and letting the grass grow too long because it rained on Saturday. Sunday is my domain.

I always justify my love of the NFL by narrowing it down to the fact it is only 16 games, 3 hours each, which really only involves 48 hours. Two days out of 365; unless the Redskins make the playoffs. The math is what it is. Some wives don’t really get it, unless they are into the sport, too. I guess it’s because I watch the other games that can affect the Redskins’ season; crossing my fingers with the hope someone gets hurt.

Hail to the Redskins!!

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by bakemyfish

October 28, 2008 at 2:11 pm

With That Being Said . . . .

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OK, I have a bone to pick with a current trend in the English language. When did “That being said,” “With that said,” “Having said that,” “That said,” “With that being said,” and so on become so common? I don’t remember them being used several years ago. Now everyone is saying them, writing them, belching them, rapping them, and pissing me off by using them (but, not quite as much as Grief Counselors). Maybe they’re proper, but I don‘t care. They don’t really mean anything. It’s kind of like saying, “Hey moron, did you get that? I said it, and I’ll tell you I said it just in case you don’t know I said it. So, listen up and let me tell you I said it because I like to repeat myself.”

On ESPN Sean Salisbury used them about every third sentence. Fortunately he’s no longer working on ESPN. He stunk, anyway. All of his time was spent screaming at John Clayton and calling him a Nerd in thirty different ways (I think he had a problem with the idea John didn’t play football). Another abuser is Stephen A. Smith, whose ridiculous rants are particularly annoying, with or without “That being said.” He still does some discussion of the NBA, but I don’t care about the NBA, and can avoid his nonsense. Every time I watch a FOX NFL game, featuring Troy Aikman, I notice he uses “Having said that” quite a lot. I like Troy, but the use of the phrase has to go. He always gets the NFC Game of the Week, so it’s hard to avoid Troy if you like football.

Perhaps it is correct English; I’m really not sure. What bothers me is how they have become so vogue. They are certainly overused by the media. Enough that it really gets on my nerves. The use of “For sure” was the same way a couple of decades ago. Eventually it went away. I’m concerned “With that being said” is so ingrained it may take a century or two to become archaic.

If you use “That being said” quite a lot, all I can say is you are a follower. You’ve heard it so much you are regurgitating it without even knowing. I forgive you, because society has pummeled you so much “With that being said,” you probably don’t even realize you’re a phrase junkie. Maybe there is something in our drinking water forcing our lemming behavior.

I like the evolution of language. The writings of Chaucer and Shakespeare seem very strange to us today. We need an interpreter to understand the English that was contemporary during their time. College courses and entire curriculums are devoted to studying their words, with ongoing debates about their meaning. At the time those words were written they were understood by the lowliest of peasants as well as the upper crust of society. The Intelligentsia of today cannot come to terms with what exactly was meant back then. When was the last time you watched a Shakespeare movie or play and did not scratch your head just a few times during the performance?

I watch a lot of movies; history, action, drama, comedy, westerns, sci-fi, whatever. I don’t recall in any of them, regardless of the time period being depicted, “With that being said,” “That said,” “Having said that,” “With that said,” or “That being said,” ever uttered by any of the characters. It seems writers of dialogue don’t feel a need for the meaningless words among the thousands in their screenplays (they’re just a little busy picking the proper profanities for the scenes). The overuse seems to be a staple of today’s media, commentators and politicians.

Yeah, I like the evolution of our language. But, the ride on the “With that being said,” train is becoming a bit much. Eventually the phrase will grow old and lose its glamour. Society will replace it with something else that will be spewed over and over and over to ad nauseum. That’s what we do. We run things into the ground, causing idiots like me to moan and groan about it. I just hope it goes away before I die. It will probably take too long, so my gravestone will convey my displeasure.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by bakemyfish

October 4, 2008 at 7:11 am

April 3, 1989 – Al Gore’s Worst Nightmare

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It was a beautiful afternoon on April 3, 1989; Orioles Opening Day at Memorial Stadium. I attended the game with a co-worker, Scott Becker, and a business acquaintance, Jeff Funk. The Orioles had just beaten the Red Sox, 5-4. Fans were enjoying a victory on the way to their vehicles.

We were waiting for the light to cross the street to get to our cars, when we heard, “Stop!” A father in distress was yelling to his six-year-old son, who had just broken the grasp of his hand and ran into busy traffic. The son obeyed and stopped; in the middle of the road. A car hit him and he flew from the front of the vehicle to the rear (described as 30 feet into the air) and slid for another 20 feet after landing. Everyone was horrified. I had never seen anything like it. The child laid unconscious in the road and we all thought he was dead.

His mother was screaming hysterically (what mother wouldn’t?). His father was trying to calm her, while attending to his son. I, like a fool, ran over to the vehicle that hit him, and shrieked at the driver, “Get out of the car!! Get out!!” I was convinced he had been speeding, because that’s what I saw. The driver was obviously distraught, thinking he had just killed a boy. But, I was undaunted in my vigilantism. My friends pulled me away, and we all tried to collect ourselves. It was terrifying.

I tearfully observed the father trying to keep everyone in tune with the situation, while thinking his son had just died. He looked athletic, a big fellow, leading me to believe he was an athlete attending the game and seemed familiar to me, but with all the commotion, I couldn’t recall who he might be. The police came, told me to go away, and we walked to our cars. I immediately called my wife and told her what had happened and asked her to check the news. On my way home, she called to tell me the boy was Al Gore’s son.

At the time he wasn’t quite as famous as today. Whatever your political philosophy may be, and however Al Gore fits into your political spectrum, in this case he was just a father; scared to death he had lost his son. No one ever wants to deal with that. The internet, Vice Presidency, 2000 election fiasco and global warming were all in his future, but at this point he was just praying for the recovery of his child.

We tend to think celebrities are beyond heartbreak. Their lives are not like ours. Those whose children die before them are not our concern, because we think they are somehow surreal and unapproachable. But, it happens to people in all walks of life, and we shouldn’t lose sight of how vulnerable we are to mishaps and disease. Albert Arnold Gore, III survived, thanks to the attending physicians at Johns Hopkins, but he very well could have died. Most of us wouldn’t have even thought about it. If I had not been there, I wouldn’t either.

I like Al Gore, and am sure it is because of this particular experience. I also like that he is a Vietnam Veteran. Many people give him grief because of his liberal leanings, but I can’t get past this accident. No matter what he does or says, there will always be a spot in my heart for April 3, 1989. He dealt with it well, but it could have been the end of him if his son had not pulled through.

I only hope none of you have to suffer the loss of a child.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by bakemyfish

July 7, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Confessions of a Hallowed Wiener

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My favorite holiday is Halloween. It’s not even a holiday. No government offices close, banks and other companies conduct their normal business, and all schools remain open. Yet, it’s considered to be a holiday. That’s what you think, right? It has that celebratory feel. Maybe we should just label it a Cause For Celebration, since it doesn’t get the official holiday treatment. I’m not even sure I should capitalize Halloween.

Regardless of whatever the plan for decorating my house happens to be, I usually take the day off in anticipation of all the little tykes soon to be scared half-to-death. I probably shouldn’t confess playing hooky on an unholiday. Please don’t tell anyone. Yeah, I’m the guy in the neighborhood children either can’t wait to encounter, or the house they stroll past nervously. The candy I give is the good stuff, but they have to work for it. If it’s a really good night of fright, there is a lot left over for the office.

My parents started it. It’s all their fault. On Halloween they put on a show. The best year I remember, Mom took out her teeth and played a Witch, and Dad got up on the roof and dropped a sheet-covered broomstick on a rope in front of the kids as they ascended the steps. They gave the best treats, so all the kids wanted to make the stop. That particular year my father was a driver for Rock Creek, and he gave out bottled sodas to the costume-clad loons. Glass bottles. If anyone gave me a glass container of pent-up fizz, it would be tossed in the air to watch it break in front of me. That would be cool. So, my father unwittingly probably contributed to bad behavior. Nevertheless, receiving a sugar-infused soft drink is a nice treat. Fortunately, when my Dad drove for Sinclair Oil, he didn’t give away bottles of gasoline.

So, I was hooked. Now, Halloween can’t come soon enough. I want each year to be more outrageous. The creepy music, screams, shrieks, blubbering, chimes, bells, howls, cackles and other haunting tracks blast out of the upstairs windows, probably making a few neighbors hate 2034.

Although, it is really neat to be the house treat-seekers want to hit before the end of the night, my most successful gig was in 1983 while living in an apartment in Columbia, MD. I had this really hideous, horse-faced mask of Richard Nixon. The picture (not my mask) you see here does not do justice to the fear my face-cover extracted. During that day in the office where I worked at the time, the mask was worn for our Halloween celebration. I popped up from behind a cubicle in front of one of my bosses, and got him good. The fright on his face was priceless. And, he was a Republican. If he were a Democrat, he probably would have made a quick trip to the bathroom.

Then that evening, the haunting began. It was a perfect night. Monday Night Football was on and the Redskins were playing. A bottle of tequila (the last one ever) was my friend, and my children were with me.

We tied a cord to the handle of the door of the apartment and rigged the knob so it could be opened without turning. I stood in the foyer under a green light, with my head covered by the mask and wielding a plastic Psycho-style knife. My kids took turns yanking the door open at the sound of a knock, and I did my best Norman Bates impersonation, while shrieking and thrusting the blade downward. It never failed to do the trick. The only time I regretted the prank was when a father, holding his infant, screamed like a girl, then laughed. The baby did not think it was funny and cried pitifully. Causing seven-year-olds to crap their pants was good. Scarring a child for life is not. My divine punishment was too much tequila. Eventually, I just pointed to the television and said with an idiotic slur, “Rrredshkinz,” then slowly shuffled sideways into my bedroom, got sick and passed out. To this day my son and daughter rag on me about the episode. “Tequila, you are no longer my friend. Be gone, and take that silly worm with you.” One good thing that happened was the Redskins beat the Chargers 27 – 24.

Some people might think at my age being obsessed with Halloween is a bit odd. I’ll never stop. We’ve lived in this neighborhood for 22 years. The kids expect the crazy guy at 2034 to do something goofy and weird. I have a reputation to uphold. Several months ago, while getting my hair washed before the cut, the shampoo girl was talking with me about where she grew up. She was referring to my neighborhood. We started discussing Halloween and she mentioned the fear of walking up the driveway of the house with the loud eerie music, and the man who always dressed up, and usually jumped out from behind something. I probed a bit more, and guess who? We had a big laugh. Endorsement by unsolicited testimonial.

My life is now complete.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by bakemyfish

June 3, 2008 at 4:58 am

What’s That In Your Pocket?

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Now, don’t snicker when you read this. I’m here to discuss a serious matter. It’s not the end of the world, but to some men it may seem that way. Macho no mo’ is not a reason to jump off a bridge, or drive your car into a wall. There is hope. You can get assistance from several sources. Medication is available; although it’s quite expensive. And, not covered by Health Care plans. They consider it a luxury drug, meant to solve a luxury-less problem; unnecessary in the eyes of those determining what to allow. They’re probably not getting any, so it doesn’t matter to them. Spending all their waking moments finding ways to deny coverage leaves little time for romance.

Research indicates there are several causes of libido malfunction: smoking; diabetes; high cholesterol; too much alcohol (when was the last time you were drunk and the man?); high blood pressure; venous leak; depression; and a tiny wee wee. There are several other reasons, and most likely some yet to be discovered. Basically, any condition causing restricted blood flow can be the culprit. After all, it’s an organ, not a bone.

Much money is being made providing chemical solutions to men suffering from this traumatic experience. The drug companies developed at least three pills, and many herbal enhancements to keep the motor running. There are creams, devices, implants, and other remedies to make it possible for afflicted males to enjoy continued activity with the “love of their life.”

The most interesting, yet frightening remedy is a potential cure based on the venom of an aggressive and extremely deadly creature . . . . the Brazilian wandering spider. Now, I don’t know about you, but it seems to me to inject poison or any other potentially paralyzing agent into the body for the sake of six or seven minutes of “Oooo, baby, baby” is a bit risky. Pass on the spider toxin. Temporary rigidity isn’t worth chancing permanent paralysis.

If you are having difficulties, and the woman in your life is becoming frustrated with your inability to be her ideal mate, see your doctor or therapist for relief. They’ll gladly give you samples of medication and a prescription. Don’t be embarrassed to ask. The pharmaceutical companies give the samples to the doctor to be handed out. They want you to be hooked on their new miracle drugs. No one is complaining about the cost of the product, because they don’t want to admit they’re users. It’s like the first time a guy thinks of a vasectomy. The thought goes through his head, “Will this be the end? Will I be impotent from this procedure?” Guys have difficulty thinking they are less than virile. Either you take something, or continue making love with a rope.

If you need it, just ask the physician. Maybe they’ll even give you a badge to wear proudly to proclaim your allegiance to taking care of business. It is estimated that 30 million men suffer from this syndrome. During football season it grows to about 40 million. The increase is most likely caused by excess alcohol, over eating, lack of attention, and many other conditions resulting from six months of College and NFL football TV viewing (including preseason games).

Well, I gotta run. The game’s on, and I need to pour a cocktail so I can take this little blue pill. She’s waiting for me, and both should have kicked-in by halftime.

With Love,

Bake My Fish

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Written by bakemyfish

January 3, 2008 at 5:40 pm