Monday, May 21, 2007

Vegas and the NBA

Vacation in Vegas:

Well folks, for those of you who actually missed my updates last week, I was on a much needed vacation out in the fantasy land known as Las Vegas. My wife was there on business and I was out there so we could spend our second anniversary together.

First off, observations on Las Vegas. The place is just a total and utter fantasy land. Not only are there the lights, the glitz, the glamour, and all of that fun stuff, but there is just so much more and it all has to do with the people there.

At 4:00 in the morning on Monday, I saw five Elvis impersonators playing the evil game of three card poker. Thankfully I was only watching as I would have lost my shirt, but it was interesting seeing these guys play while trying to get out of character. When I got done watching them, I did some meandering and found there were a ton of people playing that early in the morning. One guy had been drinking since birth and had a bottle of champagne that he was drinking from. Finally, some kind waitress brought him a glass which with a belch, he declined.

Now, here is what was really interesting. While I was watching another game, I randomly asked the dealer what NBA All-Star Weekend in Vegas was like. She said, "Oh, the media didn't report things correctly--It was much worse." She then went on to tell me the horror stories of waitresses and dealers being physically assaulted, casinos closing due to the mayhem, fights breaking out, and pure overall chaos. Her final words to me were, "If this town ever holds another All-Star game, I won't work. I have the vacation time, I will take the week off. It was awful."

Being the reporter that I am, I couldn't let this one go. So, as I couldn't sleep anyway, I asked another random waitress the same question, and she gave me the same answer saying, "It was horrible. I have never seen it so bad in this town before." She went on to say that she believes there is a coverup being orchestrated by the City of Las Vegas. The reason being is the mayor wants an NBA team there so bad that he is willing to do just about anything to make it happen.

The stories of the utter mayhem of All-Star Weekend continued when I went over to the New York/New York to do a spot on WCAT's new weekly show. One pit boss told me there were two gang fights inside of the casino with guns drawn, and that there were 20 reported rapes that weekend alone. Some local reports said crime went up 80 percent that weekend alone. These stories continued all week. Female employees at one establishment were told not to come into work for their own safety; the ones who did work needed armed escorts to their cars because they were afraid for their safety. Out of the 14 casino employees I spoke with, all of them said they would never work if the All-Star game came back to Las Vegas.

In talking with these employees, I asked them what they thought of an NBA team actually coming to the city. All of them said they think it is a bad idea, and not just because of the problems that occurred over All-Star Weekend. The problem they said is that the average fan in Las Vegas would not be able to afford to go to games. Their thought, and I agree with them is the casinos would buy up all of the tickets and give them to the high rollers. The team would of course know they could charge high prices because of this, therefore normal fans just would not be able to go to games. Another factor is that in order for the NBA to come to Las Vegas, not just the Vegas franchise would have to be pulled from the betting lines, but so would the entire league. From what I have been told, and it has not been confirmed by the NBA, this is something the NBA will not budge on.

I have not been able to reach the NBA, or the City of Las Vegas for comment on these allegations. If any of this proves to be true, there is a serious problem here. Does the mayor want a team in the city so bad that he is willing to encourage a cover up by the casinos as to what really happened? With the NBA's dwindling reputation among fans, is the reward greater than the financial and other risks? The other question I have is if this was just an isolated type of incident? Will the same problems occur if a Las Vegas team is playing a regular 41 game home schedule, or did all of this happen because of the fact is was All-Star Weekend? It should be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Delta can bite me

Yes, there were good parts to my much needed vacation out to Vegas. The weather was gorgeous, room perfect, and I found out that Las Vegas is one of the strangest places on the face of the planet. More on that in a later post, but now I have to rant about the perils of flying.

I am convinced that Delta Airlines is the worst airline in the country. I have had my problems with Delta, but NOTHING can possibly compare to my trip home. It took me 22 HOURS to get back home. 22 hours, that is not an exaggeration. Here is what happened:

Getting out of Vegas was easy enough. My flight to JFK was delayed for about a half hour which was no big deal. I sat to a very pleasant British couple who had spent ten days in Vegas and were going to spend another four days in New York before heading home. That was the good. I got to JFK and because of my bum knee needed a wheelchair to get to my next gate. A miracle happened and it was actually waiting for me, but had to wait ten minutes to leave for my next gate. When we finally got going, the woman pushing me along stopped TWICE to chat with her friends. Grrrrrrrrrrrr, no tip for her.

The insanity really began when I got to the gate. First off, at JFK Delta has about 15 flights going through one gate which leads to mass confusion. Passengers have no clue what is leaving when, when flights are boarding, etc. Anyway, my flight was delayed, and when it came to boarding, Delta was looking for volunteers to give up their seats because my flight was overbooked. Considering I would have had to go to Manchester through Syracuse, and then take a bus to Burlington, there was no way I was doing that. After another plea from Delta, they finally gave up and started boarding the flight.

When I got on, the flight was delayed even more because of the fact Delta does not know how to count. When booking the flight, Delta gave the same two seats to four passengers!! So, we spent another 20 minutes trying to figure that out. When that was straightened out, they needed volunteers to give up seats because of a "weight imbalance". I decided to be nice and took the offer of a $400.00 voucher, meals, and a CONFIRMED seat ("Confirmed seat" comes into play later on) on the 3:45 into Burlington. That was my first mistake.......

I get off the plane and go to the gate to be booked on the 3:45 and waited for 15 minutes before being told I needed to go to the Customer Service desk to be booked and to get my goodies. Then all hades broke loose.

First I was told the 3:45 flight didn't exist. When told the agent what I was told she said, "Do you want me to lie to you and tell you there is a 3:45??? Fine!! There is a 3:45; are you happy now?" After another 15 minutes of just waiting around, I found out not only was there a 3:45, but there was a 1:20 as well. Hmmmmmmmm, this popped up out of nowhere didn't it? I finally got to a supervisor who told me that instead of being confirmed on the 3:45 I would have to go standby, and I could go standby on the 1:20. I was then told I could get a $200.00 check instead of vouchers, which was good considering I will never fly them again anyway. So, another 15 minutes later, the checks finally arrive and of course, the two agents cannot figure out how to fill the things out. That took another ten minutes or so, and my patience was just about shot. Meanwhile, a supervisor was supposed to be trying to find out if I could fly on another airline.....She forgot. Oops. When the agents finally figured out how to fill out the check, I was told I could cash the thing at a Citibank inside of the terminal. I needed it since I had been in the same clothes for 24 hours and I was beginning to stink just a bit. Anyway, I guess they told me about the alleged bank to get me out of there as it didn't exist!!!! GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!

So, I grab breakfast, try to find the bank and couldn't, and then caught five minutes of sleep on the floor with about 100 other passengers who will never fly Delta again. I can't sleep on planes, so it was the first time I had shut my eyes in about 24 hours. So anyway, the 1:20 comes and I ask where I am on the standby list. I was told to wait around, I did, and at about 2:00 with the flight still showing as boarding, I ask the gate agent if I got on the flight. I was told, "Oh, that left 10 minutes ago." Thanks for sharing moron!!

Finally, I found a Travelers Aid place that would cash my check, so I cashed the bugger and got all touristy clothes to cover up my stench and then grabbed some lunch. Well, the 3:45 came, and of course that was overbooked and had another one of those infamous "weight issues". FINALLY, one of the supervisors actually decided to be helpful and arranged for me to be on the 7:00 out of LaGuardia on USAIR. He arranged for a cab, which he said would be paid for, and I took off in hopes I would make it home by Memorial Day. Guess what?? The cab wasn't paid for!! Another 50 bucks I am out, and I head to check in for the 7:00.......

PROBLEM!!!! The guy didn't book me on the flight!!! I was standing at the desk with my eyes rolling into the back of my head and I started drooling and dreaming about shots of something very strong and plotting death against Delta. The US Air agent actually managed to get me on the 10:00, so I had some serious waiting around to do which gave me more time to plot death against Delta. After a full body cavity search at security, I headed off to the bar where fellow travellers and I plotted more death against Delta. It turns out that I won the travel hell story of the day award, so the bartender kept me well fueled with a good Riesling out of some country. Normally I would retain this information, but at this point I was reaching 36 hours without sleep, so I barely remembered my own name.

Mind you, my beloved wife had problems of her own. We had to take separate flights since she was on business and I was on a free ticket from Delta because they had screwed something else up. I know, that is a real shock. She was wonderful as she knew my trademark patience was gone. To make this LONG story short, I got a standby seat on the 9:00, that had been delayed, and when they called my name I cheered. By the time I got to bed that night, I had been in transit for 22 HOURS!!!!! I think when I called a Delta supervisor, who gave me 5,000 frequent flier miles for my horror, I called the nightmare "Horrendous ineptitude" and she agreed. I still have to call them again with the US Air and cab debacle. I want my 50 bucks back!!!!

I learned that I cannot stand New York because of the utter rudeness of the people there. Granted, there had been delays and cancellations from the previous day, but they were just NASTY!!! Not only did they snap at me a few times, but passengers who were having the same problems were getting brushed off and snapped at. Note to self, avoid JFK and Delta at all costs. Walk, run, crawl to your destination if you have to, just DON'T FLY DELTA!!!!!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Viva Las Vegas!!

The blog is taking next week off as I head on a much needed vacation to Las Vegas. My wife has to be there on business and since Monday is our second anniversary, the company told her to take me along. Other than doing a spot on WCAT's new weekly talk show, I will not be anywhere near a computer for a week.

Speaking of my beloved wife. I cannot believe it has been two years that we have been married. I am not the easiest person in the world to deal with. I tend to talk sports 24/7, and at times don't say much at home. This isn't because I don't want to talk to her; sometimes I just don't have much to say. She has put up with this, my long hours during various seasons, and my absence from home while coaching Little League. When it comes to Little League, she realizes that it not only gets me out of the house for some rare exercise, but she realizes that coaching kids is part of who I am and what makes me tick. For this, and so many other countless things is why I love this woman as much as I do. Guys like me just aren't supposed to get this lucky in life. Thankfully I am that exception. I love you honey.

My heroes-Shane and Mac:

I will admit, that I have had my share of people I look up to in this crazy life of mine. When I was a kid it was Kirby Puckett, Cal Ripken, and Rod Carew. Currently, I have two idols and they are both kids.

Many of you know the story of Mackenzie Pratt, the Lamoille High School three sport star who is recovering from cancer. Mac has had to endure countless chemotherapy treatments for the disease which came back late last year. It isn't just the fact that Pratt is beating this
horrible disease, it is the way she is doing it. I talked with Pratt before doing the Lamoille/U-32 basketball game, and she has an attitude that is simply contagious. She smiles, she laughs, she jokes, and is bound and determined to beat this disease. There are so many superlatives that have been used to describe her. Mainly words like "courageous", "determined" and "fearless" come to mind from all whom I have talked to about Mac. She will talk about her fight, and when talking to her, you can see the pure determination in her eyes when it comes to beating cancer.

One of the best moments of my broadcasting career came in the final moments of the Lamoille/Mount Abe Division II title game at the Aud in Barre. Mac took part in warmups, and was on the bench for the final. With the game in hand, coach Tim Messier inserted Mac into the game for the final minute. When she took off her warmups and went to the scorers table, the Aud went nuts. When she entered the game, not only did the Lamoille fans give her a standing ovation, but Mount Abe's fans and players did as well. After the game WDEV's Rich Haskell who was broadcasting the game said he had never cheered on the air before; when Mac got into the game, he came close. I on the other hand am not as professional in that respect and caught myself wanting her to score. When she missed, I was bummed. When she got her hands on the championship trophy, I literally had tears in my eyes.

Shane Bergeron is a kid whom I have the pleasure of coaching in the Center City Little League. Shane is in remission from Hodgkins Disease, but is playing first base and pitching for my beloved Red Sox. At a benefit for Shane, he was walking around collecting donations, but there was a catch to it of course. If you wanted to rub Shane's bald head, you had to donate. Looking at him, you could tell he was sick, but he sure wasn't acting it. With protective big sister Molly at his side, Shane talked to everyone, but didn't seem to understand why all of the attention was being given to him. Let me tell you why. Shane is one of those kids who when my wife and I have kids, I want them to be like. He is quiet, articulate, perfectly mannered, and SMART. Not only does he understand the game of baseball, but he understands the game of life more than us adults ever will. This of course is with the exception of his parents.

Jeff is the head coach of the Center City Red Sox and along with his wife have had to endure the worst nightmare of any parent. I was talking to Jeff last night during our 5-5 tie with Colchester, and he said that when Shane was diagnosed, it just didn't seem real to him
that his son had cancer. He said Shane had just got done with all-stars and the family was gearing up for a fun summer; then reality hit and it hit hard. Instead of playing all summer, research had to be done on the disease; planning had to be done for treatments, and the
reality of the situation had to sink in. Shane is fighting this disease and beating it because of his parents. I don't know Jeff's wife well, but I have gotten to know Jeff well in the last year or so.

Jeff will not allow Shane to not beat cancer. Jeff rides Shane harder than any of the kids on the team, but only because he wants Shane to be a normal kid. Guess what Jeff, I hate to break it to you, but your son is far from normal; he is exceptional. His attitude is contagious, and in some of the things I have had to overcome in life, I thought I had guts. What Shane and your family have had to go through, and the way you have done it makes things I have dealt with look like a hang nail.

In between Shane and Mac, I hope I can handle adversity like this close to the way they have. Yes, I will admit, there are kids who I look up to.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Opening Day with Center City

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, a gorgeous Saturday in Burlington. The weather was stunning, and there was enough electricity in the air to power Burlington for a year. Yes folks, it was Opening Day in the Center City Little League.

This is something that took MONTHS of planning. Brian Pine, who is the new president of the league, took on a herculean task in organizing what had to be the best Opening Day in my three years in the league. We had Champ, we had tons of food, we had Mayor Kiss tossing out the first pitch, and man alive, the kids looked great.

I have been coaching in the Old North End for three years now, and will coach there when I have kids and my kids have kids. These are kids who live in one of the poorest areas in Vermont, but they have a spirit about them that is second to none. I got to Roosevelt Park at around 9:30, and there were already a dozen kids throwing a ball around. Mind you, the Opening Ceremonies didn't start until 11:00. The kids were in full uniform, and were already chomping at the proverbial bit to have their pictures taken, eat hot dogs, and to meet Champ. The pure joy in the kids eyes was just unreal. All these kids want to do is to play. It doesn't matter to them if they win or lose, they just want to get out and play with their friends.

I remember being a kid out in my hometown of Lafayette, California and getting geared up for Opening Day. We had ceremonies like Center City does, but we had a parade through downtown Lafayette. We would all gather with our teams, get in the back of pickup trucks, and scream and yell for the entire town to see. It was the one time that a kid, being me, who didn't play much, who wasn't that good, got to feel like a superstar. Hopefully that is the feeling the kids of Center City had on Saturday morning.

When it came to the opening game between my Red Sox and the Yankees, man alive the kids were jazzed up. The work we had put in so we could all show off for the neighborhood was going to be shown off for everyone. The Yankees, who were expected to win the battle between the two teams in Center City, were given a pretty good run. We were down by nine going into the fourth, but my guys were not going to give up. We put up a five spot in the fourth, and then pressed on to make it a game. We ended up losing 13-7, or something like that, but to me the score didn't really matter. My guys just refused to give up, and for that I was as proud as could be. It is going to be one heck of a season, and the next five weeks are going to be a blast.

More as the season goes on.........

Vacation dilemma

Ok, small problem here that I am allowing the loyal two or three readers of this blog to decide for me. As some of you know, I am headed to Las Vegas next Sunday for a much needed week of vacation. Delta has changed my itinerary so instead of 90 minutes in Cincy and about the same in Salt Lake, I now have 30 minutes in Cincy and 40 in Salt Lake. Now, bear in mind that I have a torched knee and need wheelchairs to get me from gate to gate.

Here is the decision that needs to be made. Do I risk it and keep the flights what they are now, or change them. The alternative is a Burlington/Atlanta/Vegas trip that would give me a four hour layover at Hartsfield. Decisions!! I hate decisions!! (No comment from my dear and adoring wife who knows these decisions just kill me.)

Any suggestions for Vegas? I am writing two articles while I am there. One on the Las Vegas 51's of the Pacific Coast League, and another where I will enter as many FREE slot tournaments as I can while my beloved wife is working.

Oh, and if anyone has comps they would like to throw my way so I can take my gorgeous and wonderful wife out to dinner for our anniversary, I do take donations. It will be two years for us on May 14th, and I still can't believe she has put up with me for this long. I still wonder how a guy like me got as lucky as I did in marrying her.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Return of the Utica Wreckers

For those who are fans of basketball parody, especially that of the ABA, below is the latest from CBA historian Chuck Miller. Chuck is a freelance writer who is currently researching the old Eastern League. The ABA is a comedy show in itself, and Chuck has made it even more so in his latest musings comparing the ABA to the troubled USBL. Enjoy. Copied from

After what their press releases deemed as a "truly successful and unchallenged season in the ABA," the uncrowned champion Utica Wreckers have announced that they will enter the USBL.

Fans of the most popular ABA franchise not run by a Sports Illustrated reporter will thrill at the skills of 53-year-old center Schultz Dooley, full-blooded Native American forward Tyree Elk Deer, multi-sport cross-checking forward Sylvain Lemieux; nine-year-old point guard Purlie Scarvin; 15-time NBA champion head coach Bill Corona; the colorful dance team "Utica Mary and the Wrecked'em," the ultra-exciting mascot "Pickup," and the team's all-time leading scorer, a starting point guard that goes under the nickname of "Magpie."

"The USBL is folding faster than the underwear in my clothes closet," said team owner and starting point guard Joe Newman, "And this is the chance we've been waiting for to claim our second championship. You know, in the ABA we were undefeated against all teams that played us ethically and fairly - there were some franchises that did not understand what ethical and moral meant, and we don't count games against those as having been played. Meanwhile, we're going to assume the remaining schedule for one of the USBL teams - can't remember which one, maybe it's those NEPA Breakers who thought they could go it without us - and prove that we are the unstoppable force of minor league basketball."

The Wreckers have already claimed a 6-0 record in the USBL by assuming wins against New Jersey, Long Island and Jackson. "We were willing to play them, but they didn't show up. So we take the wins and that already puts us in first place," said Newman.

The Wreckers' first game in the USBL is scheduled to be against the Albany Patroons on Sunday, May 5th. More information to follow.