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Sports fans:  Round 1 of the NFL draft is tonight!  As Dave Barry explained in Funny Times, “The month’s biggest event is the National Football League draft, which draws 32 million viewers, who tune in to witness the high-voltage excitement of Roger Goodell walking to a microphone every 10 minutes to read a name.  Kind of like a slower version of Bingo.”

Speaking of Bingo, 40 years ago that was my job on Tuesdays.  Every 52 seconds for an hour, I called a number on TV.   The story is this month’s 100 Moons article.



The Chicago Cubs were in town this week, and I worked for the visiting broadcaster.  During our preparations for the telecast, “the lead-off man” was frequently mentioned.  At first I thought the Cubs’ Dexter Fowler was being discussed, but it turned out they were talking about WGN’s 15-minute pregame show, called The Hyundai Lead-Off Man.

I’m reminded of certain telecasts I worked in Cleveland some years back.  The producer said, “It’s a seven o’clock game, so game time is at 6:30.”  That made no sense until I realized that the pregame show was illogically titled Game Time.

Why confuse the viewers?  Why not simply call it Indians Pregame?  Or, if you want a less obvious title, borrow from other sports and call it Indians Tipoff or Drop the Puck or Hyundai Hyuddle.

Or borrow from other genres and call it Prelude or Sinfonia or Foreword or Preamble.

It’s only a name.



Exactly 80 years ago tonight, a man and a woman met in New York.  They had nothing to say to each other.  But then, he pulled something from his pocket.

You’ll find this little drama in my new article, I’m Your Best Friend!  Get Lucky!

APRIL 16, 2015


I never much liked the look of suspenders, especially when worn over a T-shirt.  Nevertheless, I did occasionally dress that way in my younger days.

And now, in my older days, I’ve had to start using suspenders again.

You see, as an adult I’ve always held up my pants with a belt.  The theory is that the belt goes around the narrowest part of one’s torso, the waist (X).  It won’t slide down over the hips because the hips are wider.

However, sad to say, the narrowest part of my torso is no longer my waist.  It's now my chest (Y).  I can’t pull my pants up that high.  The top of my pants only reaches the widest part of my torso (Z).  If my belt is located there, I have to struggle to pull it very tight and compress my flab as much as possible.  Otherwise, the pants will slide right off (green arrow).

I finally got tired of tightening my belt and went back to suspending my pants from straps over my shoulders.  That’s easier than trying to reduce the flab, a goal which I’ve been unable to achieve anyway.



Atheists don’t believe in God.  But do they actively hate God?  Why bother?  To them, he doesn’t even exist.   How about the Ten Commandments?  Do atheists hate the Ten Commandments?

Some Christians fear their faith is the target of such hatred.  I disagree, in a sermon on Hate Speech. 



The seasons of winter sports (like basketball and hockey) begin in one calendar year and end in the next.  We customarily label a season like that by mentioning both years, separated by a hyphen.  For example, suppose that during the current season of 2014-2015, Current Phenom is closing in on 200 blocked shots.  TV graphics might prepare a table like this.

To improve the graphic, I wish we were allowed to reduce the clutter by listing only the second year.  After all, the date of the championship tournament is -2015, not 2014-2015.  We could retain the hyphen to indicate that we’re citing the deciding year.  And while we’re at it, we could save more space by dropping the digits that indicate the century; it’s not like we’re risking another Y2K meltdown.  Wouldn’t this be easier to read?



All the college basketball excitement this week is about the NCAA Division I men’s tournament.  Here in the Pittsburgh area, locals had been following the fortunes of Robert Morris University and West Virginia University, until those teams were eliminated by Duke and Kentucky respectively.

But there are many other tournaments going on, for smaller schools as well as the NIT and for women as well as men.  We’ve still had teams to root for.

Three years ago, I described televising games after driving all the way to California — which is only a 60-mile trip.  California University of Pennsylvania is located in the Monongahela River town of California, PA.  This year, the CalU women’s team made it to the Elite Eight of NCAA’s Division II, played in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  And the Vulcans won it all!  With an 86-69 victory in the final game Friday night, they claimed their second Division II national championship in 11 years.

On Saturday afternoon, another nearby school, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, almost won it all.  IUP was the runner-up in the men's Division II tournament for the second time in five years.

Both games were televised nationally on the CBS Sports Network.  I watched the CalU women's game; it was fun, with a lot of scoring.  There wasn’t much defense.  Players were frequently able to quickly dribble past their defenders and score on driving layups.  But contrary to some women’s games I’ve televised, these players actually made those layups, and they were deadly on jump shots.

The venue was the 3,250-seat Sanford Pentagon.  When I heard the name, I guessed correctly that it was a five-sided building, but I guessed incorrectly that it must be in Sanford, Florida.  Actually, this Sanford refers to Sanford Health, a medical facility in Sioux Falls.

The Pentagon, home to a pro team in the NBA’s D-League, opened only a year and a half ago.  Although its design includes modern amenities in the corners like luxury suites and a huge video board, it’s supposed to be a throwback to the look of old-time basketball gyms.

For example, it was not until the 1951-52 season that the NBA widened its lanes from six feet to twelve.  The Pentagon’s blue rectangle reminds us of the old days, when the lines on the floor resembled a keyhole and the spot we now call the “top of the circle” was known as the “head of the key.”  (However, I think they erred:  the blue rectangle is only four feet wide.)

A couple of other features remind me of my high school gym, constructed in 1939:  the parquet floor, and the scoreboard with a round analog clock.  In this case the clock has only a second hand, protected from errant basketballs by a wire screen.  For the minutes, one has to consult the digital display.  But the periods are still indicated by light-up numbers 1 2 3 4.  Ah, the good old days.



Like shooting fish in a barrel:  What do the old movies Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? have in common?

Highlight the following text to view the answer:  Both titles contain exactly 25 letters.  (So does the simile about fish in a barrel.)

Crossword constructor Eric Albert took advantage of this obscure fact (which, as you know, also applies to Return of the Killer Tomatoes as well as the Food and Drug Administration) before he added cross words to the oversized 25x25 grid that I puzzled out last week.



Tonight in the NCAA basketball tournament, the Chanticleers (from Big South champion Coastal Carolina) will play the Badgers (from Big Ten champion Wisconsin).

“Chanticleers,” huh?  I remember that the term comes from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, where it’s the name of a proud rooster.  So I looked up Chaucer’s description of the bird, which includes these lines:

His coomb was redder than the fyn coral,
And batailled as it were a castel wal;
His byle was blak, and as the jeet it shoon;
Lyk asure were his legges and his toon;
His nayles whitter than the lylye flour,
And lyk the burned gold was his colour.

Or in modern English:

His comb was redder than the fine coral
And notched with battlements like a castle wall;
His bill was black, and like the jet stone it shone;
Like azure were his legs and his toen;
His nails whiter than the lily flower,
And like the burnished gold was his color.

Hold on, thought I.  Azure means sky blue.  Was that really the color of his toen — excuse me, his toes?  I never saw a blue-legged bird.  I never hope to see one.

Nevertheless, apparently a few such breeds exist.  On the right is one of them:  the French hen called poulet de Bresse, “the queen of poultry and the poultry of kings.”

These birds are said to display the red, white and blue of the French flag, including their pale blue-gray “landing gear” (as my old friend the Air Force veteran Art Plantz would have called their chicken legs).


Whilst Googling this poulet, I discovered some more oddities.

There's a service area named Poulet de Bresse on highway A39 in France.

This photo shows the southbound exit ramp to the rest stop.  The caption notes:  “On the left, the biggest chicken in the world.”

Sure enough, in a traffic circle next to the parking lot stands a 65-foot-tall sculpture made of one-foot-diameter stainless steel tubing.

I also note with approval the barrier at the point where the pavements diverge.  Probably made of a flexible material, it looks safer than our American steel signs on steel posts, non?

Where was I?  Oh, to get back to Chaucer's rooster, I note that Coastal Carolina’s team colors are teal (similar to “azure”) and bronze (similar to “burnished gold”).

And this fall their football team is going to start playing on a teal field!


MARCH 15, 2015    SELMA

The nation and I were watching on television 50 years ago tonight.

“What happened in Selma,” President Lyndon B. Johnson told a joint session of Congress, “is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America.  It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

“Their cause must be our cause, too.  Because it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

“And we shall overcome!  



A knot that attaches the loose ends of two pieces of rope is called a splice.

A hundred years ago, according to my old hometown's Richwood Gazette:  “Clergymen and justices, known as splicers, who tie the matrimonial knot are the latest sufferers from the national war tax.  To each marriage certificate they hand out must be attached a 10-cent revenue stamp.”

Another edition of the newspaper noted that local resident Al Hamilton “has written a number of very pretty pieces.”  Sheet music was available at M.F. LaRue's music store for Al's latest song, “Let the Parson Tie Cupid's Knot and Splice Your Name to Mine.”

Fifty years ago, as a Richwood High School student I wrote some parody lyrics that speak disparagingly about splices that, for self-centered reasons, remain imperfectly intertwined.

Men!  Let's rebel!  To your wives no longer cling.
You cannot tell all the cares and woes they bring.
Wives are selfish, and they're oppressive;
They complain and nag all the time.
... For the married man is a harried man.

Wives!  Let them go!  Men are cads, selfish and cruel.
You surely know how they use you as a tool.
Husbands want to make all decisions;
They impose on you their own will.
... There is no worse life than to be a wife.

On a related subject, my lyrics also deplored the liberation of women.  “Damsels in distress have a charm that makes men want to help them all they can.  But today's females have gained all the rights that the males have, so they don't need any man to help them.  Girls today are not the same!”

These subversive songs are in this month’s 100 Moons article.




The memory still haunts me, half a century later.  There I was, in front of the whole school, misapplying a quotation from a classic drama.  How embarrassing!

Richwood High School would sometimes take a few minutes out of its week for a pep rally.  Actually, I think we had to give up the last third of our lunch period.  We’d assemble in the gymnasium and the cheerleaders would challenge us to express vocal support for our athletes, in hopes that we would be similarly enthusiastic at the big game that night.  A little humorous entertainment was also included.


As nearly as I can reconstruct the incident, the cheerleaders had recruited me for a skit.  Sitting on a stool at midcourt, I introduced another character, who was supposed to enter from my left.  His entrance was slightly delayed for some reason.

In mock frustration over his absence, I cried, “Wherefore art thou?!”  My ad-lib was badly chosen.

Most of my audience probably didn’t realize it, but wherefore does not mean “where.”

It means “why.”

So Juliet doesn’t call out, “Where are you, Romeo?”  She wonders, “Of all possible names, why are you ‘Romeo’?”

In defense of my audience and myself, in daily life we are no longer required to know the meaning of wherefore.  The word is now considered archaic.  I think we should expunge it from Shakespeare’s play, where it hampers our modern understanding.

Our heroine walks out onto her balcony and, as young girls will, toys with the name of the boy on whom she has a crush.  “Oh, Romeo!  Roam-eeeh-ohhh.  Why are you ‘Romeo’?  Deny your father and change your name.

“Or else tell me you love me, and I’ll change my name.  I’ll no longer be a Capulet.  I’ll be Mrs. Romeo Montague.  Mrs. R.M.  ‘Juliet Montague.’  Doesn’t that sound much classier than ‘Juliet Capulet’?  I always detested that et-et rhyme.

“What do names mean, anyway?  We call this flower a ‘rose,’ but if we called it a ‘stinkbloom’ it would smell just as sweet, wouldn’t it?  Ay me!”