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July 14 District 12 Tournament -- Nottingham wins No. 24!
Sunnybrae runner Tony "T-Bird" Bencivengo and Nottingham shortstop James Werosta both anxiously await the umpire's call during the hectic sixth inning in tonight's District 12 final (Photo by John Blaine/purchase photos by e-mailing jbsportsphoto@aol.com). 

After Nottingham survived Sunnybrae's sixth-inning ruckus, the Square Boys quickly went into celebration mode after winning a district championship (Photo by John Blaine/purchase photos by e-mailing jbsportsphoto@aol.com). 
Click here for more photos of the 2011 District 12 final
Nottingham wins second district title in three seasons
By Rich Fisher
Fish4Scores.com
            July 14: They’re baaaack!
            In a scene that Mercer County and surrounding areas are starting to (unwillingly) get used to again, Nottingham Little League’s 12-year-old All Stars celebrated the 24th District 12 championship in league history with a 9-5 victory over Sunnybrae tonight at Sayen Field.
            After winning its third straight in 2002, Nottingham went on the longest district title drought of its history by not winning one for six years. But tonight gives the Sayen Gang two Jim Davis trophies in the last three summers and puts them in Monday’s Section 3 Tournament in Tinton Falls.
            Not to be forgotten was the effort of Sunnybrae, which made it to the 12-year-old finals for just the second time in 50 years. The Yardville gang pushed Nottingham to the limit despite not playing with one of its top players – injured Jake Beyer – throughout the tournament.
            And trailing 9-3, Sunnybrae still kicked up a late fuss before Nottingham finally nailed it down in front of another gigantic crowd.
            Led by Matt Ricci, who came in with something to prove after being knocked out in the first inning by the ‘’Brae on Wednesday, Nottingham had a big enough cushion to hold on.
            Ricci came out and struck out the side in each of the first two innings while racking up eight Ks on the night. He also provided plenty of offense in celebrating his Trentonian Athlete of the Week award in style.
            Ricci and Justin Keegan wreaked havoc from the three-four hole in the lineup, combining to go 5-for-6 with two walks, four RBIs and two runs scored.
            Nottingham took a 3-0 lead in the second inning, although there was a scary moment during the uprising. After Austin Oldfield and Matt Coiante sandwiched walks around Thomas Persichetti being hit by a pitch, Ricci drilled a frightening line drive off the left forearm of Sunnybrae pitcher Ryan Mostrangeli.
            One run scored on the play and Mostrangeli, who could have been seriously hurt had the ball gone a few feet another way, gutted it out and moved to shortstop. Reliever Tony “T-Bird” Bencivengo was promptly greeted by a two-run single from Keegan.
            Nottingham added a run in the third when Tony Morency singled and scored on Andrew Moticha’s double. In the fourth, Ricci doubled, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Keegan’s single.
            Sunnybrae, which won this tournament as 11-year-olds last year, proved they had a heart of a champion by coming back with three in the fourth. Bencivengo crushed a two-run homer and one out later, Charlie Geiger hit one out for the second straight night.
            Sorely in need of a shutdown inning, however, the ’Brae could not get it as Nottingham scored four in the fifth to get enough insurance. Sam Guarino singled and scored on an error, Moticha walked and scored on Persichetti’s ground out, Werosta reached on an error and scored on an error and Coiante doubled and scored on a wild pitch.
            Sunnybrae then tried to rally, but Coiante came in from right field to close it out, starting a joyous celebration by the Square Boys.
            A celebration that has been pretty familiar over the decades. 

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FISH TALES
(Temporarily known as Charlie Inverso's blog)

July 12 2014

Views from Inverso

as the World Cup
reaches
title match

    July 12: Rider University men’s soccer coach Charlie Inverso is the former goalie coach for the U.S. Under-15 National team and has a keen understanding of international soccer.

      Inverso continues to share his thoughts with Fish4scores on this year’s World Cup as it prepares for Sunday’s championship game between Argentina and Germany.

       Of the two World Cup semifinals played this week, one will be talked about for the next 50 years, the other, probably for the next 50 minutes. If the semifinals needed a movie title, for sure, it would have to be The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

HOLLAND-ARGENTINA

      When the non-soccer fan says the sport of soccer is boring, they point to this game. And ya know what? They are right.

       ESPN studio analyst Santiago Scolari (who incidentally played a year of college soccer at Stockton State) says it was a great tactical game. Tactical-Schmacktical. I like Scolari but this game was a bore and atypical of this great World Cup.

GERMANY-BRAZIL

       Shock, dismay, surreal… the list of words goes on and on to describe the utter disbelief that the entire world experienced watching Germany dismantle five-time world champion Brazil. It was like being at a beauty contest and hearing the host announce the winner is Joan Rivers (Hey Joan, did you get the license plate number of that plastic surgeon that hit you?).

       We had mentioned that this German machine, like a deadly virus can take you down slowly, painfully and clinically. We all knew that to be true but no epidemiologist in the world could have predicted this.

       Losing Neymar was a national disaster but the loss of Thiago Silva, the captain, caused a colossal amount of damage to unbalance Brazil’s defense. In addition, the Brazilians were mentally weak right from the start and seemed to have given up after going down 4-0.

       After that historic 29 minute Blitzkrieg where the Germans scored four times, they proceeded to reduce the Brazilians to look like the “skin” team in a Manfred Schellscheidt organized pick-up game. Germany could have given Sergeant Schultz from Hogan's Heroes or a Billy Seiler-trained Rich Fisher a run in midfield and it wouldn’t have mattered.

        Despite the joy of watching this German machine it was sad to see the greatest team in the history of international soccer taken apart like a cheap watch. It was like watching an aging Sinatra forget the lyrics to My Way or seeing a washed up Nolan Ryan only able to hit 69 mph on the radar with his fastball.

REFLECTION OF SOCIETY

     I have to laugh when my German friends say their team may be too soft to win the World Cup.   
     Soft, are you kidding me?

     This team is a great reflection of the entire country of Germany, a fabulous society. The Germans are sharp, cunning and calculated.

      I have been to Germany three times and I find the people to be extremely warm but there is a killer instinct to this soccer team.

      For example, midfielder Mesut Ozil, missed an easy chance late in the game and could have made the score 8-0. Reports had it that fellow midfielder Bastian Schwinsteiger got right up in his face for missing the chance that seconds later caused them to concede a goal.    
       That is Michael Jordan-Larry Bird style of cold and calculated.

POSSESSION IS
9/10ths OF THE LAW

     In soccer this should be reworded to say “possession with the intent to score is 9/10 of the law”. The Germans did it, Argentina, Brazil and Holland (despite having some of the best players on the planet) did not. Possession is nothing significant unless you are trying to get in behind the defense to score.

       Both Holland and Argentina could have gotten their forwards or wide players to take up high, wide starting positions to try to get behind the defenders or have their forwards, from a central position, make wide scooping runs to get in behind.

       Brazil almost always owns possession and has fun doing it.

      Not against Germany.    
      They were chasing from opening whistle to the end.

‘KEEPER DIFFERENCE

      The top seven goalkeepers in this tournament, in my opinion have been Manuel Neuer (Germany), Thibault Courtois (Belgium), Tim Howard (USA), Keylor Navas (Costa Rica), Memo Ochoa (Mexico), Hugo Lloris (France) and despite only playing in two games the legendary Italian, Gigi Buffon.

       You may think I am crazy but if the goalkeepers were switched in the Brazil-Germany game the score probably would have been more like 5-3.
       Julio Cesear certa inly was not at fault for any of the goals but any of the keepers listed above might have been able to save a few. The same can be said for the penalty kicks taken by Argentina which makes the Louis van Gaal strategy to switch keepers vs. Costa Rica look more genius like.

       Look for Germany to have a big advantage with Neuer in goal Sunday.

WHO’S COOLER

THAN MULLER?

      Is there anyone in the modern game who has a cooler persona than German standout Thomas Muller? He possesses an impeccable sense of humor, runs a charitable foundation for children who have experienced trauma and bereavement and he is married to a super model.
        Oh, and by the way he is just 24 and has scored 10 goals in 12 World Cup matches.

       OK, a close second in the cool department is Manuel Neuer. He is recognized as probably the greatest goalkeeper in the World, AND, he was a character voice for the German version of Monsters University.

         I wonder if they had to change Mike and Sully’s names to Gunner and Wolfgang?

WILL BRAZIL LEARN?

        When most countries experience a meltdown OR when they finally feel a need for a wakeup call, they recreate their system of player development. This happened to Germany 14 years ago and look how it turned out. Portugal, France and most recently Spain and Belgium all did the same and it produced renaissance results.

       The only step missing for us in the US is a revamped system of player development. I hope to talk more about this in a post World Cup blog.

      I wonder what Brazil, who created The Beautiful Game as a way of life is thinking now?

KLOSE ENCOUNTER

OF THE 16th KIND

      I will admit, I was wrong when I said I didn’t think Miroslav Klose would break the all-time World Cup goal scoring record. He did.

       What a fitting tribute to a typical German pro who just goes about his business in the right way. With the tumultuous environment surrounding the one sided German win, Klose’s phenomenal achievement almost went unnoticed.

STEVE McMANNIMAN

       I love the sharp, cutting edge game critique from former England/Real Madrid midfielder Steve McManaman. But if you cannot understand him half the time, join the club. ESPN needs to consider closed captions to help the Liverpudlian accent impaired.

WHAT TO EXPECT

WHEN EXPECTING
A GOOD GAME

        We need a good World Cup final on Sunday!

      You will get one.

     Argentina will play in three tight layers of defense and probably give way to the Germans to possess the ball. When Argentina wins the ball they have the best creator in the world to turn to but I am not sure that they will purposely sit in, win the ball and then counter.

        Germany made great adjustments when they moved Phillip Lahm out of the midfield and put him at right back, removed Per Mertesacker out of the center back position and started playing Klose as a center forward using Ozil and Muller as their natural left and right wing positions.

       What this game needs more than anything is an early goal. If it is scored by Argentina, all the better for the energy and attacking mentality of the game. The Germans will then mount an all-out assault on the Argentine goal and they have the arsenal to make it a classic attack.

        If Germany scores first and the Argentines are sitting in, it will force them out of a defensive posture into attack mode. Championship games are often defensive so let’s really hope for an early goal to mix this up.

IT COULD GET MESSI

(A PLACE IN HISTORY)

         Lionel Messi has some pressure on him for Sunday. He has been criticized for not carrying his weight when playing for his home country, been often compared to Argentine icon Diego Maradona and even been removed by many as the world’s greatest player. This leaves a lot of incentive for the incredibly gifted Messi. If one player can step up to make a difference, it is him.

         It has been a long, tough month in the Brazilian heat. Germany has incredible depth but still the heat can still take its toll on a European squad. Plus, Germany is the clear favorite in the game which often times causes them (even the even tempered German’s) to be tight. Watch for this to be a factor also.

       I hope for and anticipate a highly energetic game. Let’s hope the fans get their money’s worth and see a highly entertaining game.

       I have Germany in a 3-1 victory.

       Let me know who you have winning by emailing me at ci142@aol.com

THE GREATEST GAME

     If you never saw what I think may be the greatest World Cup game ever type in at You Tube videos: Battiston vs. Schumacher: Infamous moments. It is a 6-minute video of France vs. Germany in the 1982 semifinal highlighted by the German GK Toni Schumacher with a Lawrence Taylor-like hit on French forward Patrick Battiston.

RIP KEVIN KINNEVY

       Rest in peace, Kevin Kinnevy and enjoy the final. If I close my eyes I can still see you running around with the German (GAK) uniform on your back.

 

July 7, 2014

Inverso sizes up

semis match-ups

and adds other

World Cup tidbits

      July 7: Rider University men’s soccer coach Charlie Inverso is the former goalie coach for the U.S. Under-15 National team and has a keen sense of the inner-workings of what goes on with the U.S. team as well as with goalkeepers.
      Inverso was kind of enough to share his thoughts for the second straight week on the World Cup with Fish4score, as he analyzes the upcoming semifinals and gives his thoughts on U.S. goalie Tim Howard.

      July 7: What a great World Cup it has been!

      We all should be very proud of the effort and gutsy display showed by our guys last Tuesday against Belgium. The US national team provided this country with a buzz and a lot of excitement that should definitely help the sport to continue to grow.
        Kudos to Jurgen Klinsmann and his team for a great showing.

       We got everything we talked about last week and more. Near misses (Holland hits the post three times vs. Costa Rica), goalkeeper saves (Tim Howard of the US and Keylor Navas of Costa Rica) and more attempts on goal than any World Cup in recent history.

       But the best is still to come.

CLASSIC MATCHUPS

       The U.S. is out of the tournament but there are a lot of amazing players and three great games left to see. Arguably the four greatest soccer nations in history remain and they all have a storied past in this tournament.

     *Ten of the past 14 World Cups were won by three of the countries still left, along with Holland --   the quintessential bridesmaid.

     *Nine of the past 14 World Cup runners-up are countries still left.

     *Four teams left, two from the Eastern Hemisphere, two from the Western Hemisphere.

      *Five of the top eight leading scorers are still left,

     The Brazil vs. Germany matchup is an absolute classic.

     Brazil has not lost a home game in a major tournament since Joe Fink was listening to Frampton Comes Alive  on an eight-track tape player in 1975.

      However, they are facing a dangerous German machine that, like a deadly virus, takes you out slowly, painfully and clinically.

     The climate heavily favors Brazil but they will not have an antidote for the loss of Neymar, Brazil’s marquee player, and Thiago Silva. The center official lost control early of the Colombia-Brazil game and it was too late to prevent the onslaught of fouls, one of which took out Neymar.

       Also, coaches and parents, the next time you see a young kid do something foolish on the field consider this.
      Tiago Siva, who scored Brazil’s first goal and is the captain of the greatest soccer nation of all time cannot play in the semifinal for an accumulation of yellow cards. How did he get the last one? For jumping in front of the Columbian goalkeeper when he was about to kick the ball. Dummkopf!

      The X factor could be in goalkeeping. Brazil is known for producing legendary creative players with charisma, not keepers.
         Germany’s Manuel Neuer is rated as the world’s top goalkeeper and his style is often contrary to his country’s conservative manner. Neuer often comes out of the penalty area to play the ball with his feet (21 times vs.Algeria) and this tactic might lend itself to some interesting consequences vs. Brazil.

KLOSE TO HISTORY
       German forward Miroslav Klose is one goal away from becoming the all-time scoring leader in the history of the World Cup. If Germany decides to play with a true center forward, we will have a chance to see history. But something tells me that the 36-year old Klose may not get the chance to break the record.

MERCER LOOK ALIKES

      It will be fun for anyone who played soccer in the late 70s and early 80s to notice the uncanny the resemblance between Klose and former GAK/Hamilton West striker John Wiener as well as that of German midfielder Bastian Sweinsteiger and another former GAK/Hamilton West star, Walt Biddulph.

THE OTHER MATCH-UP

     Another classic looms on Wednesday between two-time champion Argentina, which has the world’s greatest player in Lionel Messi, and the Dutch, who crushed defending champion Spain 5-1 in the first game and is 0-3 in World Cup finals.

      Argentina will be without Angel DeMaria who is Messi’s favorite target for a through ball. However they still have a great scoring threat in Gonzalo Higuain.

       Young players wanting to score goals should watch Higuain’s goal vs. Belgium. It was a  classic strike on goal. He had his back to the goal and took a shot that required two of the most difficult aspects of scoring a goal, a first time shot and hitting a bouncing ball.
      They are also two of the toughest shots for a goalie to handle.

       Holland has abandoned its classic 4-3-3 formation which is about as unexpected as Jo Jo’s resident Rutgers fanatic, Andrew Marinucci, wearing an orange Syracuse jersey.

       Every youth team in Holland grows up playing in a 4-3-3 but coach Louis Van Gal, who will be coaching Manchester United, has employed a 5-3-2. The guy knows what he is doing and will probably have something up his sleeve for Argentina.

      Still, Argentina has Messi and somehow he will find a way to get them to the final.

       A Brazil vs. Argentina final would be a match made in heaven but I am going with Germany vs. Argentina.

TV TIM(E)

       Move over Tony Soprano, Knucky Thompson and Jack Nicholson, New Jersey has a new tough guy superstar.

      Coming off his world class performance in Brazil don’t be surprised to see Tim Howard’s mug on TV a lot more. Look for Howard to become the new face of U.S. Soccer, which can only be good for the sport. His tattooed, bad guy look will be good for the image of the game. Plus, his story (raised by a single mom in North Brunswick and overcoming Tourette’s Syndrome) is a good one.

       Most of Howard’s saves against Belgium were from point blank range, which plays right into the wheelhouse of a ridiculous athlete like he is. Howard has an interesting style on those plays as he leans or ‘cheats’ to one side much like a goalkeeper would do on a penalty kick. Because of his freak athletic ability even when he guesses wrong he can still make the kick save, which he did against his Everton teammate Kevin Mireless.

       Look for Howard to still be around in 2018 in Russia. He will be battling Brad Guzan who will not bring the same flamboyant style but will be another in the long line of standout U.S. national team keepers. Ironically, both Howard and Guzan were both all state midfielders in high school, which backs up what master coach Manfred Schellscheidt always says -- "the goalkeeper is just another soccer player who is allowed to use his hands.”
      Howard also has some interesting local ties as his North Brunswick high school basketball team squared off against Steinert in a Central Jersey Group IV tournament final that Rich Fisher actually covered while working for a North Brunswick weekly paper (Fish actually covered Howard during his sophomore year and agreed with Manfred that he was an outstanding field player).

       The basketball game was played at Steinert in March, 1997 and marked a battle between a future World Cup goalie and future NBA player in Dahntay Jones.

     I was at that game as my wife, Lynne, taught Dahntay and I can attest that Tim held his own against Jones.

      Steinert, however prevailed and a few months later Howard signed a pro soccer contract. In the end it was Roger Bigos and Albert Mostrangeli’s stifling defense that probably frustrated Howard enough to force him to turn to soccer.
      And trust me, Al will try to take as much credit for Tim’s success as he can.

       Good for you Tim. I have never heard anyone say anything but good things about you.

HATE PENALTY KICKS?

      So do I. When I coached at Mercer we lost a National Championship final on PK’s and that dour feeling never goes away.

      I have a solution. If the World Cup final is tied, wait a week and play the entire game over. Can you imagine the money that would be generated by that rematch? And NOBODY loves money more than FIFA.

     Agree? Disagree? Email your thoughts on Charlie Inverso's blog to ci142@aol.com.

 

Jun. 30, 2014
Rider soccer coach

Inverso analyzes

World Cup as U.S.

awaits Belgium

    June 30: Rider University men’s soccer coach Charlie Inverso is the former goalie for the U.S. Under-15 National team and has a keen sense of the inner-workings of what goes on with the U.S. team. Inverso was kind of enough to share his thoughts on the World Cup with Fish4score, as the U.S. prepares to meet Belgium in the Knockout Round Tuesday.

      These views do not necessarily reflect those of Fish4scores, a non-purist/non-perfectionist fan who doesn’t care if America gets outplayed every game as long as the winning party continues!

        I have yet to come across the person, whether they are a casual fan or a die-hard, who has not raved about or at least enjoyed the 2014 World Cup.

       I must confess, I did not think we would get out of the group and I had my concerns about the player selection and lineup. But kudos to Jurgen Klinsmann, his staff and especially the players for the tremendous job they have done so far.

      The positive is that we beat the odds and got through the Group of Death but there is a huge side of me that feels empty. We have, as in 2010 and 2002 caught a ton of breaks and were decisively outplayed in two of our three games.
       Like many of us perfectionist/purists I just don’t want us to continue to win games from good old American guts and glory. I want us to outplay the other country like we did in three of our games in 2002.

      This is why I am really looking forward to an exciting game against Belgium.

     Belgium is a team that is experiencing a renaissance period with an influx of young, talented players that you will want to watch. More about them later.
     Here are some random thoughts I have had while watching nearly every game.

HEY WHAT ABOUT?
      A) Diving -
I absolutely hate it but it is a cultural thing and it probably won’t go away so why let it ruin the game for you?

      B) Biting - What a shame that a player with such skill and passionrobs us fans of his uncanny talent. I hope Suarez gets some help.

      C) Offsides - HATE IT. The AR (linesmen) is often too anxious to be a part of the show. I wish the rule called for a complete separation (except when going to goal vs. Rider) between the attacker and the defender.

      D) Commentators - Roberto Martinez is the best studio analyst we have ever had. Probably because he coaches in the best league in the world. What a difference from Ernie Johnson in the TBS studio in 1990. Michael Ballack and Ruud van Nistelrooy are also very good and wear cool suits.

       F) Straight Red Card - Sometimes it looks like the tackle did not deserve the red card and it was not a hard foul. It is hard to justify and accept having to play with one less player.

       I still like a good hard game but players are stronger than ever and there is NO protection out there. Shin guards are about as helpful as a helmet to a sky diver.

       The red card is a preventative measure and is meant to protect the more talented players from getting clobbered. Pele was useless in the 1962 World Cup because of vicious tackles so can you imagine how many times Messi would get chopped up if not for the red card rule?

       G) Lack of Scoring - This might end up being the highest scoring World Cup ever. Don’t worry about low scoring games, focus on the skill, speed of play and chances at goal. A great chance that is missed can be as exciting as a goal. Take for example Chile hitting the crossbar with less than five minutes to go that would have eliminated Brazil.

       Also, a great game to watch is when the better team is tied or trailing and is chasing the game to score. You will see chance after chance and it resembles a 30 minute power play.

       H) Best place to watch a game - In your living room on a 55 inch flat screen (God, I only wish) with the maximum of just two other people. Sorry Mike Scharibone.

THE PORTUGAL 55:
      
Rich Fisher has declared the Mercer County Athletics Christmas Eve Club to be the “Greatest Three Hours of the Year”. Well then, this was the “worst 55 seconds of the year” at the end of the tie with Portugal. Michael Bradley lost the ball in the midfield but it should never have even happened.

     If I could use a football analogy it would be as if you had the ball on your own 30 and instead of taking a knee (DeAndre Yedlin) you try to run a play and fumble. Then, instead of dropping everyone back, playing five defensive backs and defending the Hail Mary, you decide to blitz. This is coupled with the fact that the opponent has a receiver like Calvin Johnson.

        There should have been 10 players behind the ball but we gave the greatest player in the world (although he is only a 50 percent Ronaldo) a chance to show why he earned that title. An aerial camera shot also showed that Geoff Cameron, who was our best player vs. Ghana, was the other player to be vilified when it was actually Fabian Johnson who did not track his man.

        For you youngsters watching at home, if you want to score goals, get into the box. Silvestre Varela ran over 65 yards to get on the end of the insanely great Ronaldo cross to score probably the best (and most painful) goal of the tournament.

THE BRADLEY DEBATE:
     
I make no bones about it, I am a big Michael Bradley fan and despite his struggles I still consider him our catalyst.

      The US is playing three holding midfielders, which is like playing with three two-guards in basketball. Most teams play with an up midfielder or playmaker, a two way midfielder a defensive midfielder. Bradley is playing the up midfielder and, for me, is trying to do too much because we lack the variety in midfield personnel.

     What the people who are killing him don’t realize is that he has covered more ground than any midfielder in the World Cup. At any level, but particularly the international level, this is huge.

     Dempsey is the captain and the ultimate X factor but this team feeds off of Bradley and Tim Howard.

     I have known Michael since he was a baby but I haven’t talked to him in five years. Still, I don’t defend him because I know him but because he is the consummate pro. Anyone who thinks he should be yanked for the Belgium game is, pretty much a moron.

THOUGHTS ON BELGIUM:
       Belgium did not qualify for the previous two World Cups and have not reached the round of 16 since 2002. However they are experiencing a Golden Age in which they have stockpiled many young talented players who play the game with great skill and precision.

      Belgium schooled us in a pre-World Cup game last year and they are currently doing what I hope we can do some day and that is produce players who play regularly in some of the greatest teams in the world.

        They have 17 players playing in the three top leagues (England, Spain, Germany) in the world and an amazing 11 players playing for clubs ranked in the top 10 in the world. Not only will you enjoy the level of play but you will get a kick out of center midfielder Fellaini (Number 6) who looks like a cross between Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter and Harpo Marx. It is going to be a great contest and a great test to gauge our progress.

        I used to worry about the growth of soccer and its popularity. I don’t worry about this anymore because what this World Cup has proven is that Americans will watch the game and enjoy it if it is a good game with good players on display.

     Trust me, Tuesday will be top notch.

May 25, 2014

Grace-Mania runs

rampant at CJ III meet at Monmouth;
remembering dad
on Memorial Day

     May 25: There’s no getting around it. Grace Dwyer is becoming a freakin’ rock star.
      The Nottingham High sophomore destroys the stereotype. She’s quiet, humble, courteous, kind toward others and everything else that a rock star isn’t supposed to be.

     But she’s becoming one any way.

     After taking her second gold medal Saturday at this weekend’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III meet at Monmouth Regional High School, Dwyer stood under the bleachers getting ready for an interview and some middle aged guy walked by pumping his fist. “Great job Grace, awesome as usual!” She smiled and politely replied “Thank you!”

     “Who’s that guy?” I asked.

    “I don’t know,” came the answer with a shrug.

     It didn’t stop there. All through the interview, people were walking by yelling her name, barking congratulations, looking over at her as if just trying to catch a glimpse.

     I felt like a rock star just being the one to interview her, for cryin’ out loud.

    It was really cool.

    But was it ever expected?

    “I don’t know,” said the Amazing One. “I never really thought about it.”

    Which is why she is Grace Dwyer. Humble to the core as she runs her way through life and loves every minute of it. And more and more people are enjoying the ride, as was witnessed Saturday.

     Not just the strangers walking by, but the girls she is racing against, who can’t get mad at someone for beating them, when that same someone is encouraging them as they come across the finish line. And when she approaches those girls, some of their faces light up, like “Wow!”

      Whenever I text out the latest record that Grace sets, the re-tweets blow up. Not just from track people and not just from Nottingham people. They are kids from Steinert and Hamilton. . .they are football players and soccer stars.

      What is it about the Amazing One? What is this growing craze of Grace Mania?

     “Distance races aren’t easy,” said Nottingham coach Melissa “Shop ‘N Bag” Foley, who has impressively taken on the responsibility of preparing this rare young talent for a promising future. “You have to train to get to that level. You can’t skip out on the training aspect of it.

     “So people know you have to be a disciplined athlete . . . a disciplined person, period. You’re not going to get to this level if you’re not disciplined. So I think people appreciate that. . .and it’s fun to watch her.”

      But what makes it even more special is the person herself.

     It’s Grace being Grace – a rock star who doesn’t act like one.
     And from what I've seen so far, I don't see that ever changing.

 

* * * *

 

     It’s Memorial Day Weekend, one of my favorite times of the year.

      And yes, my friends will tell you a big part of that is the free beer and hot dogs at Nottingham Firehouse after Monday’s parade. And no, I can’t argue that.

      But I’m a big picture guy. And the big picture is, a lot of good men and women . .. A LOT . . . gave their lives so I can enjoy a sunny-day parade and all the fun that follows. Our country is safe and free because of those people, including my dad.

     Thankfully, he did not give his life in the line of duty. If he did, I wouldn’t be here. He served six years in the Navy during World War II – went out and enlisted right after Pearl Harbor like so many others.

      He regaled me with tales of his service days. But it’s not what you think. He never spoke of battles, or combat or danger.

     He spoke of his good buddy, Speedy Shantz of North Carolina, who I heard about so much I feel like he’s my good buddy (and who I always wanted to meet). He bragged about the women he was with, always joking I may have siblings all over the world that I knew nothing about (I just hope they’re rich and know about me when they die).

     But he never talked about “The War.”

     So up until he passed away nearly 10 years ago, I just thought World War II was one big party for Dick Fisher.

      After he left us, I had to go through his things. And I saw ribbons, and medals and accommodations and tons of other honors that smacked me over the head and said “Your father was a hero bud, but he never wanted to brag about it.”

    I got tears in my eyes looking at them, being impressed at how modest he was about it, but getting mad that he never let me appreciate what he did while he was alive. This guy put his life on the line time after time after time.

     I’m a true believer in The Greatest Generation – those who grew up with nothing due to the depression, and then went out and fought for a country that had treated it kind of badly up to that point. One of the greatest traits of that era was, they did what they had to do without feeling they were owed anything, or needed praise for their accomplishments.

      They did what they had to do, whether in war, or as little kids.

     My dad grew up during the depression with my Uncle Len – whom I curse both of them for making me a hopeless Phillies fan. He told me how he and Len and some other neighborhood kids would buy 10 baking potatoes for a nickel, put them in foil, dig a hole and light a fire to cook them. It would take a while so they would go off and play, then come back when they were done.

     One day their play time was interrupted by fire engines. They quit what they were doing and followed the red trucks to see the fire. It was a giant billboard up in flames. Beneath the billboard was a hole with 10 potatoes in foil sitting there.

      “What did you do?” I asked.

      “We waited for the fire engines to leave, then dug up our potatoes and ate them,” he said, adding the refrain I heard so often. “Hey, it was the depression.”

       Anyway, I wax eloquent about my dad for a reason. He is buried in the BG William C Doyle Veterans Cemetery in Arneytown, which is a suburb of the thriving metropolis of Wrightstown.

       If you have an ounce of patriotism in you, go visit that cemetery this Memorial Day weekend. Take my word for it, this is not some maudlin suggestion that I know sounds like it would be depressing. It is inspirational. It will give you chills. It’s like visiting Arlington National Cemetary on a smaller scale.

      They put flags at the gravesites of every person buried there. And it’s open space so there is usually a breeze, with thousands of flags blowing proudly. If it doesn’t move you in some way, then you’re just not American.

      I’m not saying go out of your way to do this. But it’s not too far off Route 195. If you’re in the area, just drive through. It takes 10 minutes. It’s awesome.

      Other than that, Happy Memorial Day everybody. Enjoy your picnics and golf games and trips to the shore and, of course, the Memorial Day Parade and the free beer and hot dogs that come with it.

     And take time to remember why we get to enjoy it all.

    I know I will.

May 11, 2014

Hey Liz Clifford:
You freakin' rock !

    May 11: First off, happy Mother’s Day to all you sports moms out there, especially Fish4scores Twitter Team moms Angela LaBelle, Kathy Hallam and Patti Astbury, and the Fish4scores photographer moms Donna “The Trooper” Brihn, Mary Malone, Nancy Eggert, Nancy McManimon and the newly arrived Karen Kontrath .

       Oh yeah, and to my mom too. Love ya mom!!

       OK, now that’s taken care of, let me just say there are some days where I absolutely cherish my job, and this is one of those days.

        All thanks to Nottingham High senior softball catcher Liz Clifford.

       This has nothing to do with last-second buzzer beaters, or a game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the seventh, or a guy running for 250 yards and five touchdowns.

       This goes beyond the field.

        So often, because what I do is cover and report on games, I only see high school kids as athletes. I sometimes forget, or disregard, that there are countless other sides to their lives.

        Which, I find curious, because my favorite part of being a sports writer is not attending athletic events, but dealing with so many different personalities and sharing laughs and stories and all that cool stuff. Of all the wonderful friends I am so lucky to have, a huge percentage have come from covering sports, which is proof positive there is more to the athlete than the games themselves, because I don’t go over their house and watch them play a game (unless Fantasy Football counts).

      Fortunately, there are times when I am reminded that the athletic part of the person is only a small percentage of the equation. When doing stories on scholarship winners, I see all the great things these kids do in their school and community that have nothing to do with a ball or puck or discus. Or when attending banquets, and getting to hear some of the marvelous things these kids do.

       Or days like today, when Liz Clifford knocked my socks off so effectively, I rushed home to write this blog so fast I almost forgot to pick up coffee at 7-11 . . .note the word “almost”.

        Today was Youth Day at my church. The youth took over all the roles usually performed by the adults (including giving me the day off as an usher. Thanks guys!).

        The biggest responsibility of the day fell to Clifford, who volunteered to give the sermon. And, as Youth Minister Doug Cornelius pointed out, this was done at the 8 a.m. service – the earliest of the day – so that’s even more impressive.

      (Of course we all know the real reason Liz did this is because Nottingham is playing Notre Dame in the Mercer County Tournament Monday, so she is doing what she can to even things up with the Big Man, right? Ha ha! Kidding!!!)

       Anyway, when I saw Liz’s name in the program – although her church goin’ name is Elizabeth, lol – I got very excited and nudged the guy next to me. “That’s the Nottingham softball catcher! I’ve interviewed her.” He nodded and gave an “Oh yeah?” but I detected his excitement level did not quite reach mine.

       Anyway, I always knew Liz was a good kid just from my interviews with her, and watching her interact with teammates. I knew nothing about her public speaking skills, however.

      Now I do.

      And Liz Clifford, you were freakin’ awesome!!!

      Liz stood before the congregation and delivered a message of faith, and how important faith has been to her life.  She gave unfortunate examples of how she nearly lost faith due to several difficulties earlier in life, but turned the sermon into one of positive re-enforcement by declaring how she regained her faith, how it got her though it all, and how it sustains her each and every day.

       She spoke fluidly, firmly, emotionally, eloquently and with purpose. There were no pauses, or “uhs”. Liz knew what she wanted to get across and did it so very well.

       It was tremendous. I sat there grinning with pride, as if I had anything at all the do with it. I wanted to stand up and say “I know her!”

      I didn’t, only because I imagined the conversation in the dugout before tomorrow’s game with ND.

      “Hey, you guys know that guy Fisher from Fish4scores? You should have seen what an idiot he made of himself yesterday.”

       “Really? Tell us all about it!”

       So, common sense took over and I sat and smiled, as did Liz’s mom. It was great. And even though I didn’t blurt it out in church, I will say it here and now. 

     I know Liz Clifford.

    And I’m darn proud to say it!

             * * * *

      OK, here’s a question. Are you ever in the bank, waiting for a really slow teller to complete your transaction, and suddenly become aware that there are cameras focused on you from every angle?

        I’ve been dealing with this ever since Roma was eaten up by Investors Bank. They are all new tellers who don’t know you by face, so they have to do a complete FBI background check in order to cash a $10 check.

       As time drags on, I get bored and look around and see all the cameras, and then I start to wonder. . .what do I do? How do they analyze a person?

      If I look at the teller, it makes it seem like I don’t trust them. If I stare over at someone else in line, it could be perceived as leering at a woman. If I cast a gaze toward the other employees, they might think I’m casing the joint for a hold-up. The same goes for looking up at the cameras themselves.

      What to do, what to do?

     And then the answer hits me.

       Just stand here you idiot. No one cares about you.

            * * * *

     Is there a more useless traffic light in Hamilton Township than the one on the corner of White Horse Road and Cypress Lane. It’s just after the YMCA/police station light and just before Killarney’s if you’re heading toward Klockner.

       I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop at that light while waiting for absolutely no one coming out of the side street. Then I have to wait another 15 seconds while the left traffic signal on the other side allows no one to make the left because no one is there.

      C’mon folks, this is the 21st century. Can’t we give these lights the ability to function based on the traffic that is there?

            * * * *

      Here’s something I wonder. In the three major sports that have seven-game playoff formats, no NBA team has ever come back to win a series down 3-0.   Only one has ever done it in baseball (and oh, how I loved that one), but four have done it in hockey, including two in the last four years when the Kings came back against San Jose last month.

       Why is that?

        The only thing I can think of is that a hockey goalie, more than any other individual position in sports, is the biggest difference maker. More than a quarterback and more than a pitcher. Especially a pitcher, whose contributions are limited to once every five days.

        A hot goalie can not only prevent a team from scoring, it can get in the heads of both teams. The team with the goalie starts to believe more in themselves, while the team being stymied starts to wonder. The momentum can switch quickly and then take off.

       So is that the reason?

Nope. It’s just my theory.    
      And I only watch hockey during the playoffs, so consider the source!

          * * * *

        The Mercer County Soccer Hall of Fame Dinner was held a few weeks ago and the event continues to be one of the great banquets in the area.

         The close-knit bond developed by soccer players in Mercer over the years is always so evident at the dinner, as some of the greatest to ever play the game swap stories that insult and revere all at once.                      Charlie Inverso and Harold “Bird” Fink are the greatest emcee team around, and Rick “The Voice” Taylor and his sidekick Jeff make sure no one goes thirsty. This year, former Hamilton standouts Joe Hankins and John Carmignani both gave impressive speeches.

            * * * *

      This just in. . .Roger Goodell plans on running the NFL Draft from March 1 to July 30. One team will make one pick each day, and every pick will be televised for 2 hours on the NFL Network and ESPN. This will usually happen at the same time NBA and NHL playoff games are going on.

     I really don’t think the NFL will be happy until it drives the memory of MLB, NBA and NHL from the minds of all Americans. Its becoming their world, and we just live in it.

 

Mar. 12 2014

Inverso praises

Bradley entry

in to U.S. Soccer

Hall of Fame
      Mar. 12:
A little less than two weeks ago, former Princeton University player and head coach Bob Bradley, who went on to international fame as U.S. and Egyptian National team coach, was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

      Hamilton Township native Charlie Inverso, now head coach at Rider University, coached under Bradley at Princeton and is a close friend with the North Jersey product. Inverso was kind enough to provide his thoughts on Bradley’s induction, and what he means to soccer in general.   
     Bob Bradley’s induction is a pretty fitting tribute to a man who has won a Major League Soccer title, took the United States to a Confederations Cup final and, in 2010, advanced the US to the second round of the World Cup.

     But this recognition of Bob is about more than tangible accomplishments.   Bradley’s passion for the game, his undying interest in the growth of the sport in this country and the lives of people that he touched along the way make him a no brainer choice.

      I am fortunate to have called Bob my good friend for the past 30 years. I first met him when he became Princeton University’s head coach in 1984. I had been an assistant at the university for four years previously and when Bradley replaced Bill Muse he decided to retain me on his staff as the JV coach and goalkeeper coach.

        The only thing he said to me was “Everyone told me that you are in it for all the right reasons and that’s enough for me.’ So began my friendship with one of the most influential coach’s that the US has ever had.

        Bradley, easily one of the smartest men that I know, could have been a success in law, politics, medicine…you name it.  But his heart was firmly entrenched in teaching, watching, talking and living soccer 24 hours a day.

       He tried six months of working in sales for Proctor and Gamble but that experiment was about as big of a disaster as if Fish4scores founder Rich Fisher tried to become a Chippendale dancer. God put BB on this earth to coach soccer players and make other soccer coaches better.

      Sometimes I cringe when I think about how much money Bob could have made running soccer camps or overcharging kids for individual lessons. But soccer was NEVER about money to him. It was always about the game, the people he met along the way and forming relationships.

       He was more content to drive all over New Jersey with the legendary Manny Schellscheidt in their matching beat-up Volkswagen’s to conduct a non-paying clinic for youth coaches then he was beefing up his bank account. For the longest time, people couldn’t figure him out.

       Why would a guy with a Princeton degree work for free six nights a week coaching 12 year olds; setting up pick-up games wherever he and Manfred could find nice grass; or driving his 8 year old son from suburban DC to Penn State so that Michael could get in a competitive 5-aside?

       Because he was in it for “all the right reasons."

       One trait of a successful person is being a risk taker. For otherwise conservative people, Bob and his wife Lyndsay are definitely risk takers. Bob left a comfortable job at Princeton to become an assistant in the then fledgling MLS.

      Even after his team DC United won the MLS championship people still told him he was crazy. Crazy enough to take an expansion Chicago Fire team and win the MLS Cup Championship and crazy enough to allow his then-16 year old son to skip college to sign with MLS and play on his squad with the Metrostars.

       He was unfazed, despite not being the top choice to coach the US National team, and led America to a Gold Cup Championship. There were victories over several world powers, including No. 1 ranked Spain, as the U.S. advanced to the second round of the World Cup.

     (Current Princeton U. coach) Jim Barlow and I were in his office in Los Angeles two days after he was fired by US Soccer. We saw his pain, frustration and emptiness and we wondered what would be his next stop. Would it be back to the MLS or maybe college?

       Well, faster than you can say Land of Pharoahs, BB was back coaching. This time it would be the unenviable task of leading the Egyptian National team.   The stories of how Bradley, through soccer, united this country of political unrest and became a national celebrity in this venerable country became known world-wide.

       Still, for a guy who is a risk taker you cannot find a more conservative, throw back kind of man. He is as throw back as Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr.

        In an era when it is more fashionable for coaches to win over fans and media by being witty and charming, he thrives on being honest and often times blunt. He is one of the few guys I know who not only looks you right in the eye when talking but pauses and thinks before he opens his mouth.

        More importantly, he is actually interested in what you have to say. Someone has described a conversation with him as “when you talk to Bob he makes you feel like you are the only person in the room”. And while many who know him well have said after a talk with Bradley you realize “how little you know about the game of soccer”, you always finish a conversation with him feeling better about yourself.

      I have witnessed him talk at length to hundreds of people, most of whom could do nothing to advance his career, but merely wanted to pick his brain and learn more about soccer. I can only imagine how many hours and how many missed meals his lovely wife Lyndsay has accumulated while waiting for her highly-in-demand husband.

       Somewhere along the way he found the time to develop the most important player on the US National team over the past four years, his son Michael.

      Michael, who already ranks as one of the top five players ever produced in the US learned everything he knows from the guy who was also the best man in his wedding, Throwback Bob. And while the family has had to endure countless barbs of nepotism from ignorant fans, Michael has put all of that ridiculous rhetoric to bed by becoming the player the US national team can least afford to lose.

      Did I say that friendship and relationships are important to him? In June of 2009, our family celebrated a once in a lifetime moment as our son CJ was selected to light the torch at the Special Olympics.

       I sent out an email to family and close friends detailing the events of that memorable night.
      The first response I got was from Bob Bradley. He was in South Africa preparing for the Confederations Cup which is a selection of the best national teams and Cup winners in the world.

        He was en route to practice to prepare the United States to take on No. 1 Spain.
        In typical Bradley style, while using an outdated Blackberry he did not just punch in “COOL”. He proceeded to type out two paragraphs on that annoying hand held devise about how proud my wife Lynne and I should be of our son.   
       There was nothing written about him and what he was doing because, to put it simply, Bob gets it and he gets people. That is why he is a great coach.

        Bob is currently in Norway in his new role in another ground breaking capacity. He is the coach of Stade and the first American to coach in a foreign first division league. There is no doubt he is already making a difference and has brought excitement to the small first division club.

      My sincerest congratulations go out to Bob for being named to the National Soccer Hall of Fame. You’re in it for all the right reasons.
     But we already knew that.

Feb. 28, 2014

You’re a good man,

Gary Bushelli

     Feb. 28: Well here’s a nice story I’m happy to share.

    Not quite as nice as me winning the million dollar lottery, but hey it, I’ll share it anyway.

     After Thursday night’s CVC basketball banquet, Hightstown Athletic Director Gary Bushelli was driving out of the Mercer Oaks parking lot when he saw an Oaks employee walking out to Village Road in the freezing cold. And when I tell you it was freezing cold, I’m probably understating it.

      Bushelli stopped and asked the guy why he was walking. He said he had to go catch his bus home. Bushelli asked where the bus stop was and he told him it was at Quakerbridge Mall.

      We’re talking what would be at least a 45-minute walk, maybe more, in bitter freezing cold, just to catch a bus. Bushelli asked the guy where he lived, the guy told him, and Bushelli put him in his car and took him home.

       Despite the fact that made Bushelli late for our post-banquet gathering, I could not have been more impressed by that act of generosity. All I ever really want to do is bust Bush’s chops. I love the guy but praising him is not in my DNA.

      But Bush Man, you deserve all the credit in the world. That’s as generous and as nice it gets. Well done!

             * * *

     As nice as that story was, here’s one at the other end of the spectrum.

     Hamilton West senior Claudia Olsen, who never got to compete in winter track until this year when the township re-instated it, promptly qualified for the Meet of Champions in her first season ever doing high jump.

      So what happens? She returns from a class trip to Key Largo and at practice Thursday she broke her wrist in two spots and also broke her elbow.

      “I landed on the mat with my arm behind my back, and when I came down I heard it crack and break,” Olsen said.

     That folks, is absolutely brutal and pretty damn sad.

     Good luck Claudia. Get better for spring track quickly!

          * * *

      Speaking of the CVC basketball banquet. . .kudos to Jay “D-2” Malloy. The third-year Hamilton West boys’ coach was named the Coach of the Year and there probably wasn’t a person there who disagreed with it.

      However, Malloy needs to work on his speech technique a bit. He walked up, grabbed his plaque and turned around and walked back. The presenter yelled “Don’t you want to say anything?” He was nearly back to his table and yelled “Thanks!” . . .then five seconds later said “I owe it all to my players.”

      For folks who wanted the night to move along quickly, you couldn’t have gotten a better speech (Right, Courtney Adams? Lol) .

            * * *

      To Lauren Kelly, Kristin Jacobs and Erin Wolverton, I must say, I don’t care who didn’t show up! It was awesome hanging with you guys at the post-banquet!

            * * *
       Also at the CVC banquet – GQ Award of the Night goes to Tevin “No Look” Williams who was styling with his red shirt and white bow tie.

            * * *

        Congrats to former Princeton University player and coach Bob Bradley for being inducted into the US Soccer Hall of Fame. Bob is a unique guy who is fascinating to talk to. His take on things is always thoughtful and unique, be it soccer or life in general.

        Bradley comes from an extremely successful family, as his brother Scott played in the Major Leagues and now coaches Princeton, and his other brother Michael is a nationally renowned sports writer.

       I met their dad a few years ago while he was watching grandson Kevin Bradley play baseball for Hopewell, and you would have never known he had such talented offspring.

       It’s great to see humbleness still exists, and this honor for Bob is well deserved.

            * * *

       I really need to thank Angela LaBelle for her help in tweet updates this year.

      First off, I thank all the hoop parents who helped me out – the Adams, the Kellys, Frank “52-49” Bennett. I seriously appreciate it. I know it’s a pain in the neck watching your kid play and then saying “Oh cripe, I gotta send Fish a text.”

       And yet you did it and I soooo thank you for it, and I know all the Fish4scores twitter followers appreciate it. You are the unsung heroes.

        But Angela gets the “extra mile” award. Ang texted me the updates of the Steinert boys games, and about 75 percent of the time they went down to the wire or into overtime.

       Ang didn’t just update the final score. She would send updates every timeout during the closing minutes, including things like “Plunkett jumper ties it” or something like that. I wrote actual stories off what she sent.

      It was great stuff Mrs. LaBelle. I guess we need to thank Frank as well, for leaving you alone to do your "job." I’m just glad Chris is a freshman. No good deed goes unpunished my friend! You’re stuck for three more years!

      However, as far as post-banquet gatherings go, the LaBelles and Garcias dropped the ball. They are now on double-secret probation unless they show up at Texas Roadhouse on one Athlete of the Week Sunday and keep me company!

          * * *

      I say this every year and I will say it again. The Colonial Valley Conference is blessed to have Jimmy Hines running the show at Mercer Oaks.

      The former Notre Dame soccer standout not only provides reasonable prices for athletic banquets, he and his staff put on an outstanding event. There are never any glitches, everything runs exactly according to plan and the food is always good.

     Keep up the great work Jimmy. You are the best!

           * * *

      While I’m thanking people, I just want to acknowledge outgoing Steinert girls’ soccer coach Aimee Turnbull for being such an easy person to deal with over the years. Whether Steinert won or lost, played good or played bad, Aimee was always cooperative and pleasant in post-game interviews.

       Evidently she is the same way as a guidance counselor, as several parents praised Aimee on Facebook for her work with their kids.

       So thanks Aimee, and enjoy your time with the family!

             * * *

     Is Derek Jeter retiring? No one seems to be reporting on it at all, except to ad nauseum. I want to puke it’s so over the top.

             * * *

     NFL Combines.

     People live for them.

     What am I missing here?

              * * *

    Creighton-Wichita State NCAA championship game? Cool!

             * * *

       Speaking of the NCAA, I have reached the point where I may literally flip a coin for every pick in my pool and see how that works out. Can’t be any worse than usual.
       Maybe that will be my strategy for Warren Bufffet's pool. Use a quarter to make a billion. 

 

Feb 14, 2014

Johnny Football

sure can make

things interesting

       Feb. 14: I don’t think it was a good idea for Johnny Manziel to say what you are about to read.

     But I love what he said.

     Read it first and then I’ll explain. It’s the Texas A&M quarterback talking to two Texas newspaper reporters about his home-state Houston Texans, and what it would mean for them to not make Manziel the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. He went on to add what would happen if Jacksonville took him with the No. 3 pick.

      “It would be the worst decision they’ve ever made,” Manziel said, while talking to reporters from the Houston Chronicle and Fort-Worth Star Telegram. “I’d be in the same division playing against them twice a year (with Jacksonville). Sorry, but you just turned that chip on my shoulder from a Frito into a Dorito.

      “I want them to say absolutely, without a doubt, with 100 percent certainty, that I’m who they want. I want everybody from the janitor at Reliant Stadium to the front office executive assistant all the way up to (owner) Bob McNair to say, ‘This kid is 100 percent, can’t miss. This is who we want being the face of our program. We want the Texas kid staying in Texas and leading the Texans.’”

       Wow.

      A 20-year-old pretty much calling out a team that has watched closely since childhood.

      The kneejerk reaction is “Who does he think he is? Who is this punk, who has never taken a snap in the NFL, to tell a team to take him? To make threats in such bold predictions?”

     Who indeed?

     Obviously, a kid whose confidence is even higher than I ever suspected. And I always suspected it was pretty high.

      First off, I love that “Frito into Dorito” line. Wish I had used that in a story at some point in my life, but never did. Not sure if he made it up. But I like it.

       Now, consider how boring Roger Goodell wants all his minions to be. It’s the one aspect of his own life he doesn’t feel the need to corner the market on. He wants everyone to be dull like him.

       Now consider you have a kid like this shooting his mouth off in a very, very pointed way before he even gets to the league. He could drive Goodell nuts! And that, I like. Goodell might mute him and make him boring, but I’ll take my chances.

       This is quite a gamble by Manziel, of course. These words will likely dog him into draft day and beyond. He has put himself out there for severe humiliation. In that same interview he went on to say he wanted to become the first rookie quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

       Every bad throw he makes, every bad game he has, those words will haunt him. Then again, every big game he has, announcers will remind us “He’s a confident young man, as we all know from what he said before the draft.”

        Linebackers who sack him will repeat those words as he lays smooshed on the ground beneath him. Richard Sherman. . . .oh God, what would Richard Sherman say?

        This could make Johnny Football a major joke in the annals of football. Or it could make him the next Joe Namath and then some.

      Either way, I love it! It’s refreshing to see someone talk this boldly about himself. He makes me think I really want him to do what he says.

       Others disagree, of course. Children should be seen and not heard. Yeah, right. The last time that happened Beaver and Wally were saving up for their first baseball gloves.

       Young guys have said similar things before, but man, when you actually bring up the janitor at Reliant Stadium, that’s just darn good stuff!

             * * * *

        When Richard Nixon lied about a break-in it was bad but it didn’t affect me personally. When Bill Clinton lied about Monica Lewinsky, it was tacky, but my life went on as usual.

       One had to resign, the other was impeached.

      Barack Obama has lied about Obamacare. I know, because I’m being forced to switch to it and I am discovering I won’t have the same doctor or specialists I’ve had for years. That’s just the tip of what’s wrong.

      Now I am affected, in a very adverse way.

     This isn’t funny. It’s sad and scary.

     Not just for me, but for a whole lot of patients and people in the medical profession. One billing woman told me as I was trying to figure it all out “they are trying to dictate where people go for their health care.” I’m not going into specifics because you probably don’t care. But this all came to light today so I’m in a venting mood. For those of you in my situation, you know of what I speak and can relate.

       All I know is, when someone lies like this guy has, I hope he gets punished like the other two did. Only more severely, because now we are affected.

              * * * *
      After last week’s blog on the Beatles, our good buddy Bird “Farkas” Fink has requested an Ants reunion. OK Bird, I’ll see if I can get the lads together! Pretty sure the air guitars and drums still work.

             * * * *
      Ever since NCAA pools came into vogue, I always said if there were such things as time machines and I was given one trip in either direction, I’d get in on March 1 and set it for April 7 of that same year.

       I would then get out, check the internet and fill in the first perfect NCAA pool in world history. Folks scoffed at that, saying that was small-change thinking and that I should look at the stock market and clean up.

       My feeling was, I’d make a fortune in all the talk shows I would go on, explaining how I did this. I would lie about how I did it of course. Not only that, people would just think you were cool.  

      Well now, if I do it. I’ll get a billion dollars! That’s what Warren Buffet is offering to anyone who fills out a perfect NCAA pool. So I would get the billion, plus whatever I made on talk shows. Hell, I could actually own a talk show at that point.
       But there are no time machines, and I’m pretty sure despite the added incentive of a billion dollars, I’ll probably come up a little short of perfect again this year.

        Which is why I kind of laugh at Mr. Buffet’s offer. I forget what they call the actual number, but the odds are a 1 followed by 17 zeros-to-1 that this can be done. At the track, 17-to-1 odds are a long shot. This is a marathon-shot.

       I respect and admire Mr. Buffet, but what the hell! I can be a big man too. I’m offering 2 billion dollars to anyone who fills out the first perfect NCAA pool in history!

       Can I make good on that payment? Of course not.

       But I’m pretty sure that’s one offer that will never have to be paid out, until Mr. Spock actually becomes a college basketball fan.

Feb, 9, 2014

Beatles

Forever!

    Feb. 9: Forgive the trip down memory lane, but after watching the Grammy Beatles special tonight I just have to get it out of my system.

     Yes, I saw them on Ed Sullivan that first night, in a little living room in a little Cape Cod house on Andrea Lane in Mercerville.
      I was freaking out, so was my mom, and my World War II veteran dad just didn't get it. 

      The next day I sprinted to Mercerville School to share the experience with my classmates about what we all saw. We were freaking out, buzzing like maniacs. Our teacher Mrs. Arndt had to tell us to be quiet like, a million times.

      We were only in first grade and I still remember it vividly. It’s like the clearest memory I have that young (except for getting spanked). That’s a powerful presence.

       A year later, me and my pals – all of second grade now – decided we were going to form a group called The Ants. Clever huh? The extent of our musical ability was that we put on Beatles albums and did air guitar and air drums before anybody else.

      Shockingly, the Beatles lasted a bit longer than The Ants.

       Not only could we not conquer America, we couldn’t even conquer Regina Avenue.

     The Beatles, however, will last forever.

     They could have very easily been a one-year fad, or craze, like so many others have been. Come over to the U.S., cause a sensation with their songs about love and holding hands, and then just pop up on oldies stations – “Oh yeah, they were that band with the long hair that went ‘wooooh’!”

     But they matured, their music matured and they have written some of the greatest songs of all time beyond the realm of rock music. Their time as a group lasted through my time in elementary school.

      That’s only six years.

      Six years!

      And an impact that has lasted for 50.

     By the time I got to Nottingham Junior High, Jimmy Hendryx, Janis Joplin, the Doors and Three Dog Night were the main bands. And we liked them.

      But The Beatles never got out of our system. Ever. And after watching the special tonight, I’m feeling pretty good that we’re not alone.

     It blows my mind that young kids love this band that hasn’t played together in 44 years. It shouldn’t but it does, because none of us ever want to like the music of earlier generations. We want to like OUR music and to heck with what came before.

      To me and my pals from Mercerville School – Greg Edwards, Bob and Jack DeStefano, to name a few -- the Beatles will always be our music because it was the only thing we knew growing up other than nursery rhymes and, of course, the Monkees and Rolling Stones.

       We like other music as well, but we kind of feel a pride that so many generations after us still love The Beatles. It’s like, we feel they are ours because we had the good fortune of being on the ground floor of our lives when they were on the ground floor of becoming a dynasty.

       A lot of adults thought The Beatles would come and go back in the 1960s. They never dreamed that 50 years later a phenomenal special would be shown celebrating their arrival in America.

       That right there tells you how special they are. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a two-and-a-half hour anniversary special for Beethoven or Mozart; Sinatra or Crosby; Elvis or Chuck Berry. But there they were, people who weren’t even born during the first Ed Sullivan appearance, performing Beatles songs with pride.

       And when Ringo was singing his solos, I loved watching Paul McCartney sitting in the crowd, singing along as if he was just some schlub who bought a ticket to watch the show.

       Friends and I were texting back and forth all night, getting more sentimental and more amazed each 15 minutes at how good this show was.

      It made me want to get up and write this blog right away.

      And damn if I don’t feel like running to Mercerville School tomorrow and talking to everybody about the show.

      Fifty years later, some things never change.

 

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