Thursday, March 11, 2010


The last thing in the world most people want to do when they get out of work is what they were doing at work.

I'm pretty sure doctors don't do any doctoring, lawyers don't do any lawyering and undertakers don't undertake any undertaking. So after many years traveling One-Track-Mind Boulevard, I decided I wasn't going to come home after covering a basketball game and watch basketball. I found how I could select an exit to a glorious past.

Before I go into that, let me tell you that I've created a monster in my own household. My dedicated wife Lisa has become a bigger sports fan than me. She adores everything UConn, agonizes over the nagging injuries to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and even watched some hockey (Olympics, mind you, not the version that crosses pro wrestling with roller derby).

I've analyzed the reason why I can no longer come home and watch the meaningless college basketball games or listen to some pseudo-expert harangue about who is going to win this or that with no repercussions when their opinions fall flat. The reason is that I can't depend on sports to make me happy, with the notable exception of the UConn women whose 40-point victories no longer compel me.

I find myself in the grip of some inner demon when the Celtics lose to (gasp!) the Nets at home. I'm tortured when the Giants defense takes on water like the Titanic. I need something I can rely on to make me happy. Hey, I work hard. I deserve it.

Well, I'm relieved to say that the forces have come together and made me a satisfied late-night couch potato.

First, we bought an HDTV. For years I debated plasma vs. LCD and all those alpha-numeric terms like 1080i and 1080p. We pulled the trigger and bought a Panasonic Plasma 42-incher.

Pulled the trigger? Perfect analogy.

When I learned how to use the DVR on my trusty new Comcast cable box, I began to scan the channels to find out what I wanted to record for convenient viewing. That's when I looked at the programming schedule for the channel called Encore Westerns.

There it was, my childhood pleasures laid out in front of me like dear, sweet Mom used to lay out my school clothes. The block of Bonanza in the afternoon was a terrific sight, but I've viewed every one of Bonanza's 440-plus episodes time and time again. You do that when you look in the mirror and decide you're some kind of reincarnation of Hoss.

But I never got into some of the others as deeply. Gunsmoke, of course, is legendary. It ignited the incredible run of Westerns on television when I was a toddler and remained long after the genre had its halcyon days fade away.

Man, I've gotten so into Gunsmoke that I'm feeling like I have a room overlooking the streets of Dodge City from the second floor of Miss Kitty's Long Branch Saloon. And you know what? Matt Dillon never lets me down, except he just won't kiss Kitty.

Then there's Have Gun - Will Travel. I remembered some of the primary facts about the series (1957-63), like Richard Boone played Paladin and the haunting exit music, "Have Gun Will Travel reads the card of a man. ... Paladin, Paladin where do you roam?" But I couldn't recall too much about the actual episodes. I was a bit young at the time.

But let me tell you there's no one cooler than Paladin. You want to know more, go to and read about him and the show to your heart's content. Encore Westerns runs it once in the early morning and another episode in the early evening, followed by Gunsmoke. Now there's a double-header I'm not about to miss, given the incredible power of the DVR at my fingertips.

So each night when my work is done, I'm not going to sit here and pound more sports into my sports-addled brain, not when I can rely on Matt Dillon and Paladin, baby. Even in black-and-white, they give me a look into life in the West in the 1880s. Sorry KG, sorry Pierce, sorry Lisa. I'll pick up March Madness in the semifinals and the NBA Playoffs only if the old and tired Celts have a miracle brewing. Otherwise, I'm working on my quick-draw.

Monday, March 1, 2010


The trails were dusty and pitted.

Transportation by overland stage jostled a traveler’s bones like lottery ping pong balls. Arriving on horseback between cities that we can reach in hours took days. Instead of a motel and shower, adventurers found basic comfort laying in a bedroll by a campfire and bathing in a stream when they could find one.

Ah, the legend of the wild West, from the time gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill until wondrous inventions like the automobile and telephone turned dusty memories into legend.
That truly was a long time ago, when men did things like punching a man in the gut for looking at him funny or shooting him for anything worse. A popular saying at the time was, “There’s no law west of the Misissippi River and west of Dodge City, there’s no God.”

How uncouth. We don’t do anything like that today, refined and cultured as we are. Heavens no, or do we?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the internet, where lawlessness and anarchy reign just as sure as they did behind the swinging doors in those shoot-em-up western saloons.

Maybe it’s even worse. At least if somebody threw a punch or fired a shot at you at the Long Branch Saloon, you knew who was delivering it.

On the lawless plains of the internet, perpetrators don’t even have to announce themselves to fire shots. They use false names and even misrepresent other people whom they hold in contempt.

Unlike our gruff western ancestors, they don’t have the guts to stare a man in the eye before they strike. They don’t provide the courtesy of even the most despicable gunfighters inching closer and closer with gun hand ready as the women and children head for shelter. They hide behind the brambles of anonymity, shielding themselves cowardly from any possible retaliation.

Even these techno-twerps need some kind of forum in which to spread their venom, and sports make a fine vehicle. Many take aim at the local pro or college teams. Arguably, they’re fair game with their million dollar salaries and in the case of college athletes, the free education they receive at a value of a few hundred grand.

While the pros and high-profile collegians have mothers too, I’ve given up railing about how Sox and Yankee fans yearn for even more superstars in the lineup after every defeat. Fire away, malcontents. I wonder what it’s like to have no life.

But attacking high school coaches? In the Old West, that would be akin to staging an Indian massacre where mothers and babies were fair game.

A high school basketball coach earns in the neighborhood of $5,000. Most of them are teachers primarily, folks with the vision, talent and desire to guide our malleable youngsters through the challenge of their turbulent teens.

They play to win, but temper that with an attempt to give deserving candidates a fair shot. An athlete has got to be a student and good citizen first. From there, they are rewarded for how much they put into their respective games and the talent with which they’ve been blessed.

From the minds of the people behind giving trophies to Little League teams that go 0-16, I remind you that enabling youngsters presents them with a false sense that life habitually rewards non-achievers. Thus, if a high school sophomore loves baseball but simply can’t play, the coach is morally committed to suggest other avenues of self-expression.

Because many of today’s parents absorbed unfortunate messages during the start of the Everybody Gets Trophies Era, they simply can’t see beyond their own needs. They don’t get their way so they go into their cozy computer rooms, strap on their holsters, load their six-guns with misspelled invectives and fire away.

So you think the world has progressed so much since Marshal Dillon dined with Doc and Miss Kitty? Think again. Custer had his day of reckoning and I can only hope the internet snipers get theirs.