Saturday, July 30, 2011

Santorum's right: Man marrying dogs in Wisc!

I guess I owe Rick Santorum an apology. I was among those who ridiculed him in 2003 for saying gay marriage would lead to man-on-dog sex and other bestial recreations.

The outraged gay community responded with a subversive lexicological campaign so vicious I dare not repeat it here (just google “santorum.")

But lo and behold, it is in fact happening.

Man is marrying dogs in Wisconsin!

And not just any man.

It’s Elvis!

Let me clear that up. Dogs are marrying other dogs and an Elvis impersonator is presiding over the puppy nuptials.

It’s all part of the silliness at the Wisconsin State Fair, a veritable corny-copia of wacky events, competitions and homespun entertainment sure to appeal to anyone that’s ever dreamed of trying their luck at some cow plop bingo.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” says state fair spokeswoman Kristen Chuckel. “It’s pure Vegas. Elvis will marry the couple and sing to them. There will be champagne bowls, formal attire, doggie-maids and doggie-men. There will be special dog tags and the pups will get doggie bone bouquets.”

I found out about it as I was researching a story about oddball state fair stunts and competitions -- outhouse racing, butter Space Shuttles, cricket spittin’ contests, etc.

Of course, I’ll feature the doggie weddings because it’s the perfect example of silly fair fun. Bravo.

But I was curious from a personal standpoint.

I have a dog I’d like to marry off.

But I suspect he’s gay. And I’ve been reluctant to broach the subject with the cheerful spokesperson out of fear she might laugh at me.

And who wants to be laughed at by a woman named Chuckel?

Being the parent of a dog I suspect is gay is a challenge for any traditional parent.

I had one other dog that -- and I know this is politically incorrect to say -- was perfectly “normal.”

Yep, Casey liked the bitches, and please don’t let that urban-sounding phrasing confuse you into thinking Casey was a rapper.

He was a sweet and beautiful Golden Retriever with zero street cred.

But he was all boy. He loved to screw and did so with gusto, neighborhood dogs and their owners’ legs right up until outpatient surgery rendered it a physical impossibility.

Snickers isn’t like that at all. He’s part pug, part chihuahua, a parental pairing that sounds like the screwball premise for some canine rom-com.

He’s a purse puppie, the kind Paris Hilton uses as a fashion accessory.

He’s 1 year old and I still mistakenly refer to him with female pronouns. I can’t believe we’re the same gender.

French poodles could bully lunch money from Snickers.

That I suspect he’s gay couldn’t possibly change my feelings for him. I’m sure I’d still despise him if he were as mucho as the Old Spice dude.

And he’s high-strung and yippy. He’s entered an infuriating shoe-chewing phase, ruining one of my church loafers after he pried open to door to the closet.

Casey wasn’t like that at all.

Casey was the kind of dog you’d enjoy lounging in front of warm fires.

Snickers doesn’t lounge in front of warm fires. He starts them.

So I want him out of the house.

But has the Wisconsin legislature approved gay canine weddings?

Should gay dogs in Wisconsin be afforded the same rights as gay humans in New York and other states?

Of course, the point is moot until Snickers can come to grips with his own sexual orientation. He needs to take a good long look at himself in the mirror, the one on back of the bedroom door that goes clear down to the floor.

I suspect he’ll finally admit he’s gay and might flourish elsewhere.

He won’t be the first being to come out of the closet.

He’ll just be the first to do so with one of my loafers in his mouth.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Parking lot pervert? Nope. Just me

I guess I can’t blame her for thinking the worst. I was sitting alone in the parking lot outside the bar with the windows rolled down. I had to keep wiping my forehead with my arm to keep the sweat from dripping on my keyboard.

My face, I’m sure, bore the pained expression it gets whenever I’m trying to muster what Moe calls “real thinkin’.”

“You’re not doin' something dirty, are you?”

She works in the kitchen at the bar that’s just beneath my internet-free office on the second floor.

It’s a question that deserves a lie. I’m sure if I said, “Why, yes!” she might have shucked her apron and dove in through the passenger window for a lewd little siesta.

But, man, was it hot, too uncomfortable to instigate a sticky scandal.

I haven’t had WiFi in the office for about two years now. But I can pick up a stray signal if I park beside the dumpsters out in the parking lot.

So I go out there after lunch to check e-mails and see if there’s been a titanic lurch toward my forlorn blog’s popularity (in three years, it’s never happened once).

It’s odd having an office above a working man’s bar. Many of my friends there drive trucks or work in factories. Many of them can not fathom someone earning a living writing stories.

Heck, my wife can’t fathom it either. I have trouble believing it myself.

It’s not easy. I tell people I’m working basically for beer money.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not seeking pity. In fact, it’s kind of a boast.

I drink a lot of beer and they don’t give the suds away for free. Working for beer money is far superior to working for peanuts (those’ll cost you here, too).

I figure about 51 percent of the people in the bar like me because I have a sunny disposition, buy the occasional round and finally stopped trying to impress everyone by conducting loud, make-believe cell phone conversations with imaginary sources like pretend Bill Clinton and pretend Mike Tomlin.

Get busted for that once and, geez, they never let you forget it.

Then there’s about 47 percent who merely tolerate my company. They don’t like me. They don’t dislike me. They show me no warmth. They pay me no mind. They barely acknowledge I exist.

I guess, for them, that sort of makes me their bar wife.

That’s perfectly fine with me. Many of these men are probably packing heat and being ignored these days is safer than being noticed.

That leaves the two percent, 1 percent of which just was trying to discreetly peek into my car to detect if I was wearing pants.

We’re friendly but she has no idea what to make of me, and all she knows about computers is perverts use them to do dirty things in parking lots.

Maybe I should get a telecommunications sign to put on the side of my Saturn. Maybe then people wouldn’t think it’s odd for me to sit in there in the parking lot typing away while everyone else is working.

Or maybe I should try and find a job.

But getting a job sounds like, well, a lot of work.

I’d guess I’d rather just keep scraping by and hoping something good some day falls into my lap.

Doin’ something dirty?

Just about every time my fingers hit the keyboard.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Where have you gone, Ross Perot?

It pains the academic in me to realize the best way to educate a forgetful America on the folly of the Tea Party simpletons is to urge them to seek a classic 1992 clip from Saturday Night Live.

It may have been the most uproarious skit the show’s ever done. It features the late Phil Hartman (oh, how I miss him!) and Dana Carvey.

Hartman played Bill Clinton and Carvey incumbent President George H.W. Bush.

But Carvey had double duty. Through split-screen chicanery, he also played a man who at the time surpassed even the current Tea Party in political impact and sound-bite stupidity.

That would be H. Ross Perot.

If you’ve become fired with political passions in just the past two years it probably means two things: One, you’re a Tea Party Patriot convinced you have all the answers; and, two, you’ve likely never heard of Perot.

And that’s a pity.

Just five months prior to the ’92 presidential election, he was leading in the polls over both Bush and Clinton.

The Texan became a self-made billionaire through founding Electronic Data Systems. And he oversaw a daring a rescue mission of two hostage employees from Iran in 1979, an operation that became the basis for Ken Follett’s “On Wings of Eagles,” a best-seller and eventual miniseries.

He was one of the most admired men in America.

Then he made a crucial tactical error.

He opened his mouth. And America learned the only thing more entertaining than hearing Carvey lampoon him was hearing Perot speak for himself.

He was folksy. He got $5 haircuts. He talked about going to Washington to clean out the barn and giant sucking sound we’d hear if we elected anyone but him.

He just made it all sound so simple.

And he wasn’t interested in compromise and would mercilessly ridiculed as elitist anyone who disagreed with him. He made his operatives sign loyalty oaths.

Any of this starting to sound familiar?

I remember one presidential debate in which Perot -- I swear to God -- held up a poster of an outline of Arkansas with the silhouette of a chicken dominating the entire state.

He was saying if we elected Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton president we’d all wind up plucking chickens.

To quote Secret Agent Maxwell Smart, “Missed it by that much!”

Clinton took over a sluggish economy, raised taxes on the rich (Perot, to his credit, was perfectly okay with this), and launched one of the greatest job-creating economies the world has ever seen. It was eight years of peace, prosperity and all that other stuff.

He left office in 2000 with a balanced budget augmented by a $230 billion surplus. Economically, his presidency was such a success it’s surprising the Republicans haven’t tried claim him as one of their own.

But what happened to Perot?

It’s like he rode that giant chicken into the sunset never to be heard from again.

His near complete disappearance from public life is incredible.

At 81, he has a net worth of $3.4 billion and Forbes ranks him the 99th richest man in America.

Yet the man who once had all the answers today refuses to address any of the questions.

John McCain, who as much as any man alive helped conceive the Tea Party, yesterday on the floor of the U.S. Senate denounced them as “hobbits” inhabiting a “bizarro” world where they are “deceiving” their constituents.

The few grownups that remain in the Republican Party look feckless and scared in the face of the Frankenstein monster they raised up on birther hysteria, anti-tax mania and the demonization of the government they view the way the rest of us view the Taliban.

Yes, America, just as that Moses of the Tea Party warned, there is indeed a giant sucking sound.

And it’s becoming increasingly clear as to the identity of the ones who suck the most.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The good, the bad & the repaired TV

Gone 19 days, the TV is back home where it belongs and I am diminished by its return.

The welcome home lavished upon it dwarfed any reaction I’ve ever received, even the times when I come bearing gifts.

The children did euphoric little cartwheels across the carpet and Val’s relieved expression matched the look on Livvy’s face when John Walton came through the door after the harrowing winter evening that was the dramatic catalyst for the Walton’s Christmas special, “The Homecoming.”

It’s understood. My presents are trinkets compared to the evergreen gifts of a really good hi-def TV.

It has nearly 1,000 channels that bestow comfort, laughter, suspense and hours and hours of Disney wisdom.

The TV never scolds. It never corrects. It never tells the girls it’s time for bed. It never grosses them out with a really loud fart.

How can your average father expect to compete with that?

The TV plays so many leadership roles. It settles disputes. It unites us. It is our Speaker of the House.

Actually, with surround sound, it is our Five Speakers of the House.

No one would give a damn if the refrigerator or the washing machine went on the fritz. It wouldn’t tear at the social fabric of the family (but if the washing machine went down it would likely diminish some of the family’s other fabrics).

So when the TV goes down, we all feel it’s pain.

Worse, I knew the cure for the suddenly black screen could kill -- not the TV set.


That’s because once again I’d be dealing with Daryl, a man so mean he makes Dick Cheney seem cheerful.

I’d dealt with the old man before. He was rude, abrasive and tactless, a self-contained Axis of Evil so malevolent I felt like alerting the FBI.

I knew the broken TV meant he’d be poisoning my otherwise sunny days.

That’s just one sacrifice I make to support America’s Main Street businesses over the town-killing big box stores.

If your Best Buy TV breaks, you just drop it off at the store and two weeks later they tell you it’s fixed. It’s like sex with a hooker only without all the warranty issues.

But if you bought from a local reseller, you’re dealing with Daryl.

I wasn’t there five minutes when he insulted me.

“You’ve got a B.O. problem,” he said.

Impossible, I said. Old Spice has never failed me.

He explained he meant “back order.” He was messin’ with Sasquatch.

With atrocious bedside manners, he said, “This could take a long, long time.”

Still, it’s a hostage situation. I’m entirely at his misanthropic mercy.

I walk out of there dumbfounded how any man who spends his days healing sick TVs can be so unfeeling. Doesn’t he ever tune any of his myriad sets to the Lifetime Channel?

How can a man skilled at repairing 72-inch hi-def sets fail to see the big picture?

The situation was saved by one of life’s nifty little symmetries.

It was because of our dealings with the world’s most dyspeptic TV man we also got to better know one of the industry’s friendliest.

He’s Vince Zaccaria of Premiere Audio/Visual Services in Mt. Pleasant. It’s guys like him that are the reason I’ll always buy from local independents.

He’s so well regarded his home theater construction skills have been showcased with meathead ex-jock Tony Siragusa on the DIY Channel’s Man Cave shows. He’s done a bunch of them all over the East Coast.

So he’s a busy man. But when he heard we were without a TV he reacted like Ike Godsey did when one of The Walton kids got sick.

He brought medicine.

“I just felt so bad when I heard you were without a TV,” he said. “I couldn’t let you go all that time without one.”

He gave us a spiffy loaner and when Daryl finally said the TV was fixed, Vince was there within hours to hook it all up.

So an event that began with me confronting human nastiness ends with my family having the opportunity to bask in goodness, generosity and dazzling magnificence.

And I’m talking about the TV, not Vince.

Vince is nice and all.

But he’s no TV.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

TV-holics prepare for bender (from 2009)

It says something about how topical the news has been that I've yet to write about a devastating personal crisis: our TV, the big boy, broke two weeks ago. But I can't blog today because, hallelujah, it's repaired and I'm bound to pick it up.

So I thought I'd re-post this lovenote to lowbrow television from 2009 in case anyone is missing my blog posts the way I miss having the TV (not possible).

Thanks for checking in!

My wife and I are the worst kinds of insufferable snobs who are always telling people at parties we never watch much TV. For some reason, this makes us feel culturally superior or at least equal to the people who lie back they never do either.

It’s all hooey, of course. We watch all the time. Not only do we watch, but we take it all so seriously that we’ve gotten into vicious public shouting spats in highbrow restaurants about whether Jack Bauer’s brutal tactics will unnecessarily cost fictional lives. She screams that national security gives Jack moral sanction to conduct interrogations that involve lopping off the fingers of enemy combatants and I scream that she doesn’t know Jack about Jack.

The fights will start all over again Sunday with the long-awaited return of Bauer and “24.” That will kick off a run of must-see viewing for us that will likely lead to reduced productivity, sleepless nights and months of neglect for the poor kiddos who’ll exist solely on the dubious sustenance of Pop Tarts, Cheetos and Fresca.

Within the next month or so, our nights will be filled with “American Idol,” “Lost,” “24,” and “Survivor.” Sure, they all fall in the lowbrow category, but they all look like “Masterpiece Theater” compared to my very favorite show of all time.

That would be the magnificent “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

You can stuff M*A*S*H in Major Frank Burns’s rat-infested foot locker. Take the gang from Seinfeld and have them spend a Twilight-Zone sort of eternity looking for lost cars in endless parking garages.

Sure, those are great shows, but there’s never been a funnier, more laugh-out-loud hilarious show than “3rd Rock,” which is currently making the evening rounds on TV Land starting at 11 p.m. EST.

The absurd premise is based on four aliens -- Tom, Dick, Harry and Sally Solomon -- who take human form and come to earth to study our habits. They end up in Rutherford, Ohio, where Dr. Dick Solomon, played by John Lithgow, teaches incomprehensible physics to dimbulb students and craves earthly delights with his office mate, Dr. Mary Albright, played by the wonderful Jane Curtin.

The cast is uniformly excellent, but the peerless Lithgow steals the show.

The so-called great actors of the day leave me utterly cold. To me, acting normal isn’t acting. I sit mere barstools away from six guys who on any given day can out-surly the acclaimed Sean Penn. These guys act like they hate their jobs, their ex-wives, the man we elected president and anyone who cheers for the Chargers to beat the Steelers on Sunday (I’m right there with them on that last one).

If they ever give an Oscar for chronic misery, I have a barful of nominees ready for the red carpet, a unwelcome stroll they’ll reflexively say they hate.

But my pulse races anytime I see truly great overacting. And there’s never been more over-the-top overacting than that which is done by the incomparable Lithgow, in my opinion the greatest overactor ever.

The episode where Dick Solomon takes over as the relentlessly pompous director of the high school version of Romeo & Juliet should be required viewing in acting schools that have been churning out generation after generation of robotic actors who’ve been brainwashed into thinking guys like Moe, Larry and Curly are lowbrow.

Watch for it. That particular episode is called “Romeo, Juliet & A Dick.”

That’s another thing. What must have been intended to be a great subversive inside joke is now splashed all over the screen anytime a viewer checks out the program guide. Nearly every episode includes the name Dick in the title.

Some examples: “Father Knows Dick;” “Will Work For Dick;” “Eleven Angry Men and a Dick;” “I Brake For Dick;” “I Enjoy Being a Dick;” “Angry Dick,” and the monumentally relevant, “These Dicks They Are A Changin’.”

For those of you raised by sensitive sorts in cloistered environments, each of these titles is intentionally freighted with a double meaning. And to lowbrows like me, each is uproariously funny.

I doubt the brilliant producers of the show ever imagined the viewers would see the actual titles flashed up on the screen of a station watched by children, but youthful innocence has a short shelf life these days.

So, no, we don’t watch much TV. Just the shows mentioned above supplemented with near-nightly viewings of “3rd Rock.” I purchased the entire six-season run (1996-02) when it came out on DVD three years ago. It remains one of my most cherished possessions.

Val loves it, too, but she takes exception when I say the “Romeo, Juliet & A Dick” episode is the best. She prefers “Dick ‘The Mouth’ Solomon” where Tommy and Sally fall under the sway of a guido they mistakenly believe to be a vicious mob hitman. She insists it’s the funniest “3rd Rock” ever.

On this point, we disagree.

You should see the gape-jawed stares we get in highbrow restaurants when I scream at her that she doesn’t know Jack about Dick.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Manifesto Destinies and Norway tragedy

Well, I suppose all the patriots can feel a little bit better about themselves now that the tree of liberty has once again been refreshed by the blood of tyrants, this time about 76 Norwegians, most of them children.

It’s always tricky writing about far-right Christian crusaders who go on bloody kill sprees based on what far-right Christian crusaders urge because far-right Christian crusaders will howl wrongful persecution.

And they, as we’ve seen once again, have the intent, the rhetoric and the lethal hardware to make things really, really unpleasant for those who don’t share their views.

Acting on the inspiration of websites like the soon-to-be-famous, accused killer Anders Behring Breivik told police the attack was “gruesome,” but “necessary.”

It sounds like the same explanation we heard 17 years ago from Tim McVeigh, the right wing Oklahoma City bomber who was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool.

His 1,500-page manifesto makes it clear Breivik hates immigrants, Muslims, inter-racial mingling and political correctness. I’ve yet to read mention of it, but it’s likely he hates those little energy efficient light bulbs, too.

Breivik took it upon himself to instigate a cultural revolution he hopes will purge Europe of all Muslims and punish live-and-let-live social appeasers (like me) who contribute to “cultural suicide.”

He makes it clear he’d be more comfortable if he could return the world to what it was like in the 50s.

The 1750s.

His kind would have your kind would stay over there where you belonged and my kind stay over here where I belonged.

If anyone was craving some Chinese take-out we’d have to order it from Beijing.

It’s all there in his manifesto.

Far be it for me to complain about anyone who writes long, rambling passages that go unread by all but handfuls of the cubically incarcerated, but why is it the only people famous for writing manifestos always seem consumed with killing?

They write about their hatreds, their resentments and how the bloodshed they’re about to inflict will rejuvenate the world to their righteous views.

Breivik sees it as a divine calling.

All that’s missing is confirmation he was acting on God’s orders.

Although it’s never a mitigating factor in any of the eventual homicide trials, God tells a lot of far right Christian crusaders there are plenty of people who need killing.

It’d be nice if all the people God told to hug someone that needed it made the news once in a while.

Maybe that should be a cornerstone of my manifesto. It would be full of stuff that would change the world.

For instance: The only ones who’d be permitted by law to work more than seven months a year would be the ones running all the ice cream stands.

If we saw someone driving like a maniac, instead of getting enraged at the reckless incivility, we’d all pull over assuming the driver was on the way to the hospital to help deliver triplets.

It would call for more hammocks and more time to enjoy them.

TVs would still be big and hi-def, but there’d only about 40 channels.

It would be a manifesto that at its heart -- and it would have a whole lot of that -- would be more about hugs than hate.

I wish my arms were big enough to hug away all the hurt of the people for whom the world right now seems so wrong.

I’d start with the 5 million over in Norway.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Heat wave screams for "cool" clothes

For about 25 years I was always the worst-dressed grownup at every function with more than two adults.

I’d wear sandals to suppers, grunge flannel to church weddings, and ripped up old Molly Hatchet concert Ts to class.

And I was the teacher.

Then about seven years ago I entered a period lush with loot. The house and the car were paid off and I had disposable income.

I became for however briefly a man of means and decided I ought to look the part.

I went out and spent a lot of money on nice clothes and accessories.

It was some of the best money I’ve ever spent. I can appear by turns dapper, dashing or debonaire. It’s all there on the mahogany hangers.

I have a closet full of really cool clothes right at my fingertips.

So how come I’m sitting here sweating like a pig? How come with all these cool clothes I can’t find something that’ll give me a welcome little chill?

The nation is in the grips of a killer heatwave. We’re scorched from coast to toasty coast.

Yet the most comfortable garment anyone has to offer in this awful heat is the birthday suit.

But going pantsless in public comes, ironically enough, with its own pocketfuls of complications.

In winter, we have Gortex, heat packs for boots and gloves and thermal underwear that’ll keep all our chestnuts roasting in even the worst blizzards.

How come no one’s invented a self-cooling body suit for the masses?

Winter gives even notorious cheapskates like me soulful options for warmth. We have cozy fireplaces, hearty soups and drawers and drawers of thick sweaters to layer on up.

And if the wife’s not too angry over setting the thermostat 1 degree Fahrenheit above what’ll freeze aquarium water, she’ll even agree to some heat-generating body-on-body friction.

It’s not at all like that in these dog days of summer where you don’t want any part of your own body touching another let alone someone else’s.

Right now my damp armpits are about 18 inches from a Frigidaire window unit air conditioner. Set on “high cool” for the last 90 minutes, it’s incapable of providing any satisfying climatic comfort.

Worse, it’s trying valiantly to reduce the temperature of about 200-square-feet of office where I’m not.

It’s one of the world’s most inefficient machines trying in vain to cool its human counterpart.

I don’t need it blowing cool air all over the office. I just need a cone of cool around myself.

I hope this won’t hurt your feelings, but I suspect you could use a cone of cool all your own, right?

It’s bound to be hot where you are and, come on, you’re reading a blog on a Friday afternoon. That might -- might -- be worse than actually authoring one.

It’s safe to say we could both use multiple cones of cool.

Think of the efficiency.

What the Frigidaire has been doing for 90 minutes could be accomplished in about four. That’s all I need.

And it’s happening all over America. Air conditioners are expending tremendous amounts of precious natural resources to cool places where people aren’t.

First things first: someone needs to develop the summer equivalent of Gortex. It needs to be thin, it needs to be stylish and it needs to resale with a 40 percent proprietary cut that goes directly to me.

It’ll be such a grand success fashion models will have cat walk catfights just to see who gets to spend time within my cone of cool.

Just thinking about it makes me incredibly hot.

And that’s as good a place as any to stop because we’re right about back where we started.

Tiger fires his Tonto

Who’d have figured? Today’s most famous celebrity break-up doesn’t involve shiny Hollywood starlets, but a professional golfer who hasn’t won since 2009 and the guy who toted his golf sticks.

As is required in any TMZ break-up, the two men were passionate lovers.

Not of each other.

Of themselves.

After enriching him for 12 years to the tune of more than $10 million, Tiger Woods decided he needed another caddie and fired Stevie Williams, who is to surly what Hershey is to sweet.

This is big news in the insular golf world where sycophantic golf writers are today asking, Stevie, are you bitter? Stevie, will you write a tell-all? Stevie, will you grant me an exclusive?

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is asking, Stevie, just who the hell are you?

I guess the best way to answer that question is he’s what you’d get if you combined Tonto with Paulie Walnuts, the sidewalled thug who used to whack all Tony Soprano’s real and perceived enemies.

Like Tonto to the Lone Ranger, he provided on-course guidance and was intensely loyal to Tiger, who is now renown for being intensely loyal to his own selfishness.

And like Paulie to Tony, he was a numbskulled goon. He’s wrestled cameras from countless photographers whose trigger fingers he deemed too itchy (one belonging to an off-duty policeman), and threw one fan’s $7,000 camera into a pond.

He called Phil Mickelson, one of the game’s truly nice guys, a word the newspapers deemed unworthy of proper publication (out of my respect for my newspaper background, I’ll not repeat the slur. Hint: it starts with a “p” and ends with a “rick”).

He’d glare at anyone who’d so much as dare extend a pen and paper or a warm handshake in Tiger’s direction.

“He ain't there to talk to every Tom, Dick and Harry at the course each day,” Williams said. “He's there to work. And to win. And if anybody doesn't like it, that's their problem."

He was saying Tiger cared only about winning (we soon learned in sensational fashion winning wasn’t all Tiger cared about).

Now after spending more than a dozen years seeing a man treat individuals and loved ones like hapless extras in a Batman movie, his tender feelings are hurt he’s being treated like a hapless extra in a Batman movie.

“I’m extremely disappointed, given all I’ve been through the past 18 months,” he says, referring to Tiger’s myriad scandals, injuries, swing changes and what for him is an interminable losing streak.

“You could say I’ve wasted the last two years of my life.”

If that’s the way he feels, it’s actually worse than that.

This is a man of considerable means, a married father. He lives in New Zealand, a land I know virtually nothing about, but I can’t believe it would be as easy to blow $10 million there than a less remote land like, say, Old Zealand, wherever the hell that is.

Most of us dream of having money so we could spend more time enjoying our families, our friends and our pastimes.

I contend the years he spent with Tiger were the ones he wasted.

Together, the pair won 13 major championships, 72 professional tournaments and nearly $1 billion in earnings.

I wonder why it is I look at both and feel like using a judgmental word my newspaper background makes me uncomfortable using without two on-the record sources.

Hint: It starts with an “l” and ends with an “osers.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Finally, I golf

Most of the questions made it sound as if I were overdue to drop a baby that was expected in March.

“Still not yet! How long’s it been?”

“Think it’ll happen this week?”

“Man, you should see a doctor. Something’s wrong with you.”

Everywhere I went, the whole town reacted with concern. Me, the second most famous golfer in Latrobe, hadn’t played once in 2011.

This was unsettling to a town still smarting from the owners of Rolling Rock moving the fabled beer-making operations from Latrobe, land of the mountain spring waters, to New Jersey, land of the chemical factory spill ponds.

What happened?

I’ve been in a recreational funk. I just sort of stopped caring. I wasn’t playing good last year and this year started with my mother requiring lots of my on-going attention.

I figured if I couldn’t play well and didn’t have the time to devote to improvement, why bother?

I thought about seeking counsel from the town’s most famous golfer, the legendary Arnold Palmer.

I thought about approaching him and saying, “Arnie, I’m all out of sorts. I don’t feel like golfing. I’m going through a tough time and I need the advice only a truly legendary golfer and man like yourself can provide. In this, my hour of golfing need, what should I do to shake this awful funk?”

But I knew exactly what he’d say: “Who are you? Do I know you from someplace?”

That’s a joke. We are friends. And that applies its own sort of pressure.

People everywhere not only expect me to golf, but to golf well.

They know through the course of about 50 interviews Palmer and I have become chummy (that remains one of the coolest things there is to know about me).

I have accumulated some renown for my Palmer associations, my golf books and related contributions.

It was just last summer I was invited to a golf gala at Latrobe Country Club featuring legendary Pittsburgh broadcaster Bill Hillgrove.

Hillgrove and I golfed together and were seated at the main table during the awards dinner.

Prior to the food being served, the esteemed emcee stood up and announced to the 150 or so golfers, “We have two very special guests here tonight. First is Bill Hillgrove, announcer for the Pittsburgh Steelers!”

Well, the place went nuts. Hillgrove enjoys one of the best levels of celebrity recognition. He plays a pivotal role in the town’s love affair with the Steelers and everyone knows he’s just a swell guy.

Hillgrove smiled and gave a friendly wave without getting up.

Then once the Hillgrove tumult finally died down, I was floored when the announcer said, “And you know our other special guest for his golf articles in Arnold Palmer’s Kingdom Magazine. He writes for many popular national publications and he lives right here in Latrobe. Say hello to Chris Rodell!”

Quickly overcoming my surprise, I rose majestically from my seat and gave a big sweeping bow like the kind I’ve seen Mick Jagger do after entertaining stadiums full of 70,000 delirious Stones fans.

Then I bowed again. Then, despite the sudden conclusion of the applause I’ll generously describe as polite, I bowed again. And again.

I didn’t stop bowing and sit down for 10 awkward minutes until the waitress set a shrimp plate in front of me.

I’ve been invited back, but they don’t introduce me anymore, and as soon as I walk through the door someone hands me a shrimp plate.

Still, the pressure and the itch to golf became too great. The game’s brought me so much soulful joy and laughter. I missed it too much.

So I snuck out to a little local course late last Sunday night.

Want to know what I learned?

I’m a natural! I played great!

This overdue baby’s back.

I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders and, hence, the entire town of Latrobe’s.

I close my eyes to bask in the imaginary applause and do the only thing that comes more naturally to me than swinging a golf club.

I bow. Again and again.

Sure, some of that’s massive ego, but I’m mostly hoping someone will show up with some shrimp.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ordering justice for Murdoch

John Bercow is the break-out star of the swirling Rupert Murdoch/News Corp. phone hacking scandal.

He’s the British Speaker of the House of Commons and the man the cameras focus on when they want to show the tumult the scandal’s wreaking on British government, media, law and society.

Bercow, 48, has been in the spotlight for bellowing, “ORD-da! ORD-da! ORD-da! ord-DA! ORRRD-daaaa!”

The first time I saw him shouting the only word I’ve ever heard him utter, I thought, “That man would be brilliant in a restaurant that discourages diners from dawdling over menu options.”


His cadence and phrasing are almost Dylanesque. Like Dylan, he can say the same two syllable-word five times and make each redundant syllable sound distinct.

Bercow’s a father of three, but I have to wonder about his parenting skills. He’s got the shouting part down perfect, but the kiddies in parliament pay him no mind.

I haven’t seen anyone so ineffectual at crowd control since Lt. Frank Drebin tried to clear sidewalk gawkers after the runaway gas truck slammed into the fireworks factory: “Move along! Nothing to see here! Nothing to see!”

Of course, there’ll be plenty to see in parliament today.

We’re witnessing the first act in a corporate de-pantsing the likes the world has never seen.

No one else on earth matches Murdoch’s level of pernicious and insidious influence on world opinion. He oversees a global corporate culture that runs on ridicule, bullying and hateful vituperation.

Without Fox News, the world would never have heard of freedom fries, terrorist fist jabs, birther movements or the $3 trillion Iraq War.

And it’s all served up with a smug sneer, the kind that let the Murdochs think this 9-year-old phone hacking scandal was behind them.

It is anything but.

“A week ago people thought this scandal might lap at Murdoch’s feet, but the waters are now over his head and his empire is at risk of submerge,” says journalist Michael Wolff, author of “The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch.”

“The name Murdoch now stands for something very clear -- you hack people’s phones. And now the Murdoch brand is irrevocably tainted.”

With his reach into every level of conservative government, some are already calling this Britain’s Watergate.

That means it has the potential to be America’s Watergate II.

You could argue Murdoch’s done more to promote the conservative Republican brand in American politics than even the sainted Ronald Reagan.

Murdoch first appeared on my radar screen in 1984 when Mike Royko, the great Chicago columnist (and reason I became a writer), quit the Chicago Sun-Times after Murdoch bought it saying, “No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch paper. His goal is not quality journalism. His goal is power for Rupert Murdoch, political power.”

More than 27 years later, Forbes Magazine ranked him the 13th most powerful person in the world.

The unraveling begins today. Today for the first time, the Murdochs will be on the record and fact-checked in ways he’d never get on bootlick shows like Fox & Friends.

Cutthroat competitors and every enemy the Murdochs ever made -- and they are legion -- now have an opportunity to exact a revenge that’s long simmered.

And all those unblinking fair and balanced news consumers are about to learn what the rest of us have known for a long, long time.

Mr. Murdoch is of order.

And about out of time.