Category Archives: Uncategorized

Atlantic Hurricane Season Starts Today

Today, June 1 marks the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The edge of hurricane Claudette arrives in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson
The edge of hurricane Claudette arrives in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

I realize for many people not living near the coast this fact does not hold much water.

But, for those people near the shore today marks the start of a six-month period of keeping their eyes on the skies and hoping for another year free from the devastation that a direct hit by a hurricane can cause.

Of course recent rains around Houston have shown that it does not take a hurricane for water and flooding to cause severe damage to property,  and even cause loss of life.

When I lived in Florida I rode out many hurricanes from about 30 miles inland. That central location meant that by the time the storm reached me it was normally just a wind and rain maker.

The Gulf of Mexico churns ahead of the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson
The Gulf of Mexico churns ahead of the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

The highlight of those storms being a water spout that picked up a school of catfish and deposited them in my parents’ yard.

I can still picture my mom running around trying to save all of the fish that were very much out of water.

Since leaving Florida I have had a few vacations cut short due to the pending arrival of storms that I have had to outrun in my car to reach the safety of home and avoid getting stuck. To that end I try to avoid travel during the peak of hurricane season now to minimize the chances of having a trip washed out.

Upon moving to Texas I came a little closer to the shore through my proximity to Galveston Bay. While still around 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico the Bay acts as a direct line for storm surge as demonstrated during Hurricane Ike.

Like moths to the flame news vans like this one on the Seawall in Galveston become a familiar sight before and after the arrival of a hurricane. Photo R. Anderson
Like moths to the flame news vans like this one on the Seawall in Galveston become a familiar sight before and after the arrival of a hurricane.
Photo R. Anderson

In the little over a decade that I have lived in Texas I have evacuated ahead of the storm twice.

The first time included a 17 hour drive to Irving (a drive that normally would take five hours when not ensnared in bumper to bumper traffic) and a more reasonable seven hour drive to Gulfport, Mississippi during the aforementioned Hurricane Ike.

Hurricane Ike marked the closet I ever came to losing everything to a hurricane. Ike made landfall right at the mouth of the Bay which allowed the floodwater and storm surge to push well inland. When I returned back home I realized that the damaging floodwater stopped a mere two miles from my house.

While waiting out the storm in Gulfport I was glued to the television set watching the coverage of the pending storm. Ironically by evacuating east for the storm I actually experienced some of the outer bands of Ike in Gulfport before it made landfall in Texas.

Returning back home was like driving through a foreign land. There were still familiar sites but the parts of buildings strewn everywhere made it clear just how powerful the storm was.

A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola. Photo R. Anderson
A news van from New Orleans waits for the storm to hit in Pensacola.
Photo R. Anderson

One particular comment from the reporters on the seen was the proclamation that the Galveston Hooter’s restaurant was gone.

Truth be told, the Hooter’s was one of many buildings perched on stilts above the water that were picked up and tossed onto the seawall like Tinker Toys.

But for whatever reason the reporter on the scene felt that the most prudent way to help the viewers at home understand the scope of the damage was to focus on the loss of the Hooter’s. The singling out of the Hooter’s made me laugh for some reason which may have just been a coping mechanism since I did not know what I would be coming home to.

To this day when I am driving along the seawall I will stop at the spot where the Hooter’s once stood and in my best Anderson Cooper voice will proclaim that the Hooter’s is gone.

Much like the Hooter's restaurant the 61st Street pier fell victim to the pounding storm surge of Hurricane Ike. While the Hooter's has yet to be rebuilt a new version of the pier has returned to the shore. Photo R. Anderson
Much like the Hooter’s restaurant the 61st Street pier fell victim to the pounding storm surge of Hurricane Ike. While the Hooter’s has yet to be rebuilt a new version of the pier has returned to the shore.
Photo R. Anderson

After Ike the area around me rebuilt and for the most part there are few signs of the furry of the storm.

There are still pockets that have not come back and individuals still dealing with the loss but by and large a first time visitor to Galveston would not really be able to tell that a storm had flooded so much of the island.

The same is true in other places that have had storms hit. After the water recedes the cleanup begins and lives are slowly put back together.

The Flagship Hotel in Galveston was another victim to the power of Ike. The area has since been converted to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier. Photo R. Anderson
The Flagship Hotel in Galveston was another victim to the power of Ike. The area has since been converted to the Galveston Historic Pleasure Pier.
Photo R. Anderson

With the exception of Super Storm Sandy it has been a few years since a storm of the major category has made landfall in the United States.

Here’s to hoping for another year where the big storms stay away.

But if a storm does head this way this year I think I will most likely ride it out. It is not that I am being brave or foolish for that matter it is just that after seeing the worst that a storm can do from afar I would rather be up close and relatively safe than battling the thousands of people on the road heading north.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to check my hurricane supplies.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Advertisements

New Year, Same Old Resolutions

Today marks the second day of 2015.

Today also marks the time when people drag out their New Year’s resolutions which for many are the same as last year’s resolutions.

The most popular resolutions year after year tend to revolve around weight loss based on the amount of commercials flooding the airwaves this time of year for gyms and diet programs.

Turn on almost any channel and the odds are pretty good that in any given commercial break a commercial of some sort of weight loss supplement, program or device will be on.

I revolved to get healthier this year which will likely be accomplished through weight loss the old fashioned way and will not be accompanied by any crash diets or expensive gym memberships.

More power to those people who will be partaking of the fad diets, but they are not for me.

Another popular resolution this time of year involves many people searching for better jobs.

The better job can be in the form of higher salaries or just increased happiness.

Having a job where one is paid well, challenged and appreciated is always a good thing to find so it is certainly a valiant resolution to find such a thing.

Of course having a job that one enjoys can go a long way as well.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have many jobs where it was a joy to go to work. In some cases this was because the people I worked with made the day more bearable and in other case it was the work that was a joy to complete.

These jobs allowed me to cover many memorable events and also helped me feel like I was part of a worthwhile cause that made a difference.

There have also been jobs that I have had that sucked the creative juices out of me and were a complete drag to go to. These jobs offered little more than a chair that spun and paychecks that cleared on time.

For all of those people in those mind numbing jobs, I wish them more fruitful career pursuits in the New Year and hope that they find a rewarding job where their talents are fully utilized.

The new year is also a time for many in the media to compose lists containing the best and worst fill in the blank of the previous year.

Over the past few weeks I have read lists of everything from the best television shows of the last year to the best plays in college football.

These lists are subjective and are 100 percent in the eye of the beholder, but it can be fun to see what people found amusing in the previous year.

For the record, I will not be compiling any year end wrap up lists of what I think was the best and worst from the past year.

Of course another tradition this time of the year is the inclusion of predictions for the year ahead.

This can come in many forms but often involves an “expert” weighing in on who they feel will be the best in a given sport during the coming year.

As I have mentioned before I do not really believe in predictions involving sports teams.

There are just too many factors that can affect the outcome of a game let alone a season so trying to predict what will happen really holds little weight in my book.

The College Football Championship Game will feature Oregon and Ohio State this year. While there were certainly some people who saw that coming at the start of the year I am sure the bulk of people figure it would be Alabama and Florida State. Despite a game that was not predicted by the majority of “experts” I feel that the stage is set for one of the more competitive finals in recent years.

In the world of baseball the consensus preseason favorites for the World Series were noticeably absent in October as many unexpected teams crashed the playoff party.

In both cases the games were entertaining despite defying the predications from the enlightened minds.

My resolution for the New Year would be for people to rely less on what the “experts” say will happen in a game and to spend more time watching the games and letting them unfold as they should.

After all, if all of the outcomes in life were predetermined life would truly be a boring thing to go through.

Instead of making resolutions that will come and go just make the most of each day and be the best person that you can be. If you can do that, the rest will fall into place without the need for crash diets of celery and grapefruit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some exercise to get to.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

College Football Playoff is Still not Perfect Solution

Last Monday, December 22, marked the 30th anniversary of the first college football game I ever attended.

The game was the Florida Citrus Bowl between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida State Seminoles.

Joining me for my first in person taste of gridiron glory from our seats among the “Zonies” on a warm 80 degree Orlando, Florida winter day were my mom, grandmother and cousin.

Thanks to the magic of the internet I was able to watch a grainy broadcast of the game yesterday to see if I could find any shots of my family in the stands. Sadly I did not.

With two family members rooting for each side, it was probably for the best that the game ended in a 17-17 tie so that each of us could feel like we won.

In 1984 my mother, grandmother, cousin and I watched the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida State Seminoles battle to a 17-17 tie in the Florida Citrus Bowl. Photo R. Anderson
In 1984 my mother, grandmother, cousin and I watched the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida State Seminoles battle to a 17-17 tie in the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Photo R. Anderson

I had the opportunity to attend many other games at the Citrus Bowl Stadium during my time as both a student and as a Sports Information Office intern at the University of Central Florida but 1984 marked my only trip to a bowl game.

While the UCF Knights no longer play at there, the Citrus Bowl will once again be filled with screaming fans tomorrow as the college football bowl season is in full swing.

There are 39 bowl games on the schedule this year from coast to coast.

Bowl games were even played beyond the continental United States in Hawaii and the Bahamas.

Plans call for even more games next year as cities and companies try to capitalize on the popularity of college football and bring the bowl experience to their cities.

Bowl games are profitable and allow schools who are “bowl eligible” to play one more game while the schools who did not make the cut get an early start on next year.

Bowl games also allow sports networks to sell lots and lots of commercials to pad their pockets before the lean months of the sporting calendar begin.

The Bowl system has changed dramatically since younger me saw his first game and this year offers college football’s version of a playoff where four teams were chosen to battle for the National Championship.

I know that we are all supposed to rally behind the playoff selection committee and say that a college playoff is good and just, but the fact remains that it still boils down to a subjective selection, if not a full blown popularity contest.

While not getting into details on the four chosen teams and whether or not they belong, the fact remains they were chosen by human beings instead of the way other sports select their playoff teams.

In every other professional sport, and let’s not kid ourselves by thinking that college football is not a professional sport, playoff teams are selected based on either winning your division or being a wild card team.

While this system in the NFL brought us a division winner with a losing record, everyone knows the rules going into it.

There is no room for debates on strength of schedule or other subjective factors. It is very cut and dry as to who is and is not in the playoffs.

It is likely that college football will never be able to remove all of the subjective nature of the playoffs based on the number of teams involved and other factors such as wanting teams from the power conferences to always be involved in the championship game.

The College Football Playoff system is not perfect and it never will be.

A March Madness type tournament where 64 basketball teams are whittled down to a single champion would likely not be feasible based on the number of days needed to recover after a football game, but I hold slightly more faith that a Final Four basketball Champion is more worthy than a football playoff champion.

So enjoy your bowl games and cheer on your alma mater but do not think that the four best schools in the country will always be represented in the playoffs.

That is not to say that it is time for the tin foil hat society to look for conspiracies and call Mulder and Scully to straighten things out. The Bowl Championship Series that preceded this year’s playoff format was equally flawed when it came to objectivity.

There is just too much room for error and too many cooks in the kitchen with agendas of their own for a football champion that all will agree on to be crowned.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see if I can find my ticket stub from the 1984 Citrus Bowl.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Monty Python Says Goodbye with Singing, Dancing, and Spam

And now for something completely different.

Normally this space would be reserved for some observations and witty commentary on various happenings from within the world of baseball.

There are certainly many baseball tales that need to be covered as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches on July 31 and teams prepare for the final months of a grueling season.

We will certainly get to all of those stories and more in the coming days and weeks.

But in honor of the end of an era, today we will take a break from covering baseball to focus on Monty Python.

Much like the Spanish Inquisition, I am sure that no one expected that.

So sit back in your comfy chair, and fry up some Spam in your best lumberjack flannel while considering the meaning of life and whether a swallow could or could not carry a coconut.

Monty Python has likely hung up the Spam for good after a farewell performance Sunday in London. Photo R. Anderson.
Monty Python has likely hung up the Spam for good after a farewell performance Sunday in London.
Photo R. Anderson.

These are just a few of the plethora of items that became part of the pop culture landscape over the past 45 years or so thanks to the six members of the Monty Python comedy group who showed that their impact on pop culture was much more than just a flesh wound.

That 45 year comedic chest of drawers was on full display when the five surviving members of Monty Python performed the final show of a 10-day residency “Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go” at the O2 Arena in London on Sunday in front of a 16,000-strong audience.

In addition to the London audience the show was broadcast live in theaters across the globe.

While I was not yet born when Monty Python first burst onto the scene with the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow, like many people of my generation and those that followed, I discovered a love of Monty Python through reruns on television and by watching their big screen movies.

During high school hardly a day would go by without someone uttering some catch phrase from a Monty Python skit.

With the works of Monty Python playing such an integral part in shaping my comedic sensibilities, it was a given that I would don my “Holy Grail” inspired killer rabbit shirt and attend the live simulcast at my local cinema to be part of the history.

Throughout a roughly two and a half hour show skits and songs from throughout the Python catalog were performed by Eric Idle, John Cleese, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and Terry Gilliam.

Graham Chapman, the sixth Python, who died in 1989, was certainly there in spirit and he also appeared on film clips, along with some of the original television footage of Python sketches shown on a huge video display.

The performance started by paying homage to another British import that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, as the Pythons entered the stage in a blue police box that looked an awful lot like that time and space traveling time lord Doctor Who’s TARDIS.

While long considered international comedy geniuses who inspired countless comedians who came after them, the members of Monty Python first garnered fame through “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”, which aired in England from 1969 to 1974. The Flying Circus landed in America thanks to support from local Public Broadcasting Stations who introduced Monty Python to the American masses in rerun form starting in 1974.

With their place in popular culture so well established it is hard to believe that there were only 45 episodes of The Flying Circus ever made.

Following the success of the television show Monty Python made a number of films, including “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” and “The Meaning of Life”.

It would be nearly impossible for any single live performance to cover every single joke from a 45 year career. Instead of trying to cover it all, the live show took the most memorable skits from the television show and the movies to blend together a retrospective that spanned the entire catalog from lumberjack to spam.

There was even room for a few new interpretations of old classics as well as a prerecorded skit with theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, who at 72-years-old, is roughly the same age as the five surviving members of Monty Python.

After bringing to life so many laughs the performance ended in the only way that it could really, with the five Pythons, dressed in white tuxedos, belting out “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” as a sort of prearranged spontaneous encore.

Following the encore, the video display flashed “Monty Python 1969-2014”, indicating that this was likely the end for the group.

Only time will tell whether there is still life left in the old Norwegian blue parrot that allows Monty Python to fly once more and show that they still feel happy and aren’t dead yet.

Regardless of whether or not Monty Python ever performs again, they will continue to live on through reruns and the internet inspiring countless more generations with their quotable potables, silly walks and philosophers playing on the pitch.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go in search of a shrubbery.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

The Family Ties

If we all stop to think about it, chances are many of our interests in life, both good and bad, are influenced by our family members. Sometimes we have interests that run counter to the rest of our family although many other times the family ties that bind us include similar interests running throughout the generations. From a favorite soda, favorite sports teams and everything in between odds are in some way the choices we make are in some small way influenced by our exposure growing up. I have already mentioned the influence that my mother had on my love of baseball but she was far from the only generation in my family to follow the game and in turn share their love for it with me. Now up to bat, my two grandmothers, Granny and Mom Mom who each in their own way shaped how I picture the game and have their own place in my Hall of Fame.

Let us begin with my grandmother on my mother’s side; Edna Kirby, or Granny as she is known to me. Granny lives in Georgia which as many of you know is home to the Atlanta Braves. Despite living about four hours away from Atlanta, Granny always made it a point to watch her beloved Braves whenever they would come on. There were definitely some lean years to be a Braves fan but still she would soldier on with her devotion to her boys and most of all Chipper Jones. Whenever Chipper Jones would make a great play shouts of “attaboy Chipper” would resonate from my grandmother’s recliner. And, whenever Chipper would strike out or make a bad fielding play the battle cry turned to “oh Chipper.”

Checking up on Chipper
Checking up on Chipper at Astros Spring Training in Kissimmee, FL.
Photo by R. Anderson

A few years back my mother and I traveled from Texas to Georgia to visit my grandmother in the hospital. While it was never spoken out loud in the car we both feared that maybe we were driving to say good bye to her based on the severity of why we thought she had been admitted to the hospital. After driving for 16 hours straight we arrived at the hospital and prepared for the worst as we approached the small rural hospital. Nothing really could have prepared us for what we saw though once we got inside though. Instead of a woman near death we found my grandmother standing in the hall in her hospital gown shouting to us to hurry up since the Braves game was on. She did not wait for us to get down the hall. Instead, she turned and went back in her room. By the time we got to her room she was already back in bed and giving us a recap of the game and asking what took us so long to get there. Near death indeed, she was as full of life as ever and it was yet another time to talk about the Braves. To this day whenever we talk to each other the conversation inevitably turns to the subject of how the Braves are doing.

Granny now lives in a nursing home and as often happens when a loved one makes the move to that stage in their live the larger furnishings and other accumulated belongings are divided up amongst the family since there is no room for them in the nursing home. There were not too many items of my grandmother’s that I wanted but I made sure I got her television. It is far from a new television, in fact it is down right old and heavy by today’s standards. There are no HD channels or flat screen components yet to me it is the most valuable TV in the world. For you see, this television that now sits on a dresser in my bedroom is the very same television that showed all of those Braves games that she and I shared together. Sure there are other channels that the TV gets but for me it is the Braves TV and everytime I see it or power it on I think of her and our shared bond over the game of baseball. And on those rare occasions when a Braves game is being shown in Houston I smile a little wider because I know we are both watching the same game.

***

My other Grandmother, Pat Hall, or Mom Mom as I call her, also shares a deep love for baseball and for years she lived in the perfect area to take advantage of that. After retiring Mom Mom and my grandfather moved from Maryland to the west coast of Florida near Bradenton. In addition to being located near some really nice beaches which made for great summer days in the surf as well as year round fishing, there was proximity to baseball; lots and lots of baseball.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the layout of baseball in Florida there are several teams that hold their Spring Training games in and around the west coast of the Sunshine State as noted in the photo I took in Sarasota at the Orioles Spring Training facility. Each year when Spring Training rolled around Mom Mom and I would try to plan when I could come down and catch a game with her. Sadly it never worked out that we could see a game in Bradenton but we were able to see several games in Orlando.

A map of the teams that call the Grapefruit League in Florida their Spring Training home.Photo by R. Anderson
A map of the teams that call the Grapefruit League in Florida their Spring Training home.
Photo by R. Anderson

Mom Mom also helped add to my autograph collection as she interacted with many ball players through a part time job that she had at a restaurant that was owned by a former player in the Pirates organization. Every so often a new package filled with autographs of people that she had met would arrive in the mail. Many of those autographs are still displayed in my office. One particularly cool item from those years is an autographed team ball for the Bradenton Explorers of the Senior Professional Baseball Association. The league disbanded after a single season so I consider that extra cool to have that memento of a forgotten era. During one visit to her restaurant I was also introduced to college basketball announcer Dick Vitale. I met him before I really knew who he was so there was not a huge wow factor aside from the normal pleasantries of being introduced to someone and being told that they were famous. Once I did learn who he was I must say as he would surely say, “it was awesome baby.”

Like Granny, Mom Mom also has now moved from the home that she knew to enter that next phase of her life which includes assisted living facilities and the knowledge that the years ahead are fewer than the years behind them. Still, both women remain strong influences on me as a person in all aspects of my life but the influence on the aspects that involve baseball are surely hard to miss. Some day I am sure that I will join the line of people to influence the next generation and in turn they will go on to spread the knowledge and love as well. That is part of the great experience of life. Each generation shares what they know to the next and it builds from there. It also shows the generation to generation appeal of the National Pastime. Like us, the game gets bruised and tattered now and then but it gets up, wipes the orange clay and grass off and moves ahead. We should all strive to be as resilient. Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to see how the Braves are doing.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson