PEDestrian Walk in the Park

I was really happy to see Frank Thomas get elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon, and frankly it surprised me how pleased it made me feel. So much so that without hesitation I've dusted off this blog to post again after a semi retirement, a la Jordan switching to baseball. All that HOF stuff is something I've never cared for, and with all the cheating going on have little time for worshiping millionaires who carry a big stick.

But the Big Hurt was different, and the fact that he was known to be one of the few 'clean' superstars from that era just made me feel almost validated that he was my favorite White Sox player right off the bat from his rookie season in 1990.  That year I was awarded one of those 'Good Attendance' vouchers for Sox bleacher tickets from my school, which were in abundance because -- like the Bulls before Jordan's primetime era -- the team really sucked and were playing in an empty aging relic of a stadium. (Which, for the record, I totally wish they had kept and renovated instead.)  The selection of Frank Thomas as a first-round draft pick in '89 helped launch a new era to go along with some other big investments into the future, including sending veteran Harold Baines to Texas for a young kid named Sammy Sosa (whose reputation received only 7.2% of votes for the HOF in his second year of eligibility).

A smiling Sosa is seen sitting behind Thomas in the infamous Upper Deck card featuring Big Frank giving the middle finger, something I had no idea until yesterday that he did also a few years later in a Topps Stadium Club snapshot...

Thomas never seemed comfortable the media spotlight and during his playing days seemed to be bothered by the attention, except when it came from Letterman or even Al Bundy. After his  acrimonious split with the Sox in 2005 when a World Series was brought to the South Side for the first time in 88 years, he seemed like he had a chip on his shoulder. Like he's always got something to prove. And that he did bouncing back in Oakland, hitting 39 homers at the age of thirty-eight, leading the A's to a deep playoff run a year after the Sox said he was all but done.

That could be where he'll be with his business ventures, or as a TV analyst in Chicago despite starting out there as a man of few words, just like his former Auburn and White Sox teammate Bo Jackson. It also could explain why someone of his caliber and statistical performance went to only 5 All-Star Games. But as Hawk Harrelson clarified (at the 2 minute mark of that clip) he was often "misquoted and misrepresented" in the press.

Someone who's always worth the quote is Tony LaRussa, who also got nominated for Cooperstown as a manager. He of course began his career in the dugout at Comiskey Park in 1979, and a 'winning ugly' pennant in '84 came along the way until the aforementioned Hawk Harrelson, then in the front office as GM, gave him the boot.

LaRussa is an interesting guy, and also just as mercurial as Big Frank. He's got a Law Degree from Florida State, and is multi-lingual. Fluent in Español, I tweeted that link last year and I remember SI's Grant Wahl then sharing the same clip a few hours later without giving me any 'H/T' of any sort. And how do I know that? Because he un-blocked me for some reason that same exact night, as he apparently did with some others who dared to kick the can down the road. But hey, I got nothing left to prove. I'm just happy to be back here.

Play and Pause

The inaugural era of the British Premier League season on began today on the NBC Sports networks.  The Peacock splurged millions to buy the bid away from ESPN and Fox.

I still managed to do what I traditionally do on Saturdays: Visiting and/or setting up a garage sale.  I dusted off this vintage Arsenal top, which was the first soccer jersey I ever bought. Got it from the 'Soccer Shop' in Naperville, Illinois and wore it the next day to my AP Social Studies class my junior year of high school.  It was the only AP class I had that semester, so the smart Indian kid was befuddled by my fashion sense. "Why are you wearing a JVC shirt?" he asked and chuckled.

A couple of months later I used our family's JVC 4-head VCR to produce my first video I directed and wrote, an end-of-term project for that class. Making those vids was the only thing I liked about being a student. For my efforts I was awarded with an in-school suspension by the school's draconian disciplinary unit, saying in a letter that I had used one of their VCR from the AV Office without permission. Admittedly I did use it to 'premiere' the rough cut to an audience of my peers.

Didn't know until today that JVC invented the VHS system, which became the North American standard over competitor SONY Betamax system, which was to be more prevalent in Europe. The Japanese company rolled out the first VCR onto the market on September 1976.

Five years later, they signed a shirt sponsorship with Arsenal Football Club -- which was a first for both JVC and the North London team. The partnership lasted 18 seasons, ending in 1999. It remains the longest deal ever for a Premiership club.

Before hitting the pavement on my way to school I hit play on that JVC almost every morning around 7am, just before heading out the door for the dreaded trek down my block to the bus stop.  I played a 30-second clip of a moving mundial montage with music.  I accidentally recorded it during a CNN show 'World Soccer Today.' There were no cell phones or portable digital devices to play it on back then, kids.

Halleh Louie XI

Some meme-worthy screenshots at the end of the Ghana/England exhibition at Wembley on Tuesday evening, after an epic equalizer from Asamoah Gyan.

According to the Twittersphere it's this bloke.  Best of luck to him on his travels to the Gold Coast. Hope he doesn't start bible-thumping Elton John or do what the Brits did the last time they colonized west Africa -- or the last time a barefoot Black Stars team played in London.

That same evening across the Irish Sea, there was a friendly in Dublin with Ireland hosting Uruguay. Yes that same Ur-so-guay team that deflated our hearts with Luis Suarez's red-carded slap at the goal line at Soccer City last summer. If ever there was a time to put the past away and begin bilateral negotiations towards a peace treaty, it is now.

Bill & Luke's Excellent Adventures

Illinois won their first NCAA tourney game in what feels like a zillion years, and feeling nostalgic I pulled up a clip of their finest March Madness comeback. The best part of that clip, and for those of us improv Chicago dudes, is CBS showing orange-clad Bill Murray with his son Luke going bonkers in the stands during those frantic final minutes at the old Rosemont Horizon in '05.

Arizona, like the Illini, are also having their deepest run since then. The two schools have a burgeoning rivalry that began in 2001, when after splitting two regular season meetings, met with a birth to the Final Four at stake. That game was controversial for the officiating but also as a nuisance to Illinois fans because Bill Walton was calling the game for CBS while his son Luke was starring for the Wildcats.

Luke Walton was in Anaheim last night for Arizona's lost to Connecticut, and CBS couldn't stop zooming their cameras in on him. No word on whether Bill was there, but I'm pretty sure Luke Murray was supporting Arizona in the stands even without his pops' prescence.


The weekend after I posted this, the former Sex Pistols legend and TV personality finally put away his grudge and attended his first Arsenal game at their new grounds. Some cool shots from Getty Images of the Public Image Ltd. frontman were taken, while appearances on TalkBalk Live and some podcast with Ian Wright were among the stops for John Lydon/Rotten's new book.

I first found out Sir Johnny was a big footy fan in this awesome appearance on George Strombobolous' CBC show The Hour. In the clip the new transplant to Los Angeles provides a spot-on analysis of David Beckham's move to the Galaxy, among other things. Similiar sentiments have been shared by L.A. radio host Steve Jones, the Sex Pistols guitarist and Hollywood United fullback who's a Chelsea supporter.

Speaking of Chelsea Piers, Lydon seems like the perfect guest for CNN's new import to New York, Piers Morgan. The former Daily Mail columnist -- remember Larry King's USA Today column? -- spends a lot of his Twitter feed tweeting about his beloved Gunners. Unfortunately that same passion has yet to be shown on Piers Morgan Tonight, which has been taking 'starfugging' route instead of something vibrant and interesting. It's time for producers Jonathan Wald and Spank Rock to expand their horizons instead of old Americans, and think more of their CNN Int'l viewership.

Qatar Hero

Seconds before gasps are heard at the @Newseum
Our 21st century plans our set by our FIFA overlords, so it's time to dust off the blog here. I've been busying micro-blogging over on Twitter, a platform you might have heard of, relaying as little minutiae that I can.

Twitter excels most during live moments, so after announcement in Zurich on where World Cups 2018 and 2022 are headed, I had a brief exchange with Brooks Peck of Yahoo's DirtyTackle blog. In essence I was using Mr. Peck as my muse in the matter, fighting the ignorance piling up with the decisions. But it was cathartic nonetheless.

Deja Vuvuzela

Six and the City

The Brothers Touré
Bentiez sez something.

ESPN's Rob Stone and Taylor Twellman chat with SiriusXM's Charlie Stillitano


Thierry Henry took the PATH train to say bienvenue to his new home venue on Thursday night, but nothing could prepare him for this train-wreck of an interview.

Yes, leave it to the FOX affiliate in New York to leave out the truth and put a newcomer to our shores through their vacuous no-fact zone. Rupert Murdoch's New York Post had already fabricated a few headlines about the "stupid" sport of soccer this summer.

Henry looked to be in more welcoming surroundings on another morning show, hosted by newbie futbol fanatic Joe Scarborough. Having followed Joe on Twitter during the World Cup I thought his account had been hacked -- it was THAT fever-pitched.

Speaking of going high and wide, Henry thankfully avoided old-fashioned baseball blabbermouth Keith Olbermann on his way to 30 rock, choosing a more youthful appearance on Jimmy Fallon's late night chatfest.

Waving Flagged

©ourtesy of ESQUIRE

World Cup fever hit the interwebs in full force two days before the opening game, and the pace of the friend-zy was set when Twitter went ball-istic in devoting resources in getting armchair strikers situated.

As a futbol fan we appreciated all their intentions, and the attention they gave the World's Game. But the execution, some might say, left a lot to be desired.

Esquire, who I generally find uninteresting as a trendy celebrity-mongering self-important 'lad' mag, had a pretty good article breaking down the #worldcup hashtag phenomenon and some poll results.

Internet records were broken throughout the month-long festivities in South Africa. Which is a sign of the tournament increasing popularity -- particularly in North America -- but perhaps also a sign of the fragile nature of Web 2.0 platforms.  Big goals immediately meant a big sperm whale notifying us that "something is technically wrong" -- something I'm sure fans of France, Italy and England were probably already thinking, but for reasons on the field, not online.
©ourtesy of Twitter

Interestingly enough, 145 goals were scored at this year's FIFA World Cup. So it's no surprise we went a bit over the limit on Twitter.

Cup d'état

Pres. Obama watches USA-Ghana during break at G12 summit
It was unfortunate that the first African-American president in the White House  couldn''t head out to the first World Cup on African soil. But with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the G12 summit in Canada, it would have been a public relations risk with our ever-fickle populace. Pres. Obama got into the spirit at the hotel in Toronto with other world leaders, and lived to tweet about a few times.

But it was to the U.S. embassy in Pretoria did really took the social media cake, posting and commenting some interesting stuff down on the ground in South African through their Facebook and Twitter sites.

The White House sent out VP Joe Biden to the VIP box at the opening match in Jo'burg, sitting behind Desmond Tutu while the Arch got his groove on in the booth after Tshabalala scored a spectacular opening goal of the tournament.

Then it was Bill Clinton's turn to take charge, going BYOB after the Algeria match and then turning up the glitz in rusty Bloemfontein for the second round against Ghana. Instead of bringing the beers he brought along famous friends like Mick Jagger, Kobe Bryant and, uh, Katie Couric and Wolf Blitzer. It was then announced that Mr. Clinton will spearhead the American delegation to Zurich at the end of this year to campaign for the 2022 World Cup in the USA, which Bill knows something about.

A day after the final at Soccer City, Pres. Obama sat down with South African state broadcaster SABC for an exclusive interview from the Oval Office, lauding the hosts for their fine management of the tournament and what the event will mean for further investment into, not out of, Africa.