The Blog Squad

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Want Candy

Indulge me for a few minutes like you would a party-sized Twix. Bite into the milk chocolate over smooth caramel and that light cookie crunch. Yum!

Tomorrow is Halloween. The chilly air and premature darkness remind me of my childhood days, dressed up as a frogman complete with a skin-tight wetsuit, flippers and goggles. I’d run around the neighborhood carrying a pillowcase full of candy. The mother lode!

Ah, the candy.

I’m proud to say I grew up in the 1980s. If you remember back then, it was still okay to give out candy apples and candy cigarettes. In fact, I used to pack the cigarettes and put one behind my ear for later.

What was not okay was to hand over a Clark Bar or a 5th Avenue. We knew the neighborhood houses that sucked! But there was always some clown at school who loved a Whatchamacallit and would trade a Nestle Chunky for one.

Candy was the whole reason for Halloween. The costumes, in my mind, were the lure for the candy. It’s like a seal performing tricks to get that fish. OK, I’ll be a pirate to get a fun-sized Heath Bar. I’ll even grunt out a “Shiver me Timbers” if you dole over that Blow Pop.

I took some time to jot down the candies I remember from back in the day. I separated the good from the bad, similar to what I did as a kid when I got back from trick or treating.

Almond Joy — The No. 1 candy bar on my list. These were treasured and immediately put in the freezer with a “DO NOT TOUCH” sign. Nothing like eating the coconut first and saving the nut for last.

Kit Kat — A solid candy bar. Great for a rerun episode of Happy Days just before dinner. A Kit Kat is a candy bar made for the routines of every day.

Pixie Stix — Usually given two or three at once. These paper straw-shaped containers carried multi-flavored magical dust that tingled the tongue. A real BOY could chug a Pixie Stix with no tonsil sting. One of these days I’m gonna try a Cap’n Crunch and Pixie Stix sandwich!

Rolo — What’s not to like? Chocolate with caramel centers and plenty in a pack. I never loved anyone enough to give her my last Rolo.

Smarties — Not the British attempt to duplicate our classic M&Ms. But the tablet-sized pills that are full of fruit flavors. I can’t tell you how many times my jeans were washed with a packet of Smarties in the front pocket.

Honorable mentions — Spree, Bit-O-Honey, Pop Rocks, M&M Peanut, Nestle Crunch, Big Red and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.


Tootsie Roll — Did nothing for me except stick to my teeth. If I wanted something cocoa-flavored, I’d drink Ovaltine. They are small and annoying.

Mike and Ike — A wanna-be glorified jelly bean that is another stick-to-the-teeth irritant. Mike and Ike is just more available. I mean, how many movie theaters sell jelly beans?

Runts — Just because it looks like a banana doesn’t excuse the makers from not giving it a banana flavor. It tastes like a bruised squash. Egads! The other shapes aren’t even proportional. A cherry bigger than an orange? A lime that looks like a pea? Runts are no Nerds, that’s for sure.

PayDay — Way too many peanuts. In the same class as a Zero bar.

Jolly Ranchers — Gee, thanks. One whole Jolly Rancher from a bag of 500! There’s nothing wrong with Jolly Ranchers, in fact, they have quite a flavor burst. But people who give them out tend to be stingy especially with the watermelons!

Shameful mentions — Zagnut, $100,000 Bar, Now & Later, Starburst, Mr. Goodbar (I always have a scary image of Diane Keaton in a tub) and O’Henry.

Here a question that popped up in my mind as I was writing this. Does bubble gum exist anymore? It used to be that adults munched on chewing gum and us kids devoured the bubble gum. And you were loyal to a brand — Bubblicious, Bubble Yum, Dubble Bubble or Hubba Bubba. Other bubble gum like Bazooka or Super Bubble were second-tier and not considered in the debate.

I always chewed the Bubble Yum grape, not just for the flavor, but for the non-stick action of the gum after the bubble burst. Manb was I cool after blowing a face-sized bubble and then taking the stem part out of my mouth and holding my accomplishment up like I was going to fly away. Good times.

If a little girl dressed in a pink cat outfit comes to your door and says, “Meow, trick or treat,” be kind. It’s my daughter’s first real experience. So please, no Tootsie Rolls or banana-shaped Runts.

I just can’t stop picking on Boston fans. Sorry.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Boston is the Dave Stoller of Sports

It used to be that Boston sports fans were some of the biggest losers in sports. They were Dude Lebowski, Shelley Levene and the Matthew McConaughey character in Dazed and Confused. They were Louis Tully, Jerry Lundegaard and Gary in The Last American Virgin.

Sure the Boston Celtics and the Boston Bruins experienced some good times. But they weren’t enough to offset the heartaches of the Red Sox and the Patriots. Even Boston College left area fans feeling like this guy.

However, all that has changed recently. The Patriots have won three of the last six Super Bowls. The Red Sox are looking for its second World Series victory since 2004 after waiting 86 years for a title.

And then there was what happened last night.

I’m no Virginia Tech fan. But I do have state pride and was rooting for the Hokies to take down the No. 2 ranked Boston College Eagles. What transpired made me sick to my stomach as BC rallied for two touchdowns in the final minutes to win, 14-10. I can’t imagine how Tech fans must have felt. Lane Stadium became the saddest place in America.

Are you like me? Are you ready to see Boston teams and their fans knocked down a notch or two? Not that they’re bad people. I’m sure the majority of them are amazingly graceful and appreciative. But it’s like watching a neighbor say thank you after winning the lottery for the third time. Enough is enough.

So this Sunday, the Redskins have a chance to restore some balance in the sports world. And from conversations with fans of my beloved team, there is some belief Washington has a chance.

I’ve heard talk about the Redskins highly regarded defensive and in particular the secondary. Hit them. Lay the lumber. Make Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Donte Stallworth think twice about extending the arms.

Indeed, the skins are physical enough downfield to intimidate. Sean Taylor is brutal and craves challenges against the best receivers. BOO! He’s scared many good NFL receivers in the past. Remember this play?

Although it was former Redskins Ryan Clark who was charging at Todd Pinkston, it was Taylor’s (No. 36) reputation and hits earlier in the game that caused the receiver to pull up. There are quite a few examples similar to this that demonstrates Taylor’s ability to alter a receiver’s focus.

I do believe that if the linebackers and defensive backs keep everything in front of them, limit the yards after the catch and deliver punishment at the same time, there’s a chance to contain New England even without a push from the front four. But if the Redskins are able to pressure Brady, then absolutely, I believe keeping the Patriots to no more than three touchdowns is very possible.

It’s no secret that Washington defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has a huge ego. Sometimes it’s to the team’s detriment. But I think his ego will be a benefit against the Patriots. Williams will take this game as a challenge to his genius. He will devise a terrific game plan. But will his personnel be able to execute it?

Who knows? If I did, I would definitely wager dinner against a Patriots fan. Speaking of which, why is the point spread 17? That’s a disgrace and extremely disrespectful. New England was the favorite by the same margin last week against the winless Dolphins.

The Redskins point spread opened up at 16 and actually moved up. So that means there’s no faith around the country that the home team can maintain pace with the Patriots.

My head tells me that Washington needs four turnovers with one for a score, four sacks, 150 rushing yards and solid game management by Campbell to have a chance at victory. I don’t see all of those happening. Pats 28, Redskins 10.

My heart tells me that Brady and Moss bleed like we all do and Taylor, Landry, McIntosh, Fletcher and Marcus Washington are blood-thirsty. Skins pound the Pats like a Bobo Doll Experiment. Washington 35, New England 31.

And just so you know. I always follow my heart.

Finally, if you need another reason to root for the Colorado Rockies, despite their 0-2 deficit, here’s a good one. The Rockies have voted to give a full playoff share to the wife and family of Mike Coolbaugh, the minor-league coach killed in July by a line drive while coaching first base for the franchise’s double-A affiliate Tulsa Drillers. His wife, Mandy, was six months pregnant when her husband died at age 35. The couple also have two young sons.

The World Series winning share last year was $362,173.

OUT AT HOME: For Halloween, I want to be this like this Bruce.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Time to get fired up for some Richmond Renegades hockey. The home opener is tomorrow night at 7:35 at Richmond Coliseum.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The New England Perfects

It might be an urban legend that every season when the last undefeated NFL team loses, members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins gather to pop a champagne cork on a vintage from that year.

The reason being is that the 1972 Dolphins are the only team to go through a grueling NFL season without a loss. They defeated the Washington Redskins, 14-7, to cap off a 17-0 season.

The coach of that team, Don Shula, denies such celebration exists.

Whatever the case, it’s highly likely that each surviving member of that team gives a fist pump or curves a little smile when the final undefeated team loses.

The record is now 34 seasons old and with the salary cap, revenue sharing, free agency and a 16-game schedule, more perfection does seem remote.

That will all change this year because the New England Patriots are the most perfect team I’ve seen since the 1991 Washington Redskins. That’s right, New England will finish the season undefeated.

The Patriots are 6-0 and average 38.3 points while yielding just 15.3 points. They are winning games by an average of 23 points. That’s domination in a league that rarely has teams separated by more than a touchdown.

The NFL’s other undefeated team, the Indianapolis Colts, has an impressive winning margin of 15.2 points. But that’s still a full touchdown behind the Patriots.

New England leads the league in total offense, passing, first downs, time of possession and turnover ratio—all key factors to winning in the modern game.

It all starts with Tom Brady, simply the greatest quarterback I’ve ever seen. And that list includes Montana, Elway, Favre, Marino, Fouts, Aikman, Manning and others. At age 30, Brady is showing what he can do with a competent corps of receivers. He is the first player in history to pass for at least three touchdowns in the first six games of the season.

Brady had five last week against the Dallas Cowboys. On the road and against a highly regarded defense, the Patriots quarterback picked apart a youthful and speedy secondary. He had a sixth touchdown called back and overthrew his new favorite target, Randy Moss, a couple of times that could have led to scores.

Brady is connecting on 72.5 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. At this pace, he will shatter Manning’s record of 49 passing TDs set in 2004.

It’s scary how the Patriots got Moss for a fourth round draft choice. What was the rest of the league thinking? What were my Redskins thinking? When properly motivated, Moss is the best in the business. His size, speed and hands create matchup problems and he’s proven he still can run and get it. Moss has always been a touchdown maker, and with eight this year, he’s on pace to best his personal record of 17.

Other receivers like Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and tight end Ben Watson allow the Patriots to spread the field and make defenses chase rather than attack. The offensive line is solid and gives Brady just enough time.

Also, New England is doing this without their best running back, Lawrence Maroney, who has battled a groin and other injuries all season.

I don’t have time to talk about the defense, but just know there are stars on each level—Ty Warren, Adalius Thomas and Asante Samuel.

Looking at the Patriots schedule, the two games that threaten their date with history are at Indianapolis (Nov. 4) and home against Pittsburgh (Dec. 9). However, I’ve been very impressed with the New York Giants, and with that game being the season finale (Dec. 29), logic and past history dictates that it’s possible the Patriots might rest their starters for the playoffs.

But who knows with Bill Belichick. The controversial coach has not shown any mercy and actually has run up the score in each game this season.

• Week 1 at New York Jets (38-14): 1-yard TD by Heath Evans, 1:58 left.
• Week 2 vs. San Diego (38-14): 3-yard TD by Sammy Morris, 3:28 left.
• Week 3 vs. Buffalo (38-7): 45-yard TD catch by Randy Moss, 10:22 left.
• Week 4 at Cincinnati (34-17): 14-yard TD catch by Randy Moss, 3:18 left.
• Week 5 vs. Cleveland (34-17): 15-yard fumble return TD by Randall Gay, 0:42 left. (Note: This TD came one play after the Patriots failed to convert on a fourth-and-goal from the Browns 4)
• Week 6 at Dallas (48-27): 1-yard TD run by Kyle Eckel, 0:19 left.

This tells me that New England is not messing around. The Patriots just don’t want to beat teams, they want to destroy and humiliate them. I’m sure part of this has to do with SPYGATE.

So when the Patriots meet the winless Dolphins this weekend, it’s certain that many members of the 1972 undefeated team will be rooting hard for Ronnie Brown and the boys. But don’t bet on an upset.

And it’s going to be a little ironic, maybe even poetic, when this year’s Miami squad joins the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the only winless team in NFL history. The Dolphins will not be the favorite in any of their remaining games.

OUT AT HOME: Lawn mowing season is over! Woohoo!

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Inspiration for the folks at Richmond Magazine.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Keeping The Game Alive

In the early morning of Feb. 8, 1996, Antonio Daniels heard a knock on his door. It was Bowling Green basketball coach Jim Larranaga and assistant Stan Heath.

The coaches entered with an ominous glazed look. Something was terribly wrong. They told Antonio that his mother would call him soon, but they wouldn’t tell him why.

The trio sat in silence for five minutes. Two knowing the truth. One swallowing hard and imagining the worse.

Then it came. The phone seemed to ring louder this time.

Antonio’s mother told him that his older brother by a year, Chris, had died minutes earlier from a heart attack. Chris was just 21.

Larranaga stayed with Antonio for hours. They cried. They prayed. Player clung on to coach and asked why. There were no answers.

Chris was a 6-10, 238-pound fifth-year senior who played center for the University of Dayton. He had earned a degree in communication management and was pursuing a second in sociology.

According to published reports, Chris experienced convulsions at his off-campus home at 4 a.m. He was admitted to the hospital an hour later in full cardiac arrest and efforts to resuscitate him failed.

He was pronounced dead at 5:31 a.m. Antonio received the call from him mother around 6 a.m.

Chris had developed into one of the better big men in the nation. He averaged 12.9 points and 6 rebounds. He was second in the nation in field-goal percentage, hitting 67.9 percent of his shots.

“It changed my attitude toward the way I think about life and the game of basketball,” Antonio says on his Web site. “It makes you cherish the time that you have here and cherish those you have here also. Once you get attached to someone so much, and then something like that happens, it’s just like a big piece has been torn from your heart.”

Two days later, Antonio decided to play against nationally ranked Eastern Michigan. It was a day that the brothers had circled on the calendar.

“I know that if my brother hadn’t been planning to come to that game I probably wouldn’t have played,” Antonio writes on his Web site.

Bowling Green fans will never forget the outcome. Antonio, a point guard, hit an off-balanced layup with four seconds left to give the Falcons a 72-70 victory.

Much of what Antonio Daniels does today is a tribute to his brother. He developed his game and was drafted into the NBA. He’s now a member of the Washington Wizards, which spent their training camp at Siegel Center on the Virginia Commonwealth University campus.

Antonio thought of his brother recently when teammate Etan Thomas underwent successful open heart surgery to repair a leak of the aortic valve. The irregularity was discovered during a routine physical before the start of training camp. It’s likely Thomas will never play in the NBA again.

Antonio wondered aloud to the Associated Press whether the stress test, which involves a heart check after running on a treadmill, could have saved Chris’ life. Other Wizards added that Thomas’ condition shows the necessity of having regular checkups.

The University of Dayton basketball team still honors Chris by giving a Most Improved Player Award in his name after each season. Larranaga moved on to George Mason and led the Patriots to the Final Four in 2006. Antonio enters his 11th season with career averages of 7.9 points and 3.3 assists. He wears No. 6 for the Wizards—his brother’s No. 33 added together.

I know skinny jeans will be the death of me. My wife bought my daughter a pair and the two year old wore them last weekend. With high heels. With a tiara. With two Dora temporary tattoos. No joke. While my wife thought our daughter looked cute, I saw my life flash before me.

You might remember this link from a previous post.

Of course you knew there would be imitations. And another.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Homes of the Braves

It was a glorious day when the man came to our house and wired us to a box that seemed to control the world. It was called cable television and with dozens of niche channels at my fingertips, no longer would my family be subjected to the Movie of the Week.

Instead, we enjoyed First and 10 on HBO. Pro karate on ESPN. Duran Duran on MTV. Even Dr. Ruth on Lifetime.

And I didn’t have to turn off the television when “America the Beautiful” played on WRC or WTTG on a Friday night when staying up was so very cool. I could tune in to USA “Up all Night” or catch a Van Damme (The Muscles from Brussels) movie on Showtime.

To me, that was the golden age of television. When a Superstation was truly a Superstation—Leave It to Beaver reruns and all.

That’s why I was a little sad when I heard TBS had broadcasted its last national Atlanta Braves game this past Sunday. Baseball fans from Charlotte to Cheyenne to Carlsbad have been watching the team for three decades.

Back in 1977, Ted Turner, the team’s owner, had a novel idea of throwing his team out there, via satellite to cable systems and seeing if it would stick. The Braves did in many places. They became America’s Team.

I was never a fan. I rooted for the Baltimore Orioles.

However, on many a nights, while I did my homework, the Braves helped me calculate geometry equations and understand the role of the U-boat because they were the only game on TV.

The Braves teams of my generation were Dale Murphy, Bob Horner, Glenn “Mother” Hubbard, Gene Garber, Phil Neikro and who could forget Pascual Perez?

Skip Caray, Ernie Johnson Sr. and Pete Van Wieren brought us the games.

“Ernie, Skip and I were having dinner in San Francisco, and somebody sent a drink over,” Van Wieren said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We looked over and the person waved, but we had no idea who he was. He walked over and said he was a San Francisco resident who had started watching our games on cable and enjoyed them. We thought, ‘Wow, people really are watching these games!’”

Added Caray, “On the road, it got embarrassing in some ballparks because there would be more Braves fans than home team fans.”

The Braves broadcasts were so pervasive that during the 1990s, Major League Baseball in its negotiation with TBS, required the station to limits its telecasts to 90.

And it’s easy to argue that the Braves broadcasts helped sustain cable television during the early years. They proved that instead of a Major League Baseball Game of the Week, the sport could televise a national game daily and endure.

But the end became inevitable when ESPN, ESPN2 and Fox aired their own national games on a regular basis. Soon fans were able to purchase packages that allowed them to watch their favorite team on regional broadcasts.

The Braves became just another team in America.

I can’t remember the last time I watched a telecast. It’s been years. But I can remember Horner’s four-homer game and Murphy making it look so simple in the outfield. I might not miss the Braves, but I do miss the era they are connected to.

Here’s how Caray said goodbye to the viewers: “To all the people who have watched the Braves for these 30 year, thank you. We appreciate you more than you will ever know. When we first came on the air on TBS, which was then WTCG, the big TV shows were M*A*S*H, Dallas, Laverne & Shirley, Happy Days and Charlie’s Angels. We outlasted them all. The only one that beat us was 60 Minutes.

“We don’t want to get all maudlin here, but thank you folks and God bless you. And we’re going to miss you every bit as much as you miss us.”

OUT AT HOME: My daughter is celebrating her second birthday this weekend. Unlike her party last year, this one will have a theme. Dora the Explorer. Everything Dora. The cake, the napkins, my hairpiece. Even the piñata will be Dora. Oh yeah, speaking of which, piñatas are made with pullstrings now so kids don’t have to hit them. Too bad. It would have made the party more entertaining.

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: I think I’ll join a league.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Don’t Miss It

Local independent radio station WRIR 97.3 FM kicks off its on-air, weeklong fall pledge drive on Oct. 4. The next day, Metro Space Gallery (119 W. Broad St.) will host an exhibit of donated local art in conjunction with Curated Culture’s First Fridays, with a portion of each sale benefiting WRIR. Beginning at 6 p.m., the bands Marionette and Dark Little Rooms will perform. Across the street at Turnstyle, you’ll find DJs spinning music. For more information, call 622-9747 or visit

Monday, October 01, 2007

Support National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In the October issue of Richmond magazine, which should be hitting mailboxes and newsstands this week, we included a calendar of breast cancer-related events in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But that was just a sampling. There are tons of other events planned, including a free Pink Mondays series of lectures and seminars at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital. Each Monday in October, the Forest campus’ Williamsburg Room will feature discussions on various topics, everything from breast-cancer screening and genetics (Oct. 8) to caregiving strategies and stories for the caregivers of a woman with breast cancer (Oct. 22). Call 242-5662 for more information or to register.

VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Massey Alliance is hosting its second annual Swinetangle at Rock Bottom Island (5995 River Road) on Oct. 20 from 2 to 6 p.m. Come for barbecue and live bluegrass by the Atkinsons. Tickets are $30 in advance for adults ($40 at the door), $6 in advance for ages 6 and older ($10 at the door) and free for children younger than 6. Proceeds benefit VCU Massey Cancer Center. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 827-2179 or visit

If you’re looking to take an active role in someone’s recovery from cancer, volunteer to drive a patient to treatment. Training opportunities for potential drivers are available through the American Cancer Society on Oct. 9 at the Chesterfield Police Department (2730 Hicks Road) from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more information or to register, call 527-3718.