Archive for January, 2011

Beware the Yellow Peril

Friday, January 21st, 2011

My wife and I flew up to Maryland for the weekend to visit with relatives and friends. Our friends follow the Baltimore Ravens, and we are rabid Atlanta Falcons fans, so it was a great opportunity to watch a double header in the comfortable atmosphere of a family gathering with different factions routing for two teams. I knew the omens weren’t good when we rented car at the airport which was bright yellow. It was so yellow that an aviary of canaries could have hidden in there.

 The Ravens were playing Pittsburgh who play in black and gold (yellow) and the Falcons were playing the Green Bay Packers whose colors are green and yellow. I am a little superstitious about certain things and I was subsequently nervous about this yellow connection. Why couldn’t they have rented me a red car to match the Falcons’ red shirts?

When we finally arrived at our friends’ house the Ravens were leading 21-7 and it was nearing half-time. The game looked as good as over until the Birds committed a fumble which led to a Steelers touchdown. The Ravens had the haggard look of condemned men. Appearances can be deceptive but the momentum of the match had completely swung in favor of the Steelers who dominated the second half and ran out comfortable winners.

We commiserated with our Raven friends and filled them with hard luck clichés until it was time to sit down for the main event: Falcons v Packers. The game began very promisingly with the Falcons scoring an early touchdown. The Packers leveled the score with a similar riposte, but Eric Weems set the stadium alight by returning a kick off for a 102 yard touchdown. Normally when the home team makes a dramatic score of that nature the home crowd and team are on the crest of a wave and the opposition is on its knees. The game should be virtually over bar all the shouting and the pondering.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, Green Bay didn’t bat an eyelid and conjured up two touch downs of their own in quick succession to lead 21-14. It was nearing half time and the Falcons now had possession. Ryan was desperate to make a play for at least a field goal, and attempted an ill-fated throw to his receiver which was intercepted and ran back for a touch down by the Packers: 14-28 at half time; game over. The Falcons were eventually blown away 21-48.

Did the wheels come off the Falcons’ wagon or quite simply were the Packers the better team? There was no doubt that the Packers would prove formidable opposition for the Falcons. The Packers were the No.6 seed and they could have won their division if they hadn’t suffered so many injuries at the beginning of the season. The Falcons had finished the regular season with an impressive record of 13-3, but seven wins were secured by 3 points. Quite simply they didn’t blow anyone away, and conversely the Packers had lost six games in the regular season but none of them by more than 7 points. The teams played each other over Thanksgiving in Atlanta and the Falcons pipped their opponents with a last minute field goal to win 17-14.

During the season Head Coach Mike Smith often remarked that the team committing the least turnovers in a game invariably wins. He further added that a team committing 2 turnovers typically loses. The Falcons unaccountably registered 4 turnovers against the Packers two of which were interceptions of Ryan. Ryan completed 20/29 passes for 186 yards. In contrast Aaron Rodgers completed 31/36 passes for 366 yards, giving him an 86% success rate with his passing. Rodgers used 4 receivers each of whom achieved 75 or more yards of reception.

Ryan was sacked 5 times for a loss of 37 yards but Rodgers was only put on his butt twice for a loss of 20 yards which had no bearing on the outcome of the game. I am not attaching all the blame on Ryan for the dismal performance because there were other glaring deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line had played as a unit in every game but they were cruelly exposed by Clay Matthews who made the so-called “bad boys” Clabo and Dahl look like couch potatoes.

The Falcons game plan all season was based on the running game using Michael Turner to pound the opposition into submission and making a big push in the fourth quarter. In the first half Turner made 10 carries for 39 yards and he scored the opening touchdown.

Inexplicably, the Falcons coaching staff abandoned the running game in the second half leaving Turner clicking his heels on the sideline and Ryan failing miserably to locate his receivers for the big plays he yearned. Meanwhile Tony Gonzalez remained virtually anonymous apart for one reception for 7 yards before limping off injured. Gonzalez has proved to be one of the best tight ends to have graced the NFL and consequently it is inexcusable that he failed to make an impact on the game.

The Atlanta defense has experienced a few problems this season but they probably saved their worst performance for what transpired to be the last game of the season. The defensive co-coordinator, Brian Van Gorter, had devised various blitzes to stop Rodgers but the players failed to execute. John Abraham is the Falcons’ only effective pass rusher and he managed to get within inches of nailing Rodger several times; only for the quarterback to spin away and make a telling pass with regular monotony. It was unacceptable!  

The three linebackers, Nicholas, Lofton and Peterson, had reasonable games but none of them are a telling force in the league. Our cornerbacks are too small as I’ve been preaching for several years. Brent Grimes is a superb athlete but at 5’9” he is not going to contain a receiver who is 6’ 4” and quite often bigger. Can anybody explain why Duante Robinson was given a big contract in the spring only to be burned every time he faced one of the elite receivers in the league?

 All season The Falcons had proved to be remarkably fortunate in avoiding injuries to their starting line up and it is quite ironic that an injury to one of the supporting cast, Brian Williams their safety, compounded the defensive shortcomings of the team in this game. Chris Owens, a second year player, was drafted in to replace Williams and committed a pair of shocking pass interference penalties in the end zone and generally looked outmatched. The Packers targeted him continuously providing further evidence that the Falcons were thoroughly out coached.

I know I sound all doom and gloom, but similar to thousands of other Falcon fans, I was thoroughly disappointed and a tad angry with the nature of the performance. There is a theory in association football (soccer) that a team can perform effectively providing at least 8/11 of the players on the park are performing to their normal standard. Clearly far too many Atlanta players did not function at the level expected from them, and in my opinion it is inexcusable for professional athletes to freeze on the big stage even if Atlanta sports franchises have a habit of doing so. In hindsight a 13-3 record was a little flattering.

Concluding my “yellow omen”, I am taking the Steelers and the Packers to make it to the Super Bowl and whoever wears yellow in the finale will win the damn thing.

Goodbye, Mom and Dad. Hello Parent One and Parent Two.

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

The State Department has decided to make US passport application forms “gender neutral” by removing references to mother and father, officials said, in favor of language that reminds one of George Orwell’s 1984. The DS-11 form is required of first-time passport applicants and children younger than 16.

The change is “in recognition of different types of families,” according  to an official announcement  buried at the end of a Dec 22 news release titled “Consular Report of Birth Abroad Certificate Improvements” that highlighted new security features. The US Government just loves “gobbledygook.”

The new policy is viewed as a win for gay rights groups, and follows last month’s vote to end the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which gay leaders consider one of their biggest victories in years.

Why couldn’t they retain mother and father on the application form and merely add “other” as an alternative? Mark my words same-sex parents will squabble over the right to be Parent 1 and their partner will object to being relegated to No 2. The trauma of being Parent 2 could tarnish the rest of their lives spending hours in psychoanalysis which is further proof that the US Government has opened yet another can of worms in the quest to being “politically correct.”

Rosemary Macray of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs shrugged off complaints of political correctness and stressed that is was important to accurately reflect families in these applications.  The change will go into effect on February 1. Okay, so why don’t we eliminate male and female references and give the child a number on the form: Parent 1 or 2 of Child 3, 4 or 5? Why don’t we eliminate names all together and allocate a number to the new born which could also be used as their social security number?

In 2000, Hilary Clinton was the first wife of a president to march in a gay parade, and as Secretary of State she has advocated on behalf of gay rights. In  a speech last June (2010) she said the United States “was elevating our rights  dialogues with other governments and conducting public diplomacy  to protect  the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.” She left out transvestite which smells of discrimination to me!

You may have heard it a million times, but a recent ruling now deems Dire Straits’ 1985 hit “Money for Nothing” unacceptable for Canadian airwaves. As CBC reports, a ruling released on January 12 by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) says the song contravenes the human rights clauses of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Code of Ethics and Equitable Portrayal Code.

The CBSC came to the decision following a listener’s complaint to St. John’s radio station CHOZ-FM due the tune’s use of the word “faggot,” finding it to be discriminatory to gays. While the broadcaster argued that the song was a staple of classic rock radio, the CBSC concluded that even if the word “faggot” was once acceptable, it has evolved now to the point where it is inappropriate in most contexts. As of now, you won’t be able to hear the Dire Straits hit, lest it undergo some judicious editing.

Can someone explain why it’s taken over 25 years to make this accusation? But wait a minute, shouldn’t we also take into consideration the feelings of the female of the species. There are far more references to “chicks for free” in the lyrics than faggot, and on a scale of 10, the term “chicks for free” is arguably more derogatory than faggot.

Furthermore one cannot forget the lyric line referring to a chimpanzee playing the bongos which could be construed as offensive to a self respecting ape. Playing the bongs conjures up a scene in a smoke-filled jazz joint where the player is usually alcohol/drug imbibed. Have you ever seen an ape under the influence?

This question is for my brother if only to establish he still reads my blog. Terry Williams who hailed from Swansea was the drummer on all of Dire Straits’ big hits including their platinum album “Brothers in Arms.” Correct me if I’m wrong bro, but I believe he was never officially a member of Dire Straits but played on a contractual basis.

2010-Further Ramblings (Part 2)

Sunday, January 9th, 2011


Howard Webb was the first Englishman to referee a World Cup final since Jack Taylor in 1974. Spain, who lost 1-0 to Switzerland in the opening round of the tournament, became the first team to win the World Cup after losing their first match.

Representing Slovenia, Merlene Ottey ran at the world athletics championships in Barcelona aged 50 – 30 years and three days after she ran for Jamaica at the Moscow Olympics.

Emile Heskey represented his country 62 times and scored just seven goals before retiring from international competition. No England striker with more than 20 caps has averaged fewer goals per game.

On a personal level, holiday plans were severely curtailed by the need to spend copious amounts of money on domestic projects. Rebuilding a retaining wall which was five years overdue, ancillary hard and landscape projects were thrown into the melting pot. An additional deck was constructed to house a hot tub which my wife had been planning for over 10 years. Good things come to those who wait, and money helps too! The financial plan was to delay purchasing the tub until 2011.


Doug Fieger, lead singer of the pop group “The Knack,” who sang on the 1979 hit “My Sharona,” died. He was 57. It was great pop song and I never quite understood why they remained a one hit wonder.

The rise of the Tea Party continued unabated. Comprising a loose coalition of grassroots groups, aided and in some cases funded by experienced Washington players, it transformed itself into a major political force and sent dozens of candidates carrying its anti-tax, anti-healthcare reform message to Washington.

Our financial plan and economic forecast were tossed unceremoniously to the four winds, and we purchased a hot tub with all the bells and whistles; jets, waterfalls, a hi-fi music system, strawb lighting and two plastic ducks. It was two weeks before it was operational since the new deck required three coats of wood stain to protect it from 400 gallons of water.


The Atlanta Braves made the playoffs for the first time in five years but lost in the first round to eventual World Series winners San Francisco. Bobby Cox finally retired five years too late. Cox managed the Braves for over 20 years and managed to win only one World Series in 1995. This was a very poor return when you consider he had 3 future Hall of Famers (Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux) in his starting rotation for almost 10 years.

A proposal to build a mosque within an Islamic community center two blocks from Ground Zero caused a furor, as (mainly) Republican politicians seized on the issue around the time of the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Meanwhile Terry Jones, a Florida pastor with a congregation of 50 people, sparked an international outcry with his “Burn a Koran Day. “

The Milliband brothers fought each other for the poison chalice that is loosely disguised as the leadership of the Labour Party. Much to the surprise of his elder brother, Red Ed won the contest and David decided to throw his toys out of the pram and went to sulk on the backbenches.


 Europe retained the Ryder Cup in Wales which prompted Graeme McDowell to exclaim: “That was absolutely amazing. That was bananas. Compared to that, the US Open was like playing nine holes with my Dad at Portrush.” McDowell had earlier won the US Open in June and secured the final point for Europe’s winning team.

Welshman, Gareth Bale, scored a second-half hat-trick at the San Siro Stadium but still ended up on the losing team when Tottenham Hotspur team lost 4-3 away to Inter Milan in the Champions League.

 Ryo Ishikawa, aged 18, made history at Quail Hollow in North Carolina with a score of 58, the lowest score ever recorded on a major golf tour event.

Bolton Wanderers striker Kevin Davies became England’s oldest debutant for 60 years when he faced Montenegro at the age of 33 in a European Championship qualifier

Thirty three miners in Chile were rescued after spending 70 days 2,300 feet below ground following an accident at the San Jose copper-gold mine. A country rejoiced, the men’s lives were changed forever and on the night of the rescue the world was able to believe in miracles again.


 Republicans regained the House of Representatives and reduced Democrats’ majority in the Senate. Obama’s Democratic Party suffered a humiliating defeat in the Nov 2 polls, as the Republicans won 63 seats in the House of Representatives and six in the Senate; the largest swing for two generations thanks chiefly to the stagnant economy and soaring government spending.

Manny Pacquiao became the first man in history to win world boxing titles at eight different weights when he defeated Antonio Margarito.

Ed Milliband jumped on the Obama wagon when he decided to beat  a good horse to death with his philosophy on change: “I am talking about change as profound as the change new Labour brought because the world itself has changed massively, and we did not really change fundamentally  as a party, or come to terms with the changes, and have not done so since 1994.” Is this what people mean by piss and vinegar?”

Ronnie Heap, my former golf partner and works associate, passed away aged 67. We enjoyed many rounds together attempting to conquer the nuances of Bobby Jones golf course in Atlanta. We never had a cross word on the course, so it was regrettable that conflicts at work tarnished our relationship.

Once upon a time there was a Welshman, a Dutchman and a Frenchman who helped put one over their London team’s greatest rivals for the first time for17 years. Gareth Bale, Rafael van der Vaart and Younes Kaboul scored as Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal away for the first time in the league since 1993. 


 Atlanta enjoyed a white Christmas for the first time in 118 years as my wife and I basked in our hot tub surrounded by snow and the melodic tones of Sinatra, Dean, Bing and Satchamo; holding a glass of champagne in one hand and a turkey leg in the other. What can be better at Christmas?

 The Atlanta Falcons failed to beat the Super Bowl Champion, New Orleans on Monday night football in the Georgia Dome and had to wait until the last Sunday of the season to beat the worst team in the NFL, Carolina Panthers, to clinch the Division title and No 1 seed in the playoffs. I wonder if the big stage worries them which would not augur well on the road to the Super Bowl.

 Geraldine Doyle, the woman known as “Rosie the Riveter” after a famous photo was snapped of her during World War II, died at the age of 86 on Sunday, December 26.

 No wonder 2010 passed by in a blink of an eye.

2010-A Rambling Review (Part 1)

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

The great advantage of a blog is that you can write whatever and whenever you want and not have an editor breathing down your neck. I most certainly don’t have to be politically correct, but at the same time it is not my intention to offend anyone. Without editorial control, I may ramble from personal reflections on the year to my favorite topic of sport and there was a lot to talk about in that category.

However, the highlight of the year for me was the birth of our beautiful granddaughter, Emilie, on May 11th. But before further ado, I want to wish all my readers (am I narcissistic or optimistic) a happy and healthy new year.


We returned from a two week cruise around the Caribbean having spent Christmas and New Year’s Eve aboard Celebrity Cruise Line’s Mercury. The cruise line attempts to nickel and dime you to extraction but there are ways of combating them. If you are contemplating going on a cruise there a three pieces of advice which may prove useful: invest in “rum runners”, pay the extra for a room with a balcony-you won’t regret it, and make sure the cruise line has a strict non-smoking policy aboard ship.


Despite stocking the Olympic Village with 10,000 condoms — approximately 14 per resident — organizers had to import an emergency shipment when supplies ran low.

New Orleans won the Super Bowl by kicking Peyton Manning and his Colts off the park. The media darlings turned the other cheek proclaiming it was the Saints destiny win in the aftermath of Katrina. 

Tiger Woods made his first public statement since a tabloid report and bizarre car crash unraveled a tangled web of marital infidelities that snatched headlines in late 2009. He said: “I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. I brought this shame on myself. I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation and kids all around the world who admired me.”

Significantly, his much maligned wife chose to stay away from this carefully staged charade and Tiger could not find it in his vocabulary which is usually littered with expletives to actually say: “I’m sorry.”

Welsh Rugby Union forward Andy Powell was arrested for driving a golf buggy to a service station on the M4 Motorway while over the alcohol limit in the wee small hours of the morning. He was later suspended by the Welsh Rugby Union and banned from driving for 15 months adding further credence to the theory that the average Welsh rugby forward may prove to be the missing link between in the neanderthal chain.


Tom Prydie became Wales’ youngest rugby union international; facing Italy aged 18 years and 25 days. 

By a vote of 219-212, the House of Representatives passed the Senate version of ObamaCare, which the president signed into law immediately. Thirty-four Democrats broke with their party to oppose the bill. Comprising more than 2,000 pages, it was incredibly complex and immediately raised fears about its cost with a majority of the public opposing the law. 

Fess Parker who starred in “Davy Crockett” and “Daniel Boone”, died of natural causes at his Santa Ynez home near the Fess Parker Winery. He was 85. Several celebrities died this year, but Fess Parker played an integral role in my childhood  by initiating the “Davy Crockett” craze which swept Britain in the fifties in the shape of raccoon hats, bearskins, plastic pistols and rifles.


Tiger Woods reportedly had a 90-person bodyguard detail at the Masters, presumably to prevent run-ins with any of his former mistresses. An airplane flew over the Masters trailing a banner that read, “Tiger: Did you mean Bootyism?”

On the same weekend in April and for exactly the same reason, Bradley Wiggins was forced to withdraw from the Amstel Gold cycling race in the Netherlands, Widnes had to postpone their rugby league Challenge Cup match against Lezignan and Steve Bennett was unable to referee the Manchester derby; the reason being Volcanic Ash.

Original Munchkin Meinhardt Raabe who played the Munchkin coroner in “The Wizard of Oz,” died April 9.He was 94 and was one of the few surviving Munchkins from the 1939 film.

Arizona passed the toughest law to combat illegal immigration by any US state, sparking protests in 70 US cities, though a majority of Americans supported the measure. It required police to question people’s immigration if there is reason to believe they are in the country illegally, prompting claims that police would inevitably profile Hispanics and persons speaking with a Welsh accent. An injunction halted the bill’s most controversial provisions and legal battles are set to run.


In British politics, Conservatives won the General Election with a tiny majority and formed a Coalition with Social Democrats. Gordon Brown proved once again that No 2’s with the personality of a bloated haggis don’t necessarily make good Head Coaches and headed for the hills to live out the rest of his life in obscurity.

Inter Milan’s Jose Mourinho became only the third coach (Ernst Happel and Ottmar Hitzfeld being the other two) to win Europe’s premier club competition with two clubs after the Champions League win over Bayern Munich

Chelsea became the first team to win the Premiership/League Championship with more than 100 goals in a season (103) since it was last achieved by Tottenham Hotspur (115) in 1961.


Thirty women wearing dresses of a Dutch brewery that did not pay FIFA for advertising rights were kicked out of a World Cup game, garnering an enormous amount of free publicity.

The vuvuzela, the planet’s most annoying instrument, took centre stage at the World Cup finals in South Africa. Fans complained of headaches, and players claimed they couldn’t hear the ref’s whistle. FIFA bottled out of banning them on the grounds of cultural sensitivity.

South Africa’s Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal of football’s 2010 World Cup; thus confirming that fame is fleeting. Shane Smeltz put New Zealand ahead against Italy in the World Cup. Who? Exactly! The match ended 1-1

Jorge Larrionda and Mauricio Espinosa became the most notorious duo in English history since Burke and Hare when they (the referee and his assistant) failed to see Frank Lampard’s shot crossing the line against Germany in the World Cup.

In tennis, John Isner beat Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 3-7, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 at Wimbledon in a match which lasted 11 hours and five minutes, beating the previous longest contest in the sport by 41/2 hours. Regrettably, there were no English players in the men’s singles for the first time in 133 years.

To be continued: