TO SANDY AND STAN

Every day when I would come home for lunch when I was in St. Rita’s during the late 1950s, my mother would have lunch ready and right next to it was a copy of that day’s Philadelphia Daily News.

That was the beginning.

Larry Merchant was the Daily News sports editor, whose plan was to put together the world’s best sports staff. And he did.

Eventually there was George Kiseda and Jack McKinney, Jack Kiser and Bill Conlin, but ahead of all of them were Sandy Grady and Stan Hochman.

Sandy could be called a wordsmith. He wrote in his North Carolina drawl, smooth and smart.

Stan was the kid from New York, always looking for the quick one-punch knockout line.

They died within a week of each other earlier this month, Sandy at 87, Stan at 86.

I knew Stan, last saw him at the Sport Writers dinner in January. He always had an interest in you, asking questions that he would ask a manager, a coach, a quarterback. And he got good answers from you because you wanted to tell him about yourself. I considered him a friend, like most of us in the news business who knew him.

I edited Sandy’s copy when I started out at The Bulletin in 1968 right after I graduated from Temple. A month after I started, Sandy was in Mexico City covering the Olympics. He called the desk one night, I answered, and he said something like,” Frank, would you tell Jack (Wilson, the Bulletin’s sports editor) that I’ve come down with a case of Montezuma’s revenge and I won’t be able to write tonight.”

My first reaction was, “Montezuma? What’d he do, join the Marines?

But I guarantee you it was not the night of the Tommie Smith/John Carlos black-fist salute. Montezuma would have lost that battle.

I never really met Sandy because he never was in the office to write. He eventually went back to the Daily News as it’s political writer in Washington. I always thought the paper screwed up by burying his column too far back in the front news section.

Sandy and Stan were true giants of the newspaper business. Reading their work every day made me a better writer.

 

SHAKESPEARE TWICE

It was “Macbeth” at the Arden and “Hamlet” at the Wilma. What a doubleheader.

Hamlet was played by a black woman, Zainab Jah. You can accept any actor playing a role, but once in awhile you had to remind yourself that she was the Prince of Denmark. Ms. Jah played Hamlet more whimsically than, say, Olivier might have. She sometimes delivered her lines with a chuckle in her voice, so at times, until the end, of course, with all those bodies bloodying up the stage, this was a little more of a user-friendly Hamlet.

Not that she “to-be-d-or-not-to-be-d” like Jack Benny in that great 1940s movie. (At least I didn’t notice anyone leaving their seat to sneak backstage to meet up with Carole Lombard.)  No, she nailed that speech pretty good.

Overall, a good performance.

And Macbeth, the Shakespeare play I’ve seen more than any other (four times), including once at the Globe in London. Maybe the most spun-off of all Shakespeare’s works. (I think it’s because of those “weird sisters.”)

And the conniving wife helps, too.

Played according to form, it has to be in Scotland (it is sub-titled “the Scottish play”), if not in “Scotland, PA.” It’s one of the shortest of Shakespeare’s plays, certainly of what are considered the great ones, and like Hamlet, it takes advantage of a ghost (Hamlet’s father and Banquo).

So with “King Lear” last fall, it’s been a solid triple play of the Bard in the last six months.

 

ONE MORE PENN RELAYS

Not sure what my streak is, but I think it’s solid since 1975. Can’t remember missing any since then since that’s when I began my association with Penn.

Or was it 1976? I’ll have to check with Brian Williams who remembers all things clearly.

Chilly, windy weather meant ordinary times in the races that matter, the college championship relays.

One thing I realized, and why I haven’t before I don’t now, but watching the USA vs. the World relays is a lot like watching a United States-Mexico soccer game in the USA. Franklin Field is Jamaica’s home field, just like Anywhere, USA is Mexico’s playground.

So who was good? Villanova, of course, both men and women, LSU got in a couple of wins, but UTech, maybe the only college in Jamaica, nearly swept the four sprint relays except for Texas A&M’s women winning the 4×100.

And Villanova still has never won a 4×100 relay at Penn.

FLY LIKE AN EAGLE

Once upon a time, in a city ruled by a Nutter, there was a great kingdom within the city. (You know, like Vatican City in Rome.)

The kingdom was known as Eagleville, and was ruled by the Great Twit.

The Twit ruled wisely (or so he said), dividing the power to rule parts of his kingdom among various lords. All seemed calm and happy in Eagleville (wait, isn’t that Penn State?), but behind the scenes, the Great Twit brewed trouble among his own lords, pitting one against the other, so there was never truly any calm and happiness in Eagleville. (Maybe it should have been re-named Oakland.)

The two most powerful lords in Eagleville were Little Lord Howie and Chippy the Magnificent. The Great Twit ordered them to work in peace and harmony for the greater good of Eagleville, but looked on with glee as the two lords spit daggers at each other. (As well as just plain, old spit.)

One day the Great Twit decreed that Little Lord Howie would rule over Chippy’s domain, as well as his own. Howie immediately banished one of Chippy’s most trusted aides, removing one of the daggers from his own back, and placing it in Chippy’s. That was a Gamble.

Chippy wasted no time in challenging the Great Twit to overturn his decree and give him power over the little lord’s domain. OR ELSE. The Great Twit, always wise and brave (friends call him Sol), thought on this challenge for almost, I don’t know, 6 1/2 minutes, and reversed his previous order. OR ELSE.

(Look at that, “or else,” the first three letters are ore. Hmmmm.)

Now Chippy the Magnificent was given complete charge over all the domain of Eagleville, with the Great Twit retiring to the counting house, claiming that he has restored calm and happiness in his kingdom, although…I mean…that is…it never really went away…heh, heh. Little Lord Howie was removed to the lower lands of paperwork, where he no longer had control over the knights of Eagleville, but rather would rule the serfs.

OUCH!!!!!!!!!! Looks like that Gamble didn’t pay off.

So all is well again in Eagleville. The Great Twit looks over his domain and feels that it is secure now that Chippy the Magnificent is his overlord and Little Lord Howie controls…uh…I think…it’s a…..I’m not sure what Howie’s got (except , of course, screwed).

Is it me or does this all sound like a Three Stooges film: Chippy the Magnificent (Moe), the Great Twit (Larry) and Little Lord Howie (Curly).

The moral in all of this: Don’t Gamble.

GRAB THOSE BALLS

So all I can think of about “Deflategate” is “Casablanca.”

You know, the scene where Captain Renault (Claude Rains) closes down “Rick’s,” saying he’s shocked, shocked that there’s gambling going on, while a croupier slips his winnings into his hand.

Yeah, the coach and the quarterback are shocked, shocked that there’s cheating going on, while Roger the Dodger slips some cash into their hands.

Who’s more believable, the fictional character or the two real-life bozos?

And Richard Sherman is smarter than all of them, the coach, the QB and the commish.

JUST LIKE THE BIG GUYS

OK, I’ll admit it, I went to a Delaware 87ers game on Saturday night.

NBA Development League game, the 76ers affiliate, at “The Bob” on the University of Delaware’s campus in Newark. The state of Delaware’s team.

And just like the Sixers (or at least how they used to be until the last week or so), the Sevens lost, to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 114-103. (Don’t know what a Mad Ant is, but maybe they’re named for the Revolutionary War American general Mad Anthony Wayne and just cut down the nickname to fit on hats.)

No stars here. It sort of reminded me of the one Eastern League game I went to sometime in the late 1960s, at good, old Camden Convention Hall. Camden Bullets vs. somebody. I just remember being there.

But about the 87ers…certainly not an NBA atmosphere. Not nearly loud enough. Don’t have to worry about your ears singing after a D-League game. No dancing girls (I don’t count the 76ers Jr. Dance team), no cannon’s shooting T-shirts into the stands, no screaming music.

But, just like seeing MeLVin the Dog on Chanukah Night at the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, there was the brilliant Caesar the Fox, a red fox, the 87ers mascot. Not sure what a red fox has to do with an 87er, except that he was named for Caesar Rodney, Delaware’s signer of the Declaration of Independence. Still working on any connection with MeLVin and phantoms, except that capital L and capital V.

And then there was this note in the game program, concerning Jamal Jones of the Sevens. He was praised for his defensive job on Seth Curry when the Sevens played the Erie Bayhawks; Curry went off for 43 points, BUT: “The former Duke shooter (Curry) had trouble dealing with Jones’ length, and did most of his damage when other 87ers were trying to check him.”

So why didn’t the genius coaching the 87s figure out that if he kept Jones on Curry, he might have scored only 34 points. Well, maybe he is a genius, since the Sevens won the game, holding the rest of the Bayhawks to 64 points.

It was worth the visit.

 

THAT POPE AGAIN

So the Pope, Francis I, baptized 33 babies on Sunday, inside the Sistine Chapel, with God looking down on them.

His advice to the mothers there? Breastfeed the kids.

Now if I were Pope, I’d have tuned it down a little. Well, maybe I’d ask one of two of them to demonstrate right there in the old Chapel…with God looking down.

Again, as I pointed out a few weeks ago, I’m now more sure than ever that I left my playbook in the Vatican when I went over there to interview for the job, because the breastfeeding thing was a part of my grand plan. Not up there with the 4 1/2 Commandments, but a part of it, like bringing back Cuba. You know, the humanity things.

And I still haven’t heard about getting together when he gets to Philly later this year.

E-A-G-L-E-S

I want to thank Chippy and Howie and Jeffie Boy for the entertaining start they’ve all given us to 2015.

We’re talking Eagles, baby, fire that Gamble guy on New Year’s Eve, Howie’s up 1-0 over the Chipster, big meetings (so Jeffie Boy says) to talk things out, and then promote/demote Howie. That’s a big W for Chippy, his biggest since skipping out on  Oregon and beating all those NCAA sanctions, so make it Chip 3, Howie 1.

Ever since the Big Twit (Jeffie Boy) has taken over the Eagles, there’s been this continual bickering, back-stabbing, front-stabbing (read all about it in Macbeth, Othello, King Lear and Hamlet) in the Eagles front office. This is all the Twit’s doing. Let’s just say he could take notes from Jerry Jones on running a tight ship.

But he’s always got things under control.

If you missed the basics, Chippy has COMPLETE control of player matters, and Howie has been given the extensive duties of managing the medical, training and equipment staffs, as well as writing the pay checks for the players that Chip really, really wants.

According to the Twit, at this big showdown, er, meeting, no threats were made. Which, of course means that threats were made. So you have to wonder which NFL team or college Chip suggested he might move to if he didn’t get his way.

That San Francisco job sure looked tasty.

So the Twitmaster basically gave in, told his boy Howie that the team needs a new dental consultant, so go hire one.

Do you understand how far Howie has fallen?

From up-and-coming general manager/player personnel guru, to hiring those guys who run around with water bottles and stick them in players’ faces in case they’re thirsty. Big drop from deciding on the Eagles QB of the future.

But I understand he’s looking to make a big splash on the medical side, like hiring the Czar of all the Diseases who, as you recall, has saved us all from Ebola. He would make sure there are no cases of athlete’s foot in the Eagles lockerroom.

Anyway, the Eagles have saved us all from paying attention to the woes of the Flyers and the woe-is-us 76ers, and the woebegone Phillies. (The Union still doesn’t count.)

I don’t know. Did one of their mothers marry a brother-in-law after killing her husband, or is one of them jealous of some black guy, or was one of them thrown out of the house by a daughter, or how about one of them just plain-old stabbing a king?

Sounds really familiar.