The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ten Things About Sports in North America That You Probably Didn't Know.

1.       The man responsible for the construction of Wrigley Field was the early 20th Century version of Ray Kroc. Or, more appropriately, Fred DeLuca and Peter Buck. You may recognize Ray Kroc's name (hint: Arches), but DeLuca and Buck might be a bit more esoteric: they're the founders of Subway. And in a similar vein, Charles H. "Lucky Charlie" Weeghman was a sandwich magnate in the city of Chicago at the turn of the 20th Century. He developed his own franchise chain of "lunch counters" in the Chicago area – owning 15 of them at one point. His net worth was, at its peak, an estimated US$8 million (Somewhere around $187 million today). After making a bid at purchasing the Saint Louis Cardinals, Weeghman joined up with John T. Powers as a charter owner in the new Federal League. After a year seeing his club playing on the campus of DePaul University, the league declared itself a major league – and Weeghman decided to move his team to a new, larger ballpark. He leased the land for the park from Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminary, and built a ballpark in just under two months. At the time, it was a single-deck park, and some of the seminary buildings still stood beyond the outfield walls. In fact, the park looked almost nothing like what Wrigley looks like now, 100 years later. After the Federal League folded, Weeghman purchased the Chicago Cubs and merged his Whales franchise with the National League team – and moved the Cubs from wooden West Side Park to his new ballpark. Unfortunately, World War I saw his luncheonette chain lose business, and he was forced to sell his stake in the Cubs to William Wrigley Jr. Wrigley renamed the ballpark after himself, while "Lucky Charlie" went through ups and downs in his private life – he was divorced and remarried in the early 1920's – and his business life. His brother, Albert Weeghman, took over the restaurants in Chicago, while Charlie moved to New York with his new (and younger!) bride to start over in the restaurant business. Just as he was getting things going again, Weeghman suffered a stroke in late 1938 and died. 

2.       The National Hockey League was formed out of spite, and still exists due to a lawsuit. In the middle of World War I, the existing National Hockey Association was having issues with the owner of the Toronto franchise, Eddie Livingstone. He had essentially bought up multiple teams to play in Toronto, and the NHA – based mostly in Montreal – didn't like the usurper. The league, which was only in its eighth season of operation, decided to contract to one Toronto based team, and an all-star "military" team that would be based out of the city, but would be more or less a public relations arm for the RCAF. Unfortunately, in February of 1917, the members of this team (known as the 228th Battalion Northern Fusiliers) were called to active duty. This left the NHA with five teams. The remaining owners voted to have Livingstone's franchise cease operations for the rest of the season to balance out the schedule. That was when the problems began. Livingstone was promised compensation from the league for his losses, but the league was too busy trying to get the insurance they took against the 228th team to pay out. During the off-season, there were heated words, threats of lawsuits, and slammed doors. In November of 1917, the owners of the NHA met in Montreal and decided to suspend operations of the league. A week later, as a "legal" move, Frank Calder and the existing clubs met and formed the National Hockey League. Unfortunately, the Quebec club was unable to certify that they could get ice time at their arena (the rink owner was a friend of Livingstone), so the new league awarded an "expansion" franchise to the owner of Toronto's Arena Gardens, Charles Querrie. Despite a fire that destroyed the home of the Montreal Wanderers mid-season, the new league finished the year, and (in a note of irony) the Toronto team won the league title. The NHA would not formally cease operations until the following season, when negotiations with Livingstone came to a standstill – and the Canadian government refused to pay the league any damages for the loss of the team. Livingstone would battle on and off with the NHL until his death in 1945. 

3.       The National Football League was formed in the offices of an Ohio car dealership. Ralph Hay had been involved in selling cars in the Canton, Ohio area for nine years when he purchased the Canton Bulldogs professional football team from a friend. Though the team was a success on the field, winning games against competition across the state, Hay was losing money on the cost of salaries for his players. Following through with an idea initiated from his team's star halfback, Jim Thorpe, he set up a meeting in August of 1920 with the managers of three other major Ohio-based teams – the Akron Pros, the Cleveland Tigers, and the Dayton Triangles. Together, they formed the American Professional Football Conference, and they wrote letters to the "major" pro teams across the Midwest to meet with them on September 17. In addition to the four Ohio based teams, representatives from six other teams showed up – including George Halas, who was the manager of the Decatur Staleys, and representatives from Chicago's Racine Street Cardinals football club. The number of people attending was so great, Hay had to move the meeting into his Hupmobile/Pierce-Arrow showroom. The ten teams, plus four other franchises that would join before the league began play that fall, were now known as the American Professional Football Association. Of the 14 teams that played that first year, only the Staleys (now the Chicago Bears) and the now-Arizona Cardinals remain in the league. Though his Bulldogs would be a dominant force in the early years of the APFA – which was renamed the National Football League in 1922 – Hay was still losing money on the team. He ended up selling out to a group of local businessmen after 1922. The Bulldogs would win the league title in both 1922 and 1923 – the first NFL team to win back-to-back titles. Hay passed away in 1944. 

4.       The greatest single-game accomplishment in National Basketball Association history is wrapped up in mystery – except for the accomplishment itself. In the early 1960's the NBA was still fighting to be seen as a legitimate professional sport. When it came to hoops, the college game was still seen as superior to the pro league that was now only in its 16th year of existence. Because of this, even squads based in big cities like Philadelphia were forced to take a back seat to college teams for arena dates. The NBA's Warriors (who would move to the San Francisco Bay area later in the decade) were forced to play dates in other far-flung locales, such as Hershey, Pennsylvania – home of Hershey Chocolate. One of the main reasons for the derision of the pro game was the integration of teams like the Warriors, who featured the seven-foot-tall center Wilt Chamberlain. "The Stilt", as he was nicknamed, was able to easily jump with hands above the hoop and throw the ball down forcefully – a play he called the "dipper dunk". His ability to make this very-high-percentage shot gave him scoring totals that had never been seen before in the league. He had posted games well above a point-a-minute on a regular basis, and on the night of March 2, 1962, the Warriors were having a field day against their opponents, the New York Knicks. Wilt's previous NBA record single-game point total was 78 – set in a double-overtime game (he also held the record for a regulation 48-minute game with 73). After three periods, the Warriors had a commanding 125-106 lead – and Wilt already had 69 points on the night. Not many people had come out to watch the game (4,124 was the announced attendance), but those that did would end up watching one of the most epic finishes to an individual performance in NBA history. The Warriors made a decision at the end of the third quarter that they were just going to give the ball to Wilt and let him score. By the time the Knicks realized what Philadelphia was doing, Wilt had already set the scoring mark at 79 – with 7:51 left in the game. New York tried to stall and hold onto the ball as much they could under the 24-second clock, but Wilt would not be denied. Even fouling him – a bane of Chamberlain's game, as he was not typically very good from the charity stripe – wasn't working. Wilt, using the then-popular underhand toss, sank free throw after free throw, ending up going 28-for-32 for the game. The Warriors, who hadn't fouled the entire half, decided to start fouling in reciprocation. The two teams ended up with 57 combined fouls – and Philadelphia had two players foul out of the game. With 2:12 left, Wilt had 94 points. He hit a fade-away jumper for 96, then took a lob pass with 79 seconds to go and slammed it in for point 98. The next possession, the Warriors passed it to a quintuple-teamed (yes, you saw that right) Chamberlain. He missed the first shot, but the Warriors got the rebound. He then got another pass, and missed yet again. After the second rebound, Philadelphia's Ted Luckenbill passed the ball to Joe Ruklick. Ruklick lobbed a high pass to Chamberlain with 46 seconds to go in the game – and Chamberlain tapped the ball in. Or, if some game observations are to be believed, he stuffed the ball through for point number 100. This is where the story of the game begins to break down; a bunch of the fans remaining in the stands stormed the court, and the final 46 seconds weren't played. Others stated that the game did continue, but Chamberlain just stood at center court, refusing to touch the ball. Even the final score of the game is disputed: the scoring report says the final was 169-147, but the one broadcast of the game that survived said the Knicks scored 150. That was the worst part about this historic moment: there were no movie or television cameras present to record the event. The complete radio broadcast was never saved on tape either; only bits and pieces survived due to private recordings of the broadcast on WCAU. Only the Warriors' call by Bill Campbell of the fourth quarter was ever found intact. Chamberlain would go on to win two NBA titles playing for the Warriors, Lakers, Sixers and (briefly) San Diego of the ABA before retiring – but he would never come close to repeating his performance on that early spring night in Hershey. 

5.       One of the most storied hockey franchises in the NHL was purchased with winnings from a horse race. Conn Smythe was a University of Toronto graduate in civil engineering, veteran of World War I, and a hockey loving businessman. He had success in coaching and managing his alma mater's hockey squad, and had dabbled a bit in managing professionally. Unfortunately, the NHL expansion team that had utilized his managing skills – Tex Rickard's New York Rangers – declined to make him the team's manager, favoring PCHA founder Lester Patrick. Smythe stewed over the decision, demanding payment for the job he did of selecting the players who would eventually lead to the team's first Stanley Cup in only its second year. Rickard offered to pay off Smythe, but nothing even close to the amount he wanted. A horse racing lover, Smythe offered to take $5,000 from Rickard and place a wager on an upcoming stakes race. Rickard covered the bet, and the horse came in as the winner – giving Smythe a payout of $25,000. That amount was enough that, less than a year later, Conn and a group of Toronto businessmen purchased the St. Pats franchise of the NHL, renaming them the Maple Leafs. Smythe re-did the team's colors in blue and white, the same colors as the trucks that his gravel and paving business used. A few years later, he had the Maple Leaf Gardens constructed in less than a year, giving his Leafs a grand palace of sport all their own. 

6.       The biggest championship game in American pro sports was named for a children's toy. The National and American Football Leagues had finally settled their differences, with some skilled negotiations involving Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt. Hunt was now tasked at settling one of the major points of the merger: a championship game between the American and National leagues. In July of 1966, while he was considering ways of marketing the game, one of his children was bouncing around a small, hard rubber ball, branded by Wham-O (the people who brought you the Frisbee and the hula hoop). The name of the ball was the "Super Ball." At the time, colleges were still popular with the pageantry and glamour of the major Bowl games: the Rose, the Cotton, and the Orange Bowls. An idea coalesced in Hunt's mind – one that he suggested in a letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. The championship game would be played on a neutral site in a warm-weather setting, like the college bowl games of the day. However, instead of calling it by some fruit or local product, he suggested the league name it the "Super Bowl". The name wasn't immediately used (the other owners decided on "AFL-NFL Championship Game"), but by the time the two leagues merged completely in 1970, the name "Super Bowl" was part of NFL lore. 

7.       The location of the first major pro sports Hall of Fame was based upon a myth. The origins of the game of baseball are generally accepted as being rooted in the English game of "rounders", as the games both featured using a bat and a ball, and running around to bases in a particular order. The first organized game of "base ball" happened in 1845, when Alexander Cartwright's New York Knickerbockers played their first game on the Elysian Fields. However, as the 19th century came to a close, National League president Abraham Mills sought to find an "American" origin to the National Pastime. In the name of patriotism, a commission was formed in 1905, headed by Mills and Chicago Cubs president Albert Spalding. Their goal was to discredit sportswriter Henry Chadwick's contention that the game evolved from rounders. In April, a witness came forth with a story. Abner Graves recalled to the Mills Commission that, when he was a child growing up in the idyllic Catskill Mountains, a now-famous Civil War general named Abner Doubleday had come up with a diagram of a baseball field, and had set up the first game in 1839. Unfortunately, there was one very big problem with the story: at the time the gentleman claimed the game was "invented", Doubleday was nowhere near the village of Cooperstown, New York. Instead, he was a plebe going through the US Military Academy at West Point – which was on the opposite side of the state from Cooperstown. Graves also proved to be a bit unreliable, as he expressed anti-British sentiments to the commission, and admitted that he did not have the original diagram, nor were any of the others who took part in the game still alive. Graves himself would end up dying in a mental ward shortly thereafter. Decades later, in 1934, discussion was building over a way for the game of baseball to honor its past and its heroes. A prominent man from Cooperstown, Stephen Carlton Clark, purchased the ball claimed to be from Graves' family, and built a museum exhibit around it. The museum happened to coincide with the idea of honoring the game's best players by starting a Hall of Fame. The Clark family endorsed the idea whole-heartedly, and in 1936 the newly-created National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum inducted its first five members: Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb. 

8.       A city in the United States lost the right to host the winter Olympics because of a referendum. In May of 1970, the Denver Olympic Organizing Committee was awarded the 1976 Winter Olympiad by the International Olympic Committee. Their bid had included a grand plan that would construct a new ski resort just minutes away from the city, along with various venues for non-Alpine events. However, plans for the resort fell through almost immediately as environmentalists sued to block the plan. The backup site was located in Vail, which was over 90 miles away – and that was on a good day. Interstate 70 was not completely finished through the state, and to accommodate the Olympics, there would need to be a large outlay of federal expenditures. The Federal government, in turn, wouldn't provide the money without state assistance. Some state legislators, led by Richard Lamm (who would go on to become Governor of the state), didn't want a thing to do with raising taxes for a potential boondoggle and money sink that the Olympics would bring. They proposed to bring the financing question as to whether or not the state should approve a $5 million bond issue to publicly fund the games to a state-wide referendum. On November 7, 1972, Colorado voters turned down the measure by a 60%-40% margin. With no public money available to help finance the games, the DOOC had to withdraw its bid for the games less than four years from the planned opening ceremonies. After consideration of several other rejected sites in North America (including future Olympiad sites in Salt Lake City and Whistler-Vancouver), the IOC awarded the games to Innsbruck, Austria. Innsbruck had hosted the games eight years prior (in 1964), and still had many of their venues in operation. 

9.       A major league sports stadium was built on the site of a public housing project. In post-war Los Angeles, the city government was experiencing a population boom – and a severe housing shortage. In an early attempt at eliminating "urban blight", the city purchased up the land in what was known as Chavez Ravine. The area was home to a poor Mexican-American community that was there as a result of housing discrimination elsewhere in the city. As the 1950's began, the city made grand plans to turn the slum-like area into public low-income housing, under the name of Elysian Park Heights. However, in the wake of anti-communist feelings in southern California, public housing projects lost their support. In 1953, the project came to a halt – even as the city had already controlled most of the property. A few years later, an interested party from the east coast took a helicopter ride over the city. When the copter flew over the area of the ravine, the visitor turned to the person accompanying him and said, "That area. I want that area." The city of Los Angeles was only too glad to give the land of their housing project – which was still in the process of being cleared – to Walter O'Malley. After getting the rights to the remaining lots of land and clearing it, O'Malley's Dodgers finally moved into their new ballpark in 1962. The irony of the situation is that even as the first pitch was being thrown at Dodger Stadium, the team's old ballpark back in Brooklyn (Ebbets Field) was being demolished to make way for… a public housing project. 

10.    A major league expansion team was forced to move due to bankruptcy – after only one year of play. After O'Malley and the Dodgers had shown how baseball-mad the former cities of the Pacific Coast League were to the nation, the race was on to try to bring more West Coast cities to the majors. After Gene Autry became owner of the third California-based team in 1961, the relative success of the Angels was a lure to another owner – Charlie Finley. Finley's Kansas City A's had been the laughingstock of the league since their days in Philadelphia, and he wanted to change that. In 1967, he started to scout cities along the Pacific coast where he could move his ball club. He visited the city of Seattle, but came to the realization that the city was far from ready to host MLB. Instead, he moved the A's to Oakland – another long time PCL hotbed. The move began a series of lawsuits and negotiations that resulted in the two major leagues reluctantly deciding to expand. To placate the people in Kansas City, the AL agreed to place an expansion city there. William R. Daley, the former owner of the Cleveland Indians, had considered moving the Tribe to Seattle back in 1964. Now, he was the majority owner of a group seeking to bring the major leagues to Seattle. In 1968, King County voters approved the construction of a new domed stadium in the Seattle Center area of downtown Seattle, as a condition for approval of expansion. Thus, the Seattle Pilots were born. Almost immediately problems began to pick up: first, the AL was forced by the threat of legislation to move up the date expansion would happen from 1971 to 1969. Next, the Pilots had to pay $1 million to compensate the PCL for the loss of one of their most successful franchises, the Seattle Angels (formerly the Rainiers). The biggest problem, however, was their ballpark: Sick's Stadium (named after longtime Rainiers owner Emil Sick) was a minor league park, and was nowhere near ready to be converted to major league standards. Despite this, GM Marvin Milkes and manager Joe Schultz maintained optimism that they could finish in the top half of the standings of the new American League Western Division. Opening day, however, saw a ballpark that was only half ready due to cost overruns and bad weather. The scoreboard wasn't even completed until the night before the home opener. Some of the 17,150 fans who attended opening day had to wait until the third inning to find their seats, because workers were still assembling them at first pitch. Though the park would eventually reach a capacity of 25,420 by June, the team was floundering from poor attendance and poorer play on the field. The Pilots posted a disastrous 9-20 record in July (and followed that up with an even worse 6-22 record in August), falling completely out of the race for a top three spot in the Division. Milkes, attempting to get some sort of quality squad on the field, ended up trading away some of his better players to contenders – including noted author Jim Bouton, who wrote about his experience as a pitcher for the expansion squad in his epic book, Ball Four. The stadium's infrastructure and lousy attendance (678,000, an average of only 8,370 per game) led to Daley refusing to put up more money to fund the sinking team. The team had an unlikely savior in a group of businessmen, led by Allan H. "Bud" Selig, who were seeking legal action against MLB over the movement of the Braves to Atlanta in 1966. During the 1969 World Series, minority owner and club president Dewey Soriano agreed to sell the team to the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Club. However, the remaining owners of the team refused to sign off on the deal. A couple of other ownership groups sought to buy the team, but one failed financially and the other was rejected by American League owners. Even as the ball club reported to Arizona for spring training, Pacific Northwest Sports Incorporated (the ownership group of the team) was facing lawsuit after lawsuit. After the state of Washington filed an injunction on March 16, 1970, to stop the sale of the team to Selig and the Brewers, PNSI was forced to declare bankruptcy. At the bankruptcy hearing, GM Milkes stated that the team didn't have enough money to pay the coaches, players, and other staff of the team. Also, if the team didn't pay the players within 10 days, they would all end up as free agents and the city of Seattle would be left without a baseball team in 1970. Federal bankruptcy court accepted the club's declaration of bankruptcy on April 1, clearing the way for the sale of the team to Selig. The team's uniforms and equipment had been sitting in trucks in Provo, Utah, waiting to hear whether they would head northwest to Seattle or east to Milwaukee. Seattle would not get another major league baseball team until 1976, when the American League awarded an expansion club to Seattle.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day Weekend Ramblings

Why yes, I still blog. I feel like I'm telnetting or something when I do it, though. So, here's some thoughts about things and other things.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Sock Index of NHL Team Popularity

Sometimes, it's funny what you find when you're looking for something else. I've been searching on the internet for a pair of hockey-themed socks, similar to ones that I bought long ago when I was in Nashville for a Predators game.

No, they're not "hockey socks", like you'd expect to see NHL'ers wear during games. I'm talking about novelty-type socks. I own a pair of white with blue heels and toes socks with the Predators logo on them, and I've been looking for a newer pair for some time now. I've concluded that there's only one pair similar to them - a pink pair by For Bare Feet, which I'm hesitant to order. 

This search confirmed something I wasn't entirely surprised to discover: not every NHL team is created equal. I was looking at available socks from one particular website (, and wondered how many different types of socks with logos of each NHL team were available - just on this one, non-hockey oriented, website.

In case you think the idea of "hockey socks" is odd, keep this in mind: there were a total of 274 different types of socks, featuring 29 of the 30 NHL teams – and one for the NHL logo itself. However - and this is where the "unequal" part comes in - not every team had the same number of items available. 

What follows is a count of how many different "socks" you can buy through Football Fanatics for each NHL team, ranked from greatest to least. It paints an interesting picture:

1.        Buffalo Sabres (20 items)
2.        Detroit Red Wings (20 items)
3.        New York Rangers (19 items)
4.        Philadelphia Flyers (17 items)
5.        New Jersey Devils (16 items)
6.        Boston Bruins (15 items)
7.        Pittsburgh Penguins (14 items)
8.        Chicago Blackhawks (13 items)
9.        Minnesota Wild (10 items)
10.     Montreal Canadiens (10 items)
11.     San Jose Sharks (10 items)
12.     Tampa Bay Lightning (10 items)
13.     Washington Capitals (10 items)
14.     Dallas Stars (9 items)
15.     Los Angeles Kings (9 items)
16.     St. Louis Blues (9 items)
17.     Anaheim Ducks (8 items)
18.     Calgary Flames (7 items)
19.     Florida Panthers (7 items)
20.     New York Islanders (7 items)
21.     Winnipeg Jets (7 items)
22.     Vancouver Canucks (6 items)
23.     Carolina Hurricanes (5 items)
24.     Colorado Avalanche (4 items)
25.     Toronto Maple Leafs (4 items)
26.     Nashville Predators (3 items)
27.     Columbus Blue Jackets (2 items)
28.     Edmonton Oilers (1 item)
29.     Ottawa Senators (1 item)
30.     NHL Logo (1 item)

You may notice there is one team missing from the list: the Phoenix Coyotes. That omission is predictable, as it wasn't certain that the team would even be playing in Phoenix on a permanent basis until recently.

What is exceptionally odd is how three Canadian NHL teams (Vancouver, Toronto and Edmonton) have few items available. This is somewhat explainable in that this is a US-based web store, and as such they don't have much available.

It does indicate, though,  what teams are thought of as "most important" to NHL marketing.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Olympic Thoughts

Now that we're headed into the final week of the Olympics, some thoughts on Sochi 2014:

Monday, January 13, 2014

What a difference a year makes

Wow, it's been a long time since I've updated this blog. A lot of stuff has happened since I last said anything "blog-worthy". Some of it is inconsequential, some of it isn't.

So let's go through some of it:

Shortly after my last post, two things became painfully obvious: the Nashville Predators weren't going to be making the playoffs, and they also weren't going to have the services of Pekka Rinne for a while. Sadly, both things are still true - and now, there are rumblings among the Predator Nation of a demand for change behind the bench and in the front office.

Also shortly after my last post, my cat, Brooke Field Houk, started having issues physically. It turned out she had lost pretty much all function in her kidneys, and her outlook was bleak. We had to put her down on the 20th anniversary of my first day at EAS. 

The whole Ryan Braun thing happened out of nowhere, and had me soured on the Brewers and baseball for a while. The second the suspension was announced, the Brewers season effectively ended.

I wondered, after we put Brookie down, how long it would take us before we'd get another cat. The answer turned out to be just over two months. I forgot how much of a handful kittens can be, but it's been a fun time.

One night at work, I wandered in to the mail room and discovered that a posting had been made for a position that was essentially the exact same position that I had when I was at EAS. I put in for it, not sure if I'd get it - and it turns out I was the #1 person in line for it. The entire month of July was a transition phase for me, but I managed to re-adapt to working in the reception cottage.

I cringed with the rest of the people in the state of Wisconsin on the night of November 4 when we heard those words that sent a shiver up our collective spines: "Aaron Rodgers is hurt." I don't think there was anyone who thought a month and a half later that we would still be in the playoff hunt, and that we actually would end up winning the NFC North.

After a quiet Thanksgiving at home, I was looking forward to the Christmas holidays. I headed into work for one night, with my first weekend off of the month beckoning to get the holiday season off to a good start.

And then that deer ran across the road in front of my car. I swerved, hit a patch of the ice on the shoulder that launched my car into the ditch that normally would have been reserved by this time for snowmobiles, and nearly got back onto the road - but the frozen snow was too thick, and physics caught up with momentum.  

I went into the body shop the next morning, after hastily calling in to work, and had them give me an estimate on the repairs - mostly to my side mirror and the dents the beastie did to car. There was also a crack in the front bumper, which meant that was going to have to be replaced, too. But overall, it wasn't looking bad.

So, Saturday afternoon, I decided I was going to go get gas in the car after dropping the wife off at an appointment. And on my way there, a 19-year-old kid in a 17-year-old Saturn tried to turn left in front of me as I was tooling down the main drag here in Merrill.

Now it was going to be the bumper, the grille, the hood, the headlights, the fender, the door... And this was accident number 3 for said car. That was enough for me.  I decided to spend the day off that I had been given after a visit to Urgent Care to start looking for a new car. Obviously, I wasn't in much of a position to bargain or haggle, but I was pleasantly surprised by my credit union that I was okay for a loan. And the car I was looking at was under the amount I was approved for.

I spent that week afterwards having to deal with two separate issues - uncertainty as to whether my car was going to be totaled, and a scheduling issue at work that nearly made my Christmas vacation a massive bah-humbug. Fortunately, the car issue was resolved, and I didn't have to cancel my vacation the week of Christmas, and it looked like I was going to be able to take delivery of my new (to me) car on the 26th.

The really sad part of the whole Christmas week, though, was that the snow forecasts that hit the state that weekend before. Both the wife and I decided we'd be better off staying home for Christmas Eve instead of driving down to be with family in Racine. It looked like a good idea when we were invited to a get-together with some friends after the Christmas Eve service for our church.

I got home that night, and my stomach didn't feel so good. I thought it was just me having over-eaten. I had some trouble sleeping that night, but I didn't think anything of it.

At least, not until I found myself racing into the bathroom and throwing up.

Unfortunately, the nausea and vomiting didn't stop until I told Sarah that I was extremely dehydrated and couldn't keep anything down. That resulted in a joyous holiday visit to the emergency room, where I was pumped full of fluids and anti-nausea meds which resulted in me exchanging nausea for instant diarrhea. (Hey, I never said I'd pull punches on here.)

I've recovered from that, but the recent "Polar Vortex" made enjoying my new car difficult. The funny thing was, the entire time I was concerned that my car wouldn't start in the cold, I never thought to check the wife's car. Sure enough, Tuesday morning came around (after she stayed home the Monday of the Deep Freeze), and when I went over to her car in the garage to start it... Rrrrr rrrurrr rrur.

When I took it in to the place where I got my car, they discovered that it was the original battery. On an '05 Sebring Convertible. Yeah. Replacement time. And, of course, that means putting the car up on the lift, taking the wheel out so you can take the battery out from under the left fender...

I'm just now kinda taking a breath after all this. I had a shrug-it-off attitude about the whole Packers "Arctic Bowl" loss, and this whole Predators season is starting to look like a lost cause. I'm not looking forward to spring training and baseball like I was in past years, because I know the Brewers aren't going to be as good as in the past (shuddering when I recall my days as a STH when the Crew was stinking up the place the first few years at Miller Park).

My December, as bleak as it was, wasn't all negative. Along with my new ride (a Chevy HHR - the first GM product I've willingly purchased), there was the pleasant surprise of my alma mater making the Stagg Bowl for the eighth time in the last nine years - and the subsequent pounding of our rivals Mount Union for our fifth D3 football title.

So here we are, 2014. Lot of year ahead of us, and a lot of blogging - at least, a lot more than in 2013 - ahead as well.

And, hopefully, by this time next year I'll have a new boss.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sliding Away

The weather up here in Northern Wisconsin has taken a turn for the strange today.

Instead of the usual snow we get when the temps rise, we're starting to see rain. That wouldn't be bad, if it wasn't for a few things:
  1. The temperature is hovering right at 32 degrees F.
  2. The wind is coming from the East and making that 32 F feel more like 21 F.
  3. The surface of many roads are already slightly melted from the minor warmup we had yesterday.
This afternoon, I was heading out to get some groceries we hadn't gotten the last time we'd done the shopping. No real problems getting out of our complex, and it didn't appear that the road that leads out to our "main drag" was that bad.

However: I started to stop for the intersection at the end of the road, and discovered something: black ice. What was worse, the last part of the intersection is an incline down to the main highway. So not only was I sliding, I was picking up speed.

The view to the left is obstructed by a roadhouse-like corner tap that has a small parking lot built into the side of road (something I've discovered is common here in NC Wisconsin). I had two brief thoughts as I was sliding: first, I was gonna get broadsided by some logging truck as it came down the road. Second, I wasn't gonna be able to stop once I got to the main highway, and I was going to slide right across the road.

And through the guard rail, and into the Wisconsin River.

Which, at this intersection, was about a good 30-40 foot drop from the other side of the road.

I think I swerved and threw my car into "Park", which locked up my wheels enough to cause me to stop - at about an 80 degree angle to the direction of travel. Very carefully, after finally breathing again, I reversed out of there and slowly went down to the stop sign, and turned right onto the main highway. There were no cars coming from the west, thankfully, so that wouldn't have been a worry.

Still - I don't know how much longer I can take this weather up here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A few thoughts for a Saturday late in January

Some random things: