Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

Peer Pleasure

January 12, 2014

Friday January 10th, 2014 – Frankfort, IL

It’s no secret that if anyone wants to change their results they must first change their method of doing things. That’s been my entire life mission of late, and boy is it working – and well. I feel a dramatic and dynamic change coming over me, and I really like it. It’s what I’ve always wanted.

I am making correct decisions the vast majority of the time these days, and tonight was a prime example. I originally had a comedy show booked near Rockford, IL, but the show was cancelled due to icy roads and bad weather. Actually they said it was ‘postponed’, but I’m still out money.

Whether it ever gets rescheduled is debatable, but that’s not the point. I had a sudden night off, and I had a choice to make. Do I stay home and mope around, or do I get in the car and go out to visit someone in the Chicago area? I’m normally not a social butterfly at all, especially in sloppy weather. I could have easily stayed home and done el-zilcho, but I felt I needed to take action.

I saw a mention online that Jimmie Walker of ‘Good Times’ was performing tonight at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL along with my friend Todd Link. Todd opens for Jimmie regularly, and it’s a great gig for him. I hadn’t seen him in a while so even though it was almost 100 miles one way, I got in the car and started driving in the sleet. Something told me that was the correct destination.

The roads weren’t horrible, but they were a bit of a concern. I slid around on the ice a little, but nothing that would make me turn around and go home. I’ve driven in winter conditions my entire life so it’s no big deal. I’d made up my mind I was going to go, and that was it. I was committed.

The show started at 8, and I arrived around 9. Jimmie was already on stage, but I saw Todd and comedian Ken Sevara who books the club. They reacted like the Pope had just arrived, and that’s extremely flattering. It’s great to feel welcomed, and I was. That alone made the drive worth it.

I work maybe once a year at CD & ME, and I’ll be there again January 24th. The staff there has always treated me like royalty, and they did again tonight. One of the owners Dean came over to shake my hand immediately, and that doesn’t happen often with club owners. It really felt good.

The vibe in there was wonderful, and had I decided on staying home I’d have missed it all. I’m glad I made the choice to go, and I enjoyed every minute of it. These are the kinds of evenings to remember, and years from now nobody will ever remember that I didn’t perform or that I had to drive in less than ideal conditions. There were a lot of reasons to say no, but I’m glad I said yes.

Another person who decided to come and hang out for the night was Ken Stevens, owner of the comedy club ‘Riddles’. He and Ken Sevara are long time friends, and he has also booked Jimmie several times as well. He has had some severe health issues of late himself and is fighting cancer. He spent a lot of time in the hospital, and by all accounts went through some very rough patches.

I hadn’t seen Ken in a while, but other than dropping some weight he looked and sounded very good. I told him how much we were all rooting for him as we followed updates on Facebook that his sister made during his ordeal. It was inspirational to hear of how he got through it, and I have not had the chance to see him in person to tell him. That was another reason I was glad I came.

One of the true treats of the standup comedy experience is getting a chance to hang with other comedians after the show. Most of us live for it, and other than the shows themselves it’s one of the highlights of our entire lives. Anyone who has been a full time road warrior has memories of sitting in a diner with other comics until the wee hours of the morning making each other laugh.

It’s a much higher and purer level than even the shows themselves, as we are the best audience of anyone. We’re all in the same boat and have a lot of shared experiences and common points of reference already in place that don’t need to be explained. Laughter between comedians is really sweet, and very often getting them to laugh means more than getting laughs from paid audiences.

After the show tonight we got a chance to hang out in the club after everyone left, and it was an absolutely delightful experience. Jimmie, Ken Sevara, Ken’s wife Lori, Todd, Ken Stevens, club owner Dean and I all sat around a big round table and experienced the magic of why we do this.

Everyone at that table was in or around the business, and the stories started flying and laughter was coming from all directions. That particular group dynamic was absolutely perfect, and I saw that everyone was enjoying every second. Times like this just don’t happen as often as they used to, and we all knew it. We could all let our guards down, and be ourselves. Everyone enjoyed it.

I have nothing but respect for everyone at that table. I’ve known them all for years, and they’ve paid their dues and then some. Ken Sevara and Lori lived in Los Angeles in the ‘70s, and were in the boom years of comedy out there. They knew Jimmie from those days, and I have nothing but respect for him as well. That guy is a true road warrior, and continues to work after all this time.

He said that he has been on TV every single day somewhere for 45 years, and that’s impressive to the point of awe. Even more impressive is that he still works at the craft of standup comedy. It isn’t easy, but he still adds new material and works at it when he could easily just phone it all in.

Todd Link is another guy I respect very much. We met in Salt Lake City when I lived there and bonded instantly because we’re both huge sports fans to the point of obsession. He knows former NBA player Tom Tolbert pretty well, and we’ve just always stayed in contact. He’s a funny guy, and we’d love to eventually start a group of comedians that love sports and focus on that market.

Todd is based out of Nashville, where he takes care of his father who needs his help. That takes a lot of time and effort, and I commend Todd for making that difficult choice. It’s never the easy road to be selfless and care for someone else before one’s own needs, but Todd does exactly that. These are life decisions far more than just career ones, and we all have to make them at times.

Sitting at that table made me extremely proud to have spent my life in service of others making strangers laugh, and I felt completely at home in everyone’s company. Not only that, I savored it because I knew all the sacrifices everyone else had made to be there as well. The audience saw a fantastic show on stage from Jimmie, Todd and Ken, but there was an even better one afterward.

I’m going to be performing at CD & ME in two weeks with my friend Jimmy McHugh. That’s another long time comedy road warrior I love as a friend and respect greatly as an act. If you can, come see us. http://www.cdandme.com. I made a fantastic choice tonight. I am finally smartening up.

As a comedian, hanging out with other comedians after the show is almost as much fun as being on stage. Tonight I got a chance to hang out at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL. I'll be headlining there on Janary 24th. www.cdandme.com.

As a comedian, hanging out with other comedians after the show is almost as much fun as being on stage. Tonight I got a chance to hang out at CD & ME in Frankfort, IL. I’ll be headlining there on Janary 24th. http://www.cdandme.com.

Jimmie Walker has been on TV every single day for 45 years. How many people can say that?

Jimmie Walker has been on TV every single day for 45 years. How many people can say that? http://www.dynomitejj.com.

My friend Todd Link is a bigger sports fanatic than I am. I didn't think that was possible. He's also a very funny comedian. www.jokertodd.com.

My friend Todd Link is a bigger sports fanatic than I am. I didn’t think that was possible. He’s also a very funny comedian. http://www.jokertodd.com.

Ken Sevara has his own talk show on AM 560 WIND called 'Fly By Night'. www.kensevara.com.

Ken Sevara has his own talk show on AM 560 WIND called ‘Fly By Night’. http://www.kensevara.com.

Saluting The Spurs

June 22, 2013

Thursday June 20th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Although I’ve only been through San Antonio, TX maybe two or three times at most in all my travels, I consider myself a loyal fan of the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. I absolutely love their way of doing business, and in this era of showboating maniacs they’re a breath of fresh air.

  They have been perennial winners since they entered the NBA for the 1976-77 season, and have only failed to qualify for the playoffs four times. That’s beyond remarkable, and they do it with a matter of fact business like air that’s the ultimate in professionalism. They do things correctly, at least in my opinion. They don’t gloat or waste time making foolish statements – they just WIN.

   The organization is razor sharp from the top on down, and they make it a point to acquire great players who are also solid people. David Robinson was a quality player, but also not your typical off the court hoodlum. He came from the Naval Academy, and how many NBA teams search for talent there? Is there another basketball player that has ever come from there? Not that I know of.

   Tim Duncan is also a thoroughbred. They realized the center position is crucial for any team to win a championship, and they were able to get two outstanding ones back to back. It’s extremely rare, but the Spurs are an extremely rare organization. They know what they’re doing, and all the other teams know it. They have quietly built themselves if not a dynasty, a reasonable facsimile.

   Their coach Greg Popovich is one of my favorites as well. He took over in 1996, and won four NBA Championships. He’s now the longest tenured coach in not only the NBA but the ‘big four’ major sports. He’s looked at as a guru and one of the all time greats, but he does it very low key.

   His style of coaching is drenched in fundamentals, and Spurs teams are known for showing up ready to play. They don’t rely on flashy playground antics, they play and execute precision team basketball that almost looks like it’s from another era. I love watching them, and I cheer loudly.

   My hometown Milwaukee Bucks used to be a lot like the Spurs. When I was a kid they always made the playoffs, and at one stretch they won seven straight division championships.  But then they’d always run into a monster team in the playoffs and never be able to get over the big hump. It was frustrating at the time, but looking back the Bucks were a great franchise for many years.

   That’s no longer the case, and the Bucks have been mired in mediocrity for so long I lost track. I live in the Chicago area now, and I admit I follow the Bulls. I don’t dislike them, and they have a rich history as well. The ‘90s were amazing with Michael Jordan, but after that they fell off the face of the planet for many years and it’s only lately they’re starting to become winners again.

   The Spurs have done it year in and year out, and I can’t help but cheer for them. Excellence has a formula, and not everyone can achieve it much less maintain it. That goes for anything, not just sports teams. I have always aimed for excellence, but have not come within reach. It’s frustrating on one hand, but on the other it makes me have even greater respect for the few who do attain it.

   I was sad to see the Spurs lose to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals tonight. I’m not even that big of a basketball fan anymore, and a lot has to do with the way the Heat put their team together by buying it. Sure, why shouldn’t they win it all? They did it the easy way. The Spurs played the hand they were dealt, and have shown consistency for a long time. The Heat have now won back to back titles, but let’s see how their legacy matches up with the Spurs. They’re still my favorite.

Jason Collins

May 1, 2013

Monday April 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   As a comedian, making fun of anything and everything that passes in front of my nose is what I do for a living. Whenever I happen to notice anything unique or of interest pop up in the news or anywhere else, my thinking has been trained over a lifetime to search for the jokes immediately. 

   That’s how the comedy mind works, even in the most delicate of situations. No matter how sad or horrifying any tragedy may be, there are usually jokes about it within hours. This is especially true since the dawn of the internet, but even before that people with a warped side were still at it.

   I remember hearing Jeffrey Dahmer jokes in Milwaukee about three days after it happened, and couldn’t believe they could get out there so fast. Now it’s even faster than that. I love a good line even if it’s in the poorest of taste, but that’s how comedians are. We’re trained to look for humor in all situations, and that in turn dulls our sensitivity to certain topics the public may find taboo.

   All that being said, a major story all over the news today was an NBA basketball player named Jason Collins becoming the first active player in any major professional sport to come out of the closet and declare he was gay. I’m a big listener of sports talk radio, and it attracted a lot of calls.

   Again, as a comedian my first instinct is to go right for the jokes but this made me pull the plug on that part of my brain and think it through. First off, I can’t believe anyone still has issues with someone being gay. I know I don’t, and never did. Even though I am not gay myself and admit I don’t understand it, I don’t feel it’s my position to judge anyone else. I have my own problems.

   Where I sit, that’s how it should be with everyone. I might have a complaint if I find myself in prison and am approached for a midnight date from my 6’10” frisky cell mate named Snake, but there I go with the joke angle again. This is a subject that’s going to be top of mind for a while.

   I can’t believe it took this long for someone to be ‘the one’. I’m sure there are all kinds of jocks through the years who were gay and had to live a secret life, but it took Jason Collins to push the envelope and assume the role. I bet he didn’t know what he’s gotten himself into, and I’m sure it will come with both good and bad. Like Jackie Robinson, he will be seen in history as a pioneer.

   Personally, I don’t think it’s that big a deal but it was according to the callers on the radio. Let the guy live his life. I thought I was a big sports fan, but I’d never heard of the guy before today. He’s a marginal player at best, even though making it to the NBA at all is a major achievement.

   It won’t be his play that he’ll be remembered for now, and I already sense controversy brewing by the way callers reacted to the whole subject. Once again, it seemed like the religious goofballs who took the low road and started condemning him to hell. That put me even more in his corner.

   I don’t think a person can help how he or she is born. If you’re gay you’re gay, and it’s nothing new. It’s been around as long as humanity, so if there is a God He or She must have programmed it into the DNA makeup somewhere along the line. Who are any of us to point fingers at anyone?

   I’m not trying to be a do good liberal crusader or anything else but a human being. After trying to look at this issue from all angles intelligently, it occurs to me that anybody’s sexual preference is their own business and none of mine. Or yours. Period. On a happier note, more gay men leave more single women so why should heterosexual men complain? Stop whining and go find a date.

So what's the fuss??

So what’s the fuss?

LeBron Turns Heel

July 12, 2010

Saturday July 10th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

One of the most educational if not fun things I’ve ever done was get involved in the pro wrestling business in my early twenties. I will admit, had I been blessed with even a tenth of one iota of physical ability, I’d have been inside that ring in a New York minute baby.

Instead, I got to be involved both as a ring announcer and TV commentator, and looking back that was a great way to do it. I didn’t have to sacrifice my body and I still got to have the fun of being around the circus. Talk about colorful characters, wrestling is chock full.

Most of my experience was with a bunch of guys based in Milwaukee who used to lose on purpose on television matches for the AWA (American Wrestling Association) which was based in Minneapolis. They had their own federation in the Milwaukee area that had several incarnations over the years, but it was basically the same group of guys renamed.

Eventually, I bought the organization which included a 22 foot former WWF ring and a rattle trap truck to haul it to the venues. I don’t think that truck ever started when I had it, but it went along with the deal so I took it. I ended up having to tow the truck to shows so I could be sure it got there. No ring, no matches. No matches, no money. It’s a no brainer.

I ran shows for about a year, and learned more during that time than just about any other in my entire life. I learned about promotion, how to be in charge, sales, politics between a mixed bag of people and a whole lot more. The main thing was the subtleties of wrestling as an art form, which it really is. It’s poor man’s opera, the storytelling is the main thing.

Each match tells it’s own little story, and there’s a good guy (aka ‘baby face’) and a bad guy (the ‘heel’) who lock it up in the ring and let their story lines play out. Sometimes the bad guy will sneak in and win, but mostly the good guy comes out on top in the end. It’s a beautiful thing to watch when it works well, and I’ve seen examples of it over and over.

The person who comes up with the story lines is said to have ‘the pencil’, and has to put all the story lines together so it all flows well as an evening’s entertainment. It’s not at all easy to do, and I respect those who do it well. It’s hard enough trying to do comedy well.

A wrestling term that describes a heel’s wrestler’s negative reaction from the fans when doing what most consider to be wrong is called ‘heat’ or ‘getting heat’. I immediately had a revelation when I heard LeBron James signed to play in Miami. He infuriated his whole home town, and turned heel in the basketball world. He’s now changed how fans see him.

The funny thing is, what team did he choose? The Miami ‘Heat’. Coincidence? It guess it COULD be, but that caught my attention right away and it made me laugh. This whole big fiasco is just an old pro wrestling story line. The good guy turns bad, and then people pay their money to see him get his mouth shut by some other baby face. It’s all calculated to sell tickets, which is what all this hype is about. LeBron went from baby face to heel to help the NBA sell more tickets. Sorry Cleveland, you’re buying in exactly how they want.

Dinner Bell Mel – RIP

July 10, 2010

Friday July 9th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

I heard on the radio today Mel Turpin committed suicide. He was 49. He was probably best known for his infamous nicknames of ‘Dinner Bell Mel’ and ‘The Mealman’ among others, but he was a basketball player for the University of Kentucky who was drafted the same year as Michael Jordan. He’s considered one of the biggest NBA busts of all time.

He was about 6’10” and always seemed to struggle with his weight, hence his array of colorful monikers, but I remember meeting him not long after he was drafted. I was just getting started on the road and was working in Lexington, KY, probably for the first time.

I don’t remember exactly where or when, but it was in some sports bar complex where the comedy show was. I was in my early twenties and after the show I was hanging at the sports bar with some comics and club people and there was Mel Turpin hanging out too.

It was hard to miss a 6’10” black guy in a crowd of twenty something Caucasian college kids, but what stuck out more than that was his very calm demeanor. He was just a guy at a sports bar, minding his own business. He wasn’t bothering anyone or trying to scam free drinks or anything other than being a customer. Nobody bothered him and he blended in.

At first I didn’t know who it was, so I asked one of the comedy club workers. I’ve been a huge sports fan all my life and knew since we were in Lexington, KY which is a college basketball haven and a large black man sitting in a sports bar is allowed to stay there with no hassle it had to be a basketball player of note, not just the security guard. I was right.

Mel Turpin was a celebrity name back then. Like I said, I don’t know the exact date, but it was right around when he was drafted, and his future was very bright. He could’ve been  an arrogant  prima donna and I bet he could have gotten away with it, especially in a place like Lexington where basketball is a religious experience. The world was his oyster then.

As the night went on, we were shooting pool and hanging out and as fate would have it, Mel was sitting at a table near the pool tables. I was standing next to where he was sitting and he was still taller than me, but we struck up a conversation for a few minutes. I don’t even remember what it was about, but I know it wasn’t about basketball. We just talked.

He was a very decent, laid back down to earth guy. We had our exchange and at the end of the night as we left I caught his eye and waved and he waved back and that was it. But  after that I was always a big Mel Turpin fan and was very sorry to see how his life played out. I’ve met a ton of full of themselves divas in my day, but not Mel Turpin in the least.

At the time, I had a brush with a celebrity. He was a hot name and life looked to be rosy for his infinite future. Not long after that he flamed out in the NBA and it spiraled all the way down to the point where he shot himself in the head before he was 50. That’s not the way any of us expect life to be, but all too often it is. I sure hope he’s in a peaceful place, being able to be the Mel Turpin I met way back when – a friendly easygoing nice person.