The Women of the Dance Team for the Schaumburg Flyers Describe Themselves in One Word

The results are:


The woman who described herself as merely “outgoing” will probably be canned in the near future, while Autumn, who’s special talent is to shape her tongue like a three-leaf clover, will probably be promoted.

Learn all about the squad (and why a minor league baseball team needs a dance squad) HERE!! OKAY !!

Autumn Finally Shows Up

The weather has finally turned cold in Chicago, and the leaves on the trees outside my window are giving up the ghost and cascading to the sidewalk. They flutter down endlessly, like the confetti from a big party thrown for Summer, now that it’s finally gotten on the cruise liner and headed south. I hope we have a decently cold winter this year, so we can actually enjoy the snow and ice for long uninterrupted periods, and not have to endure these wet, filthy, warmish winters we’ve had lately. Maybe the past few tepid winters are what it’s like to have winter in Louisville or Cincinnati, where the season isn’t something to enjoy, but something to just muddle through. A tedious holding pattern.

Just enjoyed a few days with my mother visiting town. She came in to see the kids in their church choir musical and see some old friends, though there are becoming fewer in number than ever. That’s true both in Chicago where she grew up and in Detroit. Loneliness must be the worst thing about getting old.

These visits usually entail a few stories or facts that surprise me. First off, I should say that my family (save for my mother) is not one for small talk. It would be generous to say about my father, as she did, that he “kept his own counsel.” He basically kept his mouth shut to the point where a lot of people took offense, including my grandmother. At one point in my childhood, he famously objected to all the talking at the dinner table by asking in frustration, “What do you all think this is, a social event?”

So a visit with Mom always results in a few strange items coming to light, such as:

* My father had season tickets to see the Lions all through my childhood. I was the only son who was a sports fan, but I don’t remember him ever mentioning this, and I know for a fact I never went to a Lions game. Thanks, Dad.

* The neighbor kid, who was maybe two years older than me, would get very upset that I spoke gibberish as a toddler. My mother told him, “That’s not gibberish–he’s speaking Chinese.” The kid then grew very concerned for me, trying to make it in America and knowing only Chinese. Mom regrets pulling the kid’s chain, but he was such a dick, I’m glad she did it.

* Before my father was courted by and took a job with Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, he got a job offer in Indianapolis, doing finance for some company there. They were brought down there and dined with the bosses of the company, but at 10:00 that night, they decided to get out of their hotel room and grab a drink somewhere downtown. In all of Downtown Naptown, they couldn’t find a single tavern or bar & grill open. Thank heavens for that. If he had taken a job down there, I might have grown up with an even more nasal accent than I have now.

At some point in the weekend, the subject of my brother the actor came up, as it always does. An actor’s life is a string of disappointments and near-misses, leavened occasionally with fun and fulfilling work. Of course, a mother doesn’t want to see her son have to go through so much rejection in his life, and she doesn’t like to hear stories about the strivers, backstabbers, egoists and connivers that compete with him for roles and attention.

“He’s not ‘on’ all the time, like most of them,” she said. “I don’t know if that would help, but he’s not like that. We don’t know what it’s like to be that passionate about something, that it commands your whole life. It’s just not in our nature.”

“Our” nature meaning the Garner family makeup. Mom of course projects her insecurities (of which there are many) onto the rest of the world, and her family is the closest target, but her statement got me thinking: Does everybody out there have a “family nature”? Does every family have an indelible, immutable, defining trait? Apparently the Garner family trait is reticence and a lack of passion, in her eyes. There were three sons in the family, and we all looked very similar. People often referred to us as “the Garner boys” and “definitely Bill’s sons,” and assumed we were all like Dad: studious, smart, reserved, hard-working.

Whenever anyone asks me where my sense of humor comes from, or the source of the hamminess of my kids, my nieces and nephews, and my brother and myself, I never have an answer. I just know it didn’t come from my parents, and that our household wasn’t one of those loud, crazy Irish households where everyone was vying for attention. We were the British model that kept everything buttoned down until the seams burst. Still, that may be a formula for producing people like yours truly. If they’d sent me away to boarding school, I might have turned into a truly twisted genius.

Joe Torre Haiku Contest

Since BARDBALL.COM isn’t structured to give announcements like this, I’ll do it here: A reader has alerted me to a contest by the New York Times to write a haiku about Joe Torre’s exit as manager of the Yankees. Here’s my favorite so far:

Patience rewarded:
Boss takes back ultimatum
Joe says “Go to hell.”

First the Cubs and their limerick contest, now a Joe Torre haiku-a-rama. It looks to me as if baseball poetry is a-sweepin’ the nation. Did it all start slowly, when Bart Giamatti was commissioner? Or are the station breaks between innings getting so long that people are taking their pads to the ballpark and tickling their muses?

“Weekend Today” Show

Thanks to everyone who alerted me to the segment of “Weekend Today” on Sunday that showed yours truly at the Poetry Grand Slam at the Green Mill. I remember them milling around and filming that night, but they seemed to recede into the woodwork and became forgotten in time. So, at the end of Lester Holt’s strangely robotic salute to Chicago (one part “Deep dish pizza! Wrigley Field! Blues!” and one part Edna’s Restaurant and Jerry Springer eating a heart-attack-on-rye), they gave passing mention to alternative entertainment and talked about the Green Mill and the Poetry Slam. Marc Smith got a sound byte in during an interview, but the poet shown on stage was yours truly, reciting a stanza from “The Silver Lining, or At Least The Yankees Lost.” Middle-brow doggerel for a middle-brow audience, but what the hey. Exposure is exposure. They didn’t print my name or mention BARDBALL, but now I can honestly put “AS SEEN ON WEEKEND TODAY” in the promo materials.

Whenever I figure out how to take something from the TIVO and make it web ready, I’ll post the clip here. That should be around CE 2046.

RIP Joey Bishop

The last of the original Rat Pack passed away yesterday, at the age of 89. Hammer another nail into the coffin of pre-hippie sixties cool, now only remembered in tribute acts and strained journalistic references to current flashes in the entertainment pan. And “Mad Men”, I guess, though I haven’t watched it yet.

What a year it’s been. Is there anyone left alive who sat on Johnny Carson’s couch when “The Tonight Show” was still based in NYC?

UPDATE: For an interesting historical perspective on the Rat Pack, and a clip from The Joey Bishop Show, check out this link to Crooks & Liars.

Bum Joke

As I was walking the dog this morning, a rather sun-burnt old fellow stopped me in the alley and asked, “Ya wanna hear something funny?”

Me and my buddy were going to go to see that western movie, “3:10 to Yuma” up at the Davis. But y’know, they don’t let you go in there in the middle of the movie no more. We needed a way to kill time, so we went over to Welles Park to take a nap.

My buddy has this bottle of…of…of booze that he’s usin’ f’r a pillow. When the cops come by, they tell us, “Hey, you can’t have an open bottle of liquor in the park. What are you guys doin’ here?”

My buddy says, “We’re waitin’ for ‘3:10 to Yuma’.”

And the cop says, “Well, you just got yourself the ‘4:45 to Belmont and Western’.”

True story. At least, my part of it was.

Cornhole vs. Baggo

I’d like to thank my niece for pointing out that I am a man ahead of my time. Among my many far-sighted obsessions (the mayonnaise glue stick applicator, for one), I have been chronicling the controversies surrounding the state of the beanbag in recent weeks. You can read the posts here and here if you have so little to do today.

Well, my niece points out that Newsweek is reporting a new controversy over nomenclature among tailgating afficianadoes. Ever alert for the latest trend that affects our lives, the magazine states that there now exists a fight brewing about the proper name for this new generation of steroidal beanbag toss games. The contenders? Cornhole and Baggo.

Remember when George Carlin catalogued the “7 Words You Can’t Say on Television”? While that list is not completely taboo anymore, I’m betting that the words “cornhole” and “baggo” can’t be used in the same paragraph on TV without getting the FCC worked up. Let me rephrase that: I’m HOPING those two words can’t be used together. Of course, I’m probably wrong. There’s probably a cop show in development for FX named “Cornhole and Baggo.”

And did you know that there was something called the American Cornhole Association? Aren’t you glad now that you do?

Poetry Grand Slam: Wait til Next Year

The season came to an end last night in an entirely predictable fashion, as Poetry Slam poobah Marc Smith used his commissioner’s powers to steal victory (and pork chops) from the jaws of defeat.

Our team was definitely the underdogs, as we took the stage in the smoky confines of the Green Mill Lounge. The Bardball Irregulars acquitted themselves mightily and almost pulled off the upset. Stu Shea delivered a fresh and powerful ode to the blue-balled Cub season and how it reflects the local civic character, and a moving rendition of “For Rod Beck”. Charles “Sid Yiddish” “Double Duty” Bernstein came through as MVP on the team with strong readings of “Seventh Inning Stench”, “Caught Him Looking” and “Mr. Cub’s Autograph”. Sid earned the nickname “Double Duty” for his amazing throat-singing of “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during our seventh inning stretch. Hey, you don’t see Carlos Zambrano running up to the broadcast booth to do that, do ya?

My game started out slowly. Slam poetry, with its jazzy rhythms and sleeve-worn emotions, is obviously not my regular style, but I’m not looking for excuses. The reason for my poor scoring was obvious: unbeknownst to anyone, Smith had appointed a YANKEE FAN as one of the three slam judges. I went up blindly confident and performed “The Silver Lining, or At Least the Yankees Lost.” The entire Chicago crowd was behind me on this one, chanting the chorus of the final line, and yet this self-hating Gothamite judged that I had “popped up” on my first try. (Apropros of nothing, she also complained she couldn’t find a decent 24-hour deli in this town, and that Midwesterners talk so slowly it’d drive ya nuts.) On my next at bat, I performed ““On Being AJ Pierzynski,” but because the poem didn’t mention Jorge Posada, the judge again ruled me a pop out. I redeemed myself slightly with “On the Inaugural Season of the Israel Baseball League” and knocked it for a homer. Now, had mercurial Marc Smith changed his scoring rules BEFORE my last at bat instead of after, the Bardball Irregulars would be enjoying a victory parade right down Dearborn Street this lovely morning, swigging champagne from silver cups. But it wasn’t meant to be.

With the score tied, we went into extra innings and sent Sid up again. But we gave him an unfamiliar poem to bat with, and the power just wasn’t there the last time. For the bottom of the 10th, the Green Mill team sent up — who else? and So What?? — Marc Smith, who hammed it up through his poem “Ball Park 65”. The partisan crowd went wild, as the cult of personality Smith has built up over the past two decades came through again, a poetry patronage army if ever there was one. Organizer, commissioner, scorekeeper, judge AND pinch-hitter? Apparently there’s nothing Smith can’t do except admit defeat. As a friendly little side bet, the Bardball team now owes the Green Mill squad a bucket of pork chops, kraut and apples from the Chicago Brauhaus, which I’m sure Marc will share with everyone since he’s the clubhouse manager and team chandler as well.

So our magical year ends on a dissatisfying note. The team, which didn’t even exist when the season began, came within one hit of the championship. Apparently Marc Smith’s rabid appetite for overcooked pig flesh (not to mention his overcooked poetry) was incentive enough to flambe the rule book and steal victory for his team. But before we move on to “Wait Until Next Year,” we should savor this season, the ups and downs, the stresses and meters, the rhymes both internal and external, the moxie of writers in love with the spirit of the game pushing themselves past what even they themselves thought they could do.

My hat is off to Stu and Sid, as well as the poets on the Green Mill squad who were great competitors and fine poets. We will welcome them in the pages of in the future. The Poetry Grand Slam will rise above the petty machinations of the organizers, and remain etched in the hearts of our countrymen and women for years to come. Vita brevis, ars longa.

No Cubs No

Well, that trip to Arizona was a disaster. In the days leading up to the playoff series, all the Chicago sportswriters were saying this would be a walk, and the real challenging matchup for the Cubs would be the Colorado Rockies. I think it was a misprint. The challenging matchup would’ve been the Mother Macauley Junior Varsity team.

It’s one thing for Lilly to have a bad night, and for Marmol to give up a couple of runs. But where have the fabled Cub bats gone? They’re flailing at the plate like a bunch of sea lions. With the exception of Theriot and Soto, the Cub batters look like they’re waiting for the cold medicine to wear off. The rookies that make up the D-Backs, on the other hand, are acting like the canny, cunning veterans, hungry for the pennant. And that’s exactly where they’ll be in a week, looking to beat the Rockies for the title. Are we ready for an all Rocky Mountain NLCS this year? Break out the Coors and elk jerky.

There’s one more game to go, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope, not judging by what I saw the past two nights. I don’t wait for miracles in the post season, after watching the Tigers completely choke last year.

At least if the Cubs are eliminated this weekend, I won’t have to endure the coverage on “SuperStation” WTBS. Why does it take three guys to say nothing on the air? Couldn’t they do with one? And the sound engineers ought to be fired, with the psychedelic way the crowd noise kept roaring up and then disappearing. When Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field gets loud, then you’ve got an excuse for fiddling with the knobs to make it sound okay at home. At Chase Field, you need to cheat to get the crowd noise UP on the air.

Remember in the early days of cable, when you only had 60 channels to choose from and the “Superstation” was something you actually tuned in once in a while? Now they’re completely lost in the static. Well, never fear–I bet that show “Frank TV” that they’ve been pushing during the games will be a smash hit for them. A fat unknown impressionist starring in his own late night series??? Set the TIVO!!

New “Recut Madness” Video !!!

Some of you may have been nodding your heads in a sympathetic way when I blathered this summer about a “really cool video we shot to promote Recut Madness.” An exhausted writer on the verge of delirium, you may have thought. A liar. A crackpot.

Well, maybe you feel like a chumbalone now, b/c we finally got the film up on that very exclusive web server, YouTube. Check it out! And tell your friends! The future for book promotion is here!