Friday, February 29, 2008

Hands Free In The Car: It's The Law

I must have spent close to $200 on hands-free devices for use with my cell phones over the last couple of years and for one reason or another after a week or two I would stop using them while driving, even though it was against the law and not very safe. However when I shelled out $25 Thursday for a hands-free earbud I did so with the knowledge that this time I would use it on a regular basis. That’s because as of tomorrow things will change for those who chat on hand-held cell phones while driving in New Jersey.

When the current law went into effect in 2004 police could only issue you a ticket if they were stopping you for another reason and to be honest it wasn’t much of a deterrent and not enforced all that much. However the game changes Saturday when a revised law gives police the authority to stop drivers for using their cell phone without another infraction and issue a summons which carries a $100 to $250 fine with no points. Also added to the new legislation is a ban on text-messaging on a cell phone while driving which will also be subject to a fine.

There are exceptions to the new law but they are few. Drivers can use a hand-held cell phone to report a drunken driver, road hazards and other illegal activity on the roads. Police and other emergency officials are also allowed to use hand-held cell phones for official use only but of course who is going to enforce that.

This is all part of the on-going effort to curb driver distractions which can and do lead to accidents. The goal is to have people not use their phones while driving at all or at least use a hand-free device which is legal for all drivers. Many people have purchased those portable Bluetooth devices that attach to your ear and they seem the best alternative although I just don’t like them so I’ll stick with the earbud for now. Once you get used to them they’re not bad although often the person on the other end says you don’t sound very clear. However that’s a small price to pay and better than getting a fine for at least $100.

It will be interesting to see if the new law becomes a deterrent to what’s become a major problem. Cell phone retailers tell me they have not seen a huge increase in sales this week for the hand-free devices and it all comes down to enforcement. If police stop drivers and write tickets than the public will respond just like when seat-belt laws first went into effect.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Useful Website

You hear about web sites all the time…in some cases they have replaced phone numbers as the way to contact a company or business. Many web sites are ones we use for entertainment and some provide useful information. Free is one that is entertaining, informative and more than that helping with one of the biggest problems in the world today…feeding the hungry.

Free is actually an on-line game that was created by a computer programmer from Indiana to help his son improve his vocabulary for the SAT. John Breen is also an anti-poverty activist who wanted to use his game to make people aware of the world-wide problems of feeding the hungry.

How it works is that when you go on the site you are greeted with a word and four choices of what is the correct definition. If you make the correct pick than the cash equivalent of 20 grains of rice is donated to the United Nations World Food Program with the rice paid for by advertisers on the site. There is a database of thousands of words at varying degrees of difficulty and more words are being added. As you make correct answers then you get harder words and levels…there are 55 but rarely does anyone get above level 48. The idea is that people, especially teenagers will come across words they’ve never seen and by playing the game improve their vocabulary which should help them when they take the SAT. Truthfully the game is a help to anyone looking to improve their ability to speak, read, comprehend and communicate. only began this past October and has been a huge success, attracting about half a million visitors each day. Players have helped donate more than 20 billion grains of rice, which is enough to feed almost a million people for one day. The rice is distributed by the United Nations World Food Program, the world’s largest food aid agency and one that works with over 1000 other organizations in over 75 countries.

So why not challenge yourself by checking out this site and playing the game which helps you and others. Here’s an example:

The word is determinate and the choices are fixed, bright, drowsy or tricky.
If you said tricky you are correct and 20 grains of rice were just donated.…a web site and game that makes a difference.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Nobody has asked my opinion but...

If I were handicapping the 2009 Governors race in New Jersey I’d make Jon Corzine the heavy favorite. Sure the current Governor has a low approval rating right now and the state is in financial chaos but tell me who would beat him in a re-election bid? Corzine still has the unions on his side…at least for now and the Republicans have no high-profile candidate on the horizon.
Plus 2009 is a long way off and a lot can happen.

The only way John McCain can get elected President of the United States this November is to appear younger and he can at least make strides by not dressing like an old man. Somebody in the McCain camp has to tell him to stop wearing those sweaters under his suit. Not only does it bulk him up but he looks about 80 and we all know appearance comes into play especially when one of the knocks against McCain is his age.

It’s time to wonder about the direction of the Monmouth University Men’s basketball program. The Hawks are going to suffer their second straight losing season and just Tuesday their leading scorer Jhamar Youngblood announced he is leaving the team and will transfer to another school. Head coach Dave Calloway is a former Monmouth player who has had success
but I don’t get a sense that there’s a lot of excitement over the program.
Monmouth will be moving into a new basketball facility in a couple of years and they will need to put a better product on the court if they want to fill it up.

Toms River is without question the capital of high school sports in New Jersey. This time of year thousands to people come from all across the state for basketball and wrestling at the Ritacco Center and the Bennett Indoor Complex just completed a busy and productive indoor track campaign. These visitors are also good for the local economy as some stay in local hotels and certainly spend money in local restaurants and retail stores.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

State Tournaments

If you check out tonight’s high school sports schedule you’ll find there are state tournament basketball games and the preliminary round of the Region 6 wrestling tournament. This is the time of year when the best athletes and teams are pitted against one another for some of their sports biggest prizes….Shore Conference and State Championships.

There’s another event on tap for tonight of a very different kind and just the fact that it’s being held is something to celebrate. Woodlake County Club in Lakewood is the site of a kickoff event and fundraiser for the newly-established Ocean & Monmouth County Challenger Sports League which beginning in September will provide high school students with severe disabilities the chance to play sports and represent their schools.
There’s a chance you’ve heard of Challenger leagues before but that’s usually associated with Little League Baseball or youth soccer…this new endeavor will enable high school athletes to compete against other schools wearing the same uniforms and colors of varsity athletes.

The Ocean & Monmouth County Challenger League is partnering with the Ocean County Council PTA to provide disabled athletes the opportunity to play flag football, soccer, basketball and baseball during the 2008-09 school year. Joseph DiPietro, an assistant Principal at Southern Regional High School and the school’s autistic program coordinator, will serve as Commissioner of the Challenger League. Southern is one of 13 high schools from Ocean County who will be participating beginning in the fall as will
all three Toms River schools, both high schools in Brick and Jackson, Barnegat, Central Regional, Lakewood, Pinelands and Point Boro.

Of course with anything like this money is a crucial factor and the goal is to raise funds through events like tonight’s kickoff as well as donations and grants so that it will not cost the schools any money to take part. For information on the league and how you can help you can call Joe DiPietro at
(609) 597-5573 or visit their web site at

Monday, February 25, 2008

Weekend Wrap-up

A little of this and a little of that on the final Monday of February:

Don’t ask me why but I stayed up until 11:45 last night to watch the conclusion of the Academy Awards, even though I had little interest in most of the categories. I was delighted to see that “Freeheld” won the Oscar for
Documentary Short Subject…that’s the film about the struggles of Lt. Laurel Hester of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office to leave her pension to her domestic partner Stacie Andree. Hester eventually won that fight before losing her battle against cancer in 2006. Director Cynthia Wade and Producer Vanessa Roth received their Oscars from Tom Hanks and praised Hester and Andree, who was shown in the audience. The 38-minute movie has won several awards and is being shown in screenings around the country. It will be screened at the Garden State Film Festival in Asbury Park from April 4-6.

Speaking of the movies…caught “Vantage Point” this weekend. Very good cast including Dennis Quad and Forrest Whittaker but not quite as good as I expected…maybe because I got fooled by the coming attractions. Still a better-than-average drama which will keep your attention.

For the second time in the last three years Monsignor Donovan lost in the finals of the Shore Conference Boys Basketball Tournament but not because of lack of effort. The Griffins fell to Neptune Saturday night in front of a packed house at the Poland Spring Arena in the Ritacco Center. In the loss senior forward Kyle Milana stood tall as he’s done for most of his four-year career at Donovan. Milana scored a game-high 22 points against the Scarlet Fliers, who won their 20th tournament title and first since 2002. The Griffins now turn their attention to the NJSIAA Tournament where they will host CBA in a first-round game tomorrow night.

The Ocean County College Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams open Region 19 Division III Tournament play this week with games in Toms River. The second-seeded Viking men host Cumberland tonight at OCC while the 4th seeded women are home Tuesday against Middlesex. Both games tip off at 7pm and admission is free.

Friday, February 22, 2008

High School Season Ends

I couldn’t even guess as to the number of high school basketball games I’ve seen in my lifetime but its well over a thousand and I don’t remember a more dramatic ending than the one which took place last night in the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament at the Ritacco Center. With 1.5 seconds left in overtime Monsignor Donovan trailed Colts Neck 53-51 and had just called their final time out to set up a play. What head coach Michael Kearney had diagrammed during that time-out was not open so Tim Price inbounded the ball to 6’4 senior Tom Carter just a few steps from half court. With no time to do anything Carter caught the ball and chucked it and after the buzzer sounded it swished through the net to give Donovan a most improbable 54-53 victory and set off a wild celebration. The joy you feel for the Griffins can only be matched by the agony for the Cougars, who had victory snatched from them on a prayer….that, was answered.

Now the Griffins must come down to earth and get ready for Saturday night’s championship game against the shore’s best team…Neptune. The Scarlet Fliers cruised into the final with a 15-point win over Monmouth Regional in the other semifinal. Neptune by the way beat Mon Don 69-66 in a regular season game earlier this month in Toms River.

Saturday’s final at 7:30 will be broadcast live on the Shore Sports Network (1160/310AM) as will the girls championship game between Colts Neck and Red Bank Catholic (5pm) at the Ritacco Center.

The Lakewood BlueClaws will host their annual job fair Saturday from 9am-2pm at FirstEnergy Park. Anyone interested in a part-time job to work on the game-day staff can fill out an application and interview on the spot tomorrow. Applicants must be at least 16-years old.

The Jackson Memorial High School Athletic Department will hold their Winter Sports Night on Monday, March 17th at 6:30 in the Fine Arts Auditorium. The ceremony is for varsity letter winners and their parents only and the evening will include the induction of Rachel Goodale and Donna Maher into the Jaguars Athletic Hall of Fame.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

New Rules For 2008

I don’t want to be accused of plagiarism like a certain presidential candidate so I’ll come right out and say what you’re about to hear is being stolen from the noted comedian and philosopher George Carlin. It’s an update of a comic bit he did a few years ago about the rules that applied to that time…these are now his new rules for 2008. They’ve been edited a bit by necessity.
(New Rules)

* No more gift registries. They used for be just for weddings but now
they’re for babies, new homes…even graduation from rehab. Picking
out stuff you want and having other people buy it for you is not gift
giving…it’s just a version of looting.

* Stop giving me that pop-up ad for There’s a reason
you don’t talk to people for 25 years….because you don’t like them.
Besides I already know what the captain of the football team is doing
these days…mowing my lawn.

* Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. Here’s how much men care about
your eyebrows. Do you have two of them? Good, we’re done.

* I’m not the cashier! By the time I look up from sliding my card,
entering my PIN number, pressing “enter”, verifying the amount,
pressing “no” I don’t wash cash back and hitting “enter” again the kid
who’s supposed to be waiting on me is eating my candy bar.

* If you’re going to make movies based on lousy old TV shows then
you need to give everyone in the theatre a remote so we can see what’s
playing on other screens. Remember the reason something was a TV
show in the first place is that the idea wasn’t good enough for a movie.

* When I ask how old your toddler is, I don’t need to hear “27 months”
when he’s two will do just fine.

* If you ever hope to be a credible adult and want a job that pays better than
minimum wage then don’t pierce or tattoo every piece of flesh on your body. If you do then plan your future around saying, “Do you want fries with that?”

· The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the schmuck. If you walk into a Starbucks and order a “decaf grandee, half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice with
one nutri-sweet…..oooh you’re a huge schmuck.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

NASCAR & High School Wrestling

It was ironic that the biggest day for fans of NASCAR was also the biggest day for those of high school wrestling because I believe there are amazing similarities between the two very different sports.

Sunday while 150,000 fans were packed into Daytona International Speedway to watch NASCAR’S “Super Bowl” the Ritacco Center in Toms River saw 5,000 fans come through the doors from morning to night for the NJSIAA Group Championships. Racing fans often wear the numbers and colors of their favorite driver and it’s not too hard to figure out who they are cheering for…same with wrestling fans. Those rabid Phillipsburg fanatics all seemed to wear maroon, Southern followers have their gold shirts with the letter “S” like Superman, and there was the green of Brick Memorial and the red of High Point. It’s not just clothing but the loyalty fans have for their sport that sets them apart and after watching the action Sunday I know one thing…you can’t fool those who follow wrestling…you either know the sport or you don’t.

After half-nelson, cradle and cross-face I’m pretty much shot when it comes to wrestling terms but real fans, men and women young and old, know their sport. It’s one that is not always pretty….it’s brutal and raw at times and more sweat and blood was left on the mat Sunday than you’ll find in an entire season for other sports. But it’s the ultimate test of man versus man and six minutes of wrestling features strength, strategy, desire and often comes down to a battle of wills. The noise level is often deafening with fans on their feet while three or four matches are going on simultaneously rocking the building like nothing you’ll ever hear.

Coaches often start the day well-dressed and well-groomed only to look hours later like they were on the mat wrestling instead of screaming instructions and often demonstrating what they want their young athletes to do. I found it comical to look into the stands and see people 50 rows up going through many of the same motions and emotions…often trying to tell their sons what move to make like they could be heard or seen anyway.

Sunday was a good one for the shore with Brick Memorial winning it’s sixth state group title and Long Branch it’s first but the real winner was the sport….which had a day to remember and fans who won’t forget.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Round Up

A little of this and a little of that as we head into what for many is a long holiday weekend. Monday of course is Presidents Day in which the appropriate way to celebrate is by purchasing a new car, furniture or some other big ticket item. By the way…I promise this segment will not include any mention of steroids or human growth hormone.

The Southern Regional High School Athletic Department will hold its 19th annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony tomorrow night at the Holiday Inn of Manahawkin. 7 individuals and the 1997 State Sectional Girls Basketball team will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Heading up that group is former three-sport star CLARK HARRIS, who had a terrific football career at Rutgers and finished up last season on the Detroit Lions practice squad. DOUG TURNER, a two-time WOBM Christmas Classic MVP, wrestling standouts DAN CLARK & RICH FERGUSON, and three-sport athlete PAM BRADLEY will also be inducted along with former soccer coach ANDY KMOSKO and longtime athletic department assistant APRIL MISINSKY.

High school wrestling fans will flock to the Ritacco Center Sunday for one of the premier events of the season…the state team championships. Tonight’s sectional champs from around New Jersey will advance to Sunday’s action and the shore is guaranteed of having at least three representatives. That’s because Jackson Memorial hosts Brick Memorial, Southern entertains Toms River North and Wall faces Ocean in sectional finals this evening. Undefeated Long Branch is also expected to make it’s first-ever trip to the Ritacco Center for a long, exciting day of action.

Next week the Ritacco Center will host the semifinals and finals of the Shore Conference Basketball Tournament with the round of 16 set for today around the shore area. WOBM Christmas Classic champion Toms River North will host Monmouth Regional in a 5 o’clock game that will be broadcast on our Shore Sports Network, including 1160AM.

The Berkeley Little League only has a few seats remaining for its first annual charity Texas Hold’em Tournament next Saturday at the Bayville Elks Lodge. For information you can visit

Thursday, February 14, 2008

He Said, He Said

I’m going to break tradition on Valentine’s Day…a day in which I usually go on this tirade about how it’s a manufactured holiday forced on us which often results in less romance than ever before if you forget the day or give a gift that appears cheap. My change of heart is due to the fact we actually need all the love we can get because times are tough and second I’m chomping at the bit to comment on Wednesday’s Clemens/McNamee showdown in Washington.

That’s where a congressional hearing was held in which for nearly five hours the pitching great and his former personal trainer told very different stories on whether or not Clemens ever took steroids or human growth hormone. I will leave it up to others as to who we should believe although frankly it’s pretty clear both have lied to some extent. Unless Clemens pulls a rabbit out of his hat his reputation and legacy are tarnished forever and some will remember him not for his 7 Cy Young Awards but rather for being a player who cheated to some extent well into a Hall of Fame career. McNamee will just be a tragic figure who neither deserves pity nor praise.

However as I listened to and watched the hearing it was not the main characters who made the greatest impression….or should I say lack of impression. The members of congress who participated were in some cases a complete embarrassment and somehow this issue became one in which your political party determined whose side you were on. From what I observed the Republicans were clearly in the Clemens corner while the Democrats were more likely to think McNamee was telling more of the truth. For the life of me I could not figure out how politics could play into this but sure enough it did and it was obvious from the outset.

I listened to some of these congressional blowhards who obviously welcomed the chance to be in the national spotlight and appear on ESPN instead of CSPAN. Instead of conducting a hearing and asking questions they used their allotted time to perform and show their constituents what great orators they are. One said at some point that he was disgusted by the whole affair and I agreed except my disgust was not directed at Clemens or McNamee but rather at the elected officials who struck out with the bases loaded to end the game.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

Last week’s cover of “Sports Illustrated” had a great photo of that incredible catch by David Tyree that keyed the Giants Super Bowl victory over New England. It was a wonderful picture and I’m sure many Giant fans will save that issue of the magazine to remind them of a great moment in team history.

However the photo of Tyree will not garner nearly the attention of this week’s subject Marissa Miller, who likes surfing but is not on the cover for her athletic prowess. The 29-year old Californian is this year’s cover girl for the always-controversial swimsuit issue and the winter spectacular hit the newsstands Tuesday. Miller is a 7-year veteran of the swimsuit issue and is best known as one of the six Victoria’s Secret models. The 5’8, 110 pounder likes cooking, dancing and riding horses.

It was pretty ironic that my issue of “SI” arrived on probably the worst day of winter and seeing Marisa on the beach at St. John in the US Virgin Islands is one that can warm you up a bit. Of course there’s plenty more of her and others inside and don’t think that the entire issue is void of sports. That’s because the latest group of swimsuit models includes race car driver Danica Patrick, several NFL cheerleaders and the wives of well-known pro athletes like Jeff Gordon, Jeff Garcia and Johnny Damon. And they say this issue has nothing to do with sports.

I love reading the Letters to the Editor in the weeks that follow in which people announce they are cancellation their subscription over another poor excuse to expose women as nothing more than sex objects when the magazine is supposed to be about sports. Lighten up well you! Sure the pictures are revealing but so are commercials that appear on TV and billboard ads and the difference here is you only see them if you buy the magazine. As a matter of fact SI will gladly not mail this issue to their subscribers who don’t want it and if you get one by mistake simply give it to somebody who likes the idea of looking at beautiful women in skimpy bathing suits on exotic beaches during the cold of winter.

Those who make a big deal of this really need to get a life because it’s harmless and I had no problems when my son who is now 22 used to look at my issue. It’s what teenage boys and their fathers have done for years…it’s as American as Elle McPherson.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Little Things In Life

It is hard sometimes to realize the little things in life really are “little” but sometimes we all need to sit back and take a look at the entire picture. For some reason I have been saving those little prayer cards you get when you attend a funeral service and putting them above the visor in my car. I didn’t give this any thought until the other day when I realized I’ve collected more than a half-dozen in the last few months. Some were people I was close to while others were parents of friends who I barely knew. Some died gracefully after living full lives…others were taken by dreaded diseases or sudden illness and one by his own hands and own choice…a loss which has left many to ponder what they could have done to make a difference.

While these deaths were very different the common thread is the same…they are final. I’m not here to debate your beliefs but the bottom line is these people I knew will never again sit down to Thanksgiving dinner, or celebrate a child’s birthday, take a walk on the beach or watch a basketball game. People think I’m crazy when I tell them the first thing I read in the newspaper each day is the obituaries. It’s not that I’m morbid but amazed at regardless of what’s going on in the world you can count on the fact that every day people die who live right in our neighborhoods. You may not know them but they are leaving families and friends to grieve, mourn and reflect.

Yet as staggering as death is we often get sidetracked with things they are so inconsequential in the big picture they barely deserve a mention. Why do we pay attention to the personal lives of moronic celebrities like Britney Spears? And while on the subject of famous people…are their deaths any more significant then the 28 Ocean and Monmouth County residents whose obituaries appear in today’s Asbury Park Press? 28 mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, friends…..gone. From way too young at 37 to a full life at 95.

This is not an uplifting piece or is it. All of sudden I don’t care that much about toll hikes on our roadways.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Winter Sports On A Cold Day

Baby its cold outside but here’s something that might warm you up….pitchers and catchers report to spring training sites in Florida and Arizona this week. However when it comes to local sports it’s a bit too early to think spring because it’s tournament time and things really heat-up this week.

The Shore Conference Basketball Tournament field was announced Sunday and heading the 20 boy’s teams to qualify were Neptune, Monsignor Donovan, defending champion Freehold Township and CBA. Monmouth County schools are expected to dominate with the Mon Don Griffins considered the only Ocean County team with a chance to advance far into the tournament. Toms River North was seeded 12th but because the Mariners won a division title they’ll play #5 Monmouth Regional at home Friday night. Central hosts Toms River South in a preliminary round game Wednesday with the winner to play CBA while Point Boro will visit St. John Vianney with that winner to meet Neptune.

The story is pretty much the same on the girl’s side where the top nine teams are all from Monmouth County, including top-seed St. John Vianney, WOBM Christmas Classic champion Colts Neck, Rumson and two-time defending champion Red Bank Catholic. Class A South champion Lacey gets the 10th seed and a home game with Jackson Liberty Wednesday when Point Boro hosts Wall and Southern entertains Ocean. Toms River North, Jackson Memorial, Manchester, Brick Memorial and Point Beach all have games on the road.

The Semifinals and Finals of both the Boys & Girls tournaments will be played at the Rittaco Center. The championship games as well as others will be broadcast live on our Shore Sports Network.

The NJSIAA Team Wrestling Championships get underway tonight and will take place this week leading up to the sectional finals Sunday at the Ritacco Center.

Congratulations to the Jackson Memorial Boys & Girls Indoor Track teams…both claimed Central Jersey Group 4 Championships Sunday at the Bennett Indoor Complex in Toms River. Also the Brick “Green Dragons” won their second straight Shore Conference Girls Bowling Championship, edging out Brick Memorial for the team title.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Buzz In Brick

There has been a lot of buzz in Brick over a big school budget deficit which
this week had education officials throwing out the possibility of closing schools. Concerned parents expressed their displeasure this week at a Board of Education meeting over talk that as many as three elementary schools could be closed to narrow the $3.5 million gap it will take to run the district during the 2008-09 school year. School officials say at this time that closing schools will be a final option but the fact of the matter is that unless they can come up with other solutions than it’s one they will have to consider.

The reality is that what’s happening in Brick now is going to be something many school districts will be experiencing in the immediate future. Taxpayers everywhere say they’ve had enough and many of our local districts are not getting their fair share of state aid to meet budgets.
People of course want these budgets slashed but in truth most of the costs are already built in and can’t be trimmed…it’s a combination of built-in salaries and spiraling costs of doing business…even the public school business. Sure you can cut a bit here and there but that does not save the millions that will be needed to balance the budget in Brick and other districts. The picture is not a pretty one and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

For many the John Bennett Indoor Complex is nothing more than a big bubble that sits between Toms River Intermediate East and Hooper Avenue Elementary Schools. It’s been a controversial facility from the beginning but certainly nobody can argue about the use it’s getting in its first full year. Intermediate East holds gym classes there every day and it has become the #1 indoor track complex in all of New Jersey. Over the next three weekends the NJSIAA will pay to hold their State Sectionals, State Group Meet and Meet of Champions at the Bennett Complex, bringing hundreds if not thousands of high school athletes to the area. The sectional meet is a new one and was established only because the “bubble” can accommodate what is needed to hold it. Since Christmas there have been about two dozen track events held and more to come including the New Jersey Athletic Conference College Championships and the New Jersey Amateur Track and Field Championships which features athletes from 18 to 85. As a parent of a student-athlete who runs in the bubble it’s been a blessing to stay local for meets instead of having to drive to North Jersey or New York.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Letters Signed

Toms River North football coach Chip LaBarca Jr. knows a little bit about the recruiting game. He was an all-state wide receiver at Toms River South before signing with Penn State where his career included catching a touchdown pass in a 1992 Fiesta Bowl win over Tennessee. However when LaBarca signed his National Letter of Intent in 1989 with Penn State it was pretty much a small affair involving his family, which included his father Chip Sr. who just happened to be his high school coach.

Wednesday both LaBarca’s were on hand at Mulligan’s Bar & Grill in Toms River where a celebration was taking place after Zach Kane signed a National Letter of Intent to be part of a highly-regarded recruiting class at the University of Miami. Chip Jr. watched as a large crowd of family, friends, coaches and well-wishers gathered…many of them decked out in the orange and green colors of the Hurricanes. He laughed when he said this was a bit different than his signing but the college football recruiting game has changed quite a bit in the 19 years since he was a high school senior.

Kane was the only Ocean County player to sign with a major Division 1 school Wednesday although his high school teammate Austin Kugler inked a letter of intent with Monmouth University as did Toms River East lineman Mike Murphy and linebacker Jon Rogers of Barnegat.. Other players to make their decisions were lineman Justin Rand of Lacey who is headed to Penn and Barnegat’s Erik Smithman, who is Wagner-bound.

Suring is not a sport familiar to many…it’s more something they just watch while sitting on the beach or walking the boardwalk. The shore area has been a surfing hotbed for decades and one thing I know is surfers share a common bond and tend to be very supportive of one another. That’s why they are pulling for Dean Randazzo, considered by many the greatest surfer to ever come from New Jersey. The 36-year old father of a young son is battling Hodgkin’s disease for the fourth time and Saturday there will be an all-day benefit to provide financial support while he undergoes chemotherapy in California. There will be a surf contest at the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights with registration at 8AM and then at 6PM the Crabs Claw Inn of Lavallette will host a fundraiser which will feature raffles for autographed surfboards and much more. For information on the contest and the Crabs Claw event you can call (609) 231-1562 or visit

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Letter Of Intent Day

I know winter weather is still on the horizon but it really feels like baseball season is around the corner. Now that the football season is over many sports fans are thinking baseball and with the recent weather, why not?

I was at FirstEnergy Park Tuesday for a meeting with the Lakewood BlueClaws and you could almost hear the sounds of fans cheering and smell the hot dogs. The BlueClaws open in just eight weeks and I know General Manager Geoff Brown would sign right now for the weather we’re having for opening day of April 3. Unfortunately what usually happens is the early weeks of the baseball season here are filled with cold and damp days in which hats, gloves and blankets are necessities.

Today is a big one in college football because it’s National Letter of Intent Day which is the first day high school seniors can accept and sign college scholarships. Rutgers University is expected to sign 17 players and their recruiting class includes offensive tackle Art Forst of Manasquan, who has already enrolled at Rutgers after graduating early from high school. Greg Schiano’s class is ranked second best among Big East schools behind only Pittsburgh.

The most highly-recruited player in Ocean County will officially becoming a Hurricane today when Toms River North linebacker Zach Kane signs with the University of Miami. Kane was a key part of the Mariners undefeated state championship team in the fall and is part of what’s considered a top 10 recruiting class being brought in to Miami. Kane’s signing will take place during a celebration this afternoon at Mulligan’s Bar & Grill in Toms River.

Anthony LaBruno became just the fifth Ocean County College men’s basketball player to score 1,000 points in his career Tuesday night during the Vikings 68-53 victory over Atlantic-Cape Community College. The first player to reach that milestone was Hall of Famer Herb McGrath and the most recent before last night was Jordan Kreczekowski. LaBruno a sophomore guard from Bayonne is averaging 20 points a game this season. Ironically last night’s opponent, Atlantic-Cape also had a player score his 1000th career point and both players were honored during the game. OCC is 18-3 under second-year coach Ryan O’Rourke.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday In More Ways Than One

Never has the word “super” been thrown around as much as over the past week or so but at least this time around it’s being used in a correct manner. The football game Sunday night lived up to that description and the TV ratings as you might expected backed it up. More than 94 million viewers made the Giants-Patriots game the most-watched Super Bowl ever and the second biggest TV event in American history behind only the 106 million who viewed the series finale of “MASH” in 1983. 81% of all TV sets in the Boston area watched their Patriots lose while 67% on those watching TV in New York saw the Giants victory. You do have to keep in mind that the population keeps increasing and there are more TV’s then ever before so comparing numbers is sometimes misleading. The 1982 Super Bowl in which the 49ers won their first title still has the highest rating in which more than 49% of the nation’s households were watching the game. The Giants-Patriots game had a rating of just over 43%.

The award-winning Jackson Memorial High School Marching Band got an invitation Monday to play in today’s ticker-tape period in Lower Manhattan to celebrate the Giants Super Bowl victory. It’s the latest in a long list of honors for the Marching Jaguars, who will be the only New Jersey high school represented in today’s parade.

Turning to politics and today is a big day in the 2008 Presidential race. New Jersey and 21 other states will hold their primaries or caucuses and when the dust has settled we should have a better idea of who will face-off in November to occupy the White House. The general consensus is that John McCain could all but lock-up the Republican nomination with a big day as Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee battle to stay in the national spotlight. The same scenario is not expected to play out on the Democratic side but Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can build momentum and money with big efforts even though this race probably still has a ways to go.

We have talked a lot about voter apathy but this Presidential race has seen Americans show greater interest in the primary battles than in the past and it appears more then ever that young people are getting involved and even excited. Certainly we have a more diverse group of candidates then ever before.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Giants Win, Corzine Loses

We who call Ocean County home needed a shot in the arm because things have not exactly been going our away. Governor Corzine’s road show paid a visit to the Ritacco Center Saturday and it seems like his toll-hike plan was not very well received. Most think it’s a double whammy for us as it will crush commuters while at the same time have a negative impact on tourism.

Well at least Ocean County can brag that we have the best wrestling in the shore and maybe even the state. Wait a second; we can’t even say that right now as Long Branch beat Howell Saturday in an all Monmouth County finale to win the Shore Conference Wrestling Tournament.

If bad things come in three you can understand why many figured the Giants Super Bowl bid would go up in smoke Sunday. However you know that is not the case and if you’re a Giant fan throw out your chest and stand tall because you are the champions. Big Blue completed an incredible playoff run with a last-minute win over previously-undefeated New England in Super Bowl 42. As one who honestly thought the Patriots would win…and maybe even convincingly, I was stunned by how well the Giants played especially on defense where they made life miserable for Tom Brady, who did not play well at all.

However what I was not shocked by was the performance of Eli Manning because I have defended him all season when even the most loyal of Giant fans were criticizing him left and right. He was great during in the playoffs in wins over the Bucs, Cowboys, Packers and Patriots. The Giants third Super Bowl victory just might be the greatest in franchise history when you consider they were a two-touchdown underdog against a team ready to be crowned as the best of all time.

Some thoughts regarding the Fox broadcast. Announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were good if not great but most of what came from Terry, Howie & Jimmy was just a waste of time. Great camera work and replays and I liked the shots of a nervous Peyton Manning rooting for little brother. Some good commercials, especially those from Budweiser, E-Trade, Coke, Diet Pepsi Max, Planters Nuts, Tide-to-Go and Bridgestone Tires. I thought the halftime performance by Tom Petty and the Hearterbreakers was among the best ever…not too over the top. Alicia Keys sang well as part of the pre-game show but the leopard pants didn’t work. Ryan Seacrest and that pre-game Red Carpet was absolutely awful and out of place…just a poor attempt to hype “American Idol.” Plus we already have one and his name is Eli.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Super Pig Out

The Super Bowl is a big deal regardless of who is playing but with the Giants in the game this time around it goes to an even higher level.
I know there are plenty of Eagles and Jets fans in but the Giants are the team of choice for most in the shore and when you throw in the historic implications of their meeting with New England…well you have a lot of anticipation.

Super Bowl Sunday has become a holiday in America even though it’s not on the calendar and does not come with a day off although the day after has become the biggest sick-day of the year. It’s the second biggest pig-out day of the year behind only Thanksgiving as we’ll eat more than 19 million pounds of potato chips and tortilla chips and wash it down with about $12 million worth of beer. Much of that will come at Super Bowl parties which will be attended by some 55 million of us with another 9 million watching the game from a bar or restaurant.

2 ½ million consumers will use Super Bowl Sunday as the deadline for buying a new TV and another 1.3 million plan to purchase new furniture, including home entertainment centers. The bottom line here is that a lot of money is spent and much of that by those who not only don’t root for the Giants or Patriots but don’t know a first down from a touchback. Show me an office or work place that doesn’t have a box pool circulating as 1 of every 5 workers in this country will be watching the game Sunday cheering for the numbers they’ve drawn in one of those pools.

I don’t know when the Super Bowl went from being a football game to an event but clearly too many what’s taking place on the field is secondary. As a matter of fact only 32% of those polled said the game is the biggest part of Super Bowl Sunday. 18% said it’s the commercials which draws them to the TV and it is the only sporting event in which many get food or go to the bathroom while the game is being played and sit glued to their seats during the commercial breaks.

The Super Bowl hangover on Monday has become such a problem that there has been talk the NFL will try and extend the season two weeks so the game could be part of President’s Weekend. Another thought is to play it on Saturday night, giving America time to recover the following day.

None of that matters this Sunday when the Patriots complete a perfect season with a 38-23 victory…they’re just too good. If you disagree then feel free to call me Sunday morning when I host Bob Levy’s Topic A.