Friday, August 29, 2008

Labor Day Already?

How can it be Labor Day weekend already? It’s amazing just how fast the summer goes by and I really believe that each year as you get older it seems like summer losses a week. Maybe that’s because I love summer here at the Jersey Shore so much….I guess if you live in a warm weather area all year long it’s not special like the 13 weeks that make up the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

While September just might be the nicest month of the year for most of us the rituals of summer at the shore will end this weekend. I’ve always been fascinated by how in a matter of 24 hours…the time between Monday of Labor Day weekend and the following day life it certain places changes so dramatically. Beach towns see the hustle and bustle end….lifeguards are gone and beaches just about empty, businesses are shutting down….traffic is sparse.

Even if its 85 degrees and sunny next week for many once the school bell rings the daily regime changes so this weekend really is that last shot of summer. While business reports are mixed one thing we can’t complain about is the weather we have had. It was hot early in the season but for the most part the last six weeks or so have been truly magnificent and we might have had the nicest August ever. Let’s hope we can finish on an up note.

A couple of random items to pass along:

Hockey standout Jim Dowd of the Philadelphia Flyers will be signing autographs tonight from 6-7pm near the amusement rides at Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant Beach. Friday is wristband promotion day at Jenk’s and they are donating a portion of their proceeds to Dowd’s “Shoot for the Stars Foundation” which is assisting the Marks Family of Monmouth County.

And a reminder that today’s edition of “The Locker Room” with Kevin Williams will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Toms River East Little League World Series Championship. We’ll replay the radio broadcast of the victory over Japan with manager Mike Gaynor and others as special guests. The show airs on 1160 WOBM AM and Fox Sports 1310 from 3-6pm and streams at

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Toms River East 10 Years Later

(note: no Hometown View on Wednesday, 8/28/08)

In the last few days there have been a couple of stories about the tenth anniversary of the Toms River East American All-Stars winning the Little League World Series. That anniversary is officially tomorrow as it was on August 29th, 1998 when the group of 11 & 12 year olds beat Kashima, Japan 12-9 on a warm Saturday afternoon in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. If you were not living here at that time you’ll never appreciate how big of a story the dozen young ballplayers were as an entire community got caught up in the excitement of their achievements and success.

I followed the team nearly all the way from the sectionals of the state tournament to the Eastern Regional’s and then to Williamsport. We carried all their games on the radio from Bristol, Connecticut to Pennsylvania and they were page one news for the final two weeks of August. Names like Todd Frazier, Scott Fisher, Joe Franceschini and manager Mike Gaynor were as well known as major leaguers and especially in Toms River the team was a source of incredible pride.

The stories of their incredible run became almost legendary from the fact they nearly got knocked out of the district tournament by another Toms River team to the unlikely heroics of Chris Cardone in the championship game victory over Japan. The 12-year old outfielder was struggling in Williamsport but came off the bench to homer twice in the late innings, including the game-winning blow. Next thing you knew he was on late-night television and the subject of a story in Sports Illustrated.

A day after winning it all the team was greeted by thousands as they returned to their Little League complex on Windsor Avenue and later a planned parade in downtown Toms River drew somewhere around 35,000 people before a ceremony on the football field at Toms River South which I MC’d. There would even be a formal banquet in which the team would receive championship rings and jackets.

It was indeed a wonderful time and brought plenty of positive attention to Toms River and Ocean County. Now ten years later there are still signs of that championship and those little kids have grown into young men with many of them recently graduating college. Time has marched on but they will always have those memories of the summer of 1998. For those who would like to relive them tomorrow on my show “The Locker Room” we will replay the radio broadcast of the championship game with manager Mike Gaynor and some of the players joining me. The show airs from 3-6pm on 1160 WOBM AM and Fox Sports 1310 and can be heard online at

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Random Thoughts

Random thoughts as we head to Labor Day weekend:

I was on vacation last week and got to spend nearly every day at my favorite beach in Seaside Park. I finished two books and nearly a third, watched late-night TV, went nine days without setting an alarm clock, ate and drank more than I should have, never wore a watch and didn’t shave very often. What’s better than that?

If you watched the Democratic National Convention Monday night you might conclude like I did that there’s not much difference when it comes to the behavior of some of the delegates in comparison to rabid sports fans.
The two exceptions might be I didn’t see any delegates with their faces painted and/or holding beer cans. Of course there’s also a few days left
and then of course the Republicans get their turn next week.

I love college football but the season starts too early. Nearly everyone plays their first game this weekend, including Rutgers who will host Fresno State on Monday at 4pm. Monmouth opens at Rhode Island on Saturday.

New York Giant fans seem split on whether they want Michael Strahan to come out of retirement in the wake of the season-ending knee injury suffered by Osi Umenyiora. The Giants have contacted their former star defensive end who is on vacation in Greece and is supposed to make his Fox broadcasting debut on September 7th. Even if they could reach an agreement you have to wonder about the condition and desire of Strahan and if he would be that much of an upgrade over what they presently have.

The Ocean County College Foundation will host a Beach Party Gala on Saturday, September 6th at 6pm on the college’s main campus in Toms River. The OceanFirst Foundation will be honored as the Humanitarian Organization of the Year as part of the evening program which will feature gourmet food, live music, and both silent and live auctions. Proceeds from the gala will benefit the Ocean County College Foundation and for ticket and sponsorship information you can call them at (732) 255-0492.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Summer Games Recap

The 2008 Beijing Olympics ended Sunday and from a sports standout the 17 days provided us with great achievements and memories. I will leave up to others to address issues like Human Rights and democracy because at the end of the day the Olympics should be about sports and competition and from that standpoint these games were outstanding.

The Olympics will never hold the significance and meaning they once did simply because times have changed. No longer is it a competition featuring amateur athletes and you certainly don’t have that country versus country backdrop like you did at one time. How many times did you see a foreign athlete introduced who attended college in the United States? There are also too many sports where the athletes are wealthy pros like basketball and tennis.

But instead of criticizing the Olympics I’m here to praise what was a marvelous two-week extravaganza. I can’t tell you how many people I have talked with who are not necessarily big sports fans yet found themselves locked in front of the TV every night. This was especially true during the first week when much of the swimming and gymnastics was shown live at night and we could watch in suspense. Michael Phelps became a household name and lived up to all the hype and more. Families debated the scoring in gymnastics as well as the age of the Chinese women…or should I say girls. Maybe more than anything else these two-plus weeks brought families together across this country with parents and children watching television together…something that does not happen all that often.

The Olympics give a grand stage to sports that most of us don’t pay that much attention to and we’re introduced to athletes that frankly perform in anonymity most of the time. Usain Bolt is not a sports energy drink but the world’s fastest man and next to Phelps the biggest star of these games.

I will also steal an observation from a friend who I think summed it up very well. You look at athletes from most of the other countries and they often look all the same. But the athletes that represent the United States are very different….white, black, Asian, Hispanic…you name it. Maybe it’s our greatest achievement and more important than the medal count.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Early Last Call

(The Hometown View resumes on Monday, August 25)

If you’ve listened to me over the years you know Seaside Park is one of my favorite places and I treasure my time off when I can enjoy the beaches there and other parts of the town which make it such a popular destination. That includes the Sawmill CafĂ© which has become a sort of landmark since opening on the boardwalk 31 years ago. However when a new ordinance goes into effect this Monday it may signal the slow death of a place which has been enjoyed by young and old alike.

Last month the Borough Council approved an ordinance to close all businesses that hold liquor licenses at midnight and it does not take a rocket scientist to figure this was aimed at one place….the Sawmill. That’s because there are only two other places in the town that hold liquor licenses….the Windjammer Motel and the Seaside Park Yacht Club. While they may be affected it is not nearly the financial blow being delivered to the Sawmill and its owner Steve D’Onofrio who by the way has been a generous supporter and friend to many causes and organizations over the years.

Seaside Park loves to throw around that they are a family town and the Sawmill does not fit their image. Sure there have been problems at times but that’s what you get with a busy tavern in a shore town, especially in the summer and on weekends. There is a strong feeling that this new ordinance is the culmination of a strained relationship between public officials and D’Onofrio over the addition of a second floor called “The Green Room” a few years back.

I don’t have all the information and I’m sure you can get two very different stories. However I do know that whenever the issue of the early closing was debated those opposed to it always outnumbered the few local residents who obviously wish there were no liquor licenses in the town. By the way I’m sure some of them did not even live in Seaside Park when the Sawmill first opened in the summer of 1977.

At a time when businesses are struggling the earlier closing can only have a negative impact on the many others who benefit from the popularity of the Sawmill, especially those nearby on the boardwalk. As for the future of a place known for it’s fair prices and large slices of pizza…well that’s in doubt. How does a bar at the shore survive when it gives last call at 11:30pm and has to clear out the place by midnight? The answer is it probably doesn’t and I guess that is what some have wanted all along.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Random thoughts on a Wednesday morning

The Olympics have suckered me in. I stayed up well past midnight to watch
Swimming and women’s gymnastics and will pay the price for lack of sleep today. You had to feel sorry for 20-year old gymnast Alicia Sacramone, who probably cost the US a gold medal in the gymnastics team competition when she fell on the balance beam and during the floor exercise. However there is no shame in winning the Silver medal behind the Chinese and at least the Americans look like young women as opposed to elementary school students.

As for Michael Phelps….well there’s not much more to say. My wife did ask me last night how come we have not seen any stories on Mark Spitz since his name and 7 gold medals from 1972 are mentioned every time Phelps hits the pool. Maybe they are saving something for when Phelps win his 7th or 8th gold medal.

These gas prices are a real bargain. Don’t you feel great about paying only around $3.60 a gallon? By the way the average price in New Jersey last August was more than a dollar a gallon less that what we’re now paying.

Bob Costas may be in Beijing but I’ll be in Lavallette tonight when Salty’s hosts the Jersey Shore Hermit Crab Championships. I’m told perennial power “Cappuccino” has come in from Texas to take on all challengers and win another title. The competition gets underway at 7pm at the popular restaurant and ice cream parlor on Route 35 North.

The New York Mets bullpen actually got the final six outs and secured a win last night over Washington. What a miracle.

The Lakewood BlueClaws will host Hockey Night on Thursday when they close out their series with the Savannah Sand Gnats, who are a Mets affiliate. Ocean County’s own Jim Dowd and Riley Cote of the Philadelphia Flyers will be signing autographs and fans will get to see how fast they can shoot a slap shot. The BlueClaws are only a game out of first place in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division with 19 games left to play.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Brandon Gets A Job

(No Hometown View on Monday, 8/11/08)

I have always held this belief that graduating from college is not the day you receive your diploma as part of a commencement exercise. I know that’s the day you wear a cap and gown and celebrate the achievement with your family. But if college is supposed to prepare you for the next step in your life than really graduation is when you begin working in the career path you’ve chosen. If I’m correct than my son actually graduated from Penn State on Monday.

That’s because yesterday Brandon started working at Taylor Public Relations, whose New York City office is located in the Empire State Building. For now he will commute by bus like many others do from this area and it will make for rather long days. However I don’t expect that will deter him because Brandon is really motivated to succeed and is working for a company that recently was honored as the 2008 U.S. Agency of the Year.

It’s somewhat ironic that watching your child go off to work on the first day is not all that different than the first day of elementary school, high school or college. At the end of the day as a parent you want to know everything that happened and look at the papers they’ve brought home. Last night though instead of looking at book lists and course assignments we were reviewing his health and dental plan.

The adjustment is a significant one as Brandon had spent most of the past three months working in a part-time summer job which often allowed him to sleep late and not worry about what time he got home at night. Now evenings will find him choosing his clothes for the next day….one which will start around 6am. He will learn to value weekends as a break badly needed and have to adjust to a schedule which does not give you long vacations…that is until you earn them.

I don’t envy today’s young people because of the challenges they face but yesterday I did envy my son as started what we hope will be a successful career. I remember having some of the same feelings he experienced 29 years ago when I started here at the radio station. You just don’t know where the path will take you but I hope he has a great journey.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The 75 Things Every Man Should Do

As you get older it’s not uncommon to think more about the things you have not done in your life which at times I’m almost pre-occupied with. So when I came across the August issue of Esquire Magazine and saw an article titled
“The 75 Things Every Man Should Do” I had more than a passing interest.
The author suggests these are things that should be done over the course of a lifetime and because of time restraints and subject matter I can’t tell you all of them but here are some:

Play Rugby.
Repair an appliance.
Fly the red-eye from Vegas.
Fast for three days drinking only water.
Drive by yourself from coast to coast.
Recognize the accomplishments of others.
Leave yourself a letter in a library book and look for it 20 years later.
Watch a bad movie so often that when you see it by accident you can recite lines before they are spoken.
Scuba dive.
Live in a hotel suite for a week.
Milk a cow and then drink it.
Throw a real party.
Shoplift…then return what you stole.
Choose a word of phrase and actively work to never use it again.
Cook the same thing over and over until you are known for it.
Take care of someone else’s 3-year old for a day.
Listen to war stories…tell war stories.
Sing in public.
Play golf at Carnoustie.
Attend the funeral of someone you didn’t know that well.
Spend some time working at a job for tips.
Make a perfect omelet.
Overeat for a week….in Italy.
Give a panhandler all of your money.
Ride a horse.
Walk 20 miles…bring water.
Watch television for 24 straight hours.
Climb something you are afraid of.
Get a manicure.
Bet a $100 on a long shot to win.
Make a list of 75 things you want to do before you die.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

1th Annual Monmouth versus Ocean High School All Star Hockey Game

On the surface Jim Dowd’s 11th Annual Monmouth versus Ocean High School All Star Hockey Game is an opportunity for many of the shore’s top players to lace up the skates in the summer. 32 of them will be on the ice Sunday night at the Red Bank Armory with the Ocean County All Stars looking to end a six-year losing streak as Monmouth leads the series 7-3.

The game is the brainchild of NHL veteran Jim Dowd, who came up with the idea through his “Shoot for the Stars Foundation” which he started during his playing days with the Devils. The Brick native and Point Pleasant resident is hoping to return to the Flyers for his 18th NHL season after helping Philadelphia advance deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring.
Dowd, who turns 40 later this year does not just lend his name to this All Star game but is involved in all phases of it.

Part of that is choosing a charity to benefit from the proceeds. In the past the game has donated thousands of dollars to individuals, scholarship funds, youth hockey, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ocean County and Dottie’s House. Sunday’s game again demonstrates that this is much more than a hockey game with proceeds going to the Marks Family Fund. Randy Marks was a 40-year old father of six who on Mother’s Day along with four of his children went to place flowers on the grave of his mother who had died a couple of years ago. While visiting the grave Randy suffered a fatal heart attack, witnessed by his children the oldest of which is
9 years old. A well-liked carpenter for the borough of Spring Lake, he leaves his wife Susan and the six children from 7 months to 9 years old.

So while the hockey game is obviously a good time and great experience for the players and their families there is an underlying theme of giving back which is what Dowd has done throughout his professional career. Game time is 6pm at the Red Bank Armory, there will be raffles and giveaways, a free rally towels to the first 400 fans and former Devil Bruce Driver will drop the first pick. Both of last summer’s MVP’s are back….Ken Yasenchock of Monsignor Donovan and Red Bank Catholic’s Kevin Pecca.

If you can’t attend but would like to support the Marks Family Fund then you can send a donation to:

“Shoot For the Stars” Foundation
708 New Jersey Avenue
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ 08742

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Driving Is A Challenge

Driving throughout the shore is a major challenge and despite on going road projects it won’t get much better in the future. Let’s face it, as the population grows there are more and more vehicles on the road and much of the work being done might help today but tomorrow is a different story.

With that said the biggest obstacle to safe travel is not the roads but those who use them. We can blame things out of our control all we want but the bottom line is we’re the biggest culprits for several reasons. Those can be based on age….young drivers are inexperienced, reckless by nature, easily distracted and too often unaware of the responsibility that goes with driving.
At the other end of the spectrum you have older drivers who in some cases should not be on the road. They are often confused, unaware of what’s happening around them, don’t have good vision or reflexes and are at times an accident waiting to happen. But if an effort to remain independent they refuse to give the keys us.

Between the young and old is the middle where most of us are and while we like to fault others we’re more a part of the problem than the solution. Many of us are always in a hurry, racing from one place to the next. When the light turns yellow that’s our signal to step on the gas…we don’t stop at stop signs but rather slow down…jamming on the brakes is a way of life because we’re constantly tailgating and yield signs are completely ignored. Then there are my two pet peeves…directional signals and turning right on red.
Using those turn signals obviously takes too much effort so they are basically useless to many drivers who would rather you guess what they are about to do. As for right on red…whatever happened to stopping first?

Oh and have I not mentioned how we are big hypocrites in many cases. Have we not lectured our children on how important it is to concentrate when driving? Yet we’re the ones who spend most of our commute talking on the phone, eating and drinking, smoking, playing with the radio, reading and writing….in other words everything but pay attention to what’s taking place on the road. And when we have an accident who do we blame? The other guy, poor road conditions, our car…anything but ourselves. We really do need to look in the mirror sometimes.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Turbulent World And Times We Live In

The times we live in are making it more and more challenging for even the most optimistic people to think the future is bright. Depending on who you want to believe we are in some type of mild recession or heading in that direction but of course there are also so-called experts who insist that’s not the case and the economy is okay. Of course everything seems to cost more and many people are making less….not a good combination.

It’s not just the state of the economy that is scary but the turbulent world and times we live in. Too many Americans are in harm’s way and many families with loved ones overseas live in constant fear of that late-night phone call that will bring unwelcome news. However you don’t even have to look that far as a few minutes of watching and listening to the news can leave you depressed over what’s happening on our own turf. The enemy is not always in a different uniform speaking a different language but often one another and these truly are frightening times.

Another fact to throw in is the environment and it’s fair to question the future of Mother Earth. Sure there are skeptics when it comes to issues like global warming but unless you wear blinders you have to be aware that the population and its needs have probably outgrown our planet.

As you get older you tend to look back on your younger years as they remind you of fun times and a certain age of innocence. Often we’ll say something about wanting to go back in time and telling our children how much we’d like to change places with them. But then you might start thinking seriously about the world they are growing up in and you scratch your head….would I really like to reverse the numbers and be 25 instead of 52?

I guess the answer lies in your belief that every generation faced obstacles and questions about whether things would get better and managed to persevere. We’ve beaten famine, disease, the depression and even Mother Nature herself. However what we now face might be the most challenging and that is the fear that the past just might have been better than the future.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Random thoughts on the first Monday of August

When you schedule a major outdoor event in the summer you take a risk that poor weather conditions could have a devastating effect. Two years ago Toms River Fest was hurt by extreme heat and heavy thunderstorms but for the most part Mother Nature cooperated this past weekend and the result was a more successful event. There was a late-day thunderstorm Saturday but Sunday was one of these picture postcard days…really one of the best of the summer.

Not only did the nice weather and acts like Daughtry result in a large turnout at Toms River Fest, it helped bring more than 45,000 people to Monmouth Park for the Haskell Invitational. The big draw this year was Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner “Big Brown” who needed a late stretch run to finally get past 20-1 long shot “Coal Play.” It was not an especially impressive win but it did cap a good day for New Jersey racing and it returned “Big Brown” to the winners circle.

Not only was the weather perfect for outdoor events but Sunday was one of the best beach days of this summer as the water temperatures have finally warmed up. With a much calmer ocean and late afternoon low tide it was one of those days you could have seeming stayed forever.

Just last week the Mets had a two-game lead in the National League East on the Phillies but this morning the surging Phills are three games ahead of the Mets. It is the beauty of baseball as in a long season there are plenty of highs and lows.

So the Green Bay Packers are welcoming Brett Favre back with open arms.
I wonder if the Giants might reach out to Lawrence Taylor because the word “retirement” in sports means nothing any longer.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Big Weekend In Ocean County

The first weekend of August features a couple of very big events in the shore area that are as different as night and day. After taking a year off Toms River Fest returns to the campus of Toms River High School North with two days of music featuring former “American Idol” stars Carrie Underwood and Daughtry as well many other entertainment activities. Underwood takes the stage Saturday night after performances by Lifehouse, Gavin DeGraw, Push Play and others. Daughtry is the featured act Sunday following the likes of Avril Lavigne, Live and Collective Soul.

Probably the biggest change in Toms River Fest 2008 is that for $35 a day or $60 for a two-day pass you get access to everything from the time gates open at 2pm until fireworks end the evening. In addition to the musical acts there will be BMX demos from “Hell On Wheels”, a Kid Zone featuring mini midway games as well as Kiddie City with face painting and sand and spin art, the Sports Zone, The Shoppes at Toms River Fest with retailers and service-providers and of course plenty of food choices.

There are other ticket options including reserved seats and special family packs. For information you can visit

The eyes of the horse racing world will be focused on Monmouth Park Sunday for the $1 million Haskell Invitational which features the return of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown to the track. The three-year old pulled up in the Belmont in early June and has not raced since failing to capture the Triple Crown. The colt has been installed as the 1-2 early favorite in a field of 7 on Sunday….a day which will feature a 14-race card beginning at noon. Monmouth Park officials are optimistic that they might approach the Haskell record crowd of 53,600 set in 2003 when Funny Cide was the big draw. The event has drawn over 40,000 people for 7 straight years.