Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Little This, A Little That

The six shore teams that will play for state sectional football championships will all do so on Saturday, December 6th. Surprising SOUTHERN will visit highly-ranked Mainland in the South Jersey Group 4 final at 1pm while Rutgers University will be the site of a quadrupelheader feature shore teams.
At 10am ASBURY PARK faces Metuchen, MANASQUAN will face A.L. Johnson at 1pm, FREEHOLD meets MIDDLETOWN SOUTH in an all-shore sectional final at 4pm and BRICK MEMORIAL ends the day with a 7pm game against Sayreville. While those teams should be gearing up for the state sectional finals they all have to play on Thanksgiving Day first and several of them face stern tests from tough rivals. Brick Memorial visits Brick, Middletown South has Middletown North, Manasquan tangles with Wall, Asbury takes on Neptune in one of the state’s longest running rivalries, Freehold visits Colts Neck and Southern is home against Barnegat.

Congratulations to former Brick Memorial Mustang GARRETT GRAHAM, a junior tight end at the University of Wisconsin. Graham earned first-team
All Big Ten honors by members of the media and was a 2nd team choice on the team picked by the conference coaches. Graham led the Badgers with 37 receptions and 5 touchdowns.

Former Toms River North running back DARIAN BARNES played for his 7th NFL team last night when he wore the uniform of the New Orleans Saints. The 28-year old started the season with Buffalo before being released and then spent a couple of weeks with the Detroit Lions before signing with the Saints where he started at fullback last night. Barnes made a couple of tackles on special team in the Saints victory. The 7-year pro previously played for the Jets, Dolphins, Cowboys and Buccaneers where he earned a Super Bowl ring in his rookie season.

The 25th Annual WOBM Christmas Classic begins in just 3 ½ weeks and the schedule for the tournament is now available by visiting shoresportsnetwork.com. Just click on the basketball banner and it will take you to the schedule. The team pairings will not be released until December 9th.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Back On The Job

Good to be back this morning after missing most of last week due to arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in my right knee. Dr. Greg Foos performed the procedure on Tuesday and I spent the next few days on the couch keeping the knee iced and getting plenty of rest.
It’s still quite sore and stiff but I’m told that’s not unexpected. Special thanks to my friends at Community Medical Center for helping me out with a last-minute EKG and most importantly to my wife Jane, who took three days off from work and was a great nurse and cook while I recovered at home.

Some 600 people participated Sunday in the Steven Sprague Memorial 5K Run/Walk at Toms River High School East and organizers say about $13,000 was raised for a scholarship fund that’s been established for his 7-month old daughter Abigail. The 28-year old Sprague was killed while working on the New Jersey Turnpike last month and Sunday’s event was put together by the East Girls Cross Country team whose members include his sister Taylor Madden. Most of Sprague’s family is connected to the Toms River School District, including his wife Nikki who teaches at the Citta School and all were greatly appreciative of those who supported Sunday’s event.

Tis’ the season for holiday events many of which are organized to benefit those in need. Richie’s Repair Center’s 3rd Annual Christmas Toy Drive and Holiday Party will take place on Friday, December 5th from 6pm to midnight at the Pine Beach Fire House. Admission is $25 per person plus an unwrapped new toy and the evening will feature food, drink and live music by Superband. Most importantly it will support Beachwood/Pine Beach Local PBA 253 and their efforts to help local families in need during the holiday season. For information and tickets you can call Richie Engelhardt at (732) 341-2829.

Joe Finn and Irish music went together like peanut butter and jelly…you couldn’t imagine one without the other. The Jersey Shore lost a beloved entertainer over the weekend when the 66-year old Avon resident died months after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Finn spent most of his adult life playing Irish music and singing and was a fixture at the Crab’s Claw Inn in Lavallette in recent years. He leaves behind 8 children, 18 grandchildren and a countless number of friends and fans.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good News For Community Medical Center

(The Hometown View returns Monday, November 24)

Community Medical Center got some long-awaited good news last week when they were granted permission to begin offering elective Angioplasty, something they could previously do only on an emergency basis. Community was among 12 hospitals in New Jersey chosen to take part in a clinical study to determine the success rate of angioplasty performed at hospitals without a cardiac surgery unit. It’s not surprising Community Medical was among them when you consider they treat more adults diagnosed with heart disease than any other hospital in the state and more Ocean County residents are treated for heart attacks as well.

Angioplasty is a surgical procedure in which a small balloon is inserted to open a blocked artery and restore blood flow to the heart. Community has been doing them on an emergency basis for two years but prior to this recent announcement patients having the procedure done on an elective basis had to go to other facilities. Mark Pilla, Executive Director of Community Medical Center said he was gratified with the recent announcement and elective angioplasty will be available “as soon as possible” as the process to begin the service is already underway. Pilla in a release also said he was thrilled that Community recently earned the highest possible ratings for the treatment of heart attack and heart failure from HealthGrades, the nation’s leading independent health care ratings company.

With apologies to the Toms River North football program and their fans, you had to be somewhat happy that Southern beat the Mariners in a first-round state playoff game over the weekend. The Rams have had success the past couple of years but always came up short when they played North and it cost them the American Division title the last two years and it was the Mariners who also bounced them from the state playoffs in 2007. However Southern made the big plays when they had to and came away with the biggest victory in the 11 years Chuck Donohue has been the coach in Manahawkin. Donohue, a true gentleman and class coach will now take his Rams to Cherokee with a huge monkey off their back.

For what it’s worth I will have knee surgery tomorrow and be out the rest of the week. The Hometown View returns next Monday.

Friday, November 14, 2008

NJSIAA Football Playoffs Begin

The NJSIAA Football Playoffs begin tonight with 17 Shore Conference schools among the nearly 160 who have a chance to claim a state sectional championships the first weekend of December. It’s a terrible playoff system which leaves us with 20 schools claiming state titles based on geography and school size. Even that’s questionable as you have Pennsauken, which is near Camden competing in the same 8-team Central Jersey bracket with schools like Colts Neck, Brick Memorial and Middletown North. Anyone studying New Jersey in school would also question Burlington Township traveling 51 miles to play Point Pleasant Borough but they are in the same group.

However like college football’s imperfect BCS system what he have in New Jersey is what we have and it will stay that way until archaic minds accept that it’s time to do away with Thanksgiving Day games which prevent any real playoff. But you do the best you can with what you have and to coaches and players the ultimate remains calling yourself a state sectional champion so that’s what they’ll aim for.

Toms River North and Asbury Park are the only two shore schools with a chance of defending their championships and they will have very different paths. The Mariners will not only have to get past rival Southern tonight but would likely have to beat top ten state powers Cherokee and Mainland on the road to win in South Jersey Group 4. Asbury Park’s Blue Bishops on the other hand are expected to cruise through the Central Jersey Group 1 bracket where they could face Shore Regional in the final.

No team comes into the playoffs hotter than Point Pleasant Borough and even though the Panthers are seeded third in Central Jersey Group 2 they might be the team to beat. Boro has won all 7 of their games via shutout and allowed their only points of the season in a 3-0 loss to Manasquan in week two…the two rivals could face each other in the sectional final.

The Shore Sports Network will broadcast tonight’s Southern-Toms River North game from Gernerd Field. It’s the fourth time the Rams and Mariners have faced each other over the last two seasons with North winning the previous three meetings. Tonight’s game can be heard on 1160 WOBM AM, Fox Sports 1310 and at www.shoresportsnetwork.com

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thursday This & That

A little bit of this and a little bit of that:

The Jets have taken a back seat to the Giants throughout most of their history, especially after they moved to New Jersey in 1984 and became co-tenants of a building that’s called Giants Stadium. Much of that is due to the fact that the Jets have not exactly been an overwhelming success on the field, winning the Super Bowl in 1969 and not returning to the big game since. In that time the Giants have made four appearances in the Super Bowl, winning it three times. While sports fans in this area regularly talk about a Subway Series between the Yankees and Mets you rarely hear talk of a possible Giants-Jets Super Bowl because it’s not too often the two teams are good at the same time.

With that said the Jets visit New England tonight with the winner to take over sole possession of first place in the AFC East. “Gang Green” made a trade this summer to acquire future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre to win games like this and if they do Jets fans can’t be blamed for thinking about a February 1st date in Tampa with the team they share a building with.

Have you ever stopped to think about what creatures of habit we are? You know you have a routine when you approach the drive-thru of your Dunkin Donuts and upon saying your first words the guy at the other end says “I got it boss” before you even place your order. By the way, it’s large coffee with cream and splenda.

The common thread you have heard from people this fall over the economy here and abroad has been…”well if this is rock bottom then I think we’ll be okay.” Problem is we might not have hit rock bottom yet which is a scary thought.

One of the few good things about the onset of colder weather is being outside and taking in the scent of your neighbor’s fireplace while it’s burning.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thanks For Giving Gala

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ocean County will hold their annual “Thanks for Giving Gala” on Friday, December 5th at Crystal Point Yacht Club in Point Pleasant. The event is a major fundraiser for the youth mentoring organization and also a way to say thanks to those who have gone above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of so many young people.

Honorees that evening include Paul Barlo of Barlo and Associates who will receive the prestigious President’s Award, Billy Nash and the Lakewood BlueClaws who will both receive the For Kid’s Sake Award, the Ocean County YMCA, recipients of the Community Service Award and artist Francis McGinley, winner of the Legacy Award. In addition Bill Schwinn of Community Adult Medical Programs will be saluted as the Big of the Year.

I will once again have the pleasure of serving as Master of Ceremonies for the gala, which will feature live and silent auctions. Special invited guests are former sports greats Tony Siragusa, Ken Daneyko, Mark Leiter and Joe Klecko along with TV personality Jack Ford.

For those interested in purchasing tickets or finding our more about the December 5th “Thanks for Giving Gala” you can call Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ocean County at (732) 905-5349.

Belated congratulations to the Ocean County College Women’s Soccer team who finished second in the national tournament last weekend in Dallas, Texas. The Vikings fell to Broome Community College of New York 2-1
in the final to complete an 18-3 season for Coach Karen Trump.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day 2008

About the only good thing that’s come out of our involvement in Iraq and the Middle East over the last five years is the new found respect many have for those who serve in the Military. If you think about it, with the exception of Operation Desert Storm in the early 90’s we experienced a relatively long period of peace from the end of Viet Nam until this current conflict. During that time it would be easy for some to overlook the contributions made by those in the military, past and present because as the saying goes “out of sight, out of mind.”

We know that is not the case today and young people are growing up in a time of war just like many of us did, whether it be World War II, Korea or Viet Nam. They are witnessing the pain that goes with having family, friends and neighbors serve overseas and return home in uniform. Unlike the 60’s and 70’s when Viet Nam split this country, we are all united in our respect for the men and women who wear that uniform even if we’re divided over the cause they are fighting for.

Today is Veterans Day which marks the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I in 1918. It is a state and federal holiday in all states although some schools are open and use today to learn about and honor those who have served. Many students will participate in and watch the annual Ocean County Veterans Day Parade in downtown Toms River.

Mayor Tom Kelaher, who served in the US Marine Corps, says this year’s theme is “Thank a Veteran” and one way you can do that is to come out and watch the parade and thank the tens of thousands of veterans who live in Ocean County. The parade starts at 9:30am in the Toms River Shopping Center and follows the same route as the Halloween Parade a couple of weeks ago.

In a related note for the second straight year the Timothy E. Ryan Home for Funerals on St. Catherine Boulevard in Toms River is paying tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. With the help of local Boy Scouts, some 4,780 American flags have been placed in the lawn of the funeral home to commemorate the number of American men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a striking and sad reminder of the times we live in and that freedom is never free

Monday, November 10, 2008

Random Thoughts For A Monday

Random notes and thoughts on this Monday which happens to be the 223rd birthday of the United States Marine Corps:

The official announcement is expected today but it appears 18 schools from the shore have qualified for the NJSIAA Football Playoffs, including Toms River North, Southern. Brick, Brick Memorial, Point Pleasant Borough and Lacey. The first week of the state playoffs will feature Southern visiting Toms River North in a rematch of a regular-season game the Mariners won 7-6 on October 17th.

The Giants 36-31 win in Philadelphia last night keeps them two games ahead of Washington and three games up on the Eagles and Cowboys in the NFC East. Just as important it looks like to get to the Super Bowl in the NFC you’ll have to come through Giants Stadium in January.

Sometimes you invest so much time and emotion into your favorite team and just as they are on the verge of something special comes a loss that you first think of as devastating. Such was the case for those of us who follow Penn State football as Saturday’s one-point, last-second loss at Iowa ends our dream of a chance to play for a National Championship. But as your learn with age and experience the sun came up the next day and the word devastating should really be saved for the bigger picture.

The Lakewood BlueClaws and Positive Coaching Alliance are teaming up to present a free workshop aimed at leaders of all youth sports organizations on Wednesday, November 19th at First Energy Park. The workshop is titled “The Double-Goal Coach: Coaching for winning and life lessons.” Due to a limited amount of seats, there is a 5-seat limit for each organization….to register for the event call (732) 606-9060 ASAP as space is limited.

The newest branch of OceanFirst Bank on Route 9 in Bayville will host a special Ribbon Cutting and Flag Raising ceremony today at 11am. At this morning’s festivities OceanFirst Bank will also present Central Regional High School and Bayville Elementary School with their School Library Grants as well as grants to all of the Berkeley Township Fire and First Aid Squads. The Bayville branch is the 23rd location for OceanFirst in Ocean, Monmouth and Middlesex Counties.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Toms River's "Civil War"

They started playing in the early 70’s and have done so each year since.
Who controls the series has gone back and forth and while the old school still leads the series the newer kids on the block have dominated in recent years. It’s this area’s version of Army versus Navy in which records don’t mean anything and bragging rights mean everything.

Toms River South visits Toms River North tonight in the 37th version of what has always been called “The Civil War” and the one thing you can count on is the game will be played before the biggest football crowd of the season not only in Toms River but maybe the entire shore. As usual the storyline centers on the fact that many of the opposing players know one another, some even played together on teams when they were younger. Parents are often friends, separated only by the fact that some will wear blue and gold tonight and others will be dressed in maroon and white.

Since schools are closed today pep rallies were held during the week and students and players will not doubt be ready to rock and roll tonight for a prime time matchup of teams who are as opposite as night and day. North has built a football power under coach Chip LaBarca, who is 24-5 since taking over the helm of the Mariners before the 2006 season. They are big, strong, physical and at times dominating and have already clinched their second straight division title and are working on a possible second straight state sectional crown.

The Indians have been no match the last couple of years against North but believe the time has come to win one of these games. Bill Hill is in his first season as a head coach and has seen just about every game go down to the final moments which is exciting and gut-wrenching at the same time. South cannot match up physically with the Mariners but has big-play weapons all over the field so this truly is a game of two very different styles.

Besides bragging rights there are a couple of other things on the line. A North win earns them a high seed in the South Jersey Group 4 playoffs which start next week and that could mean one or even two home games. An upset by the Indians opens the door for a possible spot in the state playoffs something that was hard to imagine a few weeks ago. Tonight’s game will be broadcast live on the Shore Sports Network, including 1160 WOBM AM.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Post Election Thoughts

For weeks I talked about how much I was looking forward to Election Day coming and going. We were all tired of the constant barrage of campaign
garbage being thrown at us and could not wait for it to end. However to be honest yesterday was kind of like the day after the Super Bowl…you talk about the election/game, offer your opinion on the results and speculate as to what’s in the future.

It’s a horrendous time for the newspaper industry with readership and advertising dropping by staggering levels but this historic Election gave them a shot in the arm…even if it was temporary. If you went out yesterday afternoon looking to buy a newspaper you were probably greeted by empty racks as people gobbled them with the headlines trumpeting Barack Obama’s victory. Some papers printed extra copies to meet the demand as no doubt issues from November 5th will become collector’s items. Copies of the sold-out New York Times were being sold on eBay from as low as $10 to as much as $199.

The annual football game between Toms River South and Toms River North is always a special one for the schools but the 35th edition of what’s called “The Civil War” is front and center even more this year. As expected the North Mariners are a power again and after losing their opener have won six straight games. The South Indians have been like the “Cardiac Kids” with several games going down to the wire. They are 4-3 and could earn a state playoff bid with an upset victory. Adding to the rivalry is that MaxPreps and Nike have picked this game as part of their National Road Tour and they’ve has been in Toms River all week, taking videos of practice and pep rallies which you can follow on their web site…MaxPreps.com.

For many summers on the 2nd avenue beach in Seaside Park I was greeted by a warm smile and sweet Italian accent that belonged to Priama Cumella, the friendliest and nicest beach attendant there ever was. She would always comment about things I said on the radio and loved talking about her family. Mrs. Cumella or “Mrs. C” as I called her died Tuesday at the age of 82. My family sends their condolences to hers, especially her son Charlie who I grew up with. I will think of her fondly every time I walk onto the beach.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Change Is Coming"

While it may be hard for some to accept the message resonated throughout America last night….”change is coming.” Barack Obama’s convincing and historic victory might not have been welcome in Ocean County but if you
can step back a bit it might have been necessary to heal wounds very deep in our nation. Even if you were a strong advocate of John McCain you had to at some point acknowledge that Obama’s victory proves as a people we have come a long way. It was just 45 years ago that Martin Luther King made his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and who could have possibly imagined then that one day a black man would in the same city take residency in the White House.

Senator Obama is now President-Elect Obama because white people, especially women voted for him as the best choice to get us out of the mess we are in which in itself is somewhat ironic. He motivated young people, not unusual for a Democrat, but they just didn’t vote for him but rather believed in his ability to bring this country together. It is the younger generation more than any other who needs to stop judging people by the color of their skin because frankly there are too many others who will never be able to look past that.

You and I may not agree with his views on all the issues but as I listened to his victory speech before a huge outdoor crowed in Chicago you could not be anything but impressed and almost awed. His words were carefully chosen and they were right on the mark….not about him but a country he will try to lead under the most challenging circumstances many have ever seen. Obama was inspiring not just for blacks but for all Americans and it is now time to pull together because the will of the people has been spoken which is what makes us a true democracy.

Not all that long ago in my workplace I was reminded that the only constant in the world today is change and you can either fight it or accept it. Change is no longer coming….it’s here. Whether that’s a good thing or not only time will tell but it certainly deserves a chance from all of us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Finally...Election Day!

Sports fans often love politics because to them it’s just another big game
and if that’s the case then today is like the Super Bowl. We elect a new President amid uncertainty about the future like some of us have never seen before. It’s probably unfair to expect either Barack Obama or John McCain to make a big difference because it’s quite possible that the task is too large for any individual but before you go to sleep tonight you’ll probably know which Senator is about to become the 44th President of the United States.

I have always felt it was quite pompous for anyone to think their endorsement makes all that much of a difference. Newspapers don’t make them but rather a small group that might make up their editorial board and in some cases it may simply be the publisher or wants to exert his will on the public. I have rather strong opinions and am actually more interested in some of the local elections then the “big one” because I think the outcome of that one is a foregone conclusion.

Ocean County of course has been dominated by Republicans forever and for two main reasons. One is that the county has been run very well and most people have not seen any great need for change. The other is the Democrats have usually been their own worst enemies, running questionable candidates and doing little to back them. For the first time in a long time there are many who think change is coming to county government and it could start today. Joe Vicari and Jeff Moran will very likely be re-elected to terms as Freeholder and Surrogate over Stacy Lubrecht and Lawrence Jones although not by the huge margins they are accustomed to. However many officials and observers are intrigued by the race for County Clerk where incumbent Carl Block is facing a strong challenge from Berkeley Township Mayor Jason Varano, who has run a very aggressive campaign. You may not think of the County Clerk as a high-profile position but clearly the Democrats have run their strongest candidate for this office as a way to break through the GOP domination. Will they be successful and could it mark changing times? Listen to WOBM News for complete election results tonight to find out and I’ll comment tomorrow on what could be a historic day at the polls.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Random Thoughts To Start November

Random notes on the first Monday of November:

The longest and most expensive Presidential election ever is coming to a close and just about everyone agrees they are looking forward to that. It
seems like the candidates have been running for the Oval Office for years
and finally on Wednesday the talk will no longer about campaign promises
but more about the reality of the situation we are in. Regardless of who gets elected see how long it takes before they talk about how what they really would like to do they can’t and blah, blah, blah. We are suckers and accustomed to being lied to just to secure our vote.

If you ask me the best thing about Election Eve is that those annoying and often obnoxious electronic phone solicitations will also come to an end.
It’s bad enough that you get them for federal and state offices but the local ones are driving me crazy. I was expecting a call over the weekend and just as I got out of the shower the phone rang and I grabbed for it only to find it was about the 10th call for the same local candidates in my town who don’t
know when to stop. The most amazing thing is those in office and those seeking office wonder why we are often apathetic and disgusted by the process.

It’s almost sad to see what’s happened to the Dallas Cowboys, just about everyone’s choice to at least make it to the Super Bowl this year. Following Sunday’s lackluster loss to the Giants they are now 5-4 and will probably need to win 5 of their final 7 games to earn a playoff spot. Don’t count them out yet because they will get injured players back soon but for now it’s nice to look at the frown on owner Jerry Jones’ face. While the Giants were not great yesterday they are a very good team who could repeat as champions.

The New York City Marathon is the best example of how in many sports Americans only care it there are top American athletes to root for. When runners like Bill Rodgers and Alberto Salazar were the best in the world the New York City Marathon was the big sports story of its day. Now it’s more of a participant and spectator focused event because it’s dominated by foreign runners.