Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Say It Ain't Snow!

Say it ain’t snow Alan Kasper! We finally start getting rid of the piles of snow that have been around for weeks and now more is on the way for Thursday. Haven’t we suffered enough for going around asking the question, “what ever happened to winter” the last couple of years? Can
we at least be assured that even if we get 6-10 inches tomorrow it will be the final snowstorm of the season….I think not.

The semifinals of the Shore Conference Boys Basketball Tournament are tonight at the Ritacco Center in Toms River and expect a big crowd for a quality doubleheader. In the 6pm opener top-seeded CBA faces Manasquan and then at 7:45 it will be Monsignor Donovan taking on Middletown South.
All four schools have great student support and I would not be surprised if both games go down to the wire. The doubleheader will be broadcast live on our Shore Sports Network, including 1160 WOBM AM and streamed live at

It has been a busy week at the Ritacco Center and tomorrows expected snow could be a major problem. The Region 6 Wrestling Championships began last night and are scheduled to resume Friday evening. However what looks to me in the greatest jeopardy in the championship game of the Shore Conference Girls Basketball Tournament as Neptune is to meet Colts Neck tomorrow night in the Poland Spring Arena. More to come on this.

Winding River Skating Center in Toms River will be the site of a charity hockey game Saturday night matching Cops and Coaches. Toms River Township PBA #137 is sponsoring the game in which the cops team, the Jersey Shore Blueliners will skate against the Toms River Hockey Club Coaches. The Blueliners have a ringer as former NHL standout and Stanley Cup champion Jim Dowd will skate with their team in the 7pm contest.
It’s all for a good cause as proceeds will go to the Wounded Warrior Project and the Ocean County PBA Conference Survivor & Welfare Fund. Admission is $5 and kids under 12 are free and there will be plenty of activities throughout the evening.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Viewing

There’s this saying about how when you get older you only see people you have not seen in a while at funerals and that is certainly the truth. Usually this occurs at what we call the “viewing” and these are often dramatically different depending on the circumstances of the death. You have someone who lived a long fruitful life and the gathering is often more of a celebration and reflection. People will mingle and tell stories and while there will be tears you’ll also find smiles and even laughter. However when the viewing is for someone who has died rather young or suddenly then the tone is quite different. It’s hard to find the right words to express your condolences although for those who have great faith there is often comfort in believing that the next step will be even better.

There are those who just can’t bring themselves to attend viewings, unless it is a family member or really close friend. Sometimes they just want to remember the person for how they looked in life rather then in death and you have to respect them for that. Others attend out of obligation although frankly I doubt if too many times a family has discussed who did not show up as they have other worries and thoughts on their minds. On the other extreme some seem to think of a viewing as a social event and will work the room like politicians at a fundraiser. Most though are probably like me in that you want the family of the deceased to know their loved one meant something to you so you are there to pay final respects. Sometimes you are able to find the right words to express your sorry and at other times you don’t say anything but shake a hand or offer a hug.

What’s really tough is when attending viewings of your contemporaries become something of a regular occurrence. It gives you a sense of your own mortality because when you are young death often seems something reserved for old people. All of a sudden you are looking at people you grew up with and you say to yourself, “that could be me.” Sadly I steal a line I heard from my father many times…..”the worst thing about getting older is you know more people who have died.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Trip To State College

We visited Penn State University this weekend for an admitted students program that convinced my daughter more than ever that she will follow in her brother’s footsteps and be a Nittany Lion this fall. The weekend trip came with a bonus as we got to experience THON first-hand. We knew of the annual fundraiser because my son was involved through his fraternity for the four years he was at Penn State but this was out first time actually seeing what it’s all about. The largest student-run philanthropy in the world is a 46-hour marathon in which students must stand or dance at the Bryce Jordan Center. While there were 708 student dancers more than 15,000 volunteers participate in some fashion to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State’s Children’s Hospital and late Sunday they announced a record total of more than $7.8 million from this year’s event to fight childhood cancer. Among the exhausted dancers were at least two I know of from Ocean County…seniors Dan Leone of Toms River and Ashley Matera of Point Pleasant. Both had plenty of support from their families this weekend
who are probably just as tired this morning because spectators have to stand as well. Since it started THON has raised almost $70 million.

When I was a senior at Central Regional High School in 1973 I was asked by the late great baseball coach Al Kunzman to help out with the team as I did not play baseball but had many friends on the squad, including Rich Gabriel. It was Gabriel who would pitch the Golden Eagles to a win over Toms River North in the championship game of the Ocean County Tournament that spring. I thought about that when I found out Friday that he had passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 54. Dick was a guy who never sought attention but had the respect of many. He was an outstanding softball player for years, became a very good golfer and loved to fish when he wasn’t working as a self-employed electrical contractor. A lifelong resident of Island Heights, he leaves behind his wife Chris, son Richard and daughter Danielle. He also leaves a void in the lives of many who were lucky enough to cross paths with one of the truly good guys. Donations in his memory can be made to Ocean of Love or the Richard Gabriel Scholarship Fund at Central Regional High School.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Olympics & The Shore Conference

Wednesday was a terrific day for a trio of high-profile Americans at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. First Lindsey Vonn, the most hyped athlete at these games fought off the pressure and a painful shin to become the first US Woman to win a gold medal in the downhill. Vonn has been in the spotlight for the last couple of weeks and has been the most dominant female skier in the world but had never won a gold medal before yesterday. Despite all the questions about her leg injury she finished more than a half-second ahead of teammate and rival Julia Mancuso for the first 1-2 American finish in an alpine skiing event since the 1984 Olympics. Vonn will be back on the mountain today when she competes in the Super Combined event at Whistler.

Later in the day American speedskater Shani Davis used a torrid final lap to capture his second consecutive 1000 meter gold medal with the bronze going to countryman Chad Hedrick. Four years ago Davis became the first African-American to win an individual winter gold medal. Completing the day was the gold medal performance of snowboarder Shaun White, who captured his second straight men’s half pipe with another gravity-defying performance while American Scott Lago took the bronze medal. Wednesday marked only the second time in Winter Olympic history the US won three gold medals in the same day.

Closer to home the first round of the Shore Conference Basketball Tournament has been completed and it’s now on to the round of 16. In Boys action last night sixth-seeded Monsignor Donovan needed a long 3-pointer from Jake Martin at the buzzer to get past Toms River South 39-36. That set’s up a third meeting this season with Lakewood on Friday night as the Piners rolled past Ocean. Manchester and Point Beach were the only other Ocean County schools to survive the first round, which included 25th ranked Red Bank’s stunning upset of #8 Point Boro in double overtime. Tonight’s Girls round of 16 matches include Jackson Memorial hosting Mater Dei, Southern visiting St. Rose and Toms River North traveling to Rumson.
Our Shore Sports Network will broadcast the Boys and Girls semifinals and finals from the Ritacco Center next week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday Phil Citta

When I think of Phil Citta among the first things that come to mind was the costumes he used to wear at Halloween. I know that’s not unusual but seeing him decked out in a toga while at the same time sitting people for dinner would always leave me with a smile on my face. Six years after his death I still walk into The Office Restaurant & Lounge in Toms River and expect him to greet me with a sarcastic comment or two. Usually I would respond with one of my own and often it had to do with the brightly-colored Hawaiian print short-sleeved shirt he was wearing, regardless of the season.

Phil was not just the owner and operator but he was the face of The Office, a popular bar and restaurant in Toms River for more than thirty years. While he liked to make his trips to Florida in the winter he was most comfortable behind the host station greeting customers, many of whom he knew for years and were regulars. As I’ve said before there has never been a time when I
was at The Office Lounge that I did not think of Phil and that will never change.

Today would have been his 66th birthday and while sadly he won’t be there to see it he will certainly be part of what’s going to take place at The Office Lounge. It just so happens that the 5th Annual Phil Citta Memorial Fundraiser will probably turn into a gigantic birthday party as well as another great event for cancer research at Community Medical Center which is home to the J. Phillip Citta Regional Cancer Center. His death from pancreatic cancer in 2004 and the Citta Family’s incredible commitment to the hospital led to the establishment of that center which benefits patients and their families, most of them from right here in Ocean County.

Today 50% of all proceeds and 100% of sales from raffles and auctions will be donated in Phil’s name to the hospital and management and staff will try and surpass the record $21,000 raised last year. I will plan on stopping in and my first thought will be…what would Phil have been wearing at his birthday party? TOGA-TOGA-TOGA.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Enjoying The WInter Games

I don’t know what it is with some people, especially other men but when you admit to being a fan of the Winter Olympics they look at you in a rather strange way. I love football, baseball, basketball, hockey and the other main sports but count me as a guy who’s not afraid to come out of the closet and express my joy in watching snowboarding, skiing, speed skating and more and if you’ve seen the TV ratings then you know I’m not alone. These Winter Olympics are great because being in Canada everything seems close to home and much of what we see on TV is live, which is really difficult when the games are in Europe or the Far East.

Frankly I love the fact that for two weeks you get to watch sports that are pretty much foreign, except for once every four years. Only now do you get to appreciate the endurance and conditioning it takes to compete in events like cross country skiing and speed skating and the all-out almost reckless quality for someone to race down a luge track or downhill skiing course. Just because we don’t fully understand some of the sports, like curling and skeleton doesn’t mean we can’t marvel at what if often takes to represent your country on the biggest stage there is.

What makes the Winter Olympics unique are not just the sports but the athletes themselves. Sure there are those who earn six-figure salaries and are national heroes but there are plenty who compete in relative obscurity and have had to make incredible sacrifices to fulfill a life-long dream. Plus they are not what many of us think are typical athletes but more like characters who could star in a remake of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
However I like a lot of these “dudes” and often they are refreshing from the overhyped, overpaid, overbearing pros we are accustomed to today.

You can have your Super Bowl and World Series presentations which have become staged events but I’ll take that moment when an athlete has a gold medal placed around his or her neck and then stands proudly as their national anthem is played. For two weeks every four years you can open your mind to the idea that sports without a ball can still be captivating.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Remembering William Frank Sr.

If you’ve been to a baseball game at Toms River South or Toms River East over the years there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen William Frank Sr.

You might not have known who he was but you’ve probably seen him because he didn’t miss many games when the Indians and Raiders were at home. One of my rituals when attending a game at South in recent years was to seek Mr. Frank and his wife out because they would often sit in their car next to the bleachers down the right field line and watch from there. It’s not like they couldn’t get better seats…I mean the baseball stadium is named after their oldest son but they liked that vantage point.
They rooted for the Indians and the Raiders with passion, except on those days when the teams played one another. This was pure torture for William and Julia because it meant their boys would play one another which of course would result in one of them losing. So when Ken’s Toms River South Indians went up against Bill’s Toms River East Raiders the parents would basically just pray that when it was over the two would still be speaking to one another.

I could only imagine what it was like when the boys were growing up in Jersey City because I’m sure there was a fight or two which Dad had to eventually settle in one fashion or another. Both were very competitive and that really didn’t change all that much as they grew into adults and became fathers themselves. I remember quite well a period years ago in which their coaching rivalry went over the top and they ended up in a feud in which they weren’t speaking to one another. Mom and Dad were not happy and you could cut the tension with a knife. The boys of course finally settled their differences and like their parents always preached are best friends and each other’s biggest fans…except of course when they play one another.

William Frank Sr. got as much joy as any parent could in watching the success of his two son’s and being a part of hundreds of victories and plenty of championships on the baseball field. Just as important was watching six grandchildren grow up because family was always #1.

After a long illness he passed away this week at the age of 89 and he’d be the first to tell you he had a great ride. Family and friends will gather tomorrow at the Timothy E. Ryan Home for Funerals on St. Catherine Boulevard in Toms River to say their goodbyes. Not seeing his car parked at Ken Frank Stadium will be a sad reminder that he’s gone but he’ll still be watching from the best seat in the house.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Return Of Winter

For the past several years we have wondered what happened to the winters many of us remember when we were younger. The ones featuring ice skating (outside), sledding and mornings when we turned to the radio looking for the news that school was closed. Let’s face it, with few exceptions there wasn’t much use for sleds, snow blowers and shovels the last decade or so. When we got slammed with a huge and surprising snow storm before Christmas there were two schools of thought….this was our one big snowfall for the winter OR this was a preview of things to come.
Needless to say we all now know which of those scenarios turned out to be prophetic.

Welcome to the winter in which snow blowers are precious, snow plows are gold mines and kids with ambition can earn plenty of cash. Not only are we getting more than our fair share of snow but unlike any year I can remember….South Jersey is taking it on the chin even more than the northern part of the state. It seemed for years we would talk about how being close to the coast always meant we got rain when others received snow but that has not been the case this time around. Depending on what happens today we’ll have had two significant snow events in a matter of days that will have produced more snow then we’ve had in many winter seasons.

While all of this may be welcome news to kids who love having days off from school it is wreaking havoc in many other circles. First you have parents who have to scramble now that kids are home because they both might have to work. Then you have the strain this is putting on towns, counties and the state in terms of manpower and cost. Budgets for overtime are being blown up and public works employees are being pushed to the brink in some cases and road salt is becoming a premium item. If that’s not enough at a time when businesses need all the help they can get the snow is an unwelcome visitor that has resulted in reduced revenues.
With Valentine’s Day and President’s Day coming up this is usually a busy time for many but today and maybe even tomorrow will be largely lost.

One thing is for sure….nobody will ask the question, what ever happened to winter because it’s here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Super Night

Going into Super Bowl 44 there were surveys that indicated just as many people were interested in watching the commercials as the game itself. The good news is both provided drama and plenty of laughs as well Sunday night.

While the Saints 14-point win was actually the largest margin of victory since 2003 the final score was very deceiving. New Orleans and Indianapolis waged a terrific battle and it appeared the game was heading into overtime until Tracy Porter’s interception return for a touchdown secured the win for the Saints with just over three minutes left. The game was well-played with only one turnover and four punts and featured two quarterbacks at the top of their game until Peyton Manning’s ill-timed interception gave New Orleans the NFL Championship in their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. How could you not be happy for Drew Brees and the Saints and while the media may overdue the story about how this has helped heal the Hurricane-ravaged city there is no doubt it’s been a big help.

As for the commercials….well everyone has their favorites but there were several that stand out for me and they include:

1. The E-Trade ad with the baby talking with his girlfriend
2. Snickers commercial featuring Betty White & Abe Vigoda.
3. The Doritos ads featuring the man in the casket, the dog getting revenge and the little boy lecturing the man dating his mom.
4. Volkswagen ad with the punching game.
5. The Budweiser commercial with the Clydesdale and friend.
6. Bud Light commercials with the asteroid threat and house made of beer cans.
7. I also liked the remake of the Chicago Bears Super Bowl shuffle for Boost Mobile.

All in all Sunday gave us a very good game that was not decided until the end and some memorable commercials and you really can’t ask for much more.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Letter Of Intent Day

Things certainly have come a long way when it comes to the football program at Monmouth University and you only have to look at the last week or so for proof. Last Sunday Hawks coach Kevin Callahan was in South Florida watching a former player, Miles Austin start for the NFC team in the Pro Bowl game. A couple of days later Callahan was at the podium announcing the latest recruiting class for the Hawks and it’s a group that has him very excited about the future for the Blue and White. Not that long ago there was not much interest over this but the success of the program has made many open their eyes to what’s taking place in West Long Branch.
Austin’s breakout year in Dallas and tight end John Nalbone playing for the Dolphins gives Monmouth two NFL players and who knows if there’s a future pro among the 17 student-athletes who signed National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

Heading up that group are seven shore area high school standouts, including a pair of defensive standouts who could make an impact as freshman. Manchester’s Jimmy Lawson turned down a wrestling scholarship to Rutgers to play football for the Hawks and the 6’, 285 defensive tackle should fill a big void for Monmouth. For Manasquan’s Dan Sullivan the question will be how quick he can adjust to a position change as he’ll move from defensive end in high school to the linebacker spot at college. Both Sullivan and Lawson will be joined by high school teammates
as the new class includes Squan wide receiver Neal Sterling and Hawks offensive lineman Josh Siemanowicz. Other shore players headed to Monmouth are Raritan running back Jesse Raymond, Howell wide receiver Phil Adamo and Colts Neck kicker Eric Spillane.

Among yesterday’s other notable football signings saw Barnegat’s first-ever Division 1 recruit Jarrett Darmstatter sign with Boston College and Central’s Adam Skidmore ink a Letter of Intent to Tulane University. Ocean County’s consensus Player of the Year, Toms River East’s Nico Steriti signed with the University of New Hampshire. Steriti made a verbal commitment to the Naval Academy last month but changed his mind shortly after returning from Annapolis.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ground Hogs, Volleyballs & Commitments

I’m all for the tradition that comes with Groundhogs Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania but somebody needs to investigate what’s going on there.
It was cloudy on Gobbler’s Knob and throughout most of Pennsylvania yesterday morning when Phil came out and yet somehow saw his shadow which legend says will bring six more weeks of winter. I think the only reason there was a shadow was because of all the TV lights….seems like those who make up the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club’s Inner Circle had already decided the outcome even before Phil could make his prediction.

Eric Maxwell has done a tremendous job building both the Girls and Boys Volleyball programs at Southern Regional High School. The Rams have become a state power in both and last fall the girls team won a state-record 40 games as Maxwell was named Asbury Park Press Coach of the Year.
However much of that good has been wiped out by an incident that has gone public this week and the 45-year old Maxwell deserves better. A video has surfaced from a game back in October in which the coach hits one of his own players in the head with a ball. Maxwell has said that it was a mistake that came out of frustration and the day after the game issued a letter of apology to the parents on his team. The story has taken on new life 3 ½ months later because a video shot by someone from Cherry Hill East made its way onto web sites like YouTube. I have watched it several times and while it’s a bit shocking school officials had already handled the matter and placed Maxwell on probation. If the unidentified player and her family are okay with everything then its time to move on. Maxwell has done a lot of good for his players, school and sport and that should not be forgotten.

Today is probably the single most important day in college football. It’s National Letter of Intent Signing Day as recruits can finally sign binding contracts with the colleges of their choice. Among the most highly-recruited high school players from the shore area were Jarrett Darmstetter from Barnegat who will sign with Boston College and Raritan’s Bennett Jackson, who is headed to Notre Dame. Both will appear on the “Shore Sports Report” today which airs on 1160 WOBM AM between 3-6pm and will be broadcast live from Monmouth University as the Hawks announce their new recruits.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Valentine's Day Advice For Men

Today of course is Groundhog Day as men in tuxedos in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania gather and watch Phil come out of his burrow on Gobbler’s Knob to predict the weather for the rest of the winter. Not truth to the rumor that the groundhog and Allan Kasper are close personal friends.

Anyway I don’t want to get into detail about that but rather this morning offer a public service to our male listeners because we are less than two weeks away from Valentine’s Day. With that in mind I have a list of some things you should never ever ask a woman. While inquiring about her age is an obvious one there are another dozen or so statements and questions you would better off keeping to yourself because nothing good can come out of saying the following:

• Why aren’t your married?
• What did you do to your hair?
• Your best friend is really hot!
• You aren’t one of those feminists, are you?
• You’re really cute when you’re mad.
• That’s not the way my ex did it.
• You sound just like your mother.
• Do you really think you should be eating that?
• So when are you due? (This is an obvious reference to a pregnant woman but please make sure she is pregnant before you ask).
• Relax!
• Do you really need another pair of shoes?
• What’s the big deal; you have another birthday next year.
• I don’t care…whatever you want. It doesn’t matter to me.
• Is it that time of month? (Should need no explanation).
• So how old are you really? (I know I said this is obvious but some guys continue to make the mistake).

I am still looking for the follow-up list of things women should never say to men. It would start with, “what’s the big deal, it’s only a game.”

Monday, February 1, 2010

College Choices

I guess by now many of you know that calling me a fan of Penn State University would be a gross understatement. Sure much of this has to do with their football team but it actually goes further than that and for four years we were proud Penn State parents as my son graduated in 2008. For the past several months we have been going through the college process again with my daughter Alex and while everyone assumed she too would be a Nittany Lion I don’t think at first she wanted to follow in her brother’s footsteps. However as time went on Penn State became her first choice and it was one of the half dozen schools she applied to in the fall.

The first school she heard from was Michigan State and when she was accepted into their College of Communications it became a place she would seriously consider. It had everything Alex wanted, a big school with big-time sports and great school spirit. She liked what she heard from students there and we scheduled a campus visit late last week. Meantime while she was accepted into other schools she was still waiting to hear from Penn State and a decision was expected by the end of January. We decided that she and I would make the visit to East Lansing and just before we left last Thursday she got the word she was waiting for….acceptance into PSU for the fall semester. We were all very happy, especially my son who now figured he was a place to crash for the next four years when he visited. However I did not want Alex to rule out Michigan State so we made the planned trip.

We had a really good couple of days together and the campus was pretty much what we expected. There were things we really liked and certainly couldn’t make a big deal out of the single digit temperatures because it was pretty much the same back home. Ironically they have had less snow this winter then we have although that’s not the norm. The best part of our trip was catching the sold out Michigan State-Michigan Ice Hockey game…we were among almost 7,000 fans and I really got into rooting for the Spartans.

Anyway it was a great experience and I’m glad we went because I was thrilled to spend time with her. So will it be Michigan State or Penn State? Well we’re going to make a campus visit to State College, Pa later this month but the decision has been made. Happy Valley…here comes Alex Williams.