"I've Never Won Anything."


I was doing my thing before the Court Club meeting, which featured Tim Pernetti, the AD, and Mike Rice, the head coach, Rutgers men's basketball:   selling a few books, meeting, greeting, and schmoozing.  Up to the check in table comes a friend of my friend, (Calvin), Vejai.  Lou, Mike, and I, all Court Club diehards, collectively pitch him the 50/50 raffle for the night.

"I've never won anything," said Vejai.

"Vejai," I said, "I won the 50/50 a couple of years ago at a Club meeting just like this (true), and I've continued to buy tickets since, even though my probability of winning again is smaller than your chances right now, because it's a worthy cause."

"OK.  I'll buy one ticket,"  he said.

                                        Yours truly and AD Tim Pernetti
                           Courtesy of Duncan Williams and the Court Club

So right after, Vejai saunters into the meeting room, looking unimpressed by my pep talk, yet still holding his one 50/50 ticket. Tim Pernetti arrives, walks up to me, shakes my hand, AND remembers my name!  Just joking, we've met and talked several times, but he does have a facility for names, which major politicians succeed with:  a separate file in his grey matter with its own RAM for instant recall when needed.  Enough with the political stuff;  we're going to try to keep him right where he is.

Before he had to go off and schmooze the rest of the room, I had a chance to discuss my email to him outlining an idea for a sports biography of an RU legend.  He thought it was a great idea, and hopefully, more on that later.

                       Mr. and Mrs. Court Club, Brian and Janet Kelley
                       Courtesy of Duncan Williams and the Court Club

After the meeting, after a terrific talk about the state of school athletics by Tim Pernetti, and an equally honest and forthright talk about the basketball program by the Coach, Mike Rice, it was time for door prizes, and the 50/50 raffle.  The winner of the 50/50 is:

"Vejai!"  ( Not fixed, folks, honestly).

Here's the kicker:  Vejai donated his winnings (around $600.)  BACK to the Club!!

Maybe my pep talk about being a good cause did have an effect?   Hummmm?


"Where's Harry?"

With the flu season now gearing up to run over as many immune systems as possible, and the media attention showing numerous arms being needled with the vaccine, I had a flash back to my elementary school days in the 1950's, when the Salk polio vaccine was being targeted to rid the world of THAT scourge.

I'm going to say I was in third grade, in 1956, when I received the first of three shots that year.  The early 1950's were a trying time to be a parent of young children.  The cold war, A and H bombs, and the dread of a polio outbreak every summer had everyone knowing the meaning of the word, ANXIETY.  A national sigh of relief accompanied the "safe to use" announcement of Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine.  The word Anxiety just had to be thought of with a capital "A", since now only bombs and war were a worry ( a few years later, "Dr. Strangelove" would help us to 'stop worrying, and love the bomb', lol.)

Seriously, and sadly, I remember that time, after my year of kindergarten, when I had made friends with another young boy in my class. After summer,upon returning to school for first grade, I was told he was gone.  Died.  Went to heaven.  Unforgettable trauma which couldn't be sugar coated.

Fortunately, for the rest of us who were lucky to survive, there was a happy ending, and the point of this story.

Flash ahead to 1956, our relieved parents were told the March of Dimes was sponsoring an immunization program for elementary schools across the country.  Never liking needles (even to this day, I have to lie down for blood work), I vividly remember lining up in the hallway outside the school auditorium, passing through an anteroom to be swabbed with iodine (not clear alcohol, why, I know not), stabbed with a needle which looked like a harpoon to me, then ushered to a seat in the auditorium to rest, and be observed for ill effects, I presumed later.  What happened next was that era's equivalent of a viral you tube video.

From our vantage point in the resting area, we who had already been shot, could observe those who were about to enter the anteroom, and of course we would heckle them about 4" needles, the stinging and burning (half true) afterwards, and the PAIN!  We all became two bit actors and actresses (yes, then there was still a distinction) at the expense of the little lambs yet to join us.

Harry, a popular kid in the class, was among those being heckled, which he seemed to take in stride.  However, we noticed Harry wasn't coming out of the line to join our chorus, and the speculation quickly escalated. 

"I'll bet Harry fainted, the big baby," was offered to provide some more chuckles.  After about 20 minutes, still no Harry, and the mood turned from laughter to dread.  Quickly, the comments spread like an epidemic among us...

"He's still unconscious..."   

"He must have hit his head, and got knocked out..." 

"He could have had a reaction to the shot..."  

"Maybe he's DEAD!!"   

We were full blown out of control when the tall, Lincolnesque principal with a baritone voice silenced us,

"What's going on here?"

One from our now quiet choir of church mice chimed up,

"Where's Harry?  Is he dead?"

A nurse at the Principal's side chimed in,

"He's fine.  He coughed before he got his shot, so I took his temperature, and he has a slight fever, so we sent him home.  He'll have to go to his doctor for his shot when he gets better."

She rolled her eyes at the Principal, and he managed a taut, pursed smirk; the closest any of us ever saw him smile.

We all, at the same time, felt relieved, and stupid.  However, we managed the happy giggles soon after.

Thank you, Dr. Salk, for not accepting royalties, and making the vaccine available to rich and poor alike.


'Bama and the Bear

                                                             Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant

Last night after watching Alabama conduct a football clinic, which Notre Dame, the losing team had to endure, I thought of a story about 'Bama's legendary coach, who steely resolve built the foundation for success which I doubt will ever crumble.  "Bear," a nick name derived from having wrestled a tame circus bear as a teenager, was as colorful vocally as he was to look at ( as you can see from just a glimpse above).  I use the term legendary to describe him because he only had one losing season in 38 years of coaching.

My Rutgers, and Alabama's paths did cross during a two game series back in '80 and '81, the first game being played in the old Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ (which is now a parking lot for the new one).  I remember thinking, this has humiliation written all over it for Rutgers.  RU had decided to go "big time" with their athletics programs, and I believe in the theory "if you want to be the best, you have to play the best."  It just seemed like too much too soon.

Well, surprise, surprise, the final score of that first game was 'Bama 17, RU 13, prompting The Bear to say, to the effect, "Alabama won today, but Rutgers beat us."  I found that gracious and charitable, something an aging, mighty eagle would do to feather the nest of his legacy.

The next part of the story I heard passed along.  It sounds consistent with the character of the Bear.  I'll let you be the judge.

The next year, '81 Rutgers had to travel to Alabama to play the game.  What seemed like an army of state police were escorting the Rutgers team to the stadium, which prompted the Rutgers coach to inquire of one of them:

"Why all the security?"

The burly trooper replied, "This really isn't security.  You have nothing to be afraid of, except on the field.  The Bear ordered all the extra men to make sure you showed up."

I howled when I first heard this one.

Today, Rutgers wants to play on the level of 'Bama.  They'll get there if they continue the path of the "Bear."

Take some time to read Bear's quotes about how he approached football and life, and understand why he was so endeared by  the vast majority who ever laced up a set of cleats for him.  Go to:

Courtesy to Drew Roberts.


"Arky" Rutgers

I don't get too excited about "stocking stuffers" each Christmas, but this year changed all that.  Even though I'm more of a basketball than a football fan, I was thrilled.  I must admit, the first chance that night, I went on line to see if there was a BBall version.  No such luck, but I'm going to lobby for one, starting now.

"Oh Tim Pernetti....(Our Athletic Director)   Oh Mike Rice.... (Our Coach)  Oh Kerry Rice.... (Mike's wife, and a better email reader).  I gotta make this happen. 

If I start growing a beard now, I could look like him in about 35 years, and play Santa Clause in a wheel chair!

Next step out of the box was to name him.  Hummmm?

After a few minutes of thought, I said, "I've got it!"

Robert Kyle Rutgers!  Or, R.K.Rutgers, with a nickname "Arky!!"  Has a nice ring to it, no?  It could even be a nickname for a book!

Leave it to my "Octomom" to come up with this gift ("Octo" is a reference to age, 86 if you must know, not the number of children she had at once.).

Arky's first on the job training assignment was at a watch part at my pal Cal's house (yes, THAT Cal from  the book).  He did a pretty good job the first half, and I considered bringing him out to the car for the second, so he wouldn't bear the burden of a bad luck stigma after only one game.  It was too cold out in the car, and I didn't want him to feel punished instead of rewarded, so I put him face down on the couch next to me, and gave him the rest of the night off.

Of course, you know we had a miserable second half, and lost in overtime.

I've been second guessing my decision to bench Arky that second half.  So starting the first game next season, he'll be working full time from now on.  Maybe by then, he'll have a BBall brother to help us through THAT  season.