I was watching the Mommy Channel one night. Watching “Frasier”. One of the benefits of being young and going out to nightclubs was that my wife and I did not watch much television. Now that we are no longer bar dogs and stray from our boundaries less often, we watch more TV, sometimes watching the shows we missed the first time around.
I didn’t realize I was watching the Mommy Channel until I noticed the commercials featured nothing I wanted to buy and many products I did not recognize.
A lot of food that children will eat and that is good for them.
A lot of pills, ointments, inhalers and tons of weaponry in the battle against the face. The face, I learned from watching the Mommy Channel, hates Mommy. Mommy has to battle the skin and, specifically, the face. The face is our enemy. We must beat the face, the wrinkling, sagging, blemished and old face.
Watching the Mommy Channel was very educational.
Thanks to a commercial for Extra-Strong Charmin, I learned that we should be concerned about leaving scraps of toilet paper behind.
I just wanted to see “Frasier”.
It was an animated commercial. A Mommy bear is checking out a baby bear’s rear end and picks from the bear’s hindquarters several small scraps of toilet tissue. The smooth-voiced announcer then came on to remind us that Charmin, being Extra Strong, does not disintegrate during use.
We’re finally making some real headway on that problem.
Still no cure for cancer.
Although it was several nights ago, I now find I cannot erase this image from my mind. It is burned there. The ad worked. I never considered toilet paper fragments before, but now I wonder if our current brand of toilet tissue is betraying five decades of wiping expertise. What is our current brand of toilet tissue?
Is it strong enough?
Do we need to change?
Has my wife been staring at my toilet paper flecked cheeks for twenty-five years of marriage, never once daring to embarrass me with a mention of this private, giggle-suppressing joke?
Damn you to Hell, Charmin bears!
Our current brand? Scott. (How could it not be? If your name is Dr. Pepper, you’re not going to drink Coke. Of course, being a doctor, you probably would know enough to stay away from soft drinks.)
When I got back from doing research, a new commercial was on. After a hectic morning of battling the face and harvesting toilet tissue residue from that cheap bargain brand, who wants to put on pants? Why not just leave your pajama bottoms on?
Introducing Pajama Jeans!
Pajama Jeans are pajamas that look like jeans. (They don’t really look like jeans, but you don’t care). No one cares. Have you been to a Wal-Mart lately? We don’t care what we look like. We’re too damned tired to put on pants. All we want is to be able to make it back to bed again.
Thank goodness, we can get right back into bed, easily, because we’re still wearing our pajamas. I’m sorry. Our Pajama Jeans.
Elastic Stretch pants, painted to resemble denim.
Couple the Pajama Jeans with a nice Snuggie (a blanket with sleeves), perhaps in contrasting red… you’re ready for shopping, or eating or sleeping or eating, or drinking and mowing the grass.
Somewhere, a research company once asked a paid audience to list their needs. “Tell us what you want, Mommy Channel viewers,” said the research company. And you know what people said?
I need help wiping myself after going to the bathroom.
I want to wear my pajamas all day.
I’m so stupid I have forgotten basic grooming habits.
I am so lazy I refuse to change my clothes.
However, I think I finally have enough weapons to beat my evil face.
And now, back to Frasier.
“Hard Knocks”, my favorite TV show about NFL football, has one large, undeniable drawback: HBO’s popular series features only one team per season.
This season Cincinnati is that team.
I’m from Pittsburgh.
The Steelers will never be on the TV show “Hard Knocks”. They’ve made that abundantly clear. No cheerleaders. No logo on the left side of the helmet. No HBO cameras in Latrobe.
And so, every year, Steelers Nation is challenged to keep from rooting for another team. Make no mistake about it. That’s what this show is all about. The job of the documenters of “Hard Knocks” is to make the players and coaches who conceive the X’s and O’s of professional football into empathetic figures, and no one is better at it.
The problem, of course, is that I don’t want to like the Bengals.
This is the second time Cincinnati was the featured franchise. I don’t know the ins and outs of the decision making meetings between the league and the cable channel that make the determination of which team has its’ camp invaded by filmmakers. For some reason they decided to return to Paul Brown Stadium having been there just four short seasons ago.
In 2009 “Hard Knocks” garnered its highest ratings to date and picked up a pair of sports EMMY’s to boot. That was the season HBO viewers were introduced to Chad Ochocinco, Chris Henry and Defensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer, who ended up being the star of that season’s “Hard Knocks”.
That’s one of the appeals of this outstanding show. Each season, for a month or so, we’re introduced to intriguing and interesting men who we’ve perhaps never noticed before (although we’ve been watching football all of our lives). That sort of story-telling, the kind that creates a bond between a new and unknown character and the viewer, is what takes “Hard Knocks” to the top of the heap of sports programming.
And it’s a problem.
Have I mentioned I don’t want to like the Bengals?
I watch each season and by the time the short-lived (usually five episodes) show ends, I find that I spend the rest of the NFL year following (if not exactly “rooting”) the players and coaches of that season’s featured team.
The only exceptions? The two years that Dallas was the chosen team. In 2002 and 2008, I watched reruns of Scooby Doo. No matter how many awards “Hard Knocks” wins, no matter how good I think the show is, I’m not watching the Dallas Cowboys.
As I write this, episode three of this season’s “Hard Knocks” is being edited and readied for airing. I’ve already bought into the stories of Margus Hunt, the Estonian shot-putter trying to make it as an NFL defensive end, Terence Stevens, the singing rookie tackle from Stanford and, of course, James Harrison, former Steeler who was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.
During this season’s “Hard Knocks”, James has made a huge production of not wanting to be on camera. By doing so, he’s gotten on camera. He continues to create many opportunities to get on camera and show that he does not want to be on camera. He says he doesn't like being on camera. And yet he keeps getting on camera.
He and I are somewhat alike in that way. I don’t want to like the Bengals. And I’ll keep telling you how much I don’t want to like the Bengals as I watch this show about the Bengals.
I don’t like them.
But I keep watching this show.
That’s the problem with “Hard Knocks”.
At some point in my early teens I stopped buying the little records with the big holes (45s) and started saving my money for the big records with the little holes (LPs). The transition from hit singles to album sides, from transistor radios to headphones, from child to teenager, was jumpstarted by a band named Three Dog Night, the gateway drug of my musical youth.
Three Dog Night, a pop band based in Los Angeles whose unique “hook” was possessing three lead singers, sold a zillion records, played to a billion people and were everywhere all at once for a short period of time. A hit making machine, they were the most popular recording act in America in the early 1970’s.
More importantly to me, they opened the door to a world of sound I had never imagined existed.
As a record buying, radio listening seventh grader, I’d never heard of Traffic or Harry Nilsson. They weren’t on the radio. I don’t remember, during my weekly trips to Woolworth’s to stare at the rack of singles, noticing anything by The Band or Randy Newman. They didn’t make hit records.
But I had heard Three Dog Night. For ten years or so it was impossible to turn on a car radio without hearing Three Dog Night. They sold an estimated 40 million records (most of them the little ones with the big holes) to lots of pre-teen and teenaged kids like me.
Along the way they introduced us to names we’d never heard before, turning us on to sounds we may never have tried.
I remember being at a friend’s house at fifteen or sixteen and hearing The Band for the first time. The album was Music from Big Pink – his brother’s album, sneaked into the turntable while big brother was out of the house. This wasn’t the simple pop I’d been hearing. It was layered, multi-dimensional, deep, heady stuff. Suddenly, as the label spun round and round, Garth Hudson launched into a bizarre rollercoaster organ riff, sounding like a drunken night at the carnival; Three voices boomed from the Radio Shack speakers, shouting lines I’d heard before.
“I know she’s a tracker! Any scarlet would back her!”
Wait! I thought.
I know that one!
I’d never heard The Band, but I’d certainly heard that song - Chest Fever. Three Dog Night had recorded it. This version, the one from Big Pink, (the original one) was so, so much better. It was the difference between Twinkies and a cake your grandmother baked from scratch. Sure, you like ‘em both, but there’s no comparison.
It’s also unfair to compare Levon Helm, Richard Manuel and Rick Danko to anyone, much less the three singers who fronted Three Dog Night - Danny Hutton, Corey Wells and Chuck Negron. Their cover version, however, made my jump to the original that much easier. Without having heard Hutton, Wells and Negron, the intricacies of Helm, Manuel and Danko may have fallen on deaf ears.
The first time I heard Traffic’s “Heaven is in Your Mind” was on a Three Dog Night album. Same goes for “Mama Told Me Not to Come” from Randy Newman, “One” from Harry Nilsson, “Liar” by Argent or John Hiatt’s “Sure as I’m Sittin’ Here”. The first time I heard “Try a Little Tenderness” it was not from the great Otis Redding, but Three Dog Night.
What thirteen year old listened to Hoyt Axton?
I didn’t. Or, at least, I thought I didn’t. But there I was, dribbling a basketball up the street, trying my best to sound cool as I sang low. “Well I never been to Spain… but I kinda like the music! Say the ladies are insane there. And they sure know how to use it!”
Three Dog Night was my gateway drug to woder world of music. They made the transition from hit records to double albums an easy one for me. Is there version of “Easy to Be Hard” as good as the original Broadway cast recording from “Hair”? Probably not.
After all, what thirteen year old listened to original Broadway cast recordings?
At least, I’m not going to admit it now.
Welcome to Camp!
A Poem for Steeler Rookies
By Scott Paulsen
For those new and in mystery
A quick poem, giving history
Of Rooney's team, of black and gold
Franco caught a caromed ball
Big Ben made Nick Harper fall
Silverback picked Warner clean
Joe Green’s nickname? It was “Mean”
Frenchy wore some goldfish shoes
Don’t go drive with Ta-Amu
Don’t smoke with Santonio
Fats once shot at flying Po’
Cowher, Tomlin, Charles Noll
Three coaches and eight Super Bowls
Lombardi Trophies? I count six.
Lambert had his lunatics
Miller makes the crowd say “Heeath”
There is a statue of the Chief
It points the way to Bussies’ place
Where fans all go to stuff the face
And wave the towel with Myron’s name
then travel to the Hall of Fame
To watch the faces we all cheered
Turned into busts and be revered
So, in Latrobe, draft picks arrive
To sweat in heat and stay alive.
They best impress. They’ve got one shot.
To create themselves a roster spot.
To join 8 decades of the dream
To be part of this famous team
To add their names to “Brad” and Ben.
The Steelers cycle starts again.
Let’s set the record straight.
You may have recently seen some disparaging television commercials, aimed at ruining my reputation by questioning my service record during the Vietnam War. A group calling themselves Cub Scouts for Truth pays for these ads, but don’t let the name fool you. That group is just a front for my opponent. He and his big money cronies are the ones who paid for these lies.
I’m here to set the record straight. I remember exactly where I was during the Vietnam War. Between the years of 1967 and 1969, I was proudly serving in the Cub Scouts of America. I volunteered for duty. I answered the call from Douglas Shapiro’s mother, who wanted to know if I’d be interested in joining her den. I didn’t try to run from duty or hide behind my father’s money. He had no money to hide behind. If he had, however, I can assure you that I would not have tired to hide behind it. The boys I served with – Douglas, Bobby, Vance and some kid with crossed eyes whose name escapes me at the moment – were brave, young Cub Scouts. We met every other Tuesday night in the Shapiro’s basement. I always answered the call, except for missing one meeting because I had to have my tonsils removed.
These are facts.
They’re public record.
There is no disputing.
And yet, my opponent, through this bogus Cub Scouts for Truth group, is attempting to taint my service record. It’s been going on for months now. My supporters have been clamoring for me to respond, to fight back. I have waited until now because I did not want to turn this campaign into a series of personal attacks. I wanted to talk about the issues. My opponent, however, wants to make this personal.
You know what I say?
Bring it on.
Let’s debate Vietnam.
As I’ve mentioned, time and time again, my record of service during that war is public knowledge, easily accessed by anyone with the ability to get on the Cub Scouts website. What you’ll see there is that in 1967, when I was eight years old, I was awarded a silver arrowhead. In 1968, while serving in Chestnut Ridge, Maryland, I was awarded two bronze arrowheads and was recommended by my pack leader to become a Webelow.
If you try to look up my opponent’s record during Vietnam, what will you find? You will find many repeated absences from school. You will find incomplete records of his very existence. Did he volunteer for service in the Cub Scouts during Vietnam? No. In order to escape the conflict, he declared himself 4-H. He didn’t even volunteer for that. They came and got him when they found he had a goat. How many meetings did he attend? We don’t know. His records are “missing”. Try to find the truth about my opponent. You will find nothing but cover-ups. You will find a roadblock at every juncture. The people in power protect him by hiding the truth.
I don’t need to hide.
In September of 1968, under great duress, I carved a pinewood derby car from a block of wood using only my father’s penknife. I received the bronze arrowhead for winning the derby with that small, hand-carved toy car. And if I ever chance to forget it, I am reminded by a sliver of pine I still carry in my finger.
I bled for my country.
I’m not the only one. There were many of us who volunteered. Douglas, Bobby, Vance and that kid with the crossed eyes whose name I can’t remember now – you can ask any one of them what it was like in that summer of ’68 when the knots were being tied and campfires were burning brightly. They’ll tell you what it was like. They’re the real heroes. They’re the real Cub Scouts.
This group, the ones calling themselves “Cub Scouts for Truth”? They’re just a bunch of guys on the payroll of my opponent. It’s a shame that he had to stoop this low and insult Cub Scouts everywhere who volunteered and served their country during Vietnam by selling candy bars, identifying poisonous plants and helping old ladies across the street.
But that’s the kind of guy he is.
The kind of guy who couldn’t even make it in 4-H.
To close, I’d like to lead us all in the Scouts Oath. It’s something I say each and every day, whether I’m running for office or not. “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and country and to… do… wait. Obey… the law of… our country, so help me, let’s have cookies!”
Take that, Cub Scouts for Truth.
Bring it on.