Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Staples Center Director to be charged for dropping staples with confetti after Lakers' victory

Los Angeles, CA--On June 17 at the Staples Center, the Lakers captured their 16th NBA title by beating the Boston Celtics in a hard fought seven-game series.

Following the series-clinching victory, an 83-79 come-from-behind rally, confetti began to rain from the rafters in Laker purple, gold and white. Mixed in with the floating, twisting paper, however, were metal staples--an unusual ingredient when recognizing a championship.

Several players and hundreds of fans reported injuries from the paper fasteners soon after the on-court celebration began. Some staples fell with such force that they became lodged in the wood basketball court.

Jack Nicholson was later taken to a local hospital to have over 10,000 staples removed from his back and arms, which were raised to protect his head. "It wasn't pleasant, but it gave me a great idea for a movie," said the actor several days later.

Staples Inc., the office supply store, purchased the naming rights to the Lakers' home arena soon before its completion in 1999. It is believed that the company had no prior knowledge that staples would be part of the arena's post game revelry.

The arena's director, Vance Smithton, 52, is now being charged with over 900 counts of reckless endangerment. It is believed that Smithton came up with the idea to drop staples as a marketing stunt for the office company only days before game seven. Staples Inc. or arena employees did not become alarmed or suspicious when the director ordered 50,000 boxes of staples. (Staples Inc. provides free office supplies to the arena.)

"I really miscalculated this one," said Smithton, before being lightly shoved into the back of an LAPD police car parked in front of the Staples Center. "I just thought dropping staples at Staples Center would be cool. It makes sense. Am I right? Go Clippers."

Monday, June 28, 2010

Struggling Indianapolis 500 to be held at Churchhill Downs, horses to replace cars, will be called Kentucky Derby

Louisville, KY--A group of board members from the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway gathered at the main entrance to the grandstands of Churchill Downs early yesterday morning, dew still covering the nearby infield grass, to announce some "minor" changes to, what at one time, was one of the world's most famous automobile races.

The Indy car race, which struggles to stay relevant these days, along with the Indy Series, is held every Memorial Day weekend each year, will be moving about 115 miles to the south, across the state line, to Kentucky beginning in 2011. Gone will be the Indy cars. Gone will be the name. And gone will be the entire race from the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana

"We're not canceling the Indianapolis 500. I want that to be clear. We're tweaking it," said Bart Antonelli, the historic race's director, trying his best to keep the mood light. "I really wanted to keep the race in Indianapolis, but it just wasn't in the cars ... er, cards. By holding the race in Kentucky, we're saving the race and all of the tradition that goes along with it. Louisville is only a 2-hour drive from Indianapolis."

When asked about replacing the cars with horses, Antonelli became short with a reporter, saying the question was irrelevant. Many have pointed to the extremely low television ratings of the race as the reason behind the changes, but the race's organizers were quick to dismiss this misnomer.

"The race is doing fine, but it won't be called the Indianapolis 500 at Churchhill Downs. Indianapolis or 500 will not be part of the title at all. It will simply be called the Kentucky Derby," said Antonelli. "Fans will not be able to tell the difference because the Indianapolis 500 will be the Kentucky Derby. Is everyone following me? I feel like I'm losing some people here."

Asked if the "auto" race will still be held over Memorial Day weekend, the board, nodding as if thanking the journalist for the reminder, informed the gathered media that it will now be held on the first Saturday in May. This is the day that the Kentucky Derby is currently held. "See," said Antonelli, about the identical dates and start times. "You won't be able to tell the difference."

East Coast Restaurant Owners Breathe Sigh of Relief as Mexico Soccer Plays Between Meals

Boston, MA--Harry McNulty sported a broad smile as he sat at the bar holding a frosted glass of Samuel Adams Summer Ale. The owner of Tullimore's Grill, a neighborhood gastropub only three blocks from the Boston Common, was seated next to Carlos Gutierrez, 21, a cook at the restaurant since coming the United States nearly two years ago.

McNulty was also joined on the unusually high stools by other members of the kitchen staff including Edgar Humberto, Hugo Martin, Justino Hernandez and Jesus Mercedes, all hailing from, like Gutierrez, the Mexican state of Puebla. The men were staring at the high definition flat screen television mounted above the bar with sweating bottles of untouched, lime-capped Coronas standing before them.

"We were freaking out a little," said Marcus O'Leary, a bartender originally from Cork, Ireland. "We didn't know who would be coming in today."

The bartender's--and the owner's--concern was based on what was being shown on the perfectly clear image beaming from the elevated screen. Two soccer powerhouses, Mexico and Argentina, were squaring off in a round of 16 World Cup game at 2:30 PM ET.

"When the schedule came out," said McNulty, standing with one arm around an uncomfortable Gutierrez, "I was pretty relieved that Mexico's game fell between lunch and dinner. Wasn't I Carl? I mean, we draw a pretty good crowd on Sundays. Carl loves soccer."

Just about all of the kitchen staff outright confessed that the game would come first and, had the match been played during a busy meal time, would unfortunately be "sick around a yet to be determined time." McNulty, in appreciation of the staff''s hard work and commitment, treated the workers to an open bar and an all-you-can-eat lunch with front row seats at the bar to watch their beloved El Tri --Mexico's national soccer team.

"I would have come in," laughed Mercedes, as his coworkers razzed him for kissing up to the boss, who was within earshot. "No, I really would have. Mexico always disappoints in the Copa Mundial [World Cup]."

Apparently, many restaurants up and down the east coast imitated McNulty's gesture and invited staff to watch the game on the establishments' televisions or brought in tv's if none were on site.

Other cities, particularly in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, reported virtual shutdowns of the restaurant industry, as the game started at 12:30 PM and 11:30 AM, respectively.

The Denver metro area may have been the hardest hit where it was estimated that over 5,000 restaurant employees called in "sick" just before the opening tap. Phoenix and Los Angeles each estimated the number of absent workers was close to 3,000. Even Chicago, located in the Central time zone, where the game started at 1:30 PM, experienced the effects of the soccer-mad nation to the south.

As the game was winding down, Argentina was well in command holding a 3-1 lead over Mexico. Mercedes, still seated at the lightly crowded Tullimore bar alongside his countrymen, reached over and tapped a slouching Martin on the shoulder. "See, they always disappoint. But hold your head high my friend because it's only four more years until they disappoint again."

At the conclusion of the game, McNulty jumped from his stool, clapped and yelled loudly, indicating "fun time" was over, cleared away the workers unfinished food and drinks and quickly shuffled the sullen workers back into the kitchen. "Thank heaven," said an elated McNulty, now seated at the bar by himself sipping a pint of Guinness. "I don't have to see or talk to those guys, or watch soccer, for four more years."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Inexperienced Honduras attempts shin guard exchange following game

Above: Spain's David Villa, left, is unsure why Honduras' Amado Guevara is offering his sweaty shin guard following a World Cup game in Johannesburg, South Africa. Tradition usually calls for an exchange of jerseys at the conclusion of a match; however, this is only Honduras' second-ever World Cup appearance and first since 1982. "After our first game, many of the players attempted to exchange shoe laces with the Chilean players, who appeared extremely confused," said Guevara, referring to a 1-0 loss on June 16 against the narrow, mountainous South American country. "The Chileans told us that shin guards, and not shoe laces, were normally exchanged after a game. It's a hazing thing I guess. We're the new guys."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Scoreboard operator taken to hospital as Portuagal scores seven goals

Cape Town, South Africa--The soccer match between Portugal and North Korea earlier today turned into a lopsided, record-setting victory for the European team. Portugal prevailed, 7-0, making a strong statement not only to the rest of Group G but to the entire World Cup field.

Forgotten during this impressive display of offense was the only reported injury from the game. An injury that occurred high above the field.

Green Point Stadium's scoreboard controller, Marc Jensen, 28, of Bellville, South Africa was taken to Cape Hospital shortly after Portugal scored its fourth goal. Doctors expect Jensen to make a full recovery mentally, but feel it is highly unlikely that he will ever walk again. His days of working soccer scoreboards may be over.

"This was pretty traumatic for Marc," said Doctor Sven Thompson at a press conference in the hospital's lobby. "That flurry of goals at the start of the 2nd half was unlike anything he had ever seen. He's a warrior, though, so I wouldn't be surprised if he battles back to the booth one day."

Jensen had risen through the competitive ranks of scoreboard operating rather quickly. He became the youngest operator in South Africa at the age of 25 and was named Scoreboard Operator of the Year in 2008 by FIFA.

"This was his first World Cup," said Don Van Honen, Jensen's longtime mentor. "He's just a kid. After Portugal scored their third goal he contacted me by walkie talkie. He said,'Don, I've never seen a team score more than two goals. What do I do? Get up here. Quick!' He was so scared. By the time I made it to the booth he was passed out on the floor. There was urine everywhere."

Jensen's Facebook page displays pictures of him diving with great white sharks off the coast of South Africa, base jumping, skydiving and climbing steep mountain faces. "This was just too much for him," said Steph Jensen, Marc's mother, about seven goals in a soccer game. "Just too damn much."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Soda Tax out, but Soda Tacks ... could be in

Philadelphia, PA--The controversial Soda Tax essentially died a few weeks ago, as City Council passed a budget without including a tax on the sweetened beverages. Many laughed at the idea saying a tax on soda is like "a tax on Sprite or Coke or any other kind of soda."

The beverage tax was aimed not only to raise desperately needed revenue for the city, but also reduce the consumption of sugary drinks that overwhelmingly contribute to the nation's--and the City's-- childhood obesity epidemic.

"Obesity is a major problem in this country," said Dr Jim Bartolo, a nutrition doctor at Pennsylvania Hospital in Center City. "I commend Philadelphia for taking a stand against the soft drink giants. At least [Mayor] Nutter tried."

And, according to sources within City Hall, the Mayor is about to try again, this time with the Soda Tacks Bill. The Bill, which could possibly be introduced as early as Monday, appears to have strong support within City Council.

Under the Soda Tacks, sharp, metal thumb tacks would be systematically placed on top of, on the sides of and occasionally inside cans and bottles of soda that are bottled, packaged and sold in Philadelphia County. If the Soda Tacks passes, bottling companies would be required, by law, to participate in the placement of tacks, that will feature the City's seal, on all sodas.

"Obviously, we're going to lose a few people along the way," said Councilwoman Debra Sizemore about the placement of loose tacks inside cans and bottles. "It's unfortunate but very necessary if we really want to curb our City's consumption of soft drinks."

"Our hope is that residents of Philadelphia will be so frightened to drink soda that their consumption of the beverage will plummet," said Tom Billinger, president of No Duh, Soda, a group that encourages children to drink more ice tea and Gatorade. "Imagine for a minute an unsuspecting young child attempting to grab a can of soda and instead suffering multiple shallow cuts to the hand. That could be their last soda. This is a brilliant Bill ... just brilliant."

Some viewed the Soda Tacks in a different light. "This is going to create so many jobs for the city," said one state representative who wanted to remain anonymous. "It will require lots of manpower to fasten all of these tacks to the sides of cans. This is exciting."

Soft drink companies have been surprisingly receptive to the Soda Tacks. Though vehemently against the Soda Tax, the companies believe their customers are so addicted to their product that no matter how sharp the metal tacks on a can, they will keep coming back for more. They were much less certain about the relationship between loyalty and a price increase on the product.

"We think this may actually increase soda consumption," said one soft drink bottling representative. "Drinking soda will be considered dangerous and hip. 'Did you see Steve? He was drinking soda today. We have to be like Steve. Let's go get several cases of soda.'"

Either way, Philadelphia will quickly find out how the Soda Tacks, if passed, affects consumption of one of the planet's most popular drinks.

Monday, June 14, 2010

ABC, ESPN still hoping Michael Phelps is added to U.S. Men's Soccer Team

New York, NY--ABC and ESPN, the two television networks broadcasting the World Cup in the United States, firmly believe that the highly decorated Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps can play defense or midfield for the U.S. men's soccer team. "Have you seen this guy swim?" asked one ABC executive to a group of reporters at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. "We think he can take that swimming skill and add a ball and maybe take away some of the water and put some spikes on and some shin guard things and be a great soccer-ball-kicker-player guy." Phelps says he would play if added to the roster, but would like to wear his popular swimming goggles. Both networks would also prefer the swimmer wear his signature Speedo both on the field and on the bench during the month-long tournament being held in South Africa.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

D-Day vet: 'Chunnel would have really come in handy.'

Dover, United Kingdom--Last week, the 66th anniversary of the largest amphibious invasion in history was remembered. Had a certain underwater tunnel existed at the time, ships and other watercraft could have been left in port.

On May 6, 1994 the Channel Tunnel, or Chunnel, opened under the English Channel, finally connecting Great Britain to the European continent. The opening was one month short of fifty years after the June 6, 1944 D-Day invasion of France by the Allied forces during World War II.

The concept for a tunnel beneath the English Channel has roots dating back to the time of Napolean Bonaparte, who, it is widely believed, was a staunch supporter of the idea.

"It's no secret that many lives would have been saved had the Chunnel been around in 1944," said WWII veteran Sargent Tom Peters of the 103rd Airborne Division. "The Chunnel would have made D-Day a pleasure. We literally could have walked to France."

Walking the nearly 32-mile tunnel would have taken a lot out of the Allied troops. It is more probable that the nearly 160,000 soldiers involved in the operation that day would have used trains and troop transport vehicles. Although, concerns over echoing machinery noise, possibly alerting the enemy, may have required the latter portion of the trip to be made on foot.

Some experts feel that the Germans would have been closely watching the Chunnel, had it existed, which would have made its use nearly impossible by the Allies. Others were not so sure. "The Germans would have had maybe one ore two soldiers watching the Channel Tunnel," said Dr Hal Fitzsimmons, an Oxford University military history professor. "Using the Chunnel would have been too obvious. The Germans would have amassed troops elsewhere."

There is little doubt, however, that the estimated 10,000 casualties over the course of the invasion would have been drastically reduced had the water landings been substituted by a Chunnel landing.

"Damn! It took us hours and hours to cross the choppy Channel that day 66 years ago," recalled Don Gilbert, 88, an American soldier who landed on Utah Beach in Normandy. "Traveling from London to Calais, France while on a trip last year took me 54 minutes on the Eurostar train and the only bombs that were dropping were coming from the guy eating the fish and chips in front of me."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lack of Uno restaurants forces visiting Blackhawks fans to reluctantly gather in Center City T.G.I. Fridays

Philadelphia, PA--Blackhawks fans visiting Philadelphia and Chicag0land transplants living in the Place that Loves You Back, were extremely upset even before Claude Giroux tipped an overtime goal past Antti Niemi for the Flyers' first win of the series.

Upset because of bad referee calls? No. Upset because of unruly Flyers fans? No. Upset that they put some sort of bratwurst topping on a cheesesteak? Yes, probably, but that's not it. What then? No Uno. No what-o?

Many Chicago fans in town for the Stanley Cup Finals, most making the journey without tickets, admitted to just assuming there was an Uno Chicago Grill in downtown Philadelphia where they could link up with other 'Hawks fans headed east. There is one Uno franchise location within the city's limits, however, it is in the Northeast section of the city, some 15 miles from City Hall.

Three friends, all visiting from Aurora, IL, reluctantly gathered last night in the nearly empty, circa 1985 T.G.I. Friday's along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the crucial playoff game. Tom Higgins, 45, the trip organizer, wanted to be close to his beloved hockey team and follow the Western Conference champions on the road. Clad in red Blackhawk's jerseys, the three men stared straight ahead nursing half-empty beers, not really watching the game and not speaking to one another since learning that their favorite deep dish pizza chain is absent from the heart of Philadelphia.

"Yeah, we ordered the Tuscan Spinach Dip," answered Higgins in a sarcastic tone when asked if the untouched appetizer sitting in front of the University of Wisconsin graduates belonged to the group. "It's a freakin' sweet app. I'm kind of out of it right now, forgive me, but I think we have an order of Sesame Jack Chicken Strips coming as well. Yippee."

The dearth of the pizza chain restaurants in this city was absolutely shocking to some Windy City fans.

"Philly is a great city," said Debra Smith, 34, of Skokie, IL, standing with her husband Gary in front of Independence Hall. "We've seen all the historic sites these last two days and the food here is unbelievable. But, then we asked our hotel's concierge where the local Uno Chicago Grill is--you know, to connect with other Chicago fans--and he said there isn't one close by. I began to have a panic attack because the game was only 20 minutes from starting. In Chicago, there's an Uno restaurant within a 15 minute walk from any point in the city."

Midwestern Fans known for their passion and general good manners, but not so much for an in-your-face attitude, vented obvious frustration. "This is a bunch of rotten bratwursts," shouted Dan Henski at nobody in particular, a Blackhawk fan from Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood. "Every city in the world has an Uno Chicago Grill downtown, except for maybe Nashville. This ain't no real city. I'm so upset that I could just reverse the flow of the Chicago River when I get back home. I swear I'll do it."

One group of 'Hawks fans, staying at several different hotels and who crossed paths at the famous Mutter Museum earlier in the day, pitched in for a 9-mile cab ride to Deptford, NJ, the closest Uno location to Center City. Another group staying at the Old City Marriott opted to rent a van and make their way to Conshohocken, a 13-mile trip west on the Schuylkill Expressway.

"Going to the Garden State wasn't in the plans, but we love our 'Hawks. Plus, my doctor says I'm not really suppose to go more than 48 hours without having deep dish pizza. No, really, I'm serious. It's been eight years since I've gone more than two days without my deep dish," said Dan O'Reilly, 47, of Evanston, IL.

So, local Uno locations in Conshohocken, Deptford, Newtown Square, Maple Shade and the Northeast, prepare yourselves for an invasion of Chicago-accented hockey enthusiasts supporting their team while visiting the Suburbs of Brotherly Love deep dish.