Friday, May 27, 2011

Missing out on the Macho Man

(This post originally appeared on Bus Leagues

Nearly a year to the day before he died, I discussed with Bus Leagues Baseball the idea that I should interview Randy Poffo about his brief minor league career.

Poffo, better known as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, played ever so briefly for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals, the Gulf Coast League Red Birds, the Orangeburg Cardinals, and the Tampa Tarpons. As other people have mentioned, he didn’t play long and after an injury, he changed his name to "Randy Savage" and decided to try the pro wrestling route.

(Here is an absolute must-read article by Jeff Pearlman on Randy Poffo's love for baseball and his minor league career.)

After agreeing that an interview with Randy Poffo would be a great story, I surfed the web for any contact info for the Macho Man. A visit to a few web sites informed me that he had recently tied the knot, but I failed to find an email or any representative contact information. So I shelved the idea and wrote the name "Macho Man" Randy Savage on my potential interview list.

The problem with putting ideas on the back burner is sometimes they burn away.

Having grown up when pro wrestling was blowing up in a national sense, I was always a big Macho Man fan, as were millions and millions of kids my age. His stories and situations were always among the best and you knew no matter who he fought, he was going to put on a hell of a match. I got into wrestling as he was feuding with George “The Animal” Steele and followed him throughout his WWF/WWE career.

Although he wrestled in various other promotions throughout the late 90s and into the 2000s, I never saw another Macho Man match after he left the WWF. I know better now, but in those days I used to think anything outside of WWF/WWE was an inferior product, with less capable wrestlers. I thought WWF/WWE was “the big leagues” and would never consider “the minors” as equal entertainment.

Funny how things change.

Those who know me well know my interest in lower level baseball is almost matched by my interest in lower level professional wrestling. For that I have to thank my brother, professional wrestler Bryan Maddox. For over six years, he has wrestled throughout the State of Florida, working in the ring or behind the scenes with such legendary names as Haku, Afa the Wild Samoan, Jimmy Hart, and Scott Hall (aka Razor Ramon). Ironically, he was also once on the same card as Randy Poffo’s brother, “The Genius” Lanny Poffo. My brother’s wrestling career has taught me that like the bus leagues, it takes years of dedication, hard work, and several lucky breaks to make it in professional wrestling.

There were several times I talked to my brother about my idea to interview the Macho Man. Every time I mentioned it, he concurred that it would make a great story and that I was the right person to do it. Unfortunately, I never attempted to use his contacts to track down the Macho Man.

In January of this year, as we planned the Bus Leagues agenda, I reiterated to Brian and Eric how this would be the year I would interview Randy Savage. “My goal this year is to interview Macho Man Randy Savage on his minor league career. I don't care who I have to elbow drop,” I wrote in an email to them.

“I'll say now what I said when you first mentioned it: that would be completely awesome,” Brian wrote back.

“That would need to be on the site. We could not hold that for a book. Everyone would link to an interview with Randy Poffo. We would win the internet for the day,” I replied.

Two weeks ago, and only 10 days before he died, I again wrote to Eric and Brian that I was going to pursue the Macho Man interview. I now work in Sarasota and it would be convenient for me to drive from work one evening and talk to the legendary former grappler. All I had to do was find the right contact and line it up.

Once again, however, my effort to find a contact was minimal. I did another cursory glance at a few web sites, but didn’t consult the Rolodex or push the issue at all.

Sadly, the world mourned the passing of “Macho Man” Randy Savage on May 20th. Sports Illustrated published pictures of Savage in his minor league uniform, ESPN interviewed Larry Herndon of the Lakeland Flying Tigers on his time playing alongside Savage, and even discussed Savage’s minor league exploits.

After learning of the car accident that took his life, I logged on to twitter to express my sadness with millions of other people, from casual fans to full-blown “Macho Maniacs”. Among my tweets about Savage was a casual mention that he was one of my “dream interview subjects”.

Shortly after that tweet, I received a reply from a local Tampa Bay Bucs blogger. He told me that he not only lived by the Macho Man, but even had his cell phone number. He told me that although Savage was quiet in regards to wrestling, he loved talking baseball. He even mentioned that Macho Man talked often about his time playing with Andy Van Slyke, Keith Hernandez, and Vince Coleman.

I was crushed.

I missed out on a golden opportunity. All I had to do was ask every journalistic contact I had, “Looking to interview Macho Man about baseball, anyone have a contact?” and I am sure the Bucs blogger would have come through. Or he would have at least tried to make it happen.

But I never contacted anyone. I never made an effort outside of talking about it.

(As I write this I can imagine the Macho Man saying, “Talk is cheap, yeah. Actions speak louder than words. And words written are words read. Dig it?”)

Needless to say, I learned a very valuable lesson. Never put a great idea on the back burner. I thought I had all the time in the world, but as a friend of mine likes to say, “Time is the most precious commodity”.

You never know when it will run out.

Tonight I found my potential interview list and sadly struck a line through the name “Macho Man” Randy Savage.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Funky Take on Star Wars

Via olde tyme e-migo Jay Busbee comes this gem of a video. I think this might be the coolest thing I have ever seen. Feast your eyes on "Blackstar Warrior".

Preaching the End of the World ... Again

Thanks to highly quotable blogger extraordinaire Clark Brooks, I just learned the end of the world is tomorrow. Which sucks, because I had a lot of stuff to do this weekend. But then again, if we are all going evaporate into thin air in the next 24 hours, I guess it doesn't matter if I have milk in the refrigerator or not. But it also means I definitely need to rush getting a haircut, especially if I am going in front of St. Peter.

If you think about it, that's the ultimate job interview. Sure, they are looking at your credentials and all, but appearance counts. Especially if you didn't die doing something heroic like saving a herd of kids from a burning schoolhouse. Then you have an excuse. But if you die normally, then you better look sharp: teeth brushed, face shaven, and get a haircut. Everyone knows Jesus was the last hippie to go to heaven.

But anyway, a few years ago (seven to be exact), I wrote a piece for the FSU and Florida Flambeau about prophesies and predictions. So being that I don't have much time left, and that I have more important things to do (like get a haircut), I'm re-posting it here for my final blog post.

Like Ozzy said, see you on the other side.

Preaching the End

Since the dawn of time, humankind has pondered when time will end. Knowing nothing lasts forever, hundreds, if not thousands of philosophers, scientists, religious leaders and everyday laymen have proposed their own ideas on the eventual demise of humanity.

Religion often goes hand-in-hand with apocalyptic forecasts. Just as many beliefs have their own creation story, their teachings usually conclude with a story about humankind’s or even the Earth’s final end. Possibly the most famous of all the end of the world predictions is the Biblical Book of Revelations.

Many organizations travel around the world preaching their interpretation of Revelations to the masses. One such organization, the Sure Word Ministries, recently visited Tallahassee. A flyer describing their 10-night event detailed such sermons as “How Near is Armageddon and the End,” “666 Part 1 and Plagues Upon the Land” and “Revelation’s False Prophet and his Cult Leaders.”

Surprisingly, one of the first “doomsday prophesies” predated the writing of the Bible. According to The Interactive Bible’s online library of date setters of the end of the world, the ancient Thessalonians had heard Christ had returned in 53 A.D. and that “the day of the Lord was near.”

The online library also lists other organizations that have attempted to warn the world of its impending conclusion. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have issued predictions the world would end in 1874, 1878, 1881, 1910, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1975 and 1984. Another organization, the Jack Van Impe Ministries, predicted disaster in 2001, bringing in “international chaos such as we’ve never seen in our history.” They further added that there will be “drought, war, malaria, and hunger afflicting entire populations throughout the [African] continent,” Islam would be larger than Christianity and “a one-world church will emerge, controlled by demonic hosts.”

Sometimes interpretations of the Bible have directly led to conflict. The online library discusses a 16th Century German peasant named Muntzer who, along with a group of followers, thought attacking the German government would cause God to return. Muntzer believed “the Lord promised that He would catch the cannon balls of the enemy on the sleeves of His cloak.” As could be predicted, Muntzer’s rebellion was suppressed when they were “mowed down by cannon fire.”

Even modern conflict has coincided with apocalyptic predictions. In 1991, Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan called the Gulf War “the War of Armageddon… the final War.”

Visitors from outer space have been cited as the future cause for the end of humankind as well. According to a Web site appropriately named “It’s the end of the world as we know it…again” (, The Sacerdotal Knights of National Security announced in November 1997 that an alien had been captured. This alien cracked under CIA interrogation and “revealed his species’ nefarious plan to attack with a massive space invasion force, stripping the world of every last of its natural resources and enslaving all humankind.”

Opinions on the types of aliens that are planning to invade vary. California psychic Sheldon Nidle claimed that angels would join the “16 million space ships” arriving on Earth in 1996. In stark contrast, Robert Hallman called the extraterrestrials who were planning to destroy the world in 1998 “Satan’s minions.”

Finally, it must be noted that even the most respected historical figures have tried their hand in doomsday predictions. Sir Isaac Newton, famous for his writings on the Law of Gravity, not only wrote that Christ would return in 1715, but according to recent news reports, he also concluded the apocalypse would occur in 2060. Newton further predicted he would be one of the many saints to rule over the earth after this apocalypse.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My interview from the BJ Upton Bowling Event

A few months ago, I went to the BJ Upton charity bowling event at Splitsville in Tampa. BJ personally invited me allowed fans to attend, so I dressed in my Sunday best, afro and all.

While I was there I was interviewed by local reporter Todd Grasley. I'm at the 2:14 mark.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Terrorist on Ice

Way back in my glory days of grad school, I wrote an essay on the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this essay, I claimed that American culture had a profound impact on how the Russians perceived themselves. The international success of movies such as Rocky 4 and Red Dawn made the Soviet Union look weak, no matter how hard they tried. Although Rocky and the Wolverines popped the Soviets in the jaw, nothing mattered more to the idea that the US could eventually defeat the USSR, I argued, than the 1980 Winter Olympics hockey game - The Miracle on Ice.

America in the late 1970s wasn't doing so hot. There were high gas prices, political turmoil in the Middle East, a president no one took seriously, and the Bee Gees. People were still suffering from the social fatigue of the Vietnam War. Then on February 22nd 1980, 20 college hockey players gave America something to believe in again. If these college kids could beat the vaunted Soviet Hockey Machine, then maybe all of American could stick it to the USSR. The team and the victory gave people hope. They made people proud to be Americans.

I was reminded of my essay and the 1980 Miracle on Ice after reading a recent blog post on the eloquent Pitchers and Poet's blog. Pitchers and Poets compared a late inning baseball victory to the death of Osama Bin Laden and described the concept of sports and national victory.

Even though I see the comparison, I don't think one man's death is anywhere near as big as what happened in Lake Placid. It is a small victory for us and a small defeat for the concept of Islamic radicalism, if it even can be called a defeat.

It is important to remember Bin Laden's place in American culture. He was an evil mad man soaked in a mysterious philosophy. He was a dangerous international unknown and the type of boogeyman parents use to get children to stay in their beds or advertisers use to get people to buy American-made used cars. He was part Freddy Kruger, part David Koresh, part chupacabera, and part Dr. Doom.

Bin Laden brought out the best of American ignorance. He was the leader of a sect in a religion few Americans knew or cared about, despite the fact that their numbers dwarfed the number of people living from sea to shining sea. Their ignorance both drove him and fed their own impressionable fears. It was a villain-generating machine of the best sort.

Similarly, the Cold War-era Soviet Union stood as a mysterious threat to our American Way. Their political and economic philosophy was all that was bad in the world, even if it was fairest way to ensure group prosperity in theory. They used their secret police to round up dissidents, used fear to keep smaller nations in line, and made Archie Bunker's life a living hell.

This past Sunday night I watched thousands upon thousands of Americans take to the streets and revel in the death of Osama Bin Laden. There is no doubt the Bin Laden killing will have political effects for American policy going forward. It is a definitive strike in the public eye in War on Terror. For the terrorists, although terrorists are replaceable, international icons aren't.

Another factor to consider is Bin Laden's role. He wasn't the chief of operations for Al Qaeda, even if you believe in "One Mighty Al Qaeda to Rule Them All". He was a figurehead, the Bobby Bowden of Radical Muslim International Terrorism. Removing him may even provide room for growth for a more ambitious Muslim leader.

What bothers me however is that whereas in 1980 we celebrated a sports victory, in 2011 we are cheering death. We didn't score a five-hole goal or hit a game-winning home run against the Al Qaeda National Team. We killed a man. In that we are no better than those who cheered when the Twin Towers fell.

Ask yourself, if former President George W Bush died in any manner and you saw Iraqis cheering, would you be upset? What if it was those who lived a prosperous life under Saddam prior to the US invasion? Not that some might have benefited from the removal of Hussein, but surely those whose lives are worse or who lost loved ones as collateral damage might loathe our former leader. Bush gave the orders that killed thousands of Iraqis and caused billions in damages. Shouldn't some Iraqis hold the same hostility towards him that we collectively held towards Bin Laden?

The idea of cheering for death creeps me out. It's like Ancient Rome and Navy Seal Team 6 is our border-crossing lions. Perhaps however that is only my liberal education talking. Maybe I need to fall back on my natural American psyche.  According to anthropologists, America may be more barbaric than our European predecessors. We are forged both from the wilderness of Lewis and Clark and the gutter instincts of a New York sewer rat.

Because we hadn't faced an immediate threat to our borders since the days of Pancho Villa, we christened Bin Laden as our number one threat. Now he can't take away our life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness, nor will he ever dress Lady Liberty in a hajib. But realists (not realist theory supporters, but real world realists) would argue that there was no way Bin Laden actually could anyway.

There are and will continue to be columns and posts and essays and articles written about what the Death of Bin Laden means. Like Weird Al and his plate of mashed potatoes in UHF, we all know "this means something". Whether or not the symbolism is closer to the 1980 Olympic hockey victory or a baseball team winning the last game of the season to avoid a 100-loss campaign has yet to be seen.