Newer head shot

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The nasty side of our business

It's no secret that the newspaper industry is struggling everywhere, top to bottom, all across the board.

Every day, there's another story of layoffs at some paper. Long-time dedicated veterans being shown the door unceremoniously. Sure, it's happening in every working class field, but for some reason, when I hear news of good newspaper people losing their jobs, it really hits home.

It hit home last February when three of my colleagues at the Morristown Daily Record, namely Frank DiLeo, Sandy Seegers and Mark Kitchin, were handed their walking papers. All three were great sports journalists, all credits to their craft.

Now, I just heard news that Dorf Feature Services, which provides coverage for the Newark Star-Ledger, laid off three local sportswriting legends this week, namely Ed Barmakian, Mike Moretti and John Ruyzam.

I had the fortune to work with all three great guys and great sportswriters for 14 years. I consider all three to be friends.

Combined, the three titans have almost 90 years of sportswriting experience with the Ledger. That's right. Almost a full century combined of serving the readers of New Jersey.

Barmakian, the bearded wonder, was in my opinion the best baseball sportswriter in the New York metropolitan area during the Yankees' playoff runs in 1995 and 1996. He got every story, wrote every word to precise distinction and blew the opposition away.

Not only was Eddie a fine baseball writer, but he was the heartbeat of New Jersey collegiate athletics on all levels since he began when he was just a toddler. Every single New Jersey college coach, administrator and SID bowed to Barmakian, because he covered all the sports, not just the Division I level. Eddie covered the Division IIIs with accuracy and grace. He gave the NAIA and JUCOs a fair shake. He wrote great features on college athletes like no one did before or ever will, because the Ledger has practically eliminated all coverage of college sports, except for Rutgers and Seton Hall basketball.

Now, his 35-year career is over with one stroke.

Moretti, perhaps the most lovable sportswriter in the state, covered everything during his career, from the pro sports when he worked for the Passaic Herald-News to every single sport imaginable at Dorf, like volleyball, bowling, track and field, girls' lacrosse, you name it. He was the utility man of the sportswriting set, the jack-of-all-trades. His versatility was second to none.

Now, his three-decade career has been halted with a few words.

Ruyzam was Mr. Passaic County. There wasn't a thing about the county that he didn't know, from seeing Ironhead Heyward in his heyday to watching Tim Thomas sign his national letter of intent in his pajamas. Thomas' pajamas, not Johnny Roo's.

Johnny Roo might have been old school, not wanting to get involved with the new-fangled technology of today, but he certainly did his job and did it well.

All three men were extremely dedicated to their profession, to their employer and to the athletes they covered. They were absolute credits to the profession and I was proud to get the chance to know them as friends and work with them as colleagues.

It's a sad day for New Jersey sports, especially high school athletics, when we lose three extremely talented and dedicated guys on the same day. Sure, they're not deceased. They all will bounce back and land on their feet.

But what does this say about loyalty to one's job? To one's employer?

Does it all end just like that for sportswriters? Could I be next? Never know. Nothing is certain in life, as they say, except death and taxes.

One thing is for sure: Both Dorf Feature Services and the Star-Ledger are far worse off today because these three sportswriting legends are gone with the swoop of a pen.

Shame on the powers-that-be that made the decision to get rid of them. Incredibly, the highest paid editors always survive in matters like this. The poor schlub hacks are the ones who have to always pay the price.

Here's to the Armenian, the ''unbeeeeeleeeevable'' one and Paterson's Johnny Roo. They're good guys and deserved a better fate.

Hopefully, they'll be better off with their escape from Mountainside _ like yours truly was when he walked out the door for good four years ago.


I also decided to part ways today with the Newark Bears. I gave it a little over a month and decided that it was not worth the headaches I had every single night.

I really want baseball to succeed in Newark. I like the coaching staff of Tim Raines, Jim Leyritz and Ron Karkovice a lot and GM Mike Torrez was a joy to be around.

But the powers-that-be there can't see the forest through the trees and don't understand that they're running a baseball team first and foremost, not a circus. I'll survive, like I always do.

Work on the ''Faa Stories" book will commence tomorrow morning. I'll have a lot more fun compiling that than worrying about box scores and game roundups.

Look for the "Faa Stories" book tour later this summer.

There's not a Met fan alive who could have predicted the team being over .500 as July approaches. Have to give Terry Collins credit. He's been the main reason why this team is competitive.

Now, can we please sign Reyes? PLEASE????

You can read more of my work at, and


Saturday, June 25, 2011

The lame excuse of getting ''hacked''

When I was a kid, there were countless lame excuses for not getting your homework done in time.

''My grandmother died."

''The dog peed on it."

''The dog peed on my dead grandmother.''

"I left my book in school with my dead peeing dog and my dead grandmother."

You get the drift. When anyone ever used one of these lame excuses, you'd roll your eyes and say, ``There's no way anyone can get away with that!''

Well, there's a new excuse in the world that has taken the place for the dog peeing on your homework and Grandma buying the farm.

It's called ''getting hacked."

Sure thing, nowadays, you can put something on Facebook and Twitter and take it back, simply by saying your account was hacked.

Everyone gets their accounts hacked, don't they? It's like the evil gremlins come up from the basement, take over your social media accounts, then put very bad things up when you're not watching. Those evil gremlin hackers. The nerve of them.

That has to be the reason why former Congressman Anthony Weiner had so many pictures of his body and his package on Twitter and Facebook, right? The gremlins came up and put those pics of his package on the Internet.

Well, that's what Weiner first said when the pics appeared. "Someone hacked my account." Yeah, that was believeable. Weiner was in fact indignant and downright confrontational when the story broke, insisting that someone else had to take those pictures and send them to other women. Must have been the evil bad gremlins.

Well, there are two other high-profile football players, both of whom played their high school football in my home area of Hudson County, who offered the same lame excuse.

Will Hill, the former St. Peter's Prep superstar football player, the best gridder to ever play football in Hudson County, had posts on his Twitter page that featured a shirtless Hill with two caucasian women about waist high, bragging that he received oral sex while driving, had sex at the crack of dawn with some woman who appeared at his door, and enjoyed marijuana blunts all the time.

This bastion of glory now also has three children with two different women and he's just 21 years old. He's going after Antonio Cromartie's making baby record.

When the account of Hill's tweets appeared online in a webpage devoted just to him, entitled "The Everyday Life of Will Hill," Hill denied that he wrote the posts, claiming his account was hacked. Yeah, right. That's dog pee to me.

Now, we get the saga of Bayonne native Kenny Britt, who posted last week on Facebook ''F-CK GODDELL," toward NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (guess Britt missed those Hooked on Phonics classes at Rutgers) and that he was ready to retire if the NFL suspended him for his recent and numerous infractions with the law.

When you get arrested one time, it might be a mistake. But Britt's been arrested seven times in the last 18 months. That's a trend.

Anyway, a day after the posts appeared on Britt's Facebook page, he denied writing them, claiming his account was hacked.

Imagine that. Another bad deed by the evil hacking gremlins.

I find it comical that Britt was threatening retirement, because the law and the NFL just might retire Britt on their own and take away his Tennessee Titan jersey for an orange jump suit. What team is going to want to take a chance on him now?

So remember, the next time you go to the grocery store and forget the eggs that your wife wanted you to buy or you show up late for some event, I have the excuse.

"My account was hacked." Hey, it's the excuse that Weiner, Hill and Britt used. It might just work for you as well.

The dog peeing has become a thing of the past.

I'm personally glad that gays and lesbians can now marry in New York. It never made sense to me that if two people want to get married, they should have the right, regardless if they are from the same gender.

Two groups that have to be happy with this new law? Catering halls and lawyers. Because there will be more weddings to hold and there will, of course, be more divorces to settle.

Everyone's ecstatic. But honestly, it's a law that makes total sense.


Glad to see former Mets manager Davey Johnson back in baseball with the Washington Nationals. I was one who thought that Davey should have never been fired the first time by the Mets, that he was a solid manager who knew how to use his lineup to the fullest.

In fact, we've had a parade of clowns as managers since, starting with the buffoon who replaced Davey, the immortal Bud Harrelson, who as a manager was one hell of a shortstop. And after that, we had Jeff Torborg, Dallas Green, Art Howe, Willie Randolph and Jerry Manuel. WOW, what a bunch of clods that is. Bobby Valentine held his own as a manager, so he is excluded from the group of hooples.

However, I like the job Terry Collins has done with this rag-tag team and to think he still has them hovering near .500 as July approaches with no offense to speak of. However, it will be great to see Davey come back to Citifield later this year.

I'm sick and tired of hearing ridiculous stories of New Jersey AAU baseball coaches and programs charging kids thousands of dollars to play baseball. That's right, thousands.

Where do these so-called ''baseball experts'' get off charging those ridiculous fees? There have been travel baseball teams for decades and they operated on fundraising, not collecting fees.

It's absurd to think these people are making bundles at the expense of kids.

There's one program in Bergen County that currently charges $4,000 per kid to play baseball. And the AAU program guarantees things like college placement and pro scouting. PRO SCOUTING??? FOR 13 YEAR OLDS?

For four grand, my kid would have had to receive something with four wheels and an engine.

That's nothing short of highway robbery. There are some highly recognizable names involved with this deception and thievery, former pro scouts, even former Major League players.

It's a disgrace. It shouldn't happen, especially when dealing with baseball. It shouldn't be a money-making process. It should be kids playing the national pastime.

You can read more of my work at, and www.daily

Friday, June 17, 2011

Another tough personal loss

It's been a while since I had the time and the wherewithal (God, I love that term, a complete 25-cent word) to sit down and write another blog, but I was inspired today since I'm able to sit in front of the PC instead of the laptop.

Anyway, I received word that my mother's best and dearest friend, Alice Stark, passed away yesterday. She was 92, so she lived a long life and really a healthy life, until her passing.

Mrs. Stark was a wonderful, sweet, kind and loving woman who spent countless hours with my mother for the last 25 years of my mother's life. With Alice's twin sister, Ann, right along side, the three ladies were known around St. Paul's of Greenville as "The Golden Girls," much like the TV show. Some people even thought that all three were sisters, even though they weren't. It was evident that Alice and Ann were, because they were identical twins.

But you could not go anywhere in the neighborhood without seeing my mother and Alice Stark together. They were inseparable. They were two widows, two mothers, two close friends who would do anything for each other.

We should all have friends the way Helaine Hague and Alice Stark were. I loved the way that Alice was able to deal with my mother and handle her like no one else could, especially me. Alice was the calming influence my mother desperately needed.

The two would travel all over together, with Alice taking her life into her hands getting into the car with my mother behind the wheel. My mother never drove until my father passed away. How she got a driver's license is a complete miracle. She failed the driver's test three times before she got the license, I think out of pity. She was clearly the worst driver that ever lived.

But it didn't stop Alice from getting in the car with Helaine and then dragging Ann along. They went to the movies together, went shopping, went to eat out. One of their favorite things to do was to go to either Roy Rogers and spend hours there or to a Jersey City diner called Grandma's (now the IHOP).

They were very active together with the St. Paul's Senior Citizens, the Columbianettes, the Teresians, you name it. They really went everywhere together.

I have some funny memories, stories of the relationship between the two.

One happened about 15 years ago or so. I was receiving an award at the late Pete DiNardo's
annual picnic at Liberty State Park. I was there with my friend Margie Wizowaty Smisaski, who unfortunately was killed in a horrific fire last year.

Being as thoughtful as Margie was, she saw all the senior citizens that were there and thought it would be nice if my mother was there. It was a good idea. I left Margie at the picnic to go get my mother. When I got home, my mother asked if Alice could come as well. So I called Mrs. Stark and asked if she wanted to go. Sure enough, she said yes.

My mother always wanted to dress to the nines wherever she went. That was her thing. But she took about 45 minutes to get ready. Mrs. Stark didn't want to wait for me to come pick her up, so she walked around the corner to my house. She sat in the living room, waiting for my mother, until she had enough. "Will you hurry up already, Helaine?"

Finally, we got back to the picnic and I missed getting the award. Margie was livid that I was away so long and missed the award. She then stormed off (as Margie would sometimes do) and I was left there with the two ladies.

It got worse. An elderly man was excited to meet me, said that he read my articles all the time in the Dispatch and the Hudson Reporter. He got so excited that he literally dropped dead while shaking my hand. I tried to do CPR on the man (at that time, I was certified), but to no avail. He was gone. His name escapes me, but he was a little Italian fellow from the Marion section. Aren't they all?

Anyway, with all this chaos and the heat, I asked the ladies if they wanted a drink. At the time, I still lived at home and was not allowed to drink in front of my mother. Sure, I did plenty away from my mother, but never in front of her. Just one of her things.

Well, Mrs. Stark said, ``I'm a little thirsty and it's hot. I can go for a nice cold beer."

No better words were ever said. "Mrs. Stark, you got it." And I was able to have several beers with her, right under my mother's nose. It definitely took the edge off.

My mother was also very conscientious and coy about her age. She never told the truth about her age. It must have been a trait through all of her sisters. Hell, her middle sister Jean shaved off six years of her life in death. On her tombstone, it says 1923-1990, but Chucha Jean was born in 1917.

Anyway, my mother was so worried about letting people know her age and there was one person in particular she never wanted to let know _ namely Alice Stark.

"Don't you dare tell Alice how old I am," she said. "I know I'm older, but I want her to think I'm younger."

I mean, my mother lying about her age was a constant. When I was five, my brother, who was 21 years older than me, came to visit. I was playing with my friends in front of my house, saw him, ran and jumped in his arms and gave him a hug and a kiss, yelling, "Jackie".

One of my friends asked, "Hey, who's that big guy?"

"That's my brother," I said.

"He can't be your brother," my friend said. "He's too old. How old is he?"

I didn't know. "Well, go ask him."

So I ran inside the house and said, ``Jackie, how old are you?" He said, "Twenty-six." So I went back and told my friends I had a 26-year-old brother.

"He's 26? Well, then, how old is your mother?"

I didn't know. "Well, go ask her."

I ran back inside and said, "Mommy, how old are you?" She said, "I'm 29."

I went back and told my friends my mother was 29. What did I know?

"You can't have a brother who is 26 and a mother who is 29," the obviously older and wiser friend said.

For many years, my mother was like Jack Benny. She was 39 every year.

When I turned 39, my mother was in the hospital and still a little confused and disheveled after a bout with septsis. But she finally recognized me that day and I told her it was my birthday.

She said, "Really? How old are you?" I said, "I'm 39, Mom." She said, "Well, you finally caught up to me."

When my mother got sick and moved out of her home and eventually into a nursing home, I would drive the twins to visit my mother. In 2002, I almost bought a pick-up truck, until I realized that the truck had no seats for the twins for our journey out to Phillipsburg, so I bought a Durango instead. I loved the Durango dearly, my favorite vehicle ever. I owe it to the twins for getting it.

One time, I went with just Mrs. Stark to visit my mom. Mrs. Doyle (Ann) wasn't feeling well that day, so it was just me and Alice. And Mom was really out of it that day, not recognizing anyone. It really upset Alice tremendously and on the way home, she said, ``James, I don't think I can come here anymore." I said, "I understand, Mrs. Stark."

No one wanted to see my Mom that way. It was heartbreaking every time I left that nursing home. I can't imagine how Alice Stark felt watching the demise of her best friend.

Well, my mother never told her best friend her age. Never once. It remained that way until Mom passed away in September of 2006.

A few years ago, I called Alice and Ann on their birthday to wish them a Happy Birthday. At that time, Alice Stark fessed up.

"James, you know Ann and I turned 90 today," she said. After all those years, I learned that Alice Stark was indeed older than Helcha. If only Mom really knew.

I owe such a tremendous debt of gratitude to Alice Stark for being there for my mom. The two were a joy to see interact. I always said that I wished I had a videocam back then, because that would have been reality TV at its finest. They were absolutely hysterical together.

Rest in peace, Mrs. Stark. Thanks for everything over the last 40 or so years. Thanks for the laughs, the love, and the adoration you had for Mom. She wasn't an easy person to love, but you loved her so.

Now, take her to the movies today and please let some angel drive. I hope there are no cars in heaven.

You can read more of my sports stuff at, and