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Monday, June 23, 2014

Dick Cheney should be ashamed of himself

This blog is a week in coming, but it is definitely necessary, especially with the tension going on currently in Iraq.

OK, so I'm starting off with a non-sports point, but I've been really angry since our former beloved vice-president Dick Cheney, a man with a very appropriate first name, appeared on national television last week, donning a cowboy hat and a vest, trying his best to look like a cross between Ben Cartwright and the man who shot Liberty Vallance, instead of the clod who once shot his hunting partner in the face.

This fool actually went on CNN and Fox News to say that the current administration, especially President Obama, was at fault as to what's going on now currently in Iraq, that it was the current administration's mishandling of Iraqi policies that led to the country's major cities falling to the radical military.

Now, I'm not a flag waving supporter of our current President. In fact, after the way he handled the trade of five Al-Queda leaders for one U.S. soldier who appeared to be a deserter, I'm done defending what Obama does. I voted for him twice, but his sole claim to fame right now is taking down Osama bin Laden and implementing a health care policy that doesn't fit the needs of all Americans. Other than that, it's been six years of wasted time.

But is this current administration to blame for what is going on in Iraq?

I think it's safe to say that there wouldn't be any situations in Iraq whatsoever if it wasn't for that money-hungry war monger, who still had his hands deep in a cookie jar called Halliburton, the company that had a $2.5 billion contract with the U.S. Army to build military bases and to also find oil refinery fields in Iraq.

Bingo. The appropriately named Dick Cheney was set to make a boat load of cash on a war in Iraq, so he contrived an idea that Saddam Hussein and the radical Muslims in Iraq had the magically named "weapons of mass destruction," when in fact, Hussein, a despicable man in his own right, didn't even have camels of mass destruction.

There's no question that Hussein was doing horrendous things to the people of Iraq and should have been stopped. But a full-fledged war? One that cost us the lives of more than 4,000 young men and women and billions of dollars?

I mean, they spent $500 million to give the Iraqi people a functional postal service. Who's kidding whom? If they wanted to send a letter to one another, strap a slice of loose leaf on a camel's back and point the camel across the desert.

So the United States got involved in a war it shouldn't have even considered, because Iraq was never ever a serious threat to our safety here. The GWB administration even tried to justify the war, saying that the Iraqi people sheltered the Al-Queda terrorists and therefore, Iraq had its hand on the attacks on the World Trade Center.

And whose idea was it to get involved in the war in Iraq? The same dick who went on the news shows last week, dressed like a complete clown, trying to be a cowboy and instead came across as being a jackass.

This is a man who should just shut the hell up and go away. Other than Al Gore and his idiocy with cable networks and global warming, what other vice-president was even heard from after the term was up? Did anyone ever hear a peep from Walter Mondale after Jimmy Carter was done? How about Spiro Agnew or Nelson Rockefeller? Scrap that idea. One went to prison and the other died having sex with a much younger woman, covered in whipped cream.

But why should we care what this Dick has to say? Why does he have to come across trying to look like John Wayne and blame the current administration for a mess that he helped to cause a decade ago? Look in the mirror, Dick. You are the one to blame.

The war started, your administration started the policies that were supposed to liberate the Iraqi people (whoever those people were, because there were three separate factions) and now the cities are falling and it's Obama's fault.

That's like blaming ice machines for the sinking of the Titanic or Lee Harvey Oswald for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.

Our beloved former vice-president, who just had yet another heart procedure done on the dime of the American public, has one gigantic set of cojones to go on national TV and place blame on the current administration when in fact, he should look in the damn mirror and put blame there. And for God's sake, take off the cowboy get-up. Leave that for Roy Rogers or Woody from "Toy Story."


Carmelo Anthony opted out of his contract with the Knicks to become a free agent. A lot of local fans are up in arms. But can you blame him? Is there anything promising about the Knicks these days, other than bringing in Phil Jackson to run the show? There isn't much talent remaining. Anthony can go elsewhere, albeit for less money. But when you get to numbers like $75 million or $60 million, who cares? Does anyone need more than that?

St. Anthony High School and the Archdiocese of Newark announced Monday that legendary basketball coach Bob Hurley has been named as the school's new president.

From my standpoint, this looks like a move of complete desperation. The Archdiocese no longer wants to be in the business of education and would like to close all of its schools, like it did with Immaculate Conception of Montclair this week.

So this way, the school and the Archdiocese approach the coach, tell him that they need him to take over running the school and raising even more money to keep the school open. And if it fails, then they can throw Hurley under the bus by saying, "See, even Bob Hurley couldn't save St. Anthony."

There's no question that the real estate value of the school's current location in downtown Jersey City is in the millions, perhaps as high as $10 million. That's a nice sum for the Archdiocese.

St. Anthony's enrollment numbers are down. The school is struggling and has now gone through three principals and two presidents in a span of two years. This was a last ditch effort. Hurley would do anything for St. Anthony, but he wants to coach basketball, not pinch numbers and worry about test scores, employee morale and student discipline.

Hurley was probably approached by administrators, telling him that he had to help save the school. What was he going to do? Say no? That's not Bob Hurley. But this is a huge step that it looks like he was forced to take.

It's not fair to Hurley, but then again, is anything fair when it comes to the Archdiocese of Newark? Just ask the students of schools like St. Aloysius, St. Joseph of the Palisades and St. Mary's, other Hudson County Catholic schools that were shut down by the Archdiocese in recent years. It looks like St. Anthony is next, only now, they're going to make a legend like Bob Hurley look like he's either a savior or a failure.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Field of Dreams" column reprised, in honor of Dad and Dads everywhere

This column was first printed in the pages of the now-defunct Hudson Dispatch on June 29, 1989. It ended up winning several different awards from the New Jersey Press Association, the North Jersey Press Club and the Garden State Society of Journalists. It was also reprinted in Reader’s Digest later that year (although I never got credit, the paper did).
For several years, the clipping sat in an old Avon box in my basement. We had a major flood two years ago that ruined a lot of my old clippings, including several of the old Dispatch articles. But somehow, this one survived. It’s very weather beaten and faded, but it survived.
I’m re-typing it today and posting it, because after all, it’s Fathers’ Day.
I ventured to the movie theater the other day. No, not to see “Batman” or even “Ghostbusters II.” I’m not a trendy type of guy. In fact, I’m a little behind the times. I saw “Field of Dreams.”
OK, so the rest of the western world has already plunked down the cash to see “Field of Dreams.” We’re in the midst of a blockbuster movie season. “Field of Dreams” is old news to movie freaks. After all, it was only released nine weeks ago.
But “Field of Dreams” is about baseball _ sort of. And besides, “Batman” is not about Don Mattingly. I am a sportswriter _ at last check. And I’m a movie fan. Just a tardy movie fan, that’s all. I had to go see it. Who cares if I’m late?
I heard so many things about the movie. It was supposed to be the best thing ever to happen to baseball movies _ which wouldn’t be a hard feat, considering that most baseball flicks flounder.
I went with an open mind, waiting to be disappointed. I left feeling wonderful, feeling alive, feeling good. “Field of Dreams” touched me more than any other movie. It was clearly the best picture I’ve ever witnessed.
And my strong feelings about “Field of Dreams” had nothing to do with baseball. It had to do with life. Or, for that matter, afterlife.
For those who have not had the chance to see “Field of Dreams” _ like all seven of you _ you can stop reading here. Take my word for it, the movie is excellent. It’s the best thing you’ll see all year.
Now, for you other fortunate folk.
Let’s face it. “Field of Dreams” has its flaws. I mean, Shoeless Joe Jackson batted left-handed in real life and threw right. In this movie, the exact opposite. He batted right and threw left.
Brings up a good question. Do your extremities become mirror images after death? Only Elvis can answer that one. Remind me to ask him the next time the King is spotted at a 7-11 in Michigan. Elvis probably shoots at TVs with his left these days.
Gil Hodges is mentioned to be on the “Field of Dreams.” But there were no Brooklyn Dodgers uniforms to be found.
Still, this movie was absolute perfection to me, because it was able to touch me in a way that some people can relate to _ but hopefully not many.
Because of one movie, I got in touch with the huge vacancy that has been dominating my life for the last 18 years _ namely the absence of my father.
I was 10 when cancer snuffed Jack Hague away from me. He was sick, dead and gone within one month’s time in 1971. He was my everything. He was my inspiration, my motivation, my life. He was my Little League manager, my friend. He taught me so much about life in 10 short years _ and then he was gone.
It left me with a brother who was 60 miles away with his own family, a sister who was maturing rapidly _ and a loving mother, who had to be both parents from that point on. It was not easy.
Especially because of my obsession with sports _ something I shared with my Dad. We would watch ball games together, talk baseball constantly, play catch in my backyard.
With no father, those times came to an abrupt halt. I longed for the days of playing catch in the yard. They were long gone.
“Stop throwing like a girl, James,” I could hear him saying. “Step and throw.”
There were so many times in 1972, the first year after my father’s death, that I would stand in the yard, hoping he would come back. I just kept standing there, smacking the ball into my empty glove.
Little League was no longer fun without my Dad. It was a struggle to play for some other manager.
That summer, my mother bought me a “Pitch-Back,” the net that snapped the ball back to you after you tossed it. However, the damn thing never offered advice. It never told me what I was doing wrong. It just stood there.
And the “Pitch-Back” could never tell me what I was doing wrong in life. Of course, my mother did _ and worked hard at it. But living with two women and no man’s view of life certainly was no breeze for a moody kid who found his only release through sports.
As time went on, I tended to forget about my Dad. Not entirely, but enough that he wasn’t a major part of my life anymore. I lost his set of values, his standards. I forgot what Jack Hague stood for. I wanted to be independent, my own person. I couldn’t fill the shoes of a memory.
Sure, sports remained my one constant _ and still is today. Without it, I would be lost. But most of all the other values I thought I had disappeared.
People think I’ve lived a good life, an exciting life. But it’s been fairly shallow. I never realized that until recently _ and never more so until I saw “Field of Dreams.”
It was a total awakening for me. I knew how important my father was _ and still is. Sure, my father was gone, but I should never let him stop being my parent. I should have left his values live on in my life instead of being pigheaded and stubborn and wanting to be something and someone else.
“Field of Dreams” touched me so much that I wanted to build a field in my backyard, albeit a small patch of brown grass nestled in Jersey City. And all the greats of yesteryear who are now departed could come back. They wouldn’t even need an invitation.
Gil Hodges would wear a Met uniform and run the show. Thurman Munson would be behind the plate. Satchel Paige on the mound, Lou Gehrig at first _ and Jackie Robinson stealing bases all night.
And the players would leave a little spot where right field would be, just enough for a grey-haired man with a three-finger glove could throw some high hard ones to his son.
“Field of Dreams” did what it was supposed to do _ make us all dream. It made me dream _ of the days when my father taught me about baseball and life.
I almost took those days for granted. I look back now and cherish. I never realized how much I truly missed my father.
So this is somewhat of an open call to all our readers. Stop, take time out and realize how important your father is.
Sure, there may be some differences and there may be some strife, but the day may come when your father is suddenly not there _ and that vacant feeling of his loss almost gets a stranglehold of you.
I know what that feeling is like. I knew it 18 years ago _ and I rediscovered that huge gap 11 days ago. Yes, Fathers’ Day, the day I saw “Field of Dreams.” I had totally forgotten it was Fathers’ Day. It was so totally ironic I saw the movie on that day.
I’ll never forget Fathers’ Day again. That’s why I love the movies so much _ and why “Field of Dreams” is the best movie I’ve ever seen. I found my Dad. I’m grateful for Hollywood for that.
That’s why I’m asking all of you to find your fathers, too. While he’s still around.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

What's a Mainland anyway?

The high school baseball season ended here in New Jersey Saturday with a host of games played at three sites in Toms River, the respective NJSIAA state championships.

I was first at Toms River North to see Jackson Memorial defeat Roxbury, 2-0, then went across town to Toms River South to watch Mainland Regional knock off Mount Olive, 5-3.

You can read both of my game stories on

Anyway, I was particularly appalled and angered by the behavior of the fans (adults and students alike) from Mainland who actually booed the Mount Olive players from the minute the starting lineups were announced through the start of the game.

Can you imagine? Booing high school kids? This was an all-time low in sense of sportsmanship and class. The PA announcer even read the prepared statement from the NJSIAA which stated to "cheer and root in a positive manner for your team."

Booing the opposition? Are you kidding?

So I wrote my displeasure on a line on my Twitter account, updating fans about what was taking place during the game.

This is what I wrote:

Jim Hague@ogsmar Jun 7
While the Toms River South people have been accommodating and helpful the mainland fans are actually booing the Mount olive kids. Classless

Well, that little tweet sent off a barrage of insults and comments from people obviously from the Mainland side. I received at least 60 comments from Twitter people who went off on me calling them "classless," saying that booing was common place at sporting events. One said that it was a case of showing school spirit.

I'm sorry. I've been covering high school sports for more than 30 years and I have never EVER heard booing the opposition before. This may be common place in places like Mainland (wherever the hell that is) but it's not proper behavior in my eyes.

Cheer your team on all you want. Scream at the top of your lungs for your beloved Mustangs. But booing the opposing team showed that Mainland had no class whatsoever. There was at least two teachers/chaperones who were monitoring the student section and they did nothing to halt the hideous behavior.

If booing the opposition was so common place and part of school spirit as you believe, then why didn't the students or fans from Mount Olive boo Mainland's kids? Because they knew better and knew the proper protocol.

As much as you people from Mainland (wherever the hell that is) want to attack me with personal attacks on my career and my stature, know one thing. I know what I'm talking about. I've been doing this for far too long not to know what I'm talking about.

Here was one gem: you must've never played a sport in your life if you if you think it's classless to boo.. It's all fun and games just trash talk..

Yeah, and games, just trash talk....sure...It's fine for professional athletes, but high school kids? No way.

Here's another: have fun writing 4 high school sports for the rest of your life.. Thats where u belong.. Dispicable u would stoop down to this level

As for the "insult" that I should "be happy for the rest of my life writing about high school sports," I take it as a privilege and an honor to write about high school kids.

I've covered pro sports for 32 years. I've covered the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup Finals. I've traveled the nation covering sports. And I'll tell everyone this without hesitation: I enjoy covering high school sports much more than I do covering the pros. Not even a question.

And I have no problem calling people CLASSLESS for booing high school kids at a state championship game. None. Maybe you think it's fine to boo high school kids in Mainland (wherever the hell that is) because that's what you do. It's not what people with class do. They don't boo.

California Chrome didn't win the Belmont Stakes and didn't take the long-coveted Triple Crown.

It was a shame for horse racing, which longed for someone to give a needed boost to the sport.

However, the horse's co-owner Steve Coburn used the defeat to sound off about the way the Triple Crown races are run, that horses that run in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness should face each other and not a newcomer to the three races, like Tonalist did, the winner of the Belmont. Tonalist didn't race in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but entered the Belmont and won.

Coburn called Tonalist's approach as "the coward's way out." He believes that his horse was shortchanged because Chrome had to run in all three races and that Tonalist was a fresher and less tired horse.

Maybe Tonalist was. But the rules are the rules. As long as Tonalist's owners were willing to put up the money to enter their horse in the Belmont, then he could run.

Coburn was obviously upset that his horse lost the race. It was a glorious Cinderella story, an $8,000 purchase winning $3.49 million in earnings. Chrome was on the threshold of an additional $5, not to mention horse racing immortality and a gigantic syndication breeding price.

Chrome still may demand a big breeding tag. It remains to be seen. But this owner coming out and blasting the process of winning the Triple Crown was out of line. Maybe there's part of the reason why it's so tough to win the Triple Crown, that no horse has done it since Affirmed in 1978.

It's not easy to accomplish, to win all three races. Coburn's horse came close. That should have been good enough on this day. Don't blast the process or the horse that beat you. Just collect your horse and move on.

All things said, it was sad that horse racing is once again without a Triple Crown winner. I actually never thought California Chrome was that good of a horse. It wasn't like Big Brown in 2008, which I thought was a sure-fire Triple Crown champion. That horse was majestic, big, huge, strong, one of a kind. Big Brown eased at the Belmont that year. I was shocked. I wasn't too shocked Chrome didn't win yesterday.


Congrats to Hudson Catholic, which won the NJSIAA Non-Public B state championship Saturday with a thrilling win over St. Joseph of Hammonton, giving the Hawks their first-ever state championship.

The Hawks beat St. Mary's of Rutherford, when no one thought it was possible. They then had to sprint from their high school graduation and get on a bus to make it down the Garden State Parkway in time to knock off St. Joseph in another win that no one thought was possible.

Considering that the school almost closed six years ago, if it wasn't for a last-minute effort from some prestigious and influential alumni, who raised the money to keep the doors open. Considering that they had to change the school policy to allow girls to attend.

This is a great story and will be told in this week's Hudson Reporter. Today, it's a day of congratulations for head coach Alberto Vasquez and his staff and players.

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