When the Going Gets Tough…Grab a Slingshot

I recently read David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell. He explains how the underdog David, should have been the odds-on favorite, because he had a weapon, a slingshot. Goliath was much bigger and stronger but needed for David to be within arms distance. David had no intention of letting the giant get that close, and he felled the big man from a distance with a stone and a slingshot. It was like that classic scene in the Indiana Jones movie when Indy is confronted by the fierce swordsman, who shows off his skill with the sword for about 15 seconds before Indy just pulls out his gun and shoots him.

Unless you have superior weapons, though, the giant always has a big advantage. Remember how Andre the Giant would wrestle against an entire group of midgets and always emerge victorious? Or try to think what it would be like if you were playing on a high-school basketball team and LeBron James showed up to play for the other team.   Imagine a high-school wrestler having to face Hulk Hogan. If you’re going to face a giant, you need a superior weapon.

This past Saturday, my favorite Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby team, The Dutchland Rollers played against a team from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in their home opener for the 2018 season. The Dutchland All Star team had their skates, their elbow pads, their knee pads, helmets, and wrist protectors, but they were up against Goliath, and they didn’t have any slingshots.

I knew something was up when I got to the Overlook Recreation Center where the games are held. It usually takes just a few minutes to get a ticket and find a seat. This time there was an extremely long line that went all the way to the end of the parking lot. I waited on line for half an hour, and they were 10 minutes into the game before I finally got in. The first thing I did was look up to the scoreboard.


The score was 0 to 99. I couldn’t believe it, until I watched a few jams and saw the reason for the lopsided score. Goliath, in the form of Vanessa Sites was skating for Wilkes-Barre. Vanessa, who is nicknamed V-Diva, is a transgender superstar in the sport. She used to play for Gotham, the New York Roller Derby team where she helped them win the Championship 5 years in a row and most recently she skated with them when they won the World Cup of Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby in a competition held in England.

In Roller Jerby, a jammer wearing a star on their helmet, is the only one who can score points. They start at the back of the pack and must work their way to the front. Then, to score points, they have to skate around the track and lap opponents. With Vanessa skating backwards at the front of the pack, the Dutchland jammers were unable to get past her. If they did somehow manage to get by her, she then moved to the back of the pack and prevented them from scoring.

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Many times, after skating around the track, the jammer will slow down when they reach the pack and plan whether to attempt to pass on the left, right or center. When Vanessa wore a jammer’s helmet she wouldn’t slow down when she approached the pack. She would just hit it like a bowling ball and scatter Dutchland players like bowling pins. If the pack was on a turn, she would just take off before the turn, do a long jump across the infield and land at the front of the pack, boom 5 points for passing everyone. This move was so spectacular that even the local fans applauded. Mega Pixel, the captain of the Dutchland team does a similar move, she just doesn’t get quite as far in her leap and usually has to wrestle past an opponent or two at the front of the pack.

Normally the players skate every other jam, with substitutions being made after each jam. Vanessa skated almost every jam, and just kept knocking the Dutchland jammers off the track or onto the track. The Dutchland All-Stars didn’t have any slingshots, but they did have plenty of grit, and they fought on bravely. They double and triple teamed Vanessa and forced her to commit fouls that sent her to the “Dutch Oven” penalty box. Eventually, the Rollers got rolling and scored some points. The final score was 74-281, a respectable comeback for the Roller’s All-Star team, who never quit.

Each team actually fields two teams on an event night, and the women who didn’t get to skate in the first game come out for the second game. In the second game Wilkes-Barre came from behind to beat the Rollers, but without Vanessa, it was a much closer game. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, in between games, a dancing exhibition was put on by a local school of Irish Step Dancers. That’s something I know a little bit about, because my friend Marianne’s daughter Jessie Driscoll is a top class Irish Step Dancer, who has toured all over the world including performing in shows in China. The exhibition reminded me of when Jessie was just starting out on her career decades ago. I hope that some of these little girls will someday achieve the level that Jessie has.

As always, the after party was a lot of fun, and I got to talk to Drew Anderson, who was the weatherman on the local TV station, WGAL, but is now running for Congress. He had been a guest announcer at the games. He’s the one wearing the tie. He seemed like a nice man, and I hope he doesn’t face a Goliath in the election.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,



Dumb As a Doorknob


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The Winners with Brad Rutter standing behind them.

When I lived with my parents, if the phone rang between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m. we did not answer it by saying “Hello.” We said “Jeopardy! is on” and hung up. That half hour every weeknight was sacred. We would scream out the answers (If we knew them). My family was always competitive, especially in mind games. We all thought we were smart. Maybe we were, but the years, beers, and drugs have taken their toll on me, and last night I got a big reality check.

Last night the Lancaster Library had another “Are you Smarter than a Librarian” event, a literary trivia contest built for bookworms. The Librarian team competed against about 20 other local teams in the contest, and they were out for blood. The last time they held one of these events, the Library team got creamed by the competition, and they were determined not to let that embarrassing moment happen again.

There are some very knowledgeable people in Lancaster and these trivia contests are very popular in the local bars. Like usual, this contest was held in one of the local bars, Tellus 360, so I was psyched up to attend. I didn’t actually enter in the contest because you needed a team of 7 people, and quite frankly, I don’t even know 6 other people in town who like to read. Even though I wasn’t in the actual competition, I was given an answer sheet so that I could play along.

I said that there are some very knowledgeable people here, and the most famous was Brad Rutter, a Lancaster native who won over $2,000,000 on Jeopardy!, defeating such well-known opponents as the 74-time Champion, Ken Jennings, in the Tournament of Champions.  The only one who ever beat Brad was Watson, the IBM Brainiac computer. Brad, who now lives on the West Coast, was in town to host the show.

There were 7 rounds of 10 questions each and the first round was Literary Potpourri. I got 5 out of 10 correct. I put down “Colossus” as the name of the poem on the Statue of Liberty. The correct answer was “The New Colossus.” So, I was close but no cigar. Damn.

The next round was Wizarding World, and not having read the Harry Potter books killed me. I muggled my way through and only got 1 out of 10 correct. I figured I would make up for that round in the next round, What the Dickens! Unfortunately, I only got 4 right in that category. The next category was Pictures: Late but Great. I only recognized one face, but I even got that wrong when I wrote down Angela Mayou instead of Maya Angelou. I thought Kurt Vonnegut, Jr looked like one of those Russian writers who spent too much time in the gulag. It wasn’t a very flattering picture of him, and certainly never appeared on any of his book jackets. So, I wound up with a zero in that category.

We moved on to Sound: Is the Force with you? Jar Jar Binks and Lando Calrissian were the only voices I recognized. There were no easy ones, like Darth Vader’s, “I am your father” or Princess Leia’s “Help me, Obi Wan”, So, I only got two correct. The Force was not with me. The next category was One Hit Wonders. If they were talking rock n roll songs, I was in, but they were talking authors and I was out of my comfort zone. I only managed to get 4 out of 10 correct. The last category was Heroes and Villains. I recently listened to a 5 CD audio book about Heroes and Villains in literature. I knew about everyone from Beowulf to Lizbeth Salandar, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I was pumped to finish on a high note. Then, most of the questions were about Marvel comic book characters. I was a DC Comics fan as a kid, so I only got The Joker, and Mr. Freeze. Those two correct answers brought my total up to 18 out of 70.

There was a bonus question. Name the four Jane Austen books that were published in her lifetime. All I could think of was Pride and Prejudice. So, no bonus points for me. My final score was 18. Was I smarter than a Librarian? No, I was as dumb as a doorknob. Most of the teams scored in the 50s and 60s. I did singlehandedly beat out one team, though. The Tequila Mockingbird team only had 17 correct answers. They had an excuse though. They were all doing shots of tequila before every round. They were there for the party.

The Librarian team won in a squeaker, and afterwards I went up to Brad Rutter to shake his hand and tell him a story about when I watched him years ago in the Tournament of Champions on Jeopardy! I told him that my favorite sport is Harness Racing, and I was shocked when none of the three great champions on the show knew that the vehicle the horses pull in a harness race is called a sulky. I told him that was my “Aha moment” when I knew my favorite sport was in serious trouble and needed way more TV coverage.

I didn’t do well in the contest, but I did learn one thing. The next time the library holds an Are You Smarter than a Librarian contest, I’m going to try to get my well-read New York friends Patrice, John, and Margaret to visit Lancaster that day and be on my team. My two brothers would also be welcome additions to the team. I’m sure that my brother Kevin would have gotten all the comic book questions right. That would only leave room on the team for one more player. I wonder what Ken Jennings is doing these days.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


P.S. I went to the library today and it wasn’t open. There was a paper sign taped to the door “The library is closed today” with a picture of a big snow flake. The weather forecast had called for several inches of snow. We only got one inch and it was melted by noon. I imagined that more likely the library was closed because all the librarians were hung over. They were still partying pretty hard when I left the bar. I’m glad the weatherman gave them a well-deserved day off to celebrate their victory.


Keep Calm and Storm On


Storm Damage

Here in Lancaster, I just bought my tickets to Opening Day of the Barnstormers 2018 Minor League Baseball season. Meanwhile, my old neighborhood got hit by a Nor’easter storm that took down the tree next door to where I used to live. My old apartment was the upstairs floor of the house on the far right of this picture.

The tree in front of my old house is still standing, and it’s even bigger than the one that came down. I’ll bet the new owners are calling a tree chopping company today.

My old neighbors weren’t hurt when the tree came down as they were on the first floor. When she saw the damage to her house, though, the lady in the house on the left had to be taken to the hospital.

I hope all my old neighbors are doing okay today, and I hope that my friends in the areas that are prone to flooding are okay.

Here in Lancaster our motto when we are trailing in a baseball game is, Keep Calm and Storm on. I hope my friends on Long Island can do likewise.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,