Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Who's the cheesiest of them all?

While at work the other day, something sidetracked me from my all-important supervisory duties. An advertising slogan on one of the display pallets in our food warehouse asked "Are you one of the cheesiest kids in America?"

I couldn't help but chuckle. What a cheesy ad campaign! I know I'm getting older, but does "cheesy" still mean what it used to? Did the Webster's elves pull another switcheroo like when they made the word "bad" actually mean "good." Cheesy used to define something that was totally lame.

I checked my dictionary to confirm my suspicions...

Cheesy (pronounced chee-zee), adj. cheesier, cheesiest. 1. resembling or suggesting cheese especially in consistency or odor; containing cheese. 2. Slang. Shoddy, inferior, shabby or cheap.

My conclusion: Kraft is safe and lives up to both definitions. Add a cup of milk and a stick of butter to the pouch of cheddar powder found inside the box and Emeril would say "Bam!" as he stirred the elbow noodles into a vat of cheesy consistency. The product is also cheap: You can usually pick up a box for just over a buck.

Now totally amused, I removed an individual package from the pallet display for a closer look. It turns out this is a contest sponsored by Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to find the "cheesiest" kids in America. If you can prove you're one of the "cheesiest," you could win big prizes like a trip to Orlando, a $5,000 scholarship, or even get your picture on the front of the box itself! Be still, my cheese-clogged heart!

There are two age groups - 6 to 10 and 11 to 14. You have to show how you are the cheesiest kid by submitting one of the following: A 100-word essay, a picture or drawing, or a 2-minute video.

Now I was bummed out. Hey, I can produce something every bit as cheesy as that golden sawdust Kraft considers cheese. But those heartless bastards forgot to put in a category for us 36-year-olds.

If I'm upset at this, I can't imagine how Katie must feel. She was that young girl from the old Kraft commercials who was always all bitchy, complaining to her friends, mother and stuffed animals how the product's name should be changed to Katie's Cheese and Macaroni. Maybe as she got older, she became even more high maintenance and Kraft dumped her like spent boiled water.

I know the age constraints of Kraft's contest rule me out, but I wish the company would reconsider its stance. Here's proof I am the "cheesiest man" in America:

Who's your Mac Daddy? Me!

But I'll need more than 100 measley words to prove it. If some 12-year-old cheesy wanna-be gets that many words, I deserve triple because I'm easily three times older, wiser and cheesier.

First, when I'm in the supermarket, I just blow by the frozen food section. Stouffer's claims it uses real cheese in its macaroni and cheese, but why pay $3 for it when I can score a box of Kraft's powdery cheddar goodness for $1.19?

I rush home and start cooking. Sometimes if I can't wait the 7-10 minutes to boil the water and prep the noodles, I'll just get the Easy Mac so I can chow down in 90 seconds or less. But usually, I'll make a "Family Size" pack the old-fashioned way.

When it's done, fuck the bowls. I usually just carry the whole pot to the couch and dig in with the serving spoon. My wife steers clear of the living room the next 15 minutes for fear of getting tagged with cheesy shrapnel.

After the meal, I have to go out to the driveway so my wife can spray those stubborn yellow cheese sauce stains off of my face, hands, chest hair and back with the power washer.
I bet Jessica Simpson would don a bikini in a heartbeat for a chance to scrub me down like I was the General Lee. But "Daisy" probably wouldn't take the time for details like my wife does, dabbing my chin with paint thinner to peel off that golden cheesy noodle tan from my chin.

In conclusion, aside from being an economical shopper, my arteries are now 80 percent clogged due to heavy cheese consumption over the last three decades. I also constantly cut the cheese. You can't get any cheesier than that!

If you don't like my story, please enter the enclosed picture into the contest instead. I drew it all by myself without any help from my parents!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Fun with Haiku!

Shit my kimono
Very devastating stains
Where's the laundromat?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Shakedown, Breakdown, I'm Busted!

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha' gonna' do? Whatcha' gonna' do when they come for you?

Maybe the allure of a COPS TV camera would have given me enough temporary insanity to prolong the "chase." That would have provided the time to pound a 12-pack of Old Milwaukee beer just before road spikes deflated my tires. After driving on my rims for a mile and really making some sparks fly, I could have jumped out my truck while it was still moving. After a 50-yard dash and a hogpile by 10 deputies, I'd be an instant crime reality TV star.

But I just pulled over instead.

I'll rewind this story a bit to catch you up to speed. I had just gotten off of work at 11:15 PM Thursday night in Bloomington and started taking the scenic 18-mile route home to St. Paul. The speed limit on the curvy four-lane road I take for about half the trip is 35 MPH. I always see a cop on that road, so despite my 100 percent German ethnicity, I don't think it's the autobahn.

I was driving through the last big curve on the road and saw there was a car ahead of me doing about 25. Naturally, I switched lanes to the left to pass the slowpoke. That's when I saw The Fuzz coming from the opposite direction.

Instinct made me immediately look down at my speedometer. The needle was just under 40. I looked in my rear view mirror, where I spot The Fuzz doing a quick U-turn as if I'm behind the wheel of a Krispy Kreme delivery truck. I was a bit confused because it was just me and slowpoke on the road. I thought he surely must be going to protect and serve someone else, but he stuck to my truck like a bumper sticker.

This is never a good sign. Sure enough, about a half mile later, The Fuzz lights up the cherries of his black-and-white Adam 12 squad car, so I pulled over.

As the officer walked up to the car, I immediately noticed he was about 5-foot-4, 130 pounds and didn't look a day over 16. He should have been policing the acne on his face, not pulling me over for some mystery violation.
The kid looked fresh out of the Police Academy, but seemed too young to have a cool cop name like Hightower or Tackleberry. My mind started to wander as to what nicknames he might potentially have at the police station. Maybe it was Gummi Bear. Perhaps it was Peach Fuzz. I decided Dirty Harry Potter fit him the best.

"License and proof of insurance, now!" he interrupted, shining a flashlight in my face with one hand while keeping the other on his service revolver just in case I tried anything "funny."

"Sure, I can get you those documents, but may I ask why you pulled me over?" I replied.

"You were going a little fast, weren't ya?" Dirty Harry Potter snapped. "Do you have any idea how fast you were going?"

"Yeah, I have a pretty good idea," I said. "I was going about 38, maybe 40."

"I clocked you at 50!" Dirty Harry Potter yipped.

"50?! No way!" I said.

"I don't want to hear it!" he yelled. "Just give me your license and proof of insurance now!"

I gave him my license right away and start looking for my insurance card.

"Do you own this vehicle? Do you even have insurance on this vehicle?" he asked, probably thinking what a lowlife I was, all sweaty and unshaven, driving my rusty but trusty 1994 Ford Bronco.

"Well this isn't O.J.'s Bronco," I joked, trying to lighten the mood. "And yes, it's insured. I've got the card, just give me a minute to find it."

Dirty Harry Potter starts grilling me with a line of questioning that leads me to believe he thinks I just left a bar instead of a grocery warehouse.

"Where did you just come from?" Dirty Harry Potter asks.

"Work," I reply.

"Where's work?" he asks.

"Just a few miles back at the Chowtime* Food Warehouse," I reply.

"Oh, yeah, and where's that?!" he asks, obviously unconvinced it exists.

This area of Bloomington is sparsely populated and spread out. The food warehouse is huge, over 300,000 square feet. Not knowing that it exists in the neighborhood he regularly patrols is akin to Gorbachev's wife not noticing that huge red stain on his forehead.

But I gave Dirty Harry Potter detailed directions on how to get there anyway and told him he can do a stakeout with Richard Dreyfus and Emilio Estevez to prove I show up for work each day.

"OK, I guess I believe you," Dirty Harry Potter said. "Keep looking for that insurance card. When you find it, hold it out the window."

I start searching for my insurance card again. Usually I have all documents in place, but for some reason, I was having a hell of a time locating that card. Dirty Harry Potter was losing his patience, but maybe it was because he was in a hurry to attend night classes at Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

"Well, tell you what I'm gonna do tonight," he said raspily. "I'm only gonna cite you for the speeding. I'll let you go for not providing proof of insurance."

"You're not really giving me a break on anything," I replied. "I can prove I have insurance at your station tomorrow morning and that citation would get thrown out anyway. I wasn't even close to going 50."

"Yes, you were!" he squeaked, handing me the citation.

"Oh, I was not," I said.

"Too!" he yipped.

"Then I want to see it on your radar," I demanded.

"We don't do that," Dirty Harry Potter said. "It's erased now anyway. But I got you going 50 and leading traffic!"

How fitting that Dirty Harry Potter had made the radar reading disappear. And how was the one car I was "leading" considered traffic?

Dirty Harry Potter told me to slow down and started to walk back to his motorized broomstick. I started reading the information on the citation, which lists a flat fee for any moving violation at $142. Now I was furious with that son-of-a-witch. Luckily, I controlled my urge to flip off Dirty Harry Potter as his radar would have read 200 without a doubt.

"Don't worry about it," insisted one of my co-workers yesterday afternoon. "Fight it. They'll probably just make you pay court costs. They might even hold the speeding ticket from going on your record if you don't get another one for a year."

That might be a longshot with Dirty Harry Potter casting his spells on the roads I take to work every week in Bloomington, where all types of law enforcement seem to hate me.

Need proof? One night on my way home from work, I pulled over at a grocery store to pick up some supper. I parked next to a K-9 police car. The German Sheperd inside was going nuts, as if I was a bank robber or drug dealer.

"Settle down, Rin Tin Tin," I scolded him. "The 50 pounds of crack down my pants is the legal kind - Buttcrack!"

Monday, August 22, 2005

Chain Letter Broken, PBS had no Rambos

Usually when I get e-mail chain letters, I send them packing to the recycle bin quicker than a crushed pop can.

But one actually slowed me down enough to read it this week. It told the "true" story of how a couple of PBS kiddie show icons were actually macho military machines of Rambo proportions.

The chain letter, possibly written by Colonel Trautman, said Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers weren't trained to entertain children with puppets. They were trained to kill. Period. They could live off the land, and were taught how to ignore pain. They'd eat things that would make a billygoat puke. And if you plan on sending 200 men up against them, you better remember a good supply of body bags.

Part one focused on Captain Kangaroo, who earned his rank in the military leading the famous attack on Iwo Jima. I'll save you the agony of reprinting the entire tale and just give you my Cliff's Notes version: Captain Kangaroo charged up the beach, possibly even while wearing his red blazer, to keep the bullets and mortar fire away from his troops. Unfortunately, actor Lee Marvin was shot in the ass during the melee, but he was ultimately saved by Captain Kangaroo in a hail of gunfire. According to the chain letter, that's what Marvin told Johnny Carson during a Tonight Show taping.

I was suspicious of this story from the start. If Captain Kangaroo was involved in the taking of Iwo Jima, surely the real hero would have been Mr. Moose, who would have orchestrated a ping pong ball carpet bombing of the Japanese Imperial Army once the U.S. forces had reached the beach.

Marvin seemed like an odd fit in a unit commanded by Captain Kangaroo, who instead would have brought his supporting cast into battle. Mr. Green Jeans would have been perfectly camoflauged in the jungle landscape. Grandfather Clock could have kept the times of coordinating attacks synchronized while Dancing Bear and Bunny Rabbit would have been difficult moving targets for enemy snipers to shoot.

Part two of the chain letter "outed" Mr. Rogers as an elite Navy Seal. He had 25 confirmed kills in Vietnam and only wore his famous sweater in the kiddie TV show to cover up his numerous tattoos on his forearms and biceps. He was also a master in hand-to-hand combat.

What was his secret weapon? While invading an enemy base, would he just waltz in and slip out of his combat flippers into some comfortable sneakers while singing a song about how wonderful the neighborhood was, even though it was being pounded by Navy battleship guns and cruise missiles?

The only military duty that seemed fit for Mr. Rogers would be taking care of the mail call after Mr. McFeeley's delivery. He couldn't have even been a military strategist because he would have used too many trollies and cute puppets in the war room battlefield dioramas.

I just couldn't picture Mr. Rogers crawling three miles through rice patties to help re-wrap fellow SEAL Jesse Ventura's feather boa, which had come loose during battle. Also, if there was an admission that a PBS telethon's purpose wasn't to raise money to keep their programming on the air, but was to fund its secret WMD program, or its even more deadly MMD (Muppets of Mass Destruction), the chain letter might have had me believing.

I finally showed the chain letter to my wife, who considers herself a Murder She Wrote-esque internet sleuth, to confirm my suspicions. She officially blew this story out of the water after about 10 seconds of research. She said it was an Urban Legend, probably to make the "Captain" title actually mean something and put a tough edge on a goody-two-shoes guy.

I could see her point, but immediately wondered why I had never heard through a chain letter that Tennille "shopped around" through the elite Navy ranks for a captain willing to give it all up to play piano for her pop 70s tunes.

I was relieved the PBS war stories were false. Just think: If Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers were our Rambos in their days, who has been filling their combat boots for the past 50-60 years? Who would PBS be ponying up now for someone like Trautman to tutor?

The only PBSer I could think of to fill this role was Barney. He might seem like a purple pansy ass, but he's STILL a T-Rex, the most dangerous dinosaur to ever roam the planet.

If you think about PBS programming, he's the only natural killing machine the network has left.

Consider this: He has more potential than Rambo. Even if Barney doesn't attack anyone physically, he would dominate the blaring audio psychological warfare front, driving enemy forces insane with his "I Love You, You Love Me" song played over and over. Those unlucky ones who couldn't commit suicide would be begging to surrender.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Behind The Cereal Box, Part Three

In two previous posts, I answered the "Where are they now?" questions for the mascots of 20 breakfast cereals. But you probably noticed one famous pitchman, who seemed more real than the others because he wasn't a cartoon character, was missing.

That's right, I'm talking about Mikey, the fussy 4-year-old who put LIFE cereal on the map.

What happened to him? Where is he now? Are the rumors true, or just part of breakfast Urban Legend? We need to go Behind The Cereal Box one final time to get some answers...

Mikey first appeared on a TV commercial in 1972, when his two brothers were in the kitchen having a heated debate over who should try "a cereal that's supposed to be good for you." They pissed and moaned, saying "I'm not gonna try it, you try it!" while sliding a bowl back and forth as if it was filled with Fear Factor fare.

Mikey's two brothers were lifelong dullards with no sense of adventure. It took them years to muster up the courage to try Reese's Peanut Butter Cups because "mixing P.B. with chocolate was 100 times crazier than mixing P.B. with jelly!"

Flashback to the LIFE commercial. After both brothers wuss out, one of them suggests Mikey try it and slides the bowl his way. "He hates everything!" one of them snips.

But the next thing you know, Mikey is shoveling through the cereal like it's the first course of a Roman food orgy. "He likes it! He likes it!" his brothers shriek. A star was born.

The commercial spots were so hot, they ran from 1972-1987, making one wonder how Mikey remained a 4-year-old boy for a span of 16 years. Many just thought it was reruns of the same commercial, but rumors were spreading that told a more sinister story.

President Reagan, a former actor, was fascinated to know the truth behind LIFE. Was it a talented makeup artist who transformed dozens of kids into looking like the original Mikey? Was it trick camera work? Or did Quaker discover some sort of "Fountain of Youth" technology that could help him bring Bonzo back to the big screen? It wasn't long before the Quaker CEO was under a hot light at FBI headquarters.

"He wasn't talking at first," bragged one FBI interrogator. "But when I threatened to make him wear shoes and a hat without buckles, he totally caved and was singing like a canary."

The shocking results of the Quaker CEO's confession: The original Mikey was real, but he was cloned 15 times.

"People think it's a big deal those scientists cloned a sheep," the FBI guy who cracked the case said. "Big deal, Quaker could clone Mikey hundreds of times. Think about it: They make millions of identical cereal pieces, so was cloning a kid for commercial use far behind?"

With so many Mikey clones running around, the "Where is he now?" question is difficult to answer with 100 percent certainty. John Gilchrist claims to be the original Mikey. He quit doing commercials in 1988 after about 250 spots, including Pepto Bismol and Jell-O. Now he's a successful advertising executive.

But there's also over a dozen other freckle-faced folks who say their claim to fame was the role of Mikey. Could they be the clones? It seems likely, as many just can't shake the single word that once defined them. One is a photographer for LIFE magazine. Two are lifeguards. One is a Lifetime TV movie actor. Five sell life insurance. One is serving 40 years to life for killing someone with a spoon.

In the 1990s, a story circulated that Mikey died from a deadly combination of pop rocks washed down with a six-pack of Coke, making his stomach explode. It was no Urban Legend: It happened to one of the clones.

Quaker thought about capitalizing on the publicity. Before rolling out Mikey clone #16 for another "remake" of the original commercial, the pilgrims actually thought about changing gears in their advertising campaign.

"We almost switched the cereal's name from LIFE to DEATH to try and corner the goth cereal-eater market," one Quaker Oat guy admitted. "But we couldn't close the deal with the Grim Reaper to appear on the box, and Quaker thought it might seem distasteful to put a toe-tagged Mikey morgue shot on the cover."

In 1997, Quaker had a contest to find a new Mikey. The winner - out of 35,000 entrants - ended up being a little girl from Tampa, Florida. The company insisted the contest was legit, trying to take the Mikey ad campaign in a new direction.

"When we started production of Honey Graham Life, it really cut into our cloning time," the Quaker Oat guy said. "Some people might think we just gave one of the Mikey clones a sex change, but that actually would be an Urban Legend."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Feeding Frenzy

"I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse."

Whenever, I hear some horse's ass whinny those words I wish someone would wheel out a hunk of meat with a horseshoe still attached. As the person sat eyeballing their Clydesdale drumstick, I'd like to be behind them with a little whip, cracking them on the hind quarters while saying "C'mon, giddyup. You ordered it, now eat it. Yeeha!"

Sure, the popular phrase has been around for years to describe an appetite that seems larger than life. But in the end, they never eat one slice of Secretariat because it's never on the menu. Even if it was, no one would be able to physically eat the entire horse. These blowhards couldn't even take a dent out of a shetland pony. Most people would struggle to eat a whole chicken, which wouldn't even fill a horse's saddlebag halfway.

I've always believed you should put your money (or food, in this case) where your mouth is when it comes to any type of bragging. Now that the International Federation of Competitive Eating has been formed, I hope the eating equine line is never heard in their circles. Because these freaks wouldn't just eat the horses. They'd eat the jockeys as appetizers.

The IFOCE is the sanctioning body for people who gorge themselves in contests. The league even has world rankings, similar to boxing. It's too bad the only ear-nibbling IFOCE recognizes is for corn, or Mike Tyson might have been ranked in boxing and eating.

Takeru Kobayashi (little guy on the right) is the Tiger Woods of competitve eating, ranked No. 1 in the world. He only weighs 132 pounds, but he ate his way to The Glutton Bowl title 3 years ago on FOX. No one can touch him in hot dogs - He ate 53 1/2 in 12 minutes. He also ate 57 cow brains in 15 minutes, and that wasn't even on Fear Factor.

Then there's tiny Sonya Thomas (pictured above to left of Kobayashi and right), a 105-pound Burger King manager from Virginia. Looking at her frail frame, you'd think she would "hit the wall" halfway through a Whopper Jr.

Instead, she's ranked No. 2 in the world, thanks to finishing first in 22 recognized contests by the IFOCE. She's eaten 25 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes, 80 chicken nuggets in 5 minutes, 65 hard-boiled eggs in under 7 minutes, and the ridiculous list goes on.

Thomas calls herself the Black Widow. I have no idea if she has a red hourglass on her abdomen, but her bite is definitely dangerous. She says the reason for the Black Widow name is because she "loves to eliminate the males" from IFOCE events. The way Thomas eats, maybe she really got the nickname because she mated, killed, then devoured 3 husbands in 20 minutes. Then eliminating males takes on a whole new meaning.

Where does this food go, for crying out loud? If she wore a colostomy bag, she'd probably look like an upright vacuum cleaner after one of her contests. I don't know how this itsy bitsy spider woman digests it all naturally.

This lady pounded down almost 15 pounds of fruitcake in 10 minutes. That means she ate one-seventh of her body weight in fruitcake!

The Black Widow also ate 8.4 pounds of baked beans in 2 minutes, 47 seconds. I'm guessing a few hours later, she also set the record for longest sustained fart at 4 minutes, 12 seconds.

In other IFOCE news, Donald Lerman ate 7 quarter pound sticks of butter in 5 minutes. He didn't even spread it on toast or corn on the cob. He stuffed those sticks down his throat straight-up. State fairs should go on alert and lock down any butter sculptures in case Lerman shows up.

Richard LeFevre ate 1.5 gallons of chili in 10 minutes. When he went to the bathroom the next day, he probably had to call the bomb squad in for backup.

With the T-Rex extinct, these IFOCE people are at the top of the food chain. Lions run away from them like big pussies. Hungry wolves roll over and play dead. Even Jaws would be the Black Widow's bitch.

I'd steer clear of these folks, too. You'd never want to put a hand too close to their dish. They "train" for events by gorging at buffets multiple times daily to "stretch out" their stomachs. Then they compete for prize money, sometimes over $20,000, to see who can eat like the biggest pig.

This makes me wonder what's next? Now that we have competitive eating, is the SABL (Snarf and Barf League) far behind? There could be two potential winners - the best snarfer and the best barfer. Maybe one of those teensy Olsen twins could sweep the all-around title.

I wish I could compete and make some money using my killer appetite, but I think I'd be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of the IFOCE. I can eat a shitload of food, but I'd be a bottom feeder against the likes of Kobayashi and the Black Widow.

Despite my size - I'm 6-foot-3 and 329 pounds- I think the Black Widow could gobble me up like a 55-gallon drum of jambalaya in any speed-eating race. She'd need to give me a 10 grilled cheese handicap to make it interesting, but she'd still be the chowtime champ in the end.

I wouldn't fit in the IFOCE anyway. I have some basic fundamental issues with the league rules. I'm more of a food-eating purist. If there's a hot dog eating contest, those fuckers better be loaded down with relish, onions, mustard and maybe sauerkraut. Then you should eat the hot dog like you would at a ballgame. None of this bullshit like Kabayashi pulls, jerking his weiners out of the buns, so he can dip them in glasses of water to shrink the bread. If the line isn't drawn now, will Kobayashi put the 50 hot dogs in a blender next time so he can chug them with a gigantic beer bong?

The only food contest I could foresee dipping being allowed would be Oreos (milk allowed), tortilla chips (salsa, cheese or bean dip allowed), and maybe ice cream cones (fudge dipping station like DQ has allowed).

The stats of what these people have eaten is staggering: 161 buffalo wings in 12 minutes, 331 crawfish in 6 minutes, 49 glazed donuts in 9 minutes, 69 Krystal burgers in 8 minutes, 21 baseball-sized Matso balls in 5:25, and 6 pounds of SPAM in 12 minutes, etc. This information makes me want to guzzle a quart of Pepto Bismol in 10 seconds, and confirms the safest place for me in the world of competitive eating is on the sidelines.

If I ever get the chance to meet The Black Widow in person, I might watch my mouth more than hers. Because there are two words you probably should never say to her: "Eat me."

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Circle the Wagons

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but nicknames never hurt me. Especially sports team nicknames.

Not the NCAA. The collegiate sports organization lowered the boom this week and announced that any school using a nickname or logo considered racially or ethnically “hostile” or “abusive” would be prohibited from using them in postseason events. The new rule was established to target schools whose sports teams use Native American nicknames such as the Florida State Seminoles, the Illinois Fightin' Illini, the Utah Utes, etc.

Holy censorship, Batman!

What’s the big hub-bub here? Maybe it's the former journalist in me or just the lover of living in a totally free country, but the first amendment and free speech should always come before political correctness. I learned a long time ago that no matter what you say or write, chances are someone is going to be pissed.

I hardly find using a tribe's name a "hostile" or "racist" act. Now if a college women's basketball team called itself the "Screamin' Squaws," I could understand the NCAA wanting to play the mommy role to end the "mean name-calling." Still, in my humble opinion, groups of people should be able to call themselves whatever the hell they want, offensive to others or not. If you don't like it, don't support the team and support a school with a warm and fuzzy animal mascot.

If a college wants to drop its current Native American nickname for a great ethic nickname that will get no backlash from my relatives, it should switch to the Gorgin' Germans. The players could wear lederhosen for uniforms, the football team could wear helmets with pointy spikes on the top, fans could eat sauerkraut brats until they explode, and the band could play polka music. It could be Oktoberfest all year long, baby!

That nickname idea is probably dead thanks to the NCAA opening this big-ass can of worms. If college sports teams are going to be scrutinized for potentially offensive mascots, where will the NCAA draw the line? If Native American tribal names are cut, is the leprechaun making fistacuffs logo and the Fighting Irish name out for Notre Dame? Will Syracuse not be allowed to use the Orangemen name for fear of offending people who used Bobby Brady's hair tonic?

Even college teams in and near the Twin Cities could be affected. Will the Macalester Fighting Scots have their names stripped because some guys in kilts got their bagpipes all worked up? Will Norwegians say enough is enough and demand St. Olaf cease using Oles for a mascot, thus roadblocking my dream of them adopting Lenas as their women's team nickname?

Will someone demand the University of Minnesota change its Golden Gophers mascot because it reminds them of a hillbilly relative who has buck teeth and facial hair?

The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux are definitely on the NCAA hit list.

A couple of years ago, I was walking to Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis to watch a college hockey game between North Dakota and Minnesota. An albino man confronted me on the sidewalk for “being racist." I wasn't wearing a white sheet, but a black and green UND jersey (and I was wearing the old logo, not the new one drawn by a Sioux artist, which is apparently up a few notches on the offensive mascot fashion scale).

“Hey, how would you like it if the college I went to had a team called the Honkeys, the Whiteys, or the Crackers?” he bitched as he glared at me with his pink eyes. “Then what?”

“I might ask you to trade jerseys depending on the color scheme and logo,” I told him jokingly. “No offense, dude. I’m just supporting my team.”

“What gives you the right to wear that jersey?,” he snipped. “Did you specifically get permission from every Sioux indian to wear that jersey?”

“My wife is 1/16 Sioux and related to Sitting Bull, and she laid out the jersey with my underwear on the bed this morning, so I know she's cool with it," I said. “But that doesn't really matter because it’s a free country, remember?”

The albino interrupted with a chant into his bullhorn: “1-2-3-4 Offensive mascot – No more!”

“5-6-7-8, don’t let this protester procreate!” I replied.

The last thing I think about when I go out in public is pissing someone off because of what I’m wearing. Still, it’s my right to wear what I want, even if it’s just leather chaps and a dog collar (although that actually would be offensive, and I might be arrested for that).

I'd suggest North Dakota keep its uniforms the same but change their nickname and logo to the Fighting Sue, but maybe that would piss off some lady named Sue who is always up for a fight after two or three beers. I guess the school could spell it Fighting Soo to pay homage to a local railroad, but then there's the risk of making a train engineer jump the tracks.

See what I mean? If we get too politically correct, constantly worrying about what we say or hand-wringing and second-guessing what we wear for fear of possibly offending someone, then the good ol' U.S. of A. is a long way from free.

Did some universities foresee this storm brewing? Did the University of Hawaii know this decision was looming and change their team nickname so it wouldn't be banned for potentially offending homosexuals? As ridiculous as this sounds, some speculate Hawaii dropped the word “Rainbow” from the front of its "Warriors" moniker because the nickname sounded “too gay.” I’d suggest they call themselves the Pineapples, but heaven forbid, that would sound too “fruity.” If they don't want to stray away from the produce section, maybe they could name themselves after a vegetable.

Oh, wait, that's already been done, and it's the corniest nickname ever. Concordia College of Moorhead, Minnesota, calls its teams the Cobbers. The mascot is a really pissed off corn cob, so angry I can't believe any kernels on his head haven't started popping.

When your team is named after a vegetable, it’s going to be tough to strike fear in the hearts of your opponents. If you are going to name your team after a plant, at least pick something prickly like Cacti, cunning like Venus Flytraps, or cool like Cucumbers.

Barring a protest from militant tree huggers or people with no brain activity, I'd say the Cobbers vegetable nickname and mascot are probably safe. Or are they?

The NCAA must ban Concordia from ever playing a University of Nebraska team, especially wrestling. A Cobber vs. Cornhuskers match would totally fall into that hostile environment, and no one wants to see some poor 19-year-old kid get "husked." Corn on corn violence must be stopped in advance. You heard it here first!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Behind The Cereal Box, Part Two

Cereal mascots. Where have they all gone? The answers to the "where are they now?" questions for the pitch men of 10 different cereal brands were revealed last time. But the story has not even reached the halfway point.

Perhaps you noticed that your favorite cereal mascot was missing, like an elusive Wheaties flake, sunk far below the surface of milk. The story continues today with the mascots of another 10 cereal brands.

Tony The Tiger
This big cat was always running around telling people they should eat his cereal "to show 'em you're a tiger." But then Tiger Woods started tearing up the golf scene and when anyone mentioned the name Tiger, no one thought of their striped orange breakfast buddy anymore.

"At first it was devastating," Tony said. "When parents told their kids to be like Tiger they didn't put a red kerchief around their necks and growl while hammering through 3 bowls of Frosted Flakes. They skipped breakfast and grabbed a bag of golf clubs."

Deep self-esteem issues arose, making Tony's signature phrase "They're Great!" a struggle at times.

"I guess I should be thanking Tiger Woods," Tony said. "He made me realize I was living a lie sometimes. Frosted Flakes are really great, but sometimes for breakfast I'd rather just gnaw on a Wildebeest carcass while shooing away pesky dingos."

L.C., the Lucky Charms Leprechaun
When the little leprechaun dropped out of the limelight, some assumed he might have been plotting with the IRA. It turns out Lucky was diagnosed with obsessive-complusive disorder instead.

Initially, Lucky was OK with the five simple marshmallow shapes of pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars, green clovers and blue diamonds. But as the years went by, Lucky became obsessed with marshmallow shapes in his cereal.

"Whenever those little fuckers weren't after me Lucky Charms, I would dream about new shapes," Lucky reminisced. "When I went into a General Mills meeting and told them we needed to add purple horseshoes to the cereal, they asked where they would be gettin' purple horseshoe marshmallows? So I pulled one right out of my arsh. Me luck hasn't been the same since, but the cereal looks better than ever."

Red balloon, rainbow, pot of gold and even swirled whale marshmallows followed. But not every marshmallow shape has graced boxes of Lucky Charms.

"I've been asking for Irish Eyes A Smilin' shapes for years, but they won't hear of it," Lucky said bitterly. "But ye might go for a frosty mug of Guiness shape, aye?"

Sonny, the Cocoa Puffs bird
Some say the looney bird is wearing a straight jacket somewhere and in constant shock therapy treatment to help control his addiction to Cocoa Puffs.

"We thought it would only be 28 days at first," a close feathered friend said. "But that was 8 years ago."

Sonny was sent over the edge when he went to the General Mills facility to pick up a service award for being such a great mascot over the years. Unfortunately, no one was paying attention to the production calendar, and the day Sonny was at the plant was the day they were mass producing millions of Cocoa Puffs. The sight, sound and scent of it all drove Sonny into an insane rage multiple times worse than anything seen on TV commercials.

"The actually had to lock down the plant, or it would have been a Chernobyl meltdown on the Cocoa level," the feathered friend said. "But it was the company's fault. They toyed with his addiction and knew he would go crazy for this cereal, but they thought it made for funny TV, and that only ended up driving Sonny deeper over the edge."

The Honey Nut Cheerios Bee gained fame for his peppy commercials, but this buzzer was known to have a temper behind the scenes.

He has not been seen or heard from since a run-in with several paparazzi near his hive. Witnesses say BuzzBee flew out of the hive to confront the mob of photoghraphers who had been batting his home with a broomstick hoping to get some swarm photos. One photographer claims he was stung by BuzzBee, and pulled an alleged large cartoon stinger out of his arm as "proof."

"BuzzBee was really pissed, even more than Sean Penn ever got at me," the photographer said. "That little buzzy bastard stings worse than Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake combined!"

Bees are known to die once they use their stinger. Since BuzzBee has made no commercials or public appearances since the incident, rumors of his demise can't be proven to be exaggerated yet.

The Smacks' cereal famous frog has endured a whirlwind of controversey and tragedy, but his story ends up having a fairy tale ending.

"Shortly after my commercials started airing, I was under constant surveilance by the DEA and Narc units," Diggem said. "They had heard on the street that I was the front man for Smack. Not a good thing."

After an early-morning raid, narcotics officials roughed up the frog and trashed his luxury tree loft apartment. Soon they realized that the Smack everyone was talking about was just sugar-coated puffed wheat.

"Even though the cops made a mistake, it was still bad publicity for the cereal," Diggem said. "They even changed the cereal's name from Sugar Smacks to Honey Smacks, wanting to totally distance the product from any white powdery substance."

Diggem lost his job and the cereal box went without a mascot for several years. Depressed, Diggem spent many days suicidal, sunning himself on a bridge in New Orleans.

"You have no idea how many days I wanted to just jump and end it all," he said. "But then one day out of nowhere this chick picked me up and totally made out with me. That changed my life forever."

The princess added: "It was kinda gross and scary at first. His breath smelled like flies and he had a lot of warts. Then he didn't turn into a prince. But then I realized how long his tongue was, and was so in love none of it mattered."

Snap, Crackle and Pop
Like many supergroups, it was only a matter of time before this trio broke up to pursue solo projects. But their sound just wasn't the same when the group was split up.

Some say the last straw that led to the breakup was when Pop started calling himself the King of Pop, distancing himself from Snap and Crackle and King Vitamin (who wanted to be the only cereal monarch).

"Pop looked great, but he ravaged himself with plastic surgery," Snap said. "He started dressing like a garden gnome and only wanted to eat breakfast with little boys."

In a panic, Kellogg's used a Jamaican monkey as a mascot for Cocoa Krispies until the group could sort out their differences away from the cereal bowl. A reunion was inevitable.

"They used a monkey and the cereal wasn't even banana-flavored," Crackle scoffed. "When we heard that dumb ape trying to go all Bob Marley and do a reggae Rice Krispies theme, we knew had had to get the band back together. You can't have any kind of Rice Krispies without Snap, Crackle and Pop."

Raisin Bran Sun
RB Sun's popularity as a mascot started declining the more people became afraid of getting skin cancer from too much exposure.

"We had people who thought they had to wear sun screen when they pulled a box of Raisin Bran with me on it out of the cupboard," RB Sun said. "I never burned anybody."

Soon public resentment affected his job performance.

"It was supposed to be two scoops in every box," he said. "Some days you just don't give a fuck and throw in one and a half. Who's going to notice?"

Some little nerdy QA prick at Kellogg's, that's who. RB Sun was immediately reprimanded and now works under close supervision by glaucoma-goggled geeks smothered in SPF 100.

Kaboom clown
This mascot was the only member of his class not named class clown by fellow graduates at Clown College, where he passed up popular majors such as seltzer bottle marksmanship, oversized shoemaking or balloon animal sculpting. Instead, he majored in food science.

"The Kaboom Clown was kind of like the elf who wanted to be a dentist in that Rudolph show," professor Bozo the Clown said. "He was a clown but wasn't totally into clown things. I haven't seen that since a student named Ronald McDonald, who ironically was also sidetracked by food."

Kaboom Clown soon learned that Clown College's food science degree focused on making cream pies which would be used to throw in people's faces. Kaboom Clown had hoped the only Pi he would be dealing with was one to help figure out mathmatical formulas to make the three-ring circus of cereals.

Eventually, the Kaboom Clown succeeded in developing his cereal. He was invited back to Clown College to pick up an honorary doctorate degree, but was tragically killed following the commencement ceremony.

"A small car pulled up, and Kaboom Clown thought it was his ride to the airport," Bozo said. "Unfortunately, 16 other clowns piled into the car after him as it is a Clown College tradition. Kaboom had never taken the car stuffing 101 class, and without that training he suffocated in the car under that clown hogpile."

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Baker Wendell
Wendell was the most famous Cinnamon Toast Crunch Baker. Recently, he broke away from the other bakers and joined the reality TV craze, joining the cookin' cast of Hell's Kitchen.

Unfortunately, chef Gordon Ramsay wanted exotic dishes, but Wendell could only deliver Cinnamon Toast Crunch Risotto. Ramsay also tired of Wendell constantly singing the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Bakers song in the kitchen.

"That bloody song was so fucking annoying," Ramsay said. "It's like he thought he was in a movie called The Fabulous Cinnamon Toast Crunch Baker Boys and his singing was going to make Michelle Pfieffer roll around on top of a piano like a cat in heat."

Needless to say, Wendell got the hook quicker than Dewberry.

"Believe me, that fat old bastard singing couldn't even get Jessica on top of a piano," Ramsay said. "The only consistent thing this guy could make was cold cereal in a bowl, which made me want to stick his head in a deep fryer."

Big Yella, the Corn Pops Cowboy
Yella was hoping pitching Sugar Corn Pops would pave the way to Hollywood where he could follow in the bootsteps of his idol, John Wayne.

Unfortunately, the great American western movie was dying, and any new roles that came up were usually snatched up by guys like Clint Eastwood or Lee Van Cleef.

"Ah tried out for all three roles in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," Yella said. "One a them die-rectors said my actin' was too corny."

Yella tried out for 20 more western movie roles and was shot down for all of them. He hit an all-time low when producers picked Chef Boyardee instead of him to star in a Spaghetti western. By that time he had run out of money and was robbing banks.

"Folks often ask why I wore a red kerchief over my face to conceal my identity, but still wore muh two-foot high yella caboy hat," Yella said. "I reckon deep inside I wanted to git caught."

Yella is now serving 30 years in an old west jail in Dodge City, Kansas.

To be continued - It may seem like I've emptied the box on this subject, but don't forget that there's always a prize inside! Next time, I'll reveal the behind-the-scenes story of the last and possibly most famous cereal pitchman of all time. What's his story? Tune in to Behind The Cereal Box, Part Three, coming soon!