Mob Wives, you have drawn me in

I first met you all on a one-hour flight, thanks to the perks of technology. Then we got better acquainted in my living room, downing diet cokes and popcorn. I even considered taking you out to the balcony – another perk of technology – but then I saw last season’s finale and figured we’d keep our weekly get-togethers in-house.

Now, you are my weekly therapy. My release. My drama. Renee, Drita, Karen, Carla, Ramona and Big Ang, your bloodlines, handbags, confrontations and Staten Island chic are part of my post-Sunday dinner routine.

Granted, I’m gonna take some flack for falling for you ladies. As Italian-Americans, we find we’re not portrayed or treated in the best light. Even Meadow Soprano said it, to a certain degree. (Hell, I had a former coworker tell me that all Italians were “pasta eaters.”)

And I’ll admit, Mob Wives isn’t necessarily an accurate description of Italian-American women – I’ve known more than enough, including a few who belie the stereotype that the Mob Wives are portraying. A few who have adopted it. A few who have been embarrassed by it. A few who have owned it, without exploiting it. Some of them are my best friends and family members, too.

And it’s probably not even the best representation of “the mob.” (Or, as one of the Mob Wives once asked … “what mob?”)

But in a way, your personalities – and sometimes your behavior, save for that whole plate-throwing incident at Renee’s birthday party – encapsulate some of the things we want to be, or some of the things we want our daughters and sisters and best girlfriends to be.

Tough. Fearless. Feared. Respected. There’s a certain diva machismo to the Mob Wives, one that, historically, has been assigned to their male counterparts.

“I’m just going to carry a wrench with me next time because I don’t even want to get my hands dirty.” – Drita

The Mob Wives, they tell it like it is. They talk behind their backs. Then they say it to each other’s faces. They stand behind their man. Until their man goes behind their back. Then, they stand up to him.

And we want to be friends with these women, because they’ll either have our back or stab us in the back with one of their thigh-high stainless steel stiletto boots. No, actually, they’d come at us from the front.

And in a way, I’m starting to get this whole Real Housewives phenomenon – one that, in all its Buckhead, Short Hills and Upper East Side iterations, I have avoided like a man in a dark suit, carrying a violin case. A man whom I might be related to.

Yet I don’t think Camille Grammer would be able to properly swing a wrench. That’s one of the reasons why I keep coming back to these Mob Wives.


Just a hypothetical question …

Strictly hypothetical …

What if newspapers, for one day, shut down or didn’t update their websites? Would it force readers to seek out other ways to get their news – especially local news? – or would people actually go out and buy a paper?

My former employer’s website crashed/got hacked a few years ago, and a coworker walked around waving that day’s edition of the paper – information that, obviously, could not be obtained via the Internet.

“See this?” he asked as he waved it in the middle of our department. “This never crashes!”

A new coverage conundrum

With expansion … comes limitations. That’s becoming evident in the changing geography of college hockey.

After last summer’s conference realignments – the founding of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, the imminent end of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, the naissance of the Big Ten Hockey Conference, the expansion of Hockey East – it helped the sport create a stronger geographic reach. But more geography brings more travel … which, in all likelihood, will hinder newspaper coverage of a handful of college hockey teams by a handful of local newspapers. Because it costs money to travel. And in the world of newspapers, which is pinching more and more pennies, it’s difficult for some editors to justify traveling to a college town when reporters are better used on local assignments or doing desk work on a weekend.

Several newspapers have already slashed their travel budgets – even my former employer didn’t send a reporter to Maine hockey’s away games during the first three months of the season – yet consider that the University of Maine, in Orono, is 140 miles from the newsroom. Still, one thing that’s worked in Hockey East’s favor for so long? Proximity. From its most central location in Boston, road trips are a maximum five hours (barring weather/highway conditions), either to Orono, Maine, or Burlington, Vt. That will change when Notre Dame joins the league in the fall of 2013.


With today’s announcement naming Jim Scherr as the new commissioner of the NCHC – which starts play in the fall of 2013 – it also drew some speculation as to what local newspapers who cover each of the league’s eight teams will do. How they will strategize in the future to cover these teams on the road.

But it also exhibited the collision of an area of growth and the continuous shrinking of budgets in newspapers. With the debut of the NCHC, it means that fewer smaller papers will be able to adequately and properly cover their local programs. Because it costs a lot of money to travel from Duluth, Minnesota, to Colorado Springs, Colorado, or Oxford, Ohio, to Grand Forks, North Dakota.

In an exchange Wednesday on Twitter, a pair of college hockey beat writers – whose schools will join the NCHC – discussed what all these changes might mean to the future of their beat:

What solutions do newspapers – who may not be able to afford to send their reporters to properly and adequately cover teams – have in order to communicate and to deliver the message in this arena?

Editors can establish and/or maintain a network of freelancers across the country (shameless self-promotion: hey, I’m good for the money if anyone needs coverage of Maine hockey. Or Portland’s AHL team). Because there’s still a need for readable, editable and timely copy.

Or reporters can stay in the office and rely on technology – watch a webcast and make a post-game phone call for interviews, which is what’s happening at a few newspapers already – and as you and I know, technology may not always be reliable.

It’s a conundrum, and it’s indicative of what’s happening at newspapers, and not just in the sports departments. Less resources for more things to cover.

“The Cosby Show” as a cultural touchstone

Growing up the in 1980s, many of us tuned in to NBC every Thursday to watch a nuclear family with two working, educated parents raise their children.

From 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., there were goals, achievements, setbacks and struggles that the family portrayed and communicated. There was trouble, and there were consequences. There was a certain philosophy to raising children and being a part of a cohesive family unit. And there was plenty of humor. There was an enlightened awareness of societal issues, as well as African-American culture. And there were sweaters.

This family – the Huxtables – they were fictitious.

But on “The Cosby Show,” one of television’s groundbreaking and most successful series, they were like us. They were realistic – and, if you still watch reruns of the series on CentricTV, the Cosbys still are.

And they were black. But that fact was seemingly tertiary, even though in “The Cosby Show … A Look Back,” a 2002 NBC retrospective on the series, Phylicia Rashad acknowledged that some African-Americans took exception to how they were portrayed. But I’m not here to play the race card.

“The Cosby Show” had a universal element. As parents, children, students, professionals and siblings, we could relate to the Huxtable family on some level.

If Heathcliff came home, exhausted after a day of delivering babies … and Denise would beg him for money/permission/forgiveness.

Or if he decided to give Theo a lesson in personal finance.

If Clair was arguing a case and when it seemed inevitable that she would lose, she would find a way to pull out her trump card and play it with wit and flair.

If Vanessa and Theo were fighting. Or if Theo didn’t like someone’s artistic abilities.

If Heathcliff was subltlely belittling Elvin. Or vice versa.

If Denise, the semi-misfit daughter, announced that her intentions didn’t align with those of her parents. Or if Sondra, the Ivy League graduate daughter, did the same.

The Cosby Show also provided us with arguably the best scene in television history – the whole family performing Ray Charles’ “Night Time Is The Right Time,” in celebration of the grandparents’ anniversary.

“The Cosby Show” brought a certain sincerity to our living rooms, one that, 25 years later, still resonates. As some of my friends would say, “The Cosby Show is the truth.”

What’s your dream? And what does it mean?

I had a dream last night that one of my good friends from college, who now lives in Connecticut – only a few hours from here – came to visit me. He brought his wife and two children, and they were at the door when I opened it. So was a shiny black pickup truck, parked less than 10 feet from my front door.

“Why did you park your truck right in front of my house?” I asked him, pointing at the Chevy. “At my door?”

He turned, looked at the truck and shrugged. “Because there’s nowhere else to park. This was the easiest place to park it.”

He always had the most simple, direct logic. Probably a reflection of his upbringing in a small town.

But after I woke up, I thought a lot about the dream for the rest of the day. And about dreams, in general.

One of my recurring dreams was that I’d go to a huge event, get to my spot on press row and realize I had left my laptop at home. Fortunately, that never happened. (Though there were times I’d reach into my bag while driving somewhere, just to make sure my laptop was there.)

Dreams are messages. They tell us something about our lives. They’re manifestations of a lot of things that we may not want to admit to ourselves but of the things that are buried in the back of our minds. Anxieties. Hopes. Feelings of the conscious and subconscious. They come to us as these vivid visions. Or they’re terrifying sensations – have you ever been jolted awake because of a dream where you felt like you were falling or losing control of your car? It might be a parallel to something that’s happening in your life.

Of course, when I woke up, there was no black pickup truck parked right in front of my house.

Chances are, I miss my friend.

Another reason why they probably hate the media …

Columbus Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel was pissed that he lost. Again. This time, as a result of a 4-on-4 goal.

Then, he got even more pissed that someone reminded him – with empirical evidence handy – of how his team lost before he could remind himself of it. In response, he walked away from the podium during the post-game press conference.

They probably hate the media because they think members of the media think they have all the answers.


After the game, Blue Jackets coach Arniel acknowledged the 4-on-4 goals hurt, but seemed unaware of his team’s poor record in such situations.
“Have you noticed that we’ve been beaten up 4 on 4, goals against?” Arniel asked in response to a reporter’s question. “I don’t think so. I’ll go and show you the stats on that. That hasn’t been a problem for us. It was tonight.”
When a reporter pointed out that the Blue Jackets have been outscored 8-1 in 4-on-4 situations, Arniel said “Is that what it is? Oh, OK. I guess you guys have all the answers and you’re just waiting to jump. I guess we’ll have to work on that.”