By Steve Robinson | April 25, 2009 - 7:11 pm
Posted in Category: Personal Blog, Sports

BaseballNORMAL – Voter Fraud!, the headlines screamed. An unflattering nickname submission also found itself in the mix in trying to find a name for Normal’s new Independent baseball team.

So Steve Malliet and those who want to get baseball in Normal off on the right foot in 2010 has revamped both the names to be voted on and the voting procedure.

The team nicknames still include, Coal Bears, still honoring Comedy Central comic and “anchor” of “The Colbert Report”, but now Coal Bears is joined by the CamelBacks (a nod toward a local landmark, the Camelback Bridge); the CornBelters, and the Fellers, giving a nod toward Town history, naming the team after Jesse Fell, the man who founded Normal, help found Illinois State University, and the local daily newspaper, The Pantagraph.

Could Fellers also not be seen as in Normal Fellers, or Fellas who play the game? And, of course, the Nutz (tipping the cap toward Beer Nuts recognition.

The Nighthawks are gone, with the explanation that a nighthawk refers to a specific Ku Klux Klan officer. If memory serves, Unit 5 School District tripped over that little known fact when Normal Community West High School was looking for a mascot before it opened over a decade and a half ago.

Normal Professional BaseballIn the team being formed, Normal will have an Independent baseball franchise that will be associated with the Frontier League, which has teams stretching from Pennsylvania to Michigan to Missouri. They will play in the new baseball/softball complex at Heartland Community College. That complex is slated to open in 2010. The new Frontier League team’s season would run from April through Labor Day.

I will be searching frantically for the location of the news conference where the new team nickname will be announced. All I know right now is that that announcement will be made on May 18.

With the reboot in voting procedures, one now has to give a certain amount of required amount of information – your name, your address, your town and state, your zip code, your email address, and then you have to type in a required code number to verify that you only have voted once.

I kept waiting for a couple other items to be asked for, myself. You know, such things as your mother’s maiden name, your date of birth, or even your shoe size. The security did not go that far.

Let’s just hope that this restart will prove a positive and we can forget the unpleasantness of how this balloting started.

And again, after filling in all the blanks, I voted for the Camelbacks. We’ll let you know the results later this month.

Hoping For…: …A return to cover the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Softball finals, which will be at Champion Fields again this year. I enjoyed covering them twice in the last three years, first for the Kalamazoo (MI) Gazette, covering Kalamazoo Valley Community College in 2005; and then again last year, giving coverage of the team from Copiah Lincoln Community College for the Brookhaven (Mississippi) Daily Leader.

By Steve Robinson | April 20, 2009 - 9:42 pm
Posted in Category: Personal Blog, Sports

BaseballNORMAL – The area will be getting another sports team in 2010 and it is one

Normal can call their own. It is a Class A baseball franchise that will be associated with the Frontier League, which has teams stretching from Pennsylvania to Michigan to Missouri. They will play in the new baseball/softball complex at Heartland Community College. That complex is slated to open in 2010. The new Frontier League team’s season would run from April through Labor Day.

This team will have Normal for a first name, and as with so many teams that are wanting to attach a nickname to the team, the operators, led by Steve Malliet, backed by Mike Veeck, who visited town a number of times trying to drum up local support, are in the midst of the voting in a “Name The Team” contest.

Townsfolk submitted a number of names that Normal could be hitched to. Four finalists are being voted on at the team website, In the running are: The CornBelters, the Nuts (or if you prefer, Nutz, in both a serious nod and/or a comic nod toward the local Beer Nuts outlet), and Nighthawks.

In the interest of full disclosure here, it should be pointed out that Nighthawks is a nod toward HCC seeing as their baseball and softball teams are nicknamed the Hawks, and the reasoning for Nighthawks is that the Frontier League team would play the bulk of their games at night. The full disclosure continues here, as it should be noted that my editor at the Normalite, Ed Pyne, says he submitted the Nighthawks entry.

Those three all make perfect sense, and again in full disclosure, yes, without coercion, I cast my vote for Nighthawks. Normal Nighthawks has a nice ring to it.

But there is a fourth entry in this race that has a 12 percentage point lead on Mr. Pyne’s Nighthawks – an entry submission called the Coal Bears.

Normal Professional BaseballIf you are scratching your head over that one, let me explain: It seems Malliet is looking for some publicity for his team and one submission honors Comedy Central network host, comic Stephen Colbert (Phonetically speaking: Coal-Bear). Malliet has told The Pantagraph he even has a logo sort of figured out already if Coal Bears wins – a bear carrying a pick ax.

I’m sorry, but the idea of doing this is really unsettling. Colbert is a comic who is now playing a Bill O’Reilly-ish or Rush Limbaugh-ish type of commentator on the comedy station’s faux commentary show, and that kind of irreverent humor doesn’t last long on me and I can’t understand why you would do this and think the public would tolerate it.

When I checked earlier tonight, Coal Bears was leading Nighthawks by a 46 percent to 34 percent count. The voting ends at midnight Sunday. I wish I could stuff the ballot box for the Nighthawks, but I only have one computer.

I just think this kind of publicity is a little silly, and if you don’t care anything about Colbert, or don’t “get” his faux news or think we see enough stupidity reported during real newscasts (we aren’t getting any smarter as a country it seems), than this idea will not make sense to those waiting for the first pitch next spring.

Frontier LeagueCos-bees?: I tried in desperation to think other comics a team nickname could be attached to without looking any sillier than Coal Bears.

I came up with two: The Normal Cos-bees (a tip of the baseball cap to Bill Cosby), and the Normal New Hearts (with a slight spelling alteration, after Bob Newhart). Both are a little less logical – maybe! – than Coal Bears, but I just don’t want to see the voting go the way it is and be stuck with this and maybe regret it later.

I will probably go to games, but if Coal Bears wins, I will be hard pressed to say the phrase Coal Bears out loud. If anyone asks, I will tell them I am a fan of Normal Professional Baseball.

I will be honest by doing that, won’t I?

By Steve Robinson | April 30, 2008 - 2:31 pm
Posted in Category: Personal Blog

American Life TVI must be getting old. That is the only explanation I have for loving a particular cable TV network we in town are about to lose.

This network runs old reruns of shows long gone: “Mission:Impossible” before Tom Cruise; “Burke’s Law”, “Lou Grant,” “Combat,” and the old “Jackie Gleason Show”, to name but a few of their off-network offerings from the ’60s and ’70s..

In short, American Life TV caters to baby boomers. And I would guess we appreciate it.

But by the end of the day today, American Life TV will be gone from the current cable system, Comcast Cable, who swallowed up Insight Communications earlier this year, because Comcast has no contract to broadcast American Life TV.

I have talked with a friend of mine, Rell, and we both are sorry to see it go, each for our own reasons.

We each called Comcast and got, from what Rell told me, different reasons for why American Life TV and some other cable nets are leaving our air April 30.

Rell was told by Comcast that it was because American Life TV was going belly up.

I had a hard time buying into that explanation I guess I had a hard time buying that because it seems that anybody can start a cable network in this country and run it for as long a day (24 hours of programming) or as short (filling in what is not planned by the channel originally with infomericials), and make dollars doing it.

ComcastNo, this is about contracts between the network and Insight, according to young man I talked to at Comcast last Saturday when I impressed on him how much we would miss the network. When Comcast originally purchased Insight earlier this year, my guess is that Comcast had to honor Insight’s expiration dates on its contracts with nets like American Life.

There are about a dozen or so nets like American Life TV which will exit the air because of this arrangement. And the reasons callers get for why they are losing their favorite stations are, apparently, as widely varied as the folks at Comcast who answer callers’ complaints.

Like I said, my friend, Rell, got someone at Comcast who said American Life TV was “going dark,” – shutting down anyway — as the broadcasters say. That could only really imply one thing to viewers: That American Life TV was going out of business for lack of viewers which translates, eventually, into a lack of money.

My instincts told me that couldn’t be right.

The man at Comcast I spoke to a couple weeks after that must have had it right, I figured.

That’s because the man from Comcast I talked to told me that, as soon as Comcast negotiates its own agreement with American Life TV and a number of other smaller cable nets, those nets will return. Someday.

So, in the meantime, I will go through a slight withdrawl period of not seeing “Gleason” on Friday nights, but I will get over it, as will Rell not seeing “Burke’s” on the weekends.

We both just hope the withdrawl period doesn’t go on for too long.

Until then, thanks, American Life TV. Hope to see you again soon.