Our big weekend

Neither of us had to go to school today, thanks to the Martin Luther King holiday, although Phoebe and I did walk up to the campus this afternoon to join a welcoming party for our cheerleading squad, which returned to The ’Ville from winning the national championship in Florida this weekend. Woo hoo!

We spent the day playing games, and enjoying the 50-degree weather outside. Tonight, Kates and I watched Betty White’s 90th birthday celebration -- which was a hoot! -- and now we’re watching my beloved Jayhawks hand Baylor its first loss of the basketball season.

But those were hardly the highlights of this weekend.

* * *

Saturday we woke up with one goal in mind: Purchase a new TV.

In case you haven’t been following along, let me catch you up. Our previous big screen TV -- a dated Samsung model that we bought shortly after we purchased our first home and was probably one of the last “big box” TVs to move from an electronic retailer’s shelf -- blew up in the midst of Roy Halladay’s no-hitter during the 2010 baseball playoffs. At the time, we were in transition and in the midst of our maddening home search, so replacing the TV wasn’t a high priority. We made do with a small TV left over from my college days, and got by, for the most part. … Last spring, we finally found our perfect home, which features a large living room wall that was begging to be outfitted with a new, large flat screen TV. Since then, we’ve been saving our pennies and waiting for the right time to act.

So Saturday we headed to the nearest Best Buy. We were on the lookout for a smart TV with a crisp picture, pure and simple. A picture that wasn’t so bright it ruined the magic of film and television. Something around the 40-inch range.

Samsung and Vizio were the brands that had caught our eyes in our months of research. But as we wound our way through the aisles and reviewed the store’s selection, we kept coming back to a 42-inch Panasonic plasma model with internet capabilities and various web apps. … We liked the picture quality on the LCD models better, but those, we learned, don’t come with internet hookups. Kates and I went back and forth, paced the store aisles some more, and nearly decided to put off our purchase for another time.

In the end, a store rep convinced me the plasma was the right television for what we wanted. We bought it, and didn’t look back.

Back at home, I unhooked the old TV and moved it downstairs to Phoebe’s playroom. I got the TV, now known as Phoebe’s new TV, rewired and she was in front of it, watching Dora in no time.

We unwrapped the new TV, set up its stand and hoisted it onto our entertainment cabinet. Setting it up was a cinch. I had it turned on and running just in time to catch the start of that crazy 49ers-Saints game (Talk about an unbelievable ending … ).

Seeing the TV in our house, Kates and I could hardly swallow what we’d done. It didn’t seem possible.

We bought a wall mounting system, but we dashed those plans and will return the mounting after seeing the amount of space the TV takes up sitting on our entertainment cabinet. The TV seems so large against our living room in comparison to the way it appeared in the store that I swear the store model was a smaller version designed to manipulate us.

Mission accomplished.

* * *

As we settled in for a night of testing our new TV, I turned on the Patriots-Broncos game, but that quickly turned into a one-sided affair. … Not that anyone was surprised. Tim Tebow has a long way to go before he can hang with the best teams in the NFL.

Just before halftime of the football game, a newspaper friend of mine in K-Town tweeted that Miss Wisconsin, Laura Kaeppeler, had entered the top 12 of the Miss America pageant. … Now, normally I couldn’t care less about the Miss America Pageant, but this year’s representative of our home state was from one of our hometowns!

As I’ve continued to keep tabs on the news of our old stomping grounds, I’d read stories about her rise through the pageant levels. I knew she graduated from Carthage. And that her platform was supporting and mentoring the children of incarcerated parents.

I changed the channel, and Kates and I were sucked into the excitement. We watched as she advanced to the top 10 and broke into the talent competition. Then, she advanced to the top 5 and was part of the question-answer portion.

Meanwhile, the buzz among our K-Town friends was building on social media.

Finally, it was time to announce the final results.
Fourth runner-up: Miss California.
Third runner-up: Miss Arizona.
Second runner-up: Miss New York.

Unbelievable. This girl from K-Town could actually be the next Miss America …

First runner up: Miss Oklahoma.

Oh. My. Goodness …

Winner: Miss Wisconsin.

We could hear the cheers that poured from K-Town bars and living rooms all the way down in The ‘Ville. Status updates and tweets related to Miss Wisconsin lit up our social media circles.

My friend Joe may have had the best quip with his Facebook status: “This is the greatest thing to happen to Kenosha since Al Molinaro.”

Hey, Joe. Let’s also not forget Alan Ameche, Orson Welles, Mark Ruffalo. The handful of kids who have appeared on "American Idol." And dozens of others who have gone on to great things. God bless, K-Town.

Here's a good post on how Miss Wisconsin became Miss America.

* * *

About a week ago I saw in the local newspaper that a few Royals players were making a stop in town yesterday afternoon to meet fans, sign autographs and rally support for the upcoming baseball season. Even better, the Royals mascot, Sluggerrr, was scheduled to be a part of the visit.

I decided to pitch it to Phoebe, a big fan of Sluggerrr’s, as a father-daughter outing. When I told her, she jumped up and down and clapped her hands like, well, a little girl.

When it was time to go, we headed to the sporting goods store to get a baseball. Then to the senior citizens center, where the even was being held. Jamming to the radio all the way, of course. “Daddy, stop singing because I can’t hear the music!” she said. It was a perfect.

At the center, we met a fair crowd of people waiting and sitting at rows of tables set up as if there was a potluck dinner. A work colleague and his son joined our table a few minutes later, as did a trio of college girls dressed in Royals jerseys. They kept Phoebe entertained, rolling her baseball back and forth across the table, until the players arrived.

Eventually, Billy Butler, Danny Duffy, Greg Holland and Royals great John Mayberry entered the building, and the crowd applauded as they took their seats at a table at the front of the room. The Royals’ radio announcer introduced each of the players and gave a quick outlook for the 2012 season. Then he invited the crowd to come forward to meet the players.

As Phoebe and I took her place in the line, she, of course, asked about Sluggerrr’s whereabouts. But there was no sign of him and I said he must’ve decided to stay home. … Barely a second later, Sluggerrr stepped through the door and Phoebe erupted. Phoebe, who’s never been one to pose for pictures, insisted that all she wanted was to give him a hug and a high five. No pictures.

We waited patiently as the line moved past the players. When it was our turn, Phoebe shyly rolled her baseball across the table to each player.

After collecting each player’s signatures on the ball, we turned toward Sluggerr. Again Phoebe waited her turn … And then she smothered him with a hug and gave him a high five, just like she wanted. In this picture, Phoebe is actually hugging Sluggerrr, but she’s buried by his crown.

* * *

Then, there was the Packers game, which hardly measured up to the highs of our weekend.

When the season started -- with that memorable win against the Saints -- I didn’t predict a trip to the Super Bowl for the Packers, as I did last year, thank you very much. There are a lot of variables that have to fall into place for it to happen again, I said. … Then they went and had one of the best regular seasons by a team in NFL history, going nearly perfect -- until that ugly loss against the Chiefs (which I did predict, by the way) -- and flying under the radar for most of the season.

But the playoffs mark the beginning of a whole new season, and the thought of the Packers having to face the Giants, Saints or 49ers to get the Super Bowl made me nervous. Few people denied it wouldn’t be easy. … I was glad the 49ers knocked off the Saints because I figured the Saints would be the toughest opponent of all. Then again, the way the Giants marched into Lambeau and beat the Packers a few years ago, I knew it was going to take a near-perfect game by the Packers for them to advance to the next round. And look

The Packers were hardly perfect yesterday. Today, everybody’s talking about the fumbles and drops. Fans are calling for the team to cut Finley and Grant. … But I don’t think the blame can be put on any one player. The Packers team that lost yesterday was hardly the team that rolled to a 15-1 record during the regular season. The defense, already one of the worst in the league, was plain awful against the Giants. Even Aaron Rodgers -- usually cool and calm -- appeared out of sync. His passes were off and he was letting his frustration show during that second half. 

Ah, but we could all take solace in our new Miss America. Wrote my friend Liz on Facebook …
OK, Giants, you had your fun, but we kicked your ass
in the Miss America pageant!

Mr. Rodgers also has this going for him. Miss Wisconsin to Aaron: "Call me."

I had hoped it wouldn't end this soon.
So here are some good reads from the game, and the Packers season ...
a Packers, Giants get boost from history
a History not on the side of Patriots and Packers
a Giants Knock Out the Champs
a Giants' stubbornness paid off in '04 megadeal that almost wasn't
a CBS' Simms: Packers-Giants a lot closer than 37-20
a Manning, Giants pull off unthinkable yet again; more Snaps
a Somber Week for Packers, and the Defense Does Nothing to Lift Spirits
a The Education of a Quarterback
a After dismantling Bears, MVP is officially Rodgers' to lose
a Are Green Bay Fans the N.F.L.’s Classiest?
a Survey says: Packers are America's Team
a Why They Call Green Bay 'Titletown'

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