Blind Mumbling

A compilation of writings that never got anyone excited.

Location: N. Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, United States

Former teacher, co-editor of Total Football and the author of more than 20 books and over 200 articles, most about sports history. His credits include Pro Football: When the Grass Was Real, The Hidden Game of Football (with John Thorn and Pete Palmer), Baseball Between the Lies, The Importance of Napoleon, and the Battle of Stalingrad. He is presently Executive Director of the Pro Football Researchers Association.

Friday, April 28, 2006

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Thursday, April 20, 2006


By Guest Blogger Charles Carroll (Someone’s Smarter Brother)

Bush: Well then who's the Chinese President?
Rice: Yes.
Bush: I mean the fellow's name.
Rice: Hu.
Bush: The Chinese President.
Rice: Hu.
Bush: The President of China.
Rice: Hu.
Bush: The guy leading...
Rice: Hu is China’s President!
Bush: I'm asking YOU who's their President.
Rice: That's the man's name.
Bush: That's who's name?
Rice: Yes.
Bush: Well go ahead and tell me.
Rice: That's it.
Bush: That's who?
Rice: Yes.
Look, they gotta president?
Rice: Certainly.
Bush: Who's president?
Rice: That's right.
Bush: When they pay off their president every month, who gets the money?
Rice: Every dollar of it.
Bush: All I'm trying to find out is the fellow's name.
Rice: Hu.
Bush: The guy that gets...
Rice: That's it.
Bush: Who gets the money...
Rice: He does, every dollar. Sometimes his wife comes down and collects it.
Bush: Whose wife?
Rice: Yes.
What's wrong with that?
Bush: Look, all I wanna know is when the Chinese President signs an order, how does he sign his name?
Rice: Hu.
Bush: The guy.
Rice: Hu.
Bush: How does he sign...
Rice: That's how he signs it.
Bush: Who?
Rice: Yes.
All I'm trying to find out is what's the guy's name.
Rice: No. Watt invented the steam engine.
Bush: I'm not asking you who invented the steam engine.
Rice: Hu’s the president of China.
Bush: One person at a time!
Rice: Well, don't change the names around.
Bush: I'm not changing nobody!
Rice: Take it easy, buddy.
Bush: I'm only asking you, who's the Chinese President?
Rice: That's right.
Bush: Ok.
Rice: All right.
What's the Chinese president’s name?
Rice: No. Watt invented the steam engine
Bush: I'm not asking you who invented the steam engine
Rice: Hu's the Chinese President.
Bush: I don't know.
Rice: Eyedunno’s the Prime Minister of Toga, we're not talking about him.
Bush: Now how did I get to Toga?
Rice: Why you mentioned his name.
Bush: If I mentioned the Toga Prime Minister’s name, who did I say is Prime Minister?
Rice: No. Hu's the Chinese President.
Bush: What's President of China?
Rice: Watt invented the Steam Engine.
Bush: I don't know.
Rice: He's Prime Minister of Toga.
Bush: There I go, back to Toga again!
Would you just stay on Toga and don't go off it.
Rice: All right, what do you want to know?
Bush: Now who's Prime Minister of Toga?
Rice: Why do you insist on putting Hu in Toga?
Bush: What am I putting in Toga.
Rice: No. Watt invented the Steam Engine.
Bush: I don't want to know who invented the steam engine.
Rice: Hu is the Chinese President.
Bush: I don't know.
Rice & Bush: TOGA!

Friday, April 14, 2006


Secret Service Leader:
“All of you rookie agents in today’s guarding detail must live up to the tradition of the service. Had someone attacked President Reagan with a knife, every agent would have leaped forward in front of that blade. If a gunman had let fly at the first George Bush, every agent would have gladly taken the bullet. Had some madman hurled a bomb at President Clinton, every agent would have thrown his own body on the blast. And if today President George W. Bush is attacked by some killer with a deadly weapon, you should try your best to talk him out of it.”

“I want you boys to remember, it’s not if you win or lose but how you play the game. Sure, we’ve had some losses this season, but you’ve always shown sportsmanship. Always. I know you boys have played fair and square out of the respect you hold for me. I’ll go farther than respect. I’ll say you love me as much as I love you. Today, facing our traditional opponent, I know none of you will use any of those illegal acts we showed you in practice this week. We demonstrated those ways of cheating only so you could protect yourselves. We won’t use any shameful moves no matter how easy it is to avoid being caught. And next year, when I’ve been fired, I'll save up and buy a ticket to one of your games. I know I'll see the same good sportsmanship that’s cost us so many victories this year. “

Director of a Play:
“I’m sure you’re mis-reading the audience’s response. You know that in New York an appreciative audience would send roses up to the stage. That’s fine for them, but our community theater is in the heart of farm country. Here, many crops are more valuable than roses. When our local people throw tomatoes and other vegetables up to the stage, you should consider it a compliment. And, having expressed their opinion, tonight’s audience saw no reason to wait around. That’s why when you came out for your curtain call, there were only a few folks left. And no, that’s not what they were calling. What they yelled was ‘Boon!’ meaning ‘a timely blessing or benefit.’ You can only hope that you’ll get more tomatoes and boons tonight if anyone shows up.”

Father of the Bride:
“This is the biggest day of your life, Sweetie. Today you take my arm and walk down the aisle to meet your soulmate. Sweetie, when I arrived at the church today, Uncle Henry handed me this pre-nup. Not that you’ll ever need it. I’m sure you and Wilfrid will live happily ever after. For you kids to sign the pre-nup is only a formality, Sweetie, but formalities are important. This little ceremony you and Wilfrid will go through at the altar today is a formality. .Before you go through that elaborate and very costly formality that I’m paying for, you must dot all the T’s and cross the I’s. You must sign Uncle Henry’s little formality. It would be a shame to send all those guests home without the wedding they came to see.”

Friday, April 07, 2006


A while back I mentioned that I am a disaster when it comes to on-stage ad-libs. Ad-libs are not to be confused with spoonerisms, the sometimes ludicrous juxtaposition or substitution of the initial sounds on words. For example, in a production of the play Bus Stop, a young waitress told my wife, playing an older waitress, that she planned to meet an old lecher in Topeka. Apparently this shocked my wife so much that one evening she dropped her “m” and responded, “You’re not going to eat that man in Topeka or anywhere else.”

It’s best in such a case to just keep going. Ignore any inadvertent sexual slip. Although my wife thought she’d made a Hall of Fame Goof, few in the audience noticed her error. Even fewer knew why she was suddenly blushing. When she came off stage, she gasped, “My mother is in the first row!”

Sometimes, going on is impossible. A misstatement can bring the play to a screeching halt. In a famous example, a con man was supposed to burst into a hotel room and tell his fellow conspirators that there was a hotel detective – a “house dick” – outside. For reasons known only to himself, he strode to center stage and proclaimed, “There’s a horse dick in the hall!”

The mental picture caused the entire cast on stage to break up.

Another famous stage story concerns an actress failing to enter on cue. The single actor on stage repeated the cue several times while offstage the stage manager scrambled to find the missing actress. When she was at last pushed on stage, the relieved actor greeted her with his proper line – “Where have you been?”

The tardy one blurted the truth: “I was in the green room having a cigarette.”

Something similar once happened to me. I forget the name of the play. I had a small part as a building contractor who, at the opening to Act Two, was supposed to be at center stage talking to the lady of the house. The actress was named Jane Smith and her character was named Mrs. Jones. There was no curtain, so I made my way to my place in the dark. When the lights came up, I was alone. No Jane Smith!

For once, I kept my brains about me. I had some blueprints in hand. After a few minutes, I went to the door and called, “Excuse me, Mrs. Jones. Can I see you for a minute?” Normally, I would have bad-libbed and called out to Mrs. Smith.

When the actress arrived, we completed a short scene and I left the stage. An apprentice was standing there with eyes like saucers. As I passed him, I whispered, “That’s why they pay me the big bucks.” Actually, I only made a few dollars more each week than the apprentice. The point was that for once I had successfully ad libbed.

Bad-libbing isn’t hereditary. My son was only ten when he went on stage for the first time. In a second act scene, he and another actor were on stage when the telephone rang by accident. A popular acting anecdote is about just this situation. The phone rings; both actors freeze, panicked over what to do. Finally one actor reaches for the telephone. The second actor relaxes until the first actor answers, then hands him the phone. “It’s for you.”

My son had no doubt heard that story many times. When it happened to him, he answered and told the caller it was a wrong number. A couple in the audience who had seen the play and knew what had happened applauded. The only thing really interesting about the event, aside from a quick-thinking ten-year-old, was that the technician in the light booth who inadvertently rang the phone was my son’s mother, my wife.

Despite my bad review for my first appearance at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, I was thrilled to be find a role in another production, Wait Until Dark. This time the casting was letter-perfect – a not-too-bright thug out for no good. I was the third creep in a trio who terrorized a blind lady for three acts. I couldn’t have asked for better type-casting. I thought, “Let’s see the reviews this time!”

I did have one small bad lib. Because the lady was blind, we thugs did all sorts of things to search her home without her realizing what was happening. At one point, I was to mount a three-step stool so that I could reach something. As I balanced on top, the stool began to slowly bend. I rode it like a tiny elevator down to the floor and then stepped off. Across the room, the lady was supposedly blind. She reacted cleverly by alluding to the odd sound. “What was that?” she asked.

My answer was, “I bent your thing.” For some reason the audience laughed.

Although my answer broke the tension on stage for a few moments, the production was fine over all. I couldn’t wait for the newspaper reviewer to write about my performance this time. In my first Playhouse production, all she had said was I “appeared nervous.” That was true, but I thought she might have found some positives. No matter, my thug in Wait Until Dark would win her over.

The next day, I ripped open the newspaper to her review. After spreading praise on the director and leads, she got to me in the fifth paragraph. All she wrote was that I “appeared less nervous than in his previous Playhouse appearance.”

And that was it. She’d got me twice for the same play! My ad-libbed review of her review was not fit to print.