The Buffalo Bills in the Playoffs Takes Me Back to the ’90s

Scott Norwood

They made their fans sweat it out, but the Buffalo Bills are in the playoffs again this year with the Jacksonville Jaguars loss this weekend. Their season hasn’t been pretty, but they’re in pretty good form right now and can make a run at the Super Bowl with a little luck.

Whether they achieve that goal or not, just seeing the Bills back in contention for a Superbowl berth takes me straight back to the ’90s. Back then, the Bills being in the playoffs and having exciting moments went together like peanut butter and jelly. Like back in 1993 when they were a wildcard team and had to face the offensive powerhouse Houston Oilers.  And they had to do it without their starting quarterback Jim Kelly, their starting tailback Thurman Thomas, and one of their best linebackers, Cornelius Bennett.  At least they were getting to play in their home stadium if nothing else. 

My old man and I decided to watch the game that afternoon.  My Dad was just a casual football fan and rarely watched a game unless it was the Superbowl, and even then I think it was just because it was a national event, and not because he personally enjoyed it so much.  As for me, I was really getting into football at that point, and watched full games every week, and was excited about all the playoff matchups.  What we thought was going to be just an enjoyable playoff game, turned out to be one of the most exciting NFL games ever played, and featured the greatest comeback in NFL playoff history. 

At halftime, with the score being 35 – 3 in favor of the Houston Oilers, my Dad decided he had seen enough, and changed the channel to some western movie most likely.  Even though the game was a blowout, I decided I wanted to keep watching it and headed off to my bedroom to see the rest of it. 

As the Bills started their comeback and continued to rack up points, I tried to keep my Dad informed by yelling from the bedroom to the living room, “THE BILLS JUST GOT A TOUCHDOWN!  IT’S 35 – 10!”.  “THE BILLS GOT AN ONSIDE KICK!”.  “THE BILLS JUST GOT ANOTHER TOUCHDOWN!!!  IT’S 35- 17!!!”.  It wasn’t until they had come all the way back and took the lead that he became interested once again and changed the channel back to the game.  I rejoined him and we watched the closing moments of regulation where the Oilers tied the game with a field goal with just a few seconds left. 

But that was just a formality, as destiny was clearly on the side of the Buffalo Bills.  The defense picked off a Warren Moon pass that set up the winning field goal from Scott Christie to set the Bills on a course to the Superbowl and left the Houston Oilers on the wrong side of history.

Watch the highlights on YouTube

Now if you’re relatively new to the world of football, you may read that and think that maybe destiny will shine on the Bills again this year, but as Lee Corso would say, “NOT SO FAST”.  Because the Bills have also been on the wrong side of history in the playoffs before, and matter of fact, it was such a moment in NFL history that it earned a nickname..the Music City Miracle. 

Back in 1999, on a cold and snowy Saturday here in the Appalachian mountains, I took a ride with my brother to look for some carpeting for his house instead of just laying on the couch watching football all afternoon.  At the carpet outlet, they had a television set up and were watching the wildcard match-up between the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans.  The game was a low scoring affair, but I had a seat and focused on the game while my brother was doing his browsing and haggling with the salesman.  When he was ready to leave, the game was half-way through the 3rd quarter. 

We got back home, and I turned on the game, and he decided to sit and watch the end of it with me since it was a close game.  After just a few minutes, we watched the same Steve Christie kick what was thought to be the game-winner with just 18 seconds left to play, but this time, the Bills WERE NOT the Cinderella team.  The Tennessee Titans were as you’ll see in the clip below. 

So as the Bills enter the playoffs once again, I have to wonder if Lady Luck will shine on them this time, or will she be riding shotgun with their opponents?  One thing is for sure, with their history of dramatic playoff games, I’ll be tuning in, and I’m sure all those nostalgic memories of their games from the past will come flooding back again, and take me back to the ’90s once more. I’ll try to forget the one where Scott Norwood went wide right though. That was a heartbreaker right there.

Maybe I should call up my Dad and brother and see if they are up for watching one more Bills playoff game together.

October 28th, 1989

You know how there are just certain days from your past that you remember more than others? Well October 28th, 1989 is one of those days for me. It was a Saturday, which meant cartoons in the morning, but it was what went on that night that made it memorable. Let me tell you about it.

I’ve talked about the yearly Harvest Festival we had every year at my elementary school. Well, in 1989, the Harvest Festival fell on Saturday night, October 28th. So all day long I was eager with anticipation of that night’s event. It was also the night of WCW’s first Halloween Havoc pay-per-view event, which admittedly, put me in a disadvantageous position of possibly having to choose one or the other to enjoy that evening. So my morning hours were wracked with nervous feelings. Not enough that I couldn’t enjoy my usual Saturday morning cartoons, but it still played on my mind throughout the day. Normally, I can make my mind up quickly about things, but this was different. This particular day offered a very hard decision to make.

But as the cartoons ended and the afternoon started to roll around, my Dad made an offer. Since he would be going to the Harvest Festival with us so he could play bingo, he wouldn’t be there to watch TV. He suggested that we set the timer on the VCR and record Halloween Havoc while we were out! Now keep in mind, this was still the era before we had one of the cable black boxes that allowed us to get all of the PPV shows at no additional charge. At that time, I was allowed to order every other wrestling PPV, and this was the show. I skipped WWF’s Summerslam that year because I had gotten The Great American Bash in July. So we got the PPV ordered and the time set so I wouldn’t have to miss Halloween Havoc after all. With that set, I could turn my attention to the Harvest Festival.

So I spent the afternoon playing with Construx toys while I counted down the time left before time to go to the Harvest Festival. You know how I know I was playing with Construx? Because I was already trying to build what my interpretation was of the Thunderdome cage that was to be featured in the main event of the wrestling show that night. As it turned out, I wasn’t that far off.

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I really can’t remember my Halloween costumes from through the years. While that is true, I actually do remember my costume from 1989. I went as a convict. It wasn’t the most creative idea, but at least I had a costume. Time was getting close, so I got the costume on, but I still had a little time before we would be leaving.

It was in that short amount of time that I watched the only episode of the TV show “She’s the Sheriff” that I would ever watch. Since She’s the Sheriff was a syndicated show, and since it had already ended its first run, I probably had to have been watching it on my local Fox affiliate. I can’t tell you what episode it was that I saw that day, and since there are no full episodes on Youtube for me to embed, you’ll just have to make do with a video of the opening credits for the show.

So we finally got to the Harvest Festival and my first order of business was to take my Mom to the showcase and show it off to her. Our school had a big showcase display right across from the office in the main hub of the school. Back then, the top three classes at school all had a part of the Harvest Festival to handle. The 7th graders got to put on the yearly haunted house, the 6th graders were in charge of The Disco, or The Batcave as it was called in 1989, and we 5th graders had to put together the showcase. The theme for that year was antiques, and my Mom had donated her grandmother’s kitchen knife to be put on display with the other relics. The showcase wasn’t really anything special, but since we worked on it, I had to show it off.

Once I got tickets to the games in the gym, it was time to say bye to the folks and go run with my friends for the night while all the parents went to the cafeteria to play bingo. I used to think that would be so boring until I had kids of my own, and then it turned out that the bingo was the highlight of my night when taking my kids to these things.

My friends and I ran around and played games, toured the haunted house, and made several trips to The Bat Cave. Not to dance mind you, but to hear the music and hang out in the darkened room. No self-respecting 5th-grade boy could be seen dancing awkwardly in front of the girls.

But even as I was having all of this fun, my mind kept drifting back to home and the hard-hitting NWA action I was missing out on. The Festival was starting to wind down so I made my trip to the “general store” to buy some old-fashioned candy and got ready to go home to see how things were turning out in the wrestling battles.

The flaw in my plan was realized when we got home and the show was still going. So not wanting to get spoiled on anything prematurely, I waited until it was over, rewound the tape, and started the show!

I had been highly anticipating the Halloween Havoc show because the NWA had done such an amazing job building up not only the rivalries but the theme of the show itself. It had a Halloween setting and had an advertised main event of a Thunderdome cage match pitting Ric Flair and Sting against Terry Funk and The Great Muta. The promotion for the cage itself was fantastic as they boasted it would be the largest cage in history and would be electrified to make sure the competitors stayed inside.

But not only was the main event something I was really looking forward to but there were also several other key matches that night as well. The first meeting between The Road Warriors and The Skyscrapers was dubbed as The irresistible force meeting the immovable object, The Steiner Brothers taking on the mysterious tag-team only known as Doom, Lex Luger meeting Brian Pillman, and other matches.

It was hard staying awake that night to take it all in, but I fought my way through it, and watching that show capped off a great night in my young life.

After all of these years, it’s funny to think back about how a school event and a wrestling show could make such a lasting impression on me. But I think it has more to do with the current state of life we find ourselves in. So much responsibility with jobs, families, and the like, that sometimes our hearts ache to just go back, even if just for a little bit. And that’s what Retro Ramblings is for me. It’s my chance to go back, even if just briefly, to a simpler time. Thanks for taking a minute to make the trip with me.

And just for the record, here’s my ratings for the Halloween Havoc ’89 matches from that night:

  • Tom Zenk vs. Mike Rotunda – 2 stars
  • The Samoan Swat Team vs. The Midnight Express & Steve Williams – 3.5 stars
  • Tommy Rich vs. The Cuban Assassin – 1/2 a star
  • The Fabulous Freebirds vs. The Dynamic Dudes – 3.5 stars for the crowd atmosphere
  • The Steiner Brothers vs. Doom – 3 stars for the mystery
  • Lex Luger vs Brian Pillman – 4 stars
  • The Road Warriors vs. The Skyscrapers – 3 stars for the spectacle
  • Rick Flair & Sting vs. Terry Funk & Muta Thunderdome Cage Match – 4.5 stars for the whole experience

The Yearly Harvest Festival at School

With fall most certainly in the air these days, and Halloween not too far away now, I thought this edition of Retro Ramblings would be a good time to talk about what used to be one of the highlights of my year…the annual Harvest Festival at my elementary school!

I’m using the term fall festival so more of you will know what I’m referring to.  But when I was in elementary school, ours was called the Harvest Festival.  Living in a farming community in the heart of the Appalachians, harvest time has always been a big deal to the people around here.  A good harvest was always a reason to celebrate, as the livelihood of most in this area depended on it.  The way nature works, the end of the harvest season lines up nicely with the Halloween season.  Thus, we had a Harvest Festival at school instead of calling it a Fall Festival, a Monster Mash, or other names I’ve heard these events referred to.

So you’ve probably been to one of these things.  The kids dress up, there are games and events, the parents wander around and congregate, and a good time is usually had by all.  Ours was always held at our elementary school and was the biggest event on the school calendar with the exception of the end-of-year banquet and graduation ceremonies.

The gymnasium was filled with cheesy carnival-type games where you could win prizes.  You know the kinds of games I’m talking about.  Like the kiddie pool filled with plastic ducks, and on the bottoms of a few of the ducks was some kind of indicator of a better prize than normal.  Everyone got something like a piece of candy or a spider ring just for playing, but if you pulled one of the special ducks, you may win something like a stuffed animal or the like.  So games like this littered the entire gym floor.  You had to buy tickets on your way in to use to play the games, and the money made from the sale of tickets was used for things around the school.

Our gym was connected to the lunchroom by a set of double doors, so it was easy to bounce back and forth between the two places.  The cafeteria was where the parents generally stayed.  There were concessions like hot dogs and pizza, and there was bingo all night.  And the bingo prizes were top-notch.  A lot of the businesses in town would donate really nice stuff to be given away, and this was another opportunity for the school to raise money.  I can’t even begin to remember what the bingo cost, but it wasn’t cheap.  But the price was small in comparison to how you would be helping the school, and the prizes you had a shot at winning.  I’m talking about stuff like brand new televisions, rocking chairs, a date night package with dinner at the restaurant and tickets to the theater….stuff like that.

We also had a haunted house as part of the event.  The 7th-grade class was always responsible for putting it on, and they would spend all week setting it up, and then they would dress up and be a part of the haunted house.  It was never too scary of an affair, but they tried.  We also had a dance room that some years was called The Disco, and other years was known as The Batcave.  But you could go there, the lights were turned out and black lights were in use, and there was a DJ spinning the hottest tunes of the time.  You and your friends…or your boyfriend/girlfriend could kill time together.

The whole event was great, and it was so much fun getting to run free and hang out with my friends in that environment for several hours on a Saturday night.  It was also cool that since it was usually the week before Halloween, everyone would dress up in their costumes to come. 

When I find myself drifting back to memories of elementary school, the yearly harvest festival is almost always the first thing that comes to mind.  But what about you?  Did you have anything like this when you were growing up? Share your stories in the comments section below.

Trading Cards as Halloween Treats

While I was at the grocery store earlier today, the Pokemon cards above caught my eye.

I think trading cards are such a great idea to stuff into the bags, sacks, buckets, and pillowcases of trick-or-treaters on Halloween. They’re going to get more than enough candy, so things like these cards give much-needed variety, and something to do while consuming said candy.

Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I did my trick-or-treating on the street that my grandmother lived on. The street had mostly elderly people living on it, and they absolutely loved to spoil all of the kids who came around trick-or-treating by giving not only the best candies on the market but numerous other trinkets as well.

One nice man in particular was an avid baseball card collector. He liked to help foster the passion for his hobby of choice by giving out unopened packs of baseball cards. And I’m not talking about small sample packs like the Pokemon ones pictured above. No, he spent a lot of money and bought regular packs to slip into kid’s bags.

Those cards made such an impression on me, that I can specifically remember the cards I got from him. In 1988 it was a pack of Topps, in 1989 was Fleer, and in 1990 was Donruss. It’s not an exaggeration for me to say that getting those cards in my trick-or-treat bag really helped kindle my love of collecting cards.

Seeing the Pokemon cards today also brought to mind “Trading Card Treats” that were available in 1991. Much like the Pokemon cards, you could buy bags of packs of trading cards, each featuring a few cards per pack. They were designed to be given away for trick-or-treating as 1991 was around the apex of the trading card hobby.

Trading Card Treats were available in several choices too, so whomever was giving them out could pick what they wanted to give. They could choose between Marvel Super Heroes, Archie Comics, Universal Studio Monsters, Inspector Gadget, Widget, or Nintendo cards to give away.

It was such a great concept back then and still is today. I don’t know if there are other trading card options out there this year like the Pokemon ones I saw, but I sure hope there are. If you want to be fondly remembered for years to come by this year’s crop of trick-or-treaters, consider giving away some trading cards instead of candy.

My 9/11 Story

It’s often been said that you’ll always remember where you were on 9/11. I certainly remember where I was that day, and this is my story.

This past Saturday marked my wife and I’s 23rd wedding anniversary. I know it’s hard to believe that she has been able to put up with me that long, but it’s true. All the way back on September 9, 2000, we tied the knot. We had a fun honeymoon made up of visiting various places and doing various things for a week. One of the places we visited was the resort town of Gatlinburg TN where we stayed in the honeymoon suite of one of the better hotels there. We thoroughly enjoyed everything the hotel had to offer including the private balcony on the river, the private access to the pool and hot tub area, the fireplace in the room, and the jacuzzi tub.

So as our first anniversary was approaching, we thought it would be great to go back there and stay in the same suite again to celebrate one year of marriage. Not only did we like that idea, but we also liked the idea of once again incorporating several stops and adventures during our week-long celebration just like we did the year before. Gatlinburg and its surrounding areas were going to be our first destination.

We arrived in town on the afternoon of Sunday the 9th of September, and took in a few of the local attractions before calling it a night. On Monday the 10th, we made the hour-long drive across the mountain to the town of Cherokee NC. Cherokee is a historic town that sits in the heart of the North Carolina Cherokee Reservation. After seeing all of the sights and doing some touristy stuff, we headed to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino to spend the evening playing various slot machines. We stayed out late and got back to our hotel in Gatlinburg even later and crashed hard. Without having anywhere in particular to be on Tuesday, no alarms were set to wake up at any certain time.

On Tuesday morning, I sleepily woke up sometime after 9 AM. I turned on the TV, and so I wouldn’t disturb my still-sleeping wife, I muted the volume and started flipping through the channels. I surfed past CNN quickly, but an image caught my eye before I could stop my thumb from pressing the button on the remote, so I had to flip it back. The image on the screen was disturbing. What appeared to be the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center was center screen with smoking coming from both. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t make out the scrawl at the bottom of the screen with the details of what I was seeing.

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Holiday Inn Holidomes

As you may remember, for most of my life, my dad traveled for his business. In the summer when I was out of school, there was nothing I liked more than to go with him on his trips every week. While I really enjoyed the road trip itself, most of the time it was the hotels and motels that I got the most enjoyment from.

We didn’t have cable at home, so staying somewhere that did was awesome. Being able to watch AWA Wrestling on ESPN, or catch an episode of The Brady Bunch on TBS which was a TV show that I never knew existed until I saw it on cable in a hotel room. Then there was the fact that dinner most nights while traveling was pizza ordered from Dominos, which we also didn’t have in our area. We stayed in every hotel imaginable. From Best Westerns to Motel 6’s, to mom-and-pop roadside dives, my favorite place to stay was Holiday Inns which had a Holidome.

The Holidomes were like mini amusement parks within the hotel. They all varied somewhat from each other, but some of the common features they had were things like swimming pools, hot tubs, putting greens, air hockey tables, and arcade games. A kid like me could find plenty to do in a Holidome.

The Holidome kind of came in existance in the late 60s’ or early 70’s as some of the Holiday Inn chain owners in the north searched for a solution to their swimming pool problem. That problem being that were were pretty useless nine months out of the year in colder climates. At one Holiday Inn location in North Dakota, the owner built a dome over his pool so it could be enjoyed year round. It didn’t take long for other owners to do the same, and from there it wasn’t long before those owners started adding other little attractions inside the dome to go along with the pool.

Holiday Inn itself took notice and branded these add-ons as Holidomes, and started building them big enough to not only house pools and games, but large spaces that could be rented out for buisness conferences, reunions, and whatever else required a space big enough for a large gathering of people.

After becoming a success in the north, the idea was adopted in other parts of the country too, and became quite poplular in Florida. I guess families going on vacation to Florida could book a stay at a Holidome, and if the weather outside was crap, they could still turn the kids loose in the Holidome for all kinds of fun instead.

I can remember staying at several Holidomes around the country when I was traveling with dad, but one sticks out in particular. I can’t remember the city or town we were in, but I do remember that it was in Pennsylvania. After a dinner that was most likely Domino’s pizza, I headed to the main area of the Holidome for some play time. I can’t recall everything this particular one had to offer, but I certainly remember the pool.

I didn’t know how to swim, so whenever I got into a pool I made sure to stay at the shallow end. There were no diving boards and the like for me. Nope, I pretty much just waded around in waist deep water for the most part. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I fell into the pool on this night. I can remember falling in and flailing away, and then I remember waking up with my brother crouched over me by the side of the pool and he was dripping wet. I had taken water into my lungs I guess and blacked out. He had pulled me out of the pool and pumped the water from my chest just like you see on TV shows and movies.

That event pretty scarred me for life when it comes to water, and I still haven’t learned to swim. From that point on, I never had the desire to go underwater. Hell, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the desire to go under on that night either. But I don’t hold any of this against the Holidome. I loved those places too much to hold a grudge.

Holidomes started going out of style in the late ’80s, and by the early ’90s almost all of them had seen their better days. So when I started traveling for a living in the 2000’s, even though there are still a few scattered around, there were none to be found on my travels. But if there had been, I would have surely stayed at them. ANd it would have been a great time too. Eating DOminos pizza for dinner, and then hitting the Holidome for air hockey, video games, and putting greens.

Here is a home video taken in 1991 of a Holidome in Sharonville OH

The 1992 Topps Baseball Card Project

I’ve always been a big fan of trading cards. Ever since I first laid eyes on my brother’s collection of Elvis cards when I was really young, I’ve been fascinated by them. That fascination only increased when my friends were bringing the original Garbage Pail Kids cards to school.

I think my first foray into that world was actually Panini sticker albums instead of cards. The first one I remember having was the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe one. I followed that up with several others including more licensed ones and even the generic ones like the exotic animals album.

If my recollection is right, the first packs of actual trading cards I bought for myself were Awesome All-Stars and Greatest Gross Outs. These were imitation baseball cards that depicted weird aliens as baseball players in comic form. I loved those things, and my passion for cards only grew stronger.

Fast forward a few years and I was an avid collector of cards of all types. Baseball, basketball, football, non-sports, Panini stickers…if it was out there, I was interested in it. But 1992 may have been the peak of my fandom in my early years. It was that summer that a group of friends and I spent most days just trading cards amongst ourselves. It was also the year Topps released the 1992 version of their iconic baseball cards.

I was buying a couple of packs every week, and would proudly proclaim to my card trading friends that I was going to get the whole set. They were behind me and even gifted me their doubles on a regular basis. But what I didn’t calculate at that time was the sheer size of the set. Combine that with a meager allowance and you have the recipe for a failed attempt at collecting a whole set. Needless to say, I didn’t even come close.

Fast forward many more years to where I got on eBay and picked up a few packs of some random non-sports cards. Just the act of opening those packs once again got my juices flowing, and I started buying more and more old unopened packs. Before I knew it, I had an impressive collection of them. Figuring that there were more people out there in the world like me who enjoyed that feeling of ripping open a pack of cards and rifling through them to see what they had got, I took to filming the openings and sharing them on YouTube. You’re probably familiar since I’ve posted several of those videos here on Retro Ramblings.

One of the packs I happened to pick up then was the 1992 Topps baseball. When I opened a pack of those cards, so much nostalgia came flooding back to me. Memories of summer days and a promise I made long ago. Now we’re about two years removed from that day, and I had the itch to not only open some more cards but try to assemble a set.

The cards I started opening were Dick Tracy cards based on the movie from 1990. I had about 25 packs of them and I thought I might have a whole collection there. I opened them, put them in pages, and came up really close. It turned out to be a really fun evening, and then a thought hit me. What if I once again tried to assemble the complete 792 card set of 1992 Topps baseball cards?

All of my original cards are long gone, but what I did have was about ten unopened packs, plus the cards from three packs I’ve opened recently. I ran the idea by my friends at The Retro Network, and they’ve been really supportive. So much so that Karen’s dad has offered to send me a bunch of his doubles from the set!

So I’m going for it. It’s a project that I’d consider to be 30 years in the making. I ordered 100 trading cards pages from Amazon, bought a heavy-duty 3-ring binder, decorated the cover of it with a package from a pack of the cards, and wrote all 792 numbers down in a small notebook for keeping track of the cards I’m still looking for when I’m out and about.

While this is mostly just a personal goal of my own, I thought I would share it with you in case you’ve got something you’ve been holding off on starting for a while. Don’t wait. Go out and get started! As this project matures, I’ll probably share more of the journey with you here on Retro Ramblings. But for now, I’m going to go open another pack of cards.

Ric Flair’s Last Match

As this post goes live, Ric Flair is just a couple of hours away from wrestling his last match as part of a special event called, appropriately enough, Ric Flair’s Last Match.

I don’t plan on watching it live due to a couple of reasons. One is the hefty price tag for the online PPV event, and as early as I have to get up every day, I wouldn’t be able to stay up late enough to enjoy it. Those are the practical reasons. Another reason is, that I’ve already seen his last match back at Wrestlemania 24.

Now I know that Flair went on to wrestle in TNA after his retirement match against Shawn Michaels at that event fourteen years ago. But I’ve never watched any of the matches he had there, nor do I intend to. His send-off at Wrestlemania and the retirement ceremony the following night on Monday Night Raw was a perfect endpoint in my mind. I briefly wrote about it once upon a time while looking back at some of my favorite Wrestlemania memories. Here is what I had to say:

For me, it was the end of an era.  An era of fully enjoying watching wrestling.  I watched Raw the following night and the awesome send off the WWE gave the greatest wrestler of all-time.  That was the last time I watched a full episode of a wrestling show.

I had seen my favorite at his peak, and at his lowest, and then I got to see him on one last high over those two days.  As Flair closed the book on his active wrestling career, I closed the book on my fandom.  No one would ever capture my imagination like the “Nature Boy” did again.

I still feel that way. Tonight’s event has even more nostalgia associated with it since it is the last card that will be presented by Jim Crockett Promotions…my all-time favorite promotion that brought me so much entertainment through the years. Not only that, but being held at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville is significant as it’s the site of two of Flair’s world title wins. The first being over Ricky Steamboat at WrestleWar ’89, and the second was over Randy Savage at Starrcade ’95. Both of those events I witnessed live on PPV. One other little bit of nostalgia associated with the event is that its start time is 6:05 pm…a little nod to the history of wrestling on TBS with its traditional 6:05 start time every Saturday night for YEARS.

Even though I won’t be watching, I wish the “Nature Boy” all the best. Not only in health as he’s attempting to do this match with a pacemaker, but in spirit as well. I hope Ric finds the happiness that he’s searching for by going out there to do what he loves one last time.

Who knows, maybe one day when I’m older, I’ll attempt to do something I’ve loved one last time and will know what he’s going through, and someone will be cheering me on and wishing me well from afar.

I Miss Fat Pro Wrestlers

The other day, I was reading through the great book, Wrestling at the Chase:  The Inside Story of Sam Muchnick and the Legends of Professional Wrestling, and I realized something.  I realized I miss the gold old days of pro wrestling. I miss when guys like Dusty Rhodes were at the top of the sport. The bygone era when guys who didn’t look like your typical star could still get a chance to shine. Guys like Terry Gordy, Big Bubba Rogers, “Playboy” Buddy Rose, and numerous others were on top because they were the best at what they did. Days when having a great muscled-up physique didn’t automatically make you a star. In short, I miss fat pro wrestlers.

Back in the days when wrestlers earned their checks by how many tickets they sold, the emphasis wasn’t so much on looks. It was a combination of their actual skill in the ring, along with their charisma out of it. If they could use their words to rile the fans up to the point that they would buy a ticket to see him get his butt kicked, that was enough. If he was good enough in the ring to make the fans believe what they were seeing, that was enough. Looks were just a bonus. Some of my favorite wrestlers would never be offered a cover spot on a men’s magazine, but they sure could make you believe they would whip the ass of whoever DID appear on the cover.

I use the term “fat wrestlers” loosely here. I’m not just talking about fat guys, I’m talking about guys who just don’t fit the “fitness” profile that you see with most guys in the ring today. Guys like Arn Anderson may not have gotten a chance in today’s wrestling world because he was not muscled up, and didn’t have six-pack abs, but he could talk, he could express emotion, and he knew how to tie guys up in a pretzel to get his point across.

You turn on WWE programming today, and you’re sure to find plenty of guys that are ripped and look like they’ve stepped straight off the pages of Muscle and Fitness. What you won’t find, however, are guys wrestling who looks like your dad, or the tough guy down the street who works on cars.

The loss of the average looking, but the tough son of a gun, in favor of hiring muscle-bound freaks who sometimes have trouble with the basic concepts of wrestling, has hurt the suspension of disbelief of wrestling to a degree. I want to see a guy who looks like my uncle fighting a guy who looks like your uncle.

A lot of the best wrestlers to ever come along were great examples of what I’m talking about. Mick Foley never looked too imposing physically, but because he knew how to connect with the fans through his interview style, and his brutal style in the ring, you always knew he was a threat. He didn’t have to rely on being muscled up with baby oil dripping off of him to become a star.

Take Phil Hickerson as an example. Phil spent a lot of his career wrestling in the Memphis area. While he certainly didn’t look like a star by today’s standards, he was one tough son of a gun and you had no problem believing what he did was real. Above is a video to help get my point across, and if you’ve never seen many of these guys I’ve mentioned, I urge you to search out footage of them and see just how some of these less than stellar looking athletes were some of the better workers in the business.  And as a special bonus in that video, the two muscled-up chumps Phil was beating on here grew up to be Sting and The Ultimate Warrior.

Is Nostalgia Dead?

A few weeks ago I hosted a live Space on Twitter and was fortunate to have one of my online heroes, Shawn Robare, join in for a conversation. The conversation ebbed and flowed, and several minutes were spent talking about the good old days of what I like to call the “retro verse” blogging community.

In the neighborhood of ten to twelve years ago, there was a thriving community of bloggers who focused their efforts on writing about the “good old days”. Those days of our childhood that were filled with toys, cartoons, movies, television shows, and just the general pop culture of the ’80s and ’90s. It would have been hard to throw a rock and not hit a blogger who dedicated at least a little bit of their online space to writing about things from days gone by. But now, it’s hard to find many of us left who dedicate their time to spinning tales of wonder about those good old days.

We offered up varying opinions as to why that is. Things like the rise of social media and the shortened attention spans of the audience were discussed. But then Shawn asked a question that I’ve thought about every day since that conversation: Is nostalgia dead?

He followed that question up with a hypothesis that so many of the things we used to pine for from our youth is no longer gone. In this age of streaming, it’s hard to think of a movie, television show, or cartoon from our youth that can’t be accessed now at the touch of a button. Our favorite toy lines from back then now enjoy as much or more success as they did in their heydey via all of the various reboots and relaunches. Hell, even New Coke and Crystal Pepsi have seen limited re-releases to quench our thirsts in this modern age. He is very correct in the thought that it’s hard to really miss much from our past because so much of it is now thriving again in the present.

With that perspective, it makes sense that so many of my favorite old online haunts went the way of the dinosaur and became extinct. Even Shawn’s own Branded in the ’80s site ceased publication last year, albeit for different reasons than I’ve highlighted here, but it’s now dormant nonetheless.

So why do some folks like myself continue to spend time writing and podcasting about those things from the past? For me, it’s a simple answer, and that answer is I still like to share my memories. And I’m certainly not alone, as there are several holdovers left from the retro blogging community who still carry the torch, and I’ve even discovered a few newcomers as well. As a matter of fact, just three short years ago, Jason Gross and I launched The Retro Network as a hub for creative people to have a place to share their memories without having to host a site of their own. We’ve got over two dozen actively engaged contributors who write, podcast and produce videos that are all centered around nostalgia.

But what about the audience for such writing? Does it still exist? It’s one thing to create the content, but it’s a whole other for people to find and digest it. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen the bounce rate for Retro Ramblings climb, and time spent on the site fall. Both of those statistics point to a declining fanbase. But is that because a once engaged audience no longer feels the nostalgia tug at their heartstrings like they once did and thus no longer need a nostalgia fix, or could it just be they are just tired of what I’m offering in particular? The answer to that eludes me, and neither one feels good. On the flip side of that, my social media engagement continues to rise, pointing to it being a trend where folks would rather just scroll and hit a quick “like” button versus stopping to consume something you’ve created in full. And that’s a painful trend as Shawn pointed out in our conversation. A lot of time gets spent crafting a post or feature, and all it warrants from the vast majority is a “like” without them ever actually reading or consuming the content itself.

I’ve said all of that to say this…if you’re like me and you enjoy reading other people’s memories of the things you enjoyed, or you like discovering things from the past that you may not have had the pleasure of experiencing back when it was popular, there are still retro creators out there that are working hard to scratch your itch. I’d like to close this piece out by highlighting several of those folks. I won’t be hitting everyone out there in the retro verse in this list, but I did want to highlight several in case you were unaware of their existence. I mean, if you’re reading this right now, you’d probably like to visit these fine folks as well.

  • Rediscover the ’80s – Jason is always going back to the ’80s to look at some interesting facet of the decade.
  • The Retro Network – A whole stable of folks who are putting memories on an almost daily basis.
  • Dinosaur Dracula – Matt has been doing this a long time, and still brings things to the table I haven’t thought about in years.
  • 20 Years Before 2000 – A whole host of topics get explored in a fun and colorful way.
  • Masked Library – Kevin brings a lot of wrestling talk, but also hits the nostalgia bone quite a bit.
  • The Retro Dad – Retro memories and interests of a 20th Century Gen-Xer.
  • Plaid Stallions – Always bringing up cool old rack toys that were found on store shelves along with a lot of Mego talk.
  • Retroist – All kinds of stuff from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s
  • Retro-Daze – Tony and the gang have new old memories going up all the time and a fun community all around.

As I said, it isn’t a complete list by far, but those are some of the sites I check daily. And who knows, maybe one day, something like the old Pop Culture League or League of Extraordinary Bloggers will come along again and more voices will be found out wandering in the dark.

But what are your thoughts on the question of Is Nostalgia Dead? Does it tug at you like it once did, or are most of your nostalgia needs now filled? Do you still enjoy reading/listening/watching things nostalgia-related. Please sound off in the comments section below, because it’s a subject I’m deeply interested in knowing people’s feelings on.

Five of My Favorite Matchbox Toys

Growing up in the ’80s and early ’90s, Hot Wheels, and Matchbox cars were a big part of my playtime.  Both lines produced a lot of really fun cars and playsets, and in this edition of Retro Ramblings, I’m sharing a few of my favorite toys from the Matchbox side of things through the years.  

Matchbox Super Spin Car Wash

After a long day of play in the dirt and mud of the hills around our house, a good car wash was just what the cars and trucks needed.  This car wash was kind of automatic…as in you had to get the car in the wash and then turn a crank and it would go all the way through.  It featured real water jets, a foam roller “scrub” brush, and a spin dry feature.  The perfect play set for getting all of your cars clean before packing them away for another day.

Watch the commercial for the Matchbox Super Spin Car Wash HERE

Days of Thunder Cars from Hardees

In 1990, Jerry Bruckheimer’s Days of Thunder movie starring Tom Cruise hit theaters to a great reaction, and merchandise based on the movie started to flow.  One of the better pieces of merchandise to come along were the replica cars from Hardees based on the stock cars from the movie.  The five main cars featured in the movie were in the set, which allowed us younger viewers of the film to recreate all the action at home.

Matchbox Cars Based on the Code Red Television Show

In 1981, CBS debuted the little-remembered Code Red TV Show.  It featured Lorne Green as the Father of a firefighting family in Los Angeles and the Chief of one of the many stations in the city.  The show only lasted one season, but Matchbox produced a series of cars featuring the iconic vehicles from the show.  There were two fire trucks, the Chief’s car, motorcycle, fireboat, helicopter, ambulance, and police car.  As a kid whose Dad was a fireman, this set was one of my absolute favorite toys to play with in the ’80s.

Matchbox Connectables

One of the cooler concepts that came along in the 80’s toy landscape were these Connectables cars from Matchbox.  Each car was in at least two pieces and connected in the middle.  This allowed you to interchange parts of different vehicles to create all new cars and trucks to play with.  There were also packs of other car parts available so you could even extend the new cars into total monstrosities if you wanted to!  You could make a big rig limo or a drag car with tank treads!  With these cars, you could take your imagination and play to a whole other level.

Check out the commercial for Matchbox Connectables here.

Matchbox Trains

Matchbox released a series of train cars in the early ’80s to go along with all of their already awesome car collection. There were various engines in different colors, along with box cars, passenger cars, flat cars, and cabooses.  The really fun aspect of this series was you could hook any of the cars to any of the other cars, meaning you could make many different configurations with varying train cars.  They weren’t exactly in scale with the rest of the line, as they were each about the size of one of their normal cars.  I used to love these things!  My brother and I would hook all of ours together and make an imaginary track all through the house.  We could get hours and hours of fun out of these trains.

So what about you?  Did you have any of these awesome Matchbox toys?  Did I leave out your favorite Matchbox toy?  Tell me in the comments!

How I Remember Christmas

Like I’m sure it was for most kids, December 25th has always been one of those benchmark dates on the calendar. Alongside my birthday, and the last day of school, it has always been a measuring point for the year. And for good reason, as I’m sure I’m not alone in enjoying the gift-giving, gift-getting, food, and fellowship that the magical holiday brings. So in this special edition of Retro Ramblings, I want to share some of the things I think of when I think about Christmas.

For me, the highlight has always been about the time I get to spend with family. Especially my Dad. All through my years of growing up, my Dad traveled. He would be gone for roughly 300 out of the 365 days of a year. But his work always slowed down in December and he had a lot of time at home that lined up so well with our Christmas break from school. And while he himself never got overly excited about Christmas, he did so many little things to make it special for me. Things that most would not think are overly special but so special to me, that I’ve tried to do the exact same things for my daughters every year now.

There is so much nostalgia built into the holiday season for me. So many different things about the holiday that trigger vibrant memories of some of the happiest times of my life. So here in this article, I want to share with you a lot of the little things that I enjoy during the Christmas season, their origins in the past, and some of the strong memories associated with them.

(In no particular order)


Every year around mid-morning, my cousin and his parents would stop by to see what Santa had brought, and to show off some new toy he had gotten as well. He and I would play with whatever new things we had while the parents sat and talked, drank coffee, and just enjoyed each other’s company. The fireplace would have a nice crackling fire in it while some low Christmas music played in the background. It was just a wonderful setting for enjoying the mid part of the day.

In recent years, my daughters had the pleasure of being visited every Christmas morning by their great grandparents, who would come see what they had gotten for Christmas and join us for a simple breakfast of orange cinnamon rolls and ham…..just like we always enjoyed on those Christmas mornings so long ago.


One of my favorite days of the year…seeing the vehicles decorated for Christmas, seeing Santa Claus riding into town high atop a town fire truck, and then following him to the local grocery store to get a treat bag. That bag usually consisted of an apple, an orange, a few pieces of strawberry candy, and a full-size candy bar. The whole town would usually show up for the parade and treats, even though that number was roughly only about 600 people. It was a day that I can think back on and not really remember anyone being anything but happy.

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