Bill Turner
The start of high school football would have typically kicked off the season Friday, August 28th.
Excitement would be rampant at every stadium; fans would be packing the bleachers and the student sections would surely offer the most outlandish displays of summer attire to support their school and players. Bands would be marching and cheerleaders cheering. The players, who seem to get bigger and more talented year after year would be ready to go.
But, not this August. Some bunch of unwelcome bullies called the Pandemics have taken center stage, trying to crash the party of Friday Night Lights.
Fans wanting to see the latest crop of 275-pound linemen and speedy running backs will only encounter empty stadiums and padlocked gates.
So, couldn’t we use Clara Peller standing there shaking the fence; beckoning those huge linemen to emerge from the locker room and shouting her famous and demanding tag line:
“Where’s the beef?”
For those who are too young to remember, Peller became an overnight sensation in 1984 when the gruff former cosmetologist, who was 83 and stood 4’10”, was the leader of three elderly ladies who were pitching the virtues of the Wendy’s hamburger versus those of their two major competitors, Burger King and McDonald’s. The focus was centered around the huge bun offered by those competitors instead of a huge meat burger offered at Wendy’s.
The scenes were hilarious, featuring hugely exaggerated buns with a comically minuscule hamburger patty, usually implying they were Big Macs or Whoppers, and referring to their very Big Fluffy Buns. Peller would then cut loose on the counter employee, drive-in window attendant or restaurant manager with her booming line: “Where’s the beef?” The phrase even entered politics in the 1984 Presidential election when Walter Mondale used it to suggest one of his opponents had a lack of substance.
Peller’s role prompted a surge in using older individuals in commercials and she avoided revealing her true age saying, “Why do people have to worry about how old you are? It’s what you can do that counts.” Sadly, Peller died three years later in 1987 at her home in Chicago with her tag line cemented in TV commercial history.
Yes, you always learn something when you read this column.
So, does this present an opportunity for The Star? That was the question being thrown around the sports department recently to mull over a possible advertising campaign for our paper. A blockbuster of a commercial whose purpose would be to make The Star a household name and sensation. A surefire way to get us on the tips of everyone’s tongue. The interns came up with the perfect script with a comical side to be unforgettable. Raise the curtain, it’s showtime for a surefire Addy.
Our Peller look-alike enters the lobby of The Star’s corporate headquarters and heads straight to our attractive receptionist who is identified only by her desk nameplate as “Bambi.” The demanding octogenarian, playing on the Wendy’s tag line, then bellows, “Where’s the Chief?” (Sports director note: we know this gig has a better chance if we give The Chief a leading role).
Bambi, somewhat startled, says she knows he’s in the building and goes searching. Shortly thereafter she returns and says The Chief is checking out his new bidet that the sports department recently installed. Our elderly spokesperson, obviously aggravated she has to wait, takes a seat and grumbles something about ” probably another case of Big Fluffy Buns.” Then, we get a fade-in to our news and sports teams jumping into action. Definitely an eye-catcher, just not sure who’s going to break the idea to The Chief on playing himself in the ad.
“Where’s the Beef?” becomes “Where’s the Chief?” A natural crowd-pleaser with nostalgic overtones.
Now, before a production team starts the cameras rolling, let’s take a look at the local sports scene.
We begin by giving you two dates for upcoming Roanoke Valley Sports Club meetings at the Salem Civic Center. Monday, September 21st brings Paul Brazeau as guest speaker. Brazeau has served as Senior Associate Commissioner for ACC Men’s Basketball since 2014, responsible for the management and oversight of the league’s teams. A 1981 graduate of Boston College, Brazeau coached basketball for 8 seasons at Hartford. Reservations are mandatory by 4PM Friday, September 18. No walk-ups or pay-at-the-door accepted. Check the club’s website at www.roanokevalletsportsclub.com for more information and to purchase tickets.
One of the most popular basketball nights of the year arrives Monday, October 19th when famed NCAA referee Roger Ayers visits as guest speaker. Also, that night, four local high school basketball coaching icons will be honored as “Legends of the Game.” Troy Wells, Woody Deans, Paul Bernard and Burrall Paye will be on hand to make this a great night for all basketball fans. Once again, check the club’s website for ticket information.
While high school football is on hold until Spring, 2021, high school basketball is scheduled to begin practice in September with games set to begin December 28th. This will be an unparalleled year for VHSL Hall of Fame broadcaster Dave Ross, who will likely begin the High School Playback Game of the Week with a basketball contest rather that a football matchup. Regardless, Ross will continue to add to his unprecedented number of broadcasts now spanning six decades.
We’d normally be ready for the start of the Carolina League baseball playoffs, but with the entire minor league schedule cancelled there will be no September cracks of the bat at Salem Memorial Stadium. The Salem Red Sox weathered the storm with numerous promotions throughout the summer and the team will be welcoming fans back for games in April. Ticket packages for next year are already available through the Red Sox office.
The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs, with new logo and jerseys in place for the upcoming campaign, are tentatively set to begin a full SPHL schedule in December. Our annual Christmas countdown is already underway with less than 120 days until Santa takes flight, and there’s no better present than to stuff this year’s stockings with tickets to the Dawgs or a gift of merchandise with the team’s new logo. Check out the team’s merchandise website.
Next, I’d like to remember legendary pro ice hockey player and coach Bob Sabourin, who passed away in July at his Florida home at age 87. Sabourin gave me my first shot at semi-pro hockey during the 1969-70 season with a one-game emergency roster spot at left wing with the Jacksonville Rockets.
Sabourin, a character in his own unique way, told me before the game to enjoy myself because I’d never forget this night the rest of my life. I skated out in the orange and blue Rocket jersey, wore no helmet to avoid looking like a misfit, and quickly realized how nasty a bunch of Salem Rebel fans could get for 60 minutes towards an 18-year-old charmer with very, very long blond hair.
Although my minutes were extremely limited, it was long enough to get collared with the nickname “Goldilocks” from the draught beer hecklers.
I loved it. RIP, Bob.
Finally, to the mail bag where questions about Major League Baseball’s return and the popularity of bidets after last month’s column led the way.
Dear Wild Bill: You’re a former Major League Baseball photographer. What’s the best and worst you’ve seen since the games have returned? (Steve/Roanoke)
Well, Steve, the best has to be the games actually being played despite empty stadiums. The worst has to be the cardboard cutouts of fake fans sitting in the box seats. Scary looking bunch for sure.
Dear Billy Bidet: You’ve piqued a huge local discussion on the benefits of a bathroom bidet after your last column. Do you actually have one yourself? (Wanda/Cave Spring).
You bet I do, Wanda. It’s a Hong Kong version that has you sitting in a tapered bowl with two nozzles, one stationary and one moveable. Very elaborate and is perfect for the ‘après la merde’ session. And, NO, before someone inquires, I’m not appearing on my bidet in the “Where’s the Chief?” commercial.
Until next time, that’s a take. Have a seat, relax and send your comments to [email protected]
– Bill Turner