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By Peter Simunovich
A few years ago an English businessman returned to London from his summer vacation on one of the islands in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia and told his friends how he had found “heaven on earth.”
The islands may not be on the “A list” of Europe’s vacation spots, but they are must-see as they stretch from Dubrovnik, an 11th century city in the south, to Rijeka, near the Italian border, making them an attractive short visit from Rome, Paris, Athens, Madrid, Berlin and London.
Hvar is the most popular with Vis, Krk, Korcula and Kornatik, a smaller group of islands known for sailing, also have strong drawing power and seem to be perfect to relieve stress for high powered corporate executives or, say, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston to relax after long hours on the set.
In summer the almost-still Adriatic waters have a calming influence and are broken by small fishing and ferry boats from Split, a major city on the coast, which was once the home of Diocletian, a Roman emperor.
The residents on the islands proudly talk about their peaceful and humble existence, which over the years have attracted royalty, millionaires and the powerful, but have resisted rich offers to build casinos and modern hotels from wealthier countries. Retaining centuries old culture is important even when the tourist industry is suffering.
Brac, the largest island, is probably the best kept secret of the more than 10 islands. It is just a one-hour ferry ride from Split and some of its coastal villages have small cafes and restaurants catering for visitors with home made wine, cheese, olive oil, bread and grapes. Croatian food is influenced by neighboring countries Italy, Hungary and Austria.
In 1991-1992 Croatia became an international flashpoint when it went to civil war to gain its independence from Yugoslavia. Now 11 years later Croatia, which has a population of about five million with two million living along the coast, is still building a new image with a new currency, new flag and trying to stabilize its economy. The predominantly Roman Catholic nation has renamed all streets, parks, suburbs, buildings and sporting clubs that once had a connection to the old communist regime.
During the civil war the islands did not see any conflict, but the inhabitants heard the bombings as battles raged on the mainland. Dubrovnik, however, was bombed, but the old city has since been rebuilt.
Some of the older folk in small villages like Dracevica on Brac now have telephones and even cable TV after having seen two World Wars, a civil war, the great depression and restrictions by communism.
They talk about when electricity finally came in 1960, then running water, the first TV set, bitumized roads linking all towns on the island and the first telephone less than a decade ago.
They also have three meals a day and recall the tough times during World War 11 when there was little food. A meal with meat was rare and for some a slice of bread was almost like a feast.
Hundreds left the islands searching for a new life in the United States, Australia, South America and New Zealand. Few returned.
“Today is America to what it used to be like,” the older folk tell tourists, who enjoy the long hot summer days and quiet warm nights that are sometimes stirred by the bells around sheep necks.
It is a laid back life: A typical day will begin early to complete work in the fields because of the heat later in the day. From noon to about 5 p.m., it is siesta time followed by a swim at a nearby beach. Then dinner around eight. By nine, many gather at the piazza as men play bocce under lights while women watch and talk and children play. TV does not control their evenings.
A week on any of the islands is just what the doctor ordered to cure stress.
Copyright © 2017 Cleveland Press.com
So you miss Jim Thome’s big frame at first base and his crushing hits from home plate at the stadium. The burgers, fries, hot dogs and the beverage of your choice don’t taste the same now that the Cleveland Indians will miss the post season.
Last week the New York Yankees celebrated the 100th birthday of their great first baseman Lou Gehrig and during one of the many interviewers about the legendary Yankee an old timer said that Thome had a similar strong build to Gehrig.
It was a compliment for Thome even though his numbers probably will never match those of Gehrig.
But Thome is now in Philadelphia and whatever he is doing with the Phillies is not helping Cleveland except make fans grumble even louder and wish he was still with the Indians.
So summer in Cleveland is going to be a long one until LeBron James starts working out with the Cavaliers.
Maybe it is time for a change of interest in sport over summer, well, at least, until the Indians start winning more games and become contenders for the post season.
Ever heard of cricket, old boy? That’s the game that is the equivalent of baseball in England, Australia, the West Indies, New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and South Africa.
Well, this may surprise you, but there are at least 10,000 cricketers in the United States and the game’s governing body, the International Cricket Conference (ICC) in London, strongly believes that the time has arrived for the game to expand even more in the US and the ICC is ready to pump money to promote cricket.
Wait, there is more.
ICC president Ehsan Mani said that there was some chance of the US could host some Cricket World Cup matches in 2007.
Of course, there are a few bridges to cross before this will happen. If it does happen it will be only a few games, but it will not create the same interest as, say, the 1994 soccer World Cup, which was hosted by the US and helped boost the economy as thousands of fans came from all over the world.
“The ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, being hosted by the West Indies, may see some games being played in the United States,” Mani said in a statement. “There is still much work to be done and many hurdles to be overcome before this could happen.”
ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said the ICC was realistic about the difficulties of developing cricket in the US, but with careful management it offered an opportunity to build on the 10 000 senior players in the country.
“America is one of the top three associates members of the ICC in terms of senior players and we would like to see them challenging for a place in the World Cup,” Speed said.
“The ICC board is looking at ways that the development of the game in America can be advanced, but is very realistic about the task ahead and does not see cricket challenging the major established sports in America.
“With the number of people playing the game there, cricket has a foothold and if we are able to manage it sensibly, the game could become a successful niche sport which would be of great benefit to the game globally.
“Having said all this, we are very much at the beginning of this whole process. The ICC executive board has asked management to prepare a detailed paper on the US and it must receive the full backing of all ICC members before we can proceed.
“The reality is that we are talking years not months before the benefits of any program would be realized.”
It is encouraging that cricket might grow in the US and now with the Indians in the also ran class, you can swap your burgers, fries, hot dogs and beer for tea and scones, that’s what the cricket countries have at their ballparks.
It’s very British, you know.
Copyright © 2017 Cleveland Press.com
LeBron James – Welcome to the show
Madison Square Garden has made many legendary athletes and entertainers feel nervous whenever they stepped into the world’s most famous indoor arena. Muhammad Ali, Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan never knew what would happen when they played there before hard to please audiences. Ali lost to Joe Frazier in their memorable heavyweight contest in the early 1970s, Gretzky’s magic couldn’t win the Stanley Cup for the New York Rangers and Jordan wasn’t always in control when he led the Chicago Bulls against the New York Knicks, but on most nights he had his way.
Rock stars and crooners like Frank Sinatra probably had butterflies because they were never sure how the tough New York crowd would receive them. New York can belittle the best.
But for LeBron James it was different. He walked into the Garden on NBA draft night dressed in a white suit and tie on his first day at the office as if he was set to have an evening out at the clubs and bars around Broadway. Nothing, not even a pro-New York crowd was going to ruin his night.
The 18-year-old knew he was going to be the No. 1 pick and that his team would be the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a done deal. Jordan, Gretzky and Ali never had that luxury.
James smiled when the cameras focused on him with five minutes on the clock for Cleveland to decide if they would pick him first. They did. No surprise to the several thousand in the theater where the draft was held.
But for James, who already has a $90 million deal with a footwear company and is almost a household name without pulling on a Cleveland jersey or throwing one basket at NBA level, it was still a personal thrill when NBA commissioner David Stern called out his name.
It was official then that this teenager, who decided to bypass college and go straight to work, was the No. 1 pick. Even though he has known for weeks who his employer would be it was still a major step in his life when he heard Stern call out Cleveland.
James was quickly handed a Cavaliers cap to seal the deal and then the round of interviews began. Yes, it was a thrill to be first pick, yes, all the hard work had paid off, yes he would try to lift Cleveland to the top, of course, he would work hard and naturally the Cavs were his first choice all along.
Wait, there was one other question. Someone asked him to compare Cleveland with New York and whether it would be quiet for the new multi millionaire after spending a few days in New York.
James didn’t miss a beat and his answer must have pleased Cleveland’s travel industry. He invited the media to visit Cleveland in a couple months and see that the city would be lit up like Las Vegas.
That sounded like the first challenge from James as the new Cavalier. Change is on the way and he was up front and center defending his city and team. It was a positive sign of things to come.
The popular opinion about James is that he is the real thing even at 18. Players acknowledged he had the goods to run with Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd and Co. Carmelo Anthony, his good buddy and No. 3 pick who went to the Denver Nuggets, agreed that James would be a great player, but also said that he was not necessarily the best player in the draft. Darko Milicic, the second pick chosen by the Detroit Pistons, and Anthony have the credentials to lay claims as the best in this year’s draft. Now it is all speculation. It’s in the books that James is No. 1 and Cleveland has him.
Already, there has been talk that he will be as much an influence with the Cavs that Jordan was with the Bulls. This, too, is speculation. Give the kid a break. The only resemblance between James and Jordan as of now is that he will wear No. 23, the same number Jordan wore with the Bulls and Washington Wizards.
James may also have a rich footwear deal, but he has a lot of catching up in other numbers, like six NBA rings, before he can be compared with Jordan.
Copyright © 2017 Cleveland Press.com
The first three years of George W. Bush’s presidency has been like a yachtsman a long way off shore for the first time. Instead of enjoying a calm Sunday afternoon sail there have been high winds and wave after wave crashing into the boat.
It all came one after the other. The 9/11 terrorist attacks, a weak economy, high unemployment, the threat of more terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, the war in Iraq, the Middle East crisis, the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden still at large.
If this was a Texas barbecue then the president hasn’t much room left on his plate.
But now Bush has to make room to accommodate another sensitive subject as the focus slowly begins to turn to the 2004 presidential election.
And this is whether the United States will allow same sex marriages. The question has already been raised. Over the years there has been a loosening of laws allowing gays to have rights and the move for legal same sex marriages has been gathering momentum.
Now it appears that Canada will allow same sex marriage it has opened the door in the United States – for discussion, anyway. If that occurs what will happen if two men or women from the United States marry in Canada and return here. Will the U.S. recognize their certificate of marriage?
Right now it is like a train a long way away in the middle of the night, but it is slowly getting closer and closer and its whistle is getting louder and louder, almost like a warning to the White House, mayors and governors.
The gay community, over the years, has slowly but surely gathering strength and influence. There are now openly gay people in public office, they have their own organizations and machinery to get their message out. It will be an emotional issue. Radio and TV talk shows will dine on this. Religious orders will weigh in on the subject. It will divide dinner discussions and after work drinks just like pro-life and the woman’s right. Same sex marriages has been coming for a long time, but have been pushed aside because it did not have the clout to do anything about it. Now they have clout.
Last year about 50 same sex marriages, which were not recognized by the city or state, were held at the same time near Central Park in New York. It was a festive occasion with their families and interested onlookers. Some had children from previous marriages and were willing to talk about their new life and partner. It was no longer a thing that they whispered about. They were prepared to be interviewed by the media and appear on camera with their partner. The gay community believes they are entitled to a marriage and that it should be recognized by the city and state.
But the real question remains: Is America ready for same sex marriage? It is a major step in any society and it is already on its way beyond City Hall and the state capitol. It is heading for the White House and it will be on the agenda when America votes for the presidency in 2004. There has already been talk that it could influence the election albeit in a minor way.
It is just something else for the Bush camp and his advisers to think about as they plan to try to win a second term with an already full plate.
Copyright © 2017 Cleveland Press.com
A freelance writer who contributes human interest, local government, lifestyle, social issues and sports to New York Newsday, Agence France Presse, the Empire magazine and has written for Reuters, the Times of London, Australian newspapers and magazines.
.It’s the bottom of the ninth. Two out. The scores are level. The pitch … silence. It is broken by the ringing of the phone. Hello. The four-second break. “Hi. I’m calling about lowering your monthly phone bill.”
It is a familiar story across the country. The intrusion of telemarketers into your home at the most inappropriate time. During dinner or a ball game or coming through on call waiting.
Finally, America had had enough. People began to complain. It was like a scene out of the movie Network with the late Peter Finch, who played the role as a broadcaster, and encouraged viewers to react obnoxiously if they were not happy.
“I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore,” he said in the movie and then a scene followed as people opened their windows and yelled the same words as Finch.
Even Jerry Seinfeld included a telemarketing segment in his long running and popular TV series when he took a call.
Seinfeld said he couldn’t answer any questions at the moment and asked for the caller’s home number. The caller refused because he said he did not want to be bothered as home.
Seinfeld replied: “Now you know how I feel.” Click. We all related to that. At least he was almost polite. Imagine some of the insults that telemarketers have listened to over the years.
For years telemarketers ruined many nights at home. But now the doors have been closed on them with a sign: Please Do Not Disturb – Ever.
An estimated 20 million have placed their numbers with a countrywide do-not-call-list that is aimed to stop telemarketing calls.
When this registration campaign began, according to the Federal Trade Commission, something like 158 numbers were listed every second in the first few days. Land lines and cell numbers were registered as if it were a raffle with a $10 million prize.
In the first year, says the FTC, about 60 million of the 166 million residential numbers in the U.S. will be on the do-not-call-list after the first year.
America has spoken.
Now we wait for the calls to stop, but, says the FTC, this will not happen until October 1 and then 80 percent of the intruders will be prevented.
The downside of this is that it will have a negative effect on the economy. Telemarketers will be laid off and the industry has already predicted that it may lose half its business, which is about $50 billion in sales each year.
It is one of those good and bad stories. The good news is that there will be no more – or most of them – irritating calls.
The bad news is that some people will be out of work. Now the telemarketers will have to find a way to make contact with us again. The obvious way seems to be e-mails if you happen to be Online.
So it will start all over again. Instead of the disruptive calls we will have to wade through the e-mails that are “out of this world offers” or “this will save you money” to “you can work from home and make a lot of money.”
And while we are pressing the delete key we just might be eliminating the messages we really want from friends and family.
Who was it who said: “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”?
At least we’ll be able to have dinner in peace or watch a game without being distracted.
Copyright © 2017 Cleveland Press.com
Someone once said that you can attract a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. This seems to be the game plan of two archers who are part of the seven-person Iraq team that will compete in the World Archery Championships in New York.
The fact that the team is in the U.S. is a story in itself after the war, the demise of Saddam Hussein and now the rebuilding of the country, which for most part is enjoying freedom for the first time in years.
Iraq – one way or another – will dominate our front pages and evening news broadcasts for a long time before the dust finally settles and the country will be in a position to run itself and by its own people.
But for the archery team of four males and three females who will be a part of the record 580 competitors from 80 countries in the titles, it is a chance for them to show the world they are ready to get on with their lives despite the turmoil and reconstructing their homeland is now going through, albeit unsettling.
Mohammad Fayadh and Afrah Abas, both sports instructors and recurve bow national champions, met the media before the championships began over the weekend and made it clear right from the beginning that they were not interested into entering the political side of their visit.
Instead, they wanted to talk about archery and their hopes and goals as they faced the world’s best during the tournament. For them it is a dream come true to resume their careers after the past nine months had been disrupted by the uncertainty leading up to the war, followed by the conflict and now the fallout. During that time there was little or no training and competition.
Now Fayadh and Abas will represent their country in the recurve bow events in the world championships. Through an interpreter, Fayadh said: “We are a peaceful, good and kind people and like everyone in the world. We invite everyone to visit Iraq. It is different to what you see in the media. We are peaceful and kind.” Fayadh added that the new administration in Iraq would kick-start all sport in his country and a new wave of archers would follow.
Abas had her say about her country and the women were perceived. She said: “All Iraqi women are civilized.” Of course, she hopes to do some shopping while in New York.
The Iraqis do not expect to do well in the championships because of their restricted preparation, but more importantly they want to show the world they are back on the sporting stage even though it is a low profile competition like archery, which is a traditional sport in Iraq. Soccer, wrestling and fencing are the popular sports in Iraq. Fayadh said the tournament was “important for us. It is a dream come true for us to compete in these championships.”
It is a goodwill gesture by the U.S. to have Iraq in New York and according to Jim Easton, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee and president of the International Archery Federation, the project would help put “sport back on the map in Iraq.”
It is all part in the rebuilding of Iraq and, hopefully, peace.
Copyright © 2017 Cleveland Press.com
It is pure coincidence that Ben Curtis from Kent, Ohio, won the British Open as a 500-1 long shot just a few days before the highly hyped and much anticipated movie Seabiscuit about a horse who came from nowhere and captured the imagination of a nation and beat the best thoroughbreds around.
While Curtis’ victory raised a few eyebrows around the world, it only proves that life is full of surprises and long shots can win the big one. Curtis, who was raised and learned his golf in Ostrander about 30 miles from Columbus on a course that was built by his grandfather, Dwight Black, was just another face pushed back in the crowd by the more talented and famous Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and company in the days leading up to the 132nd. British Open. There was nothing to suggest that this 396th ranked 26-year-old who had yet to finish in the top 10 of a PGA tournament in his rookie year would even create a ripple in the British Open.
There was nothing there to suggest that Curtis would win. When Woods obliterated the field to win his first U.S. Masters he had the potential and past form that one day he would win a bag of majors. The skinny on the man from Kent, Ohio, was that he was a two-time Ohio amateur champion, a semi finalist in the 1999 U.S. Amateur Championship, a member of the winning U.S. team in the 2000 World Amateur Championship and this time last year played on the Hooters Restaurant tournament. And to add to this almost-fairytale story Curtis just qualified to compete in the tournament.
ABC network broadcaster Al Michaels’ now famous call of “Do you believe in miracles?” when the U.S. hockey team defeated the highly fancied Russians at Lake Placid in the Winter Olympics semi finals could have been used when Curtis won the British Open. It is the stuff movies are made from. Sometimes even Hollywood doesn’t have the imagination to create a script that led Curtis from obscurity to international stardom in virtually the blink of an eye. Yet at the end of the day he reigned supreme and his name was engraved on the claret jug along all-time greats like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson and others. And on the last day of the tournament the winner wore an orange shirt when most of us expected Woods in his usual final day claret shirt would prevail. It’s funny how sometimes long shots take center stage and stand in the spotlight with the trophy.
Now Ohio has two household names – Curtis and LeBron James, the overall No. 1 NBA draft pick who has signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is already worth more than $100 million without playing one NBA game and Curtis picked up a check for $1,112,720 for winning his first major. Suddenly Ohio is the home of a world golf champion and a basketball player with the potential to be the new face of the NBA, which right now needs a facelift in the image and role model departments. Is there something in the Ohio water that the rest of the country doesn’t know about? Whatever. It is refreshing that Ohio is the focus and home of two young fresh faced athletes with the best yet to come. And it was also a feel-good situation when Curtis talked about his coming marriage in August to fiancee Candace Beatty and how the ceremony and planned family would overtake everything else. Yes, it was a nice, refreshing weekend when a new face from Ohio became a champion and the rest of the world looked on.
Copyright © 2017 Cleveland Press.com