Hey, Rocky: There's gung-ho and then there's nuts!

Sylvester Stallone claims he knocked off sex to improve his on-screen performance in “Rocky Balboa.”Some critics of Sly’s thespian talents, of course, likely would say his sacrifice in order to conserve energy was all in vain. Stallone does fancy himself as a boxer, even if just a celluloid one. And the practice (or non-practice) of sexual abstinence among fighters in training is only slightly younger than carbon. Granted, giving up sex at 60 — Stallone’s age — isn’t quite as hard as abstaining when you’re 30. As we move into the winter of our lives, stoking the furnace no longer is as automatic as an elevator door.So if Stallone did abstain, I’m sure he didn’t find it as hard to do as, well, barrel rolling an F/A-18 Hornet. Still, I do admire Stallone’s dedication to his craft. My question is: How many of us would be willing to sacrifice sex for better job performance? I’m thinking the answer would be less than zero.

Cardiac arrest alert!

For the record, I’ve never seen porn queen Jenna Jameson in a movie. Scout’s honor.However, I’ve seen Scarlett Johansson in several flicks. And why not? My girl has a face to die for and her body has enough curves to shift any man’s salivary glands into third. It seems Jenna also has an eye for Miss Scarlett. Jameson has handpicked Johansson to portray her in her biopic. Jameson currently is in talks with producers and hopes the movie adaptation of her book “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale” begins filming next year.Johansson is on record as saying she would strip for the cameras for the right role.Sounds like a match made in heaven. Then again, perhaps my geography is a bit north.

Super is perhaps the most overused non-swear word in the English language — but it sure fits Colts vs. Pats, Manning vs. Brady

A great sporting contest can be great theater. Indeed, Indy’s 38-34 thriller over New England for the AFC Championship last night was such great drama that I do believe William “Bill” Shakespeare must have penned it himself.Colts vs. Patriots. Peyton Manning, Mr. Choke, vs. Tom Brady, Mr. Clutch. It was an improbable encounter with Manning out-dueling Brady in a match of magnificent gunslingers.Not to dip into the hot broth of deep hyperbole here, but what the hell! This had to be the biggest Clash of the Titans since Achilles vs. Hector, Greeks vs. Trojans. And that latter epic wasn’t even on network television (although Brad Pitt later turned Achilles into a Pretty Boy on the silver screen). It was utterly intoxicating watching all the thrills and spills as the Colts wrought their miracle comeback. And I was drinking bottled water at the time. And now Peyton is going to the Super Bowl — finally. Thank God for that because I believe there would have been more than a whiff of the lynch mob building in Indianapolis if he had fallen short one more agonizing time. He is a marvelous talent but he seemed to be hopelessly fighting an inanimate object called Wicked Fate until Sunday evening. I guess the conspiracy to shaft Peyton Manning no longer is afoot in the land.Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears dismantled the New Orleans Saints 39-14 amidst snow flurries to win the NFC Championship and embark on a mass migration to Miami to square off with the Colts in the Super Bowl Feb. 4.The Bears won because their defense was crunchier than Crackerjacks and because the Saints had more turnovers than a pastry shop. And did those Big, Bad Bears ever wolf through that pastry tray!Granted, Bears QB Rex Grossman made a few plays with his arm. But for the most part he was as ragged an old pair of jeans. Fortunately for Chicago, it has a relentless running game that pounds people into pulpy tissue.And how cool is it that Wilson grad John Gilmore, a backup Bears tight end, is going to the Super Bowl? He becomes the second Wilson product to make the Big Game. Kerry Collins quarterbacked the Giants to a Super Bowl against Baltimore. Hopefully Gilmore has a better experience than Collins. I believe they still are adding up the score in that astounding Ravens’ romp.For you trivia buffs, there is another Berks high school alum who has played in the Super Bowl. Steve Kreider of Schuylkill Valley was a wide receiver on the Cincinnati Bengals’ team that had the misfortune of running into Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in their prime.Since I’m Zeke the peerless pigskin prognosticator who is all-seeing and all-knowing, I predict Gilmore will suffer the same losing Super fate as his Berks brethren.After all, Manning suddenly seems to have caught the winds of destiny by the coattails.Who would have thunk it? Except maybe Shakespeare.

Cancer hits home in Muhlenberg

Cancer engages people in what can be brutal endgame struggles.Cancer is particularly gruesome when it afflicts young people. The disease at that stage of life not only decimates bodies, but chars dreams and flickers potential.So we all were struck with significant sympathy and emphatic empathy for the young cancer victims portrayed in today’s Page One story in the Reading Eagle. Not to make a jarring transition from cancer to commerce, but the possibility that Muhlenberg High School could be a cancer cluster — even though it’s quite problematic to prove a link — can’t be doing much for property values in the Muhlenberg School District.

Walking away from the mild side

One thing you can count on this world: Nothing good lasts forever.For instance, what the hell happened to global warming in Berks County? Did somebody from NASA suddenly spackle all those tears in the ozone layer? I thought I saw some sort of UFO flying over Blue Marsh the other night.OK, I know that I should be grateful that we have had a mild winter.But we live in the here and now, and it’s cold here and now.Granted, it’s not cold enough to make lawyers put their hands in their own pockets. Or cold enough to have drivers use jumper cables to get themselves going in the morning. Or cold enough to make Donald Trump cuddle up with Rosie O’Donnell (even hell freezing over wouldn’t make that happen).But I know it’s inevitable that Greater Reading soon will turn colder than a mother-in-law’s heart. Egad, I even read in the paper today that it might snow Monday. If that happens, I definitely will be ready to defrost my brain. Or Ed Hanna’s.So please do me a favor and fire up those aerosol sprays until the ozone layer looks like Swiss cheese. Perhaps that’s a tad selfish on my part. But baby it’s cold outside and I just can’t have that.

Doing the Ali Shuffle in my mind's eye

Muhammad Ali turned 65 today.May Allah turn back the clock — for Ali, for you and for me.It was my privilege to cover Muhammad Ali during his Deer Lake training camp days — days when he was preparing for his epic fights with Joe Frazier (the second two), George Foreman, Ken Norton and Leon Spinks and not so epic fights with Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick.Ali, of course, was a fascinating subject for a young sportswriter to capture in print.His fistic flamboyance was pure symphony. Blessed with exquisite foot and hand speed that was deliciously topped off with extraordinary reflexes, he fought like no other. With eyes wide open and hands hanging perilously low, he never slipped punches. Especially in his younger, salad days, his lithe body avoided shots by bending back at the waist. He had the most nimble abs in history.And he rarely threw body punches. It was a matter of vanity, not tactics. He didn’t want to expose his pretty face to counter punches. His personality flamboyance was legendary. He was a playful prankster and quipster, a guy with merriment dancing his eyes as he spouted poetry and entertained and annoyed the press with his sass.The Louisville Lip, however, was no lippy upstart as many media types had portrayed him when began boxing as Cassius Marcellus Clay. He became the greatest fighter ever, then the most recognizable face on the planet. The man notable for his ego transcended his sport and became a world figure for his stance against the Vietnam war. Of course, few people now remember how vilified Ali was when the government prosecuted him for draft dodging. That all changed dramatically in 1971 when the Supreme Court exonerated him and he returned to the ring.That is he so universally and glowingly esteemed today in his dotage is astonishing when you look at it through the prism of time. Besides all the hostility he initially had generated by his refusal to be drafted, he earlier had incurred the wrath of the masses by becoming a Black Muslim right after winning the heavyweight title. Cassius Clay became Cassius X and then Muhammad Ali. For years print publications and announcers refused to recognize his new name. The greatness of Ali is that his fights with Frazier, Norton and Foreman all came after his prime had faded like yesterday’s sunset. In fact, he probably never had a boxing prime because his skills kept ascending until the three-plus years of exile took a hiccup or two off his speed and reflexes. Of course, he fought much too long. And his wondrous upset of Foreman in Zaire — which I watched on closed-circuit television (remember that hopelessly dated technology in this era of pay-per-view?) at the old Rajah Theater and wrote a puffy sidebar in about 15 minutes in the crucible of an unyielding deadline — proved his ironic and ultimate Waterloo. He invented the Rope-A-Dope, which means he subsequently began swallowing an inordinate amount of punishment in fights and sparring sessions.As the noted author George Plimpton once wrote: “Oscar Wilde once suggested that you kill the thing you love. In Ali’s case, it was the reverse: what he loved, in a sense, killed him. The man who was the most loquacious of athletes (‘I am the onliest of boxing’s poet laureates’) now says almost nothing.”But what I most remember about Ali is his ballet grace in his younger days when he totally blew away the likes of Sonny Liston, Floyd Patterson, Ernie Terrell and Cleveland Williams. I cherish the memory of his all promotional shenanigans. I treasure all those quiet moments we shared just chatting at Deer Lake. The guy loved anybody who had a pen and a notebook. The man who was chronicled by Norman Mailer and all sorts of literary giants literally was delighted to be interviewed by a kid sportswriter from the Reading Times. Finally, I never will forget what a contradiction Ali could be — how sullen and mean he suddenly could be — i.e. Patterson, Terrell, Frazier, some of his ex-wives and mistresses — and how such a religious man could have so many sexual excesses. He literally squeezed life until the juice ran.Ali, indeed, gave the world lots of juice. He was pure electricity inside and outside the ring. And he brought his world circus — when boxing had a global platform — to a sleepy hamlet just north of Reading called Deer Lake. And I was there to see it — all the excitement and energy tumbling like acrobats in my eyes. I’m still pinching myself.Happy birthday, Champ!

A tragedy that pours over us like so much rain

We all are honeycombed for survival. Which is why we’re born with a strong sense of self-preservation. Which usually stays under warranty for life.A human trait that perhaps is even stronger is the maternal bond. Protection of our young is nested in our DNA. So when a 22-year-old mother kills her 5-year-old daughter and herself, which happened Monday in Bernville according to state police, it’s shocking enough to make even an atheist look to the sky for answers.I don’t know any details and I don’t have any answers. Something ruptured somewhere obviously, but who knows what?My heart goes out to the family, which undoubtedly is bivouacked with grief. And will be for sometime. Maybe forever.I just wish somebody would invent a bolt-lock that would keep people safe from irrational behavior.