Archive for January, 2007

Super Bowl Sunday
January 31, 2007

Super Bowl Sunday is upon us. The big game is the big enchilada of television: it is the most-watched event of the year.

This year, we have the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears, and I’m rooting for the Bears. You see, my first reporting job was in Rockford, Ill., some 70 or so miles west of Chicago — Bears country.

There were some cheeseheads drifting in from nearby Beloit, Wis., but the Bears fans ruled. My station, WREX, had a Bears show on Sunday complete with a fake bear head in the studio. I used to collect Bears glasses that came free with a fill-up at the gas station and they were my glassware until Kara and I got married and we tossed ‘em out!

I moved to Illinois in the winter of 1988-89, and the Bears team that won the Super Bowl in 1986 was on the decline. Walter Payton had retired, and they still had Richard Dent, the Refrigerator Perry and Mike Singletary, but the days of the Super Bowl Shuffle starring Yale grad Gary Fencik were fading fast. What amazed me though, was the loyalty of the fans, who had an unconditional love for their Monsters of the Midway.

Maybe it is their long history. The Bears are one of the oldest teams around. Maybe it is because they were immortalized in the movie “Brian’s Song” and satirized on “Saturday Night Live.” Who knows. All I know is that there is something about the Chicago Bears.

On a cold October night in 1989, I was asked to cover the Bears-Eagles game that was to be on Monday Night Football. It was an awesome assignment. There I was, walking around on historic Soldier Field, while a brisk wind from Lake Michigan made it feel like January. Actor Jim Belushi was on the sidelines with us, along with a few Prairie State dignitaries.

The Bears won and we quickly rushed into the locker room to talk to players, and the man feared by reporters across the NFL: Mike Ditka. Iron Mike had a reputation of cutting down reporters with surgical precision. As a cub reporter, I was understandably afraid to ask him a question, but knew I had to.

I asked him something about his arch rival Buddy Ryan, then head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. My voice rose a few octaves as I tried to appear confident. Surprisingly, Coach Ditka answered the question politely. Whew.

Anyway … you gotta love “Da Bears!”

P.S. My apologies to Eyewitness News editor Tom Zukowski, who bleeds Colt blue. He has five different Indianapolis Colts jerseys that he has been wearing to WFSB since the AFC championship.

It is hard to root for the Carolina Hurricanes of the NFL. Remember, the last time the Colts were in the Super Bowl? They were the Baltimore Colts. Can you imagine the Louisville Bears?

(p.s. – It’s hard to root for the Colts, whom I consider the Carolina)

Don’t miss our special interactive guide to the Super Bowl, replete with game coverage and the anticipated TV commercials. JUST CLICK HERE

Baby names
January 18, 2007

Kara and I are now a month away from our due date for the birth of our first
child, and we couldn’t be more excited.

The biggest question — after “When are you due?” — is, “Do you know what you’re having?”

The answer is: “No, we are going to be surprised.”

That in and of itself is surprising coming from two reporters, whose business it is to know everything … yesterday!

The nurse who taught our childbirth classes said about half the couples choose to find out the gender during an ultrasound. In our class, that number amounted to only about 20 percent — most wanted to be surprised.

Decisions, Decisions

Not knowing the gender means we have to pick out two names. We have two
finalists, but we’re not telling anybody — not even family.

We eliminated some names right off the bat, including Maxwell, White, Summer, Dog. Also, any names of people we dated before we got married got nixed.

We also eliminated Kara and Dennis. My dad’s name is Dennis and I found it
confusing growing up. My name was supposed to be Paul, after my mother’s grandfather Paolo, but as soon I was born, my dad wanted his first-born child named after him. So, Paul became my middle name.

I’m not a junior, which made it even more frustrating. I was always called Little Den, Young Den, Dennis Junior, Dennis Paul, etc.

To this day, some paperwork still gets mixed up.

There’s nothing against naming your child after living people, but we’re not doing
it. Our child will have his or her own name.

Kara and I also explored our family trees for possible names. We’ve traced the House line back to 1475, so we have 16 generations of names to choose from, including Thomas, Philip, John, Samuel, Caleb, Job, Horatio, Melvin, and Arnold.

Melvin and Horatio don’t really work as baby names, for us, anyway! My brother’s son, who will be our baby’s cousin, was born four weeks ago. Chris and my sister-in-law, Jodi, chose the name “Thomas” after the guy from 1475 back in England.

My mother’s father name was “Cresenzo,” a great name reflecting my Italian heritage, but it doesn’t go with House. It sounds like a pizza joint.

Kara’s Sundlun heritage has traced back to Lithuania in the 1800s when
the name was Zundelevitch. Among the names on that side that we could choose from include Moses, Morris, Isaac, Walter, and Bruce.

For girl names, we have three generations of Phoebe on my mother’s side, along with a Frances, Ida, Jeannette and Evelyn on Kara’s side.

Some couples combine names and create a new one. If we combined our fathers’ names, we would have Brennis or Deuce. I don’t think so. So forth with our mothers’ names, we’d have Judalyn or Marilyth. Not.

Kara and I have our fair share of baby-name books and we consulted the Social Security Administration’s Web site for the most popular names. The most popular boy name right now is Jacob. For the girls, it’s Emily.

Here in Connecticut, the most popular name for boys is Ryan, and for girls, Olivia.

We can tell you the names we have chosen do not appear in our family trees, they do not appear on the most popular lists and we didn’t make them up.

That’s all I’ll say … for now.

Feel free to let me know your favorite names and your baby name stories, just click on the “reply” link below.

Inaugurating a Governor
January 18, 2007


Dr. Henry Lee dancing, the Governor’s Foot Guard in full regalia and thousands of shrimp.

Where was I?

Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Inaugural Ball.

I had the great honor of being asked by Governor Rell to be the emcee of her ball. For a few weeks, I crafted my speech, which preceded the National Guard procession of dignitaries and elected officials.


The ball was the first in Connecticut since 1999, but the tradition of inaugural balls goes back 216 years ago.

Party Like It’s 1791

The first inaugural ball in our state was in 1791. George Washington was president, Iraq was known as the Ottoman Empire, and we used whale blubber to light our homes!

At that ball, there very likely were valet parking horses and celebrants drinking warm ale. I know this because my good friend Al Terzi told me so. You see, he was working as a town crier that night!

In 1791, we were celebrating the inauguration of Gov. Samuel Huntington (1786-96), a Federalist from Norwich. Connecticut had two state capitals, Hartford and New Haven.

Also that year, we had some pretty big breaking news: East Haddam was rocked by an earthquake!

Our Leaders Then And Now

We have seen dozens of governors since that first inaugural ball 1791 (Gubernatorial Roster), many now memorialized in the names of towns, bridges, and buildings.

Our first governors were appointed by the King of England. After the Revolutionary War, we had these things called elections and everything changed. We had one governor serve 18 years, another only 13 days!

Those who bravely led our state in the 18th century no doubt could not have ever forseen where Connecticut is today.

We now have a governor who can propose laws by e-mail, a governor who has to protect our state from terrorism, and a governor who is the commander-in-chief of a state that has the best college basketball teams in the world!

On With The Show

The Jan. 3, 2007, inaugural ball went off without a hitch. I was a little nervous, but once I started speaking to the crowd of 3,000, I was OK.

It was an honor to be a part of our state’s rich history. After the speech, my wife, Kara, and I spoke to the governor and her husband, Lou, their daughter, Meredith, and son-in-law, Matthew, and their son, Mike, and his fiancee, Maura. By the way, Kara is eight months pregnant and we anxiously the await the birth of our first child.

I also got a chance to chat with newly elected Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, who’s living the “American Dream.” Born in a small town outside Naples, Italy, he became CEO of Pinnacle in Stamford before being elected to the state’s No. 2 job.

Governor Rell must have shaken every hand in the place. She is truly a gracious woman who never seemed to tire of meeting new people and seeing some old friends and supporters.

Denise D’Ascenzo and Al Terzi were there on the dance floor bopping to “I’m a Believer” by the Monkees until Dr. Henry Lee cut in and twirled Denise across the parquet.

Scot Haney and Irene O’Connor were also there, looking dapper in their repsective tux and gown. Both had to leave early, but regaled our morning viewers with tales of the big night.

It certainly was a fascinating night, one that couldn’t have been pulled without the hard work of the inaugural committee, led by Catherine Marx and her very able team of Maureen Connolly, Paddi LeShane and Jackie Mandyck.



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