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23-year-old Nutley man charged with sexually assaulting 14-year-old girl

A 23-year-old Nutley man has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting and endangering the welfare of a 14-year-old girl, Nutley police say. Jonathan Matos was taken into custody by police on Friday, Oct. 10, on Spring Street, and is […]


Bloomfield’s Cunningham on watch in the Indo-Asia Pacific region

Quartermaster Seaman Fayden Cunningham, of Bloomfield, assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mustin (DDG 89), stands watch at night in the bridge. Mustin is currently on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting regional security and […]


NAPD: Don’t fall for phone scams

North Arlington residents have reported to police that they’ve received phone calls, mail and email from people reporting to be from the IRS and other governmental agencies. The caller will report delinquencies  in paying taxes, credit card bills or make a […]


2nd Harrison hotel

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide opened its 14th Element hotel in Harrison last Thursday with members of the development team pedal-powering a virtual ribbon-cutting at the new location, 399 Somerset St., just off Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. South. Starwood CEO Fritz van Paasschen told visitors that that the company is “looking to […]


A first for Kearny VFW Post

By Karen Zautyk Observer Correspondent  KEARNY –  When Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1302 elected its new commander in May, it also made local history. Jennifer M. Long, who was installed in office at the state VFW convention in June, is the first woman to head a […]


For taste of good music, try The Pietasters

Photo courtesy Steve Jackson/ The Pietasters (from l.): Dan Schneider, Jeremy Roberts, Carlos Linares, Dave Vermillion, Andrew Guterman, Steve Jackson (sitting), Toby Hansen, Alan Makranczy.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

In the music culture, a band being together for over twenty years seems like an eternity. Many bands such as Metallica, the Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith have become legends not just because of the music they produce, but for the longevity of their careers. One band, who will play the Kearny Irish Feb. 4, can be considered with those names because of their members’ ability to stay together.

The Pietasters, a ska band out of Washington D.C., was formed in 1991 and still remains together today, playing wherever crowds appreciate its music. Ska music, which originated in Jamaica in the 1950s and moved into American culture in the early 1980s, is characterized by a walking bass line and rhythms on the upbeat.

“It’s pretty much rock and roll with a different beat,” explained Pietasters’ vocalist Steve Jackson.

The Pietasters got started while Jackson and other members were in college.

“We were a bunch of friends who tried to put together a punk rock band,” Jackson said. “We had a friend do ska, so we gave it a try. We started playing it at parties and people seemed to enjoy it. It was a fun thing.”

Since its inception in 1991, the band has seen its share of lineup changes.

“This band’s been around a long time. It’s hard to reinvent it,” explained Alan Makranczy, the Pietasters’ saxophone player who became part of the band around 1993. “(Joining the band was) the best opportunity as a horn player like that. Truth is, I wasn’t that into ska.”

The band’s longevity can be attributed to a passion that exists in all of the members.

“I just want to keep playing music,” Jackson said, inspiringly. “We’re older, we have kids and have other responsibilities. Everyone in the band is proud of where we’ve been.”

“Our love is playing live and having a huge stack of songs to choose from,” Makranczy added.

Even with longevity, good music is required to continue to be able to perform live in front of audiences. This is a statement that the Pietasters definitely back up. With a strong horn section, definitive beat, and soulful vocals, the Pietasters give the evidence needed to make a statement on their longevity.

“Told You the First,” a very funky number that can’t stop listeners from moving to the beat of the song, showcases the band’s horn section with the right amount of grittiness in the vocals similar to a James Brown song or any song from the late Sublime lead singer Bradley Knowell.

While none of the songs make listeners feel unhappy, the band’s rowdier side comes out in the song “Maggie Mae.” In what can only be described as a modern day drinking song, the Pietasters use strong beat and an equally strong horn rhythm to create a song that just oozes good vibes. The multi-man vocals also stay consistent to another band the Pietasters have traveled with, the Mighty Mighty Bostones.

In their travels across the nation and the world, the Pietasters have been able to perform with several headline acts, but none larger than when they were able to play in their hometown with one of the greats.

“(One of the greatest moments was) playing with James Brown,” Jackson remembered. “We were approached by a local radio station and told James Brown was going to play here. He was the tie into the older generation of music and asked if we thought we could play his music. We went in the garage for a night and just did his songs. Three days later, James Brown and his guitar player came in. We were the backing band for James Brown at the MCI Center.”

While the Pietasters have been able to perform at highlevel gigs, the band has no reservations as to where it plays.

“Everywhere you have a good time and it’s a good crowd (are our favorite places to play),” Jackson explained. “It doesn’t have to be huge to be a great show.”

The band is in the process of making another album, although a date and name have yet to be released.

Nutley Police Blotter

Jan. 20

At 1:16 a.m., a police officer stopped a loud Acura on Hancox Ave. and learned that the driver, Matthew Rullo, 20, of Belleville, had several outstanding warrants and was driving while suspended. He was issued a summons and released after posting bail.

Jan. 19

Police stopped motorist around 9:57 p.m., DiAntonio, 25-year-old resident of Nutley, off of Vincent Pl. for failure to wear a seat belt and found that she had an outstanding warrant for $300 out of Old Bridge. She was released with a motor vehicle summons after posting bail.

A Franklin Ave. tenant reported around 9:11 p.m. someone had smashed in the apartment’s front door to get inside. While checking further, police discovered that a second burglary had been committed in the same building, with entry gained the same way. Detectives are investigating.

Police responded to a family dispute at a Hillside Ave. residence at 3:19 p.m., culminating in the homeowner’s adult son, Nicholas Zappula, 23, reportedly kicking in the front door after an argument with his mother who refused to let him inside. Police charged Zappula with criminal mischief. Police said Zappula also had an outstanding warrant out of Newark for $800. He was released pending a court appearance.

Jan. 17

At 5:36 p.m., an E. Passaic Ave. homeowner returned home to find an open door and broken glass. After searching the home, police said they found everything appeared to be in order.

A resident called police at 4:26 p.m. to report two men appeared to be checking out local businesses on Darling Ave. Police found two Newark men at the scene with a vehicle that was initially listed as stolen and officers detained the pair, but they were released after officers learned that the vehicle wasn’t stolen after all.

A River Road resident reported at 11:05 a.m. that a virus turned up on her computer instructing the user to turn on her camera and lift her shirt to get rid of the virus. Police said the resident suspects it’s the work of a repairman who visited recently. Police are investigating.

Police went to a Centre St. location at 11 a.m. where a 65-year-old man was pulling his pants down. The man told officers he was only fixing his clothes. Police advised him not to disrobe in public and permitted him to leave.

A Franklin Ave. traffic stop resulted in the arrest of Marlon Seogiva, 21, of Nutley, on a charge of driving while suspended. Police said Seogiva also had a $500 outstanding warrant from Nutley. He was released pending a court appearance.

Jan. 16

At 11:12 a.m., police recovered several hypodermic needles on the road near King St. and Wesley Place. Police are investigating.

Jan. 15

A Joerg Ave. resident leaving a Centre St. pub at 9:55 p.m. was bitten by a dog being walked by its owner. Arriving at the scene, police detained the dog and learned that its license had expired in 2007. The resident, a female, had several cuts and was treated by Emergency Medical Services. She refused to go to the hospital. Police issued the dog owner a summons for having an unlicensed dog.

Police responded to Elm St. at 4:43 p.m. where two neighbors were fighting. Both were advised of their right to sign complaints against the other if they wanted to do so.

Jan. 14

A neighbor of a Passaic Ave. convenience store called police At 10:39 p.m. about a delivery truck running its engine while making a late night delivery. The neighbor said the delivery company had promised that its drivers would shut off the engine when making a delivery at night in consideration of the residents.

At 4:13 p.m., police went to an E. Centre St. location in response to a complaint about a blocked driveway. Police found that the vehicle parked in the driveway’s path had an overnight parking ticket affixed to the windshield. Police impounded the vehicle and issued an additional traffic ticket.

Police investigated a report of a hit and run incident at Cambridge Heights at 12:12 p.m.. There, police learned that the motorist had hit a control box used to activate the electric gates at the complex and had also struck a lamp post and had then fled the scene. Police are investigating.

A Hudson St. resident reported at 9:50 a.m. to police that she’d gotten a phone call telling her that she’d won $5 million and a new car but that she first needed to send $1,100 to cover insurance for the exchange. Police are investigating a suspected scam.

Jan. 13

At 7:31 p.m. police were called to an E. Passaic Ave. bar where a patron who had argued with another customer went outside to smoke when he was assaulted. The injured patron, who told police he thinks he was attacked by the same person he’d been arguing with inside the bar, was treated by EMS. Police are investigating.

A Hillside Ave. resident reported that a theft of a $400 I-phone occurred during gym class at Nutley High School earlier in the day. Police are investigating.

At 3:44 p.m. a Harrison St. resident reported that someone tried to get into his building by kicking the front door. He showed police footprints on the door and a damaged door lock. Police are investigating.

A Hopper Ave. resident reported at 3:34 p.m. that fraudulent charges were placed on her credit card. Police are investigating. Police went to Municipal Lot 1 a t 12:43 p.m. after an anonymous caller reported that someone was vandalizing a car parked there. The caller said the vandal had poured soda on the car’s hood and was kicking the vehicle. Police are investigating.

Harrison Police Blotter

Jan. 17

A warehouse in the south end of town was burglarized and about eight rolls of copper wire, valued at $30,000, were stolen. The theft is under investigation.

Two vehicles parked at a private lot on Essex St. were broken into. A GPS unit and sunglasses were taken.

A 2000 Honda Civic was stolen from the municipal parking lot on Essex St. and another car was broken into while it was parked in the same lot.

Jan. 16

A passenger who took umbrage at the price he was charged by a taxi driver reportedly took out his wrath on the driver, according to police. Antonio Perpiglia, 23, of Orange, was arrested on a robbery charge after police say Perpiglia punched the driver on Frank Rodgers Blvd. South and took back the $60 fare that he’d paid for his ride. The cabbie, 31, of Sunnyside, N.Y., was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital, Newark, for treatment of his injuries. Perpiglia was taken to the Hudson County Jail, Kearny, to await court action.

Tyrone Manns, 51, of Newark, was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Newark after he was seen checking an alleyway in an area of Frank Rodgers Blvd. South. He was released by Newark Police pending a court appearance in that city.

Jan. 14

Jonathan Velarde, 38, of Kearny, was issued a summons for urinating in public on Harrison Ave. Police said Velarde was drunk at the time. A bit later, police said Velarde was observed operating a motor vehicle in the same area. He was stopped and placed under arrest on a DWI charge. He was released pending court action.

Jan. 13

Gregorio Laos, 23, of Harrison, was arrested on Frank Rodgers Blvd. North on a Superior Court warrant stemming from a Harrison charge for allegedly stalking a minor. Laos was transported to Hudson County Jail, Kearny, to await court action.

A Franklin Ave. resident reported that a package delivered by the U.S. Postal Service was stolen from her hallway.

Around Town


The Bloomfield Public Library is partnering with Bloomfield resident Gene Nichols to preserve family stories. Nichols, a retired journalist and public relations executive, is offering to videotape community members 65 and older as they recount memories and milestones in their lives.

Life Story Cam sessions will be held free (for those age 65 and over) at the Bloomfield Public library, by appointment (Call Gene Nichols at 347-560-8056). Nichols will conduct an on-camera interview with each participant, which he will format, edit and create a DVD. “If anyone is unhappy with the results, the material will be discarded,” says Nichols. However if people like it, Nichols will instruct them how to upload their “story” to a website that, with proper access codes, can be viewed by friends and family from far and wide.

Samples of the questions he will ask as well as a video explaining the process can be viewed on his website at http://www.lifestorycam. com.

Currently, the sessions are by appointment and will (mostly) take place at the library (90 Broad St.). To find out more information and to arrange an interview time, please contact Gene Nichols at 347-560-8056.

Bloomfield Public Library announces the following schedule for its Thursday Afternoon at the Movies program: Feb. 2 – “The Adjustment Bureau” (R) (Matt Damon); Feb. 9 – “Murder, He Says” (NR) (Fred Mac- Murray); Feb. 16 – “Nothing But a Man” (NR) (Ivan Dixon); Feb. 23 – “The Reader” (R) (Kate Winslet).

The following schedule is for the library’s Monday Afternoon at the Movies program: Feb. 6 – “Rachel Getting Married” (R) (Anne Hathaway); Feb. 13 – “For the Love of Ivy” (G) (Abbey Lincoln); Feb. 20 – “Bridesmaids” (R) (Maya Rudolph); Feb. 27 – “No Name on the Bullet” (NR) (Audie Murphy). Films for both programs start at 12:15 p.m. in the library theater. Admission is free and all are welcome.

East Newark

West Hudson Brave Women Fighting Breast Cancer meets on the last Friday of every month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East Newark Senior Center, 37 President St. The group will provide an atmosphere of warmth and comfort for patients and family. For more information, call Emma at 201-998-6828, Rosa 201-246-7750, Fatima 973-485- 4236 or email emidura2@ yahoo.com. Together we will fight this disease.


Health educators from the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES) will conduct a free poison prevention education program, sponsored by Washington Middle School, on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 1 N. 5th St., Harrison, at 3:30 p.m. Programs are designed to give New Jersey residents necessary information to adhere to poison safe practices in their home, workplace and community. Interactive activities and a question and answer period are included in each session, which is about an hour in length. Free educational materials are provided to all participants. The New Jersey Poison Information and Education System (NJPIES), also known as the Poison Control Center, is a non-profit organization. It is the state’s only poison control center and its free, 24/7 emergency and information hotline (1- 800-222-1222) is answered by specially trained healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses and pharmacists). They can assist callers who speak many different languages.

Molly the Therapy Dog made her first visit to the Harrison Public Library. Over 20 children attended the program. Molly will visit the library every month. Contact the library for future dates at 973-483-2366.


The Rosary Society of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 136 Davis Ave., Kearny, will hold its first meeting of the new year on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. in the church hall. Snow date is Thursday, Feb. 9.

Cecilian Seniors announce a trip to Resorts Casino on Feb. 8. The bus will leave at 9:30 a.m. from in front of St. Cecilia’s Church. If interested, call Johnnie B. at 201- 997-9552 after 6 to 9 p.m.

Mater Dei Academy presents its Annual Raffle Auction on Friday, Feb. 17. On the RED Carpet will be held at St. Stephen’s church hall on Kearny Avenue. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and tickets are only $15. Thousands of dollars in prizes! You can purchase tickets at the school office. Tickets sell out quickly so don’t wait!


The Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst has placed a decorated Valentine box on each floor of the Lyndhurst Public Library. Please support this project by placing a Valentine card in one of the boxes for a veteran.

The library is collecting nonperishable food items for the Lyndhurst Health Department’s Food Pantry. The drop-off box is located inside the library’s back entrance. It will remain there year-round. For questions regarding the Food Pantry, call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500.

The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, One Dekorte Park Plaza, Lyndhurst, will host “Mad Science: Wonders of Water!” on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 1 p.m. Marvel as the mad scientist performs wondrous experiments with ice and liquids to illustrate amazing scientific principles in this educational entertainment program perfect for children and their parents.

Admission is $5 per person and $4 for MEC members.

Lyndhurst Knights of Columbus Council #2396 is hosting its third annual Tricky Tray on Friday, Feb. 10, at the Senior Citizens Building, 250 Cleveland Ave., Lyndhurst. Tickets are $10, which includes coffee and cake. You can bring your own appetizers for your table. Doors open 6 p.m. Contact Sal Russo 201-446- 7244, Michelle Rogan 201- 438-2444 or Maria Lesny 201-507-9766.

The Lyndhurst Health Department is hosting a monthly health lecture series, made possible through a partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center. The next lecture will be held on Friday, Feb. 17, starting at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be served.

February’s lecture topic will be: Preventing Heart Attack and Stroke. Please call the Lyndhurst Health Department at 201-804-2500 to reserve a seat.

North Arlington

The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Queen of Peace Parish will be conducting a blood drive on Sunday, Jan. 29, beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 1 p.m. at the LaSalle Center (located across the street from Queen of Peace Church) on Church Street. Every successful donor will be given a $10 Shop-Rite gift card.

The North Arlington Senior Activity Center, 11 York Road, announces a Valentine luncheon and dance will be held on Friday, Feb. 17, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A trip to Mohegan Sun Casino with a St. Patrick’s Day show in Mystic Village is scheduled for Saturday, March 17. For more information, call 201- 998-5636.


The Wednesday Afternoon Knitting Club meets at the Nutley Public Library every week from 1 to 3 p.m. Come share your love of knitting and crocheting with both beginning and experienced knitters. Meet fellow knitters, brush-up on your skills, and learn some new techniques. Please bring your own supplies. This group meets every Wednesday.

Adult Scrabble Night will be held at the library on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. Prizes will be awarded for first and second place scores.

Matinee Fridays: Classic Films program will be held on at the library every Friday at 2 p.m. Please check the monthly calendar, flyer or Facebook for the titles of the films.

Saturday Story Time and crafts for children of all ages is held at the library on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Registration is not required

Belleville enjoying best boys’ hoop season in recent years

Photo courtesy of Belleville High School/ The Belleville boys’ basketball team is enjoying its best season in recent years, thanks to the play of seniors Tommy Rosario (left) and Keith Everett.


By Jim Hague

Ted Sochaski fondly remembers his glory days as a basketball player at Belleville High School.

After all, Sochaski remains the school’s all-time leading scorer in boys’ basketball, collecting a total of 1,742 points when he graduated in 1988. That year, Sochaski led the Buccaneers to 15 victories, which also remains the program’s high-water mark.

Five years ago, Sochaski returned to his alma mater to take over the head coaching reins of the Bucs.

“When I came back, I could see things were changing,” Sochaski said. “But I just wanted to make the kids see that hard work pays off.”

However, the hard work and diligence didn’t exactly pay off in the term of victories. The Bucs won all of four games in Sochaski’s first season, then won three the next year and two the next. Needless to say, Sochaski was taking an emotional beating, coaching so many losses. He kept a stiff upper lip and trudged on.

“I knew we were going to take our lumps,” Sochaski said. “But I knew that better things would take place.”

A year ago, Sochaski’s Bucs won seven games. It was definitely a sign of improvement.

“We also lost eight games by a total of eight points or less,” Sochaski said. “We were close.”

Sochaski knew that there would eventually be a breakthrough when he decided to start players like Julian Rodriguez, Tommy Rosario and Keith Everett two years ago when they were sophomores. He might have raised some eyebrows when he did and left himself susceptible to criticism, but Sochaski knew it was for the good of the entire program. Eventually, the Buccaneers would improve, as long as the talented trio developed and matured.

“Those kids put a lot of hard work in over the last four years,” Sochaski said. “I just think it all comes down to experience. All the games they’ve played together are huge. They all know what they have to do. They all know each other. It’s a big plus.”

Well, the Buccaneers are reaping the benefits of that valuable experience right now. After winning three straight games against Oratory Prep, neighboring rival Nutley and Glen Ridge, the Buccaneers have a 7-4 record. They have already tied their entire win total of a year ago.

“It’s very exciting,” Sochaski said. “The close games we lost last year, we’re winning now. They know how to conduct themselves late in games. They know all the game situations, making the extra pass that leads to an easier basket. They are handling clock management.”

Photo courtesy Belleville High School/ Belleville head basketball coach Ted Sochaski, the school’s all-time leading scorer in boys’ basketball, has led his alma mater to a 7-4 record.


Sochaski said that the turning point of the season came in the win over Oratory Prep, when they faced top-ranked prospect Matt Billups, a 6-foot-10 center who is receiving his fair share of college offers.

In that game, both top seniors Rodriguez and Rosario fouled out of the game, but the rest of the Bucs found the resilience necessary to get the victory.

“That really turned things around,” Sochaski said. “That win boosted our confidence and showed how well we can play together and how we can rely on each other.”

Rodriguez has been a mainstay all season. The 6-foot-4 power forward is averaging 13.5 points per game and has emerged as the team’s leader.

“It’s safe to say that without Julian, we’re not where we’re at,” Sochaski said. “He carried the team for the first part of the season. He’s become our go-to guy. He’s accepted that challenge and has gone with it.”

Rosario is a 6-foot-3 senior forward who is averaging 11.3 points per game. There aren’t a lot of teams in the Super Essex Conference that can roll out that much size and talent in the front line.

“I think most teams have to plan their game plan and strategy around trying to stop them,” Sochaski said. “I always can depend on Tommy. He does a lot of the dirty work for us, gets physical, gets rebounds. He also runs the floor well.”

Everett is the third of the Bucs’ senior leaders. The 5-foot-11 Everett is the team’s shooting guard and he’s averaging close to nine points per game.

“Keith has come a long way,” Sochaski said. “He used to be strictly a 3-point shooter, but now he’s putting the ball on the floor and going to the basket. He absolutely opens things down low for Julian and Tommy and also gets to the foul line. He’s an all-around player now.”

Junior Dominque Isaac is another backcourt performer. The 6-foot Isaac is averaging 8.9 points per game as a perimeter player.

“He’s a guy who can score, play good defense and shoot the 3-pointer,” Sochaski said of Isaac. “He is also putting the ball on the floor and challenges defenses. When he does that, we’re a dangerous team.”

Sochaski likes the idea that there’s so much balance between his top four scorers.

“My game plan over the last two-to-three years was to get everyone involved in the offense,” Sochaski said.

The fifth starter is senior point guard Kevin Cebello. The 5-foot-9 Cebello transferred to Belleville this year from Pennsylvania and has fit right in.

“He’s done a great job running the offense, especially in transition,” Sochaski said. “He gets the team running and going.”

The first player off the bench is 5-foot-11 junior point guard Shaq Richards, the football standout. Sochaski likes Richards’ leadership qualities so much that he made him a team captain, despite being a junior.

“He’s a great defender who provides a lot of energy,” Sochaski said of Richards. “He has such a great personality. Everyone loves him. He does all the right things.”

Nicholas Martinez is a 6-foot-2 forward who comes in to give Rodriguez and Rosario some rest. Martinez came up big in the win over Oratory Prep, defending the muchtaller Billups.

“He had eight rebounds in that game and was huge in the fourth quarter,” Sochaski said. “It wasn’t easy for him to chest up with someone 6-foot-10, but Nick did it.”

Junior Kamal Miller, another gridiron standout, is a 6-foot junior guard who is very athletic.

“He’s one of the fastest kids around and he comes to play,” Sochaski said.

At 7-4, it’s not too early for the Bucs to be thinking about a possible SEC Independence Division championship and a berth into the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III playoffs.

“I just think the kids are loving it,” said Sochaski, whose team finished 7-18 last season. “I think they’re looking forward to the challenge of playing big games from now on. We have a lot of important games coming up. I think the team that catches fire down the stretch will have the best chance to win the league. We went to the states last year and saw what it takes.”

For now, the Buccaneers are a legitimate and prominent basketball program. It’s been a while.

“I think we’re able to show people that we have a serious team,” Sochaski said. “It’s a credit to the kids. They’re the ones who put all the hard work in, had the dedication to stick with it. They understand the goals we have and they’re willing to work hard to reach the goals.”

Four generations of local flavor as Giants head to Super Bowl

Photo by Jim Hague/ Leonard Marshall, a North Arlington resident, was back in the media mainstream last week, when he was asked to recall the 1991 NFC Championship Game when the Giants defeated the 49ers. The Giants duplicated the feat Sunday, beating the Niners again to get to this year’s Super Bowl.


By Jim Hague

By now, unless you live in a clandestine remote location like Tibet or you have been in a coma for the last few days, you realized that the local football heroes, the New York Giants, are headed to the Super Bowl once again.

It’s the fifth time that Big Blue has captured the NFC Championship game and the first since 2008, when the Giants moved past the Green Bay Packers in overtime in the conference title game, then shocked the undefeated New England Patriots to win the Super Bowl.

The similarities between that miraculous run to the Super Bowl and this one are very eerie.

Four years ago, the Giants staggered into the playoffs, then won games against Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay, all on the road, before turning the football world on its ear and knocking off the seemingly unbeatable Patriots.

This year, the Giants were dangerously teetering toward oblivion, owning a 7-7 record after losing a horrific game to the Washington Redskins in mid-December. There were people calling for the heads of head coach Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and everyone else in between.

But they managed to turn everything around in dramatic fashion, first knocking off the Jets on Christmas Eve, then beating the Cowboys on New Year’s Day to win the NFC Eastern Divisional title to get into the playoffs.

They then manhandled Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs, shocked the 15-1 Packers at Lambeau Field and Sunday, they punched their remarkable ticket to Indianapolis and Super Bowl XLVI, which in Roman numerals, means “quite a lot.”

Never could quite understand why the NFL continues to use Roman numerals with the Super Bowl when it’s now downright confusing. It was easy to remember when Joe Namath led the Jets to a win in Super Bowl III. We can count that high.

It’s also puzzling why some promotional contests will state that the winner will receive all-expense paid trip to “the Big Game in Indianapolis.” Like you can’t dare to say Super Bowl without infuriating the NFL. Hey, we deemed it the Super Bowl. We’ll allow whoever we want to call it that.

Anyway, the Giants are going to that so-called big game for the fifth time. They’ve been quite successful in the past, winning three of their four previous appearances.

Can they win again? Sure, they can. They proved anything is possible four years ago and did the same thing this year with the improbable and almost unfathomable five-game winning streak to get there.

While we have a full two weeks to soak in the Giants’ big win Sunday in San Francisco, it’s time to reflect a little on the generations of Giants players over the years that have local ties.

We can start with a legendary old-timer in Alex Webster, the team’s first-ever Pro Bowl running back, who is a Kearny native and still reads The Observer religiously online every week from his home in Florida.

Webster was a standout player for the Giants’ teams in the late 1950s that battled for the NFL Championship practically every year. He played in the game dubbed “The Greatest Game Ever Played” against the Baltimore Colts in Yankee Stadium for the 1958 championship, a game that totally changed the face of the NFL forever.

Webster then went on to later become an assistant coach and eventually the head coach of the Giants in the 1970s. He recently returned to MetLife Stadium to receive his proper place among the Giants’ Ring of Honor and was overjoyed to be there.

When the Giants became a dominant franchise again in the late 1980s-early 1990s, Leonard Marshall was the team’s ferocious pass rushing defensive end. Marshall gained a lot of attention over the past week, because it was his hit of legendary 49ers quarterback Joe Montana that helped the Giants get to their second Super Bowl and a big win over the Buffalo Bills.

Marshall, who currently resides in North Arlington, was asked by several news agencies over the past week to recall that big win over the Niners, considering that the Giants were facing San Francisco once again 21 years almost to the day since that fateful game.

Marshall is readily spotted in the area and is just another local link to the Giants’ long history.

Lawrence Tynes is the current Giants placekicker. Tynes was the one who kicked the Giants to the Super Bowl with an overtime field goal against the Packers four years ago and he did the same exact thing Sunday, booting the 32-yarder in overtime to topple the Niners.

Tynes, who has strong Scottish roots, is a local favorite in Kearny. He has been spotted at the Scots-American Club in town on several occasions and actually lived in the town for a bit after he signed with the Giants from the Kansas City Chiefs five years ago.

It’s been reported that Tynes has family that reside in Kearny, but that can’t be confirmed. But Tynes has been quoted in the past as saying that he loves Kearny and loves visiting every time he can, especially the Scots- American Club to watch soccer, of course.

The final local piece to the Giants’ Super Bowl puzzle is current wide receiving standout Victor Cruz, who has become a media darling with his breakthrough Pro Bowl season.

Cruz, who has become known for his Salsa touchdown dance, had an incredible season, breaking Giants team records for receptions and yardage. On Sunday, Cruz had 10 catches for 142 yards, many of the clutch variety.

Cruz, who was born and raised in Paterson, played high school football at the now-defunct Paterson Catholic High School before heading off to the University of Massachusetts.

Cruz has now decided to reside in Lyndhurst, with his wife and newborn daughter Kennedy, born just last month.

Cruz has become an instant adopted son in Lyndhurst and has graciously welcomed residents who have recognized him as he makes his way around the town.

So there you have it, the local flavor as the team heads to Super Bowl XL something. And one last thing: No clue here where Tibet is either. Just sounded far. Go Big Blue!

Lyndhurst’s Alonso becomes dominant inside force for Golden Bears

Photo courtesy Alonso family/ Lyndhurst junior forward Camila Alonso


By Jim Hague

A year ago, Camila Alonso was a little used sophomore on the Lyndhurst High School girls’ basketball team. In fact, the 5-foot-10 forward didn’t even start the season with the Golden Bears’ varsity.

When Alonso was sent down to play for the junior varsity, she was determined to make it to the varsity level as soon as possible.

“It was motivation for me,” Alonso said. “I knew I had to work harder. I wanted to be on the court with the varsity and I didn’t make it. I knew that I was going to do whatever I needed to do to be with the varsity.”

Perrin Mosca was the firstyear head coach at Lyndhurst last season, so it took him a while to realize the team’s talent level.

“I always thought Camila had the talent,” Mosca said. “She just didn’t do it in a game.”

But midway through the Lyndhurst junior varsity season a year ago, Alonso enjoyed her breakthrough game.

“She went out and dropped 38 in a game,” Mosca said. “That was it. She was with us. That was crazy.”

Alonso remained with the varsity for the remainder of last season.

“She came on at the end of the season,” Mosca said. “She was pretty strong for us.”

The surge at the close of her sophomore year gave Alonso the impetus to work even harder for the start of her junior season.

“I put a lot of time in the offseason,” Alonso said. “I worked on different parts of my game. I worked on my left hand, going to my left more. I also worked on my short jumper, so I can pull up and shoot instead of having to go right to the basket.”

“She worked very hard over the summer,” Mosca said. “She was always trying to get better. She worked hard on her post moves and began shooting the ball well.”

When the new season began in December, Alonso was ready. And Mosca knew that he had a prominent inside presence.

“I knew that she would be real good,” Mosca said. “I always knew she had it in her.”

Alonso has emerged as one of the finest post players in the NJIC Meadowlands Division. She’s been a consistent presence all season, scoring and rebounding.

Recently, Alonso has picked up her game even more. In the past week, Alonso had 25 points and six rebounds in a loss to St. Mary’s of Rutherford, collecting 19 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Wallington and had 19 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Weehawken, increasing the Golden Bears’ record to 9-3.

For her efforts, Alonso has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

While Mosca always believed that Alonso would develop into a top player, Alonso is somewhat shocked by her performance, which has seen her average nearly 16 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.

“Actually, I am surprised,” Alonso said. “The coaches were always telling me that I could do it and that motivated me.”

Mosca said that Alonso is developing into a complete player.

“A lot of teams realize what she can do now, so they’re doubling her,” Mosca said. “But she’s doing a great job of looking for her teammates. The teammates have trust in her and try to get her the ball. She’s putting up some great numbers.”

“I like the fact that my teammates have confidence in me,” Alonso said. “I have more confidence now and I feel I can do it. They’re counting on me. If I feel more confident, I can do a lot more, score, rebound, do all the things I want to.”

Mosca knows there is still room for a lot of improvement with Alonso.

“There are still some points in the game where she’s not doing anything and we’re working on that,” Mosca said.

Alonso recognizes her fault.

“I was thinking too much,” Alonso said. “It’s more mental. But now, I think everything is coming more natural. I know what I have to do now. It comes more naturally and easier.”

Mosca believes that Alonso’s best days are in front of her.

“Hopefully, by next year, she’ll be playing a full game,” Mosca said. “I’m trying to get her to play every play.”

“He’s right,” Alonso said. “I have to be able to my hardest all four quarters. I’ve been focusing on that and what I have to do.”

Mosca is convinced that if Alonso continues her development, she will become a college prospect. When the Golden Bears played last month at a tournament in Wildwood, a handful of college recruiters paid attention to Alonso and showed interest.

“I definitely do think she can play on the next level,” Mosca said. “From where she was to where she is now, it’s been pretty amazing.”

“I was pretty surprised the colleges were looking at me,” Alonso said. “That makes me want to work harder.”

Alonso plans to become a three-sport athlete in the future. She will join the outdoor track team in the spring and next fall, she’ll become part of the soccer team.

“I want to be able to stay in shape all year,” Alonso said. “It’s great that we’re winning in basketball right now. Winning helps to keep everyone together. We’re all together now and it shows in the games.”

And shows in Alonso’s performances thus far.

Written in the stars

Horoscope for 2012

CAPRICORN: This is going to be a memorable year for all members of this sign. Finances will improve and income will grow around the fi rst full-moon eclipse. This is also a good year to plan for marriage, kids and/or investing in property. Love life is steady and friends are supportive.

AQUARIUS: This is the year when all your hard work will finally start yielding results. Finances will improve in the fi rst quarter of this year. Consult elders and family members before making any big decisions around Sept.-Oct. of this year. Travel is in the cards. Love life is fulfilling and steady.

PISCES: Prepare for some sudden expenses this year. Do not invest in any joint ventures/partnerships. Watch your health and keep your appointments with the doctor. Travel is in the cards. This year is good for those who are single and looking for love.

TAURUS: This is your time to shine in the limelight. You will be appreciated at work and will be loved by your family. Friends will come to you for advice. Those thinking of investing should do so around the first eclipse of this year. Travel is in the cards this year. Love life will remain steady and exciting.

GEMINI: Your social status and career is once again on a rising path in 2012. You will be assisted by luck throughout the year. Health needs attention, do not ignore any minor symptoms and be sure to keep your doctor’s appointments. There can be reasons for little financial worries, especially after May of this year, so think before making any big decisions.

CANCER: You will see your importance grow and your opinion valued. There could be hurdles in your way, but you’ll taste success by overcoming these. A positive stroke of luck is coming your way around June of this year. It’s a good time for investments. Love life needs attention; spend some quality time with your loved one.

LEO: You need to be careful about making unnecessary expenses. Invest money only after much thought. In family matters, try to be more flexible and understanding. This year will prove to be lucky for those in romantic relationships.

VIRGO: The first half of the year is going to be particularly good for you. Career will continue to grow and there are possibilities for promotions. However, your dominating nature may cause trouble in family matters. Try not to be hurtful with your comments.

LIBRA: This year will usher in significant changes. Your professional life will show great dynamism and you will attain new heights in your career. New business ventures look favorable. Avoid unnecessary expenses.

SCORPIO: There could be some obstacles in your path to prosperity and success during the first half of the year, but you’ll be able to overcome them with flying colors. Watch out for troubles in your love relationships during the last quarter of this year. Be tactful.

SAGITTARIUS: You will be at your creative best and see your efforts rewarded. Income will grow and so will your social circle. Network for better growth opportunities, even migration to another country. Your friendship with someone close has the potential to grow into love.

ARIES: This year may start slow for you but it will get exciting from May onwards. Travelling and family gatherings look favorable. You are somewhat accident-prone this year so watch where you go. Tensions may rise in marital relationships. Think before you act.


Visit Shweta Punjabi at her website solutionsbyshweta.com for more information or email her at magictaara@yahoo.com

Losing is a good outcome for this cause

Photo by Anthony Machcinski/ Stephen Marette hopes to come out a victor in his personal ‘battle of the bulge.’


By Jeff Bahr

Construction worker Stephen Marette is well known to local residents as a Christian man who practices what he preaches. Often spotted around town lugging an eight-foot-tall wooden cross as a way of demonstrating his faith, it’s no secret that Marette believes strongly in Jesus. He also believes in setting good examples, which brings him to his latest endeavor.

Marette has fought the “battle of the bulge” for as long as he remembers. Like many, his efforts have mostly been in vain; he gains a little, loses a little, but the problem still persists.

A longtime friend of The Observer, Marette saw a golden opportunity materialize when publisher Lisa Pezzolla mentioned that Krank Systems, a Nutley gym, will be holding a Fat Loss Challenge – with half of the proceeds going to the Gail’s Angels Foundation, a nonprofi t organization founded in 2007 to honor Nutley resident Gail E. Babai who died from breast cancer. The foundation is dedicated to providing support to mothers fighting breast cancer who also care for an autistic or specialneeds child.

After kicking the idea around for a spell, Marette decided that it was now or never. It was an easy decision since his efforts will benefi t not only himself, but others as well. But if that didn’t do the trick there is a certain biblical passage about the body as a “temple” that may have sealed the deal in Marette’s mind.

The purpose of the 90- day Fat Loss Challenge is to promote a healthier lifestyle while raising funds for Gail’s Angels. Each participant must pay an entry fee of $20. One-half of the proceeds will be donated to the foundation, and the other half will be given to the group with the most overall fat loss.

Fittingly, The Observer will “observe” our hero Stephen as he endeavors to lose weight in the name of all that’s holy and good. In addition to publishing his weight at each weigh-in, The Observer will also maintain an ongoing video log of Marette’s efforts. The latter will be featured on The Observer’s website: www.theobserver.com.

Registrations for the Fat Loss Challenge are currently being accepted. Krank Fitness is expecting in excess of 100 participants. The Initial weigh-in will be held at Krank Systems’ Nutley facility on Saturday, Feb. 4, at noon. The fi nal weigh-in is scheduled for Saturday, May 5. To apply or to receive more information, contact Pete Islip at 973-320-2600.

Krank Systems is located at 386 Franklin Ave., Nutley.

A fight in East Germany

By Randy Neumann 

In early May, I was reading the Wall Street Journal while on a flight to Berlin for a business trip to Germany. The story in the Journal concerned the upcoming mega-fight between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley. It was written by a college professor, Gordon Marino, whom I boxed in the 1960s. My business in Germany was also related to boxing. I was there to referee a world championship fight between International Boxing Federation Champion Sebastian the “Hurricane” Sylvester and challenger, Daniel “Real Deal” Geale (rhymes with deal).

My readers know that I have been in the financial services industry for some time: I started in 1979 as a banker. However, I got into the business of boxing in 1967 when I was a college freshman in New York City. I went to the West Side YMCA to stay in shape and began what became a 10-year career during which time I was rated as the No. 6 heavyweight contender in the United States and No. 9 in the world. Some of the people rated above me were named Ali, Foreman, Frazier, Quarry, and Young.

In the early 1980’s I began refereeing professional fights. Since then, I have refereed over 1,000 fights in eight countries of which 41 have been for world titles. This column is about the business of boxing, or, as former British heavyweight contender Frank Bruno observed, “Boxing is just show business with blood.”

Boxing and television go way back. After World War II when television was in its infancy, Joe Louis sold a lot of TV’s based on the advertising idea, “Buy a television and watch Joe Louis fight in your home.” In the 1950’s, there were the “Friday Night Fights” from Madison Square Garden hosted by Don Dunphy. In the 1960’s everybody watched “Wide World of Sports” with Jim McKay. In the 1970s, I fought Boone Kirkman on a nationally televised fight from Las Vegas. Today, there’s not much boxing on network TV, but it is on cable and pay-per-view.

On Saturday, May 7, Manny Pacquiao was guaranteed a minimum of $20 million to fight Shane Mosley who was guaranteed a minimum of $5 million. They probably got more, but the final figures are not yet released. Interestingly, the fight was not televised in Germany; instead, they did a broadcast of the Sylvester/ Gaele fight of which I was the referee. For their fight, champion Sylvester was paid $404,253 and challenger Geale received $157,000.

Over dinner the night before the fight, I got some insight on German boxing from matchmaker, Hagen Doering. He said, in a thick German accent, “You will never see Pacquiao fight on German TV. He is too small.” Although Pacquiao fought Mosley as a welterweight (148 pounds), he started as a flyweight (112 pounds). Doering continued, “The smallest division that we put on television in Germany is middleweight” (160 pounds).

I found this very interesting. One of the reasons that the sport of professional boxing is way down in America is that we no longer have the heavyweight champion. Americans will watch smaller divisions, but they prefer heavyweights, especially American heavyweights. Not surprising since America controlled the heavyweight championship for over 100 years.

The storied John L. Sullivan brought the heavyweight championship to America from Europe in 1885 and it stayed here, with a few brief exceptions, until this century. Then the Europeans took over, again, with Vladimir and Vitali Klitschko claiming most of the championships.

There are four major sanctioning bodies recognizing champions today (another reason for disenchantment with boxing). There are 17 weight divisions (there used to be eight), so there are 68 champions floating around the globe. Eight of them are Americans. In the last century, when there was one champion and eight divisions, America had most of them. Unfortunately, boxing has gone the way of manufacturing in America. It will need to get back the broad exposure of network TV in order to make a comeback.

My fight was in Neubrandenburg in what was the old East Germany. The city is 100 miles north of Berlin, 55 miles from Poland and 40 miles south of the Baltic Sea. Neu, pronounced noi, means new, but it’s not really new as it was settled by monks in 1240. The city still has its medieval walls over 20-feethigh and four huge gates. There is also a cool, smoke-filled bar in town with pictures of Lenin, Stalin and Brezhnev.

The fight was held on Saturday night at the Jahnsportforum in front of 4,000 screaming fans. Fortunately for the “Real Deal,” the “Hurricane” wasn’t blowing too hard. Sylvester started quickly and won the first few rounds with his plodding style. Gaele, the more natural athlete, figured Sylvester out and gave him a boxing lesson for the rest of the fight. I had the best seat in the house and only had to break up the fighters a few times.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for the individual.