The Big Digs 2006

Our annual abridged* look back at the stupid, the absurd, and the just plain silly from the past year in politics, media, business, culture, and sports. *Hey, we only had eight pages!

“Macaca” was already taken
Governor Mitt Romney is forced to apologize after likening the Big Dig to a “tar baby.”

Happy anniversary. You’re fired!
Exactly one year after drumming up $54 billion to buy Gillette, Procter & Gamble announces it is slashing 300 jobs at the shaving firm, 100 of them in Boston. P&G promises more cuts to come.

And would the gentlemen with the SWAT team please lower their voices?
When FBI agents show up to trace a bomb threat sent from a computer at the Newton public library in January, they’re rebuffed by the director of the library, who tells them they need a warrant to poke around.

A blue ribbon committee is still reviewing duck, duck, goose
In October officials at Willett Elementary School in Attleboro make headlines by banning the game tag. “Accidents can happen,” explains principal Gaylene Heppe.

It was $6 well spent
Workers for the MBTA are dispatched to seek out courteous riders and reward their good behavior with $2 Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards.

His kumquats also seemed to really appreciate him
Mourning the death of Red Auerbach, Mayor Tom Menino issues a statement noting that the basketball legend “earned several accolades among his pears for his coaching style and numerous successes with the Boston Celtics.”

We’ll never get those 11 minutes back
As election day nears, Secretary of State William Galvin finally agrees to a five-minute debate with his challenger, Green-Rainbow candidate Jill Stein. The debate ends up lasting 16 minutes.

So an idiot, a moron, and a halfwit walk into a bar in Iraq…
Senator John Kerry defiantly insists his remark about students who don’t study hard winding up “stuck in Iraq” is nothing more than a “botched joke.” Kerry then does everyone a favor and goes home for the rest of the congressional campaign.

Let me try again: By “students,” I obviously meant “President George W. Bush,” and by “stuck in Iraq,” I was referring to his flawed military strategy, not suggesting that the young men and women of our armed services are too dumb to find other jobs…really, people, I don’t know what’s not to get.
Kerry finishes dead last in a Quinnipiac University poll measuring the likability of 20 nationally known politicians.

Wait, this guy is an investment genius?
Venture capitalist Chris Gabrieli spends a record $10 million of his personal fortune in a bid to become governor, and still finishes 23 points behind Deval Patrick in the primaries.

Amsterdam, maybe. But definitely not Vegas.
Ramping up his presidential run, Governor Romney reassures the conservative right by stating that he doesn’t want Massachusetts to become “the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage.”

And we thought the kids in Dorchester had it rough
State wildlife officials set up a check-in station for deer hunters close to an Upton playground, leading to a situation in which dead deer are “probed” near the children. “There was a pool of blood in the parking lot,” says an angry Upton chief of police. Added a town selectman, “It could traumatize the children. This is not the place for it to be done.”

Seems like only yesterday the Idiots were the players
The Red Sox acquire star pitcher Josh Beckett—who proceeds to have the worst season of his career—by trading away several prospects, one of whom is named rookie of the year while another throws a no-hitter.

Too bad Venezuela doesn’t own City Hall
Outraged when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez refers to President Bush as “the devil” in a United Nations speech, City Councilor Jerry P. McDermott exacts retribution on Venezuelan-owned Citgo by filing a resolution to tear down the landmark Citgo sign and replace it with a giant American flag.

In a related announcement, the mayor’s office revealed it is seeking ideas for making up the budget shortfall
The city is forced to reconfigure its high-tech Newbury Street parking meters when it’s discovered that their $2 minimum for credit and debit card payments violates Visa and Master-Card regulations.

At least Charlie managed to get on the MTA
The T announces its new fare-collection system with promises of ease and efficiency. Commuters immediately produce a litany of gripes: The tollgates are menacing, the ticket machines confusing, and the coin slots on buses so fiddly that, during busy periods, new passengers arrive at bus stops faster than people can board.

This week on The Simple Life, Paris and Nicole run a radio station
Public radio station WBUR retools its arts coverage, causing departing editor Bill Marx to lament the “celebrity-driven puffery and lightly disguised publicity releases” masquerading as arts criticism.

Like a chess master, he’s several moves ahead
Citing budget problems along with (ahem) the health of prisoners, Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson reduces meal portions at his prison (a limit of two hot dogs, for instance). The inmates protest by not eating at all, saving the county even more money.

The name didn’t poll well in South Carolina
Governor Romney vetoes $31 million in funding for the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the 27-acre park that is a key Big Dig benefit.

Same crap programming, half the channels
Failed networks UPN and WB merge to form the CW, which broadcasts on Channel 56.

Another problem: It’s hard to fit the beer gut into those aerodynamic unitards
New Hampshire native and Olympic skier Bode Miller admits to 60 Minutes that he sometimes hits the slopes while “wasted.” He adds, helpfully, that skiing while drunk is a “risky” activity.

Keeping it real for the homies
Starbucks lover Ben Affleck, always with a green and white cup in hand when photographed in L.A., switches to the local Dunkin’ Donuts while in town shooting Gone Baby Gone.

He does look good in a hardhat, though
Conducting tests to make sure the remaining Big Dig ceiling tiles are safe, Romney’s inspectors actually make them less so. By putting 8,500 pounds of pressure on the ceiling tiles, the tests exceed the actual weight of the tiles by approximately five times, Bechtel warns in a memo, potentially damaging the epoxy keeping them in place. A highway spokesman says it was 8,400 pounds, not 8,500.

Just imagine Mayor Menino trying to introduce this guy
The Red Sox agree to pay a staggering $51 million to the Seibu Lions just for the right to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Take my wives, please!
Governor Romney yukking it up during a stump speech: “We have two factions of media in Boston. On the one hand, we have the Hillary-loving, Ted Kennedy apologists. And on the other, we have the liberals.”

Yet another reason duty-free shops rock
Police charge Kevin Thomas for assault with a dangerous weapon, saying the Plymouth man threw scalding coffee on a Dunkin’ Donuts employee after becoming enraged over the sales tax.

This is the blood of Christ. This is the body of Christ. This is Christ saying, “Up yours.”
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in town to attend Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, bickers with the Herald over whether he made an “obscene” gesture to a reporter. Later, a photographer is let go by the archdiocese’s Pilot newspaper after he releases shots of the smirking judge flicking his fingers from his chin.

You just have to be one of Tommy’s hopscotch buddies
After yet another polling foul-up, it’s reported that the man Mayor Menino tapped for the $128,000-a-year post that includes overseeing the election department is a childhood friend with no elections experience. The job isn’t rocket science, Menino tells the Globe. “You don’t have to be a person who got a Ph.D. from Harvard, that’s for sure.”

In a further break with its storied tradition, the team has adopted a policy against winning
The Celtics become the last team in the NBA to switch from old-style, conservative cheerleaders to a more provocative, sexed-up dance team.

She swore her signature-collectors had sent the check weeks ago
A month after state Senator Dianne Wilkerson is ordered to pay more than $13,000 in overdue condo fees, Wells Fargo Bank begins foreclosure proceedings on her 1,500-square-foot unit—the third time a bank has attempted to seize the property from Wilkerson.

The offending aides were immediately hired away by Dianne Wilkerson
Staffers for seven-term Lowell Congressman Marty Meehan are caught scrubbing the lawmaker’s Wikipedia biography of unflattering details, including his pledge to not run for more than four terms.

Then they all had naptime
After a Boston University freshman is struck and killed by a car, students and faculty don “use your head, cross on red” shirts and pass out goody bags rewarding safe walking behavior. “We’re really trying to stress pushing the crosswalk button,” one official says.

At great personal risk, they later went to cover a party they didn’t have press passes for
The Herald’s Track Gals refer to reporter Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter who was kidnapped in Iraq and held hostage for nearly three months, as “rather full of oneself” after she “rather snootily” declines to be interviewed by Fox 25.

Cutting out the middleman, the company plans to launch Fung Wah Hearse next year
Just 13 months after a Fung Wah bus bursts into flames en route to New York, 30-plus people are hospitalized when another bus operated by the frighteningly inexpensive shuttle company rolls over on an I-290 off-ramp.

If at first you don’t succeed…
Fung Wah dispatches a backup bus to transport the uninjured passengers, but police nix the move upon concluding that the man behind the wheel had a false driver’s log.

And for state mammal, the housecat
At the request of two 11-year-olds, the House designates the common backyard garter snake the state’s official reptile.

After a winner was declared, the contestants shared a sauna and a group towel-snap
To promote heterosexuality, evangelical Reverend Tom Crouse holds a competition to crown “Mr. Hetero” in Worcester. Contestants debate uses for duct tape and rip Oprah magazines in half.

No word yet on whether she filed for travel expenses
Boston police officer Christine Meegan reportedly takes more than 100 days off over a nine-month period, exploiting what the Globe describes as the police department’s “generous sick and vacation time policies.” Meegan would travel back and forth between Atlanta, where she had rented an apartment, and Boston, where she maintained one-day workweeks as a captain’s clerk at the West Roxbury station.

Bobby Brown was unable to attend to claim his award in person
The 2006 Boston Music Awards shock everyone with honors for familiar favorites like Dresden Dolls, Guster, and Dropkick Murphys.

When they say “No Liquids,” they mean no liquids
A United Airlines flight is diverted to Boston, with a fighter-jet escort, after a female passenger reportedly mutters references to Al Qaeda and bombs, and, according to one report, is observed “biting her fingers and rubbing her feet.” Finally, the possible terrorist is forcibly restrained after urinating in the aisle.

The fact-checkers all took the buyouts
The Globe goes front page with news that Big Dig safety officer John Keaveney wrote a memo years ago predicting the collapse of the ceiling tiles. Keaveney and his memo are quickly discredited, much to the Herald’s glee.

With supporters like these, who needs attack ads?
Menino is thrilled when gubernatorial candidate Tom Reilly takes his advice and selects
Marie St. Fleur as his running mate, saying, “This will add some pizzazz to the ticket. Tom Reilly’s biggest problem is that he is about as exciting as American bread.”

Hold on—what kind?
Yes, that’s right. He said American bread.

Given that the alternative was living in New Hampshire, the boiling vat of water looked like the better option
Monstro the 15-pound lobster is set free from a New Hampshire restaurant after the owner raffles him off. Half the patrons wanted to release him; the others wanted him cooked.

This might have been a problem if people still read newspapers
The Worcester Telegram & Gazette accidentally distributes credit and bank card numbers of thousands of subscribers. The data is printed out and included in bundles of Sunday T&Gs, which go out to retailers and home-delivery carriers.

Luckily, parking meters require only six inches of cement to flourish
Plans for some of the trees on the long-delayed Greenway are scrapped when it’s discovered that underground Big Dig conduits leave only half the soil depth required for roots.

Speaking of throwaways…how’s that career going?
Less than four months after he’s suspended for referring to Matt Amorello as “Fag Matt,” WRKO radio host John DePetro is fired when he calls gubernatorial candidate Grace Ross a “fat lesbian.” Defending himself, DePetro says, “It was a throwaway two-second comment that I apologized for.’’

And the John DePetro Award for Meritorious Service goes to…
Macy’s pulls a window display in support of Pride Week—two male mannequins, one of them wrapped in a rainbow flag, standing next to a schedule of the week’s events—after complaints by an obscure anti-gay group, MassResistance, that helps “fight attacks on our freedoms.”

She is fighting the ticket for not wearing a seatbelt, though
School bus driver Cynthia Lea is pulled over while carrying a special-needs student. “I’m so drunk, I can’t do it,” she reportedly tells the arresting officer, who finds a half-empty pint of rum in Lea’s purse. “Just arrest me.”

Charity begins at the Housing Authority
Governor Romney, on his way out the door after four years of criticizing abuses of the state pension system, appoints spokesman Eric Fehrn-strom to a part-time position with the Brookline Housing Authority, allowing him to qualify for a pension to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. After two days of negative coverage, Fehrnstrom resigns from the post.

Mommy, how come the ice cream lady’s coughing on my sundae?
Friendly’s quietly slashes health benefits for 454 workers. The new policy’s daily limit covers only a fraction of average hospital costs.

She realized she could do more good by solving all those leprechaun gold heists
While Boston’s intractable problem of crime gets worse, police chief Kathleen O’Toole quits two years into her tenure and takes a job across the ocean, in Ireland.

Run for the hills! Wait: Where are the hills?!
The city puts up scores of new road signs around town to mark emergency evacuation routes. Few locals can make sense of the system. “I traveled west along Tremont, tracking the evacuation directional signs that appeared at nearly every corner,” writes Northeastern professor James Alan Fox in a letter to the Herald. “But soon came Mass. Ave., where a blue evacuation sign points left, right, and straight ahead. What now?”

So basically it resembled an afternoon at the registry
Volunteers take part in a drill to gauge how local emergency services would perform in the event of a radioactive “dirty bomb” going off. The response, it turns out, is so chaotic that many pretend victims are genuinely terrorized. As the Globe puts it, “Most said they died waiting for help.”

Another Massachusetts first: The Uncivil Rights Movement
A Milton High School senior files a federal complaint claiming gender-based discrimination. “[Schools] establish a philosophy that if you sit down, follow orders, and listen to what they say, you’ll do well and get good grades,” Doug Anglin, 17, tells reporters. “Men naturally rebel against this.”

On a positive note, at least he wasn’t out there getting paid overtime to guard potholes
Prosecutors charge Boston police officer Roberto Pulido with protecting giant drug shipments, devising identity theft schemes, smuggling illegal immigrants, and hosting after-hours benders for drug pushers, prostitutes, and uniformed officers.

Thousands of Massachusetts residents suffer lower back pain from putting their cynicism down, then picking it up, then putting it down…
After running with Deval Patrick on an open-government platform, Lieutenant Governor–elect Tim Murray is forced to cancel one of his first speaking gigs when it’s revealed that the event, hosted by the public relations firm that represents Bechtel, is closed to the public.

He also wanted a drop ceiling
Eleven days before the collapse of the Big Dig tiles, MTA chairman Matt Amorello’s toadies on the turnpike board approve construction of his new 700-square-foot penthouse office, complete with personal bathroom, shower, and balcony overlooking the planned Greenway. After Amorello finally resigns, Romney appointees quickly can the project.

Consider it a bonus for a job well done
As he prepares to step down, Amorello (who’ll continue to collect his quarter-million-dollar salary until February 15) amends the policy for cashing out unused sick leave, steering an extra $230,000 to seven managers who quit after his departure.

Good move. We don’t want prisoners getting any funny ideas.
An officer at the state prison in Norfolk faces discipline after screening the controversial movie Brokeback Mountain for inmates.

So it’s true, cops really do have the best dope
Boston police investigators discover that someone has been stealing drug evidence for upcoming trials, apparently targeting dope from cases that have been dismissed (which makes the disappearance less likely to be noticed). While Internal Affairs investigates, the perps keep stealing drugs, and the police department finally reassigns all 12 officers who work at the Hyde Park warehouse where the evidence is held.

Considering all the trouble he went to, he could have at least parked his damn car
Infuriated when he finds someone else’s vehicle in his regular spot outside his job on Spice Street in Charlestown, 53-year-old Angel Hernandez Cartagena allegedly stabs the driver in the back and then drives away. Witnesses tell the Globe that Cartagena had always seemed a little obsessive about the spot.

Maybe it would be easier to just ban scooting
For reasons of “safety and decorum,” the Randolph Public Schools system prohibits its students from wearing hooded sweatshirts, baseball caps, and other “nonreligious head-coverings.” Explains an official: “We’ve got kids who may be up to something and avoid the cameras by crouching down, pulling their hoods up, and scooting by.”

Hail, Patrick!
Deval Patrick, who campaigned for governor as a man of the people, unveils plans for a five-day, $1.6 million inauguration to take place in several locations across the state.

The officer was told to turn in his gun and… oh, wait
Boston cop Michael LoPriore pleads guilty and resigns after the prostitute he’s been forcing to give him oral sex under the threat of arrest steals his badge and turns it over to her lawyer.

She wanted to know the candidates’ positions on the dangers of extended exposure to video games
During a gubernatorial debate, Fox 25 gives “average voters” the chance to ask questions of the candidates. First up: the effervescent “Shonda from Medfield”—the wife of Red Sox pitcher and Bush campaigner Curt Schilling. (“Shonda from Medfield,” it turns out, isn’t even registered to vote in Massachusetts.)

“Shonda from Medfield” was unavailable for comment
Mayor Menino and others criticize the MBTA for running ads for the ultraviolent video game Grand Theft Auto. “Does the city really want teens staring at advertisements for video games that promote spilling innocent blood?” fumes the Herald. The same day, the paper asks “Boston hookers” their opinions: “‘Nikki’ said she likes nothing more than spending time away from her johns playing the same video game… ‘You can actually pick them up, have sex with them, and steal their money,’ she said.”

Other than the heartless bastards who run this place, no complaints at all
Hours after notifying students that a classmate has “fallen” from a window, Harvard dean Benedict Gross sends an e-mail asking them to participate in a “survey of student well-being.”

Gives new meaning to “badgering the witness”
Prosecutor Robert Nelson fails to convict Quincy dominatrix Barbara Asher of manslaughter despite conducting his closing argument in a leather mask, pretending to be strapped to a bondage rack, playing dead.

Homophobes: Baaahhhd
During the Massachusetts Democratic state convention, former presidential candidate George McGovern gives a speech in support of gay marriage by explaining how shepherds in the South Dakota hills “lay down with sheep.”