Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gronk Flakes vs. Flutie Flakes


As a kid I always loved those sugary sweet, tooth-rotting cereals that most kids would eat while watching Saturday morning cartoons.  we didn't always have stuff like Cap'n Crunch, Trix, Cocoa Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, Count Chocula or Honey Combs in our house, but whenever they were present they didn't tend to last very long.  I'm all "grown up" now, but I've never outgrown my sweet tooth tendencies (yes, I still have my teeth despite eating those cereals).  Nowadays  those kinds of breakfast treats are even more rare around our household.  The Wife is a big proponent of healthy eating (see Night of the Living Bread and He Who Spelt It Dealt It for more on that).  It's tough to criticize her for wanting our family to eat--and be--more healthy.  But I still need to give myself an occasional treat.  Sometimes that treat will be tooth-rotting cereal (see Return of the Monster (Cereals) for more on that).

Earlier in the week I was doing some shopping at our local grocery store with The Insane Beast (my younger daughter).  While I sort of feel that they're a bit deprived by not having them, I have to admit that I generally avoid exposing my children to the sweet cereals I loved when I was their age.  I figure, why start them on a path that is better off being avoided?  Anyway, while we were cruising down the cereal aisle I was confronted by a large display that was difficult to miss.  It was a case full of a brand new cereal--Gronk Flakes!  Not only was this stuff tough to miss, I also found it impossible to resist purchasing a box (despite the steep $3.99 price tag).

My box of Gronk Flakes

Why stop with the cereal when you can get the T-shirt too?
It was pretty obvious that these were simply going to be yet another Frosted Flakes knock-off.  They're usually not as good as the original, but the novelty of this was simply irresistible.  I live in New England.  Because of that fact, all the local teams (New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins) are my favorites.  Tight end Rob Gronkowski (the namesake of Gronk Flakes) is one of the rising young stars of the Patriots.

Rob Gronkowski spiking the ball after another touchdown
Putting his name and image on this cereal box meant that it would almost guarantee some good sales numbers, at least in the New England area.  I can only assume that this is a regional release only available around here (though I don't know that for sure).

While I'm not really supposed to be buying this kind of stuff, and while it was a bit on the pricey side for a cheapskate like myself, I  was able to rationalize my purchase because some of the proceeds from it are going to the Gronk Nation Foundation.  Why not buy some tasty cereal if it will help a good cause?  Right?  Right?  It turns out that these things had just become available (September 25).  Here's a story on them and the foundation from WBZ TV4 in Boston.

Information about the Foundation on the side of the box

This isn't the first time a sports figure has put their name and image on a cereal (or a multitude of other products) that's meant to help a good cause.  While there must be hundreds of examples of this happening, seeing Gronk Flakes brought back a memory of something that was very similar in nature--Flutie Flakes.

The first style of Flutie Flakes box

One of my personal "Second Edition" Flutie Flakes boxes
from the late 1990s
I'm not exactly sure what was "New & Improved" about the flakes in this box--they tasted the same to me.

No T-shirts here, but you could get a Flutie Flakes hat and/or football!
And I believe that there were T-shirts available at some point

Doug Flutie was a quarterback ho was another big star in the New England area.  He was actually from Natick, Massachusetts and led Boston College to a huge win over Miami University in 1984 with a Hail Mary pass that has become legendary and which was probably the key to Flutie being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.  He played in the now-defunct United States Football (USFL) and then the NFL.  He didn't have much success quarterbacking the Chicago Bears and found himself returning to home with the New England Patriots.  While very popular, he still didn't have much success with the Patriots.  He was always considered too short to be an effective NFL quarterback.  A very long and very successful career in the Canadian Football League (CFL) followed.  In the late-1990s Doug finally returned to the NFL when he was signed by the Buffalo Bills.  He finally tasted some level of NFL success and then played for the San Diego Chargers before returning "home" and finishing his football career by playing a final season with the New England Patriots.  There is a road in Natick near the big mall in town that is named after Doug.  It's called Flutie Pass (get it?).

Doug Flutie in his Boston College days

Flutie in his first stint with the Patriots

And finishing up his long career with a second stop in New England
Flutie's son Doug Jr. was diagnosed with autism as a child and Doug spent a lot of time raising money for autism research and treatment.  It was during his stint with the Buffalo Bills that Flutie Flakes first went on sale.  I don't know how wide the distribution was for Flutie Flakes, but they were certainly sold in the New York and New England areas.  Proceeds from the cereal went to The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation For Autism.  While researching this blog (yes, I actually did some research before writing this fluff!) I found out that Rob Gronkowski ate Flutie Flakes as a kid and this cereal was directly inspired by them.

Doug and his family--from the side of the Flutie Flakes box
Information about Flutie's foundation
The similarities between Flutie Flakes and Gronk Flakes goes beyond the fact that they're both fronted by New England sports figures and that they both raise money for charity.  They also both are/were Frosted Flakes knock-offs.  Which brings us to the vs. part of this story.  It is time to give Gronk Flakes a taste test.

Taking a first look

They look more-or-less like Frosted Flakes
And they taste pretty much as expected--good!

The hearty flakes--protected by a thick glaze of sugar--stay crispy in milk
They look pretty much as like would expect from a generic Frosted Flakes-type cereal.  And they taste very much the same way.  The flakes seem a little thicker or denser than "real" Frosted Flakes, and they have a rather heavy sugary crust on them.  It's been well over ten years since I've tasted Flutie Flakes, but I distinctly remember them tasting a lot like these.  It's a very sweet experience that would probably seem gross to someone more accustomed to stuff like Grape Nuts or Bran Flakes or oatmeal for breakfast, but they really hit the spot for me.  The Insane Beast tried them out and seemed to like them--though I was surprised she didn't go ape over them and demand more.  I guess that's a good thing.

Gronk Flakes--part of a nutritious breakfast
...or something like that

Since they seem to be exactly the same thing, the result of the Gronk Flakes vs. Flutie Flakes competition ended up as a tie.  If you enjoy extremely sweet breakfast cereals you'll probably like them.  If you are diabetic and/or eating a very healthy diet you probably won't like them.

Now if only we could have seen Doug Flutie throwing touchdown passes--and maybe a couple Hail Marys--to Rob Gronkowski...

One final note: I found it interesting that Gronk Flakes are distributed by a company in Pittsburg, PA.  Obviously the fact that they're geared mainly toward Patriots fans doesn't mean they have to be made in New England.  But I can only imagine the thoughts of hardcore Steelers fans working in the place that sends out these boxes--with the picture of New England's pretty-boy superstar staring at them day after day!  Oh well, you gotta earn a living, right?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Star Trek vs. Star Wars has put up a new Google Doodle that commemorates (a day early) the 46th anniversary of the television premiere of the original Star Trek series on NBC on September 8, 1966.

It's a great Doodle that actually allows you to follow along with a short interactive animated Star Trek storyline by clicking on various characters and objects in the scenes.  The characters (Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy...) are each represented by  a letter in the word "GOOGLE".  And in this case, one of those characters just happens to be a "Red Shirt"--a nickname for the mostly nameless, red-shirt-wearing security personnel who always seem to get killed during the Enterprise's adventures.

The Google-ized Crew of the Enterprise on the ship's bridge

Kirk and a "Red Shirt" in the transporter room preparing to beam down

Encountering the Gorn from the episode "Arena"

The Gorn, as it appeared in the original episode

Final credit sequence for the Google Doodle

It's all pretty cool for a fan of the show, like myself.  Stumbling onto this Google Doodle got me to thinking about something that I've been meaning to write about for some time now.  What better time than the anniversary of the first episode of Star Trek to finally sit down and get this out of my head?

A while back a friend who has known me since I was much younger posted a question that seemed simple enough--but it totally stumped me.  The question was: "Which do you prefer, Star Trek or Star Wars?"  I should have given a quick, two-word answer, but instead it got my head spinning around the question.  Let's take a look at the two contenders:

I've been a fan of Star Trek ever since I was a kid in the 1970s watching re-runs of the original TV series that ran from 1966-69.  I never saw it during its original run because, well, I hadn't been born yet.  But I do consider myself a life-long fan of Star Trek (whether that makes me a "Trekkie", a "Trekker" or whatever...).  I've never written much about Star Trek in this blog (beyond some mention in Creation Convention--25 Years Later and Creation Convention Part II: Geeks on Parade), but it's always been a part of me.

I suppose if I had to pick a favorite version of Star Trek it would still be The Original Series.  I was very excited when Star Trek: The Next Generation started up in 1987.  I watched it throughout its run and loved it as well.  It's a close one, but I still have to go with the original.  After The Next Generation I seemed to become less and less interested in each of the subsequent Star Trek series (Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise).  I still have a lot of catching up to do on all those shows--even though they've all been off the air for a number of years.  I also liked all the Star Trek movies that featured the original cast.  "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" (1982) would probably rank my favorite of all the Trek films, but I did enjoy all of the ones with the original crew (even "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" to some extent).  I liked the ones with the Next Generation crew too, but not quite as much.  J.J. Abrams' recent "Star Trek" reboot (2009) was interesting.  I go back and forth on whether I approve of its tampering with the Star Trek canon, but it certainly was a good movie and I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Meeting Judson Scott from "Star Trek II" at a convention in 1985

Oh yeah, I also liked the short-lived Star Trek animated series produced by Filmation back in the 1970s.  This show continued the five year mission of the Enterprise that was prematurely interrupted by network cancellation.  It also served to bridge the period between the original show and the first theatrical film.  The animated adventures of Star Trek featured not only the voices of most of the original cast (as well as James Doohan performing many, many voices in addition to Scotty), it also had many of the writers from the original series.  Unfortunately, it was just too smart and serious to be a successful Saturday morning cartoon.  Luckily it's now available on DVD!

The first "Star Wars" movie (or "Episode Four: A New Hope") was released in 1977 when I was seven years old.  It was a perfect age at which to be introduced to that galaxy far, far away.  Ever since seeing "Star Wars" for the first time I was hooked on that saga too.  In fact, in The Oak Street Drive-In I detailed how we had a backyard theater screening of "Star Wars" for my 40th birthday party a couple years ago.  As was the case with Star Trek, the original is still my favorite.  I loved--and grew up with--the original Star Wars trilogy.  All the merchandising that became a bit tiresome with the later movies was an important part of my childhood.  I collected as many toys and action figures as I could.

My original 1977-era Stormtrooper action figure
The same one I played with as a kid!
It was an exciting time in the 1990s when the second trilogy of prequels began production, but I never felt they captured anything near the level of magic that the original movies had.  And yes, I did have a big problem with new, annoying characters like Jar Jar Binks!  Add the fact that I'm no fan of CGI special effects and you can see why I prefer the first films.  I didn't get a chance to see any of The Clone Wars animated series (because I don't have cable), but do remember watching the Saturday morning cartoon Droids as a kid.  George Lucas' insistence on tampering with all six of the Star Wars movies and their seemingly endless re-releases on both the big screen and home video has become extremely annoying.  Still, the Star Wars universe will always be a favorite of mine.  Despite that, I really haven't written much about Star Wars as a blog topic either--other than the drive-in birthday party mentioned above and Star Wars Day at Higgins Armory Museum.

Meeting an Imperial Death Star Gunner with The Little Monster in 2011

Well I guess it's obvious that I do indeed like both Star Trek and star Wars.  So which one is my favorite?  Well, I believe that I do have an answer, but unfortunately it's not really a satisfying one.  Both Star Trek and Star Wars hold special places in my heart.  But as it turns out, those places are pretty distant from each other.  Both of them are space-based science fiction stories and might seem very similar at first glance, but the story lines are very different.  And it would seem that they both have fed off of each other in some way over the years.  While it would be a huge stretch to say that George Lucas ripped off Star Trek (which did come first) when he came up with the idea for Star Wars, it also seems likely that Star Trek did indeed have some influence on Star Wars--however small.  And if it weren't for the success of Star Wars in 1977 it's very possible that Star Trek wouldn't have been re-launched as a series of films on the big screen in 1979 with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"--ten years after the TV series was cancelled.

Unlike most of the classic "Which do you prefer?" questions like: Elvis or the Beatles, The Three Stooges or Abbott & Costello, Ginger or Mary Ann, Betty or Veronica, Betty or Wilma, The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family--the question of Star Trek vs. Star Wars really doesn't have an answer in my case.  The reason the question stumped me so much was that it had never occurred to me that one could be chosen over the other.  They simply represent two different interests of mine that can't be placed in order.  They're both very important to me.