Thursday, January 01, 2009

Blog change we can believe in

Time for a change...

While I have enjoyed doing this thing on and off here at All I'm Saying Is for the past few years, it's time to upgrade platforms and the theme just a little bit, so now check me out at...

Daily Doc

See you on the other side!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Village Idiot - J.A. Adande

Welcome to a new feature here on the blog where we examine people who have distinguished themselves as wasting good oxygen that the rest of us can use. Today's nominee for Village Idiot™ - ESPN personality J.A. Adande.

From the time J.A. Adande first appeared on Pardon the Interruption, I was struck by one burning question: What does this guy have on big wigs at the World Wide Leader? He must have some compromising pictures or some dirt otherwise, because how else does a guy like this get on TV? His inane commentary and halting delivery make PTI nearly unwatchable when he is on.

Maybe it is because he is a graduate of Northwestern and worked at the Washington Post that endears Adande to Michael Wilbon, or maybe it is his Wilbon-esque manner to drop names and places he has been. But if this guy, along with the equally lightweight Michael Smith, represents the young, hip future of ESPN, then I see how the WWL is becoming more vapid every day.
Adande's LA Times columns were often pedestrian, but it is his performance on PTI this week that has earned him the Village Idiot™ nod. Among his gems:

Panthers WR Steve Smith should not be suspended for breaking Ken Lucas' nose because Bill Romanowski was not suspended 5 years ago for a training camp altercation in which he broke a teammate's eye socket. Uh, J.A. - number one, that was the Raiders, and number two, Romo was a roided-out freak.

Phil Mickelson could be headed for a David Duval-like fade into oblivion because of his performance down the stretch last weekend and his performance in majors since his collapse at Winged Foot. Hello, J.A. - Phil has won two tournaments this year, and while he hacked up the last four holes last weekend, he still shot even par on Sunday. Not good enough to win, but not headed for struggling to even be competitive and make cuts like poor Duval.

In reference to a comment that U.S. Olympic cyclists apologized for any offense given by showing up in Beijing with respiratory masks, Adande noted that it's too late because the images are already out there (true) and that those would be the lasting image of these games. Really? A picture taken almost a week before the opening cermonies will be the lasting image of the games? You wanna bet that by the closing ceremonies, that picture will be forgotten? Certainly two months from now no one will remember it.

For this fine, incisive commentary, J.A. Adande of ESPN has earned the title of Village Idiot™. Nice work!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Doc goes to the movies

With two kids under the age of six, I don't get out to the movies much, but I did take in a double-feature of Get Smart and Dark Knight. While I know these movies have been out long enough for most everybody in America to see them, consider this less of a review and more of a comment on what essentially are two re-makes.

Get Smart

One of my favorite shows as a kid, the TV version of Get Smart perfectly captured America's Cold War obsession with spies as well as 60s kitsch. It was interesting to see how the 21st century version of the movie would pull off revisiting this type of story, and the result was the kind of film that is a pleasant diversion for a couple of hours and completely forgettable thereafter. In other words, what a lot of cinema should be...

Steve Carrell is perfectly cast as Maxwell Smart, and I am glad the movie chose not to make the character quite as campy as the Don Adams version from the TV show. Think more of Dan Aykroyd's Austin Milbarge character from Spies Like Us- smart and capable, but a bit of an outcast who finally gets his break. Anne Hathaway certainly reminds viewers of Barbara Feldon's Agent 99, and Dwayne Johnson puts in a pretty good performance as Agent 23, who tries hard not to be funny but can't help it.

Sadly, however, the rest of the cast is fairly unremarkable. Alan Arkin's turn as the Chief comes off as stiff, and David Koechner's portrayal as Champ Kind Larabee (watch out, Dave! You might get typecast!) is tired. Plus, you have to wonder why the producers spent the money on Terence Stamp to play Sigfried when he brings absolutely nothing to the picture. Besides, this is a Steve Carrell vehicle and Steve steals nearly every scene in which he appears.

Still, there are just enough laughs and just enough reverence paid to the old series (including the shoe phone, some catch phrases like "missed it by that much", and a cameo by the original Sigfried, Bernie Kopell) that hard-core fans aren't left wanting. 2 1/2 stars.

Dark Knight

After reading all of the Best.Movie.Ever. hype for the latest installment of the Batman series, I was left thinking I saw a very good, but not best-ever, picture.

Christian Bale's incarnation of Bruce Wayne is spot-on, truly projecting the image that someone of that degree of wealth and social status would display in this day and age. But his portrayal of Batman is somehow lacking. Part of that may be the writing, in that much of the angst and inner turmoil of Bruce/Batman, cited as one of the strengths of this movie, is manifested in the Bruce Wayne side. With the suit on, Bale looks as stiff as Clooney and voices the character like he is channeling his inner Michael Keaton.

The supporting cast is a mixed bag. Maggie Gyllenhall puts in an unremarkable performance as Rachel Dawes, and personally I was happy when her character died. And Aaron Eckhart stretched his body of work with a capable performance as Harvey Dent, though his change into Two-Face was not as enthralling as it could of been, partly because of the writing, and partly because of the special effects showing his exposed bone and muscle. I found the SFX to be distracting and a little over the top.

The remainder of the supporting cast did an admirable job, but then again, look who they are: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman. Caine nearly steals every scene in which he appears as Alfred, and Morgan Freeman is, well, Morgan Freeman (although his character and addition to the plot line are pointless). And as I read somewhere else, it is refreshing to see Oldman portray a genuinely good character.

Of course, the highlight of the movie is Heath Ledger taking the Joker in an entirely new direction. I have to give Ledger credit - he and the writers were smart enough to know not to try to top Jack Nicholson's standard-setting interpretation as the super-villain. Instead, he took it down a different path - more subdued, more psychological, and the performance was brilliant.

Like the role of the Joker, many people are trying to compare Dark Knight with the late 80s Batman, and my response is that it is not necessarily a remake as much as it is a re-interpretation. The 80s version was supposed to be outlandish and over-the-top, while this one is, to borrow the phrase, darker. Moviegoers should appreciate Dark Knight for what it is, and not what it trying to out-do. 4 stars (but not Best. Movie. Ever).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

This thing of over...

It's been 48 hours, and the ending of The Sopranos still stinks.

Count me among the Sopranos loyalists who was left wholly unfulfilled after Sunday's series finale. I guess I just expected more from the show that changed the cable drama genre over the past decade. I would offer a spoiler warning, but there is absolutely nothing to be spoiled.

By now, everybody knows the story - lots and lots of build-up, only to cut to a black screen, followed by the rolling credits. I admit, when the screen went black, I checked my DVR, rewound it just to see if it was right.

I spent a good portion of yesterday seeing what else the Western world had to say about the final episode. The comments ranged from "brilliant" and "arty" to "disappointing" and "gutless".

Planning a series finale is seriously hard work. No one can ever match the poignancy of the final M*A*S*H episode, or the wry humor of the final Newhart (where Bob wakes up next to Marcia Wallace, thinking the whole Vermont inn thing was a dream). And some shows, like Seinfeld, just jump the shark in their finale. But for God's sake give us something, anything!

The finale lovers cite the genius that is David Chase. His selection of music. His notorious red herrings. His symbolism, his blah blah blah...Look, I get it, OK?

For those who argued for closure, Tony ties up all the loose ends. Bobby is dead, and Sil will probably not survive. Paulie is promoted to top lieutenant. Dr. Melfi ends her relationship with Tony. Tony makes sure Bobby's kids are cared for. He goes to see Janice, Sil, and Junior. Phil is eliminated. It's all wrapped up. At the end of the day, all he has is his family.

And yes, I get the symbolism of the final scene. Tony constantly on guard. Everyone is a potential threat. He always has to look up to see who is coming through the door. The Journey song has its own moral in the lyrics. OK, OK, enough already.

But cutting to a black screen, then rolling the credits? Hell, even just a pullback from the restaurant would have been enough to get the idea that life goes on. I gotta tell you, it's pretty lame.

The Chase defenders have argued how brilliant that idea was, and Chase himself said he had that idea in his head for a couple of years. Wow. Almost 10 years, and that's the best you've got? The Chasies are saying that the ending is for us to figure out. But we didn't invest 86 hours in this show to figure it out ourselves. We followed Chase's vision all this time - we would have bought however he chose to end it.

Other Chasies have said "this show was about what goes on in your head, so the ending was in your head." Bullcrap. The Sopranos was about being in your face, not in your head.

Of course, we really shouldn't be surprised. The show has been in free-fall for two seasons now. The show stopped being about what made it so good and decided to be artsy. The whole gay Vito tangent was for what? And this season's incessant focus on A.J. just made me wanna puke. The last two episodes cranked up the heat, but the final 60 minutes left such a horrible taste in so many people's mouths.

The two-halved "last" season of the show was kind of like when Michael Jordan came back to play for the Wizards - you knew he was past his prime, but you watched him anyway, because he was still better than a lot of what was out there. And, every once in a while, you got a glimpse of what made him the greatest of all time.

So long, Tony. You - and we - deserved better.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Great Garrison's Ghost!

Unconfirmed reports are flowing out of Washington that the ghost of Jim Garrison has been seen haunting the chambers where closing arguments in the perjury trial of vice-presidential aide Scooter Libby has been taking place.

Garrison, of course, was the New Orleans district attorney who was only person to bring a charge and a trial in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and was made into a folk hero in Oliver Stone's epic JFK. The lens of history has not been as kind to Garrison, however, as corruption filled his office and stories of prosecutorial misconduct tainted his hounding of Clay Shaw, the New Orleans businessman accused of complicity in the Kennedy killing.

So I have two questions:

1. If you lie to investigators about something that is not a crime, is it still perjury; and

2. Will anyone outside of Washington who really gives more than half a damn about this please raise your hand?

Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor chosen to investigate the non-crime of leaking the identity of CIA employee - not covert agent - Valerie Plame, called Libby before a Grand Jury to explain what he knew about the leaking of Plame's name to the media. What Fitzgerald knew - but Libby did not - is that the leaker had already been identified.

Libby is now saying both that he has a fuzzy memory and that he was not entirely truthful. And both are probably true. He says he doesn't exactly what he said and to whom, but that he was understandably afraid that Fitzgerald might try to pin the leak on Libby, just after President Bush announced that the hammer would be dropped on the leaker.

So why has this joke of a trial captivated the media so? The answer lies in two main parts: A) the media is the star of the trial; and B) this is a chance to sock it to Bush/Cheney.

When heavyweights like Tim Russert are called to the stand - and grilled - it elevates the stature of the Inside-the-Beltway types. And let's not forget, this whole thing started as a mission to de-rail either Bush, Cheney, or the neo-con Darth Vader himself, Karl Rove. Instead, all Fitzgerald ended up with is Libby, a decidedly smaller fish. It's like trying to nail Tony Soprano and ending up with Bobby Baccala - not that he's not important, but at the end of the day all Bobby does is wipe Junior's nose - he's not the real target.

So back to Jim Garrison - in a world filled with JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald, Bobby Kennedy, Jack Ruby, Fidel Castro, mafia connections, among others - Garrison brought charges against a two-bit player who, if he was involved with the Kennedy assassination, was so far down the totem pole he had to read about in the papers like every one else. Fitzgerald's closing arguments - where he pointed fingers at Cheney - can be interpreted like the great monologue in the Stone film: "Back, and to the left, " since it only for the benefit of the Left that this trial ever took place.

Now the truly bad news - if found guilty, Libby could be sentenced to five years onboard a JetBlue plane on the tarmac at JFK.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Super Bowl XLI recap

What a sloppy Super Bowl. At least it did keep my attention to the end.


What more does Peyton Manning have to do to silence his critics? For years, pundits have said he had to get past the Patriots to be considered among the best. Then, it was said he had to get to the Super Bowl. Then, it was said he had to win a Super Bowl. Now, some are suggesting to be among the all-time greats, he has to win more than one.

Let's see, QBs who won more than one Super Bowl: Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, Jim Plunkett, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, John Elway, and Tom Brady. That's it, that's the list.

There are some pretty good QBs who only won one: Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Steve Young, and Brett Favre, to name a few. Hall of Famers all.

Then again, I guess Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler, Brad Johnson, and Trent Dilfer were all Super Bowl winners as well.

Manning deserves his due. Back off of the man!


Speaking of QBs with one Super Bowl win, how bad is Phil Simms as a broadcaster? I cannot believe he is CBS' #1 analyst. He is unlistenable.


While we are on the "un"s, how "un"remarkable were the ads? There were some good ones - "I threw a rock" and the Dorito's ad from Cary among them - but nothing you will talk about at the water cooler all week or even remember a month from now. And who were the lame-oids at USA Today that picked the crab ad #1 and the dirty dog ad #2?


When they get to 50, will it really be Super Bowl L? Somehow seems smaller than Super Bowl XL, doesn't it?


Roger Goodell needs to enroll in Toastmasters to work on his public speaking skills. His first SB as commish, and I've seen funeral directors with more spunk.


Wow, were you aware that Tony Dungy was the first African-American coach to win the Super Bowl? How could you not, as it was a main media focus. I told the lovely and talented Katie that I had hoped we were past even caring about stuff like that, but she replied that she thought this photo from the State-UNC game was a much better sentiment.

I like how Dungy handled it all - he deflected praise and gave credit to those black coaches that came before him. Classy. He also referred to his faith and spoke of he and Bears coach Lovie Smith as Christians who did things "the Lord's way."
Poor Rex Grossman. Worse QBs have made it to a Super Bowl, even won it (see Dilfer), but none have taken the fall like Rexy. Grossman may take the fall, but the Bears abandoned the running game late and put it all on him to win or lose. It's not fair that he will be sliced apart, but that's life as a QB in the NFL.
Well, gotta go for tonight. It's almost X o'clock and I have to get VIII hours of shut-eye!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Congrats, Wuffies

N.C. State University Basketball Coach Killed

Lowe dies in celebration accident

Sidney Lowe, men's basketball coach at North Carolina State University, has been killed in a horrific accident, according to university officials.

What started as a tribute to a thrilling victory turned into a tragedy late Saturday night, resulting in the death of the first-year coach.

Lowe's Wolfpack defeated third-ranked North Carolina 83-79 on Saturday afternoon, marking N.C. State's first victory over the rival Tar Heels since 2003. Jubilant students rushed the floor and celebrations were plenty across Raleigh on Saturday night.

Wolfpack boosters immediately commissioned a bronze statue of Lowe to be placed outside of the Case Athletic Center on the N.C. State campus, as well as arranging for a permanent display in the school's Hall of Honor for the bright-red blazer Lowe wore on the sideline for the historic victory.

The trouble began shortly thereafter when the statue sculptor, hurrying to finish the statue before the planned parade down Hillsborough Street, accidentally bronzed the 47 year-old coach.

Wolfpack officials announced their plans to place the metal-encased corpse on display outside the Case Center anyway.

A memorial quickly began to form outside Reynolds Coliseum, the site of N.C. State's last basketball glory some 20-plus years ago, and where Lowe played for the Wolfpack in the early 1980s. The NC State media relations office refrains from referring to Lowe as an alumnus since he did not actually graduate from the university.

A distraught Wolfpack fan, James Westphal of Kenansville, shivered in the February cold outside Reynolds on Sunday morning, shirtless and still covered in body paint from the game on Saturday.

"Sidney Lowe was a like a god, man, " said Westphal. "He understood that beating Carolina is the most important thing that can ever happen to a Wolfpack fan. No matter if the trailer burns down, or if you get laid off from the turkey plant, you can still say we beat Carolina. When they win the national championship in April, we can say, 'yeah, but we whipped you in February!'"

Wolfpack Club member Dr. Kenneth Noisewater also spoke passionately of Lowe, saying "Sidney really got things turned around here. I mean, he's got to be smiling in heaven knowing he died undefeated against Carolina. Seeing that statue, knowing his bones are inside it, will make me forget the 5 straight NCAA tournament appearances we had with Herb Sendek."

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams released a statement through the university late Saturday night.

"All of us in the Carolina basketball family extend our sympathies to our poor cousins down I-40," said Williams. "Sidney's team really played hard and took us behind the woodshed during that game. As I looked down the sideline and saw that red blazer, I could have sworn I saw Jim Valvano working his magic down there. OK, not really, but that was the look he was going for and I'm not going to ruin it for him by talking ill of the dead."

Williams refused to address the question of whether or not the Tar Heels were looking past the Wolfpack to Wednesday's matchup with Duke. He did say, however, that his team played like crap and that after Sunday's practice they would wish they had never been born.

NC State athletic director Lee Fowler praised Lowe, saying "Ol' Sid really woke up the echoes, didn't he? Now that he's beaten Carolina and achieved hero status, I don't look like such a horse's ass for the way I conducted that coaching search, do I?"

Fowler said a decision on starting the search for Lowe's replacement had not been reached, but that he had a foolproof plan this time. He would not elaborate, but he was later overheard asking an athletics department aide for the area code for Boston and for that aide to get Al Skinner on the phone...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Hell Express

...left Iraq about dawn this morning with one passenger aboard.

I am no saint, and my language can sometimes be salty, but "go to Hell" is a curse I just don't go slinging around. I don't know why. I have no problem saying "damn you" or "damn this", which is pretty much the same thing.

Still, you gotta admit, if anyone earned a first-class ticket straight to Hades, it was this guy. As Charlie Sheen said in "Hot Shots", sayonara Saddam.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Sad State of Affairs

DISCLAIMER: In case authorities report a seismic event in the Topsail Beach area about 2:30 Saturday, it wasn't an earthquake - it was a large man jumping off the John Bunting bandwagon.

Saturday may have been the first day of fall, but it was the beginning of the winter of discontent for fans of the University of North Carolina football team.

"Embarrassing" was how John Bunting described his team's performance against Clemson, and there is simply no more fitting word for it. Carolina was woeful on both sides of the football and was thoroughly and completely dominated by a team ranked #19 in the country and in second place in the ACC standings. There is no need to write a Good, Bad, and Ugly report, because it would simply the the "Occasionally Bad but Mostly Ugly" report.

I will allow that a bias may exist in the comments that follow, because I am simply disgusted with both the game at Clemson and the apparent lack of progress in Bunting's sixth season. But having been a rather ardent supporter of Bunting the past few years, I can make these comments with a clear conscience.

Four games into the season, there are so many deficiencies with this football team, it is hard to find a place to begin, but the primary issue is on defense. The defensive line play has been atrocious, and there appears to be a lack of quality depth on the line. Moreover, the D-line appears to be weak and gets blown up by even a I-AA offensive line like Furman's. Even worse at the beginning of the season was the horrid play at linebacker, so much so that the defensive staff moved some of the defensive backs to linebacker. The obvious result is a lack of depth at defensive back, but the play at that position has been the one bright spot on a horrific defense. The D-backs' tackle totals are soaring because the line is getting blown up so often, so maybe NFL scouts will be impressed by their numbers.

The story reads not quite as badly on the offensive side of the football. If the offensive coaches really feel Cam Sexton is their best option at QB, then they must really think Joe Dailey is awful. Sexton is supposed to have a great arm, but he threw more airballs and bricks Saturday than Shaq at the free throw line. Meanwhile, though Dailey has a higher completion rate than Sexton, the problem is that it is often to the other team. Carolina does appear to be solid at running back and receiver, but none of that is any good if the offensive line can't block air, which they cannot appear to do. Carolina's tackles were repeatedly smoked against Clemson, had 3 or 4 false starts, and the personal foul on Chacos was a nice touch - glad the compliance office spent that time and paperwork to get him a sixth year.

On special teams, at least our kickers have looked a little better, save for Wooldridge's blocked punt against VT. Other than Furman, however, our kick coverage team hasn't gotten a lot of work because we haven't scored.

So, once again, a third of the way through the season, we sit a miserable 1-3. Some might say, given our schedule, that we really couldn't expect to be more than 2-2, but I would be happier with a competitive 1-3 than the punked 1-3 we are currently showing. Again, Bunting sits in the post-game presser talking about being "competitive" at the highest levels. After six years, it's time to start being more than competitive.

As a side note, Saturday's game was Bunting's 39th loss at Carolina, and his 12th by more than 30 points. So that means that roughly every 3rd loss for us is by 4 TDs or more. In addition, his teams have set 9 records for defensive futility (worst loss, most yards surrendered, etc - and the latest addition on Saturday, most rushing TDs surrendered in one game). Even the 1-10 years weren't like that.

I don't think there is a single person affiliated with Carolina that doesn't want to see John Bunting to succeed. He is an alum, he runs a clean program, academic measures are way up, and this is a terminal stop for him - no Mack Brown to Texas worries here. But again, after six years, it is put up or shut up time - and to his credit, I think he'll be the first one to tell you that.

Someone who is a Carolina football insider and whose opinion I trust wholeheartedly told me that Bunting's biggest signing of the offseason was retaining defensive coordinator Marvin Sanders, but four games so far have not borne that out. While the Heels have been decent against the pass, their run defense is atrocious and the defensive unit has given up 500 yards of total offense in back-to-back games. Assignments are repeatedly missed and how about the SEVEN encroachment calls on Saturday. Moreover, the arm-tackling and shoulder-bumping of a few seasons ago seems to be back. There is no way you can look at this team through four games and call them a well-coached unit.

Then there was all of the hype about Frank Cignetti coming over from Fresno, but so far it appears as if he is using the playbook Gary Tranquill left in his desk as he cleared out the offensive coordinator's office. The flanker screens and QB options used against Rutgers appear to have been ditched for off-tackle right and drop-back passes (especially since Sexton has all the mobility of Bernie Kosar on downers).

But the most burning part is that, for the first time in the Bunting era, this team appeared to lay down against Clemson. Maybe giving up 35, 42, and 52 points in successive weeks will wear down a defense, but the offense has only managed four TDs against its 3 D-I opponents, and the running game is non-existent against a quality opponent. Or it may have to do with conditioning and strength - both our lines were simply man-handled by Clemson and our tacklers often bounced off ball carriers. It appears we are weak mentally and physically.

So at the end of the day, we are left with this - a team and a staff entirely of Bunting's creation that has absolutely failed its tests through the first third of the season - again, not so much record-wise, but just in the state of the program overall. But, as I have said before, the most consistent thing about Carolina football under John Bunting is its inconsistency. Carolina has been known to lay an egg and follow it up with a brilliant performance - most notably two years ago when, after being embarrassed at Utah, the Heels had an open date and responded with a win over Miami and a bowl trip. Well, guess what the scenario is now - an open date, and Miami.

Is it time to raise the flag of surrender and pull the rip cord on the Bunting era? Not yet, but you might want to pack the parachute. Some would argue the most challenging part of the season is past, but there are still trips to Miami and Notre Dame on the schedule. I think Bunting will be judged by performances against teams supposedly in the same situation - State, Wake, Duke, South Florida, and Virginia. I can tell you South Florida and Virginia are awful, but State and Wake look resurgent and could give us fits.

We would have to win five of our last eight to be bowl-eligible. A Herculean task, but not impossible. But to lose five of our last eight, far more likely, will force some hard choices in South Building. I hate to say this, but all Carolina fans have ever wanted out of football is to go to a bowl most years, win 6-7-8 games, with an occasional losing season thrown in, but mainly to take the field every Saturday knowing you are on a level playing field and have a chance to win if things go well. In other words, all we want is what Chuck Amato has produced at NCSU for the past seven years.

Now doesn't THAT get under your skin?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Quick Hitters

Thoughts rambling around in my head:

Was there any more useless waste of time and energy than the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson deal? And now when it's revealed who the leaker was, well, we're still waiting for the mea culpa. Or, like the Washington Post, you can take the media equivalent of a "my bad"...

It amazes me that, even when revealed that a pretty staunch anti-war guy, Richard Armitage, was the Plamegate leaker, left-wing nutballs still think Karl Rove had something to do with it? The left's obsession with Rove is humorous, and to think the White House's own Darth Vader would be brought down on something this petty would be underestimating Rove. Then again, they got Al Capone on tax evasion...

And I also laugh at this "outing" of Valerie Plame, like she was deep undercover in a burka in Pakistan, planting surveilance bugs in Osama's cave when the New York Times was delivered with her picture and blew her cover. Besides, being an internationally known super-spy worked well for both James Bond and Austin Powers, so...

Think there's any correlation to the death of Plamegate and the release of the Senate report nixing the link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda?


Marion Jones' B-sample came back negative. Whew, what a relief. I mean, after her coach, ex-husband, and former trainer were all busted for doping and Jones herself was mentioned in the BALCO investigation, someone might have the mistaken idea that she actually took performance-enhancing drugs...

Coming soon, a shocking revelation: some NFL players take performance-enhancing drugs as well...

Do you think Carolina Panthers player Julius Peppers is pissed? He caught a four-game suspension a few years ago for taking a Sudafed, yet four of his teammates were juicing before the Super Bowl and never got caught...


More later...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Heirs Apparent

Emma Caroline holds her baby brother, Silas Christopher, born Sunday, August 6 at 7:23 PM.

Welcome to the world, my son.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Star-Spangled Lesson

So, as I sat in church this morning, I noticed the Star-Spangled Banner is no longer in the Presbyterian Hymnal. Wow.

There are other patriotic songs in there, such as America the Beautiful, and My Country 'tis of Thee, which is really funny because that song is sung to the tune of God Save the Queen.

So at least the tune of the British national anthem is in there. As is the beautiful Lift Every Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson, often considered the "Black national anthem". But not our own American national anthem. At least not any more.

I could make this a rant about what it says about our politically correct society or the decline of patriotism, but I won't. Sadly, much of what I learned about the national anthem I gleaned as a child from the printing of the whole song in the church hymnal. And, not assuming much about the state of civics and history education in America today, allow me to pontificate here on the basis that you, gentle reader, do not know much about our anthem.

Francis Scott Key, a Washington, DC lawyer, sailed into the Chesapeake Bay to board a British ship with the purpose of securing the release of an acquaintance who had been captured by the British during the War of 1812. The release was secured, but the British would not allow Key to return to Baltimore as an assault was about to begin on Fort McHenry, which defended the harbor. So Key was sent to an American ship where he watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry throughout the day and night of September 13, 1814.

At dawn on the 14th, through the haze and early morning sun, Key and his shipmates sought to determine if the fort had fallen by seeing if the American flag was still flying. To their amazement - and pride - the fort had survived the brutal attack, as indicated by the Stars and Stripes billowing above.

Key wrote his observations into a poem called "The Defense of Fort McHenry", and was later put to music in the mid-1800s. It became our national anthem in 1931.

The first verse of his poem has become the words of our national anthem, but so few people ever listen to the words anymore. The first verse is tense and hopeful as evidenced below:

O say can you see, by the dawn's early light,What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,

It is the morning's first light - is the flag there as it was at sunset last night?

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight O'er the ramparts we watch'd were so gallantly streaming?And the rocket's red glare, the bomb bursting in air,Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

We could see the flag during the illuminations of the night-time battle, but...

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Is it still there? Did we, and what we stand for, survive the battle?

Notice that last sentence - which is often sung triumphantly - is a question! People forget that part.

The second and third verses deal with the details of the battle, but I learned the fourth verse as a child, and it is this verse I think America needs to be reminded of as we stand toe-to-toe with the forces of evil in the war against terror:

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand Between their lov'd home and the war's desolation!

Blest with vict'ry and peace may the heav'n rescued land Praise the power that hath made and preserv'd us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,And this be our motto - "In God is our trust,"

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave. (emphasis mine)

That, friends, is what we really should be singing every day.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

No Matter What

I came across two wholly unrelated things in the past few days that put the War on Terror in perspective for me.

First, I saw the campy 1996 movie Mars Attacks, in which the Martians keep destroying things on Earth while the bumbling government blames it on "cultural misunderstandings" and seeks to play an alien invasion for political gain. In the end, we finally figure out that the Martians are, in fact, attempting to destroy the Earth and all our weapons are useless until it is discovered that the sound of Slim Whitman yodeling makes their heads explode.

The other thing I stumbled upon was Charles Krauthammer's excellent column from last week, in which he notes that Israel has pretty much given its Arab neighbors everything they have asked for at the bargaining table, and yet the Arabs keep coming back to attack Israel.

What is the relationship between these two things? Well, the reaction of our government and media has been much along that of the government in Mars Attacks, while Krauthammer nails the underlying motivations of Islamic and Arab fundamentalism.

In the movie, when the aliens are discovered, it is assumed that since their civilization was more advanced, that it would therefore be peaceful. Similarly, assumptions are made about the Islamofascists every day - such as "they are rational", or "if we give them what they want, they will leave us alone."

Krauthammer points out that Israel has withdrawn from both South Lebanon and Gaza in the past six years, yet Arabs have used these very places as launching points to continue armed conflict against Israel.

Moreover, he notes that the issue for Israel's Arab neighbors is the very existence of the State of Israel itself. The Islamic radicals will not rest until Israel is wiped off the face of the planet. And no amount of negotiating, or brokering cease-fires, is going to change that.

Israel knows that it is literally fighting for its existence as a nation every day. It also knows that the only way to stop a fanatic is by being even more crazy. Israel lives by the motto of, "when fired upon, return the fire." Why? Because to not respond is to allow those who would see Israel destroyed to gain traction. For Israel, who has been under near-constant attack for the 60 years of its existence, proportioned responses are out the window. The opposition must go down and they must go down hard.

The lesson to be learned here is that al-Qaeda and the Iraqi "insurgency" go by the same playbook as Hamas and Hezbollah. There is little room for proportioned responses. These organizations fighting against the United States feel the same way about us that they do about Israel - they want us gone - not from their land, but from all existence. Couple that with the fact that we are seen as Israel's top ally, and we really are dog-meat to them.

So the point is this - it doesn't matter whether or not we kill women and children, it doesn't matter whether or not we build schools and infrastructure in Iraq, it doesn't matter what we do, the Islamofascists are going to hate us, no matter what. That's no cultural misunderstanding, either.

The only reason there has been an Israel since 1947 is that anytime they are attacked, they respond with a smackdown so intense that it sends the fanatic bugs back into the desert and under the rocks. A period of relative peace ensues until some guy grows enough hair on his sack to try it again, then Israel smacks this guy down. And they don't care who gets hurt because A) this is about their literal, not figurative, survival, and B) they know nothing they do is going to satisfy the Arabs, no matter what.

It's a lesson we could stand to learn in our dealings with al-Qaeda and the terrorists in Iraq.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

American Independence

  1. Happy 230th birthday, America - you don't look a day over 205!

    I have so many things rolling around in my head today about Independence Day and what it means in the post-modern world.

    My good buddy K-Nine over at Dead Dog Walkin' is thinking along the same lines I am in many respects.

    But beyond that, where do we go with our young republic from here? and yes, it is a young republic - 230 years is not a huge amount of time, speaking in historical terms.

    The general view among the intelligentsia is that maybe America is an idea whose time has come and gone. That somehow the principles on which the country was founded are now bankrupt, in some way.

    Oh, everyone hates us, they say. We are just a big bully, a big baby of a nation-state, throwing temper tantrums in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    To many of the same intelligentsia, we are some kind of nouveau-riche, Beverly Hillbillies-esque crasher at the table of nations. We hit the Powerball of nation-building and now have decorated our million-dollar Palm Beach mansion with polyester curtains, redwood decks, and crystal Elvis replicas.

    Or more relevant to today's discussion, we are a sub-continent-sized Wal-Mart, bullying our way in where we aren't wanted and bringing short-term gains in exchange for selling our souls in the long term.

    Well, in the words of Col. Sherman T. Potter of M*A*S*H fame, "Horse Hockey!"

    Let's get a few things straight:

    1. This country is the greatest experiment in representational democracy ever attempted. Period.
    2. As mentioned before, we are a young republic; yet, in our short time on this Earth, our nation has, among many other things:
    * Ended slavery in the western hemisphere;
    * Fought tyranny on our own shores and abroad;
    * Stopped one of the most formidible forces of evil known to man in the form of Adolf Hitler;
    * Ended Japanese imperialism and oppression;
    * Salvaged war-torn Europe and Japan;
    * Outlasted genocidal Communist dictators;
    * Fed countless starving people in the third world;
    * Cured polio, transplanted hearts, and touched the moon and the stars.

    And we did all these things with our own blood and our own money. We walked the walk and takled the talk.

    Are we blameless? Certainly not. We have our issues; some solved, others not. But if you want to wear the crown, you have to bear the cross. Like it or not, we are the best game in town. Economically, socially, politically. Like the Clampetts, who may have been socially inept or bumbling, you know at the end of the day, they meant well.

    Someone mentioned how much the world hates us. Fine. So here's what we do: pull out of the world. Disengage. Iraq, you're on your own. Kenya, time to feed yourself. UN, find some place else to call home. India, Pakistan? Good luck with that nuclear thing. AIDS research? Well, we'll be doing it here, of course, but if we actually find something, well, you know, you all hate us.

    Let France and Germany start feeding the world. Let England and Canada take the lead in medical research. Let Russia broker the peace in the Middle East. We're out.

    No, we can't do that, can we. I guess that makes us like Wal-Mart: half the town can't wait for Wal-Mart to get there, the other half is fighting like hell to keep them out. When they get there, they'll cause some problems, but they'll also do a lot of good. And ultimately the people who fought to keep them out will realize that they can go into Wal-Mart at 3 AM and buy a pack of underwear for $10 that is available at a local store down the street for $15 but that store is only open from 10-6 Monday through Saturday. So while that person will gripe and complain about how we should be patronizing the little guy, ultimately the protestor will give in and realize that his little town is better for having Wal-Mart there.

    And so it goes with this little country we like to call America. Happy Birthday. Thanks John Hancock and the boys for their guts 230 years ago. Thanks to my great-grandfather, who fought in the War to End All Wars, and to my grandfather, who fought in the war after that, and to my father, who was in Da Nang for Tet, 1968. Thanks to them for ensuring I didn't have to go fight, and thanks to all who are continuing to ensure the best thing going keeps going.

    Happy Birthday, indeed.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Rat Squeaks

For about the past three months, Mike Krzyzewski has been doing something I actually agree with - he has kept his mouth shut about the Duke lacrosse mess.

This was wise on his part on so many levels; much of it has to do with the fact that it is none of his business and some people don't care what he thinks about it any more than they care what the guy who played Col. Klink on Hogan's Heroes has to say about the war in Iraq on Bill Maher's cable show. But mainly, until the actual trial and all the evidence is laid out, there is just no right answer and it is probably best that he kept his rather large nose out of it.

The sports media, however, who proclaim this guy to be "the face of the university", huddled together, begging the anointed and sainted Coach K to have a comment. Like seeking out the wise sage at the top of the mountain (or in Rat's case, the top floor of the basketball office complex behind 007-like fingerprint security), the media drooled when he actually commented on the situation during his "annual summer meeting with reporters" (his "annual summer meeting"? Isn't that rich?).

In his comments, he basically said he supported the university in their actions, and that he supported deposed lacrosse coach Mike Pressler (So what is Duke going to do about Pressler if all of this turns out false? But that is another rant.). He also wisely and humbly stated "I'm not the president (of the university)" and "You have to be careful to make statements outside of your realm."

So it seems the "The Most Important Coach in College Basketball" has said his piece, which is basically supporting the university's do-nothing approach. Whew - the Earth may now resume spinning.

Nevertheless, forgive me if I seem somewhat cynical here, but isn't it convenient that he held his tongue until the case appears to be falling apart? I mean, if he was going to give the old "I'm a company man" line, he could have done that months ago when the clamor was much higher for his comment.

Plus, as I heard someone on the radio say about the timing of the Duke release that they were reinstating men's lacrosse, you have to wonder about the timing of this statement - buried in the Triangle, at least, under all the Stanley Cup coverage.

He's a sneaky rat for a reason - and to me, this just proves it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Good night, Hartford

Did you know that the Carolina Hurricanes used to be the Hartford Whalers?

Then again, how could you not?

Nearly every recounting the Hurricanes' Stanley Cup victory has mentioned the fact that the club once played in Hartford, Connecticut (motto: "Open until 5:30 on Fridays!).

By now the story has been well-told: The New England Whalers, along with the Winnipeg Jets, Quebec Nordiques, and ironically, the Edmonton Oilers were the sole survivors of the upstart World Hockey Association and were merged into the NHL in 1979.

The Whalers were re-named the Hartford Whalers and were famous for two things: playing in an arena, the Hartford Civic Center, that was connected to a shopping mall; and a unique yet hideous theme/fight song, Brass Bonanza, that sounded like background music from an NFL Films documentary from the early 1970s.

While the Whalers were rarely very good, they developed a small yet loyal following that was often praised for their rabid support of the team. But the economics of hockey became such that with four other NHL teams within two hours of Hartford (New Jersey, Boston, and the two New York teams), it was harder for the Whalers to make it in the corporate sponsorship world.

In the mid 1990s, owner Peter Karmanos sought a new arena deal with Hartford, but the deal fell through and he announced his intention to move the team, albeit without a firm destination in hand. Karmanos investigated Columbus, Ohio, Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta (all of whom were later awarded NHL expansion teams), before settling on Raleigh, North Carolina, and its brand-spanking-new arena which was being built for NC State University.

North Carolina was virgin territory for hockey and the arena that would become the RBC Center would not be ready until the 1999 season. So the re-named Hurricanes played 80 miles away in Greensboro where they developed a small, but loyal following that was the object of ridicule by the national media.

After a number of marketing blunders and missteps by team management, the Hurricanes began making a foothold in a market full of immigrants from many northern states, and by 2002, when the Canes made a surprise run to the Stanley Cup finals, hockey was firmly entrenched.

Despite the uncertainty that surrounded the lockout that cancelled the 2005 season, Carolina re-emerged as one of the NHL's elite teams in 2006 and rode that all the way to a Stanley Cup title.

Which brings us back to Hartford.

All throughout the playoffs, viewers were reminded that the Hurricanes were once the Whalers. Graphics were shown of Game Sevens in Carolina/Hartford fanchise history. After the Canes' dramatic Game 7 win to clinch the Cup, ESPN's Steve Levy remarked "If the Triangle had a fourth point, it would be Hartford."

Funny, but I don't seem to remember all this talk a few years ago when the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup. I didn't see graphics of the Colorado/Quebec franchise history.

Pro sports franchises move all the time, so why is the NHL stuck on Hartford? Maybe some of it has to do with ESPN, which is headquartered in Bristol, Conn. The Whalers were Connecticut's only pro sports team, and by default were ESPN's official team. As a result, some of the most biting criticism about the move and the derisive comments about the Canes came (and still come) from ESPN.

In a great irony, all of the WHA franchises that came into the NHL in 1979 except Edmonton have moved - Quebec to Colorado and Winnipeg to Phoenix. Edmonton, on the other hand, was on the brink of financial collapse in the late 1990s. Yet it is Carolina who is somehow singled out for their move.

Maybe it has to do with the bristly personality of the Carolina owner, Peter Karmanos. But few franchise moves are amicable, and the names of owners Bob Irsay and George Shinn are still considered vulgarities in Baltimore and Charlotte, so maybe there's more to it than that.

Still, this is now Raleigh's hockey team, and in fact, all of Carolina can join in the celebration. To Hartford, let me say this: I hope you have found us to be good stewards of what you consider to be your hockey team. But if not, get over it already. The Carolina Hurricanes have, in the 5 seasons of the 2000s, eclipsed every mark of franchise success ever achieved in Hartford, and can now join the Avs and the New Jersey Devils as relocated teams who won the Stanley Cup in their new homes.

There's a saying in the South that you don't forget where you came from, and the new Canes have even taken to playing Brass Bonanza at the RBC Center. But we also know when to let the past go, and that time is now.

So, good night, Hartford. Thanks for playing. The Whalers are now just a footnote in sports history, like the Dallas Texans, the Buffalo Braves, or the California Seals.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Perfect Storm

Carolina Hurricanes -
2006 Stanley Cup Champions

More to come...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Face of Evil

In case you were wondering, or had forgotten.

If you ever wonder why our kids are in Iraq, or what exactly the war on terror is about, all you have to do is listen to Zacarias Moussaoui "t(ell) jurors Thursday he has 'no regret, no remorse,' was disgusted by the heart-rending testimony of victims and relatives and only wished they had suffered more."

I always thought Moussaoui was a little bit crazy. I mean, you have to be to orchestrate and execute something like the 9-11 attacks. But as General Taylor tells Sgt. major Dickerson in Good Morning, Vietnam, "you're not crazy, you're just mean."

Whether or not you agree with how the war on terror has been prosecuted, how can you not be chilled when you hear Mossaoui's testimony and his view of America and its place in the world.

Moussaoui's vitriol is what is being taught in the streets in much of the Muslim world, by mullahs and others who seek to keep the pot stirred and indoctrinate the impoverished and hopeless by beating the drum against the United States.

If you ever need a reminder of why we must remain ever vigilant, just hear Moussaoui's own response to the prosecutor's question of if he would be happy to see a repeat of 9/11:

"Every day until we get you," replied Moussaoui.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Chasing a Ghost

Now that Rick Barnes has ruined NC State's weekend, it appears State is playing footsie with John Calipari of Memphis. Apparently the AD, chancellor, and chief booster have flown to Memphis to get some ribs and throw a wad of cash at Calipari.

Believe it or not, this may actually be a better fit for the Wolfpack than the homegrown Barnes. Calipari is much more confrontational than his Texas counterpart, despite Barnes' well-cited crossing of Dean Smith . At least I have never heard of another coach threatening to kill Barnes, as former Temple coach John Chaney threatened Calipari.

No, Calipari may be the best man for the real burden of being the head basketball coach at North Carolina State University - chasing the ghost of James T. Valvano.

Jim Valvano was brash, he was passionate, and he was funny. He handled winning and losing with class and style, and his battle with terminal cancer showed grace, courage, and humor and ultimately cemented his status as the gold standard of NC State basketball. How he handled dying also masked the mixed legacy he left in Raleigh.

Everett Case was the architect not only of NC State basketball but also of ACC basketball. He, too, was brash and passionate, and also faced a terminal illness while he was actually coaching. His successor, Press Maravich, succumbed to the white-hot spotlight of chasing Case's ghost and took his all-world son, Pete, to the less pressure-filled atmosphere of Louisiana State. State followed up Maravich's tenure by hiring another outspoken coach, Norm Sloan, from Florida. Sloan won a title with one of the best college basketball teams ever, then moved aside for the entertaining Valvano.

Valvano enjoyed the spotlight and took fun in cracking jokes about himself. He played the "misplaced Yankee" routine to the hilt, winning over fans and boosters alike. And in 1983, he caught lightning in a bottle, riding an average team to the most remarkable post-season run in college basketball history. And, with typical flair and the Valvano gift for timing, he did it just one year after hated rival North Carolina won the NCAA title, trumping the Tar Heels' reign along Tobacco Road.

He followed the 1983 title with a share of the 1985 ACC regular-season championship and a trip to the Elite Eight. With Virginia fading and Duke not yet having risen from the ashes, it appeared State was ready to challenge Carolina for ACC basketball dominance. Valvano was a hero to the Wolfpack faithful and was literally handed the keys to the university's athletic department when he became athletic director in 1986.

But by 1989, the empire was crumbling. Rocked by poor recruiting choices, player indiscretions, a scurrilous tell-all book about his program, and a general lack of control over the athletic department, Valvano was in deep trouble, certainly as AD and most likely as basketball coach as well. Still, in the midst of that turmoil, Valvano won his only outright ACC regular-season title in 1989 and had brought in a recruiting class that would include the school's all-time leading scorer, Rodney Monroe.

By the time Valvano resigned under pressure in 1990, NC State's chancellor, and chief Valvano ally, Bruce Poulton was run off and both the basketball program and the athletic department were on the rocks. NCAA probation was imminent and the academic community of the university was up in arms. Valvano retreated to the broadcast booth while Les Robinson, one of the last of Everett Case's boys, was brought in to clean up the mess.

There was a brief honeymoon for Robinson while State tried to distance itself from the Valvano mess. Robinson won early with Valvano's recruits, but NCAA probation and increased academic scrutiny made it nearly impossible to compete in the ACC. Valvano, meanwhile, tuned his charm and humor on the ABC and ESPN basketball audiences and when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, fought his battle on television for all to see.

Valvano salvaged and in fact re-made his legacy as a result of his highly visible and publicized battle with cancer. People forgot the free-wheeling, free-spending coach and AD that left NC State in an absolute mess, and instead focused on the courageous and gregarious man that literally died before our eyes. In doing so, he became a martyr to the Wolfpack faithful, and his ghost haunts that basketball program even today, nearly 15 years after his death and nearly 25 years since the magical '83 title.

Les Robinson, an outgoing, decent and honorable man who loved NC State very much, took the fall for sinking the basketball program Valvano had run onto the rocks. As a consolation prize, Robinson was named athletic director and had an underappreciated hand in righting State's overall athletic program and healing many old wounds.

As Robinson's successor, Herb Sendek was in many ways the anti-Valvano - introverted, aloof, seemingly dispassionate - and that was on purpose. Valvano's ghost was still haunting enough in 1996 that State felt they had to run away from it. But like Robinson, Sendek's achievements have been underappreciated. By the end of his 10 years in Raleigh, Sendek was producing 20-game winners and NCAA appearances at a rate similar to Valvano's, but all the while graduating players and keeping them out of trouble off the court.

(It is interesting to note that two of Valvano's players, Sidney Lowe and Nate McMillan, have played and coached in the NBA but could not be considered for the NC State opening because neither earned their undergraduate degrees).

But ultimately, State fans tired of Sendek's dry as toast appearance, his lack of passion, and his inability to beat Duke, Wake Forest, and especially North Carolina. His success on the court drew comparisons to the success in the 80s when NC State basketball was relevant, which in turn drew comparisons of Sendek to Valvano. There is no way Sendek could have matched Valvano's energy or humor when Valvano was alive; he certainly couldn't match up with a ghost 20 years later.

So, like Jacob Marley's torment of Scrooge, the ghost of Jim Valvano still haunts NC State basketball, its program and its fans. In order to be successful as the basketball coach at NC State, you have to be colorful and you have to beat North Carolina (and now Duke) on a somewhat regular basis. And if you can't do that, you at least have to steal their thunder (as in a classic Valvano story, where after State and Carolina played what was supposed to be the last game in Carmichael Auditorium before the Heels moved into the Smith Center, Valvano went and grabbed a ball after the game and shot a basket so it could be said "Jim Valvano made the last basket in Carmichael").

You have been warned, John Calipari, or Jay Wright, or whomever takes this job. Get that often-shown picture of Jim Valvano running furiously around the court in Albuquerque in 1983 in your head, because until you win a national championship, or at least go .500 against Carolina (which Valvano never did, by the way - his record against the Heels was only slightly better than Sendek's, but Valvano seemed to win the big games against UNC), then you will be chasing that timeless figure around and around the basketball court for your entire tenure in Raleigh.

It takes an enormous ego to try and knock heads with Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams and take on Valvano's martyrdom as well, but of all the candidates mentioned for the State job so far, Calipari may just be the most qualified in that area.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I thought you were supposed to be the tolerant ones...

Seems there was this group of 25,000 teenagers who assembled in San Francisco, the self-proclaimed "most tolerant and progressive city" in America. But there was a problem - the assembly was of a group of evangelical Christians, and they were not welcomed warmly.

The rally, called "Battle Cry for a Generation" was led by a guy named Ron Luce, who wants "God's instruction book" to guide young people away from the corrupting influence of MTV,, and other parts of popular culture that seek to glamorize sex and violence. Seems wholesome enough, right?

Not in the eyes of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who passed a resolution condemning the "act of provocation" by what it termed an "anti-gay," "anti-choice" organization that aimed to "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city."

In addition, the gathering was met by about 50 protestors representing a broad spectrum of San Francisco's finest-- from abortion-rights advocates to anti-war activists to atheists.

I guess America's most tolerant city can't tolerate Christians.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The State of State

Well, NC State fans have gotten their wish and have run off the Willy Loman of the ACC, Herb Sendek. The predictable feeding frenzy that has followed has been humorous to watch. Here are some observations from this side of the fence.

Herb Sendek: Much has been made of Herb getting a raw deal at NC State, and there is some truth to that. All he did was take a moribund program reeling from the aftermath of probation and return it to respectability in the ACC, all the while graduating players and keeping his program squeaky clean. Further, he took his teams to five straight NCAA tournaments and to the NIT three more times, for a total of 8 trips to the post-season in his 10 years in Raleigh. As State's Tony Haynes says, Herb did what he was hired to do.

What he did not do, at least to the satisfaction of Wolfpack nation, was beat the other members of the Big Four enough. Sendek was a combined 15-53 against Wake Forest, Duke, and North Carolina, including back-to-back losses to the last-place Deacons this year. Moreover, the stoic, publicly dispassionate Sendek seemed to treat a Duke, Wake, or Carolina game as no more important than any other on the schedule. That may be true from a coaching standpoint, where each game is just one of 27, but it drove the fans bonkers.

This is not to say that Herb did not sow some of the seeds of discontent himself. He alienated many of the high school basketball coaches in the state, preferring to do his recruiting through AAU coaches. He is not a particularly camera-friendly person, nor does he have a quick quip or a warm smile that plays well on the barbecue-and-sweet-tea booster club circuit in the spring and fall. He was respectful of the university and its history, but never seemed passionate enough to please the masses.

He was also aloof and bookish, leading some to think of him as snobby and stubborn. He clung fiercely to his "Prince-State" offense and peppered his non-conference schedule with patsies that raised the record not not necessarily the level of play for conference time.

But let's cut to the chase - throw Duke and Wake out the window - what did in Herb Sendek with the fans was his inability to beat North Carolina on a consistent basis. Sendek was 0-6 against Roy Williams, and the Pack's lackluster performance against a rebuilding Carolina at the RBC center this year just seemed to seal the deal. Moreover, and what cut State fans to the quick, was that he just didn't seem to CARE!

So Sendek pulled the rip cord, jumped to Arizona State for more dollars and someplace where 5 NCAA tournaments would be celebrated. It truly was a win-win in that State fans weren't truly happy with Sendek and he, in turn, could go somewhere warm and make more money.

The Successors. The public, but unofficial courtship of Rick Barnes has almost been comedic over the past week. The biggest attraction of Barnes for NC State fans, as near as I can tell are (in reverse order): 1. He once coached in the ACC, 2. He's from North Carolina, and 3. He once told Dean Smith to stick it in his ear. But Barnes has it good, and no matter ow much money State throws at Barnes, Texas' pockets are deeper; plus, as much money as Mack Brown makes, Barnes will never have to worry about making more than the football coach.

What State fans fail to realize is that whoever they choose will not just be the #3 coach in the ACC, they'll be the #3 coach in their own area code. It's a thankless job, and someone who has it good, like Jay Wright or John Calipari, would probably think twice about jumping into a situation where you have to duke it out with Roy and K before you even square off with another coach with a ring, Gary Williams, or young hotshots like Dave Leitao and Paul Hewitt.

The word is that "State will not have to go to their B-List". If that's the case, they'd better have 10-15 names on their A-List.

The "Tradition". NC State is an interesting study in the history of college basketball. The father of ACC basketball, Everett Case, was at State, and one of the five greatest college basketball players ever, David Thompson, played for the Pack. But most often State basketball is best remembered for the ultimate Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament, winning the title on the ultimate Cinderella play.

But beyond those three things, State basketball has a spotty tradition, more rich and colorful than it is successful. State has 10 ACC tournament championships, but five of those were in the first 11 years of the league, and none since 1987. And the last two - 1983 and 1987 - must be considered upsets. The Pack won a pair of regular season titles during the David Thompson years, but have won only two in the 30 years since, with the last of those in 1989. Since that time, in addition to Duke and UNC, Maryland, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and even Clemson have won the ACC regular-season crown.

On a national stage, State stacks up less with the Carolinas and Dukes, Indianas and Kentuckys of the world and more with the Oklahoma States, Louisvilles, and Utahs. Any commentator over the past week and a half will tell you that State has won two national titles, but they neglect to say that the Pack has been to only three Final Fours. Arkansas, by contrast, has only won one title but been to 6 Final Fours. Utah has one title in 4 trips. Louisville has 2 titles in 5 chances and Oklahoma State has 2 titles in six visits to the Final Four. And all of those schools have been since State last went in 1983. In its own league, both Georgia Tech and Maryland have been to multiple Final Fours (with the Terps winning an NCAA title) since State last sniffed the Elite Eight, much less the Final Four.

State fans are clamoring for Wolfpack basketball to be relevant again, and I don't blame them. But the glory days are past, and venerable old NC State has been passed by old conference rivals and while State should aim for the highest, whoever takes that job should realize that the school of the "Grey Fox" has since become the old grey mare.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Brain Dump

I just realized it's been almost two months since I wrote anything up here. I'm really not that slack, and but sometimes I have things on my mind that just don't make it up to the web. I'm not one of those people who blog everything that happens to them ("so then Missy said, 'I've never seen that much cat vomit in my life!'" or "it rained today and I'm sad")

But then my good buddy K-Nine over at Dead Dog Walkin', my only reference point in the blogosphere, suggested trimming his blog roll. I don't think he was singling me out, but it guilted me into actually putting some things down.

I've got some ideas on things that I will post and back-date, and I have made a goal to update at least twice a week. The brain dump is forthcoming...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

From the Files of Things I Just Don't Understand

So how is it that the brutal assault on an African-American female by three white men is almost immediately characterized as a "hate crime", while...

the attempted murder of dozens of college students simply because they were Americans (and more than likely white Americans) by an Islamic-American nutjob cannot be called a "hate crime"?

Look, nothing would make me happier than to see the Duke lacrosse dirtbags thrown under the jail, but save room under there for Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, will ya?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A real Super Sunday

In addition to watching the Super Bowl like half of America today, I went to two funerals. Yes, two.

I actually didn't know either person, but I worked with their daughters. The two men who passed away didn't know each other either, but they had remarkable similarities. Both were devoted family men with two children. Both were young, one was in his late 40s, while the other was in his early 50s. Both were active in the church and community.

But what garnered my attention the most was the outpouring of love and affection for both men. The church was overflowing at both funerals - I didn't get a seat at either one.

The legacy we leave on this Earth is measured in the people that we touch. By all accounts, both of these men, whom I never met, leave a proud and successful following. They lived their lives as good, decent people who served their families, their communities, and their God faithfully.

Though they leave behind young, grieving families, I couldn't help but be impressed at the sheer number of the lives they touched in their short times on Earth. Being a part of their celebration of life today - now that was a real Super Sunday.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Donovan McNabb, The Greatest Football Player Ever

Here it is, for the record - Donovan McNabb is the greatest football player of all time.

There, I said it. Apparently, that is all anyone is allowed to write about the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, because to dare to say anything else will bring the wrath of the media upon you.

This week, while the Super Bowl was being traditionally over-hyped, the most over-hyped story of this season, the battle between McNabb and perennial trouble-maker Terrell Owens, surfaced again. McNabb inexplicably broke his silence on his feud with T.O. to address the situation under the white-hot glare of Super Bowl hype.

Better to be thought a fool that open your mouth and remove all doubt. McNabb should have continued to follow this advice, since his comments were just as inflammatory as Owens'.

McNabb suggested, in part, that Owens' comment that the injury-plagued and underachieveing Eagles would be a playoff contender if Brett Favre were the team's quarterback was equivalent to "black on black crime" and were clearly racially motivated. Never mind that it was actually ESPN's Michael Irvin who first suggested the name of Brett Favre and that Owens was simply responding to a reporter's query about Irvin's comments.

McNabb went on to say that if T.O. wanted to suggest someone else should be quarterback of the Eagles, he should have suggested another black quarterback, like Steve McNair of the Titans. McNabb also talked about the struggles of being a black quarterback in the NFL.

All this, of course, comes just two years after McNabb suggested that the concept of race should not an issue in the flap behind Rush Limbaugh's comments that the media was interested in having a black quarterback do well.

Rush may not have been right about black quarterbacks in general, but there seems to be some Omerta-like shroud of protection around McNabb that defies belief. To borrow a phrase from "The Usual Suspects", this guy is protected from on high by the prince of darkness.

McNabb is immune from media criticism like no other NFL player, almost approaching the God-like status placed on Michael Jordan during the 1990s. The media came rushing to his defense in the Limbaugh flap (costing Limbaugh his ESPN gig, even though the ciriticism was of the media and not of McNabb). They came swooping in again with Owens and completely destroyed the head of the Philadelphia NAACP, J. Whyatt Mondesire, who dared criticze McNabb.

The only problem is, as opposed to Limbaugh, the people who have been ciriticizing Donovan McNabb of late have been black. Owens, Mondesire, and most recently the Eagles' own Hugh Douglas have all offered criticism of McNabb.

If a black person criticizing McNabb is black on black crime, then call the police, because I guess I am about to commit a hate crime, seeing as how I am white.

Look, no one is denying that McNabb is a good quarterback. He is one of the toughest guys that has played in the past few years, including playing with broken bones and his sports hernia this season.

The Philaelphia Eagles have been wildly successful with McNabb under center, making it to four straight NFC championship games and one Super Bowl before injuries decimated the Eagles this season.

The standard chorus of praise for McNabb reads like a lyric from a hymnbook - "Donovan McNabb, who led the Eagles to four straight NFC championship games". An impressive feat, but a somewhat dubious one, much like the Atlanta Braves' string of 15 straight division titles but only 3 World Series appearances.

So maybe before we start mentioning McNabb with the likes of Montana and Elway, maybe we had better mention him in the same category with Jake Delhomme, Rich Gannon, Brad Johnson, and Trent Dilfer. What do those guys have in common with McNabb? They each went to one Super Bowl. Oh wait, Johnson and Dilfer actually won the Super Bowl they played in. And Delhomme has led the Panthers to two NFC championship games in three years - not quite the same as McNabb's feat of four straight, but impressive nonetheless. But you'll not hear Delhomme and McNabb uttered in the same breath of "elite" quarterbacks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A slice of crow

I'm not above admitting when I am wrong. And when it comes to Shavlik Randolph, I was wrong. So were about a thousand so-called sports experts.

This summer I wrote what an idiot he was to test the NBA draft and what an overrated stiff I thought he was. I wasn't alone in this thought, by the way.

But he got a helping hand from another estranged Duke alum, Billy King, general manager of the 76ers. And now he is having a very respectable rookie year, having found a niche on the team and rebounding his butt off.

Good luck, Shav. I still think you were an overrated white stiff, but you are drawing a check, so you go on with your bad self.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Goodbye Leo

Damn. John Spencer is dead.

I don't know why I liked this guy so much. He was just a great character actor who played some great characters. He first garnered attention as Tommy Mullaney on "L.A. Law", had a couple of nice movie roles, and finished his career as White House Chief of Staff Leo McGarry on "The West Wing". He had a great look and that gravelly voice really seemed to add to his appeal.

I don't know what Spencer was like as a person, but I especially loved Leo's character. Leo is exactly who I would like to be - a leader, but not necessarily on the front line. It's a role I have often assumed in my life in various circumstances.

ESPN had a hockey promo a few years ago about what role each player had on a hockey team - the "superstar", the "grinder", the "enforcer", etc. My favorite was the "playmaker". It went something like, "the playmaker makes everybody look good...he's not the president, but he's not an empty-suit vice-president, either - he's more like a really powerful secretary of state or chief of staff...because sometimes an assist is more beautiful than a score."

The best line may have been from the show itself, when Martin Sheen's President Bartlet was speaking with the one cabinet secretary who has to stay away from the Capitol in case the building and all major government officials are blown away at one time. The Secretary of Agriculture is picked. The President has him come to the White House and as he leaves, he tells him:

"If anything happens. . . . You got a best friend?"

"Yes, sir."

"Is he smarter than you?"

"Yes sir."

"Would you trust him with your life?"

"Yes sir."

"That's your chief of staff."

That was Leo's character, and to hear the "West Wing" cast describe it, it was Spencer's role on the show as well. We should all serve our friends and colleagues as well. So long, Mr. Spencer.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Another legend gone

Damn. Richard Pryor is dead.

Nearly every guy in his 30s or early 40s probably has a story about sneaking a listen to a Richard Pryor album as a kid. My personal tale is having my dad prohibit me from listening to his vinyl album of "Live on the Sunset Strip", then waiting until my folks went to sleep and playing the album on the turntable with my headphones on so Dad wouldn't hear me listening to it.

A month or so later, my family was at a pig-pickin' and my dad and a couple of his friends start reciting one of the routines. I start laughing hysterically and recite the scene with them under my breath, or so I thought. My dad noticed I was a little too familiar with the album and read me the riot act, but it was some funny stuff.

In addition to his groundbreaking stand-up work, Pryor was underappreciated as an actor. His pairings with Gene Wilder, especially in "Stir Crazy", were fantastic (as in the photo above - the "We Bad" scene). And I used to love Saturdays as a teenager or 20-something when you could catch "Bustin' Loose" on the afternoon movie.

He pushed the envelope, both in profanity and material, but the world is a funnier place for it. I think my favorite Pryor line came via Eddie Murphy, who said that Bill Cosby complained about Murphy's profanity in his stand-up routine. Murphy called Pryor for support, and Pryor advised Murphy to tell Cosby to "have a Coke and a smile and shut the fu*k up."

Classic. Thanks, Richard. You were the best at what you did.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Today's Object Lesson

My good buddy K-nine has a wonderful blog up. Check him out. And since he has linked to me as well, I'm going to have to update this one a little more before his friends find me to be a little slow on the uptake.

On his blog, he told one of his favorite stories about the two of us and some petty larceny at a bar almost 10 years ago (I do believe the statute of limitations has run out. At least I hope so!). But his second favorite story about us is today's object lesson.

When I first met K-nine, he was, by his own description, "a loudmouthed, leather jacket wearin', motorcycle ridin', hard drinkin', 3rd shift workin', womanizing pain in the ass with violent tendencies." Still, we immediately hit it off, despite our apparent surface differences.

Turns out we weren't all that different at all. We were both Eastern North Carolina boys, high school football players, both with strong feelings of family and honor and lots of things about being Southern men from Eastern North Carolina that if you're not from these parts, I just can't explain it to you.

But the point of story is this - we were on my back deck one afternoon, deep into a discussion of the issues of the day, when I dropped a level 4 vocabulary word for which I am known (I don't remember which one). K-nine has always said how impressed he was that I used my big words in front of him, assuming he would know what I meant.

Because, in spite of being a "a loudmouthed, leather jacket wearin', motorcycle ridin', hard drinkin', 3rd shift workin', womanizing pain in the ass with violent tendencies", he was (and is) one of the smartest, most insigtful and well-spoken people I know.

The object lesson, kiddies, is don't judge the book by its cover, nor let your differences divide you. Sermon on morality, diversity, and acceptance is now over.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Death Penalty Circus Comes To Town

Wow, hard to believe little ol' Raleigh, NC, was the center of the media universe for about an hour and a half, in commemoration of the 1000th execution since the reinstatement of capital punishment.

Let me, as a disclaimer, state that I am for the death penalty. Like Jake Brigance said in A Time to Kill, my problem with the death penalty is that we do not use it enough. Plus, Ron White of Blue Collar Comedy fame says this of Texas - if you kill someone in Texas, we will kill you back. I kind of like living in a state where that is the case.

(As a sidebar, I have always thought it funny that lots of people who oppose the death penalty are in favor of abortion, and many who are in favor of capital punishment oppose abortion. It's just funny to me - either you're opposed to killing or you aren't. But I digress...)

Look, I understand the opposition to capital punishment. It is the most extreme of punishments for the most extreme of crimes. I certainly can understand why people would be against it on principle.

But as for the media circus that surrounded the execution of Kenneth Boyd - well, 1000 is nothing but a number, I suppose. Remember the 1000th person killed in Iraq? I didn't think so. But you do remember all the hype, undoubtedly.

Since Raleigh is not a high-profile hotspot and Boyd is not a high-profile case (he admitted the killings and told the authorities to "come and arrest me"), there was not the star-power that is being raised for Stanley "Tookie" Williams. But about 150 people did gather to protest.

Among the things the protestors did was to attempt to breach the prison walls (trying to break in to a prison?), a candlelight vigil, and a reading of all 1000 names of those executed (remember Ted Koppel trying this with soldiers on Nightline?)

At 2:15 AM, Boyd slipped quietly into that good night, having paid his debt for a brutal double-murder. At that point, you think the circus would pack up and leave town, and it did, headed to Sacramento to start begging for Tookie's life. But there was one comment made by a protestor that stuck in my boxers:

One thousand executions - that's one thousand lives needlessly lost.

Now wait just a damn minute.

As near as I can tell, there are two main arguments against capital punishment that hold water - it doesn't deter capital crimes, and/or two wrongs don't make a right. I don't agree with either, but I get where that comes from.

But 1000 lives needlessly lost? Of convicted murderers? Weren't the lives of Kenneth Boyd's victims - his estranged wife and his father - needlessly lost?

The best estimate of the number of victims of the 1000 executed murderers is just under 1,900. Now those were lives needlessly lost.

But alas, the circus has moved on - before I can even post this, #1,001 has taken place, just 200 miles away in Columbia, South Carolina. Just maybe, though, there is some justice - or peace - for the 1,900 needlessly lost.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Blog Spam

I know exactly zero people read my blog, except for the 15 or 20 that came for the rant on Mike Krzyzewski. Hell, I haven't even updated the thing in months.

But my buddy K-Nine, who has a great blog, gets seemingly all kinds of traffic and monitors it some. So, imagine my surprise when I checked the comments section. I mean, I think the stuff I have written is good, and timely, so I thought maybe someone had been seaching blogs and found it.

No such luck. I have... blog spam.

What the hell is that all about?

I mean, my old e-mail addresses are ridiculous. I have my very first e-mail address, which I keep active because I am too lazy to update my Southwest Airlines specials e-mails. I get, say, 1000 e-mails a week and probably 5-10 of them are legit. The rest are spam, from when you used your e-mail address for everything and when you thought "click here to unsubscribe" really unsubscribed you.

But how much time do people have on their hands to promote blog spam? And, from the arena of the marketplace, does it really work? I mean, are millions of people buying Cialli$ (so the spam filter doesn't catch it) from anonymous, unsolicited e-mails?

Welcome to the blogosphere - I now have blog spam. Ain't that something?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Illustrating absurdity....

How long before we see this?

NCAA To Ban Use of “Hurricane” Nickname

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 2) – In light of the ongoing tragedy surrounding the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the NCAA Executive Committee has adopted a new policy to prohibit NCAA colleges and universities from displaying hurricane-related mascots, nicknames or imagery at any of the 88 NCAA championships.

“At a time in which our nation is suffering as a result of these catastrophic natural events, we feel it is irresponsible – in fact shameful – that colleges and universities continue to promote the use of these nicknames and mascots”, said Bernard Franklin, NCAA senior vice-president for governance and membership. He added that hurricanes kill hundreds of people and destroy millions of dollars of property every year.

Franklin stated that “the use of the hurricane nickname, mascot, or imagery can certainly be deemed hostile and abusive by the surviviors of Hurricane Katrina,” or any of the two dozen or so hurricanes that have impacted the United States in the past three decades.

Institutions displaying or promoting hurricane-related references on their mascots, cheerleaders, dance teams and band uniforms or paraphernalia are prohibited from wearing the material at NCAA championships, effective August 1, 2008.

The NCAA is encouraging its schools to educate their internal and external constituents on the understanding and awareness of the negative impact of dangerous weather symbols, names and imagery, and to create a greater level of knowledge of meteorology through outreach efforts and other means of communication.

NCAA member institutions affected by the new ruling include the University of Miami, the University of Tulsa, and Georgia Southwestern University.

University of Miami President Donna Shalala vowed to fight the NCAA’s ruling.

“We have a proud hurricane heritage here at the University of Miami,” said Shalala in a prepared statement. “South Florida has been impacted by hurricanes as long as this area has been inhabited.”

Shalala noted that her university spends millions of dollars each year in research on hurricanes and how hurricanes and humans might co-exist. “The University of Miami should be heralded as an example of the positive relationship between people and hurricanes, not singled out as being hostile or abusive, “ said Shalala in her statement.

Miami athletic director Paul Dee remided reporters that the university had long abandoned any hurricane logos or imagery. Miami uses a “U” as its primary logo and its mascot is an ibis, a type of sea bird. Dee said Miami might revisit its idea of a “throwback night” against the University of North Carolina in October, when helmet designs from the 1960s, which featured hurricane warning flags, were to be used.

Tulsa athletic director Judy MacLeod said she didn’t understand what all of the fuss was about.

“It’s a metaphor, for crying out loud,” said MacLeod. “I mean, what’s the chance of a hurricane actually hitting Tulsa, Oklahoma?”

Despite the fact that Tulsa uses as its logo a blowing, hurricane flag that could cause anxiety among hurricane victims and survivors, MacLeod said the school had no plans to change either its mascot or its symbols.

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin welcomed word of the NCAA’s action.

“In a time when our city is suffering, I am glad to see that at least one national organization is stepping forward to truly make a difference in the lives of people affected by this tragedy,” said Nagin. Nagin also blamed the Bush Administration and FEMA for not being more proactive on the offensive mascot issue.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson also weighed in on the hurricane mascot issue in a hastily-called press conference designed to allow him to weigh in on the issue, thereby getting his name in print on an issue that doesn’t concern him in the slightest.

While stopping short of calling the use of hurricane-related mascots and imagery racist, Jackson did point out that the vicims of hurricanes are often poor and black.

“Look at the faces of victims, be it in the Caribbean, or in New Orleans. Hurricanes target people of color, and I do not know why we continue to sanctify and glorify these killers,” said Jackson.

On a related note, there was no immediate word as to whether or not the NCAA would seek to discourage the use of other nicknames and logos that are weather and natural disaster-related, such as Tornadoes, Cyclones, or Earthquakes.