Sunday, March 27, 2005

Like Andy Rooney Died

Last week we were struck down with the flu bug that has been making the rounds here in Little Rock. Accordingly, we were ordered home by our physician where we spent four days. Which is something of a record. This gave us plenty of time to reflect and to make the following observations. As if Andy Rooney is not dead yet. As if we needed more proof that an idle mind is the devil's workshop.

1) We have a job and are not home much during the day. We were amazed at how often the phone rang with calls from political action groups and solicitors. We thought we were on that list that would bar these sort of calls. If we are, it obviously is obeyed mostly in its breach. Equally irritating was the fairly constant barrage of itinerant gentlemen holding themselves out as "yard men." Some of them even had tools and mowers with them. One guy knocked on the door offering his services, even after my yard had obviously been raked and mowed by the college kid I use for this purpose. We were sufficiently irritable as it was, running a fever of 100 degrees for 4 days will do that for a person, without the unbidden intrusion of these solicitation. A sign is going up on the door next week. That'll show 'em.

2) Being confined to quarters as we were, we were able to linger over the "Letters to the Editor" section of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. We are always amused by people who write these screeds against Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Or conversely in support of the teaching of "intelligent design." When we were a kid, the fundy types we knew eschewed scientific explanations for such things as the origin of the universe, reposing trust in their belief that " you can't find God in a test tube." Which they certainly had every right to believe. The problem with this as a matter of tactics is clear. You can't put God-or at least a certain kind of God- into the classroom without getting Him into the test tube first. Otherwise, you are teaching religion. Which, last time we looked, was still against the law.

So how did the Bible-bangers get around this? They made stuff up. They created their own colleges and think tanks, which produced experts who came up with a theory. And since all Darwin had was a "theory" the "theory" of intelligent design should be accorded equal dignity to Darwin's and taught alongside the theory of natural selection.

And now that the educators are presented with an "alternative theory" you have people who write to the paper "supporting" the use of the alternative theory, just like people write letters in support of bond issues. No matter that the Darwinian model of evolution is pretty much accepted as Gospel by professional biologists. No matter that we run the risk of exposing our kids to bad science. If you can frame this lunacy into an issue of choices then it simply becomes a "fairness" issue.

Is this a great country or what?

We at TMFW are not so sure that this matters all that much mainly because we don't pretend to be scientists. Unlike the letter writers who argue that evolution violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics. We had no idea that so many evangelical types were amateur Lord Kelvins.

Rather, we repose faith in a God that created His universe and the creatures therein in any way He Himdamn well saw fit. And that the science explains what it explains. Without regard to fairness or political correctness.

But those letters to the editor sure are funny.

3) There was much speculation last week as to whether or not Britney Spears is preggers. This is because recent photographs of her relentlessly overexposed midriff seem to suggest that she is gaining weight. We have no idea as to whether Britney is expecting or whether she remains an entropic system as the proponents of intelligent design might say.

And like those proponents we offer an alternative theory. Britney, when you get down to it, is white trash. Our experience with white trash women is that typically they are as pretty as they come up until around the mid-twenties. By then the lifestyle dedicated to serial marriages to worthless men, smoking Newports and raising a trailer full of kids takes its toll, accelerates the rate of decay and they go to seed.

We know that Britney smokes and we know that she has had a tempestuous love life leading up to her recent nuptials to one the few ostensibly straight dancers we have ever heard of. Which must present its own kind of stress.

At least if she doesn't have one in the oven we will now have a theory that the condition of being white trash is genetic and should be monitored much as people with a genetic predisposition to diabetes monitor their blood sugar.

And this could be taught in the public schools.

As an aside, if you wish to learn Britney's thoughts on semi-conductor physics go to It's at least as stupid as anything else mentioned in this post.

4) We also love it when Baptists get all huffy. We come from a long line of Baptists ourselves. We have a beloved aunt in Oklahoma who is so Baptist she pronounces the word BAPtist exploding the "p." we like to poke gentle fun at our aunt. She once asked us why we drank. We told it it made the pills go down easier. She never asked us another question like that again.

Anyway, one of the polemicists that grace the Letters section of the paper made reference to Baptists as Protestants. Whoooo boy! You would have thought that he had called them the Bolshoi Ballet from the responses from all of the readers whose noses were put out of joint by the suggestion.

The typical response was to the effect that the Baptist church is the one true church founded at the Pentecost and that all the other denominations, teevee ministries, websites and cults that have spun off since are offshoots therefrom. Which certainly raises the question of just where the hell they were while Rome and Constantinople were fine tuning the theology and coming up with the secret handshakes. Their answer to that is this was the period of time that the Baptists "went underground."

We do not believe this. "Going underground" is very unBaptistlike behavior. But we have an open mind on this issue. Their having gone underground would explain the absence of accounts of them meddling with Roman politics, why the Bible does not mention that baked ham with pineapple was served at the Last Supper and why the art of that period depicts Jesus as having long hair and a beard, which no Baptist deity would tolerate.

We shall keep an eye on the Letters section for further teaching on this issue.

5) During our convalescence last week, it occurred to us that the antivirals we were consuming by the fistful would be greatly potentiated by the application of alcohol, martinis to be precise. So we slowly and painfully went to a merchant down the street from us that sells a certain variety of olives that we fine particularly therapeutic during times of stress, illness and female troubles.

We could not help but notice that the guys behind the counter were discussing baseball while looking at the computer monitor on the counter.

" Sure Palmero can hit, but do you need 2 first basemen on the roster?" the older one said to the younger.

Our knees began to buckle and we reached for our inhaler.

"Don't tell me you guys are...."

"Fantasy baseball? You bet!" said the older one. "Want in on our league? Yahoo runs a great league. Been doing it for 20 years."

"20 years?" we said, rapidly fanning ourself with a cheesecloth." Yahoo hasn't been around 20 years."

" But fantasy baseball has been." he replied.

We declined the invitation. We know us some baseball but we don't pretend to know baseball, say, the way evangelicals know thermodynamics or Baptists know the History of Christianity. Which is how you have to know baseball to play with those guys.

Besides, we wouldn't consider the league to be sufficiently lifelike or accurate without fantasy drug testing, fantasy paternity suits or fantasy Congressional hearings.

But we were comforted by the thought that even though baseball may be screwed, blued and tattooed right now there are a couple of guys excitedly getting ready for the season in a chic-chic food store in the Heights surrounded by a day-spa and interior decorator. Only baseball can survive itself.

And these are the things we thought about as we stumbled our way toward 98.5. Like we said, idle hands. Like Andy Rooney died.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Barry Shrugged

" I'm tired of my kids crying. You wanted me to jump off a bridge, I finally did. You finally brought me and my family down...So now go pick a different person."

When you write about spring training in baseball you have to described the experience as being encamped. And when the players leave for the regular season session of sptting, scratching and chasing women who are not their wives, you have to write that they "broke camp." It is in the rules. This is despite the fact that these various "camps" where these "athletes" "train" are more day spa than Valley Forge (Now there was a camp). The San Francisco Giants are in currently encamped in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is where Barry Bonds attempted to come across as Christ figure of the pharmaceutical labs during an impromptu press conference yesterday.

We know us plenty of lawyers here at TMFW. And we know a thing or two about the criminal justice system if only by osmosis. We think, but do not know, what might have instigated yesterday's pity party. We suspect that either Bonds, his trainer and the woman who has come forward claiming to be his mistress are getting sweated by the Feds concerning his involvement with steroids.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that Bonds has progressed from a mere Grand Jury witness to a target of the investigation. This is what they are most likely doing:

1) It has been reported that Greg Anderson, Bonds' personal trainer and "life long friend" is trying to cut a deal. According to a transcript leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle which purports to be the secret Grand Jury testimony of Barry Bonds, Bonds testified that while he had used steroids, he didn't know what they were at the time. So, they probably went back to Greg and asked him "Oh yeah?" If Greg says Bonds knew, better yet if Greg has documents that reflect that Bonds knew that the substances he was taking were steroids, Bonds has a problem.

2) About a month ago, a woman named Kimberly Bell popped up claiming to be the mistress of Barry Bonds. She says that Bonds told her that he was taking steroids between 1999 and 2000 for the reason that it helped him recover from injury quicker. She also said that Bonds gave her 80 grand which she used for a down payment on a new house. What do you want to bet that she didn't report this payment, or any others if any, to the IRS? And what do you want to bet that the FBI already has her last 5 tax returns? And what do you want to bet that they would be willing to go light on the tax evasion charge in exchange for her testimony that Bonds was on the juice? So now Bonds has problem # 2 in addition to a problem with Mrs. Bonds. If we were Bonds we might be consulting with Kobe Bryant about his suggestions for a jeweler.

3) If Bonds isn't a target of the investigation why wasn't he subpoenaed by Congress during last week's grandstanding hearing on the issue of steroids in baseball? As some wag said, " Not subpoenaing Barry Bonds for an investigation into steroids in baseball is like not subpoenaing Al Capone for an investigation on mob crime in the Twenties." Even Congress is not that stupid. We suspect that the Committee looking into these matters was advised by the prosecutors that compelling Bonds to appear before it would jeopardize the criminal case against him.

And we suspect that Barry Bonds has been advised about all of this by his lawyers. Which might explain why he is so frigging touchy nowadays. We rather prefer Barry Bonds the sullen prick to Barry Bonds the whiney bitch.

We suggest that he get back on the juice. But only after getting a prescription first. We think he needs the testosterone boost.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Sayings of Chairman Al

"When I was losing they called me nuts. When I was winning they called me eccentric."
Al McGuire

With the NCAA tournament upon us, we found ourselves thinking of Al McGuire the other day. McGuire coached at Marquette from 1964 through 1977. The Marquette Warriors ( now doing business as the "Golden Eagles" in this more politically correct era) were good under McGuire. They won the National Invitation Tournament in 1970 and the NCAA in McGuire's last year. McGuire, the son of a saloon keeper from Far Rockaway Beach on Long Island, specialized, like Georgetown's John Thompson who came later, in taking offensive players and turning them into defensive specialists. Or he specialized in screwing them up, depending on your point of view. In any event, McGuire's ballclubs were ultra-conservative on offense and played defense like you were trying to break into their house.

Most teams are considered to be a reflection of the basic personality of their coach. Looking at the Marquette teams of those days, one could easily assume that the guy pushing the buttons on the bench was some tight-assed, humorless martinet. Like Bob Knight. Or Don Chaney when he is hearing the voices again. One would be wrong.

He let his teams design the uniforms with the predictably garish results. He let them mismatch the color off their shoes. During the Vietnam era one of his players who opposed the war would turn his back on the American flag during the National Anthem. McGuire didn't make him stop.

And yet, he was a tough guy and wore that mantle with pride. We attended graduate school in the late seventies with a kid from Marquette-a Greek kid named Chris- who was a manager for the Warriors. His favorite Al McGuire story was about getting mad at a kid who was putting it up too frequently during a practice. McGuire told him to start passing more. Minutes later shooter boy jacked another one.

Al knocked him out. As in one-punched him.

Then there was the game, probably against one of Frank McGuire's (no relation) South Carolina clubs. Those games always devolved into fisticuffs. Al called a timeout. In the huddle he told his team that if they wanted to fight somebody they could fight him. He also told them that if 3 guys followed him into an alley that you could bet that he would be the guy that would make it back out on the street. There were no takers.

Our classmate roomed with Maurice Lucas in those days. Lucas, who was a board certified badass, would later become famous for a brawl as a Portland Trailblazer with Philadelphia Seventy-Sixer Darryl Dawkins, the likes of which made Ron Artest's recent foray into the stands at Detroit look like a game of tag. Lucas said that Al McGuire was the only white man that he had ever feared.

And yet, for all the acclaim he garnered as a coach, Al McGuire will be best remembered for his television work during the eighties and nineties. McGuire was no "x's and o's" kinda guy. McGuire felt his way through a game and his analysis-to the extent you could call it that- was similarly impressionistic and occasionally incoherent. He was Nathan Detroit on acid. He was often paired with the vastly overrated Billy Packer, who still may be found on the airways shilling for the Atlantic Coast Conference. McGuire, who nicknamed him " Billy Washroom" after his tendency to disappear whenever the waiter brought the check, delighted in gigging him in every broadcast.

A mike in front of Al was a dangerous thing. And yet, he provided some of the most memorable quotes in sports history:

" Remember half the doctors in this country graduated in the bottom half of their class."

" Winning is overemphasized. The only time it is really important is in surgery and war."

" When a guy (in a bar) takes off his coat, he's not going to fight. If he takes off his wristwatch, watch out!"

" I think the world is run by C students."

" If the waitress has dirty ankles, the chili should be good."

" The NBA would take Hitler if he was 7 foot."

Division I men's athletics is a cesspool. And basketball is the cesspool of the cesspool. There is so much money involved colleges cannot afford to make mistakes when they hire coaches. And so these guys all tend to look and act more like corporate CEOs than teachers of a game. There aren't many characters in the business anymore. For every Phil Martelli there are 10 Rick Pitinos. It occurs to us that an Al McGuire might not get a college job nowadays. It occurs to us that an Al McGuire might not get a television gig either. When you watch the tournament this week, we defy you to find anyone of the 38 talking heads we will have foisted upon us that will say anything remotely interesting. Other than Jay Bilas or Clark Kellogg. Maybe. Al McGuire once drank a marguerita on camera with Abe Lemons while ostensibly discussing Abe's Texas Longhorns. It is safe to say you will never see that again.

McGuire died in 2001 of a blood disorder. In his final days, many of his players came to see the old coach. McGuire always got out of his deathbed to greet his boys. He refused to let them see him lying down. Like we said. He was a tough guy.

No, they don't make 'em like Al McGuire anymore. And it is for this reason that we will watch the tournament with the sound turned waaaaaay down.

By the way: We like North Carolina's chances this year. We also like Wake Forest despite the fact that there will be no living with Packer if they were to actually pull this off. Duke and Illinois are too thin. Our sleeper teams? Villanova and Georgia Tech. We also have NC St, Texas, and Minnesota going down in the first round.

But who the hell knows?

Saturday, March 12, 2005


This being the tax season, we were reminded of a scene we witnessed outside the United States Courthouse a few year's ago. On the day in question we noticed about 5 guys, 4 of whom we recognized as being from the Criminal Investigations Division of the IRS proceed from the architectural marvel that is the Federal Building in Little Rock across the street to the courthouse. Each Special Agent (the feds refer to their plainclothes law enforcement types as "Special Agents" for some unknown reason. Perhaps they wish to make sure that they are not confused with the Prairie County Sheriff's Department or something.) was carrying boxes of stuff with some guy's name on them.

Moments later we noticed an odd looking older couple. They both were wearing American flag lapel pins. The man was wearing a corduroy suit despite it being a warm day. He had Hush Puppies on his feet and a red, white and blue tie around his neck. His grey beard reached the middle of his chest.

" Tax protester nuts," we thought to ourselves. And they walked into the courthouse with the confident stride of people who reposed complete and utter confidence in their belief that the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution (that's the one instituting the income tax for you history buffs) did not apply to them because they were Baptists. Or some other inane theory most likely gleaned from the Internet.

We also had another thought: Mainly, that it's just like the damn Service to send 5 guys, one of them undoubtedly from the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice in DC to take on a couple of whack-job tax evaders/freedom fighters.

Hell, nobody likes to pay taxes. But we figure that it is part of our duty as a citizen to support the government with our tithes and offerings. After all, we know that nothing is free. It costs money to explore space, to develop exotic missile systems that don't work and to build and maintain presidential libraries, just to name a few projects supported by said tithes. We understand these things.

Ok. We lied. Mostly we just don't have the nerve to attempt to evade taxes at the level it would take to make the whole shooting match worth the while. We don't evade taxes for the same reason we don't try to manufacture crystal meth. The attempt to do so would blow up in out face. Like most taxpayers, we are mere wage slaves. Every two weeks our employer deducts an amount from our wages and sends it to the taxing authorities. The banks where we keep the pittance we refer to as "savings" generate 1099s to advise the government of the interest we have earned despite the fact that the number that is transmitted is so small it barely interests us. Given the pedestrian and frequently precarious state of our financial affairs, there is no way we could artfully gin up a false return that wouldn't set off bells and whistles at the Treasury. Or so we imagine.

But then again we are just not as smart as guys like Walter Anderson. Anderson is a software designer in DC who recently got indicted for having set up numerous dummy corporations in both Europe and offshore in the Virgin Islands. (Here's a tip for you budding white color criminals. You should always run your banking and insurance scams through the Virgin Islands as well.) According to the authorities, Anderson ran-no lie-a half a billion dollars through these various shell corporations in order to conceal the true extent of his personal income from Uncle Sam. That's billion with a "b." That's a lot of dead Presidents to have in circulation at one time. That's Enron and World Com level money laundering, all in the service of one little tax evader.

And what did that get him? The judge at his plea and arraignment took a look at the international scope of Anderson's business ( otherwise referred to in the indictment as a "scheme and device") and not unreasonably concluded that he was a flight risk. So no bail for Walter! The Feds and the District handed him a tax bill of over 200 million. If convicted on all charges, he could get sent off for @ 80 years with no possibility of parole.

We doubt that Walter Anderson is thriving in his current environment, where he eats baloney sandwiches for lunch with guys named "Boo-Boo" and "P-Dawg. We wonder if he ever thinks to himself, "Gee, was this worth it? Didn't I have enough damn money?"

Unlike Walter Anderson, we can do what the prosecutors call "risk calculation." And it ain't worth it. So every year, we will buy TurboTax, gather our documents and once again prove to our government that we have somehow managed to avoid complete insolvency for another tax year.

Come to think about it. We even take back that crack about the Service we made early on. It was made during what Trent Lott might describe as " a lighthearted moment." We love you guys.


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

More Questions in Philly

" We'll certainly have a discussion with John about how he feels about going forward. When we get a chance to get what his views are, then we'll make a decision."

Thus spake Temple University President David Adamany about the prospects for John Chaney returning as Temple's coach after last week's fracas with the St. Joseph's Hawks. In case you have been on life support the past couple of days or otherwise just don't care, a recap is in order.

Prior to the game (and not afterwards as was erroneously stated in this space. Our bad.) John Chaney complained of upcoming opponent St. Joseph's apparent penchant of setting moving screens with impunity against his Owls. Perhaps this would explain why Temple hasn't won a game against the Hawks in three years. In any event, Chaney said that if the officials didn't crack down, he would send a "goon" into the game to take matters into his own hands.

Said goon, seldom-used Nehemiah Ingram, was sent into the game in the second half and ordered to commit fouls. Which he did with gusto, racking up 5 fouls in 4 minutes. His last hard foul broke the arm of the foulee thereby ending his season and career with St. Joseph's. Chaney was suspended by Temple for the rest of the regular season. He subsequently suspended himself for the post-season Atlantic 10 Tournament.

A couple of questions have been bandied about in the media and the sports call-in shows. Let's address them:

Should Nehemiah Ingram be suspended as well? We say no. You can't impute to a player his coach's failure to act in an ethical manner. Secondly, you cannot expose a kid to liability or punishment because he followed his coach's instructions, reprehensible as they were. Let us apply the balm of perspective here. What happened was, in Chaney's own words, reprehensible. A player was injured because of what happened. And appropriate punishment should be meted out.

But last time we looked no one had died. These acts, disgusting as they are, did not alter the outcome or otherwise affect the integrity of the contest. Ingram did not shave points. He was not on performance enhancing drugs. And thank God for that. Otherwise he might have killed someone.

We hope Nehemiah Ingram goes on to discover the cure for cancer or rescues someone from a burning building. Otherwise his name will go down in history as John Chaney's goon. And we say that is punishment enough.

Should Chaney be fired? We say "Why not?" After all, he has exposed his employer to liability as Temple cannot be heard to say that it was not on notice that Chaney is a hot head. After all, back in 1994 or so, he busted in on John Calipari's (then at UMASS) post-game interview and threatened to "kill him" in front of the rolling cameras. He got suspended a game for that outburst which we feel was just. After all, nobody believed that Chaney really wanted to kill anybody. That and it was John Calipari.

Why shouldn't he be fired? His actions caused an injury to an opposing player and caused the name of Nehemiah Ingram to be writ in sports history's immortal scrolls alongside Bill Laimbeer, Conrad Dobler and other cheap shot artists. His acts raised a spirited rivalry with a neighboring school to what we predict will be almost incandescent enmity. He has brought shame to a storied program as Temple basketball will forever be synonymous with that night. All in all, not a bad day's work. People have been fired for less. Ask Jim Donham. Or Matt Doherty. Or Ty Willingham.

But we say that Chaney will skate. Re-read the quote from Temple's President that graces the beginning of this piece. One does not solicit the views of an employee one is about to terminate. Chaney will be allowed to play out the string. We will be reminded that he has never been penalized by the NCAA and that his players graduate. Nowhere will we be reminded that it is precisely his job to do these things.

But you could make a case for showing him the door. You really could.

But here is one question that comes to our mind, one that we haven't heard much discussed. Or at all really.

Where the hell were the referees when all of this was going on?

The refs had to know that something like this was a remote possibility. After all, Chaney said he was gonna do it. We have seen the footage of Ingram's rampage. We have not seen such nonstop mayhem on the basketball court since Dennis Rodman was throwing elbows and kneeing groins in the NBA. Why weren't any flagrant fouls called? Why wasn't Ingram tossed. And most amazing to us, why didn't St. Joe's Phil Martelli not give John Chaney a knuckle sandwich? Say what you will about Nolan Richardson but can you imagine his reaction if he thought Rick Pitino was trying to hurt one of his players?

Temple should have come down swifter and harder on Chaney. It did not. Chaney should not have forced a kid to fight his cowardly war for him and he shouldn't have slandered the young man in the process. But he did. And the referees should have reacted more swiftly to restore order and protect the players. They did not.

Like we said. Not a bad night's work.