Friday, September 29, 2006

My Sunday Feeling ( A Day Early)

I was reading a book out on the porch swing after work the other day when I noticed Caroline coming up the sidewalk. I always enjoy Caroline's visits. It is always fun to hear what's going on in that 3rd grade head of hers. On this particular afternoon she was soliciting my insights into the world of spelling and writing. Her Mother had told her that I was a good speller. While we take compliments whenever we can get them, I rather strongly suspect that Caroline's presence before me on that beautiful September day had more to do with her Mom's need to get her out from underfoot rather than any particular respect on her part for my spelling abilities. No matter. Caroline pulled up next to me on the swing and immersed herself in her work. I returned to my book. It wasn't long before she ran across the first stumper about which she applied to me for assistance.

"What does boast mean?" she asked.

" Well, it means to brag." I explained. "It's when someone calls attention to themselves in a bad way."

" But my teacher said that she was gonna brag on me to Mom. Is that bad?"


" No. To brag on somebody is an old Southern way of praising somebody." Bragging is only bad if you are bragging about yourself."

I notice that I pronounced bragging as "braaaaaaging" and praising as "praaaaaising." I don't usually sound like Al Gore when I talk. Further, I noticed that my hands were cupped in the air before my chest as if I am describing 36 DD breasts.

No wonder children tune us out. We must look pretty weird at times like this.

" And boasting is bragging?" she asked.


She put her papers in her lap. She pulled her hair up off the back of her neck. She began batting her eyes as she thrust her non-existent chest into the air.

"Jesus." I thought as I slid away from her. "What the hell is this?"

" Look at my beeeeeeyoooooooteeeeeeful haaayer" she cooed ridiculously. "Don't yoooooooou loooooove my beautiful hair?"

I looked through the bottom of my bifocals as she burlesqued away. Eventually, she dropped her hands back into her lap and her face morphed back to normal.

"Was that boasting?" she dead panned.

" Yes." I said. "Yes it was. Excellent."

She resumed her scribbling. I returned to my reading.

After awhile she began to squirm. Then she started kicking her legs back and forth as she wrote and erased, wrote and erased. Knowing a stressed out writer when I see one, I decided to intervene.

" Something I can help you with?"

She sighed. " The teacher wants us to write sentences using our new spelling words. But she wants us to start each sentence different. My sentences all look the same."

I looked at her sentences.

" They look fine to me." I said. "There's only so many ways to start sentences, especially when you are just learning how. You are stressing too much over this."

No sale.

"I don't know." she said. "They just don't look right." By this point she was holding the page out in front of her at arm's length as if that would induce the muse of 9 year old writers to come down from on high to fix her copy.

"Listen." I said. "Once upon a time there was a famous writer who lived in Chicago. His name was Nelson Algren. He wrote lots of books. And he started lots of his sentences the same way you do. Let me show you."

And with that, I opened the first pages of "A Walk on the Wild Side" that was placed by my side. I held it up where she could see it.

" Look. There's a sentence that starts with the word 'he.' That one starts with 'she.' This one starts with 'that.' See? Just like you." And with that, I closed the book before she could actually read any of it.

That actually seemed to work if the sudden marked decrease in squirming was any indication. In fact, after a few more scribbles, she put her sentences away and turned to her math assignment. Since I don't do math, I was home free.

What Caroline didn't know about the "famous writer" I introduced her to that day won't hurt her. Caroline didn't know that Nelson Algren was one of the old tough guy "Chicagah" writers who cut his teeth working for the tabloids. She didn't need to know that he was described as a "proletarian" writer. Which is just a snooty way of saying "communist." She didn't need to know that he found nobility in bums, hookers, grifters, drunks and insane preachers. She didn't need to be acquainted with examples of his hard boiled prose style such as this gem:

" Watch out for the inclination to trust, particularly toward women. It leads to giving. Look out for that one, it's the worst of a bad lot."
" Watch out for flowers, watch out for trust, watch out for women, watch out for giving. In short, don't give flowers to a woman you trust."

Or this one either, which is possibly one of the most profoundly sad descriptions of a character I have ever read:

"Dove Linkhorn could not remember a time, a place nor a single person, house cat or hound dog that had sought his affection."

Or consider this description of 1930s America that leads off Chapter Two of "A Walk on the Wild Side":

" The Ladder of Success had been inverted, the top was the bottom and the bottom was the top. Leaders of men still sporting gold watches were lugging baby photographs door to door with their soles flapping. Physicians were out selling skin lighteners and ship captains queued in hope of a cabin boy's mop and pail.
Offices of great fire insurance companies went up in smoke, which seemed no more than just. When the fire department-long unpaid-cleared off, little remained but scorched files, swivel chairs on which no one would ever swivel again, lovely heaps of frosted glass and all that mahogany.
All that mahogany that hadn't helped anybody but brokers after all. Then the brokers began jumping off rooftops with no greater consideration for those passing below than they'd had when their luck was running. Emporers of industry snatched all the loose cash on which they could lay hand and made one fast last run. Lawyers sued one another just to keep in practice."

She didn't need to know that Ernest Hemingway once said of him, "Mr. Algren, boy, you are good." She didn't need to know that Nelson Algren's mugshot graces the top of this page.

All Caroline needed to know was that, once upon a time, there was a famous writer named Nelson Algren and that he wrote a lot of books and that many of his sentences started just like hers. And that was sufficient to put a smile on her face.

A friend of mine used to say, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears." It is hardly Caroline's fault that when this particular tutor appeared he was drinking gin and reading a book that at one time was banned by the self-righteous morons that specialize in that sort of thing. Still and all, it was a "teachable moment" and I just used the tools that I had at my disposal. Such as they were.

I bet Nelson Algren would find this hilarious. Come to think of it, maybe he wouldn't.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Sports Page-The Perspective Edition

The New Orleans Saints are an improbable 3-0 with the first two wins coming on the road. This is one hell of a great way to start your NFL season.

I got numerous phone calls and e-mails today asking me two questions: 1) "What about last night?" and 2) Are those guys for real?

Concerning the first question, I could have done without Green Day doing a cover of "House of the Rising Sun" ("There is a house in New Orleans. It's called the Superdome") and I really thought the usually tasteful Bono and U2 took especial leave of their senses with their tricked up version of "The Saints Are Coming."

But I quibble.

I have to say that I was genuinely moved. Not by the return of the Saints to the Dome exactly. C'mon. These are the Saints. But it was indeed an amazing sight to see all of those people so happy. This wasn't the usual football crowd. Grown men and women were crying when the Saints-wearing white for some reason instead of the usual home black-took the field. After what all those people have been through, who is to begrudge them this night? Who can take issue with such collective joy? I guarantee you that the talk today was about something other than the removal of mold or why the mail is late. If only for a little while. Which is all to the good to my way of thinking.

Are they for real? Again, come on. These are the Saints. Granted, the addition of Drew Brees(who represented a marked change for the better just because he is not Aaron Brooks) and Reggie Bush along with the return of Deuce McAllister has given the traditionally moribund Saints offense a lot more pop. And the defense has played way better than predicted pre-season.

And while the 1976 Steelers could not have beaten the Saints last night, there is plenty of room to worry. The offensive line is thin. Injuries there will cripple them. The defensive backs were terrible the last two years. There's no reason to believe that they will stand up over the long haul. Brees has a balky shoulder. What if something happens to him?

Still, they are 3-0 and the Dome is open again for business. Can't take that away from them. Right now they are a contender for a playoff berth.

But c'mon. These are the Saints.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Sports Page-The Return of the Saints

In one of today's post he put up before heading for the golf course (BTW....thanks for calling me, buddy!), the peripatetic blogger PM ( observes that the Saints return to the Superdome tomorrow night for the first time since Katrina. He wonders if this is a good thing.

Well, sure. It is a good thing.

After 9/11, the NFL suspended play. I seem to recall that Major League Baseball followed suit. Obviously, even the money driven suits that run the NFL and MLB were cognizant that playing games-and that's what they are-might be construed as insensitive to the memories of the victims of this unspeakable crime against innocent civilians. After a week or so, and after consultation with civic and governmental leaders, the decision was made to resume league play. And it was a good thing.

The psychiatrists call it redirection. It is when a therapist, through a skillful line of questions, causes a patient to focus on subjects that will lead to a more productive conversation. They do it with my mother a lot. When she obsesses about her medicine, the nurse at the retirement center will ask about her sons or talk about the weather. They redirect that conversation.

The return of the Jets and the Giants and the resumption of the MLB season did not "rebuild" or "save" New York. But it gave people something normal to talk about again. It redirected the conversation away from pain and sorrow. It helped restore morale. It was a good thing. And without a doubt it was an equally good thing when the curtain went up again at the Met and when Broadway lit the lights again.

Louisiana produces football and basketball players (male and female) by the bushel basket. They play good baseball down there. Louisiana turns out good golfers too. Which is only to be expected when you consider that fully 1/3 of the goddamn place is a water hazard. If you like to hunt and fish you can hardly pick a better place to do it. Sports in Louisiana are a big deal.

South Louisiana doesn't have Broadway. It has the French Quarter and the Mississippi River. And it has the New Orleans Saints, the LSU Tigers and the hapless Tulane Green Wave.

Evidently I have more time and money than sense. For last night I bought the broadcast of the Tulane-LSU game on pay per view live on Tigervision from Baton Rouge. The sound of the LSU announcers describing the action on the field as rendered by kids named RIC-card, DOOcet and PERRiloux was music to my ears. Tigervision is not exactly the BBC and occasionally one of the announcers would say something completely idiotic like, "the Tigers are going to go with the kicker with the hot hand." But even the guys on Tigervision, not usually known for their introspection, were moved to comment on how good it was to see Tulane's kids back in Baton Rouge and not only because their presence meant an easy "W" for the Tigers. It is just a good thing. And it made me happy to see it.

Let's not make too much of this. It will be a better thing when they get the levees and the pumps back up and running. It will be a better thing when the tens of billions of dollars supposedly in the pipeline for the Gulf Coast finally gets to the end users so that homes and businesses and infrastructure can be rebuilt. All of this is more important than a sporting event.

But, last night the guys in purple and gold whacked the guys in olive and blue as has been the case the last 70 years or so. Next week the Greenies limp back to the Dome for the first time since Katrina tore its roof off. And tomorrow night the Saints will be greeted by a sellout crowd on Monday Night Football. It may not seem like much in the great scope of things but it restores a sense of normalcy. It redirects the conversation, if only momentarily, for the people of a beleaguered region that have been much put upon.

You tell me that's not a good thing.

My Sunday Feeling

The book section in the grocery store is located by the checkout aisle I was standing in yesterday. I noticed that one of the selections was "The Confession" by former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey. You might recall that McGreevey resigned from office in 2004 after admitting to a) being gay and b)having an affair with a man he had put on the state payroll. Oddly enough, Golan Cipel, the man McGreevey claims to have carried on with denies that he gay or that he had an affair with the former governor. This is despite the fact that Cipel's threat to hit McGreevey with a sexual harassment lawsuit is what blew the lid off of what had been widely whispered about behind closed doors in New Jersey for years.

I have not read McGreevey's book. Nor am I going to. Confessional literature is not exactly my cup of tea. Having said that, there's no denying that the best examples of this particular ouevre serve to inspire and instruct. After all, we can and do profit from the experiences of others. Each of us see that in our daily lives. However, the worst examples of this line of work tend to be pointless and narcissistic. At least it seems that way to me.

Based on what I have read and heard, you may find "The Confession" in the "Pointless and Narcissistic" section of your local bookstore. So I'm not going to read it and so today's rant doesn't pretend to be a review.

Like James Ellroy's hair-raising "My Dark Places" and Jim Carroll's equally depressing "Basketball Diaries" (both of which I did actually read) McGreevey tells us more than I would think most of us would want to know about his unseemly struggles as a closeted gay man. I am not gay and I certainly cannot imagine what it must feel like to hold yourself out as being a straight family man (he was married at that the time all of this hit the fan) much less serve as a public figure. But do we really need to be treated to the lurid details of furtive and anonymous sexual encounters in bookstores and other public places? Like behind a synagogue? In the name of "becoming whole" and "healing?" The following is a sentence I lifted from a review of the book. It speaks volumes about McGreevey's mindset:

"As glorious and meaningful as it would have been to have a loving and sound sexual experience with another man, I knew I'd have to undo my happiness step by step as I began chasing my dream of a public career and the kind of 'acceptable' life that went with it. So, instead, I settled for the detached anonymity of bookstores and rest stops-a compromise, but one that was wholly unfulfilling and morally unsatisfactory."

You notice-and this is where my narcissism radar went off- nowhere in that sentence did he say that what he did was wrong? Or dangerously crazy? Oh. Also it seems to me that is equally "morally unsatisfactory" to con 2 different women as to your sexual bona fides not to mention the entire electorate you would presume to serve.

It s one thing to have made mistakes. All of us, gay or straight, have done things that we would just as soon nobody ever knows about. All of us. And most of these things shouldn't be revealed to anyone other than your priest or your psychiatrist, if to anybody at all. But at this point in his history it is all about Jim McGreevey. No matter that the revelations in "My Confession" book might cause further suffering to his family or make his ex-wives feel even more foolish. Further, the man has daughters for chrissakes. Does he really want them to read about what the old man did to pass the time back when he was coming up in the world? Whither human dignity?

The Jim McGreevey story is neither inspirational or instructive. Which is why you may find "My Confession" in the "Pointless and Narcissistic" section of your local bookstore. Maybe I might come to a different conclusion if I were to actually read the goddamned thing. But I doubt it. I sincerely doubt it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Plugola, Logrolling, Whatever......

My friend GirlArkansas is now doing her ARMedia blog on the Arkansas Times website. Go to and click on "blogs."

Check her out. She is a hoot.

I love her and wish her all the success in the world in her new venture even though she doesn't return my phone calls.

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

The Sports Page-Monday Football Report

Strange doings out there on the Gridiron last weekend. The Arkansas Razorbacks managed to avoid defeat at the hands of a game Vanderbilt squad despite some atrocious tackling on their part. Or to quote the inimitable Wally Hall: " [T]he Hog defenders had more trouble getting a handle on Vanderbilt than they would have figuring out rocket thrust to the moon."

And no, I have no idea what that is supposed to mean.

As some of you may recall, I had the Razorbacks losing this game, a prediction that my buddy and old Vanderbilt alum Don found ridiculous. When I told him that Vandy should have won, he sent me the following text message: " There are two kinds of Vanderbilt football teams. There are those that lose by one or two and those that lose by 60. Cathy took pride in the fact that they scored."

Later on he wrote: " You don't understand the natural order of things. When Vanderbilt wins, something equally improbable has to happen to keep the universe's books balanced." Well, all I know is that the universe's books would have gotten cooked to a fare-the-well had Vanderbilt's 48 yard field goal attempt not fallen just short. Both Vanderbilt's kicker and Head Coach Bobby Johnson attributed the miss to a sudden breeze that kicked up on that side of the field.

Houston Nutt,however, invoked timely intervention from the next world as the cause for the victory, stating that the spirits of his late father and the recently deceased Voice of the Razorbacks Paul Eels caused the wind to rise just as Vandy's kid kicked a ball he later described as having crushed. I trust that Houston Nutt, an excitable sort under the best of circumstances, was overtaken by the moment. They medicate people that talk like this.

Wait. What am I saying? Wally writes stuff like that all the time and he's not crazy. He's just illiterate.

The universe's books may need to be adjusted for other reasons, however. It is a crazy Saturday indeed when LSU loses a game against an SEC team and Tulane WINS one. Ole Miss fared no better losing to the woeful Kentucky Wildcats, a feat I otherwise thought not possible. It took Southern Mississippi to stop the bleeding by clobbering North Carolina State in a game in which they did not have to punt a single time. Not once. That's unheard of.

And if things weren't crazy enough, the Saints are 2-0 after winning two road games for the first time in their miserable existence.

No, it is probably just was well that Vanderbilt's kick fell just short. The universe took a sufficient scare last Saturday without that all that extra stress. The Hogs had better enjoy it while they can. Next week they get Alabama. Unless Houston has a OUIJA board with him on the sideline, I don't think they stand much chance for two in a row.

Oh. Tulane picked a bad time to renew their rivalry with LSU. They go to Baton Rouge the Saturday after LSU lost to Auburn. My friend down there is trying to goad me into an improvident bet. No way. LSU will be pissed. If the Greenies aren't careful, they will lose by 50.

Some things don't change. The natural order will prevail. The universe can rest easy.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

The little guy likes to sit by his Dad's chair. He was sitting there in his school uniform when Igot there. He was eating ice cream and watching baseball. He loves his baseball. I went to the kitchen where his Mother was. I gave her a bottle of wine. She gave me a hug.

It had been a bad day for the little guy. Not everyone understands. So he was getting to have an ice cream and baseball night. Sounded like a plan to me. After all, most 5 year olds haven't made friends with whisky yet.

I sat down in Dad's chair. "Who's playing?" I asked.

" The Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers." he said. " They were tied 2 to 2 but the Detroit Tigers loaded the bases and knocked in 2 runs. They are winning 4-2"

Knocked 'em in? He sounds like a bad sportswriter. This is alarming.

" Knocked 'em in huh?" I asked.

" Uh-HUH" he said. "They knocked 'em in. And you know what?"

"No. What?"

"Tomorrow the Texas Rangers play the Angels. They play them 4 times. Then they play somebody else 3 times."

"How do you know that?" I asked.

"Dad made me a website. I can go look up the team's schedules."

Must be I was not so much impressed that he was able to harvest this info-after all he can read at a second grade level- as I was that he could regurgitate it. I mean, these are the Texas Rangers for chrissake. I guarandamntee you that he is the only person in Little Rock who has committed their schedule to memory.

But like I said, he likes baseball. There is something about the geometry of the game and its cadences , the importance of stats-some of the more rudimentary ones he has readily grasped-that he can readily wrap his mind around. Maybe this indicates an innate facility for numbers and mathematical relationships. It is not unheard of for people that are so inclined to gravitate to music. Maybe he will learn an instrument. After all, what are intervals but the mathematical relationships between the various notes?

Who knows with a little one of such tender years? Who can know what his tomorrow holds?

But that is tomorrow and tomorrow can fend for itself. The little guy reminded his Mother that the Cubs were on WGN and so we switched over. He then told me about the Cub's roster and their respective positions. He also advised me as to their whereabouts for the next week off the top of his head just as he had told me more about the Texas Rangers than I ever wanted to know earlier on.

It had been a bad day for the little guy. Not everyone understands. But at the precious age of 5, there's not much that can't be made better by the presence of your Mom and the certain knowledge that your big Dad will soon be sitting by your side in his big chair. Tomorrow can fend for itself. Because for now we are having an ice cream and baseball night. And that is hard to beat. Because everybody likes ice cream even if most folks would eschew the Gummi Bear garnish that the little guy seems to have acquired a taste for.

And because the little guy really, really, likes his baseball. And that is sufficient for today.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Sports Page-Prelude to Disaster Edition

" Everything Nutt said was behind closed doors."
Wally Hall- Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

According to Wally the phrase, " United We Stand, Divided We Fall" has "been around since about the time Thomas Jefferson started work on the Declaration of Independence." This was the alleged leitmotif of certain animated discussions Houston Nutt-the maybe soon to be dismissed occupant of the Chair of Football at Arkansas-allegedly had with the coaching staff first and with the team after that.

That the pucker factor is off the scale up there cannot be denied. A loss to Vanderbilt tomorrow for the second year in a row, hitherto unthinkable, will likely seal Nutt's fate.

But let's turn back to Wally. If everything Nutt said was "behind closed doors" how does Wally know? Either somebody is leaking to him or he is just making stuff up. You will note that he certainly doesn't attribute these quotes to a "source that requested anonymity" which is the way most real journalists handle this kind of thing.

Who knows what is going on up there except that they have major problems that even the average fan can see. Might as well rely on the Internet boards for your inside dope. They make stuff up too. They just don't get paid for it.

BTW....the phrase "United We Stand" etc?

Aesop. Way before Jefferson. Wally can't be trusted to take the time to even get that right.

It's gonna be a long season if the Razorbacks take gas tomorrow.

Hell, it's been a long season already.

Monday, September 11, 2006


If you have an interest, you can read a post on my recollection of that horrible day 5 years ago. It is entitled "Requiem" and it can be found at .

Hang in there.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Sports Page

You can mark this one down. Arkansas will lose to Vanderbilt next Saturday. That will be the second year in a row. Which will undoubtedly raise the blood pressure of one J. Frank Broyles.

Here's the deal: Vanderbilt went into Ann Arbor the first week of the season and lost 21-7. They went into Tuscaloosa yesterday where they preceded to scare the bejeesus out of Alabama before succumbing to the Crimson Tide by the score of 13-10.

By way of contrast, Arkansas hasn't scared anybody. They managed to lose to Southern Cal 50-17 at home a week ago despite laying for those guys for 6 months. Last night, they beat a pretty lousy Utah State team by only 20-0 despite being allegedly vastly superior. Not only did the offense sputter-as it has the past 2 seasons-the kicking game proved creaky with a missed extra point and another going in after hitting a post.

What I saw of Vanderbilt yesterday was a team that plays with heart and intensity. They are coached by a guy who behaves like an adult. Granted, their quarterback got them into trouble against Michigan and Alabama. From what I can tell, Chris Nickson's biggest problem is that he isn't Jay Cutler. There ain't no shame in that.

The difference between Arkansas and Vanderbilt is that Bobby Johnson and his staff is getting the absolute best they can get out of the Commodores. The Razorbacks, at this point in time, are a psychodrama not usually seen this side of the New York Yankees.

The Vanderbilts are no longer an easy out. If you do not have your head screwed on straight you will be in for a long day. As far as I can tell, there aren't many good heads up on the Hill nowadays.

I say Vandy wins this won next Saturday in Nashville. And I say there will be hell to pay.

My Sunday Feeling

The latest dispatch from North Carolina came in @ 11 am our time.

" I'm driving through UNC's campus. Good Lord." Don said.

"What?" I replied.

" I don't recall girls looking like this when I was in college. "

" They didn't. For sure they didn't have piercings or tattoos back in our day unless they were bikers. But you ought to talk a walk on campus at Ole Miss if you want to see some beautiful girls." I said. "It is for this reason alone that I love Oxford."

" No. It would be best if I stayed in my car. It would keep a safe distance between us and them to where I couldn't get into any trouble."

"That's why I run when I go through Ole Miss's campus. It's just better if I keep moving."

" You know, it seems that everybody was always after the same girls when I was that age."


"Everybody was after Kathy Frost. There were all kinds of perfectly acceptable girls running around but everybody wanted Kathy Frost, ya know?"

No I didn't know. He does this all the time. He will speak of people and events that occurred 30 years ago at Vanderbilt as if they were last week and as if I should know who the hell these people are. Mother does the same thing. Only she's 84 and suffers from dementia.

" I think it's an alpha male competitive thing with the young men." he concluded.

" I think it's a young men are idiots thing." I said. " I certainly was. Come to think of it, I am still an idiot even when it concerns women. Even ones that are age appropriate."

" Perhaps you should go back to younger women."

" Yeah, right....You forget that heart disease runs in the family."

Actually, there's another reason. Quite honestly, I do not understand the obsession some guys have with younger women. You are all the time hearing about guys my age running off with these young things all the while blowing up lives, families and reputations in the process. I don't get it. I have always subscribed to the Molly Ivins' quote of an old Texas Ranger who said that the three most overrated things in the world were Cuban cigars, the FBI and younger women. Although that wasn't exactly the word he used. But I concede that maybe I just don't have the right attitude.

A couple of years ago, I went out a couple of times with a woman who was not quite 30 at the time. She was beautiful, smart, funny and the only practicing agnostic I had ever met from Van Buren County. Granted, having an exotic specimen like her around was good for my ego at a time when it consisted only of sub-atomic particles. Still, as much fun as she was, something about all of this troubled me.

It hit me one night over dinner. As I was looking at her across the table, I heard a small still voice inside my head say, " You know, you knock her up and this will be trouble."

I don't know exactly why that little messenger of doom presented itself at that point in time. Certainly she and I were nothing more than acquaitances at that point and things had not progressed beyond a chaste kiss here and there. The only thing I can think is that the difference between a young man, whom we concede are all idiots, and a man of my advanced age is that a young guy might think of these matters,if he thinks of them at all, as he is removing his pants. Which is, typically, way too late to do anything particularly constructive about such vexacious issues.

My situation resolved itself when she told me that she wanted to "explore a relationship" (whatever the hell that meant) with someone she had met. She was extremely apologetic about the whole thing. She needn't have been.

" My God!" I said. "Don't give this a second thought. You need to be with a younger guy. You don't need to be hanging around a geezer like me."

" Don't be silly." she said. "You're not a geezer."

"Maybe not. But you don't need to be going out with somebody who is old enough to be..."
"Don't say it. You are NOT old enough to be my father."

"Well, I'm old enough to be your big brother's still reasonably attractive single friend from dental school or something. You can do better than that. I fully understand. Not a problem."

And it wasn't.

Don't get me wrong. She was just what I needed at a certain point in time. It does a person good to be reminded that they still "got game" from time to time.

But she wasn't reality. No more than those girls at Ole Miss or North Carolina are. Or the law school kid down the street who tolerates me only because she regards a geezer like me as sweet and harmless. That, and I think I know somebody that might be interested in buying her car.

I saw my old (so to speak) dinner companion from afar as a buddy of mine and I were walking to lunch the other day. She was on the other side of the street, going the opposite direction. We waved at each other from across the way.

" Who was THAT?" my friend asked.

" Somebody I went out with a couple of times. Really nice girl." I said.

" No kidding? You son-of-a-bitch!"

I just shrugged. Some things are better left unsaid. Especially when there really isn't anything to say even if I were so inclined.

But my friend didn't have to know that, now did he?

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Sports Page-Panic Button Special Edition

"If we're hitting on all cylinders, we may not be having this conversation. For whatever reason, we didn't. We're just trying to do what's best for our team and sometimes that involves hurting people's feelings and that's what's hard. I know Robert Johnson can still be a very good teammate and play a role for us."

And with that, Razorback Head Coach Houston Nutt threw starting quarterback Robert Johnson under the bus in favor of freshman Mitch "Hope to Jesus He Really Is A Phenom" Mustain. Johnson will be moved to wide receiver. Casey Dick, who missed much of preseason practice with a cranky back, will be the understudy and Clark Irwin, who was last seen wearing the Old Gold and Black for LR Central, will be the third string QB.

I watched the footage of Nutt making the announcement last night. He looked as if he had lost his best friend. He seemed pale and his affect was flat. Perhaps he had been advised by the powers that be that he had better win a certain number of games to save his job. Perhaps he felt remorse over shafting a good kid who stuck it out after getting demoted last year. Perhaps his certain knowledge that this decision could be disastrous might account for his pallor.

Look, Robert Johnson wasn't the reason that the Hogs got eviscerated last Saturday night. Not by a long shot. Sure, he threw an interception in the second half. But he also scored the Razorbacks' only touchdown against Southern Cal's first team defense. He wasn't the one that fumbled 3 times. He wasn't the guy that was dropping passes.

How can this turn out badly? Let me count the ways. First, Mustain could turn out to be a bust. Or at the minimum, he could turn out to be human. The kid is only 17 or 18. He may carve up Utah State next week, but let's face it. Alabama, the next opponent, ain't exactly the Catholic High Rockets. This could turn ugly. Or what if-God forbid-he gets hurt?

You think Johnson has a bad arm? The new # 2 guy, Casey Dick, couldn't even throw for much of the pre-season because of his back. What if that flares up on him again as bad backs are known to do? Do you count on Johnson to be over being pissed at getting screwed over if you are forced to move him back to qb which is the fix Oklahoma was in when they kicked Rhett Bomar off the team?

What about morale? I'm sure that many of the offensive players will be miffed by this move. Also Johnson's demotion sends the following signal to the entire team: Results on the field matter but not much. That'll make you want to fight, fight, fight, for the guy in the headset huh?

Finally, this brings up an interesting statistic. If memory serves, the Razorbacks have not stuck with a black quarterback for an entire season since Quinn Grovey some 15 years ago. During this period of time, black kids have performed admirably at the position for virtually all of the other schools in the SEC. Do not think for one minute that this will not be brought up by the Razorbacks' rivals out on the recruiting trail. Do I believe that Johnson's demotion was the product of racial animus? Of course not. It may not have been for a very good reason but it wasn't racist. But it just opens the door to such speculation by those who have an interest in doing so which unduly complicates matters to no good end.

Of course, all of this idle speculation will turn out to be just that if Mustain goes out and performs like the second coming of Peyton Manning. But this is a slender reed to base an entire season upon. The upside might be way up but the downside is potentially worse.

Which is what happens when you hit the panic button.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Andre Says Goodbye

The effect of two straight 5 setters finally got to Andre Agassi who went down to qualifier (and former Baylor Bear) Benjamin Becker in today's action at the US Open. The sport will not see the likes of him again anytime soon. Read about Andre's emotional farewell on the jump.

About Last Night.....

My buddy PM and I were assessing the Razorback's chances against USC during a conversation Saturday afternoon. He said that they were going to get killed. I thought that the defense would play well and that the offense would most likely stink as has been the case the last 2 seasons.

Conversations like these are one of the reasons he and I enjoy sports. Turns out we were both correct. While USC hung 50 points on our heroes, the defense pretty much acquitted itself in a game in which the offense (supposedly kick-started by the elevation of Gus Malzahn from the high school ranks to offensive coordinator) sputtered when it wasn't flat out giving the ball away. Reggie Herring's boys kept the Hogs in the game until the 3rd quarter when the usually sure handed Marcus Monk flubbed an otherwise catchable ball which would up in the hands of a Trojan defender. USC scored 4 plays later for a 23-7 lead. Ball game. Arkansas's defense simply wore down due to lack of depth (linebacker Sam Olajubutu played more than 70 plays) and no rest due to the offense's ineptitude. You can't have that against a good team and expect to win. You can't have that against a Southern Cal and expect not to get your head handed to you.

I consider myself to be an enthusiastic and knowledgeable sports fan. Robert Frost said something along the lines of "I never feel more like an American than when I am at a ballgame." I wouldn't go that far. I happen to feel pretty damn American when I am in the voting booth. But it is a near thing, I will grant you. I think I have missed only 1 or 2 Razorback games in War Memorial in the last 15 years. I like to go to the ballgame. I like being out with my friends in the old neighborhood. If I live to be 100, one of my happiest memories will be seeing the wide-eyed look of wonder and delight on the face of an 8 year old at his first Razorback game. Like the commercial says, you just can't put a price tag on experiences like those.

Having said all of that, I confess to being an agnostic when it comes to all things Razorback. I mean, I root for them, especially when they are playing Ole Miss or LSU. Or Southern Cal for that matter. But I don't live and die with them as do others. Go to to spend some time with those that do. Suffice it to say, it is very ugly right now in Hogland.

Here, for what it is worth, are the thoughts of an agnostic sports fan on the situation as it currently obtains in Fayetteville.

Any team becomes the reflection of its coach, especially when it confronts adversity. And it has long been my thought that the Razorbacks under Houston Nutt don't react well to adversity. I would imagine that it is hard, as a player, to keep your composure when you notice your head coach sweating like a whore in church as he bites his fingernails to the quick. The Razorbacks under Nutt have always hit the panic button for the most part instead of calmly sticking to the plan or going to "Plan B."

Further, before they settled on Matt Jones 5 years ago, they had a quarterback controversy. Last year, the first year post-Jones, they had another one which was partially settled by the emergence of Casey Dick, only to be revived with the hiring of Gus Malzahn and the subsequent arrival of high school superstar Mitch Mustain. While Nutt can't do the first damn thing about what the fans say on the radio or on the Internet, he can quit sending mixed signals about what is going on up there.

Is this Houston Nutt's "make or break" year? Could be. Getting whacked on national TV is never good for business. If they don't win at least 8 games the seat will start to get very warm. But will the next hire achieve appreciably better results? Hard to say. Arkansas is not a very big state. The available pool of SEC caliber players around here is neither deep nor wide. It is hard to envision Arkansas ever being "2 deep" at every position like the semi-pro team they played last night. It may well be that the best the Razorbacks can ever hope for is to contend for the conference every 3-4 years. The talk of a national title, while not sheer folly, is hardly realistic.

Here's my prediction: Unless the hit the panic button, they can win 8 games this year which put them in a decent bowl. Forget last night. The defensive line and the linebackers are pretty damn good. The defensive backs are actually covering guys instead of just trying to knock 'em out which is a marked change for the better.

I though the hiring of Gus Malzahn was one of those "panic button" moments that we have come to expect. Will he become David Cutcliffe or will he be Gerry Faust? Hard to tell from last night's game. His hiring strikes me as on of those "panic button" moments I spoke of earlier. Besides, Alex Woods, the quarterbacks coach, has NFL experience. What's gonna happen when he and Malzahn disagree on who should start? Who does Nutt defer to? The coordinator or the guy who coached on Sunday? It will be interesting.

Still, if they can run as well as last year and throw the ball at all they can win 8 games. Whether that will be enough for the wild boys on the message boards remains to be seen.

I can live with that but I'm agnostic on all things Razorback. The problem for Houston is that there are far more guys like the guys on the boards than there are of me.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

Enjoy the long weekend! I'm taking a break myself.

Will return soon.