Thursday, December 30, 2010

Today's Wally: Thoughts About The Buckeyes And The Sugar Bowl

In his column today in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, sports editor Wally Hall discusses the impact of the brouhaha concerning Ohio State quarterback Terrell Pryor and the other Buckeye teammates who were punished for violating the NCAA's "extra benefit" rule when they sold sports memorabilia. The 5 players will be suspended for the first 5 games next season but are eligible to play in the Sugar Bowl against the Razorbacks.

No they won't: : "All five are juniors and and could declare for the NFL, so they may go unpunished since the NCAA has said they can play in the Sugar Bowl."

This situation as I have imagined it is completely unfair: "Which on one hand, is a crock of bad butter."

There is probably a reason for this: " No one has said it or written it until now.."

Making stuff up: [b]ut the most powerful entity in athletics (ESPN) probably had a behind-the scenes voice too."

Which of course ignores the fact that North Carolina and Tennessee are playing each other. Instead of the rule makers: " In fact, the story line is now bigger than the Buckeyes being 0-8 against the SEC in bowl games. You have the rule breakers versus the rule makers."

As opposed to another kind of fine: "A monetary fine doesn't scare the Buckeye brass."

Here's the use of subtle humor to explain why one of those monetary fines doesn't scare them: "They could get Pryor to autograph some jerseys and sell them to take care of that."

Except, as explained above, that's not what's going to happen: " It is just wrong to find the kids guilty and then tell them their punishment won't be until next season, when they probably won't be around."

What a crock of bad butter.

And with this post I shut down the blog until sometime next year. Probably won't be back until after the BCS Championship game.

Happy New Year! Have a safe and sane New Year's Eve.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bidness is Bidness

When it comes to unbridled hypocrisy the NCAA is matched only by, I dunno, say, your average televangelist. Those opposing the elimination of "don't ask, don't tell." The Republican National Committee. Insert your favorite here.

Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor and 5 other Ohio State Buckeyes sold championship rings and other bowl memorabilia. They also received discount tattoos in exchange for autographs. Pryor even sold a award given to him for sportsmanship.

That young man should learn to be less sentimental. That big heart of his is gonna get him in trouble someday.

Selling such trinkets is a violation of the NCAA's "extra benefit" rule which within the context of the above-enumerated violations means that our heroes could not sell such items as this would constitute an "extra benefit" that the average student would not be able to receive. I mean, nobody is looking to buy an autographed picture of some guy in the physics lab.

But the real reason that the NCAA frowns on this kind of stuff is that the system is rigged to where the "student-athlete" has to work relatively inexpensively while the schools and the NCAA gets all the money from the games, the media and the memorabilia.

And so they moved swiftly to come down hard on the offenders. Or did they? Pryor and his fellow entrepreneurs are suspended for the first 5 games of next season. Not for the game against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. Next season.

Mark May of ESPN is an immanently reasonable guy. He claims that the NCAA goes light on the Big Ten. He said if Arkansas' Ryan Mallett had done the same thing that Pryor did he would have been suspended for the game. Which is nonsense. Cam Newton's story that he didn't have the slightest idea that his Dad was pimping him out is completely unbelievable. But the NCAA bought it. Or they made him eligible for the BCS Championship game because there was no evidence "at that time" that Newton's family had hired an agent and received money.

Does the punishment here in the Buckeye bust fit the crime? Probably not. They suspended Georgia's A.J. Green immediately when they caught him selling his Independence Bowl jersey to a kid suspected of being an agent's runner.

But an Ohio State team minus Terrelle Pryor might mess up the TV ratings for the Sugar Bowl. Not that the NCAA claims to pay attention to these things, but a depleted Buckeye roster might even cause the contest to get pulled off the Board in Vegas. Same deal with Auburn. It's all about the money.

And the NCAA would be the last institution in the Western Hemisphere to let trifles like fairness and consistency get in the way of business.

Which is enough to make a person downright cynical. I hate that.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It Came Upon A Midnight Clear - Christmas Carol - Pipe Organ

Finally, we come to my favorite Christmas carol, or at least my favorite for everyday household use. I've always thought that the hymn tune itself is as stately as they come. But the words are entirely grown up, which certainly is not the case with your average carol.

Indeed, "Midnight Clear" was one of the congregational hymns sung at Mother's funeral about a year ago. Mother suffered greatly in the last year of her life as the ravages of Parkinson's Disease took its final lethal hold.

Hearken unto the 3rd verse:

"And ye, beneath's life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low,
who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,
look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing."

Rest beside the weary road today for a bit. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ralph Vaughan Williams Hodie - "Lullaby" With Soprano and Female Chorus

Most Christmas cantatas in the English tradition have a "lullaby" that is sung by the female voices. The most beautiful of these in my opinion is the lullaby from "Hodie" by English composer Sir Ralph Vaughn Williams. I said RALPH VAUGHN WILLIAMS, Son! Tennnnnn-HUT!

This performance is by the California Baptist University Choral Union. It is a little hot so turn it down a notch. And the conductor takes this a little quick for my tastes but I'm certain that he would care not a whit about my opinion.

Anyway, I seem to recall that the libretto for "Hodie" (pronounced Ho-dee-yay) was written by his wife Ursula Vaughn Williams. I point this out simply because I think that the fact that Sir Ralph (pronounced Rafe) was married to someone named Ursula is pretty fabulous.

I have an uncle up in Quitman named Ralph. He pronounces if Ralf.

Handel's Messiah - 'Pastoral Symphony'

Back in Handel's day, the aristocracy amused themselves during Christmas parties by dressing as the poor shepherds that abided in the fields watching over their flocks by night and doing God knows what else. They would sing Christmas carols while thus in drag. This practice is still followed today in the Heights and gated subdivisions in West Little Rock. Anyway, Handel knew his audience and so he wrote an instrumental interlude before bringing on the shepherds in the Christmas section of "Messiah." This interlude is called "pifa" which if memory serves, and it will have to because I am too lazy to actually do research, the sonorous sound that Handel wrote into the strings resembles the shepherd's pipes. It eventually became known as the "Pastoral Symphony" for no other reason than it sounds snootier than a piece about shepherd's pipes.

Anyway, there is a long "pifa" and a short one which is used if the director of the program wants to Get On With It. I give you the long version just because I think "pifa" is one of the best parts of "Messiah."

And no, it's not 'Handel's Messiah."

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel {Robert Shaw}

Ok. It's not like you can dance to this or anything. But "O Come. O Come" is worthy of inclusion in the list for its antiquity if nothing else. That, and if there is anything close to the National Anthem of the Roman Catholic Church it is this ancient chant goosed up a bit by Mr. Shaw. Some would hold out for the Notre Dame Fight Song. But this is my list and I have no use for the Fighting Irish or their insufferable alumni.

So there.

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabelle {Robert Shaw}

As I have time today I will contribute to the Holiday by posting Christmas music that does not suck. There won't be many offerings as most Christmas music is indeed pretty dreadful. First out of the box is the late Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony Chorus with their arrangement of "Bring a Torch Jeanette, Isabella." The loveliness of this old French carol allows one to forget momentarily that it is highly unlikely that there were any little girls named Jeanette or Isabella in Bethlehem of Judea. And they probably wouldn't be allowed to go running around with flambeaus. This did not dissuade the author of this traditional French carol much as concerns about historical accuracy did not deter the French from pretty much inventing the damn holiday in the first place.

Joyeux Noel!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Slim Whitman - White Cristmas.wmv

To me it's just not Christmas without Slim. Besides, Slim's never sung anything by John Rutter.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

King's College, Cambridge "What Sweeter Music"

I am not a big fan of John Rutter. Indeed, I began my extended hiatus from church music when faced with prospect of having to sin the Rutter Magnificat for, like, the 5th time in my life. Anyway, most of his stuff strikes me as English High Church mush. But this is not. You might know this piece from Christmas music. Or you might know it as the background music for Volvo ads that were run about 10 ten years ago. What you may not know is that Rutter, who has written tons of church music, and is laughing all the way to the Bank of England, is an agnostic.

And that's the kind of insight that we pride ourselves on here at tmfw.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

My excellent friend and personal concierge Lila told me the other night that I didn't seem to be as big of a Scrooge as I typically am this time of year. Well, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that I was slacking off in that department but I have been kind of busy this season what with one damn thing or another.

I was reminded of this after I picked up my car at the shop Friday afternoon. The manager shook my hand and said "Happy Holidays." Then I remembered.

There's a war on. Or at least some would have you believe that there is anyway.

Google the phrase "war on Christmas" and your browser will sniff out all manner of sites devoted to the subject. Most of them, as far as I can tell, believe that there are murky nefarious groups out there devoted to the insidious eventual erasure of all of the religious significance of the Holiday. Indeed, it is thought that some of the groups, probably the same ones that are behind the Federal Reserve, the Gay Agenda and the suppression of the true place of birth of Barack Obama, are hellbent on reducing the Christmas story to that of a myth. Which caused the irrepressible Stephen Colbert to ask of these folks " What part of a story about 3 wise men crossing the desert in the dead of winter to follow a star they had seen in a dream in order to give gifts to a baby god born to a virgin do you regard as myth?"

Or something along those lines anyway.

Of course, just because something is mythical doesn't mean that it is void of meaning. George Washington was a real life human being. That he did not a) chop down the cherry tree or b) refuse to lie about his having done so (which he had not done) is irrelevant to the truth embodied in the myth that Washington was a pillar of rectitude even as a young man.

There's also a difference between a myth and lie. The above passage is an example of a myth. Saying that Barack Obama was not born in the good ole USA is a lie and goddamned lie at that.

So I'm good with myths. Or at least I'm not offended by the notion of their prominence in stories from the Bible. But I digress.

I recently read an article which posits that the so-called War Against Christmas has ended. And Christmas lost. You can read the article here: .

I greatly admire Father Martin and am reading one of his books. His admonition to eschew the crass commercialization of the season and to make the Holiday season smaller and more contemplative is well taken regardless of your particular religious zip code.

But back to "Happy Holidays." I am not offended by neither the neutral salutation nor the traditional "Merry Christmas!" I will go Father one better and say that the actual Feast Day of Christmas has been so devalued in the consciousness through course of dealing and usage of trade (to borrow a phrase from the Uniform Commercial Code) that the expression "Merry Christmas" has practically no more religious significance then "Gesundheit!".

How's that for being a Scrooge Lila? I have to admit that felt good!

Oh. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yesterday's Wally: A Walk Down Memory Lane With The SMU Mustangs!

The Democrat-Gazette's Wally Hall upon ESPN's excellent documentary Pony Expre$$ which is about SMU and the cheatingest football program pretty much in history.

I'm not hating on SMU: "Southern Methodist University has always been, and most likely will continue to be, a beautiful campus with strong academics."

I don't remember exactly where exactly in Dallas SMU's located: "Nestled into a section of bustling Dallas..."

But it really is pretty: " [t]he private school sits safely like an oasis in a private park."

But boy, did those guys cheat in football in the early Eighties: " There is absolutely no semblance that it was once the dirtiest football program in America.."

That we know of: "[o]r at least the dirtiest program that got caught."

The documentary was thorough: "[i]t pretty much lays it out there."

SMU had a pretty good run for 4 years until they played Guess Who?: " In 1982, they were sailing along undefeated when the Arkansas Razorbacks came to town."

This much is true: "After a totally bogus pass interference call...SMU was able to tie the game at 17-17."

There is absolutely no semblance that SMU's coach was a chickenshit sumbitch:" The Mustangs wanted to go for two, but Coach Bobby Collins wanted the Cotton Bowl, which a tie assured them of earning."

There is absolutely no semblance about this shit
either: "When they resumed playing (after receiving the Death Penalty from the NCAA) it was ugly. They went 9-35 overall in the first four years, 2-29 in SWC play."

What yesterday's column had very little semblance to was English.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm Just Sorry George Steinbrenner Isn't Here To Witness This

Christmas came early for manager Charlie Manual this year when it was announced that former Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee had resigned with the Philadelphia Phillies. It was widely assumed that the only two suitors in the game were the Texas Rangers, with whom he went to the World Series this year, and the hated New York Yankees who have more money than God.

Oh the irony. Philadelphia traded Lee to Seattle to get current ace Roy Halladay. Seattle traded him to the Rangers in exchange for young talent. And now he's signed a free agent contract with the team that got rid of him 2 seasons ago. Lee's deal is for over 100 million for 5 years with a "vesting option" for a 6th. According to an interview with the Rangers General Manager on ESPN, Lee said he and his wife enjoyed their time in Philadelphia and wanted to go back.

I've been around Cliff Lee a little bit. While I can't say that I know him I can say that he is a very quiet, pleasant, and very grounded. I know a guy who married into the family. He reported that a recent dinner at Lee's house was takeout pizza and pop. Lee is also generous with his time and money, being a major donor to both the Miracle League of Arkansas and Arkansas Children's Hospital. So when he says he liked Philadelphia and wanted to go back, I see no reason to disbelieve him.

Besides, the money at his stage of his career is just an accounting issue. He ain't hurting. Maybe he's one of the few guys at that level of sports who places lifestyle above money. Especially since it is not exactly an issue for him.

So now the Phillies have easily the best rotation in baseball. Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter in a playoff game last season. Cliff is Cliff. Roy Oswalt went through stretches with the Astros when he was unhittable. And Cole Hamel was their ace 3 years ago. Running a baseball game is a whole hell of a lot easier when your choice between your #3 guy and your #4 is between Oswalt and Hamel.

Is signing a 32 year old pitcher to a 5 year deal for a gazillion dollars a risk? Absolutely. But even given the crazy economics of professional sports, Cliff Lee may be worth it. A Milton Bradley or Albert Haynesworth he is not. A proven winner and clubhouse guy he is.

I know a woman from Philly. She says the pizza there is great. Good for Cliff and the family. You can buy a lot of takeout pizza for 120 million.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

If there exists a more evil and despicable person than the "Rev." Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas, I do not want to know him. Naturally, he and a small group of his followers came to Raleigh, North Carolina last week to attempt to befoul with their malevolent presence the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards. According to the local paper they were pretty much unsuccessful due to a phalanx of people that had turned out to block those bastards from sight. As one gentleman who had come out to confront Phelps group told the Raleigh-Durham News and Observer," I know she has young children who don't need to be seeing this kind of hate."


Cancer claimed Elizabeth Edwards virtually a moment after she had made the announcement that her doctors had told her that further treatments were of no use. It is said that the doctors were surprised that her life had ended so quickly after treatment was stopped. They had told her she had weeks to live. That just goes to show you that you never know.

Her breast cancer was discovered during her husband's first campaign for the Presidency. It returned 4 years later when he ran again. This time it was discovered in her ribs. The second bout was pronounced incurable. Around that time rumors of John Edwards' infidelity were swirling about the campaign. In August, 2008 John Edwards admitted that he indeed had an affair with a videographer hired by his campaign. Elizabeth admitted that she knew of the affair and had attempted to keep it quiet. In 2010, John Edwards revealed that he was the father of Rielle Hunter's daughter. He and Elizabeth separated. And they never reunited.

To be sure, Elizabeth Edwards was complicit in the insane attempt to keep her husband's infidelity a secret during his second run for the White House. It is a good thing for the country if not the Democratic Party that they were unsuccessful. What if this news had come out during his Presidency or if he had been named Attorney General by President Obama, as was widely thought to be the plan? Unlike you and me, public figures are not entitled to messy personal lives. What could they have possibly been thinking?

And yet, today is not the day to dwell on such matters. Women across the country related to Elizabeth Edwards and not just because of the breast cancer. She had lost a child in an accident and the pain of that day was her constant companion. She struggled with her weight. She showed tremendous grace and class despite the public humiliation visited upon her by her husband. Indeed, John Edwards was present in their former home during her final days. As one of her friends said she told her, "After all, he's still family." With that simple statement she demonstrated more grace than I could ever mustered under the circumstances.

Whatever good John Edwards achieved in this life, he will be forever remembered as a phony and a cad. Compelled by his hubris, he not only thought himself to be in the league of great men but that the rules that bind such men did not apply to him.

Elizabeth Edwards, despite her flaws, will be judged far more kindly.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Vox Populi: Relationship Advice

Had a conversation the other day with a friend about he and his girlfriend.

Friend: I saw an article online the other day. It was called "The Top Ten Signs Of A Failing Relationship."

Me: Yeah?

Friend: I recognized all ten.

Me: Except one.

Friend: What's that?

Me: Actually reading shit like "The Top Ten Signs Of A Failing Relationship."

Friend: Good point. Guess I'm up to eleven. Thanks a lot.

Me: That's what I'm here for.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Slacking Off

The literary world will but little note but there will be no MSF today. Between a gig for the paper and more social functions than what I am used to I didn't have time.

Will be back soon. Blogging helps me avoid the Holidays.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Christmas Comes Early For The War Damn Eagles

One of the things I say about being a sports fan is that it is one area of human endeavor in which just when you think you have seen it all, something else comes along that completely surprises you. In this case, it is the lightning fast determination that Cam Newton is indeed eligible to play in both the SEC Conference championship game and the BCS title game should Auburn beat South Carolina next Saturday. NCAA investigations typically take forever, primarily due to the rather small enforcement staff and the lack of subpoena power. The Reggie Bush investigation took 4 years. The North Carolina investigation is still ongoing. As far as we know, any investigation the NCAA did on the Cam Newton situation took less than a year. That's unheard of.

And boy did they have to go through a circuitous route to get there. According to ESPN, here is what went down: On Monday the NCAA notified Auburn that a violation of Newton's amateur status had occurred, namely the solicitation of money from Mississippi State by an individual allegedly acting on behalf of Cecil Newton, Cam's father, as a condition of Cam's suiting up for the Bulldogs. Auburn then declared Cam ineligible and applied for reinstatement. Which the NCAA granted.

According to the statement issued by the NCAA, "Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone at Auburn was aware of this activity (on the part of the father) which led to his reinstatement (emphasis supplied)."

"The conduct of Cam Newton's father and the involved individual is unacceptable and has no place in the SEC or in intercollegiate athletics," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said today. " The actions taken by Auburn University and Mississippi State University make it clear that this behavior will not be tolerated in the SEC."

Obviously, I see the hands of the lawyers involved in this, being one myself. And, as I like to say at times like these is this: All we know is what we know.

And all we know is this. Cecil Newton tried to shake Mississippi State down and Mississippi State refused to pay. And we may infer that nobody at Auburn University was aware of the prior dealings with Mississippi State and that nobody employed by it was solicited or paid Cecil Newton based on the information the NCAA knows at this time. But did Cecil Newton approach one of Auburn's boosters? That we don't know.

I mean, come on. If Rev. Newton is willing to pimp his child out to one school is it believable that he didn't approach others? It's not like Auburn doesn't have a record in this area. Or Alabama either for that matter.

Secondly, how could Cam Newton not know about this? I mean, I suppose it is theoretically possible. But it is not very likely. And in any event, the NCAA obviously feels it doesn't have enough proof at this time-those all important words-not to reinstate him.

But what does it matter what Cam did or didn't know? According to Section 14 of the SEC By-laws, if a student athlete or any member of his family receives or agrees to receive, directly or indirectly, any aid or assistance beyond what is authorized, the student athlete is ineligible. The problem here is that Mississippi State didn't pay Cecil Newton's representative any money. And I don't think offering up Cam in exchange for money constitutes "an agreement to receive" an illegal payment.

Still, the By-laws also give Mike Slive the authority to render ineligible any student-athlete that is involved in activities that violate the rules or spirit of the rules governing the recruiting process. But the NCAA has ruled that Cam Newton had no knowledge that his father was pimping him out. So he wasn't involved based on information the NCAA has at this time. I don't think Slive can do anything to Cam without being sued.

So why did the NCAA step in at this time? I think it is because it didn't want the BCS Championship game to take place under a cloud of suspicion. Further, it knows full damn well that an Auburn team without Cam Newton is not the same one that went undefeated in the SEC. They rule Cam ineligible at this time and Auburn fans don't travel to Arizona for the title game. Sponsors bail and TV ratings go through the floor.

Everybody has got too much invested to go straight now. And so the lawyers worked it out.

But don't think this has gone away. It's just gone away for now. And by the time this shitstorm resurfaces, Cam will be in the NFL.

Have fun while it lasts Tiger fans!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Welcome to Fort Worth, Georgetown Fans!

We now can say this without hesitation or fear of contradiction. The Athletic Director at Texas Christian University evidently does not give a rat's ass about football. Because yesterday TCU announced that it is leaving the Mountain West conference for the Big East. Now, you might recall that Ft. Worth is nowhere near the closest Big East schools that it will compete against in football which tend to be on the East Coast. Also, as Mike Greenberg of ESPN Radio pointed out, TCU, with its 9,000 students is neither big nor East.

But what it has is one hell of a football program. The TCU Horned Frogs are undefeated and ranked # 3 in the country. But they are forced to toil in the Mountain West Conference which has no automatic bid to a Bowl Championship Series bowl game whereas the Big East inexplicably does. Granted, West Virginia is pretty good and Rutgers and Pitt have been good in recent years. But the Big East is primarily a basketball conference.

My guess is the thinking in Ft. Worth was that it was too much pressure to go undefeated in the Mountain West every year to get a shot a BCS game which carries a bigger payday. So rather than fight the system, they go to the Big East where they will play higher ranked opponents than the clowns out in the Mountain West and still pretty much cuff everybody around.

I don't know who coaches the Horned Frogs basketball team. The fact that I don't know this should tell you much about their stature in the hoops pantheon. Because I KNOW THESE THINGS.

But whoever this poor bastard is, he must be about to put a gun to his head. Because he is now in a conference with the likes of Louisville, Syracuse, UConn, West Virginia and Pitt. Not to mention the Catholic schools like St. John's, Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette, Seton Hall, Notre Dame (Big East in every sport but football) and Providence. If they win 3 conference games their first year in I will be stunned.

Needless to say, this is stupid. TCU has no business playing intercollegiate sports against teams located in Rhode Island and Syracuse which is damn near in Canada. It will be a logistical nightmare because not only will the football team have to travel up there, but so will every other team TCU fields. And the other members of the Big East will have to do likewise.

But nobody cares about that. TCU wants an easier way to get into the BCS roulette. They get away from Air Force who nobody in their right mind wants to play if they can avoid it. They get the prestige (such as it is) of hanging out with Notre Dame without having to fool with them in football who you have to figure will quit sucking eventually even if they have to go through 5 more coaches to get there. The Big East thinks it will get more respect as a football conference just by admitting a team into its fold that will likely kick the living hell out of most of the other teams there in that sport.

To hell with the travel costs. To hell with time away from school. What are the kids gonna do? Take online courses?

It's all about football. It's all about money. It's about gaming the system. Which TCU-or anybody else in the college football world- wouldn't have to do if there was a playoff in college football. With a playoff structure, the conversation about the Killer Frogs playing games in Morgantown and Storrs on a regular basis does not happen.

But I suppose some expansion of cultural horizons could come from this. A kid from Hooks might get to see her first blizzard. A kid from South Orange will get to experience a town where men wear cowboy boots with suits.

This is stupid. But this is big time football.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Today's Wally: The LSU Game

Well, that was kinda the reason he and the other receivers were in there: "Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino had his good-hands team up front, and as fate would have it, Cobi Hamilton...went up and came down with that onside kick."

Except they didn't have any batons that I could see and nobody tested positive for steroids after the game: "LSU is fast. The Tigers' defense is like an Olympic relay team..."

Wally Manley Hopkins: " [R]yan Mallett found Hamilton at the UA 35. Hamilton made a small duck to shuck the safety..."

Bet he was on a relay team: "Hamilton, who was a teammate of Mallett's at Texas High and was a track standout..."

My Sunday Feeling

As you know, we are nothing if not scrupulously fair here at TMFW. So let me begin this week's post by congratulating the Auburn Tigers on their thrilling, if not improbable, 28-27 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Bammers spotted the Woe Eagles 24 points only to have the visiting Tigers completely dominate the second half.

Not to take anything away from Auburn, but it was a complete gag job on the part of Alabama. A collapse of historic proportions in the history of possibly the most intense rivalry in college football. Insert your own favorite way to describe calamity here. Nick Saban will probably execute some players tomorrow at sunrise after he reviews the game film.

Still, one must also give credit where credit is due. Auburn's quarterback, the wondrous Cam Newton, made the big runs and throws with the game on the line. He would be a lead pipe cinch for the Heisman Trophy but for a little problem that surfaced at the beginning of the season.

First, some background. If there is any state that has long since lost any sense of proportion about Division I football it is Alabama. It is no exaggeration to say that the much of what makes sense there politically and business wise revolves around the rivalry between the two schools. For example, my friend Don used to practice law in Birmingham. He said that part of their trial strategy routinely involved making sure an Auburn lawyer didn't get in front of an Alabama judge. He found this ridiculous, only because it is, and moved out to California after a few years.

Secondly, Auburn University-at least the athletic department- has been pretty much run by a Trustee named Bobby Lowder. Lowder-a wealthy former banker (more on that later) has his fingerprints on every personnel move involving the football program over the last 15 years including the infamous secret trip to Louisville along with the de facto Athletic Director to court Bobby Petrino. This was while Tommy Tuberville was still under contract.

Now to Cam Newton. Cam left Florida after allegedly stealing a laptop. Cam says he left because he wasn't going to get any PT with Tim Tebow at quarterback. Cam winds up at an obscure Junior College in Texas where he wins the JC National Championship. He is a hot commodity. Here's where the fun starts.

2 years ago Auburn fires Tommy Tuberville for no apparent reason except that Alabama's hiring of Saban scares the bejesus out of the Woe Eagle faithful. They hire Gene Chizik from Iowa State. Meanwhile back in Mississippi, Mississippi State gets rid of Sylvester Croom. Former Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen takes the job at Bulldog High. Both Auburn and MSU recruit Cam.

About last October, former Bulldog quarterback John Bond issues a statement through a lawyer that a year or so ago he was approached by a guy named Kenny Rodgers who holds himself out as representing Cecil Newton the father of Cam Newton. Bond alleges Rodgers told him that Cecil would deliver Cam to Mississippi State for $180,000. All hell busts out on cue.

Rodgers just happens to work for an agent. Cecil Newton says he knows Rodgers but that Rodgers wasn't authorized to speak to MSU on his behalf. MSU says it declined to pay but continued to recruit Cam "normally." Cam says he don't know nothin' about nothin'. Auburn says that its recruitment of Cam Newton was on the up and up and that Cam is 100% eligible.

And just as if this situation couldn't get any more entangled, an Internet post entitled "As The Plains Burns" gets posted on an LSU discussion Board outlining the author's massive conspiracy theory involving Auburn football, Federal investigations into the failure of Bobby Lowder's bank (hence the reference to him being a former banker), and Alabama politicians. You can read it here at the jump:

At this point in the show, I have some questions and observations.

1) Why did Mississippi State continue to recruit Cam Newton "normally" when it knew that at least somebody connected with the kid had tried to shale them down? Is it because this is business as usual in the SEC?

2) If indeed, Rodgers tried to "shop" Cam Newton to MSU, why didn't they report it to the SEC Commissioner's office?

3) Cecil Newton is a preacher. He pastors a church outside of Georgia. The church was cited for numerous code violations. It was threatened with getting razed. Supposedly, the church was recently brought up to code and Cecil has a new truck. This has been reported not only on the Internet but in the straight press as well. Where did the money come from?

4) We know that the Feds are sniffing around and have wiretaps on at least on Auburn booster who has been indicted over trying to bribe legislators in return for favorable votes for his casino interests. They are investigating the failure of Lowder's bank which is what they always do when a bank fails. Bond has told the media the FBI told him they were looking into the question of "selling players." They got wiretaps. They have subpoena power. Some guys over in the "Loveliest Village On The Plains" have got to be sweating buckshot.

5) While I am not one for conspiracy theories, I will say that if 1/4 of what "As the Plains Burns" is true, Auburn has a serious, serious problem with the NCAA. I don't believe that it will get the Death Penalty or get kicked out of the SEC as the post predicts. But they could get on probation for a millennium and have to forfeit any wins that Cam Newton participated. Which would be all of them this season.

6) And I fully believe that there are many Auburn crazy types that do not give a shit just so long as they beat Alabama and Cam gets the Heisman.

7) I also believe that Alabama is not exactly pure of heart in this regard. I'm sure that boosters there have figured out ways to slip money to players. In any event, I love the story in the Internet post about Auburn people paying Alabama's Gene Jelks to stay at Bammer and get them in trouble with the NCAA. Don't know if it's even remotely true. But I like it.

And this may be why Cam Newton may not get the Heisman. Overrated and useless as it is, there are some that take its award seriously. And rumor has it that some of the voters do not relish the thought of a repeat of the Reggie Bush situation where he was forced to return the trophy after it was revealed that his family had received "loans" from an agent while Bush was at Southern Cal. Which is perilously close to the situation here depending on what the Feds or the NCAA kicks up on Cecil Newton or some wild boy Auburn boosters.

This is enough scandal and intrigue for one weekend. I'm now going to turn to the relatively simple story of the heightened tension between North and South Korea for some diversion.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Today's Wally: The Mississippi State Edition

It was an exciting contest: "Momentum swung back and forth openly and often."

Making stuff up: " With 0:01 showing on the clock (MSU's) Derek DePasquale 22-yard field goal field goal tied it at 31-31 and sent it to overtime, which rarely favors the visitors."

Naturally: "Unless they are Razorbacks..."

The Bulldogs weren't just trying to win they were trying: " To jerk the Sugar or Cotton Bowl welcome mat from under the feet of their visitors."

The Bulldogs favored a physical style of play: " They did it the old-fashioned way; they lined up and ran it up the gut, slamming and whamming into grass-stained uniforms of the Hogs."

The Hogs' early excellence in the game seemed prophetic indeed: "Earlier the Hogs appeared ready to make a huge statement. One that would quiet the cowbells, the crowd and maybe send the BCS computers spinning into overdrive."

Stealing from Clement Clarke Moore while making more stuff up: " Visions of big bowls were dancing in the heads of the Razorbacks."

The ensuing fumble by Knile Davis while the Hogs were thus distracted by visions gladdened the hick home crowd immensely : " [T]he bells echoed across the darkness and into the deer woods 50 miles away."

The Bulldogs' next drive was fearsome to behold: The Bulldogs began a time consuming, almost mind-numbing 70 yard drive..."

And now to end with the following almost mind-numbingly self evident sentence: "It was not just a great game, it was a classic match-up of coaches trying to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses."

My Sunday Feeling

There were 3 women sitting at the table next to me at lunch the other day. I am not one to eavesdrop and I am pretty deaf in restaurants even were I to be so inclined. But it was hard not to catch snippets of their animated discussion about one woman's husband who had, so I gather, become disenchanted with the particular Big Box church out in West Little Rock they had been attending.

The first sign of trouble began when the husband in question, "Jerry," had lost interest in and quit going to, a marriage enrichment class offered by this particular church. Without knowing all of the particulars, I would have to say that I tend to side with Jerry. Most of my buddies who have had to endure such classes and/or couples counseling found them to be, shall we say, productive. But now it appears that Jerry won't go to church at all. This was where one of the women encouraged her sister in arms to put her foot down.

"Unfortunately, and I hate to say it, but you are going to have to take responsibility for your family's spiritual growth, "she said. " Now this is going to threaten Jerry. You know how you handle this?"

"No. How?" Mrs. Jerry asked.

"You tell him 'Jerry this isn't about you. It's about God.' "

"That's right." said the third rail.

It's not about Jerry. It's about God. That was it? Really?

For some reason I instantly recalled the story about Voltaire on his deathbed. It is said that the Church had sent a priest to try one last time to convert the unabashed atheist philosopher and polemicist. Voltaire's eyes were failing him late in life so he could not fully make out the shadowy being hovering over his bed.

"Who is there?" Voltaire asked.

" I was sent by God," replied the cleric.

" Your credentials, Sir," Voltaire is said to have famously replied.

Religious discourse, like many other areas of modern discourse, has been reduced to coded language and sound bites. This should not be surprising. As Dr. Christie told generations of future Methodist preachers, "Religion always adapts to the social milieu of the time." And American society, in the age of instant information, wants instant certitude.

Which brings me back to the ladies and Jerry. "It's not about you it's about God" has got a nice ring to it, but it rings about as true as its equally unbelievable cousin that is typically trotted out when people are extricating themselves from relationships: "It's not about you it's about me."

Of couuuuuurrrrrrrrse it's about you. You want out. This is self-evident.

But why is Mrs. Jerry's insistence that he attend church "about God?" Sure, it's about God in the sense that this is why people go to church. I don't know these folks from the Man in the Moon, but I think an equally plausible explanation is that is not just about Jerry or God. It's about her. And them as much as it is "about God."

It's just a sound bite. And it is as authoritarian as it is completely unprovable. Which makes it such a 2010 kind of thing to say.

This women all seemed very earnest and determined. I'm sure they believe they have Mr. and Mrs. Jerry's best interests at heart. But any solution that sounds like it would be at home on a bumper sticker probably isn't much of a solution.

But I know this. I'm glad I ain't Jerry. Because he is fixin' to catch Unshirted Hell come Sunday morning. And unlike Voltaire, it would behoove him to keep sarcasm to a minimum.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Naming of Parts

Most military poetry, like most military music, is pretty dreadful stuff. "Naming of Parts" by English poet and World War II veteran Henry Reed, is not. I thought of this great poem while walking through the National Cemetery last week. Really.

Naming of Parts

Vixi duellis nuper idoneus
Et militavi non sine gloria

To-day we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And to-morrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But to-day,
To-day we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighboring gardens,
And to-day we have naming of parts.

This is the lower sling level. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see,
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in their gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.

This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easy
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.

And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the Spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.

They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got: and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For to-day we have naming of parts.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Greetings From The Natural State!

The Arkansas Legislature is back in session, its mighty acts to perform. As we all know, these are exceedingly troubled times. The problems facing our elected representatives are numerous and daunting.

So naturally, the first Bill introduced by a freshman Republican State Legislator was a bill changing the State Motto from "The Natural State" back to "Land of Opportunity." It is my understanding that some of our sister states intend to follow the example of our beloved Arkansas and are changing the mottoes that grace the various license tags that drive through our state en route to somewhere else. Here is but a partial list.

Michigan: The Thank God For Barack Obama State

New York: The Asshole State

Texas: Football, Guns and Jesus!

South Carolina: Lindsey Graham Ain't Gay

California: Insolvent But For Apple and the Porn Industry

Louisiana: The What The Fuck Else Could Happen Down Here State

Kentucky: Cigarettes, Whiskey and Suspicious Fires In Horse Stables

Wisconsin: Come and Freeze in the Land of Cheese

Illinois: An Exceedingly More Corrupt and Colder Version Of California

Colorado: Tell Us Again Why We Joined The Pac 10!

Idaho: We Hate The BCS!

Utah: Where Young Girls Are Not Safe

Alaska: We May Be Totally Dependant On Uncle Sam But We Need To Take Our Flippin' Country Back Dontcha Know?

North Carolina: It's Not Like We Actually Care About Football

Virginia: I'm Sorry. Were You Talking To Me?

South Dakota: Scary White People!

Tennessee: Taking Bids on Memphis!

Wait. This just in. Another Bill will be introduced in the Ledge tomorrow suggestive of another new State Motto.

Arkansas: We Done Lost Our Mind Last Election Day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

I had not been to the National Cemetery here in Little Rock in years. I don't much like cemeteries unless they are of some historic significance like Mount Holly in downtown Little Rock or the ones at Civil War battlefields. But the dawn of Veteran's Day this year filled me with a desire to go pay my respects to my father who is buried there.

The visual image that confronts the visitor that passes through the gate is intense almost beyond measure. Simple white stones for the most part, standing "row on row" as the old and much overrated poem says, for as far as the eye can see.

Now, we all gotta go. And cemeteries everywhere all pretty much have the same geometry. But in your basic National Cemetery, the headstones are all the same which transmits a powerful message to the visitor. All those resting beneath this sacred ground, despite whatever differences between them in life, are all alike. Walking through the grounds I couldn't help but think of the Paul Westerberg song, "Pine Box" with the hard boiled lyrics "Pine box, white stone. You get a pine box and a free ride home."

Not all of the dead at the National Cemetery were killed in action in the service of their country. Indeed, my own father's service to nicotine is what got him killed. Still, all here wore the uniform, or were related to somebody who wore the uniform, of the Armed Forces of the United States and received an Honorable Discharge.

You can't buy a plot there. But you sure as hell have to earn it. And the coin of this particular realm is duty, sacrifice and honor. Cosi Fan Tutti. They are all alike.

You don't get much extraneous information on the headstones at the National Cemetery. The picture in the post last Thursday just recites the facts. Buck Bowen was a Christian as denoted by the presence of the cross on his headstone. He served in the Navy during World War II. He lived. He died. His rank at Discharge was EM3 which my buddy Don correctly figured out stood for Electrician's Mate, 3rd class.

That makes sense. Dad was a Seabee, which is Navy slang for Construction Brigade.

Which brings to mind the first line of "Pine Box."

"He never hit my mama,

but he hit that beach at Omaha."

My dad hit the beach with the Marines at Iwo Jima. Eighteen. Lied to get into the service. Like most guys who see serious shit, he never really talked much about it. I know he felt comparatively lucky to be a radioman when they went ashore which meant that he was not on the point. That was the upside. The downside was that he got shot at a lot because he had a box on his back.

I know that he helped build airstrips and that he wore a machine gun as he climbed the telephone poles they set up for telephone and telegraph. I know that he learned basic electrician skills because he wired the addition to our house in Mabelvale much to the horror of my Mother who just knew that we would be incinerated once and all due to Dad's handiwork.

"Hell, Donice," I remember him telling her. "I learned how to do this in the Navy. Besides, AP&L (as it was known then) won't let me throw a switch until they approve it." That latter bit of information comforted her only slightly.

I also know that my father didn't consider himself to be much of a hero. He was just glad to get through the war in one piece and return to Porter County, Indiana where, incidentally, his Discharge papers entitled him to lifetime hunting and fishing privileges. If his Discharge would have entitled him to play golf for free he could have gotten greater use out of that.

I don't suspect that many of the dead at the National Cemetery considered themselves heroes either. Sure, some of them signed up to go to war. But some signed up to learn a trade. Some signed up to see a bit of the world. Some signed up to stay out of jail.

There can be dignity in simplicity. And the simple government issued tombstones convey a powerful message about those that sleep beneath them at the National Cemetery.

They are there because they wore the uniform. They are all alike.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

I have told this story before. I once worked for a Judge who told me that about all he knew about politics was that it was always a bad idea to vote for anybody that is running on a platform of honesty and integrity. I have adopted Judge Ginger's maxim as my own although I have tweaked it a bit. Not only do I not vote for anybody that runs on such a platform, I also refuse to vote for anybody who campaigns on a platform of "restoring traditional values" or somesuch malarkey.

And guess what? I got outvoted bigtime last Tuesday.

Our new Lt. Governor-elect claims that God told him to run. Our new Secretary of State-elect is opposed to health care reform. Not that he can do the first damn thing about it. The Congressman-elect in the 1st District is a former rodeo clown who has been in a bankruptcy.

None of these guys could have gotten elected Town Drunk two years ago. And they won their elections with platforms of utter hooey about values and being against Obama and little else. So. What the hell happened?

I am no political scientist. But I think President Obama and the Democrats did an exceptionally lousy job of getting out their message for one thing. While the Tea Party started to rage Obama was all tied up over that stupid controversy with Skip Gates and the police officer. A controversy largely started by his popping off at a press conference.

Secondly, he continued to stay curiously above the fray as all hell was busting out in the electorate. As one writer has said, nobody gets credit for avoiding the plane crash. But the White House sure did a lousy job of explaining to the American people how it a) saved the automotive industry, b) prevented a world wide economic catastrophe that may have resulted in a depression and c) created health care reforms that will benefit all Americans. Not to mention troop reductions in Iraq just as he promised while maintaining robust if largely clandestine military activity against the Taliban and its sympathizers. There is a lot of stuff here to work with.

But they let their message get co-opted. It was like the Obama Administration refused to believe that the American people could possibly drink the snake oil that was being passed out.

Well they did. And truth be told, if the unemployment numbers were lower there might not have been so many Democrats defenestrated. But things were so bad for them all most Rs had to do was run against Obama and Pelosi in order to win an election. And all this occurred while Obama's approval ratings are still pretty high. For a guy who just got hit in the head that is.

And so We the People have handed the keys to a group of folks who ran against the government. And now they ARE the government. Which means they will have to, like, govern. Which is nowhere near as easy as calling people names on the campaign trail. The next two years will be interesting.

But just when I am beginning to think that madness has completely swept the land I only need to look close to home to see the body politic act in a manner that revives my flagging spirits.

Clark and Boone Counties here in Arkansas went "wet."

Maybe there is still hope for reason to yet prevail. But until then, I'm going back to writing about sports all of the time. I understand what happens in that world.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

So. Now What?

Make no mistake about it. Yesterday was a really bad day for the Democrats in general and President Obama in particular. The Republicans, tapping into free form dissatisfaction with incumbents, most of whom happened to be Democrats, took over the House of Representatives and gained some seats in the Senate, although how many is unknown at this point given the razor thin election in Alaska.

The Republicans are understandably exultant about their huge victory last night. But what exactly is going to happen when everybody gets sworn in and the heavy lifting of governance begins? The answer is clear. It depends.

They ran on the platform of repealing health care reform. Not gonna happen as long as Barack Obama is President. He will most assuredly veto any such bill that hits his desk. And there aren't enough votes to override it when he does. Besides, there are parts of it that everybody likes. Like coverage for pre-existing conditions. And it is hard to undo stuff that gets made into law. Everybody hates the United States Tax Code. It's still on the books. So complete repeal is impossible.

Cutting spending? It is to laugh. As far as I can tell the Republican candidates were all pretty vague when they were pressed to identify areas where they would cut spending. People expect services from the government. Hell, they couldn't even get rid of the National Endowment for the Arts after the furor over the grants to Robert Mapplethorpe. And this is why. Programs don't just spring from the brow of some pointy headed bureaucrat. They have political constituencies of their own. Dale Bumpers railed for years against that big dang particle accelerator the Department of Energy wanted to build. Guess who won?

No more bail outs? Fine. There won't be any more. Not necessary since the bailouts, initiated by George W. Bush by the way, not Barry, saved the banking and automotive industry and likely staved off a global economic crisis.

Cutting taxes? The Dems are all for it. Indeed, they cut taxes for small business and proposed further relief for whatever constitutes the middle class. There's wiggle room here for both sides. But this will require negotiation and compromise. Which is anathema to the true believers on this issue.

What it will come down to is this: Will the new majority in the House try to introduce legislation that stands any chance of getting passed in the next 2 years? Or will the next two years be dedicated to trying to ensure that Obama is a one term President as some Republican leaders have suggested? Which ain't exactly the loftiest goal of statecraft I have ever heard.

We shall see what we shall see. Gotta hand it to the Elephants. Their discipline and cohesiveness carried the day. Not to mention the fact that the Democrats' feckless defense of their own policies pretty much served it up to them on a silver platter.

It's gonna be an interesting 2 years.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

Every two years we have an election of some sort. And every two years I write about how much I hate politics and how disgusted I am with the TV commercials. Indeed, I have beating the hell out of the mute button on my remote for the past 6 months. Even ESPN provides no refuge from the relentless stupidity coming from both parties.

And I say this every two years. Just when I think that it couldn't get any worse, it does. I refer to it as the Palinization of politics, of dumbing things down to the lowest common denominator and then repeating palpably untrue things relentlessly until they acquire some patina of truth in the public mind. At least the segment of the public that doesn't check facts.

Let's turn to the race for the relatively benign offices of Lt. Governor and Secretary of State in our fair state for an example. The candidates promise to balance the budget, cut taxes and create jobs. No they won't. The jobs are largely ceremonial although the current Lieutenant managed to get the state lottery passed which gave him a reason to run for the United States Senate. The state's budget will be balanced but that is only because the State Constitution requires it. Otherwise, these guys really don't have much to do.

Oh. Mark Darr, the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, says he will stop Obamacare. No he won't. The Attorney General is the only Constitutional officer authorized to sue on behalf of the State. And he has declined to join the other AGs in seeking to get the new health care reforms overturned by the courts. Mr. Darr is certainly free to bring a taxpayer's suit on his own behalf. But those are routinely unsuccessful. Knock yourself out. Let me know how it works for ya.

And the money! A buddy of mine went to a fundraiser the other night for a candidate for Justice of the Peace. This caused him to recollect that there was a time when they didn't have fundraisers for such inconsequential positions. Why on Earth would somebody spend tens of thousands of dollars to hold an office where about all you can do is marry people? If you want to marry people without benefit of seminary training become a minister in the Universal Life Church and get your credentials online for a nominal fee.

But back to the mental ward that is politics in this country. While the Tea Party has produced its moments of amusement-I give you lying deadbeat loon Christine O'Donnell-they have also managed to co-opt the discourse in this country largely because neither the Democrats or what passes for sensible Republicans will take them on.

Here's just one example.

Corporate Bailouts Are Bad! Yeah well so are Depressions. This implies that the government not allowing those banks or the automakers to fail was a bad thing. So, an additional 3 million unemployed people is a good thing? They paid most of the taxpayer's money back at murderous interest rates. Tell me how this didn't work.

Common Sense Arkansas Values. Standing up to Obama and Pelosi. Cutting waste and fraud. Creating jobs. Upholding traditional family values.

Nonsense. Complete Nonsense.

What the hell. Watching the Saints tonight with the sound off won't be the worst thing in the world.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

I'm 55 today. Damn.

I still feel and pretty much look the same as I have for the past 5 years or so. But the old "double nickle" seems like a lot. And I really didn't think about it until just the other day.

It's not like I'm all of a sudden falling apart or anything. I still run, work out with a trainer, play golf and run around with the kids from Miracle League. While I'm a little heavier than I used to be, I still have pretty much kept my girlish figure. Certainly there are folks younger than me that are in far worst shape and you don't have to look too far to find them. Just like there are folks who have gone, and are going, through a lot more trouble than I have ever gone through.

Sure. I now officially have a Bad Back. My last trip to the cardiologist yielded amusing results which surprised us both. My new doctor is on my ass about my diet and his treatment plan is oriented around "what we need to do to keep you going strong as you get older."

They used to do "wellness." They're now doing "trying to keep somebody with your screwy numbers and really bad family history from dropping dead on us." Screw that. I was told last summer that if a pinched nerve didn't resolve itself I might have to use a cane. And I might not be able to help out at Miracle League. Which caused one smartass to remark that I would be the first person in Miracle League history to go on the Disabled List. Really screw all of that.

But I got better. And I'm still plugging along. My friends at the gym opine that my generally healthy ways are probably what helped me recover from the nerve thing. My cardiologist said despite my weird scores I am asymptomatic which you never see at my age. So there's nothing to treat. I just bear watching.

I'm still plugging along. I don't have to try to quit smoking or drinking at this age. I don't have to lose 20 pounds. I don't have to have a knee replaced. Yet. So far so good.

I'm going to brunch here in a little bit where I will undoubtedly eat stuff that Dr. Tilley would not approve of. My odds are better tonight. I'm going to over to have dinner with friends. Karen specializes in healthy cooking. So maybe I can reverse the polarity. My only other plans for the day are to read the paper, maybe play some golf and watch football to see if the refs actually enforce the new rules regarding helmet-to-helmet collisions. Sounds like a good Sunday to me.

It feels weird to be this old. You look at the obits. People my age die from diseases now instead of accidents. I know my time is more allotted than it was at one time.

Still. I have my robust good health. I have a roof over my head in a part of town that I love. I have money in the bank. There are, on the whole, more people that love me than hate me. And I still enjoy my life and I have many things yet to do.

So far so good. I am blessed beyond what I deserve.

So I'll just keep plugging along.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Woody Hayes, the late coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, once said something to the effect that college football players at that level of play were so talented "we could make them stop in midair if we wanted to." It stands to reason that NFL players could do likewise. Which is why the NFL's edict last Monday that it was going to suspend players that initiate excessively violent helmet-to-helmet collisions, like the one featured above depicting the Steelers' James Harrison decapitating Mohammed Massaquoi of the Browns last Sunday, was way overdue.

After all, the rule is clear. A player is not allowed to use any part of the helmet to "butt, spear or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily." Period. And when a player launches himself into the air head first to blow up an opposing player instead of, say, aiming between the numbers and wrapping up with the arms, that is a"violent and unnecessary" method of tackling the ball carrier. In fact, at that point the defender is not trying to bring down the opponent. He is trying to maim him.

But let's not lay all of the blame on the players. The NFL and the media has long glorified these excessively violent collisions. Even young football players talk about "blowing up" or "jacking up" an opponent. Harrison, was actually as quoted as saying that he didn't really worry when he knocks an opposing player out because the player is "just sleeping."

No, you idiot. It's a concussion. It may affect him in later life. The cumulative effect of leading with the head may even adversely impact James Harrison in later life as well. Which is frightening when you consider the lack of higher cortical function already evidenced by Harrison's idiotic statements about the subject.

NFL players know what they are in for. They play a violent game in which huge players collide at a high rate of speed. And some helmet-to-helmet contact will always be inevitable. But the helmet should not be used as a weapon.

The NFL should give the refs the authority to eject players on the spot for violating the new rule. And they should fine and suspend any violators. These guys can stop in midair. They can lower the strike zone just as easily. In act, as a public service to the league, I will suggest appropriate nominees to chair a committee to review such hits not settled on the field on a case by case basis to see if they violate the policy. I hereby nominate former players Dick Butkus, Mike Ditka, Lynn Swann, and Ronnie Lott. Conrad Dobler could be Chairman to cast any tie-breaking vote. These guys know from dirty. The vote from any such committee would be enforced by the Commissioner.

Otherwise, why not hold the next Super Bowl in the Roman Coliseum?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

Behold the Rebel Black Bear, the new mascot of the Ole Miss Rebels. "Rebel" who is set to prowl the sidelines in 2011 was selected by a poll of students and alumni to replace "Colonel Reb," the costumed plantation owner who has appeared at Rebels games since 1979.

Colonel Reb was decommissioned a few years ago as Ole Miss tried to disassociate itself image-wise with the Old South. Not only was it felt that such iconography was offensive to African Americans given Mississippi's generally sorry history in the area of civil rights, it was also thought that the image of an elderly patrician clad in a frock coat did not exactly conjure up thoughts of virility and competence on the athletic field.

Naturally, there are plenty of Ole Miss alums who have their nose out of joint about this. They believe Colonel Reb was sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Some have even claimed that this is exceptionally wrongheaded if you consider that the image of Colonel Reb was fashioned in the likeness of a beloved black man named Blind Jim Ivy who was a fixture at Ole Miss athletic events until his death in 1955:

I have no reason to doubt that Blind Jim Ivy was a beloved presence on the campus and in Oxford. I do not believe for 5 minutes that the image of Colonel Reb, a white planter depicted wearing a plantation hat and the aforementioned frock coat, was patterned after a blind African American. That's just making stuff up.

This whole mascot thing is pretty silly. The NCAA has been leaning on it's "member institutions" to get rid of mascots and iconography that might be offensive to others. And so the Illini of Illinois did away with it's Native American mascot. Marquette, the Warriors no longer, are something called a "Red Storm." Hell, even tiny Hendrix College, my old alma mater, retained the Warrior nickname but did away with the Native American iconography. The new "Warrior" resembles a knock off Braveheart figure. Only our version of William Wallace's hair resembles Tom Brady. This warrior may represent no conceivable offense to Native Americans, but he offends me.

But what is really offensive is that the NCAA comes down hard on Illinois while laying off on the likes of Florida State and Notre Dame. You can certainly make a plausible case for the notion that "Fighting Irish" portrays an image of drunkenness and bellicosity that some may find offensive. But Notre Dame has too much money and can fight back. So the NCAA leaves them alone. Same deal with Florida State although the Seminole tribe in Florida has stated that it is not offended by having Native American imagery burlequed by those rednecks. Perhaps the Irish have told the NCAA the same thing.

I kinda liked Colonel Reb. But Ole Miss is simply following the modern trend of sports branding that attempts to offend no one. Hence the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.

And now we have something called the Rebel Black Bear. Which assumes that bears have something of a political consciousness. Which I can certainly believe before I would ever believe that Colonel Reb was patterned after Blind Jim Ivy.

The loyal opposition has stated that they are still going to send Colonel Reb to pre-game activities out in the Grove. The Rebel Black Bear will be there too. Hopefully the Colonel won't be packing.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

I've never been in the Courthouse in Lee County, Mississippi. I'm sure that it has a security point that you have to go through to make sure that visitors aren't carrying weapons or items of contraband. If you happen to have business before the Hon. Talmadge Littlejohn, you might as well check your rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America at the security point. Otherwise, you might wind up like Oxford lawyer Danny Lampley, pictured in his mug shot above.

Lampley's offense? Seems Judge Talmadge starts off the day in his Courtroom by having those in attendance recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Lampley, who was there on a divorce matter, refused to take part. For this he was found to be in criminal contempt of court and got to eat lunch on the County.

Why didn't Lampley want to say the Pledge of Allegiance? Simple. "I don't have to say it because I'm an American, " he told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

I don't know if it's because we are in an exceedingly nasty election year or what. But this kind of ersatz patriotism seems to be in its ascendant mode. But the truth of the matter is this kind of silliness, from religious displays in public buildings, to candidates expressing opinions on the "truth" of evolution, pops up from time-to-time in the national consciousness. It just seems louder nowadays. Of course, the reason this kind of foolishness occurs periodically is because it is easier than actually solving problems. That and it works.

This, as we like to say around here, is a teachable moment.

The fact of the matter is that Lampley is right. Judge Talmadge can rule against him on matters of law from here to eternity. But he can no more legally order somebody to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance than he can order somebody to say the Rosary.

But why take my word for it? This is what the Supreme Court of the United States of America said about compulsory flag rituals in 1943 in West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette:

"The compulsory flag salute and pledge requires affirmation of a belief and an attitude of mind. [It] is now a commonplace that censorship or suppression of expression of opinion is tolerated by our Constitution only when the expression presents a clear and present danger of action of a kind the State is empowered to prevent and punish. It would seem that involuntary affirmation could be commanded only on even more immediate and urgent grounds. [But] here the power of compulsion is invoked without any allegation that remaining passive during a flag salute ritual creates a clear and present danger. [To] sustain the compulsory flag salute we are required to say that a Bill of Rights which guards the individuals right to speak his own mind, left it open to public authorities to compel him to utter what is not on his mind. [But if] there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not know occur to us."

No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in nationalism or politics or force citizens to confess by word their faith therein.

I don't know why Mr. Lampley didn't want to recite the Pledge. And it's none of my damned business. Neither is it any of Judge Talmadge's, who seems to be the very embodiment of the "petty official" in the mind of Justice Jackson who wrote the Opinion in Barnette.

He doesn't have to participate because he's an American. I hope Lampley appeals.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

My friend Gwen died last week. She had a stroke about 3 weeks ago. After rallying briefly she went into a tailspin. They out her in the Critical Intensive Care Unit. She never came out.

I'm guessing that she was maybe all of 45. That's too young. Too young.

Gwen suffered from poor health for most of the time that I knew her. She had lupus which kept her physically exhausted and prevented her from engaging in much exercise. Maybe the disease kept her from having that 5th gear she needed to pull through. Maybe not. It didn't help matters any I can tell you that.

Naturally, as seems typical of untimely deaths, she was a kind and gentle person who gave of herself to people and causes. She was an Assistant United States Attorney, she was active in the Bar, and the Junior League. She was on the Board of the local chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (as it was known then) and she served as President of the Board of Women and Children First.

Indeed, knowing of my utter and complete disdain for the Holiday season, she delighted in pestering me without ceasing with invitations to the goddamn Junior League's Holiday House. She issued these spurious invitations on a yearly basis, sometimes enlisting our mutual friend Jana to double team me, knowing full well that I would not be caught dead there on a bet.

"Oh come onnnnnnnnnnn," Gwen would mew. "You'ld dooooo it for meeeeeeee, wouldn't you?"

No. I would not do it for her. I would take a bullet for her. But I wouldn't go to Holiday House. I got principles. They may be screwy ones. But I got 'em. And it amused her to no end to punch my buttons about 'em.

I know that we all gotta go. Our days are numbered as are the hairs on our head. Which in my case means I had better call Reubel Funeral Home and pre-plan my sendoff. As I grow older I have become more conversant with the inevitable. My own remaining parent died last December. I attend the funerals of parents of friends on what seems to be a frequent basis. An aunt died a year and a half ago. A friend almost lost his wife two or three years ago.

But there is nothing tragic about the death of an elderly person. It is the natural order of things. And why I know that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow, it seems grossly unfair when a good and useful person like Gwen is struck down before her time. A parent should never have to bury a child, as the parents of soldiers have always known. I cannot imagine such a grief. How does one go on? I cannot imagine.

When you are young you cannot fully appreciate the profundity of annihilation. I am on the flip side of 50. I go to lots of funerals now. I get it. And yet I can scarcely comprehend the fact that Gwen is gone. As in forever. Three weeks ago we were talking about golf. She was on a citizens committee for the City's Parks and Recreation Department. She wanted to know more about the municipal golf courses. She asked if she could ride in the cart with me sometime just so she could see for herself. Sure. Why not?

Two days later, her father found her on the floor.

As God is my witness I do not know why these things happen. There are a million no good sons-of-bitches walking around out there who will live to be 110. And prosper while doing it. Guys that got it coming in spades. And yet laughing chance puts a hard working God fearing woman like Gwen in the cross-hairs.

My friend Laura the Lawyer in Jackson is forsaking the noble profession of the law to be a Methodist preacher. She has sent me books on the topic of why bad things seem to happen to good people otherwise known by the theological term theodicy. I haven't read them yet. I know I should.

But I can't. I'm too pissed off. Gwen was a woman of a deep and abiding faith. And she would scold me if she were here to read this.

But I don't get it, Gwen. I just don't get it.

And I don't know what else to say.