Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

Arkansas got socked with a pretty good snow/ice storm last Friday. I have been batching it the last week and will continue to do so for the next 2. There are entirely benign reasons for this recent turn of events mainly owing to kid and adult scheduling conflicts and not because of "tales of drunkenness and cruelty" to employ the immortal phrase of Ray Davies.

So I have been socked in here at the Hillcrest Sports Bar. I kind of like snow days. As long as the power and the Internet stays up, I can find any of a number of ways to pass the time. I had planned earlier to go through Mother's papers and continue the process of throwing out any documents that are past the IRS "lookback" period. But I'm certain the recycle station is closed today. I was also going to clean out my closets and take stuff to the Goodwill. But I ain't driving out to West Little Rock until the ice is completely melted. So that's out.

An interesting aside: Last week, I found a bunch of old checks in the first box of crap I went through. I set them aside for shredding. Then it hit me. The accounts are closed. The account holder now longer exists. What's the point?

It is damned difficult to defraud a potential victim who no longer walks among us. So it was off to the recycle station along with 4 armfuls of other completely useless and irrelevant documents that neurosis compelled my poor mother to keep.

I had planned to do a few other things around here but NV's take on snow days, one that she explained to me when my phone call woke her ass up at 9 Friday morning, was that snow days are "unexpected days of rest." Which the Queen of goddamn Sheba and I now refer to by the acronym UDOR.

I didn't completely goof off during my UDOR. I did laundry. I did dishes. I read as much of Julian Barnes' alternately moving, funny and depressing rumination on death entitled "Nothing To Be Frightened Of'" as I could stand at one pop. I did more thank you notes while I watched golf. I sent and received text messages to and from all over. E-mails and Facebook posts. Fixed a martini. Talked to my Uncle up in Quitman. His power was out. This after he cut down all the trees in the front yard after Aunt Ginger died so that limbs wouldn't knock down power lines like it always does. So much for planning. Fixed another martini. Read Sports Illustrated, ate leftover chili and fell asleep @ 9;30 or so. Not a bad way to kill a UDOR.

My buddy Don and I read the Chapel Hill News Observer's story about the latest wrinkle in the opera of insanely bad judgment that is the John Edwards affair. Ah! The Internet! Seems that a local interior decorator over there was the conduit through which @ $700,000 was funnelled from a member of the zillionaire Mellon family to Rielle Hunter, uberloon and babymama to John Edwards' kid.

Rumor has it that the local US Attorney is looking to see whether campaign contributions were funnelled to Hunter. I'm also willing to bet that the IRS is looking to see if there's a tax evasion case here as well as charges of structuring transactions to avoid the reporting requirements. I mean, you just can't take that much money and conduit it out to your girlfriend without somebody having to report it as income. If you will recall, that's how they got Barry Bonds' chick on the side to roll over on him. He bought her a house. She didn't declare it. Bingo! Tax evasion charge!

And if all of this wasn't lurid enough, Hunter has sued Edwards' former campaign aide who wrote a book in which he described both John and Elizabeth as nickle-plated phonies. He now claims he has found a tape in which Edwards is allegedly depicted as having sex with a pregnant woman who looks suspiciously like the Plaintiff. The suit alleges-get this-invasion of privacy and she got a TRO last Thursday Ordering that the tapes be turned over.

Edwards will undoubtedly be deposed. Hide the guns.

And the question will also undoubtedly come up as to how a New Age maker of mostly unseen documentaries can prove up damages while being the kept ex-girlfriend of John Edwards. What's she gonna say? She gave up a shot for the prize at Cannes to be with him?

And you think YOU had a bad month.

Meanwhile back on Planet Hillcrest, traffic seems to be moving out on Van Buren although it still seems icy. NV and the kids are going to meet me for dinner tonight most likely at some pizza place up the hill. I may walk although the last time I took a hike in the snow was @ 5 years ago. One of my numerous exes lived around the corner in those days and I was walking over for dinner when I slipped and landed flat on my back bruising the ribs beneath my shoulder blades. The damn things still hurt when it's cold.

Maybe I'll drive after all.

We are fortunate, or I think that we are, that we only have to endure ice and snow maybe a couple of times a year. I don't think that I would much like getting what the Midwest has gotten lately on a regular basis. So I can live with the occasional storm around here.

After all, everybody could use a UDOR every now and again.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Rules Of Golf Are The Rules Of Golf. Except When They Aren't.

This being a snow day, I spent the afternoon watching the Farmers Insurance Open in sunny San Diego where 7 or 8 players are using wedges in competition that are no longer conforming to the Rules of Golf.

And it's legal. First, the back story.

As even the casual fan knows by now, the average pro golfer can hit a driver a country mile. Indeed, the Tiger Woodses, John Dalys and Bubba Watsons of this life hit the fairway with their tee shots with amazing infrequency.

And they pretty much don't care.

This is because they repose great trust in using their wedges to hit the ball high out of the rough and spin it back to the hole. This evidently pissed off the gimlet eyed lords of the PGA who decided that a premium would be placed on accuracy off of the tee. And they would insure this by screwing with the wedges.

Beginning this year, all wedges with "V" shaped grooves would be considered non-conforming or illegal. Instead, the players must use wedges that have square shaped grooves. Why is this important? Because the ball spins less out of the rough with the new wedges. This makes it harder to hit those nice high shots that stick and spin like you seem them do on TV. Which the PGA hopes will provide less incentive for guys like Daly to worry only about keeping his tee shot in the same Area Code if he knows that the short game will be tougher with the new wedges.

Except that Daly, Mickelson and a lot of other guys are using old Ping-Eye 2 wedges that were last made in the Eighties. They have "V"shaped grooves. Which makes them illegal right? No.

You see, this change has been contemplated for some time. So Ping sued the PGA over the proposed plan to ban the wedges with the"V" shaped grooves back in the Nineties. The parties settled and according to the terms of the settlement, any Ping-Eye 2 wedges made before April 1, 1990, remains approved under the Rules of Golf. Which means that guys are pulling out old Pings stored in garages or buying them off EBay.

And it's legal. Except for the fact that it's cheating.

This is great. Golf makes this big honking deal about how it is a gentleman's game. The players keep their own scores, and call penalties on themselves. And get this, Ken Duke-I believe it was- got friggin' disqualified a few years ago for having more than 14 clubs in his bag. Even though the 15th club was a pink child's putter surreptitiously put in his bag by his little daughter.

And they are letting these guys play with clubs that are non-conforming and yet are still legal? This is hilarious.

Rick Reilly recounted the Ken Duke story in an essay for Sports Illustrated about the Rules of Golf entitled "The Fools of Golf."

With all due respect to Mr. Reilly, maybe I should have entitled this post "The Return of the Fools of Golf."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

I read last week where the publisher of the National Enquirer was going to submit its story on the John Edwards affair for consideration for the Pulitzer Prize. One doesn't exactly get the opportunity very often to mention the Enquirer in the same breath with the word "journalism" much less the Pulitzer Prize. But they did break the story which exposed a national politician as a complete liar and phony. Which blew up his campaign for President. So what the hell. Maybe they deserve consideration. Indeed, the Democrats should thank their lucky stars that Edwards' lies were uncovered even if they were brought to light by a tabloid that specializes in alien abductions and completely faked up sex scandals. What if the SOB had actually got hisself elected before the scandal hit the fan.

This would have made Bill Clinton's peccadilloes while in office pale in comparison.

To be fair, if the Enquirer does pull this off, it won't be the first time that a second rate publication won the Pulitzer. The New Orleans Times-Picayune won it in 2006 for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation caused by it throughout the region. As my buddy PM said at the time, " the worst f_ _ _ing paper in the business is going to win the Pulitzer Prize."

And make no mistake about it. The TP ain't much. When I was at Tulane, I used to marvel at the stuff they used to run in there. Every Monday, or it seemed, there was some lurid headline such as "Ax Murder in Slidell!" alerting the reader to a crime of senseless violence, still abundant there, that had occurred over the weekend. The TP was/is nothing if not earnest about the fact that it mainly cares about the sports and society pages. The sports page is still pretty damn good. I remember when the Saints beat the 49ers to end the then longest losing streak in the NFL. The headline on the front page screamed " THEY WON!" in large type generally not used except for declarations of war or the second coming of Christ.

Speaking of whom, if Jesus had chosen to return, or if war had been declared, if either of these events would have occurred during Carnival they would have been relegated to the back of the paper.

Unless old man Schweggman was running one of his paid editorials there. Schweggman, whose first name I cannot recall ran a chain of grocery stores down there. When I first graced Orleans Parish around 1978, he was in the middle of a protracted and highly acrimonious divorce proceeding. I seem to recall that he was alleged to have strayed from the marital hearth much to the displeasure of his wife who was doing her best to clean him out.

About once a month, Schweggman would run a full page ad on the back page of the TP in which he would excoriate both his wife and the legal system that was rendering him destitute. Even though I was but a callow lad of 22 or so at the time, I felt that the publication of these screeds in the biggest paper in the Pelican State to be completely unwise as a matter of strategy. I did not know much back in those days but I strongly suspected that the Judge was reading this stuff too.

I used to get the Sunday Arkansas Gazette by mail. I would show it to my friends saying " Now THIS is what a newspaper looks like. Oldest paper West of the Mississippi. Won a Pulitzer. That will never happen to the damn Times-Picayune."

Wrong as usual. The Gazette no longer exists and the Times-Pic won a Pulitzer.

So who knows? Maybe the Enquirer, that purveyor of scandals, aliens and scandals involving aliens may win it after accidentally committing an act of journalism.

As Mother might say, but not about the Enquirer, you can't say for sure that stuff ain't true.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

Last week found me struck down with some kind of weird fever virus, the main symptom of which seemed to be a high fever that topped off around 102. It pretty much only lasted 20 hours or so and then I was back to feeling relatively normal. Due to the fact that I had a really bad headache I didn't much feel like reading. So it was a good thing that I had access to ESPN and text messages during the period I was down to follow all of the high drama going on in college football.

For those of you who either don't know or don't care, there has been much turbulence in the college coaching ranks. Lane Kiffin (resplendent in orange and black above) left Tennessee after one year to take the Southern Cal job which became open when Pete Carroll left to go back to the NFL from whence he had not exactly enjoyed much success in his 2 previous gig with the pros. Kiffin was available to go to UT after Phil Fulmer "retired." Well, actually, he was able to go anywhere after getting fired by the Oakland Raiders.

Tommy Tuberville came out of retirement to take the Texas Tech job after they fired Mike Leach for allegedly making an injured player stand by himself in a shed. That and for being an asshole. Skip Holtz left East Carolina to go to South Florida when they fired Jim Leavitt for alleging slapping a player.

Whew! No wonder my head hurt! That's a lot to keep track of for a sickly boy such as myself.

The folks at Tennessee went ballistic when Kiffin bolted for sunny California after only one season. They set mattresses on fire outside a dorm, wrote obscene things about him on a big rock on campus and filled the airwaves and Internet with all kinds of invective about "disloyalty" and about how Kiffin was nothing better than a nickel plated phony.

Well, yeah.

Whenever this kind of stuff happens, and this kind of merry-go-round happens all the time in the utter cesspool known as college basketball, you also hear otherwise sensible people wax earnestly about contracts being moral obligations and that these coaches need to honor them as such.

Even financial guru Dave Ramsey was putting this malarkey out on Good Morning America concerning homeowners who make the purely economic decision to walk away from mortgages that are under water. Ramsey said that folks made a promise when they signed that note and they ought to live up to it. Which is, of course, nonsense.

As retired Roman Catholic Bishop McDonald used to say around here about funerals, the recent activity in the world of football, provides me with yet again an opportunity to teach. So here goes.

Subsumed in every contract is the right to breach. You can tell I am a lawyer. I use words like subsume. Not while making out or anything but I digress. Anyway, the law does not enforce moral obligations. It enforces legal obligations. And you have the right to breach. And the only question upon breach is how to put the non-breaching party in as good a position as he can be had the contract been fulfilled. That's it.

You can't have the breaching party arrested. Unless your contract is for a loan that is secured by goods you can't just go seize his stuff. And even if you could force a breaching party to perform on a personal services contract nobody in their right mind would do it. You only want to employ somebody that wants to be there.

And because these coaches breach contracts all the time, every one of these contracts have liquidated damage clauses known in the coaching world as "buyouts." If State U wants to hire your coach then they will buy out his contract with your school. Conversely, the only reason Charlie Weis lasted as long as he did at Notre Dame is because the Irish brass foolishly gave him a 10 year extension after his first season. To eat 8 years of a 10 year deal was too rich even for the fact cats at ND. Merely sucking is not sufficient"cause" to avoid paying a contract after firing somebody. The firee has to, well, slap a kid or something.

Rather than bitch and moan about how "wrong" it is when ever an opportunist like Lane Kiffin or Pete Carroll hits the bricks, maybe we would be better off asking ourselves if Urban Meyer is worth 4 million a year and whether the dirty arms race for players and coaches can possibly be sustained without cooking the books like many schools, such as the University of Central Arkansas here, are suspected of doing.

Oh. I forgot. Derek Dooley left Louisiana Tech to take the Chair of Football at Tennessee. Dooley actually has a license to practice law in Georgia. Or he did at one time. He would agree that subsumed in every contract is the right to breach. He just did it.

If you don't believe me, ask him.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

My Sunday Feeling

"You know who needs Jesus? Bill Clinton needs Jesus," opined Rev. Victor H. Nixon after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke. Of course, Rev. Nixon was speaking not only about the President but about a man he knew personally, having married Bill and Hillary. And he spoke thusly while in the pulpit of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church on a Sunday morning back in those days.

Unlike Vic Nixon, whose remarks were appropriate given the setting, Fox senior political commentator Brit Hume offered up the same recommendation last week about another famous man embroiled in a Clintonesque scandal of his own.

"He is said to be a buddhist," Hume said of Tiger Woods. " But I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger would be 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

Of course, this comment was immediately the subject of much derision from people from all different religious and non-religious persuasions. Typically, the folks at Fox spun this as another example of the supposed oppression of the major belief system in the United States by liberals who oppose the free exercise of Hume's rights to make such a statement.

You will not hear that from me. While Hume's musing on the state of Eldrick's soul might not exactly be Comparative Religion 101, he has every right to say it. And as long as the ratings among the yayhoos that watch Fox are high, Hume's bosses won't tell him to keep a lid on such nonsense.

But Hume's comments are not only condescending and obnoxious they are misplaced. Tiger Woods has surely been misbehaving. But what concerned Hume was the fact that Tiger is allegedly a Buddhist which was news to most golf fans. Probably most Buddhists too. And this to me is short sighted. As odious as Tiger's behavior has been, he didn't kill anybody. As long as we are prescribing Christian conversion as a means of "recovery" let's offer Him up to some really bad actors.

Bernard Madoff bankrupted hundreds of people through a Ponzi scheme thought to be the biggest fraud in the history of finance. Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind 9/11 is still at large and an active terrorist. Tiger is in neither of these bastards' league when it comes to pure mendacity.

And as long as Hume is throwing out the lifeline he should include some nominal Christians who have strayed. Like fellow Methodist Ken Lay who was in charge of Enron. Okay. Maybe its too late for him. How about the guy who shot the Kansas abortion provider IN A CHURCH?

Maybe Hume should also call members of the cloth to an examination of conscience as well. Like any clergy who abuse children, steal money or otherwise abuse their position of authority. Or who are raking it in over the table like Kenneth Copeland. And let us consider Rick Warren whose message of homophobia resounded so well in Uganda that they passed a law making homosexuality a capital offense.

Brit Hume's observations were not only condescending and obnoxious. They were trivial as well, the theological equivalent of Facebook postings where folks dare other Christians to profess their face on their profiles.

But he had every right to make these remarks. And as long as Fox can make people believe that Brit Hume's wrongheaded statements made to a friendly audience ranks up there with Martin Luther nailing the thesis to the wall in terms of bravery there will be money to be made.

And that's what it's all about.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Mike Leach Cursing out Adam James-Warning! Naughty Words!

A coach going off on a player in practice is hardly news. The fact that this will undoubtedly be played back for Leach at a deposition sometime in the future is what makes this particular bit of footage interesting.

As Bob Knight learned to his everlasting dismay, if you are going to film practice you had better not grab somebody by the throat. Or you at least have the sense to edit it out. You just know Texas Tech's lawyers will be going through every inch practice videos for other examples of this kind of pedagogy from Mike Leach.

My Sunday Feeling

I have been to Lubbock on more than one occasion. It is a nice place. Probably about the size of Conway. It is a college town surrounded by huge farms and ranches. The kind of operations we just don't have here in Arkansas for the most part. In the 2 or 3 times I have visited Lubbock I saw lots of folks in western wear. I saw men in suits and cowboy boots. I never once saw any adult dressed like Texas Tech coach Mike Leach when he posed for the above-referenced picture that graced the cover on the New York Times Magazine a couple of years ago.

And I think that is part of the reason Leach is in the fix he is in today. You don't see many guys in Lubbock in Hawaiian shirts and shorts. And you sure don't see them coaching football in the Big 12.

Let us backtrack a bit. Last week, Craig James, ESPN football analyst and former SMU and NFL star said that Leach had ordered his son Adam isolated in an electrical closet when he couldn't practice due to a mild concussion. Leach was immediately suspended from his coaching duties pending the outcome of an investigation. Leach sued, seeking a Temporary Restraining Order to allow him to coach in last night's Alamo Bowl. Texas Tech responded by terminating Leach's employment on the Courthouse steps.

In an interview with the New York Times, Leach denied mistreating any player. He claimed that Adam James was lazy and had a sense of entitlement fueled by his meddling father. He also said that he believed that Athletic Director Gerald Myers had it in for him and that they fired him when they did to avoid paying him an $800,000 bonus for getting the Raiders into the post-season. You can check out his interview on the jump: .

Toward the bottom of the story you will see a link to a Dallas Morning News article that published numerous e-mails between boosters and Tech administrators indicating that the brass there were indeed not happy with Leach's incessant salary demands and interviews with other schools. Which leads credence to Leach's belief that his boss was out to get him.

Of course, somebody is lying here. All we know is that Adam James was removed from practice and placed somewhere out of the sun allegedly due to the concussion he had sustained earlier in the week. Whether Adam was confined in what he described as penal conditions is not yet known although the team physician signed an Affidavit in which he testified that putting the young man in isolation as Leach did was a deviation from the medical standard of care even if it didn't hurt him any: .

Well, that's not all we know. We know that Craig James, along with Eric Dickerson, played for perhaps the dirtiest football program in the history of college football. Money was funnelled to SMU Mustangs from a network of boosters that included the Governor of Texas. For this reason, SMU received the death penalty from the NCAA, a blow from which it has only recently recovered. We also know that Leach won games and that he graduated players. Speaking of players, it would appear that most of them support their former coach and deny that he ever mistreated anybody as you can see here : .

Here's something else we know. Texas Tech's Athletic Director Gerald Myers hired Bob Knight to coach the men's basketball team after he was canned at Indiana. Knight was fired after he grabbed a student. He was also caught on tape grasping a player by the throat during practice. It appears Myers suspended Leach indefinitely upon the allegation of a powerful booster that claimed his son had been mistreated. Which may or may not have been appropriate. What did he do to Knight when he got into an altercation in a grocery store with Texas Tech's Chancellor? He suspended him for all of five days. Granted, Knight apologized. Texas Tech says it had drafted an apology for Leach but that he refused to sign. Leach's lawyer says that never happened.

So maybe Leach is justified in feeling that Texas Tech is coming down way too hard on him. He has vowed to sue. It will all come out in the wash then. That much is assured.

Oh. We know one more thing as well. No matter who is lying, this whole transaction is a parable about everything that is wrong with big time college athletics.

We know that too.

Friday, January 01, 2010

My New Year's Day Feeling

I don't make resolutions and I don't make predictions. Except this one: I feel certain that you will never again see Northwestern play Auburn in a bowl game.

Let's deconstruct this: Northwestern is playing Auburn in a bowl game. This just feels wrong on any of a number of levels. First of all, Northwestern is easily one of the finest academic institutions in the country. Auburn is, well, Auburn. And even though they are Mildcats no more, it is passing strange to see them playing in a bowl game. Against a year in, year out powerhouse football program like Auburn. Thus far, they are holding their own. And yesterday Stanford scared the bejeesus out of Oklahoma. Air Force and Navy won their bowl games too. With guys that have to really go to class and stuff.

Wow. This is not exactly the way the system is set up.

Now these insights into sports on this beautiful New Year's Day does not exactly make me the second coming of S. L. Price. But, and I concede this might be hubris, they beat the offerings in Wally Hall's New Year's Day column in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Here are a couple.

"The Hogs will win nine games next fall and play Texas in the Cotton Bowl." and "Dave Van Horn and the Arkansas baseball will again make the College World Series, although they might start a little slow." Of course, these predictions assume that many intangibles such as injuries, suspensions, and academic problems don't transpire. However, it is a safe assumption that the baseball Hogs will "start a little slow." Starting the baseball season in the frigid Ozarks will practically guarantee this as it does every year.

"The Indianapolis Colts will win the Super Bowl but the talk will always be there that Coach Jim Caldwell destroyed the last semblance of sportsmanship and gamesmanship in the NFL." Huh? If the Colts win the Super Bowl Jim Caldwell can execute a player at sunrise and nobody will mention it. Sportsmanship? In a league that features such luminaries as Al Davis and Bill Belichick?

And finally, this gem: " At least one of the women who had an affair with [Tiger] Woods will be involved in a project to write a book or movie script: One can only wonder how they got off so easy; they knew he was married." Not only are these two sentences migraine inducing, they may not be factually correct. One of Tiger's paramours claims she didn't even know who he was or anything about him. Secondly, the reason these chicks "got off"-and boy was that a poor choice of phraseology given the subject matter-is because carrying on with a married person is not illegal. It is most assuredly inadvisable but it isn't illegal.

Anyway, it is somehow comforting to know that some things evidently will not change in 2010. Wally will make completely unverifiable assertions, most of which exist within the confines of his infertile imagination, and most of which require minimal expertise in sports.

Happy New Year!