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!