Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Friday Night Lights" lives on

Friday Night Lights, one of the best shows on television, survives.  NBC announced that they have picked up 20 more episodes of the acclaimed show, which has yet to deliver substantial viewership.  Just as with this season, the show will first air on DirectTV before then being shown on NBC.  This deal helps offset the network's costs as DirectTV pays 40% of the production expenses.

Esquire's design-a-cover

The May edition of Esquire magazine will feature a do-it-yourself cover allowing you to play mix-and-match with the facial features of Justin Timberlake, George Clooney and...President Barack Obama. This is pretty heady company for a U.S. president, given the "swoon factor" of his cover-mates, Timberlake and Clooney.


Esquire is no stranger to breakthrough covers having published a battery-powered cover in October. But, in the attached article, be sure and click on the link that takes you to George Lois.

Lois' covers for Esquire were truly iconic, during their time, and were part of the suggested "Golden Age of Journalism" in the 1960's, when the magazine flourished. It was during that time that Esquire was home to such noted writers-journalists as Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer and Gay Talese.

Big Mac on the attack

Quick, name the two stocks that gained value in 2008. Wal Mart would be an easy pick but the second may be a surprise—it’s McDonald’s. Yes, the quick service restaurant has come a long way since Fast Food Nation was released and the eatery was vilified as responsible for the obesity of Americans.

The international food chain put into place a six-year plan based upon founder Ray Kroc’s original mantra of “quality, service, cleanliness and value.”

McDonald’s is on a roll having achieved 55 months of global same-store sales increases. The food retailer went back to basics, as witnessed by the focus on Kroc’s mantra. McDonald’s also shifted to address the changing appetites of consumers, it focused on its brand, and it addressed the need for stronger, and more visible, corporate citizenship.

The results speak for themselves.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Birthday greetings

It's a big birthday day--Celine Dion turns 41 today, Eric Clapton is 64 and Warren Beatty is 72. 72!? Really!?

I've never been a huge fan of Beatty's but admire that he was an actor who insisted on total control of his movies. He first produced, and starred, in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), the movie which established him as a true leading man and, along with Easy Rider, ushered in the "New Hollywood" era with films from iconic figures like George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg. Beatty later went on to be involved with 1970's major movies like McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Heaven Can Wait and, my favorite, Shampoo. But, it was Reds (1981) which truly established Beatty as something special in Hollywood. He received Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and writing--all from the same film.

In 1991, Beatty stared in the bio-pic, Bugsy--the story of Bugsy Siegel. It was his last movie to achieve critical and public acclaim. And, even with this picture, it was Beatty, the producer, who had the final cut on the film--not Barry Levinson, the Director.

Beatty's other claims to fame include that he is the brother of actress Shirley MacLaine, that he is married to actress Annette Benning, and that he has had a well-documented history of bachelorhood and partying with running buddies like Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Vaughn. His past romantic relationships--pre-Benning--include Natalie Wood, Diane Keaton, Julie Christie, Joan Collins and Madonna, and he has been rumored to have been on close terms with many other starlets throughout his career.

Happy Birthday, Warren!


The PGA Tour is flirting with the idea of putting microphones on the caddies of tour players. The idea is that the exchanges between player and caddie could make for good television, e.g., on club selection, length to the hole, or reading a putt.

The Tour likely will test the idea this week at the Houston Open and on the tournament’s NBC telecast. However, caddies appear unsure as to whether this is a good idea or not. The idea only works if the player and caddie are in proximity to one another. Also, the idea of having a microphone on over the course of a four-hour round could result in some non-telecast-ready dialogue, at least to some of the worried caddies.

The commentary will be on five-second delay but could certainly provide some behind-the-scenes insight which would make for compelling sports programming. For example, the conversations that Tiger has with Steve Williams, his caddie, about playing partners like Phil Mickelson or Rory Sabbattini, could be worthy of pay-per-view.

By the way, if there's any doubt, Tiger's back after that birdie putt on 18 yesterday to win the Bay Hill tournament in Florida. Classic stuff...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Depressed about the economy? Go to the movies...

Last week, we wrote here about the fact that candy sales were up in the midst of this down economy. Now, another category apparently benefiting from consumers' concerns about finances is the movie business. Ticket sales to movies are up 14% in the first quarter of 2009 versus a year ago.

Sunday morning coffee

- Wow, that was a tough snow shoveling job this morning! The freezing rain and then snow that fell on the Kansas City area yesterday turned into very wet, heavy-to-shovel crud. Thankfully, the warmer temps and sun today are melting it quickly.

- Won't the east coast media have a field day if North Carolina and Louisville win today? Imagine, three Big East schools and an ACC school in the Final Four. Ugh...

- I'm making my weekly plea. Watch Friday Night Lights on NBC, Friday, 8 p.m. CDT. Once again, this past week's episode had a tremendous scene about the relationship of a daughter with her mother. Start with the season one DVD set and go from there.

- One TV pundit suggested that the Kentucky basketball job was becoming like Notre Dame's in football. Not quite--at least yet. Billy Gillispie was fired this past week as UK's head coach after two years. Prior to Gillispie, Tubby Smith took the Wildcats to a national championship in his ten-year tenure. Prior to Smith, Rick Pitino took UK to a national championship during his eight years. Eddie Sutton coached for four years prior to Pitino, succeeding Joe B. Hall, who had a national championship during his 13 years in Lexington. Contrast that to Notre Dame since Lou Holtz's departure. Holtz coached for 11 years and achieved a 100-30-2 record with one national championship. Succeeding Holtz was Bob Davie (35-25 in five years) followed by George O'Leary (of the falsified resume), Tyrone Willingham (21-15 in three years), Kent Baer (succeeded Willingham for one game and went 0-1) and Charlie Weis (29-21 in four years to date.) The potential comparison is that the Kentucky faithful have not embraced a coach since Pitino left after his tenure. Tubby Smith survived for 10 years but eventually left and Gillispie was obviously a bad hire--he did not handle the off-court demands well. Notre Dame fans have not had a consistent winner since Holtz, and they're not happy. Both high profile jobs require a unique blend of outstanding coach and personable leader who can rally alums, fans and students and cultivate a positive relationship with the media.

- Shades of Forrest Gump...the Guinness Book of World Record for "long walk" belongs to one Arthur Blessit. Blessit has managed to walk some 38,000+ miles through every inhabited area of the Earth. And--ready for this--he did it carrying a cross. Blessit felt led to convey the story of Jesus in a unique way, and did it by carrying a cross on his journeys across the globe. The story of Blessit is told in a new documentary, which opens this Friday in more than 200 theaters nationwide.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Do you have screenvision?

In the mobile world, the term "third screen" refers to the screen of your phone/smart device. The first and second screens are, of course, your television and computer screens. But, have you ever wondered how many hours per day you spend staring at a screen?

The Council for Research Excellence issued a report last week which said that adults are exposed to screens--computer, television, cellphones, GPS and other--about 8.5 hours per day. The surprising fact? The age group of 45-54 year olds spend an extra hour per day in front of screens, which seems to contradict conventional wisdom--that younger consumers would be the ones most likely to spend more time with various screens.

The study bears out that television remains the dominant medium, even though viewers can watch on alternate delivery screens like cellphones or computer monitors. The vast majority still prefer their television on the big screen and spend a lot of time there--slightly more than five hours per day, on average.

Not surprisingly, the web has changed viewing behavior and that change has occurred most with younger consumers. College students and young professionals (18-24 group) watch the least TV--about 3.5 hours per day. However, this group spends the most time texting (29 minutes per day) and watching online video (5.5 minutes per day.)

One interesting, but perhaps not surprising, note--those surveyed tended to underestimate the amount of TV they watch each day. There appears to be a stigma to admitting to viewing a lot of TV versus overestimating time spent online or in other digital viewing options. I guess no one wants to be considered a "couch potato."

Young women and common sense

Oxygen Media recently conducted a study of 2,000 women, age 18-34. The study found that 25% would rather win "America's Next Top Model" than be a Nobel Prize winner. What this means, of course, is that 3/4 of the women surveyed have enough self-esteem and common sense to say "I'd rather win a Nobel Prize."

The study also found that 91% would rather "live a long life and lose their looks than die young and beautiful."

So much for the stereotypical thought that today's young women only care about looks and staying youthful.

Sweet 16 notes - Night Two

- It was a great year for the Kansas Jayhawks. The defending national champions overachieved with their fifth straight conference title and three seed in the tournament. But, the loss last night exposed the primary Kansas weakness--the inability of a consistent third threat to take the offensive pressure off of Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins. It also exposed what has been a consistent bugaboo for the Jayhawks all season--turning the ball over in crucial stretches of a game. Last night, Kansas had 19 turnovers versus their season average of 16. The problem was that the turnovers occurred in crunch time--when Michigan State was making their run to cut into the Kansas lead, and eventually take the lead.

- Arizona's Cinderella balloon popped big time last night. The Wildcats overachieved in the tournament by getting to the round of 16 but then got hammered by Louisville. The questions surrounding Zona now are "who will be the next head coach?" Tom Izzo of Michigan State is one name being mentioned. Rick Pitino of Louisville is another.

- Is anyone else really looking forward to the North Carolina-Oklahoma matchup and the duel between last year's Player of the Year, Tyler Hansbrough, and this year's POY, Blake Griffin? I'm going with Griffin in this one.

- Who will be next Kentucky coach? Is John Calipari truly in the mix? Anthony Grant is now taken given the announcement that the Virginia Commenwealth coach will be the new head man at Alabama.

Mobile apps

Here is an interesting article on the explosion of interest in mobile data applications, yet the short shelf life of these apps. In other words, consumers are fast downloading apps (e.g., on i-Phone) yet aren't using them past a short span of time.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sweet 16 thoughts - Night one

- Pittsburgh can ugly up a game. But, the Panthers are in the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.

- Missouri and Memphis played in the West Regional. But, viewers in San Francisco (to pick one western market) did not get the game until it became apparent that Villanova was up on Duke by 13 points. The love affair with Duke, by the TV networks, is alive and well. (And, yeah, I know that the east coast/Philadelphia markets deliver more viewers than the Missouri and Memphis markets.)

- How good did Missouri look in the first half of their game? Congratulations to the Tigers for advancing to the Elite Eight.

- I see that Memphis worked hard on their free throw shooting after last year's national championship loss to Kansas. Other than Tyreke Evans, Memphis shot 9 of 23 from the line.

- Who would have thought that Mizzou and Memphis, two teams noted for their defensive skills, would score a total of 193 points in their game?

- How often did Dick Enberg call Missouri "Memphis?"

- Kentucky isn't in the Sweet 16, or the NCAA Tournament for that matter. And, it now is eliminated from the NIT Tournament after losing to Notre Dame. It appears that Billy Gillispie may be out as head coach. According to sources, Gillispie's inability to handle the non-traditional coaching duties like dealing with alumni, fans and press, as well as relate to his team, may ultimately be his undoing. Obviously, the win-loss record doesn't help either.

- Does anyone think that Evans will be back at Memphis next season? For the second straight year, Coach John Calipari has recruited a stud point guard who likely will be lottery pick after one year in college. Last year, Derrick Rose; this year, Tyreke Evans. This is likely the appeal for recruits like Xavier Henry and DeMarcus Cousins, who have picked Memphis, and likely John Wall, who will announce his intentions in the near future.

- Villanova's convincing win over Duke puts three Big East teams into the Elite Eight.

Hooverville - 2009 style

The New York Times reported today that Hooverville-like shantytowns are springing up in diverse locales like Fresno, Nashville and outside of Seattle.

Hoovervilles were the Depression-era encampments that were inhabited by those out of work and homeless--victims of the worst economic era in U.S. history. It's sad and sobering that those groupings of people who are down on their luck are now becoming bleak symbols of this generation's "depression."

Thursday's child has far to go

Quick hits on a Thursday morning from sunny San Francisco:

- I have refrained from writing about American Idol in this space. I mean, it's not like that show doesn't get enough coverage and analysis each week. But, I have to say that Adam Lambert's rendition of Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears" last night was unique and inspired and clearly distanced him from the other competitors.

- Samanta Who returns tonight to ABC. This shows is one of the better sitcoms on television and its good to see it back after a several week hiatus.

- Seen on the streets of San Francisco yesterday--a very strange looking man (I know--now THAT'S a headline in this town) leading a dog on a leash. Riding on the dog is a cat. Riding on the cat is a white mouse. Yep, mouse riding on cat riding on dog being led by leftover of the 1967 Flower Power era...very, very weird, yet very, very cute.

- Show of hands--who likes the new Facebook redesign? That's what I thought...

- The NCAA announced a new student courtside seating area beginning at this year's Final Four at Ford Field in Detroit. The organization is reserving 422 courtside seats for each of the four schools participating. Good move!

- Former Van Halen bandmates Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony are re-uniting as part of Chickenfoot. The new band will also feature veteran guitarist Joe Satriani along with drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers.) The band's new album arrives June 7.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Basketball babies

Stefan Fatsis, a well-respected sportswriter, writes this month in The Atlantic about "Million Dollar Basketball Babies." His focus is on Lance Stephenson, a 6-5 shooting guard out of Brooklyn's Lincoln High School, who is being pursued by Kansas, St. Johns and Maryland. Stephenson is generally acknowledged as a top 5-10 recruit out of the high school class of 2009. Zagsblog this week reported that it is expected that Stephenson will announce his intentions to attend Kansas when he makes his commitment public on March 31. But, St. Johns and Maryland are pursuing Stephenson hard in an attempt to use him as the catalyst for turning around their respective programs.

What makes this story interesting, beyond the usual intrigue of which colleges will sign the best players, is that the article suggests that Stephenson could possibly follow in the footsteps of Brandon Jennings, another talented high schooler who opted to play in Europe after his senior season last year rather than go to college. Jennings' decision was a result of the NBA's recent rule that high schoolers can no longer jump directly from the hardwood at their secondary education venue to "the league"--they must spend at least one year at a college/university or junior college. For his decision, Jennings is receiving the tidy sum of $1.65 million to play in the Italian pro league.

What is even more sobering beyond this story is the one documented in Sunday's New York Times Magazine of 13-year old Allonzo Trier. A sixth-grader from the Seattle area, Trier spends at least four hours a day practicing and working on his game--whether in supervised workouts with his mother, individual sessions with his trainer, or team practices. And, this daily time commitment does not even include games plus travel.

The NBA felt like they were helping the college game, and those athletes who felt physically ready for the pros, by requiring the one year commitment to college. The intent was that the year would help the teenager to mature, learn some social skills and be better prepared for the grind that is the business of the NBA. The reality is that a kid who plans to be a "one and done" can attend class the fall semester of his freshman year, begin basketball practice, and by second semester forget about classes and studying--why bother going when you have no intention of staying beyond the one year commitment?

The stories of Stephenson, Trier, Jennings and now the kids who are getting recruited by colleges at younger and younger ages are tales of lost youth. I know it's easy for a middle-class, white, suburban blogger to opine about the mistakes these kids--and in many cases their "handlers"--are making, but it does seem that they are in danger of losing some of the most enjoyable and memorable years of one's life.

Do I have a solution? No--just a concern as I see these talented kids being shaped by greedy hangers-on with their own agendas, and by schools and professional entities who need these phenoms for their programs and teams. It's a disturbing situation.

Midweek quick hits

- Blackberry has signed on as sponsor of the upcoming U2 tour.

- Do you know the definition of "Blackberry jam?" It's the delay caused by a person walking slowly, nose glued to his/her PDA-smartphone.

- Check out buzzfeed.com--the "viral web in real time." The site provides a sampling of all the fun viral goodies that are out floating around the internet.

- Dave Matthews Band's tour kicks off on April 14 in New York at Madison Square Garden. It'll be the first tour for DMB since the death of founding saxophonist LeRoi Moore. A new album is coming in June.

- Baylor continues its late season mens basketball surge. The Bears beat Auburn last night to make it to the NIT Tournament final four.

- Traveling to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Chicago? Check out savorycities.com for restaurant recommendations, conveniently broken out by geographic location.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quick Music Hits

- We previously reported here about Fleetwood Mac's current tour, which is coming to the Sprint Center on May 8. The group, famous for the infighting and interchangeable love relationships which occurred during the 1970's, apparently is keeping their distance between shows and backstage. Said Lindsey Buckingham, "This is still based in a situation where there were two couples that had broken up. But we do talk to each other--we're not the Eagles." Ouch! The Eagles, by the way, will be at the Sprint Center this Saturday evening--their second time in Kansas City in the past five months.

- Prince is publishing three new albums simultaneously this week, LOtUS-FLOW3R, MPLSoUND and Elixer. The trio are available today for download, for those who pay an annual membership fee, at LotusFlow3r.com. Or, you can wait until Sunday and buy the set at Target for $11.98.

- Rumor is that The Faces are considering a reunion. For the unitiated, The Faces featured Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones and had a huge early '70s hit with "Stay With Me." Wood would later join the Rolling Stones and Jones would join The Who to replace Keith Moon after Moon's untimely death. More recently, Lane has contracted multiple sclerosis which has left him confined to a wheelchair. Reunion rumors are not new--several surfaced last year that the band would re-unite and that Flea, bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, would fill in for Lane. Stay tuned...

- Kansas City is not on the current stadium tour list for U2. The band will play 13 U.S. cities in the fall and then more in spring 2010. The stage set for the band is quite expansive and will dwarf not only their infamous "PopMart" set but also the Rolling Stones' recent set-up from their "A Bigger Bang" tour. The fall U.S. leg of the tour starts September 12 in Chicago.

- Dave Matthews Band will make an appearance at the Sprint Center on September 30.

Depressed about the economy? Eat candy...

I returned to the office today after a few days of vacation. On the meeting table in my office is a jar that is kept filled with candy--usually treats that fit the season or a variety in order to keep my visitors happy.

Today when I walked in I noticed that the jar was completely drained--no candy whatsoever. So, either my work teammates went on a sugar bender last week or the cleaning crew has dipped their hands in the candy jar more than once.

On the same day this candy caper was playing out in my office, the New York Times ran a front-page story headlined, "When Economy Sours, a Tootsie Roll Can Still Soothe the Soul." It seems that candy sales have jumped in this economic downturn--that the recession has, indeed, a sweet tooth.

There are various theories as to why this is taking place. Some opined in the Times article that sugar lifts spirits "dragged low by the languishing economy." One brokerage analyst said, "People may indulge themselves a little bit more when times are tough."

Big companies are feeling the candy rush. Cadbury reported a 30% rise in profits in 2008, Nestle's profits rose by 10.9% and Hershey's grew by 8.5% in the fourth quarter.

So, is indulgence or a little pick-me-up truly the reason for the "healthy" increase in candy sales? Or, could it be that consumers are just tired of warily watching caloric intake? Whatever the reason, the owner of a candy store in San Francisco was quoted as saying, "All is well in candy land."

Now, about that stolen candy in my office...

The state of affairs at the U.S.O.C.

Things aren't going so well for the U.S. Olympic Committee these days. First, eight-gold medal winner Michael Phelps had his infamous run-in with a bong and, more recently, CEO Jim Scherr was ousted. All of this happens in a time right before the International Olympic Committee meets to hear presentations from cities bidding on the 2016 Olympics. Included in that list of four finalists is Chicago; other cities include Madrid, Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro.

The U.S.O.C. and I.O.C. have had a notoriously stormy relationship. I'm sure this recent chain of events hasn't helped. Let's hope it does not impact Chicago's bid to be the host city for the Olympics in 2016.

Rolling Stone

The latest edition of Rolling Stone magazine arrived in the mail yesterday. The cover is a photo of two of the stars of Gossip Girl, licking an ice cream cone together. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on the intent…

At the risk of sounding like an old fogey (a word my father used to indicate anyone older than him who was also rigid or moronic in behavior), what happened to the good ol’ days of the tabloid Rolling Stone, featuring photography by Annie Leibovitz, writing by Cameron Crowe and Ben Fong-Torres, and the wacked out stylings of Hunter S. Thompson? In its place is a magazine that is now glossy, standard size, and way too often focused on non-rock and roll editorial content.

Rolling Stone was founded in San Francisco in 1967 by Jann Wenner and Ralph Gleason. In the 1970s, the magazine was known for its political coverage and launched the careers of prominent writers like Thompson, Crowe, Joe Klein and Joe Eszterhas. Others who have served at Rolling Stone include P.J. O’Rourke, Lester Bangs, Timothy Ferris, Ralph Steadman and Jon Landau.

During the early 1970s, I knew the exact date, each two weeks, when the magazine would appear at the local newsstand and was there to buy it—a subscription to our home was utterly out of the question. I would read the tabloid cover to cover, share the good stuff with a friend who was also into rock and roll and then stash away the magazine in a secret place where I could refer back to the album reviews, stories and editorial columns.

To be on the cover of Rolling Stone was to have “made it.” In fact, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show had a catchy hit in the ‘70s, “On the Cover of the Rolling Stone.” Famous photos have graced the cover of the magazine since its origins--the very first cover featured John Lennon.

So, forgive me if I rant a bit, but the latest incarnation of the magazine does a disservice to the effect the original staff and publication had on the culture of the time. It’s sad to see a magazine, which was so important during its heyday, now serve as one more gossip rag with content, and covers, that are intended more to titillate than to provide thought leadership in areas like politics and music.

Kids, this isn’t your daddy’s Rolling Stone

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Madness thoughts

Weekend one of the NCAA Tournament is in the book. Here are some thoughts and observations after first and second round games.

Best player: It's hard not to make a case for Sherron Collins. The Kansas guard scored 57 points and dished out 10 assists in his two games and controlled tempo in both contests. He and his sidekick Cole Aldrich needed their "A" games as they received little support from their running mates against North Dakota State and Dayton. But, overall, I'm going to give the nod to Blake Griffin. Griffin led Oklahoma to wins over Morgan State and Michigan and, in the process, endured a dirty foul and numerous bumps which ended up in bruises. His game returned to the form we saw earlier this season. That makes OU a definite Final Four contender. (I'd still love to see a Griffin-Hansbrough match-up in a Final Four semi between the Sooners and North Carolina.)

Best game: In a tie, the dueling overtime games on Friday night were great fun. So, let's say Siena's win over Ohio State and Wisconsin beating Florida State. Honorable mention should go to Missouri-Marquette.

Biggest disappointment: It has to be Wake Forest. The Deacons were #1 at one point in the season and beat North Carolina and Duke. Yet, Wake faded to a four seed and then lost to Cleveland State in the tourney.

Jimmy Chitwood award: Let's give it up for Ben Woodside of North Dakota State. The kid got most any shot he wanted against Kansas, went toe-to-toe with his more heralded rival Collins, scored 37 points and almost helped the Bison pull off the round one upset.

The Dick Vitale "they didn't deserve to be here" award: Arizona, a 12 seed from the Pac-10 who many felt should not have been in the tournament. The Wildcats are now in the Sweet 16 after beating an over-seeded Utah team and Cleveland State.

Team to watch: Connecticut. After losing to Syracuse in the 6-OT thriller in the Big East Tournament, the Huskies looked good in convincingly beating Chattanooga and Purdue.

Funniest commercial: The Axe spot with the dude with the, shall we say, sweating problem is weird but laugh-out-loud funny.

Most-anticipated 3rd round matchups: Syracuse-Oklahoma, Villanova-Duke and Missouri-Memphis. And, of course, can Kansas play well against Michigan State after losing by 13 at MSU back on January 10?

The Lost City of Z

If you're in need of a good read, try The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann. Grann's book documents the quest of Percy Fawcett to find the mythical city of El Dorado in the Amazon. Sometimes Indiana Jones, sometimes narrative on heroic explorers of old, the book is a read which delves into the era of exploration while providing an adventure thrill ride along the way.

Brad Pitt has acquired the movie rights so you can wait for the movie...or pick up this hard-to-put-down book now.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Saturday morning coffee

- President Obama's gaffe on Jay Leno this week has his staffers wondering how they can help manage his off-the-cuff remarks. In case you missed it, Obama and Leno were talking about the bowling alley in the White House. Obama said that he had recently "bowled a 129...it was like the Special Olympics or something." The President has since apologized to the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics is the organization started in 1968 by Eunice Shriver which is designed to help people with intellectual disabilities develop self-confidence, social skills and a sense of personal accomplishment. Shriver is, of course, the sister of John F. Kennedy.

- Seth Davis, the talking head on CBS' studio show during the NCAA Tournament, has written When March Went Mad, a book recounting the 1979 tournament championship game between Michigan State and Indiana State. That game has oft been credited as the moment when the NCAA Tournament truly became the NCAA Tournament, featuring two true stars in Magic Johnson for Michigan State and Larry Bird for Indiana State. Thirty years later, the tournament is now a mega-machine with a huge television contract, thousands of attendees, and millions in licensed royalties, not to mention the millions of online brackets in circulation during the three weeks of the event.

- The Big 12 is 6-0 thus far in the Big Dance. But, in the not-so-Big Dance--the NIT--the Big 12 only has Baylor still playing. The Bears have just tipped off this morning against Virginia Tech. Baylor made the NCAA Tournament last year and were expected to contend for the conference title this year. But, Scott Drew's team under-achieved all year until it won three in the conference post-season tournament, only to fall to Missouri in the championship game. The Bears are apparently still in the recruiting sweepstakes for PG John Wall although the latest word is that Wall is favoring Memphis over Kansas and Baylor.

- For those not caught up on Dancing With the Stars, Belinda Carlisle is the first "star" to be kicked off the competition. Carlisle, former lead singer with the Go-Go's, apparently did not have the beat. (For those who don't get it, consult your 1980's list of top singles by this all-girl band.)

- If you've not watched Friday Night Lights, I'd strongly encourage you to catch this show at 8:00 p.m. Central, Friday nights on NBC. Now in season three, this show has been loved by the critics but never achieved critical mass with its viewership. This season the show debuted on Direct TV and then the episodes aired on NBC. Based on the book by the same name, by H.G. Bissinger, the show is about life in small town Texas. It's not a show about football but football is what links the town and characters together, just as the sport is at the core of Texas small town and high school life. Go check out season one on DVD--you'll be hooked.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The "boss button"

Comcast has a solution for those workers trying to follow the NCAA Tournament on their computer. The "boss button" lets you quickly shift your desktop page to an Excel-looking spreadsheet, thus shielding your monitoring of the tournament during work hours.


Last year, CBS says that the button was clicked 2.5 million times including 1.2 million times on day one of the tourney. Funny stuff...

Social networking

This is a really interesting story on the psychology of social networks like Facebook and MySpace.


A March Madness diary - Day two

Friday, March 20:
The day in which your school plays has a much different feel than the day when you can just sit back, watch, and groan or cheer about what's happening to your brackets. Game day for, in this case, the Kansas Jayhawks makes me a nervous wreck. The finality of the tournament is emotional and...final. The season's over. Only one team, at the end of it all, is going to walk away satisfied.

11:15 a.m. - Syracuse jumps out to a quick 6-0 lead over Stephen F. Austin. Any concerns about the Cuse's tired legs, after the 6-overtime thriller last week versus Connecticut followed by an overtime win the next night against West Virginia, seem to be unfounded.
11:30 a.m. - CBS switches to the Kansas - North Dakota State game. I am going on blog silence during this two hour interlude--I'm much too nervous to type or be witty. (Thanks, readers, for understanding...)
1:32 p.m. - Frantic texts come in from my son, who's in Denver (after skiing this week), and a friend, who's in southern Missouri. In both locales, CBS has cut-away from the Kansas game.
1:34 p.m. - Exhale slowly. KU has beaten back NDSU by 10. Once again, the Vegas oddsmakers know what they are doing as the line was 10. The Bison did not disappoint and were as good as advertised--much better than a 14 seed. The little guard, Woodside, was a combination of Steve Nash and Jimmy Chitwood. The kid has a sneaky first step, got most any shot he wanted, but was hounded into 6 turnovers by a variety of Kansas defenders. Sherron Collins scored 32 and dished out eight assists and Cole Aldrich came back to his hometown to score 23 points, grab 11 rebounds, and throw down eight dunks. Special mention needs to be given to Tyrone Appleton, who came in early and did a good job defensively when KU needed an energy lift, and Marcus Morris. Morris hit all three of his shots, scored eight points and had seven rebounds. Interesting stats of the game: KU only has five turnovers and also only has five points from its bench.

The difference between this 14 seed (NDSU) and Stephen F. Austin, a fellow 14 who played Syracuse, is pretty interesting. SFA is a bigger team who does not shoot the three well. NDSU, on the other hand, is fifth in the nation in three-point FG efficiency. The long ball is what NDSU relied on in the first half to stay close and is what most lower seeds do well if they eventually pull off the upset.

1:35 p.m. - We get treated to tight endings in both the Oklahoma State - Tennessee game and the Marquette - Utah State game. OSU's win puts the Big 12 at 5-0 thus far in the tournament. Not bad for a league that is supposedly down this year.
2:20 p.m. - Missouri is now the local team on the tube and are at 6-6 with Cornell at the first TV timeout. The arena in Boise is one of those that looks dark on television. Why is it that places like Boise and Greensboro consistently get NCAA first and second round games?
2:21 p.m. - I give thought to a quick road-trip to Minneapolis. There have to be tickets available, right, given the NDSU loss?
2:57 p.m. - The first half of the MU - Cornell game ends with the Tigers up four. It's been a sloppy half by both teams. Can the Big 12 go 6-0 in round one?
3:19 p.m. - I notice on the floor that Missouri is playing in the Taco Bell Arena in Boise. I wonder why TB would choose to have an arena naming rights deal in Boise? Are there lots of chicken gorditas sold in Idaho?
3:37 p.m. - Missouri is finding its rhythm. Kim English has given quality minutes and Cornell is not hitting shots--MU's pressure is having an effect. Once again, the Tigers are pulling away from an opponent in the second half.
3:38 p.m. - Pittsburgh, the one seed, is having a very tight game with East Tennessee State. I cut away to the other CBS channel to catch the four-point game between Dayton and West Virginia. The winner of that game will face Kansas on Sunday.
4:23 p.m. - The afternoon games come to a close. MU has no problem pulling away from Cornell, Pitt breathes easier after surving ETSU and Dayton beats Bob Huggins and West Virginia, thus becoming the next opponent for Kansas on Sunday.
6:10 p.m. - The evening session starts with Morehead State making a jumper against #1 seed Louisville. Don't you know that these two Kentucky schools playing, along with Western Kentucky's win last night, sticks in the craw of University of Kentucky fans?
6:25 p.m. - Boston College and USC tip off in Minneapolis. Judging by the number of empty blue seats, the North Dakota State fans must have headed back to Fargo.
8:00 p.m. - I take an hour-long break to catch Friday Night Lights on NBC. FNL is appointment viewing...and, yes, I know we could DVR the show but I need the diversion.
9:02 p.m. - Back to hoops. I had picked Arizona to beat Utah but did not expect BC to fall to USC. Maybe Tim Floyd's team is finally figuring it out. The USC-Michigan State could be a very good round two contest.
9:11 p.m. - Craig Bolerjack is starting to sound like Bob Carpenter, another hoops announcer, and Bob Wenzel sounds like a poor man's Bill Raftery.
9:27 p.m. - Why is Wisconsin always such a tough out?
9:37 p.m. - The Florida State tomahawk chop chant just does not sound right at a basketball game. Also, can these two teams be more different? FSU wants to romp up and down the floor. Wisconsin is all about half-court offense, bruising defense, and "ugly-ing" up a game.
9:42 p.m. - Wake Forest has cut Cleveland State's lead to nine at the half. Cleveland State hasn't been to the Dance since 1986, the year they upset Indiana.
9:45 p.m. - The Sonic "don't you bring that weak tot action" commercial airs. I still like that spot. And, the "I, reporter" campaign by the local CBS affiliate is really self-indulgent. Here, let me pat myself on the back.
9:50 p.m. - CBS goes to the Siena-Ohio State game. Verne Lundquist and Raftery are announcing this game. How many college games must those guys have broadcast in their careers? Lundquist did the regionals in '86 when Kansas beat Michigan State and North Carolina State in Kemper Arena, and then two years later he broadcast Kansas' wins over Vanderbilt and Kansas State in the regionals in Detroit. His partner then was former Boston Celtic great, Tom Heinsohn.
9:53 p.m. - The Siena-Ohio State game is being played in Dayton, another site that consistently gets first and second round action. I saw Kansas beat Western Kentucky there in second round action in 1995 and can attest that there's not much to do in Dayton other than the Aviation Museum. And, the building is nothing special...
9:56 p.m. - Dallas Lauderdale of Ohio State throws down the Siena player, Ryan Rossiter, who has to be the doofiest (I'm sorry) looking kid in college hoops. Raftery calls it a "regular" foul; Lundquist calls it "irregular." Funny that the Big East announcer (Raftery) didn't think it was that big of a deal. And, Lauderdale must also be nominated for the All Name Team.
10:16 p.m. - Siena tightens it up to four with 11:10 to play. We saw the Saints earlier in the season in Allen Fieldhouse and they are a quality club who returned everyone from last year's tourney team.
10:28 p.m. - Michigan State is officially winning big over Robert Morris, proving that Spartans are better than signers of the Constitution?
10:31 p.m. - Rossiter and Lauderdale go at it again. You have to hand it to the kid who looks like an extra from Hoosiers--he won't back down from the big fella.
10:44 p.m. - Siena hits the three to cut it to one with 47 seconds to go.
10:47 p.m. - Hasbrouck, who hit the big three, misses the first Siena FT but nails the second. Tie game--eight seconds to play.
10:49 p.m. - OVERTIME...the first of the tournament.
10:57 p.m. - Cut-away to Florida State-Wisconsin. The Noles are down two and are going to the line. Toney Douglas hits both charites--we are tied.
10:59 p.m. - Back to Siena-OSU and the Buckeyes score. A minute to go...
11:00 p.m. - Cut to end of FSU-Wiscy and CBS CUTS AWAY FROM THE SHOT LEAVING THE HAND OF THE WISCONSIN PLAYER!!! What the h-e-double hockey sticks are you doing!!?? I get to find out it missed and that game is going OT by looking at the ticker at the top of the screen. Go to a split screen, for crying out loud--this IS NOT THAT HARD.
11:02 p.m. - Wake loses to Cleveland State. Wow...Wake was #1 in the country at one time. Now...out.
11:03 p.m. - Raftery--"ONIONS!" (My favorite...) Siena sends it to 2OT on the trey at the end of the first extra period.
11:04 p.m. - Cut to Wiscy leading FSU by three in the OT.
11:05 p.m. - Now back to the other OT game. We've got two great games going on and no rhythm from the network in covering either one.
11:14 p.m. - Back-and-forth we go from game-to-game but in time to see Wisconsin drive, hit the circus shot, and get fouled. Badgers up two with two seconds to go.
11:16 p.m. - Back to Siena at the line and a tie game. The Saints go up one and call time-out. Thad Matta goes ballistic at the refs. Wow...we've got two doozies going at the same time.
11:17 p.m. - Wisconsin makes me eat crow. They beat FSU in 2 OT's and prove they DO deserve to be in the tournament. Now, let's see what the other Big Ten team does in their overtime game.
11:18 p.m. - "ONIONS--DOUBLE ORDER...GARDEN VARIETY." The line of the tournament thus far by Raftery as Siena drains the three go up two with 3.9 seconds to go. Yikes!
11:21 p.m. - What a great moment--the shot of Hasbrouck's parents who followed their Siena Saint to Dayton to see the game.
11:22 p.m. - It's over...two days of hoops, with madness finally rearing its head at the end of day two with two overtime thrillers. 32 teams are now headed home, 32 are moving on to round two. It's the best annual two days in sports...hands down. Now, gotta go to bed...peace, out.

Crocs in trouble

As much as I dislike reporting on another company in trouble, I cannot say that I'm sorry about the news that ugly shoe-maker Crocs is having financial woes.

Crocs are the rubberized, clog-like sandal "shoe" that gained popularity a few years ago and have since become standard fare on the feet of adults and children. My beef is that they became replacement wear for all footwear and, in my opinion, were continuing proof of the dumbing down of American style.

The company's auditors have expressed "substantial doubt" about the firm's ability to continue as a growing concern. Sales have fallen and the fad appears to have died away.

Here's hoping that Earth Shoes don't make a comeback as a Crocs alternative.

Prez helps ESPN

It appears that ESPN has ambushed CBS' major investment in the NCAA Tournament by using an unexpected resource--President Barack Obama.

President Obama filled out his tournament bracket on ABC's Good Morning America. ESPN then had a longer segment with the President and Andy Katz where Obama made his picks from the White House Map Room. The segment aired multiple times on ESPN during the day.

The result? Sports fans filling out brackets are picking ESPN.com with more than five million filled-out brackets. That's a 37% increase over last year. At its peak, fans were registering their brackets at a rate of 3,900 per minute, or 65 per second. That's a lot of misused time in the office!

CBS, of course, owns the rights to the NCAA Tournament, both for television and the web. The network said that it has sold $30 million in online advertising against the tourney, up from $23 million a year ago. But, the success of ESPN's site, with the President's help, has to hurt the "official" network of the tournament.

As the tournament continues this online battle will continue to play out. Will ESPN have enough content to bring consumers back versus the tournament video and other extras they can get on CBSSportsline.com? We shall see...

Troubles with blog comments?

I've heard from some of the loyal readers of this blog that they are experiencing difficulty in making comments or signing up as a "follower" of the blog.

Stay tuned--I will dig into the matter (with all of my technical prowess) and update you on what may be causing the problem. Thanks for your patience.

Innovative companies

Fast Company magazine published their list of the 50 most innovative companies in the U.S. Two Kansas City area firms were mentioned--Payless Shoes, Topeka, and HOK Sport, Kansas City. Payless was cited for signing Project Runway winner Christian Siriano to design a line of shoes and handbags. HOK was acknowledged for the first LEED-certified stadium in the majors, for the Washington Nationals. The company also has the Yankees' and Mets' new stadiums opening this spring in New York.

The magazine's list of the 10 most innovative companies in Advertising and Marketing had media darling Crisipin, Porter + Bogusky (Burger King, Microsoft, Best Buy, Hulu, Old Navy) as #1 followed by TBWA\Worldwide (TBWA was recently named AdWeek's Agency of the Year.) Goodby, Silverstein & Partners was 8th on the list.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A March Madness diary - Day one

Thursday, March 19:

11:00 a.m. - Preparing to leave house. Cookies? Check. Laptop? Check. Brackets (all 6 of them from the various pools)? Check. Special hoops section of Kansas City Star and USA Today? Check. I'm off to my buddy's house--he with the "man cave" downstairs of full kitchen, pool table, requisite framed sports posters, and the big screen.

11:10 a.m. - Stop by Shell station to pick up today's copy of USA Today for the needed facts and hoops insights from their Sports section. The USA Today in the display is from Tuesday. I ask the attendant if she has today's edition. Her answer? "What we got is what's over there." I half expected her to say "USA what...?"

11:25 a.m. - Arrival at my buddy's. He has the spread of chili and fixin's ready to go with plenty of snacks and drinks downstairs. We settle in for tip-off of game one, Texas A&M versus BYU.

11:52 a.m. - The first cut-away by CBS. I think of keeping count but decide against it knowing that this will be the first of many throughout the weekend.

12:50 p.m. - We're both yelling "switch!" at the TV as CBS insists on staying with the A&M-BYU game versus shifting to the Memphis-Cal-State Northridge game, a tight one that Northridge currently leads.

1:12 p.m. - The first of many AT&T commercials airs--the one with the Mom who chastises her son for selling the roll-over minutes at the garage sale. My watch-mate says, "That lady's annoying!" I tell him to get used to it--he'll see that spot dozens of times between now and the end of the tournament.

1:45 p.m. - During the Northern Iowa-Purdue game, mention is made of the Northern Iowa upset of #3 seed Missouri in the tournament in 1990. My buddy audibly groans, as he is an MU fan.

2:30 p.m. - Nemanja Calasan of Purdue enters the game. I make a mental note to nominate Nemanja for the All-NCAA Name Team.

4:10 p.m. - All of the second games are over. As expected, Radford goes down by a lot to North Carolina. But, you have to like the nickname - the Radford Highlanders. Radford is located in Virginia and their head coach, Brad Greenberg, works just 15 miles down the road from his brother, Seth Greenberg, who is the head coach at Virginia Tech.

4:12 p.m. - By my count, I've heard the term "score the basketball" (as in "he can score the basketball") seven times thus far today. Isn't that the objective of the game--to "score the basketball?"

4:15 p.m. - My friend and I look at each other in disbelief--what happened to the last hour of CBS coverage? Typically, day one and day two go from 11:30 - 5:15 or so for the afternoon games. Today, they have cut off early leaving us with no telecast of Mississippi State - Washington, the last game of the afternoon.

4:20 p.m. - I depart my buddy's house for my own--a quick dinner and then downstairs to my own big screen and 'frig for the evening slate of Round One action.

6:42 p.m. - Texas ties Minnesota with 6:00 to go in the 1st half. Can the Horns become the second Big 12 team to win today?

7:24 p.m. - A commercial airs for tickets for next year's Final Four. The spot features plentiful shots of Kansas' Final Four appearance last year including the Mario's Miracle shot. I'll never get tired of seeing that play.

7:42 p.m. - What were close games are turning into bonafide upsets. Michigan's up big on Clemson as is American on Villanova, although Nova has cut it to 7 with 15:00 to play. Cutaway CBS...cutaway! (Thankfully, they do so...)

7:44 p.m. - Dick Enberg exclaims "oh my!," his signature line. American's not going away.

7:45 p.m. - Villanova's Jay Wright has got to be the nattiest dresser of NCAA coaches. Dude can fill out a suit...

7:48 p.m. - I cut to the other CBS affiliated station airing games just in time to see a Clemson and Michigan player butt heads with blood spilled on the Sprint Center floor.

8:01 p.m. - Basketball is such a game of rhythm and runs. Villanova is now within two. American's body language is suddenly that of a 14 seed who's beginning to doubt they can win.

8:16 p.m. - Now, all of the games are close. Michigan leads by four with 1:15 to play, Akron's up by one and Villanova has a five point lead. CBS thankfully cuts to the Michigan - Clemson game.

8:18 p.m. - Tim Brando says, "Ah, the tournament is a precious time of year." "Precious?" Dude...men don't use the word "precious"--particularly sports announcers!

8:25 p.m. - Michigan becomes the second 10 seed of the day to beat a 7 seed. Amazingly, it's this program's first appearance in the tournament since 1998.

8:26 p.m. - CBS switches to Gonzaga - Akron. The Zags are now on top by five with 7:56 to play. A scuffle developos on the floor. Former Kansas Jayhawk Micah Downs, now at Gonzaga, plays peacemaker with one of the Zips.

8:30 p.m. - Another player hits the floor--this one from Gonzaga. This game has become very chippy.

8:37 p.m. - Downs hits a three. Game over...

8:53 p.m. - We now go to Binghamton - Duke. Of course, Duke is the featured game in the middle of prime time. (By the way, I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but Sean McManus, head of CBS programming, is a Duke alum.)

8:55 p.m. - Now CBS give us Oklahoma - Morgan State...and, Blake Griffin scores his first basket.

9:19 p.m. - I switch over to UCLA - VCU given that many pundits predicted an upset here. So far, UCLA looks focused and sharp.

9:25 p.m. - Now I'm getting Illinois - Western Kentucky on the alternate CBS channel. I've got the Hilltoppers in all of my brackets. Go WKU!!!

9:26 p.m. - Orlando Mendez-Valdez is a starter for WKU and barely has enough real estate on the back of his jersey to hold his name.

10:13 p.m. - The Coke Zero commercial featuring the Rock Chalk Chant of Kansas airs. Pretty cool...

10:27 p.m. - Oklahoma leads by 20 with 12:35 to go. Is OU toying with us...or are they going to resume the swagger that they had in the first half of the season? Are their rumored internal team issues behind them?

10:50 p.m. - We get treated to a replay of the flip given Blake Griffin in the OU - Morgan State game. Thankfully the MS offender was ejected...and again I marvel at Griffin's on-court demeanor. He has taken so many shots from other players and always keeps his cool.

11:00 p.m. - Only 12.5 hours until the Kansas game.

11:02 p.m. - Uh oh, here comes VCU! 63-60 UCLA with 1:47 to play.

11:14 p.m. - Larry Sanders of VCU swats away a Darren Collison shot and gives the Rams a shot for the upset with 13 seconds to go.

11:17 p.m. - Great defense down the stretch by UCLA, a trademark of Ben Howland's team...and Collison in particular. No upset here...

11:29 p.m. - Suddenly, the Illinois - Western Kentucky game is, indeed, a game. WKU has the lead by three with 23 seconds to play. The night session of games have been far more competitive and interesting than the day games.

11:32 p.m. - Whew, WKU holds on. And, Bruce Weber (Illinois coach) can start whining about something...

11:35 p.m. - That's a wrap, sports fans. Day one complete--over 12 hours of college hoops. And, you wonder why they call it "Madness."

March Madness rumor mill

When March Madness begins, so too do the rumors about coaches--which jobs will become open, who will go where, what's the latest regarding so-and-so who's on the hot seat?

The first rumors to surface are:
- The future of Billy Gillespie at Kentucky. UK did not make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1991 and for the Wildcat Nation, that is an absolute "no-no." (As one Kentucky fan pointed out, "How can we have two first-team all-SEC players and not make the NCAA Tournament!?") What makes matters worse is that former coach Tubby Smith has quickly turned a low-performing Minnesota program around and the Gophers are a 10 seed playing Texas today. In addition, other Kentucky schools (Western Kentucky, Morehead State) made the field of 65 but UK did not. One of the notions being tossed around is whether UK would go after John Calipari at Memphis. And, what makes that rumor even more juicy is what that might do to the stud recruiting class coming into Memphis.

- The second rumor surrounds Jeff Capel's future at Oklahoma. There is some word out of Charlottesville that Virginia may try to lure Capel back to ACC country.

Madness starts today

Are you ready? Twelve hours of college hoops viewing today along with countless conversations about the brackets, who we picked, why we should have picked the other school...and why CBS can't seem to get it right. "It," of course, is the challenge of knowing when to cut-away from one game to a more exciting one, or how to balance two exciting, close games which may be going on at the same time.

Those of us in Kansas City are treated to an interesting 8-9 matchup to start--BYU versus Texas A&M. We then go to North Carolina-Radford. Yawn...

Macho B

In sad news, Macho B the jaguar has died.


It's believed that Macho was the last of a few jaguars who were known to have lived in the United States. He was first photographed by wildlife officials in 1996.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Memphis fans and 'cue

I have a hunch that the Memphis fans in town for their team's appearance here in the NCAA Tournament will be sampling Kansas City barbecue to compare it to their town's fare. Here's hoping that they don't go to Famous Dave's in the P&L District and think that is "real" Kansas City 'cue.

Take a drive to Bryant's, Gates, LC's or out to the burbs and Oklahoma Joe's, Tiger fans...


I'm not sure if I should be flattered or concerned.

I told you that I'd reveal my Final Four picks here. And, they are (drum roll)--Pittsburgh, Louisville, North Carolina and Memphis. And, in a twist, President Barack Obama was interviewed by ESPN's Andy Katz this morning and the Prez's picks are--also--Pitt, the Ville, UNC and Memphis. Hmm...great minds?

Quick Hits

- Readers of USA Today are familiar with the "snapshots" the newspaper provides from time to time--usually graphs and charts which answer a question to provide a piece of quick data on a topic of interest. The question yesterday was "How is your spouse aging?" 39% of men answered "better than I expected" compared to 30% for women answering the question, and 49% of women answered "as I expected" compared to 46% for men. Interestingly, 18% of women answered "worse than I expected" compared to 11% for men. Wow! It seems women either have a higher standard for their hubbies or we men are just not doing our best in the aging process. The study did not address which particular feature was most troubling to wives in their analysis.

- Quote of the week: "It's like the Battle of Stalingrad. Any sensible person would want them both to lose." Andrew Ferguson, Editor of the Weekly Standard, on the series of debates between Bill Maher, liberal comedian, and Ann Coulter, conservative author.

- Another one bites the dust: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer becomes the latest victim--another daily newspaper which is shutting down operations. They will continue a streamlined online edition.

- Statistic of the week: In 2008, over 148,000 stores closed in the U.S.

- Spotted at Shutters in Santa Monica: Paul Rudd, Shawnee Mission West and University of Kansas grad and star of new movie, "I Love You Man."

- Happy Anniversary: This year marks the 25th anniversary of Miami Vice, the show which forced viewers in the pre-DVR days to stay home on Friday nights. Michael Mann's pastel-ridden, neon-driven TV series changed the way we watched and was the forerunner for crime shows, recurring characters and set design that are now staples of our television diet. Fast cars, hot women, colorful South Beach locations, cutting-edge fashion and Jan Hammer's soundtrack, along with Mann's signature style, all combined to make Vice a hit in the mid-1980's. (Plus, who can forget Kansas native Don Johnson sporting the Kansas Jayhawk t-shirt in the final episode?)

- The business of sports: March Madness starts tomorrow. And, last year’s winner—the University of Kansas Jayhawks—scored big away from the court. KU earned more than $600,000 in royalties for merchandise tied to the national championship, the most ever in the three-month post-championship period. But, in case you’re wondering, Kansas’ royalty take pales in comparison to the $600 million from television advertising on college basketball this season.

PR crisis at AIG

How would you like to be the head of Corporate Communications (PR) at AIG? The attached appeared today in AdAge.com and provides some interesting thoughts on AIG's public relations crisis.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

California Dreamin'

Greetings from SoCal, site of this week's visit for business purposes (albeit a short one-night stay.)

Los Angeles never ceases to amaze. The eye candy here is always new and fresh--sometimes in a good way and other times not so much.

What I have been struck by on this trip are the number of businesses in this town--strip center after strip center after street after street with hundreds of small businesses. Mattress shops, nail parlors, coffee shops, income tax services, furniture stores, consignment outlets--the types of businesses are just too numerous to mention. And, dozens of small places to stop and eat a burger/hot dog/doughnut/burrito/taco/sushi/combo plate. There's Tommy's Hamburgers followed by Big Tommy's Hamburgers a few blocks away, not to be confused with Big Tomy's (yes, with one "m.") There is Hamburger Habit, the "best burger in Southern California" as voted on by KABC Radio (I have no idea if that's an L.A. station or not) not to be confused with Fatburger or In-N-Out Burger (my personal favorite) or Pink's, which doesn't serve burgers but is the best hot dog outlet on the planet. There is Cinco De Mayo Mexican food in a location that looks like an old "Big Boy" restaurant building. And, they did look open today even though it wasn't Cinco De Mayo. If you have a craving for a broader menu, there is Lucy's Drive-In, open 24 hours, serving American and Mexican food. The sign says "pastrami" next to "tacos." Now, that's a menu two-fer. And, reservations to several favorite Santa Monica Italian eateries weren't available "due to St. Patrick's Day." Huh? When did the Irish suddenly acquire a taste for pasta and red wine?

If you don't see the vehicle you want in L.A. then, trust me, they don't make it. There cannot be another city on Earth that is as car-dependent as this one.

Finally, the people. Oh my goodness, does L.A. have the people. There are plenty of beautiful people in this town but, more than that, there are people who think they're beautiful. Lack of self-esteem does not appear to be an issue in this metropolis. And, if you need to improve your appearance, then there are plentiful opportunities to do that here--lots of lap band surgery billboards next to the breast augmentation advertising.

The sobering thought? A one-day business trip involved more time spent in the car than in actual meetings...but, as described above, the observations were plentiful.

Monday, March 16, 2009

March Madness thoughts

- I must admit, the more I ponder the seedings, the more irritated I am that Kansas was shipped to Minneapolis and Missouri to Boise, versus having one (or both) of the schools play here in Kansas City at the Sprint Center. Kansas' record against teams in the tournament is 9-4 with an RPI of 11, a schedule strength of 22 and an outright conference championship. Included in their resume was a win over Oklahoma in Norman. (Yes, I know that Blake Griffin didn't play in that game, but it WAS on OU's home court and it's not like the Sooners, with Griffin, have been dominant in their past few games.)

Missouri also makes a strong argument for playing locally. The Tigers won the Big 12 post-season tournament, also beat Oklahoma, have an RPI of 10 (schedule strength of 38) and are 8-4 against teams in the tournament.

In contrast, Oklahoma was placed as the #2 seed in Kansas City. The Sooners lost to both KU and MU, finished second in their league, lost their first game in the post-season conference tournament and lost four of their last six games. OU does have an RPI of 5 and a schedule strength of 25, but are they truly deserving of the slot here over their two Big 12 brethren?

- Three Big East teams were seeded as #1. Of those, Connecticut is the most vulnerable. The Huskies lost in the first round of the Big East tournament and are without the services of starting guard Jerome Dyson.

- Much is being made of North Carolina point guard Ty Lawson's injured toe and what that means to UNC's chances in the tournament. But, the Tarheels caught a break with an easy bracket when comparing the various seeds...and have struggling Oklahoma as the #2 seed in the South.

- Missouri, if it gets past Cornell, would likely play Marquette, another up-tempo team but one who is without the services of star guard Dominic James. Don't be surprised if Utah State upsets the Eagles in round one.

- North Dakota State is in the tournament for the first time and will face defending national champion Kansas. The site is Minneapolis, only three hours from Fargo, where NDSU is located. Uh oh--let's hope plenty of Jayhawk fans make the seven hour trek to the Twin Cities.

- Most noted first round upset: Western Kentucky over Illinois. This is the one that most of the analysts are predicting as a first day upset.

- Under-seeded teams: West Virginia as a 6, Siena as a 9, Kansas as a 3, Memphis as a 2 (I think they deserved the final 1 seed), Butler as a 9 and Clemson as a 7.

- A sexy upset pick is Virginia Commenwealth over UCLA. I think UCLA will win this game but then face the prospect of likely playing Villanova--in Philadelphia. Not a good draw for the Bruins...

- The trend continues with fewer and fewer mid-major teams making the tournament. Please, Tournament Committee, don't let this continue. Teams like Arizona and Wisconsin do not deserve a bid. And, unfortunately, "surprise" conference tournament winners like USC and Mississippi State have impacted slots for mid-major teams.

- Interesting statistic of the day: All of the national title winners since 2005 have finished in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Who fits that profile this year? Connecticut (1 seed), Duke (2), Kansas (3), Missouri (3), Gonzaga (4) and West Virginia (6.)

- My Final Four is...(stay tuned to this space as I'm still trying to figure that out.)

"Monday morning you sure look fine..."

Yes, this Monday morning sure does look fine, to borrow from a Fleetwood Mac lyric. It's a beautiful day here in the heart of America, yours truly is on vacation, March Madness starts this Thursday, and we've got lots to muse on this morning.

- Nancy Wilson turns 55 today. Nancy is one-half of the Wilson sisters, the duo who led 1970's band Heart. Nancy is married to Cameron Crowe, contributing editor for Rolling Stone, who wrote and was the inspiration for the movie, Almost Famous.
- The weather forecast in Kansas City for tomorrow is 80 and partly cloudy. Methinks there will be plentiful drunk, wannabe Irish-people out and about in Westport and other watering hole locales.
- FOX's 24 continues tonight with Jack Bauer having helped save the President and the White House from a terrorist attack. Alas, Jack's day is not yet done...
- This is the week when it seems all of Johnson County (Kansas) departs for spring break trips far and wide. So, for any of you burglars out there, have at it this week in places like Overland Park and Leawood.
- University of Kansas alum Paul Rudd's film, "I Love You Man," opens this Friday. Rudd continues to carve out an everyman niche for himself and was recently featured in a Vanity Fair photo spread with other young comedic actors.
- Welcome, Memphis fans, to Kansas City. The Tigers are a #2 seed in the West region and open play this Thursday at the Sprint Center. If last year's Final Four was any indication, expect a lot of Memphis followers in Kansas City this weekend. In San Antonio last April, the Memphis fans were outnumbered only by Kansas fans, and were very nice folk.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Selection Sunday thoughts

A more comprehensive analysis of the NCAA Tournament selections will be coming in this space early this week but here are some immediate thoughts on the 65-team field.

- Arizona should not have been selected into the tournament. End of story. The fact that they got in ahead of teams like St. Mary's and San Diego State is just wrong. The Wildcats have an RPI of 62 and an overall record of 19-13. That's just not good enough.
- USC and Mississippi State both won their conference tournaments. And, in so doing, they took away spots from mid-majors since post-season tourney winners automatically qualify for the tournament.
- There will always be argument about those teams who did not make it into the tournament. And, if the tournament is expanded--as some have suggested--then we'll have the same scenario in some fashion. Somebody will aways be left out...
- Kansas has a tough draw. A possible match-up with West Virginia in round 2 would pit the Jayhawks against a tough Big East foe, coached by Bob Huggins. If they get to the round of 16, then they likely face a re-match with Michigan State, another very tough tournament team. The only good thing is that KU is playing in Minneapolis, a seven-hour drive from the Kansas City area.
- Missouri was shipped off to Boise, not an easy travel destination for Tiger fans. MU starts with Cornell, winner of the Ivy League, and then would face the winner of Marquette-Utah State. Marquette plays up-tempo, like MU, but lost starting guard Dominic James, who has not played since February 25. The #2 seed in Missouri's bracket is Memphis. A Missouri-Memphis match-up could be quite entertaining.
- Look for Texas to play Duke in the second round. Texas has under-achieved all year and could be a tough game for the Blue Devils. But, I expect UT to be one-and-out in this tournament.
- Oklahoma got the spot MU and KU coveted in Kansas City at the Sprint Center. The Sooners could play a pretty tough Clemson team in the second round but should advance to the Sweet 16.
- Oklahoma State faces Tennessee, a team who was expected to be much better this season. The Vols did make it to the championship of the SEC post-season tournay but lost today to Mississippi State. OSU finished the regular season playing as well as anybody in the Big 12 but lost to Missouri in the conference tournament and, in the process, had PG Byron Eaton suffer an injury which may slow him against an up-tempo, pressing squad like Tennessee.
- Texas A&M made it as the sixth Big 12 representative as a 9 seed. They will play BYU in round one and then likely face Connecticut if they advance to round two.
- Of the major (BCS) conferences, the Big East has five teams seeded in the top 16, the ACC and the Big 12 have three, and the Big 10 and Pac 10 have one each.

Sunday afternoon musings

- Have you been down the soup aisle at the grocery store lately? Holy cow--could they have more options? Trying finding basic tomato, chicken noodle or--our quest--cream of chicken for a dinner dish. It's not easy...
- You can tell it's spring break time. The airports this past week were full with noticeably more families traveling.
- Let the talking heads and the over-analysis of the NCAA Tournament begin. The Selection Show is just a few minutes away.
- Mayor Mark Funkhouser (Kansas City, MO) recently mentioned Abraham Lincoln and George Washington as other leaders who had rocky relations with the press and critics. Please don't go there "Funk."
- Does anyone else have a problem with getting that "give me back my filet-o-fish" song from the McDonald's commercial out of your head?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Selection Sunday eve thoughts

Wow! Has there been a year with more upsets in post-season tournaments? This year, we saw North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Michigan State, UCLA, Kansas, Oklahoma, and LSU among those who lost to lower seeded teams.

The question is "what does this mean for tomorrow's seeding?" Carolina was considered a one seed--will they now lose that status to Duke if the Blue Devils win the ACC Tournament? If so, it's a crime since the Tarheels won both meetings between the two schools this year. How about Oklahoma? Still a one...or slip to a two? Pitt? They could lose their status to Louisville if the Cardinals win tonight against Syracuse. Or, the Committee might give Pitt and the Ville both one seeds.

Memphis is the most consistent team in the nation right now but everyone knocks their competition in Conference USA.

What about a team like Missouri? The Tigers were the only one of the top four seeds in the Big 12 to advance in the post-season tournament, and ended up beating Baylor to win the conference's tourney championship. Does the Committee reward MU by elevating them to a 3 seed and even a possible appearance in the Sprint Center in Kansas City?

Unlike last year, when the four one seeds were pretty well-known prior to the Selection Show, tomorrow's final decisions should be much more dramatic.

My prediction? Pittsburgh, Louisville, North Carolina and Memphis. I think that Michigan State's loss as well as Oklahoma's loss have put them on the two line. Duke's RPI is high but how can you give them the one when UNC has beat them twice in the regular season and then also won the regular season championship? And, it will be hard to not place Memphis on the one line again--weak conference or not--given their consecutive wins, regular season league crown and post-season tournament title in Conference USA.

Let the Madness begin...

Other Quick Hit hoop thoughts:
- Some are suggesting that the Big Ten may get seven or even eight teams in the Big Dance. Huh!? Consider Wisconsin--they have a record of 17-12, an RPI of 44, and are 4-10 against teams in the top 50. Why are they deserving of a bid?
- Get ready, hoops fans. If you plan to watch a lot of hoops this coming Thursday-Sunday, plus the following two weekends, then you are going to see the same commercials over and over and over again. Let's hope AT&T, an NCAA sponsor, finds new creative to air versus that inane rollover minutes spot featuring the bitchy Mom.
- One projection has Missouri and Kansas, both as three seeds, being sent to Minneapolis for first round games. Can you imagine the fan bases of those two shools in the same regional site?
- As I watch Syracuse-Louisville, you can see fatigue playing a part in Syracuse's second half performance. The same occurred in Missouri's win over Baylor earlier this evening. It is very, very hard for any team to survive four games in four days, or to play the seven overtimes of Syracuse over two nights, and not feel the impact. Plus, playing againsts pressure-defense, deep teams like Louisville and Missouri only makes the fatigue more of a factor as the game progresses.

Saturday morning coffee

- Hey, Baylor and Missouri fans--plenty of tickets available for that championship clash today at 5 p.m. Kansas, Oklahoma and now Oklahoma State are all out of the tournament and those three are the ones who bring the biggest fan followings to Oklahoma City, when the tourney is played in the Ford Center. It's a bad weekend for scalpers in Bricktown.
- So, what do you all think of the new Facebook format? "What's on your mind?" seems a pretty deep question to answer versus the prior "Mike is..." construct of the updates that one could provide on one's status.
- The weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal has a story titled "Merlot Makes a Comeback." Two merlots listed in the story which we have tried, and enjoyed, are the Benziger Family Winery 2005 and the Chateau St. Jean 2005. Both cost less than $16 a bottle and can be found locally. (We have visited both wineries. The cover photo on this blog is from the Chateau St. Jean winery courtyard. And, the Benziger winery tour, in Sonoma County, is a lot of fun as its a small, family-run business.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Quick Hits

- Quote of the day: “After being delayed on the Senate floor ensuring a vote on my anti-pay raise amendment, and in a rush to make my flight home for town-hall meetings the next day, I accidentally went through a wrong door at the gate. I did have a conversation with an airline employee, but it was certainly not like this silly gossip column made it out to be.” (Senator David Vitter reacting to reports about his behavior after arriving at Reagan National Airport, Washington, D.C., to catch a United Airlines flight after the gates had closed. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have yet to go through a “wrong door” at the airport.)
- Johnny Flynn, point guard for Syracuse, played 67 minutes in the Orange’s epic six-overtime game against Connecticut in the Big East Tournament in New York. Flynn scored 34 points and had 11 assists.
- I miss Vista Burger, Mass Street Deli, Joe’s Bakery, Don's Steakhouse, Hole-in-the-Wall, the original Hayward’s Barbecue, the original Stroud’s, Smak’s, Storm’s (and their homemade ice cream), and the margarita’s at Annie’s Santa Fe. I wish we had an In-N-Out Burger in Kansas City. And, I have yet to have a bad meal at Jalapeno’s.
- Big 12 Conference officials and the city of Oklahoma City have to be sick this morning—the two top draws, Kansas and Oklahoma, both lost yesterday leaving plenty of tickets to today’s games…and restaurant and bar space readily available in Bricktown.
- Is the wackiness that occurred in college hoops yesterday an indication of what will happen during the NCAA Tournament, which begins next week? Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Clemson and Kansas all lost in their conference tourneys to lower-seeded teams.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tech influentials

Portfolio magazine recently ran a piece on the 25 people who are changing the way we do business. Not surprisingly, the top spots were occupied by the usual suspects: Larry Page, Eric Schmidt and Sergey Brin, the so-called Governing Tribunal of Google; Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon; and Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple. Checking in at the four spot was Joe Rospars of Blue State Digital.

Rospars' name recognition isn't on par with the aforementioned tech influentials, but his impact on using technology for marketing is being felt in the professional and political worlds. Rospars was Barack Obama's new media director and used Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, texting and e-mailing to raise funds and generate support for Obama's successful presidential bid.

The impact of Rospars' work on how future political, and marketing, campaigns will be waged is why his status has soared on this list of influentials.


Hulu, the joint venture of NBC Universal and News Corp, is now the #2 online video site, trailing only YouTube. Launched a year ago, the site is the biggest distributor of professional content on the web.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Quick Hits

- Bristol Palin and the father of her child, Levi Johnston, have officially broken up, according to the Associated Press.
- Virgin Records is closing its U.S. locations, including the store here in San Francisco (where I'm currently at on business travel.)
- Tomorrow's Kansas-Baylor game will feature an interesting matchup of guards Sherron Collins and Curtis Jerrells. As a reminder, Collins got in Jerrell's head during the teams' first meeting in Waco, which the Jayhawks won 75-65. In that game, Jerrells went 0-fer from the field (0-7) and scored just 4 points compared to Collins' 17 points and 6 assists. That game was also Baylor's fourth straight loss in a six-loss skid. Kansas and Baylor were picked to tie for third in the pre-season Big 12 balloting. The Jayhawks ended up winning the league and Baylor finished as the 9th seed entering the conference post-season tournament.
- A Boston-based company, Outside the Classroom, released findings on a study which involved 30,000 first-year students on 76 U.S. college campuses. The sobering news--students who drink spend 10.2 hours a week using alcohol. The next activity, studying, garnered 8.4 hours per week followed by exercising with 5 hours per week. This conclusion is even more sobering considering the news of this past week of the death of a student at the University of Kansas who is suspected of binge drinking.

Reality TV

Nine years ago the Screen Actors Guild went out on strike. While newsworthy, this wasn’t exactly an event that was unprecedented--SAG had similarly gone out on strike in 1980 and several times before.

However, the effects of the strike in 2000 are still being felt as revealed by new statistics about reality television programming. You see, the 2000 strike forced networks and producers of television shows to face the reality that they needed programming which did not feature actors. Thus began the era of reality television and we are still feeling the effects today. What started as a short-term fix has turned into a long-term solution.

A recent analysis of television ratings highlights the success of this format, with no signs of slippage. Dancing With the Stars kicked off this week (its eighth season) with 22.8 million viewers, the show’s biggest opening yet. American Idol continues to dominate the TV ratings competition, even though viewership has declined slightly, and other shows like Biggest Loser, America’s Next Top Model and Survivor continue to be ratings drivers for their networks. And, The Bachelor became a pop culture headline over the past two weeks given the dramatic conclusion to that show’s season.

One network programmer has opined that the reality show phenomenon is continuing to succeed because viewers, in the current economic climate, want “escapism” versus dramas which are “downbeat and crime focused.” Another network executive cited the recent writers’ strike as a reason why reality programming has continued to succeed—the strike left unscripted programs intact but had a major negative impact on series.

The Bachelor was up 44% in season-over-season ratings, Dancing With the Stars is up 7%, Biggest Loser is up 20% and America’s Next Top Model is up 11%. Conversely, past hit series like House and Lost are down 24% and 18%, respectively.

What’s ironic is that SAG was created in the 1930’s to protect actors from being exploited by film studios. Almost 80 years later, actors aren’t being exploited—they just aren’t getting as much work because their gigs have been cannibalized by the number of “real” people who are now appearing on camera.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mayor Funk

The City Council of Kansas City, MO stood up to Mayor Mark Funkhouser's plan to cut the city's subsidy to the Truman Sports Complex.

In a melodramatic scene yesterday, Funkhouser appeared with the city's Police Chief to plead his case about the "choice between families and football players, between cops and choice seats."

What Funk failed to note is the income derived from the teams, the stadiums and the visitors attracted to Kansas City by the Chiefs and the Royals. Further, his call for cutting the subsidy ignores the voters of Kansas City, MO who approved a sales tax, in 2006, to finance more than $500 million worth of stadium improvements.

The Mayor continues to be an embarrassment and liability to Kansas City, MO. Whether it's the public feud with the City Council, the actions of his wife as his "advisor," or this, the Funk has proven that he is not worthy of the title of mayor of a major U.S. city.

Birthday greetings for Tuesday

- Happy Birthday to Jon Hamm, the handsome but conflicted adman Don Draper of Mad Men. The native St. Louisan turns 38.
- Carrie Underwood is 26. Underwood, you may recall, opened for Keith Urban in the Sprint Center in 2008. Urban's back later this year for a visit but Taylor Swift will open for Mr. Nicole Kidman this time.
- Timbaland is 37. I thought that was a brand...not a person, until I found out that he and Justin Timberlake collaborate. It makes me wonder, what would my one-word cool name be? How about yours?
- Finally, Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean turns 69. In honor of the duo, take a listen to "Dead Man's Curve" today.

Restaurant news

Not all restaurants succeed in Leawood. Cheeseburger in Paradise closed several months ago in the Cornerstone of Leawood development and was preceded by the closing of Plaza III Steakhouse.

Tannahs will go into the old CIP space. The restaurant will serve Asian cuisine "with an American twist."

Did any of those restaurants consider that it's hard to see their locations from 135th Street? The old adage of "location, location, location" seems to be very true here.

Customer service

We all have horror stories of some sort of poor customer service experience, whether it be in a restaurant, with a cable company, a wireless company, or some other sort of service provider.

Business Week recently published a report on "Customer Service Champs." These are those companies that performed best when measured by quality of staff and efficiency of service.

Coming in first was Amazon. Anyone who has ordered from Amazon or used their site can attest to the terrific customer experience. The navigation is easy, the ordering process simple, and return customers can quickly order and pay.

After Amazon, the top ten were: USAA (insurance), Jaguar (auto), Lexus (auto), Ritz-Carlton (hotel), Publix (supermarket), Zappos (online/catalog retail), Hewlett-Packard (consumer electronics), T. Rowe Price (brokerage) and Ace Hardware (home improvement.)

Others noted in the top 25 included Nordstrom (no surprise there), American Express, JetBlue (airlines), Apple and BMW.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Casseroles revisited

I was reminded by my daughter that taco casserole is quite tasty...and a recipe which came from my mother. (See March 8 entry on this blog about casseroles.)

So, I publicly apologize to my Mom in this space about dogging her casserole dish from my childhood.

Sorry, Ma...

Newspaper circulation continues to drop

A week or so ago we noted the demise of the Rocky Mountain News in this space.

A new report by the Audit Bureau of Circulation continues to highlight the challenge faced by major American newspapers--all but a handful are losing circulation.

In the ABC's report, 25 major dailies were analyzed by comparing their 1990 circulation to today's circulation. Only five reported an increase in circulation: Wall Street Journal (+8.34%), USA Today (+60.64%), New York Post (+22.58%), Houston Chronicle (+1.41%) and the Arizona Republic (+9.26%.)

Most had double digit percentage losses with examples including the Los Angeles Times (-38.22%), New York Daily News (-42.37%), Chicago Tribune (-28.43%), Detroit Free Press (-53.12%), Miami Herald (-49.14%) and Boston Herald (-53.33%.)

USA Today continues to have the highest circulation of any U.S. daily newspaper at 2,293,310.

Birthday greetings

It's a big birthday day for rappers. Chingy turns 27 today and Bow Wow is 22.

Bow Wow, of course, is the former Lil' Bow Wow. Bow dropped the "Lil" from his name in 2003 at age 16. His real name, in case you're interested, is Shad Gregory Moss.

Also celebrating a birthday today is Emmanuel Lewis. Lewis is now 38 and starred in "Webster," a TV show about a tiny African-American boy being raised by a white family. Lewis has had sporadic TV work since that mid-1980's series but most recently did have a cameo in "Kickin' It Old Skool."

On a perhaps more serious note, Charles Gibson of ABC turns 68 today. Gibson anchors the ABC Nightly News.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Random thoughts and idle musings

- I sure like gaining the hour of sleep in the fall versus losing it in the spring.
- The Kindle is one of those technological inventions that truly changes your personal habits. Much like the i-Pod, the ability to download books, newspapers and magazines is changing the way I purchase and consume reading material.
- Do we really have to endure another two years of Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser? His latest suggestion that the city of Kansas City renege on the lease agreements for Kauffman Stadium and Arrowhead Stadium is truly asinine.
- Have you caught the latest concern that President Obama's hair is graying more quickly? Uh, people, the man is the President of the United States and the leader of the free world. I think there's a bit of stress that comes with the gig.
- Dean & Deluca has decided to stay put at their present location at 119th and Roe in Leawood. The upscale eatery and store was planning to move to a new building in the new shopping center on the southeast corner of 119th and Roe. Probably a wise move...
- In other restaurant news, Chipotle is moving into Hawthorne Plaza, also at 119th and Roe. The shopping area has needed a lunchtime restaurant and traffic driver since the loss of Einstein Bros. Bagels.
- It's March which means that anticipation of the Royals' season opener is in full tilt. This year's anticipation has a different feel, though, given the unveiling of the "new" Kauffman Stadium.
- Tune in to this space a week from now for a full report on Selection Sunday--the time when we find out which teams are in, and where they are seeded, for the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament.

Classic rockers begin tour

Fleetwood Mac began their 2009 tour on Friday night in Chicago. The group will appear at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO on May 8.


The current incarnation of Fleetwood Mac involves four of the five members from the commercially successful group whose 1977 album, "Rumours," was one of the best-selling records of all time. Mick Fleetwood (drums), John McVie (bass), Lindsey Buckingham (guitar) and Stevie Nicks (vocals) are back. Christine McVie (keyboards and vocals), the fifth member, quit touring and performing several years ago.

The sound of Allen Fieldhouse

A far more eloquent writer than me--Joe Posnanski--finally captured the Allen Fieldhouse experience and "the sound."

"The sound" of Allen Fieldhouse is that moment in a game when the place explodes--almost literally--in a way that is only understood if one has attended a game in the "ol' barn." That moment happened on Saturday when Brady Morningstar hit the 3-pointer which propelled Kansas to their comeback against Texas, their fifth straight conference title, and their 41st straight win at home.


I've been blessed to hear that sound many, many times--Jacque Vaughan's turnaround layup against UCLA comes to mind or Keith Langford's jumper in the lane to beat Georgia Tech. These are moments where the fieldhouse takes on a religious aura--a communal place where only the brethren inside it can understand "the sound" and what it means.

A tip of the hat, then, on this day of worship to the "ol' barn"--a holy place for we Jayhawk acolytes, we makers of "the sound," who help keep the tradition of this 54-year old building alive.

Casseroles making a comeback

When I was growing up, Mom made a casserole dish that I absolutely hated--awful stuff, as I recall, but Dad must have liked it...or I did a good job of faking it.

So, it struck me as funny when I read an article a week or so ago suggesting that casseroles were making a comeback. The reason? The state of the American economy.

In this era of Food Network and numerous cookbooks, the casserole is making a comeback among cash-strapped consumers. Recently, casseroles only seemed to show up at church potluck suppers or as something to make and then give to a family in need for easy warming-and-serving.

But now, the one-dish staple of another era is being prepared more regularly because it's cheap, easy to fix, and consists of ingredients likely to be found in your pantry right now.

Packaged good companies like Kraft and Campbell are jumping on the craze by providing casserole recipes more frequently on their websites and on packaging.

Do you have a favorite casserole recipe? Great...keep it in you own family.

Bassist turns 63

Randy Meisner turns 63 today. Who's Meisner, you ask?

Meisner is the voice behind the soaring vocal at the end of "Take It to the Limit," one of The Eagles many radio hits of the 1970's. But, his story is one of two bands very intertwined with one another.

Poco was a rock band formed in 1968 and was credited with pioneering a sound called "country rock." The band's founder was Richie Furay who, with help from Jim Messina and Rusty Young, formed the nucleus of the group. Both Furay and Messina had been members of Buffalo Springfield, a group that also boasted Stephen Stills and Neil Young who would later re-unite as part of Crosby Stills Nash & Young.

In the original lineup of Poco was Meisner as bassist. Meisner played with the group for two years before leaving to join The Eagles, where he was a founding member along with Glenn Frey, Don Henley and Bernie Leadon.

Meisner's replacement in Poco was Timothy B. Schmit. That is the same Timothy B. Schmit who later replaced Meisner in The Eagles in 1977 and who wrote and sang hits like "I Can't Tell You Why" and "Love Will Keep Us Alive."

Happy Birthday, Randy!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

52 Championships

Kansas today won its fifth straight Big 12 conference title in mens basketball and its 52nd in history--more than any other NCAA school. In addition, the 83-73 win over Texas was KU's 41st straight victory at home, the longest streak in the nation.


Senior Day

Today is Senior Day at the University of Kansas--the last home game of the regular season when the seniors from the current basketball team are recognized, along with each senior player's and manager's parents.

Only two seniors will be honored today at KU, and both are invited walk-ons. One is Matt Kleinmann.

What sets Kleinmann apart is that he will graduate having been a member of five conference champions at Kansas, along with being a member of last year's National Championship team. No other player at Kansas, in all its storied history, has achieved that status.

Kleinmann was a redshirt freshman, meaning he practiced with the team but did not play, and then suited up the next four years. During that time, in addition to the conference titles and national championship, KU won three post-season conference tournaments. So, Matt has five league title rings and one national championship ring.

A strong academic student, Kleinmann has been named All-Conference Academic First Team and has received recognition on the Athletic Director's and Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Rolls.

So, for all the terrific senior players who have been honored at KU over time, today we will see a walk-on--a kid who practiced every day against the likes of big men like Cole Aldrich, Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson, Wayne Simien and Darrell Arthur--who succeeded off the court and succeeded on by being a true teammate. Congratulations, Matt--you've done what no one at Kansas has done in the history of the most tradition-rich basketball school in the country.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Those of us who live in Kansas City--particularly those who have grown up here--understand that debating barbecue is part of our region's culture. In New York, one is either a Yankees fan or a Mets fan; a Rangers fan or an Islanders fan; a Giants fan or a Jets fan. In Kansas City, our equivalent is you're either a Gates fan or a Bryant's fan; you either like Jack Stack ribs or you like Oklahoma Joe's ribs.

A few weeks ago, a report broke that Famous Dave's, a Minneapolis barbecue chain, was closing up its location in the Power & Light District in downtown Kansas City. Locals chortled, "that's what an out-of-town group gets for trying to succeed here with barbecue." Alas, Famous Dave's re-opened its doors on Wednesday. But, to many a Kansas Citian, Dave's isn't even in the consideration set when it comes to slow-cooked meats and accompanying sauce.


While everyone has a favorite KC barbecue joint, each is known for something special. Here then is my all-star lineup of Kansas City barbecue:

Pork ribs - Fiorella's Jack Stack, Martin City, MO
Sausage - Hayward's Pit, Overland Park, KS
Beef brisket - Oklahoma Joe's, Mission and Olathe, KS; LC's, Kansas City, MO
Pork - Gates, numerous locations in Kansas City metro
Sauce - This is where it gets really tough. My overall favorite is Hayward's but I like the tanginess of Bryant's to mix it up every so often.
Fries - Another tough one. I like Oklahoma Joe's a lot but you have to drink a liter of something afterwards to quench the thirst. The fries (with skin still on) at Bryant's are hard to beat.
Ambience - The experience at the original Bryant's at 18th and Brooklyn is what real barbecue is all about. One can still feel the presence of the late Arthur Bryant behind the counter. And, the ice cold mugs of beer are a nice accompaniment to your beef sandwich on white bread with plenty of fries and pickles on the side. (Gates takes second place here, if only for the yelled "Hi, may I help you!?" There's nothing better than seeing a Gates newbie walk into the restaurant for the first time, only to get assaulted with this verbal greeting.)