Saturday, October 31, 2009

Saturday morning coffee

- Proving that quality does matter, Panera Bread's per-store sales are among the best in the quick-service restaurant business in the U.S. McDonald's leads this category with $2.3 million average annual per store sales followed by Panera with $2.1 million. Chipotle is next ($1.8 million) followed by Burger King ($1.3 million), Starbuck's ($985,000) and Subway ($445,000.) The average check is $8.50 at Panera, which leads this category.

- Wouldn't it be fun to be in Lambeau Field tomorrow in Green Bay when #4 comes back to visit in his purple uniform? Brett Favre's Vikings take on the Packers tomorrow afternoon.

- On this day in 1969, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. was incorporated. Founded by Sam Walton, in the 40 years since founding, Walmart is now the country's largest private employer and the largest grocery retailer in the U.S.

- In a "15 minutes of fame" moment, Levi Johnston, the father of Sarah Palin's grandson, is posing for Playgirl magazine. On a more serious note, Johnston apparently has decided to go to court to sue over child custody, alleging that Palin is preventing him from meeting his son.

- A survey in London found that British men believe "curvy" women are better in bed than their size zero rivals. Interestingly, 68 percent of British women felt the same way, saying that heavier men are the best for "romps." (Editor's note: "Romps" is the term used by the London Sun in this report. You can likely produce your own conclusion as to the meaning.)

- Quote of the week: This just in from Victoria Beckham, the artist formerly known as Posh Spice, "I'm a control freak...I'm not the easiest person to work with." I'm stunned...

- You may want to tune in on Thursday night on Lifetime--Cindy Crawford is rumored to be set to guest judge, alongside Heidi Klum, on Project Runway.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Candy, candy, candy

Tomorrow--Halloween--is the candy day of all candy days. So, under the category of "more information than you ever probably wanted to know about candy," here are a few facts to celebrate this haunted day which feature more treats than tricks.

- San Antonio, Austin and Charlotte lead U.S. Halloween spending--about $53 per household. Cincinnati spends the least--just $35 per household.
- On average, Americans spend $20.39 per person on Halloween candy.
- 93% of kids go trick-or-treating.
- Halloween is responsible for three-quarters of candy corn's annual sales. (Seriously, when else does anyone buy candy corn!?)
- October 30 is National Candy Corn Day. Why not October 31--the day when candy corn is handed out?
- There are 22 M&M colors. And, those colors make up the franchise of the most popular chocolate candies in the U.S.--almost $425 million annually.
- Fun Size Snickers are the most popular Halloween candy. Only 26% of homes give out full-size candy bars.

And, in case you're wondering, I did not discover any data on how much candy is actually purchased and not handed out--kept for families to consume on their own.

College football preview - week nine

Missouri at Colorado. Line: MU by 5.5. Missouri gets a bit of a reprieve this week after the past two weeks against Oklahoma State and Texas. Colorado remains in disarray with Cody Hawkins reinserted last week at QB after a bad outing by Tyler Hansen. Will Blaine Gabbert play? It won't matter--MU by a touchdown.

Kansas State at Oklahoma. Line: OU by 28. The Wabash Cannonball begins taking on water this week. KSU must travel to Norman where they will lose to Oklahoma by 24.

Kansas at Texas Tech. Line: TT by 6.5. What to make of this game? Taylor Potts has been benched as Tech's QB and Mike Leech is grousing about his team's "fat girlfriends." KU leader Todd Reesing is in a turnover funk. This isn't the week the Jayhawks need to regain confidence--another tough game and a close loss...Tech by 3.

Nebraska at Baylor. Line: NU by 13. Ordinarily, a trip to Waco would be just the recipe for a struggling Nebraska team. But, this is no ordinary year in the Big 12. Nebraska will win--barely. Prediction: Huskers by a touchdown.

Texas at Oklahoma State. Line: UT by 9. Texas will continue to roll this week against an OSU team which officially lost Dez Bryant for the rest of the season. Longhorns by 14.

Iowa State at Texas A&M. Line: TAM by 7. This game will showcase two teams which netted big wins last week--ISU at Lincoln and A&M over Tech. Let's go with home advantage at Kyle Field and say the Aggies win by 10.

Florida vs. Georgia. Line: Florida by 15.5. The adult beverages will flow this weekend at the "world's largest outdoor cocktail party." Gators by 17.

Southern Miss at Houston. Line: Houston by 6.5. I like Houston in this one, by 10.

Mississippi at Auburn. Line: Mississippi by 3.5. Auburn needs a win badly...they won't get it this week. Ole Miss by 7.

USC at Oregon. Line: USC by 3. Weird things happen in the state of Oregon for USC. I'm going with the Ducks here, winning by 4 over the Men of Troy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jayhawks will play a tough schedule

The USA Today/ESPN Pre-Seaon Coaches poll for college basketball is out and, not surprisingly, the Kansas Jayhawks are ranked #1. And, if the pre-season rankings are any indication, Kansas' schedule will help prepare them for post-season play and a chance for a second national championship in three years.

Check out KU's currently ranked opponents, based upon the latest poll:

#3 Texas - KU plays the Longhorns in Austin this year
#11 Tennessee - The Jayhawks go on the road to play in Knoxville in early January
#12 California - The top-ranked team in the Pac 10 comes to Lawrence in December
#15 Michigan - This game in Allen Fieldhouse takes place three days before KU-Cal
#16 Oklahoma - KU won in Norman last year--this year Willie Warren comes to Lawrence
#29 UCLA - December 1 in Pauley Pavilion
#31 Oklahoma State - Always tough in Gallagher-Iba
#32 Missouri - The Jayhawks have dominated this rivalry recently
#40 Kansas State - Can Frank Martin's Wildcats duplicate the 2008 win in Manhattan?
#47 Texas A&M - In College Station this season
#43 Memphis - The Jayhawks play their 2008 national championship game foe in St. Louis

On top of these 13 games, Kansas also plays Belmont, a sometime NCAA tourney team; at Temple; LaSalle at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO, and a resurgent Baylor program in Lawrence.

The journey starts next Tuesday evening in Allen Fieldhouse with a pre-season game against Fort Hays State.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mid-week musings

- Check out White Collar on USA on Friday nights (9CT/10ET.) The pilot episode was good and made me want to come back for more.

- What is it about Big 8/Big 12 #1 draft picks who go to the Los Angeles Clippers? In 1989, Danny Manning (Kansas) went to L.A. and promptly blew out a knee as a Clipper. This week it was revealed that Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), the Clippers first pick, has a fractured kneecap and will be out for six weeks.

- Arguably the best show on television starts tonight and few will see it. Friday Night Lights begins its exclusive, Direct TV-only season tonight but will eventually make it to NBC some time in 2010.

- A fun, quick read is Paul Shaffer's new book, We'll Be Here for the Rest of Our Lives. Of particular interest is Shaffer's early career and his relationship with former Saturday Night Live regulars like Gilda Radner.

That's a lot of money for 30 seconds

Where's the costliest place to place a 30-second television commercial these days? Once again, it's on the NFL--specifically, Sunday Night Football on NBC. A :30 in this game costs an average of $339,700, according to an Advertising Age survey of media buying companies. This is the second straight year that Sunday, prime-time NFL has fetched the highest fare and reflects the premium price that advertisers will pay to reach large audiences who are engaged with the program.

Of the remaining top shows, the rest are scripted and aren't live programming. The top nine and average :30 commercial cost are:

Sunday Night Football (NBC) = $339,700
Grey's Anatomy (ABC) = $240,462
Desperate Housewives (ABC) = $228,851
Two and a Half Men (CBS) = $226,635
Family Guy (FOX) = $214,750
The Simpsons (FOX) = $201,920
CSI (CBS) = $198,647
The Big Bang Theory (CBS) = $191,900
The Office (NBC) = $191,236

In case you're wondering, American Idol doesn't show up on this list because the new season won't debut until 2010. Expectations are that Idol will get $360,000-$490,000 for a :30. (The difference in price is based upon when in the program an ad appears--later in the program, and thus closer to the judges' decision, gains the higher price.) And, of the new fall shows this year, Flash Forward is the most expensive, getting $175,724 for a :30 spot.

Sunday night remains the costliest night on television given NFL football on NBC plus FOX's animated programming.


It's been a bad week for classic rockers. First, Bruce Springsteen's cousin and assistant tour manager, died in Kansas City on Monday thus cancelling his show that evening. Now we get news that Eric Clapton has cancelled his appearance at Friday's Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden in New York due to gallstone surgery.

Clapton is recuperating at his home in England. Jeff Beck will take Clapton's place.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Boss cancels Sprint Center gig

I was all prepared to file a report tomorrow on tonight's scheduled performance--the second within the year at Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO--by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Unfortunately, Springsteen had a death in the "immediate family," as stated in the press release from the band and AEG, and cancelled tonight's performance. Sadly, those who journeyed into Kansas City for the performance as well as local ticketholders will have to wait, and hope, for a return visit by The Boss.

In the meantime, here's a little bit of Springsteen trivia to fill the gap of no post-concert report.

The manager for Springsteen is Jon Landau. What makes the relationship unique is that Landau started in the music business as a rock critic, writing for Rolling Stone. Among Landau's more famous writing was the one accusing then Cream guitarist Eric Clapton of being "a master of blues cliches." Landau's criticism of Clapton, who notoriously did not deal well with such feedback, was cited as leading to the demise of Cream.

In 1974, Landau, writing for a different publication, said, "I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Landau's line was credited by some for being the impetus behind Springsteen's sudden rise in popularity. Landau was then hired by Springsteen and received co-producer credit on The Boss' studio records from Born to Run (1975) to Human Touch and Lucky Town (1991.)

Springsteen is not the only major artist managed by Landau. In an interesting twist, his other highly visible star is country and crossover star Shania Twain--Landau was instrumental in guiding Twain's rise to fame in the late 1990's.

Landau's involvement in rock-and-roll now extends beyond artist management--he is the head of the nominating committee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


This is a guy I miss...

The state of the Big 12 North

Well, show of hands—who predicted this in the Big 12 North? Let’s review, shall we…?

- Nebraska: The Cornhuskers were picked by most to win the Big 12 North. Don't look now but the Big Red are 4-3, 1-2 in the Big 12 North and have games coming up against Oklahoma at home and at Kansas and Colorado. The offense is in a shambles and the loss against Iowa State was against a team without its starting QB and the league's leading rusher.

- Kansas: The Jayhawks started out as planned with five consecutive wins even though they should have lost to Iowa State. That should have been a sign. KU then lost at Colorado by spotting the Buffs 14 points off of turnovers. The turnover trend continued yesterday against OU and now Kansas faces a killer end to the schedule--at Texas Tech, at Kansas State, Nebraska, at Texas and Missouri (Kansas City.)

- Missouri: The Tigers were the surprise team in the league in the non-conference portion, then Blaine Gabbert injured his ankle in a loss to Nebraska at home and things haven't been the same since. MU next lost to Oklahoma State and was blown out last night against Texas. The good news is that MU's next four games are very winnable--at Colorado, Baylor, at Kansas State and Iowa State, then the match-up with Kansas.

In the place of these might-have-been stories, at the top of the Big 12 North, is Kansas State. What's most intriguing about the Wildcats is how they got here. The Cats lost at Louisiana-Lafayette and at UCLA and were 2-2 entering Big 12 play. They survived by blocking a PAT against Iowa State, were blown out at Texas Tech but then came home and annihilated Texas A&M. Next up came Colorado and another win, 20-6. KSU is now 5-2/3-1 and firmly atop the North standings. The road, though, gets much rougher--at OU next week, a critical game against Kansas at home, then Missouri and at Nebraska.

Given all of this wackiness, how do we predict who will end up winning the North? It's going to be a four-way tie between Kansas State, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri...but KU will prevail with tie-breaker wins in Manhattan, over NU and over MU in Kansas City. The Jayhawks will then get the inglorious task of trying to stay within four touchdowns of Texas in the Big 12 Championship game at Jerry World (a k a Texas Stadium) in Arlington, TX.

Wild, huh?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Saturday morning coffee

- Birthday wishes go out to Bill Wyman today, former bassist for the Rolling Stones, who turns 73 today. Wyman left the group in the early 1990's and now I know why--his 73 today compares to Mick Jagger's recent birthday of 66. Wyman obviously left the group because he couldn't keep up with the younger guys.

- Speaking of shout outs, let's give one today to Jalapeno's. This Tex-Mex chain of two restaurants in Kansas City has consistently served up the best fajitas in town combined with a varied, tasteful menu. Both the location in Stanley and the one in Brookside are first-rate with their service. I thought about naming Jalapeno's as a "dive of the week" but this joint is one or two steps above dive level, yet still worthy of today's restaurant recommendation.

- I'm not sure I understand why there are questions about the two pilots on the Northwest flight who overshot their destination by 150 miles. Don't you think one was overly talkative and the other put in earbuds and turned on his i-Pod as a result? They then went into their own little worlds, as air-travelering seatmates do these days, and lost track of time and geography.

- Speaking of bad pilots, Ozzy Osbourne finally received his drivers license. The dark one had failed the driving test 18 times but credits his recent passing of the test to giving up drinking. I don't know about you, but this certainly makes me feel comfortable. Not!!!

- What is it about cats? YouTube announced that the video of the cat playing the piano is now getting one billion hits a day. You heard right--one billion (with a "B.")

- For observers of the English language, I give you this. Forty seven percent of Americans consider "whatever" the most annoying expression in our language. Next is "you know," at 25%.

- Finally, our quote of the day comes from Tracy Morgan, former cast member of Saturday Night Live and now on 30 Rock: "I can't watch American Idol. It's like karoake without the booze."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Business travel = bus travel in the new millenium?

Warning: This is a whiny post. So, if you're not in the mood for cynicism and griping, you may want to look away.

Remember the days when business travel was considered exotic and a perk to any job? Remember when your friends would ask, with some longing, "where are you going this week?" Yep, back in the day...

Earlier this week USA Today published a front page story on the travails of flying, particularly the phenomenon of carry-on luggage which is overloading cabins and irritating passengers and flight attendants alike. In case you missed it, or don't travel, airlines are now charging for checked bags. Only Southwest Airlines does not charge a fee for checking a bag to one's next destination. Some airlines are going further--at United Airlines, one can "buy up" to get in the fast-track line through airport security or more legroom (all of a few inches.)

The consequence of this luggage fee is that more and more people are lugging bags onto aircraft. These pack mules--I mean, passsengers--are bringing more than the allotment of two bags and luggage which well exceeds the size limit for carry-ons. And, according to USA Today, some are doing it knowing that if they can't find overhead space for the bag, the airline will check it to the next destination--free of charge and at the front of the queue of luggage which will be loaded off of the plane upon arrival.

Many passengers get on and immediately throw their carry-on into an overhead compartment at the front of the plane, even though their seat may be in 22C. The end result is frustrated flight attendants, irritated fellow passengers and even a few injuries given the heft of these bags and the issues which can occur if one falls from above.

On top of the new luggage laws, airlines are trimming flight schedules in order to get flights more fully packed, thus reducing expenses and, in the process, reducing convenience for travelers. For example, in the past two weeks, I've flown round-trip and direct to Oakland from Kansas City, as well as a one-stop flight and connecting flights between those two cities. Further out, in the past month, I've flown to Chicago Midway and from Chicago O'Hare to San Francisco. In all cases, every flight was fully booked--there were no empty seats.

This ain't your father's former form of air travel--no space, no coffee served in china cups, no flight attendants puffing your pillow. Nope, the new world order in air travel--fares which no one can understand; a constantly changing, and constricted, list of flights; and too many people, and too many bags, jammed into smaller seats and smaller planes.

Air travel--the new millenium's version of a Greyhound.

College football preview - week eight

After the many surprises of last week, the season-to-date prediction batting average stands at .714 (55-22.) I predicted the Georgia Tech upset (a mild one) over Virginia Tech in Atlanta but, like many, totally missed on the Colorado win over Kansas.

Here then are my thoughts on week eight...and a critical Saturday for Kansas and Missouri.

Oklahoma at Kansas. Line: OU by 7.5. The last time these two teams played Kansas hung tough but eventually lost by two TDs in Norman. That OU team featured Sam Bradford and Jermaine Grisham, plus a healthy DeMarco Murray. Reason to be optimistic about Kansas’ chances tomorrow, right? Well, yeah, except this is a KU team which gave up 14 points on turnovers last week at Colorado and failed to snag a last-second pass for the win in Boulder—a devastating loss for a team with Big 12 North aspirations. Will Oklahoma mail it in the rest of the season given their three losses and injuries to star players? Can the much-maligned Kansas defense regroup behind younger, more talented players who Mark Mangino is inserting in an attempt to turn fortunes around? How will KU’s still-developing O-line handle the speedy Oklahoma D-line? Prediction: Kansas loses again in a close one--Oklahoma by 3.

Texas at Missouri. Line: UT by 13. This is a trip-up game for Texas. A week removed from a win in the rivalry game against OU, the Longhorns travel to Columbia where a Missouri team awaits who, like Kansas, is trying to regroup. The Tigers are 0-2 in Big 12 play and would be hard-pressed to win the North after starting 0-3. I think this one will be back-and-forth with Texas prevailing by a touchdown.

Colorado at Kansas State. Line: KSU by 4.5. Okay, how do you predict this one? Kansas State, 62-14 blow-out winners last week over A&M but blow-out losers (66-14) before that to Texas Tech. Colorado, behind new QB Tyler Hansen, picked up confidence last week in the win against Kansas. Prediction: Kansas State by 3, staying in sole possession of first in the Big 12 North.

Iowa State at Nebraska. Line: NU by 17.5. It’s hard to argue with this line. Iowa State appears to be a well-coached team but will be under-manned against an NU team who will dominate them defensively. The big question—will Bo Pellini bench Zac Lee in favor of Cody Green? Prediction: Yes, Lee sits, and Nebraska wins by 14.

Oklahoma State at Baylor. Line: OSU by 9.5. Prediction: OSU by 10.

Boston College at Notre Dame. Line: ND by 8. Notre Dame rebounds against a team who typically gives them fits. Prediction: ND by 10.

Clemson at Miami (FL). Line: Miami by 4.5. Prediction: Hurricanes by 7.

South Florida at Pittsburgh. Line: Pitt by 6.5. Prediction: Pitt by 10.

Texas A&M at Texas Tech. Line: Tech by 21.5. 21.5? Really!? If A&M lost by 48 at Kansas State what will the notorious Mike Leech, long known as not caring about running up a score, do to the Aggies? A three TD win here is kind. Prediction: Tech by 45.

Penn State at Michigan. Line: PSU by 4.5. Penn State continues to roll—Nittany Lions by 3.

Iowa at Michigan State. Line: Even. Iowa loses it first game tomorrow in East Lansing.

Auburn at LSU. Line: LSU by 7.5. Auburn’s slide continues—LSU by 10.

Arkansas at Mississippi. Line: Ole Miss by 6.5. Who would have thought, before the season, that neither of these teams would be ranked right now? I'll go with the Rebels' home field advantage for a 7 point win.

Quote of the week

Former Washington Redskin running back, University of Kansas great and NFL Hall-of-Famer John Riggins had this to say about the sad state of affairs with the Redskins franchise: "There are two choices (for owner Daniel Snyder.) One path is to sell the team. The other is to basically hand the team over to a Bill Parcells-type and then go to Mongolia and live in a yurt."


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Readers, rejoice!

Has there ever been as volatile a time in the publishing industry?

In this corner, we have the big box retailers (Target, Wal Mart) duking it out with Amazon on the average cost of hardcover books. On Monday, Target began offering selected books for $8.99--the same price as Wal Mart had been offering since the prior Friday. (These prices are for select titles on the websites of both retailers.)

Wal Mart initially offered the books for $10 but then dropped its price to $9 once Amazon went to that price point. And, when Target went to $8.99, Wal Mart countered with an $8.98 price.

The books being offered aren't low interest titles--the list includes Sarah Palin's upcoming book, Going Rogue; Under the Dome by Stephen King; I, Alex Cross by James Patterson; and Ford Country, a short-story collection from John Grisham. All of the books are soon-to-be-published.

In the e-book space, Barnes & Noble launched its entry, Nook, yesterday. The Nook is priced the same as Amazon's successful Kindle at $259.

While data on e-book sales is being interpreted differently, given that e-book owners tend to be the more voracious readers of books, there is no debating the growth in digital book publishing as more and more entrants jump into this space. That competition is good for those who own or plan to purchase e-readers--prices should be competitive this holiday season and, hopefully, the price point on e-books will reduce as well. (Amazon currently sells most e-titles for $9.99 each.)

As a personal testimony, every time I pull out my Kindle on a flight I get asked "do you like it" by a seatmate or flight attendant. And, my answer is always an exuberant "yes!"

Stay tuned as this reading drama continues to play itself out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mid-season thoughts on a wacky college football season

So, what's one to make of this season thus far? Is the SEC really that good? Is Brett Favre the secret father of Tim Tebow? What the heck is going on with the Big 12 North? And, who's on the hot seat among the BCS coaching fraternity?

- How does one explain Kansas State? Losers by 52 at Texas Tech, they turned around last week and laid 62 on Texas A&M at home. Don't look now, but KSU's schedule sets up nicely for them--Colorado, at Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and at Nebraska. The Cats could legitimately end up 5-3 in the Big 12 North.

- Speaking of A&M, Mike Sherman has to be feeling the heat in College Station. The Aggie program is losing ground--fast--to Big 12 South rivals and now losing big to teams in the North.

- I'd pay significant coin to see Florida and Alabama play. We should get that chance in the SEC Championship game--likely the "real" national championship game.

- The Heisman, you ask? Sam Bradford? Nope--likely out for the season. Colt McCoy? Nope--too high in the interception-to-TD ratio. Tim Tebow? He's currently on track to have the least productive season of his Gator career. So, then, who IS in the running? The front-runner right now would have to be Bama's Mark Ingram--11 TDs, 903 yards rushing and 186 yards receiving to date.

- Disappointments? Let's go to Columbus and start with Terrelle Pryor. The kid who was the object of desire for all Big Ten teams is having a disappointing sophomore campaign (10 TDs, 8 INTs.) Next, travel down to Norman, OK where the Sooners are 3-3 and out of the national rankings in some polls. Further south is Ole Miss--picked by many to battle Florida for SEC supremacy. The Rebels have two losses in conference and next face an Arkansas team who almost pulled off the upset at Florida last Saturday.

- On-the-bubble disappointments? Notre Dame (two losses), USC (as usual, a loss in a game they should have won) and Nebraska (a big loss to Texas Tech in Lincoln.)

- Hot coaches few people know: Brian Kelly of Cincinnati, Chris Petersen of Boise State, Gary Patterson at TCU and Kevin Sumlin of Houston.

- Hot coaches everyone knows: Nick Saban, Alabama; Urban Meyer, Florida; Mack Brown, Texas; and Kirk Ferentz, Iowa.

- Coaches in trouble: The usual suspects--Bobby Bowden, Florida State; Charlie Weis, Notre Dame; and whoever coaches at Texas A&M, i.e., Mike Sherman.

- National championship game: Alabama and Texas.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Road trippin'

Thoughts after a road trip to Norman, OK to see U2 at Memorial Stadium:

- Communities sure like to let you know they are the home/birthplace of those who are famous...or the nearly famous. On the way down I-35, we were reminded again that Emporia, KS was the home of William Allen White ("the sage of Emporia" and namesake for the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas) as well as NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer. In Moore, OK, there were signs proclaiming this town between Oklahoma City and Norman as the home of Toby Keith.

- The Flint Hills, between Emporia and Wichita, are gorgeous in their stark beauty and open vistas.

- There are four guys who can command an audience, in any venue--Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks...and Bono.

- I've driven north-south many times on I-35 between Kansas City and Oklahoma City, Dallas and/or Waco and, without fail, I end up having lunch, going or coming, in Blackwell, OK. So, citizens of that fine town, your strategic locating of Braum's, Sonic, Taco Bell, McDonald's and Subway there, right off the highway, is indeed driving revenue to the community.

- Speaking of which, don't you miss the days of road trips where you would stop at places marked "Good Food" or "Diner" for your breakfast or lunch?

- If you're looking for outside work, there sure is a lot of road construction in Oklahoma. And, it doesn't appear that it will be finished anytime soon.

- Quick, name the last stadium concert you've attended. Hard, huh? There are very, very few current acts who can fill a stadium or have the wherewithal to take on a stadium tour.

U2 in Norman, OK

Memorial Stadium, on the campus of the University of Oklahoma in Norman, seats approximately 85,000 screaming, crimson-clad Sooner fans on a typical football Saturday. But, last night, the vast and high stadium could not contain "the space ship," as dubbed by Bono--the multi-million dollar, lavish set which U2 has used throughout its European and U.S. stadium show tour. While the set is monumental in size and cost, it helped lend a feeling of intimacy to a stadium show in front of 60,000 fans.
I have attended three U2 stadium shows and two arena shows. And, while the arena concerts are certainly more intimate with better acoustics, this concert was truly a great one.

The Black Eyed Peas, perhaps the most successful hit-making band in the U.S. right now, opened the show and got the crowd primed and ready. But, it became apparent when U2 took the stage that the major leaguers were about to take the thousands of attendees on a ride through the band's vast catalog of music.

Similar to the U.S. shows to date, U2 opened with a set of three songs from their No Line on the Horizon album--"Breathe," "Get On Your Boots," and "Magnificent." I'm not sure why this album has sold poorly, by U2 standards, as it contains the best music the band has made since Achtung Baby. The new stuff gave way to a funkified version of "Mysterious Ways" and Bono's prancing around the outer ring which circled the main stage underneath the set--four claw-like arms which contained hundreds of lights and speakers.

The concert was technically in the round although the majority of the songs were performed to our east side vantage point. Larry Mullin's drum kit would occasionally rotate so that he performed to the west side, and Bono and the Edge used the round catwalk several times to reach out to the audience.
The band played for two hours and 15 minutes and in that span hit on classics ("One," "Where the Streets Have No Name," "Sunday Bloody Sunday"), newer material ("Elevation," "Vertigo") and fare which was a bit more obscure ("Ultra Violet/Light My Way.") It was this last song that was a highlight of the evening for me, along with "Sunday" and "The Unforgettable Fire." And, Bono's performance on "In a Little While," a song rarely performed in concert, was emotional and captivating.
U2 played at Lloyd Noble Arena in Norman in 1983 and, as Bono noted, "it's taken us 26 years to travel one mile" for their first return to Oklahoma since that initial show. There were many Oklahomans sitting around us who were grateful that the band returned, and many of us from within driving distance who were glad to see the set...and, more importantly, the band.

Friday, October 16, 2009

College football preview - week seven

This week’s schedule includes two huge, traditional contests—Oklahoma and Texas in the Red River Shootout in Dallas and USC journeying to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame.

Season prediction performance to date: 47-19 (.712)

Kansas at Colorado. Line: Kansas by 9.5. Two years ago, Kansas went into Boulder and emerged with a hard-fought four-point win in a game they statistically dominated. Color me nervous about this one—as bad as Colorado has looked at many times this season, the team has talent including a strong running game. Look for a 10-point Kansas win with the Jayhawks pulling away late.

Missouri at Oklahoma State. Line: Oklahoma State by 7. The question for Missouri fans this week is how will their team react to last week’s comeback win by Nebraska—MU’s first loss of the season? Heading to Okie State is no easy task and the Cowboys’ offense will severely test MU’s D. I think OSU wins by 6.

Texas vs Oklahoma in Dallas. Line: Texas by 3.5. Texas is good but are they really good? We should find out tomorrow. Oklahoma has two losses and this game is critical if they harbor any major bowl game aspirations. Is this the game where Colt McCoy finally looks like a Heisman contender? My pick—Texas by 10.

Baylor at Iowa State. Line: Iowa State by 2. It’s hard to argue with the line here. Iowa State is a much better team than their record indicates. Baylor isn’t the same team without Robert Griffin. Cyclones by 10.

Texas Tech at Nebraska. Line: Nebraska by 10.5. This one will be fun to watch—Ndamukong Suh against Texas Tech’s always tough O-line. And, will Nebraska’s offensive coaching staff have figured out that they should use Roy Helu and their stout running game to keep an explosive offense off the field, unlike the passing attack they unleashed in the rain last week in Columbia? Nebraska by 7.

Texas A&M at Kansas State. Line: A&M by 5.5. I like Kansas State in this one on a late field goal. KSU by 3.

Iowa at Wisconsin. Line: Wisconsin by 2.5. Is it just me or is the Big Ten a snooze this year? I’ll go with Wiscy by 5 in this one.

South Carolina at Alabama. Line: Alabama by 17. Bama goes 7-0 after this home win over the Gamecocks…Crimson Tide by two TDs.

California at UCLA. Line: Cal by 3.5. I’ll take the Golden Bears too—by 5.

Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech. Line: Virginia Tech by 3. If there is an upset special this week, I think this one is it. Virginia Tech is on a roll but will face a high-powered option offense in Atlanta. This should be a great game. In an upset, Georgia Tech by 2.

USC at Notre Dame. Line: Southern Cal by 10. There is a lot of bold talk coming out of the Irish Nation about stopping the streak of losses to Pete Carroll’s team. And, I agree that this isn’t one of the better SC squads of recent years. Bottom line? USC by 14.

My two cents...

I don't agree with much of what Rush Limbaugh says and I don't like the polarizing, rather than uniting, effect that media hosts like him have on our country's unity. And, the comment he made about Donovan McNabb a couple of years ago was ill-advised and inappropriate.

But, that should not be reason to deny Limbaugh the ability to own an NFL team, if he so desires. This is a league which has granted clemency to drug abusers and other assorted miscreants--does Limbaugh's "crime" of conservative values and self-expression put him in that same category?

While we're on the topic of unfair, how about Dez Bryant's (Oklahoma State) case with the NCAA? The kid lied to the NCAA and admits he did so because he was scared, but now faces likely suspension for the entire season. That seems extreme given other cases where little, if any, punishment has occurred.

Happy Birthday, Coach!

John Wooden, regarded as the best college basketball coach ever, turned 99 in Los Angeles on Wednesday. While Wooden has a legacy of success as witnessed by his 10 national championships at UCLA, his coaching and life principles have touched far more people than those who played for him or coached with him.

In honor of Coach Wooden’s birthday this week, we provide excerpts of Wooden’s wisdom from an article published in 2000 in Esquire magazine.

- “Discipline yourself and others won’t need to.”

- “You can do more good by being good than any other way.”

- “If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict.”

- “Passion is momentary; love is enduring.”

- “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation.”

- “If I am through learning, I am through.”

- “Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.”

- “I had three rules for my players: No profanity. Don’t criticize a teammate. Never be late.”

Happy Birthday, Coach Wooden!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quick Hits

- My father's favorite crooner, Al Martino, died today. Martino, 82, had a list of hits in the 1960's but it was his role as Johnny Fontane in The Godfather which, perhaps, netted him more fame. Martino's character of a close-to-washed-out singer/actor Fontane was the reason why the immortal movie line of "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse" was uttered. Fontane was bidding for a key role in a movie which would put him back at the top of his profession, but a Hollywood producer had no intention of giving him the role. The line, uttered by Marlon Brando's Vito Corleone, would become the most famous phrase from the movie with the resulting scene (think horse and satin sheets) becoming an all-time movie classic.

- The Wall Street Journal has passed USA Today as the largest circulation newspaper in the U.S. The Journal now has a paid circulation of over 2 million readers with USA Today at 1.88 million.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Is there really any creativity in network television?

Have you really paid attention to what's airing on network television these days? The hottest new show is NCIS: LA. In the show a group of government-backed investigators save the day against terrorists or other baddies, and the show has its fair share of humor, action and good-looking lead actors. Sound familiar? Yep, it's the same formula as the original NCIS. Both shows air on CBS.

Over on FOX, you can catch Melrose Place and 90210. Both are re-makes of old FOX hits from the 1990's. Dancing With the Stars? Sure, we got that too--So You Think You Can Dance is a knock-off of ABC's popular dance reality program which, interestingly, is seeing much lower ratings this season. And, one could make the argument that Flash Forward on ABC is a sister to Lost given the mystery storyline and construct of the show.

Even the Jay Leno experiment shows a lack of creativity--it's NBC's way of trying to protect the 10 p.m. ET slot with programming which is less risky and less expensive to produce. Too bad it's caused that network to lose that time slot almost every night. The network, though, is painting a happy picture saying it's what they expected in the way of audience delivery from the show...and the less costly Leno show means lost viewers aren't as big an impact to NBC.

Want further proof? Southland, on NBC, was cancelled rather abruptly. It was different, it was gritty, and it was unique. That's not a formula which is currently working on the prime time networks.

The bottom line is--thank goodness for cable alternatives who are willing to take a chance on programming such as Mad Men (AMC) and Monk (USA.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quote of the week

The quote of the week goes to the stadium announcer today at Arrowhead Stadium.

Stadium announcer, after a performance by the Kansas City Chiefs' cheerleaders: "Those were your Chiefs cheerleaders, in their throwback uniforms!"

Throwback uniforms!? On cheeleaders? Huh, what the heck...!!!???

(Note: The Chiefs wore Dallas Texan throwback uniforms in celebration of "the game that was never played"--the Texans of the American Football League against the Cowboys of the National Football League--in today's Chiefs-Cowboys game.)

Why I like NASCAR

Last weekend, the NASCAR Nation invaded Kansas Speedway. On the Sunday of the race, I spent the day at the track--in the garage area, the pits, watching driver introductions and in the grandstand during the race. Not once--not once--did I hear that word so many seem to love which begins with "f." And, I did not once hear a curse word spoken from one fan to another--in fact, the only time I saw a fan perturbed was when I was standing in front of her place at driver introductions...the place she had secured an hour earlier in order to see her favorites.

Contrast that behavior with today's game at Arrowhead Stadium. In section 218, we had a populace of beer swilling, Jack and Coke drinking, "motherf-----'" using, "Cowboys suck" yelling and cheerleader learing boors who totally destroyed what was intended to be an enjoyable afternoon in 30 degree temps watching the Chiefs (in Dallas Texans gear) and Cowboys do battle. As I sat there in front of the guys who seemed to have a vocabulary of only words with four letters and behind the Dallas fan who was egging them on, I thought "how sad."

I don't know why this behavior is prevalent in a professional sports stadium and I wonder what it must be like in Philadelphia or New York or Washington, given that Kansas City's fans at Arrowhead have long been lauded as being some of the nicest by NFL and television network officials. If what I experienced today was "nice," I'd hate to see problem behavior. (And, to provide context, today was my first visit to Arrowhead in three years--I quit going then because of the very behavior I experienced today.)

What makes NASCAR seem different? The whole vibe of the day is different--from the open nature of what fans can experience to the way the drivers treat the fans to the prayer and solemnity beforehand to the prevalent displays of patriotism. Yes, beer is served at the track but going to the race to get trashed does not seem to be the mission as it is for many who go to an NFL game.

Whatever the reasons, attending an NFL game these days is not for the faint of heart or for those easily offended by profanity and vile behavior. The National Football League and NASCAR are the two pre-eminent sports properties today in the U.S. Attending an event in each sport, though, is a very differente experience.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


The family and I ate at Stroud's last night and as I walked away in a fried chicken-and-mashed potatoes coma, I thought I should write about this establishment as our "dive of the week." But, this place isn't really a dive--it's an institution.

Stroud's began in 1933 at a roadhouse location at 85th and Troost. It was at this south Kansas City location that fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, cinnamon rolls and a variety of other down-home favorites were served to diners who would wait patiently at the bar and outside for a table. (Stroud's did not and does not take reservations.) Over time, the weathered roadhouse location became a must-dine spot for Kansas Citians and visitors to the city who had heard of this restaurant where "we choke our own chickens."

There are now two locations in Kansas City--one in northtown and the new location in Fairway. (The original establishment closed in 2005.) And, while the Fairway location doesn't have quite the same charm and ambience of the original, it still serves up the same piping hot, incredibly good variety of comfort food. The meals are served family style by many of the same wait staff who worked at the original location. And, yes, the piano player still plays familiar tunes to entertain diners.

The restaurant has been recognized nationally (James Beard Award of Excellence) and locally (Zagat Survey.) And, it's been written up in publications as diverse as the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, The New York Times, Gourmet and Esquire.

Stroud's, home of pan-fried chicken--this week's dive...ahem, institution...of the week. Check it out.

Kansas football: A tale of two units

Kansas is now 5-0 having opened Big 12 play with a win today against Iowa State. However, if you sat through the frigid contest in Lawrence (it felt like a late November game), you likely walked away wondering what in the heck is going on with KU's defense.

This team, right now, is a tale of two units...

The good:
- Kansas' offense was stopped by Iowa State only once--on the first possession when a Todd Reesing pass was knocked down on third down after a couple of KU first downs. After that, the only people stopping the offensive unit were Kansas' own players--a poorly thrown ball by Reesing which one-hopped to Jonathan Wilson, a dropped pass by Dezmon Briscoe or Reesing's only pick of the day, which occurred in the red zone. Overall, Reesing was sharp--four TDs with two to Kerry Meier and two to Briscoe. These two guys accounted for 28 catches--Briscoe being the long ball threat with 186 yards and a 15.5 yards per catch average complemented by Meier's career high of 16 catches for 142 yards/8.9 yards per catch. (Is there a better possession receiver in the NCAA than Meier?) Toben Opurum played every down where there was a Kansas running back on the field and finished with 98 yards. The kid gets better and better every week, and Mark Mangino sung his praises afer the game, particularly pass protection blocking. Mangino was also effusive in his praise for the offensive line which was much, much better than their outing two weeks ago against Southern Miss.

The bad:
- In a tale of two units, the defense of Kansas was as bad as the offense was good. The bye week of last Saturday did not help this unit--they regressed badly. Both Justin Thornton and Darrell Stuckey, the safeties, had too many tackles. The linebacking corps is a disappointment--Arist Wright is small for a D-1 LB but plays because he typically has done a good job on pass coverage. Not today. This is an area which simply must, somehow, get better. The D-backs continue to be changed around--today Ryan Murphy started at the nickel back and Thornton was put back at safety. It didn't help. Mangino will get personally involved in trying to improve this unit...and it must happen if Kansas harbors any thoughts of winning the Big 12 North.

And the ugly:
- What is up with Kansas' kicking game? Iowa State consistently started today at the 35 given the lack of depth on Jacob Branstetter's kicks coupled with poor coverage. On kick returns, Bradley McDougald was eventually replaced with Briscoe. The Jayhawks are looking similar to last year's kickoff units which had the same issues.
- Branstetter missed a PAT; Alonzo Rojas' punting had one punt of 51 yards and one within the 20 but he's way too inconsistent.

What's disappointing about today is that Kansas had a bye week to prepare for a lower level Big 12 North opponent. And, while the offense was clearly on its game today, the defense and special teams were a train wreck. The Jayhawks go on the road next week and play a Colorado team which is a major disappointment this season. Let's see if Kansas can turn it around with an impressive road performance.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday fumblings

- A shout-out to University of Kansas grad Scott Bakula, who turns 55 today.

- NBC's gamble with a 10:00 p.m. ET talk show is failing. Jay Leno, based upon the most recent data, is losing his time slot on a regular basis every night.

- Former Kansas Citian James Ellroy has finished his "American Apocalypse" trilogy with his latest novel, Blood's a Rover. Ellroy has had his share of personal demons--his mother was brutally murdered when he was a child and there was a period in his life when he drank heavily, was a petty criminal, and was often homeless. His writing style tends to mirror the life he's led--he writes with staccato, gritty styling. A recent interview with Rolling Stone is typical Ellroy--profane, opinionated and deliberately shocking. For the uninitiated, the best entry into his work is L.A. Confidential, a very good book which, unlike most, was then made into a very good movie.

- Fresh off his Olympics 2016 embarrassment, President Barack Obama was named winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Congrats to our Prez.

- ABC announced that the network is picking up Cougar Town for a full season. The show stars Courteney Cox. My question is "who's watching"--would be/wannabe cougars or the cubs who yearn for a cougar like Courteney?

College football preview - week six

On the heels of some baffling coaching strategy--on both sides of the ball--last night in Columbia, MO, we look forward to tomorrow’s slate of college games in the Big 12 and elsewhere. (I mean, why was Nebraska passing in a heavy rain when they had the Big 12's best running back on the field? And, yes, I know Blaine Gabbert scored but that call on 4th and goal from the two was a head-scratcher.)

Iowa State at Kansas: Line – KU by 19. Prediction – Kansas by 17. I suspect that the off week has benefited KU and they will get the lead and win comfortably at home. Things to look for in this game are KU’s ability to put pressure on Austin Arnaud given that the Iowa State line has only allowed one sack thus far this season. And, will Jake Sharp be healthy to play and how will he perform?

Texas Tech at Kansas State: Line – Tech by 17. KSU won a big game last week by holding on and blocking a PAT against Iowa State. They are facing a far superior opponent this week. I think the line on this game is correct—Tech by 17.

Baylor at Oklahoma: Line – OU by 24. Oklahoma is reeling after the Saturday night loss at Miami last weekend. Thus, is anyone surprised that Sam Bradford has been cleared to play? He will start tomorrow versus the Bears. It's important that Bradford get back in the lineup--Oklahoma's next two games are against Texas next week in Dallas and then Kansas, in Lawrence, on October 24. OU by 21.

Colorado at Texas: Line – UT by 31.5. This one could get ugly. Texas will win—by a lot.

Oklahoma State at Texas A&M: Line – OSU by 5.5. The news out of Stillwater hasn’t been good this week given the indefinite suspension of Dez Bryant. I still think the Cowboys win this one because A&M did not look good at all last week against Arkansas. OSU by 10.

Alabama at Mississippi: Line – Bama by 6.5. I think Alabama is the real deal. Crimson Tide by 7.

Florida at LSU: Line – Florida by 9. This is the big match-up of the weekend. Will Tim Tebow play? The home team has won four straight in this series…but that streak stops tomorrow. Florida by a touchdown.

Wisconsin at Ohio State: Line – OSU by 14. Undefeated Wiscy marches into Ohio State…and leaves with a defeat. Ohio State by 10.

Oregon at UCLA: Line – Oregon by 3.5. Oregon (4-1) has overcome its Boise State debacle and is once again a contender in the Pac 10. I think they’ll beat the Bruins by 7.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

College football preview: Thursday night/week six

This week's slate of college football games begins with a Thursday night contest on ESPN which has huge implications on the Big 12 North race.

Nebraska at Missouri: Line – NU by 3. Prediction – MU by 2. Talk about an interesting game to figure out.

One, Nebraska’s Roy Helu leads the Big 12 in rushing and Missouri’s defense has looked susceptible to the rush. But, word out of Lincoln is that Helu hasn't practiced this week--the ol' "undisclosed injury/condition." There was a rumor on the message boards that a Florida-like flu virus had infected the Nebraska team.

Two, Missouri has overachieved thus far with its 4-0 record and freshman Blaine Gabbert has been better than advertised (he’s leading the conference in passing efficiency and has yet to throw a pick), plus the Tigers are playing at home. Is Gabbert ready to face a defensive-minded coach in Bo Pellini and his continually improving Black Shirt defense? How does Missouri's O-line contain NU's all-world DT Ndamukong Suh?

My key to the game—NU’s ability to control time-of-possession by running the football, thus keeping Gabbert and his receivers off the field. I know the line favors Nebraska and that a good friend, and avid Mizzou fan, expects the Tigers to lose by 11. In a close one, I’m going with Missouri by two.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday two-fer

- Facebook is overflowing today with posts from self-ascribed "foodies" who are upset at the closing of Gourmet magazine. Gourmet is one of four publications that is being shuttered by Conde Nast Publications--the others are Elegant Bride, Modern Bride and Cookie. This move by the publisher is another in a long list of signs of the declining advertising industry coupled with changing media consumption habits by consumers. More and more newspapers and magazines are suffering, and closing, due to the increase in gaining access to information and content on the web by consumers. Conde Nast, in particular, is in trouble as ad pages at 14 of its 23 titles are down by more than the industry average of 29.5%.

-Verizon debuted a new commercial last night on Monday Night Football which went full bore at the quality--or lack thereof--of AT&T's 3G network. What's interesting about the ad's execution is that there is no "Verizon guy" nor a squadron of folks in the background representing Verizon's network. Is this a permanent change in advertising strategy? We shall see...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Wrapping up a busy weekend

- It was a bad weekend for my college football prognostications--only four out of eight were correctly picked. I flubbed Oklahoma's loss at Miami, Michigan losing in overtime to in-state rival Michigan State, Texas A&M's embarrassment in Cowboy Stadium to Arkansas, and Tennessee's loss to Auburn. What we learned? Well, A&M isn't very good because a not-so-good Arkansas team made them look bad. Tennessee's loss wasn't as close as the score, given that the Vols scored late, and Miami's speed is reminiscent of their national champion squads. I'm certainly not suggesting that Miami is that good, but they actually made OU look slow.

- How about Tony Stewart and, more importantly, how about Tony's crew chief and team? They made the call to only take two tires on the last pit stop and used that time to gain track position, and the win. Greg Biffle clearly had the best car at the Kansas race yesterday but took four tires on his stop, which cost him the win.

- Nice to see January Jones (Mad Men) in the garage area yesterday at Kansas Speedway. The actress, better known as Mrs. Betty Draper, was getting indoctrinated into NASCAR. And, from this fan's vantage point, her outfit and overall appearance made her stand out from the NASCAR Nation's female fan base as well.

- The tabloids are having a field day over the split of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel. Did he really dump her over the phone? Is Rihanna his latest love interest? Did he finally get fed up with Biel's passion for tough workouts in the gym where J.T. was reported to not be able to keep up? Inquiring minds want to know...

- Did you know there is a pumpkin shortage in the U.S.? I'm not kidding--I was informed of that this past week. Better buy that canned pumpkin filling, if you see it on the shelves, now as it's liable to be long gone by Thanksgiving.

- Some have suggested that Chicago bid for the 2020 Olympic Games, now that the votes have been tallied for 2016. Unfortunately, the United States Olympic Committee is in a shambles organizationally and the International Olympic Committee has been known to have long memories. I was surprised that Rio got the nod given that the 2018 World Cup will be played there and the IOC typically is loath to have its games scheduled in proximity to another, huge world event. But, it's the first time for the Games in South America and that apparently swayed the voters. Chicago had a very good package--it's unfortunate that the situation with the USOC cost them at least getting to the final two in the voting.

- On the topic of the Olympics, how much of a hit did President Barack Obama's political capital take given his trek to Copenhagen to lobby for the Chicago games? The fact that Chicago's bid didn't even make it out of the first round of voting is a huge blow to the President.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Idle musings

- Quote of the week: "What does it open?" Christina Applegate, Lee Denim Day national spokeperson, after being presented the key to the city (Kansas City, MO) yesterday. Lee Denim Day benefits the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which supports the prevention of breast cancer.

- So, will David Letterman offer up a public apology to the various philanderers he made jokes about on his show, given his confessions of this week?

- When I hear Verne Lundquist's voice on a sports telecast I think of all the wonderful moments he has witnessed as an announcer. His call of "yes sir!" when Jack Nicklaus birdied 16 at The Masters in 1986 is still a classic. But, the dude has truly lost a step or two--his opening of today's Georgia-LSU telecast was painful.

- The NASCAR Nation descends on Kansas Speedway this weekend. A NASCAR official told me they expect a sellout at the Sprint Cup race tomorrow despite reports to the contrary. He states that the tracks which, not surprisingly, have had the most empty seats are Michigan Speedway and Dover. The race on the Kansas side of the city will compete with the Kansas City Chiefs-New York Giants game at Arrowhead Stadium.

- In football, why is blocking in the back only called as a penalty on returns? Is a celebration penalty really worthy of 15 yards when you consider that a facemask or horse collar penalty nets the same amount of yardage?

Dive of the week

I dined at Danny Edward's Boulevard Barbecue for lunch today and decided it deserved nomination as our "dive of the week."

Danny's place is the reincarnation of Lil' Jake's "Eat It and Beat It" barbecue joint, which was a downtown staple in Kansas City, MO until a couple of years ago. The original 'cue restaurant was a true hole-in-the-wall that gained prominence for it's slogan, which was very apropos--Lil' Jake's place only boasted a couple of tables within its small confines. Thus the need to "eat it and beat it..."

The restaurant now is located on Southwest Boulevard in KCMO, next to Ponak's Mexican restaurant. The interior is open and airy with about a dozen tables. There are three televisions which today were tuned to NASCAR (check), a local news channel (uh, okay) and the Food Network (what the...?) The beer was cold and the wait staff was very pleasant and helpful.

The menu boasts the usual barbecue staples and offers a nice variety. I sampled a combination beef and pork sandwich with fries. The pork was lean, the beef tender and the fries were pretty good--sort of a poor man's version of Oklahoma Joe's spicy fries.

While I wouldn't place Boulevard Barbecue on the level of Bryant's, Gate's, LC's, Oklahoma Joes or Jack's Stack, it is quality food that fits in that "next best" category of Kansas City barbecue joints, e.g., Haywards, Rosedale, Wyandot and Bigg's (Lawrence, KS.)

Check it out--Danny Edwards Boulevard Barbecue...our dive of the week.

Friday, October 2, 2009

College football preview - week five

It's a slow week in the Big 12 as teams like Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas all have bye weeks. The big match-up in the conference is Oklahoma's game in Miami with local interest on tomorrow's "Farmageddon," as dubbed by the Kansas City Star--Kansas State versus Iowa State at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

Here are this week's predictions:

Oklahoma at Miami: Line - OU by 7.5. This game brings back memories of Big 8 match-ups with the Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl. And, this game would have been even bigger had Miami won last week in Blacksburg, VA. Landry Jones will again start for OU in the place of the injured Sam Bradford but this is his first game outside of Norman. I think this one is closer than the spread--Oklahoma by 5.

USC at California: Line - USC by 5. Before the season this game was targeted as a "must watch" with the anticipation of two undefeated teams vying for the Pac 10 championship. A loss apiece later, this one still puts the winner in prime position to win the conference. It's hard to bet against the Trojans--USC by 3.

Michigan at Michigan State: Line - Michigan State by 3. This is the best match-up in the Big Ten this week. I'm not sure that's saying much. Let's go with Michigan, led by Tate Forcier, by 3.

Kansas State vs Iowa State, Kansas City: Line - Iowa State by 3. Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska are the three best teams in the Big 12 North. Colorado continues to implode after last night's loss to West Virginia and the Buffs' 1-3 record. So, this game becomes a contest for fourth in the North and continued hopes for a bowl berth. I'll go with Kansas State by 4.

Texas A&M vs Arkansas, Arlington, TX: Line - Arkansas by 1. Jerry Jones and his new palace in Arlington hosts another college clash. In a game that will feature lots of offense, the Aggies will win by 3.

New Mexico at Texas Tech: Line - Tech by 34. Tech wins by 30.

Kent State at Baylor: Line - Baylor by 21. The Baylor faithful had their hopes for a breakout season crushed last week with Robert Griffin's ACL injury. Baylor will win tomorrow but will be hard-pressed to get to a bowl without Griffin at QB. Bears by 17.

Auburn at Tennessee: Tennessee by 2. The Vols will be singing "Rocky Top" after this one...Tennessee by a TD.