Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Border War: post-mortem

- This was rivalry week in college football as the regular season ended for most schools and with many playing their biggest rival--Alabama and Auburn, Mississippi and Mississippi State, Florida and Florida State, Clemson and South Carolina, BYU and Utah, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, Houston and Rice, Virginia Tech and Virginia and Georgia and Georgia Tech.

Our local rivalry is different--Kansas and Missouri...Missouri and Kansas. No, no in-state rivalries here--here are two states, and rivals, who don't care much for each other.

The Border War. Historical roots dating back to the Civil War. And, a rivalry where the two sides can't even agree on the win-loss total over the 118 games which have been played. Yesterday's Missouri win means that the series record is Kansas 55, Missouri 54 with nine ties. Or, if you're Missouri, it means Missouri 55, Kansas 54 with nine ties. At least the schools can agree on the tie games.

Is there currently a better college football rivalry in America, if the criteria is exciting close games coupled with a history of two schools with evenly matched records? The last three years at Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, have provided three games with a total margin of 13 points. And, yesterday's clash offered up the following equality:

- A two point Missouri win decided on a last-second field goal.
- 25 first downs apiece.
- 553 total yards of offense for Mizzou; 547 total yards of offense for KU.
- Time of possession--30:07 for MU and 29:53 for KU...14 total seconds of difference!

Yesterday's game was a microcosm of the series between these two schools--a series separated by one game and by a grand total of 73 points over the 118 times these schools have played. (If you're trying to calculate that, it's .618 points difference per game--MU over KU--over the history of this rivalry.)

Ohio State and Michigan (57-43-6 Michigan), the other non in-state rivalry game, gets the majority of the national attention for marquee college football rivalries. But, over time, there's not been a better rivalry than that of KU and MU. And, over the past three years, it's consistently been one of the very best college games of the year.

- One would be hard-pressed to find a more impressive outing by three college receivers than what we saw yesterday from Danario Alexander of Missouri and Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier of Kansas. Alexander had his fourth 200+ yard day--15 catches for 233 yards and one TD. Briscoe led the nation in receiving yards yesterday with 252 on 14 catches with two TDs. And, Meier finished his career as the all-time receptions leader for KU--he had 10 catches for 54 yards against MU with two touchdowns. Briscoe's day, of course, was bittersweet in that his two fumbles led to two touchdowns by Missouri.

- Much has been written, and rightly so, about this senior class of Kansas--a group who brought the program into prominence with two bowl game victories, including a BCS Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech in 2008. The four key leaders--Meier, Todd Reesing, Darrell Stuckey and Jake Sharp--all finished their careers with good days yesterday. Reesing passed for a career high 498 yards on 37-55 accuracy, three touchdowns plus a rushing TD. Stuckey was all over the field on defense and also returned several kicks. And, Sharp, hampered by injuries throughout the season, had 107 yards of total offense yesterday. It's how these guys have conducted themselves and what they have done away from the field, though, which has endeared them to Kansas and college football fans--Stuckey is up for the NCAA's Senior Class award, given to a senior who excels on the field and off--in the classroom and the community; Meier was the highly recruited high school QB who, with nary a complaint, moved to wide receiver after losing his starting role to Reesing and has also been Academic All Big 12; Sharp was the fast, yet undersized back from Salina whose work ethic was consistently lauded by his coaches; and Reesing became the emotional leader of this team--a tough, short, cerebral talent (another Academic All Big 12) who's leaving Kansas as the best statistical QB in the school's history. This foursome will be missed.

- The KU-MU game is staying at Arrowhead Stadium through, at least, 2012. Given the drama, crowd size and electricity of this event in Kansas City, it's hard to see this moving back to the respective campuses anytime soon.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Saturday morning coffee

- In 2007, the Kansas-Missouri "Border Showdown" at Arrowhead Stadium was played at night in sub-freezing temperatures. In 2008, the rivalry game was played in the fading sunlight with a snow-rain mix swirling around the field and stadium. Today's match-up weather feels more like what we'd expect for a KU-MU spring baseball game. Personally, the weather the prior two years feels more appropriate for this game--the longest collegiate football rivalry west of the Mississippi.

- Lets' review, shall we? Tiger Woods gets injured backing out of the driveway of his mansion at 2:30 a.m. by running over a fire hydrant and then hitting a tree. He suffered facial lacerations and his wife, Elin, had to extricate him from the SUV by breaking out the window with a golf club. Hmm...let's try a different story. Perhaps Tiger received his injuries from said golf club, wielded by his wife, breaking out windows on his SUV before he even put it in gear. As they say, "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." Some of the rumor-following websites are already suggesting a domestic squabble caused Woods' injuries.

- More Woods: I can't remember a recent story which went from one extreme to the other, so quickly, as to the extent of Woods' injuries. When I heard the initial report, Woods' was reported to be in "critical" condition. We later learned, not that many hours later, that he was "treated and released" at the hospital.

- Maybe Black Friday wore out holiday shoppers. A WalMart parking lot in suburban Kansas City was noticeably lacking in cars this morning at 10:00 a.m. Or, maybe shoppers enjoy getting up in the middle-of-the-night for those sales at 4:00 a.m.

- Check out Them Crooked Vultures, the initial CD offering from the band comprised of Dave Grohl, Nirvana's drummer before joining the Foo Fighters; Josh Homme, singer and guitarist with Queens of the Stone Age; and John Paul Jones--yes, the John Paul Jones who played bass and keyboards for Led Zeppelin.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Border War

The oldest football rivalry west of the Mississippi is renewed on Saturday afternoon when Kansas and Missouri square off in Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO. And, the bitterness of the rivalry is reflected in the official records kept by both schools--Kansas believes the all-time series stands at 55-53-9 while Missouri reports it as 54-54-9. The game in dispute is the one in 1960 when KU beat MU but used Bert Coan, an ineligible player, in the contest.

I estimate that I've listened to, watched or attended 50 of the 117 football games which these two teams have played. Here, then, are my most memorable memories from this rivalry.

1961: Missouri - 10, Kansas - 7, in Lawrence. Kansas was driving for the score which would cement this victory away when Ken Coleman fumbled the ball at the goal line and it was returned by a Missouri defender for a touchdown.

1962: Kansas - 3, Missouri - 3, in Columbia. I attended this game with my parents and can only remember the bitter cold, as we sat at the top of the stadium, in this tie.

1968: Kansas - 21, Missouri - 19, in Columbia. In the Dave Morgan game, Kansas eked out a win over MU to get the chance to attend its first Orange Bowl since 1947. Morgan, a KU defensive back, intercepted two passes (one for a touchdown) and recovered a fumble.

1969: Missouri - 69, Kansas - 21, in Lawrence. A year after the thrilling victory in Columbia, I sat threw a complete humiliation as Kansas fnished off a 1-9 season with no wins in the Big Eight conference.

1973: Kansas - 14, Missouri - 13, in Lawrence. David Jaynes hit Emmett Edwards, on fourth and two, for a touchdown to guide Kansas to victory. This team, who would lose in the Liberty Bowl to North Carolina State, had close games all season--a one touchdown win versus Kansas State, a two point win at Iowa State, a one point loss at Tennessee, a two point win over Colorado and a tie against Oklahoma State.

1975: Kansas - 42, Missouri - 24, in Lawrence. Kansas ran the wishbone, with Nolan Cromwell at quarterback, but instituted a new wrinkle in this game by sending running back Billy Campfield in motion on most every play. The game was tight but broken open in the second half as running back Laverne Smith had a big day.

1989: Kansas - 46, Missouri - 44, in Columbia. Neither team was all that good in '89 but I remember listening to this game on the radio and thinking "it will all come down to who has the ball last." Little did I know that this sentiment would play itself out in future contests between the two team when both instituted their spread offenses.

1991: Kansas - 53, Missouri - 29, in Lawrence. Tony Sands set an NCAA rushing record on this day with 396 yards...and the Missouri radio announcers had the audacity of suggesting that Kansas coach Glen Mason was running up the score.

2007: Missouri - 36, Kansas - 28, in Kansas City. "Armageddon at Arrowhead." Kansas was #2, Missouri was #3; ESPN Game Day was broadcasting from the parking lot; national television; bitter cold. In an incredibly entertaining game, Kansas' comeback falls short and Missouri's win catapults them--briefly--to #1 in the polls. Both teams would end up with big bowl wins--Kansas over Virginia Tech in the BCS Orange Bowl and Missouri over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl.

2008: Kansas - 40, Missouri - 37, in Kansas City. A year later, the stakes weren't quite as high but the game was even better. KU's Darrell Stuckey had his best game ever but the game will always be remembered for perhaps the greatest play in Kansas football history--Todd Reesing finds Kerry Meier behind the MU secondary for a touchdown on fourth and seven with 30 seconds remaining. The snowy setting and packed stadium made this a classic football moment.

So, what should we expect this year? Unfortunately, Mangino-gate has taken too much of the focus away from what's at stake on Saturday. Missouri is playing for a decent bowl game after its two straight victories; Kansas is playing for bowl eligibility and undisputed leadership in the all-time series record between these two schools.

In the 118th "Border War," I'm predicting that Blaine Gabbert and Danario Alexander will be too much for Kansas' defense, that Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier will have big days, and that MU will ultimately prevail by a score of 37-31.

Happy Thanksgiving!

One of my favorite columnists, Joe Posnanski, always writes a Thanksgiving Day piece about the many things for which he is thankful.

As a blatant rip-off of Joe, but in no way suggesting that I’ll be as eloquent, I give you the following as we gather and give thanks on this special day.


I’m thankful for our screened-in porch and the view out to the 12th fairway, for fall colors and the leaves which now cover our lawn, and for a Kansas sunset. I’m thankful for my short commute and the serenity of driving through our neighborhood and into my driveway as I come home from work each night. I’m thankful for the therapy of a glass of California red coupled with a fine cigar and the sound of my honey’s voice as we de-brief on the events of the day.

I’m thankful for the smells of Allen Fieldhouse, for afternoon games in that grand old barn when the light streams onto the floor, and for the jumping jack students who make the tip-off of any game there a special experience. I’m thankful for thousands of bodies swaying in time to the singing of the Alma Mater, for the shouting of “Rock Chalk!” on the east side of Memorial Stadium and the answered “Jayhawk!” from the west side. I’m thankful for crimson and blue, for the Hill on a fall day, for red tile roofs and for one of the prettiest campuses anywhere.

I’m thankful for coaches who mold the lives of high school students—coaches like Bob Hurley (St. Anthony’s, New Jersey) and Roger Barta (Smith Center, Kansas), and thus touch these kids’ lives forever. I’m thankful for college coaches who lead their programs with dignity and character—people like Bill Self, Roy Williams, Mack Brown, Mike Anderson and Pat Summitt. I’m thankful for voices like Brad Nessler, Ron Franklin, Clark Kellogg and, yes, even Brent Musberger—voices I hear and which immediately transport me to a memory given the number of college games they have broadcast. And, of course, I’m thankful for Bob Davis, the voice of the Jayhawks whose calls of big plays in Kansas history would make a classic “greatest hits” CD.

I’m thankful for the 11th hole at Leawood South Country Club, a terrific golf hole and one I rarely par. I’m thankful for this game which continues to vex me yet provides no better opportunity for “getting away” from the anxieties of life.

I’m thankful for the game of tennis and for the feeling of a crisp passing shot—I only wish I could hit a backhand worth a (insert curse word here.)

I’m thankful for those I never tire of watching play games I love—Sherron, Cole, Todd, Kerry, and Derrell; Tommy and his British Open near-miss, Federer’s majors, Brett’s un-retirement, Tiger, Peyton and our Cy Young winner, Zack Greinke.

I’m thankful for words which turn into sentences which turn into stories. I’m thankful for the written artistry of Joe Posnanski, Rick Reilly and Thomas Boswell and for the literary genius of Dennis Lehane, Pat Conroy, James Ellroy and Larry McMurtry.

I’m thankful for producers, writers and directors who strive to develop quality television programming like Mad Men and Friday Night Lights. I’m even more thankful to those who watch and help keep these programs on the air.

I’m thankful for the emotional experience of a U2 concert, for the haunting artistry of Miles Davis’ “Generique,” and for the pairing of the angelic voice of Allison Krauss with the mature rasp of Robert Plant.

I’m thankful for my church family—for the staff which makes the place run to the many there that have my utmost respect and to whom I use as role models for my life and the lives of my family.

I’m thankful for those who save animals and place them in loving homes where they become a member of a family. I’m thankful for Abby, Beatrice, Bubba, Abby II, Little Forrest, and Baylor…and I miss Lieutenant Dan.

I’m thankful for those who give back, and for those who give to the less fortunate. I’m thankful for the Christmas Red Bag program and for this time of year when stories of grace are a part of what makes this season special.

I’m thankful for my friends and for the amazement which comes when their call or note comes at a time when I need it most. I’m thankful for sincerity, for a kind word, for random acts of kindness and for friends who allow you to do something for them.

I’m thankful for a mother’s love, a father’s concern, a son’s inquisitiveness and a daughter’s sincerity. I’m thankful for a wife’s partnership, support and gift of giving of herself.

I’m thankful for Bobbi, Erin, Jared and Brett. I’m thankful for my and my family’s health.

I’m thankful for this day when I can say, “I’m thankful.”

I’m thankful…

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

College football preview - week twelve

We'll have a separate preview of this weekend's Border War between Kansas and Missouri but, for now, here is your Thanksgiving edition preview of upcoming key games.

Texas at Texas A&M. Line: UT by 21. This traditional Thanksgiving Day rivalry would appear to be just one more step in the Longhorn's journey to a national championship match-up against Florida or Alabama. Not so fast--for A&M, this is their bowl game and chance to call this season a huge success. A&M's offense has been prolific under Offensive Coordinator Nolan Cromwell. And, UT's defense gave up a lot of yards last Saturday to Kansas. This game will be tighter than the three touchdown line--Texas will win by 10.

Nebraska at Colorado. Line: NU by 10. Remember when Colorado decided that they wanted to make this game a rivalry? It hasn't been much of one lately. This Friday match-up will be another Nebraska victory and the swan song for Colorado coach Dan Hawkins. NU by 8.

Alabama at Auburn. Line: Bama by 10.5. This big rivalry game is the only remaining roadblock for the Crimson Tide prior to a match-up against Florida in the SEC title game...or the game which some are calling the national championship game. Prediction: Alabama by 9.

Oklahoma State at Oklahoma. Line: OU by 9.5. Oklahoma State still has hopes of a BCS bid. To do that, they must beat the Sooners in Norman. It won't happen--Oklahoma by 7.

Texas Tech at Baylor. Line: Tech by 20.5. Prediction: Tech by 21.

Florida State at Florida. Line: Gators by 24.5. This line started at 21 and is now up to 24.5. Hmm--sounds like the bettors feel pretty confident about Florida in this one. So do I--and how sad that this great rivalry has deteriorated under the "Bobby Bowden should retire" watch. Florida by 27.

Arizona at Arizona State. Line: Arizona by 3. Prediction: Zona by 7.

Pre-Thanksgiving musings

Musings on a vacation day prior to tomorrow's Turkey Day--and tryptophan overdose...

- Good Morning America decided that Adam Lambert's performance on the American Music Awards was too over-the-top for them and decided against having the American Idol runner-up appear on morning television. Hmm--isn't this the same network who, the day before, said tha the number of complaints they received about Lambert on the AMAs wasn't "out of the ordinary?"

- The crowd at the Sprint Center last night for the final night of the CBE Classic (mens basketball) was paltry, at best. If 5,000 were in the building, that was counting concession employees. (The announced attendance was 7,226.) The upper level was draped off as ticket sales for a field of Texas, Pittsburgh, Wichita State and Iowa was disappointing. Organizers understand that a local team has to be in the field and thus Kansas State will make its first appearance in the CBE next November. That field will include Duke, Marquette and Gonzaga, in addition to KSU.

- Are holiday movie-goers really going to spend discretionary dollars, at this time of year, to see a movie as depressing as The Road? Cormac McCarthy's apocalyptic tale seems a strange entry into the holiday movie lineup.

- Show of hands--how many are deep-frying turkeys this year? This cooking technique seems to be gaining momentum as the way to prepare a bird this Thanksgiving. It's nice to see American adopting something which originated out here in the sticks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sign of the apocalypse

ABC received approximately 1,500 complaints about Adam Lambert's performance on the American Music Awards, which aired this past Sunday night. However, the network said it "doesn't consider that an unusual number," citing that they get even more complaints than that for Dancing With the Stars.


Herb Kelleher

On Sunday I was flying back to Kansas City from Austin, by way of Dallas, on Southwest Airlines. As I was queued up with other passengers, given the Southwest boarding system, I looked over and spotted former Southwest Chairman and CEO Herb Kelleher chatting up two of his airline associates.

Kelleher ended up getting on our flight and, as he came down the aisle, was not recognized except by a couple of us. As he came by my seat I reached out my hand, introduced myself and told him it was an honor to meet him. He looked me in the eye, said "it's great to see you," and "thanks for buying my groceries!" He then proceeded towards the back of the plane and sat amongst the rest of us on his fully packed Southwest aircraft to the airline's headquarters location of Dallas Love Field.

I was taken aback at Kelleher's approachability but not surprised given the many profiles which have been written about his style and the successful corporate culture he instilled at Southwest.

Story has it that Kelleher and one of his then law clients created the idea of Southwest Airlines on a cocktail napkin at a dinner. The airline started in 1971 and has succeeded by offering low fares combined with outstanding customer service. The company eliminated unnecessary services (e.g., assigned seats, in-flight meals) and built its "hub and spoke" system by building traffic at secondary airports like John Wayne Orange County (Los Angeles) and Midway (Chicago.)

Those of you who fly Southwest know of its culture--employees who don't take themselves too seriously, an in-flight experience intended to be fun and light-hearted and flight attendants who, more often than not, will engage in conversation and banter with their passengers. As a result, the company during its history has often made the "most admired" lists or been cited as a great place to work.

Kelleher stepped down as Chairman and resigned from the Board of Directors in 2008. But, my observations of him and interaction with him on Sunday reinforced that he is still loved by Southwest's employees.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Adam Lambert

Just in case you didn't watch last night's American Music Awards on ABC, you missed a (choose your descriptor) disturbing-interesting-provocative-over the top-obscene-outrageous-not appropriate for prime time network TV performance by Adam Lambert as the closing act. Lambert was, of course, the runner-up in last season's American Idol competition and has just released his first single.

Here's's take on the appearance, including a video:|main|dl1|link3|

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Salt Lick BBQ

On our recent trip to Austin, my son and I took a side visit to Driftwood, Texas and the much-acclaimed Salt Lick BBQ.

Driftwood is about 25 miles outside of Austin and the barbecue joint is smack in the middle of the Texas Hill Country. On the day we visited, it had rained all night and morning so the parking lot was a quagmire of mud and muck. Yet, the parking lot was packed and the line was long to enter the restaurant.

The Salt Lick traces its origins to 1967 when Thurman and Hisako Roberts made a list of the 54 things the family could do to stay in Driftwood. (Thurman’s father had traveled constantly for his job and Thurman did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps.) Long the suppliers of quality barbecue at family reunions and outings, the Roberts had the Salt Lick listed at #14 on their list.

The Roberts first began selling meat to paying customers, digging out a barbecue pit and tending the meat on a round-the-clock basis. They then built a small screen porch around the pit and this structure became the original restaurant.

The facility has grown since then and now is made up of two buildings—a waiting area coupled with a banquet facility and the restaurant building which also houses the smoke pit. There is also a large open-air dining area, with picnic tables, which was not in use on our visit due to the rain.

The barbecue pit, as you can see in the photo, is out in the open for visitors to see upon entering the dining area. The smoke is vented out but the aroma permeates the restaurant and the surrounding area.

An Austin native had highly recommended Salt Lick but had failed to tell us that it was a “BYOB” joint. The savvier diners among us had small coolers filled with their favorite adult beverage and one woman stood in line with two bottles of wine.

The menu was basic—a lunch or dinner plate option which offered up your choice of three meats (beef brisket, sausage, ribs or turkey) combined with potato salad, cole slaw, ranch style western beans, pickles and onions. There was also a sandwich option and, of course, the opportunity to order meats by the pound.

I had the beef, ribs and turkey plate (only $11.95.) This was traditional Texas barbecue—it’s all about the meat. Each of the meats was smoked to perfection and the turkey was likely the best I’ve had anywhere. The brisket was thick and tender and the pork rib (yes, I said rib--one per plate) rivaled some of Kansas City’s best. In fact, People magazine wrote that “these are the best pork ribs I’ve had anywhere.”

The sauce at Salt Lick was gravy—not the barbecue sauce we Kansas Citians debate when discussing the best barbecue in our city.

I’ve eaten at Sonny Bryan’s in Dallas and County Line Barbecue in San Antonio. Both were good but neither rivaled the quality of the Texas barbecue we ate at Salt Lick, the restaurant GQ called the “finest dining in Texas.” Just remember, in this case, “fine dining” does not indicate white table cloths and an expansive wine list.

To find out more, visit:

Erin's Sweets

Check out this new cooking blog, just in time for the holidays:

I've added it to my favorite blogs list to make it easy for you to follow along. Enjoy!

"Don't Mess With Texas"

My son and I started a tradition recently of taking in one away game each year as we follow the University of Kansas football team. This weekend we visited Austin, TX to check out how the Big 12 conference’s biggest school, and perennial football power, handles a day-of-game experience. And, not to mention, Austin is one of the more appealing college towns in the country for a visit of this type.

On Friday night we checked into our hotel, unpacked and then decided to venture out for some Tex Mex food. As we boarded the elevator we encountered a couple who were obvious Texas fans. The man had what I eventually figured out was the UT male uniform for the weekend--boot cut jeans (Wrangler, of course) covering very expensive cowboy boots featuring some exotic leather, coupled with a UT windbreaker or wind shirt in, what else, burnt orange. This gentleman also sported a large belt buckle with the state of Texas silhouetted in the middle.

His wife was duded out in tight jeans (not Wrangler but something very designer-like) tucked into over the calf, spiked heel boots. Her burnt orange sweater was covered by a sleeveless, black vest coupled with some sort of fur around the collar.

As we entered the elevator, we were greeted with a friendly, “Hey, y’all, my name’s Bud and this is Norma—you Kansas fans!?” My first inclination, given our royal blue attire, was to say, “Nah, we just like the colors” but thought better of it and said, “you bet.” Norma replied, “Well, that’s great…we were up in Laramie last year for the game up there. It sure was cold.” When I corrected Norma and said “You mean Lawrence, not Laramie,” her husband, Bud, interjected “Yeah, it was a cold one up there. Did you boys go to that game? Boy, that Colt was something that day, wasn’t he?” Bud was, of course, bragging up Texas’ all-everything, beloved QB, Colt McCoy.

I muttered, “Yeah, he’s pretty good” but Bud had already moved on in his gushing about his stud senior. “Yeah, we had to come up to this game to see ol’ Colt and Jordan in their last one at home. I’m gonna shed a tear for those two young ‘uns tomorrow night—their parents have to be thrilled.” When I asked Bud where he and Norma were from, he said “Katy—outside of Houston.” I mentioned to him that my daughter had attended Baylor and had a roommate from Katy. “Baylor, huh? Nice school, but it’s too bad they aren’t holding up their end of the bargain in the Big 12.” I, as diplomatically as I could, suggested to Bud that Baylor wasn’t too shabby in women’s basketball and that their men’s teams had done well in sports like tennis and track. “Yeah, son, but I’m talking about football—those other sports don’t count for nuthin’.”

At this point, the elevator doors opened and we tried to take our exit from Bud and Norma. But, Bud wasn’t finished. “You know, it’s too bad y’all up there in the Big 12 North can’t be a little more competitive. It’s sure lookin’ like the Big 12 championship game will be another blowout—I just hope we don’t get anybody hurt before we have to play Florida in the national championship game.” I replied to Bud that the North wasn’t too shabby, and said “If you remember, K-State beat you guys three years or so ago and ruined your title hopes.”

“Ah yeah, I know,” Bud said, “I know—but, c’mon son, that game was a joke. Major got hurt in that game or else we would’ve won…you know it and I know it.” Bud wasn’t finished as my Kansas State reference had clearly set him off. “And, if you’re a Kansas fan, what are you doin’ pointing out what your rival did against us? You know, we should’ve never let you guys into the Big 12!”

I was incredulous—here I was, standing in the lobby of a Marriott Courtyard in Austin, and I’d just been told that the four Texas schools let the Big Eight schools into their conference! I glanced at my son, whose mouth was open and his eyebrows raised, thus confirming that I had, indeed, heard Bud correctly.

“Uh, Bud, did you say ‘you should never have let us into the Big 12?’”

“Yeah, the damn administrators down here…we had a good thing going with the Southwest Conference but we needed to get rid of those brainiacs down at Rice, plus that ‘pig sooey’ crap up in Fayetteville was getting old too. That’s why we took the Aggies and Tech and decided to start our own conference. We brought Baylor in just for appearances—you have to have a private school involved, right? The Big Eight schools came to us and wanted to join because, face it, they knew that the big money was down here and they wouldn’t survive without us. Hey fellas, it’s been nice talkin’ with ya…good luck tomorrow night and y’all have a nice stay here in Austin. Norma and I need to skedaddle—we’re meeting some friends for steaks out at Lake Austin. Y’all take care.”

I stared at the departing Bud and Norma, too stunned to even consider a snappy rejoinder at the receding figures.

Don't mess with Texas, indeed...

(Editor’s note: This story is inspired by true events.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

FORTUNE's "CEO of the Decade"

Love him or not, Apple disciple or not, it's hard to argue with the impact Steve Jobs has had on American commerce and industry. FORTUNE magazine recently highlighted that impact by naming Jobs their "CEO of the Decade."

However, it wasn't until reading the profile that I considered the FORTUNE writer's point about Job's impact across four different markets. In the past 10 years alone, Jobs has radically changed the music, movie and mobile telephone businesses. And, that doesn't even take into account his impact on his original industry--computing.

Most of the past captains of industry that you might name have had impact on one category, e.g., Henry Ford with automobiles or Conrad Hilton with hospitality. But, in Jobs' case, he not only impacted four different industries but he also impacted those which already existed, making his accomplishments even more astounding.

The piece is worth a read--it's the cover story in the November 23 issue.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mid-week musings

- I'm goin' rogue with these idle musings for you. (Sorry, I was just trying to figure out how to use the title of Sarah Palin's new book in a sentence.)

- It's going to be interesting to observe the holiday retail season this year. I went in Sak's, Brooks Brothers, Nordstrom's and Macy's in San Francisco this week, in addition to several other stores. Only Macy's and Nordstrom's had any appreciable traffic. I literally was the only person in the store at Sak's Mens Store and in Brooks Brothers.

- It's not a question of "if" Mark Mangino will be fired at Kansas, it's only now a question of "when." He's currently twisting in public view and will not recover from the accusations being made by current and former players, and parents.

- The current, very public advertising and legal battle between AT&T and Verizon is deja vu--it's very, very similar to the battles between AT&T and MCI in the long distance wars of the early 1990's.

- I just finished Roy Williams' new book. It's a quick, interesting read although Ol' Roy still has a tendency to frequently refer to himself in the third person.

- Speaking of retail, I went to Costco on Sunday afternoon and it looked like the day before Christmas--the place was packed.

- Oprah Winfrey will announce tomorrow that she will quit her daytime talk show at the end of the 2011 season, her 25th year on the air. Maybe Oprah could join Jay Leno on his ill-fated 10:00 p.m. ET/9:00 p.m. CT talk show?

- It's been an eventful week for sports in the Kansas City area--Zack Greinke wins the Cy Young Award in baseball, Chiefs malcontent Larry Johnson ends up signing with the Cincinnati Bengals, Mangino-gate begins in Lawrence, Dwayne Bowe gets suspended by the NFL and the Jayhawks mens basketball team will have to deal with the Sports Illustrated cover jinx as the pre-season #1 pick by that magazine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

College football preview - week twelve

Colorado at Oklahoma State (Thursday.) Line: OSU by 16. Prediction: The Big 12 schedule starts early this week with a Thursday night matchup in Stillwater. How can anyone pick CU in this game? It's another loss by the Big 12 North to a South opponent--Cowboys by 17.

Iowa State at Missouri. Line: MU by 13. Prediction: This is just what Missouri needs to sustain momentum going into the Arrowhead clash next Saturday against Kansas. The Tigers took care of business in Manhattan last weekend and now are playing for a decent bowl game and a three-game winning streak to finish the conference season. MU will win by 20.

Kansas State at Nebraska. Line: NU by 16.5. Prediction: The bubble has burst in Manhattan. Nebraska's running game is healthy, now that Roy Helu Jr. is 100%, and we know about NU's defense. I think NU wins by 21, thus wrapping up the North title and keeping K-State at home during the bowl season.

Oklahoma at Texas Tech. Line: OU by 6.5. Prediction: Have the "Stoops to Notre Dame" rumors been a distraction in Norman this week? No matter--OU will pull out a win here and beat Tech by 4.

Baylor at Texas A&M. Line: A&M by 7.5. Prediction: I'm going with my heart, not my head, here and predict the Bears will beat the Aggies by 3.

Kansas at Texas. Line: UT by 27.5. Prediction: There's been lots of drama in Lawrence this week what with the investigation into Mark Mangino's handling of the football program, brought on by a player's complaint to the athletic director. Will this be a distraction? Uh, yeah! Kansas may hang tough early but it's hard to argue with the line on this one--UT by 27.

Ohio State at Michigan. Line: OSU by 12. Prediction: Do you think Rich Rodriguez is in trouble at Michigan? This game won't help. OSU by 14.

Cal at Stanford: Line: Stanford by 7. Prediction: Isn't it kind of fun to see someone like Jim Harbaugh going after Pete Carroll? In case you missed it, Stanford was accused of running up the score on USC. The Cardinal are the hottest team in the Pac-10 and will win the Big Game by 10.

LSU at Mississippi. Line: Ole Miss by 3.5. Prediction: Here's another one where I will disagree with the line--LSU in this one by 3.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Your brew and you?

What does your beer say about you? Mindset Media, a market research firm, recently conducted an online survey and found that specific personalities fit with specific beer brands.

The research company interviewed 2,600 people in August and September and found distinct linkages with the type of person interviewed and the beer they consumed. Additionally, those who drank a variety of beers were much different than those who were loyal to one brand.

What kind of beer drinker drinks Budweiser? They are "sensible, grounded and practical." Bud drinkers don't easily get carried away--they are emotionally steady. Bud loyalists can be spontaneous and tend to not do much in the way of advance planning.

Ok, then what about those who drink Bud Light? These folks are much different than their full-taste brothers and sisters who drink Bud. Bud Light drinkers respect authority but also can have "frat boy personalities. These good time guys and gals are accepting of most everyone and generally easy to get along with."

Here are traits of other beer brand loyalists:

Michelob Ultra - Similar to the commercial where the good looking young male executive dashes out of the office to put on running gear and then meets up with an equally fetching female exec for a run, Michelob Ultra drinkers think highly of themselves and can be a bit conceited. They want to appear perfect.

Blue Moon - Those who drink this beer probably don't realize it's brewed by Molson Coors. They are socially liberal and are usually quite willing to go against convention. These are people who are more likely to drive hybrid cars and use Apple Mac laptops.

Heineken - In a word, these folks are "posers." They get low scores on modesty and high scores on self-esteem. They love the brand badge value of Heineken and are generally attracted to luxury products.

Corona - Those who drink Corona and Corona Light are ones who will most likely ask "where's the party?" They seek out the company of others and generally are the life-of-the-party. But, they also have an altruistic side--they see themselves as "giving" and "warm."

Craft beers - Specialty brew drinkers are more likely to spend time thinking about beer than about work. They are more open-minded than most, seek out interesting experiences and are intellectually curious. This group doesn't get stressed about deadlines.

People who drink a broad portfolio of beers are different than those who stick with one brand. These are people who, generally, are more open-minded and emotional, and they enjoy a variety of life experiences. The researcher in charge of this survey at Mindset Media suggested that this might be the group most positively affected by a brand, and campaign, we did not mention--Dos Equis and "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What it means to be a fan

I hear people say all of the time, "I'm a fan of (insert team/school name here.)" And, I have to admit that the majority of the time, I'm skeptical when I hear others make that statement.

On Saturday, as the late afternoon darkened in Lawrence, KS, my fandom was in full overdrive. Kansas had scored on a Todd Reesing to Dezmon Briscoe touchdown pass and the Jayhawks were on the verge of stopping a four-game losing streak with a win over traditional football power Nebraska. Alas, an inexplicable coaching decision to pooch kick, which led to a long return, followed by an ill-timed penalty resulted in a Nebraska touchdown, and the victory.

As I soaked in the scene, and listened to the cries of "Go Big Red" from the Nebraska fans who are uniquitous at any NU football game--home or away--I thought of how many times I had been witness to this scene in Kansas' Memorial Stadium.

My first recollection of Kansas playing Nebraska was in 1967. KU had lost their first three games and were playing the Huskers in the Big 8 opener. Kansas, surprisingly, dominated and won 10-0--the impetus for finishing the season 5-5 which included wins over Kansas State and Missouri. The next year, Kansas won in Lincoln, a key victory in a year which would culminate in an Orange Bowl appearance. Little did I know, as a kid who considered himself an avid Jayhawk fan, that 1968 would be the last time Kansas won against Nebraska for many, many years.

During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, I suffered, alongside other avid Kansas fans, through game after game of Kansas futility in their contests against Nebraska. I was there in Lincoln in 1973 when Kansas missed two FGs and a PAT in a 10-9 loss. I was there in Lawrence the year Nebraska scored prior to halftime to go up 33-0. Husker coach Tom Osborne then went for two, explaining later that he was concerned about Kansas' "potent offense." It was a bush league move that I obviously never forgot.

Each year I would hope and each year I would suffer through another defeat. And, unfortunately, too many of those defeats came with scores like 56-0 with red clad players running all over the field...and way too often into the end zone, encouraged on by the hordes of Nebraska fans who would fill KU's stadium or Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

The frustration, of course, finally ended in 2005 when Kansas broke the skid--its first win over NU since that '68 victory. And, two years later, Kansas had the chance to exact even more revenge with a 76-39 trouncing of Nebraska.

I was not only reminded of my frustration yesterday, given the way that Kansas lost, but also when I read a story in the Wall Street Journal about a man who can rightfully be considered the best fan in America.

Robert Lipson is a fan of the Kansas State Wildcats football team. But, Mr. Lipson is not just any fan. Lipson has attended every KSU game--home and away--since 1972. He has kept all 141 ticket stubs and has them in his safety deposit box.

What's remarkable about Lipson is, like me, he consistently witnessed some very bad football by his team. However, while my frustration centered around KU's inability to beat Nebraska, Lipson had to deal with the overall futility of Kansas State football in the 1970s and early 1980s. During the first 18 years that Lipson began following KSU to every game, the Wildcats won a grand total of 47 games while losing 149.

How many of us can claim that we would remain a fan of a team--a true fan--if the team, on average, won 18% of its games year in and year out? How many of us would remain a fan if our team didn't win one game over the course of three seasons? Lipson did and was rewarded from 1989 to 2003 when KSU won 127 games. Yet, even in that era of success, Lipson still points to 1998, the year when Kansas State lost to Texas A&M in the Big 12 Championship game, as the season he most wants to forget. It was that loss which kept KSU from playing in the national championship game.

It's easy to be a fan when "your team" is winning. It's hard to be a fan when they're losing. It's hardest to be a fan when your team is in a position for greatness, but loses.

What, then, defines the true fan? For me, former President Theodore Roosevelt used words which explain it best: "It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Melodramatic perhaps but like the man in "the arena" in Roosevelt's quote, the true fan is the one who is there--good times and bad--and whose feelings are dashed when his or her team loses, only to have hope spring anew when the next game shows up on the calendar.

Let's hear it for Robert Lipson...and all the true fans out there.

Friday, November 13, 2009

College football preview - week eleven

It's November, and while the air isn't crisp as it should be for key football clashes at this time of year, this is the best month for college football. Key matchups again dot the weekend lineup including Iowa at Ohio State, West Virginia at Cincinnati, Utah at TCU, Texas Tech at Oklahoma State and, over in Manhattan, Missouri at Kansas State.

Here's the rundown:

West Virginia at Cincinnati (tonight). Line: Cincy by 8.5. Tony Pike gets hurt and all his replacement, Zach Collaros, does for Cincinnati is throw for 480 yards last week. Cincy has no defense but it'll make no difference--Bearcats by 12 tonight.

Nebraska at Kansas. Line: Nebraska by 3.5. Prediction: Kansas by 3. It's hard to think that Kansas' sputtering offense will get well this week against NU's stout defense. But, it's also hard to think that Todd Reesing and company won't, at some point, showcase why so much was expected of KU's offense during the early part of the season. It's a broken record, but establishing the run for Kansas is critical--Ed Wariner must do a better job of getting Jake Sharp and/or Toben Opurum the carries needed to take pressure off Kansas' passing game.

Missouri at Kansas State. Line: MU by 1. Prediction: KSU by 3. The fluctuation this week in the line of this game indicates that no one knows what to make of this matchup. It's hard for me to predict against Kansas State at this point--last week's victory provides big-time confidence and momentum for the Wildcats...and they have the conference's Coach of the Year on the sideline.

Colorado at Iowa State. Line: ISU by 5.5. Prediction: ISU by 7. Iowa State has slid the past couple of weeks and Colorado is, well...unpredictable. So, go figure on this one. I'll go with home field advantage.

Texas A&M at Oklahoma. Line: OU by 20. Prediction: Oklahoma by 21.

Texas Tech at Oklahoma State. Line: OSU by 4. OSU has dominated this series in recent years. That's why I'll go with Tech, even though there is still uncertainty at the QB position. Red Raiders by 7.

Texas at Baylor. Line: UT by 23.5. Baylor fans like nothing better than beating Texas. It won't happen--Baylor's season zenith was last week's win against Missouri in Columbia. Texas will roll by 21, overwhelming Baylor QB Nick Florence with their tough, tough defense.

Utah at TCU. Line: TCU by 20. The ESPN College Gameday crew will be in Fort Worth for this game and the Horned Frogs will put on a show of their own. Prediction: TCU by 17.

Iowa at Ohio State: Line: Ohio State by 17. Boy, it didn't take long for Iowa's bubble to burst and the national media and gamblers to decide the Hawkeyes weren't the real deal. Northwestern ended Iowa's perfect season last week and QB Ricky Stanzi went down with an injury. In Happy Valley, the Buckeyes were convincingly beating Penn State, thus this week's out-of-whack betting line. I think this one will be much closer and that Iowa's D will give Terrelle Pryor problems. Prediction: OSU by 8.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Silent Majority

It was forty years ago this month that former President Richard Nixon coined the term, "the silent majority."

Nixon used the term to refer to what he felt were a large majority of people in the U.S. who did not express their opinions publicly. In a November 1969 speech, Nixon said that the vast majority--the "silent majority"--did not participate in demonstrations against the Vietnam War, did not join the counterculture and did not participate in public discourse. Nixon, always the paranoid politician, felt that this group was overshadowed by the more vocal minority.

In honor of this anniversary, we not only salute Nixon and his attempt to convince himself that the majority of U.S. citizens supported his administration, but we also use this quote from his wife, Pat, as our quote of the week.

The former First Lady had this to say about the President's sleep habits: "Nobody could sleep with Dick. He wakes us during the night, switches on the lights, speaks into his tape recorder, or takes notes—it’s impossible."

Happy 40th anniversary to President Nixon and his "silent majority."

Steven and Joe make up

It's an understatement to say that 2009 has been a rough year for Aerosmith. First, the band's tour got shortened after numerous injuries and ailments hit the band--only Joe Perry avoided any sort of physical calamity during the short-lived series of concerts. Now, Steven Tyler and Perry have had their own mini-drama over the past few days but have apparently kissed and made up.

Last week, Perry announced that Tyler had quit the band. However, on Tuesday night, Tyler showed up at a performance by Perry and his band, the Joe Perry Project, in New York and revealed that he is "not leaving Aerosmith."

Dream on, dudes...

Cowtown Trattoria

Check out the blog of a good friend, Lori Joseph--a self-professed "foodie" and wannabe sommelier.

We've added "Cowtown Trattoria" to our list of favorite blogs, making it easier for you to follow Lori's dining experiences and suggestions. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sesame Street!

In honor of Sesame Street's 40th birthday, here is a special appearance from Ernie...and his rubber ducky.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mad Men's season three concludes

Wow...what a finish!

Season Three of Mad Men concluded last night on AMC and ended with less of the typical TV gimmick of a cliff-hanger and more of a "I can't wait to turn the page and read the next chapter."

I won't spoil the ending for those who have DVRed the show. For those new to this series, run--don't walk--to view Season One and Season Two on DVD. And, we'll all then impatiently speculate, until late next summer, as to what will become of the numerous open storylines.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What's wrong with Kansas?

Pre-season pick by some to win the Big 12 North. A talented offense led by returning starters Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier, Dezmon Briscoe and Jake Sharp. A rebuilt defense anchored by probable All Big 12 performer Darrell Stuckey. A coach acknowledged as masterminding a program's turnaround. One of the better recruiting classes in recent years.

So, what has gone wrong with the football season at the University of Kansas?

It's convenient to blame Todd Reesing. The classic over-achiever, Reesing has now turned the ball over nine times in the last three games with, once again, a ball he put on the ground today turning into an opponent's key touchdown. (Over the past four games, Kansas has 12 turnovers!)

Some say Head Coach Mark Mangino lost this team in Boulder when he went ballistic after the Jayhawks' loss to a bad Colorado team, blaming players and coaches alike.

Another frequently cited reason is the fight which occurred between the Kansas football team and basketball squad--that this clash led to a fissure within the football team with various players taking sides.

All of these are likely contributors to the four straight losses, the current last place spot in the North and the first loss in four years to Kansas State. The issues, though, are actually ones which began surfacing last year and have been magnified over the past four weeks.

Special Teams:

In 2007, Kansas' breakout year with a BCS win in the Orange Bowl, the special teams were exceptional. Kansas has two TD returns on kicks, an electric punt returner in Aquib Talib, and above average kick and punt coverage.

In 2008, special teams play was up-and-down with various player combinations used for kick and punt returns and coverage units.

In 2009, Kansas has not returned a kick or a punt for a touchdown. Kansas' starting field position is consistently at the 20 or worse due to deficiencies in both of these areas.

In KU's loss today to Kansas State, Jacob Branstetter missed two field goal attempts. His inconsistency has caused Mangino to go for it on fourth downs, when he should kick the FG, and to publicly suggest that Branstetter couldn't pooch or squib kick last week from the Texas Tech 40 after penalties on the Red Raiders.

Offensive play-calling:

Every week there are head-scratching decisions on offense. Today, KU took a knee when it had time for two plays to move within field goal range before halftime. Backup QB Kale Pick, a very able runner, was inserted into a two-back set and had no success in his two running attempts. (Against Oklahoma, Pick was put into a "wildcat" formation, with no success.)

Kansas has not had recent success at establishing the running game but seems to quickly move away from this facet of their offense. There has been no rhythm established, with Jake Sharp's return to the lineup, in how he and freshman Toben Opurum are used in the offense.


Almost as damaging as the frequency of turnovers of late is the penalties which have occurred on offense. In today's game, two penalties--a hold and a false start--stopped drives within KSU territory. This trend started against Colorado and has since happened against OU, Tech and now KSU.


There is no denying that #5 is having his worst season in a Kansas uniform. Today's first half performance epitomized the issue--Reesing tried to do too much even though he obviously is not 100% physically...and turned the ball over three times. In the second half, Reesing played more within himself and moved the team twice on long drives but KU netted only three points for the effort.


Mangino's teams have been known to be ready to play each and every week. His Kansas squads have been resilient, often coming back for a win a week after a tough loss. They also have been disciplined--few penalties, few turnovers and solid special teams play. Not so this year. Something is definitely wrong--the body language is off, there's little swagger, the QB and the coach have had a public tiff in the media over the past's all been unlike any Mangino team we've seen at Mt. Oread.

Kansas has to win one more game to be bowl eligible and I expect that will happen next week in Lawrence against Nebraska. It'll be the last home game for Reesing, Meier, Stuckey and Sharp, and likely Briscoe. Before the season, this game loomed as the one which might decide the Big 12 North. Not so now...but KU will beat the Huskers, lose to Texas and then play MU in Arrowhead. That end-of-season clash will decide where Kansas ends up in the bowl lineup--beat MU and the Hawks will be 7-5; lose and, even though bowl eligible, KU could end up with no invitation.

It's too early to say that Mangino is on the coaching hot seat but this year's disappointment translates to 2010 being an incredibly important year for this football program, and the head coach.

Saturday morning coffee

- Check out Cory Chisel & the Wandering Sons. I recommend downloading "Born Again," "My Heart Would Be There," and "Tennessee."

- Newsflash: Reports on the pop culture websites say that Britney Spears is considering marriage again--#3 for the rock princess. The potential victim this time is current agent, and boyfriend, Jason Trawick. Dude, walk away as quickly as you can...

- Guess who turns 40 on Monday? Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster and all of the other charming residents of Sesame Street will celebrate a birthday. This wonderful program has touched the lives of countless children, and adults, with its simple, yet very important, lessons served up by the characters and a lineup of very special guests since 1969.

- Kirk Hammett of Metallica is trying to peddle his mansion in San Francisco, in case you're interested. The new list price is $9 million--down from the $12.5 million that Hammett asked in 2005 when the abode first went on sale. Also on sale in northern California is former San Francisco 49er and Kansas City Chief Joe Montana's 9,700 square foot Tuscan-style villa in the Sonoma Valley wine country. The ex-QB and wife Jennifer are offering the home and accompanying 500 acres for a tidy sum of $49 million. You can contact Coldwell Banker Brokers of the Valley if you're interested.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mickey in need of a makeover?

On November 18, Mickey Mouse will celebrate his 81st birthday. And, while the rodent looks amazingly young for his age, the Walt Disney Co. wants to give Mickey a makeover.

Does this fit into the old adage of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" or is this truly a case where an iconic brand figure needs updating? According to those in the know, Disney wants to make Mickey a bit more edgy in films and video games and may even be looking to change the way he talks, walks and lives.

If that's truly the case, I'm saddened at the feeling of a need to change. In the category of "my two cents," I think we have enough "edgy" characters making their way into films, video games, television, and popular culture in general.

Say it ain't so, Mickey!

College football preview - week ten

Performance season-to-date: 64-23, .736

The Kansas-Kansas State clash is previewed separately so let's take a look at the other key matchups this week in the Big 12 and around the U.S. There are a couple of key conference games in the Big 10 and the SEC.

Baylor at Missouri. Line: MU by 14. Prediction: Missouri by 21.

Oklahoma at Nebraska. Line: OU by 5.5. Prediction: Oklahoma by 7.

Oklahoma State at Iowa State. Line: OSU by 7.5. Prediction: Oklahoma State by 10.

Texas A&M at Colorado. Line: A&M by 3. Prediction: Texas A&M by 4.

Ohio State at Penn State. Line: Penn State by 3.5. Prediction: PSU by 4.

Oregon at Stanford. Line: Oregon by 7. Prediction: Stanford by 3.

LSU at Alabama. Line: Bama by 7.5. Prediction: Alabama by 10.

Florida State at Clemson. Line: Clemson by 8.5. Prediction: Clemson by 10.

Wake Forest at Georgia Tech. Line: GT by 16. Prediction: Tech by 14.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kansas - Kansas State preview

When the season started, this game loomed as a “gotcha” game for Kansas—a rivalry game sandwiched between a big road contest in Lubbock and a home game against the betting favorite in the Big 12 North—Nebraska. Instead, this game will pit the unexpected Big 12 North leader, Kansas State, versus a Kansas team which is dealing with a 1-3 league mark, a benched quarterback and a coach who suddenly is defending personnel decisions.

The betting line is Kansas +2.5 points. Let’s break down the matchup.

Overall Series Record: KU-65, KSU-35, 5 ties.

Offense: Advantage – Kansas.

I'm giving the Jayhawks the benefit of the doubt on this one. Through the first five games of the season, KU was a national leader in points scored and passing offense, and their rushing attack wasn’t too shabby either, even without Jake Sharp. Since then, the offense has sputtered—too many turnovers, dropped passes and an offensive line which, even in the head coach’s words, has “regressed.” Kansas State, on the other hand, has found a rhythm on offense, featuring the conference’s leading rushing attack with Daniel Thomas (902 yards and 10 TDs this season), and came back last week against a stout Oklahoma defense. (The Wildcats were within five points at one point in the fourth quarter.)

It would be easy to say KSU has the advantage here. But, I like the set jaw I’ve seen on Todd Reesing this week. After witnessing what he’s done the past three seasons, it’s hard to suggest he won’t come back and lead a potent attack this week.

Defense: Advantage – Push.

I’m tempted to go with KU given the improved performances of the past three weeks. The most disturbing thing, though, is how Texas Tech gashed Kansas’ D last week in the 4th quarter behind Baron Batch’s three TDs. So, who will we see on Saturday—the Kansas defense which was a league leader against the run earlier in the season or the one from the final 15 minutes last week?

The Wildcats gave up 458 yards last week at OU and didn’t have a sack or a turnover—something which will be crucial for this unit on Saturday. Oklahoma also had its way on third downs, converting 10 of 13. KSU, on the season, is allowing a 40% conversion rate on third downs.

Special Teams: Advantage – Kansas State.

Can you say “Brandon Banks?” Where does Bill Snyder find these kids on an all-too-regular basis? I will be amazed if Banks does not run one back against a Kansas kick coverage team which has too often relied upon kicker Jacob Branstetter to make a tackle at midfield on a return.

On the Kansas side, punter Alonso Rojas is having a good year and Branstetter showed he had big range with his 57 yard FG against Oklahoma. The kick return team rarely gets the ball past the 20—which has been part of Kansas’ offensive problems—and the punt return team has yet to break a big return.

Coaching: Advantage – Kansas State.

My observation is that Bill Snyder is doing his best coaching job in years—it’s almost as if part of what motivated him to come back was to make up for the final two years on his previous Kansas State career when his teams went 4-7 and 5-6. Mangino, on the other hand, is suffering through three straight losses with a team which had high expectations.

Intangibles: Advantage – Kansas State.

KSU has lost three straight to Kansas including an embarrassing loss last year in Lawrence. The year before, Kansas came to Manhattan and beat the #24 ‘Cats. The two teams’ seasons went in opposite directions after that--KU ascended to a BCS bowl victory and KSU ended the season 5-7 and fourth in the Big 12 North.

Kansas State has momentum, a legendary coach on the sideline (again), a home crowd who will be fired up (although I was surprised that 4,000 tickets were announced as still available on Wednesday of this week) and are 4-0 in Bill Snyder Family Stadium this season. A win here would make the ‘Cats 4-2 in the league and firmly positioned as the likely North winner.

Prediction: Kansas State 33, Kansas 27…in overtime.

Troy Smith

Earlier this week, news of the death of Troy Smith didn't seem to make much of a ripple. But, Smith's impact on how we order and consume a hamburger is being felt to this day in cities and small towns around the U.S.

Smith was the founder of Sonic Corporation, the company who today manages 3,600 drive-in restaurants in 42 states.

In the late 1950's, Smith had just left the military. He was driving along the Texas-Louisiana border and dined at a restaurant who used a car-to-kitchen intercom for ordering food. Enamored with the idea, and the technology, he used this approach for his root beer stand in Shawnee, OK. From those humble beginnings, a quick-service restaurant chain was born.

It is Smith's business practices, though, which should be the biggest cause for attention. He believed strongly in the value of customer service and coined the phrase "Service with the Speed of Sound." He attracted young talent and turned workers into managers.

Smith was known for chuckling even when given bad news and consistently heaped praise on his associates. He stayed involved in the business all of his life, even though he retired from day-to-day operations in 1983.

Smith implemented an idea for dining out during the rise of the automobile, the construction of roads and superhighways, and an American public's increased desire to eat away from home. And, he did it with quality service and product, along with a pleasant and inspiring business leadership style, as his cornerstones for success. Sounds like a legacy we all could emulate...

Mr. Smith was 87.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Top magazines

Advertising Age magazine came out with their list of top magazines and you may be surprised at the list. Ad Age not only considered traditional measures like circulation and number of ad pages but, more importantly in the new world order, titles which have become brands, produce revenue through non-traditional methods and also offer up cross-media platforms.

The top three magazines are all focused on women--#1 is Women's Health; #2, Better Homes & Gardens; and #3, Family Circle. What's startling--at least to me--is that BHG started publishing in 1922 and Family Circle in 1932. So, major kudos to those two titles for their longevity and continued relevance.

The top ten magazines list was as follows:

1. Women's Health
2. Better Homes & Gardens
3. Family Circle
4. The Economist
5. People
6. Essence
7. The Week
8. Backpacker
9. Cosmopolitan
10. National Geographic

People, founded in 1974, is the only Time Inc. title on the list. And, perhaps not surprisingly, that company today announced major layoffs across a variety of their magazines.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Where's the Snuggie?

For all of you fans who were excited to see the latest Snuggie commercials, which typically air in the colder winter months, I hate to disappoint you but you’ll be seeing less and less of those spots this season.

A tightening scatter media market is leaving direct response advertisers like Snuggie and Sham Wow aced out—traditional advertisers are nabbing this remnant time which formerly was the domain of products sold with long-form media, 800 numbers and accompanying websites.

As a result, Snuggie will turn to 15-second and 30-second spots versus the 60 and 120-second commercials they used last year to successfully launch their product. And, in a 15 or 30 second commercial you will see far fewer vignettes of highly satisfied consumers using the product.

I, for one, am bummed—who can forget the endearing image of the couple wearing their Snuggies at the local football game? I will miss that…

It's KU hoops season!

If you’re a Kansas basketball fan, there is great anticipation for this season. But wait, Jayhawk Nation—there are a couple of disturbing pre-season plot lines that, if history holds, do not bode well for KU’s post-season hopes.

Kansas is the consensus #1 pick in NCAA Mens Basketball for the 2009-2010 season based upon the returning of all five starters and key bench players from last year’s 27-8, Big 12 champion and Sweet Sixteen squad. And, Bill Self added highly touted recruits Xavier Henry, Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson into the mix, along with Henry’s brother, C.J.

So, what’s to worry about? Well, try this on for size—the last two times in recent history when Kansas was ranked first in the pre-season they ultimately lost early in the NCAA Tourney--to Rhode Island (2nd round-1998) and Bucknell (1st round-2004.) And, the 1998 team is the one who, like this one, boasted two pre-season All-Americans. Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce were honored in that fashion in ’98—this year Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are Associated Press pre-season first team All-Americans. (Two teammates have received this honor only six times—and Kansas has now done it twice.)

One potential positive is that this year’s team will be tested early and often. In December Kansas must play at UCLA, and then faces Pac-10 favorite California and top 25 foe Michigan, back-to-back at home, over the span of four days. In early January, KU goes to Knoxville to take on another highly ranked team in Tennessee, then ventures into conference play and must travel for their toughest conference match-up—at Texas.

The ’98 team had not tasted the Final Four but the 2004 squad featured players who advanced to the national championship game the year before. The 2009-2010 model has two guys who not only advanced to the championship game, but won it. Jayhawk fans are hoping the motivation for Collins and Aldrich is that they can become the first players in a storied program’s history to notch two national titles during their career.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Birthday greetings

Let's give a birthday shout-out today to J.D. Souther, 64, one of the lesser known yet very important figures in the southern California country rock scene of the 1970's.

Souther moved to Los Angeles in the late 1960's and met a young guitarist, Glenn Frey, who had moved to L.A. from Detroit. They bonded, given a common love of country music and R&B, and began working together. They ultimately roomed together and had Jackson Browne as their downstairs neighbor, thus forming a trio who would collaborate on numerous projects.

Souther had two less-than-spectacular stints with country rock groups, the first with Frey in Longbranch Pennywhistle and the second with Chris Hillman (Byrds) and Richie Furay (Poco) as part of the Souther Hillman Furay Band.

It was as a writer and solo performer where Souther achieved the greatest success. He co-wrote some of The Eagles best material, including "Best of My Love," "Heartache Tonight," "New Kid in Town," and "Victim of Love." His song, "How Long" appeared on The Eagles latest album, Long Road Out of Eden and was released as a single.

Souther also collaborated with Linda Rondstadt--he produced her Don't Cry Now album and wrote several songs for her, including "Faithless Love."

Ironically, Souther's biggest hit as a solo artist was with a song he did not write--his version of "You're Only Lonely," a Roy Orbison hit, reached number 7 on the Billboard charts.

Monday morning musings

Hopefully everyone had a safe and happy Halloween and wore their latex physician glove when dispensing candy to the trick-or-treaters. (Seriously--did you see where we were encouraged to wear these gloves even though the candy being dispensed was packaged? This H1N1 deal is getting everyone a bit loopy...)

- Season three of Mad Men has one episode to go and this has been, I think, the best season to date. Jon Hamm's acting in the past two episodes will net him an Emmy win for Best Actor. In last night's episode, the assassination of President John Kennedy was woven into the story line in a neatly told, true-to-the-time way. Excerpts of Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and others were used to provide the reality of that awful late November weekend in 1963.

- It's officially the Christmas season--I'm seeing the television commercials for visiting Branson for the holidays, featuring Andy Williams. How many years have these commercials aired?

- Kansas State lost but their second half performance in Norman on Saturday night, against Oklahoma, was truly impressive. The 11:30 a.m. game on Saturday between State and Kansas is huge for both teams.

- That "fall back" thing is a nice benefit of the shift from Daylight Savings Time.