Sunday, January 31, 2010

Even student managers get "T-ed" up

In case you missed it, USC lost to Oregon yesterday in college hoops. But, the way they lost was indeed unique--a technical foul on the USC bench was the impetus for the Ducks seizing control of the game and going on to the win.

Here is the clip of the student manager who received the technical, and of USC coach Kevin O'Neill's incredulous reaction. And, yes, the manager was immediately booted from the team.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dick Vitale

I will admit that I have admired Dick Vitale's passion for college basketball, and I still do. But, sadly, I've reached a point where watching a game, where Vitale is color commentator, is reason to mute the sound and go to radio.

Vitale's "calling" of a game is about everything but the game. His shtick has grown tired. As an example of the lack of "X's and O's" coming from Dickie V, it wasn't until the second half that he even noticed that the University of Kansas was playing some triangle-and-two defense in their game against Kansas State tonight in Manhattan.

Vitale has been great for the game. An appearance by him always means a game has a bit more excitement. But, experiencing a Vitale broadcast has become more and more akin to the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.

Quote of the day

The Kansas Jayhawks wins in Manhattan with Sherron Collins hitting the winning shot. Thus, our quote of the day by Collins, being interviewed by ESPN's Erin Andrews: "I just didn't want to lose."


Andrew Young's book, The Politician, goes on sale today. And, while John Edwards deserves the scorn he's getting, after admitting paternity to his love-child via Rielle Hunter , one also needs to look at Young's participation in the sordid affair and aftermath.

Young, based upon his interview last night on ABC's 20/20 and Nightline, talked about being a witness to the discussions Edwards and Hunter had on what life would be like once Edwards wife, Elizabeth, succumbed to her cancer. Young also received money, flights on a private jet, lodging and other riches from Fred Baron and Bunny Mellon, in exchange for claiming paternity of Hunter's child, as part of the scheme to keep Edwards' affair with Hunter quiet.

In a classic case of downplaying his duplicity, Young claims to have been a then idealistic aide to Edwards who has since come to his senses. And, let's not forget Young's wife--the one who initially was incredulous about her husband's plan but then quickly agreed to join in the cover-up once she realized the financial gains for her and her family. She joined her husband last night on the ABC interviews with an air of innocence which was, honestly, slimy.

The whole affair (no pun intended) is too wacky to be made up...and incredibly, incredibly sad.

Saturday morning coffee

- How many copies of Catcher in the Rye will be sold this week as all of us who had to read the book in high school and college decide that we want to go back and re-acquaint ourselves with the work of J.D. Salinger? Salinger died this week at age 91. The reclusive author has not published anything since 1965 but lived a much-discussed life. His character from Catcher, Holden Caulfield, was the topic of many English class discussions in high schools in America during the 1970s and 1980s, when the book was required reading.

- The Kansas State crowd is bringing it strong on ESPN's College Gameday this morning. The crew of Rece Davis, Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps and Hubert Davis is in Manhattan in advance of tonight's key Big 12 game between KSU and Kansas. And, in acknowledgement of the rise of the basketball program in Manhattan, let's say congratulations to head coach Frank Martin for proving the doubters, including me, wrong. The dude can coach...but will he one day spontaneously combust on the sideline? That stare...

- Yesterday morning, breakfast was taken while looking out at the beach and the breaking surf of the Pacific Ocean. This morning, the scenery was much, much different--lots of the white stuff. Ugh...winter.

- Speaking of snow, the trip from the airport last night included seeing two large wrecks being cleaned up on local highways. In both cases, the wrecks had multiple SUVs involved. Hmm...

- Happy Birthday today to 1980s pop maven, Jody Watley. Watley won a Grammy in 1987 for Best New Artist. And, her hit "Looking for a New Love," had the memorable line, "hasta la vista, baby."

- There's an interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal about regional candy companies and their efforts to survive in today's economy. The article shouts out for local companies which produce Valomilk, out of Merriam, KS, and Cherry Mash, out of St. Joseph, MO.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Quote of the week

Yesterday, embattled late-night talk show host Jay Leno appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and offered up his side of a story which has been a soap opera since the day rumors leaked that NBC might re-insert him into The Tonight Show seat.

Thus, our quote of the week goes to Jay, who had this to say to Oprah:

"Conan thought it (agreeing to move The Tonight Show's time slot) would be destructive to the franchise," Leno said. "Well, if you look at where the (O'Brien's) ratings were, it was already destructive to the franchise."


Super Bowl 2010 - ad controversy?

We're only a week away and the game between the Colts and the Saints isn't the only battle attracting attention. What normally is a story about how much select brands are paying to show their commercial(s) on Super Bowl Sunday, and who is advertising what, is impacted this year with two other mini-dramas.


The automotive company has a 60-second spot, slated to air in the game, promoting its Dodge Charger. The controversy is that Chrysler is one of the companies recently plucked from bankruptcy due to government funding, thus raising the question on whether they should be spending upwards of $5 million (estimated) for this air time.

The flip side to the argument, of course, is that there is no bigger stage for a brand to begin a recovery--that the Super Bowl is the perfect launching point for such a strategy and effort.

Focus on the Family

CBS has accepted an ad from Focus on the Family, a Christian group who will air a spot expected to feature former University of Florida star Tim Tebow. Apparently, Tebow will explain the circumstances of his mother's pregnancy. After becoming ill during a mission to the Philippines, Tebow's mother ignored a doctor's recommendation to abort and ultimately gave birth to Tim, a winner of the Heisman Trophy and leader of a team which won two national championships. And, Tebow has been a model citizen--excelling not only on the field but off as well through his public service activities in both the U.S. and internationally.

Pro-choice advocates have criticized the anti-abortion spot and are strongly suggesting that it's not appropriate for airing during the Super Bowl, the largest TV event each year in the U.S.

In 2004, CBS rejected an ad by the United Church of Christ. The commercial's focus was to welcome gays to the church's community and places of worship. At the time, CBS did not accept advocacy ads but has since changed its stance and has publicly stated that, with its new policy, that former church ad would be accepted today. Cynics say it's a sign of the economic times--that CBS needs the revenue and thus has become less restrictive in what advertising it accepts.

The 2010 Super Bowl marks the first time, in many years, that advertising costs for a 30-second commercial have decreased versus the prior season. Commercials airing in the game this year will cost $2.5-$2.8 million, down from last year's $3 million.

A final lineup of advertisers has not been announced but many of the usual suspects are in place--Anheuser Busch InBev, Snickers (back after its controversial ad of two years ago which was bashed by gay rights groups), Frito-Lay's Doritos, Coke, Denny's (hoping to repeat its successful re-launch of the Grand Slam Breakfast in last year's game), other automakers and many of the movie studios, who will tout upcoming new releases.

Stay tuned here for more Super Bowl ad coverage through next week and weekend.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Greetings from La La land

Greetings from the City of Angels. Some idle musings during my one-day visit to SoCal...

- Is there a city on the planet with more eye candy than Los Angeles? Red hot automobiles, of every make and type; men and women, some beautiful and some fixed to be beautiful; the usual sunshine glinting off of the lovely Pacific; lush greenery...all coupled with miles and miles and miles of roads, and architecture which strains the definition of that word.

- A interesting item was buried in the Local section of the Los Angeles Times. Actress Eva Larue of CSI: Miami fame (she plays Natalia Boa Vista) is embroiled in a battle with the Glendale City Council. It seems Ms. Larue built a gate at her home, ostensibly to keep out an alleged stalker. The Council's issue is that they claim the gate was built without a permit. Perhaps Larue can get David Caruso (Lt. Horatio Caine) to assist given his usual diplomacy skills on CSI: Miami.

- Is there a brand on the planet who can get the media coverage of Apple upon launching a new product? I was taken back a bit when I saw the i-Pad was front page news in the Kansas City Star. That was just the start--it held the same position in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and USA Today.

- UCLA plays at Oregon tonight--the Bruins last visit to MacArthur Court. Next year Oregon will move into 12,500 seat Matthew Knight Arena. And, yes, this is the same "Knight" as Phil Knight, CEO of Nike and huge contributor to Oregon athletics. Knight is the chief donor for the new arena which is named after his son who, at age 34, died in a scuba diving accident.

- Speaking of MacArthur Court, former UCLA coach Gene Bartow once referred to Oregon's fans there as "deranged idiots."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A good deed

In Lawrence, KS, the local newspaper, the Journal-World, is offering subscriptions for $1 to those who are unemployed within the publication’s delivery region. The thirteen-week subscription is being offered to help those without jobs to stay informed, particularly on job openings in the area.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Observations from a night at the Fieldhouse

517. That's the number of times, by my calculations, that I have walked, prior to last night, into Allen Fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence with a ticket in hand to see a Kansas Jayhawks basketball game. My visits began as a child, hand-in-hand with my parents, and have evolved to seeing games there as a student, an alum, a parent and always as a rabid fan.

So, it was visit 518 last night for the annual showdown with the University of Missouri. As has been recounted in sports media outlets locally, regionally and nationally, this rivalry is one of the nation's fiercest. And, while the rivalry has lost a bit of the edge generated by Missouri coach Norm Stewart's passionate dislike for all things Kansas, the games always come with an energy in the building that is rarely matched during the season.

Here then are some observations, from Section 10 of the Fieldhouse, on last night's ESPN Big Monday contest:

- I've made the comment several times, "I've never heard it louder than the (fill in the blank) game." The beginning of last night's game was, I believe, the loudest opening I've heard at Allen Fieldhouse in many years. (For the record, my belief is that the sustained volume for the KU-Texas game in 2003--the "Nick Collison game"--was the loudest game of the post-1990 era.)

- To MU Coach Mike Anderson's credit, his Tigers weren't scared of Kansas' opening video and stayed on the court during the opening pageantry prior to tip-off. Anderson handled it the right way--drawing his team in tight for instructions while Kansas played its video and introduced its starting five. Take a lesson, Scott Drew.

- Eddie Money as the singer of the National Anthem? How random...and the dude looked more than a bit weathered.

- Even more random was the plate-spinning gal at halftime. She was straight out of "America's Got Talent," or some other television reality show.

- The good--Kansas' star of the game, Cole Aldrich. Aldrich played his best game since last year's first round game in the NCAA Tournament versus North Dakota State. He rebounded, blocked shots (he seemed to have more than the box score stat of seven), altered shots and, for good measure, scored 12 points. Aldrich was dangerously close to a unique triple-double--the 12 points combined with 16 boards and what seemed like more than seven blocks.

- Kansas' bench player of the game: Tyrell Reed. Reed hit all four of his three point attempts, continued to play solid defense and handled MU's pressure (only one turnover.)

- Kansas' glue guy: Brady Morningstar. Let's face it--Kansas is better right now with B-Star starting versus Tyshawn Taylor. Morningstar is KU's best defender and may be its smartest, basketball IQ, player. He consistently attacked the press and had five assists, including a couple of nifty passes.

- Missouri's star of the game: Justin Safford had 19 points although it was on 5 of 15 shooting. Safford went 8 of 10 from the free throw line and was MU's leading rebounder, with 7, on a night when they got outrebounded 53 to 28.

- The bad: Missouri's inside presence. And, yeah, you're right, this isn't a "bad"--it's a "non-existent."

- The ugly: The referees. No, not their physical appearance but the way they assisted in sucking any life and flow out of the game in the second half. This ref crew apparently determined at halftime that they were going to call the game tighter in the second half--and it showed. The half was only about six minutes old and already 14 fouls had been called.

- The funny: The elderly Kansas fan jawing with the youngish MU fan behind him and pointing out the 13 Final Four banners. I'll let you guess as to the crux of that "discussion."

- The angry: The man, a few rows behind us, who was in such a rage at the officials that I would have been concerned for their safety, had he not been eight rows from the top of the building.

- The best: Win number 54 in a row for Kansas in a building which, even on visit 518, still managed to be the setting for one of the best fan experiences in sports. The beauty of this venerable building is that those who attend want to be there and go there, not for comfort, but for a love of their team and the wonderful sport of college basketball. The experience isn't the seats which are too small and too tight, the lack of suites, the lack of video boards and other creature comforts. No, the experience is the game, the players, the tradition and the pride of a court which bears the name of the game's founder, and a building named after the father of basketball coaching.

The love affair with Kansas basketball continues--for visit 518 and for the 16,299 friends who were there to experience it with me.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

NFL blackouts

As you watch the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game today, consider this--over 40 years ago Jets fans were forced to travel 75 miles outside of New York in order to see their Jets play the Oakland Raiders in the 1968 AFL Championship Game. This was the same Jets team who would become the first AFL team ever to win the Super Bowl when they beat the Baltimore Colts several days later.

Today the NFL institutes blackouts if a team does not sell out a home game 72 hours in advance of the telecast. Back in '68, the AFL and NFL didn't allow fans to watch their teams play at home in fear that giving the games away on television would hurt attendance. And, it didn't matter if the game was sold out or not.

In late December 1968, Jets fans fled to bars, hotels and homes of friends in places like upstate New York and Philadelphia in order to see the game live.

The blackout rule was changed in 1973 when Congress passed anti-blackout legislation. And, among the many calling for this legislation was none other than our then U.S. President--Richard Nixon.

Indianapolis fans and New Orleans fans should be very, very grateful for this legislation. Otherwise, non-ticketholders in those cities would be scattering to venues like Terre Haute, Fort Wayne, Louisville, Evansville, Hattiesburg, Jackson, and Lafayette in order to view today's games.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dive of the week?

When we went to Snead's Barbecue tonight, at 171st and Holmes in Kansas City, MO, my hopes were high. Snead's was re-purchased by the Snead family this past year after a disastrous run by prior ownership. My last visit was when the non-Snead family owners were in charge and the place was lackluster, at best.

Sneads sits in a standalone building next to a gas station advertising "smokes and liquor" at an intersection just south of Loch Lloyd. The restaurant had a long run as one of the better barbecue joints in a city known for this cuisine. But, as stated above, the Snead family sold the business a few years ago and the restaurant's quality declined as a result.

As we entered the wood-paneled interior, we were asked "smoking or non-smoking"--just another indication that this was not your normal restaurant. We entered the large, but spartan, dining room and perused the rather simple menu. Snead's specializes, of course, in barbecue but also offers a catfish plate as well as burgers.

We started with an appetizer plate full of fried treats--onion rings, mushrooms and mozzarella sticks. The plate arrived hot and with honey ranch dressing on the side. All three appetizers were lightly breaded and cooked just right.

For our entrees, my wife ordered a sandwich and I ordered a combination plate with beef, pork brownies (burnt ends) and ribs.

Our first "uh oh" occurred when my wife bit into a french fry and promptly proclaimed it "cold." Likewise, my beef and pork tasted as if it had been sitting out on a counter, minus a heat lamp, for a few minutes--it was lukewarm at best.

The brownies were the star of my combo plate. They were the one item which was warm, having obviously been placed last on the plate. And, they were crunchy on one side but tender and lean throughout.

Snead's offers a mild sauce and a hot sauce. The mild sauce was too sweet for our taste but the hot was quite tasty--tangy in a fashion similar to that found at Bryant's Barbecue.

To Snead's credit, they provided us with a gift card for $10 off on our next visit. Our server, who also admitted that she was co-manager, was dismayed at our feedback on the meal and was sincere in her attempts to entice us for another visit.

So, I offer up Snead's as our "dive of the week," but you'll notice the question mark in the title. With so many other high quality barbecue options in this city, we'll take a wait-and-see attitude on whether we again venture to Snead's or not.

Irwin Dambrot

The name Irwin Dambrot certainly isn't a household one. And few probably noticed the obituary for Dambrot which appeared in today's New York Times.

But, 50 years ago, Dambrot was a central figure in a scandal which rocked the world of college basketball.

In 1950, Dambrot and his City College teammates did the unthinkable for a small school from New York--they won not only the prestigious National Invitational Tournament as well as the NCAA Tournament. City College is the only school to ever win both titles in the same year, and they did it in their backyard--both finals were contested in Madison Square Garden. (At the time, the NIT was the most prestigious post-season tournament in college hoops. Teams who played in the NIT could also qualify for and play in the NCAA Tourney.)

Dambrot was the hero of City College's win over Bradley in the NIT championship, scoring 23 points. After the NIT, the team won the NCAA championship ten days later with Dambrot hitting a shot and then making a key pass in the last minute of a 71-68 win, again over Bradley. He was named the tournament's most valuable player.

The glory of City College's achievement crumbled in 1951 when Dambrot and six teammates were arrested. The charge? Point shaving.

The City College players joined 25 others from Kentucky, New York University, Manhattan, Long Island University and Bradley who were implicated for taking bribes from gamblers in order to keep final scores within established point spreads.

The scandal was the greatest crisis ever faced in college basketball, particularly given the involvement of players from programs like Kentucky, Bradley and LIU--big-time programs during the late 1940's and early 1950's.

As for Dambrot, he was accused of receiving bribe offers in two regular season games in 1949-50 but was never implicated for shaving points in the 1950 championship games.

In 2009, Madison Square Garden invited members of the team back to the arena, having cited the double championship as the number one college basketball moment in the 75 years of games there. Suffering then from Parkinson's disease, and nursing a broken hip, Dambrot, when told of the honor at the Garden, said to his sister who planned to accompany him, "be sure and bring my uniform."

Late Night wars

Last night was Conan O'Brien's farewell. And, as expected, he took more than a few parting shots at NBC along the way. So, from now until after the Olympics, we will be treated with Tonight Show re-runs until Jay Leno resumes his seat as host of this long-standing television franchise. We'll get to see then if the late show "wars," at least in words, continues betweens the two remaining combatants--Leno and David Letterman.

The man who lorded over the Tonight Show franchise for many, many years--Johnny Carson--would have shaken his head at the past few weeks of late night sniping, according to an opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal. Raymond Siller, a writer for Carson during his time in New York and Los Angeles, offered up two examples where Carson took the high road, even though he had the same chances as our present day late night hosts to crack wise and use a situation as fodder for jokes.

For years, Joan Rivers served as Carson's permanent guest host until 1986 when Rivers held a press conference announcing that she'd signed on with Fox in order to host her own late night show. Carson was caught unawares--he had no clue that Rivers was going off to do her own gig. Rather than call Rivers out, Carson took the high road, scrambling to find other guest hosts to fill in--he never uttered a public word about the betrayal he felt.

In another example, a guest on Carson's show once made a negative comment about Dick Cavett. At the time, Cavett was opposite Carson with a show on ABC. After the taping, Carson immediately phoned Cavett to warn him of the comment and to apologize for the remark. He did it in time for Cavett to know before the segment aired later that evening on the East Coast.

The current late night wars have become truly that--wars waged with words and back-office negotiations. Letterman has called out Leno, and often in a mocking, mean-spirited way. Leno has fired back with his own shots. And, O'Brien's initial humorous remarks about NBC have turned more and more pointed, as has his remarks about former buddy Leno.

Carson, the man all three of these hosts say they revere, would not like the current state of affairs. As Siller wrote, Carson "played in pain through divorces and depositions, deaths and tabloid whoppers--without whining. Carson's late night successors consider him the gold standard, the template for how it's done. If Johnny were still around, I can envision him whispering in their ears: 'Guys, come up!'"

Friday, January 22, 2010

What does $21,000 buy you these days?

A man in Delaware is suing a New York strip club claiming that he can't remember what he did there. The man says that after being "provided" with two drinks, a lap dancer took him into a private room. He has no clue how he then passed the next 90 minutes...but he ended up with a credit card charge of $21,620.60.

Can you say "hmmm...?"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

College hoops musings

- Last Saturday I watched head coach Pat Knight and the Texas Tech mens basketball team watch the introduction video at Allen Fieldhouse at the University of Kansas--home to the nation's longest home court winning streak. At the time I thought, "boy, that's a mistake." Usually, coaches bring their team into a tight huddle during the video and player introductions for KU. Well, last night, Baylor coach Scott Drew tried something totally different--he took his team off of the floor during the video and intros. KU head coach Bill Self didn't like it and neither did his team. While it was an interesting ploy by Drew, my reaction is "man up, coach!" Staring down the video and the Phog mystique is the way some team will eventually snap this 53 game winning streak in Lawrence.

- The words "North Carolina may not make the NCAA Tournament" were actually uttered on ESPN's Sportscenter this morning. And, it's true--the Tarheels are losers of three straight and have a record of 12-7, 1-3 in the ACC. The good news is that UNC doesn't play again until next Tuesday. The bad news is that they play at rival North Carolina State--the same team who beat Duke last night in Raleigh. Poor guard play, injuries and lost confidence are all major reasons for the current skid by Carolina.

- How good a coach is Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh? The Panthers, in what was regarded as a rebuilding year, were 11th in the country heading into last night's game against Georgetown. Pitt lost, thus ending their 31-game home winning streak, but Dixon has done a tremendous job given the number of starters lost from last year's Elite Eight team.

- At Iowa State, Lucca Staiger left the Cyclones to head to Europe immediately to play professional basketball in his native Germany. And, that caused Texas Tech's Knight to utter our quote of the week. Said Knight, "To get up and leave like that doesn't show much respect for his coaches, his teammates, the fans and the university. He's being selfish, leaving his team. Everyone wants to blame the coach too much. You need to start holding these kids accountable. To leave a team like Staiger left Iowa State--when they have a chance to do some good things in the league--is unheard of." The Cyclones next opponent is Kansas, this Saturday, in Ames.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hot apps

If you haven't checked out Dropbox, you need to do so. This app is great for the many of us who work on more than one computer, e.g., work and home. With Dropbox you can transfer your files easily from one machine to the other--it acts like an online, private and secure hard drive. You can set up a starter account for free with a small fee for larger storage needs. Check it out at

Another fun app is Brizzly. If you are a heavy user of social media, Brizzly provides a single window into the various networks which you use. As an example, you can update your Facebook status via your Twitter tweets by using Brizzly. Like Dropbox, the app is free--it's at

Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday musings

- The Golden Globes were held last night in Hollywood to the usual fanfare and critiquing of attire and hairstyles. But, did you know that all of this hoopla is for an awards show where a grand total of 95 people, maximum, vote on the outcome? The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which stages the show, has 95 members this year--that's it. So, all of the hubbub surrounding who wins for the usual categories in movies and television is a result of this very small group.

- Staying on the Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais disappointed as a host last night. The witty, wry Irish writer and actor too often simply wasn't funny or wasn't given the time to showcase his humor. If the Globes had simply wanted a facilitator, use Ryan Seacrest or some other reality show regular as the awards show host.

- In the dress department, is there a more consistently elegant red carpet presence, awards show to awards show, than Penelope Cruz?

- Once again, there's controversy around a late touchdown being scored in a highly visible football game. During the college season, much was made of USC scoring late on rival UCLA. Yesterday, Minnesota scored late, in a game seemingly well in hand, on a pass play by Brett Favre--his fourth TD of the day. It's too bad that the opposing coaches can't signal to one another at the end of the game, e.g., "want to keep playing?" followed by a "yeah, let's get it on" or an "uncle."

- Here in the Midwest, the wacky weather continues. Dense, dense fog has covered Kansas City this weekend and, on Saturday, caused a multi-car pileup south of the city on I-35. Yet, I am stunned at how many cars I've seen driving in this with no headlights or warning lights.

- I don't know about you but I'm comforted that Jack Bauer is back and that the world will be saved once again. In case you missed it, 24 began season nine last night and continues this evening with another two-hour episode.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Teddy Pendergrass

One of the great R&B singers of our generation died this past week. Teddy Pendergrass, who rose to fame as the lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, and then as a solo artist, died on January 13 after colon cancer surgery.

Pendergrass was one of the most soulful voices of the past 40 years. The hit, "If You Don't Know Me By Now," sold more then two million copies. It wasn't long after that hit, though, before he and Melvin clashed and Pendergrass struck out on his own in 1977.

As a solo artist, Pendergrass had hits like "I Don't Love You Anymore" and "Close the Door." However, the song "Love TKO" is perhaps the song most identified with Pendergrass--it is one of the most heartfelt, love break-up performances ever.

Pendergrass, one of a long line of Philadelphia R&B hitmakers, had a severe automobile accident in his hometown in 1982. The wreck left Pendergrass paralyzed from the waist down.

After his recovery, Pendergrass continued to perform but never achieved the level of success enjoyed in the 1970s and early 1980s. As a result of his injury, Pendergrass founded the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, a non-profit organization devoted to helping those with spinal cord injuries.

Rest in peace, Teddy Pendergrass--one of my favorite R&B performers ever.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Quote of the week

"Yes, when I was a child I dreamed of the day when I would host The Tonight Show for seven months."

- Conan O'Brien

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I'm hard-pressed to remember a wackier time in coaching.

Try to follow this, if you will. Mark Mangino (Kansas), Mike Leach (Texas Tech) and Jim Leavitt (South Florida) either resigned or were fired because of alleged or real abuse of players. Urban Meyer quit at Florida due to health reasons but then decided to take an extended leave of absence instead. Coaching legend Bobby Bowden retired at Florida State. And, he has since learned that a NCAA probation may wipe out up to 14 victories on his all-time wins list. Charlie Weis was let go at Notre Dame and is now the offensive coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs working for a guy who, you guessed it, only about a year ago was the offensive coordinator at the Arizona Cardinals.

Out in SoCal, Pete Carroll finally decided it was time to get out at USC before the posse arrived, given what appears to be an impending probation, and left for the head coaching job at the Seattle Seahawks. Quickly jumping into the open USC job was Lane Kiffin--yes, the same Lane Kiffin who left Oakland after clashing with Al Davis and who then spent all of one season at Tennessee...but not before calling out the aforementioned Meyer for alleged recruiting violations.

Down in Alabama, Tommy Tuberville raised his hand when Kansas was looking for a coach, saying "I'm interested." When Tuberville didn't even get an interview at KU, he campaigned for Leach's old position at Tech and has since ended up in Lubbock.

So, in the space of one post-season, we've had or will have coaching changes at Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Florida, Florida State and Tennessee. Those five schools represent a lot of national championships.

Over in the world of college hoops, we have ex-coach Bobby Knight calling out Kentucky coach John Calipari, suggesting that Cal shouldn't be in coaching given the probations he left at Massachusetts and Memphis after guiding both schools to Final Fours. Also in the Commonwealth, Rick Pitino is trying to rehab his image after a very public story about an extortion attempt which caused Pitino to admit having sex with the wife of a team trainer.

Locally, Kansas State coach Frank Martin admitted that "these are sensitive times" when apologizing for striking a player late in Saturday's game against Missouri. What Martin didn't elaborate on is why now is a time when it's more "sensitive" to strike a player versus, we assume, years ago when it was less sensitive?

What's it all mean? It means that more and more coaches are the story—not the players on the field or on the court. And, perhaps that is as it should be. All of the coaches named above measure salaries in the millions of dollars. But, for the NCAA and coaching associations like the National Association of Basketball Coaches, it raises the question “is this as it should be?” In a college sports world supposedly focused on the student-athlete, it’s hard to come to grips with the salaries, negotiations, broken contracts, power plays and sometimes abusive behavior which seems to be more the norm than the exception in today’s world of collegiate athletics.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The great thaw of 2010?

I never knew that 20 degree temperatures could feel so good!

Yes, in the photo above is a drip of melting icicle plummeting down as a result of the warming temperatures here in the Midwest combined with today's sun.

Musings on the week ahead

- It's interesting to watch marketers who have altered, or implemented, marketing strategies as a result of the recent, seemingly nationwide bad weather. Locally, Spin Pizza put into place a "bad weather" percentage-off discount, encouraging their loyal customers to come back, even though the recent weather was lousy. Nationally, Zappos adjusted their online presence to focus more on boots and cold weather gear.

- Personally, I hate to see Pete Carroll leave college football in order to return to the NFL. Like him or not, Carroll seemed more appropriate for the college game--his reputation is that kids love to play for him.

- Speaking of coaches, Frank Martin of Kansas State opened his postgame press conference, after losing to Missouri on Saturday, by apologizing for his slap/slight push of Chris Merrieweather. While the apology was appropriate, Martin's tone was less than totally contrite as he acknowledged that times are different now, or words to that effect. Coaches around the U.S. have noted the recent firings of Jim Leavitt, Mike Leach and Mark Mangino, all related in some way to real or alleged player abuse.

- Tomorrow night we enter an American Idol world without the verbal stylings of Paula Abdul. Ellen Degeneres takes over Abdul's slot and we'll soon discover if she will play Paula's role of "the nice judge."

- This is when college basketball heats up as conference play begins. And, this past weekend kicked off the "real" college season with some surprises--undefeated and #1 Kansas lost at Tennessee, previously undefeated Purdue lost, Missouri beat Kansas State, and Georgetown beat Connecticut. Only Texas and Kentucky remain undefeated but both will be tested in conference road games this week. Key games include: Kentucky at Florida, North Carolina at Clemson, Kansas at Nebraska, Texas at Iowa State, Syracuse at West Virginia and Mississippi at Tennessee.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New blogs

There are a couple of new blogs which have made their way onto my "favorites" list.

Be sure and check out Scot Pollard's blog, "Planet Pollard," as well as Joe Posnanski's blog. Pollard is the ex-Kansas Jayhawk basketballer who played in the NBA for Cleveland and Boston, among others, and was known as one of the more eccentric players to ever don a Kansas uniform. Posnanski is the former columnist for the Kansas City Star who has since moved on to Sports Illustrated and

Both are very entertaining reads.

Dive of the week

What makes a burger at Booches so special? I'm still trying to figure that out after dining there yesterday prior to the Missouri-Kansas State basketball game.

I had heard about Booches for years but didn't stop by for one of their famous burgers until a couple of years ago. I was instantly hooked. So, when a friend invited me to the game yesterday, my first response (after "yes") was, "can we stop at Booches?"

The burgers here are small--not exactly slider size, but you'll want to order two, served on wax paper, and accompanied by the normal cheese (if desired), pickles, mustard and ketchup. And, the bun is pretty much Wonder Bread variety. But, wow, something about these burgers is special--so special that no less than USA Today rated them as a top ten burger in the U.S.

The joint is actually a "restaurant and billiards hall," as advertised in online reviews and features pool, snooker and billiards tables.

Booches has been in business since 1884, and it shows. Located in downtown Columbia, MO, the joint features dark wood, photos of past Missouri Tiger teams and greats, comic strips (which incorporate famous Booches regulars) and several sayings framed on the wall. My favorite? "No sniveling."

We arrived at 11:15 a.m. prior to the 1:00 p.m. game and didn't get our burgers until 12:30. We inhaled the magical beef concoctions (two apiece, mind you) which were accompanied by Backer's chips (no french fries) and soft drinks served in paper cups. Naturally, beer's available--about four varieties on tap plus the requisite Anheuser-Busch products. (After all, we were dining in "St. Louis West," as one of the guys in our traveling party pointed out.)

A Booches' burger doesn't have the magic sauce of an In-N-Out burger served "animal style." It doesn't have the quasi-gourmet flavor of a Dempsey's (Lawrence, KS.) A Booches burger is just a plain, simple, really, really good hamburger.

Check it out...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Super Bowl 2010 advertising

The lineup of 2010 Super Bowl advertisers includes many of the usual suspects, but with one notable exception. PepsiCo, after years as a Super Bowl staple, has decided to opt out of this year's advertising bacchanalia. What's interesting is the rationale given by the beverage marketer. Pepsi is in the midst of launching a social responsibility campaign and believes that other venues will be a better forum for this messaging...and not the Super Bowl.

Call me a cynic but I question whether this is truly the reason Pepsi has decided to pass on the Super Bowl. While the social responsibility effort, for corporate brand Pepsi, might make sense, it's hard to see the Gatorade brand bypassing the Super Bowl.

Pepsi made one of the all-time brand head scratching moves when they re-branded Gatorade to "G." Is the fact that Gatorade won't be advertised on the Super Bowl an admission that the re-branding effort, of a year ago, was an absolute wrong move?

Doritos, a PepsiCo brand, will advertise on the Super Bowl. But, after many years of seeing Pepsi spots at the top of the following days Ad-Meter, we'll have to guess at what other brands will claim that prize on Super Bowl Sunday.

Here's a look at a few of the planned advertisers on CBS' broadcast on February 7:

Anheuser-Busch InBev - These guys aren't going anywhere. As usual, the brewery will be a big spender on the Super Bowl although it's unknown whether they will match last year's four minutes and 30 seconds of advertising.

Coca-Cola - Another regular, Coca-Cola has not revealed which brands will get support on the Super Bowl.

Diamond Foods' Pop Secret - One of three Goodby, Silverstein & Partners' clients in the broadcast, Pop Secret will have a spot which involves Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo, stars of National Lampoon's Vacation. - The provocative advertiser will do it again in 2010. As usual, the spot will feature Danica Patrick.

Denny's - Last year, Denny's used the Super Bowl to launch their free Grand Slam breakfast promotion.

Studios - Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures will all advertise upcoming major movie releases.

As of early January, CBS only had five spots left in its Super Bowl inventory and has been fetching between $2.5-$3 million per thirty second commercial.

The NBA's image problem

This isn't the first time that the National Basketball Association has dealt with an image problem. Over the past several years, the NBA has had to contend with drug issues, the Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers brawl which spilled over into the stands, charges of racism and the league being out of touch with black athletes and the hip-hop culture, and off-the-court incidents involving Jayson Williams, Dennis Rodman, Latrell Sprewell and referee Tim Donaghy, to name just a few.

The latest incident--the one involving guns, Gilbert Arenas and Jarvis Crittenton--has now evolved into a story which cuts deeper than two teammates displaying weaponry in the Washington Bullets locker room. New stories on the incident are suggesting that gambling was at the core of the disagreement and that the popularity of gambling, among NBA players, may be the cause for many in-team clashes.

William Rhoden, writing in today's New York Times, said "guns and gambling both threaten the league's credibility." Most of the gambling takes place on team flights and during down time before and after games when players are seeking ways to handle the demands of travel and abundant time away from the court while on the road. What started as card games now, more often than not, include monetary stakes that can quickly become quite large. And, as Rhoden points out, the salary of a star like Arenas can be quite different, and larger, than an NBA rookie or journeyman player.

NBA Commissioner David Stern took quick action against Arenas, suspending him indefinitely. Stern's actions were based more upon Arenas' cavalier attitude towards what happened in the locker room and his past, consistently bizarre behavior. The latest revelations seems to suggest that Crittenton may actually be the player who had a loaded weapon, meaning that he not only violated expectations of him as an NBA player, but also gun possession laws in the District of Columbia.

How Stern handles Crittenton, and how teams and/or the league police in-team gambling, will have huge impact on the success of the NBA as it enters this new decade. Given fewer and fewer likable--and marketable--stars, the league had better get it right.

The weather

I believe we all have collectively acknowledged that it's pretty cold everywhere, except perhaps southern California, and that this global warming thing is a bunch of hooey (at least this week.)

But, seriously--it's 2 degrees right now in Kansas City which is colder than Minneapolis (4 degrees) or Chicago (23 degrees.) It's colder in Atlanta (20 degrees) than New York (32 degrees) or Denver (25.)

Did some sort of cosmic upside-down event take place and I/we missed the memo?


Hey kids, I'm passing along a recommendation on a hot new product--Dropbox.

Dropbox is a free download from which allows you to sync your files online and across computers automatically. For example, personal files on your PC or home laptop can easily be moved to your work unit, and vice versa. Sharing files is simple, accomplished with just a few clicks. And, Dropbox backs up your files online.

While free, there is a charge for online storage beyond 2GB. But, the cost for usage beyond this level is small compared to the comfort of knowing your files are stored in Dropbox's secure servers, accessible from any computer or mobile device.

You can check it out and download at

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ratings disaster for Leno means...promotion?

For the past several months we have reported on the ratings disaster of Jay Leno's current show, each night, during the 10 p.m. ET/9:00 p.m. CT time slot.

Now, speculation is centering on Leno's return to the 11:30 p.m. ET/10:30 p.m. CT time slot of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. What's unclear is whether Leno will be placed back in the coveted Tonight Show host seat, or whether he'll have a half-hour show followed by O'Brien.

Reports are that this change could take place as soon as the upcoming Winter Olympics conclude on NBC in late February.

Stay, not on Leno's show but here as we will bring you the latest news on this late night talk show shakeup.

Reflections from snowy Kansas City

Goodness, have we ever had a combination of cold and snow like that currently being experienced by Kansas Citians and those in the surrounding region? The temperatures today are around zero or slightly above and, with the howling wind, the wind chills are in danger territory. The combination of new snow yesterday combined with high winds early this morning made my sixth (or was it seventh) time shoveling the driveway a pretty pointless exercise.

Rumor had it, it was so cold that penguins escaped from the Kansas City Zoo because they were feeling frisky, what with the weather, and wanted to check out the broader "hood."

Here are some musings from the frozen tundra of Leawood:

- Tiger Woods may have been taking 'roids!? That's the latest rumor/speculation given the gangsta photo which is appearing on Vanity Fair's cover. Tiger-gate keeps getting wackier and wackier.

- Why is it that a local television network, when they have a sister station dedicated to weather, insists on pre-empting national network programming in order to have a full-on report about the local weather? (You know we're talking to you KMBC-ABC...)

- Longtime local television broadcaster, Wendall Anschutz, has died from a long bout with lung cancer. Anschutz was one of the more admired Kansas City broadcasters, anchoring the early and late evening news from the local CBS affiliate. My conversation with Anschutz, a few years ago, was illuminating given his obvious irritation at how television broadcasting had evolved to so much of the sensational. And, he was most distressed that his former station, KCTV-CBS, was leading that charge locally.

- The Consumer Electronics Show, a hedonistic display of every toy that we men (and many women) want, is underway in Las Vegas. An associate who's attending the show has already sent me a photo of a 152 inch "TV" with 4k resolution, insisting that I need it for my "man cave" basement. ("Honey, guess what 'we' just bought...!'")

- The contestant on The Bachelor who allegedly was having an "inappropriate relationship" on the show was ultimately fired as a contestant. Without giving away too much, her statement about being fired gives us our quote-of-the-week. She said, "the network's definition of 'inappropriate relationship' differs from the outside world's definition of 'inappropriate relationship.'" Hmm...

- And finally, Tiger Woods has a partner-in-crime in the celebs-in-trouble-who've-been-dumped-by-a-sponsor department. Charlie Sheen has been dropped by Hanes. So, we'll no longer be seeing those puzzling TV spots which pair Sheen with another Hanes endorser, Michael Jordan. (And, it's not like MJ hasn't had some image issues over the past few years either.) What's pretty amazing about Sheen is that this latest imbroglio with his spouse is not new. Martin's son has had a pretty long list of issues--allegations of domestic violence, public dating of porn stars, involvement with noted prostitute Heidi Fleiss, porn addiction and, of course, in-and-out of rehab. Yet, consumers continue to watch his show, Two and a Half Men--one of the most successful sitcoms on TV in recent years. Once more, proof that the American public has a short memory...or is just incredibly forgiving.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The art scene of Kansas City

Here is a great article on Kansas City's art scene, which appeared in no less a cultural publication than the New York Post.

Happy Birthday, Jan!

Who's "Jan?" Why, January Jones, of course. Ms. Jones, who plays Betty Draper on this writer's favorite television show, Mad Men, turns 32 today.

The Bachelor

What is it about seeing 25 women throwing themselves at one man? That's the formula which ABC has once again trotted out on The Bachelor, our annual look at the drama created when one man or woman (i.e., The Bachelorette) is chased by a bevy of adoring suitors of the opposite sex. And, in the latest twist, this year's eligible bachelor is none other than Jake--spurned airline pilot who lost Jillian's love on last season's The Bachelorette, but not before apparently endearing himself to women nationwide who loved his emotions at losing in love.

Last night's season premiere provided the usual formula for Bachelor/Bachelorette success--introduce us to the opening lineup of suitors, showcase the flakiest ones of the lot, re-emphasize how our eligible bachelor/bachelorette expects to find their true love amidst this crowd, and tempt us with glimpses of the drama to come.

In a bit of a plot twist last night, Jillian (of last season's Bachelorette) and Ed (her chosen one), surprised the women by showing up at the mega-mansion in order to quiz our 25 contestants. Not surprisingly, the "interviews" asked insightful and thoughtful questions like "what animal would you use to describe yourself in bed?" (Uh, is that while sleeping or otherwise?)

As the evening progressed, we found out who would play the role of the usual suspects--the naive, soft-hearted one (Tenley); the "I'm beautiful and you're not" fake (Rozlyn); the athletic, no-frills girl from the Midwest (Elizabeth from Nebraska); the "how could you say something that stupid" loser (Channing, who did not get a rose--naturally) and the requisite wild-eyed chaser who has issues (Michelle.)

So, in breaking down last night's premiere and what's to come with this season, we have:

- Jake receiving advice from Ed and Jillian, who told him to stay away from Michelle. So, who does Jake give the final rose to last night? Why, Michelle, of course, for we need that freaky girl to stay in the competition as long as possible in order to keep the drama quotient at a high level.

- The network's tempting us with an exposed affair, on set, by one of the contestants. What's left unsaid is who exactly said perpetrator is having an affair with--our bet is that it's with one of the crew members.

- The preview of Jake stalking out of a future scene, kicking over a light and saying "I'm done--I'm not giving out any roses tonight!"

Stay tuned, dear readers--this season's train ride, and ultimate train wreck, has only just begun.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cable wars

The New York Times had a front page story today which was an easy-to-understand overview of what is going on in the cable industry with an explanation of the latest skirmish between News Corporation and Time Warner Cable.

What was most interesting was the varying costs for various cable programs, i.e., what they cost the distributors and then how that cost gets passed along to us--the consumers. For example, The Food Network costs distributors eight cents a viewer, on average, but the program owner (Scripps) wants an appreciably higher amount given the television ratings of this network compared to other channels.

What cable channel fetchs the highest rate? Not surprisingly, it's ESPN at $4.10 per viewer, on average. What may be a bit surprising is that second place--TNT--isn't even close. TNT gets 96 cents per viewer, less than a quarter of that received by its rival.

What will happen as prices rise? Consumers will look more and more to alternate forms of content delivery. A Time Warner spokesperson said that the power ultimately will rest with the consumer. Maybe...but we consumers must be willing to seek out other options for getting our content (Hulu, YouTube, iTunes) knowing that those who supply our broadband are typically the same companies who supply our cable programming.

Stay tuned--this battle is only beginning to heat up as we enter a new decade.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday morning coffee

Welcome to 2010 which outside, at least here in the Midwest, is looking a lot like the end of 2009. Snow is still on the ground, the temperatures are in the frigid single digits and, guess what, it's snowing again.

- I highly recommend the DVD, Taking Chance. This is an HBO Films movie about Lt. Col. Michael Stroble, played by Kevin Bacon, who volunteers as a military escort officer to accompany the body of 19-year old Marine Chance Phelps back to Phelps' hometown of Dubois, Wyoming. This movie isn't a political statement--it's an affirmation that men and women die in combat and that each carries a story, a family and is deserving of our respect for their ultimate sacrifice to our country. Prepare to be saddened--there are few movies which have moved me in this way.

- Is it just me or does it seem wrong that the Cotton Bowl is not played in the still existing Cotton Bowl stadium? I haven't been there but I know that Jerry World (a k a Cowboys Stadium) is a magnificent venue. But, there is something wrong about losing the tradition of playing this grand old bowl game in the art deco architectural venue where it was meant to be played.

- We've had Black Friday and Cyber Monday this past holiday season. Tomorrow is Fitness Monday--the first Monday after the holidays when the gyms and fitness centers are packed, and the personal trainers have tons of new business opportunities.

- The common theme coming out of yesterday's impressive and decisive win by Kansas at Temple is that the Jayhawks finally played like a #1 team. True, and lost in that storyline was the role played by head coach Bill Self. Self called out his team after a 30 point win over Belmont last week using terms like "soft." That challenge, coupled with national disrespect and the Temple students' saying "We want Kansas!" after upsetting then #3 Villanova, was turned by KU into an outing where they controlled the game from the opening tip. (The Jayhawks only trailed once, 3-2.) It's a good way to start the meat of the season--up next is Cornell on Wednesday night followed by a trip to Tennessee on Sunday, and then Big 12 conference play at Nebraska, Wednesday, January 13.

- One of the trends of the past decade, which I failed to point out in a recent blog on the past ten years, was the growth of food programming on television and how this has turned chefs into stars and media celebrities of their own. That phenomenon is on full display tonight with the duel between Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali versus Bobby Flay and White House Chef Comerford on Iron Chef America. First Lady Michelle Obama will be involved as a judge.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bowl season thoughts

I believe college football deserves a playoff system, that there are too many bowl games, that cronyism is involved with the selection process and that the BCS system is broke. But, other than that, yesterday was an entertaining day of football for those of us who tuned in for the Outback, Capital One, Gator, Rose and Sugar Bowls.

Rain in Florida affected the three bowls there but, unfortunately, the game featuring the two highest ranking teams was played under truly adverse conditions. The field in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl was in inexcusable shape. Huge pieces of sod came undone throughout the game leaving the field thoroughly torn up and muddy, clearly affecting the play, and speed, of LSU and Penn State. Penn State ultimately prevailed by two in a game showcasing the #7 and #8 teams in the nation.

Over in Tampa, Auburn and Northwestern went to overtime in a game which the War Eagles seemed to have won on two different occasions, only to have to play on due to a penalty or official's ruling. Auburn won when Northwestern's fake field goal try went awry.

Up in Jacksonville, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden closed out his career with an upset win over West Virginia, 33-21. It was a fitting end to a fabulous career--college football will miss Bowden's charm and down home turning of a phrase.

The Rose Bowl offered up a clash of one of the best uniforms in football (Ohio State) versus one of the worst (Oregon.) The flashier uniforms, and quarterback, won as Ohio State beat their Pac-10 opponent by nine. Terrelle Pryor had a huge night for the Buckeyes, which was a bit ironic given the many OSU fans who had suggested that he be moved to wide receiver earlier in the season.

Finally, in the Sugar Bowl was perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the day--Florida, #1 in the polls for the majority of the season until losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship game, versus Cincinnati, winner of the Big East, possessor of one of the most explosive offenses in the nation, and loser of their head coach, Brian Kelly, to Notre Dame. It wasn't even close. Proving why he's the best college football player in the land--and making a compelling argument that he may be the best ever, over a four-year span--Tim Tebow accounted for a BCS record 533 total yards. Florida thoroughly beat down Cincy 51-24.

There are five more games today and then four over the course of next week culminating with Texas-Alabama on Thursday night. Wouldn't it have been fun to have had a four-team playoff this year (Alabama, Texas, Florida, TCU or Boise State) in order to have crowned a true national champion? Methinks the final two may have ended up being Alabama and Florida, playing again, this time for all the marbles. Instead, we'll have an undefeated team late on Thursday evening (Alabama or Texas) claiming the championship even though there will be another undefeated team (TCU or Boise State) with claims to a perfect season as well.

Let me say it again, more slowly--we need a college football playoff.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Sign of the apocalypse

Are you kidding me...!? Two teammates pulling their pieces on each other in the locker room!!??


Happy New Year

Happy New Year, blog followers! I wish you all the very best in 2010 and hope that you had a safe and enjoyable New Years Eve last night.

Here are my January 1 musings as I sit here awaiting the onslaught of college football over the next few hours and days.

- God love Dick Clark for continuing the tradition of New Years Rockin' Eve on ABC. But, I have to admit, there were times it was uncomfortable seeing Clark on camera and it was often hard to follow what he was saying. I do think it's great that he wants to be on with fellow host Ryan Seacrest.

- How about those people who claim to have stood in Times Square since the wee hours of the morning of December 31? Do you truly have nothing better to do and does the viewing of the dropping ball mean that much? I'm sorry...I just don't get it.

- On the topic of how one spends their time, I spent two hours and 40 minutes yesterday at a theater watching Avatar. And, for the majority of that time I was bemoaning the fact that I could have seen Sherlock Holmes, Up In the Air or stayed home to watch Missouri and Navy in the Texas Bowl. The special effects of Avatar are extraordinary. The story, however, borrows from every Hollywood stereotype and is a clear political statement on American colonialism. There's even a visual metaphor for the 9/11 tragedy of the twin towers blowing up and falling thrown in for good measure. The 3-D is amazing but the movie would get two stars (out of four) on my ratings scale.

- Hoaky perhaps but the Tournament of Roses Parade is still very, very cool. And, regardless of the teams involved, I always enjoy watching The Rose Bowl--it truly is the granddaddy of bowl games. The imagery always seems to showcase the best of southern California--or maybe it's just the fact that it's typically sunny and warm there and freezing here in the Midwest.

- I always use this post-Christmas time to clean up, organize and purge files and things which I've kept around from the prior year or longer. As I went through my usual clean-up, I came across items which caused me to both laugh...and cry. A class paper written by my then young son recounting our ski trip to Utah. A high school theme paper written by my daughter about her father. And, a handwritten letter to me, from my father, after a visit from my parents when I lived in Florida early in my professional career. I encourage you all to find the items like this which are special to you and to read them as you consider the new year ahead. Happy New Year, one and all!

Don Novello

Happy Birthday today to Don Novello, a k a Father Guido Sarducci, who turns 67.

Novello started his career as a copywriter at Leo Burnett, an advertising agency in Chicago. In the early 1970s, Novello began writing letters to famous people under the pen name of Lazlo Toth. His writings were similar to the humorous stylings of the Borat character of today as they contained deliberate misstatements, twisted facts and were meant to poke fun at politicians and other celebrities. His letters were published in three books, including his best known, The Lazlo Letters.

From there, Novello was hired as a writer for Saturday Night Live, which is where he gained fame with his on-air portrayal of Father Sarducci. His fake priest proved to be one of the more popular characters on SNL and, in 1981, Novello's Sarducci traveled to the Vatican where he eventually was arrested for impersonating a priest.

Novello took one dramatic acting turn by playing Michael Corleone's lawyer, Dominic Abbandando, in The Godfather III.

Don Novello--a New Year's baby...happy birthday, Father Guido!