Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Outsmarting Alzheimer's

The Wall Street Journal today had a story titled "How to outsmart Alzheimers."


The story relates how doctors are now trying to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's by using Cognitive Fitness and Innovative Therapies (CFIT) in order to keep those at risk for the disease intellectually and physically fit. The approach is intended to delay--hopefully indefinitely--the debilitating disease by challenging the potential victim through various exercises, diet changes and a maintained social life.

It's a worthwhile read for those who may fall into the segment who's at risk, or who know others who may be destined to get the disease. Delaying the onset of Alzheimer's, even for a few years, can dramatically improve the quality of life.

The "offseason" in college hoops

Well, the coaching carousel which happens at this time each year has begun. It was announced today that former UCLA coach and ESPN commentator, Steve Lavin, will take his act to New York and take over the head coaching position at St. Johns. Over the weekend, Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt declined the St. Johns job and the focus then switched to Boston College coach Al Skinner. Skinner was subsequently fired and, in the meantime, and offer was made to Lavin.

Elsewhere, former USC and Iowa State coach Tim Floyd has accepted the head coaching job at University of Texas-El Paso. Floyd is a disciple of Don Haskins, the legendary former coach of the Miners, but also left USC under probation and has been out of coaching since.

Another troubled coach who is back in the consideration mix is Billy Gillispie. Billy G had good success at Texas A&M and parlayed that into a stint at Kentucky. However, Gillispie was a guy who lacked the charm and charisma to placate the UK fans and alumni and quickly was booted out in Lexington. Gillispie apparently is a front-runner for the open job at Houston.

Finally, Joe Dooley, assistant coach to Bill Self at Kansas, has been mentioned for the opening at University of North Carolina-Charlotte. Dooley's departure would open up a prized position on Self's staff which could be occupied by Barry Hinson, the operations guy on the KU staff and former head coach at Missouri State. Or, Self might invite Norm Roberts back--the former St. Johns coach was a key assistant when Self came to Lawrence and recruited players like Russell Robinson to Kansas.

What's always interesting is how coaches who have left a program under probation or in disrepair, i.e., Floyd and Gillispie, seem to get back into the consideration mix quickly for coaching opportunities which occur.

These moves, plus the hiring of Fran McCaffery at Iowa, mean there are no other major program openings currently in play.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Starting another week

- Erin Andrews' contract with ESPN ends in July, lending credence to the opinion voiced here that her stint on Dancing With the Stars may be used to help her venture outside of the world of sports. The well-known sideline reporter is in contract renewal discussions with ESPN and has stated publicly that she wants to stay with the network. But, her twirls on the dance floor are not a bad move in order to broaden her viewership and appeal.

- Speaking of DWTS, ratings are up year-over-year after the season debut last Monday. According to a story in USA Today, last week's show pulled in almost 24 million viewers compared to an average of 18.2 million per show in 2009. The ratings are the highest in ten seasons (has it really been that long?) and can be attributed both to a better celebrity cast as well as a new co-host, Brooke Burke. Said Executive Producer Conrad Green, "What Burke understands is the pressure of people competing. She has the empathy and insights on what it's like." Burke won the competition in season seven and is a welcome addition to the show

- Donald Frey, the designer at Ford who created the Mustang in the mid-1960s, died earlier this month at age 86. Frey was reportedly told by a skeptical Henry Ford II, in very salty language, that the designer would be fired if the Mustang wasn't a success. Ford needn't have worried--original estimates were that 80,000 Mustangs would be sold in year one but, ultimately, over a million were sold in the first two years.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Kansas State's tourney run ends

I know this likely won't sit well with my Kansas State friends but today's West Regional Final was the worst played regional championship game I've seen in quite some time. And, seriously, it wasn't like this was some sort of defensive battle--teams were not making open looks and Butler, in particular, had at least 10 unforced errors.

Take a look at the statistics:
- Butler had 20 turnovers yet still won.
- KSU shot 38.6% from the field and only 50% from the free throw line.
- The Wildcats scored 56 points--their lowest point total of the season.

Kansas State, not surprisingly, battled back in the second half and actually took a one point lead late in the game. Inexplicably, KSU head coach Frank Martin never called a timeout down the stretch at a time when his team needed to be settled and could have used the rest. And, it was apparent throughout the game that the double overtime victory on Thursday night had physically sapped the Wildcats.

It was a terrific tournament run by State but their number of Final Four appearances still stands at four, and none in the modern era. Look for KSU to be a top 20 selection in the pre-season next year given the expected return of Curtis Kelly, Jacob Pullen, Dominique Sutton and Jamar Samuels.


The rumor is true--FOX announced this week that this will be the final season of 24, one of my all-time favorite television series.

With the cancellation comes the end of a character, Jack Bauer, who was followed by politicians on both sides of the partisan battles, and was oft held up as an example of why torture was either (a) horrific or (b) a necessary evil for our national security.

Hopefully, plans for a potential 24 movie do indeed pan out.

Saturday morning coffee

- Who knew? The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay discovered that printing out e-mails in Century Gothic font versus Arial font saved them, on average, 30% less ink. (Perhaps they should consider not even printing out their e-mails.)

- Did you see that clip of Sarah Palin with John McCain yesterday? Has Palin gone biker chick on us with that leather jacket?

- One of the downsides of religiously watching the NCAA Tournament is seeing the same commercials--over and over and over. And, after watching the Southwest Airlines spot with the baggage handlers baring their chests, I think the other commercials in their campaign comparing their "bags fly free" to the competition are more effective.

- Remember when University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer announced that he planned to take a break from coaching? What happened to that plan? This week Meyer looked like a guy who's over-stressed and needs that sabbatical from the sidelines. Check out Meyer's eruption with an Orlando Sentinel reporter over what Meyer felt was an ill-written story on one of his players:

- In the "what if" department, what if Baylor does indeed make it to the NCAA Final Four and then wins the national championship? Would they be invited to the White House, as is the custom? In case you missed it, the new president of Baylor University is Kenneth Starr--the same Kenneth Starr who was the independent counsel when Bill Clinton was president and whose investigation led to the impeachment of Clinton.

- Rumors of a Genesis reunion seem to be predicated on Phil Collins' health. Collins had neck surgery recently which caused nerve damage, making it difficult for him to use his hands much less hold onto drum sticks.

- Back on the NCAA Tournament, my predictions for today are Kansas State and Kentucky advancing to the Final Four. Tomorrow, I think Duke will end Baylor's run and Michigan State will take down Tennessee. While I thought Kailan Lucas' injury would be Michigan State's undoing, they have a guy on their sideline--Tom Izzo--who's been here many times before and will coach his team into the Final Four once again.

- Sad news--Shawn Jackson, the mother of former University of Kansas basketball star Darnell Jackson, died this week. Jackson had a very public battle with cancer during the 2008 national championship season of the University of Kansas. Darnell, who was acquired by the Milwaukee Bucks this week, is headed back to Oklahoma City for the services.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Did you know...?

Did you know that you could stack up four Allen Fieldhouse buildings, one on top of the other, and they would fit into Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, site of this year's Final Four?

Quote of the day

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi had this to say recently at the company's first analyst meeting since 2006: "There were a couple of brand refreshes that didn't work and a couple of agency partners that were misinterpreted or misquoted, and that led to controversy in North American beverages," she said.

No kidding, Indra! The Tropicana and Gatorade brand redesigns met with tons of criticism, including in this space, and both were derided by media, consumers and the industry. Additionally, PepsiCo's relationship with Arnell Group, which designed most of the new brand identity and packaging for the redone Pepsi brands, has been a focus of much criticism.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Dancing With the Stars"

The 2010 edition of Dancing With the Stars debuted on ABC last night and this season's highly anticipated start offered up some expected performances, and provided fodder for opinions on the "fairness" of the show.

- It's a joke to have 80 year old Buzz Aldrin as a contestant. One, there's no way he will win. Two, it's demeaning to a former astronaut to have him in that position. Sure, I understand that he accepted the opportunity--I just wish he'd never been asked. I know that ABC has celebs like Cloris Leachman and Aldrin on in order to juice ratings, i.e., "hey, look at the old dude dancing!" But, it was hard to watch last night...

- Evan Lysacek was not as good as expected--the artistry we saw on the ice at the Olympics did not translate to the dance floor. It was interesting to hear Lysacek talk about turning in the opposite direction from what he was used to on skates. Let's hope he can figure it out as I had expected the male version of Kristi Yamaguchi.

- Pamela Anderson. Yowza. The woman plays to her strengths but the coolest thing about Ms. Anderson is her personality--she knows she's hot, she flaunts it, but she doesn't take herself too seriously.

- In the fairness department, how can you compare the background of Nicole Scherzinger with that of Anderson, Niecy Nash, Jake Pavelka or Kate Gosselin? I know that the network is trying to blend appealing stars with ones from different genres of entertainment in order to boost ratings. But, being a former Pussycat Doll means that you are (a) a dancer and (b) a singer...and the singing part is way overrated. Scherzinger was the standout last night and has to be considered the favorite to win, as long as she can appeal to the public who makes up 50% of the votes.

- Why are we being subjected to another season, on another show, with Pavelka? Is the guy really that universally appealing? He can't dance, that's for sure. And, what was with his current fiance sitting next to the gal (Gia) who Jake gilted on the last show? Creepy...

- Also in the "can we please move on" department--Ms. Gosselin. Seriously, boot her off...now.

- As much as I like Erin Andrews, I'm struck by her decision to go on this show. My opinion--this damages her sideline cred as an ESPN reporter but enhances her street cred should she decide that in her next life she wants to become an afternoon talk show host or take over Mary Hart's slot on Entertainment Tonight. The judges seemed surprised at her prowess last night. Don't forget that Ms. Andrews was a former member of the Dazzlers, the Florida Gator basketball dance team.

- Chad Ochocinco. I didn't see 85's performance but my wife's reaction was "he's hot!" Ochocinco's/Johnson's--ahem--physical assets coupled with his on-field bad boy image will entice viewership. It remains to be seen how long this will help him survive on the show.

- Finally, Brooke Burke. Talk about trading up over Samantha Harris!

It's nice to have another guilty pleasure back on the small screen.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday afternoon laziness

Ah, the day after. I awoke today hoping to go out, get the Sunday Kansas City Star, and discover that last night's Kansas loss was, indeed, a bad dream. Alas, no such luck...

So, in the midst of a lazy Sunday afternoon, with plenty of snow on the ground outside, I provide the following:

- Reports from the set of Dancing With the Stars indicate that Kate Gosselin is displaying "diva" tendencies. Can we please vote her off after tomorrow's show to relieve us all of that prima donna drama over the next few weeks?

- In case you missed the premiere last week, HBO's The Pacific has its second episode tonight.

- You know you're having a bad year as President when your very publicized tournament bracket gets destroyed in the first weekend by your predicted champion, Kansas, losing in the second round. Kansas fans probably should have guessed that bad results were on the way after the Prez's prediction coupled with Sherron Collins' appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week.

- Thirty years ago today the world wondered "who shot J.R.?" In the season finale of Dallas, main character J.R. Ewing was shot, thus beginning the cliff-hanger technique which has since become a mainstay of serial dramas on TV.

- And, let's give a birthday shout-out to K-Fed, a k a Kevin Federline, he of former status as Mr. Britney Spears. Federline turns 32 today.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

NCAA Tourney Day Two

As expected, day two could not keep up with day one's drama and yesterday provided us with games which, for the most part, were true to seed/expectation.

Here are day two winners and losers.

- 10 seeds. Both Missouri and Georgia Tech won--MU with an eight point win over ACC foe Clemson and Tech with a win over Oklahoma State.

- Purdue. Everybody's pick as a first round upset victim looked good in dispatching Siena.

- KU fans. Yes, Kansas fans told anyone who would listen "watch out for Cornell" after the Ivy League team played the Jayhawks ultra-tough in Allen Fieldhouse. Cornell, likely under-seeded as a 12, beat Temple by 13.

- Jerome Randle. The Cal guard heaved a 40 foot shot, off of the dribble, at the end of the 1st half and found nothing but net.

- Oliver Purnell. The Clemson coach still hasn't won a first round NCAA tournament game.

- James Anderson. The Player-of-the-Year in the Big 12 struggled all night in the Oklahoma State loss to Georgia Tech, including at the end of the game when he tried to go one-on-three and was stripped of the ball on the last possession.

- Big East. Yes, I know, Pitt won as did Syracuse. But, the league with the most entrants is a disappointing 4-4 after round one.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday morning musings (or, a Day One NCAA hangover)

What a dilemma--as much as I look forward to the NCAA Tournament, I'm almost slightly depressed today knowing that there is no way that Day Two will match the drama of Day One. Has there been a better first day of the tournament? I'm pretty sure not...and, if the tournament is expanded, we won't see the first round match-ups--and upsets--that highlighted yesterday's action.

In other news, what's up with Sandra Bullock and hubby Jesse James? Bullock has moved out of their home upon news of James' infedility. He has not denied the report but did issue a statement and apology which included his position that the story has been greatly exaggerated. Nonetheless, the actress who offered a touching tribute to her husband two weeks ago at the Academy Awards is now living apart from her mate.

The Bullock news is eerily timed with the impending divorce of Kate Winslet from director Sam Mendes. The two former Best Actress winners join fellow Oscar winners Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, Reese Witherspoon, Susan Sarandon, Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, Helen Hunt and Emma Thompson who, since their Academy Award wins, have split with husbands or partners.

Now, on to less serious topics:
- Did you see the CNN anchor who slipped and called Osama Bin Laden by the name "Obama" during a news report? Ouch...
- OK, this is kinda creepy--ex-Idol winner Taylor Hicks has publicly stated that he wouldn't mind hooking up with "my 15 minutes of fame have gone on way too long" octo-mom Kate Gosselin. Maybe Hicks realizes that his career needs a publicity injection and thus has designs on Gosselin.
- Perhaps the influence of Mad Men is now being felt on the big screen. Warner Brothers announced their plan to remake 77 Sunset Strip, a hit TV show in the late 1950's/early 1960's, into a movie. And, the studio plans to make it a period piece.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

NCAA Tourney Day One

You'd be hard-pressed to remember a better day one, in recent tournament history, than this one. Three overtime games highlighted the day and, by contrast, last year's tournament didn't have three extra period games during the course of the three weeks.

Here are day one winners and losers...

- Lower seeds. Ohio (14 seed) beat Georgetown (3), Murray State (13) beat Vanderbilt (4), Old Dominion (11) beat Notre Dame (6), and St. Mary's (10) beat Richmond (7.) In addition, Robert Morris (15) took Villanova to the limit, losing by three.

- 9 seeds. In the usually competitive and close games between 8 and 9 seeds, the 9 seeds held serve today--Wake Forest beat Texas in overtime and Northern Iowa beat UNLV.

- 1 seeds. Kentucky was impressive in routing East Tennessee State and Kansas didn't beat the spread but won by 16 over Lehigh. A 16 seed still hasn't beaten a 1 seed.

- The best players nobody knew. Today, two of those players were Jimmer Fredette of BYU, who led all tourney scorers today with 37, and C.J. McCollum of Lehigh, who had 26 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. The Saturday matchup of Fredette versus Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente of Kansas State will be fun to watch.

- The Big East. Down went Marquette, Georgetown, and Notre Dame. The fourth entry, Villanova, started out in a funk given the initial benching of Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher but rallied to win late over Robert Morris.

- Viewers. Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery were the best broadcast crew of the day followed by Kevin Harlan and Dan Bonner. The others were pedestrian at best, even venerable Dick Enberg who's a shell of his former play-by-play self.

- Texas. Not only did Texas lose a game in overtime, which they had under control, but this team was ranked in the preseason top five, spent time at #1 during the season, yet ended the year with a whimper. The Longhorns closed out by losing 10 of their last 17 games.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tales of seedings

The Wall Street Journal reported on teams in this year's NCAA Tournament who have been historically over-seeded (i.e., ranked higher than deserved by the selection committee) as well as under-seeded. The results were calculated by recording the scores of every tournament game played since 1985 coupled with the seeds of each team, as determined by the committee.

Here is the list of top five over-seeded teams, beginning with Wake Forest who has done less than any other school to justify its seed: Wake Forest (5.68 average points below seed), New Mexico State (4.92), Clemson (4.65), BYU (4.47) and Tennessee (3.62).

The top five under-seeded teams are: West Virginia (4.08 average points above seed), Texas A&M (3.57), Kansas (3.28), Kentucky (3.25) and Louisville (2.79).

He's back...!

Well, it didn't take long for the sponsors to jump back aboard the Tiger Woods boat, now that it's resurfaced. EA Sports, Nike and Gillette all issued statements yesterday welcoming Woods' return to the world of golf.

In case you've been living in a cave, Team Tiger announced yesterday that he will return to competitive golf at Augusta National and The Masters. Yes, prayers were answered (and not at Amen Corner) by PGA Tour officials and network execs who needed Woods to come back to salvage this season of golfing majors and tournament broadcast.

The big winners here are:

- EA Sports, which had gone ahead and released a Woods-themed video game for the coming year.
- Nike, who once again has its primary spokesperson out and visible on the field of play--not behind the microphone at a stilted "press conference."
- CBS, who will garner killer rankings off its broadcast of The Masters. That one-year contract never looked so good!
- AT&T, who dropped Woods during the course of Tiger-gate, but is one of three sponsors of The Masters telecast.

By playing at Augusta, Woods allows himself the opportunity to fail--it's a major on a difficult course. If he's not putting well or driving accurately, then his mistakes won't be as magnified as what might happen if he would have decided to return at Bay Hill or another non-major event. What CBS will hope for is that he makes the cut and survives to the weekend, thus prolonging the expected ratings bonanza.

Will Elin be at Augusta or will his mom continue the role of being at Tiger's side? Will caddy Steve Williams' brusque relationship with tournament attendees grow even more strident in an attempt to control the circus around Woods' return? And, how will Tiger's peers accept him in the clubhouse and locker room?

All juicy stuff...and all to be told in the media frenzy which will occur the week of April 5.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

65 reasons why college hoops is special

65. Pep bands
64. Rivalry week on ESPN
63. Cameron Indoor Stadium
62. Jumping jack students
61. North Carolina's uniforms
60. Magic versus Bird
59. Chris Webber calling a timeout...which Michigan did not have
58. The Pit
57. Texas Western beating Kentucky
56. Stormin' Norman
55. "The Big Dance"
54. Backdoor cuts
53. Danny and the Miracles
52. Bryce Drew's winning NCAA tournament shot off of the play drawn up on the sideline...by Valparaiso coach Homer Drew--Bryce's father
51. Tyus Edney
50. Selection Sunday
49. Keith Smart's shot to beat Syracuse
48. John Wooden
47. RPI (and people knowing what it means)
46. "One Shining Moment"
45. Hank Gaithers and Bo Kimble
44. The Palestra
43. Ol' Roy
42. Rupp's Runts
41. Psycho T
40. Filling out a tournament bracket...again...and again
39. Al McGuire's tears
38. Mid-majors
37. Triangle-and-two
36. Cleveland State beats Indiana
35. "Onions!"
34. Tark the Shark chewing on a towel
33. Bucknell
32. Triple overtime in Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City--North Carolina beats Kansas and Wilt Chamberlain
31. Christian Laettner's shot
30. Nicknames: Pistol Pete, Big Dipper, Hot Rod, Big O, The General, Doctors of Dunk, Big Nasty, Wizard of Westwood
29. Alcindor versus Hayes
28. Pete Carroll and Princeton
27. Walton: 21 of 22
26. Henry Iba
25. Derek Wittenburg to Lorenzo Charles
24. George Mason
23. Danny Ainge's layup against Notre Dame
22. Diaper dandies, PTPers and Rolls Royce players
21. Coaches versus Cancer
20. Syracuse's match-up zone
19. Beware of the Phog
18. Phi Slamma Jamma
17. Duke-North Carolina
16. Butler Fieldhouse
15. Fab Five
14. "March Madness"
13. Jim Valvano's mad dash
12. Mario's Miracle
11. Duke beating undefeated UNLV
10. Selection Sunday
9. Villanova beats Georgetown
8. "Survive and advance"
7. Coach K
6. A language all its own: "Score the ball;" "pass the rock;" "go to the tin;" "nothing but nylon;" "off the bounce;" "good handle;" "super, scintillating, sensational;" "Georgetown goes man-to-man!"
5. Big East post-season tournament at Madison Square Garden
4. 15 seed Richmond over Syracuse
3. "Rock chalk, Jayhawk, KU..."
2. James Naismith invented the game--in America
1. And, finally--a tournament decides a true national champion

Random musings

- OK, so I was off by a week. But, again, is anyone surprised that Tiger Woods is making his return to professional golf at The Masters?

- So, how many NCAA Tournament brackets have you filled out?

- The Bon Jovi concert at Sprint Center last night played to an audience that had to be 80% female to 20% male. And, yes, I did feel outnumbered and out-of-place.

- Sales of applications for smartphones, those programs which expand the capabilities of the device, fell just short of $2 billion in 2009. Get this...in four years that number is expected to be well over $15 billion! (Source: slate.com)

- You can't make this stuff up--a woman in Florida crashed her car as she attempted to shave her bikini line en route to meeting her boyfriend. Said the state trooper who managed the accident scene, "A lot of bad wrecks are caused by dumb stuff like this."

- The latest installment from one of my favorite campaigns:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Reflections on the Big 12 Tournament

The vision of Sprint Center and the revitalization of downtown Kansas City was a reality over the past four days. Fans from across the region filled the streets of downtown KCMO for mens and womens Big 12 tournament action. And, the mens championship final last night between Kansas and Kansas State was a boon for local businesses as fans of the two local schools invaded the Power & Light District adjacent to the arena. It was an electric night, both inside and outside the arena, yesterday.

- Why it is okay to have alcohol in the suites at Sprint Center for the tournament but not in the general seating areas of the arena? I'm not sure I understand the logic.

- It's too bad Marcus Morris got into foul trouble in game two of the tournament. He was arguably the best player on the floor last night and deserved recognition on the all-tournament team.

- I'm glad I was at the game live and didn't have to watch and listen to Bob Knight and Brent Musberger calling the game on ESPN. Once again, I've heard that they did a less-than-stellar job with the broadcast. (It's a triangle-and-two defense which KU employed, Bob--not a zone and not a man-to-man.)

- Who was that sitting next to Wayne Simien and his father behind the Kansas bench? Former Kansas player, and Simien teammate, Michael Lee...

- The crowd was pro-KU, but not by much. I'd estimate a 60-40 split between the fans of the two schools.

- I like when the KSU band plays the "Wabash Cannonball."

- And, I never tire of seeing my team win basketball championships.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saturday morning coffee

- In music news, Pearl Jam is coming to Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO in early May.

- Also at Sprint Center on Monday night is Bon Jovi. Rumor is that Jon Bon Jovi is already in our cowtown, likely doing work on behalf of his foundation which is linked to Habitat for Humanity.

- Researchers at Cornell found that Olympic bronze medal winners are more likely to be happier with their third place finishes than those who win silver medals. Those who finish in second place in the Olympics tend to focus on the near miss while those who finish third are thankful to win anything. Uh oh, I can hear kids across America telling their parents that it's healthier to finish third than to "go for the gold and come up short."

- Kansas won its 2,000th game in college basketball on Thursday evening at the Big 12 Tournament. And, by my calculations, I've been alive for 1,246 of those wins. I don't know whether to feel old or awed by the achievement. Only Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina have achieved the 2,000 win plateau--Kentucky now at 2,018, Kansas now at 2,001 and Carolina at 2,000.

- For those grousing about the long lines to get into Sprint Center at the Big 12 Tournament, here's a word of advice--either figure out that there's another entrance into the building, i.e., Oak Street, and/or don't have that last beer across the street at the Power & Light District prior to the games. Get your rear end over to the arena about 45 minutes prior to tip-off and you'll be fine. (Methinks there is a small town mentality in Kansas City that doesn't like any form of traffic delays and also believes that one should be able to calmly walk into an event 15 minutes prior to start with no hassles. There are 18,800 people going to the game--figure out that leaving a bit early is probably a wise idea.)

- As for the Big 12 Tournament, today's championship matchup between Kansas and Kansas State is the first time that KSU has been in the final game of the Big 12 tournament. This will be KU's eighth championship game appearance, having previously won six and lost one. In the Big Eight conference, the two teams met in the final game in 1980 and 1981, splitting the two games.

- Is it just me or do games with Big 12 refereeing crews featuring John Higgins too often devolve into chippy affairs with players barking at one another and coaches getting testy? On Friday night it was Baylor-Texas and last night it was Kansas-Texas A&M. Here's hoping that today's game does not feature Higgins. By the way, where's Steve Wellmer? He's the one who I hope does today's championship.

- The Big East Conference Tournament got Bill Clinton and Nick Lachey as celebrity attendees at midcourt. The Big 12 Tournament, not surprisingly, had a more Midwestern feel as Health & Human Services Secretary, and former Kansas governor, Kathleen Sebelius was in the crowd to cheer on the Jayhawks and the Wildcats.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Finishing up the week

- Boy, I'm stunned...reports on ESPN.com say that Tiger Woods could very likely return to golf at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill on March 25. Didn't certain prognosticators, including this blogger, suggest that the Bay Hill tourney, which Woods has won six times, would be a good tune-up prior to participating in the first major of the year, The Masters?

- Show of hands--who's excited that Brooke Burke is replacing Samantha Harris as co-host on this season's Dancing With the Stars? (Yep, that would be my hand up in the air...)

- Red licorice lovers--check out Darrell Lea Soft-Eating Strawberry Licorice, found at Target. The stuff is killer...

- You all realize that if the NCAA Tournament does indeed expand to 96 teams that you'll see squads like Colorado, Texas Tech, Minnesota and other middle-of-the-packers in the Big Dance. And, that will sell tickets? The reality here is that ESPN is sniffing around the tournament should CBS decide it's paying too much, and ESPN would love to have the programming of one more weekend of tournament play.

- Further, if the NCAA tournament is expanded, all of this drama taking place in Madison Square Garden, Sprint Center, Greensboro Coliseum and elsewhere will be totally irrelevant. Will the potential TV revenue of a new deal with ESPN offset the revenues, and excitement, of the post-season tournament system?

- If you were a fan of Band of Brothers, the collaborative effort by Tom Hanks and Stephen Spielberg to bring to life Stephen Ambrose's book on the European theater in World War II, tune in Sunday night to The Pacific. This new HBO program is to the Pacific front in WWII as Brothers was to the European action.

- I'm not sure why but I'm a fan of the Old Spice body wash campaign. It's goofy but appealing to the young male target audience.

- Quick...name the college hoops squad with more McDonald's All-Americans than conference victories. Yes, that would be the North Carolina Tarheels, losers in the 1st round of the ACC Tournament to Georgia Tech.

- Quote of the day: Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the BCS, said "Football isn't a tournament sport," on Kansas City sports talk radio 810-AM, even though he later acknowledged that a tournament system is in place for football in the lower NCAA divisions. Hancock was on 810 discussing the pros and cons of a post-season college football playoff.

- It's official--Betty White will host Saturday Night Live on May 8.

The Greatest Generation loses another

Tom Brokaw dubbed the segment of U.S. adults who lived through the Great Depression, and then lived through and participated in World War II, as "the greatest generation." He did so because he felt that these men and women fought and worked, not for fame and fortune, but because it was the right thing to do in support of one's country. Brokaw's declaration was made after interviewing many from this group in preparation for his book, aptly titled The Greatest Generation.

Sadly, we lost another of that generation this past week. My uncle, Walter William Orlowski, Jr., was a member of the "greatest generation." Walt was born in 1928, just in time for the depression which impacted all of America. He grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas and when he graduated from high school there promptly enlisted in the Army. Why? Because to Walt and his generation, it was the right thing to do. He served in Italy and came back to the U.S. as a patient on a hospital ship.

Upon returning to the States, my uncle married the love of his life--Carol Burre. And, while on his honeymoon, Walt was recalled into the Army, this time to serve in Okinawa, Japan.

When his tour of duty was up, my uncle returned home to his wife and joined the family shoe repair business. But, only today--the day of his funeral--did I discover that my uncle didn't care for that business. Why did I not know that? Because Walt's generation not only served, they rarely complained.

Walt decided to try banking and went to school in Wisconsin so that he could become a loan officer. He returned to Leavenworth--again--and worked for many years alongside his brother-in-law, and another of my uncles, at the Leavenworth National Bank. He ultimately retired from banking when his eyesight began to fail and settled in San Angelo, Texas where he lived out his retirement years until his death last week.

My uncle epitomized the way the "greatest generation" approached life--God, country, family, doing, never complaining. He was a quiet man who loved to travel, liked to fish, and delighted in seeing his family. He and his wife never had children so my uncle took on the role of Santa at Christmastime and a favorite uncle year-round, for his nieces and nephew were his kids.

It wasn't until today's funeral for Walt that I realized how little I knew about my uncle. My lack of knowledge wasn't intentional--either on my part, my uncles' or my parents. For them, it wasn't newsworthy that he had served, that he had grown impatient while in the family business, or that he and his wife couldn't have children. He, and the colleagues of his generation, never focused on themselves...they just went and lived life and, with apologies to Nike, "just did it."

Rest in peace, Uncle Walt...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ideas which changed the marketing world

Ad Age recently published a list of 10 ideas which changed marketing and advertising given the innovation represented in each.

Here is the list (in no particular order)--let me know if you agree or disagree:

1. L'Eggs packaging hatches a new look--Revolutionary packaging, shaped like an egg which, of course, rhymed with "leg."

2. Absolut vodka's bottle speaks for the brand--Coupling old-school packaging with the "Absolut (something)" ad campaign designed by TBWA. Absolut became the #1 selling imported vodka in 1985.

3. Woodbury soap dares to use sex appeal--Dating back to 1911, J. Walter Thompson challenged ad industry norms and introduced ads featuring elegant young women enjoying the attention of good-looking young gentlemen.

4. Apple computer: one mention, one airing--The "1984" commercial, naturally, directed by Ridley Scott. The groundbreaking work mentioned Apple only once...and the Board of Directors initially rejected the spot. Ultimately, the board relented and the rest is history...

5. Avis tries honesty--A campaign which broke all the rules--the tagline of "We're #2. We try harder" still resonates with consumers today.

6. Burma Shave lines the highways--This brushless shaving cream--a revolutionary product at the time--used consecutive out-of-home advertising signage to capitalize on the birth of the automobile.

7. Benetton brings people together--This brand's commitment to ethnic diversity was the foundation for their campaign, "The United Colors of Benetton."

8. Volkswagen tells it like it is--Doyle Dane Bernbach capitalized on the quirkiness of the VW Bug by advocating the negative truths about the car (it's not fast, big or beautiful) while sneaking in the positives, i.e., it's gas efficient, doesn't require a big parking spot, and is low on maintenance.

9. Burger King's "subservient chicken" dominates--The first interactive campaign which actually got consumers to interact...

10. Nike takes a $35 logo the distance--For $2 an hour, Phil Knight and his then track coach, Bill Bowerman, hired a graphic design student and invented the famous swoosh. Total cost: $35.

While this is a very good list, there are other ideas which should, at minimum, receive honorable mention. Here are my thoughts on those which should be considered:

- The introduction of light beer which begat the infamous "less filling-tastes great" Miller Light campaign.

- Extending a great brand like Coke's into other beverages, e.g., flavored Coke drinks, bottled water, and energy/sports drinks.

- Starbuck's approach of great customer service coupled with a location dubbed "the third place" in order to make coffee consumption an event, not just a retail purchase.

- Southwest's approach to flying, i.e., on-time service plus a fun environment plus value pricing. While everyone grouses about the lack of assigned seats, this is one airline which is making it while others continue to struggle.

Mattel to create "Mad Men" collection

Yes, Mad Men fanatics--now you'll soon get to collect your favorite Mad Men dolls given the announcement that Mattel will launch versions of Barbie and Ken styled after characters from the hit TV show on AMC.

The dolls are part of Mattel's premium-priced collectors' series--there will only be 7,000-10,000 copies of each doll. The products will be sold in specialty stores and online at barbiecollector.com and amctv.com.

The Mad Men characters who will become doll-sized are lead character, Don Draper; his lovely wife, Betty; Roger Sterling, of Sterling Cooper; and Joan Holloway, the agency's office manager.

Holloway, in the show's initial season, was Sterling's mistress. Draper has had, of course, many dalliances and, at the end of last season, his wife, Betty, was filing for divorce given her newfound love, Henry Francis. So, even though the dolls represent a very un-Barbie-like morality statement, the official statement from Mattel said that Barbie's "immersion in the 'Mad Men' era will only go so far."

While the dolls won't come accessorized with cigarettes, cocktail shakers or highball glasses, they will have hats, overcoats, pearls and, yes, padded undergarments.

The dolls will debut in July, just in time for Season Four of Mad Men, and will fetch a hefty retail price tag of $74.95 each.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dive of the week

The Red Lion in Vail, Colorado gets the nod as our "dive of the week," not because it's a dive in the true sense of the word but because of what it is amongst a village of businesses which take themselves pretty seriously. Taking itself seriously is something The Red Lion does not.

I've been dining at the Lion since my first visit to Vail over 30 years ago. The place consistently serves up some of the best food in the Vail Valley, yet in an atmosphere which is most definitely not Vail-like.

On Monday, the family and I went to The Red Lion after a full day of skiing. And, the place was, as always, rocking. The bar was packed and the restaurant area quickly filled up. After scoring our table, we ordered a slab-and-a-half of baby-back ribs, a plate of beef brisket, and two orders of chicken tenders.

The chicken is, in my estimation, the best tenders on the planet. They are lightly breaded, moist and the serving size, as it is for all entrees, is huge.

The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender. And, for a Kansas Citian who takes his barbecue seriously, they were outstanding. The brisket was a bit overdone but that's being picky--the amount, quality and value of our meal was--yes, that term again--very un-Vail like.

The Red Lion has been in Vail since 1962. Started by a family named Burdick, the establishment was purchased by Vail locals in 1988 and has been run by a local group since then. Thankfully, the quality has remained constant throughout and its location, close by the base of Vail mountain, makes the Lion the perfect spot for apres ski beverages and a hearty meal.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reflections from the Rockies

There's nothing like some thin air to clear out the brain. Here then are some idle reflections from a long weekend spent amidst the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains:

- I still believe that when you land at Denver International Airport you're actually closer to Goodland, Kansas than you are to the mountains. The drive from DIA to ski resorts seems to take longer each time we come here.

- The challenge of watching the Kansas-Missouri game, yesterday on CBS, in between ski runs suddenly became another communal Jayhawk experience as three tables of KU fans cheered on our guys from McCoy's, at the base of Beaver Creek mountain.

- Is it just me or does the latest installation of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno seem a bit less-than-provocative? Yes, many of the guests have been A-listers but there just seems to be something missing.

- Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse seem to be locks for #1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tourney. And, methinks you can pencil in Duke as the fourth because, well, they're Duke...

- Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, it's hypocritical of the NCAA or others to suggest that expanding the field is a good thing when you factor in the arguments made for why a college football playoff won't work. In the latter argument, administrators frequently cite concerns about the extra time away from the classroom if a college playoff existed. What do they think is going to happen with another week of practice and extended weekend of play in the NCAA Tournament if the field is expanded?

- Oscar observations: Sandra has on too much lipstick, Sarah Jessica's dress looks like the drapes from the living room, Steve and Alex really are funny and, yes, I'm still one of the few who thinks Avatar is over-rated.

- Finally, this is an incredibly dull Academy Awards broadcast...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Musings, Notes & Quotes on hiatus

Yes, this blogger's on vacation so check back in a couple of days and I promise the musings, reflections, notes, quotes of the day and general ramblings will, indeed, return.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dancing With the Stars lineup

After a down year in 2009, ABC's Dancing With the Stars just announced the 2010 lineup of stars and the possibilities are pretty tantalizing. Notwithstanding the gratuitous ABC tie-ins for many of those announced, there are some interesting story lines:

- Erin Andrews, ESPN's premier sideline reporter, will be paired with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. "Max" has a tendency to be a bit of a flake so it'll be interesting to see how his personality meshes with Andrews. Don't think of EA as just a pretty face--she was a Dazzler at the University of Florida, the dance group for the Gator basketball team.

- Jake Pavelka, most recently seen crying over his break-up with Tenley on The Bachelor, only to turn around and get on one knee for the proposal to Vienna, was ABC's surprise final contestant named to the show. Between going on cool dates to exotic locales like Saint Lucia to now going on DWTS, I wonder how Pavelka is holding down his airline pilot job? And, what will Vienna, who displayed some jealous tendencies on The Bachelor, think of Jake's shimmying with Chelsie Hightower?

- Pamela Anderson? Hmm...can she really stay in one of those dance costumes? The network will be on high alert for possible wardrobe malfunctions.

- Shannen Doherty, TV bad girl, will be paired with nice guy dancer Mark Ballas. Methinks Doherty could take an early exit.

- This season's requisite "old guy" is astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Aldrin has a great personality and should be fun out on the dance floor.

- Cheryl Burke drew the dance pro short straw, partnering with volatile football star Chad Ochocinco. Burke danced last year with Tom DeLay so this will be the second straight season where Burke is paired with a challenging partner.

- Evan Lysacek has to be considered a favorite, given the moves the dude showed on the ice in capturing an Olympic figure skating gold medal.

- And, finally, Kate Gosselin. When will this 15 minutes of fame end...? And, if ABC really wanted to boost ratings, why not involve ex-husband Jon as a contestant as well?

DWTS will debut later this month.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Junior's moonshine to be in NASCAR Hall of Fame

The NASCAR Hall of Fame, soon to open in Charlotte, N.C., made an announcement which shows the sport is not shying away from its roots. Inaugural inductee Junior Johnson revealed that he would be making a unique contribution to the Hall of Fame--a full-size, authentic moonshine still. The still, built by Johnson, is identical to the ones he and his family used to brew their contraband liquor in the 1950s. Johnson, and some of his fellow NASCAR racers of the time, honed their driving skills on the backwoods roads of the Carolinas, running 'shine.

Johnson made his first moonshine run at age 14. In 1956, he was convicted on a charge of producing illegal liquor and served a sentence of 11 months in federal prison. He later went on to win two Daytona 500s and a total of 50 NASCAR premier cup victories.