Saturday, October 30, 2010


A part of my youth just passed away. The Pontiac brand of General Motors will officially go to the graveyard of dead cars on Sunday.

Pontiac lived for 84 years and produced the Bonneville, one of my parents' past family cars; the GTO, Firebird and other well-known vehicle names. The cars were known for being sportier than Chevrolets and not as upscale as Buicks and Oldsmobiles.

The Pontiac GTO, with its 389 cubic inch engine, became the poster child for the term "muscle car" during its heyday from 1964 to 1974. It was the speedy getaway vehicle which allowed Burt Reynold's character to elude the sheriff in Smokey and the Bandit, and was designed by John DeLorean, who later created the DeLorean stainless steel sports car.

In the '60s, Pontiac was third to Chevy and Ford in car sales but its share declined over time to where, by early 2009, the car brand was 12th in the U.S. market.

My father was a loyal Chevy buyer and I remember the excitement in our household when he decided to buy the larger, more elegant Pontiac Bonneville. The "Bonnie" was the first car I learned to drive, complete with automatic transmission and, at the time, revolutionary power steering and power brakes. I shudder to think now about the size of that boat on wheels, driving it in traffic, and trying to parallel park.

R.I.P. Pontiac

Saturday morning coffee

- So...why is it that so many conversations start with the word "so?" It's the current bridge word which lazily is being used by everybody, it seems.

- The best, most entertaining and informative pre-game sports show on the air is ESPN's College GameDay. The well-informed, even-keeled delivery of Chris Fowler, coupled with Kirk Herbstreit's knowledge of all things college football, combines nicely with the verbal stylings of Desmond Howard and the goofiness of Lee Corso.

- Charlie Sheen obviously needs help. The consistent erratic behavior of this actor makes it even more of a head scratcher as to why Hanes would have ever selected him to appear in a television campaign.

- Thankfully the University of Missouri administration saw fit to release the "Faurot Field 30." Maybe they can intercede with the NCAA, while they're at it, to free Josh Selby.

- Did you know that it was seven years ago today that LeBron James made his debut in the NBA?

- So...(grin inserted here) what else happened in history on October 30? Well, it's John Adams birthday today. (You know, the guy who was our country's second President.) And, it's also the birthday of the Fonz--Henry Winkler turns 65 today. And, in one of the greatest sports moments ever, "The Greatest"--Muhammad Ali--knocked out George Foreman in the 8th round of a 15-round bout in Kinshasa, Zaire to regain his world heavyweight title.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Ten brands who took risks

The current issue of the magazine published by the Association of National Advertisers cited "ten big risks brands have taken." The article listed out ten examples of brands who took risks in their marketing practices and campaigns, survived, and profited from the adventure.

Here they are:

1. Eveready pioneers media sponsorships. In the mid-1920's, "The Eveready Hour" was the first broadcast series to be entirely sponsored by one company on radio. Now, brands frequently purchase media sponsorships of one program, be it on radio or TV.

2. American Tobacco spends--millions--on the Lucky Strike brand. In 1929, American Tobacco spent $12.3 million on Lucky Strike, which was an unprecedented amount at the time. The move was made to combat anti-smoking literature being published by the National Confectioners Association. Why did this group target smoking? Lucky Strike's campaign of that time encouraged women to "Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet."

3. Anheuser-Busch sponsors stadiums. In 1953, A-B tried to buy the naming rights to Sportsman's Park, the then current home of the St. Louis Cardinals, so they could call it "Budweiser Stadium." Baseball commissioner Ford Frick balked at the idea but relented when the brewer came back with a second proposed approach--Busch Stadium.

4. Volkswagen Beetle starts creative revolution. During the early 1960s, print advertising was long on text and fantasy. Doyle Dane Bernbach broke from that traditional approach with their work for the VW Beetle. In one iconic ad, DDB used the headline "Think small," accompanied with simple product imagery. The campaign went on to win Advertising Age's "number one ad campaign of the 20th century."

5. Pepsi ignites the cola wars. In 1963, Pepsi founded the "Pepsi Generation" by focusing on the attributes of people who bought Pepsi rather on attributes like taste or price. Thus started the cola wars, which have been raging ever since.

6. Avis uses honesty. Once again DDB was at the forefront of a radical departure from traditional advertising. In another iconic campaign created in the age of Don Draper, DDB and their client realized that the #2 rental car company had to work harder if they were going to ascend to the rung of top brand. Thus was born "We're number two. We have to try harder."

7. Reece's Pieces and branded entertainment. In the early 1980's, Reece's Pieces sold well but did not have the brand loyalty of M&M's. The candymaker made a bold move by allowing their product to be used, in a movie's storyline, as the means to lure an alien creature into a boy's home. The movie? E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial. The result? Sales of Reece's Pieces grew by 65 percent.

8. AOL's carpet-bombing. Before Facebook, Twitter and even broadband, there was AOL and the ubiquity of the company's CD-ROMs and disks which were mailed to homes and businesses. The effort made AOL the number one internet service provider in the world.

9. Doritos and the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl, by earlier in this decade, had become a showcase for advertising creative. But, how to stand out amidst this clutter? Doritos did it, in 2007, by inviting consumers to "Crash the Super Bowl." The brand solicited consumer-generated ads for the Super Bowl, asked the world to vote, and then named a winner who then had their commercial air during the telecast of Super Bowl XLI.

10. Burger King's Subservient Chicken. The challenge? How best to promote Burger King's TenderCrisp sandwich. The solution? Viral media. Ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky made their bones on this campaign which was described as creepy, weird and goofy, but which rewarded the fast-food marketer with a loyal band of new, younger consumers. The site logged one million hits on day one, 20 million over the course of the first week, and almost half a billion since it was launched.

What are some other brands which have placed big, risky bets...and won? Comment below and let me know your thoughts.

College football predictions - week nine

Can you believe that we're nine weeks into the college football season? It's been a fun ride but now's when we truly determine those who are the real deal, particularly when the snowflakes start to swirl in Big Ten country and old rivals duke it out in the SEC.

Here's your lineup for Saturday games:

Nebraska over Missouri. My head keeps telling me that MU is the better team, and perhaps they are, but it's hard to pick against Nebraska given what's at stake. The winner of this one is clearly the Big 12 North winner. Sure, Missouri has a pesky trip down to Lubbock next week but a win here and they will have tiebreaker advantage over the Huskers. What's troublesome, if you're a Nebraska fan, is how the Blackshirts got lit up by Oklahoma State's offense last week. Will MU have a letdown after last Saturday's signature win over Oklahoma? Can MU's defense contain Taylor Martinez? Will Nebraska's vaunted pass D rebound from an awful outing versus OSU? I simply have a hunch that NU will win this last game between the two schools as members of the Big 12.

Iowa State over Kansas. It's Quinn Meacham's turn to take the QB wheel at Kansas. And, perhaps Meacham can follow the lead of another third-string QB, Brian Luke, who in 2005 came off the Kansas bench and engineered a come-from-behind, overtime win against Iowa State. It's a tough situation for Meacham given the sieve which has been KU's offensive live. At this point, Kansas fans are simply hopeful for improvement, in any phase of the game. ISU will build off last week's upset win over Texas and will get one game closer to bowl eligibility.

Oklahoma State over Kansas State. Expect an offensive fireworks show in Manhattan, and KSU cannot go toe-to-toe with Oklahoma State in that department. The Cowboys will be playing without suspended WR Justin Blackmon, but will still have enough weapons to win.

Oregon over USC. The Trojans have more players with more stars by their names, if comparing past recruiting classes between the two schools. Oregon has an offense which looks like something from an EA Sports football video game. I'm going with the Ducks.

Iowa over Michigan State. I don't think Iowa has won yet in a major match-up where I've picked them to win. That should change this week--look for the Hawkeyes to stop Sparty's unbeaten run.

Texas over Baylor. I'd love to pick Baylor, one of the feel good stories of this college football season, in this game. The game is in Austin and Mack Brown won't allow the Longhorn faithful to be dismayed two weeks in a row on their home turf. Texas' defense has the athletes to keep up with, and contain, Robert Griffin III's combination of strong arm and quick feet.

Texas A&M over Texas Tech. Which A&M quarterback will get more snaps? Both Ryan Tannehill and Jerrod Johnson played last week in Lawrence. The Aggies will win at home.

Oklahoma over Colorado. It's a bad week for the Buffs to journey to Norman.

Georgia over Florida. Last week it was Alabama-Tennessee. This week it's Florida-Georgia. These old classic SEC rivalries simply aren't what they used to be. I'm taking Georgia to win over struggling Florida.

Penn State over Michigan. Speaking of classic rivalries, here's another one--Michigan at 5-2 and loser of two straight at Penn State, 4-3 and 1-2 in the conference. Both teams need a win badly and I suspect Penn State will get it by handing the Wolverines their third straight loss.

Stanford over Washington. This game, in Seattle, is the duel of the QBs--Washington's Jake Locker versus Stanford's Andrew Luck. Stanford is still in the Rose Bowl hunt and will win by 10 over the Huskies.

Prediction record to date: 62-22 (74%)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Local broadcaster encourages Kansas to drop football

A colleague of mine encouraged me to watch "Jack's Smack," the video replay of local Kansas City media personality Jack Harry's weekly ramblings. I hesitated, knowing that my typical reaction when listening to and/or watching Harry was irritation or even anger. And, why give any sort of credence to Harry's pot-stirring by finding the replay on the web?

But, like a fly to light, I found the website and watched Harry take off on his new favorite whipping boy--University of Kansas football.

I'll spare you the details but here is the headline--Harry strongly encouraged Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little to drop football as a sport at the University. He claimed that the program was an "embarrassment," comparing Kansas' troubles to the success being realized at the University of Missouri, owners of a 7-0 record thus far this season.

Now, I'm a pretty P-Oed alumnus right now and I'm not happy about ticket scandals, exercise equipment controversies, and an under-performing football program. But, seriously--drop football!? Even for Harry, this was a wild declaration.

Let's first start with the economics of that sort of decision:
- Kansas sunk millions of donor dollars into a new football office, training and locker-room complex at Memorial Stadium. Dropping the sport means disenfranchising giving alums whose dollars go towards many other needs of the University.
- While 50,000 fannies may not be in the seats at Memorial Stadium these days, there are that number of tickets which have been sold for each game. Let's say that number drops to 40,000 next year, given the on-field problems of this season. That's still in the area of $1.2-$1.5 million per game of ticket sales, or a total of about $7-$9 million per academic year. That revenue (which doesn't even count the licensing or concessions) would be lost if the program went bye-bye, and that's a significant amount for any college athletic budget.

Next, consider the impact on other sports and the University's brand:
- Was Harry paying attention during conference realignment discussions this past summer? Football was the swizzle stick which stirred the realignment drink. Punting football at Kansas makes the University totally irrelevant on the national athletics scene, and would undermine any hope for continuing KU's outstanding, championship basketball heritage.
- A well-known line is that "athletics is the front porch to the University." It's a fact that Kansas' enrollment increased in the year after the school's Orange Bowl win and NCAA Championship in hoops. That halcyon academic year is only three years past in the rear-view mirror. Suggesting that Kansas should drop football indicates a pessimism that the school can reach that level again--an odd proclamation given that the Jayhawks have experienced bad football before...and recovered to varying degrees of success.

Harry is stirring the pot. I know that and I wish that I'd not devoted even this small space to his rant. But, my anger is broader than just his latest missive about whether or not KU should have a football program. Harry is emblematic of the constant yelling which has become far too prevalent in our media outlets, where facts are secondary and too often impediments to what the media personality considers a story, an angle, or a chance to gig a fan base in order to stoke the fire of fan animosity--in this instance between Kansas and Missouri.

Carry on, Jack. Somewhere out there is some knucklehead who's bobbing his head and saying "yup, that ol' Harry is right." For that audience, you apparently are scratching an itch.

Disconnecting in an age of connectivity

You know the scene: A high-level strategy session involving numerous associates, laptops out, smartphones on vibrate, white board or flip chart at the ready, and the initial Powerpoint teed up by the first presenter.

How long does it take before heads start bobbing down--before fingers begin typing, before a vibrating phones signals an incoming text, and before a meeting attendee even checks a voice mail?

This amazing age of constant connectivity is breeding with it a public whose attention spans seem to be dissolving more rapidly each day. Whether in a meeting, in the office, at home, or on the road, the desire and need to be connected is paramount.

Writer and consultant Linda Stone calls it "continuous partial attention" when describing the current meeting protocol where participants come with numerous connectivity devices. We pay attention to multiple things because we don't want to miss anything...and subsequently never give anything complete attention.

How many of you watch TV at night with laptop or tablet in lap and smartphone within arm's reach? How many can't make it through reading this blog post without diverting a look at your message icon on your phone?

A college campus, within the past week, had all students disconnect for a day. The results, not surprisingly, caused a high level of anxiety in these kids who have grown up knowing nothing but the ability to stay connected via social media, and to text instead of talk.

Is all this information a good thing? Is it mandatory that we be constantly connected? Or, is it getting in the way? In a past life, meetings could get derailed due to attendees talking amongst themselves. Talking, now, is the last thing that attendees do--they're too busily focused on the laptop or other device providing information of one type or another.

The point of this blog entry isn't to say that we should all disconnect and throw away these wonderful devices which we all use. Perhaps the issue is whether the meeting, where everyone is distracted by this connectivity, should happen at all. If a meeting isn't worth unplugging for, then it's probably not worth having. And, if a conversation at home can't happen without checking one's messages, then you may want to Google "marriage counselors" as you cruise the internet--it's counsel you'll soon be needing.

Did you know...?

- If Facebook and its millions of users were a nation, it would be the fourth-largest country on the planet.

- 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices.

- 75% of adult internet users have a profile on an online social media site.

- 1.4 million viewers have watched the Antoine Dodson interview with a Birmingham, AL television station. Over 35 million have watched the mash-up "bed intruder" song of that interview.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Will the iPad save Christmas? reports today on the phenomenon of the iPad and the impact this consumer electronics device may have on the holiday shopping season.

In case you've missed it, the iPad is now or will be sold in big box retailers like Target, Sam's Club, Best Buy and WalMart, as well as at Verizon stores and on Amazon. For the retailers, it's a bet being placed on the pull of the Apple brand and the intrigue of this product. Yet, it's a gamble given the starting price point of $499 in a store like WalMart which does not seem to have an audience which fits the iPad/tablet sweet spot.

It's also a product which will stay behind glass, in most stores, for security purposes. That will place extra stress on sales associates who'll need to spend extra time with consumers interested in the device.

The distribution impact for Apple is huge--from roughly 300 of its own stores to over 8,000 across America. And, not surprisingly, Apple has negotiated strict terms with the partner retailers including a requirement to feature the iPad on a full page in holiday circulars, as well as in local retail TV.

Once again, Apple has done a masterful job of dictating how growth will be achieved for its business and, in the process, is blunting the introduction of expected tablets and other devices intended to go head-to-head with this iconic brand. All of this makes for an interesting holiday retail season over the next two months.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Wrapping up another work week

- Is it actually a lucky day, or is it just an easier day for grooms to remember their anniversary? More than 32,000 couples were married on October 10 (10.10.10), which many consider a lucky day. It was the most weddings occurring on one day in the U.S. since July 7, 2007.

- This isn't a bad return on an investment: A couple in North Carolina sold their $6,000 rural house to Apple for $1.7 million. The company is building a data center near the property.

- The soft opening for the southern location of La Bodega, in Leawood, is tonight.

- There is a site called which sends men identical pairs of socks as often as he would like. That's one way to solve the problem of orphaned socks in the dresser drawer.

- In case you need further proof about the odd fascinations of the American public, Internet sensation Antoine Dodson (check him out on YouTube) has one of the hottest Halloween costumes of the season.

- The Cars have re-united with original frontman Ric Ocasek. The band is working on a new album--their first since 1987's Door to Door.

- How's this for a lineup? Oprah Winfrey, Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep have signed on to an as yet unnamed comedy, directed by Michael Patrick. Patrick directed Sex and the City 2.

- As a happy iPad owner, I feel the following stat to be pretty odd. A recent Nielsen survey noted that 32% of the iPad owners surveyed have not yet downloaded an app. The content most regularly accessed on the iPad are: News (44%), Music (41%), Book (39%), TV show (33%), Movie (32%) Magazines (25%) and Radio (21%.)

- News Corp has scuttled plans for a tablet-based newsstand, called Project Alesia. The project would have brought all News Corp holdings together in one app, which would have included the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, as well as several international newspapers.

- Life after Reggie Bush continues to get interesting for Kim Kardashian. The television personality with well-known physical assets has been spotted with Kanye West recently, including a dinner in Chicago and a recent yachting trip. Kardashian turned 30 yesterday.

- In other love news, tennis star Maria Sharapova is engaged to Los Angeles Laker Sasha Vujacic. Vujacic is, of course, a teammate of Lamar Odom, who is the brother-in-law to the aforementioned Kim Kardashian and husband to Khloe Kardashian. Got all that...?

- Congratulations to our friend, Jon Nesvig, who announced his retirement as head of FOX Network advertising sales.

- You go, Katie Couric! Couric spoke out recently on the racy photo shoot of Glee cast members for GQ magazine. "These very adult photos of young women who perform in a family show just seem so un-Glee-like," she said. "The program is already edgy in the right ways. These images don't--in my humble opinion--fit the Glee gestalt." Couric noted that she watches the show with her daughters.

- Speaking of this photo shoot, Glee cast member Dianna Agron--one of those photographed for GQ--offered up a "sort of" apology via her blog. Wrote Agron, "In the land of Madonna, Britney, Miley, Gossip Girl, and other public figures and shows that have pushed the envelope and challenged the levels of comfort in their viewers and fans...we are not the first. Now, in perpetuating the type of images that evoke these types of emotions, I am sorry. If you are hurt or these photos make you uncomfortable, it was never our intention. And if your eight-year-old has a copy of our GQ cover in hand, again I am sorry. But I would have to ask, how on earth did it get there?"

College football predictions - week eight

Before we join the hype machine and get to our thoughts on the Oklahoma versus Missouri game, let's first stop and give a shout-out to the Oregon Ducks. Oregon destroyed a not-too-bad UCLA team last night, 60-13, thus stopping a string of losses by teams ranked #1.

Here's the lineup of week eight action:

Missouri over Oklahoma. Game Day on ESPN in Columbia. Jon Hamm (yes, Matt, I know he's a Missouri grad) as the likely celebrity "picker" from the host school. The Columns featured along with what I'm sure will be a visit to Booches by the Game Day crew. It's front page news in the Kansas City Star and is dominating the Kansas City media scene. My inclination is to automatically select Oklahoma given the fact that the Sooners have dealt with this hype pressure more frequently than MU, and given the fact that they are--well--Oklahoma. This Missouri team feels different, however, and it's because of its defense. The MU D is playing with more confidence each week and stud DE Aldon Smith may return for this game. It looks like rain may not be a factor tomorrow, which I think plays in Missouri's favor (remember their loss last year to Nebraska, in Columbia, in the rain?) I see MU winning this one by two.

Texas A&M over Kansas. Kansas has shown that they can lose in disappointing fashion (North Dakota State), lose on the road (Southern Mississippi), lose badly on the road (Baylor) and lose badly when given time to prepare (Kansas State.) So, it's not a stretch to say they will lose tomorrow, it's just a question of how. Texas A&M by 14.

Baylor over Kansas State. The Bears are fast. And, they're on the verge of becoming bowl eligible. It'll happen tomorrow in Waco.

Nebraska over Oklahoma State. Even though the Cowboys are undefeated and this game is in Stillwater, and even though T. Boone Pickens is miffed at Nebraska for leaving the Big 12, I have to call this a win for the Huskers. OSU's vaunted offense will be humbled by Nebraska's pass defense.

Auburn over LSU. LSU is a fraud. Cam Newton is the real deal. Auburn by 10.

Alabama over Tennessee. A classic SEC rivalry which, unfortunately, doesn't mean much these days.

Texas over Iowa State. The Horns will roll in Austin.

Colorado over Texas Tech. Dan Hawkins may be saving his job this season. I expect the Hawkins' season-of-revival will continue with a close win over Tech in Boulder.

Iowa over Wisconsin. I called Wiscy's upset over Ohio State last week. They won't replicate the feat this week. Iowa will win this Big Ten match-up in Iowa City.

Miami over North Carolina. North Carolina has won four games in a row even though their season has been one big suspension distraction. Miami has been up and down. Conventional wisdom might pick the Tarheels. I'm going with Miami.

Season predictions to date: 55-19 (74%)

Mad Men - What to expect next season

Spoiler alert--If you have not yet watched Season Four, or the last episode of this season of Mad Men, then do not read on.


Don Draper and crew have wrapped up another season on AMC and, once again, we are left to ponder the "what ifs" and the "what's to come."

Let's break it down, shall we?

- We learned that Joan Holloway is keeping her baby. After discussing abortion with Roger Sterling, the father, and appearing to have gone through with that decision, we see Joan in the last episode speaking by phone with her husband who was deployed to Vietnam. The expected death of Joan's husband didn't happen this season, but it's hard not to predict that she might become a single mother due to a wartime death of her spouse.

- Roger became inconsequential at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. The business, which he inherited, passed him by after the loss of Lucky Strike. All Sterling could do was to try to sell his memoir, drink his Canadian Club, and continue to lust after Joan. It's unfortunate that we saw only one or two glimpses of Sterling's young wife during the season and didn't see that relationship line develop, or play out, in the Mad Men story arc.

- Lane Pryce was a key part of the story early and into the middle of the season, culminating with the whack on the head from his father who chided him for not going back to England to attend to his family. Pryce did that, at some point, but nothing further was developed from that story, which included the topic of interracial dating, a rather controversial social matter in the mid-1960's.

- Bert Cooper's best moments were talking about Ida Blankenship, a former lover and aged secretary to Draper. Cooper left the agency late in Season Four, taking his shoeless wanderings through the office with him. Will we see Bert return in Season Five?

- Ken Cosgrove returned to the agency but played second fiddle as account man to Pete Campbell. Cosgrove's key moment in the season was his declaration, in the final episode, that he would not court a client in a way that would betray his wife in the process. "I know that every account will leave me. But Cynthia's my life, my actual life."

- Campbell's story was one of the more fun developments of this past season. Sometimes smarmy but often the voice of reason, Campbell grew as a businessman and became a key driver of what the agency was this season and what it will become in Season Five. The expectant father seemed to find his rhythm in his relationship with Trudy and her parents, and kept Draper's identity secret close to the vest although clearly irritated that he's had to bear that burden. My prediction is that Pete's role will only grow bigger as the series moves on.

- If you want proof of how Peggy Olson's character has matured, look back at pictures from Season One and compare them to now. In Olson, we've seen a woman flourish and succeed in the midst of the burgeoning feminist movement of the '60s. Still left out of the boys club, she alternates from confiding in and sharing a venting moment with Joan, to using her newfound power to fire a male employee. The best two episodes of the season featured Peggy--one with the key characters being her, Joan and a growing up Sally Draper, and the other being the night where she and Don were the story of the episode. The latter may have been the best episode ever of this acclaimed series.

- In the Draper family, we had a little-used Betty Draper become the Cruella DeVille of mothers. Betty struggles as a mother, as a wife and, at the end, sadly showed us that she still digs Don's chili (if you catch my drift.) Betty's character is adrift and it will be interesting to see if she is a central character in Season Five, or an afterthought. Meanwhile, Sally Draper is a child dealing with the changing tide of the '60s. She continues a friendship with Glenn, runs away to see her father, and is learning how to manipulate and/or tell adults what they want to hear.

- Finally, we have Don, our show's hero. Draper's descent into the bottle was sometimes hard to watch and, at times, he was a royal horse's ass. The show which turned it around for this character was the aforementioned episode with Olson. Don seemed to regain his mojo after that--he alternated from ad genius to tender father to irritated boss to circumspect about his lot in life. We thought Don had found his love match in Dr. Faye, clearly a woman who could hold her own and go toe-to-toe with Draper. But, alas, it's a family vacation to California where Don's eyes are truly opened to the allure of Megan--full-time secretary and sometime babysitter/nanny--and the ultimate winner for his affections. Megan brings the maternal prowess which Don requires for his children, as well as the stable homebody who will put a "steak on the table" for her hubby when he comes home from those long days at the agency.

What do we make of where the story is going? Creator Matthew Weiner has shown no hesitancy in moving the story line far along time-wise, meaning next season could start a year or two from where we've left.

Clearly, the agency seems to have survived its loss of Lucky Strike, particularly with the new account gathered in by Olson and Cosgrove at season's end. Will the Olson-Campbell-Cosgrove threesome become the brains and brawn of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce? What of Don and his role--will he be content to spend more time at home with his young bride or will the infidelity itch come back? Will Megan's role in the show become more dramatic, or will she go the way of Sterling's young bride?

I've heard some opine that the show may have "jumped the shark" with the marriage of Don and Megan. I don't think so. Marrying one's secretary was a well-practiced arrangement back in the day, with none other than Bill Bernbach (Doyle Dane Bernbach) doing so. In fact, Bernbach's wife was known to have had great influence at DDB--perhaps we'll see the same of Megan given her interest in advertising, and the human character. It's the type of reality that we've come to expect from Weiner, and this terrific show and cast of actors.

Season Five--we need you now!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mad Men - Season Four concludes

Last night was the final episode of season four of Mad Men--perhaps the best season yet of this acclaimed series on AMC.

Stay tuned to this space this week for some thoughts on season four, and the finale. In the meantime, take time to savor some of the following terrific writing, and favorite quotes, from Mad Men. This show started in seasons one and two with more attention paid to what went unsaid but has now evolved into one of the best written shows in recent television history.

(SPOILER ALERT--If you have not yet watched this season, there are quotes below which will give away some of the story lines.)

“It wasn’t a lie. It was ineptitude with insufficient cover.”
- Don Draper

“We’re going to the movies.” Don Draper
“Do you think we should?” Lane Price
“Does Howdy Doody have a wooden dick?” Draper

“Why is it that whenever a man takes you to lunch around here, you’re the dessert?”
- Peggy Olson

“Christ on a cracker, where do you get off!?”
- Pete Campbell

“You’ve crossed the line from lubricated to morose…good night.”
- Joan Holloway to Roger Sterling

“Sometimes when people get what they want they realize how limited their goals were.”
- Joan

“Young people don’t know anything…especially that they’re young.”
- Don

“I would have my secretary do it, but she’s dead.”
- Don

“It’s a business full of sadists and masochists and you know which one you are.”
- Mrs. Blankenship to Peggy Olson

“Men are like vegetable soup…and women are the pot. They heat them up, they hold them, they contain them.”
- Joan

“She was born in 1898 in a barn and she died on the 37th floor of a skyscraper. She was an astronaut.”
- Bert Cooper on Ida Blankenship

“You know the rules. I don’t make plans and I don’t make breakfast.”
- Midge Daniels to Don

“Jesus! I’ve been living the last 20 years like I’m on shore leave. What the hell is that about?”
- Roger

“I guess what I’m saying is at some point, we’ve all parked in the wrong garage.”
- Roger

“Well, I gotta go learn a bunch of people’s names before I fire them.”
- Roger

“You had a tantrum on a full page in the New York Times.”
- Pete Campbell to Don

Trudy Campbell: “Have you been drinking?”
Pete Campbell: “The whole country is drinking!”

“I love you. I’m giving up my life to be with you, aren’t I?”
- Pete

“You are the finest piece of ass I ever had and I don’t care who knows it. I am so glad I got to roam those hillsides.”
- Roger to Joan

“Hopefully, if you follow my lead, you can avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made here…like him.”
- Joan

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A visit with a friend

I have a good, old family friend who loves sports and is a diehard University of Kansas fan. A friend of my father's, F.A. Natick--"Uncle Fan" to me--lives not too far from here so I journeyed out to visit him this morning as I needed some cheering up from last Thursday's loss by our beloved Jayhawks.

"What's going on, my boy," he cheerily greeted me, "it's another great day to be a Jayhawk, eh?" I assumed that Uncle Fan was referencing last night's 26th edition of "Late Night in the Phog" in Lawrence--yet another sold-out preseason practice for the school's basketball squad. "Yeah," I responded, "once again we can always rely upon basketball to cheer people up."

"Well, sure, there's that, but weren't you impressed with how some of our young kids looked on Thursday night?" Fan inquired. "Are you serious?" I asked. "Who do you think looked good against K-State?"

"Why, that McGriff kid looks to be a player, don't you think, and it was good to see ol' Angus get some carries and the touchdown," Uncle Fan replied. "And, I'm telling you, I like the discipline Coach Gill is instilling in these boys."

I was having a hard time following this conversation. Didn't we just get leveled by 52 to our in-state rival? Hadn't the Kansas version of the ol' ball coach, Bill Snyder, once again left Lawrence with a win? And, Gill? Seriously--could Uncle Fan think that our new coach was actually performing well?

In an effort to not be too direct with my old friend, I gently inquired, "So, you're feeling good about what Gill has accomplished thus far?"

"Why, of course," Uncle Fan forcefully replied. "You can't turn around a program in a few games. Think about it--in Mark Mangino's first game against Kansas State, we didn't score a point and, as I recall, those cowboys from Manhattan hung 64 on us." That's true, I thought, but wasn't the KU program at a much different place now than it was back in 2002? When Mangino arrived eight years ago, KU was coming off six straight losing seasons.

"I guess you're right, Fan," I said, "but we've got some pretty decent players. Losing by 48 to Baylor and by 52 to Kansas State--it's hard to say that's progress."

"Oh, c'mon, youngster," he smiled, "you've been spoiled by success and watching that little gunslinger the last three seasons. I miss little Jake and number 5 too, plus Kerry, Dez, Stuckey and all those other guys. But, let's face it--that fat coach we had left our cupboard pretty bare. How many four-star recruits do you see running around out there?"

My immediate reaction was to remind Fan that our one four-star recruit and 500+ yard rusher had been moved from offense to defense by our astute coach, but I let it slide. I had obviously opened up the Turner Gill topic with Fan so I thought I'd try to navigate the big question I had for him.

"Okay, so judging by your comments, it sounds like you think we made the right hire and that Kansas should give Gill a few years," I asked. "Some people are suggesting that he should be fired once we hire our new athletic director. It would allow the new A.D. to make a signature hire and get his or her own guy."

"Are you kiddin' me," Fan exploded, "that sounds like some wacky thing that Missouri would pull. We've got more class than that. Why our young coach is molding these young men with his rules about no women after 10:00 and taking away them texting machines all those young guys carry. And, you just watch--he'll pull some studs out of Texas once he and his staff get to recruitin'."

I just looked away and shook my head. I loved my old friend and valued his loyalty to our University but--seriously--could he be that blinded to the lack of discipline on the field and the performance of our coaching staff?

"Well, my friend," I said, "I have to say, you're much more optimistic than I am about the future of our football program. I guess we shall see."

"Ah, chin up, Mike," he smiled. "Hey, I'd love to win 10 games every year just like you. But, remember, this is Kansas football--not basketball. The Good Lord gave us KU hoops knowing that we'd need that to have something to look forward to in those years where we struggle in football. Like I said, I think Coach Gill is the right guy for us--he'll get it turned around. After all, he did learn from Coach Osborne up there in Big Red Country."

At that, I wryly smiled and began to say my goodbyes, all the while thinking "I'm sure as heck not going to bring up the whole conference realignment topic" given the mention of Osborne.

"Rock chalk, Uncle Fan," I said, as I made my way out to the car. "Rock chalk, back at ya," Fan said. "Remember, youngster, every day is a good day to be a Jayhawk--it's just that some days are better than others."

Saturday morning coffee

The past three days are why October is the best month of the year--crisp mornings and evenings sandwiching sun-splashed days with temperatures around 70 and fall leaves turning.

Here are some idle musings to get your motor running on this Saturday, October 16:

- Joan Collins wasn't being catty when she stated, in so many words, that Angelina Jolie was more beautiful than Jennifer Anniston. Collins was simply comparing the looks of Jolie with that of Anniston, but her long history of playing characters known for their biting language made life imitate art in how her comments were construed.

- Don't you love stories like this? Ike Ditzenberger is a high school football player in Snohomish, WA. Ditzenberger also happens to have Downs Syndrome. In a recent game, Ditzenberger's team was losing 35-0 with 10 seconds to play. His coach called the "Ike Special" play where Ike was given the football. Ike took the ball and weaved around the field, for 51 yards, while opposing players energetically failed to tackle him. He ended the rush crossing the goal line and promptly engaging in a dance of joy in the end zone. His mom's comment? "They gave him a gift of normalcy," said Kay Ditzenberger.

- Back to Joan Collins for a moment--for our uninformed readers who may not know Collins, she is the actress who played Alexis Colby on the very successful 1980's prime time soap, Dynasty. Collins was flamboyant in her personal life and, ahem, knew her way around a bedroom. Her most publicized romance was with actor Warren Beatty.

- Really!? Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, one of the stars (and I use that term loosely) of Jersey Shore, has announced a book deal to write a novel called A Shore Thing. The issue? Polizzi has admitted to only reading two books in her life. There was no announcement as to which two books she read and whether they contained pictures.

- Did anyone here know that Tiger Woods has an older brother? I didn't either. Earl Woods, Jr. publicly chastised his brother recently by saying that their father "would be very disappointed in him..."

- 37% of American teens admit that they have been ridiculed, bullied, humiliated or threatened, according to CNN/Opinion Research Corporation. I wonder how much that percentage has increased given the rise in social media?

- For all you NFL fans out there, you may want to check out the story in this week's Sports Illustrated on the league's labor situation. The impending work stoppage, after this season, is very real and could, at minimum, have significant impact on offseason league activities, including the NFL Draft.

- What's your favorite business buzzword or hackneyed phrase? The Association of National Advertisers and media company Starcom recently joined together to identify marketers' favorites and came up with an impressive list--so many that the two groups weren't able to come up with a winner. The list included: "At the end of the day," "glocal," "ideate," "holistic," "go viral," "out of the box," and "on the same page." I would add to that list with personal favorites "are we in alignment?", "open the kimono," "long pole in the tent," "box above our weight," and "go big or go home."

- Don't look now but the BCS standings have Boise State on top followed by Oregon and TCU. Uh, where are traditional football powers Oklahoma, USC, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Florida, Alabama and Texas? Pretty cool, huh?

- Prince announced plans for a series of concerts on the East Coast, including multiple dates in New York. Joining the Purple One will be guests which include Sheila E., Maceo Parker, Mint Condition and others. It's Prince's first U.S. tour since 2004.

Friday, October 15, 2010

College football predictions - week seven

All eyes turn north this weekend for what could be the final regular season game ever between Nebraska and Texas. Husker fans have had this game circled on the schedule since last December's late-game defeat against Texas in the Big 12 Conference Championship. Texas fans are focused on this game because of the parting shots NU took at their conference brethren--notably the Longhorns--when fleeing the Big 12 this summer for the Big Ten.

Here we go...

Nebraska over Texas. Home field advantage will win out but, take note Husker fans--this will be a hollow victory given that you'll journey to Dallas in December and lose to Oklahoma in the conference championship.

Missouri over Texas A&M. The story lines here are many: Can A&M eliminate the costly turnovers, particularly from QB Jarrod Johnson? Is Blaine Gabbert truly healthy enough to start? How does MU handle its first true road game, in one of the loudest stadiums in the conference? And, what happens to MU's season if they don't win this one given a slate of Oklahoma, at Nebraska, and at Texas Tech coming up in the next month? My prediction is predicated on MU's ability to force turnovers and thus keep the field short for Gabbert and mates. It should be a close one--MU by three.

Colorado over Baylor. These are two teams coming off losses and questions on each side of the ball--CU on offense and Baylor on defense. Baylor is improved but have yet to show an ability to win on the road in the Big 12. Another close one--and another win for the Big 12 North.

Oklahoma over Iowa State. Will OU be looking ahead to next week's game at MU? I doubt it. Iowa State gave up 68 points, at home, to Utah in its last outing. Tomorrow will be another offensive explosion for the visiting team.

Oklahoma State over Texas Tech. The Big 12's two top-rated quarterbacks square off in this one--Taylor Potts for Tech and Brandon Weeden for OSU. Balls will be in the air all night, meaning this could be a long, long game. Tech will win by a TD.

South Carolina over Kentucky. Yes, the game's at Kentucky. And, yes, South Carolina is bound to be down a bit after last week's upset of Alabama. But, this Gamecock team is too good and the ol' ball coach will have his kids ready. The Gamecocks should continue rolling.

Wisconsin over Ohio State. Alabama went down last week. This week it's Ohio State's turn. I remain skeptical of OSU's credentials and think the Badgers pull off my upset special for this Saturday.

Arkansas over Auburn. This could be the game of the day tomorrow--#7 Auburn versus #12 Arkansas in Fayetteville. If Auburn wins this one, then they must deal with visiting LSU next weekend. They won't win both games, thus my prediction that the Hogs will win a very close contest tomorrow.

Iowa over Michigan. Is the "Denard Robinson for Heisman" bandwagon losing steam? The Wolverines lost last week and will be hard-pressed to rebound against the Hawkeyes' defense. This will likely be a low-scoring affair.

Oregon State over Washington. Let's give it up for Mike Riley, a coach who flies under the radar but consistently has the Beavers ranked and in the hunt for the Pac-10 championship. And, he does it by recruiting kids to the small town of Corvallis. Oregon State will confine Jake Locker and win another close one in Seattle.

Season record thus far: 50-15 (77%)

The state of Kansas football

Well, now we know. This season, this coach, this hire--all are an unmitigated disaster and Kansas' football program will not win again in 2010.

Earlier this season, we asked the question, "Has there ever been a Division I team (Kansas) which lost one week to a Division 1AA opponent and then came back to beat a top 15 opponent?" Now, the bigger question is, "Has there ever been a football program who won a BCS bowl and, three years later, fell to a place where they were outscored, on successive weekends, to middling D-1 teams like Baylor and Kansas State by a total of 114-14?" Sure, Baylor and KSU will likely become bowl eligible this year but, 114-14!? The words "embarrassing" and "humiliating" come to mind.

Let's break this down, shall we?
- Heading into last season's game at Colorado on October 16, Kansas was 25-6 through the previous 31 games, including that statement victory over Virginia Tech in the 2008 Orange Bowl. They were ranked 16th in the country.
- Kansas lost that game--a close one--to Colorado in a contest which most objective observers say they gave away. Mark Mangino delivered his highly rumored locker room rant after that game, calling out both staff and team.
- The Jayhawks never won again in 2009 and are 2-11 since that meltdown of a year ago.

What happened? The reasons are many but my feelings are:
- Mangino lost his staff, and his team, on that fateful evening in Boulder. The danger signs had already popped up--a come-from-behind win over Southern Mississippi at home, a win over Iowa State because ISU quarterback Austin Arnaud couldn't connect with a wide-open receiver in the endzone at the end of the game, an oft sputtering offense, and a revolving door of players in the defensive backfield. But, the defeat at Colorado last year started the slide.
- Mangino's handling of players, staff, alumni and fans were overlooked when he was winning. His YouTube rants were considered good and entertaining theater--the typical football coach going off on a player. And, his physical girth became the stuff of clever T-shirt slogans which sold well in Lawrence. When Mangino began to lose, and the whispers about his treatment of players became more public, the slide picked up momentum.
- Bill Young and Clint Bowen. Young was Kansas' defensive coordinator in 2007--a unit which flew around the field, forced turnovers and always helped KU win the field position game during that 12-1 season. Young left after that year and was replaced by Clint Bowen. The defense has been a sieve against passing offenses ever since.
- Under Mangino, KU never recruited top 20 classes but seemed to do a good job of identifying two and three star high school players who were tough and coachable. Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe, Aquib Talib, Jake Sharp, Anthony Collins, Mike Rivera, Derek Fine, James Holt, and Darrell Stuckey were among those recruited and coached to All-Big 12 or All-American status. The one stud recruit, Kerry Meier, was identified as a terrific athlete who needed to be on the field once he lost his starting QB role to Reesing. Meier ultimately became one of the best receivers in Kansas history. Those players are all gone and what is in their place are guys who have not panned out, are playing out of position, or who have never fulfilled potential due to injury or lack of prior playing time. The high of the 2008 BCS appearance never translated into a recruiting class worthy of the national visibility of that Orange Bowl win.
- Injuries and suspensions. Kansas started this year with a lack of depth and it has been compounded due to injuries--Hulden Tharp, Toben Opurum, Keeston Terry, Kale Pick, Jeff Spikes and others have severely limited the number of scholarship athletes KU could put on the field. The injury situation was compounded by off-season losses of two projected starters on defense who were suspended due to off-the-field issues.
- Skill position losses. No team can lose the most prolific QB and receiver threesome in school history without major impact.
- Other teams have improved. Kansas State brought back Bill Snyder. Baylor hired Art Briles. Iowa State improved. Nebraska became "Nebraska" again. And, Missouri, and Gary Pinkel, built upon their success of 2007.

Finally, there is the hiring of Turner Gill. Gill wanted the job--badly. He and Athletic Director Lew Perkins had connected earlier in the career of each, were mutually impressed, and stayed in touch. Gill's daughter attended KU. While other high-profile names were thrown around and, potentially, contacted, it was Gill who was the front-runner for the position from day one.

Why? His image was squeaky clean. He was a player's coach--a guy who student-athletes looked up to and praised. He had taken a moribund Buffalo program and guided it to a conference crown, although his overall record at the school didn't look all that good on paper. And, he was a Big 12 guy--he was a star QB at Nebraska and was from Fort Worth. Gill stated publicly that Kansas needed to recruit, and who better to recruit Texas than a guy from there along with a staff who knew that fertile territory for high school football.

What we know now is that Kansas hired a coach who, even when given 10 days, did a horrible job of preparing his team for an in-state rivalry. He's a coach who has shown a penchant for saying head-scratching things, e.g., that he'd "seen something" in Kansas State that he thought could work to KU's advantage. Gill is a coach who has led Kansas to three of the most embarrassing defeats in school history--North Dakota State, Baylor, Kansas State. And, he's a guy who has put into place disciplinary rules for his players which seem to have little to do with the on-the-field product. (As one local writer tweeted last night, after three KU penalties in the first five minutes, "Turner Gill's players have discipline off the field but none on it.")

The hiring of Gill to a program deserving of more is the fault of Perkins. The hiring of Gill to a salary above his experience and capabilities is also the fault of Perkins.

I, as a fan, don't want an abusive coach prowling the Kansas sideline. What I do want is a coach who has his team ready to play and, even if out-manned, has his kids playing tough, disciplined football. That isn't happening and will likely never happen under the Gill regime.

Should Gill be fired? Can Kansas survive another season like this one if he isn't? I'll leave that up to the new Athletic Director to decide.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sunflower Showdown preview

Is this a bigger game for Kansas or for Kansas State? Each year of late, it seems this football rivalry might mean more for one team versus the other. Last year, KSU's win in Manhattan provided momentum for Bill Snyder's effort to return the Wildcat program to prominence. This year, it's Kansas who appears to need this game more--to convince a doubting fan base that Turner Gill CAN turn around a reeling program and to convince in-state recruits that Lawrence should be their destination.

Pluses for Kansas:
- The Jayhawk defense has been far better against the run than the pass.
- Conversely, KSU has struggled against the run which could mean a big game for James Sims and Kansas' other running backs.
- Kansas has won the last four home games against the Wildcats.
- The Jayhawks have had 10 days to prep for this game.
- The last time Snyder walked the sidelines at Memorial Stadium, Kansas won 31-28--a night game which ended KSU's 11-game winning streak against KU.

Pluses for Kansas State:
- Snyder is 14-4 against Kansas.
- There has far less "talk" coming out of Manhattan this week versus some of the bulletin board material uttered by Gill and the Jayhawks.
- Frank Thomas has had back-to-back sub-par, for him, games. Look for him to be focused and motivated tonight.

Is Kansas State's confidence shaken by last Thursday's beat-down by Nebraska? Which Kansas team will show up tonight--the one which beat top 15 opponent Georgia Tech, or the one who lost by 48 on the road at Baylor?

This game is hard to predict given the above questions. My heart is telling me that Kansas will show up, play hard, and do a reasonable job of containing Thomas. My head is telling me "don't pick the Jayhawks."

Final score: Kansas - 24, Kansas State - 20.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Surprise, surprise--in a move which surprises no one, Gap is planning to revert back to its old logo versus the new design which was unveiled on us last week. The new logo was met with reactions ranging from head-scratching to derision, thus prompting the reversal on the retailer's brand identity.

Editor's response: Missouri's football schedule

My predictions for last weekend's college football elicited a response from a reader, given my comment about MU playing at home--again--against Colorado. So, let me explain my rationale for what I wrote.

Missouri started the season in St. Louis against Illinois on a "neutral" site--a continuation of a rivalry which has been in place for the past several years. But, a game played in front of a crowd which is more Mizzou than Illinois, and at a location about two hours from campus, is hardly an "away" game. That game was followed by home non-conference matchups versus McNeese State, San Diego State, and Miami (Ohio.) Then, the Tigers played Colorado to start the Big 12 home. Thus, I made the comment about Missouri's early-season schedule and the five games thus far on Faurot Field.

In contrast, Baylor has played on the road at TCU and at Rice. Colorado had to go to California. Iowa State played at Iowa and in Kansas City against Kansas State. Kansas played at Southern Miss, Nebraska at Washington, Oklahoma at Cincinnati and Texas Tech at New Mexico.

Only Kansas State, and its master scheduler Bill Snyder, and Oklahoma State could boast the same number of home games as MU over the same time period.

Once we get to Big 12 conference play, every team then has four home games and four away games. And, yes, I know that Missouri plays Kansas at Arrowhead but that is technically a "home" game for the Tigers this year as Kansas had that home team distinction last year in Kansas City. Other schools in the league have also knowingly given up a campus game but did not forfeit the "home" distinction in the process, e.g., Iowa State as home team last month against KSU in their game at Arrowhead, or this past Sunday's Cotton Bowl clash between "home" team Texas Tech and Baylor.

Bully for Missouri for scheduling this many home games this early. It's an approach which can allow a team to grow before going on the road for a true away contest, and it's catapulted the Tigers into the Top 25. Unfortunately for Kansas State, their lack of a true road game, prior to being exposed last Thursday against Nebraska, might have hurt them in preparation for the Huskers. That is part of what makes the Cats' Thursday night matchup in Lawrence, against an up-and-down Kansas team, all the more intriguing.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Saturday morning coffee

- Yes, that was Bill and Cindy Self canoodling on the Sprint Center "kiss cam" at last night's Miami Heat-Oklahoma City Thunder NBA preseason game. Seated alongside Self were assistant coaches Barry Hinson and Joe Dooley, and their spouses, and the Kansas team apparently was elsewhere in the arena, judging from player tweets last night.

- The outcry about Gap changing its logo is one more example of the importance of brand identity and how it resonates with consumers.

- I lamented in this space a few days ago about the early cancellation of Lone Star, a show which FOX had promoted heavily prior to the premiere last month. I guess it proves that viewers aren't all that interested in a series which features infidelity, greed, and criminal behavior. Oh yeah--I forgot that 90% of all other programming on television hits on one, or all, of those themes.

- Also spotted courtside last night at the Sprint Center were Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, sporting hipster skull cap and designer hoody. The dude would likely have been the last person picked out in the arena as looking like an NFL head coach.

- Huey Lewis and the News, rained out of their performance locally last month at "Treads & Threads," have a new album coming out in November. The band's first album in six years will feature covers from Stax Records, including songs by Booker T & the MG's, Sam & Dave and Isaac Hayes. Should be fun...

- There was an article recently about cheap costume ideas for Halloween. One was to take black duct tape and wrap it around your body's profile, thus becoming the troublesome antenna on Apple's latest iPhone.

- Happy Birthday, Robert Wuhl. Long before Jeremy Piven in his Emmy winning role of Ari Gold on Entourage was Wuhl, a super sports agent in the television series, Arli$$.

- Speaking of birthdays, John Lennon would have been 70 today. Nowhere Boy, a British-Canadian biopic about Lennon's adolescence, was released this week in the U.S. and is receiving good reviews. British actor Aaron Johnson portrays Lennon and Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff play his mother, Julia.

Friday, October 8, 2010

College football predictions - week six

That hissing noise you just heard is the air coming out of Kansas State's balloon after being exposed, on national television, last night by Nebraska. Will a rivalry date with Kansas being the antidote for their pain? We'll have to wait until next Thursday to find out.

In the meantime, here are the week six match-ups:

Missouri over Colorado. Will the Tigers ever play a road game? Yet again, Missouri plays at home and will do battle with Colorado. MU is "celebrating" the fifth-down game against CU, 20 years ago, when the Buffaloes benefited from a major gaffe by officials and used the win as part of their run to a national championship. The circumstances are much, much different tomorrow--the Tigers should win by two touchdowns.

Baylor over Texas Tech. No, this isn't the Red River Rivalry but the game will take place in the Cotton Bowl with Tech favored by three. I think Baylor is for real and wins by four.

Arkansas over Texas A&M. Until Jerrod Johnson figures out how to take care of the ball, the Aggies' high-powered offense will have issues. Look for Arkansas to cover the line of six points.

Oklahoma State over Louisiana Lafayette. It's a rare Friday night game and it's in Louisiana. The Cowboys will win but don't be surprised if they struggle early.

Michigan over Michigan State. Did you know that this game is played for the Paul Bunyan Trophy? I didn't either. I wonder if it's a trophy that's too big to fit into a trophy case, given its namesake? This will be a good one but I suspect that home field advantage will sway the game in the Wolverines' favor.

Georgia over Tennessee. Derek Dooley returns to his daddy's old stomping grounds, but if Georgia loses this one, look for Mark Richt to be publicly lynched at Sanford Stadium. America's most tenuous coaching situation will get a week off as Georgia should beat the Vols by 10.

Alabama over South Carolina. I think this will be the best game of the weekend. Bama will win this one late, on the road.

Miami (Fla.) over Florida State. This one isn't like the old days when Florida State was FLORIDA STATE.

Florida over LSU. The most suspect undefeated team in the U.S.--LSU--goes down this weekend.

Apps, apps and more apps

Talk about a growth market! Amazon is now planning to go toe-to-toe with Apple and Google via an online applications store, all in an attempt to take advantage of the exploding growth in app sales for mobile devices. These plans would put Amazon in battle with Apple not only in the online music and book space but now in the app store as well.

Apple's app store now boasts 250,000 apps; Google's Android market has 80,000 apps. But, one advantage which Amazon has over Google is its payment relationship with millions of consumers. Apple has approximately 160 million registered credit cards and Amazon has about 80 million, giving them both an advantage on ease of purchasing.

Deepening this drama is news that Best Buy may enter this app space as well. According to the Wall Street Journal, Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn said that he would consider building an app store, although there apparently are no specific plans in place.

In other app news:

- The New York Times and Wall Street Journal plan to offer mobile apps for the new Samsung tablet.

- At the CTIA conference this week in San Francisco, executives from Nokia were using the show to win over developers to the manufacturer's Ovi mobile app store.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Esquire magazine conducted their annual survey of American men and published the findings in the recent edition of the magazine. The survey results acknowledge that there are more 50-year olds than any other single-age group. The second largest single-age group is--surprise--20-year olds.

Let's look at some key findings of the research and this 30-year gap between the two biggest single-age groups:

- Not surprisingly, both groups consider President Barack Obama the best role model for young men in America today. After that, the 20-year olds cited George Clooney most often while the 50-year olds named Billy Graham.

- 28% of the 20-year olds consider Anderson Cooper (CNN) the most reliable news source; 34% of the 50-year olds say it's Brian Williams (NBC.) Television still remains the primary news source for both groups.

- The research asked "when was the last time you played a video game?" 57% of 20-year olds said "today" while 40% of 50-year olds said "over a month ago."

- The 50-year olds said that the 1970's produced the best music. The 20-year old, not surprisingly, said the 2000's.

- 80% of the 50-year olds believe in God compared to 69% of the 20-year olds.

- Among their toys and gadgets, the 50-year olds cite their computer as the one thing they would least want to live without followed by their television. The 20-year olds also say the computer as number one, followed by their mobile phone.

- Both groups consider--get this--Clint Eastwood as the coolest man in America, although the scores are tighter among the younger group. The 20-year olds had Eastwood, Obama and LeBron James as their top three. The 50-year olds had Eastwood (by a wide margin), Clooney and Obama.

Overall, the results showed the younger set to be more conservative in many of their social attitudes while the older group was less optimistic. But, they did agree on one final thing--the best job in America is to be an A-list movie star.

To see the full list of results, check out the October issue of Esquire.

Mid-week musings...and an early college football prediction

- This weekend's Big 12 play begins tonight as Nebraska travels to Manhattan, KS to play Kansas State--a match-up of two undefeated teams. Nebraska struggled in their last outing and new QB Taylor Martinez looked like--well--a new QB. I anticipate that Nebraska's vaunted defense will be able to successfully manage KSU's run-based offense, thus forcing the Wildcats into too many throwing situations. The line here is 10.5--I think Kansas State plays tough but falls to NU by 13.

- We wrote in this space months ago about some of the recent, questionable branding decisions made by major companies, notably Pepsi and their lineup of beverage brands. Now, Gap is getting into the act. The retailer has ditched the iconic blue box logo for a new, fairly radical redesign which makes me ask the question "why?" Gap's sales may be faltering but the brand identity of the retailer, across its 1,200 stores in the U.S. plus more in Europe and Asia, is iconic. A subtle redesign? Maybe. A major overhaul? No.

- Newscaster Soledad O'Brien will undergo knee surgery after being thrown from a horse this past Sunday. O'Brien was horseback riding with her two daughters when the horse apparently got spooked and threw the journalist. It does make one wonder if creatures with legs were meant to be ridden.

- Is Brent Musberger an authority on steroids? The broadcaster, part of the lead college football announcing team for ESPN and ABC, was speaking to a group of University of Montana students (Musberger lives in Montana) and told them that while steroids have no place in high school athletics, they could be used by professionals with proper care and with a doctor's advice. Really? I've been a critic of Musberger's announcing abilities of late, particularly on college basketball, but this statement is out of line given the impact that steroids have had across the world of sports.

- Toni Braxton is filing for bankruptcy...again. The singer, who has sold over 40 million albums in her career, reportedly owes up to $50 million.

- As good as The Sopranos was on HBO, is there a television show, in recent memory, which engenders the debate, analysis and overall watercooler discussion of Mad Men? Season four of this show has been very eventful and I'm constantly encountering those who want to talk over the exploits of Don, Peggy, Joan, Roger and Betty.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Saturday afternoon college football

- Brad Nessler is the best play-by-play guy doing college athletics.

- The FOX Sports Network studio show is simply painful to watch.

- Only Texas would have the player holding the Texas flag come out first in front of the guy with the U.S. flag.

- Is there a more mediocre coach in football than Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Robinson? Robinson had losing stints as head coach at Kansas City and Syracuse and now is tearing it up in Ann Arbor.

- Dave Lapham is the captain of the trite, over-used sayings. Today's favorite? Lapham used "Heat-seeking missile" to describe players who tackle and hit hard.

- Kansas is looking frighteningly like the teams of the Terry Allen era. Slow? Check. Soft? Check. Ill-coached? It seems...yes.

- Is there a better college football atmosphere than the Oklahoma-Texas game each fall at the Cotton Bowl?

Saturday morning coffee

- Would Roger Sterling have driven a Lincoln? Yes, that's John Slattery, who plays Sterling in Mad Men, in the new campaign for the automotive brand.

- Speaking of personalities in advertising, I think that's Michael Douglas' voice in the PGA of America advertising airing on the Ryder Cup telecast.

- What a weekend in Kansas City. First Fridays in the Freighthouse District last night coupled with the opening night of the American Royal Barbecue, which continues today. The Royals are in town and looked like a decent ballclub last night. The NASCAR Nationwide Series takes place today at Kansas Speedway and the big one, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, is tomorrow out at the track. The weather? Perfect early fall temperatures and sunshine.

- USA Today published a list yesterday of 51 great burger joints--one for each state and the District of Columbia. The newspaper cited "local experts" who made the selection, but the picks are head-scratchers. The Cozy Inn in Salina for Kansas' best? C'mon--show me a burger statewide which is better than the fare at the Burger Bar in Lawrence. In Missouri, the selection is Schindler's Tavern in New Hamburg. Have you all never heard of Booches in Columbia, MO, much less the Westport Flea Market in Kansas City? And, in perhaps the biggest mistake on the list, Park Burger in Denver is the choice from Colorado. The best burger in the Rockies actually resides at Bud's Bar in Sedalia, CO.

- Watching the four golf majors on TV is a lot of fun. But, there's no better golf viewing than the Ryder Cup, the international competition which occurs every two years.

College football predictions - week five

It's officially fall and, guess what, we're officially into the heart of college football season as conference play begins in earnest across the country. The marquee games include two prime time affairs--Alabama versus Florida and Stanford versus Oregon, and, of course, the Red River Shootout in Dallas where Oklahoma and Texas renew their rivalry.

Let's look at the matchups:

Baylor over Kansas. Kansas' defense will be no match for QB Robert Griffin III in Waco. I expect that we will see continued improvement from Kansas' offense, now that coordinator Chuck Long has a better sense as to his playmakers, but the Bears will ultimately prevail by 6.

Oklahoma over Texas. We all thought that this would feature two undefeated teams but Texas fouled up that notion last week by laying an egg against UCLA. Mack Brown will have his kids ready to play but this is OU's year to win this game...and the Big 12 South.

Georgia over Colorado. This could be dubbed the "hot seat" game given that both Mark Richt at Georgia and Dan Hawkins are facing mounting pressure at their schools. Look for Georgia to take the road win.

Texas Tech over Iowa State. This is a game that, on paper, Tech should win easily. This is also a game where conference contenders can get tripped up on the road. The Red Raiders should take care of business in Ames.

North Carolina State over Virginia Tech. I've been impressed with NCSU and think they can swing the upset today in Raleigh.

Iowa over Penn State. If you like low scoring games, you'll like this one. Two very good defenses do battle in Iowa City and the Hawkeyes will win by four.

Ohio State over Illinois. The Terrelle Pryor Heisman campaign continues.

Boise State over New Mexico State. Kansas' victim from last week--New Mexico State--will get shellacked today by BSU.

Oregon over Stanford. The home field advantage is the difference here but this should be a great game. Is there a faster team in the U.S. than Oregon?

Alabama over Florida. Wow, a regular season meeting between these two teams--that hasn't happened since 2006 but has happened in the SEC Championship game the past two years. The Tide is the class of the SEC, and likely the U.S., this year.

Season predictions to date: 46-9.