Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year, my friends and readers--here's wishing you good health and many blessings in 2011.

What will the new year give us? Let's look in the Goff crystal ball, shall we?

In the world of technology, 2011 will be the year of the tablet as a multitude of competitors enter the market, competing with the iPad. Also, look for more and more consumers to adapt the Android operating system with their wireless devices.

Social media will continue its meteoric usage rate, particularly in mobile usage, and Ping will become the next ubiquitous application. Advertisers will continue to look for the "it" campaign for their brand, hoping to duplicate the smashing, surprising success of Old Spice in 2010.

The University of Kansas will finally hire an athletic director but will lose Josh Selby and Marcus Morris to the NBA. Missouri will be a top ten preseason pick in college football, in columns written right after the bowl season, until Blaine Gabbert indicates his intent to enter the 2011 NFL Draft. And, Kansas State's basketball team will quit shopping and will begin playing, finishing second in the Big 12 and once again making the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.

The Chiefs will win a playoff game, the Royals will not, and Tiger Woods will rediscover how to win a major golf tournament. In downtown Kansas City, at the Sprint Center, college basketball and an array of concerts and other events will help the arena continue it success as a top five U.S. venue, and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will provide the skyline with an iconic architectural masterpiece

Don Draper will struggle with married life and AMC will announce that Season Five is the final season for Mad Men. American Idol will carry on fine, thank you very much, with its two new judges and the four major networks will fail, once again, to introduce a unique new program in the fall.

Finally, for all that will be new in 2011, there will be plenty which won't change--the Kardashians won't go away, nor will any of the Real Housewives; the Lakers will beat the Heat in the NBA Finals; Facebook users will still post too many public displays of affection online...and a shiny crystal ball will drop again on December 31 in Times Square in New York City.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Excessive celebration

I'd send out Happy New Year best wishes right now by saluting all of my faithful readers but I'm afraid I'd get an excessive celebration penalty.

Seriously, the fact that a college bowl game was decided because a referee literally interpreted a rule and decided that a salute to the crowd was thus a penalty is an absolute shame. I've already seen plays in the Tennessee-North Carolina bowl game which merited the same penalty, if interpreted the same way as the ref did in the Pinstripe Bowl.

In case you missed it, Kansas State scored a touchdown late in the Pinstripe Bowl to pull within two of Syracuse. Alas, the referee called the penalty and the Wildcats were forced to go for two from the 18, versus the three yard line. Their attempt failed--game over...

Shouldn't this rule be re-considered in 2011? I mean, the last time I checked, football is a game being played in college by 18-22 year old young men. I thought exuberance was a natural part of participation in a game.

Thursday morning coffee

- True Grit is as good as advertised and deserves its spot on the list of great Westerns. The Coen Brothers successfully adapted Charles Portis' novel for the big screen, helped, of course, by terrific performances from Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld. I did miss, though, Robert Duvall as Ned Pepper. Duvall played that villain perfectly in the original version.

- The Big 12 now has two losses against Big Ten foes in college football bowl games. For Baylor, last night's loss to Illinois was their fourth straight after starting this season 7-2.

- The family of famed sports marketer Mark McCormack, who formed IMG--the management company of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and other notable sports and entertainment personalities--announced that his archives will go to the University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management. UMass has one of the country's best sports management programs so it's no surprise that the various records, meticulously kept by McCormack, will go to the school.

- I strongly recommend Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand's new book on the life of Louis Zamperini, a Prisoner-of-War survivor from World Was II who also was a well-known U.S. Olympian. Hillenbrand also authored Seabiscuit.

- Something tells me that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's ruling on the Brett Favre case isn't the last we'll hear of the alleged sexting scandal.

- Congratulations to General Manager Scott Pioli and Head Coach Todd Haley for the Kansas City Chiefs' upcoming playoff appearance--I admit that I'm eating some crow on Haley's ability to coach.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Favorites of the year

Over the past year, I've listed out many of my favorites from travel, entertainment, dining and the world of gadgetry. Here's my look back at 2010 favorites:

Hotel: The Campton Place in San Francisco is consistently a terrific place to stay in the city by the Bay. The hotel is small-ish, has a terrific restaurant, attentive staff, and rooms which are well-appointed.

Television: In a close call, Mad Men gets the nod over other stellar shows Friday Night Lights, 24, Boardwalk Empire, Glee, Rubicon and The Good Wife.

Gadget: Surprise, surprise, my gadget of the year is the iPad, a device which has changed my media consumption habits. Honorable mention: HTC EVO 4G, only from Sprint.

Restaurant: Peter Luger's, Brooklyn, NY. Zagat's "best steakhouse in America" did not disappoint when I visited there earlier this month.

Book: Unbroken, the book I just completed, written by Laura Hillenbrand, was the best book I read this year--it once again reinforces the amazing resolve of those who were involved in World War II.

Campaign: Could it be anything but the Old Spice campaign, "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like?"

Commercial: I don't know if this work has affected Kia sales, but I laugh every time I see one of the Kia Soul commercials featuring the hamsters.

Movie: Inception.

App: Rdio takes the prize followed by Flipboard, Zinio and Howcast.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Big Eight preseason basketball tournament

Kansas City has long been known for the beauty of the Plaza lights during the holidays. However, "back in the day," the lights weren't the only tradition which made the holidays special for those in the area.

The Big Eight preseason basketball tournament was held during the 1950's-early 1970's in Kansas City, most notably at Municipal Auditorium in downtown. I had a flashback to that winter tournament when I exited Sprint Center recently after a college hoops contest--downtown was alive with fans, scurrying to bars and restaurants, both before and after the game.

The preseason tournament brought all eight conference teams to Kansas City for three days and nights of action in the week between Christmas and New Year. What made the tournament special was not only the quality of players and coaches who appeared in Kansas City, but also the access which fans had since the teams stayed at the Muehlebach and other local hotels in the downtown area--all within walking distance of Municipal.

As a young boy growing up and attending the tournament each year, I remember rubbing elbows with my favorite University of Kansas players as we'd walk into the auditorium from the underground parking garage or the Muehlebach. Each conference team would play three games--a winners bracket and a losers bracket--thus ensuring fans plenty of opportunities to see their team and the league competition.

Not surprisingly, Kansas and Kansas State dominated the tournament in the 1950's and 1960's, and Missouri won its share in the 1970's. The tournament ultimately was disbanded once the conference began its postseason tournament, played in Kansas City at the then new Kemper Arena. The league's coaches didn't want to risk playing a conference foe up to four times in a given season, and the teams not named Kansas, Kansas State or Missouri never particularly cared for the location of the tournament in Kansas City.

The loss for Kansas City is the regularity of an event, during the holiday season, which ensured downtown crowds and dollars spent in hotels, restaurants, bars and stores. And, for a young boy growing up and in love with sports, there was little which matched sitting through four games during an afternoon and evening, cheering on my favorites from Kansas and discovering other player and coaching personalities in the old Big Eight.

Why can't a similar event be created for Kansas City during this holiday week? Consider the fact that most schools in the Big 12 conference are participating in football bowl games this week, thus impacting fan interest and attendance. And, schools like Kansas and Kansas State aren't keen on sharing revenue for an event featuring more than one game given that they can sell out Sprint Center for a single non-conference game during early or mid-December.

Unfortunately, the preseason tournament is an event whose time has passed but whose history is part of what made downtown Kansas City special during the 1950's-1960's.

The decade that was...

Ask most anyone and I would speculate that they would say the past decade wasn't the best given major world and U.S. events like 911, Afghanistan, Iraq, natural disasters and economic woes. That opinion, however, would be contrary to the facts presented by Charles Kenny, author of Getting Better, a soon-to-be-released book on global development.

Kenny cites the following facts to suggest that the 2000s were a great decade:

- Average worldwide income is 25% higher than it was a decade ago.
- Vaccine initiatives have helped cut the death rate from common diseases like measles by 60%.
- Child mortality is down 17%.

What are the reasons for the various improvements? Kenny writes that increased telecommunications (especially television) in Africa and Asia, coupled with better education and health practices to those long isolated by geography, has resulted in millions of people becoming better educated, more involved politically, and more aware of health issues, thus creating a cycle of progress.

(Source: New York Times Sunday Magazine, 12.19.10)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sunday morning coffee

- I trust everyone had a wonderful Christmas with no rocks in their stockings.

- This weekend's newspapers, and media outlets for the coming week, will be flush with "best" and "worst" lists from 2010. Why do we feel compelled to distill a year of activity, in a given area (sports, entertainment, business, technology, and on and on), down to a simple list? In today's Kansas City Star, author Teddy Wayne, said "people are comforted by seeing the chaotic detritus of the world collected in a form that creates coherent meaning out of an irrational universe." Hmm...okay.

- Why is it that as soon as Christmas Day ends--and even before the end of the day--the Christmas music playing on local radio stops along with the Christmas and holiday-themed movies appearing on cable and network channels? Why don't we start all of that programming a week later and continue it through the week between Christmas and New Year's Day?

- What did Tiger Woods do for Christmas? El Tigre was spotted courtside at yesterday's Orlando Magic home game against the Boston Celtics. Meanwhile, Elin Nordegren and the couples' children were in Sweden celebrating the holiday.

- According to website Assignment X, one of the options considered for the end of the television series, 24, was to kill off Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland. The website interviewed the show's executive producer, Howard Gordon, who admitted to the thought of killing off Bauer. Said Gordon, about writing that optional scene, " felt too depressing. I think it would have been a really depressing moment. I don't think it would have been surprising, I think it would have been more depressing than surprising. In a strange way, that's probably the ultimate tragedy and probably the most politically correct ending, but it wasn't something anybody wanted to commit to."

- Back to Tiger...Gillette announced that it will not renew its endorsement deal with Woods. The ending of this multi-year deal isn't the only one Gillette is terminating--the company is also ending relationships with athletes such as Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry and Kaka. Others like Roger Federer, Derek Jeter and Alex Ovechkin will be retained by Gillette.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Things that make you go "hmm..."

Let me see if I have all of this right. Cam Newton of Auburn has a father who, by all accounts, shopped his son around for the reported sum of $150,000 before Newton ended up at Auburn after playing at Blinn Junior College in Texas. In Baltimore, a high schooler named Josh Selby sought out guidance from a guy named Charles "Bay" Frazier as Selby was being recruited by numerous schools before settling at Kansas. Over in Manhattan, Kansas State stars Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly shopped at a local department store and ended up with more in their shopping bags than what was paid by each of the players. And, at Ohio State, star quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other players went to the tattoo parlor, exchanged autographs in lieu of payment for their body art, and also sold off their own property, albeit items associated with their Ohio State careers.

What's happened with all of these "student athletes?"

- Newton is playing in the national championship game against Oregon after being cleared by the NCAA to participate.
- Selby waited and waited for an NCAA ruling before finally learning that he'd have to sit out nine games for receiving travel and other benefits (i.e., "impermissible benefits"), totaling about $4,000, from Frazier, the business manager for NBA star Carmelo Anthony. Selby also has to repay the amount.
- Pullen was suspended for three games and Kelly is still awaiting his fate, both also for the crime of "impermissible benefits." (Uh, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't having more in your shopping bag than what you paid for called "shoplifting?")
- Pryor and others involved are allowed to play in the upcoming Sugar Bowl but he and four teammates will have to sit out the first five games of the 2011 season.

Each of these players, at some point, did something wrong or were associated with someone who broke a rule or committed a crime. Yet, the punishment for each varies widely. And, the speed in which the NCAA has operated has varied widely as well--Newton's case seemed to require a ruling on a week-to-week basis while Selby, Enes Kanter at Kentucky, Tony Mitchell at Missouri, and others have waited, or are still waiting, on their eligibility outcomes.

It's just another of those things that make you go "hmm..."

"Tell me a story of Christmas"

Bill Vaughan was a longtime columnist for the Kansas City Star, writing "Starbeams" and other witty essays and opinion pieces for the newspaper until his death in 1977. No one is sure when Vaughan's classic, "A Story of Christmas," first appeared but it quickly became one of the Star's most requested and cherished stories such that it has been reprinted every year since 1959.

On this Christmas Eve, enjoy the real story of Christmas via the wonderfully written words of Mr. Vaughan:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

College bowl predictions

Those of you wondering who I picked in the Poinsettia Bowl will have to look elsewhere for insight into this game between Navy and San Diego State. However, if you're interested about the bowls where Big 12 teams will appear, as well as BCS games, read on...

Missouri over Iowa. Is there anyone left to play for the Hawkeyes? Suspensions have severely impacted Iowa's chances, which were not good to begin with given the declining success of this team as the season progressed. The line in this game is 2.5 but I think the Tigers win by 10 points in the Insight Bowl.

Baylor over Illinois. It's Baylor's first bowl appearance since 1994 and fans have responded by buying up BU's allotment to the Texas Bowl.

Oklahoma State over Arizona. The Cowboys couldn't beat OU for the Big 12 South crown but will take care of Arizona, in the Alamo Bowl, by two touchdowns.

Syracuse over Kansas State. This one will be close but I suspect that Syracuse will win by three in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in New York.

Nebraska over Washington. One thing I now have in common with Husker fans is that I could care less about this Holiday Bowl game. NU officials are resorting to various promotional tactics to drive ticket sales. But, seriously, offering two free NU basketball tickets for buying a bowl ticket? That's not exactly an incentive...

Texas Tech over Northwestern. Dan Persa went down late in the season for the Wildcats. This Ticket City Bowl game could be a Red Raider blowout.

Oklahoma over Connecticut. Speaking of blowouts, this Fiesta Bowl matchup is a joke. For exhibit A of why the BCS system is broke, I present Big East Conference winner Connecticut, a 17 point underdog to the Sooners.

LSU over Texas A&M. The Cotton Bowl wanted A&M and their fans but LSU will hold serve for the SEC in this January 1 game.

TCU over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. TCU makes one last statement about the strength of their program before joining the Big East, a BCS conference.

Stanford over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Stanford will travel across the country, with few Cardinal fans in its entourage, to confirm the team's status as the third, or maybe even second, best team in the land.

Arkansas over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. This is a mild upset pick but I have to believe the Buckeyes are distracted with the revelations of "impermissible benefits" and free tattoos in exchange for autographs, a k a "Tattoo-gate."

Auburn over Oregon in the National Championship. This game should really be fun with plenty of sub-plots, i.e., Cam Newton, Oregon's uniforms, which team can stop the other. I like the Tigers by four, winning with a second-half comeback as they have all year.

Thursday morning coffee

- Sign of the apocalypse: In Columbus, OH, there is a report that Ohio State Buckeye football players traded autographs for tattoos. Stud QB Terrelle Pryor tweeted, "I paid for my tats."

- AMC aired the original True Grit (1969) last night. I had forgotten how bad Glen Campbell's acting was in the role of La Boeuf. That character is played by Matt Damon in the new version of the film.

- Given the amount of water in the flooded Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, I'd say that Navy is at a decided advantage against San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl being played there today.

- Is there a referee in college basketball who is more aware of himself than John Higgins? Higgins once again showed his testy side by assessing Illinois coach Bruce Weber with a technical last night in the game against Missouri. This isn't a question of whether Weber deserved the T or not as much as it's a consistent behavior pattern with Higgins--he too often plays a key role in the outcome of a game.

- Happy Birthday to Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam, who is 46 today.

- The movie Country Strong looks like a real stinker. Color me skeptical about Gwyneth Paltrow in the lead role as a country singer...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

It was a good year for (part two)...

Here are more winners in 2010:

- Antoine Dodson: "Hide yo kids, hide yo wife..." A classic YouTube clip made Dodson a household name.

- Betty White: This Golden Girl was ubiquitous, highlighted by the Facebook campaign to get her a host slot on Saturday Night Live. It worked...

- Vuvuzelas: These plastic horns created an audio backdrop for this past summer's World Cup, thus gaining an entry in Webster's Dictionary.

- Procurement departments: Recession=tightened corporate budgets=power to the procurement department. Who knew Supply Chain Management could be so sexy?

- Steve Buscemi: A classic character actor, Buscemi took a leading man turn in HBO's Boardwalk Empire, and became a Golden Globe and Emmy-worthy candidate.

- Jay Z: It wasn't his song but Jay Z's duet with Alicia Keys was this generation's version of what Sinatra sang about in New York, New York. Jay Z also toured internationally with U2, played Madison Square Garden with Eminem, hung with LeBron and D-Wade, and went home at night to Beyonce.

- Chilean miners: Perhaps the feel-good story of the year...

- Jonathan Franzen: Franzen sealed his stature as American's preeminent novelist with Freedom.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's only a game...right

The next time someone suggests that college football is only a game, you might lay the following on them.

According to today's New York Times, the missed field goals by Boise State kicker Kyle Brotzman, in the Broncos' regular season finale against Nevada, cost the Western Athletic Conference $8 million in lost bowl revenue. In that game, Brotzman missed a 26-yard field goal in regulation and then a 29-yard attempt in overtime. Nevada went on to win the game, because of the misses, 34-31, thus sending Boise State to the Maaco Bowl and not the Rose Bowl where the much larger payout, to the conference and the school, would have occurred.

In addition, the loss kept Boise State head coach Chris Petersen from receiving a $125,000 performance bonus.

While it's far too harsh to blame the loss totally on the kicker, the reality is that Brotzman didn't deliver, when needed, thus costing his team an appearance in the most famous bowl game of all. That appearance, in today's big business world of college athletics, meant millions in revenue which now will not be realized.

Student athlete? Yes...and revenue generator, or loser, as well.

First-down laser marker?

What if a fan in an NFL stadium could see the same first down yellow line that those of us at home are treated to each week on football broadcasts? Alan Amron, who has patents for the First Down Laser System, is working with the NFL to try to make that happen.

Amron has partnered with NFL alumnus and announcer, Pat Summerall, in an attempt to make the technology an in-game reality. The product is mounted to the bottom of the actual first down markers at a cost of about $100,000 per sticks set. The technology beams the first down line so that it is visible to players and fans and would, if successful, save the need for the chain gang trotting onto the field to measure for a first down, which happens about once per game.

Now, if he could just do something about those haphazard ball spots by officials during the course of a game!

Opinion: An old-time Christmas

Christmas is such a joyous time, yet also a time with potential for melancholy and sadness. I’m always reminded, at this time of year, of what used to be--of grandparents giving gifts; of uncles playing Santa Claus; of Christmas pageants at church; of car rides to see Christmas lights; of simple dinners out with the kids, aglow with the excitement of Christmas.

Each year, I seem to get more introspective at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The carols which sing of Christmases past or an “old time Christmas” can trigger the simple memory--of an uncle slipping on an icy sidewalk as he played Santa, perhaps with one too many adult beverages in his belly; of a grandfather’s belly laugh at the sight of his dolled-up granddaughter, dressed in her Christmas finery; of a grandfather's soft voice as he sang Stille Nacht in the native tongue--German--of his family; of a light snowfall on the Plaza as we walked with the kids after a special McDonald’s.

I worry that the wonder of Christmas is too easily lost these days in the crazed commercialism which starts the holiday retail season in October. Let’s all ensure that this Christmas season, we make a memory or two which will be conjured up in years to come as those around us reflect on their own “old time Christmas.”

Monday, December 20, 2010

It was a bad year for (part two)...

It wasn't the best of years for the following:

- Aging rockers: The year started with The Who's underwhelming performance at halftime of the Super Bowl and then devolved into a series of injuries which kept rockers from performing on tour, e.g., various members of Aerosmith and Bono of U2.

- Tiger Woods: El Tigre's problems started during Thanksgiving week of 2009 and continued throughout 2010 as several so-called lovers came forward to spill their beans about Tiger's sexual appetites. Woods lost sponsors, his reputation, and, ultimately, his marriage.

- University of Kansas athletics: It pains me to write this but it was a tough year for Jayhawk athletics--Mark Mangino, Lew Perkins, Northern Iowa, ticket scandal, conference realignment and a Chancellor who was MIA, Gridiron Club fund-raising, North Dakota State, no cell phones or post-10:00 p.m. dates for football players, Charles "Bay" Frazier and improper benefits, Bubba Cunningham, and Mario Little. Whew...that was a mouthful.

- Re-branding efforts: Tropicana failed miserably with its re-branding efforts only to be followed by an even more public mis-step when Gap changed its iconic brand identity. The Big Ten introduced its Legends and Leaders conference divisions and now has conference commissioner Jim Delaney admitting that the league will reconsider the naming and decision given the public outcry from fans.

- Kansas City Royals: The team's poor performance on the field was followed by trading away former Cy Young winner, Zack Greinke, yesterday. While the trade may be the right business decision for the franchise, it illustrates yet again a quality performer leaving Kansas City for a supposedly better pennant chance elsewhere.

- Couples: Tiger and Elin, Courteney and David, Sandra and Jesse, Charlie and whoever, Kate and Sam, Billy Ray and Tish, Al and Tipper, Elisabeth and Fred. (See full names below...)

- Mel Gibson: Dude...have you ever considered anger management counseling?

- Network television: Yes, we were treated to great sophomore seasons from Glee, Modern Family and The Good Wife. But, seriously, the batting average of original programming on CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX is hovering around the Mendoza line. (Look it up...)

- Newspapers: We wrote in this space about the demise of several major daily newspapers during 2010. Look for the trend to continue in '11.

- U.S. success in world negotiations for major sports properties: President Obama was unsuccesful at trying to get the Olympics to Chicago in 2016. Former president Bill Clinton didn't fare any better with FIFA, who awarded a future World Cup to a country smaller than the state of Connecticut.

(Answer to couples' names above: Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren, Courteney Cox and David Arquette, Sandra Bullock and Jesse James, Charlie Sheen and whoever, Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes, Billy Ray and Tish Cyrus, Al and Tipper Gore, Elisabeth Moss and Fred Armisen.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The language of 2010

The New York Times had an article today on "words that made the year." Here are my favorites:

"Coffice" - In South Korea, this is the term for a coffee shop which is used habitually by customers to hang out, use the electricity, WiFi and other resources. We are assuming that they do, at least, pay for the coffee.

"Mansplainer" - Listen up guys--this is us. This word is defined as "a man compelled to explain or give an opinion about everything, especially to a woman. I believe if you look in the dictionary under "boor," you'll find a similar definition.

"Refudiate" - Sound familiar? It would if you're a fan of Sarah Palin--this is a genuine Palinism which is a blend of "refute" and "repudiate." This lingo goes along with other similar blended language such as "strategery," "trickeration," and "gi-hugic."

"Poutrage" - False outrage, usually used for financial, political or personal gain.

"Porno scanner" - The full-body security scanners becoming more common at our nation's airports have been dubbed with this descriptor.

"Sofalize" - Here's another one which hits close to home. This is actually a British marketing term created for people who prefer to stay home and communicate with others electronically.

It was a good year for...

- Television: Finally, we have network television shows which are worth watching! The Good Wife, Glee and Modern Family, all in their second year of programming, continued building viewership with quality episodes thus far this fall. Boardwalk Empire continued HBO's legacy of innovative television and, on AMC, a resurgent Mad Men was joined by rookie drama, Rubicon.

- Aging rockers: Keith Richards wrote a best-selling memoir, Bruce Springsteen released his best work in years (The Promise), the Stones reissued their classic Exile on Main Street, The Beatles' digital releases have been a huge smash on iTunes, and Buffalo Springfield reunited.

- Social media: Every marketer's favorite media technique became legit with an Oscar worthy movie (The Social Network) and Facebook's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, being honored as TIME magazine's Man of the Year.

- Apple: Yes...again--the world's pre-eminent technology company has another hit on its hands with the iPad.

- Jeff Bridges: The actor followed up his Best Actor Academy Award for Crazy Heart with appearances in mega-holiday releases True Grit and Tron.

- Skin: Lady Gaga, Heidi's new body, the cast of True Blood on the cover of Rolling Stone, Kim Kardashian, Dancing With the Stars' costumes, Victoria's Secret commercials, and on and on. Let's face it, there wasn't much left to the imagination.

- Android: With an app catalog which is 100,000 and rapidly growing, the Android operating system is not only a viable alternative, it's threatening the supremacy of the iPhone in the wireless handset category.

- Bimboes: Is there any female of questionable repute who hasn't come forward with a story of an alleged affair with Tiger Woods?

- Old Spice: The best new campaign of the year helped to energize this product line, which has been around since the 1930's.

- Kansas and Missouri alums on SNL: University of Missouri alum Jon Hamm hosted Saturday Night Live earlier in the fall; University of Kansas alum Paul Rudd followed suit a couple of weeks ago, joining fellow Jayhawk Jason Sudeikis on the show.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It was a bad year for...

In our first of a series of year-end entries, let's start with a list of those college football teams who had bad years, based upon "program pedigree, humiliating losses, crushed preseason hopes and off-field embarrassments."

In a story today in The Wall Street Journal, the Journal ranked programs based upon the above categories. Here is the list for "whose year was worst?"

1. Texas: Losses to Iowa State, Baylor and Kansas State.

2. Florida: A 7-5 season capped by head coach Urban Meyer's resignation.

3. Miami: A loss in the biggest non-conference game of the year (Ohio State) coupled with a loss to in-state rival Florida State means a fired head coach.

4. USC: First came NCAA sanctions; next came losses to Washington, Oregon and Oregon State.

5. Notre Dame: Even though they won their final three games, the Irish lost to Navy and at home to Tulsa. And, the school was widely criticized for how it responded to the death of videographer Declan Sullivan.

6. Georgia: All-American A.J. Green was suspended for the first four games, plus the Bulldogs (6-6 for the year) lost to Florida for the 18th time in 21 meetings.

7. Michigan: The Wolverines' defense was ranked 108th of 120 schools.

8. BYU: The low point in this 6-6 season was a 15-point loss to Utah State--BYU hadn't lost there since 1993.

9. Tennessee: Vol fans thought "foot in mouth" disease departed Knoxville when Lane Kiffin headed to USC. Not so fast! Head coach Derek Dooley compared his school to the Germans in World War II.

10. UCLA: Suffice to say, it was a bad year for college football in L.A. Rick Neuheisel addresses the Bruin crowd after games, and those talks got increasingly uncomfortable as the season progressed.

It's Bowl time!

Are you ready college football fans!? It all starts Saturday--"it" being 35 different bowl games over the course of three weeks, culminating with the BCS title game on Monday evening, January 10.

Leading up to the Oregon-Auburn national championship clash, we'll get bowls with names like Beef O'Brady's, Music City and Poinsettia. For the fashion forward, there's the Pinstripe Bowl, being played in that headquarters of fashion sense, Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y. For those who like their bowls with a military flair, there's the Military Bowl, Liberty Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl. Social responsibility is apparently featured in the Humanitarian Bowl and the Fight Hunger Bowl. The auto-aftermarket gets its due with the MAACO Bowl and the Meineke Car Care Bowl. And, of course, we still have the agricultural influence of the tried-and-true Cotton Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl.

Don't look for profiles in this space of the BYU (6-6) versus UTEP (6-6) New Mexico Bowl, or the Middle Tennessee (6-6) versus Miami of Ohio (9-4) Bowl. We'll save our digital ink for the games featuring our favorite Big 12 teams plus those of keen national interest, i.e., the BCS bowls.

We can only hope that Mark Cuban's plan to finance a future national playoff for college football gets quick legs so that this over-exposed bowl season is ultimately overhauled with games of true significance.

Word mis-use

The latest entrant in the word mis-use category is "premier" and "premiere."

I attended a meeting yesterday where a presenter used the term "premiere," to describe something new and really important. I, of course, sat there wishing to say, "uh...don't you mean "premier?"

Here are the definitions of each:

- "Premier"--First in position, rank or importance.
- "Premiere"--A first performance or exhibition.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday morning coffee

- Lost in the news of what David Booth paid ($4.3 million) to gain James Naismith's original rules of basketball were what other famous items fetched in the Sotheby's auctions of this past Friday. The last flag used by General George Armstrong Custer was purchased for $2.2 million and one of 25 known copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, went for $3.8 million. This puts into perspective the magnitude of Booth's bid for Naismith's rules and the impact of bringing those rules to the University of Kansas, where Naismith served as the school's first basketball coach.

- Dive of the Week: We've not provided a recent entry for our regular feature on "Dive of the Week" but now have a new entrant--Jerry's Cafe in south Kansas City, MO. Jerry's is located in a strip center at 103rd and State Line, just down the a few storefronts from Jasper's restaurant. The cafe offers up tasty breakfasts and lunch in a spartan space, roughly 50' by 60', filled with 12 tables. There are no booths here and no ambience other than the chatter of people enjoying good food coupled with banter from an overly friendly waitress and Jerry himself, who will pop out of the kitchen to refill coffee or say "hi" to customers. The breakfast menu includes a variety of omelets, homemade cinnamon rolls, waffles and french toast, "frisbee" pancakes, and, for the hearty appetite, an 8 ounce steak or ham. Lunch is what you would expect--burgers, chicken fried steak, and other items which will challenge your cholesterol level. Jerry's also advertises homemade pies. On the day when I dined there, I arrived around 8:15 a.m. with a couple of tables filled. The place had people waiting by the time I finished--clearly the second wave of breakfast diners on that weekday. I had the scrambled eggs, bacon and hash browns, along with toast, orange juice and coffee served in a Naperville, IL Jeep dealership mug. It was all very tasty and, judging by the crowd, is a dive which is developing a regular following.

- The University of Florida football program needs to get over their divorce from Cam Newton. On the evening when Auburn QB Newton was accepting his Heisman Trophy, the Gators interestingly timed their announcement of new head football coach Will Muschamp. Florida has long been rumored to be the one feeding pay-for-play news/speculation to the NCAA regarding their ex-player Newton, who stopped in Gainesville before leaving and then playing at Blinn Junior College and, ultimately, Auburn.

- What a trip for the New York Giants this weekend! First, the Giants get diverted to Kansas City when the airport at their destination--Minneapolis--gets closed due to a blizzard which dumped 20 plus inches on the Twin Cities. Then, after spending the night in K.C., the Giants learned this morning that the Metrodome's roof, in Minneapolis, collapsed due to the weight of the snow. The game between New York and Minnesota, which had been postponed until Monday night, will now have to be played at some other time.

- Blowing snow and sub-zero wind chills didn't do much to impact attendance at yesterday's Kansas-Colorado State basketball game at Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City. An announced crowd of 18,756 filled the arena, but likely impacted the number of post-game revelers heading to P&L District pubs after the Kansas win.

- Is it just me or is the prospect of a posthumous album from Michael Jackson a bit creepy? While it's one thing to read a late author's work, published after his/her death, it seems another to hear the voice of someone who has passed.

- Tis the season for...watching local newscasters being sent outside to report on the elements now that we've entered winter and snow season around the Midwest and northern U.S. Why do local networks insist on sending some pour soul out into blizzard-like conditions only to tell us that, "yes, it's a blizzard out here."

- Apparently one thing that the incoming Speaker of the House, John Boehner, has with President Barack Obama is that they both smoke. The congressman from Ohio acknowledges that he is addicted to cigarettes. And, at the President's last physical he was advised to stop smoking. Perhaps the new Speaker and the Prez can team up to kick the habit together.

- The Tourist features two of the hottest looking stars in Hollywood, Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie. The reviews for the movie, though, are advising movie-goers to stay away. It's too bad if this one is a clunker given that the book by Olen Steinhauer was quite good.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thoughts on the season

- Why have no classic holiday movies been made in recent years? I mean, Christmas With the Cranks or that awful Grinch movie with Jim Carrey? They are no match for the classics...

- Conversely, the Glee Christmas episode this past week was the best holiday show from any television series in years.

- There is nothing quite like visiting New York during the holiday season. The city is lit from head to toe and Rockefeller Center is a magical spot to visit.

- This is always a special day in Kansas City. The Red Bag program, launched over 25 years ago to serve underprivileged children and families in the area, had its "drop off" day today--the day when those who have filled the red trash bags with gifts for the needy youngsters, drop them off so that they can be delivered prior to Christmas. We applaud founder Daniel Jacobs for starting this program in his garage and expanding it to where it now provides Christmas to over 1,500 needy children each year.

- I miss the old Big 8 Holiday Basketball Tournament. The tourney, played between Christmas and New Year at Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City, was a key holiday event in this city until it was discontinued in the mid-1970's. It's too bad that some sort of holiday tournament can't make a go of it at Sprint Center during that week.

- The beauty of web sales for retailers is the ability to quickly change offers based upon inventory, consumer need and marketplace data. I've seen far more unique activity in this area during this holiday season compared to the expected fare on and in traditional offline media.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Peter Luger's

Last night I got into a taxi in New York, announced my destination and was about to provide the address when the cabbie emphatically said, "Oh, I know where that is!" "That" was Peter Luger's, the famous steakhouse in Brooklyn, N.Y.

We (my sidekick son and I) journeyed across the Williamsburg Bridge in our cab and during the ride I had to let my driver know that we wanted to arrive alive in order to enjoy the well-publicized Luger's meat. We were dropped off in front of the rather nondescript restaurant's entrance, only to be greeted inside with row upon row of Zagat's #1 certificates along one wall of the bar. Yep, we were in the right place, given all of the "best steak in America" endorsements adorning the premises.

Luger's isn't a fancy place--it's rough wood floors and paneling soaking in the aroma of cooking meat. The crowd within ranged from a family of four to business types to the two of us--meat junkies on a quest for the best steak in New York. When we checked in with the host, we were asked "where's 913 area code?" (I had provided my cell number when making the reservations weeks ago.) When I replied "Kansas City," our host grinned and said, "You guys know something about steaks, huh?" I bantered back, "Yeah, that's why we thought we'd come check you out."

The seating is family style--no fancy booths here--amid an eclectic mix of gee gaws. (What's a German beer stein doing in a Brooklyn steakhouse?) As it filled up, the room got loud with the happy chatter of those anticipating a terrific meal. Don't come here for an important business discussion or a romantic dinner--this place is all about eating meat and relishing the experience.

There are menus at Luger's although once you've dined here you won't need it as reference again, given the simplicity of the offering. You can get Porterhouse steak for four, for three, for two, a single steak or a smaller version of the single, served with fries. Sure, the place offers up daily specials like prime rib and there is a salmon option but, c'mon--fish in this mecca of meat!?

My son went for the single and I opted for the smaller version. We started with an appetizer of--ready for this--bacon. Luger's has fantastic bacon which is a succulent piece of fried ham sliced about 1/4" thick. It was a luscious preview to the main event.

Our steaks arrived--bone-in and sliced. The waiter--a restaurant veteran--served up three of the sliced pieces on each of our plates, then deftly scooped up some of the steak juice and neatly poured it over our meat. My first reaction was just to look at it--what a wonderful presentation and beautiful piece of meat which was unlike any other steak offering I'd encountered.

As expected, the steak was cooked to perfection. The meat was tender and flavorful and reminded me again why I've chosen a path which does not include vegan living. The Peter Luger's steak sauce made for a terrific accompaniment and was undoubtedly the best meat sauce I've ever sampled.

Dessert you ask? Why, of course! Unlike our dining companions close by, we didn't opt for the famous hot fudge sundae but instead went for a single piece of cheesecake with a healthy dose of "schlag" on the side. ("Shlag" is homemade whipped cream.) The cheesecake was great but the "schlag" was other-worldly.

Luger's isn't what most of us think of when we imagine a traditional New York steakhouse. There are no filet mignons or strip sirloins on the menu, nor are there a variety of types of potatoes and assorted sides. The wine list is small. Overall, the menu is spartan but with good reason--the meat is the star here.

If you make it to Brooklyn, be sure and bring cash, a healthy appetite, and be sure and leave room for the "schlag." This truly was one of the most unique, and best, dining experiences ever.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

College mascots and nicknames

A buddy of mine and I consistently discuss why certain schools carry certain nicknames and debate which mascots are the best in collegiate athletics. We also wonder why certain schools choose to call their teams one thing, but have a different mascot.

For example, in the Big 12 we have the Iowa State Cyclones. Their mascot, however, is a Cardinal named "Cy." (Get it?) Out west, Stanford is the Cardinal (singular--not plural) but their mascot is a tree. Yep, a dude dresses up as a tree given the evergreen that is part of Stanford's brand identity.

Back in the Big 12 are the Oklahoma Sooners. They trot out the "Sooner Schooner" horse-drawn wagon at football games yet have a mascot which has evolved from a dog ("Top Dog") to an animal which appears to be a horse with a bad mullet.

Down Alabama way, the University of Alabama teams are called the Crimson Tide, yet we have an elephant there as the mascot. Huh!? Down the road at Auburn, we have the current #1 college football team, the Auburn Tigers. On their sidelines, though, you'll find an Eagle, as the team is also known as the War Eagles and fans like to shout "War Eagle." For good measure, there's also a person at Auburn who runs around in a Tiger outfit.

Which brings up the question of the nickname "Tiger." There are the Missouri Tigers, the Memphis Tigers, the Auburn Tigers, the LSU Tigers, the Princeton Tigers and Clemson Tigers. If you go down a level or two in college sports, the Tiger name is used by a variety of schools, e.g., Grambling State, Idaho State, Jackson State, and Texas Southern.

What then distinguishes one Tiger from another? In Missouri's case, the Tiger nickname originated during the Civil War era, similar to the origins of the Jayhawk nickname for the University of Kansas. The home guard units in Columbia, MO, who protected the citizens of the town from the guerrilla activity of the time, were dubbed "The Missouri Tigers." In Kansas' case, the Jayhawkers were marauders who battled for free state rights prior to and during the war. The name evolved when the governor of Kansas raised a regiment called the Independent Mounted Jayhawkers during the Civil War. A mythical bird--part blue-jay, part hawk--became the symbol of this group and, ultimately, the mascot of the University of Kansas.

Tonight's opponent of Kansas, the Memphis Tigers, got their Tiger nickname from the play of the school's football team. In 1914, a parade honored the team and a student shouted out "We play like Tigers!" The name stuck and pre-empted the former "Blue and Gray" name used for Memphis' sports teams.

The other feline name used frequently is "Wildcat" and is featured at Kansas State, Northwestern, Kentucky and New Hampshire, plus a variety of smaller schools. At KSU, the nickname started in 1915 when football coach John "Chief" Bender gave his squad the descriptor--a significant change from the previous name of "Aggies."

Care to guess what is the most common nickname across college sports? It's Eagles, followed by Tigers, Bulldogs, Panthers, Knights, Lions, Bears, Hawks, Cougars, Pioneers, Warriors and Wildcats. (This, of course, ignores descriptors like "Nittany" or "Purple.") The least common is the previously described Jayhawks and other one-use names like Cornhuskers, Zips and several others.

For a comprehensive list of school nicknames, go to the following site:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday morning coffee

- Here's a tale of two marriage proposals--both which worked out but one which went terribly awry. In Philadelphia, Bryan Pitcairn was competing in the Philadelphia Marathon. Seemingly spent, he dropped to one knee just ten feet from the finish line only to turn to his girlfriend, Katy Pellani, who was competing with him, to propose marriage. He held out the ring, which he had carried with him throughout the 26.2 miles, and awaited her reply. She said "yes," the crowd cheered and the two finished the race hand-in-hand. In Seattle, the story was a bit different--a young man bent down on one knee, while on a boat in Puget Sound, to offer his proposal and ring to his would-be fiance. Oops, the ring was fumbled overboard and, as he said, "I got engaged to a salmon." His girlfriend did accept the proposal but there was no word on the reply from the fish who now may be wearing the ring.

- The burger wars in Lawrence, KS are a "no contest." To review, the chef at The Burger Stand at Dempsey's, a local Irish-inspired bar, left that establishment and took his talents, and his tasty fare, to The Burger Bar at The Casbah. (The Casbah was a former store on Lawrence's main downtown drag, Massachusetts Street.) In response, owners of Dempsey's brought in a new chef to re-create the burger experience which formerly drew long lines to the bar. I sampled the new menu this past Thursday evening and declare the battle a knock-out--while good, the burgers and fries at Dempsey's cannot compete against the product at The Burger Stand. The Burger Stand's burgers are the best I've found, in the upscale variety, in the Kansas City region.

- Jason Mraz stopped by the University of Kansas yesterday, set up a stool and microphone in the Kansas Union, and began playing a set which lasted about two hours. Word of the event spread quickly via social media channels--it was only a few minutes before the lobby was overflowing with students and onlookers.

- Is all of that hair flowing out of the helmet of New England Patriot's QB Tom Brady the real deal? According to, Brady's wife, Gisele Bundchen, is pressuring Brady to get hair transplants. Apparently Brady has a bald spot and thinning hair (who knew?) and Bundchen isn't happy--she wants to maintain the perfect couple image of a fashion model with flowing locks and a marquee quarterback with a full head of hair.

- The debate has long raged on which pet--dogs or cats--is the smartest in the household. According to researchers at Oxford University, it's dogs. The researchers analyzed brain size and use, determining that a cat's "lack of sociality" means that the pet's brain doesn't work as dramatically as that of a dog. When asked to respond, our cats' response was "why should we care--WE know who's smarter."

- The mainstream consensus these days is that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was the work of a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald. However, according to, some historians and former intelligence officials still suspect that Oswald did not act alone. Four historians, including David Kaiser of the Naval War College, have written books and articles arguing that CIA operatives and organized crime figures worked together to kill JFK. The CIA recently responded to a lawsuit by acknowledging that it has 2,000 pages of secret documents on the assassination. The catch? The documents won't be made available until 2017 on grounds of "national security."

- Who's the least-liked current or former politician? George Bush? No. Dick Cheney? No. Sarah Palin? No. According to polls, the honor goes to Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democratic delegation in the House of Representatives. Pelosi's net favorability rating is -25, i.e., 55% unfavorable to 30% favorable. That's worse than Cheney (-17), Palin (-14) and Bush (-9.)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thoughts on language

- What's the most over-used wrong word in our language? Of late, it appears to be "anyways." There is no such word, people, it's "anyway."

- So...have you noticed how many conversational sentences lately start with "So...?" It seems to be the ultimate, utility lead-in to a conversation.

- This is the time of year for holiday parties. All you party hosts, the correct spelling is "hors d'oeuvres."

- A much used word in business is vet, as in "I'll 'vet' the idea around." Yet, try to find the word/verb in the dictionary. The origin apparently derives from the word veterinarian and was used to describe the action taken when examining an animal closely.

- I wonder why Twitter didn't insist that people "twitter" versus "tweet." Think of brands which have become verbs--Google, Fed Ex, Xerox. To have your brand name end up as a verb in one's language has worked pretty well for these companies.

- Jilted Clevelanders who attended last night Cavaliers-Miami Heat game, and the return of LeBron James, greeted the returning superstar with jeers and boos. When James attempted a free throw, a large number in the crowd began chanting "Akron (James' hometown) hates you." Really!? Have you ever thought about how loosely many of us throw around the word "hate?" It's a game, and while we may dislike how James handled his departure from Ohio, is it truly "hate" that these fans are feeling?

College football predictions - week fourteen

It's conference championship time and, yes, it's probably fitting that the final Big 12 conference championship of the 12-team league features Nebraska and Oklahoma. At the beginning of the season, I thought it most fitting that Texas and Nebraska would duke it out--a rematch of their regular season game. But, we all know what happened in Austin so these two traditional Big Eight powers will do battle tomorrow night in, of all places, Texas.

Oklahoma over Nebraska. The Sooners are riding the momentum of their big win in Stillwater last Saturday. The Huskers are carrying the emotion of desiring a last conference championship before they depart for the greener (to them) pastures of the Big Ten. Taylor Martinez is still hobbled by an ankle injury. OU wins this one by four.

Auburn over South Carolina. How can I pick against Auburn? This is a team which finds a way to win each week, even with the Cam Newton controversy staying center stage. You have to give Gene Chizik credit--he's been able to keep his team focused enough to win. The Tigers own one win against South Carolina already this season, and will get another on Saturday. Auburn by seven.

Virginia Tech over Florida State. The Hokies have made an impressive rebound after their first game of the season loss to Boise State, and their embarrassing loss to James Madison. Florida State has won three straight, including a win over arch-rival Florida. I think Tyrod Taylor has a big game and Virginia Tech takes this one by six.

Oregon over Oregon State. This will be a really, really fun game to watch. The Ducks are one win away from a BCS national championship berth. All they have to do is travel to tiny Corvallis, OR and beat their arch-rival--a team who is very, very tough to play at home. I think this one, like so many of Oregon's games, will be tight in the first half. The Ducks will pull away in the second and win by two TDs.

Season predictions to date: 101-39 (72%)