Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas to all, and to...well...wait...

Have you missed me? Yeah, I didn't think so. I figured it wouldn't be bad to at least give you something for the 'holiday season'. Admittedly, the hustle and bustle has snagged even me, but like you care. You want mindless musings to read and I will attempt to be your supplier.

Today's topic, suggested by some guy named Rick, is, "What's the deal with Christmas?" Ok, I'm probably paraphrasing, but stick with me..."tis the season."
As with the Red and Blue state delimiter, the country seems divided. Or maybe it's just sliding. After reading an article bemusing the fact that some store employees seemed to be down right stymied by you wishing them a "Merry Christmas!" as you finish up a purchase by my hero James Lileks, it struck me that this country seems to be slowing going in a direction I'm not particularly fond of. We now seem to be two days away from "The Holiday That Will Not be Named."

See, the problem is Christianity is oppressive. Love and peace and all that jazz shouldn't be forced on others. And saying Christ or Jesus or--God forbid-- Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost might cause someone with no or, at least, a tenuous religious affiliation to actually consider their standing with God (if he actually exists) and what ramifications that could have on their life and post-life experience. This in the modern world is unacceptable. You see America...we have a Constitution...with a Bill of Rights...containing a First Amendment. That one, the first one, gives me the right to go through life with out ever hearing or even viewing any possible representation of a Christian deity. What? That's not so? Tell this guy
Yeah, that's right. A principal actually told a seventh grader wearing a Santa costume, "This a holiday party, not a Christmas party. There is a separation of church and state. We have a lot of students that go to this school that have different religions. We have to be sensitive to that." So which religion is anti-Santa again? Exactly.

See Santa is a symbol of Christmas. Christmas is, or at least was, a Christian holiday. THEREFORE, according to the strained logic of overly sensitive junior high principals and others of his ilk, Christmas--not just the real story, or even the word, but any miniscule representation-- is a hair short of proselytizing. Of course, my next question might be what's so wrong with proselytizing, but I'm pretty sure the first amendment doesn't cover such things.

Yes, it's all ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous are the Christians boycotting stores that use the abbreviated X-mas, but almost. See, Christians realize that businesses-- because of fear of litigation or losing patrons or just the general climate of the day-- no longer use the word Christmas. Don't put up mangers scenes. Don't play silent Night over the p.a. A slope they don't want to go down. So they're touchy. Then you've got guys like that principal, which makes them think they're more than justified. Where are we gonna end up? I don't know.

As a microcosm of this argument, read the Lilek's column above if you haven't. Then read this guy's response. Then read Lilek's rebuttal. We are going somewhere. It makes me uncomfortable, and shouldn't you be uncomfortable in a world where "Merry Christmas" is on it's way to becoming invective?

Oh well....

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Sportsy Fruity Quickie Hitty Stuff

Quick Hits, because wasting someone's time should be done in moderation.

#1. The Cowboys completed a dramatic comeback late Monday night (unless you were on the East coast). Despite that fact a loss would probably be better for the longterm benefit of the team, I found myself quite pleased with the outcome. The scoring of 14 points in the last 1:45 was an very improbable outcome. The first time the Cowboys had ever pulled such a feat, and apparently the biggest late minute comeback in Monday Night Football history. Regardless, as Shaun Alexander strolled into the endzone with 2:53 left in the game to put the Cowboys down 10, I still "knew" that a comeback was not out of the question. Being a fan makes you so stupid. But that still doesn't mean you can't be right. Go Cowboys!

#2. Related to said game(sorta). I needed to go to the grocery store on Monday, but there is a Cowboy's game on. What to do? Well, as soon as the second quarter ended I hit "Pause" on the trusty DVR. Returned from the store about an hour later. Then I watched the rest of the game, every play, and caught back up before the game even ended. God bless the Digital Video Recorder. It may be the first piece of technology that actually makes me more productive. Most guys just watched a game in that 4-hour span. I watched a game and had a successful shopping trip. My mom would be so proud...

#3. More on the BcS (because, well, when you got this dead horse just sitting there what are you gonna do?). For a system that pays 14 million a game and is designed to provide us with the best match-ups, you'd think they be able beat out the Liberty Bowl. Using a very complex formula that takes the combined BCS rankings of the two teams and sees who's is the lowest, I find that the Fiesta's 27 is worse than three bowls. The Liberty (19), the Outback (24), and the Capital One (23) are all better. And yes, the combined payout of those three games will be less than that paid to Utah and Pittsburgh.

#4 Apple report card #2. Today's apple is the Golden Delicious. If the name didn't clue you in, it's yellow. I also noticed on the label, after consuming of course, that it says it's "Sweet & Tender". Sweet I like. And it was. Tender? Not so much. It was almost mushy. I prefer to have my apple be a bit crispier. I may have erred for I usually keep my apples refridgerated until time, but this one was a room temperature when consumed. Overall, I still liked it, it just wouldn't be my first choice.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

BcS revisited...

Now things have been finalized. For Texas, BCS chaos is in full bloom (Rock Me! Pun intended). Not only is there carping about the top two teams, there is now lots of talk about the fairness of excluding teams like California and including teams like Pitt. Finally, after years of the BCS lucking out, we finally had the perfect storm...or at least a good enough one to make everyone wince. USC (#1 11-0) and Oklahoma (#2 12-0) will play for the title and Auburn (#3 12-0) will watch it on TV. OU and Auburn are 12-0 after Saturday, one of them is somehow more deserving than the other. And neither are as deserving as USC. Why is that again? Exactly. Yesterday afternoon, there was a collective, "Whew!" from coaches in Norman, L.A., and Austin. In Berkeley and Auburn there was a much louder,"%#@$*"! The reasons to laud one group and console the other are equal mysteries.

In a never ending attempt to beat any point into the ground, I will revisit my "plan". To reiterate, instead of hand-wringing over the 2nd place team(!), and watching a very deserving 3rd place team take a swift kick to it's nether regions, we would tell 15th ranked(that's right not No. 3, but No. 15) Tennessee,"Sorry, maybe next year." You might be saying,"But that's not fair, they had to play an extra game which accounted for their 3rd loss!" True, but their ranking did not change from the week before so it would appear they could do nothing but improve their standing with the extra game. (*Note* I just realized that Tennessee would have been disallowed because of my "conference cap" of three. They would have been the 4th SEC team...which means my plan is even more genius than I first realized.) So, one last time, for your viewing pleasure, the 16 team playoff bracket if my plan were enacted.

Mythical 2004 NCAA Playoff Bracket (BSC ranking)
1. USC (1)
16. Toledo (NR)________USC
_________________________________ USC
8. Virginia Tech (8)__Vir. Tech
9. Boise St. (9)
___________________________________________ USC
5. California (5)_____Cal
12. Michigan (13)
_________________________________ Texas
4. Texas (4)__________Texas
13. Iowa (12)

3. Auburn (3)
14. Miami, Fl. (14)____Aub.
_________________________________ Auburn
6. Utah (6)___________Utah
11. LSU (11)
____________________________________________ Okla
7. Georgia (7)________Georgia
10. Louisville (10)
_________________________________ Okla
2. Oklahoma (2)_______Okla.
15. Pittsburgh (21)

I went ahead and displayed for you some of the later round match-ups if the favorite were to win in each contest, but most of the first-round games would have me glued to the set. Like that 7-10 game, or check out 3 vs. 14. Well, let's just say sports fan giddiness would be in full effect. In an email debate with Bob Sturm of the Ticket last week, where it seemed he was not in favor of any play-off of more than 4 teams he said that teams in a 16-team play-off "...could easily be 3rd place teams in their own conference, and I do not want mediocrity rewarded." I countered that I didn't think Georgia was all that mediocre. In the end, we agreed to disagree, I guess. My last email to him offered this question,"I guess I would also wonder why some are so opposed to college football being played in the month of December. A playoff would essentially mean 3 extra weeks of football, a collection of match-ups that we rarely get during the regular season, and a clear cut champion. Plus, the schools would probably make more money. I just can't get why there is even an argument." I never got a reply. There's little doubt in my mind that it had more to do with he having more pertinent things to do than continue a debate with the likes of me than it did with not having an answer. But it still remains, the answer to "Why?" seems obvious. The answer to "Why not"? Got me.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

An Apple a day keeps the...

Of course, some people need more than fruit. See Jason Giambi. Today we find that Giambi did, indeed, take steroids. Shockingly (tongue implanted in cheek), Barry Bonds' name came up. This story could rock the sports world. If we get proof that Bonds did partake of the roids along with enabling others to do the same, it should be his demise. If it's not, we've got a bigger problem.

Now, on to what everyone really wants to know. "How's that apple?" Ok, I've got three apples of different variety. Since I've never really paid attention to what the actual difference is between members of the apple family, I thought I would take this opportunity to document them. A few details. I typically enjoy an apple by first quartering it, then cutting out the core. Then I eat it, skin and all.

Apple #1 - Jonagold. It is a lighter red fading into a yellow-green. It's not as dense as some. Kind of watery, but still crunchy enough. Sweet, but not too sweet. Overall, I like it and would buy it again.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

More important stuff

Well, I'm sure there's lots going on today. But all I seem to care about is college football. Today a column in the Dallas Morning News about Texas and their BCS predictament caused me to fire off a rather lengthy email in response. That will be the main content of this post. But be sure to check back, for hopefully later to today will be the first installment of a public service for you. That being what I loosely call "Battle of the Apples." Now the letter.
Regarding your column today (12/1), I have several points of contention. I hope you find no vitriol included despite the fact that I am, indeed, a Texas fan.
First, you stated that the "...Kansas game was a killer. Texas should have dominated a Kansas team down to its fourth-string quarterback." I would agree with you. The only difference is I think there is sufficient evidence that they did. It's often said that any stat can be misleading. I think in this case that stat was the score. In the game UT had a running back go for 161 yards, a QB pass for 298 and run for 114, won the total yard battle 581-348 and had a 7 ½ minute advantage in time of possession. Some might call that dominating. I think Texas fell victim to bad field position, bone-head personal fouls, and possibly some bad calls. My point would be that it's all based on perception. The fact that I watched every play gives me the ability to say Texas dominated that game yet the score didn't demonstrate it. The problem is perception shouldn't decide seasons or champions.
You also stated "style points count". That should be a red-flag to anyone who hopes the current "system" approaches anything reputable. This is sports. Made up of games. Games can take on a life of their own based on various factors that never show up in the box score. That's why coming back from 28 down to win by 21 or converting a fourth and 18 with the game on the line is impressive. No matter what the opponent. The problem is you use the exact opposite argument for Utah. I'm told not to judge their opponent, just the fact that they went out each week and won. The pressure to stay undefeated is huge. So is trying to overcome a loss to your chief rival in game 5 when the consensus in that your season is now doomed. Once again, it's all based on perception, and that shouldn't be a deciding factor for a team's season.
Also, you seem to downplay the quality of those Big 12 teams in the 20-25 range of the rankings. But I think if you took anyone of those teams out of the Big 12 South and put them in the Mountain West, or even the Big 12 north, they would have only 1 or 2 loses instead of 4 or 5. Put good teams together and the generally beat up on each other. Put one in with a bunch of patsies and you get...well, Utah.
The media (note a column today by Kevin Sherrington as another example) seem to be taking great efforts to distance themselves from the most recent BCS mess. Brown asked you "to take control" because he knows you already have it, not because you necessarily should. The media in all their caterwauling seem to miss one key point. You are the one of the few entities that can effect change. If the media chose to put more pressure on the NCAA and the university presidents instead of playing the game, we might already have a playoff. It would seem to me that newspapers and the TV networks, especially ABC and ESPN have the most pull here. Yet, the polls are sponsored by the AP (news organization), USA today (newspaper), and ESPN. Maybe the powers that be would get the point that writers shouldn't be deciding a national champion if the AP poll ceased to exist. Or if ABC and ESPN made it a point to harp continuously on the unfairness of the exclusion of Auburn or Utah. But they don't. You don't. Instead you fill out your polls and plan your bowls.
To the casual observer there would seem to be a conflict of interest here. ESPN is probably the biggest reason we have seen NCAA football rise to the status it enjoys today. It would also seem to give it a very strong voice into the debate over instituting a playoff system. I think ABC would be a close second. Both are owned by Disney so in essence they are one in the same. Yet, if I pull out the sports page and check the listing of the upcoming bowls I find that 89% of the bowls this year will be seen on Disney owned network. That includes all 4 BCS bowls on ABC, of course. I could also note that the Dallas Morning News is owed by Belo, which also happens to own our local ABC affiliate. A local sports radio guy is known to say often, "Follow the money." It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see where this leads. Everyone seems to be taking part in obviously faulty system and getting rich by doing it. Yet we the fans, the ones who foot the bill are left shaking our heads. So Keith, help us, your customers. If you know the system's flawed, do something besides trying to justify your participation in it. In the end, whether Texas is 4th or 5th or 6th isn't as much of a problem as the fact that you have more control over it than the team does. In a fair system, you should be writing about the championship match-up, not deciding who plays in it.