Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fans Got Taste of Own Medicine?

When I recently heard University of Kentucky fans taking umbrage at their welcome to Bloomington’s Assembly Hall I couldn’t help but chuckle since I experienced exactly the same thing … only at the University of Kentucky.

As memory serves me, Kentucky had lost seven of its last eight football games to Louisville, including four straight. Louisville was coming into Commonwealth Stadium ranked among the nation’s elite under first-year head coach Steve Kragthorpe. The UK natives were restless. They smelled blood in the water. They were right.

The insults started as soon as I turned off Versailles Road toward Commonwealth and continued for the next four hours until I merged onto I-64 West finally headed safely home. I was called every profanity imaginable. Even women and children weren’t spared, particularly as we drove past the frat houses to the parking lot.

Granted, there must have been some reasonable UK fans in Commonwealth that day. I just never came across them. I’ve traveled to games all across the country, including college football meccas Tennessee and Ohio State, and have never been treated any worse. In fact, my lasting memory of that day is of rushing from the stadium after a last-second Kentucky win while rabid UK fans followed, cursing at my sister. 

After that day, I’ve made every effort to treat visitors to U of L’s games especially well. People shouldn’t be verbally assaulted simply for following their favorite teams. However, if Kentucky fans got a little of their own medicine in Bloomington (and I really question that based on my own experiences at Assembly Hall), then so be it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Can-Do Reality Television

In the early days of reality television, it seemed the gimmick was mostly about drinking too much and provoking people to fight with show such as “Cops,” The Real World,” “Big Brother” and even more recently, “The Jersey Shore.”

“I can do that,” I would say to myself.  In fact, that’s pretty much how I spent college.

As I got a little older, reality television started to evolve. It became more about adult themes, such as home renovation, with shows like “This Old House,” “Trading Spaces,” “Flip This House,” “Flipping Out,” and “Designed to Sell,” “While You Were Out,” “Take Home Handyman” and “Over Your Head.”

“I can do that,” I would say to myself. At the very least, I could be the boneheaded husband who needs to be bailed out. I’ve been doing that for years with my dad.

Reality television then tackled food with shows like “Iron Chef,” “Top Chef,” “Chopped,” “The Next Food Network Star,” “Take Home Chef,” “Dinner Impossible” and “Best in Smoke.”

“I can do that,” I would say to myself. No one can question my authority on eating. Just give me a Weber grill, a secret ingredient and 20 minutes.

Of course, with all that eating, reality television was bound to discover weight loss with shows like “The Biggest Loser,” “Celebrity Fit Club,” “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss,” “Food Revolution” and “Heavy.”

“I can do that,” I would say to myself. I once lost more than 60 pounds before finding a lot of it back. Point me toward the Lean Cuisine and a $250,000 prize.

Once everybody got fit, reality television found something for them to wear with fashion shows such as “Project Runway,” “Ambush Makeover,” and “What Not to Wear.”

“I can do that,” I would say to myself.  No one looks more outdated than me. Check out the black socks and sweatpants.

Lately, reality TV seems to be mostly about going into The Bayou and wrestling alligators, wild hogs and various other beasts with shows such as “Swamp Brothers,” “Swamp People,” “American Hoggers” and “Billy the Exterminator.”

I can do … oh, never mind, I better stick with the partying, painting, eating, exercising and shopping.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fleeting Black Friday Friendships

The spirit of goodwill to your fellow man envelopes the holiday season … until it doesn’t anymore. At least that was the case on a chilly Thursday night / Friday morning as my 14-year-old son, Trent, and I braved the crowds for Black Friday, which is traditionally the biggest and busiest shopping day of the year.

Take the chipper employee outside the Target store as an example. He greeted us warmly on a cold night, promising a safe, fun time. He thanked us for coming and said how important we are to him. Then, without a hint of irony or humor, he added something like this, “Plus, we’ve got the police here and a lot of plastic handcuffs and if you step out of line in the least, we won’t hesitate to throw your butts in jail.”

With the admonition over and a two-hour wait ahead, Trent and I chatted with the older gentlemen in front of us and his presumed granddaughter. The man took such a liking to us that when he went for coffee he returned with a couple of cups for us, too, complete with sugar and cream. I was struck by his generosity

A short time later, feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by the liquid warmth, Trent and I hit the store with gusto, getting everything on our Black Friday list and then some. We left satisfied … and without plastic handcuffs. I thought of the man who had given us the coffee earlier, wondering aloud what happened to him.

“Oh, he reached for a cart, and I darted by him,” Trent said. “I mean I appreciated the coffee, but …”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Facing the Bridge Dilemma

I’ve become an activist. No, I haven’t joined the Occupy Wall Street movement. Instead, my dissent is directed at the Sherman Minton. In other words, I’m not worried about brokers. I’m worried about broken bridges.

An angry southern Indiana commuter
Having your life disrupted for months will do that to you, particularly when there’s no end in sight and seemingly no one cares about it as much as you do. While the Occupy Wall Street crowd has captured the country’s imagination, those of us concerned about the Sherman Minton bridge toil away in relative obscurity.

As a PR guy, I set out to change this. I figured the Sherman Minton movement needed an iconic image to energize it … a modern-day southern Indiana equivalent of the couple kissing in Times Square on VJ day. With my mission at hand, I grabbed cardboard from an old Coke case, a couple of Sharpies, a digital camera and my adventurous 14-year-old son. I carefully stenciled my message across the cardboard: “Will Work 4 Bridge.” I put on my suit, as if going to work, which isn’t so easy these days. Then we sought out the perfect backdrop, scouting multiple locations. My son shot several pictures of me with my sign, including some at the base of the bridge near the river and others a little closer to the inaction. Like all good counter-culture types, we operated in stealth mode, attracting very little attention.

The fruit if our labor is shown here. I think we’ve done a pretty fair job of capturing the frustration of my family and many fellow Hoosiers. Now, we’ll just have to wait for the celebrities and CNN to join us.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

GameStop is a Battlefield

Earlier this week, I reluctantly went to a local GameStop at midnight and waited with my brothers in arms for the release of a first-person shooter videogame called Battlefield 3. No, I’m no fanboy, as the kids say, but my 14-year-old son is.

My mission was to get Battlefield 3 for him.

So there I stood, on a weekday night, far past my bedtime, waiting in line and swapping stories with everyone from wannabe soldiers in fake camouflage and Army helmets to real-life soldiers getting ready to be deployed to Afghanistan.

“Have you gotten Batman Arkham City yet?” my amped-up neighbor asks me, pointing to a box featuring a modern-day Batman with blood on his hands. Before I can answer, he adds, “It’s bad ass.” And that was the least of his expletives.

For me, Adam West was batman. He certainly didn’t have blood on his hands. However, hoping not to be discovered as a poser, I reply, “Not yet.”

It must have worked because my neighbor keeps talking … and talking. “You gonna play tonight?” he asks. Once again, he doesn’t wait for an answer.   I’m not even going to play the story mode,” he says, “I’m going to collect some dog tags.”

Afraid to disclose that the last videogame I played was on an Atari, I listen intently and nod. He goes on to discuss the merits of other blood and guts video games, breezing easily across genres, from soldiers to superheroes and from cowboys to aliens.

My cover is safe.

I can hear two other guys – since there are only two girls in the whole store – arguing the merits of PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox.

Finally, it’s time to pick up my game. I show my ID as required, second-guessing whether this is appropriate for a 14-year-old. Before I decide, the clerk hands me my game and says cheerfully, “See you for Skyrim.”

That’s The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim for the uninitiated. It will be released later this year.

I nod in agreement to maintain my new found street cred, while secretly hoping I’m nowhere near GameStop when that one drops. Nevertheless, for a minute, I think I might want to try one of these new fangled videogames. Then the moment passes and I yearn for Space Invaders.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Doing My Home Work

By my count, it’s been 35 days of captivity in southern Indiana since the abrupt closing of the Sherman Minton bridge.

Thanks to an understanding employer, I’ve been fortunate to spend most of that time telecommuting rather than sitting in traffic. As a result, I’ve taken a crash course in the pros and cons of working from home. They include the following:

  • No longer have to shower, shave, brush my teeth or even change my clothes … at least until they invent a smellaphone.
  • Saved enough money on Diet Cokes alone to start a college fund, not to mention savings on gas, lunch and dry cleaning.
  • Caught up on the lost episodes of “Matlock” and “In the Heat of the Night.”
  • Private parking space.
  • Always have to answer home telephone in a professional manner, rather than with my Arnold Schwarzenegger voice.
  • Onslaught of Medicare advertisements during daytime television (except for the Anthem ads, of course, which are lovely, and I’m not just saying that because I know the people who put them together).
  • Trying to determine if fridge leftovers “are still good.”
  • Miss arguing (I mean discussing) sports with the guy in the lunchroom.
  • Attack of the telemarketers. (Where’s Tom Mabe when you need him?)
So it looks like a wash. However, based on my sophisticated weighting system, I’d say the pros outweigh the cons. Did I mention the bridges?

How about you? Have you ever worked from home? What pros and cons are on your list? 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Welcome to the Bennett Book Club

I just finished two books on my recent trip to California. As is my habit, both books included behind-the-scenes glimpses of media behemoths. The first was “Morning Miracle,” which is Dave Kindred’s candid look at life at The Washington Post as it adapted – or didn’t adapt – to new media. The second was “They Call Me Baba Booey,” which is Gary Dell’abate’s autobiography, including his role as producer of The Howard Stern Show.

Kindred, a sports reporter, doesn’t apologize for his love affair for newspapers, he relishes in it. Nevertheless, he pulls no punches in “Morning Miracle” when discussing the financial and creative conflicts at the venerable Washington Post. Kindred does one of writing’s toughest jobs … reporting on reporters. He clearly gained the trust of his subjects, allowing him to show divisions within the paper as it faced the pressures of declining revenues and online competition.
Kindred also demonstrates a keen business sense and an outstanding feel for corporate culture. His story could really be about any company facing change. Kindred is there as long-time reporters and editors reluctantly accept one of The Post’s generous severance packages with no idea what they’ll do next. Meanwhile, turmoil is occurring within management’s ranks, too, including the awkward transition of power within a family-owned business.

In “They Call Me Baby Booey,” Dell’abate’s biggest challenges occur at home, as he struggles being the son of a mother with mental illness. Like Stern’s “Private Parts” before it, Dell’abate’s book is a surprisingly tender portrait of his family life. He candidly discusses his brother’s death from AIDS, his mother’s mental health problems and his father’s death.
As for his professional life, Dell’abate’s success is really a tribute to persistence. He takes multiple internships in college and joins the Stern show on a trial basis with a modest salary only after tiring of his job as assistant traffic reporter on the Don Imus’ show.

Dell’abate covers some key Stern show moments, including his ill-advised videotape to an ex girlfriend and wayward first pitch at a Mets’ game. The paperback also includes a new chapter in which Dell’abate chronicles his work on a USO show with the volatile Artie Lange. I would have enjoyed even more Stern back-story, but it was a good read nevertheless.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

The region along the Ohio River known as Kentuckiana is about to become divided into Kentucky and Indiana.

Three bridges connect the communities. One is pretty much for local access only. Another has just been closed after a crack was found in it. It could be closed for months. That leaves only one major, clogged artery connecting the two states.

This is bad news for people in both communities, but particularly for people like me and my wife who live in southern Indiana and work in Kentucky. We can expect our commutes to more than double, if not worse. I’m lucky enough to have an employer that will be patient with me. Others aren’t as fortunate.

The sad part is this problem could have been avoided. It’s not like a natural disaster suddenly destroyed a bridge without warning. Instead, this problem has resulted over decades of use. Planners should have laid out alternatives years ago. To the extent that they’ve tried, they’ve been rebuffed by “not in our backyard” special interests threatening lawsuits. Hopefully, this serves as a wake-up call.

It’s time to put pettiness aside and move forward. Bridges won’t be built overnight. Severing these communities economically is not an option. What would Kentucky do without the contributions of Indiana workers? What would Indiana do without the taxes of Kentucky workers who choose their state as a bedroom community?

The fact that we’re in this predicament is a failure of the leadership of both states. They have urged us to think regionally, but haven’t provided us with the necessary infrastructure to support that strategy. That’s got to change, starting now.

Unfortunately, it could be too little too late. Many Indiana residents may be forced to reconsider their living and/or work arrangements. As for me, I guess I’ll be in the market for a personal submarine, a jet pack or a hang glider.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Travel Gone to the Dogs

Travel has gone to the dogs.

I recently took a flight to southern California and there were not one, but two dogs on board. They might have been terrific traveling companions for their owners, but not so much for a guy like me, who is allergic to dogs. In other words, my ideal seatmate doesn’t drink from a toilet. So I took the furthest seat away, clutching Benadryl, just in case.

That strategy worked fine and I miraculously arrived at my destination four hours later without bloodshot eyes and a runny nose. I got my luggage, rented a car and negotiated the busy highways around Los Angeles for about an hour before arriving at my hotel. Weary from the trip, I checked in, got my key and headed up the elevator to my room. When the doors opened, I started to exit, only to feel a presence in my path. So I excused myself … to a dog.

When I finally got around the dog and to my room, I checked my Twitter feed to see what I had missed back home. I was surprised to learn that the minor league baseball team in my hometown was hosting a night for some very important visitors … dogs. (I bet you don’t have much chance of beating a Labrador retriever to a foul ball).
It was then that it hit me. Dogs lead pretty rich lives these days, compared to my pet goldfish. They are flying, staying in hotels and attending baseball games. I liked it better when they stayed in their own backyards. But I guess I’m doggone old fashioned.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pure Pipe

The news that former Miami University and University of Louisville Head Coach Howard Schellenberger is retiring from coaching gives me an opportunity to dust off my favorite Schellenberger story one more time.

I was a sports reporter at the University of Louisville’s student newspaper when Schellenberger arrived on campus. He was a larger than life guy with the shock of gray hair, the moustache, the pipe and the national championship ring.

I was excited to meet Schellenberger, but also a bit wary. Schellenberger was old school, having studied at the foot of legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. I knew players were dropping like flies at his first practices. With this backdrop, my editor and I headed over to the Shelby Campus for a media day. I should say here that my editor was the antithesis of Schellenberger. He was a young, bohemian kind of guy with a ear ring, which wasn’t all that common back in those days.

Schellenberger held court for the assembled masses before opening the floor for questions. My editor threw up his hand. Schellenberger pointed at him. In his trademark gravelly voice, he uttered, “Uhh, yes, ma’am.” Undeterred, my editor asked his question, ignoring the coach’s apparent slight.

Nevertheless, the moment was pure Schellenberger. At least that’s how I remember it, although my memory may have been dulled by holding back laughter.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Maybe He Amazed

I went to Cincinnati with one Paul McCartney manic and returned with three.

No, I didn’t pick anybody up along the way. Instead, Sir Paul won over a couple of new converts through the sheer force of his performance.

My 14-year-old son is a fledgling bassist who is a huge fan of The Beatles in general and McCartney specifically. Kim and I went to Cincinnati for his benefit, but ended up benefitting, too.

It was simply one of the best concerts we’ve ever seen. Despite being 69 years old, McCartney played joyfully for nearly three hours, ala Bruce Springsteen. He covered a lot of ground from The Beatles to Wings to his solo career. All the while, he interacted with the audience and displayed a keen sense of humor.

For instance, McCartney opened with “Hello, Goodbye” and said it was good to be back, even though he last played Cincinnati 18 years ago. The kindly and talkative older gentleman in front of me claimed to have seen McCartney even before that, in 1964, for a mere $5 when the The Beatles played at Cincinnati Gardens.

I enjoyed more Wings songs than I thought I would, including “Nineteen Hundred and Eighthy Five,” “Jet,” “Band on the Run,” and the pyrotechnic-filled “Live and Let Die.” Of McCartney’s solo stuff, “Maybe I’m Amazed” took the prize. Of the Beatles stuff, I loved “Day in the Life,” which transitioned into “Give Peace a Chance,” “Lady Madonna,” and “Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End,” which closed the show.

The set included tributes to John Lennon, George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix. (Sorry, Ringo, I guess you have to die first).

Somewhere between “Hello” and “The End,” McCartney signed a fan’s shoulder. She left immediately after the show to make it permanent with a tattoo. I wouldn’t go that far for Sir Paul, but at least I understand why she did.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Social Media Giants Should Cash Out

The latest headline says Twitter is now valued at $8 billion. Here’s my advice to the founders of it and its fellow social media giant, Facebook. Sell! Sell now! Don’t wait another day! Follow the parable provided by Steve Miller and “take the money and run.”

I have several reasons for this opinion.

First, at least as far as I can tell, neither company has developed a reliable revenue stream. The services they offer are free to users and I’m sure they’ll remain that way. Facebook has a few ads. Twitter has promoted Tweets. But neither can expand its corporate presence much without alienating its base. People who use Facebook and Twitter, me included, don’t want the experience marred by marketing. So where is the operating revenue of these companies going to come from? After all, being influential and cool doesn’t pay the bills.

Second, the estimated value of these companies is outrageous as evidenced by the $8 billion estimated value of Twitter alone.

Third, the nature of technology is transient. When was the last time you logged onto to your computer via Prodigy or AOL? How’s that MySpace page working out for you? Unlike a package goods company like Coca-Cola, things get outdated pretty quickly on the Web. Sure, some tech companies have made it to Blue Chip status, but they’ve done it, in part, through diversification. Google is into everything, including maps and phones. Twitter and Facebook are standalone communities.

I congratulate the founders of these companies for holding onto their creations for this long. If I were them, I would have cashed in long ago when the companies were worth far less than they are today.

Why not cash in? I guess it’s tough to let go of a company you founded, nurtured and grew well beyond anyone’s expectations. But if I were these guys, I’d swallow my pride and get out while the getting is good. I can think of billions of reasons to do so. I’d let Microsoft, Google or one of my many other suitors worry about finding a revenue stream. Meanwhile, I’d be on the beach with a margarita, planning my next start-up or pursuing a life of leisure and philanthropy.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Appreciation for the Brickyard

After my agony at the Kentucky Speedway a few weeks ago, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).

They say attendance is down at the Brickyard. They say the racing isn’t up to par.

I’ve been to every Brickyard 400. If people are losing interest, you couldn’t tell it by me. My section is always packed with familiar faces, meaning people must be renewing their tickets year after year.

I’ll grant you IMS isn’t ideal for NASCAR. Since the track is 2.5 miles long, you see only a small piece of it. For that reason, I’d much prefer to watch a race at a smaller facility where you can see more -- or all -- of the track, like Kentucky.

However, in other ways, IMS has it in spades over Kentucky … at least based on Kentucky’s inaugural race. IMS has hosted big events for like a century, and it shows. The traffic flow is well planned, publicized, marked and managed.

Kentucky banned coolers at its race, saying it had no time to check them. IMS methodically checks coolers without causing delays.

Tradition is a mismatch. IMS is the track of the Andrettis and A.J. Foyt. You feel like you’re part of something bigger by being there. Furthermore, the crowd is a fascinating mix of sinners and saints. There might have been a nice atmosphere outside the Kentucky Speedway, but I wouldn’t know it, since I spent all my time in the car.

The Brickyard is the one day of the year I actually like listening to Bob & Tom
on the radio as they preview the race while I drive to the track. On the way to Kentucky, I listened to the veins popping in my head.

And even the weather cooperates at Indianapolis. Although it’s always hot, the race has never been cancelled by rain.

So while I’d rather watch a Kentucky race, I’d much rather go to Indy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mr. Hand Wouldn’t Approve

In my favorite scene from my favorite movie, a surfer/stoner dude defies authority by having a pizza delivered to his high school history classroom. Now, I know how Jeff Spicoli from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” must’ve felt.

My family recently spent several days on vacation at a somewhat upscale resort in Fort Lauderdale. The rooms were affordable enough, but everything else cost a tanned arm and leg. Having tired of $10 cheeseburgers, I concocted a solution. Channeling my inner Spicoli, I logged onto the Internet and ordered a couple $9 pizzas from Papa John’s.

I waited with trepidation, just like Spicoli must have. In my mind, chances were better of getting a pizza delivered to history class than to this resort. But to my surprise, the front desk called after the obligatory 20 minutes passed. I had a visitor in the lobby, they said.

As I strode across mosaic tile and past a couple of very proper concierges, a pizza guy waved for my attention. “Doug?” he inquired.

“Right here, dude,” I replied.

It was my Spicoli moment, only better. In the movie, Mr. Hand takes Spicoli’s pizza away and gives it to his classmates, whereas I got to literally taste victory.

Now if only I could save a girl from drowning and blow the reward money getting Van Halen to play my birthday party.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You've Been Served

Ever have a server so professional that he suggested three different tasty dishes for you at three different restaurants?

That was my unusual experience during a recent vacation in south Florida. On my family’s first day in Key Largo, we ate at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. That’s where I first met Carlos. I asked about fish tacos. Instead, he suggested a blackened fish sandwich, beans and rice, and key lime pie. All three were winners.

The next day, after snorkeling, we went for a bite to eat on another part of the island at a place called Sharkey’s Pub and Galley Restaurant. I was shocked to be greeted by – you guessed it – none other than Carlos.

Could my eyes be deceiving me? No. It seems Carlos works at both restaurants and goes to college to boot.

“You should get the fish tacos here,” he said, uncannily recalling the previous day’s conversation. I readily obliged. They were another winner.

When I mentioned the delicious dessert from the previous day, Carlos said The Fish House makes a mean key lime pie, too. Not one to break a streak, I naturally had to give it a try. I went to the Fish House and discovered yet another winner.

It fact, the only thing missing there was …. well, Carlos.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Traffic Time Could've Been Better Spent

Following is a list of the Top Ten things I could have done Saturday rather than wait in traffic for five hours outside the Kentucky Speedway.

10). Dethrone the national Donkey Kong champion.
9). Read the Unabomer’s manifesto.
8). Catch up on the Twilight trilogy.
7). Learn to play harmonica like a folk singer.
6). Eat more hotdogs than the Nathan’s guy.
5). Review all the software agreements I previously skipped.
4). Become conversant in Klingon.
3). Take the SAT for University of Kentucky basketball recruits.
2). Discover a new flavor of Snapple.
1). Design a better parking plan for the Kentucky Speedway.

That’s what I could have done rather than wait in traffic. How about you? I’m eager to hear what you could have accomplished.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stalled by Speedway Traffic

If you’re thinking about going to next year’s NASCAR race at the Kentucky Speedway, then you ought to be leaving right about now. That’s the lesson I learned yesterday as I crawled in traffic for more than four hours.

Sure, the racing was good for the inaugural race at Kentucky … at least for the half I saw. The track looked great, too.

But getting there was a nightmare.

I know for an event like this that you better leave early and expect to park far away and walk a lot. But Kentucky Speedway obviously has problems other tracks don’t. For starters, it simply doesn’t have enough roads or parking lots. That problem won’t be solved overnight, but other problems can be fixed through better management.

Having been to many of these races all across the country, here are a few of the random thoughts that occurred to me between four-wheeling through gullies and dodging wayward canines … and a lot of waiting.

· Lack of direction. I never saw anyone directing traffic anywhere until I was almost directly upon the track. By then, it was too little, too late. Far before that, people began fending for themselves, leading to absolute confusion and chaos. To restore order, there should have been people along the route providing critical information, such as distance remaining to the track, lots, etc.

· Looking for a sign.
There was a lack of signs both inside and outside the track, making everything from finding a parking lot to finding your seat absolute guesswork. If I were track owner Bruton Smith, I would name the grandstands something other than “5C” and have them marked with big signs, like other venues.

· Capitalism in the countryside. One of the most frustrating things about getting to the track is there seemed to be fields everywhere suitable for parking, but unoccupied. For every track I’ve visited, “unsanctioned” lots are as important as the sanctioned ones. I’ve parked at churches, elementary schools, golf ranges and many front yards. Maybe the speedway’s neighbors didn’t realize how willing and how much people would pay to park in proximity to the track. To paraphrase President Reagan – the king of capitalism – “Mr. Landowner, Open up Those Fields!”

· There’s bound to be another way.
Actually, there is. Lanes coming from the speedway were deserted. They should have been converted to one way before and after the race, like they do in Darlington. Some people did this anyway, driving the wrong way in the emergency lanes. I’m far too law-abiding for that, even though the likelihood of getting caught would have been nil (see my first point).

I will tip my hat, however, to the many shuttles to and from the track. If not for them, I wouldn’t have seen any of the race. And I did see enough to know that Kyle Busch won. He negotiated the traffic far better than I could.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Free Throw Line Not Always Charitable

Basketball players today are a combination of athletes and acrobats. They leap, twist and contort in ways their predecessors could never have imagined. But there’s one thing they can’t do: Shoot free throws. It’s a shame, too. While high flying acrobatics are fun to watch, free throw shooting is frequently the margin between defeat and victory.

Take the last games of Kentucky’s famed basketball programs as examples. Louisville lost its NCAA opener by one point to Morehead State. In that game, Louisville shot only 7 of 16 from the free throw line for a paltry for 44 percent. It’s easy to see how U of L could have advanced simply by making a few more free throws.

The same could be said for the University of Kentucky. UK fell a bucket shy of making the national championship game. In its loss to Connecticut, UK shot only 4 of 12 from the free throw for an anemic 33 percent. I think it’s fair to say Kentucky could have won the national title if not for poor free throw shooting. This is old hat to UK Head Coach John Calipari, having already lost a title due to poor free throw shooting.

The most frustrating part of this is free throw shooting is really the only thing in sports that can be replicated in practice almost exactly as it occurs in a game. The shooter will always be 15 foot from the basket, which is always 10-feet high. There are no other variables, such as defenders in the way. Given this, it would seem a player could improve his free throw stroke with nothing more than a basketball, a goal and a commitment. Nevertheless, the line continues to confound otherwise good players.

Consider Louisville’s Stephen VanTreese. Van Treese is the kind of player coaches love. He is a 6-foot-9 bottle of energy who hustles, rebounds, plays defense and kicks in a few garbage baskets. He also shoots only 31 percent from the free throw line. As a result, he has to sit at the end of close games, when he could be most useful.

Peyton Siva, Louisville’s point guard, shoots free throws at more than double Van Treese’s average. However, his 68 percent (63 in conference) isn’t good enough for someone who is always handling the ball in late game situations. In fact, I doubt there is anyone on Louisville’s team who could have stepped up and knocked down two free throws with two seconds left the way UConn freshman Shabazz Napier did against UK.

Free throw shooting won’t get you on SportsCenter. It will only win you games … and championships.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Thought Provoking Exhibit

 I’m no art connoisseur so it was with bit of skepticism that that I recently greeted Thornton Dial’s “Hard Truths” exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Dial is a folk artist who grew up in Alabama, turning things like paint cans, wire, rusty car parts and straw into art.

Dial’s collection is certainly thought provoking. In fact, here are just of the few of the thoughts I had as I toured the collection.

· Is gluing a Barbie to canvass actually art?
· Is that a goat?
· Is that sanitary?
· I’m glad I ate before this.
· I knew a guy who had stuff like this in his front yard. People thought he was crazy.
· Why would you do that to Mickey Mouse?
· This is kind of scaring me.

Amidst these thoughts, however, I did manage to find a couple of works that appealed to me. The PR guy in me loved the piece about Morley Safer of 60 Minutes fame. Dial apparently felt persecuted by Safer in a piece on the news magazine. (Imagine that). He responded with a piece called “Strange Fruit: Channel 42,” which shows a figure, presumably Dial, hanging from a TV antenna. Sure beats a letter to the editor.

I also appreciate a piece that featured bright flowers blooming against a stark background. The colors popped compared to the rest of collection, which consisted of mostly dark themes like Sept. 11 and racism, portrayed through anguished faces.

The remaining sculptures, drawings, etc. made you think ... even if you just were thinking about keeping the lights on when you got home or how you should have made that guy an offer for the concoction in his front yard.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Turned Off by the Radio

Trying to save a $70 diagnostic fee, I dropped by Advanced Auto Parts recently to get a reading on my Explorer’s “service engine soon” light.

I shut down the truck hurriedly, hoping to get in and out. A crusty older lady, who had probably been servicing cars since the Model T, was willing to help. She grabbed the computer, walked to the car and motioned for the vehicle’s keys.

As luck with have it, this no nonsense lady happened to start my truck – and its radio -- just in time to hear some of the raunchiest moments in the history of the “Bob and Tom Show.” “It’s a little saucy,” I said, hoping to break the awkward silence. She said nothing, raised an eyebrow and turned the knob to silence the offending noise.

“It’s your EGR valve,” she said.

“Thanks,” I replied.

“Now, you can get back to your radio,” she said, walking away in mild disgust.

I apparently had lost her respect, but at least I saved $70. And it could have been worse. At least I wasn’t listening to Howard Stern.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Own Social Network

Ever since watching “The Social Network,” I’ve been kicking myself for not going to Harvard, befriending some computer nerds and ending up with a small part of a billion dollar start-up technology company.

Unfortunately, there were several holes in this plan, including the fact that I wasn’t smart enough for Harvard. But even at the University of Louisville, I managed to meet my fair share of computer nerds. I used to congregate every day for lunch with a number of them from the university’s Speed School of Engineering.

I was taking a basic programming class at the time. All those 1s and 0s were far beyond the comprehension of a lowly communications major. So I’d seek out the Speed guys and buy them lunch while they knocked out my homework.

Alas, I was not to launch the globe’s biggest social networking site. None of geeky friends did either. But I did manage to pass Basic Programming.

At the time, that seemed like enough.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Not So Best Wishes

My son, Trent, is graduating from eighth grade. Part of the pageantry of wrapping up his final middle school year is the signing of yearbooks.

One of Trent’s teachers penned the following ditty in his book: “Trent, you are not as annoying as most people think.”

Trent assured me the teacher was only kidding. He got a big kick out of it.

But even if the teacher was serious, this would rank only as the second worst yearbook signing by a teacher I’ve ever seen. The undisputed award for “Worst Yearbook Signing by at Teacher” occurred way back when I was in high school. I had an acquaintance who was a bit of a ne’er-do-well in school. He unwisely asked a teacher who was one of his regular targets to sign his yearbook. The teacher was short, and not so sweet.

“Good luck,” he wrote. “You’re going to need it.”

Unlike my son’s teacher, I’m sure he wasn’t kidding.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Facebook Hate Shouldn't Be Taken Lightly

Dr. Drew Pinsky is among those supporting a 13-year-old girl who was recently suspended from school for posting on Facebook that she wished Osama Bin Laden would have killed her teacher. I’m not nearly as sympathetic.

Specifically, the girl wrote, “I wished Osama bin Laden had killed (my teacher) instead of the 3,000 people in the Twin Towers.” The school suspended the girl for five days. “I’m so sorry this has been so hurtful for you,” Pinsky told the girl.

I feel sorry for the teacher. Wishing death upon someone is no joking matter, particularly in today’s environment where teens have not only threatened people at their schools, but have acted on those threats. The girl’s mother admits the post was wrong, but quickly follows up with criticism of school officials for addressing this with her daughter at school, particularly since it happened away from school grounds.

I’m thankful someone is watching these things. The days of dismissing hateful language as idle teenage chitchat are long since past. In fact, warning signs have too often been ignored. I think five days suspension is actually pretty light. If it were up to me, I would have expelled the girl and notified police.

And, if this were my daughter, she would be at home trying to make things right instead of making a spectacle of herself on TV. As for Dr. Drew, I wonder if he would be so sympathetic if the teacher were his wife.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Useless Superpower

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a pretty useless superpower. I am generally able to tell a person which celebrity they most look like. I, for example, look a lot like Tom Cruise if he had let himself go. (It’s the nose). Granted, if Earth were threatened by aliens, you’d probably want Superman. But if you were people watching over a few drinks, you might find my power to be more entertaining than the Man of Steel.

Like most superheroes, I can’t renounce my powers, even if I wanted. They recently surfaced unexpectedly as I was reading about the Arnold Schwarzenegger love child. As soon as I saw Arnold’s mistress, I knew her doppelganger. She is a carbon copy for the crazy mother from the Miami Housewives series.

Take a look for yourselves. Arnold's girl is on the left. The housewife mom is on the right. Once you see the uncanny resemblance as I do, I doubt you mere mortals will ever challenge Tubby Tom Cruise again.

Arnold Girl

Crazy Mom

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Looking Good on the Diamond

It was hard to convince my 8-year-old son, Clark, to get sports goggles. Now, it’s hard to get him to take them off … ever.

The other night I caught him wearing them in bed while reading a book, as if a stray line drive might rocket through his bedroom at any moment. He wears them when we go out to eat. I’m surprised he doesn’t wear them in the bathtub.

Recently, Clark insisted on wearing his entire Little League Reds uniform to a Reds’ baseball game, complete with goggles. Three people mistook him for Chris Sabo.

In addition to sharing Sabo’s fashion sense, Clark plays third base, just like him. If fact, I’d figure he was going for Sabo’s look, if only he’d ever heard of him.

Or maybe Clark wants to look like giant horsefly.

Who knows what goes through the mind of an 8-year-old boy? But I do know this much: If a food fight ever unexpectedly breaks out at Applebee’s, he’s ready.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Remembering a Man Who Found the Loopholes

I think I can best describe the life of my grandpa Morris, who died Monday, through a single story. He was so cantankerous that he picked up smoking in his 90s as a protest against authorities at his senior living facility.

Let me explain.

Like a lot of people his age, grandpa wasn’t thrilled with being moved to a senior living facility even though he was in his 90s and in desperate need of help. So when he got there, he resisted. This manifested itself in a variety of ways, including securing the code to the automatic door and sneaking outside when people weren’t looking.

As a result, administrators rightfully cracked down on his privileges, including limiting his trips outside the facility. At about this same time, grandpa probably jotted down a grievance in one of his many notepads. He noticed smokers were allowed to leave the facility regularly for 15-minute smoke breaks, while he wasn’t.

So, to level the playing field, he reached the only logical conclusion: Despite being a nonsmoker his entire life, he must pick up smoking immediately.

Can you believe it worked? To his credit, he had discovered a loophole and was soon outside with the others, puffing away. For my mom, this meant now bringing him cigarettes along with his beloved chocolates.

This was the life of my grandpa, a man who stubbornly gamed the system until the very end. God bless him.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Young Earns Passing Marks

You’ve got to love serendipity.

Through pure happenstance, 9th District U.S. Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., happened to be holding a town hall meeting at Ivy Tech Community College last week while I was teaching an introductory speech class there. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I took my class over to watch his speech.

It was my first time to meet Young. The freshman Republican was very gracious, taking time to meet my students before the presentation and mentioning them several times during it. He even managed to poke a little good-natured fun at me, saying I should give the students extra credit for attending. (Don’t worry congressman. I will.)

Young’s presentation was straight from the GOP playbook, but solid. He talked for around an hour about the country’s mounting debt, saying Congress has an obligation to act. He repeatedly warned of entitlements, which he called “autopilot” spending.

Young made a compelling case – even if I didn’t agree with everything he said.

From a public speaking standout, Young delivered. He was relaxed, had his sleeves rolled up, and spoke without a podium. He didn’t sugarcoat anything and answered questions respectfully, but unflinchingly. He’d definitely pass my class.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bullying the Bully

University of Kentucky fans are outraged that ESPN commentator Bob Knight dare insult their beloved head coach basketball coach, John Calipari. Count me among those who couldn’t care less.

Calipari has been needlessly jabbing away at University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino for months. His passive-aggressive assault has included the following:

• Calipari said he was rooting for U of L late in the season since his team had “spanked” them earlier in the year.

• Calipari said UK’s Eric Bledsoe was not as highly touted as U of L’s Peyton Siva, but was drafted early (while Siva was not, presumably because of superior coaching).

• Calipari said UK would not lose its assistant coaches (like Louisville has) because its jobs are destination positions (unlike Louisville).

I’ve added the material in parenthesis to give you an idea of what the slippery one really meant since he won’t come right out and say it.

Pitino didn’t respond to any of these barbs because he’s too classy. As we all know, Knight has no such filter.

Knight apparently didn’t get it all right, but I’d argue the context is close. Regardless, it’s hard for me to feel sorry for the bully who gets bullied. Or as my mom always says, “don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Fundamental Lesson in Base Running

The very first day of Clark’s Little League practice this year, the coach put away the gloves and bats and worked exclusively on base running. He painstakingly explained the difference between rounding the base toward second and safely overrunning the base by turning to the right. This was a tough lesson for kids who were more eager to hit than run.

Although it tested his patience, the coach stayed at it until the kids started to pick it up. That’s because the fundamentals are important to learn in baseball … even for a Major Leaguer, as I discovered earlier this week at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark.

In the bottom of the ninth inning of a one-run game against the Pirates, the Reds’ Jay Bruce beat out an infield single. Bruce initially overran the bag safely, turning to the right, as Little Leaguers are taught to do. However, the ball was overthrown, and Bruce moved ever so slightly into fair territory to ponder taking an extra base. The second baseman chased down the overthrown ball and tagged Bruce out. It was a key out in a game the Reds went on to lose.

Although this was an unusual play, there was no need to explain what had just happened to my 8-year-old son. He had seen it many times before … from the first day of practice, in fact. As it turns out, fundamentals are as fundamental for Major Leaguers as Little Leaguers.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Responding to a Crisis

There was an interesting discussion at an International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) meeting in Louisville, Ky., this week regarding crisis communications. Two veteran TV journalists who have moved to the public relations realm were on the panel. They had very different perspectives when it comes to on-camera appearances during a crisis.

Nel Taylor, the communications lead for a home health care business, says she has a policy of never doing on-camera interviews with a negative story. She says she cooperates and communicates, issues statements, takes responsibility, etc., but declines requests to go on camera. She said her company is spread all over the country and it would be unfair to ask employees to shoulder that responsibility. There is more downside to doing these interviews than upside, she said. TV journalists have so many deadlines it’s difficult for them to take time with a nuanced story, she said. Plus, the medium lends itself to a storytelling style that pits “good guys” against “bad guys.”

Mark Hebert was a hard-hitting statehouse reporter. He is now the PR lead for the University of Louisville. Hebert noted that a public university is different from a private institution in structure and scope. U of L doesn’t get a lot of national media (outside of sports). He knows or has worked with most of the TV reporters who contact him. Furthermore, Hebert spends about 25 percent of his time pitching positive stories. Reporters wouldn’t be receptive to him if he wouldn’t go on camera during a crisis, he said. Plus, reporters can always “ambush” a public person like the president of a university anyway.

They both took an optimistic outlook on social media. Hebert said he treats bloggers just like other journalists, as long as they behave like them. Taylor conceded that news moves faster in this environment, but so can the response.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Classic Rock Strikes a Chord

I came of age in the 80s. The sound track of my life was hair bands, southern rock, pop and punk. I didn’t care for whatever came before and cared even less about the next big thing – rap, which seemed like nothing but noise to me.

It’s funny how things change … and remain the same.

I still loves me some classic rock, but my 14-year-old son loves it even more. In the age of Lady Gaga, he prefers Pink Floyd. He likes Styx and is an especially big fan of the Beatles. He has nearly all their albums. I mean CDs. I mean MP3s.

Of course, I knew of The Beatles, but didn’t like them very much. They seemed too soft to me. I couldn’t get into the whole peacenik thing. Same thing was true for my wife, who preferred her British rock from The Rolling Stones. So only recently have we both acquired an appreciation for The Beatles, courtesy of our teenage son. Imagine that. He’s also introduced us to the Electric Light Orchestra.

We have a few raps albums, too. I mean CDs. I mean MP3s. Believe or not, those belong to me. Somewhere over the years, I’ve inexplicably acquired a taste for it. I think I sometimes share the rappers’ world view of being put upon.

Maybe someday I’ll even introduce Trent to Eminem.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Johnson's Success Part of NASCAR's Ills

I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of NASCAR racing over the years. I’ve been to races at six different tracks, eaten bologna sandwiches with Jeff Gordon and ran into Dale Earnhardt coming out of a bathroom. In other words, Sundays were pretty much devoted to racing. However, over the last few years, I’ve begun to lose interest. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I’ve got some ideas. Following are a few of them.
No more overweight drivers. The overweight driver is Everyman. People complained that race car drivers weren’t “real athletes.” Drivers responded with a commitment to fitness, making big drivers a thing of the past. The last one I remember is Jimmy Spencer. Sure, Tony Stewart flirts with it, but won’t fully commit.

No real characters. Drivers today are entirely too polished. I think it started with Gordon, who was trained as much as a pitchman as a driver. Guys like Dale Earnhardt would tell you like it was. Today, every accident is simply “a racin’ thing.” The only time I got passionate last season is when Gordon and Johnson got a little chippy with each other, which leads me to my next point.

Too much Jimmy Johnson. Sports get boring when the same person or team always wins. Parity is one of the reasons the NFL is so exciting. In contrast, look at women’s basketball. UConn won another title? Yawn. Johnson isn’t doing NASCAR any favors by winning five straight championships.

Not enough Dale Earnhardt Jr. There is an army of people eager for Dale Earnhardt to assume his father’s crown, including me. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to do it, even after moving to NASCAR’s most successful team.

Races are too long. I can mow and trim the lawn, wash and wax two cars, shop for groceries, grill hamburgers, take a nap and still wake up in time for the last 111 laps.

Too many races. In addition to Sprint Cup races, there are truck races and Nationwide races competing for racing fans’ attention. It dilutes the sport. Think about it. There’s a reason networks aren’t scurrying to televise minor league baseball and developmental basketball. No wonder I lose interest in racing as soon as football season starts. By that time, Johnson is usually picking up his billionth trophy anyway.

“If the race were to end right now” graphic. I know this one is petty, but the race ISN’T going to end right now. It never does. See above.

The Chase. It takes a mathematician to figure out the many subtleties of the NASCAR points system, now marketed as “The Chase.” Here’s a tip: Simplify it. If math were entertaining, it wouldn’t take so long for me to balance my checkbook.

So these are the reasons I’ve begun to lose interest in NASCAR, leaving only one last question to be answered. If I go cold turkey, what will I do with my Sundays? I’m thinking PGA Golf. Sure, it’s long, but at least there are some overweight guys.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lost Focus

Put this together to demonstrate what happened to me at about 4 p.m. today when Morehead State beat Louisville.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Defending the American Worker

From what I’ve seen over the years, the national news has been more likely to defend flag burners than flag wavers. That’s why I have been so pleasantly surprised by the outright patriotism on display lately at ABC News.

ABC News has been crusading for American workers through a series called “Made in America.” It took The Smithsonian to task for selling souvenirs made overseas. It renovated a home exclusively with American-made products for little extra cost. It questioned the garment industry about why more American-made fabrics aren’t used. It even named the American worker its “Person of the Week.”

At first glance, this might seem unremarkable. As someone told me on Twitter, “everyone knows that junk is made in China.” Certainly it’s true that some people see buying American as an antiquated concept. They view the “buy American” crowd as bigots, not patriots. They see them as out of touch with the realities of a global economy.

ABC News takes the contrarian view, waving the flag for the American worker. It says we could create 200,000 U.S. jobs by simply spending an extra $64 each year on U.S. products. This is as remarkable for the messenger as it is for message. You’d expect Fox to advocate for American products, but probably not ABC.

ABC promises to continue the American-made crusade. Here’s hoping a future segment will focus on the buying habits of members of Congress. Many years ago I was told a story of a long-time congressman who was visiting a union hall in his district. The congressman drove a foreign-made car, which he knew wouldn’t be popular with the awaiting automakers. Instead of face their wrath, he parked the car several blocks from the hall and walked to the appearance with his aides. By the way, he lost the next election.

To see ABC’s “Made in America” segments for yourself, go to

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Like Father, Like Son

My 8-year-old son Clark was playing his weekly basketball game at the YMCA Youth League when the official called a rarely called foul on him. “I didn’t do anything,” he protested. Unfortunately, this reaction came as no surprise to my wife, Kim. She’s heard this before – and much worse – from the young man’s father.

Clark is my regular companion for the University of Louisville games. He’s apparently picked up more than just the player’s names and a hunger for pizza and ice cream. He’s also taken notice of my disdain for poor officiating. As a U of L fan, I’ve seen my share of officiating blunders over the years … only to be followed by an apology from the Big East. There was the fake fair catch against Rutgers, for starters. When these things happen, I rarely suffer quietly.

I’ve tried to explain to Clark that fans are passionate. They can’t help but see slights to their favorite teams … both real and imagined. I thought he understood this, until he went all Bobby Knight during his youth league game.

In the interest of sportsmanship, it’s clear I’m going to have to clean up my act, which would be much easier if only those $%*&#@ officials weren’t always cheating us.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cheerleader's Premature Act Shows Pattern

By now, you've probably heard about the Louisville cheerleader who nearly cost his team a big basketball game by flinging the ball into the air to celebrate a game that wasn’t quite over. His premature party resulted in a technical foul, allowing Pittsburgh a chance to tie the game with a desperation three-pointer. Thankfully – for us Cardinal fans and one very nervous cheerleader – the shot was wayward.

What you probably don’t know, is that this isn’t the first time the cheerleader has acted so precipitously. Through my crack research, I’ve uncovered the following information about other times he has jumped the gun.

• On election night in 2000 he exchanged a high five with Al Gore to celebrate Gore being elected president.

• While in the military, he helped hang a "Mission Accomplished" banner on a certain battleship.

• He twice sent cards to John Calapari congratulating him on his Final Four appearances.

• He blamed Rick Pitino for this year’s loss to Marquette.

• He tried to book Charlie Sheen to speak to his church group regarding his remarkable personal transformation.

• He is a power user on MySpace.

• He remains bullish on AOL stock.

• He bought tickets to see Conan O’Brien host “The Tonight Show.”

• He can’t wait for Destiny’s Child’s next tour.

Of course, I kid. I probably shouldn’t be so hard on the guy. Rumor has it that after his gaffe he rode home in the rain on his Segway.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Tough Weekend Technically Speaking

It’s been a tough weekend in the Big East – technically speaking.

At least four different coaches and a player picked up technical fouls on Saturday. Jamie Dixon and Steve Lavin both got them in St. Johns’ upset of Pittsburgh. St. John’s guard D. J. Kennedy threw one in for good measure.

Not to be outdone, West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins and Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey both picked up technicals in the Mountaineers upset of the Irish. And Louisville’s Preston Knowles and Connecticut’s Kemba Walker both got technical fouls on Friday night during the Cardinals victory over the Huskies. Just what in the name of Bob Knight is going on here?

If you ask me, this recent rash of technical fouls actually started on Feb. 9 when Louisville’s Kyle Kuric was called for “taunting” after glaring at a Notre Dame defender following a monster slam dunk. This drew outrage because it was so out of character for Kuric -- perhaps Louisville’s softest spoken player. If Kuric were guilty, then what about all his jersey popping, muscle flexing, finger-waving Big East brethren?

Rather than show restraint -- or admit a mistake -- Big East officials naturally overreacted. They have been handing out technical fouls like tattoos in the NBA ever since.

The crackdown leaves one confused about exactly what results in a technical foul and what doesn’t. To the casual viewer, it’s not always clear. On Friday, the officials were kind of enough to say into a national TV microphone that Knowles got his foul for encouraging a “bull sh@t” chant. Other times it remains a mystery.

But don’t worry. I’ve got your answers right here. Based on what I’ve seen, the following will definitely result in a technical: glaring (Kuric), enjoying a profane chant (Knowles), raising three fingers after a three-pointer (Marquette’s Darius Johnson-Odom) and generally throwing a hissy fit from the bench, unless, of course, your name happens to be Jim Boeheim (Dixon, Lavin, Huggins and Brey).

So how’s a boy to celebrate or to protest? Once again, based on my unscientific viewing, there are plenty of things a player can still do with impunity, including popping his jersey, flexing his muscles, blowing kisses, screaming at no one in particular and pounding his chest. I even saw a guy get away with slapping the ball after a timeout.

But no glaring … definitely no glaring.

* * *

Friday’s Louisville game also showed why players are so often tempted to abandon the fundamental play in favor of the spectacular one. U of L guard Peyton Siva stole the ball from his UConn counterpart and sped down the court for a sure, easy layup. Instead, Siva climbed the ladder and threw down a nasty 360-degree dunk. What was his reward for taking this unnecessary risk? Only every SportsCenter highlight for the next 24 hours.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Job Change Opens New Doors

For four years, I walked past the 21c Hotel in downtown Louisville, Ky., twice a day on my way to and from work. And almost every day, I exchanged some sort of mild pleasantry with the hotel’s doormen … a nod, a wave or a “hey.”

Our relationship wasn’t always this comfortable. In the beginning, it was downright awkward. A 21c doorman once mistook me for a hotel guest and tried to open the door for me. The suit and tie must’ve thrown him. I felt so badly that I nearly went into the hotel just to accommodate him. Instead, I passed clumsily by.

From then on, I employed several tactics to make sure this didn’t happen again. I walked faster past the hotel. I walked farther from the hotel. I even averted eye contact for awhile. After all, 21c is a pretty fancy hotel and the doormen could spend their time much better with actual tipping guests instead of some guy just passing through.

However, as the trips added up, the doormen eventually accepted me as a civilian in no need of entrance assistance. I walked closer to the hotel and slowed my pace. We exchanged twice daily greetings. The door remained hinged.

I changed jobs and hadn’t thought of this routine again until Friday night when my wife and I decided to stay the night at 21c. As I headed toward the hotel, I saw one of the regulars manning the door. Even though I hadn’t walked past the hotel in more than six months, I could see a faint glimmer of recognition in his eyes. To complicate matters, he knew me as nothing more than a passerby. Yet here I was clearly seeking entry. Time froze. The doorman gathered himself. He smiled and opened the door.

I was finally an actual paying guest in need of his services. It was a moment that was four years – and twice daily – in the making.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

He Knows a Guy

My dad knows a guy.

Whether you need concrete poured, a wall painted, a tree chopped, a leak fixed or eyeglasses repaired, my dad knows a guy. He always knows a guy.

It’s a wonderful luxury to know the guy who knows the guys.

There’s only one problem. My dad also changes guys … rapidly and without much warning. Sometimes you’re still calling the old guy, only to discover that he’s already moved on to a new guy. Talk about awkward.

You see, even though dad knows a guy, he is always on the lookout for another guy who does it better or cheaper or both. Plus, if the first guy happens to be traveling on vacation, it’s always good to have a backup guy.

Often you’re left scratching your head, wondering why dad changed guys. After all, it’s never some calamity that leads to the change. Rather, he just seems to know when to do it, like a baseball manager knows when to change pitchers. When you meet the new guy, you usually agree that he made the right call.

Sometimes the status quo is the right call. For example, dad has been through multiple ophthalmologists, but still has the same dentist.

By the way, it’s good to be dad’s guy. Since dad has developed a reputation for knowing the right guy, his guy stays pretty busy.

Even in these connected times, it’s surprisingly difficult to find honest people who do quality work at a fair price. So whether it’s taking a dent out of a car door or sharpening a lawnmower blade, I rest easy knowing my dad knows a guy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Odds and Ends

Several subjects have garnered my attention lately. On their own, they didn’t warrant a full-fledged blog post. Nevertheless, I just couldn’t let them pass without further comment. So here goes nothing ... or a little bit of something.

News Item: A Navy commander lost his command for previously broadcasting raunchy videos featuring homophobic and sexist comments and inappropriate images. The videos were intended to be a lighthearted way to boost the ship’s morale.

Comment: When did Michael Scott join the military?

News Item: Connecticut football Head Coach Randy Edsall recently accepted the same position at the University of Maryland.

Comment: Wonder if Edsall interviewed in a hoodie? Seriously, this guy has got to step up his wardrobe, as do a host of other college coaches. I hate to say it, but I’m looking at you too Charlie Strong. Take a page from the great Howard Schellenberger, who always wears a suit and a tie on the sidelines, even in a rain or snowstorm.

News Item: After missing two straight weeks for the holidays, the local recyclers left early this week, saying their trucks were too full.

Comment: Time for another Dale Moss story.

News Item: The ferry from Jeffersonville to Louisville for University of Louisville basketball games has been cancelled due to a lack of interest.

Comment: Please come back. I’ll never leave you again. I promise.

News Item: In just one week on Facebook, my 13-year-old son accumulated far more followers than I could ever think of getting.

Comment: At least he’s not on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Maiden Voyage to the KFC Yum Center

You’ve got to give my dad credit. When he goes in, he goes all in.

Dad has been threatening to go the KFC Yum Center for some time now to see the beautiful new home of our beloved University of Louisville Cardinals. My sister recently called his bluff, offering him a ticket and a ride with my brother-in-law to see U of L play their archrival, the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

That’s a hot ticket with two ranked and storied teams fighting for state supremacy. So hot it would easily have brought several hundred dollars or more on the street. Nevertheless, I figured dad would take a pass.

Did I mention dad doesn’t love crowds? This explains why he generally eats dinner at Cracker Barrel around 3 p.m. In fact, I used to joke that the only thing that could possibly lure him out with the masses was the boat show.

To everyone’s surprise, dad said he would like to go, joking that he might as well take it all in at once. In other words, the guy who doesn’t love crowds would see U of L play UK in a new arena before one of the most rollicking crowds of all time. Aside from a monster truck trip to accommodate his grandson, dad probably hadn’t attended a sporting event since Vince Gibson was the Cardinals’ football coach.

I’d believe it when I saw it … and yet I saw it with my own eyes. There he was about 15 minutes before tipoff with my brother-in-law at the KFC Yum Center ready to root them on. He even claims to have had a wonderful time, despite the lopsided score. He raved about the amenities at the KFC Yum Center.

Maybe he’ll even make it out there again sometime … after a 3 p.m. pregame meal at Cracker Barrel, of course.