Friday, December 13, 2013

Marking Nearly 30 Years of Louisville Football

My friend, Ken Sumner, and I have just survived another University of Louisville regular football season together, marking nearly 30 years now, but it’s been no picnic. Then again, maybe it has been. After all, sitting around eating, drinking and talking is pretty much the very definition of a picnic.

When it's cold on game day, you have to earn it.
We never had a checkered table cloth, although we did carry the same bumper-sticker covered cooler for decades. There were never any ants to deal with, but there were a couple of coaches we considered nuisances.

So, without further ado, and captured here for the benefit of future generations of football fans, are lessons learned from nearly three decades spent in the parking lot, food lines, restrooms and in or adjacent to the student section.

Generate your own shorthand. Kenny and I developed a few phrases that have stood the test of time. One of my favorites, “that was 10 plays ago,” basically means “I’m tired of you and/or your harping.” Credit goes to an unknown and frustrated section mate with coming up with that one. Also, any head adornment, other than a standard ball cap, must always be greeted by “nice hat.” “You gotta earn it” means it’s cold / raining/ snowing, while “Howard (Schellenberger) would be disappointed” means you’re running late.

Speaking of rain, once you reach your 30s, it’s OK to trade garbage bag protection for some honest-to-God emergency ponchos. It’s only a buck.

Bring the right tools for the job. Sure, necessity is the mother of invention, but I don’t condone pouring pure grain alcohol onto a fire. This might help explain why there were so many raw hamburgers in the early years.

Leave the real football to the real players. I cannot over emphasize how many misunderstandings have been caused by wayward footballs. Nerf footballs make for better tailgating neighbors.

If the ticket is stamped “obstructed view,” believe it. This lesson brought to you by the ugly pole running through the temporary bleachers at old Cardinal Stadium.

If you’re scalping tickets at a Louisville game, then you really aren’t at the top of your profession. Feel free to hustle the hustlers.

Never rush the field. I should amend this to say, “never rush the field when the police don’t want you to,” particularly if you’re with a guy in a leg cast.

And while we’re reminiscing here, let me close by telling you about a few of my favorite moments over the years. These aren’t necessarily important moments, just amusing ones. Since this is an oral history only, I will not let the facts get in the way of a good story. 
  • In one of the first seasons at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, we were still tailgating at the old stadium when some confused Oklahoma fans wandered through and asked, “which stadium do we play at?” I thought it was a funny, but fair question. 
  • For us, one difficult season seemed to be epitomized by a single, bad play as the center inexplicably hiked the ball off the running back’s head, while he was in motion. After that, whenever trickery was needed, we would suggest the “hike it to (Ralph) Dawkins’ head” play. After all, no one would ever see it coming … including Dawkins. 
  • Speaking of bad football, Kenny and I were some of the last left in old Cardinal Stadium for Ron Cooper’s final game as Louisville’s coach. I was so frustrated with the predictability of the play calling that I yelled to the opposing defensive coordinator: “If you haven’t figured it out yet, he’s going to run it on every first down.” The coordinator turned, smiled and gave me a thumbs up. I guess he had already figured it out. 
  • Kenny and I were at the new stadium for one of Louisville’s first big wins, a victory over Florida State, played in the remnants of a hurricane. At halftime, we saw my sister and her husband in the concourse. We were soaked, but excited. We knew we had a chance for a ground-breaking win. I called her midway through the third quarter to compare notes. They were home. Kenny and I stayed until the water-logged, jubilant, end. Fans were allowed to rush the field afterward, although we stayed put, perhaps reluctant from the earlier incident. It took days to dry out. As any old tailgater will tell you, sometimes “you gotta earn it.”

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Even Without BCS, Cards Shouldn't Lack Motivation

For the University of Louisville football team, this season pretty much shaped up as “Season Impossible.”

Bolstered by a rout of Florida in the Sugar Bowl, and the return of Heisman Trophy candidate Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, as well as wealth of starters on both sides of the football, the Cardinals were expected to sweep their depleted conference, return to a BCS bowl and possibly compete for a national championship.

Even a single loss would be a huge disappointment. Those were heady expectations. And they were never realistic.

For starters, Louisville’s previous season was overrated because of the way it ended, with the stunning victory over the Gators. In reality, Louisville backed into a BCS spot after losing to Syracuse and Connecticut in back-to-back weeks. Earlier that season, the Cardinals barely survived by a touchdown and less in adverse weather in consecutive weeks at Florida International and Southern Mississippi.

So the idea that U of L would easily run the table this year were always overly optimistic. Perhaps it felt like everything would always go U of L’s way following the “Year of the Cardinal,” in which pretty much everything did. That’s why U of L’s loss to Central Florida, and UCF’s subsequent win over Houston, which all but cemented the American Conference’s BCS bid for them, and not Louisville, was so devastating.

But make no mistake about it. Even with the BCS bid likely gone, there’s plenty left for Charlie Strong’s club to play for. If UCF loses just once, and Louisville wins out, the Cardinals can still share a conference title, which would be their third straight. Additionally, if Louisville wins out, they would play in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Fla., against a very attractive opponent in the ACC’s third-best team, currently Miami. Many of Louisville’s peer schools, including its most hated rival, would kill for such a spot. Even Florida, the top-five team Louisville beat last season, is fighting for its bowl life this year.

Conference affiliation is the third and most important reason for Louisville to close the season, excuse the expression, strongly. The Cards need momentum to springboard into the ACC and tougher competition next season.

In closing, this year’s Louisville team probably won’t win a BCS bowl, but the 2013 Cardinals haven’t lost to inferior competition either. Even their “close calls,” were comfortable victories. They led a solid UCF team for most of their only loss.

With Bridgewater likely gone next season and the ACC looming, including the aforementioned Miami, as well as Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech, expectations will be more rational next year. That’s good because this team and its coaches all need to grow to be successful in the ACC. In the meantime, I’ll be at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium Saturday night rooting for a team that might not be perfect, but is still pretty good.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Anesthesia Loosens Tongue, But Not Teeth

I never saw my mom take a sip of alcohol, much less get drunk, but I recently got a pretty good feel for what that might look like.

Mom was in the hospital for surgery. They gave her a “little bit” of something to relax her. A short time later, the party began.

First, mom spoke a bit of gibberish. Then she regained her footing for a minute and started to make sense again, sort of. When the doctor entered the room, she promised she wouldn’t “monitor him too much” and would “just go along.” I’m sure he was quite relieved to know she wouldn’t be taking notes during surgery.

The doctor thanked her, looked at us, smiled and said, “They’ve given her some medicine. No kidding. The best was yet to come.

Next, mom saw a diminutive male nurse. “Look at that little fellow,” she said, apparently mistaking him for a doctor. “He’s been in two or three surgeries already today, hasn’t he?” When “the little fellow” came to take mom back, we could barely contain ourselves. Thankfully, she was finished commenting on him, but not finished talking.

“I’m pretty relaxed now,” she told me, “except for my teeth.” I checked around for witnesses to that gem. Unfortunately, there were none.

Finally, they started rolling mom back to the operating room. We were worried. You could cut the tension with a knife … until mom looked back over her shoulder, smiled, waved and nonchalantly said, “toodle loo.”

There’s no telling what mom said next. Regardless, I heard enough to know she would be a lot of fun at a cocktail party.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Coke Museum's Approach is Refreshing

I recently visited the World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta where I had the opportunity to taste sodas from around the world. Some of them were quite delicious, while others left a bad taste in my mouth.

I gravitated toward the sweetest concoctions, including South Africa’s Bibo Kiwi Mango, which reminded me of something I’d enjoy on the beach with a little rum, and Thailand’s Kiwi Apple, which reminded me of a Jolly Rancher.

In contrast, Italy’s “Beverly” reminded of something you’d use to get information from prisoners of war. No wonder they discontinued it.
Then there’s the most controversial of all Cokes ... New Coke. You couldn’t sample this ill-fated beverage at the museum, but you could learn about it in a small exhibit in the “Pop Culture” area. The exhibit detailed how a new formula for Coke had fared well in taste tests. Buoyed by this success, Coke decided to replace its old formula.

However, the backlash to New Coke was immediate and overwhelmingly negative. Protestors demanded the return of the original Coke formula. It wasn’t long before Coke executives obliged. For a while, they sold New Coke and “Classic” Coke together, before quietly brandishing New Coke to the brand graveyard.

Some accused Coke of a massive publicity stunt, but executives denied it, saying they were neither “that smart nor that dumb.” The exhibit included the statement that announced Classic Coke’s return, complete with editing marks.

Kudos to Coke for tackling its biggest blunder head on. In contrast, I’m told the College Football Hall of Fame once had an entire exhibit devoted to Ohio State Coach Wood Hayes with no mention that his career ended when he hit an opposing player.

I find Coke’s approach to be, umm, refreshing. Like it or not, New Coke is part of Coca-Cola’s history. I don’t remember New Coke’s taste, but I remember the incident. And I’m certain of this much: It couldn’t have been any worse than Beverly.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Another UK Loss for the Ages

Although losing to rival by Louisville two touchdowns on their home field on Saturday, Kentucky football fans were quick to declare victory. This isn’t the first time the UK faithful have made the best of a bad situation. I did a little research and discovered the following:
  • Upon tasting New Coke, a UK fan declared that it would get better if people would only give it a few years.
  • After test driving a Segway, a UK fan immediately said cars had been “overrated.
  • A UK movie viewer who screened “The Lone Ranger” said producers had “shot themselves in the foot” by releasing it too early. He added it would’ve been a better film if they had waited a few more weeks to release it.
  • A UK information technology professor proclaimed that Windows 8 “is not as bad as everyone thought it would be.
Also, there were a few late developments following Saturday’s heroic UK loss.
  • UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhardt renamed the highway outside of Commonwealth Stadium, formerly known as Hal Mumme Pass, to “Mark Stoops Dropped, But Almost Caught, Pass.”
  • Barnhardt said UK is likely to lose to U of L by even fewer points in future matchups. He calls this, “under promising and over delivering,” which keeps the fans satisfied until the next alumni basketball game.
  • Barnhardt cancelled Monday’s classes in honor of Saturday’s performance, including Internet classes, so “basketball players can celebrate, too. After all, they also lost to Louisville by fewer points than expected.”
Finally, a UK journalism professor who edited this blog post conceded that I had written better than could be expected given my poor training. He added, however, that Kentucky’s incoming freshman class could certainly do better.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Picture This: A Photo That Never Goes Away

The photo never goes away. It’s the Bennett family equivalent of such iconic images as the Beatles at Abbey Road or the soldier kissing the girl on Times Square. It arrives in my email when I least expect it as a reminder of summer’s past.

We were fresh from Kentucky Kingdom’s water park. I’m in the middle, wearing Cardinal gear as usual and carrying towels. My wife is carrying what looks like a Sponge Bob backpack. My oldest is to my right with an overbite that has long since been corrected. And my youngest rounds out the crew when he still looked, well, young.

As people left the park that day, a worker corralled us, snapped the photo and gave us a claim check. Somehow, in a moment of weakness, she must’ve captured my email address, too. So the picture arrives every so often with a reminder that it would make a great calendar or Christmas card or coffee mug.

As it turns out, the picture had a longer shelf life than the park, which has been shuttered for years. A local businessman is currently in the process of reopening it.

Regardless of the status of the park, the photo lives on. The company that captured the image just won’t give up, despite the fact that I’ve never spent a cent on it and never will. If park officials had run the whole thing as efficiently as the photo concession, then it probably would’ve never closed in the first place.

It’s clear to me that I should’ve unsubscribed from this email years ago. But now I can’t even imagine a future without the photo. Perhaps my ancestors will get a reminder via brainvision and make a nice t-shirt from it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Danica Patrick Doppelganger

As Ive said before, my super power is being able to tell regular people which celebrity they most resemble. Occasionally, inspiration strikes even when I not trying. Such was the case recently when I was watching a celebrity edition of the Food Network show Chopped. As NASCAR driver Danica Patrick was hustling around the kitchen, I couldnt help but think that she reminded me of someone else. (Truthfully, I was also thinking how I wish shed invite me over for dinner, even though I'm sure my wife wouldnt let me go.) Anyway, it finally hit me ... Patrick looks like Zoe Barnes of “House of Cards, who is another woman known for her fast moves. Barnes is played by actress Kate Mara. Check out the pictures below and tell me that you dont agree that Patrick could play Maras stunt double.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

PR is Like a 'House of Cards'

Fictional U.S. Rep. Frank Underwood smooth talks his way through Congress in the Emmy-nominated Netflix original program, “House of Cards.” Along the way, he teaches us some lessons about public relations, both good and bad.

Following are lessons from D.C.’s manipulator in chief.

Always prepare for an interview. Rather than prepare for a CNN debate about a contentious teacher’s strike, Underwood underestimates the opposition and decides to wing it. When things go poorly on live TV, he throws an instinctual Hail Mary pass that misfires badly, setting back his cause and making him a viral video sensation for all the wrong reasons.

Respond quickly to a crisis situation. When fingers start being pointed following an accident in his home district, Underwood heads home immediately, despite being up to his elbows in alligators in Washington. Once back at home, Underwood shows such remarkable responsiveness and caring that he brings the crisis quickly under control, clearing the way for his return to D.C.

Tell your bad news before someone else does. Peter Russo, a flawed congressman with a checkered past, is Underwood’s pick to run for governor of Pennsylvania. Rather than wait for news of Russo’s past drug use to trickle out, Underwood advises Russo to tackle it head-on, framing it as a comeback story.

Put a face to your story. With the teacher’s strike at an impasse, Underwood rallies support by telling the story of a child’s untimely death. This story is broken instantly on Twitter, showing that even an old-school Washington powerbroker appreciates the power of the new media.

Don’t speculate. Underwood goes off the record to predict the outcome of a precariously close vote. When he gets it wrong, it hurts both his credibility with a reporter and the reporter’s credibility with her audience.

Put yourself in a good mental place before an interview. Russo parties all night before an important radio interview. The results are predictably bad, torpedoing his gubernatorial campaign.

Keep your media relationships professional. Underwood selects Zoe Barnes as his primary media confidant. For a while, things go swimmingly. But when the relationship gets too personal, both suffer.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sign of the time for Cardinals

If you want University of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s signature, then you better have a summons.

Bridgewater isn’t signing autographs anymore nor or the rest of the football Cardinals. Head Coach Charlie Strong has replaced the team’s regular fan day autograph session with an extra public scrimmage. This is a radical reversal for Strong who scheduled autograph sessions both before and after his team won the Sugar Bowl.

I know this because my son and I stood in the line at one of them, getting signatures for my favorite Sugar Bowl keepsake, which is an autographed poster framed with a family photo and some Bourdon Street beads.

Strong was particularly gracious with autograph seekers that day. His change of heart is obviously in reaction to Texas A & M quarterback Johnny Manziel allegedly being paid thousands of dollars by an autograph broker to sign memorabilia, placing his college eligibility in jeopardy.

I appreciate Strong’s passion for running a clean program. However, the answer to the Manziel situation isn’t to reduce fan access or even crack down on the autograph market, it’s simply educating and policing players. If Manziel is in trouble, it’s not because he signed autographs, but because he got paid.

I can’t imagine there’s a huge market for most U of L players’ signatures outside the Cardinals’ fan base. In that regard, Strong’s policy hurts his own fans most. Additionally, it risks placing a wedge between the Cardinals and their fans. After all, gathering autographs is a time-tested tradition that builds relationships, especially with younger fans.

U of L Basketball Head Coach Rick Pitino knows this. He has been signing so many bottles he’s probably got carpel tunnel syndrome. His players are signing, too. I recently got Russ Smith, Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell to sign a championship basketball. You can find that ball proudly displayed on my shelf; not in an eBay listing.

The space for a football will apparently remain empty.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Trouble on the (Very) High Seas

Right after it happened, my son, Trent, urged me to write about it. But the wounds … mostly mental … were too fresh. Now, I’m finally ready to tell the story.

It started innocently enough on vacation. I was relaxing on an ocean-side balcony when I saw people riding Jet Skis. It looked fun. I remembered my former boss, Stilla, telling me about her Jet Ski exploits. If she could do it, surely I could.

So I looked up the address, grabbed the family, forked over a small fortune and began Jet Ski orientation. We decided to go out in pairs. Kim and Trent would be on one Jet Ski; Clark (my youngest) and me on the other. The guide said the ocean was choppy. I didn’t think much of it. If anything, I worried a bit about Kim and Trent.

So we headed into the waiting sea. I soon learned “choppy” is a euphemism for “tsunami force” in the Jet Ski business. We survived the initial onslaught, flying above the waves like dolphins, but I was never fully comfortable. 

Here’s how Clark describes what happened next, “We rode for like a minute and you turned it over.” The guide sped to our rescue. He helped pull us back aboard, advising us to go faster to gain better control. As it turns out, going faster to gain better control is another Jet Ski industry lie, just like “choppy” waters.

After another minute, there was another crash and another visit from the guide. This time, we didn’t bounce back quickly. The adrenaline and the fatigue and the waves were taking their toll. We managed to get nearly aboard twice, only to tip it over again. This wasn’t nearly as fun as it looked from the balcony. Or at least not for us. Kim and Trent were having fun, riding by doing tricks on their Jet Ski as if they were in a water show.

But the amusement was over for Clark and me. This outing had become a Baywatch episode. I knew we weren’t going to get back on that Jet Ski, and I told the guide so. Frustrated, he called to the shore for the “banana boat.” (As an aside, the banana boat is yellow, but there are no bananas on it … another Jet Ski lie). We fell over the edge and were whisked to shore. I was far too tired to be embarrassed.

For a moment, I thought about asking for my money back. I didn’t. I figured the cost of the rescue far exceeded my out-of-pocket costs.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Playing with the Language

As a PR guy and former journalist, I know words matter. That is why it bothers me to see the language manipulated by those who should know better.

Such is the case with the phrase “revenue increase.” You hear it everywhere in the media these days. It’s a happy euphemism for what used to be called a tax increase.

A tax increase sounds like something that hits your wallet. In contrast, a revenue increase sounds like some benign financial transaction that happens between accountants without impacting you. You might expect some congressional staffers to shade the language like this, but not journalists, who are supposed to be the referees … the seekers of truth.

It’s fine if you believe tax increases will help the economy, but just call it what it is.

If grandpa refers to his adult diaper “a personal protection garment,” then nobody gets hurt. But when you’re talking about public policy and our government spending, then it’s important to be more authentic.

Come to think of it, if George H.W. Bush had uttered the phrase “no new revenue increases,” then maybe he would’ve won a second term.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Vacation Brings Travel Travails

I just returned from a family road trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C. As usual, I have some important revelations to share from my travels. You might call them travel travails. They are as follows:
  • There’s no cut-off age for getting those red or pink streaks in your hair. Your grandma used to have blue hair. Now she has blue hair with red streaks.
  • If someone tells you to drive a Jet Ski faster to get better control, ignore them. It’s not true. You are only going to crash … and faster.
  • If you are at any restaurant at Myrtle Beach, save yourself some time and order the crab cakes. Don’t even bother looking at the menu. Better yet, don’t ever leave the Noizy Oyster.
  • If you are going to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., (our happy halfway point) always make hotel reservations. It doesn’t matter if you are arriving at noon on Monday. Make reservations. That mind-reading pig must be very popular.
  • A frightening number of babies are wearing mohawks. Why do they make such daring hairstyle choices at such a young age?
  • If you complain about your room, you’ll always get a better one. I was one grievance away from the Penthouse at Paradise Resort.
  • Some jack ass with horrible hand/eye coordination is always going to hit you with a wet football at the pool.
  • If you’re near the beach and someone tells you to go fly a kite, then you should do it. Really. It’s fun.
  • If your wife asks if you are too tired to drive, then she is the one who is actually tired … tired of the way you’re driving.
  • If you accidentally run a red light, your kid isn’t going to let you hear the end of it, particularly if you dumped him off a Jet Ski  … twice.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tournament Bowling Is Child's Play

I just returned from Reno, Nev., for the USBC National bowling competition, which included some bad bowling, some good eats and some lively entertainment.

Bad Bowling: Earlier this year, my brother-in-law somehow convinced me to pick up a bowling ball for the first time in 20 years. He said plenty of people in his league were low rollers so I’d fit right in. That turned out to be a bit of salesmanship. My 149 average was easily at the bottom of the league, but I still took some modest pride in not totally embarrassing myself. Unfortunately, that would come later … on a bigger stage.

My brother-in-law’s next bit of smooth talking resulted in me traveling to Reno for the USBC National tournament. The first day we competed as a team. Aside from one game, no one bowled particularly well, but it wasn’t a nightmare either. That didn’t happen until the next day when I opened the doubles competition with a 94. To put this in perspective, let me explain that many children, including my nephew, can bowl a 94. And I did it in a national tournament … in front of an Internet audience. Before the day was over, I somewhat redeemed myself with a 171 and 176, but it was hardly consolation.

Good Eats: Although I always hear there are good cheap eats in Las Vegas, I can never find them. In Reno, they were everywhere, starting with the $5.99 prime rib special at the Cal Neva casino, which included salad and a potato. You could tack on a tall Bud Light for only a buck more. However, my personal favorite meal was the “awful,awful burger” from a hole-in-the wall joint called the Little Nugget. I went to Reno determined to hit my favorite fast food place, In and Out Burger, but the Little Nugget so satisfied my need for meaty goodness that I never made it. They throw in a pound of fries to boot.

Lively Entertainment: Two words: lingerie bowling. Our hotel, Harrah’s, welcomed USBC bowlers by plopping down a single, regulation bowling lane right onto the casino floor. If that wasn’t spectacle enough, they then invited a couple of special guests to bowl wearing less than my typical bowling shirt.

I don’t think either of them bowled as low as a 94.

That would be awful, awful … and I’m not talking about the burger.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Parents Gone Wild

The basketball fan was worked into a full frenzy before the game even began, perhaps enjoying some sort of adult concoction as part of his pre-game ritual.

Immediately after tip-off, his voice erupted throughout the venue. He originally rooted for his favorite team, but quickly degenerated to mocking the opponent. He even gave a false countdown at the end of a quarter, trying to trick the opponent into shooting too soon. The players were too smart to fall for it.

All of this might’ve been harmless enough fun if it were at the Yum Center or Rupp Arena. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Instead, the venue was a local church on a Saturday morning and the players were 10-year-old boys and girls. That’s right, this guy wasn’t hollering at Duke or North Carolina. He was hollering at a team called “The Blue’s Clues.” Granted, I’ve done my fair share of taunting over the years at sporting events, but I like to at least wait until the players reach puberty to do so.

Having been involved in youth sports for a long time, I’ve known parents to lose perspective at their kids’ games before, but never like this. Before it was over, parents were yelling at parents, coaches were yelling at coaches and at least one person was asked to leave, although the instigator somehow managed to stay. The teenage referees did their best to straighten things out, but were ill equipped to handle the mess.

It ended poetically enough with someone turning off the lights as they left the gym despite the fact that there was another game remaining to be played.

In this league, there are no standings, trophies or all-star teams. The purpose is to have fun and learn good sportsmanship.

So much for that.

How about you? Any good stories of youth sports “parents gone wild?”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Who's On Your Bucket List?

Seeing The Who was one of the things on my bucket list.

Ideally, I would’ve seen them in their heyday with their full lineup. With that no longer possible, I was looking forward to seeing Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend at Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center last weekend. I was not disappointed … and yet I kind of was, if that makes any sense.

For a couple of aging rock stars, Daltrey and Townshend had plenty of pep. They put together a show of sufficient length and energy. The problem is they did it while playing a bunch of songs I’d never heard of, and I’m a pretty ardent fan.

The Who could’ve easily filled two hours with their greatest hits. Instead, in pure, indulgent Townshend fashion, they featured their Quadraphenia concept album. Of course, I knew that going in and accepted it, but it still made for an uneven performance.

The show opened in familiar enough territory with “The Real Me.” But then it settled into the meat of the Quadraphenia story, accompanied by a multimedia presentation. I won’t bore you here with all the details except to say that Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters does a better job in the rock opera format with “The Wall.”

But then a funny thing happened. About the time the Who hit “5:15,” I was buying into Quadraphenia. I remained engaged until they reached a wonderful crescendo with “Love, Reign o'er Me.” Having finished the album, the Who then whipped the crowd into a final frenzy, running through such hits as “Who Are You?,” “Baba O’Riley,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Sure, Daltrey missed a couple words. And he can’t hit two big notes in a row anymore. But he and his long-term partner ultimately proved worthy of my bucket list status, even if it took them awhile to get there.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Submarine Book Has Depth

I just finished reading my friend Todd Tucker's latest novel Collapse Depth, which is available for download at the Kindle store.

I have particularly enjoyed Todd’s non-fiction writing over the years, since this is my preferred genre. I’m just one of those “ripped straight from the headlines” kind of guys.

So I approached Collapse Depth with a little trepidation. Nevertheless, the novel worked for me because Todd made it feel real while traveling to fanciful territory. Undoubtedly, he drew upon his background as a naval officer – as well as his knowledge of history – to pull it off.

Todd’s knowledge particularly shines through as he describes life aboard a nuclear submarine, including the language, the rivalries, the living and the gadgets. He does this in a way that satisfies the curiosity of landlubbers without overwhelming us.

But this isn’t a submarine manual. Todd pays close attention to character development too as he unveils the players, their backgrounds and their motives. We meet administrators who yearn for the sea, sailors who yearn for the land and spouses who yearn for information.

Todd accomplishes this without interfering with the underlying whodunit story. He deftly switches back and forth between sailors on a submarine mission gone wrong and supporters at home dealing with the consequences. He rewards readers for paying close attention as the mystery unfolds, although there are some red herrings along the way.

Because of the way it is structured, Collapse Depth is a quick and satisfying read. Key scenes played out in my mind’s eye like an action adventure movie. (If you're optioning movies, I bet Todd wouldn't mind hearing from you).

The book met my personal need for authenticity while holding my attention with an entertaining story. Unless I’m mistaken, I don’t think we’ll get another history book out of Todd anytime soon, so I’ll eagerly await the sequel to this one.

Disclaimer: Todd has kindly included me in the acknowledgments section of his past books. I hold no malice that this e-book does not carry any acknowledgments.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Hummingbird Flying off Shelves

When the Elaine character in the television series Seinfeld discovers that one of her favorite products is being pulled from the shelves, she immediately buys the remaining stock and uses it sparingly so as not to run out.

The Hummingbird flosser
When it comes to the Oral-B Hummingbird electric flosser, I feel just like Elaine.

My flossing habits aren’t exactly ideal, as my dentist is quick to point out, in writing no less. The Hummingbird makes it a little easier, packing a powerful plaque pounding punch into a small inexpensive package. Additionally, just like an electric toothbrush, the Hummingbird head can be replaced when it wears out. Lately, the replacement heads have been harder to find, if not downright impossible. I began to suspect the worst. Soon, those fears were realized. Somehow, the finest flosser that ever existed has been discontinued.

Once I confirmed this travesty, I hurried to the Web and plugged “Oral-B” and “Hummingbird” into a search, hoping to find one last stash and stockpile it, just like Elaine. Although discontinued, the Hummingbird must’ve enjoyed a devoted following as a black market has sprung up run by ne’er-do-wells more concerned with profiteering than oral health. These things were going like Super Bowl tickets.

Through sheer determination, I found three Hummingbirds available over the Web at retail price. I pounced on all three. Each has three replacement heads. That will cover me for a while, but my supply will eventually run dry, leaving my dentist to document the decay. So, from now on, as I clean up and prepare to leave the house, I’ll consider my destination and put it to the Elaine test: Is this occasion Hummingbird worthy?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Big Times in the Big Easy

I just got back from a family trip to New Orleans to witness the greatest victory in the history of Louisville football over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Following are the impressions of a first-time visitor to the Big Easy on the city and the game.
  • Food, food and more food. We toured New Orleans on our stomachs from shrimp creole to gumbo to Pepto. A little more on that later.
  • When you’re traveling to New Orleans for the first time, always seek the advice of a native, such as my good friend Dave Kemmerly. Dave advised us to stay in the Hilton Riverside, right in the middle of everything. He was right. Unfortunately, it also turned out to be the official hotel of the Florida team, band, cheerleaders, parents, fans, etc. The hotel bellman spied our University of Louisville attire as he took us to our room and said, “Y’all trouble makers, aren’t you?” In a city run amok with Cardinal fans by everyone’s account, we managed to spend a great deal of our time behind enemy lines.
  • Although it sounds like a designer drug, Zydeco is actually a kind of Creole music that features the accordion. And when you feature the accordion, “The Chicken Dance” can’t be far behind, as we found out at Mulate’s.
  •  As mentioned earlier, I inadvertently spent a lot of time with Florida fans, including a mile-long walk from the Superdome after U of L’s victory. I wasn’t looking forward to that one, but Gator fans were all class. They frequently congratulated us on the victory and praised U of L quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
  • Not that I blame them, but the UF players were not nearly as collegial after the loss. My wife used one word to describe them: “seething.” Better them than me.
  • Although primarily known for its French influences, New Orleans is a melting pot for a lot of different cultures, including Italian. We picked up a famous muffaletta sandwich at the Central Grocery, which felt like the meat market in the Sopranos. The sandwich was terrific, even if they may have been smuggling Zydeco from the back.
  • I don’t know exactly how much powdered sugar they pour on the beignets at CafĂ© DuMonde, but I’m betting it arrives on Decatur Street in cement trucks. I wore more on my sweatshirt than I ate. But believe me, I’m not complaining.
  • One of my stated goals in New Orleans was to pick up an authentic voodoo doll. After spending a little time in one of those shops, I can tell you that voodoo is something that sounds better in theory than in practice. I found the black arts just aren’t for me. Plus, most of my enemies have been smitten already anyway.
That’s our trip to New Orleans in a nutshell: a great victory, a friendly rival, delicious food from breakfast through dinner, and a safe return without a curse or Zydeco addiction.