Monday, March 28, 2011


Whenever the talk turns to weather, South Floridians can expect the inevitable question from someone up north:
Don't you miss the change of seasons?
I have a one-word answer for that:
Sometimes I have two words:
Hell, no.
After 19 years of living in the Miami area (longer than I have ever lived in any other place, now that I think about it), I have pretty much become a weather weenie.
I'll take my 80 degrees and love it.
Growing up, I often suspected that tropical living was a life I could aspire to, and that suspicion was confirmed when I spent my first tour on active duty in the Navy on Guam.
On that island in the tropics there were two seasons, rainy and dry, but they shared one thing in common: they both were warm. The temperature never got below 75 degrees or above 85.
I must confess that the temperature here in South Florida often drops below 75 in the winter, but the days of temperatures in the 50s are relatively few and below that fewer still.
It does get hotter than 85, but I don’t mind. Besides, many times it’s just as hot and humid in say St. Louis or Chicago in July and August as it is in Miami.
As I write this, the temperature here in Miami is 80, but it was much warmer than that earlier this afternoon (it is just after 5 p.m. here). In Crawfordsville, Indiana, just to pick a town at random, it is 44 degrees, according to a quick Google check.
Now, all this said, there is one thing I do miss about the seasons, however, and that time is approaching.
There comes a time in the spring, when life is beginning to emerge from the dark, dread, cold days of winter, when the temperature has gotten comfortably above “chilly” that you are driving around and all of a sudden, you realize your car windows are down.
A gentle breeze is actually bringing in warmth from the outside world, not a biting cold, and you can hear sounds of outdoor activities, especially if you are driving around a campus such as that at Indiana University in Bloomington.
This particular moment is what I miss, and the only thing I miss, about the change of seasons.
And it lasts for only one day. After that, the novelty wears off.
That’s not enough for a weather weenie to give up his warm winters for.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


If you have been following the NCAA basketball tournament, you no doubt are aware that March Madness has been particularly mad this year.
As I write this, only one of the tournament's top four seeds is among the final eight teams left from the original 68-team field, and if you read this on Monday, that team, Kansas, could be packing up its equipment and looking to the 2011-12 season.
I kind of doubt that is going to happen, though. The Jayhawks have been the most consistent team in the tourney, and they seem likely to end the magical run of Virginia Commonwealth, which has become the first team to win four games in the event and still need one more win to reach the Final Four.
But you never know. Maybe the Jayhawks will shoot as poorly against VCU as Ohio State did in its loss to Kentucky, or get steamrolled like Duke in its loss to Arizona, or do something really dumb like Pittsburgh against Butler.
It really would be kind of nice to see no No. 1 seed to make it to the Final Four. That has happened only twice since they began seeding the field in 1979 -- in 1980 and again five years ago in 2006. At least one No. 1 has made the Final Four in all the other years, usually two.
Three years ago all four No. 1 seeds made it to the national semifinals. Ugh. What fun would it be if the favorite won the Kentucky Derby every year?
But here’s what I’m wondering about the eight teams (or six or four, depending on when you read this) left in the tourney:
How many would be there if they had to rely mostly on homegrown talent?
My guess: Not very many. One, possibly, but likely no more than two.
Here’s a synopsis of the rosters of those eight teams:
Arizona: Three of the 15 players on the Wildcats’ roster are from in-state, but six others are from California. Good thing, too, because though none of the in-state players start, three of the Californians -- team leader Derrick Williams, Kyle Fogg, and Solomon Hill -- do. The other two starters are from Missouri (Jesse Perry) and New York (Lamont Jones).
Butler: The Bulldogs start three players from Indiana -- Andrew Smith (from Indianapolis, where the campus is located), Matt Howard and Chase Sigall). The other two starters are from Kentucky (Shelvin Mack) and Florida (Shaw Vanzant). In all, 10 of the 14 players on the roster are homegrown.
Connecticut: Only three on the 16-player roster as in-state products. Star Kemba Walker is from New York. Three other starters are from Massachusetts (Alex Oriakhi), Georgia (Jeremy Lamb), and Maryland (Roscoe Smith). The fifth starter in UConn’s tourney run has been Tyler Olander (Connecticut) or Charles Okwander (Nigeria).
Florida: Of the 13 players on the active roster, six are Floridians. They include starting guard Kenny Boynton and forward Chandler Parsons. Two key backups, Patric Young and Scott  Wilbekin, also are from the state. The other starters are from Virginia (Vernon Macklin), New York (Erving Walker), and Missouri (Alex Tyus).
Kansas: Of the 16 Jayhawks (including walk-ons), four are from Kansas. Two of them, guards Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed, are starters. Morningstar actually is from Lawrence, though he played a year in prep school in New Hampshire before returning to his hometown. The other starters are from Pennsylvania (twins Markieff and Marcus Morris) and New Jersey (Tyshawn Taylor).
Kentucky: Of the 10-player roster, three are from Kentucky, but only one, Darius Miller, starts. The other two, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson, hardly play. The other four starters are from Oregon (Terrence Jones), Florida (Brandon Knight), Missouri (Josh Harrellson and either New York (Doron Lamb) and Illinois (DeAndre Liggins).
North Carolina: The Tar Heels list 15 players on their roster, seven of whom are in-state products. But a closer look reveals that of those seven, only one, Reggie Bullock, a freshman guard who plays about 15 minutes a game off the bench, sees significant time. The starters are from Iowa (Harrison Barnes), Indiana (Tyler Zeller), Florida (John Henson), Virginia (Kendall Marshall), and New Jersey (Dexter Strickland).
VCU: Only four players on VCU’s roster are from Virginia, but one of them is top scorer Brad Burgess. Of the other starters in VCU’s win over Florida State, two are from Florida (Ed Nixon and Joey Rodriguez), one from North Carolina (Jamie Skeen), and one from California (D.J. Haley). One of the key reserves, Brandon Rozzell, is from Richmond, where the campus is located.
Frankly, I’m not sure what all this leads up to except that it appears Florida, Florida State, Miami, and some of the other Sunshine State schools could have pretty good teams relying on homegrown talent alone.
I’m not so sure about Kentucky and North Carolina, which happened to rank 1-2 in number of all-time wins in college basketball history.
I also remember something an old college football coach once said when the subject of recruiting out-of-state players came up.
“You’ve got to allow it,” he said, or words to that effect, “or Wyoming will have to fill out its roster with jackrabbits and coyotes.”

Monday, March 21, 2011


 We have had a change in our lives in recent years, and, no, it’s not what you’re thinking.

We once were dog people. Less than two weeks after we were married, we went down to the animal shelter in Long Beach and brought back home with us a mixed border collie.

He was a delightful dog who through the years had a knack for getting into the background of family pictures. We’d be looking through Christmas photos and all of a sudden we would notice him sticking his nose in the middle of a picture of one of the kids unwrapping gifts to see what the fuss was about.

After Hafa Adai passed (I’m not going to get into where the name came from but it’s pronounced “hof-a-day”), we were several years without another dog until one Sunday afternoon the kids asked to go down to the animal shelter there in Jackson. I thought it would be closed, being Sunday and all, but I was wrong. This time we brought home a mixed golden retriever puppy we named Beaux.

A few years later, we were gifted with a Peke named Nikki. Beaux was 17 when he passed, Nikki much younger, and then we had Mikki, who had been my daughter’s tiny Peke, (She was once pictured in Dave Barry’s Christmas gift guide -- Nikki, that is, not my daughter.) Mikki didn’t like the new baby my daughter had introduced to her household, so Mikki wound up with us.

Then Mikki developed tumors, and we lost her despite several surgeries.

So we were definitely dog people.

Now, suddenly we are cat people.

I had both when I was growing up, so why not?

I won’t get into all the details here, except to say it really is true when someone said, “People adopt dogs; cats adopt people,” or something like that. A month or so after Mikki was gone a mother cat we thought might belong to a neighbor brought her tiny kittens by. We fed them, and that was that.

Fast forward here. The mother cat (Princess) had a couple more litters before I decided even if she was someone else’s cat she needed to be spayed. The last litter was two kittens, both males, who were born in our spare bedroom. Aside from Nikki and Mikki, two AKC-registered Pekes, those two cats are the only pets I’ve had that I know the actual birth dates of.

But I’m not writing about them.

I’m writing about the big cat we think was their father.

Tiger, as we named him, was essentially a stray who came to stopping by for a quick bite or two and probably to see what was up with Princess. He was a funny looking thing with a huge head and slender body, and he looked like he had been through several battles.

I did try to discourage him from hanging around. During “mating season” he would annoy everybody around with his skirmishes with other males. Once when I heard a commotion out in the yard, I went out and one of the cats immediately took off. Though I stomped my foot in front of him and tried to shush him away, Tiger just sat and looked up at me.

During the heat of the summer Tiger would spend afternoons in our air-conditioning, but since every once in a while he would feel the need to mark his territory, my wife didn’t want to let him in very often. He always went out at night.

Mostly, Tiger remained an occasional outdoor visitor only. Sometimes we wouldn’t even see him for a day or two.

Then a little while back my wife made the observation that Tiger looked as if he had been “fixed.” (Isn’t that a funny word to use for neuter; after all, the cat obviously isn’t broken.)

I didn’t pay much attention until I noticed his ear. I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but the Humane Society down this way clips a stray’s ear after he/she has been neutered/spayed, then let’s them go. Supposedly, when if a trapper catches a stray so marked, he then let’s them go.

Sure enough, Tiger’s ear was clipped.

And boy oh boy has his behavior changed.

He now likes to spend most of his time indoors, and he doesn’t fight with any of the other cats but accedes to their demands. He seems almost polite awaiting his turn to eat.

His body has filled out to fit his head so he no longer looks out-of-balance, and he likes nothing better than to sit on my lap and have me rub his head. He doesn’t like me to rub his back, but he likes to have his head scratched.

He gets up late while I’m watching TV and goes to the door to be let out, and then less than an hour later he is back sitting in front of the sliding door to be let back in.

I have no idea how old he is. Probably not as old as he looks.

He still has a weather-beaten look about him, kind of like an old grizzled Navy chief bos’n mate I once knew. His right eye sometimes looks it may have a problem, probably the result of some past battle. The white parts of his fur are never going to be real white again.

But he’s still a good ole cat. Ugly and unattractive as he is, he’s hard not to like.

I get kind of a good feeling thinking that life for Tiger is much more pleasant now and not the daily struggle it probably once was. Or at least how I imagine it was. Our neighborhood isn’t that bad.

NOTE: When I had finished writing this, I did a little surfing on the web and then started to get up to go the other room. When I turned around, there was Tiger, sitting in this chair beside me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011



I am going on a rant today about a couple of things automotive related. I’m willing to bet you can relate to at least one of them, and maybe both.

I am driving a GMC Terrain this week. This is essentially a knockoff of the Chevrolet Equinox in just about everything except its exterior features -- same platform, same engine choices, same transmission, etc.

It’s not a bad vehicle at all, a bit underpowered when equipped with the base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (a V6 is available) but otherwise up to the job it is designed for -- a compact crossover for hauling families and groceries.

Many reviewers have praised it and see it as a strong competitor in its segment, and I would agree with their assessment.

That’s not my rant.

My rant has to do with its optional navigation system.

The screen for the map display, though a nice-sized seven inches, is hard to see. The designers were thoughtful enough to add a visor at the top of the screen to shade the display from sunlight, a nice touch.

But when set in the “daylight” mode, it is difficult to see all the streets without straining. The background, you see, is something of a light gray in color. The main roads are in green and red and easily seen. But the side streets are outlined in white. They simply blend into the background, and often they are the ones you really need.

At first, I thought the problem might be my polarized sunglasses, so I took them off. No noticeable difference. Unless I leaned forward and squinted, I simply couldn’t see the side streets at a glance, which is the way it should be.

I thought maybe I could adjust the brightness of the screen to take care of the problem, and that is when I ran into the subject for my second rant. When I punched enough buttons to bring up settings for just about everything except brightness, I decided I had to go to the owner’s manual.
For an auto reviewer, this is throwing up a white flag of surrender, but you can’t win them all.

So I dug in the owner’s manual. It was no help.

I don’t know who makes up the indexes for owner’s manuals, but whoever it is has no idea of what the average slug (like me) might be looking for in them.

I tried various key words in both the regular owner’s manual and the separate publication for the navigation system and though I saw how to set up all kinds of visual and audio functions and what all the little lights on the instrument panel are for, I never came across setting simple screen brightness.

Maybe it was a knob right in front of me, but I couldn’t find it.

So I gave up.

I hasten to add that the problem with owner’s manuals and looking up things in them isn’t unique to GM products. It’s pretty common through the industry. Try picking up one of the manuals for a German automaker. They’re the size and thickness of the Oxford English Dictionary but written without the humor. If you want to find something specific in them, throwing them up in the air and hoping the right page comes up is as fast as searching through the index.

So, too, are some navigation screens on some models difficult to see. Jaguar and Porsche are two makes that come to mind, though both have taken steps in recent years to remedy the problem.

I don’t see how someone at GMC who was savvy enough to recognize the sunlight problem and add a very effective visor to shade the screen could then do something as dumb as outline streets in white on a light gray background.

What were you thinking?

That’s the end of my rant, but I will bring up one more thing.

Why did GM, which has a very effective lineup of trucks and SUVs in its Chevrolet brand that are near copies of GMC products (or the other way around), keep GMC and get rid of Pontiac, and before that, Oldsmobile?

Maybe the same kind of guy who would outline streets on light gray maps in white, I guess.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


When I began writing this blog, I decided I would avoid politics,  figuring that, No. 1, nobody would really care what I thought about what was going on in Washington and elsewhere and, No. 2, there are plenty of other blogs out there on politics already.

So what I am about to write here shouldn’t be looked at in as a political statement because it’s not intended as such.

The news was out today (Tuesday) that President Obama is working on picking games for his NCAA basketball tournament bracket.

My comment is this:

Doesn’t he have more important things to do?

I know you can’t be in crisis mode 24/7, but I just think that with everything that is going on -- earthquakes, tsunamis, Iran, Afghanistan, the budget, gas prices, Egypt, Libya, etc., etc., -- he may have some more important things to tend to.

Picking out the winners of 67 basketball games takes time if you want to do it right, and if you don’t want to take the time, or can’t, then don’t bother me with your picks.

Come to think of it, I don’t even care about the picks of so-called experts on ESPN, ESPNU, CBS College Sports, newspapers, etc. I used to pick games for the newspapers both in football and basketball, but, really, they didn’t matter anything.
One time one of the members of our picking panel for college football games approached the subject with such disdain he would do things like pick all home teams one week, all visiting teams the next, against all the local teams the next, all underdogs, all favorites, and whatever other system he could come up with.

I did learn one thing though, and that was that many readers apparently were paying attention to our picks because every once in a while someone would ask me what in the world was going through his mind.

So, to get back to Obama, I really don’t care what his NCAA tourney picks are this year and didn’t care last year, when he failed to get any of the Final Four teams right. (Hey, who saw Butler coming?)

But apparently many people do. Obama’s NCAA picks are getting as much coverage as -- well, let me leave it at that. They’re getting coverage. Going beyond that is bordering on being political.

To me, what this shows is just how big the NCAA tournament and the “March Madness” it created have become. According to some folks, a lot of work doesn’t get done this month because of all the time people are spending working on their brackets for the office pools and then watching the games.

This week in particular is a busy schedule of games. The first ones are tonight, but these are play-in games created the when the field was bumped up to 68 teams from the more manageable 64 teams. (OK, 65 teams in recent years.) The pace really picks up on Thursday and Friday when games start at noon (Eastern time) and continue all day.

The regionals the following week are at night on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and the Final Four is on a Saturday and Monday.

No other championship sporting event I can think of -- and I can think of a lot of them -- maintains such an intense level of interest over such a long period of time.

Yes, the NBA playoffs go into the summer, but with teams having to win four games to win a series, there isn’t the drama of the one-loss-and-you’re-out scenario.

Super Bowl? One game, with the preliminaries leading up to it spaced neatly a week apart.

World Series? Over in ten days or less.

BCS Championship? Over in one night.

Stanley Cup? You can’t be serious.

I first became aware of the NCAA tourney back in the 1950s when I started watching Indiana University games on my grandparents’ snowy, black-and-white TV. I never saw the Hoosiers in any tournament games, but I knew they won the 1953 national championship.

It wasn’t until the 1960s, when I was in college myself, that I was able to watch an NCAA games on TV. Back then, though, TV fit its schedule to the schedule at the site of the game. Thus in 1965, after cover the Indiana high school basketball tournament finals for my newspaper, I went to a friend’s place to catch the UCLA-Michigan game on TV later that night. The game was being played in Portland, Oregon, so it didn’t start until late at night.

In later years, TV took to showing one of the national semifinal games, which then were played on Thursday nights, the emphasis being on one. The game would end, the announcers would make some commentary, and in the background you would see the UCLA team coming onto the floor for warmups for the second semifinal as the network signed off.

It would usually be the next day before you would learn who had won, which was usually UCLA at that time.

I’m not sure what year it was, but sometime in the early 1970s the NCAA switched the format so that semifinal games would be played on Saturday afternoon. TV could then show both, but not in prime time. The final game was on Monday night.

Interest has grown so much that now the semifinal games are played in prime time on Saturday night.

I’m not sure exactly when the big growth spurt came in the tournament, but it was sometime in the late 1970s.

I remember covering the 1975 Final Four in San Diego, and the NCAA provided a two-room hotel suite with an outdoor patio for a hospitality room. The NCAA folks pretty much knew who we all were, and we got our own beers out of a bathtub filled with ice.

After a two-year absence, I was back to the Final Four in 1978, and the hospitality suite was a big hotel ballroom complete with bartenders and a buffet for pre- and post-game meals. Some sort of ID was required for admittance.

I haven’t been back to the Final Four in quite a few years now, but I don’t think much as changed. Records show that more people started paying attention nationally in 1979, when Michigan State’s Magic Johnson and Indiana State’s Larry Bird drew a record TV audience for their matchup. The number of viewers for their duel remains a viewership record for a national championship game more than three decades later.

The potential for that record to be broken this year probably isn’t very good. For as high as the interest in the tournament is at the start of the event, the fervor begins to fade as more and more fans’ favorites are eliminated from the field. Especially if Duke doesn’t make it to the Final Four, there’s no team really for everyone to root against to draw in viewers. (Ohio State notwithstanding.)

But no matter.

Sometimes I think maybe the tournament has grown too big and it was more fun when you had to go through a TV scavenger hunt to find it at the right time and channel. OK, that’s stretching it a bit.

But in any case it doesn’t deserve presidential attention.

And that's not a political matter in my book.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I had a problem with my Internet service the other day. Namely, I wasn’t getting the right number of lights (four) to light up on my modem indicating everything was hunky-dory with my hookup to the wonderful world of email and beyond.

This concerned me, because this has been a particularly busy week for me.

In addition to the basketball reports I have been filing since December, many college football teams are heading into spring practice. That means writing previews noting top players, team priorities, players’ arrest records, etc., for the schools that an outfit called the Sports Xchange has assigned to me.

So when my DSL service went down, it was a concern.

This was especially so because I have had problems in the past that have required me to replace my modem. I’ve had three or four in the span of a similar number of years. Can’t really remember for sure. That means I’m without Internet access for a couple of days waiting for the new modem to arrive.

I can still get to my reports by either going the library down the street and logging on there, which is inconvenient, or taking my laptop on the road and finding wireless Internet access at a place like McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts. I had a good friend who used to pull up in parting lots at popular hotel chains and log onto their wireless networks when he was on the road.

Both options are pains to deal with.

So, yes, I was a bit concerned when this latest incident occurred.

I decided to run all the diagnostic tests, and the little “help” chart that popped up stopping running any more tests after informing me that my DSL connection was down and I should check all my connections to make sure all the proper wires were hooked up.

Thank you so much for that valuable tip, I muttered to myself.

So then I decided I should maybe call AT&T, and here is finally the point I am getting to.

On the “help” -- I continue to put “help” in quotes for reasons that should be clear -- page for AT&T Internet service, there was no phone number for me to call for, well, help.

Instead, I was given a link to connect to AT&T’s support website.

Think about that for a minute. Do you see the obvious conflict here?

If my problem is with my modem, which isn’t working, exactly how am I to hook up with the AT&T DSL service technical support page? Osmosis?

Well, I went downstairs (for the record, I am not a blogger sitting in my basement in my underwear; my workspace is on the second floor of house, and we don’t even have a basement) and dug out the previous month’s bill from AT&T.

There I did find a phone number to call. After going through automated answering hell, pressing “one” for English and then “one” for technical support, etc., I was told things were busy and I could expect a 15-minute wait.

I suspect such messages are bogus because after just a few minutes of getting such “helpful” information during my waiting period as being told the answer to my problem might be found on the AT&T technical support website (see my previous comment on that a couple of graphs up), I was hooked up to a real person. And this person seemed to be talking from somewhere in the U.S., though I could be wrong about that.

Any way, she had me unplug the power to my modem and then plug it back in, which I had already done several times to no avail, and she ran some other tests from her end. Or so she said. I even went around the house unplugging other phones/filters.

Nothing worked. Only the first two lights, not the required four, remained on.

Then she said something about a possible area outage.


I mentioned to her (I think she said her name was Myra) that a couple of traffic lights near my house weren’t working when I had come home earlier. She did some checking and sure enough, she said, there was an area outage. The proper people had been notified and were working on it, and I could expect service to be back up within 24 hours. I was one of 140 customers in the same situation.

Not the best of situations, but not a big problem.

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending as the service was back on probably within an hour or so. I suspect that “24 hour” notice is simply an automatic response to give the company a little leeway, kind of like how the airlines schedule a two-hour window for what used to be an hour-and-a-half flight from Atlanta to Miami.

Any way, I told my friendly technician that it might be good for her to pass on to her bosses and others that it was little help for AT&T to give me a website link for help when my problem was that I couldn’t get to the Internet in the first place.

She laughed and said, yes, that didn’t make sense.

But I doubt she will pass it on.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011



The whole world is festering with unhappy souls ...

The Kingston Trio wasn’t thinking about college basketball fans in singing those words on a cut in its classic 1959 album “the hungry i,” but the guys very well could have been.

Outside of Duke fans and possibly, well, possibly nobody else, no college fan seems to be all that happy with their coach these days. If anybody is, they seem to be keeping a profile lower than that guy in the Geico commercial who lives under a rock.

Consider, Texas Tech just informed Pat Knight he won’t be returning as their coach next year. He is being let go after three years.

Three years!

That’s not even enough time for his first recruiting class to earn enough credits for a earn a degree. If he hadn’t been for his time as an assistant coach with the Red Raiders under his dad (Pat is the son of Bob Knight), he probably wouldn’t even have had enough time to find all the good barbecue spots in West Texas.

But Knight is just one example.

Here in South Florida, fan message boards are full of complaints about Frank Haith at the University of Miami. Yes, a school that once gave up completely on its program now is unhappy with a coach who has won 62 games in the last three years and is two wins short of getting its third 20-win season in the last four years going into this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. Not enough ACC wins to suit them.

At least Haith has been around long enough for a second cup of coffee. He is completing his seventh year and even a rational critic -- if there is such a thing -- could make a good case against him, though that doesn’t explain away the vitriol behind some of the comments.

But how about these examples:

-- Grumbling has begun at Indiana, where Tom Crean is struggling in just his third season at Indiana, this even though he took over a program in shambles and has one of the state’s top recruits coming in next year.

-- Charlotte fired Bobby Lutz a year ago and brought in Alan Major. Already, some fans are posting messages on the Charlotte Observer’s website calling for his ouster.

Yes. That’s right. Major has been there one year, and some fans are saying it’s time for a change.

-- Roy Williams has won two national titles at North Carolina in the last seven years but last January came under fire from fans who called in to his radio show and questioned his defensive coaching and lineups the day after the Tar Heels lost by 20 points at Georgia Tech.

Williams’ response?

“Keep your damn phone calls to yourself.”

Since then, by the way, Williams’ team has won 12 of 13 games, including a win over Duke for the ACC title.

-- A couple of years ago Gary Williams was forced to defend his program not just with fans but with his administration just six years after winning a national championship at Maryland. Talk about what have you done for me lately!

Here’s the thing.

I’ve read some pieces recently taking Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl to task for his transgressions. Pearl violated an NCAA rule by having some high school junior prospects to his home, then lied about it to NCAA investigators to cover it up. He and a couple of his assistants also were involved in making some impermissible phone calls to recruits.

He later confessed after being shown photographic evidence the players were there. 

The school cut Pearl’s pay by $1.5 million over a four-year period and the Southeastern Conference suspended Pearl from coaching in games for half of the conference season (eight games), but the NCAA has yet to levy its penalties.

Some, who are a bit sanctimonious in my view, think that Pearl shouldn’t be coaching at all on the collegiate level. They would seem to me to be the kind of people who would kick a first-grader out of school for bringing a toy guy to the playground because it had violated the “no tolerance” policy.

I’d go along with a year’s suspension.

If you’re one who would argue for a lifetime ban, then you damn well better be prepared to lend your support to coaches who live up to your high standards and give them realistic expectations to live up to on the court-- and in a reasonable time period.

As it is now, coaches often are put in an untenable position. Unless they are a big name like Mike Krzyzewski at Duke or a Williams at North Carolina, or a Bill Self at Kansas, they often lose the recruiting competition to coaches who are willing to skirt the rules, many of which, by the way, simply don’t make any sense (Who cares if a junior visits a coach’s home?).

But if they turn in rule violators, they often pay another price. The irony of the Bruce Pearl situation is that Pearl’s move up the coaching ladder was set back several years when as an assistant he turned in another school for possible violations; such is the reward for whistleblowers.

I don’t know all the background about Pat Knight’s firing or Knight himself, for that matter, other than that he didn’t win enough conference games. From what I have read, though, he ran his program with the same kind of standards and integrity his dad did but without Bob’s bullying baggage.

That he was let go so soon is a sad commentary on the way college athletics is being run today.

Friday, March 4, 2011


The dismissal of a Brigham Young University basketball player for violating the school’s honor code has made national news now, so you probably have heard about it and possibly debated with friends about it.

To catch you up, Brandon Davies, the team’s third-leading scorer and top rebounder, was booted from the team after acknowledging that he had had premarital sex with his girl friend.

That is a violation of the school’s code that requires students to be honest and live a chaste and virtuous life, among other things.

At the time of his dismissal, BYU was ranked third in the country, which would put the Cougars in the title contender category when it comes to the NCAA Tournament that begins in a couple of weeks. They immediately went out and lost their first game without Davies by 18 points at New Mexico.

BYU has now been put in a position of defending the code with former athletes like Danny Ainge and Ty Detmer coming out with statements in support of it.

My question here: Why is it even necessary?

The code is there. BYU lives by it and doesn’t try to hide it from athletes or any students. It is a private university with deep religious roots. Everybody knows that going in. Where’s the problem? We’re not setting up some sort of national standard here.

Anyone who ridicules the decision to enforce the code is showing their own lack of moral fiber. At a time when so many are too willing to bend the rules to fit their situation, it is refreshing, to say the least, to see an institution stand by what it believes.

Arguing that the rules are antiquated and unrealistic in today’s life is no valid argument. That doesn’t matter. The code is there, and that is what the Mormons stand by. Students agree to obey and sign a pledge to that effect. If they think it’s not realistic and don’t want to follow it, then they need to go to school somewhere else.

There is one legitimate issue here, and it is whether the enforcement of the code was too strict for the violation.

Gordon Monson, a columnist for the Salt Lake City Tribune, notes that BYU’s behavioral code is stricter than the one even the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints follows. He puts forth the view that when someone strays from the path, the emphasis should be on rehabilitating that person, not strictly punishing the sinner.

In other words, say a couple of rosaries and everything would be fine.

But adjudicating the penalty is a decision left up to the university. The administration believed that dismissal from the basketball team -- not, as far as I have seen, from the university -- was an appropriate punishment for Davies.

So live with it, folks.

(I can’t stay all-serious here in this blog so let me add this because it’s just kind of appropriate to the situation. I collect shot glasses as I travel and one of my favorites was one I picked up in Salt Lake City. Written on the side of it is this: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may be in Utah.”)

Thursday, March 3, 2011


One of the best things I like about Netflix -- in addition to its outstanding service -- is its broad selection of old movies and television shows. It’s fun to browse through the website and see all the selections. It’s almost like looking through an old family photo album.

I particularly like delving into film noir and old dramas from the 1950s, ’40s, and even the ’30s. (For the record, I was not alive in the ’30s.)

Many of these movies hold up well even by today’s standards as far as quality of production and story line -- Casablanca, Double Indemnity, and Laura come to mind -- but by far some of the most fun is checking out what used to be called “B” films. The campiness of the films with their cliched characters and stilted acting is a riot.

Among my favorites are the mysteries.

I grew up a fan of Sherlock Holmes and though Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mastermind in the 1980s PBS series is more true to the original character, I still love Basil Rathbone’s interpretation. Of course, the Rathbone’s movies aren’t anywhere near the original tales (Sherlock Holmes taking on spies in WWII?), but they’re still fun.

I have always loved Charlie Chan, the Chinese detective created by Earl Derr Biggers. Very inscrutable.

Mr. Moto, played by Peter Lorre, also is another favorite of mine, though I didn’t see as much of him as I did Holmes and Chan.

But I discovered something recently that I had no clue about.

Back about the same time Chan was doing his detecting and Mr. Moto was out there breaking up criminal rings, there was another sleuth from the Orient cracking cases.

His name was James Lee Wong, a character that appeared in a series of stories in Collier’s magazine. (Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Collier’s; it went out of business in 1957.)

Here’s the kicker: Boris Karloff played the title role!

Yes, the same guy who scared us silly playing Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy, in addition to a very dark role in a movie called The Body Snatcher in which he brings cadavers in the dead of night (pun intended) to a doctor and his student for research, that guy plays a wise Chinese detective!

You might logically point out here that Karloff wasn’t Asian (he was from England), but not being inscrutably Asian didn’t keep Warner Oland and Sidney Toler from playing the Chinese detective Chan or Lorre from portraying a Japanese secret agent either.

Makeup artists slicked down Karloff’s hair so much it appears to be painted on his head, gave him a moustache, and had him put glasses to disguise his eyes in several scenes. A little bowing and a stilted accent and voila! You have a Chinese detective!

Karloff made five of the six James Lee Wong films. Keye Luke, who appeared as Charlie Chan’s No. 1 son, got the role for the sixth.

The films have all the stereotypical characters, like the homicide detective (played by Grant Withers in the ones I have seen) who is constantly harassed by a female reporter for story tips. I particularly like the one in which she implores him for a lead because she needs something for the “afternoon edition.” The afternoon what?

Despite their outward bickering, she, of course, is the detective’s love interest.

The detective’s sidekick is the usual bumbler and adds a bit of levity to the proceedings. Murder is always funnier with a bumbling detective around. In the Chan films, Charlie always had his son, and sometimes his daughter, around, and they were accompanied by a stereotypical black bungler played by Mantan Moreland; there was no political correctness back then. Mr. Moto, far as I can tell, was pretty much a loner.

The technical quality of all these films often leave something to be desired in these days of digital preciseness, but that just adds to the enjoyment. To save money, the producers often would take a scene from one film and work it into another if the situation fit.

I didn’t realize it at the time, because it was the first one I had watched, but apparently in one of the Wong movies a meeting between him and family leaders in Chinatown is taken from an earlier Wong film with the hilarious result that one of the speakers suddenly changes costume when the camera angle switches. I guess they were operating on the theory that all Chinamen pretty much look alike. (No offense intended there; it was pretty much a common opinion of the day. Where do you think stereotypes come from?)

I won’t get into any more of Mr. Wong except to say that the movies do have another virtue, and that is they are relatively short. Just over an hour or so from crime to detection and arrest (often on pretty flimsy evidence, it seems to me).

So if you’ve got some spare time, and Netflix, subscription, you might check it out. Several are available in the “watch instantly” queue.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I was going to write about the Oscars Sunday, then some other things got in the way and so I thought I could still write about them as a follow-up on Monday.

Then a bug went through out house and bit me. Some sort of stomach ailment that my wife is convinced was H1N1, which is the “swine flu,” isn’t it?

Any way, the work I was going to do on Sunday got pushed back to Monday, and though it was finished in the morning, I didn’t really feel up to writing any more in the afternoon or evening about the previous night’s show.

So that left today for the Oscars.

Except I am not going to write about them for another reason. I don’t really know anything about the Oscars.

I have heard good things about the movie The King’s Speech and intend to see it, but it may not be until it arrives in the Netflix warehouse that I do. I just don’t get to that many movies any more. Usually, my going to the movies involves the grandkids, so the last movie I have seen is Gulliver’s Travels starring Jack Black. Was it nominated for anything?

And I don’t watch award shows either.

As many of you know, I was a sportswriter in a former career and have an intense interest in many things in sports, especially on the collegiate level. But I don’t watch the Espys on ESPN and couldn’t care less what the Play of the Year or whatever they give awards for is. The Heisman Trophy announcement/presentation I don’t bother with either.

I never have watched the Grammy Awards. Did Glen Campbell win anything this year?

And the Golden Globes?

Something other than movies always comes to mind when I hear the Golden Globes mentioned. I thought Dolly Parton retired that trophy years ago.

So I apologize for not giving you keen insight on how the Oscars went this year. Apparently, not very well at least according to what I have heard and seen on a friend's blog. (If you're interested in Oscars commentary, you can check out his column at

By the way, I remember the Oscars show in the past coming later in the year than the last Sunday in February. One year, there was a big deal about a scheduling conflict with the championship game of the NCAA basketball tournament.

I notice that it was the Oscars, not the NCAA, that moved its show date.