Month: April 2007

Unloading

A lot of ground to cover and, suddenly, nothing but time to do so. Here goes. 3000 words? We’ll see. Grab a beverage and dive in at your leisure.

A commenter asked Friday how I was celebrating the end of my grad school classes. Well, here’s what I did. First, I grabbed a big, fat carnitas burrito at Chipotle. Normally, I go with the vegetarian burrito. I figured I owed myself a little pork. Next, I read a book. Literally. My latest library book was an extremely quick read, and I knocked it off in about four hours. Then, the wife and kids and I went out to dinner (we’re having some work done around the house and our stovetop is out of commission for about a week). I enjoyed a tasty Stella Artois with my meal. Then, we came home, put the girls to bed and I went to bed shortly after. Why? Because I ran my first 5K in almost three years bright and early Saturday morning.

Like a lot of people, on New Year’s Day, I signed myself up for a New Man Plan. My back was perpetually sore and spasmy, my joints in constant pain, and I grew winded from simply climbing the stairs while lugging one of my kids. It was time to take corrective measures. Unlike most people, I’ve stuck with my New Man Plan, working out on a regular basis ever since. I did fall off the running wagon, a bit, over the last three weeks, so the race promised to be interesting. I just wanted to break 30 minutes, then run one race a month the rest of the warm weather months to stay in shape. I knew something strange was going on when I crossed the one mile marker and my watch read 14 minutes. No way was I running that slow, right? I figured I was right in my normal 10 minute/mile pace. My concerns were confirmed when I somehow ran the next mile in only six minutes. I crossed the finish line in 30 minutes, 46 seconds. But, I heard that because of some last minute rerouting, the course was closer to 3.5 miles instead of the normal 3.1. So that first mile was extra long and the second just mismarked, I guess. Anyway, I figure my official time didn’t beat my desired time, but I would have crossed in under 30 if the course had been the correct distance, so hey, I did it.

As promised, some thoughts on relevant sports issues.

Brandon Rush. Shame he’s going, for KU’s sake. I think he really wants to be in the NBA, so I doubt he’ll drop out of the draft unless something crazy happens. Unlike a lot of players, I think he could really help himself by coming back. But I can’t blame him if the money is there. I’ve gone back-and-forth on the age limit thing. I’ve decided, in general, I’m against it. But, I like what it does for the college game. I’m in favor of a baseball system, where you can declare for the pros out of high school, but if you go to college, you’re stuck there for three years. I think that for purely selfish reasons. It’s harder to fall in love with a team when the players don’t stay around. You can love the program, but the teams don’t mean as much to you when there’s a rotating door on the locker room. That’s a shame. I also think it’s bad for the college game because it means even more of the best high school players will sign with a small number of programs. The KUs, North Carolinas, Kentuckys of the world can load up every single year now, since their coaches can expect several players to either go pro or transfer after one or two years. At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old man, I liked it the way things used to be better. Oh, and KU will still be good without Rush. Top 10-15 good instead of top five, but still good.

Curt Schilling’s sock. Stupid. People are idiots.

Randy Moss to the Patriots. Talk about reacting poorly to not winning a Super Bowl for two years! The Pats have gone nuts this off season. Better on both sides of the ball before the Moss signing. And remember, they were on the verge of blowing the Colts out in the AFC title game last year. It’s not like they were a crappy team. If Moss fits in, holy crap are they going to be good. The Pats have a way of making malcontents mend their ways (Corey Dillon, example), so I expect Randy to shut up and play for at least one season. Pats over the Saints in the Super Bowl.

The Colts drafted a wide receiver and an offensive lineman with their first two picks. Yeah, improving the offense when they’ve lost three key defensive players was exactly what they needed to do. Looks like it will be back to scoring 40 a game but then losing in New England in January because they can’t stop anyone. Enjoy last year.

What the fuck is up with Barry Bonds? There is drug testing now, right? How are we supposed to react to a nearly 43-year-old man who is on pace to hit 56 home runs? Is he on something that is undetectable? Or have all those home runs been legit? I have no doubt, based on the public evidence, that the guy used during his 2001 crazy-wack-funky year. But how much did they help that year? He’s one of the best hitters ever, playing in the juiced ball, juiced stadium, juiced pitcher era. Did they help him hit 10% more? That means he still hits like 65 that year. If he hits <strong><em>only</em></strong> 40 this year, and passes every test, do we have to reevaluate our thoughts of him? Part of his problem is he’s always been a first class asshole. All this indignation about his using has as much to do with the fact he’s an awful person as with the fact he was juicing. It will be interesting to see if his body can hold up.

All this nonsense about Hank Aaron needs to stop. The old man can stay at home if he wants to. He doesn’t owe Barry or baseball anything. As I commented over on The Soul of Baseball last week, what if it takes Barry a week or ten days to break the record? Does the haters expect Hank to haul his ass to every game? What if Barry is two shy of the record, and hits dongs in his first two ABs? Does Hank have to get on a plane and get to the game? Barry has often cried about how unfairly the world treats him. Frankly, I think it’s great that Hank ignores him, since he played in an era where he was the target of legitimate hate.

It’s all a shame. Barry is one of the four or five greatest players ever. How many of us are going to proudly tell our kids that we saw him play? I’ve seen him play live twice, and in each of those games he hit a home run (two home runs in one game, on a crazy hot day in St. Louis in 1997. It was so hot we couldn’t enjoy the fact we had third row seats, or something great like that. We just melted into our seats, slowly.)

I saw Bill Simmons wrote last week that there was no way the Yankees can come back late in the season this year. How many times in recent years have the Sox had a big lead in July and still finished second? I’ll believe it when I see it. Never count the evil empire out, especially when dealing with the slightly less evil empire.

What does Roger Clemens do? Go to New York to try to save the Yankees? Go to Boston and gravy train on what could be the best team in the league (Schilling, Beckett, Matsuzaka, Clemens, Wakefield. Pretty good #4 starter.)? Or stay at home in Houston for another $30 million? Nice problem to have. A-hole.

As I’ve written before, I hate the NFL draft, mostly because of the length and idiot talking heads we have to listen to. But I try to catch the Jets’ pick each year, because that is always the highlight. This year, I loved the kid who was preening for the cameras, heard the pick, and then waited to see how his buddies reacted before he went nuts. “Wait, who did we pick? Is he good?” Well done, Vinnie.

At the risk of jinxing it, Gil Meche has certainly been worth the money so far. In fact, for the most part, the Royals starting pitchers have been a pleasant surprise this season. That bullpen, though, ouch. For a franchise that has been in the tank since the strike, they have managed to produce some bats and the occasional arm. But that pen has been shitty since Jeff Montgomery’s glory days.

He might be a nice guy, but Ross Gload is my least favorite Royal. Just because of his name. Something about that name is really, really bad.

The Bulls sweep the Heat. I’m glad, just because of all the people out there who thought the Heat were going to repeat. Idiots.

I’ve pretty much kicked my NBA habit, so I avoided TNT most of the season. This afternoon, however, I watched a bit of the Suns-Lakers game. I have to say, the NBA in hi-def is a beautiful thing. Much better than college since they can swing the cameras down over the court. It’s like you’re in the front row. Why isn’t Carla Gugino in the front row like on Entourage?

Oh, go Warriors.

Interesting little conundrum developing across the pond. With my long-time favorite European soccer team, Juventus of Turin, relegated to the second division of Italian soccer because of their involvement in a cheating scandal (come on, cheating in anything Italian? How is that a problem?), I finally got over my issues with English football, and adopted Arsenal (the least English of all English teams, ironically) as my team. My choice was based on two things: My hatred of their rivals Manchester United and Chelsea and, like every other American fan of Arsenal, the fact I’ve read Nick Hornby’s <span style=”text-decoration:underline;”>Fever Pitch</span>, which is his autobiography told through his experiences as an Arsenal fan, twice. So anyway, like several other English teams, a rich American is angling to take over the team. The American in question in Stan Kroenke, part of the evil Wal-Mart cabal that drops truckloads of cash on the Missouri athletic department (that’s not fair, I don’t think he’s nearly as bad as his rivals, the Lauries). So while it would be cool for an American to own the club I follow, he’s not exactly my favorite sports owner. The Arsenal board announced over the weekend that they will talk to Kroenke about his plans, but have no interest in selling out to him. ManU fought a hostile takeover bid from Malcolm Glazer a couple years back, and failed. Mighty Liverpool was just bought out by an American. There is some concern that the Americans, looking more to profit than manage the clubs effectively, will ruin these English giants. It will be interesting to see how the Arsenal situation plays out.

Oh, and I have an addition to the places I need to see an athletic event. I want to see an Arsenal-Tottenham North London derby at the <a href=”http://www.stadiumguide.com/ashburtongrove.htm”>Emirates Stadium</a> someday.

Only 2000 words. Should I keep going? No. Instead, I’ll knock out a Reader’s Notebook entry and get that posted soon. Thanks for tuning in.

Almost Done

Just put the finishing touches on my final article. Kind of a shitty ending to it, but, you know what? I don’t care that much. Just glad to be done. I’ll print it off and drive it down to campus in a little while, and then I will have finished my grad school requirements. How about that?

Seems like we have some things to talk about. Barry Bonds. Curt Schilling’s sock. The NFL draft. Brandon Rush. I’m sure the list will get longer before I get around to it. Stay tuned.

Milestones

Tonight was my last class. Ever? I sure as hell hope so. I always said I would never go back to grad school, because undergrad was enough of a chore. Yet I did return for my Master’s. However, I think it’s safe to say unless they invent a Ph. D. that doesn’t require some kind of quantitative research, the next step is not in my future.

My final article is due Friday, and I’m plugging away at that. Then I have a final meeting with one instructor next Wednesday. After that, unless I hear otherwise from the good folks down in B-town, I’m done.

As big as that is, something bigger happened tonight while I was at class. Mimi and Ampa, our babysitters of choice, report that C. took her first steps tonight. As a good journalist, I need to confirm this with my own eyes before I officially report that she is walking. But hopefully I’ll have the official big news tomorrow. And now that I’ve figured out how to edit our videos, I might even have some video proof for you all.

Where’s A Camera When You Need One?

We braved the grocery store with both girls today. Normally I do the shopping while S. stays home with them. It was a typical day with two kids: C. was fussy the first 15 minutes we were in the store; as soon as her mood improved, M. started acting up. Loads of fun. While I was in line to check out, S. found a fountain with goldfish in it that kept M. occupied. But, when it was time to leave, she threw a fit. Wonderful.

There was one true highlight, though. The girls were all one aisle over from me while I was deciding what kind of cereal to get for the week. On the in-store music, “I Can’t Go For That” by Hall & Oates came on. I nodded my head a little, enjoying my guilty pleasure, as I tossed a couple boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios into the cart. When I turned the corner to the aisle where the Brannan girls were hanging out, I was greeted by S. dancing around with C. in her arms, while M. did her own little dance in front of them. It was pretty damn funny. When M. saw me, she yelled, “Daddy, wanna dance?” My daughter’s request, H2O in the air, how could I resist? So for about 20 seconds, the entire family was getting down in the grocery store to some classic blue-eyed soul.

Professor

That’s what my father-in-law was calling me today, professor. The exciting entry on my calendar today was serving as a guest speaker at a local high school on the crisis/genocide in Darfur. Yes, as scary as it may sound, I was imparting wisdom on the future leaders of this country. And at the swankiest high school in the city, too. I corrupted the best and brightest!

So how did this strange event come about? Well, as I’ve alluded to a couple times, but never gone into great detail about, I’ve become quite interested in what’s going on in Darfur. Some of it was based on guilt left over from my obsession with Rwanda and the feeling that I needed to do something now that genocide is again taking place in Africa. It also stemmed from some school work I’ve been doing. I’ve written one article for class about some locals working to end the crisis, one article for the campus paper about a speech on campus about Darfur, and am focusing my final project in another class on the media’s coverage of Darfur. From all these connections, I suddenly became part of the local movement. That sounds more glamorous than it actually is. I’ve just been sending e-mails to Indiana legislators in support of a divestment bill they’ve been considering, helping to organize some events in Indy, and making some very interesting connections. Indiana, Fort Wayne specifically, has become a center of the Darfur relief movement because of a large population of refugees in that city. It was through one of the people I’ve met in Fort Wayne that I ended up speaking today.

A group of students at this school decided they wanted to have a Darfur week, where they learned about what’s going on, raised awareness across the student body, and raised money for the relief effort. They contacted a few groups, hoping to get a person who’s actually doing big, important things, but all the big, important people were already booked. One of those big, important people is a lady I interviewed and wrote about. She sent the request to me and asked if I wanted to speak. At first, I did not want to. I didn’t think I knew enough, was doing enough, or was a good enough speaker to tackle the challenge. But, the more I thought about it, and the more I thought about why I went to grad school – to challenge myself – I began to reconsider. I checked with the school to see if I was acceptable, they said yes (After a thorough background check, I’m sure), and thus began a week of sleepless nights while I thought about what to say.

I put together a couple outlines, did some serious thinking, and had what I thought was a decent plan to fill my 30 minutes. I would talk about how I got involved, what I’ve done, what the divestment legislation is trying to accomplish, why I think it’s important to get involved, and what they can do. I figured it would interest the kids who had a genuine concern for what’s going on and put the other kids to sleep. Everyone’s happy!

I arrived this morning after about three hours of sleep, thanks to screaming baby #2, with slightly less than my A game. When I checked-in at the front desk, everyone knew who I was. “Oh, you’re here to talk about Darfur?! Great, we’re so excited that you’re here!” That was one of the administrators. Small school, word gets around I guess. My hostess joined me and explained that they had a long presentation yesterday about the background of the crisis and she thought kids would have a lot of questions for me. Oh, and we only had 15-20 minutes tops. There goes half my speech! She then introduced me to a couple other students who helped to organize the Darfur week. One of them shook my hand enthusiastically and said, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Brannan!” (Note: we’re all Brannans since it’s The Brannan Blog!). Ugh, Mr. Brannan? How old am I again?

Some kids strolled in, eventually maybe 30 or 40 were present along with a few teachers, and I got to work. The cold medicine in my head was making my on-the-fly editing job very difficult. As some of you know, I’m a dynamic public speaker….at weddings after I’ve had a few drinks. Unfortunately, I thought it was inappropriate to have a glass of scotch on the podium, so the kids didn’t get the full show. I raced through my information, without too many awkward transitions, so I could leave time for questions. They had some good questions, too! I was impressed. They asked insightful questions about what they can do to make a difference, how they can effectively communicate with elected officials, and asked about some details of both the Indiana legislation and the Bush administration policies. They had done their homework, and I was glad I had done mine.

And then, almost as quick as it started, it was over. The kids raced to their classes, the organizing group took a picture with me for the school paper, said they hoped to see me at a rally this weekend at the Statehouse, and I was off. I hope they got something out of it. It was certainly fun to talk to kids who were so interested in such a big issue. I never would have done anything like this when I was 15-17. One of the most fun elements was the realization that I was doing what a lot of journalists do: I had become an expert on a subject and was sharing knowledge with others. Like those jackasses you see on the Sunday talk shows. I’m one step away from Meet the Press! Of course, I’m blurring the ethical lines a bit, writing about things I’m advocating rather than just sharing information about something I’ve investigated. But I won’t tell if you don’t tell.

You know what? I opened a few minds and saved a few lives today.

OK, joking about genocide isn’t cool. My bad.

Opening Day

It’s opening day, excuse me, Opening Day. I’m preparing for a ten hour orgy of baseball with a little college hoops thrown in for good measure. S. is working tonight, so I’ve already instructed the girls that there will be no nonsense tonight as daddy gets his baseball on. I’ve already got ESPN on, and checked in on a few games on MLB Audio. The Internets are a beautiful thing.
I think the Royals are going to surprise a lot of people this year. They’re a lock to win at least 67 games this year. You heard it here first.
Our “local” team, the Reds – determined by what games we get – surprised last year, staying in the NL Central race until the final week. As a reward for their good play, we get something like 30 more games this year than last year in Indy. Unfortunately, the Indy TV market will not be rewarded, as the Reds struggle to get past 75 wins. The Josh Hamilton signing will prove to be a brilliant gamble, though.
Playoff teams in the AL will be the Red Sox, Yankees, Twins, and Angels. NL will be Mets, Phillies, Cards, and Dodgers. The Red Sox will beat the Dodgers in the World Series. Again, you heard it here first.

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