Month: December 2009

The End

Well, the girls and I survived three days without their mother. S. arrived home from her trip to visit her new nephew this afternoon and found a house that was remarkably clean,* three daughters that were still alive and happy to see her, and a slightly tired husband.

(In my opinion.)

And suddenly it’s the final day of the year. And decade for that matter. I still owe you a Decade in Music essay, which I’m rethinking a bit after a book I read last week.

I found <a href=””>this essay by sports writer Dan Shanoff</a> on Wednesday. It’s quite nice and got me thinking about the amazing changes in my life over the past ten years. What’s made those changes fun is the majority of my readers have gone through many of the same changes at the same time. Most of us rang in the new millennium single. Few of my friends who were already married had started having children. Even as we were getting older and adding responsibilities, most of us were living lives filled with freedom.

On December 31, 1999 I was single, living in downtown Kansas City, working for a Fortune 500 company, drove a 4Runner, and spent most of my weekends cruising a handful of bars with a close group of friends. I’ll admit, after a decade of epic failure romantically, by 1999 I had kind of given up on long term relationships and decided just to go with the flow. If I met a nice girl and we went out for a few weeks and then went separate ways, that was fine. No stressing about what each relationship might bring. Enjoy the company of someone interesting and be thankful for whatever good comes out of it.

In late April 2000, I was introduced to a young lady who was soon moving to Kansas City. Two months later she established residence on the Plaza, made an appearance at my birthday party, and a few nights later we had our first date. Things went well and she’s yet to stop returning my calls.

So on December 31, 2009 I am married, living in Indianapolis, a father of three girls I take care of full-time, the holder of a Master’s degree, a part-time sports writer, driver of a minivan, and if I’m lucky I’m in a bar three or four times a year. All because I met a nice girl four months into the new millennium.

Some decade. I hope I haven’t used up all my good luck.

Happy New Year to you all.


‘Tis The Season

For second-guessing the Colts.

(Update: I wrote everything below the jump yesterday. I still believe in my core argument: that yanking the starters was a completely appropriate, defensible strategy. But, not only will the controversy not go away, but it seems to be spiraling out of control. The entire city is in an uproar. This might indeed wreck the Colts season. We’ll see. But, since I put so much time into it, my original post follows.)

I think national sports commentators love this time of year. They have the BCS to bash, NFL playoff scenarios to hash out, coaching carousels to ponder, and for much of the last decade, the Colts to rip.

Once again, a Colts team that has locked in their place in the AFC playoffs decided to rest the starters late in yesterday’s game against the Jets. The Jets immediately took the lead and held it, denying the Colts a perfect regular season.


I understand people at the game being upset. It’s not like the Colts and the NFL were going to reimburse them 30% of their tickets because they didn’t get to see Peyton, Dwight, etc. for the final quarter-plus.

I don’t get all the national hand-wringing. So what if the Colts threw away a chance at 16-0? As they’ve shown time-and-again over the last decade regular season excellence does not necessarily translate to post-season success. Why not maximize the chance that your most important players be both in game shape and healthy for the playoffs?

The arguments I’ve read and heard today center on the idea that if you’re going to rest the players, why start them in the first place. The obvious counter-argument, generally offered by another talking head or as an aside in the column, is that you can’t give a team nearly a month off and expect them to be ready to play in the divisional round of the playoffs. “Then play them the entire game,” goes the counter to the counter, “You can get injured on any play.”

This is a dumb argument. I think it’s a good mathematical choice that Jim Caldwell made. He gets his front line players reps but at a reduced level. It’s not about eliminating the chance for injury, it’s about minimizing the chance. A calculated risk that Peyton, Dwight, etc. won’t pull a hammy or blow out a knee in two-plus quarters and that that work will be enough to have them in optimal condition for the first playoff game.

Perhaps a dumber argument I heard is that this puts doubt into the minds of the Colts players. They were humming along, 14-0, and now they’ve lost a game and they’ll start wondering if they’re really good enough.

Really? That makes no sense at all. I think this team, from its veteran leaders down to its rookies, is an incredibly smart squad that understands exactly what is at stake. They understand how to prepare for games, how to react to in-game challenges. Losing a game to a mediocre team because the coach pulled the starters in the third quarter is not going to make them question their talent, either individually or as a whole.

Jim Caldwell might just be a genius. He’s taken away the perfect season pressure. He’s made himself the bad guy. Now, instead of “Can you beat the Patriots/Chargers or are you going to lay another playoff egg?” the questions are going to be about him and his methods. Maybe he’s deftly adjusted what the line of questioning will be for the next month, removing the storylines that were already in place and putting himself at the center, knowing his team isn’t going to come apart because of it.

We’ll see. I think most people expect the Chargers to beat the Colts, if it comes down to that in the AFC title game. New ENgland is looking frisky again, and they did dominate the first three quarters of their loss in Indy last month. Nothing was guaranteed, regardless of what happened yesterday or next week in Buffalo. If the Colts win the Super Bowl, this will all blow over. If they lose along the way, Caldwell will obviously face a lot of off-season heat. Many of the same critics who are loudest today would also be screaming if Manning, Freeney, etc. had suffered an injury in the fourth quarter yesterday.

I’m not suggesting Caldwell’s choice can’t be questioned. I am saying many of the most outraged voices outside Indianapolis that I’ve heard today are making dumb arguments.


Christmas 2009

A fine Christmas for the B’s.

It appears that the Elf on the Shelf did not take any news of naughtiness back to Santa,* for the girls were well rewarded on Christmas morning. M. received a Hannah Montana guitar, a kid-proof digital camera, and a box full of Littlest Pet Shop animals. C. also got a digital camera, some electric drums, and a talking cash register. L. cleaned up, as well, getting a crawling, talking doll; a toy vacuum cleaner; and broom. (She loves to take our real brooms out and “clean” the house.)

All of them were thrilled. M. did her normal cheesy excited thing, saying the guitar was exactly what she wished for. C. became a Santa fan for life when she got her camera. For the last month, if you asked her what she wanted for Christmas, all she would say was a toy camera. Her eyes were as big as saucers when she opened that box. Oddly, M. has spent more time with her camera, already running down the batteries by Saturday night, while C. has been more interested in playing with her sisters’ toys.

(For you Modern Family viewers, when Phil threatened to cancel Christmas because of the burn mark on the sofa, S. gave me a look. Apparently I’m prone to, when agitated, making grandiose threats towards the girls. For the record, I would never threaten to cancel Christmas.)

Santa was good to me, too. I received an electric smoker, so I can finally start learning to smoke fine meats and stop complaining about the lack of decent barbecue in Indianapolis. I figure I need a signature sauce, too. One of my missions for 2010 was to knock out one or two classic TV shows that I’ve never watched. Thus, Santa dropped the complete <em>The Wire</em> boxed set on me. I’m very excited about that.

Beyond presents, most of the rest of the holiday went well. My sister-in-law who has spent the last three years in AustraL. has moved back and is spending some time with us before she picks a final destination. The girls have had great fun hanging out with Aunt Margie.

We attended a late afternoon Christmas Eve Mass that was so well attended that I had to drop everyone off and park well away from the church. As I walked back across the parking lot, a large deer ran across the church’s football field. That’s some kind of omen, right? L. decided to entertain herself during Mass by clawing a chunk out of my cheek. That was fun.

Following church, the family returned to our home for our traditional dinner. Ham, turkey, lots of sides, wine, beer. Good food and good company.

We sent the girls to bed at their normal times, and M. and C. were as quiet as could be as soon as I closed the door. Neither made a peep all night. Unfortunately, after sleeping for 10 hours the night before, L. was up most of the night Thursday. I think I squeezed in four hours of sleep around her antics, which made me nice and grumpy Christmas morning.

After presents at our house, we went to the in-law’s for our traditional Christmas brunch, followed by some more presents. Thankfully, L. and I were able to find a bed and take a nap together.

We had two other pleasant holiday gifts. First, we’ve been waiting for the mirror to be installed in our master bathroom for roughly two months. It’s a long story not worth going into here. Anyway, they finally did a temporary installation of the mirror on Wednesday. I shaved in our master bathroom for the first time since August on Christmas Eve!

Also, we’ve eagerly been awaiting word from Denver, where another sister-in-law was due with her first baby any moment. Her water broke Friday night and Saturday morning, the girls got another cousin: a healthy boy. So that was fun, and they are very excited, although confused about the fact they’re not going to see him with S. and her sisters this week, or that he won’t be hopping a flight to Indy immediately.

So that was the B. Christmas. The holiday season seemed to fly by this year. Not the “I have tons to do and it’s making time go by quickly” type of flying time. More the I realized last Monday that Christmas was four days away and couldn’t figure out where the month had gone kind. Usually I’m big into extended Christmas through the following week into New Year’s Eve. I keep listening to music, watching movies, etc. I still need to watch Elf all the way through, but I’ve moved all the Christmas music to my hard drive’s version of the attic. We’ll keep the tree up for another week but this year Christmas seemed to have a clear ending point on Christmas night. Perhaps not coincidentally, our yard Santa stopped lighting up Christmas night. I did some cursory investigation Saturday, but am worried all our rain on Christmas day did something to it.

I hope all of you had happy, safe, healthy Christmas-times.

Reality Bites

I haven’t watched anything on MTV since the Real World was in Las Vegas back in ’02-03. That might change.

After much discussion on Bill Simmons’ podcast* I watched an episode and a half of Jersey Shore over the weekend. My verdict: it’s either the greatest show in the history of TV, or the worst. There is no in-between.

(Simmons is still a serious MTV reality devotee, despite turning 40 this year. He’s been exceptionally excited about Jersey Shore. He and his buddy JackO’s 15 minute discussion of the show last week was hilarious and the tipping point in getting me to watch.)

The show is utterly ridiculous. A gaggle of Italian-American 20-somethings are put up in a place on the New Jersey shore for the summer. All the guys are muscleheads, overly pumped and ink-laden. All the girls are implanted and heavily made up. The show, or at least the ones I saw, pretty much revolves around them talking about hooking up that night, preparing to hook up, attempting to hook up, and then perhaps hooking up or getting shot down. Since I haven’t watched the Real World in six or seven years I don’t know, perhaps all MTV shows are like this now.

In a way, it’s the natural evolution of MTV reality shows. Just cut out all the “real life” nonsense and get down to the sex. Forget about interesting characters, people with careers or lofty goals, or people who aren’t media savvy. Just throw out a bunch of kids with no redeeming qualities, intelligence,* or direction in life other than going to the gym or tanning bed into a house and let them show off the skills they’ve picked up in a lifetime of watching the* Real World*, Road Rules, etc.

(Loved Simmons’ idea for reunion show questions. “If you had a functioning brain, what would you have been thinking in this situation?”)

As a bonus, make them all dead ringers for a particular ethnic stereotype.* Give them all horrible nicknames. Have the guys remove their shirts except when it is absolutely necessary to wear one.**

(For some reason, I don’t expect to see a Detroit or Chicago version of the Jersey Shore anytime soon. Jesse Jackson doesn’t have much to do these days, but he’d jump all over that.)

(One of my favorite aspects of the show is how the guys whip off their shirts as soon as they walk in their house and go shirtless until time to hit the clubs again. I may start doing that.)

In the end, the show is like a train wreck. You don’t want to watch but once you look, you can’t look away. There’s a guy nicknamed The Situation who says things like, “Basically, we got these girls back into the hot tub and now we’re going to try to have sex with them. That’s the situation.” So his nickname is based on his catch phrase. I guess that makes him the Willie Mays of reality TV. Brilliant. You laugh out loud and you fear for our country’s future at the same time.

I wondered if the appalled side of my reaction was just grumpy old manism creeping in. But I really think if this show had been on when I was 23, my reaction would not have been much different. I might be a more dedicated viewer, but I hope there would still be a part of me that was disappointed that a show like it existed.


‘Tis the season of tiny tots with their eyes all aglow. Thus, some words about the girls. OK, over 1000 words. It’s been awhile.

The big sisters are especially excited about Christmas this year. It’s all clicking for M., and C. has reached the first level of understanding. We’re doing the <a href=””>Elf on the Shelf</a> this year, so every morning involves a frantic search through the house to find Elfie, as they named their Elf. There have been a couple mornings where I forgot to move Elfie, so I had to quickly come up with excuses for why he was in the same spot. Fortunately, they bought the high winds excuse both times.

It’s funny to watch C. take the things she’s learning at preschool and apply them to Christmas. One day she said, matter of factly, that Joseph and Mary don’t have a baby anymore because he’s in heaven. She seemed concerned that their baby was gone, which was sweet. One of the songs her class sang in their Christmas program had a lyric about the “glorious kingdom.” Yesterday she asked me how Jesus got here from the glorious kingdom. I reminded her that Mary was Jesus’ mother. How did Jesus get in Mary’s belly? That was a tough one, because I didn’t think she’s ready to grasp the immaculate conception yet, and I didn’t think the drop-off line for school was the time to have a refresher of the “how babies get in mommies’ bellies” conversation. Plus, I’m not the best source for explaining stories that are the roots of Christianity. Fun times all around.

Since M.’s been through the dog and pony show that is Christmas a few times, she’s been wound as tight as a five-year-old can be wound since Thanksgiving. As the leader of the girls, she’s constantly creating games that involve Santa Claus, reindeer, and the parts of our nativity scene. She’s as much excited about her aunts and uncles coming home for the holidays.

She’s also our sensitive child, and cried when we left the church last night after the Christmas program, since she won’t be back at school or see all of her classmates until January.

Speaking of the Christmas program, it went well. C. didn’t freak out, sang her songs, and seemed to have fun. M. had a brief speaking part, and completed it with aplomb.

Our big kid news is that L. is no longer sleeping in her crib or drinking from bottles. After months of claiming we were going to get tough with her at nighttime, we finally bit the bullet and did everything in one night. She helped us throw away all the bottles and then we took the mattress from her crib and placed it on the floor. We spread out a sleeping bag and some blankets next to the mattress. When naptimes and bedtime come around, one of us will lay down next to her for awhile, get her to sleep, and then escape.

Well, that’s the idea. When I put her down, she tends to want to play for half an hour. The only way I can get her to stop is to close my eyes. Which generally means I fall asleep before her and wake up an hour or two later with her laying across me, snoring. That’s not the ideal situation, but we’re in better shape than we were two weeks ago. She even slept for eight straight hours one night this week, a personal record.*

(I wrote that part yesterday. Naturally last night (Wednesday) some teething pain kicked in and the early stages of a cold kept her awake until after 1:00. The up-side was that I got to clear out a lot of programs on the DVR while I let her sleep on me downstairs.)

Other kid news: M. is learning how to read. She’s doing a great job so far. She brings home a book each Thursday that they’ve practiced on during that week. She rips right through it each time we review it over the weekend. She’s looking at unfamiL.r books, magazines, and signs and trying to figure out what they say. She is constantly spelling things, or at least attempting to spell them, out loud.

We had our first-ever call from a teacher about a girl’s behavior last week. When she got home, C. said that one of her friends was mean to her and pushed her. We brushed it off, because she almost always claims that a classmate pushed her. That evening her teacher called and said that C. had said some mean things to her friend. As soon as we asked C. what had really happened, she protested and then began crying. She needs to learn if you’re going to bend a story to make yourself look better, you don’t cave the second you’re confronted with the truth. Then again, if she’s the honest kid that can’t lie, it’s going to make our lives a lot easier.

C. went through a small relapse on the potty-training in October, but got through that and is again doing a terrific job going to the bathroom. She’s quite proud of herself, in fact. When she has a bowel movement, she feels obligated to offer a description when I go to help her clean up. Sometimes she’ll just say “TA-DA!” lift a cheek off the toilet, and point to what she’s deposited when I enter the bathroom. Others, she’ll tell me all about the size, shape, color, etc. “Dad, I have a great big giant poop!” Always good for a laugh.

L. is expanding her vocabulary each day. She has lots of animal sounds down. She says “sisssss” for sister. Has said “C.” and “M.” a time or two. “Bah!” is a remnant from bottle, but means milk. Unfortunately, she’s entered the stage where she wants things but doesn’t have the proper words to ask. So she’ll point and grunt and if you don’t guess correctly, those grunts turn into shrieks and yells. Not fun. But when you do guess right, she grins, closes her eyes, and nods her head in a slow, exaggerated manner. It’s like she’s saying, “Yeeeeeaaaaah, you got it!”

She loves looking at pictures. We don’t have tons of family pictures around the house, but those that are on display are constant areas of attraction for her. She loves to be carried over to them so she can point, laugh, and talk about who is in each pic.

Favorite Albums Of The Decade

Another 2000s music retrospective, this time focusing on some of my favorite albums. Not meant to be comprehensive, it’s more an accounting of albums I both enjoyed this decade and which have stood the (brief) test of time. There are plenty of other worthy albums from the decade that probably should be included, but these are my favorites.

While there is a clear winner, and probably a clear #2, these are presented in no particular order.

All That You Can’t Leave Behind – U2, 2000. One last great album from the Dublin lads before they slipped down the cliff to mediocrity.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Wilco, 2001. Perhaps the most written-about album of the decade, and one that deserves credit for kick starting the mainstream acceptance of indie rock. Oh, and it established Wilco as America’s answer to Radiohead: a band that refused to allow themselves, or their fans, to get comfortable and consistently challenged expectations and boundaries.

The Rising – Bruce Springsteen, 2002. The most eloquent, thoughtful, and powerful summation of the defining event of the decade.

Boys and Girls in America – The Hold Steady, 2006. Every decade needs an album that kids – from angsty teens to 20-somethings struggling to find their place in the world – can identify with. In the 90s, it was Nevermind and Ten. I suggested that every American under 25 be issued a copy of this album, as it seemed perfect to fill that need for the 00s. Yet it’s an album for all ages, an updated take on the early Springsteen sound, bar bandy yet wonderfully literate. Also features the most quotable song of the decade, “Stuck Between Stations.”

The Midnight Organ Fight – Frightened Rabbit, 2008. My favorite album of the decade, and the only one that cracks my all-time top 10. A devastating and honest account of the emotions that overwhelm us when a relationship ends.

Fox Confessor Brings the Flood – Neko Case, 2006. Not quite country, not quite indie, Neko’s magnificent voice and story telling made this a genre-crossing classic.

Elephant – The White Stripes, 2003. Artist of the decade Jack White’s finest effort in the guise through which we first met him: with ex-wife Meg as the most powerful two-piece ever. Loud, dangerous, and fun.

Confessors of the Lonely – The Raconteurs, 2008. After much promise, this super-group delivered on their second album. Jack White’s rootsy blues layered perfectly with Brendan Benson’s power pop.

7 Worlds Collide – Neil Finn and Friends, 2002. Neil invited some of his favorite artists to New Zealand, where they rehearsed for a week, performed for a week, and then broke up their impromptu supergroup. A perfect coming-together of artists that have influenced the music I listen to.

Pearl Jam – Pearl Jam, 2006. The cliched “return to form” album. Shame it took W. and an unnecessary war to get the band so focused.

The Last Broadcast – Doves, 2002. These Mancunians had a fine decade, releasing four fantastic albums. This was their strongest, most complete work.

In Rainbows – Radiohead, 2007. Their Kid A is popping up in the top five on many Best Of lists. While I admired the direction they took with Kid, I appreciated In Rainbows much more. It felt like the perfect synthesis of their Bends-era rock with the experimental and electronic sounds they had been working with since 2000. Its pay what you want digital model also serves as yet another turning point in how bands distribute and fans collect music.

Funeral – The Arcade Fire, 2004. Perhaps the most-hyped band of the decade, they redefined epic, anthem rock.

Transatlanticism – Death Cab for Cutie, 2004. A seminal indie rock album, it is gorgeous and perfect. From the sweeping ballads to the power pop tracks, everything works.

Updated – The New Man

I don’t want to overgeneralize, but I think my family’s college football experience in the late 70s and early 80s was typical of many midwesterners. We all pulled for our teams, hoping for the best,* but when late November rolled around we chose sides and watched the Nebraska – Oklahoma game with great interest. I recall the 1979 Orange Bowl especially fondly, as my uncles sat on different couches, split into Husker and Sooner groups, watching the rare bowl-game rematch between the Big 8 powers.

(Most of us were KU fans, but there were a couple K-State fans amongst the extended family.)

I was generally in the Nebraska camp, since OU was supposed to represent all that was wrong with college sports and Nebraska defended all that was right. And the 1983 Nebraska team always stood out as one of the great teams I watched as a kid. They were a machine, trouncing everyone that got in their way until Miami got them in the Orange Bowl. And while the gun-slinging quarterbacks like John Elway, Dan Marino, and Bernie Kosar were the prototypes for a pro quarterback, Turner Gill seemed like the ideal college quarterback. He could run the option to perfection, could toss the ball to Irving Fryer when needed, and generally managed the game the way a QB was supposed to.

And now he’s the new coach at KU. Weird.

I’ll admit, a week ago, I was not high on him at all. Then I read several articles about him over the week, and saw that despite Buffalo’s struggles this year, he was still a man who seemed to have all the tools needed to run a BCS conference team.

So while Jim Harbaugh would have been an A+, home run hire,* I think Gill is a solid B. Of course, the funny thing about hiring a new coach is things don’t always go the way you plan. Perhaps Harbaugh was the better man for the job, but what if he won eight games in 2011 and then took an NFL job? And what if Gill stays for ten years and takes KU to 5-6 bowl games? Then who is the better hire? We’ll see, as they say.

(I have a few sources, one trusted the other unproven, who both sent out messages Friday saying the Harbaugh deal was done. Even though I was still waiting to hear something official, I was pretty excited. I thought the ease of recruiting at a public institution versus a private school with some of the strictest admission standards of any BCS school, plus KU’s proximity to Texas, where he loves to recruit, could pull him away from Stanford. But I always figured it was a long shot.)

Gill does not come without question marks. While he got Buffalo to a bowl game a year ago, taking them from two wins just two seasons earlier, they did fall back this year. Recruiting and competing in the MAC isn’t quite like recruiting and competing in the Big 12. While he’s long been a hot name in coaching, it took a long time for him to get a head coaching job. And even then he had to go to the backwater of Buffalo.

I think some of his struggles getting a job are easily explained. For example, he may well be the coach at Auburn right now if Auburn was located about 500 miles farther to the north.*

(If you know what I’m saying. And I think you do.)

I am excited that an African-American coach from Texas is now running the football program at KU. The health of every Big 12 program relies on scooping up as much talent from Texas as possible. You can argue that Gill will be as effective, if not more so, than Harbaugh would have been getting players out of the Lone Star state.

I’m also impressed with the coordinators he seems to have lined up. He’s clearly putting himself in the CEO position, responsible for setting the tone for the entire program, filling it with talent, and then letting his managers take that talent and mold it into a team.

And let’s be honest: as hot as Harbaugh is right now, it’s not like he’s a sure thing. It’s not like Larry Fedora or Kevin Sumlin were sure things, either. Not even hiring Tommy Tuberville would guarantee ten win seasons and New Year’s Day bowls. It’s a hard job at a school that has never had sustained success in football. Of all those guys, I think Gill might be the best suited to turn KU into a school where the 4-5 win years are the exception, not the norm.

So while Jim Harbaugh might have been the immediate PR home run, I think Gill has a lot going for him that might eventually turn his solid double into a run scored. Same result, different process.

Next year will be a step back, and would have been regardless of who would be coaching the team. It’s in 2011 when we’ll begin to see if Gill was the right hire. I hope Lew Perkins chose wisely.

(Update: Watching the Turner Gill press conference. He dropped the sleeping giant term that all new coaches must reference. I like him already!)


Hitting The Targets

Pulling out the blogging shotgun and trying to hit multiple targets in one post.

KU Football Coaching Search

I’ve remained quiet on this largely because it’s been mostly quiet from Lew Perkins’ office, which seems to be the way he likes it. But it seems like a decision is going to be made shortly, and Jim Harbaugh is the key. If he works out a deal to stay at Stanford, Lew starts working his list. If Stanford can’t match what KU can offer, the job in Lawrence appears to be his for the taking.

He would be huge. Arguably THE young, hot coach in the game. A national name already. An enthusiasm that is contagious. And while Gary Pinkel isn’t quite the foil that Pete Carroll is, I image Harbugh would find a way to piss off MU fans sooner rather than later, which is always a bonus.

But, I’ve worried all along that he’s more of a Houston Nutt-type candidate, using KU as leverage to improve his current situation.

I’ve been a big fan of Kevin Sumlin, but it sounds like he’s comfortable at Houston.

I’m big on Southern Miss’ Larry Fedora, as well. As a bonus it sounds like he’d bring back one of the best recruiters KU has had this decade.

While Turner Gill was the hot coach a year ago, people seemed to have cooled on him this year. After reading a lot about him this week, though, I think he’d be a fantastic hire.

And then there’s today’s KC Star story about former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, who seems interested. When his name first came up a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t sold. While his Auburn teams were always competitive in the SEC, they also always seemed boring. While people are claiming that the Spread is fading from favor, I’m not convinced going to an old-school running attack is the way to win at KU, even with a name like Tuberville doing the recruiting. Plus he’s on the downside of his career. Will he have the energy and patience it’s going to take to turn KU into a consistent winner? But after reading the article, I’m intrigued.

So my list, as of today, of favorite potential hires would be like this:

1 – Harbaugh
2 – Fedora
3 – Gill
4 – Tuberville
5 – Skip Holtz. He’s a fine coach, but I’m not sure he has the experience recruiting in the Big 12’s fertile grounds the next coach needs.


Surprised? Hell no. I hate to throw all wealthy, male athletes into the same group, but it’s not like that’s a demographic group known for its commitment to monogamy and fidelity. And the idea that golfers are different is laughable. I worked at a municipal golf course in high school. Even the lower level pros that were on staff there were knee-deep in attractive women.

So the fact he’s a cheater does not shock me. But the degree? Yeah, that’s a bit incredible. Has anyone crashed and burned as fast as Tiger? Think about the people and money that were out to get Bill Clinton in the 90s. And they could only come up with two women – Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky. I think we all figure there were more, but still. Nine years in the spotlight and only two women are identified. In two weeks Tiger’s already in double figures. An amazingly quick and deep fall from grace.

But the reaction from most commentators is way over-the-top. Tiger’s just another rich athlete who thinks he can get away with whatever he wants.

College Sports

The BCS is dumb.

The Heisman is a worthless award.

The idea of expanding the men’s basketball tournament is one of the dumbest, and most hypocritical, ideas the NCAA has ever come up with.

I’m ready for KU to get to the part of their schedule where they play good teams and get focused. Loving the potential of Xavier Henry, the development of the Morrises, and the steadiness of Collins and Aldrich. Tyshawn Taylor might want to switch to decaf. Baring injuries, they should roll through the regular season with no more than three losses. So I’m already watching other teams, getting an upset stomach thinking about what teams we won’t match up well with and hoping they’re in different brackets come March. Right now the teams I’d least like to play are Syracuse and West Virginia.

The Pacers

Hey, the Pacers suck again! After teasing us early in the season, they’ve fallen apart. Danny Granger is hurt, Brandon Rush is back to his passive ways and has been buried on the bench, and no one else on the team compels me to watch. Will they be playing in Kansas City in 2-3 years?

Books Of The Decade

I read a lot of books this decade. I love putting together lists at the end of arbitrary periods of time. Seems like a perfect excuse to share some of my favorite books I read over the past ten years. Please note that the focus is on the date read rather than the date published. There are a few in here that were published before 2000. So, in no particular order, a few of my favorites.

40 Watts From Nowhere – Sue Carpenter. Geeking out with my pirate radio fantasies.

A Prayer For the Dying – Stewart O’Nan. I discovered O’Nan through his work with Stephen King, Faithful, covering the 2004 Red Sox. Thank goodness, as he’s become one of my favorite authors. Of the several O’Nan books I read, this was my favorite, a harrowing tale of death and rumors of death in post-Civil War Minnesota. Includes the second most uncomfortable scene I read this decade.

Fever Pitch – Nick Hornby. I’ve read this, what, 3-4 times? Even though it’s about growing up in England as a soccer fan, any sports fan can relate to the experiences Hornby shares. Also it turned me into an Arsenal fan, for better or worse. Like about a billion other people.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon. I struggled to get through the first 100 pages or so, not understanding what the hell he was writing about (Obscure Eastern European Jewish culture). Then it got interesting and I couldn’t put it down. I remember being disappointed when a flight from the west coast to Kansas City landed and I had to put it down. The one time I was hoping for a weather delay. Perhaps my favorite of the decade.

Fantasyland – Sam Walker. A journalist jumps into the world of big-time fantasy baseball. He loses his mind a little. Good, clean fun.

Winter’s Bone – Daniel Woodrell. Right up there with O’Nan as favorite discovered author of the decade, I’ve poured through several of his books. This was the finest, a haunting story of crime and survival in the Ozarks. Woodrell was the author of the single most disturbing scene of the decade, which came in his book The Death of Sweet Mister.

Now I Can Die In Peace – Bill Simmons. Simmons defined sports writing for the decade. This was his collected work about the Red Sox, through their 2004 World Series championship. Thanks to my love of Simmons’ writing and my hatred of the Yankees, I hopped on the Red Sox bandwagon big-time for most of the decade. I won’t pretend my joy or pain compared to those of real Red Sox fans, but there were some nights when my heart rate was seriously tied to their fortunes. In fact, let’s go Simmons-style and rank the five most disappointing sports losses of the decade for me.

1 – Syracuse 81, Kansas 78, 2003 NCAA championship game. It’s always a good idea to keep your best perimeter defender off the guy who is lighting you up until you’re down 20. Oh, and all those missed free throws.

2 – UCLA 68, Kansas 55, Regional Final 2007. 19 missed shots within five feet of the basket.

3 – Texas 27, Kansas 23 football, November 2004. Charles Gordon, Vince Young, and dollar signs.

4 – Game seven, 2003 ALCS. Grady Little and Aaron Bleeping Boone keep the Red Sox out of the World Series. It took me hours to sleep after this one.

5 – Texas Tech 80, Kansas 79, 2OT, February 2005. Down two, Texas Tech tries to foul Aaron Miles with four seconds left in the second overtime to stop the clock. They shove, beat, scratch, and claw at Miles. Miles takes a finger in the eye and covers up. Whistle blows. Traveling?!?!? Naturally a 6’9” center swishes a three on the next possession to win the game for Tech. Things were thrown in my basement that night.

Wanna guess what my favorite games of the decade were?

We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With our Families – Philip Gourevitch. Genocide was kind of my obsession this decade. This account of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was one of the key books in my self-education on the issue.

The Fortress of Solitude – Jonathan Lethem. Up there with Kavalier and Clay as the finest book of the decade. Lethem hit every angle of both growing up as an outsider and of childhood friendships perfectly.

Three Bags Full – Leonie Swann. In the spirit of Watership Down, Swann focused on sheep in Ireland, who diligently investigated the murder of their shepherd.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers. One of the best authors going. This mostly autobiographical tale is almost too much to take. Truly heartbreaking, but also quite funny.

Into The Wild – Jon Krakauer. One of the finest non-fiction authors of our time, Krakauer reconstructs the final months of Christoper McCandless, a child of privilege who left it all behind and ventured to the wilderness of Alaska. A disturbing and thought-provoking work.

The Dark Tower – Stephen King. After nearly 30 years of work, King finally finished The Dark Tower series, cranking out the final three episodes over the middle of the decade. In many ways this is a lifetime achievement award. The Dark Tower doesn’t rank with his best works as a single novel, but putting the seven volumes together does earn it a spot on the list. Also one of the more maddening, yet completely appropriate endings ever.

Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson. Some of Stephenson’s work is too densely geeky for me, but this struck the perfect tone and balance.

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace. Perhaps I did not enjoy it as much as others, but it did make a lasting impact on me.

Reader’s Notebook


I finished David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest late Sunday night.

That’s three months to knock out roughly 1100 pages, for those of you keeping score at home. It took me about two months to get through the first half, and I flew (relatively) through the second half over the last four weeks. For comparison, I started Bill Simmons’ The Book Of Basketball this morning. I’ve already knocked out 120 pages.*

(To reinforce the point I made before about the sheer size of IJ, I did a little word counting. Using a rather low-tech method, I established that you can expect to see over 600 words on a typical IJ page. In Simmons’ book, the number is closer to 450 and often much lower.)

Was it worth it seems to be the big question. It’s a fine book, loaded with amazing writing, unforgettable characters, and laugh-out-loud scenes. It’s a difficult book in that it demands your complete attention when you’re reading it. But it can just as easily be digested in small chunks over a long period of time. So that is all good.

It can get a bit tedious, flipping to the appropriate end notes at the back of the book, then back to the main text. There are a few ridiculously long end notes that are especially tough to wade through. There are also a couple lengthy end notes that are fantastic and well worth the 20 minutes you have to devote to them. The jumping around in time, amongst characters, and in point of view can be tiresome.

But my big problem was the ending. This isn’t a plot driven book, although there are certainly strong plot threads woven throughout. But for a reader like me that prefers books that are built on strong plot lines, the entire book was challenging. I made my best progress, and enjoyed the book the most, in the second half, when the focus was on a few related characters and each section seemed to be building towards something.

And then, with 200-150 pages left, I began to sense that this wasn’t going to be a novel that carefully resolved all the issues it raised. That’s fine; not every book needs tidy resolutions that answer your questions. But this book simply ends. For 1100 pages you’re waiting to find out what the hell was going on in the first 10-12 pages, which might be the best of the entire work, and then those connections aren’t made. It’s a bit maddening to sign up for the marathon and not get your medal when you cross the finish line.

So that’s my big gripe. I’m also not sure exactly what the book is about. Reading through the Infinite Summer discussions, it seems like there are many perfectly reasonable theories, which to me is a sign of a good book. It’s open enough that each reader can find their own meanings, draw their own conclusions, and so on. But I can barely form my own theory, and much of that is based on things I’ve read elsewhere. If I do choose to read it again one day, I will do the full immersion technique and concurrently read the 500 page guide I own. Perhaps then I’ll be able to find more meaning, tie the various threads together, and have a more fully formed opinion about it.

But if I do tackle it again, I’m still not going to find the answers to the questions David Foster Wallace refused to answer. And that will always kind of bug me.

Infinite Jest is a book that has profoundly affected many readers of my generation. Coming in, I heeded the advice to stick with it because, in the end, the payoff would be great. As I said, I think it’s a fine book. Some of the characters are ones that I will always remember. When it is good, it’s ridiculously good. I can’t help but feel a little let down, though. So many people described it as a life changing read. I’m glad I read it, but it’s not one of my favorites ever. I never had the feeling of not wanting the book to end because I was so immersed in the story. When I closed it for the final time, I didn’t have the bittersweet feeling of learning how everything turns out but no longer having my faithful companion to keep me company that my favorite books give me.

But I finished it.

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